This is my first fan fiction, but I have read a dozen, and since I never quite got over the death of the greatest show on tv, Veronica Mars, I am going to keep the LoVe alive with a fan fiction that has a unique perspective on where the characters might have ended up in 2013.

I have an idea of exactly where this story is going, and would appreciate any and all feedback!

Disclaimer - I don't own the rights to any of these characters; clearly if I did, a VM movie would presently be in the works :(

Chapter 1

"May I see your id?" the pimply faced teenage clerk asked as the petite blonde slid a bottle of Ketel 1 vodka across the counter of the desolate and dimly-lit liquor store.

Veronica smiled in spite of herself as she wordlessly slipped her Virginia state license out of her wallet. Thank goodness Matt wasn't here to witness this, as six hours ago this would've illustrated exactly why she was the perfect candidate on their team to go undercover as a high school senior, much to her chagrin. She got it though; even though she was a 25-year old professional, a federal agent at that, she didn't exactly look the part, especially today, with a Northface jacket covering her tailored dress shirt and FBI badge, and her hair styled in low, loose blonde pigtails.

"I hear this is good stuff," the kid indicated of her choice of vodkas as he deposited her bottle in a plastic bag.

"I'm celebrating," she offered with a conspiratory wink. The truth was, Veronica had no idea if the vodka was any good. She vaguely remembered the brand name as something Matt stocked in the bar in his apartment, and the price and location on the shelving suggested it was a suitable purchase. However, Veronica rarely drank, due to the fact that she secretly feared her mother Lianne's alcoholism was in her gene pool and didn't want to ever turn out like the hot mess that her mother still was. Veronica knew that Lianne had been in and out of rehab over the years from the customary background checks she ran on her every few months. She was remarried to a much younger guy named Tod, who was a major tool in Veronica's eyes as he only spelled his name with one D and ran a bar called Double D's. How's that for irony?

As Veronica pulled her sleek black Altima out of the parking lot, she dialed Matt's number. He answered on the third ring.

"Adams," he tersely informed.

"Hello, secret luvah," Veronica purred in return.

"Hey yourself," he answered back, as his voice dropped to a sexy whisper. She imagined him, tall, dark, and handsome, cell phone to his ear with that serious expression he too often wore. This man ran hot and cold, and it completely made her crazy. In every relationship she'd ever been in, and if Veronica was being honest, she only really could count three prior relationships, all of which had happened in high school and college, Veronica felt as though she had held most of the power. With Duncan, at least the second time around, Veronica had him eating out of the palm of her hand. Piz was, well, for lack of a better term, whipped. Logan challenged her constantly, but always knew the score – it was her way, or the highway. With Matt, it was different. He was her superior, her team lead, hence why she jested that he was her "secret" lover. He was seven years her senior, and their romance evolved out of working many close hours, staking out subjects, training together, and having each other's backs in critical situations. Not to mention all of those late nights in the office working on cases over Chinese take-out…

But because of the delicate situation of being colleagues and the strict "no relationships" policy on the force, Veronica and he tried to suppress their feelings for months. However, just like many other men, Matt was clearly not immune to Veronica's wiles and charms, despite his efforts to keep things businesslike and professional. They had been secretly dating now for about nine months, and Veronica was thrilled to have someone special in her life. She desperately missed her dad and Alicia and Wallace. Despite the fact that she had lived on the East coast for six years and could count on one hand the number of genuine friends she had nearby, she hadn't been back to Neptune even once. People that she had once considered her nearest and dearest, like Weevil, Mac, and Dick (well, that might have been a stretch of the term) had completely fallen off her radar. Wallace might have too, if he had not become her stepbrother three years ago. The truth was, Veronica Mars was a loner, much like she had been her junior year after her fall from glory, before she had found herself surrounded by close friends like Wallace and Mac, despite her indifference to companionship.

"Mars, where'd you go?"

Veronica snapped her attention back to the gruff voice of her boyfriend as well as the road in front of her.

"Sorry, babe, I started taking a little walk down memory lane."

"Ah, prepping yourself mentally for the big case? Can't wait to see what little numbers you'll pull out of your closet for going back to high school. I'm kind of disappointed these disappearances weren't happening at an all-girls Catholic academy, as I'm partial to plaid skirts and knee-high socks."

"Gross, old man! But, truthfully, you're not all that far off from what I wore in my high school days. Nobody rocked a short skirt and combat boots quite like Veronica Mars."

Matt let out a low whistle, "I bet."

Six hours earlier…

"So, we're looking at a string of disappearances of young girls ranging in the ages of fourteen and seventeen in Pan, California. Now what makes this case rather interesting is that there is reason to believe that the disappearances are linked to human trafficking…"

Veronica was having a hard time focusing on the details with the sexy way that Matt was looking out at the team, carefully avoiding letting his gaze linger on Veronica for too long. She barely registered the fact that he had mentioned Pan, which was only a town over from her old stomping grounds of Neptune. But the mention came back up in her semi-conscious state, as she had recalled her dad mentioning that several girls from Pan High School had gone missing over the course of the school year.

