Lilly doesn't think it's a gamble. She knows if she plays her cards right it will all work out in the end...

Lilly was bored, and when Lilly got bored, she needed to be entertained. It had been some time since she first realized her boyfriend and her best friend were meant to be together. Ever since she'd witnessed the connection between them at Logan's birthday party, she'd imagined how she could manipulate them into a real relationship. 'Operation LoVe' became her new pet project, but before she could manage to get them together, she had to work on eliminating her brother's fascination with Veronica. Duncan was looking for a yellow cotton politician's trophy piece. For the most part Veronica played the part well, but Lilly knew that wasn't who Veronica was. Veronica was meant to be Logan's red satin sidekick, destined to take on the world, and to get this project going, she needed to dress the part.

"Vee, these are so not you," Lilly said as she tossed clothes from Veronica's closet into a garbage bag.

"Lilly, you keep this up and I'm gonna be walking around naked."

"Nonsense, your bra and panties are keepers." Lilly turned and smiled at her. "Why is that anyway? You hide your true self under all these pastels and prints," she added, throwing another pink top into the bag.

"Hey! I just bought that!" Veronica cried, reaching in and pulling the top back out. "Why are you doing this anyway?"

Lilly handed Veronica a pale yellow dress. "As your best friend, it is my job to keep you real. This stuff isn't you, Veronica. You are not pale yellow cotton. You are red satin!" She pulled the dress back from Veronica and threw it into the garbage bag with a sneer. "After we're done here, we're going shopping. You are badass, Veronica Mars. It's about time you showed everyone what you're made of."

It hadn't taken much of Lilly's encouragement for Veronica's true nature to show itself, which thwarted Duncan's advances. The black leather jacket and butch boots were a good start. Encouraging Veronica to quit pep squad and rejoin the soccer team helped too. Duncan wasn't interested in someone who would shine brighter than him. Lilly even went as far as getting Veronica to kiss her at a party during a game of Truth or Dare. Before long, Veronica had come into her own and Duncan's pining was replaced with annoyance that segued mostly into indifference.

It wasn't only Duncan's feelings for Veronica that Lilly needed to smother, but also Logan's for her. She needed their relationship to fizzle. She had started making plans that she would 'forget' to show up for. She suggested dates that she knew Logan had no interest in, making the time they shared less fun, bringing to light the connection that just wasn't there. They were all still friends, and the four of them still hung out as a group, but things were definitely making a shift and Lilly was pleased.

With the Donut out of the way, Lilly's plan moved on to phase two. The new, improved Veronica was getting Logan's attention. He was still acting as her protector, but now Lilly saw the two of them planning hijinks together. Yes, things were progressing nicely.

It was movie night and they were all piled up on the loveseat in the Kane family media room. Veronica was sandwiched in between Duncan and Logan so when Lilly brought in the popcorn and had no room to sit comfortably amongst them, she sat on Duncan's lap with her legs resting on Veronica's. With every calculated action, Lilly created well planned reactions.

"Lilly, get off!" Duncan shoved her, upsetting the bowl of popcorn onto Veronica's lap.

"Duncan, I just popped that!" she complained, getting up to clean the popcorn off the floor. Duncan stood up and moved to the chair just to the left of the loveseat. Lilly grinned. Step one.

Veronica worked at putting the popcorn back in the bowl while Logan chose to just eat it off her lap. Duncan just sat in his chair, watching them clean up the popcorn. Lilly saw Logan and Veronica's eyes meet, then Logan nodded and Veronica turned an attack on Duncan. Step two. Lilly curled up where she was cleaning up popcorn to watch as the two took turns pelting Duncan with popcorn kernels. Lilly noticed their connection growing stronger with every day. Logan and Veronica had a way of communicating with each other without actually talking.

"Seriously, you guys!" Duncan yelled, brushing the popcorn onto the floor.

Veronica giggled. "You're being a party pooper, Donut."

Out of nowhere, another popcorn kernel beamed Duncan in the forehead. In unison, Logan and Veronica pointed to each other.

"He did it"

"She did it."

Duncan groaned, leaning his head on the back of the chair. He reached for the remote and pushed play. "Just watch the movie," he said, turning his attention to the big screen.

