A/N I know I probably need my head examined for starting another multi-chapter story right now, but I just can't help myself. I got this idea about 2 weeks ago, and I've been playing around with it ever since.

For this one, I'm opting for short chapters so I can (hopefully) get them posted weekly. I'm also writing this in third-person omniscient POV, which I never EVER do. But I like a challenge, and it's sort of fun playing god. Muahahaha! ;)

I'm trying to make this accessible to people who haven't read the book (or seen one of the movies), but it'll probably be more enjoyable if you're familiar with the story. I can't tell you how much fun it is for me to combine one of my favorite books with one of my favorite shows. Hope you enjoy :)

Chapter 1

Everyone knew the Mars sisters. There were five of them, all between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, and they were all beautiful. While it was well known that the family was in some financial difficulty, they were still universally considered to be part of Neptune's elite. Their mother came from the wealthy and well-respected Reynolds family, whose ancestors dated back to the very founding of the town. This, combined with the fact that their house was located in the finest part of the prestigious 90909 zip code, had secured their place in Neptune's high society since birth.

But people did love to talk. They whispered about how Lianne Mars had squandered away the family fortune. There were rumors that she'd charged over $50,000 in a single day, on a shopping spree with her girls; that she'd chartered a private jet to take her to L.A. for a luncheon one afternoon, so that she didn't have to sit in traffic. Most of all, there were rumors about the thousands a week she reportedly spent on a specific type of rare French vodka. Everyone knew how much the woman liked her alcohol.

Her husband, Keith, had been Sheriff for almost twenty years. It was a position many felt had been bought, rather than earned, back when he'd first gotten the job. His victory over the incumbent had been quite unexpected, given that he was new in town and just 19 years old. Rumor had it that the Reynolds family had somehow fixed the election, to secure their new son-in-law a respectable job in the public eye. But over the years, he'd come to be thought of as a fair and wise man; he was both well-liked and well-respected by the entire town. No one was sure why he tolerated Lianne's elaborate spending (or her drinking), but they would certainly never question him about it to his face.

The Neptunian's knew, though, that whatever was still left of the old Reynolds' fortune wasn't sure to last much longer. "One of those Mars' girls needs to land a doctor," was a phrase that was often bandied about town. Yet Lianne and Keith's daughters were picky about who they dated. The two eldest in particular, Megan and Veronica, remained an elusive prize for the single men of Neptune High. While they were regular fixtures at social functions, beach parties and school dances, they rarely dated and never seriously.

The truth was, they were much happier in each other's company than they were in the company of nearly anyone else. In addition to that, Meg was rather shy, and hated going anywhere alone. So they'd stuck together since childhood. Many joked that Meg and Veronica were the real twins, not Lilly and Gia. Aside from looking much more alike than their fifteen year old sisters, they absolutely never argued. Lilly, on the other hand, enjoyed antagonizing her twin more than any other pastime- with the exception of flirting with boys.

"Lilly! That's my halter top!" Gia complained. "I told you to stop wearing my clothes. You always end up stretching them out, with those ridiculous boobs of yours."

Lilly rolled her eyes and took a sip of orange juice. "You're just jealous because you're as flat as this." She snickered and held up her pancake.

Gia crossed her arms over her chest self-consciously. "Meg! Make her give it back to me."

Before Meg could speak up, Lilly snorted. "Oh please. It's not like you don't have eight million other halter tops." She sighed heavily. "And it's not like we have anyone to show off to, anyway. Every single person we know is in Mexico." She shot Veronica a sour look.

Veronica caught her look, but returned an innocent smile. "You act like it's my fault that we couldn't go. You know very well that Mom and Dad couldn't afford to send all five of us down there for the week."

Lilly made a face. "Don't play dumb. We know that Dick offered to pay for all of us to go. Why didn't you just let him?"

"Because then he would have expected something in return," Veronica replied calmly, turning the page of her newspaper. She'd just started to read again when Lilly interrupted her.

"Well so what?" she demanded. "He's rich, cute, fun… Everyone knows he's been in love with you since you guys were, like, five. I'll never understand why you won't date him."

Meg and Veronica exchanged glances. Dick Casablancas was a bit of a sore subject for Veronica; she'd managed to put off his advances for years, keeping things strictly in the friend zone. But he'd been getting a certain look in his eye lately that was starting to make Veronica very nervous. She'd been more than happy to forego his big Spring Break bash in Mexico.

Veronica took a sip of her tea and turned to Lilly. "I just don't have feelings like that for him."

"So?" Gia spoke up, halter top theft forgotten. "Fake it. At least that way, we could all be partying our butts off down in Cancun, at some cabana on the beach-"

"Instead of wasting away in Neptune," Lilly finished, sighing dramatically. She shook her head at Veronica. "Now that he's about to go Pro, all of the little surf bunnies are just dying to snap him up. You're nuts if you don't at least give him a chance."

Veronica laughed. "Are we talking about the same Dick? The guy who called you Lilly Longstocking for, like, three years?"

"Don't forget Lilly the Kid," Gia said, giggling.

"And Lilly Goat," Meg added with a smile.

