Chapter 8: Bad News

You ever had those hot dreams about a sex goddess being clad all in black leather, weapons strapped to her body and look deadly dangerous?

Yeah, me too.

So now, having my fantasies coming at least partly true, I should be a slobbering, needy idiot, ready to play the sex slave and sporting a hard on that rivaled nothing I've ever experienced.

I should. But I wasn't. Instead, all I felt was a cold hand gripping my heart tightly as I watched in horror how Veronica, my sweet, little, Ronnie, got out her Daddy's gun and expertedly checked it and packed it up along with all those supplies, keeping the gun close to her though.

Dimly, I grew aware of Ronnie standing in front of me, looking at me expectantly. Expectant of what, I had no idea. I couldn't concentrate. All I could think about was the gun in Ronnie's hand.

A gun.

A loaded gun.

God!

"Ronnie," I whispered, my eyes glued to the gun.

She sighed. "Look, Logan, I'm not big on this either, but I can't leave the gun behind." Her eyes hardened. "And as good a bodyguard you and Back-Up are, I'm not going into that house without something more effective in order to protect myself."

"But..." I started, then stopped. I wasn't sure what to say. Ask her if she was crazy. If she held some death wish, because right then, all I could think of was that guns got you hurt, one way or another. Demand of her to get rid of that thing as fast as possible, to trust me to keep her safe.

But could I? Could I really keep her safe in that house if one of the Kanes indeed was Lilly's murder? Last night, at the beach, I had been convinced of it. But now I wasn't so sure. I could try as I might but even I had to admit that it would be impossible for me to be there with her every second to see to it that no one there hurt her. And Back-Up was a good guard dog, no doubt about that, but with the Kanes living with Ronnie and the pit pull in the same house it was easy to take him out of the equation. You just had to trap him in a room. Or mix something into his food.

I stared at the gun, then at Ronnie and forced myself to remember that she knew how to handle those things. It was sometimes hard to remember that, but she never had made a secret out of the fact that her Dad had insisted that she knew how to handle weapons. Besides, guns weren't just there to hurt. They could protect someone also.

And if this gun helped to protect my Ronnie...

"I won't carry it around with me all the time, you know. The last thing I want is to use that thing. But with everything that has happened, I really think it's good to know that this gun is nearby, just for case," Ronnie spoke softly, catching my eyes and holding them. I turned my whole attention to her and she gave me a weak smile. "My life's pretty much turned upside down right now and I hate many things about it at the moment. But I still want to enjoy it for a long while longer, Logan, especially after this night we had." She took a step closer and tentatively touched my hand. "After all that happened between us in the last twenty-four hours. I don't want to give up on that anytime soon and this gun will perhaps help me to remain here in this world, right beside you."

I took a shuddering breath, then exhaled with a sigh. I reached out and drew her into my arms and held her tightly. "I know, Ronnie, it's just that - well, you know what they say about guns. I just don't want you to get hurt. But I understand. Part of me is even relieved to know that you have something effective with which you can defend yourself. I just hate the fact that you need a gun for protection at all." I looked down and saw that she was looking right back at me. Tenderly, I stroked over her cheek, savoring the gesture. God, I loved to touch her and even more I loved that I now had the right to touch her all I wanted. "And I for my part am very keen on keeping you alive and right by my side as well and if this gun assures that, okay. Just... Just be careful, okay?" I pleaded, by now cupping her face with both of my hands as I stared into her eyes and I swallowed. "Just always remember that I can't lose you too." I shook my head. "I can't, Veronica. Not again. Not you."

Was it really not even quite twelve hours since she kissed me and we became an item? It should be impossible to develop such deep feelings within such a short time, to turn from hate to love so fast. But it did happen, I love her, I know that and telling her last night had only manifested all those profound and seemingly bottomless feelings I hold now towards one Veronica Mars. There was nothing that I regretted, at least nothing that had happened between me and Ronnie in the past week. She had become the center of my life, as easy as that, and the thought of maybe losing her...

She covered my hands with her own and looked up at me, nothing but sincerity in her eyes - and love. She maybe wasn't ready to say it yet, but I recognized it anyway. "And I promise I'll try my best to not get myself killed. But that's all I can promise you, you know that."

Taking a deep breath, I nodded reluctantly. Yeah, I knew. I bent down and gave her a kiss, because a kiss was the only way to let her know just how important she had become to me within the last few hours, how much I needed her and needed her to be safe and healthy. She wrapped her arms around me, pressing herself against me as she returned the kiss with no less fervor, her hands burying themselves into my hair, and I couldn't help but smile. Who would have thought that the once so shy, innocent and virginal Veronica would turn out to be so forward in her affections. First going to kiss me out of the blue, then bringing me to the brink of losing control several times already since that first kiss, turning me on like I haven't been in a long time, and all that with mere making out. Serious and heavy making out but it still was only making out, groping around a bit.

What will the little pixie do to me once we go further than that?

I wasn't sure but I knew I was looking forward to find out. And I certainly hoped that she would give me an opportunity to find out exactly soon. I had meant what I told her, I was willing to wait until she was ready and felt safe to take that step, as long as that may be - that didn't mean though that I couldn't hope that it wouldn't take too much time. Considering her forwardness and the fact that the last few times I had to actually stop her, I didn't think that would be the case, but still...

And yet, I wanted her to be sure about that so I wouldn't press her. I really could wait. Sure, I would miss having sex and I definitely missed making love. Though, lately, I wasn't so sure anymore if Lilly and I ever truly made love. I had thought so and I did love her - but now, with Ronnie, even with the little we've done so far and the short amount of time that we were together, I could already tell that everything with Ronnie felt so much more - simply more.

Her fingers slipped under the shirt she had given me, enflaming my skin with her soft touch and suddenly I grew aware that we had both moved unconsciously towards the bed.

Her father's bed.

Her dead father's bed.

Oh, so not going to happen!

With a growl I ripped my mouth away from hers and, breathing hard, leant my head against her forehead, willing my heart to slow down and another part of my anatomy to become less excited as well - not too successfully. "Ronnie, you really need to stop doing this to me," I murmured, all the while tightening my hold on her.

Ronnie laughed, a bit shakily I thought. "I to you? What the hell are you doing to me?"

Reluctantly, I lifted my head to look at her incredulously. "Excuse me, but who keeps attacking me out of the blue with hot, fiery, searing kisses here? I think it's that tiny blond one."

She gave me a look, but there was still the ghost of a smile on her lips. "I have you known that I never intended it to get so - intense. But the moment you engage into our kiss as well - I lose it. So I think the real culprit is rather the jackass here, not poor innocent me." She bent her head to the side and regarded me with more narrowed eyes. "Considering your experience, you probably have no problem to turn me into a willing, mindless, horny bimbo."

I grinned. Well, looking at it like that... Chuckling, I stroked a stray of her head behind her ear. "A bimbo? You?" I repeated, unbelieving.

Ronnie was a lot of things but she never had been a bimbo and never would be. Her IQ was too high for that.

Her stare became a glare. "Don't think I didn't notice your lack of a direct answer - or protest for that matter."

I just smiled, unaffected by the glare. "Believe me, Ronnie. I lose as much control as you do when we kiss."

She eyed me for a moment, then sighed. "I'm not sure if I like that. At least one of us needs to keep a clear head."

My smile grew. "If you ask me, a clear head is definitely overrated."

"Logan!" she protested, back to the glare.

Giving her a peck, and only a peck, onto the lips I stepped away from her. "What? It's true. You have a lot more fun if you're not always in your right mind, thinking everything through. But of course you would have no idea about that, you little control freak."

"Hey! I'm not a control freak!" Ronnie flared up, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

I shot her an amused glance as I moved over to the bed to take the carton she had packed. "Sure - that's why on every trip we ever made you had a program for us planned and even printed out. Or why you made the simplest surprise into a complicated mission. And let's not even start with any homework or project assignments."

"I like to be prepared and there's nothing wrong with being well organized and equipped. That doesn't make me a control freak," Ronnie pointed out as she followed me out of her father's bedroom, back into the living room where I put down the box next to the two already there.

"Whatever you say, Sweetiepie," I responded and could almost feel the two lasers boring into my back. Straightening up, I grinned at her.

She opened her mouth to reply, but at that moment, the phone rang. Passing me a cold look that promised me more later, she strolled over to it and picked it up.

"Yeah?"

"Oh, hi Wallace."

Assuming that her talk with her best friend would probably take a bit longer, I went back to her room and moved over to her bed to pick up one of the boxes. My eyes fell onto the black iron figure I've given her a couple of years back and I paused. I still had a hard time believing that she had kept this. After everything that had happened... Then again, the way she had explained it it didn't seem that unnatural after all. I remember finding the little statue. The moment my eyes had fallen onto the girl with her dog I had known that it was meant for Veronica, the two figures so similar to her and Back-Up. And I had bought it before I could think straight again, putting quite a dent into my credit card, not that I ever worried about that. Still - until then, I've never spent this much money on any gift and while I impatiently waited for an opportunity to give it to Ronnie, I didn't miss the fact that it should feel wrong to be this excited about giving her this gift and as an expensive one as that one. Especially when that girl was your girlfriend's best friend. And even more so when she was also your best friend's girlfriend.

But honestly? I never really cared about it. I just had to give it to her and her reaction to it when she unwrapped it - it was worth every cent I've spent and every slightly awkward moment with Lilly and Duncan I had to endure in the weeks afterwards. I probably would never forget the way her face showed total surprise and awe and how her eyes then lit up with joy. Nor was it likely that I'll forget the hug she gave me to thank me. It had steered something deep inside that I had refused to analyze or even name at that time but now, after being together with her - I had to admit that part of me probably never really got over the initial butterflies I felt that day when I met Veronica for the first time.

