A/N 1: First ever "Veronica Mars" story. Thanks for taking the time to read!

A/N 2: Cover image by my wonderful friend Kait.

Veronica slowly opened her eyes and looked around at the serene atmosphere of the pool. She was on a lounge chair in the center of the pool completely alone as hundreds of flowers lazily floated around her. The sun was warm but she wasn't sweating and she knew that she could lie out there all day and never get thirsty. Looking down she saw she was wearing a strapless red satin cocktail dress. She blinked her eyes in confusion.

Why am I wearing this dress? How did I get here? Where is Lilly? Lilly is always here. Why isn't she here?

All of these questions rushed through her brain in a flash, but she was too tired to focus on figuring out the answers. In fact, the more she tried to make sense of the dress, and where Lilly was, and whose pool she was in, the more tired she became. So she closed her eyes again trying to get a few more minutes of sleep.

A voice interrupted her doze and before she opened her eyes she smiled. That voice was unmistakable.

"Veronica Mars, truth or dare."

She opened her eyes and looked at Lilly Kane in her barely there red bikini, mischief in her eyes. Veronica would know that look anywhere. Regardless of whether she selects truth or dare, she's sunk because Lilly has a plan. Veronica took a breath and answered, "Truth."

"When is my birthday?"

Veronica propped herself up on her elbows to get a better look at Lilly. She wasn't expecting that. "Lilly, what kind of a question is that?"

Lilly blew off Veronica's criticism and responded, "It's my question. So, answer please. Unless you don't remember when my birthday is."

"Of course I do, it's…it's…um…" Again, the harder Veronica focused, the harder it was for her to recall this seemingly small but oh so significant detail.

"Okay, follow up question. How did you and I meet?"

Veronica looked at Lilly panic stricken as Lilly lay her head back down with a satisfied grin on her face. "That's what I thought. So much for a promise."

"I haven't forgotten you, Lilly. Really, I haven't."

"Actions speak louder than words Veronica Mars. We used to be important to each other Veronica. We all used to be important to you. But I'm dead, Donut's MIA, and Logan…"

Veronica looked down at her dress again and it saw it had turned into a knee length, a-line yellow cotton sun dress. Although the fabric looked like it should be light weight, it was becoming increasingly heavy and Veronica could feel it sinking her lounge chair. The water from the pool started to come up on her chair, and the more she pulled at the fabric of the dress to get it off of her, the heavier it became.

She looked to Lilly and pleaded, "Lilly, what should I do?" She panicked, knowing that if she didn't get this dress off of her, she was going to drown.

"I can't tell you anymore Veronica. You have to decide for yourself. What do you want to do?"

Veronica knew she didn't want to wear this dress. She ripped it off of her in one fail swoop, revealing a red bikini identical to Lilly's. Lilly grinned at Veronica, but she wasn't finished.

"I don't want to be here anymore, Lilly. I can't keep coming back here." And without letting her best friend say a word, Veronica jumped off the lounge chair and into the pool.

Veronica woke up with a start and instinctively looked down at what she was wearing. Grey sweat pants. Black tank top. The back of her neck was wet, but she was certain it was a result of the cold sweat she broke into from the dream and not from having gone swimming. Rolling over onto her side she turned on her bedside lamp and looked at her alarm clock. 2:15 AM.

Well, as good as time as any to start studying.

She sat up, took a long drink of water from the full glass on her night stand and stood up, giving her eyes time to adjust to the light.

Veronica had dreamt countless variations of the same dream over the past few years. It was always her and Lilly together floating in a pool of flowers. Usually she was content to stay in the pool floating alongside her best friend forever. She'd never jumped off the raft before. That was new.

As Veronica searched her room for her books, she tried to make sense of it all.

It's been eight years since Lilly died, six years since Duncan fled the country, four years since Logan and I dated, and yet somehow I always end up back in Neptune in my dreams.

