Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Chapter Nineteen – Day Six - When Fangirls Attack
A/N: Remember all the way back in chapter one, when I warned you this story would be super silly at times, and you all were like: 'HUH? WHA? This is super-dark. How you going to get silly out of this?' Well, this is one of the chapters I was referring to. Please remember, I try my best for realism, but sometimes I throw the whole concept out the window so I can have a little fun. Hope you enjoy. Hope you even laugh here and there.
A/N2: No need to Google. Locations in this chapter are fictitious.
A/N3: Special thanks to Honeybee who inspired me on how I can use Wallace in this story. If I was purely sticking with the VM timeline, day six of the story would probably fall in around 1x4, but since we're not actually in Neptune, I didn't think it would hurt to mix things up back home.
Duncan – Day Six – Dallas, TX – Lakeview Court Motel – Room 118
The glowing red numbers of the clock radio displayed 7:06, when Duncan woke, rubbing at a cramp in his neck. Never one to linger the morning away in bed, once his eyes opened, he was up for the day.
On silent feet, he tiptoed to the closet to snatch his duffel bag. A hint of morning light stole past the edges of the blackout curtains, illuminating the two sleepers in the other bed.
Duncan froze, his gut clenching as if being squeezed by a fist.
Veronica and Logan. They'd warned him about their sleeping arrangements, but Logan had seemed so clinical last night when he slid between the sheets facing away from her. Duncan had assumed they would remain back-to-back, never expecting to wake up to find Logan twined like a bracelet around his…
Just admit it…sister. Sister. SISTER.
Need to feel an appropriate brotherly reaction. Imagine seeing Logan sleeping with Lilly like this.
I HAVE seen Logan asleep with Lilly, and they never looked like this.
Even in sleep, while Logan clung to her like a drowning man, Lilly had always extended away from him, giving the impression of fleeing, like a modern Apollo and Daphne.
This is much different.
Veronica's head rested on his chest. Her arm stretched across him territorially, fingers curling around his ribs. She was exactly where she wanted to be.
Logan's fingers burrowed into her hair, while his other hand reached across to her hip. He didn't seem inclined to run away either.
In fact, the only person who wanted to flee in this moment was Duncan.
He acted on his impulse, darting to the bathroom, where he set down his duffel before creeping back out and crouching down to the mini-fridge. Cringing when the door made a suctiony noise, he thumbed the lever to put out the blinding glow of the light. Cans of soda clinked as he pushed them aside and felt around for the cold plastic bottle of orange juice in the back corner. He eased the fridge door closed in silence.
In the dark, Duncan fumbled for the pull-tab with his thumb, before pulling off the lid and taking a deep swig. The sweet tangy taste quenched his thirst, but the sting on the inside of his cheek? Not so wonderful. He recapped the bottle, leaving it on the coffee bar.
Back in the bathroom, Duncan undressed, and climbed in the shower, cranking the water temperature up as hot as he could bear, and then a smidgen hotter, reasoning that the intense heat would be effective for relieving his neck pain. A small part of him acknowledged his real reason – he was always trying to wash away the oily black stain of sister-love.
Veronica's mismatched bottles lined the side of the tub. Unsurprisingly, she still used the same products he remembered seeing at her old house. She was no Lilly Kane, always in search of the new and novel. Veronica was steadfast. The kind of girl who, once she found something she liked and could depend on, would stick with it for the long haul.
He moved her stuff to the back of the toilet in order to resist the urge to sniff her shampoo.
No good can come of that.
Logan's stuff was absent from the shower. Duncan smirked, imagining sleek white bottles all stashed away in some zippered bag with perfectly spaced elastic loops to hold everything in place. From showers taken at the Echolls estate, he recalled Logan tended to be more matchy-matchy, using only products (shampoo, body wash, deodorant) from the same product line - something with the word 'Aqua' in the name. Couldn't have his scents clashing, right?
Veronica had seemed to enjoy the effect, even back when Duncan dated her, he'd been amused by how she always tried to sneak whiffs of Logan. She'd thought she was being stealthy. Perhaps that's why she slept with Logan now - his scent reminded her of happier times.
Duncan washed his hair, using a shampoo that didn't smell like much of anything, except for baking soda. He had recently switched to a line of certified organic products. The stuff barely lathered, but made up for it by being Paraben-free and a great topical source of phytonutrients.
The discussion-slash-argument with Veronica last night had been his first attempt at reconciliation. Their friendship still might not get back to where they were before they dated, but he should be able to be in the same room as her without breaking into hives now. He'd never realized she'd harbored such hostility towards him, but couldn't say he blamed her. No wonder the drive to the Gold Coast for the Bodie Chang article had been so awkward.
On the surface, the Veronica situation showed improvement. Internally, he had a long way to go. He needed to stop thinking of her as the love of his life and begin thinking of her as family.
Duncan had loved his sister Lilly more than nearly anybody on Earth, but their relationship had been complicated. They hadn't squabbled like other siblings. Lilly gave orders and Duncan followed them. Even his earliest memories were of trying to appease her - an impossible feat. That was all he knew of being a brother, and he wasn't eager to repeat the behavior with a second sister.
How do you define a functional brother/sister relationship anyway? Logan and Trina could hardly be held up as poster children. TV brothers usually acted over-protective, but Lilly had been too scary to require protection and he only imagined how badly that attitude would go over with Veronica.
He lingered under the near scalding stream of water, eventually finding some relief for the pain in his neck. The water pressure left a lot to be desired, but no matter how well maintained, what else could be expected from a motel?
The organic shower gel didn't lather much either, but it was an improvement over the shampoo, and carried a subtle hint of cedar. He stayed in the shower until his skin turned pink - a combination of the intense heat and his obsessive scrubbing.
You can't wash away incest with a light touch.
Duncan finished his grooming and dressed, preparing himself for another sighting of Logan and Veronica.
Maybe they switched positions in the last twenty minutes, and everything will be back to clinical.
With as little noise as possible, he tiptoed out of the bathroom. He reached for his OJ - still on the coffee bar - and took a deep swig before stashing his duffel in the closet.
Logan and Veronica had changed position, but only in the smallest sense of the word. Their hands, now on Logan's stomach twined together.
Duncan nearly dry heaved.
Who holds hands in their sleep?
He turned away, but then forced himself to look back. To memorize the sight.
He knew Logan only slept with Veronica to keep the nightmares away, but the next guy's intentions wouldn't be so noble, and he needed to prepare himself for the inevitability of Veronica moving on. She would never be his girlfriend again. She was his SISTER. She would be somebody else's girlfriend.
He prayed they wouldn't wake and catch him staring, because there was no possible way for it to not come across as creepy, but he needed to immunize himself against her. He needed to get over her, and if seeing her wrapped around his BFF helped, so be it. He would burn this image into his retinas, and hope it wouldn't hurt so much when she finally did meet somebody new.
The Troy Vandegraff situation had been different. It couldn't have gone anywhere. Troy was still too obsessed with that Shawna girl, so Duncan had ignored their flirting and handholding to the best of his ability. But Logan wouldn't let it be, constantly pointing them out and needling at Duncan.
He knew that Logan was simply trying to get him fired up. To make him care about something again, even if it was Veronica Mars, but a part of him had wondered at the time if Logan's protective streak for Veronica was not as dead and buried as he had wanted everybody to believe.
Now Troy has proven himself to be a player, hooking up with Caitlin, while still making pleas to Veronica. Logan always did have the better instincts about people, but there was no way the protective streak was dead.
Look at him now, guarding her sleep and keeping her demons at bay.
