I Hate You Because…

A/N My first ever completed fic, although I have about 8 more in various states of completion in my OneNote. I don't know how people let these things go without trying to tweak and perfect until the end of time. Deep breath. Setting it free.

Takes place midway through 1X3 – Meet John Smith.

Veronica and Troy have kissed, but aren't official. Duncan's off his meds. Logan thinks: "That girl is seriously whack".

Madison Sinclair pushed her way into the girl's restroom, giving an extra heave to dislodge the doorstop.

"Didn't you see the Out of Order sign?" Veronica Mars asked, barely looking up from the file she'd been perusing. "There's another bathroom down the hall."

"Give it a rest, Veronica." Madison said. "I need to talk to you. I need your help."

Veronica snorted. "Oh goodie!" she said in a peppy voice. "I've been so looking forward to helping you out! On account of our close and mutual friendship, you know."

Her eyes hardened. "What in the hell makes you think I would ever help you out. I don't like you. You don't like me."

"I'll pay you well. How's $300?" Madison asked.

"Not that much." Veronica said dismissively.

"For one night's work?" Madison said.

Veronica hesitated. Her mechanic had warned her just the day before that the LeBaron wasn't going to make it another two weeks if she didn't get some extensive work done on it. She had a small amount of money saved, but not enough.

"Make it $500, and we'll talk." Veronica said.

"Deal." Madison said.

"I said we'll talk." Veronica said. "What exactly do you need from me? And explain quickly, your perfume is making me nauseated."

"Dick is screwing around on me." Madison said, ignoring the jibe.

Veronica rolled her eyes. "Save your money, Madison. You don't need a detective to know that Dick Casablancas is cheating. If he's breathing, he's cheating. I'd actually feel sorry for you if you weren't...you."

"Dick Casablancas is an insect. He's disposable" Madison stated the obvious. "I'm going to break up with him anyway. But I think he's cheating on me with my best friend Ashley. Ashley Banks. I'd like to see hard proof before I make her wish she was never born."

"So you want photos." Veronica said.

"Yes. I think you can get them tonight. Logan's parents are out of town, and he's throwing a small get-together. Dick says it's just for the guys, but I know he's lying."

"Logan Echolls? Easy! I'll just call up my old BFF and have him add me to the guest list." Veronica laughed bitterly. "You do realize he's my worst enemy, right? Think I can just stroll in, bump fists with Logan and snap some pictures?"

"Of course not." Madison rolled her eyes. "Can't you just...I don't know...skulk in the bushes or something? Isn't that what you do anyway?"

Veronica didn't dignify that with a response. Mostly, because she had done her fair share of skulking - both in and out of the bushes.

"Why do you think Ashley will be there tonight? And more importantly, why do you think she's sleeping with Dick?" Veronica asked.

"Ashley and I had long-standing plans for tonight: Homecoming dress shopping, Sephora, and a sleep-over. Yesterday, out of the blue, she cancelled and said she had to work on a school project with Kimmy. Later, I was talking to Kimmy, and she mentioned that she has a date tonight with this computer geek she's been seeing. Then last night, I found Ashley's lip-gloss in the door pocket of Dick's truck while he was in the gas station. A minute later, he came back and told me about Logan's last minute guys-only party."

"How could you possibly know it was Ashley's lip-gloss?" Veronica asked.

"Um…"Bare Escentials Buxom" in "Isabella" is like her signature color." Madison said as if it was obvious. "It's not like we would wear Cover Girl or something cheap."

Veronica rolled her eyes at Madison's snobbishness, but acknowledged that the 'lip-gloss as signature' idea might have merit.

"I might be able to get onto the Echolls' estate. It depends on whether they've changed the gate code in the last year or so. I can't make any promises though"

"Oh yeah. I forgot you and Logan used to be friends." Madison looked Veronica over. Her expression indicated that she found the idea of Veronica and Logan as good friends completely ludicrous.

"I can't believe you would come to me with this." Veronica mused.

"Why? Because I should be so ashamed that my boyfriend and best friend are betraying me?" Madison asked. "I'm not responsible for their behavior. And before you say that I am, because I'm a bitch, that's what a break-up is for. If they're going to sneak around instead of being up-front, I have the right to take them down."

Veronica was surprised at Madison's insight. She considered her offer. $500 was a decent amount of money to earn for a couple hours of skulking. Madison took the choice out of her hands.

"You bring me proof that Ashley is a lying skank, and I'll pay you double to help me take her down."

"$1000 dollars?" Veronica asked incredulously. "Why?"

"Because nobody does revenge like Veronica Mars." Madison said. Was that honest-to-goodness admiration in her eyes? No, it was probably just a trick of the light.

"OK, deal. I'm only doing this for the money. I still don't like you." Veronica warned.

"The feeling's mutual" Madison sniffed as she walked out.

Veronica didn't have an opportunity to check the security code on the gate of the Echolls mansion, because, after parking down the street, she found the gate wide open. Was Logan crazy? He was just asking the paparazzi to take advantage.

Slipping through, Veronica pressed herself against the perimeter wall, noticing several cars and trucks parked in the driveway, including Dick Casablancas' and Duncan Kane's. She considered her options. Logan's house was "L" shaped, bending around the large pool in the back. If she followed the wall to her left - or the long part of the "L" - she'd have more cover, but there would be fewer opportunities to get photos. If she followed the wall to the right, she'd risk detection with almost the entire rear wall being made of glass, but she'd have a better view into the house. She made up her mind, following the wall to the right.

The Echolls family didn't have bushes per se for her to skulk in, but there were enough ornamental trees for her to hide behind as she maneuvered herself into position to spy on the party. After rounding the back of the house, Veronica dropped to a crouch, silently cursing herself for wearing such a short skirt. She used the viewfinder and the zoom on her Nikon to get a better look inside Logan's home.

A large group of 09er guys were gathered around the long kitchen island doing shots. In the living area, Sean, Luke, and Duncan (with Shelly Pomroy glued to his side) sat around the coffee table. She didn't see any other girls at the party. There wasn't any sign of Dick or Ashley, or even Logan for that matter.

Veronica watched as Sean leaned over and snorted a line of white powder from the coffee table. She wasn't shocked. She'd seen it all before during the days of Lilly. What was shocking was when Duncan leaned over to snort a line. Duncan? She shook her head in disgust. He was simply not the same person as he used to be.

She considered her options. As a last resort, she could slip into the house from the balcony off of Logan's room, but with her luck, she would catch Logan in the act with his latest tramp of the month. Several scenarios ran through her head, most culminating in handcuffs, police cars and Sheriff Lamb.

Before resorting to that, she wanted to check the downstairs from other angles. She followed the wall all the way to the back of the property and crossed behind the pool to the poolhouse. Using a flashlight, she quickly checked the poolhouse and the attached bedroom. It was empty, thankfully. She'd forgotten the hideously tacky curtains with Aaron Echolls' photo printed on them. She wished Lilly was here to make fun of them like she used to. But if Lilly were here, Veronica herself would be an invited guest at this party.

Exiting the poolhouse, she crept toward the main house along the outdoor kitchen that fronted the poolhouse. A marble-topped bar ran parallel to four grills. Why would anybody need four grills? They must eat a lot of burgers around here.

She'd always found the Echolls estate sort of eerie at night. The lights in the pool gave off an ethereal sort of glow that rippled along with the water. Like a modern SoCal Midsummers Night Dream. She stifled a giggle at the sudden image of Logan flitting around in full costume – as Puck of course, that shrewd and knavish sprite. If anybody knew how to flit, it was Logan Echolls.

