Summary: Sometimes the best friend doesn’t get the happily ever after. Told in Karen’s POV.
Pairing: Karen x Lin x reader
A/N: This wouldn’t be possible without @strongenoughfoundation . Thank you for listening, agreeing, and fueling my conspiracy theories about Lin and Karen. Thank you for proofreading and filling in the plot holes. Most importantly, thank you for being the awesome best friend that you are. (…yo that sounded like an acceptance speech for an award bahahaha!)
Karen was all too familiar with the look on Lin’s face. The closed lipped smile of his that softened his features, the way his eyes would shine bright, swirling with affection and wonder, and how he’d fiddle his hands together in anticipation for an exchange of words – it had all been reserved for her for as long as she knew him.
Today, Karen knew that those days were long gone.
She felt hollow, the bitter taste of defeat in her mouth as she watched Lin fidget in front of the church, anticipating the arrival of his bride. It seemed like it was only days ago that she was with him backstage before the show, cuddled against his side while he filled her in on every detail of his morning, no matter how small, and only stopping to share funny videos he saw on the internet that he knew she’d like or jokes he was sure she’d love. She was his best friend and he was hers, their relationship untouchable and incomparable to anyone else’s.
Karen didn’t know when it happened, but she had started to find herself leaning into him every time he’d gently caress her face as he teased her, or enjoying the warmth she experienced whenever he would drape his arm across her shoulders, and even day-dreaming about what it would be like to spend a day in his bed blissfully wrapped in his arms. She could still feel the touch of his lips against hers, how his hands would press firmly against the small of her back to press her closer, deepening the passionate kiss their characters shared – she often found herself wondering what a kiss would be like between Lin and Karen.
She was never the type to shy away from her feelings. Her relationship with Lin was always an honest one, so it was easy for her to decide that she wanted to tell him of her affections. Unfortunately, time and luck weren’t on her side. After In The Heights, she was immediately swept into the whirlwind of rehearsals for West Side Story. The everyday phone calls with Lin eventually weaned to once every two weeks, but her adoration for Lin remained strong. She knew that their chemistry was catalytic – a single conversation after a brief time apart was enough to spark the effortless conversation and teasing that they’ve mastered over the years. She trusted Lin’s ability to find his way back to her, and she would always welcome him with open arms, which is why she wasn’t concerned when Lin stopped calling altogether. She knew he’d return in due time as energetic as always, and the gravitation towards each other would resume its pull.
It was a month of silence before she heard from Lin again. She was on her way home from rehearsals, his picture flashing across her screen causing the discomfort of her tight vocal chords and tense muscles to disappear. She happily answered, and her heart warmed at the sound of his voice.
“Karen, I met someone,” he revealed, cutting her off her playful remarks about his absence.
“You what?” she exclaimed, the hand clutching the handle of her purse that was slung over her shoulder falling limp against her side.
“It was incredible. It was like I was a character in one of those cheesy movies you like watching so much. She’s new in town and she stopped me at the subway station for directions. One thing led to another and I ended up spending the whole day with her.”
Karen recognized the adoration in his voice, but there was something different about the way he spoke about her. Her knees felt weak and she stopped walking to sit on a nearby bench, stunned at the realization that for the first time, she couldn’t seem to understand the inner-workings of his mind. “Lin, you spent the whole day with a stranger? Do you know how dangerous that was?”
“Yes, but Karen… There’s just something about her. I think she’s the one,” was his quick reply, voice giddy.
Karen felt her throat constrict, her palms getting sweaty from his alarming declaration. “Lin, you just met her! How do you – “
“I just know, alright? She’s amazing,” he sighed dreamily. “I can’t wait until you two meet. You’re gonna love her!”
His voice faded away, lost in the rapid staccato of her heart and the rush of blood that raced to her head from her anguish and disbelief.
The first time she met Y/N was when he brought her as a date to the opening night of West Side Story. She wasn’t surprised to see that she was a perfect match for Lin, every idiosyncratic feature about her complimenting Lin’s own quirky traits. Y/N was dynamic; she matched Lin’s wit and seemed to capture the room with her enthusiasm. Karen wanted to dislike her, but she saw the sincerity in her eyes the moment they were introduced.
From Lin’s lingering stares, soft embrace, and his natural draw to her even when he was across the room – Karen knew that it really was something different. But she continued to hope, knowing that sometimes, the famous happy ending with who you thought was the one wasn’t always possible. She felt a little selfish every time Lin’s smile illuminated his face at the mention of her name, but she reminded herself that she deserved a happy ending too.
