A/N: This was written for the word table challenge at vmfic_gameon; I used the following words: Warm, Hypocrisy, Preempt, Refreshment, Lens, Disjointed, and Speed. And yes, this is a weird pairing. Don't ask, please.

PHOENIX

The sun swelters down on you, working it's way through the the tons of sunscreen you must have on. You never liked Arizona, and the heat was one reason – okay, you see the irony in a woman who has lived in California for most of her life complaining about heat, but in Arizona it's different. Unlike the surrounding warmth of California, sunshine days that would show themselves bright and happy, until you paused and they would suffocate you, Arizona does not believe in comforting lies. It just burns through you.

Still, you guess being here is better than being in California; here, no-one seems to know who you are. You don't understand who kept Arizona under a giant glass dome for going on eighteen years now, but you're glad of it. You can imagine the tabloid stories about Lynn Echolls' "reappearance", and you think you'd throw up if that world tried to drag you into it again – that, or you would kill yourself for real.

You still can't believe the whole world bought it.

You never liked bars either, but right now you cannot bring yourself to drink alone in the thirty-thousandth hotel room you've had. And you're not deluded enough to think you'll make it through the day without a drink, although you can't remember why or what day it even is. So walk into the musty room with the air of glamor you can't never quite will away, and you order a drink.

It takes you a few moments to turn to your left and recognize the wreck of a woman sitting next to you, unglamorous and near sobs. She's clearly been here for hours, and you blink before you say her name. "Lianne?"

She turns toward you with a gasp, blinking three times. "Lynn?" she whispers, then shakes her head. "Definitely too drunk. You're dead."

You smile at her. "It's my secret. No telling," there's something oddly childlike in your voice, and she embraces that.

"Okay."

You both pause.

"You want a drink?"


You're not quite sure how Lianne becomes your friend; when you started believing in friends again. Sure, she's selfish and weak, but so are you, and there's something nice about the fact there's now someone you can drink yourself into oblivion with – you don't think you've done that since you were twenty.

You and Lianne tell stories – of running away, of sleeping around, of abandoning your children in mind and presence, of being horrible people. Your talks with her are almost like your life through a lens, so you choose more alcohol over analyzing what you think, over entertaining hypocrisy.

"You know," you say through your fifth "refreshment" of the day. "We shouldn't really like each other."

Lianne looks confused. "Why?"

"Because no-one else does. Well, not if they even know anything about us."

"Does anyone know anything about you?" Lianne asks, preempting a question you were going to ask.

"You do," you admit; after weeks of talking, Lianne Mars is now the one person you think might understand you.

"Lucky me," Lianne mutters.


"Come on, Lynn," Lianne is already far drunker than you. She always is.

"Are we still in college, Lianne?"

"You know, I never went to college. So no," she says absentmindedly, and you sigh. "Actually, that's how we can start. I never went to college."

"Somewhat dull," you say coolly, but you take the shot anyway. You grimace at the burn in your throat – you've never liked tequila.

She shrugs, and indicates with her hands that it's your turn. You pause. "I never..." you're searching for something small, something not-you would know. You don't have anything; so you stick with something close. "Cheated on my husband."

You both take shots then. "Not even trying to stay casual, hey?" she asks with a grin.

"I'm wasted. Now just ask."

Lianne pauses, trailing a finger over the carpet. "I never kissed a woman," she smiles, and you take the shot quickly.

"Wow," you whisper. "You really did never go to college."

She laughs out loud at that. "Your turn, Mrs. Adventurous."

"I never gave my child hope, false or otherwise," you're still not asking the questions right; things that don't matter. Lianne doesn't seem to mind that much.

She pauses for a couple of seconds before she finally pours the tequila down her throat. "Veronica believed in me," she says with such sadness, and you pity her almost more than you pity yourself.

"Logan didn't," you reply. "The tone of this game is... disjointed, you know?"

Lianne nods. "Well, we have odd lives. So it happens," she pauses. "Hmm... I never came close to killing anyone."

Damn her and her questions. Your hand shakes when you take the shot, and she looks surprised for the first time in weeks. "Aaron," you elaborate. "It was Christmas, maybe '98? Logan peaked at a present, which turned out to be a fruit basket – pears. So Aaron almost suffocated Logan, stuffing pears down his throat. I had to hold a cheese knife to his throat, just to stop him," you pause and your voice drops. "I wanted him not to stop. I wanted an excuse so badly."

Lianne's jaw is slightly agape, and she says her next few words in a monotone. "I never got hit by my husband."

You laugh out loud at the idea of Keith Mars ever hitting his wife, and you laugh harder when you eye the tequila. Your arms stay firmly by your sides.

Lianne raises an eyebrow, so you raise your hands. "Honest."

She sighs deeply. "Fuck the game," she announces while grabbing the bottle, and you snort. Finally.


You kiss her for the first time over her divorce papers. It is, quite definitely, nice. It's not the breath-taking skill that Aaron used, so obviously pre-rehearsed that you gagged; nor is it the blatant sexuality of when you indulged with some young man, pretending you could hurt Aaron like he hurt you, but still – it's nice. Lianne's mouth is warm and her lips are soft; she tastes like honey and smells like vanilla. You could get used to this.

She's got a case of the giggles, and you like the feel of that against your lips. "Let me guess," she interrupts the kissing. "When this is done, we're just going to be friends?"

You wince at the idea of contemplating the future in this moment. "Can I not think about that right now? You ask her and she nods.

"Of course," and soon you have the feel of her lips against yours again. It's nice.

You fuck her for the first time the day your husband is acquitted for Lilly Kane's murder. It's not exactly fantastic – neither of you have been with a woman before, so it's all a tangle of too much speed and not enough – but it's like the kiss, still quite nice. Lianne throws her head back and the moans escaping her mouth interest you, which is unusual, because you normally hate the sound of moaning during sex. It occurs to you that Lianne doesn't fuck a thing like Aaron, or anyone else you've been with since you were a teenager, because this doesn't feel like a performance. This isn't how Aaron reveled in how "good" he was, or how those men grinned over getting Lynn Echolls into bed – Lianne, after all, just wants to get off.

She cuddles up to you after, and you realize you can't ever remember that happening before. You quite like the feeling of her against you, and you switch on the TV to hear news of your husband's death. You can't quite bring yourself to be happy, although you have no idea why, and you're not sad either.

Lianne's just about drifting off, and her fingers are running through your hair. She looks at you in a way you're fairly sure no-one's looked at you, ever – she looks at you with believe and hope, with understanding, like this will all work out for the best and you'll drag yourselves out of the ashes of your lives. And maybe someday, you will.

For now, you get up, and pour yourself another drink.

END