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When the Bubble Bursts

Chapter Text

The soft knock on the door startled her slightly, but after looking up from her paperwork she immediately relaxed and a slight smile crawled onto her face.

"Will", she simply stated, watching her partner entering her office and sitting down on the chair in front of her. One of her eyebrows shot up before she returned her gaze to the folder in front of her, silently questioning him what he wanted when he didn't lose a word of explanation why he came by.

"What do you need?", Diane finally asked, a bit unnerved by his strange acting. She had a lot to do and wasn't in the mood for a guessing game.

"You need to make time for a meeting in the afternoon.", he stated, waiting for a reaction that didn't come. "Neil Gross", he finally added, and Diane rolled her eyes slightly. Of course their top client had some extra wishes again.

"Is he going to come in?", she asked, taking off her black framed glasses, looking at Will again, and when he shook his head, she sighed audibly.

"He said he is too busy to mingle through traffic at that time of the day", he told her, a smirk forming on his lips caused by his partners indignation that she didn't care to hide in front of him.

"As if I am not busy", she muttered but eventually nodded her head. "When?", she asked while Will stood up, ready to leave her office.

"4 pm", he replied, "Thought that we could share a car?"

"Sure", Diane agreed, putting her glasses back on and returning her attention to the files that occupied the majority of her desk.

Will took her appearance in for some seconds, knowing that she rescheduled her tasks in her mind, not delighted that she had to do so. He left her office, cautiously closing the door behind him and returning to his own desk. He wasn't really happy about the meeting either, but Mr. Gross was their most valuable client, and he was willing to accept some inconveniences to keep it that way.

*****

His mind left the state of unconsciousness slowly. Eyes still closed, he turned to his side, arms searching for her familiar warmth, the idea of a smile on his face in the expectation of her smooth skin beneath his touch. But the sheets he brushed were cold, her scent barely there. Shock flooded through his veins, forcing his eyes open, to confirm she wasn't lying next to him. And as he was facing the empty space, the memories came back. He remembered why his head felt too heavy, why her perfume threatened to disappear from the pillows around him and her clothes didn't cover the floor, removed in a hurry, her dainty fingers longing for his skin. She had not returned home yesterday. Or the day before. She was gone, nobody and nothing able to bring her back.

*****

“Is it possible to leave the firm a bit earlier? I want to drop by a new client.”

Will didn’t hear her approach, and she had not bothered to knock when entering, so the look he gave her was a mixture of surprise and fright. “You know, Diane, that you can knock on my door without terrible things happening?”, he teased, quickly recovered from his startlement.

She let out a huff as a reply, coming to a halt in front of his desk, arms crossed, waiting for a quick answer so she could get back to work.

“Which client?”, he wanted to know instead.

“Harry Dargis. You know, the man whose daughter got shot?”

“This is a pro-bono case, right?”, Will stated, eyes thinned. “I thought you understood when I said that I intend to lead this firm to the top and we can’t afford to…”

“Will!”, Diane interrupted her partner, her tone soft to keep him calm. “I am aware that such a case is what you were planning to avoid.”

“Then why are you taking him as a client? Diane, your good heart will not earn us the money we need. It never did!”, he raised his voice again. For him it was beyond clear that the time where they had a certain amount of pro-bono cases was over. The only reason he had agreed to keep providing legal aid for such a long time was his partner and the striking argument that they could afford it easily. They still can now, but his attitude had changed over the past few months. He didn’t want to be contestable anymore, was willing to take down everyone and everything that stood in his way.

“Is this non-profit case really what bothers you the most?”, she asked, her tone getting harsh. “Or is this about the few second- and third-year lawyers leaving our firm? Because I’m tired arguing over that issue”, she spat out, her anger towards him growing so rapidly that she was a little surprised herself. Her due to stress strained mood had not been helpful, she avowed silently. On the other side, it has always infuriated her when he dared to judge her attitude concerning pro bono cases. And he was wrong with his accusation that they didn’t earn them any money altogether. It would by far not be the first time that one of these initially harmless cases could lead to a class action lawsuit, and he knew it.

