Chapter 1: Grocery Shopping
Diane looked on as her husband admired his new toy. He’d arrived at the house with it that afternoon, the large, shiny grill expertly bungee-corded out the back of his truck. He’d seemed so delighted that she held her tongue when she watched him struggle to unload it, remained quiet still as he maneuvered it through their new hallways, and objected only with a purse of her lips when he deposited it with a huff of satisfaction right beside the perfectly fine grill that had been sitting, unused, out on the patio since they’d moved in three weeks prior.
“Isn’t it great?” He knelt down to fiddle with the gas tank.
Her husband continued to fiddle, the how-to manual having been long discarded with a wave of his hand and the insistence that grills are easy to put together.
“Dare I ask what we will be doing with this?”
Kurt frowned too, then, for she’d distracted him from his task. “It’s a grill. We’ll use it to grill.”
“Ah. And—” Diane paused for effect, then gestured abstractly toward the large appliance’s tiny predecessor, “—will we be grilling for the whole neighborhood as well?”
“I thought I’d bring that one to the farm.”
“You don’t have a grill there? Because I’m certain we already—”
He stood, wiping his hands against his faded jeans, and sighed.
“Do you want me to return it?”
The grill was comically large for their new patio. Although the space was bigger than her old apartment, this patio was still reasonably tight. She’d had fleeting thoughts of putting some raised garden beds out there, having always thought that gardening was the sort of relaxing hobby she should develop, but as she stood there taking in his disappointed expression, she held her tongue. It was, after all, the first big purchase he’d made for the house.
Yes, his clothes now hung in the closet, and the builder they’d hired to make some adjustments to the space was installing new cabinets for some of his guns, but the space was still arguably more hers than his. He’d said little when she’d flashed wallpaper samples at him, only humming in agreement when she pointed out ones she particularly liked, saying nothing about all the soft, muted colors and florals. He’d let her arrange and re-arrange the furniture five or six times, had even helped her lift the settee around the room half a dozen times, and had deposited his items in the bathroom and on the bedside table with little fanfare.
“I don’t have as much stuff as you,” he’d said with a shrug. “And I don’t care about all that decorating stuff.”
So, she’d taken the lead, still trying to find a balance between them, wanting desperately for this new home to be theirs, for it to feel, finally, like a home for them both.
“No, I don’t want you to return it,” she said finally.
Smirking, and pressing a kiss to his cheek, she merely shook her head. “Enjoy your new toy. I’ve got some paperwork to do inside.”
Kurt appeared in the doorway of her office some time later, a grin pulling at his features.
Pulling off her glasses, Diane smiled. “Me too. Just finished, actually.”
“I thought we could test it out, maybe grill a couple of steaks for dinner?”
Diane looked at her watch, and felt her stomach rumble in agreement. “That sounds great, but I don’t think there’s much in the fridge. Marlena was on vacation this week and I didn’t have time to go shopping.”
“You do know there’s one of those Whole Foods around the corner, right?”
“How on earth do know what a Whole Foods is, let alone where the closest one is?”
Kurt chuckled. “I may not be a city person, but I’m not a hermit. Plus, the realtor kept mentioning it as some kind of selling point when we toured this place. I Googled it. Did you know they sell water with asparagus in it for ten dollars?”
Laughing, Diane stood and shook her head. “Alright then. This should be interesting.”
True to his word, the Whole Foods loomed large just down the street. They’d walked there briskly, hand in hand, to ward off the late autumn chill. Diane held several reusable shopping bags under her free arm, and tried to listen with great interest as Kurt extolled the virtues of the new grill all along their route.
Finally, the green letters gleamed brightly, beckoning them inside. Kurt raised his eyebrows and halted, seemingly surprised by the sheer size of the store, and then fumbled around a woman with three toddler-aged children in a cart who was blocking the entrance.
“Sorry—sorry,” he muttered, grabbing at a small shopping basket and avoiding a near-collision with another shopper.
Diane only shook her head, grabbing for his hand again as she dropped the empty shopping bags in their newly-acquired tote. “Come on, I won’t let you get lost.”
Diane did a quick scan of the store to get the lay of the land before turning back to her husband. It was nearly 6 PM and the store was humming with activity. There was a long line of hungry looking people around the prepared food section, and each register was clogged with at least a few shoppers, most of them fiddling with their phones as they waited to check out.
“Ok, this will be faster if we make some tactical adjustments.”
“You go back there—” She pointed at the butcher’s counter lining the back wall of the store “—and grab the steak. I’ll run around the corner and grab some things to make a salad.”
Kurt looked dubious. “Maybe we should just stick together.”
The mother with the energetic toddlers from the entrance was maneuvering around them now to look at a display of organic fruit chews. One of the children started screeching just as a perky employee came over to offer them all a sample of vegan cheese.
“It’ll be faster this way,” Diane said, her voice growing louder as the toddler continued its tantrum. “Just grab the steak and wait back there. I’ll grab everything else and meet you in five.”
Diane watched for a moment as Kurt disappeared in the direction of the butcher, holding the little shopping basket tightly to weave carefully through the sea of people and cacophony of noise. Shaking off the crowd, Diane hung a left and found herself lost in the midst of the expansive fruit and vegetable section of the store. She spent what seemed like only a moment or two deliberating over bags of lettuce before another hoard of people started jostling her out of place.
By the time she’d grabbed everything, though, and finally fought her way back toward the butcher’s counter, Kurt was nowhere to be found. The crowd had begun to dissipate, so she peeked down the nearest aisle, hoping to spot his familiar silhouette. To be perfectly honest, she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d simply abandoned the basket and ran home, having found the madness of a grocery store at dinner time simply too much for his constitution.
Shaking her head as she continued down the aisle and turned toward the next one, Diane couldn’t’ even remember the last time she had been in a grocery store. Usually their housekeeper, Marlena, would take care of all the shopping. Diane left a running list on the side of the fridge, and she and Kurt would add things on post-its as necessary. Guiltily, she wondered if he found the whole thing ridiculous, not even shopping for themselves, but if he did, he’d never commented on it.