To be fair, it had been the first time I grew aware that perhaps, I was feeling a bit too much for the tiny blond one than I should. Not to mention that my relationship with Lilly hadn't been so great that time. The rose-rimmed glasses had been gone and I had started to comprehend that Lilly probably would never be faithful to me, me simply not meaning enough to her for that. But then, she just was like that, I knew that. But with Duncan and Ronnie just having gotten together and being disgustingly sweet with each other, most of all though seeing how devoted Ronnie was to Duncan - I just couldn't help but be a little jealous. I didn't exactly want what they had, I mean as far as I know Duncan never came past first base and even that one took quite some time - I did wish that Lilly would just be a bit more like Ronnie.

Not too comfortable with where my thoughts were heading there, I forced myself to push those thoughts away while I took a closer look around Ronnie's room. I hadn't had much opportunity to do so last night and so far I've been more busy with concentrating on my girlfriend, but now...

Putting the box down again, I slowly wandered over to her desk, glancing at the pictures and notes collected there. I could make out several pictures that probably were surveillance shots, many of them with notes stuck to it. Some seemed to be more a kind of try shots she had made, just for the fun of it. But most noticeable for me were the various pictures of Lilly. Usually either just Lilly or her and Ronnie together, but I did spot two where all four of us were on it, one of them from the homecoming dance, the other one taken at a beach, probably sometime during the last summer we had had together. I stared at the happy four kids there, having no idea what a tragedy would strike them soon and I swallowed. I knew why I removed most pictures that reminded me of that time out of my room at home. It simply was too hard to have them staring into my face, mocking me...

My eyes fell onto one that showed only Lilly and Ronnie, sitting on a bench in front of a large tree, looking at each other, laughing. I remembered that one. Actually, I had even taken it. We've made a trip up to the valley to go to a rave in the woods. Using the opportunity, Ronnie had talked us into going for a little hiking before hitting the rave. We all had complained, but Ronnie, in her own ways, was as effective at talking others into something as Lilly had been. While Lilly had used sex and seduction, Ronnie had perfected the art of pleading you silently with big eyes that in the end you just felt like the biggest jerk on Earth for refusing her - so you didn't. Duncan never had had a chance against her and I... I managed to say no a few times, but not often and in the end I've come to the conclusion that giving in to her was still easier than feeling like a complete ass for days for saying no. Lilly was more resilient but even she wasn't immune against the killer Bambi eyes Ronnie had. That had been one of those days. Surprisingly though, we had more fun hiking than either of us had imagined. Especially the fire in the evening had been nice.

Sighing, I slowly reached for that picture and took a closer look at the two girls that seemed to reign my heart. It still hurt to look at Lilly, at the pure life just oozing out from her, the joy she had. I could see the slyness in her eyes, the mischief in her posture and I remembered that shortly after that picture had been taken, Lilly had shoved a little lizard down the back of Duncan's t-shirt - but most of all I could see the love she had for Ronnie in her eyes. Unabashed, unquestioned, pure, simple love like I've never seen her direct towards anyone else than Ronnie - not even towards Duncan and certainly not towards me. And Ronnie, she smiled, in that quiet but honest way she had back then, everything about her soft and loving, relaxed, her eyes open, happy. In a very different way, she had been as much lively as Lilly had been, the light in her eyes never as bright as the one in Lilly's - but warmer, deeper.

Suddenly, my throat felt awfully tight and I quickly put the picture back into its place, rubbing my eyes that stung a little. I couldn't help but be aware of how it was now. One of those happy girls dead, rotting away in an early grave and the other... My eyes glanced at the old Ronnie and I abruptly turned away. In a way, the girl from that picture was as dead as Lilly was. You couldn't see her smile like that anymore. And her eyes - even last night, when Ronnie had been totally open with me, they hadn't been as open as they had used to be back then. Even without her shields up, they were still hooded with something dark and painful, always. She never was completely relaxed anymore and while she could still be soft and sweet - there was always that small sense of hardness around her now.

Dropping my head, I blindly stared at the figure again.

Someone had killed Lilly, had bashed her head in, had caused the light in her eyes to die forever. It had been brutal and final and I would forever hate whoever had caused her death. But at least with Lilly, it had been fast and clear, as devastating as her murder had been for us who had loved her.

But with Ronnie... The death of the girl she had been had been slow and torturous. Bit by bit we had destroyed her light, had chased away the softness that had defined her, had crushed her everlasting trust into the good of people. We had killed that girl. I have killed her.

She had morphed from that death as a person stronger and perhaps even more beautiful than she had been before, her light, still deep, shining hotter than ever. She had found a backbone and boy, it was made out of titanium, not to mention a temper that matched only the wildest hurricane you could imagine. I've come to love that girl, probably more than I've ever loved the old Veronica. Surely being more attracted to her than to the sweet virgin she had been.

But nothing changed the fact that I helped to kill that girl as surely as Koontz or whoever else had killed Lilly. All in the name of Lilly. But the Lilly of that picture would have ripped out my balls, hacked off my dick and then would have fed it to Back-Up for what I've done to Ronnie after her death. No one messed with her best friend, no one.

God, what had I been thinking? How could I have ever believed that Lilly would have wanted me to go after Ronnie like I had? And how was it possible that I'd totally forgotten just how much Ronnie and Lilly had loved each other and how Ronnie, never in a million years, would have betrayed Lilly?

Okay, I was hurt, devastated, not thinking clearly - but that simply wasn't a good enough excuse anymore.

Then again, there was no excuse, wasn't there?

And yet, Ronnie had still forgiven me.

My eyes slid over her room, took in the items I recognized from before mixed with the things that screamed of the new Veronica and I shook my head. I probably would never get it, understand it.

I was just glad that she did give me a second chance.

Even more amazing, that she actually let me become her boyfriend.

I knew there was no use to dwell in the past. What was done was done. Ronnie and I had started a new chapter, leaving the page clean for the most part and all I could do now was try to give my best to make it up to her by never doubting her again. And to protect her, never let her be alone again.

Yeah. And considering how hard I've already fallen for her and how I was still falling even more in love by every minute that passed I doubted that that would be so hard.

"What?!"

Her unbelieving exclamation ripped me out of my thoughts and curious, I walked back into the living room to see what had agitated Veronica so much. She was still on the phone, it cradled between her head and shoulder while she quickly turned on the TV, zapping through the channels. Quietly, I moved closer to her. I had just reached her when the figure of Jake Kane filled the screen and I froze, an uneasy feeling starting to grow in the pitch of my stomach.

"Mr Kane, Mr Kane, are the rumors true? Is the daughter of the former and recently murdered Sheriff Mars indeed your biological daughter?"

"The same man that accused you to have murdered your daughter Lilly has in fact raised your own daughter?"

"Is it true that this secret daughter of yours in fact dated your son for almost a year?"

"Can you confirm that the daughter of the man whose life you've ruined is in fact your own daughter and that you've known of her existence all her life?"

"Mr Kane, how did your family react to those shocking news?"

"Did you really claim custody for her?"

"Is she going to live with you and your family now?"

"Will she inherit from you?"

"How took Ms Mars the news that the man who've cost her father the job now suddenly turns out to be her biological father?"

With each shouted question from the reporters, Ronnie had paled a bit more and at this last question, she let out a small yep I barely heard. But I did and it was enough to snap me out of my shock and quickly move to pull her into my arms, stroking automatically up and down her arms.

What the fuck was Jake Kane doing giving a goddamn press conference?

Ronnie leaned against me, but her eyes stayed glued to the screen. Frowning, I glared at the screen as well, interlacing my fingers with Ronnie's. Silently, we watched as Jake finally held up his hands, indicating that he wanted a chance to speak. The camera moved back a little and we could see that apparently, Jake was in front of his house, holding the conference in front of their gates with him standing on a make-shift podium.

"Please, ladies and gentlemen, calm down and let me talk. I promise I will answer your questions then," he demanded and the reporters quieted down. Once it was possible for him to speak, he nodded satisfied and looked into the mass of reporters, making eye contact with a few of them. "Thank you," he said and I felt Ronnie stiffen. I couldn't blame her. "Now to your many questions: Yes, it is true. Veronica Mars is my biological daughter. Her mother and I had been a couple back in high school and at one point I fear we've had drunken a bit too much and our old feelings for each other overwhelmed us. She was already seeing Keith Mars at that time and when she got pregnant we never were quite sure which one of us had fathered the baby. Keith declared back then that it was of no importance to him and that he would raise the child as his own and he has held his word."

Ronnie was trembling now in my arms and it surely was not from grief. Her rage was almost palpable. Again, I couldn't blame her. If I had been able to, I would have ripped off Jake Kane's head right then and there.

On the TV, Jake continued. "Of course I've always kept a close eye on the girl that could very well be my daughter and it had warmed my heart to see how much like sisters she and Lilly had always acted. But as Keith had always been nothing than an exceptional father to Veronica, I never had felt the need to confirm my suspicion that Veronica indeed was my daughter and not Keith's. Viewing the latest tragedy though that has hit the Mars family, I could no longer hesitate to step forward and take on my responsibility." Jake made a short break, establishing some more eye contact before taking a deep breath and picking up his speech again. "I had a paternity test done to prove my legality in claiming custody for Veronica. Thankfully, the judges were kind enough to understand this extraordinary circumstances and granted me custody, now that Keith is dead and her mother of unknown whereabouts at the moment and Veronica will move in with me and my family still today. She is now under my care and I will make sure that my daughter will be well looked after."

The reporters spoke all at once while Ronnie had once again gone stiff, the rage seething just below though. I was just glad we weren't there at the moment. I wasn't sure if Ronnie wouldn't have used her dad's gun on Jake right away. I sure would have in her place. How dare he to deliver her to the sharks like that?

Again, Jake held up his hands. This time, the reporters quieted only a bit. "Now please, I understand you have many questions, but please remember that Veronica had to suffer through a lot this past year, especially though this past week. To find out on top of that that I am her father was hard on her. So I ask you to leave her and also my family alone. We all will have to adjust to these many big changes in our lives, Veronica most of all. I'm sure you understand that many things need to be cleared out first, after all, we gained certainty of her being my daughter only yesterday. Please respect that. Especially as my daughter is after all still grieving for the man that had been her father all her life, having buried him only yesterday as well." He nodded. "Thank you, that would be all," he finished and stepped away from the microphones, turned the reporters his back and ignored the storm of questions shouted at him as he made his way back to his car to climb in and drive up to his house.

