Disclaimer: All Buffy-related characters and such, belong to Joss Whedon and FOX. All "Veronica Mars" related characters and such, belong to Rob Thomas and Warner Bros. I make no money.

Distribution (other than here): Just ask.

Spoilers: Between S2 & S3 for BtVS; between S1 & S2 for VM. Bewaaaaarrre!

Pairing: Buffy/Veronica--this is an (eventual) FEMSLASH story. If that bothers you, DON'T READ.

Author's Notes: I obviously changed dates for this to work. So, instead of being born in January 1981 like in the show, in this story, Buffy has been born in January 1988, making her 17 in June of 2005, when this begins.

Summary: After fleeing Sunnydale on that bus, Buffy returns to the first place she called home…Neptune.


At 2:52 AM, a knock came on Veronica Mars' apartment door, waking her from her dream. It involved Lilly and a swimming pool. Closure through slumber. It happened.

Would the media circus begin this early? She got out of bed to discover. It couldn't be her father; he was still in the hospital, with Wallace's mother at his side. It wouldn't be Duncan, because he went with his software mogul father to the station. There was a chance it could be Wallace, which would be sweet of him, but really, she held out hope that it was Logan. She needed to know he was all right.

But when she opened the door, it most definitely was not her troubled (ex?) boyfriend standing on the other side. She was taken aback at first. "Oh my god. Buffy?"

"Hey, Marsipan." A desperate-looking Buffy Summers greeted her old friend. "I'm sorry it's...it's really late, isn't it?" She said apologetically. "But I just heard on the radio--"

"How are you even here?" Veronica wondered, and then did something she didn't do very at all--she hugged her fellow, petite blonde. "No...more vital question: why are you? 'Cause people lucky enough to miraculously escape Neptune's stranglehold don't tend to come back and re-surrender their throats. Not of their own free will, anyway."

"Didn't used to think it was so bad." Buffy smirked, hugging her back. "But I guess things change."

After a beat, both laughed at the enormity of that understatement. Their embrace broke as the laughter grew in intensity, before slowly dying. It was a welcome release.

"Okaaay...on that note," The teen PI spoke after a deep breath, "let me show ya around the new, slightly more compact, digs."

"And here we are back at our lovely, kitchen/living and dining room combo." Veronica announced as they exited the small hallway, having just come from her room. "Exciting, no? Dad and I perfected designing on a dime...with cero ayuda from Cable, thank you very much."

She sat on the couch, Buffy following. "Upside--at least you're not homeless."

"True. But how come I'm sensing that the actual end to said upside is, 'Like me'?" Veronica filled in what she perceived to be blanks left by her friend. "I've heard being almost burned alive can completely throw your 'social ESP' out of whack though, so..."

"You're not wrong." Buffy sighed. "About the first part, I mean. I kinda ran away." Then Veronica's words registered. "Whoa, 'burned alive'?" The radio left that detail out.

"'Ran away'?" Veronica questioned back when there was another knock. "Damn." Her hand went to her friend's knee, to secure attention. "That thought? Vice grip. Because catching up suddenly became priority on my 'To Do' list."

This time? Logan Echolls was at the door.

"This could be the concussion," Logan prefaced, lying prone on the couch, head in his maybe girlfriend's lap, "however, I'm fairly certain there's major B.S. happening in your apartment right now, Veronica."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, hasn't gotten any funnier since 7th grade, Logan."

"Or less lame." Veronica added, even if it was obvious.

This was the first time Logan appeared to notice the slayer. She'd stood out of the way for the most part, hearing him recount to Veronica how he'd knocked out Weevil on the bridge where his mother committed suicide, bringing the wrath of the PCHers down on himself. He was beaten unconscious, and when he came to, he had a bloody knife in his hand, and one of the bikers lay dead.

There'd been someone there, some bystander who called the cops. Logan tossed the knife into the water and came straight here. On the way, he heard what Buffy did--his father was apprehended and charged with the murder of Lilly Kane, as well as the attempted murder of the once sheriff and his teenage daughter.

Logan was claiming not to have killed anybody, and being in a similar situation herself, Buffy felt inclined to believe him. But when did he and Veronica...?

"Wow, you mean we're not in junior-high?" Logan asked with faux-surprise. "Darn, and I really thought we did the time warp again. You remember, don't you, Summers? Back when my dad hadn't slept with and killed our best friend, and you didn't leave town without even going near her funeral?" That stung as he knew it would, and Buffy hung her head. "Wait, there's more. Other bonuses include: yours truly not being framed for murder, and Veronica not getting drugged, trashed on, and one, wrong guy away from raped. Thanks to me. Golly, wouldn't that be just swell?"

Buffy's head shot up at the last event, and when Veronica met her eyes she mouthed, "He drugged you?"

Veronica looked down at the hurt, angry young man using her as a pillow. "Logan..." The latest knock of the pre-dawn hours seemed loud in the apartment. She was getting annoyed. "Geez, where's Monty Hall when you need him?"

Eight minutes later, Deputy Leo, the third man who'd dared to fall for her charms and got burned for his trouble, was putting a handcuffed Logan in the back of his Crown Vic. Veronica didn't see any of this, however. She remained in her apartment, too confused and exhausted to do anything else. She and Buffy sat in a bit of awkward silence, as neither expected such complicated developments, until Buffy had to break the tension.

"So...you obviously got over Duncan." She commented lightly, having noted the way the young, handsome deputy talked to her. "Exactly how many guys have you dated while I've been not here?"

"FYI? When someone finds out they've been cleared of murder charges... traditionally? The most common reaction falls somewhere in the ballpark of 'ecstatic.'" Veronica told a not-so-relieved Buffy, a half-an-hour later as she sat at her laptop in her bedroom. "They might even aspire to go to that magical place where poor, defenseless wallets get rodgered coming and going. You know, 'Disneyland'?'" Nothing. "C'mon, I'll settle for a simple 'Yabba Dabba Doo.' Work with me here, Dum-Dum."

Buffy looked over her shoulder at the screen, while petting Backup. "Are you sure you're reading it right?"

"Which one of us was 'Spelling Bee' champ five-years running in elementary school?" Veronica asked rhetorically, tooting her own horn. She held up her hand. "That's right, folks." She sighed in exasperation. "Buffy, trust me. I learned how to crack police report code a long time ago." She whipped out her (dad's) "Mars Investigations" business card, and passed it behind her. "These days? This is how I make my bread.

"Three witnesses--uh, 'Rupert Giles,' 'Alexander Harris,' and 'Willow Rosenberg'--all told the cops the same story. That you were nowhere near the scene at the time of the murder. Instead, the fingered guilty party was...an addict on PCP, who'd broken into Sunnydale High School with a gang. All of whom were also apparently on PCP." The detective's eyebrows arched as she continued to search.

