TITLE: Going Out
CHARACTER/PAIRING: Casey/Veronica, Veronica POV, Wallace
SPOILERS: Diverges from canon after 122, with random references to 109
SUMMARY: Sequel to Going Greek, but you don't really need to read that one to understand this one. But, following the end of that story, Veronica is going out on her first date with Casey.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Although I'd jump at the chance to even rent Casey for a few hours ...
GENERAL NOTES: Written for vm-have-a-day challenge coordinated by the totally awesome sarah-p. Challenge prompt is at the end of the fic. Concrit is always appreciated, and all mistakes herein are mine.

"Are you going to Logan's party on Friday?"

"Dean and I aren't invited. After all, he is on the soccer team with Duncan."

"God, I forgot. I can't believe Logan considers your boyfriend to be one of the 'enemy' just because he's chases a ball around a field with his archrival."

"It's not your fault. This is all because of that vindictive bitch Veronica Mars. If only she hadn't – "

The girl's voice cuts off as the very same Veronica Mars steps out of the dimly-lit bathroom stall with a saccharine smile on her face. She feels a surge of victory when their faces fall and the traces of panic appear in their eyes.

"If only I hadn't … " she begins, speaking slowly as if prompting a dim-witted child. "What were you about to say? If only I hadn't made it my life's work – after being shunned by you, my fabulous friends – to get both Logan and Duncan to fall for me? If only I hadn't used some sort of romantic sorcery to play them against each other so that everyone's senior year would turn into a living hell? What were you going to say, Lindsay?"

The drip-drop of water from the sink is the only audible response.

"Well, clearly, my evil plan has succeeded as I've eliminated Lindsay's opportunity to get drunk and wasted at Logan's on Friday."

She moves towards the sinks, purposefully moving between the two still-silent girls. She reluctantly resists the urge to "accidentally" splash them both with water. Still, she can't deny the opportunity to launch one last parting shot.

"Word to the wise? College parties are much better."

- - -

"So I hear I missed out on a catfight in your office this morning," Wallace opens as he sets his tray down on what has become "their" lunch table over the past year and a half.

"Only two weeks and three days until finals, and then I am done," Veronica responds with a sigh.

"I'll miss you next semester," her friend replies.

Given popular opinion at Neptune High, she's become accustomed to deflecting emotional comments aimed in her direction. But Wallace is her best friend, and she knows he's sincere.

"I know you will – and I'll miss you too. But hopefully some of the animosity will die down next semester without me around. Besides, it's not like people fall off the face of the earth after they graduate from high school."

"Do you think that could be arranged?"

"Yeah, you're really going to miss me," she mutters, rolling her eyes and evoking a laugh from Wallace.

Moments later she's startled to feel her phone vibrating in her pocket, and she idly wonders what sort of infantile prank call she'll be treated to today. Then, she notices the name on her caller ID, which causes a wide smile to spread across her face.


"How's your day going?"

"It's half-over," she offers half-heartedly.

"That great, huh?" he asks idly, pausing for a beat before getting to the point of his phone call. "We're still on for Friday, right?"

"Seven o'clock at your apartment," she responds, causing Wallace to quirk an eyebrow. Casey Gant, she mouths, and Wallace grins knowingly in response. She kicks herself for alluding to her date in the first place – she had her reasons for not telling Wallace before, and now all that had come undone.

"Actually, I was thinking that my parents' house would work out better. You've never been there before, have you?"

"No, but I can find it," she responds with a laugh.

"Of course – I can't believe I forgot who I was talking to here," he teases, causing her to laugh again. If only people here in Neptune could make that same mistake. "I should let you finish your lunch. Say hi to Wallace for me, and I'll see you on Friday. Wear something comfortable, something casual, something you can get dirty, okay?"

"What are we doing?" she asks, her curiosity piqued.

"Come on now, Veronica. You need to have some surprises in your life, don't you?"

