Written for vm_santa in 2007

***

"You're sure you can't come?" Mac asked Veronica with a disappointed pout. "I mean, I know you and Logan are still a little weird with each other, but it should be fun. And you won't even be his only ex there. Parker's coming and she had just as bitter a break-up with him as you did."

Veronica smiled, leaning back into the comfy second-hand couch Mac and Parker bought for their place. For sophomore year, they decided to live off-campus and found themselves a nice, if slightly ramshackle, apartment a few blocks from campus. Both girls added their decorative touch so that it now seemed like The Princess Diaries crossed with The Matrix. But somehow, it still worked.

"It's not the Logan-thing. Really. It's Christmas Eve. I just want to curl up with my puppy and my dad, watch Linus explain Christmas to Charlie Brown, and eat cookies until I go into sugar shock." It was only a small lie. The truth was, even if she didn't spend every Christmas Eve doing just that, she still wouldn't go to Logan and Mac's 'Rate Your Ass' Christmas party. She would do almost anything for her best gal pal, but she drew the line at publicity parties where her ex-boyfriend would be doing live webcasts rating partygoers asses.

"I forget, you have a parental unit you actually enjoy spending time with." Mac grinned, and flopped back on her beanbag chair. "Guess that's just more asses for me and Parker to rate."

"It's hard work, but those asses won't rate themselves."

"You'd think that, but Logan and I found Dick creating fake profiles just so he could give his own ass ten stars over and over. He even commented a few times."

"Let me guess, the words 'rockin'' and 'tight' were used liberally."

"'Asstastic' seems to be his favourite description so far. But 'bun-o-licious' has been making it's way up the charts."

"You're making money on this venture, right? Lots and lots of money?"

Mac grinned. "Enough to cover the years of therapy. I've made sure."

"That's all I wanted to know." She stood up with a groan. "You have fun with the asses tonight. I've got a few more presents to deliver before I can go home and finish the cookies."

"Well, it's an open invitation. If your dad goes to bed early or something, come on by. At the very least, Logan is having it catered." Mac pulled her into a sudden hug. "I feel like I never see you anymore."

Veronica patted her back a couple of times before pulling away. "We'll have a girl's night out, soon."

Following her to the door, Mac rolled her eyes. "You always say that and we never do."

There was no argument against that, so Veronica just smiled. "Merry Christmas, Mac."

"Merry Christmas, Veronica."

***

The next stop on Veronica's sleigh ride was the Fennel house. Darrell ran up to answer the door, adorable in a reindeer sweatshirt. "Hi Veronica! Did you bring us presents?"

"Darrell, leave the poor girl alone." Her BFF came up behind his little brother, and Veronica noted with amusement that he wore a snowman sweater-vest.

Pouting, Darrell ran back into the house. "Well, did you bring us presents?" Wallace asked as soon as he was gone.

Veronica pulled a bag of presents from behind her back. "Of course. I couldn't forget my best guy and his people."

"Cool." Wallace grabbed the bag and grinned at her. "So, you and Keith want to come spend Christmas Eve with us? Mom's gonna make us sing carols and drink eggnog. And I thought later I'd head to Logan's. You game?"

"Nah, me and Dad are going to do our usual Christmas thing."

"Well, let's do something during the break. Except for when you need backup on a case, I hardly see you anymore. We never just hang." He put up his dukes. "Middleweight championships are on Friday night. Want to come take advantage of the satellite dish?"

"Sounds like a plan." She leaned forward and gave him a quick hug. "Have a good Christmas, Wallace."

"You, too. And if you and your dad want to come over, just give us a ring."

***

Veronica stopped by Mars Investigations to double-check her dad's flight itinerary only to find the office already open.

"Dad?" she called, heading for his office.

"He should still be on his way back from Chicago," answered Weevil, coming up behind her from the kitchenette.

"Working on Christmas Eve, Weevil? You're really aiming for that Employee of the Month plaque, aren't you?" She sat behind the desk they now shared since her dad hired him on part time and swung her feet up onto it.

"You're in my seat, blondie."

"There are three other chairs."

"So move your ass to one of those."

For a minute she considered fighting him on it, but it seemed like a lot of effort, so she got up and plopped down in a chair on the other side of the desk. "What are you working on?"

"Just getting the billing done," he said, sitting down. "Mrs. Sanders keeps dodging us. And we still haven't gotten anything from that embezzlement gig with Byers and Byers."

"Lawyers. They're probably looking for a way out of it."

"Well, they won't find it. That's my Christmas bonus, right there. I intend to collect."

"Just don't break their legs. We can't afford a law suit."

"I'll keep that in mind." Weevil shifted nervously, which was weird for Mr. Confidence. "Listen, what are you and the Sheriff up to tonight?"

"Family tradition – much eating of cookies and drinking of eggnog while we watch bad Christmas animation. Why?"

"If you have the time, why don't you guys drop by my new place. It's a lot nicer than my last apartment, and I owe it to both of you. I have cookies, too, and I think my sister and Ophelia might come over to watch a movie or something."