He had seen enough. Grabbing a note pad from the nightstand drawer, he jotted down: Went to Peggy's for a real breakfast.
He retrieved his OJ and slipped silently out of the room.
Veronica – Day Six – Dallas, TX – Lakeview Court Motel – Room 118
For the first time since they'd left Neptune, Veronica woke alone.
Where's Logan? Why didn't he wake me? Or wait for me?
The sheets where Logan had lay warmed the palm of her hand, and his scent still lingered on the pillow.
So he only got up minutes ago.
She rolled to his side of the bed for a moment, not exactly sure what she hoped to accomplish. Do I think I can absorb a bit of his essence via his leftover warmth? she asked herself, idly watching dust motes glowing in a beam of morning light stealing through the two-inch gap in the drapes.
She stretched her right leg under the smooth cotton sheet, pointing her toes for a count of five before repeating the process on the other side.
Contradicting desires battled in Veronica's head: I need distance from him to prevent this from turning into something complicated/I need to close the distance that sprang up between us yesterday because it makes me sad and uncomfortable.
She rotated her left ankle, wishing she wasn't wishing for Logan's presence next to her.
You're going soft, Veronica Mars.
How had she become so accustomed to him in such a short time? To the extent where it annoyed her for him to break their newly established patterns.
Now our unconventional sleeping arrangement has rules?
Logan's absence must be another way of telling her he was still angry. But should she believe him? He'd given in and snuggled last night, even brushing a kiss upon her lips. A kiss so whisper-soft, she'd almost missed it.
He thought I was asleep.
The problem with feigning sleep was that he didn't know that she knew they'd cuddled. He might play dumb and pretend they hadn't had a moment.
It wasn't a moment. We can't afford to have moments - they tend to lead to something more, and something more leads to betrayal and abandonment.
The squeak of faucets being turned, followed by the sound of the shower, alerted Veronica to the fact that either Duncan or Logan were still here with her. If she had to bet, she would put money on Logan. Duncan typically woke much earlier.
She pushed herself up into a sitting position and searched the room with her eyes. Duncan's bed was rumpled, but empty. A scribbled note on the nightstand informed her that he had gone to Peggy's for breakfast.
So it was Logan in the shower.
Probably naked. Probably soapy. Or about to be.
Veronica ran a hand over her face.
Who am I these days?
She had never been that girl. Lilly was the one who kept pictures of naked men, and thought about sex all day. Veronica was the one who shied away from the photos, slightly intimidated by the sight of the male anatomy.
I am losing my mind. Distraction. I need a distraction.
The clock read 9:30 AM. Wallace should already be in Computer Lab. The bedsprings squeaked as she sprang up and retrieved her laptop. She was not disappointed when she checked her email inbox.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I'm not sure whether to begin by addressing your revelation or sharing my big news.
Let's avoid the unpleasantness for now.
I was approached by the Gumshoe for a second time yesterday evening after I emailed you. Seems he needs somebody to file and answer phones at his office, so he offered me a job. Turns out, his previous receptionist RAN OFF TO MAKE-OUT WITH THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS!
I'll be starting my new job after school today. It was a no-brainer considering it pays better than the Sac N Pac, and there won't be any more run-ins with Mr. Duct Tape and his merry band of leather-clad hyenas.
It's only third period, but so much has already happened today.
Did you know about plans to erect a memorial fountain for The Fallen Queen? Well there were plans, but it's been postponed by her parents due to the Prince Charming sitch. Glad you didn't have to miss it.
How pure are you? That's the question that went out in an email to the entire school the other day. It linked to a quiz, which, incidentally, crushed my dreams of ever being a considered a Casanova playa. Bet your new demon-spawn makeout buddy couldn't say the same.
Well, as luck would have it, for $10, you can buy anybody else's test results. When I arrived at school this morning, it was like World War Three. Boys sexually harassing girls. Girls fighting each other in the halls. Breakups. Scores written on lockers. Incidentally, you scored a 14. You'll have to tell me someday about that time you pleasured the swim team while jacked up on goofballs. While you're at it, what's a goofball? Bet PJ knows.
The craziest part of the morning? Snow White's boyfriend, Grumpy, was screaming at her for making a fool out him. That idiot made the nicest girl in school cry by treating her like a slut. She and I bonded a little bit yesterday during the interview – did you see it? – so being the white knight that I am, I promised to try to help her clear her name.
So I ask myself, WWVD? The advisor referred me to this computer whiz girl. I'll call her Blue, due to the streaks in her hair. She's pretty cool. I think you would like her.
In order to post a test as Snow White, the culprit - henceforth known as Evil Queen - would need to know her email and password, and according to Blue, only the student themselves and the IT guy – this French dude would know passwords. He's here on Tuesday and Friday mornings, so, being Friday, I tracked him down in the IT office, but that was a dead end. He claimed he hadn't given out any passwords - it would get him fired. Blue said to check back with her if he couldn't help. She may be able to find another way to get that info. I'll check back with her on Monday.
So I guess that just leaves the elephant in the email. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING MAKING OUT WITH THAT PSYCHOTIC JACKASS? Seriously girl, there isn't enough bleach in Neptune or Balboa County to cleanse my brain tissue after that revelation. Has the Prince been slipping you his happy pills, because there is no way the girl I know would hook up with PJ. Have you forgotten all of the things he's done to you?
Even if the two of you are inevitable - and as much as I'd like to, I can't deny that I've seen some sparks – at least think long and hard before you rush into anything. Make sure he's not going to turn on you again.
Gotta go. Bell is about to ring. I know - delete cookies/clear cache.
Love ya girl. Stay safe.
Wallace had a point. The Veronica he knew loathed Logan, and never would have locked lips with him.
Could a person change this much in less than a week? She tried unsuccessfully to summon last week's disdain for Duncan and Logan. Sure Logan's behavior after the kiss had been pure jackass, and Duncan had a ways to go to get on her good side, but her current feelings for both boys could only be described as mild annoyance.
She found the idea of Wallace inheriting her position at Mars Investigations rather amusing. He would probably do a better job, if she were honest with herself. He, at least, knew how to follow directions. That he had taken on his own case was a bigger surprise. He seemed to have learned a lot in the short amount of time she'd known him.
It warms my heart to know that you and the gumshoe have come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. Keep an eye on the old codger for me, and hopefully he'll keep an eye on you.
Snow White? Grumpy? Evil Queen? I'll go ahead and let slide your disturbing knowledge of fairy tale characters.
You've noticed the sparks between the Jackass and me? Funny, I was thinking the same thing yesterday when I saw you and Snow White on camera. Quite the coincidence that you're stepping in as her hero, Sherlock Holmeboy. Keep this up and I'll be calling you Prince Charming. We can find something new for the current owner of the nickname. Maybe Glazed Donut?
WWVD? Well, you're already planning to check back with Blue on Monday. Meanwhile, have a talk with Snow. Does she have any enemies? Does anybody stand to gain from her downfall? Have any girls been sniffing around Grumpy? Might anybody else have her password? If not, either Blue or Frenchie are lying. Keep an eye on them.
What about The Understudy? If she's as whack-a-doodle as the Prince suggested, she may be having a severe case of Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride.
As for our favorite Jackass, what can I possibly say? I tell myself that I'm never going to kiss him again, but I think I might be lying.
I have faith in you, PB. Take care of that crotchety old gumshoe for me. If you need to use my car while I'm gone, it's okay with me. Tell the gumshoe I said so, but don't show him this email. If he knew about me and PJ, he would come searching. We can't be having that. It could get him killed.
Keep in touch. Often.
While Veronica brewed coffee, the shower turned off, and she felt the tickle of nerves in her belly. Not too much longer until she would see him. And gauge his mood.
