Disclaimer: I do not own Veronica Mars or Supernatural. No profit is being made off this fanwork.
Setting: Post season 4 Veronica Mars. We'll say this is season 10 post-demon!Dean for SPN. No, I don't pay attention to the actual years, because, heh, fanfic.
A/N: Written for the Dark Paths Big Bang (Mini Bang, in my case) and the hc_bingo fill, "sacrifice."
Veronica Mars, believer in the unknown, advocate of the occult: somehow Veronica doubted any person on this planet had ever used those words to describe her, and, oh boy, did people enjoy describing her in various creative ways. But despite her history of using basic logic and healthy cynicism to solve her problems, here she was, watching the sun set while going over a mental checklist of all the ingredients required for this spell to work. Even that private admission was enough to make her wince.
Maybe, she tried to reason, she'd wake up from this bizarre dream and be able to reassure herself that she was a rational human. She pinched her arm. No go.
When she was certain she had everything she needed, she worked up the will to step out of her car, popping the trunk. Next to her overnight bag was a garden trowel that she'd picked up along the way, having 0/2 green thumbs, and a small, scuffed wooden box.
She stared down at the box a long minute, remembering what used to be inside, the photos and ticket stubs, the receipts and notes, those tiny slips of paper bearing handwritten messages. Quotes Logan had been presumably collecting since infancy. Once upon a time, he'd picked up the habit of leaving them in odd places for Veronica to find while he was travelling. Far be it for her to be sentimental, but she'd somehow kept up with every one of them.
Most of the box's contents had been emptied, carefully stored back at her dad's place, but some of it was needed. A requirement for what she was about to attempt. Or, more than likely, what she was about to utterly fail to do, since demons and things-that-go-bump weren't actually real.
"And I'm a great big sap," she said, finishing the thought.
The admittance did nothing to change the fact that she was parked along an empty stretch of gravel road, a battered stop sign pecked with bullet holes not twenty feet in front of her next to a barren, towering tree that looked as if it had recently been split by lightning. Eerie as its looming presence was, the intersecting road, just as lonely and dusty as this one, was what had made her pick this spot.
A crossroad, that was what she needed, as far from city lights and home as possible. Because, predictably enough, that was where one tended to meet crossroads demons.
Na-da. Zip. A whole lot of nothin'. That's what she'd received for her trouble. And it wasn't from a lack of patience. She'd waited. The witching hour, the devil's hour, you name it, she'd passed it. She'd even half-heartedly considered stripping naked and dancing around a bonfire to speed things up. Nope.
She watched the sunrise and told herself it was lack of sleep making her eyes burn.
This was why she liked keeping her expectations low, it kept her from being disappointed. And yet she was, despite telling herself repeatedly that this would never work, despite having the occult shop owner who'd sold her the info tell her this would never work, she'd had some small grain of hope left that this would be a sunrise that she wouldn't have to watch alone.
"You'd laugh at me, if you were here," she said.
The convenience store was only a few minutes down the road. Yellowed by age and a layer of dirt and bearing a cracked, faded plastic sign depicting a less than PC cartoon image of a Native American chief, Veronica doubted that anything at the station other than the gas pumps had been updated since the seventies. For a moment, she wasn't sure if it was open, or even still in business, but she saw shadowy movement through the glass door and crept her car up to the front before putting it in park.
The cell service was shit out here, but she pulled up her email on her phone, trying to load an attachment related to the case she was supposed to be working. It was the fourth one she'd taken in two months, and it was, through no coincidence, the fourth one she'd made sure was located far from home. Her dad was going to get suspicious if she kept this up, and maybe she didn't have a reason to anymore. Maybe it was time to forget what she'd seen on that first case that brought her out here, the one that planted that seed of hope in her gut.
Her mouth tasted bitter and she wanted some coffee to match, so she shot the short, decidedly not Native American attendant a forced smile as she entered. She was glad to see he wasn't the chipper type, more concerned with pulling a pan of hot buttermilk biscuits out of a confection oven in the tiny kitchen workspace past the clerk's counter. The smell hit her hard, and despite not being a huge fan of a savory breakfast, such feats requiring functioning abilities pre-coffee, her stomach rolled with want.