And then he disconnects, almost as if he's daring her to figure out what he's planning.

"Now what on earth do you have planned for Friday with Mister Casey Gant?" Wallace questions, a pseudo-innocent expression on his face. "Has one Veronica Mars taken back her vow to avoid everything male and breathing – one BFF notwithstanding?"

"Ah," she returns with a conspiratorial grin, "Those with a maturity level above that of a seven year old were automatically excluded. You just happen to be the only guy at Neptune High who fits those qualifications."

"Lucky me," Wallace grumbles, a teasing twinkle in his eye.

"No," Veronica says softly. "Lucky me."

- - -

Three days later, Veronica approaches the front door of the Gant mansion. She's too accustomed to the pretentious 09'er houses to be impressed by the pillared entryway, but she still can't help but note that it gives off a very regal impression, implying that the Gants are from old money. They're not, of course – Casey's grandmother started the publishing country that amassed the family fortune – and Veronica can't help but think that this architectural design was more likely commissioned by Casey's parents and their sense of entitlement than by his beloved and hard-working grandmother.

Not that it really matters. It's just something for her to think about, to keep her mind off the act that she was unable to uncover much of anything about Casey's plans for the night.

Oh, sure, she knows what they're not doing. They're not going out to dinner at any of the more popular "romantic" hotspots from San Diego to Los Angeles. He doesn't have tickets – in his name, at least – to the symphony or the ballet or anything else of that mind-numbing nature, thankfully. What's more, after leaving LA the previous afternoon, after his last class of the day, he apparently went straight to his home – not even stopping for gas – and hasn't left since.

Or, at the very least, his cell phone hasn't left his family's property. One of the most appealing things about dating Casey is that he knows her - really knows her – better than the masses at Neptune High do. This, however, appears to be more than a slight downside.

Regardless, either he's been preparing for tonight for awhile – always a possibility when she's dealing with Casey – or he's got next to nothing planned. And at this point, after her failed relationship attempts and reattempts with Duncan and Logan, Veronica doesn't know which she prefers.

So she steps forward and rings the doorbell, unsure if her denim capris and fitted forest green tank are appropriate for whatever he has in mind. He said "casual," and without any other clues to go by, Veronica had no choice but to do as he directed.

"Hey, Veronica," Casey greets her with a warm smile, and she resists the urge to let out a sigh of relief as she takes in his blue jean clad self. He turns to usher her into the house, and she can't help but notice how good he looks in his well-worn jeans and tight-fitting blue tee.

"I hope you're hungry," he says, and Veronica half-hopes that he isn't just referring to food.

- - -

Five minutes later, Veronica is seated at a picnic table in Casey's backyard, and this whole scenario is just surreal. Duncan and Logan had both tried to wine and dine her, wanting to impress her with their seemingly endless wealth. Casey, on the other hand, didn't seem to give his exorbitant bank account a second thought while planning their dinner, and it was a refreshing change.

She's tired of being a prize, as if she could be purchased – in a roundabout way – if enough money is thrown in her direction. If she's learned anything in the years since Lilly has died it's that she doesn't need money to be happy. Not that the Marses ever had all that much money to begin with, but for awhile there, she was almost like a surrogate Kane child since she spent so much time with Lilly and Duncan. While it was a nice lifestyle it isn't one that she needs to be happy.

She dwells for a moment on the fact that Duncan and Logan may never need to learn that, may never get to learn that, but she tears her thoughts away shortly after, not wanting to think of either of her dramarific exes. No, it is much better, and much more enjoyable, to think about the man grilling out before her very eyes.

Casey is just full of surprises.

"Now, I'm nowhere near the master chef that Django is," he begins, a twinkle in his eyes as he places a steaming hamburger on the plate before her, "but I'm pretty sure that I can handle grilling some ground beef. I hope."

"I'm sure it's fine, Casey," she agrees, reaching for the relishes he's set out on the wooden tabletop.

