Lila (lila82) wrote in veronicamarsfic,

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Fic: Figured You Out (Lamb/Veronica) R

Title: "Figured You Out"
Author: Lila
Pairing/Character: Lamb/Veronica
Word Count: 7,175
Rating: R
Summary: "I know who you are, and it wasn't that hard, just to figure you out."
Spoiler: "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner"

Sequel to Caught Out There

Disclaimer: Will's mine, but if you ever feel the desire to write about him, let me know and he can be yours too.

Author's Note: Sequel to "Caught Out There," but from Lamb's perspective this time. You don't have to read the former to understand the latter, but I do reference events from it several times and it will be easier for continuity purposes if you read the original first. It goes slightly AU post-"Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang" because VD are over, but otherwise pretty much stays within the VM canon. It has a very different tone than "Caught Out There," but I think it still works as a companion piece. Please don't hate me for using Nickelback in this fic, but for whatever reason I really like this song and it inspired me (a lot) to finish this story, that and too many episodes of "Instant Star." My dorkiness is really coming out so I'll stop now, except to say that I hope you enjoy.

~ * ~

"I love your pants around your knees."

It's not a relationship, but you're pretty sure you have Veronica Mars all figured out. You don't like her. You're almost positive you don't care about her. You definitely don't love her. But that doesn't explain how the eight odd weeks you've been fucking her on every inanimate object you can find might be the longest relationship of your life. She doesn't like you either, you're almost positive she doesn't care about you, and she definitely doesn't love you. But that doesn't stop her from seeking you out every time her life goes to shit and tearing her clothes off while you stand there stunned and throwing herself at you like she needs you to breathe…or something like that.

It's not like you've never had a girlfriend before. You dated Megan Sullivan for ten days when you were six and kissed her under your mother's oak tree until she decided you had cooties and Billy Mahoney didn't, and that was the end of what could have been a beautiful relationship. Two decades later, when you slammed Billy's face into the hood of your cruiser and locked him up tight, you felt a smug satisfaction as you stroked his wife's bruised cheeks and she cried into your shirt. You dated girls in college, more when you became a deputy, the most when you landed sheriff and they all looked at you with stars in their eyes and prestige on their minds. You never had trouble losing any of them, cutting them off at the knees and ending it before things got messy and complicated and started to hurt. You never had trouble ending anything until you slammed Veronica Mars up against the wall of her father's house and she looked deep into your eyes and fell into you like she was drowning.

You'd thought it would end there. You'd said you were sorry, paid your debt. You got off, she got off, you'd go your separate ways and pretend it never happened. Until you saw her at Echolls' party, looking lonely and lost and searching for something, and she'd stuck her wrists out, breath catching when you locked the cuffs around them, and you'd pressed yourself up tight against her and thrown her in the back of your cruiser without a single protest. You'd watched her in the mirror the entire way to the station, eyes locked, still looking lost and confused, but heated and ready for you. When she still didn't say anything as you'd led her through the darkened station and slid her across the interrogation room table, you knew there was something else going on. You'd watched her closely, fingers deftly working the buttons on her jeans, and she wrapped her hand around the back of your neck and pulled your mouth down to hers. "I need this," she'd whispered against your lips, tongue slipping inside, and your fingers had slipped for a moment, fumbling with her zipper, unsure for the first time in years. She was eighteen, practically a kid, not supposed to be making the first move. But she'd been looking at you all sure of herself, fingers wrapping around yours and working on the zipper, eyes telling you it would okay, and you'd chosen to believe her because you'd never seen her wrong about anything in her entire life and her hands on your belt buckle were feeling too good and you hadn't felt like fighting anymore, especially not her, not when she was spread out half-naked in your territory and open and eager for *you.* You'd pushed her back against the table and kissed her hard and rough the way she wanted it. "Let's get down to business," you'd said as her jeans slid easily down her hips and your night got a whole lot better.

