Episode Two/Part One – Neptune's Most Eligible Bachelor
Previously: Sexy times with Logan on the mayor's desk. Maybe some other stuff.
Once he has his breathing under control, he raises himself on his elbows, leaning down and planting a lingering kiss on her mouth.
"Welcome home, Bobcat." He says smirking down at her.
"Hey, Logan." She smirks back.
Logan disposes of the condom in the trashcan and rolls back to his side. His left hip and shoulder pressing into the hard wooden surface barely registers as he tries to process the fact that she's really here with him. Finally.
He's never stopped believing - at least not for long. Even while in relationships with others. Even though they've been apart now longer than they ever were together. He's always considered it a matter of when she'd be back in his arms rather than if. But in his wildest dreams, he'd never imagined it could come about with so little effort. In fact, he'd assumed he would need to go to her.
He's not delusional enough to think this means they're back together. This was sex. But he can still produce a 'kiss-now-talk-later' reaction out of her. Highly encouraging. So for now, he's giddy with happiness, and wants to cling to the feeling before reality intrudes.
Veronica is on her back, eyes closed, chest rising and falling. Smiling.
Nothing's changed - she still blisses out after sex, and he still chokes-up with emotion at the sight. He snakes his arm around her, pulling her snug against his body.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. He sends up a silent stream of gratitude to the universe as he basks in the moment.
This will pass all too soon, so he glides his fingertips along her skin, memorizing the smooth texture. He buries his face in her silky hair, inhaling the scent. Scatters kisses on her forehead, cheeks, chin and lips.
It's going to hurt like hell when she goes, but right now, he's just so damn happy.
Stretch this out. Make it last.
Her eyes open, and he's overwhelmed by the recognition in her stare - as if she can read his mind. He's been loved by other women - some have even loved him better - but nobody has ever truly known him like Veronica. Only one of many reasons she's irreplaceable to him.
"You're staring," she says.
"Yeah, I'm kind of in shock. Sex on my desk with a hot blonde wasn't exactly in my day planner."
"You don't carry a day planner." It's not a question.
"Fine. Sex with a hot blonde on my desk wasn't in Gia's day planner."
"Should I have made an appointment?"
"Next time," he says with more confidence than he actually feels. "Or...I could just schedule a recurring appointment? How's...everyday?Noon?"
He presses his mouth to hers - delaying the inevitable 'This was a mistake' and she responds, lips parting, hands pulling him closer.
For a moment, she kisses him hard, as if she wants him to make her forget. Then she breaks away with a sigh, turning her face to the side. So he kisses her cheek and up her jawline to her neck.
"What the hell did I just do?" she moans in a voice that's a cross between a laugh and a cry.
He kisses down the column of her throat.
"This never should have happened."
He kisses the curve of her shoulder.
"Do you always seduce girls who make the mistake of sneaking into your office?"
His fingers stroke circles on her belly. "Only the short ones."
Her lips curl up in amusement. "It's completely unprofessional, you know. You should try opening with something more businesslike, like 'Welcome. How may I meet the needs of my constituency today?'"
"I liked my way better."
"And I can say with complete confidence that your needs were met."
Her fingertips brush the side of his jaw. "You sure about that?"
"Positive." He kisses the tip of her nose.
She glances away with a shy smile. "Cocky bastard."
"Mayor Cocky Bastard."
"You're trying to distract me."
"Mmm-hmm" he nods, his mouth dropping to her breast, circling it with his tongue.
Veronica lets out a little gasp. "I actually came here for a legitimate reason. I can't afford to be-"
"Way laid?" Logan glances back up, attempting to appear contrite, but can't. All he can do is smile at her with amused adoration.
Well what? Am I supposed to be sorry?
Lifting up on his elbows, he looks down into her blue-green eyes.
"Say something, dammit!" she demands.
He touches her cheek, opening his mouth to say something appropriately witty and snarky, like..."I still love you."
Oh. My. God.
Way to keep things light, Logan.
"LOGAN!" Veronica says in exasperation, covering her face in her hands.
Well, it's out there now. You've lost any semblance of cool, so better go brash.
"Veronica," he responds, removing her hands from her face. "I. Still. Love. You."
"How can you say that?"
He runs a hand through the front of his hair. "To be honest, I kind of surprised myself there, but then again, I've always regretted not saying it those times when it might have still made a difference."
"No. You don't get to do this."
"I don't? Fine, I'll start over. Give me my line again."
"What line? Oh...that…" She smirks and repeats her earlier words. "Say something, dammit!"
Logan feigns an expression of exaggerated indifference. "So uh...that was...fun. I'll...um...call you some time. Or something." He breaks off in a snort of laughter. "I'm sorry. I can't. I'm too old for game playing."
"That's ridiculous. You're only twenty-six. You have plenty of game-playing years left in you."
"Well they've been a rough twenty-six years. Felt more like fifty-two."
"You know this is insane, right? I came here for a license extension, and I ended up being fucked on a desk!"
Logan smirks. "Actually, I was making love."
Veronica flings a forearm over her eyes - whether to block out the light or the truth, Logan's not sure.
He picks up his signature stamp - which somehow survived the sweeping of the desk - examining the rubber underside. "I've really missed you Veronica."
Her lips struggle to hide a smile.
"Have you missed me?" he asks, idly placing the name stamp on Veronica's lower abdomen near her left hipbone, and depressing it gently. She doesn't seem to notice.
She's going to kill me for that.
"Maybe a little," she answers.
He likes the look of his name in crisp black ink against her pale white skin, and since he's already in trouble, he does it again on her right inner thigh. In for a penny, in for a pound. "Liar. I think you missed me a lot."
"And I think your ego hasn't suffered in the passing years."
"Not at all. My ego's been running amok like...Flubber. That's what happens when you're not around to keep it in check."
This drags a grin out of her. He depresses the name stamp on her rib cage under her breast for good measure. She notices this time, uncovering her eyes and lifting up on her elbows to glance down at her body.
"What the hell did you do?" she yells, seeing his signature tattooing her body in three locations.
"Would you believe modern art?"
She rolls her eyes. "Right. What are you going to do? Mount me on the wall above your desk?"
Logan's eyes twinkle. "I'll happily mount you on the wall. I'll mount you on the desk. I'll mount you on a train. In the rain. On a boat. With a goat." He pauses. "Actually, let's skip the goat."
She narrows her eyes, threateningly and point at the signature on her rib cage.
"Just making sure you don't forget me again. At least for a few days."
Puppy Dog Eyes.
The fact that she's not super pissed at him for marking her skin is a sure sign that Veronica needs to get the hell out of here. She's made all sorts of stupid mistakes based on her weakness for those eyes.
"I have to go." She pushes halfway to a sitting position, but Logan stops her.
"Careful." He chuckles and gathers her hair loosely at the top of her head with his hands, twisting it into a messy bun and tucking in the ends the same way he'd seen her do it dozens of times. "Stay for desert."
How does he know I brought desert? "That's okay. It's all yours."
"I was hoping you'd say that," he says, sitting up. He hands her a sticky plastic bag and his lips move across her back.
"Tiramisu?" he asks.
Veronica has to peel the bag open to peek inside. She finds the styrofoam container from The Hut crushed and mangled, creamy desert spilling out everywhere.
"Wild guess...I'm wearing it?"
He answers by drawing a circle with his finger around her shoulder blade and part of her back.
"I can clean it off in the bathroom," she says, halfheartedly.
"Please don't." He crosses his legs and pulls her onto his lap. "I've got this."
We still fit together like a perfect pair of nesting dolls.
Oh, what the hell. She fishes out a corner of the silverware packet - enough to rip open and extract a spoon without getting her fingers sticky - and digs at what's left of the desert in the container. It's no longer cold - more like room temperature - which explains how she hadn't noticed it on her skin. Still, it's delicious. "Mmm that is good."
"My new favorite desert."
She rolls her shoulders as his lips move across her skin. Her entire back is one large pleasure center, and he's been known to take advantage of that fact in the past.
"So, you done yelling at me?" Logan asks between kisses.
"I haven't begun to yell at you," she answers, without any real heat. "So explain to me how this happened."
"I carried you to my desk, stripped you naked, and made sweet love to you."
"Not that, dork." She laughs. "How in the hell does Logan Echolls, most hated person in Neptune become County Supervisor? Especially at the tender age of twenty-six."
"You don't seem to hate me very much." Logan reaches a hand around, palming her breast to demonstrate his point. "And it helps when you run unopposed."
"Unopposed?" Her voice is a little too breathy. It's hard to concentrate with his hands on her. His mouth on her.
"I wasn't supposed to have a chance in hell of winning."
"So why'd you even bother?"
