Actions

Work Header

Everything's gonna be alright.

Chapter Text

September:


The room was noisy and warm. The air conditioning had failed the beautiful building in the outer part of the city as the cold rain kept on plastering against the huge windows from the outside. It was a cold and stormy September evening in Chicago, but the number of people present, the breathing of each one of them lingering in the air and thickening it as impossibly as it did, hindered the room from being even the tiniest amount of chilly as nobody dared to open a window.

Not that she usually would have minded it all that much. She always got cold very easily.

But right now, as the muggy air kept on entering and leaving her lungs, her palms sweaty in the most uncomfortable way, tiny beads of moisture forming on her back beneath the fabric of her beige dress and her head heavy from the impact that her surroundings had on her breathing, she wished for a small breeze that would maybe, just maybe, give her the courage to proceed in what was known to be her duty tonight.

She exhaled heavily through parted, crimson red lips before she ran her tongue over the lower one and reached for the crystal flute of champagne that was standing in front of her on the table. But the man beside her kept her fingers from colliding with the cool glass as he captured them with his own and let them come to rest on the silky, white tablecloth.

Her eyes fell on the ring on his hand; a golden band, reflecting the warm light in the room beautifully and almost blinding her with all its perfection, broader than it but matching the one on her own slim ring finger, as he leaned over to her and whispered into her ear. His voice was rough in the softest way, the stubbles of his beard scratchy against her earlobe as they brushed against her golden earring, scratchy in the most gentle way of ways.

God, she should not have been drinking all that champagne.

"I think it's time.", he whispered, causing a shiver to run through her body as the words met her from the close distance, his breathing both calming and so incredibly arousing as it spilled against her skin, it left her heart pounding violently against the delicate fabric of her dress that was hugging her chest.

She turned her head towards him, blue eyes locking with green, and she scraped her front teeth over her bottom lip. "I know."

His fingers gave hers a gentle squeeze while the corner of his lips twitched up and formed a lopsided smirk.

He looked so handsome today. He always did, but seeing him in a suit, as rarely as she got to do it due to his own preferences in clothing, it never failed to take her breath away.

She had been lucky all those years ago. So lucky to have found him. So very lucky that they had followed the path of their love hand in hand to find happiness together.

Happiness.

"You don't have to be nervous.", he whispered into the noisy air. Nobody would hear him at this volume but her, no one had to know just how nervous she was, other than him who had gained the power of looking right through her over the years, especially in moments like these.

She shrugged and cast him a helpless excuse of a smile. "I know.", she repeated and the colour of green that was smiling at her from her view of his eyes warmed before a small chuckle escaped him. "What's so funny?", she asked, arching an eyebrow at him and suppressing the urge of grinning blissfully at the sound of his amusement.

"Nothing.", he said, still chuckling and he shook his head apologetically. "It's just... you're normally the talker."

Her brow fell back down and she breathed in deeply again, biting her tongue to suppress the urge of repeating herself once more in saying 'I know'. For a small moment, she broke the lock of their eyes to look back at their entwined fingers. He had always had the most beautiful hands. Big and strong and warm, securing hers in his, like nothing could ever happen, like nothing could ever go wrong, as long as he was there with her to hold her.

Her eyes wandered back to his. "This is different.", she said under her breath, but just as she had only seconds prior, he understood her, even through the rough noise that originated from the numerous crowds of people, divided by the countless number of tables in the room. The corner of her lips twitched as she nodded into the direction of one of them. "I mean, look at him."

His gaze followed her direction and his eyes voiced a dreamy absent-mindedness to her that only increased as he kept on watching what she had meant for him to see. She had always loved watching him. "He looks happy."

"Yes, exactly. And I don't..." She sighed deeply and it caused him to turn his eyes back to her. "I just don't want to fuck this up. It's too important."

One of his brows twitched and his hand gave hers another sweet squeeze before he shrugged, looking at her intently. "Then don't.", he said, as though it were that simple, and she could not bite back her smile for any longer.

"Wow, good pep talk. Thank you.", she said as the blue of her eyes lightened up in amusement, replacing or maybe at least competing with the nervousness that lay in them. "You were always good with those."

The fingers of his free hand found the sheer-nylon-covered skin of her thigh, the better part of her crossed legs exposed beneath the long table in her seating position that had naturally hiked up the skirt of her dress by a few inches. "You will do great, Di.", he insisted and the smile on her lips faded again.

"Are you sure?" Her teeth slid over her bottom lip once again in a more than distracting movement.

"Yes.", he assured her and brushed his fingertips over her thigh. The shiver that ran through her body felt like little flames were spreading on her insides and it was the most beautiful feeling of warmth that she could have imagined. "What could go wrong?"

Her eyes remained locked with his for a small moment of silence between them in the noise of the other guests. But she did not even register it anymore, his voice too precious of a sound to risk missing a glimpse of it in case he would continue to speak, the touch of his fingers on her skin too distracting to keep on sensing anything but it, his eyes too deep and beautiful, too inviting to not get lost in them.

It was the same for him. It was the familiar intimacy between them in innocent moments like this one that would always have the power to throw them off-guard in that it was, in all its familiarity, nothing one could ever really get used to. It could create a bubble around them that parted them from the rest of the world, only them, everything that really mattered at the end of the day kept safe inside.

She breathed in deeply, exhaled slowly and the small twinkle in her eyes showed him a glimpse of her insecurity. Something of which he knew that she would not allow anyone to see it but him.

"Do I look okay?"

There was so much doubt in her voice, he almost could not believe it, coming from this stunningly beautiful woman. The most gorgeous human being, the last person on earth that would ever need to worry about her looks.

It was almost grotesque that she did not realize just how beautiful she was. It was sweet in a way, but yet something he would never be able to wrap his head around.

And still, he had learned over the years what she needed to hear in those moments in which she was not even fishing for compliments, only trusting him enough to allow him to see this side of her and to take his own turn at trying and reassuring her when she could not do it for herself. He had learned how to comfort her, just as she knew how to do the same for him.

"No, you look perfect."

Her face lightened up at his words and above her coy, lopsided smile, she let her lashes flutter at him in an almost sheepish manner. "You're not just saying that?"

"Do I look like I'm lying to you?"

The smirk beneath his moustache, the light that glimmered in his eyes like embers in the ashy remainders of a fire, the way he was looking at her; his honesty would have been evident to a blind person.

He leaned forward and pressed his soft lips against her cheek, his scratchy beard teasing her skin as he whispered, "I love you. Good luck.".

And before she knew it, his hands had left her and he had reached forward to clink his polished, silver knife against his almost untouched glass of champagne. He had never liked this 'sparkly stuff'.

"What-", she began before the room went silent and his eyes, a mischievous glint in between the look of love in them, found hers.

"Break a leg, honey." He winked at her.

"Oh, if I do, it's gonna be yours.", she muttered dryly under her breath, took her half-full flute of champagne and pushed herself up so that she came to stand on wobbly legs.

All eyes in the heated room lay on her and she was wondering once again why she had ever thought that doing this would be a good idea.

And suddenly it was silent in anticipation, the only sound she could hear anymore was that of her own blood rushing through her ears.

"I...", she began and cleared her throat quietly as she heard the scratchy sound of her voice. "Hi. I would like to have your attention for a small moment to say something."

She turned her head to her right and found his eyes as he cast her an assuring smile, nodding his head. Then she looked over to the opposite direction to find Will's hazel eyes that were laying on her, as all the others in the room did, too.

"Will and I have known each other now for fifteen years. And if someone would have told me in the beginning that one day, I would stand here as his maid of honour, I probably would have had them sent to the next asylum."

Will shot her a knowing grin and the brunette in white next to him took his hand as she chuckled delightedly.

"Partly, that is because we didn't really like each other all that much in the beginning. And that is why it makes me even happier now to have found a friend like him in the young man that stepped into my life all those years ago. The man who had not had many interests outside of winning in court and watching baseball games. The man whose ego was taller than his height. Pardon me, but I really thought you were a nightmare back then, Gardner."

For a small moment the room filled with laughter, but Diane's eyes were locked with the groom's, who was still simply smiling at her in happiness of that she knew how it felt.

"And so I'm even more thrilled", she continued as the room had turned silent again. "to stand here today and watch this man, who has grown to become my friend, my best friend, over those years, finally finding his happiness.
Will, I don't think either of us has thought that we would ever be the type of people that we are today. We both made our work to our purpose in life, that was the thing that bound us back then, next to our equally good taste in scotch to which I would like to say that this is about the only area in that you are fit to hold a candle to me, but I don't want to be rudely honest with you on your wedding day."

People chuckled again and the sound only increased when she added, "After all, we wouldn't want to scare off your wife this soon in. God knows it has taken you long enough to even find her in the first place.".

A feeling of calm washed over her when she saw her partner grinning and her voice softened. "I remember that we've talked about this once, back in the days when our old partner died. I told you that I didn't want to die alone like he did and you said to me that I shouldn't do it then. That was a great and helpful piece of advice, William, but, let's be honest, that was always the outlook for both of us. We hadn't seized our time to get married and build a family when we were younger and so we both naturally assumed that maybe it just wasn't meant for us to have."

She swallowed and straightened an invisible crease in her dress with her free hand.

"Ten years ago, we talked about the mysterious institution of marriage, and now we are here, both married and in it for the long run. And I like to think that this is what real love does to people, even people like those that we have once been. And when I look at you two, I know that your love will last forever and that this is the thing that was always meant for you to have. Real love. And I know that because..."

She turned her head momentarily to look at her husband, smiling at him, before she looked back at the bridal pair.

"I have that, too. Great, unconditional love and when I watch you while you're looking at your beautiful wife, I know that you feel the same way as I do when I'm looking at my husband. And loving and being loved by someone who has the power of just changing all of that, your views on what holds importance in life, your opinions on what you want to have from it, everything in a matter of seconds, that is the most incredible feeling of all. And I am so happy for the two of you that you've found each other to be able to feel it together. Because two wonderful people like you deserve to have it in their lives.
To Alicia and Will."

"To Alicia and Will.", the wedding reception agreed and glasses began to clink against others as Diane held her eye-contact with the groom.

I love you, he mouthed to her and she cast him a smile, raised her glass towards him and his wife before she came to sit again on the chair next to her husband's.

Letting out a deep breath of relief, her eyes found his and one of her brows arched up interrogatively. "Was that okay?", she asked low and cautiously as the rest of the reception picked up the noise again.

Will and Alicia rose up from their seats and announced celebratory that the buffet was opened, but neither of the two of them even registered the information, nor the fact that everyone around them in the warm ballroom got to their feet to help themselves to something to eat. Too lost in the look of the other, too trapped in their little bubble to be able to take note of anything other than them.

Kurt's smile widened at her question, at her look of insecurity, her need to do everything perfectly. She was always pressuring herself to do right, to do the things that were important to her flawlessly, was sometimes so trapped in her need of doing good that she did not even realize how perfect she was doing.

As an answer of a different kind than she had expected, he let the fingers of his free hand curve into the strands of her perfect blonde hair on the back of her head and pulled her close to let his lips collide with hers.

A little taken aback by the sudden display of affection, she almost spilled the champagne in her flute over the fabric of her dress in her lap, but she did not. Their lips brushed against each other, soft skin with a tint of red lipstick and the scratchy feeling of his beard. Slowly, almost cautiously, as though they were kissing each other for the first time, the timeless pace they set together feeling as though hours, minutes, seconds had stopped passing by at the first contact of their lips, as though time was standing still, waiting for them to linger in every movement, every little motion. The sweet verge between giving and receiving love, of feeling and letting feel, of being together in the way they had always been.

So perfectly fitting. So lovingly perfect.

The tips of their tongues touched for just a moment, as though they were daring each other to make a move to intensify the innocent liplock in front of the eyes of over a hundred other members of the reception, still not realizing that only very few of them would notice right now because they were all too busy pushing forward to the buffet. And still, they parted before either of them dared to go further, the kiss ending with him pressing a last small peck on her lips before they could look at each other, his hand shifting from her hair to her thigh again.

She blinked a few times at him, smiling in a loving, almost goofy looking way. "Wow, you really liked that speech, didn't you?"

She had expected him to laugh or snicker, to at least scoff to try and hide his amusement from her, but she did not find any trace of humour in the way in which the corners of his lips shot up in a smile that was nothing but...

"I love you."

Her eyes left his and fixated on a spot on the white tablecloth as her lips stretched in a wide smile. The sudden declaration would have caused her to blush if her cheeks had not already taken on a light shade of pink from the warmth, her previous nervousness, the feeling of tiny buzzes running through her lips from their contact with his and her repeatedly refilled flute of champagne, the red, almost pinkish stains on the rim of the glass proving the latter.

Tilting her head to the side, she looked at him again. His eyes had not left her and the simple way in which she was eyeing the love and affection towards her that was written all over his face made her heart beat even faster, caused her pulse rush through her veins even more furiously than it had only moments before when she had been just about to hold her speech. Faster than anything, any drug, any challenge, any other feeling ever could.

He did that to her, just by loving her like he did. Just by being with her as he was.

She was surprised that her hand was not shaking when she raised her glass to him. "To love?", she asked him in a faint whisper and the traces of a smirk wandered over his lips as he realized what he was doing to her.

Raising his glass, he answered, "To love." and clinked his crystal flute against hers, their eyes never leaving each other.

Love.
It wraps your arms around me.
They're like wings, big, strong and
Beautiful.
And I'm flying off
As I'm inhaling your scent.
The oxygen I never thought I'd need.
Love.
It looks at me through your eyes,
And I feel like I'm seeing
For the very first time.

Chapter Text

"May I have this dance?", a familiar voice chimed in on her soft giggles and her eyes shot up, leaving green and locking with the tone of hazel.

A smirk crept over her lips and she took Will's hand that he was offering her. With a side gaze over her shoulder, she turned to her husband. "I'll be right back.", she mumbled.

"Sure.", Kurt said, still shaking his head amusedly about what she had said to him only seconds before and he took a healthy sip of scotch as he watched his wife moving towards the dance floor in the terribly warm but luxurious ballroom. Hand in hand with her partner, her hips budging with every step she took in a diversionary movement, either unconsciously or with the bland intention of teasing him as successfully as she did, he was not so sure.

They came to a halt a few feet apart from where Alicia and her younger brother Owen were clumsily twirling one another around to the soft tunes of music, small waves of her laughter ebbing over to them.

Will turned to her, his free hand coming to rest on her waist as hers found its place on his shoulder.

"Let's show them how it's done.", he challenged, a sparkle of feigned contemptibility in his eyes as he nodded into the direction of his wife and brother-in-law.

Diane's brow shot up playfully. "We were always good at this.", she reminded him and they began to sway together in the slow tact of the music.

His wide smile seemed to be implanted, sewed on his face, the corners of his closed lips arched up and displaying the symmetrical laugh lines that framed them, while the warm, careless look in his eyes shaded them in an entirely different nuance of brown. And after a few seconds of silent eye-contact, a small chuckle escaped her.

"What?", he asked, an amused snicker of his own rushing out of him as his lips parted and left his smile hanging lopsidedly from them.

"Oh, nothing.", she giggled apologetically. "I just had a whole lot of champagne tonight." She shook her head over her own outburst, squeezing his hand as her soft laughter faded away and her features took on a more serious expression, her smile, the little twinkle in the blue of her eyes staying in place in spite of it. "It's a beautiful wedding.", she said, glancing at him intently and Will huffed out a breath of amusement, as though he were too shy to respond to her compliment.

But Will Gardner really was the last person on earth to be shy.

"She planned it well." He shrugged casually. "Hey, that was a great speech, by the way."

She snorted sweetly at that and tilted her head to the side. "Yeah, what can I say? I needed to do you two some justice." She paused, looking at him intently. "You... you look so happy, Will."

His smile widened. "I am. But that's not all that surprising. I mean, I have to say I had great teachers, didn't I?"

Her blue eyes narrowed in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"You and Kurt? After your speech, I thought for a moment that we would have to sue you for public indecency."

Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened in shock. "Will!", she cut off his mocking laughter and slapped his shoulder.

"It's the truth! But seriously, Diane. You look at each other and, I don't know, it seems like... like the world is standing still around you or something as cliché-ridden as that." He shrugged lightly, over a loss of words or his awkwardness about the profound matter of a conversation like this one, she did not know. Her front teeth scraped over her painted bottom lip.

"Well, you would need to thank him for that. For teaching you happiness, I mean." She huffed out a breath. "After all, he was the one who taught me."

They shifted and he moved to twirl her around in his arms before their eyes locked again and he shook his head after a small moment of silence between them had passed. "It sounds so silly, but I look at her and I... I can't believe she chose me, you know? Does that ever end?"

Diane tilted her head and shot him a knowing grin. "I know the feeling. But... once you realize that this line of thinking doesn't change the fact that she did and still does with every day that you spend together, it will shift. And I can't speak for you, but personally, for me with him, it makes me think more highly about myself in the end. Because if a man like that wants to spend his life with me, if he can love me like I love him, there has to be at least something he sees in me that I must be doing right, even if I don't see it myself. I mean, it must still exist though, doesn't it?"

Will nodded slowly for a moment of silent thoughtfulness. "I never felt like that before with anyone else.", he said softly, hitting her with the force of his vulnerability of which she knew that it was not easy for him to share. And she was glad that she was the one with whom he felt like he could still do so because he was her friend and if there was anyone who would understand this, it would be her.

"Maybe that's just because she is it.", she said lowly.

It. What a small word in comparison to what it stood for. Complementarity. Happiness. Love. Perfection in the way that came closest to fiction or preternaturality. The truly real thing.

It.

"God, I'm so scared of fucking this up.", his voice interrupted her thoughts and caused her to smile. Those were the exact same words he had said to her when he had first told her about his plans to propose a few months ago.

"Then don't.", she countered and caused him to chuckle.

"You're not as helpful as I remember you to be.", he mocked her with a grin behind which he was attempting to hide his insecurity and she squeezed his hand in what she hoped to be an assuring manner.

"You won't fuck this up." Her voice was low and soft and full of hope of that he would believe her. "She will keep you from doing it."

He exhaled sharply and his voice was small when he spoke again. "I really hope so."

She shook her head. "I'm sure of it. And you should believe me because I'm always right."

Dipping her head, she pressed a small kiss on his cheek before her chin came to rest comfortably on his shoulder. His hand on her waist pulled her slim frame a little more closely to him as the last tunes of the song softly began to fade off.

Her eyes fell on the white frame of the dark-haired woman that began to step towards their direction and Diane tilted her head to the side again. "I think your wife is about to politely demand your attention.", she whispered into his ear and she felt his chest vibrating gently against hers in the rhythm of his laughter.

"So is your husband." He pulled away from her by a few inches, offered her hand a last squeeze and eyed her for another moment. "We were really lucky, weren't we?"

Her lips curled into a smile. "We are.", she corrected him, the words escaping her the second before she felt his warm hand on her shoulder. She let go of Will, whose fingers had suddenly shot away from her waist and she bit down on the inside of her cheek to try and suppress a chuckle over her partner's sudden awareness about the placement of his hand on her body before she turned around to eye the reason for the sudden change in behaviour.

"Hey.", she greeted him before she pressed a short peck on his lips. "Everything okay?"

"Why wouldn't it be?", he asked amusedly, one of his brows shooting up.

Diane folded her arms beneath her chest and smirked at him. "Well, I assume you didn't come up here to ask me for a dance, so I figured-"

"And what makes you think that?", he interrupted her, a humorous glint in his eyes visible in the dimmed light of the room.

"I mean, I know you're not much of a dancer.", she reminded him cautiously and Kurt shrugged.

"I can do it if I want to."

"Oh, I never meant to imply that you're not capable. Just that you usually don't really want to do it."

He remained silent for a while, the dreamy smile on his lips and the expression in his green eyes had always been his preferred choice of communication.

"Dance with me, Mrs. McVeigh."

A sheepish smile graced over the red of her lips and her eyes momentarily left his. And when they met again, she unfolded her arms, let one of her hands find its place in his while the other one came to rest on his upper back. His arm slung around her waist, his hand gently laying on the small of her back, pulling her close so that he could feel her heart beating against his chest and they began to move together as the tunes of the next song began. 


Sometimes I feel so happy
But mostly you just make me mad


"I like this song.", she whispered into his ear.


Linger on your pale blue eyes


"I know.", he whispered back, his fingers brushing over the smooth fabric of her beige, almost golden looking dress, the feeling of his warm fingertips sending fiery shivers up over her skin. "Me too. It reminds me of you."


Thought of you as my mountaintop
Thought of you as my peak
Thought of you as everything
I've had but couldn't keep


"Really?", she asked, lifting an eyebrow at him.

"Yes. That's why I asked the guy to play it."


If I could make the world as pure
And strange as what I see
I'd put you in a mirror
I put in front of me


Her eyes fell closed and her cheek came to rest against his. Smooth and stubbly, warm in the most perfect way, not a trace of cologne or aftershave sensible, nothing but the scent of his own. And she let him lead, swayed with him to the rhythm of the guitar, in the pace that he was setting for them.

It had always been hard for her to leave the reins to somebody else, always hard to try and let go. But it was different now, with him. Ever since the beginning, he had tried to make it easy for her and he had been the only one to succeed.

"So, you think I'm strange?", she whispered, a bit of red lipstick staining his jawline as she moved her lips against it, but neither of them noticed, nor did they mind.

"Sometimes."

"Care to explain?", she challenged him playfully.

"Not right now."

The corner of her lips twitched lightly before he spoke again.

"What were you two laughing about?"

Her eyes fluttered open and she raised her head to find his eyes. "What, Will and I?"

He nodded silently.

"Just about how ridiculously lucky we are."

His brows shot up teasingly. "In regards to...?"

"Oh, you know what!", she laughed, her hand leaving his shoulder and moving to lightly nudge his chest, causing a smile to spread on his features. "Why are you asking? Were you jealous?"

"Of Will? No." He shook his head and her eyes narrowed curiously at him.

"Were you ever?", she asked softly.

Kurt tilted his head thoughtfully. "In the beginning, maybe a little."

"Why?"

"I don't know. He was always around and I wasn't. He really knew you while we had just met and you two were so close. I guess that used to bother me back then." He shrugged again. "But that stopped a long time ago."

She nodded. "Good. Because there's never been any reason for you to be. Of Will or of anyone else."

His eyes lightened up and he cast her a smile. "I know."


Linger on your pale blue eyes


"I love you, Kurt."

Her eyes closed as his lips collided with hers while the guitar played the last tunes of the song.

"I love you, too.", he mumbled against her lips, the warmth of his breathing spilling against them and almost causing her legs to give in beneath her weight. But he was still holding her close to him.

And she knew that she would never fall, as long as he would not let go.


We were dancing in the moonlight,
While the world kept spinning 'round.
Every problem seemed to faint
When you twirled me to the sound.
Stars were shining in your eyes,
Tastefully embellishing my sight.
And I know that I'd have given it all
To keep on dancing with you
In the starry moonlight.

Chapter Text

"Uggghhh, thank God, those freaking shoes are killing me.", she groaned as she kicked her pointed, golden stiletto heels off of her feet.

Kurt locked the front door behind them and rolled his eyes when he turned back to her, biting his tongue to suppress a smirk. "Remind me again why you bought them in the first place?"

"Is that a rhetorical question?", she asked him, watching as he hung their coats up on the rack. His silent answer was the rising of his brows and she sighed. "They match the dress. And they make my legs look amazing, obviously."

There was some truth in that, he had to give her that. His voice rose again when they walked side by side into the direction of their bedroom. "I have a question: Do you know how bad those are for you from a medical point of view?"

She turned her head to the side to shoot him an impish smile. "I have a counterquestion: Do I care?", she said and her smile widened at the sound of his laughter.

The flowy skirt of her dress twirled a little when they stepped around the corner of the hallway to enter the bedroom and she bit back a soft giggle so he would not laugh about her girlishness. "Remember when you asked me earlier why I think that you're strange sometimes?", he asked her and for a small second, she had forgotten what they had even been talking about.

"Yes.", she answered cautiously, challenging him to call her out on whatever he was about to do.

"This is one of those moments."

She came to a halt in the middle of the room, her stocking-clad feet pressing into the carpeted floor as she spun around to him and stood with her hands on her hips. Her lips were parted, a sharp and witty counter-remark right there, on the tip of her tongue. But as her eyes landed on him, as they took in his appearance, his grey hair, his beard, the look of it alone causing her to imagine how it felt on her skin, his strong figure in the suit he had put on for the occasion in the morning... the way in which the button of his black sports coat was opened from earlier when he had driven them home. Her arms fell limply to her sides and the words evaporated on her tongue the second she looked at him.

"Did I mention how handsome you look tonight?"

One of his brows furrowed in confusion that was soon replaced by the softer look of amusement. "You did. Once or twice.", he said in a low voice, smiling lovingly at his adorable and pleasantly tipsy wife, who nodded for a small moment, a serious expression on her face as if she were relieved that she had not forgotten to tell him about an important matter like that.

"Are you tired?", she asked gently, stepping closer to him and her fingers collided with his chest, softly beginning to fumble with the sleek fabric of his dark red tie that was matching the colour of her nails and lipstick.

He lifted his hand and brushed her hair behind her ear, his smiling eyes leaving hers for a small second as they wandered over her cheek to her golden earring and back to the deep pools of light blue again. She was beautiful. Enchantingly beautiful. "No, not yet.", he whispered, his voice suddenly strained and at that moment, he did not have it in him to ponder over the possible cause of it.

And she cast him a wide and toothy smile, looked at him like a little girl on Christmas Eve. "Okay, good." She took his hand out of her hair, twirled around again and pulled him over to the couch before she let go of him and plopped down on the soft cushion. "I wanna just sit here for a while. With you." She patted the empty right spot next to her on the couch and looked at him expectantly.

Kurt eyed her for a silent second.

"What?", she asked defensively and he shook his head.

"Nothing. Scotch?"

A small smirk wandered over her lips. "That would be nice, thank you."

She watched him walk into the corner of the room, pour a generous glass of scotch for the two of them to share, close the bottle and walk back to her. There had always been something about the way he moved that had kept her eyes glued to him. Something in the way he looked, something in the way he simply lived. No matter how basic the movement, she would never tire of watching him.

Kurt sat down beside her, his left knee coming to rest on the couch, pressing into her hip and Diane seized the moment to crawl over to him, take the crystal tumbler of scotch and get settled between his thighs, her back resting against his chest, her knees bending slightly over his leg as she stretched them out on the couch, the back of her head landing on his shoulder as she swallowed the first sip of liquor.

He chuckled, the uneven air he exhaled spilling into her hair, sending a small shiver over her bare arms. "You could have just asked me to hand you the glass, you know?", he remarked playfully.

"No.", she said softly. "I want you to hold me."

His arms slung around her frame and settled beneath her chest, holding her closer to him and she could feel his heart beating against her shoulder blade. A steady, almost melodic rhythm, like the tact to the song of his voice. "Everything alright with you?"

She took another sip, swallowed the warm liquid and smiled to herself. "Yes, everything is perfect.", she said and offered him the tumbler. One of his arms left her as he took it and the fingers of his other hand began to trace over a nonsensical path beside her breast as if he were trying to compensate the partial loss of contact. His touch was soft and gentle, as though she would break if he were to intensify it, as though she would burst into a thousand shards of glass if only he would touch her a little more roughly.
One of her hands found his thigh that was pressing against hers and she drew small circles over it with her fingertips as she felt him swallowing a sip of scotch behind her.

"This was a beautiful wedding.", she said lowly, her eyes fluttering closed in the feeling of his warmth, in the effect that the numerous flutes of champagne that she had been drinking over the cause of the evening had on her, over this feeling of blissful safety that she had only ever felt in his arms. It did not require her sight to be able to sense it, the additional source of distraction only serving the purpose of degrading the sensation at the most.

Skin on skin, body against body, warmth meeting warmth in the intimate innocence of their embrace, breathing of two different rhythms and the low tone of his voice in her ear. It felt like it would have been able to keep her alive in case oxygen would ever fail her. Because she knew that he never would.

"It was.", he agreed. "But ours was better."

For a small moment, she could have sworn that his heart had increased the pace of its beating at the sound of the small chuckle that escaped her, but it could have been an illusion. It was too late in the night, too late for the long day they had had to overthink the matter.

"This is not a competition, Kurt!", she laughed, softly hewing his knee before her fingers took on their previous movement again.

"And since when are you opposed to a good competition?", he asked mockingly, the amusement in his voice ebbing over to her, accompanied by his warm exhales.

"I'm not.", she said, her laughing slowly coming to an end. "But not even my ambitious efforts take it to the grounds of comparing weddings to one another. If I remember correctly, that concept is already preserved to reality TV."

She felt him shrug behind her, his shoulder lightly nudging her neck in the movement. "We had the perfect wedding.", he insisted and Diane sighed, a smirk wandering over her lips.

"It was perfect for us. And today was perfect for them, so there you have it.", she said, finality in her voice as a sure sign of that she was meaning to close the matter.

But Kurt would not be her husband if he would not at least try and outplay her with his obstinacy.

"So, you agree?"

"Do I..." Her brows shot together and formed a frown above her closed eyes. "What?"

"You agree that our wedding was better?"

"It fitted my personal preferences better, yes.", she corrected him.

"Hmm.", he hummed lowly in thought and she had to forcefully bite her bottom lip when she felt a tingling warmth rushing into her lower abdomen at the sound of it. "I wouldn't say that cold food is ever fitting for anyone's preferences, but okay, I guess."

Her eyes snapped open at that. A second of silence passed as she stared at the ceiling that was moving slightly in her view, but then she huffed out a scoff of amusement. "Kurt, we got to the buffet late."

"Yeah, but isn't that the whole point of a buffet? That people can get something in their own time?"

"Uhm, my first thought would have been the wide variety of dishes so that everyone can find something that they like, but I guess that's another way to look at it." Her index finger and the tip of her thumb fumbled absent-mindedly with the fissure of his black dress pants on the inside of his thigh. "But, coming to think of it, neither of them is particularly good at cooking, so it would still fit them in that way."

Kurt snickered lightly and she did not think that it was really directed at her until he spoke again. "Can't be worse than you."

She rolled her eyes and bit back a laugh. She would not give him the satisfaction of laughing at his mockery. "Probably not, but that's where you come into the picture."

"Oh, so that's what I am to you? Your proprietary food provider?"

She tilted her head playfully, her temple lightly nudging his bearded chin, a lopsided smirk on her face. "Among other things."

"Such as...?"

"My own personal sex slave.", she said dryly and his laughter turned silent again for a second before it burst out of him at a whole new volume and this time she joined him.

"Point for you, Di."

"Really?", she asked incredulously as she smirked to herself. "That was easy. I thought I would have to get a little more explicit first."

"I wouldn't be opposed to that."

"Of course you wouldn't. But sometimes I just like to tease you, cowboy. Keeps things interesting between us."

He chuckled again, his arm, his hold on her, tightening just a little and she let her eyes close again. Relishing in the sound of him, in the feeling of his chest curving against her back with every breath he took and in the sensation that the miniature movements of his fingers on the side of her breast caused her to feel.

"I don't think we ever had a hard time doing that.", he said in a low voice, a short while after his chuckles had come to an end. He took another sip, then held out the crystal tumbler for her to take it until he realized that she had closed her eyes and so he let it be.

"No, and thank God for that.", she said, her small voice slurring a little. A sure sign for him of that she was about to fall asleep soon. "Imagine if we were one of those boring, old married couples who only ever leave the house once a week to play bridge with a small number of fellow senior citizens and overall have nothing to talk about other than the changes in the weather and gossip about the neighbourhood."

Kurt dug his teeth into the sensitive flesh of his tongue to keep himself from laughing, careful not to risk pulling her out of her state near the verge of sleep and alertness. "Yeah, no. That doesn't really sound like us.", he said softly, reaching out gently to place the nearly empty tumbler on the coffee table next to them, cautious not to make too loud of a sound as it touched the glass surface as to avoid startling her.

"No, it doesn't.", she agreed slowly and a small smile pulled the corners of her lips up as she felt his other arm sneaking back around her waist, his fingers moving to gently run up and down on her side. She moved her head, turned it a little to the right so that her forehead curved against his neck, her soft and even exhales spilling warmly against his throat. "But let's not curse it. Maybe, one day, in... I don't know, twenty years or so, we will be one of those couples.", she said, her voice close to a whisper.

Kurt shook his head, decisively and yet a small movement, preventing himself from nudging her head with his chin. "I doubt that we will ever run out of things to talk about. And I don't know about you, but I always thought bridge was terribly boring. I'd say that we'll be in a league with the cool guys, playing poker or something."

She chuckled lightly and for a small moment, he found a bit of delight in the fact that she would never know how she caused his pulse to rush whenever he heard the sound of it. "You're such a bad bluffer though.", she half-laughed, half-slurred into his neck.

"You can teach me. Twenty years is a lot of time to practice."

Her laughing slowly ebbed to an end and it was comfortably quiet between them for a short while, up to the point at which he thought that she must have fallen asleep until he heard her small whisper. "Tell me something, Kurt."

"Tell you... what?", he asked softly.

"Anything. I wanna hear your voice.", she whispered sweetly.

He was silent in thought for another few seconds. He had never been particularly good with this, with words and talking, had always rather been a man of action. But there was something about her, and he could not grasp what it was exactly, that made it a little easier for him. Something that he could not really picture, that he did not have a word for, but something that was still there, something that made being with her so incredibly special.

"You know what made our wedding so perfect?", he asked lowly, his hand moving softly over the smooth fabric of her dress that was hugging her frame as tightly as his arms were.

"The food wasn't cold?", she asked, innocence in her voice overshadowing her teasing of him.

Kurt shook his head, rolling his eyes as a smirk formed on his lips. "No. It was you."

She did not answer this time. And if she had not been so tired, her cheeks would have taken on a timid shade of pink.

He huffed out a breath of amusement. "I never would have gotten married if I hadn't met you. Especially not at this time and at this age. I could never understand why it was so important for some people to get married, I just couldn't see the point in why they needed to doom an already well-functioning relationship with a pair of rings and a piece of paper.
But then you came into the picture and I suddenly understood. It's not about a big ceremony or a long party after, not even about inviting a bunch of people to show off your love. It's about taking on responsibility for each other in that you promise to fully commit to a relationship, to keep on working for it and to be there for each other, no matter what's gonna happen. And I wanted to do that for us... For you. Because I knew on from the beginning that the matter of finding someone I would be ready to do that for, was closed. Even if it wouldn't have worked out between us, I don't think I would have continued looking for it because I knew that there would never be someone else who could even come close to what you are to me."

Her fingers had stopped moving on his thigh, her hand now lying limply on the black fabric of his dressing pants. His eyes fell on the golden band on her slim finger, the one that he had put on it over five years ago and even though he knew that she was sleeping, he continued in a soft whisper.

"I knew that I could never love anybody else the way I love you. I knew it when we met and I know it now. And I knew it when I watched you walking down the aisle with Will. I knew that you felt the same in that you would not have wanted this if you hadn't felt the same way about me and that you wanted me to count on you as I wanted you to do it with me. We wouldn't have gotten married if our relationship hadn't changed... well, just about everything. You turned my life upside down and I didn't want it to turn back around ever again. And when we got married, I knew that you were giving me the chance to let it stay that way for the rest of our lives.
And that is why we had the best wedding. Because it was you."

He sat there in silence for another while, her sleeping frame in his arms, the sounds of their breathing warming the room in the comfort of familiarity. At some point, he moved, slowly and carefully as to not disturb her sleep, one of his arms leaving her waist and slipping beneath the curve of her knees instead. Her head rested comfortably against his chest while he easily heaved her light weight up, rose to stand straight and gently carried her over to the other side of the room, trying not to be too bumpy with his steps in spite of the numbness in the leg that had been resting beneath hers, before he lay her down on her designated side of the bed. He covered her frame in the soft fabric of their silky bedsheet and his lips touched her warm forehead for a few seconds, a small kiss goodnight for the woman that had turned his life upside down. The woman that he loved so dearly. His way of expressing his gratitude for her being there.

He changed into a t-shirt and sweatpants, brushed his teeth and put the crystal tumbler with the small remainders of dark golden scotch into the dishwasher in the kitchen, so that she would not call him out for having forgotten about it in the morning. He had never been untidy, but Diane brought tidiness to an entirely different level, just as she did with anything else in the life that he had been granted to share with her.

He poured her a glass of water to place it on her nightstand, knowing fully well that she would wake up at some point during the night and crave it, as she always did when she had had only a little too much to drink, and then got settled next to her.

She was laying on her right side, her back turned towards him and his arm cautiously sneaked around her waist again. And as though somewhere within her unconsciousness she could sense him in her sleep, she turned, her head coming to rest on his chest, the side of her abdomen settling on his and one of her knees moved up to rest on his hip.

His hold on her waist tightened and he pressed another soft kiss on her crown into the blonde strands of her hair. It smelled of the lavender and vanilla scent of her shampoo, of champagne and dancing together and of the sweetest dreams anyone could have dreamed up. And the last thought he had before he fell asleep was, How did I ever get so lucky?


Your voice.
It is my favourite sound of all.
So, please, try
And sing your words into my ear.
I know that it will always be
My one favourite lullaby.

Chapter Text

October:


"Hi, you got three calls while you were away. One of them was from Judge Abernathy about a minute ago, who didn't say what he wanted but asked for you to call him back. Another one was from Burl Preston. He called because of a settlement or something...?" Marissa scrunched up her nose, a look of unpleasantness that came close to uncoated disgust on her face. "He was a bit vague about it over the phone.", she continued with a shrug. "I also don't think that he likes me that much. Oh, and one was from Kurt who said that he would try again later." The young woman tilted her head, a playful smirk on her lips that Diane chose to ignore.

"Okay. Thank you, Marissa.", she said, closing the matter before she stepped into her office. Her coat landed on the back of one of the arm stools across from her desk, her red leather purse on the glass surface as she plopped down on her chair behind it.

Leaning back for a small moment, she breathed in deeply, then pushed her glasses up on her nose with the tip of her finger, mentally preparing herself for the bad news that could possibly be awaiting her, following this odd midday in court, before she reached for the sleek, black office phone on the corner of her desk to dial Judge Abernathy, when a soft knock on the glass of door the door leading into her office kept her fingers from taking the phone from its holding and caused her to look up, her eyes meeting those of her partner Liz Reddick-Boseman.

"Hey. How was court?" She smiled warmly, one of her arms was wrapped tightly around a thin paper folder that she was carrying with her, pressing it carefully against her side.

"Oh, hey.", Diane said, leaning back in her chair again. "Okay, I think. I mean, we've got the jury on our side but Abernathy seems a bit... conflicted about the matter of the case."

Liz chuckled lightly and stepped into the room. "Isn't he always a bit conflicted about something?", she asked and Diane joined in on her laughter.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that. I sometimes think that conscientious people make the worst judges of all. I mean, good people but bad judges..." She shook her head, closing the matter. "Anyway, what's in the folder? You and Alicia need a hand on the Piersson-case?"

"Uh, no. This isn't about a case." Liz sat down on the empty armchair across from her and smiled. "Those are tickets."

"Tickets?" Diane's eyes widened and a smirk crept over her lips. "You know, if it's a matter of sports you should probably try the office across from this one."

Liz shook her head, showing off her white teeth as her lips parted in her widened smile in the sound of her laughter. "No, it's not about sports. It's Sweeney Todd at The Chicago Theatre. Tonight, starting at eight. Two tickets in the front row." She paused for a moment, her eyes losing a trace of the lightness in them. "Adrian and I can't make it tonight, so I thought..." She stopped and placed the folder on her desk, glancing at her with a meaningful look in her dark brown eyes and Diane's brows shot up playfully as one of her palms collided with the smooth, silky fabric of her white blouse as it landed on her chest in a dramatic movement.

"Liz, I'm so touched. I mean, after all this time... You're finally ready to try and ask me out?", she asked, her expression of feigned surprise shifting to a more humorous one and Liz began to laugh.

"No offense, Diane, but no.", she chuckled. "I actually thought you might like to take Kurt with you."

Diane huffed out a breath of amusement, the corner of her lips twitching up. "That's really sweet, though I would guess that you might make the better company with this one. Kurt isn't exactly a theatre kind of guy." She tilted her head and rolled her eyes playfully.

"Oh, Adrian isn't either, but if I was able to convince him, I figure you can do the same with yours." She shrugged and Diane's eyes narrowed a little.

"Liz, this is really nice and I would love to do go, but why aren't you?"

"Our babysitter bailed on us, so we have no one to watch Malcolm. And I know that you love Sondheim, Diane. This is a sold out performance and I just don't want these to go to waste." Her hand moved to push the folder a little further towards Diane over the glass desk. "So, take them, please."

Diane thought about that for a moment of silence, eyeing Liz's warm expression, before her blue orbs lightened up as an idea crossed her mind. "You know, I could watch Malcolm for you if you'd like me to."

Liz's lips parted and she shook her head in a fast movement. "Oh, Diane, that's really not-"

"No.", she cut her off gently, casting her a kind and honest look. "Really, I would love to do it. I'll be at your place at six, okay?"

The corner of her lips twitched, a somewhat uncomfortable look on her face. "Are you sure? I don't want you to feel like you have to do this. And he's not the easiest child."

"Yes, I'm sure.", Diane insisted. "I love kids, my goddaughter used to spend weeks at my house over the summer, back when she was little and she was not always the easiest kid, either."

Liz's lips parted and closed for a small moment, as though she was at loss for words of protest, until a small smile of gratitude crept over them. "You are an angel."

Diane shrugged. "I get that a lot. I'll fly in at six."

She chuckled and nodded once, then took the folder and rose, turning to leave when Diane spoke again. "Hey, Liz?"

"Yes?", she asked, turning back to her.

"Seems an awful waste...", she begun softly and Liz grinned.

"Such a nice, plump frame.", she continued.

"Wot's 'is name has..."

"Had..."

"Has!"

"Nor it can't be traced...", they sang together and their voices faded into chuckles before Liz stepped out of her office.

Diane shook her head, laughing quietly to herself when she was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone. She took it out of her purse and answered without caring to look at the display.

"Hello?", she asked, still chuckling a little and she slid her black reading glasses off of her nose.

"Hey, it's me.", his voice hit her from the other line. "You're in a good mood.", he remarked, almost sounding surprised.

"Oh, hi you. I am, indeed."

"So, I figure court went well?"

"As well as it does." She shrugged, the red manicured nail of her thumb toying with the black rim of her glasses. "How are the feds doing?"

"Good, ever since I'm with them.", he said and Diane rolled her eyes, grinning as she could practically hear his smug smirk on the other line.

"Oh, my great husband. He's oh so humble.", she cooed and caused him to snicker.

"Yeah, well, your great and humble husband just wanted to ask if you'll meet him for dinner at this new, ridiculous french restaurant that you've wanted to check out for weeks now, later after work because he doesn't really feel like cooking tonight."

Diane smiled apologetically, her voice softening a little. "That sounds really nice, but I think I'll have to bail on that one."

"Already gotten a better offer?", he asked playfully but she could hear the smallest traces of disappointment in his voice of which she knew that he would deny them if she ever were to bring them up.

"Kind of... I offered to babysit tonight.", she said, her soft tone almost coming off as sheepish.

There was a small moment of silence. "Babysit?", he eventually asked curiously.

"Yes, for Liz and Adrian. Their babysitter for Malcolm left them hanging and they have tickets for the theatre, so I offered to watch him for them.", she explained, scraping her front teeth over her bottom lip as she waited for a reply that never came. "Kurt, are you still there?"

"Which time?"

"What, when I'll have to be there? Around six. I'll come home a little earlier to change, but I don't think I'll be able to stay for-"

"I'll come with you.", he cut her off and left her a bit dumbfounded for the better part of a second.

"Kurt, that's really sweet but you don't have to-"

"I know.", he interrupted her again and from the tone of his low voice, she could practically taste the playfully malicious glint in his green eyes that caused her to brace herself for the mocking remark that was surely about to follow. "But the kid needs to have something for dinner, doesn't he? No need to risk causing him, Liz and Adrian food poisoning and/or a week at the hospital."

Diane scoffed, biting her tongue to suppress a laugh. It was both a curse and a blessing how easily he was always able to make her laugh, sometimes, especially if it was at her own cost. His ego was big enough as it was, there was no need for her to keep it fed. "I thought you didn't feel like cooking tonight.", she replied simply, trying unsuccessfully not to let her amusement show in her voice.

"Yeah, you know... Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"How very heroic of you.", she said dryly and caused him to chuckle.

"You know me."

"I do. Hey, did I tell you that I've been called an angel today?"

It took a moment of silence for him to phrase an answer. "You didn't. Any need for me to be concerned?"

"No, never. It was just Liz." She paused for a short second, glancing at her wristwatch. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I have to go. A judge is waiting for me to return his call."

"Sure. Fly off to save the world, you angel."

She smirked. "You know me... See you at home."

"Can't wait.", he said casually and she was not sure if he was still teasing her or just being sweet. But it did not matter and it certainly did not keep her smile from widening.

"Me neither."


The word 'home' was allocated with a whole new meaning,
When it turned out to be
You.

Chapter Text

"When he's finished his homework, he's allowed to either play video games or watch TV for half an hour before he goes to bed. He struggles a bit with Math though and usually tries to give up on it pretty quickly. If you try to motivate him a little it should hopefully be okay. Also, please check if he's really brushing his teeth before bedtime, he tends to be dishonest about that every now and then."

"Got it.", Diane said with a smile and Kurt nodded quietly.

"Oh," Liz continued. "and if anything's wrong, please call and we'll come home immediately, okay?"

Adrian huffed out a breath of amusement and took her hand in his, causing her to look up to him. "They will be fine, Liz.", he said in his gentle and low voice and Diane suppressed a grin when Liz's parted lips closed before she nodded at him in defeat.

They reminded her a little of them. Her need to be in control, sobered by his easy carelessness. Who would have thought that the calm and the storm had the tendency to fall in love with each other and to end up working this well together so frequently?

"And we'll call in case there's anything that can't be managed.", Kurt said assuringly and Liz nodded again, a small smile of the slightest form of easement sneaking over her lips.

"Okay. And, really, thank you guys so much for doing this."

"It's no problem at all.", Diane said and stepped forward to hug her goodbye before she turned to Adrian to do the same.

"You want some advice?", she whispered in his ear.

"Please.", he answered in an exaggerated appeal and almost caused her to laugh.

"Get her a large drink as soon as you're there. That will take her mind somewhere else."

He huffed out a quiet breath of amusement. "Thank you, Diane."

"Sure. I'm wishing you luck."


...


The smell of creamy mushroom sauce lingered in the air of the kitchen and Kurt tried a piece of the boiling pasta that he had prepared himself a few hours ago at home.


"Carbs? Again?", Diane had asked skeptically when she had stepped into the kitchen, her perfectly shaped eyebrows furrowed in a frown.

Kurt rolled his eyes and shot her an annoyed side gaze. "All kids like pasta, right?"

She shrugged and turned, her behind coming to rest against the edge of the counter, distractingly close to where he was carefully twirling tagliatelle into little nests and putting them into a Tupperware container. Her hands landed on her waist as she arched her back dramatically to emphasize her point. "Sure they do, but so do my hips."

Kurt sighed and dropped the noodles, his hands colliding with the floured countertop as his eyes slowly wandered from her slim waist up over her chest until they locked with hers. "It won't kill ya.", he grumbled lowly and pulled a pout from her lips.

"Yeah, I know, but it's still gonna fatten me."

He shook his head and narrowed his eyes. "You're ridiculous."

"Excuse me?" She raised her brows. "No, I'm not!"

"You are. You've always been skinny.", he insisted and caused her to scoff.

"That's out of your judgement, you didn't always know me."

He shrugged. "I've seen pictures."

"Yeah, but I'm not twenty anymore. My metabolism doesn't work the way it used to do back then."

"Diane, you're so thin, you could eat all of this alone and it still wouldn't push you above normal weight."

"Oh, is there a challenge I didn't know about?", she snapped and it was only then that he noticed that her joking from prior had taken a sharp turn.

Taking a step forward, he came closer to her and she had to throw her head back a little to be able to hold his gaze, the light blue of her eyes glistening with irritation. "What's the matter?", he asked softly and her eyes left his as her front teeth pulled her bottom lip into her mouth before she let him look at her again.

"Nothing.", she said monotonously before she shook her head, the angry glint in her eyes turning into something else he rarely got to see from her. "I'm just being stupid today."

His hands found hers on her waist and he pushed them away to take their place and pull her a little closer to him, his hips bumping gently into hers.

"Kurt, stop. You'll get flour everywh-"

"Shh.", he cut her off, wrapping his arms around her and one of his hands came to rest on her behind. He felt her breathing increase, mingling with his in the inch of warm air that was parting their lips, her chest arching into his more firmly with every breath she took. "You're perfect.", he whispered, as though his voice was strained by all the beauty he was seeing in the sight of her.

