She opened her eyes, hesitantly because of the blindingly bright light of the sun she was instantly met with, and she hummed lowly, raspily, almost groggily, to herself.
She stretched her arms above her head until the back of her fingers met the wooden headboard. And she dropped them lazily back on the pillow, not caring to look at the clock on the bedside table and just relishing in the soothing feeling of the warm sunlight that shone in, hardly blocked from the room by the soft, sheer curtains in front of the window, the warm streaks of light that spread on her, by now, lightly tanned, naked skin that was only partially covered by the thin, white bedsheet.
Her husband was not there with her. She did not need to turn around to his side of the bed to know, because she could just tell. There was no warm torso touching her naked back. There were no arms wrapped around her abdomen, a true lack of fingers gently brushing over her skin and no soft breathing spilling against her neck.
She could smell his scent in the soft cotton fabric around her, but it was only a slight trace of him, partially hidden beneath her own scent and the sweet smell of laundry detergent.
He had already gotten up and she knew without having to check.
There was no better way to wake up than to wake up in the comfort of his arms, of his body heat and his presence. Of course, both of them had gotten used to the fact that it could not always be that way. She had her packed schedule, just as he had his and when they had moved in together almost two years ago, they had become accustomed to getting up when the alarm clock would go off, gotten used to leaving the bed before the other needed to and to later take off with a quick but soft kiss on the forehead of the dormant person that was still laying in bed and to whisper "I love you." softly to them in a cautiously hushed voice that would not wake them, so that they could not even really register that it was being said at all, but to say it anyway because they just felt the urge to do it.
But here? She had thought that they would be able to grant themselves the luxury of waking up together. Here, where they had come to abandon all of their responsibilities for another two weeks. Here, where they could just be... Be together. Just as they had planned.
Just as they needed.
"Diane?", his voice echoed over to her through the hallway from out of the direction of their kitchen.
"Yeah, who else lives here?", she called back harshly in a bitterly sarcastic tone, rolling her eyes as she practically slammed the door shut behind her. It had been not on purpose though and the loud and sudden bang caused her to flinch, like a deer in a forest that got scared by the sound of a branch cracking beneath its own hooves. It was not on purpose.
She had not meant to do something wrong yet again. And again.
Closing her eyes for a moment, she shook her head and sighed deeply, before she opened them again reluctantly and kicked her expensive high heels carelessly off of her nylon-covered feet. As though in surrender, final surrender to this day and ultimate defeat to the insanity that had apparently taken over the world, she dropped her purse and coat on the floor and she took a deep breath, the new wave of oxygen that entered her system feeling as though it was burning holes into her lungs and throat, before her palm, cold and equally uncomfortably sweaty, found the polished wooden material of the front door.
Her hand was on the same level as her eyes and she stared wearily at her nails. The shiny, red colour that aggressively bored into her worn-out eyes, causing them to sting painfully as some bright neon light would.
Rich crimson red. Like a fresh wave of blood.
She scraped her front teeth over her bottom lip and felt the thin layer of lipstick she had pulled off of it with the movement accruing on the back of her teeth, tasted it on the tip of her tongue. It tasted the way artificial flower scents smelled. Sweet and faked, a nauseating imitation, dizzying and reminding one instantly of what it was supposed to resemble, without ever actually getting close to the reality.
Her eyelids slowly withdrew her vision again, like curtains that were being pulled shut tightly in front of a window at the end of the day, when even seeing was too much to do anymore. When seeing the world was something one could no longer take because it was just too draining when they were already feeling like they had been drained to a stage of complete emptiness.
Her forehead collapsed with the back of her hand and she attempted to keep her breathing steady. Tried to keep her knees from buckling beneath the weight of this day, beneath the madness in the world that forcefully kept crashing down on her.
She was too lost in her thoughts on trying to force herself to stop thinking once and for all, which seemed to accomplish nothing but an increase of the pace in which the thoughts buzzed around in her mind so very loudly, as if they were screaming at her, when there was nothing she wanted more than silence, so that she only noticed him standing behind her in the entrance hall when he wrapped his arms around her waist.
His strong arms around her to make her feel confident when she was feeling insecure. His torso curving against her back to keep her safe when she was feeling so utterly vulnerable. The way one of his hands moved to gently stroke her right side and to make her feel alive when she was feeling like she was suffocating beneath the burden of it all. And the way he placed a soft kiss on her hair to let her know that he was here when she was feeling so helpless, so incredibly and downright helpless and alone. The way he made her feel so loved when she felt so truly hopeless like she had not done in a long time now, but nevertheless like she did right now.
The way he kept her sane when all she could see was insanity.
The knot that had been sitting in her throat for the entirety of the last couple of weeks of trial tightened painfully and her back, arms and shoulders suddenly tensed in a tremor. She pressed her lips together to muffle the deep sob that escaped her at last. A sob she had been holding back ever since Judge Abernathy had reentered the courtroom earlier. She had known him for long enough to be able to know his verdict based on the look she would see on his face before the announcement, so the feeling had already begun before he even had actually voiced it.