He raises his mouth from her skin. "Campaign experience. I wanted this for the future. Five or so years down the road. So this was the first step in cleaning up my reputation."
"And then two weeks before the election, Jeff Wilson had a fatal heart attack. And here I am."
"Here you are."
"Naked on my desk."
Scraping another bite of layered desert out of the broken container, she licks the spoon slowly. She thinks she may be going into sensory overload - Logan's tongue and sweet mascarpone cheese, Logan's teeth and cocoa, Logan's hands and coffee and ladyfingers. It's too too much.
Shaking herself, she tries to pick up the thread of their conversation. Logan and politics.
"But I don't understand why you wanted to go into politics. It's not surfing or video games or partying and binge drinking."
"Look at you trying to bait me." She can hear the indulgent smile in his voice. "I know your tricks, Veronica Mars."
"What tricks? Who's playing tricks?"
"You can't ruin my moment of bliss by questioning my ambition. I grew up. Had to happen eventually."
"By becoming a politician of all things?"
"Why is that so surprising? Remember when I won the essay contest and interned for the pedophile freak?"
"You mean the one where you plagiarized Easy Rider?"
"The five page essay where a single paragraph plagiarized Easy Rider? Yeah, that one."
"Well, when Woody wasn't trying to grope me, I actually kind of enjoyed it."
"Woody tried to grope you?" She crumples up the plastic bag and tosses it in the garbage, suddenly nauseated.
"Not like that," Logan answers, and leans forward to kiss her cheek in reassurance. "He fondled my bicep. Could have been much worse. Point is, I watched closely while he did what he did as County Supervisor, and filed it away as something I could see myself doing someday."
"Why didn't you ever mention it to me?"
Logan exhales heavily, taking a moment to choose his words. "I guess with you, it was easier to appear directionless than to try and fail, and see the disappointment in your eyes."
"Logan, I—"She trails off, not knowing what say.
"It was a long time ago, Veronica. I'm not that guy anymore."
"How so?" she asks with a forced laugh. "You stopped caring what I think?"
"I stopped failing," he says simply, and it doesn't sound like a boast. "…and I'll always care what you think."
Her stomach flip-flops, and she's glad he's behind her so he can't see her blush.
Two large hands brace her waist and lift her up as if she weighs no more than a bag of sugar. He straightens his legs out in front of him, and Veronica shifts to straddle his thighs, but before she can sink back down onto his lap, he wraps both arms tightly around her, forcing her to stay tall on her knees. She nearly comes as he traces the path of her spine with his tongue, letting out a moan before she can help herself.
He laughs, and slides a large hand between her legs, fingers making lazy circles against her flesh.
"Logan…" she breathes, and this time he's the one who moans.
Still a sucker for hearing his name on my lips, I see.
He lowers her to his lap, leaning forward to kiss her neck. He's hard against her back, and she needs only to shift and she could have him inside her again.
So much for that hasty retreat I was planning.
"You're still trying to distract me."
"Yes. Yes I am. Glad you noticed." He slides one long finger inside of her.
He leans forward, kissing her long and hard. When he pulls away, she's light headed. She allows her head to drop back onto his left shoulder to give him more access to her throat. "So any regrets? About your career choice?"
"None. I love my job, and I've been doing a decent job at it." He nips at her shoulder, while his free hand moves to her breast.
She inhales and arches into his hand. "What do you love about it?"
"Everything," he bites the intersection of her neck and shoulder and she almost comes up off the desk. "Except budgeting and council meetings. Luckily, Gia's good with the budget."
"How do you explain Gia." She's surprised she can still formulate words, with the way his hands are making her feel.
"She drives me nuts, but she's like family."
She intends to ask 'why would you hire somebody who drives you nuts?', but with the increased pressure of his fingers against her clit, she only manages to croak out a "Why?"
He understands the question. "There aren't any living former County Supervisors." Kisses her shoulder. "Wilson's dead, and his assistant, Jeannie retired to Florida." Kisses her throat. "Woody Goodman is dead." Kisses along her jawline. "And his assistant, Bev, left town to try her hand at modeling. Woody's predecessor is dead. Gia is literally the only living person in Neptune who knows how to run the mayor's office. Had to beg and bribe her to come work for me."
"And she never lets you forget it?"
"To put it mildly. And why are we talking about Gia? We have better things to be doing right now."
She sighs. "You'd better have another condom on you."
Veronica's eyelids are made of lead.
Falling asleep would be so heavenly right now.
She doesn't remember them relocating to his giant leather executive's chair, but here she is, cradled in his arms, listening to the rise and fall of his breath.
Logan. For such a disaster, he sure is perfect. His scent. The temperature of his body. The way he automatically arranges himself to keep me comfortable.
"So why aren't you sleeping, Veronica?"
She cracks an eyelid. "I was this close. Thanks for breaking the spell."
He chuckles. "You always were the guy, passing out right after sex."
"Sleeping is hardly a male-dominated pursuit," she mumbles.
"Nice attempt at evasion, by the way. What's up with the dark circles?" He gently kisses the delicate skin under each eye.
"You even think the name Steve Buscemi, you will suffer unspeakable pain."
"Why haven't you been sleeping?" he repeats in a firm voice.
Veronica sighs. "There was a case, and it got a little too far under my skin, but I'm sure I'll be sleeping like a baby soon, now that I'm home.
"You catch the guy?"
"You're leaving something out."
"I'm burned out, Logan. Homicide isn't working for me anymore."
He examines her eyes and she feels like she's under a microscope. "You're hiding something."
And just like that, she needs to escape. She shoves his arms away and pushes out of the chair.
"I told you I'm burned out, and you called me a liar. I'd like to see you trying to deal with the things I see on a daily basis. Every day having to break the news to family and friends that their loved ones are never coming home again." She locates her bra and underwear, and is searching for her skirt, when he spins her around.
"Look at me." He takes her face between his hands. "You forget how well I know you."
"I don't think you know me at all," she mutters petulantly.
"I have seen you burned out. I've seen you exhausted - both physically and mentally. I've seen you suffering from sleep deprivation. I've seen you on the verge of collapse at the end of your rope. The one thing I have never seen is Veronica Mars walking away before the bad guy's been punished."
She turns away to avoid his scrutiny, using the distraction to wiggle into her underwear. She slips her arms into her bra straps, and snaps the front. He's right of course. Were this any other case, she would have solved it before walking away from the force. More likely, she would have solved it and stayed on the force, too stubborn to acknowledge how miserable the job made her.
She turns now, meeting his eyes. "Even Veronica Mars knows to take herself out of the situation when doing so will prevent needless death."
He searches her eyes for a moment, ascertaining that she's telling the truth this time. "You want to talk about it?" he asks quietly.
"Succinct and to the point," Logan says with a nod. "If you change your mind, I'm here."
"Noted." Her skirt is on the floor and relatively unwrinkled. She wiggles it over her hips and zips, still searching for her blouse.
There. Under the desk.
"So you're planning to stick around town?" He scoops up his underwear from the desk chair and steps into them, looking ridiculously sexy in the crimson silk boxers.
And here's where things get weird.
"Even if I am, this…" She points between herself and Logan. "...isn't going to become a thing."
"A little late for that, Ronnie."
She moves to put space between them, retrieving her shirt and slipping it onto her shoulders. "This can't happen again."
"I mean it, Logan. I just got out of a—"
He interrupts. "Don't try to tell me you're on the rebound. That was not rebound sex. That was..." He trails off searching for words. "...reunion sex. The start of something, not the end."
She's having a hard time summoning a proper sense of finality as well.
"I'm not on the rebound. I just...there was this guy. And I was pretty sure we were on the same page. I didn't want anything serious, and neither did he."
Logan's discomfort with the subject is apparent by the way he exhales and turns away, but she barrels on. She needs to get this out. "But when I made it clear to him that I wouldn't be seeing him anymore, he had a bit of a...meltdown. Out of nowhere, he's confessing to having deep feelings for me and not wanting to let me go."
Logan cringes, snagging his pants from the floor. "Bet you loved that."
"I've had worse breakups. He didn't smash a lamp." She smirks to soften her words.
Logan holds up an index finger. "In my defense, it was a very rude lamp." He steps into his pants and zips them up.
"I'm just saying, Logan...I'm not looking for a relationship, and I'm not going to risk making the same mistakes I made with him."
"Why aren't you looking for a relationship?"
She can't help but laugh. Who asks that question? "Relationships and I aren't compatible." She glances at her hands, and then back up. "They never work out for me."
Logan shakes his head. "That's not a sign that relationships are bad. That's your subconscious telling you you're trying to date the wrong man."
She crosses her arms over her chest, tilting her head, eyes challenging. "And I suppose you think you know who the right man is?"