None of them said a word for an endless minute, Will knowing his partner was at least partly right, but he was too stubborn to admit it yet, and Diane trying to figure out how to deliver the message that she would take the case anyway without causing a repeated outburst of his anger. They both looked everywhere except their opposite, avoiding seeing the anger and frustration they had caused in the other ones face. Eventually, Diane looked up and sighed, causing Will to meet the gaze of her light blue eyes. He saw how she hesitated to speak out loud what was on her mind, instead of voicing her opinion drawing her bottom lip into her mouth, teeth scrapping over it lightly, just for a second, all of it unconsciously. He had a premonition of what she was about to say, so he nodded slightly, understanding, giving in. She cast him a little smile, the irritation on her face slowly fading.

“Did you eat lunch already?”, he asked in an attempt to ease the tense atmosphere further, although he was quite sure he knew the answer to that as well. But he was aware that she would recognise the real message behind his words, too: he was sorry for what he had said earlier.
She shook her head, and when he shot her a reproving look, she was quick to defend herself. “I don’t intend to now, got too many things on my mind. And I’m not hungry anyways. Just be sure to be ready timely, it wouldn’t make things easier for me to leave without you and face Mr. Gross on my own!”, she added, hiding her subtle threat behind an honest smirk.

Will smiled back confidently, all too sure that she wouldn’t dare and, more importantly, wouldn’t prefer to go without him. “Of course”, he assured her nevertheless.
He watched her leaving his office, relieved that they were on good terms again while wondering how monotonous and simultaneously straining not only his work as a lawyer but also his life outside the firm would be without Diane as a partner and friend.

Chapter Text

Kurt felt cold while he drew back the curtains, allowing the morning sun to flood the room. His eyes followed the rays of light, watching them dance over wooden floor, silky sheets, unmoved pillows. The sight of the untouched side of their bed, her side, made him flinch, reminded him of the pain in his heart that had settled there two days ago, and he wasn’t sure it would ever leave again.

Shivering slightly, he made his way into the bathroom, scrupulously avoiding to take in any of her belongings. But as soon as he raised his head to look into the mirror, he failed. Of course he did, because she was still everywhere. In the reflection he could see her shower gel and shampoo standing on the rack in the shower. Her mascara and one of her lipsticks were carelessly tossed on the right side of the washstand, accompanied by a set of golden earrings and a matching necklace, awaiting their owner to return and finally put them on display.

 

***

 

The alarm went off, way too loud in the silent room. Her hand groped for the phone to mute the nerve-racking noise, and a relieved sigh escaped her when she succeeded, an idea of the calm of the night surrounding her. She felt Kurt shifting next to her, and a moment later he placed his arm around her waist, casting a smile on her features and her eyes fluttered open.

“Good morning”, she murmured, her voice still hoarse from sleep. She received a low rumble as an answer, but it was enough to arise a warm feeling in her heart. Diane turned around to face him, placed a sweet little kiss on his nose and continued staring at him until he opened his eyes.

“Hi”, she whispered, and a lopsided smirk appeared on his sleepy face.

“Hi”, Kurt finally answered, eyeing her for a moment before he shuffled even closer and kissed her lazily. She hummed in approval, her left hand caressing his stubbly cheek before running it through his hair when their kiss intensified and she shut her eyes.

 

Diane would never admit it aloud, but waking up next to him never failed to make her day before it even started. They had only married some weeks ago, and she already couldn’t – and wasn’t willing to – imagine how she used to lay in bed alone, not hearing his breath next to her, to miss his soothing touch on her skin, slowly lulling her to sleep at night. Before she met him, she had always smiled at couples that were rhapsodising over the other partner, finding their sweet talk ridiculous. She still didn’t give details about their marriage away in public, let alone going into raptures about their relationship, but now she could sympathise. She loved being his wife with every fibre of her heart, despite their more often than not opposing views on politics and lifestyle.

