Disclaimer: I own nothing but the baby.
Quick A/N: I've been watching Veronica Mars for the first time and I've stalled at episode 3.11 because I know that I'm about to see LoVe break up again and I can't take it. I'll finish the series eventually, but for the moment I decided to write my own little AU, taking off at the end of 3.11. It'll have multiple chapters, I just don't know how many at the moment.
Madison Sinclair. He'd slept with Madison Sinclair.
Veronica lay in bed, staring at her ceiling. It wasn't the most attractive ceiling she'd ever seen, but it served her well enough. They'd gotten to know one another pretty well of late, her ugly ceiling and her. It sat up there, keeping her covered and dry, and she lay down below, aggressively not sleeping. Sleep meant unpleasant dreams of naked Madison Sinclair, who, as it turned out, was the only person more irritating that clothed Madison Sinclair.
So she didn't sleep. She starred at the ceiling. And each day she arose a little punchier than the day before. Punchier, and angrier.
He'd said he'd been with a horrible girl. He'd given her that much. He hadn't lied, he'd just omitted the nightmare-inducing part. She wondered vaguely if he had nightmares of it, too. After all, he was the one who'd actually seen her naked. He'd probably been drunk, the ass. The thought made her unaccountably angrier. If she was suffering like this, he should have to, as well.
Her alarm clock began to trill, and Veronica reached a hand out to silence it. Enough was enough. This was already affecting her personal life, soon it would begin to wreck havoc on her studies. Something had to give.
"You look like hell."
Veronica looked blearily up from her coffee. "Mac. You know just what to say to make a girl feel beautiful."
Mac plopped into the chair next to Veronica in the dining hall. "Still not sleeping, huh?"
Veronica grunted. She assumed her face told the whole story. Mac was the only person she'd told about Madison's revelation, knowing she'd also be the only one to truly appreciate the horror of it.
"Have you actually asked him about it?" Veronica mumbled something. "What?"
Mac laughed, unsurprised. "You know, Bond, as fearless and confrontational as you are, you can be the biggest wimp. What is it about Logan that makes you assume the worst without questioning him?"
She colored. "I'm not as bad as I used to be."
"Dude, that is not saying much." She stood, said "I've got to get to class," and started to turn away. "Veronica."
Veronica looked up.
"Will you promise me you'll give him a fair chance to explain before storming off?"
Veronica had already made herself the same promise, so she nodded easily. "I will. You're not wrong about me, Mac. It's just...tough."
Mac laughed wrying and shifted her bag from one should to the other. "I get that. I wouldn't want your nightmares, dude. Not even if it meant a lifetime of using Vista. No way."
With that parting shot, she strode off to class, leaving Veronica where she'd found her, moodily contemplating her coffee. Several minutes passed before it occurred to her that she had a class, too. She looked up to check the wall clock and her gaze clashed with Logan's, sitting patiently across from her.
She jumped. "Whoa! Where'd you come from?"
He smirked, but there was no bite to it. "The parking garage. You okay?" When she didn't answer, he forged on. "Don't you have class?"
"What? Yes. No. Yes." He blinked. "What?"
"Really. Are you okay?" His smirk was gone, replaced wholly by concern. Which was somehow worse than every minute of ridicule and cruelty he'd put her 16-year-old self through.
She stood quickly, abandoning her now cold coffee and grabbing her bag and books. "Sorry, I haven't really been sleeping. And I do have class." She cast him a distracted smile and started to brush past him. He stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm.
"Veronica. Why won't you talk to me?"
She turned back to him, intending to throw out a quip and go on her way, but her eyes met his and for the first time in days she didn't immediately see him twined with Madison in her mind's eye; she only saw him. Before she could think about what she was doing, she lowered her lips to the top of his head and rested them there for a moment, burying her nose in his hair and inhaling to draw in the crisp, familiar scent of him. Her free hand brushed against his cheek, and if she could have see his face she would have seen him close his eyes, savoring the moment.
She murmured something softly, then walked away. He watched her go, heart stuttering in his chest.
I love you, she'd said, for the first time. He should be elated, but instead he was terrified. She looked at him with such heartbreaking affection, and it was worse somehow then when she'd accused him of murder all those year ago.
