Rating: PG-13 (mild language, mild sexuality)
Summary: Because that's what Mac's all about - saving innocent boots from drowning and drinking tequila with Weevil. Well, okay, the tequila was Weevil's idea.
Spoilers: Post-Season 2, through 2x22 - Not Pictured
Disclaimer: All things Veronica Mars belong to Rob Thomas and everyone else who makes the show possible.
Notes: Written for the Create-a-Thon at VMOutstanding prompt was - Weevil/Mac, Weevil's past or parents (especially how he came to live with his Grandma). Many thanks to Kurukami for a much needed beta.
Veronica looked happy. More specifically, Veronica and Logan looked very happy in their bonfire-lit, tangled limbs of coupled bliss. Of course, it was their party and they could make everyone else feel bitter if they wanted to. Mac chose to look at them as little as possible, sitting on a beach chair at the fringes of the crowd milling around the fire pit. At least, she stayed in the chair until one of the guys from Veronica's journalism class began giving her the Look that meant he was about to saunter over with beer in hand and hit on her.
The moment he started in her direction, she grabbed up the blanket over her legs and bolted from her chair, making a few desperate zigzags through the crowd in an attempt to lose him. With her natural predator confused about the direction of his prey, she pretended to be interested in whatever was tossed up by the rolling surf. Her intent was to get far enough away that she wasn't going to smell like campfire smoke when she returned, then spread the blanket out and stare at the ocean. Once she was there, she realized it wasn't far enough.
Not far enough away for the laughter to fade and stop reminding her of her single status. Reminders always brought up memories of Cassidy and those were unwelcome visitors. Who wanted to be remembered as the girlfriend of a murderer?
Sandals dangling loosely from her hand, she watched the water swirl over her feet and catch bits of moonlight as it curved and crested. It was cold but not unpleasantly so; a welcome contrast from the heat of the bonfire and crowd of people. But it was the blissful near-silence of no one trying to drag her kicking and screaming back onto the proverbial horse that made her solitary walk exactly what she needed.
She stopped once to look back and wish she'd remembered to retrieve her iPod from her car. Long walks on the beach were always better with sad, depressing music as a soundtrack; guitar rifts to augment the gleaming waves and melancholy piano solos to remind her that there would be only one set of footprints if she looked back.
An oddly shaped rock caught her attention several feet from the edge of the surf. Leaving the waves behind to get a better look, she discovered that the rock was actually a pair of boots, folded jeans, and a t-shirt. She scanned the beach for any sign of another solitary wanderer, but saw only sand and sea grass. Whoever it was had obviously forgotten that the tide was going to change and soon they'd be out a perfectly good pair of boots.
Feeling foolish, she gathered up the pile of clothes and boots and headed up the beach far enough to be safe. She planned to leave the clothes there and hope their missing human returned before the water crept high enough to reach them. When there was still no sign of anyone else as far as she could see, she set them gently on the sand and laid her blanket out to wait. It wasn't like she actually had anything better to do than walk up and down the beach saving clothing in distress. Her mother called it 'being antisocial'.
Time passed; the wind picked up and chilled the air enough that she had to pull the blanket up around her arms to keep from shivering. Maybe they'd forgotten their clothes. Maybe they'd drowned and their body was going to wash up down shore. That thought made her stomach queasy so she pushed it away. They'd probably just forgotten them and gone home in their swimsuit.
Just as she was about to give up and leave the clothing to the mercy of the Pacific, she saw a strange light flickering in the water. It bobbed and danced back and forth as it neared the shore, then suddenly disappeared once it was almost near enough for her to see what it was. A distinctly human shape rose up out of the water and started toward her.
She was still trying to come up with a good way to say 'hello, I moved your clothes' when the heavy, underwater flashlight hit the sand a few feet away and she found herself staring up at a very nearly naked Eli Navarro.
"What're you doing here?" he demanded.
"I…the tide…I didn't want your clothes to get wet." Her cheeks started burning and she kicked herself for sounding like an idiot.
"And you just happened to be on Dog Beach in the middle of the night." He didn't sound like he believed her.
She looked away when he reached for his jeans. "There's a...I was sick of the party so I took a walk." It sounded like a lame excuse even for someone lame like her. Who else would voluntarily give up an invitation to the kind of party that she'd been forbidden from attending most of her life? Doors opened for Logan and Veronica, she just followed along in their wake and pretended it was only a door.
"Not enjoying the company of the rich and famous, huh? Get tired of pretending to be one of 'em?"
"What is that supposed to mean?" she snapped, refusing to look at him when he dropped down onto the sand.
"You and Veronica, running back to your rich boyfriends soon as they'll have you."