Diane's free hand closed around one of his forearms that was resting on the side of her abdomen. Her shaky fingers digged into his skin, her fingertips pressing into the rough, washed-out cotton fabric of the sleeve of his flannel button-up, as though holding on to him like that could keep her from drowning in her own distress.
Because it could. She knew it actually could, knew that he was capable of doing that. And she knew that because he had done it before.
And now she could not hold it back anymore. Hot tears wandered downwards over her flushed cheeks, creeping sneakily out of her eyes that she was still holding closed. Strong sobs which she was not capable of muffling for any longer, began to ebb out of her like shock waves that could only keep coming and coming more and more forcefully, filling the otherwise silent house with echoes of pain and more sorrow than she could take.
Kurt's hold on her tightened as if he were trying to physically keep her from breaking into the tiny little pieces she felt herself shattering into, mere fragments of the strong persona she was not able to keep together as a whole right now. His chin landed on her shoulder and in between the sounds of her own desperate sobbing, she heard the soft whisper of his voice next to her ear.
"I love you.", he told her. Just like that. As though it was the easiest thing he had ever said, as though there was nothing he could ever hold more confidence in than into the so seemingly simple and natural existence of his love for her.
It was calming and relieving to know that even if everything else had already lost its meaning, he and his love and the fact of that she could truly rely on the both of them, never would. It was not always that easy to believe in it, but it was always easy to at least try to do so and to hope that she could, because he never failed to actually make it easy for her, and that alone made her small world that was so very unproportionally packed with flaw, to a much better place.
But it could not just make up for everything. She would have preferred it to work that way, but it did not. Not today anyway. Not right now.
Diane nodded lightly, her forehead brushing against her fingers, and she took a deep, shaky breath before she swallowed hard in an attempt to put a stop to her crying.
"We lost.", she half whispered, half choked out and her throat was beginning to burn from the exhaustion of being forced to produce words.
Kurt exhaled deeply. The warm air he released softly spilled against her neck.
"I'm sorry, Di.", he whispered.
And she knew that he was because he could feel the pain, too. The same or at least a similar pain to the one she was feeling. There was a strange sort of comfort in the knowledge of that there was someone who could understand her, even when she herself did not. To know that if she would drown, he would voluntarily sink down with her because he would be just as taken by her reaction as she was taken by what had made her react in the first place.
But he did not have to be. He was not the one who was at fault.
"Kurt.", she breathed out and her voice broke. "I failed her."
Another sob escaped her and she did not even notice the tint of wetness on the collar of her dress when the fabric soaked up the tears he had neither meant nor wanted to shed. But there was nothing he could have done to hold them back.
Because her words brought him back to that night. That night in which he had said those exact same words to Will Gardner in the waiting room of the hospital.
He shook his head decisively.
"No. You didn't.", he said softly. "You've done everything you could and even more."
She snuffled before she could produce another breathy whisper again.
"But I still failed."
His heart clenched painfully at the sound of her frail voice that was followed by another twitch of her body, letting him know that a new wave of silent tears was about to escape her.
"No. You're a hero.", he told her and he was dreading so strongly that she would not believe him.
Because she really was that. A hero, a warrior, a beacon of light and nothing less. Only more for which he could not find any words that would express righteously what she was to him.
"I'm not.", she whispered heavily.
"You are.", he insisted. "You're my hero."
"I'm sorry I snapped at you...", she began and moved her head while her blue eyes were searching for his green when she heard his soft steps approaching her, the sound muffled by the fabric of his socks, taking him back to the living room.
A small, puzzled frown had crept over his brows at her words.
"When I got here. I didn't mean to do that.", she explained softly when he took his seat next to her on the couch, handing her a glass of red wine before he placed his hand on her knee. Two of his fingers slowly and gently began to brush over her skin in random patterns.
Her chin was steadied on her wrist, her elbow resting on the edge of the back of the couch and the tip of her index finger brushed lightly over her bottom lip.
"It's fine.", he said and shot her a lopsided smile, hoping that it could cheer her up the tiniest bit, even though he knew that it would not. At least not right now.
The corner of her lips twitched. It neither looked happy nor cheered up, only pained, as though the motion was a way for her to compensate the hurt whimper she did not want to let out instead. Her one brow was still furrowed and she looked so incredibly unsettled and helpless that it broke his heart.
He brushed his thumb over her skin that was covered by a thin layer of dark but sheer nylon.
"You did great, Diane.", he said and caused her to scoff lightly.
Objectively, she knew he was right. She could not remember to ever have worked so incredibly hard on a case before, not even back in the days when she had just begun to practice the law, back when she had still had to prove herself and her abilities to the people around her. Clients and co-workers and judges and state's attorneys. She had not needed to do that anymore for a long time now, let alone for a pro-bono. People knew that she was good at what she did, but that was not what this had been about at all.
It had not been about money or prestige or career-wise ambition.
