Chapter 8: The Trip

"Uff," was all Logan could mutter before he landed on his back with a drooling and excited pit-bull on top of him, squishing the air out of his lungs.

"You know, a gentleman would help the lady on board."

Trying to escape the rough, wet tongue trying to give him sloppy dog kisses, Logan pushed at Back-Up, trying to sit up. "Okay, okay, buddy, I get it!" he told the dog, laughing though. "And you're a big boy and I'm happy to see you too but come on, let me up now," he continued and with a last push managed to get Back-Up to back off his chest enough for him to stand up again.

"I'm starting to think that the two of you like each other much more than you like me."

Grinning, Logan looked up to finally see this dog's mistress as well, still standing on the pier with her fists pressed into her sides. Ruffling Back-Up's head, he moved over to her. "And you'd be right about that. Sorry darling, but a man and his dog..." he drawled in the most back forest slang he could muster up. "Come on, I'll help you down," he offered, stretching out his arms.

A big red and white bag was handed over to him, far more heavy than he had anticipated. Frowning, he steadied himself and put it beside him. "Jeez, what did you pack? We're not even away for a day."

"Preparation is the mother of precaution," Ronnie lectured and jumped down into the boat, causing it to rock softly.

Logan reached out to secure Ronnie in case she hadn't her footing yet. "A little tip: jumping down into a boat is not a very smart idea," he told her, letting her go again.

"Duh, really? Would never have thought that," Ronnie replied, rolling her eyes. "But you see, this little 'boat' of you looks quite robust. I was pretty sure it could take my little weight jumping down on it."

"Your in that lecture mood of yours, aren't you?" Logan wanted to know and sighed. "Boy, that's going to be one long day."

"Aww, is poor Logie-Baby a bit grumpy this morning?" Ronnie cooed, ruffling his hair.

"Hey!" he hissed and evaded her hand, sending her a glare that should have evaporated her. "And you use that horrible name-thing again and I start calling you Ron," he threatened.

Her eyes widened slightly and she held up her hands. "Okay, okay... jeez, what's the matter with you? woken up on the wrong side of bed?" she asked, giving him a curious look.

"No, just want to hit the road finally - uh," he interrupted himself, looking around. "Hit the sea?"

"Set the sails?" Ronnie complied, raising an eyebrow.

"Or something like that," Logan nodded with a shrug. "So that all or you've got a chest with you as well?" he asked, pointing at her big bag.

"No, that's all," Ronnie told him patiently and shook her head. "And I don't know what you have? It's just a few things for Back-Up, warmer clothes and also a change of clothes just in case, the camera and notebook and food of course. No big deal."

"Women," Logan just muttered, shaking his head. All he had brought along was a second pair of t-shirt and an additional jacket. And the body suit and surfboard of course. And some supplies. "Just hope you didn't let your dad see you leave with it. The size this is he probably would have thought you're running away and had followed you with his gun loaded and ready to shoot me."

Laughing, Ronnie shook her head. "Then it's probably good he didn't see me leave this morning. Though it would have been quite of hard, with him on the way to Columbia."

Pausing, Logan looked more closely at her. "He's what?"

"Bail jumper. Dad's following him to Columbia to get him back. He left very early this morning to catch the next flight out to Bogotá," Ronnie elaborated.

"And when will he be back?" Logan asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Dunno, depends on how fast he can find the guy," she said, shrugging. "But it probably will take at least two, three days."

"So you're alone over Sylvester?" Logan asked, astonished by that. Keith Mars left his precious little girl alone for a few days? Over the holidays? The Mars', who were always this big on holidays?

"Just me and Back-Up," she nodded though.

He glanced at the pit-bull. "That's why you've asked if it's okay to take him along," he realized.

"Yeah, Back-Up's fine for a few hours alone, but the whole day and a big part of the night also? No, that wouldn't have worked," she confirmed, patting her dog's head. "So, you need any help? Want me to lose the lines or something like that?"

Logan nodded to the stern, already having taken care of the lines on backboard and starboard just before she had arrived. "If you can lose the stern line there, that would be good."

"Aye, aye, captain!" Ronnie saluted, told Back-Up to stay and made her way over to the stern while Logan moved to the steering controls, starting the motor.

Once Ronnie gave him the okay that they were free, Logan carefully backed out of the slot to slowly leave the marina harbor. As soon as they were out in the open sea he accelerated, the boat flying over the water at top speed. Enjoying the wind on his face, Logan took a deep breath and then let it go again, relaxing. He loved this, to go at top speed, into the open sea, leaving everything behind.

"I've forgotten how much fun this is," Ronnie echoed his thoughts, leaning against the board next to him, wearing a big grin, her eyes shining with excitement. Behind them, Back-Up barked two times, as if to agree as well.

Grinning, Logan nodded. "Yeah, me too." Upon feeling her eyes on him, he slowed down a bit and put in the autopilot before he settled back against the captain's chair - which was more a bar stool than a chair, really. "I was barely out since Lilly's murder. Once for Dick's birthday party as that one took place on his dad's yacht, but that's hardly the same. And I tried it once last summer but..." he sighed. "It wasn't the same. I was back after barely an hour."

It was strange. For the first time ever he was able to talk about Lilly and her death without having to swallow or having to work around a big gulp in his throat. Still sad about it, that he probably would never lose, but somehow also at ease with it. As if he had finally come to terms with her death, being able to talk about her or the time afterwards without being overwhelmed by pain or blind anger. He wondered if it was because it was Ronnie he was talking to, Lilly's best friend who had loved her as much as he had - or if it was because after all the talking about the murder and what had happened since them, it had run out of his system in a way. He wasn't sure - he was just glad that it was like that now.

"And now?" she asked softly. "You feeling the need to head back already?"

"No," Logan answered and smiled, glancing at her for a long moment, hesitating, unsure if he should say what was on his mind. But then, they were being honest with each other now, weren't they? "Last summer - I hated it not just because of Lilly not being around anymore, Ronnie. It was part of it, sure, but not the whole reason why I couldn't enjoy it. It also was Duncan, who just wasn't really there anymore. And me, because I just - I wasn't ready yet, everything still too raw, too close, too damn much hurting." His eyes captured hers, held them. "And it was you as well. I may have pushed you out of my life myself but that doesn't mean I haven't missed you as well, Ronnie. I - I convinced myself that the Ronnie I've known was dead or had never existed but I still missed that girl terribly as well. You as Veronica weren't the same girl as Ronnie."

Veronica was silent for a while, probably pondering his words. "I'm still not that girl anymore either. I'll never be her again," she finally said and there was that hard edge in her eyes again he slowly started to hate. "So what's different that we're even back to friends now?"

It was a good question but Logan wasn't sure how to answer it. How to explain what was different now. "I know. But - I don't know. We've started talking again and even more importantly, we actually listened to what the other had to stay. And the more time we spend together again, the more I realize that though you've changed, there's still a lot of that old Ronnie in you. Most of the reasons why we've been friends in the first place," he tried to explain it. "Plus, there's that bastard who sends you creepy and threatening messages and the moment I've learned about it I just knew that I couldn't let anything happen to you, that I couldn't lose you as well, no matter how bad things were between us at that time." He smiled ruefully. "When you're so worried about someone and so reluctant to lose that person it's kind of hard to convince yourself that you really hate that person as much as you've thought you did." He shrugged. "So I reevaluated. Risked to come close to you again, being friends even." Growing serious again, he pierced her with his eyes. He wanted this to be clear. "It's probably the only smart thing I've done since this whole disaster started. Perhaps even for longer than that."

Ronnie smiled but her eyes stayed serious - though they've lost the hard edge in them, Logan noted with relief. "Having witnessed the majority of those things you did: Yeah, it definitely was something smart of you to do for a change."

Logan slowly nodded. "So no - being here with you, making this trip: it feels good. Very good. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy this day, simply because I'm spending it with a friend - and her crazy dog," he added, glancing over his shoulder at Back-Up who had laid down onto the deck, his dark brown eyes watching them attentively though.

"Just like old days?" Ronnie asked skeptically.

"No," Logan disagreed, looking back at her. "The old days are over. It's not the same anymore, never will be. I finally accepted that. Lilly's gone, Duncan's not here either, and while we are here, we're different people as well. But we are here, different people, different friends, but friends none the less and personally, I'm just fine with that. We're going to make a new day, new times, don't you think that sounds like a plan?"

Ronnie didn't answer immediately, instead, she looked out to the open see. "You make it sound so easy," she eventually said quietly.

"It's not. But it's doable for us I think," Logan answered, never leaving her out of his eyes.

Finally, she turned back to him. "New days, huh?" Upon his nod, she smiled. "That sounds good." She nodded slowly, her smile intensifying. "Yeah, I'd definitely like that."

Suddenly feeling relieved, though he hadn't noticed so far that he had held his breath, Logan smiled back, joy filling his heart. "So let's make a new day," he declared and jumped up to deactivate the autopilot and bringing the boat to top speed again.


Pushing the sunglasses up, Logan raised his head a bit to glance over to the tiny blond one beside him.

She turned her head to meet his gaze and grinned smugly. "Listen," she told him and switched the sound to loudspeaker, hitting play. Logan listened and broke out into a grin as well as he listened to Kovalovic closing a deal that definitely was not legal - or known to his wife.

"I just knew he was doing something on the side as well," Ronnie commented triumphal and ended the recording.

"So this is how it feels to convict someone... Not bad, Mars, not bad at all," Logan agreed. "I begin to understand why you like doing all this Nancy Drew stuff so much. What will happen now?"

"I'm going to show Mrs Kovalovic our proofs and get my check. After that," she shrugged. "I bet she's going to divorce the little son of a bitch and leaves him with nothing." Her eyes darkened. "And that's just what he deserves, if you ask me."

"May, may, aren't we feeling a little vengeful today," Logan commented dryly.

Her eyes narrowed. "You find okay how that guy two-timed his wife?"

Feeling the danger, he sat up and stretched out his hands. "Of course not. I would never."

Her glare grew in intensity.

Uncomfortable, Logan shrugged. "It's wrong, sure."

The glare hit laser level and he sighed, pulling up his shoulders. "But then we don't really know how their marriage is, don't we? Sometimes there are good reasons for one party to - look for something else, perhaps a way out. For all we know he just tries to get enough money in order to get out of the marriage without losing everything. You said good old Mrs Kovalovic takes care of the finances, right?"

"And that excuses this?"

At her incredulity, he had to smile. Sometimes, Ronnie was just so naive. But he knew better than to mention anything even remotely into that direction to her. He liked his balls just fine as they were. "Not really. I'm just saying we shouldn't judge without knowing all the facts."

"Aha." The laser glares bored into him. "So your dad screwing around on your mom is okay because I don't know, Lynn's not comprehending enough? Doesn't let him have any? Screws other men?"

Stiffening, Logan glared back at her. "Leave my parents out of this, Veronica," he warned her hotly. But really, how could she dare to bring them up? "Or we can also discuss your mom screwing Jake Kane."