"My rich boyfriend jumped off the roof of the Neptune Grand. So I guess that makes him a rich ex-boyfriend, doesn't it?" The steel in her voice surprised her; she hadn't known it was there and hadn't heard it before.
She could tell that he was staring at her, but his face was unreadable in the darkness. "Hijo de puta…he what?"
"You didn't know?" Now she was the skeptical one. "He killed all those kids on the bus and when Veronica found out…he left me in the hotel room; took my clothes, my cell phone. And, like an idiot, I'm sitting there wondering what I did wrong while he's…" The words stuck in her throat like bits of glass she was still trying to swallow. "I thought everyone knew."
"Been out of the loop," he explained vaguely.
She knew he'd been in jail but it seemed kinder to leave it at vague. "When did you?"
"Oh." She relented, letting the indignant anger fade back into comfortably numb. No one could be expected to catch up with nine months of Neptune gossip in only two days; the psychotic kid who crashed the bus was old news by now. "Decided to celebrate with a little night swimming?"
He nodded toward the flashlight. "Looking for something."
"Wouldn't it be easier in the daylight?"
"Too many people."
"Don't want to share the treasure?" she joked lightly.
Picking up his t-shirt and boots, he got back to his feet. "You'd better get back to your party, chica."
"I doubt anyone's even noticed I'm gone. Besides, if I go back, this guy named Zane will hit on me and I can't stand the way he laughs. It's like a donkey on helium." She shook her head and pulled the blanket tighter around her arms.
He hesitated for a moment before picking up the flashlight and starting up the beach. Assuming he'd kept walking, she was startled to hear his voice behind her. "I was gonna build a fire further up. If you're cold. It ain't what you'd get with the 09ers, but I don't sound like a jackass when I laugh. At least, not that anyone's told me."
The smile, despite being small, was impossible to suppress. And she was beginning to shiver even with the blanket. She shook off as much sand as possible as she got to her feet and followed him up the beach. Further in, the sand was still warm under her feet and rows of bunched sea grass served as sporadic barriers against the wind off the ocean. There was a box of wood sitting beside a designated fire pit and a broken picnic table that was missing one bench was lying on its side, obviously having seen better days.
Eli dropped his flashlight beside a dark duffle bag that would have been impossible to see if she hadn't been looking right at it. After a minute of looking around, he took one end of the picnic table and pulled it into the path of the gale coming off the ocean. "It'll keep you out of the wind."
"Oh. Thanks." She huddled down against the bare wood, grateful that she wouldn't have to push her hair out of her eyes every three seconds. It was almost warm enough to ditch the blanket when she didn't have the wind trying to freeze her solid. No brilliant ideas for witty conversation were coming to her so she stayed quiet as he built the fire up from a tiny flame to a small blaze. She scooted closer to get more of the radiating warmth.
"Don't have any marshmallows. Just," he paused as he searched through the duffle, producing a bottle with a label she couldn't read. "Tequila."
"I'm not…" she trailed off when he raised an eyebrow and she remembered that he wasn't exactly the legal age drinking either. Of course, neither was anyone back at the party she was supposed to be enjoying. "Does it really have a worm in it?"
His head tipped back as he laughed and he didn't answer her, just shook his head and, still chuckling, opened the bottle. Rather than hold it out to her, he set it in the sand halfway between them and sat back, pulling on his t-shirt as he waited for her to decide. "You wait much longer and then you'll have to worry about the fact that I didn't bring glasses. Wasn't expecting company."
Someone else's saliva was the least of her worries. She was pretty sure it was going to taste awful and that she was going to choke when she tried to swallow it, which would be highly embarrassing.
"Let me know if you change your mind." He scooped up the bottle and raised it to his lips, taking a long swallow. When he was finished, he put it back at the halfway point and shook his head as if to shake away what he'd just swallowed. "Might want to go easy though, if you're not used to it."
"What's the point? It's not going to magically make everything better."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Never said it would. Though you won't actually know until you try."
Summoning up her courage, she reached out and grabbed onto the neck of the bottle. Forcing herself not to think about it, she tipped her head back and took a mouthful. It was sheer luck that she managed to get the bottle back on the ground without tipping it over. The alcohol burned down her throat like lava; eyes watering as she choked and gagged. "You're drinking this on purpose?"
"Hey! That's my favorite label you're talking about. Although it might be an acquired taste." He winked at her as he took another swallow from the bottle.
"Oh my God. That is…I can't believe people actually drink that."
"Well, usually not straight."
She pulled a face, trying to get the taste out of her mouth somehow. "Now you tell me. Not that I can think of anything that would make that taste good."