"They'll be out in five," the man barked, moving on to a pan of broiled meat without so much as looking up.
Veronica opened her mouth to comment on the fact that she wasn't here for what she was sure was the county's best gas station breakfast and decided against it when she realized she would probably buy one anyway. Health code be damned. She checked out the bathroom without another word, glad to find it was clean, if somewhat musty. When she came out, she made a sharp turn toward the coffee pots, finding herself the largest paper cup they had and filling a third of it with sugar packets and cream. Not necessarily the good stuff, but beggars and devil conjurers couldn't be choosy, could they?
Veronica snorted at the thought, sipping the too-sweet concoction and deciding it would do in a pinch. She felt the urge to laugh and held it down, deep in her chest, where it quaked like a sob for a moment. She would never, ever, tell anyone about what she'd done, what she' d attempted. Sure, the things that go bump might be real based on recent evidence, but at least she could check "demon deals" off her list of things that weren't actually a thing.
When she turned, the glass display near the counter was full of aluminum foil wrapped treats, labeled hastily with a permanent marker and glittering under a hot lamp. The attendant was at the ready beside them, staring at Veronica like she'd grown a second head. She raised a brow, tilting the coffee forward a bit in an invisible toast.
"Good coffee," she tried, and there was no way the attempt at politeness came across as sincere.
"On the house," he said, swallowing hard. There was a glistening line of sweat at his brow, but he didn't move to wipe at it, standing stiff instead. "I think you need to leave, ma'am."
Veronica blinked at him. "Wow, people usually get to know me a little better before they start kicking me out. But, hey, free coffee is free coffee."
His chin shook slightly, but she was surprised to see there wasn't so much as a hint of anger on his face. He looked almost afraid. On instinct, she slipped her hand back into her pocket, where she'd tucked her phone, fingers hovering uncertainly over the screen just in case. There was something off here.
"Leave," he said, gaze darting to his side, where the front door was casting a pleasant streak of sunshine through its window. "And take that thing with you."
Beyond strange, but Veronica tried to school her face, pretending to shrug off the dismissal to hide the chill running down her spine. She had to assume the guy was trying to get rid of her for a good reason. She walked to the door, watching from the corner of her eye for movement, but if an assailant had entered while she was in the bathroom, she could see no sign of them.
She was so tense by the time she walked out the front door, that she had no choice but to jump at the sight in front of her. It wasn't what she'd expected. Not an armed robber at all, but a woman, lounging back on the hood of Veronica's car, propped up on her elbows as if she'd been waiting for ages. She was dressed in black lace over red satin, and the cut of the dress left little to the imagination. Her long ebony locks hung over one shoulder to brush her ample bosom, and she'd crossed her knees, one stiletto heel pressing against the bumper. The woman looked like she belonged in a nightclub, of which there were absolutely zero within a hundred miles.
"Hi there, Ronnie," she said, her voice breathy and smooth.
Somewhere out there, this woman had stepped out of a teenage boy's wet dream and landed in front of Veronica because she certainly hadn't arrived by car if the lonely lot and road were anything to judge by. Veronica stilled, hoping to hide the fact that she was startled.
"Oh, wow, someone hired me a stripper, and it's not even my birthday." Veronica blamed the still-full cup of coffee in her hand for the comment. "Who are you?"
The woman's smile was gentle, even if the narrowness of her eyes was somewhat predatory. Veronica moved to take a step back and hesitated.
"A friend," was the soft answer. The woman sat up straight, but made no move to stand. "Call me Cecily, if you'd like." She nodded her head toward the store's wide window. "You'll have to forgive that prude, Hal. He's been in my neighborhood long enough to know what strangers do out here, in the dark, and he doesn't care for my work. Warded the whole store like he's scared of little old me." Her smile widened, the amusement more genuine. "It's so nice to have your work recognized by the locals."
"Another check in the box for stripper," Veronica muttered, but she felt the hair on the back on her neck rise at the woman's comment. There was something off about Cecily. Veronica had spoken to murderers, rapists, bombers… They could all hold a civil conversation too, but they all had that hollow look in their eyes when they were discussing their "work."
"So Cecily," Veronica said, "what brings you to the middle of nowhere?"
