DISCLAIMER: Characters of Veronica Mars, any recognizable dialogue, and the canon events of their storyline belong to Rob Thomas.
Update on upcoming chapters of Learning (Along the Road – Part 4) in A/N at the end of this one-shot.
This fic takes place near the end of #1.02 "Credit Where Credit Is Due."
As I pulled out of the parking lot, my last words to Felix played over in my head: "Pull them off before they go too far."
I couldn't stay and watch. Betrayal would be hard enough to swallow from any member of the PCH Bike Club. But family?! That shit cuts deep.
He didn't just betray me. Apparently, he and I have very different ideas of how you show love toward family – especially our grandma.
She'd probably chew my ass when she saw his beaten and bruised body. But he crossed a line, something he can't come back from. I expect loyalty from my boys and from my family. He broke my trust and proved he doesn't have a clue what loyalty is.
Between the time I turned myself in and when I was released, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what really happened, who had really done it. I didn't want to believe she would do it. But I never would have believed that Chardo would let her take the fall for it – and then watch me turn myself in without saying a word. That is not how a real man lives his life.
When I found out that Veronica was the one to uncover the truth – even after what I said to her the night she dropped by my house – I had to wrap my head around the fact that right now I had more reason to trust her than a member of my own family.
As I drove up the PCH, my mind wandered to the moment we shared on the front porch after I was released.
Not sure why I'd used the words "give me some love" as I opened my arms to embrace her. But she didn't seem to mind. And she didn't pull away.
That made me wonder … a lot of things. Like why the hell did it feel so natural to have her in my arms?
Without realizing what I was doing, I had turned around and headed back toward Neptune.
I checked a few places I thought I might find her – Dog Beach, the Camelot. No luck.
Didn't know where she lived, but I looked up the address of her dad's office.
I parked about a block away. Didn't want her to hear my bike pull up in front. Not sure why I cared about being stealthy, but this "thing" between us – whatever it was – had caught me off guard. Guess I didn't want to give her time to prepare. I wanted to get her unfiltered reaction.
When I walked into the office, I was about to start talking. But at the same time, her dad walked into the room through another door.
He turned to see me. "Eli."
"Sheriff," I responded with a chin lift.
"What can we do for you?" There was a hint of curiosity in his voice.
Looking over his shoulder at V's surprised face, I said, "Just came by to talk to Veronica."
Keith looked behind him to see if that was okay with her. She nodded and gave him a smile.
He gave her a moment to change her mind. When she didn't, he said, "Well, I'll be heading home." Then he turned to me. "I'm glad that everything got sorted out – that neither you nor your grandma are locked up for something you didn't do. And …" He trailed off. He looked uncomfortable, like he was struggling to say something.
"Sheriff, you should either spit it out or move on with your evening. 'Cause I don't plan on interrogating it out of you."
That got a laugh out of him.
"Eli … I was just going to say … I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions. We both know that you've done plenty of things in the past, but that … well, it doesn't mean that you're guilty of everything. Clearly, you love your grandma. A lot." He paused before adding, "Anyway, I'm sorry." And he extended his hand.
I was still sorting through what he had just said, but I cautiously reached out to shake his hand.
He said goodbye to both of us, and then he left.
Walking toward Veronica's desk, I watched as she shuffled papers around.
"Were you able to find Chardo?" she asked without looking up.
"Yeah. The 09ers had just caught up to him, but I … uh, had a little talk with Logan. Convinced him to let us take care of our own mess."
When she met my eyes, a crooked smile was on her lips. "Must have been some conversation. I would have loved to hear how you convinced him to see it your way."
"I can be very persuasive … when I really want something."
"Is that so?"
I just stared at her, trying to read her expression and tone of voice. And willing her to hear my thoughts.
Finally, she broke the silence. "You told my dad you came here to talk to me. Was that it? Or did you want something else?"
Did she seriously want me to answer that loaded question?! Not sure she could handle the answer I'd like to give. So, I asked this instead: "You done working for the night?"
"Ever been on a bike?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You know … if you keep answering my questions with questions, we're not gonna get very far."
"Sorry. Occupational hazard, I guess."
"Still waiting for your answer."
"Yes. And no."
"Gonna need an explanation."
"Yes, I'm almost finished for the night. No, I've never been on a motorcycle."
"Good. I brought an extra helmet. Let's go."
"I think I missed the part where you asked if I want to go somewhere with you."
I spoke slowly and deliberately as I said, "Veronica, I'd like to show you something. Would you please come with me?"
I headed up the PCH, retracing the same path I had taken earlier. The sun had begun to set.
We stopped to get gas and pick up some food. Then, I took her to a spot I liked – small parking area along the side of the road, with a couple picnic tables and a great view of the Pacific Ocean.
By the time we got there, the sky was almost dark, and the full moon reflected on the water.
As we ate, we talked a little. But there was a lot of silence too.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed being with her. The conversation was light, and the silences were comfortable. Hanging out with her wasn't like any other girl I'd ever spent time with.
As she looked out at the ocean, I sat staring at her. Suddenly, she turned her head and caught me.
"What?!" she asked.
Thankfully, I didn't have to answer that question, because her phone rang.
It was her dad asking if she was gonna be home soon.
I listened as she explained that it would "be a little while" … and she told him the truth. Almost.
She said that I gave her a ride along the coast as a thank you. But that wasn't the real reason I wanted to get her on my bike. I wondered if she had figured that out yet.
After she got off the phone, she got up on the table, lying down on her back. I watched her as she seemed to study the stars above us.
Interrupting her thoughts, I asked, "You ever lie to your father? Not just a fib or a little white lie or blurring the truth a bit – but an out-and-out lie?"
"Not usually. Lies of omission are my preferred form of deception."
"I'll have to remember that."
