Disclaimer: they don't belong to me, they totally should, though. Dirty Sexy Money and most characters on this story belong to ABC.
Sometimes, Tripp Darling wonders if there is any point in waking up anymore.
More and more, Tripp felt like he was a relic of a time long past. Every single day that he overstayed his welcome on this world, was another day that he felt more like a shadow of his former self. Where he had once been a handsome and fierce young man, he was now an elderly gentleman, captivating for his intelligence, but pretty much an old dog, set in his ways.
Once, he had being dashing, ready to conquer the world, unapologetic, like his Patrick. He, too, had been the bright hope of his family, and had paid the price of having everyone's expectations set on him. Like Patrick, he had felt unworthy of the title, knowing that his brother Kenneth was the true shining star. And he had loved his brother; he had been so pleased to recognize his greatness… and then, Kenneth had been taken away from him. He had not cried… his mother had said he was unfeeling and didn't know how to mourn. Maybe it was that feeling that had made him try to pry Patrick from his jaded state after Carmelita died. He understood his son more than Patrick would ever care to admit. And sometimes Patrick was so much like him that he couldn't help but feel sorry for his son.
Once, he had been free and romantic, passion and feeling embodied, just like his Karen. He had been odd, for a young man with so much to offer and that was quite notorious for the ladies. He had always believed in fairy tales, in true love, in soulmates and happily ever afters. He was the one that had taught Karen about reaching for the quintessential love that would set on fire every single bone in her body and heal every single crack in her gentle heart. Karen had tried, so hard, to recapture the love in her life, all the time knowing that she already knew what it was she was looking for, only that it was not hers to take anymore. His beloved daughter, the one that was more like him, had faced the same paradox that had damned his life: believing in fairy tale love, all the while knowing it was unattainable. Knowing the one man she would ever love was married… knowing the one woman he would ever love was in love with his best friend… the fairy tale by your fingertips, and you just can't close your grip. Karen was resilient, though, just like him. She would lick her wounds and move on… Tripp just wondered, not really wanting to know the answer, when his little girl would not be able to take the battle between her head and heart anymore.
Once, he had been an old soul in a young body – now both his soul and body were about the same age – like his Brian. It amazed Tripp sometimes, how Brian was the more "Darling" of all the children – conceited, entitled, aware, profound – and not be his. There was, apparently, much to be said about the raising process. He had wondered once about life and love, God and Man, happiness and the real world… once, these questions had plagued his mind. Then, reality had set in and he no longer had the time to wonder about the wonderful ideas and concepts that had become his companion since he was child. All of a sudden, he was head of a family, husband of a woman and father of five children… there was no longer time for the world of ideas. He had made a choice… he had embraced his family. He had watched Brian do the same… with Bible lessons readings with Leah and Lacey on the table, teaching Brian Jr. the right way to eat his pancakes. And then… Brian had lied to his little girls, he had made his son lie, had stood on the brink on losing everything and didn't knew how to handle the situation. Brian had come to accept that maybe, as much as he loved his kids, he wasn't the father he wanted to be. And Tripp, with sons that feared and resent him, with daughters that he used and lied to, knew how it felt to fall short in the one job you actually wanted to succeed. And then, the world of the mind becomes a refuge, a safe port, instead of facing the pain you've caused.
Once, he had wished he was like his Jeremy. Once, when he was much, much younger, he had dreamed of a world of light and fun, of utter joy without the attachments of responsibility. He could have travel for years on end, partied long and hard, he could have been a true free spirit. But he had chosen another way – or maybe his way had being chosen for him, he could never be sure – and became a respectable business man. Sometimes he would look at the way that Jeremy lived out his life and he would be envious – more often than not though he just wanted to strangle the young man for his antics – that he could live every single moment of his life in such an utterly intense way. Maybe, he reflected, that was part of why his relationship with Jeremy was so strained; maybe, the part of him that resented his son's freedom was bigger than he had ever thought. But deep down, Tripp knew that wasn't the main reason. Deep down, there was no envy for Jeremy's happiness, no regret for a life lived honorably and not even embarrassment at his youngest son's behavior. What always stood between him and Jeremy was his certainty that this would never bring his son happiness. There was no true joy without real commitment, there was no true feeling without real investment, and there he was, right in front of his eyes, his perfect little boy with beautiful clear eyes, choosing to waste away his life and his sweet soul, full of love and hope as none other he had ever encountered.
