Chapter 7: Refuge

You know that feeling when you really, really hope that a moment or even a whole night will never end, as foolish as you know that is, because really, it's impossible? Well, I was having just such a moment and frankly said, I was a little surprised at that. If someone would have told me that there is one moment on the day of my father's funeral I would never want to end, I'd have been really angry and made a mental note to get even with the idiot on a later note. Especially right after Jake Kane came and announced that he is my father and demanded of me to move in into his house, a house where my best friend, my sister, had been murdered and in which it's very well possible that the murderer of her is still living.

Of course though I should have known better to presume anything where Logan Echolls was involved, even if it was merely by his presence. Especially then. If there is one thing you can be sure of, then that Logan Echolls is always good for a surprise, be it a good one or a bad one. I should know. After all, I've been on the other end of those surprises more than once.

Just look at that night alone: he had surprised me several times, first by his surprising statement that of course Jake Kane wasn't my father and never would be, that my father would always be my dad, Keith Mars. Then by the extraordinary fact that all of a sudden, after a year of hate and almost a week of avoiding, he had been ready to listen to my reasons why Abel Koontz hadn't killed Lilly and even more amazing, had pledged himself to be fully on my side even if that meant that he had to at least think it possible that one of the Kanes had something to do with Lilly's murder. Followed by his almost comical first reaction to me kissing him, his then very intense kissing back, sending all my senses, my whole body on fire, immediately followed by him simply declaring that we didn't need to talk about what had happened between us as it was pretty clear that we'd be in a relationship as from now on to finally agreeing to be my secret boyfriend just like that.

Yeah, peg me as being not just surprised, but as being flabbergasted.

Take that: me, Veronica Mars and him, Logan Echolls, dating.

Logan Echolls - my boyfriend.

It didn't matter that I've seen this coming in the past week. It didn't matter that years ago, I first had felt that tiny flutter in my stomach that promised me so much more - us dating should be an impossibility after everything that had happened between us. Him dating Lilly, me dating Duncan, us falling apart and growing to be such ugly enemies.

No matter what, one cannot deny the simple fact that Logan had hurt me terribly, in a way more than Duncan ever had. Not only by denying me the friendship that would have helped me so much after Lilly's death and then my mom's abandonment but also by turning the whole school against me. And I've hurt him, I know that, even though I still don't know exactly how I've hurt him so much that he had turned to hate me with such a ferocity. Or at least not fully. I understood better now but I had the feeling that there was still missing a piece of the puzzle. One day, I would have to ask him about it. But not that night. I didn't want to go into that in that somewhat wonderful night, any less than I wanted to get into another thing altogether with him right now.

The rape.

I shivered and not just from the coldness that had laid itself onto the world.

Before I knew it, a sweater was wrapped around me and Logan pulled me closer to him, lightly kissing my neck.

"Always being cold so fast," he whispered amused as his warm hands covered mine and rubbed them gently. "You're just too damn tiny."

I smiled as my heart lifted, pushing away the layers of our ugly past to come back to the pureness of just this moment. Me wrapped into the warmth and safety of Logan's body, us snuggled up on his blanket on the beach, bathed in moonlight and the waves softly washing up and ebbing away.

A moment that was perfect, despite everything or perhaps just because of everything, a moment I never wanted to end.

"Hey, leave my size out of this. Me getting cold fast has nothing to do with my size that is, may I add, just perfect," I protested, glaring up at him.

Grinning and totally unfazed by my glare, he lowered his head and kissed me deeply.

By Heaven, could that boy kiss! If I had known that I would have gone and kissed him way back.

"No, of course it has nothing to do with your size," Logan nodded sarcastically once he broke our kiss and I blinked, needing a moment to get back my bearings. A blink that didn't go unnoticed, judging by the satisfied smirk on his face. Ugh. "And hey, I'm not complaining. You're just the right size for me, but fact is you are tiny, my little pixie, and not even you can deny that," he added.

I narrowed my eyes. "Excuse me, but did you just call me a pixie, Echolls?"

His grin grew as he nodded. "Yep, I have."

A frown joined my narrowed eyes. "And what exactly do you think I have in common with little blue monsters with wings and nothing but havoc in mind?"

At that he loved. "Well, besides your obvious tiny-ness: for one, you for sure are one hell of a troublemaker. Not to mention that you have a knack to cause havoc yourself." I flared up but before I could give him a biting response, his eyes gentled as he gave me a quick but soft kiss. "But I'm not thinking of those pixies, Ronnie, when I think of you but of the sort of pixies who are pure magical creatures, beautiful with their airy clothes and fragile but wonderful wings, sprinkling golden dust, the epitome of peace but oh so fierce and unrelenting in battle."

Stunned into speechlessness, I stared at him. I've known him for years but this tenderness and this, hell, romanticism of him was a completely new side of him, a side I guess only his girlfriends had ever seen of him. Probably only Lilly had seen it before. I've seen glimpses of it and Lilly had dropped a remark here or there, remarks I've always laughed about because though I knew that there was a surprising deepness in Logan, I just couldn't see the smirking, mischievous boy I knew as such a softie at heart - but boy, she sure hadn't been kidding.

I felt myself smile somewhat amused. "Boy, our take on pixies is sure as hell different."

Logan shrugged. "As mine is the way more accurate and definitely better opinion I'd say we go with my imagination on pixies from now on."

One of my eyebrows rose. "You'd say?"

"Hmm..." he nodded, stroking up my arms, leaving a trail of burning goosebumps. "After all, I'm not going to stop calling you my little pixie, because really, you are, and to avoid further arguments we best decide here and now that we agree on my version of pixies that is so much more flattering to you than yours."

I considered this for a moment before I slowly nodded. "Ooookaaay. But know that this is only in honor of this night when we became a couple - and only when I get to call you my jackass - 'cause baby, that's what you are - most of the time."

His brown eyes turned to me, having lost part of their smugness. Good. "That's not fair, Ronnie! Here I have a perfectly complimentary endearment for you and all you come up with is jackass?"

It was my turn to grin. "A very affectionately called jackass, baby," I assured him mockingly.

He frowned. "Still... does it have to be a jackass?" he asked grudgingly.

I shrugged, my grin intensifying as I leaned up and kissed him lightly. His eyes searched mine when I drew back and nodded slightly. "Yeah Logan, it has to be. The jackass and I have history, you know? I promise I'll find another curse for you for the times I'll be spitting mad at you." I shook my head and made a face. "For I very doubt that the explosives between us will cease to go up just because we're hitched now and have make up make out sessions now instead of truces."

His eyebrows shot up. "Make up make out sessions?" he asked, interested.

"Got a better idea?" I asked, smirking.

Eagerly, he nodded, leering. "Sure. Make up sex. Nothing beats make up sex, Babe."

Laughing, I swatted at him. "Down boy. First, we may want to have normal sex before we start with the make up sex. So make up make out it is until then."

"Well in that case we'll just see to it that we get that sex out of the way soon so I can teach you the wonders of make up sex. I may start a fight with you just for that cause," Logan suggested, one of his arms sneaking around my waist and doing some kind of circling thing with his thumb that I felt resonating deep in my belly, causing me to catch my breath in surprise of the unfamiliar but definitively good feeling.

I swallowed and tried to concentrate on giving him a flippant answer. "Don't sweat it, Echolls. I promise you here and now that if you try that, the least you'll get is make up sex."

He sighed. "Ronnie, really, you seriously need to work on your romantic side."

"Make up sex is romantic?" I asked, unbelieving.

"Very," he nodded with such a straight face that I narrowed my eyes, unsure. He still kept the straight face. I bend my head to the side. At last, the corners of his mouth started to twitch.

"Ha!" I exclaimed, pointing my finger at him.

He chuckled and shook his head. "Okay, perhaps not that romantic. But it definitely has something on its very own - as you'll see."

"We'll see about that," I remarked dryly, but then turned serious.

Strangely, I had no problems with Logan making all those innuendos about sex. And even more amazing, I had not one moment of panic when Logan and I had lost control a bit in our feverish second kiss. Hell, I think it was even me who pulled him down and right on top of me and him who had to pull the break because I sure as hell wasn't anywhere near stopping. Something that was totally unexpected to me. Not him stopping us but me not only being so forward but also that I had managed to get so lost in the feelings Logan had evoked in me, them feeling so naturally and God, so very, very right and good.

It never had been like that with Troy, my only boyfriend since Duncan - and since the rape. With him, I've always put a stop to it as soon as it got a bit too heavy for my taste. And believe me, that was way less than how far Logan had let it go between us before he had pulled back. With Troy, there had always been this shadow lurking, this dark memory I didn't remember but knew it was there and whenever it had gotten too intense I had felt panic raising its ugly heat. Not this time though - not with Logan. With him, I forgot everything and just felt, nothing else, no panic, no dark thoughts mulling if I've already experienced this or that that night. And that was so much more than I'd ever hoped for - and definitely not anything I'd ever have imagined happening with Logan of all people.

Then again, after this past week, and as strange as it seemed, Logan was the one person I trusted most in this world right now. Even more than Wallace, though Wallace was a close second.

But still...

Tentatively, I covered his hand laying on my stomach with mine and looked up into his eyes, suddenly nervous and a tad bit shy. "Logan, I..."

That was how far I got before Logan, his eyes gentle and suddenly serious as well shushed me with a finger on my lips.

"Ssshhh... No hurry, Veronica. We'll wait until you're ready. You don't have to worry about that," he told me softly.

I felt something loosing inside me, some tight knot, but I was still a bit hesitant. "Are you sure, Logan? I mean... You..." Thank God it was night. Otherwise I was pretty sure he could marvel about the beet red color I've taken on by now.

He shrugged, smiling, and stroked with the back of his fingers over my cheek. "Ronnie... While I won't deny that sex is good, sex is wonderful, sex is one of the best activities life can offer you and definitely my favorite one - sex is not everything, not in a relationship. You know that. I have no problem with waiting, Ronnie, really not. We won't do anything you're not ready for, I promise you that." He smiled ruefully. "I can't promise you that I'll never go too far, 'cause I can tell you already, it is damn hard to not lose control with you, but if that happens you just have to say it, okay? And I promise I'll stop. I perhaps will need a moment, but I'll stop." He smiled, but his eyes were dead serious and I knew he meant ever word he had just said. Again, his hand caressed my cheek. "So really, don't you worry about that, okay? We'll wait as long as it takes and once you think you're ready, I'll see to it that it will be a truly memorable night." His eyes gentled even more, if that was possible. "And I promise that I'll be gentle and careful," he promised in a whisper, stroking a stray of my hair behind my ear, his eyes never leaving mine.

