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The Places We Have Known

Chapter Text

The house was remarkably quiet—save the soft popping and crackling from the fireplace in the living room. Kurt and Diane sat beside one another on the couch in companionable silence, enjoying the warmth and a bottle of Sancerre.

Remnants of a celebration were still present in the dining room: balloons haphazardly tied to her chair, half a chocolate torte from her favorite bakery, and a vase filled with a large bunch of fresh flowers. Their dishes had been hastily discarded into the kitchen sink after dessert; they’d left the room in favor of the dark leather couch upon which they were now both reclined.

It was November and characteristically cold in Chicago. The weather report that morning had warned of impending snow flurries and Kurt had taken that season’s first trip to the hardware store for sidewalk salt and antifreeze for their cars. He shifted carefully on the couch, suddenly wondering if he should have checked her car over before letting her drive in to work tomorrow.

“Do you think—”

He paused mid-sentence, as though weighing the words carefully, and his halting tone was enough to pull Diane from her own reverie.

“Do you think I should drive you in tomorrow?”

Diane downed the last bit of wine in her glass. “No.”

“Weather’s supposed to be bad. My car’s better for driving in snow.”

She smiled softly, shaking her head. “Kurt, your truck is ancient. And they said it might snow next weekend.”

“Still.”

“Kurt, we’ve talked about this already.”

Diane smiled once more, her lips pressed tightly together, and reached up a hand to brush against his cheek. His brow was furrowed. Flashes of worry had been plainly evident in his expressions for weeks now. She would catch him watching her as she drank her tea in the garden and he would insist that nothing was wrong. She’d find him perched on the edge of their bed, looking far too engrossed in a book when she’d emerge from the bathroom after a shower. She had noticed, too, a growing hint of alarm in his voice each time he’d remind her not to forget to take her cellphone with her on a walk or an errand.

Now, though, he remained quiet, his gaze fixed on the curling flames.

“Kurt.”

She stilled her gentle passes over his cheek and cupped her palm against his jaw, turning him to face her. She was sad, though not surprised, to see his eyes bright with pent-up emotion when he finally focused on her.

“I just—”

Diane nodded, almost imperceptibly, urging him to continue.

“I just think you might need more time. Maybe—maybe give it until after the holidays.”

Diane leaned forward, her hand dropping to squeeze his shoulder, and kissed his cheek. She let her lips linger there for a long moment, desperate for him to know how much she loved him for his concern. She turned forward to face the fire and let her head drop to his shoulder, knowing it was often easier for him to have these conversations without the weight of a shared gaze.

“It’s been nine months. I’m ready to go back.”

She leaned further forward then and reached toward the bottle of wine resting on the coffee table between their feet. Taking his empty glass, she poured the remaining liquid between their cups and urged him to take a sip. It would be easy, she considered, to live in this quietude forever. It had been easier than she would have ever imagined for them to cut themselves off from the world (for all intents and purposes). A life structured by small things: trips to the grocery store, long walks in their neighborhood, lazy summer dinners on the patio, making love in the afternoons—every element of this new life had been so quiet, so routine, and yet so perfect.

Every time she’d had fleeting thoughts of making it permanent, though, something, some elemental feeling, tugged her back toward the real world. When Kurt had suggested retirement only a few months ago, she’d carefully rebuffed the notion. This was not how she wanted to end her professional life. So, instead, they made slow plans to dismantle the walls they’d so hastily and desperately erected around themselves nearly nine months before. Diane didn’t know if she was making the right decision, jumping back into their old life, and forcing Kurt to jump with her, but believed she would forever regret not making the attempt.

Kurt squeezed her knee in a gesture of surrender. She knew he would not force the issue.

“You’ll call me if you need anything.”

“Of course I will. But everything’s going to be alright.”

He smiled sadly, humming in reply, and she knew he was turning over in his mind those same words they’d exchanged almost a year before. But he nodded slowly, after a pause, and agreed.

“Everything’s going to be alright.”


Diane awoke early the next morning, and for the first time in quite a long time it was the steady chirp of her alarm clock that roused her from sleep. She turned over, sinking into her pillow, and was surprised to find the other side of the bed cool to the touch when she stretched an arm out in search of her husband. Blearily, she opened her eyes. The early morning light—near darkness, really, at this time of year—in their bedroom was unfamiliar. Her extended time away from work had changed her morning routine quite a bit. In recent months, she’d wake around eight, just as Kurt dropped off a cup of coffee on her bedside table on his way out the door to work. He would kiss her soundly, promising to stop home during lunch, and she would lounge in bed and read the news on her laptop and sip her coffee after he’d gone.

Now, the alarm chimed again, reminding her that it was five after six. Diane sat up, silenced the phone, and laughed quietly as she disentangled herself from the bedsheets, realizing her silk pajama top was buttoned rather haphazardly after the previous night’s activities. She fixed the buttons, smiling despite herself, and stretched her arms over her head. She caught a glimpse of the outfit she’d chosen for her first day back; it was hanging off the closet door and she felt her stomach flip—though with excitement or trepidation she was not exactly sure. Stepping out of bed and into her slippers, she decided to tackle the task of preparing herself for work after finding her husband.

She found him in the kitchen, sitting in near-darkness. As she approached, she could see he’d made coffee, though his cup looked untouched.

“You’re up early.”

Diane’s voice was hoarse, and she cleared her throat to shake off the last vestiges of sleep.

Kurt was startled by her voice behind him, but smiled warmly at the sight of her.

“Morning. Coffee’s ready.” He gestured toward the old metal percolator on the counter.

Diane sat down beside him at the kitchen island and stole a sip from his cup.

“I’m fine. I think I have enough jitters without the caffeine—”

She paused mid-sentence, alarmed at how quickly his expression changed to one of obvious concern.

“You don’t have to go in if you’re not feeling up to it.”

She ran her hand up and down his arm in a gesture of reassurance.

“It’s just first day excitement. Like the first day back at school.”

Kurt grunted and took a small sip from his mug.

“Kurt.”

“I’m working from home today,” he answered quietly. “If you need anything, just call.”

“You don’t have to do that. Really, I’m fine.”

“I know. But I’m working from home today, so if you need anything—”

“I’ll call.”

He leaned in, suddenly, and kissed her lips. “Thank you.”

They exhaled then, almost in unison, and laughed lightly at their apparent relief.

“So, are we still on for the cabin this weekend?”

“Of course. If you’re up for it.”

Diane grinned. “I will be.”

He leaned in once more and pressed his lips to her forehead.