She swallowed. "I'm not."

He shook his head again and his fingers moved until they found the small zipper on the side of her black leather skirt. "You are."

"Kurt, we'll be late.", she insisted in a small voice as he slowly unzipped her skirt until it slipped off of her hips and came to pool around her feet on the floor.

"We've got fifteen minutes." His hands wandered around her hips, gently stopping on their way to pull teasingly on the waistband of her lacey black underwear, until they came to rest on the back of each one of her thighs, softly, lovingly squeezing the inches of exposed, pale skin between the rim of her stockings and her panties. "That's enough for me to prove my point.", he drawled out lowly before his lips collided with hers.


He took the pot off of the stove to rinse the pasta over the sink. Taking a small look over his shoulder, his eyes fell on the view of his wife, sitting at one end of the large, square kitchen table, next to the little boy who was busy doing his homework.

She had changed into something more comfortable after their little exploits at home in their kitchen, before they had gotten here together. Her long legs looked even more slim than usual in her black skinny jeans and her hands were halfway covered by the long sleeves of her beige, oversized cashmere sweater, the soft fabric pressed up between her palm and chin as she was leaning slightly over the table to watch what results the little boy was writing down on the graph paper in his exercise book. One of her feet was tucked beneath her, the other one dangled carelessly a few inches above the laminated floor. Her socks were in the colour of light pink, which was, in his mind, nothing but the most adorably girlish thing he had ever seen.

Sometimes, every now and then, he found himself needing to take a moment to remind himself of that this was all real. To remind himself that he was not just in the middle of a fever dream, of that she was actually really there.

That he had not made her up, that she was not just the most incredible product of his imagination. To realize that this gorgeously perfect woman really was his wife.

"This is too hard.", the little boy whined in a small voice.

"No, it's not.", she insisted gently. "It's hard but nothing is ever too hard. Come on, let me show you. It's seventy-two minus thirteen. Let's divide thirteen into three and...?"

"Ten?", he asked almost cautiously.

"Ten, that is right. Seventy-two minus ten is, what?"

"Sixty-two."

"Correct. Now, we can divide three into one and two. And if you subtract those from sixty-two, we get-"

"Fifty... nine?"

"Yes, exactly!", she said happily, her tone swollen with pride. "You see? It's not too hard."

Kurt smiled to himself as he poured the drained pasta to the sauce in the large pan.

"You should always to try and orientate yourself in steps of ten, that will make it a whole lot easier."

"You're smart, Diane.", the little boy said, his tone mirroring his awe and Kurt's smile widened when he heard her chuckle.

"Well, thank you, I think you're smart, too, Malcolm."

He snickered sweetly. "That was the last task."

"Alright then. You did very well! What do you say, you put your homework away and help me set the table?"

"Yes.", he agreed, took his book and pencil case and speeded out of the room.

Diane's gaze stayed on him until he had disappeared around the corner to the hallway, absent-mindedly smiling to herself for a small second before she rose too, and stepped towards the kitchen cabinet next to where Kurt was cooking.

"Dinner's almost ready.", he told her without looking up, while he stirred through the contents in the pan with a wooden spoon, covering pasta in mushroom sauce.

"Okay, great. It smells wonderful.", she said and placed a small kiss on his cheek.

Kurt placed the spoon aside, took a fork from the drawer beneath the stove and tried a piece of pasta. Bobbing his head from side to side indecisively, he took another piece, blew a bit of cold air on it and held it out for her to try. "More pepper?", he asked as she chewed and Diane shook her head, swallowing.

"Mmm, that's really good. Damn you, McVeigh, you really are trying to cram me, aren't you?"

His brows shot up and he suppressed a heavy eye roll. "More pepper?", he repeated monotonously and caused her to grin.

"No, better not make it too peppery for him. You and I can still add some on our plates."

Kurt nodded in agreement, his gaze falling back to the pan and she reached up, opened the cabinet and took three plates out.

"He's very sweet, isn't he?", she asked. Her attempt of a casual tone was almost convincing but there was something that lay underneath that gave her away, even though it would probably have passed anyone but him. And he was able to identify its meaning the second he heard it.

He looked up again and found her eyes to see a pleased but also wistful look of sorts within the shade of beautiful light blue, could practically hear her thoughts rushing soundly around her mind at the sight of it. His free hand landed on the small of her back, the other one still wrapped around the fork with red stains of her lipstick on its silver teeth, and his fingers brushed over the soft fabric of her sweater, shooting her a small smile as he nodded. "He really is. You're good with him."

Her front teeth sank into her crimson red bottom lip, her eyes momentarily falling down on the white porcelain plates that she had set down on the counter. A small moment passed silently, the air thick and tense, almost uncomfortable between them like it hardly ever was and she swallowed, turning her head to shoot him a gaze that he could not immediately place.

"Do you ever wonder-", she began, before her low voice was interrupted by a happy chime that came from the direction of the doorway between the kitchen and the hallway.

"Can we all play together after dinner?"

Her parted lips closed and she shook her head over the foolishness of her own thoughts. Then she turned to the boy and when she spoke, her tone was lighter again. She had always been good at pushing matters aside that had the power to throw her off and disrupt her balance and happiness before she would choose to confront them. "Yes, of course we can. Now, would you prefer to set the plates or the cutlery?"

Kurt's eyes lingered on her profile for another short second before he looked back to the pan.

He knew very well what she had meant to ask him. And the answer was yes.

Yes, he did.

All the time.


...


Dinner was delicious, as it always was when he was cooking, and quite comfortable that evening. Malcolm was talkative and very witty for a boy of his age, not shying away from asking every question that would slip into his mind in the innocent nature of the child that he was.

He told them about his school, about how he liked playing with his two best friends Tyler and Jake, how he disliked his Math teacher because he had a hard time following her instructions and how much he enjoyed the way his English teacher was cool and always took the time to answer everyone's questions. He talked about Liz and Adrian, knew that Diane was working with them because he had met her a few times before when one of them had brought him to the office with them.

"Do you like working with my mommy and daddy?", he asked her at one point and Diane had nodded at him.

"Yes, I do. Your parents are very nice people.", she answered before she took another bite of pasta and Malcolm, seemingly satisfied with her answer, turned to Kurt.

"Are you a lawyer, too?", he asked and caused Kurt to chuckle at which Diane lifted her brows expectantly, as though she were daring him in a way to say something about the lack of loyalty and honesty in the field, as he frequently did to mock her.

"No.", he shook his head. "But I've worked with your parents before, too. I'm an expert for ballistics, that means I study bullets and firearms and do experiments with them to help with cases."

Malcolm's eyes widened in what was probably a mixture of interest and shock. "Guns?"

"Yes, among other things."

The little boy nodded silently for a small second. "My mommy doesn't like guns.", he nearly whispered as though he was not sure if he was even supposed to talk about the matter and Kurt shrugged.

"Diane isn't too much of a fan of them, either. But it isn't my job to shoot for fun or something like that, I work with the police and I help them find out if a situation that involved firearms happened the way they think it did."

Diane smiled to herself over the way in which her husband was talking to this young kid, without trying to find a way around the topic, not trying to belittle anything he was explaining to him and simply just talking to him like he would talk to anyone else, simply taking him seriously. He really was good at this.

"Do you work with Diane, too?", Malcolm asked and she saw a smile forming on Kurt's lips beneath his moustache.

"I used to work with her from time to time, but we don't anymore, not since I've started working with the police. But..." His eyes momentarily left the small boy and rushed to the side to lock with those of his wife, a deep and meaningful look in them as his smile widened at the sight of her, before he looked back to the boy. "I miss it sometimes. We met through work and I always liked working with her. She's very smart and competent, even though she gets pretty annoying sometimes."

"Hey! That's not true!", she protested, biting back an amused grin, and Malcolm furrowed his brows.

"That's not nice, Kurt.", he said and Diane began to chuckle.

"Oh, he didn't really mean that. He just likes to pick on me, from time to time."

Kurt shot her a telling gaze and Diane shook her head in a small movement, while Malcolm chewed on another bite of pasta before he spoke again, the previous matter forgotten already.

"Diane?"

"Yes?" Her eyes left the mischievous glint in the ones of her husband to look at the little boy.

"Who's watching your kids right now, when you're here with me?"

Her wide smile suddenly disappeared from her lips and she scraped her front teeth over the bottom one, shooting Kurt a meaningful side gaze that was lacking her usual confidence, before she turned to the little boy again who was carelessly chewing on his pasta. "Well, you see, Malcolm," she began in a soft voice. "Kurt and I don't have kids of our own."

He furrowed his small brows in confusion. "Why not?"

Diane shrugged and the corner of her lips twitched aside. "I-uh... there is a specific time in life in which you can choose to have kids but it doesn't actually last forever. And once it is over, there comes another time in which you can't anymore. And, sadly, when Kurt and I met each other, that first time was already over."

"Oh." He paused for a silent moment of thinking, one of his brows scrunched up above his thoughtful eyes. "My mommy always says to me that it's never too late to do the right thing."

The tip of her tongue flicked over her bottom lip, wetting it in an unconscious movement and Kurt chimed in when he saw the absent-minded, almost pained look in her eyes that were refusing to meet his. "And she's right about that. But... in some cases, it's not about people making mistakes, but about time itself. And once you run out of it, there really isn't a lot you can do about it anymore."

Malcolm thought about that for a few seconds while he munched on his pasta. "Okay.", he said eventually, not in full understanding but seemingly accepting that he probably would not reach it over the cause of this dinner anyway.

Diane brought her index finger up to her lips as he continued eating and her fingertip began to slowly rub over the lower one, staining it with lipstick while she did not even notice that she was doing it at all. It was one of her telling trademark motions that Kurt knew all too well from her.

Beneath the table, his free hand landed on her knee and she flinched slightly as his touch caused her to snap out of her trance of silent thinking. Thinking about the what if's and if only's. If only they had met earlier in life, if only her body had not already taken the chance she had once had away from her before he had stepped into her life, the little picture of a light brunette boy and a blond girl forming in her mind that she could never help but imagine whenever she was with her husband.

She tried to let it evaporate again under his touch. It was, after all, only an illusion and it did not do to spend precious time dwelling on possibilities that would never get their rightful chance to become a part of reality.

He was still looking at her when her eyes wandered up to find his, the gaze she saw in them probably matching her own. A longing of sorts, the kind that was caused by matters one had no influence on, and still ended up regretting anyway.

It was a little comforting to see it in him too, to know that she would not have to feel it, not have to go through it alone. It was comforting to know that he felt the same, that he was the one she could share this with and to give back the favour by letting him do the same with her. It was nice to at least have this together when they would never have the actual thing.

It did not make it okay. It did not make it easy. But he made it a whole lot better. And maybe 'better' was all that she could ask for.


My unresolved dreams,
My unfulfilled wishes,
All seem to collide within you.
And I think that's because
You're the one that came true.

Chapter Text

"I've never played this before.", she confessed sheepishly. Her voice was small over the ecstatic jingle of the starting page, as though she feared that this would somehow affect the sympathy the little boy felt towards her in a negative way. But of course, it did nothing of the sort.

"I can teach you!", he chimed happily. "Like you taught me how to do my Math homework."

"That's a fair trade, Di.", Kurt said, shooting his wife a playfully mocking side-gaze. "Math for Mario Kart."

Her eyes narrowed and she cast him a dark look, both over the comment and her own mild frustration. "I can't believe you know this game."

He shrugged. "I have four grandnieces and -nephews, so of course I do. You need to press 'A', by the way."

Diane glanced down at the slim, white controller in her hand and did as she was told.

"You can choose a character now.", Malcolm told her and pointed at the TV screen. "I'm gonna take Bowser."

"Oh, so you're one of those guys? I see.", Kurt teased him and the little boy grinned at him.

"I'm one of the cool guys.", he corrected him smartly and Kurt shook his head, biting back a smile as he chose Luigi, flinching a little as he heard his wife suddenly yelping out in joy next to him.

"Kurt!", she scream-laughed and threw her head back in the force of her chuckles. "He looks exactly like you did when we met!"

A frown formed on his forehead and he turned to shoot her a dark look that was unsuccessful in his attempt of freezing her laughter. "You're crazy."

"No, I'm thrown back in time."

Shaking his head he bit back a grin as he watched her squirming with laughter. "You should pick Daisy."

"What? Why?", she asked a little breathlessly in between chuckles.

"Her and Luigi are a 'thing'." His brow arched up mischievously, which was missed by her as her eyes were busy flying over the character sheet.

"Which one is Daisy?"

"The brown-haired girl.", Malcolm said.

"Hm. No, I think I'm gonna go with the mushroom. And it's 'brunette' by the way, sweetie."

"Brunette.", he repeated after her. "And he's called Toad."

Diane's brows shot together, and her lips parted in confusion. "Why on earth would they call a mushroom Toad?"

Kurt rolled his eyes. "Could you stop trying to find the meaning of life in a Nintendo game and just choose a character already?"

She pouted and shot him an innocent look. "Killjoy.", she mumbled and pressed 'A' again to pick the-mushroom-that-was-inexplicably-called-Toad.

The screen switched and they went to choosing vehicles.

"Watch your choice of wheels.", Kurt warned her as his eyes left his own options to glance at what she was doing. "Those small ones won't keep you on the road."

Diane scoffed. "Yeah, but how ridiculous would it look if I added huge wheels like Malcolm did?"

"Hey, my car doesn't look ridiculous!", he argued in a high-pitched voice and Diane smirked.

"No, not at all, but your character is much taller than mine and that's why it doesn't."

Kurt shook his head. "And that's exactly why you should build a heavier car. Toad is a lightweight and you will keep drifting off if you don't try to compensate that now."

She rolled her eyes, a big smile tugging on the corners of her lips. "Don't throw your physics at me. This is a game, Kurt.", she laughed and he shrugged.

"Okay, but don't say that I didn't try to help you when you're cranky about losing."

Huffing out a breath of amusement, she turned to him after selecting her final, small wheeled choice of vehicle. "I'm gonna lose anyway because both of you already have an advantage over me. It really is a little unfair if you think about it."

"But we can play in a team, Diane.", Malcolm said sweetly and turned to her. "You can choose our colour. Do you want red or blue?"

"Oh, definitely blue.", she said wickedly and grinned when she heard the deep sigh that escaped her husband as a wordless answer. His wife, the only person on the planet who would be able to make Mario Kart political. And still, he would be lying if he said that he did not love it to no ends.

"Okay, so how do I do this?"

Malcolm crept a little closer to her, leaning in to be able to point his tiny index finger at the buttons of her controller. "This one is for driving. You need to keep pressing it the whole time or you will slow down. This one is a reverse..." He paused. "Reverse..."

"Gear.", Kurt offered and Malcolm nodded.

"Reverse gear. But no one uses that because you just want to be fast. This one is for releasing items that you can pick up if you're driving through the boxes."

"What boxes?"

"They're rainbow coloured, you'll see them. There are bananas on that you will slip if you drive over them, mushrooms to make you faster, then there's a star that will make you fast and protect you for a while, the lightning that will make everyone from the other team small and slow, a ghost that will make them blind and there are a bunch of shells. Green shells with which you need to aim at someone to hit them, red shells that will knock down the one in front of you and the spiny shell, that one is blue, that will always hit the first one."

Diane nodded, listening to him in concentration and Kurt smiled to himself. It reminded him a little of the beginning, their beginning, when he had taken her to go shooting for the first couple of times.

"Okay.", she said, sitting up straight and leaning a little forward as if she were taking on her cross-legged fighting position. "Here goes nothing."

...

"No!", she cried out in frustration. "Why do I keep drifting off into the grass?"

"Told ya you should have picked different wheels.", Kurt said and bit back a laugh when he glanced over at her quarter of the screen to see how badly she was struggling to try and escape the speed reducing area beside the road, before he looked back at his own one, just in time to manoeuvre around a barrier.

"Don't go all smart on me, McVeigh."

"He's right, Diane.", Malcolm, who had been steadily in the first place ever since they had started, told her gently. "You will always fall off of the road if you keep turning like that."

She pouted and silently kept on driving. She hated it when she knew that he was right.

...

"Hello?! Excuse you?"

"What?", he asked indifferently in feigned innocence.

"Did you just shoot me with a shell?", she asked, her high-pitched voice close to the verge of hysteria.

Kurt shrugged, his teeth sinking into the flesh on the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing. "Don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, you do!", she insisted and leaned aside to nudge his upper arm with her elbow. "You do realize that we're playing in the same team?"

A chuckle that he could not hold back any longer escaped him and he pressed a small, apologetic kiss on her temple, his eyes never leaving the TV screen. "Sorry hon, it was too good of an opportunity to miss out on."

...

The sound of pathetic sorrow voiced by Luigi was like music to her ears. "Aww, did you slip on my banana peel?", she cooed mockingly.

"Shut up, Di."

"My poor baby. Drove right into it, didn't you?"

"You're mean, Diane.", Malcolm said snickering and her jaw dropped.

"Hey, he started this!"

"Tell her, buddy.", he said smirking and stretched out his arm behind her back to give him a high-five.

Diane pursed her lips and wished that she could joke about something like how now that they had joined forces against her, Malcolm should better ask Kurt for help the next time he would struggle with Math then, but she could not do it because she was very aware of just how much better he was with numbers than her.

It really was a waste, sometimes. Having a husband who was as impeccable as hers.

...

The number in the corner of her quarter of the screen suddenly shifted from three to two in about the second before she passed the finishing line. "Hey, what was that?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You let me finish before you!", she accused him and turned to shoot him a dark look. "That's cheating!"

"I don't know what you mean.", he said monotonously and drove over the finishing line after her.

"I mean that I didn't want to be in the second place if I only get it because you left it to me out of your charitableness.", she snapped and Kurt rolled his eyes.

"Okay, I'm sorry for letting you win! Jesus..."

"Is it because I'm a woman?"

His brows shot together in a frown. "What?"

"Did you let me win because I'm a woman, McVeigh?", she asked and tilted her head angrily.

"No, believe it or not, I actually just wanted to be nice."

She shook her head and crossed her arms, scoffing before she turned to Malcolm. "Sweetie, your thirty minutes are over. Could you go brush your teeth and change into your pyjamas?"

Malcolm nodded, rose and left the room, singing "Kurt is a cheater." on his way out. Diane bit on the tip of her tongue to try and keep the corners of her lips from twitching up.

Kurt, the cheater, turned off the TV, placed their controllers on the wooden coffee table in front of him and crept closer to her, one of his hands landing on her lower thigh, right above her knee. "You're not really pissed, are you?", he asked and she could hear the slight traces of concern and caution that he had tried to hide in his voice.

No longer able to hide her smile, she locked her eyes with his. "A little playfully pissed, I'd say."

He huffed out a breath of amusement before he leaned in to brush his lips over hers, his fingers starting to draw small, nonsensical patterns over the fabric of her jeans on the inside of her thigh. "Want me to make it up to you at home?", he whispered against her lips, the stubbles of his beard scratching the skin around them as the familiar warmth of his breathing spilled against them in the pace of the vibration of his low words.

A shiver ran over her back and she let her eyes flutter open to find the green of his. A colour that had managed to connotate green with a whole new magnitude for her over the years she had known him.

"I don't know, that might prove to be a little difficult. I mean, you did shoot me with a red shell.", she whispered back and her heartbeat increased when he chuckled lowly before his lips wandered over hers again.

"So, you think that I'll have to work hard to get back to your good graces?"

She swallowed deeply. This man was incorrigible, he knew exactly what he was doing to her with his words, with the way he was tracing his fingertips over her thigh, with the way his voice was flying from her lips into her system and reaching her heart to increase her pulse like nothing else ever would, warming her in the most delicious way of ways.

"Mhm.", she hummed in agreement, delighting in the fact of how his breathing momentarily got caught in his throat at the sound of it. "But maybe you'll be lucky. You've always been... a hard worker." Suggestively, she quirked an eyebrow at him.

He lowered his head again, his lips coming to hug her lower one. She parted them a little, brushing the tip of her tongue against his flesh, tinting it in his taste, so beloved, so familiar, so very unique, when-

"Ew, you're kissing!", screamed a little voice in shock, followed by light but hasty footsteps that led away from them again.

Kurt leaned up by a few inches and her eyes found his, accompanied by one of his arched eyebrows. "God, aren't we disgusting?", he asked and his smile widened when she chuckled.

Her forehead came to rest against his as she chuckled against his cheek. "Truly insufferable.", she mumbled, pressing a last peck on his lips before she leaned away and patted him on the chest. "Come on, let's tuck him into bed."

...

"Did you brush your teeth?", she asked the little boy who was standing in the middle of the semi-tidy nursery.

"Yes.", he said proudly and Diane arched an eyebrow at him.

"Really? Can I have a look?"

Malcolm parted his lips in a wide grin and Kurt watched as she kneeled down in front of him to inspect his teeth. "Alright.", she said before she rose again, nodding into the direction of his car-shaped bed.

"That's a pretty cool bed.", Kurt said as the little boy was just about to climb in.

He stopped. "Wait!", he said and Diane stepped back as he twirled around to dig through a nearby box of toys.

"Sweetie, you need to go to sleep.", she said gently and Malcolm shook his head.

"Just one minute. Please.", he begged sweetly and Diane sighed, giving in wordlessly.

A few seconds later, he fished out a car toy. Red plastic that looked exactly like his bedframe. With a proud smile, he held it out to Kurt. "Here, I want you to have this.", he said, looking at him with his big brown eyes.

Kurt's lips parted and closed as he struggled to find words. "I... that's really kind, but you should keep it. It's yours."

"No, I want you to have it.", he insisted. "You're my friend."

He hesitated for a moment, until Diane caught his eyes and nodded assuringly in a small movement of her head. Then he lowered himself in front of him and accepted the little car toy. "Thanks, buddy.", he said, brushing his free hand over his head and rose again.

Malcolm nodded, smiling widely before he climbed into bed as Diane kneeled down beside him to tuck him into the sheets that had a Star Wars emblem on them. She took his glasses and placed them safely on his nightstand, then pressed a small kiss on his forehead. "Goodnight, Malcolm.", she whispered and Kurt glanced down on his feet, blushing in the soft light of the dimmed room as he felt his heart pounding against his chest.

She was so good at this, it was almost like this had always been what was meant for her to have. Being able to take care of people, of a family. Their family. But 'almost' was the important twist on this, since it was the thing they had never actually gotten.

"Diane?", the little boy asked in a small and timid voice.

"Yes?"

"Can you sing to me? Please?"

Her lips parted and she blinked a few times before she swallowed and shifted in her kneeling position to get a little more comfortable on the carpeted floor. "Sure.", she said and cleared her throat before she began.

"Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight"

She paused shortly to look back at Kurt who was casting her an assuring smile.

"With lilies o'er spread is baby's wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed"

Malcolm smiled at her and his big eyes fell closed, causing a smile of her own to tug on the corners of Diane's lips.

"Lullaby and goodnight, thy mother's delight
Bright angels beside my darling abide
They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast
They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast"

She knelt there next to him for another short moment to make sure that he really was sleeping, did not take off the small lamp on the bedside table, did not rise up to leave the nursery hand in hand with her husband before she had not made sure that he was fast asleep.

It was the most peaceful view she could have imagined. A child, full of innocence, full of future that had yet to exist, to be present and to then become the past, sleeping in a sea full of dreams that they had yet to dream. Resting to prepare for choices and experience that would confront them as time would go on, but for now, just sleeping, resting and dreaming like nothing could ever take the innocence of youth away.

Kurt was eyeing her from behind, torn for a second on whether or not he should touch her shoulder or take her hand to silently ask her to stand up. But then he realized what this meant to her, here, as he watched her while he was holding the little red car toy in his big hand. Now, as he was taking in the view of his wife watching this little boy sleep.

He realized what this meant to her. This, the rare chance she had of being able to experience this level of domesticity with him, of something that came the closest she would ever get to being a mother, something that she had not been granted to have for herself.

And so he let her have this moment, until she would be ready to let it slip through her fingers again, like a child that was trying to catch a snowflake until it would accept the fact that it would always melt as soon as it would touch their hand. And he did not have it in him to wonder if he did it because he wanted to live in the illusion for another moment, too.


There's nothing that makes me happier
Than to have found you the way I did.
But sometimes it's a flaw of mine,
Trying to wrap my head around
The inequity of time.

Chapter Text

Her hand found his the second it had left the handle of the door to the nursery. He tried to shoot her a small smile but she did not let him, avoided his gaze and held it down on the floor as they walked hand in hand back to the living room before they got seated on the couch again.

Kurt placed the little red toy car on the coffee table before he turned to her. "We did good tonight, didn't we?", he tried, tilting his head to at least try and get a glimpse of her profile into his view as her eyes were laying on one of the slim, white controllers next to the toy car.

She nodded in a miniature movement of her head that was small enough to keep the blonde strands of her hair from moving. "Yes.", she said, her voice close to a whisper.

Squeezing her hand, he leaned back on the couch, hoping that it would get her out of her state of numbness, which it did. Her temple came to rest on his shoulder and she let him sling his free arm around her waist, pulling her a little closer to him.

"You wanna talk?", he asked cautiously. She did not answer immediately, as though she needed to spend a few more thoughts on a question as hard as this one before she could.

"I'm not sure."

Kurt exhaled deeply and pressed his lips on her crown before he heard her continue in a small whisper.

"You know... You were wrong.", she said softly, hesitation mirroring in her voice and he wished that she would let him look at her, needing to let his eyes lock with hers.

He had never been good at this, at giving comfort through words, was just so much better at letting his eyes talk for him, at embracing someone with his arms, holding their body to his rather than offering words of assurance of that he never knew if they were the right ones, never knew if they would be enough. "What do you mean?", he asked, his brows furrowing in confusion.

"Earlier, at dinner.", she said softly and he could hear the hurt in her voice that she normally managed to control so well. "You were wrong."

Kurt narrowed his eyes and remained silent for a short while, trying to wrap his head around what she was meaning to say. Then he shifted and caused her to raise her head from its place on his shoulder until her eyes were finally forced to lock with his.

Light, pale blue, his one favourite colour to look at. It was a darker shade than usual and he knew that she was biting her bottom lip to keep the tears that were trying to form and flood her eyes from doing so, attempting to prevent the blue from drowning in them.

Kurt shook his head, unsuccessfully trying to swallow the knot that would always form in his throat whenever he saw her in distress. She was always so strong, it hurt to see her at a weaker point. He loved her so much, it was painful not to know what to do to make it better. "Di, I don't understand.", he said lowly and almost flinched when her hand suddenly snapped out of his as she shook her head. Her front teeth scraped over her bottom lip and the look of her dark eyes was caught by a loose twine on an upper button of his flannel shirt.

"You told him that we ran out of time.", she said, her voice no longer soft, now high-pitched but still low. "But that's not true." Her gaze wandered back up to his and she swallowed hard.

She was looking at him as if she were expecting an answer, an explanation for a mistake he had not realized he had made. The look in her eyes, the upset octave of her voice, he wanted nothing more than to be able to find the words that she wanted to hear, wanted nothing more than to be able to say something that would make everything alright for her again. But he did not know what she was talking about, did not know what she wanted and knew even less how he was supposed to take the pain of which he did not really understand its exact origin yet, away from her.

He did not know. And so he remained silent.

One of her brows twitched as she continued to stare into the green of his eyes, hoping for a reaction other than the damned change of his pained and helpless gaze. Looking for something that would tell her that he understood until she realized that he actually did not.

Her dry lips parted and a shaky exhale escaped her through them as she gathered all of her strength to keep herself from looking away from him again while she continued in a silent, raw and unsteady tone that did not sound like her own voice at all. "You never ran out of time."

The tears that she could no longer keep at bay gathered in her beautiful eyes and it felt like seeing them glazing her sight caused his throat to tighten as his breathing got caught in it. His jaw must have dropped in final realization, at least his lips were parted when he reached out to touch her hot cheek with his palm. "Di, I-", he began, his voice raspy and low, unlike hers but still strained in a similar way, before she cut him off.

"No.", it ebbed out of her and if he had not known better, he could have mistaken it for a sob. But he did know better and he knew very well that she would never allow herself to cry here. Instead, she brushed his hand away from her cheek, her eyes momentarily leaving his as she sniffed and she took a deep breath, rubbing the back of her slim fingers over her nose until she had composed herself enough to look at him again. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see the way the golden wedding band on her ring finger, the counterpart to the one on his own, reflected the light in the room as she lowered her hand again, but he did not dare to let his eyes leave her face in its distraction, too worried that he would miss out on getting to look into her eyes.

Her cheeks had blushed, the white in her eyes taken on a similar shade of irritated red as they struggled with keeping the tears from rolling down over their desired path on her cheeks. And when she spoke again, her voice was stronger than before, a little louder and even more upset. "I don't want you to say that we're in this together. I don't wanna hear something about how much you love me and how you agreed to share everything, good things and bad things, with me, that you think that you'll have to put up with every single issue I'm causing you, just because you're my husband, I just don't wanna hear it. You want this, Kurt. We both do, and you can still have it. And I won't keep you from having it while you still can. I-" She broke off, took a deep and audible breath, almost like a gasp for air, and shook her head over her own outburst before she continued in a shaky voice. "I won't be the reason that's keeping you from being happy. I..." The tip of her tongue ran over her parted lips. "I don't wanna be selfish like that."

His heart was pounding wildly against his chest, his pulse audibly bursting through his ears. "Di, I don't want this.", he said calmly and for a small moment, he was taken aback by how steady and confident his own voice was sounding while he was faced with all the distress in the eyes of his wife. His wife, the person for whom he would give up on everything else that he had or ever could have had, the person for whom he would give the world because nothing in it would matter if he would have it without her, if he were to be prevented from getting to share it with her.

Diane scoffed, it came out as half a laugh and half a sob and she shook her head. "Don't lie to me. I know you do."

"No, you don't understand.", he said and took her hand in his, fearing for a small second that she would reject his touch again but she did not. Looking at her intently, as painful as it was with that expression in her eyes, he was willing her to listen, to really listen to him. "I don't want this. And not because I don't want kids, I just don't want them without you in it."

One corner of her lips twitched in a sad attempt of a smile as she pressed them tightly together, trying to keep a sob inside. She squeezed his hand. "But you can't have them with me in it.", she whispered heavily and Kurt nodded.

"Exactly." Gently, his thumb moved over the back of her hand. Her skin was so soft that he almost feared that it would rip apart beneath his touch sometimes. "That's why I don't want them anymore."

She shook her head, snivelling again. "I don't think that's the way it works.", she rasped.

"I think that's exactly the way it works."

One of her brows furrowed, casting small wrinkles over her forehead as she pulled her bottom lip into her mouth with her front teeth. Her hold on his hand increased when she continued in a whisper, as though she had to fear that he would walk away from her if only she would let go of him. As if he would ever even consider leaving. "What if you change your mind one day?"

Kurt shook his head and brushed a few stray curls of her blonde hair behind her ear, his fingers staying on her skin, needing to feel it beneath his like he needed to keep on breathing. "That won't happen.", he said lowly and something between a laugh and a scoff escaped her at it.

"You can't know that. It's something you always wanted and it will never let you go."

"It won't happen. I promise.", he insisted and her lips parted in silence before she found a way back to her words.

"Why?", she whispered throatily. "How can you just promise that?"

His fingertips traced over the skin behind her ear, down until they came to rest on her shoulder as he looked at her insistently. Her lipstick had faded over dinner and the countless times in which she had bitten down on her lower lip, her brown eyeliner was smudged a little on her lower lashline from the tears that were threatening to escape her. She was so beautiful, he could hardly believe his eyes.

"Because I love you."

A single tear rolled down on her cheek, wandering over the flushed and smooth skin like a raindrop over glass on the outside of a window front. Her red fingernails were digging into his hand and it nearly caused his heart to burst to see how much she had needed to hear this, the thought of that she would still doubt just how incredibly much he loved her from time to time like a bullet in his chest. A small but audible gulp escaped her. "Kurt, I just want you to be happy.", she whispered throatily.

A small smile spread on his lips beneath his moustache. "Diane, you make me happier than I ever thought I could be."

Her eyes fell closed, her lids pushing a few more tears out of them and she nodded. "I'm sorry.", she said when she revealed the light blue again and her soft voice almost sounded embarrassed.

"For what?"

She shook her head. "For being so silly today. It's just..." She shrugged. "I don't know."

"One of those days?", he offered and his heart fluttered when she cast him the smallest amount of a smile.

"Right." The corner of her lips twitched and Kurt shifted, his hand leaving hers so that he could wrap his arms around her slim frame, pulling her close. She was trembling a little, her hand shaky as she dug her fingers into the worn out cotton fabric of his flannel shirt. Her heart was beating next to his through layers and layers of clothing, her breathing, a mixture of soft and heavy, spilling warmly against his neck. She would not let herself cry it out, not here, not now. But letting her know that she could if she wanted, needed to was everything he could offer and more than she had ever wished for.

"I love you.", she whispered into his ear after a small while, her voice stronger and steadier than prior and he felt the tension he had not noticed in its entirety up until now being released from his system.

"I love you, too. So much.", he answered.

They did not know for how long they sat there like that, embraced in each other's warmth on the couch. The embrace that only came to its inevitable end when the sound of the door being unlocked ebbed over to them through the hallway, signalling to them that Liz and Adrian were back.

Reluctantly, never actually wanting to let go, they parted and found each other's eyes. The blush of her skin had decreased again, the irritation in her eyes not even noticeable if he had not known that it had ever been there. "Let's go home.", she said softly before they heard the front door falling closed, low sounds of muffled laughter originating from its direction.

Kurt grabbed the toy car from the coffee table and nodded as he looked into her eyes. Light blue, like the most beautiful sky on a summer day, like eternal rivers of perfection.

Home.

...

They made love that night.

Slow and affectionate, full of kisses and whispered I love you's.

His hips were curving into hers from above, his pelvis hitting her clit every time he buried himself deeper and deeper within her. One of her legs was propped up and resting on his back as she held onto his shoulder to be able to rock into him in response.

She felt his fingers digging into the silk of her pillow beside her ruffled blonde locks as his head dipped down again to embrace her lips with his, muffling her sweet cries and breathless moans. He did not believe in heaven but whatever it was for the people out there who did, he was sure it must have been what she was to him.

A deep groan escaped him into her mouth as his tongue tangled with hers when she clenched her inner muscles, tightening impossibly around him as he dove into her. She was warm and wet, the sounds that escaped her almost unearthly in their ecstatic melody, increasing like one of the classical pieces of music that she liked so much did when it was nearing its peak, just as she did right now.

Her nails dug deeper into his shoulders, rough but never painful, just full of need, full of desire, only another expression of how she was continuing to get comfortable in letting herself let go with him.

Her sprawled out leg pressed into the mattress, changing the angle of her hips and allowing him to hit a deep spot in her that never failed to make her see stars. She hummed deeply against his lips and mumbled something he did not understand, so he broke the lock of her lips and opened his eyes to find hers pressed tightly shut.

"Hmm?", he asked wordlessly, too taken in by the movement of her hips against his to form any.

She opened her eyes, revealing the light blue glistening in the moonlight that shone in through the sheer curtains in front of the bedroom window. Her eyes, the shade of blue in which light met darkness and passion met love.

Her lips parted in a silent gasp, both at the look in his eyes and the sudden pressure his thumb was roughly but never not lovingly putting on her clit. "Harder!", she whimpered and her eyes fluttered closed again, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip and almost drawing blood as he suddenly increased his pace.

He was close and knew that she was too, could tell it from the way her hips were jerking against his, from the increased grip that her fingers had on his shoulder, while her other hand got buried in the strands of his hair, could see her nearing the verge of her climax in the way in which her left brow furrowed as her moans evolved to turn into shrieks.

He had never liked the sound of his name, it was a mystery how it suddenly managed to become one of his favourite words of all when she would cry it out in pleasure when she came. She pulled him over the edge with her, as though she had taken his hand and asked him to follow.

And he knew that he would, whenever she would ask, wherever she would want to go, wherever she would take him. He knew that he would follow her to the end of the world.


I've never been selfless
But then you came true.
And suddenly I knew
That I would give it all
If it meant happiness for you.

Chapter Text

November:

 

"Hey, could you grab a mango?"

"A mango?" One of his eyebrows shot up in a rather depreciatory way. "Diane, it's mid-November."

She shrugged, a few tresses of her blonde hair bouncing up together with her shoulders that were hidden beneath the thick material of her grey woollen coat. "So?"

"So?!", he repeated, his tone heavy with indignation as he narrowed his eyes and came to an abrupt halt that brought the slim, green glass bottle of olive oil in the shopping cart he was navigating through the small recess between shelves of fresh fruit and colourful vegetables to a fall with a loud clink. It had her flinching as she stopped beside him. "So, it will taste horrible.", he said, looking at her as though she had suddenly lost her mind, his head bobbing a little from side to side in his inability of hiding his disapproval.

Diane's right brow arched up and the tip of her tongue rolled over the dry flesh of her pink bottom lip. "Who said that I was intending to share it with you, Mr. McVeigh?", she shot back at him and Kurt rolled his eyes, biting back a smile before he reached out to take a mango out of one of the numerous green plastic boxes that were piled up on the shelve. He put it in the cart, next to where the bottle of olive oil was laying peacefully.

"Thanks, sweetheart.", she cooed in exaggeration and leaned in to press a peck on his rough cheek.

"Yeah, whatever.", he said and his smile made it onto his lips when she chuckled in delight.

She had never been one to turn down shopping, but grocery shopping had never been one of her favourite daily duties. At least not until she had met him. She never knew how he did it, but he was probably the only person she had ever met who could even make the little farmer's market a nice and warm place of their shared domesticity.

It always went like that, he would push the shopping cart, she would walk beside him, one arm intertwined with his in search of his warmth in the cold of the small shop. She was the one to remember the household articles, while he was always on it when it came to edibles, as he was also the one who would usually cook out of purposes regarding safety and fire prevention, as he had put it so elegantly a few times before.

She would talk, most of the time throughout the whole experience and he would listen while silently scanning the trays they passed for anything he might need within the following nights of cooking dinner. Writing shopping lists had never been the way he did it, he prefered the spontaneity in life, even though he knew that it drove her crazy sometimes. Every now and then, she would tell him about work but mostly tried to avoid it these days, especially on days like this one that had been preserved only for them to share. He liked listening to her, no matter what she said, really, but she knew that deep down, it could bother him from time to time when she would continue to talk about court or the latest work affairs when they had a whole day off together, wanting to keep it all for themselves.

One time, she had been babbling about her frustration over David Lee's and Julius Cane's ongoing feud at the office, and he had turned to her at some point to interrupt her ramble and said, "You see this?", as he had made an odd and projecting gesture with his hands. "This is a work-free zone."

"No, honey, this is the dairy section.", she had said but silently taken the hint.

Days off were for them and for them only. And she wanted to respect the wish that he had silently voiced to her with everything she had. Wanted to make him as happy as he did it for her.

"Diane?", he asked and suddenly pulled her out of the trance she had not realised she had been in.

"Huh?", her head snapped towards him, meeting a lopsided smile and an arched eyebrow.

"Salmon or chicken?", he repeated, slow and mockingly in a tone that she chose to ignore.

"Uhm...", she hummed and bit on her lip in thought. "I don't know. Maia prefers salmon but Amy enjoys chicken." She shook her head, casting him a smile. "You choose."

A small smirk curled up beneath his moustache, one of his eyes narrowing a little in his lopsided smile. Diane swallowed, biting back the urge to cover his lips with hers. "I know what Maia and Amy like and I can't decide, that's why I'm asking you.", he said lowly and her lips parted in a toothy and sheepish smile.

"I, uh... Salmon." She nodded decisively. "We just had chicken on Thursday night."

Kurt lifted his brows at her, his voice gruff and teasing when he spoke after a moment of silence. "Is my cooking boring you?", he asked and she offered him a small chuckle.

"Well, I love you, but creativity isn't your greatest strength, darling."

He huffed out a breath of amusement when a young brunette woman with a stroller approached them, carefully avoiding to bump into a selection of spices in the middle of the small lane.

"Oh, Kurt, pull the cart aside.", Diane said and the brunette cast her a smile as she pushed the stroller more easily past them.

"Thank you.", she said softly, her voice close to a whisper and as she got a small peek into the stroller, she knew why. A little toddler, wrapped in a light green woollen blanket was sleeping peacefully in it, rosy cheeks brought on by the cold of ad day in mid-November in Chicago gracing their soft skin.

She shook her head and smiled back at her. "Of course."

The young woman nodded appreciatively and went on.

"Sweet.", Diane mumbled to herself and caused Kurt to smile before she turned back to him and slung her arm back around his. "What?", she asked almost defensively as she caught him staring at her.

Kurt shook his head. "Nothing.", he said and his smile widened when she tilted her head at him mockingly, silently digging deeper in curiosity that he had always admired about her.

"I'm just lucky.", he mumbled and his gaze stayed on her while hers left it in the sheepish search of the tips of her heels on the dusty tiles of the floor, smiling sweetly to herself while he simply kept on smiling at her and could hardly believe his luck.

...

They were sauntering through the wine section when she caught a glimpse of the shelve of cigarettes behind the checkout.

"Hey," she began, grinning mischievously at him. "Did I ever tell you that I always used to think of you whenever I saw people smoking?"

Kurt's brows shot together and he tilted his head to shoot her a confused look. "No. But I never smoked in my life, if we don't mind the one or two times in college.", he said gruffly and caused her to chuckle.

"I never thought you did. But when we met, I thought that you looked exactly like the Marlboro Man."

The frown on his forehead deepened. "God, you're crazy.", he sighed and her laughter increased.

"No, I'm not!", she insisted in between chuckles and her slim fingers squeezed his arm in a prompting manner. "Hey! Could you say the slogan for me?"

Kurt rolled his eyes before he looked away from her and back at the wine shelves. "Do they prefer red or white?", he asked monotonously and could practically feel her lips curling to form a pout behind him.

"Oh, come on, Kurt!", she laughed and stepped a little closer to him so she could whisper into his ear. "I promise I'll reward you for it at home.", she breathed out in a manner that could have been seductive if he had not heard her obvious amusement overshadowing it.

He shook his head and turned back to her. "I won't say it.", he insisted and bit back a smile as she huffed out a breath of both surrender and serenity.

"Killjoy.", she mumbled and he snickered, shaking his head.

"Now, about the wine-"

"Amy likes white, Maia prefers red.", she cut him off in playfully feigned annoyance at him that did not manage to throw him off.

"So, we'll just get both?"

Diane nodded. "I promise it won't go to waste.", she assured and caused another low chuckle to escape him before he turned his head aside to shoot her an amused and teasing gaze.

"Yeah, I'm sure it won't, if-", he began, but whatever mocking remark he had had in store for her was cut off by a sudden shout from the lane next to them.

"No, shut the fuck up!"

Diane's lips parted slowly, her brows shooting together in a frown. Kurt had spun around into the direction from where the voice had seemed to emerge to them.

"What the-?", she mumbled before the high shriek of a female voice caused her to flinch.

"Leave me alone!"

Kurt, as though he had suddenly snapped out of his frozen trance, spun back around to face her, all amusement from just seconds prior suddenly washed away from his face. "You stay here.", he whispered harsh and lowly, the fear in his green gaze boring into her blue eyes.

A scoff escaped her and she shook her head insistently. "Yeah, like hell I'm staying! I won't let you go alone!", she hissed back and Kurt gripped her upper arm, his long fingers digging into the thick fabric of the sleeves of her winter coat, rough fingertips almost painfully pressing into her flesh.

"Diane.", he growled darkly, his voice close to a snarl. "Stay. Here."

Before she could voice another objection, a loud and high scream banged through their ears and Kurt's hand suddenly snapped away from her arm as he rushed over to the direction of its origin, closely followed by the hasty sound of his wife's heels clicking against the cool tiles of the floor in the shop.

They hurried around the corner and Diane stepped aside to try and get a look over his shoulder, his strong figure in front of her parting her from whatever it was that was going on.

The edges of a familiar stroller appeared in her sight, visible in front of the frame of a tall man whose widened eyes were focused on the face of the young brunette woman that had passed them only a few minutes prior. She had protectively stepped in front of the stroller, her arms spread slightly apart, similar to the way her husband was standing in front of Diane. Like a shield, ready to sacrifice themselves for the people they wanted to protect.

She could not see what happened next, but the momentary silence was disturbed by shouting when his gruff, familiar voice burst through her ears at a volume she had never heard it in before.

"Get the hell away from her!"

Her hand shot up, slim fingers curling vividly around his arm, trying to keep him from stepping closer, trying to shove him aside so that she could help, but then he must have seen something that she had not, because he suddenly rushed forward, pushing her away and cutting off her balance, causing her to fall.

The man's gaze had drifted over to them and he was reaching into the inside of his jacket as Kurt approached him in order to get him to leave the young woman alone.

And the last thing she heard before her head collided with the nearest edge of a shelve, was the loud bang of a gunshot blasting through the farmer's market.


Oh, what an odd day it was,
When the world collapsed
At the pace of you.

Chapter Text

"He was shouting at the woman, I don't know what it was about."


"He had a gun. But I didn't see it until..."


"It all happened so fast, I couldn't even move."


"He shot him when he tried to help."


"He saved me. He saved my child."

...

Her head was pounding, as though her brain had begun to pulsate furiously in it the second her temple had collided harshly with the edge of the lower shelve that was stacked with paper packages of sugar and flour. It took a moment for the colours to reappear when she forced her eyelids to free her sight, her slow and fuzzy thoughts twirling around the centrepiece of her mind.

She heard snippets of a conversation, a nearby, male voice that she did not recognize. It was shaky and rushed and high with panic, the sound of it pressing into her head so harshly that she could not even have cried out in pain if she would have tried. "Yes, the farmer's market... I don't know, he's bleeding... Yes, please and they need to hurry... Three, I think. Someone from the staff, the man and the woman he was with... No, the one who was shot..."

She pressed her right hand against the ground. It felt cold and dusty as she attempted to raise her head, all colour still overshadowed by big and blurry black dots in her sight that kept her eyes from being able to search for her husband.

"Careful, M'am, you hit your head.", a low, female voice echoed into her ear as the patches of light started to spin around more furiously when her head left the surface of the edge of the shelve, only for it to come to rest against it again a mere second later. She felt some warm and tacky moisture on her temple and her stomach twisted. Hard and painfully, she swallowed to keep herself from vomiting, the sharp pressure in her head letting hot tears shoot into her half opened eyes.

"Don't move.", the soft voice continued and she felt a small hand cautiously wrapping around her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered closed again against her will. "The paramedics will be here soon."

"No.", she rasped out, her voice merely a small, hoarse whisper.

"M'am, you're bleeding."

"I'm not, I..." She forced her eyes to open one more time, resisting the urge to let them close again at the furiously bright light around her and the sudden fatigue of exhaustion that took over her whole being. In her slightly less cloudy sight, she could make out a pair of hazel eyes that she could not identify. "My husband..."

There was a small second of silence within the hasty mumbles in their surroundings that were boring into the pain in her head, like salt that was rubbed into a flesh wound.

"Help will be here soon.", the woman whispered and the darkness from prior took over again.

...

There was light. Hushed and hasty voices, accompanied by painfully bright light that was stabbing into her sight. High beeping tones and cool, white light, all boring into the dull pain that left her head pounding viciously.

A low groan escaped her through dry and parted lips and the light was dimmed.

"She's conscious.", someone with a dark and soothing voice said and Diane blinked a few times before her eyes finally opened completely, her surroundings clearer now but still moving as though they were floating around her sight. Sleek and greying, old rose coloured fabric, separating her gurney from the others in the space. A man in white with a pair of unflattering, rimless glasses on the bridge of his crooked nose was looking at her, a red-haired woman in dark blue scrubs on her other side was moving to push a blood pressure metre out of her way and into the corner of the small space.

"M'am, do you know where you are?", the man asked softly and his low voice was enough to blast a new wave of pain through her head, making her features cringe.

"I...", she began, the sound of her voice throaty and thin. "The hospital."

The man nodded assuringly and shot her a smile. "I'm Doctor Brown. What's your name?"

"D-Diane Lockhart."

He nodded again. "Very good. We gave you something for the pain, it should be better in a few minutes. On a scale of one to ten, how bad does it feel?"

She attempted to clear her dry throat softly and unsuccessfully, narrowing her eyes at him in thought. "Four.", she said hoarsely and the doctor chuckled warmly.

"Really? Sarah, we have a tough one over here.", he laughed. She had no idea who he was talking to but figured it would have to be the nurse who was still standing in the corner of the rosy curtains that already had their best days behind them. "You have a concussion, Mrs. Lockhart. And a laceration on your left temple, we fixed it with three stitches. You hit your head, do you remember that?"

