Title: Three Blonde Ghosts
Rating: PG
Words: 12,632
Mac, Veronica, Logan (Veronica/Logan), Dick (Mac/Dick), Parker, Piz (Parker/Piz, Parker/OMC, Piz/OFC), Wallace (Wallace/OFC), Keith Mars, Alicia Fennel (Keith/Alicia), Lilly (the first), Darryl Fennel, Mentions of Cassidy, Meg, Bronson and Max
Spoilers: Everything since it's technically a post-series fic but it also has mentions of stuff from pre-series, season two and season three. So it's spoils everything.
Disclaimer: I own neither Veronica Mars or A Christmas Carol. They belong to Rob Thomas and whoever owns Dickens these days. Don't sue because it won't do anyone any good at all.
A/N: I wrote this for vmfic_gameon Round 4 for both challenges 3 and 4. I used 22 of the 25 words : cliquish, navel, confiscate, believe, mourning, bought, preconceive, gravitate, twister, butcher, guideline, infinite, debut, cynical, sunset, devotee, unconventional, venture, session, gone, sallow, and insecure. I'm a little shocked I couldn't get the other three in there. Also, this is the first time I've sat down and written anything in a while. I've been out of town for a while and my laptop is kind of out of order (the bottom row of letters and the space bar aren't working) so it's been hard. But I'm going to start trying to work on The Return soon.

Three Blonde Ghosts

Mac sat on one of the big, overstuffed armchairs in Veronica's living room, her legs curled up underneath her. She let her gaze roam over the crowded room, taking in all the people that had gathered here for what seemed to be the traditional watching of It's A Wonderful Life at Veronica's apartment on Christmas Eve. It seemed to her that each year everyone got more and more comfortable with the arrangement while she felt more and more isolated from it. She could feel herself pulling away, holding herself apart from the group. These occasions always highlighted the fact that she was alone. Veronica and Logan were back together for the millionth time, cuddled in one corner of the couch, making cracks about George Bailey and Mr. Potter. Wallace sat at the other end of the couch, eating popcorn and adding the occasional observation to Veronica's running commentary, he was alone now, his girlfriend out of town for the break. Mr. Mars was sitting on the love seat, Alicia Fennel cuddled up to his side while he glared at Logan for some reason. Piz and Parker were sharing a blanket on the floor, trying to hid the fact that they were dating even though everyone knew. Dick was splayed on his stomach in front of the television, often asking questions about the movie since he'd never seen it before. Darryl was sprawled out next to him, fast asleep.

Mac sat there, watching as their unconventional little group melded together into a make-shift family that she was somehow both apart of and separated from. It hadn't been all that long ago when things had been such a mess. Logan and Veronica hadn't been talking. Piz and Logan hated each other. Parker hated Veronica. Everyone hated Dick, except for Logan. Wallace and Logan were fighting. Even Mac and Parker had gone through a rough patch. But everything was fine now, everyone was all paired up. Except for Mac. Even Dick had found a buddy in Darryl this last week. According to Veronica and Wallace Dick had stayed late last night playing videogames with Wallace's little brother. Now they were all friends, spending Christmas together.

Most of them had skipped out on the family Christmas thing this year. Parker was fighting with her parents about her decision to major in something they didn't think worthy of the education they had bought her. Dick's dad was AWOL again and his mother was spending Christmas with her new family. Logan's sister, as far as Mac knew, was spending the holidays in London with her new boyfriend. Piz hadn't given a reason to why he was staying, just that he was. Mac had opted out of the eight hour drive in a cramped back seat with her little brother on the way to visit her grandparents. She'd been invited to the Sinclair's house for dinner tomorrow, but if she went there was the high possibility of running into Madison, who was still having some issues with finding out about the big switched at birth thing. But being here with the Mars-Fennel family was just the same. They still made a big deal out of Christmas.

"Okay, I say we either start dinner or order a pizza, because I'm hungry." Mr. Mars' voice broke into her thoughts and cut whatever Veronica was saying off.

"We're doing a big dinner tomorrow, so why don't we just order in?" Veronica suggested, hopping up from the couch to get the take out menus.

"I think we're going to head home. Get Darryl to bed so we can all get up tomorrow for a big breakfast." Alicia announced as both she and Wallace got up. Within minutes they were out the door, with a sleepy Darryl leaning heavily on Wallace.

Dick mumbled something about getting home to call his mom for a Christmas chat, before grabbing his coat and disappearing out the door. Parker hemmed and hawed about being tired before finally breaking down and admitting that she was going to go home and watch White Christmas and then go to bed. Piz decided to go as well, offering to give Parker a ride back to the dorms before he went to his own room and called his parents. Everyone had fled the Mars apartment within twenty minutes, leaving Mac to stand uncomfortably in the living room as Veronica and Logan argued whether to get Pizza or Chinese.

"You're welcome to stay Mac, we can order you something." Veronica offered, pulling out the Chinese menus and picking up her phone. "Lo Mein?"

"Or a veggie pizza." Logan interjected, swiping the Chinese menu and replacing it with the pizzeria take out menu.

"In fact, you can be the deciding vote on whether we get Chinese or Pizza." Veronica offered.

"Actually, I'm going to head home." Mac turned and headed towards Veronica's room, where her coat was flung over the foot of the bed.

"You don't have to leave Mac, I mean, just because everybody else left doesn't mean you have to." Veronica offered following her into the bedroom. "In fact, you could spend the night. We'll stay up and watch all those old Christmas movies, I'm going to make Logan watch the Grinch and the Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol. You could stay, sleep on the couch."

"Isn't Logan sleeping on the couch?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, he can sleep on the floor or the love seat and you take the couch. Or we could make a bed up on my floor and you can stay in there. We can stay up all night, chat. We've got a bunch of cookies and stuff."

"Sounds great, but I think I'm still going to go home." Mac grabbed her coat. Veronica reached out to catch her arm before she walked away.

"I just, well, I don't really feel like you should be all alone on Christmas. I mean, your family is gone and well…" Veronica trailed off, her eyes downcast as she searched for more words to try and convince one her best friends to stay.

"It's okay Veronica, I chose to skip out on the family trip this Christmas. And maybe I'll skip the Sinclair family dinner and come here instead, so I won't be alone either way. I'll be fine I promise I just…" Mac stopped just short of saying why she really didn't want to stay. "I just want to sleep in my old room tonight. And my parents set up a tree before they left, and the left my presents so I'll open them early and go to bed and then meet you here in the morning. Okay?"

"Okay, if you're sure." Veronica let her arm fall, releasing Mac.

"I'm sure." She assured Veronica before she turned and left the apartment.

I don't want to hang out with the lovey couple, not when Piz and Parker seem to have paired up and think nobody has noticed. And Dick is sending me puppy dog looks and Wallace's girlfriend was coming for dinner tomorrow. This was not a reason that Mac could give to Veronica for not staying, she also couldn't tell her that if there was anyway she could get out of tomorrow night's dinner she would. Even Mr. Mars was dating Wallace's mom again. Everyone was all paired up, just in time for Christmas. Except me.

"What the hell?" Mac shot up in bed.


There it was again, a loud noise just to her right. A loud noise in a very quiet house in which she was the only occupant.

"Dammit." A voice called in the dark. A girl's voice.

"Who's there?" Mac called, her left hand reaching out to find something to hit the intruder with. Her hand wrapped around something heavy and wooden, a carved box her brother had given her for Christmas three years ago. She flung it out in the general direction of the voice as she moved further away on the bed. The object didn't seemed to come in contact with whoever it was and, instead, hit the wall.