"A good Margarita can't be beat."
"I'll take your word for it. I think I'd rather eat sand."
The taste and burn of the alcohol were beginning to fade into a warm, fuzzy feeling on her tongue. "So what is this? You come out here…swim and then drink tequila?"
"Sounds about right." He took another drink and set the bottle back down where she could reach it.
"My parents would freak if I came home smelling like tequila. How do you keep your grandma from finding out?"
That had him reaching for the bottle again. "Can't exactly ground me from the afterlife."
She waited until he'd put it back down before speaking again. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"Why would you? It's Neptune. Who cares about some old Hispanic woman?" he asked angrily. A few stalks of grass smoldered in the fire as he ripped them apart, flicking each piece into the flames. "Her last memory of me was Lamb arresting me at graduation. That's all she wanted, all she ever asked me for, was to watch me walk across that stage. Wanted me to have something better…a better life. Better than what I got."
Mac wasn't prepared for the sheer volume, or the content, of his admission and could only sit there watching him stare into the fire as though it held all the answers to life's questions; he just had to catch them before they burned away. Unable to think of a response, she reached out and picked up the bottle of tequila. The second swallow didn't burn as badly, but still made her eyes water and the taste hadn't improved.
"Might get the hang of this yet, chica."
"Somehow I don't think that's a good thing." She grimaced and put the bottle back down. "If it makes you feel better about your life…I was switched at birth with Madison Sinclair."
His eyebrows rose, brow furrowing. "Que?"
"Yup. I should have been Madison Sinclair. The string quartets should have been for my birthday and all those pictures of her in Europe…should've been of me." There wasn't much of the old jealous and bitterness left, now she was just wistful for what might have been and opportunities she'd never have. "Do you think I'd be a bitch like Madison? If I'd gone home with the right family."
"No way," he answered quickly.
"What if I'd ended up dating Dick Casablancas? God." Disgusted by the thought, she downed another swallow of tequila to wash it away.
"Yeah. You're better off."
"On the other hand, I'm pretty sure Dick wouldn't have left me in a hotel room with nothing but a shower curtain while he committed suicide." Her voice hitched at the end, betraying the emotions still churning under the surface. "Never thought I'd be glad that we never had sex, me and Beaver. I thought…you know…he was the one or something. Guess that makes me a complete idiot."
"We all got one of those." He twisted away from her and reached down to pull his t-shirt up to his shoulders so she could see his back. "One of these days I'll get her name blacked out. Just haven't been able to do it."
She leaned in to get a better look at the tattoo under his left shoulder; a red heart with a rose and the name Lilly tattooed in pretty letters. "Lilly Kane?"
"The one and only. Now that was a train wreck."
"Wow. I mean…wow. Neptune's pretty small, isn't it?"
"Some days…feels like the whole damn thing is closing in me. Know what I mean? Like if you don't get out, it'll fall down on top of you and you'll be trapped here forever." The shirt slipped back down over tattooed skin and he moved over to lean against the fallen picnic table beside her, dragging the bottle with him.
"Yeah. If I didn't have college, even if it's still in Neptune, they'd probably be scraping me off of a car hood at the Neptune Grand." She took a deep breath and waited for the perpetual guilt to turn her stomach inside out. It wasn't something that should be joked about, that could be joked about unless she was horrible, callous person. What kind of person joked about their ex-boyfriend's suicide? She winced when the self-loathing finally hit, curling tightly into a ball in an attempt to keep it from overwhelming her. "I'm an awful person, aren't I?"
"Helped me pass Algebra. That's got to count for something." It was the first time she remembered seeing him smile.
"Two more miracles and I'll be a saint." She managed to return a smile and ignored his look of mock outrage as she took the bottle from his hands. Despite being prepared for it, she couldn't keep from pulling a face at the taste. "So both our exes are dead and we're both stuck in Neptune. We have more in common than I thought."
"Veronica Mars always asking you for favors?"
"Like every other week."
"Yeah, me too. Not so much while I was in prison…" he trailed off, as though unsure how to finish the sentence.
"Was it bad? I mean, like Hollywood movie bad. Or was it worse than the movies?"
She watched his Adam's apple move as he swallowed down more of the tequila. "Is that why you drink? To forget about prison."
Wiping his lips against the back of his hand, he turned his head to look at her. "Maybe I just like tequila."
"There is no way I'm going to believe that." Eye contact was too intense for her to handle so she looked away in search of something less intimate and noticed that she was beginning to feel strange. "Is feeling kinda fuzzy normal? With drinking, I mean."