I pried the TV control out of Ronnie's limb fingers and turned the television off. Then I silently turned her around in my arms and simply held her. I had no words for her. But really, what could be said after something like this?

Faintly, I heard someone calling her name and grew aware that Ronnie still held her cell phone in her hands and Wallace was now franticly calling for her. With a sigh, I glanced at the trembling girl in my arms and seeing that she was in no shape to talk to her friend right now, I gently took the phone from her and held it up to my ear.

"Wallace? It's Logan. She can't talk right now," I told him quietly, tightening my hold on her.

"So it's true?" Wallace asked unbelieving. "My God."

Yeah.

I contemplated for a moment what to tell him and finally decided for a short, but affirmative answer. "Yeah, Jake came by yesterday after the funeral to drop the bomb. Look, I'm sure she'll need to talk to you, but right now…" I broke off. "I'm sure she'll call you once she calmed down a bit. Bye."

"No, wait, I…"

I disconnected and drew Ronnie tightly against me, stroking over her hair. I probably hadn't made any plus points with Wallace by hanging up on him – but then again, I had more important things to take care of. Like my grieving girlfriend.

"I'm sorry," I murmured. It didn't felt like it was enough, but what else could I say?

Ronnie sniffled and pushed away from me, turning her back towards me. "You've got nothing to be sorry for," she said tonelessly.

"Yeah well – I was on his side once," I quietly answered. And really, after the last two days I was beginning to ask myself how I've ever been able to be so stupid and buy Jake Kane's act as being the nice, jovial billionaire.

She smiled at me over her shoulder and I was relieved to see a weak smile. "But you're on mine now," she replied softly.

"You bet," I nodded with a smirk.

She nodded and turned back to me. "Well," she said dryly, "I guess that's it. After this press conference he won't let me not come to him." She shook her head. "Why Logan? Why did he do this? He threw me to the hounds, me and himself and Celeste and Duncan. Why would he do it this way? Why not keep it under wraps like the rich usually handle this sort of scandal?"

That was a very good question. I was pretty sure that would have been what my parents would have decided to do if a love child of Dad suddenly showed up. They would have tried to keep it secret as long as possible. I couldn't understand why Jake went so public with this whole affair.

So I simply shrugged. "I honestly have not the slightest idea. Perhaps word had gotten out somehow and this was his way to do damage control."

Yeah, that was possible. There was the judge and the DNA lab who had made the paternity test. I was sure Jake had paid them generously – but let's face it: this was really big news and Jake Kane a big, rich and powerful man. Any sane person could figure out that the press would go nuts with news like that – and pay quite a bit to get it. Oh yeah, that was really a likely possibility.

I saw the same comprehension dawn on Ronnie. "Ah, I see – money, power and gossip reigns this world."

I nodded. "That's the way how it works."

"It sucks. And it's not fair," she said bitterly.

"No, it isn't," I agreed, then shrugged. "Come on, Mars. Let's wrap up the rest then head out."

She blinked at me. "Are you crazy?" She pointed at the television. "They'll still be there! No way am I going there now!"

"I never said to head out to the Kanes. I just said let's go," I corrected her and sighed. She had a lot to learn about my world. "Veronica, they're going to want your statement as well. They'll search for you. Right now, they're probably gathering in front of my house. But I bet some of those will be headed here as well to try their luck here. The sooner we get out of here, the better."

Her face fell as she took in my words. "Oh."

I decided the best way to react was by acting normal. So I went over to hoist up one of the boxes. "Hop, hop, Mars. Just because you're my girlfriend now doesn't mean I'm hauling these boxes out by myself. I love you, but not that much."

The corners of her mouth twisted up and she batted her eyelashes at me. "You sure about that, baby?"

I flashed her a grin. "Not going to work on me, Mars. I know you too long and well for that."

Now she pouted. "But what use is a boyfriend if he doesn't carry those little boxes for me?"

My grin turned to a wolf grin. "You'll see, Babe."


The closer we got to the Kane Household, the more I felt Ronnie beside me tense. I wasn't surprised – but I still didn't like it. Hell, to be frank, I didn't like to bring her there at all. It left me – uneasy. Perhaps because Veronica's suspicions were getting at me and I actually started to believe that it was possible that one of the Kanes indeed had something to do with Lilly's death. Her reasons to doubt them sure were valid and demanded an explanation, even though I really had trouble to see any of them as killers.

Or perhaps it was because of Jake Kane. I couldn't help it, my opinion of him had pretty much deteriorated since the last day. Was it really only yesterday? It seemed like ages ago to me. But fact was that I couldn't believe him. Barreling in on the day of the funeral of Mr Mars to announce that Ronnie was his daughter was one thing – to demand her to leave with him immediately another – but the last draw had definitely been his press conference this morning. What the hell was the guy thinking he was doing there? Even if it was right that the story had come out and he had only wanted to do damage control… he wouldn't have had to deliver Ronnie to the wolves like that. Then again, I wasn't sure why, but I had the feeling that he was actually indeed trying to ensure that Ronnie had no choice in this matter but to live with the fact from now on that Jake Kane had fathered her. And that she had to come live with them. And I wondered why he was so adamant about it. Somehow I doubted that he all of a sudden found his fatherhood for Ronnie and just wanted to fulfill his responsibilities.

Or perhaps, my uneasiness had even more to do with not liking the fact that my Ronnie was going to live under the same roof and next door to Duncan. She could say what she wanted and I did believe that she believed it herself – but there were definitely still feelings involved, also on her side. Perhaps just because the relationship between them had been left so unfinished, the way Duncan had ended it. And yeah, I knew, they were half brother and sister, but still… They had been in love with each other first and just because they've learned that they share some part of their DNA does not necessarily have to change that love to a sibling love. Especially not with him, judged by the way Duncan kept looking at Ronnie. I can't blame him. I'm beginning to understand why he can't just so easily let go of her – I couldn't either and I've only really been with her for not even twenty-four hours. And part of me may fear what he'll try when he's only living across the corridor from her. And how my girlfriend may react to such tries.

It's not that I don't trust her. I do. Really. I may be a jealous type, then again with Lilly it also had been different. With her I always had known that I couldn't trust her, so yeah, I did watch other guys around her closely. I knew I didn't have to do this with Ronnie. Well, at least not much. My Ronnie sure is a catch and I'm not so naïve to believe that only because she's got me as a boyfriend, other guys won't want to try something.

Of course I know that Ronnie would never betray me. She's just not the type. I know perfectly well that if she really should ever fall for another guy, then she would first come clean with me. Not that that was much of a comfort – but in a way, it was. After having had girlfriends like Lilly or even Caitlin I sure appreciated this absolute certainty. It still didn't mean that I could trust the guys though. And if I could, I would make sure that she didn't get the opportunity to ever fall for someone else.

We turned into the street where the Kanes lived and the tension coming from Ronnie doubled, even though I have no idea how that was possible, as tense as she already was.

I sighed. I really hated doing this. "You know, I could just drive past their house," I suggested.

"I know. And God, I sure want to beg you to do just that," Ronnie answered tightly. "But if we do, I'll never bring up the nerve to come back. As I sooner or later will have to come here anyway, it's better to get it over with."

Always so stubborn… but then, that was my Ronnie.

"Well then," I complied and pulled into the driveway, wading my way trough the reporters gathered there. Thankfully, the guards at the gate recognized my car on the spot and didn't hesitate to open them for us so we didn't have to stop until I pulled in in front of the house. I turned the motor off and waited, giving Ronnie all the time she needed to gather her strength to get out and face the Kanes.

When we still sat in the car three minutes later though, I briefly glanced at her before I reached over and stroked over her cheek before letting my hand fall down to take her hand into mine. "You know I'm here. And I won't go anywhere anytime soon."

For a moment longer she stared ahead, but did squeeze my hand back. Finally, she also looked back at me, trying to summon a smile, not quite succeeding. "Yeah, I know." She took a deep breath. "Well, let's go." She reached over to open the door and with a last strong squeeze of my hand, she got out.

I quickly got out as well and moved to shield her body from the reporter's prying eyes as much as I could – which was pretty much covering all of her, thanks the her tiny-ness. At that thought I grinned and moved close in behind her, leaning down. "Being as tiny as you are has it advantages, hasn't it? I bet the reporters had to scramble to go get out their wide cornered focuses or whatever they need to properly zoom in on you."

"Shut up." She glared up at me but I could feel some of her tension leaving. Good.

Of course then the door opened and none other than Celeste Kane stood in front of us. Her nose wrinkled up as she recognized us and I almost took offense at the look of disgust she regarded us with. Then again, this was Celeste. I hadn't expected anything else from her. She did stand back to let us in wordlessly though which was almost the epitome of a greeting with open arms for her.

Ronnie entered quietly but I allowed myself to grin at the ice queen. "Mrs K! How nice to have sent us such a nice invitation! It's always a treat for us to come back here."

Her icy glare hit me and I'm sure she would have had a nice, stiff response for me, but sadly, Jake showed up at that moment, his eyes intent on Ronnie. "Veronica."

Ronnie smiled at him and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I've seen that smile many times before – during the time we were enemies, just before something nasty would come out of her mouth. "Mr Kane."

Not exactly a curse – on the other hand, judged by the expression on Jake's face it had hit home. For years now, we kids had called Mr K by his first name, Ronnie included.

"Please, Veronica. I'm your father. At least call me Jake," he told her with an annoyed sigh.

Wrong thing to say.

Ronnie's eyes narrowed and I instinctively moved closer to her. "You may have fathered me, Jake, but you will never be my father."