Lilly opened her mouth to retort, but Parker finally spoke up. "We're all too young to be partying in Cancun anyway. I've heard things get pretty crazy down there. There are all kinds of contests where men try and get girls to take off their tops, and…" she lowered her voice to a whisper, looking horrified "…people have sex right on the beach!"

Veronica and Meg both suppressed smiles at their naïve younger sister. Although Parker was sixteen years old and very pretty, she was by far the least experienced (and the least popular) of her sisters. While she was both intelligent and accomplished, there was nothing about her that stood out. She lacked Meg's sweetness and Veronica's spirit, Gia's playfulness and Lilly's charm. It was almost as though the order of her birth had destined her for a life of mediocrity. Parker never seemed to mind, much. She claimed that she'd gladly turn down a date for a night at home with her piano, any day of the week- but that may have been because she was rarely asked.

Lilly just rolled her eyes, dismissing her sister's conservative viewpoint as always. "Big deal. Mom lets us do whatever we want and you know it. Besides, everyone hooks up when they're on vacation." She glanced at Veronica pointedly. "Maybe if Dick had seen me in my new red bikini, he would have realized that he's been chasing after the wrong sister. I mean, one of us needs to land a rich guy, right? It may as well be me."

With that, she stood up and left the room. Gia followed after a moment, bored with her older sisters, who were all reading silently. A short time later, Parker announced that she needed to go practice piano, and wandered into the study. Veronica tried to continue the article she'd been reading, but she found she was too distracted. She folded up the paper and stared out the window.

Meg, who was extremely attuned to her younger sister's moods, placed a ribbon in the book she'd been reading and closed the cover. "What's up?"

"I hate that term. 'Land a rich guy'," Veronica replied, making a face. "But the sad fact is, Lilly's right. You and I both know that things are bad- worse than even Dad is willing to admit. If Mom keeps spending the way she is, we could lose the house." She stirred her tea absently. "At least one of us has to do something to improve our financial situation, after we graduate… But I, for one, intend to do it by starting a business, or becoming a famous photographer. Not by marrying someone for their money."

Meg looked thoughtful. "I'd do it," she admitted after a moment. "If things got really bad for the family."

Veronica looked at her in surprise. "You would? Even if you didn't love the guy?"

"Well… I'd prefer to love him. But I could make it work, if I had to."

"You're a better person than I am," Veronica replied, shaking her head. "I'm not crazy about the idea of getting married as it is. And I definitely wouldn't put up with some guy I didn't love, just because Mom likes to piss away our money on spa days and boo-."

Veronica stopped speaking abruptly as her parents walked into the sun room, taking a quick sip of her tea to explain away the silence. Lianne, who was still in her nightgown, sat down wordlessly and poured herself a large mug of black coffee. Keith, in his uniform, greeted them with a big smile. He dropped a quick kiss on each of their heads as he reached across the table for a Danish, and then he pulled up a chair next to Veronica.

Keith would never admit it aloud, and he tried his best not to show it, but he couldn't help favoring Veronica over his other daughters. Their personalities were extremely similar, and they'd always shared a very close bond. Despite growing up with wealth and privilege, his second born was extremely grounded. Veronica cared far less about appearance than she did about substance; she had friends from all different types of social backgrounds, never seeming bothered when people whispered that she was "slumming it" with her friends from the 90902 zip code. Keith, who had grown up solidly middle class himself, was proud of his daughter's integrity.

"Good morning, girls." He nodded at the newspaper. "Anything I need to know about before I head to work?"

"Apparently Crazy Girls re-opened their lunch buffet. So if you happen to be on the seedier end of Pacific Ave later, you may want to keep that in mind," Veronica joked.

"Good looking out, kiddo. Do you think they offer a discount to law men?"

"Not sure. But there's a coupon in here for a free lap dance. Sacks has been looking kind of lonely since his last breakup. Maybe this will cheer him up?" she suggested.

"All right," Lianne finally spoke up. "Enough of that." She turned to her husband. "Don't forget, we have the Black and White Charity Ball at the Albacore Club tonight."

"Uh…" Keith replied. He hastily took a bite of his Danish and avoided his wife's eyes.

"Keith," she whined. "I told you about this a million times. Are you seriously making me go to another function alone?"

"I'm sorry, honey," he apologized. "I forgot. I promised that I'd train the new kid, Leo, for a few hours after my shift ends tonight."

"Well can't you make someone else do it? Isn't that one of the benefits of being Sheriff?" she demanded.

"You know I like to train all of the new guys myself. I let Lamb train Sacks, and look at how well that turned out," Keith joked, trying to lighten the situation. "I promise to come to the next one."

Lianne sighed and looked down at her coffee, and Keith flashed Veronica a quick grin and a wink. She knew very well that he'd scheduled the training for tonight on purpose. He despised social functions, especially the ones that required dressing up in a tuxedo. But he didn't like making his wife unhappy, so he always found a way to make up for his absence. Today, his plan was to appease her with a piece of gossip- one of her very favorite things.

"So," he began, "I met a very interesting young man yesterday. Someone new in town."

His wife glanced up, her interest piqued. "Oh?"