"Good. Cause otherwise…this would be really weird." Her muscles had started to feel warm and loose; a strange, giddy silliness creeping into her mood. "I tried beer once. At the graduation party. Just a little bit."
"Says the guy who drinks tequila straight and likes it. Your opinion on this is totally invalid." She waved her hand at him in an exaggerated dismissal. "Other than drinking and diving for treasure, what're you going to do now that you're free?"
"Just keeping my head above water's all I want."
"Then you probably shouldn't go swimming." Her face got hot when he didn't seem to react to the joke and she hoped she hadn't offended him. She tried to think of a safer subject of conversation, but all of them seemed to be hiding land mines.
"It's easy for you," he said softly. "You got a place to go home to. A family. Hell, you got two of 'em."
"Don't you have family? Other than your grandma, I mean."
"Got an uncle, couple nieces and nephews." He took a deep breath, tipping his head back to stare up at the sky. "Never knew my father. Don't think my mom even knew who he was. She went out for smokes one day when I was ten…never came back."
"She just left you?"
He shrugged and took another drink. "Might be dead for all I know. Not like anyone went looking for a strung-out hooker who didn't want a kid."
"I'm sure it wasn't--"
"Don't," he cut her off. "I know she didn't want me."
"Used to think about looking for her. Even thought about asking Veronica to try a couple of times."
"You should. You deserve to know what happened to her." Maybe it was the alcohol, but she couldn't help feeling sad for him. She'd been loved, if perhaps not understood, by her family; he'd grown up knowing his own mother didn't care enough to come back for him.
"What good would it do? You better off knowing what you should have had?" In the darkness, his eyes were nearly black as he watched her.
"Haven't figured that out yet." Warm and comfortable from the liquor, she leaned back against the table and smiled at him. "But I'm not bitter about it anymore because hey, no Dick. And my life is pretty okay being who I am. They say money doesn't buy happiness."
"Buys a helluva lot though."
"Yeah. I never really understood why people said that. It's kinda like saying that beauty isn't everything, as if that actually makes up for not being beautiful." She followed that train of thought for a while, wondering about other platitudes that were tossed around without actually being useful. Like most of her thoughts, her brain inevitably veered toward the past and Cassidy, still digging up bits and pieces as it tried to make sense of what had happened. 'Tis better to have loved and lost, those with wisdom said. She wasn't sure if she believed them. They didn't seem to have a subclause for the case of loving a murderer.
"Where'd you go? Get lost inside that brain of yours?" Eli asked with a grin.
"It's a big place…easy to get lost in. I was just thinking. How Cassidy was this great big deal, like the whole world revolved around him. Even now, it's like everything keeps coming back to him. Only not in a good way anymore." There was a fleeting thought that her openness was tequila-induced but she brushed it away. "I know, in my head, that I didn't do anything wrong. That it was because of what happened to him. It had nothing to do with me. But it still feels personal, you know?"
"Course it does. And he wasn't exactly telling you the truth, 'less he mentioned killing people being one of his hobbies."
"I feel like I'm just being stupid." She searched his face for sincerity but her concern was only mildly abated when she found it. "All I can remember is how it felt to see that he'd taken everything, even the sheets off the bed. Like he wanted to erase any trace that I'd been there. It felt like everything was just a cruel joke."
"Sounds to me like you got away with your life."
The thought that she might have been next, somehow being proof of what was wrong inside of him, had occurred to her. It made her feel frozen inside. He held the bottle up but she shook her head. "I'm good, thanks."
There was something about the way he drank that caught her attention, eyes closed and lips around the rim of the bottle, and made her wonder what he was trying to forget. She saw what she thought was a shiver when he set the bottle down and immediately untangled herself from the blanket, handing over half of it. For a moment she thought he'd refuse but he slid closer and pulled the blanket over his legs. The heat from his body against her side compounded the fuzziness in her head.
"You probably shouldn't be this close to me," he said tersely, not looking at her.
"Because you're a felon?" She giggled when he gave her a dark look. "Did you forget the part about all the people my one and only boyfriend killed? You're practically a knight in shining armor compared to him."
His expression was halfway between a smile and a scowl; the smile finally won out. "I'm sure the rest of Neptune will see it that way."
"Screw the rest of Neptune. And hand me the bottle." She matched his raised eyebrows and managed to get a swallow down without pulling a face or choking on the burn. "Yeah. That'll clear the sinuses. And it still tastes like crap, by the way."
"Be glad I didn't bring vodka."
"Is that worse?"
"Ever tried hairspray?" He spun the cap back onto the bottle and set it down in the sand.
"Only on accident." The alcohol had worked its wonder and she felt completely relaxed as she leaned back against the wooden top of the picnic table to gaze up at the stars. "Where do you think you'll be in ten years?"
