Veronica slid her hand across her mouth, stifling a yawn as she climbed down the airplane steps, clutching her travel bag. The sun was only just beginning to rise, and already she could feel tiny rivets of moisture sliding down her back. She gathered with the group of students, as they all stood quietly chatting, waiting for their professor to join them.
She glanced up, and her mouth almost dropped open to see Logan sauntering down the steps, before she managed to compose herself. Her stomach still twisted involuntary as he caught her eye, but she was pleased to note he looked as equally surprised to see her. He walked over to where she was standing.
"What are you doing here?" she blurted out.
His eyebrows rose. "I was under the impression this little 'vacation'," he said, making air quotes with his fingers, "was a course requirement."
"Yeah… I… I just didn't know you took Cultural Studies."
"I'll have you know I have a very good appreciation of other cultures," Logan said with a shrug.
"As long as they keep their mouths shut and make your bed?" Veronica said with a small smile. "How come I didn't see you on the plane?"
"I upgraded," he explained.
"Of course you did," Veronica said, rolling her eyes.
They all fell silent as the professor informed them of the day's itinerary, starting with The Palace of Fine Arts, meeting for lunch, then having the afternoon as free time to explore the city. Veronica rapidly lost interest in the droning professor's voice, and her eyes settled on the horizon that seemed to shimmer with visible heat. The temperature was rapidly increasing with every minute that passed, clinging oppressively to her like a second skin.
Veronica had to admit she was relieved when Logan climbed on to the first bus, furthest away, allowing her to get on the second bus. While they had been civil to each other whenever their paths crossed, she still felt awkward and uncomfortable around him. Especially since Parker happened. Their relationship had come completely out of the blue for Veronica, hitting her like a punch in the gut. It wasn't that she didn't want Logan to move on or be happy, she did, but actually seeing them together, seemingly always laughing and joking with each other – it brought up feelings she couldn't even describe. Maybe that was what was missing out of her relationship with Logan. They'd been so bogged down with feelings, emotions, past hurts; they never got a chance to be carefree, happy, and just be with each other.
She made her way down the centre of the bus, looking for a place to sit, when she spotted an empty seat next to a good-looking guy towards the back. She recognised him from class, and knew his name was Peter, but she'd never actually had a conversation with him.
"Is anyone sitting here?" she asked. He remained staring out the window, a smile playing on his lips. Veronica frowned, wondering if he was either really happy to be in Mexico, or on drugs. She cleared her throat loudly, and he suddenly jumped and looked up.
"Oh, sorry," he immediately said, pulling the bag on the seat on his lap.
"Thanks," Veronica said, dropping down into the now-vacant spot.
The bus started and Veronica glanced over the information brochures they'd been provided. Peter had turned back to look out the window, but his leg was jogging up and down, and his hands were twisting the bottom of his shirt.
"Are you a big fan of opera?" Veronica asked curiously. He turned to look at her with a confused expression. "You just seem very… excited."
He let out a little laugh. "Oh, no. It's not the opera." His voice quietened as he asked, "Can I trust you?"
"Um, yeah," Veronica answered, slightly startled by his question. What kind of question was that anyway? Of course he shouldn't trust someone that was practically a perfect stranger. But Veronica Mars wasn't going to tell him that.
"This afternoon I'm meeting my girlfriend. She lives in Mexico. I don't get to see her much," he explained, his eyes shining brightly.
His face fell. "Her parents don't approve of Isabella seeing me. They want her to settle down with a nice Mexican guy." Veronica gave him a sympathetic look as the bus rumbled along the road from the airport.
"How long have you two been dating?" Veronica asked.
"Five years - I met her when I was fifteen. We come here every year on vacation; my mom loves Mexico City."
The bus began to slow down, and Veronica spotted the Palace coming into view. "Have a good time meeting her," Veronica smiled as they all filed off the bus.
The market was packed, and Veronica could barely think as she was bustled about. The market sellers seemed to know the names of most of their customers, and they shouted out loud conversation in Spanish, that Veronica tried, mostly-unsuccessfully, to follow. The air was thick with the scent of fresh fruit, and her mouth watered in temptation at the array of jeweled colors spread out on the stall. A hand clasped her arm, and she jumped and turned sharply, only to find Anna, the girl she sat with in class pulling her along.