Veronica heard a faint giggling nearby. Where the bar turned at a right angle, two steps led to a recessed sitting area arranged around a fire pit. Veronica crouched and peeked around the corner. On a cushioned chaise lay Dick Casablancas. Straddling Dick's lap was a brunette in a black bra. From the back, it looked like Ashley. Jackpot! Veronica snapped a few pictures of the two kissing, but she couldn't see Ashley's face, and Madison would need definitive proof.

Veronica realized that she wouldn't be able to slip any closer without being caught, so she thought about other angles. Slipping behind the bar wouldn't help; she'd still get the back of Ashley's head.

"What the hell…" she thought, finally. She wasn't afraid of Dick. He was no Logan. She stepped out into the open and down the two stairs towards the fire pit.

"Hi Ashley" she called enthusiastically. Ashley and Dick both turned to look at her, and she snapped several pictures.

"What the hell, Ronnie?" Dick shouted, annoyed.

"Madison says 'Hi'" Veronica called with a finger wave.

Ashley rose, grabbed her shirt and ran away towards the main house.

"Thanks a lot, Ronnie!" Dick said, chasing after her.

Veronica turned to watch them go, and then reviewed her shots on the camera's viewfinder.

"Ahh….Veronica Mars. Backstabber. Bong planter. Voyeur. " A sarcastic voice spoke from behind her.

Veronica felt her heart in her throat. Things were about to turn bad. Really bad. Turning, she found Logan Echolls leaning against a column. He was wearing baggy khaki cargo shorts and a green sleeveless t-shirt. When had Logan gone and gotten all muscled?

"You like to make porn Ronnie? You should set up your camera in my room. I have a tripod and everything" he smirked then. "Or is it just Dick you like to film"

"If I wanted to see dick, I'd hardly set up a camera in your room." Veronica smirked back. "Where'd you come from, anyway?"

"Behind you. I was in my truck when I saw you slip in all sneaky-like, so I followed you. It's kind of amusing watching you sneak around. My big surprise was that it was Dick you were stalking instead of Duncan."

Logan strolled up to Veronica, invading her personal space, as usual. He reached over and plucked her camera out of her hand.

"Hmm ..What do we have here?" he asked. "Kissing, grinding, gropage. Nice, but a little too clothed for my taste. How do I delete these?"

"Give me my camera Logan!" Veronica said through clenched teeth.

"Nope." he answered, scrolling through the menu.

Veronica tried to snatch it, but he held it out of her grasp. Damn him for being so tall.

"Theft is a crime, Logan." Veronica said.

"So is trespassing." Logan winked.

She jumped at him, but he held it out of her grasp again, laughing.

He walked over to the pool, stepped up onto the lip, and held the camera out over the water by its strap. Veronica felt a lump in her throat. That camera was her most treasured possession.

"Logan, no!" she begged. She followed him to the pool, eyes pleading.

"You choose." Logan said. "Delete or in the pool?"

"Delete." Veronica answered, teeth clenched, after a moment's hesitation.

Logan nodded and deleted the pictures, before handing the camera back to her.

"So, I'll be calling the police now." he said, conversationally.

"You are such an ass!" Veronica shouted. "You just cost me $1500. I really needed that money to get my car fixed. "

Veronica gently lowered her messenger bag to the ground after slipping her Nikon inside.

"You should be able to earn that back. A couple hours on your back with the football team should do it." Logan smirked down at her.

"I fear you overestimate my sexual abilities." Veronica said, giving Logan her flirtiest smile. She reached up and put both hands on his chest, and pushed with all her might. Logan, not expecting it, lost his balance. Veronica's chuckle was interrupted as Logan reached out for her on the way down, and she went into the pool after him.

Veronica surfaced, sputtering.

"Damnit Logan!" she yelled, but there was no sign of him.

The water was warmer than she'd expected, the heater keeping it a perfect lukewarm temperature.

She swiftly swam under-water to the far corner where handholds jutted out of the pool wall for climbing out. No ordinary chrome pool ladder would do for the Echolls. Right as she began to reach for one of the handholds, Logan swam up and blocked her way. She waited for him to climb out, but instead he turned to face her, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest.

"Get out of my way, Logan" Veronica demanded.

"Make me." he smirked at her.

Veronica tried to shove Logan out of the way, but sometime in the past year, he'd turned into a block of granite. She pushed at him. She pulled at him. She pinched him. He grinned down at her. He appeared to be having a boatload of fun, fun, fun.

"Fine." she said swimming a few feet away.

She pressed her palms to the pool deck and pushed up. Then she stopped. She would have to swing up a knee in order to climb out. Either way, left knee or right, it would cause her short miniskirt ride up to her hips.

She looked over to Logan. He cocked his head and motioned for her to continue.

"What will it be, Mars? White cotton? Pink? Or do they say 'Friday' on them?"

Veronica slowly lowered herself back down into the pool.

It wasn't like panties were so different from a bikini, and he'd seen her in bikinis dozens of times, but she just couldn't bring herself to give him the satisfaction. She turned back to face Logan.

"You know what Logan? I don't have any place special to be. My dad's out of town. I'll just wait you out." Veronica said.

Logan grinned. "You have no idea how stubborn I can be, Veronica." He said.

"Likewise, Logan. I'm so flattered that you're missing your bitchin' party to hang out with me in the pool."

"Screw the party." Logan said.

Veronica reached down and unzipped her leather biker boots, pulling them off and tossing them onto the pool deck, as if in challenge. Her socks and her black jacket followed. She wore a mint green spaghetti strapped tank underneath. She pulled her ponytail holder out of her hair, and finger-combed it the best she could. She hoped her waterproof mascara was living up to its' promise.

She felt ridiculous for a moment when she realized that she was wearing mint green and khaki just like Logan. They could be, like, twins or something.

Or not, she thought as Logan picked that moment to strip off his t-shirt. He reached for his belt.

"Leave your pants on, Logan." Veronica said.

"Why? Afraid you won't be able to control yourself?" he asked, his voice flirty.

"Afraid that I won't be able to control my laughter." Veronica answered.

Logan smiled. Logan always smiled when Veronica fought back.

He undid his belt and stripped off his shorts anyway. By the glowing pool lights, Veronica could see that Logan was wearing black boxer briefs. She turned away from him and folded her arms on the side of the pool.

"Not laughing Veronica?" Logan asked in challenge.

"Not looking, Logan." she responded, her voice sounding bored.

"Logan?" Dick's voice rang out.

"In here." Logan answered, and Dick's head appeared.

"Dude. You're skinny dipping with Veronica Mars!"

"He's in his underwear and I'm fully dressed Dick." Veronica said, her voice clipped.

"Thought you weren't looking." Logan teased.

"Are we moving the party out here?" Dick asked.

"Definitely not. Ronnie and I are having a little Mexican standoff here. How about you bring us some beverages, though. A lot. Find that floating cooler. We may be in here for a while."

"A Mexican standoff involves three people, moron." Veronica muttered.

Logan grinned at her as Dick shambled off.

Dick was back a minute later with the floating cooler. Logan reached up and dragged it into the water as Dick started to pull off his shirt.

"Dick. No. This is between Veronica and me." Logan said. Dick stopped what he was doing.

"But she said you needed three people." he started.

Veronica's eyes met Logan's and they both snorted in laughter.

"This particular standoff doesn't necessarily have to be Mexican in nature, Dick. In fact, there's not a PCHer in sight" Logan answered speaking slowly and reaching into the cooler.

He pulled out a beer for himself and handed a 'Mike's Hard Lemonade' to Veronica. She accepted without argument and twisted the cap off.

The first sip was refreshing. She'd forgotten how good these Hard Lemonades were. She hadn't had an alcoholic drink since…she couldn't remember. Maybe that roofied drink at Shelly's party. At least she could trust this drink, since it had been capped.