She fixed cups for herself and Logan, leaving his on the coffee bar near the bathroom door.
She turned on the TV and climbed back in bed sipping from her mug. It was a little too bitter, and needed more sweetener. She would leave the coffee brewing to Logan going forward. He had a talent for always getting it perfect.
She tuned-out the sports highlights, but looked up when she heard her name.
Anchor: In case you're just tuning in, as we reported early this morning, Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls have been captured in Orlando, Florida. So far, there has been no news of Duncan Kane's whereabouts. We go to Luisa Lopez on the scene in Orlando, Florida.
[Cuts to attractive Latina woman standing on courthouse steps]
Anchor: Luisa, can you tell us what's happening?
Lopez: Sure, Renee. All we know is that at 6:00 AM this morning, Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls were captured at a McDonalds in central Orlando. Both were carrying false identification and stolen credit cards. Police officials have declined to make any statements. I have Karen Tregan here, who witnessed the arrest. Karen, please tell us what happened in your own words.
Karen: Sure, Louisa. I stopped at McDonalds this morning to get a coffee and a McMuffin, but the drive-thru line was too long, so I decided to go inside. I was standing behind this young couple. She looked tired and was leaning on him, and he had both of his arms wrapped around her while they waited. I asked them if they were Logan and Veronica, and they smiled secretively. Next thing I knew, two cops had them smashed against the wall, and were snapping handcuffs on them.
Lopez: Did they say anything?
Karen: The girl kept yelling 'My name is Amy Cooper' while the cops read them their rights. One of the officers went through her purse and found a Fake ID. Then they were pushed into the cop car and drove away.
Lopez: Thanks for talking to me today, Karen. Renee, back to you.
Oh hell. This is not good. In fact, this is about as bad as things could get.
Veronica numbly reached for laptop again. The tracking software showed that Liam Fitzpatrick's Barracuda was already several hours outside of Dallas moving in a South Eastern direction.
Damnit! The meth head is an early riser!
She picked up the burner phone and texted Weevil: May need to activate our little bunny this morning. Soon. The Big Bad is following the wrong false lead.
Weevil texted back within seconds: Impossible. Police busted him for receiving stolen property due to an anonymous tip. He's in lockup for a few days. Sorry. And you know we have a protocol for a reason.
Anonymous tip, my ass, Weevil.
She jumped up and ran to the bathroom door, pounding with her knuckles.
"Logan, are you decent?"
"Not particularly. At best, ambivalent, but you usually consider me a jackass," he answered.
"You know what I mean. Open up," she called.
The lock clicked as it disengaged, before the door opened to reveal Logan staring at her coldly.
"What?" he asked.
Oh...definite attitude. Lovely.
The bathroom was heavy with his usual scent. The boy himself wore a fluffy white towel around his waist and, presumably, nothing else.
She had seen him in a towel before, but before now, had turned away.
Now, her chest fluttered as her eyes travelled from his shoulders to his chest to his stomach. A light dusting of hair ran from below his belly button to disappear into his towel.
"Hey. Up here," he pointed at his face, in the manner of a well-endowed girl accustomed to having men speak to her breasts.
Veronica narrowed her eyes. She simply did not have the patience to deal with a bitchy Logan today. As if they didn't have enough problems. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of playing blushing schoolgirl.
"Did you have something to say, or did you just want to ogle me?" His lips curled up in a cold smirk, and she noticed the shaving cream covering the right side of his face. How had she not noticed that already?
Oh…right…I was checking out his body.
"Here," she said, holding out the coffee she'd prepared for him minutes ago.
Logan's eyes widened before he took the cup. "Is it poisoned?"
"Now why would I want to go and do something like that?" Veronica smirked, with a savage gleam in her eyes.
"Just hazarding a guess here…Because you're jealous?"
"Keep telling yourself, that. We have a problem," Veronica said, taking a seat on the edge of the tub.
"Yes," Logan answered, staring hard at her in the mirror. "We do."
"I'm not talking about that problem."
"Of course you aren't." Logan said flippantly, "You seem to think that one will go away all on its own. So what's the new problem?"
"We were captured in Orlando – you and I. Liam's already on his way there."
"You have to be kidding me. The cops grabbed some lookalikes?" he snorted.
"Seems that way."
"How's that a problem? They'll get it straightened out eventually."
"It's a problem because we came north to keep Liam away from Florida. We're losing three days in Dallas for nothing."
"Ahh…I see," Logan said, clearing a path through the shaving cream with an expensive looking razor. Veronica took advantage of his distraction to take in the rear view. Long neck, wide shoulders, that same smooth skin she'd run her fingertips across yesterday when her hands slipped under his shirt. Butt? Yeah, he had a butt. A really nice one, actually.
"We need to get him back here somehow," she said.
"So?" Logan asked, turning around, and leaning back against the sink. "We'll have Weevil feed Thumper information."
Keep your eyes on his face, Veronica.
"Thumper's out of commission today. He's in lockup," she answered.
"Oh…" Logan turned back to the sink.
Veronica watched the mirror, becoming almost mesmerized by the up-down of Logan's razor. With those baby cheeks of his, she hadn't realized he shaved. He splashed water on his face and patted dry with a towel, before slathering some lotiony-looking stuff in a white container on his face. He followed up by slapping some product on his hands and pulling it through his hair to create his signature style. He washed his hands and finished up by applying lip balm.
Veronica flashed back to yesterday: His soft lips against hers, the tingling after their kisses. "Give me some of that," she said, reaching out her hand.
He turned to face her. "You're still here?" He closed his eyes and puckered his lips exaggeratedly. When nothing happened, he shrugged and handed her the lip balm with a smirk.
"We'll need to be seen somewhere public. With more than a few witnesses. The kind of sighting that'll be reported on the news."
"Relax. I know exactly what to do."
Something about the gleam in his eye told her she'd probably regret this.
Duncan – Day Six – Dallas Public Library
Duncan dropped off Logan and Veronica, and followed Veronica's map to a library five minutes away. She'd chosen this branch for its location on the opposite side of Dallas from the motel.
A glance in the rearview showed him a person he didn't recognize. His scruffy beard, rectangular-framed glasses and uncomfortably snug hat did not scream Duncan Kane. He looked ridiculous, but not like himself.
He locked up Peggy's truck and crossed the parking lot to the library.
Alone, at least he wasn't forced to hide his resentment over being sent on this errand.
According to the Dynamic Duo, their job was riskier and more difficult, and therefore, they were more qualified to handle it.
Give Duncan the easy task. Duncan is too fragile to do anything of importance. I've been relegated to computer work and chauffeuring.
'Plus,' they had said, 'We're the faces of the Neptune Three.'
Right, because I'm completely invisible.
The library had obviously been constructed in the past few years - all glass and brick, in a style similar to the library back home.
Inside, a large white sign with black block letters informed him that the computers for public use were located between Reference and the Children's Department, but it still took him several minutes, to locate the bank of twelve terminals. All were currently occupied, so he stepped in line behind a short, thin man with ruddy skin and short, unruly golden-brown hair with exaggerated sideburns.
A young woman, pale and freckled, with short black hair, typed like a clog dancer at the nearest computer station. As if she obtained pure delight from her passionate clickety-clacks.
Nearby, in the Children's department, a pretty and still-idealistic looking librarian led story-hour for a group of a dozen or so toddlers and their frazzled parents. The audience paid little attention, preferring to babble among themselves about princesses and cookies, boogers and stinky farts.
One small boy with huge blue eyes listened with rapt fascination to the reader. He reminded Duncan a bit of himself as a child. He had always had an excellent attention span.