Matt returned to his seat at the head of the long mahogany table, kitty corner from her seat. "We're looking to send someone in to pose as a high school student." Veronica felt her hair stand up on the back of her neck with Matt's proximity to her, but lightened the mood by quickly putting her tiny forefinger to her nose and muttering, "Not it."

There were a smattering of nervous chuckles around the table, but Veronica's light-hearted mood was splintered as she felt a sharp kick under the table.

"Let's break for ten," Matt said abruptly. Everyone, Veronica included, jumped up to hit up the water cooler and bathroom before returning. But those plans weren't what Agent Adams had in mind; she felt him follow her out of the meeting room, and then guide her by the elbow from behind into his office. She stepped in with a sigh, as he pushed the heavy door close behind her.

"Mars, seriously?"

"What?" she asked with a feigned look of surprise.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're the only logical field agent for the undercover job. Who's gonna do it? Bob? He looked forty-five even when he was in high school! Nancy? She's six months pregnant right now! She'd be going into labor in the Pan High bathroom on prom night." Veronica winced at the thought, not for the reason Matt would assume, but because it sounded a little too close to the story of her mother's friend, Mary, who had gotten knocked up by Mr. Moorehead, a teacher and former Neptune High principal, resulting in the infamous prom baby scandal. As a result of her high school sleuthing skills, Veronica had uncovered the true parentage of Trina Echolls, her high school boyfriend's half sister.

Veronica adopted a steely gaze that matched Matt's and remained quiet for a second. "How about you?" she retorted.

"Me?" he snarled back indignantly.

"Well, Agent Adams, I reckon you'd look mighty fine in a varsity lettermen's jacket," Veronica drawled in an affected Southern accent.

"Be serious for half a second here, Mars. You look the part. You could blend easily in Pan High School."

Veronica self-consciously looked down at her small bust and then pointedly back up at her boyfriend. He stared her down, not even cracking a smile, but decided to try another tactic.

"It's certainly not an insult to say that you still have a youthful appearance. And, you are familiar with the area and the school, which makes you a perfect candidate for the job."

"Yeah, I know, because I actually did a little recon work there back in the day…" Veronica trailed off, remembering when she had posed as a high school student named Betty while trying to unearth the disappearance of her own alma mater's mascot, Polly the Parrot. She had rather liked Pan High because of the lack of apparent cliques like the 09ers of Neptune and was mildly disappointed to hear that Neptune's propensity for mayhem had now worked its way over to Pan. "See, my cover is already blown."

"C'mon, Veronica," he pleaded quietly. She knew at that moment he had her right where he wanted her. He reserved calling her by her first name for when they were alone and intimate, outside of the confines of the workplace, but it made her heart skip a beat, and she knew he was wearing down her resistance. "You know that it's been nearly ten years since you set foot in Pan High, and probably at least six since you've been in the state of California. You have been saying that you miss your father, and I would really like to be able to shake the hand of the man who raised a helluva good federal agent."

Oh so that's the route he's going? This is all for me? Actually, it was kind of sweet. But she still had reservations. Going back anywhere near Neptune scared the shit out of her, considering how she had left the place six years ago…

Six years ago, she had returned from her internship in Virginia in mid-August. Piz wasn't due back until a week before school started. Her dad was supposed to pick her up from the airport, but at the last minute had gotten a call from Cliff which had whisked him off to New Mexico to tail a bail-jumper. When her flight landed, she had a new voicemail instructing her to call a cab to bring her home. She was disappointed, but considering that her stunt with the Castle and Jake Kane had cost her dad the election for sheriff to Vinnie Van Lowe, she knew he was determined to keep food on the table by throwing himself full force back into his PI business. And bail jumpers equaled groceries in their fridge in their tiny apartment. What she didn't expect to see was the lanky swagger of her ex, Logan Echolls, ambling toward her in the airport. He was tan and relaxed looking with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder, but his dark brown eyes belied the anxiety he had about seeing her after they had ended so badly last spring. Few words passed between them, but he offered her a ride home, and she was too exhausted to restate the fact that she still meant what she'd said before leaving – she needed space from him – as reluctantly accepted his offer.

They chatted as casual acquaintances about their respective summers, and the short ride saved them from having to make much more than awkward small-talk. As they pulled up to her apartment complex, Logan jumped out of his banana-yellow Xterra before she could assure him that she didn't need him to help her tote her luggage across the lot. Why argue? He grabbed her luggage and familiarly walked her up to her apartment as she fumbled for her keys.

"Where's your dad?" he asked casually as she turned the key in the lock.

"Chasing bail-jumpers, ya know, the story of his life." Veronica responded lamely.