"I... yes." The pictures of earlier events began to flash through her mind at a dizzying pace.

Falling. Hitting her head. The farmer's market. Dinner with Maia and Amy. A gunshot.

Kurt.

Her lips parted, fast-paced breathing escaping them heavily as her heart began to suddenly pound against her ribcage so furiously that the pressure of it sent an aching through her chest. "Where's my husband?", she gasped out. "Is he here? Is he okay?"

"M'am, you're injured.", he said softly. "You need to calm down."

"No.", she breathed out heavily. "Where is he?"

"He's here. He was shot in the shoulder, but he is well and waiting for us to tell him that he can see you."

A heavy and ragged exhale escaped her between the dry flesh of her lips before her teeth sank into the lower one. "Okay.", she whispered.

"You might experience some nausea. There are paper bags on your side table, just in case and please inform a nurse in case it happens. If the pain gets worse, we'll give you a booster dose, alright?"

"Yes.", she whispered, her throat burning with unshed tears and the strain of having to produce words.

"Good. I'll send in your husband now and we'll be back in a bit to check up on you."

"Thanks."

The doctor and nurse Sarah left, drawing the curtains open and then closed behind them, letting metal screech against metal, the sound of it shooting into her head like a sharp knife. Diane swallowed, biting back the tears that were intending to form in her eyes and to her own surprise she was successful in doing so, up until the curtains were hasty and clumsily drawn aside again, her gaze watering as soon as it landed on his face.

Wrinkles of worry were plastered all over it, the green of his eyes whose shade was normally so free and careless, looked strangely contorted in the matter of helplessness and concern that seemed so deeply misplaced in the familiarity of his features. The buttons of his washed-out, black and brown flannel shirt were undone, the greater part of his chest covered in bandages that were probably wrapped over it to his back and then to his shoulder.

"He was shot in the shoulder."

Shot.

Her husband had been shot.

They were staring at each other for a small moment of silence, filled only with the heavy breathing of each their own. Him through deep, green displays of worry, her through watery blue of slipping fear, until a single, hot tear escaped it, teasing her skin as it rolled over her cheek and the quiet was disturbed by a small whimper that was muffled to a gulp by her quivering lips that she was pressing together tightly, almost not audible over the soundscape of the emergency room.

And then he moved, over to her side and sat down on the croaking, white plastic chair next to her, his fingers wrapping around her hand instantly and guiding it to his lips to press her skin against them, as though the urge to touch her had been the reason for his arrival, as though it was what gave him a true purpose in life, as though feeling her skin against his lips would wash the wrinkles of worry on his forehead away again.

His warm lips, so full of life as they parted and released his voice for her to hear it. "Di...", he said softly, his tone that was usually so gruff and strong suddenly faint and strained, as though he had only borrowed it because it actually belonged to somebody else.

No one had ever given her a real nickname before him. Her parents had both been too serious to not call her by the name they had carefully chosen for her to have. Some of her friends called her by her last name sometimes, but that hardly counted as a true sobriquet.

And then Kurt had shown up, stepped into her life, into her heart and soul, and begun to call her Di. She had never felt the need to complain about her name, always thought that she had been pretty lucky when it came to that, but it had never been easier for her to identify with anything, any word, any attribute, than it was when he would call her Di.

It was as though she had been meant to wait all of those years to finally get the perfect nickname from the most perfect human being, the affection in its expression almost as pure as the one that she felt towards him.

She sniffed, rubbing the back of her free hand over her wet cheek and squeezed his warm fingers with her cold ones. "You fucking bastard.", she choked out and his face fell, his cheeks suddenly white as chalk.

"Diane, I-", he began, his bafflement hidden behind cluelessness, before she interrupted him harshly.

"No. Don't you ever do this to me again!"

He swallowed hard and his cheeks flushed in a shade of red that easily could have competed with the colour of her nail polish, his eyes wandering over to her aching temple until they locked with hers again. "Di, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you."

Her lips parted as she kept on staring at him, silent until she was able to wrap her head around what he was talking about. The concussion that he had caused her when he had pushed her into the shelves had been just about the last concern on her fuzzy mind.

Her teeth sank into her bottom lip as she bit back a gasp, a new wave of tears drowning her strained sight. "Kurt, I thought you were dead.", she breathed out heavily, salty tears slipping over her cheeks.

His gaze softened and one corner of his lips twitched aside in his attempt to cast her a smile. "I'm not.", he whispered and watched as she swallowed a sob, hard and audibly, the pressure on her head increasing.

"You can't just go and pull stunts like this.", she rasped out, clutching his hand a little more tightly in hers. "Do you have any idea how scared I was?"

One of his brows was furrowed and it took a moment before he began to nod. "I'm sorry."

She released a heavy breath and sniffed again as another wave of tears rained over her cheeks. "Are they alright? The woman and her child?"

"Yes." His thumb brushed over the back of her fingers. "It was the father. She left him a few weeks ago and he freaked out. Had a psychotic episode. They arrested him and she's going to press charges."

Diane nodded and clumsily brushed the tears away from her skin with her free hand. "Is... is anybody else hurt?"

Kurt swallowed visibly. "Someone from the staff. He approached the guy from behind to help me and he got shot, too. He's still in surgery, I don't know how bad it is. He lost consciousness before the paramedics arrived."

She let her eyes fall closed but was forced to open them again when her stomach started to twist at the loss of sight.

That could have been him.

The back of her head slowly collided with the pillow behind her as the dull pain increased again and she tilted her head to be able to look at him. The warm green of his eyes, the colour in his cheeks, her sight taking in all the things that she could have lost so easily.

"Are you in pain?", she breathed out, her voice strained from the aching in her head, from her worry about him, maybe all of it at once, she did not know.

Kurt shook his head. "No.", he said decisively and she arched an eyebrow at him.

"God, you're such a bad liar.", she sighed and her pulse increased when one corner of his lips twitched aside to form a lopsided smile.

"It's really okay, don't worry. They got the bullet out, that hurt like hell and I can't move my left arm, but they gave me something that helped." The smile on his lips faded and the concern in the wrinkles on his forehead, in the expression in his eyes, took over again, lowering his voice as he continued. "What about you?"

"It's alright.", she said, watching silently as his brows shot up.

"You're not too good at lying yourself.", he remarked, his eyes momentarily drawn to the movement of her tongue over her bottom lip before she swallowed another sob.

"I'm just glad you're here.", she breathed out, her soft and faint voice almost inaudible over the loud and shrill background noise that was boring into her brain through her left temple.

He shifted in his seat, leaning forward to press his lips against her right cheek. And when he looked at her again, her eyes, the stunningly beautiful light blue in them, were glistening with a new wave of tears.

"You're a hero.", she whispered and Kurt swallowed, his eyes momentarily leaving hers in something that came close to embarrassment.

"Don't say that.", he said lowly and Diane shook her head in a small movement that she was forced to regret instantly when it made her even dizzier.

"No, you are. You... you saved that child. And their mother." Her lips parted in a silent gasp for air. "God, I don't even get to be mad at you.", she sighed exasperatedly and cast a look of slight amusement over his face.

"Don't be mad at me.", he said and she scoffed.

"You know what? I really want to be." Her gaze wandered down to their entwined fingers that lay next to her hip, embraced in the only way that their bodies would allow them right now, until she looked back at him again. His expression changed when he saw the look on her face. "Kurt...", she began, her voice throaty and higher than it usually was. "Don't do things that put you in the hospital, okay?"

The shade of green in his eyes warmed and he nodded assuringly. "Okay."

"No.", she insisted and her voice cracked. "You need to promise. Don't pull heroic stunts like that when they might end up getting you killed, okay?"

He nodded again, his hand leaving hers so that he could tuck a stray strand of her hair behind her ear, his fingers staying to linger on her warm cheek.

"I promise."


I can't imagine the hurt
Of having to live without you in this world.

Chapter Text

He woke up that night from a sudden shot of pain bursting through his shoulder. Strong and out of nowhere, it spread down over his left side, reaching into his lower back like a forceful flash of lightning.

His lips tightly pressed together, muffling a deep groan into the darkness of the night that stood in for his urge to cry out in pain. His eyes shot open, only to be met by an empty bedside, the silky lavender of the muddled bedsheet reflecting the moonlight beautifully but missing the sight he adored more than anything else in the world.

Shifting in his position, he clutched his left shoulder with his right hand, flinching for a moment when his fingers collided with the new bandage on the wound that she had put on there after she had finished cleaning it before they had gone to bed together, he had done the same with the stitched wound on her head.

Light flicked on from behind him and only now did he register the soft sound of her bare feet padding hastily over the wooden floor of their bedroom, before a door was shut only a little too loudly for the late hour and the light vanished from his sight again, what was left of it only mere, warm streaks that shone in through the crack beneath the bathroom door.

He sat up while he heard the toilet seat clunking against the wall and it took a small moment for him to realize that she was throwing up, due to his state of sleep and her great attempt of preventing him from hearing it.

Throwing the thick bedsheet off of him, he shot up a little too fast for the state of his injured shoulder, and rushed over to the closed door, the sound of her soft and pained chokes increasing as he got closer to her.

He did not bother to knock at the closed bathroom door, knowing fully well that she was in no condition to answer anyway, and even if she were, she would insist that he would not come in. She did not know what was best for herself sometimes, every now and then let her pride and independent nature take over. But he was not intimidated by that, simply knew by now that he had to take a few minutes of her petulance that would eventually be followed by thankfulness when it came to it.

And so he stepped in, went over to her and kneeled down behind her, wordlessly brushing his fingers over the back of her hand with which she was more or less successfully holding her hair out of her face and taking over the job so that she could steady herself on the toilet seat with the little strength of both of her arms.

His other hand landed on the silk fabric of her short nightdress to gently stroke her back, trying to soothe the trembling shivers that shuddered through her body with every choke.

It went on for a few minutes until she finally heaved her upper body off of the cool toilet seat and sank down on the floor, her strained figure practically falling into him, her head colliding with his chest in exhaustion, as though all energy she had had left in her had just been tossed into the toilet with the little amount of take-out dinner she had managed to eat earlier.

He slung his arm around her, keeping her steady to prevent her from falling on the floor. She had not yet voiced her displeasure about him seeing her in this state, which only made his concern grow further up. "Di, should I call the doctor?", he asked softly.

It took a moment before she answered in the smallest and most quiet rasp. "My head hurts."

He pressed his eyes shut in a deep and audible exhale. She should have stayed at the hospital tonight. He had told her that she should stay, assured her that he would naturally stay with her, that she would not have to be alone and that it was just the smarter choice to spend the night there where they had professionals within reach, just in case. But she had insisted on going home, risked that they would be without professional help in case something happened, something like this.

He shook his head. It almost made him mad, her damned stubborn nature, but as hard as he tried to be bothered by it, the only thing he kept on feeling was concern. "Listen, I'm gonna bring you back to bed and then I'll call the hospital, okay?", he said lowly, his voice suddenly close to a whisper and he did not even know why.

"No.", she mumbled into his shirt. "I wanna stay here."

He tried to suppress a groan but failed. "Diane, I'm not a doctor. And I certainly won't risk you suffering from an undetected cerebral haemorrhage or something tonight."

"I'm fine.", she insisted unconvincingly. "My MRT was fine."

"You're not fine.", he said a little louder this time. "And only because you don't care, doesn't mean that I'll take the risk, too."

She groaned. For a moment, he feared that it was the pain taking over or a warning of that she would have to throw up again, but then she talked. "You're really getting on my nerves."

Kurt's jaw clenched, his teeth pressing together in an almost painful way. "That's too bad, 'cause I'd really rather get on your nerves than lose you.", he snapped back at her, the movement of his fingers that were softly stroking her side contradicting the sharpness of his voice.

His brows formed a frown when he heard a sudden pained whimper escape her. "Don't talk so loud." One of her hands reached up slowly to press her palm against the white patch on her wounded temple.

His face fell and he continued in a small, almost bashful voice. "I'm sorry, hon."

"It's okay.", she whispered back.

"I'm just..." He stopped. He was not good at this, at talking about his feelings and things like that, had never been particularly gifted when it came to it.

"I know." She knew what he was trying to say, it was the same for her with him. "I get it."

Kurt nodded and shifted against her, his arm attempting to sneak beneath the curve of her bare knees as he bit his tongue to try and ignore the pain that shot through his shoulder from the movement.

"What do you think you're doing?", she asked, her voice still throaty, her tone sharp as the blade of an axe.

"Picking you up?"

"No, you won't! Are you out of your mind?"

He scoffed, shaking his head. "No, I just didn't think you'd want to spend the rest of the night on the bathroom floor."

"I can walk.", she insisted and caused him to chuckle.

"Yeah, I doubt that.", he snorted and received a weak slap against the chest in answer.

"That's not very supportive of you."

"I know. I'm such a bad husband.", he said, rolling his eyes.

"The worst of them all."

He moved cautiously, took her hand in his and helped her up. It was far from easy, but they managed together and so he slowly led her out of the bathroom and back to the bedroom, staying close to the nearest walls so she could steady herself against them.

"All right?", he asked her with a look over his shoulder as they passed the doorway.

"I think so.", she whispered without looking at him. "Just dizzy. And nauseous." Her grip on his hand tightened, half-moon shaped fingernails digging into his skin.

He squeezed her hand lightly. "You're doing great.", he told her and a small smile tugged on the corners of her lips.

They reached the bed and he helped her get onto it on his side. It was closer, a lot easier for her to reach and neither of them minded trading sides for one night. She sat against the headboard as he lay the silky sheets over her trembling frame, pressing a kiss on her cheek before he rose up again.

"I'll get you some water and a bowl. Just in case."

She nodded in a small movement. "Thanks. I love you."

"Love you, too."

...

"Did she lose consciousness again?"

"No.", Kurt whispered into the phone, looking back into the hallway again to check if she had gone after him. But, of course, she had not. Not in the condition she was in. "But I think she almost did. She couldn't even hold herself up on her own."

"Oh, that's pretty normal, considering the strain that both vomiting and hitting her head in the first place have put on her body, so don't worry too much about that. Listen, Mr. McVeigh, if you feel like we should take another look at her, feel free to come by again, but if it's nothing urgent she doesn't have to do that. She might throw up again, that's pretty regular in the aftermath of concussions, but as long as she feels like she can manage from home, you don't have to worry too much."

The doctor's words did not do quite the job at calming him down as he had wished them to, but it was better than nothing.

"Okay. Thank you, Dr. Brown.", he said in surrender.

"Of course. Oh, one last piece of advice. If she keeps on throwing up, watch that she sleeps on her side. The concussion causes strong exhaustion and fatigue on her and we wouldn't want to risk that she doesn't wake up when she begins to vomit while she's lying on her back. Also, try and do something that will make her fall asleep more easily. Lots of patients struggle with it."

Kurt nodded. "Alright. Thank you, that's really helpful."

"Sure. Have a good night."

...

"What took you so long?", she asked sleepily as he sat down on her side of the bed after he had placed the bowl on his nightstand. He handed her the glass of water.

"Nothing."

"Ah.", she exclaimed ironically and swallowed a few sips of water. "What did the doctor say?"

Kurt's brows shot up. "What?"

"Come on, Kurt, I'm not delusional. You called Dr. Brown. So, am I dying or what?" She smirked mockingly at him but Kurt's eyes narrowed, his serious expression etched on his face like he were a marble statue.

"Don't joke about that.", he said seriously and her smile faded away.

"Okay, sorry." She emptied the glass and set it on the nightstand.

"Want a refill?", he asked.

"No, it's fine. Thank you."

He shook his head and took her hand in his, entwining their fingers, their shoulders resting comfortably against each other. "The doctor said I should try and help you with falling asleep more easily.", he said and she chuckled.

"I don't think either of us is in the right condition for that at the moment, don't you think?", she laughed and it took the better part of a second for him to understand what she meant.

He joined in her laughter, shaking his head. "I wasn't even thinking about that.", he said and she tilted her head to look at him, one of her eyebrows arching up.

"What, don't find me attractive anymore? It's the stitches, isn't it? Or the vomiting?", she teased him, her lips forming a pout and causing him to snicker again.

"No, it's not that. It'll never be that."

She grinned. "Good. So, what were you thinking about?"

He shrugged, smiling at her. He knew that his voice helped her sometimes because she thought it was soothing. No one else had ever thought that before and he certainly did not know what she heard in it that he did not, but still, it was something that had slipped into his mind. And since he was not that big of a talker...

"I thought we could talk. There's this stupid game my sister used to play with her girlfriends, back when we were kids. This or that."

"Hmm.", she hummed in thought. "But we know each other so well."

"So?", he challenged her. "Think you can't come up with anything interesting?"

She chuckled. "Ow, don't make me laugh so much. And don't get all cocky on me. After all, I'm the talker out of the two of us."

"And since when do you mind me getting cocky on you?", he asked and raised his brows suggestively at her.

Her fingers slipped out of his and she reached out to smack him against the chest. "You're insufferable."

"Yes, but that really shouldn't be new to you."

She rolled her eyes, shaking her pounding head a little too fast before she let it come to rest against his shoulder, until it snapped back up in realisation. "Oh my god, I'm sorry. I forgot-"

"It's fine.", he assured her, raising his arm to the side as much as he could without having pain shooting through his shoulder and he tilted his head. "It didn't hurt, come here."

Cautiously, she leaned into him, relaxing in the way his arm snuck around her to hold her close, in the way his fingertips danced over the fabric of her nightdress and in the way his warmth rushed over to hers at the closeness between them. Softly, he pressed a kiss on the crown of her head, the lavender and vanilla smell that her hair seemed to exhale into his direction too tempting to resist.

"So.", he began lowly. "Vivaldi or Bach?", he asked and she snorted.

"Really? That's the one question you've always wanted to ask?", she asked mockingly and he shook his head.

"No, just a light introduction. And that wasn't an answer."

"Hmm..." She was thought in silence for a small moment. "I can't possibly answer that."

A small chuckle escaped him. "And if you had to?", he asked and she shrugged.

"I dunno. Bach, I guess."

He nodded approvingly. "Good. I mean, to be fair, we did play him on our wedding."

"What, would you have been mad if I'd said Vivaldi?"

"No, not mad. Just disappointed."

She chuckled and bit down on her bottom lip. "God, I can just picture you as a dad."

Exhaling a breath of amusement, he ran his hand over her waist. "Your turn."

"Uhm... Red or blue?"

His brows shot together. "Is that a political question?"

"No, I already know that."

"Okay. Blue then."

She snorted. "Really? You never wear blue!"

He shrugged. "Because of your eyes."

She stayed silent after this. He assumed that she had blushed and was busy nibbling on her bottom lip, which gave him some more time to think.

"And I do wear blue jeans, like... all the time, if you haven't noticed.", he reminded her.

"Blue jeans hardly count.", she said dryly.

"Who makes the rules on this?"

"I do."

"Well, I object.", he said and she laughed into the fabric of his shirt as she lifted her head to press a kiss on his lips.

"That was really sweet.", she mumbled in between two little pecks and his brows shot up in surprise.

"What, the objection? Yeah, I learned from the best."

"No, not that.", she snickered before she went silent and looked deeply into her favourite shade of dark green. "The thing with my eyes."

"Oh. That.", he said and she nodded, placing one more kiss on his lips before she leaned into him again, slinging her arm around his abdomen to hold him as closely as he was holding her.

"Okay.", Kurt said softly. "Flowers or paintings?"

"That depends."

His brows shot together and he stayed quiet for a moment, waiting for an explanation that never followed. "On what?"

"On who's giving me the flowers.", she said as if it were the most obvious question one would ask in a situation like this.

"My guess is that would be me.", he said with a tilt of his head.

"Okay. Flowers then.", she said decisively and caused him to smile. "Oh, I've got one. Palin or Cruz?"

"Palin. She reminds me of you."

A pause of silence, assumably some form of bafflement on her side, followed until Diane mumbled, "I think I'm gonna throw up again.".

He pinched her in the side and she squeaked in surprise, nudging his hand with hers before she let it continue to brush over her skin. "Bill or Hillary?", he shot back at her.

"What, like in bed?", she asked and made his jaw drop.

"Uhm...", he began, trying to piece his thoughts back together. "No, but now I'm interested."

"Hillary."

"Really?" His brows rose up, so taken aback that the movements of his fingers stilled for a moment. "I didn't know that about you."

She shook her head. "There's nothing to know, he's just not my type."

Kurt scrunched up his nose. "And she is?"

"Kurt, have you ever looked into a mirror?", she asked in something that came close to exasperation. "No, but I think that we would have more to talk about. You know, she could tell me cute little liberal bedtime stories and sing Sister Suffragette to me as I fall asleep."

"The Mary Poppins song?"

"Yes, you have a problem with that?", she asked and he chuckled. "What?"

"Nothing. Your turn."

"Hmm. Dresses or pantsuits?"

"What, on you?", he asked and she scoffed.

"No, on you. Yes, of course on me!", she clarified mockingly and he grinned.

"Dresses."

"Why?"

"I dunno. I mean, I would've said nightshirt or t-shirt and sweatpants but you didn't give me that option."

"Hah!", she exclaimed. "Joke's on you, cowboy, I only wear yoga pants."

He frowned. "Where's the difference?"

She remained silent for a second. "Stop talking.", she recommended bitterly and he shook his head.

"Nope, I've got a question. Intellect or humour?"

"Regarding whom?", she asked. "A friend or a partner?"

"Hmm... partner."

Her shoulder nudged up in a small shrug. "It's a tie. I've been spoiled with a guy that can do both.", she said and made a proud smile wander over his lips.

"Sounds like a great person to be around.", he said and she huffed out a breath of amusement.

"Yeah, but you wouldn't believe that ego of his.", she mumbled and caused his smile to widen. "Okay, I've got one, but it's pretty obvious."

"Try me.", he challenged her.

"Ice cream or snow cones?"

He scoffed. "That is obvious."

"I know. Sorry, I'm tired."

"It's okay. But yeah, snow cones, of course."

"What?!", she exclaimed, pushing herself up a little too fast for the delicate state of her wounded head.

He eyed her humourlessly. "Oh, come on, Diane. Snow cones are great! And they come in different colours!"

Her lips were parted and she was blinking at him as though he had just declared to her that he would be running for democratic president in the upcoming election. "No.", she eventually said determinedly, still staring at him like he had lost his mind.

"Yes.", he argued.

"No! Snow cones suck, they always taste the same and most of it literally only tastes like frozen tap water."

"Would you stop insulting snow cones?"

Her tongue flicked over her bottom lip in a manner that looked so teasingly flirtatious, he was not sure if it was intentional or not. "Honey, if there's one thing I will never do for you, it is to stop insulting snow cones. I mean..." She shook her head. "God, it's like I don't even know you anymore!"

"Want a divorce?", he offered, a smirk tugging one corner of his lips up beneath his moustache.

"Honestly? I've never been this close to wanting one."

He shook his head and chuckled. "Okay, since you're team ice cream-"

"Like everyone should be!", she interrupted him.

"Like no one should be.", he corrected her and earned himself an eye roll. "Chocolate or vanilla?"

"What, you don't know that about me?", she asked with a frown.

"I've seen you having both over the years, so no."

"Vanilla. Definitely." She nodded.

"Yeah, okay. That's just wrong."

...

She threw up one more time that night. He brought her the refilled glass of water after it, emptied the bowl in the toilet and washed it out in the kitchen while he made her a cup of tea, figuring she might like something to drink other than tap water after their dramatic conversation about snow cones from earlier.

The cleaned bowl and the cup of tea in his hands, he went back to the bedroom to find that she had fallen asleep, her frame slouched up against the uncomfortable headboard, her head hanging to the side of her right shoulder.

He switched off the light, put the mug and the bowl within reach next to her on the bedside table, then walked around the bed to take his place next to her beneath the sheets.

Carefully, avoiding to let her head move around too much as he did, he wrapped his arms around her and gently pulled her down, supporting her head until it rested safely on his pillow. He lay down beside her, silently cursing himself as he noticed that he would have to turn away from her tonight to find some sleep as he could not put his weight on his wounded left shoulder.

And so he took a moment to look at her again, to eye her perfectly beautiful face, illuminated by the light of the stars and moon that shone in through the bedroom window, as he wrapped the thick bedsheet a little more tightly around her, knowing that she would otherwise wake up in the middle of the night because she was freezing.

Barely touching it, he brushed the tip of his thumb over the patch on her left temple and for the first time ever since he had caused it earlier at the farmer's market, he let the tears that had been building up all along find their way into his eyes.

He had hurt her. And it could have been so much worse than that.


The shot in his shoulder was painful, but not enough to make him pass out. They secured the guy with the gun, bystanders had called the police and paramedics and someone was trying to apply CPR on the young man from the staff who had gotten shot in the chest. And once the danger had been taken care of, he rushed over to his wife, who was lying motionlessly on the dusty tiles of the floor, her head resting against the lowest edge of the shelve on which she had hit her head.

A young woman was kneeling in front of her and he dropped down beside her. And that was when he could see it. The blood that was tinting the metal edge of the shelve in a dark shade of red.

"She's just lost consciousness.", the young woman told him hastily, her voice full of panic. "She tried to get up but I told her no and then she passed out."

He reached down, cupping her cheek with his palm and an audible, shaky breath escaped him through parted lips. It was as though the stinging pain in his shoulder, the panicked woman beside him, the rushed voices around him had all vanished, only to leave the strong force of one single feeling to take over his entire being.

Fear.

"Di...", he breathed out, his thumb stroking over her warm but pale cheek.


His fingertips wandered down over her temple and down to her cheek, passing the little birthmark beside her patched wound. Her chest was rising up and falling down, the circle of inhaling and exhaling of every even breath she took audible in the quiet of her sleep.

He sniffed as a single tear rolled out of the corner of his eye, hot and fluid like the dark red blood that had been passing the broken barrier of her skin a few hours earlier. He had never experienced fear in the way in which he had when he had thought that there was the possibility of losing her.

"I love you.", he breathed out softly and watched as her eyes slowly fluttered open. Her gaze locked with his and she lifted her hand to mirror his movements and let it come to rest on his stubbly cheek, her slim thumb brushing the salty streak of his tear away, some of the wetness remaining on his skin, a greater part taken away by hers, like equally shared terror, as though she was taking some part of a burden away to try and make it easier for him.

"It's alright.", she whispered soothingly into the darkness, one of her brows furrowed over the painfully rare sight of his displayed emotions. "Everything's alright."

He nodded, sniffing again before he cleared his throat lowly, trying not to be too loud and end up causing her even more pain. "You know...", he began lowly. "You scared me, too."

Her lips parted, the bottom one getting caught by the edges of her front teeth before she nodded. "I know.", she whispered, her fingers dancing softly over his rough skin, the contrast so huge that it almost felt like he never deserved to be granted to feel her touch. "I'm sorry."

Another tear was caught by her fingertip and he shook his head. "It wasn't your fault."

"And it wasn't yours either.", she insisted, one corner of her lips twitching aside to cast him a half smile.

He nodded. "Okay."

Diane sighed and the look in her light blue eyes softened. "I love you.", she said and caused a new wave of tears to glaze his eyes.

"I love you, too.", he breathed out before she gently guided him down to try and give him some more assurance by letting their lips lock with each other.

When he pulled away, she cast him another smile. "Let's just stay out of the hospital for now, okay?", she offered softly and he nodded, to which her smile widened. "Wanna trade sides so you can hold me?", she asked and he nodded again, wordlessly.

And so they shifted until they had taken on their respective sides of the bed again and until Kurt was able to lay his injured arm around her. Her slim fingers entwined with his on their place beneath her chest and he could almost feel her heartbeat increasing when he dipped his head to be able to breathe in her sweet scent, his warm exhales spilling against her neck.

"I love you.", he whispered again before he pressed a soft kiss into the curve between her neck and shoulder.

She smiled and let her eyes flutter closed in the comfort that he was providing her, synchronously to the one she was providing him. "I love you, too. More than anything."


You're like a shaded room.
Full of darkness,
Hidden behind curtains of your
Pride.
I'm happy to be the one
Who gets to let in the
Light.

 

Chapter Text

December:

The sweet sounds of her singing echoed into the room and he caught himself smiling at it. It didn't matter if she spoke or sang or simply hummed in annoyance, she had always had a beautiful voice. Soft and strong at the very same time, powerful and feminine all at once. As though every single sound worth hearing, every touching tone, every beautiful note that his ears were blessed to catch, as if they all met in her throat to produce the melody of her voice.

It almost seemed like he had never really valued his physical ability to hear, until he had heard her voice for the first time. It was as though being with her would always cause the smallest things to become so endlessly more important in his need to make use of them to absorb her presence, her being and all the things she gifted him with to let them, let her, be a part of his.

He didn't really know what it was about Christmas time that brought this side of her out more frequently, this joyous and carefree attitude that he did not really have a word for, while she would probably smirk at him and call it full of joie de vivre, mon chéri. And he certainly was not about to complain.

A bit clumsily, he fumbled with the knot in his tie, straightened the corners out as much as he could and critically observed it one last time in the mirror. He'd never been one of those guys who needed a woman to tie it for him, he was 'emancipated' in that way, which would certainly not be his preferred choice of words but probably one that would make her laugh. His ability to do it was part of the aftermath of the many years he'd lived his life as a single man. After all these years, he still remembered how he used to struggle with it when he'd been younger because his mother had refused to teach him how to do it by himself in her hopes of that he would never need to learn it, in her hopes of that he would soon find a woman, marry her, build his own family and have her tie his ties for him until the very end.

And still... even after years and years of doing it himself and eventually finding his way of doing a pretty reasonable job at it, he had never been talented when it came to things like this. Not in comparison to her, anyway.

So he turned into the direction of the bathroom from where the soft sound of her singing continued to emerge to him and stepped in to find her slightly bent over the edge of the sink to get a better look at herself in the mirror while she was busy applying some kind of makeup that he couldn't identify around her eyes with the tip of her manicured ring finger.

He leaned against the doorframe for a small moment, his gaze taking her in as she stood in front of him, her slim curves hugged by nothing but her scarce underwear, deep and fiery red lace, similar to the colour of the little red toy car that was standing on his side of the counter next to her, building a sharp and pleasant contrast between it and her pale skin, accentuating it in that certain thoughtful precision with which she always chose her clothing. That precision, the thought-out perfectionism with which she did everything she did, the one that could hardly have been any more different from the way he made choices and lived his life. Reasoned precision that couldn't have fascinated him more than it did with every passing second, every passing day, while he knew that it would never stop.

Too distracted by the sight of her, he didn't notice that she had stopped singing, his head only snapping up to meet her playful gaze in the mirror when she spoke to him.

"Enjoying the view?", she asked, one of her brows arched up and a knowing, almost smug smile tugging on the corners of her lips.

Smiling back at her, he huffed out a breath of amusement. "It is quite the view.", he remarked and his heart warmed while he watched her lips parting to release a soft chuckle, the tiny creases around her eyes dancing over her skin in joy as her head shrugged back in a small, enthusiastic movement. She had always had the best laugh.

"Well, I try.", she chuckled and shot him a smile through the mirror. "Enjoy it while it lasts, I'm afraid I can't go out like this tonight."

Kurt shrugged, his brows flying up mischievously as one corner of his lips twitched aside. "Wouldn't trouble me.", he remarked lowly and her teeth sank into her bottom lip, sweetly biting back a flattered smile before she placed the little container of makeup on the counter and turned to him, slow steps taking her closer until her curtly dressed frame stood so painfully near him that it almost physically hurt that they weren't actually touching.

"I know.", she said, her voice low and seductive, hardly more than a whisper. "I'm not so sure about the others though." Her left hand rose, soft fingertips dancing from his hairline down to his stubbly cheek, her eyes mesmerized while they followed the movement and a small, absent-minded smile formed on her parted lips.

He cupped her hand with his and guided it to his lips, pressing a soft kiss into her palm before he let it rest on his cheek again. "I say screw 'em if they don't know what's good.", he said and Diane shook her head in amusement, her gaze rather serious when it met his.

"You look handsome.", she told him and his brow arched up.

"Oh yeah?"

"Mhm. Very sexy." Her fingers moved out of his hold and traced down his cheek, over his neck and came to rest on his chest, wicked blue meeting green when she looked up again. "But that knot in your tie is a ridiculous joke.", she remarked in the same low and teasing tone, every syllable of her velvety voice dripping with flirtatious attraction.

She made him smile like he couldn't remember to ever have smiled, she in her rare and special treasure of a way in which she caused his strong, unyielding facade of sobriety to collapse so easily. The happiness she'd made him feel for the entirety of the last ten years still almost felt like it was actually meant to be received by someone else, never, not in his deepest uncovered dreams, did he ever think that he had done something to deserve this life. To experience true love and happiness that outshone the darkest shadows of living with such utter grace and simplicity.

He couldn't wrap his mind around it, never could and never would, especially not now, when she was standing so close to him, dwarfed by his height like she only ever was behind the brick walls of their home when she wasn't wearing her armour of high heels and expensive and impeccable clothing, not now, when he was dipping his head out of habit to watch her while her slim fingers undid the tight knot in his tie in the centre of his collar, her nude, unvarnished lips that she would cover with lipstick in the matter of the next half an hour, moving while she was mocking him about his disability to do a simple task like perfecting the knot in his tie to let it pass her own idea of presentability when he was usually living on the smarter side of life. She rambled a little, lost both him and herself over voicing her teasing thoughts while he couldn't do much more than watching those lips move, her tongue hasty and occasionally flicking out in between words to wet her lips; he couldn't think straight when he knew how they felt whenever they were dancing with his.

She had stopped talking when she suddenly padded his chest once, signalling that she was pleased with the work she had done for his appearance and cast her eyes up to look at him, the blue mocking and expectant in her anticipation for a comeback to her teasing remarks. One of her brows arched up when she saw the absent-minded smile of easement on his beautiful face and when her lips parted again to release whatever she was about to say in surprise about his unexpected reaction, he kept her from doing so by dipping his head further down to close them with his.

His arms slung around her barely dressed figure, one of them wrapping around her lower back to press her needily into him, his urging strength seemed as though he had been holding himself back from doing so ever since he had listened to her soft singing from the bedroom, the other one closing around her shoulders to pull her into a deeper kiss.

She sighed, taken aback at the first initial contact and the need in his touch that forced her eyes to roll back into her head. Intuitively, her arm slung around his neck while she rose up on her tiptoes, her chest arching into the curve of his, his upper body crooked from the way he was bending down to her, fitting her perfectly as if they were the personification of a toddler's two-piece puzzle. Her fingers dipped into his hair, curling firmly into it when their tongues found each other.

A low, protesting moan escaped him when she suddenly pulled away and his eyes opened, dark, almost raging green locking with apologetic blue to the song of their breathless gasps for air.

"I need to finish getting ready.", she breathed out, running her fingers through his hair again. Kurt's arm left its place around her shoulders to let his fingertips trace over a small, visible blot of makeup that he spotted on her temple. It was a little darker than the skin there and lighter than the red scar that she had seemingly attempted to hide with it.

The tip of his index finger brushed over the line of makeup, smoothing and evening it out on the edges until he stopped when he felt her squirm in discomfort in his arms.

His eyes wandered back to hers to find them avoiding his gaze while she nibbled on her bottom lip in an oddly bashful manner. With the edge of his finger curving beneath it, he gently pulled her chin up to look at her.

"Why do you always cover it up?", he asked gently and she shrugged.

"Well... it's not exactly pretty. And I don't want to have everyone staring at it.", she said in unsuccessfully feigned indifference, even though she knew that the look in her eyes was giving her away to him.

Kurt shook his head. "No one is going to stare at it. They see you every day.", he said, his thumb brushing lovingly over her cheekbone.

She shrugged again, the tone of her voice that followed a monotonous defence mechanism he knew all too well from her. "I know."

He sighed, his eyes falling closed as he shook his head and her heart ached like it did every time she saw her occasional self-consciousness hurting him. It didn't surface all that often and she figured that this made it even harder for him to stomach when it did eventually.

He brushed her hair behind her ear when he looked at her again, cast her the trace of a smile as he uncovered the little scar beneath the front parts of silky blonde locks. "You're beautiful.", he said lowly. It sounded so true, so heartfelt, honest and meaningful when he said it that it was almost hard to hear when she knew that she was at the receiving end of it.

Her teeth sank into the inside of her cheek and she nodded softly, unconvinced but still trying to ease his pain over seeing her like this. "Okay.", she breathed out and knew that he didn't believe her.

"A little mark doesn't change anything about that.", he said and his brows furrowed when a small, sarcastic smirk spread on her lips. Sarcasm and her sharp wit had always been one of the preferred masks for her own insecurities.

She shrugged, her voice stronger and heavy with feigned amusement when she spoke. "Well, at least I'm not dead, so there's that.", she said and watched as a new wave of pain washed over his features.

"Diane-"

"Kurt, it's alright, really.", she cut him off, a genuine smile tugging on her lips. "I'll get over it."

"Yes, but could we stop joking about this?", he suddenly snapped at her, freezing the smile on her face until it looked colder than the snow that had been tinting the city in white for the past couple of days.

"No.", she hissed sharply. "Not before you will finally stop beating yourself up about this!"

They glared at each other silently for a painfully long moment until his face softened and he gave in, his arms wrapping back around her and his forehead dipping down to rest against hers.

He listened to her soft breathing and pressed his eyes shut to concentrate on the sound, knowing that nothing would ever matter more than it did. "Di, I'm sorry.", he whispered and felt her arms slinging around his frame, holding him close like he was holding her, both trying to provide him with the comfort and safety she knew he needed to allow himself to be vulnerable in his stubborn and proud nature, and attempting to swallow the hurt that was on the verge on ebbing to the outside, the pain that she was feeling about his.

It was a brittle verge, a thin line between feeling the need to comfort, to be there for the one she loved and the fear that was rippling right through her chest when she saw him, the strongest person she knew, in a state like this.

Loving was hard sometimes and life always had its challenging quirks, shadowing even the most beautiful thing into a place that contained darkness.

"Don't be.", she whispered back, her fingers slowly curling into his shoulder, again and again, to try and make it better. "I understand."

He nodded softly, his forehead brushing against hers before he rose to shoot her an intent look through the pained, green eyes that would never lose the surreal power they had over her.

"Diane...", he began and his hand increased his hold on her while his arm tensed around her waist. "I promised. You asked me to promise to take care and I did. But I need you to do the same for me, okay?"

She swallowed hard, her hand still stroking over his shoulder, caressing the material of his white button-up beneath which the scar, the remainder of his gunshot wound, was kept hidden from the outside world.

She nodded. "Okay.", she rasped, the intensity of his gaze mirroring in her voice. One of his brows arched up and coloured his face in something that came close to teasing amusement and a small, genuinely light chuckle escaped her.

"I promise."

He cast her a smile that revealed more relief than he had probably intended it to and leaned down to press his lips on her scar. Her eyes fell closed and with the feeling of his lips lingering over her skin, she almost didn't have it in her to realize how clichée it was, him kissing her discomfort away and turning it into something beautiful.

Loving and being loved. Like it was the only thing worth satisfying stereotypes and to not even be bothered by it. Like it was the most complex thing that resulted in human simplicity.

Like it was the core of life and with it, everything that mattered.


Your skin is dressed,
Our souls are nude.
I bury mine
In your warm chest.
Love is wicked,
Love is lewd.
But loving you
I like the best.

Chapter Text

“Hey! There you are, we were starting to get a little worried.”

Diane’s facial features cringed up and she hastily scraped her front teeth over her bottom lip. Before she could have come up with any mediocre explanation, Kurt squeezed her hand, jumped in and took care of it. “Traffic.”, he said before his hand left hers to pull out her chair for her.

 

“I promise.”

His lips left her skin and he leaned up, naturally rising above her height and finding her eyes while he felt her fingertips continue to dance over his shoulder blade.

“I love you.”, he whispered eventually, voicing his thoughts after a moment of mutual, silent confessions of love. As though he needed to say it in case the look in his eyes and the way they were locked with hers like there was an invisible rope spanned out between them, from one person to another, from one sight to the other, pulled to together until they themselves became took over the view. As though he needed to make sure that she knew, as if his eyes had not been screaming it at her like hers were doing it to him.

“And I love you.”, she whispered back, shooting him a smile before she rose on her tiptoes, pulling him closer again to embrace his lips with hers. Slowly and gently, her tongue found its way in between his warm flesh to brush against his, softly asking it for a dance he would never turn down. His arm tensed around her and a sigh, close to a groan, escaped him into her when her hand suddenly left his shoulder blade and landed between them beneath the metal buckle of his belt. His hips involuntarily twitched into her touch, only spurring her further on to begin to massage the hardening bulk.

Before she could deepen their kiss, Kurt pulled away to cast her a hesitant look. “Di… We’re already late.”

Swallowing hard, she shook her head, her fingers remaining where they were, her voice raspy when she spoke. “Just… please, just let me have this, okay?”

He didn’t answer audibly. One of his bows furrowed and small wrinkles, the visible remainders of his pain merging with his surprise over seeing hers displayed so freely in his creases.

“Kurt, please.”, she breathed out before he had the chance to come up with something to say. “I need this. And I know you do, too.”

Her body was unshielded in the sole protection of her red lace underwear, her face unguarded in the lack of makeup on it, the only part of her daily armour that she had left in that moment was the perfect head of blonde curls that were framing her face like the most beautiful photograph of all.

He always thought that she was beautiful, no matter what she wore or what colour her lipstick of the day was, but right now, as her long and naked lashes fluttered over her bright blue eyes like the graceful wings of a bird or a butterfly, now that she was almost sheepishly biting down on her naturally reddened bottom lip…

She had never been more beautiful. It was as though with every day that passed, every new side he was blessed to see from her, with every second they spent breathing along with the other to the pace of their shared life, she just kept on getting more and more beautiful.

His face softened and he saw relief flying over hers in answer before he dipped his head again to kiss her.

 

“Traffic?”, Will asked, his suspicion audible as he suggestively arched an eyebrow while she got seated. Her crimson red lips parted, but once again, Kurt answered before she had the chance to stumble over her own words.

“Yeah, it was a catastrophe. First the truck wouldn’t run and then an accident on the 45th.” He shrugged casually, pushed her chair closer to the table from behind and took the seat next to her. His hand instinctively landed on the small of her back and the sleek silk of her dress let the warmth of his palm run like a shiver through her skin. “It was my fault though, she told me a dozen times that I need to go take it to get checked again.”

Tilting her head, she shot him a small, grateful smile before she turned to the round again. “He never listens to me.”, she told them and could practically feel his brows shooting together next to her.

“Oh, don’t I know that feeling.”, Alicia said dryly and chuckled when Will’s jaw dropped.

“I feel like it’s the opposite around with us.”, Adrian said before he took a big sip of scotch and Liz’s hand wrapped around his shoulder.

“Diane!”, she exclaimed in exaggeration and a little too loudly for the extravagancy of the French restaurant. “What a gorgeous dress!”

“Oh!”, Diane snickered and looked down on herself.

 

“Damn it, we’re so fucking late!”, he heard her curse, closely followed by the hasty clicking of her high heels against the steps.

He smirked to himself while he took her coat off the rack. He was not a big curser himself, quite the opposite really in his rather silent nature, used to keep things to himself in sharp contrast to his outspoken wife. And there was something about that elegant and dignified woman losing her cool in situations that made her curse, something deeply human that she didn’t just let anyone see, pretty impressive sometimes when she did it in business to show who was holding the power and most of the time, something really sweet and quirky. When she would hit her toes on furniture, when she would break a nail, when she was unsuccessfully attempting to cook, or when they were impolitely late for pre-Christmas dinner with their friends because of spontaneous mutual oral sex in the bathroom.

“Not to be that guy, but you were the one who seduced me first.”, he called and grinned when he heard her scoff offendedly.

“Hah! Well, not to be that woman, but I also got the job done faster than you.”

He shook his head. “You know that I was teasing you.”

“We were already late, that was not the right time to tease!”

Rolling his eyes in amusement, he turned to face the staircase, car keys in hand, her coat over his arm, when he saw her.

She’d told him that they were going to one of those fancy restaurants she liked so much, where they sold two basil leaves, a little splash of balsamic vinegar and a floral radish cut as a fifty-dollar entrée, when she’d had to break the news to him of that he would have to wear a suit.

But still, he never, not in a million years could have been prepared for the sight in front of him when he saw her hastily stepping down the stairs, one hand holding up the dark and shimmery teal silk of her floor-length dress so she wouldn’t stumble and break her promise to him of staying out of the hospital tonight, the other one clutching a small, silver purse.

Her lips were her usual crimson red, her eyes bright and blue and it was as if all the light in the hallway was originating from them, as if they were eternal sources of energy like the sun. The blue shone even brighter than it normally did, brought out by the teal colour of her dress. Dark silk that looked light and flowing like warm waves of water and still rich at the same time, hugging her slim curves tightly, pooling in waves above her cleavage to reveal the silver necklace she wore. She preferred gold on normal days, but this was the heart-shaped necklace he’d given her for her birthday, years and years ago because he hadn’t known her preferences better than that at the time. They’d only been dating for a couple of months back then. The first birthday gift he’d ever made her.

It was small in comparison to the bigger statement necklaces she would normally choose. Just a small, silver heart-chain, simple but pretty and he still remembered how stupidly clueless he’d felt when he’d picked it up from the jewellery store over ten years ago. Things like this were far out of his territory and he’d wanted to give her something that would truly make her happy, something she really would enjoy. And even though he had seemingly been off with his choice, her eyes had lightened up at the sight of it when she’d unpacked the small present that the lady from the store had so politely offered to wrap up for him and put a pretty bow on it that he couldn’t have recreated in a million years.

“What?”, she suddenly asked timidly, and he snapped out of his memories to find her gaze, right now, right here, where she was even more beautiful than he remembered her to have been all those years ago. “Is it too much?” She scraped her front teeth over her bottom lip and nervously looked down on herself, her fingers dancing over the silk to sooth non-existent wrinkles in the fabric.

A small smirk formed on her face when he kept on staring at her silently for another moment, his lips parted but the words caught in his throat until he shook his head. “No. You-“ He cut himself off by shaking his head again. “Wow.”

She laughed a warm chuckle and pressed a small kiss on his lips. The tip of his index finger landed on the small silver chain when she leaned away and he watched it tracing over its shape, the silver warm from her body heat, before his eyes found hers again. Blue had never looked warm until he’d seen it in her eyes for the first time.

“Can you believe it’s been almost eleven years?”, he asked, and she smiled.

“No. Time flies when you’re having a good one.”, she said, and he laughed. “But honey, as much as I love the rare sight of you being sentimental, we really need to go now.”

He nodded. “You’re right.”, he said. His perplexity rose when she kept on looking at him, uncoated amusement in her smirk, until he realized that he was still holding her coat. “Oh.”, he exclaimed and turned to help her into it along to the soft music of her laughter.

 

“Thank you.”, she said and looked aside when she heard Kurt’s voice.

“I thought so, too.”


 

Liz and Adrian were the first ones to leave as eleven pm neared, the time they’d agreed on with Malcolm’s babysitter.

“He talks a lot about you two. I think he really had a great time that night.”, Liz told them at some point and Diane and Kurt were both fast to offer watching him again, whenever they needed them to.

Will and Alicia stayed for another one-and-a-half glasses of red wine until Will decided that his pleasantly tipsy wife should probably call it a night. He offered them to share a cab but since they’d come here with Kurt’s truck, they decided to stay for a little longer.

Kurt’s fingertips were dancing over the silk that covered her right thigh as he listened to her talk. The pianist in the middle of the dimly lit, decadent room was still playing, even though there were only two other couples left in the restaurant apart from them.

“I’m sorry.”, she suddenly said, and his brows shot together.

“For what?”

“I know this isn’t your preferred kind of a night.” The corner of her lips twitched, and her fingers landed on his shoulder, brushing up and down in the rhythm of his on her thigh. “We can leave if you want to.”, she offered softly and he smiled, shaking his head.

“No. It’s okay.”

“You sure?”, she asked softly, and he nodded again.

“I am. I want to watch you for another few minutes.”

Diane’s eyes left his and a timid smile formed on her lips. He leaned in, brushed her hair behind her ear and pressed a kiss on her cheek. “You look incredible, Di.”, he said when she looked at him again and her lips parted in order to say something, when she was cut off by the pianist’s dramatic finale that ended with him standing up and bowing down.

They joined in the small applause of the other two couples and the staff, until he began to pack up his belongings and left.

Diane’s eyes remained on the piano in the middle and after a small moment she spoke up softly. “Did I ever tell you that I used to play?” Her head tilted aside again, and she looked at him.

“What, the piano?”, he asked, and she nodded. “No, you never told me that.”, he said and drew a soft, nonsensical pattern over her thigh, his fingers gliding smoothly over the sleek fabric.