Considering that Logan had admitted he was wanted for murder, Buffy quickly figured, what the hell, and tore the Band-Aid off. Besides, her attempt to act casual when Leo entered the apartment was seen through by everyone present. She had to come clean, or Veronica would've simply gotten her to spill.

Once it was out of the bag, Veronica went straight to work seeing if there was indeed an APB, and was prepared to help clear her name. Yet she didn't seem so gung ho to believe in Logan's innocence. The girl was certainly different. Tough. A little hardened. Like Buffy herself.

"I can't be in Sunnydale, Veronica. I...my friends, my mom...I messed up pretty bad, and I can't face them. Except now I have no legit excuse for hiding."

"Wanna talk about it?" Veronica offered gently, rousing long-atrophied skills to do so.

Buffy put that question back to her, "Do you wanna talk about your year?"

"I can honestly say...one-hundred percent, nope. Throwin' in a 'hell no' for good measure, too. At least, not until I've slept for the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours. I'm aiming for the 'seventy-two,' just so you know." Her yawn had perfect timing. "Are you staying anywhere?"

"I've been at the Camelot for the past, two days." Buffy said with a cringe.

Veronica matched it and then some. "Tell me you're joking." Buffy was not. It took every ounce of self control for her to avoid throwing up every time she walked into her motel room--there were stains. "Well, all those fine, upstanding adulterers doing the 'Walk of Shame' to their cars in about five minutes are gonna be awful disappointed when they don't have you to ogle." She smirked. "You're crashing here."

The slayer smiled. "Your dad won't mind?"

Veronica made a "pshaw" sound. "Oh, only when we lie to him about why you're crashing. And we've got a whole week before that has to happen." That's when Keith would be discharged. "Plenty of time to think up one that'll make him proud. If we sell it, that buys you a two, maybe three-day window. Then he calls your mom, and I'm grounded till college. Which, hey, might not be such a negative."

Buffy's smile had weakened a bit.

Veronica got out of her chair, and headed for the hall. "I'll get you a pillow and some blankets...we can pretend it's a slumber party. Unless you'd rather sleep on the couch."

"Nah," Buffy shook her head, "I miss slumber parties."

"Yeah," Veronica smiled softly, memory lane calling, "me too. Be right back."

Soon she was friends with her bed again, and Buffy was lying on the floor, Backup at her feet. Veronica tried to fall asleep, but she had to know; it was nagging at her. Wouldn't let her rest. All those files on PCP gangs and the related deaths...

"So either Sunnydale isn't saying 'No' to drugs just to spite Nancy Reagan, or--"

"It's vampires."

There were several moments of quiet breathing, and then--

"Had a feeling you were gonna say that."

She asked for it. Some stops on memory lane they weren't proud of, and each girl dozed off thinking about them.


It was sometime in the afternoon when Veronica's cell phone woke her up to the tune of Salt'N'Peppa's, "Push It." Below her, Buffy giggled groggily and soon enough uncontrollably at the music, the ringing waking her up as well. Groaning, Veronica grabbed the phone off the bedside night table, and answered it.

#'Bout time you picked up, V. Wallace Fennel said on the other end.#

"Wallace? Pal'o'mine, B.F.F, brother-in-arms against a cruel and unjust world? It's because we're so tight that you're even receiving an advance warning--the next time our paths cross, I will shave you bald, then force you to eat your own 'rows. And we both know your shiny noggin can't be like Mike's, so just, keep that in mind, k?"

#...Woke you, didn't I?#

"What gave it away?" Veronica wondered, sarcastically. "Yes, the plan was three, solid days of deep, deep REMs--which would have been a better music choice, by the way--but I'm betting I fell well short of the mark."

#Sorry, my bad...just told your dad I'd check on you, 'cause my mom ain't lettin' the man move a muscle. Not even for a phone call to his baby girl. And hey, what's wrong with a couple of "old school" sistas layin' it down?#

Veronica slowly broke into a wide smile. "I have total respect for the beats of all 'old schoolers,' you should know that by now." He laughed. "But if I've told you once, I've told you a million times, it's 'Shoop' or nothing. Until you learn, you've never touching my ring tones again." She paused to exhale. "And I suppose, since it was a parental decree, that that means you're off the hook. Skin of your teeth though, Fennel, skin of your teeth."

#Got a generous heart, Veronica Mars. Anybody ever tell you that?#

"No, you're probably the first." She grinned. "Listen, can you tell my dad I'll stop by in a little while and have a late lunch/early dinner with him? I'm entertaining a guest at the moment, and we have errands to run."

#What kinda guest?# He asked, and she could practically hear his teenaged, male brain thinking thoughts of the naughty.

"Not that kind." She rolled her eyes. "Still, mum's the word until further notice. Remember, 'lying' isn't the same as 'withholding,' so hold strong, Black Stallion."

When she hung up, she leaned over to see Buffy still giggling, but muffling it with her pillow. Veronica threw hers at the slayer. "Shut up."

Buffy threw her duffel bag of clothes and Mr. Gordo that she took before leaving home, into the trunk of Veronica's LeBaron. It was parked in the Camelot's lot. She shut the trunk, and got in the passenger side. Veronica was already behind the wheel, turning the key.

"Cool, is that everything?" Veronica asked before she pulled away. "Because seeing the inside of that place during the harsh light of day? It's like 'Scared Straight' for hos, and I really have no desire to come back ever again."

"Yep." Buffy nodded, reaching into her pocket. "Unless you think I should give this back." Veronica glanced over at the torn, white page Buffy showed her. "Ripped it out of the phonebook at the front desk. S'how I tracked you down."

Veronica was impressed. Her hazel-eyed friend had some sleuthing ability. "You always were a better Girl Scout than I was." She smirked, reversing the car. "But I'm afraid it's too late; we're already on the move. You're just gonna hafta eat the evidence." Buffy nearly laughed, but Veronica's face was discouraging. "Seriously. Lamb's fined senior citizens for less."

Buffy balked at this tidbit. "No way can he still be sheriff."

Veronica looked both ways before turning onto the street, and tried to suppress the angry tick she developed whenever Lamb was a topic of conversation. "Don't get me started." At the red light, while impatiently tapping her fingers on the wheel, she said, "Am I the only who needs a coffee?"

"Now that you mention it, I could get us free ones." Buffy spoke offhandedly. "Legally, even."

"Ooh, free and legal? Tell me more of this fairytale."