This had struck her on a personal level. And that was what had caused her to work fifteen hours each day of the last weeks, what had caused her strong need to win this trial. That was what made it so hard to lose.
"I can't believe Abernathy, of all the people, let him get away with this.", she mumbled pensively before her finger left her lips and she took her first sip of wine.
Kurt shook his head.
"You know how he is.", he said. "Always wants to prove that he's not biased because of his own values and political views."
Diane swallowed the wine and looked at him again. Her jaw was tensed, her light blue eyes narrowed as they locked with his and her head was moving slightly, almost invisibly, as if she had no energy left in her to keep it still, and he could instantly tell how upset his words made her. And not because he had said them per se, but because she knew that they were the truth she refused to believe in.
"This isn't about politics.", she answered, her voice low but her tone equally harsh. "Being biased against rape isn't political. And ruling against it is not about being a liberal, it's about having good manners."
She took another long sip and he watched her with concern.
"I know, hon.", he said softly. "But he didn't rule based on his manners. He did what he thought was right and it's unfortunate that he was mistaken. But you couldn't have prevented that."
She breathed in deeply and the look of annoyance that was painted on her beautiful face quickly shifted to sadness. Her annoyance and even her anger had always been easier for him to take than her sorrow.
He had never had a problem with being the one she could yell or snap at when she did not know the best way for her to cope and it was not hard for him to tell when her anger was actually directed at him or if it was just the only way in which she could let loose and get it all out of her system. He had always been one to enjoy a good argument and he liked that they were on the same intellectual level so that they could argue with each other as equals.
And anger, he knew how to react to. Anger, he knew how to deal with.
Her sadness, however, it was a completely different subject. It was a lot harder to take because it affected him so much more than her fury, made his heart clench boisterously, as though he was losing control over his body.
"I consider him a friend, you know?", she said throatily. "And now, I just..."
She paused, shook her head and looked at him as though she were hoping that he could tell her what it was that she wanted to say.
"I don't know. He is such a hypocrite. And I feel so... betrayed by him, I guess. And..."
She swallowed hard before she continued in a low, high-pitched voice. "That hurts. It really hurts me."
Kurt nodded slowly, his head aching, almost pounding from the broken sound of her small voice and the matter of her honest words, leaving him feeling as though it was about to explode.
"I know, Diane. And I get it. I'm sure he would've ruled differently, if-"
He stopped himself, not wanting to upset her even further, but she already knew what it was that he had intended to say.
"If he knew about what's happened to me?", she completed the sentence dryly and she smirked bitterly at the thought.
It was so wrong, the mere assumption, the mere thought of that someone would view her connection to the matter as a reason to rule fairly when they would not do it for the sake of the respective survivor, as they were supposed to. It was so wrong. And what was even more sickening was the fact that she knew that it was the truth.
"I'm sure you're right.", she said softly. "But that's not the point. This isn't about me, it's about Kaya. I mean, how is she supposed to move on from this when she doesn't even get a glimpse of justice? How-"
She swallowed again when her blue eyes began to fill with a new wave of fresh, hot tears that blurred her vision and made her really glad about the fact that he was sitting so close to her. On a longer distance, she might not have been able to see him properly anymore.
When she found it in her to continue, her voice was even lower, almost only a weak whisper anymore, her voice strained with exasperation.
"How is she supposed to ever feel safe again when he's still able to walk around the streets as a free man? When she could just run into him randomly at any given time? I mean... god, it's already hard enough when they're gone."
A single tear rolled down on her right cheek and she quickly brushed it away in embarrassment that was not directed at him but rather at herself, snuffled and took another sip of wine in the hope of that the alcohol would just make her go numb or let her fall asleep or just cause this pain that she had hoped to never have to feel again to leave her alone for a few hours, moments, even seconds would have been enough at this point.
She had not eaten all day. The turn of events had been too sickening to even think about eating and so she could already feel the way the dry liquid made her feel a little light-headed after only a not even finished single glass of red. But it did not really help so far. What helped was the naive hope that it could make it better eventually.
And he was helping, of course. He was helping so much. The fact alone that he was listening, really listening to her, was helping so much more than she could have hoped.
"But... Di, you fought for her."
One of his brows was furrowed and there was a desperate look laying in his warm, green eyes. She wondered if he saw the same look in her own blue ones. Desperation of a different kind, but desperation nevertheless.
"You fought for her when no one else did, you believed her when everyone thought that she was lying and you worked harder than anyone would have. You represented her when no one else wanted to and you did one hell of a job doing so."
The fingers of his free hand found a loose strand of blonde hair and he brushed it out of her eyes, gently tucking it behind her ear, looking at her affectionately.
"You empowered her and that is why she's going to be able to move on from this."
She closed her eyes for a moment, the tears in them were forced out on her skin by her eyelids, and she leaned into the touch of his fingers on her flushed cheek. She took a deep breath through her parted lips before she opened her eyes again slowly and her blue orbs found his.