When he'd begged, borrowed, and bribed his way into Hearst, Logan had never imagined it would lead to this very moment, sitting in a Survey of Western Art class and studying something painted on a wall in a city hundreds of miles away. Even less expected was the fact that he was doing so and not hating it. As an undeclared freshman, his schedule was all general requirement classes, but he was actually thinking about registering for additional art history courses next year. When Dick had ragged on him about it, he'd justified himself with the argument that the bulk of his inheritance from his mother was her extensive art collection, but the truth was that he actually enjoyed it.
Would he be declaring himself an art history major? Probably not. But it was a novel experience, finding enjoyment in a class other than weight-lifting. Logan didn't come across too many novel experiences in his day-to-day life.
He thought back to this morning's puzzling conversation with Veronica. He wondered what it was like sometimes, for guys with normal girlfriends. Did they have trackers in their phones, too? Conversations about topics other than various broken laws? He tried to imagine having a conversation with Veronica about something normal...politics, perhaps. Now that would be novel.
He'd planned to meet her outside her bio lab, but decided to head to the library instead. He had an exam next week, and just because he enjoyed looking at early Renaissance art didn't mean he'd memorized all of the artists and dates. He knew the last thing they needed in their relationship was less communication, but he felt almost desperate to distance himself from this morning. Something was wrong, and he would ask her about it, just...not right this minute.
Right this minute, all Veronica wanted in the world was to get to her dad's office and immerse herself in some simple, straightforward catching of cheating spouses. She could lose herself in the easy routine of research and not have to think about her boyfriend or his erstwhile hook-up for a while. She beelined for her car, but let out a huff of impatience at the sight of a woman standing behind it with a baby carriage.
"Excuse me, ma'am," she started as she approached, but she fell silent when the woman turned her way. "Mom?"
Lianne Mars cast her a tentative smile. "Hello, Veronica. How are you?"
Veronica sputtered. "How am I-where have you been-we've heard nothing-do you have any idea how many student loans-" she cut herself off and drew in a calming breath. "Mom. What do you want?"
Lianne seemed to be bracing herself. "I know I have no right to ask you for this-for anything-after what I put you and your father through. I know that, and I wouldn't blame you if you kicked me to the curb. But I'm hoping you won't do it for me, anyways." She took a deep breath. "I'm checking myself into rehab. I messed up before. I was a terrible mother to you, a terrible wife to your father, and I just didn't see what was so wrong about what I was doing. I wish I could take it back, but I can't. I can't do it over for you."
Lianne looked down at the baby carriage, acknowledging it for the first time. Veronica had all but forgotten it was there. She rolled it back and forth a little, and the contents made a happy little sound. Veronica was afraid to look. Lianne continued. "I can't do it for you, but I can for her." She looked up, and the expression in her eyes was hopeful and honest in a way that Veronica hadn't seen in years. "Veronica, this is your sister."
Veronica didn't want to look. She wanted to remain ignorant. She wanted the world to go back to 20 minutes ago, when her biggest concern was what trashy lingerie her nemesis would show up wearing in her nightmares that evening. All of which was foolish. She stepped forward.
The baby was young, but not a newborn. Maybe a few months old? She was wearing a pretty red checked dress with a matching headband and she waved one plump fist in the direction of her mother. Veronica reached out to touch the little hand, and promptly found her finger caught in a surprisingly tight grip. "Mom, my God..."
"Will you help me, Veronica? Will you help me be better for her? And for you, too, though I know it's years and years overdue. You won't be paying for anything this time."
"So what do you need me for?"
"I need you to believe that I can do it. And...I need you to be a big sister to Eleanor."
Veronica read between the lines of that statement and whipped her eyes up to meet her mother's. "Mom!"
"I know. You're a college student, this shouldn't have to be your life. But I don't trust her anywhere else. Please."
Veronica studied first her mother, and then her sister. Eleanor. "What's her last name?"
"Mom, what name did you give her?"
"Okay." She pulled in a deep breath. "Okay. One condition. No, two." Her mother nodded. "First, there will be no moving back in with us. Dad is with someone else, Mom, and he's happy. He's so happy, and I don't want to see that change. Eleanor..." she stumbled over the name a little "Eleanor can stay with us for as long as it takes you to get sober. Okay?"