Lilly scooted herself up onto the chair behind her to watch Logan and Veronica. They finished picking up the popcorn, then Veronica curled her legs up on the loveseat and leaned into his side, placing the bowl in his lap. Logan rested his arm across the back of the loveseat, eyes on the movie. Step three.

As the movie ended, Lilly noticed that Duncan had left at some point. She reached for the remote and glanced toward Logan and Veronica. Vee was sound asleep on Logan's shoulder and he was gazing down at her. As Lilly's movement caught his eye, Logan's focus turned toward Lilly and she was amused by the look of guilt on his face.

"Looks like you're sleeping there," she teased, turning away to turn on the table lamp before shutting off the movie.

"Lilly, what are you doing?" Logan's voice sounded peevish.

Guess my secret's coming out; Logan knows something's up. Lilly turned back to him,resting a hand on the arm of the loveseat as she leaned in and whispered, trying not to wake up Veronica.

"We're not forever, Lo. You and I aren't made for a happily ever after." Logan looked like he wanted to protest but she stopped him with a wave of her hand. "That's become pretty clear lately. The best thing about us is the sex." She smiled at him suggestively and he chuckled, shaking his head. "I think it's time that you worked on a relationship that will go somewhere...that can mean something." Lilly looked at her sleeping best friend and she watched Logan follow her gaze. "I've seen the way the two of you take care of each other. She's the ying to your yang. The two of you are epic soulmates meant to take on the world and I'm going to keep doing everything I can to make that happen."

"Lilly you can't be serious. Duncan…" Lilly interrupted him.

"Duncan is over her. I've already taken care of that. He was looking for an arm piece and Vee is meant to kick ass, not kiss it." Logan laughed at that.

"Look, Lo, I'm okay with this. I was oblivious at first, and a bit selfish. To be honest, I've known for awhile...I just wanted to keep you to myself. I first saw it at your last birthday. She knows you as well as you know her. The two of you communicate with just a look. I've made up my mind. We have to be over."

"No more us?" he asked and she nodded. "We're still friends though, right?"

She nodded again. "Always." Lilly stood up and kissed him on the cheek. "G'night, Lo."

"G'night, Lils."

Lilly was munching on a bowl of cereal when Veronica wandered into the kitchen looking a little rough around the edges.

"Wow, maybe I should've insisted Logan carry you upstairs. You're not lookin' so hot, Vee."

Veronica pulled out a stool and sat across from Lilly. "I'm fine. Just wondering why I woke up on the loveseat wrapped in a blanket." Veronica reached for the coffee carafe and filled a mug. 'Why didn't any of you wake me? I missed the end of the movie."

"It was totally lame." Lilly went back to eating her cereal.

Logan walked in past Lilly, kissing her on the temple as he walked by. "Morning."

Lilly dropped her spoon into her bowl. "Logan!" she scolded him.

Logan looked sheepishly at her, shrugging his shoulders. "Sorry. Habit."

"Well, stop it!" she said, giving him the evil eye. He looked between her and Veronica, then grabbed the coffee to pour himself a cup.

"That's gonna take some getting used to," he said, laughing at her. She hip checked him and then noticed Vee looking at them over her coffee cup.

"Am I missing something?" she asked.

Lilly shrugged her shoulders. "We broke up." She took a bite of cereal, then, with her mouth full, added, "Permanently."

Veronica stared back and forth between them as Lilly continued. "We're still friends, just no kissing, groping, or sex." Veronica almost spit out her coffee.

"Thanks for clarifying the ground rules, Lils," Veronica said, laughing. "If you guys are happy, then I am too."

Platonic Logan and Lilly was weird. Veronica had gotten used to them making out next to her like she wasn't even there and now, Lilly was dating everyone, and Logan just acted like it didn't even bother him. She didn't know what to make of it. Unable to continue watching the two of them any longer, Veronica stood up, dumping her lunch in the trash as she made her way out of the quad.

"Veronica, wait up." Lilly ran after her. "You okay?"

"Yeah, it's just weird, that's all," Veronica replied, refusing to make eye contact.