Later you'd taken her home and watched her walked stiffly to the apartment where Keith was waiting and would have kicked your ass had he known the truth. She turned when she reached the doorway and you could barely make out her face in the moonlight, but you'd still seen the escape in her eyes, and knew you'd done your part. You'd thought it was over that time, and the time after that, and then you'd realized it was never going to be over until her life righted itself and she didn't need you to make her personal hell go away. Not that you were complaining. Veronica was an easy lay and fucking fuck up Keith Mars' fuck up of a daughter was an added bonus to stealing the election from under him. You knew you should turn her loose and end things. If you were a better guy, you would have. You'd have realized your inability to turn her down was just leading to more fucked up behavior on her part and that in ten years when she turned into Duncan Kane's bleached, tanned, coked out mistress, you might as well take the fall. But you can't seem to turn stop yourself.

In your entire life you can't think of a single thing you've done right. You let Will live in a house where his father beat the crap out of him on a daily basis and his mother refused to accept who he really was. You arrested and tried the wrong man for Lilly Kane's murder. It took you two years to figure out who raped Veronica Mars and by then you realized she'd already done the heavy lifting herself. Everything you have accomplished is because of her. She outed the fake ID ring. She nailed Aaron Echolls, and not in the good way. She tipped you off to the bus crash. Everything she touches turns to gold, and everything you touch turns to shit, and you wouldn't have even been able to save your brother if she hadn't tracked him down to that seedy motel and stopped him before he turned into a "Queer as Folk" wannabe. When she looks at you she sees right inside you, how you're going to think and how you're going to act and what you're going to do, so when she stares up at you, eyes heavy, wanting you to take the pain away, you can't say no because you know she'll win anyway. It's not like you have a choice. If you know anything, it's that Veronica Mars knows you better than you know yourself.

"I like the way you still say please while you're looking up at me."

It's Saturday and almost midnight and your girlfriend is perched on the bar stool next to you. She's tall and curvy and her hair is dark and she looks nothing like the jailbait you're constantly chasing. You've been dating for nearly three months and she says you're going steady and cheesy stuff like that and you've neglected to mention that you're screwing your former mentor's daughter on the side. Your business with Veronica is your business and private and personal and confusing as hell and you're not in the mood to get into it with her or anyone else. It's not like you have a problem keeping them separate. Your relationship with Veronica involves late nights and back alleys and has nothing to do with the dinners and movies and normal stuff you shower on her. She laughs at your jokes and tells you that you're funny and brilliant and caresses the fourth finger on your left hand and you see the familiar stars in her eyes. She's kind and simple and when she looks at you she can't tell what you're thinking before you do. Will likes her, says she's a good influence on you, says you're more relaxed than he's seen you in years, and you avoid telling him that forbidden sex with a girl who hates you but strangely needs you is a helluva lot hotter than disco bowling with loyal, devoted girlfriend, and that you're only relaxed when you have Veronica Mar naked on the interrogation room table or in the back of your car and you're giving her something she can't take from you first, something she needs from you because she can take care of everything else herself.

You never intended for them to meet, but like everything else involving Veronica Mars, the situation manages to slip out of control. She storms into the bar, flashes one of those fake Ids at the bouncer, and heads straight for you. She's wearing a boring skirt and cardigan, but those boots you remember clasped around your hips are wrapped around her calves, and she looks so hot and ready to go that you forget Carla is sitting six inches away from you and going to wonder why there's an overgrown high schooler charging towards you with her eyes all on fire. You can't take your eyes off her as she marches over and taps you on the shoulder, fingers digging into your muscles. "We need to talk."

