"Picking Up the Spare" Title: "Picking Up the Spare"
Author: monimala
Fandom: Veronica Mars/21 Jump Street
Rating/Classification: language and sexual situations, crossover, Veronica/Tom Hanson, humor.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not making a profit, etc.
Summary: 4050 words. Follows Necessity is the Mother of Prevention and This is How We Roll. Veronica is a different story. A different species.

Not that he's counting or anything, but it's a good three weeks before Veronica sets foot the bowling alley again. After the night they lobbed balls at Vinnie and practically ran in opposite directions (lest they actually contemplate what the big lug said about them going at it like weasels or ferrets or whatever rodent it was) he can't exactly blame her. But it's three weeks. On the nose.

In the interim, a kid who even *looks* like a 'Wendell Armstrong' comes in with the entire Neptune High Math Club and plunks down a huge load of cash to reserve three lanes. He says Veronica pointed them here "in lieu of accepting payment." In lieu of doing something as dumb as grinning, Tom goes into his office and turns up the AC/DC.

He's switching it up a little and playing a little Run DMC when the intrepid detective Mars finally shows up at his door. For some godforsaken reason, she's wearing a business suit and glasses and every muscle in his body seizes up in a traumatic every-ex-girlfriend-I-ever-had flashback. He always liked them professional and brainy and, Jesus but he'd suspect somebody put her up to showing up this way, except there's nobody in Neptune who would know.

She stops mid-"Why, hello, there…" to note what's probably a horrified/aroused expression on his face and takes off her glasses. "Sorry," she murmurs, automatically. "It was a thing."

A thing. A sexy, glasses-wearing, if-only-she-had-shoulder-pads-this-would-be-1989 thing. Jesus. He struggles to sit up straight in his chair and snap off a blasé "It's okay. Hey, Veronica." He's really, really glad he's not chewing gum this time because he would totally choke on it and look like a maroon.

She has mercy on him, dropping into the chair her dad always uses and unbuttoning her pinstriped jacket to reveal a way more Veronica-ish green T-shirt underneath. "Bad experience with an insurance adjuster?"

"Something like that." He clears his throat, pushing up on the sleeves of his pullover and pasting on his most helpful smile. "So, what can I do you for? You want a membership or what? Ladies' Nights are Sundays."

She laughs, and he has no idea why until she explains, and then it makes him choke… proving that it's Veronica Mars, not gum, that does it. "Uh, Mr. Hanson, do you know that *every* time I come in here, you ask me that? 'What can I do you for?' A gal's gonna think you're a perv."

"Oh, man." He goes back to slouching. And closes his eyes.

She proves her capacity for mercy is better than his for self-preservation by letting him off the hook. He hears a rustle of papers, opens his eyes to see her putting a file folder on his desk. "I want your help on a case," she says, tone business-like.

The part of him that Vinnie would like to see crash and burn wants to ask if it involves "undercover work." He ignores that part of him and replies, stiffly, "I'm retired."

"You mean you don't even *dabble*?" She sounds scandalized.

He doesn't know how to explain it, but he tries. He figures he owes her that. "You know I, uh, dream about Lilly Kane sometimes. I imagine what it would have been like if I moved here uh…*before*. You know?"

She just barely flinches. Anyone not looking close wouldn't even see it, would think her face never went from perfect to anything else. "If it's any consolation, you'd probably be on her dance card, too," she says, tartly. "Lilly would have *loved* you."

He blushes, swears, shakes his head because the weary bite in her voice is *not* what he meant to elicit. "No… no, Veronica you're getting me wrong," he says, waving his hands inarticulately. "Sometimes it's like… I *see* her, and I see what I used to do when I was a cop, the beat I used to work… and I feel like I could've saved her."

The obvious, that no one could have saved Lilly from psycho trash like Aaron Echolls, goes unspoken. Instead, Veronica leans back on her hands, tilts her head. "You worked in a special unit, didn't you? My dad told me a little about it, but not much."

When he doesn't answer right away, her eyebrows waggle in a way that would've made Penhall proud. "Vice?" she prods.