"That wasn't very nice." The voice was annoyed, and suddenly very familiar. There was a crack, like someone snapping their fingers together very loudly. With the sound came a dim glow, a golden light that seemed to grow and grow until it engulfed the entire room.

A room in which Lilly Kane stood, wearing a yellow sundress and no shoes.

"Why aren't you wearing shoes?" Mac asked dumbly.

"I'm dead and standing in your bedroom and the only thing you can ask is why am I not wearing any shoes?" Lilly cocked on hip and put her hand on it, tilting her head a little. So that's where Veronica got it.

"No, Veronica Mars was doing the head tilt long before me. It's actually one of the few things I've learned from her. Post-mortem." Lilly answered the unspoken thought.

"Okay. Good to know. What are you doing here?" Mac asked, sitting up and swinging her legs out of the bed to rest on the floor.

"Finally, a reasonable question. I'm here to help you. I'm the Ghost of Christmas Past, well, kind of." Lilly grinned and took a few steps forward.

"I don't believe in ghosts." Mac said, looking the hallucination right in the eye.

"I'm not a hallucination. And it doesn't matter whether you believe in ghosts or not, because I'm here." Her voice was annoyed, it was the same voice she used to have when she fought with Logan in the quad in high school.

"Okay. I'm obviously dreaming, I don't remember dreaming about you before but, okay." Mac nodded, swinging her legs back into bed and laying back down. "I'll just wake up now and this will go away."

"You're not dreaming. Everybody always thinks their dreaming when this happens to them, but they never are. I'm here, you're awake and we're wasting precious viewing time." Lilly reached for Mac and tugged.

Mac suddenly found herself in the middle of what could only be the old Kane house. Lilly continued on through the house, still barefoot, towards what looked to be the back of the house.

"If this is my journey and all, why are we in your house?" Mac asked.

"Detour, but then again it kind of proves that it's not a dream. After all, you were never in my house were you?" Lilly answered, barely throwing a glance back over her shoulder.

"No, I wasn't." Mac took a step, and then another, following Lilly out the back door to the pool area.

"There's still something here you should see." Lilly stood next to an embarrassed looking boy, standing in shorts too big for him next to a tree, looking like he wanted to disappear.

"Is that…" Mac asked, her voice trailing off.

"Cassidy? Yes. This was my pool party before we went back to school that year. It was only a couple months before everything fell apart. He was never really comfortable with these people, always worried they'd find out his secret."

Mac turned her head away from the two of them standing there, surveyed the scene for the people she knew would be at this party.

Dick was in the pool with Duncan and the other boys of the Neptune elite. Lilly, alive Lilly, was rubbing tanning lotion in to her shoulders while talking to Veronica, who was standing next to her, laughing. Logan snuck behind her to slide an ice cube down her back, causing her to scream and shove him into the pool.

"They always did kind of gravitate towards each other, didn't they?" Lilly said from beside her, Mac didn't even realize that she'd moved. "I never realized it before."

"The four of you were always so tight, a little unit. And then, after you died and it all fell away, we mere spectators couldn't believe it." Mac whispered to the girl that stood next to her that wasn't any different from the girl that sat on a lounge chair twenty feet away.

"We were rather cliquish weren't we? Didn't let in the outsiders and kept closely guarded secrets. We were never as perfect as most people at that school seemed to think we were." Lilly reached down to touch Mac's hand, causing the scene to swirl and the colors to flow together until it all dissolved, spinning around them. Then, just as suddenly the colors separated and became shapes, the shapes became more and more distinct until it revealed another scene. They were standing in the middle of the main hall of Neptune High, staring out at the lockers where Veronica and Logan and Lilly and Duncan were all standing and laughing.

"You still seemed perfect. And since then you've all become a sort of legend." Mac whispered, as the scene started to strike a memory.

"Well it was bound to happen. We all turned out rather tragic, didn't we. Now here it comes." Lilly turned them slightly, so they could watch the hall more clearly.

Mac watched as her younger self bumped into Dick and Cassidy. Dick made a comment before continuing on to talk to Logan, but Cassidy stopped and turned, watched her as she hurried off down the hall without looking back. She'd never known that, that he'd shown interest in her before.

"These aren't really Christmas-time memories are they? I mean these aren't really memories that have a lot to do with me, are they?" Mac rolled her eyes and tried to focus on Veronica and Logan, her friends now, and not the boy that was hurrying off down the hall after his brother.

"You're not paying attention." Lilly remarked before reaching down to grab her hand again, changing the scene again. "But if you want one a little closer to Christmas."

It was a party. One she'd never been to and yet knew all about. There had been rumors about Veronica at this party, making out with everyone and sealing her reputation as a slut. Mac had also heard different versions of what had happened, the final version was from Veronica herself, telling her how Cassidy - Beaver - had gotten her alone in a room. This room.

There Veronica was laying on the bed, Cassidy running his hand up her leg and under her skirt.

"I wasn't even at this party." Mac turned and walked out of the room.

"But it affected you, what happened here, in the end, it affected you." Lilly followed her, but didn't change the scene. They stood now, in the center of all the party goers downing shots and yelling and dancing and having fun. She spotted Dick and Madison a few feet away from them, yelling at each other. Lilly reached out and shoved Madison into Dick.

"Hey, isn't that against one of the rules? That there's no interaction, that they're not supposed to know we're here?" Mac asked, biting her lip to keep from laughing at the appalled look on Madison's face as she righted herself.

"They're more guidelines than rules." Lilly answered, reaching down to grab Mac's hand and change the scene again. "And I've always hated Madison, even when we were friends."

"Where are we now?" Mac asked, looking around the room.

"We're at your graduation night, on the roof of the Neptune Grand." Lilly let go of Mac's hand and moved away a little so she could see Cassidy, yelling and pointing a gun at Veronica.

"I don't want to see this." Mac took as step back.

"We won't stay for the whole thing, just the part where you see that he was broken long before you, that you couldn't have stopped it." Lilly explained, stepping closer to Mac.

"I know that. I know I wouldn't have been able to stop him from killing all those people, doing what he did to Veronica. I know. He did it all before we were ever together anyway." Mac bit her lip and took another step back.

"I meant the part where he killed himself." Lilly explained, reaching out for her hand again. This time Mac gripped her hend and squeezed her eyes shut as the scene dissolved and reformed again.

Now they were standing at the edge of the cemetery. Watching as a casket was lowered into the ground. Watching as a family stood and lowered their father into the ground. It was Woody Goodman's funeral.

Mac looked down at her own bare feet and then looked up again. They were a little closer now and at a different funeral. She watched as another casket was lowered into a different grave. She watched as a tall blond boy in a gray suit with eyes hidden by sunglasses turned and walked away from his brother's grave. Then she watched as a girl walked closer to it, crying.

"You're crying." Lilly pointed out.

"I was sad." Mac whispered, watching herself as she stopped at the edge of the grave and stared down at the box that held the first boy she had ever loved. The boy that had killed so many people.

"You were mourning him, what you lost. Of course you were sad, but I meant that you're crying now."

"I'm still sad." Mac reached up and wiped the tears away from her face.

"I know." Lilly reached out and touched her shoulder this time. The scene spun and changed again, and still Lilly clutched her shoulder, trying to convey a little comfort and understanding in it.