"Why you, of course, sweet cheeks." The woman sighed. "I had other work to attend to first. You'll have to forgive me if I prioritize the paying gigs over the charity cases."
"I'm weirdly offended, and I'm not entirely sure why," Veronica noted. "I'm going to ask again. Who are you?"
"Oh, honey," Cecily breathed, annoyance clear in her voice. She glanced up, coyly, batting her lashes. Between one blink and the next, her eyes changed from deep brown to bright red, whites and irises overtaken, as if a curtain had dropped. "You're the one who called me."
Veronica let go of the phone in her pocket, hands out on instinct, as if she planned to go for a weapon. Her coffee dropped with a thud, hot droplets soaking through the bottom of her pants where they'd spilled. She froze: this was a demon. There was a demon sitting on her car.
"Wrong number?" she tried, screaming on the inside. There was only one thought that silenced that panic: I was right.
Cecily tilted her head to one side, amused. "Gotta love that sass, but I think we both know that you were fully aware of what you were doing out there. "
This was happening. There was a demon in front of her. A crossroads demon. Here to make a deal. Veronica latched onto her thoughts, trying to put them back in order, to remember what she'd planned to say, how she'd planned to say it. Wording could be a tricky thing, and here she was, her tongue suddenly thick. She finally forced herself to make a quick step forward, closer to the creature.
"I want to make a deal," she declared, her voice hushed, as if Hal inside or God himself might be listening and decide to stop her. "That's what you do, right? Make deals?"
Cecily uncrossed her legs, standing. A small frown played across her lips. "That's the job. But unfortunately there are limitations to what I can do."
Veronica felt like she'd taken a punch to the gut. "You can't bring someone back from the dead."
The demon chuckled. "Oh, that? Not a problem under normal circumstances. The issue isn't your boo, honey. It's you. Veronica Mars, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you're one of the few people on our 'No Deal' list. My ass would be back in Hell before you could say "epic love," if I tried to draw up a contract with you."
Veronica's mouth dropped open, but she was too lost for words to reply. Her emotions had shifted so quickly that she could barely keep up. "Are you kidding me right now?" she finally blurted. "Demons, demons and goddamned deals with the devil are fucking real, but I'm on a no fly list? What? Don't I have a soul? Isn't that what the going rate is? Did I accidentally sell my soul in middle school for some Steve Maddens or something?"
Am I already headed to Hell? Veronica bit down that question, not wanting to hear an answer, but there it was. If she was already on her way downstairs, why would demons put in the extra legwork? Maybe just summoning a demon was enough of a qualifier for a trip downstairs.
Pity. The look on Cecily's face was one of pity. Sure, it probably wasn't sincere, but there it was.
"Look, I can't help you out here," she said, sounding regretful. "But I can give you a few of those answers your looking for. I'm on strict orders to give my boss a shout if you make a fuss."
"What does that even mean?"
The demon's grin returned. "It means you're going to meet the King, sweet cheeks."
Whether enjoying the big city lights or visiting Hicksville USA, Veronica had to marvel at the number of times that she found herself meeting leads in strip joints.
"Bringing new meaning to the word seedy," she said, when the soles of her shoes stepped in something dried and sticky on the vinyl flooring. That sensation belonged strictly in movie theaters, where she could at least pretend the mess had been made by spilled soda and red hots.
She quick glance around, not failing to notice the complete lack of customers in the establishment. While that might have been due to the early afternoon hour, it seemed almost eerily empty, the bright overhead lights unveiling the main room's cheap, gaudy decor. A classic rock ballad was echoing from the speakers at an oddly low volume, but its accompanying dancer was no where to be found. The lack of skeeze was eerie.
Her demon guide had given her an address before watching Veronica drive off, but Veronica was beginning to think this was some sort of otherworldly practical joke. Surely the demon's "boss" had better taste than this, evil or not. If it was a joke, though, Veronica wasn't getting the punchline.
"Hello," she called out, "Magic Mike? Anyone home?"
"Just in time for auditions, I see." The gravelly English accent brought her to a dead stop. There hadn't been a man at that corner table a moment ago, she was certain, but there he was, wearing a finely tailored black suit and a smirk. There was a seat pulled out across from him, waiting for her.