Once, maybe for too short a time, he knew was like Juliet, and more often than not, he wished he could be again. Often he was asked why he was so drawn to his daughters, why his relationships with them were so much better than those with his sons. No one wondered too much about Karen: she was so much like her father. But why Juliet? She wasn't as presentable as Patrick, as beautiful as Karen, as smart as Brian or as fun as Jeremy. Juliet was shallow most of the time, bratty even, and not as strong a personality as that of most Darling children. Tripp would often just laugh about it and change the subject. There was no point in explaining that Juliet was the one thing his other children were not: she was innocent. She believed she was happy and therefore she was. She believed in smiles and dreams and fun… she was much like a child, but sensitive enough to see her own faults. Tripp wondered, looking at her, if this was what he was like as a child. If he was ever this eager and pure and sweet… if what he had lost in the way of childlike wonder was more than what he had gain in the realm of adulthood. And he would indulge in Juliet, helping her preserve her innocence and wonder, so he could at least have a remembrance of what purity ever was. Juliet was like a lifeline for him, like no matter what he was or what he did, there would still be one true beautifully bright spot in the whole world. And in that, he had condemned Juliet to never being a true person, never knowing who she was or what she wanted. Going from whim to whim, but never having a truly deep feeling inside of her. And he had created the perfect doll that was as happy as a doll could ever be… but didn't his littlest girl deserve a whole lot more? To actually be human?
So… was that all he was?
A honorable life, lies mingled with love, pain overshadowing the joy and five beautifully flawed angels, whose happiness he once had held on his hands and allowed it to slip away?
Who was he anyway? Did it pan out to believe in fairy tales? He had loved Letitia as much as a man could ever love a woman, and he had loved her as best as he had being able to. And it hadn't been enough. He hadn't been enough. He would look at his astonishing Letitia and see every single minute of his life… he would see a shared lifetime, a shared soul… he would see betrayal and the destruction of his hopes and dreams. He would see a blow so low he would never be able to recover from it.
And now, he was an old man, and he would never get a chance to make things right.
Who was he anyway? How to explain it to the world? As far as everyone was concerned, Tripp Darling was a shark, a ruthless man, who stomped on the ones that lay in his way and would sink to the lowest depths for some abstract idea instilled in his head since birth, named The Family.
He didn't want to be remembered for The Family; he would rather be known because of his family. Who was he? He was the man who would leave a rose in Letitia's pillow every single year on the anniversary of their first kiss. He was the man that had taught Patrick how to ride his bike. He was the man that had held Karen close to his chest every night while reading her favorite bedtime story. He was the man that had taught Brian how to pray. He was the man that had bought Jeremy his first puppy. He was the man that had taught Juliet how to swim. Would someone ever remember that man? Even know he existed at all?
He was old, and there wasn't much he could change now.
But maybe not everything was lost. Maybe, it was no longer about what unfortunate traits his children shared with him, and it was more about the people his children were now. They were men and women that had shared his flaws and somehow had managed to overcome them even though he hadn't.
Patrick was thriving in D.C., as Tripp always knew he would. And surprisingly, more so for Patrick than for anyone else, he was actually enjoying his turn as a Senator. He had flown Robert and Margaux to live with him, determined to be a better father to them. He had mourned Carmelita and was now moving on, moving onto happiness, with a young and forbidden woman. Whatever else was true, Patrick always had had a flare for the dramatic, so of course his relationship with Dana couldn't go smoothly. But Patrick smiled more now, often and sincerely. Tripp could see it in his eyes… his son was in the way of true happiness, of human feelings, and he was embracing it wholeheartedly.
He didn't know when it had happened, but he knew the moment Karen walked into the Imperial, smiling at Nick George. They were back together, and the passion of young love, seasoned with the knowledge of adult lives intensely lived, shined in their eyes. Karen was happy now, she had told him so herself. She had smiled at him, her beautiful eyes shining, "Fairy tales are real, daddy". He had never cherished five simple words more. He could still believe in love through her. Her road had been a difficult one, but she had emerged unscathed, her resolution even stronger and her heart finally healed. She had learned that even fantasies required work and he was proud beyond words at how much Karen had thrown herself into her relationship with Nick, how much of herself she had given and how much of Nick she had gotten back. Fairy tales continued to be real for Karen, after vacations together, after moving into his apartment, even after her belly started to get rounded and the couple committed themselves to be a family. And it was with joy in his heart that he acknowledged that fairy tales would be always real for Karen, because in a world that was so hard, her love would remain unwavering.