This time, Jake actually winced, his expression growing tired – but also a tad bit offended, if I read it right. "I know this is difficult for you, Veronica. It's not an easy situation for any of us. It would help matters if you'd at least try to cooperate."

"You know nothing of what I feel, Jake," Ronnie told him coldly. "But I'm here, because with your press conference and by buying off pretty much everyone here in Neptune you left me no other choice, have you? You better not expect anything from me though." Thus said she dismissed him and turned to Celeste with her best false smile she had. "Now if you could please show me the room I'm supposed to stay in. I've got a few boxes in Logan's car and the sooner we get them moved in, the better. And Sam should be here any moment with the things I had over at Logan's. And with Back-Up of course."

Delighted, I watched Celeste's forefront wrinkle. "Back-Up?"

Ronnie's smile was bright and blinding. "My bulldog. But don't worry, he's an absolute sweetheart and barely drools. And he only attacks people who aren't all that nice to me or impose a threat to me." Her eyes slid to Jake. "Of course he won't have any need to protect me here, now, right Jake?"

I had a hard time holding back the snicker I was feeling upon seeing Celeste's expression of slight horror or the disapproving frown on Jake's face. Ah my Ronnie... always good to rile up people.

"So? My room?" Ronnie asked, glancing from Jake to Celeste.

Celeste's mouth thinned and abruptly, she turned away. "She's your mistake, Jake. I won't be further troubled by this," she hissed and marched off.

My eyes narrowed and I was about to hurl a snarl after her, but Ronnie laid a hand onto my arm, slightly shaking her head. I took a deep breath and let it go. Ronnie was right. This was Celeste. She wasn't worth it to be taken seriously.

Jake regarded me with a deep frown. "Thanks for bringing Veronica over, Logan, but we can take it from here now. I'm sure your parents will be glad to see you again."

"Why, Mr K, don't worry, they don't miss me that quick," I replied dryly and dropped an arm around Ronnie's shoulder. "I'll help Ronnie settle in for now."

Jake was about to say something else but Ronnie simply glared at him. "Let's make something perfectly clear here: I may have no choice than to live here until I turn eighteen but you have no say whatsoever over me, my activities or my friends. For the months until my birthday I come and stay as I please, I see whoever I want and I have whoever I want staying over. I will consider the other people living here, keep the music down and I have my own computer and television so that should not be a problem either and I promise to not make a party without announcing it. If you need the house to yourself for something, tell me and I'm gone. I will not pretend to be a member of this family though and I don't have to listen to anyone here, least alone you. Do we understand each other?"

"I am your father, Veronica," Jake replied sternly, holding her eyes. "I expect you to behave as a daughter of mine should behave."

"Once again: You are not my father. My father is Keith Mars," corrected him Ronnie coldly. Then she smiled that feral smile again. "And don't you worry, Jake, I remember everything of what Lilly taught me about being the daughter of the great Jake Kane."

Jake's eyes flashed with anger and involuntarily, I stepped even closer to Ronnie so I'd be able to get her out of the line of fire - just for case. I never have thought of Jake Kane as a violent man - but looks could deceive and with most people, you just had to push the right buttons for them to flip out. And from the looks of it, Ronnie's last comment sure had hit at least something.

"If you hurt her, I don't care who you are: I will make you pay and you can be sure that I'll see to it that you lose your ridiculous guardianship of her as fast as you bought it," an icy voice sounded and we all looked over to the door where Sam Hunter stood, a fletching Back-Up on a tight leash beside him.

I had no trouble to believe every word he said and apparently, so did Jake because he visibly forced himself to relax. "Detective Hunter. I assure you I have no intention whatsoever to hurt Veronica. I do care for her."

Ronnie snorted at that, earning herself a glance from Jake. "I really do, Veronica. I always have," he insisted.

"Could have fooled me, the way you treated me and my family this past year and a half," Ronnie replied dryly then went over to Hunter and gave him a fierce hug. "I'm so glad to see you, Sam."

I sneaked a glance at Jake. Even the old Ronnie hadn't been much one to engage openly displays of affection, let alone this new version of her, so I was pretty sure that this hug now had the main purpose to rile up Jake further. Judging from the dark expression on his face, she had scored once again.

With a last warning glare towards Jake Hunter returned the hug. "Me too, Kitten." He let go of her and Ronnie bowed down to ruffle Back-Up's head before she took his leash. "He already been out?"

"I let him loose just before coming in," Hunter nodded and turned his eyes back over to Jake. "He left a big heap of shit on your lane, I'm afraid. Unfortunately, I didn't have any dog-bags left. But I'm sure you have people taking care of your shit, don't you, Mr Kane?" he added nonchalantly, without any trace of snark or sarcasm in his voice.

I for my part couldn't help the grin spreading out on my face and I spotted a matching grin on Ronnie's face before she quickly bowed her head. Damn, that Hunter guy actually had a sense of humor! Who'd have thought that?

Jake's jaw clenched, but he did nod, even though a bit tightly. "Of course, no problem." He eyed Back-Up. "He's - welcome here, of course. And I'll see to it that his needs are looked after," he offered half-hearted.

"That won't be necessary. I'm well capable of looking after my own dog," Ronnie though told him straight out, before turning back to me and Hunter. "Why don't you guys grab each a box from your car? I'd like to get this over with as soon as possible."

I hesitated a moment, uncomfortable to leave her alone with Jake. But then we'd leave the door open, it was only for a short moment and she had Back-Up with her. The big guy wouldn't allow Jake to hurt her - at least not physically. So I just gave a slight nod and then followed Hunter out.

Once we were at my car, Hunter stopped and turned around to fix me with his cop eyes. I raised an eyebrow. He regarded me for a moment longer then slightly shook his head. "How's she holding up?" he asked and I was sure it wasn't what he originally wanted to say.

Oh well - the longer the dad speech could wait, the better. So I just shrugged. "As good as can be expected," I answered truthfully and glanced back, hesitating a moment. I didn't trust anyone but Ronnie, but this one did care for her a lot after all, was close to her. "Perhaps a bit too well. I'm afraid it's going to really come over her once it actually sinks down. So far she barely had time to process anything," I added in a low voice. I really was worried about this. First the funeral, then Jake's revelation, then us hooking it up, the press conference this morning, now moving in with the Kanes... I knew Veronica was strong, amazingly strong, but she too had her breaking point and I was afraid if she had to take much more in, she would sooner or later break down after all.

Of course I was determined to be there for her - but I wasn't so sure if I really could help her much.

Hunter followed my gaze, then surprised me by briefly slapping my back. "She's a tough kid. She'll manage, I'm sure. As long as she has her friends." His eyes narrowed and I suddenly had to fight the urge to squirm. Jeez. "Of course that is if she isn't going to be betrayed again by those so called friends."

I did wince at that. But damn it, it hadn't been just me! Still, I just shook my head briefly. "You won't have to worry about that. Ronnie's not going to get rid of me that easily ever again," I claimed, not caring how this sounded or what it may imply or not. If I was correct, this guy suspected the true nature of my relationship with Ronnie already anyway.

"Good to hear," Hunter nodded shortly and turned to his car, parked right behind mine. But he turned around after three steps. "Oh, and Logan?"

I met his eyes.

"I guess you are both too old to warn you not to touch my godchild. But be assured that if you do hurt her, I'm going to hound the police on you for the rest of your life," he said pleasantly, giving me a small smile. "Depending on the hurt you cause, I also may just kill you and no one will ever find your body."

I'm really not easily to intimidate - but damn if I haven't had a cold shiver run down my back at his scrutinizing, cold gaze.

Hunter's smile widened. "Do we understand each other?"

Gulping, I slowly nodded. "Perfectly." He raised an eyebrow. "Sir," I hastily added.

Finally contented, he turned back around and I fought to not sag in relief. Shit! This was just ridiculous! I could face an abusive father or even an entire biker gang without flinching but one look of this guy and I was turned into a quivering poodle. Ridiculous!

Then again, Hunter did have a gun, I thought with a grimace, grabbing one of the boxes. And a badge. Not to mention probably more than just one contact in the underground. And I was the guy sleeping with whom he considered as a daughter and his charge to protect. So perhaps it wasn't so unnatural for me to take this guy's threats serious and be just a tad bit wary of him, was it?

Ronnie eyed the two of us for a second once we joined her again but instead of making a comment she just turned back to Jake. "Now my room please."

Hehe. I guess Jake Kane wasn't used to people treating him like service personnel. But he did turn around. "This way."

We followed him up the stairs, turned left and for a brief moment I feared the bloody idiots indeed wanted her to stay in Lilly's room when his steps slowed approaching her closed door. Thank God though he continued to move on, passed also Duncan's room and finally came to a stop in front of the last door, one of their guest rooms for friends of the kids. I've spent a night or two in there as Ronnie probably also had. At least officially. Mostly we ended up in the room of our best friends anyway. Or in my case Lilly's. Not that I officially spent the night at the Kane's often after hooking up with her.

Jake opened the door, then stepped back for Ronnie to move past him. She hesitated only a moment, then entered the room with me close on her heels. A quick glance around told me that apart of making the bed fresh, they hadn't changed anything that I could see. The room was the same cold impersonal as it always had been. Then again, they hardly had time to redecorate just for Ronnie. Not to mention that she was bringing her own stuff with her anyway. I put the box down by the window, using the opportunity to glance out. No tree too close, no rain drain passing by in too close proximity. Good.

"I know it's a bit scarce," Jake said, having entered behind us. "You can change the room as you please of course. Don't hesitate to ask for something."

Ronnie, who had made her own overview of the room turned to Jake. "That won't be necessary. As soon as I've got it organized I'll move my own stuff in here. You'll just have to tell me where to store the bed and other furniture that I won't need."

Jake seemed to want to protest, then thought better of it though. "Of course. Well, I guess I leave you to unpack then. Just call Marcie if you need anything. Dinner is at six."

Ronnie looked over at me and I shrugged. Her call. She turned back to Jake. "Thanks. I'm not sure I can make it to dinner as I've still got a lot to do. I'll let Marcie know as soon as I know if Logan and I are eating here or not."