The heels of her boots clicked down the long open pass way that ran perpendicular to the interior aisles. She peered down each one, hoping to find her husband among the other shoppers, but she made it to the other end of the store before finally spotting him near a large contraption used to grind organic peanuts into peanut butter.
She was surprised enough to find that he’d made it this far from their original meeting point, and so when she approached him to find him not only using the peanut butter machine, but also holding a basket that was entirely full of groceries, she was downright alarmed.
“Kurt—I’ve been looking all over the store for you.”
He had the good sense to look abashed, but grinned and pointed at the machine to his left.
“This thing makes fresh peanut butter,” he explained, holding up a large container that he’d apparently just filled.
Blinking, Diane looked from him, to the machine, and then back to the basket again.
“I thought you were getting steak.”
“This is steak?” Diane reached into the basket and extracted a box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies snack crackers.
Kurt snatched the box back, his cheeks warming. “No. But you said yourself we don’t have any food in the house.”
Vacillating between confusion and amusement, Diane cocked her head and laughed, finding more than a little humor in his attempt at grocery shopping.
“What else did you get, then?”
Kurt eyed her suspiciously, attempting to move the basket out of her reach. “Nothing.”
“Oh, come on, let me see.”
Before he could obscure the contents of the basket from view, Diane grabbed at the handle and pulled it away from him, wasting no time in rifling through the contents. She found three boxes of cookies, in various types, a bag of tortilla chips, a frozen pizza, a large bag of unshelled pistachios (the kind he was always accidentally dropping the shells of around the house), a wedge of parmesan cheese, a lavender candle—she paused then, and he explained, “that’s for you. I noticed the one in the bathroom was almost out.”—and, finally, hidden under all that, plus the package of steak, was a bottle of water with three sprigs of asparagus floating inside.
She laughed, then, loudly enough for his face to grow redder, and foisted the bottle out of the bag. “Caught!”
“Wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” he muttered, grabbing the water and attempting to secret it under the rest of his shopping haul.
“I’m fairly certain that buying that water will require you to hang up your cowboy boots,” Diane replied. Her expression was serious, but her voice danced with mirth as she finally began walking, nodding her head to indicate the direction of the registers.
“I’m putting it back—”
“No, no, don’t let me stop you from branching out,” she snickered.
Kurt rolled his eyes, then, and pulled the offending bottle from his basket. He deposited it on the nearest end cap and then turned to get into the shortest line. “Happy now?”
“I was just teasing, dear.”
“I was simply surprised to find out that you’re such an experienced shopper,” Diane considered, helping him unload the groceries onto the conveyer belt as more space became free.
He shot her a terse look and unloaded his multitude of cookies onto the belt in silence.
“And if Santa Claus decides to visit our house three months early, we’ll have more than enough supplies to offer him,” she mused, dropping the salad fixings behind all the rest of his snacks.
Kurt only shook his head and reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
“Oh, no, no no, let me,” Diane grinned, maneuvering herself ahead of him as the cashier greeted him. She pulled her credit card from the small holder attached to her phone, and handed it to the cashier before he managed to get at his own. “Your first trip to Whole Foods is a special occasion. I’ll pay.”
Kurt returned her smile, finally, accepting the proffered end to her teasing, and shuffled behind her to begin helping the other clerk bag up the items.
$84.72 later, the couple exited the store each holding a rather heavy bag. Diane shifted her tote to her left hand and took the opportunity to hook her free arm through her husband’s. He paused, waiting for her to adjust the bag and herself, before turning in the direction of their house.
They walked nearly all the way home before Diane finally broke the companionable silence.
“You know, if you enjoyed the shopping so much, we could make it a regular thing. Do Whole Foods every weekend. Like real married people,” she smirked.
Kurt snorted, rounding the corner as their apartment came into view. “Nah, I think the one time was enough.”
“Well, if you’re sure.”
He reached to hold her bag as they walked up their steps and she moved to unlock the door. Spilling into the foyer, Kurt closed and locked the door behind them and followed her toward the kitchen, looking forward to finally unpacking everything and getting a chance to test out the grill.
He grinned mischievously, then, still trailing behind her, and called ahead, “Might go back for that asparagus water, though.”
Chapter 2: Silence
Prompt: “Sitting in the same room working on different things in silence.”
Like most weeks of their lives, this one had been hectic. It would be reasonable, though, to call this week a particularly hectic one. Diane was in and out of court all week dealing with a real estate case. She’d been lucky on Wednesday night and had gotten home just after ten. Every other night had been closer to midnight and she'd been left tiptoeing into the already-quiet house and sliding into bed as carefully as possible so as not to wake her husband.
Kurt’s week had been much the same. He put in at least nine hours at the VA offices each day, but this week had necessitated similarly late nights. An old ballistics friend had called asking for a consultation—an unofficial one, as Kurt was reticent to return to any courtroom. Still, his desire to help his friend had resulted in him spending several hours after work each day poring over documents and ferrying from his home office to the law firm working the case.
Saturday had been a wash too. They’d given up a long-ago planned afternoon at the theatre, both guiltily asking the other if a raincheck might be possible, and had retreated to their respective offices. Upon finally moving in together, they’d made a concerted effort to spend at least one weekend day together, though, and it was, in a rather surprising turn of events, Diane who finally set her files down late Saturday night, blinking wearily at the clock, and set out in search of her husband.
She found him not in his office, but in the kitchen, hovering over the stove as his ancient coffee percolator heated up. Diane had tried desperately to bring him over to the dark side—the dark side, in his opinion, being her fancy Italian espresso machine, but Kurt insisted that percolating coffee was the only way to make it.
He turned his head slightly at the sound of her approach, and smiled as she settled behind him and encircled her arms around his waist. Pressing a kiss to the back of his neck, she closed her tired eyes for just a moment, breathing in the familiar scent of his cologne mixed with the scent of freshly brewed coffee.
“You’ll never sleep now,” she hummed against his neck.
“I thought I might tempt you to call it a night.”