"Easy." He moves into her personal space, lifting fingertips to her jaw. "Me," he says against her soft unresisting lips. "Me." He kisses her cheek. "Only me." He whispers in her ear.
"Logan..." she sighs, disappointed when he takes a step back, reaches for her blouse and begins fastening the buttons, bottom to top. Seduction in reverse.
"We've tried having a relationship. Several times. We didn't work either."
"Yet, here we are." He motions to their proximity, the desk, and their states of undress. "I'm not that same guy anymore. I've grown up. I've changed."
"But I haven't," Veronica says.
"Good," he says, looking at her with such intensity that her knees go weak.
Would it be sending the wrong message if I told him I wanted to go for another round? Immediately?
"You haven't changed all that much, Logan." She says with forced lightness.
"I've changed like crazy. It's the pull between us that's still the same."
The same? Try magnified. "So there's still a physical attraction. Hardly earth shattering news."
"From where I was sitting, your earth was good and shattered. But you know I wasn't talking about physical attraction. You feel this pull as much as I do."
She sighs. "Logan, I came back here to get healthy. To walk away from a job that made me miserable every single day. And I neither want nor need romance in my life. Now I should get going."
"Wait," Logan tugs on her hand. "You've had your say. Now it's my turn."
"Fine, what do you want to say?"
"I intend to change your mind," he says simply, with that earnest almost-smile he uses when he's trying to be non-threatening and adorable. She doesn't trust it. He's used the same smile in the past before cutting her with his razor wit.
Veronica rolls her eyes. "How? What do you think you can do? Make me fall in love with you?"
She regrets the words immediately, as her intention is not to inflict wounds. Strangely enough, he doesn't look hurt at all. In fact, his eyes are twinkling.
"I don't need to make you love me," he says, lips curling up in that maddeningly sexy smirk. "Because you've never stopped."
The moment seems to hang as if poised on the edge of a precipice. Her heart pounds, and a dozen arguments spring to the tip of her tongue, but he continues speaking before she can protest, reaching out to cup her cheek with his large hand. "What I do intend to do, is to erase that haunted look from your eyes and make you happy again."
"Happy?" she repeats numbly.
"Deliriously." He kisses her forehead.
She turns her back to him before she can do something stupid, like tackling him to the ground and covering his face with kisses.
That would surely count as mixed signals.
The warmth of his body presses against her back and his arms come around her.
"Do what you need to do, Veronica," he says, resting his chin on her shoulder. "Run, or whatever. I'll have to accept that it's your right to reject me painfully and repeatedly." He snickers, and she thinks he's forgotten how rejection feels. "But you walking in here out of the blue was a sign, and I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to charm you at every opportunity, and there's nothing you can do about it."
"A restraining order would do the trick."
"Right…" he laughs, and changes his voice to that high pitch guys use when they're imitating girls. "Oh officer. Keep him away from me. He's too handsome and sexy, and I'm afraid I won't be able to control my urges whenever he's around. Make him take away the temptation."
"I'm a trainwreck, Logan. You've made it this far without me, you don't need me now."
"Maybe not." He runs his fingers down her arm. "But I want you."
She half-turns, leaning into his chest for a moment, absorbing his warmth, inhaling his essence. Then she lifts up on her tiptoes and kisses him on the cheek. "I'm leaving now."
"Don't reject the guy I used to be, Veronica," he says. "Get to know the guy I am now."
She slips out of his arms, collects her purse, and moves towards the door. She can't help but add a little switch to her step.
Way to encourage the lunatic.
"Dinner?" he calls after her.
She unlocks the door and steps out into the reception area before allowing herself a small grin.
"Clorox Wipes are in the cabinet behind Gia's desk," she calls back over her shoulder.
Three blocks from city hall, after the radio DJ's finish shilling for a laser hair-removal company, the four opening piano notes of the next song kicks in. 'Something always brings me back to you. Never takes too long.'
"Fuck you, Sara Bareilles!"
Veronica stabs the power button and pulls the vehicle over to the side of the road. Slamming the car into park, she allows her head to fall backwards onto the headrest.
I am never going to be over stupid Logan Echolls!
She did not come back to Neptune to reunite with her volatile ex-boyfriend. She came home to prevent senseless death. And for an investigative career that didn't make her want to drown in vodka every night. One more energizing than life-draining.
She'd accepted a long time ago, she wasn't cut out for romantic entanglements. Men came into her life, confessed their undying love, and then tried to change everything about her. They silently sniffed their disapproval. Begged and demanded. Issued ultimatums. Made accusations. Called her names.
They tried to manipulate her into traditional feminine roles. Offered marriage and babies and picket fences if she would only walk away from everything that made her Veronica Mars. Accused her of emasculating them when she refused their oh-so-generous offers. Emasculation. Eventually, they all used that word. Blamed her for their cheating, or their erectile dysfunction, or their Madonna/Whore complexes.
So she'd sworn-off romance. Encased her heart in a solid block of ice. And she liked it that way.
But Logan is a serious threat.
Since their first kiss, they've burned like a raging destructive wildfire. How else do you explain kissing your worst enemy and being unable (or unwilling) to stop?
She was a girl who liked to plot and plan. Dot the I's. Cross the T's. But any five minutes around Logan was enough to demonstrate how very little control she actually possessed. His presence in her life brought uncertainty and chaos. And that loss of control caused her stress, but also made her breathless and exhilarated. Reeled her in, and drove her away.
How was the protective ice around her heart supposed to withstand that kind of heat?
Her feelings for Logan were always her most closely guarded secret. Sure, her friends and family all suspected she loved him, but nobody had ever grasped the full depth of her feelings - least of all, Logan himself.
To the outside world, she was the ultra-competent Veronica Mars. Straight A student. Excellent investigator. Daughter. Friend. Girlfriend. A more-or-less balanced life. Priorities in check. Never one to wrap her life around a boyfriend - any boyfriend.
Nobody ever knew how she could barely go three minutes without thinking of him. How she'd breathed his name in and out hundreds of times a day. She'd woken to thoughts of him. Pictured him as she drifted off to sleep. She had loved him like he was her religion. She had loved him so much it terrified her. And he'd never even suspected.
Because letting somebody know they were your world gave them power over you. And Veronica had stopped giving away that kind of power the day she woke up without her underwear in Shelly Pomroy's guest bedroom.
She'd had the opportunity to observe countless relationships over the years – in her both personal life and professional life – and in that time, she'd yet to see one with an equal balance of power. At least on the surface. One party was always more invested. After witnessing the destruction of her family, she'd worked hard to ensure she would never be that party.
She didn't think it always came down to which person loved more, but rather which partner was more comfortable with vulnerability. Logan, who'd had every reason to guard his heart, had presented it to her fully and without reservation. To the extent she'd wanted to shake him sometimes. He should've known better - people will always let you down. She'd let him down on more than one occasion.
Sometimes she thinks she's been ridiculous. What's the worst that could've happened if she had looked someone in the eye and said 'I love you'?
Would it make her instantly weak? Unloved? Taken for granted? Abandoned?
In her more self-reflective moments she thinks, maybe it's simply the plight of the abandoned child. Society teaches us parents should always put their children first. So when your mother abandons you for the local software tycoon, or a bottle of Absolut, you have to ask yourself 'What makes me unworthy?'
It's like having a built-in relationship sabotage button. You expect others to treat you the same way. So you push and prod. Throw up impossible obstacles to test their love. Each passed test leading to another. You subconsciously justify that you're weeding out the weak and unworthy. If they're going to abandon you, better they do it now, before you're invested. You form your hypotheses - people you love will let you down - and then force them to prove it.
So in the end, her fear of expressing vulnerability has been a hindrance in maintaining a relationship. But that doesn't mean she doesn't experience it. More than ever, lately.
Her life has literally been ripped apart by this killer. She's as close to damaged as she's been since Shelly's party. She should probably be in therapy, and on any given night, there's a 15% chance she might curl up into a ball and cry. Logan Echolls is the very last complication she needs in this weakened state.
But she can't help the small smile from curling up the corners of her lips.
He's not married.
And the sex is just as mind-blowing between us as it ever was.
And he still loves me.
He. Still. Loves. Me.
Somehow, despite the fact that everything else in the world has changed, he's still her Logan - affectionate, adoring, brilliant-in-bed, Logan.
Like an addict, she's only blocks away from his office, and she already wants more. Lots. More. She feels fucking fantastic. The lethargy - her constant companion for months - is conspicuously missing. Her body is practically humming with energy.
If she could, she would make this a nightly arrangement - slip in and slip back out before the sheets were cold. Obtain all of the benefits without any of the consequences.
But Logan and Veronica can't do casual. It's always been all-or-nothing between them.