For a moment, they both furiously blinked at each other, Logan fully expecting her to jump up and leave in a huff. He sure was ready himself to get up and just storm away. But then Veronica surprised him by taking a deep breath and the glare died in her eyes, leaving her looking at him somewhat regretful. "I'm sorry. You're right. It was out of place to bring up your parents. I really shouldn't have." She made a face. "It's just - sometimes it's hard to not fall back into old habits and so easy to forget that you're not my archenemy anymore."

He stared at her, checking if she hadn't just sprouted a second head.

She frowned. "What?"

Logan shook his head slowly, still looking her over mistrustfully. "Just making sure you're body hasn't been snatched by body snatchers." He looked up. "Pigs aren't flying yet either. Huh." His eyes settled back on her. "It must be true then: You, Veronica Mars, just apologized to me, Logan Echolls. Even more astounding: you admitted you were wrong." He leaned his head to the side. "You sure you're okay? You're not dying or something, aren't you."

"You're a jerk," she muttered and she pushed at him so he fell back lightly - but he also saw the hint of a grin on her face.

"And you're a bitch," he gave back nonchalantly and got up, stretching. They've arrived in Long Beach perhaps three hours ago. An hour and half to tow in the boat, get a car, drive out to Kovalovic's place, remove Ronnie's equipment and finally drive back to the beach. He had enjoyed lying here on the beach, next to Ronnie and listen to the typical beach sounds or tolling around with Back-Up while Ronnie listened through the recordings. The sun was warm, even if it was still too cold to strip much. "I'm hitting the water. You want to come as well?" he asked. He doubted it, but then, with this Ronnie, you never knew.

Sure enough though, she raised an eyebrow and gave him that look that insinuated that he had just asked something really dumb.

"Come on, some exercise will do us good," he added, nudging her with a foot.

"Thank you, but I think I'll pass on this perfect opportunity to get myself pneumonia," she declined once again. "I'll leave that honor all to you."

"Aww, little Ronniekins afraid of a little cold water?" he goaded.

"Not everyone happens to wear a thermo regulated bodysuit as a second skin," she pointed out. "Though I'm pretty sure you're going to get yourself a hypothermia even with that on."

Due to her words he pulled off his sweater and stepped out of his jeans to reveal said thermo regulated bodysuit. "I'll let you know that this is not the first time I hit the water in the winter. A true dedicated surfer doesn't let himself be stopped by a little cold water."

"Just don't expect me to cuddle all up to you to share my body warmth with you," she retorted.

"No?" He gave her his biggest puppy dog eyes. "You want to tell me that you'd just let me freeze to death, me, you oldest friend in the whole world?"

She laid back down, turning back to her records. "Maybe I'll be so generous to drop you off at the emergency room but that's all you can expect from me."

"How Samaritan of you," he replied dryly and couldn't resist to pull at her short ponytail as he bent down to lift his board. "Don't complain that you missed out on all the fun afterwards."

Thus said he was quick to rush towards the water, just to be on the safe side.

"Told you so."

"Yeah, I've got it the last three times you reminded me so kindly, know-it-all," Logan grumbled, throwing the perky tiny blond one a dark look.

His grumpiness seemed to perk her up even more. But hell, it was really getting boring, her reminding him every time he sneezed that she's been right to warn him that the water was yet too cold, even with his bodysuit. He really had surfed in the cold time of the year before. But damn, that water had been cold. Of course, he also had stayed longer in it than usual. If he'd been alone, he would have just rode a few waves and would have been out of the water again after ten, twenty minutes. His pride hadn't allowed him that this time, just to prove Ronnie right - for all the good that that had brought him. If he really got a cold he was so going to blame her for it. Apropos...

He sneezed again.

Mercifully, she restrained herself to make another comment and just studied the movie posters. "Hmm, so what should it be: meaningless Christmas action, overly sweet romance, under the line comedy or another version of Saw?"

"Definitely no to the romance and horror movie. Though I can't say I feel much like a comedy either and the action movie I've already seen and believe me, you don't want to waste your money on that one." He took a closer look to the program - and started to grin. Oh yeah. "Hey, how about this one? They're doing a special night of Die Hard in the old theater on the promenade. All three movies, starting at eight."

Her eyes lit up but then she scrunched up her nose. "Yeah, that would be great but it will be way to dark for the way home until it's over."

True. But then he didn't really saw a problem with that either. Actually, it suited the plans he had been scheming ever since he had heard that Ronnie was alone over Sylvester just fine. "So what? We'll just stay the night."

Her head swiveled around. "Stay the night?"

He nodded. "Yeah, why not? We're not expected at home and you've got Back-Up with you. Actually, why don't we stay here for Sylvester also? We could make us some fun days and head back on the first or second."

He was pleased to see that she was at least considering it instead of refusing the idea right out.

"And where would we stay? I can't exactly afford a hotel room that would meet your standards," she finally asked, slowly.

Luckily, he had already considered this. "We can stay on the boat. True, the cabin's not very big, but I think it should do for a few nights. And if not I'll be happy to rent us a room somewhere."

One of her eyebrows rose. "Just one?"

Grinning, he stepped close, towering, and looked down at her with a leer. "Ronnie, I had a purely platonic room sharing in mind, but if you want a less platonic way, fine with me." He leaned down to muzzle her hair just a bit. "You know you just have to ask and I'll gladly show you the wonders of sex."

"You wish," she snorted and pushed him away but he was smug to see that there was the faintest blush on her cheek. God, he had missed teasing her like that.

"Besides, I doubt you can show me anything that the various sport teams at school hasn't been able to show me yet," she added, darkly, smoothing down her perfect smooth jacket.

Laughing, Logan gently pulled her ponytail, making sure to let his hand linger a bit longer than necessary on her neck, watching the blush deepen. "It's quality that counts, not quantity." He moved to stir her out, slinging an arm over her shoulder. "And please - as if anyone in his right mind can actually believe those rumors. You may have become this bitch version, but it's still obvious enough that you're the same old virgin you used to be."

She failed to give a comeback, but he only noticed this when they've been walking for perhaps five minutes without her saying anything. Curious, he glanced down at her, only to see that her gaze was fixed on the pavement. He frowned. "Ronnie?"

She straightened and walked forward, making Logan's arm around her drop. "Before we decide anything let's see if there are tickets left for the movie night at all. If not, problem solved."

Logan decided to play along. "And if there are tickets, we stay."

Ronnie gave a nod. "Yeah. We'll try the cabin on your boat. Tomorrow, we can see again."

"Great. I hope you're prepaired to lose against me. No one beats me with the Die Hard movies," he challenged her, referring to an old bet they had going on about remembering the most movie quotes.

When she looked back at him, her eyes sparkled. "I wouldn't be so sure of that. I had a lot time to watch movies this past year, Echolls. And I've seen a lot of Die Hard."

"Loser buys the tickets," Logan offered, meeting her smirk with his own.

"And winner gets to decide the next movie marathon," she accepted, holding out her hand.

"Deal," Logan said and shook the hand, sure that he was going to win and already thinking about the next marathon.

Either some horror movies to properly mock or perhaps, they could have a rematch of the Monty Python Movies. It didn't really matter. They'd have a blast either way, it always had been like that on their movie nights and he saw no reason why that should have changed any.

Much, much later, Logan found himself in a somewhat paradox situation. The movie night had been, as expected, fantastic and he had enjoyed himself immensely, probably the best since everything had fallen apart. He hadn't laughed so hard and freely in a long time either and God, it had felt good to feel - normal again after such a long time. Happy. Especially after winning their bet, though it had been a way closer call than he had anticipated. She really had watched a lot of Die Hard during their enstrangement.

Once back on the boat, there had been only a brief discussion about who got the cot (Veronica) and who had to take the floor (Logan) as Ronnie had naturally blown his leery suggestion to share it away right on the spot. Not that he minded that much. In fact, he himself had told her to take the cot and only at her protest had he made the other suggestion, knowing full well that she wasn't going to go along with that one. It sure wasn't his first night on the floor of the cabin, though at the other times he usually had been drunk beyond any point of caring or had had sex, mostly with Lilly.

Nor was it that unusual for him and Ronnie to share a room, so to speak. In the first years of their friendship they had often slept over at the other's place. True, they seldom had stayed together in such close a space, but still - it was nothing new and her sleeping peacefully so near him relaxed him on a level he hadn't been able to relax like in a long time, especially with Back-Up stretched out between the cot and Logan's mat, occasionally snoring or rumbling deep in his throat. Everything around him relaxed Logan, made him peaceful.

Yet, he just didn't seem able to fall asleep. It wasn't that he wasn't tired. He was. It wasn't that he wasn't comfortable. He was. It wasn't that his roommates were disturbing him. Not at all.

So why did he lie here on his back, wide awake and just not able to follow his friends into sleep?

Sighing, he gave it up for the moment and silently got up and went back on deck - immediately shivering as the cold winter night hit him. Snatching himself his sweeter, he went over to the bench to lie down there, gazing up to the stars, thinking.

It was true, everything should feel normal as nothing was something he and Ronnie hadn't done yet. And mostly it did. But - there was this feeling of a significant change beneath it all. Not all the arch-enemy for a year stuff, that it wasn't - but he couldn't figure out what else it was. Somehow, Veronica's nearness this day but especially this night now calmed and relaxed him and he enjoyed it so much - but at the same time it put him also on edge, as paradox as it seemed, and it drove him crazy that he couldn't figure out why that was like this.

Okay, so Veronica wasn't exactly the same anymore - nor was he for that matter and nor were they all so different after all, as he had noticed lately. Somehow, to each other, they were a lot more like they used to be than at any other time. So he doubted that it was that that left him so on edge.

Of course it could have something to do with the tiny little fact that he was pretty sure that he was falling hard and fast for the tiny blond one.

Groaning, Logan abandoned the star watching to sit up and roam a hand through his hair. It had taken him a while to catch up but when he had felt a short hot wave of jealousy flame up at catching another of the theater visitors leering at Ronnie and approaching her in order to flirt with her during one of the brakes between movies and he had automatically moved into his way and dropped an arm around her in a clear message he had no way to deny the attraction anymore. Oh, he had tried. For the better part of the first half of the next movie he had tried to convince himself that the only reason why he had acted like he had had been because he just had wanted to ward off any interruptions of their night out as friends again. Or that he knew that Ronnie wouldn't have been interested in the guy anyway and therefore had wanted to save her the trouble to get rid of him herself.

But deep down he had known that that was all bullshit and now, having been so aware of her that he hadn't been able to fall asleep, he was ready to face the fact that he was attracted to one Veronica Mars and that the friendship he shared with her was changing into something more, at least for him. Very much so even.

In a way, it didn't even surprise him that much. He always had felt attracted to her. Hell, his first thought after seeing her for the first time had been that she was hot. Sweet and hot. Sure, the attraction had dimmed down with time, her becoming too soft and nice for his taste and him rather looking for some fire and danger in his girls. But Ronnie wasn't soft or particularly nice anymore and while she wasn't as scandalous as Lilly had been, she sure wasn't boring or passive anymore even. Quite the contrary. Now, she was hot and sexy and dangerous and funny and passionate and...

Logan made a face and sighed. God, he was screwed.