Lianne nodded happily.
"The other condition is...when that happens, when you're sober...you stay. It doesn't need to be here, it doesn't need to be nearby, but no more disappearing. If you're going to be my mom, then you need to be my mom."
Lianne seemed not to have a verbal answer to this, but she reached out and grabbed hold of her daughter. Veronica told herself not to let herself hope, but...it felt really good to be held by her mother again.
Keith Mars had been tracking a bail jumper through Oregon for the last week, and it felt good to be home, back in his familiar hallway with its familiar flickering lights and a nice fat check in his pocket (the last part wasn't as familiar as the others, but he would take it). He'd seen Veronica's car out front, so he flung open the door with all of the panache running on six days of fumes had left him and started on his favourite refrain of "Who's your daddy?" when a hand covered his mouth.
"Whff?" He regarded his daughter in confusion. She looked ragged.
"She just fell asleep and I swear on all that is holy if you wake her up I will make your life a living hell."
She removed her hand, and Keith responded, echoing her whisper. "Are you babysitting?" he approached the carrier sitting on the couch with curiosity.
"No, we are. Sort of. Dad, I'd like to introduce you to Eleanor Mars."
Veronica slammed her hand over his mouth before he could exclaim. "Living hell, remember? Let's go into your office for a spell." She took the phone receiver on her desk off the cradle and pressed a button so it would page the phone in Keith's office, effectively creating an open line. She shrugged when Keith sent her an inquisitive look. "Poor man's baby monitor. Now come on, Daddio, we've got a long conversation ahead of us."
Logan had given up on studying hours before and had turned to Dick and Halo to further distract him from the Veronica-shaped cloud he felt hanging over his head. Neither had been particularly effective. "Enough." He threw his controller down and stood.
Dick crowed in triumph. "Haha! Your surrender spells victory for me!"
He smiled. It was hard to be glum around Dick. "I need to get out of here. Catch you later?"
"Good talk, roomie."
"Hey, screw you."
He hadn't had a plan when he got in the car, but was unsurprised when he ended up in front of the Mars' apartment complex. He spotted Veronica's Saturn and decided that it was time for that cloud to burn off or rain down. Either way, the tension of the past week was coming to an end today.
There was a lot of noise coming from inside the Mars apartment, which was odd in and of itself, but odder still was when the door was opened for him by a smallish boy who Logan vaguely recognized as Wallace's brother. "Hey...Darryl, right?"
"Yeah! Hi, Logan! Have you come to meet the baby, too?"
"What?" He looked past the boy into the apartment. Sure enough, there was a baby carrier sitting on the kitchen counter, empty. He walked in and found the rest of the room's occupants; Keith and Alicia, Wallace and Darryl's mom, sitting on the couch cooing over a baby in a red dress. Backup was sitting as close to the infant as he could, thoughtfully sniffing her head. Keith looked up and smiled.
"Hey, Logan. Veronica's in her room."
He nodded, mystified, and headed back in that direction.
Veronica opened her door a moment after he knocked, looking about as wrecked as he'd ever seen her. Her face lit up in the first genuine smile he'd seen on her in days and she threw her arms around his shoulders and buried her face in his neck. "Oh, I missed you."
He automatically brought his arms up to curve around her back. "It's only been six or seven hours since you saw me."
She tightened her grip and just seemed to breath him in. "I know. I know, but then everything changed and all I wanted to do was see you."
Well, he wasn't going to argue with his good fortune, but still..."Veronica, what the hell is going on?"
She laughed. "Feel like taking a walk on the beach?"
"So your mom just showed up in the parking lot? Just like that?"
They were strolling down the shore near the apartment, Backup snuffling along next to them.
"And-what? Said 'Here's your sister you've never met, now drive me to rehab?'"
Veronica laughed, and was gratified that it sounded a little less crazed than it had only a couple of hours before. "Basically."
"And you did it?"
"Well, I laid down some ground rules, but yes."
"Did you even ask her who the father is?"
Veronica came to a halt and turned to face the ocean. "I didn't need to."
"What do you mean?" Logan drew up next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders when she leaned into him.
