"Five Times Nick & Karen broke up only to get back together again, and one time they didn't [get back together again]." by bowlerhatgirl
Until that one time when he will and that will break both their hearts in the exact same shape - rough edges and chipped away pieces that can't fit together again.
"I hate you!" Little Karen, when mad, is not any less cute or any less of a sweetheart. She just likes to scream a lot.
Little Nick, when mad, turns a funny shade of pink, almost like he's physically restraining himself from saying he's mad. He doesn't know yet that this girl will make him feel like this for a great portion of his life.
"I'm going to tell my dad to take me to daycare after school and not here ever again! Because you hate me!"
Mad Karen turns into Sad Karen and then Nick goes from pink to white - pure terror, that is - because one thing that will never change is this: Nick will do everything in his power to keep the tears away from Karen's eyes, now and 10, 15, 25 and 5 000 years from now.
"I'm sorry," she tells him. She timidly holds his hand and fears he'll pull away. "Nicky?"
"Don't call me Nicky!" Nick is really cute when he's complaining and Karen giggles.
"Promise me you won't play soccer with Pat when you know you're s'posed to have tea with me."
He huffs and rolls his eyes - makes a show of being a boy forced to do a girl thing - and then he says okay, because it's Karen, his favorite person in the world and he'll never say no to her.
[Until that one time when he will and that will break both their hearts in the exact same shape - rough edges and chipped away pieces.]
"When I grow up, I'm going to marry Nicholas George."
Karen speaks with confidence born out of having everything she's ever wanted without so much as glancing its way.
[She loved that boy five minutes after she met him and will love him for far longer than either of them will be comfortable with, later, after it all goes wrong.]
Her friends giggle and talk amongst themselves while she sits in the dining hall and looks at him across the room, breaking a fight between Brian and Patrick [again]. He comes back, bringing her a bottle of water like he was going to before her brothers decided to fight for the thousandth time that week and he felt all noble and decided he needed to keep them from breaking each other's noses.
When he sits next to her all her friends start whispering and giggling and acting completely immature until she sends them a look but it-s too late and he has heard anyway.
He stands up, all dignified and purposeful and walks away from her and there's that little moment of panic, when she thinks he will leave her for good. He's her person and she can't imagine life without him, and it goes beyond – way beyond – from future hypothetical [or not so much, they don't know it yet but they will be almost there one day] weddings and right into Karen not knowing what love is, exactly, but knowing that she and Nick have the real deal.
Then he turns, just barely, and she can breathe again. She stands up without even glancing at her stupid friends who ruin everything and follows him out into the fountain patio.
Nick is tall, at 13 he's at least five inches than she is and so much more of a grown up [he will always be one step – or fifty – ahead of her]. She touches his wrist and pulls at his tie and he smiles.
"It's alright," he says and Karen smiles back and everything is perfect again.
Everybody always told her sex changed everything but, the way Karen saw it, it didn't really matter and it didn't change the really important things. She loved Nick and he loved her and that was one of the absolute truths of the worlds, even when he was being all stupid and yelling at her about privacy and not wanting the whole world to know.
She'd tell him it's not the whole world, but she told Patrick and he will definitely tell Brian and that's sort of the same as the whole world because her brother just doesn't know when to stay quiet sometimes.
The problem is: she doesn't see what the big deal is. The problem is: Nick doesn't see why it's not a big deal to her.
[He will, later, when it's too late for them. The girl whose picture was on every cover in town at 2 days old and whose first ballet recital made People magazine has a different concept of privacy.]
He was never a big fan of balls, or suits or having his girlfriend of forever be ogled at by men twice her age and having to stand aside as a thousand different photographers took a thousand different pictures of her.
Looking perfect in her Gucci dress, one hand on the banister and the other hanging at her side, loose smile and eyes fixed on the floor. He hates it – doesn't hate her – hates that this is all they see and hates that lately, Karen has started to believe this is all she is. Nick knows better, knows her better than anyone else in the world and hates the pretty outside that let's her hide from the world and be so afraid of herself.
He hates that she doesn't have a choice and that he can't take her away and this is why he chooses to walk away instead of staying and seeing.
He hides in the library and 2 hours later Karen finds him. She kisses him and asks him to dance and he says yes. [He hasn't yet mastered the art of walking away. He will, of course, but they still have time.]
Nick will go to Harvard, because his dad went there and because he is scary smart and Karen will stay behind and not go to college because she doesn't know what the hell she's going to do with her life.
She wasn't one of those kids who looked forward to finishing high school, she never tried and dream up what adulthood would be like. She saw herself in five years and there was Nick and balls and trips to pretty places wearing pretty clothes and it was going to be just more of the same – she was okay with that.
[She doesn't like change, something people will never suspect based on her four husbands and uncanny ability to uproot herself every time she's feeling a little blue. But that will be later, after the one heartbreak that won't heal. They don't have a lot of time left now.]
Nick knows he should be happy she wants to move to Boston, near him, so near and yet, she could be so much more. She could conquer the world if she wasn't a Darling and he tells himself he has to let go.
[He'll fail at that, this one time – this last time – but again, they don't have much time left.]
NINETEEN – and this is the one that hurts
"Don't do this."
"I'm sorry Karen, I have to-"
"Please. Please, Nick, please. If you leave, I won't- I won't know what to do, if you leave. I can't- I don't know- I- Nick please don't go, please."
He's at the door when he stops and she thinks he's going to turn back. He doesn't.
[They met at 1 and loved each other shortly afterwards and it took Nick George 18 years to learn how to walk away from his fairytale princess who would never get out of her castle because she never wanted to learn that she could.]
~ fin ~