She's there when he gets to the bar, and for a second, he thinks about busting her. He knows how old she is, knows the ID she showed the bartender (if she had to; he knows they're lax about checking IDs here, it's part of the reason he came here in the first place) was a fake. A good fake, knowing her, but still worth a generous 'contribution' the next time he comes in.
Not to mention the pleasure he always gets from taking Veronica Mars down a peg or two. Or at least, attempting to.
He's still considering it when she looks over at him, her eyes widening for a moment before narrowing in what should be a familiar contemptuous glare. Only it falls short; probably only enough that he would notice, and only because he's looking, but it marks her as being off her game enough that he sits down next to her, instead.
"Veronica," he says, enjoying the way her name rolls off his tongue, the way it does on the rare occasions when he knows he has the upper hand. "Fancy seeing a girl like you in a place like this."
She snorts inelegantly. "Is that your best line, deputy?"
He ignores the jab, and nods at the bartender. "Two," he says, and slides a bill across the counter. He wasn't planning on having to pay tonight, but the last thing he wants is Veronica Mars accusing him of being cheap. Or corrupt.
Even if she'd be right on both counts, that's not really the point.
She doesn't say anything when the drinks arrive, just looks down at the glass in front of her. Mostly, he expects her to refuse it, to sneer something superior or accuse him of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (never mind that she's no minor, and they both know she's already been drinking).
Instead, she picks up the glass, and downs her drink in one. He's surprised. And impressed.
And, okay, a little turned on.
"Easy, there," he says. He didn't come all the way out here to have to take a drunk Veronica Mars home in the back of his cruiser, never mind her father's reaction to having Lamb drop her off. She glares at him, and he knows he should make some crack about 'like mother, like daughter,' but his heart isn't really in it.
When he doesn't say anything else, her glare turns into a challenging stare, and she raises an eyebrow. "Are you going to arrest me now?"
She holds out her hands, together in front of her as though she's waiting for him to slap on a pair of handcuffs. He shifts in his seat, readjusting his suddenly too-tight pants.
"I wasn't planning on it," he says, and her hands drop to her sides.
"Then finish your damn drink."
It's as close to an invitation as he's going to get, which is good enough for him. He downs his drink - cheap, but effective - and slides the empty glass back across the bar.
The bartender refills it, and Veronica's, without being asked, and Lamb doesn't bother paying again. He'll run a tab.
Veronica takes the second drink slower, and he wonders if this is the point where he should try to make small talk. If she were anyone else, he would, but whatever tenuous companionship they've forged seems to hinge on neither of them saying very much.
So he doesn't, and he wonders, instead, what she's doing here. She never really struck him as the barfly type.
"Logan and I broke up," she says, as if she can read his mind. Which, actually, would explain a lot.
On any other girl, he'd say it was a come-on. Let him buy her a drink, slip the fact that she's single casually into the conversation, follow it up with a coy sideways glance. Only there's no sideways glance, and anyway, she's not any other girl.
"He's an idiot."
Okay, so he has no idea where that came from. But Veronica's looking at him speculatively, and he thinks maybe it wasn't entirely the wrong thing to say.
That's got to be a first.
She shrugs, still nursing her drink, but he could swear she's almost smiling. Which is definitely odd, but if normal is Veronica Mars making him look like an idiot, he'll take odd any day.
He could ask her what happened, or why they broke up, or whatever other crap he usually spouts when he's trying to get laid on the rebound. If he thought any of his lines actually worked, though, he isn't dumb enough to think they'd work on her, so he stays silent.
Anyway, if he learned anything at all from Madison Sinclair (other than what colours he should never, ever wear together, or how long nail polish takes to dry, or a bunch of other crap that's probably pushing a dozen more important things out of his head), it's that talking to teenage girls about their romantic problems is something he never, ever wants to do again.
Veronica finishes her drink before he does, and there's a new one in front of her before he can ask. And, shit, he's really going to have to pick up his pace if he doesn't want to be drunk under the table by a five foot nothing college freshman.
"How are classes?" he asks after a minute. Okay, so he's breaking the no small talk rule, but the silence is starting to make him nervous.
She looks up, surprised, as if there's no way he's actually interested in her college experience. And he isn't, really, but he had to say something.
She ignores the question. "I don't suppose I have to ask if you've solved any good cases lately."
He'd love to tell her he has (and if he gave it a minute, he could probably even think of one), but, really, what's the point?