For a moment you think your life is about to turn into a John Hughes movie and she's going to announce that she's pregnant or has VD or you're her long-lost brother or any other scenario that could ruin an already crappy night, but she's practically shaking with anger and you realize it's something entirely different. You don't have time for this. You *never* have time for this. But you know her, know what she's capable of, know how she knows you, and she'll have her way no matter what you say or try or do. Carla looks at you curiously as you shrug off Veronica's hand and wrap yours around her upper arm instead. "Outside," you say and you're annoyed because the two halves of your life you try to keep separate are melding together in ways you want to avoid. Veronica is furious with you and Carla's eyes are narrowing in competition and the last thing you need is an angry woman on either side.

"Don," Carla draws out thinly. "What's going on?"

You realize how close you are to Veronica, her back hauled up against you and one of your knees caught up between hers, and you can feel every ebb and flow of her breath against your chest. Your grip tightens around her arm and you push in front of you, putting space between you, even if you're still reacting like every inch of her is pressed up on you. "Nothing," you manage to say. "Just business. I'll be right back."

You know you should kiss her cheek or something, reassure her that it really is just business, be the guy Will claims you are with her, but you just force a smile and drag Veronica out to where your car is parked. She swings away from you angrily, taking in heaving breaths, and glares daggers at you in the feeble light. You lean back against the door, arms crossed, hips propped - it's beginning to be your normal stance when dealing with her. "You're kinda stepping on my game, Mars," you say. "Can I help you with something?" You look back towards the bar like she means nothing to you, like this means nothing to you, when you both know you wouldn't be able to step away even if Carla promised to make you sheriff for life.

It takes her a moment to compose herself and she keeps herself a good three feet in front of you, but close enough to see the anger in her eyes. "I just got a call from Logan," she spits out. "You arrested Duncan for rape? How could you?" She practically shouts the last part and you wish there was more space between you because few things scare you more than Veronica Mars losing control.

You scratch your head and watch those tightly balled fists closely. "Because he committed a crime, remember? I swore to serve and protect. He doesn't get off just because he has money."

Her head snaps up, eyes still blazing. "That never stopped you in the past."

You don't want to talk about it, that before she got caught under your skin you never would have thought twice about upholding the law unless it had some direct benefit for you. But she is under your skin, and she does make you think twice, and ever since she cornered you in her kitchen and made you redeem yourself for every rotten thing you ever did to her, you can't think the same way anymore because the only way you can think is the way she thinks. "Do you remember that day?" you ask and ignore the way she flinches at the mention. "You asked me to do one thing - one thing - and I didn't do it. Better late than never, right?"

She takes a hesitant step towards you and you can no longer read her eyes in the darkness. "I didn't want it to be this way. I found your brother, you solved my crime. End of story. Leave Duncan out of it."

"He raped you," you say and it comes out louder than you wanted. She flinches again, but keeps coming towards you.

"I'm asking you," she says and her voice is brittle and ruined over the sounds of the cars and music from the bar. "I'm asking you, for me, let him go. Let us move on."

You're glad you're leaning up against the car because the breath suddenly whooshes out of you. If she were anyone else, she would have made you swear on your relationship, make you say something nauseating about how you mean so much to her and you owe it to what you're building to let the past go. But she's not that girl, and you're not in a relationship, and you have a feeling it has nothing to do with you and every thing to do with reclaiming her life. Veronica Mars is asking you a favor. She's not mocking you. She's not laughing at you. She's not making your life a living hell. She's asking to be in your debt and there's no ulterior motive. How could you possibly say no to her?

"Okay," you agree and she takes another step closer, so you can see her in the light, all harsh planes and angles, her eyes still hidden in the shadows. If you were in a relationship, it would be time for the movie star kiss. You'd sweep her up against your chest and dip her back and kiss open mouthed and without tongue until the director yelled cut. But this isn't a movie, it's your life, and this isn't a relationship, so you feel her eyes on you as you pick up your extra radio and call in Sacks and tell him to release the Kane kid, citing a lack of evidence and being unable to make the charges stick.

She's waiting for you when you close the car door, arms crossed and still watching you. "Thank you," she says and for a moment you think she's going to reach up and kiss your cheek.