Diane was tempted to pursue the conversation, to reassure him once more that she would be fine, but she caught a glimpse of the clock and saw it was nearly six thirty now and knew she needed to jump in the shower if she wanted to be on time for her first day back. So, she kissed his cheek once more for good measure and smiled her brightest smile, pleased when he smiled back.

“I’m going to get ready.”

“Ok. Want me to make you some tea?”

She didn’t want the caffeine, not really, but was glad to be able to give him some task.

“That would be great.”

She found a cup of earl grey tea on the bedside table as soon as she exited the bathroom. Kurt was nearby, sitting on the settee and pretending to watch the morning news.

“Thanks for this,” she called over.

He nodded in reply and appeared extremely interested in the weather report.

Diane set about getting dressed and several long moments passed in relative silence—save the occasional loud commercial from the television. It was not until she was seated at her vanity and putting on her earrings that he spoke again.

“Did you remember to pack your medication?”

She paused, holding one hoop earring in the air. She was tempted to snipe at him then; she hated being monitored, and had foolishly hoped they were past all this. Yet, she refused to turn—refused to look at him—because she knew all she would find in his gaze was concern.

“Yes,” she replied after a long pause. “I put it in my bag last night.”

“Ok.”

“Kurt—”

“I’m going to go down to get my computer from the office,” he interrupted. “I’ve got a Zoom meeting at nine.”

“Alright.” Diane swallowed, feeling guilty for her momentary annoyance, and watched him hurry out of the room.

He was quiet when he returned several minutes later. She wished desperately there was something she could say to assuage his concern. But she knew as she caught a glimpse in the vanity mirror of the second lock he’d installed on their bedroom door that it would be entirely unfair of her to ask him not to worry.

And so she said nothing and busied herself with putting the finishing touches on her outfit. They did not speak again until she was double-checking the contents of her briefcase and preparing to head out for the day. Realizing she was nearly ready to leave, Kurt deposited his laptop on the couch and hurried over to meet her at the bedroom door.

“Have a good day,” he said simply. He kissed her cheek and reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear.

“I will.”

She leaned forward to kiss him once more and could feel his hand at her waist, holding on just a bit more than was strictly necessary.

“And you’ll call if—”

“I will call you. Even if I don’t need anything.”

He managed a small smile. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be home for dinner,” she promised, snatching her briefcase up from the floor.

Kurt nodded. “See you later.”

She stood in the doorway and held his gaze for a long moment.

“I love you.”

He nodded, his lips pursed in apparent concern. “Love you too.”

Before she could reevaluate her decision, Diane blew him a kiss and disappeared from view. He heard her heels click down the hallway and then down the stairs. He waited until he heard the front door alarm chime before settling back down on the couch. Turning off the television, Kurt grabbed for his cellphone and confirmed the volume was on the highest setting. He thought briefly, irrationally, about running after her and telling her (or begging her) not to go. But he knew it was no good—it was something she had to do. So, he exhaled a long, shaking breath and reached for his laptop.

“Everything’s going to be alright,” he murmured aloud. “Everything’s going to be alright.”

Chapter Text

If she had not been lying on the floor surrounded by the shattered glass from a broken lamp and splintered wood from their bedroom door, the situation would have seemed almost tranquil.

Having neutralized the apparent non-crime scene, five SWAT team members stood, helmets and automatic weapons in hand, scattered around their bedroom. One man, whose name she read off a patch on his chest with blurred vision, spoke apologetically with Kurt who was still knelt on the floor and grasping her hand. Diane half-listened as the man explained again that a threat had been reported, some concerned citizen claimed there were unregistered automatic weapons being sold at their address. The other officers seemed remarkably undisturbed by the chaos their recent entrance had wrought. Two men stood by the bathroom door and chatted amiably as they looked intently at something on a cellphone. Another listened to his radio, said something about EMTs, and paced calmly back and forth.

Looking around—and up—Diane registered that she was still prostrate on the floor. The men by the bathroom laughed, sharing some joke, and Diane’s muscles groaned in protest as she angled her head in their direction to see what exactly was so funny. Yet, she found the movement much more difficult than it should have been. Anyway, she could hardly hear them now; the ringing in her ears was suddenly much louder than any of their voices. Unsettled by the noise reverberating in her head, Diane shifted and moved ineffectually to hoist herself into a seated position.

Kurt was drawn from his ongoing conversation with the officer by her feeble attempt to wrest her hand from his grasp.

“Hey—don’t move around too much. You may have pulled a muscle or two. And there’s a pretty bad lump on your head. Might be a concussion.”

Diane blinked once, twice, and then a third time. Kurt’s voice was soft, and he spoke in the gentle tone usually reserved for their private conversations. But she could still see, despite her vision, his brow contorted with worry.

“I’m fine. I just—I want to sit up.”

Kurt appeared to frown again—or maybe not. Her eyes refused to focus just then, and the voices of the men in the room and their boots thumping across the wood floor, across the carpet she had painstakingly chosen for their bedroom, had begun to make her dizzy.

Her hand felt limp in her husband’s grasp. She felt him grab onto her tighter still, and the force of his hand, the hot dampness of his touch, made her chest thrum with panic now. She wanted—needed—to sit up. She needed water—air—and could someone open a window?

“Kurt, I—”

He looked at her again, and she was relieved to find her vision had cleared. He gazed at her with such tenderness that for a blissful moment, just a second, really, it was as though it was just the two of them there in that room. But then he turned toward an officer and—oh. There was dried blood on the side of his face.

“I need to sit up,” she said slowly, her eyes fixed on the splotch of red.

“EMTs are on the way,” the man explained before Kurt could speak. “We have to call them, just for legal reasons.”

He seemed apologetic.

“Legal—I don’t need—I just need to get up.”

Kurt was watching her carefully, she realized, but he agreed with a slight nod and reached one hand beneath her, flat against her back, to help urge her upward. His hand remained there and Diane was certain, even with her head swimming from the sudden rush of movement, that its presence was the only thing keeping her from careening backward into the floor.

Diane blinked and tried to focus on the conversations floating around her. The radio attached to one man’s hip garbled angry, dissonant sounds. The men near the bathroom laughed again, and as she looked around at the disarray she too was struck by the dark comedy of it all. She was in her pajamas, she realized absently. Kurt too was in just a pair of boxer shorts. Her altogether too serious husband who disliked wearing a bathing suit at public beaches was stuck in a roomful of strange people wearing just his underwear. And Trump—Trump was president. Diane laughed. Or, she meant to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but she found her throat suddenly tight. Instead of laugher, a full-body shiver startled her from her musings. She felt—she felt unwell.