She laughs, as if his general incompetence is fucking hilarious to her, which, really, he doesn't need to be reminded about. But if he wasn't willing to look the other way occasionally, she'd be sitting in a jail cell right now instead of trying to drown her sorrows, so maybe they're kind of even.
It's a new feeling, but not an unwelcome one. Hell, nothing that takes the sting out of her constant barbs is unwelcome.
Instead of answering her, he knocks back the rest of his drink, and her knee bumps against his as he slams the glass back down on the bar. Usually, he'd be expecting her to jump back as if she were twelve and still believed in cooties, but she lets it stay there, almost as if it's kind of welcome.
Well, he wasn't expecting that.
After a minute's deliberation, which isn't really deliberation at all, he moves his hand down (casually, as if this is the same move he's practised a dozen different times on a dozen different girls, as if the fact that this is Veronica Mars never crossed his mind), and rests it on top of her thigh.
She doesn't react at all, which takes him aback a little, because he knows she must have noticed. Not a lot gets past her, and he knows he isn't that smooth.
But he allows himself a small smile, because, fuck. She's just sitting there, her hands clasped around her drink, and if her knuckles are a little white, as if she's holding the glass more tightly than she has to, the rest of her body language betrays nothing. Certainly not that she's letting Lamb feel her up right there at the bar, his hand resting smoothly on her thigh as if this is all fucking normal.
It must have been some break-up.
"What is it about Madison Sinclair?" she asks after a minute, and he's so startled he almost moves his hand off her leg. "Does she have some kind of flashing neon sign over her head that only guys can see?"
He knows why she's asking him, but what he doesn't get is why she's asking at all. The weirdness of this whole encounter aside, he doesn't think she's suddenly grown an interest in his sexual history, but he'll be damned if he knows what else could have brought it on.
He shrugs, and decides, for once, that discretion is probably the better part of valour. And he could swear that Veronica shifts closer in her seat, moving his hand further up her thigh, so maybe this time he was actually right.
He clutches his empty glass in one hand, and decides he must have gone fucking insane when he draws the thumb of his other hand across her thigh. She doesn't react for a minute, and then she looks at him, and he grows bolder, sliding his hand up to tug at the top of her jeans.
Veronica bites her lip, shifting closer to him (and sending what blood supply he had left in his brain straight down to his groin, thank you very much) before turning away, and he lets his hand drop.
Apparently, she has limits. It's strangely reassuring.
He tips his glass at her, silently asking if she wants another, and she shakes her head. He can almost see the barrier come up, boundaries clicking back into place, thanks for the drink, but don't think it changes anything. He sighs, and he doesn't really care if she notices.
He slides the empty glass away, and reaches into his back pocket for his wallet. She might be more or less tolerating his presence, but he isn't going to push his luck, and he can get drunk a lot faster and a lot cheaper at home.
He pulls the cash out of his wallet, throwing a couple of bills down on the bar, and he can feel Veronica watching him. It's a pain in his ass that he's become accustomed to it, to her, but he doesn't spend a lot of sleepless nights wondering what it means. Most of the time, it's a blessing, lets him know when she's about to see something she shouldn't. Sometimes (like right now, when all he wants is to pretend she isn't there at all), it's just downright annoying.
Even aware of her presence, he still doesn't see it coming when she leans over him, snatching one of the bills clean out of his hands.
"If you want me to pay you," he says, turning to face her, "you're going to have to do a lot more than -"
Then he sees it, sees what she's looking at, and what was left of his good mood vanishes. Scrawled at the top of the bill are words in black marker, and he doesn't have to read them to know what they say.
"Veronica Mars is smarter than me," he says, almost without meaning to, and she looks up at him. She's smiling; at least one of them is.
"Aw, deputy," she says, but there's something in her voice that goes beyond simple mocking. "I didn't know you cared."
He shrugs, and plucks the bill back out of her grasp. "It's a fifty. What am I going to do, throw it away?"
"Most people spend them," she says, and there's an edge to her voice he hasn't heard all night. It usually means hell for him, but it's almost a relief. "You see, you give money to people in exchange for goods and or services -"
And now he guesses he's really lost his mind, because he reaches out, curling a finger around one of her belt loops and tugging her forward.
"And what kind of services would those be?" he asks, his voice barely above a whisper, and she actually shivers against him.
She doesn't answer, her jaw set stubbornly, and he watches for a sign that he should let her go. As much as he enjoys pushing her buttons, there are still lines, and he has no doubt she'd taser him in under a minute if he crossed any of them.
"You need a demonstration?" she asks, and fuck, it's almost an offer. He slides a thumb up under her shirt, over her bare stomach, and feels her skin recoil.