But it's not that kind of thing between you and while she looks relieved her shoulders are still tense and way too taunt and you do what you do best and push her back against the car door while she slips weightlessly between your thighs. You know you should go back inside. Your girlfriend is waiting for you. Your nice, normal girlfriend who thinks you're some kind of brilliant hero and would do anything for you is calmly sipping her Chardonnay and you're about to fuck Veronica Mars under the dim lights in a crowded parking lot. You know you should go back inside but you can't stop yourself from laying her out across your backseat and rucking up her skirt around her waist and wrapping her thighs around your hips and not caring if your windows steam or you get caught and make the front page of the papers tomorrow and ruin what's left of your reputation. "I'll make you forget," you whisper and you forget that you're practically fully clothed and can feel the heels of those boots digging into you and scratching the leather and you don't even care. With anyone else you would have bitched about the upholstery, but you grab her hips and shift her *just* right and it suddenly feels a whole lot better and she looks at you with those liquid eyes, all pent up need and escape, and you just buck your hips and get going.

You haven't had sex in a car since high school but as soon as she moans against your neck and her head falls back the way you love as she arches against you, you realize it's just like riding a bike.

You haven't had sex with your eyes open since that first time with her and you can't stop watching her, the way her back arches so deeply you think she's gonna break in half and her eyes roll back dreamy and unfocused and her breath gets heavy and she starts getting louder, and she may be eighteen and inexperienced but from the way she tightens around you, it stops mattering because you can't breathe and she's screaming and it's all because of you.

~ * ~
It's cramped and crowded in the backseat of your car and you can't help but hold her, not because you're in a relationship and like to cuddle, but because she has nowhere else to go. She rests her head on your chest, your heart beating beneath her ear, and she shakes in your arms as her breathing rights itself. You should get back to your girlfriend, tell her you're sorry your "business" took so long, apologize for being a bad boyfriend, take her shopping at Victoria's Secret on your dime to make up for it. But you're not a good boyfriend, and there's no place you'd rather be then laying in a pool of your own sweat with Veronica pressed sticky and satisfied against your chest. You still don't like her. She still annoys the living daylights out of you. But you can't seem to let her go even when you have to.

"How's Will?" she says and you swear her hand has snaked through your unbuttoned shirt and is moving in lazy circles across your chest.

It should feel too intimate, too personal but surprisingly doesn't bother you. "He's good," you say. "He likes it here, being near the beach."

She mumbles something under her breath about hot surfer bods and for a moment you think you feel jealous. "I'm glad," she says. "It's really amazing what you're doing for him, giving him a home," and you can't see her face but you know she's smiling at you like a puppy who just learned to fetch and you can feel yourself beaming at her praise, and she's beginning to sound too much like a girlfriend and your *thing* is beginning to feel too much like a relationship.

You push her off and open the car door, letting in light and fresh air and reality. She straightens her clothes and you adjust yours and you step out into the parking lot and the mess that's become your life. She stands in front of you, balancing her hand on your shoulder as she rezips a boot, and you need to get the hell away from her. Your hand slips down, ready to slap her ass and say "thanks for the ride" and other hurtful things that will end this thing for good and let her get on with her life and you get on with your life and actually make something of yourselves.

You forget that she knows you too well and her hand wraps around your wrist in mid-swing. "Don't even think about it," she says and digs her nails into your skin.

"The hell, Mars?" you jerk away and rub your wrist. "You trying to put me out of commission?"

She just cocks her head and watches you, eyes soft and sympathetic in ways they haven't been since you came to her begging for help with finding your brother. "You're not such a bad guy, you know?" she says and you have to look away.

