Story so Far: AU. Veronica is not part of the Fab 4. Logan and Lilly are on an off period when Logan starts dating Veronica. What starts out as fun becomes serious after Logan tells Veronica he loves her. Before Christmas Lilly tells Logan she is ready to commit to just him and he is torn. When he tells Veronica he is unsure, she never wants to see him again. A conversation with his mother helps Logan realize it is really Veronica he wants and needs. Unfortunately she is set on getting over him. As only Logan can, he shows Veronica that he is ready to move past Lilly and they start to date again. The new semester starts with the LoVe couple going strong and Lilly is surprisingly dating Weevil. The plan to stop Aaron's abuse of Lynn and Logan starts.

In London

Late at night, after his work is done for the day, Aaron Echolls depresses the pre programmed number on the cell phone he was sent. He is confident he can make a deal with whoever is threatening him. In his experience if he can't dazzle the person with his movie star status, he can buy them off. Taking control of the conversations from the start he asks, "Let's skip all the formalities and get to the point. What do you really want?"

Ian internally sighs as he speaks through the voice distorter. Of course it would be too much to expect that Aaron Echolls would just follow instructions. It is always the same with men who believe the rules don't apply to them. "Mr. Echolls, I was very clear on what you need to do to prevent the two DVDs from going public."

In Neptune

Logan and Veronica sit at Derek's and Cindy's kitchen table. Veronica, with tears in her eyes, asks, "There isn't anything more we can do?"

Logan reaches over and takes her hand. He knows how she feels. It just doesn't seem possible that the sweet, wonderful, innocent girl sleeping in her bedroom down the hall is dying.

Cindy doesn't know what to say to make it better for the young girl who is so obviously upset. Veronica thinks of Marie as her sister and she has hoped for Marie to beat the cancer. Cindy is hurting so badly herself that she doesn't know how to make it better for Veronica. She hasn't been able to make anything better for anyone. Marie is dying and her life is falling apart.

Derek looks like he doesn't know what to say or do. He looks like he is barely holding on but the tries to explain, "The doctors were clear. The cancer is not responding to the medicine. The cancer is taking over." He pauses and adds, "Now the best thing we can do for her is bring her home and make her comfortable."

Veronica bites her lip and more tears spring to her eyes. She says, "No, it isn't fair. Marie is only ten. She hasn't done anything wrong." Upset she stands and looks like she wants to run. Cindy stands and reaches over hugging the upset girl. Veronica seems to deflate. She starts to cry and she says, "No, Cindy, no."

Cindy wraps her arms around the upset teen and they both cry. Logan watching his girlfriend's upset feels the tears prick behind his eyes. He wants to hug her and comfort her but he doesn't know if he can. He is hurting that Marie is so very sick. On the outside he looks upset but calm. Inside he wants to smash something. He looks over and sees the pain in Derek's face. Logan can't imagine what Derek and Cindy are feeling. How do you cope with losing your child?

It breaks Derek's heart to see Veronica's reaction to the news. She loves Marie so much and she is hurting so badly that her 'little sister' is going to die. Derek sees his wife hug the sweet teen sees them try and comfort each other. His gaze goes over to Logan's white face. Logan looks sick. He is trying not to cry and trying to hold things together for himself and Veronica.

The doorbell rings and Derek goes to answer it. Logan hears Keith and the Chief's voices as they greet Derek and they walk together towards the kitchen. Keith walking into the kitchen sees his daughter hugging Cynthia and they are both crying. He immediately goes over to his daughter. She says, "Daddy." It is all she has to say. She wants him to make things better. She knows he can't. He says, "I'm sorry kiddo."

She leaves Cindy's embrace and goes into her father's arms. He wraps an arm around her and reaches over with his other arm to pull Cindy to him. Surprisingly Cindy leans into Keith and wraps her arms around him as well. It appears that a girl is never too old to be hugged.

Logan feels a hand on his shoulder and looks back to see the Fire Chief's sad gaze. He gives him a nod and attempts a weak smile. The Chief reassured that Logan is holding up, looks over at Derek and says, "I heard that I could get a good cup of coffee here."