Her expression doesn't change.
"I might be a little fuzzy," he says, and when she steps back, he lets her go. She brushes past him, and she's almost at the door when she stops, and looks directly at him.
There's no mistaking the invitation this time, and he doesn't need to be asked twice.
He doesn't see her when he gets outside, and he has a moment to think that he's been played, that maybe this is just another one of her games, when he feels the tap on his shoulder.
"Took you -" she says, which is as far as she gets before he pushes her up against the wall, cupping her chin in his hand as he slides a knee in between her thighs. She gasps against his mouth, and he swallows it, and fuck, if he wasn't hard before, he is now.
He presses her up against the brick of the building until there's no space left between them, and he knows she has to feel it, but if she does, she doesn't seem to mind. He leans back a little to take a breath, because if he doesn't get his head together, she's going to kill him, and if that was her plan, she's doing a bang-up job. He can see the cruiser out of the corner of his eye, parked a couple of spaces away, and if it's not exactly the perfect place for an rendezvous with a blonde amateur PI, it's going to have to do. Because there's no fucking way he's taking this slow, and because this is Veronica Mars, who he's still mostly convinced is going to come to her senses and call the whole thing off before he can get them back to his place.
He'd use lights and a siren if he thought it would help, but with his luck, he'd get tailed by Sacks and have to pass a fucking DUI.
He slaps her ass lightly as he pulls her away from the wall and towards the car, and he knows he's pushing it. Her eyes flash dangerously, but he can read what's behind it, and her dilated pupils and swollen lips aren't hiding anything.
"Move it," he growls close to her ear, and yanks the door open as soon as he can reach it. The front door, because even he's not stupid enough to get locked in the back of his own cruiser, especially with Veronica Mars.
Though right now, if it were the only option, he thinks he'd reconsider.
She's already unbuckling her jeans as he slams the door behind him, and he pulls them off the rest of the way, running his hand up the inside of her thigh. She shudders beneath him, and right now he's beyond caring that the handbrake is digging into his thigh and the upholstery is probably going to be ruined, because when he reaches to tug at the elastic of her underwear, all she does is raise her hips to help him.
"Condom," she gasps, as he lowers himself on top of her, and fuck. He sits back up with an effort, reaching towards the glove compartment, and says a silent thank you to whatever gods might be listening when his hand clasps the foil packet.
Veronica (and even now she can't help herself, though it's almost more of a turn on than an annoyance at this point) raises an eyebrow, and he tears open the wrapper. It's not like he ever expected to need it, really, but hell, maybe he was a boy scout in a previous life.
And it's not like she's actually complaining.
He reaches out a hand to steady himself on the leather, and lets out a whoosh of breath. And whatever he was in a previous life, it must have been very good, because there's no way he's done anything in this one to deserve fucking Veronica Mars in the front seat of his cruiser, even if it is outside some dive college bar.
She isn't quiet when she comes, which he always thought she would be (and, okay, in his dreams he makes her scream his name, but not when he thought about reality). She buries her head in his neck to muffle the sounds, but he can still hear them, feel them, and it doesn't take him long to follow her, biting back her name. He kisses her afterwards, hard, to make up for it, but she smiles against his mouth like she heard anyway, which, of course she did. She's Veronica Mars.
And she's pinned, half-naked, sweaty, and fully satiated, between him and the leathers seats of his cruiser.
There's no good place to put the condom, so he settles for shoving it under the seat, making a note to clean the car later. Thoroughly.
After a minute he sits up, shoving his pants back up over his hips, and risks looking at her. She's in the driver's seat, which is all too fitting, and she settles her hands on the wheel as if she belongs there.
"You know," she says, and her voice is way too casual after what they just did, if still a little breathless, "I always wanted to drive one of these things."
"Maybe later," he says, because if there's anything he needs less than being pulled over for a DUI in his own cruiser, it's Veronica Mars being pulled over for a DUI in his cruiser when there's a condom under the front seat and the damn thing still smells like sex. "Move over. I'll take you home."
Which might be an equally bad idea, considering Keith Mars probably has a shotgun reserved especially for the day Lamb screws up badly enough to deserve a hole in the head, but hell, he thinks it was probably worth it, anyway.
"I've got a better idea," she says, and the look in her eyes makes him halfway hard all over again. "Why don't you take me back to your place?"
Lamb slips out of the car, and walks around to the driver's side as Veronica slides over in the front seat. He doesn't need to be asked twice.