By God... I realized with a start. He really believed that I was still a virgin. Despite all the rumors mostly he had spread, despite all the nasty remarks he had thrown at my head for a year, never knowing just how deep they really hurt me... despite all that he believed that I was still a virgin.

My throat closed off and despite my fight against it, a big fat tear escaped my eyes and rolled down over my cheek. Damn it. I didn't want to cry. But... Oh God, it felt so good to hear that Logan never had believed those rumors, despite everything. I hadn't known it would mean that much to me to hear his voice of confidence on that matter, hear him so easily declaring that he hadn't thought me a slut all this times, no matter what he had said to me.

Another tear escaped and made its way down my cheek.

And then... him assuring me so fiercely that we didn't have to rush into things, promising me to stop whenever I wanted to... you have no idea what a relief and what a gift that was for me. Hell, I had no idea how very much it would mean to me to hear such reassurances.

"Shit, Ronnie, I'm sorry... I..." Logan though nervously said, wiping away the tears, staring at me with wide and confused eyes.

And I did something that at any other moment would have ashamed me deeply. I, distastefully girlish and weak, threw myself at him, causing us to fall back onto the blanket, my arms clinging to him and before he could yelp his surprise, I shut him up with a kiss. I kissed him for all it was worth and right then and there, I could have had him, right then and there. It would have been wrong, I knew that and definitely not where I wanted it to happen as I knew perfectly well that his first time with Lilly had also been on the beach and as much as I loved the beach and being there with him that night, I definitely didn't want our first time to happen like theirs. But right then and there, I didn't care and it was Logan who once again prevented things from going beyond the point of no return by rolling us over so he was on top and, after a long, heavily moment in which his deep kiss and his magical hands had me soaring to unknown highs, broke away to gaze down at me, his eyes darker than I've ever seen them and him swallowing two times before he managed to speak. "Uh... Ronnie?" he asked, staring down at me, confused. "What... What was that?"

The air between us cooled with the cold breeze stroking over my heated body and slowly, I came back to reason and sighed. If we continued like that Logan would definitely not have to wait long for us to have sex. But I couldn't sleep with him without first telling him about... about Shelley's party. I'm not sure why I was so absolute sure about that, with Troy I never even dreamed of telling him about what had happened, but now, here with Logan, I knew I'd have to tell him. Perhaps to warn him should I still freeze suddenly though right now, I really doubted that. I couldn't imagine that I'd ever feel frightened with him. I trusted him, completely, as much I knew without even the slightest doubt. He needed to know. Deserved to know it. But God, I so didn't want to ever have to tell him that. It would take a while for me to be ready for that, I knew that instinctively. So perhaps he really would need to wait a while longer.

And so would I.

Taking a deep, calming breath, I smiled and touched his cheek, caressing it. "Just a little thank you," I told him.

His forefront wrinkled as his eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Okaaaayyy... You sure have an interesting way to be grateful. Not that I complain."

Smirking, I lightly pushed at him so I could sit up. "Would have surprised me otherwise, Buster."

He conveniently complied and sat up as well, never leaving me out of his eyes though. I could tell that he still was a bit unsure about what had just happened. But he wouldn't understand for quite a while yet - not until I found the courage to tell him about Shelley's party. Not just because of well... what had happened. But because I knew deep down that as soon as he learned of the rape, he'd start to blame himself for it. He likes to blame himself for things he really wasn't responsible for, I've noticed that already years before. And jeez, he was going to be so angry. I just knew that.

Once again, I shivered.

Moving to sit behind me so Logan's long legs stretched out along mine, straddling me, he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close to his chest and rested his chin on my left shoulder. "Warmer?" he asked.

Sighing contently, I nodded and leaned more into him.

No, I definitely didn't want this moment to ever end and me having to return to the harsh realities of my life.

I'm not sure how much longer we sat there like that, not talking much anymore, just enjoying each other's nearness. Perhaps an hour, perhaps a little more.

Eventually though, the cold breeze chilled to a level even Logan started to feel the coldness. Not that he said anything, but I was close enough to him to see the goosebumps on his arm - and definitely close enough to feel even his omnipresent heat to loose some of its intensity. Which in turn made me feel the coldness again as well and when I shivered once again, Logan sighed.

"We should go, Ronnie," he told me quietly.

"I know," I sighed as well. "But I really, really, really don't want to go yet. I don't want this to end."

"Neither do I but unfortunately, we can't stay here all night. It is winter after all, even if it's Californian winter," Logan said reluctantly.

This time I just sighed, didn't move though. I knew we couldn't stay there but I wasn't ready to go back to his house... Not when it was very likely that Jake may still wait there for me - or had left instructions to have me delivered immediately to the Kane mansion once I get back. "Do you think he's still there?" I asked Logan tonelessly.

His arms tightened around me. "I don't know."

"Logan, I can't... I can't go there, not already tonight. Definitely not tonight," I tensely said, biting my lip.

"Then you won't. You're right. You don't have to face that tonight. You shouldn't have to face it," Logan told me, firmly.

I lifted my eyes to him. "It's not that easy, Logan. Probably, Jake's still camping out at your house. And if not he'll sure as hell will have left instructions to bring me to him once I show up. You know him. You've seen how determined he had been."

"Relax. We'll just stay clear of him tonight," Logan though tried to sooth me.

"For all we know he has already set out the police to look for us. Heaven knows your car isn't hard to miss," I worried, bitterly, then made a face, remembering Sam. "I'm sure at least Sam will be out looking for me. He for sure will be worried."

Logan frowned, thinking for a moment. "Okay, here is what we'll do: You'll call Hunter and let him know that you're okay but that you want to stay clear for Jake for the rest of the night. And you'll ask him to pass this message along, especially to Jake."

"That might do it," I tiredly nodded. "But still doesn't tell us where to go so Jake will leave us alone."

Logan shrugged. "We can go to a hotel."

I made a face again. "Which one? The only kind of hotel that will take us in at this time of the night are not really hotels I'll be comfortable staying in. If they let us book a room for the rest of the night and won't let it cost us a fortune might I add."

"Point," Logan conceded. "Wallace?"

I shook my head. "Too late as well."

"I doubt he would mind," Logan remarked gently.

"Of course not. But I mind. I don't want to wake his Mom and his brother and cause trouble for them. Which we would be. They don't have a guestroom, not a free one at least," I still refused straight out.

Besides, I would rather want us to be alone tonight.

"Where to then?" Logan wanted to know with a sigh.

Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back to rest it on his shoulder. I knew a place where we could go to. We'd have peace, would be alone, would have nothing to pay nor would we cause any trouble to anyone. The keys were in my pockets. Had always been. Though I couldn't have faced going back there, I couldn't have let go of the keys either. Tonight though... tonight, after everything that had happened, I felt like I needed to go back.

To go home.

For the last time in my life.

At least to that home.


I opened my eyes. "I know of a place," I told Logan quietly.

He waited a moment, probably for me to elaborate, but I didn't do him the favor.

"Okay... wanna let me in into the secret or should I guess?" he asked and I had to smile at the slight annoyance in his voice.

"Home," I simply answered though, bracing myself for what I thought would come now.

Logan was quiet for a long time, staring at me, having caught up on the meaning of my words immediately. "You think that's a good idea?" he finally asked, gently though.

I shook my head. "No idea. But I know I need to go home. Tonight."

He studied me for a moment longer before he nodded slowly. "Okay," he simply said, surprising me once again with his easy acceptance, and then turned his head to capture my mouth, giving me another kiss, sweet and tender.

When he broke away he stood up and held out his hand to help me up. "Let's go then."

I allowed myself to stare at him for a tiny moment before I let him pull me up and I shook my head. "Will you ever stop to surprise me?"

He flashed me one of his most patented grins. "Not if I can prevent it. Where would be the fun in that?" he gave back and bent down to pick up the blanket. "Besides," he confidently added. "You love me for my unpredictability, just admit it, Mars."

"Yeah, as much as I love that car of yours," I remarked dryly.

"See? Totally crazy for me," Logan nodded, ignoring my jab at his car, and smirking, he put his arm around me to pull me as close as it was still possible for us to walk and started to steer us back towards said car of his. "You just can't resist me."

I rolled my eyes. "You wish, Echolls," I retorted sarcastically but reached up to intertwine my fingers with the ones loosely resting on my shoulder, a gesture I've always liked especially, somehow giving me the impression that there was no end to me and the boy I was going out with.

Smiling, Logan leaned down his head. "I certainly do," he whispered lowly, leaving a quick kiss on my neck. "My little pixie."

"Jackass," I murmured, but I couldn't stop my grin to spread out.

So sue me: I really had a hard time resisting the obnoxious jackass.

My jackass.

Catching that thought I grinned even more. Boy, I was gone completely over the edge: I really was crazy - for just that jackass of mine.

Here I stood now - in front of the door that led to the apartment that had been my home for the past year, keys in my shaking hand and for the life of me, I just couldn't bring myself to slide the key into the lock and turn it. Such an easy, everyday task - but right now, it seemed an impossible task.

What had I been thinking - coming here? I wasn't ready for this! I wasn't ready to go in there and have to face that cold, empty apartment! So empty. It would be so empty...

My throat closed off and I stared down at my feet, frozen in my indecision. I didn't want to go in there - but at the same time I didn't want to leave again either, something still pulling me inside. The decision to come here hadn't come just out of nowhere. I had had my reasons and they still stood. But what determination and peace I had felt at the beach had evaporated the second I came to a stop in front of that door.

