OLD-SCHOOL SMILLAN-CHAT: in which something ended a long time ago
also in which Jess and Laura are mutually sado-masochistic enablers who stay up until 5 am writing the most depressing story in existence.
o Jess: no Laura NO
o THEY’RE SPENDING A NIGHT APART
o THAT IS ENOUGH
o Laura: what
o Jess: THEY’RE NOT DIVORCING
o N O
o IF THEY DID MATT WOULD KILL HIMSELF OKAY END OF RP
o Laura: WHAT
o NO HE WOULDN’T
o Jess: YES HE WOULD
o IF SHE LEFT HIM
o HE WOULDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO
o HE’D HAVE NOTHING
o HIS ENTIRE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND HER OKAY
o Laura: NO BUT LIKE
o OK THIS IS A REALLY HEARTBREAKING IDEA
o BUT WOULDN’T MATT HAVE TO EMBRACE IT?
o HE NEEDS TO HAVE HER AS A PERSON IN HIS LIFE
o NOT TO HAVE HER AT ALL WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE
o SO HE’D BE A DAD TO LUKE AND TRY AND KEEP THINGS AS FRIENDLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE AND MAYBE, ONE DAY, SOMEHOW, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER AND BE FRIENDS AND BE FAMILY BECAUSE THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO HIM THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD
o Jess: BUT ;____;
o HE’D ALWAYS BE HOPELESSLY IN LOVE WITH KAREN THOUGH
o SO IT WOULD JUST BREAK HIS HEART UNTIL THE DAY HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO TAKE IT ANYMORE
o Laura: NO BUT
o WOULDN’T HE HAVE TO TAKE IT?
o BECAUSE LUKE?
o Jess: MATT’S GENERALLY UNSTABLE THOUGH
o LIKE HE HAS RANDOM EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS
o SO MAYBE HE’D END UP ACCIDENTALLY KILLING HIMSELF
o Either that or he’d forever be trying to get her back
o just for any signs that she still felt something for him
o Laura: S;DHS;DHJKALFKDG
o Jess:And as Luke got older
o He’d start noticing how unhappy his dad was even behind the jokey clumsy facade
o and maybe one time finds him in his office just staring at a photo of him and Karen he keeps on a shelf on his desk
o And of course Luke asks Karen
o Asks her why she doesn’t love daddy anymore
o Laura: and karen wouldn’t say anything
o because “i do but” isn’t an answer you give your eight year-old son but it’s the best she’s got
o BUT WHAT LAURA
o BUT WHAT ;____;
o Laura: EXACTLY
o THOSE AREN’T CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE EASY TO HAVE WITH YOUR MUM OR YOURSELF, LET ALONE WITH YOUR SON
o Jess: And then maybe Karen finally sort of moves on
o Gets a new boyfriend
o But it doesn’t work out and Karen’s obviously a bit devastated
o And of course the first person she goes to is Matt
o Because even after everything he’s her //best friend//
o Laura: Mmhhhh
o Jess: And he’s just too hopeless to deny her his sympathy
o Laura: Yes ugh
o Jess: But what is he SUPPOSED to do?
o What is an ex-husband allowed to do
o Especially when his ex-wife is a bit torn up about someone who isn’t him
o He just wants to kiss her and cuddle her better like he used to but he CAN’T now
o Laura: UGH.
o Jess: and he’s forgotten what she feels like and tastes like and smells like and he just misses her even though he sees her every other week to see Luke
o and he just wants her to love him again
o Laura: and karen just doesn’t know how to be around matt anymore because
o Jess: Because……..
