Playlist: Mushaboom by Feist : Silver Girl by Patrick Park : Things Look Bright by Brandston : Flame Trees by Sarah Blasko : Fog by Radiohead

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He was sitting on the bench outside. The light from inside highlighted the silver that was becoming more apparent through his hair. She was sure he hadn't been that grey before he started the project, and she knew she hadn't been as tempted to drink until he was there; obviously it had taken a toll on them both.

She stepped out to join him, and he looked up as she sat down. There was a distance between them, and Kirsten put a hand down to fill it some. She knew he didn't want her to be too far away. She didn't feel the need to be too close.

"Hey." Their eyes met, and Kirsten smiled a smile she knew wouldn't reach them. His impressive speeches to her about his love for her, his efforts since… They'd been enough for a short moment, but it was becoming apparent that there wasn't anything that could undo the space between them that had started, in truth, long before Sandy decided he needed to build a hospital.

"Hi." Kirsten kept her voice quiet as she looked away from him, towards their dark room. Light from the moon reflected off the glass doors. If she kept her eyes on them, she could even see stars amongst the mirrored clouds.

"Honey-." Kirsten looked at him and cut him off with her one glance. He knew she didn't want to hear it. She was sick of his excuses, his smooth talk amounting to little more than promises he couldn't keep. She wasn't sure he had anything more to offer her than these little lies. He'd be there more often. He'd give up the hospital. He'd sort out the boys. He'd bridge the gap between them and start being a husband again.

Unable to help himself, he started again.

"I-."

"Unless you're going to tell me the last year can be undone, I don't know if there's anything we have to say to each other." She wasn't sure why she'd come out here, why she'd come to sit by a man who was, these days, no more her husband than Jimmy Cooper was.

Another silence built up between them, and Kirsten could feel him looking at her, his eyes tracing her profile. She turned to him and saw his eyes soften as they looked into hers. She'd loved this man so much. He'd always been there for her, no matter what. She wasn't sure how they'd ever made it this far; her father hated him, his mother couldn't stand her. Somehow, they'd forged their own family, their own life together. And now, it was slipping through their fingers, crashing around them like breaking waves. And she wasn't sure either of them could do enough to rebuild it.

"Sandy, I don't want to live like this." Kirsten looked away from him, back towards the reflected stars, so far away, so untroubled. She was glad he'd paused before finding a reply to her; glad he hadn't just asked her how she was living. Glad he acknowledged that something was happening to them, that their foundations were shaking, the mortar crumbling into smaller and smaller pieces; dust in the wind.

"I know."

"Do you?" Her recrimination was immediate, biting. She didn't want his empathy when it was clear that he had no idea. She knew he hadn't even begun to consider the depth of her views; how much she hated feeling like she was the third wheel in her own relationship; there was Sandy, there was the hospital and there, on the fringes, was Kirsten.

"I want to." His hand reached for hers; she moved it just in time. He knew as well as she did that actions spoke louder than words; that his noticeable absences, his ignorance of her, slowly slipping back into an abyss that, in part, he had helped drive her into. She wanted desperately not to blame him, but without his lies when Rebecca was around… Without them, she wouldn't have found the need to find relief with Carter, wouldn't have found it such a cruel, cold shock when he left. Wouldn't have reached deep into the 'fridge and switched to vodka that night.

"What, so you can send me away again? Because that's what you'd like, isn't it? To send me back to Suriak, or some other rehab clinic where we have to talk about feelings. About why we're there. Do you know what I talked about, Sandy?" Her words were spoken quickly, almost stumbling over each other but still clear. She knew he felt the sting of them, could see even in the half light that every little bit of accusation dug in, crawled under his skin, abused him. She hated herself for doing this to him, but it had been in her mind, curdling like the crust on overheated milk for far too long. But once she said it, she knew she could never take it back. You can't unsay words once they're tangible, imprints on the air, carrying their message. This was the only reason she stopped, breathing more heavily, turning her eyes from him so she didn't have to look at the defeat in his profile, the sullen slump to his shoulder that signified she'd won. But won what?

There was another long pause between them, highlighting the distance. Once, silence between them was just unspoken love, stretched out between them like invisible taffy, holding them together. Now it was just empty space, void of anything except for unspoken hurts and old wounds that, if touched, would bleed again. She knew deep down that now was a time for compromise; now was when she should swallow the other hateful words that were backed up in her throat and accept him and his weightless apologies. But she'd been dying inside for too long, wilting like torn petals from a drooping flower, aimless in the wind, rudderless without his support and willingness to hear that she'd had a bad day, that she'd thought of vodka and even paused in front of the cupboard, willing herself not to reach in and uncork a bottle of merlot. She wanted him to hate himself as much as she did at this point, wanted him to realise just how instrumental he'd been in her sculling glass after glass of white wine last night before curling up in bed and crying herself to sleep.