Kurt had removed his hand from her back at some point (she couldn’t say just then how much time had passed), and stood to speak to another officer. Yet, unwilling to leave her side, he’d settled his palm against the back of her head as he spoke, and his fingers made well-practiced passes through her hair. Pressing her own palms against the floor, Diane attempted to anchor herself in place and stave off the creeping nausea that had already begun to make her sweat.

Kurt was still talking (though not to her) and she could hear the tone of his voice fluctuate between cool detachment and anger. She couldn’t, though, make out most of his words. Just when she’d determined to tune all of them out, to focus simply on sitting right there until the awful ringing in her ears abated, his fingers stilled and he rested his palm at the base of her neck.

The pain was instant and almost unbearable.

“Kurt, I don’t feel—”

She was surprised at the lowness of her voice, at how easily her words were lost to the noise of the room. And so, she angled her head up, squeezing her eyes closed at a jolt of pain, and tried once more.

“Kurt, I need some air.”

“EMTs should be here in just a few minutes,” the officer answered. “Not really supposed to let you move around too much before then since you were out for a minute or two.”

Had she been out? Yes—Hillary was president. Then Trump. She sucked in a breath of air and willed herself not to close her eyes.

Kurt sensed her evident discomfort, felt her moving beside him, and knelt so that they were face to face once more.

“How about we go out and wait for them in the living room? You can lay on the couch.”

The officer nodded when Kurt looked up in question.

“Yeah, I guess that’s ok. Jim, can you radio and tell them—”

The man’s directions were muffled by the ringing in her ears. Kurt—Kurt was saying something too now and he looked expectantly at her for an answer. She nodded, knowing not what she had agreed to, but suddenly he was standing in front of her. He reached forward to grasp under her arms and help her stand. Her body felt weightless as it swayed upward and forward. She stumbled ever so slightly, surprised to find her feet tingling as though they’d been asleep for a long while, and grabbed blindly for Kurt’s forearm to steady herself.

Diane watched his lips say her name. Slowly, his brow furrowed. Her head felt tight, so painfully tight, but she held onto his arm and attempted to smile.

“I’m fine,” she heard herself say, and she looked around the room again.

Yes, everything seemed remarkably tranquil just then. Half a dozen men with automatic weapons were standing in their bedroom, but the mood was light. They’d done their job; now they waited to tie up the bureaucratic loose ends.

Diane turned slowly to search for the source of a persistent thumping sound that reverberated through the room, but she soon realized that the noise was audible only to her.

Thump—Thump—Thump.

Thump—Thump—Thump.

Thump—Thump—Thump.

The cacophony of noise threatened to overwhelm her; it was all she could make sense of as she glanced at the men crowding their room, at her husband, and at their shattered bedroom door that was hanging limply by a single hinge.

“Kurt?”

Standing had perhaps been too ambitious an effort. She needed to sit down; she felt indescribably tired and wished desperately, if not irrationally, that they would all disappear so she could crawl beneath the bedsheets with her husband and shut her eyes and sleep for days in his arms.

Thump—Thump—Thump.

Oh—the sound was horrible. She reached up to press her fingers to her temples, wondering if the pressure in her head along with the sound might actually consume her, and then the jarring noise of an ambulance siren join the awful, beating chorus.

One of the men’s radios spit out some direction and suddenly there was movement. Kurt grabbed her hand—or, at least she thought it was Kurt. His face looked different, somehow, as though she was underwater and attempting to look up at him from beneath the surface.

The radios crackled in harmony. “Move out—living room—Medical.”

Diane was still standing, but she realized as the men with guns began to shuffle out of the room that she could not feel her legs. She felt someone (Kurt?) squeeze her hand and urge her forward.

She blinked and then Officer Lima was in front of her. “Ma’am. Ma’am?”

“Kurt, I—”

Diane opened her mouth to speak, to tell Kurt, or to tell anyone, that something was not right, but her throat was tight and the room—the room was loud and hot and spinning.

“Ma’am, are you feeling—”

Diane lurched forward and vomited all over the man’s legs.

She heard her husband shout her name, heard one of the officers shout a profanity, and heard her own voice insist one final time that she was fine—that everything was fine.


Diane awoke to a dull throbbing in her head—the sort of intense pressure brought on by a night of overindulgence. But, that was not quite right. They hadn’t had any wine last night. Not after she’d returned home triumphant from court, not after they’d fallen into bed to properly celebrate his non-compliance at that ridiculous rally, and not after—

She blinked her eyes open and was startled by the brightness of the room. This pain was indeed something different altogether. Diane sat up in the small, unfamiliar bed and looked down to find herself dressed not in her red nightgown but in a hospital gown. She tapped experimentally at the IV cannula taped to her hand and tried to ignore the methodical beeping of whatever machine she was attached to. From the look of the IV bag hanging beside her bed, it appeared to be just fluids.

Diane took in the details of her surroundings as she blinked away the last vestiges of sleep. She was definitely at Harbor, though it was much quieter than it had been when she’d raced through the same hospital in search of Kurt after the carjacking incident.

Thankfully, there was no need to bolt through the halls in search of him this time. She realized as she turned toward the door and winced at the effort that Kurt was right there, sitting up but asleep in a small reclining chair. He looked just as he did at home when he’d fall asleep on the couch in the bedroom or in one of the lounge chairs out in the back garden. His chest rose and fell in time with the beeping machines and his face was blessedly at ease—his worry erased in slumber.

She wanted to call out to him, to watch as his eyes focused on her upon waking, just as they did each morning, and to hear his voice say her name. But she took in his appearance, the old flannel shirt and sweatpants he wore, the jacket slung across his chest like a blanket to ward off the chill of the room, and her chest constricted amid the dawning realization that it was her fault and her fault alone that he was here at all. Yes, the slow realization of it all was almost too much to bear.

And so, she remained quiet. She was content to settle her gaze upon him for as long as he slept.

Diane was unsure how many minutes ticked by. She’d swallowed her tears at least a handful of times and had said numerous silent prayers of apology to whatever god was listening to absolve her of the pain she’d undoubtedly caused and the chaos she’d invited into their life.

In the midst of one such musing, Kurt awoke with a start. Momentarily confused, he lurched forward and knocked his jacked onto the floor. He turned back and forth, disoriented, until he saw her looking at him.

“You’re awake. Thank god.”

Diane offered him a feeble smile. “I’m awake.”