The drive over had been okay. I made the call to Sam and afterwards, Logan had kept things light or we just had been silent and listened to the music that was playing. And of course he was there now, at my back, waiting silently, something, I was very thankful for. I appreciated it that as soon as he had seen me suddenly hesitating, he hadn't suggested to leave again, or had asked if I really was sure this was the right thing to do or simply had taken my keys to unlock the door himself. No, he just waited and gave me time and I knew if I decided that I couldn't face the empty apartment now, he would just bring me somewhere else without any comment.

And somehow, that thought comforted me at the same time as it gave me strength.

I wasn't alone. The apartment may be terribly empty but I wasn't alone. I wouldn't be alone, perhaps never, if Logan held his word. I had Logan and Logan would stay with me, be there for me. Plus, there were my other friends. Wallace. Sam. Mac. Meg. Even Weevil. Fausto and Cliff. I wasn't alone.

So I could do this. It was necessary. It was right.

Taking a deep breath, I took a step forward and slowly inserted the key into the lock after my second try. Taking another breath, I turned the key. After another moment of hesitation and a third deep breath, I turned the knob and opened the door.

The first thing I grew aware of was the foul, sticky smell that waved out of the now open door, a typical smell for any closed space that hadn't been aired in a while. Not that it was bad - but I smelt it anyways. And I was stalling time. Annoyed with myself, I squared my shoulders and slowly stepped inside, always aware of the warmth at my back, Logan, and drawing strength from it.

Wordlessly, I switched on the light and then moved to the window to open it while Logan quietly closed and locked the door. Refusing to look around, I focused my eyes on Logan, glad for the distraction. Logan had never been here before, of course not. He'd been to the house we've lived in before though, plenty of times and there were probably plenty of things he would recognize. Not the furniture, but the little things scattered around, some of the pictures. Quite some things in my room.

Still. The apartment was shabby, no way around that, and the furniture had seen better days, also an undeniable fact. But Dad and I had done the best we could to make it comfortable, homey and I think we've managed that. Even if I've only lived for barely a year here, it had been home. A good home.

An empty home now.

"They yours?"

At Logan's questions I looked up and saw him standing in front of a row of enlargements of some of my pictures that Dad and I had hung up to give the place a more personal touch. Okay, Dad had framed and put them up while my work had been done with making them.

Silently, I nodded, moving over to Logan, desperate for the warmth he emanated constantly.

It was so cold in the apartment now.

"They're good," he said quietly and looked further around, his eyes gliding over me.

I shrugged, but nodded. "Thanks," I said, watching him as his gaze swept over the apartment, taking it in. I very much doubted that Logan had ever been in a shabby place like this. Actually, I would be surprised if he ever had been in this part of Neptune. Unless he wanted to do a dare or pull a prank. Logan was a snob, but he sure as hell was also a major troublemaker, so it was possible. I still don't think he'd been in an apartment like this ever before. His friends were without exceptions all rich and had grown up in big mansions with pools and fences to keep out the real world. Well, I had been an exception, but back then we had had the house, just at the border of the 09er district. That was acceptable, I think. And the girls he had dated before and since Lilly plus during their break-ups and even the girls he had had sex with - and yeah, there was a difference - also hadn't been poor, at least not those I knew of. Well, there may have been a maid or waitress or even a hooker here and there but he sure as hell hadn't gone to their place to have sex with - at least that was what I thought. Like said: Logan was quite a snob.

"Sooo... this is where you've lived for the past year."

Logan's voice brought me out of my musings and I grew aware that he was looking at me now.

"Yep," I nodded again.

"Hmm... I guess it's still better than a shoe box or trailer car park," he commented dryly, his lips curling in disdain as he stared at a part of the wall where no decoration in the world had been able to hide the desolate state it was in. "But really not that far. You sure it's safe to sleep here? I mean, there has no one been here in a week. I bet the cockroaches and flees had had the party of the year. And the rats had been probably dancing samba on the counter now that the wild beastie is gone."

For a moment, I stared at him, open-mouthed. Then I started to laugh. A laugh so hard that it started to hurt my side and my eyes were tearing a little as well.

"I shudder at the pure thought of what I'll find in the bathroom - a plumb down? And you've got running water here I assume. At least there's a sink in the kitchen. But is there warm water as well? 'cause this looks like the kind of place in TV shows or movies where that's not necessarily a given thing," Logan continued, smirking.

Laughing even harder, I shook my head. "You're impossible," I managed to gasp out, my sides burning.

"And still you want me," Logan drawled confidently and boxed me slightly into my side.

Shaking my head, I tried to reign in my laughter. "I don't know why." I let myself fall down onto the couch, exhaustion catching up with me, but still rumbling with laughter. Not quite sure but I think I was having a little hysteric breakdown. But damn, it had been a long day and I deserved to have a breakdown.

"Because I'm adorable?" Logan remarked and sat down beside me, pulling me into his arms.

Finally, I quieted down, letting his gently strokes over my hair and my arms sooth me.

"No. Because you know me better than anyone else, now that Dad is gone. Because despite everything, you came through for me," I whispered and looked up to see that he had gone completely still, staring at me. "Because you stayed, one way or another and didn't abandon me. As much as I hated to have lost you as a friend, as much as I hated our war - you still stayed, Logan. You became the enemy, but at least you were there none the less, still noticing me, even if it was as someone you despised. Still a part of my life. And now you are here, making sure that I'm not alone. Keeping me together. You stayed." I flashed back to not too long ago when Dad and I had had a talk about staying as well and I swallowed, fighting back the tears. Dad was gone now, but if he had had a choice, he would have stayed. If he had had a chance, he would have fought like hell to stay with me. And if there was a way for him to still be with me and look after me from death, he would do just that, I knew that as well. "The one who stays is the good guy, Logan. And it's the one I want and will do my best to stay for as well, if it's just for him," I told him quietly.

I wasn't sure where the suddenly deep and serious words had come from. Somehow, they had just spilled out. But I didn't regret saying them. After this week, after this night, he deserved to hear this. It was time someone told him that he was the good guy - a jackass, but still a good guy. Most of the time.

Logan looked like he was frozen in time, staring at me out of wide, stunned eyes - again - and I had to smile. It sure was a cute view. Perhaps I should aim to stun him more times from now on.

"Ronnie... I... I..." he stammered.

I laughed quietly. "May, may, Logan Echolls stunned into wordlessness... and that for the second time in one night. Quick, lets alert the news. You call Letterman, I'll go inform the hounds still camped out in front of your house," I said lightly, deciding to help him out. If anything, sarcasm should do the trick.

It did. His eyes focused, narrowed. "You're just a canon ball today, Mars," he grumbled.

"I do my best," I smiled.

"I've noticed," Logan remarked dryly and tightened his hold around my waist as he nuzzled my neck. "And yet I'm head over heels in love with you," he whispered casually into my ear.

My breath stopped and my heart came to rest for a moment as well before it started to beat again fast and with a big jump and it was my turn to freeze.

He... he... what?

He smiled, his eyes serious. "I know this is coming a bit fast. Technically, we just got together a few hours ago. But still, I am. I dunno... Time somehow is screwed up right now." He shrugged and smiled apologetically at me. "And I sure didn't want to dump that on you so soon - but if you go and say such things like you've just said, then you can hardly blame me for needing to tell you that I'm in love with you, Veronica Mars."

Oh. My. God.

I heard right, didn't I? He really...



This... this was just...


God, this was - big. So very big. And yet...

Sure, I was stunned, but strangely, I wasn't panicking. Shouldn't I panic? I mean, jeez, we just got together what? Two, three hours ago? And now... now he was telling me that he... Wow... But nope... no panic whatsoever. No words either, but definitely no panic. While I wasn't as far as him yet, I understood what he had meant with the time.

It was so what of screwed right now. Ever since my dad's death, it felt like time went by with lightening speed. An hour felt like a day, a day felt like a month in minimum and a week... yeah well, it sure felt a lot longer than merely a week and I knew that in the past days, I've done a lot of growing up.

Death will do that.

Last year, when Lilly had died, it had been the same. Well, perhaps not quite in the same expanse but the moment my eyes had fallen onto her dead body and I had realized that my best friend was gone forever, ripped out of life violently, my days of childhood had been over from one second to the other. Okay, I was sixteen, but you know how a normal, sixteen years old American teenager is: perhaps not a child per se anymore but definitely not grown up either yet, still naive, still innocent. With Lilly's death, I had lost that. And Logan and Duncan had as well.

"Hey... you're not in shock now, are you? 'Cause I got to warn you, I fear my CPR is a bit rusty."

"I'll see to it that I won't be in need of CPR with only you around then," I finally found something to say, even if it was a bit shaky. But hell, you don't hear your archenemy declaring to be in love with you everyday. "And in order to help me do that, you better stop to drop bombs like that on me," I chided him slightly.

He had the nerve to shrug. "You're one to talk."

"Well, to quote a well used cliché: a girl has to do what a girl has to do," I retorted and snuggled more into his side, if that was possibly, before looking up, serious. I still had no idea what to say but sometimes, even I let just my heart or instinct or whatsoever talk. "You should know that you saying that is big... And I feel like I should panic now. But I don't. I... I'm - happy to have you heard say that, I think. It means a lot, Logan. More than you can probably imagine. But..." And there my words trailed off and I bit my lip.

His fingers absentmindedly playing with my hair, Logan smiled. "Hey, you don't have to say anything, okay? That not what I expect. I just... needed you to know. Where I stand. That this is serious and not some fluke, no matter how little time has passed yet." He took a deep breath and sent me a nervous smile. "Then again, considering that I'm into you since I saw you in that socker uniform when I was twelve..." he shook his head and his smile grew less nervous and definitely more dirty. "Man those socks... they really totally did it, Mars."

I lightly punched him, grimacing - and having a hard time to keep a grin off my face. "That is so sick."

Logan shook his head, holding up a finger. "Uh-uh. Not sick at all. Totally normal for a hot-blooded, hormone ridden twelve years old boy. Now if I'd ask you if you still have that socker uniform and those little white socks..."

"Logan!" I protested and punched him again.

"What?" he asked innocently.

Not able to hold back the laughter any longer, I chuckled and settled back, extremely comfortable in his arms. With a sigh, I closed my eyes. "I missed this," I eventually said quietly.

"Me too," Logan answered equally quiet, his hand slowly stroking up my arms. "Though this is much better than even way before."