Behind him, a doorway led to a small copy room (he assumed from the swish-swish sounds of inkjet printers).
A geriatric woman who - going by her bleeding red lipstick, high pumps, and display of sun damaged-cleavage - still considered herself a vamp, abandoned one of the workstations, and Sideburns moved to take her place, leaving Duncan first in line.
The nearest almond-painted metal shelf contained a collection of World Book Encyclopedias, which set off a wave of nostalgia. As a child, he would spend hours flipping those golden-edged pages. On impulse, he snatched the letter 'F' from the shelf, caressing the burgundy leather. He opened the volume to a random page, inhaling that unmistakable encyclopedia scent, running his fingers across the slick, glossy pages.
Surprisingly, Logan had not been immune to the siren's call of knowledge, either. Back before he discovered girls and sex, Logan had spent many a rainy afternoon with Duncan in his father's library. While Duncan had gravitated towards art and science, Logan had always been drawn to people - specifically, history's great thinkers. Duncan sighed at the wasted potential. Were Logan to ever actually apply himself, he could probably rule the world.
He flipped to the book's entry for Florida, and spent a few minutes learning about the state.
He glanced up at the sound of tiny running feet and hysterical giggles. One of the story-time munchkins, a boy of around two had made a run for it, trucking across the room in that stiff-legged manner of toddlers. He let his exhausted mother nearly catch him before putting on a burst of speed and slipping out of her clutches. Duncan had to laugh. If that other child had reminded him of himself, this one was all Logan - not only because he was hyperactive, but for the sheer joy he seemed to derive from being ornery.
He returned his attention to the book, examining the maps of Florida and its Keys. Somebody nearby had the sniffles, and Duncan considered telling him or her about the benefits of ginger and olive leaf extract, but didn't want to lose his place in line.
Clickity-Clack finished up, gathering her bag and papers, and flashing Duncan a shy smile as she walked away. There was something appealing about her. She appeared both fresh-faced and edgy. The type of girl who would always tell you the truth whether you wanted to hear it or not. It was a shame they were leaving Dallas so soon.
Her chair was still warm when he sat down. To the right of the monitor lay a stack of white scratch paper and a black metal cup full of sharpened half-pencils - another scent that always made him nostalgic.
For the next forty minutes, following Veronica's instructions, he searched for jobs and apartments in the Chicago and Cleveland areas, taking the occasional note or sending pages to the printer.
Finally, he brought up his own Gmail account and sent off emails to his mother, his father, a few relatives, Shelly, and a couple other schoolmates he might be considered close to in the public eye.
Since the emails would be traced, he couldn't say anything important, instead, going with the generic, Everything's-fine-I'm-healthy-don't-worry-about-me.
He stopped in the copy room to retrieve his printouts, halting in the doorway on the way out, just in time to avoid being run down by Little Logan who was again making a break for it.
He wondered if children were in his future. Would he ever find somebody he could love? He'd loved Veronica since he was twelve years old. Would anybody ever be able to take her place in his heart? He sure as hell hoped so.
Near the main entrance, he noticed a room with a Book Sale sign. He allowed himself a few moments to browse, and ended up purchasing two drawing books, a book on natural nutrition, and a book about the human body. For Logan, he picked up a book of quotations and biographies on DaVinci, Franklin, Shakespeare, and Churchill. He had no clue what Veronica was into these days, but left with a handful of mystery novels, reasoning that one of them might end up reading them.
Ten minutes later, he parked at the Beachwood Place Mall, and prepared for a very long wait. Luckily, he had plenty of reading material.
Logan – Day Six – Dallas, Texas – Beachwood Place Mall
They spent the first hour doing recon.
Beachwood Place was a large two-level mall with a sprawling floor plan and a food court at its center.
"Logan!" Veronica snapped her fingers in front of his face as he stared wistfully at the Abercrombie store and he reluctantly kept moving. He couldn't help it if his clothing was making him miserable.
Logan was on the verge of melting, and not into a puddle of goo from Veronica's sweet sweet loving, more in the 'remind-me-again-why-I'm-wearing-three-freaking-layers' kind of way. He was tiring of the black baseball cap, and the rimless glasses still pinched the bridge of his nose. Back in his favorite khaki cargoes for the first time since leaving Neptune, he felt inexplicably infantile.
Inexplicably? Not because a certain wishy-washy blonde made a comment about cargoes being for six year-olds who needed pockets for crayons and rocks and strings and frogs?
Said blonde herself, blended bits of Veronica 1.0 (a fuzzy pink sweater) with Veronica 2.0 (a denim mini-skirt and those butch black boots he could never take his eyes off). For disguise, she wore her horn-rimmed Velma glasses and that dog-ugly curly brown wig he thought he'd gotten rid of at the Sweet Dreams Motel. Logan smirked, knowing exactly how he would make her pay for wearing the hideous thing. But that would be for later.
Veronica's fingers tentatively reached for his hand, and he allowed her to slip them into place between his, but there was a stiffness and tension between them that hadn't been there before they'd kissed, and not just because she looked like the 'before' version in The Princess Diaries. Veronica seemed almost over-eager to pretend nothing had changed.
Logan had no inclination to play that game. Things had changed. Everything had changed. He didn't want to be her – what had she called him? her platonic fugitive travelling companion – and he didn't want to be her friend. He might be okay with it, had she truly been indifferent to him, but she wanted him too. He just knew it.
The tap-tapping of Veronica's boots on the marble floor made a pleasant rhythm, as they strolled through the mall, past storefronts with big, colorful, 'Biggest Sale Of The Year' signs.
Occasionally, Veronica tugged on his hand, pulling his ear to her mouth and whispering the locations of video cameras. He resented that she wasn't more careful to keep her lips from brushing his ear – her warm breath was already enough torture – but he responded by dutifully marking an asterisk on their mall map before refolding and shoving it in his pocket.
Soft Rock music played from hidden speakers - currently, Billy Joel's 'Just The Way You Are'. Were his father here instead of Veronica, he'd probably be singing along under his breath. Aaron's habit of singing the elevator music at malls and grocery stores was one of the few father-related thoughts that triggered a positive reaction in Logan's physiology rather than tension.
When he was little, his dad would sing to him, putting on hammy performances in the kitchen with over the top facial expressions and arm gestures while Logan giggled in hysterics. It hadn't all been bad times. Aaron Echolls was capable of tenderness as well as viciousness. Tenderness as long as nobody challenged his narcissistic world-view. As long as his Cheerios remained piss-free, everything remained copacetic. Logan had caught himself missing the bastard once on this journey, but not enough to want to go home and get his ass beaten. Never again.
Were his father here with him now, instead of Veronica, three or four fans might stop them and ask for an autograph.
Things would be much different today. Aaron Echolls had never spammed the online forums with advance notice of a mall appearance.
Dallas-area N3 fans. Just saw Logan and Veronica! See attached photo as proof. They're here in town, and I heard them talking about going to the Beachwood Place Mall at 4:30 P.M. Spread the word. Text your friends but don't tell your parents. Let's show them how much we love and support them.
Giggling Fangirls and Veronica clones were already beginning to congregate in small groups around the mall.
Shouldn't they still be in school?
Not a single one of them aimed a second-glance at Logan and Veronica. Veronica's ugly wig worked like a 'Do-not-look-at-me' sign. Maybe it was a good thing she had kept the damn eyesore after all.
They stopped at JC Penny to purchase an outfit for each of them. Logan had been resistant at first, but Veronica had been right, as usual, when she'd insisted no helpful salespeople would be in their faces. He had to laugh at the idea that they'd based their shopping decision on where they could get the worst service. At the register, Veronica asked for the largest size handled shopping-bag and a second one for Logan's purchases.
