A montage of scenes from a life that Don Lamb never lived. Spoilers for episode 3:14 - Mars, Bars.
"You want me to come along?" Keith asked, as Lamb strapped on his gun. "It's just that I've dealt with him before. The guy's a little unhinged."
Lamb looked at him. "I think I can handle it, Keith, but I'll tell you what. I'll give you a call if I need any backup."
At first when you wake up, you're not sure why you're here or even where 'here' is, and then the bright lights and the fact that you aren't wearing any pants tell you you're in the hospital, and the fact that your head hurts like crazy tells you why.
You try to sit up, but that only makes it hurt worse, so you lie back down, and as the pain fades to a sort of dull ache you start to remember.
A bat. Steve Batando hit you in the head with a fucking baseball bat, and if Terrence Cook and Woody Goodman weren't enough to put you off the sport, this sure as hell is.
The first person you expect to see definitely isn't Veronica Mars, but she walks into your room carrying a cup of coffee like she's been sitting there waiting for you, and you'd think that was a stupid idea if you hadn't seen the circles under her eyes. You wonder how much sleep she's had, how long she's been waiting, and you realise, amazingly, that you're the one worried about her.
She looks at you, and you could almost imagine that it's relief you see in her eyes, and you'd shake your head if it didn't hurt so damn much.
"I could use some of that coffee," you manage to say, and she hands it to you wordlessly. You can smell her as she leans over you, and she doesn't smell good, except that she does, because she smells like Veronica, and you wonder exactly when it was that you learned what she smells like.
"I'm sorry," you say after an eternity, and you both pretend that you don't know exactly what you're apologising for, but you do. And somehow, that's all that you needed to say, because she looks at you with something a little less like hatred in her eyes, and you know you've reached some kind of understanding, mostly because she doesn't smother you with a pillow while you lie there incapacitated.
Lamb left the car at a run, Sacks beside him. Unhinged, Keith had said, and for once, Lamb thought the former Sheriff might be right.
He opened the gate, looking toward the house. The door was open, smashed. "Make sure he doesn't slip out," he said to Sacks.
She comes back the next day, and you'd think it was some kind of fluke, but she's there every day afterwards, always at the same time, like she actually made a spot to see you in her schedule.
She crawls into the bed next to you, and you think that you're dreaming, because the real Veronica Mars wouldn't do that, wouldn't look at you like she's actually glad you're alive, and bring you coffee even though you're not allowed it, and tell you that Sacks is okay even though he shot a man and is now running the department all by himself, and looks like he's going to crack at any moment.
But later you think you're not dreaming, because fantasy Veronica wouldn't take up way more than half the bed and hog the remote and steal your jell-o, even though you told her it's the only part of these damn hospital lunches you can actually stomach.
She keeps bringing you coffee, though, and Veronica Mars bringing you coffee in bed is one of those fantasies you never even let yourself entertain, because it's just too wrong; but this, somehow, this is so wrong it's right.
Lamb moved up to the house quickly, holding his gun in front of him. Sacks stayed at the gate, almost certainly watching Lamb nervously. He stepped through the door.
She keeps coming to see you at lunchtime, even after you're released, when you're back at the office and Sacks is relieved, but he tells you he's thinking about shaving off his moustache.
She brings you coffee, with milk in it even though she knows you don't take it that way, and she tells you about classes and her friends, and you actually care.
You pretend you don't see her looking through your case files when you leave, because you love the way she looks when she's piecing clues together. The first time she solves a case for you, you don't even mind, and you tell yourself it's because you hated that case anyway and at least now it's solved, but really it's because when you walk into your office and read the note in her handwriting it makes you smile, and the note is still warm to the touch.
When you haul the bad guy in she stands back and lets you take the credit, and there's a lot of credit, because it was a big case. She comes to the press conference and stands in the back and looks at you like she's proud of you, and you think that's when you started to fall in love with her, except that you know you really started to fall in love with her a long time ago.
The next time she brings you lunch - and you realise you've been expecting it, because you don't even ask Sacks to get you anything when he goes out - she brings you jell-o. She lets you have three bites before she steals it back off you, and you think she must have made it herself because it hasn't fully dissolved yet, and there are crystals sticking to her bottom lip. You're kissing them off her before you can stop yourself, only instead of pushing you away or slapping you or storming off she's kissing you back.
You kiss Veronica Mars until you think you're going to die, kiss her until she's propped up on your desk and her legs are wrapped around your waist, and she tastes like mango jell-o and you think this is the closest you're ever going to get to heaven.
Lamb entered the garage slowly, looking around. The Volvo was in the garage, and he spared it a glance as he passed. Taking a breath, he opened the door to the kitchen, and moved forward into the house.
You don't know if you expected her to keep coming around after that, and you think you might have gone to her and risked Keith's shotgun blast to your stomach if she didn't, but she does, and she smiles at you as she walks into your office.
This isn't about sex, you know that, because you haven't had sex yet, actually, but it sure as hell isn't about lunch, and she kisses you like she could walk right through you. You think it's possible that you woke up just for her touch, and sometimes you wonder if you ever even woke up at all.
Somewhere along the line all of this becomes normal, so much so that you forget it's supposed to be a secret, and when the call comes in that a silver Saturn was involved in a head-on collision on the PCH you're out there before you even have time to think.
