Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Hannah Montana or any other pop culture references made in this story.
AN: I don't know where Oliver is during this. Possibly doing homework or chores or something. As a result, I don't know if this is a world where Loliver never happened, hasn't happened yet, or has and everyone should be very ashamed of themselves. Choose as you will. Personally, I'm going with option number one.
Saving Jackson Stewart
"Miley!" Lilly called, not bothering to do so much as knock on the Stewart's front door before barging in.
She glanced around cautiously. Usually her yell would have earned her an answering cry from Miley or a hillbilly curse from Robbie Ray, but she didn't hear a sound. She shrugged, figuring either Robbie Ray was in his steam room or Jackson had left the door unlocked on his way to work.
She decided to do everyone a favor and lock the door on her way out and she'd even save them the trouble of rewarding her by grabbing a soda before she left. On her way across the room she dropped her purse on the coffee table and helped herself to an apple from the fruit bowl.
"Oh, thank God, it's just you."
"Ah!" Lilly cried, slamming the fridge closed and backing up against it in fear. "Jackson!" she snapped when she saw him leaning casually against the wall beside the stairs. "You scared me!"
"Sorry, I thought you were … someone else. And anyway, you're the one breaking into my house."
"It's not breaking in if the door's unlocked." She turned her back on him and resumed her search for a soda in the cluttered refrigerator. "And what are you doing here anyway? Shouldn't you be at Rico's?"
He muttered something and she looked at him over her shoulder.
"Aw, is Jackson afraid of the little devil boy?" she asked in her baby voice.
"No," he snapped. "Okay, maybe a little. But I can handle Rico. It's … Sarah I have a problem with." He staggered to a stool as he said her name and looked like he might throw up.
Lilly, forgetting her search, closed the door and leaned over the island with a comforting smile. "Rico still hasn't fired her?"
"She's making money! Turns out some of her environmentally friendly ideas -- while disgusting to the customers -- are pretty cheap."
"I haven't heard about any disgusting changes at Rico's. The only new thing there is those delicious chips he -- what are they made of?" she asked.
"Seaweed, mostly, but you do not want to know what they use to make it all stick together."
Lilly shuddered and made a face. "But you can't ditch work forever," she said when her horror had passed. "There's a reason you haven't left Rico after all the torture he puts you through."
Jackson nodded and said happily, "With his obscene profit margin, even the small percentage I get is sizable." He shook his head. "But I'm not sure it's worth it if Sarah's there."
His phone rang before Lilly could think of a response. He dug it out of his pocket -- along with a yo-yo, a rubber mouse, and a frightening amount of lint -- and frowned when he saw the name.
"It's Rico," he said. "He's been calling all afternoon. When you came in I was worried he'd sent Sarah to come hunt me down."
Lilly held out her hand. "Give it."
"Just give it. I'll fix everything."
He handed it to her slowly, not sure if he could trust his sister's best friend.
She took it, tossed her hair, and took a deep breath before answering. "Hello?"
He blinked. She sounded like she'd just run a mile.
"Oh, Rico! Thank God! It's Lilly! I'm at Miley's! I came over to see if she wanted to go shopping and the door was unlocked but no one was home and I heard a noise and at first I thought it was burglars but then it sounded like a poor wounded puppy and when I went upstairs to see if Robbie Ray'd finally gotten Miley that dog she's been begging for since she was seven I found Jackson on the floor of the bathroom! He's super sick and I was trying to get him to tell me where his dad went when the phone rang and it's you and could you come over to help me because he is really bad and -- Jackson, no! Aim for the toilet!"
Lilly smiled and handed the phone back to the shocked Jackson. "He hung up," she explained.
"Wow, that was --"
"I know," Lilly said proudly. "Rico may not believe you playing sick, but he's not going to argue with your little sister's best friend. Which reminds me, where is the pop star?"
"Kelly Clarkson's plane got stuck in Albuquerque so they needed someone to fill in on Celebrity Jeopardy."
"She's gonna be on Celebrity Jeopardy and she didn't invite me?" Lilly demanded.
Jackson shrugged. "Dad said something about them being really strict about who they let on the set. Sorry. And thanks for getting me out of work."
She nodded slightly but was still pouting over missing the Jeopardy taping.
"Hey," he said awkwardly, "if you don't have anything better to do you can always help me look for a new job."
"You're seriously going to quit just because of Sarah?" she asked. "You know that won't really solve your problem, right?"
"It's the best I can do. I mean, there is nothing I can do to shake this girl."
"But that's because she thinks you're a good person," Lilly said, pacing the kitchen. "She thinks you're worth waiting for."