"We still have a lot of shopping to do," she explained.
They made a quick stop at a hobby store, purchasing a sketchpad and a box of art pencils for Duncan.
The food court was nearby, and Logan smirked when he caught a whiff of the buttery fresh-bread aroma of the soft pretzel stand. He silently counted.
One Mississippi...Two Mississippi...Three Mississippi...Four Missi-
"Do you smell that?" Veronica asked, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "In the mood for a pretzel?"
"Not even five seconds. Sure."
After placing her order, Veronica began digging through her purse.
Logan stopped her with a hand on her arm. "I've got it."
"We're not on a date, Logan," she said.
He smiled, almost asking her if she would like to go on one sometime, when she had to go and ruin it: "Save it for Carolann."
And he shut right back down again.
The mall had three security guards on duty. The first one they came across was a short, slim man with light brown skin and almond-shaped eyes. They nicknamed him The Goat for the tuft of hair on his chin.
They tailed him on his rounds, snacking on warm salty pretzels and Caramel Macchiatos. He was a competent guard, but came across as bored - or possibly weary.
Logan marked his path on the mall map with lines and arrows, their starting time and the total elapsed time. After which, they followed him for a second rotation to ensure his route and total time remained consistent.
They repeated the process for the other two guards.
The Tank - nicknamed for his stocky physique - kept his blond hair in a crew cut, had a small mustache and nearly invisible eyelashes. He comported himself with a military-like discipline. They would have to be wary of this one.
The third guard was tall and wiry with dark hair and eyes and a movie-star smile. They nicknamed him Don Juan, as he lingered in the doorway of every other store flirting with the sales girls. He would be a wild card, as his rotation timing was anything but consistent.
Tucked away in a corner of the ground floor near Sears was a long hallway. With the cheap commercial grade linoleum and the harsh, florescent light fixtures, Logan would have assumed the mall had exceeded their decorating budget - that is, if malls all over the country didn't have these same types of hallways.
There must be some type of 'one-ugly-hall-per-mall' law or something.
Halfway down the hall to their right, a water fountain was mounted between the Ladies Room and the Men's Room.
"Good, no cameras." Veronica said, tugging his hand and pulling him to the end of the hallway. Straight ahead, was an emergency exit, and on the left wall was a gray-painted steel door. She turned to this door, trying the handle, and finding it locked.
"So this is the...awkward...part," she said, looking up at Logan with embarrassed eyes.
"I have to pick this lock, and we have no reasonable explanation for standing near the mop closet."
"Inconvenient, but not awkward."
Veronica offered him an apologetic smile. "We need to look like we're into each other. Very into each other."
"Oh...That should be real tough."
"Stand here," Veronica said grasping him by his upper arms and maneuvering him so his left hip touched the gray door, and blocked her from view. She moved his right hand to rest on the small of her back, and pulled his face down to her shoulder.
He kept his body rigid, refusing to sink into her. Refusing to breathe her in. He was a human shield here, nothing more.
How could I not be used to this already? We sleep together every night.
But she doesn't wear her perfume every day. Her sexy, intoxicating perfume.
Wait. Why is she wearing it today? The day after the kiss she doesn't want to repeat?
Her face and hands now hidden from view, she pulled her lockpick set from her bag, and began working on the lock.
"If anybody comes…" she started.
"I know what to do," he answered, smirking into her shoulder.
Logan listened to the little clinks of metal upon metal, while he tried to harden his heart against Veronica. It had been so much easier last year, fueled by death and rage and guilt and alcohol. Did he mention guilt? But that was before they had kissed. A sick feeling in his gut told him that kiss had been a life-changer. He would never be free of Veronica now.
The whine of hinges alerted Logan that somebody was coming out of the Men's Room.
"Showtime!" he whispered, and Veronica let out a tiny squeak as he pulled her snugly against him.
He turned them, pressing his back against the gray door and kissed her neck under her ear. The moment she shivered under his lips, he knew he had lost his battle to remain detached. His hands braced her tiny waist as he kissed his way down to that spot that never failed to get a reaction out of her, and impulsively swirled his tongue over it. Veronica whimpered, one hand going to the back of his neck to press, pull, drag him closer. The lockpick dug into his leg as her other hand squeezed the back of his thigh.
In his peripheral vision, he saw a large teenage jock-type exiting the bathroom.
Logan's hands slid down over her ass and pulled her even closer as his lips found the hollow of her throat. His ears registered the sound of her quickened breathing, which only encouraged him to up the intensity. Veronica's head dropped back, and her free hand moved to curl around his shoulder blade.
"Go for it, dude!" Jock-boy chuckled as he walked away wiping his hands on the sides of his jeans.
Logan shifted a hand momentarily from Veronica's butt to give the guy a thumbs-up,
"You can stop. He's gone."
"Okay," he said, kissing his way along her jawline.
Veronica allowed a few more seconds before pressing her hands to his chest and taking a step backwards.
Logan waited for the shoe to drop. Even with the fugly wig, she was beautiful with her face all flushed like that.
He watched the gears turning in her head. Watched the mask snap back into place as she convinced herself it was all a performance. She glanced down at her hand and seemed surprised to find she was still clutching the lockpick. With a quick peek down the hallway, she grabbed Logan by both sides of his sweater, turned him 45 degrees to block her, and crouched down putting the doorknob at eyelevel. She had the lock picked within a minute, and was pulling Logan into the mop closet.
The small space smelled of pine-scented cleaner, and, after he flicked the light switch, looked like the kind of place Freddy Krueger would call home. A stainless steel sink with an attached counter faced the door. Several rolling mop buckets with ringers lined one wall, next to a stack of yellow caution signs. Industrial shelving held gallon-sized jugs of commercial grade cleaners, packaged stringy mop heads, and a thousand rolls of toilet paper.
Veronica was glaring at him now. "You could have just pretended to kiss me."
Logan shrugged and pointed a thumb at himself. "Method actor."
"Licking my neck wasn't in the script."
"I ad-libbed," he said, dryly. "I could tell how much you hated it."
"You grabbed my butt!" Veronica said, slapping him on the arm, but he could tell she wasn't overly upset.
"What? My hands and your butt are like...well acquainted by now. They've hung out three times already."
"So, it's conquered territory. I'm practically grandfather-claused."
Veronica sighed. "What? Are you some kind of butt guy?"
"I'm an everything guy - butts, breasts, legs. But Butts are easiest. They're like a gateway grope."
Veronica's lips twitched in amusement. "Because they lead to harder and dirtier gropes?"
"I was going to use the words 'more addictive'," A slow grin slid across his face. "But dirty is good. Hard is better."
That one got a laugh out of her.
Logan spread out the mall map on a shelf. "You don't think we'll get busted by the cleaning people?"
"No, the main mop closet is over by the food court. They probably only use this one to keep the restrooms stocked and clean up nearby messes."
Veronica nudged him aside, and took over, running her finger along the paths he'd marked on the map.
"So...the security guards cover every area of the mall except for this stretch right here…" she circled an unmarked section on the map between the food court and a pair of escalators. "But we'll have camera coverage. Right here is where we make our stand."
"Make our stand? Like Jesse James?" Logan arched a brow.
"Or Bonnie and Clyde," she smiled softly.
"You know...Bonnie and Clyde were lovers," Logan pointed out. "We have another um...fifteen minutes to kill if you want to go for the full B&C experience."
"How could I ever resist an offer like that?" she asked with an eye roll.