So it can only be nothing.
And that is a damn shame.
Veronica slips her sunglasses onto her face, and pushes open the back door of Java the Hut, stepping out into the early evening sunlight. It's cooled off a bit from the warmth of earlier, but the scent of warm tar is still perceptible in the air.
She sips her drink through the hole in the lid, and scans the small parking lot, ignoring a group of girls approaching from the left, and angling towards her Sebring, parked off to the right.
She knows that voice. And remembers the headaches it's prone to trigger.
Can't I catch a break today? After her encounter with Logan, all she wants is to self-medicate with her super-sized caramel latte. Is that too much to ask?
"Veronica, wait!" The voice draws nearer.
She calculates the distance to her car (too damn far), and then turns, bracing herself and pasting on her phoniest smile. "Madison Sinclair."
Veronica hates to admit, but her old nemesis looks good. Dressed conservatively in crisp black dress pants, a lightweight aqua sweater, and strappy black heels, she clutches a leather executive's portfolio in her right hand. Her makeup is tasteful, no longer applied with a spatula, and her hair – side-parted and pulled into a low ponytail – is a flattering brunette shade. Something is fundamentally different about her, and it takes Veronica a moment to realize - she's neither simpering nor sneering.
Behind Madison, Caitlin Ford – sporting a sleek bob and a raspberry colored sheathe dress - is flanked by two more plastic looking girls. The taller one, platinum blonde with thick bangs and a super-short black dress, Veronica vaguely recognizes from Hearst – typical mean girl. The other, slightly shorter than Veronica, is a strawberry-blonde, wearing a khaki shorts suit. All carry folders or envelopes. They hang back as Madison draws closer.
"Hi, Veronica," Madison says. "When did you get back?"
As if you care? "Yesterday."
Madison glances over her shoulder to address her three companions. "Go on ahead. I'll meet you inside in a minute."
The trio of blondes make no move to walk away. "We'll wait for you," Caitlin answers with a malicious smirk. "Hi, Veronica."
Madison frowns at their refusal to leave, while Veronica removes her sunglasses and acknowledges Caitlin's greeting with a noncommittal wave.
Madison doesn't seem to like her friends very much. Can't say I blame her.
"So...How long are you staying in Neptune?"
"I haven't decided yet." Veronica answers, glancing longingly towards her car.
"Veronica. Listen…" Madison lowers her voice, although the effort is wasted with the three girls hovering right behind her. "I just wanted to say I feel bad about the stuff that went down years ago. I could be a real bitch back then."
Wow. Didn't see that one coming.
Caitlin and her companions glance among themselves with undisguised glee.
"What do you want, Madison?" Veronica asks.
"I don't want anything." She answers. "Except to apologize." She has the resolved demeanor of somebody who is forcing herself to do something unpleasant, but necessary.
What could she possibly gain by being nice to me?
"What is this, some kind of twelve-step program thing?"
Something flickers in Madison's eyes. Barely perceptible to anyone but a trained observer.
Which I just happen to be.
Veronica sighs. "Okay. Apology accepted. Now if you'll excuse me…"
"Wait." Madison puts a hand on her arm. "We're organizing a Bachelor Auction tomorrow night to benefit the Neptune Food Bank." She pages through her leather folder, extracting a program and handing it to Veronica. It's printed on semi-gloss colored stock and must have cost a fortune to have printed in bulk - money that could have gone to the charity. At first glance, Veronica recognizes the names of half a dozen bachelors including Wallace Fennel, Dick Casablancas, and, of course, Logan Echolls.
Veronica sighs. Pretending to be civil is exhausting. "Honestly, I've had a long day and just want to get home."
"Oh. Well you should at least come to the auction."
"I'm considering going. For the sake of supporting Wallace Fennel."
"Logan will be there." Madison says, as if his name wasn't right on the list - in the position of honor. "Maybe you two..."
"Logan, huh?" Veronica's voice sharpens and her eyes narrow to chips of ice. "Well then I'm sure you'll have your checkbook ready."
Madison shakes her head. "It's not like that. I just thought...you might want advance notice."
"Why would I need a warning?"
"Logan is Neptune's most eligible bachelor. The competition will be fierce."
"Well then, thank goodness for your trust fund, huh?" Veronica answers. "You and Caitlin can fight it out for him."
Caitlin's lips turn up in a spiteful smirk, and she holds up her hand, sporting the world's most ostentatious bridal set. "Um...I'm married, Veronica." She aims a pointed glance at Veronica's empty left hand. "Some of us know how to keep a man. Plus, you might remember, I've already had Logan. He couldn't exactly hold my interest."
Veronica wants desperately to commit violence. "I still carry a taser, Caitlin," she says through gritted teeth.
How can this stupid girl make light of cheating on Logan and screwing with his head?
"Whatever, Veronica Mars. You're not going to tase me in front of all these witnesses."
Madison shoots Caitlin a frown. "Can you just wait inside?"
"No, I'm good," Caitlin answers, not about to miss any drama.
Clearly frustrated, Madison turns back to Veronica. "Can we start over? Or go somewhere to talk privately?"
Veronica sighs. "Madison, I appreciate your apology, but we're not going to become coffee buddies. I still don't like you, and I never will."
Madison's companions titter, and she shoots them a glare over her shoulder before turning back to Veronica. "My intention isn't to start a fight with you. I'm trying to be friendly."
"You speaking Logan's name to me is a guaranteed fight starter, now if you don't mind—"
Caitlin inserts herself into the conversation. "Everybody knows Veronica dumped Logan after he hooked up with you in Aspen, Madison."
I get it now. This is a nightmare, right? Any minute now, I'll wake up.
The other blondes lean forward as if sharks to blood.
"So it's true?" Madison asks. "You really broke up over that?"
"It's nobody's business why we broke up," Veronica says, aware that denying is as good as admitting.
"Logan told John that Madison gives the best blowjobs he's ever had." Caitlin says.
Veronica hasn't experienced real jealousy since seeing Logan with Parker before she left Neptune. She's reminded now how it feels. Like a battering ram to the gut. Back in college, when she'd obsessed over Logan with Madison a hundred different ways, record-level oral sex hadn't even occurred to her. She reacts without thinking. "Well she's certainly had enough practice on her knees."
Madison recoils as if she'd been physically slapped.
What Madison? You've never hesitated to insinuate that I was a slut.
Madison squares her shoulders as if about to go into battle. "For your information, I never even went down on Logan in Aspen."
"I never said when he said it," Caitlin smirks and then turns to Veronica. "Madison used to give him his consolation blows every time Lilly dumped him."
Veronica's gut churns with nausea. So she was there before me? Did my fumblings even compare?
"I never touched Logan when he had a girlfriend," Madison says. "And that includes Aspen. You were broken up at the time."
"I never said you did," Veronica mumbles still reeling from this latest bit of knowledge.
I need to get the hell out of here, because I think I'm about to snap.
"I didn't lure him away from you, Veronica. Was he supposed to have a signed permission slip or something?"
"Okay, well this conversation is becoming a little too 'High School' for me, so I'm out of here."
"Didn't you know?" Caitlin says, as Veronica sidesteps Madison and starts walking away. "Veronica's exes are supposed to wait patiently on the shelf until she's ready to give them the time of day again. Just ask Duncan Kane."
"Right," Madison's voice comes from behind her. "Meg Manning would still be alive if Veronica hadn't crooked her finger at him."
Veronica freezes. A red haze seems to take over her vision, and then she's spinning around and storming back, not even trying to keep her voice down. "You are a vindictive bitch and I hate you. Keep pissing me off, and I will make you wish you were never born.
Caitlin looks entirely too pleased with herself, and a mother leading her two small children into The Hut, stops to scowl at Veronica.
Veronica continues in a quieter voice. "You know what? I did break up with Logan because of Aspen. He knew how much I despised you. You represented everything I loathed in the world."
Madison's face settles into the haughty expression Veronica remembers so well. "Wow. You're still as much of a bitch as ever, Veronica. I was trying to be a nice, but if you want to take the gloves off, so be it." She takes a step closer. "You had Logan Echolls. Logan Echolls. You know how many girls in this town would kill for the opportunity to date him?" She gestures vaguely at Caitlin's blonde minions. "And you not only dated him, but he was madly in love with you."
"Am I supposed to be surprised by your jealousy?" Veronica asks, more composed now. Petty jealousy she can deal with. "Your crush on Logan was never a secret. Lilly used to joke about it back in Junior High. Guess you finally got your turn in Aspen. Hope it was worth it."
"You think it was worth it?" Madison asks incredulously. She takes another step closer and lowers her voice. "It was the most humiliating experience of my life."
Veronica steps back in surprise. "I don't want to hear this."