"Now, this boy was pretty cute. All good and pure and sweet and all about saving the planet. You seemed to really open yourself up to him." Lilly stood next to Mac as she blushed, watching herself kiss Bronson and they fell back onto the bed.

"Can we not watch this? I know what happens." Mac tugged at Lilly, but she merely turned to stare at her.

"You really seemed to open yourself up to him. Let him in." Mac glared at Lilly now. "Not just that way, I didn't mean that way. I meant that you really seemed to connect with him. But it only seemed that way. He never really had a chance. You didn't let him get close enough to really hurt you."

Lilly pulled her away and out her own door into Logan's old living room at the Grand, packed full of people for Parker's birthday party. They walked swiftly through the party, past Logan talking to Veronica and Parker laughing. Past the couch where she was sitting with Max, the night they met, and through the next door where she was in a room, breaking up with Bronson.

Lilly stopped suddenly, only for a moment to take in the scene, to watch to the break up. To watch the other Mac walk away from the scene.

"He doesn't realize it, but you were always going to break up with him. He doesn't know that you were a little broken a long time before he ever met you. He doesn't realize exactly how cynical you were, are. He doesn't realize that you were never going to fall in love with him because you don't believe in it anymore."

"I do, I believe in love." Mac protested as Lilly grabbed her hand and pulled her through another door and into Max's dorm room, where they were lounging around in bed after that time they spent the entire weekend there.

"No you don't, not for you. You believe other people love, you've hung around with Logan and Veronica enough to not be able to doubt it, but you don't believe you'll ever fall in love because it's not so great when it happens to you."

"I was in love with Max." Mac said defiantly.

"No you weren't." Lilly pulled her through a big black door. On the other side she watched as she sat in the cafeteria with Max. He'd come to visit her at school. It was sophomore year at Hearst, near Christmas-time. She and Max had been together for quite a while at this point.

Max reached across the table to grab her hand. He was asking if she'd come with him during Christmas break to meet his parents. She remembered the way her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. How she had recognized this moment as the moment where she either had to end it or risk something else.

"See, you know that you weren't in love with him, not yet at least. If you'd stayed, if you'd gone with him you might have been, but you wouldn't let yourself."

"I was scared. What happened with Cassidy…" Mac had to stop to catch her breath before she began to cry again. "It was hard and bad and I got scared."

"I'm not judging Mac, I get why you did it. But don't try and fool yourself that you were in love with him. You were with him for a little over six months and you still kept him at arm's length."

"It was hard. I wanted to try and love him, but after… after…"

"I know." Lilly whispered as the scene melted away into nothing. The were somewhere she'd never been before, but knew anyway. They were standing by a pool. The pool that, earlier, was filled and surrounded by her old classmates but was now empty but for the two of them. The pool where the girl that stood in front of her was murdered. "I'm leaving you now."

"I wish I would have known you Lilly Kane, better I mean." Mac watched as Lilly bent down to sit by the pool, dangling her legs over the edge and into the water. Mac did the same, dipping her toes into the cool water.

"We could've been friends, I suppose. I know that I would've adored the way things turned out. Badass Veronica, solving crimes and murders. In love with Logan. But things are the way they are, after tonight you'll realize that the past just has to stay there, it belongs the way it is."

Mac shut her eyes and nodded, but when she opened them Lilly was gone and the pool had faded away. She stood in her bedroom, staring into the darkness. Her feet wet.

Mac rolled over in bed. How did I get here?

"Hey, Mac." A voice whispered in her ear.

"Parker?" Mac reached out an arm in a search for the switch on the lamp. "What are you doing?"

"Waiting for you to wake up silly. We have so much to do and you're here, sleeping." Mac felt the bed shift as Parker slid out from under the covers, allowing a cool breeze to sweep in and give her the chills. "Up you go. If we don't get started now we'll never be done in time."

"In time for what?" Mac asked as she slid out from under the covers as well, curious as to why Parker was in her house and in her bed.

"In time for Christmas morning silly. In time for the next visitor. We're all on a schedule here you know. Journeys to guide and people to haunt." Parker circled behind Mac, stopping behind her and pulling her hair into a ponytail.

"Haunt? What are you talking about Parker? I just saw you a couple hours ago and you were fine. Completely alive." Mac pulled away from her roommate and turned to stare at her. She was completely visible for some reason, even though Mac had never turned on the light. She was standing there, in a white slip of a dress, her hair loose and shoulder length and her feet bare. Why is everyone barefoot? We don't believe in shoes anymore?

"Technically I'm not Parker, I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present, oh–" Parker suddenly stopped and snapped her fingers, causing a big white satin bow to appear in her hair like a headband. Like a big Christmas bow. "There, can you tell now? Of course you can. Parker is completely okay and alive and sleeping in your dorm now, so don't worry. I just took her shape because, well, it's familiar to you and it'll help."

"I don't believe in ghosts. I do however, believe that I've found the official overdose limit of tofurkey. Apparently it causes hallucinations." Mac turned back to her bed. "And why don't ghosts wear shoes? Because it's completely unhygienic to do all this traveling without wearing something on your feet."

"You don't sound as sure this time as you did when you claimed to not believe in ghosts to Lilly." Parker pulled her back from the bed.

"That's another thing, if you're taking the 'familiar' shapes of people I know, why Lilly Kane?" Mac finally gave up on getting back into be and followed Parker out of her bedroom. As soon as she was out the door she wished she'd put on her own shoes because she was now standing on her front lawn.

"That was actually Lilly, it's a new gig for her, she hasn't gotten the shape shifting thing down yet." Parker explained. "Ready?"

"For what?" Mac asked, anxiety building in her stomach.

"The next part of the journey. We're going to be flying so you'll have to take my hand."

"Flying?" The anxiety exploded into full blown panic.

"Yeah, think Peter Pan." Parker reached out and took her hand, holding it tightly as Mac tried to pull away.

"Like with fairy dust and happy thoughts, because that doesn't sound quite so effective when you're not six." Mac tugged harder, but Parker's grip was surprisingly tight.

"Okay, forget Peter Pan, just close your eyes and I'll do all the work." Parker gripped her hand even tighter and tugged.

Mac felt her feet leave the ground as if the world was falling away. A cold breeze of air whooshed over her, almost like it was going through her, before she realized that while it didn't really matter. She knew the breeze was cold, but it was as if she couldn't feel it anyway.

"Oh God, I'm dead." Mac gasped, her eyes flying open at this realization.

"No, you're not dead, just incorporeal. It's the only way this will work and nobody can know we're around." Parker tilted and they changed direction toward the apartments near campus.

"Oh. Well, Lilly said they weren't so much rules as… and she pushed Madison." Mac mumbled as her body began to descend along with Parker's.

"Yeah, well, as I said, it's still a new gig Lilly and she's a little show offy about it. It's a big deal to get picked as a sort of spirit guide. In fact, this is really her debut journey-quest thing. You are technically her first, even though she did some unofficial guiding of Veronica when she was solving Lilly's murder a couple years ago." Parker lightly touched down, elegantly, as if she'd done this hundreds of times before. Mac came down hard, pitched forward and ended up on her hands and knees. "Sorry, the landing can be a bit rough. Shall we?"

Mac looked up at the apartment building in front of her. It wasn't big and corporate, but smaller and more organic feeling. She knew this place pretty well, knew where the elevators were and which way to turn when she got off on the top floor. Logan's apartment was to the right and Dick's was to the left. They'd lived together for another year after the Grand, sharing an apartment here all of sophomore year before Dick moved out and got his own apartment three months ago before school started.