Turning slightly to wrap an arm around her waist, Kurt shook his head. “Can’t right now. I’ve got to finish making notes on this report and send it over to Kevin before tomorrow.”
Before Diane could protest, the coffee pot began to gurgle in a sort of mock protestation of its own. Kurt reached to grab it off the stove and turned to the sink, running the bottom of the appliance under cold water to stop the brewing process. Diane hopped up to sit on the counter, content to watch him move quietly around the dim space. She swung her legs lazily against the cabinets as he poured himself half a cup with a generous amount of milk.
“You’re working too hard.”
Kurt chuckled, taking a long sip. “You’re one to talk.”
Diane sighed. “True.”
“Lunch tomorrow? We could take a walk and go to that French place you like. Ah—damn.”
Kurt winced midway through his suggestion, and ran a hand through his hair. He set the coffee cup down and shook his head again. “I forgot about that article. They want it by five tomorrow.”
“Don’t feel too bad,” Diane replied, hopping back off the counter to stand beside her husband, both their backs to the island now.
“You reminded me; I’m on a deadline too. I promised the Chicago Law Review that article I've been working on. I guess we’ve both got end of the month deadlines.”
Kurt exhaled softly in agreement. He wasn’t used to being quite as busy as Diane. In truth, he wasn’t exactly sure how she kept up much the same schedule on a near-constant basis. The VA job had kept him busy, sure, but it hadn’t been until he moved in with Diane full time that he realized the frenetic pace of her life was simply unending. She rarely took breaks, chastising herself for needing ones, and he often had to enforce their one weekend day off rule. His schedule had only picked up in the last week or so, and he was exhausted at even the vague possibility of continuing at such a clip. Tomorrow, once he finished writing up that article—a version of the ballistics speech Diane had helped him with over a year ago—things would start going back to normal. But Diane’s days would go on at about the same pace, much to his continued awe and amazement.
Kurt turned, then, to admire his wife. She so rarely complained about her hectic schedule. He was pretty sure she preferred being busy to the extreme. But tonight, he was also pretty sure they were wearing matching bags under their eyes.
He reached down to grasp her hand, squeezing it lightly. He could see the clock on the microwave blinking the time: 12:03 AM.
As if reading his mind, Diane shifted slightly, her head having settled against his shoulder.
“What time is it?”
“Just after midnight.”
She sighed, feeling the lateness of the hour in the heaviness of her limbs. The sensation of her breath against his neck tickled, and Kurt snaked his arm around her waist, letting his hand settle against her hip as he took a sip of his coffee.
“Maybe we should both try to get some sleep after all.”
“Yeah?” Diane blinked open her eyes, looking almost hopeful at the suggestion.
Kurt nodded. “I can finish my stuff if I get up early. Then I’ll do the article in the afternoon.”
Diane’s brow furrowed. “No day off, then?”
“Don’t you have to write your thing too?”
“Ah—damn.” Diane scrunched up her nose, wincing just as Kurt had done moments before. “I forgot.”
“We could work on them together?”
“I don’t think I’d be much help with your microns.”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “And I don’t think the Chicago Law Review wants my opinions. I meant work in the same room on our own things.”
Diane raised one brow in question. “Won’t that be distracting?”
“Nah.” Kurt’s voice was nonchalant, if not a bit mischievous.
“Alright, fine. It’s a date, then.”
They exchanged a grin and Kurt leaned in ever so slightly to press a kiss to her lips.
“Good. Now let’s get some sleep.”
Kurt moved his coffee mug and percolator to the sink, promising to get to them first thing in the morning, and then reached for Diane’s hand once more. They walked out of the kitchen feeling lighter, if not somehow still completely exhausted, and repaired to their bedroom.
It was midday on Sunday before Diane saw her husband again. Having both fallen asleep almost the moment after they settled into bed—even Kurt slipping into a deep sleep despite the coffee—Diane woke to find him already up and about when her alarm buzzed at 8. She could hear him puttering around downstairs, likely moving between the kitchen and his office to shoot off those ballistics reports.
Not wanting to disrupt him, Diane elected to have a morning in bed and shuffled downstairs only to make a cup of tea and toast before returning upstairs to eat her breakfast and answer emails from her laptop. By the time she finished looking over a few briefs, answered various emails (mostly from younger associates who’d apparently had very busy Saturdays in the office), watched some of the local news, and finally showered and dressed, it was just after noon.
True to his word, Kurt was already ensconced in the living room when Diane appeared with her computer, notepad, and files. They’d sleepily agreed to meet there at noon the night before, and it appeared as though her husband had bested her effort to arrive in a timely manner. His laptop was already open, a few printed and corrected pages fanned out on the coffee table and couch for reference, and he’d made two cups of coffee—having deposited one on a coaster next to her usual lounge chair.
“Thanks for this.” Diane nodded at the mug, settling into her chair and shifting around a few papers.
“Wouldn’t be a study date without drinks,” Kurt considered, pausing to look up from his computer.
Diane grinned. “Right. I forgot this was a date.”
She took an appreciable sip from the mug and hummed with pleasure. “Perfect.”
“How’s the article going?” Diane asked, taking another small sip and setting her laptop and files onto the side table.
“Coming along,” Kurt replied, frowning at the screen.
“Do you know when it will come out?”
“The article. Do you know when it goes to print? We should order a few copies for posterity.”
Kurt’s brow only furrowed in reply, the way it always did when he was deep in thought. He typed out a few more words and then looked up a moment later when he realized he was being watched.
Diane rolled her eyes. “Oh, nothing. Just talking to myself.”
Kurt closed his laptop and cocked his head to the side. “I thought we were supposed to be working.”
“Yes, yes. We are.”
