(The princess blossomed in the lake, and when she crawled out to look in, she finally saw her honest reflection...)

With Veronica, Lilly acts like she's something else. Veronica is just so sweet and innocent – the girl has a sharp tongue, sure, but underneath it all, the glass is and has always been half-dull, in regards to everything. Especially in regards to Lilly. Lilly knows what Veronica needs her to be; Lilly is the other half, the wild half. The spontaneous half that breaks Veronica out of her shell. However, Lilly knows Veronica can't have her be what she really is – sprawling, consuming monster, sucking the energy out of everything she comes into contact with.

But Veronica couldn't take that, and is the one person Lilly manages not to smother like a weed, so she acts the good-bad-girl. The flirty, flighty best friend who would never take it too far. The mythological figure Veronica needs.

Everyone else can see that this world they are building isn't quite true; people see the brushmarks of a painted canvas, but they don't pay attention, because it hurts too much. Not Veronica, though. She still sees the world as this beautiful fairy tale kingdom; Duncan is her dashing knight in shining armor, Logan is the great fraternal protector, and Lilly is the great God-like protector.

She's playing God as an atheist with Veronica, and that just confuses her.

But she doesn't mind. She has Veronica and the girl makes her feel good about herself and her place in the world, and that almost never happens. Yes, it's mostly based off lies, but still – what Veronica loves is just the censored version of Lilly, and that's enough to restore said girl's self-esteem. Maybe that's what makes Veronica different. Maybe that's why, although she could hurt and betray almost everyone she knows and not feel all that bad about it, she could never do that to Veronica – her best friend has done too much for her, without even trying.

So yes, she's a mess, and yes, she can never let Veronica see it. But she has made her peace with that. And if, for instance, she gets a little too caught up with one of the sweet things Veronica does, or starts believing one of the lies she tells Veronica implying innocence she doesn't possess, it makes her want more than anything in the world to be that girl? So what?

Lilly Kane has always been an actress.

(The knight tried time and time again to make those flowers grow, but there was no light in the cavern...)

Logan tries, Really, he does. Lilly doesn't think there has ever been anyone more dedicated to trying to be 'good enough' for her, even if the definition of good they use may be a bit different than most people's. Oh well.

She tries too, although she doesn't think anyone would believe that if they knew who she was. She wants to love him back; really, she does; but she can never force herself to just stay put. It's like she's charging ahead of him at high speed, and no matter what he does, he'll never be able to keep up. She'll never be able to slow down, and it stings.

The problem is they want different things. Logan might play the disaffected rich boy who only wants to party all night, get laid, and who will probably drown in his own vomit someday, but she knows him better than that. At the back of his mind, he wants the All-American cliche: anonymity and a nice house with a white picket fence, an honest 9-to-5 job, a wife and two-point-six kids. And she'd never be able to tolerate a life like that; they both know it, but he won't stop dreaming.

Sometimes, when she's curled up late at night with him, if she concentrates, she can almost make herself not hate it. There's got to be a reason all those women from fifties sitcoms lived like that, right? Maybe it would be nice. A loving husband to dote on her, those children trusting her blindly – given her carnivorous need for affection, she should enjoy that.

She comes so close to not hating the idea, it takes her a while to realize it's making her want to scream.

So they don't talk about the future – doing so would just let the cat out of the bag, make everyone realize how fucked up she is. She kind of reckons it's not fair, because she's still in high school and one relationship should not define her yet. But it kind of does.

She wishes she could be like him – she wishes she could be happy with normal. She can't; she always wants to be the best, the brightest, the loudest. She wants an stellar voyage and he wants apple pie; what could be more different than that?

She's ninety percent sure she's going to break him – her craziness will be too much for his hope, eventually. She should stop, but she never remembers to. She just keeps him in this self-destructive tango with her, and tries to force herself to care more than she does.

(And the field was trampled, its flowers shredded by warrior boots, and dirtied by far-traveling mud...)

It's not Duncan's fault.

She doesn't resent him, honestly. She resents the situation surrounding them; how her parents sweep the whole thing under the carpet. How he follows their lead, and tries to pretend he's the great stand-up guy the world sees him as. She resents how no-one in the outside world has put the pieces together. She resents how she allows herself to be hidden under the weight of what's happening with him, and how she always winds up acting out in the most cliched ways imaginable. But she doesn't resent him, per se.

Her parents have always preferred Duncan over her, and paid more attention to his needs; the illness just gives them an excuse to do so. It's not exactly that they don't care about her – while they are highly concerned with reputation, she knows the freak-outs she gets after her more insane stunts have to be at least partially out of fear for her safety and/or virtue – it's just that there is a major imbalance in the levels. Duncan has always been the stalwart son, the one that will make them proud, while she's the runt. She's like an annoying addendum at the end of a contract, where no-one knows what purpose it is for, and it is majorly inconvenient to have to fulfill the clause it gives, but everyone does so.