"It's so unfair, Kurt.", she breathed out raspily and bit down hard on her bottom lip, momentarily putting a halt to its trembling, to suppress a sob.
He nodded, his tender-hearted frown painting small wrinkles around his brows and his eyes.
"I know. It really is."
Shifting slightly, he leaned forward and pressed his lips softly against her forehead.
"I'm so sorry I couldn't be in court.", he whispered against her skin, his moustache and the stubbly skin around his lips blandly teasing it. His hand was brushing through her silky blonde hair, the fingertips of the other one still roaming over her skin and the thin layer of the fabric from her pantyhose, on the outside of her knee, drawing small, circling patterns onto her.
Gently and cautiously in his movements, as if she were a painting, a piece of art and he was the artist. As if she were a piano and he was the pianist, a composer working on a new piece of classical music, as if her skin had been created to allow her to sense his touch. Because he knew just how to touch her to make her feel so deeply cared for and loved.
When his lips left her again, when his fingers brushed through her hair for one last time before they moved to softly brush the tears off of her cheeks and then slowly wander down to run over the soft fabric of her dress on her upper arm and when he leaned back, he remained closer to her than he had been in his previous sitting position. As though he could sense that this was what she needed him to do right now. To be close to her, like a barrier that would shield her from the lunacy in the world, as long as he remained close, as long as they were together.
She was so lucky to have him. She had no idea what she had done to deserve him as her husband, to have earned him and his love for her, but whatever it was, it meant everything, everything, to her.
"I really wanted to be there for you.", he told her lowly, his green eyes glistening, casting her an apologetic look. "You shouldn't have had to go through this alone."
Diane's lips stretched in a small, tired smile that melted his heart. She shook her head before she tilted it and pressed a short kiss on his lips.
"I know I'm not alone.", she whispered assuringly when she pulled away. Her blue eyes were still watery when they met his again.
"Her mother didn't even show up today. Can you believe that?", she asked him, leaving him unsure if she was really expecting an answer.
Because what was there to say? It was horrible and he did not know what he could tell her that would make that look of hopelessness and helplessness disappear from her delicate facial features. He just wanted to make it better but he had no idea how.
"She didn't have anybody with her and she's so young...", she continued, unaware of how relieved he was that she had continued to speak when he had not known what to say.
Relieved to see that what she really needed was for him to listen, which was something he knew he was good at, a natural reaction to hearing her speak. Relieved to see that he was able to help by following his own instincts and that they really complemented each other in that way.
"I mean, twenty-two, that's..." She swallowed hard. "That's Maia's age... I can't even imagine what she is going through."
The corner of his lips twitched a little beneath his moustache.
"You were with her.", he reminded her.
Diane shook her head. "That's not the same and you know it. I..."
She paused and pressed her lips together, whimpering quietly before she could continue in a high-pitched voice that resembled a cry.
"I can't forget the look she had on her face when the verdict was announced. She's said to me before that she has been trying not to get her hopes up too high, but I know that she did anyway. Because... hell, what else is left to do in a situation like hers?"
Her eyes had widened and she was staring at him as though he knew an answer to a question that could not really be answered properly. Her bottom lip was trembling and Kurt's fingers left her thigh. He took the nearly empty wine glass out of her hand and placed it safely on the coffee table before he took her in his arms and pulled her close so that she could bury her face in the curve between his neck and shoulder and cry silently in the warmth and comfort of his arms. To try and at least offer her some form of physical comfort when he could not do it verbally.
"This is so unfair.", she snivelled softly and Kurt swallowed hard.
"I know, honey.", he whispered throatily and instantly thought what a stupid thing it was to say because that surely would not help her.
But what he did not know was that it actually did. That hearing his voice alone was an endless comfort to her on itself.
"Did you know that it is the most under-reported crime in the States?", she asked him in a high-pitched voice. "Sixty-three percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police."
Kurt shook his head and slowly began to stroke her back with his hand.
"No. I didn't know that."
"And they wonder why." A sound, something between a scoff and a sob, escaped her. "People like Abernathy wonder why. This girl stands her ground and faces her rapist every damn day of this trial and he's granted his freedom by him. And he seriously wonders why most people take the easy way out and keep quiet?"
She breathed in deeply, shakily. If it had not been so devastating, the irony could almost have been comic in a highly morbid and dry kind of way.
"It's insane.", she said monotonously.
Diane shifted in his arms, brushing the tears off of her flushed cheeks before she straightened, lifted her head to be able to look at him again, his arms remaining around her waist, right where they were meant to be.
"I'm so tired, Kurt.", she whispered and he nodded slowly.
He had witnessed his wife as she had been working herself stupid with this case over the last few weeks. And he understood it. After all, it had been her first case on rape, ever since...
She had let it get to her in a way she knew to be wrong and unhealthy, had bonded with the victim more than she should have because she had felt the need to grant her a form of protection that she, as an attorney, was in no position to offer. But after all, even Diane was only human.
