Disclaimer: I own nothing but the baby.
They arrived back at the duplex to find the kitchen put away, Mrs. Navarro gone, and Mac and Dick playing Mortal Kombat in relative silence. Veronica leaned towards Logan and said under her breath, "Quick, go check the ocean. If it's boiling, that would explain this."
He smiled. "Clearly you've never bonded with someone while ripping them apart in a video game."
"Not in a video game, no."
Mac, without pausing the game, shouted "They're back!"
Dick, who had apparently not been as aware of his surroundings as Mac had, dropped his controller in surprise. With a triumphant "Ha!" Mac ended the match.
Dick turned on the couch to face them. "Oh, hey guys. Where's the baby?"
"With my Dad. Whatcha doing here, Dick?" Veronica asked pointedly.
He glanced at Mac and shrugged, then said "Oh, you know, Logan has...furniture."
Chuck emerged from the first floor. "Parker says to tell you that it's ready and to come down."
"Relegated to errand boy, are you, Chuck?" Logan asked.
Chuck's shrug seemed to indicate he was okay with the situation.
"What's ready?" Veronica asked. She pierced Logan with a suspicious glare. He shrugged with as much innocence as he could muster.
Parker called out from the base of the stairs. "Come on, you guys, come see!"
They walked down.
Veronica dragged Logan into his bedroom and shut the door. "$700 dollars, Logan?"
He really wished Chuck hadn't let that part slip. "I didn't know how much it cost. Parker showed me a photo and I said yes."
"And of course it didn't even occur to you to ask about the price." Logan shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. "No, it wouldn't."
"What do you want me to say, Veronica? That I'm sorry for trying to make your life a little easier? Because I'm not! I may not be too familiar with the topic, but I thought that's what people who love each other do!"
"It is! But...Logan, there's a line between helpful and sugar daddy and you have a tendency to charge right over it."
"Is that what you're worried about? I told you, nobody thinks-"
"I don't care what anyone thinks, I care you you think!"
"Veronica, if I thought I could buy your affection, you would have a hell of a lot of diamonds and probably a boat. I don't think of you like that. You know I don't."
He tried to catch her gaze but she wouldn't meet his eyes. "I should go catch Parker before she leaves. She put a lot of work into this for you."
"Veronica-" he called after her.
"I'm not leaving. I made a promise and I'm keeping it. Just...give me a minute." She walked out. Logan didn't stop her again.
Veronica caught up with Parker by Mac's car.
"Hey, Parker!" The other girl turned. She didn't look upset, just...dimmed. "I know that my reaction wasn't exactly what you were hoping for, but it had nothing to do with you."
Parker nodded. "Yeah, I know."
"No, Parker, the room looks awesome. You did a fantastic job. If interior design is what you want to do, I think you should go for it. I don't really know anything about it, but it seems to me that you have an eye for it."
Parker lit up, all dimness gone. "You think so?"
"Yeah. If I ever need anything decorated, I will definitely think of you."
The other girl bent and folded Veronica in an impromptu hug. "Thanks, Veronica! That really means a lot. Oh, and I know that you're mad at Logan about how much stuff cost, but he really didn't know. He just wanted something simple and pretty for Ellie. And, you know, for you."
Veronica nodded and stepped back. "I know. See you next week." She waved to Mac, already in the car, and then headed back inside.
Logan found her in the second bedroom. Parker really had done a great job. Seeing the result, he couldn't feel sorry about the cost. The crib was low to the ground, with a simple, cut-out base in pale maple. The columns of the crib-was that the right word?-were all painted a salmony pink. Parker had picked out sheets and a blanket with highlights of lime green. The knit mobile which hung overhead was a mermaid inside a hoop with little fish hanging off of it. The overall effect was "sweet but not cloying," as Parker had put it, which Logan had thought suited Veronica and Ellie very well. He stood in the doorway and leaned against the jamb, watching her.
She reached out a hand and touched the mobile, sending it spinning. "Sometimes I hope she fails."
Logan straightened. "Your mom?"