"Too bad. I'm going to tell you all about Aspen. You should know what you threw your boyfriend away for."
"No. I really shouldn't—"Veronica begins.
I was over this. I was really over this.
"He wasn't looking to hook up, you know," Madison speaks over her. "He was already beyond trashed when I ran into him at the hotel bar, and he only wanted to talk. About you." She pauses to roll her eyes. "For. Two. Hours. All about you. How much he loved you. How all he ever did was disappoint you. How you'd be happier with somebody more cultured. Something about you getting yourself drugged and killed and not letting him help. It was pretty pathetic, honestly."
Why didn't I keep walking? Nothing is worth having to listen to this.
Madison continues. "So by the time I took him to his room, he was so drunk that he passed out in the middle of sex. On top of me, and when he woke up and saw me, he ran away and puked. You think that was worth it?"
It takes a moment for Veronica to find her voice. "If it was so bad, why did you try to come back for more?"
"Because I was stupid!" Frustration is evident in Madison's voice. "You know, Logan's a nice guy and everything, but one day I just realized it was never really Logan I wanted, but a boyfriend who would look at me the way that Logan looked at Lilly. And then you."
Madison pauses for a second as if something has occurred to her - something that makes her almost smile - then she seems to remember where she is and who she's with and launches back in at Veronica. "So that's the sordid details of Aspen. How lucky are you to have me to blame for your breakup? Can't have you taking responsibility for the fact that you took him for granted, and you let him get away. Honestly you never deserved him."
"You know nothing about our relationship. And you wanted the blame. You couldn't wait to tell me how you'd hooked up with him. You wanted to break us up."
"I wasn't aware that I wielded that much power in your relationship, Veronica." Madison says with a cruel smirk. "Now that I think about it, maybe I will bid on Logan at the Bachelor Auction tomorrow. I have a fifteen thousand dollar insurance check at home just waiting to be spent."
"Oh no!" Veronica covers her mouth pretending shock. "You've got me. Please don't bid on the guy I broke up with six years ago." She rolls her eyes to show just how unaffected she is by the threat.
"It's not like you can afford to outbid me," Madison continues. "Pity, too. Buying him is probably the only way you could get close to him these days, after the shameful way you treated him and broke his heart."
"You go right ahead and bid on him, Madison." Veronica says. "Imagine how many needy people that money will feed. In fact, I hope you and Logan have the best date ever."
Madison seems to realize all at once what she'd just committed to. Suddenly, she doesn't seem happy at all, and Veronica can actually believe that she has no interest in Logan anymore. She opens her mouth to speak – probably to backtrack – when an older lady approaches.
"Good evening, ladies," the woman says with an annoyed sniff. She has the air of a stuffy society matron. In her mid-fifties, wearing a yellow-green suit with a giant emerald brooch on her left lapel, her lips have the pursed look of chronic disapproval. "I was expecting you to be inside already."
"I'll be right in Mrs. Caldwell," Madison says, eyes sliding back to Veronica.
Veronica can't help herself. What's a little knife twisting between old enemies? With Caitlin and her evil minions turned away to greet the newcomer, Veronica holds Madison's gaze, fingers the hem of her blouse and lifts it - only an inch or two, pretending to scratch at her side. Madison's eyes squint in confusion and then widen in understanding. Veronica smirks contemptuously.
What is wrong with me?
This is rock bottom, Veronica. You're actually fighting over a guy. One who hasn't been your boyfriend for years. Time to go.
"I trust there are no complications for tomorrow's bachelor auction?" Mrs. Caldwell asks.
Still reeling over the way she'd been had, Madison takes a moment to answer. "Everything's on track."
"Good. We still need to strategize. I intend for us to surpass Celeste Kane's summer fundraiser record by at least ten percent."
Fingers of ice run up Veronica's spine at the sound of the hated name.
Caitlin interrupts. "That shouldn't be a problem, Mrs. Caldwell. Madison here just announced her intention to bid fifteen thousand on Mayor Echolls."
"Madison, that's wonderful!" Mrs. Caldwell smiles genuinely. "I knew putting you in charge of this committee was the right choice. I can't wait to tell the other ladies at the club. They'll be so pleased."
Madison looks as if she wishes for the ground to open up and swallow her.
"Well...It's been anything but fun, Madison." Veronica says, stepping around her and rushing away to her car.
She's almost there. Almost to safety, when she hears Madison's voice behind her.
She keeps walking, but Madison catches up before Veronica can open the door of her car. "You dropped these," she says handing Veronica her sunglasses.
"Um...thanks," Veronica says, and reaches for her door handle. "Gotta go."
Madison stops her. "I never wanted to fight with you. I was only trying to be a good person and apologize. But Caitlin…"
"Don't look at me," Veronica says. "She's your friend."
"No, we're on a committee together. We don't socialize."
Veronica shrugs and reaches for her door handle.
"Why do you hate me so much?" Madison asks. "I mean, I know I was a bitch in high school, but you forgave Logan. I never did anything to you that he didn't."
"Why do you care? What's in it for you?"
Madison hesitates as if trying to be careful with her words. "It's a small town, Veronica. We're going to run into each other. It would be nice if we could be civil."
She's leaving out something important.
Veronica sighs and leans back against her car. "I hate you for what you did to me at Shelly Pomroy's end of the year party, sophomore year."
Madison pauses to think. "Because I wrote 'slut' on your windshield, or do you mean because I spit in your drink? You're still hung up on that? I was fifteen years old, and to be fair, you did make out with my boyfriend that night, right in front of me, so I think we're even."
"I did NOT make out with your boyfriend!"
"You made out with everybody."
"I was DRUGGED! I told you that in the bathroom at school. And we aren't even close to even."
"So you really were drugged?" Madison asks, pensively. "I thought you were making that up as an excuse."
Can she be any denser?
"What? You wouldn't be the first to behave...um...promiscuously…and then try to blame it on alcohol or drugs. I've done it myself."
Veronica stares at her debating whether to continue.
Fuck it. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
"I'll be crystal clear, Madison," she says in a deceptively calm voice. "I was raped at Shelly's party, and you are responsible."
"What?" Madison's eyes widen in what appears to be genuine shock. "I had no idea..."
Even with the paper band, Veronica's latte is becoming too hot. She switches the cup to her left hand. "Well now you do."
"I'm truly sorry to hear that, but how exactly am I responsible?"
"You're the one who drugged me."
"I did no such thing!"
Veronica exhales deeply, struggling to keep her composure. "The rum and Coke you handed me - the one you spit in - was dosed with GHB."
"So that's why you came after me at Logan's party? You thought I drugged you?"
"GHB? Isn't that Liquid X? That doesn't even make any sense. I didn't have any GHB. I've never had any. Dick gave me that drink, anyway. There's no way he could have known I would give it to you."
"He didn't," Veronica says pointedly. "According to Luke, Dick didn't think you were putting out quickly enough."
Veronica watches Madison's eyes as the tumblers click into place.
Finally, she speaks. "So what you're saying is that Dick Casablancas put drugs in my drink with the intention of raping me?" She looks like she's about to vomit.
"Basically. Although I'm sure he'd use different words."
"But then I spit in the cup and handed it to you and he raped you instead?"
"No, he egged-on his little brother to do it."
"You were raped by the psycho?" Madison's voice rises at the last word.
"Yes." Veronica breathes deeply to combat the nausea. "And thanks to you, I was too unconscious to fend him off." She leaves it at that. She doesn't even want to get into the Duncan side of the story. From what she'd pieced together, she'd already been violated before he'd ever stumbled into that bedroom.
A range of emotions crosses Madison's face before she speaks again. "I wouldn't wish rape on anybody."
"Good to know you're not a sociopath. And now that I've relived one of the worst moments in my life, I'm going to leave."
"Wait a second. I'm not done."
Veronica sighs and shifts her weight to her other foot.
"I am truly sorry for my small part in your rape," Madison begins. "Truly. But how dare you pin the blame on me."
Veronica's jaw drops. "Excuse me?"
"I was the intended victim."
I can't believe this girl. "You're making this about you?"
"Kind of hard not to, Veronica. I just learned that I narrowly escaped being raped by my ex-boyfriend, which is a bit of a shock. And I want to sympathize with what you went through - I really do - but it's kind of hard to when I know that you wish it was me that was raped that night."
"You're basically saying I'm at fault for not being raped?"
"I didn't—"Veronica begins.
"So of the three parties involved: myself, a fifteen year old girl pulling a childish prank with the intent to be a bitch. Dick, who willfully drugged a drink with the intent to rape me, And Beaver who actually assaulted you. Of those three people, I'm the one you hold responsible?"
Veronica's eyes narrow, but Madison is just getting started. "You're letting Dick off the hook when he was the one who drugged you."