He frowned this time. "I'd appreciate it if we could have a family dinner tonight. There's a lot to discuss." He glanced at me. "Logan is welcome another time of course."

Again Ronnie looked at me. Again I shrugged. I didn't want to leave her alone, but then we probably couldn't expect to be able to spend all the time together. I'd spend the night here one way or another anyway.

"We'll see," Ronnie just answered vaguely.

Jake opened his mouth, then though closed it again, sighing. "Very well. I'll be in my office if you need me," he said.

Ronnie nodded and he left. As soon as he was gone, Ronnie sat down on the bed, grimacing. "Have you talked with Cliff? Is there really nothing we can do?" she asked, looking up at Hunter.

He shook his head, looking darkly. "No. We can go to court, but it's more than likely that until we actually get a court date you'll long be eighteen. And it would cost us quite a deal."

She sighed. "That's not worth it, Sam. It's not as if I'll spend much time here anyway with school and the job." She stopped and cringed. "I mean, that is if you want to keep Mars Investigation. If not I'll sure be able to find something else. There's always a badly paid job out there for poor teenagers." She eyed Hunter warily. "Have you already thought about what you want to do with our office?"

"Not really," he sighed, looking away. "With everything that happened..."

"I know," Ronnie quickly said. "I didn't want - I mean you just take your time to think about it."

He nodded then glanced at me. "Logan, could you please leave us alone for a moment? I'd like to discuss a few things with Veronica."

I shrugged. "Sure. I'll go get the rest of the boxes, leaving them in front of the door," I told Ronnie, then left, closing the door.


Moving the boxes up to her room didn't take long. I even grabbed the remaining bag in Hunter's car as well. Boy, I sure was going to make Ronnie make up for all this physical work, I thought with anticipatory glee. I wasn't sure yet how but it would definitely involve something with body contact. Lots of body contact. Just because she wasn't ready yet to have sex didn't mean we couldn't do other things. I bet no one of those loser ex-boyfriends she had had so far had shown her the true wonders of petting...

Speaking of exes... I gave Ronnie's still closed door a last glance then walked back to Duncan's room, peeking in. Not very surprisingly, his room was empty. He was home though, I've seen his car in front of the house. And I had a hunch where he may be.

What I had told Ronnie the day before was right: I'd hate to lose Duncan as a friend, but I wasn't going to give up what Ronnie and I had, not even to save my friendship with my best friend. And he still was my best friend, despite everything, that much was true as well. It may be strained lately between us and yeah, it hurt that I had to find out bit by bit that Duncan actually hadn't told me much of what I consider a best friend should know, and yeah, I was in love with his ex-girlfriend - but in the end, Duncan was still the one guy I trusted the most beside Veronica, the only one of my friends who knew how my father really was and also the one who knew me for the longest. His friendship was important to me, was one of the most important things in my life, not to mention one of the few good things. Until last night probably the most important and best thing.

Now though everything was different. I wasn't sure anymore where exactly I stood with him. I mean, I did admit after all that there was a slight possibility that he actually had killed Lilly and I doubt that a best friend should even have doubts about such a thing. I didn't really believe it, but still... there was this small doubt left. Beside that I was furious at the moment with him for his treatment of Veronica and his whole way of handling this situation altogether. He hadn't done her right, not when he had broken it off with her without ever talking to her about it, not even offering a lie, nor lately, by not standing by her like he should have as someone who still loved her.

And he did still love her, I knew that without any doubt. Sister or not. Which led to the biggest of all problems: Veronica was mine now and I wasn't going to give up on her again ever. And Duncan had no choice than to accept that - especially as he couldn't claim her for himself ever again. A circumstance for which I was thankful as I had to admit. Ronnie could say what she wanted - I've been there, all the way, witnessing their blossoming love and their almost sickly perfect relationship before disaster stroke. Something like that wasn't easily forgotten and I couldn't help but fear that each time I screwed up, she was going to compare me to her former perfect boyfriend. A comparison where I knew only too well that I wouldn't come out as the winner.

Let's face it: I'm trouble. I'm often the bad guy. Hell, nobody knows that better than Veronica. Heaven knew that I've been a complete jerk towards her. And I like rousing trouble, I like living dangerously and boy, do I like being one of the high and mighty privileged ones! Whereas Duncan always had been the humble and noble rich guy who wasn't exploiting his status in society, treating everyone nice, always the gentleman.

The old Veronica - Duncan had been perfect for her and vice versa. Well, apart of the tiny little fact that they were actually blood related, but otherwise, they had just been perfect for each other. Perhaps not the hottest couple, but definitely the dream couple. The new Veronica - now she and Duncan don't fit at all anymore, she simply being too much woman for a guy like Duncan. Me and Ronnie though - it fits. God, how very much we fit. But still - the old Ronnie isn't completely gone and I always had been too much of a bad boy in me to fit with the saint and virginal Veronica Mars.

So no - I didn't feel comfortable eventually being compared to Duncan. So yeah, there were a lot of mixed feelings concerning my best friend. I had no idea where we stood right now. There was also so much he didn't know and I've never liked lying to my friends. But I still wanted to see him, see how the air between us was now after all these revelations lately. Plus - I think I deserved a few answers.

I found him in the game room in the cellar, just as I thought I would, playing a video game. Silently, I entered the room and moved to stand behind him, watching the game for a moment. It didn't take long and he crashed, not much to my surprise: he wasn't really concentrating on the game, as much was easy to tell.

"DK! Looks like you're dead," I grinned.

He looked up and shrugged, his face unreadable. "Yeah, I haven't gotten the hang of it yet."

"Bugger," I commented nonchalantly and moved around the couch to be right in his view, looking at the collection of games and movies he had stored down here. It's been a while since I've been here, in the one room that had truly belonged just to Duncan and Lilly, every room else more or less Celeste's kingdom, including their bedrooms that always had to be presentable. I spotted a new game and drew it out. "Hey! You've never mentioned that you have the new Wargame! Why the hell not?" I demanded to know, turning to him.

"I haven't gotten it for more than 10 days," he replied dryly and a shadow flew over his face. "With everything else that happened I haven't even gotten time to try it out myself yet."

Yeah well, if he wanted to play it like that - fine with me. The game still in hand, I moved to stand before him and rose an eyebrow. "And with everything else I guess you mean Ronnie's Dad being murdered, me and her forgetting our animosity while you've once again weren't there for her and yeah, let's not forget the announcement that she's actually Jake's biological daughter, huh?" I asked sarcastically, feeling the anger I had held towards him for the past few days coming up.

Shit. I was angrier with him than I had thought.

He had the grace to at least flinch as he turned away his head, not offering an answer. I shook my head. Typical Duncan - always avoiding a confrontation.

"Well, I guess I finally know now just why you've broken it up after all," I haunted him, sitting down. "No wonder you've never told anyone. Shaking it up with your own sister... that's even too gross for me."

He tensed, glancing back at me and surprised me by actually answering me this time. "Look, it's not that I didn't want to tell you - I just couldn't, it being simply way too - absurd."

I snorted. "You say?"

This time, he even met my eyes and I grew still. "I didn't want to believe it, you know? Not when Mom first told me. I thought it was just Mom's crazy try to drive me and Veronica apart. But when Dad couldn't deny the possibility of it being true - he claimed he didn't know for sure when I asked him, you know, but I could see it in his eyes. He believed it." Nervous, he shook his head. "And why shouldn't he? One look at Veronica and Lilly standing next to each other, especially when they've been little kids, and even a blind one can see the similarities. I didn't know what to do. All I knew was that I could no longer be with her. No matter how much that hurt."

I sighed, still a bit amazed that Duncan wanted to talk all of a sudden. "I believe it's been a blow, Duncan, but..."

"A blow?" Duncan repeated unbelieving. "A blow? Fuck, Logan, that Dad had an affair may have been a blow but to learn that the love of your life is your sister is a bit more than a blow! If anything, it's a damn bomb!" He jumped up and started to pace, his eyes suddenly swirling with anger and frustration. "One day I couldn't be happier, dreaming about my first night with my future wife and the next, I'm a weird sicko having the hots for his very own sister! While the sister I knew all my life is having a field day with the news, barely able to wait to tell Veronica and the world!"

I froze. Oh shit. Duncan - he didn't imply... I swallowed hard. "So Lilly wanted to tell Ronnie?" I asked slowly.

Duncan laughed sarcastically. "You kidding? She always loved Veronica as a sister, now that she actually was, and the prospect of going public and therefore causing a big scandal, not to mention this being such a slap into Mom's face on top of that, had made her year. She didn't care what it would mean to me and Veronica when it became public that we dated our own sibling - nor did she consider how much of a shock this would be for Veronica', finding out that Sheriff Mars wasn't her father. She was Lilly! She gave a fuck about other people's feelings. She just cared about herself and what a marvelous scandal it would be."

I digested that for a moment, my heart beating loudly. He sure got it right. This was exactly how Lilly would have reacted to such news. But... "She wanted to go public with this?"

"Of course. She just wanted to wait for the perfect moment. I think she had it planned for the Halloween party my parents had been planning," Duncan answered, still pacing.

Shit, shit, shit - Duncan had just given me a perfect motif for all of them to kill Lilly. But would they really have been able to kill her over this? I just didn't know anymore.

"But then she died," I whispered, watching Duncan closely.

It was as if the air was suddenly let out of Duncan. His face fell and he sat back down, messing up his hair. "Yeah."

Some of the tension left me. If he really had killed her he wouldn't have deflated like that, would he have? He would have grown even angrier or defensive, right?

Still... "That must have been at least one worry less," I carefully mentioned, feeling slightly sick to even suggest this.

His head shot up to glare at me. "Lilly was killed, Logan. We hardly cared about anything else than that anymore!"

"Yeah, of course, of course..." I hurried to say, sighing inwardly, relieved though. "Sorry."

He looked down but nodded.