 

When he pulled away they were both panting, and she buried her face in the nape of his neck, breathing in his scent, not willing to open her eyes yet while his fingers were lightly rubbing over her arm.

“I have to get up”, she mentioned in passing, not making a move, unwilling to leave the warmth of his embrace.

“Mm-hm”, he agreed, and although he’d prefer her staying in bed some more minutes, he lifted his arm so she could get up.

Diane smiled, cupped his face and gave him a quick peck on his lips before she threw back the blanket and left the bed and her husband behind to step into the bathroom and get ready for work.

 

Kurt followed her soon after, knowing that she would have completed most of her morning routine by then and he wouldn’t disturb her. When he entered the bath, Diane stood in front of the washstand, about to complete her hairdo. She had chosen to wear an ivory coloured blouse, her cleavage covered by a big, loosely tied bow which was attached to the collar, and a mahogany red pant suit. Even though she had not yet applied any make-up, she already looked beautiful.

He stepped behind her, encircled her waist and watched her through the mirror while she tried to colour her lips in their trademark red.

“You look stunning”, Kurt murmured into her ear, brushing her hair aside. She turned around to kiss him sweetly, leaving crimson traces behind.

“Thank you”, she replied gratefully and attempted to finish getting ready.

“I love you”, he told her, nuzzling her neck, kissing the sensitive skin there. Diane pulled away a little, their gaze meeting through the mirror, and while he looked at her deadly serious, she shot him a grin.

“I love you, too!”

 

***

 

He reached for her abandoned jewellery, but he withdrew his hand before he could touch it like he feared to be burned.

She had placed it there for the gala in the evening she had planned to attend. Accompanied by her spouse, of course. He had been unthoughtful enough to refuse to go, despite the fact he had promised her. To be fair, he hadn’t been in a state to weigh the pros and cons back then, her hands in his hair, her naked skin on his, their tongues disentangled from bruising kisses only for the moment of her asking him to escort her. Diane had been unimpressed by his argument, had reproached him for being unable to consider the up and downs before. He had dashed her hopes to spend an entertaining evening with her husband, outweighing the monotonous business conversations she inevitably would have had to hold here and there throughout the night. When he had kissed her goodbye, he had still been able to notice the disappointment in her light blue eyes.

He wanted to scream, curse, cry while shattering the glass in front of him, sweeping away her cosmetics, erasing the sight of everything she owned. Instead, he kept staring at his reflection, looking right through his anguished expression, not minding his uncombed hair and the stubbles on his face, feeling only emptiness beside the tremendous pain in his heart.

 

***

 

“Admit it, you just want to show off your new car”, Diane teased him when they entered the car park and passed by her own vehicle. They had decided to take his recently bought Mercedes, and that he would drop her at the firm after their meeting with Neil Gross.

“Never”, he claimed, acting offended.

They got into Will’s car and hit the road, but soon they got stuck in the heavy traffic of the early afternoon.

“Why again did I agree to ride through the whole city at this time of the day?”, he asked his partner mockingly, glancing at her sideways.

“You know how much I care about this man’s case”, she replied earnestly, but she flashed him a smile, knowing he only wanted to needle her because of her strong opinion towards gun related violence.

 

Diane’s client, Harry Dargis, had lost his daughter a few months ago. She had been killed by a stray bullet, shot by one of their neighbours, and during the following investigations it turned out that the offender had purchased the weapon illegally at a gun store in the area. With regard to the incident, Mr. Dargis had set up a billboard, blaming the involved gun store for the murder of his daughter. As a result the owner of the store accused the man of defamation, trying to persuade him to remove the placard. Unwilling to do so, he turned to Lockhart/Gardner for help, and Diane was keen to provide him with legal aid.

 

“So, are you going to inform me how much money our firm needs to spend on this poor man’s case?”, he asked her, eager to test out how far he could take his badgering.

“Will”, she sighed, “Can we let this rest for the moment, please?”

“Okay, okay”, he capitulated, removing one of his hands from the steering-wheel to raise it in a symbol of resignation.