"OK dude. I can take a hint." Dick was saying as he started to walk away.

"Wait Dick." Logan called. "Toss in a pool float. Shorty here can't reach the bottom."

"I can hold on to the side just fine." Veronica protested.

"Grab that one." Logan pointed. "And grab that one for me."

Dick did as instructed tossing the floats in the pool.

Logan floated one of them in Veronica's direction, and she looked at it with interest. She'd never seen a float like this before. It had U-shaped floating arms that wrapped behind the back, with a suspended sling-type seat. Veronica tried to hop into the seat twice, but it tried to float away both times. Logan took pity on her and picked her up, depositing her on the seat so quickly that she didn't have time to protest. It was incredibly comfortable, naturally tilting her back as if in a recliner. Logan grabbed her Hard Lemonade from poolside and tucked it into the cup-holder on her float.

His own float was thick and flat. He pulled himself up halfway, his head on his folded arms, letting his lower body float.

"Don't tell anybody about this." Logan called out to Dick as he strode off.

"Yeah, wouldn't want anybody to catch you in the pool with the riff-raff." Veronica snarked.

Logan nodded in agreement. "Definitely not. Do you want the entire party joining us out here? Unless...maybe you want your boyfriends to come rescue you from big, bad, scary Logan? I guess that would mean I'd won this standoff."

"I can hold my own with big, bad, scary Logan. What do you mean by boyfriends?" Veronica arched an eyebrow.

"Duncan and Troy." Logan said.

"Troy is not my boyfriend." Veronica said. "He's a big flirt who I'm considering dating; and Duncan, when I looked in your house earlier, looked a little busy snorting coke and being groped by Shelly Pomroy."

"Duncan doesn't snort coke." Logan said.

"I'll bet my photographic evidence that he does do coke, unless you deleted that picture as well" Veronica said. "Aren't you missing him anyway? You two usually aren't more than a couple feet apart. He must be getting pretty lonely, about now."

"Jealous?" Logan asked. "Wish you could be within a few feet of him?"

"Hardly." Veronica answered. "It just doesn't seem healthy the way you hover around him."

"For someone who supposedly has these great powers of observation, you don't seem to comprehend what's going on with Duncan. He's not the same guy you used to date. He's withdrawn, cold, zoned out. There's something really wrong with him. He's wound so tight I'm afraid he's going to snap one of these days. So I keep an eye on him and try to keep him sane. And these past couple of days? He's been crazier than a loon. He flipped off the bleachers, for God's sake! He laughed maniacally while blood was gushing out of the back of his head! He tried to sing 'Summer Nights' from Grease to a bunch of dudes! You usually ridicule me for being a jackass. Now you're ridiculing me for being a good friend?"

Logan had a point. Duncan had changed a lot since the time he'd dated her. Although he was her first love, there were times when seeing him made her feel a little creeped-out. She would have apologized to anybody else for her comment, but it was Logan, after all.

"A good friend would stop him from snorting coke." She said.

"Duncan's too smart to do drugs." Logan said.

"Yeah, that's more of your style." Veronica answered.

Annoyance flashed over Logan's face. "Really, Veronica? Now I'm a junkie?"

"Aren't you?" Veronica asked.

"No. I'll try anything once or twice. Maybe here or there at a party, but I'm hardly a junkie. Drugs...bore me." Logan answered.

"Right…." Veronica answered. "I forgot. Sex was always your drug of choice."

Noticing the venom in her voice, Logan flared up. "Yeah, you know everything about me! Well, Miss Puritanical, I'm here to tell you, when you have as much sex as I do, even that can become Really. Freaking. Boring."

"Poor, bored, rich boy." Veronica said in false sympathy. "So enlighten me. What isn't boring to you?"

Logan reflected on her question and finally answered, frustration evident in his voice: "I don't know. Everything is boring these days - parties, drugs, sex, the people I hang with. Everything except surfing. And…" he trailed off.

"And what?" Veronica probed.

"Nothing. Why are you interrogating me? Is your life so interesting and fulfilling?" Logan asked.

"Sometimes." Veronica answered. "When I'm working cases. Or at least when I'm doing field work. I actually enjoy 'skulking in the bushes' and such. Risking detection."

"And I enjoy watching you skulk in the bushes." Logan smirked at her.

He did a little back flip in the water, pausing for a handstand before resurfacing.

"I feel sorry for your pool boy" Veronica said. "It must be hard to clean all of that hair gel out of the filter?"

Logan smirked at her, returning to topic. "So you're an adrenaline junkie?"

"I didn't say that." Veronica answered.

"No, but it was implied when you said 'risking detection'. You know what?" Logan's eyes looked up to meet Veronica's, his expression thoughtful. "Lilly would love that."

Veronica flushed. "Logan…" she started.

"Lilly was always saying that you weren't as timid as you acted."

"I was that timid back then." Veronica said quietly.

"No, I think the backbone was always there. You just had no need for it while Lilly was still there to shield you." Logan said.

Somebody turned up the stereo inside the house and the sound of Maroon 5 drifted out to the pool area.

"This song – Harder to Breathe – has always reminded me of you." Veronica said breaking the silence.

"Really?" Logan asked, his eyes sparking with interest. "Why is that?"

"Well, partly because of the lyrics, but mostly because of the intensity. It shares a kind of…'force'… or… 'energy' with you." Veronica answered honestly.

"That's funny." Logan said. "I always thought the same thing. I'm surprised you, of all people, picked that up. So, do you often sit around listening to music and thinking of me? "

Veronica ignored him, taking the last sip of her drink.

Logan looked her over for a moment. Veronica felt that he was on the verge of saying something, but then he changed his mind. Instead, he fished another beer out of the cooler. He reached out for Veronica's bottle and finding it empty, handed her another drink, dropping the empties into the cooler.

"Well lookie here." Logan said pulling out a bottle of vodka and a pair of shot glasses. "Want to play a drinking game to pass the time?"

"Hardly." Veronica said.

The pool grew silent. Minutes slipped by. Veronica considered Logan's comment that Lilly had been her shield.

Logan did more backflips and handstands. He did three laps of the entire pool. He swam under water, purposely brushing against Veronica's legs and ankles to get a rise out of her. He tried tickling her toes, and got himself kicked in the noggin for it.

Veronica broke the silence after Logan had returned to his float and was sipping his beer. "OK, I am bored. What kind of drinking game do you want to play?"

"We could play 'I never'." Logan suggested.

"No." Veronica answered. "I have no desire to hand you ammunition for you to use against me later."

"OK, how about 'Bullshit'?

"Same thing. I reveal secrets. You use them against me. No win, there." Veronica said.

"Have any better ideas?" Logan asked.

Veronica pondered that for a moment. "How about a modified version of Bullshit?" She asked. "We could call it 'I hate you because...'"

She smirked up at Logan.

"How would that be a drinking game?" Logan asked.

"I'll tell you why I hate you, and you decide if it's really a reason I hate you, or if I just made it up on the spot. If you catch me in a lie, I drink. If you don't catch my lie, you drink. If I'm telling the truth, but you guess 'lie', you drink.

"This could get really, really interesting." Logan smirked.

Logan poured two shots of vodka and placed them on the lip of the pool. "Ladies first." he said.

"OK." Veronica said. "I'll start off easy. Logan, I hate you because you turned everybody at school against me."

"True." Logan said.

"Wrong." Veronica said. "You actually ended up doing me a favor. You helped me realize how much I hated those pretentious asses. Sean Freidrich, Angie Dahl, Madison Sinclair, the whole lot of them. They were never truly my friends. I'm lucky to be rid of them."

"Right. I bet you tell yourself that I was never your friend either, huh?" Logan mumbled.