"I'll ask Dad when he comes home. Maybe." She knew they probably wouldn't go, but Weevil looked hopeful and she didn't want to dash that outright.

He grinned. "All right."

***

Christmas Eve in Neptune reached a balmy eighty-five degrees. In the Mars household, Veronica stared balefully at her oven, cranked to four hundred, currently making the apartment sticky and uncomfortable.

Backup whined softly, gazing at her with reproachful eyes.

"This is the last batch, buddy, I promise. After this, my holiday baking is done." At least for twenty-four hours. There was a turkey currently defrosting in the fridge for Christmas Day.

The phone rang and Veronica answered. "Hello?"

Her dad's voice replied from the other end. "Hi, sweetheart."

"Hey, Dad! Did your plane land already? I meant to pick you up."

Her dad sighed and Veronica knew that it wasn't a good sigh. "I'm really sorry, Veronica, but there's been a snowstorm in Chicago and they're grounding all flights for now. They're expecting delays of up to seventy-six hours."

All of her Christmas plans seemed to crumble in front of her eyes. "Can't you fly out of another airport?"

"It won't do any good, honey. This is going to mess up the whole eastern half of the country." He paused, maybe waiting for her to say something, but she couldn't think of anything. "I'm really sorry, Veronica. Maybe we can just put Christmas on hold until I get back."

"I guess." Veronica could hear the petulant tone in her voice but didn't care. It wasn't fair.

"Why don't you go over to Alicia and Wallace's house. I'm sure they'd be happy to have you."

"Maybe."

"I'll call you tomorrow, sweetheart. And I'll be back on the first available plane, I promise." Her father's sad voice softened her a little. "I love you, Veronica. And Merry Christmas."

"I love you, too, Dad. Merry Christmas."

She hung up just as the smoke alarms went off. The cookies were black when she pulled them from the oven.

"Merry Freakin' Christmas."

***

Part of Veronica knew that she should go to the Fennel's or to Weevil's. Even the party at Logan's would be better than sitting on her couch, moping. But in the end, sulking won out over being with other people. So that's how Christmas Eve 2007 came to pass with her sulking, eating her weight in sugar cookies, and feeling particularly grinchy.

After all her running around and baking during the day, she felt very sleepy so she ended up turning off the Christmas tree lights and heading for bed kind of early. Rubbing her eyes, she walked down the hall and noticed a faint glow coming from her room.

She rubbed her eyes again but the glow didn't go away. Unconcerned, she thought perhaps she'd just left a lamp on.

The last thing she expected to see was Lilly Kane sitting on her bed, examining her nails.

"Lilly?"

"God, Veronica Mars, took you long enough. It feels like I've been sitting here an eternity."

Veronica couldn't help but smile. "Lilly, for you ten minutes is an eternity."

"It's a little different this side of the mortal coil. But you're right, patience was never a virtue."

"So what's up, Lil? Dispensing fashion advice? Or were you just feeling sorry for me?"

Lilly arched an eyebrow in her direction. "It seems to me that you were doing a good job of that on your own. When did you become such a mope?"

The worst thing to hear when you're already feeling sorry for yourself is that you're moping. "I'm not a mope. I'm having a totally crappy Christmas and it's not my fault."

"Please get over yourself. You could totally be partying with Logan and that blue-haired friend of yours. Or hanging with that cute Wallace kid. And trust me when I say that a lot of fun could be had with Weevil. But instead you chose to be a sad-ass loser. You've lost the Christmas spirit."

"Like you're one to talk. Your parents were billionaires and you would donate used toys to the Toys for Tots box and give loose change to the Salvation Army Santas."

"And I paid for it, didn't I."

"What, karmically? I don't think you were killed because of your lack of Christmas spirit."

"No, not that," Lilly rolled her eyes. "Forced to walk this earth, chains of death around me."

"What chains? You're not really striking me as the Marley type."

Lilly pointed to the still-bleeding gash on her head. "What do you think this is? Until the end of time, my head will be bleeding and I'll be stuck in this stupid pep squad uniform. God, when I think of all the cute outfits I could have died in..."

"So what, you're here to show me Christmases past, present, and future?" Veronica scoffed.

"Duh, no. You've seen enough movies, you should know this story. I'm here to warn you that three spirits are going to visit you tonight. The first will come at midnight. You're supposed to heed their words, blah, blah, blah or you'll die friendless and alone."

Still not convinced, Veronica eyed her former best friend critically. "Is this some sort of holiday punking? Like, the guys upstairs let you come down at Christmas to pull pranks on the people you love?"

"Yeah, that's what they're all about up there - practical jokes. This is totally serious, Veronica. You're in danger of becoming a major drag. Change your ways now, or you could share my fate. Actually, that could be kind of fun. We could haunt people together!"

"Uh huh. Listen, if I promise to become the Grinch after his heart grows three sizes, can I forgo this? I'm kind of tired."

""They're already on their way." Lilly began to fade away. "Listen to them, Veronica. They can save you."

"Lilly? Where are you going?"

"My time is up. But I'll see you again. Merry Christmas, Veronica."

Then Lilly was gone and Veronica was left alone.