Cindy pulls a little away from Keith and answers, "You can." She wipes her eyes and steps over to the coffee pot to pour the man she respects as a father a cup.

Chief goes over to help her get his cup and a cup for Keith. He teases, "None of those girly flavors Cindy. They upset Keith's stomach."

Derek gives a short laugh.

They all hear a weak voice calling, "Chief?"

The Chief immediately turns and heads down the hall to talk to Marie. His loud voice apparently woke her. They all listen as the Chief says, "There is my beautiful girl!"

Keith takes his cup of coffee from Cindy and sets it on the table. He encourages Veronica to sit between him and Logan. Keith thanks Cindy and settles in his chair. He asks, "How is Marie today?"

Derek looks at his friend and shakes his head. He starts to talk about how the hospice nurse came and what she said about medications for pain and ways that they could keep Marie comfortable. Cindy adds things she remembered the nurse said and what the doctor told them.

Keith asks the question that both Veronica and Logan were thinking but didn't know how to ask, "I know no one can really predict but how long did the doctor say Marie might have?"

Cindy looks down and Derek reaches over and takes her hand in his as he answers, "A couple of weeks or so." He swallows visibly and explains, "Her body was starting to shut down in the hospital."

In a pause in the conversation Keith quietly tells them, "You are not alone. There are a lot of people who love you and want to help. What can we do for you?"

Cindy starts to cry and she chokes out, "She doesn't even want to eat anymore. The nurse says that is normal for how sick she is."

Veronica makes a little snorting noise. Logan hearing it looks over at her and sees she is trying really hard to get control of her emotions. He wraps his arm around her shoulder and says, "Ronnie, Mrs. Navarro says she has something for me to pick up. Did you want to come with me to get it?"

She looks at Logan and nods. He stands and helps her stand. He reassures her, "We won't be long and we can take our turn seeing Marie."

Not trusting herself to speak, she reaches over to get her purse. They tell everyone goodbye and Logan walks Veronica out the front door.

The adults watch as Logan takes Veronica away. Keith is torn about going with them but knows his place right now is here supporting Derek and Cindy. He can talk to Veronica later. Derek comments, "When I first met Logan I didn't think he was a good match for Veronica."

Keith meets Derek's gaze and nods. He had felt the same thing. The spoiled, rich son of two actors did not seem like someone Veronica would choose to date. "Since they got back together, he has impressed me," the overprotective father admits.

Derek agrees, "Me too. He has been really good with Marie."

Cindy points out, "He is different once you get to know him."

Keith thinking about the horrific abuse Logan has endured, agrees, "There is more to him than I first thought." He pauses and adds, "I will be watching him though."

The young parents smile at Keith's tone. Derek looks towards Marie's bedroom and thinks about how he won't get to worry about the guys Marie dates. He blinks a few times to try and clear the tears.

Logan and Veronica are both very quiet until they get into the car. Logan holds her hand and gently assists her into the passenger side of his Xterra. He walks around the truck and looks at the house before he gets in. He has that unsettled feeling deep inside. He is really not sure what he should be doing to support Veronica. Logan takes another deep in a wain attempt to release the tension inside him. He reaches over and starts the car.

Veronica chokes out, "Does Mrs. Navarro really have something for us to pick up?"

"Well she did cook supper but she was going to get our driver to bring it over. I just thought we could use a few minutes away so I texted her I would come and get it," her boyfriend explains.

Nodding gratefully she reaches over and rubs his arm, "Thanks."

Logan immediately takes her hand after he puts his vehicle in drive. He heads towards the beach. They both need a few minutes to decompress.

Back in London

"So you are just a good Samaritan who is rescuing an abused wife and son?" the famous actor spits out angrily.

Speaking calmly without emotion Ian asks, "Have you made your decision?"

Upset Aaron spits out, "Let's just cut to the chase. How much do you want?"

"You are wasting my time Mr. Echolls." Ian points out.

The popular actor offers, "I can pay more than Lynn. How much will it take for you to go away?"