"Oh no!" Jackson cried, backing up. "I know that look. That's the look Miley gets whenever she has one of her crazy plans and they always end with someone in a stupid costume, getting caught. No, ma'am, you can count me out."
Lilly hurried around the island and grabbed his arm before he could reach the stairs. She dragged him into the living room and sat him down on the couch.
"I've been going along with Miley's plans for years. Don't you think I know how to avoid the horrible conclusion by now? And anyway," she added, pulling her oversized purse into her lap and digging through it's contents, "you need to be you if we're gonna get Sarah to hate you, and that won't work if there are any stupid costumes. Ah! Here it is!"
Jackson looked from her to the object she pulled out of her purse and back again. "Are you sure about that?" he asked.
She smacked him in the shoulder with the bubblegum pink wig. "Lola is not stupid! Now go put on something nice but casual while I raid Miley's closet."
Jackson groaned. "I have such a bad feeling about this."
"Put your arm around me," Lola muttered.
"Seriously?" Jackson asked, wincing at the flashing lights from the long line of photographers outside the club.
"Seriously! People have to think we're together. Now do it!" The order was so forceful that he jumped, putting his arm around her shoulders.
Lola smiled and posed for the cameras, holding his hand at her shoulder and laughing giddily.
"Why do they even care about us?" Jackson asked, carefully keeping his smile in place. "We're just Hannah's entourage."
"Oh! When we were on that cruise to Hawaii, Hannah and I got stuck in our suite because of all the fans and when I tried to get out on my own -- because I'm just part of the entourage -- they mauled me!" She squeezed his hand and smiled up at him happily. "They care about Lola!"
Her smile was contagious and he couldn't quite bring himself to make a sarcastic comment. A photographer called his name then, startling him so badly that he almost tripped. They posed for a few more photos before heading into the club which, Jackson was shocked to find, they got into easily even without Hannah. He led her to a booth in the back, mindful of the attention they were getting and of the occasional cell phone aimed their way.
"So," he said when they were settled, "I'm still a bit fuzzy on how this helps me. All I can see this doing is getting you in trouble with Hannah. You know tomorrow's headlines are going to be about you getting back at her for something -- something they'll be making up."
Lola shrugged. "It's worth it. All I have to do is convince her that she owes you, which she totally does, and in a few days we'll both come out together saying how we're best friends forever and no guy could ever tear us apart."
"What about me and Sarah?"
"You're dating your ex-girlfriend-who-you're-still-friends-with's best friend. At least one tabloid, probably several, will theorize that this is you getting back at her for some slight and I'm just a poor, defenseless pawn in your evil scheme." She batted her eyes and gave him her puppy dog face. He couldn't help but laugh.
"And that will get Sarah off my case?" he asked.
"It should. I wouldn't chase after a guy who did this."
"Wait … this is going to ruin my reputation. How am I ever going to get a date now?"
Lola frowned. "Were you dating before? With Sarah hounding you at your prime babe-scouting location?"
"True," he muttered.
Her frown deepened at his depressed attitude and she slid out of the booth.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
She held out her hand. "Dancing. You aren't going to make me go alone, are you?"
He sighed and took her hand, only to have her haul him out of his seat and onto the dance floor. He didn't really like dancing at clubs. It was always way too crowded and all the girls always wore excessively high heels, making them that much taller than him. He'd been happy when Lola came down the stairs in a pair of Hannah's flats, he didn't need her towering over him too.
Lola spun around, fully engrossed in the music. She loved dancing, especially in clubs. The lights and the sounds and the people everywhere … it was a high in and of itself. The music shifted into one of her favorite songs and she smiled at Jackson, only to find him self-consciously moving his arms and legs as little as possible for the action to still be considered dancing. She shook her head and took his hands in hers, pulling him close enough that she could whisper in his ear.
She lifted his arm up and spun herself under it and away from him in one fluid motion. She spun back into him, resting for a moment against his chest. She tilted her head back to look at him and quickly planted a kiss on his cheek before dancing away.
He gave her a shocked look and she nodded towards the edge of the dance floor where a table of teens were all holding out their cell phones, capturing images from the club. He sighed, wondering how many pictures of him would exist in the world by the end of this night.
After a while he started to genuinely enjoy himself and though several girls tried to dance with him, he kept his focus on Lola. Her plan wouldn't work if they weren't together the whole night.
Lola was having similar problems. She spotted one of Traci's old beaus early in the evening and every time she caught sight of him after that he looked like he was trying to flirt with her using just his eyes. As hilarious as it was to see him make a fool of himself and as much as she wished Traci was there to see it, she didn't need drama tonight. She needed to help Jackson!