Last Week of September, 2003

"You wanted me to tell you the truth, Veronica, and even though a pretty like, gigantically-ancient rule says I shouldn't, I did. 'Cause you're my best friend." A fifteen-year-old Buffy said, pacing in her bedroom and running her hands over her face. "Why would I make this up? God, believe me, I so wish I was."

Veronica had just seen the contents of the top drawer of her friend's vanity. It was filled with stakes, crosses, and holy water bottles. She backed away from it and sat on the mattress, unable to really reconcile what she'd heard and seen. Two weeks ago, they'd been making spirit boxes and everything was normal. That's what she'd thought, anyhow. It all started the third day of school, according to Buffy.

Now things were bad. Beyond Duncan having broken up with her.

"Have I ever been religious?" Buffy asked her, to which Veronica shook her head. "Then why would I have those? Why can I lift up the back of my dad's Lexus with one hand? How did I catch Shelly Pomeroy's heel before it hit Dick in the back of the head during lunch that time?"

"I-I dunno." That was the best Veronica could come up with.

"And I don't know how many ways I can explain that I was 'chosen' to be a freak who has to kill vampires till she dies!" Buffy knelt in front of Veronica, her eyes starting to water. "Please, everyone else can think I'm nuts as long as you don't. I mean, our moms took turns changing our diapers, Marsipan; we've known each other forever."

It was just...it was crazy. Rationally impossible. Yet Buffy had never not told her the truth when she asked for it. Grr. There was too much pressure.

Veronica stood up and put some distance between them. "I really wasn't...I was expecting you to say you've been taking drugs or steroids or something. Like when Andrea Decker got addicted to Speed last year studying for finals." Any hope Buffy held began to deflate. "That way I'd have something to tell Lilly, and once you got out of detox--"

"Like I could care about not being allowed in Lilly's orbit anymore." Buffy brushed that aside, an edge to her tone as she stood up again. "She's been looking for any excuse to cut me out since we hit high school and she went all diva."

"That's not true!" Veronica objected, who was rather naïve for a sixteen-year-old.

"You know it is. She's always been jealous that we've been closer longer than you two have, she just didn't wanna piss you off." Buffy argued, picking up Mr. Gordo off her pillow and holding him tight. It wasn't her fault Lianne and Celeste couldn't stand one another long enough to let their girls have play dates ten years ago. "But now I'm the circle's ugly duckling, and if she doesn't dump me, she looks bad. That's how it works. Clemmons is gonna do the same; my mom's fighting it, but he's expelling me. Can't have an arsonist for a student. His gym might be next."

That's right. Just Mom. She was the straw that broke her parents' backs. Joyce and Hank Summers had officially separated last week, and when her dad left Neptune, he took the '09er lifestyle her and her mom were accustomed to, along with him. This town was practically screaming she wasn't wanted.

Veronica hadn't realized expulsion was a possibility, though she should have. Her eyes shone with a mix of sadness and fear. "Did you really do it? Burn down that school's gym in LA?"

Buffy closed her eyes and sighed. "Had to. It was full of vampires."

"Okay," Veronica was going to try this, "if vampires are real, how come there aren't any in Neptune?"

"Because they probably drive right through it. They like to stick near big cities--the reason I've had to constantly lie to my parents and get to LA--or places with Hellmouths. Maybe they run out of people to bite quicker in smaller towns."

Knitted brow. "What's a Hellmouth?"

"No idea. My...my 'Watcher' said it's some evil, mystical hoozit...that attracts evil things. Not in those words, though." She'd held that man while he died.

Buffy could see that Veronica was even less convinced than before, and that, coupled with the horrors she'd seen recently, made her want to cry.

"I'm sorry I doubted you, Wise One; I beg forgiveness." Veronica apologized to Buffy when they were sitting in the back corner of Java the Hut drinking lattes free of charge. In back of her mind, she wondered if Logan was out on bail yet. "The caffeine high just feels purer, don't you think? All upper and nary a trace of downer. Plus, the adrenaline rush?"

"Rushes to the max." They echoed the same thought aloud, and chuckled.

Rough-edged, kick ass, independent females they might've become, but they were also still dorks. Especially together.

"Like I was saying," Buffy continued the previous line of conversation, "you oughta get a job here. I'd put in a good word, but I only started yesterday. My pull's less than zero. And the fact that I missed my shift today probably isn't helping in that department, either." She looked ashamed. "But the manager's nice."

"Hey, if sampling the product is a perk, that's all the incentive I need." Veronica wasn't opposed to the idea one iota. "Besides, Dad would love if I got a 'joe' job like the rest of our generation, y'know?"

"Oh yeah. My mom, too."

That surprised Veronica. "She knows about...?" Buffy cast her eyes downward. "Took it as well as I did, huh?"

"More or less threw me out. Hence the 'homeless.'"

"Oh..." Veronica's heart broke for the girl across from her, whose hand she took in hers. "Offer's still on the table. I'll listen, if you want. I promise."

Buffy looked up again, staring her friend right in the eyes. "What's gonna make it any different than last time?"

"For starters? I saw those puncture marks on your neck last night, and I can't figure why you'd voluntarily stab yourself there with a barbeque fork, leaving us with a single option, as far as I can tell. Lot more open-minded than I used to be." Veronica squeezed her hand now. "And if hindsight's taught me anything? It's that you're the one person from this town, who I should've believed without question. I won't squander a second chance; I'm not stupid."

You know what? Buffy believed she wouldn't. Flashing Veronica half a smile, she pushed aside her cup and decided where to begin. "Well, the bite was from this Master vampire who drowned me, but things started going downhill when I had a boyfriend who--"

"Wait. You drowned?"

"Ssh!" Buffy admonished. "You're failing to listen. No squandering now."

Never again--she had a rapt and attentive audience.


"I know what you're thinking." Veronica told her father as she walked into his hospital room and he smiled at her. She held up the plastic bag in her left hand. In her right, she bore the delicacies of Roy Rogers. "You're thinking I just strolled into the gift shop and purchased that same, stuffed bear with the 'Get Well' balloon hearts in his paw every daughter gives her recovering, hero father." She sat in the chair beside his bed, put the bag on the floor, and put the food on the small, swiveling tray attached to the bed.

"No, actually, given the quality of the gene pool that spawned you--which is pretty impressive just from the Y end alone--the bar's automatically been set kinda high." Keith said, his face awash with the second oldest form of male pride.

The first oldest being something she tried not to think about in conjunction with her father. Ever.

"Done puffin' up your chest there, King of the Jungle, or do I need to lure a gazelle in here so you can maul it?" Veronica smirked. "And how come I'm imagining my birth as an event not unlike crawling out of the Black Lagoon?" Beat. "Mental scar #572? Cataloged."

Keith ignored all this. "You may go ahead and wow me now." He stated in his best, "kingly" voice.