You are a bad guy. A good guy wouldn't have cheated on his girlfriend in the backseat of a car while she sat a hundred yards away. A good guy wouldn't chase after a barely legal piece of tail because it feels good. A good guy would have solved her stupid case when she came to you two years ago, braver and stronger than you could ever hope to be. A good guy wouldn't have made her cry, would have never let it get this far. But you're not that guy, never have been. Not when your stepfather beat the shit out of your brother for being different and you didn't stop it. Not when Veronica came to you and said she'd been raped and you laughed in her face because you didn't want to accuse the wrong person in the pursuit of justice and end up ruined like her father. Not when you made Keiths's life a living hell for letting Neptune down and letting the department down and letting you down because all your life you wanted to be someone like Keith Mars and it was a like a never ending punch in the gut to realize your dreams couldn't come true because they never existed in the first place. Your life has only been shit from the start and you reacted in turn. You don't know how to be any other way.

You look at Veronica again, her white cardigan wrinkled and her hair hanging around her face, eyes long and black-streaked in the shadows, and it's like looking at her that morning all over again. Only this time you did it differently. You solved the crime, did right by her for the first time ever, fulfilled the one thing she needed from you. No one in your life has ever needed you the way she needs you. Half the time you think Keith only kept you around because he wanted to be good cop and needed someone to balance him out. Neptune doesn't need you, not with Keith lurking in the background, and it only got stuck with you by some trick of fate when Keith blew his world to hell, and you're only still keeping their brats safe because of another trick of fate and negative campaigning. You have your job because of her father. Will is with you because she found him. You won the election because she begged you to look into what really happened and you uncovered dirt on Keith. In another twist of fate that could only happen to you, you realize Veronica Mars is the only good thing in your entire life - and it's why you can't let her go.

You need to get the hell away from her before you say something or she says something and this stops being what it is and turns into something more. You still feel her eyes on you as you take off like Carla's at your heels with a pitch fork and castration shears, and you don't look back as your mind whirs with the million excuses you'll need about where you've been and what took you so long. You tell yourself this is the last time you're going to do this. You know it won't be.

"I love the good times that you wreck."

Will is the first one to figure it out. He comes home late from school one night, something bright and stretchy clutched in his hand, and drops a pair of pink cotton panties onto the kitchen table. He glares at you as he turns on the tap, grabs the Palmolive from the sink, watches you like he expects you to start sniffing them any minute. You calmly put down your beer, wait for him to turn the water off. "Changing teams, bro?" you ask. "Got something you need to tell me about?"

He props his hips against the sink and it's like staring at a younger, blonder version of yourself, and you remember another night when you stood in Veronica Mars' kitchen, hips propped against her counter, waiting for the truth to spill out messy and unforgivable. "You know where I found them?" he asks and you groan because you don't want to have this conversation. You know where he got them, wrapped around the gearshift in the used Explorer you drive between shifts, where Veronica left them when Keith came home early from chasing a skip and she had ten seconds before he found out and busted both your asses.

You shrug your shoulders, sip your beer. "I told you not to drive my car."

His hands tighten at his sides and he looks like he might punch you. "It's not right, Don. She's my age -"

"She's eighteen, legal," you interrupt and his eyes narrow with annoyance. "We're both consenting adults." Or at least one of you is, but you refuse to admit that person might not be yourself.

"Do you even hear yourself?" he asks. "You're a fucking cop, Don. The county sheriff and you're fucking a high schooler!"

You're getting tired of this conversation, tired of Will echoing your thoughts out loud, reminding you that this *thing* with Veronica Mars is probably the biggest mistake of your life, and the only one you can't walk away from. She found your brother and you should have paid her and moved on. Instead you smoked out her rapist, you fucked her against her kitchen wall and cars and desks so hard she forgot who she was and how much you hurt her, and you can't seem to let her go. You rub a tired hand over your eyes and push the beer away. Will's watching you closely, arms crossed over his chest, and his eyes are all warm the way hers were under the harsh parking lot lights and you have to look away. "It's complicated," you say to your beer and know you sound like a high schooler with your first crush, and the high schooler in the room curses under his breath, but pushes back the opposite chair and joins you at the table.

