Disclaimer: I own nothing but the scenes of Karen's life, and if I had the time, I'd be inventing my own characters to use, rather than borrowing someone elses and getting no money. Alas, I do not, and so I make nothing, but thrill in putting these caharcters through my own imagination!
A/N: Karen may get a little OoC as the fic goes on, but at least I'm warning you, and I'm surethe circumstances and context make it alright! I hope.
Summary: Sometimes there's something behind you and you're just waiting for the time when it catches up with you, it affects every scene of your life, and yet no matter how bad, you wouldn't change it because ofthe things it brought you. Karen reflects as her 'something' catches up with her. No POV's this time, and flashbacks.
Please enjoy! And thanks to Mars for making me post this early and for beta-ing it! Love you Hun!

All Coming Back

Another ditch in the road
You keep moving
Another stop sign
You keep moving on
And the years go by so fast
Wonder how I ever made it through
Two Beds and a Coffee Machine, Savage Garden)

Sentimental Days

Sentimental days
In a misty clouded haze
Of a memory that now feels untrue…
The pages I've turned are the lessons I've learned
Welcome to My Truth, Anastacia)

She knew it was coming; she'd been waiting for it for years now. At first she'd spent every day looking over her shoulder, so to speak, anxiously awaiting the moment when it would all end, it hadn't seemed real then, there was no pain, just the knowledge of what was to come. She had already married Stan, and had told him straight away what was happening. He'd taken it better than she'd expected, staying strong for the both of them. Until the nights, where he'd pull her close to him when he thought her asleep, breathing deep into her hair, and she'd feel his tears against her cheek. She'd lived for those moments, when he'd let down his shields, she only wished he hadn't been so scared to let them down when he'd known she was awake.

The children had been told early on too. She'd wanted to keep it from them, she wasn't their Mother, and really, she hadn't thought they liked her much anyway, but Stan had insisted, so they'd been told. Funny how it didn't feel like nine years had passed.

: flashback :

"Stanley, are you sure we have to tell them? I really do think it'd be better to just let them know later, you know, after." Karen smiled anxiously up at her Husband, attempting to keep the hopeful tone out of her voice.

"Kare, it'll be fine you'll see; nothing to worry about. They're my children, your step-children; that gives them the right to know this now." He squeezed her hand tenderly, support etched into every inch of his face. "Come on, we'll tell them together." Still clutching his hand, she let herself be drawn into the play room. Toys filled every available surface; pinks, lilacs and pale pastels, intermingled with sharp blues, greens and reds, none of them distinguishable as individual objects, but all of them coming together to make a child's dream world.

Olivia sat on one of the large padded chairs, her nose deep in a magazine, Karen could just make out the 'V' of Vogue on the cover, and sighed to herself as she realised where all her magazines kept disappearing to lately. It looked as if she would start having to order two of them from now one, if she ever wanted to read it herself. Mason was staring avidly at the sixty-inch TV screen covering one of the walls, his quick thumb movements causing the robots on screen to explode, only for them to be replaced by another three for every one destroyed. Karen found the sight fascinating, aware that her sudden interest in the computer game most likely came from her desire to delay this conversation as long as possible.

As though aware of his wife's thoughts, Stan gently pushed her to into the centre of the room, before turning to the screen and switching it off. As the flames from the latest destruction faded to black and the sounds of screaming metal ended, silence descended on the room, and Karen found herself the attention of two pairs of child's eyes. Smiling self-consciously, she turned to look at Stan once again, hoping the children would follow her lead.

"Mason, Olivia, your Step-mother and I have something we need to tell you. It's not easy to say, so I want you to pay close attention, okay?"

Two positive answers of "Yes Daddy" later, and Karen still wanted to sprint from the room, Stan's hand the only thing keeping her in place. He gave her hand a slight squeeze, and then using his elbow, nudged her forward a step.

"Ah, hi Kiddies." A nervous laugh escaped her lips, and she looked pleadingly up at Stan; she really, really couldn't do this.

He turned his eyes to meet hers, and she saw the understanding in them, slumping in relief when she felt him step up behind her, his arm coming to rest around her waist, she kept her eyes down, and let his voice wash over her.