"Have you been drinking again?" His tone wasn't accusatory, but Kirsten felt the barbs underneath, uncoiling as she absorbed his words. She couldn't believe he'd follow up with a question of that magnitude, as if he was trying to get her to admit her sins so that he could absolve them by a phone call to a doctor, a cheque written to an elite institution.

"If I say yes, will you stage another little intervention? Get our son to tell me that enough is enough?"

"It was our son who told me you'd been drinking." Kirsten felt that like a punch in the stomach, and she felt herself gasp, felt her fingers curl against the cold cement of the seat. Her nails scraped a little, and the extra sensation, along with the knowledge that Seth knew she'd fallen… Something rose in her throat, burnt the back of her mouth before the steadfastly made it retreat, stinging all the way down until it sat, like a hard lump of molton lead, in the pit of her stomach. She'd used Seth as a pawn in their argument, wanting Sandy to know only that Seth was the reason she'd gone to Suriak in the first place. Not Sandy. Not the fact that, even then, their marriage had started to crumble because of her desire to be absent from it, the pain it was lending her, in a cloud of vodka fumes. Seth had been her driving force, her motivation. She'd talked to Ryan sometimes about Dawn and she'd sensed the emotional scars that had run deep. She didn't want Seth to have similar scarring.

"God…" Kirsten curled her torso over her legs, resting her hands on the back of her head, needing to feel smaller, less of a target. She was a horrible person. Startling clarity was awarded to her in this brief window of absolute disgust. She'd broken the promise to her family that she'd be okay; she'd get through this and be the mother and wife they could all rely on again. Instead, she'd made Seth feel that he had to go behind her back to Sandy. Sandy, who'd sent her away the first time. Who'd spent the night with an ex-girlfriend. Who'd been sitting next to her, knowing she'd broken the promise she'd made, but who had let her speak cruelly to him without telling her until now.

"Baby-." Kirsten stood up as he reached over to put an arm around her back. She backed away, knowing she was irrationally upset. There had never been anything they couldn't fix together before. Then again, she'd been sitting there with him, feeling like they were strangers, feeling the d-word swirling around in her head, ready to be released.

"Don't… Don't touch me, Sandy. I have to…" Kirsten shook her head and twisted her fingers together. She skirted around the seat and walked into the kitchen. Her purse was sitting on the bench and she picked it up, fishing around for her keys. She didn't notice Seth and Ryan on the sofa, didn't hear them mute the television. She wasn't aware of them until Seth's arm alighted on her shoulder. She jumped, backed away from him as well before her eyes softened, before she looked into his almost-adult eyes and realised if she had to go that he would be the hardest to leave- again.

"I'm so sorry." Kirsten said, putting her bag down to capture him in a hug. His hands came around her back, and she felt like he was six again and she was hugging him better after a skateboarding accident he'd had. She pulled back, held him at arms length, tears marring the vision of him.

"Mom… What's wrong? Did Dad say something…?" Seth shot a confused glance out the door to the darkness of the patio before looking back at her. She let him go and retrieved her bag, slinging it over her shoulder.

"Mom, I didn't mean… I kind of told him in the heat of the moment… Your drinking." He shifted on his feet, his eyes roaming on her face, staying away from her eyes in case he found something to compound his guilt. Kirsten smiled sadly.

"It was probably for the best. Not your fault." Ryan had come to join Seth in the kitchen and, after a quick hesitation, Kirsten pulled him to her. She didn't want to be his mother, didn't want to leave with only a careless wave.

"I've got to… Seth, make sure your Dad wears a tie tonight." Kirsten released him, motioned towards the front door. The truth was, she hadn't thought about where she was going. But she didn't want to be around them for a while, didn't want to inject her poison into their veins and rip them all apart again. She knew if she stayed to talk to Sandy that she'd say something she'd firmly regret. Mention the d-word. She was scared that he'd react to a slight suggestion of divorce with relief, glad to be rid of her, cut her loose so he could get on with his work without his emotionally see-sawing wife being a millstone around his neck.

Turning quickly, Kirsten walked down the hallway and let herself out of the heavy oak door. She shut it with a soft click behind her and let out the breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding before getting in her car and accelerating down the drive.

What was that? That, my friends, was my interpretation of what the conversation-on-the-bench in 3x24 The Man of the Year should have been like. Not Kirsten giving up without a fight. Not a half-hearted holding of hands; I wanted things said, things unsaid, thoughts flying around. Of course if TBTB decided to do this, they couldn't have wrapped the Sandy/Kirsten relationship up in a neat little package ready for S4. Pfft. Bring on the angst. So tell me what you think. And yes, there'll be more. Eventually. You all know how much I need to update my other fics though… sigh. Soon. Maybe. ;)