"Dude, she slept with her boyfriend's dad!"
"That doesn't make her a bad person."
"The way I see it, it kinda does."
Wallace sighed, clearly trying not to be too annoyed at having to provide this explanation again. "The way I see it is that it makes her a naïve 16-year-old who got taken advantage of by a skeevy 40-something movie star," he stated.
"…who was also her boyfriend's father," Piz argued. "Did she think there was any way that would end well? It was nasty, and seriously stupid."
"Teenagers do stupid shit all the time."
"Not that stupid…"
"Well, no, but still—her friends and her ex-boyfriend have forgiven her, so I think everyone else needs to lay off. The girl made a mistake—a big mistake—but it's in the past."
Piz considered that for a moment. He'd only known his roommate since the day before, but Wallace seemed like a smart, even-tempered guy—who apparently had some really wild friends. "I'll take your word for it."
"You should!" Wallace said with a grin. "They're two of my best friends, so when they show up, just pretend they're any other college girls who you haven't seen on the cover of the National Enquirer."
Piz shook his head and laughed. "Why did I come to Neptune again?"
A light knock on the door brought Wallace to his feet. "Because the weather in Oregon sucks?" he said as he walked across the room.
The door swung open and Piz found himself being stared down by two pairs of blue eyes: one piercing and intelligent, the other twinkling with mischief. Both looked him up and down briefly before turning their attentions to his roommate.
"Hey, Supafly." The first girl winked and smiled at Wallace.
"Wallace, mon cher!" squealed the second, as she stepped through the doorway and kissed Wallace on both cheeks.
"How was Paris?" he asked, returning the smooches.
"Fabulous!" Piz's eyes followed the girl as she twirled into the room. She was beautiful, and she seemed to be very aware of that fact. "I've been before, but never without Celeste. Now I understand what all the fuss is about."
She stuck out her lower lip in an exaggerated pout. "Sorry my flight was delayed so we couldn't hang out before school started. I missed my Papa Bear."
"Oh, hey—Veronica Mars, Lilly Kane, this is my roommate, Stosh Piznarski," Wallace said.
"Everyone calls me Piz," Piz added.
Both girls smiled in greeting.
"Veronica's a freshman too, but Lilly transferred here from Boston College."
"Boston?" Piz was impressed. "Why did you come back to Hearst?"
"Well, first off, East Coast weather sucks," Lilly said with a dramatic slump of her shoulders. "But also, the BC administration wasn't interested in giving me course credit for attending frat parties, so I was, shall we say, asked to reevaluate my academic plans."
Veronica and Wallace rolled their eyes at their friend. "So who else is coming?" Wallace asked.
"Mac is currently acing her job interview at the computer center, so she'll catch up with us later," Veronica explained. "And Logan is just going to meet us there."
Piz's eyes widened at the mention of Aaron and Lynn Echolls' son, and Wallace kicked him lightly in the ankle.
"You're coming too, aren't you Piz?" Lilly batted her eyelashes.
"Of course you are." She linked her arm through his and began dragging him out the door. "Let's go, kids!"
When Wallace had first told Piz about his famous—and infamous—friends, Piz couldn't see himself hanging out with them. But since he'd gotten to know them, he'd discovered that he liked them.
Veronica was smart as a whip, Logan was really funny (especially when his snarky comments weren't directed at you), and Lilly was a force of nature. They were nothing like the characters portrayed in the media few years earlier…
…well, Lilly was, somewhat. She looked different, with her darker hair and soft bangs, but she still often acted like the 16-year-old "wild child" he'd seen on "Tinseltown Diaries."
She laughed too loud, talked incessantly, and sometimes was just a little too…much. Piz liked her sometimes, but other times he found her act kind of annoying. He wondered if perhaps she was trying too hard and asked Wallace as much, but was told, "That's just Lilly."
One Saturday morning, Piz woke up earlier than he intended to, and decided to use the time to hit the library and pick up the books he would need for his English paper. When he walked into the fiction section, he stopped suddenly as his breath caught in his throat.
Lilly was sitting alone at one of the reading tables, with an enormous book open in front of her. Her fists were stacked one on top of the other, and she rested her chin on them as she peered down at the pages. Her light-brown hair was yanked back in a messy ponytail, and the sun coming through the window behind her lit up all the wisps that didn't make it into the rubberband. She wore no makeup—in fact, the only thing on her face was a pair of glasses with thick brown frames. Piz thought she'd never looked prettier.
His musings were interrupted when her eyes flicked up and met his. She pursed her lips into a tiny smile.
"Checking me out, Piznarski?" she said, sitting back in her chair. "It's OK, I know I look hot. Just try to restrain yourself."
Piz chuckled as he walked over to her table and sat across from her. "Actually, I, um, was just thinking that you…you looked really cute like that. I like your specs. Although I think your sweatshirt is about 12 sizes too big."