"You remember Uncle Bernie, don't you? Olivia, he used to take you to see the horses when we went to visit him in Vermont, well you know how he got very ill last year and we couldn't go up to visit him? Do you remember what I told you was wrong with him?"

A worried expression crossed the girl's face, whilst her younger brother frowned in concentration, trying to remember both his Uncle, and the illness he had come down with. His face broke out in an innocent smile as the answer came to him.

"Canswer, you said he had Canswer Daddy!" The three others in the room flinched at both the mutilated word and the truth behind it.

There was silence for a moment, as they stood unsure what to say next. The wall clock ticked loudly, the gaps between the seconds seeming to lengthen with each beat.

Olivia was the first to break the uncomfortable atmosphere, her voice small and unsure, as she looked between both of her guardians, not knowing who her question should be aimed at.

"Do you have Cancer?"

Stan squeezed her hand once again, before letting go and taking a step backwards. This bit she would have to do herself. Dropping down on shaky legs, Karen knelt before the curly-haired child, her head level with her Step-daughter's. Mason had moved to stand behind his sister, knowing from the tension in the room that this was an important moment, and not wanting to be left out.

"Not quite Honey, it's more of a tumour…" She paused taking in the confused looks on their faces, "It's a lump of bad cells in my body, like Cancer, but not quite." She kept the 'not yet' to herself, but a sharp intake of breath behind her told that Stan had heard it anyway.

She sat back on her heels, unsure how much more to tell them; she didn't want to confuse them further, that wouldn't help anyone. As she was debating this, her gaze dropped to the cream carpet, absently she wondered how it had remained so clean; this was a play room after all. Not looking at the other members of the room, she didn't see Mason moving until she felt his chubby arms wrap tightly around her waist, and the rest of his body tumble into her. Looking at her Step-son in shock, no words came to her lips; she was unprepared for this. Almost as unprepared as she was for his next words.

"You're not going to die are you?"

Frozen and knowing she resembled a deer caught in headlights; she turned her gaze to her Step-daughter, only to find she had the same question in her own watery eyes. Her hand began rubbing Mason's back soothingly, of its own accord.

"We all die eventually Sweetie, but I've got a good many years left in me yet. Don't you worry, you'll be wishing I'd gone sooner, just you wait." She tried for humour, but it fell flat, though she could feel Mason calming against her.

"Don't say that Karen, we'll want you around always." And suddenly she felt slender arms wrap around her from her other side. Hugging both of her Step-children to her, she realised that it hadn't been their reactions she'd worried about, it was the possibility of no reaction that had terrified her. She really did care for Stan's children after all. A few moments like that, and then she felt Stan move close again, looking up she saw tears in his own eyes.

"Okay now Kids, time to get ready for bed. Say goodnight, and go find Rosario, she'll help you to clean up." His voice was slightly shaky, but only noticeable to someone who knew him well enough to look for it. With a feeling half relief and half remorse, Karen released her hold on the children and pulled herself to her feet. She watched as they each said goodnight to their father and made to turn and leave, it was then she saw Olivia approach.

The young girl hugged her once more, before planting a light kiss to her cheek and walking out of the room. Mason, following his sister's lead, gave her both a kiss and hug, before beckoning her down so her ear was level with his mouth.

"Goodnight Mommy-Karen." Spoken softly, barely above a whisper, and then he too flew from the room, leaving Karen bent over, a single tear trailing down her cheek.

Feeling Stan's presence behind her once again she stood straight and turned to face him.

"That went well Honey."

Stan laughed, loving his wife even more in that moment. Raising one hand and using the pad of his thumb to brush away the tear, he pulled her to him, and enveloped her in his arms.

"I told you it would Kare. I knew they loved you as much as you do them; 'Mummy-Karen'." He teased, and as they stood, her giggling into his chest, him chuckling into her hair, she knew she'd enjoy the rest of her life and bravely face what was to come, so long as she had her family around her.

: end flashback :


So, I hope you like! Please Review! Tell me what you think!