"Her name is Eleanor. Eleanor Mars."
The name didn't have the immediate significance with Logan that it had had with Veronica, so she waited while he puzzled it out. "Wait. Didn't Duncan have a Grandma Eleanor?"
She nodded against his chest. "Yup. She was Jake's mother."
"Jesus. Do you think he knows?"
"I honestly have no idea. The fact that she gave her our last name suggests to me that he doesn't. Plus she seemed a little desperate to have us take her. Which is odd, since he could certainly provide for her better financially than us."
Logan let that sink in, then said, "So Duncan has a sister who's younger than his daughter. That's...weird."
Veronica pulled back to look him in the eye, the expression on her face clearly stating she hadn't even thought of that. "Oh my God, you're right." She laughed. "Duncan and I have a sister. Oh man, this is weird."
"Do you know how to get in touch with him? I think this is something he'd like to know."
Veronica smiled at him and reached a hand out to smooth over his hair. "You know you've never asked me that before. I always wondered why."
He winced. "I was afraid the answer was yes. I could never compete with Duncan. Not when it came to you. I knew I'd only won you back because he was gone. So I decided that I preferred ignorance."
Veronica studied him, then sat down in the sand and pulled him down next to her. "You're wrong, you know. Duncan could never compete with you. The whole time we were together senior year, I felt like I was playing a part. Trying to be the Veronica he'd known and loved while Lilly was still alive. I couldn't pretend to be that girl with you. I could only ever be the hard, unforgiving creature I'd become."
He grinned a little at her choice of words. "I love that creature, you know."
She grinned back. "I know. I kind of love her, too."
He leaned forward to press a kiss to her temple. "Good."
"And no, by the way. The answer is no. I don't know how to get in touch with Duncan. I never did. I didn't really want to know. It was falling apart, you know. The illusion. My act. Even before little Lilly was born, it was falling apart. Ironically, it was my anger with you that kept it going. I'd see you with Kendall and then try a little harder with Duncan, just to spite you."
He pulled her closer as the breeze off of the ocean picked up and whipped at her hair. "That sort of backfired on me then, didn't it?" Suddenly he pulled back and grinned down at her. "Did we just have a normal conversation about our relationship? Like other, non-crime-fighting couples do?"
She considered, then nodded. "I think we did."
"Of course, this was all about stuff that happened last year. Want to see if we can apply it to the recent stuff?"
She sat up a little straighter, then nodded.
"This morning. What was that about?"
"How did you...?"
"Do you honestly want to know how I found out the specific identity of the horrible girl you slept with while we were broken up? I didn't go looking for it, if that's what you're asking."
It hadn't been, but he was a little gratified to know that she hadn't.
"There I was, waiting to buy lingerie, trying to be a good girlfriend, and out of nowhere Madison Sinclair is giving me tips on what makes my boyfriend go 'Awoooga! Awoooga!' like some cartoon dog."
"You were buying lingerie?"
"Not the point, Echolls!"
"I think it's a pretty good point to start with-"
He laughed. "She doesn't even know, you know."
"Madison. She was screwing with you. She doesn't know what makes steam come out of my ears anymore than Dick does."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that you've managed the herculean task of keeping your friendship with Dick platonic." She fell silent for a moment. "She doesn't?"
He sat back a little and looked at the sky. "I was in Aspen. Dick's mom has a place out there, so we went there for Christmas. It seemed like the thing the do. Neither of us exactly have family anymore. Dick threw a party. I don't even know how Madison got there, if she was in the area by coincidence, if Dick invited her, what. I was drunk and miserable and missing you and trying desperately to convince myself that I wasn't missing you. And she was there. I guess." He looked back down to meet her eyes. "I was not a...romantic coupling. I don't remember a great deal of it, but I remember that. We both stayed pretty much clothed, so I have no way of knowing what lingerie she was even wearing, and she certainly has no way of knowing whether it would make my eyes roll back in my head, or whatever."
"Okay, that's enough of the cartoon dog metaphor. I get it."
"You started it."
"And I'm ending it. Go on."
"That's just it, there's nothing else. I would have chalked it up to a drunk hallucination if Dick hadn't taunted me about it the next day. And then her showing up at the hotel sort of cinched it, too."