He had always known that without the fury and hate he'd have been all over this Veronica Mars 2.0. Now that their war was over and no hateful feelings stood in the way anymore it was no wonder that he was falling for her.

Unfortunately, she was still Duncan's ex though. No matter if she actually was even his half sister as well, Duncan would never accept Logan dating his precious Veronica, not really. His and Duncan's friendship may not have been as it once was but he still didn't want anything or anyone to break it up altogether. And of course, she was also Lilly's best friend and maybe half sister and that made the situation even more complicated and surreal. But most of all, he very much doubted that Veronica was in any way interested in him like that. They sure had established in the last few days that the idea of the two of them together was ridiculous.

And part of him, a big part, didn't mind any of those obstacles. On the bottom line, Ronnie was one of his best friends. And with only now realizing just how much he had missed just that friendship since the rift between them he was more than reluctant to risk that rekindled friendship already again.

But there also remained that other part of him, that kept nudging and pushing him, trying to tell him that he was probably never to find another girl that would fit him so perfectly.

And fit they did, even though most people who knew them would strongly contradict this. But somehow, his snarky and sometimes dark being and her tough but also vulnerable and biting personality complemented each other. His fire and her passion matched, he knew that deep in his bones and therefore knew that should they ever come together... it would be Earth shattering. He just knew it. So consequently, a certain body part of his had started to make his own decisions, knowing exactly what it wanted.

Something that was hard to ignore and even harder to forget about.

He just didn't know. Was there even a possibility of them being together? Ronnie reacted to him, so he at least had hope, but then, she was still a virgin and virgins tended to get nervous when any boy got too close. Still... he thought there was a chance after all. But was this chance worth their friendship? Was anything worth this precious friendship?

That was the question and he wasn't any closer to find an answer to it than when he had come up.

Eventually, Logan had went down and had even managed to fall asleep in the end. They had slept in but unfortunately, Ronnie and Back-Up still had gotten up way too early in Logan's opinion, waking him up as well in the process. To be fair, Ronnie had prepared them a small breakfast with the provisions they still had left over from the day before and it had been nice to sit down with her for it, feeding Back-Up this or that when she wasn't looking.

"So - what are we going to do today if we don't want to head home?" Ronnie asked, sitting back, petting Back-Up's head.

Logan had an idea, but he wanted first to see if she had anything particular she wanted to do. "Anything in mind?"

She shrugged. "We need more provisions if we want to stay longer. And I'll need some other clothes as well as I haven't brought more with me than one change. Uh, and depending on what we want to do for the big night tonight I definitely need a little time to do some shopping. But otherwise than that - I dunno. You know Long Beach better than me."

Thinking it over, he nodded. "Apropos tonight: There are various parties we could go to, if you want to."

Ronnie's nose scrunched up a tiny bit. "I don't really need to, but if you want to..."

He shook his head. "Nah. I'd like something smaller as well." His eyes fell on her pit-bull. "Something where we can take the beast here with us."

Her eyes lit up just a bit. "So what are you suggesting? You do have an idea, don't you?"

"Well, first we go buy the things we need. Then I thought we could perhaps take the boat and drive out, make a trip along the coast. And when evening comes, I know a nice place for dinner a bit down South. There are also some promising fireworks planned for tonight so we could then drive out again in order to catch the most of them," he laid out his ideas. "Or we can go on land and perhaps make a bonfire on the beach." He hesitated just a moment, before continuing. "And you know, it's still early enough to call some friends and invite them along, if you want to."

Her eyes met his. "Do you?"

Hell no. He was just fine with the three of them. "Not necessarily but I thought that perhaps you and Fennel had had some lazy plans? Or that blue haired girl?"

Ronnie smiled, but shook her head. "Mac, but she's away with her family. Same with Wallace, he went to visit his grandparents. Meg and Casey wanted to go to Madison's party. And while I never spoke with Eli of his plans I assume he'll have something planned either with his family or the gang." Her smile deepened. "Not that I think the two of you together such a good idea. Besides, what happened to our little plan to keep this secret?"

"Just thought you might want some other company," Logan shrugged.

"You're enough to handle," she said with a dramatic sigh, but then turned serious. "We could invite Duncan though, if you want to."

Duncan? And ruin all the fun? He thought not. "He's going to Madison's party as well. I'd have gone as well, if this here hadn't come up," he said, feeling the tiniest flutter of his heart at the prospect of having her all to himself. He hesitated only for a moment before he went with his instinct. "This is better."

To his immense pleasure, her face lit up and she gave a tiny nod. "I like that plan. Very. Especially as now I don't have to go buy myself a fancy outfit. But I need a shower now. Do I have to use one of the beach showers or..."

"You can use the one at the marina," he said with a nod towards the club house. "I've got the pass downstairs."

She rolled her eyes. "I knew it. Heaven forbid that you high and mighty mingle yourself with the foot folk."

He raised an eyebrow. "If you've got a complaint against a hot shower in a nice, clean environment you can always go mingle yourself with that foot folk."

Veronica glared, but she was wise enough to not make another remark about that one. "What about towels? Do you have to bring them with you or are they provided?"

Logan smirked. "Please. Of course you don't have to bring you're own towel."

"And can I go in on my own or do I have to be escorted by you?" she asked, obviously swallowing down another comment.

Slowly, he looked her up and down. "I better come with you," he finally judged and stood up, stretching. Truth was, she shouldn't have any problem getting in, not with the pass, but he needed to shower too anyway. Besides, this way he could rile her up a bit more.

He just couldn't help it - he loved the sight of her all riled up, her eyes blazing and her mouth sporting that small superstitious quirk.

"It's about time."

Shooting her a not really too sincere apologetic smile, Logan pushed himself all the way up into the boat and released the straps of the tanks on his back with relief. He didn't notice the weight much in the water, but when coming out of it, worn out by the dive and the additional weight of being wet, he was always glad to finally get rid of it. Well aware of the green eyes keeping their glare on him, he drew in his legs and closed the little gate giving him a better access to the water.

"I was this close to call the Coast Guard. I'm sure your parents would have been happy to hear about that."

Strapping off the diver glasses, the mask and the gloves, Logan finally turned his full attention to the tiny blond one, her anger coming off in waves from her - but he thought he saw something else there, the real reason for her anger beneath it all and already, he broke out into a wide, lopsided, knowing grin. "Aww, was little Ronnie-kin worried about old me?" The glare gained more piercing intensity, causing him only to widen his grin. Getting up he stepped over to her, giving her chin a gentle shove. "No need to though. Everything was just great. The view down there was amazing. You should have come along after all."

Ronnie ditched his fist. "Still don't have any diver's license. But even without one I know that it's marginally stupid to dive alone."

"Which you've already reminded me of several times," he nodded, rolling his eyes. "And I've told you..."

"I don't care!" she interrupted him and Logan finally could see, just how aggravated Ronnie really was. "Okay, I knew where you went in, when and what your plans were, but if something had happened down there I still wouldn't have known it or been able to help you because I have no idea how to dive or how to help a diver in need."

"I had the radio with me," Logan pointed out, reassuringly. "And it's not like I went really deep or anything like that. I more or less just snorkeled. Just a bit more under the surface."

But apparently, Veronica was set to not see any reason. "Which doesn't mean that nothing could have happened! You could have run across a shark or gotten into a dangerous stream or the air tank could have malfunctioned!"

Suppressing a laugh that threatened to spill out, Logan stepped closer and grabbed her arms, forcing her to look up at him. "First of all, it's not shark season and even if it was it would be unlikely for one of the real dangerous types to find its way into these shallow waters. Second, it is as unlikely for a dangerous stream to suddenly form here. I've been here before, several times and I know these waters pretty well by now. And last but not least, like I've told you, I wasn't deep enough to not be able to just surface if really something had happened with the air tank or the mask." Seeing that his reassurance only calmed her somewhat, he smiled, sincerely this time. "But I'm sorry I worried you."

She held her eyes downcast, being uncharacteristically silent for too long a moment, slowly worrying Logan in return. Finally, she turned her head away, still avoiding his eyes. "I'm sorry too that I'm fussing this much - it's just..." She bit her lip.

Truly intrigued now, Logan nudged her gently. "It's just what?"

She sighed and shook her head but at least she looked back at him. "I just don't want to lose someone else who means a lot to me. And you're definitely back in that category. So I don't like you taking such stupid risks."

Dumbfounded, Logan could only stare at her for a moment. "Veronica..."

"I know, I know. It's stupid. I admit that you probably really were as careful as you managed to be, but you still were alone down there and I think there's a good reason why it's always preached to never dive alone." She gave him a poignant look but then she continued. "And I also know that you've got that wild, adventurous side which sometimes borders not only to plain stupidity but also gets you into real trouble. Sometimes even dangerous trouble. It's part of you. I know that. But..."

"But what?" he urged her once again, wanting to hear the rest before he commented any of it.

Her eyes fell down once again. "But I can't help but think that that was one of the main reasons why you and Lilly got along so well and were able to stay together so long after all, despite the many break-ups. You're sometimes so alike, too alike I think which also explains just those many break-ups." Her cheeks reddened. "And I don't say that this side of you is wrong or so bad - but I fear it's just that same side of Lilly that might have gotten her killed in the end and when you go and take such stupid, unnecessary risks I can't help but fear that in the end, it will kill you too, one way or another." Finally, she dared to look back at him, her cheeks even redder, but still with resolve in her eyes. "You jumped over your shadow because you were worried about me because of these 'gifts' left for me. Fine. But it goes both ways, Logan. I care too. I worry too. And I don't want to lose you like I lost Lilly either."

God... if he had had any idea how much his little dive would rile her up he'd have forgone it - and how the hell had they gotten from his dive to Lilly's murder? He wasn't sure exactly and wrote it off to the unimaginable talent of women altogether to make unreasonable mind jumps. But it was still nothing he could just let go - for that it was too important. So he did the first thing that came to his mind - he took her into his arm, holding her close, kissing the top of her head before he could stop himself. Oh, what the hell... Then he leaned back enough for him to raise her head up with a finger under her chin.

"I'm not going to change, Veronica," he told her quietly.

"I didn't ask you to," she answered with a sigh.

Perhaps not. Perhaps yes, even if unintended. "And I admit that some of the things that I've done since Lilly's death have been on the gray side of things."

She only raised an eyebrow.

"But I swear to you, I'm not suicidal. None of the risks I've taken or the stunts I pulled had held any real danger to me or my life," he continued seriously. "Nor do I have any plans to do so in the future."

"I didn't say that..."

"No," he interrupted her, searching her eyes. "But you implied it."

She huffed. "I did nothing alike. I was just worried."

Finally, he allowed himself to smile again. "Okay. I'm glad about that." At her look he hurried to elaborate. "Not that you've been worried. Just that you worry at all."

Her eyes softened but she was wise enough to simply give a shrug in return.

"I better see to it that I get out of these wet clothes now." Logan stirred them away from the bit too serious talk they've been having and went over to the cabin. "Before I catch a cold," he added with a smirk.

"Don't get everything wet."

He rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mom."

