Chapter 8: Of Hope And Friendship Bracelets

(Lord of the Bling/Mars vs. Mars)

This was a bad idea.

A really, really bad idea, Logan thought glowering, staring at the apartment complex in front of him. He was parking in front of it for at least half an hour now, trying to find a way to avoid this. Coming up with nothing. No one believed him, not even his best friend. Actually, Duncan had looked as if he was short of calling the psychiatrist when Logan had told him at the funeral that his mother was still alive. It was clear that he sure as hell wasn't going to help him find his mom, as Logan had hoped originally. So much for their friendship. Okay, even if Duncan didn't believe him - he at least could have offered his support, indulging him for the moment, until Logan was sure one way or another.

But she just had to still be alive. She wouldn't have abandoned him, leaving him all alone with his dad. If she had wanted to do that, she would have done that a long time ago, when she had first realized who Aaron Echolls really was. But she had stuck around, she had tolerated all the affairs and in her way, she had done what she could to protect him and at least make it tolerable for him. She wouldn't have left him. And she wouldn't have jumped off a bridge. It was just not possible, totally out of character for his mom. Even if she really had wanted to... to kill herself, she wouldn't have done it this way. Her beloved pills would have been her choice, he was sure of that. And she'd have left him a letter or some other note, just for him, not some stupid, non-personal note on her blackberry.

He looked down, at the lighter in his hand, his thumb stroking once again over the inscription 'FREE AT LAST'.

And she would have given him her father's lighter in person - or with the note, but she wouldn't just have left it behind on her nightstand.

No, she was alive. She was still out there, somewhere.

Of that he was convinced.

But... but he wasn't completely sure. There was this small doubt that continued to plague him. He needed to know for sure. Not necessarily needing to know where she had hidden herself, but that she was indeed still alive, having fled his dad and waiting somewhere until it was safe for her to resurface again. He just needed to know that much.

So here he was. Glaring miserably at the complex in front of him again, he sighed. Yeah, he needed to find his mother, but he knew he couldn't do it alone. He'd need help, someone who knew where to look, how to look, for what signs one needed to look out for in order to find a person who pretended to be dead. Of course he could have gone to a real P.I.. But thing was - he didn't trust them. Hell, at the moment, he didn't trust anyone, especially not some stranger. Most of all, he didn't trust any P.I. not to go to his dad in the end, letting him know that Logan was searching for his mother, believing her still alive. He couldn't risk that. His mom would hardly have gone to all this trouble to get away from him only for Logan to then tip his dad off.

No, he needed to find someone he trusted enough not to talk about his search to anyone, let alone his father.

There had been only one name he could think of, one person that he trusted to help him in the end and boy, had he resented that resolution.

Veronica fucking Mars.

It was insane to even think about it. To go to her of all people, for this big and personal favor no less. Not that he planned to ask for a favor. He was going to hire her and pay for her services. But he knew that even then - it was still basically one major favor he was going to ask for. And to trust her of all people, after everything that had happened, that she had done - and that he had done, he admitted grudgingly - was just hilarious.

He was desperate though and in desperate times you sometimes have to do desperate things - like going to your archenemy for help.

His eyes fell on the envelope on the seat beside him. Staring at it for a moment, he slowly reached out to take out the picture and the simple card. The picture showed him with his mother, standing by their pool. It was a snapshot, his mom with her hand on Logan's cheek, smiling, probably having wiped away something, and him on the verge of avoiding her motherly hand, but grinning mischievously none the less. It was a happy picture and showing off a loving mother-son moment. He couldn't remember that particular moment, having no idea either when it had been taken - but the instant he had seen it, he had loved it. It had also overwhelmed him, not having expected something like this in the least when he had opened the plain envelope, addressed solely to him. That had caught his attention. Most cards or flowers that had been sent after his mother's supposedly suicide had been addressed to the family or to his father - but not solely to him. So, curious, he had actually opened it on the spot and had not just thrown it onto the growing pile that probably was going to land in the garbage without ever having been opened. And this picture had fallen into his hands. And he had just known from whom it was, even before he had read the card, immediately recognizing the handwriting.

Thought you might want this.

I'm sorry, Logan, really, I'm so sorry.

Ronnie

Naturally, he had never expected something like this from Veronica. The only sincere condolence note he had gotten and probably the most honest one of them all. Not to mention the most thoughtful.

Yet, he couldn't even say that he was all that much surprised by this card from Ronnie. Ronnie, not Veronica. It was after all just like the Ronnie he had known. Something to show him that she had thought of him and that she truly was sorry for what had happened. Like it had also been that Ronnie who had taken the picture in the first place, probably at one of the many times she had been over. And perhaps, her signing the note with Ronnie meant that she too had remembered that time between them and therefore had signed it with his nickname for her, as a gift from that old friend he once had had.

Then again, it had been Veronica who had lend him her car without hesitation so he'd be able to join his parents at the hospital after the stabbing. Veronica, who urged him to go home the day his mother's car was found on the bridge and therefore had seen to it that he wasn't cornered by reporters in the school to find out about his mom possibly jumping off the bridge.

Those were the actions of a friend, not an enemy. And yeah, it was true that they weren't really that much of enemies anymore. Not for a while now. But not friends again either and there was the problem. He didn't know where they stood and he just couldn't figure that girl out anymore. One second she was that annoying Veronica she had been this last year, the next she morphed back to the Ronnie he had known and then she switched to this new Veronica, who was a mixture between them both, sometimes friendly, sometimes bickering, sometimes blaming him for this or that again and all the while just so damn confusing.

So perhaps, this note had come not just from the old Ronnie but also this new Veronica. And maybe, just maybe, he could count on her to help him once again.

He leaned forward, letting his head rest against his hands on the steering wheel. Truth was, though she had every right to simply shut the door into his face and laugh her ass off - he doubted she'd do that. Actually, he was pretty sure that she was going to help him. Not because of the money she'd get for it - but because she simply couldn't find it in her to turn him down. She just wasn't like that. Her destroying the very bong she had planted in his locker in the first place, her helping him find that stupid biker who had stolen his mother's credit card and his girlfriend, her rushing to whisk Duncan away to the hospital after the jump he had taken off the bleacher, her working with him in order to give Lilly a proper memorial, her helping Luke not to get beaten to a pulp by that drug dealer, her helping them all find the stolen money of the poker game, her standing by him after his father's stabbing, taking care of him, her lending him her rusty ride, her cleaning his locker of pictures and articles about his two-timing dad and betrayed mom, and hell her once again going out of her way to help him avoid the reporters and get home to learn the news of his mother's supposedly suicide all had proven that much to him. But if she wasn't like that, then why had she turned away from him after Lilly's death, betrayed his trust like that? Then again, had he really had the right to expect that she'd ever choose him before her dad? Having had time to think about it, and actually also doing it, he guessed not. And he had made clear that if she sided with her dad that she was dead to him then. But he had been kind of blind back then, with grief over Lilly's death, hate for her murderer and then incredulity after learning that the sheriff, Veronica's dad, actually suspected Jake of all people. And he blamed Ronnie for not talking sense into her dad, making him look for the real killer and not waste time by interrogating Jake Kane.

But how realistic had that been actually? Could Veronica even have had a chance to change her father's mind? Heaven knew he had no influence whatsoever over his own father's choices and decisions. Then again, his relationship with his dad was worlds away from what Ronnie and her dad had. But really, even then, could she have done anything to stop her father from chasing ghosts? And, thinking hard over it, not once had he actually heard her blaming Jake Kane as well. She had stood with her father yeah - but had she believed Jake Kane guilty as well? He had never bothered to ask, of course. Nor had he ever cared to ask her if she had tried to change her father's mind in the end.

Did it matter anyway?

He wasn't sure. Perhaps. It would maybe make it easier to go to her for help now. Or perhaps not. He just didn't know anymore.

And in the end, all this wasn't important anyway. Fact was that she was the only one he could think of who could possibly help him find his mother - besides her dad perhaps, but given the choice between her or her dad he'd always go for her. Because they were friends once. Because despite everything, she had come through for him lately. Because she knew exactly what it meant when your mom left you. And because his mom had always liked Veronica, had even told him to try to get their friendship back. And because Veronica had also liked his mom, her, not her name, not her movie figures, nor her good-looking body, just her as she really had been.

And because, in a way, he trusted her - honesty more than anyone else. It was the one thing he always had been able to count on, if he liked it or not.

Right.

Taking a deep breath, he got out of his car and slowly made his way over to the door to the Mars' apartment. It was dark in the room he could see from there, but he knew she was there. Well, her car was parked in front of the complex. At least her dad wasn't home. He had seen him leaving a while ago in a car he assumed was his. So it would just be her and him.

Oh joy.

He was doing this for his mother, he reminded himself sternly and before he could have another spell of doubts and resentment against this whole idea, he knocked on the door, perhaps with more force than it was necessary. But hell, he didn't have to like it that he had to come here, begging her for help, did he?

If she really could find him his mother though... he wrapped his arms around his body, suddenly feeling cold - and vulnerable. But if she did, then all the humiliation, awkwardness and pain this step cost him would be worth it. If she agreed to help him, he reminded himself, suddenly not so sure about that anymore.

One thing was for sure though: if she really turned him down now then this - whatever it was between him and Veronica Mars at the moment - would be over forever. That he swore himself.

At last, the door opened, revealing a more than just a little surprised Veronica upon seeing him on her doorstep.

"Logan?" She asked, perplexed. "What are you doing here?"

This was it. The moment of truth. He huddled his arms closer around him, as if to brace himself. "I want you to find my mother," he cut right to the chase, simply not having the nerve to first engage into small talk.

Heaven knew small talk between him and Veronica Mars would be preposterous anyway.

Her eyes widened and she seemed pretty much speechless. Quite a task to accomplish these days, he congratulated himself sarcastically in his mind. He was here for a reason though and the faster he got this over with, the better. "Relax. I'm not asking you to drag the lake. My mother didn't really kill herself."

She regarded him for a moment longer, but then she sighed and opened the door further. "Come inside, okay?" she said softly and stepped back.

He had to give it to her, she hadn't rolled her eyes, she hadn't ridiculed him and she didn't immediately tell him that he was deluding himself either. In her place he doubted he'd been so matter-of-factly. Then again, she always had been better at dealing with crisis' or surprises than him. But her reaction at least confirmed him in his wild decision to come to her and he stepped inside, if somewhat warily.

"Veronica, she's not dead," he emphasized quietly, not looking at her.

She was only silent for a moment, before she spoke, carefully. "What makes you think she's still alive?"

"Why does everyone assume that she's not?" he asked back, impatiently. "I mean, there's no body," he added and didn't like at all how desperately grasping for a last straw that had sounded.

"What about the woman who saw her jump? It's been on every channel," Veronica quietly asked.

"Well, if she's on the TV, she must be telling the truth," he replied, sarcastically. "But her credit cards were missing. I mean, doesn't that seem like..." He broke off, angry at himself for having his voice shaking. "I don't know, a clue? You don't jump off a bridge with your platinum card," he finished, once he trusted his voice again.

She looked unhappy. "Logan, I..."

"I know my mother!" he insisted, harshly, seeing that she was about to turn him down too after all. But she couldn't! She was his last hope, damn it!

"Okay," she said, soothingly.

Hell, he couldn't blame her for not instantly jumping onto the wagon with him here. Letting out a big sigh, Logan looked down at the lighter still in his hands. This was harder than he had expected it to be. How could he make her understand or at least indulge the possibility that his instinct on this was right?

"I heard she left a note?"

Her hesitant voice made him look back at her, unsure if this meant that she was going to listen after all. Not that he was about to let this chance to finally voice his thoughts pass in any case. "Well, yeah, she wants people to think she's dead," he explained, huddling his arms once again around himself. "But if she was going to really do the deed, it would be chardonnay and sleeping pills," he further pointed out with a sarcastic smile. "You know, she wouldn't risk being found bug-eyed and bloated in some shrimp net."

Veronica looked at him for a long moment before she gave a tiny nod. "I'll see what I can find out," she gave in.

Incredible relief flooded him, making his knees suddenly week. He had to get out of there. Before she changed her mind. Or before he did something humiliating, like crumble down in front of her and dissolve into tears. Right. He turned to go. But in the doorway, he paused again, needing to say one last bit. "You know... I just need to know she's okay."

She said nothing, but he could feel her eyes on him. And her sympathy. Not able to stand this for one second longer, he left, hurriedly going back to his X-Terra.

God...

God.


Turning off her laptop, Veronica stared for a long time at the blackened screen.

So much had happened in the last couple of hours. Speaking to Yolanda after all this time, hearing her forgiving Veronica for not standing up to Lilly when she should have, had felt kind of cleansing. She hadn't liked the memories she had had ever since Yolanda's father had come to her father because of her supposedly kidnapping, especially not the ones of herself. Today, she was ashamed of how Lilly had treated that girl and even more of her simply letting Lilly do it, not daring to say a word.