For a second, she stared at him like maybe he'd bribed a nurse for morphine, but she continued. "All right," She reached her hand into the bag, "while I am aware that 'They' say you shouldn't feed people's addictions, I'm officially making your case an exception to the rule. If 'They' don't like it, 'They' can bitch to my LJ."

She pulled out a "Neptune Sharks" bobble-head of their shark mascot, Manny. He carried a bat and wore a baseball uniform. The front of which said, "YOU'LL BE...", and the back of which said, "...OFF THE DL IN NO TIME!"

"Viola!" She proclaimed proudly, giving it to him. "Do I know how to leave my laughable competition weeping shamefully in the muck or what?" She spit on those less thoughtful daughters. Spit.

"Words cannot express how I feel at this moment." Her father held the object with reverence. "Thank you, honey."

"Welcome, Pop." She got up and kissed his forehead, then snatched the control that raised and lowered his bed, before he knew what was happening. "Bed goes up..."

She pushed a button, and the top half of the bed angled, sitting Keith up so he could eat. Though she was about to push "Down" when he glared warningly. She sheepishly handed it back over, turning her attention to getting his burger. "So how are you? Don't see any third degrees, so that's a big thumbs up."

"Yeah," He assured her, taking it, "thanks to my quick-thinking cub-child from the Black Lagoon, the jacket got the worst."

Her smile was bashful and warm. "Eh, wasn't your most flattering shade, anyway." But as she grabbed her chicken nuggets, there was something she didn't understand. "Then why are they trapping you here for so long?"

"Lamb's trying to keep me from the media as long as possible." His expression read, "Why else?" He unwrapped his burger and took a bite. "Wants to put his own spin on it first...where he comes out looking like he had a hand in bringing Aaron to justice."

She coughed out, "Jackass."

"Careful...always told you you'd choke if you ate too fast, didn't I?" Keith tried to maintain a straight face, and eat some more to occupy his mouth. "Did you see Alicia and Wallace in the cafeteria?"

"Uh huh." She said, mouth full.

"And did you remember to say hello?" He followed up in that fatherly way.

Swallowing, she laid her hand on her chest, offended. "Gasp. Are you suggesting that I'm anything other than demure and courteous with my fellow homo sapiens? 'Cause that calls your parenting techniques into question, you know."

"Who's suggesting?" He innocently denied. "I was merely wondering whether you might've been too preoccupied to notice them, because of something you might have on your mind, that's all." Uh oh. She sensed danger approaching. "Like, for instance, maybe an old friend's come back into town recently. Or, y'know, whatever." Caught off guard, her face betrayed her instantly. "Appreciate the confirmation, sweetheart."

"Curses!" She gritted melodramatically. Laid up, and he was still ten steps ahead.

It was just after ten at night, when Veronica and Buffy entered "Mars Investigations." After they exchanged war stories at the Hut, trying to one-up the other's emotional traumas, guilt forced Buffy to remain behind and make up the early shift she'd missed (albeit sans uniform), while Veronica went to the hospital. She swung by to get Buffy fifteen minutes ago, telling her the news on the way.

"He just knew?" The slayer was anxious. She still wasn't clear on what was happening from this point.

"No, he's sat through one too many viewings of 'Minority Report,' and therefore, likes to pretend he's an all-knowing pre-cog. But you've gotta hand it to him--does give a surprisingly convincing first impression." Veronica replied, leading them into her dad's office.

"But weren't the pre-cogs basically prisoners who lived in like, a vat? And weren't they also real sick?" Buffy pointed out as Veronica sat behind the desk and booted the computer. Then she blanched. "Plus, Tom Cruise."

"All valid points, which I've attempted to bring to his attention countless times...with no luck whatsoever. The 'blissful ignorance' just has to run its course." Veronica double clicked on the email client. "Who am I to crush his quaint, boyish fantasies of omnipotence and power?" She put in Terrence Cook's batting average and RBI percentage from his rookie season as the password to his account, then searched through the inbox to find the first message from, the skinny. My dad said your mom emailed him pretty soon after she saw that you left, thinking this is where you might go. She asked him to be on the lookout, let her know if you came through." She explained. "Since we sorta had a packed queue, he couldn't exactly spare his full, 20/20, eagle vision," There was another understatement, "but he tried a blind stab at the hospital. It's my fault he knows."

"It's okay, Veronica. If I'd been in your shoes, I would've given me away, too. Which I could pull off, 'cause we're the same size." Buffy tried to relieve her of any culpability, seeing the pained, "puppy dog" look on her face. "Yet I am resisting the urge to yank your hair and call you 'Martian Mars-y McFartsy.'"

Veronica's eyes narrowed, as she rose out of the chair. "Dad said there's another email she only wanted you to read," She walked out from behind the desk, "so while you do that, I'll just be getting the Taser out of my glove compartment...Barfy Dumbers!" She stuck her tongue out at her friend, before exiting and shutting the office door behind her.

"Hey, I said 'resisting'!" Buffy called after the girl.

Next, with some reluctance and trepidation, she sat at the desk.

"Hi sweetheart,

"I really hope you're seeing this, because it means Mr. Mars found you, and that you're okay. I read your letter... the one you left on your pillow? I realize I said some awful things (which I ABSOLUTELY did NOT mean for even a second), and handled things badly, and I don't blame you if you don't want to hear anything I have to say right now, but please, keep reading mine?

"I just got back in from having coffee with Mr. Giles. I asked him to meet me and tell me everything. He did. I know about who you are, what you've had to do, and why there's no one else who can. It still sounds so unbelievable, but I saw it with my own eyes, and if I keep pretending I didn't, then I'll just drive you further away. You were telling the truth, Buffy, and I'm so sorry for that fight, and for all of the times...

"I love you more than anything. I need you to know that, sweetie.

"But, and I understand it was to protect me, I wish Mr. Giles had let you tell me sooner. It makes me so angry that he had you keep secrets from your own mother, and that he's known you better in the past two years than I have, because of it. I don't know if I can forgive him for that... still, he promised he wouldn't stop until he finds you, which I'm very grateful for. So if you are in Neptune, let us know, so we can stop worrying, all right?

"Oh, and speaking of men who make me angry, Mr. Snyder called to tell me you've been expelled because of what the police think you did to that poor girl (but your friends are going to tell them who's really responsible, so you have nothing to worry about). Once he learns you didn't have a thing to do with what happened, he'll have to let you back into school.

"And if he doesn't, I'm going make sure he loses his job, and that the board hires a principal who will. How he got the job in the first place I'll never understand. I could honestly... that man… never mind.

