Pairing/Character: Logan/Veronica

Word Count: 3964; 540 of this belongs to the poem. Blame me for the rest.

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Fluffy and rambling. Holiday themes.

Spoilers: 3.09 to be safe, but nothing really specific.

Disclaimer: Veronica Mars is not mine. Neither is "The Night Before Christmas".

Author's Note 1: The poem "The Night Before Christmas" is bold.

Author's Note 2: I've learned that once I get Veronica and Logan snarking, my biggest problem is figuring out how to get them to shut up and get on topic. This was a holiday self indulgence, so I didn't even try to rein them in. As a result, the fic is a bit disjointed and rambling, but maybe someone else will find it amusing. As always, thanks and love to vagajammer, who stopped laughing long enough to read this thing through. I'm still not sure if he was laughing at the fic, or at me for writing the fic.

The Snark Before Christmas

The Christmas tree, a six-foot Douglas fir, dominated the corner and wreathed the room in the scent of evergreen. Ornaments ranging from ornate and expensive to homely and homemade hung on the branches, gaily contrasting against the dark green needles and silver garland and thinly veiled by the tinsel draped on the tips of every bough. The shine of the myriad tiny colored lights that wound around the tree refracted off the ornaments, garland and tinsel, filling the corner with a magical, otherworldly aura and providing the only light in the room.

Logan lounged on the overstuffed sofa, nearly mesmerized by both the soft glow of the lights and the warm glow of contentment. His feisty little blonde sprawled in his lap, her feet propped up on the arm of the sofa and her eyes half closed as she hummed along with the holiday music playing softly on their stereo. He could hardly believe it was their second Christmas living together, their second year of holiday squabbles and amusement as they forged their own memories and founded their own holiday traditions.

One of which was, apparently, to see how much of the tinsel could be transferred from branch tips to tree admirers, and then carried everywhere else. While he couldn't imagine the tree without the silvery cloak, the clingy stuff did manage to turn up in the oddest places. Stuck to the head of his always-inquisitive beloved was an increasingly common location. He removed the strands of tinsel from Veronica's hair and dangled them in front of her nose. "Been browsing under the tree again, O curious one?"

She was the picture of innocence. "They're multiplying. I just needed to see how far the breeding project had gone and what the count was at."

"In two days you get to open them. You could wait and count your haul then."

"Yeah, but half the fun is looking at all the prettily wrapped packages, wondering what's inside."

He grinned fondly at his girlfriend. Watching Veronica crawl around the tree, picking up and shaking every gift as she carefully analyzed size, weight, and probable contents, had become one of his most treasured Christmas memories. The sheer single-minded enthusiasm she brought to the task had stripped away years of bitter Christmases and reawakened a holiday spirit he thought long lost. Christmas was a holiday of family, not spectacle, something he had needed true family to appreciate. Veronica had become the foundation of that family.

He trailed a finger down her arm. "You do realize I learned from all the prodding and shaking you did last year and disguised them this time."

"I'm counting on it," she said perkily, laughter twitching at the corners of her lips and lighting up her eyes. "There's no challenge if everything is easily identified."

"Woe upon those who fail to challenge the illustrious Veronica Mars, PI extraordinaire."

"Hey, I'm only living the glamorous PI life until I get through grad school. Then it's government service for me."

He would almost be relieved when she left graduate school for Quantico. The combination of her relentless drive, the psychology department's stringent PhD requirements, and an advisor with less understanding of the word 'rest' than Veronica, had worn his girlfriend to the bone this past semester.

"You'll be the most adorable little agent in the field." He bent his head and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "If you ever figure out how to play well with others, that is."

She rolled her eyes and mock glared at him. "If all you're gonna do is insult me, shall we get the show on the road? I have better things to do tonight than listen to you talk."

"Things?" he said, amused. "Since when have I been reduced to an inanimate object?"

"Since you spent the last hour staring at the tree instead of entertaining me by reading 'The Night Before Christmas' like you promised." Her tone was serious but her eyes danced.

"Wait, don't I need to talk if I'm reading to you? Or have you picked up some nifty telepathic tricks in those psychology classes?"

She closed her eyes tight and brought a hand to her forehead. "Right now . . . I sense . . . you're gonna read me the story!"

He laughed. "Well, if you insist." He twisted and stretched, grabbing the book from the table behind the sofa and placing it on his knees where both he and Veronica--if she chose to open her eyes and turn her head--could see. He idly stroked her hair as he spoke.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

"Well, actually it's a condo," she said thoughtfully.