"You have to see these scarves," she insisted. "They're so beautiful." Veronica found herself yanked over to another stall. The scarves were lovely, Veronica had to admit. She picked one up, admiring the intricate design of the embroidered silver thread against the navy silk of the scarf.
"I think I'll get this for my sister," Anna said, holding up a teal one for Veronica to see.
"It's pretty," Veronica agreed, and Anna nodded, waving her hand to catch the vendor's attention. Veronica chose a deep plum-colored scarf that she liked, and a vibrant ruby red one she thought Mac would like, before handing over a fistful of pesos.
"You know what we should do?" Anna squealed, bouncing back over to her. Veronica shook her head. "Get tattoos!"
Veronica looked taken aback. "Really?" she asked dubiously.
"I don't mean real tattoos, silly!" Anna said loudly over the busy din of the crowds. "I saw a henna place near by. It will be fun!"
Veronica glanced down at the ground before she shrugged. "Why the hell not?"
Anna caught Veronica's arm again and pulled her along to the shop. Veronica picked out a small yin/yang out of the designs on the wall. It had decorative beams radiating out from the center, and she wished she could feel that way—perfectly balanced—instead of feeling like she was constantly crumbling under the pressure. The paste felt cool against her heated skin, as she sat as still as she could while it was applied.
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns," Veronica greeted, sitting down on the stool next to Logan.
"I think that's supposed to be my line," Logan replied wryly. "Drink?"
"Hm…" Veronica said, scanning the list above the bar. "A Tequila Sunrise."
Logan paused for the briefest of seconds, obviously having expected her to order a soft drink, before he ordered it and another beer for himself. The bar was just a few buildings down from the hotel they were staying at, and was blissfully quiet.
"What did you do this afternoon?" Veronica asked.
Logan looked down at his beer. "We tried out the bars. Man, those guys can't hold their liquor."
Veronica fought the urge to encourage him to actually experience the Mexican culture. But she knew she'd sound disapproving, and he would most likely ignore her, anyway. She was the closest she'd been to him in weeks, and she could smell his scent--the same scent that had once enveloped her in stolen moments, waking in his arms. Her throat tightened; the urge to reach out and touch him overwhelming. She had no right anymore.
"What about you? Map out all the museums?" He picked up his glass and took a mouthful.
She shook her head. "Actually, we looked around the market, and then got tattoos."
Logan started in surprise, spraying his beer back out. "You what?"
Veronica gave him a faux-distasteful look before passing him a tissue from her pocket. "You didn't expect me to?"
"Uh… no. Out of all the people in the world, I'd rate you as least likely."
Veronica glanced down at her colourful drink. "Because I'm boring?" she asked quietly.
Logan frowned in confusion. "What?"
"Nothing," she said quickly. She bit down on her lip as she swallowed hard. "Logan?"
"I'm happy that… you're happy. You know, with Parker. I know our relationship wasn't exactly always fun. Maybe we just have too many issues to be compatible, or something."
Logan sighed, shaking his head as if he was fighting the urge to argue with her, but then he said, "Maybe if you'd just trusted me once in awhile."
"It's not that easy," Veronica frowned.
"It is if you really care about someone," Logan pointed out.
"Maybe it was hard because I cared," Veronica replied. "It's not like I didn't want to trust you. I did. I do. Just… I'm not very good at showing it."
"You can say that again," Logan scoffed.
"You don't exactly help me, either! You're the one that does stuff like call me and tell me you're 'getting lucky', and I seem to recall, that you're the one that slept with Madison-fucking-Sinclair."
"I was missing you! I'd had so much drink, I could barely see straight," Logan told her. "I just wanted the pain to go away, just for a little while."
"But with her?" Veronica protested, her voice cracking. She could still picture with perfect clarity the smug look on Madison's face as she'd told her.
"It wasn't about her," he protested. "It was about hating myself and wallowing and I didn't care. She was just there, that's all. I didn't even 'get' that we'd done anything until the next morning. It's one of the worst decisions I ever made, Veronica. And there isn't a moment that goes by when I don't regret it."
Veronica looked away, her chest feeling like it was constricting at his words.
"And about Parker?" he continued. "It isn't like that between us. We just hang out and stuff. It's nice to have a friend who hasn't listed long toes as grounds for divorce, you know?"