Diane said nothing, but flicked her hands forward in a go on gesture. They had agreed to work. And it wasn’t Kurt’s fault that the idea of revising an article on contract law suddenly seemed more boring than watching paint dry. In truth, she’d gotten used to their new custom of a day off on the weekend. It seemed her mind was wandering in protest, pulling her farther and farther away from the supposed task at hand. Though it had only been a few months, the practice of spending time together on the weekend had become one of the things she loved most about cohabitating with her husband. It often ended up being lazy Sundays spent lounging in bed or going out for brunch. Sometimes they’d go for a walk or just stay in and catch up on bad TV or rent a movie. Other days it would be an art gallery or a show. A few times they’d even driven out to the country to breathe in the fresh air, as Kurt liked to say.
But now, being in such close proximity to her husband seemed so terribly unfair. Diane was hardly one to eschew work for play. However, the thought of reading through those article proofs once more set her teeth on edge. Still, she opened her laptop for effect, logged in, and clicked open the file. Grabbing her spare pair of glasses off the side table, Diane slid them on and scrolled up and down the document. Like watching paint dry.
She paused. She clicked out of the file. Gazing up over the top of her computer, Diane eyed her husband who still appeared to be deep in thought. He was chewing on the eraser end of a pencil, a habit Diane generally found repulsive, but somehow endearing when it was her husband doing it. Every minute or two he would return to his keyboard, clicking away.
He’d been working on the article for weeks. How much more polishing could it need, Diane considered? She knew, though, that he wanted it to be perfect. It was a point of pride, just as her own work product was. She’d read through several drafts, offering comments whenever possible, and had even bought him the laptop a month or so ago. Before, he’d insisted on working exclusively on his ancient desktop computer. But she’d bought the laptop as an early birthday present, extolling its virtues and promising he’d like the flexibility of working from anywhere in the house. Looking at him now, resting comfortably against the couch, it seemed she was right.
Startled, Diane looked down at her computer and then back up to meet her husband’s suddenly expectant gaze.
“I don’t hear much typing.”
Diane closed her laptop. “I’m a bit cold, actually.” She looked up at the ceiling vent above her chair. “Do you mind if I sit beside you?”
Kurt looked at her suspiciously, knowing she worked often from that very chair, but nodded and gathered up his errant papers to clear the space next to him. He turned, then, and pulled down the throw blanket that was folded over the back of the couch. He held it up in offer and waited as Diane grabbed her coffee and computer, settled in beside him, and accepted the blanket to drape over her legs.
Kurt kissed her cheek, but turned right back to his computer then, reaching absentmindedly for his own coffee cup as he hit the backspace key several times and frowned again.
Sitting side by side proved just as distracting as sitting across from him. Though Diane opened her own computer and returned to the abandoned file, her gaze wandered over to Kurt’s screen every minute or two. He looked so terribly handsome sitting there, his expression so very intent.
Feeling torn between a desire to fling her own notes out the window and propose a walk or a break or anything else and wanting to leave him to the work he was so clearly invested in, Diane shifted and swung her legs up onto the couch. She moved to sit perpendicular to him, her back against one arm of the couch, and bent her legs so that she could rest her computer in her lap. This new position had the bonus—or drawback, really—of slightly obscuring her view of her husband. Though she much preferred watching him than looking over her article, blocking the line of sight did do wonders for her productivity.
Diane worked for two hours before she felt herself growing sleepy, the methodical tapping of their keyboards in the otherwise silent room conspiring to lull her into an afternoon nap. Feeling her eyelids droop, she hit save before snapping the computer shut and reaching to slide it onto the coffee table. Kurt turned to look at her, but only smiled when she shifted onto her side, stretched her legs out until her feet bumped against him, and rested her head against a pillow. He settled his left hand over her blanketed foot and squeezed it softly, the touch a pleasant reminder of his presence beside her.
Diane awoke some time later to the sound of Kurt closing his computer.
“Done,” he said triumphantly.
Blinking open her eyes, Diane yawned. “At least one of us had a productive afternoon.”
Kurt grinned. “Judging by the snoring, I’d say you had a productive nap.”
“Hey!” Diane sat up then, and reached for a throw pillow. She swung it in front of her, hitting it against Kurt’s arm in jest.
“I don't snore.”
“Are you done then?” Diane gestured at his computer.
“Yep. Emailed it to the editor so I can’t fiddle with it anymore.”
Diane smiled. “Probably for the best. I’m proud of you.”
Suiting actions to words, Diane scooted closer and leaned in to kiss her husband, bringing her hand up to rest against his cheek where her thumb made lazy passes back and forth against the rough skin there.
“I mean it,” she repeated. “It’s a good article.”
Kurt hummed in reply. “Mostly thanks to you.”
She pulled back to meet his gaze, her palm still flat against his cheek. “No, I edited. You wrote.”
Never one to simply accept a compliment, Kurt shrugged and responded with another kiss.
“I’m just glad it’s done.”
“Me too. And I am proud.”
“How about we celebrate with some fresh air?”
Diane nodded enthusiastically. “Absolutely. I’ll go grab my coat.”
They stood, Kurt groaning slightly after having sat for so long, and Diane reached her arms up over her head to stretch the sleep out of her limbs.
“How’d your thing turn out?”
Diane shifted, looking sheepish. “It—well, it’s a work in progress. I’ll finish it up at the office tomorrow and send it off.”
“They won’t mind it being late?”
“I think they’re used to academics missing deadlines,” Diane considered. “They’re usually happy to get things within a month of the original due date.
Kurt shrugged. “Guess a walk won’t hurt then.”
“Oh, I think it’ll help.”
Kurt smiled and reached for his wife’s hand, bringing it up to his lips.
“Sorry we didn’t get to do our usual Sunday thing.”
Diane shook her head. “This was still good.”
“Even sitting in the same room in silence is good when we’re doing it together.”
His smile widening, Kurt led them both in the direction of the foyer.
“I can think of a few other things to do in a silent room, though,” he considered.
They stood in the doorway, now, Kurt pulling on his jacket as Diane grabbed the spare front door key out of the bowl by the door.
Grinning wolfishly, he kissed her lips and then reached down for the doorknob.
“I’ll show you when we get back.”