Veronica peeled off her fuzzy pink sweater, revealing her snug black printed tee shirt below, and dropped it into one of the large JC Penney bags. Her wig and glasses followed shortly.
Logan paused from pulling off his own black sweater to stare at Veronica.
"What?" she asked, noticing his gaze.
Only that you look like My Veronica again.
Logan tossed his hat and glasses into the shopping bag followed by his black sweater.
"So, do I look like me again?" Veronica asked.
"Almost." Logan approached, reaching out to finger style her hair, bending the ends up and around his thumbs. It fell flat the moment he let go. Probably needed hairspray or something to make it stay.
While he was standing there, Veronica reached for his top button, popping it from its hole. "Logan Echolls wears his shirts unbuttoned," she said, efficiently working her way down the front of his shirt. Her actions were innocent, as he was wearing an orange printed tee shirt underneath, but the vision of Veronica undressing him was starting to get him hard – he had to look away.
"There you go," she said, popping the final button and pushing open the shirt, smoothing the hem of his tee shirt. Her gaze rose to his. She must have seen something in his eyes, as she turned away in embarrassment.
"I could get used to you undressing me," Logan said softly.
"Don't hold your breath," Veronica answered, moving away to stash their two shopping bags on a shelf behind a mountain of toilet paper. "You ready?"
"No, I'm a nervous wreck. What's the prison sentence for aiding and abetting?"
"We'll be fine," Veronica said with false bravado. She did something to the doorjamb to prevent it from locking and then stepped out into the hallway.
"C'mon," she called over her shoulder, and Logan joined her.
"Showtime," he said, linking his fingers to hers.
"Logan and Veronica wouldn't hold hands," Veronica whispered as they stepped out into the mall corridor. He noticed she didn't try to pull hers away.
"Really?" he asked, leaning over to speak in her ear. "I'm Logan, you're Veronica, and I had my mouth on your neck a few minutes ago. Now I want to hold your hand."
"People will think we're together."
"Hate to break it to you, but the whole world thinks we're together, Veronica."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
"Duncan's part of the whole world," Veronica reminded him.
"Damn. Thanks for the reminder," Logan said guiltily, and dropped her hand.
Veronica - Day Six - Dallas, Texas - Beachwood Place Mall
They ducked into the nearby Barnes and Noble following the green signs to the travel section. The combination of Edwin McCain's 'I'll Be' playing overhead with the rich aroma from the in-store Starbucks, conspired to give Veronica the warm and fuzzies, and she may have allowed herself to lean into Logan while they glanced-over the shelves, as if they were their engaged alter-egos, rather than the real deal.
They arrived at the checkout with a handful items for purchase: City Guides for Chicago and Cleveland, a DVD on self-defense, a 'C# For Beginners' programming book, and an 11th grade homeschooling curriculum book.
According to plan, Logan handed over his black Amex. Right before the cashier - a mousy woman in her fifties - had a chance to swipe it, Veronica called out. "No! Lo, you need to pay with cash." She flashed an apologetic smile at the older lady. "We're trying to pay down our debt."
As expected, the cashier surreptitiously glanced down at the name on the card - eyes widening slightly - before handing it back to Logan. He paid with cash, and the cashier examined their book titles while bagging their purchases.
Logan waited while Veronica ran back to the mop closet to stash their bags. When she returned, they walked slowly to the food court like two pied pipers. Fangirls in small groups fell in behind them, hanging back and whispering among themselves.
"So explain to me why we did that," Logan asked as they walked. "We wanted the cops to know what we were purchasing, so why didn't we use the credit card."
"Because I'm known for being fairly intelligent. As a PI, I would know that credit card purchases are traced. If we tried using the credit card to send the search up North, the cops would know it was a set-up."
"And the homeschool book and DVDs?"
"Buys sympathy from the cashier. Show her that we still care about our education and only want to defend ourselves. It was working. I could see sympathy in her eyes. She'll tell the police what we purchased, but she'll wait for them to come to her rather than calling them right away."
Logan leaned over and whispered in her ear, his warm breath making her shiver. "You're hot when you're devious." Butterflies did a loop-de-loop in her belly.
From behind, came the giggles of fangirls. Logan snickered and wrapped his arm around her waist. The laughter turned into squeals, and even Veronica couldn't resist a laugh.
"So what was the computer book for?" Veronica asked.
"There's this guy at school. Ryan something. Not an 09er. Not even a friend, but I had detention with him one day. He was telling me how he makes decent cash doing freelance computer work. He mentioned this C Sharp stuff and some sites where you can get jobs. Said it was easy to learn. Strange guy, but I kind of admired him. Never really expected I'd have to worry about making a living, but if it gets me out of doing manual labor..."
"Good idea," Veronica said. "Can't have you roughing up those baby soft hands." She actually blushed at the implication of her words.
"Don't worry, I'll keep my hands nice and soft...just for you, sweet pea."
They purchased sodas and cookies and moved to the location they had selected earlier on the map.
Opposite the food court, two tall escalators - one going up, one coming down were separated by an extra-wide multi-tiered fountain. Each fountain tier waterfalled down to the next tier -alternating from the left, right, or center, retaining walls regulating the flow.
They took their places at the foot of the fountain, sitting on the edge, his arm drawing her close. She located the camera pointed right at them. The camera that would prove to the world that Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars were in Dallas, Texas rather than Orlando, Florida.
She wished they had time for a full lunch. The aromas nearby were mouthwatering - grilling meat, spices, fresh-cut French fries, bourbon chicken, and pizza. But it was only a matter of minutes until someone would approach.
Her chocolate chip cookie was still warm, and she almost moaned in pleasure as the chips melted on her tongue. Logan was smirking at her, so she leaned closer and stole a bite of his oatmeal raisin cookie. Squeals erupted nearby.
"You always want what you can't have," Logan said, shaking his head in amusement.
Veronica shrugged. "Human nature,"
"You can't have me," he teased with his trademark eyebrow bob.
"I could have you with the snap of my fingers."
"That goes both ways, Ronnie," he reached for her hand and tried to make her snap her fingers. Camera flashes went off as Veronica laughed and shoved him away.
A group of three fangirls worked up the nerve to approach, and Logan stood up.
"Are you them?" their spokesperson, a tall long-haired redhead of about fourteen, asked
"Nope, we're us," Logan answered with a smirk.
"You're Logan and Veronica," she pushed.
"Maybe," Logan said. "Are you guys cops?"
The girls giggled, and two more groups approached.
"It's really them!" a short heavyset girl of around thirteen shrieked.
"Wow! Did you all know we were going to be here or something?" Logan asked with a straight face.
"Somebody heard you talking and posted it on the internet, but it was mostly word of mouth at school," the tall redhead answered.
Girls (and a few boys) closed in from all directions. Veronica scanned the crowd, seeing every sort of emotion on the faces. A few played it cool. Some seemed to be amused by their fellow fans. Others ranged from mildly happy to excited to overwhelmed. A few were downright rapturous, hysterical tears falling down their faces. Most just stared at Logan as if they wanted to eat him alive. Veronica found herself feeling territorial and stood up to stand next to him.
Logan was to Veronica's left, and the fountain was at her back. A heavy weight of claustrophobia pressed down on Veronica's chest, as girls started cutting off her escape route to the right. As always, Logan seemed to sense that she was not okay. His arm went around her neck tucking her close against his side. "It'll be okay," he said in her ear. The fangirls squealed at the physical gesture.
"Hey!" Logan called out raising his hand to get their attention. He had to let out a loud whistle before they quieted. "We'll stay and talk to you for a few minutes, but only if you don't block us in." He pointed to the girls on Veronica's right and made a 'move back' gesture. "Veronica has been through a lot and she's uncomfortable being surrounded." The crowd on that side reluctantly moved back.