Karen felt that happily ever after slip away the second time she met her. It was their engagement party. Karen was in the corner of the room, feeling like she’d swallowed a ball of cotton as she watched the glowing couple skirt around the party, greeting guests and accepting words of wisdom from married couples. She felt like a fool for letting the thought of Lin falling out of his infatuation and allure for Y/N even cross her mind. She should have known better – when Lin loved, he loved with all his being.
She spent the rest of the night drinking wine and regretting the months of silence that she had given Lin, hoping that he’d someday return to her arms. She ignored the pinch of loathing that emerged when Y/N slipped onto the barstool next to her, her radiance ever present as she flashed Karen a smile and offered a warm conversation. When Y/N was pulled away by one of Lin’s adoring relatives, Karen was forced to drink away the guilt of feeling that way towards someone who was so pure and loving.
Suddenly the song shifted, and Karen was drawn back to the present. The low murmur of the crowd accompanied the organ as they turned to look at Y/N walk down the aisle. But Karen remained rooted to the spot, her eyes trained on Lin as his eyes marveled at the sight of his bride. His eyes, shiny from his unshed tears, were full of love and awe.
Karen tightened her hold on the pew, letting out a deep breath to calm her nerves. With her other hand, she fanned herself with the wedding program, hoping that the gust of air would help with the feeling of hopelessness that overwhelmed her as Y/N reached Lin. She placed a hand against her chest, watching through tunnel-vision as Lin extended his hand out for her to take. The feeling of dread sunk in as the reality of the situation dawned on her.
Lin was getting married.
“You didn’t think I’d forget to save a dance for the most important girl in my life, did you?”
Karen let out a weak laugh but accepted his outstretched hand, hoping that her voice didn’t betray the sorrow she felt from watching his first dance with Y/N. “Be careful with what you say, Lin. You’re a married man now.”
He threw his head back and laughed merrily as he tugged her to the dance floor. Karen couldn’t stop the soft smile from forming on her face when he placed his left hand on her hip to pull her close. Her right hand instinctively clutched his, the movement engraved in her brain from the countless times she danced with him on stage.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he murmured, twirling her.
Karen clutched his shoulder tightly and kept her gaze focused on the wall over his shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes. She didn’t trust herself to speak, the pain of her loss still fresh on her mind. Luckily, he didn’t question her silence and instead drew her closer to him. She closed her eyes, losing herself to the warmth that radiated from his body and how it seemed to mold perfectly against hers.
As they moved together as one, Karen let her mind drift. Instead of the plum dress she wore, she imagined a long white gown, the train of her veil rustling behind her as she and Lin danced. She’d wear her mother’s pearl earrings – the same ones she wore on her wedding day – and he’d playfully tease her about being too sentimental. She’d frown, ready to argue, but then he’d give her a quick kiss before she’d have a chance to. The crowd would applause at the act of endearment, but the raucous sound would not faze the calm that she felt as she stared into his eyes.
“Mind if I cut in?”
Y/N’s soft voice forcefully yanked Karen out of her fantasy.
“Hi love,” Lin whispered fondly.
Karen blinked back the tears that flooded her eyes, goosebumps raising up her arms as Lin left her side. She wanted to desperately keep her cool, to ignore the ache in her chest as she watched them kiss in front of her. But there was no denying it now: the hope of being with Lin was officially over. The days of laughing until her stomach hurt or the playful teasing that would transform into full-blown arguments that could only be resolved with ice-cream would be no more. They would all just be memories that Karen treasured while Lin made new ones with Y/N.
The crushing depression set in.
Today, Karen knew that she had to bid her goodbyes to her romantic dreams.
He didn’t know if it was the romantic atmosphere of Altissia.
Or if it was her, shining under the candid lights of the street lamps. Or the way her eyes took in the beauty of the town around them.
The way her hand gave him a comforting warm inside his own.
The knowledge that her heart belonged to him, and even more important, that his heart was all hers.
Before he knew it, his hand was reaching to hold her chin, slowly turning her face towards his, eyes never leaving hers while drawing close. His lips, slightly parted, seemed to seek cover hers completely in a profound kiss.
He hoped she could feel it. That’s his lips could convey it.
All of the deep running feelings he had for her.
His need to have her always by his side, his desire to drown in that instant forever, his gratitude for sharing her life with him…
Before he could get carried away, he parted from her lips. They where in public after all.
Opening his eyes, Noctis was welcomed with the image of his beloved Luna, eyes closed and lips rossy, still in a daze not unlike his after kissing him.
It was all enough to make him lean in again, shyness and social decorum be dammed.