"We'll spend some time here. As the journey goes we'll take a peak at this Christmas." Parker moved to the right, heading straight towards Logan's door. Instead of knocking she walked right through the door. Mac stared after her in shock before Parker leaned back out to pull her through. "We have to hurry if we're going to hit everyone in time."

Mac nodded and turned to watch the people that were in the living room. Logan and Veronica looked as if they'd just gotten here.

"Logan, what's so important that we had to drive all the way over here to pick it up?" Veronica asked, annoyed. She was in her pajama bottoms and what looked like one of Logan's sweatshirts.

"It's officially Christmas and I wanted to give you your gift." Logan disappeared into the bedroom for a minute before returning.

"Yeah, well, this couldn't wait until morning? My dad is going to realize we're gone any minute now and he's going to freak. Then you'll be here all by yourself and I'll have wasted all that time convincing him to let you stay the night." Veronica flopped back on the couch as she waited for Logan.

"It'll be worth it. Anyway, even if he does realize that we're gone, he already knows." Logan settled onto the couch next his girlfriend and set a little black box on her knee, letting it balance there for a moment while she stared.

"Is it the bracelet that matches the earrings you got me for my birthday?"


"Is it a pony?"

"Maybe, but the only way to find out is to open it and look." Logan encouraged.

Veronica reached out an opened the box. "Wow, a key. You know, I already have a key, right? You gave it to me months ago."

"Yes, but that's an I'm-just-visiting key, this is an I-live-here key, it's much shinier." Logan pulled the key out of the box and started to fit it onto Veronica's already packed key ring. "You really should get rid of some of these, or at least keep a second set in your car for the ones you use for espionage and keep the everyday ones on here."

"Yeah, I'll get right on that. You do realize that I now have two keys to your apartment?"

"Our apartment." Logan corrected as he singled another key out and began removing it. "And that's why I'm taking this one off."

"And why was that a visiting key, most of my stuff is already here. I know the doorman better than you, I practically live here already." Veronica pulled her keys away from Logan.

"But now you have to acknowledge it. You live here, and after the very stressful conversation I had with your dad a week ago he has to acknowledge it too."

"Wow, talked to dad about it and everything, you really were feeling brave weren't you?" Veronica wrapped her arms around Logan's neck, pulling him closer to her.

"He was so scary." Logan muttered before turning to her. "You're right, we really should get back before he realizes we're gone."

"Yeah, you know, you're really kind of cute when you're scared of my dad." Veronica pushed up from the couch.

"Well, if we don't get back there soon you'll have wasted all that time talking your dad into letting spend the night on the couch, which is very comfy by the way." Logan handed Veronica her coat before sliding into his own.

"Yeah, and if you hadn't been there, I'm sure I could've talked Mac into staying." Veronica slid her hands in her pockets as she watched Logan walk around the apartment, flipping off all the lights.

"What's your sudden obsession with the slumber party. If it's so important she can stay here on New Years." Logan offered, putting on hand in his jacket pocket and wrapping the other around Veronica's shoulders.

"I just don't like thinking of her all alone, especially on Christmas. It'd even be better if she was still with Dick, then we'd know that neither of them were alone tonight." Veronica explained as Logan led her to the door. "I mean, even Piz and Parker are together, even though they think they're pretty sneaky and hiding it from us."

"Yeah, well, we couldn't force her to–" Logan stopped suddenly. "Wait. Where are my keys?"

"If anyone had a reason to fear love it's Veronica. Look at everything she's been through in the last few years with Duncan and her mom, even with Logan. She's had it rough, and yet she found a way to open herself up again." Parker turned, heading out of the room as Logan started searching for his keys and Veronica stood, laughing, by the front door.

"She wasn't always like this, it took her a really long time to trust him. Is that what I have to do? Because I don't have this intense love from high school that I just have to learn to trust again. And even if I did, even if he was still alive, I don't think I was ever going to trust him again."

"You're not Veronica, Mac. You don't have to set your pace by her or even by Parker. Veronica was always going to end up here, Logan was always going to be the only one she could trust like that."

"I don't try to set my pace to Veronica." Mac argued as she followed Parker back through the door and straight into Dick's apartment.

"You do. It's hard not to compare yourself to your friends. They're there and you're all at the same point in life. It's hard to see Logan and Veronica together and not wonder why you don't have that too." Parker stopped just inside the door, letting Mac go on ahead of her.

The apartment was void of any decorations. No lights. No tree. There was pathetic little pile of presents on the couch, shoved to one side as Dick sat on the other, fast asleep. His head was lolled over to one side at what looked like and uncomfortable angle, his hand clutching the phone in his lap. There was a paper with a phone number sitting next to him with the word disconnected scrawled underneath it. A photo album of what looked to be his family at Christmas before his father had skipped the country, his brother had killed himself and his mother had another family lay open on the coffee table where his feet rested.

"He's lonely at Christmas, more than any other time of year. Wishing he'd seen what his brother was becoming, wishing that he'd saved him and his dad had stayed and his mom loved him more. Logan's the only family he has left." Parker walked around the coffee table, passing through Dick's legs as she went, to sit in one of the over stuffed leather recliners. "And this year he added another regret to his already lengthy list."

"What?" Mac stared at the boy that she had briefly, shamefully, secretly dated before he had bragged about it to Logan and she'd broken up with him.

"You. He really likes you, could possibly love you but you ended it before he had time to find out. He thought he was becoming something with you, a respectable girl that didn't date him because he had money and didn't ask about where he went to high school and if he has any siblings and what his parents do." Parker leaned forward slightly, craning her neck to look at the open photo album.

"It never occurred to me that he actually cared." She moved a bit closer to Dick, wanting to wake him up and tell him to go to bed before he did anymore damage to his neck. He looked so sad there, alone in such a bare apartment without any of the usual holiday decorations. At least when he was living with Logan Veronica was there to decorate the apartment.

"Because you have this preconceived notion about Dick." The ghost gave her a stern look, and Mac saw some of the otherworldliness in her eyes that proved that she really wasn't her friend, but a ghost here to show her what she'd been avoiding for so long. "That he is not, in fact, in possession of any actual feelings. But the truth is, while everyone forgets that he has feelings, he's broken and falling apart and nobody is there to help him out. Logan's around, but there's only so much that he can do. He can't take care of Dick forever, he's got his own life to lead and Veronica to take care of."

"And that's a full time job." Mac commented as she watched Dick twitch in his sleep.

"You're telling me. Do you know how hard Lilly works at trying to keep her out of trouble. Trying to keep her alive? Meg helps once in a while, but between the two of them she still gets into scrapes like gun toting Irishmen and psycho serial rapists." Parker stood and headed for the window, beckoning Mac to follow.

"So I'm supposed to what, take care of Dick forever?" Mac asked, staring out into the darkness as Parker reached down and grasped her hand.

"No, just help him out. Be there for him, show him that he's not the horrible person that some people believe he is. The last couple years have changed him, but people keep walking out on him and he's all alone. He needs someone to be there for him." Parker pulled her out of the window, but instead of falling they stayed airborne, floating until she leaned in one direction causing them to speed through the air once again.

They went faster this time, speeding towards Hearst and campus, racing past building after building before they plunged through the roof of Mac's dorm. As they descended through the top two floors Mac watched as room after room came into focus and then faded out. They finally settled in the hallway outside Mac's room that she shared with the real Parker.