He stopped reading and raised an eyebrow at Veronica, a futile gesture since her eyes were still closed. "In the book it's a house, smartass."

Ignoring him, she continued her nitpicking. "And tonight's the night before Christmas Eve, not the night before Christmas."

"Babe, you're the one that wanted me to read." He tapped her head with the book. "Are you gonna get into the spirit of this thing, or are you going to sit there snarking at me all night?

"Well . . ." She gave a put-upon sigh and waved at him to continue in a gesture Logan recognized as stolen from his own repertoire of over exaggerated motions. "Go on, go on." She settled herself deeper into his lap, primly crossing her arms across her chest. He waited to see if she would make another comment, reading on when she remained silent.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

She opened her eyes and looked around. "Better not be a mouse in here."

"Well, if you hadn't left Christmas cookie crumbs all over the couch . . ."

"Hey! You're complicit in the crumb-scattering!"

"And in the attempts at crumb cleaning, I know." He grinned, remembering the particular incident that led to the destruction of cookies and the scattering of crumbs and smearing of icing on the couch, the rug, and the hardwood floor. Both that and the hour they had spent in the shower trying to scrub cookie remnants from each other placed high on his list of favorite holiday memories. While their efforts to wash away the evidence that had stuck to their bodies had been pleasurable and highly successful, their attempts to repair the rest of the damage had been less so. "You let me hire a maid to come in a couple days a week, remnants of our food adventures wouldn't be lingering weeks later."

"We'll talk after the holidays." Her acquiescence surprised him. Every other time they had discussed the issue, Veronica had brushed away the suggestion of outside help, claiming they were doing fine on their own. Either the cookie incident or the exhaustion of the previous semester had changed her mind.

Logan wasn't sure if her sudden softening was a good sign or not, but he would worry about that later. Now, he had a Christmas poem to get through and undoubtedly more interruptions waiting to derail him.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

"Hmm. Chimney. I've heard of such things. Not much seen in Southern California."

"We'll buy a place in Colorado, do Christmas there next year. The two of us all snuggled by the fire, chimney to hang the stockings on, snow covering the landscape outside . . ."

"Blocked in by the snow, unable to get out . . ."

"Sounds even better." He'd offered the house as a joke, but the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of a second residence in an isolated location, somewhere that could serve as a retreat from their stressful and hectic lives.

She laughed. "My loving dad, glaring daggers at my boyfriend because he couldn't get me back to Neptune for the holidays . . ."

The introduction of her father jolted him back to reality. He really didn't want to piss off the senior Mars. Especially now. "Duly noted. We'll schedule the private celebration for after the holidays."

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

"Children?"

Logan almost didn't hear the soft question, spoken with equal parts fearfulness and wistfulness. They had always sidestepped the issue, respectful of each other's scars and hesitant to commit one way or the other. He stared at the tree, trying to put his competing emotions into perspective. He wasn't his father, he knew that, but he was terrified of screwing up a small, fragile life dependent on him.

He looked into her carefully blank eyes and ran a finger along her cheek. If he wasn't his father, this small, frighteningly strong woman curled against him most definitely wasn't his mother. Together, they had already survived hell. Certainly the two of them could survive a hellion. He nodded firmly. "Someday. If you want."

Startled, her eyes darted over his face and she studied his expression. Whatever she was looking for she found, for she returned his nod. "Someday."

He fought down the lump in his throat and wrapped his arms around her. There weren't enough words in any language to describe how much he loved this woman.

After a few minutes Veronica picked up the book that had fallen to the floor. She wrinkled her nose as she handed it to him. "Any idea what a sugar-plum is?"

"Dunno." He took the book from her. "Some type of old fashioned candy?"

She shrugged and settled against his chest as he continued reading.

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

"You'd look cute in one of those old fashioned sleeping caps," she said, playing with his hair.

"Not in this lifetime." He returned to the story before she could make further comments on headwear.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

"They obviously live in Neptune and know better than to contact the Sheriff's Department."

He grinned. "'Course in Neptune, it'd probably be the PCH Bike Club causing a disturbance."

"Or rabid psycho fans."

"Rabid PCH'ers?" he countered, enjoying the image of Eli Navarro foaming at the mouth.

"Psycho fans on bikes and PCP?" she immediately shot back.

He snorted. "This is Neptune, not Sunnydale."