Veronica motioned towards his shot. He downed it and refilled the glass.

"Veronica, I hate you because you're a smug know-it-all."

"True." Veronica said. Smugly.

"Logan, I hate you because you're a classist and a racist."

"True." Logan sighed.

"Wrong." Veronica said. "Remember how long I've known you? I think you're a fake. You use words as weapons and go straight for the jugular. You don't mind appearing classist or racist if that's what it'll take to cause the most damage. But I remember, you used to be pretty close with your gardener's grandson. What was his name again? Angel?"

Logan nodded.

"What ever happened to him, anyway?"

"He tried to stick up for me when my dad…." Logan shivered. "Let's just say the Manuel, the gardener got fired and run out of town."

"Drink. You're pretty sucky at this game, Logan."

Logan downed his shot, refilling the glass after.

"Veronica, I hate you because you think you know me so well."

"True." Veronica said.

"Actually, that was a lie. You're the only enemy I have who's actually a worthy opponent. I kind of like it." He said, flashing her a little grin.

Logan handed a shot glass to Veronica and she swallowed, grimacing. She handed the glass back to Logan, who refilled it.

"Logan, I hate you because you bashed in my headlights."

"True." Logan said.

"Veronica, I hate you because you planted a bong in my locker."

Veronica hesitated.

"I know it was you, Veronica. Just go ahead and admit it. I promise no retaliation for anything you admit to me tonight."

"OK. I promise no retaliation either." Veronica said and Logan nodded.

"OK, True, but we're making it too easy." she said.

"Logan, I hate you because you wear those orange pants."

Logan, about to swallow a sip of his beer spit it out, laughing.

"Sorry. That was funny." he said. "I'd say that's a lie. The Great and Virtuous Veronica Mars would never be so shallow as to judge a man by the clothing on his back."

"Actually, it was the truth." Veronica said. "I loathe the color orange, I loathe those pants, and they make you look fat. Drink, Logan."

"Fat?" Logan's face registered disbelief. "Fat?"

Logan pushed off the edge of the pool, climbing out. "Does this look fat to you?" he asked?

Veronica looked away quickly, embarrassed, but her brain protested. That's exactly what Logan wanted her to do. Exactly what the old Veronica would do. She wasn't that girl anymore.

Veronica forced her eyes back to Logan. She deliberately caught his eye, smirked, and looked his body up and down, from his broad shoulders to his toned calves and back up again. Her eyes returned twice to watch rivulets of water stream down his toned abs.

Meeting Logan's eyes again, she watched the momentary confusion on his face be replaced by a slow, lazy grin; the kind of grin that told her that he was fully aware that she liked what she saw.

"So, do I pass inspection, Veronica?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.

"I don't know, Logan. Turn around." She challenged. Logan arched an eyebrow, and obeyed her command.

Veronica took in the rear view of Logan. His ass, hugged by his boxer briefs, was to die for, and there was something about his back that made her want to take up sculpting. Logan had definitely evolved since the last time she'd seen him in so little clothing.

When Logan turned back around, Veronica held up an imaginary scorecard.

"Solid '8'." She said.

"8? Not even an 8.5?" Logan pouted before diving head first into the pool. Veronica neglected to mention that she'd shaved a point off simply for being a psychotic jackass. Logan was easily a '9' in her opinion.

"Take your shot, Logan." Veronica said.

Logan swallowed his shot of vodka and refilled the glass.

Veronica realized too late that her show of bravado may have been a bad idea. She had just introduced a sexual component to their rivalry that couldn't be taken back. Or had she? Had it always been there? Did she even want to take it back? It was ok for a woman to appreciate the endowments of a hot man in this day and age, right? Would he use it as a weapon against her later?

"So now it's your turn." Logan said, interrupting her thoughts. "Strip down and let's see how you like being ogled like a piece of meat." Logan whined in mock indignation.

"Aww…Poor Logan. Can't anybody ever love you for your brains?" Veronica asked, her voice dripping with sympathy, and Logan laughed.

"OK, my turn. Veronica, I hate you because you're smarter than I am."

"Oh. A trap." Veronica said. "You obviously don't think I'm smarter. But if I say 'lie', you'll claim that I'm admitting you're smarter. If I say 'true', I'll have to do a shot."

Logan smirked at her.

"OK, I'll say lie, and I'm not implying anything."

"Drink." Logan said. "I know you're smarter than I am."

Veronica looked up in surprise. "You're really admitting I'm smarter?"

"Yeah, you can have 'smarter'; I'm satisfied with being hotter. " Logan smirked.

"In your dreams, Echolls." Veronica laughed. She picked up her shot and downed it. Logan refilled the shot glass.

"OK Logan," Veronica said the taste of vodka still in her mouth. "I hate you because you turned on me when I needed you the most."

Logan looked at her in surprise and thought it over for a moment. "Lie." He said, finally. "You've never needed me. My last name isn't Kane."

"Drink." Veronica said. "I did need you. You were the only one who understood what I was going through. Who understood the Lilly-sized hole in my life. With Duncan in a walking coma, you were all I had left. Until you weren't, and I had no one."

"It's hard for me to believe that." Logan answered after a moment of thought. He schooled his face and voice to hide all traces of the hurt and betrayal he felt. "You never once looked back. You never once tried to make me understand your point of view. You just walked away."

Veronica shrugged and pointed at his shot glass. It was pointless to try to convince her enemy that he used to matter to her.

Logan swallowed his shot and refilled the glass.

"Veronica, I hate you because you were given a choice, and you didn't pick me, or the Kanes."

"True." Veronica said. "Although, your reasoning never made sense to me. How could I ever side against my own father? I love my dad. I adore my dad."

"I would have picked you over my father in a heartbeat." Logan said.

"You'd pick Trampy McBitch Veronica Mars over Academy Award Winner Aaron Echolls?" Veronica asked incredulously.

"In a heartbeat. I hate the fucker." Logan answered.

"To be fair, you hate me as well. Hence the game we're playing. But, I never knew that. I always thought you were proud of him. You have no problem using his name to gain popularity and influence." Veronica pointed out.

"My hate for you couldn't hold a candle to my hate for my father." Logan said. "And why shouldn't I use his name for gain. He has no problem whoring himself out, why should I?"

"Explain." Veronica said. "I sense some deep-seated daddy issues."

"No. Talking about Daddy Dearest is killing my buzz. This is getting morbid. It's your turn."

"OK. Logan, I hate you because you always wear that dumb pookah shell necklace."

"Lie." Logan's smile came back. "You helped Lilly pick it out. She told me how you'd dragged her to some boutique because you thought it would be perfect for me. Drink, Veronica." He handed her a shot glass.

"Damn." Veronica said and swallowed another shot. Logan refilled her shot glass.

"I can't believe she told you that. She swore me to secrecy because she said she didn't want me getting the credit." Veronica laughed softly.

"It wasn't until much later that she told me. One day when she wanted to hurt me. To show me that even her gifts weren't sincere."

"And you kept wearing it anyway?" Veronica asked.

"Yeah." Logan ran his hand through his hair and looked away. "It was sincere. Just not sincerely by my girlfriend. You were my friend too."

"And why wear it now?"

Logan shrugged. How could he explain, that he valued the ghost of their friendship like he valued the ghost of his relationship with Lilly, and his friendship with pre-zombified Duncan. He was nostalgic at his core.

He moved on. "Veronica. I hate you because you told Lilly that I kissed Yolanda for all of like three seconds."

Veronica almost said "lie", but the thought occurred to her that he wouldn't have mentioned it after all this time if it wasn't important.

"True?" she asked. Logan nodded.

"Logan." Veronica said in frustration. "Lilly was my best friend. For somebody who values loyalty above everything else, how could you have expected me to have kept that from Lilly?"