"Explain it to me," he says and his voice is kinder and more comforting this time. "Help me understand how you're supposed to uphold the law and all that other hypocritical crap you spew when you're practically committing a felony yourself."

"I -" you start, but can't seem to find the words to explain why you can't tear yourself away from a girl practically half your age, a girl you don't even like, but seems to get you better than you get yourself.

An amused smile creeps across his face. "Do you love her or something?" The grin widens. "Does Donny Lamb have a crush?"

You curl your fingers around the neck of your beer to keep from knocking that stupid smirk off his face. "It's not like that," you say, but his expression says he's not buying it. "She just gets me, you know? It's weird. I don't like her and I sure as hell don't love her, but she just *gets* me." You know, from the way Will's eyes widen slightly, that you must be smiling or something, and you feel better getting the words out, even if saying it out loud makes it all the more real. Will's still watching you and this time his eyes are all worried and soft, and you force away whatever it is your face is saying and put up the mask again. Still watching you, he digs into his pocket and pulls out his wallet, slips his fingers inside and pushes a bill across the table. You recognize it immediately and run your fingers over the words, what you're convinced is what keeps her under your skin, Veronica Mars is Smarter than Me. "Where did you get this?" you growl and he looks guilty for a moment, but meets your eyes bravely.

It's his turn to shrug. "I needed some extra cash and found it in your sock drawer. I - look, I'm not going to say anything, okay? I just like Veronica, and I don't want to see her get hurt."

You want to laugh, but the most you can muster is an annoyed frown. "Way to be loyal. I'm your brother. Aren't you supposed to be worrying about me, getting my heart broken and weeping into my beer over your teen heroine?" You wish your voice didn't sound as bitter as it did.

He rolls his eyes, pushes his hand across the table and rests it on yours. It's the most any member of your family has tried to comfort you since you were eight-years-old and your mom married Wayne and forgot you existed. You're surprised at how good it feels. "She's not on D'Amato's shit list. I need that, you know, to work my game?" His smile falls a little and you realize you're still frowning. "I'm on your side, Don, but I'm worried about you. If Carla finds out - "

"There's nothing to find out," you interject. "It's just sex, okay? Really good sex." This time, you wish your voice sounded more convincing, and he continues to look concerned.

"Okay, whatever you say. Just be careful. I mean it, I don't want you getting hurt, either of you." He looks at you sadly, squeezes your fingers tightly. "I'm gonna go do some homework," he says and disappears into the next room.

You slide the hundred dollar bill between your fingers, glare moodily at your beer. It wasn't supposed to be this way. You had a bargain. She came to you to get away and you never said no and did exactly what she asked of you because you couldn't or wouldn't just plain old didn't in the past. You never counted on jealousy. You never counted on getting involved. You never counted on her trusting in you. You stare at the bill, crumple it between your fingers. People named Mars only cause you pain. You should have never thought you could be anything but mean and petty. You should have never let her back into your life.

"You're like my favorite damn disease."

It's 10:00 pm and you've just popped open your second beer when Veronica Mars shows up at your house. It's not supposed to be this way. You're not a couple, you're not together, you don't do dates or coffee or even appointments for sex. You see her when you see her and nothing in that pact means her showing up at your house. You haven't done the dishes yet and your dry cleaning is hanging on the kitchen chairs and there's a pile of dirty laundry at the bottom of your bed and you don't want her seeing any of that because then she'll comment about how messy you are and you'll get embarrassed and blush and it will start to feel too much like a relationship. And the last thing you need is losing your head to Veronica Mars.

She waits for you to say something, wearing one of her endless collection of blazers and holding a file in her hands. You remember when you showed up at her house with something special, the pain in her eyes when she unfolded the police report and a saw Duncan Kane's crime laid out in cold black and white. Will's been out with a friend since school let out. You hope she doesn't have the same kind of present for you. You wonder why she's here to begin with. You suck in a breath, cross your arms forcefully over your chest. She looks at you curiously, crosses her own arms, puts on her best warrior expression.