Chapter 3: A Bite
Prompt: “Giving them a bite of food off of your fork”
They’d been living together for nearly five months now. After the first few weeks, the novelty of it all had slowly become ordinary in the very best way possible. The flutter of excitement at seeing his car parked in the driveway—their driveway—or hearing him move around the kitchen or bathroom in the mornings had become a steadying constant, a surety rather than a rarity. Their lives had so frequently been comprised of stolen moments and rushed reunions; now, everything settled comfortably around them. Being together had become their everyday life.
At times, it still felt strange and miraculous, though, that they’d managed to make it all work—to combine their worlds into a cohesive unit. They’d made compromises and learned new things about each other. Kurt learned that Diane liked to listen to podcasts in the evening. Though the habit had mostly started to fill the silence of an empty apartment, she had her favorites now and sometimes he’d listen alongside her. Diane now knew that Kurt liked to wash his truck on Saturdays if the weather was nice. And if he borrowed her car to run an errand, even just around the block, he’d return with the tank full of gas.
They noticed more, too. Little things that had otherwise slipped through the cracks—the fact that Diane would leave bottles of nail polish everywhere around the house, or that Kurt tended to put his feet up on the furniture without removing his shoes. All the little details that had otherwise gone unnoticed in their quest to make the most of each hasty reunion now began to color in the picture of their life together.
Diane found most of these new little details endearingly sweet.
As Diane entered their bedroom on this particular night, though, she couldn’t help but think that even she had a limit on how much sweetness to tolerate.
He started at the sharpness of her voice and turned to face her from his perch on the couch in the TV area of their bedroom. His legs were stretched out onto the coffee table and covered with a blanket, though Diane could tell by the hint of fabric peeking out by his feet that he was already wearing his flannel pajama bottoms. Some old Western movie was unfolding across the screen.
It was perhaps the most Kurt thing about him to love Western movies, but love them he did. And his affection for them certainly allowed for additional cowboy jokes. Sometimes Diane would sit beside him and attempt to compel him with kisses to hand over the remote. Other times she was content to rest her head in his lap and fall asleep to the dulcet tones of whatever black and white classic he was engrossed in that night.
What Diane detested about his nightly television ritual, though, was that it came with the ancillary habit of eating pints of ice cream on their expensive new couch. It was the second night this week that she’d caught him, spoon in hand, with a pint of mint chocolate chip. She’d mostly broken him of the habit of leaving water glasses on every spare surface of the house, but this compulsion was proving more difficult to eliminate.
As she approached, crossing her arms and adopting a stern gaze, Kurt smiled, albeit guiltily, and thrust his spoon back into the pint of ice cream.
“We’ve talked about this. Can’t you eat that in the kitchen?”
“I’d have missed the movie, then.”
Diane sighed. “And what cinematic masterpiece are we screening tonight?”
Kurt nodded in agreement just as his wife flounced down beside him and reached to grab the ice cream from his hand.
“If you’re going to insist on bringing ice cream in here and dripping it all over our furniture—”
“—That was one time,” Kurt muttered.
“—Then the least you can do is share.”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “So, it’s ok for me to eat in here as long as I share?”
Diane looked up at the ceiling, screwing up her face into a mock-pensive expression as she pretended to deliberate.
“Yes, I think that sounds reasonable.”
Kurt exhaled dramatically and handed her the pint. “Fine.”
“Kurt! It’s empty.”
“No it isn’t.”
“There’s one spoonful of ice cream left in here.”
“I was saving it for you, dear.”
Diane laughed, then, shaking her head, and thrust the pint back at him.
“I just bought that two days ago.”
Kurt shrugged. “So, you don’t want the last bite?”
Diane grabbed the pint back in response, scraping the spoon against the bottom of the container to scoop up the remnants.
“This is good,” she hummed, licking the spoon.
Turning, Diane noticed her husband gazing intently at her. Leaning forward, he grasped the empty pint out of her hand and settled it onto the coffee table just as he captured her lips in a heated kiss, tasting the sweetness of the ice cream on her tongue.
“Delicious,” she murmured, kissing his lips once more.
Then, moving to kiss his cheek, she whispered unsubtly into his ear, “bed?”
Kurt winced, nodding toward the TV. “It’s almost over.”
“You’d rather watch that ancient movie than…” she paused for dramatic effect, but gesticulated wildly in the direction of their bed.
“It’s just—they don’t play this one very often.”
Diane rolled her eyes, not mad exactly, but not altogether thrilled either. She extricated herself from his grasp and stood up. She snatched the empty pint of ice cream and brushed past him before heading in the direction of their bedroom door.
Sighing, Kurt muted the TV. “Where are you going?”
Diane was already out the door, but doubled back and peeked her head in. “To get my own ice cream.” She smiled ever so slightly to indicate that she wasn’t really angry with him before she disappeared down the hall.
Kurt grinned and settled back into the couch before unmuting the TV. He stretched his legs out and rearranged his blanket. He’d wondered what their life would end up looking like, once the dust of the big move had settled. There had been fleeting worries that we live together until we die would not just shake out as perfectly as he’d envisioned. And there had been moments of frustration, anger even. Sometimes, though, on nights like this one, it all seemed perfectly, wonderfully sweet.
Chapter 4: Moving
The prompt was "any hair touching at all." You'll have to squint to see the prompt, but I noticed recently that Diane and Kurt switched their usual sides of the bed at the start of S3 of The Good Fight and had wanted to incorporate that detail.
Diane had been in a strange mood all afternoon, and as afternoon quickly turned into evening she could tell that her husband’s mood was not much better.
They’d spent all day lugging boxes around the new house. The Windy City Movers had arrived at her old apartment right around 7 AM and they’d spent the rest of the day overseeing the workers pack up, load, and then unload and unpack all their (well, her) furniture. Kurt’s assorted items were already in the house. He’d taken a few days that week and had packed up most of his essentials from the cabin and loaded them into his truck on his own.
Exhaustion was part of it. It was one of those unendingly long days that she could now feel in her bones. Fleeting thoughts of a hot shower and Macallan had been pushed aside to deal with a scuffed table leg and a terse conversation with Kurt over where to arrange their bedroom furniture.
