AN: Thanks everyone for the reviews :) Hope you enjoy this chapter.

"Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future." – Mattie Stephanek

Chapter 12

Two weeks later, on Saturday afternoon, Veronica was racing around the house, busily making preparations for the dinner party.

She stuck her head into Aubrey's room and said, "Aubrey."

Aubrey paused her phone conversation and said, "Yes, Mom?"

"So, you'll be ready to go to Aunt Mac's by 5.00 won't you? I'll need you to help get the boys ready. Dad will drop you over then, okay?" Veronica said.

"Yes Mom, I know. Everything's under control, just calm down a little," Aubrey said, smiling.

Veronica gave her a brief smile. It was unlikely that she would be completely relaxed until the evening was well and truly over. Inviting Brandon and Madison over, to try and gain information on him, didn't seem like such a brilliant idea anymore. More like something you see in your nightmares.

Veronica disappeared from the room, and Aubrey returned to her phone call.

"So, are you still planning on going out tonight with Nathan tonight?" Aubrey asked.

Caroline had enjoyed her date with Brent, two weeks before, and their date the next week, but they'd both decided that two dates were enough, and Caroline had moved on to the next boy. Aubrey however was content to only date Dan, especially as he was taking her to Homecoming.

"Yes. I don't want to disobey Mom and Dad, but I'm not really. Mom just said they'd rather I didn't go out tonight, not when we're supposed to be looking after the younger ones. But you and James can take care of that," Caroline said. "I think Daddy was more annoyed at me wanting to go on another date, and with a different boy. But I mean really, what does he expect? He finally lets me date, and I'm going to want to stay home and keep saying no to guys who ask me out? I don't think so."

Aubrey smiled and Caroline's thought pattern and said, "Well, yes, I get that. I do kind of get that he might be annoyed at you have another date, and with a different guy. I don't think my dad would like that, in fact, I think he'd give me another lecture. Remember, the new talk said they wanted us to find special guys."

"Well, I'm going to have to give them each a try before I can figure out if they're special or not," Caroline retorted impishly. "So, you and Jamie won't mention tell on me, will you?"

"Of course not," Aubrey said loyally. "I mean, you should be back before your parents get home. And if you're not, then we know there's a problem anyway."

"You're the best!" Caroline exclaimed. "I totally owe you. Next time you want to sneak out, or say you're at mine when you're not, go for it. Tell me first though."

"Thanks," Aubrey said dryly. "I don't think I'd try it though. Your mom and my mom are too smart for that. The only way you're getting away with it tonight is because of the dinner thing."

"You're right. Well, it still stands, I'll cover for you next time you want me to, I'll even come up with the cover story," Caroline promised.

"Thanks Care," Aubrey said genuinely. Caroline and Aubrey were dissimilar in many ways, but they were both fiercely loyal, which was key to their friendship.

"Well, I should go shower, and stuff, you know the do the usual getting ready ritual. You know how long that takes," Caroline said.

"That I do," Aubrey agreed with a chuckle. "I'll see you in a bit."

The girls ended their call and Aubrey left her room to check that her siblings knew what they had to do to be ready to leave for the evening.

Downstairs Veronica was overseeing the preparations in the kitchen. Rosita, and an extra maid, were taking care of all the cooking. Veronica had was going over when dishes were to be served, and getting out the china that she wanted to be used.

Logan wandered into the kitchen, and attempted to snatch a bit of chicken out of a dish, but he was stopped by Rosita.

"No Mr Logan, that's for the dinner party tonight," Rosita reprimanded him.

"But Rosie, I paid for it all," Logan whined.

"And you can eat it tonight, Logan," Veronica said. "There are snacks in the cupboard, like always."

Logan wandered to the cupboard, and rummaged around until he found a box of Oreos.

"Ronnie, why are we using the good china for Madison Sinclair and Brandon Keating?" Logan asked between munches, disdain dripping from his tone when he said the names of their undesirable guests.

"Because the china is not for Madison and Brandon, but for Liam, who's birthday is it," Veronica explained dryly. "I know Madison is a completely lost cause, and it seems like Brandon is too, but we should give him one last chance. The real reason we don't like him is because Lily doesn't."

"Yeah, and she doesn't like him because he's pursued her for years, and she's been with Liam that whole time," Logan retorted.

"I know, and I agreed, he seems to be a jerk and a lost cause, but people use to think that about you too, so maybe we should just give him a fair go," Veronica countered, walking out of the kitchen.

Logan followed her, still munching on his Oreos.

"Why do you care so much?" Logan asked curiously.

Veronica paused, and thought. She was going to have to lie to Logan, and it would have to be plausible. She hated having to lie to Logan, but if she had to choose between more lives being lost, or lying to him to save those lives, she chose to lie, particularly in this instance.

"I guess, I see what he is, and I remember what you were, and I think that you could've ended up that way, and I can't help but think we could help him. You could help him, I could help him. Being around people like us, who try to live normally in abnormal circumstances. Maybes he's been given dozens of chances, maybe they weren't with the right people, maybe he didn't know how to take them, maybe we can help him," Veronica explained, hating her explanation. She was likening the monster that was Brandon Keating, to Logan, the love of her life. It made her a little sick, but she had to do it.