Even if Yolanda really had kissed Logan, and Veronica had her doubts about it, hell, Logan all but had admitted so much in his talk with Miss James, the way Lilly had punished her had been way out of proportion. Yolanda hadn't deserved it, any more than she had deserved the ban Logan had put on her after Lilly's death. And she wished she had been a better person than she apparently had been back then.

Somehow though, her memories of Lilly of that time had disturbed her the most. Since her death, Veronica sort of had put her on this pedestal, not letting anything mar her perfection. But Lilly hadn't always been this perfect little angel, hadn't she been? Hell - sometimes, she had been a pretty mean bitch. Never to her - but to everyone else she knew. Her parents, Duncan, Logan, other girls, for sure quite some guys. And Veronica had always stood with her, never even trying to stop her. Hell, she hadn't even doubted her. Never.

Of course, Lilly still had been fabulous. And she couldn't have been a better best friend - but still... Veronica was beginning to ask herself if that really had lasted, hadn't she been killed. Would she have stood by her if it had been one of the other 09er girls that had been killed and her dad had gone after that father? Or would she have, just like Logan, turned her back on her and banished her from her life like she had done with Yolanda after Veronica had told her about the kiss between her and Logan?

She wasn't sure but she had the uncomfortable hunch that it might have been just the same with Lilly as well. And to be honest, would she and Lilly have met today - she doubted that they had become best friends. More likely, they'd have been rivals as the least Veronica wanted nowadays was to be friends with the likes of Lilly as the queen of Neptune High.

Not that it really changed anything. Given the chance, she would probably do the same thing all over again. Tell Lilly about Logan and Yolanda kissing, risking her friendship with Logan and then choosing Lilly when it came down to Yolanda or Lilly.

Because she had loved Lilly, unconditionally. Still did. So yeah, Lilly hadn't been perfect and had, like everyone else, her faults - but she still had been Lilly, lightening up a room with a simple smile, never letting anyone talk her best friend down, always sticking to her, no matter what. Lilly had been her oldest and best friend and she had loved her like a sister and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.

Seeing Lilly's faults though also made it a bit more understandable to Veronica why someone had killed her, how hard that may be. But with realizing what a bitch Lilly had been able to be to so many people - that opened some new options. She still had all evidence pointing at the Kanes, but it was at least a possibility she'd have to consider.

Also, she kind of wondered about Logan and Lilly. While Logan had kissed Yolanda, she suspected Lilly hadn't been all that innocent about it either. From what she had gathered from his conversation with Ms James he had done it to piss Lilly off - and Veronica couldn't blame him all that much for that, today. Truth was, Lilly had been a bitch to him these days, also often complaining about him to Veronica. And she had the sneaking suspicion that Lilly had been seeing someone else that time, even before she had heard about Weevil and Lilly. Having watched their on and off again relationship from the beginning, Veronica had believed that they'd get it on again soon enough - but now she wasn't so sure anymore. Remembering that time now, Lilly truly had sounded fed up with Logan and Logan had seemed a lot bitterer about how Lilly had treated him, finally having enough also.

This thought saddened her. It seemed as if the tight foursome of them truly had been about to break up, with her and Duncan breaking up and perhaps even Lilly and Logan separating for good. Would they still be friends with each other, had Lilly not died? She doubted it. If Lilly and Logan really had ended it for good, then she fully believed that their separation wouldn't have been so friendly. They hardly would have continued to do everything together, being this tight circle that didn't allow anyone else in.

But then, perhaps she was wrong about this. Perhaps, everything would have turned out fine, one way or another. Fact was, they never were going to find out, because someone had brutally killed Lilly.

Maybe even Duncan. With a sigh, she stood up to move over to her bed. That reminded her that she still had to find out about this mysterious condition he took pills for. She wasn't sure how though. It was hardly as she could simply walk up to him and ask him who his doctor was so she could snoop around in Duncan's file.

Or couldn't she?

Hmm...

Falling into her bed, she turned to stare at her wall. Logan's visit tonight sure had been the big bomb though. Never in a million years had she expected him to come to her. For any reason, let alone to ask her for help. Because, no matter how much he had tried to let it sound like an official job for her as an amateur sleuth, it had been nothing else than a plea for help in the end.

One, she hadn't known how to answer to. She didn't believe that Lynn was still alive. She did believe though that Logan believed it, with all his heart. To be fair, he had some points. Weak points but they were worth checking out, if only for the sake of Logan's peace of mind. So she had put notices on Lynn's cards and had found out that the eyewitness who had seen her jump was actually being interviewed by Lamb in a couple of days. So she planned to hunt down Cliff McCormack tomorrow and remind him of a few favors he still owed her so he could arrange a meeting with this eyewitness to see how accurate she was, with her listening in onto it. From what she had been able to tell on the television, Logan may not be so wrong about her being a fraud.

Still, she doubted all this would lead them to anything else than heart break when Logan had to realize that Lynn really had committed suicide, taking the coward's way out. She was pretty sure it was going to hit him hard and she wasn't particularly keen on being there when it was going to happen.

Groaning, she flipped over.

Then why had she agreed to help him in the first place? Why hadn't she just said no and sent him away? Why had she even let him enter her home as it was and not just shut the door into his face like he basically would have deserved it?

Because he had gone to the trouble to come to her at all. Because he had looked so hurt and lost that not even her hard shell had been able to refuse the cry for help she had seen in his desperate eyes. Because no matter what, he had been a friend once and when he could come to her after everything, which must have been hard for him, then she could at least give her best to give him the answer he was looking for.

Because he had lost his mother and she knew how it felt to be abandoned by your own mother. And no one deserved this. Not even Logan.

And perhaps even because after everything that had happened recently, she just didn't think of Logan as the enemy that much anymore. Not as a friend either, but something in-between, whatever that was. He had helped her once or twice in the past months. And he had given her the pot-money, without any questions. And he had listened to her, when she had told him to trust her and go straight home after she had heard the report about Lynn's car.

And because, for that little, tiny moment there she had believed that Logan had been the possible jumper and her heart had ached terribly for that little moment, showing her that she still cared about Logan a lot more than she was willing to admit.

Yeah.

So she was going to help him, doing everything she could, so Logan could deal with it, one way or another. For his sake she hoped he was right. If not...

And once again, she found her heart aching for him.

God, how could she ever bring herself to kill even this last hope of his and make him realize that his mother truly was dead, had abandoned him in the cruelest way possible?


What the hell was she doing? A day had gone by without him hearing a word from Veronica. Had she only promised him to help in order to get rid of him? If so, then he swore he was so going to finish her off. She had thought she had it bad after Lilly's death? Hell, she didn't even know bad yet!

Or was she doing things and of the opinion that she only had to report back to him when she had the answer? Well, if that was the case then he would have to set her straight. She may be the one doing all the investigation, but only with him right beside her. And he was going to make this clear to her right now, he thought darkly, spotting her walking away from that flagpole guy, deeply engrossed in some file, and strolled over to her. What was she doing reading whatever this was when she had to search for his mother? "It's a good read," he therefore also stated reproachfully.

Startled, she looked up, closing the file quite quickly as he noticed. For a moment he was curious, but then he let it go. Nothing else was important than to find his mother and it looked as if he had to remind her of that. "Any news?"

"I put notices on your mom's credit cards and on her ATM card," she answered though, calmly.

He frowned. "Meaning what?"

She looked to the side, but elaborated, in the same businesslike manner as before. "Meaning a friend of my father's who works at your family bank will text message me if any of the cards are used. And you know that eyewitness that's been clogging up the airwaves?"

Logan scowled. "Yeah. Opportunistic hag." He just couldn't help it, but that woman disgusted him so much.

"That's the one," Ronnie agreed, a small smile tugging at her lips. "Well, she's giving a statement at the sheriff's department tomorrow. I'll drop by, see if she's up for a chat."

He hated to admit it, but he was kind of impressed. Looked like she had done a lot more than he had thought. And really seemed to think that she could simply leave him out of this investigation other than to report to him at her convenience. Time to set her straight. "Well, I'll go with you."

She had the nerve to laugh. "Actually, despite popular opinion, you really can't beat the truth out of someone," she dismissed his words and walked away from him, apparently indulging herself with the belief that he would simply let her go like that.

Ha!

Quickly, he followed her. "Listen, I'm going."

"You're not," she contradicted, not even bothering to look back.

"'Kay, what are you going to stop me with?" he retorted sarcastically.

"Force of will, strength of character, tenacity," she performed some mock karate moves with her arms, "karate chop..."

Logan wasn't impressed though. Quite the contrary actually. Fed up with her usuall exasperating self, he quickened his steps and once he had reached her, he stopped her by touching her arm, causing her to face him. "I will know if she's lying, okay? You won't," he told her hotly, shoving a finger into her face.

He had expected her to further protest, but instead, she just rolled her eyes, resigned. "Fine. I've got a plan," she then warned him though.

"Yeah, I'm sure you do," he snorted, turning slightly away. But he waited, giving her the opportunity to illustrate her great plan, but she just turned to walk away from him once again, just letting him standing there.

"Hey, Carrie, wait up!"

The hell! She was not just dismissing him like this! He was paying her after all. Well, they hadn't talked about a price yet, but she had no right to treat him like this!

Stalking after her, he loomed close by her, listening how she threatened Carrie to take back her accusations of Mr Rook. He had heard about Carrie accusing the history teacher with sleeping with her, in class no less, not really caring much about it though. He sure didn't like to hear though that apparently, Veronica was working on clearing the teacher as well. Not that much surprising, Rooks always having been one of her favorite teachers, but finding his mother for sure was more important, he thought angrily, boring a hole into her back. And she should know that. As it was, the minute Carrie drove away, he stalked over to her, grabbed her arm and dragged her into the shadow of the wall, pressing her up against it.

"Hey!"

"Listen, Veronica, we weren't finished yet," he hissed in a harsh whisper. "Never leave me standing like that again."

She glared up at him. "Or what?"

Cursing, he pushed away to put some distance between them, glaring back. "Damn it, Veronica, why do you always have to be so fucking complicated?"

"I don't know. Why do you always have to be such a jackass?" she fired back, her eyes shooting daggers.

Locked into a stare off, Logan held his ground. Unfortunately, it didn't look as if any of them was about to give in.

Fuck.

"Is it that much to ask for that you concentrate your efforts on finding my mom?" he finally relented bitterly.

Her eyes softening, she sighed. "I'm doing what I can, Logan."

"Then what was this about Mr Rooks?" he accused, resuming his glare. "Didn't sound to me like you're concentrating on what needs to be concentrated on."

Heat flashed up in her eyes again, but she remained calm otherwise. "Me helping Mr Rooks clear his name does not mean that I'm neglecting the search for your mother. I'm not." She paused, holding his eyes. "I do know how important this is for you, Logan. But you have to realize that this search for Lynn probably won't take only a few days. It's not that easy to find someone who doesn't want to be found. It's even harder if that person is good enough to vanish with a face known as much and famous as that of your mom, especially now with articles on her and pictures of her plastered all over the news and journals, pretty much everywhere in the world. It could take weeks, even months, depending on how good she covered her traces in the end."

Logan clenched his jaw, said nothing though. He guessed she had a point there. Not to mention the big if she had left unsaid, the one assuming she was actually still alive in the first place. Still...

Still with her eyes intent on him, Veronica reached out, touching his hand tentatively. "Logan..."

Her touch bolted through his entire body, affecting him way more than he liked and he jerked away, shaking his head. "Don't," he warned, in a low voice.

She remained where she was, doing and saying nothing.

Fuck. He had known this was a marginally bad idea. "Just remember that just because I came to you for help doesn't mean we're all chummy again," he hissed, glaring again.

She rolled her eyes. "Shoot. And here I was already thinking about braiding us friendship bracelets again," she retorted back sarcastically. "Listen, I'm not going to stop helping Mr Rooks, if you like it or not. I'm promising you though that of course, Lynn comes first and I know that perfectly well." Her eyes slid off him, going into the distance. "Mr Rooks is one of the few decent teachers here and he's good. He just doesn't deserve to get fired because Carrie Bishop was bored and decided to shack up things a bit. It's a hoax and I'm going to prove that bitch wrong."

Hearing the bitterness in her voice loud and clear, he narrowed his eyes, regarding her for a moment. Then he laughed, sardonically. "Whatever makes you feel better, Veronica. Just don't let your personal revenge get in the way of the search for my mom."

Her head snapped back around to him, but he was already walking away from her. She could tell herself whatever she wanted, but he remembered perfectly well that Carrie Bishop never had been a fan of Veronica Mars and had on more than one occasion insulted her with glee, whenever Lilly, Duncan or him hadn't been around. Not that Ronnie had ever complained about her to them. But they had heard of it anyway, Lilly taking care of it afterwards. Still - it hadn't shut Carrie up much and certainly not anymore after he had word let out that Ronnie was free game now. From what he had heard, Carrie Bishop had been one of his best minions in his war against Veronica. And he knew Veronica, had felt her wrath. She may think she was just doing this for Mr Rooks, but he knew better. This was way more about revenge than anything else.

