Disclaimer: I own nothing except my imagination, and you can't have that because you'd never be able to make sense of it! Oh and the lyrics aren't mine either, they're from Daniel Powter's 'Bad Day', but you knew that, right?
Spoilers: Nothing that anyone hasn't seen, but if you've not watched Season 5's 'It's The Gay Pumpkin Charlie Brown' then this'll spoil the ending, though if you haven't seen it, where have you been!
Beta-d for me by the lovely and talented Gem (Beautiful World as you'll find her here), with many thanks, and a dedication all to her.
Summary: Judging by the way Karen reacts when she finds out that Will won't be representing her in her divorce against Stan; I thought that there must have been some more interaction between them throughout that series, so here's my AU-ish take on that. Starting with the episode that started it all…
'You're faking the smiles with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way offline
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carrying on,
Because you had a bad day'
I watch her from the doorway, her back to me whilst she packs her life away into three little suitcases. It seems so wrong, and yet I know that what she's doing is so very right. I couldn't believe it at first, when Jack told me. Stan wouldn't have cheated on his wife, he loved Karen. Or so I'd thought. One phone call was enough for me to change my opinion on their marriage; apparently it had taken him a lot less to change his.
Their marriage had always been far from perfect, at least I had known that much, but I had been so sure that no matter how much Karen complained about Stan, and how much Stan moaned that his wife wore him out, there had been real love there. And if this had just been a one time fling, then maybe I could still believe that, but for it to have lasted this long, for it to still be lasting when the marriage isn't, well, even I can't achieve the level of denial it would take to still believe that.
I wanted to hit him when I finally hung up. I wanted to storm over to his office and cause him so much pain. But it wouldn't have solved anything, so I didn't give in to my anger, instead I cleaned the apartment with a frenzy I usually reserve for when someone has upset Gracie, and tried to analyse just why I feel this way. An hour later, and I still have no answer.
We've never been conventional friends, Karen and I. She's as happy to insult me as I am her, and yet when I needed her help, she came through for me. Yes it was last minute, and she let me think my career was over first. But she still helped me, even after the things I'd said. I still don't buy her excuse of doing it for Grace. Grace hadn't known, and she really would have been justified in blowing me off, I had been 'working' her after all. No, we've never been normal friends, but I have seen her in states that I'm sure most haven't, nor ever will. When I think about it, the times that she's truly seemed human, when I've seen her looking vulnerable, are when she has something about Stan on her mind. It always comes back to Stan. He seems to be the only thing that causes her emotionless mask to slip, and he does so with a painful regularity. No one, who has the power to hurt someone ordinarily so strong, and who uses that power without so much as a second thought, deserves to have it
She's still packing her bags, still hasn't seen me. I would wonder why Rosario isn't helping her, but I still remember the blinding anger I saw behind those dark shades. Karen probably doesn't want to be around someone who's so obviously out for blood now. It's amazing how quite a room filled with the sounds of zips closing, hangers clanging and material rustling can be.
I don't think I'll ever understand why he's done this. Sure Karen can be annoying, and shrill, but even as a gay man, I can appreciate her assets, and she has everything a straight man could ask for. And on top of that, she's loyal to anyone she cares about. And I guess that number includes me too. It must do if I was crazy enough to think that she might let me help her. I hadn't noticed her drink 'til now, not that I really expected her not to have one. It's been a part of the picture of her for as long as I've known her, possibly longer, it's like an extra limb now. I think I'd be more worried if she didn't have one, then I'd know that she'd really given up.
Surely she'll turn around in a moment and see me standing here, I feel guilty watching her as she unknowingly shares this private moment. I convinced myself that this would be easy, that I'd just walk in and offer her my shoulder, just like I did for her in the hospital, only this time there'd be a sincerity to the action that was shamefully lacking then. But this isn't easy, and as much as the thought of her turning me away with a forced cheeriness had been appealing during my journey here, what I want now is for her to accept any comfort I can offer. It should be Jack here with her, he'd know what to do, what to say, but he's too busy laughing with Grace about my latest 'date'. I know he cares about his friend, but apparently, even news as shocking as this wasn't enough to keep his attention for more than 5 minutes.
I wish Jack were here, he's probably who she wants anyway.
I think this was all a mistake, did I really think she'd want to open up to me? Have I become delusional to the point where I think that the person I regularly refer to as Satan's Mistress, even to her face, is going to tell me just how much this must be hurting her? I don't think I've ever regretted the distance in our…acquaintance more than I do right now. I should leave now, before she sees me. Before I actually have to acknowledge to anyone other than myself that I'm even here.
"Leaving so soon honey?"
Her voice isn't as strong as usual, and even though it's barely above a whisper it freezes me in place. Maybe she does know I'm here after all. Common courtesy demands that I turn around, but suddenly I don't want to see her face. Don't want to see a blank mask, or worse a reconstruction of her everyday features that portray that nothing is wrong in her world. Who am I kidding? I'll turn around, of course I will, I'm far too polite not too, it's just going to hurt a bit, that's all.
But she's not stony faced. In fact, her face looks so very different from what I'm used to. She's not wearing make-up…no wait, she has been but it's been rubbed away by…are those tear tracks on her face? Even now her eyes are looking at me through watery pools, and I want so very much to take her into my arms and rub away all her pain. I am the man after all, and I'm supposed to protect Karen and Grace, no one should be able to hurt my girls while I'm around. But it's up to Karen now; I really don't want to scare her away. Hopefully I look sympathetic enough, caring enough, and maybe I do, because she's looking even closer to tears than mere moments before, and she has yet to tell me to leave her alone. If I just open my arms slightly, barely more than a loose shrug, perhaps…there she is. It's like a dam has broken, I can feel her wracking sobs in my entire body, but I won't let her go, even though I know that her mascara is currently soaking into my new white shirt.
It's not right that she's like this, the courage it must have taken for her to have walked away today, I can't help but admire that, it obviously hadn't been the easiest option. I think she's calming down now, or maybe she's simply running out of tears to cry.
"Why doesn't he want me? Will, why aren't I good enough for him?"
Oh God! This is wrong, this is so wrong! She shouldn't sound so broken, so lost; she shouldn't feel so fragile in my arms! I shouldn't have to try to make excuses for Stan; I shouldn't have to tell her that's he's an idiot if he thought he was better off with out her. This isn't how this was supposed to work, because, for as bad as she can be, Karen really does love Stan, and he doesn't deserve it.
She's pulling away and I'm fascinated at the sight of her closing herself off. Perhaps I failed. She's hiding behind her walls and I've messed up the one chance I had of helping.
But no, wait, she's still looking at me, and although she looks almost perfectly composed, I don't think I've ever seen her eyes so open before. Her gaze has flicked away, oh, Rosario's here, I should leave. Someone's touching my hand, it's not just someone; it's Karen. Looking at her, I can see that her eyes are still open, I think, only for me. This evening hasn't been a complete disaster after all. I want to tell her that she is too good for Stanley Walker, but the moment has passed, although the flash of gratitude I can see in her eyes tells me that maybe I have said it anyway.
I can hear her yelling at her maid behind me, and it's as though nothing has happened today, but a small backwards glance, and yes, she's still packing. She really is too good for her husband, and I know that she used to believe that, but perhaps there are some things that even the most self-confident of people can't simply bounce back from.
End of part one
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