"It's past your bedtime, Mars. Can I help you with something?"

She holds out the file. "It's only ten, still time for beauty sleep. Is Will around? He's covering the student council election for the "Navigator" and I promised him last year's notes." She tries to peer over your shoulder and fails.

You close the door, lean back against it. "He's working on some project with Tony Peretti." She laughs and you don't understand why. "What's so funny?"

Her laughter slows into a warm smile. "If he's out with Tony Peretti he may be doing work, but it's got nothing to do with school."

You can't help but grimace, because thinking about your brother's sex life kind of grosses you out, but then you remember his fingers wrapped up in Veronica's panties and that you kind of owe him, and shrug. "It's his business," you say and she looks at you all kinds of incredulously and you just glare at her and bite out, "What?"

"Nothing," she says and throws up her hands, the file tucked safely under one arm. "I just didn't figure you for the type to be okay with your brother cruising the captain of the football team."

"Really?" you say. Who knew Will had that much game? "Good for him." She says nothing and just watches you, her expression impossible to read in the dim light. You need to get rid of her, get her away from you before you do something stupid and invite her into your house and turn this *thing* into way more then it ever should be. Time to end this now. You roughly pull the file from underneath her arm. "I'll see he gets this," you say and her expression falls, like you just stole her favorite toy. You're surprised. Nothing traumatic has happened today, yet her eyes slip down the length of you, something hot and heavy burning in them. She won't ask to come inside, she won't beg, you know that much. But that doesn't stop her eyes from locking with yours and burning thick and blue and needy in her face, and you swallow hard as your hand locks around the doorknob. You're about to do the stupidest thing you've ever done in your life. "You can wait, though," you suggest. "If you want." And she smiles again, a deep, deliberate smile and pushes past you and into your house.

~ * ~
You find the pink blazer hanging off the edge of your couch, her jeans cling to your dry cleaning, the white lace bra hangs off your doorknob. When you finally see her she's lying on your bed wearing nothing but white cotton panties and a smile. It's so cliché you want to laugh, but so much right out of your deepest fantasies that you can't do anything but watch her and ignore the part where she's in your house and in your bed and throwing back your comforter like she owns the place and it's turning into a relationship. Your breath catches in your throat and she gestures to you with one finger and in the back of your mind you think she should be saying things like "No one puts Lamb in the corner" because it's the kind of night where all your dreams might come true.

You're wondering if she's on drugs as she props herself on her arms, raises her head so she can look at you, and stares you down with blazing blue eyes. "Take off your shirt," she says and her voice is rough and a little strangled and even she looks slightly shocked at her own daring. You slip off your t-shirt and it pools next to your bare feet. You expect her do something ridiculous like widen her eyes to size of saucers or lick her lips suggestively or whatever you read in those teen magazines Inga's granddaughter leaves behind, but she's not that kind of girl, and it's not that kind of relationship, and instead her eyes darken in appreciation and lock on your bare chest. "Take off your jeans," she says and her voice is husky, and you watch her closely as you snap the button and slide them down your legs, her eyes following all the way. It's a little unnerving, her eyes on you, body shifting with each article of clothing you remove. You shouldn't be nervous. It's not like you haven't taken your clothes off in front of a girl before. But you've never taken them in front of *her.* You've fucked her more times than you can count, and you've never seen each other naked. And you realize, her fingers clutching your Target sheets as you slide off your boxers, that you've never fucked her in a bed either. You've had her against the wall of her father's kitchen, the back of your patrol car, and your favorite - laid out like a naughty schoolgirl across the cold steel of the interrogation room table - but never in a bed. Never on her back and looking up at you as you move inside her and make her moan and her fingers dig into your shoulders like she'll never let go.