Now, as the mid-summer sun set out their new bedroom windows, the fight seemed silly. Did she particularly want a gun cabinet in their bedroom? No, but Kurt had made quite a few sacrifices. He had agreed to become a city person, after all, insisting that he didn’t care about the traffic or noise; he only wanted to follow through with their plans and maintain their renewed sense of peace.
So, she let it go—she stopped arguing against it when Kurt explained for the second time why it would be safest to store them there, and she remained in their bedroom, unpacking bedsheets from an opened box, when Kurt went to settle payment with the remaining movers down the hall.
As she looked around the room now, unfurling the rose-colored bed linen, she had to admit that there was a certain sense of peace knowing that even despite a few spats over the course of a stressful day, they were moved in now and that finally everything was settled between them.
It had not taken them terribly long to find the new house, but they’d been living in a sort of limbo ever since the declaration Kurt made in her office that night. Yes, they’d promised to live together forever, to give their marriage a chance, but Diane would have been lying if she'd denied the pang of intense fear she’d felt the following morning when he’d untangled himself from her bed, kissed her cheek, and had driven off to the farm to get some work done. Had anything really changed?
She had felt that the tension between them was palpable enough to move the apartment search along faster than perhaps either had expected. There seemed to be a mutual unspoken fear that if they didn’t jump soon, and jump together, that they would miss their last chance. So, they jumped: they merged bank accounts, created a shared google calendar (which she’d showed him how to use three or four dozen times), and had purchased the house rather than leased it.
Diane remembered thinking on the day of their closing that if they were going to sink, well, then they would sink together.
She shook her head now, feeling a twinge in her neck (likely from lifting a heavy box Kurt had instructed her not to lift), and tried to shake off her malaise.
Just as she began stretching the fitted sheet around their mattress, the sound of her husband opening the bedroom door startled her out of her thoughts.
“All set.” Kurt sighed and exhaled loudly.
Diane smiled, feeling badly now that they’d snapped at each other. She could tell he was exhausted; he’d spent the whole day practically running around the house to outmaneuver her own attempts to help. It seemed every time she’d pick up a box, Kurt would magically appear and wrest it from her arms, asking her to go complete some less strenuous task. Now, with her muscles aching from the work she had managed to do, she knew he’d done her a favor, even though she'd found it impossibly annoying.
Having finished the fitted sheet, Diane began unfolding the flat sheet as Kurt approached.
“Do you mind if we take a raincheck on dinner?”
Kurt frowned. “You’re still upset.”
Diane smiled softly and shook her head once more. “No, just exhausted.”
“We could order in?”
Kurt hummed in agreement and strode over to the newly unpacked bar cart to pour himself a drink. When he returned a moment later, he had two whiskeys in hand. He offered her one before holding up his own glass.
Diane grinned, accepted the glass, and dropped the bedsheet. “To?”
Kurt cleared his throat, for Diane was waiting expectantly now, and swallowed.
“To living together until we die.”
They clinked glasses, exchanging shy smiles, and both took a long sip of the much-needed drink.
Diane took a second sip, nearly draining the glass, before setting the empty cup onto the left bedside table. She wanted nothing more than to collapse into one of their new chairs, but knew if she left the bed unmade then she’d only be angry with herself later on when it was time for bed and nothing was ready.
Kurt, sensing her frustration, took another sip of his own drink before dropping the glass onto the right side of the bed.
Diane nodded, too exhausted to protest. “Yes, please.”
They finished unfolding and tucking in the sheets in a companionable silence, both content to let the earlier annoyances and snipes pass unremarked upon. When they finished the sheets, Kurt helped her lift the heavy brocade comforter from another box and lay it across the foot of the bed.
They’d selected the bedding only a week before. Diane had tricked him into going to Restoration Hardware after promising him a Saturday afternoon lunch out at their favorite pizza place. They were nearly to the front door of the store before he realized the lunch had been a ploy to get him to go furniture shopping. But he’d also understood that it was important to her that he have some input on their new décor. And so, he’d nodded in agreement, trying to be supportive, as she selected bedroom furniture, a new couch, and an obscene number of decorative throw pillows and lamps. Diane and the saleswoman had shared a knowing chuckle at his expense when he’d made the mistake of asking what all the pillows were for. Diane had good taste, though, and everything looked just right in their new room.
Diane sighed and the sound drew him from his musings.
“God, it’s been a long day.”
“Yep. Good to be finished, though.”
They’d both migrated to the center of the room and stood shoulder to shoulder at the foot of the bed.
“You like the furniture? It’s not too girly?”
Kurt grinned as their gazes both fell on the new nightstand that was embossed with decorative flowers. It wasn’t exactly what he would have picked, but she’d loved it so much in the store that it seemed silly to protest when he didn’t really care what the furniture looked like; all he’d wanted was the move to be finished and for them to finally be together.
“If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
“That’s not exactly what I asked, but I’m too tired to tease out a longer answer, Cowboy.”
She was quiet for a long moment, but then reached to grab her husband’s hand, startling him out of his reverie once more.
He squeezed her hand in answer and looked at her expectantly.
“It’s all going to be alright.”
He nodded slowly, not quite understanding.
She looked worried.
“Everything is fine,” he answered slowly.
He knew that she wanted reassurance. He’d known that all day. He’d sensed her mood shift early that morning as she’d walked around her empty apartment, and he’d felt in in their arguments all day. He’d been doing his best to not rock the boat—to simply get them here, together. He’d felt the same lingering fear—the same nagging worry that a new apartment wouldn’t be enough. But for all his understanding, saying it was more difficult. So, in lieu of a more articulate response, he simply wrapped an arm around her waist.
Diane reached down and grasped the hand that had settled against her hip and she leaned her head against his shoulder. It would be alright—she knew it would be. All they needed was some rest and some time to adjust.
She yawned then and looked up at her husband.
“Would you mind if I lay down for a few minutes before we order dinner?”
“Go ahead. Been a long day.”