The next several minutes were filled with silence. Then, I reached into my pocket for a penny as I stood up. As I stretched out on the table next to her, I handed her the coin.
Looking at it, she asked, "What's this for?"
"Wondering what we're doing here."
"At this particular location? Or—?"
"No. What I mean is … Why did you come to see me tonight? And why did you want me to come here with you?"
"Other than to say thank you … not sure." A voice in my head said: Man up. "Actually, that's not true. Well, it's not the whole truth."
As we both looked up at the stars, she waited for me to continue.
When I didn't, she said sincerely, "I'm listening."
"Earlier today … when the deputy dropped me at the house … and you were there …"
"Yeah, what about it?"
"I gave you a hug."
"Yeah. You did."
"And you hugged me back."
"Yeah. I did. Where is this going?"
"Good question." I turned my head to look at her. "That hug … did not feel like any hug I've ever had. Not sure how to say it." When I paused, she turned her head toward me – her face just inches from mine. "I guess I was wondering …"
I made a command decision to not answer her question. I stretched my neck toward her and kissed her.
A couple seconds later, I pulled far enough away to say, "That. That's what I was wondering."
"Your mind … is a very interesting place."
"I'm glad you think so."
Rolling toward her, I kissed her again. My hand moved to her face, then her hair. Then down her back until it came to rest on her hip. Everything I put into that kiss, she returned with equal intensity. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but when it was over, we just stared at one another. Don't know about her, but I wasn't sure what to say after that.
"You've definitely given me a lot to think about," she finally said.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I figured it was Felix, wondering where I was. When I checked the text message, I saw the time. I groaned, knowing that both of us needed to get back to our regularly scheduled lives.
I got off the picnic table, reaching out my hand to help her down, as I said, "I guess I should get you back to your car. Wouldn't want the Sheriff to come looking for us."
"You know you don't need to call him Sheriff anymore, right?"
"He deserves the title of respect. Lamb doesn't." For me, this was a simple statement of fact.
"Would you have said that before his apology earlier?"
"Yes. But even more now."
"And I say again: Your mind is a very interesting place."
It could have been my imagination, but I think she held onto me a little tighter on the way back.
After I pulled up behind her LeBaron, I helped her off my bike and took the helmet that she handed to me.
Looking down at the helmet in my hands, I asked, "What would your dad say if you went on a date with someone like me?"
"Someone like you? … Or you?"
"Let's start with hypothetical and work our way back."
"Okay … someone like you in what way? Your height and build? Wears leather? Someone with a record? You're gonna have to be more specific."
I looked her in the eyes as I answered. "Not white. Not an honors student. Not an 09er. Not squeaky-clean."
"Well, for starters, Dad's not a huge fan of 09ers in general."
"You know what I mean, V," I said, tilting my head.
"Yeah, I do." She studied my eyes. "Honestly, I'm not sure. But I think he would look at things on a case-by-case basis, not lump everyone in together."
"Okay … so if I asked you—"
"And if I said yes ..."
"Would you tell him? And what do you think he would say?"
"I don't think I would tell him … not right away. And I'm not sure what he'd say. He'd probably caution me against it."
"Would you be a 'good girl' and obey his wishes?"
"Meaning … that I would stop going out with a guy if my dad didn't like the fact that I was dating him?"
"Probably not. I mean, I wouldn't date a guy just to upset him, but I also wouldn't break up with a guy just to make him happy."
"So … if I asked you out …?"
"You'll never know unless you ask."
"I kinda did."
"But … you didn't."
I don't think I'd ever had to work this hard before. Usually, my crooked smile and smoldering gaze were enough. After a moment, I said simply: "I'd like to take you out sometime."
"Still not hearing a question."
"Damn, girl. Why you have to make everything so difficult?"
She smiled and tilted her head. "Pretty sure if you were looking for something easy, you wouldn't be here with me."
I honestly didn't know how to reply to that. So, I just smirked and gave a chin lift.
"Tell me I'm wrong, Weevil. Those eyes, those Maybelline lashes … not to mention the bike, the leather jacket, and the swagger … I'm sure there's a long line of girls willing to say yes to any question you ask."
I kept eye contact with her as I said, "None that I'm interested in."
"Why is that? Why me?"
With a crooked smile, I replied, "I've always liked a challenge."
"So … you've decided that … what? … you intend for me to be your next conquest?"
I let her question hang between us for a couple seconds before asking my own question: "Can I take you out this weekend?"
"I'll have to check my calendar."
"Is that a polite way of saying, 'Go to hell'?"
"No. It's an honest answer. I don't remember if I have plans. And I don't know if Dad needs me to work on a case." She watched my reaction and then said, "Would you rather I said yes now, but had to back out later after I look at my calendar?"
"So … if your calendar is open, your answer is yes?"
She laughed the sweetest laugh I'd ever heard. "That's what you got out of all that?"
"Again. Answering a question with a question."
"Yes … what?"
"Yes, if my calendar is open, I'll go out with you."
After a goodnight kiss – the best damn goodnight kiss I'd ever had – I watched her get into her car and pull out of the parking space before I turned in the opposite direction to go home.
As I rode away, I thought to myself: I should just stay the hell away from her. Life would be so much easier. But she had been right – if I wanted something easy, I wouldn't have been with her tonight.
As I usually do with things that are pulled from my "ideas folder" … I'm posting this as a one-shot and marking it complete, but there's always the possibility that my imagination comes up with a way to continue it.
Update on Learning (Along the Road – Part 4): The hiatus will be a bit longer than I had hoped. My sincerest apologies. I will get back to it as soon as I possibly can. Trust me, I'd rather be working on that fic than dealing with my current situation. Hopefully, you'll have new chapters starting about 2 months from now.
Until next time …
12 September 2020