She turned to face him and her eyes were wet. "Isn't that awful? I look at Ellie and I try to remember how good things were, when I was little. Before the drinking got bad, when she was just my mom. I want that for Ellie, I do." She looked back at the crib.
"You love her."
"But what if it's too much? My mom's going to come back and take her and then what will I do? The problem isn't that you're making things easy, Logan, it's that you're making things too easy!" She spun to face him, glaring in accusation. "And what are you going to do with this stuff when she's gone? What then?"
"Let's get married."
That shocked the anger out her. "What?"
He nodded, pleased with himself. "Yeah. Yeah, let's get married. We'll drive to Vegas, get hitched, drive back, knock you up, and then bam! Don't have to get rid of the crib."
Veronica gave a watery laugh. "What if we have a boy?"
"Veronica Mars, how dare you enforce gender stereotypes on our unborn child." He reached out to her and she let herself be tugged into his arms.
She chuckled into his shirt. "See? It's easy. But I don't want easy, Logan. I don't trust it." She angled her chin up until she was looking at him. "Admit it, you don't trust it, either."
"No. But I'll take it when I can get it."
"I can't do that. I need to feel like I've worked for things. Like I've earned them. I understand that."
He pushed a lock of her hair behind her ear. "Dragon slayer."
She swallowed her smile. "Shut up."
"I get it, Veronica. I may not feel the same way, but I get it. All I ask is that you let me be the Patsy to your Lancelot."
"Ooh, clever man with his Monty Python references."
"I don't spend all of my time drunkenly falling off of surfboards, you know." He kissed her softly, and then lingered, letting it deepen.
Veronica wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself up so he could straighten. He started to work one of his hands underneath her shirt and she pulled away, laughing. "Uh-uh, that's enough of that, Gomez." He grinned, grabbed one of her hands, and began dramatically kissing his way up her arm. "No no," she pulled her hand away and slapped it to his chest, pressing him back a step. "You have half of an econ project to complete, buddy."
"Yeah, by Monday."
"Yes, and I have a family dinner to get to. At this rate, I'm going to be late and Wallace hates it when he has to sit at the kids table by himself."
"What about Darryl?"
"Darryl sits with the grown-ups. He's proven his ability to sit through a meal without flinging peas at people. Wallace hasn't."
"Then why are you at the kids table?"
Veronica grinned devilishly. "Who do you think flung the first pea?"
Logan laughed. "Alright. You've got exams Monday, right?"
They walked up the stairs. "Yeah. Two. But I'll call you after the first."
"If I finish early I'll wait outside your building."
"Okay, but be extra creepy, alright? It's a profiling class, those kids love that stuff."
"Right, extra stalker with a side of pervert." He waited while she threw her bag over her shoulder and then kissed her. When she hummed in appreciation, he started to pull her closer, but she pulled away, laughing.
"No! Bad Logan. You go study!"
He gave her a salute as she closed the door. Turning, he surveyed the nearly furnished house. He inspected the television, all cords expertly coiled by Mac. What the hell, he thought, maybe he would get to work on that econ thing.
"Hey, could you pick me up on your way in to campus tomorrow?" Wallace asked.
They were sitting in the Fennel living room after dinner. This was one of the things Veronica liked best about their blended "family" dinners-the hanging out afterwards. Keith, Alicia, and Darryl were piled on the couch, watching The Simpsons, Backup snoring at their feet. Ellie was asleep in her portable crib (which Keith had bought at Target, thankyouverymuch) in the office. Wallace and Veronica were sprawled out across a pair of armchairs, books and papers scattered. It reminded her of high school in a way she didn't hate at all.
"Sure," Veronica answered. "How'd you get here?"
"Piz dropped me off. Had to go to the music store for more guitar strings or something, I dunno."
"Ah, Piz. I feel like I haven't seen him lately."
"Probably because he's been avoiding you. You know that boy is crazy about you, right?"
Veronica looked up from her psych textbook. "I wouldn't say crazy..." Wallace nodded emphatically. "Well, he knows he's doomed to disappointment, right?"