Veronica couldn't help the relief that shot through her, warm and comforting in the pit of her stomach.
"Who married Dick, and why?" Veronica asked, shaking her head in disbelief.
"You know the little girl I was with?" Logan prompted. Veronica nodded. "Her older sister. That's why I was left babysitting."
She smirked. "Someone trusted you with a kid?"
"What do you think I'd do? Lose her?" he said in disbelief, the hurt look on his face suddenly morphing into anger. "Of course, I'm sure the great Veronica Mars would do so much better. You'd have probably just ignored her and hoped she'd go away, like you usually do. And she probably would have left too, if you'd treated her the way treated me."
"You could have left if it was that bad," Veronica pointed out, downing the rest of her drink and slamming it on the counter top.
"I tried to, but you came running back when you had an itch to scratch," Logan reminded her coldly.
"I seem to recall you were scratching the same itch," Veronica snapped. "And I'm not the one that has meaningless sex with every bimbo I meet. Oh, but of course – it's the drink! You don't mean to fall into bed with them."
"Well, I'm not the one who turns making love with the person who loves you into meaningless sex," Logan spat out.
"Making love?" Veronica repeated. "What does the guy who shoves his dick into anything walking by know about 'making love'?"
"A hell of a lot more than you."
She could feel the blood draining from her face as she stumbled off the stool, backing away from him. She never thought he'd throw her lack of experience back in her face.
"I'm so sorry sex with me was such a burden," she said accusingly, trying to keep her voice from trembling as much as it did.
"No, Veronica," Logan said, jumping up. "I didn't mean it like that…"
Veronica shook her head to stop him, feeling the dreaded tears welling up before she turned and fled.
"You get really good gifts in this store," Isabella said, coming to a halt in front of a non-descript building. "Most tourists do not find it."
"Thanks for the tip," Veronica said gratefully as they walked in, Anna and Peter following.
Isabella had offered to show them around the city, pointing out parts she thought were particularly of interest to them. Peter had been practically bouncing around the whole time, clearly overjoyed just to be hanging out with his girlfriend.
She picked out some gifts for her dad and Wallace, before she went to join them at the front of the store. Peter and Isabella's hands were clasped together as they murmured to each other. Veronica couldn't take her eyes away from them, they looked so in love. A pang of jealousy shot through her, painful and sharp, until she forced herself to look away. Regret slivered through her. She'd had that, but she'd let it slip through her fingers, crashing on the floor in one painful mess.
Isabella pulled away from Peter, smiling softly. She looked up and spotted Veronica. "May I speak to you in private?" she asked.
Veronica nodded. "Sure."
Isabella walked away from Peter, before she turned back to Veronica. "Peter and I are getting married tomorrow."
Veronica's eyebrows raised in shock. "Really?"
"We cannot get married here. My father is the Chief of Police and he would find out. We have all the paperwork together and we are leaving tomorrow. I do not want to get a dress by myself, I need someone to..."
"Give their opinion?" Veronica offered and Isabella agreed. "I'm free now."
Isabella smiled brightly.
Veronica checked her watch, walking back towards the hotel. The sun was just beginning to set, washing the sky in shades of orange and purple. Isabella had finally settled on a simple empire-waisted dress, in a shade of ivory Veronica thought complimented her complexion beautifully. They'd then picked out accessories and shoes. Veronica could never imagine Keith making her resort to running away to be with someone she loved. He might make jokes about polishing his gun, but she knew he'd always respect her choices.
She spotted a man further ahead dressed in a dark uniform, which she recognised to be part of the 'policia'. He turned just as she was reaching him and his eyes narrowed. Veronica smiled politely, and thought she'd just about passed him when his hand clamped down on her arm.
"Párate!" he commanded, his hand clamping around her arm. He pointed to her lower back, where her tattoo was exposed by the shorter top she was wearing in the warm weather.
Veronica felt a stab of alarm. "Can I help you?" she asked, before she added slowly, "Hablo inglés mejor que español."
"Come with me," he replied in English, beginning to pull her down the road.
"No, wait, stop," Veronica replied, panic fluttering manically in her stomach as his grip remained steadfast. She yanked at her arm and stumbled, dropping to the ground, her arm twisting painfully and her other hand taking her full weight. She hissed in pain.