“I’m sorry”, she assured him and reached over to pat his shoulder twice.

“You are… what? Are you okay?”, he wanted to know, his voice in a tone between faked and real concern. His gaze left the road again to look at her, his worry increasing when he noticed the wrinkles on her forehead that only appeared when she was overthinking a complex issue.

“Diane, you know I’m always available if you want to talk”, he told her, averse to press for an answer if she didn’t feel like sharing her thoughts with him.

“Yes, thank you”, she replied, and although he could read in her face that her issues were not solved, a smile lit up her features. She hesitated a second, but then she added: “I had an argument with Kurt in the morning, and it kind of ruined my mood for the day. But it was nothing serious, just one of our usual dissensions, to be honest.”

“Uh, who would have guessed that we would discuss marital problems one day?”, he said, and both of them started laughing at his remark.

“God, I never thought I will be that kind of woman one day”, Diane chuckled.

“Neither did I. And I still think you were right when you called marriage ‘a mysterious institution’.”

“And I still believe it is.”

“Why did you marry him anyway?”, he wanted to know, and suddenly he was very focused on the road, as if not looking at her would save him from her possible outrage. The silence that followed his questions gave him enough time to nearly regret to having asked her such a personal question.

It did take Diane some time to find the right words, and when she noticed Will’s slight discomfort, she chose not to hasten to do so.

“I love him”, she started with the obvious, and she laughed lightly when she saw him rolling his eyes in a manner that was normally reserved to herself. “Yeah, I know”, she reacted, imitating him, causing him to smirk.

“Anyway, the act of marrying was really spontaneous, that’s why I couldn’t invite or even mention it to you. I didn’t know we were going to tie the knot until minutes before it actually happened.”

“I still feel offended that I didn’t get the chance to be your best man”, Will interjected, and even though she knew it was just another playful comment, a part of her wished she had had the opportunity to have him by her side that day. They exchanged glances for a brief second, cool blue meeting warm brown, and Diane was sure he was aware of how she felt, despite the lack of words.

“You know it was a tough time, for both of us of course, but I felt like my life was spinning out of control. People I admired and respected betrayed my trust, the supreme court judgeship had suddenly become an unattainable dream, and I was short-sighted enough to neglect my tasks at our firm. I was tired that everything in my life was seeming so uncertain, tired of running away. He built up my self-confidence again, convinced me that everything is going to be alright. At that moment I knew that I didn’t want to let him go again. I was smart enough to not repeat the mistake I made during our issues with Bond.” Diane shrugged and took a deep breath, her gaze wandering outside of the window.

She had not noticed that they had already left the busy streets of the inner city and were now surrounded by detached houses with more or less well-tended front gardens, and a few streets further on she could spot some apartment buildings. Only when she felt Will’s hand brushing her shoulder, she turned her head, facing her best friend.

“You know I am happy for you, right?”, he requested, his smile warm and honest. Diane nodded, her fingers grazed his hand for some seconds and she returned his smile.

“I know”, she confirmed. “Now focus on the road. I don’t want to be involved in a car accident shortly before reaching our destination, just because you are unable to drive”, she mocked, and their chuckling filled the interior of the car once more.

Chapter Text

He entered the familiar lift, and the doors closed silently. Being alone in the cabin allowed him to stare at the button panel, hesitating, like he had before he had started his truck this morning, and then again when he had been standing in front of the building, the drizzle slowly but surely soaking him. His hand was trembling when he had eventually composed himself enough to press the button, illuminating a wretched light next to the number 28.

While the elevator moved, he attempted to prepare himself for the sight that would be awaiting him. A part of him tried to persuade himself that it was an usual day, a customary meeting with one of the firm’s name partners to discuss a new case. That he would step out of the elevator and approach the assistant at the reception desk as ballistics expert, not as husband of the female name partner. Not as widower of her.

 

The second the doors opened, office sounds surrounded him. Like they always had. Like there wasn’t an empty office at the end of the hallway, as if the names on the sign above the reception table, on the corridor wall, in the conference room, on the business cards that were handed out so easily, promising obtainability of two top Chicago lawyers, were still correct.