Once down in the cabin he proceeded to strip out of the diver suite - or better said tried to. As it turned out, somehow, the zipper had gotten stuck halfway down his back and no matter what he tried and how much he twisted his body, he couldn't get the zipper to move one inch.

"Need help?"

Turning his head, he saw Ronnie standing in the doorway, looking amused. His curses must have brought her down. Quickly, he shook his head. "Nah. Thanks though."

She shrugged but she also didn't leave. Inwardly cursing, Logan once again tried to get the damn zipper down, praying that it would finally work. He couldn't let Ronnie see his back. He just couldn't.

But the stupid zipper stayed where he was.

With a sigh, Ronnie came over to him. "Stay still."

"No, really, I've got it," he protested and tried to twist away, but she already had a firm grip on the zipper and simply pushed him around again.

"Don't be such an idiot, you won't get that zipper to move on your own. It's pretty stuck," she added in a murmur and he could feel her working at it.

He froze, knowing that him further refusing her help was probably as problematic and telling as him allowing her to help him. Perhaps the suit wouldn't clap open enough to reveal anything to her. And there wasn't that much light in the cabin.

Her fingers brushed against his skin and he involuntarily shivered. Damn it! Breathing in deeply, he held the air, sucking in his stomach in the hope that that would give her a bit more space to work on the zipper without too much contact with the marred skin on his back and indeed, he could feel her pulling with more force on the zipper and suddenly, he felt it slide further down at last. Immediately twisting around, he backed away from Veronica, straining to give her a smile.

"Thanks. I've got it from here."

But she didn't leave. No, she stayed where she was, a frown between her eyes and a puzzled look on her face.


Then she slowly followed him, trapping him with only the cot in his back, her eyes never leaving his face. "Logan, turn around," she told him - ordered him.

He didn't, founding himself frozen on the spot, his mind blank. She seemed to notice this because she grabbed his arm to twist him around on her own. That at least broke through his stupor. "Leave it," he too ordered, his voice rough, trying to free himself.

But her grip was surprisingly strong and she had him already turned with his back facing her and before he could try to slip away again, she pulled apart the flaps of the body suit.

At her gasp he hung his head and closed his eyes, resigned.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He felt her fingers slide along a few of the more recent scars, gentle, and once again he shivered. But he didn't jerk away either, somehow her touch being strangely comforting, despite all the fucked-up circumstances. It was a long time since anyone had touched his back so tenderly. Besides, it was too late now anyway. She knew now. He wasn't sure what would happen now, but she definitely knew now, his last, his biggest secret.

"It's your dad, isn't it?" she said quietly, more a statement than a question.

He hesitated only slightly before giving a short nod.

"I always knew something was off between you two. But I never imagined..." Her soft voice trailed off and he felt her pull away the suit further to get an even better look at his back, her fingers still gently touching his scars. "These are pretty old ones... Oh Logan - did that bastard do this to you all your life?"

The sorrow in her voice was both humiliating and soothing. Finally shying away from her touch he turned around, not meeting her eyes though. He wasn't yet ready to face her pity. "I was five the first time he really hit me hard. Before that it were just some shoves or hard shaking. And isolation." Why the hell was he telling her all this? She didn't need to know this well. But what else could he tell her? That it was okay? Yeah right. But he did shrug. "Look, just let it go, okay? I'm... I can handle it."

To his surprise she didn't protest. She was just silent. When it lasted too long, he finally looked up at her. To his utter relief, there was no pity in her eyes. But there was rage in her eyes, rage he rarely had seen in her before. Only then did he notice her balled hands.

"The minute I hit eighteen I'm outta there and he won't be able to hurt me ever again." He somehow felt the need to calm and reassure her, so he even mustered up a faint smile. "And his injury will stop him to do much for at least two more months, not if he doesn't want to hurt himself in the process as well and believe me, he isn't a masochist as well."

Unfortunately, this seemed to have been the wrong thing to say as the anger flared up even more in her eyes. "Oh great. That makes it okay then, I guess," she snorted sarcastically.

Sighing, he slowly shook his head. "No," he answered simply. "But seriously, Veronica - let it go."

For a moment, she just studied him. "I take it from your words that you did try to get it to stop at one time, didn't you?" she finally said, not leaving him out of her eyes.

"Yeah," he confirmed with hesitation.

"And I guess nobody wanted to belief that the great Aaron Echolls is capable of such an ugly thing," Ronnie stated with obvious disgust. "Or he paid them off if they did believe you."

Not seeing any sense in lying, he just nodded, avoiding her eyes.

"And then he hurt you even more," she continued resigned and he could see her fists tighten. If she continued like that she would draw blood soon. "What about Lynn? Surely she must know what that asshole is doing to you? And Trina? Does she know? Did he abuse her as well?"

Logan kept his eyes lowered. Somehow, this was always the hardest part, the part that ashamed him the most to admit. And he didn't want to talk about it anymore - but he knew also that Ronnie wouldn't give it a rest before she didn't have all the answers she wanted and in that light he rather wanted to get this over with as fast as possible. "He never hit Trina. To her, he's an hero and I'm just her stupid little brother making up lies to get noticed." He couldn't help the bitterness. Trina and he may not be very close and there was a lot of disgust and indifference between them but she was his big sister after all, wasn't she? "And Mom... Don't judge her, Ronnie. She has no more choice in this than I have. He may not hit her too but there are other ways to keep people at bay and tyrannize them and Dad knows them all."

She didn't like that. "This isn't right!"

Smiling, he looked back at her. "Ronnie, when is something like that ever right? Still doesn't mean that it can be helped. You should know that better than anyone else."

Breathing deeply, she started to pace in front of him. "Lilly had to know," she eventually said, ignoring his hint at her mother's alcoholism.

Blinking at the sudden jump, he nodded reluctantly.


Again he nodded, knowing already what would come next.

"But you never told me. Dammit, Logan, we were friends, and close friends at that. Especially as you know how it was at home with my mom... You always understood, always were ready to listen to me if I needed to talk to someone about it, but you... You should have told me!" She sounded hurt. Not that that was much of a surprise to him.

"Ronnie... I couldn't tell you," he told her softly. "You would have told your Dad..."

She nodded vehemently. "Damn right I would have! Your father needs to be stopped and punished!"

"Please... He could have done nothing. You've seen what happened when he accused Jake. It would have been the same thing if he'd gone against Dad, perhaps even worse with all the publicity behind Dad. I know it, I've seen it happen before, with some of the nannies, with my teacher in second grade, even with a social worker one time." He took a deep breath. "I couldn't risk the same thing happening to your dad. He would have most likely lost his job and been forced out of Neptune. You'd have had to leave. And I didn't want that, just because our friendship meant so much to me."

"I think you're underestimating Dad," she just responded, glaring at him.

Alarmed, Logan shot her a warning look. "And you're underestimating my dad. Ronnie, you can't tell your dad! You've got to promise me that you won't tell him."

She was silent.

Taking a step closer to her, he grabbed her shoulders. "I mean it, Veronica. You mustn't tell him or anyone else. You hear me?"


"No buts. It's my decision and believe it or not, this is not about protecting him - it's about protecting me and Mom and anyone else who is important to me. I know him. He'll take revenge, one way or another and your dad may not be sheriff anymore but that doesn't mean he and his life still can't be destroyed," he insisted, tightening his grip on her. "I've learned to live with all this shit and I'm fine. So just let it go."

He felt her tremble in his hands but what happened next took him by surprise. Suddenly, she just reached up and slang her arms around him, pressing him close against her small body. Once he got over his shock, he accepted it and hugged her back.

"It's not okay. And you shouldn't be fine with it. But because you almost beg this I'll let this rest for the moment and respect your wish," she whispered into his ear. "But only if you promise me that if you have reason to believe that it will happen again, you avoid going home. You'll stay with Duncan or Dick or with me, or if that's useless you have me coming over to stay, I don't care, but you try to avoid your Dad and his abuse as much as you can. And if he still gets to you and hurts you again, I want you to come to me. You promise this and I'll tell no one for now. Do I have your promise?"

His arms tightened around her, his heart beating faster. This meant all so much to him and to hear her determination to be there for him made him fall even harder for the tiny blond one.

"Promise, Logan," she urged him, but her hold on him tightened as well. "Promise."

Gently, he loosened the embrace and leaned back to look down into her eyes. "Ronnie..."

Her arms fell down, her hands still on his arms though and her fingers dug into his flesh. "Please - for the sake of my mind's peace: Promise. Promise so I know that you have at least a bit of protection against him."

He sighed. He really wanted to promise her, but he couldn't. He wouldn't make her a promise he knew he most likely had no chance to keep. "And you need to understand that I can't drag you into this mess, Veronica," he countered gently. "Dad can't get the impression that you know and you staying over too much would give you away. And avoiding him - I've tried it, Ronnie, and believe me, the longer I avoid him, the more painful is the punishment."


"Just trust me on this one, okay?" he pleaded, raising a hand to stroke her cheek. "I know how to handle this."

She didn't protest again this time. In fact, she just stood there and looked miserable. It touched his heart and he smiled, a real smile. He could give her at least something he guessed. "But hey, it doesn't happen that often anymore, not since I'm older and got the car and can get out of there more. Or perhaps it was since he realized that I'm having sex that he holds back more as it's kind of hard to explain the scars. And if you really want to I can promise you that I'll let you know should it happen again." He turned serious. He wasn't keen on her seeing him like he was after one of Daddy's lessons, but truth was also that ever since losing Lilly and Duncan drawing back this much he had missed having a safe haven he could go to in order to lick his wounds so to speak. And he trusted her, knew that she'd have his back. "To be honest, I wouldn't mind having a place and someone I could go to if I have to."

She set her jaw. "Logan, I promise you you'll hurt even more if I find out that you haven't come to me." Her eyes softened. "Seriously, Logan: never hesitate to come to me."

"Your dad..."

"I'll handle dad," she waved his concern away. "Don't think about that or anything else. If you need to, you just come, okay?"

Slowly, he nodded, once again caressing her cheeks. "Okay." Only hesitating for a moment, he bent down to kiss her cheek. "Thanks, Veronica - this means a lot to me, you know?"

"This is nothing you have to thank me for. It's the least I can do, as little as it is. You should have told me a long time ago," she replied though, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

Not wanting to have this discussion again, he tried to lighten the heavy air around them. "You're cute when you're pouting." And that was the absolute truth.

She eyed him, indignantly, but he had the impression that the corners of her mouth twitched suspiciously. Then she floored him once again though. "I want you to declare me as your girlfriend."

"Wh... Wh... What?!" He must have misheard her. He just had to. She couldn't just have said...

"I want you to claim me as your girlfriend."

She had! But... Did this mean what he hoped it would or what else did she want to achieve with that. "I... I'm sorry, I can't follow you there."

Veronica shook her head, once, impatient. "You said he beats on you less when you have a girlfriend. And you said that me being over at yours too often would be suspicious, but not if everyone thinks we're together. He can't say much about his almost grown up son having his girlfriend over - or staying with her."