Veronica took a slow step forward, stilling the instinct to reach for a weapon of some sort. This was what she'd wanted, wasn't it? A chance? But she was beginning to wonder if she should have put more thought in the old sayin, "be careful what you wish for." She had a feeling this guy was the reason for that utterance.
"Nah, not much of a dancer," Veronica noted, after too long of a beat. "So, you the guy?"
He raised a brow. "You could say that. The name's Crowley. But I have a feeling my associate has already filled you in. You know me, and I know you, Veronica Mars."
His gaze flickered down to the empty chair, and Veronica took the invitation, finding the seat across from him. Something about being at eye level made him feel more real, and she straightened up, sliding her old armor back into place.
"So I knew someone upstairs must hate me, but downstairs too? Seems counterproductive. What exactly did I do to piss off the King of the Crossroads?"
Crowley's smirk twitched slightly. "King of Hell, darling. I've been promoted over recent years. And you'd know if I was pissed at you. Mostly from the sound of your own blood bubbling up your throat…No, honestly, Veronica, I'm quite fond of your exploits. You have a small fanclub downstairs, a few souls who just can't shut up about a certain girl detective. You're all they scream about."
Veronica swallowed hard. "Gee. You like me. Swell."
She tried to think too hard about her so-called fanclub. Crowley helped by cutting off her thoughts with a shrug.
"So sorry about the location, by the way. Was nearby doing a bit of business." A crash sounded from somewhere in the back, followed by a broken cry for help. It was suddenly silent once more. "Business," he excused. "But they do serve excellent hot wings. Make their own dipping sauce. Would you like me to have you some brought out?"
Veronica blinked. "No. No, I'm good. I'm here to make a deal, not order off the menu, thanks." She nearly bit her bottom lip, trying to watch her tone. She had a feeling Crowley wasn't lying about the blood gargling. "So, how 'bout it?"
"No deal." Crowley uncrossed his legs, as if her were getting ready to leave. "It's been lovely meeting you, though."
"Wait, what?" Veronica reached out, intent on grabbing his wrist and stopped herself before his glare could become anything more. "Just, fuck, just tell me why? Do I have a low-value soul or something? Do I need to go commit a hundred good deeds before it's worth anything? Why the hell won't you let me make a deal?"
Crowley rolled his eyes. "Because if I let everyone just go around, breaking old contracts to make new ones, it would be very bad for business…It's nothing personal."
"When did I make a deal with the devil?" Veronica snapped.
"You didn't," Crowley replied, easing back in his chair again. The movement felt rehearsed, as if for dramatic effect, and Veronica noticed, barely able to stop herself from pointing it out. Instead, she let him raise a brow and continue his charade. "But you're still the subject of a contract," he explained, as if she should already know as much, "and helping you now would mean voiding said contract. See the dilemma?"
Veronica grew quiet, and she knew that her shock must have shown on her face because Crowley leaned forward slightly, something like satisfaction on his face.
"Oh, didn't you know?" he asked, sounding amused. "Close as you two were, I would have thought he would've told his dear honey what he'd sacrificed. Suppose he kept quiet to save himself a verbal berating."
"Don't." Veronica's voice was dangerously hard. She knew it was a fine line, that attitude, but she couldn't stop herself. "Don't you dare play games with me."
"Veronica, sweetheart, I would never," Crowley admonished. Amused. "See for yourself."
Crowley tilted his head slightly, eyes cutting a line to the door along the wall, hiding whatever had caused that crash earlier. "Darling," he called out, "if you're done with your chores, you can come out and play."
There was a low buzzing in her ears, making the sound of the demon's voice fade, but she knew it wasn't real. Just a memory. It was all she'd been able to hear in the seconds after the explosion. After the blast. After she knew that she'd never see his face again.
But there it was. His eyes were wide, lips parted slightly in shock as he slowly stepped past the swinging doors to the kitchen. His expression said he was shocked as well, which made Veronica want to laugh because if anyone should be shocked right now it sure as hell should be her.
"Logan." The name came out choked.
She pushed herself up, ready to run toward him, but something shoved her back down. It was like a weight had landed on her lap, forcing her back into the chair. She dared to look away from him and there was Crowley, a chiding frown on his face.
