Title: watch once down
Genre: Gen (or het, I guess. Technically.) pre-series, character study, angst, horror
Word Count: ~1000
Summary: They're living the Dream--American. Heartbreak is universal.
Warnings: Spoilers for 6x17 "My Heart Will Go On".
Notes: Written for Round #1, Challenge #1 at spn_las. The prompt was "Time will tell."
Karen lives like a watch spring, with a bounce and a catch and a smile like nothing time could change. Life goes on with a tick tick tick, engine cooling underneath her once the Deuce grinds to a halt.
"Runnin' good?" she asks, and Bobby says No, musta hit a girl or something. Stuck all over the hood. Shame, 'cause she was real pretty.
Karen kisses the windshield--driver's side, dead center. Lips touch just inside the wiper margin, and she wipes the grime from the side of her mouth. "Love you too."
"I was talkin' about the car. Dunno if I'm gonna be able to scrape that gunk"--round to the hood, grab her tight around that hourglass middle, twirl her high high high--"off the front."
She'd kiss him now, for real this time, but she can see his watch face and they don't have the time.
"Sullivan's on in five," she says, and slips out of his hands like so much sand.
Karen's apron-perfect, apple pies and permed blonde curls and a toaster and a television both. She smiles out from photographs, churns out refrigerator ads and promos for hand mixers. She's been trademarked American Timeless, in the tradition of American Gothic but with more cathode rays and fewer pitchforks.
"I'm a working woman," says Karen. "Nine to five."
"Eight days a week. Heard ya the first time."
Where would we get the time?"
Sometimes, you have to take the time, says Bobby. Sometimes, you just can't care. You can't wait for the lotto, or the coupon, or the last will and testament of some well-to-do uncle.
So Bobby gets the Deuce Coupe sold and Karen's check comes in, and they're in Japan before the month is out. They lick ebi and sashimi from naked bodies, lose big on pachinko but not but enough to strand them there. Some things you don't wait for. They bring home the clothes on their backs, crusted with Okinawa sunshine, and the Polaroid to prove their time and place. (The Model 20 is lost somewhere. Maybe Miyakojima.)
Bobby puts the folded Polaroid up on the driver's side visor of the new old Corvair someone's rolled into his lot. On Sunday, he starts working to the tick tick tick of time bleeding out.
"No," says Karen, because for some things the waiting's right. "Gotta wait 'til we could do it right." They dance across calendar days and maybe next years 'til the 60s run out. Their neighbors celebrate fourth birthdays, grade school graduations. The Singers wait. Aprons and apple pie all decade long, and they never have their 2.5. They're never ready.
Spring Forward into Spring is Karen's new catchphrase. She's selling digital clocks. Gone is the tick tick tick that counted down the hours. Time slips away as it always has, but now the going's silent.
She kisses Geraldine Williams on the cheek and hugs Oyster Williams (whose name isn't really Oyster) when they step in through the door. Aren't you glad? she says. Aren't you glad it's spring?
"So glad all of that awful road salt is gone. I don't know how much more ice I could stand! With this one tracking in the wet and the salt all over the floors," says Geraldine. "Is your stove on?" She wrinkles her nose. She swears she smells sulfur, she says.
Bobby smells it too. Hopes the septic hasn't ruptured. But that's that.
"Karen," he says. He wants to tell her she is beautiful. Six o'clock tradition.
"Can you grab the devils?" says Karen. They're broiled prunes in bacon. "And the Jell-O." Then she's gone, off to the living room, where Oyster and Geraldine are waiting.
"Is there something wrong with your lights?" asks Geraldine, when they flicker. For the fourth time within the hour, they flicker.
Four hands into Omaha/8, Geraldine drops dead. She's got a flush to Bobby's wheel, she's got blood running out her mouth, she's got Karen's hand inside her. It's thrust straight through.
Bobby sees her ring, that silver pockmarked band, sewn into sinew. Blood in mercurial beads across the metal.
"Karen," he says, though it's too late for that. "Karen."
His heart beats out of sync with the kitchen clock, until it's good and revved and leaving time itself behind. He makes it to the dish rack, sink still half-full and everything dripping. He grabs their wedding cleaver, heavy and iron and terrible.
"Karen," Bobby breathes, afraid to speak aloud. Words are real and speech is real and time is flowing out from under his fingers, red and silent. Karen, Karen, Karen.
April 29th, 1972: the watch springs snap and time, the whole infernal business, goes to hell in a Rubbermaid. So sad, the neighbors say. So sad, they all say.
She was only twenty-two.
Three AM flashes green and lively in the bedroom dark. Bobby rolls back into other-bodied warmth and closes his eyes against the clock. Body against him, nestled in his arms. "Had the weirdest dream," he said, testing his voice in the night void. It rings true. He is real. "Ellen."
"Tell me in the morning." Breathy kiss to his forearm. "Your little girl is colicky and she ain't sleeping more'n another three." Translates to Right now, I love sleep more than I love you--better have the balls to deal.
Time disappears, and the digital clock flashes day month year. It's an impossible April in 1985. Bobby takes the years where he can get them. He drinks in the smell of her hair, kisses her where her hair parts. Ellen murmurs loving death threats against his wrists.
"Had the weirdest dream," he says, again. "Your name was Karen."
Wound up again; Once down, he's down for ever.
The watch once down, all motions then do cease;
The man's pulse stopt, all passions sleep in peace.