I smiled. "Mhmm..."

Sleep was creeping up on me, the long day finally wearing me down. And strangely enough, I was welcoming the sleep.



"Thanks. For this past week. For today. For tonight. For this. Thanks," I whispered, hoping that my voice carried the deep gratitude and serious I was feeling.

I felt the back of his fingers stroke over my cheek. "No need to and anytime, Ronnie," he whispered back, as serious.

Content, I smiled, ready to give in to sleep now.

But Logan's next words kind of brought me back a little again. "Want us to sleep here on the couch or should I carry you to one of the other shoebox rooms, that is, if there are more, which I assume? Just like those heroes in the romance novels you liked to read secretively, back in Junior High."

My eyes flew open and I stared up at him, wide-eyed.

Unfazed, the jackass smirked, nodding knowingly. "Yeah, I know what you've hid behind your chemistry book," he told me, grinning mockingly at me when I nearly sputtered at him. How the hell did he know that?

As if having read my thoughts, he laughed. "No chemistry book could be that interesting, Ronnie, even for weird bookworms like you. Not to mention that I saw you blush a few times when you've read in it. That sure picked my curiosity. So one fine day, when you had cheerleading training, I took it upon myself to find out just what was so fascinating about that chemistry book." He shook his head. "It was quite a surprise as well as a slight shock to open that famous book and read about Hugh doing really dirty things to Rowena. How very naughty of you, Veronica Mars!"

I still stared at him, flabbergasted, beet red and at a total loss of words. Again. This was really getting ridiculous.

The smirk on Logan's face grew as he stubbed my nose. "I gotta say, I saw you in a whole new light after that."

There was a flicker of a memory and I narrowed my eyes at him. "I guess that explains all those weird comments you sent my way for a while, back in seventh grade."

For weeks, Logan would smirk and give me meaningful, long looks, making innuendos that weren't really openly dirty - but they felt dirty. It had confused the heck out of me and I'm ashamed to admit, it got as far as that he had just to come join us and I'd have already turned deep red. I had the hardest time back then to convince Lilly and Duncan that I wasn't suddenly into Logan. The comments had only stopped after Logan and Lilly hitched it up for the first time of many times a while later.

"Ah, the good old times..." Logan sighed. "What a fun I had to get you to blush with those references to the books you've read - my only regret was that you never figured out just what I was referring to."

"Yeah well, how should I have known that you'd ever peek into a chemistry book, Echolls?" I grumbled, glaring at him.

Quickly, Logan held up his hand, palm facing me. "Only into yours, Ronnie, only into yours," he swore smugly.

"You better haven't told anyone about that," I muttered darkly.

"Nope, it was always my little secret," Logan assured me. "Besides, who'd have believed me? Saint, virginal Veronica Mars and some of the heaviest romance novels there are? Not in a million years!"

"You should be glad about that, otherwise I'd have to seriously hurt you now," I told him annoyed then frowned. "Lilly would have believed you."

Logan nodded. "Probably, but then I would have had to admit that I've taken more than just a little peek at those books of yours. And that was the last thing I wanted Lilly to know," he explained, grinning dirtily.

Interested, I raised an eyebrow. "More than just a peek, huh? Just how much did you read?"

He wriggled his eyebrows at me. "Let's just say that my buddies were very duped why I suddenly preferred to stick my nose into a chemistry book instead of trying to get a peek at your cheerleading trainings."

My other eyebrow shot up as well. "Seriously?"

Logan shrugged. "What can I say? Those tales about Ayla and Jondalar just were too good to pass up on them. Alone that mammoth scene gave me some very sweaty nights. Not to mention all those things I've learned," he said with a leery sigh.

And the worst of it all? The jackass didn't even blush and was his cool self while I, bad-ass amateur P.I., was deeply blushing - again. Argh! That wasn't fair! So I gave him the death glare he deserved.

Not that he seemed to be impressed by it. Instead, he had the nerve to laugh. "Oh come on, Ronnie. You can't tell me that you'd expect me to be shy about those books."

Perhaps not shy, but still...

But first things first. "I just say that no one will better ever hear of this or you'll have to go back to those books because that's the only way you get close to sex again. After I told those buddies of yours of you and a certain fixation on a charming little teenage witch and that closet full of Sabrina merchandises. Not to mention your poster collection of Melissa Joan Hart."

His smirk died and he eyed me suspiciously. It was my turn to grin smugly.

"You wouldn't..."

"Oh, I would," I assured him, smirking at him.

He eyed me for a moment longer before he grudgingly nodded. "Wasn't going to tell anyone else anyway."

"Good," I nodded and entangled myself from him to stand up. "Now back to the original question: I guess we'll be more comfortable in my room."

His eyes sparkling mischievously and delighted, he bowed. "Lead the way."

I rolled my eyes and turned to head over to my room. Sometimes I really wondered why I ever befriended Logan in the first place. And now I had even taken him as my boyfriend? Was I totally out of my mind?

I passed Dad's room and my eyes fell onto his bed, still ruffled from the last night he had slept in, the shirt he had been sleeping it carelessly thrown on top of it. It looked like he'd come back in any moment now. I stopped abruptly and stared at his bed. Million times Mom and I had told him to make his bed. But he had always shaken his head and countered that he didn't see the sense in wasting his time for that when only a few hours later he'd sleep in it again anyway, time he'd rather spent with his two favorite ladies. He'd give us each a kiss and would go away, to work, to a morning jog, to garden, something like that. Yeah, just like always.

Only this time, he wouldn't come back.

Like a sledgehammer reality slammed into me and I gave a silent sob, my heart clenching at the overwhelming pain surfacing again.


Next thing I knew, my face was pressed against a warm, solid chest and a hand was soothingly stroking over my hair while the other arm was holding me firmly. He said nothing, just held me, and again, that was enough. I put my arms around his neck and buried my face into his chest and cried. Simply cried.

At one point Logan must have pulled me into my room because the next thing I grew aware of was the bed slightly rocking as we laid down and his arms pulled me against his body once again, spooning me.

And finally I fell asleep to his gentle, soothing strokes, my eyes and chest burning.

The next morning, I was a little confused after waking up. Sure, for the last week, I had become accustomed to wake up in Logan's arms. But this time I instinctively knew that I wasn't over at Logan's but at home and I certainly wasn't accustomed to wake up in Logan's arms in my room, my bed. Interestingly, it may have felt strange - but it definitely did not feel wrong.

He was, after all, my boyfriend now, wasn't he?

Holy shit! My boyfriend. Logan Echolls was my boyfriend! Was in love with me...

Boy, the universe really liked to laugh at me, didn't it? Me ending up with Logan as my boyfriend. Still... I still didn't regret anything. If anything, I was happy about this development.

And I was going to miss this, waking up like that, in the arms of my boyfriend.

Contrary to Logan I doubted that we would be able to manage to keep spending the nights together, once the Kanes had settled me in in their house, despite how much I wanted to hope that we indeed did find a way to sneak around the Kanes and his parents like that. But I was the realistic type and so couldn't quite believe it. Maybe we could sneak around a night here and there, but every night?

On the other hand, Logan had said that he knew all the secret ways into the Kane mansion. Knowing him, it was possible that he hadn't exaggerated. After all, he was Duncan's best friend, he had been Lilly's boyfriend for two years and Heaven knew that Logan was sneaky enough to pull it off. So perhaps I should just trust his word. Besides, we'd see that night if he really was such an expert on getting into the Kane mansion, I guessed.

I turned my head to look at Logan and was surprised to see him still sleeping deeply, one of his arms wrapped tightly around my waist. For the past week, Logan had always been the first to wake up. Then again, usually he had to wake me up from a nightmare. Not that morning though. Strangely, I had slept peacefully this time. I wasn't sure if this was because I was back home, sleeping in my own bed, or if it was because after the happenings of the last night, I felt even safer in Logan's arms than only the night before. Or perhaps it was the combination of it both. Whatever it was, I was immensely glad for it.

Letting my head sink down onto the cushion again, I lay still and enjoyed the peacefulness of the moment.

Who knew when I'd get another chance to feel so safe again.

I dreaded to go to the Kane's. I didn't want to. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure that there was no way around it. I had already experienced in the first place just how powerful Jake Kane was. What he wanted, he'd get, at least here in Neptune. Right now, he was adamant to take care of me and in order to that, he wanted me to live with him now.

Why on Earth?

So okay, he was the one who impregnated Mom seventeen years ago and had fathered me. But he had been married back then, had a new baby with another one on the way and Mom had Dad. So they had agreed on keeping it a secret and not make sure just who exactly was the one who had fathered me and Dad had been my father in every sense of the word, had brought me up. Now Mom was gone and Dad was dead. Theoretically, I could understand why Jake found it his duty to look after me now - only after having made sure that I really was his daughter of course - but why like this? He could have kept this under the wrap, secretively supporting me with money or something like that while I lived with Sam. It was what I'd have expected him to do. Instead, he did this the complete illogical way, exposing himself and his family to quite a scandal by openly acknowledging me as his daughter and bringing me into his household, his family.


Somehow, I doubted it was because he was suddenly feeling fatherly towards me. For that he had waited too damn long to acknowledge this. If Dad hadn't died I doubted he would ever had bothered to do a paternity test. Not to mention that he let his son date me, well knowing that I might be Duncan's half sister.

So why?

Did he do it to keep me silent? Abel Koontz and Clarence Wiedman knew that I was investigating in Lilly's case. If Abel had sung, which I assumed, they also knew that I knew that Lilly hadn't died at the official time of death but in fact hours later and that the evidence to convict Koontz had been planted. Perhaps even figured out that I also knew that Clarence Wiedman had in fact gave Lamb the tip about Koontz. Bringing me into his household was an excellent way to keep an eye on me. In time, he perhaps would even threat me to refuse paying for college if I didn't stop to find Lilly's real killer. Now that it would get public that I was in fact Jake Kane's daughter, billionaire, I'd never get a stipendium. Never. And though I had saved quite some money over the past years, it was no where enough to pay for college without a stipendium.