Not that he really cared. Just as long as it didn't get in the way of their search for his mother, she could do whatever he wanted, and he'd see to it that she stayed focused.


It was night again and Veronica was still fuming, mad with pretty much everyone and the world in general, but particularly with her dad and Logan.

That her dad hadn't even wanted to listen to her, disregarding her vote of confidence for Mr Rooks like that had hurt. How he could even think of joining that which hunt in the first place was beyond her and now that he knew just what a lying bitch Carrie Bishop was and he still insisted on helping the devil's spawn's parents... Argh, it just made her so mad!

And then there was Logan fucking Echolls! Who did he think he was, telling her what to do? He had come to her for help, damn it, and now he acted like he was the one leading this investigation! And then to have the nerve on top of it all to insinuate that she was helping Mr Rooks just because she still had a score to settle with Carrie Bishop! As if! So yeah, perhaps she sincerely hated Carrie Bishop, always had, but especially after everything that bitch had said or done to her after Lilly's death and hell, yeah, it would feel good to prove her the lying ass she was, but that had nothing to do with her wanting to save Mr Rooks' reputation and job. He was one of the best teachers she ever had had, one of the few who had never supported the pupils in their ban of her and for that alone he deserved her help.

Besides, it was just wrong to accuse someone falsely of rape. Okay, perhaps it hadn't been a real accusation of rape, but Carrie was a minor and Rooks sleeping with her legally could count as statutory rape. It was because of girls like that bitch that real victims got ridiculed and told to go see the wizard for a backbone!

Balling her fists, she leaned her head against the cold panels of the shower, letting the water hammer down on her.

Damn it.

So okay, perhaps Logan had been right and part of her did take this on because of the prospect to bring Carrie Bishop down. But hell, after everything she deserved a little bit of revenge. And no matter what, she was doing this mostly to stop Mr Rooks from getting fired. She didn't want to lose him as a teacher, enjoying his classes too much for that. Not to mention that he was a decent guy who just didn't deserve what an accusation like this would mean for him, especially as a teacher.

So Logan was wrong after all. Just like he had been wrong by accusing her of not doing enough to find his mother! As if! He could be lucky she had already done as much as she had, especially as everything she had done was most likely for nothing anyway. A body wasn't likely to use credit cards or to turn up in a spa for a face lifting.

She closed her eyes.

Somehow though she couldn't muster up much anger for him because of that. It was his mother. In his place she would want to know for sure as well. Hell, she did want to know for sure as it was, even though she at least knew her mother wasn't dead. She just didn't know why she had run away. And why she did everything so Veronica couldn't find her or even just talk with her. No, she really couldn't blame Logan for being adamant on her concentrating on finding Lynn - or wanting to be in on the search.

Turning off the water before it got cold, she dried herself, put on her pajamas and went into her room, falling down onto her bed.

Truth be told, she had already halfway expected Logan wanting to be part of the investigation. He never had liked to merely stand by and now, with this important matter... No, she wasn't surprised that he had butted his way into coming with her to confront the opportunistic hag.

Despite herself, she felt a smile forming on her face, one she put an immediate stop on it. But man, if Logan's snarky remarks weren't directed at her she sure enjoyed them. Which she definitely shouldn't. But hell, it was funny.

Her cell phone started to vibrate on her nightstand and she grabbed it to see who was calling.

Of course. Speaking of the devil... Debating for another thirty seconds if she shouldn't just let it go to voicemail, she sighed and took the call after all. "This starts to get a habit. Calling late, showing up on my doorstep, dragging me off to a secluded spot... you sure I shouldn't start on those friendship bracelets?"

"Very funny as always," Logan just replied dryly. "If you'd just given me the information I needed I wouldn't have to always call late."

Veronica raised an eyebrow. "And what information would that be?" Though she had a hunch what he wanted.

"Sorry, I'm not in the mood to play games right now, Mars. Just tell me when and where I need to pick you up to go meet that trailer park hag," Logan sure replied tensely.

"Just meet me at the sheriff's department at 13:30. She's supposed to be in by then," Veronica answered, frowning slightly.

"Uh-uh, no. We go together, Ronnie. I'm not letting you trick me out of this," Logan though protested. "Meet me at my car at one o'clock."

"I wasn't going to trick you!" Veronica seethed, her jaw working. "And I'm sure you're not feeling much more like riding together than me. So don't be difficult now and just trust me."

"Yeah right, I'm dumb like that. One o'clock, Veronica. Be there. Or I'll come drag you with me." Thus said he hang up.

Incredulously, she stared at the phone for a moment, debating even to call him back to give him a piece of her mind. Knowing that he most likely wasn't going to pick up anyway, she forgot about that and instead concentrating on cursing that obnoxious jackass to hell and back.

As if she'd ever let him commandeer her around!

Ha!


Leaning against his car with crossed arms, Logan waited impatiently for Veronica to show up. And he knew she'd come. He had seen to that.

Still, another five minutes passed and he slowly got nervous that she somehow had slipped by him anyway, when he felt the hairs on his neck stand up. Smirking, he looked around, and sure enough, there she came stomping towards him, the fume coming out of her ears and nose practically visible. He chuckled. She sure was a sight when pissed off.

"You stole my car keys?! I don't fucking believe it! Who the hell do you think you are, Echolls?" she hissed, poking a stinging finger into his chest. "Now give me back my keys before I get out my tazer! And don't think I won't!"

"Just try it, Mars," he challenged her, not really worried. Oh, he was sure she would go through with her threat. But he was considerably bigger and stronger than her. "I'll give you the keys once we're back and only then. Now come on, I thought we had a schedule to meet," he then informed her and, without waiting for her reaction, turned and got into the X-Terra.

He guessed she had counted 'til fifty before yanking open the door and sliding into the seat beside him. Without a word he started the car as soon as she had slammed the door shut again and shot out of the parking lot.

The silence between them stretched.

Veronica had been right that he wasn't keen on riding with her. It was the last thing he wanted. But he knew she may try to ditch him after all and he wasn't going to let this happen, so he had insisted on this. Reminding him several times that this was all for the greater good of finding his mother.

"You know, this isn't going to work if you don't start trusting me," Veronica finally broke the silence.

"And as long as I can't trust you to not keep me in the dark on this, I'm not going to trust you not to ditch me," Logan gave back. "I mean it, Veronica. I don't care how you usually work, but with this, you'll just have to deal with me sticking around for everything you plan to do."

She was silent for a while and Logan glanced at her. Looked like she was thinking.

"Okay, we play it by your rules. I'll keep you informed on what I learn and if I set out to do some investigation, you can tag along," she conceded. "But let's be clear on this: I'm calling the shots and for once in your life, you're going to listen when out in the field. Understood? If you've got a problem with that, you can as well let me out here because then we'll just forget about this."

He didn't like the deal, but he guessed it was fair enough. "All right. But you remember who hired you in the first place."

She snorted. "As if you're ever going to let me forget that."

He found himself smiling a little. She was right with that one.

"And just for your information: I've got something to do afterwards, so, seeing as you forced me to ride with you, you'll just have to play my chauffeur for that one." He could feel her scathing look on him. "And don't even think about complaining. That's your own damn fault."

"I've got better things to do than driving you around, Ronnie," Logan protested anyway.

"Too bad for you. Shouldn't have stolen my car keys after all," she just replied, unfazed.

Logan restrained himself from growling. This was going to be a long drive.


They hadn't talked much afterwards, but thankfully, seven minutes and thirty-five seconds later they finally arrived at the sheriff's department. Veronica had expected Logan to question a hole into her stomach or at least to certainly not simply follow her instructions. He had surprised her though, had followed her quietly as she was conning her way into the station, first claiming they were here on a school-project to interview Detective Shaks, then to be waiting for their attorney to arrive in order to bust out their drunk dad, momentarily occupying one of their cells. Only when she had told him to sit down did he ask a question, again not making one comment on how she had gotten them in.

"And what are we going to do now?"

"Wait," she simply answered, keeping an eye on the entry and the watch. Valerie Stanton was bound to be finished with her statement soon. She had already seen Cliff, waiting on his post for the eyewitness, having glanced at Logan with slight surprise when they had passed him. He too had heard all about what had happened after Lilly's death and therefore probably wondered why it was Logan Echolls out of all people she was helping.

She sure could understand that question. Heaven knew she asked herself the same thing time and time again. And when she hadn't been able to find her car keys, not even after searching for twenty minutes, turning her bag upside down, and had finally concluded what really had happened, she had been ready to just shoot all this to hell.

Glancing at him, waiting impatiently on his chair, his leg twitching in what had to be a new record, she sighed inwardly. But she just couldn't. Logan was a jackass, no doubt about that, but his mother had probably just committed suicide and she simply couldn't let him down. If she had been going to do that, she'd have had to do that right in the beginning, when he had appeared on her doorstep to ask for help.

So she was a lot more patient with him than she'd usually was. And boy, he sure wasn't making it easy for her to be the patient one. As it was, she had the suspicion that by the end of this 'case', she'd be ready to commit herself into the loony bin. Or commit him. Yeah, that was the much better idea.

"Want a chewing gum?"

Startled out of her dark thoughts, she saw him holding out a package of chewing gum to her. Slightly surprised by his offer, she took one. "Thanks."

Logan just shrugged and popped one himself, immediately beginning to chewing loudly. He leant forward to rest his elbows onto his knees, his eyes flying every few seconds to the watch. Jeez, she hoped they'd never have an observation to make or she'd definitely go up the walls within only a short time spending with this nervous bundle.

But he remained silent and to be frank, it was slowly freaking out Veronica. Logan just wasn't the type to go silent for long. Usually, you couldn't shut him up, no matter how hard you tried.

Then again, nothing of this was normal and she guessed it was only understandable that he wasn't much in the mood to talk. Right. Now she just had to get rid of that annoying urge of hers to somehow find a way to comfort him. It wasn't her place anymore, damn it. Not to mention that he sure as hell wouldn't appreciate it anyway.

Another five minutes passed and slowly but surely, Veronica was growing as nervous just by watching Logan's growing impatience.

"We should do this more often," she remarked finally, trying to ease the tension.

Not much to her surprise, she got ignored once again.

At last, the door to the office where Stanton had given her statement opened and the opportunistic hag appeared. "That's her," Veronica quietly told Logan, though he probably recognized her well enough from all the interviews she's given.

Logan tensed and took out the chewing gum to stick it under the chair (certainly much to the janitor's pleasure), ready to spring up and confront her. Recognizing this, Veronica quickly reached out to hold him back. "Down, boy. Relax," she soothed him just as she would sooth a growling and fletching Back-Up. "I've got it covered," she assured him, then spoke into the small micro hidden in her sleeve. "White trash walking," she informed Cliff. Only then did she give Logan the second earpiece so he'd be able to listen in. At his look, she offered a mischievous smile. "I know, gadgets and all."

Once again not saying anything (and this really started to worry Veronica), he just put the earpiece into his ear.

"Oh, uh, Ms Stanton. Cliff McCormack from "Weekly World News." My boss is very interested in your story." They heard Cliff saying loud and clearly over the earpieces and Veronica observed them with narrowed eyes.

"Well, are we talking an exclusive, or what 'cause I'm getting lots of offers," was Stanton's cool answer and Veronica had to suppress a growl.

Looked like Logan had been right about her after all. Not that much surprising. She sure looked just like that trailer park he had put her in.

"Oh, definitely an exclusive," Cliff answered dutifully.

"Well, what's the offer?" she just replied.

Obviously, this woman had no moral at all. Did she ever even think about what her statement must have done to Lynn's family? Hardly.

"Well, it depends on what you've got. Did she look intoxicated, drugged up, bruised?" Cliff dug deeper.

She had to admit that he may be a lousy lawyer, but he sure was good at things like this.

"If you'd like, sure," Stanton only answered and Veronica felt slightly sick.

It was nothing to Logan's reaction. He exploded off the chair and stormed over to Cliff and the bitch. "So what?!" he shouted, clearly furious as hell. Not that she could blame him. "You couldn't get on 'Springer' this week, so you make lies up about my mom?"

Shit. This was definitely going to be ugly if she didn't stop this, Veronica thought as she raced after Logan, throwing herself between him and Stanton. Not that she cared one iota about that bitch. But she did about Logan and the last he needed now was been thrown into a cell for attacking this hag, no matter how much she'd have deserved it. "Logan..."


He had known that that bitch had been a hoax all along, but still... Hearing that woman talk about his mother like that...

He just saw red, barely registering Veronica standing in front of him, holding his arms. "You know, I am sure the trailer payments must be high," he continued bitterly, already to the fast retreating back of that... that... that woman. "And what with the high price of spam these days…" he shouted after her.