Kurt moved towards the receptionist, a young woman with long, black hair he was sure he hadn’t seen around yet. Their gaze met, and she looked at him questioningly, raising her eyebrows while doing so. For a moment it resembled Diane’s facial expression so much that he had to gulp heavily before he was able to articulate the cause for his visit.

“William Gardner, please.”

“Mr. Gardner is not available today”, she said, and when she continued, her voice shifted to a whisper. “He told me to clear his schedule early this morning, due to recent… events.”

Kurt nodded slightly, inhaling and exhaling slowly to prepare himself for his next words.

“I’m her husband”, he revealed, certain that she understood when the look of her umber eyes shifted from indifference to compassion and her features softened.

“Oh”, she breathed out, too taken aback to form a proper sentence. After some seconds she opened her mouth again but faltered for a moment, her dainty fingers fiddling with her hair.

“It’s okay”, he stepped in, forcing a weak smile to reassure the young woman who was visibly uncomfortable. “I know the way.”

The receptionist nodded, and with slow steps Kurt made his way through the corridor, passed the sign that told him he was at “Lockhart & Gardner”, and when he turned around the corner, he avoided to glance to the left. The attempt to pretend it was an ordinary day at the law firm was destroyed when he took in the figure of Will Gardner through the transparent walls. The name partner sat in his preferred chair, and files were scattered on the coffee table in front of him, but the lawyer had clasped his hands, chin resting on his fingers, and his brown eyes were seemingly fixated on something outside the window only he was able to see.

 

***

 

The car slowed down gradually while they passed several houses, approaching the first stop of their packed afternoon. Eventually Will parked his vehicle parallel to the sidewalk, studying their whereabouts curiously. He could spot the house Diane was headed to diagonally to the right in front of them, surrounded by a nature strip that had the potential to be turned into a beautiful garden. The driveway that led to the front door was paved with white gravel that was reflecting the sun, and somebody had planted small, late-blooming shrubs along of it.

“I’ve never been here before”, he admitted.

“Tells me you did not work on a lot of pro bono cases up to now”, Diane teases with a wink and unbuckles her seatbelt. She grabbed her bag and pulled out some folders, flipped through them quickly, her expression suddenly very serious.

“I’ll be back in a second”, she declared and shifted to get out of the car, when Will held her back, his fingers on her upper arm.

“You sure you’re okay?”, he wanted to know, frowning slightly while scanning her. A little bit surprised by his concern Diane wavered, biting her bottom lip while doing so. Will could see she was overthinking her emotions, her light eyes thinning.

“I am”, she answered then, looking at him openly. “I really am”, she repeated like she had to assure herself she had told him the truth. At first he doubted she was honest with him, but when one corner of her mouth moved up, giving him just an idea of a half-smile, he allowed himself to relax and trust her words, sure she had made up her mind.

“Alright then”, he said nodding, loosened his grip and drew back his hand.

“It won’t take long”, she promised again as she ultimately got out of the car. “Ten or fifteen minutes, at most!”

“Less talking, more actions!”, he urged her, but grinned. She huffed playfully, a broad smirk enlightening her face, and some seconds later the door clicked shut behind her.

Will’s gaze followed her for short moments as she made her way along the sidewalk, approaching the driveway, her blonde locks slightly tousled from the breeze, head held high as always, the files she wanted to deliver trapped between her forearm and chest, before he reached for his phone and began to scroll through emails.

A short time later he’d learn that she never made it to the door.

 

***

 

Kurt knocked at the door softly to not frighten the younger man. Will turned his head to look at his visitor, his mind still clouded with memories, and for some seconds the two men did nothing but stare at each other, until Will nodded once, whereupon Kurt moved to open the door and entered the office. The lawyer’s gaze wandered outside the window once again, only for a brief moment, before he got up from his armchair to greet the older man.

“Mr. Gardner”, Kurt said, shaking his hand.