"Go on." Ghost-Parker gave her a little shove through the door.

The real Parker was asleep in her bed, cuddled under blankets. Piz was across the room, sleeping on Mac's bed, on top of the covers. The television was still playing one of those classic Christmas movies that Parker had been dying to watch ever since Thanksgiving.

"Why is he over there? They knew I wasn't going to be here, so why isn't he on her bed, with her?" Mac asked, staring at the boy in her bed.

"She's still insecure about sex, ever since Mercer she hasn't really… It scares her. Logan never pushed and she hasn't really dated since him. Piz understands, he isn't pushing either, but she's getting closer to being ready to take that step, to get back in the saddle again." Mac's head whipped in the direction of Ghost-Parker, her eyes widened in shock. "Figuratively speaking."

"Oh God, I thought you were telling me something about… well, something I didn't want to know." Mac slowly turned back to her friend. "I didn't realize that she hadn't… since… that she was still scared about it."

"She's less afraid now. Picked some pretty good guys to ease her back into the dating world. Logan's had experience with this sort of thing and Piz isn't the type of guy to push for sex. But they're both insecure about this particular relationship, especially considering that this will be the second ex of Veronica's that Parker has dated and Piz is nervous about dating another of Logan's exes, considering what happened last time."

"I'm sure. But I doubt that things will go the same way, it's different." Mac sat on the desk chair on her side of the room, watching as Piz and Parker slept, completely oblivious to the other two people in the room.

"Come on, it's time to get you back. My time's up and I've shown you everything you need to see." Ghost-Parker grabbed her hand again, but instead of taking flight this time they walked down the hall to the elevator. As they rode down to the first floor, Mac idly wondered if Ghost-Parker had pushed the button or used her ghostly powers to get it to move.

Mac followed Ghost-Parker out of the building and into the chilly night air.

"This is where I leave you."

"What? You're not taking me back to my house?" Mac asked, her voice rising in panic. She was being left alone on campus, in the middle of the night in nothing but her pajamas, which weren't overly revealing, but nobody would mistake them for clothes.

"No I'll leave you here, the Ghost of Christmas Future will be here soon." Ghost-Parker reached out her hand, holding something large, puffy and blue. "Take this, as soon as I leave, the cold will start to affect you again. Keeping out the cold isn't one of the future's talents, it's more of a this-is-the-way-it-is-deal-with-it kind of experience."

"You stole my coat?" Mac asked, taking the item and immediately putting it on.

"I didn't steal it, just had the foresight to grab it as we left your dorm room." Ghost-Parker amended.

"I didn't see it in the elevator." Mac accused, zipping it up in anticipation of the coming cold. She'd seen this movie once or twice before, she knew that the mere presence of the next ghost was supposed to bring on a chill.

"I'm a ghost, I have powers." Ghost-Parker dead panned, then reached out her hand expectantly. "And if you're going to complain about it, give it back. You can venture forth into the waiting cold without, see how whiny you are then."

"No, I'm fine. Thanks for grabbing my coat."

"Whatever, she'll probably confiscate it anyway, take away any source of warmth and comfort. It's how she works, how she shows you what she shows you." Ghost-Parker shrugged, and suddenly her light seemed dimmer, as if she was fading.

"She? She who?" Mac asked, her head snapping up and her eyes narrowing at the fading ghost.

"She there." Ghost-Parker was nearly gone as she lifted an arm to point just beyond where Mac was standing. "The next ghost."

Mac spun on the spot only to stare into the face of her best friend. Veronica stood there in a black dress that fell to her feet. She had a small cloak on, but the hood was down so Mac could see that her hair was longer than she wore it now. It wasn't the same way that she'd worn it when Lilly was alive, but it seemed more fitting that it was the hair of some future version of her friend.

"Are you sure you're not all Logan's ghosts? Because I'm sensing more of a Logan's-girlfriends-through-the-ages theme than a Cindy-MacKenzie-this-is-your-life kind of deal." Mac commented, staring back at this eerie version of her friend.

Veronica merely pressed her lips together for a moment before she turned and floated away.

"You're not going to talk? This just gets creepier by the ghost, a non-verbal Veronica." Mac muttered as she followed the image of her friend. With each step the world of Hearst fell away and into blackness. Mac shivered despite the warmth she had felt only a moment ago. She look down to find that her coat was gone, and she was again wearing nothing but her pajamas, shorts and a tank top. Ghost-Parker was right, Ghost-Veronica did take it away, and she hadn't even noticed it.

When she looked up again she saw that she there was a dim light coming from Ghost-Veronica now, is was more otherworldly than the other two and wasn't at all comforting in the dark. They were in a room. A round room with that was completely dark except for the eight doors that seemed to shine.

"What? Do I go into one? Like the pick a door game and whatever future is behind there is my fate or something?" Mac asked, her palms starting to sweat in the panic of having to choose a door. Ghost-Veronica just shook her head no. "Then what do I do? I don't understand."

The ghost raised her arm to point at the door directly to her right, causing the walls and doors to spin around them.

"I don't get it. Does it matter which door I pick?" Mac yelled as the spinning slowed and then stopped. Ghost-Veronica lowered her arm and shook her head no again. "Okay."

Mac squeezed her eyes shut and walked forward, he hand fell onto one of the shining silver door knobs. "Okay Mac, all it takes is one twist and your in." She whispered under her breath, building up the courage it would take to get a glimpse of her future. She turned the knob and the door flew open.

She didn't step inside the door. Didn't have to. Opening the door was like looking into a window, turning on a television, catching a glimpse of someone else's life. And it looked like this life was Wallace's.

He was hurrying around a kitchen full of people. His mom and Mr. Mars and his little brother and Veronica and Logan. There was a woman there she didn't know, and a child, but it looked as if everyone else knew them. Wallace kissed the woman and picked up the little boy, talking emphatically as the rest of his family laughed. Everyone shuffled out of the kitchen now, carrying dishes of food out to what must be the dining room. Wallace's wife took the little boy out of his arms and followed the other's out, leaving Wallace and Veronica alone.

"Did you hear from Mac?" Wallace asked, leaning against the counter where the last two dishes sat, waiting to be taken out by the remaining members of the family.

"Yeah, she's not going to make it. She just broke up with her boyfriend and she doesn't feel like being around what she called couple-city. Apparently we all act very coupley." Veronica explained as she picked up a bowl of mashed potatoes.

"If I remember correctly that's exactly what she said last year." Wallace replied as he picked up the basket of rolls and turned to follow his step-sister out of the kitchen. "How many boyfriends is that this year? Five?"

"Yeah, that sounds about right." Veronica answered right before she walked through the door.

The once shining door slammed shut on Mac, leaving her staring at it's faded surface until the room spun again and what she could only assume was another door stopped in front of her. This time she reached up and turned the knob without hesitation. It sprang open and another scene fell into place.

Parker sat at a counter, her legs crossed at the knee. Her hair was still shoulder-length, but there was a mom quality to it now that wasn't there before. She was on the phone, but yelling at the two little boys playing tag in the kitchen, yelling for them to either find somewhere else to play or settle down before they get burned, or hurt. A man was at the stove, stirring something. Parker turned her head slightly, signaling that she was returning to her conversation.

"Are you sure I can't convince you to come over Mac? It's not trouble, and the boys would love to see you." Parker pleaded, shooting looks at the man at the stove. She covered the mouthpiece again before speaking, "Nick, honey, are you sure your not stirring it too much? We don't want runny gravy. Let it boil and then–"

"Babe, let me make it, quit backseat cooking. Just talk to Mac, see if you can get her to come over." The man's manner suggested that he did this all the time.

