Hard Day's Night
Title: Just the In-Between Man
Category: The Drew Carey Show
Summary: Lewis Kiniski had always been the man who women never looked to for a serious relationship. He was outwardly cynical, but could he have an inner side yearning for the picket-fence life? And what about Kate O'Brien, the one woman who's constantly refused him?
A/N: This story will be AU. Set approximately a little while after Drew and Kate have broken up.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Drew Carey Show or else it would still be airing and I wouldn't be writing here, but writing for the show. Still, we can all dream, can't we? Enjoy!
The Warsaw Tavern was packed, just like it was every other evening around this time. The jukebox played some obscure eighties' rock song in the background and spirits were high as everyone made their way through mug after frosty mug of beer. In one corner near the jukebox, two men were sitting at their usual table and drinking casually from their mugs. The first man was slightly portly with thick-rimmed glasses and his light brown hair in a military-style crew cut. His suit jacket was draped lazily over the back of his chair and his loosened tie hung limply around his neck. Next to him was a man who was only slightly taller but thinner, with a bush of curly dark hair and a pleasantly goofy smile. He was dressed more casually, in a tee-shirt and jeans, and was telling a story that left his friend wide-eyed.
"And she just untied her robe and stood there looking at me," Oswald said, shaking his head. "Completely nude. I was so stunned I didn't know what to do for a moment. Then before I knew what was happening she had grabbed me and pulled me inside. She wanted a delivery from Oswald's package, if you know what I mean." He grinned, bobbing his head at this, and then took a long draught from his beer.
"Jesus, Oswald," Drew said, shaking his head and staring at his friend in awe. "Some days I just want to leave my job and start working with you. Women all over, answering their doors naked. You sure see a hell of a lot more action than the rest of us."
"Except maybe Kate," Oswald cut in and they both laughed.
Drew took another drink and then looked around. "Speaking of which, where is she? And Lewis for that matter," he added.
"No clue where Kate is, but Lewis is upstairs getting cleaned up," Oswald said, gesturing to the ceiling with his thumb. "Rough day at work and he really needed to shower. Something to do with genetically altered monkeys."
"Again?" Drew asked and shook his head. "And I thought my job was a nightmare. The only genetically altered monstrosity I have to deal with is Mimi." Oswald chuckled appreciatively. Moments later Lewis Kiniski trudged down the stairs from the apartment and paused at the bar. Without even needing to ask, the bartender handed him a mug of beer and Lewis downed it instantly. Once it had been refilled he carried it over to the table and dropped down next to Drew.
Drew choked on his mouthful of beer and gazed at Lewis in shock. There was a dark bruise that took up most of the left side of his face and the visible parts of his forearms and neck were decorated with scratches. "Lewis, God, what happened?" Drew asked with worry.
"Bad day at work," Lewis answered, his tone weary. "DrugCo tried to cross monkeys with birds and the little hybrid monsters escaped. It was like the Wizard of Oz, only worse." Drew and Oswald exchanged looks and then erupted into laughter. Lewis glared at them, sliding his mug across the tabletop back and forth between his hands. "You laugh, but you've never been attacked by super-intelligent flying monkeys."
This, of course, only brought on more laughter from his companions. Scowling, Lewis returned his attention to his beer. Thankfully a few minutes later a distraction arrived in the form of an irritable-looking Kate. She snatched Drew's mug away from him and drained it.
"I'll just get myself another beer then," Drew said sarcastically. He went to the bar and returned with another mug and a full pitcher.
"Looks like you've had a good day," Lewis said snidely in Kate's direction, giving her a meaningful look over the rim of his mug.
Kate took one look at him and gave a hollow laugh. "You're one to talk. What happened to you, the girlfriend finally get some brains and beat the crap out of you?"
Lewis grimaced but pushed the thought of his most recent girlfriend away. "What about you, your latest conquest got your panties in a twist?"
Kate returned his scowl. "As a matter of fact, we broke up," she said, pouring more beer into her mug. "The bastard was cheating on me."
Lewis felt a pang of guilt and, not trusting himself to speak, he busied his mouth with his mug. He knew that with the sour mood he was in it would be only too easy to say something that would piss Kate off, and in her emotional disposition that would be a severely unsafe endeavor.
"Oh, Kate, I'm so sorry," Oswald said, his hand finding her shoulder and giving it a squeeze. On her other side Drew placed one hand on her back and rubbed it soothingly.