"What's weird? Are you talking about me and Logan?"

"Lilly, every time the two of you break up, Logan walks around all moody and you become a raging bitch, cursing his every move. Logan isn't sulking and you aren't being a bitch. You guys are...amicable. It's just weird."

Lilly's heels clicked behind her as she continued to follow Veronica toward her locker. As they passed the girl's bathroom, Lilly suddenly grabbed her arm and dragged Veronica in, closing the door behind them. Veronica whirled to face her best friend.

"What are you doing?" she scolded.

"Veronica, listen to me," Lilly said, climbing on the counter. "I may seem oblivious to a lot of things going on around me, but some things I do notice. Logan and I are better off friends."

Veronica paced as she listened to Lilly, fidgeting with her hands. "Logan and I were fun and I love him, I really do, but we both know I'm not the happily ever after type and he is. We had our fun. Now he can find someone who will appreciate all that crap and I can have my fun without dealing with, well, all that crap."

Lilly hopped off the counter and stood in front of Veronica. "Lighten up, Vee. This was the end of a relationship, not the world." Lilly kissed her forehead and then left the bathroom, presumably to return to being groped by the 09er of the week.

Veronica took a moment to wash her hands, staring at herself in the mirror. Lilly had made her feelings very clear and she seemed fine. Logan seemed fine too, but he was pretty good at covering up when he wanted to. Maybe what was bothering her was not knowing how he really felt. She hadn't really asked, mostly because she was afraid that he was just putting up a front for Lilly, but really, she needed to know. Drying her hands, she took one last look in the mirror, reapplied her lip gloss and left the bathroom in search of Logan.

Returning to the quad, she found that Logan was nowhere in sight. Veronica pulled out her phone and dialed his number. He picked up on the second ring.

"Where did you go?" She knew she sounded disappointed but she couldn't hide it at the moment.

"The real question is, where did you go? You just ran off."

"I'm back in the quad." Veronica heard muffled voices on Logan's end.

"We're heading to the beach. Do you have a curfew?" Veronica thought he sounded hopeful.

"Well, no," she answered as she made her way through the quad toward the parking lot. "Who's all going?"

At that moment, Veronica was lifted off the ground by a strong pair of arms. She screamed, and before she could get her bearings, Dick scooped her up and threw her over his shoulder, running towards the parking lot. "Let's go, small fry, you're coming with us!"

Veronica practically screamed at Logan through the phone. "Tell your goon to put me down, Logan!" She could hear Logan's laughter through the phone and from the parking lot just ahead.

"Sorry, Vee, the goon already has his orders. You're coming with us." His voice was close and Veronica looked up to see Logan holding the door open for Dick as he flipped his phone closed, tucking it into his pocket.

Logan was stalling in the parking lot in hopes of catching Veronica. He had seen Lilly with some guy whose name he didn't care to remember, so he knew Veronica wasn't with her.

He was watching Dick and Beaver play hacky sac when his phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and smiled.

"Where did you go?" Something in her voice left an empty feeling in his stomach. Watching the brothers goofing around, he shook it off and focused on the conversation.

"The real question is, where did you go? You just ran off." Logan walked over and punched Dick in the arm to get his attention.

Veronica answered, "I'm back in the quad."

Logan pulled the phone from his ear and whispered to Dick, "Head to the quad and pick up Ronnie." Dick nodded and took off running.

He was sure he'd heard her say earlier that she planned to finish her homework and spend the evening on the couch with Ben and Jerry watching a movie, but he wanted to be sure. "We're heading to the beach. Do you have a curfew?"

"Well, no." she answered. "Who's all going?"

Logan didn't have an opportunity to answer when her scream rang through the phone. He couldn't help but laugh as he listened to Veronica shouting in his ear and watched Dick running, a flailing Veronica flung over his shoulder. He opened the car door and stepped to the side so Dick could drop her into the seat.

"Sorry, Vee, the goon already has his orders. You're coming with us," he said with a grin as he flipped his phone shut and put it in his pocket.

