Secrets and Lies: A Father/Daughter Story
Synopsis: Keith Mars decides that he doesn't want the growing distance between himself and his daughter, Veronica. He feels that it is the secrets that they keep from one another that has started the chasm between them. This is his solution.
Disclaimer: I don't own Veronica Mars. She and the rest of her merry band of misfits belong to Rob Thomas.
Author's Note: This story may feature LoVe or some other romantic entanglement for Veronica, but that is not the focal point of the story. It will go seriously alternate universe at some point as the accumulated changes wrought by dozens of butterflies beating their wings in Brazil starts a hurricane in Neptune.
Author's Note The Second: This story begins just before the show. Nothing has changed except for what is mentioned in this story.
Chapter One—One Man's Decision
Keith sat by his daughter's bedside, watching her sleep. His daughter, Veronica. He never got tired of thinking of her that way, especially after the difficulties of the last few years.
Veronica had changed so much in the last few months and it worried him. Keith had seen her go from sweet, gentle, and pastel wearing to angry, tough, and outspoken, dressing in dark, muted colors. She had cut her hair short, actually hacking it off, and Keith worked hard not to think about why she would do that.
A father shouldn't know so much about a person's, in this case his own daughter, motivations. But that was the hazard of seeing what he'd seen. The long years on the job, of seeing the horrors of what people could and would do to one another. Of discovering why people did what they did, the hidden motives oftentimes strange and unsettling. Keith had seen it all, the secrets people tried to keep from him, the lies they told him, and each other, to try to protect themselves. And it had changed him.
Now he can see similar changes affecting Veronica. There were shadows in her eyes, shadows he and the life he had forced on her, had caused. Not that she would blame him. Despite the guilt he felt, rationally, Keith knew the only people to blame for what had happened had been the person who murdered Lilly Kane and the Kanes themselves for trying to hide cover it up. But at night, watching his daughter toss and turn, her sleep constantly restless, he had his doubts about doing the "right" thing.
Things were going to change. Keith had a plan. He didn't know if it was a good one, but he'd rather wreck things now by implementing it, than sit on the sidelines, inactive, as his world slid slowly into entropy. He just wasn't that guy.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be soon enough to start. Keith got to his feet, strangely weightless as something seemed to lift from his heart. Heading back to his own room, he knew he would sleep well. After all, he was no longer sitting on the sidelines.
Veronica Mars got out of her car, heading to Mars Investigations, her home away from home these days. In a lot of ways, it was her sanctuary, a safe place where she had the power, the control she craved, as she dug into the lives of other people. People with oftentimes sordid motivations, but still who knew nothing about her. Which was just the way she liked it.
As she settled into her receptionist's desk, Veronica thought back over the day. It hadn't been too bad. It had been a Logan-free Friday, which made even the worst day bearable these days. Even though school had just started five days ago on Monday, he'd skipped today's classes to surf with Dick and some of his other 09er buddies. Which meant other than a few bitchy comments from some of the girls, Veronica had made it through the entire day without anyone knocking her books out of her hands, slashing her tires, or trying to cop a feel from the school "slut".
Even the bitchy comments from the girls had been more about what she wore and her hair, rather than about her spreading her legs for the, insert whatever sport you want here, team. After all, most of those rumors had been spread by Logan and his little posse of scumbags who weren't at school. So no new rumors, yay.
She'd even made $250 from a sophomore 09er who had wanted to know if his girlfriend was cheating on him (she was). That money shot had taken all of an hour. Now Veronica was $100 richer in her college savings account, the rest of the money, minus some for tonight's pizza, she would keep handy to buy replacement tires from her friendly used tire distributor.
The door to her dad's office opened and he came out. "Hey, honey, how was school?"
Veronica yawned before replying, "The usual. Flashed some kids for cigarette money. Blackmailed my teachers for A's."
Smiling, Keith kissed the top of her head. "That's my girl."
Keith continued to look at her, prompting Veronica to ask him, "Do I have something stuck in my teeth? Cause that wasn't funny the first time you..." miming air quotes, "forgot to tell me."
Keith put a hand over his heart, looking innocent. "You still holding that against me? You were seven. When are you going to let that go?"
Veronica mock-glared at him. "Never." Then, as if she'd gotten an epiphany, "Unless you got me a pony!"
The smile that Keith wore faded into a serious expression. "I need to talk to you about something tonight when we get home. It's important. So put off any plans you have to follow cheating husbands and just head home after you get done with your homework. Okay?"