Wandering back to the left side of the bed where she’d deposited her empty glass, Diane was about to sit on the bed when she caught a glimpse of her clothes. She’d worn a pair of old jeans and one of Kurt’s t-shirts. He’d offered her an old McCain / Palin 2008 shirt that morning, but she’d only scoffed and snatched up one of his favorite grey t-shirts instead. After a full day of moving, both her jeans and shirt were covered in dust and grime.
“I’m a mess.”
Kurt gestured at his own flannel and jeans and shrugged. “Me too.”
Diane knew she needed a hot shower; another twinge in her back confirmed it. But all she wanted in that moment was to quiet all the lingering fear and exhaustion and curl up in her new bed and close her eyes.
Kurt had been momentarily distracted by a text message. The manager of the moving company was checking in to affirm that the job had been completed to their satisfaction. He hit the send button to reply and looked up just as his wife was pulling her t-shirt over her head.
“Diane, what are you—”
She was standing there in just a camisole now and her hand was hovering over the button of her jeans. Offering him a lopsided grin, she undid the button and shrugged those off too.
“I just need five minutes,” she explained.
Then, suiting actions to words, she crawled atop the bed, not bothering to get under the covers, and let out a sigh of relief and hummed with pleasure.
“This bed is perfect.”
Kurt chuckled. “Want me to go order us some dinner and you can rest?”
Diane blinked her eyes open and settled a gentle gaze upon her husband. She patted the empty space on the right side of the bed.
She hugged her pillow and looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for him to decline. But Kurt remained silent for only a second.
Kurt unbuttoned his old flannel and let it fall into a heap on the ground. Then he kicked off his work boots and socks before pulling his jeans off too. He left everything in an unceremonious pile and walked around to the right side of the bed to join his wife.
“Comfortable?” Diane grinned at the sight of him in his boxers and t-shirt.
Kurt nodded, his eyes darkening as Diane rolled closer and kissed his lips. She closed her eyes and let their foreheads meet, holding her palm against his cheek and relishing the blissful quiet of the room. Kurt pulled her even closer still, resting his hand back against her hip. They remained like that for some time, holding one another in the center of their new bed.
It was Kurt who broke the silence, having spent several long minutes pressing lazy kisses to her jawline and neck. He lifted his head up, though it was still resting against the pillow, and waited for his wife to open her eyes. He smiled at her sleepy expression and stroked his thumb against her ear.
“You know,” he considered, “you’re on my side of the bed.”
Diane rolled her eyes, a smile still tugging at her lips. “I’m too comfortable to move.”
“Maybe—” Kurt paused, weighing his words.
“Maybe you should keep that side and I’ll keep this side.”
Diane frowned, still fighting sleep and not entirely certain what he was talking about.
“A fresh start. For—for the bedroom,” he amended.
He broke their gaze, then, seemingly embarrassed to have suggested it, but Diane settled her palm against his cheek once more, hooked her leg over his, and urged him forward to kiss her.
“I think a fresh start sounds perfect.”
Diane settled her head against his chest and exhaled softly. She felt Kurt do the same, though his sigh seemed much deeper than her own, as though he’d shrugged off considerable weight. She felt him pull her against his body, gently but insistently, and closed her eyes just as his hand rested against her head, making slow passes through the limp curls.
The room was quiet, save for the sounds of a bustling city beyond their window, and Diane realized then, nestled against her husband, that there was nothing left to worry about. It wasn’t going to be ok—it already was.
In fact, as she fell asleep, his hand brushing through her hair, she felt her earlier malaise give way to something entirely new: happiness.
Chapter 5: Unbuttoning
The prompt was "unbuttoning or unzipping clothes." I recently rewatched "The Wheels of Justice" episode of The Good Wife and the final scene inspired this drabble!
“Wait—I don’t want to wait. Please. I don’t want to wait. I don’t.”
“And then what?”
She hadn’t thought they would be required to answer his question so soon. They’d stood face to face in her office for what had seemed like ages, but for what was likely less than a moment or two before he’d broken the terse silence with a grin and replied, “ok.”
Diane was not a woman who’d imagined being proposed to—much less making a proposal of marriage—but in her few imaginings of how such a moment might go, a simple “ok,” had not been one of the scenarios considered. The twitch of his lips, though, the way he stepped closer and rested his hand against her hip before kissing her—it was, in that moment, all she wanted.
They’d found themselves quite giddy in her office, Kurt calling the Edgewater to request a late check-out and Diane furtively waving down her secretary to cancel a few appointments. They’d been determined to celebrate and take a spontaneous lunch. It had seemed appropriate, after all, to celebrate in some small way. In any case, they’d needed to do something other than stand in her office grinning dumbly at one another, so Diane had been grateful when Kurt suggested escaping the office for an hour or two to mark the occasion with lunch and a glass of champagne.
He’d led her out of the office, his hand grasping tightly to her own, down the elevator, and then onto the street where they’d wandered for several blocks, sneaking smiles at one another until they finally paused in front of what seemed like an upscale bistro.
Diane had nodded, still too dazed by the sudden turn of events, and had gladly let him ferry them both into the restaurant where they spent well over two hours eating—steak for her, lobster for him, and a bottle of champagne between them—before spilling back onto the street and promising to speak again in a few hours when she was done with work.
Diane had kissed him soundly before letting him go and waited outside her office to watch him walk away until he was long out of sight. She’d returned to the office hoping to finish up a few briefs before sneaking out for a long weekend. It was a reasonably busy Thursday afternoon, but a quick glance at her schedule upon her return had confirmed that Friday was mostly free—save for a few unimportant meetings that could easily be pushed to Monday. They’d conjured up plans for a weekend at Kurt’s place in the country over lunch, making hushed plans to spend the evening by the fireplace sharing bottles of wine and all sorts of other things.
Diane only made it through an hour or so of paperwork, though, before her cellphone began to buzz insistently. She let it go to voicemail twice before sighing in annoyance and pulling it out of her handbag. Kurt’s name flashed across the screen and her stomach made a gleeful somersault.