He shook his head and looked down at his shoes, running a hand through his mussed hair. He swiped the same hand across his face, over his eyes, before looking back at her.

“How do you feel?”

She took in a shuttering breath and clutched at the bedsheets like a life preserver.

“Fine. I feel fine.”

He frowned slightly. “How’s the head?”

Diane shrugged and turned back and forth to show off her (limited) range of motion.

“Sore, but fine.”

“Diane—”

His tone was sharper than she would have expected. But he looked at her with such pain that she could not possibly say she was anything less than fine; she could not bear to add a single furrow to his brow.

“If you’re in any pain,” he continued, “the doctor said she’d give you something stronger.”

She did not want anything other than for him to stop looking at her like that, as though she were poised to shatter into a million pieces right in front of him. She hated herself then—hated herself for making him stare at her so intently.

“Really, I’m fine.” He frowned again, and so she continued. “But Kurt, I—last night was—I need you to know that I never expected things to—”

Her voice trailed off and she looked away, down at her hand, and poked intently at the tubing taped there. She heard him sigh and the sound alone was enough to drown her in regret.

“Kurt, I’m so very sorry and I—”

He interrupted her mid-sentence, his voice quiet but insistent. “—Don’t. Not now.”

She looked up, ready to redouble her efforts and apologize until he felt even a hint of her regret, but was surprised to find him looking not at her but at the floor. His body was hunched forward, his forearms resting on his thighs, and he stared at the nondescript tile beneath his feet.

“Kurt?”

It was her voice that did it; the plaintive intonation was altogether too much for him to take.

Diane watched in horror from the bed as he shook suddenly, his body wracked with sobs. She had seen him cry only a few times: the instances she could recall had all occurred during those horrible months immediately following their separation. Even then he had been dignified in his grief and his guilt. A few errant tears back then were nothing compared to how he now appeared before her. She watched his chest heave with the effort as he cried into his hands.

She pulled back the blankets and rushed to untangle herself from the bed. It was the sound of her bare feet hitting the tile that drew his attention finally and he looked up as she moved to stand.

He was much quicker and stood suddenly, taking two quick steps to reach her bed, and had his hand on her shoulder before she could manage anything else.

“I’m fine,” he insisted. His voice shook. “You need to stay in bed.”

Kurt wiped the errant tears from his eyes before reaching his other hand down to grab hers. He squeezed tightly and pressed a kiss to the top of her head, letting his lips linger there.

“It’s ok,” he whispered against her hair. “Everything’s going to be alright.”

She felt almost numb then, though tears fell from her eyes as he held her and murmured gentle words of reassurance. She let him hold onto her and bit back a yelp of pain when he cupped his palm to her cheek and attempted to draw her head against his chest.

He felt her body tense, though, and drew his hand away as though he’d touched fire.

“Are you ok? Are you in pain?”

“My head is throbbing,” Diane admitted.

“Concussion,” Kurt explained. “Doc says grade two, maybe three.”

Realizing then that she’d asked no questions regarding their presence in the hospital, Diane nodded slowly.

“Am I—” She struggled to find the words. “Am I ok?”

Kurt was visibly relieved to be able to deliver some piece of good news.

“Yep. You’ve just got to take it easy for a couple weeks. No driving. No work. No strenuous activity.” He smiled a small but meaningful smile at that last direction.

Diane chuckled softly. “So, no fun at all.”

“Nope.”

Kurt moved to sit at the foot of the bed and they spoke for several minutes about things the doctors had told him while she slept. He was midway through his long explanation of concussion protocol when one of her doctors entered the room.

The young woman smiled brightly. “Glad to see you awake again!”

“Again?”

“We spoke briefly last night,” the doctor explained. “You might not recall. That’s normal.”

“It’s normal to not remember things?”

The doctor hummed in agreement and made a notation on the iPad in her hand.

“You lost consciousness several times en route to the hospital, so there was some concern about a more significant TBI: or, traumatic brain injury.” The woman paused and pulled up some images on the screen. “Here’s your head CT from last night; there was no internal bleeding or fracturing of the skull.”

Diane watched and tried to follow along as the doctor talked through several more images, read off the results of a blood panel, and administered another neurological assessment. After talking about various symptoms to be expected, explaining the list of forbidden activities, and answering the very few questions Diane managed to come up with, the woman smiled at them both, handed Diane a stack of paperwork (which Kurt promptly reached for) and turned to leave. She paused briefly in the doorway.

“I’ll see you for a follow-up appointment in three weeks. In the meantime, call my office if you have any questions or if those symptoms we talked about become in any way unmanageable.”

“We will,” Kurt answered.

Diane was busy leafing through a pamphlet on developing a concussion management plan.

“Remember—it’s a marathon and not a sprint with head injuries. You’ll need to take some time to relax and to let your body heal.”

Diane nodded in agreement. “Relax. Yes, I will.”

“Great. See you in a few weeks.”


Nearly three weeks passed in a haze. Diane had little sense of her injury when she’d spoken to the doctor and when she’d left the hospital with Kurt that morning. Aside from an unrelenting headache, she had felt otherwise like herself. In the days following their return home, though, it was as though she and her body had begun to work at cross-purpose: she would lie awake at night with a near-constant ringing in her ears only to finally fall asleep at dawn and then spend half of her usual waking hours in fitful slumber. She had nightmares that were more disjointed, more unsettling, than the strange scenario she’d dreamed up on the night of the injury. Yet they always ended in much the same way: with her screaming and grabbing wildly for her husband as he disappeared from her sight. She would wake in a puddle of sweat, tangled in the bedsheets, gasping for air. The doctor had said some anxiousness was normal, but this had become a nightly occurrence.

Kurt started sleeping in the guest bedroom a week after she returned home. He had not wanted to—in fact he had protested vehemently against the idea—but she had made several sharp comments about his (nonexistent) snoring keeping her awake, and that modicum of guilt had been enough to send him away.

Diane had initially been alarmed by this newfound irritability. After all, she had no right to be angry. Kurt should have been angry. Yet, he never raised his voice and never wanted to speak about that awful night. He insisted repeatedly that everything was fine. He assured her of this fact so often that she very nearly believed him.

He had taken two weeks off work and his nearness in those early days was almost suffocating. It was enough of a task to come to terms with her own sorrow and guilt. She could not bear to look at him, to be reminded so often of the horror of what could have been and what very nearly was. She would lay awake those first nights listening to his breathing and her chest would tighten at the sound. Something horrible could have happened to him and it would have been her fault. It was her fault.