Logan climbed into the driver's seat and watched to be sure that Veronica put on her seatbelt. When they made eye contact, he caught the glare she gave him and chuckled. Since his conversation with Lilly, Logan had been thinking about his relationship with Veronica differently. It had taken him a long time to go to sleep that first night as he replayed the past. His initial crush on the tiny blonde had never dissipated, he had just gotten used to her being unattainable. When he'd realized that, he'd finally been able to drift off to sleep. In the weeks since their break-up, and with Lilly's very vocal approval, Logan had taken every opportunity to transform his friendship with Veronica into something more. His thoughts were interrupted when Veronica groaned beside him.

"What?" he asked, worried that he'd gone too far sending Dick to snatch her out of the quad.

"I don't understand how you guys get away with this all the time," she grumbled.

"Well, it's a lot easier when we don't have someone screaming during the getaway," Dick answered from the back seat.

Giving her what he hoped was a winning smile, Logan tried to reassure her. "Ronnie, would we ever steer you wrong? Besides, if someone is stupid enough to turn us in, with your award winning performance, you'd have a strong case for kidnapping."

Veronica put all her force behind that punch she gave Logan in the arm. He actually thought he would have a bruise from it. He rubbed out the pain with his other arm, keeping control of the car with one hand. "Ow, Veronica, it's not safe to abuse the guy in control of the moving vehicle."

"I don't want to cry kidnapping, Logan! I was on the phone, couldn't you have just asked me to meet you in the parking lot?" Veronica questioned.

He flashed her another smile. "What would be the fun in that?"

Just then, Veronica's phone pinged with an incoming text. Veronica sighed and snapped it shut.

Logan couldn't contain his curiosity. "Something wrong?"

"Technically, no, Lilly played off your little stunt in the quad. We're in the clear." Despite the reassurance that she wouldn't be getting in trouble, Veronica didn't sound relieved. As he pulled the car into the beach parking lot, he decided he was going to have to remind her that everyone needs to live a little.

As they climbed out of the car, Logan suggested that they walk up the beach to get ice cream. As they walked, Logan had to consciously stop himself from reaching out and holding her hand. Dick made things easy when he slung his arm over her shoulder. When she didn't shrug him off, Logan mimicked the behavior and he felt his knees go weak when she wrapped her arms around their waists.

When they reached Amy's, they discussed their options as they waited in line.

"You should get cookie dough with chocolate chip," Logan suggested.

"You should get banana and chocolate," Veronica countered.

"Ice cream should never be a fruit flavor." He didn't necessarily believe that, but Logan chose to argue with her just because he loved getting her worked up.

"Get me mint chocolate chip and chocolate," Dick added, walking away to lean against the building.

When it was their turn, Logan ordered Dick's ice cream first, ordered a double scoop of rocky road for himself, then told the lady that Veronica wanted cookie dough with chocolate chip.

"No, Logan, I wanted rocky road," Veronica whined as the cashier walked away to get their ice cream.

He smiled at her. "Too late." Feeling more confident, Logan wrapped his arm around her and guided her to the nearby table. "Come on, sit." Veronica climbed over the bench and sat at the picnic table looking out over the beach. Logan sat beside her with his back leaning against the table, then pulled out his phone to send Dick a text.

Head over and buy Ronnie a suit

He saw Dick read the text and grin and he quickly sent a second one.

One piece

Logan watched Dick read the message, just as the cashier came to the window, Dick's ice cream in her hand. Dick nodded at her and looked at his phone again, tapped out a reply, then took his ice cream and headed down the beach toward the little boutiques nearby. Logan's phone buzzed in his hand and he glanced down to see Dick's reply.


Logan chuckled, then rose from his seat on the bench when he saw the cashier return to the window with the rest of their order. He collected their ice cream and walked back to Veronica, reaching over her shoulder to hand her the rocky road. He couldn't see the look on her face until he sat down beside her and she turned to him. Her initial look of shock at getting the ice cream she wanted was slowly replaced with a wide smile that melted his heart. He couldn't help but return the smile as he took a bite of his cookie dough and chocolate chip.

"You think if you buy me ice cream, I'll just forgive and forget?" Logan knew she was playing. He liked when she was like this: feisty and flirty.