"It's Duncan's—finders keepers." She flashed a broad grin as she pushed up the long sleeves. "Actually, I just had to get out of the manse in a hurry, so I didn't have time to put in my contacts and all that. Celeste is having some sort of garden party thing and she found out this morning that In Style was coming, so she couldn't have the Kane family black sheep around for that. She sent one of the fucking housekeepers in to wake me up and kick me out."
"She sounds like a warm and lovely woman."
"You have no idea. I wanted to get an apartment this year, but I didn't want to live by myself, and Ronica wanted to stay with her dad. And let's face it, if she moves in with anyone, it's gonna be Logan." She rolled her eyes with a huff.
"You don't approve?"
"I do—they're good for each other. But the love-fest can be a little tiresome. I never thought I would say this, but God—get a room!"
Piz smirked and nodded in agreement.
"I just sometimes feel like a pesky little sister tagging along their dates, and it would only be worse if I lived with Veronica. You just know they'd be sucking face on the couch all the time."
"What about your other friends?"
Lilly shrugged. "Well, since you stole Wallace away from me…"
"Hey, baby, it's not like that." Piz threw his hands up in surrender. "I swear, we're just friends."
She laughed out loud, garnering a glare from the student at the help desk. "See? I'm in trouble again," she whispered, pushing her glasses to rest on top of her head. As she did, the left earpiece pushed her bangs back, revealing a jagged pink scar slicing through her hairline just above her temple. Piz tried not to gape, but Lilly noticed.
"Nice, huh?" She brushed her bangs back into place. "My little memento from Aaron Echolls."
"It's not that bad," Piz lied. "And you look good in bangs." At least that part was the truth.
She smiled sadly. "My parents said I could get plastic surgery to make it less noticeable, but I'm not too jazzed about being knocked out for any reason. Three weeks of unconsciousness was enough for one lifetime, thanks. Bangs are just easier."
"I—" Piz began, then clamped his mouth shut.
"OK, I want to ask you something, but I'm afraid it might be too intrusive."
Lilly squinted at him and folded her arms in a mock accusation. "Are you sure you're not really with US Weekly?"
"Um, nooo." Piz looked around shiftily. "And my pen isn't really a recording device…"
She pretended to inspect the pen, holding it up to the light. "Fine—ask away," she said with a smile as she dropped the pen back onto the table.
"Was it really freaky to wake up after all that time without realizing it had passed?" Piz leaned forward excitedly. "Like when people get frozen in sci-fi movies or whatever?"
Lilly clamped her lips together to avoid bursting into laughter and getting scolded by the library staff again. Her shoulders shook for a minute as she pulled herself together. "Out of all the weird questions I've been asked about this, that is definitely the weirdest."
"Come on! You close your eyes, and when you open them, poof! You're in the future! That's freaky, right?"
"There weren't any flying cars or replicators in the future I woke up to," she said, choking down a laugh. "But it was kinda freaky, yeah. A whole lotta shit went down in those few weeks. I didn't even remember getting hit, but I wake up in the hospital and find out that my boyfriend's dad tried to kill me, my brother almost got blamed for it, and my sweet, innocent best girlfriend was the one who got the evidence to lock up the bad guy. I felt like I'd gone down the rabbit hole."
"I bet—it was wild just seeing it unfold on TV."
"The one good thing about being out all that time was that it gave everyone time to get over being pissed at me," Lilly said quietly. "By the time I came around, they were so glad I wasn't a vegetable that they forgave all the stupid shit that got me knocked out in the first place."
"Teenagers do a lot of stupid things—they don't deserve to get killed for them."
Lilly gave him a weak smile. "You've been talking to Wallace."
"Well, yeah, but I think he's right. You got taken advantage of by someone who was old enough to know better," Piz said, finding himself growing a little angry at the imprisoned Aaron Echolls.
"I guess," she said noncommittally. "I'm just glad that at least my old friends think that way."
"Hey, your new friends too!" Piz pretended to be offended. She glanced up at him as he threw his arms out wide. "Come on, I'm awesome!"
Lilly giggled, and an awkward silence fell over them.
"So, what in God's name is this huge book you're undertaking at this early hour?" Piz asked in a change of subject.
She flipped up the cover so he could see the title. "Ulysses. It's for my Modernist lit class."
"Wow—they're really tossing you into the deep end, huh?"
"Yeah, but I like it. I think I want to change my major to English, but my dad really wants me to be a business major."
"The business classes aren't going well?"
"They're fine—I got mostly As and Bs at Boston, but I just didn't get into it the way my brother does." She patted the book in front of her. "This I like."
"Hmm," Piz said, thinking. "Well, your dad sounds a lot nicer than your mom, so I'm sure he'll just want whatever will make you happy."