"You don't need that guy, you deserve someone who will treat you better than that," Drew said with his usual optimistic tone. "You'll find somebody, just like we'll all find somebody." He looked around at them all and then added jokingly, "Well at least some of us will. Hopefully. Some day."
Kate smiled weakly. "Not helping much, Drew," she said. Drew smiled apologetically. "Let's just talk about something else, okay," she suggested with a sigh and promptly drained another beer.
"So, we watching the game at my house this weekend?" Drew asked cheerfully. There were immediate murmured agreements, as they watched the game at Drew's house every weekend. Even though it had been a pointless question, it achieved what he wanted and got the topic onto football and off of Kate.
"Lewis, you're quiet," Oswald commented suddenly.
"Hurts to talk," he lied in response, pointing at the bruise on his face. The others nodded and dismissed the subject, although Oswald continued to glance at his best friend suspiciously. They'd been friends long enough for him to tell when there was something really eating at Lewis, and he could tell that it had to do with more than a monkey bruise. He left the questions for later though, because he knew Lewis would only get irritated if he was pressed for details in front of the others.
Lewis looked down at the tabletop, unable to stand the look of outright concern on Oswald's face. His gaze found his empty mug so he grabbed the pitcher and refilled it before following Kate's example and draining it in one long swallow. He wanted nothing more than to escape the table and retreat to his bedroom for a while, but he knew that he wouldn't be able to without raising questions. He could feel the beginnings of a stress headache and Drew's overly-cheerful and Oswald's sickeningly-energetic voices were doing nothing to help. Lewis drank down pitcher after pitcher of beer in an attempt to ward off the ache but all he managed to do was make his brain feel pleasantly fuzzy. While this was a slight improvement, he was still capable of thinking about the day's events and that bothered him.
"Well, it's after midnight. I think I'm going to head home," Drew said, glancing between each of his friends with concern. It was clear he didn't want to leave Kate alone in her state, and he seemed mildly worried about Lewis as well. "Be careful, Kate. I'll see you guys tomorrow. We're still going to get lunch, right?"
"Like always," Oswald said with a smile. Drew leaned towards him and a lull in the music allowed Lewis to catch what he whispered.
"Keep an eye on Lewis, he doesn't look too good," Drew said. Oswald nodded in agreement and Drew clapped him on the shoulder before heading towards the door with one last farewell. Once Drew had vanished through the door, Lewis wordlessly stood up and stumbled to the bar. Seating himself on a barstool, he ordered yet another beer. He sipped this one more slowly than the others, although this was partly because his hands didn't seem to want to respond very well and he was afraid of dropping the beer if he moved quickly.
To his surprise a moment later Kate slid onto the stool one away from his and ordered herself a beer as well. Oswald slipped carefully into the space between them. "I think I'm going to go to bed, I have to deliver a package out of town again so I have a long day tomorrow," Oswald said slowly, glancing carefully between them. "What about you, buddy?"
Lewis shook his head. "Nah, I need to take some more medication for this bruise," he said and gestured at the beer.
Oswald nodded knowingly. "Well then I suppose I'll see you tomorrow. Are you going to be okay to drive home, Katie-Bear?" he asked. Lewis grimaced as he heard the pet name slip into Oswald's speech, apparently without his noticing, and he saw Kate pull a similar face of discomfort.
"I'll be fine," Kate said with a wave of her hand, the other one seemingly glued to the mug. "I just want to make sure I can drink Robert out of my systems tonight."
"She'll call a cab," Lewis cut in with a pointed look at Oswald. The brunette man nodded, trusting that the look meant that Lewis would watch after her.
"Well, good-night then," Oswald said, his lop-sided grin returning. He squeezed both of their shoulders before he turned and disappeared up the stairs to the apartment. An awkward, hazy air descended over the near empty tavern, the quiet murmur of voices coming from the handful of patrons that still remained and the scuffing of mugs across the tabletops the only noises. One by one, occasionally in eager-looking twos, the other customers floated out into the wintery night. The notes of some old eighties ballad became audible as the voice levels dropped, but Lewis simply sat and devoted his attention to his drink.
