Disclaimer: Characters are property of Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler, and Lemony "Daniel Handler" Snicket.
The first time was an accident.
They'd spent another agonizing day fleeing from Olaf. Violet was haggard, that was to say, she was pale and tired, and Klaus felt an ache so deeply for his sister, who was forced into the role of caretaker so very young, and he wanted only to comfort and show appreciation. He went to kiss her cheek, and was met with the unfortunate timing of her turning her head. Their lips met for only a second before the error was realized, and Klaus pulled away.
Sometimes, a second was all it took.
The second time was a mistake.
Violet had been sleeping, more or less peacefully (or at least, so her outward appearance would suggest - what images flashed behind those closed lids, he didn't know), and Klaus bent his lips to hers. He was the charming prince, trying to wake the sleeping beauty from the horror of her nightmares. It was his only role, or so he told himself. But when Violet's eyelashes fluttered as she struggled into consciousness, he stilled her with a whispered, "Shh, go back to sleep," and smoothed down her soft, dark hair, and knew he was far from a prince. He was beginning to suspect he was the villain.
The third time was a disaster.
They were both awake, both aware, and Klaus had stuttered that he loved her, and fumbled to kiss her. The quiet, smooth confidence that came with being a very intelligent individual had faded, as he was intelligent enough to know that this was very, very wrong. Of course, "wrong" was a difficult word to define. As someone who defined many words, Klaus knew that definitions were not infallible, that they altered and adapted over time, that they grew to suit society's need of them. But wrong could mean inappropriate, which this was, and also unacceptable, which this wasn't. Because, as he realized, Violet was not shying away. She remained perfectly still, and while she did not return his awkward ardor, she did not pull away from him, either. She was an inventor by nature, but a scientist at heart, waiting out the experiment to catalog the results.
Klaus released her, his sister, the taste of her chapped lips still on his own, the image of her tired eyes burned forever to the backs of his eyelids.
"Klaus," she said, one word, with a host of questions woven into the tone with which it was said. Confusion, for starters, and worry, and worst of all, shame. They were disgracing the name of Baudelaire.
Of course, Klaus thought, with a fierce stab of disloyalty, with all the information they were gathering on VFD, his parents were perhaps not as innocent as they seemed. Perhaps the name of Baudelaire was not as wonderful as Klaus had always believed it to be. Perhaps they were already tainted, damaged. Perhaps the stirrings he felt, the bouts of what he knew to be unnaturalness, weren't his fault at all. The questionable dealings of his parents had maybe ruined him for life.
"Klaus," said his sister, "why?"
When he answered, it was with startling honesty. "I don't really know."
Her eyes were dark and glittering with sadness. "You know it's wrong, don't you, Klaus?"
Sociopaths were people who knew the difference between right and wrong as well as anyone else, but unlike anyone else, simply did not care. Klaus was beginning to doubt his own sanity, wondering if he, too, was a sociopath, because while he knew this was wrong, knew that what he felt was wrong, he didn't particularly care. He didn't want to turn it off. He loved his sister, God save him, and while it caused him considerable agony, being anywhere near her gave him a sense of safety and comfort and happiness unlike anything else he had experienced since this ordeal had started.
Klaus did not doubt that were circumstances different, he would not be tortured with this. Were they not caring for Sunny, he wouldn't assign them to the surrogate mother and father roles. Were they actually home with their actual parents, leading actual, normal lives, he would not have developed this thirst for contact and connection. He gleaned this from his fondness for first Isadora, then Flora. Female companionship was hard to come by, it was only natural that he be attached to his sister.
There was a difference between attachment and obsession, however, and a difference between sisterly love and loving your sister.
In traditional Klaus fashion, he resorted to literature to sort out his situation. The same phrases kept popping up in the books he perused; "rape," "molestation." But aside from a few kisses, that as far as Violet was concerned, couldn't be construed as anything but innocent, brotherly affection (although who was he kidding; Violet was smarter than that), Klaus hadn't so much as touched her, gone near her, made his condition known. Was it truly incest if he didn't act on it?
Defining words became a lot more difficult for Klaus the older he got.
The fourth kiss was the finale to the first act. The prelude to an inevitable, disastrous conclusion. The fourth kiss marked the starting point of the Baudelaires' downward spiral to utter ruination.
The fourth kiss was where Violet kissed him back.
She'd been crying when he'd found her; he went to smooth her hair back, to offer her some reassurance, to be a proper brother. What he'd done was very much improper. He pushed back the oily strands, realizing his sister's hair was stringy and her face was dirt-smudged from living so long without decent facilities, and he loved her all the more. He knelt before her, greasy and grimy himself, and kissed her with an inhuman desperation. He needed something, anything, to erase the exhaustion he felt, to take away the ache in his limbs, to warm him and soothe him and save him. He needed something, and he found Violet.