"I don't know what else there is to say, except, we want you to come home. Willow, Xander, Cordelia, and Mr. Giles all wanted me to tell you, that their being hurt wasn't your fault. They don't want you to blame yourself. Everyone's fine. But if you need time away, go ahead and take it.

"If he hasn't already, Mr. Mars is going to offer you the chance to stay with him and Veronica for the summer. He said they'd be happy to have you, and that Veronica's really missed you. I'm not surprised -- the two of you were practically joined at the hip when we lived there. It sounds like she's had a rough year, too. Don't ever think I'd run out on you like Veronica's mother did, because I never would.

"If you decide to stay, remember to thank them both, and have fun. Forget about slaying for a little while, and just be you. When you get back, we'll start over... I promise to be a better mom from now on. But please call. Can't wait to hear your voice.



"Yeah, I have no idea what you just said." Buffy said to Mac later at Wallace's house. "But I have a friend back in Sunnydale who would've loved every one of those words."

"It's cool, I'm used to it." Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie replied, grinning. She never expected her to really understand about the benefits of OS X over XP Service Pack 2, but she felt the need to try and convert anyone new. "Just make sure the next computer you buy has an 'apple' logo on the box. Guaranteed? You'll thank me later."

Buffy nodded. "Don't doubt it for a second."

Veronica wanted her oldest best friend to meet her newest best friends, and since Wallace had the biggest TV and a satellite dish, his home got voted, "Late Night Summer Party Central." Whether he actually had a vote was up for debate, but she saw this as his way of graciously making it up to her. "It" being, the waking up of her prematurely. Mrs. Fennel was rooming with her father again tonight.

Rooming platonically. At least, that's what she and Wallace told themselves. Because the alternative was not to be entertained.

Wallace was putting some "movie trivia" DVD game on, which she was thankful about, because the TV went right to Extra. Their top story? "Did Aaron Echolls Pass 'Murder Gene' to Teenage Son?" Logan was back at his father's estate. Did she go see him tomorrow? Did she play the supportive girlfriend? She knew she owed him for jumping the gun (twice) and hurting him badly. She wanted to believe the best, yet it seemed like she always thought the worst when she had to make a choice.

And what did it say when she was more ready to believe that Buffy was a superhero who battled monsters (and occasionally had soul-losing sex with them), rather than believe Logan was framed? She had no idea. Honestly. But she did believe Buffy, trusted her...had witnessed honest-to-goodness superpowers being used.

Except, believing in her friend was different than believing in monsters; no, she wasn't being thickheaded. Seeing was believing, as they say, and she hadn't. Or, in the absence of sight, tangible evidence. She couldn't help being wired that way.

Which was maybe why she couldn't completely believe Logan. She needed proof that he didn't do it, and being Veronica Mars, that meant she would have to dig it up. "Crap." She exhaled as this realization hit.

"You all right, Veronica?" Wallace asked, setting up the game with the remote.

"What?" She hadn't realized she said anything. "Oh. Mmhmm. Except for the friggin' Tourette's. But I'm hoping it burns itself ass. Burns itself out, out."


"Uh, good luck with that." Mac slowly encouraged.

Buffy knew she had Logan on the brain, and Veronica knew Buffy knew, so it was time for Veronica to focus and get into the spirit of the evening.

"I say we three P.Y.T's team up against the Neptune High Pirates' very own baller god. He's their meal ticket, their clutch, their golden boy. Why, he's already a legend in his own time." She watched Wallace's grin get wider and wider, then, "When's Caz Truman supposed to get here again?"

His grin went into freefall. "That was cold."

"But you hafta admire the timing." Mac had to admit.

"Sorry, Wallace...you really do." Buffy shrugged, and he just shook his head, while she finally noticed Mac's T-shirt. "You like 'Dingoes'?"

"Yeah, I saw 'em at the Pit last year. They could only play like three chords, but they were pretty decent." Mac critiqued. "Why?"

"'Cause that friend I mentioned? Her boyfriend's the guitarist."

"You mean Oz? Dude, that's awesome." Mac suddenly wanted to possess this fellow computer-master's guy-attracting mojo. "You know, I think they're coming back to play over Fourth of July weekend."

"Hey, you oughta make your friends hitch with the groupies and have 'em drop by then." Veronica suggested. "My posse, meeting your posse...we could so totally have a rumble. Your guys can be the Jets."

"That's a great idea." Buffy said, wondering why she hadn't thought of it. "Except maybe the 'rumble' part. Too 'West Side Story.'"

"Duh. That's the point."

"Hold up." Wallace interjected, still irked. "I ain't part'a no one's posse."

"But I already bought you a shirt!" Veronica complained. "Sure, it's just white right now, but I was gonna design custom iron-ons and everything!" He was fighting his face muscles hard. "C'mon, Wallace, you know you wanna." After a few seconds, a smile broke out. "Ah, there's that ray of sunshine."

"Can we just play the game now, please?" He asked, hopefully. "I need to get down to business and whoop you all, get some of my pride back."

"Play the first couple without me? I need to make a call." After Buffy announced that, she looked around for the how.

Veronica took her cell from her back pocket. "Here, use my phone."

Smile. "Thanks."

"Anytime, Barfy."

She went to Wallace's front porch and dialed. While it was ringing, she heard Mac ask, "Isn't 'pride' a sin?"

"Not tonight." Wallace answered back.

Buffy finally heard a 'Hello,' on the other end and smiled. "Hey, Will...Yep, it's me...Really...Yeah, I called her earlier...Me too...How you feeling?...Good, I'm glad..." She sat in one of the chairs. "I'm in Neptune...No, not the god, the town. It's up the PCH…"

Three & A Half

While news reporters of TV and paper shouted behind the gate, Veronica waited somewhat impatiently at Logan's front door. What was she doing here? The right thing, she hoped. And who should answer the door? Dick Casablancas, of course.

"Yo, Logan, your hooker's here!" He jibed with a smirk.

Veronica just smiled tightly, because some cameraman probably climbed the gate and was hiding in the bushes. "Might wanna think about getting a new shtick, Dick."

His eyes went immediately to his crotch. "What? Who said...?"

And the universe got dumber. But she went with it. "Do we ever know who starts those small balls of rumor rolling? But it's utter hearsay, really--my advice? Pay them no mind...even if they get a little blue."

Cassidy emerged from inside, pushing past his older brother. "Let's go, Dick."

"Hi, Cassidy." Veronica greeted kindly.

It was hard to believe the two were related.

"Hey, Veronica." He shyly returned.

Dick ignored his sibling and spoke again to Veronica. "Hey, is that 'Buffy' chick seriously around somewhere? 'Cause, damn. I remember how we had this total, 'sexual magnetism' thing going on between us. It was powerful; like the Force, y'know? But not the one those Jedi guys use for doing gay flips and crossing their rainbow swords or whatever--no, it was the 'Horny Force of Love,' baby."