Damn it, she could at least have the nerve to stay and face the son of the woman she so broadcastingly claimed to have seen jump off a bridge. See if she dared to tell her lies once again, right into his face, he thought furiously, trying to go after her but Veronica's hold on him tightened.

"Okay, enough!" she told him, trying to get him to look into her eyes. When he finally glanced her way, he threw off her hands and walked away into the other direction than that bitch had stalked off.

Running his hands through his hair, he tried to calm himself down, pacing on the spot. Ronnie was right. She wasn't worth it. But god, he so badly wanted to punch something right now, he thought, leaning against the wall with a strangled groan.

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

"Hey."

Upon hearing Veronica's voice, he glanced at her, briefly, to see her staring at someone.

"Hi."

Turning his head slightly, he saw an officer with a dopey look on his face grace Ronnie with a cold stare. Well, he at least tried to, not really managing the indifference very well.

Briefly he wondered what the history was between them as he turned away from Veronica. Anything to get his mind off of that cold-hearted bitch before he went after her to make sure she never told a lie in her life again.

"I have to take care of something. I'll be like two seconds," Veronica said, apparently to him. She had once again stepped close to him, way into his personal space, but he tolerated it. Hell. To be honest, he even draw some comfort from it. Not liking that thought, he shifted uncomfortably, just not able to stay calm right now. "Stay calm. Finding out what that woman is about is good news," she continued, obviously still trying to calm him down - maybe even comfort him.

Taking a deep breath, he gave a tight nod and turned away. Okay. Okay. She was right. This was good. Now they had the proof that that woman had lied all along. He had known it. And boy, he was so going to sue her for this, if possible. It just had to be possible. She had to pay, somehow, for the lies she had told. For how much those lies hurt. Making him doubt after all that perhaps...

No. He shouldn't think about this now. His mom was alive. She hadn't jumped.

Right.

Right.

God, he needed to get out of here. What the hell was taking Ronnie so long? Pacing back, he glanced back into the pen. There she was, with her back to him but the smile breaking out on Officer Dupey's face...

Wait - was she flirting with that loser?!

What the fuck was she doing?! Now was hardly the time to flirt, damn it, let alone with such an idiot!

Angrily, Logan finally gave in to the urge and punched the wall, hard. It stung, but hardly bad enough. Perhaps he should mouth off to his father when he got home. Tell him again that he thought that the only reason his mom had split was him, perhaps screaming this time. That should get his dad over the stupor he was in at the moment and make him punish Logan. Perhaps then the pain would be strong enough to finally stop that paralyzing feeling heaving down his heart.

Damn, damn, damn... Why hadn't his mom taken him along? He wouldn't have cared to leave. Just getting away from his father and that shit of a life he had would have been enough...

"Logan?"

Jerking around, he avoided Veronica's searching eyes. "You finished?" he asked, scathingly.

"Yeah," she answered quietly and he could still feel her eyes heavy on him.

Without a word, he brushed past her to finally get out of there. He knew Veronica couldn't anything for her sympathy - but damn, it just made it more difficult not to break down at last, something he hadn't allowed himself so far. Even with his mother not dead - she still had left him, hadn't she? And God, that hurt. But he didn't want to dwell on that now. Couldn't afford it. Especially not in front of Ronnie.

Finally reaching his car, he beeped it open and quickly climbed in, taking a deep breath before Veronica got in as well.

He continued to just sit there.

"You okay?"

Her soft question almost made him laugh. Almost. He straightened up, turning on the motor. "I'm fine."

"Sure you are," she sighed but said nothing else.

It was perhaps a few minutes into the drive back to school before he realized he had no idea where to head to. Ronnie had said something about having to go someplace else, hadn't she? "Where do you need to go?" he asked, shortly.

"Actually, just drop me off at school. I'll take my car and head over myself," she replied though.

Tightening his grip on the wheel, Logan clenched his jaw. God, he'd always prefer the bitch version of Veronica to this oh so sympathetic one! He couldn't stand it! "Stop being so damn considerate and kind! I don't need it nor do I want it!" he growled, shooting her a look. "We had a deal. You take me to see that hag and I'm driving you to that other place you need to be. Nothing changed this. So tell me already where I have to go so we get this over with!"

"You may perhaps not like it, but I can't help but care. You think I want to? Well, I don't. But I do and it's obvious that you want to be alone right now. So why don't do us both a favor and drop me off so you can go and..." she broke off.

Stopping at a headlight, he looked scornfully at her. "And do what? Come on, Ronnie, don't hesitate, just say it. It's not like you could ruin our friendship again. Already taken care of that, have you not?"

Her eyes flamed up. "Me? I've ruined our friendship? Wow, that's rich. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the way I remember it it was you who stopped talking to me. You, who called me names and blamed me for things I had no power whatsoever over. You, who turned the whole school against me, banning me from your life, your precious circle and robbing me of everyone but my dad!"

"Oh come on, what did you expect? That we'd just let you and your dumb family ruin the Kanes? Wasn't Lilly dying not hard enough on them, on us? But no, then your dad had to go after Jake for killing her! Jake! As if he could ever have killed Lilly!" Logan hissed back. "You just can't harass a grieving family like that and then be surprised when everyone else is shocked and repulsed by that. And you, you who claimed to be Lilly's best friend, who spent so many hours over at the Kanes, you should have known better and you should have stopped your dad, for Lilly, for the Kanes, for all of us! But you didn't, did you? You just let your precious dad fuck up everything."

"Oh for Heaven's sake, Logan, do you even listen to yourself? What on Earth gave you the idea that I hold so much power over everything, let alone my dad? You think I believed it when he went and accused Jake? You think I didn't tell him that that was impossible? You think I didn't try to talk him out of it? Well, I did! But he just said that he understood my sentiments but that he had to do his job and couldn't ignore the evidence. That's all he did, Logan: his job, no matter how uncomfortable it had have been for you high and mighty. No matter that it ruined our family, our lives in the end. He just did what he thought was right and yeah, I stood with him because he's all I ever really had and because in the end, I trusted his judgment. And you know what? Sometimes I asked myself if I've done the right thing and in the end I always come to the conclusion that yeah, it's been the right thing. He deserved me standing with him, never asking for my support though and boy, that sure is more than can be said about you. It didn't seem to have been all that difficult to just forget four years of friendship after all, didn't it, Logan? Just like that," she snipped her finger, "I was out of your life. No friend anymore, no acquaintance, no person you've once barely known, no, nothing like that. Now, suddenly, I was the enemy that needed to be destroyed and hell, you sure made sure of that, didn't you? Not leaving me with one friend, one person still willing to talk to me, utterly alone with having to deal with losing Lilly, my mom falling more and more into the bottle and then splitting for good and me..." she broke off abruptly, turning away, her arms tightly hugging her.

Behind Logan, cars honked. Glancing forward, he cursed upon seeing the green light and drove on, seething. "You were alone? Fuck, Ronnie, you know nothing about being alone. Nothing about pain. You want to know if it's been easy to push you out of my life? Wanna know the truth? Yeah. Yeah, it's been easy. Because when you just turned your back on our friendship, on Lilly, I realized that apparently that girl I thought I've known and that was my friend never really existed. And I might have missed you, terribly even, but then I've missed someone who never existed and yeah, yeah, hating you after that had been the easiest thing I've ever done."

"Trust me, I know the feeling. After all, the boy I thought I've known and been my friend sure turned out to be someone I barely recognized anymore and he sure as hell wasn't a friend. Because a friend would never have asked me to choose between my dad and him. Because a friend would never have turned on me like you have for not doing what he wanted. Because a friend sure as help wouldn't have put me through the hell you put me through! Believe me, I know everything about being betrayed by a friend!" she hollered back. "Besides, don't you dare to blame me to not having been there for you when you needed me. Ever thought that if you hadn't made me choose or if you could have just accepted that I had no power over what my dad was doing then you wouldn't have lost me as a friend? No, Logan. You can make yourself believe whatever you want but truth is that it's been you who destroyed our friendship, you who just threw it away as if those four years had meant nothing! You, Logan, you alone."

"Damn it, you can't give me all the fault for that! I don't believe you!" Logan exclaimed incredulously. "You can't honestly have believed that I'd side with you and your crazy father! The Kanes are like a second family to me and hell, even as dysfunctional as they are it's still the Bradys compared to what I've got at home. After everything the Kanes have done for me you really expect me to betray them like you and your family have? Or to even let you just go destroy my friend's family? We're talking about my murdered girlfriend's family! My best friend's family! You really believe you'd be ever more worth than that? Ha! As if!"

When she didn't retort immediately, he glanced at her. She had her head turned away but the hands in her lap were fisted.

He concentrated back onto the road, still fuming. Really, the nerve of her...

"It always ends up like this, doesn't it? In the end I and our friendship just weren't worth anything," she broke the tense silence finally. "You know what? Just let me out here. I'll take the bus back to school."

"Fine by me," Logan snorted and true to her word drove by the curb at the next opportunity, not bothering to turn off the motor.

Veronica was out in a flash, without another word.

Which was probably better anyway. Heaven knew he was this close to strangling that annoying, exasperating girl.

Letting the tires screech, he pulled out again, driving away.

Fuck, fuck, fuck - fuck it!

What in hell had possessed him when he had enlisted her help for the search for his mother? He must have been crazy! Yeah, that was it. The pain over his mother's leave had just sent him into momentary insanity. But now he sure was over it.

No more.

He and Ronnie, that just didn't work anymore. Too much had happened for that.

She seemed to honestly believe that everything that had happened had been none of her own fault! Could anyone believe that? No, even better: it was all his fault. Then again, why did that even surprise him anymore? Lately she seemed to like to blame all things on him first, just on principle. And she definitely hadn't been innocent in the end of their friendship either!

True, perhaps she had had a few points. Maybe, there had been things he had done wrong back then and perhaps he really had expected a bit much from her, but it surely hadn't just been him!

Ever thought that if you hadn't made me choose or if you could have just accepted that I had no power over what my dad was doing then you wouldn't have lost me as a friend?

Cursing, he punched the wheel and quickly pulled out again, coming to a stop at the curb. Leaning forward, he let out a gurgled scream.

Damn her.

He couldn't deal with this shit right now. It was hard enough as it was to deal with the search for his vanished mother. He had not the strength to confront their difficult past/relationship with Ronnie right now.

Problem was only that he still needed her to continue her search, didn't he? So he had to find somehow a way to work with her. Spend time with her.

You may perhaps not like it, but I can't help but care.

To be brutally honest though, apart of the explosion just now it had worked better than he had anticipated, working with Ronnie on this. And even though he hated to admit it - truth was he mostly had enjoyed spending this time with her, being able to talk to her again. He had missed the friend he had come to believe never really had existed, terribly. Being forced to spend time with her again had reminded him very much of that. Because even though she certainly was different and God, she could be so exasperating and annoying - but some of the most important things that he had loved in the old Veronica still seemed to be prominent even in this version of her. Her genuine care, even for those who perhaps didn't deserve it, her compassion, her resolution to bring something to an end, her humor, perhaps now even more appealing than before.

And she yet had to declare him crazy for believing that his mom was still alive. Instead, she had helped him without any questions, doing everything in her power to help him find her. Without ever bringing up money or the likelihood of all this being a ghost hunt who only could lead to despair.

At least that was what Duncan had to say to him when he had told him that he had enlisted Veronica's help in order to find his mother.

He knew best friends were supposed to also tell you when you were wrong, but there was a difference between being a real support or just plain causing pain. Yeah. His best friend, the one Logan had always been there for to support him, had refused to help him, hadn't wanted anything to do with this.

Whereas Veronica, the friend he had lost in favor of Duncan, was there for him now.

Fuck. Talk about confusing.

In the end I and our friendship just weren't worth anything.

It hadn't gone by him how hurt she had sounded when saying this. The pain had been right there, in her voice, in her posture, in her eyes, for the whole world to see, for really the first time since she had cut her hair and had become this much tougher version. And it had struck him, deeper than he had believed it possible. Her not giving anything away anymore had made it so much easier to continue to hurt her - so easy to forget that she actually still had feelings that could be hurt. Or that seeing her hurt had once been something insupportable to him.

And he still shouldn't care.

Then again, she seemed to still care, didn't she? More than once had she already tried to comfort him, sometimes just by being there and damn it all to hell, it had actually comforted him - soothed at least some of the pain and confusion and desperation he was in at the moment. He hated this, hated that she still was able to do this to him, after all this time, after everything he had done to not have her affect him like this anymore - but, and that was what made all this so difficult: he found himself not really wanting to lose that small reminder of their past again.

It had felt good - to be cared for again, especially with now even his mom gone too.

Besides, he really did still need her help. He wouldn't have even known where to begin looking for his mom and today had proved him once and for all that Veronica really did know what she was doing. She carried around listening devices and had contacts apparently pretty much everywhere useful and important for Heaven's sake.

Right.