Having found her cardiovascular physiology text book and her medical ethics case studies, Veronica slid her feet into her Stewie Griffin slippers, and she plodded her way into the living room, turning on the tall living room lamp as she went.

Half of her study supplies were still splayed out on the coffee table: pencils, highlighters, 100 different colors of post-it notes and post-it flags. She'd developed a complicated series of mnemonic devises and methods that only made sense to her. She sat her text books down on the coffee table before heading into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, being extra careful not to wake up her roommate.

She waited as the water began to boil and mused that perhaps one of the reasons she was one of the top students in her class is because few of her classmates routinely study between the hours of 2am-5am.

Turning off the stove top before the kettle began to whistle, she poured the steaming water into her mug, and practiced in a quiet whisper, "Veronica Mars, M.D."

She almost burst out laughing at how absurd that sounded. But, medical school was a means to an end. At times, the hundreds of dollars in text books on her bookshelf were the only proof she had that this was actually the career path she had chosen.

She assumed her standard study position: couch cushions properly stacked up against the arm of the couch, which allowed her to remain upright while extending her legs out in front of her. Cup of tea placed on the corner of the coffee table closest to her, and her post-it flags and three highlighters poised over her text book. Her study process was slow and tedious, but worth it.

If her time as a PI had taught her anything, it was that slow and seemingly tedious actions were often the most significant.

Her living room study set up was perfect, but it had taken her several months her first year of medical school to get it just right. She discovered several things over the course over those first months:

1) while 2am-5am was prime Veronica Mars study time, without fail she'd fall asleep between 5am-5:30am. Propping herself up against the arm of the couch prevented her from waking up with a crick in her neck.

2) Switching highlighters, colors of flags, colors of notecards, and colors of pens she used to write on notecards forced her to stay on high alert which made sure she didn't lose focus while studying.

3) The tea had to go on the corner of the coffee table lest she spill the full cup on herself (which she had done approximately three times), or kick it over forgetting she had placed it on the floor (which she had done more times than she could count.)

Currently in her second year of medical school, she realized that if med school had taught her anything, it was that systems had a place, and were in fact necessary to succeed. Veronica yawned and looked at her watch, realizing she only had a few more minutes before she drifted off to sleep.

She focused her eyes on her case studies as she moved her lips along with the words, reading silently to herself. Should lifestyle factors be considered in the allocation of scarce lifesaving medical resources?

She lost focus for a second as her mind jumped to her mother, the poster child for poor lifestyle factors if there ever was one.

If Lianne Mars, noted alcoholic, needed a liver transplant, would I recommend that she be on the donor list?

It was hard to say whether it was the weight of the question or the weight of her thoughts, but without her conscious knowledge, her blue highlighter slipped out of her grasp and her head softly touched the pillows propped up behind her just as the analog clock on her stove turned to 5:12 AM.

She was woken up by a hand extending a cup of coffee under her nose and a low "Tsk, tsk, tsk." Veronica opened one eye with a groan and looked at the person quietly scolding her. She propped herself up, took the cup of coffee and inhaled before closing her eyes once more.

"Seriously, Veronica, this is getting out of hand."

"What time is it?"

"7:00am. How much sleep did you get?"

"More than most nights. Maybe four hours total?"

"Come on, get up. You have to get out the door in 30 minutes or you'll be late to class."

"But…coffee?" she said, sticking her lip out and giving her best pathetic whimper.

"I'll get you a straw and you can drink it in the shower."

Veronica glared at her best friend and gave a groan, melodramatically standing up and taking one step towards the bathroom before reeling around and fixing Wallace with a stare. "8:00am classes…"

"Are the root of all evil. And just a way for the power hungry administration to break down the week willed students," Wallace finished for her.

Veronica smirked and tilted her chin up communicating that she had yet to begin her tirade. "Exactly, but…"

"But, you are Veronica Mars. And you're stronger than them and you will not be thwarted by their attempts to crush your spirit. Come on, it's the home stretch. One more final and you're done."