"So you haven't even seen her naked?"
"What? No. That's what I just said."
Veronica punched a hand viciously into the sand. "Well, that's just not fair."
Logan sent her a baffled look. "I thought that would make you happy!"
"It does! It would! Normally. But I haven't had a full night's sleep in a week because every time I close my goddamn eyes I see naked Madison Sinclair all writhing and...and...in your bed!"
"We weren't even in my bed, we were in some closet in Aspen-"
"So not the point!"
"So that's what this morning was about? You being haunted by me and a naked Madison Sinclair?"
"If you'd like me to ever be able to sleep again, you'll stop saying those words."
"But, yes. It was driving me insane."
"Veronica, why didn't you ask me about it? I could have gotten rid of the naked-" she cut him off with a glare. "The nightmares before they even started."
"I know. Same reason you never asked about Duncan, I guess. I was afraid of the truth, so I convinced myself I could live with not knowing. I didn't count on the nightmares."
"Veronica." Logan shook his head ruefully. "God, we're a pair, aren't we?"
They were silent for a few minutes, watching the waves. Backup had dug himself a hole in the sand and was gleefully rolling around on his back inside of it.
"Do you want to be with me?" Logan's voice pulled her back from her thoughts. "No lying, no prevaricating. Just tell me, face to face. Do you want to be with me?"
Veronica met his eyes. "Yes. We're messy and complicated, but yes. I want to be with you."
He held her gaze without speaking for a moment, searching for what she didn't know. Finally, he nodded. "Fine. Then we need to do something."
"Like you did with you mom. We need ground rules to keep us from being stupid."
Veronica laughed wryly. "Oh honey, you know all the right things to say."
He grinned at her. "Sorry. But I mean it. Like...okay. Okay. Rule number one: Don't assume the worst."
She grimaced. "Ah. Right."
"Veronica, I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone else. Hurting you is the last thing I want to do. Do you think you can believe that? To...think of it first instead of automatically trying me and finding me guilty in some sort of mental court of Veronica Mars?"
"Yes. Is it my turn?"
"Okay, rule number two is...defend yourself. I know that letting people think the worst of you was a defense mechanism for you, Logan. I know that it was necessary for a long time. But it isn't necessary anymore. So if something happens, don't even let me get to the point where assumptions are being made. Be honest with me, right away. Do you think you can do that?"
He chewed on it, then nodded. "Yeah, I can. Gee, two people who love each other working together instead of against one another. How delightfully bourgeois."
She laughed. "We really have made things tough for one another, haven't we?" She looked back towards the apartment block. "And it's about to get tougher."
"Yeah." Logan stood and reached a hand down to help her up. "It looked like your dad and Mrs. Fennel are pretty okay with it, though."
"I think they're still riding the baby high. They weren't the ones who spent two hours getting her to take a nap this afternoon."
"So what were your ground rules with your mom?"
"She wasn't moving back in and couldn't claim Dad. He's with Alicia, and they're stupidly happy. I'm not letting her screw that up for him. The other was that she's not allowed to run away again."
Logan took Backup's leash out of her hand and laced his fingers with hers. "That would be a good rule for us too, don't you think?"
Veronica leaned her head against his arm, loving the solid feel of his bicep, the way he had of rubbing his thumb over her hand. "Yeah. Yeah, that's a good rule. Though it might be the toughest one for me to follow. I guess I have more of my mom in me than I'd like."
"Tell you what. If you're really mad at me, if we've talked and you're still angry enough to run, call Wallace or Mac first. Hell, call Dick. Wallace, Mac, or Dick. Don't just vanish on me. I don't think I could take that."
Veronica knew he was thinking of his mom. She tugged on his hand to get him to stop and pulled him down to lay her lips on his. The kiss got away from them quickly, and it took Backup yelping to break them out of it. Logan realized that he'd tried to wrap the hand holding Backup's leash around the back of Veronica's neck, and inadvertently choked the dog. He knelt down to check on him.
"Sorry, buddy. You okay?" Backup responded with a kiss of his own.
"Aw, we Marses just can't get enough of you, it seems," Veronica said, laughing.