o Laura: it was her that sort of initiated ending it and it’s not that she regrets it exactly but now she’d feel awful being too over-friendly to him because it wouldn’t be fair on him because she was the one who ended things and on the other hand is the fact that she wants matt to be as big a part of luke’s life as possible, and on the THIRD HAND are her own feelings which she doesn’t dare look at, really,
o again because she feels she CANT. because SHE was the one who told HIM enough. and now to start anything again would betray the friendship they managed to salvage and she could never put matt through that, could never put LUKE through that, so she just…cant
o Jess: and every time he sees her he gives her a sad smile but it still has the TINIEST trace of hope left and he holds onto it for dear life because that and Luke are the only things keeping him going anymore
o Laura: UGH
o Jess: And he knows he’ll never be happy but he’s okay and that’s just fine because maybe this was what he deserved after everything
o Karen can go and find someone she deserves and he can gradually be forgotten like he should be.
o and sure he might have that lonely ache in his chest when he goes to bed at night but it doesn’t matter so long as she’s happy
o Laura: and karen can feel him pulling away and drifting away slowly and of course that’s right, that’s good, that’s what he should do for his own sake and what he deserves to do, she has no right to feel bereft of him really — and she still sees him every week when they hand over Luke, and he’s so so keen to spend holidays with his son and stuff like that, he never misses a school concert, and so it’s not like he’s letting her down — but… but she misses him and needs him to be there and that’s the most selfish thought she’s ever had but it’s almost sort of true
o Jess: But he knows that just because it might not be him holding her as she falls asleep doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel safe and warm and loved like she deserves
o and he just wishes he’d done more to hold onto her when they were together
o Laura: but of course she doesn’t say anything like this to him, because it’s MATT and he deserves to be happy and she messed him up so badly and so many times and on so many levels, that even though she still loves him and even though he might still feel a little bit in love with her, she can’t do that to him, can’t start something again when she’s ended it before, can’t just trust in that love — because they’ve done that before and it ended up like this, and maybe sometimes she’s just scared of not being able to love him ENOUGH for that. Sometimes she feels like even though she loved or loves him so much it feels impossibly important, that won’t ever be enough because maybe she can’t ever love enough
o Jess: and obviously as time goes on matt just starts losing hope because of course Karen would never want him back - she ENDED it with him, so why would she? But even Luke notices his dad gradually becoming less and less enthusiastic about life and it’s starting to hurt a little because he doesn’t remember the last time he saw his dad smile
o Laura: And Karen just wants their family to stop hurting, because no one’s really fully satisfied and happy with the way things have ended up, not Matt and not her and even Luke’s kind of worried and unhappy too much of the time. And she just wants that happiness and that safety back and she wants her husband and best friend and father to her child back but he’s gone, that person doesn’t even exist any more she thinks, because she did so much to push him away
o Jess: and when Luke’s older still Matt buys him his first laptop for his 11th birthday and of course he winds up on YouTube and eventually finds the old interviews with mum and dad and he just doesn’t understand what went wrong because Matt still looks at Karen the same way he did back then, but Karen refuses to talk about it, so eventually Luke has to ask Matt what happened before the curiosity kills him. And Matt just doesn’t know what to say. He tries to explain it as lightly as he can that he just wasn’t the man Karen wanted anymore but even in the most innocent of phrasing he still finds himself swallowing back tears.
o Laura: And then when Luke comes home he’s very quiet and Karen asks him what’s wrong but he can’t really find words for it, but eventually when she’s tucking him in he asks her “daddy’s very sad, isn’t he, mum?” and she can’t say anythinng for a moment, and then just nods and tells him that yes, yes he is, and leaves it at that because to say anything else would mean getting past the lump in her throat and blinking away the tears.
o Jess: and of course there’s one night when matt’s just sick of feeling so pathetic and stupid so he has a few drinks and gets absolutely wasted watching family guy and feels //good// for the first time in ages and in his state his mind decides that phoning Karen is the best decision ever right now. And he does, and when she picks up, he just launches into a slurred rant about everything he’s been feeling over the past few years and he just doesn’t stop for a good ten minutes, and he’s not sure if she’s even on the line or not anymore but he tells her how sad and upset and hurt and angry he feels all the time and how much he begs for Christmas to come quicker each year so he can stay in the spare room at her flat and just spend Christmas with his family like every day should be.