I waited for a beat before I continued my questioning. "But if you were all so afraid about the truth coming out - why did Jake go and go so public with it all now?"

"Hell if I know," Duncan answered, making a face. "I mean, I did tell him after Mr Mars' death that he owed it to Veronica to at least do something for her, especially after you told me about her trouble with money. But I didn't expect him to go and get custody of her." He shook his head. "Or to give that lovely press conference this morning. I don't know what's gotten into him. Mom nearly had a heard attack when he told us what he planned to do."

I took that in with a frown. So it had been all Jake behind this custody idea? Why on Earth? "So you have no idea why he's doing this?"

Duncan shook his head. "No, not the slightest. He claims it's just time to take responsibility but I dunno... it's still strange that he went that way about it." He hesitated, then looked at me. "How... how she's taking it?"

I shrugged. "What do you expect? She's not happy about it."

He nodded, but continued to fidget. Oh great. Now he wanted to talk about her.

"And... And did she say anything about... the situation... between us?" he asked nervously, only glancing quickly at me before returning his stare to his shoes.

When I didn't answer, he looked up. Only then did I shake my head. "Let's make one thing perfectly clear, DK: I'm not going to be the messenger boy between you two. Ronnie and me cleared our issues and we're back to friends. You and me are still best buddies. But what's between you and her is your beer - or mess in this case. If you want to know how she's feeling, talk to her," I told him and once again felt the anger boil up a bit. "You were a jerk to her, Duncan, back then. Your reasons for breaking up with her may have been very founded, but the way you've done it - or rather said not done it wasn't right. Then you let everyone, including me, pick on her, knowing only too well that she's actually your sister. And now, when her dad died, you still wouldn't move your ass and be there for her. So yeah, she's pissed, I can tell you as much. So am I. But it's up to you to clear all this with her."

He frowned, probably not expecting me to get so riled up over this. "I told you to leave her alone," he defended himself.

But I was riled up over it, more than I had thought as I realized. "No, DK, you never really tried to stop me. You may have said something from time to time, but never sounding very convincing, always just standing by and letting it happen. For heaven's sake, Duncan, she's your sister! The girl you claim to be the love of your life. But you never helped her, never stood by her."

"As if you would have listened to me!" he retorted, but his cheeks reddened. "You can't blame me for this!"

"Perhaps, perhaps not," I gave back. "My best friend trying to talk sense into me when I was blinded by rage may have helped. To know the fact that she was actually your and Lilly's sister may have helped also. You want to know the truth? I feel like shit for what I've put her through. But don't worry, I know full well that I'm the only one to blame for this. It could have been different though. Especially for her. I'll get over the obvious lack in trust in me, Buddy, don't worry, but you ask me, you owed it to her to stand with her, instead of letting the hounds shred the girl we loved so much too pieces."

"And who was the one leading those hounds, huh?" Duncan sneered, his face twisted in rage now. "You have no right to put this one on me. You were the one who couldn't stand the mention of her anymore. You were the one who hated her with such a passion. And you were also the one who reveled in hurting her, time and time again." He got up and came over to me, poking me in the chest. "I tried to talk to you. I tried to stop you. But you wouldn't listen! You never listen. You declared her to be the enemy and that was it and nothing I would have had to say about this would have ever changed that."

His words stung, probably because they were so goddamn true. But I still had to say a few things on my own. "At least I was honest to her! She always knew where to stand with me. And when it counted, I was finally there for her. When was the last time you were actually open to her? Or to me, for that matter? Where were you this past year and a half, Duncan? Sure as hell not there for us."

"I've lost my sister!" Duncan screamed, his face reddening.

"Damn, Duncan, you weren't the only one! Ronnie may not have known about her true relationship but she still had always loved Lilly like her sister. And by God, I loved Lilly too. You weren't the only one hurting. And if you selfish bastard wouldn't have lost yourself so much in your own misery but would have fought to deal with it instead of becoming that soulless robot you've been after her death then things would probably have been different, for all of us," I shot back, my hands fisting.

I truly believed in this. Duncan had always been able to talk sense into us, well, me and Lilly, being the levelheaded one of the four of us. If he hadn't drawn back as he had, but would have left us help him, talk to both, Ronnie and me, then I'm sure it would have been different, us not being so fucking alone in our pain.

Duncan glared at me, his hands fisted as well. I didn't care. Perhaps a real fight would snap him out of whatever state he was in, giving me back my best friend.

"Want me to go get Sam back for playing referee? He was in a wrestling team for twenty years, you know?"

We both jerked around. Ronnie was leaning against the door frame, her arms crossed, her eyes narrowed. She definitely wasn't happy about the scene she just had walked in and I bet I'd get to hear an earful about it. Back-Up, sitting dutifully at her feet, eyed us warily too, glancing up at his mistress as if to ask if he should knock some sense into us.

Strangely, I relaxed, my anger leaving me. I was familiar with this sensation, but I had to admit I wasn't accustomed to it anymore. She always had had a knack of calming me down, simply by being there and that effect of hers on me had even strengthened this time around. And even more so since yesterday night. Of course, she was also the one person who could rile me up more than anyone else.

"Veronica."

Momentarily having forgotten my best friend, I glanced at him. He too had loosened the fists and seemed to have lost most of the rage, but he was terribly tense instead.

"Duncan," she nodded, briefly meeting his eyes, then looking away, towards me. "Sam is gone," she told me.

I nodded. "Need help unpacking?"

But she shook her head. "No, I'll wait with that until the rest of my stuff gets here. I wondered if you're up for a trip to the beach? Back-Up needs a bit of exercise, being holed up for the better part of the past two days."

"Sure," I agreed, perhaps a bit too eagerly. But hell, I was glad to get away from this depressing place for a while. I hesitated though, glancing at Duncan then back to Veronica, the question in my eyes.

She remained silent.

Fine by me.

"I guess we'll see us later, DK," I told Duncan, moving over to join Veronica. Back-Up stood up, wagging furiously with his tail as he briefly licked my fingers.

Out of the corner of my eyes I saw Duncan clench his jaw. Back-Up had never warmed up much to Duncan and it was nothing new that Duncan didn't like that Ronnie's dog had always liked me - and obviously still did. His eyes were fixed on Veronica though, who ignored him. She was tensing under his gaze though and with a barely noticeable nod she slid around the door, out of Duncan's eyesight.

With a last glance at my best friend, I followed, suppressing a sigh. This had not gone too well. And if those two continued with this behavior, it would be some long months until Ronnie's birthday.


Veronica was surprisingly quiet on the drive to the beach. Not that I complained. The way I figured it she only would bicker about my, well, fight with Duncan, so silence was immensely better. I wasn't keen on getting into a fight with my girlfriend within the first twenty-four hours of our relationship, no matter how typical that would be for us.

But when she still remained silent even after walking quite a bit on the beach, Back-Up running and jumping around us and back and forth, I did become a tad bit nervous. Another ten minutes and I cracked finally. "Okay, how much did you hear and just what made you that angry?"

After all, I could hardly defend myself as long as I didn't know what exactly maddened her so much.

She eyes me briefly before looking away again. "I'm not angry."

"Yeah sure," I snorted. If that was not angry, what was angry then? "Look, I didn't intend to fight with Duncan, okay? I wanted some answers yeah and damn, he owed them to me. It just got out of hand, one thing leading to another."

Sighing, Veronica stopped and turned towards me. "Logan, really - I'm not mad."

I frowned. "Then why are you so silent?"

She shook her head. "I haven't heard it all - but I heard the last bit. It just got me thinking."

I wasn't sure I liked that better. Ronnie thinking could be a dangerous thing. "About what?"

"Do you really think it would have made a difference?" she asked, her face wistful. "Us talking to each other instead of making blind accusations and confront each other, just taking the bait and paying back with the same coin?"

Oh. Well... "Yeah. Yeah, I think it would have helped us, saved us all a lot of misery."

"I'm not so sure. You've been so angry, I've been so hurt by both you and Duncan and Duncan, well, Duncan was just not himself." Her eyes bored into mine. "And if you're right - then it's all our faults, yours, mine, Duncan's..."

I shifted, looking away, thinking back. "Yeah, I know," I admitted grudgingly.

We were silent for a long time. Her next words surprised me.

"I'm almost sure that it hadn't been Duncan."

My eyes fixed back on hers. Most part of me was glad to hear this, because really, Duncan just couldn't be Lilly's killer. But some petty part in me worried how she came to that conclusion all of a sudden.

"Why?"

"Because I recognized the pain in him when he was forced to talk about her. I could be wrong, it could be guilt - but I don't think so." She hesitated, her eyes searching mine. "I know you hate lying to him. Perhaps we should talk to him, tell him what we know."

It was my turn to be silent. Sure, I'd like to be open with my best friend - but was she really suggesting this for me - or were her own feelings for him the main motivator?

"I don't think it's wise to tell him about our suspicion that it might have been Jake or Celeste - but he lives in that house, he was the one who found her - and on the bottom line, he's the one who knew Lilly best. I think she told him more than either of us are aware of - or he just figured out a lot of it on his own." She took a deep breath. "Lilly told me she had a secret, a good one, the day she died. You know the kind of secrets that excited Lilly as well as me. I'm sure it got something to do with her murder. I've tried to figure it out, without any luck. You don't know it either. The only one I can think of who knows what she may have meant is Duncan. It could be the key."

Her points were valid, sure. But there was still this slight doubt, especially after learning that Lilly had wanted to tell everyone about Jake and Leanne's affair and Veronica possibly being the result of that liaison. "Lilly wanted to make Jake's affair public."

For a moment, pain flickered over Ronnie's face, before she gave a tight nod. "I figured as much. This was just the scandal she would have loved to cause. Especially it also being such an affront to Celeste. It's one of the reasons why the Kane's are such high suspects on my list."

Tentatively, I grabbed hold of her arms. "Doesn't it bother you how much it would have hurt you?"