"I hope so," Lilly said. "I just don't want to disappoint him…"
Another group of students took over the table next to them. "Hey, can we take some of these chairs?" one of them asked.
"Yeah, go ahead," Piz said before turning back to Lilly. "I just have to pick up a couple of books and then I was going to go have breakfast. You want to come?"
Lilly looked down at her grubby clothes.
"Come on, Four Eyes," he teased. "If Celeste kicked you out, I'm betting she didn't give you time to eat."
"OK," she said, sliding her glasses back down onto her face. "This will be my secret identity: Lilly Kane, Serious Student."
Piz held a finger to his lips. "I won't tell anyone who you really are," he whispered.
Later that night, Piz found himself holding up a wall at a dull frat party, with a watered-down drink in his hand. The girls had left to go to a midnight movie, and while he was sometimes glad for the break from Lilly, tonight he was surprised to find that he missed her bubbly presence—even though the overly made-up party girl who had showed up at the party was a far cry from the bespectacled young woman he chatted with in the library that morning.
With a bored sigh, he put his cup down and went to find his roommate and tell him he was leaving. When he approached Wallace, he was just snapping his phone shut.
"Hey, I was just going to come find you," Wallace yelled over the music. "We gotta go!"
"That was Mac. The girls are at the hospital—Parker was attacked!"
"I'll drive," Piz said, grabbing for his keys. "My car is just around the corner."
Wallace hadn't been able to hear the details over the noise of the party, so by the time he and Piz ran up to Mac and Veronica in the emergency department, he was frantic.
"Girl, what the hell is this about you guys going after the rapist?" he demanded of Veronica. "Why didn't you call us if there was trouble?"
"We didn't go looking for the guy—he was in their room!" Veronica fumed, pointing at Mac.
"Hey, don't fight about this," Mac said firmly, putting a hand on Veronica's shoulder and pulling her back slightly. "This night has been hard enough as it is."
"What happened?" Piz asked. "Where's Lilly?"
"She's giving her statement to the police now." Mac pointed a thumb back over her shoulder. "Parker is being examined, but she's still out."
"We think she was dosed with GHB like those other girls," Veronica added.
"Holy shit," Wallace breathed. He pulled her toward him and gave her a hug. "Are the rest of you OK?"
"Yeah, we're fine." Veronica's voice broke slightly as she and Wallace pulled apart. "Parker's hair is pretty fucked up, but it looks like that's the worst that happened. Lilly found her just in time."
"How did it happen?" Piz asked, looking past them to see if Lilly was coming back yet.
"We had to go back to Mac's room because we forgot the tickets there, but it sounded like Parker was in there with a guy," Veronica began to explain.
"V and I were too embarrassed to go in, but of course, Lilly just threw the door open and flipped the light on," Mac continued. "She thought it would be funny to surprise them."
"And thank God she did, because Mercer Hayes was in there and he had just started shaving Parker's hair off!" Veronica added. "Lilly started yelling at him, so I ran in and tasered him."
The story was interrupted when Logan burst through the doors at a dead run. "What happened? Is everyone OK?" he shouted as scooped Veronica into his arms. When Piz saw the panicked yet weary look on his friend's face, he was suddenly grateful for his utterly average middle-class upbringing in Beaverton. He decided he had to stop rolling his eyes at his mom's long stories about the bathroom remodel.
"I'm fine—we're fine." Veronica pulled Logan aside. "Come here and I'll tell you the whole story." She looked meaningfully at Mac. "Tell them the rest."
"There's more?" Wallace asked incredulously.
Mac looked over her shoulder before continuing. "So after Veronica zapped Mercer, he was totally unconscious. She gave him the full voltage."
"Good," Wallace said firmly.
"Well, yeah, but then once he was out, Lilly beat the shit out of him," Mac said.
"Good!" Wallace said again.
"You guys, I'm telling you, she seriously went crazy," Mac said, lowering her voice. "I didn't see all of it because I was checking on Parker, but Veronica was pretty upset. She said she'd never seen her like that." She looked behind her again before going on. "You guys, Mercer isn't in lockup—he's here. In the hospital. She was punching and kicking—she stomped his face so bad that he's in surgery."
The guys didn't have time to react to that news before they saw Lilly coming down the hall.
"There are my other two Angels!" She held her hands like a gun and struck a pose. "Sabrina, Kelly, and I make quite a crimefighting team, don't we?"
"You're Jill then?" Piz asked.
"Duh—of course I'm Jill," Lilly replied as she threw her arm over Mac's shoulders.
"Are you OK, Lill?" Piz asked gently.
"I'm fine!" she answered, slapping him lightly on the arm. "I'm not the one who got attacked with a Remington. We're gonna have to take Parker to my mom's salon tomorrow and get her a cool cut to cover that up."