o Laura: and karen lets him talk and the tears are kind of running down her face by the time he’s done because, god, it hurts so much, and then when the silence stretches on for so long that she’s sure he’s passed out or hung up she starts to talk, starts to tell him how sorry she is and how much this hurts and how much she wishes things were different and how much she just misses him and how much she needs him to be happy and how much she loves him, still, and she’s just so so so fucking sorry because she can’t find a way to let him go and she can’t put him through the mess that would happen if they tried again, and they’re just…stuck… and it’s the worst thing she ever did and she’s hurting and she loves him and she’s sorry
o Jess: and matt by this point is just sort of slumped against the sofa with the phone pressed to his ear and listening to her talk because this is the longest she’s spoken to him in years and she gets more and more Scottish as she rants at him and he can feel himself falling for her all over again and when she’s done and he can hear her quiet sobbing and sniffles he just groans a little and murmurs the most simple, innocent “I love you” and of course he still means it and he’s drunk so he doesn’t care if she knows now
o Laura: and when karen hears that she just starts shaking because she never meant for him to hear that, she was just trying to find some small way of feeling like it was out there, like it wasn’t weighing her down for one second of the day, and now that he’s heard her and now that she’s heard him they’re so close to being back at the point where they might both do something and change something and start something, but it’s too big it’s too scary she can’t she can’t she CAN’T because she’s never been strong enough for this or good enough for this or able to love enough for this or just enough, full stop, to deserve him and to mess him up again like this, and it’s just…not
o Jess: and by the time she might’ve replied Matt had already passed out drunk and she must’ve hung up at some point and the next morning when he wakes up drastically hung over and sees his call history he just panics and sends her a “I’m so sorry!” text but he just knows he said something last night and he’s terrified of what’s going to happen now and his headache hurts too much to think about it
o Laura: and karen knows from the way his text is both panicked and off-hand that he doesn’t remember, that he doesn’t understand exactly what happened, that he has no real recollection of what SHE said… and it’s just a strange kind of relief because now he won’t be living with that as well as all the other pains. But now she’s got this knowledge all to herself, and it’s strange and sad and lonely and she can feel the pressure of it pressing down on her shoulders because he still loves her and she still loves him and they both want something more but she knows she can’t ever say so and he doesn’t even know that she still feels that way — thank god, because if he did, he’d try, that’s matt, that’s who he is, because he’s always believed so much more of her than she’s given him reason to — and she couldn’t tell him no. if he asked, she couldn’t tell him no, because he’s matt, she’s karen, and she’s always been led to trust too much in herself by him, and maybe if he opened up she’d begin to feel that way again, maybe she’d get back some of that inner confidence, and in the long run…that might be a bag thing, because in the end karen thinks she’ll always fail him
o Jess: and the next time he sees her there’s the obvious tension that she knows something he doesn’t but he just brushes it aside and it’s like that right up until Christmas and as always Matt sets up in the spare room and takes Luke and Karen out for the day before they go home again like it SHOULD be. but Matt pushes that thought aside because some of the family are coming over for a Christmas eve party and of course there’s wine for everyone (except Luke) and Matt doesn’t know how or why but at some point he’s alone with Karen in the kitchen and the next minute he’s kissing her and it’s everything he remembers it to be when he thought he’d forgotten.
o Laura: and karen doesn’t understand how this happened, one minute he was helping her carry some empty trays back to the kitchen and then somehow she ended up leaning forwards in the same moment he did and somehow she’s now holding on to his jacket like she’s drowning and her lips are pressed against his and his hands are clutching at her waist and they’re stumbling and overbalancing and almost tripping over each other’s feet until they all-but fall against the back of the door and Karen pushes him forward until their legs are pressed together and his hips are against hers and his arms are around her and she’s kissing him like he’s kissing her and somehow it’s everything she shouldn’t get and everything she shouldn’t want and everything she wants and needs and it’s a really fucking weird mix of feeling like the happiest person alive and feeling like this is only going to make things worse. like he’s only going to get hurt more and she’s going to be at fault and it’s going to HURT HER as well and she should stop this before it becomes a thing and she just can’t
o Jess: and by the time they’ve pulled away Matt just has no idea what to do because that SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED but it did and it has and now he’s terrified because what if Karen stops him seeing her and Luke completely and what if she stops him coming over at Christmas and he’s so scared of what’s going to happen now but his thoughts are sort of hazy in the back of his mind and for a second he just feels as though they’re still together and his face is still only an inch from hers so he can still feel her shaky breaths against his lips and he just closes his eyes and bumps his nose gently against hers and tells her he loves her like it’s entirely normal and it’s not until a second afterwards that he realises what he’s said and oh shit.
