When trying to sleep on the seasick bed, Mac imagines that, one room over, Veronica's lips close around her father's cock in the outrageous hope that her silence will erase the situation. If she can't speak, she can't say either yes or no. Consent — when you're them, when you're V, when you're naked and shiver even when you're clothed — is not the point at which you enter. Cheerless puns about penetration aside, the entry point is sideways, backwards, long past and yet to come. Veronica doesn't ask herself why; when you're freefalling at midnight, maybe you don't need to look around to know where you'll falling to. Maybe you just keep your eyes screwed shut and when you open them you're sealed in a kiss, face too close to your father's, and the cheek you meant to peck before your date has become your father's whole mouth, open to you.
Maybe. The next morning, Mac tosses her hair, one green streak, one red streak. "Very seasonal," Keith said, in the awkward way that's still uncertain around her. What Mac doesn't get about the Marses is that they can be so polite, still, when she's crashed out in their apartment, working on network upgrades or doing SAT-II study prep with Veronica, when she eats dinner with them and sleeps in Veronica's empty room more nights than not. They're still unfailingly polite. And beyond good at pretending normalcy.
It's not the kind of question you ask, really, "Why are you fucking your father?" Because all the obvious reasons, the warmth of Keith's hug, the smile that Mac knows belongs to Veronica alone, the half-teary way he talks about her childhood, the way he can drag them both out of bed on a Saturday morning, french toast already on the stove, full of weekend plans that suggest he has only a passing acquaintance with irony. Mac, in the rare moments when she considers romance anything but a waste of time, would agree that Keith is an attractive man. But there is no casual conversation in the world that will connect, "Your dad is pretty hot," to "You're sleeping with your father."
Mac hasn't asked either Mars a question since Keith told her what her salary would be. Not, "Can I spend the night?" and not "Do you guys need any laundry done?" What chores she does she accomplishes in silence; whatever plans they make she's tacitly a part of. If she's supposed to protect Veronica, she's doing a loused-up job of it, but how was she supposed to know? Veronica's not exactly forthcoming with instructions, just, here. It's my waterbed. Enjoy.
While Veronica enjoys God knows what in her dad's bed. And Mac doesn't question. She would like, more than the uncomfy Veronica-interrogation, to ask Keith what the hell he thinks he's doing, but Keith's creepy, unfailing politeness suggests that — well, not to be mean about Veronica's lover or her dad but — Keith can't be sane, sleeping with his daughter. Veronica, she can almost understand, because Veronica and Mac, they click. They communicate, wordlessly, the byte-sized information they need to survive. And Veronica hasn't shot any warning signs in Mac's direction, no pleas for help — she's silent but not silenced, falling but functioning. Somehow, weirdly, normal.
"Hey." Halfway home from the library, Veronica takes a sideways step and pushes into Mac's shoulder. "You're quiet lately."
"Yeah…" Mac frowns. Finds the punchline. "I'm busy inventing a new vocabulary." In which there would be words for us.
"Now's a weird time to take up a new hobby. Shouldn't you be busy studying the vocabulary you have? Or, oh, say, helping me with mine? SAT? Mean anything to you?"
"Took it, passed it, waiting for my ship to come in."
"As in scholar?"
"That would be the ship, yes." What's the deal with you and Keith?
"We never talk anymore."
"Gee, I wonder why, Ms. Mars."
Veronica jogs for a second, spins in place, blocks Mac's path. She takes a deep breath and Mac tries to sneeze, or vomit, or faint, anything to prevent the confession, but she's too healthy, too sturdy, and can only look unavailable, untherapeutic, even unfriendly. Another deep breath from the mistress of denial, then shrugged shoulders. Never mind.
"Wait, wait. I'll listen."
"Maybe there's nothing to tell."