"Do not make this hard," he said, pulling her back to her feet.
"Where are you taking me?" Veronica asked, trying to keep up, and fish her phone out of her pocket subtly at the same time. She spotted a police car parked by the side of the road. He came to a halt besides it, and opened the back door.
"Get in," he said with a wave of his arm.
"Are you arresting me?" Veronica asked.
"Get in the car!" he snapped in his thick Mexican accent, pushing her in. She put her seatbelt on as he climbed into the front. The scent of cigarettes and leather filled her senses as he started the engine and began to speed down the road.
"Where are we going?" Veronica tried again, finally locating her phone. She began to punch in a desperate text message, when suddenly the low battery flashed up before the screen went dead. She exhaled angrily and shoved it back in her bag. The car came to a stop, and Veronica was never more relieved to see a police station in her life.
"Come," the police officer commanded, opening the door again. Veronica scrambled out and followed him through the door. He took her through to what looked like the interrogation room, before he left again. It was one thing to be arrested by Lamb for whatever reason he'd manage to cook up that week, but another one entirely in a foreign city, hundreds of miles from home.
The door banged open, and the officer was back again with another man with a dark mustache, making her think briefly of Deputy Sacks. Veronica sat up straighter.
"We have you on camera," the first officer said and smirked. "Proof at last."
"Proof of what? Have you arrested me?" Veronica asked.
"Do not play games with us, Maria," he snapped back. "We saw your tattoo on the video."
"Maria? I'm not Maria," she protested. "And it's just henna, I got it done yesterday." She pulled her purse out. "Look, I have ID."
He shook his head, looking disgusted. "Fake!"
"We've had enough of you flooding the black market," the second officer piped up.
"I've only been here two days," Veronica pointed out. "I'm here on a trip with my college."
They stared at her blankly.
"Look, my dad is sheriff of Neptune, in California. Could you give him a call and…"
The officer with the mustache slammed his hand down on the table. "Do not give us orders. You will go to a cell now."
"Can I please make a call?" Veronica begged.
The officer nodded sharply. "Quickly." He took her to a phone and Veronica fished out some change she had in her purse. She picked up the receiver and slid the coin into the slot. Her finger hovered over the buttons, as she scanned mentally through the people she could call. Her dad would want to know, but it would take him hours, possibly days, for him to get all the way to Mexico City. She shook her head, and quickly punched in a number that was burned into her mind.
It rang shrilly, before the voice mail clicked on. She was equal parts relieved to hear Logan's voice, and annoyed he wasn't answering as she listened half-heartedly. "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. Leave a message."
"Logan, it's Veronica. I've been arrested by the Mexican police, they seem to think I'm selling illegal goods or something. I'd really appreciate it if you could tell my dad, and maybe ask him to contact a lawyer? Thanks."
The cell was freezing cold, as Veronica perched on the edge of a stained mattress, her arms wrapped around her knees. The cell smelled musty, and there were dark marks on the wall that Veronica wished to never find out their origin. The thin tank top she'd worn in the heat offered no protection as she shivered, trying to count down the time until Logan, her dad or someone arrived to help her. Every time she saw an officer, she asked for an update, but they shook their heads as if they couldn't understand her. She tried again in Spanish, but they just shrugged like she wasn't making sense, and left. Her arm ached where it had been twisted, and she sighed. It had been hours since she'd called Logan.
A flicker of fear suddenly ignited – what if Logan ignored her call? What if he was too mad to listen, or worse, just deleted it? Just like she'd deleted his. Her breath hitched and she pressed her forehead down on her knee, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. No, she decided, he wouldn't do that. He said he'd always be there for her.
"Veronica?" a soft voice said, breaking into her dream. Her eyes fluttered open, only to find Logan's warm brown eyes staring at her in concern from behind the bars.
"Logan?" she said, jumping up. She rushed to the bars, relief and gratitude written across her face. "I'm so glad you're here."
He looked shocked for a split second to see her so obviously upset, rather than brushing it off like she normally did.
"This is getting to be a habit, Mars," he said with a small smile, before it vanished. "Are you okay? Did they hurt you?" She shook her head. "What's that on your hand then?" he demanded and she glanced down, surprised to see blood smeared across her palm.