“Will, please”, he corrected him, and a light smirk brightened Will’s features, the circumstances of their encounter forgotten for a moment. He then gesticulated to the unoccupied sofa, and Kurt settled there, one foot resting over the thigh of the other. Will crossed his office, grabbed two glasses and a bottle of bourbon and set them on the table in front of them. He sat back down, and without asking he filled the tumblers with two inches of the tawny liquor, then handed one over. They raised their glasses, and when they exchanged glances, both of them knew who they drank to.

 

“She would’ve liked this one”, Will broke the silence that had settled in the room, staring at the tiny waves he created between the transparent walls of his glass, swivelling it around in his hands.

“Yep”, Kurt replied, then downed the majority of the contents of his tumbler.

“I bought it to celebrate the change of our firm’s name”, the lawyer added while he pondered whether or not he should top up their glasses. He decided against it, considering the early hour and the tasks both of them still had to manage. However, the concept of just sitting in his office, cut off from the rest of the world, drinking the liquor whose original purpose was to serve at a cheerful occasion, drowning their sorrow in the burning liquid, relishing in memories of a time when their favourite person had still been alive, was tempting.

“You going to remove her name?”, Kurt wanted to know, his voice throaty and barely audible. He emptied his glass and placed it on the coffee table, dropping his leg to the floor and leaning in Will’s direction slightly. He watched the younger mans every move in order brace himself for whatever his answer would be. Will looked at him incredulously before his gaze shifted to the left, through the transparent doors into her deserted office, taking in the details he was so used to seeing, but the most important element was missing, like yesterday, the day before and like it would be every day that was yet to come.

“I… I don’t know”, he admitted in a whisper, his fingers running through his short dark hair, brown eyes fixated on the uninhabited chair in the adjourning room. He took a sip of the bourbon, focused on the warm feeling it caused in his throat for the short seconds it lasted, and turned his head to face the husband of his best friend. “I don’t know”, he repeated. “Not yet. Not now. I can’t think about it, and I don’t want to.” Will’s voice broke, and he inhaled deeply to calm himself. “I’m sorry”, he said and emptied his glass, then got up to put the empty tumblers and the bottle aside.

“We had a fight”, Kurt spoke up unexpectedly, his hands running along his stubbly chin. He didn’t know why he shared the fact with a man he barely knew, at least not in a personal manner, but a part of him hoped that talking about his concerns would bring him some relief. And Diane had always valued the opinion of her business partner, had appreciated his advice, and that was a good enough reason for Kurt to trust the younger man.

“I know.” Will turned around and sat back down, his features soft.

“It was stupid. I was so stupid. I could’ve made her happy, and it would’ve been so easy. But I didn’t. I failed her!”, he lamented, burying his face in his hands, unable to keep up his stoic façade.

“That’s not true!”, Will shook his head insistently, “You make her happy. I’d never seen her like that before, and I know her for a couple years now.” A pained little smile appeared on the lawyers face, and he didn’t realise that he talked about her like she was just out of office for some hours or days. The fact that she had passed only three days ago made the thought of her coming back incredibly enticing. Glancing at her vacant office when he was alone, pretending that she was just away for a business trip or called in sick was misleadingly easy.

Will looked at Kurt until the older man lifted his head and their gazes met. The misery in Kurt’s hazel eyes caused a queasy feeling in Will’s stomach, reminded him that she wasn’t able to return to her office. That the red chair that shifted into his sight so easily when he worked on his desk would stay empty. He gulped, swallowing a sob, and some seconds went by until he was sure he could continue.

“She loved you with her whole heart and more”, Will whispered eventually, his voice raspy from held back tears.

 

***

 

The car was way too fast. When it drove past his parked Mercedes, he could feel light vibrations that were caused by the too high speed. Before he could wonder about the road warrior, he heard shots. Not one or two but a hail of bullets, close enough to resonate in his ears. He dropped his phone in shock and ducked, and a moment later it was over.