Groaning with frustration, Logan started the car and pulled out - to head back. Perhaps he could still catch her after all. It wasn't as if he had driven far in the meantime. And sure enough, it didn't take long and he saw her stomping down the street, in the direction of the school. Thankful for the scarce traffic, he quickly turned and drove up beside her, rolling down the window on the passenger's side.

"Veronica."

Not too surprisingly, he got ignored. Sighing, he stopped the car and jumped out. "Veronica, please, wait," he pleaded, placing himself in front of her.

This time he at least got a glare for a response. And she stopped.

"Look - can't we just agree that what happened..." he thought for a moment, searching for the best words for this, "was maybe both our faults?"

She crossed her arms.

Shit. Looked like he really had to grovel this time. "And that we're both sorry for some of the things that went down between us?" he offered, keeping it vaguely. He hadn't been that much at fault after all.

She remained silent, but she sighed.

He looked away for a moment. When he looked back, he shrugged. "And perhaps, for this to work, we should put the past aside, at least for the time being?"

Ronnie snorted. "So we can go back to hate each other when you've gotten from me what you wanted? Gee, Logan, I don't know what to say."

Gritting his teeth, Logan reminded himself again that he still needed her. And that sometimes she wasn't quite this irritating. "I thought more like for now, we see how it works." He balled his hands, swallowing. "And that maybe afterwards, we'll see where it goes from there - if we want to." When she took her time answering, he shook his head and turned away. "Fine. Whatever. Why do I bother at all? Just don't come later and claim it's been my fault again. I at least tried this time. And that when I don't really have the nerve to deal with shit like this, definitely having enough on my plate as it is."

Her sigh was deep. "Jeez, Logan, give a girl some time to think of something to say. It's not everyday your archenemy offers you a truce."

Stopping, he turned back around to her, giving her a cold glare. "So what will it be?"

Stepping up to him, she looked as unhappy as he felt. "I say we'll try it that way. And see where it leads us," she finished softly.

Logan nodded. Who knew? Perhaps they survived this without killing each other. "And you're still looking for my mother, right?" he asked, wanting to know for sure.

Rolling her eyes, Ronnie opened the door to the passenger seat. "That never was a question, Logan," she replied softly though, closing the door.

For a moment he stood there, relieved and glowering at the same time.

Damn that girl. She just couldn't stay in one corner, couldn't she?


Talking with Mr Rooks had even strengthened her resolution to clear his name. It was obvious that Carrie was blaming him out of revenge for her bad grades and that parent talk he had had with her parents.

Now she just had to prove it. Which shouldn't be that hard. Carrie Bishop was not exactly the smartest girl. She was bound to have made a mistake somewhere and Veronica was going to find it.

The yellow canary Logan called a car came in sight and she sighed. Yeah. Proving Carrie Bishop a fraud was a piece cake compared to what she had gotten herself into by promising Logan Echolls helping find his mother. And finding Lynn was the least of the problem.

She still wasn't sure what to think about their - fight? Talk? Truce? - from earlier on. It hadn't come as a surprise. Ever since the two of them had started talking again, well, more or less, she had expected the topic of their break-up as friends coming up sooner or later. It hadn't even been that much a surprise to hear that Logan was blaming her. After everything that had happened but also after what she had overheard in his talk with Ms James she had figured that much. She had been surprised though when he had come back after driving off in a huff and offering that truce. Even apologizing in a way.

After she had gotten out of the car she had been ready to forget the past few weeks and swear to never make the mistake to let Logan Echolls in for even an inch. Obviously, the idea of her and him getting past their past had been too much to expect. She'd finish the damn job and then never wanted to speak with Logan again.

And that was probably for the best. Heaven knew Logan wasn't exactly the easiest friend or had the most charming character. Far from it.

But then he came back. Admitted that there had been mistakes. Gave a small apology. And had looked so disappointed when she hadn't immediately agreed on a semi fresh start.

Damn that boy for always having to be so confusing.

She should have just sent him to hell, not risking to let herself be vulnerable to him again. Because that was what all this spending time with Logan was doing to her. Him wounding his way through her shields, making her like and maybe even trust him again. Give him the power to hurt her again.

Hearing him admitting how very little their friendship had meant to him in the end had hurt a lot more than it should have, after all the time that had passed since their fall out.

So why was she giving the jackass another chance again already?

Because, if she wanted to be absolutely honest... She really liked spending time with him again. It felt good, to talk to him again, to listen to him, to simply be together with him again without both of them trying to hurt and humiliate the other as much as possible. Logan had been a close and good friend once, and yeah, even with everything he then had done to her and also with finding a new best friend in Wallace - she still missed Logan more often than she liked to admit.

And him offering this truce - just because she knew Logan that well, she knew how hard this must have been for him. At first she had suspected that he had only tried to get on her good side again because he didn't want to risk losing her help in his search for Lynn - but one look in his eyes had told her otherwise. Logan had always been good at bluffing and projecting whatever he wanted other people to believe of him. But when you really knew him, you knew where to look for the truth and Veronica happened to be one of those people and had easily seen the frustration with her but also the wish to try giving their.. whatever they were another shot.

So of course she had given in once again. But really, if they had a chance to perhaps get at least part of what they had had once back... She just couldn't pass on that chance, despite the risk.

Reaching the car, she got in. "Thanks for waiting."

Logan just shrugged, barely glancing at her. "Finished now?"

"Yeah. You can drive me back to school and finally give me my keys back," she remembered, glowering. She still couldn't believe that he had managed to steal her keys out of her bag without her noticing. When had he been able to do that at all? They hadn't talked that morning and barely seen each other as it was. And somehow she doubted that he had asked one of his lackeys to steal the keys for him.

There was the ghost of a smile on his face, but Logan only nodded towards the glove department. "They're in there."

Frowning, she quickly opened the department and sure enough, there were her keys. Retrieving them, she put them back into her bag. "You better never pull a stunt like that again or there will be payback."

"I'm shaking in my boots," Logan replied with a low chuckle.

She decided to not make another comment on that matter. Instead, she changed the topic. "Have you ever heard of rumors about Carrie liking older men? Doing any teachers?"

"Not really, then again I can't say I was ever much interested in whatever concerned Carrie Bishop," Logan answered straight out, glancing at her. "You know that."

Yeah, she remembered that Logan never had been a big fan of Carrie himself. "So you don't believe her either?"

He sighed. "I don't know, Veronica. It wouldn't surprise me if she made it up. On the other hand..."

"What?" she prompted him when he stopped.

"It's just - I did hear a few things about Rooks. He really seems to like some of his female students an awful much," he continued quietly.

"Namely?" she asked, immediately defensive.

He was silent for a while. "I don't remember," he finally said, shaking his head. "Just forget I said anything at all."

She frowned, pretty sure that he remembered very well.

"What are we doing about my mother now?" he then changed the topic too.

Veronica sighed inwardly. "We wait," she told him carefully.

Sure enough, he frowned.

"We don't have another lead at the moment. So there's nothing else that we can do now than wait and see if somewhere, something turns up," she explained, softly. "One of her credit cards, someone seeing her, one of my contacts calling back with something."

"And that's all?" he asked incredulous, sparing her an unhappy glance.

"Not much else to do," she nodded, only too well understanding his frustration. "You could wreck your memory though, trying to remember if Lynn ever mentioned a place she'd like to be in or maybe even a person she liked and trusted. She must have had help and I think you knew her best after all. Try to remember everything you can. Even the slightest detail could help us."

He thought about that for a while, then nodded. "I'll think about it."

Veronica was about to warn him to not get his hopes up, but then restrained herself from doing so. Logan wasn't stupid. He knew the chances of finding Lynn, alive, himself, probably better than anyone else, no matter what he convinced himself of. She couldn't find it in herself to remind him of that, to shatter those hopes - at least not yet. At one point, Logan would have to face the truth. For now, he seemed to need the hope though and why not? If it helped him dealing with Lynn's departure, fine with her.

But she still dreaded the moment when he lost that last hope.

"We're here."

Startled out of her thoughts, she looked up and sure enough, there was the school in front of her and her Le Baron right beside them.

"I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything," she said, reaching for the door handle.

Logan nodded. "And I'll come to you when I can think of something, someone."

"Good. Bye, Logan," she said after a slight hesitation, unsure of what to say to him all of a sudden.

He avoided her eyes. "Yeah."

Veronica got out, but when she turned to shut the door she found him looking back at her, straight into her eyes. "Bye, Veronica," he said quietly.

The door closed and he pulled away, fast.

For a moment, all she could do was stare after him.

Well, well, well.


He knew it was a stretch, he thought, looking across the street at the building with its stained glass windows and the small sign of Mars Investigation outside. He certainly wasn't particular eager to go inside. There was the chance that she'd just ridicule him. It was after all just a tabloid article.

But from all the crap he had seen that had been published about his mother's apparent suicide, this article had held a ring of truth to him.

So here he was, once again parking in front of a building that housed Veronica Mars, for the second time within a week. Going to ask her for help again.

He sighed.

This was crazy. A year ago he'd have rather died than go to Veronica. A month ago he'd have rather faced the worst his father could give him than go to Veronica. And now, as soon as he had read the article, his first thought had been that he had to go to Veronica and show it to her, convince her to follow it up.

The most worrisome thing? He liked it. That Veronica was in the picture again, coming first to his thoughts. That he could go to her again when he needed it.

Didn't mean though that it wasn't still awkward, especially with the fight they had the other day. He guessed it had been good to have a blow out about it, at last, but even with deciding to move forward, a lot of things had been said that still echoed through his mind whenever he let his mind drift away from his mother. And perhaps even a portion of guilt.

Not over everything of course - but he had to admit that he sometimes had really overstepped the line. Especially whit what had concerned her mother. The contrast between her actions now and his back then - it ashamed him. Here she was, doing everything she could to help him with his mother suddenly gone, even before he had come to her in order to hire her for the search while he... He had had nothing else to offer than biting comments and hurtful reminders of not only Lianne's alcoholism but also her simply abandoning them. And he knew now how wrong that had been. He'd kill anyone saying things about his mom like he had said to Veronica then.

The more all this unconditional help and support she offered him now touched him.

And there was a part in him that grew stronger and stronger everyday and its solely wish was to get Veronica back as a friend once and for all. There was this other part though, the reasonable one he thought, that warned him from doing just that, reminding him that no matter what, that girl had hurt him like only very few people had managed to do and boy, with his life, that was saying something. And it also warned him that Veronica may remind him a lot of the girl that had been his friend once at the moment but that she had changed and that she wasn't that girl anymore.

Then again, he wasn't the same anymore either, wasn't he?

Shaking his head, Logan grabbed the tabloid and swiftly got out of his car. He needed to get this over with and didn't have time to dwell in thoughts that led no where anyway.

She was on the phone when he silently entered through the open door, hesitating once again. He wasn't so sure about this. It was only a tabloid after all. But it might be true and there was no one else than her to be able to find out for sure if that woman was accurate.

God, he hoped so.

"I was wondering if I could get in to see the doctor sometime this week," Veronica said, her back still towards him, having no idea that he was there. At her words, he did feel a slight concern though. Was she sick? She sure looked fine to him. "End of the day would be best. I have band practice after school," she said and one of his eyebrows shot up. She never in her life had ever played an instrument. Okay, she had a good voice but he had yet to hear about her joining a band. So he guessed this was another one of her scams. Heaven knew what for. "Five is great. Thanks," she finished and hung up the phone.

Time to let his presence be known. "I'm no doctor," he spoke up and she whirled around, eyeing him, startled. He came further in. "...but I'm, uh, pretty sure Penicillin will clear that problem right up."

Veronica looked down, relaxing. "Can't say I was expecting you," she said softly, smiling uncertainly.

Apparently she found this as awkward as him. Well, that was at least a small relief. He pointed at the windows. "Yeah, yeah, I usually avoid buildings with stained glass."

What on Earth was he talking about?

Veronica rounded the desk. "That's why you haven't come to visit," she said, bringing out her best pep-squat girly voice, and sat down.

Her sarcasm broke the dam for him though and he came forward, slapping the tabloid down in front of her. "There's a woman who saw my mom get out of her car and get in a van with a," he made air quotes with his hands, "mysterious stranger," he told her, not able to help the excitement and hope in his voice. But if this was true... it would be the proof that his mother was still alive!

She picked up the tabloid, scanning over the article. "There's also a jungle tribe that worships Donald Trump's hair," she remarked dryly and then looked up to meet his eyes. "It's a tabloid," she pointed out, softly.

Having more or less expected that reaction, he smiled. "What, so the girl with the pig arm can't really bowl?"

She didn't look amused though - rather pretty unhappy. "I just don't want you to get your hopes up," she said, apparently genuinely worried, laying down the tabloid.

But that was the least he needed right now. He hadn't come here for her to feel sorry for him - he had come here for her to do a job! "I'm not paying you to worry about my hopes," he told her tensely, the part in him that was adamant to not let her in as a friend again roaring its head. "I'm paying you to follow leads."