He had considered talking to her about it, to ask her to overthink her methods or to give up the case for her own protection, but that would not have done any good. She had needed to do this, needed to fight this and probably also needed to prove herself that she could do this without falling back into old patterns. And so he had decided to support her instead, to offer his aid to her in whatever way it would be useful to her and not to try and tell her what to do.
It was only natural that she was worn out now. And tired. And in desperate need of giving herself a break.
"I wish...", she began lowly and brushed a few stray strands of her hair behind her ear. "I wish it would just stop. Only for a few days. I just want to... to be, you know?"
"I do.", he said.
And he did. She needed time to herself to regain the energy that she had to have to stay strong. She needed to grant herself a recess to intensify her grip on the strength she had worked so incredibly hard for. Or else she would steadily be consumed by it again and both of them intended to do everything in their power to not let that happen.
The tip of her tongue slowly slid over her lip and she eyed him in silence for a small moment. And then the look in her eyes suddenly shifted to an expression he had never seen in them before, in all the time he had known her for by now.
"So...", she began in a low, but stronger voice that held something to it that he could not place yet at this moment. "You're in?"
His brows shot together and he narrowed his warm eyes at her in question.
"Am I... what?"
"I mean, I would have to talk to Will first, but I'm sure we would find a way to make it happen.", she thought out-loud, her eyes drifting away from his as if she were actually talking to herself instead of him. "I actually think that he would even encourage the idea."
Kurt blinked a few times, clueless and unknowingly.
"Di, I'm not following.", he said and her gaze shot back to meet his.
"Oh.", she exclaimed before she continued lowly, almost coyly, as if she were afraid of the non-existent possibility of his rejection. "I, I was just thinking that maybe we could go away together. Only if you'd want to, of course. You know, for a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks, but we'll have to see how-"
He shut his wife off with a kiss. And when she snickered into the embrace of their lips, he was flooded with so much happiness that it almost managed to make him feel dizzy.
"Wait, you're not kidding, are you?", he asked a little breathlessly when they parted.
"What?", she giggled. "No! Why would I be?"
Amusedly, she shook her head and smirked at him.
"Uh, I dunno, maybe because we always say that we'll do that, but it's been two-and-a-half years now and we've still never actually done it?" He quirked an eyebrow at her and she mirrored the movement with her own.
"That's an oddly specific guess, Mr. McVeigh.", she remarked mockingly and it warmed his heart to see that her mind had been taken somewhere else for this instance.
He snorted and brought his hand up so he could brush his fingers over her cheek as he looked at her, his green eyes so full of sheer love.
"I just want to check, Diane. You know that I would leave tomorrow morning if that's what you would ask me."
Diane chuckled. "Yeah, I know. You're the spontaneous one in this marriage. But, like it or not, I would prefer to actually plan this out before we jump right on the next plane."
He shook his head and smirked at her. "Yeah, because you're a killjoy."
She scoffed in amusement and bit back a laugh. "Excuse me? Kurt, we're not twenty anymore, we can't just book a flight, pack a backpack full of outdoor-clothing and see where wind and fate are going to take us."
He shrugged. "All the better reason to do it anyways.", he said and brushed his thumb over her cheekbone as his gaze turned serious again.
"'Cause time with you is too precious to waste."
She cast him a bright smile.
"So... you're in?", she repeated her question.
"'Course I'm in." He shook his head in feigned annoyance. "And... where would we go?"
Diane smiled knowingly, remembering a conversation they had had almost two years ago in which she had asked him the exact same question. It was funny how things had changed.
She drew her bottom lip into her mouth and nibbled on it for a moment, her eyes never shying away from his intense gaze. Then she released her lip and purred her answer.
Diane's eyes flew open and her fuzzy mind slowly pieced together that she must have drifted off to sleep for another few minutes.
It was funny how she had not even realized how tired she had become since her last vacation that did not only feel as though it had been ages ago, but actually really had been just that, and that it took her having nothing to do to finally feel how tired and worn out she truly was. But it was probably better this way. She could not imagine how she would ever get anything done if it were any other way.
He had been the one to suggest taking this trip a long time ago. It actually felt as though it had taken place a whole lifetime prior that the two of them had been standing in the kitchen of her old house when he had proposed the idea to her. They had been together for six months back then. Now their first wedding anniversary was awaiting them in even less than a single month. It was crazy to realize how time had its way of flying by nonsensically fast when one took a moment to look back at the past.
She smiled lightly at the memory, at the fact that back then she had thought at first that they were only joking, daydreaming about this, without considering that this vacation might be something he had truly planned on doing with her. She should have known better, even back then.
Kurt was not one to waste time on proposing ideas he would not actually want to go through with. He was not one to waste time. At least not anymore.
'Cause time with you is too precious to waste., he had told her when she had brought up this idea again a few months ago. And he was right. Time, their time, so fragile and precious, was to be worshipped and not to be wasted.
And so they had made it happen. Sooner than she had thought to be possible and later than he had hoped. They had become quite good at compromising after all.