"Is that her husband? Mac asked, glancing back at the still silent ghost. "I'll take your silence as a yes." She turned back, just as Parker began to speak into the phone again.

"I wish you'd come. I know you just broke up with that guy, but it's all the more reason to be with family right now. You're our family Mac. Veronica and Logan are coming over later. And Wallace and Denise, even Piz and Amanda. We're going to put the kids to bed early and do a big game night. Play some board games, monopoly, scattergories, twister, yahtzee. Then maybe a little poker." Parker's voice was pleading, but Mac could tell by the look on her face that she knew it was a lost cause. "We've got beer and everything. And if you don't come Veronica and Logan will basically steal all our money."

Parker waited another moment and then sadly nodded her head. Nick turned around, wearing his own sympathetic expression as his wife finished up the phone call. "Okay Mac, I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"She's not coming." Nick made it more a statement than a question.

"I knew she wouldn't, but when I started mention who was coming over later, I realized that we're all couples. She'd be the odd person out and I knew she wouldn't come." Parker set down the phone and stood up. "We'll have to go visit her tomorrow then, try and cheer her up.

The big door slammed shut again, the room shifted and another door stood in front of her. This time all she did was touch the knob before the door sprang open. Piz sat at a big, round table in a room she'd never seen before. Logan and Nick and Wallace and Veronica were sitting there too, playing poker. The pile of chips was much larger in front of Veronica. Parker and Wallace's wife, Denise, were sitting next to their respective husbands, watching the game playout while a little blonde woman slept on the couch. It was a nice, comfortable room that they all seemed comfortable in.

"So, Piz," Wallace began, biting down on an unlit cigar. "Denise told me that Amanda told her that she's pregnant."

Piz blushed and nodded. Everyone began speaking at once, congratulating him and asking how far along his wife was.

"She's four months along and so far she's loving it." Piz announced as the rest of the group raised their beer bottles to him.

"I can plan the baby shower." Denise volunteered. "Any other volunteers?"

"I'll help." Parker said quickly, taking another gulp of her beer. "She planned mine, and it was so much fun."

"I don't know if I'll have that much free time, but I'll see what I can do. If nothing else I'm always good for blowing up balloons." Veronica offered as she threw in another chip, raising the bid and causing three of the guys to fold.

"Just don't ask her to hang streamers." Logan mumbled, causing his wife to slug him in the shoulder.

"What about Mac? Should we call and see if she wants to help out?" Denise asked, looking around the table.

"I don't know if she'll want to, but I'll call her tomorrow and ask." Parker offered.

"Did anyone call and invite her tonight?" Veronica asked, looking at Parker, knowing that if anyone would have done so it would be Parker.

"I was going to but I knew she'd say no. She's still upset from her last break up and I don't think she'd want to hang out with all the couples." Parker avoided everyone else's gaze as she stared down at the green felt covering the poker table.

The door slammed and the room spun, but instead of a shiny door standing in front of her there was an open space, and on the other side was another scene.

"Logan! Where the hell is the tape?" Veronica shouted as she searched under the couch.

"How should I know?"

"Didn't you have it last? When you were trying to re-tape the presents?" Veronica called, her voice somewhat muffled by the couch cushions as she now searched under them.

"Oh yeah, I forgot that Chris got into them again." Logan walked into view, holding the roll of tape out for her. "Don't worry, I don't think he saw anything."

"It doesn't matter, I wrapped them all in boxes from things like toasters and blenders." Veronica said as she reached hand up for help. Logan reached down and pulled her to her feet, giving her kiss as she stood upright. Mac could see that she was pregnant, her small round stomach protruding just far enough to be visible. "Anyway, I want to get this wrapped before Mac gets here."

"Are you sure she's coming?" Logan asked as he followed her to the table where she had her wrapping paper set up. A plain white box sat in the middle of all the pretty paper, waiting for her. "I don't want you to get your hopes up, she said she'd come for Thanksgiving and she didn't."

"She'd just broken up with that guy, so of course she didn't come, but I think that she's probably over it and…" Veronica's voice faded off. "Okay, I know she probably won't come. I know she hates being around us all when we're all coupled up and she's not, but it's not like it's the whole gang here, its just us and the Chris. No pressure."

"Just as long as you're not going to be disappointed, like you were last time. You know how you get when you're pregnant." Logan said as he walked out of view again.

There was no slamming of the door this time, just a spinning room and another open door displaying another scene. Max proposing to a young girl, who happily accepted and kissed him. More spinning. Bronson and a very pregnant girl in a Recycle-Reduce-Reuse t-shirt opening presents. Another spin. Dick, sitting at a bar, his eyes droopy and his skin sallow as he hits on what is obviously a hooker before spilling an amber liquid down the front of his pants. He's covered in alcohol now but the woman doesn't seem to mind as she plasters herself on him after he slides his Black AmEx across the bar.

The room spins once last time. There's only one door left, the rest are dimmed, only slightly glowing. The door doesn't automatically open this time. Mac turns to look back to look at Ghost-Veronica. She still stands there, looking grim and serious. Still completely silent.

"Do I have to?" Mac asks in a small voice. She knows what's behind the last door. There's only one person's future left to see, she's already seen everyone else's. Already has a pretty good glimpse of what she becomes.

Ghost-Veronica's eyes seem to spark with some emotion, something akin to sympathy, before it disappears and she nods her head yes.

"In your infinite wisdom do you think it is absolutely necessary for me to open that door and see what it is that I am? What I become? Isn't it enough that I've had to hear about it from all my friends?" Mac pleaded, taking a step away from the door towards the ghost.

Mac stared into what would be Veronica's eyes, waiting for a reprieve. But the hood to the cloak was up now, darkening her face. As she stood there and watched the form of Veronica slipped away and the hood darkened more and more until it became an oval of darkness. Then a boney arm lifted and pointed to the one remaining door, which only seemed to glow more, brighter, as Mac tried to put it off.

As she walked back to the door, step by step, the floor seemed to fall away behind her until she was standing at the door with the feeling that she stood on the last solid piece. The ghost was still standing behind her, pointing insistently at the door.

One deep breath, an attempt to calm her nerves and she reached down to turn the knob. The moment her fingers grazed it the door burst open and the rest of the floor fell away, causing her to fly forward into the awaiting scene.

And there she was. Sitting alone on a couch, watching It's A Wonderful Life and eating a tofurkey sandwich. She recognized several items around the room from her old room at her parents house. She was in a small apartment now, her hair cut very short. It looked as if she'd gone up several sizes. She wasn't fat, but she didn't look as if she tried to maintain a healthy weight, there was an elliptical machine in the corner that was nearly buried under coats and bags. A pile of unopened Christmas cards lay on the end table beside her, a couple presents sitting on the couch next to her.

She looked completely okay, sitting there, eating alone and watching a movie she loved, but there was a sense of loneliness in the apartment that seemed to overwhelm everything else. A cat walked down the hall and jumped on Future-Mac's lap, but when she tried to pet it, the cat walked off in the opposite direction, denying her even this little bit of contact on such a lonely holiday.