Well, there was that one time…

His breath comes out in a whoosh of air, a cough that wants to be laugh or maybe the other way around. "Naw, not Vice. Different."

"Do you ever think about going back to it?"

Yes. No. Maybe. "I like my bowling alley."

She chews on her lower lip, like she's in deep contemplation. World peace, the end to hunger, and the key to Tom Hanson's mid-life crisis. "Who says you can't do both? You could be a bowling alley detective… like that TV show with the bowling alley lawyer."

The mental image cracks him up. Mostly because the only thing he has in common with Tom Cavenaugh is a first name. To change the subject, or at least divert it, he steers her back to her original point. "So, you have a case you want *my* help on?"

"Blowing this one wide open is a two person job and our illustrious quarry already knows everyone I've ever worked with before." Veronica shrugs, studying her nails just long enough for it to be a tell. The kid is good, but not *that* good.

He pushes around a couple of papers on his blotter. Phone bill, cable bill, e-mail from Harry. "Funny, I always got the impression that you worked alone. Sort of a lone wolf."

He recognizes the breathy voice she uses on him next as a complete con. He's been on enough undercover gigs to know it right off the bat. "Why Mr. Hanson, are you implying that I'm some kind of vigilante?"

Fuller would have loved this girl. *Loved* her. He grins with a combination of amusement and cynicism. "What, the giant flood light at the top of the Neptune Grand isn't for you?"

"Oh, the Brat Signal? Well, yes." She feigns chagrin, lashes fluttering demurely. "They had it built in my honor after one of my investigative triumphs."

'Investigative triumph' his ass, but the 'Brat Signal' has him choking back laughs. Uncle, uncle. He even puts one hand up in the air to signify surrender. "Okay… okay, Veronica, what do you *really* want?"

In the end, she's the one who runs up the actual white flag. The cocky smile falls away from her face, there are no more fluttering eyelashes. She just looks at him and shrugs, palms up. "Honestly? I have no idea."

**

Veronica doesn't even know why it took her three whole weeks to go back to the bowling alley…and she has no idea why she's actually here. All in all, it's an awkward position to be in, and she's pretty much an expert on the subject: She's been in thousands. Although very few like this one, where she has no witty rejoinder.

No, instead all she has is Tom --Mr. Hanson, Detective Hanson, Detective Handsome, *whatever*-- watching her with what can only be described as a halfway point between amusement and the distinct impression that he's picturing her on the cover of Maxim.

It's the way Lamb and Vinnie like to look at her… albeit less Maxim and more Playboy.

Vinnie. Okay, he's probably the reason she's here. In a bowling alley. With her feet already suffering residual shoe rental and sweat trauma. Because Vinnie Vanlowe has taken it upon himself to play relationship guru. Never mind that the longest relationship Vinnie has ever had is with his mother. Or his Members Only jacket. Toss-up. She's not sure she wants to know the answer.

Anyway, two days after she solved the mystery of Wendell's bowling ball plagiarism extravaganza, Vinnie found her just so he could reiterate his oh-so sage advice: "You and Tommy? You two just need one hot weekend in Cabo. Get it outta your systems." "I'm not sure it's even *in* our systems. We barely *know* each other," she'd pointed out, through very gritted teeth. Leaving herself wide open for the wide grin and the, "No time like the present to get acquainted."

No time like the present.

He's still watching her, with those big, dark, Teen Beat soulful eyes. And he is so pretty.

He's 42 years old and doesn't look a day over thirty-five. It doesn't make this any less weird. She's pretty sure she wasn't even born when he walked the beat. Isn't there some kind of rule about dividing your age by half and adding seven and that being the youngest you can go? 28. She needs to tell Vinnie that she's nowhere near 28 yet, so this idea in his head about her and Handsome --*Hanson*-- getting it on like crazed weasels has *got* to stop.

Especially since the idea has been stuck in her head every night for three straight weeks.

"Veronica? You okay over there? You're starting to grow roots."

"Water me once a week and I promise I'll blossom."

She's not going to give him the satisfaction of admitting that there's no case that needs his particular brand of locker poster boy expertise. Actually, if she actually needs that, she's pondering looking up Kirk Cameron. Surely he can't spend *all* his time making Left Behind movies.