"I never said I let Dick off the hook."
"You kind of did, when you let him move in with your boyfriend."
"That's between Logan, Dick, and me. It's none of your business."
"It's my business when I've been the scapegoat all this time."
"Madison," she says through clenched teeth. "I understand that this has come as a shock to you. Learning that your boyfriend intended to drug and have sex with you. And I can understand where the first instinct would be to become defensive over your culpability. BUT IT WASN'T YOUR BODY THAT WAS VIOLATED!"
She forcibly moves Madison – only enough to allow her to open her car door – but one of her skinny heels gets caught in a parking lot rut, and she falls down on her ass.
"Crap," Veronica says. "I didn't mean to do that."
She holds out a hand to help her up, but Madison shakes her head warily. "I'm fine. Just go, Veronica."
Not needing to be told twice, she slides into her car, slamming the door behind her. She watches Madison brushing herself off in the rearview as she pulls away from the parking lot.
Maybe it was time to put the past behind her. Madison had a point. She'd never intended for Veronica to be raped.
It's not like I don't have much more serious problems than a high school rivalry.
She recalls Madison's threat to bid on Logan at the auction.
I'll let go of the past on Monday. Give me one last bitter weekend.
Finally home from work, Mac decides to give it one more try to reach Veronica, dialing the Mars' residence this time. She hooks on her blue-tooth earpiece to free up her hands and slips out of her work clothes while she listens to the phone ring.
Five rings later, she's about to hang up when Veronica answers, sounding breathless.
"Veronica, it's Mac. Were you exercising or something?" She pulls on a pair of yoga pants and flips through her closet for a tee shirt.
Veronica chuckles. "No, just got home. Had to jog to the kitchen to catch the phone. How's it going?"
Okay, no perceptible chill in her voice.
"Great. I was afraid you were dodging my calls."
"Why? Did you try my cell?" Veronica asks.
"Only three times."
"Damn!" Veronica says. "Sorry 'bout that. I turned off my phone earlier to dodge somebody else's calls and forgot to turn it back on."
"Anybody I know?" Dressed, Mac stands in front of her bathroom mirror and pulls her short hair back into a low ponytail. The layers in the front immediately slip out of the hair tie, and she pushes them behind her ears.
"Who, Joe? No. He was my partner on the force. Oh look, three missed calls from my dad. Guess that explains why he let me wander into the belly of the beast."
"What beast? Do I know this beast?"
Veronica laughs. "Long story. So what's up?"
"I just wanted to apologize for not being able to make it to dinner last night." And speaking of dinner...Mac stares inside her mostly empty fridge, too worn out to cook anything complicated, too tired to go out for takeout.
"Don't sweat it. Wallace filled me in on your work situation."
"Yeah, it's been crazy busy at work lately. It's my own fault, I guess. I should have set boundaries a long time ago." She decides on pasta. Doesn't take too long, doesn't require too much effort.
"What's stopping you?"
Mac pauses to consider how to articulate it. "I guess it's fear that I'll have come back and sweep up messes if I don't handle everything right from the start. It is Dick we're talking about here." She pulls a stockpot from the overhead rack and places it under the faucet to fill.
"Ahh…" Veronica says in her best generic Eastern European shrink voice. "You're exhibiting classic control freak behavior."
Takes one to know one," Mac returns with a sardonic twist of the lips. "So hey. I still want to get together. How's tomorrow for you?"
"Tomorrow...?" Veronica begins.
"Wait. Never mind. Have that bachelor's auction thing at the Neptunalia tomorrow." She turns on a stove burner and sets the pot to boil, before reaching for some boxed pasta in the cabinet.
"Cynthia MacKenzie! Are you planning to bid on some lucky bachelor?"
"Yes. Under duress. Long story." A lot of duress. "You should come if you're not busy."
"I was planning to check it out for the sake of Wallace, but now I'm not so sure. Just got back from a little run in with my old friend, Madison Sinclair."
A rush of pure hatred flows over Mac, making her jaw clench. "I hate Madison."
"No, I don't mean mild disdain. I mean 'full-on-every-fiber-of-my-being' hate."
But Veronica wouldn't know about the bad blood between us.
Other than quick phone conversations and emails, Mac and Veronica haven't had much opportunity to talk the past couple years. They'd often arranged to hang out, but between Mac's job and Veronica's caseload, they'd always ended up cancelling.
Moving to a large cage, she checks on her boys. Mac has never been a conventional girl, so it's no surprise she has unconventional pets. Pixel, as usual, stands on his back feet grasping the wire bars and wiggling his whiskers at her. A medium-sized Dumbo rat with a white belly, pale French gray back, and giant round ears, he's the attention whore of the two. His brother, Widget, of a darker gray, is nowhere in sight, which means he's probably napping in his hammock.
"Tell me about it," Veronica says, in a soft voice.
Mac lets out a deep breath. "Well you may remember our little switched at birth situation." She lifts Pixel from the cage, bringing him to her chest, where he immediately crawls up to nestle in his favorite place between her neck and shoulder, tickling her skin with his whiskers.
"Rings a bell."
"Well it all came out a couple years ago, and I had the opportunity to bond with my biological mom. We started having regular Sunday mother/daughter dates." She sighs. "Veronica, she just got me. We were so close."
"That's wonderful, but I sense a 'but' coming."
"Yeah. But...about a year and a half ago, she had a stroke." Mac's belly knots in in pain at the memory. She can still see Ellen Sinclair, so small and fragile in her hospital bed.
"Oh my God, Mac. I am so sorry."
"She spent the last two weeks of her life in the hospital, and Madison had me barred from seeing her."
"And you had no legal rights?"
"Exactly. Bio-dad was in Dubai on business and didn't understand the seriousness of the situation. He didn't even come back, which left Madison in charge. She was so jealous of me - of our relationship - that she wouldn't let me see my mother. I begged her, Veronica. I pleaded."
Even now, Mac's eyes flood with tears remembering that feeling of helplessness and how heartless Madison had been. "Luckily, Lauren snuck me in the day before she died. I was able to see her that one last time. But even then, Madison showed up and pitched a fit."
"That bitch!" Veronica says.
"Yeah." Mac angrily swipes away the tears, remembering Madison's rant: My mother is dying. I'm done sharing. "So what happened when you ran into her?"
"It was the oddest thing ever. She chased me down and actually tried to apologize."
"So I tried to be an adult. I accepted her apology and tried to escape, but she had to go and bring up Logan."
Mac gives a loud exaggerated gasp. "She said the forbidden L word?"
"Ha. Ha." Veronica says dryly. "She couldn't let it be. She invited me to the bachelor auction and 'kindly' tried to warn me that the competition would be stiff for Logan."
"I suppose that's when you handed her her ass?"
"Give me a little more credit than that. I didn't hand her her ass until she blamed me for Meg's death."
"Mac, I saw red. I kind of lost it. Got loud. Blamed her for my rape and my break up with Logan. Told her how much I hated her."
"Wish I could've been there. How'd she respond?" Mac checks the pot on the stove, but it's not yet boiling.
"Well she gave up on her idea of trying to be nice. She came right back at me. Said that I was a horrible girlfriend who never deserved Logan, and that bidding on him at the auction was the only way I'd ever get him to come near me again. Then she publicly announced she'd be bidding on him, just to spite me since I could never afford to outbid her."
"Thing is? I don't think she even wants to go out with Logan. Seemed she regretted it as soon as she said it. I even felt like her apology was sincere. At least at first."
"It may have been sincere. She's been doing this 'making amends' thing for a few months now. I haven't seen her, but I've talked to other people."
"I wonder why?"
"I've heard rumors. A few weeks after the death of her - our - mom, Madison got in a car accident. Remember Jessica Fuller? School board president?"
"Yeah, Sabrina Fuller's mom. She had a pervy husband. And another kid. Edwin. Or Edmund or something. Really creepy. I babysat him once."
"Right. That's her. Anyway, Madison ran a red light and t-boned her car. She was dead before the ambulance came."
Veronica gasps. "That's horrible!"
"That's just the beginning. People say that Madison was trashed at the time of the accident, but nobody will ever know for sure. She wandered away from the crash-site on foot and disappeared until the next day when she showed up claiming to have a head injury. She ended up getting away with killing that poor woman."
The water is now boiling, so Mac adds a single portion of dried rigatoni.
"You think she was faking it?"
"Definitely. I guess the guilt got to be too much, though. They say she hit rock bottom. Started doing a lot of drugs and hanging out in dive bars on the seedy side of town. Trading sex for drugs."
Well that explains a few things. Like why she reacted so strongly to the comment I made about being on her knees.