“Shit! Shit, shit, shit…”, he mumbled, his breath ragged while he opened the door of his car, his head still bent down. Why had he agreed to even set foot in a suburb like this? The incident shouldn’t have surprised him, not after what happened to Diane’s client, or rather his daughter.

Slowly he left the car, listening out carefully for possibly following dangers, but all he could notice was the deadly silence encasing the neighbourhood. Will straightened up, and his gaze drifted over his surroundings. Two windows of the fired-at house were broken, and some parts of the front were destroyed. Will sighed deeply, with every passing day it got more and more incomprehensible for him why certain people did what they did. Shaking his head he made his way around the front of his vehicle and moved towards the driveway that was lined with waist-high bushes. He glanced at his wristwatch and huffed audibly. They had to hurry up, or they would be inexcusably late, despite the circumstances.

But when he turned around the corner, all his concerns were forgotten. His eyes widened in shock, and he could feel his heartrate increasing before he was able to catch a clear thought.

“Diane!”, he cried out and hurried to the motionless body that was laying on the driveway, torn papers scattered around it. Will knelt down beside her, gasped when he saw that blood had coloured her former ivory blouse in a rusty red. Her blood. “Oh my god!”, he exclaimed, shifting her body so she lay on her back, her head in his lap. Somewhere in his head a voice was scolding him for moving her, reminding him that he was at a crime scene and not supposed to touch anything or anybody, but his worry for Diane drowned out every rational thought.

He scrutinised her closely, had just noted that her chest went up and down slightly when the front door opened and a man burst out. Will looked up, and if it hadn’t been such a grave situation, he would have laughed at the sight he had to be, a very well-dressed man sitting in the dirt on the driveway of an African American, with bloody hands, the head of an unconsciousness woman resting on his thighs.

“Mr. Dargis? I’m Will Gardner. Please call the ambulance. And the police. I… she…”, he stuttered, surprised how calm his first words had been, as if he had forgotten what had happened for a second. The owner of the house stumbled inside in a hurry, and Will turned his attention back to his partner. He pushed aside some strands of light blonde hair from her face, the back of his hand caressing her warm skin, when out of the blue her body shook and she opened her eyes.

“Diane! My god!”, he called out, interrupted by her coughing up blood, painting her lips in a new shade of red, tiny streams of vital fluid making their way down her neck, staining his trousers at their destination. Her respiration was short, whistling and too fast, but she studied Will with keen, light blue eyes. He nearly broke down, wanted to cry and scream his lungs out, but he braced up, tucking a stray lock behind her ear before he moved to take one of her hands into his own.

“Don’t you scare me like that ever again, you hear me?”, he blurted out, a hysterical laugh falling from his lips that was suffocated by a sob a moment later. He could sense her grip on his hand tightening in confirmation, and she attempted to form words, but the only thing that left her mouth was more blood.

“Shh”, Will shushed her, his thumb stroking the back of her hand. He could feel the cold metal of her wedding ring, the softness of her skin and the bones beneath it. She was still looking at him, and when she blinked slowly, more than a second passing before she managed to open her eyes again, fear washed through Will. He couldn’t continue living if his best friend didn’t. He was not ready for a world in which she only existed in his memory.

 

Nobody knew how much time had passed. At one point Mr. Dargis had reappeared on the doorsteps, the hand covering his mouth only able to hide his shocked expression partly. Diane was still losing blood, her blouse soaked, and somewhere in the back of his mind, Will wondered how much of it already covered both their clothes and the fine gravel on the ground, and how much was remaining in her body. All the while he never stopped drawing small, soothing circles on her hand absentmindedly while looking in the distance.

Suddenly Will could hear sirens wailing, and he noticed that the noise came closer. He smiled at Diane, tears blurring his vision for a second before he blinked them away.

“You are going to be alright”, he assured her, his hands moving to cup her face lovingly as he looked down on her, his tears that were falling down and wetting her pale skin belying his words.

She tried to form a lopsided smirk but failed miserably, the pain she was in carving wrinkles into her face, and for the fraction of a second she looked her age. Then her features softened, and her eyes fluttered closed.