"I'm pretty confident the best way to your heart is through your stomach," he replied.

"Is that right?" she shot back. Logan nodded his head as he took another bite. "We'll see, Echolls, we'll see." Logan smiled to himself, noticing she didn't seem to mind that he'd just announced his intentions for her heart. His smile faltered a little. Maybe she hadn't noticed. Or more likely, she didn't believe he was serious.

Dick walked up and dropped a bag in front of Logan, then sat down across from them. Logan reached for the bag, pulling it toward him. "Mission a success?" he asked. Dick shrugged.

Logan finished his ice cream and opened the bag, pulling out a red, scalloped-edge one piece with a lace-up front.

"What is that?" Veronica asked.

"A swimsuit, Ronnie," Dick answered sarcastically.

"I could figure that much out, smartass. What's it for?"

"It's for you. It wouldn't be smart to go swimming in your clothes."

Logan laughed as he listened to Dick and Veronica bickering like brother and sister. He was actually very impressed with Dick's choice. Veronica took the suit from Logan and looked it over, feeling the fabric and tracing the white string with her finger. Logan watched her, the soft smile on her face making him feel like doing crazy things. Like kissing her. Like pulling his heart out of his chest and handing it to her. Like maybe a little bit jealous that he'd sent Dick to get the suit, and the credit.

"You picked this out?" She looked at Dick and he nodded.


"By yourself? No one helped you?" she questioned him again.

"Yeah!" Dick answered again, sounding a bit more irritated.

Veronica nodded her head, puckering her lips. "I'm impressed," she said. "Thanks, Dick."

Logan's moment of jealousy waned as he watched Dick smile with pride. "You're welcome, Rons." Turning his attention to Logan, Dick asked, "Are we finally ready to surf now?"

"Yeah, let's go." They headed back toward the car to get ready. Veronica climbed into the back seat to slip on her new suit. Logan and Dick already had their board shorts on and quickly pulled on their wet suits. They were getting their boards off the roof when the car door opened and Veronica climbed out of the back seat. Logan froze, unable to take his eyes off of her. Dick couldn't have picked a more perfect suit. Logan had to find a way to thank him later.

With the Xterra no longer a changing room, Logan opened the hatch and Veronica grabbed towels out of the back. With everyone loaded down, they made their way towards the water.

"Ronnie, you ready to become one with the ocean?" Dick asked, tipping the surfboard he was carrying toward her.

Logan laughed as Veronica looked at Dick like he was crazy. "You're not getting me on that thing."

Logan walked up behind her. "Oh yes we are." She spun around to look at him.

"What's this now?" she questioned.

"You're coming out with us. Hence the board." He showed her the third board he'd carried down from the car. "We don't expect you to surf, we just thought you'd have more fun if you paddled out with us instead of just sitting on the beach by yourself."

Logan could have sworn he saw her blush. He was sure she was warming up to him.

As she changed in the back of the car, Veronica tried to figure out what was happening. Between their brief fight earlier, and Logan's antics at Amy's, she couldn't get a handle on what she was feeling. She was all over the map when it came to how Logan made her feel. One minute, she wanted to kill him, and the next, she had to fight the urge to kiss him. She understood wanting to kill him, but did she really want to kiss him? When he first came to town, yeah, she'd had a pretty big crush, but he'd been Lilly's for a long time and she certainly wouldn't think about kissing Lilly's boyfriend. But he's not Lilly's now, she thought before shaking her head, trying to dislodge that traitorous thought. Knowing she wasn't going to find any answers sitting alone in the backseat of his car, she opened the door and climbed out.

Dick caught up to her, carrying his surfboard, as they made their way towards the water.

"Ronnie, you ready to become one with the ocean?" Dick asked.

Is he crazy? she thought. "You're not getting me on that thing."

"Oh yes we are." Veronica spun around to find Logan smirking at her. The kill or kiss debate rose in her head again. Kill for assuming she would just do whatever he wanted. Kiss...well...maybe it was for the same reason. She just wanted to kiss that smirk right off his face.

"What's this now?" she asked.

"You're coming out with us. Hence the board." Logan stabbed a board into the sand next to her. "We don't expect you to surf, we just thought you'd have more fun if you paddled out with us instead of just sitting on the beach by yourself."