Logan and Veronica returned to the group. "The cops said that anyone could leave after they gave their statements," Logan said, rubbing his hair agitatedly.
"I'm staying here with Parker," Mac said. "She needs to have someone she knows with her when she wakes up."
"I'll stay too," Wallace volunteered. Before Mac could protest, he added, "If you're taking care of Parker, then someone needs to take care of you. No arguments."
He held his hand up and Mac smiled gratefully.
"OK, then I'll take Veronica and Lilly home," Logan said. Piz noted that he looked more shaken than if he'd witnessed the attack himself.
"Why don't I drive Lilly?" Piz suggested. "That way, you can just take Veronica straight home."
"Are you sure?" Logan asked. "I can…I mean, it's no big…"
"Logan. Take Veronica home," Piz said seriously.
Logan let out a deep breath. "OK, yeah. Thanks, man."
"Then it's settled. Mac, Wallace, call us if there's any news," Veronica said as they left the hospital.
After they parted ways with Veronica and Logan in the hospital parking garage, Lilly became uncharacteristically quiet.
"Are you sure you're OK?" Piz finally asked, breaking the silence.
She let out a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm OK. That was just…kinda scary. But I'm fine…"
Piz reached for her hand and ran his thumb lightly over the bruises that were starting to form on her knuckles.
"We heard what happened—after Veronica tasered the guy."
She pulled her hand away. "That I kicked a rapist in the balls? Did he not deserve that?"
"He totally deserved that, and more," Piz agreed. "But it sounds like, um, maybe there was something more going on there?" She scoffed. "Lill, you put a guy in the hospital!"
Lilly looked straight ahead at the road in front of them. "Don't psychoanalyze me," she spat. "It was nothing like that. I saw a guy trying to hurt one of my friends and I got angry. I may have gone a little overboard, but I don't care. He can't hurt people like that and get away with it!" Her hands were clenched in her lap and her voice began to rise. "If we hadn't walked in there, he would have hurt her and messed her up for the rest of her life! You can't just do that to someone. That's bullshit!"
She punched the dashboard with one of her battered fists. "Ow!" she screamed, before bursting into tears. "Goddamnit…"
Piz quickly pulled the car over. "Come here." He reached across the seat and wrapped his arms around her. At first, he tried to think of something helpful to say, but then decided that he needed to just let her cry.
After the front of Piz's t-shirt was sufficiently dampened, Lilly pulled away slowly, wiping under her eyes with her fingertips.
"Thanks," she sniffled. "Sorry to freak out on you like that."
"Hey, you have every reason to be upset about what happened tonight, even if you hadn't… you know…"
"Yeah, I guess," she said. "It's getting really late—or early, you could say. You should take me home so you can get back and get some sleep."
"Are you sure you want to go back to your house?" Piz asked as he started the car again. "Is anyone home? Like, besides staff?"
"Celeste is around, but she's probably asleep, and I'm not ready to tell her about this anyway," Lilly scoffed. "She's going to be thrilled when she finds out that I'm a witness in another criminal case. The media firestorm strikes again."
"At least this time, you're going be the big hero." Piz's hand traced an imaginary headline in the air. "I can see it now: 'Neptune's Former Bad Girl Turns Badass!'"
Lilly giggled. "I could live with that. Maybe I'll get a cape—with coordinating ones for Veronica and Mac!"
"I'll keep that in mind at Christmas time."
He stopped his tiny car at the monolithic gates to the Kane estate and Lilly leaned out the window and waved to the security camera. "Hi, Ken!" The gate opened with a loud k-chung.
"You'll really be OK here by yourself?" Piz asked as he pulled up the long driveway. "I mean, I'm sure Ken is great company, but…"
"Actually, my dad is on the East Coast this week, so he might actually be up by now. I can call him," Lilly said. "Hey! Maybe this would be a good time to tell him about changing my major: 'Hi Dad, I survived a run-in with a serial rapist, and oh, by the way, I hate my business classes.'"
Piz laughed. "Forget English—you should go into PR. That is some excellent spin right there."
"Thank you," Lilly said with a slight bow. "Well, I'd better go in. Thanks for taking me home—I'm glad it was you." She gave him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. "You're such a nice guy."
"I'll see you later—give me a call if you need to," he replied. "And take care of your hands."
Lilly hopped out of the car and jogged up to her front door. Piz waited until she was safely inside before pulling away. While he paused for Ken to open the gate again, he went over their conversation in his mind, wondering if she really was going to be OK or if she was just telling him what he wanted to hear. He recalled her last words to him, and suddenly he was annoyed with himself for the selfish thought that popped into his head.
'You're such a nice guy'? Great, he thought with a sigh as he headed back toward campus. That always works out well for me…