She picked up the tabloid again. "I wasn't aware you were paying me," she mentioned dryly, apparently not too affected by his words.

Once again, the reluctant side of him took over, suddenly needing to de-personalize this. "This isn't a favor, it's a job, you know. I mean, we're not," he held up his hands, searching for something that explained what they were nowadays. "...exchanging friendship bracelets," he finished finally, not bringing himself to not declare them friends right out.

"I'll stop braiding," she simply replied, rolling her eyes, scanning the article again.

"The woman said my mom was laughing and having fun," Logan summarized. "And so do whatever it is you do and track her down," he told her, well, ordered her. But he sure had enough of this conversation. He knew himself that it was only a tabloid article. That chances were low that the woman was accurate actually. But she might be, damn it, and he had hired her to find just things like that out, hadn't he?

"Sondra Bolan of Sunset Springs. How am I going to find her?" she asked sarcastically and pretty sure of herself picked up the phone, dialing.

Nervous, Logan paced, stopping at a high commode to lean on it.

"In Sunset Springs. Sondra Bolan," she instructed, then, while waiting, looked back to Logan. "I'll put it on your bill," she whispered and he felt the corner of his mouth twich. Typical her, riding on that one now, that he had brought it up at last. Her attention went back to the phone. "Hi, Sondra, this is Veronica of 'The National Instigator'. I had a few follow-up questions on your Lynn Echolls story." She paused to listen. "Actually, in person is a lot better." She listened for a moment once again. "No, Tuesday night's no good, newspaper work night," she then said though and Logan jerked up.

What the hell... "What are you doing?" he demanded to know in a harsh whisper.

She looked back at him as if to say to hold his horses and spoke into the phone again. "Any chance you're available right now?" she asked and Logan relaxed, waiting anxiously for the woman's answer. Veronica's face lit up with a blinding smile she sent Logan and nodded. "Oh, that's great. Yes, in an hour would just be perfect. Do you know 'The Seaside'? It's a little coffee bar." She listened for a moment. "Yes, right beside Dog Beach. I'll see you there then. Thanks so much." Hanging up, she met Logan's eyes. "Looks like we're heading to Dog Beach."

He nodded. "Thank you," he said quietly.

Veronica shrugged and got up, grabbing her jacket. "As you said, that's what you're paying me for."

Logan looked away. Hardly couldn't blame her for riding that point now, after he had brought it up. And it hadn't gone past him that she yet had to name a price. Through asking around he had gathered that she usually asked something between two hundred and five hundred bucks. And she had asked ten percent of the money Luke had to give back to the drug dealer. Then again, this job was different. He was asking her to find his mother that the whole world believed dead. He guessed that warranted something more than such peanuts.

"Let's go," she said, walking past him.

Glad to be brought out of his musings he went after her, frowning. "What's the hurry? You gave us an hour and we'll have twenty minutes tops to get to the coffee bar."

"Yeah, but first, I want to swing by home to get Back-Up when we're heading there already, saves me the trip later on. Second, we need to check the premises and get you placed somewhere close where you can listen in without being seen," she told him, closing the office up.

Logan's frown deepened. "Why go to so much trouble? I could just..."

"Sit by and participate? I think not," she interrupted him, giving him a look. "Think, Logan. Maybe this Sondra Bolan is the real deal, but she did only make it into a lousy tabloid, so we must assume that there's a reason for it. With all the press around your family lately your face's been plastered all over town. Especially after that nice encounter you had with that reporter and the fight with your dad right afterwards before the funeral. It's been played over and over in the last few days." This time she didn't look at him, her voice awfully neutral. But hell, he definitely wasn't going to feel bad about that episode. They had deserved it. Much more actually. "I'll get more out of her if she doesn't know that you're there too."

She had a point there, he thought, grudgingly. Damn it. "I'm surprised you didn't try to meet her without me again," he grumbled instead, beeping open his X-Terra.

With a snort, she got in. "Yeah, right, as if you'd have stayed away."

"Damn right."

"Besides, you had a point when you claimed to be better able to recognize if what this Sondra Bolan has to tell is accurate," she admitted, buckling in.

"About time you got that straight," he only could agree, heading towards the complex she lived in now. "Your dog better not drools onto my backseat."

"Aww, when did Back-Up ever dared to drool onto your backseat?" she asked, looking innocent like an angel.

Logan just snorted.


Seeing Logan turn around, or rather said this expression on his face that he had, accompanied with a smile, actually made her heart cringe.

She had expected anger. This - utter disbelieve and unbelief somehow though scared her. Not that she could blame him. This woman sitting across from her obviously was a fanatical and deranged person, caught in a delusion and obsession that had become her entire life. Veronica couldn't even be mad with her. It was clear that Sondra Bolan believed every word she had said. Which of course didn't help Logan much.

He got up and walked away, like in a trance, and she only could think of one thing: Go after him. Not really hearing anymore what that crazed fan was blubbering about she quickly got up, muttering an "Excuse me" at least and hurried after him.

Relieved, she saw that he hadn't gone far but had stopped right by the exit, leaning on the partition, hiding his emotions. Then again it wasn't hard to figure out what went on in him right now. He had hoped so much that the story of this Bolan woman was the real deal, only to have to find out that she's just one of those deluded fans...

She wanted to ease his pain so badly, but what was there to say after all? That she was sorry? That there was still hope? Hardly. "I would have done the same thing," she finally said.

He glanced back at her. "Done what?" he asked, roughly.

"If it was my mother, I would have let myself believe that story," she answered quietly, and it was the truth.

For a moment he held her eyes, then he pushed away and blundered up the exit stairs, blindly, as if he had to escape her eyes. Or perhaps just reality.

"Hey, manners Opie!" someone said and she needed a moment to recognize the guy Logan had bumped into on his rush out as Weevil as he stopped in front of her. "What, did he lose a puka shell?"

She knew that there was no love lost between Weevil and Logan. Apart of the obvious social differences, there was also that thing with Lilly. Since she had learned of her affair with Weevil she often had asked herself if Logan knew about it. Whatever it was, Logan would rip off her head if she told Weevil the truth. Then again, somehow she felt the need to explain his behavior. "No. Just the last ounce of hope that his mother was still alive," she sighed and once again felt her heart clench for Logan.

That shut Weevil up, looking properly contrite, and she was glad for that. Weevil wasn't a bad guy. He wouldn't go around and tell about seeing Logan like this. Hell, perhaps he'd go easy on Logan for a while, not that Logan seemed to be in need of that.

Uneasy about him being out there alone right now, she nodded at Weevil and went back to Sondra Bolan, gathering up her things. "I'm so sorry, something came up. But thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I think everything's clear no."

Bolan nodded, still lost in her book about Lynn. Shaking her head slightly, Veronica quickly left. Once outside, she scanned the area for Logan, her worry growing when she couldn't spot him. Walking back to his X-Terra, she definitely started to panic when he wasn't there either, just Back-Up, his nose sticking out of the slightly open window.

Looking around once again, she reached into her bag and took out the sticks she used to break open locked cars. Within a minute she had the door open and told Back-Up to get out. Then she closed the window, pushed down the button of the front door and shut it, hearing the automatic lock slide in place again.

Heaven forbid Logan's beloved canary got stolen now of all the times.

Looking around, her eyes paused on the beach, suddenly feeling drawn there. Then again, that would make sense. Logan loved the beach, he often went there to think or when he wanted to be alone. At least that had been so back when they still had been friends. Ruffling Back-Up's head, she started towards the promenade. "Come on, boy, let's find Logan."

Back-Up barked in agreement and shot forward, waiting occasionally so she could catch up. Trusting his nose, she let him led her to a more secluded part of the beach near the rock formation. When Veronica finally saw a hunched figure sitting on one of the rocks, she stopped. She knew it was Logan, even though she couldn't quite make out his features. For a moment, she just watched, unsure what to do now that she had found him. It was clear enough that he didn't want any company right now, not too surprisingly. She wouldn't be in the mood for company either in his place.

Yet, she couldn't just leave him there.

What is so great about living?

His desolate words to Ms James came back to her and she felt her heart be gripped by cold fear again. She had never believed Logan to be suicidal, but then, he had had a lot to take on this past year and now, with Lynn gone...

No.

No, Logan wouldn't do that. He just couldn't.

Still... there was no way that she'd just leave now. Not until she knew he was as okay as he could be under the circumstances. Didn't mean that she had to disturb him in his sorrow though, she thought with a sigh and sat down onto the sand, her eyes intent on the hunched figure. Patting Back-Up's head, she sent him off and wasn't surprised when he sprinted towards Logan, climbing the rocks with ease. She watched as her dog sniffed him, bumping his head against him after being ignored for too long for his taste.

And she smiled slightly when eventually, a hand lifted and started to crawl Back-Up's head. Soon after, Back-Up laid down, pressing his strong, warm body against Logan, Logan's hand still stroking and patting him, absentmindedly.

He would be fine, Veronica concluded with relief and leant back, intent on waiting for as long as Logan needed it.


He knew she was there - and not just because of having her dog still pressed up to him. Even before Back-Up had shown up he had - felt her being close.

The sun was losing its heat, slowly going down, and for a moment Logan wondered how long he was sitting here already. He really wasn't sure anymore, it feeling like an eternity - and like just a few seconds as well.

It was like he was caught in some sort of a trance, with everything being dull around him. And he felt so many different things, he wasn't sure what was what anymore. There was definitely a lot of anger, but mostly with himself for having fooled himself to belief the story of that Bolan woman. How could he have been so stupid? It had been a tabloid article, for Heaven's sake! But he had gone and believed it, word for word, even bringing Veronica to follow it up, making himself a laughing jock in front of her.

If it was my mother, I would have let myself believe that story.

Okay, so perhaps she understood it, but still... For being - whatever she was to him at the moment, she sure saw a bit too much of his vulnerability. And somehow knowing that she was never going to judge him for that or exploit her private knowledge made everything a lot harder.

He hated pity.

Especially from her. It was the least he could need now. Having her pitying him of all people... It made everything worse. How could he hold on to his convincement that his mother was still alive, even after all this, with having even Veronica believing so obviously that he was fooling himself?

Why couldn't she take her dog and go away, leave him allow?

He didn't need her and her doubts.

Not that she had ever said that she didn't believe in his mother still being alive. She didn't need to. It was obvious in her behavior towards him, in her damn tentative consideration when dealing with him.

His mom was not dead.

Even if this story turned out to be a fluke, that didn't mean that his mom wasn't still alive, hiding. She still was out there, he just knew it.

But there were still more and more doubts seeping in and he felt his belief wavering, despite everything.

"Mom wouldn't have left me all alone with him," he whispered, his hand tightening on Back-Up's head.

Back-Up grunted and laid his head into Logan's lap, looking up at him with his big brown eyes.

"She wouldn't."

The pit-bull stretched up and licked over Logan's chin once. "Hey," Logan protested, ducking away.

Back-up barked once, quietly.

With a sigh, Logan ruffled his head and patted his side. "Yeah, yeah."

At last he looked back, searching the beach for Back-Up's mistress. It took him a moment to make out her tiny form laid back in the sand, looking pretty relaxed. Looked like she was adamant to not leave without him. Sighing again, he looked back to her dog. "You sure got one stubborn mistress there. Must be a bitch to have to live with her."

Logan could swear the dog narrowed his eyes. He sure as hell fletched a little at him. Logan was quick to hold up his hand. "Okay, okay, no hard feelings, okay? It's just that she sure knows how to get under my skin," he muttered, shooting another glance at her silhouette on the beach.

But seriously - why was she still here? Why hadn't she just left? She hadn't come up to him, just waiting in the distance for him to come back so he guessed she had picked up on the fact that he wanted to be alone. But why still sticking around?

Okay, technically, he owed her a ride back home. Then again, she couldn't tell him that she couldn't find another way home. And yet, there she was, patiently waiting, having sent her dog to him.

Not that he minded that, he thought, looking down at Back-Up's head in his lap. Truth was, he loved that dog to pieces, always had, ever since Veronica had first introduced him to the puppy her dad had given her the previous day. And he had missed spending time with the dog. They had spent many hours here at the beach, walking and playing with Back-Up, just fooling around and that had been times he had always felt freer and more carefree than ever in his life.

And thanks to Back-Up he was sure that once he had managed to free himself from his father, he was going to get himself a dog as well. He always had wanted one, but his parents claimed that Trina was allergic to dogs (though strangely, she never had had a problem when Veronica was over with Back-Up). Then again, it probably was for the best anyway. Having had a dog would only have given his father another way to hurt Logan by going through the dog.

So he had been content to still his thirst for a dog by spending as much time as he could with Back-Up, spoiling him rotten, always having some goodies with him, sometimes even a steak. But with what had then happened between him and Veronica that had been lost as well, of course.