Veronica looked both a combination of impressed and bemused. "So, you've heard this speech of mine before?"

"Every day for the past two years. You need some new material."

"I'll think of some when I get some sleep."

"Mush! Mush!" Wallace shouted, pretending to crack a whip in Veronica's direction.

Veronica immediately jumped and turned around making noises like a young pup that had just gotten caught chewing up her mom's shoe.

She closed the door behind her, took a large gulp of her coffee, marveling for the approximately two-hundredth time that year at how Wallace was able to prepare it perfectly, and then sat her mug on the bathroom counter beside the sink.

Pointing at the coffee she said, "I'll be back for you in a minute," challenging the mug to disagree with her. Looking in the mirror, she moved her head a little closer to get a better look at her reflection as she pulled the skin under her eyes taught, noticing that the dark circles under her eyes were getting a little out of control.

"Get it together Veronica Mars" she muttered to herself, pulling back from the mirror.

As she pulled back, her eyes immediately shot to the bottom right corner of her mirror where Lilly Kane was staring back at her. She was perched lazily on the edge of Veronica's bathtub and shaking her head, almost perfectly replicating the same "tsk, tsk, tsk" sound Wallace had made just moments earlier.

"So if you can't keep going back there, where will you go, Veronica Mars?"

At the sound of Lilly's voice, Veronica whipped her head around and stared at the edge of the tub, now Lilly-less. She turned back towards the mirror. No Lilly in sight, but if possible, the circles under her eyes managed to look even more pronounced.

She pulled the shower curtain back, turning on the water to heat up. She turned back towards the mirror and this time it she was shaking her head in disapproval. "Hello, my name is Veronica Mars and I'll be your doctor today. Yes, I recently spent some time in a psychiatric facility, but I hope that doesn't cause you to believe that I am ill qualified to handle your care."

Veronica was snapped back to reality by a voice on the other side of the door. "Stop talking to yourself, you crack pot. This train must leave the station in 25 minutes."

"You don't have to be rude about it!"

Less than an hour later, Veronica sat in Room 204 of Slavin Hall for the last time that semester. She looked around and grinned at her classmates, marveling at how all of them handled the stress of medical school in vastly different ways. Some definitely better than others.

You had the front row students, sitting with stacks of notecards, quizzing themselves just one more time before the professor arrived. You had the back row students who subsisted on mostly of caffeine and over the counter products combined in potentially dangerous ways.

My lord, medical students have got to be some of the most self-destructive people in the entire world.

Veronica was a third row student, meaning that she was one of the most well-adjusted in the bunch. Sure she drank more coffee than Howard Schultz himself, and she consistently got four hours of sleep a night, but looking around her she couldn't but help think, I showered, my socks match, and I'm wearing clean underwear.

Dr. Jeffers entered the lecture hall, and the already quiet room became deathly silent. "Is that fear I smell? So early in the morning?"

He grabbed the stack of exams out of his brief case and sat it on the desk before stopping at the front row and smirking at all the students putting away their flash cards. "If you don't know the material by now, there's really no hope for you."

He then proceeded to the end of each row handing the first person sitting there a stack of exams, indicating he wanted them to pass the exam to the next student in their row. As the slow and methodical rhythm of a much less exciting version of "ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall" transpired, Dr. Jeffers gave his final pieces of instruction.

"You have two hours to complete the final. I trust you've all brought a blue book. If you haven't, you have approximately forty-five seconds to beg, borrow, or steal one from one of your classmates. The exam is made up of four different essay questions. The final essay requires you to develop your own credo for medical ethics and defend it using examples from readings and course lecture. You must support your work, anecdotal evidence is not sufficient. Any questions?"

Dr. Jeffers paused for approximately five seconds and four hands shot into the air. "No questions? Well then, you may begin…now."