The cell phone rang and Future-Mac leaned forward to check the caller id. It was Veronica, but instead of answering it, she let it go straight to voicemail. The phone signaled a missed call, the fourth. Mac wondered who had all called her. If, after all this time, her friends still invited her to dinner or if they'd finally stopped. If Veronica was calling about dinner or just to say Merry Christmas. Either way, Future-Mac seemed to want no part of it as she set the phone down on the table even as it beeped and the screen popped up saying that there were three new voicemails.

"So I'm a cat lady who has completely cut herself off from her friends and family?" Mac asked, turning to look at the ghost. "Great."

The ghost glided through the room and down the hallway. Mac followed it, not looking back at the sad sight of herself alone, on Christmas with a cat that didn't even like her.

As they walked down the hall it lengthened and darkened, become colder. The carpet had turned to grass and the sky lightened, like a sunset in reverse as the walls fell away and they came out onto a graveyard.

"Oh god, is this part where I see my grave, that I die alone?" Mac stopped, frozen. The ghost merely pointed at a group of people standing around an open grave. Mac moved a little closer and was almost relieved to see herself amongst the mourners. But then her stomach dropped when she saw that the grave belonged to Dick. It was only ten years from the present and they were lowering Dick into the ground.

Logan was crying and Veronica was saying something about how he should have quit drinking when the doctors told him to, when they had explained how his liver couldn't take it anymore. At 31 Dick Casablancas had drank himself into an early grave.

The graveyard seemed to stretch out a little and the scene sped up as if someone had hit the fast forward button. The mourners moved away from the grave quickly, only Logan staying behind for an extra moment or two before joining the rest of the group at the cars. More graves were dug and the sun rose and set, over and over, quicker and quicker until it all became a blur. The blur of colors, of movement went on for a minute or two before it slowed and finally stopped again. They were still in the graveyard, but were standing at few more feet away, at different and new grave.

Her friends were all there. Veronica, Logan, Parker, Wallace, and Piz, along with their future spouses. Her family was there too, both the MacKenzies and the Sinclairs. Her brother and sister and even Madison, who stood there as if she had been forced. Mac searched frantically for her own face, even though she knew she wouldn't find it. Everyone was crying and moving away from the grave.

Time didn't speed up again but slowly the people faded away and it got darker and colder. She looked up at the ghost to find it pointing at the headstone. She could see her name, she had never married. She see the date. December. Christmas Eve. And after quickly doing the math in her head, she was only fifty. Mac wondered what might have happened to her at fifty years old that caused her to die so young. Right now fifty seems so far away, but in reality it wasn't all that old. Not really, not when her mother's parents were in their nineties and her father's parents were still in their eighties and still did things like camping and stuff. Fifty was not that old.

"Fifty is not that old!" Mac yelled out, turning to the ghost. "It's still pretty young. My parents were barely fifty when I graduated high school! I can't die at fifty!"

She was starting to panic, to hyperventilate. "What do I do now? What am I supposed to do with this? One all night session with the Christmas blondes and what, I don' become a spinster? Is that what it takes? I get it, I don't let myself get involved. I've cut myself off from my friends and from love, I get it. I'll fix it. I promise! But I can't die at fifty, it's too young. And someone has got to help Dick, he can't die at 31 from a drinking problem. Someone has to get through to him." Mac's foot slipped on the edge of the grave causing her to pitch forward into it. She let out a scream as she felt her self fall.

Mac jerked awake in bed. She sat up, panting. She didn't know whether it was the feeling of falling or her own screaming that woke her but she was secretly glad her parents weren't home to hear it.

"Oh my god. I can't believe… I couldn't possibly have, done all that." Mac reached for her glass of water but instead her hand landed on a white satin headband, with a big bow fastened to the side. There, next to it, was a note written in gold writing. Just a present from the present.

Mac let her eyes drift around her room, her eyes landing on a pair of wet foot prints right in the center of the floor. A black cloak lay over the back of her desk chair. None of this had been there last night. She didn't own a black cloak or a headband and she couldn't imagine why there would only be one pair of foot prints, wet and in the middle of the floor. She knew if she went over and stood in that exact spot that they would be her footprints.

"Okay, what do I do now? Call the butcher and order the biggest turkey sent to Cratchit house?" Mac asked herself, spring out of bed. She ran down the hall to her presents her parents had left her.

Mac knocked on the door a third time. She knew he probably had a hard night and it always took him an extra minute or two to wake up anyway. She bounced on the balls of her feet as she waited, oddly excited to be here, holding a present for him at ten in the morning. She'd been awake at seven, but she'd given him a few extra hours of sleep since she knew just how cranky he could be when woken too early.

There was a shuffling behind the door, a creak as he leaned forward to look through the peep-hole and then the sound of locks sliding out of place. The door swung open and he stood there, shock evident on his face for a moment before his eyes narrowed.

"What are you doing here?" Dick's voice was accusing, but she could hear something else underneath. Something that sounded a lot like he was kind of happy to see her.

"It's Christmas. I brought you a present and breakfast." She reached down to hold up the grocery bags she's set on the floor. "You can't say no."

"Why not?" Dick asked, taking a step back to let her into the apartment.

"Because it's a gift and I'm offering to cook you breakfast. I never cook, refusing to accept it would just be unforgivable." She paused as she waited for him to shut the door. "And no way to start a relationship."

"What if I'm not hun– Wait. A relationship?" Dick spun around to stare at her, his eyes wide and mouth hung open.

"Yes, you don't think that I'd waste the one time a year I cook on just anybody would you?" Mac replied, walking swiftly to his kitchen, wishing that this part was already over. She planned it all out as she'd collected the food she'd needed from her parents kitchen. She wouldn't really give him a choice in the matter, just tell him that they were dating and hope he'd accept it.

"I've died of alcohol poisoning and now I'm hallucinating." Dick followed her into the kitchen. "I don't remember getting drunk last night, but I could still be drunk right? And dreaming?"

"I'm confused are you dead or hallucinating? Drunk or dreaming?" She started to unload the contents of her bags on the kitchen counter. "Do you have pans? Because I brought stuff for pancakes."

"Yeah, under the stove, Ronnie helped me get what I need. And I don't know which, but I'm pretty sure that when I was alive or sober or whatever we weren't dating. In fact, I'm pretty damn sure that the last time we actually spoke it was when you told me that no girl actually dates me. At least not publicly." Dick's voice took on a hard edge near the end, his anger over that conversation still obvious.

"I was wrong. I just assumed that you'd be a jerk if I actually dated you. I used you and it wasn't fair and then I said the most hurtful thing I could think of when I ended it. I'm sorry." She couldn't look him in the eye, she'd known she'd have to do this but it was still turning out to be ridiculously hard.

"So that's it? I'm suddenly worth dating now?" His voice was starting to soften even though she could tell he was trying to stay mad.

"No, you were always worth dating, it just took me a while to realize it." Mac took a step closer to him and was relieved when he didn't take a step back. "And, again, I'm sorry."

"And you're going to make me pancakes?" He took a step, closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around her waist. "With chocolate chips?"

"Sure, if you can somehow get chocolate chips I'll add them to the mix." Mac conceded, pulling away to open the drawer under the stove.

"Second to the last drawer on the right." Dick pointed out. "Did you bring orange juice?"

"Apple. My parents didn't have any orange."

"That's okay, apple is good too." Dick sat at the table to watch her cook. "I'd offer to help, but I don't know how to cook."

"That's okay." Mac threw him a smile over her shoulder, glad that they had settled things so easily.

"So, dinner tonight. You going to Ronnie's?" Dick asked hesitantly, she could hear the nerves, hear the real question he was asking. Are you still going to date me in front of your friends?

