Diane is barely out of the cab before she dials his cell, awkwardly digging through her purse for her keys with her free hand. She bites back a smile between her teeth, almost giddy at the thought of hearing his voice.
“Hey,” the voice comes after two rings, low and somehow as silky as it is rough, and in response she allows her smile to fully break out across her face.
“You're a meme,” she blurts out, laughing as she turns the key in the lock.
“Well, hello to you, too,” he says with feigned annoyance, but she can almost hear his own smile behind it.
“Hang on a sec,” she says, setting the phone down on the table while she lets her purse fall to the floor and shrugs out of her coat. She locks the door behind her and picks the phone up again. “Sorry. Hi.”
“What was all that?” he asks.
“Just getting in – I guess I couldn't wait to talk to you.”
“Not even until you got in the door – I'm touched,” he chuckles. “What's up?”
“I was watching you at the rally. There was a livestream, you know. You're a meme,” she repeats, grinning anew as the image of his face like a stone and his body completely immobile came to mind again.
So I hear,” he says grimly. “I want to go back to a time when I didn't know what that word meant.”
“I was watching it, and I swear to god, Kurt, I've never loved you more.” She feels her cheeks flush as they did when she was watching him, and again talking about him with Adrian. He really always did make her feel twenty-two. “Is that weird?”
“A little. But I'll take it. And I love you, too,” he says warmly, before adding: “Weirdo.”
She lets out a long, throaty laugh at that as she enters their bedroom, some vague part of her brain disappointed to find the room empty, although of course it is. She ignores the first pang of realization that she'll be in that cold, empty bed alone tonight, keeping her voice bright for him. “What are you doing now? Hope I didn't interrupt the – what, seven-course dinner to follow, two scoops of ice cream for Trump, one for you?”
He laughs. “If there was one, I wasn't invited, no surprise there. No, I'm back at the hotel. Already in bed.”
She checks her watch idly, then removes it. It was late. “Hope you weren't trying to sleep.”
“No, no. I was reading. But I'd rather talk to you.”
“Sweet talker,” she smiles, stepping out of her heels.
“It's the truth,” he says simply, and she knows it is. “How was your day?”
“Ugh – long,” she groans, not sure she wants to get into it now, over the phone. She wants to curl up into his arms when she tells him about Maia, feel his hands combing through her hair soothingly as she tells him she fears she may have lost her for good. “Blum. Trump-appointed judges. The usual nonsense.”
“Hmm,” he grunts sympathetically. “What can I do to distract you?”
Her eyebrows shoot up at that. “What are you wearing?”
He laughs, and she can just picture him shaking his head ruefully. “What are you wearing?”
“I asked you first,” she insists, “and besides, I'll be wearing less by the time you get around to answering.”
She steps out of her skirt, quickly unbuttoning her blouse, eager to have an answer for him that is as satisfying as it is accurate.
“Well, you know, just a white t-shirt and my shorts here.”
She lets out an appreciative whistle. “Socks or no socks?”
“Socks. Can't get the temperature right, it's a little cold in here.”
“Sex-y,” she says, drawing out both syllables.
“All right, your turn,” he prompts her.
“I was about to get into my pajamas, so just my bra, one of the black, lacy ones.”
“When I'm away?” he asks in mock indignation, making a tsk-tsk sound.
“A shame you can't enjoy it. Matching bottoms. Garters and everything.”
He makes a kind of groaning noise, as if wishing he could reach through space and time and touch. “Send me a picture.”
“What?” she asks, taken by surprise.
“Seriously. I wanna see.”
“You know what I look like in this,” she says, but she's already moving her phone away from the call screen and trying to bring up the camera app.
“Didn't you just say you've never loved me more?”
“I did say that, yeah, okay.” She tries to flip the camera to selfie mode and holds her arm out, trying to find the angle. “Hang on.”
Feeling a bit ridiculous but undeterred, she shakes her hair loose and cocks her hip slightly, taking a few photos. She takes a look at the results, frowning. “Oh, they're blurry.”
“I can work with blurry,” he laughs. “Or ah, try the mirror.”
“Oh! Yeah, that'll work.” She half-runs over to the full-length mirror, standing a few feet back to capture herself from head to toe. She considers her appearance, almost satisfied, then steps back into her heels. Yes, that's it.
“Are you still there?” he asks.
“Can't rush art, dear,” she mock-scolds him, posing in front of the mirror. She leans against the back of the couch, one leg up as if she's adjusting the garter. She holds the phone in her other hand, trying to block as little of what he wants to see as possible. She has to stop again to keep from laughing at how absurd the whole thing is, carefully forcing her face back into a serious expression, her eyes almost imploring him, her lips slightly open. She snaps the picture, and immediately bursts into laughter.
“Oh, god,” she says, still giggling as she looks at it. It's not bad, she has to admit. He will certainly enjoy it, at any rate. “Okay. Here it comes.”
She goes into their open text conversation – smiling as she sees his last message, before he got into the car on the way to the rally, simply: Love you. – and attaches the image.
Two seconds later his appraisal comes: “Holy shit. Diane.”
She throws her whole head back in laughter as she unhooks her bra to trade her underthings for comfortable pajamas. He might like this image even more, but he'll have to come home for that. “You like that?”
“Are you kidding? Fuck. If I missed you before...”
“Now send me yours,” she says, still giggling.
“I can't compete with that,” he laughs.
“Well, no. But come on. I miss your handsome face.”