Voices called out from every direction: "Oh my God, I can't believe it's really you ...He's even cuter in person...Where is Duncan?"
"DK's running an errand," Logan answered. "We'll catch up with him later." Veronica took advantage of his distraction to steal the rest of his oatmeal raisin cookie.
"Why are you here at the mall?...Veronica, are you with Logan or Duncan."
"Neither," Veronica answered to the disappointment of the crowd. They began calling out their preferences - Duncan or Logan – with Logan the clear favorite.
They had counted on maybe twenty to twenty-five witnesses, but there had to be at least a hundred people here, and one out of every four was a Veronica clone. Had there been any question before whether she'd become a trendsetter, one glance at the crowd, with its denims skirts and boots – biker boots, riding boots, combat boots – should answer the question.
Funny, a year ago, nobody at school would even speak to me."
Hands grabbed at Logan, and he did an admirable job of keeping his cool, but slapped away any hands reaching for Veronica.
"How long will you keep running?...Do you still love Duncan?"
"No. He was my first love, but I'm not in love with him anymore."
"How does that man keep finding you?...Are you going to stay here in Dallas?"
"No, we're just passing through," Logan answered.
"Logan, do you know Connor Larkin?"
A 'for real?' expression showed in Logan's eyes as he glanced at Veronica. "Yes, he's a douchebag. Next question?"
"Do you want to be a movie star like your dad?"
"No, not even a little bit." he flinched and jumped to the side a bit.
What the hell! Did that girl just grab his butt? Why do I have a sudden urge to bare my teeth and growl, while hissing 'Mine!'?
"Where are you going next?"
"We can't tell you that. One of you might be a cop." Logan said.
The crowd scrutinized each other with eyes full of suspicion.
"What brand is that tee shirt, Veronica?"
"I have no idea. Sorry." Who really cares, anyway?
"What brand is that perfume?"
"Promises," Logan answered for her.
He remembers the name of my perfume?
"Veronica, do you still want to be a P.I.?...Are you and Logan together?"
"No, Ronnie's fighting it," Logan said, sighing tragically.
Fighting it? Really? You want to hash this out now?
Veronica elbowed him as the fangirls squeed.
A girl pushed through, and threw her arms around Logan. He gave her an awkward one-armed pat and then pushed her back into the crowd, pulling Veronica in front of him, and wrapping his arms around her. "Protect me V from the rabid fangirls," he said in her ear.
"Logan, do you want to be with Veronica?"
"Um...Look at her. What do you think?" he said, as if it were an obvious conclusion. "I'll wear her down eventually."
The squealing got louder.
"Have you two ever kissed?"
"Yes." Logan said, and the squealing turned into screams.
"It wasn't like that," Veronica insisted, raising her hands, after the noise died down. "There were cops and we kissed as a diversion."
"Don't let her fool you," Logan said. "She loved every second of it."
"Did you love it, Logan?"
"Do you want to kiss again?"
"Yes," Logan answered, nodding for emphasis. Veronica remained silent, but she looked on the verge of pummeling Logan.
Logan spoke in her ear. "You look like you're ready to bite, and not in the fun, sexy way,"
"How very perceptive of you," Veronica said through gritted teeth.
"These girls are our allies," he whispered. "They want this to be some great romance. We give them what they want; they'll give us what we want."
"So this is just a ploy?"
"Sure," Logan grinned giving her a loud smacking kiss on the cheek. The crowd went wild with screams.
Okay, so he may have a point.
Veronica pasted on her warmest smile and gazed at up Logan with soft eyes. She could play along.
"Are you two in love?"
"I'm not touching that one," Logan laughed.
"Veronica, who's the better kisser? Duncan or Logan?"
Oh hell! HELL!
"Um…it wouldn't be fair to either boy for me to answer that question," she said, diplomatically, while pointing at Logan below his sightline.
Squees erupted from the crowd, as Logan leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Did you forget your name when Duncan kissed you?"
Veronica smiled brightly, and pinched him hard on the side of his leg, twisting her fingers.
"Ouch!" he screamed.
Logan raised one hand to get everybody's attention. "Hey! Listen! Put whatever you want on your message boards and forums, but NOTHING about me and Veronica" he gestured to the way she was nestled against him "gets repeated to the press. Okay? Duncan Kane is still my best friend, and I don't want him to get hurt if this never ends up going anywhere."
"Veronica, why are you fighting it? He's perfect!"
"Um…well he would certainly agree with that assessment."
"Because we can't risk the friendship. We need each other too much." Logan's arms tightened around her for a moment, and maybe she was putting her own spin on it, but she felt that he was offering her his understanding.
Logan became distracted, looking over the heads of the crowd. "We have trouble. We stayed too long," he said.
"Where," Veronica asked. She rose to her tiptoes, but the crowd blocked her view.
Logan pointed, and picked her up by the waist, lifting her to the ledge of the fountain. A security guard - Don Juan - was talking into his radio and staring intently.
"Damn," she said. "This area isn't even on his rounds."
"Unless he skipped it earlier. He hardly seemed the type to follow the rules," he answered.
"Girls!" Logan whistled and waved his hands again, beckoning them closer once he had their attention. "Security is looking at us. I don't know if he knows who we are or not."
The crowd started getting loud and Logan motioned them to silence again. "We need you guys to do two things for us: One, get in the way of the security guards to keep them away from us and the escalators, and two, open every emergency exit in this fucking mall. Get those alarms going!"
The fangirls went wild cheering, and Logan lifted Veronica off the ledge of the fountain, taking her hand.
"Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars?" Don Juan yelled out as he approached. "I need you to come with me."
"Damn!" Veronica said.
"You guys know what to do!" Logan called as they ran to the escalator.
It was too late to turn around when they realized they were on the down escalator. Behind them, the crowd blocked their way.
Veronica watched over her shoulder while allowing Logan to pull her up the stairs. The security guard approached the foot of the escalator, but fangirls swarmed him, pushing him back. Holding him back.
"Wow! Logan, you were right. They stopped him," she said.
"But who's going to stop him?" Logan asked.
Veronica's head whipped around. They had passed the halfway point and a second security guard - The Tank was coming down from above them. "Turn around!"
"We'll never get through that mob, V," Logan said, and before she could respond, he vaulted over the side rail onto the skinny concrete ridge that separated the fountain from the escalator, and was reaching for her.
The Tank was descending quickly, so Veronica put her hands on Logan shoulders and allowed him to swing her over the moving railing.
"It's slippery," he warned stepping out onto the blue and white ceramic tile ledge. "Block the other escalator!" he shouted to fangirls below with a sweeping gesture, and a handful of them broke off from the swarm to surround the foot of the Up escalator.
Veronica held Logan's hand with a death grip as they carefully negotiated the balance beam width ledge. To her left, the fountain was about knee-deep with submersed yellow lights. To her right, a five foot drop to the next lowest tier. A fall would probably cause her to crack her head open on the sharp corner of that tier's wall, or she'd flip over the edge and fall another five feet. Either way, serious damage.
Logan seemed to be doing okay, but Veronica's boots couldn't seem to get any traction and kept slipping. Halfway across, Veronica's right foot slipped over the ledge, and her heart jumped to her throat as she felt herself about to fall. Suddenly, her face was pressed up against Logan's chest and his arms were crushing her.
"I've got you," he said.
"You always do." Veronica stared up at him with large grateful eyes. Dozens of flashbulbs went off from below, causing them both to grin.