"Yeah, we'll go. I just have to make an appearance somewhere else first, drop by and say hello." Mac told him firmly, making sure she said we instead of I.

"Hey, you're late, missed the pre-dinner argument between dad and Logan about which side to put the napkin on." Veronica said as she ushered Mac and Dick into the house.

"Damn, that's something I would've wanted to weigh in on too." Mac deadpanned, looking Veronica in the face and waiting for it to dawn on her that she and Dick had come together. "There are complexities in napkin placement that really tell you about a person. Personally I would've had it up top, or folded in the shape of a swan, but that's just my showmanship personality coming through. Existentialism through napkins."

"Well, if it will make you feel any better I promise there will be an existentialist debate later, followed by some navel-gazing and then a discussion on why are we here and what exactly is the meaning of life. You know, light post-dinner talk." Veronica informed her, taking the bottle of wine Dick offered. "Come on in, if we're lucky they'll get in to it over the water glasses next."

"Oh, I can't wait." Mac exclaimed, allowing Veronica to pull her aside.

"I need to talk to you." Veronica said, her voice lowered so the other couldn't hear but still not quite a whisper. She pulled Mac back towards her bedroom, furthest away from the now elevated debate on whether wine glasses should be on the table or be given out on demand.

"Cool, spy voice." Mac said as her best friend gave her a little shove into the room before following her in and closing the door behind her.

"Just so we're clear about what's going on here, you guys are dating, right? It's not like it was before?" Veronica asked, her hands propped on her hips and her head tilted to the side. The sight reminded her so much of the Lilly ghost the night before Mac had to actually bite her lip to keep from laughing.


"Yeah, before when you dumped him because he talked about it to Logan. Because I have to say, if happens again I'm pretty sure Logan will come unglued. Dick was a mess the first time, I don't even want to think about going through it a second time." Veronica tilted her head to the other side as she waited for Mac's answer.

"When did you become so pro-Dick?" Mac asked, cringing as she heard the sentence out loud.

Veronica simply raised an eyebrow before continuing on. "Since I was the one that had to help Logan help Dick get over you the last time. He really likes you and he was actually pretty excited when you gave him the time of day, let alone kissed him. I'm not saying that I'm particularly thrilled at the thought of Dick worming his way any further into my life than he already is, but he's kind of grown on me a bit and… well, try not to break him again."

Mac sighed and crossed the room to sit on Veronica's bed. "It's not like last time. I'm actually going to date him this time, in public and everything. And I'm going to really try at this whole relationship thing. Let him in and talk about stuff and not dart at even the slightest hint of commitment and stuff. I might even try that whole love thing out."

"Believe me when I say that the darting and the pushing him away thing, it never really works out that great anyway. You're saving yourself a lot of trouble really. And it only took me four and half years of dating Logan to figure that out." Veronica said as she crossed the room to join Mac on the bed, sitting next to her.

"So really are pro-Dick." Mac stated.

"Stop saying that." Veronica cringed.

"Sorry, you really are okay with me dating Dick." Mac amended.

"Sure, why not? Who am I to say he's unredeemable? Look at Logan, I pretty much thought he was the devil for a while there. I remember someone once calling him Rosemary's baby, the teen years. There was a time when I would've agreed."

"You're right, there was a time when I would've been right there with you." Mac laughed.

"So, what caused this change of heart?" Veronica asked, shifting on the bed to face Mac.

"I had this really weird dream last night. I'm still pretty sure it's from eating just a little too much tofurkey before bed, but either way, who said weird dreams weren't true?"

"Okay…" Veronica hedged.

"And I mean, what Lilly said was true and Parker wasn't wrong about anything either. It's just what happened after, behind the doors, I really don't want that."

"Huh?" Veronica asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.

"I mean, I don't want to die at fifty and thirty-one is way too young, so I figured that I should change it before it's too late, you know."

"What?" Veronica was completely bewildered now.

"Whatever, it was a completely weird, bizarre, strange dream, but totally helpful." Mac explained, simplifying.

"Okay, good. So now you're what, all about doors and life choices?" Veronica seemed just as confused as before.

"Yes, I am all about life choices and second chances." Mac explained, standing up suddenly to pace the room. "I am now a fan of second chances, a devotee of love, an enthusiast of life."

"Okay, good." Veronica's eyes watched as Mac paced. "I'll alert the media. Or at least Logan so he doesn't corner you about the Dick thing."

"Good, should we get back out there?" Mac asked, throwing a look over her shoulder at the voices that could now be heard through the closed door.

"Yeah." Veronica stood and headed to the door, only to be stopped by a hand on her shoulder.

"Just, promise me you guys won't ever have a conversation about how many break ups I have in one year and you won't let me become the weird cat lady whose cat doesn't even like her." And with that Mac swept from the room.

"What?" Veronica asked sharply before following.

Dinner was over, but the dirty plates still lay in front of them.

"Where's that light post-dinner talk you promised me." Mac asked, poking Veronica in the shoulder.

"The universe is awesome, do really think we're all alone?"

"Seriously? You're going to talk about aliens?" Wallace asked, leaning back in his chair.

"I'm too full to be smart and philosophical. Can't this wait until after pie? I'm always smarter after pie." Veronica complained.

"I thought you said you were full. Too full, if I remember correctly… from fifteen seconds ago." Logan said.

"I'm never too full for pie." Veronica told him, perking up in her chair. "Speaking of pie…"

"I vote we wait." Mr. Mars called, cutting his daughter's thought off.

"Okay, but since we're waiting, Logan and I have an announcement." Veronica began, glancing at her boyfriend before sitting up even straighter and scanning the faces at the table.

"You have proof that we're not really alone in the universe?" Mac asked, slouching in her seat so she rest her elbow on the table.

"No, better. Logan and I have decided to move in together. He asked me last night, and I said yes. So…" Veronica trailed off as she watched the rest the people at the table stand up and begin clearing their places. "What are you doing?"

"Clearing the table." Wallace said matter-of-factly.

"Did you not just hear what I just said? Logan and I are moving in together." Veronica said it more slowly this time.

"Yeah, I already knew that." Mac said, handing her plate to Dick before collecting their water glasses.

"It's not a big surprise Veronica." Wallace remarked as he moved into the kitchen.

"You practically live there now." Mr. Mars agreed, picking up several plates.

"Whatever. So much for my big news." Veronica sat back stood and moved into the living room. "Does anyone want to watch A Christmas Carol? The Bill Murray version?"

"No!" Mac yelled, and to her absolute horror everyone turned to look at her. "I kind of… got enough of it last night."

A/N: Okay, so it's not The Return, but it's something. Hopefully I'll be able to get back on track with that story. My laptop is only kinda working. I got the files off it after it was 'fixed' but for some reason the bottom row of letter keys isn't working and neither is the space bar. And for some completely unknown reason, a charger that worked perfectly fine before the computer was taken in to be fixed is no longer working. I don't know why. So I've got all my notes and stuff off my laptop, but in the end I can't actually do any writing on it, so I'm writing on a friend's laptop and all my stuff is on my portable hard drive (thank god for that or i would've lost almost 10,000 songs off my iTunes), so it might be coming slowly now but hopefully it'll pick up. It's a good sign that I got the brainchild for this story one night and had it finished the next. So cross your fingers and pray for a consistent muse. I just realized that I've been writing The Return since 2007, it's going on three years now and I'm hoping I'll be able to finish it soon.