A smile formed on her red lips. “Well, I did. My father taught me.” She reached for her glass of cabernet sauvignon, swallowed a sip and put it on the table again, her fingers remaining on the cool stem to twirl it around in small, lazy movements as she looked at him. “He was very good and my mother would always sing along when he played.”

“So, you got the best of both worlds?”, he asked, and she chuckled.

“No, I was never as good as him. And my mother had a soprano voice, while I… well, I obviously don’t.”

Kurt shrugged. “It’s still beautiful.”, he said, and she shot him a weak half-smile.

“We… we were never a-“ She cleared her throat. “We were never a happy family in the true meaning of the word. My mother and I fought a lot and then she would fight with my father about it and it was… difficult. But music was always the one thing that brought all of us together, you know?”

He nibbled on the inside of his cheek. She’d told him about her parents before, obviously, but this was a little different. He knew that she’d never had the relationship with her mother that she’d wished, needed to have, had ever been able to meet the woman’s expectations that had simply differed too much with her own dreams and wishes for the future. She didn’t usually talk about it and he knew that was her way to cope, to try and forget. But that didn’t really put it away. It was rather saving it for a later point.

“Yes.”, he said and caused a slight look of relaxation to brighten her eyes.

There’d been times when the two of them had fought, really fought, yelled at each other at the top of their lungs for hours and hours about God knew what. And even though those days were lying in the past now, there were still moments when they would collide every now and then. She would get annoyed with him over something, he would be pissed at her about something else. And he couldn’t help but think that this was probably where it originated from, from the differences in how they’d been raised.

She was an only child; he had a younger sister. His parents had had future visions for him too, obviously, but it had never been an issue if he didn’t agree with them. His father had always, above anything, wanted him to become a proud man and his mother had only ever wanted him to be happy. His parents had loved him, his sister and each other so dearly until the very end and when he looked back now, he knew how his childhood had first and foremost been engraved with unconditional love. He’d never had to feel lonely or as though he wasn’t enough, like it was his job as a kid to please his parents’ unsatisfiable dreams.

He’d just been a kid. And he knew that it had been different for her. Quite the opposite, actually.

“He started to teach me when I was three.”, she continued, and Kurt raised his brow. She chuckled. “No, no. It wasn’t like that. I would sit on his lap and he would play, and I just sat there and watched for hours. I know there are photographs of that somewhere, I really need to find them and show them to you. I think you’d like them.”

Kurt nodded, smiling at her. “I’m sure I would.”

She looked at him, suddenly huffed out a breath of amusement and shook her head. “Yeah, anyway, that was always our thing. He… he stopped playing when my Mom died.” The tip of her index finger brushed over her bottom lip. “And then I stopped when he did.”

She took another sip of red and her gaze stayed on the piano when she put the glass down again. He shifted in his seat, moving a little closer to her. “Why?”, he asked, and she shrugged without turning to face him.

“It didn’t feel right.”, she whispered, and he watched her profile for a small moment, his brows furrowed, his heart aching for her when the waiter’s voice pulled him out of his trance.

“Anything I can do for you, monsieur et madame?”, he asked politely in a heavy French accent and Kurt smirked.

“Uhm, yes, my wife was wondering if she may play on your piano.”

Diane’s head snapped up and she stared at him in horror. “What-“

The waiter looked around, his eyes scanning the room for other guests until his gaze settled on his again. “Of course, monsieur.”

Kurt nodded. “Thank you.”, he said, and the waiter moved on.

“Kurt!”, Diane hissed sharply, and he looked at her.

“Yep?”

“I haven’t played in almost twenty years, I’m not going to embarrass myself in a room full of strangers!”

He shrugged. “Better not fuck it up then.”

She blinked a few times, tilted her head and arched an eyebrow. He loved it when she did that. “Kurt-“

“There's basically no one here, Di.”, he cut her off and held out his hand for her. “Come on.”

She stared at him for another second before a look of defeat washed over her face and she placed her hand in his. “You owe me so bad.”, she mumbled as they got up and he chuckled, guiding her around the table and into the direction of the piano.

“We’ll see.”, he said and pressed another kiss into her hair. It smelled of flowers, roses and lavender, sweet like a vanilla bean and tempting like only she had ever tempted him.

His hand on the small of her back, he softly pushed her to the stool behind the piano and leaned against the dark, polished and varnished wood, smirking at her when she looked at him with a gaze that could have cut a lesser man into pieces.

“What?”, he chuckled, and she scoffed.

“I really hate you sometimes.”, she said bitterly, her eyes leaving his to fly over the keyboard.

“Must be true love.”, he shot back and earned himself another sharply arched eyebrow, before her eyes began to reveal a glimpse of something he couldn’t place. Her tongue dipped out between her lips and wet them.

“I don’t know what to play.”, she confessed in a small, nervous laugh at her own silliness and Kurt leaned a little closer to her.

“What was the last thing you played?”, he asked, and she shook her head in thought.

“Oh God, I don’t know…”, she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair until her eyes widened in realization.

“What is it?”, he asked, furrowing his brows and she shook her head again, casting him a small, feigned smile.

“Nothing, it’s silly.”, she laughed shakily, and he tilted his head.

“Tell me.”

Her face fell and she pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, nibbling on it for a small moment. “I… I played O Mio Babbino Caro when I saw my Dad for the last time.”, she whispered. “That was the first one he taught me.”

Kurt looked at her silently until he was able to find words. “Okay, no. I’m sorry, that was stupid.”

To his surprise, she shook her head and cast him a smile, a real one this time. “No, it’s not. I mean, at least I know that one by heart.”, she said and tilted her head amusedly. “Hopefully.”

He huffed out a breath of amusement and looked around the almost empty restaurant. “No one’s watching, so…” He gestured with his hand and made her laugh. He’d always been impatient.

And so, she began.


 

She did still know the notes by heart. And, of course, she didn’t embarrass herself.

And even though he had a great overview through the restaurant from his place across from her, he couldn’t have said whether or not the strangers present were paying that much attention to it, because when one of her dainty fingertips pushed the first key, it was as though everything else disappeared around him.

It was only them. Him and her and the piano.

Her left brow was furrowed and she was biting her tongue in a painfully distracting movement of concentration with which he was familiar from watching her work, but over the cause of the first couple of tunes, she got more secure, her face softened and her eyes expressed a look he had never seen in them before in almost eleven years of knowing her.

They’d met each other through work. He had met her while she’d been doing something she was passionate about, something she was invested in, something she loved. And watching her now, after being with her for over a decade, after being married to her for more than five years, watching her while she was falling back in love with something she had put aside for decades, it was as though he was falling in love with her all over again.

His mother had once told him that marriage meant committing to having to fall in love with each other again every day. Working for a relationship without ever stopping. Working for each other, for love with everything one could give.

But she’d never taught him that there would be someone who would make it so simple, so very easy for him to do so. Someone who’d make him want to do all that, someone who would be so deeply and entirely lovable that it wasn’t even a challenge anymore.

She’d never taught him that. Diane had taught him that. And she didn’t even know about it. She didn’t even know how incredible, how special she was.

And it was right there and at this moment, that he promised himself to show her and with that, to try and give back all the things she was giving him, to give back everything she meant, like his purpose in life. And maybe it was just that.

She played the last tunes, slowly as if to prolong the feeling of the keys beneath her fingers, to linger in it for another moment, and then she stopped and looked up to him.

It was silent in the French restaurant while they were simply looking at each other, her in search for his reaction, him in search of what he could possibly say to do her justice. And then the silence was disrupted by the squeaking of a chair, followed by the sound of someone clapping.

Diane’s head shot aside as she looked at the man who’d began to applaud her and saw the woman he was with following his example. And so did the other couple and the people from the staff.

Kurt’s eyes were still on her. And he didn’t think that he could have taken them off her, even if he’d wanted to.

“Thank you.”, she laughed eventually, and from the side, he could see her cheeks taking on and pink shade of red. When she turned back to him, he held out his hand for her to help her up and with a small and stupidly adorable curtesy she turned away from the people who were sitting back down or getting back to their work.

Her eyes met his and she shot him a lopsided smirk. “And you told me no one was looking.”, she said teasingly and Kurt grinned, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her into him for a deep kiss before she could process what he was doing.

She whimpered into him, her hand landing on his rough cheek as his tongue found hers and she didn’t even have it in her to worry about the people around them and/or the fact that his finger were starting to dip dangerously low on the small of her back.

There was only them. There was only love.

 

You present me with the beauty
That lies
Within
Around
Beneath
And above
Everything you do.
The world lost true direction
‘Cause every path desirable
Leads me back to you.

Chapter Text

It was the night before Christmas. The cold wind rushed through the darkness as the snow started to cover the majority of Illinois in a pale shade of white, just in time for the holidays.

Cursing under his breath, Kurt dropped the small red lighter on the dinner table, shaking his hand through the air to sooth the burned skin on the tip of his thumb that had gotten in contact with the flame while he had lit the last one out of the four scented candles. He shook his head while his eyes stayed on the sight of the Advent wreath that she’d found at the florist a couple of weeks ago.

Her smile had almost been childishly silly when she’d come home that day and showed it to him. There was something about Christmas time that always offered him a new side of her, the light in her beautiful eyes when they would light candles, when they’d find the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it together, or when she would kiss him underneath the mistletoe in the hallway or at the local farmer’s market. A child-like innocence in her joy that could have seemed like a contradiction to her normally so well-composed character to someone who didn’t know her as well as he did.

In all the years that he’d lived alone, he had never done this, made the effort to buy a tree, let alone decorate his house for the season. He always spent the holidays at his sister’s place with the rest of his family anyway, so he had never seen a reason to do it, just for him to see, had never cared enough to do it just for himself. Now, with the two of them living together, he still wouldn’t exactly deem it a necessity to do so, but he’d be lying if he said that the domesticity about it didn’t make it feel like their relationship had grown to let them become more than a couple, more than spouses even. They were a family. And after all, there was nothing quite like seeing her getting all excited about simple things that he’d never really cared about, nothing quite like her sweetness that showed when they did this together. They loved it, each in their own way.

He reached into his jeans pocket when his phone started ringing, answered without having to look at the display to know that this wasn’t a business call. “Hey.”, he said grimly, sinking down onto a chair and watching as his thumb took on a shade of red in the candlelight.

“Hey.”, she answered, her cautious voice mirroring that she was a little taken aback by the surprise of his tone. “You sound grumpy.”

A smile almost involuntarily formed beneath his moustache and he huffed out a breath of amusement. “Nah, I just burned my finger. Those vanilla candles of yours have it in for me.”

He grinned when she began to laugh on the other line. “Oh, my poor, clumsy husband.”, she snickered, and he frowned.

“Says you.”

“Sorry?”

He shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Did you hold it under cold water?”, she asked, and he shook his head, rolling his eyes.

“No, it’s not that bad.”

“Kurt.”, she said pointedly, and he remained silent, suppressing a chuckle. “Okay, whatever.”, she eventually said after a short while of silence, causing him to brace himself for whatever smart remark she had in store for him. “And, by the way, they’re cinnamon scented, not vanilla.”

Kurt scrunched up his nose and took a deep breath, inhaling the strong and sweet artificial scent. “In what world does cinnamon smell like this?”

“In the world of France.”

“So, Europe? That explains it.”, he snorted and could practically hear her rolling her eyes.

“I ordered them online.”, she said, and he shook his head.

“For a small fortune, I’d imagine. Why don’t you just let me buy candles at Target?”

There was a small moment of silence hitting him from her line. “You didn’t really just ask me that, did you?”

“Guess I did.” He shrugged. “Anyway, when are you coming home? Your gift is waiting for you.”

“Uhm, that’s actually the reason why I called.”

Kurt’s smile vanished and he let out a sigh. “Di, the paperwork can wait. You said so yourself, remember?”

“Oh! No, it’s not that. It’s the snowstorm. They said on the news that it isn’t safe to drive right now, so it will take a little longer until I get back.”

Turning his head, he looked over to the window front to find them revealing nothing much, the sight hidden behind a wall of thick, white snowflakes that fell down on the streets of Chicago at a rapid pace, like a frozen waterfall.

“Stay there.”, he said, watching the small mountain of snow on the windowsill grow bigger and bigger as the seconds passed by. “I’ll pick you up.”

“Kurt, aren’t you listening? It’s not safe at this moment, it doesn’t make a difference who does the driving.”

“I am the better driver out of the two of us and you know it.”

“Yeah, you’re also a smug bastard sometimes.”

“I like it when you talk dirty to me.”

The silence on the other line was telling, and the thought of her rolling her eyes again made him smile. He could picture it from her silence; she was probably wearing her reading glasses, the black ones—he’d seen them on her nose when they had parted in the morning, after she’d placed a hasty kiss on his lips before they’d went along and stepped into their respective cars. Those bright blue eyes, rolling up beneath the rim of her reading glasses, the hint of a smile that she didn’t want to grant him tugging on one corner of her crimson red lips.

“Kurt, I’m serious. Just… don’t drive, okay?”, she asked softly, her voice almost fragile, the sound of it making his smile disappear again.

“Yeah, okay.”, he sighed and leaned back into the chair. “You alone?”

“Yes, almost at the elevator.”

His brows shot together. “What, why?”

“I’m walking home.”

“Diane, no! Are you crazy?”

“Maybe.”, she mumbled, a mischievous twist in her voice that was always accompanied by a grin.

Kurt groaned. “Hold on, I’m grabbing my jacket.”, he said, jumping off his chair, blowing the candles out again and rushing to the hallway.

“Kurt, stay home. I’ll be there in twenty, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s dark outside.”

“And I’m a grown woman. It’s fine, really.”

“We’ll meet in the middle. Don’t let anyone pinch you.”

And with that, he hung up.

The visible streaks of her ragged exhale mingled with the snowflakes until she soon couldn’t see them anymore. Pushing her cold fingers further into her coat pockets, she thinned her eyes to try and improve her sight, but there wasn’t much too see, except for the red light across from her on the other side of the dark and empty street, and the white blots of heavy snow.

The light turned green, she shook her head and went on, her shoulders bouncing up in her attempt to warm her bare neck while she tried not to slip on the icy ground.

In retrospective, she probably shouldn’t have put on stilettos in the morning.

Her head was bowed down as she watched her black heels getting buried in the snow, one tiny pile of white on each pointed tip, trying to look for spots on the ground that didn’t look as slippery, but the attempt came close to looking for a needle in a haystack. The snow was fresh and no one in their right mind would walk these streets in the upcoming of what was predicted to be one of Chicago’s worst snowstorms in the past decade.

“Hey.”, a gruff, familiar voice suddenly made her flinch and caused her to raise her head, one of her red, cold hands leaving her moderately warm coat pocket to clutch her chest.

“My god, you scared me!”, she exclaimed and one of his brows arched up.

“I told you I would come.”, he said, shrugging.

Her sight of him was slightly disrupted, both by the darkness and the snow that was furiously pacing through the windy air, as he reached into his worn-out suede jacket.

“You’re wearing that jacket? Kurt, you’re gonna get a cold, come on—", she began, only to be shut off when he pulled a long, creme white cashmere scarf out of his jacket, stepped a little closer and wrapped it around her neck. It was still warm from being tucked between his shirt and jacket.

“Too tight?”

“Uh, no.” Her quivering lips were still parted while she looked up at him. His eyes met hers when his short nod silently voiced that he was pleased with what he’d done. He found her looking at him, a questioning gaze in her eyes and he shrugged.

“You left it on the dresser in the hallway. Thought you might need it.” He shrugged again, as though it wasn’t worth mentioning and Diane’s brows shot up.

“Thank you.”, she said, still a little taken aback, and he smiled, turning as they began to walk home together.

“I hope it gets better overnight.”, she said, her head turning to her left to catch his eye. “Or it’ll be one hell of a drive to Andrea’s tomorrow.”

He nodded. “I’ll call her in the morning. If it’s too bad, we’ll just drive out after the holidays. Maybe spend New Year’s there, if you’d like that.”, he said, and her teeth sank into her quivering bottom lip.

“Yes, sure… Hey, I’m sorry I couldn’t take today off.”, she said softly, and his warm eyes met hers.

“Don’t be. She’ll understand.” He shook his head and she exhaled deeply, the warmth of her breath lingering visibly in the cold air.

“And what about you?”, she tried cautiously.

“I always do.”

Diane swallowed and came to a halt, looking at him when he turned with a look of surprise on his features. “Maybe you shouldn’t.”, she mumbled, barely loud enough for him to hear, and looked away when he stepped closer to her.

“Maybe.” He shrugged and one of his warm hands landed on her cold cheek. His skin, his gaze, they were always so warm, so genuine, so inviting, even in the coldest of nights. “But I do.”

“Kurt, she is your sister. They’re your family. I just… I didn’t want you to have to miss out on spending the holidays with them because of me.”

The snowflakes kept on getting caught on his frame, gathering in the wrinkles of the suede material that covered his arms and shoulders, landing on his hair and hardly melting before others dropped by to keep them company, leaving it looking almost silvery in the weak light of the nearby streetlights. Like they were trying to frame his beauty.

He shook his head and a single one landed in his right brow, only to quickly melt away to a small droplet of water in the warmth of his skin. “I won’t. You’re my family, too.”

Her frown vanished and he brushed his thumb gently over the corner of her lips that had twitched aside, before he leaned down to kiss her. His touch was warmth, his stubbly beard heat against her soft and cool skin, his tongue was her counterpart and he was perfection.

Utter perfection that left her with the urge to call the press, to scream it out loud, to spread the news for the world to know. She had found perfection and she had found it in him.

Her eyes fluttered open when he pulled away, finding his smile and mirroring it with one of her own, a lesser version of what she saw but still attempting to give it back, even if she could never do him justice.

“Let’s go home, before you freeze to death.”, he said, and she chuckled with a nod.

They went on and his head turned to her when he heard her soft voice. “I love you. I really love you.”

And he cast her a smile, told her, “I really love you, too.”, and his warm, big hand slipped into her coat pocket so he could entwine her cold fingers with his.

It’s like one of those movies he hates, she thought as she squeezed his hand and smiled back at him.

It was like one of those movies. The only difference was that this was real.

“Oh my god, it’s hurts!”, she exclaimed, rubbing her stiff fingers together when the warmth of the house hit her cold limbs like needles pricking her skin.

Kurt locked the door behind them and shook his head. “You’re such a girl, sometimes.”

“You’re so sexist, sometimes.”, she shot back as he spun around and his gaze fell on her. The snow in her hair was about to melt away in the change of temperature, but right now, it was still there, glistening in the tousled blonde curls that were messily framing her face, now that they had gotten a little wet.

“You look really sweet.”, he said softly and watched as her smile widened.

“You look like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”, she said, lifting a finger to tap it against his flushed nose and though he tried to suppress it, a small chuckle escaped him.

“Thank you.”, he said, slipping out of his wet jacket and taking her coat from her to hang them up on the rack while she pulled her stiletto heels off her cold, stocking-clad feet.

“God, this feels good.”, she sighed, catching his attention and one of his brows arched up.

“You’ve been wearing these the whole time?”, he asked pointedly with a small nod to the discarded black shoes and causing her to frown.

“Yes…?”

His eyes widened. “Diane, you could’ve slipped and…” He made a weird gesture with his hand to underline his loss for words. “I don’t know, broken your ankle or hit your head.”

Instinctively, she rolled her eyes, even though he could not see it while he slipped out of his boots, her hands landing on her hips. “Oh, come on. I’m not that clumsy.”

Kicking his shoes aside, he looked up at her, his brow still arched up. “Yes, you are, and you know it.”, he insisted, and she shook her head. He took a step towards her, his hands landing on her cold, upper arms. “No hospitals, remember?”

A deep sigh escaped her before she eventually nodded. Kurt shot her a smile, dipping his head to place a kiss on the tip of her nose.

“Rudolph.”, he chuckled and pulled a grin from her. “We should probably get changed.”

“Yeah, hold on a second.”, she said, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back to the front door.

“What?”

She looked back and smirked before they got to stand beneath the small leaves of green, held together with a ruby red bow, that was hanging from the ceiling. “I want to kiss you.”

“You could have kissed me over there.”, he said with an arched brow and a nod to their prior position.

“I know that.”

Rolling his eyes in feigned annoyance, he suppressed a smile at the sweet look she was casting up at him, now that she was dwarfed by him without her high heels on. “That’s so cliché.”

“What, and you kissing me in the snow wasn’t cliché?”, she grinned and caused him to give in and smile back at her.

“Point taken.”, he said before she rose on her tiptoes, wrapped her arms around him and closed the gap between their lips, letting the warmth of the house, the heat of her husband take in her cold and swallowing it in hold in the face of his warm fingers meeting on her lower back, his lips brushing against hers, their tongues welcoming each other home while the snow in their hair melted away.

They parted, slowly and leisurely. Diane stayed on her tiptoes as they looked at each other for another short moment, just taking each other in behind the front door that parted them from the raging snowstorm, underneath the mistletoe that fulfilled the cliché in the very best way.

“Dinner or presents first?”, Kurt asked eventually and she smirked.

“Hmm. Presents.”

He nodded, his fingers brushing over her back. “Okay. Come on, I’ll light a fire.”

Christmas presents weren’t a true necessity between them anymore, the whole idea had started to almost be a little silly ever since they’d been sharing a bank account anyway. Now, it was purely about the gesture of giving the other something they’d like but wouldn’t purchase themselves for whatever reason there was for it. It wasn’t about money anymore, just about the gesture. And maybe that was silly, but it didn’t feel like it was.

“Can I come in?”, she asked loudly, as the second hand of her golden wristwatch told her that it had been exactly five minutes, just as he had requested.

“One second.”, she heard his voice coming out of the bedroom and she rolled her eyes, her gaze flying from the small, red present in her hand to the equally red little toy car on his side of the bathroom stand, while she tried not to fumble with the white silk bow that she’d so carefully crafted and placed on top of the gift, to keep herself from destroying her work.

“Come in!”, his voice echoed into the separated space and she smiled, turning on her heels and walking into the candlelit room, her hand and the little package she was holding hidden behind her back.

“All set?”, she asked playfully as she sank down on the couch, coming into a cross-legged seating position across from him and he grinned.

“Yep.”, he said and caused her smile to widen.

“Hey, this is actually really nice, isn’t it? Exchanging presents the night before Christmas, just the two of us?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up making it a tradition.”

“I’d like that.” A smile tugged on the corners of her lips. “So, who goes first?”, she asked with little effort to hide her excitement.

He smiled warmly at her. “You.”

"Alright." She gave him a firm nod and brought her hand from behind her back between them, holding the small, light package out for him to take before she bit her bottom lip, attentively watching him opening it.

The lid of the ruby red box in one hand, he glanced at the small metal object on the white cushion that covered the bottom of the box that he held with the other, until he lifted his head to show her his frown. “A key?”, he asked curiously, and her front teeth let go of her bottom lip as her grin widened.

“Correct. Well, actually two keys, but I already have mine.”, she explained, and Kurt’s lips parted in sweet confusion as he eyed her for a moment of silence, in which she knew that he was trying to figure out if he was missing the obvious in this.

“What are they for?”, he asked sheepishly, as if he were afraid that it was a stupid question.

“Handcuffs.”

His brows jumped up.

“They’re pink and fluffy.”

Before he could try to stammer his way around this, she decided to put him out of the misery of his cluelessness.

“That was a joke. Pink wouldn’t go well with my nails at all.”, she chuckled, but the look on his face remained the same. “They’re for a small cottage in Costa Rica. And before you can protest, it’s not much, only one bedroom, an eat-in kitchen, a bathroom and a very small patio. But the sunlight shines in quite beautifully, and the patio has just enough space for two deckchairs, a grill and a table, and it’s only a ten-minute walk away from the beach.” Folding her hands in her lap, she tilted her head, smiling at him as he slowly lowered the lid with the white bow on top to set it aside on the coffee table, his eyes shifting back and forth between the small metal key on the silk cushion in the box and her eyes, his lips still slightly parted, as they always were when he was struggling to make sense of something.

She still remembered that he had looked at her like that when they’d first met, years and years ago. It felt like the day had been passed since forever and like it had been yesterday at the very same time.

“Di, I… I don’t understand—”, he stuttered before she interrupted him gently.

“It was built in the mid-sixties, when the country started to really invest into expanding the sector of tourism, and it was meant to be for visitors who wanted a more quiet and rather authentic experience of the culture, far away from big hotels, exclusive beach areas and city plazas. It used to be up for rent, like most summer cottages are, but the landlady died a couple of months ago and her son is now trying to sell the handful of cottages she owned and took care of, instead of keeping them available to rent. I met with him to sign the papers, he lives here in the US, just outside of New York, with his wife and their kids, and he just wants things settled. They’re too far away from them to do the renters justice, it’s too much responsibility and they can’t exactly commute that easily either.”

“You…”, he began, but stopped, looking at the key again and back at her, blinking a couple of times through the semi-darkness. “You bought a house?”

She smiled, shaking her head. “No sweetheart, we bought a house. As soon as you co-sign the contract of course, to make it official, but I obviously already put your name on it next to mine. I just had to sign it on my own in advance to get the keys, so I could actually give you something today.” Her hand fell on his knee and she began to stroke his skin through the fabric of his warm sweatpants. “Anyway, I sat down with Will, Liz and Adrian and they all liked the idea. They’re going to help me make this possible for us. I want you to pick a date so we can go there for four weeks, maybe even a month, next year. And the year after that. And the one after that. You just name a date—any date you’d like—and we’ll go. Okay, not any date, but you get the idea. I mean, you know I can’t just leave if I’m in the middle of a court case, but other than that, I’ll make it work, for you and for us, and—”

He cut her off with an open-lipped kiss, his arm slinging around her shoulders and pulling her closer, while she chuckled into him as he gave her all that he had, because even his everything would never be enough to compete with what she was doing for him, to reach the emotional depth of the matter she had just simply fulfilled. There was not enough love in the world that would let this come close to even.

Her lips, her eyes, her breathing and the soft flush of her cheeks, they were all smiling at him when they parted, when his free hand took hers to bring it to his lips and press a kiss on her knuckles, to let their entwining fingers fall into her lap together, as he stared at her in search for words, while she just kept on smiling, like she hadn’t made the greatest effort, had not just made the greatest gesture either of them had ever made in their relationship, the biggest gesture anyone had probably ever made in any relationship, for any other person in the world.

“Di, I…”, he began, squeezing her hand while he shook his head. “This is too much.”

A small chuckle escaped her and she tilted her head aside, a stray blonde curl falling lazily into her face in the movement. “No, it’s not. And it’s really not much, but since I know that you don’t like ‘much’ anyway, I thought it was just perfect.” Shifting in her position without letting go of his hand, she crept closer to him, letting her shoulder come to rest next to his against the back of the couch, letting the fingers of her free hand wander over his cheek, his hair, his presence. Feeling his texture, his warmth beneath her skin, her eyes following the path of her fingers before they settled on his.

“And I thought maybe, if we like it there…”, she continued softly. “Someday, when you’re too tired of living in the city and I’m too tired of living in the States, or when we just don’t feel like having responsibilities anymore, we could pack our things and just… I don’t know, make a life, as you’d put it. Put our life first, and drink coffee on our small patio in the middle of sunny nowhere while we watch the sunrise in the morning, or drink wine and scotch on it while we watch the sunset at night. I could finally teach you how to bluff, so we can defeat the local elderly in our weekly poker games together, we could finally get a new dog because we’d surely have the time to do that for once, or we could have picnics at the beach whenever we want to, and just be old and boring together, with nice suntans in the heat and saltwater in our hair, having sex all day if we still can, and only living off of fruit and steaks, if that’s the way you want it. Just putting our life first, just you and me. No work, no complications, just us, old and boring and grey and wrinkly, and together for the rest of our lives.”

She beamed at him, brushing her thumb over his cheek as his brow furrowed. He sniffed and tried to blink his tears away. “I…”, he began in a rasp. “I thought you wanted to move to the South of France.”, he finished lowly, his voice close to a whisper, and she threw her head back in laughter, her fingers digging into his hair and pulling him closer to press her lips against his scratchy cheek.

“Kurt, I don’t care where we go, as long as it means sunshine and the two of us.”, she said lightly, as though it were the obvious. As if it wasn’t the greatest, the purest confession of love. As if she weren’t the most incredible human being who had ever managed to exist, the greatest gift life could have made him.

“You are…” He swallowed, shaking his head again over his heartfelt frustration about words and the English language, over that it had failed to create a word, any descriptive, that would do her justice. “I don’t even think there’s a word for you.”

Her tongue pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, her front teeth capturing it for a moment, as it stretched in a smile. “Just say thank you and be glad that I didn’t get you pink, fluffy handcuffs.”

“Thank you.”, he said softly. “Thank you for… everything.”

For doing this.

For going out of your way to do this.

For going out of your way to do this for me.

For going out of your way to do this for us.

For being with me.

For loving me back.

For giving me us.

For existing.

She shrugged, pulling him close to embrace his lips with hers and to whisper softly against them. “I just really love you.”

They parted and he let go of her hand to brush her hair out of her eyes, before he pulled her close and pressed a kiss into her hair. “And you have no idea how thankful I am for that.”

She released a soft breath of amusement, turned her head to kiss his cheek as he attempted the same with hers and their noses ended up bumping into each other. They wordlessly settled on a short moment of silent eye-contact, blinking synchronously in confusion, before they fell into a light duet of laughter, until they parted and he shook his head.

“God, I wish I’d gone first.”, he chuckled, and Diane tilted her head.

“What, with giving me my present?”, she asked, and he nodded after he set the box on the coffee table.

“Yeah, I mean, how on earth am I supposed to follow that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. But now I’m intrigued to see you try.”, she challenged him playfully and watched as he reached behind him and grabbed a red silk sleep mask from the armrest on his side.

Her brow arched up as she shot him a mocking look. “You could have at least put some wrapping paper around it.”

He exhaled a breath of amusement and shook his head. “I wanna do something cliché again and blindfold you.”, he explained and she shrugged, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“I’m beginning to see a pattern. Wouldn’t be the first time, though.”

He rolled his eyes, trying to bite back a grin. “What is up with you tonight?”, he asked in feigned exasperation, and she sighed exaggeratedly.

“Oh, I don’t know. Something about you just makes me terribly naughty.” She pushed her bottom lip out in a pout and he put a kiss on it, which made her laugh.

“Close your eyes.”, he said and she followed his direction, let him clumsily put the sleep mask around her head and test if she could still see something.

“Did you just do that stupid ‘I shake my hand in front of your face and it will surely tell me if you can see it or not’-move?”, she asked and he chuckled.

“No.”, he lied, took her hands in his and helped her up.

“You truly cannot lie for the life of either one of us, can you?”, she mumbled as he guided her slowly around the house from behind her, his hands resting on her shoulder blades.

“Let’s just hope it never comes down to that.”, he muttered, concentrating on not letting her petite frame bump into the furniture.

“I swear to you, McVeigh, if you end up embarrassing me in front of our old and boring people future poker round, I will divorce the shit out of you.”

Guiding her around a corner, he suppressed a chuckle. “And what are you going to eat when I’m gone, Mrs. McVeigh?”

She remained silent for a short moment. “Okay, you got me there.”, she mumbled and he laughed.

“Stop.”, he said, and she stood still as he paced around to check if everything was still in place.

“Where are we?”, she asked, impatient as ever. “Is this the living room?”

“It is.”, he confirmed, nodded to himself and approached her again to slowly take off the sleep mask from behind.

“Kurt, I—Oh my god... You didn’t.”

Slow steps took her around the five-hundred lbs of white lacquered wood in front of them and she cautiously brushed her fingertips over the polished surface, looking at it like her touch could set it on fire any minute and let it evaporate again.

He followed her to her side and tried to catch her gaze. “Do you like it?”, he tried, his tone almost insecure and causing her to awake from her frozen state, spinning around to face him, her skin pale white in the soft, warm light of the candles and the Christmas tree.

And she slapped his upper arm. “Have you completely lost your mind?!”, she cried out, continuously swatting his arm as she did.

“So… you don’t like it?”

You give me shit for buying expensive French candles online instead of letting you buy some godforsaken cheaper ones at fucking Target, and you just go and buy me a fucking piano?!” She was yelling now. Not to mention repeating expletives, which was always a bad sign.

His brows shot together. “Uhm, Diane, dare I remind you that you just bought us a house?”

“That’s totally different!”, she screamed, her voice well above its usual pitch now.

Kurt narrowed his eyes at her. “Uh, yeah it is, because one is a piano, and the other one is a house.”

“It’s a cottage, and it’s for both of us!”

Shrugging, he tilted his head. “Well, this is a piano and it’s for you.”

“I… You…”, she stammered softly, her lips parted, the lower one quivering as she shook her head. “God, I don’t know what to say.”

He smiled, watching as tears began to glisten in her bright blue eyes. “Just say thank you and be glad that I didn’t get you pink, fluffy handcuffs… I guess.”

Something between a scoff and a chuckle escaped her before she slung her arms around his neck, holding him tight and letting him pull her into him as she pressed a series of kisses on his cheek.

“You’re crazy. You’re fucking crazy.”, she chuckled in between kisses and his smile widened.

“I just thought it would make you happy.”, he whispered into her hair and her head rose up so she could look at him.

“It does. Of course it does. Thank you so much. I…” She shook her head, placing another kiss on his lips instead. “Thank you.”

He shrugged lightly, the corner of his lips twitching aside while his fingers wandered over her back. “I’m glad you like it.”

Her smile stayed in place, the light layer of moisture in her eyes from the salty tears that had snuck into them remained, when her brows furrowed. “Kurt… this means a lot. Really, you have no idea how much.”

“Di, I… I just really love you.”, he said, his low voice hardly more than a whisper, making the frown on her forehead vanish again, before she leaned in for another embrace of their lips.

“And I’m endlessly thankful for that.”

 

Existence
Is thankfulness
When I’m existing by your side.

Chapter Text

January:

Sometimes, life had a way of twirling around in a sudden and unforeseeable change of direction. Living was like looking at a dancer on a stage, elegantly flying over the black linoleum surface of the floor in the movements of aesthetic ballet in the pace of Russian or French classical music, heading to one corner of the wide stage while one sat in the front row, attentively watching and all the while so taken in by the performance, so deeply relishing in the display of a view that could hardly be done justice with neither a verbal, nor a literal description or response, a work of art in all perfection of currency, that it led one to completely block out the possibility of a sudden change.

It was absurd, considering that from a seat in the front row, the whole stage and with its width, the numerous possibilities of changes in conformation, of sudden and unexpected turning points in the dancer's current performance, should seem impossible to miss.

But that was the conniving quirk of life. It always kept the spotlight on the present and the consideration of an obvious possibility of a different future limited to outsiders who were not as invested in the performance as the ones who were affected by it.

And the sick twist of people was that the spotlight of currency, the luminosity of momentary beauty and happiness, was enough for them to forget about what the shadows that it was casting over everything else, might have been hiding from them all along. Maybe it was the human part in everyone, the heartfelt desire to be able to linger in the need of having wishful thinking come true, of wanting to be able to live in daydreams and to experience eternal happiness in a world full of limits, to keep on watching the seemingly never-ending formation of the little ballerina that they would never get tired of.

Maybe it was human. But that did not mean that it wasn’t naive. It did not mean that it wasn’t weak. And it certainly did not declare it as a smart, self-protective way of living.

That is why the only word that would cross their minds later, when they would try to come up with a better one to describe their morning, was usual. Normal. Almost regular in the way in which happiness had become a part of their scheduled days, in the way they had gotten used to this way of living, in which luck and happiness had turned into normal casualties, as if by loving each other, they had turned into a pair of spoiled children that would dare to describe gifts, a stable family background and a safe and protected childhood as a matter of course, a casualty, when there were so many children that were not granted this luxury and when a protected childhood was always parted from collapsing by such brittle verges. As if they’d made each other worse and stupid by making the most out of their happiness.

A normal morning, uneventful in all its beauty, in all its unacknowledged perfection, in that it had become their new, high standard over the years of time they had shared together, over the years in which they had been sitting in the front row together, hand in hand, fingers entwined, mesmerized and eventually blinded into stupidity by the performance that was illuminated by the spotlight on stage. Their fingers brushing absent-mindedly over the other's, quick, shared glances in-between moments, acts of the show, and quickly looking away again as soon as the other one noticed in the beginning, or holding their gaze once time had brought enough trust and familiarity between them, not even considering that they might be forced to one day, unforeseeably leave separately, once the show was over.

Happiness was blinding. Like the sun, it easily managed to cast shadows over anything that could get in its way. And people were always so eager to be blinded, to try and forget about worries and the possibility of darkness, which was what made it so hard once the switch was suddenly pulled again and caused the light to vanish. Everybody knew how impossible it was to see anything at a sudden change of lighting, the eyes weren't used to the darkness anymore, they had gotten used to being spoiled by the luxury of light for far too long in all its intensity. People did stupid things at a loss of sight, like hitting their knees on bedside tables, or feeling helpless, or blindly searching for the switch, only to whine when they would realise that the switch was not that easy to find, once it was out of sight, and that some light was maybe only ever meant to be temporary, that the ballerina had spun around too ambitiously, lost her balance and fallen unluckily to now be unable to continue to please the crowd in the front row with her dancing. They would cry, like spoiled children they had become, who were used to getting what they wanted once they forced a few pathetic tears out of their eyes, like whiny little bitches that were afraid of the dark, because they did not know which way they were supposed to go now to get back to the way things had been.

Not realising that it might be gone for good.

Not realising that every source of light had its limit, no matter how endless, how powerful it had seemed in the moment, sometimes a small eternity.

Because every lightbulb stopped to work at some point. And because one day, even the sun was going to explode and pull everyone and everything within its reach into eternal darkness with it.

She did not open her eyes when she heard his alarm going off and pulling him out of his deep sleep. He shifted behind her, his arm leaving its secure place around her abdomen for a second in which his fingers blindly fumbled with nothingness on his nightstand, the sound of his nails running over the polished wood soft and almost entirely hidden beneath the loud, annoying beeping of the alarm.

It stopped and she heard the faint click of his bedside lamp being switched on. A soft but deep exhale, close to a sigh escaped her when his weight curved back against hers, his warmth covering her thoroughly and more securely than any piece of clothing, any fabric, any blanket, any house, ever could have done.

His palm slid gently over the light pink silk of her pyjama top as his lips brushed over her cheek.

“Di, wake up.”, he whispered before he pressed another kiss on her cheek, and she groaned softly, pressing her eyes more firmly shut.

“I don’t want to.”, she whispered back, a small pout squeezing her lips together.

There was something sweet about this naivety. About thinking that he was like a dream and therefore hoping that never having to wake up would allow her to hold onto him forever.

He chuckled, pressing his nose against her cheekbone while his head bobbed from side to side in small, barely-there movements, amusement and adoration meeting within them. His breathing was warm, spilling against her skin as it had all through the night, like the most convenient version of air conditioning, lending her the air, the warmth that she needed to breathe.

He fumbled with the loose fabric of her pyjama top, rolled a patch of light pink silk around between his thumb and index finger, like a child that was playing with their favourite toy. “I think you have to.”, he whispered and placed another kiss on her cheek.

She groaned again, slowly moved her arm and let her fingers curl into the gaps between his on her abdomen, gently stilling their movements and relishing in the feeling of his skin warming her cold hand as she slowly opened her eyes to find the darkness of the early hour in the room, softly disturbed by the light that emerged from his nightstand which caused her to close them again.

“What time is it?”, she rasped, her voice still throaty from her sleep.

“A little after six.”

“A little?”

“Eight minutes.”

A frown crept over her forehead and her eyes shot back open in confusion when she turned her head to cast him a questioning gaze. “What time did you set the alarm for last night?”

“6:05.”, he said calmly, and one corner of her lips twitched aside.

“What is wrong with you?”, she chuckled softly, and he smirked at her, shrugging.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Why the hell would you set an alarm five minutes past a full hour?”

“Why the hell not?”, he shot back, and his lips formed a grin beneath his moustache over the sound of her laughter. “Wait, look up?”

“What?”, she asked in between chuckles.

“Look up, you’ve got sleepy dust in your eyes.”

“Oh.” She shifted to lay on her back and let him lean over her, looking towards the headboard behind her while the tip of his middle finger gently cleaned up the inner corners of her eyes. The back and forth between the frosty weather and the dryness in heated rooms always made them watery during winter nights.

“All done.”, he said. Their eyes met while she was on the verge of thanking him, but he cut her off with a kiss before she could form the words. She let him part her lips with his tongue, a soft sigh escaping her before it wandered past them to find hers.

She liked kissing him before either one of them left the bed, those early kisses that would not taste of coffee, breakfast or sharp peppermint toothpaste, the kisses that left her with his and only his taste on her lips for a couple of moments after they parted.

“I had one of those dreams again.”, she told him, smiling, after he’d leaned up on his forearm again to look at her.

One of his brows arched up, a narrow smirk forming beneath his moustache and tinting his face in her favourite shade of mischief. “Oh yeah?”

“Mhm.”, she hummed, her hand rising to brush her fingertips over his hairline. She lingered in the feeling of the contrast between his soft hair and rough, warm skin beneath her cool touch.

“Where were we?”, he asked, and it took a short moment for her to understand what he was implying and to then start laughing her melodic laughter that he loved so much.

Grinning, she shook her head. “It wasn’t like that. It was one of those nightmare scenarios, where I suddenly realize that I’m naked.”

His brows shot together, forming a frown as he eyed her. “And where was I if I wasn’t there to… seize the opportunity and put a turn on the whole nightmare thing?”

She chuckled and he grinned, proud like a child that he had managed to make her laugh, as if he didn’t already know that he was good at that.

“You were right beside me, but you weren’t so pleased with it. It was a Republican fundraiser. Eric Trump was giving a speech and Don Jr was seated at the table next to ours. I think you were pretty embarrassed, which I thought was a little hypocritical, since you must have noticed that I wasn’t wearing anything when we left the house together.”

Kurt shook his head. “Your dreams get weirder and weirder every day.”, he mumbled, and she grinned, shrugging.

“I’m not getting any younger… maybe I’m beginning to lose my mind. Hey, when do you have to get in today?”

“I have a meeting at nine.”

“Nine?” Her brows shot up. “I’m up for a trade if you are.”

He chuckled. “No, thank you.”, he said, and she arched an eyebrow, casting him a meaningful gaze.

“So, we still have some time left?”

Tilting his head, he brushed his fingers over the top button of her silk pyjama top. His eyes wandered down on her to look at her neckline for a moment, grace her skin with his gaze, before they locked with hers again. “Looks like it.”

Her palm rose to his cheek to cup the soft morning stubble of his beard while she smirked at him. His eyes looked lighter than usual, illuminated by the soft light in the darkness of the room. Her free arm curled around his neck as she pulled him down to her to wish him a proper, open-lipped and tongue-first good morning. Stubbly skin gracing her face, his wandering fingers that moved wanting but slow in the laziness of the early hour down the line of small silver buttons from her chest to her abdomen, and then up again to cup a breast through the thin, barely-there fabric while their tongues tangled in the familiarity of their embrace.

She moaned into him when one of his fingertips teased her nipple repeatedly until it stiffened, her body quickly responding to his touch. Her fingers curled, sharp half-moon-shaped nails clutching the fabric of his cotton shirt on his shoulder as her back arched up in her attempt to offer him more of her chest, her vulnerability, her body and soul. Everything she had to give she would offer him without a second of doubt.

Softly, he broke their kiss and her lips followed instinctively, her chin wandering up with him for a short second of her need to prolong the connection, until she opened her eyes to find him looking at her, eyes darkened with need, the trace of his smile amazed like he had never seen anything more beautiful than her flushed face, naked and flawed without her makeup on, unflatteringly lit in the shadows that his bedside lamp was casting upon her features.

“I love y—“, they began simultaneously, stopping at the same time to silently look at each other in sleepy surprise and to then begin to laugh softly together, like the second-best duet their voices could harmonise in. He lay his forehead down against hers, his nose pressing into her cheek as they chuckled, warm, uneven breathing of amusement spilling against the other’s skin in this moment of laughter, of silly delight over the way in which they were always so different and yet so foreseeably similar in moments like this.

And from one second to another, it became a little like a racing duel that started the moment he leaned up again, moved to straddle her and hastily brought his fingers to her chest to unbutton the rosy silk of her long-sleeved pyjama top, before she would get to reach the hem of his shirt to pull it over his head to deprive him of his sight for a short while that would feel like ages to him. Like he was so parched in his unstilled thirst to see her bare skin, to feel it shivering beneath him, melting into his touch, that it might kill him if he would not be fast enough. He groaned when she pulled the white cotton over his head, taking away his sight for another unbearable moment and forcing him to take his hands off her until she had already thrown it aside.

“Careful, cowboy.”, she rasped teasingly, while her fingernails scraped through his chest hair, giving him a taste of the touch he was craving and making it even worse within the limits she set to it, knowing that it would make him shudder in arousal and frustration, in madness, knowing that the feeling of it, mixed with the sound of her husky voice would shoot a fountain of blood from his head down below the waistband of his boxers.

He answered wordlessly, didn’t even dare to meet her gaze because he knew that it would be too tempting, too much to take to keep him gentle. Instead, his fingers fumbled faster, clumsier with the dainty silver buttons, until a frustrated grunt escaped him when he suddenly felt his erection pulsating into the warm touch of her fingers that had moved lower to grab him through a thin layer of cotton.

His hands grasped both sides of the halfway opened shirt and with a single, rough tug the last three buttons were undone, the sound of them landing on the floor beside the bed only disrupted by her sharp scream.

“KURT! WHAT THE—”

His hands closed firmly around her breasts, the newly uncovered skin, the feeling of her flesh in his touch pulling a groan from him as he leaned back down to shut her protests off with his lips.

The muffled shriek she was releasing into his mouth soon turned into a deep moan. Her fingers sank into his hair, running softly through it once, until they curled into a tight fist, the balance between rough and loving mirroring the motions of his hands on her breasts.

She let go of the bulge in his boxers, instead slung her leg around him and pushed her clothed heat against his hard length, again and again, in blinding, rotating movements that forced him to break their kiss to keep himself from suffocating.

Diane glanced down on her chest when she opened her eyes, saw the way it lifted and fell back down in the quick pace of her panting, until she looked up at him with a fiery gaze, arousal and anger meeting in light blue.

His lips parted and he shot her a half-heartedly apologetic look. “I’ll buy you a new one.”, he offered, though it rather sounded like a question.

She scoffed. “What, at Target? You’re lucky this one wasn’t new, or else I would have divorced you in a heartbeat!”, she hissed, and his brows arched up.

“If I had a new shirt for every button you pulled out of my shirts—"

“Then you would, for once, have something to wear that isn’t some godforsaken flannel shirt from the last century.”, she interrupted him, and before they could spend another moment glaring at each other, they broke out with laughter.

“Subtle way of telling me that you don’t like my flannels.”

“Subtle way of telling me that you actually do care about your clothes.”

“Subtle way of telling me that you would divorce me over a shirt.”

He waited silently for another comeback, a mocking gaze in his dark eyes while he watched her pursing her lips.

She tilted her head and a sweet smile lit up her face. “Okay, I’m giving in. That might have been an overreaction.”

“Ya think?”, he snorted, and she grinned.

“I think it’s up for interpretation, but… yes.” The back of her head left the pillow beneath her for a second as she pulled herself up to brush her lips against his in the most frustrating way, her touch so close and yet so far away that he had to press his eyes shut to try and keep himself from losing his mind. Suddenly, the edges of her teeth sank into his bottom lip, scraped over it in a playful tug until they lost their hold on it.

Her lips were parted in a sexy smirk, the blue of her eyes piercing as if it could have ended him in a heartbeat if she’d wanted it to, like she was the reason that kept him alive and the only thing that could put a stop to his existence right here, right now, if it were not refusing to do so.

“Fuck me now?”, she asked softly, her husky voice dripping with thick sweetness, like the hot honey that was dripping out of her core, her feigned innocence contradicting her words, the look on her face and the way her panties were already soaking wet under the way he was eyeing her.

Their eyes were locked, both of them silent for a moment of tension and anticipation, love and passion that had never ceased to exist between them, until he broke the silence with his low, mocking voice.

“Think you’re up to that?”, he asked, his length twitching almost painfully when he heard her breathing hitch.

She swallowed hard, he could see it in the way her throat momentarily tensed before she spoke. “Try me.”, she rasped out, her voice low and pure, audible temptation, beautiful like it was painting a masterpiece with her words, like it was existing because it was meant to gasp and moan in answer to his touch.

His elbows were pressing into the mattress on either side of her waist when his fingers began to move over her skin. Short fingernails pricking over her nipples and making her inhale a sharp breath, before he grabbed the rosy silk harshly.

“Take it off.”, he ordered, let go off the fabric and watched her hasty movements as she pushed herself up to shrug it off and toss it out of his way, before she lay back down again, looking up at him in this way that combined arousal and innocence with the batting of her lashes, love and tenderness within the range of her beauty.