Veronica felt butterflies in her stomach at her dad's words. This couldn't be good. After a moment's hesitation, she got out, "Sure, Dad. Anything I should know to prepare?"
He gave her another affectionate kiss on top of her head. "We'll talk about it tonight." With that, he headed back into his office, leaving Veronica alone. Alone to contemplate the deeper meaning of his words. What did her Dad know?
Veronica put the finishing touches on the large salad she'd prepared to go with the pizza she'd ordered. It should be here any minute... a knock interrupted her train of thought and she grabbed $25 to cover the pizza and tip. As she paid the driver, Veronica could see her father coming up the stairs behind him. Hurrying, she grabbed the pizza out of the startled boy's hands, slapping the money into them, and shut the door in his face.
She tossed the pizza on the counter and grabbed two plates for them to eat out of. As Keith opened the door with his key, Veronica was putting the salad onto the counter to go with the pizza.
"Is that pizza I smell?" He asked in a jovial tone.
He walked over and saw the salad Veronica had made and the plates, napkins, and forks. Raising his eyebrows, Keith asked, "What's the occasion?"
Veronica smiled at him. "Can't a girl just want to do something nice for her dad?"
He melted at her words, just like he always did. "Of course she can. But I don't want you spending your money on me. Save it for Stanford."
Veronica leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "You got it, Pops."
Veronica quickly loaded two plates with pizza and salad. After handing one off to her dad, she started munching on the other. After a few bites, she casually asked, "So what did you want to talk about?"
Keith paused in his pizza devouring a moment, casually saying, "It'll wait until after dinner."
Veronica huffed, "Fine." She settled down to trying to eat her weight in pepperoni pizza and salad, while listening to her dad talk about open cases. Finally, though, the pizza was gone and they were done. She grabbed the plates and cutlery and quickly washed everything. Veronica was just trying to find something else to keep herself busy when her dad called her over.
"Veronica, have a seat."
Sitting down on the couch next to him, Veronica felt tense. Her dad was way too serious for this to be something minor. Had he learned something about the Lilly Kane murder? Or about her mother's whereabouts?
Keith started the ball rolling. "I have some concerns, Veronica. About you and about our relationship."
Veronica joked, "Pa, I swear Leroy, Chico, and the rest of the boys down at the bar won't come between us."
She watched him frown and knew the joke fell flat. Shaking his head, he continued, "Please take this seriously. I'm worried about you."
"Dad, I'm fine. Look, I'm healthy, I get good grades, got all my teeth. Fancy shoes." She rotated her foot in demonstration.
Keith softened, smiling at her tenderly. "I know that. I couldn't be more proud of you and what you've accomplished. What I'm worried about is what this business is doing to you."
"It's putting a roof over our heads." Veronica argued mildly, not sure where he was going with all this. She was starting to get a barfy feeling in the back of her throat though as she grew more and more anxious. And with the amount of pizza she'd just consumed, that was very not good.
Keith nodded. "It is. And I'm glad about that. However, that's not all it's done."
Veronica had had enough. "Dad, just spit it out. What's going on?"
Keith swallowed, the first sign of nervousness he'd displayed, and said, "I think the secrets that we keep for our clients, the lies that we tell for them, is bleeding over into our lives. Into our relationship. And it has to stop. Now. Today."
'What? Okay, this is bad. Bad with a capital B.' Veronica thought frantically. She'd thought he was going to have another sex talk with her and was girding her loins for it, but this? This was actually worse. What to say? "Dad, I don't keep secrets..."
"Stop." Her dad straight into her eyes. "I know you lie to me. Not always. But about too much important stuff. And it stops today."
Keith interrupted her again, "What's worse is, I lie to you. I keep secrets from you. Some of them for your own good. Others because I just can't handle you knowing. That has to stop. I have to stop doing this, too. Otherwise, we're going to stop trusting each other at some point. Maybe not today. But in a few years time or even sooner. I can't handle that. I won't let it happen."
Veronica felt those barfy feelings come back even stronger. "You lie to me?" Her tone wasn't accusing, but she knew he could hear the hurt in it, worse than any accusation.
Keith nodded. "I do. Do you lie to me?"
Slowly, unwilling, Veronica nodded. "Sometimes. I try not to. I just do it to protect you."
Keith expelled air, hard, then visibly counted to ten. When he was done, he reached out and pulled Veronica to him, hugging her hard. She clung to him as well, drawing comfort from the contact. Finally, he released her and let her sit back. "I love you. And I know that you love me. More than anything else, I want to protect you from, well, everything. But I know I can't. I have to let you get your bumps and bruises, while making sure nothing too bad happens. That's what dads do. Understand?"