"You know the thing that sucks about drinking so often?" Kate's voice speaking up abruptly startled Lewis and he jumped. Immediately his head began to swim and he gripped the edges of the bar to steady himself. Kate didn't seem to notice, her eyes still focused on the frothy contents of her mug. "When you really want to get trashed, it takes a helluva lot more to do it."
"I'll drink to that," Lewis agreed and raised his mug in a toast before taking another swallow. The silence settled between them for a moment while Lewis tried to think of what to say. "I'm sorry, about what I said about your boyfriend earlier," he said suddenly, surprising even himself.
Kate glanced up at him, really looking at him for the first time since they had exchanged insults at the start of the evening. "It's okay," she said, waving her hand again. She drank the rest of her beer and a moment later another full mug appeared in front of her. The bartender looked at her and shook his head sadly before walking back out to clean off tables. "How are things with what's-her-name?" Kate asked, determinedly steering the subject away from her love life.
"Sandra," Lewis supplied. He scowled and took a long drink before answering. "It's over. We broke up last night. Well, technically early this morning. She decided I wasn't good enough for her."
"Oh, Lewis, I'm sorry," Kate said with wide-eyes. She slid from her stool onto the one beside him, swaying slightly.
"I'm used to it," Lewis grumbled darkly. "It doesn't take long before women decide that a janitor at an insane pharmaceutical company isn't good enough for them anymore. I'm just the guy they use to bide time between real relationships." It was a fact that he had come to live with, but he found that when he spoke this time there was bitterness in his tone. Not just his usual sarcasm, but an outright discontent. He puzzled over this for a moment before he realized that he was too drunk to figure out anything tonight.
"I can relate," Kate said with a similar growl. "I wind up with a new boyfriend every month."
"About as often as Oswald changes his socks," Lewis said and was laughing before he even understood the joke he had made. Kate chuckled, but didn't seem to be really paying attention to the conversation.
"We're both kind of in the same boat, aren't we?" Kate said pensively, although the effect was ruined by the thick slur. "We're just the people who are doomed to spend forever being the throw away. The people who comfort and entertain others while they look for their true loves, but never getting to have our own."
Lewis snorted and swiveled on the stool so he was directly facing her. "True love? That's just rida – ridgu – stupid," he said, stumbling over the larger word for a moment before just choosing a simpler one. "Fairy tale nonsense." A tense silence drifted between them again, during which time Lewis looked around the bar and realized they were the only ones left besides the bartender. "Kate, why wouldn't you ever date me?" he asked, the words leaping from his mouth before he could stop them. When what he had just said sunk in he froze and clamped his mouth shut, his bright green eyes widening in surprise.
Kate seemed equally shocked by the question and she took a long time in answering. "I'm not really sure. I guess I just always knew that you were one of those in-between guys, like you said," she mumbled. "I've always been trying to look for something permanent and I didn't think I would find that in you." She gulped down the rest of her beer and then stood up, wobbling slightly but holding her ground. She placed her hands on Lewis' thighs and clutched at them. Lewis felt a familiar fluttering somewhere below his stomach, but he forced the feelings away as best as he could. He knew Kate was just trying to keep her balance, not trying to arouse him.
"You able to stand up?" he asked with an eyebrow raised as he felt her grip tighten till he could feel the edges of her fingernails teasing his skin through his jeans. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and forced himself to take several deep breaths before he opened them again. Kate was still leaning against him like that, staring at him with her enormous, albeit slightly bloodshot, brown eyes.
"You able to stand up?" Kate murmured in return and Lewis' eyes widened in shock as her gaze drifted to the zipper of his pants. "What do you say we find out?"
"Are you trying to say - ?" Lewis asked, not able to finish his sentence. "You're finally giving in?"
"What the hell," Kate answered with a mischievous smile and shrug. "We're two in-between people who are in between people. Might as well spend our night with another in-betweener." Lewis couldn't believe that after all this time Kate was actually relenting and offering to sleep with him. Sure, she was drunk as hell, but then again so was he. So why not seize the opportunity while he had the chance?
"Okay," he agreed, standing up. He threw the money for his drinks onto the counter and then walked up towards his apartment. Kate followed close behind him, one of his arms held tightly in both of her hands so that she didn't fall. All of the lights in the apartment were off when they entered and the sound of Oswald's low snores rolled out through the crack beneath his door. Lewis and Kate, both emboldened by their mass consumptions of alcohol, crept through the darkened apartment towards Lewis' bedroom.