Diane took another deep breath and slowly pushed herself up into a seating position. The upper end of the bedsheet pooled around her waist and she brushed her hand through her blonde hair that was a little messy from her sleep and their pre-bedtime-activities during the night before.
She folded the blanket aside and swung her legs over the edge of the bed before she got up, slightly taken aback for a moment by the soreness she felt between her legs. She smirked to herself before she took her short, silky dressing gown from the back of a nearby wooden chair and slipped into it, loosely tying it together while she walked out of the little summer cottage's bedroom on her bare feet and over to the kitchen, from which she could smell the scent of freshly made pancakes and hear little sizzling sounds of hot oil mingling with a low, but painfully off-key hum-along to some Sinatra piece that emerged from the little stereo he had brought here with him.
Diane came to a halt in the doorframe and watched him silently. He was wearing washed-out jeans that ended just above the knees and an old shirt of which she knew that he did not even have the slightest clue of what clothing brand it was made by, while she could easily tell from the distance and without being able to see its front from where she was standing, his back turned towards her.
His grey hair looked darker than it usually did because it was damp and he was walking around on his bare feet, too. There was something so incredibly intimate and domestic about this picture. Of course, it had become more than familiar to her over the past years, but she would never tire of looking at it and neither would she ever stop to love it as endlessly as she did.
He was alternately whistling and humming along to the melody of the song and every now and then he sang a few single words of the lyrics, preferably the last ones of certain lines that would always stick to him for another couple of days after hearing them, but even when it came to music, he still remained he of few words.
All the while, he moved between the cutting board that was placed on the kitchen counter, on which he was chopping a small variety of exotic fruits, and the two frying pans on the stove that he was balancing in a way that she could never imitate if she tried.
Neither his whistling nor his humming and especially not his occasional singing, were even the slightest bit on-key because the man was an absolutely and utterly hopeless case when it came to vocals of any kind. But she only thought that this made it even sweeter.
And still... she would never, never dare to even think about passing on a chance to tease him. And this was just too good of an opportunity.
"You must have Sinatra rolling in his grave."
Kurt winced before he froze in his movements and she bit down on her bottom lip in amusement and satisfaction over that she had managed to startle him.
"Well, not all of us can have a voice that's Tony-Award-worthy, Mrs. McVeigh.", he said in his usual gruff voice and continued to chop the mango on the wooden cutting board in front of him without turning around to look at her.
Diane blushed lightly. No one ever referred to her by using his last name, even he himself rarely ever did it and if so, only with the pure intention of teasing her. But she would be lying if she said that she did not enjoy it every time. It gave her a sense of belonging to him, a feeling she had never believed she would grow to enjoy, love even, until she had met him.
Her eyes flew around the room that was lightened up by the morning sun. The cottage was small but clean and cosy and she could easily see the beach from the view out of the kitchen window.
Diane would have been more than fine with booking a hotel room somewhere near the coast to limit the amount of work they would have to do here to the smallest amount possible, but Kurt had insisted on renting a small summer cottage, somewhere far away from where most of the tourists usually stayed, and she did not mind that either ("I mean, as long as there are no ants and cockroaches wandering around that I need to worry about, it really is your loss. I'm not the one with the responsibility of keeping us fed." "You wanna get us killed, woman?").
It had been the right choice. The whole area was peaceful and quiet and the only people they eventually saw were those who lived nearby in the village, where the two of them could go to buy groceries.
It really was perfect.
"Hey...", she suddenly said slowly, narrowing her eyes in confusion before they shot back to the back of his head. "What time is it?"
"Little after eleven-thirty."
"What?", she shrieked and caused him to chuckle. "And you didn't think about waking me up?"
"Why should I have woken you up? I just figured you needed it."
Diane's lips closed and a small smile crept over them. He could be really sweet if he wanted to, sweet and caring beneath that gruff facade and deliberately accentuated masculinity of his.
His voice interrupted her thoughts as he continued. "I mean, I really wore you out last night, after all."
And gone was the illusion.
She rolled her eyes as he turned his head to smirk cockily at her. Then the look on his face changed and his eyes kept lingering on her appearance for only a little too long before he hesitantly turned back towards the stove and continued his task of making breakfast; or rather brunch.
Diane bit down on her bottom lip and grinned. It amazed her how he could always make up for that mocking and cocky attitude with little things like these. And who was she kidding? She loved both of those sides equally to no end.
"You see? We're not too late."
"So? Maybe I still wanted to get here a little earlier."
"Di, you said you wanted to watch the sunset. We're more than in time for that."
"Well, I just didn't want to miss it, okay?" She shrugged and came to a halt. "What about this spot?", she asked, tilting her head and raising her eyebrows at him in question.
"Fine by me.", he said and carefully placed the cooler bag that contained food, plates, flatware, two glasses and a bottle of wine on the ground before he helped her with spreading the blanket on the sand. Each of them held two of its edges and he was just about to place his end on the ground, when-
"A little further to your left, please?", she ordered sweetly, digging her front teeth into her bottom lip and batting her eyelids at him behind her long lashes, causing him to roll his eyes in playful annoyance.