"Now, now," he said, "don't get too excited just yet. Logan, why don't you take a seat at the bar while we discuss your fate. Or lack, there of."
Logan gave her a long look before wordlessly doing as he was told, walking to the empty bar and taking a seat, his back to them, but Veronica could see his gaze in the reflection off the raised mirror above the line of liquor bottles. He was watching them, and she knew that look. The outside world might see someone cold, emotionless, but she'd seen Logan Echolls terrified enough times in her life to recognize the expression.
"Yes," Crowley replied, to her unasked question. "It's really him. No, there's not a scar to be found. Yes, he still fills out a dress shirt rather nicely." He waved a hand, as if brushing the answers aside. "We'll skip the boring parts, where you accuse me of trickery and I have to defend my honor as a demon and business man."
"What did he do?" Veronica asked quietly.
"What do you think, love?"
She swallowed hard, angry that her eyes were burning with tears. "When. When did he make the deal?"
"Oh, I'd say about seven years back or so, when a certain miss got herself into more trouble than she realized," Crowley answered. He passed her a napkin, then glared down at it, as if the polite gesture was offensive before straightening. "Which is what brings us to our current predicament. You see, when I made a deal with our studly antihero over there, I gave him a standard contract, one life saved and ten years to enjoy it with said life. Good deal, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, last year there was a bit of a…change in management."
Veronica blinked at him. "You were overthrown?"
"Let's just say, when the boss is away, evil whores are bound to try and sit on his throne." Crowley shrugged. "Anyhow, power hungry as she was, my temporary replacement decided to cancel quite a few contracts. Hence Logan's early demise. For the most part, I didn't concern myself with righting those wrongs, but your hubby put up quite a fuss downstairs when I returned to power. And since he did have more cards he could play in his old meatsack, I pulled a few strings…It wasn't easy."
"You brought him back."
"Yes, well, as far as the government is concerned, he had to fake his death for security reasons, and since the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, and more than a few of the higher ups have made my acquaintance in the past, it wasn't difficult to plan for his return. After all, his position is part of what makes him useful. Let's just say I have some work overseas in annoyingly unfriendly areas."
"I don't…" Veronica closed her eyes, trying to collect her thoughts. "You didn't let him tell me, did you?"
"He didn't want to," Crowley corrected. "Seems he thought you might be upset to find him back from the dead, seeing as he'll only be sticking around four years. Oh. Make that three now, I suppose. My how time flies."
"You still have him under contract? That's bullshit. He died, he went to hell. Contract filled," Veronica snapped.
"And if he'd been clever enough to get out of Hell on his own, I would have agreed with you," Crowley said. "Unfortunately he needed me. So we adjusted our arrangement. He'd work for me if I let him spent his remaining time top-side instead of on a rack downstairs… Of course, we could always adjust that timeline, if a better offer presented itself. Contract renewals are a thing, after all."
"Just stop talking around whatever it is you want."
Veronica shot Logan a glance and saw the subtle way he shook his head, trying to stop her. He knew her well after all this time. He especially knew when she was about to do something dangerous.
Crowley leaned back, letting out a breath through his nose, as if he were reconsidering his own plans, but after a long break, he tilted his chin up. "As you might imagine, demons, especially the ones still roaming the world, they're a bit hard to control. Disloyal, the lot of them. Which is what makes them fun, but as far as getting work done? Well, there lies a problem. Sometimes, I have agendas that I'd rather them not be privy to. Private work."
"Private investigating?" Veronica blinked. "Are you seriously trying to hire me for a job right now?"
"Why not," Crowley mused. He waved back, where Logan was sitting. "Really, hubby there, his soul...well, it's just one, you know. As undeserving as he is for hell, the strength I'd get from his soul, it's a matchstick in a bonfire. I don't need him there. I do need him here, at least until I straighten out a few...acquaintances. And I've been aware of your skillset for some time now. I think you'd be rather useful as far as intelligence gathering goes."
"For some reason, I don't think I'd be willing to do whatever it is you want me to do." Veronica frowned. Her eyes stung from forcing them away from Logan. She didn't want to look him in the eye. To see his face when she said no, that she didn't mind herself dying, but there were some things… There were just some things she wouldn't do, even to bring him back.