"I never said it was rational." Logan answered, not meeting her eyes. "But if you hadn't ratted me out, then Lilly and I would have stayed together. And Lilly wouldn't have been alone that day. I would have been there. Maybe she'd still be alive. Or maybe we'd both be dead. I don't know. I blame myself, too. It was a revenge kiss because Lilly had ditched the party. I wasn't even into Yolanda."

Veronica's stared at Logan. Twice she opened her mouth to speak, and twice she couldn't find words. She felt her eyes start to well up and tried to fight it.

Finally, she spoke, her voice barely audible. "I'm sorry, Logan."

Logan looked up at her in surprise. Their eyes locked in grief for a moment before Veronica looked away.

"I've never heard you apologize before." He said finally. "I believe you. That you're sorry."

He offered her a faint smile and motioned for her to proceed.

Veronica considered the implications of Logan's confession. Was she partly to blame for Lilly's death? Would Logan have been able to prevent Lilly from being killed? Would Logan and Lilly be together if he hadn't kissed Yolanda? Veronica didn't think so.

"God, Logan!" she said, her voice raw with emotion. "I can't believe you've been carrying that kind of guilt all this time! Listen to me carefully. Lilly broke up with you ostensibly because of the Yolanda kiss, but if hadn't been that, it would have been something else. She was starting to chafe at being in a relationship. You know how she would get."

Logan nodded.

"Every now and then she just needed to break up so she could go off and be wild for a while. She was showing all the signs of that. Her excuse for not going to your party was your so-called crazy jealousy. I told her she was nuts. I've never seen you act overly jealous. But honestly? She just wanted to be single when we went to Fleet Week. She would have broken up with you anyway – kiss or no kiss. And she would have come running back three weeks later as if nothing were wrong."

Veronica's heart broke at the look of hope on Logan's face. He wanted so badly to believe her. She reached over and found his hand in the water, squeezed it.

"Don't ever blame yourself again, Logan. OK?"

Logan nodded, his face under control now.

The music still blaring from inside the house, Logan noticed the song "Tangled" coming on. It was usually one of his favorite tracks on this album, but right now, alone with this particular girl, the lyrics hit too close to home. It could almost be an anthem for his relationship with Veronica over the past year. He wished somebody would turn it off.

"Logan, I hate you for using my drunk mother as a weapon against me." Veronica resumed the game.

"True. But if it makes you feel any better, my mom is a drunk and a pill popper."

"I didn't know that." Veronica said.

"I tried to take out a billboard, but my check bounced." Logan answered.

"You are such a hypocrite, Logan!" Veronica yelled. "God I hate you!"

"But you're still here." Logan answered.

"Um…Maybe because you're keeping me here? Remember?"

"You're still telling yourself that?"

Veronica opened her mouth to speak.

"I did laps Veronica. You had every opportunity to climb out of this pool."

Veronica closed her mouth.

"You're still here because you want to be here."

Veronica lowered her eyes.

"If you want to climb out of this pool right now, I won't stop you. I'll even turn my back to preserve your modesty."

Veronica raised her eyes and stared at Logan.

"Would you like another Hard Lemonade?" he asked her, the smile curling on his lips indicating that he'd won this round.

"Yes, please." Veronica said.

"Your beverage", he smiled, replacing her drink.

"Veronica, Your mom is still a drunk. My mom is still a drunk and a junkie. You're still a closed-off, control-freak, know-it-all, and I'm still a hypocritical jackass." He smiled at her cheekily.

"You are such an ass, Logan." Veronica laughed. "You'd say anything to hurt me, even if it applies to yourself as well. Logan, meet my jugular. Jugular, Logan."

Logan chuckled. "Pretty much."

"Imagine if you used your powers for good. You should try joining the debate team."

"Good is overrated. Bad is sexier."

Veronica laughed. The alcohol must be going to her head, because she kind of agreed with him, and why was she suddenly mentally comparing Duncan to Logan?

"Veronica, I hate you because you planted gay porn in my locker."

"True." Veronica giggled. "You mean you didn't appreciate 'Men in Back' and 'Big Boys with Big Toys'?"

Logan shuddered at the memory.

"Logan, I hate you because you slashed my tires. Twice."

"Lie." Logan said. "I only slashed your tires once. Better look at who had something to gain that second time."

"Meaning?" Veronica asked. "Who could have anything to gain by slashing my tires?"

"I don't know. Who came to your rescue?"

"Troy. He changed my tire. But Duncan showed up and gave me a ride to the Gold Coast. Which one was it?"

"Remember me? Loyalty first! Now take your shot."

"Doesn't count. When I made the statement, it was true for me."

"OK fine, technicality. Go ahead and take another turn, Ronnie." Logan said.

"Logan, I hate you for calling me Ronnie all the time."

"Lie! You love it when I call you Ronnie! Remember when we used to sing?" He demonstrated: "Just like Ronnie said...Be my little baby…..Oh oh oh oh oh"

Veronica groaned at the memory.

Logan handed her the shot glass and she swallowed, grimacing again. Logan refilled it.

"Veronica, I hate you because you blame me first for everything that goes wrong in your life. Every couple of days you come to me and accuse me of evildoing."

"True." Veronica said.

"You've never been right even once, Veronica." Logan went on. "Has it ever crossed your mind that I do things out in the open? I'm not sneaky. I don't try to cover my tracks. I don't need to steal anything because I have more money than I could ever spend?"

"Logan, I hate you because you always have to be so difficult when I falsely accuse you. Could you, for once, just say 'I didn't do it' and save me two days of trying to prove your guilt?"

"True." Logan laughed at her. "But I do love watching you spin your wheels."

"Or…You just love watching me." Veronica retorted under her breath.

"What was that?" Logan asked.

"Just commenting on how you're always staring at me. If I didn't know better, I'd say you had a crush on me." Veronica smiled flirtatiously.

Logan laughed. "That's it! You've discovered my secret crush! My unrequited love! Or maybe, just maybe, I'm just trying to figure out if your hairdo is the product of a weed whacker or a close encounter with Edward Scissorhands."

Veronica laughed. Could Logan be harboring a secret crush on her? Not like he'd ever admit it.

"Veronica, I hate you because you always send evil text messages to people from my phone number. How in the hell do you do that anyway?"

"True." Veronica giggled, "And I'll never tell you. But it's funny how your dumbass friends always seem to fall for it."

Logan agreed. "You'd think they'd learn to confirm with me when I text them with a change of plans, times, or locations.

Or that time when Dick actually followed the instructions you texted 'from me' and hired drag queens instead of strippers for that bachelor party."

Veronica let out a laugh. "He didn't!" she asked, delighted.

Logan nodded, painfully, and grudgingly began to laugh.

"Logan, I hate you because you gave my phone number to Milo Grant and told him I wanted him badly."

"True." Logan said, laughing. "That was kind of mean. I kind of had to forcefully convince him to stop stalking you a month later."

"What?" Veronica asked. "He never stalked me."

"He was a talented stalker."

"My turn. Veronica, I hate you because I somehow emailed in a book report on 'The Notebook' instead of the report on 'A Tale of Two Cities' I'd spent weeks working on."

Veronica laughed. "True, but that's what you get for not looking over your work one last time before sending it as an attachment."

"Logan, I hate you because you dated Caitlyn Ford."

"Lie." He answered.

"Actually it's true. It made me want to vomit seeing you two together. How could you possibly date such a vapid little twit? You can do way better."

"Wow. Considering your high opinion of me, you must have really hated Caitlyn." He shook his head.

"Or maybe you were jealous?" his face lit up. "Maybe you're the one with a secret crush."