Logan tried hard to not let his disappointment show too much. "So you suggest we just pretend to be together? What about that other plan of yours? The one where you don't want anyone to know we're even friends again, let alone a couple?"

"As you pointed out several times already, it's not really working out that much. So perhaps this is just what it needs - something to shock them a bit. Most of your friends don't like me. They're going to say I'm just trying to take Lilly's place or something like that," she pointed out thoughtfully though and gave a decisive nod. "And maybe some of them confront me or you, badmouthing me, and letting slip something accidently. You'd be surprised what people all let slip when they're angry." She smiled wickedly at that and he had a hard time to hold himself back from... whatever he might have done. "Not that that is really the point here. We're stuck a bit at the Lilly front I know that, but if this helps to keep you safe from your father then I don't see any reason not to do this."

He could have kissed her right then and there - but that in itself was the problem, wasn't it? Slowly, he shook his head. "Not that I don't appreciate the offer - but I don't think I can do this."

Stopped cold like that in her plan scheming, she narrowed her eyes. "Why not? You don't have anything serious going on at the moment, do you?"

"No, but..."

"Are you worried because of Duncan? If it's that I'm sure we can simply tell him the truth. It wouldn't be like you'd have to tell him anything he doesn't already know after all."

"No, it's not Duncan, though it would make everything more complicated, but..."

The expression in her eyes turned dangerous. "Or is it that you don't want to be seen with filth like me?"

Annoyed, he rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, now make a point! Of course that's not it either, but..."

"Then what is it? And please don't tell me that you don't want to lie like that because I know you. Fooling people like that would just be up your avenue."

"Ronnie!" he finally interrupted her exasperated. "Can't you see that I just don't want to risk our friendship?"

Now it was her turn to gaze at him, bewildered. "Huh? What's got our friendship to do with this?"

He sighed, avoiding her eyes. Shit. That had been too much information, hadn't it been? He had come to the conclusion that he didn't want to risk their friendship, not yet at least, not as long as he hadn't a better idea about where Veronica stood in this matter but he just knew he wouldn't be able to keep with that decision if they were pretending to actually be a couple.


Reluctantly, he looked back at her. Perhaps he could make her see after all, without letting her on on his deeper feelings towards her. "Look - just think about it for a moment, Ronnie: You know me. You've seen me with Lilly and other girls. I'm - affectionate and demonstrative while being with a girl. I touch, I hold hands, I kiss, I make out and everyone who knows me has witnessed this on more than one occasion." He let those words sink in for a moment. "So we'd have to do all this as well if we really are going to do this or no one will believe it anyway, especially not my parents. And from what I've seen from your relationship with Duncan and Troy you like to do at least a few of those things with your boyfriend too." Again he made a pause to let her think over it. "Are you really ready for us to do all these things? Touching, meeting regularly in public, making out - kissing?"

"I guess there are worse things than that," she murmured after a long moment, but he caught the hesitation in her voice.

He wasn't sure what to make out of that. She still seemed willing to do it anyway, but was it just because she wanted to protect him or perhaps there was a little hope that she actually might want all this as bad as he did?

"I still don't see what that's got to do with our friendship though."

And was she really this naive or did she just as badly want to hear him admit some of his feelings towards her like he did? He just didn't know anymore and frankly said, he was too tired to play any games or muster up the energy to pretend anymore.

So he simply kissed her.

His kiss had taken her by complete surprise, he could tell that much. But she hadn't pushed him away yet so he just deepened the kiss, letting some of his frustration and exasperation slip into it. She still seemed frozen in his arms and with a sinking feeling, he was just about to break off the kiss when she finally started to respond, shyly at first and very hesitatingly, but when he gentled the kiss to meet her, Veronica suddenly won on confidence and she started to really kiss him back, with more and more force and passion behind it. Logan followed, feeling the fire flare up between them and race through his body. He pulled her towards him, flush against his body, his hand burying itself in the incredible silkiness of her hair, his other hand slipping under her t-shirt on its own, eager to feel the soft texture of her skin. She still was kissing him back with fervor, still not pushing him back and so he dared to deepen their kiss even more, tasting her, drawing her even closer. He knew she had to feel his excitement, there was no way she couldn't feel the growing hardness pressing hotly against her lower belly but she still didn't try to get away from him. Hell, he was pretty sure she was actually grinding herself deliberately against his erection. The hand under her t-shirt somehow had found its way up towards her breasts and when he brushed softly over her hard (oh Jesus) nipples, he felt her shudder. With an almost tortured groan, he ripped his mouth away from hers and let his head sink down onto her shoulder, keeping her as close to him as humanly possible though.

One more second of this and he knew he'd throw her onto the bed and there was no going back anymore. But he needed to know that she was sure about this, that she really was with him on this one.

"Do you understand now, Veronica?" he rasped, his voice too rough with the myriad of emotions he was feeling. "God, I thought you were hot already back when we first met. Nothing has ever changed that. But we were friends and we did have other love interests, so I never felt the need to act on it. But it's different now. We're different. And like it or not, but my attraction to you has grown. I can't pretend to be your boyfriend, Ronnie. I could never kiss you and not let it get out of hand like just now. Not wanting to have more. Nor do I want to pretend. If you're going to be my girlfriend then it has to be the real deal. And I do want that, Veronica, so badly." He took a deep breath and lifted his head to look into her eyes. They were dazed as he noted with primal satisfaction. He hoped that was a good sign. "Are you ready for that though? Do you want the real deal too? Because if not, then you've got to say it now. I'll let you go, help myself to a real cold shower and we'll forget about this idea. It's your decision."

She was quiet, still gazing at him with her dazed eyes.

Reluctantly, he pulled his hand from under her t-shirt to caress her cheek, lightly. "But I do hope that your answer is yes."

Her eyes cleared a bit and she blinked. She still just gazed into his eyes for a long while though.

"Ronnie?" he whispered, barely daring to breath, in fear to have this magic moment blow up into his face.

But then she smiled. "I don't know. This wasn't what I had planned or imagined - but then I don't think I can pass on such a nice offer - or on such kisses," she answered at last and before he could analyze her words too much she had already pulled down his head for another kiss.

That was answer enough for him.

Sweeping her up into his arms, he brought her up to his level and reveled in the better access this gave him to her mouth. She too seemed to like it, because she was making some quiet sounds from deep within her throat they were making Logan slowly but surely crazy with growing need. When she finally slang her legs around him he staggered, his knees suddenly too week to support the two of them.

Thank God there was the bed just behind him. Turning around with seemingly his last halfway clear thought he sank down onto it, gently lowering Veronica onto her back, never breaking their more and more frantic kiss.

He was still halfway in his diver suit but then again that also meant that there wasn't that much clothing to remove on his side. Surely a definitely good thing, the way this was going, he thought as he pulled Ronnie's t-shirt over her head.

Bless her for not wearing a bra.

Her hands moved to his back, pulling the zipper all the way down and almost blind with need, he kicked the suit off as fast as he could, leaving him only in his swimming trunks, so he could finally lower his head to start a thorough exploration of her wonderful breasts with his tongue.

He guessed he could have spent hours playing with them, but the growing need urged him to claim her lips once again while letting his hand slide down her stomach towards the rim of her jeans, slipping beneath them. This caused her to moan, the small sound driving him more and more over the edge.

Somewhere, in the deepest of his mind, a very small voice was warning him that this was going too fast, that he had to slow down. Not that he didn't want this - God, he wanted it so bad. But he was sure that Ronnie was still a virgin and the first time shouldn't be hard, animalistic and quick where this definitely was heading to. It should be slow and sensual and most of all, careful and patient.

Ronnie's hands glided over his back and she briefly broke their kiss so she could kiss down his neck, remaining over a very sensitive spot near his collarbone for a long moment before trailing up again to join once again in a searing kiss with him, her hands finding their way to his chest and stomach in the meanwhile, slowly heading downwards, much to the excitement of a certain very eager body part of him.

How the hell could he ever go slow with her driving him this crazy?

He had no idea but then, other things seemed more important to him right now. Like finally getting Veronica out of those damn jeans of her. At last he managed to unfasten the button and zip down the zipper and he proceeded to pull them away from her, with her help, apparently as eager to get rid of the annoying remaining clothing as him.

Forcing himself to break the kiss, it was his turn to leave a trail of small kisses down her body, taking a sweet break to remain a bit longer at her breasts again and then again to play a little with her navel. It aroused him as well, but it left him a little bit more cool headed than their fervent and zealous kisses. But no matter what he did, he knew that it wouldn't last much longer anymore, not this time. Too great was his need, too long was it since he had had sex that actually meant something to him and too fiery was their coming together.

Heaven, if he had known that it would be like that between them he would never have let himself get distracted by Lilly or let Duncan have the first shot. Then again, who knew if it would have ever been like that between them before they had to change so much and had also learned the hard and tough sides of each other?

Somehow, he just couldn't see the old Veronica Mars withering like that under his touch. Nor could he see himself get this turned on by the old, virginal Veronica Mars.



He didn't want to hurt her, even though he knew that a certain amount of pain wasn't avoidable. But he could lesson it, prepare her better, but hell, if he really wanted to do that, he should see to it that he finally got a start on it.


Forcing himself to slow down, he made his way back up with his head, while his fingers slowly trailed down though, slipping beneath her panties, carefully. He had no idea what her ex's had done with her, how far they had actually gone. The last thing he wanted to do was to scare her. Not that he thought that his Ronnie scared easily nowadays. But no matter how tough she was, the first time could always be a bit awkward. Especially if the partner didn't know what to do.

Of course, he was quite experienced already for his rather young age. You couldn't be in a relationship with someone like Lilly and not get a wide and profound experience in sex.

And yet, he had the feeling that having sex with the tiny blond one was going to be something entirely else that would teach even him something new.

Gently, he brushed over her center, groaning when he found it already wet and hot for him. Perhaps he wouldn't have to do that much preparation after all. Slowly, he started to rub a bit, increasing his pressure slightly. Whimpering a little bit, Veronica moved her hip, pressing herself tighter against his hand. He was just about to let a finger of his slid inside of her when suddenly, everything changed.

One second, Veronica was moving with him, the next she froze, every muscle in her tensing. And already, he could feel her bring up her hands to push at his chest.

"Logan, stop. Please stop. God, I'm sorry, but please, please stop."

His frenzied mind needed a moment for her words and actions to register, but he too froze, not moving exactly away from her but not continuing either.

Stop. Stop. Now she wanted to stop? Jesus, couldn't she have pulled the brake earlier than that?

But stop was stop and he slowly lifted his head to gaze at her inquiringly.

To his absolute confusion, he saw panic and... was that fear in her eyes?

Breathing deeply, he slowly slid his hand back out from under her panties and lifted himself off from her, never letting her out of his eyes.

Was she really that afraid of him?

As soon as she was free, she scrambled up, snatching the blanket to cover herself while she huddled against the wall.

He had a flashback to the day all those weeks ago when he had found her crying in the girl's bathroom and she had shied away from his touch as well and all traces of lust vanished as he got a really, really bad feeling.


She shook her head, avoiding his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Just - I just need a minute, okay?"

Somehow, her words made him cringe. Did she really think he could ignore such a reaction to their intimacy?