Unwilling, Veronica nodded. When she started to speak, Keith held up a finger. Softly, he said, "I need you to not protect me. I'm tough. I was a beat cop for 10 years, then a deputy for five more. I was sheriff for three. I have seen things. Terrible things. And I have survived them, relatively unscathed. At least as unscathed as you can be and still be a good person. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
Again, she nodded. She did understand, but it didn't stop the fierce sense of protectiveness she felt for her father. She would do anything for him. Whether he needed it or not. About to make that point, Veronica stopped as Keith began speaking again.
"Let's make a point of protecting each other, together, without keeping things from each other. Okay?"
His eyes pleaded with her to agree and Veronica nodded unhappily. Still, if this was it, she could deal. She wouldn't break a promise she made him directly, but she needed to figure out what she was going to do with the investigation she'd been running into Lilly's murder. She suddenly recognized that Keith had stopped speaking, waiting on her. Realizing that he wanted a verbal confirmation from her, Veronica nodded, and said, "Okay, Dad. We'll protect each other. Was that it?"
Keith shook his head. "Tip of the iceberg, kiddo. I haven't even gotten to my main point yet."
'Oh, shit!' Veronica thought, worried again. She needed to change the password on her computer immediately and do a better job of hiding the investigative files she had on there.
Keith continued, "I want there to be no secrets between you and me. To get us there, every Sunday or Saturday, during Daddy/Daughter time, each of us is going to tell the other a secret that they don't want the other to know. We're starting that tonight."
Veronica was beyond horrified. "Dad, I can't do that."
She began to rant, barely aware of what she was saying, aware the entire time that Keith sat there listening to her, a patient expression on his face. Finally, she began to run down. "Do you see? I can't do that. I've changed. We've both changed. I..."
"Veronica, this is nonnegotiable. This will be good for us. It may hurt a little, sometimes old wounds fester, but it will heal things between us."
Stubbornly, she stated, "I won't do it."
Keith sighed. "I've told you why I think this is a good idea. During everything you've said to me, nothing has addressed that. You've only addressed your fears. I can understand them because I have my own. Anyway, that was the carrot, honey. Now for the stick. I've been offered a position in a private security company as head of Vice President in Charge of Corporate Investigations. It's in Phoenix. The pay is twice what I was making as Sheriff. If you don't agree to ridding ourselves of the secrets that are poisoning us, I will shut down Mars Investigations and take the position. We'll move to Phoenix. No more investigations into the corruption of this town. No more Lilly Kane. I don't want to run, but I won't sacrifice you on the altar of justice."
Veronica sat there, shell shocked. She couldn't believe what her father had just told her. It was cruel and unfair of his to try to force her to this course of action. Even if he was doing it because he loved her. Her guts clenched at the thought of leaving Neptune. The thing is, she wanted to leave. Veronica hated this town, with it haves and have nots. But she couldn't leave until whoever had killed Lilly was brought to justice, made to pay for taking her best friend's life. For a moment, rage at her father's ultimatum filled her, but just as quickly it faded, leaving her shivering from the aftermath of the adrenaline rush it had brought with it.
A soft touch brought her back to awareness, her dad's fingers gently tilting her face up to his. "Are you okay, kiddo?"
"Yes. No. Maybe?"
As Veronica met her father's compassionate gaze, she hated that her reaction just reinforced what he had said. It shouldn't be this hard to be honest with the most important person in the world. She knew she could trust him with anything. So why was she feeling this way? Like she was being betrayed? Had secrets become so important since Shelly's party that she couldn't live without them? Maybe they were. But only to that girl. That girl who was so afraid. And she would never be that girl again.
Veronica lifted her chin and met Keith's gaze squarely. "I'm fine."
His persistence drew an involuntary laugh from her. "Okay. Okay. You don't have to sell me into white slavery in Phoenix. I'll do it."
Keith's face broke into a wide smile that made Veronica infinitely glad she'd agreed. Even if it hurt, she would do anything to see him happy. And if it didn't work out, she'd figure out a way to keep some secrets from him. Maybe. If she could. Now what secret could she tell him today without him killing someone? Certainly being ruffied and raped at Shelley Pomroy's party was out. Keith would kill Lamb, then work his way down the 09er food chain. Better be something relatively innocuous to keep the body count down. God knows she had enough secrets that letting one out couldn't hurt. It wouldn't change things, would it? Would it?
"So, honey, what would you like to tell me?"
End Chapter One