Logan raised an eyebrow at her before swallowing his shot.

"I think I'm becoming a little drunk." Veronica giggled.

"How many shots have you had?" Logan asked.

"Four. I think." She giggled.

Logan looked her over. "You look cold. Your teeth are chattering. Let's relocate.

"You can't relocate a standoff. Can you imagine Clint Eastwood asking for a timeout so he could go grab a jacket?"

"Trust me." Logan said. He reached over and scooped her up from her float. She threw her arms around his neck to prevent him from dropping her.

"Logan, put me down!" Veronica squealed. "If you dunk me, I'll Taser your ass later when you least expect it."

"Taser me? You are one kinky girl, Veronica Mars. I said, trust me." Logan snarked.

Veronica's skin was touching Logan's skin in too many places: one arm was around his neck, the other on his shoulder, his forearms against the back of her thighs. The combination of the vodka and the skin contact were making Veronica's head feel woozy, and her tummy to feel tingly.

Logan strode across to the other corner of the pool and deposited Veronica gently, over the divider into the hot tub.

"Better?" he asked. "You get to stay warm, and you still didn't have to back down from mean scary Logan." He gave her a crooked grin.

"Much better." Veronica admitted.

Logan went back for the cooler, the vodka and the shot glasses and then climbed into the hot tub.

Veronica openly admired him as he climbed over the divider, finally sinking down into the heavenly warmth across from her.

"Hi." he grinned.

"Hi." Veronica grinned back. How could Logan make the word 'Hi' sound so sexy?

"Logan, I hate you because you have those frosted tips in your hair."

"True." Logan smirked. "Everybody hates me for my frosted tips. I guess they're part of the douchebag dress code."

Veronica laughed.

"Veronica, I hate you for your dyke boots."


"Actually, that was a lie. I think they're kind of hot." Logan said.

Veronica looked at him in surprise, and he shrugged.

"It's like the soccer uniform with knee socks. Can't explain it. It just works for me."

She held out her hand for her shot, trying not to blush.

"I think we'd better switch you to half-shots going forward. I don't want you falling down drunk." He handed her a half shot, and Veronica swallowed it.

"Logan, I hate you because you always insult me when Duncan is around."

"True, but I do it to get a reaction out of him. It's seems to be the only thing that wakes him up from his zombie state."

Veronica was surprised at his admission.

"So you're saying there's a method to your meanness?" Veronica asked. "And you call that waking up?"

"Yes, that little spark in his eyes when I pick on you is about the closest he comes to waking up. I miss my best friend, you know?"

Veronica nodded, sinking down comfortably on the bench seat and stretching out her toes on the bottom of the hot tub. They bumped up against Logan's.

"Playing footsie, Ronnie?" Logan asked.

Before Veronica could pull her foot back, Logan captured it between both of his feet and smiled at her. She tugged experimentally, but Logan had her foot locked. She smiled back.

"Looks like you're the one who likes to play footsie, Logan."

"You should see what I can do with my hands." he said waggling his eyebrows and his fingers at her. Veronica giggled.

"I only giggle like this when I'm drunk." She said apologetically.

"Then we should get you drunk more often." Logan said.

"I'll watch my mailbox for an invite to your next shindig." Veronica replied.

"Veronica, I hate you because I'm having way more fun hanging-out with you than I was having with my friends inside."

"True." Veronica grinned.

Who would have guessed that she could have such a great time with Logan Echolls? At least this version of him.

"Logan I hate you because you're still Logan. I thought the real Logan was gone forever, and the psychotic jackass was here to stay. But I think it's the real deal hanging out with me tonight, and I've missed him."

"Probably true." Logan shrugged. "Or maybe I always was a psychotic jackass?"

Veronica shook her head. "No, you used to be pretty awesome." She smiled shyly at Logan.

Logan felt a small tingle in his belly. He cocked his head at Veronica questioningly. She didn't seem inclined to answer, so Logan moved on.

"Veronica, I hate you because you texted the entire cheerleading squad from my phone number and asked them all out on dates for the same time. All sixteen of them showed up here at my door, and two of them brought their pissed-off boyfriends."

Veronica cackled gleefully. "True! That was one of my best pranks."

"Actually, wrong! That was a great night! I had my first threesome that night. Amanda and Gabby. I don't think it was their first."

Veronica gasped. "Logan! Ewwww! I don't want to hear about your sexcapades!"

Logan handed her a half-shot and she swallowed it, handing it back.

"I even sent you a thank-you gift for that one." Logan smiled at her.

"No you didn't." Veronica said.

"Yes I did." Logan smirked. "And it was a good one."

"I don't remember receiving any gift from you. What was it?"

"You don't remember a package arriving for you anonymously? You're wearing my gift right now."

Veronica looked down at her outfit uncomprehendingly.

Logan sighed, released her foot and slid next to her. Veronica could feel the skin of his thigh against hers, and watched, heart pounding as he reached a tentative hand toward her chest. He slid his hand up under her star pendant, displaying it against his palm.

"I sent you this." he said, smiling at her. "And you've worn it every day since."

"No you didn't!" Veronica exclaimed reaching up to touch it, sandwiching the pendant between her hand and Logan's, their palms and fingertips touching.

"Yes I did." Logan smiled. "What? Did you think it was Duncan all this time?"

"No, definitely not Duncan. He's never even flicked a glance at it. I figured maybe a grateful client. Or maybe my mother."

"Do your grateful clients often buy you diamonds?" Logan asked quirking an eyebrow.

Veronica gaped at him. "Diamonds? It's just costume jewelry."

"You never got it appraised? Veronica, when somebody sends you jewelry, always have it appraised." Logan sighed.

"But my real question is, if you knew it wasn't from Duncan, and didn't know who sent it, why do you wear it every day."

"Simple. Because I really love it." Veronica admitted. "It's perfect."

Logan blushed, feeling like he'd rescued a kitten or helped an old lady cross the street.

"Of all things, what made you pick out a star?" Veronica asked.

"Remember when we used to pass notes in class? You'd always fill the margins with star doodles, and you'd draw them on the front of my notebooks whenever I let one out of my sight. I guess I've always kind of associated you with stars."

"I love stars! So even while hating me, you took the time to find a gift that I would really love. You're not very good at this hating stuff, Logan." Her smile was soft. "Thank you for the beautiful necklace." She found herself blushing.

Logan moved his hand momentarily, letting the pendant fall to Veronica's chest and then pressed it back against Veronica's hand, entwining their fingers, and lowering their hands to rest on his thigh. He began rubbing a circular pattern on the back of her hand with his thumb.

Veronica looked up at him under lowered lashes. His deep brown gaze was intense.

"You know…" Logan started. "My eyes flick to it every time I see you. Whether you're yelling at me, or threatening me, or looking at me like I'm something on the bottom of your shoe, it turns me on to know that I put that diamond on your throat, and you have no idea. You know, you're really hot when you're angry."

Veronica flushed and looked away. Her heart was pounding and she knew something big was happening here.

"Veronica, I hate you because you're the only thing that excites me anymore."

Veronica gasped and looked back at Logan. He looked away, embarrassed for having made the admission, and gazed off into space.


He continued anyway, tentatively: "It's like…I'm numb all the time, and the only thing I look forward to is my next fight with you, or seeing what kind of crazy prank you have in store for me next. I actually want you to pull pranks on me, because it means I'm still on your radar. I sit in class all day thinking about ways that I can get you all fired up and angry. How fucked up is that?"

"I think I can relate to that. I know I always feel more alive when we're going at it." Veronica said softly.

Logan's intense eyes returned to hers searchingly, trying to determine if she was being truthful.

Trapped in his gaze, she blurted out the thought that had flitting through her mind for the past twenty minutes or so.

