**Warnings: This should be read by people age 15 and older. This fic will deal with more mature content from here on out! There is sexual content in this chapter as well as harsh language.

Title: Searching For Life- Chapter Five (6/7)

Author: LoVefan4ever

Rating: R

Word Count: 5302 this chapter; 33,540 total.

Characters/Pairings: Logan/Veronica, Logan/OFC, Keith, various others.

Spoilers: Goes AU during 3x13 (Post-Game Mortem).

Disclaimer: I do not own any of Veronica Mars or its characters. I do not make any money from this.

Summary: Sometimes finding what you've been searching for is harder than not finding it at all; letting it go is even harder. This is a LoVe story that spans years, three-quarters of a continent and maybe a little bloodshed. They wouldn't be epic without it.

A/N: This is an ongoing Christmas present for vanessagalore for vm_santa over on livejournal. Also written for the vmfic_gameon community's final challenge round.

A/N2: A kazillion thanks to my beta, Sabrina, who held my hand through months of whining. Words cannot describe how much I love her : ) Also, I made tons of changes after she'd already beta'd it, so all mistakes are mine. I'm sure there are plenty.

She looks down from above watching as the ocean crashes against the rocks, angry and harsh. Her dad is there, hugging her, telling he loves her no matter what she's done.

"We'll fix it," he assures her. But then he's angry, shouting about drugs and lies and she gets angry, too. She can't take his yelling anymore and gives him a hard shove off the cliff and into the water. She doesn't even flinch.

"Wallace? Is that you?" The sun behind him is harsh and she squints to see if it's really her friend. It is, but there is no emotion in his face. He shuts her in the darkness and she begins to cry. Her head is pounding mercilessly; her fists are pounding, too, against a metal cave. She stops and reaches up, feeling the stickiness of blood on her forehead. She can hear voices outside and she cries out for her dad, for Wallace, for anyone to help her.

"Please, please! I can fix it. Whatever I've done, I'll fix it. I promise." Her pleas go unanswered and suddenly she can't breathe. Water overtakes her; her limbs grow weak. She feels her life slip away and sees a sweet elderly angel in the light.

Veronica's eyes flew open, her heart still beating rapidly from her dream. As she took in her surroundings, she tried to will her breathing back to normal, recognizing that she was still safely in her bed.

The same dream had been plaguing her the past few nights, ever since she heard the two men in the shadows at the gala. The one's voice seemed so familiar to her, yet she still couldn't place it. Veronica felt like she might be on the brink of something big, something that was related to her disappearance, but it was difficult to fit all the pieces together. It was all fractions of time and people jumbled up together - the same way her mind had been trying to communicate with her before. Unfortunately, it turned out to be no less disturbing.

A large part of her life had been coming back to her bit by bit, with the help of her friends and family. She was not the same though, and had doubts she would ever be. Too much had happened, both in her own life and the lives of those she cared about, for her to ever be the old Veronica again. But she did come to one conclusion – old Veronica would have stopped at nothing to find out what happened to her, and that drive and determination was something she'd be keeping. Veronica Mars - super sleuth - was back in business.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Hey. It's me. Veronica," she introduced tentatively.

Logan chuckled on the other end of the line. "I knew it was you. No need to get all formal."

"Oh, right. Caller ID. Yeah, sorry." She sounded embarrassed and vulnerable and Logan immediately felt the guilt that had surrounded him lately. "I hate to ask, but I need a favor," she added quickly.

"Sure. Anything," he reassured her.

"I need the guest list from your party the other night. I tried to get it from your personal assistant but for some reason my charms wouldn't work on her. You must have put the fear of God into her - Or maybe she's just too caught up in your charms," she told him, a hint of teasing in her voice.

"Wow. I must have her trained right if the infamous Veronica Mars couldn't weasel a list out of little Miss Volleyball Barbie."

"Oh? She's beautiful and she's athletic? Sarah must be the most understanding wife on the planet," she fished.