"Piz?"

"New York still," half a beat passed, "I guess." Why did I say it like that, Veronica wondered to herself, like she didn't care at all where her boyfriend was. Logan's coffee brown eyes seemed to search into her soul, also looking for the underlying meaning of her apathy toward Piz's absence.

The lights in the apartment never made it on. Her luggage never got unpacked that night. Because the second the door shut, she found herself scooped up into Logan's arms, his hands lifting her bottom and her legs quickly wrapping around his waist as they became passionately entangled in one another. She was drawn to him like a high-powered magnet. He tongue found its way onto her mouth and before long they were both panting and in varying stages of disrobement.

Sex with Logan was so satisfying that typically after all she could do was doze off in the orgasm cocoon that he created. But when she woke up that morning in her own bed, with him nakedly and luxuriously wrapped around her petite frame, she couldn't breathe. She knew she had made a huge mistake. Clearly, she still loved Logan. She knew it, he knew it, and even Piz knew it on some level, because he never quite acted the same around her after Logan had slugged Gorya Sorokin, defending her honor, in the student union of Hearst College that spring. But loving Logan always meant sacrificing herself in some way. And loving Logan wasn't inherently wrong, but cheating was. She had learned that lesson from her mom.

As she watched Logan sleep peacefully, her nerves continued to boil over. She imagined that her life would continue in the same path as Lianne's. Lianne and Jake Kane had suffered from star-crossed lovers syndrome, and look where it had gotten them. Sure, they were crazy about one another years after their high school romance, despite the fact that both had taken spouses in the interim, but at what cost? Keith Mars was heartbroken due to his wife's infidelity. Celeste Kane was bitter and angry, and Veronica and Duncan had spent a half a year doing an awkward dance around one another, fearing their puppy love romance was tainted by incest.

That was the exact moment when Veronica decided to transfer schools and make a clean break from her ties in Neptune. She couldn't deny her feelings for Logan, but she knew if she stayed, she'd never be able to break the pattern of hurting one another and hurting others. She didn't want to end up like her mother.

She talked with her dad about her decision when he returned home the next day. The process was surprisingly quick; she managed to avoid Logan like the plague for seven days, and the following Sunday she was back at the airport saying her goodbyes to Wallace and her dad for a second time that summer. She never explained herself to Mac or said her goodbyes to Logan. She didn't even have the decency to break up with Piz; she figured the news might be better broken to him by Wallace anyway.

For a few months, Wallace's emails kept her in the loop. But then Veronica made it clear to Wallace in no uncertain terms that she didn't want to hear about what everyone was up to. She never had to explain why; Wallace was intuitive to the fact that despite Veronica's hard exterior, it hurt too much to hear him mention her old crew.

"So what's it gonna be?" Matt asked her in a low voice, while staring at her intently with her dark probing eyes, as he splayed black and white 8x10 photos, likely yearbook pictures of the smiling young girls who were considered missing persons, across his desk.

Veronica weighed out her options. "I still say it's way too risky to put me undercover in Pan. It's way too close to Neptune. My cover could be blown in a matter of days."

"That's doubtful, Mars, but if that's the way you feel, and I can't persuade you, I can pass the case Pamela's way. I am sure that her team would be only too eager to jump all over a potential human trafficking case."

Veronica bristled at the mention of Pamela Abrams. She was the lead of another team in her department, and she seemed to have prime picking of the high-profile cases. She, of course, would not be the undercover in the case. Pamela, with her sleek black asymmetrical bob, looked like she could grace the glossy pages of Vogue. She was worldly, professional, powerful, and confident in ways that Veronica never would be. Undoubtedly, she would be the one writing the playbook and pulling the marionette strings rather than getting her hands dirty. She was cutthroat with a side of superiority, and Veronica knew that Pamela would leap at the opportunity to use this case as a springboard for her career. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't, Veronica realized, because Matt wasn't going to stick around if she wouldn't play ball in the big leagues.

"Okay," she answered sullenly.

"I knew you'd do it, babe." Matt finally let a smile play around his usual pout. "I promise I will be with you every step of the way."

Veronica couldn't quite bring herself to smile but she nodded and met Matt's admiring gaze. "Yeah, I know you've got my back, Adams."

Veronica dropped her gaze back down to the photos, and one in particular caught her eye. She was sure she'd never seen the girl, who looked to be about fourteen, in her life, yet her eyes haunted Veronica. She was Hispanic, with silky long waves fanned out around her shoulders. Her eyes were as black as coal, and her expression was serene and unguarded, almost as though she were unaware her picture was being taken and the photographer had captured the young girl deep in thought.

"Who's this one?" Veronica asked, tapping the picture with her forefinger, still studying it for a clue of why this young girl seemed familiar.

"Her name is -" Matt paused and lifted the print to read the back. "Ophelia Navarro."