The days ticked by and her feelings quietly—almost without her knowledge—turned slowly from guilt and sorrow and fear to melancholy and then inexplicably to anger.

She was angry at nothing and everything. At first, she was angry over her inability concentrate on anything meaningful. She had not touched a single legal brief since returning home, and she knew that even if she managed to get a paralegal to sneak some files through the front door and past Kurt it would be of little use; she could not process any of it. Television, books, and music produced sharp pain behind her eyes and a throbbing headache. Sitting up from bed or even the couch too quickly made her dizzy. Loud noises were intolerable. The once-soothing hum of the city outside their windows now set her teeth on edge.

It had been almost three weeks now and nothing was improving. She had flown off the handle in a fit of anger again just yesterday. Roused from a nap in the living room, she’d stormed upstairs and shouted at Kurt and a mortified workman who had been drilling away at their bedroom door.

Kurt was doing his very best. Some small part of her knew that to be true. Despite her assurances that she would be just fine at home alone, he’d returned to work remotely so that he could remain close. In fact, she could hear him now on the phone in their shared office as she sat in the living room with a magazine and forced herself to read and re-read sentence after sentence. Her follow up appointment with the doctor was in four days and she was set to return to work in just a week.

Diane stood to make another cup of tea but lurched backward into the couch as an intense wave of dizziness overcame her. This too had become a regular occurrence, though she had not yet mentioned it to Kurt. The frustration was enough to bring her to tears. She forced her eyes shut and breathed in and out, holding the air in for five seconds before releasing it as though she was practicing yoga.

The room had only just stopped spinning when she was startled by Kurt’s voice coming from the kitchen.

“What’s wrong?”

She hadn’t heard him enter the large room; he’d stopped wearing his shoes in the house after she complained that the sound against the wood floors made her headaches worse. So, he padded around now in just his socks.

She could tell without opening her eyes that he was alarmed. She exhaled, breathing out and away the sharp comment on the tip of her tongue, and looked up at him with a slight smile.

“I feel fine,” she lied. “I was doing some of my deep breathing exercises from yoga.”

“Ah.”

He frowned and settled his gaze on her, deciding after a pause to believe her.

Diane stood, as if to prove her fitness, and stretched her arms slowly up and over her head.

“See? Fine.”

Kurt hummed in agreement and set the empty coffee mug he’d wandered in with into the sink.

He turned again to face her and shifted awkwardly on his feet. “I have to run to the office to pick up some files. Want to take a ride? Might be good to get some fresh air.”

Fresh air did sound good. But Diane knew as she stood there, pointedly ignoring the building tightness in her head, that riding in the car would provoke her other symptoms: the nausea, the dizziness, the pain behind her eyes.

“I think I’ll stay,” she replied. “I was in the middle of a magazine, and I thought I might go for a walk around the block.”

Kurt frowned again and cleared his throat. “Ah.”

Diane raised a brow—half question, half challenge.

“Is that alright?”

“I’ll go with you. I can get Josephine to send the paperwork over with a courier.”

Diane stepped closer and crossed her arms. “I’m not an invalid, Kurt. And I wasn’t planning on signing up for the Chicago Marathon. Just a walk down the street.”

Kurt pursed his lips and said nothing. He stood there, examining her features, and waited.

She conceded after a pause.

“Fine. I’ll sit right here and won’t move a muscle until you get back.”

Suiting actions to words, Diane flounced back to the couch and perched on the edge of it. She grabbed her magazine and flipped it back open for effect.

“Diane, come on.”

“No, it’s fine.” She waved him off without looking up from the page.

Whether he was unwilling to belabor the point for fear of an argument or merely because he saw a window of opportunity to retrieve his files was unclear. But Kurt crossed the room, leaned down to kiss her cheek and then her forehead.

“I’ll be back in an hour. We’ll go for a walk after dinner?”

“That sounds good. See you in a bit.”

Diane waited for the sound of his truck before she stood and dropped the magazine onto the couch, and she heard him pull out of the driveway as she entered their bedroom and disappeared into the closet in search of some leggings and her walking shoes.

She swung open the front door, breathed in the fresh, early-spring air, and turned to walk down the block less than ten minutes after he’d left the house. She considered as she wandered down the street that the venture out was indeed much needed. She’d hardly left the house since the incident, even though Kurt had encouraged her to sit outside in the back garden and had tried to take her on several walks around the block as well. But this—being alone with herself amid the familiar sights and sounds of the neighborhood as she rounded the next corner—this was what she really needed.

Diane walked for nearly half an hour. Or—maybe it had been a bit longer. Her head had started to thump in protest sometime soon after she began, but she’d forged onward, intent to prove to herself that she could. She pulled up the sleeves of her coat and sweater to check the time and was struck by a sudden spinning sensation as she looked down.

She paused in the middle of the sidewalk and bit back an expletive as her legs swayed unsteadily beneath her. She was nearly home: one block forward, right turn, and then the third house on the left was theirs. It was only that she felt hot, suddenly, and the pain in her head that had remained for most of her walk a mild annoyance was now enough to immobilize her. She staggered off to the side of the pavement and steadied herself against a tree trunk. She breathed in and out, in and out, in a futile effort to quell the pain. However, it did little to help.

The thumpthumpthump in her head was silenced only by the sound she made a moment later as she vomited up her tea onto the base of the tree. She would have been considerably more embarrassed if the regurgitation had not had the unwitting effect of momentarily relieving her dizziness. And so, she stood again, wiped her mouth inelegantly against her sleeve, and walked in the direction of home. One block forward, one right turn, and then home. She could do that; she had to get back before Kurt.


Kurt hoisted two boxes of paperwork out of the passenger seat of his car, kicked the door closed, and staggered up to the front door. He balanced the weight of the boxes against his hip and dug a hand into his coat pocket to retrieve his keys.

He knew something was wrong the moment he slid the key into the deadbolt and found it unlatched. He swung the door open and called out to his wife.

“Diane?”

The house was quiet. He flipped on the foyer light and stumbled forward as he tripped over one of Diane’s walking shoes. He was alarmed to find scattered on the hallway floor in a haphazard trail leading to their bedroom her house keys, cellphone, and her other sneaker.

Kurt dropped the boxes and rushed into the bedroom. The room was dark. He shouted her name again and was dimly aware that the panic he felt was just the same as it had been that night three weeks ago when he’d watched her vomit all over that officer’s legs before falling backward onto the floor.