Careful not to let any emotions show, Ian says, "Call me when you make your decision. Remember that unless you agree to the terms outlined, the DVDs will be released just in time for the weekend papers and entertainment shows." Ian hangs up and looks over at his friend. He answers his unasked question, "He thinks we are working for Lynn."

Shaking his head Keith Sr. says, "He doesn't know. He is guessing. His investigator has not gotten close."

"The sad thing is he has probably been through this quite a few times before. He has always been able to get out of paying any consequences." Ian points out.

Nodding Keith Sr. agrees, "A lot of people knew or suspected." There is a comfortable silence between the two men. It's a silence born of experience. Neither man has any illusions left as to what abusive men will do.

Sighing Ian points out the obvious, "He is going to require another push. He doesn't believe anyone would go against him."'

Keith Sr. says, "I figured."

Ian goes back to looking at the chess board. He would really like to make sure that Aaron goes to jail but he knows the likelihood of that happening is very slim. It had been hard to convince Keith Jr. to just step aside instead of arresting the bastard. They will all have to settle for getting Lynn and Logan Echolls away from the monster. Hopefully they will both be able to heal and be free. It is the best they can hope for.

At Derek and Cindy's Home

Keith, after Veronica and Logan leave, looks back at Derek and Cindy. He asks, "What is the plan for the next few days?"

Cindy tells Keith that her parents and two sisters are coming tomorrow and Derek's mother is going to come as well. Keith nods as Derek's father died when he was young and his mother hasn't remarried. Derek adds, "My brother and his wife are coming on Friday."

"We have a spare room at our house," Keith offers. The Chief walking into the room says, "Joe is going to book hotel rooms for anyone that needs one." He looks at Keith and tells him, "Marie wants you to read to her."

Nodding Keith gets up and goes to go and talk to Marie. He can see by the Chief's face that he is really upset by how sick Marie looks. When the money started pouring in to help Marie and her family, a brother of one of the firefighters offered to keep the books and pay the bills. Derek has been really relieved not to have to deal with everything. Joe Baines has turned out to be a gem. He is keeping everything in order and really making things easier for Derek and Cindy. They are a big family and they are closing ranks on Derek, Cindy and Marie. Derek's shifts will all be covered, the bills will all be paid, the yard work will be done, any errands will be run and food will pour in from the families now. Nothing can really make this time better but Derek and Cindy will have support now and afterwards. The whole family is hurting about Marie. They will all take turns breaking down; they will all be there for each other; they will all go through it together.

The Chief talks comfortably with Derek and Cindy for a few minutes. He tells them what the Sheriff's Department and Fire Department have planned to help. His manner is calm and caring and both young parents soak up his support and love. It is clear that he approves of how well they are both handling things and he is going to be there for them. He doesn't give them any platitudes. He doesn't tell them they will be OK. He doesn't tell them anything. He is just there and he is just the Chief. After a few minutes he takes a sip of his coffee and points out, "It's too quiet in here. Marie has told me about her favorite group. I told her I would listen to their latest CD."

Derek and Cindy both immediately realize that their daughter manipulated the Chief into listening to a boy band. Derek gets up and says, "I'll go and get it."

The Chief seeing their amusement frowns a little in question at Cindy. She smirks a little and says in a breathless girl voice, "You are going to love them. Adam is so dreamy."

Resigning himself to his fate the Chief questions, "Do you have anything to put in this coffee?"

Now laughing Cindy shakes her head and says, "I need to go and find my camera."

When Derek returns he is looking at the back of the CD package. He says, "It is only 55 minutes long." The Chief looks a little horrified and Derek can't hide his smile. He is so grateful that he gets to work for this man. As Derek puts the CD in the player in the kitchen, Cindy arrives back from filming Keith reading to Marie and turns the camera on Derek and the Chief.

In Marie's bedroom, the little girl has a tiny smile on her face as she hears the start of the music. Keith seeing it guesses, "You got the Chief to agree to listen to your music, didn't you?"