o Laura: And shit now Karen doesn’t know what to do with her face or her voice or her words or her thoughts or her everything, because he’s said it out loud and sober (or not hammered anyway) and she’s here and sober too and she knows with everything she’s ever been sure of in her life that this CAN’T be a thing they do again but she also feels with everything that’s ever been in her heart how much it’s WRONG that they can’t but matt’s still here and he’s looking at her with huge round eyes and his jaw’s dropped slightly like he tried to form a word or a sentence but gave up half-way through and shit maybe karen isn’t as sober as she thinks she is because somehow the words “love you” are spilling out of her mouth and then somehow she’s kissing him again and shit
o Jess: and Jesus Christ Matt can pretty much feel his heart in his throat and he’s sort of glad everyone else is in the other room and they’re against the door because if anyone walked in now he’d probably just lose it and HAVE to leave but now he can’t because Karen still loves him and for the first time in years he can feel that cocky childish grin tugging at the corners of his mouth and he just holds her waist and then her hips and then the side of her face and he’s kissing her with everything he has left because even if it’s not properly, at least he has her for this exact moment in time and he can feel her heartbeat through both of their ridiculous Christmas jumpers and he just doesn’t want to let her go.
o Laura: and holy fuck this cant happen but it is and somehow karen isn’t sure why but this is the happiest she’s ever felt or at least the happiest she’s felt in years and she knows that soon enough they’re going to HAVE to leave this room and find some way forwards from this point because there’s no way their shaky friendly co-existence will still be possible now, but she doesn’t want to think about that — doesn’t want to think about the people outside or luke curled up on a pile of coats in his room which was turned into the coat room or what tyhey’re going to do tomorrow or the day after that or for the rest of their lives, because right now that’s as far away as anything, and even though she knows with every scrap of rational logic still left to her that this is only going to make everything worse she can’t bring herself to pull away or stop this from happening and so she just clings to Matt and kisses him with everything she has and is and wishes she could freeze time in this exact moment
o Jess: and to Matt it feels like they’re making up for the years of tension and awkwardness in this one moment because this is FAMILIAR and NATURAL and it just feels so bloody good that Matt grips onto her just that little bit tighter and her arms are around his neck and keeping his mouth pressed to hers, but eventually it just sort of melts into a hug that’s filled with the comfort and safety they both need and have needed since the day they signed the divorce papers - Karen because she wasn’t happy and Matt because he WANTED her to be happy - and when he brings himself to pull away slightly he lets his thumbs wipe away her tears and just smiles at her because he doesn’t expect anything more from her at all he just can’t help being happy.
o Laura: And Karen looks at him and wants to smile because he looks as happy as she feels, somehow, and so when she does, when she lets the grin tug at her lips and the panic face from her eyes, it’s no surprise at all that he just smiles and smiles and smiles back at her. and for maybe five whole seconds karen lets herself think that maybe they’ll be okay. but then — but then she catches herself because she KNEW this would happen, she knew she’d respond if he ever started anything at all because she’s just that in love with him and she’s just that blindly reckless when he’s around her and she’s just that gullible to believe in herself as much as he believes in her — and it’s too much. he trusts he with too much, still, even after everything she’s dragged him through, and even though it hurts to take that step back from this in her mind, she knows she has to do it or they’ll end up somewhere he’ll regret and it’ll be because of her stupid reckless blindness all over again.
