Title: "This is How We Roll"
Author: monimala
Fandom: VM/21 Jump Street
Rating/Classification: adult language. Crossover, angst, humor, gen with Hanson/Veronica-ish hints. 1700 words.
Disclaimer: The characters were created by Stephen J. Cannell and Rob Thomas, not me.
Summary: A sequel to "Necessity is the Mother of Prevention." Vinnie's on a mission of mercy here.

Keith's daughter doesn't come into the bowling alley often. It's not exactly a hip high school hangout. Most of the time, he's lucky if he gets anybody filling the lanes besides the expat shuffleboarders that the bikers kicked off the promenade at Dog Beach. Well, the shuffleboarders and Vinnie, who practically lives off his cheap draft beers and likes the rented shoes.

"You, my friend, are sick," Tom tells him, disgusted. "You're here enough. Why don't you have your own fucking bowling shoes?"

"I figure you need the extra revenue," Vanlowe cackles, sounding like the bastard child of Jerry Lewis and a rabid hyena. "And the company. I feel sorry for you, see? I'm, like, on a mission of mercy here."

"You're a peach." Tom growls, sidling up the lane for an effortless strike. And he's followed up the floor by a memory of Doug, laughing that exact way, treating him like a charity case as he drags him out to score chicks because, "Man, you're just pathetic. Sitting home at nights by yourself when you could be learnin' from the likes of The Penhall here."

He learned entirely too much from the likes of The Penhall. And also not enough. He tamps those thoughts down as he recovers his ball.

But then Veronica comes in, all blond hair and fancy camera equipment and ulterior motives... and Tom feels every dormant cop instinct flare up like a freaking hemorrhoid. Other instincts too but, Jesus Christ, he's not going to think about those since she probably wasn't even born yet when he was joining the Jump Street program and sliding down fire poles. He could ask but he doesn't really want to know. He feels ancient and atrophied enough already.

The McQuaid brothers would love Veronica, he thinks. They would wolf-whistle as she walks by and punch any other guy who did the same in the face. His fist curls, instinctively, as Vinnie puckers his lips. Even though he hasn't been Tommy McQuaid, hasn't had a brother, in almost 15 years. "Knock it off," he mutters, even as Vinnie's trilling the obnoxious notes and calling, "How *you* doin', Babe?"

Veronica taps her fingers against her chin; wide-eyed and playing them both like a pro. "Why, thank you, Vincent. I hadn't quite had my quota of sexual harassment for the day."

"There's more where that came from," Vinnie barks, hauling his feet up on one of the plastic chairs and folding his arms behind his head. "I got an amazing reserve, right, Ace?"

"Mhmm. Legendary." He rolls his eyes, keeps his fists digging into his hips so he doesn't swing them.

"Loquacious as always, Mr. Hanson." Veronica grins her thousand-watt grin and Tom reminds himself that she was an embryo when he was listening to Poison and sporting a mullet.

Okay, so it wasn't even Poison. It was Michael Bolton. But he's not about to admit that to anyone. He resets the lane -- he was kicking Vanlowe's ass anyhow -- and sighs. "What can I do you for, Ms. Mars?"

There goes that Cheshire Cat smile again. He can practically hear Dougie groaning and clasping his hands over his heart. The girl is lethal. A walking con job. Fuller would've had her at the chapel right out of high school. Star pupil. He checks his back pocket for his wallet and is relieved to discover that it's still there. His sanity, however, is another thing entirely.

"Would you believe I'm here looking for balls?"

He chokes on his bubblegum.

Vinnie has to slap him on the back about seven times, stopping just short of the Heimlich. "Jesus, Veronica. You tryin' to kill the man? He's got delicate sensibilities, you know."

Delicate my ass, Tom thinks while he's wheezing, blinking back tears and sending a wad of grape Bubbalicious to line his gut.

And then Keith's daughter has her hands on his face and she's tilting his head up, like she's an EMT or something, checking his vitals. He figures if he keeps calling her that in his head, "Keith's daughter," he won't notice that her top is snug and her pants are even snugger and her fingertips feel really good against his jaw. The theory doesn't make it into practice.

"You, my friend, are sick," says Vinnie...what with turnabout being fair play and all.

But Tom can barely hear him over the blood rushing against his eardrums. Over the sound of Veronica Mars' quiet, even breaths. Over the memory of Amy dying in a 7-11 and Diane Nelson asking him to kill her dad. He's had his fill of vulnerable young women...and needs the strong ones even less.