"Honey, your nerve-racking perfectionism is showing again.", he remarked and caused her to smirk.
"And it wouldn't do that if only you were doing it right.", she fired back and he failed to suppress a chuckle.
So he pulled the blanket a little further to the left and eventually, they managed to place it as she pleased.
"Perfect.", she approved and placed a small kiss on his cheek, before she sat down cross-legged on the blanket, quirking an eyebrow at him and patting the space beside her she had meant for him to take. Kurt sat down beside her and shot her a lopsided smile.
"You were right.", he said and softly brushed his thumb over her cheek, capturing it in his palm. "This really is beautiful."
She smirked. "Not as cheesy as you expected it to be, huh?", she teased him about his earlier disaffirmation on the idea and he snickered, shaking his head before he looked at her again. Intensely. Affectionately. His eyes full of love.
"No, it's still cheesy. But..."
He leaned forward, dipped his head and placed his lips softly against hers. His hand found her waist and gently pulled her towards him. Their lips, their tongues, skin on skin lingering gently together, moving cautiously and as if in slow-motion against one another. Their bottom lips softly bumped into each other again, before he slowly pulled away, his hands remaining on her cheek and waist.
"But not in a bad way."
The warmly tinted light of the sunset was grazing his features as if it were taking place only to serve the purpose of emblazing him in this way. He was so incredibly handsome that it almost hurt.
He was perfect. He truly was perfect to her. Nothing less, only ever more and even more still.
"Hey, Di. Pass me the glasses and the bottle of wine?"
Her lips parted and she blinked a few times, suddenly wondering in the tiniest trace of embarrassment for how long she had been staring at him in silence. Not that he would mind in the slightest, but, god, this man brought out the most unlikely sides of her.
She shook her head before she mumbled, "Uh, sure. Sorry.", still too distracted to register the both joyous and agitated smile on his lips as his hands left her so she could move. She turned away from him to unzip the dark blue cooler bag that he had packed a little earlier before they had taken off. But the first glimpse into it was not what she had been expecting to see.
"Kurt", she gasped and turned back to look at him. "How-"
"They grow them here.", he told her calmly, as if it were nothing. As if this were not one of the sweetest things anyone had ever done for her. "Did you know that?"
Diane's lips were still parted when she slowly began to shake her head. "No, I didn't."
"Well, I did. 'Let's plan this out before we leave', isn't that you said?", he said smirkingly teasing and also a little proudly.
"But... when?" She furrowed her brow and shook her head slowly. "You were with me for the whole day."
Kurt released a small, amused laugh. "Di, you slept until noon. That actually gave me a little time to run with, believe it or not."
Speechless, genuinely silenced by the surprise, Diane turned again to carefully take the flowers that were laying on top of the food and wine supplies, out of the bag. They were bound together with a thin, navy blue satin ribbon. Gently, she lay them on her lap, eyeing the gorgeously beautiful white blossoms while her fingertips fumbled absent-mindedly with the edge of the satin ribbon.
White calla lilies.
The flowers he had given her on their first date. The flowers he had wanted to save for 'special occasions' because he had been so proud of himself back then to have discovered something she truly enjoyed so very much. The flowers he had given her on the day he had told her that he would not be facing a trial. The night they slept together again for the first time in months when she had said that if they ever had had a daughter, they could have called her Lily. The flowers he had brought her when he came home the first night they had spent in their house, after having moved in together.
An arrangement of lilies on their dining table in the night of his proposal.
And white calla lilies as a wedding bouquet and a single one as a corsage in the pocket of his tux, just above his heart.
White calla lilies, like a symbol of the evolvement of their relationship, like a guiding theme, a leitmotif of their life together. A symbol of how both, everything and nothing can sometimes change at the very same time.
"I...", she began and her eyes left the lilies, her head moving to look at him again. "Thank you, Kurt."
"You're welcome.", he said smiling and placed a small kiss on her temple.
She eyed him for another moment of silence before she began to chuckle lightly to herself.
"God. I'm so completely in love with you."
He remained silent. In the warm fuchsia shade that the sky wrapped them and the scenery into, she could not see how his cheeks took on a shade of affected red. But she knew it anyway, could tell it simply from the coy look on his face.
"What on earth did I do deserve you?", she asked, her head slowly coming to rest on his shoulder as her gaze left the lilies in her lap and found the sight of the beautiful sunset instead. The colours of the sky were glistening in little reflections on the surface of the ocean and the light was in the perfect stage between colourful and dimmed.
It was the second-most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life.
Kurt's arm sneaked around her back and his hand came to rest on her hip, his thumb starting to draw small circles on her hip bone over the fabric of her uncongested summer dress.
"I think that people deserve to be happy.", he told her lowly. "And since we both seem to do a pretty good job at making each other happy, I would say that by now, it doesn't even matter anymore how far out of my league you actually are."