She turned back to him and abruptly felt something hard hit the back of her head. Stars filled her vision and she landed in someone's arms.
"Come on," she heard Jackson whisper in her ear and his hand held the back of her head, pressing so hard it hurt, "we gotta go."
He was pulling her off the dance floor and she struggled to keep up. She wanted to ask why the sudden rush but tears were in her eyes from the blow and she really just wanted him to let go. She tried to pull away but he held her firmly.
"That idiot almost knocked your wig off!" he hissed.
She stilled instantly and let him take her wherever he wanted. The area near the door wasn't nearly as crowded as the rest of the club. The bouncers weren't letting many people in this late and no one wanted to leave so early. He stopped there and let her fix the wig herself. She'd gotten pretty good at making wig adjustments look like casual hair care and hoped she could pull it off now.
"Thanks," she said quietly, "for saving me. I don't think 'Hannah Montana's BFF Trampled On Dance Floor, Revealed To Be Natural Blonde' is the headline we were going for."
He chuckled, "No problem." He glanced back towards the dancers. "Do you want to go back out there?"
"No," she said, "I think we've done enough."
"Let's go," he said, holding his arm out.
She laughed and took it. A bouncer opened the door for them and they stepped out into the light of flashing cameras.
"Well," Lola said, "maybe one more."
"Huh?" Jackson asked.
Lola paused and turned into him. Instinctively his arms came up around her.
"Kiss me," she whispered.
He didn't need the order, she'd already come in far enough that his body took over. He pulled her close, her body pressing up against his, fitting him perfectly. This was good. This was very good. Her hands came up, clutching his back. He opened his mouth, intent on deepening the kiss, when a shrill voice penetrated the cloud surrounding his brain.
"Lola!" Traci shrieked.
"Oh no," Lola muttered, resting her head against Jackson's collarbone for a moment before she pulled away. "Traci! What are you doing here?"
Jackson stifled a laugh. Lola's attempts to be friendly couldn't even be called half-hearted.
"This is the hottest under 21 club in Malibu. What are you doing here?"
"This is the hottest under 21 club in Malibu," Jackson deadpanned.
Lola stifled a laugh but it died completely when she saw Traci sizing up Jackson.
"Oh, boy," she purred, "Hannah's going to die when she hears this."
Lola grabbed Traci's cell phone hand, and backed her away from the paparazzi. "How about you don't?"
"Are you threatening me?"
Lola sighed. "She'll find out tomorrow from the tabloids anyway. If you promise not to tell her or anyone else I won't accompany Hannah to the event of your choice -- as long as it's not something where I need to be there."
"You think she'll still want you around after this?" she asked, nodding towards the half-shocked, half-frightened Jackson.
"I can talk my way out of a lot of things. And I'll even help you the next time you do something to piss her off."
Traci pursed her lips. "Deal. But I will call her first thing tomorrow."
"Fine with me."
Lola sauntered away and Jackson had no choice but to follow.
They spent most of the ride home in silence, Jackson driving and Lilly fiddling with her wig in her lap, until they reached their exit and Jackson had to know which way to turn.
"So, did you want to come home with me?"
Lilly turned sharply, looking at him with wide eyes.
"I mean," Jackson said quickly, "did you want to come home with me so you could explain this to Miley?"
"No," Lilly sighed, "I really just want to get to bed. I didn't realize it was so late. We danced a lot."
Jackson nodded as he turned the car towards Lilly's house. "Lots of pictures."
"We're sure to make the tabloids. I bet bloggers are already talking about us."
"Rico's gonna see them," Jackson said suddenly.
"Oh," Lilly said, "I didn't think of that. He's so never gonna let me run a tab again."
"He's let you run a tab?"
"Well, no, but I always dreamed of the day."
Jackson shrugged. "I'll tell him I faked you out in some elaborate attempt to get out of work for my date with Lola."
"And he'll let me off. Without me it's just him and Sarah."
He pulled up to her curb and turned off the engine. He climbed out when she did and, when she gave him a questioning look across the hood, said, "A gentleman always walks his date to the door."
Lilly shook her head and he fell into step beside her. The living room lights were on and the porch light came to life at their approach.
"You won't get in trouble for staying out so late?" he asked.
"I was out with you. In my mom's book, you're safer than Hannah."
"Really?" he asked, not sure how he felt about that.
He stopped when they reached the steps and she climbed up slowly. She paused just shy of the welcome mat and hurried back, stopping on the bottom step and kissing him quickly on the lips.
"That was for saving me," she said and rushed inside.