**

Veronica doesn't even know why she's touching Mr. Hanson -- Tom -- but she's already doing it and it's too late to stop. Like she knows anything about pupil dilation and if it all relates to choking victims? She got an A in Health class but she didn't retain memories of anything except that ridiculous drunk driving video they had to watch with Val Kilmer and Michelle Pfeiffer in it.

Tom probably watched it when it actually aired on TV. But his cheeks are smooth, like a younger man's. And he can almost pass for 30 if she ignores the laugh lines around his eyes.

It's a thought that makes her hands drop, but she doesn't move away. Even with Vinnie whistling, "Let's Get it On."

"Are you okay?" she asks, flipping Vinnie the bird without breaking eye contact with Hanson.

He takes a long, raspy breath and nods, "Yeah," and steps back. He drags a hand through shaggy dark brown hair and then pats his pockets for cigarettes she knows aren't there. It's why he chews gum. Constantly. She doesn't need a PI's skills to figure that one out. She knows he's a loner, retired from high stress police work up north. He hasn't lived in Neptune all that long...just a couple of years. He's always polite, almost dorkily nice, and doesn't say much if he doesn't have to. Her dad seems to like him, but, then again, Dad likes anybody who will sit around and watch professional bowling with him on a Saturday afternoon.

"The question remains, Veronica...what do you want with my balls?" He smiles at her, a little sheepish, a little defiant...as if to prove to the studio audience that there's nothing delicate about his sensibilities at all. It's the kind of smile that makes her knees knock together because, oh, it's *pretty*. The kind of face you rip out of Teen Beat and glue inside your locker.

Where has he been hiding *that*?

For a second, she gets a glimpse of the man he must've been before. And the cop her dad described. Cocky, charming, brilliant at undercover work. "A little like you, in fact, Darling Daughter."

She's actually stammering, even blushing, as she pulls Wendell Armstrong's notes from her purse and launches into an explanation of how his stolen bowling ball may be linked to a plagiarism scandal in one of the sophomore lit. classes at Neptune High.

Hanson listens carefully, doesn't interrupt except to ask questions. And, miracle of miracles, Vinnie actually follows his example. They lead her back to the rental area and Tom unlatches the employee gate to let her look for the purple swirly ball with a 'W' etched around the finger holes. "Just don't steal any shoes," he murmurs, hopping up on the counter.

"She doesn't steal shoes, Ace. She steals hearts. And breaks 'em. I still ain't recovered."

Veronica stops still between two shelves, her fingers tapping the sides of an ugly green child's ball. It's ridiculously hard to tell when Vinnie is being sincere. And she hopes that now is not one of those times. The last thing she wants is the reputation for leaving a trail of broken hearts littered in her wake. That was Lilly. Always Lilly. Never her.

"I don't know, Vanlowe...I think Veronica Mars would be worth it. That's the kind of girl you die for. With a smile on your face."

She barely hears Vinnie's obnoxiously predictable reply over the thumping in her chest. Can't banter back past the sudden lump in her throat. Can't place where they're standing because she's too busy blinking back tears. Why don't they ever understand that she's never needed or wanted anyone to die for her, smiling or otherwise? All she's ever craved is somebody brave enough to stay, to live…

**

When Veronica comes back out with her precious stolen ball, Vinnie watches her. And his buddy Ace. They do that cagey thing where they look at each other and then look away quickly and blush. Talk about the Great Repression.

They're geniuses, really. You'd think the guy who *owns* the bowling alley would know that sound carries in here. That she heard him talking her up and probably labeled him "Chester the Molester" in her head.

At least with him, what you see is what you get. No secrets, no burning desires. Just the occasional burning sensation.

But Ms. Mars and the ex-Detective Hanson, they're a matched set. A matched set of *what*, he hasn't quite figured out yet, but he'll get there eventually. What with him being a crackshot PI and all.

Jesus Christ. Sometimes, he feels like he's running an outreach program for disenfranchised law enforcement professionals and it's his goddamn job to go around spreading cheer amongst the masses. He really is on a mission of mercy. He's practically Mother fucking Teresa.

He hops off the counter, wiping his palms down his bowling shirt and sighing. "You know what you two need? You two need to just get naked and go at it like crazed weasels."

He ducks just in time to avoid two bowling balls hurtling at top speed towards his head and he comes up laughing as they roll, harmlessly, past the sock vending machine.

"Thanks for proving me right, Kids."

"Like I said, you're a peach," Tommy scowls, while Veronica gives him the double-barreled salute, following it verbally with a "fuck you."

And he's okay with that. Because he's got an amazing reserve.

And way bigger balls than them both.

--end--

August 19, 2006.

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