"Probably. Anyway, maybe a year ago, she was suddenly back on the scene. Throwing herself into charity work and apologizing to anybody that'll listen." While the pasta boils, she moves to the front door, retrieving a handful of envelopes from the mail slot.
"And she never apologized to you?"
"She may have wanted to, but I take off every time I see her coming. I don't want her apology. It's much too late for that."
"I can't blame you."
Mac sighs, stroking Pixel's back. "Listen to me. When did I start spreading rumors?"
"No judgment here, Gossip Girl. I sunk to new lows and argued over a boy today. We should have our own show on the CW with all this drama."
Mac chuckles. "So how are you going to deal with her and the Logan thing?"
"I don't have to deal with her."
"It doesn't bother you? She's only doing it to hurt you." Mac idly flips through the mail...credit card offer...electric bill...a Neptune California postcard. She flips it over, but all it says is 'You should begin searching for a new job immediately' in plain block letters. No return address.
"She's only hurting herself," Veronica continues. "She publically committed to bid fifteen thousand on a guy she clearly doesn't want to go on a date with. Plus, I may have lifted up my shirt an inch or two to scratch at my side."
"Okay…? You flashed Madison?"
Why would anybody tell me to search for a new job?
She's about to mention the postcard, but Veronica's next words makes her forget all about it.
"And Logan's signature may have been stamped on my hipbone. Probably the most immature thing I've done in my life."
"WHAT?! How exactly did Logan's signature end up on your hipbone?"
"Um...he kind of stamped it there. And a few other places. You know how he likes to fiddle with things."
"Veronica Mars! You've been back one day! How did this happen?"
"Well, nobody thought to mention to me that my ex-boyfriend was the new mayor. I walked into his office and was kind of blindsided."
"Ahhh...Beast. Belly. Now it all makes sense. And, for the record, you're the one who forbid us all from speaking the 'L' word."
"That was different!" Veronica protests, and then lowers her voice. "I imagined him in a bad place. Drinking a lot. And I didn't want to know, because I didn't want to feel responsible, and I didn't want to feel obligated to come back and try to fix him. I needed to live my own life."
"And I didn't want to know if he was married...because..."
"Because it would break your heart?" Mac guessed.
Veronica made a noise that was probably supposed to sound dismissive, but Mac knew better.
"So you mean to tell me you and Logan said hello and five minutes later you were humping like bunnies on his desk?"
"Switch the order."
"We humped like bunnies and then we said hello."
Mac laughs. "Of course you did. So one day back and you two are already back together?"
Back in the kitchen, she stirs the pasta in the pot and tests for doneness. A little longer.
"NO! We're not back together. We're just...complicated."
"Think about it, Veronica. Six years apart and you fall right back into each other at your first meeting? Maybe it's time to face it, Veronica. He's the one."
"Fine. Next subject? You're going to allow Madison to go on a date with Logan?"
"I have no choice. I can't take fifteen thousand away from charity."
"I'm sure Logan would reimburse you if you outbid her."
"I won't give her the satisfaction, and it would be cruel to give him any false hope. I have no room in my life for a relationship right now."
"You've been saying that for months, Veronica. You can't close off your heart forever."
"And when was your last date, Miss MacKenzie? Huh?"
"Sometimes I don't like you very much," Mac says with a laugh.
They talk for a few more minutes, finalizing plans to meet up tomorrow at the bachelor's auction, before getting off the phone.
Sometimes Madison still has to pinch herself to believe this is real. He lies next to her in bed, looking at her with those beautiful eyes and she can almost believe she's the person he thinks she is. More than anything, she wants to be worthy of the trust and faith he gives her so readily.
It hasn't always like this between them. To say she'd resented his interference in the beginning is putting it mildly.
She'd almost gotten a restraining order on him the first few times he'd dragged her out of a dive bar kicking and screaming. So what if she had a fucking death wish? What was it to him anyway? How dare he presume he could fix her?
The first time, she's afraid. Scratches and claws at him. He dumps her unceremoniously in her own back seat, and digs through her purse for her license and her phone. Pocketing her stash. She screams and insults him the entire ride. Threatens to press charges.
"For what? Interrupting your little drug buy?" he asks. "That shit is poison. Three people have died – one of them a friend of mine."
"So? That's not my problem."
"So, I'm not going to let that happen to anybody else. Even a bitch like you."
He doesn't try to come inside her house, instead calling a cab and waiting for it at the end of her driveway. He takes her keys with him, but she finds them between her front door and the screen the next morning.
The second time is a repeat. Less scratching. More verbal abuse.
The third time she's on her knees by the dumpster about to blow some guy – Artie, or something that begins with an 'A'. She's done it before, but he's nothing to her. It's not like she would date him or anything, but there's a tenderness to the way he holds her head and tenderness is something that's been missing in her life. She takes it where she can get it. As she's reaching for his zipper, she's finds herself being hauled away.
She's too high to catch what he says to Artie, but she's being dragged to her car yet again. She slaps him in the face when he releases her arm, and he clenches his jaw and pushes her in the backseat. This time, he comes inside her house, searches out her stash in the medicine cabinet, and flushes it while she hits and shoves at him.
The fourth and fifth times, she submits silently and sullenly while he searches her purse and her medicine cabinet. She thinks the local bartenders are spying for him.
The sixth and seventh times she's on harder stuff, and barely remembers making it home, but while she's out of it, he discovers her most secret hiding places – inside the cardboard tubes of the backup toilet paper in the linen closet, and the bottom of the cereal box under the wax bag. Flushes it all.
The eighth time, she's back to screaming insults. She doesn't know how he managed to arrange it, but suddenly nobody will sell to her anymore. Not for cash. Not for sex. Not for threats.
The ninth time, she leans over the console and reaches for his zipper. He's only a man, after all, and men have needs. He pushes her away. Completely uninterested.
The tenth time, she strips naked while he's searching her home for drugs. Lies on the bed and calls out for him.
"This is what you want, right? You fucking pervert! Take a good look because you can never touch this."
He tosses a nearby blanket over her and goes back to his search.
Infuriated, she gets back up, presses her body against him. Tries to force him to touch her. Reaches between his legs and finds his dick completely limp.
She runs to the bathroom and locks herself in, crying in humiliation until long after he's left, taking the last of her hidden stash of Oxycontin with him.
She begins talking the eleventh time he drags her away from a bar. "Why are you doing this to me? You can't possibly understand what I'm going through."
"I caused somebody's death."
"I've been there."
She allows the silence to linger for a minute. "You ever see somebody trying to speak with a shard of metal through their throat?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Well, that's what I see when I close my eyes. Mrs. Fuller. She was trying to say something, but she could only make these disgusting bloody bubbles. And her eyes..." Madison shudders. "They were pleading with me, and I was so wasted and had no idea what to do. Then it was as if somebody hit the power switch. She just turned...off. Permanently."
"She died in front of you."
"Yeah. And it only stops hurting when I'm high."
After the usual sweep of her purse, her medicine cabinet, her old hiding spots, and her new ones, he sits down on the bed next to her. Strokes her hair while she confesses how she had run through the woods until she couldn't run anymore. Collapsing, and puking and then crawling and puking. Anything to put more distance between herself and the lifeless husk of Mrs. Fuller. How she'd taken shelter from the rain in a crevice between two boulders. How she'd laughed in hysteria over how her outdoorsy bio parents would be proud of her outdoor survival skills, and cried because her mom was dead and never coming back.
She falls asleep mid-sentence, and he's gone when she wakes in the morning.
The twelfth time he drags her out of a bar, she's faking. He calls her on it when he brings her home.
"If you wanted my company, you could have just called me."
"Why the hell would I want your company? I hate you."
"Okay." He shrugs and goes to leave. Not even a search tonight.
"Wait." She stops him. "I don't even know how to reach you."
"Would you like my phone number?"
She stares at her feet as she nods her head. "It just that...you're the only person who cares whether I live or die."
He sits next to her on her bed. "I think you might be one of the loneliest people I have ever met."
"What do you expect? My mom is...dead...and my sister has replaced me. My dad has always been distant. And my friends...were probably never really my friends at all."
"Do you honestly want people to like you?"
"Then it's simple. Be likeable."
"I AM likeable."
He grins at her for the first time since...maybe third grade? "No, you're an entitled pain-in-the-ass. But I think there's a good person buried somewhere under that bitchiness. You can practice being likeable on me, if you want."
She calls him much more often than she should. Sometimes he's too busy with his own life, but he usually comes otherwise. Although he occasionally sleeps next to her, he never once tries to make a move on her. She, of course, is hopelessly and madly in love with him. A small part of her realizes she's only replacing one type of drug for another.
"I feel so lost sometimes. Like things will never get any better."