She's huddled against the ambulance when you arrive, looking small and shaken, and you wrap her in your arms and try not to think about the gash on her forehead or the fact that if she'd been going any faster she wouldn't be standing there at all. You kiss her throat and her jaw and her lips, and when the background noise stops and you look up, it takes you four and a half seconds to realise that nobody else knows about this, except that now they do, and you hope that Keith isn't listening in on his police band radio, because you're pretty sure that Sacks just broadcast all of that.
"You better hide, you crazy bitch!"
Lamb looked up as he heard the sound of breaking glass. He headed up the stairs.
A lot of people hit you once word gets around that you're dating Veronica Mars. Keith is first, which you think is really only fitting, and you can't even begrudge him the punch that sends you sprawling to the ground. You're surprised he only used his fists; you'd half expected him to come after you with a baseball bat
and at that, everything goes black for a second, and your head really hurts
or a gun, because after all, you'd touched his little girl, and even you - especially you - know you don't deserve her. But he holds out his hand after that and helps you to your feet, and he fixes you with a look that says if you hurt her, I will kill you but he doesn't come right out and say it, which you choose to take as a good sign. And now you know why everyone talks about him as Sheriff the way they do, because that stare is fucking intimidating.
Logan Echolls is next, and you're pretty sure you don't deserve that one. You don't hit him back, because you're the Sheriff, but damned if it isn't tempting; and if Veronica wasn't right there and would probably be the one to help him get out of it, you'd haul him into the station and arrest him on charges of assaulting an officer of the law. But she just looks at you and draws him aside, and you know you shouldn't be jealous, because it's not like she's going to start kissing him right there in front of you, but you are anyway. When they're done, his look says even if you don't hurt her, I'm still going to kill you, but she comes up and kisses the spot on your chin where the bruise is already starting to form, and you couldn't care less about anyone who's not blonde and petite and in your arms right now.
Eli Navarro hits someone who looks faintly like you in a bar room brawl, and you let it slide, because people who look like you shouldn't be getting into bar room brawls, anyway. You're too pretty.
Wallace Fennel - Veronica told you his name like it was important, and you remembered to remember it - looks like he wants to hit you, but he just looks at you instead, and his stare is so eerily like Keith's that you wonder if they're not somehow related.
Sacks hits you on the shoulder like he's congratulating you, and you're not really sure that's appropriate, but you don't say anything. You don't think you really like him without his moustache, but you don't say anything about that, either.
Vinnie Vanlowe hits you on the shoulder like he's pretending to congratulate you, but he hits hard, and his muttered "congratulations" sounds more like a threat than anything you think you've ever heard.
Cliff McCormack doesn't hit you, just picks lint off your shoulder threateningly, and you never even knew it was possible to pick lint off someone's shoulder threateningly until today.
When you're pretty sure you can't take any more bruises, Keith invites you over to cook for you, and when your dinner isn't poisoned, you're pretty sure the worst of it is over.
As he reached the top of the stairs, Lamb pulled the door open carefully. He moved forward slowly, still holding his gun, and fired as he saw someone move beside him.
He breathed out. Just a mirror. Fuck.
When you propose to her, you half expect her to look at you and say that this was all a joke, that she's flying off with Logan Echolls or Duncan Kane tomorrow and they're going to laugh about how she made Don Lamb fall in love with her. But she just looks at you, her eyes shining like she didn't know this was coming from the moment you asked her out tonight, from the moment you first kissed, and she smiles at you and takes the ring and breathes "yes."
She's laughing, then, and it's not laughing at you because you're laughing too, and you can't shake the feeling that this is all a dream, that you're laying in a ditch somewhere
or in a hospital bed, or on Mindy O'Dell's floor
and these are just the passing fantasies of a dying man, but when she pulls you towards her she's there, so tangible it seems like nothing else in the world is real. When she kisses you you can taste her, and this can't be a dream because your dreams don't taste like manicotti, and your imagination has never been that good, anyway.
Lamb shook his head in disgust, lowering his gun as he looked at the shattered mirror.
He didn't see Steve Batando creeping up behind him until it was too late.
You come home to her smiling every day because there's something about Veronica Mars that makes you incapable of feeling anything other than joy, even when your shirt is covered in blood that's not yours
because yours is already gone, it's all over the floor
and you've had the worst day of your entire life, because it can't be the worst day of your life if she's kissing you
or if you're already dead
even if you've been having these weird blackouts lately, because she's real, even if nothing else is.
She bakes for you, and you used to think that everything should be symmetrical until you met her, but now you think it's perfect that everything she makes leans a little to the left.
You skim your hands over her stomach, which is already starting to curve a little. She says "I've got a bun in the oven," and you laugh until she points to the kitchen, and your life is perfect because she's pregnant and she's actually got a bun in the oven, and she's the only person you know who would go that far just to make a pun. She opens the oven door, and the smell fills the house, and it smells like coming home.
"You like that? Huh?"
Sacks shot Batando as he raised the bat for the third time. As Batando slumped against the wall, he crouched down over Lamb.
"Sheriff?" He shook Lamb, who groaned.
"I smell bread."