“Okay. Give me a minute.”
She finishes changing, then walks over to their bed, pulling down the covers and getting in. She fluffs her pillows up behind her, looking sideways over at his empty space.
“Okay, sent. Not quite as sexy as yours. Best I can do.”
She smiles expectantly, then bursts into laughter again when it pops up on her screen, bringing it up full size and then zooming in. His handsome face and perhaps the goofy grin she had anticipated, but not the way he had awkwardly grabbed one leg to get his socks into the frame.
“Oh my god, Kurt,” she laughs, closing her eyes and letting her head fall against the headboard.
“Tried to do your pose. It's not the same.”
“I'm never going to let you forget this,” she says, shaking her head as she looks down at it again.
“I'd say we both have some pretty solid blackmail material now.”
“Wanna fool around?” she asks playfully, not sure if she means it, but up for it if he is. She has given him more to work with than he's given her, but she has a long sense memory to draw from.
“What – phone sex?” he asks, and she's surprised she can still surprise him.
“Yeah,” she says, lightly cajoling him now.
He makes a sort of ruminating grunt, and she knows he's considering whether it's likely to be more work than fun. Over the years he had always given it a shot when she prompted him, but this more verbose form of lovemaking had never been foremost among his many gifts. Still, even when words failed, he would exaggerate his breathing and moans for her, which she never failed to appreciate. But she can tell from the character of his silence he's too tired tonight.
“I'm kidding,” she sighs, resigned, her hand sliding away from the top of her pajama pants, where they had hovered in anticipation. “I just miss you.”
“I miss you too,” he says softly, those words coming much more readily. “Don't really like hotel life anymore.”
“I've domesticated you?” she teases him.
“I guess you have,” he returns, and she can hear the sheepish, flirtatious smile in his voice. “Not sure I ever really liked it. Just didn't have anything better going, before you.”
She looks around at this terribly domestic landscape, so homey with him in it, so cold and empty without him. “God, I love you,” she says, and it comes out in a hoarse whisper, her voice suddenly full of emotion. “That's all I really called to say. It's all I could think when I saw you up there – god I love that man. Is that silly?”
“Not silly at all.” He sighs, as if letting go some pent-up frustration. “You know, I hate this job. That's what I was thinking when I was up there. Should have been thinking about you, would have been a lot happier. Maybe next time I'm in a meeting with some bureaucratic blowhards I can't stand, I'll just tune out and think about that picture you just sent me.”
She lets out a laugh that fades into a sympathetic groan. “I'm sorry – I hate that you're unhappy.”
“Well, no, that's what I'm trying to get at. I guess I was unhappy, when I was there, and when they walked me off the stage. I guess I was when I got into this shitty hotel room. But talking to you...” he drifts off, taking his time to land on just the words he is looking for. “Diane, this is why I'm doing this. You and me. And it's worth it.”
“Oh, Kurt,” she says, moved.
“And that's all to say... I love you, too.”
“I want to kiss you so badly,” she says, closing her eyes as if to conjure the image. “Other things, too. But I wanna start by just kissing you, for an hour straight.”
“Sounds good to me,” he laughs. “Tomorrow.”
“When do you get back? I can try to clear my afternoon –“
He groans, meaning it. “Not till late. They've got me in some all-day meetings with the other chumps they flew in for this. Probably some cigars-and-whiskey lunch that goes on for hours, asinine stories, lining up favors.”
“I'm sorry. Focus on the whiskey.”
“Nah, I'll focus on this picture of you.”
She laughs, shaking her head. “Glad I could help.”
“Oh, you help,” he returns, chuckling too, then turns more serious. “More than you know.”
“Flirt. Hey, hang on.” Grinning to herself, she puts him on speaker and sets the phone down on the mattress. She leans over to switch off the bedside light, then adjusts the pillows behind her, laying down on her side. She pulls the phone back toward her. “Can you still hear me?”
“Yeah. You trying to go to sleep?”
“In a bit,” she says, in no hurry to let him go, even if there isn't much left to say. “I don't like seeing your side empty.”
“At least you're in our bed.”
“True. But I really don't sleep well without you anymore.” She reaches out toward the space where he should be, pulling one of his pillows closer and resting her arm around it. “There's a warmth to you, the weight of you that's gone and I swear my body knows it, I don't know. I guess I am silly. You make me silly.”
He laughs, and she can hear the faint click of his light on the other end, the creak of the mattress as he settles into his own bed, hundreds of miles away. “If this is silly, then we make each other silly.”
“How did we ever live like this before?” she asks softly, exhaustion creeping into her voice. With or without the weight of him there, she knows she won't last much longer.
“Not very well, I think we've learned,” he says wryly, and she knows he is thinking, as she is, of those years spent apart more often than they were together, and how they each grew slowly to hate it, never mentioning to the other how painful their arrangement had become until it swallowed them up.
But they had learned, and they were here now: one night apart would be followed by countless nights in each other's arms.
“Diane?” she hears him prod her, and she wonders if she had drifted off so easily after all, lulled by his warm presence if not his body.
“Sorry, sorry,” she purrs with a happy, sleepy smile, never opening her eyes as she pulls the pillow a little closer.
“Don't be,” he laughs, his voice sounding just a little further away now. “Go to sleep.”
And she hovers just at the edge of consciousness so she cannot be sure if she hears, or says, or simply dreams the next words before she crosses fully into sleep, but they belong to both of them regardless: This is what I've always wanted.