"You need to make up for killing an innocent person and getting away with it."
"You think I should turn myself in?"
"No, that won't bring her back. You just need to generate some good karma. Make amends to the people you've wronged. Give back to the community or something."
She throws herself into charity work with a passion, and he's right, giving to others does ease the black weight on her chest. She feels better. She'll never be sweetness and light like Meg Manning - her inner thoughts still lean more towards bitchy - but she's a new and improved Madison.
Sometimes she sees him out on dates. It's a small town. It's bound to happen. She smiles bravely, and never lets him see her cry in the bathroom.
Months go by and one night he shows up at her door with a small gift box.
"What's this for?"
Inside, she finds a 3/4 inch brushed silver cuff bracelet. It's simple and elegant. When she holds it to the light, an engraving on the inside catches her eye: "I'm so proud of you."
"You're proud of me? For the charity work?"
"Of course, I'm proud of you for that, but this is because you've made it six months without getting fucked up."
"I have?" The bracelet is warmer against her skin than she expected. She wants to kiss him for it, but is too afraid of rejection.
"Yeah. So...I was wondering..." He rubs the back of his head nervously. "Would you like to go on a date some time?"
Six months later, and she's happier than she's ever been in her life. He's loving and attentive. Looks at her as if she's precious. And the sex is amazing - Dick had been a selfish lover and Don was all about technique. But he always provides what she needs - tender when she's feeling fragile, and rough when she wants it that way.
Sure, sometimes she worries he's caught up in something sketchy when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find him gone, but he's always back by the morning, and she completely trusts him.
He is surprisingly perfect for her, and that's why this is going to be so hard.
"I have to tell you something…" she begins. "...and you're not going to like it."
"I had a backslide today."
He's instantly alert. "You got high?"
"No. Nothing like that. I just had a little altercation."
"You want to talk about it?"
"I ran into Veronica Mars outside of Java the Hut."
He sighs. "How bad was it?"
"I had the best of intentions. I only wanted to apologize for the past and make amends. But Caitlin kept causing trouble."
She doesn't dare to tell him about Veronica's rape or of Dick's intentions to rape her.
"I hate that bitch, Caitlin," he says. "Things got out of hand?"
"You could say that. You might even say ugly."
"I'm not your keeper, Madi. Of course, you're going to have a bad day now and then. I'd prefer you not to have them with Veronica Mars, because she'll fuck up your life, but you don't have to report back to me."
"I know, but there's more." Madison takes a deep breath. "She pissed me off really bad, and I don't know what came over me, but I ended up publicly committing to bid fifteen thousand dollars for Logan Echolls in the bachelor auction."
"Oh hell!" He's up off the bed in a flash, starting to pace. "What were you thinking?"
"I wasn't thinking. I was in pure reactionary mode, and I wanted to hurt her. Logan has always been her weakness."
"He was your weakness once. You sure that has nothing to do with it?"
Madison jumps out of bed and steps in front of him, grabbing him by the arms. "You are my only weakness. I swear. I wanted to back out of it, but then Mrs. Caldwell showed up, and stupid Caitlin told her what I said."
"And now you can't back out without losing your standing."
"Exactly. Please don't be mad at me."
He exhales and runs a hand over his face. "I'm not mad at you. Just worried."
"Maybe we could just go public. As a couple." Madison mentions, trying not to look too hopeful. "Then everyone will know that I'm not after Logan."
He rubs the back of his neck and looks at her guiltily.
Madison looks away quickly. "Oh...you don't want to?"
"You know why this is a really bad time for that."
She sighs. It hurts, but she has nobody to blame but herself. "I understand."
He pulls her into his arms. "I'm only stalling. No matter what happens, I pick you. I love you."
Her stomach bottoms out. "You love me?"
He flashes a crooked grin. "Yeah. You haven't figured that out by now?"
"I love you too!" She says and peppers his face with kisses. Nobody has ever made her this happy in her life.
He guides her back to bed, covering her body with his own, and whispering that he loves her while kissing her all over.
She believes him. She really does, but she can't help the sick feeling in her gut that this charity date with Logan is going to ruin everything.
Several of Veronica's voicemails are from her father warning her to call him before going to see the mayor. She deletes Joe's messages without listening. There's a message from Rick saying he'd found the laminating machine and it still works. He'll drop off a shiny new Hearst badge in the morning. She's listening to Mac's first message when the doorbell rings.
A teenage boy stands on the doorstep. Barely old enough to drive, dark curly hair and thick glasses.
"You Veronica Mars?"
"Yes…?" she answers warily.
He shoves a gift bag at her. Glossy black with the 'Sharper Image' logo in white. "Mayor wanted me to give this to you."
"Tell the mayor that I can't accept any gifts from him."
"He told you would say that, and to leave it on the doorstep if you did."
"Of course he did." She sighs, accepting the bag. "How do you know the mayor?"
"Neighbor." The boy wiggles his fingers in a wave and takes off.
Veronica carries the bag into the kitchen, setting it on the counter. She'll send the package back to him tomorrow.
She pours a glass of water and searches the cabinets for a sweet snack.
She thinks she can feel the gift watching her.
Sharper Image. So it's some kind of gadget.
Voice recording pen?
Power wine-bottle opener?
Nose hair trimmer?
Finally, she sighs and begins yanking layers of tissue paper from the bag.
At first glance, she thinks it's an alarm clock. After pulling the box out of the bag, she finds that it's a 'Sound Soother White Noise Machine'.
A yellow post-it note stuck to the glossy box, says simply, 'Sleep, Veronica' in Logan's large handwriting.
She shakes her head and can't help but smile.
Under the box, she finds a folded document. Another sticky note says: 'Your father emailed me this PDF'.
Her P.I. license extension. Logan's loopy signature at the bottom.
After unboxing it, she takes the contraption to her bedroom, placing it on her nightstand and plugging it in. According to the box, the machine has twenty relaxing sounds.
What's the difference between 'Surf', 'Oceanside' and 'Tide'?
She tests out all three and finds that 'Surf' reminds her most of the machine Logan used at the Neptune Grand.
She's not sure how to process what she'd learned from Caitlin and Madison earlier. She's definitely annoyed that he'd never mentioned screwing around with Madison before her. She hates being ambushed like that.
She remembers a pair of brown-eyed teenage brothers she'd interviewed several years ago after the death of their father, both bearing the burns and scars of the chronically abused. Convinced of their innocence, and perhaps subconsciously wanting to better understand her ex-boyfriend, she'd struck up a rapport with the boys.
"Volunteer nothing," Tommy, the younger brother had told her. "No matter what choice you make, no matter what the circumstances are, you're always in the wrong."
"There's no such thing as a statute of limitations." the older brother, Adam, added. "Doesn't matter when you did it, you'll still be punished. Never hand over ammunition that can be used against you later."
She'd cancelled plans with her boyfriend that night, staying home instead with a bottle of wine and old photo albums. Finally grasping the driving force behind Logan's annoying habit of constantly withholding information.
Her cell is in her hand before she realizes, and she's dialing by memory.
He answers on the third ring. "Hello?"
"You haven't changed your number in all of these years?"
"You haven't deleted my number in all of these years?"
"I did, but somehow I still remembered it."
"You got my gift?"
"Yeah, it came a few minutes ago."
"Thought it might help. You always said you slept best at my place because of my white noise machine."
I lied, you big dummy. It was you. Your warmth. The sound of your breathing.
My human shield against things that go bump in the night.
Then again, maybe he's more devious than she's giving him credit for, forcing her to remember the good times.
"Thank you, Logan. It was very thoughtful."
"You're welcome," his voice is soft. "Figured you couldn't dream about me if you weren't sleeping."
She chuckles, and closes her eyes. Listens to the silence for a minute - all of the things he's not saying, but she knows he's thinking.
"Well...I'm going to hang up now. Thanks again."
She hangs up and powers on the machine to 'Surf' mode. Lies back on the plump pillow and closes her eyes.
I still love you, too.
A/N: I'm sorry. I like to start with the character growth I want to see and then work backwards to explain how it came about. I know many people want to see Madison strictly for the purpose of being put in her place. But it's been done a thousand times in a thousand different ways. I wanted to do something different. People grow and change, including Madison. I tried to get into her head and imagine how she would really respond to Veronica. Also, I don't intend for this to be a 'pick on Dick' story, but it was necessary in this chapter.
A/N2: As always, so much love for Shanghai Lily for her amazing beta-ing and helping me work through the Veronica/Madison confrontation for days and days and days until was finally a semblance of what I was going for.
A/N3: This chapter was heavy on Veronica/Logan drama, but this will ultimately be a mystery heavy story.
A/N4: Now I will devote my entire attention to Sometimes. Promise.