"Really?" Veronica asked. "'Cause y'know, the presence of a Hellmouth here would explain a lot."

"The lack of a gaping crater where we live rules out Sunnydale."

"Still doesn't rule out the Hellmouth."

He thought about that for a moment then nodded. "I'll concede the point."

"What?" She gasped and made a show of lifting her hand to his forehead to check his temperature. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Nah, Buffy, I just agree that Neptune is a nexus of evil energy."

She dissolved into giggles.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

This time Logan paused, glancing at Veronica. "Of course, that would be you, not me, jumping up and getting involved without thinking about it."

"And you'd do what, call the Sheriff's Department?" she asked disbelievingly.

"Call the private security company I'd have on retainer." Veronica sat up, staring at him with a knowing smirk. She planted her hands on his shoulders and refused to let him get any closer until he grudgingly admitted, "And I'd beat up the idiots disturbing us while I was waiting."

She gave a satisfied nod. "Pot, meet kettle."

"Hey, at least now you're admitting that we're more alike than different." He leaned forward and grabbed a kiss before she swatted him. "It's definitely progress . . . although progress always does seem to be painful when you're involved."

"Read, Echolls." Her growl was undermined by her laughter.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his chest.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

"Hmm. Snow. And I repeat: Southern California."

"Hmm. Breast." He grinned suggestively, waggling his eyebrows. She rolled her eyes. "And I repeat: place in Colorado."

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

"Why reindeer, I wonder?" Veronica examined the pictures in the book.

Logan shrugged. "'Cause ponies don't live at the North Pole. And they don't fly."

"Neither can reindeer."

"These are special magical reindeer."

"Then why not use special magical ponies? Or maybe unicorns?"

He smirked and tapped her on the nose. "Just to thwart you, I'm sure."

Veronica gave a put-upon sigh. "That's what I figured."

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Logan couldn't resist this one. "Yes, Veronica, there is a Santa Claus."

"So, how do we know that this is the real St. Nick, and not one of the millions of imposters littering the streets during the holidays?"

He blinked at the question. "The sleigh and magical reindeer are probably the tip-off."

"Could be a fake sleigh and fake reindeer," she countered. "I'd need more evidence."

"The author of the poem didn't have a past as a pathologically suspicious private eye."

"Are you saying I have trust issues?"

"Are you saying you don't?"

" . . . I trust you." Despite the pause, her words were firm and free of reservation.

Muscles he hadn't even known were tense relaxed. "Then it's not an issue."

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

Veronica shook her head. "Who names reindeer things like that?"

"Who names a dog Backup?"

While the look she shot him fell short of killing strength, it did convey her opinion that he was an idiot. "Come on, Logan, Cupid? What is he, the matchmaker of the reindeer?"

"And Vixen is obviously the femme fatale."

"What's up with 'Donder', anyway?" She touched her finger to the name. "I thought it was Donner."

This he knew, and could provide references. "Actually, the original was Dunder, later changed to Donder, and finally to Donner. Same with Blitzen; originally it was Blixem. Dunder and Blixem means thunder and lightning in . . . umm . . . Dutch, I think."

She stared at him like he was a two-headed alien. "You don't know what sugar plums are, but you know all that?"

"I did a report on it in fifth grade," he said defensively. "It stuck with me."

"And yet you can't remember to take out the trash?"

"Trash is less interesting than trivia." At the look of feminine annoyance, he stopped pushing his luck and refocused on the poem.

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

Veronica tilted her head. "If they can fly, what the heck were they doing on the lawn earlier?"

He shrugged. "Posing for dramatic effect?"

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

"And then in the next twinkling," Veronica quipped, "he gets shot by the suspicious and paranoid homeowner who's unhappy to find someone breaking in by chimney."

He glanced at the blonde head resting under his chin. "He is Santa Claus. Some people take things at face value."

"Some people are idiots."

"Well, yes."

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

"Even more reason to shoot him."

He shook his head, grinning. "You really do have trust issues, y'know." He tried to take the sting out of the words by kissing the top of her head.

"Doesn't mean I'm wrong." She pouted at him. "And now you are saying I have trust issues."

He knew he shouldn't needle her about her persistent inability to trust just about everyone, but sometimes it was just too damned fun and she made it too damned easy. It was part of the self-destructive jackass behavior he generally fought to suppress. Besides, the important thing was that she trusted him; the rest of the world could wait their turn.

He ran a soothing hand along her hip. "He may have broken in, but he is Santa Claus," he said coaxingly. "He could have brought you a pony, y'know."