They all seem to expect it to get better – not for any rational reason, but just because it's Duncan and surely he can't really be meant to suffer this the rest of his life? Sure some miracle worker must stroll by and cure him, save the son that makes the world, cry out a hallelujah?

Lilly doesn't believe in miracles.

She wishes she could though, just for Duncan's sake – he's her brother and she loves him. She knows he feels guilty; he's hurt her during his fits, never seriously, but enough to make her feel bitter about the whole situation, and for him to feel terrible about it – which just makes her feel more bitter, because it's not fair. Duncan is one of the best, kindest people she knows, and he should not have to feel responsible for this. He has no control over the situation; he was never the one who hurt her.

She kind of wishes she believed in God, just so she'd know who was.

She can't say anything, of course – if she did so, the world would rise to arms. They wouldn't care that none of it can be laid at Duncan's feet; they'd need someone to pay, even if the only available someone is an innocent boy with a condition that terrifies him. And, as Duncan is her brother and she loves him more than anything in this life, she is never going to let that happen. She'll admit she's far from perfect, but she does not let the people she loves get hurt.

It's just that she doesn't love enough people. Duncan. Veronica. Her parents on a good day. Never Logan, no matter how hard she tries.

So she takes on the role she needs to – the bratty, allegedly-neglected little sister. She stops thinking anything of it when the chime of the grandfather clock and the turn of her magazine pages are accompanied by thoughts of how exactly to hide that latest bruise near her ribs from Logan.

(And the warrior hid and recuperated in his dark cave, whose entrance looked so dark and fearful, no-one dared intrude...)

Duncan's made a habit of getting drunk with Logan in the Echolls house, when Aaron and Lynn are out, and saying "Lie to me."

Logan usually does. He tells Duncan the tales that are meant to keep them going; of how perfect and beautiful their lives used to be, and how they can become so again. Logan tells tales of beautiful, wild Lilly, and sweet, beloved Veronica. He tells the tale of the fabulous four; all for one and one for all, how they all worked together in perfect harmony, like it was meant to be.

Duncan says 'lie to me' for a reason.

He knows what Logan says is what they both used to believe – he used to think he, Lilly, Logan and Veronica were almost a new plane of friendship. They were like one of those groups that only really existed on corny sitcoms; groups that belonged together and would never be split apart. All for one and one for all.

Actually, maybe they really were all for one, because they sure as hell all went for, with Lilly.

If he was someone else, it wouldn't have happened this way – he, Logan and Veronica would only have grown closer in the wake of Lilly's death. They would have banded together and sworn up and down to do anything to gain justice for the girl they loved so well, the girl who loved them. They would have stood together at her killer's trial, cheered and cried as that bastard was sentenced to the same fate as Lilly had been.

In reality, he had been wrenched apart from Veronica even before Lilly – he knows he probably didn't have to break off all contact to avoid dating her, but he just couldn't deal with having her in his life anymore. Not when every time she looked at him (and still looks at him) made him want to run away, either to elope with her or to go commit suicide.

In reality, Veronica had sided against him and his family, and he barely even raised the emotion to care.

In reality, Logan led the campaign to destroy the girl who had once been one of his best friends; smearing her from their school sweetheart (with a nasty tongue), to the loneliest, least popular girl ever known at Neptune High (Logan full-blown organized a poll, just to prove once and for all, that she had lost all the love the school ever gave her).

It's not fair. Duncan should have put a stop to this ages ago – he doesn't blame Veronica for anything she's done, and he needs to stop Logan spinning out of control somehow (that was always his – and Veronica's – job after all, in their group, to stop Lilly and Logan getting out of control). However, putting a stop to it means making himself capable of some kind of action. It means making his head stop feeling like it's too stuffed full of cotton wool to think straight. It means not wanting to throw up whenever he looks at Veronica and remembers...

He was never really the boy he imagined himself as – the brave, noble knight. Lilly wasn't the girl she's being remembered as either; not the model daughter his mother wants to create, nor the vivacious beloved those who 'knew' her remember her as. She was never the kind who'd call her boyfriend "sweetheart, honey, schnookims," with anything other than irony, and no matter how hard he tries to hide it, Logan wishes she was. Maybe he doesn't want the pet names exactly, but even when she's dead, Logan can't help making her the target of his insecurity. But she was never like that. She wasn't the girl Logan always tells him about. She was a mess and they all knew it deep down – except maybe Veronica – but she was the mess that made the other messes easier to hide. Her hysterics covered her crazy under the surface, and seemed to cover that the whole world was worse.