Yeah, that was possible. It would explain this. But was Jake really that ruthless? First kill his own daughter, pay a man to confess for that crime, run the man who was likeably raising his own daughter out of his job to then blackmail me to keep all this secret? Not that I would be blackmailed like that. Nothing was going to stop me from finding Lilly's killer and bring him down, hard. But still... truth be told: I had a hard time believing that Jake could really have killed Lilly. Before I started the investigation, I even had thought it impossible. I was more open now, or more unsure, depended on the way one looked at it. Basically, I thought Jake was an okay guy. As Lilly's best friend, I had always liked him. Ever since I can remember Jake Kane had always been nice to me. He had smiled at me and always had some nice words for me when we've met. I always had liked when Jake was occasionally the one who brought us kids somewhere or picked us up. He often had a joke to share and his behavior had always been decent. I never had the feeling that I was unwelcome with him. On the other hand, he was a billionaire, had worked hard to get where he was now, valued his good reputation. People working for him mostly were content, at least I hardly had found any bad feelings when I had looked up the history of Kane's Software, checking if an old employee may have had a grudge against Jake and could have killed Lilly for revenge. Yet, to get where he was now, one had to be at least a bit ruthless. After all, it was Jake Kane who brought a man like Clarence Wiedman, ex CIA, into his firm and let him do the dirty work for him. Wiedman was good, very good. So who knew what had all happened under the wrap.

The Kanes had covered up for Lilly's murder and the only reason for that that I could think of was that one of them had something to do with it.

Yet, I really didn't see Jake as Lilly's killer. I've seen his grieve, a grieve that was honest, I think. Jake had his faults. He was an adulterer, was weak in certain areas, let Celeste decide a bit too many things and he expected much of his children, applied always pressure on them. More on Duncan than on Lilly, but Lilly too had suffered partly under his high expectations. And obviously, he cared little about what they wanted, believing that only he knew what was best for them. But he had loved Lilly. Of that I'm sure. She herself had always said that Jake wasn't that bad a father, that generally, they've gotten along quite well. No, I really couldn't see him as her murderer.

It could have been Celeste though. Of all the three remaining Kanes, I thought it was most likely that she could have been able to kill Lilly. She hated scandals, did everything to prevent them, even if it meant letting her precious son date his possible sister. Who knew, perhaps if Lilly had done something, if her big secret was something really scandalous, Celeste could have lost it and killed Lilly in the heat of the moment. And then called Wiedman. After all, I knew that she ordered him around as well, the pictures of me with a target drawn over my face proof of that. Or Jake could have called him in for help. Besides, Celeste and Lilly really had a bad relationship with each other, especially as Celeste clearly favored Duncan. I knew that, Lilly had complained often enough about it and I've seen and heard it with my own eyes as well. Yeah, if anyone, I think Celeste could have done it.

Or Duncan. God. It couldn't have been Duncan. It just couldn't.

Of all the Kanes, I know only of him absolutely positively that he had loved Lilly. Truly had loved her. He and Lilly had gotten along pretty well, had spent much time with each other which wasn't as normal for siblings. Of course it surely also had to do that I as Lilly's best friend was as well a year younger than her, just like Duncan. Not to mention that the same went for Logan as well. She had had friends her own age, but not very close ones. Not ones she had trusted. Lilly had often called Duncan a dork, had made fun of him, had stated more than once just how boring she thought it was - but she had loved him, had always stood on his side if the shit hit the fan. Well, with one exception: when he had broken up with me without any reason. Then she had been totally on my side, first trying to get him to take me back - and then, when she had changed her mind, declared that I was better off without him anyway. I'm sure now that somehow, Duncan and then she must have gotten wind of the possibility that I was in fact their half sister. But there had been no hard feeling because of his break-up with me, I also knew that. And Duncan... he had often disapproved of Lilly's - openness and cocky ways. Had frowned at quite some of her adventures and actions. But he had loved her anyway, had backed her up all the times and had looked out for her more than once.

I just couldn't imagine one single reason why he could have ever killed Lilly.

But then... I also knew that if the Kanes went to all that trouble to cover up Lilly's murder, then there was no better explanation than that they covered up for Duncan. It would also explain why his parents were still together, played the happy couple. Somehow, I doubted that they loved each other so much that they could forgive each other the murder of their own daughter. Perhaps Celeste Jake, but Jake Celeste? But Duncan... for him they would do anything, of that I was sure as well. Plus, I couldn't deny the fact that Duncan had his weaknesses. And that sometimes, he acted weird, atypical. So, was it possible that it really had been Duncan after all?

I sighed. I sure as hell hoped not. It was bad enough that I had been in love with my own brother, had kissed him, had let him touch me places where no brother should ever touch his sister. I still had no idea how I was supposed to deal with that, ever, but especially now that I was being forced to live with him. And now thinking it possible that he had killed Lilly on top of that? Shit, I was going to go crazy.

Logan's arm around me tightened and I felt him stir behind me. Again, I looked back and sure enough, Logan slowly opened his eyes and blinked, not quite awake yet. I watched with a smile as he grew aware of the unfamiliar surroundings and a frown appeared between his eyes. Turning all the way around, now that his hold on me had lightened up a little, I propped my head up on my elbow. "Morning sleepy-head."

His eyes cleared a little when he focused them on me, a grin already forming on his face. "You - my girlfriend," he stated, his grin widening.

I laughed and nodded. "I believe that's the rumor, yeah."

He didn't waste anymore time and simply reached up to pull my face over to him, giving me one hell of a morning kiss.

"Now, if this isn't the best morning I had in a long time," Logan sighed contently, once he let go of my lips.

"Hmm, not bad," I agreed wholeheartedly.

He reached up again to capture my lips for another kiss, deepening it with each millisecond that passed. When I let out a little moan, he flipped us over. He hadn't counted with my water bed though and the momentum of the flip over caused the bed to swap big time, so much that Logan, caught by surprise, lost his balance and promptly fell sideward, right over the edge and landed with a loud plumps on the floor of my bedroom where he sat and looked duped for a moment, rubbing his head.

The extremely mature girl I am, I of course nearly laughed my head off. Flipping onto the stomach, I rested my chin on my crossed hands and peered down at Logan over the edge of my water bed.

"Oh yeah, definitely a very good morning," I managed to get out between my fits of laughter. But really, it was just too much of a comical scene. "Hmm, not exactly very Hugh like though."

Having gotten his bearings back, Logan glared up at me. "Ha, ha, very funny."

"You say it," I nodded eagerly and yeah, I admit it, I shamelessly giggled. I wasn't a giggler. Not anymore. But I just couldn't help myself. If you'd seen his face when he went over the edge, you'd be giggling too, no matter what a badass you are otherwise, I'm sure of that.

"Glad to have made you happy," Logan grumbled, getting up.

Looking up at him, I smirked. "I appreciate the effort you go to to make me laugh," I told him, trying to keep a straight face, failing miserably at it though.

Rubbing the back of his head once again, he let out a low growl as he stared at the water bed. "Why do you have a stupid water bed anyway? That's so ninety. I mean, yeah, you wanted one of these way back but really, one shouldn't fulfill actually each childhood dream."

I sat up and smoothed over the surface, enjoying the feel of the soft waves beneath me. "It was only 10 bucks."

"That's ten bucks too much," Logan muttered.

I smiled, moving to cause another wave of waves. "Dad bought it for me as a surprise. He knew I always had wanted one when I was little and when he saw it, saw that it was only 10 bucks, he bought it right away." The memory hurt, but I felt my smile grow anyway. "You should have seen how excited he had been when I came home and he couldn't wait for me to see it. Like a little boy on Christmas."

With a sigh, Logan moved closer and stroked a strand of hair out of my face. "And now I guess I have to see how I get my foot out of my mouth. I'm sorry."

I shook my head. "You don't have to be," I said quietly, then grinned. "But I fear you'll have to start practice how to behave on a water bed, 'cause as you know now, this bed and I go a long way back." A thought occurred to me and my smile turned sardonically. "Oh, Celeste will love it when I move in with this bed in tow."

At that, Logan started to grin maliciously as well. "You've got to promise me to make sure I'm there when you tell her that it's from some garage sale and only cost 10 dollars. She might even suffer a small heart attack at the thought of something like that being under her precious roof."

"I promise," I assured him with a nod. "And I also promise that you'll be there when she'll find her most expensive shoes chewed off, her favorite table cloth shred to pieces, of course when the fine crystal was on it, her purse full of drool and a nice little buddle on her Venetian marble floor."

His eyebrows shot up. "You going to send Back-Up into war?"

"You bet I am," I nodded and I felt my eyes narrow. "I still owe her for a few things." Most of all her chasing away Mom. Oh yeah, while being forced to live with them I'd make sure to make Celeste's life as difficult as possible.

"Oh, yippie!" Logan exclaimed excitedly, clapping into his hand. "Just for that alone I'd fall madly in love with you all over again, Cuteypie! I can't wait for it! Hell, who knows, this way I perhaps will have even fun hanging around the Kane mansion again."

Chuckling, I got up and stood on my tip-toes to give him a quick kiss. "Then I better don't tell you what I have in mind for her collection of porcelain puppets," I teased him. "You may not survive the excitement of the anticipation."

Thus said I escaped his arms and left my room, heading towards the bathroom.

"Hey! You can't tease me like that and then just stop!" Logan protested, following me. "That's not fair, Mars."

I looked back at him and sneered. "First, life's not fair and second, oh yeah, baby, I can." Having said that, I hurried to get inside the bathroom and lock the door, leaning against it.

Outside, Logan kicked against the door once. "Just remember Mars: Just because I'm in love with you doesn't mean I won't get even with you. You will pay for that one, Ronnie. And then I'll have my fun."

I heard him moving past the door and sighed, not stopping to grin though.

Bring it on, Echolls, just bring it on.

The most unusual sight awaited me when I left the bathroom, such amazing that I tiptoed back to my room to get my camera to then hurry back and take a picture of the unsuspecting Logan, standing at the shove and making eggs and bacon, if my nose didn't betray me.

At the soft 'click', he looked up. "What are you doing?"

"Getting evidence," I answered, taking another picture. "Otherwise no one will ever believe me this. Who'd have thought that Logan Echolls, carrier of a golden spoon and always having had servants doing everything for him, actually knows how a shove functions." I took another one, then put the camera aside and walked over, stealing a piece of bacon. "And even more shockingly: even seems to know how to cook. These pictures could be worth serious money."