"Right. And maybe I'm perfectly fine with my non-college-bound ways, living in a teeny apartment with my best friend and her father, but…"
"You know that Wallace and I are still — I mean — that —"
"Oh, God, don't go all — I only meant you're the closest thing to a friend I have and I love you, but it's not exactly daisies to be sharing a house with you now that you're gone all —"
"Daisies?" And Veronica takes a step backward, almost tripping, tipsy in strappy high heels. Her face contorts into a strange, shapeless smile that reminds Mac of trying not to cry. And Mac thinks, Well, there's a solution. It's ridiculous and unfair, but she's always wanted to, and if the circumstances aren't ideal, well, circumstances never are. Veronica's lips are glossy with fake plums and taste disgusting, and she kisses like she's had practice. Mac, not so lucky, has to fumble towards Veronica with both eyes open so she doesn't bump Veronica's nose or jar her out of the perfect, contemplative trance she's in, discovering new levels of the universe in Mac's awkward kiss.
Mac gives. Mac opens her mouth and lets her tongue recede and Veronica's invade, lets her eyes flutter shut, finally, lets her hands relax on Veronica's hips and lets Veronica pull her closer. She had hoped there would be more giggling, more false starts and relaxing before the sudden awful moment of necessity, but these are puzzling times that require the recalibration of ideals. This is the whole world blown to pieces and three refugees — two. She meant two, of course. She meant her and Veronica escaping, she meant dragging Veronica if necessary, pulling her out of the wreckage of her family and into a world less sordid, where they'd be poor but free.
She didn't mean for Veronica to be all smiles now, grabbing Mac's hand, her expression a hybrid of glee and arousal. She didn't mean for the streets between first kiss and home plate to vanish under her feet, while she clutches Veronica's hand. Someone here is someone else's life preserver.
She's supposed to be dragging Veronica out of this mess. Whenever it started, whyever it happened, whatever Veronica feels when Keith's inside her, Mac could fix it, make those feelings come from her. But Veronica's dragging her into it, dragging her under. They're on Keith's bed, waiting for him to come home from grocery shopping to find — what? A Christmas present? She lets go of Veronica's hand. "What now?"
Veronica shrugs, but happily. "Sometimes there just aren't words."
"Yeah, but —"
"I don't mean Dad and me. I mean us. I mean, I'd like you to be my friend. I want you to understand."
"I don't think I want to understand, Veronica. I don't think I want to know. I don't think I want to touch him, knowing that — knowing that he could — God."
Veronica's face descends into a frown. Like it was supposed to go down some other way, like it was supposed to be easy? Like Mac would just fall into bed and spread her legs and suddenly there'd be understanding. She wants to run back home; even her fake, made-up family, rightfully Madison's, would be better than becoming part of Veronica's, blood-related and shrinking hourly into a smaller, tighter black hole of affection.
It's only curiosity that keeps her, the original Mars defect that's rubbed off on her from working with them, the urge to get to the bottom of the mystery. That's what's kept her listening to the silence — the possibility that there might be an explosion one day, light and sound that would clarify the weirdness, right the wrongness, make it possible for Keith to be noble and Veronica fierce, for them to be still themselves and also fucking.
It's the fucking that has Mac shuddering. Somehow, the rest of it is abnormal but acceptable — because Veronica is poor (like Mac) and an adult (like Mac) and capable, able-bodied, smart (no comment, but yeah). Of course she would live with her father till college funds come through; of course she works for him, of course they do domestic chores and house-fixing type labor together. If Mac had a father with a career half as cool is Keith's, she'd spend most of her time hacking into his stuff, same as V. Only. Veronica's stopped looking for that one big case, the one that'll crack open to reveal a cool mil just waiting to be pilfered, and she's started looking at her dad not as a bank or a runway but as the final answer. When Keith's hand curls under Veronica's chin and she smiles up at him, she's got forever in her eyes.
So she waits, with Veronica, for the evening's entertainment. And when Keith joins them, his body depresses the bed and Mac slides towards his gravity, Veronica unties his shoes and strips off his socks and kisses his mouth as naturally as she kissed Mac. She winks.
Keith greets Mac with a grave nod, and she prepares her first question. Like she's a prize-winning journalist and Veronica's her trusty photographer, like they've caught a pedophile in the act and are going to get the interview if it kills them. But Keith holds up a hand, and shakes his head. His eyes meet Mac's with something like pleading, and she can't convince herself to voice the accusation. She puts a fist to her mouth and bites, and Veronica sits cross-legged, waiting.
