"This is a crime scene, Mars."
Veronica looked up as Lamb walked towards her. His ever-present smirk was in place, his hands resting on the belt at his hips, and she rolled her eyes. Or all the rooftops in all the world, he had to walk onto hers.
"I'm aware of that, Deputy," she said, trying to keep whatever she'd been feeling a moment ago out of her voice. Lamb had seen her vulnerable once before; she wasn't going to let it happen again. "In case you don't remember, I was here."
He stepped forward. "It must have slipped my mind when you failed to come in for questioning."
"Funnily enough, being stuck in a room with you isn't exactly high on my list of priorities."
"And I'm just dying to have you tell me all about how you solved the crime that I couldn't. It's called procedure. Or did your daddy never follow that before he was kicked out?"
"As I seem to recall, my father solved another case that you couldn't. That seems to be a recurring theme with you."
"And I seem to recall that I'm the one who saved your father's life."
"You're absolutely right. It seems your pettiness can be used for good as well as evil."
Lamb took another step forward, until he was almost towering over her, and Veronica mentally cursed the fact that that move never failed to work on her.
That was when the door swung shut.
"Please tell me you left the doorstop in there," Veronica said after a minute.
Lamb turned towards the door, and she knew he hadn't.
"That's just great," she said, taking the opportunity to move back a step. "I take back what I said about your incompetence being used for good."
"I think the word you used was pettiness."
"You can be both." Veronica scowled as Lamb went to check the door, tugging on it fruitlessly. "So. Got any more brilliant ideas about how to ruin my day?"
Lamb frowned at her as he walked back over. "This isn't exactly my idea of a perfect afternoon, either. I didn't lock us up here on purpose."
"No, that would be why you're incompetent. If you'd done it on purpose, you'd be malicious and evil, but at least you'd be good at it."
Lamb shook his head. "Why don't you just call someone to come rescue you? Don't you have half a dozen guys on retainer for that purpose?"
Veronica frowned, not wanting to admit that she'd left her cell phone in her car. She'd wanted to be alone, without Logan or her dad calling every few minutes to check that she was okay. She wasn't okay, but she wasn't about to tell them that.
In retrospect, it had been a bad decision.
"What about you?" she asked Lamb, avoiding the question. "You don't have a phone?"
"I left it in my office."
Veronica rolled her eyes. Great. This was just great. She had come up here to be alone, and instead she'd ended up stuck with the one person she least wanted to talk to. The universe sure had a twisted sense of humour.
"What are you even doing here, anyway?" she asked as she sat down. If they were going to be stuck here, she might as well make herself comfortable. As far as that was possible, anyway.
"Like I said. This is a crime scene. Shouldn't I be asking you that question?"
He sat down, too, thankfully far away from her, and Veronica turned her head away. That was not a question she wanted to answer.
"So what now?" Lamb asked, when he sensed that she wasn't going to answer.
Veronica looked at him. "Aren't you supposed to be the one in a position of authority here?"
"Basic training doesn't exactly cover what to do when you're stuck on the roof of a hotel with a bossy know-it-all."
"What does it cover, exactly? How to turn away girls in distress? How to look ineffectual while eating doughnuts? A hundred and one ways to arrest the wrong suspect?"
"I don't like doughnuts."
Veronica frowned. "I do."
Lamb sighed in mock disappointment. "Ah, just another reason why we'd never make it as a couple."
"Do you want the full list?" Veronica asked. "I think it starts with the fact that you're an asshole and ends with the fact that I'll always hate you. I wrote it out in one of my notebooks during English."
"Was that before or after you scrawled VM loves DL all over your folder?"
Veronica scowled. "I was thirteen. I had horrible taste in men then. And you weren't quite as obnoxious as you are now."
"And your taste in men has improved so much since then. You've dated a guy wanted for murder -"
"Logan was innocent."
"A guy wanted by the FBI for kidnapping -"
"Which is yet another case that you couldn't solve."
"A guy who might have been singlehandedly responsible for letting Aaron Echolls walk free, and a guy who skipped town to deal drugs at locations unknown."
Veronica frowned at him. "How do you know about Troy?" she asked.
Lamb smiled. "I know more about you than you think."
"And less than you think."
"So I guess we're even."