Veronica is tempted to button her jaunty suit coat right back up and march herself back to Mars Investigations so she can continue her gig as Dad's prim, traditional secretary… despite the fact that he no longer needs Vera's services to reel in his big money client.

Okay, she's actually tempted to lunge across the desk and say. "Take me now."

Except that Hanson is retired, and angsty and he dreams of solving Lilly's case and she's fairly sure crazed weasel sex won't solve any of those things no matter what cockamamie ideas Vinnie puts in their heads.

"You already blossomed."

He says it so quietly she almost thinks she imagines it. But his cheeks are red and he's staring down at the papers on his desk, so she knows she didn't.

"Um, what?" A stunning display of her vocabulary skills. Truly.

"You're beautiful, Veronica, and I think you know that." He turns on the power-watt smile that nearly bowled her over (ha-ha) the first time she saw it. Probably because he knows exactly how lethal it is and he has an opening he can exploit now that she's off her game. "I think you walked in here knowing that, and thinking you could snow me with whatever line you feed the average mark as long as you smiled while you did it. And we both know what's actually going on."

"Vinnie?"

"Vinnie."

They say it at the same time, with the same exasperation.

"*Fuckin'* Vinnie," Hanson adds for color.

Veronica is relieved and chagrined at the same time.

Unfortunately, she still wants to jump across the desk.

Where's that Brat Signal when a gal needs it?

**

Even after all these years, Tom isn't a pro with women. They tend to do all the work and he just shows up. That's how it happened with Alicia, for instance, who had been picking up her son at the alley one night and just given him this long, slow, look. Two days later, she'd come back and said, "I like you, Tom. And as a working woman with two sons, I have no time for games. So how about you take me to dinner?" Easy as pie. He'd shown up with flowers, taken her out, split a bottle of wine, and no games were played.

Veronica is a different story. A different species. She's a gambler, just like her dad, and he knows she's hedging her bets right now as they eye-wrestle across the desk from each other. She's not going to make a move... and Hanson's never been the one to do it first.

*Fucking Vinnie*, he thinks again, accidentally crumpling up Harry's e-mail. Luckily, it's nothing important... just good ol' Ioke showing off that he can write epic missives from his shiny, new Blackberry. The best thing about hitting the 21st Century for Harry had definitely been the *toys*.

The best thing about hitting the 21st Century for him might just be in this room.

That scares Tom to pieces.

He knows exactly what Doug would say in a situation like this: "Quit being such a baby." Possibly "quit being such a chickenshit," depending on his mood. And Vinnie… Vinnie would probably echo the sentiment. Quit being such a chickenshit, Ace, because you said it yourself; this is the kinda girl you die for.

"You growing roots over there, Mr. Hanson?"

"Uh-huh." His mouth is dry. His palms are sweaty. He hasn't been this nervous since Maureen Maroney used to hit him at recess every day when he was eight just to let him know she cared.

She slides her jacket all the way off, actually folds it over the arm of the chair before she stands… and only because he can't tear his gaze away from her does he notice that her knuckles are white. She's not as confident as she seems. But he's still going to let her do what all the ones who've come before her have. "Need some water? Fertilizer? Miracle-Gro?"

"Uh-huh."

"Really?" She purses her lips, looking mock disappointed as she shakes her head. "I heard certain functions start to go when you're as old as you are, but you really already need Miracle-Gro? That's so *sad*."

"Wait… *what*?!" He nearly falls out of his chair as he scrambles to follow her logic. And then he gets it. Miracle-Gro… *oh*. "Jesus, no, Veronica. I do not need Viagra. I can assure you it all functions fine and I'm hard as goddamn rock right now, actually."

Whoops.

She turns bright pink.

So does he.

He starts to say he's sorry. He stands up and waves his hands around and stammers and blushes even harder and thinks that Ioke and Doug and even Fuller and Blowfish would be lining up to knock his head off right now because he's such a phenomenal maroon.

And then he does something he's never done in his life. He moves.