Brian had had to apologize and beg and chase, but he had finally been admitted back in the Imperial. Tripp smiled as Andrea's easy going manner slowly helped Brian out of his shell, as Brian Jr.'s tenderness made his father smile more often than not. Brian would probably never again be whole, with his daughters living on the other side of the world, but at least now, he was committed, truly committed, in the way of the family man. Brian Jr. grew two whole inches, Lacey and Leah came to visit and then went back to their mother, Andrea began to use the last name "Darling", and Brian became calmer, maybe even happier. Maybe Brian would be able to be the man that Tripp himself had never managed to be, maybe he would be the father that Tripp knew he would never be able to be.
Jeremy… well, Jeremy was Jeremy. Or so Tripp always thought. He had come into his office one afternoon, more subdued than he had ever known his son to be, and in his quite particular manner, had informed him that he had made a series of impaired decisions that had led him to walk down the aisle with a woman he hardly knew. What had moved Tripp more than anything else was his son's confession of his love for Nola Lyons. Of how he had asked her to marry him, and she had refused only to come back after his wrong step had been taken. And now… now his baby boy stood on the verge of losing the woman he loved, forever. Tripp hadn't even given it a thought to how much money was going to have to go into his newer daughter-in-law's pocket for an annulment. The look in Jeremy's eyes was enough for him to just take the needed step and help him. It had been a long road before Nola had taken him back, but Jeremy's charm had gotten him out of trouble once again. Tripp now looked into his son's eyes and for the first time, saw a man. A man who felt things and wanted things and was willing to do the work to get them. Tripp finally saw a man who he could be proud to call his son.
Juliet was a bittersweet point, nowadays. Juliet was living in another continent with her boyfriend, Kai, a nice enough young man that he still didn't completely like just because he had taken his daughter away. Juliet had announced she was leaving, flushed with young love and high expectations. Not in a million years, he would have imagined his Juliet living in the tropical forest, without all the luxuries she had embraced as normal since the day she was born. But she did it, surprising everyone. She had taken off and never looked back, because she was ready to grow up, look forward and go with her heart. Maybe making Juliet all innocent and impulsive hadn't been a bad thing after all; maybe that was what had allowed her to be brave. Maybe his perfect little doll was stronger and smarter than he and everyone else had given her credit for. Juliet was gone and it was bittersweet, because he wanted her near him so much, he missed her presence with all his heart. But he knew Juliet was beginning to forge a path that was, whatever the results may be, her own. And since she was letting go and following her heart, he couldn't imagine her path been wrong.
And so, Tripp remembered where his kids had started and how they had turned out. He remembered the hours of worrying over them, of been awfully disappointed, and he managed to crack a smile in the way they had regrouped and reached for their full destiny. He would look across the dining table, his whole family by his side, and smile. Patrick was happily announcing that Dana was finally divorcing her husband and they would try to be real couple. Karen congratulated him as she handed her two week old son to his father, so that Nick could put the baby to bed. Brian laughed as he held Andrea's hand, making a joke about how Patrick and Dana would probably get married before Nick and Karen. Jeremy intercepted the conversation, promising he would marry Nola first, as his lady love hit him over the head, telling him to shut up. Everyone laughed as Karen explained that she and Nick felt that it more important to concentrate on the baby for now, that they would get marry later on and considering they were both divorcees, they knew that marriage wasn't as vital as the commitment they had already made on their family. Juliet, visiting, gushed over her sister's words, starting a long winded story about how love had changed her live, while Kai smiled adoringly at her. Tripp sighed; his children would be okay. They had found love and companionship in a world of loneliness and despair. And as the smaller children made their way into the room, he knew that hope for the Darling family would sustain. He took Letitia's hand as they watched Margaux and Robert run to their father, talking excitedly about something he couldn't quite follow. Brian Jr. didn't run as he climbed into his mother's lap and cuddled with her. Kiki George sat in the chair his father had just vacated as she and Karen got into a conversation that, from what he could overhear, involved Kiki wanting to take her baby brother to school with her and Karen promising to help her talk Nick into it.
So… who was he? The ruthless empire maintainer, a man with few ethics and no true feelings, for most people. They were probably right; he was all that. But what was he? Truly? Tripp Darling, the man, not the persona. He was a proud father, a doting grandfather, a grateful father-in-law. He had failed as much as any man could ever possibly fail. And yet, somehow, his children had managed to rise and face life with arms open and heads held high. His children would be okay; he knew as much. And even if the Empire fell, even if The Family was to end, he knew everything would be okay and that he had managed to rise to the occasion too, and had finally fulfilled the one role in his life that had ever really mattered to him.
I am Patrick Darling III. I am Letitia's husband. I am the father of Patrick, Karen, Brian, Jeremy and Juliet. I am the man who gets to sit on a table filled with children and grandchildren. I have every reason to wake up every single day, for as long as I live.