Veronica felt the heat rise in her cheeks. She looked to the sand to hide it. She thought for sure when Lilly and Logan broke up that she and Logan wouldn't be friends anymore. Not that he would banish her, more like a slow fade into nonexistence. Actually it was quite the opposite, they seemed to spend more time together. Veronica tilted her head at him, but she couldn't figure out her own thoughts, so she knew she had no chance of figuring out Logan's. She picked up the board he'd carried down for her and headed for the water. Paddling out, she met up with Dick. She could hear Logan coming up behind her but she never looked back. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was grateful to not have to hang out on the beach alone.

They spent a couple hours out on the water. As planned, Veronica didn't actually surf, but lying on the board, she did let the waves carry her in a few times. Some time into their fun, Veronica found herself alone with Logan out on the water. Feeling confident, she decided to ask him about Lilly.

"So, Logan."

"So, Veronica." His teasing response only boosted her confidence.

"About earlier today..." Almost immediately, the conversation became awkward, her new-found confidence disappearing as quickly as it came.

"Ronnie?" He urged her on gently, making her feel like she could tell him anything..

She finally just blurted it out. "Are you and Lilly really just over?"

Logan dipped his hand in the ocean, scooped up water and let it pour over his thigh. "We work better as friends. I do miss having someone to 'get physical' with." Logan waggled his eyebrows, then sobered. "Being with her was making me crazy. She doesn't want anything serious and I want something more."

"You're really good with this?" Veronica needed to be sure. "You're not just saying that?" She didn't understand why it mattered, but it really did.

"I'm over it, Veronica. Lilly's in the rear view mirror." Logan spread out on his board and started paddling towards the beach. As he popped up on the board, he hollered back to her. "I've got my sights on someone else anyway." With those cryptic words, he rode the wave into shore and Veronica was left pondering who he might be talking about.

She tried to shake it off as she paddled behind him towards the shore. Logan always made comments to get her riled up. Wading through the water as she made her way onto the beach, she noticed Dick was talking to some brunette bimbo in a skin tone bikini. From a distance, she looked naked. When her eyes drifted back to Logan, he was already making his way to the car. Apparently they were done for the day.

As she walked past Dick and the bimbo, she patted his shoulder. "Coming, Dick?" She laughed to herself as she picked up her towel and made her way to the car.

By the time she reached the car, Logan had already placed his board on the rack and was working his t shirt over his head. Veronica waited for him to get the shirt on, then handed him her board. Dick came running up behind her.

"Real funny, Ronnie. I think you've been hanging out with Logan too long." Still amused with herself, she laughed at his irritation as she toweled off.

"Sure it's not your influence that caused that one, Dick?" she teased. Veronica caught the confused look on Logan's face as she climbed in the back seat. She could still hear the conversation between the two as Dick complained about her embarrassing him. As she hunted for her phone to check her messages, she heard Logan laughing, commenting that he was proud of her, and she also heard Dick admit he liked this new Ronnie.

She was listening to a message from her dad telling her that he would be working late on an accident scene when the front doors of the car opened and Logan and Dick climbed in.

"Any plans for dinner, guys?" she asked putting her phone back in her bag and buckling her seat belt. She didn't want to spend the evening alone, or dealing with her drunk mother.

"What's goin' on, Ronnie?" Dick asked, glancing back as he buckled his belt.

"Oh, nothing much. My dad is just working an accident scene and he told me I need to fend for myself." Logan looked over his shoulder at her, his eyebrows furrowed. She was sure he knew more was going on than she was saying. He was well aware of how things were going at home. He'd come to her rescue before. She sighed. "He also said I shouldn't count on Mom being home tonight and that there were leftovers in the fridge."

"Text your dad back and tell him you're having pizza with friends," Logan suggested.

Veronica nodded in agreement, relieved that he was saving her again, and pulled her phone back out to send a quick text to her dad.

"Dick, wanna send out an invite for pizza?" Logan asked as she texted

"Go big or go home?" Dick queried in response.