Diane answered with a chuckle. “You haven’t already changed your mind, have you?”
Kurt’s voice was low, almost pained, and her stomach did another somersault—this time with an accompanying pang of anxiety.
She lowered her voice. “You—haven’t, have you?”
Diane heard what sounded like a wince on the other end of the line.
Another stomach flip—this one entirely fearful.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Diane, I think I have food poisoning.”
He winced again, which Diane now registered as a heaving sound. She was for the briefest of moments confused. What on earth could she do to remedy food poisoning? Did he want her to call a doctor? His heavy breathing on the other end of the phone snapped her back to attention.
And then what?
As sudden as it seemed, they were in all of this together now. Then was apparently right now.
“Where are you?”
Kurt didn’t respond, and Diane heard him heave once more.
“Edgewater,” he panted. “Came back to check out and never made it out of the lobby.”
“I’m on my way.”
It took nearly an hour for them to make it to her apartment. Diane had arrived at the Edgewater in record time only to find Kurt practically wrapped around a toilet in the lobby bathroom. She’d overcome a not insignificant level of embarrassment to burst into the men’s room to rescue him, and then they’d spent a nightmarish forty-five minutes in traffic to get home. Kurt spent the ride vomiting in regular intervals into a plastic bag that the concierge had kindly handed them on their way out.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered as he dragged himself behind her into the apartment.
Diane frowned. “Kurt, you’re sick. Don’t apologize.”
“Not exactly ideal fiancé material.”
Diane only shook her head. “Go upstairs. I’ll be right up.”
Already too exhausted to argue, Kurt trudged up the stairs—though Diane heard his pace quicken as he reached the top step, and she soon heard the bathroom door slam behind him.
When she arrived upstairs with ginger ale, crackers, and a cool compress five minutes later, Kurt was already sprawled out on her bathroom floor. The sight was altogether alarming; she’d never seen him in such a state of disarray—not even close. They’d had a few nights of overindulgence, but those had generally ended in bed together and then with one of them surreptitiously sneaking out the next morning. Depositing the tray in the bedroom, she tentatively reentered the bathroom and knelt next to him, rubbing gentle circles into his back.
“I really am sorry,” he repeated.
He looked up at her with doleful eyes.
“I wanted tonight to be special. You deserve that.”
Diane smiled and pressed her lips to his temple. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Kurt only nodded, closing his eyes as she continued to make passes up and down his back.
“You’re sweating through your flannel, Cowboy.”
Kurt grunted in acknowledgement, unable to do more than inch closer to the toilet.
“Come on—let’s get you out of this.”
Careful not to make any sudden movements—lest they have a repeat of the car ride home—Diane shifted to his side and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. Kurt made an ineffectual attempt to wrest himself out of her grasp but succeeded only in heaving into the toilet once more.
“Just leave me in here.”
Diane couldn’t help but laugh at his pitiful yet dramatic suggestion.
“Kurt, I’m not leaving you in here.”
She continued to undo the buttons on his shirt and then pulled it off him, taking the undershirt off as well.
“I think I have a t-shirt or two of yours in my closet. Don’t move.”
“Wasn’t planning to,” he groaned.
Diane returned with the fresh clothes. She’d known exactly where they were in the back of her closet; she’d never gotten rid of them, always hoping they’d somehow figure things out and he’d have need of them again. After helping him into the dry t-shirt, she pulled a bottle of anti-nausea pills out of her medicine cabinet and shook out the appropriate dose.
“Take these,” she instructed, handing him the glass of ginger ale she’d carried back in.
Kurt swallowed them without protest which only affirmed his malaise; he’d vehemently argued against going to the doctor when she’d suggested it on the car ride home, but he finally seemed more amenable to some form of assistance.
He groaned, forcing himself to a standing position, and gulped down another sip from his glass.
Diane smiled softly and pressed her palm to his forehead to feel for a temperature. He closed his eyes at the coolness of her touch and exhaled in some relief. When he opened his eyes a moment later he found she was gazing intently at him, her hand still resting against his head. Kurt felt his stomach do a somersault, though for the first time in several hours it seemed unrelated to the bad lobster he’d consumed. No—looking at her just then—he knew it was the sudden anticipation and realization that this, them together here—this was the answer to his question.
And then what?
Kurt hiccuped and the sound startled Diane out of her thoughts. He felt his stomach begin to churn just as she removed her hand and he registered a brief flash of panic in her eyes.
“Let’s get you into bed.” Her voice was hesitant, though still authoritative.
Diane wrapped an arm around his waist—ignoring his I’m fine protestations—and led him back into her bedroom (their bedroom now, she wondered?).
Easing him onto the bed, Diane smirked as she reached to undo his belt buckle.
“Now, this is how I thought our evening would go,” she considered, pulling off the belt and then moving to undo the button of his jeans.
Kurt laughed, though the sound soon turned into a groan as his muscles ached in objection to the sudden movement.
“I’ll make it up to you—I promise.”
“There’s plenty of time for that.”
Kurt nodded slowly, as if weighing her words, and then settled back into her pillows.
Diane helped bundle him under her covers and pressed her lips to his forehead once more for good measure. His skin was warm to the touch, but not alarmingly so, and so she stopped herself from suggesting a trip to the doctor and instead sat on the edge of the mattress and ran her thumb back and forth across his cheek until he seemed to sleep.
Standing, Diane stretched her legs and was nearly to the bedroom door before she heard Kurt’s voice from behind her.
“Just to make some tea.”
He frowned slightly, his features so pitifully sweet. “And then what?”
“And then I’ll come back and sit with you. Ok?”
“Ok,” he murmured.
Diane waited in the doorway until she was sure he was asleep. As she wandered down the hall and down the stairs she thought once more of his question from earlier—and then what? It seemed such a grand, sweeping question. Who knew what was to come? Were they making a mistake? Jumping in too quickly? No—she didn’t think so. She rounded the corner to the kitchen and thought of him resting upstairs in their bed and she knew then what she had suspected for some time now: whatever came next, they would face it together.