You know it's all false bravado, another move in the game she plays with herself, but you don't let her know. She needs this, to be in control with you because she's never been before, and you let her. "What do you want me to do?" you ask and she finally falls into a cliché and bites her lip because she's never had to do this with the Kane kid and has no idea how it's done. Still, it's her show to call. "Should I come over?" you ask and she nods and some of the confidence creeps back into her eyes. You're standing over her, watching as her eyes rake you from head to toe, and you know she's done this before, but she's looking at you a little like Jessica Simpson on her wedding night. You decide it it's time to make things happen and you slide up next to her, pushing her onto her back as you bend your head and kiss her.

It's different than it's ever been before, gentle and almost sweet, and you're tender in ways you've never been in your life. When you slide her panties down her legs and press her back into the mattress, holding yourself over her with rigid muscles, she looks you right in the eye and there's nothing unfocused about them. She's looking right at you, seeing you, and there's nothing about it that reeks of pain or forgetting or escape. You look into her eyes, sweat dripping down your cheeks and arms trembling slightly with concentration, and remember her words, "You're not such a bad guy, you know?" and realize everything has changed. She still needs you, but not because she wants to run away. She needs you just because she needs *you.* No one in your life has ever needed you the way she needs you. No one in your life has ever seen you the way she sees you. Never in your life have you needed someone the way you need her.

This time when you slide inside her you it's nothing like it's ever been in the past and you know with exact certainty, as she looks right in your eyes and never lets go, it's most definitely not the last time.

"I like the way you like me best while you put me to the test."

She's not in a relationship with the Kane kid, but she still manages to end up stranded with him in someone else's house while his half-dead girlfriend's father stands over them with a baseball bat. He's screaming at her, calling her a liar and a whore, and you're not in a relationship with her either, but you still want to smash Manning's face in for messing with someone who's yours. Instead, you lock the cuffs around her wrists and ignore the pleading in her eyes, catching every word she says, "There's a small room inside the closet. They had her locked in. Move the clothes." Kane looks at you warily, worried you might force him to spend another night in lock up, but you ignore him and put them in your cruiser, drop them off safe and sound before you follow her tip. Sure enough, you shove aside the clothes and there's a little room behind the wall, composition books stacked neatly before it. Score one for Veronica Mars. You glare daggers at Manning and follow Veronica's lead and settle down for the night in your front seat, hoping they'll catch your drift and stop terrorizing their kids.

She shows up an hour later and slips into the passenger seat and doesn't say a word about knowing something you didn't. She watches the house with angry eyes, fingers clenched around the door handle.

You concede a point. "You were right," you say and she only nods, eyes never leaving the kitchen window.

She finally looks away and her eyes are anything but gloating when they meet yours. "It was never a competition."

"How do you figure this stuff out?" you ask. "The Mannings are normal people -"

"They look like normal people," she corrects you. "Anyone can be anything on the outside," she says and looks deep into your eyes. "You have to work to see what's on the inside." She reaches over, kisses your cheek gently, and you're sure as hell not in a relationship but it's the most intimate thing anyone's ever done for you. "And it's what's on the inside that counts."

Like she can see right inside you, like she knows you're thinking about Wayne and Will and how this is all too familiar, her fingers lock around yours on the gearshift and she turns her eyes to the house, watching the Mannings move around their darkened kitchen. "You know you're not a bad guy?" she asks, and you're almost willing to admit she's right.

"Whatever you say, Mars," you respond and she turns to you and smiles, and you're almost willing to believe she's right.

~ * ~
Three hours later you're tired and angry and have nothing to nail the Mannings with and all you want is to take Veronica home and lose yourself in her for the rest of your life. Instead, you pack up for the night and drive her back to the station for a statement she insists on giving. It's dark and she knows the place too well to bother with a light on the way to the interrogation room. This time, she's the one to push you down on the table, fingers working the button on your fly, and as your mind drifts to anything and everything that's not a reminder of your past, you realize that it's still not a relationship but you're pretty damn sure Veronica Mars has you all figured out.

~ * ~
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