And the last shreds of that girl died that morning when she woke up and had to realize that she really could trust no one and nothing again, not even her own instinct, her own judgment.

Her words from their last visit in Long Beach came back to his mind and the bad feeling turned to a sick feeling that laid heavy in his stomach and on his heart.

Oh God, no...

"Veronica? What happened?" he whispered, not really wanting to hear it, not when it was what he thought it was, but knowing that he needed to know, for both their sakes.

Her eyes flew to him, so full of pain and also desolation, while her arms tightened even more around herself that it cut straight into his heart.

For a moment he thought she'd refuse to answer, but then she spoke, her voice lost and toneless. "I don't know."

He frowned, tensing.

"I can't remember. Someone slipped me a drink, a rum and coke and I guess some liquid X or GHB in it. All I can remember is passing out by the pool and the next thing I know is I'm waking up in a strange room, my head pounding, I find my panties on the floor and I hurt."

He closed his eyes. No. Oh God no.

"I don't know who it was. Hell, I don't even know if it was just one guy or if I was the party hit for a whole bunch of assholes."

His heart ached for her, wanting nothing more than to turn back time and save her from this ultimate violation of her and spare her this pain. And a rage consumed him he had never known in life before, not even after Lilly's murder. He was going to find that bastard and he was going to rip him apart, starting with his dick. "When? When did this happen?" he finally asked, barely recognizing his own voice.

"Shelley Pomroy's party, a year ago."

He started, his eyes flowing open to stare at her. He remembered that party, out of several reasons. It had been the first party he had gone too after Lilly's death and seeing Ronnie there, reminding him of what had been and what was lost so starkly, after having made it so obvious that she wasn't welcomed in his presence anymore, had enraged him to no end. And she had been trashed that night, gone beyond anything he had ever seen her.

Not trashed. Drugged. So she could be raped.

He should have known, damn it. She just wasn't the type to get trashed like that, no matter what, and it had happened too fast, he remembered, her stumbling through the crowd and throwing herself at other guys not all that long after her arrival before passing out by the pool.

Then he remembered himself standing over her and shoving a lemon slice between her lips, laughing when one of the guys did a body shot on her. On her unconscious body.

He was off the bed in a flash, pacing, his hands flexing into fists. Fuck. He wanted to kill the bastard that had done this to her? He should start with himself. Okay, he had been angry, but that was no excuse. Not for making fun of her like that while she couldn't defend herself and not for not caring enough to not have let this happen to her. For God's sake, he had protected that girl for four years and then he just allowed someone to rape her?

Had it been one of the guys doing the body-shots?

But wait... "I thought you've left with Duncan?" he murmured, trying to make sense of this.


He turned around, saw her narrowed eyes on him. He didn't even think twice of not giving her all the answers she'd ask for. It was the least he owed her - even if it would make her hate him. "You were trashed. Or so we all thought. You've flirted around a bit. Hell, you actually made out with Dick. Madison was spitting mad, I'll tell you." He paused for a moment, seeing her expression of horror. "After a while, we found you passed out by the pool. Well, you weren't all gone, you did still react a bit, but - I should have known better. Some of the guys," he swallowed. "Me and some of the guys made a fun out of it by doing body shots with you. Well, I didn't, but I sure stood by and cheered the other guys on." He dug his nails into his palms and shook his head. "God, Ronnie, I'm so sorry. I know I've acted like an ass. And I know I shouldn't have done that. But I swear on Lilly's grave that that was all we did: body shots. There was no additional groping and none of the other guys tried anything even remotely resembling rape. I know I've been angry back then but you've got to believe me that not even then I would have allowed this."

She held his eyes for a long, long time, before she slowly nodded. "I know. But now back to me leaving with Duncan?"

Relieved that she believed him, he nodded. "At one point, Duncan showed up and got an angry fit because of what we were doing. He lifted you up and left with you, saying he wanted to bring you home."

Ronnie took this in and frowned. "But I was still at Shelley's place when I woke up the next morning."

"That's what I don't get either," Logan agreed, frowning, trying to remember. "Okay, I've slipped him some Liquid X, so he'd loosen up a bit..."

"You had Liquid X?"

At her sharp question, he nodded, glancing back at her guiltily. "I've got it in Tijuana. This was the first party after Lilly's death. I brought it with me because I wanted to have some means to escape if it got too tough. But then I gave it Duncan because I just wanted to see him smile again, even if it meant he was going to get back together with you."

"Who else had drugs with them?" she wanted to know.

Again, he answered on the spot. "As far as I know, Sean and Luke. And Dick, but he had been already out at the party."

"How do you know that?"

"Because he kept begging us to give him our share," Logan said with a shrug.

She looked away. "Do you remember anything else about the party?"

"No," he sighed, his hands balling to fists once again. "I... it had been too soon. I wasn't ready yet for parties like this one as I had to admit to myself, so I left soon afterwards. I went home and got drunk shitless." And left her to her rapist. Or rapists. Jesus God, if he ever found out who'd had done it... But he left that unsaid, pretty sure she wouldn't be too impressed by his oaths and swearing.

They were silent for a while, him sporting dark thoughts about revenge and her... whatever she was thinking about.

"Logan? Did you hear... I mean, I've heard the rumors starting after the party as well that say I pretty much slept with every guy there - but has one of your buddies actually admitted to have had sex with me? Not necessarily at that time, but did one of them say they've actually been in my pants?"

Her timid question tore at his heart and more than anything he whished he could give her a positive answer - or even better that none of this had ever happened. But just like he couldn't bring Lilly back to life he couldn't make what had been done to his Ronnie vanish. All he could do was be there for her, albeit a year too late. And help her get justice and revenge. And do everything in his power to not let something like that happen to her again. "No, no one. Then again, I'm not sure they'd have boasted about it in front of me. Everyone knew what I thought of you and so could tell that I wouldn't exactly have congratulated the guy on his score."

She drew her arms closer around her, but she simply nodded. He wondered how it must have been for her, going back to school and facing everyone day after day, knowing that someone of them had violated her in the worst way someone could hurt another person. But she always had had her head held high. With a sick feeling he realized that this had been when she had cut her hair, when she had stopped taking his and anyone else's comments and had given them back equally. This was when this new Veronica had been born, the Veronica who drove him crazy, who had planted a bong in his locker and the same Veronica who had forced him to rethink their relationship and bring him to the point that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her.

And deep admire filled him, because he doubted that anyone else could have survived all she had to go through, all alone, and come out so well as she had. And he hated himself even more, because only now could he really grasp how much he really had let her down. If he hadn't pushed her away as he had nothing of this would ever have happened, he was sure of it. And afterwards, instead of doing something when he had noticed that something must have happened to her, what had he done? He had launched an even more hateful attack against her, helping spread the rumors about her fallen status of a virgin, turning her, at least by reputation, into the biggest slut at school.

Yet here she was, having declared and proved her friendship to him several times and until she had pulled the brake, she had even let him make out with him pretty heavily. Suddenly, standing became too much to him and he sank onto the only chair in the small cabin. How could she have forgiven him all of this? How could she have even let herself trust anyone, let alone him ever again? He didn't know, he was just grateful for it. And his resolve to never betray that incredible trust in him again strengthened even more. No matter what happened, he wasn't going to forget this ever again and never again would he let her down.

Suddenly, an incredible thought occurred to him and he blurted it out before he could stop himself. "Wait - wait... you... you didn't ever think that... that I could have done this to you, did you?" he asked, his heart beating fast.

She still had had her eyes averted from him, but at his desperate question she slowly looked back at him, meeting his eyes. "I know it had to be someone at the party - a 09er. After it happened, I made myself a list of all the boys at the party. I didn't exclude you or Duncan. And I tried to figure out who of those guys could have done it. I came up with nothing. Some I just can't believe to be capable of such a thing, but then, what do I know after all? And some I simply don't know enough," she answered after a moment in a neutral tone that made his heart plummet down. "You... I know how angry you've been with me at that time. I remember the hate with which you've looked at me when I dared to come to the party. I saw the resolve to make me regret that decision. And you've already hurt me so much..." Her eyes bored into his. "But no, Logan. No. Each time I tried to think if you could have done it, everything in me rebelled. I've told you before: I don't really trust my own judgment that much anymore. But I just know you haven't been the one. Just like I know you never had an idea of what really had happened at that party. Because I know you and you're capable of much, but not of anything like this. Or I would never have let you back in again. And I sure as hell wouldn't be here now - or would have let happen what we were about to do."

He breathed out and with it, a huge rock lifted from his heart. Thank God... He wasn't sure he deserved her faith in him, but thank Heaven that she hadn't believed him capable of such a thing.

"What just happened...When I told you to stop..."

He looked back up to her.

"It's not... it wasn't because I didn't trust you. Please don't think I stopped because of you. But... I don't know. I guess I got scared. Not by you of course but by what was going to happen." Her eyes flew to him, briefly, then looked down, her fingers playing nervously. "You need to know that I never... I mean, I never had sex before that night and never since then and like said - I don't really remember anything. I just know that it happened. And then, when you... well, I felt it wasn't going to take long anymore until we really... well, you know. I just panicked, afraid of what would happen."

He took a deep breath - and let it out again. She was wrong if she thought he blamed her for stopping them. "I went too fast, I know. Everything happened too fast. And I'm sorry for that. I tried to slow down but..." He shrugged, offering her a lopsided smile. "Frankly said, you pretty much shot all control I may have had to hell."

There was a ghost of a smile on her face too and he was pleased to see that she blushed deeply. "But you stopped," she said softly. "The moment I told you to stop, you stopped, no matter how hard that was."

Instantly turning serious, Logan waited until she lifted her eyes to meet his. "Stop means stop," he told her simply. "Veronica, I promise you, I will never go on when you tell me to stop. Depending how far we've come I may need a moment, but I will always stop."

She held his eyes for a long moment, then nodded, accepting this without anymore questions.

So far so good. He leaned forward a bit. "And I don't mind you stopping us, Ronnie. Even if the circumstances were different, it wasn't - right. Wrong time, too spur of the moment, too fast."

When she looked down at that, resuming her nervous finger playing, he raised an eyebrow. "So... I guess you don't want..." her voice trailed off.

Logan couldn't help it, but the disappointment in her voice amused him to no end - and touched him. "Ronnie." Once again he waited until he held her eyes. "For starters, I could ask you the same thing. After everything that happened I could understand why you wouldn't want to have sex with me."

Her blush deepened - but this time she didn't look away. "Why? I don't blame you. I trust you." She bit her lip. "And I care for you. Not to mention that what went on between us, I mean before I panicked... I never imagined it could be like that. It sure felt good. I'd like to try it again. With you. And let you show me through all the way down 'til the end." She grimaced. "But I can't promise what will happen. I'm scared I'll have a flashback after all. Or that - I suddenly freeze like just now and can't continue after all. I could understand if you don't want to have to deal with such shit," she finished quietly.