Just as he shouted her name a third time, approaching absolute alarm, he turned and noticed a light at the base of the bathroom door. And he could hear, barely audible above the sound of his pounding chest, the shower running.

He burst through the door and stepped onto her discarded coat. Diane was sitting on the floor of the shower, her knees pressed to her chest, with her head in her hands. She’d angled the shower head to aim just at her forehead and the water had clearly been running for some time; she was fully clothed, save the discarded jacket, and was drenched.

Kurt said her name once more, very softly, as he approached and knelt beside her. He opened the glass door and reached in to turn off the tap, hardly registering as the water sprayed his face.

“What happened?”

She shook her head, unable to look at him.

“I’m sorry—”

Her words tumbled out in a choking sob.

“I’m just so sorry.”

Kurt pressed his hand against her back and pulled her out of the shower, onto the tile, and into his arms. They sat like that for some time. He said nothing, but his grip on her was unrelenting.

“Come on,” he said quietly. She’d begun to shiver. “Let’s get you dried off.”

He moved to stand, but she held onto his arm and shook her head. She pressed her other hand against forehead, willing away the pain, and closed her eyes.

“I need you to call the doctor,” she admitted. “Something’s not right.”

Chapter Text

Diane relaxed into the pillows stacked behind her on the bed and took another long sip of her tea. She flipped through the latest edition of Architectural Digest and relished the quiet of the room. It was unusually cool for a mid-April morning, so she was still tucked snugly beneath the heavy brocade coverlet as the clock ticked a quarter past nine.

Kurt slept beside her.

It was rare for him to sleep past seven o’clock even on a weekend morning. Diane dropped the unfolded magazine onto her lap and reached one hand tentatively across the bed—still carefully balancing the warm mug of tea in the other. She brushed a greying lock of hair away from his face and ran her thumb gently across the furrowed lines on his brow. He exhaled softly and the small puff of air tickled her palm. Diane rested her hand against the rough of his cheek and closed her eyes to savor the lovely, uncomplicated stillness of the moment.

Diane knew that when he woke he would likely be upset that she’d disabled his alarm. But as she removed her hand and returned it to encircle her mug, and watched him settle more deeply still into his pillow, she found herself willing to accept the minor consequences of his displeasure.

At first, the decision had been a selfish one. Diane had woken just before six thirty to almost complete darkness. Kurt had made a point in recent weeks of pulling shut the drapery in their bedroom each night before bed. The emergency room doctor who’d treated her for the second time only two weeks earlier had offered them numerous handouts and pamphlets about normal post-concussion symptoms: sensitivity to light appeared on many of the bulleted lists. Kurt, who read each and every document with his usual commitment to thoroughness, had taken the advice quite seriously. She had caught him, thankfully, mid-phone call with a contractor who installed custom solar shades for the home and was able to put a stop to that particular bout of madness. It was true, she considered now, that her head still often throbbed in protest against the early-morning sunlight. This morning, though, was different. Diane had awoken from a long, dreamless sleep feeling more like herself than she had in six weeks.

She had been momentarily startled, as she’d blinked her eyes open, by how their bedroom was plunged in pitch blackness. Disoriented, she had rubbed the sleep from her eyes and reached out for her reading glasses and cellphone on the nightstand. The dimmed phone screen confirmed her bleary suspicion: she had slept through the night without interruption. Diane realized then, as she deposited the phone back onto the table and plucked off her glasses, that she had woken naturally and neither from a dull pressure lodged behind her temples nor a fit of vertigo.

It was the first time since the accident (as they’d taken to calling it) that she had woken without pain or soreness or the anxiety and deep regret that tended to lodge itself right in her sternum and clench uncomfortably each time she looked at her husband.

She’d stretched her limbs experimentally, as if challenging them to contract and groan in protest, and had been pleasantly surprised to feel only the softness of the bedsheets and the warm weight of her husband beside her. Kurt had shifted as she moved about in bed, and had murmured some unintelligible syllables. Wanting to prolong his slumber—and to enjoy this sudden release from her near-constant symptoms—Diane silently removed herself from their bed, grabbed her phone and glasses, and felt her way through the dark room toward the door. She pulled on the doorknob twice, initially confused when she encountered some resistance, before she remembered the new lock affixed a foot or two above the handle. She felt for that, too, and unlatched the brass fixture before spilling into the dimly-lit hallway.

Diane had had no great plans. She’d simply enjoyed walking to the kitchen, brewing her tea and making toast, and sitting at the kitchen island all without the dull thrum of a headache reminding her of her misdeeds. The relief was significant. She drank two cups of her favorite Earl Grey tea, feeling well enough to pass on the blander, caffeine-free version, and ate two pieces of toast from her perch in the center of the kitchen. She’d padded back into the bedroom while waiting for her second piece of toast to spring free from the toaster and had surreptitiously turned off Kurt’s alarm.

At first the gesture had indeed been a selfish one; Diane had been enjoying the silent kitchen and the chance to be alone for a few moments. Kurt rarely pushed in where he was not wanted; it was not his nature. Their courtship had been largely dictated by their respective unwillingness—or perhaps inability—to push, gently even, into one another’s lives. And their separation had been prolonged by her anger and his unwillingness to overstep the boundaries he believed existed between them.

Since their return from the emergency room two weeks earlier, though, Kurt had been entirely unwilling to leave her be. The doctors had declared, after another CT scan and battery of tests, that she was healthy but recovering from a serious concussion. All the symptoms that continued to plague her, they insisted, were to be expected after a head injury, but would likely clear up very soon. The emergency room doctor instructed her to avoid caffeine, exercise, work, and any stressful activities that might trigger her symptoms. They’d sent her off with a prescription for migraine medication and told her to follow up with her doctor in two weeks.

Kurt had been almost comically silent, even for him. After he’d helped her up from the bathroom floor, promising quietly that everything would be alright, he’d grown quiet. He wrapped a strong arm around her waist and helped her to the car, opened her door and buckled her seatbelt, kissed her forehead, and had made the twenty-minute drive to the hospital without comment—save a single recurring question, asked in a low, emotion-filled voice: are you alright?

When they’d returned home nearly six hours later, well into the night, he’d helped her from the car once more, even though her once-blinding headache had eased into an indistinct throb. Once inside, he guided her to the bedroom, located a pair of her pajamas in the wardrobe and dropped them unceremoniously before her on the bed, and disappeared again out the door. She’d wondered absently, in her own exhaustion, as she peeled off her clothes and slipped into the soft nightwear, if he was angry? Or going back to the guest room? She felt guilty about that still. But no, he returned a moment later carrying the book she knew he’d been reading at night. He’d said nothing as he dropped the book on his nightstand and went about his own nighttime routine. She had sat quietly at her vanity and brushed through her hair, catching distorted glimpses of him in the reflection of her mirror. They met again at the bathroom sink and the silence continued, punctuated by sounds of brushing, of gargles and spit. They’d said nothing else to one another that night except hushed goodnights exchanged as they climbed into bed.