His hands closed around her wrists, keeping her wandering fingers from moving as he lowered his head, his lips closing around one of her stiffened nipples to latch on it and devour her with his tongue, sucking to fasten his own breathing when he heard a small gasp escaping her.

Her wrists pushed remonstratively against his grip when he turned to her other nipple to repeat his motions on them and she whimpered in frustration.

“Kurt, please.”, she gasped, her back arching up involuntarily, and he grinned to himself. Her hips were pushing needily against his, she was playing with his arousal to get him where she needed him the most, to the point of unfulfilled arousal where it physically hurt not to pound into her, fast and loud, until she would scream with every movement, every nerve of her body. But she was forgetting that he had always been better with patience than she was, especially when he could use it to her frustration.

He released her nipple with a small tuck that made her squirm as he leaned up to look at her, his eyes dark like the sky outside on this early winter morning. “Don’t move.”, he said determinedly, squeezing her wrists to emphasise his words.

She nodded softly, out of sync with her fast, audible breathing, and he had to bite his tongue firmly to keep himself from smiling to stay in the moment. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, to refuse to react to the way she made him feel, not to let on what she was doing to him in a moment like this, when she was not even trying anything. The moments in which he could hardly help himself but smile while he could not wrap his head around his luck that allowed him to look at her, to listen to her, to be a witness to her life, in which she caused him to fall in love with her again and again, deeper and deeper with every word she spoke, every breath she took to keep herself alive, as if her being was a spiral he had been falling down ever since he had first seen her, that was pulling him into a life that kept getting more and more worth living every time they touched, spoke, simply looked at each other. As if existing by her side alone was turning his existence into something meaningful.

He could taste the sharp, iron-like taste of his blood on the tip of his tongue and it brought him back to the moment. Slowly, he let go of her, nodding once when she followed his instructions and kept her hands where he had left them, before he shrugged her leg off him and moved further down. His fingers curled beneath the waistband of her silk pyjama pants and he felt her hip bones pressing into his knuckles when her hips rose to both, urge him to hurry with the timewasting task of undressing her, and to make it easier for him to do so. His jaw clenched, his teeth pressing painfully together as he uncovered her long, pale legs. The piece of clothing landed on the floor before his fingers slowly, lightly wandered over the insides of her spread legs, starting at her calves, moving up to her knees, until they stopped midway across her thighs. Her lower abdomen twitched and a ragged, almost desperate sigh escaped her as he grinned to himself.

“Don’t make me beg for it.”, she whispered, and it would have made him pity her, if his ever-growing arousal had left any room for an emotion other than love.

Love and nothing but. He dared to meet her eyes, lock their gazes before he lay his palm on her pelvis, his warmth rushing through her skin and straight down to her core, and brushed his thumb over the pale pink layer of lace that covered her heat. The material was slick and warm beneath his touch, the rough fabric already soaking wet, a slippery ground for his fingertip.

Her lips parted, a soft moan escaping her throat that had been anticipated by him for too long to hold back any longer. It was as if the sound had robbed him of his last functioning brain cell, cut the right cable to make him lose control this easily. Because even when he took control over her, took the reins of their intimacy as she so often let him do, never, not even at times when she thought that she did, did she lose the control that she held over him.

Control. She had more of it over him than he did himself. And what beautiful coincidence it was, that she was the one who would never use it against him, even though she could have done it within the batting of an eyelash, in the passing of a single, fastened heartbeat. What beautiful coincidence, that the one person that held this unique kind of power over him could be trusted to treat it as sacredly as he was treating the one he held over her without knowing of it either.

She could have ended him with all the power she had over him, and there was nothing he could have done, nothing that he would not have let her do. And what great luck it was that she would never use it against him, no matter the circumstances, because she rather would’ve ended her own life than to have anything happen to his instead.

Neither one of them would find the right word for it, not right now anyway, when they were simultaneously making each other lose their minds, all reason that could be gained over a lifetime. They would probably think of it as love at loss for a better word for it, because it was the first, the primary thing they associated with the other, not realising without further thought that love wasn’t everything in a relationship, that it was not enough to keep them together, no matter what.

It was trust. The unlimited trust that neither one of them had ever been able to put upon another person, until they had found each other, and with them, the trustworthy safety, the mutual respect that had always shaped their relationship above anything else, that had overshadowed even physical attraction, and even love.

His thumb had made its way up from her hot core to settle on her clit, sat there motionlessly for a short moment of torture, until it began to press into it in small, firm circles. Her hands curled into fists beside her head, bunching the pillowcase up in her grip, her knuckles taking on a bloodless shade of white in the pale light in the room, as he watched her eyes fall closed and she inhaled deeply to then exhale the spent air with a high moan.

And that was it. She was causing him to snap.

His free hand shoved the waistband of his boxers down, just enough for his erection to spring free, while his thumb had left her clit, slipped beneath the silk of her panties to push them aside and expose her dripping, hot core to the cool air in the bedroom.

She barely had time to open her eyes and gasp out his name, before his hands grabbed her hips, lifted them slightly for a better angle, and he entered her with a forceful thrust, harder than he had anticipated himself because she was so much wetter than he had expected her to be, slick enough to allow him not to give her a second before he already began to settle on the quick pace of pushing into her that he had postponed for too long now.

She cried out, too loud considering the early hour, or the fact that they had neighbours, too long to count as a reaction to just one of his rapid thrusts. His pelvis audibly crashed into her clit every time the tip of his hard, pulsating length hit that certain spot inside her that had been aching for his touch ever since she had woken up that morning, ever since it had last been graced with his touch. Her body was like an addict, and he was her drug, craving his presence with every last sense, like every single fibre of her body was just existing for him to touch her.

The highs could never be high enough, and the lows were something she wasn’t familiar with yet, because he never let her down, would never do anything to hurt her, to break her trust, or betray her love for him because he understood it all too well. The risk of loving and letting themselves be loved in return, the personal sacrifice that it was for someone who was scared of getting hurt.

Her long legs slung around his waist, her skin craving to melt together with his to become on in every sense of the word, her muscles craving to feel his strength against her as she pulled him more firmly into her in the impossible rhythm he’d set. She used the hold on him to respond to his thrusts, to let her hips rock into his touch against the feeling of his fingers digging deep into her flesh, to try and give back in return to everything she got from him.

She knew she would be sore today at the office, knew that every move would remind her of him today, and how hard it would be to manage to concentrate on anything else but the memory, the feelings she felt for this man. But all reason, all logic was being blown away at the sound of his grunts and moans, like a dandelion clock bursting in the wind. Because love wasn’t rational, and her love for him was the only thing in this cold, wild world that managed to make her level-headed, rational nature careless and silly with happiness.

Love.

A form of love she had been a stranger to for the longest time, until she had found him at last.

Love that was so bright that it managed to cast shadows on any other feeling that she’d ever felt before, because they had suddenly begun to lose all meaning in their inability to keep up with an emotion as strong as this one.

She thought that nothing would ever be enough to compete with it, that nothing she would ever feel could be as intense, as moving, as all the love she felt for him.

One of her hands let go of the pillow, her fingers flexed before they moved down to gently brush over his digits on her hip, the lightness, the innocence of the touch a sharp contradiction to the way their hips were pounding into each other, to the primal, almost animalistic noises they released into the air that had taken on the smell of sex.

Their eyes met at the touch and in all his lightheadedness, he understood what she could not have asked with words right now.

His fingers left their grip on her hips to entwine with hers and he leaned over to press them into the pillow on either side of her head, entangled, connected, the new closeness of their bodies bringing a whole new wave of intimacy into their connection.

“Ahh!”, she moaned deeply, her twitching thighs tightening around his waist as her eyes fell closed again, her nails digging deeply into his knuckles and the first wave of her orgasm arrived as his pelvis collided with her clit again.

He tried to force his eyes to stay open to watch her release come to life on her beautiful face, to watch the pleasure send cringes and small wrinkles across her flawless features. He tried to swallow his own grunts and moans to keep himself from disturbing her deep cries and high, breathless gasps. But all the things that she did were what made him lose the hold on the last string of control he had had left. Her slick, hot walls began to clench uncontrollably around his pulsating length, and he could not help but let go with her.

His forehead collided with the sweat-layered skin on the curve between her neck and shoulder as he took all his strength together to keep pumping into her for another moment to prolong her pleasure before the tension in his thighs became too much and he started to come, spilling into her, the sweet, heavenly melodic sounds that she sang into his ear like the music to accompany his release, like an angel who would be waiting on the other side, if he were to believe in an afterlife.

Their hips sank down on the mattress, the only sound in the room the heavy, uneven breathing of each of them into the other’s neck. Slowly, Diane untangled one of her hands from his to wrap her arm around his shoulders and hold him to her for another moment, like she was scared that he would try to leave before she was ready to let this moment of feeling his weight on her, of togetherness pass. Tilting her head aside, she placed a soft, wet kiss on the patch of skin behind his ear.

“What a way to wake up.”, she breathed out, and he snorted breathlessly in amusement, in happiness, in feelings for her that he never could have described with words. He pushed himself up to raise his head and dip it down again to close the gap between their lips, to feel her sucking lazily on his bottom lip, to tangle his tongue with hers, to make her moan into him by tracing over the roof of her mouth with it, until they were too breathless to continue, even at this slow pace.

He slipped out of her when they parted, felt her thighs twitch, her walls clench around him in the face of losing him, saw her lips move in a silent gasp in the motion. He fixed the position of the waistband of his boxers, properly covered her warmth with dainty lace again and rolled over to lay on his back next to her, softly pulling her with him as her arm was still holding him against her, but in the face of her exhaustion, she let go of him and came to rest on her back again with a chuckle.

Lazily, she pushed her damp, blonde curls out of her face as they stared at the ceiling, side by side, a smile on her face while his eyes fell shut in the peacefulness of the moment. Her right leg wandered over to him and her knee settled on his left hip, the display of her need to touch him causing him to smirk as one of his hands grasped her thigh through the silky bedsheet, and the fingers of the other one reached between them to entwine with hers.

“I’m happy.”, she suddenly sighed, her tone light with bliss, every syllable stressed in emphasis, and he opened his eyes, snorting amusedly. Turning her head aside, she caught his gaze and grinned in innocence. “What, am I ridiculous?”

Kurt shook his head, the pressure of his fingers on her thigh increasing until she let go of his hand and rolled on her side to face him. Her palm landed on the bare skin above his heart, her red manicured nails toying absent-mindedly with his chest hair. “You like narrating your life.”, he remarked gruffly, his thumb teasing her thigh, as if he didn’t enjoy it every single time she allowed him to listen to her voice.

He was a little put off by the seriousness in the smile that she gave him, had expected a witty comeback, or even just a chuckle in answer to his mocking comment. But she was just looking at him, her beautiful, bright blue eyes almost piercing in the semi-darkness, in the way they seemed to look right into his soul through the fir green she saw in his orbs, like she was able to see something in there that he didn’t even know to exist. She had always been this way with him, the strong way in which she kept believing in him, like it was the core of what kept them stable, what held them together. The way she loved him like there was so much more there to love about him than he thought, like all the beauty she had in her, all the love that her good heart was capable to produce, she saved for him, and with him, for them.

He would never know how he had gotten this lucky. To be loved by someone whom he loved so dearly.

“You have no idea how happy you make me, do you?”, she asked softly and something in her beautiful voice almost sounded like a glimpse of sadness. Sadness over the fact that he wasn’t giving himself enough credit for all the things he did for her, with his kindness, with his good heart, or by simply lying next to her at night, warming her with his body, and lulling her into sleep with his soft snore.

One corner of his lips twitched aside, crooking his moustache in the sweetest way with his narrowed smile, before he shook his head, softly enough so that his eyes wouldn’t have to leave the sight of her. “No, I do.”, he said, his brows shooting together in a frown when she lifted her hand momentarily to nudge his shoulder. Her teeth sank into her bottom lip to try to keep herself from smiling.

“What was that for?”, he asked, and she chuckled.

“For being so cocky!”, she laughed, her eyes beaming at him like the stars outside were lighting up the dark sky of the early winter morning. “That was a rhetorical question.”

Shaking his head in amusement, he wrapped his arm around her to pull her into him and press a kiss on her head, relishing in the feeling of sharing his pillow, in the warmth of her cheek against his shoulder and in the way her head fitted the curve between it and his neck in the perfection of the way in which she walked through the world, lived her life and brightened his with every move she made.

“I do know, though.”, he said, his tone something between mocking and thoughtful, two things that she wouldn’t have thought possible to combine, until he had shown her that her definition of possible wasn’t the one he lived after. He, who always seemed to step over the line of possibilities and made the impossible happen.

“Oh, do you?”, she asked, one of her brows arching up.

“Yep.”, he said and remained silent for a while that she didn’t want to disturb by talking. The peace that was lying in the silence of their embrace to put it to a halt, until he continued, only to let it increase. “Probably not half as happy as you make me, but I’d say it’s a start.”

His fingers were dancing over her upper arm, skin against skin. It almost felt casual, and still so very special. Something inside her chest was aching over the thought that it would ever have to come to an end when they would have to part at a later point this morning.

And still, she pushed herself up, securing herself above him with her palm on his chest as she shot him a bittersweet gaze.

“I don’t want you to feel like that.”, she whispered, and he grinned knowingly.

“Do you feel like that?”, he shot back and after a small second of silent hesitation, her eyes left his, her teeth sinking into her reddened lip. Red from biting it, a little swollen from kissing him.

She was perfection.

Her stray and dampened, blonde curls had fallen into her face, like curtains made of golden silk, and he raised his hand to tuck half of them behind her right ear in his need to see more of her.

“Guess that makes us even.”, he said and got her to look at him again, a deep frown drawing thin lines across her forehead.

“I don’t always feel like that.”, she said defensively, almost like a snap, and he shrugged.

“Me neither.”

“It’s just… I do sometimes... not nearly as much as I used to in the beginning.”, she continued in an unusual stammer. “But mostly… Oh, forget it.” Her eyes left his again and she turned in his arms, swung her leg off him to face her nightstand again as she lay back down on her right side.

He grinned at the tousled blonde curls on the back of her head. “Mostly what?”

“Nothing.”, she mumbled, one of the two syllables getting swallowed by her pillow. Kurt pushed himself up to try and look at her until he caught the deep pink flush that was tinting her neck.

“Tell me.”, he asked, and she shook her head, unable to conceal a small, awkward chuckle.

“No, it’s embarrassing.”

His brows flew up and he remained still for a moment, like the calm before the storm, until he grabbed her sides and his fingers began to curl viciously against her skin, just above her waist. He’d known her long enough to know where she was ticklish.

“Kurt, stop!”, she yelped, her slim body jerking uncontrollably around beneath the silky bedsheets, the sounds she made something between screams and laughter while she reached behind her to unsuccessfully try and swat his arms away.

“Tell me and I’ll stop.”, he offered grinning, his fingers pausing momentarily to watch her as she turned to lay on her back and look up at him, a smile lighting up her flushed face that looked both, innocent and mocking. He never wanted to stop looking at her and he didn’t think he could have done it, even if he’d wanted to.

Her smile widened, her front teeth sinking into her bottom lip while she shook her head slowly. “No.”, she said in feigned innocence, but smug like she was daring him to continue.

And so, he did.

“Ah, stop!”, she cried out, laughing, in her half-hearted attempt to push him off her.

“Not until you tell me.”, he said, his fingertips curling into the spot beneath her armpit that made her scream.

“Kurt, please!”

“Di…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you, just stop!”, she snickered while his fingers stilled on her, his gaze staying locked with hers while her lips curled into a pout. “I can’t believe you’re blackmailing me!”

The corners of his lips twitched aside, but his gaze stayed the same. Warm and serious, green and trustworthy. “Mostly what?”, he repeated softly.

She eyed him for another moment before she snorted, shaking her head. “It’s cheesy.”, she mumbled, and he shrugged.

“I think I can take it.” One of his hands left her waist, his fingers wandering up on her body to dance across the soft skin of her cheek, and further down again where they traced along the visible line of her bare collar bone.

She released another audible breath of nervousness before something in her eyes changed. “I felt like that all the time when we met... Like you were too good for me and as though I could never give you as much as you let me take. But… it changed when we got married and moved in together.” She shrugged and chuckled softly. “I don’t know what it was, maybe the official mutual commitment. And I began to see it from a different point of view, a positive one. I thought that I can’t be all that bad or worse at this than you are, if someone like you would be as invested in me and our marriage. If someone like you likes me, I have to be more likable than I used to think. If someone like you loves me as much as you lead me to believe, there’s much more to believe in when it comes to my own qualities, you know?”

She did not expect an answer. Her eyes left his for a quick second of nibbling on her bottom lip, until she released it again and looked back at him. She moved her right arm and brought her fingers up to softly brush them over the back of his hand that was still busy tracing over the lines of her collar bone on her skin.

“I see so much good in you, so much to like, to love and fall in love with every time you remind me of its existence without even trying or knowing that you’re doing it at all. You’re so easy to love, I can’t even fathom all the things that make you this lovable. And even though it isn’t necessary, I know that you’re doing a lot to make it easy for me to love you, and that’s one of the many things you’re just so much better at than I am. I’m not easy to love and I know that, I’m complicated and stubborn and I have my ways of pushing people like you away, and—”

“You are easy to love.”, he cut her off, like only he ever could. Just the right amount of words, never a single one more than needed; his low, gruff voice, shutting her up so she could properly listen to it, like a song one forced themself not to sing along with while it played, because the composition, the bare sound of it was too perfect to dare to disrupt it with the voice of one’s own.

He made her smile.

“See?”, she asked softly. “I even believe you. I never believed it myself and you just come along and say it and make me believe it, like everything suddenly becomes a killer argument once it’s your opinion. Apart from politics, of course.”

Her fingers closed around his moving hand, stilling it in its motions while her thumb brushed over his warm skin. He had this look about him, it was always there whenever he listened, or just simply looked at her, while there was really nothing simple about it. It could have moved still waters, could have let all the pain, all the suffering in the world come to an end, and yet he still chose to project it all on her, like she was the only one who deserved to profit from this power.

It was like there was nothing they could not have managed to do, to get through, together.

“You believe in me because you love me. And I believe in myself because I trust you.”

His fingers moved in her hand, turned it around and entwined their fingers, palm against palm, pressing the back of her hand into the mattress as he leaned down to kiss her, like he had done only moments prior.

Her eyes met his smile when he leaned up again, breaking their kiss to cast her a smirk. “That was cheesy.”, he said, causing her to roll her eyes while an involuntary smile tugged on the corners of her lips.

“Oh, I fucking hate you.”, she mumbled, and he laughed before he placed another kiss on her lips.

They kissed for a while, just as lazy as intense, until she suddenly broke their lip-lock again, frowning.

“Wait, what time is it?”, she asked, and he rolled his eyes, turning to look at his phone before he inhaled sharply.

“What?”, she asked, pushing herself up to meet his apologetic gaze.

“Almost seven.” It sounded rather like a guess than a statement, and her face fell.

“Fuck.” Throwing the silk sheets off her, she crawled out of the bed hastily. “I’ll get ready.”

“I’ll go make coffee.”

“Thanks… Ow!”

He turned to find her hobbling around the bed and into the direction of the bathroom. “What?”

“I hit my knee on the stupid bedside table.”, she exclaimed, before her mostly naked frame disappeared out of his sight, unable to see a smug smirk forming beneath his moustache.

“You need to be more careful. No hospitals, remember?”

“Smartass.”, she muttered under her breath and the sound of his low chuckle from the other room told her that he had heard it. A small smile spread on her lips before she reached over the sink to grab her toothbrush, a small red toy car next to his cup catching her eye for a moment, before she reminded herself of the time.

“Okay, I’m out!”, she called through the hallway, grabbing her keys and shoving them into her purse while she slipped into her heels.

“Di, wait!”, she heard him yell after her and she turned around, fumbling with one of her shoes, to see him rushing over to her, a coffee flask and some plastic box in his hands that she had never seen before.

“What’s that?”, she asked with a nod to the box and he shot her a questioning gaze.

“Breakfast?”, he said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and she cast him a bright smile before she pressed a kiss on his lips.

“God, I don’t deserve you.”, she chuckled, put the box in her purse and took the warm flask from him.

He smiled, humble and sweet, not knowing that she actually meant it, and even if he had, he would not have known how to respond to it. “When will you get home?”

“Around six, I hope.”

He nodded for a short while, helping her into her coat while something in his eyes that were lying on her changed, before he spoke again. “Hey, let me take you out for dinner tonight. We could finally go to that horrible, French restaurant, if you’d like that.”, he added dryly and caused a smile to soften her features.

“What, like a date?”, she asked playfully, and her heart beat a little faster at the low sound of his chuckle.

“Yes, like a date.”

She smiled brightly, suddenly feeling like she was sixteen again and her crush had just asked her to go to prom with him. Maybe it was silly and embarrassing, but she didn’t think that she could have cared less. “Sure. I’ll meet you there.”

“Great. Love you.”, he said and leaned in to place another kiss on her lips.

“Love you, too.”

A soft knock against the doorframe to her office made her look up from her paperwork around three hours later.

“Diane? Do you have a minute?”, Alicia asked cautiously, a small frown sitting on her pale forehead.

In a swift motion, Diane took off her reading glasses and placed them on the case file in front of her. “Sure.”, she said, nodding towards the chairs on the other side of her desk.

Closing the glass door behind her with a small, appreciative nod, she walked over to get seated. There was a strange look in her big brown eyes, that Diane could not immediately place, absent-minded somehow, almost on the verge of making her look scared.

“Is something wrong?”, she asked softly, and Alicia inhaled a deep, audible breath through parted lips.

“I… it’s probably nothing.”, she began cautiously, shaking her head over her own behaviour, over the fact that she was most definitely overreacting.

Diane’s brows arched up. “But?”

“But… have you by any chance heard from Kurt?”, Alicia tried, and her blue eyes widened in surprise.

“Uhm, no. He’s at work right now. Why?”

“Are you sure?”

“Uh, yes. As sure as I can be.” Her eyes left hers for a moment as she shook her head in confusion. “Alicia, what’s going on?”

“It’s just…” Her lips parted and closed for a silent moment, as if she could not find a way to form words anymore. “I thought he was supposed to meet Will for breakfast today.”

Diane frowned, folding her hands on her desk as she sat up a little straighter. “I… I don’t think so, he said he was having a meeting at nine.”

“Oh, I… I mean, Will mentioned that Kurt asked him to meet him today at nine because he had something to talk about with him. I just… Diane, I’m probably paranoid, but he’s still not here and I really need to talk to him, I already tried to call but he doesn’t answer his phone. I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it weren’t urgent, but if you could, maybe—”

“Yes.”, she cut her off gently. “Of course.”

Diane reached for her cell phone, dialed his number and waited until the beeping was disrupted by his voice.

“You’ve reached the personal voicemail of Kurt McVeigh—”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s his voicemail.”, she mumbled to Alicia, who was fumbling with a pen in her hands, maybe some sort of a nervous tic that she simply had not noticed up until now.

“—please leave a message.”

“Hey, it’s me. Can you please call me back as soon as you hear this? Thanks. I love you.” She hung up, still clutching the cell phone in her hand.

He had told her just this morning that he had a meeting at nine, she remembered it very clearly because she’d mocked him about it, as they always did when it came to work. There was no reason why he would lie to her, especially to keep something from her as little a matter as having breakfast with Will was.

She knew that they were getting along better than they ever had before, especially now, that Will was married. He knew that she would never cause drama for something that was not even worth a discussion, so why on earth would he lie to her about it?

It was not like him, to go around and keep things from her. They were not like that. They were working hard to not be like that.

She cleared her throat and set the phone back on her desk. “So, they were supposed to meet at nine?”, she asked, trying to keep her tone casual.

“Yes, I…” Alicia shrugged, shaking her head. “I don’t know what’s going on, I’m…” Her voice broke off.

“Maybe it’s just traffic.”, Diane suggested. “I’m sure they—”

“Diane?”

The short frame of Marissa Gold suddenly burst into the office without a knock and made her look up.

“Marissa, if this is my eleven o’clock, could you please ask them to wait another five minutes?”, she said and Marissa frowned, her lips parted.

“Uh, yes, but Diane, there’s someone on the line for you. I think it’s important.”, she said, pointing back into the direction of her desk outside the glass walls.

Her brows arched up. “Who?”

“A nurse at Harbor, I think you have to take it. I’ll put her through, okay?”

Her lips were parted, the words momentarily caught in her throat. “Uh, yes. Thank you.”

Marissa turned on her heels and Diane did not dare to look up to meet Alicia’s eyes again, before she reached for her phone and took the call.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Diane Lockhart?”, a high, female voice met her from the other line.

“It is.”

“I’m Nurse McRaney, from Harbour Hospital. You’re listed as the next of kin to Mr. Kurt McVeigh.”

“Hello?”, Alicia’s voice suddenly made her look up again as she answered her cell phone and met her gaze.

“Mrs. Lockhart?”, the nurse repeated, puling her out of her trance.

“Uhm, yes, that’s me. I’m his wife.”, she stammered. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m calling to inform you that your husband has—"

The background noises on her line took over and the voice of Nurse McRaney drifted off.

“Hello? What’s wrong?”, she repeated a little louder, her heart pulsating wildly in her chest and she had to turn in her chair to escape Alicia’s gaze on her.

Her eyes fell closed, her breathing ragged.

This could not happen.

He wouldn’t.

He promised.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I’m calling to inform you that your husband was in a traffic accident.”

Her eyes shot open. “Wh-what happened? Where is he?”

“Harbor Hospital, emergency room. He’s going through surgery now.”

Like on their own accord, her legs straightened and she jumped up from her seat. “How bad is it?”

Her fingertips were turning white, the pressure on the black phone in her hand heavy in her grip, as the background noises took over again.

“Hello?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. McVeigh. We’ve got an emergency.”, Nurse McRaney said hastily.

“I, what—", she began, but the line was disconnected.

Diane looked at the phone, then turned to meet Alicia’s eyes, who looked like she had seen a ghost, her face pale, her lips quivering.

“Diane, I—“, she stammered, and from where she was standing, Diane could see the tears that she could not hold back any longer forming in her brown eyes, making them look even bigger than they already did.

Diane, as if something inside her had suddenly snapped to let her escape her momentary numbness, grabbed her purse and coat. “Come on, I’m driving.”

“Diane… I can’t lose him. I can’t.”, she finished in a hoarse whisper, slowly getting up on wobbly legs.

Diane’s lips were parted while she blindly dropped her reading glasses into her purse, her eyes captured by the sight of the woman who personified the hurricane of thundering fear that was raging through her system.

“I-I… I know. I know.”, she muttered softly. She wanted to come up with something to say that would make it better right now, if just for a moment. Something she could tell her that would patch it up for this instance; something she could tell herself to calm down just a little.

He promised, a clear, stubborn voice in her mind reminded her, again and again, like a mantra, words that seemed too far away to properly grasp them right now to say them out loud, like they were nothing more than a shadow or smoke, nothing that could be touched, as if her lungs had forgotten how to give her body the oxygen they needed to speak.

A male voice that had always secretly been stronger, more level-headed in times of personal crisis, than hers could ever be.

I promised. We promised.

We will be fine.

She sniffed and immediately felt embarrassed about the sound, nodded her head and did not even have it in her to contemplate her own uselessness. “He’s gonna be alright.”, she rasped out, not knowing if she was talking to Alicia or to herself. Not knowing if she was talking about her best friend or her husband.

Because knowledge and reason had long reached their limits.

“Diane…”, Alicia’s cracking voice brought her back to the moment in time to watch as a single tear rolled down on her pale cheek. “You don’t understand…”

Everything’s gonna be alright.

Diane’s cold fingers tightened around the leather straps of her purse, her knees beginning to shake over what she suddenly knew would come next. She would never understand how, but in this moment, she did not even have to hear it, because right now, it hit her like it was the most obvious thing in the world and she could hardly believe how she had missed it up until now.

I promise, everything’s gonna be alright.

“I’m pregnant.”

 

I was never one to need.
But then you touched me in this certain way
And I knew that I needed you
To stay.

Chapter Text

“Hello?”

“Diane. It’s me.”

“Oh. Hi.”

Her voice immediately shifted, like she suddenly became more aware of her tone, now that she knew who was hearing it on the other line. She’d always wanted to impress him, felt the need to make him proud, adapted his cool tone and distant behaviour, personifying her admiration for him.

She had not heard from him for a while, two months and seventeen days to be exact; not that she was counting, of course not. There were things that she would never admit to anyone, especially not to him and not even to herself when she could avoid it, because they were hitting too close to home, reaching too far behind her walls.

He was probably the last person whose voice she had expected to hear today, considering that he had not even had the decency to call her one month and four days ago for her birthday. She could have held it against him, but she didn’t. Some part inside her that was greater than she liked to believe kept her from doing so, even though he deserved it.

The following silence was awkward, almost unbearable, and she caught herself feeling the need to try and initiate some pointless small talk that would probably only end up making this even more uncomfortable, but she reminded herself that he had been the one to call her, not the other way around. Reminded herself that she technically did not owe him any pleasantries after what had happened the last time they’d seen each other.

And he did break the silence eventually, his voice as formal as it had always been, irrespective of any given circumstances like the topic of his words, the reason why he spoke, or who he was talking to.

“How… How are you?”, he asked, his discomfort evident, and from the distance between their lines, she could not tell if he really cared to know or was simply playing pretend in the possible lack of ideas for better conversation starters.

“I—“, she began and cleared her throat when the sound of her raspy voice startled her for a moment. “Sorry, I’m okay. What about you? And…” She swallowed. “… her?”

“Good. That’s good.”, he mumbled, either indifferent about her questions, or in no mood to answer them, which—coming to think of it—would be enough of an answer by itself. “How’s work?”

“It’s good.”, she said, cringing internally over the fact that they had become as cliché as to tell one another about the pointless goodness of either of their lives, even though the one thing that was definitely not ‘good’ was this conversation and all the other ones of this kind that they had had before.

He must have thought the same thing because he remained silent again. Their alike minds had always been something that made her proud, something she would identify as one of her biggest strengths.

“Diane, listen.”

Here it comes, she thought, swallowing as she braced herself for what she always heard from him in those situations. That she had gone too far but could still fix it. That she had been overreacting again, but that there was still a way for her to fix it.

Just apologize, Diane, and it will be fine again.

She misses you.

We both miss you.

Put a band-aid on it and pretend it doesn’t bleed anymore. Because playing pretend was their one true way of dealing with problems of any kind.

He was a bad liar, always had been, always would be. He knew that she was in the right every single godforsaken time this happened, knew that he was actually standing on the wrong side of this. She knew that he could have defended her so easily if only he’d wanted to, if she’d just been enough for him to do this.

He was a bad liar. And she was tired of the lies, of patching this up with her only for the sake of some dishonest pseudo-peace between the three of them that would somehow put him into a more comfortable position, only to have it end up exploding into their faces again within the matter of a few months.

The tip of her tongue ran over her bottom lip, pulled it into her mouth to sink her front teeth into the flesh, before she released it again as she caught herself doing it. It was one of the manners she had adapted from her over the years and she did her best these days to free herself of them. Her fingertips began to drum impatiently against the wood of her drawer instead, until both, the noise and the movement annoyed her too much to continue.

And then he broke the silence.

“It’s your mother.”

“She fell on the staircase, just collapsed—”

“I don’t know what’s happening. I’m at the hospital right now, no one’s telling me anything.”

“You should come. She needs you here.”

 

A haemorrhagic stroke. The first and last one she would ever have.

She had hit her head on the stair railing, but that had not made anything worse than it already was, the damage that the internal bleeding had done to her brain had killed her before the paramedics brought her into the emergency room. They had wasted their time and capabilities trying to apply CPR in the ambulance because there had been no chance to bring her back again. Realism had failed them.

It was the first and last call she had gotten out of a hospital in her life, up until now.

They had been fighting frequently, her and her mom, especially as she had gotten older and begun to pattern her life in a way that her mother never cared to grace with her approval. It had not really made a difference, the way they had eventually parted; in tense silence, not talking to each other after one of their countless fights and disagreements. It would not have made a difference if they had managed to make peace with each other again before she died because it would not have had the power to change the overall more than complicated nature of their relationship that had always poisoned everything between them, including her father. The way it had ended eventually only reflected the past in honesty, given them an ending that had stayed true to the story.

She knew that now, because, among other factors, the decade’s worth of time that had passed since had changed her perspective on this. But it had been different at the time, and so, of course, she had spent weeks, months, maybe years in which she had not been strong enough to acknowledge the hurt she would feel for not having made it right in time, blaming herself. Because after all, she had still been her mother, and she had still been her daughter. Few of the things that could never be replaced, no matter the complications, no matter the circumstances. And once she had died, her parents’ old game of playing pretend and make up on the surface became a patch that did no longer fit the wound and things could not just be fixed anymore.

She and her father had always had more in common; similar interests, similar demands they’d made to a similar lifestyle. Career and education came first, everything else was kept behind.

They had had more to talk about, politics that her mother had never been interested in, work that her mother never cared to be invested in a little more, despite the way it was both her husband’s and her daughter’s primary occupation in life. And still, her father had always told her that he saw a lot of his wife in her; her strength, her dignity, her level-headedness. Something that she had never understood until her mother had died, because her death and the lack of her presence under her parents’ roof had somehow shown her that despite everything she’d always been led to believe, her father had never been the strong one in this marriage. That he had actually always been the emotional party, even though he had always tried to stay neutral within their fights and disagreements—in retrospective probably to protect himself—, the weaker one, even though his appearance at law school, at his office, dinner parties and even at home, had always seemed so strong and stable, harsh and cool even at times, until she had realized that it was just a facade that he had simply never dared to let down in front of others, except for her mother, and later, in a probably rather limited way, for her, once her mother had left them.

The proud masculinity, the aloofness of his nature, that he had always used to protect his fragility on the inside from others, most of the time even from his own daughter, maybe to protect her in return, but still.

He had had a lot in common with her husband. They would not have liked each other all that much, she was sure about that, but there definitely were a lot of parallels between them for her to see, now that her spiralling mind was bringing it up. Maybe it would have been similar between them to the way it had been for her with her mother; trades and mannerisms that they had in common, that only ever complicated the way in which they differed on so many other levels.

Her mother on the other hand… She would have loved him.

And who could have blamed her? He was perfect, absolutely and utterly perfect.

She did not want to think of this right now, of painful memories and what if’s that would only serve to make it worse. But some sick and masochist part in her just couldn’t seem to help it.

Blinking a few times, she swallowed hard and stared into big, glassy brown orbs that shot her a helpless gaze that could only have been reflective of the one they found in the blue of her own eyes right now in return.

“What?”, it finally burst out of her after a tense moment of silence.

Alicia’s fingertips were boring into her pen. Her skin had turned white, her face drained of all colour, her fingertips pale from the pressure that pushed her blood out of them, almost grey, and it looked like she was about to break the dark metal of her pen in two any second. “I’m pregnant.”, she repeated, her voice low and choked, as if half of her voice was still trapped in her throat and never managed to escape it.

Diane’s eyes fell closed for a moment and she inhaled a deep, shaky breath, before she looked at her again. “Oh my God…”, she whispered, and a quiet sob escaped the brunette, like a small whimper.

“Diane, I can’t lose him now. I… I just can’t.”, she whispered.

Diane’s lips were still parted for another moment of silence, before her free hand rose and curled gently around Alicia’s upper arm.

“Come on. I’m driving.”

She almost got a speeding ticket that day.

An elderly policeman on patrol had made her pull over, knocked against her window, taken the required documents from her and something in his look changed as soon as their eyes met.

“Ma’am… you know why I stopped you?”, he asked. His voice was gentle. The little amount of hair he had left was white like snow. Snow in the spring. It was a warm day and the little number of trees and flowers in the city had started to blossom bright and colourful.

She nodded and something in the blue of her eyes must have appealed to him because he cast her a small, assuring smile.

“Where are you headed?”

“The… the hospital.”, she rasped out, her fingers holding onto the steering wheel like it could somehow wake her up from the nightmare that her life had become. “My mother, she...”

The officer looked at her for another moment. His eyes had once been green, but there was a grey shadow surrounding the tone, like mist floating over the blue of a river on a cold winter morning. He nodded once, handed the license and car documents back to her and leaned up again. “Take care.”, he muttered, and before she could have thanked him, he had already turned to get back to his car.

She did not know his story. Maybe he had a daughter that resembled her. Maybe he had lost his wife or his own mother, someone whose loss had affected him. Maybe he knew how she felt at this moment. Or maybe he was just a kind human being who did not need a reason to let a young woman get away with speeding so that she could move on to get to the hospital and find out that her mother had just died.

 

It was silent in the car. Tense and silent, like a mocking contrary to the raging storm of thoughts that was rioting through both of their heads.

The leather material of her steering wheel was sticky beneath her cold, sweaty hands as she drove through the business district of Chicago, passing building after building, street after street, the golden ring on her left pressing painfully into her flesh above her knuckle, where her finger met her palm. The crowd of skyscrapers was cutting the sunlight off high enough to keep it from reaching the streets. Everything looked grey and cold, almost boring in the monotone colours of the city.

She swallowed hard before she broke the silence for the first time since they had left the parking lot of the office building, the motion only making her throat drier and her voice even raspier than she expected it to be.

“He didn’t tell me.”, she said, her voice close to a whisper but loud like a scream in the silent, thick air in the car. She was not even sure what she was talking about; Will and the pregnancy or the fact that Kurt had not mentioned their breakfast plans. And so, she left it to the other woman to interpret the ambiguity of her words to her own liking, in whatever way it could help her. She just needed to voice it, though it did not feel any better when she did. Expectations had once had a history of being better than the reality that always met her instead eventually and some part of her mind was wondering why she could not shrug off the feeling of a déjà vu that was busy making her even more uncomfortable. She didn’t have the time, nor the energy to try and ponder on it, the thought was too quiet to be properly heard over the screams of her fear.

“He doesn’t know.”, a small voice to her right whispered throatily, making her flinch and causing her eyes to leave the road for a second to face Alicia’s pale profile. “I just found out this morning. That’s why I was trying to reach him.”

The tip of her tongue flicked over her lips as she turned her eyes back on the road. The concrete ground was icy, almost slippery this morning, and the words traffic accident crept back into her brain, like her mind was attempting to torture her and make this worse than it already was, like some kind of a psychopathic sadist who was living in her head and working against her sanity.

“It’s a high-risk pregnancy, of course, considering my age… My doctor said I shouldn’t tell anyone yet at this point. But I wanted him to know.”

Her front teeth scraped over her bottom lip and a few pieces of dry, dead skin and waxy crusts of her red lipstick gathered on their edges. The dryness on her tongue, like she was chewing on a piece of cardboard, the common artificial scent of cosmetics that always smelled better than it tasted, they made her nauseous. “He’ll be thrilled.”, she said lowly, her voice steadier than it felt.

“I…”, Alicia continued softly as Diane stopped at a red light, cursing it internally because she did not have the strength to do it out loud. “I didn’t even think it was possible anymore for me to—”

Her voice broke off and the light turned green.

She pushed the tip of her high heel into the accelerator, too forceful as she reminded herself of the ice on the road and the fact that a pregnant woman was sitting beside her in the passenger’s seat, so she slowed down again. She could not even begin to imagine to feel this feeling of having something one thought they could not have anymore, but wished for so dearly, come true against all odds.

She wished it had been the same for them. If only they’d met a little sooner, just a few years that could have made the huge difference to their life that they never got. She knew that it would have meant the world to him. And he knew that it would have meant the world to her.
 

“Once you run out of time, there really isn’t a lot you can do about it anymore.”
 

She wished there had been a way for her to prove him wrong.

“He’ll make a wonderful dad.”, she said, unsure how she had not already backed her Cadillac into a tree on the dirty, grey sidewalk or a dirty, grey car on the other lane at this point. She felt dizzy, like the world had suddenly begun to spin around without taking her with it anymore, as if she had to fight against the moving road to keep on driving without losing her mind over the fact that the universe and with it all reason and logic had decided to turn against her, while the different shades of depressing grey began to mingle in the movement to blur the lines of all the meaningless things lacking colour, trees, strangers, sidewalks and the air, as if it made any difference.

She had thought about turning on the radio to listen for any kind of information on the accident, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. It did not make any sense, but she was too scared of what she may or may not have heard in case she did.

“I think so, too. Diane…” The sound of a small, unsuccessfully held back sob escaped her, and Diane looked to her right again, meeting brown eyes as tears began to escape them to run down her pale skin. “I don’t think I can do this without him.” She pressed her palm against her lips, shut her eyes as her slim frame began to tremble in the little uneven shockwaves that her muffled sobs send through her body.

Diane swallowed and forced her eyes to face the road again. The fingers of her right hand slowly let go of the steering wheel to wander blindly past the gear switch and curl around equally cold digits.

She tried to pretend that those fingers were his, that her cold was his warmth, that her quiet sobs were his low voice that would bring back her faith as soon as it told her that everything was going to be alright. But her weak attempt failed and all that remained was fear.

“You won’t. They’re going to be okay.” She had to try and believe it. If the last glimpse of hope left her, there was nothing of all the things he’d given her to hold onto anymore.

Alicia squeezed her fingers as another audible sob disturbed the uncomfortable silence in the vehicle, like she was holding onto her as she was holding onto the gift of his hope. “I’m so scared.”, she whimpered, and Diane noticed the pain in her jaw from pressing her teeth together to keep herself from biting her bottom lip until it would draw blood and make her throw up.

Nodding, she ran her thumb over the back of a hand that could not give her any strength. It felt like porcelain beneath her skin, cool and fragile, ready to break at any second if she would press it too hard.

“Me too.”, she managed to whisper when she pulled into the parking lot of Harbor Hospital. The red letters on the bold, white outside of the building were boring into her eyes, like the penetrative colour of her nail polish that was disturbing the monotony of grey.

She did not like hospitals. Once one loses someone they love, they usually try to avoid the space where it happened for the rest of their lives to let the memory fade and to keep it from happening all over again.

Because that was the way human beings worked. People, the founders of empiricism, believers of fate, and victims of their own world of make-believe.

ERs were always packed with people, noisy, rushed and chaotic. Patients were cart into surgery by paramedics that had been applying first aid or CPR in the ambulance, relatives stumbled around in trance because they did not know what to do with themselves in the prospect of unawareness of what the next hours would bring, nurses and doctors were called away from their current tasks to head to the beeping of emergency alarms and the reception was found empty to the newly arriving.

Diane’s legs were unsteady and her nose burned as soon as it was met by the strong smell of blood and germicides. It was cold, she was shaking.

“There’s no one there.”, Alicia said when they reached the reception, and Diane looked around until her eyes landed on a petite, African American woman in turquoise scrubs.

“Over there.”, she said, nodding into the direction before went on and squeezed her body through the crowded hallway. “Sorry.”, she mumbled here and there when she bumped into someone, until she reached the nurse who was holding a chart in her hands.

“Excuse me?”, she asked, and the nurse looked up. “We’re here for Kurt McVeigh and Will Gardner. We are the next of kin.”

“Ah, yes. The traffic accident.”, she mumbled and looked at her chart again for a small moment. “Mrs. McVeigh?”

Her heart was pounding wildly as the nurse was casting her a questioning gaze. “Yes?”

“Your husband was just brought into surgery, his injuries were more… severe.”

Her breathing was caught in her lungs. She was trembling as if she had lost control over her limbs. The turquoise fabric of the scrubs was too bright, it hurt in her eyes.

“We’ll approach you as soon as we get any news on his condition.”

It was as if she was on auto-pilot when she nodded and muttered a small “Thank you.”.

We’re going to be okay, his voice reminded her, his tone suddenly mocking like the memory of him was making fun of her.

The nurse nodded, almost apologetically, before she looked aside to face Alicia. “Mr. Gardner is conscious, you can see him now.”

Alicia muttered something next to her, probably a few short words of gratitude, a gasp of relief, a feeling that she wished for so dearly. The nurse turned around and guided them through the crowded area.

They passed the small compartments of horrible looking, light pink curtains and she remembered that it had not been long ago since she’d been lying behind one of them herself.

Two months had passed since she had fallen and hit her head at the grocery store. Two months since he’d been shot in the shoulder.

Exactly two months since he had promised her to stay out of the hospital.
 

“Don’t you ever do this to me again!”
 

A patient behind one of the curtains groaned in pain, or maybe they were somewhere else. It was too loud in the unclearly arranged space to tell where the sound originated from.

It did not sound like him. She did not want to imagine him being in such pain that it made him groan.

And he was still in surgery.
 

“Kurt, I thought you were dead.”

“I’m not.”
 

Slim fingers curled around the thick fabric of her coat as they touched her wrist. “Diane?”

She’d stopped walking, was staring at the washed-out fabric of the curtains through watery eyes. Softly, she sniffed, turned back around and shot Alicia a feigned smile that must have contorted her flushed face.

“Sorry.”, she breathed out, hastily escaped her touch and looked towards the nurse in hideously turquoise scrubs that had kept on walking and moved to follow her again to free herself of the look of concern that Alicia was eyeing her with.

The nurse brought them into a hallway, numerous white doors were squeezed next to each other on the walls of the same dull shade. She came to stand behind one of them for a split second and nodded towards it before she was gone again, the clipboard tucked beneath her arm as she walked off.

Alicia knocked softly and opened the door, slow and cautious, probably bracing herself for what was going to meet her on the other side.

“Hey.”, she sighed and rushed in, closely followed by Diane who’s shaky hands closed the door behind her, before she turned and met the tired, hazel gaze of her best friend, who was sitting on the dark green gurney in the room, embraced by his wife and one arm wrapped around her trembling frame, his other arm held by a bandage that was slung around his neck.

Dark brown stains on his white button-up made the fabric look rusty.

Alicia pressed a kiss on his cheek. “You scared me.”, she whispered and he nodded softly.

“I’m sorry.”
 

“Do you have any idea how scared I was?”

One of his brows furrowed and it took a moment before he began to nod. “I’m sorry.”
 

She was still standing there, behind the door in the corner of the room, when Alicia had sat down beside him, taken his hand, and Will looked at her again. He gave her a small nod to wordlessly ask her to come closer before she moved unsteadily to take the visitor’s seat beside the gurney.

“Hey.”, he said, almost sheepishly. His voice was raspy and his look soft. It almost made her uncomfortable.

“Hey.”, she answered in a hoarse whisper.

“Any news on him?”

Swallowing, she shook her head. “Not yet. He’s in surgery.” She had her hands in her lap, her fingers toying with a small scrap of skin beside her thumbnail until it hurt. “Will…” One of her brows was furrowed and she shook her head. “What happened?”

He looked at her, silent for a moment before he spoke. “We left the café and crossed the street to get to our cars. An SUV speeded by and almost ran me over, but he pushed me away and I got hit by a motorcycle.” He paused for a moment and she could feel her heart pulsating in her chest, sending small shivers through her frame with every fast-paced beat. “I think the SUV took him with it.”

He pushed me away.

Of course he had. He had always been selfless to a point that bordered on stupidity, as if he were weary of life. It hurt to love him as much and as thoroughly as she did at times like this.

“He saved me. He… he was unconscious when the paramedics arrived.”

The sharp, iron taste of blood spread on her tongue and her stomach twisted. She released her lower lip from the firm grasp that her teeth had on it when the nauseating taste made her realize that she was chewing on it.

Will’s face was blurry when she looked up at him again. Tears that she didn’t want to show had snuck into her eyes for the two of them to see. Tears that she would not need to cry because he had promised her that he would keep himself safe.

Because he had promised her that she would not have to go through this, that he would prevent her from having to go through this.

“I-I didn’t know.”, she stammered, her voice high and thin, she almost did not recognise it as her own. “He didn’t tell me that he was meeting with you today.”

His Adam’s apple twitched as he swallowed hard. “I know. He was checking dates with me. He wanted to surprise you by booking your flight to Costa Rica and we met to look for empty space in your schedule. That’s why he didn’t tell you.”

Her gaze drifted aside, away from their concerned expressions.

Costa Rica.

She swallowed a sob.

“I’ll give you two some space.”, she breathed out, not daring to look at them when she got up and moved to the door.

“Diane.”, she heard Will’s voice behind her, but she could not turn around, did not allow herself to turn around. She did not want to be pitied. “Stay.”

“No, I—I should wait outside in case they... And Alicia needs to talk to you. And… I need to be alone for a moment.”

She walked out without looking back.

“Diane, listen.”

“Dad, maybe she just doesn’t like me. There’s nothing I can do to change that, and maybe that’s okay.”

“Don't be ridiculous, she misses you. We both miss you.”

“And why are you always the one who calls me?”

“Because it’s not easy for her, it’s just the way she is. That doesn’t mean that she loves you any less.”

“Well, she has an odd way of showing it.”

“Diane. Just apologize, there’s no harm in that.”