"No, Veronica, dear, as much fun as it would be to see you get your hands dirty, this job wouldn't require any bloodshed." He paused, frowning. "Well, maybe a little bloodshed, but not innocent blood. Not human blood. It's nothing that would spin that dusty moral compass of yours, certainly. Just a few lies told, harmless ones. Mostly by omission. Same work you always do, really."
Veronica swallowed hard. "Not to look a gift demon in the eyes, but you're making this sound easy."
"It is easy," he agreed.
She shook her head. "Then why offer it to me? I'm sure you've got plenty of people with my "skillset" asking for deals. Why me? And what are you paying me, exactly?"
Crowley shrugged. "True. But maybe I'm a romantic, and your tragic love story just pulled at my black little heartstrings." He snorted at his own joke, lifting his drink for another sip. "Or maybe I need a way to keep two birds loyal with one soul. The way I see it, both of you can keep doing your work and feeling oh-so-good about those deeds your doing, and I can get what I want too. Humans, you lot function differently from demons... " He cleared his throat, as if something about the sentiment had annoyed him on a private level. "Anyhow, your fee. Three years of work from my little newlyweds will pay off Logan's contract completely. As in, no required trips downstairs, unless of course, you'd like to earn the ticket yourselves."
"Logan and I work for you for three years, and you'll let us both just walk away? No questions asked, no demonic visits?" Veronica hated to sound skeptical. She much preferred to hide her nature, but there it was.
"Assuming you both survive and the world hasn't ended," Crowley agreed. "You've done your homework, Veronica, and you know how these deals go. The only difference in this one is that I require something other than your soul as a bargaining chip. Do we have a deal?"
"What's the job?"
Crowley smiled. "There's a group of people called hunters, who like to chase down things that go bump in the night. You'll need to get acquainted with them. Then we'll set up a cute-meet for you and a pair of brothers. They've been hunting most of their lives, so you'll have to prove yourself to earn their trust...We'll arrange something. I need eyes and ears on them. That's all."
"Let me guess," Veronica said, "these guys, not exactly friends on yours?"
"Depends on the day of the week, though that isn't the word they'd use to describe the relationship," Crowley disagreed. "Let's just say, I've learned through experience that I need to know what they know faster than they're willing to tell me. I'm the devil they know, as it were."
Veronica raised a brow, surprised. "Ok then. So why spy on them?"
"I have reasons." Crowley's lips tightened. "I'll only ask one more time. Deal or no deal?"
Veronica nodded once. "Deal," she said.
Crowley raised a finger, curling it in a beckoning gesture, and Logan pushed back his bar stool, turning to walk their way. Veronica could feel her heartbeat in her throat, thunder shaking her to her core with every step he took. He was real, so solid, every detail of him how she'd remembered from their wedding day. Except for the eyes. There was something dark there, sad and grieving and he'd been so happy that day…
"Normally," Crowley was saying, "I'd seal the deal myself, but we'll think of this as borrowing a pen from a co-worker. Care to do the honors?"
Veronica barely heard him. She stood, the demon's invisible grip gone, and stepped out to meet Logan. His hands caught her shoulders, keeping her from throwing herself into him entirely, and he slid one hand up to her neck, resting his fingers against her pulse.
"Veronica, what did you do?" he whispered, defeated.
"Exactly what you did," she choked back, forcing a tight grin that didn't match the tears she could feel sliding over her cheeks. "I missed you."
"Every day," he agreed.
He leaned down, catching her lips in a soft kiss, breathing into her. When they parted, she found her arms around him, his chin on the top of her head.
The promise was whispered from above her. "Three years," she echoed back.
She couldn't remember separating. Couldn't remember forcing herself away from him and sitting back down, but after many long minutes, she blinked into the realization that she must have done just that. Because Crowley and Logan had left with a, "We'll be in touch," and there was a file sitting on the table in front of her, just like the ones she used in her jobs.
She felt numb, like she'd lost something. Maybe not her soul, not today, but it felt like her heart had been ripped out all over again. Numbly, she reached out, flipping the file over. There were a few sheets of paper, info to get her started, and a picture of two tall men standing next to a slick black classic car.
"Three years," she said again. "I can do three years."