Wallace shrugged. "I think he kinda got his hopes up when it looked like you and Logan were done for last month. I told him that was a thing you guys did every once in a while, but..." he trailed off, shrugged. "He doesn't know."
"What's a 'piz'?" Keith asked from across the room.
"Wallace's roomie," Veronica said.
"You mean Stosh?" Alicia asked at the same time as Darryl commented, "I like him, he's good at the guitar."
"'Stosh?' 'Piz?'" Keith looked at them askance. "Is this a person or a junk food?"
"He could really be mistaken for either," Veronica said.
Wallace kicked her. "Stosh Piznarski. Weird name, cool guy. Has a show on the campus radio and a huge, awkward crush on Superfly here."
"Ugh." Veronica groaned. "That just makes things weird. Have you told him my boyfriend has been known to kick butt and take names?"
Wallace nodded. "Heck, I told him he bashed in your headlights the day I met him."
"Logan did what?" Keith asked.
"Really?" Darryl's tone of voice was far more impressed than disapproving.
Veronica glared at Wallace. "It was a misunderstanding."
"What kind of misunderstanding?" Keith was astonished.
"He misunderstood basic human decency." Veronica said simply. "He figured it out."
"What happened to the car? I don't remember this at all," her father said.
"Weevil took care of it," she replied.
"Weevil?" Alicia asked.
"Eli Navarro," Keith supplied.
"Ah. Veronica, you really did have the oddest high school experience."
"You're telling me." She lowered her voice, directing the conversation back to Wallace. "It isn't really weird for you, is it? Because Logan is always up for an opportunity to hover threateningly."
"Yeah, the problem isn't Logan. It's that he thinks you're a super hero."
Veronica sent him a baffled look. "Why?"
Wallace laughed. "Why do you think I dogged you from day one even though you were surly as hell? You're kind of awesome, Ponyboy."
She considered. "I don't think I like that comparison."
"You call me Soda Pop."
"Yeah. Because it fits."
"Fine. From now on you're...Buffy."
She laughed. "That's one I can appreciate."
"Oh hey, it looks like I'll be playing in the next game. You gonna be there?" Wallace had turned back to his notes, and his tone was a fair attempt at off-hand, but Veronica knew him too well.
"A chance to prove to the whole school that I'm the best BFF a baller can have? Where else would I be?"
He grinned up at her. "Man, that's one thing I miss about high school-the snickerdoodles!"
"Me, too!" Keith spoke up and was echoed by both Alicia and Darryl.
"I had no idea I was feeding the whole clan!" Veronica laughed. She settled further into the chair and turned back to her book, but her thoughts were elsewhere. She thought about how it was when she was a little girl, life with her mother, what she wanted for Ellie. She thought about how it was after her mother left, when it had been just her dad and her. That was tougher, but it was also better in a lot of ways. It was what she'd needed then. But here and now, with this group of people...she thought that maybe this was the best of the three. She looked across the room at her dad, found him watching her. She quirked an eyebrow at him, and he grinned back, slow and wide.
This definitely felt like home.
Back at the little Mars apartment, everything seemed unnaturally quiet. Keith was settling Ellie into her crib while Veronica poured herself a cup of orange juice.
"Is it weird that I've become used to having brothers and you and Alicia aren't even engaged?" She asked, keeping her voice low. Ellie was a pretty sound sleeper (a boon in an apartment complex with paper walls), but Veronica wasn't about to risk it.
"Yeah, about that..." Keith walked over to the island.
Veronica grinned. "Are you engaged? Will Wallace and I get our bunk beds after all?"
"Well, I haven't asked her yet, but..." Keith cleared his throat and fished something out of his pocket. He placed it on the counter, where his daughter pounced on it.
She opened the ring box and whistled. It was a solitaire diamond set in a yellow gold band, but the gem was cushion cut, round and not small. "Oh, good job, Dad! Does this mean I'm out the rest of my college education?"
Keith scoffed. "I can budget, Veronica. On an unrelated note, we'll be renting your room out for the foreseeable future."