“Yes, there is, and you know it.”

“Diane… You know we’re not the youngest anymore. Think about it, because one day, it might be too late.”

It was the only time she ever saw him cry.

She was kneeling on the dirty linoleum floor of the waiting room in front of his chair, her arms slung around his bent over frame as he sobbed. The sounds were muffled, his hands between his face and her shoulder, like he was too ashamed to reveal it to her while he could not hold back his sorrow.

They had spent the last forty-five years together. It made sense that a part of him had been bound to die with her.

He did not say anything, did not even apologize out of his pride, maybe because he did not want to acknowledge that he was crying, or because it simply was not important right now. Nothing was important anymore. Nothing could ever be of any importance anymore.

“It’s okay.”, she whispered, her arms tightening around him as a new wave of sobs crashed through his body. She had never felt so helpless before.

“You’re not alone. It’s going to be okay.”

She found a seat in an empty hallway. A small table was standing beside it, a couple of outworn magazines that had long passed their best days, and a small bouquet of flowers. Orange and red gerberas, yellow tulips. Someone had turned the vase, so that the blossoms that were already dry and brown, the most parched out of all of them, would not face the other end of the hallway where anyone who passed by would see them. Maybe it had been someone from the staff, or maybe someone who had been seated right where she was sitting now, who had not known what to do with themselves and the torturous time of waiting.

It was dark for the hour. Even though she was sitting beneath a window there was hardly any daylight to shine inside. The blue walls looked grey around her, like the swirling storm from outside had followed her into the building to erase all colour that had been left for her to see.

There was only one second chair in the area besides the one she was sitting on, parted from her by the small table, old Vogue magazines and newspapers and a dying floral bouquet, all of them out of season. She knew that his knee would be bouncing up and down uncontrollably right now, if only he were sitting on the empty plastic chair beside her.

He would scratch a patch of skin behind his ear and freeze in his movements when she would gently cup his kneecap with her hand through a layer of washed-out blue jeans, silently asking him to stop because it drove her crazy whenever he did that and only induced her own worry and nervousness.

“Sorry.”, he would say and mean it, because he never did it intentionally. His hand would drop into his lap, only to then wander further down to take hers in it and entwine their fingers because there was nothing in this world that calmed him more than her touch.

“It’s okay.”, she’d say, brush her thumb over the back of his big, warm hand, and cast him a lopsided smile, a small one, but still genuine.

He would look away for a moment and remain silent, until something of importance to say would cross his mind. Something he was certain of, because he never spoke unless he was sure of his words, never cared to see the need of filling silence with empty words that did not matter to him.

His gaze, green eyes that she would never see enough of, would find hers and bring the colour back into their surroundings, fight off the grey like they had always been meant to brighten the world for the people around him to see.

“I love you.”, he would say. Three words that were much more simple than their true meaning, having the power to turn everything into a better version of the present. This place that was the only place she could care for if she was there with him. Her life that was the only one she wanted to live if he was living by her side. Herself, the only person she wanted to be if she was the one he loved.

But he did not really say that. And his hand was not holding hers. Because the seat beside her was empty and grey, and he was not there with her.

An alarm suddenly went off and made her flinch. A couple of seconds later, two people in bright turquoise appeared in the hallway, speeded into a patient’s room and disappeared behind a white door shortly before the alarm stopped again.

Hastily, she opened her purse and took a tissue out to get the salty wetness that had snuck out of her eyes off her cheeks, before she reached into her purse again and grabbed her cell phone. She did not know what she was looking for, was informed about a couple of missed calls from Liz, Adrian and Marissa who were probably waiting for updates.

She couldn’t shake off the disappointment, even though she knew that he could not have called. And still, the feeling did not pass.

She closed her eyes for another moment, brushed the tissue over her watery eyes, before she opened her contact list without a reason in mind.

Alicia

Amy

Andrea

A shaky exhale escaped her while her thumb lingered in the air above the little green telephone icon behind Andrea’s phone number.

Closing her eyes, she eventually locked the cell phone screen again and dropped her hand into her lap. She could not call her, not just yet, when she had basically nothing to tell and would only end up scaring her. She could not call her just for the sake of talking to someone who would tell her that everything was going to be alright.

She did not call her. Because the only person she actually wanted, needed to talk to right now, was him. The only one who could calm her down. The only one who would tell her exactly what she needed to hear, whatever that might have been. She could not figure it out by herself right now, the only one who ever could had always been him.

She needed him.

Needed to hear his voice, the reassurance of his heartbeat, the feeling of his breath against her skin.

She had never wanted to need anyone until he’d shown her how beautiful it could be. To need another person’s love, their presence, their well-being, to find peace within them. But right now, she wished that he had never done it, wished that she had never let him do it.

Because after all, she was alone. Just her and her need, like a hole in her chest.

It did not matter what time it was.

That was what she told herself when she did not dare to check the time.

It felt like hours. She would not know how long it actually was.

The tip of her right index finger was rubbing over her bottom lip, her left hand was hidden beneath her purse because she could not take the sight of her golden wedding ring anymore.

The small scrap of skin on her thumb was ripped off. It had just stopped bleeding.

And then a surgeon appeared in the hallway.

“Ms. Lockhart?”

Her head shot up and she almost caused the grey plastic chair to fall over when she jumped to her feet.

“Yes?”

The surgeon met her in the middle of the deserted hallway. His eyes did not reveal anything and when he slipped the light green surgical mask off his face, it was as if her heart came to stand still.

Like her soul was floating out of her body, leaving her empty.

Like she was supposed to fall but didn’t.

“I—“, he began. He looked young, the reason for the wrinkles on his skin and shadows beneath his eyes seemed like exhaustion rather than age.
 

“I love you, Di.”
 

She wished she could stop him from talking.
 

“Everything’s gonna be alright.”
 

Run away, escape this grey puddle of a hallway before he would finish his sentence, finish her—
 

“I promise.”
 

He promised.

He promised.

He promised.

He shot her another smile, traced after invisible paths on her pale hand with his fingertips.

“It’s been a while.”, she said softly, and he nodded. “I should go and check on her.”

Eyeing her for another moment, he began to nod again. “I think so, too. She won’t talk about it, but I don’t want her to be alone, you know?”

She did know, squeezed his hand and got up, before she turned around again, a look of hesitation in her eyes.

His brow arched up in question and she cast him a sheepish smile. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Something good?”, he asked.

“Yes, very good… Will, I’m—”

Her voice was interrupted by a knock and the visitor did not care to wait for an answer before they already stepped in.

“Mr. Gardner?” It was a doctor but he was not wearing a white coat. A surgical mask was dangling from his ears around his neck and he was holding a coat in his arms that did not look like it would fit his rather broad frame.

He cast his wife an apologetic look. “Yes?”

“You are familiar with a woman called Diane Lockhart, aren’t you?”

His brows shot together and he tilted his head. “Ah, yes. We run our business together.”

The surgeon nodded, fast like he didn’t give another damn about whatever way the two of them were related. “Okay, she forgot her coat in the waiting area. If you could maybe return it to her, that would be a big help.”, he said and held the coat out for him to see.

Will shook his head. “What, she's gone?”, he exclaimed and the surgeon’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh! Yes, she left about ten minutes ago.”

“Well, is she alright? She didn’t tell us that she was leaving.”

“I’m not surprised, she wasn’t in the best condition.” The surgeon placed the coat on the gurney next to Will and sighed. It had been a long day and his shift was only halfway done. “Her husband… he didn’t make it.”
 

We were marionettes
In a puppet theatre,
Were the cheated
In the conning game.
Life was a joke
And we were the punchline.

 

Chapter Text

She cut off the engine, left her seatbelt on for the moment. It held her body upright, kept her from falling.

Her cell phone had been ringing continuously on her way back and she could not care to take it out of her purse now.

Whoever it was, she did not want to talk to them. There was only one person whose voice she was craving to hear and the thought of looking at the display and being disappointed by not seeing his name popping up on it was too painful, too humiliating as it was, nothing she aspired to permit.

The parking lot next to hers was empty. The small strip of grass between them looked icy and grey, the green toned down by the shadows of winter. Her gaze stayed on it for a while. It was dried out by the cold, seemed lifeless, looked almost peaceful in the way the blades had been defeated by the frost.

Something in the clear plastic bag that had been sitting on her thighs all through the drive started to buzz. Probably his cell. His cell, a meaningless piece of aluminum, metal and glass that had lived through the accident.

She closed her eyes until the vibration stopped, either because it had gone to voicemail or because the caller had given it up and decided to try it again later.

Later. The concept of time suddenly seemed ridiculous.

Opening her eyes, she unlocked the seatbelt, reached over to the passenger’s seat to take her purse, put the zipped plastic bag in it and got out of the car.

It was cold, freezing, really. She thought that she’d taken a coat with her in the morning before she had left for work, but she could not remember. Her frame should be shivering in the frosty wind, and maybe it was, but she could not feel a thing.

She stepped up the stone stairs that led to the front door, shaky fingers fumbling with her keys until she managed to put them into the lock before she opened the door.

 

The candles in the hallway were lit, it smelled of lavender and rosemary chicken. Frowning, she closed the door behind her, shrugged her coat off to hang it up next to his brown suede jacket and walked over to the kitchen, purse in hand and the sound of her stiletto heels on the floor announcing her arrival.

She stepped around the corner and smiled. “Hello handsome.”

Peeking over his shoulder, he shot her a smirk. “Hey.”

Her purse got to sit on the kitchen isle on her way before she reached him, placed a hand on his shoulder to silently ask him to kiss her, short and sweet until he turned his attention back to the stove. All insanity of the day suddenly washed away by a single touch.

“How was your day?”, he asked while her fingertips kept brushing over the washed-out fabric of his flannel button-up. He must have been at home for a while already, considering that he’d already changed out of his work attire.

“Odd. Something came up, but it’s alright now.” Her eyes kept taking in the fine lines of his profile and everything became alright. It was as if the natural action of looking at him was taking the weight of the day off her shoulders, off her mind, off the world. “I thought we were going out tonight.”, she reminded him, and he shrugged.

“Changed my mind.”, he said casually, and she smirked. “Hey, there’s champagne in the fridge, if you want some.”

“Champagne? What, are we celebrating?”

“Yes.” He set the wooden spoon on the edge of the pan, turned and lay his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as he looked into her eyes and gave her a smile. His happiness, it was her peace of mind, her assurance; every single lifeline she could have needed combined in him as he mended her heart when it had not even broken, because he was the only person who could have done it, break her. And she knew that he never would. “I talked to Will today.”

Her brows shot up in surprise. “Really? Why?”

“Because…” His eyes wandered down on her, the motion seductive and familiar, the loving adoration that he always presented her with. “We’re going away in April.”

Her lips parted as her smile widened and she placed her cold hand on his warm cheek. “You and Will are going away over my birthday?”, she asked mockingly, and he frowned.

“What?”

She chuckled. “I’m just teasing you. You know, you could have just said something, and I would have taken care of it. After all, it’s your present and I didn’t intend you doing all the work for it.”

He shrugged and leaned down to kiss her.

“I didn’t do any work. I just wanted to surprise you.”

Her smile widened as her free arm slung around his neck. She pulled him closer into a tight embrace, her hand wandering from his cheek into his hair and she closed her eyes, inhaled his scent before she whispered into his ear. “You’re wonderful. I love you.”

His fingers brushed over her back. A simple motion, inviting her home. “I love you, too.”

 

The smell of home hit her. It smelled like her, it smelled like him. It made her nauseous.

She stepped in, slowly and staggering without even noticing it herself. The door fell shut behind her. And it was silent.

Reaching for her chest, she remembered that she was not wearing a coat before she went on and stepped into the empty kitchen, heading straight to the liquor cabinet above the counter. She placed her purse on the countertop, took one of the glass bottles of scotch out without checking which one it was, but it was golden and strong and that was all that concerned her.

She poured until the hollow crystal tumbler was only half empty anymore, closed the bottle and shoved it aside, the glass loud in the empty house as it scratched over the counter.

Her fingers were red from the cold outside when they curled around the cool glass without lifting it up, as her eyes got captured by the colour of liquid gold that matched the ring on her finger, like it had spilled over her hand and solidified around it.

The torturous silence in the house was suddenly broken but the agony remained. The sound of her sobs, her loud, almost primal cries were off-putting, and her free hand rose to clutch her chest through the thick, high-quality fabric of her dress. It felt too tight, like it was pressing too hard against her ribcage while her heart was being torn apart and the lack of air hindered her breathing.

She would choke if it would keep on tightening around her lungs and the lack of oxygen would soon have its consequences with the strain that her screams were putting on them.

Her fingers tightened around the crystal tumbler, like they were trying to break it in her grip. The glass stood still, her body shaking with every sob. The sight of the golden band on her left ring finger got blurrier and blurrier, mingled with the colour of the liquor in the glass, until the lines between them melted away to vanish completely as her eyes lost control over the salty tears that started to run over her cheeks.

She felt them on her skin, quickly reaching her neck and then further below her cleavage and breathing became harder as her guttural cries began to hoarsen.

Her fingernails were digging into her aching chest, leaving half-moon shaped imprints on her skin through the fabric of her dress.

Slowly, she let go of the glass of scotch and she turned before she allowed her trembling legs to give in beneath her. The cabinet door underneath the counter felt cold against her neck. Her sobs echoed more viciously back into her ears down here.

But there was no way to get up and it did not make a difference. Because there was no reason to do so anymore anyway.

Drowning. Suffocating. There were worse causes of death.

There’s a place where lovers go
To cry their troubles away
And they call it Lonesome Town
Where the broken hearts stay

Recent scientific and medical studies have proven the existence of a condition that doctors usually refer to as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. It can occur after what people would identify as good shocks, like winning the lottery, but it is more commonly associated with highly stressful triggers, such as car accidents, emotional memories, surgery, serious illness, money loss, and first and foremost, the loss of a loved one.

The common denomination amongst today’s society for it is broken heart syndrome, which is too unpretentious to use within the medical and/or scientific field, where they prefer more complicated and less bloomy or literate phrases as a part of their job atmosphere, even though in this case, broken heart syndrome is actually a simple, and pretty beautiful choice of words for a condition that is also known to be able to cause death. And since this story is supposed to be a literate affair, I’m going to stick with broken heart syndrome for the matter of this short digression.

Today’s definition assumes that the pathological cause can be found in a part of the patient’s heart called the left ventricle, which is one of the four chambers of the human heart, located in the bottom left portion of the muscle below the left atrium, from which it is parted by the mitral valve. In illustrations, it is usually pictured in red. The left ventricle’s job as the heart’s thickest chamber is to pump oxygenated blood (-> blood that’s loaded with oxygen from the lungs, as opposed to deoxygenated blood that needs to be reoxygenated to be of use and therefore returns to the lungs, from where the oxygen gets carried by red blood cells and is from now on called haemoglobin, a complex built of oxygen (the transported, or as I like to foolishly call them: transportees) and red blood cells (the transporters); oxygenated blood looks bright red, deoxygenated blood looks dark red) to tissues all over the body.

It is believed that the broken heart syndrome is a condition caused by the instance that the left ventricle temporarily weakens (meaning, it stops doing the blood pumping in the way the body needs it to). On top of that, newer studies hint that the coronary arteries begin to spasm, which means that they temporarily stop feeding the heart muscle with oxygen (bottom line: the oxygen transport through the body is immensely hampered), which usually results in circulating problems and can be lethal like a heart attack if it is not treated.

Chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or even fainting, low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat are known as the most common symptoms that usually start up to just a few hours after the patient has undergone the causal shock or stress.

The broken heart syndrome is the latest approach to explain the phenomenon of people who were married for a long period of time often dying shortly after one another. The hinted period of time is limited up to a couple of days between the deaths.

In conclusion, the broken heart syndrome is a real condition. It is usually triggered by losing someone you love.

Some may say it’s a tragedy, to die from a condition like this. And others would see it gratefully as a form of relief in the face of the greatest loss they would imagine if it were possible for them to do so before it happened.

You can buy a dream or two
To last you all through the years
And the only price you pay
Is a heart full of tears

“I’m terribly sorry.”

She stared at the young man for a few seconds. He was taller than her, she did not like looking up at him like some little girl who needed someone to explain the world to her.

Shaking her head, something between a scoff and a humourless laugh escaped her. “Excuse me, but you must be mistaken. My husband’s last name is McVeigh, not Lockhart.”

He was wrong. This was not happening.

This could not be happening.

The surgeon’s parted lips closed, and he shot her a look that made her feel even more belittled. Like he was pitying her, not taking her seriously.

“Ma’am, I’m afraid that I’m not mistaken.”, he said calmly.

She shook her head again, feeling her cheeks starting to heat up in the embarrassment of this obvious misunderstanding. “No, I think you’re confusing me with somebody else.”, she said, her voice strong, because there was no cause that would call for weakness right now. There couldn’t be. He’d promised her. “Lockhart is my maiden name. My husband is Kurt McVeigh, he was in—”

“A traffic accident.”, he finished gently.

Diane pressed her lips together, her piercing blue eyes staying on the surgeon’s. “No, this—“, she began, quickly stopping and looking away at the sound of her voice cracking. “I… no. He—”

He promised.

The man reached out for her upper arm and her eyes shot up as she swerved his touch before it could meet the fabric of her dress. His arm dropped to his side again and he took a deep breath.

How could he breathe like that? Calm and evenly, just like that? As if the world was not falling apart around them, like the storm of grey had not taken them fully in yet, swallowed them in whole?

How could he breathe like that when others didn’t?

“Ma’am, your husband’s belongings are with Nurse McRaney right now. She will approach you soon to hand them to you and—”

“I want to see him.”, she cut him off, and he stopped, nodding like the professional that he was.

This was nothing special to him. It was a regular part of his day. She was one of many to him.

He was one of many to him.

Just another name to add on the list of people that could not have been saved. Another unlucky guy that just had not made it.

“Of course. I’ll take you to him.”

Going down to Lonesome Town
Where the broken hearts stay
Going down to Lonesome Town
To cry my troubles away

The cliché phrases had failed her, because neither had he looked like he was asleep, nor peaceful. He had not even looked like himself.

Her exhales escaped her in short and uneven little gasps. She leaned the back of her head against the cool cabinet door behind her, her eyes red and glassy, and breathing was hard. Her legs were bent, knees tucked towards her chest and parted from it by her hand that was still clutching her aching chest, like she was attempting to curl up and hide from the silence, the emptiness in their home.

The kitchen seemed too big, almost absurdly grant and she had never noticed it until now. She eventually managed to push herself back up on her feet to try and get rid of the feeling, but it didn’t do much good.

Her hand left her chest to curl around the edge of the countertop and keep her standing. She was dizzy, felt like throwing up but didn’t. Her free hand blindly lifted the crystal tumbler in front of her and she chugged the burning bitterness down in one gulp. She had not eaten all day and felt the liquor immediately starting to rush through her veins.

Her fingers were still curled around the glass when his cell began to buzz again, muted but the vibration was loud enough to be heard when the only sounds in the house were the small, quiet whimpers that escaped her with every breath she took.

Her hand left the countertop and wandered over to her purse, taking the zipped bag out.

The illuminated display behind the transparent layer of plastic read Josephine Walters, the name of his assistant.

Placing the empty glass aside, she unzipped the bag, took his buzzing phone out and answered.

“Hello?”, she asked low and quietly, making the word sound dull and hollow, not letting on that she was choking on the inside.

“Mrs. McVeigh?” Her voice was high-pitched and bubbly. It almost hurt to hear it. “This is Josephine, I was trying to reach your husband. He’s not here and he already missed two meetings, I—”

“He’s not coming.”, she cut her off, short and raspy. There was a stain on the wall of kitchen tiles, oil or something similarly greasy. Her gaze lay on it like her mind was able to make it disappear with what was left of her willpower, but it just stayed there, motionlessly.

“Oh. Is he sick? He didn’t call in to inform me, what—”

“Josephine.” Her front teeth scraped roughly across her quivering bottom lip, trying to force it to stay still, but it did not obey. Her lips parted and closed again in the silence of the other line and the stain was still staring at her from its place on the wall. “He’s dead.”

It was as if the words had been said by somebody else, as if they were just telling her now. She didn’t hear his young assistant’s high-pitched stammering on the other line, eventually cut her off when her throat was able to produce words again. “I’m sorry, but I have to go now.”

She hung up and the display flashed on again. It told her that it was a little after half-past one, like it mattered. She did not know what to do with the information.

There were five messages on his voicemail. Hesitantly, she unlocked the phone and clicked on the information. Three calls from Josephine Walters, the two most recent ones and the second one on the list, parted by a call from herself. And the first one was from Marissa Gold.

Frowning, she clicked on it and held the phone against her ear.

“Kurt, it’s Marissa. I cleared and blocked her calendar for April, starting on the second and ending on the twenty-ninth, as we said. Don’t thank me and have a good day!”

It beeped once and the message was over. She swallowed and tipped on the third one. The tone of her voice, apart from the oddness that accompanied hearing her own voice recorded, sounded light and careless. How stupid, how clueless she had been, just a couple of hours ago.

“Hey, it’s me. Can you please call me back as soon as you hear this? Thanks. I love you.”

She shuddered and dropped the phone on the counter. The grease spot on the tiles kept staring at her when one of her brows furrowed and a new layer of tears coated the blue of her eyes, the silence in the house was still passively listening to the choked sob that escaped her.

It wasn’t trying to comfort her, to wrap its arms around her and make it better; it was just yet another weight that was tightening her ribcage around her chest.

Snuffling, she pushed her hair back with a trembling hand and reached into her purse again to get her phone. It was time. She had to call Andrea.

But instead, her gaze fell on a purple plastic box that had remained untouched for the whole day. Carefully, she took it out and opened the lid.

He’d packed a small variety of fruit and a couple of pieces of buttered toast inside, knowing that she preferred light breakfasts, if any. But they hardly caught her gaze because it was captured by a small post-it note that was sticking to the inside of the purple lid.

A short scribble in untidy handwriting that looked like he had been in a rush when he wrote it. But she knew that it never made a difference, his handwriting had always been a mess.

I’ll only take you out tonight if this comes home empty. I mean it. Have a good day. Love you.

She read the words in his voice in her desperation to hear it. Cautiously, as to not damage the thin paper, she peeled the note off the plastic surface before she closed the box again and put it aside.

Her eyes remained on the letters as she blindly reached for her phone and dialled the first number she had on speed dial. His phone buzzed to life on the counter and it took five waiting signals until—

“You’ve reached the personal voicemail of Kurt McVeigh. I’m unavailable right now, so please leave a message.”

The letters melted away in front of her before the first sob escaped her. She was still pressing the phone against her ear when the signal tone had already passed, like she was hoping that there was more, even though she knew there wasn’t. Eventually, the voicemail’s capacity reached its limits, the line automatically disconnected, and his cell lit up on the counter.

1:49 pm: 1 missed call from Diane

She swallowed, took a deep, audible breath and brushed the salty tears off her cheeks. Opening her contact list, she cleared her dry throat and waited for another minute before she dialled her number.

She answered after two signals.

“Hello?”, she asked lightly. Diane had known her for ten years now. She’d always had a friendly voice, the warm smile that she had in common with him, the optimism in them reflective of the open, joyous way in which she approached life.

She swallowed again. “Andrea… It’s Diane.” Her voice was monotone, like an automatic audiotape. It was easier this way. It was right this way.

“Oh, hey! How are you?”, she asked, and she could practically hear her smiling on the other line.

“I—“, she began, before she stopped herself as a new wave of tears escaped her eyes and a silent gulp was caught in her throat. Her voice was thin and ragged, higher than usual when she managed to speak again. “Andy… Something terrible happened.”

In the town of broken dreams
The streets are paved with regret
Maybe down in Lonesome Town
I can learn to forget

Even though the countryside had never been her cup of tea, she had to admit that it looked beautiful. They passed snow-covered trees in all shapes and sizes, the streets were empty, and the houses around them were lit with the most beautiful fairy lights. It was almost like they had been driving for months and now that they were almost there, Christmas time had begun.

Christmas time. She had always had a weakness for it.

She was nibbling her red lipstick off her bottom lip, her gaze captured by the view from the passenger’s window and her fingers floated above her lap, duelling against each other as she picked on the skin beside her manicured nails.

It was beautiful. But she did not belong here.

Her eyes left the window, wandered to her left when his hand curled around her thigh, and once it had settled, his thumb began to brush gently over the rough, black fabric of her jeans.

“Everything okay?”, he asked, his eyes on the road. He looked handsome, even though she had preferred the beard that he’d traded for a moustache a couple of weeks ago.

He was beautiful. He belonged here.

“Mhm.”, she hummed in feigned confirmation, which did not go unnoticed by him. A small smirk formed on his lips and he shot her an encouraging gaze.

“Nervous?”

Her teeth letting go off her bottom lip, she gave him a small, almost sheepish nod. He’d never seen her like that before. Insecure. Vulnerable even. “A little.”, she added hastily, and he grinned.

“Me too. A little.”, he said and looked back at the road. She chuckled and his smile widened. Her laugh was the most beautiful sound of all.

“What, do you think that they won’t like me?” She was still laughing, but he heard the honesty, the worry in her voice.

“No. I just don’t do this a lot.”

It was more than an understatement. He had never introduced a woman to his family before. But he would never tell her that, not now and not in the years that were about to follow.

She stayed silent and he wanted to look at her again to try and read the look on her face, but he needed to turn left, so he just gave her thigh a little squeeze.

“Me neither.”, she said quietly. “I… what if they won’t like me?”

He could not believe that she was worried about this. How could anyone ever dislike her?

He shook his head, scoffing amusedly. “Of course they’ll like you.”

“Kurt, look around.”, she said loudly, her voice higher than it usually was. “I don’t fit in here. I’m not like you.”

He looked back at her and shot her a frown. She was staring at him, her eyes wide open and he considered pulling over and stopping the car for a moment to kiss her. “We make it work.”, he reminded her, and the tip of her tongue flicked over her lips.

“I know, but…”

“But?”

She sighed softly and entwined her fingers with his on her thigh. “Oh, I don’t know. Sorry, I’m just being ridiculous… right?”

He offered her a smile. “A little.”, he said when he looked back at the road and she chuckled again. Ricky Nelson was singing a song about heartache and sadness on the local radio station, and he had never been happier than at this moment. The melancholy, the sorrow in his voice were made into the most beautiful song, the happiest sound that he had ever heard when it mingled with the melody of her laugh.

Her thumb brushed lovingly over the back of his hand and he smiled to himself, almost glad now that she could not see him from the front. He must have looked like an idiot.

But he could not help himself.

“Diane, I…”, he began, but cut himself off before he could go through with it, like a coward. He shook his head. “I think we’re almost there.”

He thought that she had not noticed what he had been about to say. But she had.

Maybe down in Lonesome Town
I can learn to forget

The doorbell rang about half an hour later. It could not have been Andrea, not yet. It was much too long a drive to make it within such little time, even at this hour on a weekday.

Slowly, as if in trance, she placed the half-empty crystal tumbler of scotch on the kitchen isle and stepped out of the kitchen. She was still wearing her shoes, did not have it in her to slip out of them and pretend that she had arrived home when it didn’t actually feel like it.

She didn’t know what or whom she had expected when she opened the door. And even though it made sense, she had not expected him.

They looked at each other in silence for a moment, but the looks that lay in their eyes spoke volumes when their voices couldn’t. His, lively and hazel and pained with concern, and hers, blue as pale as her skin, looking lost in the infinite oceans of her aching heart that were drowning her on the inside.

“You forgot your coat.”, he eventually said and made a short movement with his hand to show it to her. He had changed out of his bloodstained, white button-up into a simple, long-sleeved shirt, the fabric lightly bunched up in his arm sling.

His lips were stretched in a small, lopsided smile, that almost looked careful in case it was not what she wanted to see.

But the truth was that she did not want to see anything. At least nothing that was still possible for her to see, because every sight, every view that this world allowed her anymore was just yet another disappointment.

She must have looked terrible, but his gaze did not give him away if that was what he was thinking. He just looked like Will. Her best friend Will.

Her brows moved in a pained frown and her lips parted in a silent gasp, cool fingers tightening around the icy, golden metal of the door handle. She felt like she was going to fall when the first sob shattered through her body, but he caught her, embracing her as tightly as he could.

“Will, your arm—“, she stammered in between sobs, but he cut her off.

“Fuck my arm.”

He pulled her slim, trembling frame against him and she let go off the door, wrapped her arms around his neck as she buried her face in the cotton fabric of his shirt. Her fingertips dug into his shirt, as though he could keep her heart from breaking further, as though he could put a stop to the aching pain in her chest. Her mascara would stain it on his shoulder. The way they were standing must have been awful for his injury.

But it was not important.

She sobbed into his embrace, deep and pained and pathetic to a point where she could not even feel ashamed about her own paltriness anymore, tearing his heart as the sorrow was tearing hers into countless shreds of useless and damaged tissue.

Broken heart syndrome. It sounded so cheesy and was yet so deadly.

 

This poor little heart
Would have followed your weal and woe
Until the end of the world.
Little did it know
You would rip it right apart.

 

Chapter Text

“I found her. She’s home and not doing well. I’ll stay with her until his sister’s here.”, she read out loud and looked up to face Liz and Adrian.

Liz shook her head and sighed, uncrossing her arms and tugging on her blazer to get rid of invisible wrinkles in the fabric sitting beneath the dainty silver buttons that held the jacket together. “Okay. We should tell the partners.”

Her husband’s gaze met hers. Dark, warm eyes expressing his disbelief as his hand gently curled around her upper arm, like he was physically trying to hold her back. “Liz, I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.”, he said softly, and Liz scoffed.

“No, we’re not. We shouldn’t wait for rumors to start spreading around here and she needs some time off anyway. So, we might as well tell them right now.”

“Shouldn’t we talk this out with Will first?”, Alicia asked, locking her cell phone display before she lay it on the desk behind her.

“He would agree with me. I mean…” Liz swallowed, shaking her head. “Guys, her husband just died. Let’s be realistic about this. She won’t just get better in a heartbeat and not in a mere couple of days. She needs to take all the time she deserves, and we have to do everything in our power to make it easier for her.”

Adrian exhaled deeply. It was quiet in his office for a moment that felt too long, too tense for the obtrusiveness of clueless silence. The noises from the hallway barely passed the closed glass door, sounding dull like they were ebbing over to them from a different world, a normal one compared to what they seemed to have fallen into within the matter of the past couple of hours. Then he straightened, leaning up from the edge of the leather armchair behind him.

“We’ll ask Will what he thinks. He should decide on an amount of time and whatever he considers a smart move to make right now, what we're gonna tell her clients, what we're gonna tell the partners… anything. He knows her the best and he should get a say in it.”

Alicia nodded. “Okay, I’ll ask him. We’ll talk when I have his answer.”, she said, took her phone and left the room.

Adrian’s gaze followed her until the glass door fell shut behind her again and he turned to look at his wife. Silent, absent-mindedly, her gaze was laying on the window front that revealed the far from uplifting sight of a rainy, grey winter day to them.

“You okay?”, he asked, and she met his gaze, her face like a puzzle he could not solve.

She shrugged. “I just… I can’t imagine what she must be going through right now. They’ve been together now for… what, ten years?”

He nodded softly and she tilted her head, the corner of her lips twitching aside as it always did when she was sure to be at least one thought ahead of him. “You get used to a person’s presence over such a long time. All the plans she made ever since included him because she thought that he was going to experience the future with her. And I mean, she never even had a reason to doubt it, because they were always so happy together. But now…” She moved her hand in an odd gesture, puzzlement, words that she either could not grasp, or were simply too cliché to say. “It’s all gone.”

He looked at her, his lips pursed and eyes narrowed, like a myope who tried to read something that he couldn’t without visual aid. “Gets you thinking, huh?”

“Yes.”

He raised his chin, nodded towards the couch and turned to get a bottle of scotch and two glasses out of a wooden cabinet beneath his book shelve. Then he joined her on the couch, pouring each of them two fingers width of liquor before they clinked the glasses together in a manner that almost looked sarcastic in the face of the day’s events, and simultaneously emptied the tumblers in one swig.

He swallowed, the burning feeling in his throat a momentary relief.

“You know…”, he began, meeting her gaze and an arched eyebrow. “She said this thing to me once, in our third year after the merger. We were working on an important case together and it didn’t look good for us. The judge was incompetent, and we were sure that we were gonna lose. And one night, we were a couple of drinks in and I felt so… depressed. And hopeless. And she said this thing to me, about love. She said that he and his love gave her hope and that there was nothing that could take it away, that it would always be there no matter what happened. And that we can’t give up on it.”

Liz slowly twirled the empty tumbler around between her fingers. “She said that?”, she asked, her voice monotone and soft, a trace of disbelief in her tone, and he nodded. “It doesn’t sound like something she would say.”

“That’s what I thought.”, he agreed.

A deep, audible exhale, close to a sigh, escaped her before she reached for the bottle of scotch and refilled their tumblers, took a healthy swig and looked up. “I guess love really does change people.”

It was already dark outside when she adjusted her hair again, at least as dark as it could get in a city like Chicago, a business district run by insomniacs. She was not nearly as casual in the way she ran her fingers through the strands of blonde as she wanted it to appear, while she forced her eyes to stay on the opened casefile in front of her. But no matter how hard she tried, her gaze kept wandering over the rim of her reading glasses as she peeked through the glass walls into the lit office across from hers.

She felt ridiculous, crossing and uncrossing her legs repeatedly to try and put herself into a seating position that was more flattering than the previous one, just in case he would turn around and look at her. She was acting like a schoolgirl, a silly teenager, and she felt something that she had not felt for a very, very long time now.

She did not care to identify it, only knew that it made her blush and giggle, that it put a tough strain on her composure. And she was not sure if she liked it, only knew that all reason shockingly could not bring herself to dislike it, not even a bit.

She had not even noticed that her eyes had left the file again, until they suddenly locked with his when he walked out the glass door. And before she could have looked down again in the most cliché action of panic, he shot her a narrowed smirk, his lips curling up beneath his moustache as the memories reminded her of how it felt when they curled against her own.

She cast him a smile before he turned around the corner, stretched her neck to linger in the simple and short-termed action of seeing him for a split-second longer, before the moment slipped through her fingers again.

And then he was gone.

With a quiet sigh, she leaned back into her chair, took off her glasses and dropped them on her desk.

Maybe she should have gone after him, but if that was what it took for him to stay, it could not have been right. Maybe she would just call him sometime within the next couple of days, to try and keep a little distance before either of them could start thinking about moving too fast and diving into certain things too soon. Maybe—

Her cell phone beeped and the display lit up to inform her about an unread message.

I’ll give you ten minutes.

A small giggle escaped her, and she was interrupted by a voice on the other end of the room.

“You’re in a good mood.”

Looking up, she met his amused, hazel gaze, and she shook her head, holding her index finger up to wordlessly ask him for a moment.

Make it 15?

- Starting now.

With a widening smile, she put her phone back on the desk, biting her bottom lip to unsuccessfully try and hide her idiotic grin as she looked up and saw Will’s mocking gaze while he took a seat across from her. He leaned back into the leather chair and folded his hands, his expression smug and overflowing with expectation.

“So? What’s got you laughing in the office in the middle of the night?”, he asked, and her teeth let go of her lip, her smile taking over.

“I met someone.”, she said, almost sheepishly.

“I knew it!”, he suddenly exclaimed loudly and her face fell.

“How—”

“Of course it’s a guy! You’ve been acting so strange lately, all the laughing, and smiling, and texting, and singing in the conference room—”

“I never sing in the conference room.”, she interrupted him and he tilted his head, arching an eyebrow at her.

“Diane. Yesterday, after the equity meeting?”

Her lips parted, then closed again silently. “Oh.”

He chuckled while her cheeks flushed. “Okay, now spit it out. Who is he? Do I know him?”

Inhaling sharply, she shot him an apologetic smile. “Actually, yes… you just handed him his paycheck.”

His smug smile left his features, the look quickly turning into a frown. “What—” He cut himself off and his eyes widened. “No. Diane, no.”

“Sorry.”, she said and rather made it sound like a guess instead of a sincere apology.

“I…”, he began and shook his head. “Is it serious?”

She shrugged in feigned indifference, could not keep herself from feeling stupid because she had been pondering over exactly the same question for almost three months now without being able to figure it out on her own, and at the same time, without having the guts to ask him about it. “I don’t know. I guess?”

Will’s brows shot together, making his face look more tense than it usually did, and he pursed his lips. “What the hell does that mean?”

“We haven’t really… defined anything yet. I just wanted to know if you’re okay with it, considering…” She made an odd gesture with her hand, and he shrugged.

“Diane, I’m happy as long as you’re getting some.”

She swallowed a chuckle, shaking her head like she had overheard that. “Alright. Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone’s waiting for me and he tends to get very… impatient.”, she said, rolling the last word a little more exaggeratedly over her tongue than she’d needed to make her point, before she put her phone and reading glasses into her purse and rose from her seat.

“I didn’t need to know that.”, Will said dryly, making her laugh.

“Well, that’s too bad. Have a good weekend!”

Without looking back, she stepped out of her office and moved through the hallway, stopping momentarily when her cell beeped again.

Hurry.

With another sweet chuckle, she went on, her eyes still captured by the display when she reached the elevators and blindly bumped into someone.

“Oh, I’m sorry—”

“It’s okay.”, his gruff voice said amusedly and she looked up and grinned.

“Oh. It’s you.”, she laughed, dropping her phone back into her purse as he cast her a wicked look.

“Yep.”

Her lips parted in a wide smile as she eyed him wordlessly for another faint moment before she spoke, her voice uncharacteristically small, almost sheepish. “I just told him.”, she said, nodding vaguely into the direction of the glass walls on the other end of the floor.

His brows shot up and she could see the mischief she’d been falling for with every single glance he gave her, glistening in his green eyes. “Told him what?”, he asked and she rolled her eyes, failing horribly while trying to hide her amusement.

“You know… about us…”

He gave her a small nod and smirked. “Ah. That.”, he said and stepped a little closer, his hands curving around her waist. “So, no more hiding?”

“Mhm, no more hiding.”, she whispered, her hand rising up to gently cup his stubbly cheek before she leaned in to kiss him.

From the other end of the hallway, he stood and watched as they parted. He must have said something to her, and her laughter echoed through the deserted office space in answer, warmer and brighter than it had ever been before, like it was holding the power to light up the dimmed night. He took her hand in his and led her into the elevator before the door closed behind them.

She had changed a lot over the past few weeks. He’d noticed it before but saw it more clearly now that he knew that there was a reason for it. She seemed calmer, energized… happier somehow. And if this guy was the reason for it, he could only hope that he would choose to stick around.

I’m with you. She needs to take some time off, at least a few days, if not more. Talk to the partners, I’ll call you when I leave.

He sent the text and put his phone away when he heard her steps coming closer to him, until the sound disappeared as she came to a halt in the doorframe.

“Can I get you anything?” Her voice was hollow, soft and monotone, almost like she had not even asked him a question. Even though he could hardly stand having to see the rare sight of her crying, and as much as the unnerving action caused his heart to ache for her, now he almost wished for her to do it instead. Because the hopelessness he heard in her voice that was by choice drained of all emotion was even more impossible to take.

“No, I’m good.”, he said, forcing himself not to frown in worry as she nodded once, came over and sank down on the other end of the couch.

Her gaze laid on the refilled crystal tumbler of scotch in her hand as if she was able to see something inside it apart from the dark golden liquor, and she was sitting straight, looking like she was the guest in this scenario instead of him; as though she had never actually made it back home.

She looked shorter than she actually was, like a stranger in her own house, her gaze absent, posture tense and lacking any sign of comfort, her high heels still on her feet like they could carry her out of here in case someone would casually tell her that she’d overstayed her welcome.

“What did the doctor say?”, she asked eventually without meeting his gaze, and it took a moment for him to understand what she was talking about.

“My arm is broken and I have a slight concussion, but nothing too serious.”

Slowly, she nodded without another word, before she looked up and downed half of the golden liquid in her generously refilled glass. She swallowed hard, and the sharp burning in her throat that followed the movement momentarily put a stop to the dull pain that the physical urge to start crying again was putting upon it.

It was easier to take.

The origin of the sharp burning was obvious and easy to grasp, easy to accept. Alcohol could be seen, she could smell it under her breath, taste it on her tongue, feel its biting warmth rushing through her upper body and down to her legs in a slight tingle of enhanced numbness, a chosen loss of control.

And loss was just absence. Neither an object, nor a person, just a lack of those in the truest meaning of the word. Nothing that could be seen or touched, or filled into a glass bottle and to save it for a bad day. She felt it but it could not be grasped, like a shadow in the darkness, like darkness in the night. It was harder to think about and it was easier to still it with something that did not make her feel as stupid, because its concept was missing the disheartening and unsettling abstraction of her emotions.

Her fingertips were pressing against the thick, cold glass, like they were attempting to crush it in her hold to cause the shards to cut into her skin. Vicious, uneven edges of solidity that would make her scream in pain and bleed in destruction, until all that she would see was dark red, all that she could feel warm, thick blood pumping out of her veins and pouring past the useless dam of her skin, until all that she could smell would be sharp iron and nauseating, physical pain. Pain that she could grasp and dig her palm into to increase it, or let go off to decrease it when she would have enough. Pain that she could look at and watch as it evolved, hurt that she could process because she could wrap her head around its cause, and nothing like the weight that was causing the most all-consuming ache she had ever had to feel, that she had ever had to watch increase with no control about it whatsoever, with every pointless additional breath her body was forcing her to take.

There was no good in a reflex if it did not do any good.

There was no point in living if there was nothing worth living for.

And breathing was a reflex that kept on going, even when all reason to keep doing anything was lost.

His fingers brushed over her upper back, then came to rest on her shoulder. He must have moved on the couch, crept closer towards her to do so, without her noticing.

“Diane…”, he began, and his tone, the helplessness in his voice almost caused her to look up. But she did not have it in her, the strength to go through with it, because if she were to look at him, she would have to turn aside and see the white piano that was standing right behind them by the window front in the large room, illuminated by what little light the world had left to offer, would have to face the pain from the corner of her eye. “What can I do?”

Her fingertips looked pale and bloodless, rosy white around the bright red of her nail polish, the pressure on them pushing the colour out of her flesh. “Nothing.”, she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.

His exhale was audible. It almost sounded pained. “Will you tell me if that changes?”

Diane shrugged. “Did you talk to Alicia?”, she asked as if she had not heard his question, as if she did not believe in its sincerity and therefore did not even bother to try and give him an answer.

“Diane, that’s not what we’re supposed talk about right now.”, he said and her head tilted upwards, her gaze leaving the glass in her hand to face one side of the window front behind the other couch in the room across from the one they were sitting on.

“Why the hell not?”, she suddenly scoffed.

Will leaned forward to try and catch her eye, but she did not let him.

“Because there are more important things right now? Is that what you think? That’s a laugh.” She was almost yelling now, her voice strong and steady like she had borrowed it from someone else, a past self, someone who did not have to feel pain that could not even be defined.

She emptied the glass in a quick swig, then placed it audibly on the coffee table in front of them.

“I’m not saying that. But now is not the right time.”, he said and she snorted bitterly.

“You two are having a baby. This is exactly the right time for it.” She paused and he did not know what to say to break the silence in the right way, or if there even was a right way to begin with. Her anger, it was not really directed at him, he was aware of that. But it only made it harder for him to deal with it.

Her voice was lower and monotone again when she eventually continued. “Alicia and your baby… they need you now, much more than I do. And don’t you dare screw this up, Will.”

It was starting to rain outside. The droplets were softly drumming against the windows. Rain. Which meant that the ice on the streets was melting, if it had not already dissolved into smooth streaks of water than ran down the concrete ground like a tiny river of nothingness. Thin puddles of ice water that would not cause anybody’s SUV to kill any more people today.

She was picking on the skin around her nails again as her eyes were glazed by a new layer of tears. It was as if the rain was both mocking and pitying her, and she could not take either of those, didn’t want to have to take anything anymore.

He’d let go of her shoulder, his hand closing around her fingers now to still their movements. Slowly, he entwined his fingers with hers and wordlessly let her dig her nails into his skin as her hold on him tightened.

Quickly, she rubbed the back of her free hand over her watery eyes and her lungs forced her to inhale sharply. “I’m sorry.”, she breathed out, her whisper choked and throaty.

“No, it’s okay.”, he said, brushing his thumb over her hand.

She shook her head. “It’s not. I just…” A sharp gasp cut her off momentarily and a single tear snuck out and escaped the blue of her eyes. “Will, I don’t know what to do.”

A shiver ran through her body and he could not remember to have ever felt this helpless before.

“We’ll figure it out together.”, he said gently. She turned her head aside and finally allowed him to look at her flushed face, her teary, irritated eyes and parted lips that kept her from suffocating.

She could see the piano out of the corner of her eye, bright white in the little grey light that shone in through the watery windows from the rainy afternoon sky.

“It hurts so much.”, she suddenly choked out before she pressed her eyes shut and lifted her palm to press it against her lips, muffling the sounds that were threatening to escape her, while the fingers of her other hand dug deeper into his skin. She was shaking in uneven breaths as if her lungs were struggling to cope, and he knew that she was trying to hold it together. There was nothing he wished more than having her know that she did not have to.

“I know. Of course it does.”, he whispered and felt stupid because he knew that it was no help.

Because his words could not lift the weight off her chest. They were no guideline on how to do it, just mere syllables in the lack of helpfulness, only hollow sounds to disrupt the gasps for air that sounded like her body did not even want to keep trying anymore.

He watched silently as she leaned in and pressed a kiss against the other man’s cheek. His lips curled into a quick smile that almost seemed like an illusion since it was gone again before her flesh had left his skin, as if he was trying to hide it from her.

The bar was noisy, their table silent when she took her purse and left for the ladies’ room.

The young, brunette waitress stopped by and to take their order for the third round of the evening. He ordered another scotch, the other guy a beer and they picked another glass of the dry red wine she had been drinking all night. The waitress left and the silence crept back, making him slightly uncomfortable while the other guy did not seem to mind it all too much. He looked content, just waiting for her to get back.

“Listen, Kurt.”, he suddenly broke the silence between them, meeting his gaze in a manner that would hopefully manage to inform him of his seriousness.

Kurt’s brows shot up, an attentive look flashing through his eyes. “I’m listening.”, he noted into the halfway tense quiet, irony and a hint of amusement that he had not expected mingling in his low voice.

Will cleared his throat, straightening in his seating position before he spoke. “Look, I know you haven’t been together for too long, but I can see that she’s serious about this. It might not seem like it to you, but I’ve known her for a while now, and… this is different for her.”

“I…”, Kurt began after a moment of bafflement, and was cut off before he got the chance to continue.

“She’s my best friend and she deserves to be treated well. I care about her and I would hate to see her getting hurt.”

“I agree.”, he said and Will nodded determinedly.

“Good. Because if you hurt her, I will personally track you down and end you.”

An unexpected smirk suddenly crept over his lips and he chuckled. “Understood.”

Her head sank against his shoulder and he cursed his broken arm for keeping him from being able to embrace her while her grip on his hand did not allow him a different way of doing so.

Her slim frame was trembling, like her muffled sobs were threatening to let her explode.

Softly, he ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “Diane, it’s me. You don’t have to keep it in.”

She buried her face deeper in his shoulder, sharp, breathless whimpers sneaking past her attempts to keep quiet.

“Will, I need him here.”, she suddenly sobbed, her voice a high-pitched cry that caused a thick knot to form in his throat. “I don’t want to do this alone.”

Dipping his head, he pressed a kiss on her hair, closing his eyes to shut out the tears that were threatening to blur his sight.

“You’re not alone.”, he said, taken aback by the sound of his own raspy voice that she was in no condition to notice.

There were only his words. One last possible lifeline. The only hope she had left.

“I’m here, and I’ll always be here.”

 

I keep on breathing and
I don’t know why
What good is a reflex if
It’s not reasserting?
What good is life when
It’s only perverting?
I keep on breathing
Listen to my lungs cry
Late into the night; Aching
Unrelenting. Uncontrollably. And so am I.

 

Chapter Text

She forewent taking off her makeup and brushing her teeth that night. The guest bathroom on the other end of the hallway was already set up for Andrea’s needs, and she couldn’t deal with the outlook of having to see her own reflection in the mirror, only to get distracted by the sight of his towels or his half of the shelve above the sink. His razor and shaving creme, his toothbrush in a glass next to hers, the barely scented soap he used for practically everything, the untouched moisturizer she’d bought for him years and years ago and which had never been opened to this day, and the red toy car Malcolm had given him a couple of months ago.

She couldn’t do it.