o Jess: and almost instantly matt can see her expression change and suddenly the moment isn’t happy and carefree anymore. and he knows they’ll probably start wondering where the hosts of this silly family party are but he can’t bring himself to leave because as soon as he does then they’ll never get a chance like this again so he just pours his heart out as quickly as he can because at least if Karen KNOWS then it won’t be weighing on him for the rest of his life and he just rants at her about how he’s never stopped loving her and that would never change and how he never wanted or wants anyone except her because she is IT for him, there isn’t anyone else, and he just wants her and wants to be able to give luke a proper stable family for once, and how much he regrets not giving Karen something to hold onto because then maybe they could’ve had more than just luke, and maybe that can’t happen anymore, but he wants nothing more than to TRY with her and it doesn’t have to be official or any form of serious commitment and they can take it in baby steps, but he just wants her back in any way he can take.
o Laura: and karen isn’t exactly surprised by his words — because it’s matt and he’s like that and she’s always known that if he ever talks about this to her, it’s going to be huge and beautiful and he’s going to put so much trust in the fact that he thinks they can do this if they try — but she still reels back and sucks in a gulp of cold air because holy SHIT, that hurt to hear it said out loud properly and in full and it’s like nothing has changed in the last ten years or however long it was that they stood in front of a vintage shop in london. then, like now, all matt wanted was to make her his and then, like now, all he wanted from her was to let him in, all he’s ever wanted from her is trust and faith and confidence in what they could be, but karen just doesn’t know anymore whether he ever saw her clearly, because she ISN’T strong and he SHOULDN’T trust her and she DOESN’T have that much faith in herself. she’s karen. she can’t. can’t do that to him, can’t do that to luke, just…can’t. and somehow all these words have been tearing themselves out of her for the last couple of minutes and shit she’s said all of this out loud and now it’s becoming really hard to look at matt and not cry.
o Jess: and matt’s just at a loss for what to say now because that’s it, everything’s out in the open and if they can’t try fixing it now then they’ll never be able to. And Matt knows she’s scared - he’s just as terrified - but he’d rather they try and fail because it won’t hurt as much as them just letting go like they did before. And by now he’s holding her face again and he’s pressed his forehead to hers and he’s just begging silently for some miracle to help him because he doesn’t know if he can do it anymore without her. Because they’re more than this. They’re more than just Matt and Karen; they’re best mates, lovers, once-married man and wife, //parents//, he knows all this, and even if they don’t remarry or ever get back together as such, he just wants to be able to spend time with her watching shit tv with crap takeaway like they used to and even let Luke join in too if that’s what she wants.
o and karen just lets her hands wander up to grip on to the front of Matt’s jacket again, just holding him there and keeping him here with her and even though they’re not kissing or saying anything it feels like so much is passing between them with every breath and maybe, just maybe, it’s good that it’s all been said now because now he understands how much he’s overestimating her strenfth and now he knows she’s never blamed him for any of it and now she might be able to back away into a safe place without him getting hurt by her actions — maybe this time, she’s explained enough. but at the same time she knows that isn’t true — knows matt will only blame himself anyway, knows matt won’t believe her when she tells him she isn’t enough for him, knows he still sees her as impossible and brilliant and something he somehow needs to WORK to deserve when it’s actually the reverse that’s true, and it’s her that’s never deserved him…. and then she opens her eyes, because she needs to ask, because it’s been ages and people will be looking for them and luke might be awake and they need to get out of this insane kichen before her resolve crumbles, and she just looks at matt and asks, “what now?”
o Jess: and properly for the first time Matt’s just speechless. Genuinely as if he can’t bring himself to form words because holy shit this might actually be her giving them a chance if he can just say the right thing right now and it has to be perfect and he CAN’T screw this up for all 3 of their sakes but he’s just blank and all he can do is shrug and shake his head like an idiot but as soon as Karen sighs he suddenly has everything he wants to say and it comes blurting out as “I want to try fix us, you me and Luke, we can be a proper family not just at Christmas and— and I’ll stay in the guest room for as long as you like and I’ll help pay the rent and take Luke to school and just make everything better like I should’ve done years ago.” and then his words run dry again and he just looks at her like she’s the only thing that matters.