She nods weakly. Her eyes have dark circles under them but he can't help but respond to the little sparkle he sees in her beautiful blue eyes.

Keith whispers conspiratorially, "Do you want to see his reaction?" When she nods, he gently picks her up quilt and all and carries her into the doorway of the kitchen. When they arrive, the Chief is looking truly taken a back. Marie's smile grows a little when she sees his reaction.

Everyone smiles when they see Keith arrive with Marie. Keith carries her and gently hands her to her father. He cuddles her close and Keith says, "We would be remiss in letting a beautiful woman just stand when there is music playing." He puts his hand out for Cindy who smiles at him and puts down her camera accepting Keith's offer to dance.

The rest of them are highly impressed but mostly amused at the scene in front of them. Keith is a very good dancer having attended a lot of functions for the Sheriff's Department over the years. However once Cindy starts to teach him some of the new moves, it gets a little awkward and well… sad.

Veronica and Logan arrive back just in time to see Cindy teaching Keith some dance moves. Derek and the Chief are openly laughing at the scene. The teens exchange looks of surprise both immediately guessing that Marie has chosen the music. Veronica smiles at Marie. Logan puts the tray of tamales on the counter and immediately gets Veronica to dance. Marie is thrilled and weakly claps.

In his arrogant yet fun way, Logan challenges Keith to a dance contest and it is on. Keith changes the music to older music and Logan and Veronica move the dining room table out onto the patio so they can use the dining room and living room for more space.

Keith is busy calling Logan a punk kid and telling him that he can dance circles around him. Veronica is laughing hard at their antics and the chief says, "Marie come and sit with me, I think your dad should film this."

Marie smiles and nods. Derek stands and carries Marie handing her gently to the Chief who turns his chair and says loudly, "Marie and I will be the judges."

Logan, in fine form, turns to the chief and shares, "I am not certain you are qualified to be a dance judge but I trust Marie to be able to pick out the best dance moves."

Marie smiles a little at his teasing and settles comfortably in the Chief's strong arms.

The dance contest starts with a moderately slow dance but moves quickly into faster dances as Derek changes the music. Logan having lessons from very young is a smooth dancer moving easily to the music. Veronica has no difficulty following him and she is giggling at some of the turns and spins Logan performs. Keith and Cindy are definitely holding their own though.

Marie is very amused by the impromptu contest. After a couple of songs Derek puts the camera down and says loudly, "I think I better step up and represent the Firefighters."

He puts his hand out for his wife and says, "May I have the pleasure of this dance?" Cindy smiles over at her husband and answers, "You may."

Logan dancing by Marie intones, "We are in trouble Ronnie. They are bringing in the big guns now."

Marie smiles and the Chief laughs at Logan's comment.

Derek looks down at his wife and says, "Well Beautiful, should we show them how it is done?"

She smiles a little tearfully up at him and agrees, "We should."

Marie is obviously thrilled to watch her parents dance together. She gets a little teary as she watches and the rest of the room is touched at her emotions. Veronica leans up and gently kisses Logan and then turns to her father. She puts her arms out to him and says, "Dance with me?"

Logan easily steps aside and picks up the video camera. This is definitely a scene to remember. Although the circumstances are the worst, it is tolerable with love.

Keith takes his beloved daughter into his arms and they dance together. After a minute or so she says quietly, "Remember how I used to stand on your feet when we danced?"

He smiles lovingly down at her and answer, "I'll never forget."

After the dance is over, Logan easily admits he was out danced and makes a fake bow to Derek. Although in his own arrogant way, he does point out that Cindy can make any guy look good.

Cindy smiles at Logan's praise. Derek looks down at his wife and admits that truer words were never spoken. Cindy hugs her husband pleased at his praise. She sniffs the air and then asks, "Is that tamales I smell?"

The group works together to serve the tamales. The dining room table is brought back and set for dinner. Marie is settled onto the couch in the living room. They are all saddened that she can't even be tempted with Mrs. Navarro's tamales. She always loved them.

Veronica looks at Marie and determines, "you know what we should have?'