Stepping out of her heels, she closed the bedroom door behind her. She could feel it now, the amount of scotch she had been drinking ever since she’d gotten home today, felt the aftertaste in cardialgia like it was burning holes into her throat, felt the stinging pain in her feet wandering up into her calves from being trapped in stiletto heels all day, numbed by the alcohol, awakening her indifference about it. She wondered where the line was that made the difference between pain that could be stilled and shut out of her mind, and the one she couldn’t seem to rid herself off, no matter how hard she tried. But she never found an answer that night.

Kicking the shoes into the corner by the mirror, she reached behind her to unzip her dress, peeled the fabric off her body while she looked up, her gaze shooting to one of the glass shelves on the wall that displayed a couple of extracts from his firearm collection.

He’d never cared too much about bringing parts of him into the interior of their house, was content just silently letting her do her thing when it came to it; agreeing on wallpaper without giving it a second look or taking the time to imagine it on the walls, nodding off throw pillows she showed him enthusiastically, letting her pick silk bedding and white floral themes, because he’d known that it was more important to her than it was to him, and he’d trusted her enough to know that she would not make it too feminine for his peace of mind. He’d only wanted the house to feel comfortable and he could not have thought of anything that would have made him more comfortable than the idea of living with her, anyway.

So, when the day had come when he’d told her of his idea to hang up the couple of firearms he’d had left around the house, she’d agreed to it in a heart-beat, pleased to see that he’d seemingly begun to make an effort to turn this into not only hers, but both of their home. She would have let him do anything in here, anything he’d wanted that left a trace of him displayed in the decor, anything to make him happy.

She saw her half-naked reflection in the glass, staring back at her with eyes that were too exhausted, too puffy to widen, like she was looking at a ghost. A ghost, a maddening memory, haunting her until she would finally get to lose her mind in peaceful and freeing insanity.

Swallowing hard, she turned her back to it and continued to take off her clothes while facing the door, telling herself that she was ignoring the blue tie that dangled off the mirror frame, ignoring the burning feeling of held back tears that was irritating her tired eyes.

Her clothes landed on the floor and she turned off the light before she went over to the closet to blindly grab a pair of dark red silk pyjamas. The fabric felt smooth on her skin, sleek and almost watery when she slipped into it, like a light embrace, the faintest touch, like it was barely even there. Nothing like his rough, warm hands gliding over her skin, nothing like his strong arms wrapping around her waist and pulling her close.

She stopped at the window front on her way to bed, her gaze captured by the sheer, white curtains hanging in front of the glass. The sight put a strain on her lungs, like she had suddenly forgotten how to keep on breathing. Her chest rose and fell more exaggeratedly, her body craving the air the room seemed to be lacking too severely to approach the matter with ignorance, and before she could overthink it, she pushed the armchair towards the bed and pulled the heavy wooden desk away from the window and into the corner, before she hastily drew the curtains aside and opened the big windows widely.

A gust of wind, icy and sharp, blew her hair out of her face. Goosebumps came to life on her skin, rising up simultaneously with her chest and dotting her skin as she took a deep breath. It was quiet outside, the moonlight dimmed behind thick curtains of grey clouds in the sky, no stars in sight, no light in mind.

She inhaled the cold, felt the chill prickling in her lungs when she invited it in as if she were swallowing tiny shards of glass with every breath she took, to feel it replaced by the soothing warmth of stilled pain when she exhaled.

An icy winter night, timid moonlight and no stars in sight. Like a bad poem she didn’t want to read, a dream she didn’t want to have but could not seem to escape.

I'm lying on the moon
My dear, I'll be there soon
It's a quiet and starry place
Time's we're swallowed up
In space we're here a million miles away

He groaned sleepily, his consciousness trapped on the disconcerting verge between waking up and craving to fall back asleep. Reaching out, he blindly tried to pull her warm body closer to his, until he opened his eyes to the darkness when he realized that she was not there next to him.

Frowning, he pushed himself up on one forearm, his eyes still attempting to adjust to the darkness of the night, looking around in an instinctive search for her when his gaze was caught by a figure near the bedroom window.

“Diane?”

Her silhouette looked like a shadow, dark in the contrast between her presence and the pale moonlight that shone in through the halfway opened curtains, trembling in a soft flinch when she heard his voice calling out her name. He could make out a small object, the mug she was holding in her hands when she turned around, her fingers wrapped around the heated ceramic to keep them warm, and he knew by heart which mug it was, that it had to be the single red piece of china he had in the house, because it was her favorite. She always picked it when she was craving coffee in the morning or tea at night, and he refused to use it when she was not there, only ever touched it anymore when he would set the breakfast table in the mornings they got to spend together, whenever she was there with him.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”, her voice softly broke the silence. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Shaking his head, a deep yawn he wasn’t fast enough to conceal with his palm escaped him when he looked at the clock on his nightstand. “Di, it’s two in the morning. Come back to bed.”, he said, his voice throaty from his prior slumber as he sat up and rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes to try and see her more clearly through sleepy dust and the absence of light.

A lopsided smile on her lips, she shook her head. “I’m fine. Go back to sleep.”, she assured him before she turned back around to face the window.

She did not know better, and he could not blame her. He’d never told her that he couldn’t just go back to sleep when she wasn’t lying in his arms, when she was not there to steal the covers, when he could not find peace in the even sounds of her breathing, when his bed was lacking her warmth. He’d never told her, and she never knew.

With a deep sigh, he pushed the covers off him, got up a little clumsily and approached her from behind, his arms sneaking around her waist to pull her close to him.

She was wearing his shirt, brown flannel he’d been wearing in the lab and when she had arrived here later, just in time for dinner. The worn-out fabric felt nicer against his bare skin than it had all day, now that her body was hidden beneath it. The faint smell of gunpowder on the shirt smelled better than it had all day, like a trace of him embracing the sweet smell of honey and lavender of her skin, mingling with rich vanilla in her golden hair and the scent of berries and herbs escaping the fresh, steaming tea in her mug.

One of her hands let go of the ceramic to wrap around his forearm that met its counterpart on her flat abdomen, her touch unusually warm from the beverage, as she took a small sip, cautious and audibly, trying to avoid burning her tongue in case it was still too hot to be enjoyable.

She had left the teabag in, the little paper square dangled off the rim of the mug on a thin twine, showing the label and the recommended brewing time. But she never even read it. She always left the teabag in. He thought it was an odd habit, but he didn’t need to get it to love it.

He’d been granted the privilege of being with her for four and a half years now, an amount of time that had allowed him to get to know her and a good range of her mannerisms, while still being able to frequently be surprised by her when he would discover something new, random and unexpected.

Admiring her complexity, figuring her out was the only success he craved to accomplish in his life, the only task that awoke true ambition in his veins to bring his blood to a boil, loving how complicated she was the only thing he needed to do to experience passion and fulfillment in the dull task of living.

He never wanted it to end. Being in love with finding countless ways that made him fall for her further and further with every minute, every second they spent together, being in love with loving her so deeply that it made him dizzy.

“Can’t sleep?”, he asked lowly, his eyes tightly shut, his lungs inhaling the scent of her hair.

She lowered the mug and rested the back of her head on his shoulder, sinking further into the comfort of his embrace. “No, I was just thirsty.”, she said, pausing for a moment before she continued in a low, dreamy whisper, as if her tongue were afraid of possibly getting burned by the vulnerability of simplicity in her words. “The stars look beautiful, don’t they?”

Reluctantly, his eyes fluttered open, the need to prolong this feeling not strong enough compared to the aching in his heart at the mere thought of not being able to see what she was seeing, to feel what she was feeling, to understand what she told him, and he looked to the window. It was a starry night, bright, shining lights surrounding the crescent moon, beaming at them from above. But all he could see was her faint reflection in the glass. Messy, blonde hair framing her face, making her look careless and free somehow, wrapped in the worn-out flannel shirt that was too large to fit her slim frame.

“Yes. Beautiful.”, he mumbled, before he dipped his head to place his lips against her temple.

“I just… I never get to see them like this in the city.”, she said longingly and seemingly unaware of how easily she had lost him in this conversation. “Because it never gets fully dark. And the sky always looks… grey.”

She took another sip of hot tea, blowing a little air into the mug before her lips met its rim, waiting patiently for a reply, expecting some mocking remark about the scientific faults of her statement.

A small frown formed on her brows when she swallowed the sweet warmth during his silence. Tilting her head up obliquely, she tried to look at him and catch his gaze that was lying above her on the window.

“Hey. You okay?”, she asked softly, stroking her fingers over his arm, the gentle motion snapping him out of his trance.

He dipped his head and met her gaze. “Yeah, just thinking.”

He shook his head like it was nothing important, and she offered him a half-smile. He was so humble, she thought. Acting like anything he could think would ever fail to be important enough to be her greatest concern. “Thinking of what?”

His lips parted, then closed again, before his forearm suddenly slipped out of her hand and his body left hers.

“Where are you going?”, she asked, twirling around to see him throwing on a shirt and a pair of lounge pants.

Casting her a smile, he tilted his head. “Come on. I want to show you something.”

There's things I wish I knew
There's no thing I'd keep from you

The dark grey of the sky flooded the room with frosty air. A strong shudder crushed trough her shaking frame as her gaze left the little pale light that was reaching her from above and wandered down to her trembling fingers. The shimmering gold of her wedding band beamed brightly at her and she gasped into the silence, before she hastily looked away and reached up to close the windows again, only now realizing that she was panting from the strain that the wintriness was putting on her body.

She left the curtains open in her inability to see a point in drawing them closed, clumsily pushed the armchair out of her way again and padded over to her side of the bed.

The silky covers felt cool and rough against her skin that was only craving a little warmth, aching for only the slightest feeling of ease.

She felt the impact of the scotch on her balance when her head met the pillow and her gaze fell on the moving ceiling lamp above her. Slowly, she tugged the covers upwards until the rim was resting beneath her chin.

She had never been able to fall asleep on her back, but the idea of turning to the left, only to have to look at the torturing sight of his empty bedside, or turning to her right, only to trick herself into expecting his arm to wrap around her waist from behind and pull her back against his torso, was even more painful than it already was.

Because maybe she would be able to fool herself into forgetting, just for a few minutes in which she might manage to fall asleep. Maybe, if she kept her hands hidden beneath the silk sheets, she would be able to shut the haunting memories of silly, naïve and foolish happiness out of her mind for just a single moment, to momentarily get to forget about what true happiness felt like and to be able to find peace in the pain.

Maybe, if she really tried, she could forget that he had ever existed. Just for a moment, a split second that would give her the smallest trace of relief.

It's a dark and shiny place
But with you my dear
I'm safe and we're a million miles away

“I didn’t even know you had an attic.”, she remarked, watching as he reached for a plastic rope that was hanging off the ceiling of the small, dusty space. One of her hands was safely lying on her mug to keep her tea from possibly being induced with dust and cobwebs.

“I don’t use it that much.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t have noticed.”

Turning his head, he cast her a piercing look that made her grin, rolling his eyes as he turned back around and pulled hard on the string, causing a loud cracking sound to echo through the room.

“What are you doing?”, she asked, the deep frown on her forehead reaching her voice.

“You’ll see.”

“Are we going to Narnia?”, she asked, biting back a laugh when she saw him pause as he did the same.

Shaking his head, a stupid, silly grin of affection that she could not see from where she was standing lighting up his face, he tucked the rope further down to reveal a wooden ladder coming out of the ceiling.

Still frowning, she watched as he climbed it up, reached the ceiling and fumbled with something that looked like a trapdoor from where she was standing.

“What are you doing?”, she asked again.

“Hand me your mug.”, he told her as if he had not heard her question, and she did as she was told before she watched him disappear behind the unlocked trapdoor.

“Kurt?”

“Come on up!”, he said back and slowly and a little precariously, she climbed up the ladder, until she reached the opening.

“What—”

“Careful!”, he exclaimed, taking her hand in his to guide her around the opening.

“Kurt, I… Oh my god.”

“Here, sit.”, he said and helped her down before he sat beside her, handing her the red mug as soon as they’d settled. “Are you cold?”, he asked, his eyes wandering along her long, bare legs before they met her dumbstruck expression.

“Uh, no.”

He nodded, casting her a smile before his gaze left hers to look at the sky above them while her eyes were glued on his profile, her lips parted as she stared at him.

“You know any constellations?”, he asked, looking at her again when she did not answer.

Snapping out of her trance at the narrow, knowing smirk he was shooting her, she shook her head, the pink flush on her cheeks hidden by the dark. “No.”

His smile lingered on her face for another moment of silence. There was something glistening in his eyes that had no correspondent, no similarity to anything she had ever seen before. All the stars that were shining on the black night sky could not have competed with it if they had been cast together. It still would not have been enough. Nothing could ever be enough to resemble him.

He suddenly huffed out a breath of amusement and looked down in a sheepish manner, like he was ashamed of something she could not identify. In the darkness, she could not see the pink flush on his face mirroring hers over the fact that he had just lost himself in looking at her while she was watching. But he couldn’t help himself.

Shaking his head, he looked up again, his arm rising as he pointed at the infinite sea of lights. “See the small, jagged stripe over there? The four bright stars next to each other?”

She leaned aside, her shoulder resting against his, to try to follow his directions with her eyes. “Yes.”

“That’s Caelum. And the bigger one to its left is Columba.” He lowered his arm, moving it around her back to place his hand on the outside of her bare thigh, exposed for his touch beneath the revealing rim of his shirt.

Taking a sip of tea, she melted into his touch and watched, delighting over the way more stars seemed to show the longer she kept her gaze on the sky.

“And the big one above them, that’s Lepus.”, he continued, his fingertips softly brushing over her skin.

She lowered the warm mug into her lap and hummed. “How do you know all that?”

“My father told me when I was a kid.”

“Ah.”, she nodded. Her foot brushed against his through two layers of socks when it blindly searched for the edge of a roof tile to prevent her from losing her balance, her gaze quickly shooting down and one of her hands leaving the warm mug to instinctively grab the lip beside her hips when she didn’t find one.

His eyes left the sky to look at her and he smiled at the small display of insecurity, increasing his hold on her to pull her a little closer to him in answer. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”, he said, his voice barely more than a whisper, as if he were saying it to himself rather than to her.

She looked up at him, one of her brows furrowed in a trace of disbelief, her lips parted on the verge of voicing her doubt. But the words never made it out. And after a few seconds of being comforted by the smile beneath his moustache, by the warm look in the green of his eyes, her features softened and the corners of her lips twitched aside.

“Okay.”

For a split second, he thought his body would cause him to break the promise he had just made her, when his heart seemed to flutter and skip a beat at the very same moment. He knew it had not been easy for her, learning to allow herself to trust him, remembered the times this very fact had been an issue between the two of them quite vividly. And he knew that she was still struggling with it every now and then, even though she thought that she had learned how to hide it from him in those moments.

But he knew her by now. He knew her well enough to sense whether she was feeling comfortable or not, to identify her moments of occasional dishonesty when she tried to keep something from him in order to protect his feelings from the trust issues she’d been living with for too long to just get rid of them. And he loved her enough, understood her enough by now, to know better than to take it personally, even though he sometimes failed to remind himself of it. But they had found a way to deal with it, each on their own, together.

And so, he knew that she was being genuine, that she trusted him enough to accept his protection. Trusted him enough to confirm her little moment of insecurity.

The world could have fallen apart at this very moment, and it wouldn’t have mattered as much as the simple knowledge of her trust in him. It cast shadows on the meaning of everything but, like the night was casting darkness over everything but the moon and her stars, everything but the infinite measure of his love for her.

He loved this woman so much, he sometimes thought it would end up causing his heart to burst. It made him want to scream it out into the night to try and get a taste of remedy from the dizzying way she was taking his breath away without even trying.

The smile on his face must have slipped off it. There was no concentration left to invest in the control over his facial features when he was left facing all the miraculous beauty that was her. Her hair was messy, a mazy memory of their passionate, affectionate love-making a couple of hours ago before they had fallen asleep with their naked, sweaty limbs entangled with each other. Her lips, nude and unaccented with her lipstick of choice, making him want nothing more than to touch them with his to pretend that he could somehow become a part of her and let them unite to be one. Her eyes, the brightest blue that the stars could never begin to compete with, more beautiful than everything he had ever seen, like two orbs of light that could guide him through the deepest darkness. The wrinkles on her unvarnished skin, telling him stories of a lifetime he got to be a part of. A part that might be small in comparison to all the things she had in her life, while for him, it was nothing short of a blessing. He wasn’t religious, had never found the tendency in him to believe in some higher, godly and numinous power, but if there was one, he was sure that it had to be responsible for crossing their paths.

Her hand rose to grant herself another sip of tea, her gaze wide above them as she took in the starlit, endless ceiling, like it was the most capturing sight she had ever seen. The way her slim digits were wrapped around the mug, the way her shoulder that was resting against his was bare because the collar of his shirt had slipped off it, either without her noticing or caring enough about it to fix it in the recklessness of a moment where everything anyone could have ever dreamed upon suddenly seemed possible.

She was like art. And he wished he were a painter, wished he were able to turn the sight of her into something that could perpetuate her presence, here, with him, forever.

“You’re perfect.”, he rasped, too entranced by the sight of her to even take note of his throaty voice. His voice, so small and pointless in the face of her utter perfection.

Lowering the mug again, her head shot aside, her face almost drained of any expression. The longer she stared at him, the more he could identify what he thought to be disbelief in her eyes, his brow beginning to furrow over the thought of the ignorance she put upon herself and all the things that made her wonderful. But then her warm hand came to rest on his rough cheek, and she leaned in to put the softest of kisses, the most innocent embrace on his lips.

Her flesh, barely brushing against his in the beginning, felt gentle and warm, like velvet on his skin. The shape of her lips seemed like it had been chosen for them to complement his when she deepened their unity and allowed him to taste the combination of her and the sweet aftertaste of tea and honey on them. Her tongue putting a charm on him when it collided with his, causing him to fasten his hold on her to make sure that he wouldn’t end up letting her go. To make sure that she knew that he would hold her as long as she would let him, that he would keep her safe for as long as she could need him to, and even longer if that was what she wanted.

It was as if he was keeping himself from drifting apart by holding her. Like he was keeping himself sane while trying to do it for her. As if her sanity, her comfort and well-being, her happiness were analogous to his.

Gently, she guided his forehead against hers when their lips parted, her eyes remaining closed as they breathed deeply in unison. She cast him a smile when she pulled away, nothing lighthearted about the spark in her eyes, not a trace of meaninglessness in the curl of her lips or the way she brushed her thumb over his skin before her hand left his cheek.

She turned back to face the sky, scooting a little closer to him on the edge of the roof to tilt her head aside and rest it on his shoulder, knowing that the warmth his body cast over hers belonged to the man she loved, and knowing that to him, she was perfect.

Pressing her lips tightly together, she bit back a smile as the stars above them began to blur, started to swim in tears of joy.

His fingertips wandered up on her thigh, sneaking past the seam of his flannel shirt until they reached her hip bone. His thumb slipped beneath the silk of her panties as his other fingers kept caressing her skin, the movement sweet and innocent and probably unconscious. So entrancing, so full of love that she had to inhale sharply, taken aback by the way her heart was pounding against her ribcage.

“I love you.”, she whispered heavily.

He dipped his head, pressing a kiss on her hair, before it tilted aside and came to rest against hers. “I love you, too.”

Shaking her head in a miniature movement, she sighed. “No, I…” A small, nervous chuckle escaped her, her head spinning, her mind dizzy from inhaling his scent. “I’m so in love with you.”

He didn’t answer, and she had not expected him to. She did not need him to say anything, knew that words were not exactly his biggest strength. But it was okay. She just needed him to know.

Her thoughts were momentarily distracted when she watched a shooting star rushing through the still picture of the sky, and she caught herself trying to wrap her head around a wish to make. But she couldn’t think of anything and stopped pondering over the question when she realized that all that she wanted, all that she wished for, was the man sitting next to her.

“Kurt?”, she asked lowly, her voice stronger than she had expected it to be.

“Yes?” He straightened, his head losing its contact with hers when she moved beneath him to meet his gaze.

Her eyes were light in the darkness, like the moon and all the stars were only shining down on them for him to be able to see them, bright in the silent night.

“Marry me.”

He stared at her, silently for a moment, as if to make sure that he had heard her correctly. Blinking a couple of times, his lips parted. “What?”

“Look, I know it doesn’t really matter. And it probably won’t change anything, but…” She paused, shaking her head before she cast him a smile. “Marry me, Kurt.”

“Di, I—”, he began, but got interrupted by her hasty voice before he could have said anything else.

“I, I didn’t get you a ring, but I can do that if that’s what it takes. I mean, we could look for them together if you’d like that, and—”

“Di, we don’t have to—”, he retried, only to be cut off by her again.

“No, I know that, and if you don’t want to, that’s okay. But—”

“Diane.”, he said firmly, managing to silence her at last. “I already got you a ring.”

We’re lying on the moon
It’s a perfect afternoon
Your shadow follows me all day
Making sure that I'm
Okay and we’re a million miles away

She shifted again. Something about her position didn’t seem right, until she noticed something pricking the small of her back. Reaching beneath her she took it from the mattress, sat up against the headboard and switched on her bedside lamp to identify it.

It was small, about the width of half a fingernail, silver in a sharp contrast to the golden wedding band on her finger. Both sleek, shimmery surfaces reflecting the warm light in the bedroom, blinding her painfully and shooting tears into her eyes as she recognized it immediately.

It was one of the silver buttons that had once been sewn into her pink pyjama top, before he’d hastily ruined it in the morning in a moment of heat, of passion and arousal.

She stared at the small, round button in her hand, watched as the edges began to mingle with her skin in her watering sight, before she looked away to see the empty bedside next to her.

A shudder ran through her body and she drew an audible, ragged breath. She placed the button aside on the polished wood of her nightstand, and reached over to grab his pillow, slinging her arms around it and pressing it against her torso. Bending her legs, she pulled her knees closer to her chest as she lowered her head and inhaled his scent, trembling in the cold air in the room when her first sob was muffled by the cushion, silk that had been soaked in his scent.

 

It was the warmth she needed to soothe the wounds in her lungs
From inhaling the glass shards of the frosty night air.
It was the touch she craved to feel,
The voice she had to hear, to replace the piercing sound of her sudden sobs.
He was the love she ached to share,
Was all the memories she could not bear.

 

Chapter Text

There were days where wearing black struck power. Power and sophistication. Strength in simplicity.

Then there were other days.

And black did not strike power today.

It was a warm summer night. A light breeze whizzed in through the windows that were tilted open, cooling the irritations on her upper arms, red blots that dotted her pale skin with mosquito bites.

Somehow it was always her who got them, even though they slept in the same room and as of late, lived in the same house.

“You’re just so much sweeter than I am.”, he mocked her when she complained about the injustice of it in the morning, when she would find new reddening covering her skin and he had been spared of the ordeal again, and she tried not to smile because it was a cheap saying. But somehow, when he was the one who used it, it sounded different.

The thin satin bedsheet was hanging loosely over their bodies, the cool silk strongly contrasting with his tight and warm embrace, one of his arms firmly wrapped around her waist, his breath dancing with her hair in the soft rhythm of his snoring while she slowly began to drift off to sleep in the peace he provided.

And suddenly, a shrill noise broke the silence and let her eyes shoot open.

“Mmm.”, he grunted gruffly in protest behind her, shifting slightly in sleepy outrage.

“Kurt.”, she whispered, her hand cupping his on her abdomen to nudge it lightly.

“Hmm.”, he mumbled back and made no attempt to move.

“The phone’s ringing.”

“Let it ring.”

She rolled her eyes, pushed his arm off her and turned to reach over him, pulling another protesting groan from him when she flicked the lamp on his nightstand on and clumsily took the sounding phone off its attachment.

“Hello?”, she asked, rubbing her eyes that were still trying to get used to the warm light as she sat up against the headboard, the light silk sheets pooling loosely around her waist.

“Diane? It’s Mary.”

Her brows shot together. Mary did not sound like herself and if she hadn’t said her name, she wouldn’t even have recognised her voice. “Oh, hey. What’s—"

“I’m sorry.”, she cut her off. “I know it’s late, but I really need to speak with Kurt.”

Diane’s gaze dropped down to her husband, his eyes closed, the right side of his face buried in the silky pillowcase beneath his head. “Sure, just a second.”

She lowered the phone, pressed it against her chest and reached out for him, the back of her fingers gliding over his bare arm.

“Kurt?”, she asked softly and watched as his eyes reluctantly opened. “It’s Mary, she says she needs to speak with you.”

His brows curled into a frown. “Now?”

“Yes, I think it’s urgent.”

He nodded, pushed himself up and came to sit next to her when she handed him the phone.

“Mary, what’s wrong?”, he asked, his gaze drifting away from hers and she moved, leaning forward to try and see his expression shifting, to see his lips parting around silence in wordless bafflement.

After a long moment, he swallowed hard. “No, I’m still there.” His voice was low, lower than it usually was, throaty in the same way that Mary’s voice had been on the other line. “How—”

“What is it?”, she whispered, and he shook his head, shrugging her hand that had been trying to curl around his arm off him as if her touch had burned his skin.

“I… okay. I’m…” He shook his head again. “Mary, I’m sorry. Yes, of course... No, you didn’t, thanks for calling. Yeah, I… If there’s anything I can do… Right.” His free hand shot up to scratch a patch of skin behind his ear and he nodded. “Yes, me too. Call if you need anything, okay? Okay.”

She could hear the light beep as he hung up before he tossed the phone on the covers, leaned forward and rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes.

Biting her lip, her frown deepening on her forehead, she silently crept closer to his side, her fingers closing around his in his lap. The corner of her lips twitched when after a small moment, he entwined his fingers with hers and raised his head to meet her gaze, the green in his eyes hollow, almost drained of any last trace of colour.

“Tom is dead.”, he said lowly, the stern expression on his face not shifting by an inch.

Diane’s lips parted, but his voice spared her from having to ask.

“He had a heart attack.”

A weak tremble ran through his fingers between hers and she brushed her thumb over the back of his hand. “Oh, Kurt.”, she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

He shook his head, his lips forming a feigned smile that contorted his face like a mask. “I’ll drive out tomorrow, see what I can do to help.”

She nodded, squeezing his hand. “I’m calling Will in the morning. I can take a couple of days off.”

His faked smile disappeared, and he shook his head. “I didn’t mean… No, Diane, you’re on a case right now. You don’t have to—”

“Kurt, I know. But it doesn’t matter.”, she cut him off softly. “I want to be there for you.”

His lips closed and his head dipped, his gaze escaping hers before his hand slipped out of hers and he pressed his palm against his eyes.

A shudder ran through his body, a heavy, shaky exhale, the rudiment of a withheld sob escaping him through quivering lips into the night, the sound like a dagger that was forced into her chest cutting through her flesh to rip out her pulsating heart.

Her hand rose to come to rest on his back, her thumb running gently over his bare skin. “Honey.”, she said softly, like a plea, as if she were expecting to receive an answer on what do to, and how she could possibly make it better.

He did not answer. The only answer she got was a harsh tremble that ran through his body in a sharp gasp for air before a breathless sob escaped him.

She had never seen him cry before, had never felt so much for another person that she wished she could simply take the burden off their shoulders and carry the weight instead of them, if only it meant that they would be okay again.

Slowly, Diane crept closer, her arms slinging around his frame from aside, pulling his shuddering frame to her until he buried his face in the light, silky fabric that covered her chest.

“It’s okay.”, she whispered, her arm tightening around him as her other hand sunk into his hair.

Slowly, his arms shaking in the ragged movement, they slung around her back, his fingers curling into tight fists around the light fabric of her shirt. And a sudden, loud cry escaped him in his next exhale, an earth-shattering sound that froze the blood in her veins. A cascade of loud, breathless sobs that sounded like he was being killed and crying out for help and she was the only one who could hear it, only that she did not know how to possibly provide the help that he needed.

Her head fell back, her gaze flying up to the ceiling of their bedroom as she pressed her lips tightly together and tried to blink the tears that had snuck into her eyes away while she felt her shirt dampening from his above her breaking heart.

And then she dipped her head, her fingers sliding through his hair in a motion she hoped to be the slightest bit soothing and pressed her lips against his crown.

“It’s okay.”, she repeated throatily, her eyes falling closed. His arms tightened impossibly around her, his fingers seemingly searching to dig even deeper into the sleek silk on her back and a new wave of raw, uncoated sobs shattered out of him with a force that could have stilled the earth forever.

She had never felt so helpless like she did in this moment.

Loving him had never hurt like this before.

Her gaze was hovering over her jewellery box and she could not even remember what she was looking for and why she had opened it in the first place.

What was the point of wearing a necklace? It wouldn’t make this any easier.

Her cold digits unconsciously fumbled with the wedding band on her left ring finger as she stared into the box, like a mocking reminder of that she preferred gold on normal days.

Normal.

A strange concept that could not have been further out of her reach. A word that did not even make sense anymore.

It seemed like one of those occasions where she would pick out a couple of choices and ask him for his opinion, partly because she liked that he always made decisions that she wouldn’t have expected him to make, and partly because it was just another facade of them teasing each other since she knew that he couldn’t have cared less. And partly because it was sweet of him to try and give her a real answer anyway.

Her empty gaze was suddenly caught by a silver chain as its smooth surface reflected the light of the winter sun that shone in through the sheer curtains in front of the bedroom windows. Small and dainty silver, formed in the shape of a heart. A chaste necklace, the gift he’d given her for the first one out of a decade of her birthdays they had celebrated together.

She’d expected a book or something else that was safe within his territory, something that he felt confident about, because, especially back then, jewellery had been about as far out of his comfort zone as it could get. But then again, he had never followed the roads she had expected him to go, never failed to surprise her, no matter if the surprises were pleasant or not.

Diane took the necklace from the box and closed the small chain beneath her hair. Then she stepped away from the counter and stood before her reflection, meeting her own gaze in the mirror.

She hated this dress. Hated the way the black fabric slung around her curves and ended just above her knees, hated the pretty lace sleeves that were hugging her slim arms in a tight embrace that only seemed like yet another reminder of that it could never resemble his.

She hated the dusky pink lipstick she had put on just moments before and that it did not match her red manicure, hated the way her hair fell today, and above everything else, she hated the god damned look in her eyes, where helplessness and sorrow met the emptiness of grief, hated that she could remember a time when they had not looked like this yet.

Because somehow, that was the hardest part. Somehow the memory of the past was now even more impossible to stomach than the endlessly twisted spiral of the present.

“Damn it!”

She flinched at the sudden sound of his voice that echoed through the silent house in the same way it had when he’d cut himself earlier while shaving.

She had never seen him like this, the constantly ticking time bomb he had become these past few days nothing like the calm and level-headed man she had married. The cursing, the way he snapped out of the blue the furthest away from the man he actually was. But then again, this was not him. It was his grief.

She put on her second earring before she turned to see him standing in front of the full-length mirror in the room, his fingers, clumsy and rough, tugging on his black tie as if he were trying to rip the fabric to pieces, the expression on his face like that of a stranger.

Her lips twitched aside and she shook her head, approaching him until she could still his movements by resting her palm on his shoulder, her fingertips brushing over the expensive fabric of his button-up.

“Need a hand?”, she asked, offering him a small smile when his eyes met her.

His jaw was tense. He looked annoyed, then looked in the mirror again. “No.”

Her tongue darted out to wipe over her bottom lip as she eyed him, until her gaze was caught by the small, flaming red cut on his neck while his fingers struggled to undo the tight, bumpy knot he had put in his tie. She took another step forward and came to stand between him and the mirror, forcing him to look at her as her fingers brushed over his and settled on the tie in his hands. “Kurt, let me help you—"

“I can do it myself!”, he suddenly yelled.

Her fingers left the smooth, black fabric, her eyes shooting up to meet his as she refused to step back. “I know.”, she said earnestly and her voice matched the look in the blue of her eyes, soft without the slightest trace of pity. “But you don’t have to.”

He stared at her for another moment before he dropped his hands to his sides in defeat and let her take over. She felt his eyes on her as she quickly undid the impossibly tight knot beneath his throat and turned it into a proper one, pulled down the collar and smoothed down the edges of his white button-up that she knew he hated to wear, and softly patted his chest once when she was done.

His gaze was soft when she met it again and she could tell he was sorry, could see it in the slight furrow of his brow and the regret that did not suit his deep green eyes.

“You look beautiful.”, he said lowly and she gave him a smile, rising on her tiptoes to press a soft kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you.”

His gaze dropped down to their shoes until it found hers again, so full of sadness and pain that it forced a knot to form in her throat. “Di, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—"

“You don’t need to apologise.”, she cut him off softly.

Kurt shook his head. “No, I do. You’ve been incredible through all of this. I just…” His voice drifted off with another shake of his head before he could finish the sentence. But he did not have to.

Her hand rose between them until it gently came to rest on his cheek. “Darling, he was your best friend. Don’t feel bad for grieving him.”

His features softened, the wrinkles around his eyes that made him look tired and exhausted, much older than he usually appeared, softening a little and he nodded. “Thank you.”, he said lowly, his voice barely more than a whisper. “For being here.”

Her lips twitched aside, her thumb brushing over his skin. “Where else would I be?”

“No. I mean, thank you for being here. With me.”

Her smirk widened. “Where else would I want to be?”

A small, honest smile, the first one he had given her in days, let his lips curl up, his eyelids closing over a warm look in the fir green that seemingly had been made to look at her, when she leaned up and placed a kiss on his lips.

Her fingers left his cheek and pointed at the cut on his neck when she pulled away again. “Let me clean that up for you before we go, okay?”, she whispered.

He eyed her for another moment of silence before he gave in. “Okay.”

“Diane? The car’s here.”

Her fingertips traced along the silver heart chain, her eyes still lying on her reflection as she drew a deep breath. And then she turned, took her small purse from the armchair behind her and opened the bedroom door, meeting Andrea’s gaze in the hallway.

“You look lovely.”, she said, one of her brows furrowed above her warm, green eyes, an attempt of a lopsided smile of encouragement on her rosy lips.

She was just as bad at lying as her brother.

“You too.”, she said lowly, and Andrea’s lips parted before she stepped closer and wrapped her arms around her.

Diane swallowed hard, the dryness in her throat almost causing her to choke before she let her eyes fall closed and slung her free arm around Andrea’s shoulder. She was shorter than her, so it wasn’t the same. But she had the same warmth in her that Kurt had always managed to comfort her with.

She couldn’t tell anymore if it made this any better. But it did make it a little less impossible.

She pulled away again after a short moment, before it could become all too real again and sniffed before she met those smiling green eyes that held the same underlying sadness in them that she had been forced to see in his before.

“Ready?”, Andrea asked, and Diane’s tongue darted out to wet her bottom lip before she shook her head.

“No. You?”

Andrea huffed out a breath of amusement, her hand rising to brush her warm fingers over the lace on Diane’s upper arm. “Not at all… Come on.”

Black did not strike power today. It only struck reality.

I’m walking on
Walking along
With no destination in mind
With nothing left for me to find
Nothing
Since you left me behind

 

Chapter Text

“Look who’s here.”

Her gaze followed the nod of Andrea’s head into the direction of two figures in black approaching the vanity. She tried to form a smile that had never been meant to make it onto her lips.

She gave the woman a short hug, returned the compliment about her good looks that only one of them had to fake out of curtesy today in a hushed and throaty voice that sounded like the one of a stranger in her own ears, and met his gaze after he had offered Andrea a one-armed embrace. He looked concerned, a strange kind of nervousness swirling in hazel brown, a look that she probably should get used to before the other guests arrived.

“You’re early.”, she stated shortly, and Will tilted his head.

“Just wanted to be here in case you needed anything.”

For a quick moment, her gaze shot up to the grey sky above them, her lips pressing tightly together, and she offered him a short nod, like a small compensation for the smile she could not find within her. And his lips twitched aside as he eyed her quietly before he reached out and pulled her against him. The fabric of his dark coat was cold against her chin, a rough contrast to the warmth of his skin against hers when their cheeks met in an embrace that was probably tight enough to strain his broken arm.

But he did not mention it, did not even wince. And she did not know what she would have done if he had.

“Let’s go inside.”, he mumbled into her hair when he felt the soft, steady tremble of her body against his. “You’re freezing.”

She pulled away, offered him another nod and turned away from his frown, from his features that were contorted with concern he could not have concealed even if he’d tried that was enough to reignite the anxious part in her mind that kept on wondering how she could possibly get through this day with new and utterly violent brightness.

The soft layer of fresh snow that tinted the little venue in peaceful white flattened beneath the soles of her pumps, every time one of her thin, pointed heels dug into the fragile cold felt like a rough stab into a delicate cloud, the crunching sound filling the dead silence between them no one dared to disturb, as if trying to talk over the uncomfortable awkwardness of knowing that there was nothing left to say that could turn this day around would make the reality even more real. It was an emphasis none of them could bear today.

Her hands snuck out of her coat pockets, her fingers flexing in the cold as they were wrapped in relieving numbness, as if they were falling asleep. She was a summer person, had never understood why he possibly could have preferred the sharp bite of a painful chill over the inviting blanket of the sun wrapping around revealed skin, and trying frost over warmth that called flowers back to life and made them blossom in a beautiful symphony of bright colours and bloomy scents.

But she got it now. The summer was loud and extravagant, the first strokes of the burning sun in spring like a wake up call for noisy children, and the winter was introverted and peaceful, its silencing cold calming and soothing in a way that felt like a night of restful slumber, and similar to his salving warmth. She saw the contradictive in the comparison the second it slipped into her mind, but this was not the time to second guess the flawed metaphors her quivering thoughts made up. Not when his memory was the only thing to hold onto anymore. Not when each interpretation she could possibly find would just take her back to the knowledge of his loss.

Not when a noisy summer would be non-existent without the winter as its quiet, calming counterpart, failing to be fulfilled on their own if the other would cease to exist in the way in which life was in so many aspects solely depending on this certain kind of balance that could be found in any place that was a part of existence, the co-dependency between the two like the one between love and hate, good and bad, and her and him.

Andrea held the door open for them and Diane mumbled a short “Thank you” under her breath. The words dissolved to matte streaks that faded into the frosty air, another dance between warmth and cold, before she felt her cheeks prickling as the heat of the entrance hall embraced her.

The double wing door between them and the saloon stood open and her gaze was caught by the two employees from the funeral parlour who stood on either side of the dark wooden casket that would never be opened again, as he had wished, between them, lowering it slowly and steadily.

They were careful, the bouquet in the centre of the sleek lid did not make a move, and it loaded off her mind the slightest bit.

“Lilies?”

Her head shot aside. She had not even noticed that she had frozen in the middle of the room. Her gaze found Will’s, a playful, knowing glint in his eyes coming to life behind the sheer curtain of his concern for her, and she huffed out a breath with a shrug.

“He asked me to pick the flowers if it ever comes to this.”

She felt Andrea’s eyes on her, knew that she was torn between reaching out to her and giving her space, a waltz she had gotten used to over the past few days, before she and Alicia walked on and passed the doorway to the hall.

She shrugged again, the tip of her tongue darting out to wet her bottom lip.

Lilies. White calla lilies. The flowers he had brought her on their first date. The flowers she had chosen for their wedding. The flowers that had been there with them from the start, over the middle, and until the very end.

“It… felt right.”, she finished raspily.

One of Will’s brows twitched. “You talked about this?”, he asked almost incredulously, and she nodded.

“A couple of weeks into our marriage. I mean…” She shook her head at the memory. About the way she had had to talk him into this conversation for days, and the way she had needed to squeeze every little decision about this day out of him almost interrogatively. About the way he had picked a fight with her later that evening, until he had finally broken and told her that the thought of losing her was just too painful, and that he couldn’t even bear it, let alone hearing her say that she wanted to be buried in a companion plot to have him by her side one day. As if it had been any easier for her. “I kind of forced him to.”

Will grinned gently. “He wasn’t an emotional guy.”

Diane looked at him, her eyes intent and she shook her head knowingly. “No, he was. He just didn’t like to talk about it.”

Her gaze left the woman behind the podium when she heard his breathing catch in his throat, silently, almost not audible, but she heard it nonetheless, could feel the dryness behind his lips, the lack of air in his lungs as if they were invading herself.

His eyes seemed hollow from aside, caught by something that did not really exist, his gaze trapped in thoughts he could not touch and memories that had once been happy and struck nothing but pain anymore. She reached out to gently place her hand on his, her fingers barely touching his skin as not to startle him in case the movement wasn’t careful enough or too much for now; too close, too real to let him hold on to his crippling composure, or what was left of it.

His head shot aside and she saw him swallow hard, his Addams apple bobbing up beside the dark red cut on his throat from earlier in the morning, his hand moving to entwine his fingers with hers. She gave them a soft squeeze and he feigned a narrow smile, a small gesture of appreciation he could not voice, or maybe just an unsuccessful attempt to calm her worries about him.

“Are you okay?”, she mouthed, one of her brows twitching in pain as he pulled his gaze away from hers for a split second, until he could allow himself to seek it out again and receive the comfort it always gave to him.

For a moment, he just looked at her, his eyes revealing the inner debate on whether to be honest with her, or defy the inborn sincerity of his nature by doing the opposite, until the green was glazed with a thin, salty coat of tears.

And he shook his head. “No.”, he whispered. The low sound of his throaty statement inflamed her chest, causing an aching so rough and forceful that she feared she wouldn’t be able to keep herself from screaming out in pain.

His lips twitched aside again; the move almost seemed abashed for not being able to give her the answer she had hoped for, and he took a deep breath, his thumb roaming across the back of her hand as if to apologize for his sorrow. “But I will be.”

It wasn’t until his hand closed softly around her shoulder that she suddenly turned around in a flinch and found Will’s gaze behind her.

The room had fallen silent, like a mocking tune of additional nothingness to accompany the concern in his eyes, pointing fingers and roaring with quiet laughter at the aching void in her chest.

“Diane, it’s your turn.”, he whispered. Her fingers left the small, heart-shaped silver chain that was dangling off her neck and she shook her head, finding her way back into the absurd contortion of reality.

“Yeah, sorry.”, she pressed huskily out of her lungs before she rose from her seat and walked up to the podium, unable to wrap her mind around how on earth her quivering legs were able to carry her weight.

Andrea’s gaze locked with hers as she approached her, those warm and god damned green eyes, so deep and beautiful, looking at her with concern.

They were just like his.

Andrea’s arm twitched, her hand momentarily trying to reach out for her, and dropping back to her side when the look on Diane’s face did not change, as if she knew better than to load her with her touch now. And so, she cast her a small, encouraging smile and walked back to the seat between her son Tony and hers, the empty stool whose backrest parted the seat from Will.

An empty chair like the one in his office. Empty like the ones in their house.

The small room was crowded, and even though she had been embraced by each one of them when they had approached her on their way in to voice their condolences that had all been accompanied by this look as grey as the sky outside, she had not really noticed how many people were actually gathered here today, up until now. His list of the ones he had wanted to come if it ever came to this, the list she had pushed him to make in a terrible coincidence of foresight that bordered on sadism, was short and selective, but everyone he had put on it was doing him justice today.

Her gaze drifted aside, settled on the dark brown wood of the closed casket, the oversized and framed photograph of him displayed behind it, the lower third of it partly hidden by the arrangement of yellow roses and white calla lilies in the centre of the polished wooden lid.

She drew in a sharp breath through parted lips. The sound must have been audible for everyone who had come here today, reinforced by the speakers on the podium in front of her, but it did not matter and she did not even think about it.

She did not think of them at all. Not when her eyes found them again. And not when she began to speak.

“Kurt—”

She interrupted herself to clear her throat, startled by the low rasp that escaped her, like a lesser version of her own voice. And she almost felt foolish about it, about forgetting for a moment that everything had been a lesser version of what it had once been ever since he had left.

“He didn’t want a big ceremony. He’s not—” She stopped shortly to correct herself with quivering lips. “He wasn’t the kind of person who was comfortable with being the centre of attention. He was never one to ask for anything big, if he would ask for anything at all. But… Everyone in this room he wanted to be here today. And I think he would be happy if he saw…”

She paused again shortly, because it did not work like this. And if there was anything she owed him in order to pay him respect, it was honesty.

She shook her head, drew a deep, shaky breath and ran her tongue across her bottom lip, as if she could ever possibly prepare for this.

“I woke up this morning knowing he wasn’t there. It’s been seven days, six mornings without him and today was the first day I woke up without the illusion. I woke up and I knew that he was not there, snoring next to me or wishing me a good morning, taking a shower or making breakfast for us. I knew I wouldn’t have to pretend to be asleep for another while and keep myself from moving to let him rest for a little longer, or try to get out of bed without too much noise and sudden movements that would wake him. I knew that I would drink my coffee in silence without our morning routine of watching the news together and going into debate about them.”

She swallowed hard, shaking her head over nothing in particular and everything at once.

“There are no coffee stains on our kitchen table anymore because he’s not there to ignore our coasters, and I knew there wouldn’t be one today. I woke up and I knew that this was going to be another day where I wouldn’t really feel like I’ve woken up. Just another day in this different life, like I’m not allowed to return to the only place I want to be. My life was his in so many ways and I feel like I’m only realising it now that it’s… now that he’s gone.”

Her gaze drifted to the front row. Andrea was dotting a tissue against her cheeks, her hand shaky in the same way that hers were.

She inhaled deeply, her voice quivering when she spoke again.

“I feel like Kurt really knew how to love. Maybe all of us do, at least somehow deep inside, like a reflex, I don’t know. But he was different in the way he just… did it. He knew how to be confident about his feelings and how to act on them, even if he didn’t prefer to do it with words. He was brave in that way, honest to an extent that I always admired about him and still do, because it seems so impossible to me. He was a man who fought for the ones he loved. He was smart, both intellectually and emotionally, even though I used to think that the two couldn’t be combined, until he showed me and proved me wrong as he always loved to do. He was kind and he did not make a fuss about it, because he wasn’t kind to be a hero, he was simply kind because he wanted to be good. And I think that’s what eventually made him one.
“He challenged me every day. And…”

Her front teeth dug into the light coat of dark pink lipstick, the edges pressing into her flesh until the pain hurt more than having to listen to her own words.

“And I miss those challenges so much. I miss the change of perspective he always gave me in any of our conversations. I miss his horrible politics. I miss his awful, worn-out flannel shirts and the leather jackets that he wore all through the year, I miss going off about the newspaper hanging in his breakfast in the morning, I miss him mocking me about how bad I am at cooking. I miss arguing with him and seeing the glint in his eyes when he was mad at me. I miss his loud, barefoot steps around the house, I miss the remainders of shaving creme in the bathroom sink in the morning. I miss his carelessness and the way it calmed me. I miss the way he made me silly and drove me insane. I miss kissing him. I miss looking at him and knowing that everything’s going to be alright.”

Her hand rose and she quickly brushed her fingers across wet cheeks.

“I think grief is only as hard as it is because it’s a kind of feeling that would get better if you talked about it, but the only person you want to talk about it with is gone.”

Her watery gaze trailed off again, the view of the framed, black and white photo Andrea had taken of him during their first visit together blurry. His warm eyes, his handsome smile were dulled down compared to the reality he had been. Because it was only a photograph, a single moment that could never have captured him with all his facades, memories and emotions, with everything that had been him, to show it on the print.

“Kurt didn’t like sappy labels.”, she continued, her voice almost a whisper. “We didn’t walk around and call each other our true loves. But he once told me that I was his hero. And… I hope he knew that he will always be mine.”


Love is hard to lose
And love hard to find
But the hardest about losing love
Is you can never simply leave it behind

Chapter Text

The living room was crowded, drowning in a sea of black fabric in all textures imaginable.

Andrea released a deep breath, a small sigh of relief about the short break from wearing pumps all day when she usually preferred a drastically more practical choice of footwear. He had mocked her about those moments where she would sit down in the next best corner she could find, kick her shoes off and rest her stiff legs for a while before anyone else—anyone but him—would notice her absence, whenever he’d gotten the chance to; at the weddings and funerals they had attended together, or back when they had been teenagers and their parents would force them to dress up before dragging them to church on Christmas Eve to please their catholic grandmother’s traditionalism, an old, wrinkly women with pursed lips and age marks on her skin who always stayed with them over the holidays and handed out presents like woollen socks and scratchy, self-knitted scarfs in a variation of countless shades of brown, nothing that could remotely have brought sincere pleasure to a thirteen year old girl and her four years older brother.

He had always spotted her, no matter how good her hideout, sat down beside her and nudged her shoulder with his in that comforting and familiar brotherly fashion only he had perfected. “Told ya”, she still heard him say with a small nod to the discarded heels, and she would pout at him with a smile in her eyes.

It had always been like this. And it would have been the same today.

Her shoulder came to rest against the banister, her eyes on the trembling surface of the yellowy white wine in her glass when someone sat down by her side and caused her to look up.

She knew him from the wedding and the good number of birthday celebrations that had followed it. The best man and the best woman, as he had called them with a charming smirk on his lips and a playful glint in his hazel eyes over six years ago. He was one of those rare men who could pull the look and the attitude off without seeming sleazy or making someone uncomfortable, one of those rare men with whom she could tell that there was more behind the mischievous facade.