"Huh." Veronica crossed her arms over her chest, and cocked her head to the side in wonderment. "She must've played it real close to the vest, then."

"I know, right? But her bringing down that shoe outta the air that time? Before it like, lodged into my brain? Complete booty code for, 'Tap. This. Ass.'" He continued, leaving Veronica and Cassidy thinking that perhaps a shoe in his skull would be an improvement. "I could tell she was high maintenance though, that's why I passed her up. Decided to just step aside and let you take her; Duncan was the beard, got the message. Bet you two're already back in that familiar rhythm, aren't ya?"

The petite, blonde teen was dumbstruck. Cassidy once again urged his brother to get a move on, as Dick was the one who insisted on seeing the volleyball tournament on the beach. The women's volleyball tournament on the beach. Dick, however, wasn't quite finished.

"Relax, Beav. Not only do I applaud their lifestyle choice, I wholeheartedly encourage it." He misinterpreted Veronica's silence as paralyzing fear because she'd been outted. "And personally? I always thought summers on Mars would be hot."

It took Veronica a good minute after the brothers Casablancas were on their merry, to snap out of it and walk into the Echolls' household.

"I looked everywhere outside, and you know what I didn't see?" A recovered Veronica rhetorically asked Logan when she found him vedging in front of the TV, whose multi-Picture-In-Picture displayed the 24-hour surveillance of his abode. "A bear in a beanie riding a unicycle. Not one." She flopped down next to him on the couch, sighing. "Circuses today...what happened to standards? Barnum and Bailey have to be turning over in their graves."

"I'm sorry...I missed the part where I invited you into my house." He said rather standoffishly.

"Yeah, but then the door was there, all wide open. Isn't my fault you forgot to tell your guest monkeys to close it when leaving." She retorted. "Also? You didn't not invite me in...an apathetic, non-gesture, which throughout the world, has continually come to mean, 'Please enter my fridge and raid it.' Yeah, some small nuances get lost in the translation, but regardless, I believe the point's been made."

"Man, it must be exhausting loving yourself so constantly." He snarkily responded, grabbing the seven-iron that was laid across his coffee table prior to leaving the couch with it.

"Only if I do it right." She quipped, turning around to see him taking practice swings.

"How many would you guess I could ace from up here? Rough estimate." Logan wondered, each swing getting stronger than the one before it. "Been working on my fade shot, and I really wanna concuss the douchebag from 'E! News.'"

Veronica got up now, and clicked off the television. "That's probably not the best goal to strive for right now."

"But think of the ratings spike that's just waiting in the wings." He tried to tell her. "They'll be able to milk the footage for weeks, and this homicidal, racist, Tinsel Town wild child, gets to have a small moment of immense, personal satisfaction." Veronica frowned. "So...where's your bitch? Get loose?"

She bit the inside of her cheek. "Working."

"Which corner?"

"At the Hut." She enlightened him. "And just to clue you in, we're equal opportunity bitches; we take turns."

"Just assumed, you know, now that she's decided to grace our little cesspool with her presence again, you'd finally do it." Veronica's jaw dropped--not him, too. Had there been undertones she was unaware of? "Go to Siam, have yourselves sewn together, maybe join a freakshow...hurry, though. Her mind could change on a dime."


"How's that saying go? 'Assuming makes an ass outta you'?" Her dry wit soon gave way to a more serious tone. "Buffy didn't leave because she suddenly hated us, Logan, or why ever you think she did. She was expelled--"

"That's crap. I lost count of the number of expulsions Weevil's racked up, and yet, whaddaya know? He still manages to find his way back into those hallowed halls every year, sparkling with 'Pirate Pride.'"

"And her mom wanted to move," Veronica pressed on, getting quieter, "and you don't know the whole story."

"So what if I don't?" Logan said angrily, nearly planting the club into the wall. "In fact, I could give a rat's ass. All 'whole stories' are good for, is helping crappy situations that kind of inherently suck anyway--as the adjective, 'crappy,' implies--to plummet to fun, new levels of suck. One such story features my dad in a starring role. Can hear all about him...during the twelve hours a day they're bored with me." He smiled grimly. "Father and son, competing for airtime. Who knew I'd be following in the old man's tracks? I really hope the next step is taking Phoebe Cates from behind in the bathroom at the Oscars."

Veronica was prepared to reverse at a moment's notice. "My dad and I are the ones who put together that whole story, not Buffy. We're who you should be mad at."

"At least you stayed." Were there tears in his eyes?

Halfway through a swing, he stopped. As the club began to lower, she began to move closer. "You're not really mad at her, are you?" She reached her hand out to touch his arm as it clicked for her. "You're mad at Lilly." He didn't want to be, she was dead and it wasn't right, but he was. "Because she didn't stay."

The club dropped to the floor, and for the second time, Logan Echolls was breaking down in her arms. "If she'd never had sex with that son of a bitch..." That was as far as he got, but the rest was going to be something like, "She would've kept us all together, and my life wouldn't be this shitty mess."

When the crying stopped, he asked, "Why are you here, Veronica?"

Hmm. Good question. "Because I know," More like hope, "that if we can find out the truth about what happened on the bridge, maybe track down that witness who called 911, you'll be--"

"I don't need a detective," He interrupted her, and not just because his lawyers were going to crush the bikers even without the whole story, "I need you."

His words hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity, until Veronica, almost inaudibly said, "Okay."

Now was this because she owed him, because she couldn't say no to a broken, weeping boy who needed someone to care, or because she sincerely wanted this? Veronica chose not to dwell.


Two weeks and change after Buffy had suggested to Veronica that she get a job at "Java the Hut," she was on her second day. Seeing as how Lilly's murder was solved and Logan didn't want her help, she bit the bullet, and was more than ready to join America's bottom dollar workforce, thereby hanging up her PI hat. Much to her father's delight, obviously.

She'd left the detecting to Nancy Drew, and adopted "normal" as her watchword. Well, as normal as possible when you had a boyfriend eighty-seven percent of the country believed committed murder, and when you had a vampire slayer for a bosom buddy. A term which was not a euphemism. Besides, she'd committed to the aforementioned boyfriend.

Life had certainly calmed. Her father was back at work, and she and Buffy were joint, willing slaves to the service industry--though they drew the line at a cat-o'-nine-tails. She liked having Buffy at the house after the slavery ended for the day, too. While she cherished the company of Backup and her father, having the other girl there was...different. In a way that was just...different.

Which shed light on nothing, but hey. She was on the clock, anyhow. No time for dallying and dillying with her thoughts.