To say that she was understanding was the understatement of the century. Veronica had no idea just how much – way more than he deserved. He'd almost pushed her too far, though. When he'd gotten home from the Gala three nights ago, Sarah had been waiting for him. She told him like it was, and how it was going to be if they were going to remain married. They'd talked about Keith's suggestion of leaving town and to his surprise, Sarah agreed. She'd never been the type to run from anything and her job at the hospital was very important to her. Still, Logan was torn.

"She is," he answered simply, effectively ending that particular conversation. "I'll be in your area later this afternoon – want me to drop it off?

"No!" she practically shouted. "I mean… no, I appreciate the thought, but I don't think that's a good idea." She paused. "Not after what happened the other night. You can just fax it to me. I'll text you the number."

Logan thought for a minute. "Yeah. Okay. I can do that."

"Thanks, Logan. I do appreciate this. And, hey… I know that things are really messed up right now, but I do hope that one day when things settle down, when I'm a little stronger," she paused, seemingly gathering up courage. "When the wounds aren't so fresh, that we can be… I don't know… friends, maybe. I don't know how you feel about that, or how Sarah feels about that, or…

"Veronica," he interrupted, smiling through the phone. "I'd like that. I'd like that a lot."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Not for the first time in his life, Keith Mars felt helpless. He was all over the place in the investigation into Veronica's disappearance but none of the clues seemed to fit. He knew he had to be close, he could feel it; he knew it had to be tied into his drug investigation, too. He simply didn't know how. There were too many pieces to the puzzle and he was missing too many major ones to be able to complete the picture.

He rubbed his eye tiredly. The office had pretty much been his resting place for the past couple of weeks. He should be at home with his daughter, soaking up every last second of her company. After all, she'd been gone for ten years. But the not knowing consumed him. Somebody hurt his baby girl and they were going to pay if it was the last thing he ever did. The only bright side was that Veronica wasn't anywhere near the investigation. He selfishly loved that at least as of now, she didn't seem to have the desire to pursue private investigating. Keith hoped he could keep it that way.

After a warrant to search David Gallo's apartment, computer and other personal effects had turned up nothing, Keith had revisited the young man's life. He'd found out that the kid was a whiz at computers and was working at Stolz Industries while he attended community college at night.

He'd interviewed everyone in the main office of Stolz Industries, more than one-hundred employees, attempting to see if anyone out of the ordinary had came into their workplace on the day David had first called the Sheriff's Department. Unfortunately, it had been more than a month and memories were fuzzy at best. All scheduled appointments had checked out. The security cameras had been a wash, too. - they were only kept for thirty days.

His police instincts told him that there was something illegal going on, at least. Mel Stolz was a crook and everyone knew it – there had simply never been anything concrete to hang him on. But Keith wasn't going to let it go. If only he'd been the one to handle the tip-line call the day David had called him, he might have done something differently. But what was done, was done. They could only move forward.

There was a quick knock on the frame of Keith's opened door. He looked up just as Brady Carr poked his head in.

"Hey. Sheriff. I had to come over and drop off some papers and thought I might see if you're free for lunch."

Keith tried to keep the weariness out of his voice when he responded. "Thanks, Brady. I certainly appreciate the offer but I think I might spend my lunch break in that big comfy chair over there," he said, pointing to an over-stuffed green chair in the corner. "I haven't been getting much sleep lately."

Brady stepped inside the office. "No offense, but I can tell. You look like shit. There aren't any new breaks in the case, are there?"

"There aren't. And that's the problem. I just feel like I'm so close… That I'm missing that one little piece that would tie everything together. It's in here somewhere," he told the young man, gesturing to the pile of paperwork and RAP sheets littering his desk. "I know it is and I can't rest until I find it."

"You're a good Sheriff, Keith Mars, and an even better father," Brady told him sincerely.

Keith smiled warmly at him, thankful that he had the support of such an upstanding young man, who was as dedicated to finding truth and justice as he was.

"I'll tell you what. Since you can't have me, why don't you take the next best thing," the Sheriff told him with a wink. "I've been neglecting Veronica a lot lately. Why don't you swing by and see if she'd like to go to lunch with you."

The young district attorney's face lit up at the suggestion, leaving no doubt that Brady was crazy about his daughter.

"Actually, that sounds like a great idea. Keep me updated on everything and make sure to call me if there's anything new, okay?"