Again she sighed. "Not really. Lilly just was like that. She never thought about the downside of something or how much she might hurt someone else in the process. Or has her knowledge that her flirting around hurt you ever stopped her? It doesn't mean she didn't love us. She did. I know that." She looked at me questioningly. "And that's why we stayed with her, isn't it?"

Yeah, about that... "Why don't we sit down for a while?" I asked, gesturing down.

Her eyebrows rose in suspicion, but she shrugged and let herself sank gracefully down. I followed her, facing her. There was something she needed to know, for the sake of her mind if not also mine. "I loved Lilly," I said after a moment.

Her eyebrows arched up more. "I know."

I nodded. "But you should know that this last break-up we had - this was it, Veronica. We wouldn't have gotten back together. Not again. I'm fairly certain we'd have stayed friends - after some time at least," I swallowed, the next bit not exactly easy to admit to your girlfriend. "And I'm sure we'd have had an occasional fuck, 'cause the sex was really good. But that was it. Lilly and I wouldn't have gotten it more together than that again."

She looked extremely doubtful, so I continued. "And that would mostly have been my decision. Frankly said, I was tired of being jerked around by her, of her making a fool out of me. I knew she was a helpless flirt. And I also knew she was screwing around on me. I... I was pretty angry about that and hurt. But that weekend I was away, the weekend she died - I came to terms with that. Well, originally, I wanted to talk to her about it, but when I saw her, how happy she was and how she so very much did not miss me, I just knew it. That it was over. So I just left her a note, together with one of those tequila shot glasses she liked so much in her car and left again, heading back South, needing to get away." I swallowed, aware that this admission probably would prompt questions. "I just need you to know that. That her and I were truly and definitely over."

She was quiet.

When it got too much, I pleaded. "Ronnie?"

"You were here that weekend?" she finally asked, tonelessly.

Shit. I had hoped she wouldn't dwell on that. Then again, I should have known better. "Yeah."

"When exactly?" she asked, her voice suddenly sharp.

I sighed. "The day she died. I've seen you at the car wash."

"But Dick and Cassidy..."

"I didn't ask them to omit the truth. And I was back in Mexico by the evening." I shook my head, suddenly getting annoyed. "Come on, you don't actually believe that I killed her in a rage after all?" Even the thought she could think something like that of me hurt. "You can check the border records if you absolutely need to. They should show that by the time she was killed, I was gone a long way from Neptune again."

Her eyes flashed with annoyance. "I insinuated nothing like that, Logan. I never believed for a second that you could have killed Lilly. You may be a real asshole and I know you never hesitate to jump at the opportunity of a fight, but I know you'd never hurt a girl physically, let alone kill a girl you love. How can you think that I'd believe something like that of you, after everything that happened? After not even twenty-four hours later of becoming a couple, right here on this beach? Do you really think so lowly of me?"

"Of course not!" I protested, glaring at her. "But may I remind you that you've become highly suspicious of everyone this past year? In the past six months you accused me of stealing my mother's money and getting a woman fired that was more or less my nanny since having moved here, that I sliced your tires, smuggled drugs and launched a real low dirt attack against a girl who hardly ever registered on my radar. I know we've not been on the best of terms then, but news flash, Mars, I still did not enjoy all this shit much!" Her eyes widened and my hands flexed. I tried to calm down but apparently it was the day of unwanted fights on my part for me as I continued. "It hurt, Ronnie, that you could really think so lowly about me. The girl and tires I may have understood though you should take note that I never sank to so amateur revenges as slicing up tires – but the drugs and the stealing of my mother's credit card… How could you ever believe me capable of such things, huh Veronica? We were friends dammit! You're supposed to know me better than most people – perhaps even the best because you can truly say you know each side of me, the good and the bad. You should have known that I'd never be so stupid to deal drugs. And you fucking should have known that I'd never touch Mom's credit card, besides the fact that I never in my live was in need of money."

Okay... looked as if there were still some issues between us. But I couldn't help feeling hurt by her false accusations. It had unnerved me to no end that it bothered me that Veronica would think me capable of such things, making me only more angry with the tiny blond one.

Her eyes had widened, staring at me.

Shaking my head, I shook my head and made to stand up again. "Just forget it."

Her hand shot out to grab my arm. "No, Logan, no, I will not forget this," she emphasized. "Sit down again and let's talk."

"There's nothing to talk about. It's the past. We've already agreed that we're past that," I sighed, but sat down again.

"We've decided that what happened after Lilly's death with us and the following war between us was over for good - this is something different and we obviously need to talk about this if it lets you to believe that I'd think you capable of killing Lilly - and if it's still hurts you that much," she finished, much softer.

I look away, not knowing what to say.

"Look, Logan - I've already told you that I've sort of grown a pretty big trust issue this past year," she said quietly and I looked back at her. As if I haven't noticed that. "But you need to understand that everything that happened after Lilly's death sort of can shatter any person's confidence. Especially..." she stopped herself and looked away. I frowned. But then she sighed and shook her head. "Mom leaving was a hard blow. Losing you and Duncan another. And then all the things I had to go through at school... Finding out about this conspiracy around Lilly's murder, making her killer probably someone who we know didn't help either. Nor does all the PI stuff I've been doing. Have you any idea how many people betray the people they supposedly love? By having affairs, stealing money or other valuable things, forcing each other out of business, and, and, and..."

"This may all be true, but still - you should have known better," I point out, still feeling quite offended.

Veronica shrugged. "When those things happened - yeah, I did put you on the suspect list. Because that's what I do nowadays. I disregard my feelings for those people and what I think I know of them and then proceed to prove the truth - no matter how it turns out. And for what it's worth: I didn't really want to believe you doing those things. To be honest, having all evidence pointing at you - and sorry, Logan, but that it had - it disappointed me so much. And that in turn made me mad, because I obviously still couldn't treat you like any other suspect, our past friendship always coming in the way, my initial reaction always deny you being capable of those things. So I was pretty harsh when confronting you."

I frowned, this sounding a lot familiar. I sure know how it felt to have to realize that I wasn't as indifferent towards Veronica Mars as I believed.

"And may I remind you that I was also the one who found out it had been Chardo steeling the credit card after all? Or that I was the one to tell you where you could find him?" she asked, her voice taking on slight annoyance.

Yeah, that she had. Surprising the hell out of me - not to mention confusing me to no end.

"As for the drugs - you're wrong when you think I really thought you took the drugs. I didn't. Despite you being the prime suspect. Because you'd have to be marginally stupid to have gotten involved with drugs and you are many things, but not stupid." I wasn't sure if I should be offended or not about her statement. "But Luke told me that you at least knew about the drugs and - well, I was disappointed. Plus..." she sighed and looked miserable for a moment. "I really didn't want Troy to be the one who took the drugs. That's why I confronted you at all."

Well, looking at it like that... And considering how I've felt after finding out about Caitlin's treachery I guess I couldn't blame her that much anymore for accusing me. Studying her for a moment, I said something that I've burned to say for months now. "Vandegraff was a bastard, Ronnie." I hesitated for a moment before continuing. "To be honest, I never liked seeing you with him."

She met my eyes. "Because me seeing him meant that I was at least partly back in the 09er circle?"

I smiled ruefully. "Yeah, at least that was what I told myself." I looked pointedly at her. "Thinking back now I guess me wanting to rip his head off anytime he got too close to you may have perhaps more to do with me already having the hots for you. And also with that old habit to scare away any would-be suitors."

Holding my eyes, she smirked. "Boy, that must have irked you."

"You have no idea," I admitted and shrugged. "It was the first time someone dared to flirt with you again. It was just wrong." I scowled. "But seriously, Ronnie: you should never have gotten involved with that bastard."

Ronnie narrowed her eyes but then she shrugged. "You got that right for sure. Did you know that he had a girlfriend, all the time he had been with me? She was in drugs too."

At that information I growled. "A bastard and an idiot then. I could find him and give him what he deserves, if you'd like that," I offered, smiling maliciously. I always had itched to pummel in Vandegraff's face.

Laughing, she patted my knee. "Reign in the horses, caveman. I appreciate the sentiment but trust me, I made him pay enough already."

Considering what I knew her capable of I believed that one without any hesitation. Good. I still would have loved to beat him up a little, but at least he got what he deserved.

"And as we're already at the topic of past mistakes in our love life: I seriously hated the thought of you and Caitlin Ford. I mean, seriously - what on Earth had you been thinking, hooking it up with her?" she asked, disgusted.

Highly amused I grinned. "Obviously not at all." Turning serious, I thought for a moment. "I dunno, Ronnie. I missed being in a relationship but at the same time the memory of Lilly was still so fresh and painful. Caitlin came on to me, I was drunk and she was so different from her so I thought what the hell, why not. Not my smartest decision, I know."

Ronnie nodded slowly. "When Troy pursuit me I was flattered. And it felt so good to be - noticed again, after such a long time of being ignored by guys other than to be made fun of because of my shining reputation. I think that was mostly why I started dating him in the first place, me being so desperate to move on and grasping the opportunity." She blushed a little. "As for Caitlin - boy, did I enjoy proving her the two-timing bitch she was. I didn't even feel bad about ruining the relationship for you. Then again, I knew it wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway. Your heart never was in it and you had that bored look whenever you were together with her."

I raised an eyebrow. "You sure had a close eye on me, huh? What was it? Silently pining away for me after all?"

She mustered up a half-hearted glare. "Jackass."

I grinned widely. "Pixie."

We shared a long, intense look that had both of us smiling, my heart beating a bit faster. "I forgive you - for doubting me," I said after a moment, seriously.

"And I for making me doubt you in the first place," she countered and took my hand into hers. "I do trust you, Logan. You proved that to me so many times these past days, that I know now that I can trust you implicitly." Her thumb stroked over the back of my hand. "I'm glad you told me the truth about your Mexican trip. And like said: I don't believe you being able to ever kill someone, let alone Lilly."

My throat suddenly feeling awfully thick, I merely nod, not trusting my voice. But it meant a lot to hear her say this. A very lot.