"Didn't we have this conversation already back in junior high? You know I can cook. We were in the same cooking class as I'm pretty sure you remember only too well," Logan lectured me, giving me a look. "You're the one who managed to burn everything from milk, over eggs to steaks."

"That were potatoes and it only happened once!" I protested, trying to steal another piece of the bacon.

Logan slapped my hand away and turned towards me, crossing his arms. "Yeah? And what about the time you invited us for a western evening, including a real western dinner with steaks and beans? What did we end up eating?"

I chose to only glare.

"That's right: Nachos and burritos from the next Mexican delivery," Logan nodded and tended to the eggs. "Face it: the only thing you can do in a kitchen is bake. And while the taste there is always formidable, your goodies would never win a competition."

"And yet you wolfed my cookies and cakes down like someone who hadn't eaten in three days," I pointed out and reached up to get some plates. "From where did you get the eggs and the bacon anyway?"

"Was still in the refrigerator and amazingly not yet past the expiry date," Logan answered simply, putting another load of bacon into the pan.

"Right, I should probably clean it out before we leave," I remembered and sighed, looking around. "Guess I have to pack together a few things I want to take with me to the Kanes anyway," I said quietly, getting that tightening pressure on my chest again. "And Dad's things. I... I need to wrap them up, sort them out."

I felt Logan's eyes on me. "The apartment is paid until the end of the month, right?"

I nodded.

"Then you don't have to do this right away. Take a few days, Ronnie," he said gently. "In fact, you don't have to do it at all, if you want. I can organize a cleaning service for the bigger things. And the rest could I and Wallace do, if you prefer. You really don't have to do this."

Again, I looked over the apartment. I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle this ultimately. But in one thing he had been right. It didn't need to be decided and done right away. "I'll think about it."

Right now, I was busy enough having to face the Kanes.

The ringing of the phone broke through the silence. Hesitating only shortly, I went over to pick it up, having a hunch who it was.

"Where the hell are you?"

"Sam," I sighed and shook my head. "You know you called on the land line, yeah? So you know now where I am."

"Don't get perky, Veronica," Sam warned me.

I grimaced. Veronica. That wasn't good. I had called him yesterday with Logan's cell phone, but only to tell him that I was all right and that I'd be back the next day. Then I had hung up and turned off the phone, never giving him a chance to respond. Dad would have been spitting mad. And so was Sam, I guessed. Time to apologize. "I'm sorry Sam. But I... I couldn't go back last night. Jake probably would have insisted on me going with him and I just wasn't ready for that. Not last night. I'm still not ready but if I have no way to get out of it, I'll manage now. I just needed time, Sam. Time away from everything."

There was a moment of silence, then Sam sighed. "It's not that I don't understand that, Ronica. But I don't like it when you ran off like that. And never hang up on me like that again, Veronica, I don't appreciate this and I won't tolerate it. But most of all, I don't like the thought of you being out there, alone and unprotected. We still don't know why Keith was killed, Ronica. You still could be a target as well."

I looked out of the window. "I'm not alone Sam. Logan's with me."

"And that's supposed to reassure me how?" Sam asked sarcastically.

I glanced over at Logan and met his eyes. "He's making sure I'm alright, Sam. Besides, I don't think I'm a target as well. It's been a week now. If Dad's killer had wanted me dead as well, I'd probably be already dead, getting us both at the same time or at least come after me sooner."

"True, but that's still no guarantee. Remember, ever since it happened you were mostly hauled up in the Echolls mansion and if one thing, they have a pretty tight security, especially since the stabbing of Logan's father. Certainly enough to keep most killers away," Sam though contradicted me. "Your place doesn't offer that security. You don't even have Back-Up with you."

Shit! Back-Up! I had totally forgotten about him! "Look Sam, can we talk about that later? I need to get back anyway. I bet Back-Up is already scaring the housemaids."

Sam sighed. "After your call last night I went back to get him. He's sleeping and drooling on my car seat right now."

Oh... good. "Thanks," I said earnestly. "Sam? Did you talk with Cliff? Is there anything we can do about Jake's claim?"

He took his time answering. "Yeah, we talked. But I fear there's no way around for you to have to go to Jake Kane at least for the time being. His legal documents are proper. The only thing we can do is going to court, pleading that your dad's last wishes should be respected and that I have way more rights to take care of you than Mr Kane. And that's just what we'll do, Kitten."

Just like I had thought. Sighing deeply, I sat down onto one of the bar chairs at the kitchen counter. "It will be to no use, you know that, Sam. No one will be going to risk to get Jake Kane on his bad side. He practically owns Neptune. You know what happened to Dad. So... perhaps it's for the best if you just let it be, Sam."

"I made a promise to your father, Ronica," Sam though said tightly. "I promised that I would look out for you, take care of you, should he ever be unable to do so. Your dad gave me your guardianship. That was his last will. Certainly not for you to end up in Jake Kane's hands, of all people. No. I'll do whatever it takes to keep my promises, Kitten. It's the least I owe to Keith."

I swallowed and looked down. "Sam... be reasonable. A process will cost a small fortune and most of all, it will take time. I'll turn eighteen this summer. Half a year. I don't like this either, Sam, but I'll deal. seven months are over soon. Save your money, Sam. Save your reputation. It's not worth it. You, you better concentrate on finding out who did this to Dad."

Sam remained stubborn though. "I promised, Ronica. I've always held my word. I won't start breaking it now of all the times."

"You promised to take care of me and to look out for me. That's what you are doing. You don't need to be my legal guardian for that," I still tried to reason with him.

"I'll do what I'll have to do and let's leave it with that," Sam told me firmly. "Now, when will you be back?" He sighed. "Kane's growing impatient. He's keeping getting on my nerves."

I looked over at Logan, who was silently listening while piling up scrambled eggs and bacon onto the plates I'd gotten out earlier. "We're having breakfast right now. Then I'll need to pack a few things for Back-Up and me. After that we'll return to Logan's, get my things." I made a resigned face. "Tell Jake Logan will bring me over to them sometime in the afternoon."

"I can bring you," Sam offered, his teeth gritting. He really didn't like me having to go to the Kanes. Well, that made two of us.

"No, that's fine. I'd rather have Logan brings me. All my things will be in his truck anyway." Logan put the plates onto the counter and sat down, facing me.

"Ronica, I really think you and that boy should take some time apart. I understand that he had been a big help for you, this past week, but you two were practically glued together all this time. That's not healthy. And I don't trust him. He has hurt you before," Sam said slowly, seriously.

I frowned. "But I trust him and that's all that matters. So please, leave him alone," I retorted tensely. "Besides, now that I have to move in with the Kanes we'll be apart enough."

"Just be careful, Kitten," Sam sighed, displeased. "And call me once you're at the Kanes. I'll bring Back-Up by then. And I think I'll have a brief talk with Mr Kane."

"You should been the one to be careful then. But I'll call you," I promised. "Bye," I said and hung up after he said his goodbyes as well.

Okay. So far so good.

"Your human pit-pull still doesn't like me much, huh?" Logan commented, looking at me over a fork full of scrambled eggs.

"No," I sighed and grabbed my fork to delve into the food. "Can't forget the past."

"I begin to see why you wanted to keep our relationship secret. Your friends are not going to make this easy for us, won't they?" Logan asked, looking down.

"No," I repeated, shaking my head. "But let's face it: your friends won't be happy about us either. A lot of them were only too happy when you and Duncan shunned me from your lives and they finally could go loose on me."

Logan looked up, frowning. "Don't worry about them. If they know about us or not, I'll make sure they know that no matter what, we're back to friends. I won't let them treat you like they have."

I went for the bacon next. "That's not necessary. I don't care about Dick and the guys. I never have much and I probably won't ever. The only ones that were important to me were you, Lilly and Duncan. And Meg was a friend as well, but I don't worry about her. We're still good." I nibbled at my bacon and looked at him, hesitating. In the end, I put down my fork and turned my whole attention to Logan. "Logan... What about Duncan?" I asked quietly.

He glanced at me, his face unreadable. "What about him?"

But I wasn't having that. "Logan."

With a sigh, he put his fork down as well and met my eyes. "What Ronnie? What about him?"

"How do you want to handle this?" I asked softly. This was his call. Not just because I sure as hell had no idea what to do about Duncan - but he was Logan's best friend. It was Logan who knew him best and he who owed Duncan even more of an explanation or whatever than me.

He looked away. "I don't know." His eyes looked back at me. "He's not going to like it, one way or another."

I frowned. "Are you sure? I mean, it's not like he and I..." My voice trailed off as I was feeling slightly sick even thinking about it.

Logan laughed sarcastically, shaking his head. "Doesn't matter. He loves you. Long before you turned out to be his half sister. You're his ex foremost and I'm his best friend. And I moved in onto his territory. There's no way around that."

My frown deepened. "I'm not a bone over which you two dogs can fight. Plus, if I remember correctly, I made a move on you, not the other way around."

He smiled warmly, even if it didn't reach his eyes. "You sure did, but that doesn't matter, Ronnie. You're my best friend's ex-girlfriend who he's still hung up on. That makes you taboo. You know that, Ronnie. You know the rules."

Of course I knew the rules. He was my best friend's ex as well after all. But then, Lilly was dead. Besides, I had a feeling that Lilly would have been elated about Logan and I hooking up - as long as that we let enough time pass between their final break-up. I shook my head. "It's still ridiculous. Let's forget for a moment that he and I are blood related: He and I are over for fifteen months now. He broke up with me. He treated me like air, like we never knew each other. For that alone, he lost every rights of any claim whatsoever, let alone to judge who I'm going out with."

Again, Logan shook his head. "He's not going to see it like that."

"But why?" I asked, shaking my head. "Okay, so perhaps I wouldn't like to see him dating Wallace either but with time, I'd grew accustomed to it and it wouldn't bother me."

"Duncan and Wallace? You know something I don't?" Logan chuckled, smirking.

"Not the point, Logan! You know what I mean. Duncan and I are over. He has moved on, I have moved on," I pointed out.