"I will," Keith assured him.

Brady turned to walk out of the office before turning back once more to face the Sheriff. "Oh, and Keith - Don't beat yourself up. You'll get 'em. I know it."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Brady followed her up the stairs of her apartment complex, both of them still laughing at his earlier misfortune. They had stopped off at an ice cream shop by the beach for a little dessert after their lunch date, where he'd had a little accident with his double-dipped cone and the swinging door. Both he and his brand new suit lost.

"That was fun. I haven't had that much fun since… well in a long time," Veronica told him once she reached her door and turned to face him. "Thank you."

"I'm glad me ruining my brand new suit amuses you so much. I guess I might need to invest in a bigger wardrobe," Brady informed her, a twinkle in his eyes.

Veronica giggled, the sound foreign even to her own ears. The burden of life weighed on her so heavily, it was hard to remember she was still young and supposed to have fun every once in a while.

The sudden silence and the way Brady swayed the slightest bit forward, clued Veronica in to his intention of kissing her. The question of whether she was ready for the next step swirled in her head. She knew her father loved him, and why wouldn't he? Brady Carr was handsome and kind, had a great job and a bright future where he could make the difference he wanted. She had no doubts he would love her well.

There was one problem, though – despite desperately trying not to, she still loved Logan. When she dreamed at night, it was Logan's breath on her skin - Logan's name on her lips when she pleasured herself. Her head constantly berated her for something so wrong but if there was one thing she'd learned over a lifetime of trying to forget – the heart wants what the heart wants. And for as long as she'd known what real love was, her heart had always wanted Logan. It still did.

Brady took a few steps closer to her and slowly raised his hand to her cup her cheek. She unconsciously leaned into the soft brush of his fingers, having missed the feeling of being touched so intimately. She wanted to give in, to revel in the feel of being loved by someone who was available to love her back, but she knew it wasn't fair. Maybe someday, but it couldn't be today.

She pulled back quickly. "I'm sorry, Brady. I just…" She looked away, sighing deeply as the pain clouded her eyes. "It's not the right time. I'm not ready. Not yet."

Brady stepped backwards as a proper gentleman should, allowing her some space. The guilt flooded her as she took in the dejected man in front of her. He didn't deserve this. None of them did.

"It's Logan, isn't it? You still love him." It was a statement, rather than a question, revealing that he could see what probably everyone in Neptune could, too. She still felt the need to protest.

"Brady –"

He put his palm up to stop her from protesting. "Hey. I get it – I wish I didn't, but I do. I'd just like to know the truth so that I know what I'm really up against. You know a lawyer's worst fear is to be blindsided," he told her with a hint of a sad smile.

Again, Veronica thought about lying, making up some other of a million excuses she could give, but he deserved the truth and frankly, she was tired of holding it in.

"I do." It was a simple answer for a colossally complicated epic mess, but it was the truth, and Brady didn't need any excuses or explanations.

"Okay," he said, head his nodding in acceptance. He suddenly laughed, confusing Veronica a little. "I was kind of hoping you'd say no, but I knew. Deep down I knew what the answer would be."

He turned serious again, his features turning thoughtful. "I think we all know."

"Brady-" she started, regret in her voice.

"No. Hey – it's cool. I'll just get a few drinks with the guys later, maybe try out a few of my old pick-up lines – repair my bruised ego," he told her, laughing. "As for you, Veronica Mars, I'll see you later."

Veronica watched him descend the stairs and walk out to his car. She smiled and allowed herself to think that maybe someday she'd be free to love a man like Brady Carr – someday.

"Did you mean it?"

The familiar voice came out of nowhere, startling her. He noticed.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I was waiting for you when Brady dropped you off. I slipped around the corner until he left," he explained. "I didn't want him to see me after… well, I'm assuming you know what happened after you left the other night."

"I know enough. And as I told you earlier, it's not a good idea for you to be here," she retorted tersely. She turned and unlocked the apartment door and despite her objections, held it open after she entered. Logan followed, taking it as an invitation.

Once the door was closed behind him, Veronica laid into him.