Violet did not resist, but leaned away from him, blinking at him with wet, tired eyes. Then she reached up her hand, removed his glasses, and said, "There's no hope for us."
She kissed him, the skin of her mouth broken and peeling slightly from excess of cold and lack of moisture, her fingers stiff on the grubby skin of his neck, her movements slow but precise.
Klaus lost himself in that moment, his hands in her hair, and knew two things. The first was happiness, no matter how ugly, no matter how fleeting. The second was that his sister, who was in his arms in a way that a sister should never be in a brother's arms, was right. There was no hope left for the elder Baudelaire children.
The first kiss was an alarm.
Klaus clearly hadn't meant for his lips to touch Violet's own, that could easily be inferred from the haste with which he retreated from her, from the way his shoulders stiffened with all manner of unnaturalness. Solid, angular, and unmoving, as though he was carving himself from wood or stone. A statue of a boy that could not be held responsible for his (its) actions.
It was an accident, obviously. But Klaus behaved as though it was the worst of catastrophes. He didn't meet Violet's eyes for days, and even went so far as to distance himself from poor, innocent Sunny.
Violet could not be sure if her suspicions had merit. But from that fateful moment forward, she became intensely aware.
The second kiss was an awakening.
"I love you," Klaus had said, so softly they couldn't even be considered words; rather, raspy, asthmatic breath. And he had pressed his lips to hers, and this as intentional. Not an accident.
Worse yet, Violet let him. She didn't cry out in horror, she didn't push him away in disgust, she merely sat there and let it happen. It was perhaps the worst thing she could have done, a subconscious message that she didn't object.
It was at that point that Violet realized she could no longer trust her own subconscious.
And as he stepped back from her, her mind was so cluttered that she could barely choke out his name, and hope that the solitary syllable conveyed all of the things she could not say. All she could say, in fact, was the first and only question, the question that when answered, would prompt a thousand more: "Why?"
He said he didn't know, and she had to remind him sadly that it was wrong, as if her brother was stupid, as if he didn't know. How could he not? The red spreading across his cheeks was indicative of deep shame, and the hotter he blushed, the worse she realized his thoughts were. As he grew steadily more crimson, Violet knew that Klaus's thoughts did not stop with the kiss. Rather, they only began.
They were not normal children; normal children lived at home, and did not sleep in the trunks of cars, and did not start fires, and did not live in a submarine. They had abandoned the concept of being normal the moment Mr. Poe had pulled alongside Briny Beach, but even since that day, the Baudelaire orphans were clinging desperately to threads of normalcy. Klaus had apparently decided to release those threads altogether, and was now freefalling in darkness.
It was too late to catch him, it seemed. And she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she simply let him fall. After all, hadn't she promised their parents that she would always take care of her siblings? What better way to take care of him than to fall with him? She suspected it was too late for her, as well.
The third kiss was an addiction.
He swept her hair from her face, and she took off his glasses, and they were two children (hardly, he was fourteen, and she had managed to survive to the ripe old age of sixteen) who needed comfort and love, and who found it, however twisted, in each other. To be loved, to be respected, to be cared for, was the best sort of drug. Violet was scared, but it wasn't the same fear that came from constantly running. She was afraid of her own emotions, afraid of how deeply this relationship affected her.
Afraid that she would not be able to back out.
Afraid that she would not want to.
Sunny understands, but she does not know.
Klaus and Violet are often looking at one another. They touch; a comforting weight on a shoulder, or a reassuring squeeze of the hand. They seem to communicate worlds between their eyes, worlds forever unspoken.
All three Baudelaires are changed. They are smarter, but they are bleaker. They are clinging to anything they can to stay sane. Sunny can see that reflected in her siblings' eyes when they look at each other.
Sunny knows, but she does not understand.
After they have tucked her in, and after they think she has gone to sleep, they wander away. Usually just outside of a room, shadows beneath a door, shadows that start off as two jerky spots, and meld into one solid shape. There are whispers, words that she can't hear, and then there is silence for a long time.
When they finally come back in the room, empty-handed and too long gone to justify that, Sunny peeks through her eyelashes and sees them. Violet's flushed face. Klaus's unkempt hair. The tiredness in them. The spark of life.
Sunny knows love, has felt it from her parents, has felt it from her brother and sister. But she does not understand it yet, has not given it out beyond what her own infantile innocence is capable of. She does not know that it is something that bends and stretches and breaks, something that is not simply defined.
As she gets older, as she watches Violet and Klaus, she will come to understand love less. And yet, she will come to understand it more.
It is not too late for Sunny.