If he was the boy he used to think he was, Lilly might not even be dead. If he was the boy he used to think he was, Veronica would be his true love, and that night at Shelley's party would have been a sober decision, and something pure and true. If he was the boy he used to think he was, he and Logan would support each other, and Duncan wouldn't always feel like Logan's slipping through his fingers. If he was the boy he used to think he was, he'd do something.

But he's not, so he doesn't. He just hides in a hazy-drunk state, and begs Logan again and again, "Lie to me, lie to me, lie to me."

(The warrior looked so hard at that mirror, to see what he liked, but he could never make the images match...)

They're doing this wrong and they know it.

It's not that there's anything inherently bad about them dating – it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're not related (and wow, that was a hell of a lot of trauma for nothing), and maybe the Bro Code (as someone not-either-of-them would put it) probably has rules against Duncan dating his best friend's ex, Logan did it first, so he doesn't feel that guilty.

Besides, Logan's father did kill Duncan's sister, so he's ninety percent sure they're operating on a different level than most "broes".

It's not dating that's wrong. It's the way they're doing it – they're trying so hard to be the old Duncan-and-Veronica, before everything was ripped away from them. It's understandable, really – it wasn't their fault, how fucked up everything got, so why do they need to be the ones to fix it? All they have ever wanted is for things to be better, and now they should be.

They're not, but neither Duncan or Veronica is going to acknowledge that.

The thing is, together, they feel so much different. They feel whole. They feel like they did before they were robbed of their Lilly, and see the past in each other, and neither of them stops to consider maybe that's not a good thing. Because they are so sick of being the ones to struggle and suffer and fight, and all they want is to go back; back to when they were the perfect couple, the kind you'd use for advertisements for mattresses or shaving products or something.

There are moments, of course – moments when it feels like they're watching this that-which-was relationship through a window, and they see each other for what they are. Those moments when they want to stop, think, and make it work. Make themselves a real couple, not just the resurrection of first love.

Those moments never last, though – it always feels like yet another attack on their happiness, this time coming from inside. And they won't let it happen again. She is done with her persecution, and he is done with his depression – they just want their lives back, and they want to live them together. Honestly, have they not done enough? Isn't it time to reap their rewards yet?

(And they built a hall of mirrors in that cave, each one showing the reality of their world, but it could not be comprehended...)

They don't talk about the past much. They occasionally bring it up when they're fighting – which, admittedly, is often – but apart from that, they don't. They both know the other thinks about it all lot – she's heard him cry out her name in the middle of the night, when he's screaming in those hauntingly visceral nightmares of her blood spreading before him, just like Lilly's. She is no longer naive, and understands perfectly his (and Lilly's) fire-cocaine fueled hyperlife. She prays every day that he's over that now (as much as she knows how to pray, anyway), and he says he is, but neither of them quite believe it.

She's still Little Miss Action Detective Barbie, and he doesn't like it, because he can't help feeling like it means she's got a metaphorical (or possibly literal) bullet with her name scratched on it somewhere. She thinks he may have a point, but she remains irrationally annoyed anyway – she needs to be the hero. Is she isn't that, and she isn't the sweetheart she used to be, then what is the point of her?

(What was the point of a hero too damn stupid to piece together the story of her own horrible violation; what was the point of a hero who didn't save all those innocent people?)

They want to be a normal couple, but he's a worse actor than Duncan was, and he's bringing her down. It starts with bowling and bows and her joking about his aftershave, but it always ends in calamity and fury – it seems to be the only rule they know.

They don't seem to want to go back, though – after all, they would never have each other like this 'back'. Then, she was Duncan's and he was Lilly's, and that was that. Neither of them want to be property, but they don't like this feeling of being adrift. They try to latch on to each other, but it never quite works.

Deep down, she wants him to remain contrite for his sins – he was the one who ruined her, after all, and maybe he was the one who forced her to live in this tough shell, so he has no right to complain when she ventures forth to hunt down the rapists and other scum, like he has forced her to do. She is tired of being brave and heroic, of always risking herself for everyone – but she knows all to well, if she doesn't help the lower down in this town, no-one else will.

Logan doesn't count as part of the lower down.

He half wishes he could make things simple again. That he could make the sweet friend he destroyed, and the new Veronica he loves into different people. That he could untangle the memory of Lilly from both of them. It never happens, of course – what's done is done, and Logan Echolls clearly inherited his father's crappy acting, so he can't pretend it isn't.

He watches time and time again as his dead girlfriend's voluptuous form melds into her best friend's smallness, right before his eyes, showing him a classical image, like a Greek goddess: something beautiful but deadly (or just dead, take your pick).