"What are you doing skulking around my apartment anyway, Logan?"

He held up a manila file folder, giving it a little shake. "I believe you needed this list."

"And I asked you to just to fax it over."

"Yeah, well – I'm not so good with fax machines, or directions for that matter, and it sounded important so…"

Veronica sighed. "I do appreciate it – I really do," she replied, sounding torn. "But you really should go now."

He ignored her, not wanting to leave – at least not without some answers and not without telling her the news.

"So what do you want with this list, anyway?"

"Would you believe I wanted to write some thank you cards? I mean, so many people came up to me offering their support, I just didn't want to forget anyone."

There was no way she could have thought he would buy that lie but she apparently had to give it a try. Veronica Mars was allergic to the truth, at least when it came to sharing it with someone else. She hadn't changed that much.

The incredulous look he gave her told her she shouldn't have bothered. He always did read her well. "Really, though, Veronica. You're not getting yourself into trouble, are you? I'm not sure if you remember or not, but you just happen to be a magnet for it," he told her pointedly.

"No. Nothing like that. Just background work for a case my father's letting me help out with. You know – helping me get back in the swing of things."

Logan eyed her carefully. He still didn't fully believe her, but he was treading on thin ice as it was – with her and Sarah. He made a mental note to figure out a way to ask Keith about it later.

He dropped his head and began rubbing the back of it with his left hand as he always did when he was nervous.

"Yeah, so…. the file was just an excuse. There is something I needed to talk to you about."

"I thought we already covered this, Logan," she told him, exasperated.

"I came to apologize in person for the other night. The things you said… you were right. I didn't mean for things to get so out of hand, and I really didn't mean to put you in such an awkward place. It's just… Everything is so fucked up."

Logan watched as her eyes filled with tears and he resisted the urge to wipe them away. He swallowed thickly, desperate to hold back his own tears. "You were right. I need to let you go. I need to let you move on and if that means being with Brady, then so be it. I've only ever wanted what makes you happy, Veronica."

The air hung thick between them, weighed with tension, and Logan thought if he didn't lighten the mood he would break. "I'm not sorry I punched him, tough. Punk deserved it," he revealed with a smirk.

"Logan!" she reprimanded. But then she began to smile and he decided that he would freeze that image in his mind to hold onto forever. He held her gaze as he handed over the file. She tried to grab it but her attention was elsewhere and it fell to the ground, papers flying everywhere.

He bent down and helped her gather the numerous pages. As Veronica reached for the last one, his large, strong hand covered hers. She looked up, locking them both in a stare they couldn't seem to break. Rising together slowly, Veronica managed to slide her hand from Logan's but still couldn't look away.

"You never answered my question," Logan told her. "Earlier, with Brady. Did you mean what you said?"

Veronica didn't have to ask. She knew exactly what he was referring to.

"Logan – you said we were moving past this. Does it even really matter?"

"It shouldn't – but it does."

"Why? Everything is already so complicated. Why add fuel to the fire?"

"Because I'm a masochist, because I can never leave well enough alone, because – " he stopped momentarily. "Because I never really knew the truth about how you felt."

Again, she wanted to say no, especially to this boy – man - standing in front of her, but the hurt, the vulnerability she saw in his eyes screamed that he needed the truth from her for once.

Veronica was able to finally look away. She couldn't look at him and still gather the courage to say what she needed to say. "Yes. I meant it. I've tried so hard not to - God knows I've tried, but it won't go away. I'm pretty sure that I always will. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry I never told you," she added softly.

Logan looked to the ceiling, and chuckled nervously. It wasn't at all the reaction she was expecting.

"I'm not sure if this makes what I'm about to say harder or easier." He looked back at her, taking in her confusion. "Your dad thinks it would be better if I left town."

She opens her mouth in shock. "What? Leave Neptune for good?"

He nods. "Yeah. Sarah and I have talked about it. We'll be going back to San Francisco."

"What about your job? What about those families you're helping?" What about me?, she wanted to ask but knew she didn't have the right.

"Since the semester has only just started, the university got an adjunct professor to come in and take over my classes. I'm keeping my office for now – I think they're hoping I'll come back in the spring. As for my clients, I'll be helping them from the FotM office in San Fran. I'll be there a lot since I won't be teaching anywhere."