For this alone it was perhaps worth it to befriend Veronica again. As if reading his thoughts, Back-Up lifted his head and gave an agreeing bark that made Logan smile. Yeah. Maybe.

Of course, there was also the small fact that out of all his friends and buddies, it was only Veronica who had been willing to believe him enough to even bother to help him. And it was also only her who was there for him now, wasn't leaving him be, refusing to leave him alone with dealing with his mothers disappearance.

And his mom would be the first to tell him to not be so stubborn and finally see to it that he got back Veronica as a friend for good.

Then again, even if his mother hadn't committed suicide (and she hadn't!), she still had left him, hadn't she? Left him alone with his father. Sure. She hadn't had it easy with his father either. And she always had wanted to get away from him. But she had promised that they were going to leave. That both of them were going to escape.

She had broken at least that promise.

And that hurt. A lot. And it made him also angry, though not angry enough to not want to find her just to know that she was okay. Yet.

Pressing a hand onto his eyes, he shook his head. Fuck it. He was definitely thinking way too much. That was what he got for sitting around and be sorry for himself, letting his thoughts free reign. Especially as there was no need to despair anyway.

His mom was fine. She just was a lot better at staying low than he had anticipated.

Then again, who knew for how long she'd been planning this already.

Growling at that thought, he once again shook his head forcefully, causing Back-Up to lift his head and give him a curious look. Pushing it all away, Logan patted his head and then stood up, patting himself down. "Come on. Let's go back to Veronica," he told the dog, who barked in return, jumping up and ahead.

As soon as Logan was down from the rocks, Back-Up raced to him, a stick in his hand. Finding himself laughing surprisingly lighthearted, he took the stick and threw it dutifully as far away as he could. Back-Up raced after it. For a moment, Logan watched him, then he started to slowly walking towards Veronica. He had to throw the stick four more times on the way over. When he finally reached her, she was still lying on her back, reading in a book. Glancing past the book, she raised an eyebrow. "Ready to head home?"

He was glad for her simplicity and normalcy. At least that. Deciding to go the same way, he nodded. "Yeah. It's getting dark anyway."

"And cold," she nodded and sat up, scanning the beach. "Care to tell me what you've done with my dog?"

With a grin, he nodded towards the water. "He should be back any moment now."

As if on cue, Back-Up showed up, running towards them with big strides, the stick held proudly in his mouth, laying it down at Logan's feet. And shook himself, spraying mostly Veronica with wet drops. Yelping, she jumped up and then glared at a laughing Logan. "Great. You just had to throw that stick into the water, didn't you?" she grumbled. "Now I've got to bath him once we're home or he'll stink after sea water."

He shrugged, innocently. "It was the wind."

She snorted. "Sure, there's so much wind at the moment. I'll be blown away any moment now."

"Aww, don't worry, we'll hold you down when that happens, won't we?" he asked, looking down at Back-Up who barked again in answer.

"Gaining up on me, huh?" she said, eyeing her dog. "You better don't expect a bone tonight."

Back-Up whined, then gave them both a pathetic look, resting a bit longer on Logan.

"Looking at Logan won't help you. He's not going to give you one either," Veronica just told him dryly and patted herself down as well before picking up her bag.

Giving it apparently up, Back-Up sprinted ahead, enjoying the beach for as long as he could while Logan and Veronica trailed after him, in silence. Strangely enough, Logan didn't even think it an uncomfortable silence. Actually, it was rather an easy silence.

None the less, there was still something that he needed to make clear, even though he really wasn't in the mood to bring up the difficult topic of his mother again. "I guess it's back to waiting now, isn't it?" he asked, careful to keep his eyes on Back-Up and his voice neutral.

He felt her glance at him. "Yeah, I fear so. Got any further with that list I asked from you?" she simply answered though.

Relieved, he gave a short nod. "I'll give it to you tomorrow."

"Okay. I won't be there all day though. I'm going to Mr Rooks' hearing in the afternoon," she informed him.

"Still trying to clear him, huh?" Logan asked, at last glancing at her.

"Yeah and I plan to not stop until I've proved the truth," she confirmed, getting that hard edge in her eyes he had noticed already several times before.

The old Ronnie had never looked that way. He wondered if that was a good or a bad thing. Becoming tougher wasn't necessarily a bad thing and there had been times when he had worried about Veronica, back in their days, that she was too soft, too trusting, too easy to be hurt.

On the other hand, considering their history, he better did not go down that lane.

"But that won't stop me from doing the usual check-ups for your mother, so don't worry," she added.

"I didn't," he answered quietly, again careful to not look at her.

She had no reply to that. Reaching the part where they had to leave the beach, she let out a sharp whistle that had Back-Up running towards them in seconds. Together, they made their way over to Logan's car.

"We better put Back-Up in the back, wet and sandy as he is now," Veronica said.

But Logan shook his head and opened the backdoor for the dog, motioning him in. "Nah, it's all right."

Her eyebrows rose. "What happened to your precious seats?"

"It's called car wash, Ronnie. It's due soon anyway," he answered with a shrug and got in himself.

"Just don't bill it to me. You've been dutifully warned," she replied dryly, buckling in.

"Ah no, way simpler than that," Logan grinned, shooting her a look. "I'll just deduct it from the check I'll owe you, once we've found my mother."

She shrugged. "Easy. In that case I'll simply give you a higher rate."

Their eyes met briefly and they both smiled.

"Did you hear who's going to replace Ms Dent in our journalism class?" Logan changed the topic.

"No, not yet. When's Ms Dent leaving for her maternity leave anyway?"

"I think by the end of this month. And then we will have the pleasure to have Ms Stafford take over for her," Logan informed her.

Her eyebrows rose. "Ms Stafford? Seriously?"

"The one and only," he nodded. "Maddison told me and Duncan confirmed it." He shot her a look. "But how come you super-sleuth didn't know that yet?"

Veronica shrugged. "I never cared to find out, not really wanting to think about it. I like Ms Dent, she's good. Plus, I've been caught up in other things." She shook her head. "Ms Stafford. What were they thinking? That will be a nightmare."

Logan laughed. "What, you're not looking forward to write endless praises and peppy things for our fellow students?"

"Ugh. Please don't remind me of her lectures from pep squad. I swear to you, I was this close of dousing her one afternoon." She rolled her eyes. "But you're right, I fear with her calling the shots the Navigator will become very boring, very fast."

Logan nodded. "Probably. Then again, who really reads the Navigator anyway?"

"Oh come on, it's not that bad. There are people who aren't only interested in surfing, parties, sex and alcohol, you know?" she defended their school paper.

"But no one who really counts."

"You're such a snob," was Veronica's only reply.

"I am what I am," he told her promptly, pulling into the parking lot in front of her apartment complex.

"Don't I know it," she snorted and got out, opening the back door for Back-Up a moment later. Then her face appeared in the still open front door again. "You okay?" she asked quietly, serious all of a sudden.

Stiffening, Logan looked away, gave a tight nod though.

She sighed. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow then."

Again he just nodded and she closed the door, walking away. For a second, he stared after her. Then he cursed and opened the door, leaning out. "Hey, Ronnie!"

She turned around, her eyes locking with his.

"Thanks for..." He broke off, unsure what to say. "Thanks," he finally just said simply.

Her eyes softened and she gave the tiniest of a nod. "No big deal," she simply replied and with a last small smile his way turned back around and continued her way in, soon vanishing through the door of her apartment.

Only then did he start the car and drove away, her last words echoing in his head.

She was wrong. It was a big deal.

Big enough to make him slowly but surely actually want to gain her friendship back.

Boy oh boy... looked like hell actually did freeze over.


How could she have been so wrong about Mr Rooks? How in the hell had he been able to still fool her like this, after everything she had learned this past year?

Carrie had been right all the time. Well, she had lied about the one having an affair with Mr Rooks being her while it had been all along her best friend Susan Knight, but other than that everything she had said had been the truth. And that Mr Rooks, who seemed to be so nice and great was capable of not only sleeping with his own students but to then even treat her like that when she became pregnant, just letting her fall like that. Giving her 500 bucks to take care of it... How could she ever have believed in that asshole?

And to make everything worse, there was this fear deep down, ever since she had left Mr Rooks' home after the hearing. If she hadn't left when she had had, putting two and two together - would it have happened again? If he'd made advances on her and she had made clear that that was never going to happen, would he have just let her go or would he have...

Alone the thought of it made her sick.

Truthfully, she didn't think so. Rooks may be an ass, but Susan had made clear that she had slept with him on her own free will. Then again, there was a reason something like this was called statutory rape. And that teachers shouldn't sleep with their students. How much chance had had Susan Knight to say no after all? Rooks was a charmer, that much was obvious and he did look good, so it wouldn't be hard for him to make a naive girl like Susan Knight had been one fall in love with him. Hell, she still loved the asshole, even after everything that had happened, Veronica having a hard time to convince her to report the truth to the school board president.

But she had succeeded in the end and Mr Rooks most likely was going to get fired sometimes in the next few days.

It made her even sicker that she still regretted losing him as a teacher. But damn it, apart of being a total asshole he had been a truly great teacher. There was no doubt though that he did deserve getting fired and hopefully get his reputation such damaged that he never was going to be able to find another job as a teacher again.

And she could just hope that his replacement would be a better choice than Ms Stafford for Ms Dent, she thought darkly as she walked towards the school, depressed. It was no wonder though that she couldn't find particular joy at living at the moment. Her favorite teacher turned out to be a lying, cheating bastard over whom she even had gotten into a big fight with her dad, therefore forcing her to apologize to him and even worse, she owed Carrie Bishop an apology as well and boy, that one was going to hurt.

On top of that she had found out that her ex-boyfriend and possible half brother suffered from epilepsy and had never bothered to tell her about this. Nor Lilly for that matter. Then again, it looked as if Lilly hadn't told her quite a lot, like having dated Weevil for example. At least her visit of Dr Levine's office had also given her another connection between the Kanes and Abel Koontz. It couldn't be a coincidence that he had gone to the same doctor as the Kanes, especially seeing that Dr Levine basically wasn't in his price category. Nor was it surely no coincidence that Abel Koontz had been arrested only three days after having been diagnosed by that same doctor with a terminable cancer.

Finally, Koontz wrong confession made sense. He had nothing to lose, dying as he already was. Either the state was going to kill him or the cancer. Probably, he hoped it was the first, giving him a way easier death than the painful one by cancer. But she still didn't know why he agreed to do the confession in the first place. They've got to have paid him, but if he was dying in prison, what use would he have for any kind of money?

Unless of course there was someone else he wanted the money for.

Well, perhaps she'd ask him when she returned to go see him one last time. To let him know that she knew. It was probably a stupid idea, but God, she wanted him to pay for what he had told her at her last visit in the prison. And for covering for Lilly's real killer, making it possible that he was still out there, living a careless life, knowing that no one was searching for him anymore with Koontz rotting away on death row for her murder.

No, she did not feel one ounce of pity for that despicable man. And she hoped with all her being that she managed to uncover the truth before the death sentence got executed.

She walked past Logan's X-Terra and sighed mentally. Then there was the whole mess with Logan of course. Even after the last disappointment with the tabloid story he still refused to believe in Lynn's suicide. The more she learned of the case though, the more Veronica got convinced that Lynn really was dead. Not that she had had much doubts about it before but now... She just didn't know what to do with Logan anymore. It would be so much easier if there wasn't all this history between them, especially not their old friendship. Without that it would be so easy for her to gently but definitely tell him that he was deluding himself and that his desperate search for Lynn was futile, only dragging out the inevitable. Him having to accept and deal with her suicide. But as it was - she just couldn't bring herself to tell him or even lay down the search. So she continued to check every day for traces of Lynn.

Well, perhaps Weevil's tip would make a change. Perhaps this kid he had heard of really had some valuable proof, one way or another, that would convince Logan to drop his search.

And maybe they then could go back to...

Yeah. That was another problem. Things had changed between them in the last week. For a while already, but big time ever since he had shown up on her doorstep to ask her for help. Especially during that afternoon on the beach. Being reminded at how close Back-Up and he were, having him joke around with her again, seeing his trust in her... it sure did a number on her feelings for him. So when this was over, what did she really want? Go back to be enemies? Go back to be something in-between, just tolerating each other? Or, Heaven forbid, go back to friends?

The mere thought of it was ridiculous. There simply had happened too much between them for that being possible. Or was it? Could they move past the past and make somewhat of a new beginning, giving a friendship between him and her another try?

She wasn't sure - but it scared her slightly that she had to find out that she definitely tended to the last one. If it was possible, yeah, she thought then she'd like to see if perhaps they could be friends again.

Looked like hell was freezing over after all.


I may have something. Meet me in the rec room. V.

Logan read the message three times before he looked around with a frown, trying to spot Veronica, having no luck though. Perhaps, she was already in the rec room.

"Something wrong?"