Krista, Java the Hut's manager (who was indeed nice), had been on the phone all morning dealing with some supply crisis, so Veronica was supposed to turn to the next, senior person at the Hut today, if she had any questions. That person was "Anne." A.K.A. Buffy.

"Soon you are to be explaining for why 'between name' is known here, yes?" Veronica asked in a mock Russian accent, once she gave a customer his change and receipt at the register. "Because Fearless Leader's patience shrinks tiny by moment, dahlink."

"What do you say we just make Moose and Squirrel go boom? Then maybe he care no more, eh, Natasha?" Buffy did her best to play her role.

"I wouldn't count on it, Boris." Veronica's accent was gone. "Seriously, explain? Because I seem to recall years of groundings. Groundings usually beginning with a certain moniker-pair, that slowly drove you to hate 'Anne.' Passionately."

"But she was useful when 'Buffy' wanted to disappear." The slayer reminded, wiping off the counter as Veronica came next to her.

"For the running away! Of course! How could I forget?" Veronica smacked her forehead. "Funny how quick disappearing into a new life became your average, run of the mill, 'summer vacation' though, isn't it?" She stage whispered, "Eensy tip? Next time, try dropping off the face of the earth to a place your mother wouldn't instantly think to check. Like Kazakhstan."

"Maybe I only wanted to see if she'd bother, and try clearing my head a little." Buffy put forth, and if that was the case, she was quite happy with the results. "And maybe I wanted to re-bond with you...which, so far? I'm glad I'm doing. So far."

Veronica knew Buffy meant that, despite trying to undercut the sentiment. So she did the same, slugging her on shoulder good-naturedly. "Back at ya, 'Anne.'" Then she winked, and went to play hostess for the new arrivals.

And to repeatedly say, "How is everything?" until it lost all meaning.

When she returned, Buffy was waiting for a new pot of coffee. "Where is the point in having a kitschy name if no one's gonna ask me if I speak Huttese? Where, I ask you?" She was very disappointed. "Tell me I haven't already missed the 'fanboy' crowd this week."

"Wait till Friday night."

"Sci-Fi Channel?" Veronica asked looking at the Hut's TV, and received a nod and an eye roll when her gaze returned to Buffy. "Ooh, 'Who's the hottest Cylon?' debates! Don't you just love those?"

"You've seen 'Battlestar Galactica'?"

"Nope, not a frame. Just a crapload of online polls asking, 'Who's the hottest cylon?' Still, knowing a smidge of 'Geek' does often come in handy."

Chuckle. "All I care about, is that's the night the tips get good." Buffy replied, knowing the reason for that was her feminine shape.

Veronica smirked as the coffee maker dinged. "And if you knew what planet the Goa'uld came from, they'd get great. Only gotta flash some cred, and," She snapped her fingers, "putty. In hand. I'm just sayin'."

"So you've had previous experience? With flashing?" Buffy bemusedly questioned, grabbing the pot and moving to do her rounds. "Other than as a dare, I mean."

"A girl has to be prepared to make sacrifices." Veronica said enigmatically to Buffy's back as the girl went to do refills. But when Buffy stiffened, a memory triggered, she berated herself. "Brilliant, Veronica. Way to dig right in there and just tear open that emotional wound." She hurried over to prevent the dropping of a scalding hot beverage. "Here, I got it." She freed the pot from Buffy's grip, and saw that the manager was back. "Krista, can we, uh--?"

Taking the coffee from Veronica, Krista gave the okay immediately. She'd seen Buffy's face. Sigh...just when the head-fog was starting to lift.

They entered the storage room, and Veronica led her to the bench that sat to the side of heavy, metal door that opened to the alley and dumpster. "I wanna kick my own ass, which means I wouldn't blame you if--"

"I'm fine; it's fine." Buffy uttered on autopilot, and knew how false it sounded. There was a beat, and then an exhale, "Well, I should be; have to get over it, don't I? Saved the world, greater good, can't go back..."

"...plus other 'blah, blah, blah.' Doesn't matter." Veronica said, sitting beside her on the bench, and draping an arm her shoulders. "What have we repeatedly learned, huh? Trying to set a timetable for getting over a traditional breakup becomes pointless before it's even off the ground." She paused a moment. "So, given this proven absolute, color me pretty confident as I hypothesize." She went on, unable to stop it from sounding like a college lecture. "Trying to timetable after sending a boyfriend to a non-metaphorical hell? Has to increase the pointlessness exponentially." She would've subjected her hypothesis to the scientific method, if it were possible. "If there's any lovelorn female who oughta be allowed Infinity to wallow--while listening to 'The Virgin Suicides,' naturally--it's you."

Buffy smiled gratefully, resting her head on Veronica's shoulder. "'Cept I'm already tired of wallowing. I don't wanna keep remembering the look on his face, or kissing him just before..." She sniffed, fighting off her natural inclination to succumb to tears. "I'd like to stop now, please."

Not even fleeing to her childhood home could erase those painful, final seconds with a re-ensouled Angel. But at least she had Veronica to help take the edge off. Which counted for a lot, even when, like now, they both were simply mulling over their complicated relationships in comfortable silence. As much as she enjoyed this more mature, quick-witted Veronica Mars who turned her defeats into fuel to move forward, the quiet one who just knew how to be there, was equally enjoyable.

There'd been hundreds of moments just like this through their lives, but one in particular surfaced all the sudden. Eighth grade Christmas break had just started. She'd been thirteen (soon to be fourteen; Veronica had been for four months), and they were sitting down by the waves on the beach--because winter didn't happen in California--counting hermit crab tracks in the sand. Until--

"Duncan kissed me today." Veronica had revealed, almost guiltily. "I didn't believe Lilly when she was saying he liked me, but...he kissed me. At his house. Under the mistletoe."

It felt like a long time before she'd responded to that, but she had wanted to gag.

"So you're gonna like...be a couple now?" Her tone was hard to nail down, though it sure hadn't been excited.

"I dunno. I guess we hafta be." Veronica had answered, unsure, as this would be her first boyfriend. "I mean, he's totally sweet, and cute, so why not? Besides, Lilly says you have to have a boyfriend for high school, and that everyone'll be like, insanely jealous."

"I'll bet."

It wasn't that Buffy ever hated Lilly; she just hated how Veronica worshipped her. And it was at that moment when Buffy had been on the verge of pinpointing a feeling that had steadily grown over the years. She remembered Veronica grabbing her hand, then.

"We're still gonna hang out and stuff, though. We won't stop being friends just 'cause I'll be dating him."

"I know. I just think," For some reason it slipped out of reach, and she said something other than whatever it was, "I'm gonna ask out Jason Martin."