He takes three steps, buries his hands in Veronica's short, blond hair, tilts her pretty face up, and kisses her.

She tastes like every cliché in the book. Strawberries, honey, redemption, and maybe a hint of oblivion. He doesn't think he'll ever get enough of the flavor. So he kisses her and kisses her and kisses her until her arms go around his waist and she does some incredibly sexy thing with her tongue.

Eventually, they have to breathe, so they do. Her eyes are kinda glassy, and he's not exactly clear-headed himself. She calls him "Detective Handsome," and sways towards him on wobbly legs.

She's dressed like a professional and brainy and gorgeous and this time when he asks, "What can I do you for?" he absolutely hopes she thinks he's a perv.

**

She's surprised how fast they actually make it to Tom's ramshackle little place on the beach. They stop making out long enough to straighten their clothes, lock up the office, and shout to Skeds and Luis to close up when the last pair of shoes is back where it ought to be, and then she's following his '67 Mustang up the PCH, away from Neptune.

She'd half-expected him live above the bowling alley. But the clapboard two bedroom, stuck in the sand on stilts, fits him. It's quiet, it's charming, and when he lets her inside, she's knocked for a loop. Literally, considering he wastes no time sweeping her off her feet and flattening her against the screen door.

His mouth is fantastic. And the rest of him, pressed against her so tightly she could probably count his ribs, isn't too shabby either. He's all lean and hard and tanned and his hair's too long in the back. He probably had a mullet once and that thought shouldn't be so *hot* to her, but it is. She bites back a moan and tries to wind her legs around his hips… failing because her idiotically designed suit skirt doesn't allow for much mobility. Tom solves the problem by ripping off the buttonhook and making short work of the zipper. Then the skirt is pooling around her ankles and his hands are diving below the elastic of her underwear and she forgets she intended to do anything with her legs at all because, "Oh my sweet *Lord*," the man actually makes butt grabbing feel erotic.

He squeezes, and she knows she should probably make some sort of joke about holes for the thumb, index, and forefinger and perhaps chase it with something about the ball return, but that would mean she has to quit kissing him, quit feathering her lips across his cheekbones and chin, and that is absolutely out of the question.

Eventually, she does wrap around him securely enough for him to lever them away from the door, for him to walk them backwards to an overstuffed blue couch that's seen better days and about to see one intense night.

"Take me now," she whispers, completely non-ironically, figuring it's apropos now that there's no desk to navigate.

He props himself on his elbow, staring down at her in a way that would sell millions of copies of Bop. He takes his sweet time inching up her T-shirt. "I don't know… you got an animal preference, Veronica?"

"What?" She blinks at him, scrambling to try and figure out what the Hell he's talking about and praying she's not about to find out he's a furry. Because that would just be *wrong* at this stage in the game.

"Weasels," he says, by way of explanation. "Vinnie suggested we do it like weasels…" Oh. Right. Thank *God*. Not that mentioning Vinnie while she's half-naked and on the edge of coming her brains out is necessarily any better than imminent furryhood, but still. "…And I just don't think weasels are sexy, crazed or not."

She doesn't agree or disagree. Instead, she undoes his jeans. "Rabbits," he says, a little strangled since she's wrapping her fingers around him at the time. "We could do it like rabbits."

"Monkeys," she throws in, so he feels like she's contributing to the discussion somehow. "There's a lot of La Femme Nikita fan fiction where they have wild monkey sex."

"Is that… different… than domesticated… monkey sex?"

No. In the end, as they discover, it's really not that different at all.

She arches her hips, Tom plunges deep, and they find a rhythm that rocks the couch against the floorboards so hard that the house could collapse into the incoming tide. They get acquainted. They *more* than get acquainted. He kisses every inch of her, and she giggles at the bullet scar on his butt cheek until he gets so offended he has to fuck her into submission. She doesn't complain. In fact, she encourages it. She says "yes" so many times that she sounds like an Herbal Essences commercial.

And when Veronica is slick with sweat and exhausted and entirely too amused that she left a hickey on his neck that he won't be able to hide, she tells him exactly what she didn't know she wanted earlier in his office. "This. I wanted this."