"And," he says, pausing a few moments for effect as he pulls a few more things off the grill, "a little bird told me that having baked potatoes would the key to winning your heart."

"You have an excellent source," she agrees, unable to stop the megawatt smile from lighting up her face. She can't believe that something as simple as stupid potatoes can make her so happy, but really, it's more the fact that he cared enough to try to find out what she'd enjoy. "Keep me in potatoes, and I'll be your willing slave."

"Is that so?" Casey queries, a half-teasing and half-curious look on his very expressive face that causes her heart to leap unexpectedly. She hasn't felt this way about anyone in a very long time.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Casey offers a moment later. After a nod and a smile from Veronica, he asks, "Okay. Did you want that on the rocks?"

"What're we drinking?" she asks, working to keep her confusion from her voice. While she has no illusions about the fact that Casey likes to have a drink now and again, she thought that he wouldn't have felt a need to mix alcohol into their low-key, relaxed date.

"Kool-aid," he responds, his eyes wide in mock-innocence. "What were you expecting, Mars?"

"No expectations. Just curiosity," she replies evenly, seeing the good humor sparkling in his brown orbs. He'd baited her intentionally. Being around Casey kept her on her toes, kept her thinking.

She liked it.

- - -

After roasting marshmallows - marshmallows! – and making s'mores filled with chocolaty goodness, Casey suggests that they take a walk in the copse of trees behind the Gant family home to see the stars shining brightly in the clear night sky. She's skeptical of his true intentions – after all, how many teenage boys would prefer stargazing to smooching?

Not that she's against making out with Casey – not in the least. It's actually something that she has missed about not being in a relationship for the past few months. Her life is simpler without a boyfriend, and she doesn't miss being torn between two one-time best friends or the drama that was associated with it all. Still, it's nice to be close to a boy, to kiss and cuddle and let the rest of the world fade away for at least a few hours.

When she sees the warm blanket Casey has laid out atop the grass in the clearing, her suspicions are confirmed. With a raised eyebrow, she pulls her hand from Casey's grasp and nonverbally demands an explanation.

She's not sure why she's really objecting to the situation, especially now that her hand misses the comforting warmth of their intertwined fingers, but she can't help but feel that if she didn't at least question it, she wouldn't be true to herself.

Casey, however, doesn't respond to her body language and facial expressions and instead walks to the blanket and reclines easily, hands behind his head, inhaling deeply as he sets his sights on the expanse of sky above him.

"We're in luck - it's a clear night, perfect for stargazing."

Veronica can't believe this – could Casey actually be serious? She almost asks but instead decides that she'll play along for now. The idea of curling up beside the older boy as he points out various constellations – whether scientific or imaginary in nature – is very appealing.

So Veronica joins him on the blanket, breathing in his musky, spicy scent. Her head rests on his shoulder as he wraps his arm around her back, and she thinks of how right this feels.

"So what's all up there?" she asks, not caring about revealing her ignorance. She's never really cared about stargazing before, but maybe she just never had proper motivation.

"Stars, planets, moons," Casey replies, his fingers playing with the ends of her shoulder-length hair. "Like, right now, I can see Mars."

"Really?" she questions, turning to look at him. She blushes when she sees that he's been staring at her. She's Mars, of course.

Casey lays an open-mouthed kiss on her temple. Her heart races, and suddenly her embarrassment as being so easily misled is the last thing on her mind.

- - -

Much, much later that night, after Veronica realizes that she really should be heading home at some point if she wants to make it home before her dad realizes just how late she was out with Casey, the pair walks slowly back towards his house and her car. His arm is threaded over her shoulders and their fingers entwined, and this night has exceeded her greatest expectations.

"So who was your 'source'?" she asks, gazing up at him with a very coy expression on her face.

"Veronica, I'm sure you of all people understand the importance of protecting your sources."