"Nah, let's go with a small dinner party," Logan replied and she smiled at him gratefully when he caught her eye in the rearview mirror.

Riding the wave into shore, Logan was relieved to get away from Veronica for a bit. Her inquisition made him nervous, enough so that he'd thrown that stupid line about having his eye on someone else back to her as he surfed in. That was probably a mistake; she'd probably hound him until he either told her the truth or made up a crazy lie. Their relationship had changed a lot recently but he still wasn't confident enough to make a move. She wasn't like most girls who would just throw themselves at him; she was so much more important and he had to approach her differently. The short walk up the beach to the car had helped to calm his nerves. He was pulling his shirt over his head when Veronica appeared next to him with her board in hand. Dick showed up right after, whining about something, and Veronica just laughed at him.

"Sure it's not your influence that caused that one, Dick?" she teased before climbing into the back. Logan listened to Dick complain about Veronica's embarrassing comment in front of a chick he was hitting on and was impressed. He'd noticed a lot of changes in Veronica recently, and this was just more proof that she was a lot tougher than he used to think she was. As he climbed into the car, Veronica asked, "Any plans for dinner, guys?"

"What's goin' on, Ronnie?" Dick asked before Logan had the chance.

"Oh, nothing much. My dad is just working an accident scene and he told me I need to fend for myself." Logan heard the actual story in her voice; he'd been around the Mars' household enough to be certain that Mr. Mars had already tried calling his wife and she was either already drunk or was well on her way. Veronica must have read the look on his face because she admitted the rest, in terms obscure enough to not give anything away to Dick. "He also said I shouldn't count on Mom being home tonight and that there were leftovers in the fridge."

Logan frowned, irritated at the sucky parents of Neptune. He wasn't going to let this ruin her day. They just spent a couple of hours having a good time and he wasn't going to waste that goodwill by taking her home to eat leftovers alone, or worse, with her drunk mother hovering over her.

"Text your dad back and tell him you're having pizza with friends."

Veronica smiled at him, pulling her phone from her bag to send the text. Logan turned to Dick for help. "Dick, wanna send out an invite for pizza?"

"Go big or go home?" Dick asked as Logan put the car in reverse.

"Nah, let's go with a small dinner party," Logan replied, pleased that he could always count on Dick.

They stopped at the local convenience store to pick up extras to go with the pizza, including soda, chips, and dip. After texting a few friends to meet up at his place, Dick ordered pizzas to be delivered. They were pulling into his driveway when another car pulled in behind them, and another behind them. By the time they made their way inside, the rest of the group had arrived and everyone was making themselves comfortable around the kitchen island. Logan watched as Veronica and Lilly laughed and carried on with each other and the rest of the group. This was what Veronica needed to forget about her mom.

His thoughts were interrupted when Dick called out, "Pizza's arrived! Help yourselves!"

Logan walked over, grabbed a box of pizza, and carried it over to the girls.

"Ladies. Hungry?" Veronica turned to look at Logan and he gave her a smile as he set the pizza box down in front of them, then flipped open the lid.

" favorite," Veronica said as she grabbed a slice from the box.

Logan sat down, ready for a fun evening with his favorite people, but unexpectedly, Lilly turned and pinned him with a sharp gaze. Her taunting voice was like cold water over his mood.

"Are you ever gonna take this girl out on a proper date, Logan? I think she's worth it, don't you?" Lilly ran her hand through Veronica's hair and down her arm. Veronica huffed at her and pushed her hand away. Logan held his slice of pizza in his hand, ignoring Lilly as he tried to maintain eye contact with Veronica.

"Totally worth it, Lils," he said, watching Veronica's reaction. To his shock, she didn't seem embarrassed or frightened. Instead, she had a look in her eyes, like she was challenging him. He stood up suddenly, not sure if he was ready for her challenge yet.

"I'm gonna go get us some drinks," he said, walking away from the two of them so he could pull himself together.

"Lilly, you shouldn't rag on him like that," Veronica said in an irritated voice.

Geez, Logan's knight in shining armor to his rescue. This true love thing is aggravating.

"Relax 'Ronica. Sometimes he just needs a little push." Lilly saw the disappointed look on her face. What is it gonna take to make these two idiots understand?