There's no reason, noble or ignoble, sexual or sane, for Mac to stay. Only, she should wait for a better answer than Keith looming, Veronica shrinking, than Veronica falling and Keith following, lifting her shirt as she collapses backward onto his bed, pressing her fingers to her waistband and letting both Keith and Mac see the hint of black lace that's covering her pubes. Mac swallows hard, because she remembers this part, as coherent as a daydream, as fantastic as a nightmare. Veronica lifts her skirt and Mac goes diving.
If she could just ignore Keith — no, better if she could reimagine Keith as no one's father, then the audible scratch of his stubble when he kisses Veronica, the growl when he releases her, the unmistakable loft of an erect cock under his jeans would all be attractive — no, Mac can see how they would be arousing, how they are arousing, how Veronica's breathing has speeded up and her arms are flung around Keith's back, pulling him into a deeper kiss and letting his hips fall so that his cock is somewhere between Veronica's thighs. If he weren't her father, though, if this were some fictional PI that they'd picked up at a bus stop, already composing his letter to Penthouse, then the look in his eyes would be pure lust and it's not. He watches Veronica like she's buried treasure just lately brought to light. Keith is intense and almost scary, his grip on Veronica's wrists unwavering, his scent a little too strong — Mac wrinkles her nose but — Keith loves his daughter.
Keith, thrusting blindly, still clothed and reaching for a condom, Keith, who lifts his head and gestures with a sob for Mac to come closer, Keith, who unsnaps his jeans and works the zipper down with his eyes closed, perched on the edge of the bed, pretending — Keith loves his daughter.
Mac would grow wings and Veronica would cling tightly to her shoulders, and they would fly away and never look back to the sad, divorced man in this dark room, but in the absence of superpowers Mac bends her head and gives Veronica a kiss that could be surrender, could be acceptance. Either way Veronica lifts fingers to Mac's cheeks, pulls her into a sweet, puckery kiss that isn't angry. When Keith is naked and the condom rolled onto an erection that Mac's pointedly not looking at, Veronica props herself onto her elbows and adjusts herself so she's lying in Mac's lap, so that Mac can toy with her hair, can protect her. Keith removes Veronica's skirt and touches a question to the lace between her legs; Veronica thrusts her legs apart in answer, spread so wide Mac's own hips ache in sympathy. Keith's too skilled at removing lingerie; the lace is so shiny and sheer it should come off in tatters, wet with come, but instead it's set aside in one piece, folded, neat, and Keith's thumb slides cleanly into Veronica's cunt. Veronica bucks and grinds against his touch, lifting herself from Mac's lap and into Keith's hand. And Mac, far beneath, is starting to shake with trying to stay sober, with not-wanting, not-taking, not-being. Because she's certainly not here, not witness and not jury, and when Keith's fingers pinch Veronica's clit Mac's certainly not watching, doesn't bite her tongue to stifle her own sob.
If she's supposed to balance them, to lend her weight to their insanity, she won't. She's tipped them overboard, she thinks. The presence of a third makes it real, appends consequences to betrayal. She hasn't kissed Keith yet but she's thinking ahead to — to tomorrow, or another day, when they have kissed and fucked and shared — to a time when they'll be real. Keith leans forward, still working at Veronica's cunt, and tilts his head toward Mac's for a kiss. She leans too. A strand of green hair falls over her eyes. Keith's face twists into a smile, or a smirk. "Definitely festive," he says, and Veronica laughs. Mac's lost all words — her hand is tangled in Veronica's hair. She can hear the tremble in Veronica's moaning every time Keith finds her clit again. Keith's kiss is rough on her face, warmth on her lips, slick tongue deep inside and the shivery, sobbing sound of Veronica Mars climaxing around her father's fingers.
Veronica falls, exhausted, into the safety of Mac's lap. I've got you, Veronica. You're my girl now, too. Her mouth is wide to admit Keith's kiss, or to forgive him.