Marie looks weakly at her big sister and shakes her head.

"Ice cream for dinner," Veronica pronounces. The group smiles and Marie gives a tiny nod of assent. She and Veronica often had ice cream together. Keith is making token protests to his daughter that CPS will take her away from him because she is not eating a healthy dinner. Veronica pushes his protests aside assuring him she will tell them they had pot roast with vegetables. The group in the kitchen are amused at the talk between father and daughter. Keith is getting his story straight with Veronica asking what vegetables they had with the roasted potatoes. She is insistent on baby carrots and peas while Keith feels like broccoli or green beans would make a better impression.

The group watches as Logan, on board with Veronica's plan, helps her get a big dish full of ice cream and toppings. They work easily together and Keith has to smile a little as Logan automatically puts Veronica's favorite toppings on without asking her. He is a guy who pays attention to her likes and dislikes.

Veronica takes her dish into the living room and crawls up on the couch with Marie. Marie turns slightly and the two girls talk quietly and share the ice cream. Marie doesn't take many bites but it is clear that she likes her talk with the petite teen.

Logan watching his girlfriend closely can see her upset but he is so proud of how caring and loving she is with her little sister. He sees her pull out her phone to show Marie the pictures of the dance.

On the beach Veronica had cried and Logan had just held her. It was weird but Veronica was focused on how painful it was to see everyone hurting. Logan was mostly angry. Why were there people like his father in the world who would probably live to a hundred while sweet little Marie who never hurt anyone is dying? Marie wasn't going to get to grow up. She hardly got to live yet. The whole situation just reinforced to Logan what was wrong with the world. He held Veronica and listened to her talk about how much pain Cindy and Derek were in and how it was so unbelievable that Marie was dying. His loving girlfriend was still in shock and a little denial. Logan guesses he is more cynical; he is not surprised at the unfairness of the universe.

Logan steps into the living room with his plate of tamales. He selects a chair close to the couch and settles down easily. He teases Marie, "I rocked that tux, didn't I?"

Marie makes a face at Logan's ego and Veronica laughs. She leans in closer to her little sister and whispers, "We can't let him know but he really did."

The two girls giggle a little together while Logan complains that they are ganging up on him. He finishes his complaint with, "I know I looked good."

The adults in the kitchen are smiling at Logan's easy way with Marie and Veronica. He has surprised them with how good he is with the young girl and how committed he has been to visiting when Veronica is working.

Keith feels his prepaid cell phone vibrate in his pocket. He excuses himself and steps out on the patio to answer. Once he is out in the dark, he can see the stars in the clear night sky. The air is cooler at night during this time of year. This has always been Keith's favorite time of year. In a few weeks baseball season starts and it is a new start for his beloved Padres. This is Keith's New Year. He opens his phone and depresses the answer button. Keith says, "Mars House of Dance."

Ian has to smile at Keith Jr.'s greeting. He questions, "Do I really want to know?"

"Probably not," the tired Sheriff answers.

Getting to his point Ian tells the man he loves like a son, "As we suspected, our latest project doesn't want to give up his toys."

Disappointed but not surprised, Keith Jr. deadpans, "I really expected him to do the right thing."

Amused, Ian has to smile. He checks, "Are your arrangements set?"

"Yes," Keith shares. "Everything is in place." Pausing as he thinks how to word his concern, the Sheriff of Neptune says, "The puppy requires special attention."

Ian understands and says, "I don't envy you. The fallout looks complete right now and it looks like no one is going to be spared."

Keith signs off after telling his friend, "Let me know when you start part two." He stands for a few seconds and looks up at the beautiful night sky. Today has been a hard day. They are all upset about Marie. It is almost inconceivable that she would be so ill. Keith remembers when she was born; so beautiful, so wanted, so loved. Cindy and Derek beat the odds getting pregnant and carrying her until term. They both accepted that she would be their only child and they were grateful for the gift. He rubs his hand over his head as he thinks.