So, he had moved back in—silently, unceremoniously. It was fitting, she considered now. It was simply how they were. Perhaps that was ok. Perhaps it was enough. The quiet harmony between them, though, had not stopped Kurt’s near-constant surveillance. The morning after the hospital visit, he’d called into his office again and was granted another two weeks of remote work. Each day was interspersed with questions about her symptoms: Did she feel ok? How was her head? Had she told the partners she needed at least another few weeks? Was she tossing last night, or was that just his imagination? Did she need anything?

Diane hated how her illness seemed to change the terms of their relationship, and she wanted so desperately for things to return to normal. But how could anything really return to normal after encountering an entire SWAT team in one’s bedroom? Turning off his alarm clock had been a selfish gesture. She had been enjoying the silent kitchen, the uninterrupted pleasure of drinking her tea and feeling at peace in her body. She dreaded having to answer questions about how she was feeling that morning—afraid Kurt’s worried look might break the spell.

But when she snuck in to silence the impending alarm, she realized how much he needed to rest. The light from the hallway illuminated the bedroom enough for her to see his furrowed brow and the dark skin under his eyes. She approached his side of the bed and combed her fingers through his hair once, twice, and a third time before turning her attention to the clock. He had only sighed in response and burrowed into the mattress. Leaning forward, almost instinctively, Diane pressed her lips to his and hoped for the briefest second that he might wake up. He didn’t, though, and so she backed out of the room and returned to her tea and toast.

Now it was nearly nine thirty and still he slept. Growing bored of her magazine, and infinitely more interested in her husband, Diane placed her mug onto the bedside table and tossed the copy of Architectural Digest down to the floor beside her slippers. Diane moved to lay on her side and settle beneath the bedding. They were face-to-face then, noses nearly touching, and close enough for her to listen to the steady, soft noise of his breathing. She closed her eyes and was soon lulled to sleep by the sound.

Diane blinked her eyes open sometime later—she couldn’t say exactly how much time had elapsed—and found Kurt still beside her, looking at her intently. He smiled and his warm expression made her stomach contract with pleasure.

“Hey.”

Kurt’s voice was soft, and she knew then that he’d only just woken up.

“Hey yourself.”

Diane returned his smile and shifted her body just a bit closer.

"What time is it?"

"Just after ten. Someone turned off the alarms," he chuckled.

Diane grinned. "Someone looked tired."

“How do you fe—”

She stopped his question with a kiss. Kurt’s body tensed briefly in surprise, but he returned her sudden gesture and reached out to grab her hip and pull her even closer still. A moment later, his hand disappeared beneath her silk pajama top and she shivered at the softness of his palm against her back. The weight of his body on hers and the delicious familiarity of his lips against her neck was enough to silence everything else in the world.

They remained entwined for several minutes, sharing kisses and soft touches, until their lazy movements turned more intentional. Diane was certain that if she could continue to focus on Kurt’s fingers pressing into her hip, on the light scratching of his cheek against her collarbone, and the way he hummed her name against her ear, pulling her body to his own—she was certain that if she could focus on all that, then she could ignore how the room seemed suddenly to sway each time she opened her eyes and how her head had slowly but methodically started to pulse in tandem with her beating heart.

A prickling tightness in her throat began to draw her attention away from Kurt’s hand, which had moved from her hip to the drawstring on her silk pajamas. Untying the loose knot that had impeded further exploration, his hand dipped beneath the fabric just as she closed her eyes and tried to regain control of her breathing.

“Kurt—”

Diane whispered his name and he murmured her own in reply, his breath hot against her lips as he kissed her once more.

She would have done anything to lose herself to this moment, to close her eyes and let him touch her, to make love to her husband as though it were any unmemorable Saturday morning. She was desperate to look into his eyes, and for him to look back at her, but she found the room spinning all around them. She screwed her eyes shut again and was alarmed by the sudden reemergence of every image and scene that she’d tried to dislodge from her memory in recent weeks replaying now in agonizingly slow motion: Kurt pulling his gun from the nightstand; Kurt forced onto the floor by a man in a bulletproof vest; Kurt bleeding on their bedroom floor.

No—no. She couldn’t. It was too much.

Kurt shifted his weight back onto the mattress and pulled off his plaid boxers in a swift, practiced motion. Diane sat up just as he turned to move toward her again.

“Kurt, I can’t.”

She held out a hand that made contact with his chest. He frowned, momentarily confused, until it dawned on him what she meant.

“You’re upset.”

His voice was quiet and indescribably sad.

Diane shook her head, unable to return his intense gaze. “No—it isn’t you. I—I don’t feel well.”

Kurt exhaled and reached out to touch her shoulder. He swore softly under his breath when she shrugged off his touch.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed you felt—”

“Please, please stop apologizing,” Diane interrupted. She stood up slowly from the bed, gripping onto the nightstand for balance.

“Let me help.”

Kurt reached for his discarded boxers and pulled them on as he stumbled up out of bed to offer up his arm.

Stop trying to help,” Diane hissed. “I’m fine.”

“Diane.”

She shook her head and smiled sadly, if not apologetically.

He stood before her with an assessing frown. It unnerved her.

“I have to take a shower. My follow-up appointment is at noon.”

“I know.”

“I can go on my own if you have work to do here,” she said awkwardly.

His frown deepened, as though she wasn’t making any sense.

“We should leave at eleven in case there’s traffic,” he answered.

Diane nodded slowly in agreement and turned away to reach for her phone—for anything that would allow her to break their mutual gaze.

“Going to go make coffee,” he said after a pause.

Diane scrolled intently through the weather application until he disappeared out the bedroom door and down the hallway.


Three hours later, Diane and Kurt fidgeted uncomfortably in their matching plastic chairs in an antiseptic office somewhere within the outpatient wing of Harbor Hospital. Dr. West, the neurologist who first treated her six weeks earlier, sat on the opposite side of a large wooden desk and continued to point to images on her outward-facing computer screen.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Diane admitted.

The doctor smiled and drew in a breath, happy to repeat herself.

“I mean—I understand what you’re saying. But it’s impossible that there is nothing wrong with me.”