"Logan, I hate you because you picked Lilly over me."

As soon as she said it, she covered her mouth with her hand, shocked. "Disregard that. That was supposed to be internal monologue. I can't believe I just said that out loud."

"What the hell was that supposed to mean?" Logan asked, looking upset.

"Nothing, Logan. Forget about it. Blame it on the alcohol." Veronica said, jerking her hand away, and turning her back to him.

"I need an explanation, Veronica." She felt his hand on her bare shoulder, gentle.

It was the pleading tone of Logan's voice that made Veronica relent.

"Why are you making me talk about this? You know exactly what I'm talking about: that huge crush I had on you back when I was fourteen, and how Lilly went to you behind my back to try to fix us up, and you told her you that I wasn't your type. I was way too naïve and innocent. But she was your type, and you were totally into her. You guys started dating right after that, and I had to pretend that my heart wasn't broken, because she was my best friend, and I had to be happy for her."

The silence stretched out too long. Veronica turned her body back to face Logan. He was thinking, his jaw clenching and unclenching.

"Logan. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up." Veronica said, reaching out a hand to touch his arm, upset that she'd spoiled the mood.

The raw emotion in Logan's eyes when he finally turned back to her, made her stomach clench.

"Lilly lied. She never spoke to me about you. I admitted to Duncan that I had a huge crush on you. He came later and told me that you weren't into me. That I wasn't your type. I was too much of an asshole, and you were into him, Prince Fucking Charming. My heart was broken too, you know. A few days later, Lilly came over to 'console me'. I'm sure you can infer Lilly's definition of consolation."

Veronica's eyes locked with Logan's. "They played us both?"

"Looks like it." he answered.

They sat quietly for a moment, thinking about what might have been.

"I always wondered why it took another year for you and Duncan to get together, if you were so into him." Logan laughed bitterly.

"I am so pissed right now." Veronica said finally.

"I'm glad to hear that." Logan answered. "The old Veronica would have thanked Lilly for knowing what was best for her."

"I wasn't that much of a doormat." Veronica said.

"No, I wouldn't say doormat. You just never understood how devious Lilly could be. I wish Lilly were around today to see Veronica 2.0. You're a force to be reckoned with now."

"Careful Logan, I might mistake that for admiration." Veronica said.

"Fishing for compliments?" Logan asked his lips curving at the corners.

After a second, he laughed. "It was totally a compliment. I do admire Veronica 2.0. She's sassy, and funny as hell, and hot, and the only person I know who can keep up with me."

"Those adjectives might describe you as well." Veronica answered, lowering her lashes.

Logan and Veronica stared at each other for a moment before he slid his arms around her and pulled her in for a lingering hug - their first in over a year. Veronica inhaled that clean, signature scent of Logan's that had always managed to distract her, even when they were having arguments.

Pulling back out his arms, Veronica looked up at Logan, her eyes sparkling. "Logan, I hate you because evil shouldn't smell that good."

Logan flashed the smile that she hadn't seen since that Homecoming night, almost a year ago. It took her breath away, and when she spoke again, her voice was shaky.

"Logan, I hate you because evil shouldn't look that good."

"But yet…you're beautiful." Logan returned, as he began to lower his face towards hers. His hand came up to cup her cheek.

He stopped his downward progress about two inches from her mouth. Veronica felt as if a thousand butterflies had taken flight in her belly. Her heart pounded and she could barely breathe.

"Veronica, I hate you because I'm about to make out with you, and I have no desire whatsoever to put a stop to it."

Veronica inhaled his words, and exhaled her own as she pulled his mouth down to hers. "True."

Minutes later, breaking for air, Logan pulled Veronica onto his lap and smiled at her, happily.

"Logan, I hate you because that was the best damn kiss I've ever experienced in my life." Veronica laughed, breathlessly.

Logan laughed. "I don't know whether to hope that the playing field is large, to make me look better, or really small, because I'd be jealous otherwise."

"They're both in your house as we speak." Veronica shrugged.

"I think I need to have a conversation with the swim team." Logan snarked before pulling her in for another scorching kiss.

Thirty minutes or so later, Logan felt that he was going to explode if he didn't put a stop to this.

Logan had always imagined that Veronica would be passionate, if their fights were any indication, but he'd had no idea that she could match him in intensity.

Logan gently removed her from his lap, setting her down next to him.

"Logan?" Veronica asked, her eyes still glazed with desire. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He answered, quietly.

"Did things just get weird?" Veronica asked, looking away, suddenly uncomfortable. "The clock struck midnight? The spell is broken? The coach turned back into a pumpkin, and the prince turned back into a rat?"

Logan slid an arm around her and hauled her tight against his side.

"The Prince is still in the house." He said against her ear. "You've already danced with him Cinderella, and ended up losing your shoes." He sprinkled some kisses behind her ear. "I think you'll find that the rat is a lot more fun."

Logan leaned over and gave her a lingering kiss on the mouth.

"Mmmm….I always have loved cheese…" Veronica mused. "So why did you pull back? I was enjoying that make out."

Logan laughed. "So was I, but if that keeps up any longer, clothes will start coming off, which shouldn't happen when this much alcohol has been involved."

"Oh." Veronica said relieved. "So no second thoughts?"

"None." Logan said. "You?"

Veronica shook her head.

"Good." Logan pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead.

"Let me….cool off…for a minute, and I'll go get you a towel." He took her hand and pressed a kiss to that as well.

They slouched drowsily for a moment, noticing that the Maroon 5 was still playing in the house.

"I never realized how sexy this song is." Veronica observed. "'Back and forth we sway like branches in a storm….' I like that imagery."

Logan looked her over, willing himself to not get turned on again. He thought that Veronica might possibly be the perfect combination of virginal and sex kitten. He couldn't imagine ever being bored with her around, and he knew without a doubt that was what he wanted – to have her around.



"I apologize."


"Everything. Every reason you have for hating me. For being such an ass this past year."

Veronica was quiet for a second. "I forgive you Logan." She said finally. "I'm sorry too. For everything."

"I forgive you." He responded.

They searched each other's eyes, and saw only sincerity.

"Wait here. I'll be right back." he said, hopping out of the hot tub. "And yes. I jumped out first, so you can say you won!" He called back over his shoulder grinning.

He returned a moment later with a large bath sheet. He leaned over and helped Veronica climb out, wrapping the bath sheet around her shoulders, and then pulled her in for a lingering hug.

"Come on." he said into her ear. "I'll get you some dry clothes."

Looking up at his balcony he said. "You're too drunk to climb. We're going to have to go through the house. Are you OK with that?"

"Aren't you worried about all of your friends seeing you with the trailer trash?" Veronica asked.

"When have I ever cared what anybody thought about me? I tell them what to think." Logan smirked. "I'm more worried that they'll make assumptions about you."

"And since when have I ever cared what anybody thought about me?" Veronica countered with her own smirk.

"Oh! My bag. I left it by the side of the pool."

"You mean right before you got violent and shoved me in?" Logan laughed.

Logan ran back to grab it for her, and Veronica rearranged the bath sheet under her arms, tucking and securing it in the front.

"So what do you think? Does it go with my eyes?" Logan asked when he returned, her bag on his shoulder. Veronica grinned. "It's definitely your color."

He led her around to the kitchen door at the side of the house.

"You ready?" Logan asked looking at her worriedly and holding out his hand for her.

"Showtime!" Veronica answered with a smile, entwining her fingers with his.

Logan smiled down at her, moved. He had gone after her with a vengeance in the past year. She had every reason to be ashamed to be seen with him, but here she was smiling and holding his hand. He brushed a gentle kiss on her lips and then opened the door.