"Correction Mars: He had plenty of dates and sex, but never moved on. And he didn't like you seeing with that idiot Vandegraff either. Him jumping off a bleacher should have clued you in on that little fact," Logan contradicted, giving me a poignant look.

I looked away, biting my lips. I wasn't sure why I got so riled up about this. Perhaps because I didn't like the idea either that I had suddenly gotten between Logan and Duncan. I didn't want to come between two best friends. I knew how much Duncan meant to Logan, knew how much Logan meant to Duncan. I really didn't want to be responsible for any bad blood between them. And that was what I was afraid of: Them having a fall out because of me. Or even worse, loose their friendship. But just because of them being so close friends I believed that Duncan would be okay with me and Logan in the end.

Slowly, I looked back at Logan, who had resumed his eating. He seemed so unworried about the whole thing. But I knew better. The muscles in his neck and shoulders were tense and there was this slightly hard gleam in his eyes. "Logan... if... if you really think Duncan will hate this so much and be angry with you like that, then..." I stopped, unsure. I wanted Logan, wanted us to be together. But... if it cost him so much...

His head shot up and he narrowed his eyes. "Oh no. No, Ronnie. I'm not letting you go, not again. I can't help that I've fallen in love with you, out of all people. If Duncan has a problem with that, then it's his problem," he said, firmly.

My heart lifted. "You sure about that?"

"Definitely," he nodded and gave me a long look. "But what about you? Are you sure?"

Confused, I frowned at him. What did he mean? Of course I was sure. I saw something in his eyes and suddenly, it made click. Oh... I almost smiled but held it back. Logan needed to see how very serious I was about this, even if I wasn't ready yet to make any declarations. "Logan, there's something you should know: Even if Duncan and I aren't related - there's no way he and I could ever be a couple again. Not just because of how much he has hurt me, the way he had erased me out of his life." I had his full attention and suddenly nervous, I took a deep breath. "The girl I was before Lilly's death was perfect for Duncan. He was perfect for me. But I'm not that girl anymore. I'm worlds away from that girl and that's nothing I regret. I like being this new self, most of the time. And I don't say that Duncan means nothing to me anymore. He was my first love after all. But who I am now and Duncan could never work." I shook my head. "We have all changed, but I think, from the three of us, Duncan's the one who is the most like he used to be. Half of the time, he would have kittens about the things I use to do now and be uncomfortable about the way I act sometimes nowadays." I shrugged. "Ever since beginning of this year, he's got to be more like himself and yeah, he and I got friendlier again. We've reached a level where he at least acknowledges me again. Sometimes we even act like friends again."

"I've noticed," Logan nodded, his eyes never leaving mine.

"And I bet you didn't like it, did you?" I asked, smiling. "But thing is, I have the feeling that he..."

"Doesn't see you like you are now? Only wants to see the old Veronica?" Logan finished knowingly. "You'd be right with that one. Mostly. Even he had to admit that you've changed. He's still good at ignoring it though."

"Exactly," I nodded and took a closer look at him. "You never did that," I stated, only realizing this now. "Even when you hated me, you noticed even a slight change right away."

At that, he shrugged. "To be fair, I wasn't as close to you as Duncan. But the way you've changed was hard to miss." He shook his head and smiled. "It's not quite true anyway. I too made the blunder to mistake you for your old elf, even if I knew you had changed. I never expected that bong, for example, simply because the old Veronica would never have had that in herself. Nor did I give you all that P.I. stuff, even when the evidence of your skills there bit me in my ass. It was only on Christmas when I grew fully aware of just how deep that change goes, at least concerning some aspects." He narrowed his eyes. "But then again, I also think you've held out on us, Ronnie. You had more of the way you are now in you than I and Duncan could have ever imagined. I think only Lilly knew what really laid slumbering beneath that innocent shell."

"Perhaps," I smiled. "She said I was red satin."

Logan grinned dirtily. "Oh yeah."

"Get your mind out of the gutter," I told him, rolling my eyes. "Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Duncan and I are the past, simply because we wouldn't fit anymore. You though - it's crazy and I think the cosmos is shaking with laughter right now, but somehow, you and I fit. It feels so right to be with you. But I know how much Duncan means to you. Or you to him for that matter. And the least I want to do is come between you and him. I want this, us, though, more than I thought I ever would."

"That's good because I have no intention whatsoever to give this up, just because Duncan may be prissy about it. He's not going to like it, I know that, always knew it. But I hope he'll come by in the end. And if not..." Logan shook his head. "It's not like it used to be between me and Duncan. We drifted apart, Ronnie, ever since Lilly's death. He turned into himself, was a shell of what he used to be, never going anywhere anymore unless you dragged him with you. We're still best friends but frankly said, we had our problems lately. He's come back to himself and I'm glad about that but we're still not as close as we used to be. We had a fight before Christmas. We settled it but... it's a little tense between us right now."

This was news to me. I had noticed that Logan had hung around more with Dick Casablancas and the other guys than with Duncan - but I hadn't noticed that their friendship had hit a row path as well. "I'm sorry," I said quietly.

Logan looked away. "Yeah well, such things happen. Time will tell where we'll go from here." He looked back at me. "But I know that I won't give up on you, not even for Duncan."

I nodded, accepting his decision finally. And made an oath that I'd try to make Duncan see reason as much as I could. Logan was his best friend. If anything, Duncan should be happy for us.

"That only leaves the question if you want to tell him about us or not," I said.

For a long moment, Logan was quiet, finishing his breakfast. Finally, he shook his head. "No. I want him to hear it from us and learn about it before anyone else. That's the least he deserves." He took a deep breath. I knew that this was hard for him. Logan had his secrets, like everyone, but basically, he was an outgoing guy and no big fan of secrets. And he was an honest guy - brutally honest. No, lying to his best friend would be hard for him. "But for now, I think you're right and it's best we keep our relationship to ourselves. There's no telling what he would do if he knew. Perhaps he'd even tell his parents. I won't risk this. First, we clear him of your suspicion. And see how he's taking it, you being his half sister and the two of us being back to friends."

"Okay," I agreed without any hesitation. It was how I would have handled it as well. And now, it clearly was time for a change of subject. Picking up my fork again, I delved in into my breakfast, only realizing now just how hungry I really was. "Hmm… I must have been starving 'cause I actually find this delicious."

"Or – I'm just that good a cook," Logan offered, famous smirk back in place.

I thought about that for a moment, then shook my head and shoved another forkful into my mouth. "Nah."

While Logan was taking a shower, I started to pack up things. First, I quickly did the easy part and stashed enough clothes for at least two weeks into a big bag. Next I cleaned out the refrigerator, not that there was a lot to do. I did leave a few things in it that wouldn't go bad though. Perhaps I'd need the apartment as a hide out again until I had to turn it over. Then, the tough part already began. Picking up the personal things I didn't want to leave back in this empty apartment, not even for the few weeks I had left to clean it out. You know, all those things who have barely any material value but emotionally – they were priceless. All the many pictures, especially those of me and Dad. My babybook. The small case in which my parents had kept my first lock and the first tooth I've lost. The ugly ashtray I had made in kindergarten for Dad and which he had treated as if it were pure gold ever since then. The little blue vase my mom inherited from her grandmother and that she had loved so much, the little jewelry that she had left behind when she had left us. And of course Dad's baseball, with the signature of Terrence Cook, his absolute favorite baseball player. So many little things, and that alone in the living room.

There were still the things left in my room, many of which I didn't want to leave back – and held even more precious memories for me as each and everyone of those things were truly mine. With a heavy heart, I sighed and moved back to my room, looking around. Finally giving myself a kick, I first reached out to the little music box Mom had left me upon her leaving and quickly put it into the box. Next to it was another little box that held the collection of friendship bracelets Lilly had made for me, as well as the other jewelry I've got from friends, Duncan and relatives. Not much, but each piece meant a lot to me. And of course, there were a lot of pictures there as well that I packed, pictures of my family, of Back-Up, of Lilly, Logan and Duncan. Some of my favorite books went into another box and I pushed some music discs and DVDs into yet another one.

My eyes fell onto a little, black sculpture of a dog and a girl that I had put into the back of a corner of a shelve, piling books in front of it, not able to face it but not able to part with it either. Slowly, I reached out and took it, running my finger over the back of the dog – a bulldog, just like Back-Up. And the girl had long hair, wearing a dress. The dog was looking up at the girl and you could just see how his tail was wagging and the girl looked down at him, laughing, the love for the dog beautifully worked into the iron. It should be way too kitschy but as the sculpture was in this beautiful, black, shiny iron, the details, even the smallest, so lovingly carved out, it was really rather touching and amazingly beautiful. I loved that sculpture and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I'd ever gotten to this day. And it had been quite a surprise as well.

"I'm surprised you still have this."

Startled, I turned to see Logan standing in my door, chest naked, hair wet, his eyes staring at the sculpture in my hands, his face a mask of genuine unbelief.

I looked back at the sculpture, stroking it again. "Oh, I've thought of throwing it away when we had to move, believe me. It hurt so much to look at it and remember the things you've said during the day to me or the things you or someone else had done to me. But… I couldn't. I just couldn't." Slowly, I raised my eyes again to meet his. "No matter what, one of my best friends had given me this wonderful gift, something so thoughtful, so fitting and yet so beautiful that it had taken my breath away the first time I saw it and even now, sometimes. I was so touched and speechless when you gave it to me, Logan. And it meant so much to me. I just couldn't part with it." Boy, was I glad that I never had the guts to give it away, despite how angry I had been at myself back then for being so sentimental.

"The boy who gave it to you should have known better than to let himself rule by blind anger like he did," Logan said quietly, his voice heavy with remorse.

I sighed and moved over to him, briefly touching his hand. "Look, let's not get back into that. We've talked enough about it and have moved on. Just remember how you've scored the best Christmas gift ever when you gave it to me and how bumped Lilly was that it had even beat her present for you."

"Duncan wasn't too happy about loosing either," Logan said after a moment of standing still and regarding me, still with the sculpture in my hand.

"Only because you naturedly couldn't stop boasting about it for weeks," I told him dryly and carefully put the sculpture into one of the boxes.