"Oh. Sounds like you've got everything worked out." An awkward quiet fell over them, before Veronica finally spoke. "Well, I guess this is goodbye then." She hoped it didn't sound as bitter out loud as it did in her head.

"Yeah. I guess it is."

"Veronica – "

"Logan –" both started at the same time.

They laughed together, easing the immense tension in the small apartment.

"You first." Logan offered.

"I just wanted to say thanks – you know – for helping me. I know it hasn't been easy for you. Or for Sarah. So, thanks," she added with a shy smile.

"I wanted to do more. You can't know how much I wish things weren't so complicated. I actually wish a lot of things. I mean, not that I wish there wasn't Sarah. I love Sarah, Veronica – I do. But she'll never be you."

She blushed as his admission, feeling both a pang of jealously and guilt. "You don't have to explain, Logan. It wouldn't be us if it weren't complicated. And for the record, it's good that you're happy – that you found someone to love who can love you more than I probably ever could."

Inside her heart was breaking, being shattered into a million pieces as she realized this might be the last time she would see the man in front of her – at least up close and personal. She hoped he couldn't tell, or they might never walk away from each other. He didn't deserve that. He deserved a life with a regular, healthy girl, one without the kind of baggage she had strapped on her own back. Logan was finally free of that, but she'd seen it coming back slowly as he struggled with her return. This was her chance to do the right thing – to set him free to love and to be loved.

She watched as he simply nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. She knew he didn't trust his voice to speak, but it didn't matter - no more words were needed.

After what seemed like forever Logan reached forward to brush a stray hair away from her face. Taking one small step forward, he got as close as he could without being pressed against her. His thumb gently caressed her jaw before sliding upwards. Despite every effort not to, Veronica leaned into his touch, enjoying the feel of his palm against her check, his fingertips in her hair. The simple touch set her insides on fire – a stark contrast to the way she'd felt only minutes earlier with Brady.

Logan lifted her face towards him, but she silently refused to look at him, staring at the beautiful hollow in his neck instead. She knew if she did, all would be lost.

His lips touched her forehead, kissing her once above the eyebrow and then longer in the center. Tears were rolling down her face but she simply let them be. He released her, and she watched his hands found his pockets. Logan said nothing more – simply backed up to the door and then turned around and left. It was only then that she let herself finally breathe.

She had gotten what she'd wanted, or at least what she knew they both needed. Out of all that she could remember, her heart had never felt heavier.

An hour or so after Logan left, Veronica found herself on the couch watching some brainless television show, a long-empty container of ice cream beside her. She'd already changed into her sleep shorts and tank, hoping comfortable clothes and a familiar couch would bring some type of relief to her broken heart.

Her Dad had called a little earlier, reminding her of his poker night with the guys – or at least that's the story he gave her. Veronica was smart enough to know it was a cover up for the amount of time he spent at the office on her behalf. He never wanted her to worry. Even still, she'd almost broken down and asked him to come home, not wanting to be alone, but she hadn't. Ben and Jerry would have to do.

The knock on the front door startled her, and she took glanced to where her keys lay, assuring the presence of her trusty can of mace should she need it. Veronica got up and cautiously made her way to the entryway, relaxing when she recognized the silhouette of her visitor. She barely got the door open before Logan rushed inside, forcing her to step back quickly.

"I can't. I'm sorry. I can't," he told her hurriedly.

He looked positively stricken. "Logan- what?"

"You're mine. You're mine and I won't let anyone else have you."

Lips crashing to hers cut off any other retort she had for him. She was shocked only for a moment before throwing her arms around him and allowing him to claim her in any way he wanted. His tongue found its way inside her welcoming mouth, exploring every inch of her with a wildly possessive frenzy.

He shoved the door shut with his foot and pushed her further into the living room. He grabbed her by the backs of the thighs, lifting her up easily and bringing her even closer to him. Veronica's legs wrapped around him readily, and he stumbled to the wall to brace them both.

Seeking hands met her willing flesh as they both grappled to touch and feel every inch of each other.