"No, I know. I won't tell Wallace that you gave him up," she teases and is rewarded with what she recognizes as a tell of the truth of her statement. He hides it well – better than most – and she can't help but be a little impressed. For someone who hasn't spent the majority of his formative years being hounded by paparazzi or private eyes – herself notwithstanding – he's much better at concealing his train of thought than she expected.

"So, what, you called him up and told him about how you were desperate to impress this hot mama, and you needed his help?" she questions jokingly.

"Actually, I told him that there was this really persistent girl, and since I didn't have anything else planned this weekend, I figured I'd ask her out. I wanted his help to make sure I'd be getting lucky."

"Keep dreaming," she returns, fighting to keep back her laughter.

"Wallace actually called me this afternoon and threatened bodily harm if I hurt you. I just took the opportunity to ask him some questions so you'd have a good time tonight."

"I did. Thank you."

They walk in silence for a few moments before Veronica shares, "I have to admit that tonight was a lot different from what I expected."

"Well, I'm a one-of-a-kind type of guy," Casey cuts in light-heartedly before he continues more seriously, "Wallace didn't tell me everything, but he alluded to some of the stuff you've had to deal with. Besides, you know that I was a full-blooded cultist at one point. I may have realized the error of my ways, but that doesn't mean that my priorities need to be materialistic."

His words were true and deeper than she'd expect from the average 09'er. But Casey was so much more than just another stuck-up 09'er – something he had proved time and time again that night.

"Well, I had a great time tonight. We should do this again sometime."

"We will."

"Aren't you cocky."

He leered at her momentarily, causing them both to laugh, before he corrects, "I'm confident."

Her car only a few steps away at this point, she stands on her tiptoes and meets his mouth in a warm, sweet kiss.

"Good night."

"Good morning," he responds, nodding his head in the direction of the first rays of light breaking onto the horizon.

Her eyes bug out in horror as she realizes just how quickly time has flown by. Her dad will be up before too long, and she really doesn't want to deal with the third-degree that would put a damper on her otherwise wonderful night.

Unable to resist snagging one last kiss before leaving, her lips meet his, and sparks fly along her nerve endings.

Yes, this is exactly how things should be.

- - -

Six weeks later, Veronica carefully navigates the hallways of a building she is almost totally unfamiliar with. Oh sure, she got the same introductory tour that all new students receive, so she can now navigate the campus without getting too lost, but finding her way around Steiner Hall is a whole other story.

Great American Literature of the Nineteenth Century is hardly her idea of the most interesting class ever, but like all college freshmen, she needs to take her share of general electives in order to fulfill the liberal arts aspect of her education.

And, as her eyes alight on her objective, she has to admit that there are other benefits to being in this particular class.

"Is this seat taken?" she asks quietly, sitting before she gets a response.

"Not – Veronica?"

She shakes her head playfully and then nods her head in mock seriousness. "Yes, Veronica."

"No, I mean, what are you doing here?"

"Well," she says with a grin, happy that she decided to keep this fact hidden over the past few weeks, "I thought it would be fun to take a class with my boyfriend."

"I think I could get used to that," he responds, and she wonders fleetingly if he's talking about them sharing a class or her calling him her boyfriend. They've never officialized their relationship, but they've seen each other at least two times a week over Winter Break.

Being with Casey is easier than she ever expected a relationship to be. Not that they don't argue occasionally, but more often than not, he's laid back enough to not feel a need to make a mountain out of the proverbial molehill. After everything that she's been through with Duncan and Logan over the past two years, dating Casey is like a breath of fresh air.

She could fall in love with him so easily.

And now that they're both enrolled at UCLA – and in this likely mind-numbingly boring lit class – they'll finally have the opportunity to pursue a relationship without worrying about living in two different cities.

Life is good, for the moment.



Challenge prompt: Have a stellar night.

I had a lot of fun delving into Casey's character (again), and I hope you all enjoyed this piece. I'd love to hear what you thought, so please review! Thanks so much for reading!