Logan's eyes softened and he said, "I see. Well, I'll give him a chance. That's all I can promise, but I'll think about what you said, okay?"

"Thank you," Veronica said gently. Well, she now had a reason to keep Brandon around, one that would probably keep Logan pacified.

"Ah, Sugarpus, if we're wanting to give him a chance, why are you siccing Madison on him?" Logan asked.

"Everyone deserves to be pranked every now and again," Veronica answered impishly. "Besides, if he is going to spend any time with us, he does need a punishment for giving Lily a hard time all these years."

Logan grinned and said in a British accent, "Right you are old chap. Jolly good stuff."

"Thank you Mr Theatrical," Veronica said with a chuckle. "Oh, don't forget that you're taking the kids to Dick and Mac's at five. So that's in an hour, okay?"

"I won't forget, you've only reminded me three times," Logan replied. "I'm going to go shower now."

"Have fun," Veronica said absently. She was busy running over details on the Keating case in preparation for the evening. It was tiring work, trying to remember to live her life as normal, without letting anything slip, but still completing her assignment.

"I'd have more fun if you came too," Logan said, walking up and wrapping his arms around her waist and nibbling on her ear.

"Mmm, Logan," Veronica said, sighing happily. "Oh, we can't do this now. Later."

"It's always later," Logan said sadly.

"Well, let's go away for a weekend soon," Veronica suggested.

"Yes! Excellent plan, I knew there was a reason I married you," Logan said playfully.

"And I thought it was for my charm, not my plotting skills," Veronica said sadly.

"No, it was because of that head tilt you do so well," Logan retorted.

"Ah, of course, the head tilt. No one can resist the head tilt," Veronica said understandingly.

"Yeah, I wanted to put something like that in my vows, but DK, and even Dick seemed to think it wasn't such a good idea," Logan told her.

"Really? Even Richard? Well, I must remember to thank him," Veronica said seriously. "Or maybe I'll just give him a free pass on the next unimaginably stupid thing he says."

"Yeah, I'd do that. I doubt he remembers the whole writing vows thing. The free pass will just make him think you like him a little," Logan said with a grin.

They both knew that Veronica did actually like Dick, well parts of him. She no longer hated him of course, she'd stopped hating him many years ago. He did infuriate her from time to time, but they got along well, and usually engaged in light and amusing banter.

"Well, go have your shower. I have things to finish before I dress for tonight," Veronica said, and with that, she disappeared into the lounge room.

An hour later Veronica had finished all the last minute preparations for the dinner, and Logan had just departed with the kids.

Veronica went quickly upstairs and dashed through the shower. She was expecting Mac and Dick at 5.30, and everyone else a little after that.

She went into her closet and pulled a knee length, navy blue dress out. It was a nice dress, but not overly showy. The dinner was not a formal one, so smart casual attire was all that was necessary.

In accordance, Logan had dressed in a pair of black trousers and a dark green button up shirt before he had left with the children.

Veronica quickly zipped herself into the dress, it had a V neck and short sleeves, and was not form fitting, but was cut so that it showed off the shape of her figure nicely. At fifty-one, and four children later, Veronica still had a very good figure.

Just as she'd slipped on a pair of heels, and finished with her hair and make up, the doorbell rang.

She walked downstairs quickly and to let Dick, Mac and Logan inside. They'd all left at the same time, after checking that everything was all alright with the kids.

"Eva and DK should be here soon, they were just arriving as we left," Logan told Veronica.

"Lily sent me a message to say that their sitter arrived, and they'll be here shortly," Veronica added.

"Right, well I'm going to go and get into the bar," Logan said. "Come on, Dick."

"Hey, I'm coming too," Mac remarked, following them. "I think we're all going to need at least one drink to survive tonight."

Veronica smiled, then sighed. Mac was, in a likelihood right.

Soon Duncan and Eva arrived, then Liam's parents, Alison and Mark Armistead, a friend of Liam's from college – Cameron Sheather, and his wife Melinda. Then came Chris and Sophie Tatlock, friends of Liam and Lily's from Neptune High. Chris had been one of Liam's closer friends, and he and Sophie had ended up getting married, and both couples had stayed close friends. Lily was still good friends with her friends from high school, but they were her friends, not Liam's, so they weren't invited. Wallace and Amanda were also not coming, they had gone away with the kids for the weekend, to Amanda's parents place Phoenix.

Liam and Lily then arrived, and Liam was spent some time speaking to everyone present, and being wished happy birthday.

While this was happening the bell rang again, meaning that either Brandon or Madison had arrived.

Veronica went and answered the door and let Brandon inside.

"Hi Brandon, thanks so much for coming," Veronica said warmly, playing her part of welcoming host to perfection.

"No worries," Brandon replied, stepping inside.

"Madison isn't here yet. She'd nearly always late, she's never been able to resist making a big entrance," Veronica said, as if it was something they all regarded with fondness. "So why do I introduce you to a few people?"

"Sure," Brandon said easily. "Is Lily here yet?"