o Laura: and right now karen just cant even think about that, can’t let herself think about any of that, because if she starts she’s going to either crumble completely or end up shutting everything off again and she doesn’t want either of those right now, so she focuses on the one thing that makes sense to her. “Yeah, no, I, Matt, yeah, I meant — ” she’s babbling and she can’t speak but that’s not important — “What now? because the party and the people and we can’t do or fix or talk or I don’t know NOW but it’s Christmas and please please don’t go.”
o Jess: and Matt just sort of shrugs again but it’s more of a shy recoil than anything and he gives her a moment to step away before opening the door a little to see what’s going on and everyone’s just sort of sat sipping their wine and Luke’s still presumably in his room and Matt turns back to Karen promising that of course he’s not going to LEAVE, he’s staying right here as normal for another day or two while she can think about it and then it’s up to her what happens. And Karen just looks defeated so all he can do is press a kiss to her cheek and lead her back into the lounge and he’s not surprised that most of them are half-asleep or ready to leave so as soon as one pair say they’re going everyone else soon follows and then it’s just him and Karen again and he just sort of stands there a little bashfully with no idea what to do now.
o Laura: And instead of sitting down and talking like a functioning human being, all Karen does is back away until she’s almost running, and the flat’s so small she can’t go far and she just ends up at the doorway to luke’s bedroom and he’s lying on his bed tucked in properly now instead of passed out on some coats, and he’s sucking his thumb and clutching the felt giraffe they gave him for his first crib and that’s a sign of needing comforting for Luke, which is understandable, tomorrow’s Christmas and that’s always a really strange day for him and he is only eight after all. and somehow karen’s crying again, and she doesn’t even notice Matt walking over to stand next to her until his knuckles brush against hers and she looks at him and then back to the sleeping boy and she’s just filled with the really fucking huge overwhelming thought of “he’s ours we made him that’s our baby and he’s so big now and he’s still mine and yours and ours” and she’s possibly saying some of this out loud now but doesn’t really care how coherent she’s being at all.
o Jess: and he just looks at her and of course she scared out of her mind but that’s okay that’s normal at least she’s feeling SOMETHING and that’s more than enough for Matt right now, but Luke’s still just asleep in what has to be an uncomfortable position and he can’t help himself going over to sort it out properly, and as soon as he has Luke cradled in his arms, Karen’s moving the coats onto the floor and she’s taking Luke’s shoes off and then matt’s laying him under the duvet of his bed and he’s stirred half-awake now but Matt just kisses his forehead and tells him to “go back to sleep, mate, Santa will be round soon,” and Luke gives his dad a lazy smile but his expression changes when Karen is tucking him in a moment later because mummy and daddy never say goodnight together but they’ve already gone and turned out his bedroom light before he can question them and then Matt is alone with Karen in the hallway a bit lost as to what they do now.
(ignored the tucked in bit but FUCK IT)
o Laura: (FUCK CONTINUITY)
o Jess: (WOOOO)
o (KEEP GOING THO FUCK SLEEP)
o Laura: and even though karen has no clue what they’re going to start or whether they’re going to start anything or what exactly she even thinks she wants from this (well, she wants everything, but can’t let herself want that, not any more) — and even though she has no idea what matt’s thinking of or what he wants or what he’s trying to tell her, exactly — she knows exactly what she isn’t going to do. She isn’t going to do the one thing that got them into this entire mess in the first place; she isn’t going to be impulsive. She isn’t going to let herself get carried away by a moment that only turns horrible and messy and wrong come morning. (But she can’t quite let what is undeniably a moment pass without marking it, they haven’t had moments in fucking years and it feels too precious) So she just leans in to kiss him, just for a few seconds, sofrtly, their lips moving against each other gently and noses bumping, and then she pulls away and just waves towards the spare room with her face probably a mess of every emotion ever, and she chokes out her “night then” and turns tail and flees to her bedroon
o Jess: And of course matt’s bemused beyond belief because yes, Karen’s KISSING him again - apparently - and that’s enough to shock his system, but then she was gone and all too quickly escaping to her own bedroom and Matt just takes a few deep breaths of his own before creeping along to the spare room where he’d spent the last 9 or so Christmases and gets undressed like was tradition but as soon as he’d climbed into bed he knew it felt colder and less welcoming that he remembered it.