"For you, I'll just make an exception from my usual principles on only believing the evidence. I don't need it to prove your innocence," she continued, squeezing my hand. "But please don't flip out now when I tell you that we still have to get those border reports. And we should try to find that letter you said you wrote to her, and the tequila shot."

I started to protest, but she interrupted me before I even got a word out, squeezing a bit harder. "When we prove that Koontz didn't kill Lilly once and for all, the investigation will be reopened. And when word gets out that you've been in Neptune that day, they will so come after you. We need to be prepared about that. Lambs an idiot. I know him. He'll just settle on you then, because you as Lilly's betrayed boyfriend will be the perfect suspect and as he doesn't like you he'll try to make you take the fall for it even harder. So you need to tell me everything you remember of that day. And try to remember if you paid anything with your credit card that could prove you not being in Neptune anymore at the time of Lilly's murder because we can't be sure that the border actually registered you - or still has the reports of a day more than a year ago."

As her words slowly started to seep in, I felt myself panicking. Shit. Shit. The police was going to come after me? For killing Lilly? But... "Dick and Beaver won't talk. I didn't even ask them to lie for me in the first place, why should they now suddenly start to tell the truth?"

"I do hope that they'll stick to their story. This way you won't be bothered and the police can concentrate on finding the real killer - should we have no success finding him. But we can't solely rely on the Casablancas to keep their silence," Veronica insisted. "You never know what may happen. Perhaps, Dick or Cassidy want to get even someday with you. Perhaps one or both of them break under a real interrogation. Perhaps, one of them suddenly grows a conscious after hearing that Lilly's killer is still at large and decides to come forward, suspecting you after all. Or perhaps, someone remembers having seen you in Neptune that day and Lamb puts two and two together. He's an idiot and an asshole but he was trained by Dad and Sam as well after all. If he had been quite that dense Dad would have fired him a long time ago."

"Perhaps we can get him fired before the shit hits the fan?" I asked hopefully.

She gave me a small smile. "Sure am with you there. Unfortunately, I fear that's unlikely. He'd at least need to piss off some big shot like Jake Kane or your dad in order to achieve that and he's too of a suck-up for that."

"I don't want to go to prison, Veronica," I admitted, dejected.

"You won't. I'm not letting that happen," Veronica promised fiercely and I had to smile.

"And how do you want to stop that?"

"Simply. By proving who the real killer is," she said, determined.

I reached out to cup her cheek. "Thank you. And I think I haven't told you that I love you yet, today: I love you."

Much to my pleasure, she blushed furiously, at a loss of words. Not that she needed to say anything as I took care of that by kissing her long and deeply and her kiss said all she couldn't say out loud yet. Her kisses and her actions.

We got rudely interrupted by Back-Up jumping me from behind, causing me to lose my balance and sprawl into the sand. Sputtering, I glared at the smug looking dog and my girlfriend who was busy laughing her tiny ass off.

"I think Back-Up wants to tell us something," she giggled.

"What? That I'm only good enough as a chap but not for becoming his new daddy?" I muttered darkly, eying the pit-pull.

Ronnie had the nerve to laugh even harder. "I thought rather that he wanted to remind us to play with him and not with each other. I mean, who are we to be fooling around at the beach without him?"

Back-Up barked in agreement, jumping back and forth between us.

"But of course you may be right as well. He's not used to see me kissing guys after all," Ronnie added, still grinning from ear to ear.

"He better not," I grumbled and got back on my knees, making eye-contact with Back-Up. "And if you see anyone else but me kissing your mistress you better bite off that guys' dick, boy. But you better learn to not interrupt us like that again," I instructed him, looking sternly.

He whined, looking back at Veronica.

She just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Spotting the stick he had let fallen beside me, I sigh and took it, hurling it as far away as I could, watching him shooting after it.

"You tell my dog to bite off a guy's dick if he kisses me?"

Looking back up to her, I smirk at her raised eyebrows. "Course, 'cause any guy doing that would be doing so against your will and therefore deserves the worst this beast you call a dog can give him, isn't it so, my dear little pixie?" I asked knowingly.

"God, you're worse than Dad and Sam together."

My grin growing bigger, I held up a finger. "Ah no, I tend to disagree: I only object to other guys kissing my girlfriend while I very much are for you and me kissing and making out and having sex one day which, as I believe, was definitely not what your dad would have tolerated or that human pit-pull guarding your honor now."

She rolled her eyes again.

"Am I interrupting?"

Looking up, I saw Weevil standing a few feet away, his eyebrows slightly up. "What does it look like, Paco?" I sneered, getting up to my taller self.

"Logan, be nice," Ronnie told me with an eyeroll and then waved Weevil over. "And no, you're not interrupting, Eli. Got something for me?"

He had interrupted, I thought grumpily, and wondered for just how long he had watched us already. I guessed not too long, or he'd have interrupted us before Back-Up had the chance - and he'd be scowling more at me.

I haven't missed the way the guy looked at Veronica, already for a while. And how he looked at her now.

Well, too late. He wouldn't be able to get this girlfriend of mine to cheat on me with him, I thought with smug satisfaction. Ronnie wouldn't do that to me, being loyal to the core. Thank God. The least I could use was another flirt and cheat like Lilly or Caitlin.

Of course he didn't know yet that Ronnie was off limits now - a clear downside of our plan to keep our relationship between us for now as I realized darkly at that moment. Damn. And it wasn't just Weevil. There was also that dopey detective weaseling around my girl.

Fuck.

How was I going to get them to back off without blowing our cover?

"Really?" I heard Ronnie ask excited, interrupting my gloomy musings, and I looked over at her, seeing her eager face. Looked like I've missed something. "What is it?"

Weevil shifted and I realized suddenly that he was wary of sharing whatever he knew. "Look, V, it's just rumors. Doesn't mean it has actual value."

"Yeah, yeah, I've got that. Now tell me what you've learned," Veronica waved his wariness away.

Much to the biker's displeasure. And when he actually made brief eye contact with me I knew that this wasn't good. Growing wary myself, I moved closer to Veronica.

"Rumor on the street is that the sheriff's murder is tied with the Kovalovs," Weevil finally talked, unhappily. "It's said the sheriff found some hard evidence that could them get into prison for years - and some of them on death row."

Kovalovs? Who the hell were the Kovalovs?

Ronnie frowned. "Dad never mentioned anything alike." She thought for a moment. "Then again, if it really got the Kovalovs involved he probably wouldn't have said anything to me anyway. To not worry me and mostly to keep me out of it." Pain flashed over her face. "The less I know, the safer I am, that's what he used to tell me when he was still sheriff and I asked him about his cases."

Apparently, it was common knowledge who those Kovalovs were - at least to the likes of gangsters and PIs. "Who are the Kovalovs?" I asked, looking from Ronnie to Weevil and back, pretty sure I wasn't going to like the answer.

"Head of the Russian mafia of the West coast," Veronica answered. "They're bad news. Porn, kiddie porn, drugs, weapons, they have their hands in all of it. People resisting their harassment or even openly going against them have the habit of disappearing forever. The authorities think they've got at least around eighty bodies buried somewhere, not counting the lives ruined and lost through their dirty businesses."

"In short, they're the last people you'd want to have on your bad side," Weevil nodded, his eyes boring into Veronica. "Seriously, V: you do not want to get involved with those guys."

Her face hardened. "If they are the ones who've killed my father, I don't have a choice in that. I'm not letting Dad's killers go unpunished."

Weevil shook his head. "I admit you're not half bad, chica - but you ain't got a fucking chance with the likes of the Kovalovs."

She met his eyes. "I'll be careful."

"You really think you're better than your old man?" Weevil challenged her and she stiffened, glaring at him. "You're not," he said quietly. "You go up against them, you'll end up as dead as the sheriff - only that they'll perhaps first will want to have their fun with you. I don't think you'll like being the star in one of their porn, V."

At that visual I suddenly felt sick.

Over my dead body.

Ronnie too had a bit blanched, but she balled her fists and held up her head. "Like said, I'll be careful. But if I find out that they really are the ones responsible for Dad's murder, they are going down." Her eyes took on that stubborn glee I only knew too well and fear gripped every single one of my inner organs. "If Dad really had evidence on them I bet it's still somewhere. I'll find it. And then I'll see to it that it gets turned in."

Weevil shook his head, scowling and for once I could only agree. What the fuck was Ronnie thinking? That was way too dangerous! It was bad enough that she was already risking herself like she did to find Lilly's murderer, but to tackle the whole freaking Russian mafia? Was she aiming to get killed too, for Heaven's sake?!

"I figured you'd go that way," Weevil sighed and gave her an aggravated look. "Just think it over, V, before you do anything rush."

She merely nodded.

Unhappy, Weevil shook his head and looked away.

"Can I count on you?"

That I wasn't even annoyed at her quiet question showed pretty good just how scared I was.

Weevil looked back at her and sighed again, heavily. "I'll keep my eyes and ears open. I hear something, I'll tell you. But I've got little sisters and brothers. And I'm responsible for my boys. I won't risk them for this, V, I can't do that."

"And I won't ask you to. It's enough if you just pass on what you hear. Thanks, Eli," Veronica replied with another nod.

He snorted. "Nothing to thank me for, V. This probably is your death sentence."

With a last unhappy look her way, Weevil left.

I said nothing, my head turned away. But I felt her eyes on me.

"Logan?"

She was going to get killed and there was nothing I could do to stop that. One way or another, she was going to get herself killed.

"Logan, please..."

Her hand touched my arm, but I shook my head and walked away.

I couldn't do this. Not again. She wanted to get killed so desperately? Fine. But without me.


TBC!

(Author's note: No, I haven't forgotten about this. I would never! But RL has ways to get in the way - as well as other bunnies. Thanks to all of you who still keep nagging me about updating. It reminds me every time that I made a promise when first posting this baby, one I have no intention whatsoever to break. So really, thank you all for the wonderful reviews and I hope you enjoyed the new chapter!)