She gestured for him to go on, her expression still sulky; the crinkle at the corner of her eyes betrayed her amusement. Logan thought the way her bottom lip stuck out was absolutely adorable, but chose not to say anything. He didn't want to actually hurt her feelings. Or worse, encourage her.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

"So, what, he uses Elven magic to charm his victims?" Veronica asked, interrupting the longest stretch she had allowed him to read. "Befuddles them until they don't have the faintest hint of common sense?" She glared at the picture of the joyful, roly-poly Santa Claus, her expression caught between indignant and insulted.

He burst out laughing; he couldn't help it. "Love," he said, fighting to get the words out between snickers, "not even Santa could charm you against your will."

"You can, even when I don't want you to."

"Really?"

"Mmmhmm," she murmured, leaning into his shoulder. "Why else do you think I keep you around."

"My rugged good looks?" he joked, more touched than he wanted to admit.

"That's just a lucky bonus."

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

She tilted her head and pursed her lips. "So Santa Claus has the spells 'Charm Person' and 'Levitate'?"

"And a Bag of Holding to cart around all that loot." Logan couldn't believe he had remembered the reference, and since to his knowledge she'd never been involved in any youthful roleplaying exploits, he had even less clue how Veronica knew it. "Do I even want to know why you can cite spells from Dungeons and Dragons?"

A loud trill interrupted her answer. She pulled the phone out of her pocket and checked the screen, waving a hand distractedly. "Case, years ago. I'm still trying to scrub the whole experience from my brain." She flipped open the phone. "Hi dad!"

Logan idly ran his fingers through her hair as she chatted with her father, paying no attention to the specifics of the banter but marveling at the love and affection laced throughout her voice and words. He had never had that sort of familial bond until Veronica, her father, and her small but tight circle of friends wove themselves into his life. Every day he was grateful he had become part of her family.

He glanced down at the book and realized he had four lines left. Veronica was saying her goodbyes, so he started reading again.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

Veronica stuck her tongue out at him for his audacity in continuing to read without her. She finished up the conversation with an offhand comment about his rudeness, chuckling at whatever her father said in reply--probably something about her own tendencies in that direction. "Dad says we're getting lumps of coal in our stockings if we aren't there promptly for dinner tomorrow night," she said as she hung up the phone. "Oh, and he mentioned something about shotguns and honorable intentions."

He could all but hear Keith say it, especially given their conversation last week. "Prompt we will be. And I'm feeling less than loved by your father."

"He loves you." She smiled brightly. "He just loves me more."

"Speaking of stockings and lumps of coal . . . " He reached down and drew out the stocking he had hidden underneath the pillows, dangling it in front of Veronica.

She grinned happily and grabbed at it, fingering the sumptuous red velvet and lightly tracing the gold thread spelling out her name. She prodded the small lump in the foot. "A lump of coal in a pretty, pretty package! Just what I always wanted! However did you know?"

"Well, I do know exactly how naughty you've been this year, and I'd be glad to relive those memories . . ." He trailed off suggestively, but she ignored him in favor of the gift.

She reached in and pulled out the small black box, flipping the lid open to reveal the diamond-crowned ring inside. Her eyes were wide when she looked up at him a lifetime later. "Logan . . . ?" Her voice shook, and he could see tears gathering.

After so many years with Veronica, Logan had become an expert at reading the slightest nuances of her expressions. The pounding of his heart and the unreasoning terror that despite everything they had built she was going to regress to skittish and bolt decimated his usual uncanny ability to interpret her moods. A number of different emotions flickered across her face, and he was helpless to read a single one.

Her long silence unnerved him. "Veroni--"

That was all he got out before she threw herself into his arms, fusing her lips with his. His world started again.

"Yes!" she murmured fiercely when they broke apart to breathe. "Yes, I'll marry you."

He laughed, relieved she had said yes, awed that she wanted him, and gloating that she was his. He drew back further so he could see her face. "Do I get to properly ask the question?"

"The ring was the question." She dove back in for another kiss, warm hands running under his shirt and up his sides. "This is the answer."

He tossed the book aside and reached for her. He couldn't care less about founding Christmas traditions when there was a warm and willing Veronica straddling his hips. His head thumped back on the couch as she proceeded to demonstrate exactly how naughty she could be.

Logan shuddered as Veronica breathed the last lines of "The Night Before Christmas" against his skin:

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."