The doctor gestured toward the screen.

“Well, that’s not exactly what I mean. Your most recent CT from the emergency room was clear—”

She traced particular aspects of the corresponding image with a pencil tip as she spoke.

“We can rule out a subacute hematoma, as there has been no rupture of the blood vessels in your brain. And your neurological assessments have all been good as well. Any remaining symptoms are likely—”

“I can barely hear myself think sometimes,” Diane interrupted. “I wake up in the morning and I feel like rubber bands are being wrapped around my head. I cannot watch television or listen to music—let alone think about my work. I feel dizzy when I sit up too quickly. Bright lights hurt my eyes. I’ve hardly had a full night’s sleep. And I think it has begun to affect my breathing.”

The doctor frowned. “Your breathing?”

Diane nodded. At some point during the enumeration of her present symptoms, Kurt had reached silently for her hand. He squeezed her fingers reassuringly.

“My chest and throat sometimes feel tight. Like I can’t take a deep breath.”

“How often does that happen?”

The doctor shifted her attention to an iPad and began using a stylus to make notes.

“Randomly throughout the day. Sometimes every few days.”

“And how long does that tightness last?”

Diane paused. “A few minutes, maybe?”

“We ruled out any broken ribs during your initial intake, but I’ll order a chest x-ray to make sure we aren’t missing anything.” The doctor made another note and then clicked off her screen and turned to them both.

“That sort of intermittent tightness could also be psychosomatic.”

“Psychosomatic?” Kurt repeated.

“Yes, it could be stress or anxiety manifesting as a physical symptom.”

“But I don’t have—”

Kurt looked sharply in her direction, ready to challenge any claim of a stress-free life.

“I don’t have any anxiety,” Diane finished.

The doctor cleared her throat.

“Ms. Lockhart—”

“Diane,” she corrected.

“Diane, I believe you have post-concussion syndrome. This is nothing urgent,” she assured the couple. “PCS describes clusters of symptoms that sometimes persist post-injury. Unfortunately, there is no root cause, nor one solution,” she explained. “We treat the individual symptoms and focus on quality of life.”

Quality of life? Diane was incredulous.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Kurt assured her. Still, his foot had begun to drum nervously against the floor

“No, it isn't. I can’t leave here without some viable solution. I need to get back to work—back to my life,” Diane exclaimed. “There has to be something you can prescribe me.”

The doctor reached for a stack of paperwork that Diane now realized had been sitting on the desk all along.

“Here’s some more literature about PCS. As I said, there is no known cause of post-concussion syndrome, though it does present more often in women over the age of fifty-five.”

Diane laughed a short, joyless laugh. Her ears had begun to ring.

“I’m going to adjust the migraine medication that the treating physician in the emergency room prescribed. I’ve had better luck with this one,” the doctor explained, scribbling something down on a pad. “I’m also going to refer you to a psychiatrist we’re affiliated with. Some of the mood-related symptoms can really be improved with a low-dose SSRI.

Diane nodded slowly, though she felt rather numb and understood little of what the doctor was saying to them.

“Thanks,” Kurt replied shortly. He took the proffered paperwork and prescriptions when Diane failed to focus her attention back on the doctor.

“Do either of you have any questions?”

Kurt hummed and shook his head.

“When can I plan to get back to work? I have a law firm to manage.”

“I would not advise that.”

“So, in another few weeks?”

The doctor sat back in her leather chair and smiled gently. “Recovery from PCS is slow-going and can be very frustrating. Some of the symptoms may persist indefinitely. We’ll do our level best to make improvements. But I need you to commit to a treatment plan and minimize your professional activity for at least three to six months. Possibly a year. The damage could be permanent otherwise.

Everything after that was a blur of paperwork and muted questions.

Kurt and Diane walked out of the hospital together hand-in-hand. Diane leaned heavily against his shoulder as they approached the car. Her handbag felt impossibly heavy, weighted down by the masses of information she’d been given and instructed to peruse at a later date. Kurt led her to the passenger-side door and took the bag from her hand until she was settled in her seat.

He rounded the back of the car and hopped into the front seat beside her. He’d pulled the keys out from the pocket of his jeans, but he held them poised just over the ignition. Looking ahead and staring out into the dim parking deck, Kurt exhaled and dropped them back into his lap.

“Diane, I just want you to know that I’m here and you’re going to be ok—”

Kurt paused and exhaled again as if weighing his words. Before he could settle on just the right sentiment to make everything seem somehow better, though, Diane began to cry.

Her tears fell softly at first, but soon she was doubled over in the seat, weeping into her hands. She would have been embarrassed, had she had any real awareness of the situation. But before she could register anything beyond the raw pain emanating from her chest, Kurt had unbuckled his seatbelt and drawn her shaking body against his own.

“Hey, hey.”

Kurt used the soft sleeve of his old red flannel to wipe her eyes and nose. She tried to shrug him off, but he held her close and kissed the top of her head. He did not release his hold on her until her tears slowed some moments later. Even then, he swiped under her eyes once more with the cuff of his right sleeve, rolling his eyes in mock annoyance when a trail of mascara was left behind.

“Sorry,” Diane murmured, reaching for a tissue in her purse to dab away the makeup.

“Diane.” He held out his hand and waited for her to entwine their fingers. “I need you to know that I’m here,” he repeated slowly. “I’m not going anywhere, and we’ll figure this out together.”

She shook her head and used the tissue to blow her nose.

“You should be furious with me,” she said in a near-whisper.

Kurt frowned. "Because of this morning? I don't care about that."

“No, because we’d found a way to join our lives and make it all work. What happened—it happened because of me. You—you could have been hurt,” she said, nearly choking on the words.

“But I wasn’t and they are,” he answered immediately.

“What?”

“I wasn’t hurt. I’m not hurt. And our lives are still joined together. I’m not going anywhere,” he repeated seriously.

“But the SWAT—”

“I was . . . angry about the political nuts,” he admitted. “But when I was sitting in that hospital room with you that night, all I could think was please—please. I don’t want to lose her.”

Kurt pulled her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles.

Diane smiled and swiped an errant tear out of the corner of her eye. “You don’t know how sorry I am. How much I regret it all.”

“I know,” Kurt replied simply.

They nodded almost imperceptibly in unison and Kurt disentangled their hands and reached for the discarded keys. He turned the car on and reached into his back pocket for a handkerchief to hand her before pulling out of the parking space. It would be alright, he told himself as garage turned to street and then to highway. Everything would be alright. He would not let her get lost.