"Fine. I'll bunk with Backup." The dog lifted his head at the sound of his name, then rolled over on his back. Veronica laughed. "You classy, classy beast."
On Monday, Logan was lurking, as promised, outside of Veronica's building. She shook her head at him as he approached.
"Come on, you don't have a dark hoodie somewhere? I know you, Logan, and you have the potential to be much creepier than this." She stabbed his chest with a finger for emphasis.
"If it makes you feel better, I leered at everyone who walked out before you."
"I suppose it'll have to do. Where's your stuff?"
He nodded in the general direction of the quad. "Picnic table. I got you a salad and fries. The Scoobies await."
She smiled. "You've been talking to Wallace."
"You as Buffy. I like it."
She nudged him with her shoulder. "Only because it means you get to be a vampire. Well, I suppose you are a reformed bad boy."
"See? It fits."
"You know what Mac calls me, right?"
He chuckled at that. "Well, she does make a good Q. Wait, so does that make me Moneypenny or a Bond Girl?"
Veronica made a show of inspecting him, head to toe. "Oh, a Bond Girl. Definitely. You are all eye candy."
Veronica's cell phone rang just as they reached the table. It was her dad, so she hung back to take it. When she answered, all he said was "She said yes."
"But don't tell Wallace, Alicia wants to do that."
"Okay, okay, fine. But, yay!"
Keith laughed. "We'll all go out to celebrate once you guys are done with midterms. Good luck on psych, kiddo."
She hung up and looked across the table to see Wallace also on his phone. He clicked off just after she did. He looked up at her and smiled. "Bunk beds?"
She laughed. "Bunk beds!"
The rest of the "Scoobies," as Logan had termed them, looked between Wallace and Veronica in confusion.
"Veronica's dad and Wallace's mom are getting married," Logan explained. Veronica looked at him in surprise. "Hey, I hear things! And sometimes I even understand what the hell you two are saying." Both Veronica and Wallace laughed.
"That's so sweet! You guys are like brother and sister now," Parker said.
Wallace shrugged. "We kinda have been for...ever."
"Yeah, the sexual tension was hard to get past in the beginning, but we manged it. For our parents' sakes." Veronica laughed as Wallace shuddered in exaggerated disgust.
Conversation turned to midterms. Mac was the only one who had finished with hers, and she took great joy in lording the fact over the rest of the group. Parker and Piz were in the same communication class, so they shared notes on their persuasive speeches.
Dick asked Wallace about the upcoming game. Wallace look startled at being addressed by Dick, much less that the other guy knew that he would be playing, but he answered. Veronica knew there was only one way that Dick would know that particular bit of information. She shot Logan a look out of the corner of her eye. He leaned in to speak directly in her ear. "I had the oddest conversation with Dick this morning. I'll tell you about it later."
"Yeah, not that I mind having him here, but why is he?" Veronica answered at the same volume.
Logan brushed his thumb over her cheek as she munched contemplatively on a french fry. "I have a suspicion, actually. But I want to see if you notice what I did."
Veronica nodded and turned her gaze towards Dick, skirting over Piz as she did so. He was watching Logan and her with what could only be termed as sadness. She smiled at him, but attempted to make it as friendly and un-loverly as a smile could possibly be. He smiled back, and since he didn't appear hopeful, she termed it a success.
She looked at Dick. Dick, Dick, Dick. The only one who had been able to out-jerk Logan at the height of his asshole days, the stereotypical rich frat guy, but there were moments now when he just looked broken. She thought that it was entirely possible that Cassidy's actions and subsequent death had hit him harder than anyone else, even Mac.
On that thought, someone called Mac's name. The girl looked up and smiled at Bronson, who was approaching from the direction of the science buildings. She gathered her bag and lunch tray and stood. Parker asked her if she was up for the gym that afternoon, and Mac agreed. Then, with a general farewell to the table, she walked over to greet Bronson. He took her tray and bent to kiss her hello.
Veronica looked back at Dick, then froze in surprise. His eyes were trained on Mac and Bronson and he looked...pained. Then, as she watched, his expression went carefully blank.