Diane snickered. "Oh, stop fishing for compliments.", she said and placed her hand on his knee, her fingertips lightly toying with the hem of the rough fabric of his washed-out jeans. "Being that overmodest is such a turn-off."
"I'm not. And that's funny, 'cause I never think of it as a turn-off when you do it.", he remarked and a new bubble of laughter escaped her again.
He smiled. It was his favourite sound in the world.
"Also, I've already tricked you into marrying me anyways, so there really is no way out for you anymore, even if you finally come to your senses."
"Oh, just shut up and kiss me, you idiot."
He had been wondering for the entirety of the day if he was supposed to address it.
He did not want to keep it from her in case she had forgotten, but he did not want to spoil her good spirit either. That was not what they were here for.
So he dropped it, banned the subject from his mind and decided not to think about it any more.
What he did not know was that she knew. She was very well aware of what had happened on this exact day two years back.
She knew, but it was not on her mind. It truly did not matter and she simply did not really think about it at all. She appreciated what her husband was doing for her, assuming she needed to be cheered up by him, enjoyed the flowers, the beautiful day and this beautiful night with him. But she decided to take the cheer without the downfall that it would follow.
Because now, she could do it this way. And he had always been the one reason for that.
She had not had a nightmare in three months now. It was an achievement because this was the longest time she had gone without them, but she knew that eventually, they would return again. And still, just like the scar on her abdomen, they had faded. Both of those little reminders of what had once been were still present and if one would only look closely enough, they would most likely still notice and it would probably always be that way.
But maybe, maybe that was okay.
There were good times and bad times, good days and bad days, good things and bad things happening in the world every day and that simply was the way things were, had always been and would most certainly always be.
There were things that would impact her more when she had a bad day, times in which the past would hold more power over the way in which she would act and react to certain things and people than she would in other times.
But it still was okay this way.
And she believed that, no matter what, there would always be good things in life that could somehow manage to out shadow the bad ones. He and his love made her believe in that. Because they were the two things that out-shadowed it all.
This perfect, perfect man that she would love with all her heart and all of her soul until the end of eternity. And probably even beyond.
Neither of them knew where life would take them next, but it did not really matter. Because as long as they would be together, she knew that it was going to be beautiful and full of more love than she had ever thought possible.
And here, right now and right here, as they sat side by side, their thighs touching and shoulders linked, his arm around her and his hand resting comfortably on her waist, as their frames and the warm sand that was surrounding them and the water of the ocean they were facing were tinted by the stunning shades of rich pink and orange that emerged from the sky, they felt as if time were endless. As though this moment would never come to an end.
And by the time it eventually would, they would still have all the time in the world to discover where life was about to take them next. Together.
They granted themselves this freedom now, the freedom to enjoy this moment without having to worry about tomorrow. The freedom to just be and to live this moment to the fullest, just as they would try to do with every single moment that would follow. Because they knew that no matter what was about to come next, it would be as beautiful as it could be, as long they would be at each other's sides. Right where they belonged.
And when Kurt drew his eyes away from the breathtaking view in front of them to look at her in that one certain way that indicated how, in his eyes, there was no view and nothing else, not even this deeply perfect scenery, that could possibly be any more beautiful to him than her, he knew.
Diane looked back at him and at the moment in which her eyes met his, she knew that she felt the same way about him. She looked at him and felt the way she lost herself in his eyes, his beautiful, warm eyes, the shade of green that was so full of love, so full of life, of wit and humor and joy and laughter and soft hugs and passionate kisses and so full of everything she loved about him.
She looked at him and she knew that she would love him forever, unconditionally and a little more with each remaining day that would pass. She looked at him and knew that he felt the same thing for her.
She looked at him and believed in their love. She looked at him and knew that his love was her eternity. There was nothing she had ever been more certain about.
"I love you so much.", she said and her heartbeat increased at the small flash of increased intensity in his eyes.
After all this time, after everything that had happened, everything they had gone through together, they had still always felt either as though they had been together for the entirety of their lives already, or as if they were back in her office, her in her red blazer and bossy attitude and him in his brown suede jacket and Marlboro Man manner, when they had met for the very first time.
She was still captivated by him, his appearance, his wit and his challenging mannerism, captivated by the way he looked at her, still surprised by the things he would say or do. He still lost himself in the spark of her light blue eyes, the most beautiful shade of blue anyone could ever have made up, still never tired of looking at the way she moved, lived and breathed, and he would never get used to the fact of how very lucky he was to be able to be here, with her.
There was no in-between and that was what made it feel so right, so exhilarant... so perfect. The excitement about being together only kept on growing to get bigger and better with the time in that their love, their unbreakable bond, deepened even further.
They had met in a very strange time in her life, but they and their love for each other had survived it, only grown stronger as time had passed. And now they knew that together, they would be able to overcome everything, no matter what was about to come, no matter how hard it would seem. Because they had each other, and this unbreakable constant of support and love and understanding was something that would never fail them, ever.
"I love you, too, Di."
And they looked at each other and just knew.
And they knew that they would know forever.