"I fell," she explained quickly. "Did you call my dad?"
Logan nodded. "And a lawyer Cliff recommended – he said he's the best. They seem to think your name is Maria Diaz."
"Yeah, and they wouldn't even look at my ID," Veronica sighed.
"Don't worry, he'll get you out soon, I swear," Logan assured. He suddenly frowned, reaching through the bars "God, you're freezing. I'm going to sue their fucking asses off," he snapped, turning and stalking away. He returned a few minutes later, a blanket in his arms. "Here," he said, threading it through the bars. "Money talks here too."
She smiled gratefully. "Thanks."
"I'm Richard Wilcroft," her lawyer introduced, holding his hand out for her to shake through the bar. "I've seen the footage of the woman believed to be you in the factory. You can clearly make out she had blonde hair, and appears to have your build. The reason they suspect you is due to a tattoo on the woman's lower back, in the same place you have yours."
Veronica shook her head. "That's their only evidence? I got a henna tattoo done yesterday."
He nodded curtly. "The tape is time-stamped an hour or so before your arrest, so if you can just give them your alibi, we can get you out of here."
"Oh," Veronica said, her face falling, the feeling of dread tightening in her chest.
"Is that a problem?"
Veronica sighed, and nodded slowly. "It's nothing illegal, but I'll get someone else into trouble if I say."
The lawyer pursed his lips. "Do you want to stay in here, Miss Mars?"
"Of course not," Veronica protested. "I just can't say. Can't you just prove I'm not Maria?"
The lawyer shook his head. "They still want your alibi, either way."
She sat back down heavily on the edge of the mattress, as the lawyer left the room. She didn't have to wait long for Logan to storm in.
"What are you doing, Veronica?" he asked. "Do you like being in here?" She shook her head miserably. "What were you doing? Working on a case?"
"No," she said quietly. "I was just helping someone out. Someone whose dad is the Chief of Police here. If I give my alibi, she'll get in serious trouble."
"You're in jail," Logan pointed out unnecessarily. "You're the one that's in trouble."
She pulled the blanket around her tighter. "I know."
Logan was quiet as he stared at her. "Just tell me who you're covering for," he finally asked.
Veronica glanced back up at him. "Just a guy on the trip. Peter. He's not doing anything wrong, though. Please don't say anything."
"I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised.
The thick stench of urine made her want to gag. It felt like it was clinging to her every pore, burying deep beneath her skin. She wondered if any amount of scrubbing would ever make it leave.
She'd been glad to be in a cell by herself, until they pushed in another woman – make-up caked thickly on her face, wearing a tight leather skirt with matching corset. She threw herself on the mattress, popping her gum casually as if she'd been there many times.
"Oh Magnífico... de mi he compartiendo una celda con una gringa," she muttered under her breath.
Veronica moved over, giving the prostitute a wide berth, examining her nails closely until her lawyer walked back into the room with an officer.
"You're free to go," he said.
"What? Why?" Veronica questioned, standing up.
The police officer unlocked the door and motioned for her to come out the cell. He handed her back her bag they'd taken from her earlier.
Richard Wilcroft led the way back into the main building, ignoring her questions. Veronica sighed in frustration, but followed until she spotted Logan waiting for her, standing next to Peter, who looked pale and worried.
Logan smiled as soon as he saw her, stepping forward in greeting, his arms wrapping tightly around her. She took a deep breath, revelling being in the safety of his arms as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Where's Isabella?" she asked Peter. He nodded towards a closed door.
"She's telling him. We came as soon as your boyfriend told us what happened."
"Oh, Peter, I'm so sorry," Veronica immediately said, without correcting him.
"It's not your fault," he assured her. "You didn't ask for this mix-up to happen."
"Come on," Logan said. "Let's get back to the hotel."
"Are you going to be okay?" Veronica asked Peter.
He nodded, giving her a wan smile. "He might even give us his blessing," he said brightly, but the look on his face clearly indicated it was the last thing that would ever happen.
Veronica gave him one last guilt-filled look as Logan took her arm gently, leading outside to where a cab was waiting for them.
Logan had left the heater on in his room, even thought it was another warm night. It was a lot smaller than his suite back at the Neptune Grand, but it was homey.
"Do you want to order some food from room service?" he offered, as he closed the door behind him.
