A/N: My first proper Mac/Dick ship fic. Takes place post-Season 3, during the summer.
I do not own Veronica Mars, nor do I profit off this.
Dusk settles on the dark sand, another day gone while the night creeps in. He sits there, on the wooden bench, huddled in loose clothing that reaches head to toe—alone. He wears black flip-flops to match the black hoodie, and his grey jeans are darker at the bottom from hours spent at the beach. In his hand, his fingers clutch a cold one that really is a warm one, the last of his stash for the day.
Mac thinks Dick should wean himself off the beer, but she watches him from a short distance and sees how lost he is, that perhaps going that little bit too far really wouldn't matter anyhow.
She walks over when the day's crowds disperse, when she feels comfortable approaching him without the risk of him causing a scene in front of people—he'd done it before, so now she waits.
He looks up to see her coming close, the first two fingers of each hand tucked into the pockets of her three-quarters, the smallest of smiles hesitating on her lips. She sits next to him, quiet like a mouse and in the silence between them they hear the waves kiss the shore in low tide.
Mac speaks, the first tentative step that means so much. "This must be one of your good days."
Glancing at the pit in the sand where Dick's crushed his empties, Mac takes in a shaky breath. "Well, you haven't yelled at me or tried to kiss me, so…good day."
He sits quietly, elbows digging into knees and eyes pointed straight ahead towards the pit. "My dad goes in tomorrow. Came up quick, you know. Three months gone and now…"
Mac turns to look at him, her eyes scanning his face. She swallows and tries not to hesitate for too long. "I'm sorry."
"Don't say it, he deserves more than a year."
"No," she returns softly. "I'm sorry for you. You shouldn't have to go through this."
Dick takes a breath and a long sip. "I think that, you know. I wish that this was somebody else's life. You can tell me I'm selfish, I deserve that."
In the time she has known Dick, Mac has come to know there are two sides to him, and she hasn't quite figured out which one is the better one: the Dick who is an actual dick, or the self-deprecating, self-destructive broken Dick, who blames himself far too regularly and drinks too much if only to efface himself.
So Mac keeps her cool and doesn't conform to the destructive nature of Dick the Second. "I know that feeling. Everybody has that feeling at least once, that they wish their lives weren't theirs. I think it's normal."
"Normal?" Dick almost laughs at hearing that. "This world is worse than I thought."
"Or maybe you're better than you give yourself credit for," Mac tells him, cautious like she'd just laid the cheese too close to the clasp on the mousetrap.
But Dick doesn't say anything to that, barely seems to react—just drinks what's at the bottom of the can and crushes it in his hand.
Mac watches him throw the empty into the pit before spotting the beginnings of a fire a ways down the beach. She hopes Dick won't see it, that he's too blind to notice, otherwise he'd be off at the first sign of a party—off to obliterate himself more, leave her to watch as the pieces fall from him one by one.
Why she cares, in any case, is beyond her. Dick has never meant much of anything to her, except for a figure to fear on occasion—like a loose cannon, capable of exploding at any given time, Dick has the propensity to lift the hairs on the back of her neck, to incite a vague sense of the flight-or-fight response in her. But when had she come to care for this broken boy, when was it she learned to see how unbelievably similar they are? She thinks maybe it was sometime around Cassidy's funeral, when she'd seen how he mourned the loss of a loved one as much as she did.
"I need another drink."
Mac feels something inside of her shatter. She'd been wrong; this is a bad day, not a good one. "Don't you think you should maybe stop drinking so much? It can't be good for you."
Dick shakes his head. "You know that feeling you get—mostly after sex—when everything just goes away, and you don't care for anything because it's just you? I kind of need that."
The hairs on the back of Mac's neck rise and her legs begin to feel heavy. She swallows again and looks hard at Dick, who stares forward as if circling catatonia. She clears her throat, makes sure she can speak properly.
"Are you… Are you asking me for sex?"