Looking at Duncan, Logan quickly left the message and put away his cell. "No. Just remembered that I forgot something. I'll see you guys later," he answered, standing up.

Most of the guys at the table just gave a nod in return if at all, but Duncan frowned. "Where are you going?"

"I've got something to do," Logan avoided his question and left before Duncan could ask any more questions.

This was the first time that Veronica had called him with something new and he was curious as hell to see what she had found out. He tried to not get his hopes up too much again, but it was hard. After all, what could Veronica have found that would not give them at least a clue about his mother's whereabouts?

He quickened his pace in his eagerness, hardly noticing anything on his way over to the rec room. Finally he got there, seeing the door open. His steps faltered though when he saw that Veronica wasn't alone. He had no idea who the kid was but what the hell was Weevil doing there?

"Hey. You paged?" he asked carefully, glancing at Weevil and the kid as he moved over to stand behind Veronica who was sitting in front of a computer.

Veronica gave a small nod and turned her piercing eyes onto the kid. "It seems Hart here has something to show us," she explained. "Spill."

Logan looked skeptically at the boy, unsure of what this kid he was sure he never had seen in his life before could know about his mother's disappearance. The kid, Hart, looked very uncomfortable, but he was smart enough to do as Veronica had ordered him and started talking. "Me and my friends were filming out by the bay. We were making this war movie, "Storm on the Beach." It's just on high def, but it's pretty cool. It's these two brothers who get sent to war and-"

He got rudely interrupted by Veronica. "Don't care. Point?"

Glancing uneasily at the others, Hart inserted a disc, starting it up. "We were editing it together, and we noticed something."

Putting up a feet on the chair beside Veronica, Logan looked with growing impatience how kids Hart's age were playing soldier, dressed in combat gear. The steamer was filmed someplace with the Coronado Bridge in the background, but that was all he could see that could link this to his mother.

"Did you see it?" Hart asked after the sequence was over.

"Yeah, it sucks, and?" Logan sneered.

Veronica seemed more patient with the idiot though. "Rewind it. Play it frame by frame," she told Hart.

The boy was quick to do so. "There! Check out the right side of the bridge," he pointed out and zoomed in on it.

Something white is falling down from the bridge, splashing into the water.

Logan's heart stops and he actually stumbles back.

No...


Weevil too drew back in shock. "Holy..."

Veronica closed her eyes. Damn it. Sure, she had thought as much, but to actually have to see it. This was someone she had always liked after all, someone who always had been nice to her. God, how must Logan feel now, having had to see this? Shit. Why hadn't she first viewed the disc herself instead of just calling Logan to join them? Neither Hart nor Weevil should be here now. Not for something like this, something so private.

"The video's time stamped 4:37 P.M. Exactly the time when..." Hart interrupted his explanation, glancing warily at Logan, apparently finally remembering just who Logan was. "...she supposedly jumped," he finished, subdued.

"This footage better never make it out into public consumption," warned Veronica him icily, her voice row though.

Weevil grabbed Hart's neck. "Don't worry about my boy, Hart," he said, getting into Hart's face. "He knows if that happens his last movie will be a snuff film. And he'll star in it, right?" It was obvious from the fear in his eyes that Hart believed him every word. Smart boy. Satisfied, Weevil dragged him away. "Come on."

Veronica watched as they left, not missing the sympathetic glance Weevil shot Logan, and then she was left alone with Logan. Slipping out the disc, she could hear him moving behind her but most of all, she could feel the shock and pain emanating from him.

God. What on Earth could she say to him now? He had just witnessed his mother descent from the bridge that most surely had killed her. There was nothing that could make this any easier for him.

Still, she felt the need to say at least something and so she just let her heart speak. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, so am I," he replied softly, his voice...

No. She never had heard him like this, so completely and utterly resigned and defeated. Her heart clenching painfully for him, she dropped her head, wishing there was something, anything she could do to ease his pain.

But of course there was nothing she could do and when he slowly walked out of the room, stumbling, as if every step was too big of an effort, she let him go, instinctively knowing that now was not the time to go after him, no matter how much her head warned her to not leave him alone right now.

Dimly, she heard her cell phone ring and after a moment, she tiredly reached for it, desperate for anything to distract her from her own shock and worry about Logan. Reading the message on her display though, she soon was back on Earth, having to read the message a second time with unbelief. To receive it now of all the times... And what did this mean?

Didn't matter, at least not right now. All that mattered was that Logan knew about this. God, Logan! Grabbing her bag, she jumped up and ran out, looking frantically around for Logan. He couldn't have gotten far after all, not after such news. And he'd need to be alone so where...

Of course! Sharply, she turned around and raced outside, towards the parking lot. She knew Logan. There was no way he'd stay in school right now, needing to get away from everybody.

And sure enough, there he was, stumbling in a daze towards his car. "Logan!" she shouted, not caring one iota about everybody seeing and hearing her. They didn't matter. No one but Logan mattered right now. Not much to her surprise it didn't stop Logan though, either not wanting to face her or, more likely, simply not hearing her in his despair. "Logan!" she tried it again anyway, quickening her steps. At last she reached him and she called out his name again. "Logan!" Finally he stopped, turning blind eyes towards her and his paleness in the stark sun shocked her, despite having been there when they had seen the disc as well. The words spilled out of her. "Your mom's missing credit card was just used."

It took a long while for her words to register, but as she watched his eyes cleared and focused, filling with regained hope. "What?" he whispered.

Suddenly, Veronica was uneasy about bringing up his hopes again, but she owed him the truth after all and this was it. "Your mom's credit card. It's just been used," she repeated, more calmly now.

Even with hope returning to him, he still looked lost. "But... what does that mean?"

Becoming aware of the other students throwing them curious looks, Veronica held back from answering immediately and, taking his hand, she dragged him over to his car. Should they think whatever they wanted. That was hardly important at the moment. Besides, with her reputation it was only Logan's reputation that could suffer a little anyway. Eager to get them into the relatively privacy of his car, Veronica didn't hesitate when she simply reached into Logan's left pocket to get out his keys and beep open the car. Opening the door to the front seat, she ushered Logan in before she rounded the car and climbed in herself into the driver's seat. It spoke for itself that not one word of protest came over Logan's lips this whole time, not even when she started his beloved canary and pulled out of the parking lot.

He never let anyone else drive his car.

Deeply worried, she racked her brain to figure out what to do now with him in this state. She wasn't sure where to head to, just having known to need to get away, so, in the end, she optioned to drive towards their office. They might need to use the computer there after all. Her dad should be out, they've gotten another job the last day, mostly surveillance, so she didn't need to worry about explaining all of this to him. After everything that had happened, her dad naturally wasn't the biggest fan of Logan Echolls, so she never had mentioned to him that her and Logan were working together in order to find Lynn - or that something had changed between them lately, ending their hostility. Maybe even making them friends again.

"Veronica?"

She locked her eyes with Logan for a moment. "We're heading over to the office so we can check up on that credit card. See where and for what it's been used," she explained, not standing how lost he still sounded.

"Okay."

Or this unusual compliance of him. This just wasn't him.

Thankfully, they've reached the office not soon after. Once again, Logan just followed her quietly up to it. It really started to unnerve her. But she couldn't blame the guy. He sure had been on a rollercoaster of hell this past hour.

Like she had thought, her dad wasn't in, thankfully. Going straight to her desk, she fired up the computer there.

At last, Logan started to talk again, in a rough, confused voice. "I don't understand, Veronica. We've both seen that video. I haven't imagined..." his voice broke and he swallowed. "But if what we've seen is real, then how is it possible that her card's been used now?"

Looking back at him, she willed her computer to hurry while she thought about how to answer him.

There was nothing but the truth.

"I don't know, Logan," she admitted quietly. "But I intend to find out. There are various possibility. We're not sure she had her credit cards with her when she left the car on the bridge. Maybe, someone stole them and waited a few days before daring to try them. That is the most likely reason," she warned him softly, then continued. "There is also the possibility that someone at the bank or in the credit firma grabbed the opportunity and quickly charged a few things onto her card. It's rare, but I've seen it happen."

He looked at her expectantly and she sighed. "And yeah, there is the slight possibility that Lynn arranged for a dummy or something similar to simulate her jump to then vanish from this Earth. But Logan, you really shouldn't..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," he interrupted her, pacing in front of her. "Don't get my hopes up."

"It is not the most likely scenario," she reminded him gently. "I know you want to believe it and I won't say it's completely out of the question - but if Lynn went to all that trouble to stage her suicide, managing to stay as low as she has, then I just don't see her being so dumb to risk it all by using her old credit cards all of a sudden."

He stopped to gaze at her, annoyed and desperate all at once. "Perhaps it was an emergency. Perhaps this was her way to send out a message to those who are looking for her." He had to swallow again. "For me. It is a possibility."

Not bringing herself to kill his small hope, Veronica's shoulders sagged in defeat and she nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, maybe." She turned back to her computer, the programs finally running. "Okay, let's see what I can find out." Motioning to the sofa, she glanced back at him. "Sit down, Logan. It will take a while," she told him softly.

For a moment it looked as if he was going to protest, but then he walked over to the sofa and sat down, leaning his head into his hands. "I don't suppose your dad keeps a bottle of scotch or whiskey someplace around here?" he asked sarcastically but then sighed. "I could really use a shot right now."

She already had a sharp comment on her tongue but then reminded herself just what he had to go through in the past hour. Hell. In the past couple of months. She guessed he really deserved a shot after all this. Sighing, she quickly set up the search for the credit card and then went to the kitchen to go get a glass with ice in it before she vanished into her father's office. Her father liked a good old scotch from time to time and she knew where he kept the bottle. Pouring Logan a good deal of a shot, she put the bottle back into its place and then went outside.

"Here," she said to make him look up and held out the glass when he did so.

For a moment he just stared at the glass before he turned flabbergasted eyes onto her. She shrugged. "Want it now or not?" she asked, a bit gruffly.

Logan tended to drink too much and with her mother's history she never had liked that, let alone feed that vice of his. But even she knew that sometimes a bit of alcohol could actually be sort of therapeutic or at least calming.

He took the glass. "Thanks."

With another shrug she returned to her desk.

"This is a good stuff."

"Just because we're poor doesn't mean Dad doesn't know how to appreciate a good scotch occasionally and therefore buys a good bottle once in a while," Veronica said, not looking up. "Just don't expect to get another one."

"That's fine. And I didn't mean it like it sounded." His frustration made her glance over to him. He looked into the glass, forlorn. "I just..."

"It's okay," she assured him before she knew what she was doing. "No offense taken."

At last he looked up, met her eyes. Then he nodded, silently. "Veronica?"

"Yeah?"

His eyes bored into hers. "Why are you doing all this? Why help me at all? Why didn't you just send me to hell?" He sounded defeated, as if finally asking her this happened only after a long inner war. "I know I would have done so, in your place."

For a long moment, she contemplated how to answer. Should she try to find an answer to a question she had already asked herself a few dozens times without finding a truly satisfying answer or should she just shrug it off with some snide remark? Taking another look at him, she knew that now was not the time for jokes.

So she shrugged. "Because you came to me." She thought for a moment. "Because if it's my mother, I'd do the same thing, not giving up until I'd know for sure, one way or another." Another pause. "Because your mom had always been nice to me and I like Lynn." This time she was silent for a long time before she added one last reason. "And because in the end, we once cared enough about each other that neither of us would have had questioned the motivation behind helping each other in a crisis like this."

Logan was silent but he wouldn't let go of her eyes.

It suddenly all becoming a bit too heavy and emotional for her taste, she gave him a big smile and shrugged. "Besides, who am I to turn down a 09er showing up on my doorstep to offer me a job that can finance me at least six months of college?"

She turned back to her computer and was careful to not look back at Logan, concentrating herself solely on her task.

Several minutes passed with neither of them saying anything.

"Ronnie..." Logan finally interrupted the silence though, even letting out a low chuckle. "To think that with all that PI stuff you've been doing over the past year that you're still such a lousy liar... How you manage to fool anyone is a mystery to me."

Her head shot up to give him her most patented death glare.

The jackass just laughed and leaned back in the sofa, taking another sip of the scotch she had given him, closing his eyes.

She knew he had a hell of a day, but still... "Go to hell, Echolls."

He had the nerve to just smile and raise the glass to toast her. With a huff, she glared back at the screen.

Enemy or not, he sure was still as irritating as hell.


TBC!

(Author's Note: I know, I know, once more with a long time since the last update. Mostly because of RL but also because for a long while I was unsure just where to begin with this chapter and where to end it, adding the part of Ruskie Business as well already or not. In the end I think it's better to split it up, not just because of the length this chapter already has but also because things between Logan and Veronica had obviously changed between this episode and Ruskie Business, no trace of hostility left, the two of them just acting like any close friends would. Perhaps still a bit awkward from time to time, but it was definitely there. I hope I could show a little how it came to that. As always, thanks for the reviews. And I hope you enjoyed the new chapter!)