"I want you to say it," he growled. "Tell me. Tell me you remember this – us – how we could have set the world ablaze with what always lay between us. Tell me that you're mine, Veronica – that always have been and always will be. Tell me that no other man will ever be able to replace me in your life. Please."

It was incredibly erotic, him claiming her with his words as his hands marked her body. "I am yours. Nobody else. Just you. It's just you, Logan, just you," she chanted as he worked his mouth down her neck.

"God, Veronica. I've missed you," he confessed between kisses. His hands slid underneath her thin nightshirt and squeezed her breasts roughly as his other hand moved along the back of her thigh. "Tell me you want this as much as I do."

Her mind was foggy, and couldn't keep up with the fevered pace, barely aware of what he was saying. "Logan, please." At this point, she wasn't sure if she was asking him to stop or begging him to continue; they both seemed like bad ideas.

Their uncontrollable need for each other was frightening, taking on a life of its own. Before she knew it, her shorts were on the floor and her own hands shook as she furiously unbuckled Logan's belt and pushed his pants down as far as she could.

In a small moment of clarity, she realized what they were about to do, realized there would be no coming back from this.

"Wait. Logan- wait. This is only going to turn out badly. I don't want you to hate yourself in the morning – I don't want you to hate me in the morning."

He ignored her concerns, blinded by his passion. "I love you, Veronica, I can't let you go. I just can't," he pleaded as he buried his head into her shoulder.

She registered the wetness on her shoulder was not sweat but from Logan's tears and it prompted some of her own. They would both be damned forever but there was no turning back now.

It was crude and it was desperate - like he'd just surfaced from a near drowning in the murky sea, his lungs screaming for the breath of life. His desire for her had always been a little overwhelming but now, faced with losing her again, he found it hard to think. He hadn't even realized how much he really missed her until this moment.

Her nails dug into his back as she moaned his name, deep and lusty. It reverberated right into his soul, filling the deeply hidden crevices with thinly veiled hope.

It was so primal – the way his whole body practically shook with need, craving their union. Logan simply could not wait any longer. He was grateful that Veronica had already shoved his pants down to his knees, allowing him to pull her panties aside and relish in the moment that she was his again.

Every single part of him - body, mind and soul – was entangled in the betrayal, but for being so wrong, everything felt so right. Veronica Mars was his and always would be; neither of them could deny it any longer. He was home, finally – deep inside a woman that wasn't his wife. The irony wasn't lost on him.

When it was over, both sated and spent, they slid to the floor- Veronica laying half on top of him. They were quiet, the only sound being their ragged breathing. Logan's tears had finally subsided, but he could still feel hers on his chest. It worried him a little.

"Veronica? Are you okay? Without the haze of sex clouding his vision, he pulled her back and looked at her – really looked at her. Her eyes were sad and disappointed and he finally realized the consequences for them all. He'd not only cheated on his wife but he'd made Veronica a party to the very thing that had turned her world upside down before she was even born.

He didn't think he could ever forgive himself.

Quickly disentangling himself from Veronica, he scrambled to his feet. He shamefully attempted to pull his pants up as he stumbled over to the bathroom, barely making it into the room before he emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet.

What had he done?

"Congratulations, Logan- you've just made us into the two people we hate most," she spoke sharply.

He glanced up at her from his position on the cold tile floor, not missing the utter anguish written clearly on her face. He opened his mouth to say something, anything to somehow make it better, but she cut him off.

"Go home to your wife, Logan."

He wiped the tears flowing furiously down his face, and tried to keep himself from completely losing it as she walked away. He heard the door to her bedroom slam shut and the lock click into place.

Logan collected himself as best he could, in a hurry to leave before he had to face her again. He didn't think he could bear it. He stood in the living room of the Mars apartment, looking back at the closed door one more time. It all seemed so tragic, so irreparable, so final. He supposed it was.

To be continued

*Gasp* Can you believe it? An actual chapter? Review and you'll more. I won't quit…. On ANY of my fics. You might just have to be very, very, very patient ; ) But seriously, THANK YOU to all of you who continue to make my day by reviewing this fic and my others. I heart you.