"No," Veronica said. "We'll never be even."
There was silence for a while.
"So. Twenty questions? I Spy?"
Veronica looked at Lamb. "What, is this some sort of game to you?"
"No, Veronica, this isn't a game. This is pretty much the worst thing that could have happened to me today, and I'm trying to take my mind off it."
Veronica sighed. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with ... s."
"No. And you can't see the ocean from here, anyway."
Lamb shrugged. "Maybe you have better eyesight than I do. Street?"
"We still can't see the beach."
"There could be sand up here."
Veronica rolled her eyes.
Veronica looked at him. "So no."
Lamb was silent for a moment. "This is stupid."
"It was your idea."
"Fine, I give up."
Veronica smiled. "Sheriff," she said.
"What, so you're calling me that now?"
She shrugged. "Wishful thinking."
"You have to say it."
Lamb looked at her. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with d."
He scowled. "No."
It wasn't a question, and Lamb didn't answer. Veronica ignored the temptation to gloat.
"You're right," she said after a minute. "This is stupid."
"You just can't think of anything else."
Veronica ignored him and pulled her water bottle out of her bag, cringing as her probably-illegal taser, a couple of pens, and a definitely-illegal bug followed it.
Lamb was looking at her. "All that stuff in your bag, and you don't have a phone?"
"I didn't want to be found."
"Good idea." Lamb's eyes followed the water bottle as Veronica raised it to her lips. "Aren't you going to offer me some?"
"And get Lamb cooties all over it? I'll pass."
"I could die of thirst up here, you know."
"We've been here an hour." Veronica replaced the cap on the bottle and put everything back in her bag.
"We could be here longer."
"Don't remind me."
"So why are you here?" Lamb asked, and Veronica wished she'd given him the water just to shut him up.
She was silent for a long time. "I don't know," she admitted finally.
"Just wanted to relive the moment of your victory?"
Veronica looked at him sharply. "Victory? Is that what you think this was?"
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"
Veronica sighed. It looked like she was going to have to submit to that interrogation after all.
"Just working through some issues."
"With the Casablancas kid?"
"With Cassidy, yes."
"Why do you think?" Veronica didn't look at Lamb. "I thought he killed my father."
"He killed a busload of my friends."
"They weren't your friends."
"She slept with your boyfriend."
"He wasn't my boyfriend."
"What happened up here?"
When Veronica glanced at Lamb, he looked almost sympathetic. "Is this part of your official investigation?"
"Off the record."
Veronica shrugged. "I tried calling Mac to tell her to get away from him. She told me to meet her on the roof. Or at least, I thought she did. I tried calling her in the elevator ..." She frowned. "And I ran into Aaron."
Veronica nodded. "He admitted to killing Lilly."
"So you're not sorry he's dead?"
Veronica looked up. "Are you?"
Lamb shook his head, so briefly it was almost imperceptible. "What happened then?"
"I got to the roof. Cassidy was here. He pointed a gun at me. Blew up the plane. He told me to jump."
Veronica shook her head. "He tasered me. I sent a text message to Logan, and he came up to the roof. They fought, and I grabbed the gun. Then he jumped."
"And he admitted to blowing up the bus?"
"What else did he say?"
Veronica got up. She so did not want to deal with this right now.
"Veronica," Lamb said, still looking at her. "What did he say?"
Veronica looked at Lamb. She hated this. She hated that it was three years later, and he could still make her feel like the girl who had sat across from him in his office, crying.
She hated that he was here when all she wanted was to be alone. And she really, really hated that a part of her was glad she wasn't.
"He said he raped me."
More than anything, she hated the look on Lamb's face right now. Shock, and anger, and sympathy, and guilt, and regret, and pity, like he actually cared.
She didn't want his pity. She didn't want anything from him.
"He raped you?"
Veronica nodded, and she hated that she was crying, too, only this time there was no mascara to run down her cheeks. She hated the way he came to comfort her then, and god how she hated the fact that she let him.
"I'm sorry," he said, so quietly she almost didn't hear, and she pulled back sharply.
"I don't want your apology," she said, and it was a lie, but it was a comforting one.
"I should have looked into it."
