"C'mon, Veronica! It'll be fun!" Lilly tugged on Veronica's hand as she pleaded with her. "Shelley always has the best parties!"

"Will Duncan be there?" Veronica asked, knowing the answer before the question even formed on her lips.

Lilly nodded, knowing where this was going. "But so what! Just cause the Donut was stupid enough to let you go doesn't mean you have to start train for a future as a crazy cat lady. This is your chance to show him that you can just as fabulous without him. I mean, you're a total hottie, Veronica Mars, or at least you could be if you loosened up a bit. Let's go to the party, go wild, and show Duncan and Logan what they're missing!"

Veronica shook her head, but her resolve was weakening and Lilly knew it. And she decided to exploit that.

"I'm betting that when Duncan sees you in the spectacular dress I'm gonna pick out for you, he'll be leaping over people to get back with you," Lilly promised.

"All right," Veronica conceded, allowing Lilly to drag her over to the huge walk-in closet on the other side of the room. Lilly immediately set about finding the perfect dress.

"Nope…nope…oh, definitely not." She flung one outfit after another aside. When Veronica asked what was wrong with them, she explained, "It's gotta scream 'Veronica!' And I don't mean the Veronica you act like, I mean the real Veronica, the one you hide under all that sugar and spice and everything nice."

Veronica just shook her head, imagining the type of dress Lilly would pick out. With a sigh, she sank back onto Lilly's bed and closed her eyes, setting her mind free to wander. Duncan's face swam before her, smiling in that confused way he did when Lilly launched into an explanation of one of her schemes. A soft smiled tugged at the corners of her mouth until a sharp voice pulled the warmth of her memories.

"Veronica Mars!" Lilly yelled. "Stop thinking about Donut and try this on."

Veronica reluctantly forced her eyes opened and propped herself up on her elbows to get a look at Lilly's choice. When she saw it, she gasped. "Lilly! I can't wear that!"

"Oh yes, you most certainly can and will." Lilly grabbed her hand, pulled her upright, and marched her into the bathroom. "Come out when you're fabulous."

Veronica rolled her eyes, but complied, figuring that once Lilly saw how ridiculous she looked in the dress, she would change her mind and allow her to pick her own dress. She tugged at the tight fabric several times before it was in place. Glancing in the mirror on her way out to show Lilly, Veronica breath caught in her throat. She didn't look like herself. Or maybe she did. The real her that Lilly was always talking about. The red stain brought out her faint tan and the spaghetti straps coincided perfectly with the tan lines from her bathing suit.

Lilly barged through the door yelling that Veronica was taking way too long and grinned when she saw her friend. "Now that's more like it! Duncan will be eating out of your hand within the first five minutes, and it'll take that long only because he'll need to snap his jaw shut and wipe off the drool first. Now, time for makeup and hair."

-x-

Lilly and Veronica walked into the party arm in arm, with Lilly slightly in the lead as she was dragging Veronica behind her. "C'mon, don't lose your nerve now, V! You look totally amazing."

Veronica stopped short for a second and took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm ready."

The two continued the walk up the driveway and through the front door. The general reaction was a massive double take. People would look over and, seeing the best friends together, think nothing of it. Until they realized what Veronica was wearing. Then their heads would whip back around and, if it was a guy, his jaw would drop open, and if it was a girl, she would glower at Veronica. Dick Casablancas broke away from his girlfriend, Madison Sinclair, and let out a loud wolf whistle.

Lilly noticed this, of course, and her face broke into a satisfied smile that slowly changed to mischievous. "Let's go find Duncan."

Veronica forced herself to nod before once again being dragged along by Lilly. They weaved through the crowd. Veronica tried to ask where they were going, but Lilly couldn't hear her over the music pulsing through the house. Finally, they emerged from the crowd. Veronica looked around and realized they were out back. She surveyed the scene, hoping to find Duncan. Suddenly Lilly was in front of her, obscuring her vision. "Come on, let's go back inside."

"No, Lilly," Veronica struggled, trying to pull her arm from Lilly's grasp. "Where is he?"

Resignedly, Lilly pointed across the pool and there he was, half hidden by shadows. Veronica wondered what he doing over by himself. He moved and she realized he wasn't alone. He was in the middle of what appeared to be a heavy make-out session with some random blonde. Distraught, Veronica whirled around and plunged back into the dancing crowd, ignoring Lilly's attempts to slow her down. Somewhere along the way, a hand- Dick's – appeared in front of her, clutching a drink. "It'll make you feel better," he promised.

She hesitated only a minute before grabbing it and, as she remembered the image of Duncan and Blonde Bimbo Number 1, downed it. One rum and coke wouldn't hurt, right?

A short while later, Veronica was sitting on a once spotless couch, feeling kind of out of it. A group of guys standing nearby started nudging each other and pointing at her. She squinted at them to try and make out their faces through her blurred vision but it was to no avail. Next she tried to ask if any of them had seen Lilly but her throat was sry and nothing came out. The guys approached her and she saw that Dick Casablancas was one of them. She wasn't exactly fond of him, but it was possible he knew where Lilly was. "Dick," she forced out. "Don't…feel good…Lilly?"