"Why deny the greatness that I am?" Logan asked flippantly and looked around, briefly. "Who knew someone could stuff so many things into a tiny room like this. We'll need a truck alone for the things in here."

"Isn't it practically then that my boyfriend happens to have just such a truck with lots and lots of space?" I asked sweetly, giving him a blinding smile.

"Ah, so the truth finally comes out: you just want me for my X-Terra, don't you?" Logan countered, managing to sound heartbroken.

I laughed out loud. "Baby, if anything, your truck's a reason to break up with you."

"Hey, no insults about my beloved car!" Logan warned, giving me the evil eye.

"Why not? You insult my Le Baron every time you've got a chance," I countered, gathering together my school things.

"That doesn't count. Your car is a joke while mine..."

"Is yellow. Big and yellow and so stuffed with gismos that one could ask himself just what you are trying to compensate for with it," I finished for him, giving him back the evil eye.

His eyes narrowed and I had barely a warning before he pounced over to me and trapped me in one swift move against the door, bringing me face to face with his chest. Did I mention that his chest was naked? And did I mention that it was a very, very nice chest? Jeez, he must have worked out quite a bit over the last year.

"I, my dearest Veronica, have absolutely nothing to make up for," he told me lowly, his dark brown eyes piercing me, as he leaned into me.

I mean, lean.

Oh boy... Nope, I guess he really didn't have any need to compensate.

"Which you, my little pixie, will learn first hand - in time," he murmured in an even deeper voice, his breath stroking over my neck, leaving my skin tingling.

Then, as soon as he had pinned me, he was suddenly gone, backing away from me. "Thanks for the warning by the way," he continued sarcastically.

Momentarily having a hard time to concentrate, I stared at him, dumbfounded. Damn girl, get a grip on yourself!

"Huh?" I think was my very eloquent response.

He smiled, the jackass probably knowing very well just how flustered he had left me here. What on Earth had I been thinking when I fell for a guy who was as sexually comfortable as one Logan Echolls was?

"About the cold water," he elaborated, his eyes narrowing.

Oh... yeah. I remembered his shriek of a while back that I had heard coming out of the shower. And smiled, glad when that memory got me back to normalcy and known ground. This, I knew how to handle. "Well, if you hadn't taken such a long shower, there would have been no need for a warning."

"Perfection takes time," Logan told me haughtily.

"You're such a girl, Echolls," I smiled amusedly.

He shrugged, unfazed. "Well, at least one of us has to be the girl."

Shaking my head, I laughed, mentally putting that one away for later use. For now, I let him have that last word and instead started to tuck the boxes I had filled with my staff.

"Hey, you've got a shirt I could borrow?" Logan asked, letting go of the teasing as well, still smiling though.

I looked up and eyes him critically. Of course I could have just given him one of Dad's shirts - usually, I wouldn't have hesitated a moment about that. But this was far from normal and truth was that I didn't think I could stomach seeing Logan in one of Dad's shirts. Not yet. Perhaps never. Heaven knew though that Logan and I weren't exactly the same size... still. I got up and moved over to my cupboard, kneeling to search through one of the boxes there. Sure enough, there it was. I got it and turned to fling it over to Logan who caught it, unfolding the black shirt.

"Billy Idol?" he asked, giving me a raised eyebrow.

"I was working one of the ticket booths for the open-air in LA, this summer. When we had a break or were finished, we could go see the concerts," I explained and nodded at the shirt in his hands. "One of them was Billy Idol. Now, I've never been a fan, but I had nothing better to do. He was still better than the funk group or the country singer on the other stages. Turned out to be the best decision. Jeez, I don't know how he did it, but that old guy rocked like the young ones can't even dream about it and definitely gave the best 100 minutes of music that the open-air had this year."

"I know," Logan nodded, giving me a strange look. "I've been there as well. That concert was just fucking great."

I was a little caught off by those news as well. Thousands of people had been at the open-air, during four days. It was no big deal that we were among the few thousands attending the performance of Billy Idol. It meant noting. And yet, strangely, it did, not that I would openly admit that. "So when we could pick out some of the merchandise article I naturedly wanted one of his t-shirts. Unfortunately, they only had large ones left. It should fit you."

Wordless, he put it on. I'd been right. It did fit him. Very nicely so if I might add.

"Thanks," he nodded and looked around. "Need any help?"

I looked around as well. "No, I think I've got all I want to have for now. You'll be free to carry the boxes out to your car later on though," I added nicely.

He smirked sarcastically. "And what will I get for slaving myself off to you?"

"The knowledge that you did a well appreciated service for your girlfriend?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Mars, there better is some serious PDA involved in that appreciation or you can carry out your boxes yourself," Logan though told me, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

I rolled my eyes and moved past him. As if he was ever going to go through with that threat. In the meantime, there was still one room left.

Hesitating, I stopped in front of Dad's room. It didn't take long and I felt Logan's arms slipping around me from behind and gently, he drew me against him. "You can tell me what you want and I'll get and pack it for you," he offered quietly.

Oh, and how much I wished I could do just that. But I couldn't. Out of several reasons. So I shook my head. "No... No, it's okay. Just - stay with me, okay?"

"Sure," he assured immediately, pressing a kiss onto the top of my head.

Taking a deep breath, I entered Dad's room. Contrary to mine, he hadn't had much personal things in there. But then, he usually only had come to this room to sleep. Every other free time, he'd spend out in the living room. Watching TV, reading, listening to music, cooking. There were a few things though. Plus, there were the several boxes in his cupboard that he had moved from our house to the new apartment but had never bothered to unpack them. I had no idea what was in it and had no intention to find out now. Quietly, I gathered together the two pictures on his night table, one of me when I had been six I think and then one of me, Dad and Back-Up together. Fighting back the tears that threatened to climb up my gorge, I opened the second and bottom drawer, quickly picking up the leather map in there. It held all the important information and documents. Birth documents, marriage certificate, the insurance polices, the bank cards and documents for all of Dad's savings. A man's whole life reduced to a little map. Beside it, there was a little, blue box. Holding the rings of his grandparents and parents, a necklace of my grandmother, Dad's college ring, his first badge and also, lately, Dad's own wedding ring. And not to forget a clumsy, yellow carton medal, claiming him to be the world's best dad. Another kindergarten project that I've given him for father's day.

Can you believe it that he actually had worn it for as long as I've been in kindergarten, right under his sheriff star? Well, he took it off and closed it into his top drawer of his desk in his office, to put it back on when he was finished for the day, but he wore it in public. I was so proud. And later, when I've gotten a bit older, so very embarrassed. I was still embarrassed. And yet, his pride of being my dad meant even more now to me now.

Quickly, I wiped away the tears pooling in the corner of my eyes. I was not going to cry. Not again.

Sighing, I carefully put the things into the little box that Logan had brought me and had put beside me at one point. Then I braced myself and looked at the top drawer. I so didn't want to do that - but I had to. Not just because there was no way I'd leave it here, but also because after everything that had happened and me having to move into the home of a potential murder, it probably was for the best that I did take it with me, no matter how much I hated even the idea of it.

Slowly, I pulled open the top drawer. Even more slowly, I reached inside, my fingers touching the cold metal. Shuddering, I took a deep breath and closed my hand around the barrel and drew it out, looking uneasily at the gun in my hand. A 9mm automatic, fully loaded, safety in place. God, how I hated guns. But I knew how to handle them. I knew, how to shoot. Dad had insisted on it, from a very early age on. I think I had been seven when he took me to a gun's ranch for the first time. Mom had been against it but Dad had been absolutely firm for one of the few times in their marriage that I can remember or know of. He had always said that if they liked it or not, he was a police officer, the sheriff. He needed to have weapons. And he would have enemies. So he had made sure that both me and Mom knew how to handle weapons. When I was a kid, he kept one gun, his service weapon, in his office or car while his second gun was stashed in the top shelve of their bedroom cupboard. When I've been eleven or so, some junkie had tried to break into the house one night. After that, Dad kept this gun in the top drawer of his night table, and yes, loaded. There was no use to have a gun in your house to protect yourself and die anyway just because you first needed minutes to first go get the bullets and then have to load it on top if all. A lot could happen in those few minutes. Hence why Dad had taken me every two months to a ranch to practice, ever since he had laid a gun into my hands for the very first time. Only in the last year he had let up on those trips.

I had never liked those trips. I hated guns. Guns were dangerous. Guns could kill. Guns could kill or hurt my dad. Hell, they had killed Dad.

Dad had always been very clear about that subject. They could protect and sometimes, they were necessary, like for him as a sheriff. But foremost, they killed or at least inflicted a lot of pain. They were deadly dangerous and should only be treated with outmost care and respect. And I had comprehended very early in my life that while my Dad being a sheriff was cool and something to be very proud of, it also was a dangerous job. People shoot at sheriffs, you can learn that even from cartoons. They shoot with guns.

So yeah, I hated those things. And yet, here I was, holding the 9mm automatic in my hand and I had every intention to take it with me to the Kane household and keeping it in my top drawer from now on.

Yep, that was how much I loved to have to move in with them and how safe I felt with the Kanes.


I looked up and glanced briefly at Logan who gaped at me with wide eyes, having paled a little. Wordlessly, I got up and went to the cupboard to get the box with the holster, the cleaning set and the ammunition.

Finally, I turned to Logan and nodded. "I think I have everything I'll need now. We can go."

Yeah... I was all packed up and loaded.


(Author's Note: Sigh... You have no I idea how much I've loved writing this one. For ages I wanted to just let go and write real LoVe, my favorite couple finally together. So here is this chapter with mucho LoVe interaction in it, I hope. And I admit, it perhaps is a bit kitschy in some parts - but sometimes, you just need such fluff. And Ronnie really needed it right now. I'm also aware that those two are moving with lightening speed. But sometimes, that too happens. I hope I still managed to show that despite everything, Ronnie's foremost grieving, her pain never far away, even if she and Logan managed to have found a little refuge for at least a few hours. Next chapter should be less fluffy and way more intense I'd say. And - Celeste will meet Back-Up! Hehehehe! Thanks for the many and wonderful reviews and the constant nagging to continue. I hear you, never doubt that and I appreciate it. Hope you enjoyed the ride!)