Veronica seemed to expect something else also, but let it go. "Ooh, you should! He so checks you out in Chemistry. We could all...triple date!" Then they laughed, and that was it.

But Jason lasted about a week. All her "boyfriends" up until the destiny kicked in lasted about a week. Then no one wanted to go near her, except Veronica.

"You having lunch with Logan today?" Buffy questioned once she came back to the present.

Despite the murder charge, Clemmons couldn't deny him the right to summer school. Yet. Veronica went to the campus daily, on her break, to eat with him. Being the girlfriend.

"That's the routine." Veronica stated, then was going to volley the necessary, "Why," but instead it came out as, "Do you not want me to?"

"Why wouldn't I want you to?" Buffy picked her head up and looked semi-quizzically at her friend.

"Uh, because you don't think I'm happy with him?" Veronica saw that plainly over the last two weeks. "Might not be actively detecting anymore, Buffy, but a girl never forgets how."

Buffy didn't deny Veronica's observation of her observation. "Are you happy with him? In between the 'making out,' that is--when the hormones sleep."

"I'm guessing this isn't the best time to ask if it's okay to invite Logan along when your friends visit." Veronica was being evasive, and Buffy glared, so she sighed and got to it. "Not...completely, no. But who's ever completely happy? Honestly."

"The dwarf." Buffy quipped.

"Ha." Never had a "ha" drowned in so much sarcasm. "We should get back out there." Veronica subconsciously brushed her fingers over Buffy's as they left the bench. "I know it appears like I'm avoiding--"

That feeling was back again...

"No, you're right. We should."

...but it would have to wait.

"And how're my little 'minimum wagerers' doing this evening?" Keith asked as he put on his jacket, and was looking ready to leave as they arrived.

"Hmm...a sixty-six-year-old geriatric in a wheelchair kept calling me 'sugar lips,' and then gave my caboose a friendly 'hello' when it was time for his check." Veronica offered in answer, collapsing in the zebra striped chair. "Think he was a veteran." If the stickers on his wheelchair weren't just decoration. "Who's still making America proud." She added, chipper.

Buffy collapsed on the sofa. "I wanted to break his catheter."

"Which ultimately would've been no fun for anyone."

"Did your elderly Casanova at least tip well?" Her father queried.

"Forty-percent." Veronica said with a smile, even if he did only have a piece of $3.00 cake. "Can you imagine if I'd let him do some honking?" She gestured to her chest.

Keith addressed Buffy, speaking as the cop he was at heart. "If that man touches her again? Report him. You also have my permission to break his hip; I don't care how patriotic and enfeebled he is."

"Will do, Mr. M." Buffy promised happily.

"I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but, if it comes to that? Just don't forget how strong you are." He amended, watching her and his daughter exchange disbelieving looks. He could've been referring to the age difference, but he wasn't, and his expression said so. "I have a couple friends in the Sunnydale P.D. who like to talk about things they shouldn't. And your name's come up every once in a while."

"You knew?" The girls asked simultaneously.

"About Buffy? Only within the last year." He revealed. "But I've heard stories about Sunnydale since I was a rookie. And Vinnie, who'll take anything, hasn't touched a case even remotely connected to that town ever since the philandering husband he followed there one time, got eaten by the prostitute he was sleeping with." He grabbed his keys off the counter. "I'm just sorry I wasn't in a better position to help you a couple years ago; I held you when you were six weeks old--I knew you weren't a bad kid."

They were rather stunned, but Buffy managed to say, "Thank you."

"Hold it," Veronica said, finally realizing he was going out the door, "where ya off to? Bail jumper? Club-hopping? Power-walk?"

"Draft." He was going to have a beer?

"What kind? Yingling? Heineken? Miller Genuine? Samuel Adams? Coors? Foster's? Bud?" She rattled off.

"Wise?" Buffy jumped in.

"Er?" Veronica completed, nodding in respect at her friend for picking that up. "And precisely how drunk will you be getting?"

"Should I be frightened that my underage daughter knows the names of all those alcoholic beverages so readily?" He wondered.

"I'd be more frightened by the amount of TV she absorbs." The slayer advised him.

He smiled when his daughter held up her fist. "If you must know, the second draft of the book is finished, and the guy from the Tribune wants me to go look it over." He kissed the tops of both girls' heads. "I'll try not to be too late, Backup's been fed, and I bought stuff for homemade pizza. Dough's in the fridge...Adios."

"The second draft of the book you wanted absolutely no part in?" Veronica had to yell as he vanished, but she knew they needed the money.

Then she and Buffy did a double-take. "Did he say--?" Buffy began.

"--dough?" Veronica finished. Her father needed to stop watching the DIY Network.

But shrugging at one another, they assumed there had to be instructions, so how hard could it be?

Well, see, here's the thing. There were some problems with the flattening and the flour application and the flipping and the tossing...basically, the whole process was flawed. Skilled they were at many things, but 'culinary prowess' was sadly not among the many. There was white and red everywhere. However, at least they'd had the good sense to wear aprons over their work uniforms.

It was like a bad sitcom scene, with Backup just licking away at this rare opportunity for people food. Surveying the damage, they were frustrated, exhausted, and starving. They'd thought about calling Mac and begging her to come over and help--her family always did "homemade things" together--but it was "MythBusters Wednesday," and you didn't interrupt Mac while she was nerd-crushing on Jamie Hyneman and his moustache.

Maybe Veronica's dad was right now getting a sadistic thrill out of imagining their predicament. They wanted to scream, but when they looked at one another, the absurd humor of the whole mess came crashing down, and they lost it, falling into one another for mutual support. It must've gone on for five minutes or more; each time they thought they'd laughed their last, it began anew.

When their stomachs hurt too much to continue and their eyes were too wet to see, the feeling was there. As was the proximity and that moment of forgetting sauce and flour-stained cheeks and noses, when there was the wanting to kiss. Where it came from they knew not, but they did know there was no Angel, no Logan, and that they kept waiting for score to a John Hughes movie to swell in the background.

When their lips met, it was good; when their mouths opened, it was better; and when it was just getting great, they caught up to what their mouths were doing, and everything ceased. Except the feeling. This time, it wouldn't go away.

What does one say when such an unexpected thing occurs?

"Um, you know, Corny delivers for 'Cho's Pizza.' We could call and, um, you know, order." Veronica said in a daze. "A pizza."

"Ordering pizza is...an idea of the good." Buffy's mastery of the English language was no better.

"Then I'll just...get the phone...number."

"I'll help dial."

You know what the strangest part of kissing, and enjoying kissing Buffy Summers was for Veronica Mars? Having to acknowledge, even if only to herself, that Dick Casablancas had in this instance, been astute. That was terrifying.