He looks at her then, turns not just his head but all of him, sits squarely in front of her. A smile tugs at his lips and his eyes brighten. He takes in the look in her eyes, the one of fear that glimmers underneath with curiosity, and Dick can't help but to smile completely as the colour drains from her face.
"Mac… So not what I meant."
As quickly as the blood drained from Mac's face, it returns again to flush her cheeks. She looks quickly away and blinks furiously, her eyes suddenly stinging with embarrassment. She becomes angry when Dicks starts to laugh.
"Seriously Ghost World, you don't get me at all," he says with jest. "I meant drinking does that to me, that's what I need."
"Oh," Mac returns uneasily, her eyes lowered. "Then why did you mention sex?"
Dick lifts up the corner of his lip before turning away. "Forget it, One-Track Mind. Not important."
After a stretch of silence, not quite uncomfortable but not companionable either, Mac digs the tops of her feet into the gritty sand, and readies herself to speak.
"You should be with your dad."
"He's working out some last minute details with his lawyer," Dick replies, unable to hide the resentment. "I was kicked out of the room around noon, didn't want to head upstairs… Logan's out anyway, so wouldn't have been much point to that."
"You've been here since noon?" Mac asks, incredulous. She peers over at him, sees his face dark with shadow, and supresses a sigh.
Dick nods his head and smiles ruefully. "I'm that drunk, Ghost World. Starting to think I should've gone to South America anyway, Daddy Dearest has me fuelling up on beers so what's the difference?"
Mac keeps quiet and feels the cold sand grind in between her toes, like it's a comfort.
"You've been around," Dick says softly, after a while. "Which is cool, but I'm just wondering why? I mean, didn't you plan anything for your summer?"
"Summer's not really my thing," she says to him with a small smile. "Besides, with pretty much all my friends gone, and my one-time boyfriend slothing away his philosophy degree, what else have I to do?"
"But you don't even like me."
"Yeah, you might have a point." Mac smirks over at him and the colour rises in her cheeks again when he glances her way and catches her. "So, if alcohol and sex get you to the same place, and this is just an observer's opinion, but I'd probably choose sex. Healthier, you know."
Despite how drunk he is, Dick's laugh is genuine and warm. He turns his body around to face her again, his legs dangling over either side of the bench. "You're really bent on taking advantage of me, aren't you?"
Mac's smile lights up her face and a flutter emerges from deep within her. She's not trying to save Dick, not by any stretch, but seeing him brighten because of her makes Mac feel like his destruction isn't so inevitable after all. She doesn't quite know how she feels, she's not sure yet what her summer obsession is all about, but Dick is the person she's fascinated by, and despite everything sane in her, Mac feels inexplicably drawn to him, like some battered moth in search of a flame.
Whether it's the beers in him, or the look in her eyes that seems to call him to her, Dick leans forward. He isn't met with her hand flat across his face, or a sharp recoil, but rather Mac lets the kiss happen, and to Dick's surprise she relaxes into it. He kisses her softly, just once, and pulls back to look at her. Her face is flushed, her eyes glassy but not confused or disgusted, which he takes to mean things have changed between them.
"Are you going to remember that in the morning?" Mac's voice is quiet, almost sad.
Dick looks at her seriously. "Just because I'm drunk doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing."
She doesn't smile at him, doesn't reach over to touch him and doesn't quite meet his gaze. He's been drunk too many times around her these last few months, tried to kiss her more than once, but afterwards he's acted like he couldn't remember or care less. Will this be any different?
"They're starting a bonfire over there." Dick breaks through the silence. "Might be cool."
"I think I'm just going to go home."
"Then I'll walk you."
Mac raises an eyebrow at him, readying herself to stand. "Can you walk?"
A smile lifts the corner of his lips. "I might need you to hold my hand, you know, to steady me."
"Dork," Mac mutters, but when she turns away from him she smiles into the darkness.
Dick heaves himself off the bench, shuffles in the sand to make sure his flip-flops are secure, then slips his fingers through Mac's, squeezing her hand gently as a reassurance to her that this time, things will be different.