o Laura: and karen lies in bed fully clothed with the blankets around her feet and hthe lights off but she can’t stop staring up at the blank ceiling and she knows she should get up and let the blinds down and get into her pyjama shirt and tuck herself in and close her eyes, but she can’t,she’s so awake and so alive and so — she hasn’t felt this young in years. and also there’s a strange sense of if she doesn’t go to sleep then this day won’t be over, and it won’t stop being real and good and maybe hopeful, and she won’t ever have to wake up the next morning with the world still waiting for her to deal with it. She can’t sleep, because she’s too scared of what happens after she wakes up, but getting out of bed and doing something else is equally impossible — until she remembers that TOMORROW IS CHRISTMAS and she hasn’t put luke’s presents out under the tree yet, and she quickly grabs the stack out from her closet and tip-toes into the living room again, hair still up and make-up still on and still fully dressed for the party, but at least this is something normal and routine and domestic for her to do
o Jess: and as soon as Matt starts hearing noises down the hallway he instantly thinks it’s someone trying to ruin their Christmas, but then he hears the blatant Scottish “shit!” as Karen tripped over the coffee table and knocked a few things to the floor and knows it’s just her being the brilliant sort-of-single mum she has been most of Luke’s life and Matt can’t help himself slipping out of bed in nothing but a pair of pyjama bottoms and padding his way through to the lounge to see Karen arranging Luke’s presents under the tree. And he just hovers by the doorway and watches her for a while with a grin, before grabbing the present he’d placed behind the couch earlier and silently placing it beside Karen’s pile as he came to kneel beside her and mutter “you missed one” with a teasing smile he hadn’t managed for what seemed like forever.
o Laura: "Thanks," And Karen can’t help the giggle or the smile or the way her heart starts racing again, because they’re doing Christmas //together// and it’s somehow really really really liberating. not that she’s ever complained or minded or even thought about complaining about doing the mum thing on her own, that’s not the point — she’s always done it, and she loves luke to bits, and she’d never, ever, ever, swap what she has with him for a happy relationship with matt or a stress-free life or a better career, he’s HERS, her baby — but to have matt here… to have something so traditional and so normal for them to do together, as a family, it’s somehow powerful. even though they’ve done christmas together with luke every year for eight years now, this is the first time they’re really doing things //together// and it somehow makes her want to cry all over again but all she manages is a weak grin and a mumbled, "got something you wanted to put in the stocking?" as she picks the already-full bright red thing out from underneath the tree where it’s fallen with the rest of the presents.
o Jess: and Matt just glances at her with the most amused expression at how the stocking was literally almost splitting apart with how full it was, but he’d never discourage her, because Karen was a perfect mum and one of the best he’d ever seen given the circumstances but he’d never had any doubts about that in the first place, so eventually he just shakes his head but takes the stocking from her anyway to hang it up on a small nail he hammered into the wall years ago for that very purpose, and then he just looks around at all the Christmas scene that they only really put together for Luke, but suddenly, it all feels weirdly magical and festive and somewhat adorable. And then he catches Karen’s eye and he’s glad it’s dark because he can feel his cheeks heat up but he smiles at her anyway and runs a hand shyly through his slight-bed-hair.