Veronica grabbed Logan's thigh under the table to get his attention and said "Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa."
Logan, who'd also been watching his friend, nodded without looking at Veronica. "You saw it, too?"
"What was that?"
"That's what I was talking about."
Veronica was still watching Dick. Wallace turned away from his conversation and caught her gaze, returning it with a questioning one of her own. She shook her head, then nodded at him in a way that she knew he would understand meant "Later." He nodded back.
Veronica fished out her cell phone to check the time, then gathered up her bag and books. Logan started to stand, but she waved him back. "No, I'm going to do some last minute cramming before my psych exam. That means no distractions," she said pointedly.
He smirked. "Can I really be blamed if you can't keep your hands off of me?"
She narrowed her gaze and pointed threateningly at him, then bent to pick up her tray.
"Leave it," Logan said. "I'll get it. Go study."
"Thanks." She bent and kissed him quickly, then started to go. "Oh, wait! I almost forgot. Somebody got a visit from the snickerdoodle fairy this weekend." She pulled a Ziploc baggie of cookies out of her bag and tossed them to Wallace, who caught them with a wide grin.
"Later, folks." She had a psych exam to ace.
Parker left to go to the library soon after Veronica's departure. Wallace dug into the cookies. "Oh man, best sister ever."
"I thought she wasn't you sister yet," Piz said.
"Whatever, she's still the best," Wallace said around a mouthful of cookies. Dick reached a hand into the bag, but Wallace snatched it back. "Nuh-uh, these are my special game week cookies. They make my jump shot higher."
"At the rate you're eating them, you aren't going to be stand up, much less jump." Logan observed wryly.
Wallace scowled at him, then reluctantly placed the bag back on the table. "Fine. You get one." Piz and Dick both reached in the bag. Wallace raised his eyebrows at Logan.
He shrugged. "I'm good." At Wallace's incredulous look, he explained: "You know she's got another two dozen at home. You get the milk, but I've got the cow." He grimaced. "Actually, nevermind. Can we strike that comparison from the record?"
Wallace grinned. "No way. That is leverage, and I am holding onto it."
Piz cleared his throat. "So Veronica's dad is gonna be your step-dad, huh? What's he like?"
"He's a good guy," Wallace said. "Used to be the sheriff. Now he's a P.I."
"Whoa, really?" Piz sounded impressed. "That's badass."
"Where do you think Veronica learned all of her Nancy Drew stuff?"
"I dunno, I guess I never thought about it."
"Well, he's good to my mom and Darryl. Plus, he knows how to use his gun, so if anything ever happens I know they'll be safe."
"His gun? Whoa." Piz looked at Logan. "It doesn't bother you, dating a girl whose dad carries a weapon?"
Logan had taken out a text book and was reading it. He shifted his shoulders in what might have been a shrug. "We've reached an understanding."
"Dude, Logan's saved Ronnie's life, like, twice." Dick had finished his cookie and laid his head on the table. He spoke without opening his eyes.
Logan shrugged and turned back to his textbook.
Wallace nodded. "Yeah. Hanging out with Veronica can be pretty dangerous." He snagged another cookie. "But also occasionally tasty!" Deciding to take a cue from Logan, he pulled out his physics notebook to work through some practice questions. Piz took out a copy of the book his English class was reading, and the three guys sat in studious silence before peeling off for their respective exams. Dick took a nap.
Wallace and Logan were headed to the same area of campus, so they walked together.
"I know what you were trying to do," Logan said suddenly.
"What?" Wallace asked.
Logan laughed. "You forget I'm used to the Mars level of sneakiness. You may be almost siblings, but you've got nothing on Veronica."
Wallace cleared his throat. "Oh. Ah-"
"I appreciate it."
That was not the reaction Wallace had expected. "You do?"
Logan shrugged. "Piz seems like a nice guy. Doofy, but nice. I'd hate to have to punch him."