"It's hardly your fault that you've been raped!" he protested with heat and her eyes widened a bit. Getting up, he went back over to the bed and sat across from her, gently taking her hands. "I never want to hear you degrading yourself like that again. And for the record: it felt good to me as well. Very good. And I sure am still as attracted to you as I've been, if not even more. So yeah, I definitely want to try it again. But in the right way this time." He lifted a hand to caress her cheek and was relieved and pleased that she didn't shy away or held any fear or panic in her eyes. "It's been going too fast anyway. We're barely back to friends, you just found out about my dad, I'm admitting that I want more than just friendship and already we're about to have sex. It was just too much all at once. And now with you telling me about the rape..." He swallowed, still having difficulties to speak it out, making it so much more real. The thought of Ronnie, innocent, trusting and virginal as she had been being violated like that... it just about killed him. But she didn't need his vengeance and guilt right now. She needed his reassurance and hell, that was the least he could give her. "We need to take this slow, Veronica. There's no hurry. Tonight, we'll have a nice dinner, watch the fireworks and if you want to, I think it would do us good to just sleep then. Together, just holding each other, not doing anything much."

"Give us time and the opportunity to heal," Ronnie said softly.

He nodded. "And to get to know us better. Yeah, we've been friends and enemies and friends again, and I think we really know each other's darkest secret now - but becoming a couple is a whole other story again. I've seen it with Lilly. Let's give us time to get used to all of it, to these new sides of our relationship - to get comfortable with it and one another. And when we're ready, we'll try it again, go our own pace, step for step." He smiled. "You with me on this?"

She scooted closer, touched his face, before she nodded with a hesitate smile. "Yeah. I like that."

Pulling her closer, he gave her a light kiss before hugging her, just holding her close. With a sigh, she laid her head onto his shoulder and held him back.

And that was just fine with him.

"I'm sorry."

Not catching up right on, Logan opened an eye to blink at Ronnie, lying beside him on the deck of the boat, propped up on an elbow and looking solemn. After spending a calm though very beautiful and perfect Sylvester night they've decided to leave Long Beach behind and return back to Neptune - without any haste. More or less half way back, they've stopped in a small bay to enjoy the splendid weather and bath in the sun for a few hours.

Slowly, Ronnie stroked tenderly over his back, remorse filling her eyes. "When I planted the bong in your locker - he punished you for that, didn't he? I noticed you moved awkwardly for a couple of days but I just thought it was because of Weevil's beatings. I never..."

Sighing, Logan closed his eyes again and turned his head. "Don't worry about it, Ronnie. That was ages ago."

"Well, I'm sorry if I just can't forget that I was directly responsible for you being - whipped," she retorted though, anger, bitterness and disgusted outrage in her voice. Her hand though resumed stroking with a feather-light touch over his back. "See, that's why you should have told me a long time ago. I'd have never risked putting you in your dad's wrath like that if I'd known."

Groaning, Logan flipped over and, shading his eyes with a hand, glared at her. "The last thing I would have wanted was for you to go easy on me because you were pitying me. Second, trust me, in the end it hurt a lot more for him to take away the X-terra than the few whips I got for it. And last but not least, Dad was on edge at that time anyway, it having been too long since he last could get rid of some steam by taking it out on me so if it hadn't been the bong and the mayhem it caused temporarily it would have been something else - perhaps me bringing home a bad grade or being late or whatever. That's how it works, Ronnie. So please, just forget about it, okay? Not to mention that I think with me taking out your headlights we're more than even." He smirked. "Besides, it was kind of funny. Gotta admit, Mars, I wouldn't have given it to you."

She sighed but smiled back. "Yeah well, it was funny. I don't regret having played you that prank per se. You deserved it for dragging Mom into it." She turned serious. "But I never intended to get you really hurt. If I'd known, I'd have found another way to pay you back."

Feeling a pang of guilt, he looked away for a moment. "I know I shouldn't have brought up your mother. That was too low, I admit that - did already shortly afterwards actually."

"Why did you do it?" she asked, curiously.

Glancing back at her, he shrugged. "Honestly? I'm not sure. I was just so angry at you back then - but not the usual way, you know? Over the summer I thought that maybe, I finally managed to cut you out completely, forgetting about you once and for all. Then school year was back on and there you were again. You weren't invisible to me, I couldn't ignore you and your presence annoyed and irked me." He shook his head. "Today I think it was because I simply couldn't forget you and our friendship after all and part of me was starting to realize that you'd never be indifferent to me."

"Naturally, that pissed you off." Ronnie nodded, understanding.

"So I took it out on you, striking out in the meanest way I could think of," he concluded. He studied her for a while. "Veronica? For what it's worth now: I am very sorry about your mom. And be angry with me if you want but I think she's scum for leaving you like that."

She got a distant look in her eyes. "Lately, I tried to find her, you know. There are so many questions I have - about her and Jake and her and Dad, why she left, why she never called me or even sent a postcard - why she doesn't let me find her." Lying down again, she surprised Logan by scooting closer and laying her head onto his shoulder. "When she left - I was so angry for her to leave us, only leaving a stupid note behind. But part of me was also relieved because - after Dad lost his job and we had to move out of the house..." She swallowed.

"It was bad," Logan said it for her, quietly.

He felt her nod. "Yeah." She was silent for a while. "But I had Dad and I had Back-Up and that was enough. It was fine. And the more time that passed without hearing from her, not even on my birthday, the more - indifferent she became to me."

"So what changed? You said you're looking for her?"

"Yeah... A while back I found a key to a deposit box at a local bank. That was when you and Luke got dragged into that scheme of Troy down in Mexico. I managed to get access to it and I found..." She broke off and with a sigh, sat up, glancing at him hesitantly. "Okay, don't get angry, yeah?"

Not liking the sound of that, he sat up too, frowning slightly. "Why should I get angry?"

"Because I haven't told you this so far. But seriously, I didn't think it mattered. At least not for what we try to find out."

He narrowed his eyes. "Haven't told me what?"

"In the box were surveillance pictures. Of me." Her eyes bored into his. "With a target drawn over my face."

He digested that. And as the meaning of it dawned on him, he felt his blood begin to boil - quite a feast as he could swear he could also feel it turning cold with fear. "And you thought that's not important?!" he managed to hiss through a clenched jaw.

She had the nerve to smile sheepishly. "Well, no, not really. This was Mom-business and sorry, but at first I didn't trust you enough yet to open myself up to more humiliation and when I did trust you again - it's my Mom, Logan. She's a sore topic for me, one I avoid if I can and with all the shit we had to clear between us already I just didn't want to go into that as well. But I'm telling you now and seriously, Logan - would you have spoken about it if it had been one of your parents? I mean, you haven't told me about your dad having that many affaires. Nor did you mention how your Mom and her liking to pills is nowadays."

His jaw flexed painfully under the pressure he was applying on it, but he said nothing. She had a point there - but dammit! That was hardly the same! They weren't talking about targets drawn over his face on surveillance pictures!

"Besides, I did a little sleuthing and found out who had taken the pictures," she continued, as if reading his mind. "And I took measures to let him know that I know - and that I don't appreciate it."

"Care to enlighten me?" He glared at her. The thought of her confronting such a possible threatening man, all alone...

She made a grimace. "You won't like it."

"I don't care! Just tell me, okay?" he flared up, well aware that he was taking his fear out on her - but she deserved it, to do so stupid things like go take on a blackmailer or hell, perhaps even a killer.

"It was Clarence Wiedman."

Logan needed a moment to place the name, but when he did, he stared at her, incredulous. "Wait - the head of security at Kane Industries? That Clarence Wiedman?"

Veronica nodded.

His eyes widened further. "You... you mean - those pictures - they came from the Kanes?"

He didn't know why he was so shocked by this - he suspected the family of the possible murder of their own daughter. So why was learning them being responsible for a few threatening pictures such a shock for him?

Again, Ronnie nodded. "Yeah. I thought Jake, but when I confronted him at your mom's Christmas party it turned out he knew no more about the pictures than me. From his outburst with Celeste I'm guessing that she was responsible for the pictures though. When I found that out I thought that that would explain it after all, you know? Mom and Jake had an affair and Celeste finally decided to drive her out of Neptune by threatening me." She frowned. "But I'm not so sure anymore. Why wait so long? Why only a few months after Lilly's death? Why such a harsh threat? I mean, threatening one's daughter's life is pretty overboard to just get rid of the annoying affair of your husband, don't you think so too?"

Her words raced through his head and he tried to make them make sense. "You think it might be linked with Lilly's death?"

She shrugged. "Perhaps. Or perhaps I'm just paranoid after all. I just don't know what to think anymore. That's why I want to talk with Mom. I'm hoping she can bring some light to it."

"Your dad knows nothing of this?" he guessed and sure enough, she gave him a look that told him just how dumb a question that really was. "What? Do you se a flock of bodyguards following me around perhaps?"

He had to smile at that. "Had you any luck in finding your mother?"

"I tracked her down to an old friend she's been staying with for a while but I missed her by just a few days. Next I sent disposable and non traceable phones to all friends and relatives I could think of and she did call at last, on Dad's birthday. Told me to not look for her and that I'll understand one day," she answered, making a face. "That's the last I heard of her. She's better at staying low than I'd have credited her for. Dad may be able to find her, but so far he seems to have no interest in doing so. So I guess until something comes up I have to find the answers myself."

"We do," he corrected her, daring her with his eyes to protest.

He didn't care if this was personnel for her or not, she had to understand that they were partners now and she had to stop this solo tours of hers. Hadn't she understood by now how important she was to him? That putting herself at such risks nearly killed him?

She held his eyes for a long time, but finally, she nodded, smiling. "Yeah. We do."

"And don't forget it again," he grumbled, content though.

Her smile just widened and she slid down to lay on her back again and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

For a while, he just looked at her, hesitating There was a question that troubled him ever since last night but even though they had just discussed a few delicate topics, he wasn't sure if he really should ruin the peace by bringing up her rape.

"What is it?"

He blinked. "Huh?"

"You're burning to ask something. Go on ahead: ask."

"Are you sure? It's about..."

She opened an eye. "Logan, just ask."

"I just wondered - why did the police never question me about that night?" he asked hesitantly.

Her other eye opened as well. "Pardon me?"

"Well..." He spread his fingers. "It's just - you're a sheriff's daughter, always were and I can't imagine that even with having to go to Lamb and have to admit to your ordeal and face the consequences you wouldn't report this. You'd have wanted them to be processed and punished properly. So... As I've been one of the guys at the parties and I guess, to an official eye would appear to be a prime suspect with everything that had happened between us, why had I never the pleasure to be interrogated?" At last he searched for her eyes. "You did report it, didn't you?"

But she closed her eyes and looked away, leaving him feeling quite disturbed by that. "Ronnie?"

"Why don't you go see the wizard? Ask for a little back bone."

Frowning deeply, Logan stared at her. Had she lost her mind?

"That was all Sheriff Lamb had to say to me after I reported the rape to him, right after he made fun of me for crying," she explained, tonelessly.

Logan needed a long moment to truly understand what she said. When he finally did, he found himself too baffled to even get angry. "Wait - are you telling me the sheriff just sent you away after you reported a rape to him?"