Veronica's neighbor, a pretty red-haired girl that she had talked to once or twice while having drinks with classmates, turned to her as she passed the stack of exams. "You ready for this?"

Veronica gave a glib chuckle, and continued to pass the stack answering, "We'll see. Good luck!"

"You too." Veronica paused for just a moment to take a look at her.

Becca, right? For crying out loud Veronica, you've had eight classes with her. You have GOT to work on your people skills.

Veronica turned her attention to the exam and for at least the fiftieth time that semester chided herself for thinking medical school was a good choice.

What am I doing? Medical ethics? If I had known becoming a medical examiner would actually require me to, you know, go to medical school I would have seriously reconsidered my options.

With one final sigh, a part of her wishing that all of medical school had been an elaborate dream she was about to wake up from, she read the first essay question.

"In light of developments in 21st century medicine, how would you revise or modify the Hippocratic Oath? Support your conclusions referencing at least three different ethical studies."

Veronica read all four essay questions, and all promised to be challenging in their own right. She had no choice but to dive in, but she was having a hard time focusing. She shook her head as if to clear the cobwebs and, looking at the clock, realized that she had wasted seven minutes of the two hours. Two precious minutes had been spent trying to remember the name of the girl sitting next to her.

Bethany. It was definitely Bethany. Or maybe Brittany?

For another three minutes she had mentally prepared a satisfactory argument for her dad as to why medical school was not going to work out, and she had spent the past two minutes rubbing her tongue over her teeth trying to remember if she had flossed.

Figuring that zone out time was over, she picked up her pencil, flicked her nose with her thumb like a boxer about to enter the ring, and set to work.

After putting the period on her final sentence, Veronica looked up to see she had thirty minutes remaining. She put her pencil down and read over her work, making a few corrections here and there, but overall she was satisfied with what she had accomplished.

She looked around her classroom and saw that about two-thirds of her classmates were still working. All the back row kids had turned in their exams and undoubtedly gone to Costco to buy cases of Five Hour Energy in preparation for next semester. The front row kids were still there, and she knew they'd use every last second to complete their work. Third row Veronica Mars, on the other hand, knew she had aced this exam, and had no problem leaving class 15 minutes before her time was up.

Veronica put her pencil in her messenger bag, placed the exam in the middle of her blue book, and gave a half wave to Bailey? It starts with a B and ends with a Y, I am certain, before heading up to turn in her final.

The one thing about medical school that she still couldn't get over was how proud she was of the work she was accomplishing. She had never worked harder in her life, but each time she got an exam returned to her with the wonderful and amazing "A" it gave her a shot of motivation to keep going.

She knew some of her friends questioned her sudden change in plans. Transferring to UCLA before her sophomore year and then moving to Chicago for medical school seemed impulsive and undoubtedly a plan for failure, but Veronica was more motivated to make this work than anything else she had ever put her mind to.

After her internship with the FBI the summer after her freshman year of college she went back to Neptune to stay with her dad for a few weeks before the fall term at Hearst began. She figured she'd earn a little extra cash and selected a file for an open and shut cheating husband case. Get the money shot, show the money shot to the wife, get the cash. Unfortunately, this was not your typical cheating husband case.

She was run off the side of the road having been made taking photos of the sleazy interlude at the Camelot, and then had a gun held to her head by the mistress herself. Veronica had decided enough was enough. While this event was a relatively light piece of straw, the proverbial camel had been beaten down, left for dead, and violated so many times that it didn't have the strength to put up a fight.

The straw won.

So, yes the initial decision to move to LA for a fresh start was impulsive. But the decision to pursue being a medical examiner was not. Veronica figured it would help satisfy the scratch she had to work towards a greater good without putting her own life on the line on a daily basis.

Her dad was dubious, but she explained it would help them both sleep better at night. She never completely closed the door on the investigative path, always making sure she renewed her PI license and occasionally offering to help a classmate track down a random guy they met at a party or run a background check for anyone who swore up and down one of their professors was a psychopath.