o Laura: And somehow everything is just still and silent and magical enough not to be awkward, and somewhere at the back of karen’s mind a decision is made — one that she refuses to look at for now, one that she needs to think over and reconsider, but one that feels hugely fundamental because it rocks her entire coping system of eight years to its foundations. and she can feel the change somehow, can feel her heartrate pick up again and her cheeks warm up slightly and she runs a hand through her hair, and grins when a pin comes undone and the whole thing comes tumbling down in a mess of red curls over her shoulders, and she manages a sort of shaky laugh. And she wants to say more, wants to DO more, but the scrap of reason left in her brain is SHOUTING at her not to, that it would just complicate things beyond the point of untangling; but stll, now she’s thought about it, it’s really hard to ignore, especially when Matt is still here and staring at her in the semi-darkness with bright eyes and with the christmas tree behind both of them reminding them of everything that happened and everything that might still happen — and she wants matt, all of him with everything that might go wrong and everything that could go right, and she’s not sure yet if she’s going to let herself want it, but for now the thought has been reduced really quite simply because. She wants him.
o Jess: And for a while matt’s honestly just a little lost and confused as to what’s happened and what’s happening and what’s going to happen but Karen’s just looking at him with some expression he couldn’t quite recognise for the minute, but it seemed to be good, because she was smiling, and that was obviously good, so he didn’t even think to question it in fear of ruining it. But somewhere in the flat he could hear a clock beep on the hour, and one glance at the one in the lounge showed it was already 2am, and if Luke was on time, they’d be awake again by 8. And though Matt wasn’t all that tired anymore, he figured Karen had to be, and he hesitantly held out his hand for her to take to walk her back to her room.
o Laura: and now karen’s heart is hammering and she feels like it’s jumping around somewhere in her throat, because matt might mean the gesture completely innocently — and even then it’s huge, they haven’t held hands in so fucking long and she can’t believe how long it’s been — and even though he might just be meaning to walk her back to her room and make sure she’s all right, that’s not how her subconscious rushed to interpret it, and now her stomach is in knots and her cheeks are blushing hotly and her feet feel all funny and buzzy, and when they get to her bedroom door she just stops and looks at matt and tries her very very very hardest not the one to break this stasis — she needs to wait for this to be matt’s decision, because he’s as sincere and careful as she is heartfelt and impulsive, and if his careful decision is the same as her impulsive one then it might not be //the// worst decision she ever makes.
o Jess: And now all of a sudden Karen’s bedroom door is one of the most daunting things in the world and he’s half tempted to turned and run screaming back to the spare room, but he’s just sort of frozen on the spot with Karen’s hand in his and the gesture seems so much bigger than it’s supposed to be but it’s fine for now, it’s okay, it’s //good//, but he’s still stuck as to what to do now because Karen’s still LOOKING at him and her gaze is getting more and more recognisable but she CAN’T mean it like that, it’s Christmas and their son is a few feet down the hallway, but that doesn’t stop him sucking in a deep breath and leaning in to kiss her slowly - whether it was a kiss goodnight or something a little more than that was all up to Karen’s judgement now.
o Laura: and now he’s kissing her properly again, and it;s worlds away from kisses on the cheek or even that small chaste kiss goodnight from earlier, and somehow it’s different to them in the kitchen earlier too, because that was all about some strange urgent desperation and need and a breaking down of resolve and it wasn’t //this//, this slow-burning patient fire that gets hotter with every second they keep kissing, their bodies curving around each other until there’s precisely NO space between them, and Karen is half-aware of reaching behind her to open the door, and half-aware of matt pressing her forwards with a low moan of approval, and then they’re stumbling inside and collapsing onto the bed and he’s here it’s matt he’s back and it’s real and she feels so alive alive alive and somehow nothing else matters
o Jess: and now Matt doesn’t even really care all that much about anything else anymore it’s CHRISTMAS MORNING and everything’s magical and perfect and he just doesn’t even want to pay attention to anything else apart from Karen trapped beneath him and her hands on his bare shoulders and her lips moulding just as perfectly as they always have with his and his hands are working their way through her hair and getting rid of all the random pins until its fanned out across her pillows and just looking at her he can feel his heart hammering quicker than it has done in //ages//.
o Laura: and then they have magical christmas morning sex and maybe things aren’t okay for a long time but slowly they are and then laura has to go pass out like luke on top of her coats because it’s nearly 5am