"Fine, Vee, I'll go apologize." Lilly got up and followed Logan's path into the kitchen, without even the slightest intention of apologizing. She found him staring blindly into the fridge, so lost in thought that he didn't even notice Lilly until she was in his face.

"What are you waiting for, Echolls?"

"The planets to align," he joked.

God, he can be such a jackass. "You deserve to be happy. So stop being a chicken and be happy, dammit." She walked away, heading back to Veronica. If she annoyed him enough, maybe, just maybe, he'd go off and sulk and Veronica would feel the need to comfort him.

Lilly dropped back onto the chair next to Veronica, smiling brightly at her. From her friend's cold look, Lilly was pretty sure that Veronica knew that no apologizing had taken place. She saw Logan coming their direction, a can of S'kist in his hand, and that stupid sad sack look on his face and she knew that sulking and comforting would be happening shortly. Cross your fingers these boneheads figure this out soon...before I have to lock them in a room together.

Logan heard Lilly's heavy sigh despite the noise in the crowded room. "You deserve to be happy. So stop being a chicken and be happy, dammit."

He watched in shock as she walked away, leaving him standing there alone. How could she be so confident? Didn't she understand that his friendship with Veronica wasn't something he could just gamble and lose? Logan grabbed the sodas and headed back to Veronica. He placed her can in front of her as he passed, then continued outside to sit beside the pool. He sat silently, arms resting on his knees and his hands folded together in front of him, wondering if he'd ever be willing to risk losing Veronica's friendship to try to gain something more, until he heard someone join him.

Veronica sat down next to him and spoke in a quiet voice. "I'm sorry Lilly's teasing spoiled your fun. I don't listen when she goes on like that and I'd recommend that you try to do the same. I'm well aware of what she's like. I know you don't like me like that. You said you already had your sights on someone new. I get that you and I are just friends and, for me, that friendship is one of the most important things in my life." Logan glanced over, searching her face. She looked embarrassed.

"No, Veronica. It's not like that." Logan wanted to assure her, but he wasn't even sure anymore what would do that. "We are friends. That's one of the most important things in my life too. That's what I don't want to screw up."

"You're not going to screw it up. You can't get rid of me that easily, Echolls. I know you. No matter what dumb thing you might do, I'm tougher than I look. You're not going to scare me off." Veronica put her arm around his shoulder, rubbing his back gently as she talked to him. Her gesture relaxed him. Taking a chance, he reached over to take her other hand in his.

When she let him take it, he decided it was all or nothing. "Veronica Mars, will you go out with me?" The reassuring smile on her face turned to shock and she pulled her hand away.

His heart sank. He'd placed his bet and lost. Logan ran both hands through his hair, trying to compose himself. Just like the song, he knew when to fold and to walk away. He felt more like running, but he couldn't trust his feet to carry him. He was trying to figure out how to get away, when he felt her hand on his back, rubbing down his shoulder.

"Logan?" she said softly.

"Yeah?" His voice was rough, just above a whisper.

"I'm still here. I told you. I'm not going anywhere."

"Can we forget this ever happened and just go back to being friends?" Logan questioned, looking up at her. He was grateful that she was being so understanding, but he still kinda hoped the ground would open up and swallow him whole. He looked down at the deck, wondering if he could stare at it hard enough to open that escape hatch.

"Actually…" she sing songed, amusement in her tone. "I was hoping we could seal this deal over dinner at Mama Leone's?"

Logan blinked several times, not certain what he'd just heard her say. When her words finally registered, he looked up at her again. He was astonished by the hopeful smile he saw on her face and he couldn't help but match his own to it. He still wasn't sure how his luck had turned like this but he decided it was time to take that chance he was so afraid of. He reached over and cupped her face in his hands, trying to convey all his feelings as he kissed her.

Lilly stood at the patio doors watching the events unfold in front of her. From the look on Logan's face when Veronica first sat down next to him, she thought she was going to have to find the spot to lock them up sooner rather than later. But when she saw the smiles radiating from both of them, and then, as they kissed, Lilly grinned and gave herself the proverbial pat on the back.