"And saved eight people from crashing to their deaths? Why would you want to do that?" Her voice was full of anger and hatred and bitterness, not all of it directed at him, but Lamb didn't look offended. She really wished that he would. It would be easier.
He didn't offer any more platitudes, and Veronica was grateful for that, at least. She was grateful for the silence that followed as she went over to sit by the edge of the roof.
"He just jumped."
Lamb didn't say anything, but he followed Veronica to where she sat, close enough to touch, if she'd wanted to. She didn't.
"He just ... he just jumped."
Lamb didn't move to comfort her again, and Veronica was grateful for that, too. The car that Cassidy had landed on had been moved, was long gone, but she imagined that she could still see him lying there, broken and bloodied and not at all the boy she thought she'd known.
After a while, she backed away from the edge.
"So, got any more bad memories you'd like to dig up? I think we've exorcised just about all of my demons, but maybe you could bring up something about my mother?"
Lamb frowned. "I liked your mother."
"Remember when she made tapas? And she wouldn't let us eat until your father found some Spanish station on the radio."
Veronica almost smiled. "I remember."
"And when she bullied me into coming to Thanksgiving because she thought I didn't have anywhere else to go."
Veronica looked up, and this time, she was smiling. "You didn't."
"Yeah, well, she didn't know that."
"And I hardly think it could be considered bullying. You left with about half a turkey. You said it was the best meal you'd ever eaten."
"She never game me the recipe for that cranberry sauce."
Veronica laughed. "It's cranberry sauce. Cranberries. Sugar. Apple juice. Fresh orange juice."
"You remember that?"
Veronica looked at him. "I was fifteen. You never came back to Thanksgiving after that."
"Your mom was gone by then."
"And you were an asshole."
"I helped you with your homework."
"You failed my homework. My math teacher said it was the worst I'd ever done."
"Algebra isn't my strong suit."
"You have a strong suit?" Veronica tried to inject as much venom as she could into it, and it was more difficult than she would have liked. She knew she'd failed when Lamb smiled at her.
"You used to think I had a lot of strong suits."
"I was over you by then."
"I don't remember you ever being under me."
Veronica reached out to hit him, almost playfully. "I was fifteen. And you are a dirty old man."
Lamb smirked. "Some things never change."
"And some things do." It was almost melancholy, and Veronica wished she hadn't meant it quite as much as she did.
"For what it's worth -"
"Which is nothing."
"It wasn't your fault," Lamb said, and Veronica knew he wasn't talking about the same thing.
"What, have you turned into my shrink now?"
"I just thought you needed to hear it."
"I don't." Veronica bit her lip, trying to force whatever thoughts were threatening to overwhelm her away.
"I don't know why you wanted the recipe," she said finally. "It's not like you can cook Thanksgiving dinner for one."
Lamb shrugged. "I like cranberry sauce."
"I don't." That was a lie, too, and Lamb looked like he wanted to laugh. Veronica thought she would have pushed him over the edge if he did. "Doesn't anybody know you're here?"
Lamb just shrugged.
"Well, didn't you tell anyone? I mean, if this is part of your official investigation -"
"This isn't exactly official."
"So you're just here for fun?"
"This isn't fun."
"No," Veronica agreed. "It isn't."
Veronica pulled the water bottle out of her bag, and handed it to Lamb wordlessly when she was done. He drank, but only a little, as if he was afraid they'd have to ration it. She really hoped it wouldn't come to that.
She handed half her power bar to Lamb, too, and he looked almost surprised.
"This tastes like crap," he announced later.
"If you don't want it -"
"I didn't say that."
Veronica didn't realise she had been moving until Lamb spoke again, and she turned, already halfway to the edge of the roof. She walked back.
"So where are you going to college?"
Veronica laughed as she looked at Lamb. "You want to make small talk?"
He shrugged. "I think we've exhausted all the obvious possibilities."
She shook her head to indicate that she didn't know.
"I though you got into Stanford."
Veronica narrowed her eyes at Lamb. He had said that he knew more about her than she thought; but she hadn't quite believed him, or wanted to.
"Maybe if I had a spare fifty thousand dollars lying around." She almost laughed again, but that was a little too painful. "Hearst, maybe. They have some good scholarships, and Wallace is going there."
"You're staying here?" he asked.