"Indiscriminate sex on my couch?"

"No. Someone who gets it."

He presses his mouth to her palm and looks at her quizzically. It's forever going to be his 'Miracle-Gro?!' expression. "Gets what?"

That's when she tells him about what it was really like losing Lilly. That awful, awful year after Shelley's party. Tracking down Aaron after ten thousand wrong turns and dead ends. And she tells him about the bus and Beaver and everything that just happened last semester at Hearst. She tells him how solving all those mysteries did absolutely nothing to solve how empty she felt.

When she's done talking, exhausted in a whole different way, he kisses her and rolls so she's lying on top of his chest. "Yeah. Yeah, I do get it," he agrees, quietly. He sighs and leans his forehead against hers. "Now let me tell you about a kid named Tommy McQuaid and a couple of his friends…"

**

He's probably going to Hell. By way of Penhall's condo in Florida so he can collect a slap on the back and an "I knew you had it in you, Man!" before he passes Go. But Hanson knows he's going to enjoy every second of the trip. Every second he spends with Veronica in his house by the beach, christening all the furniture that didn't even feel like his until he had her on it. Every second he spends letting her bounce cases off him and making suggestions only after she bribes him with kisses.

For two detectives --one active, one retired-- they're pretty bad at sneaking around. It takes all of three weeks (their magic number, apparently) for the jig to be up.

Vinnie catches them early one morning, sprawled out in Lane 10 on a blanket. What the man is doing breaking into a bowling alley at 6 a.m. is beyond Tom's understanding, but once he's there, scuffing up the floor with his truly obnoxious yellow Crocs, he doesn't waste any time saying, "I told you so."

"And, what, you want a medal or something?" Tom mutters as Veronica shrugs into her shirt and reaches in her messenger bag for her taser.

Vinnie doesn't look the slightest bit disturbed. In fact, the whole scenario is probably the stuff of his fantasies. "Actually, I wanted nachos from the snack bar. It's amazing when the urge for food-related felonies and misdemeanors strikes a guy, you know?"

Oh. So *that's* the reason his inventory has been coming up short for the past six months, huh? Hanson scowls, and Veronica pats his face, chiding, "Stop it, Handsome. Frown lines don't become you," before she scowls at Vinnie herself. "Go way, Vincent."

If only it were that easy to get rid of Vanlowe. No, he actually drops down on the blanket, paying them no mind as they finish dressing, and keeps flapping his mouth. "Oh, come on. Can't I toast the happy couple with an Icee or something? You gonna invite me to the wedding? It's only fair considering I'm the one who got you crazy kids together."

Hanson tugs his shirt down over his head, dragging his hand through his hair in some approximation of grooming. Veronica is faster, more efficient, even while holding a taser. She's already lacing up her bowling shoes. "Like the woman said: go away, Vincent."

Vinnie ignores the repeated directive, looking at them so long that he's half tempted to tell him that the San Diego Zoo is a good two hours south. "Well, I'll be damned. You two actually look…"

"Annoyed," Veronica supplies. "I believe the word you're looking for is 'annoyed' or possibly 'homicidal.'"

"I was going to say 'happy.'" The grin splitting Vinnie's ugly mug is not without irony. "You two look happy. Good together. Do I know the ways of the heart or what?"

Tom would be flattered except that he has to consider the source. He's pretty sure anybody in their *right* mind would think he and Veronica are mismatched, that he's some dirty old man with a mid-life crisis. Which is probably not a bad estimation.

But he can't deny that he's smiled more in the last three weeks than he has in 20 years. Laughed more, too. And Neptune is suddenly almost as much home as the Jump Street chapel was. He's comfortable here. He doesn't feel haunted. There aren't any ghosts. He doesn’t hold his breath as he drives past Neptune High.

Yeah. He's happy. With his life, and with what might be a future with Veronica Mars.

Vinnie's got it on the nose.

And then, after Veronica sighs, "I guess you're right, Vinnie, you *did* bring us together and you do deserve something," he gets 1500 volts.

--end--
April 13, 2008

e-mail mala.