They stepped into the kitchen. A rousing game of quarters was being played on the kitchen island. One by one, eyes turned to look at them. Most flitted past, and then returned, after the brain had been given a moment to register. Something wasn't right here. Logan Echolls, soaking wet in his underwear holding the hand of Veronica Mars - his worst enemy - also soaking wet, wearing a long towel. Conversations trailed off mid-sentence. Eyes flitted around the room, meeting other eyes, questioning: Did you know this was going on? No, I'm as surprised as you are.

Veronica started giggling, and Logan laughed down at her, glad that she could see the humor in this. Troy looked as if he was about to hop down off the counter, but Logan shot him a hard glance. Troy put up both hands in a "no problem here" gesture.

Logan smiled at his guests. "Don't let us stop you. Just passing through." he said, pulling Veronica away.

Luke broke the silence "Nice purse, Logan."

Logan flashed a grin at him. "It's all the rage in Paris this year." he called back and skipped out of the room.

Logan led Veronica down the narrow hallway that led to the other wing and the staircase.

Halfway down the hallway, Veronica pulled him to a stop.

"Logan?" she said leaning back against the wall. "Thank you for that moment."

He tilted his head questioningly.

"I will cherish forever the sight of twenty 09er guys speechless, dumbfounded and astonished."

Logan let out a laugh. "You forgot verklempt."

"And Gobsmacked." Veronica added.

"How about thunderstruck?" Logan asked.

"Yes! And most assuredly flabbergasted." Veronica giggled.

Logan laughed and went in for a kiss. He'd only meant for it to be a quick one, but Veronica pulled him hard against her, deepening the kiss. Logan slid his hands into her hair while Veronica's hands roamed a bit more…leisurely.

A nearby door opened and Duncan stepped out of the bathroom. They didn't notice him at first, and he almost walked right past. He laughed to himself at finding Logan in his underwear making out on the wall in this skinny hallway, until he realized that the tiny blonde currently cupping his best friend's ass was the love of his life.


Logan broke the kiss, looking up guiltily. Veronica looked up, not so guilty.

"Veronica? What the hell do you think you're doing?" Duncan demanded, voice shrill. "Logan, get your fucking hands off of her!"

Logan held up his hands to show that they weren't, in fact, on Veronica.

"Duncan…" He started to say turning to face him.

Veronica stepped in front of Logan and leaned back against him. Following her lead, Logan's arms came around her waist, his hands clasping.

"You." Veronica jabbed a finger at Duncan. "Have no say about who can put their hands on me."

Duncan looked up at Logan. "You're supposed to be my friend." He said.

Logan felt Veronica tense, and he tightened his grip on her to keep her from flying at Duncan.

"Friend Duncan?" she said, her eyes becoming flinty. "Let's talk about friends. How about friends who plot against other friends?"

"What are you talking about?" Duncan asked.

"You neglected to tell me about a certain conversation you had with Logan when we were fourteen."

Duncan looked confused and Logan felt bad for his best friend. He knew what it was like to be on Veronica's bad side, and he was a stronger person than Duncan. On the other hand, Duncan deserved this. Logan had been planning to have a discussion with Duncan, but he'd hoped that it would be in private, and not on this particular night. Veronica was forcing the issue though, and to be honest, it felt great to be on her good side for once. He settled his face somewhere between smirky and sympathetic.

"Let me refresh your memory." Veronica said, her voice icy, ignoring the fact that they were drawing a crowd. Logan looked over his shoulder and noticed that everyone from the kitchen had gathered behind them at the end of the hallway. It occurred to him that he was a bit underdressed for this party.

Veronica continued, each word clipped and distinct: "I'm referring to the conversation where you lied to Logan, and told him I didn't want to date him because he was an asshole. That I, in fact, wanted to date you instead. Ringing any bells?"

Duncan's face went white. "Lilly said…." He struggled for words. "That was Lilly's plan. I just…." he started.

"Of course it was Lilly's plan." Veronica roared, cutting him off. "You don't initiate anything." her voice dripped with disgust.

"This is crazy. Logan hates you. You hate him." He looked up to Logan for confirmation.

"Fine line?" Logan smirked, shrugging, and prompting a small laugh from Veronica and some of the spectators.

"Logan and I laid our cards on the table. We discussed all of our reasons for hating each other, and some of them were pretty legitimate. But Logan's hate came from a place of conviction, and I can respect that. I can get past that. Obviously." She motioned to the position of their bodies. "But, how about yours, Duncan? I know it doesn't come from conviction, because I've never done anything to make you hate me. I think your hate stems from your guilt over the ways you've mistreated me. I'm a constant reminder that you're not the benevolent White Knight you pretend to be."

"I never said I hated you, Veronica."

"It was loud and clear every time you stood idly by." Veronica snarled at him.

"I'm done with this conversation." Veronica said. She turned around in Logan's arms, dismissing Duncan.

"Dry clothes?" she asked, looking up at Logan, her face triumphant.

"Let's go." he answered, feeling strangely proud of her. He gave her a quick kiss on the lips, took her hand and led her towards the stairs.

Logan looked back at Duncan one more time as they walked away and broke out in goose bumps. He could see something brewing behind Duncan's ice cold stare, and he had a feeling it wasn't going to be pretty.

Outside Logan's bedroom, he turned the knob and started to open the door. He immediately pulled it back closed, silently.

"What's wrong?" Veronica asked.

Instead of answering, he fished around in Veronica's bag, pulling out her Nikon, turning it on, and handing it to her.

"Go get 'em." he said, flinging open the door and turning on the light, illuminating Dick Casablancas and Ashley Banks in their underwear, making out on Logan's bed. Veronica laughed and started snapping pictures.

"Seriously, Logan? You're supposed to be my friend." Dick whined as he jumped up and started getting dressed.

"Seriously, Dick? On my bed?" Logan shot back.

Outside in the driveway, Duncan Kane tried to open his car door and found it locked. He tried several more times, and then his anger flared white-hot. He began kicking his car door. When that didn't satisfy him, he turned around and grabbed a nearby shovel, using it to bash in his windows and door repeatedly. Finally, spent, he collapsed to the ground. He stayed there for a long time imagining all of the ways he would make Logan pay for this.

Dick and Ashley finally evicted, Logan rooted around in his dresser, tossing a tank top and flannel pajama pants on the bed for Veronica.

"Dry clothes, as promised." he said. "Sorry I'm fresh out of ball gowns."

He wiggled his fingers at the items of clothing and said. "Bibbity Bobbity Boo" shrugging his shoulders when nothing happened.

"On some level, it's really disturbing that you know those magic words." Veronica observed as she gathered the clothing and headed towards the attached bathroom. She stopped at the sound of Logan's laugh.

"What's so funny?" she asked looking over her shoulder.

"I was just thinking that I've never been so happy that a girl didn't want me to see her underwear." he grinned at her.

Veronica impulsively dropped her towel and flipped up the back of her skirt, flashing him with her lace trimmed black silk panties before disappearing into the bathroom.

"Definitely didn't say 'Friday'." Logan muttered to himself as he changed into dry pajama bottoms.

"You want to go downstairs and hang out, or get some sleep." Logan asked when Veronica emerged from the bathroom.

"Sleep sounds good." she answered shyly.

"Good plan." Logan replied. He turned off the bedroom light and led Veronica to the bed, climbing in next to her and pulling up the covers. He pulled Veronica close so that her back was snug to his chest.

"Just sleep" he said in her ear, draping an arm over her waist.

Later, when Veronica was just about to drift off to sleep, Logan spoke in the darkness.


"Hmmm?" she said.

"I hate you because I really don't want this to be a one-time thing. I want to make something real with you. Us."

Veronica found his hand in the darkness and squeezed.


The End.