"Hope I'm not still here in this goddamn hell."
"I always thought I knew what I wanted, but…college is huge. And there's so much. I didn't realize how many options there were. There's a girl in one of my classes who's getting a degree in Latin. Latin! It's a dead language!" Her smile faded a little when she saw that he was staring blankly at the fire. "And I'm being a total bitch, aren't I? I'm sorry, Weevil. I didn't mean to go on like that."
"It's cool. Least you ain't stuck here."
On a whim that was partly due to the inability to hold her head up straight, she leaned over and pressed a quick kiss against his cheek. "Thanks."
He looked startled but didn't pull away. "What for?"
"For not agreeing that I was being a total bitch."
Warm and cozy under the blanket, it felt perfectly natural when he turned his head toward her and leaned in enough to press their foreheads together. When she opened her eyes, seeing skin and eyelashes, she noticed the small tattoos at the corners of his eyes and a little voice in her head whispered that she should put a few more inches between them. Very subtly, he tipped his head to the side, warm breath against her face and his lips close enough to hers that she could almost feel them.
"Weevil?" she asked in a whisper. "Are you going to kiss me?"
"The thought had crossed my mind."
"Would you still want to if you were sober? I'm not exactly your type." She cringed in anticipation of a negative answer. There was no blonde hair, no voluptuous curves, and she certainly didn't have Lilly Kane's sexual experience.
"Would you? I ain't exactly your preferred zipcode."
The alcohol muted the sting of his thinly veiled contempt. She figured that only Eli Navarro could take vulnerability and put a barbed wire edge around it. Her best guess answer was lame and she knew it even before the words left her lips. "I don't care if you don't."
His hand brushed over her neck, curving around the back of her head, fingers digging into the base of her sloppy ponytail. It was an anchor against the spinning in her head. He wasn't soft and fumbling the way Cassidy had been. She expected to taste tequila on his lips, his breath, and his tongue as it slid into her mouth, but there was only the barest hint of it. His scalp was rough with a day's worth of stubble under her fingers when she timidly reached out to hold onto him.
The contact seemed to encourage him. His kisses grew bolder and more demanding; her ponytail coming completely undone as his fingers dragged through her hair. He leaned into her, pressing her back against the table and kissing her until she was having trouble catching her breath.
He broke contact suddenly, pulling away barely enough to fit a piece of paper between them. "Should ask...is Mac your real name?"
A laugh bubbled up in her throat, coming out as a girlish giggle once it got through the lack of air. "It's Cindy. Cindy Mackensie. Mac is good though. My family's been calling me Mac since I was four."
"Mac it is then."
Anything further she might have wanted to add disappeared against his lips. She shifted to wrap her arms around him, holding on tightly to anything she could get a grip on. The soft fabric of his t-shirt bunched in her fists, sliding up to his shoulder blades as she fell. At least, she felt like she was falling and all the stars were suddenly in the wrong place when she opened her eyes. And she could breathe.
The latter became immediately important when she felt his hand slip under the hem of her t-shirt and skim over her ribs. His other hand was still buried in her hair, keeping her head from sinking into the sand. Lips and tongue moved down her neck; she knew her heart was pounding loud enough for him to hear it. She couldn't answer the question of how she'd ended up flat on her back, not that it mattered.
She jumped when his lips touched bare skin just below her ribs. "Wait...wait. Eli." Hopefully he couldn't see how red her face was in the soft light. He eased down onto the sand beside her, fitting against her like a puzzle piece, and watched her through lowered lashes. His hand stayed curved over her side, thumb trailing lightly just below her bra. "This is...I wasn't..." her thoughts were derailed by his lips against her collarbone. "You're being very distracting."
He nuzzled her ear softly, his breath sending shivers down her spine. "That's the point."
"What if we hate ourselves in the morning?"
"We'll get over it." He kissed her again, pulling away only when she needed to come up for air.
"You realize this is completely crazy and irresponsible and...and..." She gave up at that point because his thigh was between her legs and he was sucking gently on the skin at the base of her throat. Rough fingers slid up and curled over the edge of her bra, brushing back and forth over the sensitized skin in an easy rhythm.
She wanted to believe the tequila had nothing to do with it, even with the taste of it on her lips. In one carefully smooth motion, he nudged her legs further apart and eased himself down between them. His full weight combined with the feel of his t-shirt against her bare stomach made what she was doing suddenly and intensely real. "Weevil?"
"Promise you won't take my clothes," she whispered, cringing at her own vulnerability.
His enigmatic smile was barely visible in the dying firelight. "How 'bout I promise to put them back where I found them."