"Yes, she and her husband just arrived and are talking to various people," Veronica said pointedly. "Remember, it's Liam's birthday."

"Ah, yes," Brandon said hurriedly.

"Yes, well, come with me," Veronica said.

She walked over to Logan, followed by Brandon.

"Logan, you remember Brandon Keating? Brandon, this is of course, my husband, Logan Echolls," Veronica said pleasantly.

"Glad to see you could make it," Logan said cordially. "We're sorry Madison isn't here yet."

"Veronica's already explained. Nice work on your last movie, by the way. I'm looking forward to the next one," Brandon said smoothly.

"Thank you," Logan said a little stiffly. He didn't like Hollywood schmoozing in Hollywood, let alone in his own home.

Veronica guided Brandon away then and said quietly, "Logan doesn't like to talk about work at gatherings like this."

"Oh, sure. I'll remember," Brandon replied.

Veronica walked over to where Sophie, Chris, Cameron and Melinda were standing.

"Brandon, this is Chris Tatlock and his wife, Sophie, they went to Neptune High with Lily and Liam. And this is Cameron Sheather, and his wife Melinda, Cameron is a friend of Liam's from college," Veronica informed him. "Everyone, this is Brandon Keating. He's agreed to be Madison's date, and she'd not here yet, so I'm just introducing him to everyone."

With that Veronica left him to talk to Chris, Sophie, Cameron and Melinda. She'd deliberately chosen to leave him with them, as they were the people of least wealth and fame in the room.

Just then the doorbell rang again, and Veronica moved to go back to answer it. On her way, she encountered Duncan in the hallway, returning from the bathroom. He looked a little grave.

"Everything alright Duncan?" Veronica asked gently, pausing to check on him.

"Hmm? Oh, I was just thinking. You know, it's 35 years tomorrow since Lilly was murdered. Sometimes it feels like yesterday," Duncan explained.

"I know," Veronica said softly. "Sometimes I dream about her, and the old days, and wake up confused. But you know, we all made it through that awful time, and things are pretty good now. I'll never forget her, but I know she's glad we're happy."

"Yeah, I still miss her though, so much sometimes," Duncan said.

"Me too," Veronica agreed.

The doorbell rang again then, and several times in an indignant fashion.

"That'll be Madison," Duncan said with a grin.

"Yes, I was going to answer it before, but I forgot," Veronica replied. "She'd going to be livid."

"Isn't she always?" Duncan retorted. "Go on, go answer it. Good luck."

Veronica walked to the front door quickly, and opened it.

"Hi Madison," Veronica said as cheerfully as possible.

"Eugh, I forgot you'd be here," Madison said with disgust.

"Yes, well it is my house," Veronica explained.

"Where's Logan? Or Duncan? Is Brandon here yet?" Madison demanded.

"Yes, everyone's here," Veronica said. "It's actually almost time to go in for dinner."

Madison ignored Veronica and flounced off towards the noise of laughter and chatter.

She paused in the entranceway to the room and exclaimed, "Logan!"

Logan turned around, hiding his grimace. The rest of the room turned to look at Madison, her exclamation having caught their attention.

"That's Madison," Sophie said quietly to Brandon.

Brandon merely nodded, perusing Madison's appearance. Madison was dressed in a tight, short, pink dress. It was clearly meant for someone twenty years younger, but it obviously didn't phase Madison, and she didn't look awful in it really. She spent a lot of time and money making sure her figure was as good as she could force it to be. She was also coated in expensive jewellery, and her face was covered in make-up. She didn't look awful, if anything, a little gaudy, but Brandon chalked it up to her desire to impress him.

Meanwhile Madison had walked across to Logan, simpering the whole way.

"Hi Madison," Logan said indifferently. "Look, I actually have to go and speak to Mark Armistead, but you should go and meet Brandon."

"Just go up and introduce myself?" Madison asked indignantly. "I don't think so."

"I'll take you," Dick said, his eyes gleaming. "But Mad, you might want to avoid sounding so indignant around him, or bitchy, but shallow is probably alright."

"Why are you here?" Madison demanded. "Isn't indignant a bit of a big word for you Dick?"

"No, it's not my dear, repugnant, vapid, abhorrent, deplorable Maddy," Dick said, grinning, pleased with his vocabulary. He taken special care to study words to insult Madison, ones that she wouldn't understand.

"Fine, just introduce me to Brandon," Madison said grimly, tired of talking to Dick, and clearly not understanding his insults.

"Come along then," said Dick.

"Brandon," Dick began loudly, "this is Madison, my dear sister-in-law. Maddy, this is Brandon Keating."

"It's nice to meet you," Brandon said cordially. "I didn't know you were related to anyone here."

"I'm not really," Madison said dismissively. "It's nice to meet you Brandon," she added, pasting on her most alluring smile.

"Can I get you a drink?" Brandon offered.

"That'd be lovely," Madison said, smiling prettily.

They walked off to the bar together, and Dick rubbed his hands together delightedly.

"I think the show is about to start," Dick said cheerfully."

Sophie and Chris chuckled, while Cameron and Melinda looked a little confused.

The show was indeed about to begin.

AN: Thanks for reading :) Reviews are always welcome!