Maybe she could end up being like that chick in Crossing Jordan? A badass M.E. slash detective with a smokin' hot partner. Jerry O'Connell alone seemed like a sufficient reason for the change in career path.

Veronica walked down the few stairs to the front of the classroom and placed her blue book on the stack on Dr. Jeffers' desk.

"How'd it go, Veronica?"

Most of her classmates hated Dr. Jeffers. They had decided early on that he was, What was the phrase my classmates often use? Giant tool box?, but Veronica had liked him from almost day one.

"I think okay."

Dr. Jeffers laughed at her modesty. "Aced it didn't you?"

Veronica responded by shrugging her shoulders and giving him a small smirk.

"Well, enjoy your break. You deserve it."

Veronica turned to leave, but paused to ask Dr. Jeffers a question before she did. "The red headed girl in the third row who I was sitting next to? What is her name?"

Dr. Jeffers smirked, "Bonny. With a Y."

"Hah! I knew it!"

Veronica turned away and this time actually left the classroom, pulling her cell phone out of her backpack to see if anyone had called or texted over the past two hours.

One text from Wallace: "Find it ironic that the girl who repeatedly broke into her principal's office is now taking an ethics exam. Get it girl!"

She laughed to herself and almost didn't notice the guy taking long strides to catch up with her as she walked down the hallway. When she finally noticed who it was, she knew what she was in for and did her best to steel herself. No one likes to be a bitch.

"Hey Veronica, how'd it go?"

"Hey, Devon. I think pretty well. How'd it go for you?"

"As well as can be expected I suppose."

Veronica stopped walking and turned to look at him. "Devon, I saw you turn in your exam 20 minutes ago. Were you waiting for me?"

Her straight forward question clearly caught him off guard. "Yeah, I just wanted to make sure to wish you a Merry Christmas."

"Well, Merry Christmas to you, too." Knowing that Devon most certainly did not want to simply wish her a Merry Christmas but having no desire to hear his actual reason, Veronica turned away quickly, cursing her 28 inch inseam preventing her from taking as long of strides as she wish she could.


Veronica heard the footsteps and groaned inwardly as Devon ran ahead of her and stopped her from walking any further down the hall.

"I also wanted to ask you if you wanted to go and get a cup of coffee, now that we're both done with finals." He looked down at her hopefully.

Shit, not again. What am I? The cuddly boy version of cat-nip?

Veronica was just thankful she actually had somewhere to be and didn't have to tell a bald faced lie to this soft and friendly boy who was essentially her medical school class' equivalent of Winnie the Pooh. If Winnie the Pooh was 5'11", had hazel green eyes, and dark hair. "Thanks for the invite, Devon, but I'm helping a friend with a project and a rolling stone gathers no moss."

"I don't know if that phrase means what you think it means. You don't have an hour for coffee?"

"My flight leaves early tomorrow, so I don't." Totally content to leave it there, but unable to be the source of Pooh's misery, she threw him a bone. "But, maybe when I get back?"

Devon knew it was a pity offer, and simply put his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, nodded his head once or twice and said, "Of course. Yeah. Sounds great."

"Merry Christmas."

"You too, Veronica." Giving her a small wave he headed back down the hallway as Veronica looked after him.

Holy hell! Is he actually walking with his head hanging?

Veronica continued her path down the hallway and pressed play on the self-flagellation track all cued up in her head.

Nice, handsome, kind pediatric student asks me on a date and I don't even seriously consider it? I may not be a doctor yet, but I know enough to know I need my head examined. Maybe when I get life sorted out, I'll ask him out for a cup of coffee?

Veronica looked back over her shoulder and saw Devon round the corner.

My life will probably be sorted out…hmmm…three years after never?

She turned back around and left the building, out into the sunshine, where she knew a case was waiting for her.

A/N 2: Beta-less and fancy free. Hit me up w/ a review!