"Come on, Deputy. Without me, there'd be no-one around to do your job for you."
"Maybe without you, I'd actually be able to do my job."
"You're a royal pain in my ass, you know that?"
Veronica looked at Lamb. "It's only, like, my entire reason for being."
"You shouldn't be."
"Just knowing you're thinking of me? It gets me to sleep at night."
"Then you must not know what I think of you."
Lamb scowled. "I do."
Veronica laughed again. She couldn't help it. The look on Lamb's face, almost petulant, was one she'd certainly never seen before.
After a minute, he smiled. "Cold?"
Veronica hadn't noticed herself shivering until Lamb walked up to her. It was summer, more or less, but there was a strong wind on the rooftop, and she hadn't thought to bring a jacket. She hadn't thought she'd be up here long enough to need one.
"No." She shook her head.
But he wrapped her in his arms anyway, and she let him. He was warm, and she told herself that she just didn't have the energy to push him away.
It wasn't so easy to rationalise it when he kissed her. Veronica didn't think she could. She was trying not to think at all.
Because his kiss was warm, and softer than it should have been, and comforting, which it shouldn't have been at all. And she kissed him back, which she definitely shouldn't have done. But she was tired, and it was less intimate, somehow, than sitting up here talking to him and sharing what shouldn't have been happy memories and answering his questions about college and Cassidy and everything else she didn't want him knowing, and she really didn't want to be that vulnerable in front of him again.
It wasn't because he tasted vaguely like cinnamon, or because he felt good holding her, or because she could almost pretend that he made everything else go away.
"I hate you," she said, when she finally pulled away, and that shouldn't have been as difficult as it was.
"Is that your idea of foreplay?"
Veronica kissed him again, because that was a difficult question to answer, and this time it was Lamb who pulled away. He didn't let go of her, and Veronica wasn't sure whether she wanted him to or not.
"This is a bad idea," she said, when Lamb didn't say anything.
"Because I'm an asshole."
"And because you'll always hate me."
She wasn't sure who kissed who this time, and it didn't really matter. Because he tasted vaguely like cinnamon, and he felt good holding her, and she could almost pretend that he made everything else go away.
And she had been lying, anyway.
His shirt was off almost before Veronica could process that it was Don Lamb she was kissing, and maybe that was a good thing. He stopped kissing her only long enough to pull her own shirt over her head, and she wasn't cold any more, but she shivered under his touch.
Lamb didn't stop touching her, and he didn't ask her if she wanted him to, and Veronica knew - and maybe Lamb did, too - that she wouldn't have been able to say yes, even if she was thinking it.
He broke off again to take off his pants, and Veronica unbuttoned her own jeans before she could think that this was a really bad idea, and then his hands were pulling them off her, and they were warmer and more familiar than they had any right to be.
"I don't want to do this."
"Yes, you do." But Lamb didn't touch her again, and Veronica stepped forward, and when she spoke, it was almost a whisper.
"Yes, I do." And that was enough, and he kissed her again, and Veronica kissed him back, thinking that maybe this was the last time she was going to be vulnerable in front of him.
Maybe it was the last time she was going to be naked in front of him, too. Maybe she should make the most of it.
"Tell me what you want," he whispered when he was on top of her, and he knew what she wanted, that much was painfully clear; but there was something so absolutely male in the gesture, and she didn't care, because she did want it, and clearly she was going insane.
"I want you."
That was all it took for him to enter her, and Veronica almost cried out when he did, and then she did cry out, and god, there was no way that someone she was supposed to hate should be able to make her feel like that.
Make her feel good. Wanted. And anything but vulnerable.
He shuddered as he came, and he said her name, afterwards. Almost tenderly. Almost like he actually cared.
"Sheriff," she said, and he smiled, and maybe it wasn't just almost.
She got dressed, but slowly, and Lamb didn't take his eyes off her.
He held her afterwards, and that was something she never thought he'd do, if she had ever thought about this at all. She never thought she'd let him, either.
He was still holding her when the door opened, and a fair-haired man Veronica supposed was an employee walked onto the roof.
"Are you guys okay up here?" he asked, and Lamb's arms tightened around Veronica's waist just enough that she didn't get up.
"We're fine," she said. "But could you prop the door open?"