"Yeah. That's, ah, also what I'd like to avoid. And, I mean, he's my roommate and my friend and Veronica is my friend and almost my sister and I'd like it if we could all be cool and not awkward together." He paused. "But honestly, it's mostly the punching."
Logan chuckled. "I'm not concerned that he's going to steal her away from me. But it makes her uncomfortable."
"Yeah. I know."
"Anyway, I gotta go prove my knowledge of all of Western Art. See ya later."
Wallace watched Logan walk away and thought that though he'd has his doubts about the two of them in the beginning, he was glad that Logan and Veronica were together. He was good for her.
And dammit, why was he wasting his cranial space thinking about this nonsense when he had dozens of equations he needed in there? He shoved another cookie in his mouth and continued on to the science building.
Veronica checked her phone as she walked out of her exam and saw she'd missed a text from Logan. She sent him a text back in case he was still in his exam. Fifteen minutes later, he called.
"How'd it go?" she asked.
"I remain fairly confident in my ability to tell a Picasso from a Matisse," he said.
"Nevermind. It went well. How was yours?"
"Pretty good! I don't think I'll be failing out this semester. So what's up?"
"You've got your last midterm tomorrow, right?"
"Ah..." she wracked her brain. "Last in-class. I have a take-home test due Wednesday, but I'm on top of it."
"Then how do you feel like going out tomorrow? Get dinner someplace fancy and then take the boat out in the evening?"
"Oh, Logan that sounds amazing, but I can't. I was scheduled to work at the library Friday, but I switched shifts so I could go to Wallace's game. I've got the girl thing tonight and I'm Ellie duty on Wednesday and Thursday, so Tuesday was the only day I could do it. I'm sorry."
"Ah, that's okay. It was last-minute, anyway. I forgot about the girl thing."
"Yeah, we're gonna paint our nails and talk about how totally dreamy Bobby Jensen is or something."
"Who's Bobby Jensen?"
"Nobody, I made him up. Don't you go and punch some innocent guy, Logan."
"I don't know where you get these ideas about me."
She laughed. "Me neither. Anyway, I figured I'd use the opportunity to see if Mac was aware of Dick's little crush. If she isn't, I'm not going to say anything. It'll just weird her out. Have you actually talked to him?"
"Yeah, that's what today's weird conversation was about. He started talking about how Mac kicked his ass in Mortal Kombat. I sort of tuned him out, and then the next thing I know he's saying how he always thought the chick in Ghost World was actually pretty hot and did I remember when she used to do that thing with the colors in her hair?"
"Oh, God. What did you say?"
"Nothing! It was so bizarre. I panicked and started talking about Wallace and basketball. It was the first thing I thought of for some reason."
Veronica laughed. "Ahhhhh. Well, that explains that, anyway. Look, I know you don't really love it when I pull you into things..."
He interrupted her. "No, I'll talk to him. We're going surfing tomorrow morning. I am legitimately curious about this. Plus, I like Mac. She's got her thing with that eco kid or whatever."
"Bronson. I'm not sure how long that's going to last, actually. He's cute, but they don't really have anything in common. Not that that's the end of the world. I mean, look at us."
"We have stuff in common!"
"Rapier wit and stunning good looks don't count."
"Okay, I'm at her dorm. I'll give you a call tonight?"
"Okay. I love you."
The saying of "I love you" over the phone was a new thing for them, and Veronica still blushed whenever he did it. "I love you, too," she mumbled.
"What was that, pumpkin?"
"I said shut up." He was laughing as she hung up the phone.
A/N: I think they handled that pretty well. Can I just say that the Mars/Fennel blended family is like my favourite thing ever? And that I think it's a tragedy we didn't see more of Darryl in the show?
To those of you who have given me pro-MaDi reviews: I wasn't sure how I was going to deal with the interactions between those two and if I was going to go down the romance road (though I enjoy reading MaDi in other fics), but I've clearly decided to give it a try. I haven't decided how things will go, but I do know that it's either going to be incredibly complicated or startlingly simple. We'll see.
Thanks for the continued reviews! They break the monotony of applying for jobs and watching my dogs sleep. And are, in general, AWESOME.