That was impossible, wasn't it? Sure, he knew best of all that the law had blind spots - but to send away a rape victim and with such words on top of that? That just couldn't be true, could it?

"And all the time, he grinned that dirty grin at me, as if he didn't just not believe me - but that he actually was gleeful of what had been done to me." This time, her voice broke, if only a little.

It was enough to enflame Logan into hot anger at once. "I am getting him fired for this. And then I'll beat the hell out of this asshole," he swore darkly, his fist balling already in anticipation.

"In a way I have to be grateful to him - I certainly grew a backbone after all, didn't I?" she asked softly, turning her head back to him.

He growled. "He had no right to ignore your report like that - let alone ridicule what had been done to you!"

"No, he had not. In a way though, he wasn't even that wrong in ridiculing it. Even if he had taken it seriously, chances that it would have come to a conviction were more or less like zero. Even if a rape kit had been made, it would have proved the drugs in my blood and the sexual intercourse, yeah, but nothing else. No proof that I hadn't taken the drugs myself and no proof that it wasn't consented sex after all. I had no bruises, no defense wounds, no memories and so couldn't even name anyone. There was nothing but my word that this had been a rape and what worth is the word of Veronica Mars in the end, daughter of delusional and paranoid Keith Mars?" For a moment, bitterness flew over her face. "And let's face it, who on that party would have supported my accusation? No one. Fact is, every single one on that party hated my guts and as it is, by next Monday I've already turned to be the school's biggest slut."

He cringed, reminded once again at how wrong he had done her. "Neverless - your dad would never have allowed such a thing. He'd have done whatever he could for someone like you."

"Yeah well, it was been made sure that he's not the sheriff anymore though, no?" she only responded sarcastically and once again he cringed. True, he had little to do with Sheriff Mars' loss of his job but he had cheered the decision.

"I know - but at least this also showed just how fast such a thing can go," he pointed out forebodingly.

It couldn't be that hard to see to it that this asshole Lamb lost his position, could it? He'd have to think about it. If he somehow could get his father convinced what an idiot Lamb was and he in return could get some of the others 09ers to support him, Lamb would be out.

"Contrary to Dad Lamb's not just an imbecile but also a major suck up - and I think the dirty things he does find out he rather uses as blackmail than to actually press charges. People won't fire him in fear of what he knows. Not to mention that it's of course convenient to have a sheriff who won't bother you 09ers and turning a blind eye on their various crimes," she once again seemed to read his thoughts. "Catapulting him out of his office won't be so easy."

He smirked. "Are you trying to tell me that it's not doable?"

At that she smirked back. "Now that I wouldn't say."

He grinned. Oh yeah, that was his Ronnie.

"Uff, Back-Up, I swear you've gained a few pounds," Logan huffed as he lifted the large pit-bull out of the boat.

Back-Up fletched his way and chuckling, Ronnie ruffled his head. "It's probably more that he hadn't enough exercise with all the time we stayed on the boat in the end. We're going to have to get you to the beach for a good run, don't we, boy?"

The little monster gave a short bark, as if to say 'You bet on that, missy'.

Grabbing his duffel and the basket with the rest of their provisions, Logan too jumped up onto the footbridge. Worried, he looked up at the sky. "It will be dark soon. You shouldn't go alone to the beach."

Amused, she glanced up at him. "That's why I have this big, scary pit-bull with me, you know? And that wonderful invention called a tazer."

"Still..." Logan just voiced his doubts.

"Or is this your way of inviting yourself to the walk as well?" she asked, quite smugly.

That would be no doubtly true, but that didn't mean he couldn't have a little fun with that. So he stepped very close to her to cup her cheek and leaned down. Only a breath a way, he smiled. "And would that be so bad?"

Her cheeks flushed, but she stayed where she was, even reached up to cover his hand with hers. "No, I guess not," she answered as softly.

"Then it's a deal," he murmured and closed the distance to give her a slow, deep kiss.

Since last night they've kissed quite the bit and it was fast becoming second nature to him, to reach out, take her into his arms, touch her, hone in for a small kiss or get lost in one of their deeper kisses. The thought of not being able to do this unnerved him. Not that he was sure if this would be denied him in public - in all their talking they somehow had forgotten to clear the front on their position in this matter.

By the time they let each other go, she had laid both of her hands onto his wrist and looked up into his eyes now, her eyes warm. "Not to mention that we still have to talk about this, don't we?"

He nodded, his forehead still leaned against hers. "Definitely. Want to drop home first or go straight to the beach?"

"Let's go to the beach as long as there's still daylight," she decided and together, they started walking back the footbridge, his arm around her shoulders, their hands linked and Back-Up trailing joyously in front of them.

This for sure was something he could get used to.

"So... that was quite some trip, huh?" Ronnie eventually brought up their topic.

Stopping, he bend his head. "You could say that."

"Where's it leaving us?" she asked straight out, holding his eyes.

Caressing her cheek, he smiled earnestly. "How do you want to leave it?"

She grumbled a bit. "You first."

His smile widened. "Isn't that quite obvious?"

"Hmpf." She mustered up a half-hearted glare. "You're not going to say it first, aren't you?"

"Hey, I took the first step by kissing you, risking my balls and our friendship. I think it's only fair it's your turn now," he pointed out, and yeah, he was smirking.

"Fine," she conceded grudgingly. "Will you be my boyfriend, Logan Echolls?" she then asked straight out.

He laughed and lifted her up to smack a quick kiss onto her lips. "Way, I'd be delighted to have you as my girlfriend, Veronica Mars," he answered, putting her down onto her feet and immediately honing in for a way more appropriate kiss for such a moment. "Now, was that so hard?" He asked after a long moment, having her securely wrapped in his arms.

"I guess I can live with it," she admitted. "Now all we have to decide is how we plan to do this with the world out there," she continued with a grimace.

Logan sure could understand her feeling. It was true, while they've been on the trip, everything had been so clear, so simple. But now back in Neptune, he knew it wouldn't be that easy. There was still their history. And there were also their friends, who were bound to make it a lot more difficult for them by disapproving. Then they had to deal with their insecurities, especially what aftermath the rape had left his Ronnie in. Not to mention the biggest hurdle in his eyes: he had to face Keith Mars and his guns as the new suitor of his precious little girl. The thought alone made him not just a bit nervous and slightly sick. After everything Duncan had told him after his meeting with The dad... And it was bound to be worse for him, her father perfectly knowing the hell he had put Ronnie through after Lilly's death.

Oh yeah, he almost forgot: they also had to deal with the ghosts of Lilly and Duncan. And Duncan. He cringed at the thought of his best friend. Ronnie may or may not be the half-sister of Duncan but he knew without a single doubt that Duncan was not going to take it well that his best friend was now together with the girl he still loved. And he had every right to. Ex-girlfriends of your best friend were taboo, no matter the circumstances. Logan knew that and usually respected this unspoken rule: and if this with Ronnie were just an infatuation or a quick romp in the bed he would never have acted on his feelings. But it wasn't, it was so much more than that. He was pretty sure that he was already half in love with Veronica and he simply couldn't just be her friend. And these past few days showed just how good them together were. Over the last few weeks and especially during their trip Logan had felt so many wounds starting to heal and he was happier and calmer now than he had been in a long time, if ever. That was why he willingly risked the best and oldest friendship he had, because on the bottom line he was sure that if he had to lose one of them - then the loss of Ronnie would devastate him far more than Duncan's, even though he hoped with all his being that it wouldn't come to that. While expecting a big strain on their friendship he did hope that they would overcome it, especially if Duncan really was able to move on with Meg Manning.

Ronnie sighed deeply. "Do we have to tell anyone at all?" she whined.

Focusing back on her, he frowned. "Not that I don't understand the sentiment, but I'm no big fan of secrets, Veronica. Not with something like that."

Though, there was a certain appeal of having secret meetings and sneaking around for a while.

"I know, I know. I wasn't really serious." She squeezed his hand. "I don't want to deny our relationship. I just wish we could escape the ruckus the knowledge of our relationship will probably cause."

He squeezed back, his eyes looking out on the sea though, thinking. "Maybe your idea isn't so bad after all."

Her head snapped up. "What?"

Looking back at her, he held up a hand. "Just listen for a moment, okay? I'm not saying to really engage in a secret relationship. But perhaps it's good to keep it quiet for a few days, perhaps a week or two top. Just until we could tell the people who shouldn't hear it through the grapevine."

"Oh... like Duncan," she said knowingly.

He nodded. "The least I owe him is to tell him in person - and give him the chance to show whatever reaction he may have in private, just between him and me."

She studied him for a moment. "You want to tell him alone? Are you really that worried about his reaction?"

"I think he won't like it too much, Ronnie. And yeah, I don't think it's a good idea if you're with me when I tell him," he confirmed. "This is something we need to clear between us. You can always have a separate talk with him later, if you want to."

"No, that's okay. I see your point. Thinking of it, I owe it to Wallace too to tell him in person and ahead of the rest. And Mac and Meg perhaps as well," she said, thoughtfully. "And of course, there are also Dad and your parents."

Suppressing a shiver, he made a face. "I'm perfectly fine with waiting to tell your dad for a while. Before he brings out the chastity belt and the big gun."

"Aww, is it possible that the big, bold Logan is scared of my old man?" she asked, her eyes gleaming wickedly.

"This isn't funny. I heard what he did put Duncan through, remember. And he is allowed to carry concealed," he added, this time not quite able to suppress the shudder.

"Relax. He's not that bad. He and Duncan understood each other perfectly," Ronnie though waved his worries away.

Knowing that she hadn't been there when her dad had had his one on one talk with Duncan, he held his tongue. But he knew he had every right to be worried about ex-Sheriff Mars.

"So we'll lay low until we've told everyone we want to tell in person?" Ronnie took up their conversation again. "Yeah, that's okay. Any idea how long we're going to play Romeo and Juliet?"

"At least until school's back on. Duncan is in Nappa now with his parents and won't be back until Sunday evening. I'm not going to do this over the phone," he answered.

"Okay," she agreed without hesitation.

Wanting to think of better things than the confrontation with his best friend, he gathered Ronnie back into his arms for a slow kiss. "You know, it may have its advantages, being a secret couple."

She smiled back. "Hmm... You mean like driving through the backstreets, secret looks and messages, mysterious phone calls?"

"More as in meeting in secret locations. Your favorite girl's bathroom, the locket room, have a quick nookie in one of the booths in the newspaper room," he listed, his hands slipping under her sweatshirt to caress the soft skin of her stomach.

"Oh boy," she murmured and drew his head down for another kiss, a much more heatedly one than their previous.

Not that he had any complaints about that.


(Author's Note: At last a new chapter. I'm really sorry this took so long. But apart of the fact that RL has seriously cut down my writing time in the last year I wasn't sure how to proceed as I had various scernarios in mind, each with its own appeal. I finally decided to go this way and I hope you liked this long, long trip in many way, with all that was packed in it. Thanks for the many reviews and I hope that I won't have to let you wait for the new chapter so long again. And as a note for those who are also following Twisted: Trust me, I'm working on the new chapter and hope that it won't be that long anymore to post it.)