"I always will," Logan braced her face with his hands, and pressed a kiss to her forehead - eliciting more screams and flashbulbs from below.
If Veronica had to put a name to her emotion…a strange combination of being moved beyond words, somehow wanting to cry, wanting to kiss him, wanting to curl up next to him in bed until they were both 85 years old...no, she wouldn't go there.
Logan swung her up into his arms. Flashbulbs exploded by the hundreds.
"Logan, put me down. Are you crazy?" Veronica demanded, but kept the squirming to a minimum.
"Relax. I'm like a cat," he grinned, and strolled the rest of the ledge with no more trouble than a Sunday walk.
He stopped where the ledge ended. A two and a half foot opening allowed water to flow down to the next level. Logan turned and set Veronica down. With his long legs, he easily hopped across the opening to the concrete ridge turning back for Veronica, holding out his hand.
Veronica froze. Before her, the opening was only a step down, but the water rushed over the edge too quickly to walk across. The ledge was slippery enough, and she wasn't sure if she could make the jump.
"Ronnie, behind you!"
She glanced over her shoulder. The Tank had hopped over the side of the escalator and was now following them across the ledge. "Stop. Come back over here immediately!" he shouted.
"I'll catch you, Veronica." Logan leaned over the opening and held out his hand. The Tank seemed to be having the same problems keeping his footing as Veronica had, but he was gradually closing in on her.
"Trust me," Logan said staring into her eyes. Veronica hesitated. As she leaned to reach for his hand, an alarm went off. She jumped back, teetering on the edge for what felt like three minutes before regaining her balance.
Damn. Forgot about the emergency doors.
"He's about to catch you!"
Veronica reached across for his hand again as The Tank reached for her shirt. The moment their fingertips touched, Logan gave a yank and yelled "JUMP!"
The next thing she knew, she was in Logan's arms, with her legs wrapped around his waist and her face buried in his neck.
"Shhhh," he whispered. "It's okay. You're safe."
She nodded against his shoulder.
"You need to let me put you down for a second," Logan said.
"Okay." She didn't move.
"Your legs are around my waist."
"Oh…" Veronica said, unwrapping her legs, and sliding down his body until her feet touched the ledge. She looked over her shoulder to find the security guard splashing around in the fountain, tugging at his pants, which seemed to be caught on the fountain apparatus.
Logan's warm hands clasped Veronica's waist and lifted her over the escalator railing. He was about leap over himself, when The Tank broke free and grabbed him by the ankle. Logan tried to tug his foot away, but the man had a tight grip.
Veronica had to tread down the 'up' steps as she dug through her bag, finally handing her taser to Logan. The Tank's eyes grew large and he dove backwards to get away, landing on his butt in the water. Logan handed the taser back to Veronica and leaped the railing.
Dozens of fangirls started up the escalator after them. "Block him!" Logan called down to them.
"You realize tasing him would have killed both of us, right?" He asked, as he grabbed Veronica's hand and began climbing the escalator at a fast clip. "You know, the water?"
"Yeah, but it did the job, didn't it?" Veronica answered, breathlessly as he pulled her into a run the moment their feet hit the second floor. They knew there was one more security guard - The Goat - to account for, and she had seen Don Juan calling for backup on his radio.
A second alarm went off somewhere below them. Veronica's boots clicked on the marble floor as they sprinted past The Gap, The Body Shop, Foot Locker, and The Limited. A glance over her shoulder showed her that they had an escort of around thirty girls keeping up behind them.
"It's like the running of the bulls," she yelled to Logan, who glanced over his shoulder as well.
"Except that bulls will only gore you with their horns," Logan yelled back. "Who knows what those girls would do to me."
His clothes would go quickly, she thought. And that would be nice.
Three more emergency door alarms joined in, as they ran past Things Remembered, Sunglass Hut, and the overpowering synthetic cinnamon smell of Yankee Candle.
Veronica's lungs were on fire. She had never been a runner. In fact, she hated most forms of exercise.
As they drew near the intersection of another main corridor to the right, they saw The Goat approaching at a full-on run.
So much for unmotivated.
Veronica looked behind to gauge how close their followers were. If they stopped now, would the girls catch up in time to intercept the guard?
Instead, Logan veered to the left into Dillards.
The second floor appeared to consist entirely of Women's Apparel. Logan zigzagged them through a maze of clothing racks, but the sound of feet bore down upon them.
"Stop immediately! You're wanted by the police," The Goat yelled.
Veronica looked back, and saw that the guard was closer than she had realized, with the fangirls a good distance back still.
Logan released her hand. "Keep running," he yelled. He began snagging garments off the racks as he ran by.
She glanced over her shoulder every few seconds, as Logan slowed down. Her throat went dry with panic as the guard closed the distance to Logan, who for his part was throwing sequined evening gowns at his pursuer. The first three fell to the ground, but the fourth, a full-length gold lamé number that would make a drag queen proud, landed on the guard's head, obstructing his vision. Logan pushed over a silver rack just in time for the guard to trip over it and go sprawling to the floor.
Veronica stopped, ducking behind a clothing rack to watch the fangirls catch up and swarm around The Goat.
"We love you guys!" Logan called to the girls, blowing them a big dramatic kiss.
Veronica pulled her head back, leaning over, hands on her knees, breathing deeply and allowing her lungs to rest, her heart to slow, and her pulse to settle.
The sound of running feet drew near, and Veronica straightened up in time to see Logan running past dragging an ecstatic Veronica clone behind him.
"Um...Logan?" Veronica called, but he didn't hear her. She raised her voice. "LOGAN!"
He halted, turning back to look at Veronica, and then at the fangirl still attached to his hand. "Who the hell are you?"
"Brittney!" the girl giggled.
"Right...Nice to meet you, Brittney. Now run along," Logan said, jogging back and reaching for the real Veronica's hand this time.
They avoided the escalator and elevator, instead locating the back stairwell and taking it to the ground floor.
Stealthily weaving in and out of racks, they navigated the store until they'd located the mall entrance.
Cosmetics was too well lit, so they had to make a run for it, almost knocking down a perfume lady who thought it might be a good idea to step into the path of a running couple.
"Would you like to sample our new Paris Hilton perfume?" she asked, before her eyes grew large. They weren't stopping.
The bottle went skittering out in front of them, breaking into a thousand pieces, and for all that the security guards could not stop them, Veronica and Logan were almost brought down by the toxic gases of nauseating cheap perfume as they splashed through the puddle.
Moments later, they were out in the mall, gasping for fresh air.
"That stuff was NASTY," Veronica moaned.
"No shit. It smelled like the crap that slut Caitlin used to wear."
"That should have been your first clue, Logan."
Glancing around at both levels, there was no sign of fangirls or the two security guards from the fountain.
Straight ahead at the end of the corridor was J.C. Penny. Halfway between here and there, a corridor to the left led to Sears and their mop closet.
Once more, they broke into a run, taking the left hand turn wide.
They screeched to a halt as they came face-to-face with a fourth security guard.
"Where the hell did this guy come from?" Logan whispered, pulling Veronica behind him as the guard lifted his radio to his mouth.
A/N 18 - The mall scene was planned from the beginning, but the fountain chase (and some of chapter 17) was inspired by an 80's movie - although my fountain is higher and wider and more treacherous. Any guesses?
A/N 52 - Once again, I would like to thank you readers for every ounce of support you've given me since this started. Every single time I'm completely floored and overwhelmed by your positive responses. I will respond personally to every single logged-in review. But I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the Guest reviewers. Some of you offer the kindest, and most detailed feedback. Thank you very much. I wish I could address you all personally. You all are amazing.