In his job he has learned that everyday is a gift. He and the Chief have the constant worry in the back of their minds about the safety of their men and of course, all the families. This spring, the time of renewal and of course baseball, they are going to lose one of their own way before her time. The thought of not seeing Marie grow up; not seeing her beautiful eyes sparkle with humor is physically painful. His thoughts go to dancing with Veronica and how much he loves her. He can't imagine not getting to see her graduate, go to college, get married and have children. He can't imagine not walking her down the aisle. He thinks about pain that Derek and Cindy are in and he feels helpless. The Sheriff takes a few deep cleansing breaths. He needs to go back in there ready to be supportive.

Logan and Veronica sit on the couch in the Echolls' mansion living room. Lynn listens to them talk about how Marie is now home with hospice care. She is truly saddened that the sweet little girl is losing her battle with cancer. She thinks about how much pain Cindy and Derek must be in.

Veronica leaning into Logan tells Lynn, "Marie is so weak already. She doesn't want to eat and she is so tired."

"I am so sorry," Lynn says sadly. "I was really hoping that she would respond to the new chemotherapy."

Logan smiles weakly at his mother and agrees, "We did too."

Her voice hoarse from crying Veronica tells Lynn that Cindy and Derek are just trying to make Marie's last days full of love. She shakes her head and asks, "What can we do to help them?"

Quietly Lynn just advises the upset teen that there isn't much anyone can do but be there and show them you care.

Nodding her agreement she leans her head onto Logan's shoulder and points out, "It doesn't seem like enough."

Logan turns his head and kisses her forehead. He doesn't know what to say. They are all just in pain and no words are going to make it better.

Lynn tells Logan that his father called and wants her to go to London tomorrow. She adds, "I told him that I wanted to stay here to be with Cindy and Derek but he is very insistent."

Unsurprised his father doesn't care about anything but his wants, Logan just nods resigned to the idea that his mother will do whatever his father decrees.

After Lynn heads to her room to supervise her packing, Veronica pulls away a little and looks at Logan. She sees his anger and his pain over his parents and Marie. Attuned to his emotions since they found out the bad news about Marie, she feels the strong emotions in him. "You know what we both need?"

He looks at her beautiful face and sees the sparkle in her clear blue eyes. Ready to be pulled into her idea he asks, "What?"

"A workout. Something to keep our minds off of everything and burn off this excess energy," she suggests.

Logan's brown eyes deepen as he looks at his petite girlfriend. He says, "Good idea," as he stands and then reaches down, takes her hand and pulls her to stand as well. "In fact," he enthuses, "that is a great idea!"

Veronica looks a little confused as she is pulled behind her excited boyfriend by their joined hands. When they get to the hallway and he turns towards the stairs, she looks down the hallway in the other direction and asks, "Where are you going?"

"To my bedroom," he answers looking at her in question. "Where did you think we were going?"

She meets his gaze and tells him, "The weight room."

He picks up that she was not thinking of workout the same way he was. His face breaks out into a grin as he pulls her to walk in front of him as they start up the stairs. He kisses gently behind her neck and whispers, "As you pointed out, I have a lot of excess energy I need to work off. You are hurting and need a good cuddle. I think the answer to both our problems is upstairs."

She stops and turns around on the stairs to look closely at him. Her face is on level with his since she is standing a few steps higher than him. She tilts her head a little and questions, "You have a lot of excess energy?"

Slowly he nods his head. He keeps her gaze and confesses, "I am going to need to be exhausted to sleep tonight."

She looks at him for a few more seconds and then says, "OK." She turns abruptly and runs up the stairs.

Her handsome boyfriend doesn't hesitate; he chases her up the stairs.

... End of Chapter ...

AN: I don't normally put in author's notes but this chapter was difficult for me to write. I just want to say that I am not sure that I will be able to do justice to the emotions that surround loss and grief. The ability of humans to deal in their own way with pain is amazing. I have watched families sitting at the bedside of a loved one who is dying. They cry, they grieve, they share their pain but they also celebrate life. I love to listen to the stories of fun and companionship that come out during this difficult time. It is this dichotomy that I am trying to put in this story hopefully with some success.