"Shh," he told her and she thought she heard a bit of a laugh in his voice. "Here, drink this, Veronica. It'll make you feel better." The words sounded vaguely familiar, but Veronica was desperate to feel better so she opened her mouth and allowed the liquid to be poured in. Her head grew fuzzier and she found it hard to fight back when Dick tipped the contents of another, larger cup into her mouth. Just when she thought she couldn't stand it any longer, a set of strong arms lifted her from the couch. Whoever it was carried her into a room that she recognized dimly as a bedroom and set her down on the bed. She heard his footsteps recede. She was alone.

-x-

Lilly stormed up to her brother. "Duncan! We need to talk. Now."

Duncan knew better than to argue with Lilly when she was used that tone of voice. He allowed himself to be dragged away from the blonde girl – Cindy? Or was it Cinda? – and followed Lilly into a secluded corner of the patio. "What, Lil? I was kinda busy over there." He gave a nervous laugh. Hard as he tried, he couldn't disconnect himself from Veronica and had hoped hooking up with random girls would help, but so far it was to no avail. Every time he closed his eyes, her smiling face swam before him, her laugh sounded in his ears constantly, sending shivers down his spine.

"Yeah, I noticed," Lilly spat out. "And so did Veronica."

Duncan ran his hands through his hair uneasily. "Look, Veronica's a big girl. She can handle it. I told you why it has to be this way."

Lilly shook her head, a knowing smile playing across her full lips. Duncan knew that smile. She wore it constantly. It meant she had a secret.

"What do you know," he demanded. "Lilly…?"

The smile grew wider. "I took the liberty of sending a little something from Dad's hairbrush and little something from Veronica's to a lab. They did a paternity test."

Duncan's eyes widened and he grabbed his sister's arm. "And…?"

"Donut, chill," Lilly said in reply, prying his fingers off her arm. "Geez, you gotta learn some patience."

"Lilly, don't mess with me," Duncan warned impatiently.

"All right, fine. She not our sister so you can, in good conscience, get back with her."

Duncan stood there, eyes still wide, in elated shock.

Lilly prodded him. "What are you doing staring at me like that? Go find her! Before someone else scoops her up because I must say, I did a killer job on her tonight. I'll take care of the bimbo over there," she added, nodding towards the slightly disgruntled looking blonde Duncan had just abandoned.

Needing no further promptings, Duncan ran off to find Veronica, unable to keep a silly-looking grin off his face.

-x-

The slightly dulled sound of a person banging into a door penetrated Veronica's foggy mind. "Who's…there?"

A body fell next to her, sinking the bed down an inch or two. "V'ronica? Heyyy! It's V'ronica Mars!" A heavy arm flopped on top of her.

Veronica struggled to push it off and stumbled to her feet. She looked down at the guy. "Dick?" she asked, confusedly. Shaking her head gently clear it, she stumbled out the door. She heard her name being called from down the hall. Veronica attempted to turn around, but her brain and legs didn't seem be talking at the moment and she toppled over, right into a pair of strong, familiar arms. The guy swept her into his arms and she got a good look at his face. "Duncan?"

"Veronica?" he said in disbelief. "Are you drunk?"

Veronica shook her head emphatically, cringing as a pounding pain surged through it. "Somebody drugged my drink, I think," she managed to get out. "Then Dick gave me some medicine that didn't work very good and my head got all woozy." She felt Duncan's arms tense underneath her and she reached up to stroke his face. "I knew you'd come, I knew you'd save me…Can I go home?"

"Yeah, Veronica, let's go home." Duncan carried her out the open door and into the backyard, hoping that Lilly was still there because he needed someone to help Veronica while he killed some – or possibly several – people. He saw a flash of long blonde hair and sighed with relief. "Lil…Lilly!" His sister whirled around with a smile on her face, obviously expecting to see he and Veronica, reunited. What she got instead was Duncan laying an out of it Veronica on a lounge chair. Shock and – was that fear? – dawned upon her face and she hurried forward.

"Veronica?" she half screamed, not believing the sight before her. And she was in good company. Everyone on the patio was staring at the three now, all wearing disbelieving look similar to Lilly's. Lilly crouched down next to Veronica and glanced at her brother. "We have to get her back to our house. Right now. I'll call her dad and tell him something and she can spend the night. She cannot go home like this."

"You take her, I have to find out who did this to her." Duncan made to leave, but Lilly latched onto his arm and pulled him back down.

"No," she said forcefully. "I need you. Jake and Celeste can't find out about this, either. Jake would tell Celeste, and you know she wouldn't pass up the opportunity to tell her parents, bitch that she is."

Duncan set his jaw angrily, but knew Lilly was right. But come Monday, whoever did this was dead. Lilly beckoned him to follow, so he scooped up the now unconscious Veronica and followed her through the party and out to her car. He could come back for his tomorrow. No way was he leaving Veronica.

The ride home was silent, an unusual occurrence when Lilly was involved, but Duncan welcomed it. Veronica head rested on his lap, calm and peaceful, reminding him, as usual, of an angel. He cracked his knuckles ominously, trying to seem tough. He couldn't wait to get his hands on those jerks that did this.