"Pulled him over for a broken brake light, right down the road from here. Turns out, he just moved into that vacant house on Netherfield Lane." Keith kept his voice casual, taking another bite of his Danish. But his wife was reacting exactly as he'd anticipated. She leaned towards him, her eyes widening and her cheeks flushed.

"Do you remember his name? Rumor has it one of the Kane's bought that house, but no one has been able to confirm it yet," Lianne said.

"Kane?" Keith asked, feigning confusion. "Hmm. Doesn't sound familiar."

"Yes, yes, Kane," Lianne told him impatiently. "You know, as in Kane Software? There's been talk of them opening up a new branch of the company right here in town, some type of research and development complex. Haven't you heard any of this?"

Veronica and Meg looked back and forth from one parent to the other, listening with interest. Jake Kane, founder of Kane Software, was a multi-millionaire. And rumors had been flying at Neptune High for weeks that his teenage son might be moving to town. Apparently, he was grooming his son to one day take over the company.

Keith smiled widely at his wife. "You know what? As a matter of fact, I do think his name was Kane. Yes. I'm certain of it. Duncan Kane."

Lianne clasped her hands together in delight. "That's him, that's Jake Kane's son! Oh, wait until I tell Natalie and Barb, they always get all the good gossip first. And you actually met him! To think, the heir to Kane Software living just a block away…" She glanced at her daughters, and then looked back at Keith. "I just know he'll want to meet the girls."

"Naturally," Keith agreed. "Meeting our daughters was no doubt his sole reason for moving to Neptune."

His sarcasm was lost on Lianne, who was still talking excitedly. "What if he falls for one of them? Can you imagine?" She reached out and stroked Meg's hair back, looking at her daughter proudly. "Oh, of course he will! Just look at this face. 'Megan Kane' has a nice ring to it, doesn't it sweetheart?" She turned back to her husband, not waiting for a response. "We have to figure out a way to run into him again, this time with the girls."

"How about a yard sale?" Keith suggested, winking at Veronica again. "We could line them all up on a bench, let him have his pick? For a modest price, of course. I think I have a Sharpie, somewhere… How should we price them? Age? Height? Hair color?"

Veronica burst out laughing; she couldn't help it. Her mother shot her a look of annoyance. Lianne was well aware that Keith got along with Veronica better than the other girls; sometimes, the two of them seemed to be speaking a language that no one else understood. She resented their closeness a bit; she'd never had that kind of relationship with Veronica. In fact, she'd always had a sneaking suspicion that Veronica didn't think very highly of her.

"We'll see who's laughing when Meg sails off into the sunset on the Kane yacht," Lianne retorted.

Veronica just smiled, used to her mother's moodiness. "Meg, do you have anything to say about this? Or are you content to be, quite literally, shipped off with a complete stranger?"

"Well, I'd obviously prefer to meet him once or twice, first," Meg joked.

"Your wish is my command," Keith replied.

Lianne looked around the room, as though Duncan were about to reveal himself at any moment. When he didn't appear, she turned to her husband. "And what do you mean by that?"

"Well, after some keen detective work, I discovered that the young Kane heir himself will be attending the Black and White Ball tonight," he replied.

"What?" Lianne gasped. "What detective work? How do you know that?"

"From years on the job, I've learned to look and listen carefully for clues. I assure you, he'll be there," Keith told her.

Lianne stood up abruptly, grabbing Meg's hand and pulling her up from the table. "We have to go shopping immediately."

"What?" Meg asked, resisting her mother's grasp. "Why? I already have a dress picked out, remember? The one I wore to Aunt-"

"No, no, no. You can't wear that. Not now. We have to get you something new. I want you to look stunning tonight." She turned to her other daughter, feeling slightly guilty for leaving her out. "Veronica? Do you want to come shopping with us?"

"No thanks," Veronica smiled. "I'm good."

Lianne turned to Keith. "Not a word to anyone, okay? If people hear Duncan Kane is coming to the ball, they'll know to look their best. Meg has an edge over the competition, and we want to keep it that way."

"It'll be tough, but I'll try and restrain myself from telling the guys down at the station," Keith replied. His wife nodded at him very seriously and left the room, towing an unhappy but obedient Meg behind her.

Veronica grinned at her dad. "Why do you insist on encouraging her?"

Keith shrugged, returning her smile. "I can't help it."

"So can I guess what your keen detective work was?"

"Shoot."

"You saw an invitation to the ball in his car, and you asked him if he was going?" Veronica guessed.

Keith chuckled. "You might just have a future in this biz, kid." He stood up and reached across the table for another Danish. "If this Duncan boy is as smart as his old man, you may just give Meg a run for her money." With that, he kissed her on the cheek and headed out the door to go to work.

"Odds are, he's just another spoiled, vapid rich boy," Veronica muttered to herself. "No thank you." She stared out the window again, wondering if she'd ever meet a man who she didn't get bored of within the first few minutes. Someone who challenged her, excited her. Someone who was her intellectual equal. "Well, if I ever do, it certainly won't be at a Neptune Charity Ball." She re-opened the newspaper and continued to read, enjoying the rare silence.

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