"I don't think I could eat right now," Veronica confessed. "A shower would be awesome though."
Logan nodded. "Everything you need should be in the bathroom already. There are fresh towels in the cupboard."
Veronica stepped in the shower, increasing the temperature until it was nearly scalding, letting the water wash over her skin. She found Logan's shower gel and squirted some onto the mesh sponge, before she began scrubbing herself. The scent of him filled the small shower enclosure, encapsulated in puffs of rising steam, and conjured up images of them wrapped just in each other, as they'd done so often when they were together. She finished and stepped out, wrapping a cream, luxury towel around herself.
"Veronica?" Logan called. "Are you decent? I've got some ointment for your hand."
"Yeah," she replied, opening the door and walking back into his suite, clutching the towel to her chest modestly. She noticed he swallowed hard, his eyes averted, as if he was trying not to look at her. Was he still mad?
He took her hand gently in his, before he rubbed the cream across her palm carefully.
"Thanks," she said softly. He looked down at her, and the intensity in his gaze held her, refusing to let go. Her stomach flipped over involuntarily and she took a step closer, as if some force was pushing her towards him.
His chin ducked down, until they were a mere inch away from each other, able to read the expressions in one another's eyes that they'd each kept hidden for so long.
sorry. I miss you. Please forgive me.
Please forgive me.
Their lips met; gently at first, tentatively exploring each other, whispering murmurs into each others' mouths that only they could understand. The kiss grew deeper, before his arms locked around her waist, pulling her up into his arms. The towel dropped, but she hardly noticed as Logan stepped back and lay her down on the bed. He froze above her, and she forced herself to keep breathing as he surveyed her with naked longing in his eyes. He stretched, yanking his shirt off, and discarding his pants. Veronica was amused to find he wasn't wearing any underwear.
Logan slid her legs apart gently with his hands, kissing her soft inner thigh. He cupped her bottom in his palms, then spread her open with his thumbs. He slid his tongue up the slippery path to her clit, and she groaned, reaching out and gripping the edge of the sheet. He worked his way in with his tongue, and god, she'd missed him. The way he knew exactly how to bring her up to her peak with his mouth alone, before his thumb found her clit, helping to finish her off, until she was writhing beneath him. He looked up and grinned cockily, before he reached over to his wallet, and retrieved a condom. Logan quickly put it on and crawled up her body, kissing her again deeply, so she could taste herself in his mouth.
She couldn't quite believe what was happening as he slid inside her body, stretching her again, filling her with glorious warmth. She moaned, arching her hips up to meet his thrusts as he moved inside her, setting a rhythm. It wasn't long before he lost all control, panting her name and clutching the sheets beside her head. She urged him on in a sultry, soft murmur, and his fingers found her clit again in a rush of sensation. She came against him, biting lightly at his shoulder, and he groaned before letting his orgasm consume him.
He rolled to his side beside her and gathered her into his arms, releasing a pent-up breath, as if in relief. "I needed that," he sighed. "Need you." He nuzzled his nose into her neck just before succumbing to slumber. She watched him sleep, and rejoiced in her chance to start anew. A fresh start, all over again. This time she wouldn't let anyone – not Madison, nor Parker—get between them.
"I actually don't feel tired, for once," Veronica commented as they walked out through the hotel lobby the next morning, her hand clasped in his. He was holding it tightly, as if he was scared she'd suddenly vanish from him.
"You should feel tired," Logan said with a teasing smile. "We didn't get much sleep."
Veronica suddenly nudged him. "Peter and Isabella are over there." They were standing huddled with each other, and even from a distance, Veronica could see Isabella's eyes were red-rimmed.
"You want to go over?" Logan asked gently.
Veronica shook her head slowly. "They could have been together if it wasn't for me."
"It wasn't your fault," Logan pointed out, before his voice lowered intimately, pulling her into his arms, brushing her hair back from her face in a tender gesture. "If they really belong together – they'll find a way."
Veronica glanced up at him, his eyes unable to contain his joy. "You're such a romantic," she said affectionately, before suddenly stopping, her lips quirking playfully. "You know what? We can visit the museums tomorrow."
"Back to bed?" Logan suggested with a wink. A bright smile crossed his lips as they both turned, hand in hand, heading back to his hotel room.