“Hey.”, she said lowly and he gave her a smile. Not his usual smile, not the one she had expected, but a softer, more genuine one.

“How are you doing?”, Will asked, his voice gentler than she had thought possible.

She shrugged. “Okay, I guess? Just…” Her voice trailed off and with a small flick of her wrist, she gave the wine a little twirl before she took a healthy gulp that coated her throat and turned her words into a rasp. “Just missing him.”

He nodded, put the two fingers’ width of scotch in his hand on the carpeted stair beside him to draw his free, uninjured hand over her back. “I’m really sorry.”, he said, and her lips twitched aside sadly.

“Thank you. Me too.”

Silence fell between them again and her gaze was caught by Diane who stood in the doorway to the noisy living room. She was talking to her partner Liz, or rather the other way around, an almost empty crystal tumbler with a small, dark golden remnant of bourbon clutched in both of her hands and a steady nod moving her head in attentiveness that seemed poorly feigned in the presence of the absent look in her eyes, exhaustion etched on her face that for once and even from afar, made her look her own age.

“I’m so worried about her. She’s not doing well.”, Will, who must have thought the same, suddenly broke the silence again.

Andrea looked at him and shook her head. “No, she’s not. But you can’t expect her to be doing well.”

“I know, but… She doesn’t even look like herself.”

“Because she’s not feeling herself right now.”, she said, took a sip of dry white wine and swallowed hard at the look on his face.

Helplessness. It was the same look Kurt had worn all those years ago in his worry about his younger sister. It seemed so deeply misplaced in his eyes, just like it had in his.

Gently, she reached for his hand and gave it a small squeeze. “Give her time.”

A huffed out a humourless breath. “You think that helps?”

Her eyes dropped down to her hand above his, her gaze almost unconsciously settling on the silver wedding band on her finger, and she nipped on her wine again. “I know it does.”, she reminded him, and Will’s face fell.

“Oh, I… God, I’m sorry, I forgot.”, he stammered, and she offered him a smile.

“It’s okay. And she will be, too.”

One corner of his lips twitched aside and the movement almost looked mechanical, his doubts over her statement barely concealed, before his hand slipped out of hers and he reached for his glass. He looked up again to the doorway as he emptied half of his scotch in one gulp, his gaze staying on Diane when he spoke again.

“She lost weight.”, he mumbled, more to himself than to her.

Andrea nodded. “I know.”

“Has she eaten anything today?”

“No. I tried in the morning, but she refused.”

He shook his head and emptied his glass. “She’s stubborn.”, he stated, and a small chuckle escaped her.

“She is. But it’s going to be alright. As stubborn as she is, she’s also strong. Just…” Her voice trailed off when Diane left her spot in the doorway and stepped further into the living room, heading into the direction of the bar. It looked as though every step she made took a little more steadiness out of her legs, as if every second she had to move on only pushed her further down. Andrea swallowed against the dryness in her throat, almost caused herself to choke, and she found Will’s weak gaze again. “Just keep an eye on her, okay? For… For both of us.”

She wasn’t even sure if she was talking about Will or her brother, left it to the best man to ponder on that himself and figure out if it would even change the answer.

He eyed her intently for another silent moment, in which the same question seemed to cross his mind. But the answer did not change a thing. “Of course.”

She tilted her head and gave him a smile. “And maybe force her to call me sometime?”

A small grin, like the first glimpse today of the person she knew him as, curled his lips up. “I’ll see what I can do.”

She nodded, her smile falling from her lips again and she brought the rim of her glass to her lips, only to lower it again before the wine could touch her skin. “It could take a while.”, she told him softly. “We have to be patient with her. And be there when she lets us.”

His eyes trailed away from hers as they sought out Diane’s slim figure in the room. But the bar was in the corner by the windows and she had dropped out of his sight, like a red balloon escaping the grasp of a child, flying up into the sky until it could not be spotted anymore. “Yeah. Let’s hope she’ll do that.”

I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did, I would kneel down and ask him
Not to intervene when it came to you

Oh, not to touch a hair on your head
Leave you as you are
If he felt he had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms

“Another bourbon?”, the bartender asked after she wordlessly placed the empty crystal tumbler on the counter between them.

“Yes, please.”

He froze in his movements when he recognised her, the glass in his hand like a withheld remedy. She fumbled with the cold, golden ring on her left hand before his voice made her look up again. “The wife, right?”

One of her brows shot up in something that came close to annoyance. If there was one thing she did not want right now, it was this exact conversation.

“That’s me.”, she chimed in feigned lightness, every syllable dripping with sarcasm. He either didn’t catch it or did not care because he simply chuckled and reached for the bottle of bourbon; she neither knew nor did she want to know the answer.

“Well, I bet you’re tired of hearing this, but my condolences.”

“I am.”, she said dryly and took the glass from him. “But thank you.”

He nodded and she turned her back to him, her gaze flying over the packed living room, a sight that almost left her wincing at the thought that she would have to dive back into the crowd. Back into dull and meaningless conversations without someone by her side who would fill the irrelevance of it all with meaningful, mischievous glances and occasionally steal a kiss from her, or let his hand slide a little further down on her back than appropriate to try and convince her to go home with him.

Because this was still their home, even if he wasn’t by her side anymore.

She brought the glass to her lips and swallowed a big sip, trying not to think about it anymore, but it was not as if she could just turn a switch and stop it. It wasn’t like she could just trap the thoughts out of her mind, put on a smile and attempt to comfort the other guests in their own grief. It wasn’t like she could just forget about him every time another painful memory crossed her path, or do any better than to pretend that she could not see the white piano to her left out of the corner of her eye and keep her heart from aching every time the mere sight of it brought her back to him and the knowledge that he was gone.

There was no switch to turn off life, quickly and without any pain, no way to walk into the darkness without having to face the horrific shadows of the night.

“It’ll get better.”, she suddenly heard the bartender say behind her. “You can’t live thinking about the dead all the time.”

She swallowed another sip, her brows shooting up as the heavy, burning sensation of liquor crawled down her throat. “I don’t see how that makes it any better.”, she shot back lowly, not caring to turn to him.

Thoughts and memories were not depending on the ongoing continuance of life, it was rather the other way around. A mindset had to be right to allow one to move on in the pace of life. Memories did not give a damn about the future, it was the future that was depending on the goodness of the memories.

“Thinking is something you control. Living goes on by itself.”

She huffed out a breath of bitter amusement about the simplicity in his starry-eyed statement. “I’m not sure that applies to all of us.”

Silence fell between them and she almost let out a sigh of relief, but then he spoke again and caused her to turn around this time.

“You want something stronger?”

And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did, I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you

Both to each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms

“Here you go.”, Andrea said, handing her the refilled crystal tumbler before she plopped down on the couch beside her. She kicked off her black pumps, her facial features softening the second the heels collided with the carpet in a series of dull clunks.

“Thanks.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper, a low, raspy sound that could have cut through glass, a raw hush that could have competed with the cold wind that ruffled the cherry blossom trees outside on the street.

Andrea looked at her quietly for a moment, until she took Diane’s cold hand in hers and gave it a light squeeze, the corner of her lips etching aside in a move that seemed so effortless that she almost envied her for it. “Hey.”, she said softly. “You know it’s okay to be sad, right?”

Diane shrugged, dipped her head and huffed out a quick breath that almost sounded amused beneath the thick layer of exhaustion in the sound. Her eyes laid on the glass in her hand until she swallowed a big, burning sip of bourbon. “Does it get any better?”, she asked in a small voice.

Andrea remained silent and took a deep breath, her gaze taking her in as she tried to find an answer, momentarily contemplating if the truth was the one she was looking for.

They had the same eyes. The same outspoken, beautiful shade of fir green that already told her she would not get the answer she had been hoping for before she had even parted her lips.

“No. But it will get easier.”

Diane’s brows furrowed. “Meaning?”

“Meaning…” She gestured with the wine glass in her hand and pushed the front parts of her brown hair that had fallen out of the chignon behind her ears with the other. “Don’t forget to eat. Don’t forget to sleep, but also to get up again in the morning. Try to stay healthy, despite whatever your body is telling you to do. Push yourself to get dressed, have breakfast, go to work, meet friends and try to let them be there for you like you would want to be there for them. And keep doing that until you don’t have to remind yourself to live again.”

Diane swallowed another sip of whiskey, her gaze following the tremble of the dark golden liquor in her hand. “It sounds so easy when you say it.”

Andrea shook her head, slowly twirling the wine glass between her thumb and index finger on the slim stem. “Don’t be fooled, it’s really not. I still have bad days and it has been more than a decade. But… by now, the good days outnumber the bad ones. And that’s the progress we’re all looking for, and pretty much everything we can ask of ourselves.”

She nodded, rather to herself than to Andrea. Her tongue ran over her bottom lip, the sweet, burning aftertaste of bourbon prickling on her own flesh, and it stilled when her eyes roamed across the room, as if they were in search of something that could not be found, until her gaze came to a halt on the sleek white surface of the piano near the window front.

One of her brows arched up, and she pulled her bottom lip behind the edges of her front teeth, the small platform of her black high heel rising and pushing into the carpet in a dull, uneven rhythm. As if a part of him was still here, living in the tense movement of her knee, in the taste of his favourite whiskey in her throat, in his sister’s warm, green eyes, in the content silence between them; in the piano in the room that led her to believe that right now she understood how her father must have felt after her mother had passed, and he could never bear to touch the white tiles again.

Because it was just an illusion, her mind reading some kind of spiritual presence into the surroundings and the people he had left behind, if only to keep clinging onto the world, the idea of a world that still had a place for her, before she could slip and fall into whatever was waiting for her if she failed to stay sane.

She did not notice Andrea’s eyes on her, or maybe it just did not matter anymore. But her head shot up again when her hand let go of hers and she spoke up, her tone a little lighter this time.

“Hey, do you want a cigarette?”

Diane’s brows furrowed and she eyed her for a moment of silence. “You don’t smoke.”, she stated, and Andrea shot her a grin that almost seemed mischievous.

“No, not anymore. But I thought we deserve to make an exception today. Want one?”

Her fingers brushed through her hair and tucked it behind her ear in a second of feigned contemplation. “Sure.”

Andrea reached behind her and fumbled with her purse, fishing out a small pack of Lucky Strikes and a blue lighter. She placed the wine glass on the coffee table in front of them and rose, Diane following behind. “Outside?”, she asked, nodding her chin towards the hallway, and Diane shook her head.

“The window’s fine.”

Andrea squinted her eyes and studied her carefully in a manner that seemed so close to an intrusion, and yet so far away from anything but apprehension and care. “Are you sure?”, she asked in the same cautious, almost testing way, and Diane nodded.

It did not make a difference. Not anymore.

His scent would slowly leave the house over time, the comfort of rough wood, gun powder and his intoxicating familiarity, the smell of home, would disappear day by day in the next weeks, months if she was lucky, as if their space was mourning his loss in its own way. It would move on from him to flowers and scented candles and her perfume, to fresh laundry and takeout meals that would try to make up for the irreplaceable scent of his homecooked dinners when she would get home from work. And the house would start smelling like all the other houses she had lived in before. Of the same mocking meaningless of a smell. Like the same meaninglessness that made the smell of burning tobacco so painfully insignificant tonight.

They stepped across the room, passing the sofas and the piano that she purposely blocked out of her sight, Diane’s heels clicking against the wooden floor through silence. She opened the window, let the frosty air embrace her skin, let goose bumps form on her arms through a sheer layer of lace and the darkness of the cold winter evening into the house. She turned to take a cigarette out of the opened pack Andrea was holding out for her.

The feeling of the filter carried between her lips felt comfortable in the way nostalgic memories and a Deja vu of past sins held a certain kind of comfort to them; something one knew, like an anchor in the deep sea of uncertainty of the present and where the stream was going to take her from here, like the first bad feeling of the day she had already known before.

She leaned forward, lit the end as she inhaled the flame Andrea was holding out for her and felt the faint warmth of relaxation and the upcoming numbness of nicotine rushing from her blood straight into her head as her lungs filled with smoke.

She turned to the window again, released a deep exhale and watched as the dark night air was coated in grey streaks that softly dissolved while they were joined with new ones from her right. It felt like the first real breath she had taken in a week.

“Not your first time either, huh?”, Andrea asked playfully, and Diane shook her head, the slightest trace of a smile on her lips as she looked at her.

“No. Rebellion against my mother in my last years of school before I moved out.”, she told her, and Andrea chuckled.

“Oh, that’s always how it starts, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, probably.” She nodded softly until she tilted her head in thought. “Well, that or because of a boy with leather jackets and a motorcycle.”

Andrea laughed, warm and loud and deeply. A sound so easy to get used to, a sound that seemed to lie in the family.

“God.”, she sighed amusedly through another puff of smoke. “I haven’t craved a smoke this bad in thirteen years.”

Diane watched the cigarette between her fingers, the even burn on the tip and the way the glint ate up more and more of the white paper stem as the seconds passed by. “It’s been forty for me.”, she mumbled absentmindedly and listened to Andrea’s sharp inhale.

“Really? Impressive.”

“Yeah, well… I had the craving twice again, but I didn’t act on it.”, she mumbled before she brought the filter back to her lips and inhaled a deep whiff of smoke, a soft prickling sound on the air as the glint lit up and crept a little closer to her fingers.

“When was that?”

“When my parents died.”, she breathed out, before she turned to Andrea again. “And you? Jackson?”

The corner of her lips twitched aside, and she nodded. “Jackson. I turned into a chimney after he died. Only for a couple of months though, and then Kurt and the kids forced me to quit again. Hiding my packs, confiscating my lighters, you name it, they tried it.”

Diane feigned a small smile and eyed the cigarette in her hand. There was no reason to feel bad about this, she thought before she drew it to her lips again. She could do whatever she wanted now. He was not here to stop her anymore, had left before he possibly could have. And now it did not matter anymore.

Nothing did.

“Did it help?”, she asked. Her voice was low and raspy, and she would not have recognised it, hadn’t she gotten used to the sound over the past days.

“Smoking? Yes, a little. Not so much the cigarettes themselves, but… the routine. And the numbness, though only ever for the moment.”

Diane nodded, brought the filter to her lips and inhaled another puff of smoke, sat with it for a moment and then exhaled it into the cold darkness behind the window frame.

“They always reminded me of him.”, she mumbled to herself, and she would not have known whether she had actually said it out loud, if Andrea had not started to chuckle.

“He absolutely hated smoking. I don’t think he ever even touched a cigarette once in his life.”

A small, knowing smile tilted one corner of her lips aside. “No, he has. Once or twice in college.”

“Oh, you’re kidding!” Andrea’s brows shot up in bafflement before she looked up to the handful of stars that peeked through the polluted city sky, shaking her head. “Hypocritical bastard.”, she muttered, and a grin she could not hold back softened Diane’s features.

“You’re still right. He didn’t like it.” She took another inhale of smoke and shook her head. “But when we met, I thought he looked just like the Marlboro Man.”

Andrea broke out with laughter and beamed at her. “God, that’s hilarious.”

She tilted her head. “He told me I was crazy.”, she said smiling, and Andrea shook her head, her laughter slowly ebbing away.

“Oh, it is. But he liked crazy.”, she giggled before her laughter stilled in another puff. “Don’t start smoking again, though. It would be a pitiful waste of your amazing skin.”

A small chuckle escaped her and she turned her head away. The first laugh she had had in days, her lungs aching in the sound like they had forgotten how to produce it.

It went on for a couple of seconds before her breath got caught in her throat, her eyes filling with unwanted tears and the laughter was stilled with a small sob that strained her chest, a moment of weakness that she could not hold back as she buried her face in her free hand.

She gasped, sharp and raspily for air, for oxygen to release another deep sob into her palm.

“I’m sorry.”, she choked out. Warm fingers brushed over her back and Andrea’s arm slung around her. Diane looked up to see her eyes, her dark green eyes, glistening back at her through tears of their own.

“Don’t apologise.”, she whispered softly. “We’re allowed a little leeway today. And you in particular.” She drew her hand over her side and Diane pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, nibbling on it until she took another inhale of smoke.

“It’s just…”, she rasped, her voice at least an octave higher than it usually was. Her fingers brushed over wet cheeks, but it did not do any good. The damage was done. “You’re so much like him.”

Andrea chuckled, sadness, grief and amusement somehow swirling within the sound all at once before she sniffed. “You know, you’re the first person to ever say that.”

Her brows furrowed and her glassy, irritated eyes met Andrea’s in disbelief. “That can’t be true.”, she almost scoffed, and she cast her a knowing smile.

“No, it really is... Diane, I don’t think you realise that he allowed you to see things in him that he didn’t allow anyone else to see.”

Diane’s lips parted, then closed again around silence. “I… That sounds terrible. I’m sorry.”

She shook her head and flicked the ashes off the end of her cigarette. “No, please don’t be. And it’s not terrible, he was just always so private, even when he was younger. I don’t know why, maybe he felt like it was the responsible thing to do, but I sometimes worried he would keep to himself like that forever. So…” She looked up to her, green eyes meeting blue in the most honest way of gratitude. “I’m glad he had that. Someone with whom he could swallow his stupid pride and massive ego and who he would let himself lean on. I’m really glad he had you.”

Her bottom lip was captured between her front teeth and she looked at her silently until she sniffed and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes. She took one last careful inhale off the almost burned down cigarette before she tossed it out of the window and into the night as Andrea did the same.

“One more?”, she asked softly and Diane nodded, the small gesture making up for the words she could not produce.

She did not know if it was true that she had really managed to return the favour and give back all the things he had given her. She could not get honest reassurance anymore, he was not there to confirm it. But she hoped Andrea was right. And this hope felt like all that was left to hold onto anymore.

They lit their cigarettes and Andrea’s arm slung around her back again. And Diane mirrored her movement and pulled her closer to her. Two women, each in their own grief and still connected by it, giving each other the warmth their bodies were so desperately aching for.

“He would like this, wouldn’t he?”, Andrea eventually broke the silence in a small voice that did not sound like hers.

“Like what?”

“Seeing us right now.”

Diane tilted her chin up, the stars in front of her smiling sheepishly through the thick, grey curtain of the city. But she recognised the four faint stars that formed Caelum in a rigged line across the cold darkness, saw Columba beneath it, and the brightest stars she could make out in the shadowed dark above them that formed Lepus. The only constellations she had ever known.

She inhaled a deep whiff of smoke and let it shadow her sight of the stars. “He didn’t like smoking.”, she mumbled almost playfully and felt Andrea shaking her head beside her.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.”, she whispered. “I hope so.”

But I believe in love
And I know that you do, too
And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you

“Thanks for everything.”

Diane’s lips parted and she shook her head. “No, I have to thank you.”

Andrea tilted her head, her lips curling up into a soft smile in the same way his always had. “You really don’t.”

She wrapped her arms around her, placed a small kiss on Diane’s cheek and pulled back to look at her, warm and intently, almost hesitating before she spoke. “Diane, please call me sometime. I know it’s hard. But we’re still family and you’re always welcome at my house. So, please don’t be a stranger, okay?”

Diane’s brows furrowed and she cast her a pained smile before she shook her head. “Thank you, Andrea. But…” Her voice trailed off and she looked up to the ceiling in a wasted attempt to keep herself from tearing up. “I need some time.”, she finished in a frail whisper.

She didn’t know what she had expected, but Andrea nodded, the green in her eyes warming as her lips twitched aside. “That’s okay. It’s just… He would have wanted this.”, she said and brushed her fingers over Diane’s upper arm.

She nodded, biting her bottom lip and looking aside until she could meet her gaze again. Until she could meet him in her gaze again. “I, I know. I just…” Clearing her throat, she shook her head. “You really are so much like him.”

Andrea huffed out a breath and cast her a warm smile. Her voice was thin when she raised it again. “You know… you’re the closest I have left to him, too.”

Diane’s lips parted, then closed again before she brushed her hand over her eyes. Andrea pulled her close for another embrace and looked at her intently when she leaned away again.

“Call me, please. Or I will.”

So, keep your candles burning
Make her journey bright and pure
That she’ll keep returning
Always and evermore

Into my arms, oh Lord
Into my arms

The sound of her heels colliding with the wooden floor cut through the silence in even steps as she carried the wine glass and her whiskey tumbler in the kitchen.

She carefully maneuvered Andrea’s glass into the packed sink. She had to do the dishes, but she could not bear to open the drawer full of dishwasher tabs tonight and having to see the small, scribbled post-it note she had tossed in there a week ago, just to get it out of her sight.

I’ll only take you out tonight if this comes home empty. I mean it. Have a good day.
Love you.

A shudder rushed through her body and she reached up to the liquor cabinet and granted herself a generous refill of bourbon, swallowing half of it in one draw, and refilling it again before she took the glass and slowly wandered to the bedroom.

The house was quiet and empty, and she had never noticed before just how big it was. There was too much space, too much room for all the thoughts that were haunting her mind and she knew she was not bound to find peace from them tonight. She leaned against the doorway and swallowed another sip of bourbon, the burning whiskey mingling with the remedy of cigarette smoke in her throat, but she did not clear it because there was no reason to do so.

Her gaze flew around the room, over his empty side of the bed, his nightstand and the book on it next to the white telephone, a book that he had never gotten to finish, an ending that would always remain open. And it went on until it got caught by her small, black purse on the dresser next to her.

Her teeth scraped over her bottom lip before she nipped on the whiskey again.

She shouldn’t.

She really shouldn’t.

Or maybe she should. If only for the simple fact that she could. Because there was no one there to keep her from it. Because it did not matter if the dishes were piled up in the kitchen sink, or if she smoked in the living room; because it did not matter anymore.

She straightened, stepped into the room, took her purse from the dresser and walked into the bathroom, emptying the bourbon before she placed the glass on the sink and looked up to find her reflection in the mirror.

She looked like a caricature of herself. Her skin pale, her tired eyes shadowed in a coat of smudged mascara, the shade of blue in them almost a lifeless grey.

Slowly, she opened her purse and fished the small, green glass vial out, eyeing it as she twirled it between her fingers. And before she could have taken another moment to second guess this, her tired gaze was caught by the small, red toy car on his side of the bathroom shelve.

She pressed her lips together to hide a small whimper from herself, one of her brows twitching as her eyes filled with burning tears again. And her lips parted in a single sob she could not hold back.

Gasping for air, she looked down again and opened the vial, squeezed the pipette between her fingertips and drew her head back before she released it on her tongue.

The sweet taste of grape juice was off, a little more bitter than it normally would have been. Almost like a very sweet red wine.

She closed her lips, met her own gaze in the mirror again and looked at herself for a second as she screwed the vial closed. And she waited. And waited.

For something to happen. For anything to happen.

Not noticing how her hair suddenly seemed to shine back at her in numerous shades of bright gold, or how the wheels of the toy car suddenly began to move, as if it were trying to take off and rush over the bathroom shelve, but could not seem to leave its place right in front of her.

She closed her eyes and shook her head.

Just one night. A single night where she did not have to feel. That was all that she was asking for.

“Hey.”

She winced, her eyes shot open and she looked up. And her lips parted when their eyes locked in the mirror.

Like the first real look she had gotten in seven days. Like the first real moment she had experienced in a week. Like she had suddenly woken up from a bad dream, and opened her eyes to the reality.

The reality of icy blue locking with beautiful fir green.


A simple touch
A moment to feel
Something other than sorrow
Give me something that’s not real

Chapter Text

One night to be confused
One night to speed up truth
We had a promise made
Four hands and then away

One night of magic rush
The start a simple touch
One night to push and scream
And then relief

Ten days of perfect tunes
The colours red and blue
We had a promise made
We were in love

- Heartbeats, José González,
written by Karen E. Dreijer Andersson & Olof Bjorn Dreijer

His fingers ran over the flipped page, folding the centre so he could read the next page of the police report without having it jump back, the paper bending in a ragged line where he pressed it down. He squinted his eyes at the small letters and the laughable conclusion the crime department had presumed and handed in, already mentally preparing himself for a long, long weekend of fixing the assumed measurements in their miscalculations.

This was just what he had needed to complete their plans while she was here. Working overtime because of incompetent, unreasonable case preparations.

His fingers left the folder in his lap and rose to the patch of skin behind his ear, his nails slowly scraping against his skin, and before he could have contemplated what had made him so nervous all of a sudden, his eyes shot up and for a split second, locked with hers above the rim of her black reading glasses, before she quickly looked down to the case file in her lap again.

A smug smile crept over his lips and he released an amused exhale. “What?”, he asked and swallowed a burst of laughter when she looked up to him, her eyes wide in feigned nescience.

“Hm?”, she hummed, her brows arching up.

“You were staring at me?”, he said lowly, his smile widening when her cheeks took on a deep shade of pink.

“Uh, no.”, she mumbled, and his brows shot up.

“Oh, yes.”, he said smugly. His fingers found her stocking clad leg stretched out next to him on the couch and his fingertips slowly began to trace over her shin in an almost unconscious movement, motivated only by the ever-underlying urge within him to touch her.

It wasn’t even sexual, at least not all the time. Sometimes it was just the quick assurance that he could touch her because she was here with him, and the knowledge that touching her would always reassure him of the strength he had never known he had lacked until he’d found it in her.

His smile softened, his gaze warming as he studied the hesitant, almost embarrassed look on her face, her gaze that was seemingly still trying to escape his even while holding it, like she was hopelessly trying to draw the curtain closed in front of a window through which her eyes were locked intently with the streets.

“What were you thinking?”, he asked, his voice gentle and low.

She shook her head. “Nothing.”, escaped her in a quick mumble, and he hummed amusedly over the mere thought of that he would ever believe her. As if he didn’t know that she was simply not the kind of person who would ever let her mind rest, if only for a second.

He tossed the folder on the coffee table, the pages he had flipped more or less neatly falling closed as he got up to sit closer to her on the edge of the couch, his hips next to hers, his hand landing on her waist almost on its own accord as the other gently pulled the file from her lap and placed it blindly on the table, his eyes not daring to leave hers in case he could miss a single, telling movement of bright blue.

“Diane.”, he began, smiling at her bashful gaze as he shook his head. “What’s the matter?”

Slowly, her lips parted and before the unspoken words in her throat could come up with enough courage to fly past them for him to hear, the tip of her tongue darted out and wandered across her bottom lip, pulling it behind her front teeth in a manner that was so unconscious that it almost seemed practiced, and she shook her head, a light gleam, the slightest change, so swift that it almost could have been a trick of his mind in the light of the setting sun that was dimmed by the wood-panelled walls in his living room, flickering through her irises before she sighed, in defeat or exhaustion, he did not know.

“I was just… daydreaming.”, she finished softly, and his lips curled into a smile.

Gently, his fingertips slid over the smooth fabric of her blouse that had been tucked so neatly into her skirt when she had arrived, even after the long car ride she had had on her way here to him, the planned order, the need of control that she had not shrugged off until the moment she had passed the doorway to his house. And what beautiful chaos. And what a beautiful way of telling him that she felt comfortable enough to let loose a little in his presence, while having her in his life was all the comfort he had ever needed.

“About?”, he asked, his fingers still roaming over her waist, their skins only parted by the lightest layer of ruby silk. Nothing had ever felt more constructing, the smooth silk threads interwoven as though they were trying to build an iron cage, restricting his touch from reaching her the way his body was craving. To touch her body when he felt like he could not touch her soul, even though he did with every word, every glance, every single breath he gave her, so deeply that it was still scary sometimes until she would look into his eyes.

Diane drew the end of her heavy silver pen against her bottom lip, the cool material pressing into her soft, red flesh, while her other hand rose to rest behind the collar of his flannel button up, where the sensitive skin of his neck met his shoulder, her thumb absent-mindedly beginning to roam over stubbly, warm skin.

She had been touching him for four years now, and the tingle she felt in her fingertips every single time had never faded a bit.

Slowly, she lowered the pen and shook her head again, gazing into his green eyes with raw intensity and bare vulnerability he had not expected, such wholeheartedness that the air was caught in his throat and his fingers stopped sliding over the red silk of her blouse.

“Can I ask you something silly?”, she said softly, instead of answering his question.

“Ask away.”, he answered, without having to think about it. He would share everything he had with her, and more if she’d let him.

Her hand ran through her hair, her gaze cautious behind her glasses, her lipstick-stained pen and her fingers brushing through tousled, blond curls. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and the most beautiful human being he had ever loved.

“Kurt, do you want children?”

The corner of his lips twitched aside in a narrow smile as he gazed into her blue eyes. It wasn’t silly of her to ask, especially considering the insecurity and an almost invisible trace of fear that seemed so utterly misplaced when he saw it glisten in her eyes as she waited for his answer.

 “I did. Why?”

She shrugged and it was as if he could see the weight of the question, maybe even the whole topic in the movement of her shoulders, and he suddenly found himself wondering, trying to remember if maybe it had always been there, with its arms wrapped so tightly around her neck that it threatened to choke her, and he simply had not noticed it until just now. “Care to elaborate?”, she asked, ignoring his question again.

“I wanted them when I was younger.”

Her front teeth dug into her bottom lip, scraping over a layer of faded lipstick. “And now?”

Her voice was anxious, and he shrugged in a small attempt to lighten the tense air between them. “Now I don’t.”

“Because of me?”

“Partly, yes.”, he said, his eyes narrowing as they looked into hers. There was something in the light shade of blue he had never seen before and he slung his arm closer around her waist, pulled her nearer when he figured out what it was. “Di, do you want children?”, he asked gently, his left brow curling into a frown when she cast him a feigned smile that did not rid her eyes of the dark shadow in her irises.

“What does it matter?”, she asked lowly, the words heavy like the weight on her shoulders, her voice throaty with the slightest taste of bitterness she had not managed to suppress behind the curl of her lips.

“Well, it matters to me.”, he said matter-of-factly and tilted his head aside when she sighed.

“Kurt, what I want doesn’t change anything.”

She did not need to add a reminder that his answer in contrast to hers still had the power to call for change, she didn’t have to say it out loud for him to understand. But it was not important. Nothing would change his decision, no unfulfilled dream of his could be impactful enough to outbalance the reality of his feelings for her.

“So, the answer is yes?”, he asked gently, and she shook her head in exasperation.

“It’s just… sometimes I look at you and I wonder…” She stopped, dropped her pen on the couch and took off her reading glasses to place them on the closed case file on the coffee table. Her hand settled on his stubbly cheek. “… you know, what could have been. Or what could still be if… if I—"

“I don’t want you to think like that.”, he interrupted her before she could finish blaming herself aloud. He could hardly bear it, seeing the pain on her features, and his heart would burst if he had to hear her say it.

“I can’t help it.”, she said almost apologetically through a sad smile, her thumb brushing over his cheek bone. “I look at you and I wonder… I just wonder what your son would be like. Or my daughter. I wonder if they would have your dark hair or my blond, if their eyes would be green or blue or something beautiful in between, which one of them would be closer to you or me and how we would each still love them just the same, and if we would fight more with them in the picture or be harmonic and stick together when they’d occasionally gang up against us. Where we would live and what we would call them, how we would balance her piano lessons and his soccer practice while working…” Slowly, with another brush of her fingertips against his skin, her hand fell into her lap. She shook her head again and momentarily broke the lock of their eyes to look up and blink the soft glaze of tears away that coated her eyes and let them shimmer in the soothing light of the sunset that shone into the house through the windows. “And I know it’s silly to even think about it, not to mention letting it get me down, because I love you and I love our life and everything we have and share in it and I wouldn’t dare trade it for an uncertain alternative, and now you probably think I’m a whiny, menopausal lunatic, but—”

“Lily and Charlie.”, he cut her off lowly, and her glassy eyes widened in surprise.

“What?”

“That’s what we’d call them. Lily and Charlie.”, he repeated and took her hand in his, letting their fingers entwine in her lap before he continued. “Lily because that’s our thing, and Charlie because I always wanted a Charlie. She would have your blonde hair and my green eyes and he would be brunette and have your blue eyes and every time I’d look at them I would deny that either one of them even remotely takes after me because they’d be beautiful just like their mom. And she would be closer to you because she’d be interested in renaissance art and foreign-language literature and probably spend some time abroad in the heart of Paris when she’s older, and he would be closer to me because he’s a homebody who enjoys real nature beyond botanical gardens and cut flowers, but we would love them just the same. They’d both grow up to be diehard liberals and pick fights with me every evening at the dinner table while you would sit back silently and be the proudest mother on earth. We would live in a brownstone in a wealthy but humble neighbourhood in the city where the kids can paint the streets with chalk without being ran over by the next best car and where you and I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to take the kids to school and still get to work in time. And whenever you and Lily would get into a fight because she’s inherited your stubbornness, I would come to your defence. And when Charlie and I would yell at each other because he’s progressive in a way I wouldn’t understand, you’d sit down with us and arbitrate between us till all hours until everything is okay again and no one will have to suffer a sleepless night, especially not you because you can’t rest with unsettled conflict in the house. And I would put your mind at ease whenever you’re being too fussy with them or wrongly doubting yourself as a mother, and you would hug me when I get my teary, embarrassing dad thing going at the first days of school and graduations and move outs and childbirths. And I would always love you, just as much as I do now and just as much as I always will.”

Diane’s lips remained parted until she pressed them tightly together, trying to swallow the aching knot in her throat before it would turn into a sob. A small gasp escaped her as she looked at him, wide-eyed when his hand left hers and rose to her cheeks to brush her tears off them while he cast her a smile. A smile that held the same wistful sadness in its edges she felt pulling on her heart.

She shook her head and mirrored the look on his face, full of love and sorrow about the missed opportunities that would always remain nothing more and nothing less than shared, unaccomplishable daydreams between them, what if’s that were sewn in their hearts and bound to keep them connected through light days where they seemed too far away to plague their minds, and dark nights like tonight.

“I didn’t know you even think about this.”, she rasped out, squeezing his hand when it closed around hers again.

He tilted his head, a gentle, knowing twinkle in the green of his eyes. “Di, I think about it all the time.”

She nodded softly, pressing her lips together again as her eyes filled with a new layer of tears, and before she could have looked away to try and conceal them from him and before he could have found the right words to say in his need to make it better, she leaned in and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in the washed out cotton of his flannel shirt. The fabric caught the moisture of her tears and he slung his arms closer around her trembling frame, thinking how lucky he was that she let him be there for her, and thinking how lucky he was that she was the one he shared this with.

Because the sadness would have broken him, had anyone else been embraced in his arms right now but her.

“It would have been so nice to have that.”, she whispered after a moment of silence.

“I know.” His arms tightened around her as he let his eyes fall shut and tilted his head to place a kiss on her crown.

And she was right. But she was more than he had ever imagined having.

“But what we have is more than enough.”

She nodded against his shoulder. “I just wish we had met earlier.” Her voice was so low that it was almost impossible to hear, muffled against his shirt.

But he heard it anyway.

“Me too, but we can’t turn back time. And no matter what could have been, there’s no alternative for which I would trade what we have. We can’t change the past, but we can still make for the best future together. And I don’t know about you, but you’re the best future I could wish for.”

Her eyes laid on the quivering edges of the red toy car as they started to tear up again, before she gasped softly for air and dared to meet his worried gaze in the mirror.

One of his brows was furrowed and she felt a dull ache crashing through her chest at the sight of him in distress, knowing that she was responsible for it and knowing that there was nothing either of them could do about it.

Because he was not really there.

“This isn’t happening.”, she whispered through a rough exhale and one corner of his lips twitched aside, the small, lost attempt of giving her an encouraging smile contorted in a gloomy, wordless apology for the confirmation they both knew he had to make.

“No. It’s not.”, he answered, and his voice sounded just like it always had. Rough and warm, like curling up in front of a lit fireplace on a cold day together, like the comfort of feeling safe in another person’s arms, like home, demanding to fall in love with it and the beauty he had always invited in with his mere presence.

Her tongue quickly swayed across the lower one before she pressed her lips together, her brows curling into a frown as she gave him a nod. There was no reason to conceal her tears. She was still alone. But nonetheless, she hastily brushed the back of her shaky hand over her eyes and rid her cheeks of the salty wetness as well as she could.

Carefully, she placed the green glass vial back on the sink and turned around, unsteady on her trembling legs and almost expecting him to be gone again, almost expecting the illusion to be too good to stay with her for another while.

But he was standing right there in front of her as if he had never left, and he was just as tall, just as handsome as he had always been, proving to her once again that her memory of him, as deeply beautiful as it would always be, could never be fit to do him real justice.

He looked nothing like the lifeless body that she had left lying motionlessly on the green hospital gurney, and everything like the man she loved. And even though he was here now, she still missed him so dearly that it threatened to physically tear her apart.

“You…”, she began raspily before she took another sharp, ragged breath, her lungs, her dizzy mind aching for oxygen they could not seem to receive.

He watched her almost expectantly until he spoke when he realized she would not finish the thought on her own. “What?”

She shook her head and sniffed. “This is not the outcome I was hoping for.”, she said softly, hoping he would not take it the wrong way, hoping he would not disappear again because she had offended him, the fear not quite different from the way she had often felt when they had just met, during the time that had had to pass until she’d started to realise that he simply would not let her push him away like this, neither because of an occasional, mocking joke at his expense, nor during one of her darker hours when she was scared of the lack of independence she’d feared he would bring to her life or the way she imagined it would hurt as soon as she would gain it back involuntarily like she had now, only that the reality did not have the curtesy of being sugarcoated by the foggy strangeness that surrounded the unknown, and the image she had feared did not nearly have the same intensity of the life she was forced to live now. Because even in her darkest hours, when all her rationality had been buried beneath the deepest doubt, she could not even have imagined the way it hurt now.

It felt just like in the beginning. Only that it was worse.

But he was still Kurt. The man who had never given up on trying to understand her, even through times where neither of them really did, where the task of staying with her he had so voluntarily burdened himself with had seemed impossible to fulfil, with every day he had chosen her, again and again for almost eleven years. The happiest eleven years of her life.

His gaze left her for a moment as he looked at the green glass vial on the sink before his gaze found hers again. “What did you expect?”, he asked, his voice soft with intent and the mere need to understand, as if she was still the enigma he would never tire of trying to solve, even after all these years, and even now when neither one of them should have expected him to do so anymore.

She shrugged, the movement of her shoulders heavy with exhaustion as though they were carrying invisible weights she could not seem to push off her. “I don’t know... Inner peace?”

The lines of worry in his expression suddenly softened, a small, playful glint appearing in his eyes as his lips formed a sincere smile, a look she had been so desperately aching to see and of which she had thought she would never get to see it again. “Well, thank you.”, he said amusedly, and she rolled her glassy eyes, her front teeth scraping over her bottom lip as she shook her head, her fragile voice suddenly steady and loud when she spoke.

“Kurt, I just wanted to forget. If only… if only for a minute.”

The sadness took over the battle in his green eyes again, defeated his attempt to lighten the mood. And she could see it now, see that no matter how real he was, no matter how much of him had made it here with her, he needed this just as much as she did. “Who says we can’t do that together?”

His voice was low and it shot through her heart like a dagger.

She swallowed against the hard knot in her throat, her vision of his handsome face that was so full of the same sorrow she had been feeling all week beginning to blur before her, and it was as if this was the first moment after countless, numbing conversations and meaningless condolences in which someone really and fully understood what it was like.

A small whimper escaped her as the tears she could not hold back anymore drifted across her cheeks and she cast him a small, sad smile. “I can’t even touch you, can I?”, she breathed out and something in his warm eyes caused her to gasp for air.

“Di, this isn’t real. You can do whatever you want.”

His arms rose and she gave him another questioning look, full of doubt and fear, a set of emotions that felt like strangers in their way because they by no means belonged to what they had had, before she took an unsteady step closer to him, overcame the gap between them and let his arms close around her shivering frame.

He felt just like himself, his arms strong and warm and steady, like they could be her anchor in any stream and keep her safe no matter how raging it would be. His chest still felt the same against hers, hugging her through rough, washed out flannel and her tight, black dress, and it was as if she could feel his heartbeat, even and clear, drumming against the curve of her right breast.

Slowly and cautiously, she leaned her forehead against his neck, felt his skin comfortably resting against hers as she inhaled the air he seemed to radiate, the oxygen she had needed so badly to put the overcoming feeling of lacking air that had been her closest companion these past couple of days to a halt.

And she breathed it in and let his scent flood her system, like a furious rain shower after a draught, the smell of wood and gunpowder, of pine trees and laughter that had been steadily fading from his pillow during empty days and cold nights of being captured in her arms. And it seemed so real that it suddenly tore her composure down like it was nothing, like she had not been trying her best to keep it together ever since he had left her behind.

Her chest, her lungs were strained, her head suddenly pounding in blinding pain with the deep sob that escaped her against him.

And she cried, cried so loudly that the noise was hardly muffled against his chest, cried so hard that her temple was aching more and more furiously with every new, uneven inhale. And she cried so bitterly that his arms tightened around her frame, as though the tears that wet his shirt and the heart-breaking sound of her pain in his ears told him that his hold on her had to keep her whole or else she would burst and combust in a way not even he had when he’d died.

Because maybe, just maybe, he understood that leaving, in all its pain and sudden horrors, was still easier than being forced to stay behind.

Her hands curled into fists, bunching up the back of his flannel shirt, her nails digging into his warm skin. His eyes fell shut and he dipped his head, until his lips could rest on her crown that could not seem to stop moving beneath the forceful shudders of her sobs that had to be too much for a woman of her stature, like nature and physics should have caused her to collapse under the impossible strain her pain sent through her body, if he had not been there to hold her upright.

And his eyes remained closed, his arms stayed wrapped tightly around her when he heard the scratchy words that were almost swallowed by her unrelenting cries.

“I’m so mad at you.”, she sobbed through a rough exhale that was followed by a sharp, audible gasp for air, and he swallowed hard, his brows curling into a frown.

“I know. I’m sorry.”, he whispered, and he almost feared that she wouldn’t hear it.

But she did.

Her nails dug deeper into his back, in both punishment and desperation to hold on to him, stronger this time because last time, in contrast to everything she had believed in, everything he had led her to believe, it obviously had not been enough to keep him here with her.

“No, you’re not.”, she breathed out heavily before she loosened her grasp on his shirt and met his gaze with a shivering breath. He could see in her irritated eyes, in the way they stood out even more prominently on her pale face, that it took her everything she had to try and regain her composure.

“You’re not sorry, you’re dead. And the only sorry one in this is me.”

The sorrow, the regret in his green eyes made her stomach twist. She knew that even now, he would still give everything he had to trade places with her, partly because he knew that this was his fault, and partly because even now, he was still too selfless for his own good.

It had been one of the many things that had drawn her to him, his selflessness of an intensity she could never even begin to imagine having. It had ticked her off sometimes when it would keep him from taking care of himself. But she had never, not in her darkest nightmares, expected it to eventually cost him his life.

His lips remained silent, but his eyes were rambling in incoherent looks of despair that rushed through them in mazy cascades of green, like they were silently screaming with her because he knew that he deserved to hear this.

“You didn’t care about me when you threw yourself in front of that car, you didn’t care that I would lose the one person I loved more than my own life, you didn’t care that you just threw away the few years we had left together in a heartbeat when we always told each other, when you always told me, how much we both regretted that we didn’t have more time, like nothing we ever said and none of the plans we made even mattered to you at the end of the day!”

She screamed at him until her voice got caught in her throat and she looked away, trying to find just a little more strength, attempted to catch her breath before she would choke on the air of a world without him again. Quickly, the tip of her tongue flicked over her bottom lip, catching the taste of bourbon on her flesh and she dared to look back at him.

He’d remained silent. But his eyes still spoke volumes of his raging pain for her as though her pain was still his in part.

“You were reckless and stupid and there’s nothing honourable about recklessness.”, she continued, her voice lower than she had intended it to be. “There’s nothing selfless about leaving me here, alone, like you did when your fucking selflessness got you killed.” She shook her head, brushing the back of her hand over her nose as she sniffed again. “So, don’t you dare tell me that you’re sorry when it doesn’t change the past, nor the future. Don’t tell me you’re sorry when it doesn’t bring you back.”

Gently, his fingers closed around her wrist and he brought her hand to his lips to press a kiss on her knuckles. “Is that all?”, he suddenly broke his silence, the sincerity in his voice still the same as if it had never left, catching her off-guard because she could not find the slightest trace of mockery within it that could have justified his words, even when this was about the last opportunity to make fun of her.

Her gaze fell on her wrist in his hand, while the other one was still roaming over the small of her back, and she would have pulled her hand away from him if she had been able to. But something about the look in his eyes, something about the warmth in his strong fingers kept her from it and suddenly froze her muscles, overcome by the need to prolong the feeling of his skin against hers. Because the truth was that neither of them knew if this was the last time he would get to touch her.

One of her brows shot up and her lips parted. “Excuse me?”, she hissed, her frown fading as soon as she saw the regret in his fir green eyes stepping aside to reveal something she had almost forgotten in his absence.

The look of love in his eyes, the open declaration of how much he loved her and how he had always unconditionally given her the power to receive his affection, no matter if she would use it to break his heart or choose to bring the greatest joy to his life in case she would return it. It was the risk he had always been willing to take if only it was a chance for them to be together.

He had always been stronger than her in that way. She knew that even if the roles had been reversed, he would never even think about turning back time to stay away from her in order to protect himself from the pain of losing her years later. He was stronger than her in this way, because for the entirety of the past week, she had been wishing she’d prevented this. If she had just stayed strong and resisted letting him change her mind about being with him eleven years ago, she could have prevented all of this.

Them.

“Are you done being angry with me?”, he asked, and Diane scoffed.

“Hardly.”, she mumbled, and one corner of his lips twitched aside. And even now, his smile never contorted his face because it was honest, remained a sincere display of how he was still so utterly in love with the most stubborn woman he knew, the woman he had married all those years ago and loved more with every day that had passed since.

He let go of her wrist and brushed his fingers over her pale cheek, tucking a strand of stray golden blond behind her ear before he buried his hand in her silky hair, his fingertips on her scalp, his hand curving around her head like nothing could ever hurt her in his presence because he would never let anything happen to her. “Can I kiss you anyway?”

Her teeth dug into the inside of her cheek as one of her brows twitched. She looked at him, silent for a short while where the question and her sudden realisation that this was all that was left she could wish for anymore thickened the air between them.

“Okay.”, she whispered, her eyes falling closed, her eyelids pushing her tears down her cheeks when he leaned in and met her lips with his.

She placed her hand on his chest, her fingertips curling gently into the rough cotton beneath her nails. His lips were soft, his beard rough against the skin around her mouth, the contrast in his touch intriguing as ever, a representation of the contrast they had manifested together, so different from one another that one hardly could have found two people less similar, and so in love with each other that any other kind of love would have failed miserably trying to resemble it, the faintest glance, the huskiest whisper, the briefest touch, every moment no matter how quickly it chose to pass became its own eternity when it was shared by them.

This was what forever felt like, she remembered when he attempted to kiss her a little more deeply, the tip of his tongue tracing along the small, soft gap between her parted lips in the pace of his breathing, the tact of his chest arching into her palm with every inhale. She had always known it. But that was the curse of infinities. They were as much of a pipe dream as everlasting love, tricking people to believe in them against all odds because they felt so overwhelmingly convincing when present that they did not leave room for doubt. But nothing anthropogenic was ever fully eternal because nothing anyone could create was able to live on without eventual termination if their creators couldn’t. Every painting had its last brushstroke, every story its final chapter, and every eternity had to come to an end.

And even though this felt like forever, she knew that their forever had already passed.

A small whimper, a muffled, held back sob escaped her when their tongues met and she pressed her eyes more tightly shut, her fingers clinging harder to his shirt, her other arm reaching out to sling around his neck in a blind attempt to pull him nearer, to draw him into her until he could never escape her again, like she was trying to trap a bird in a cage that had long flown out of reach.

But he heard it, felt the uneven movements of her chest against his and the light shudder in her arms, could feel her tears on his cheek and taste the sadness on her lips, and so he gently pulled away.

Their eyes remained closed, their lips only a breath away after they parted. Her forehead collided with his before the gap between her lips widened and she started crying again, softly, gentler this time as though all the sparse energy she had had left prior had finally escaped her tight grasp.

Soothingly, his fingers brushed through her hair as he wordlessly held her while she mourned his loss, quietly mourning with her, for her and for himself, and for the life they had once had, their love for each other that had turned on them all of a sudden, unannounced and unforeseeably cruel.

“Di?”, he whispered after a while, his breathing carrying the single syllable of his nickname for her to her lips. “I love you.”

She sniffed, her eyes remaining closed, her skin motionlessly resting against his. “You broke our promise.”, she hiccupped and shifted in his arms to look at him when he took a deep breath that sounded like taking it had been the hardest task of his life.

And it wasn’t until now that she could see the light glisten in his watery, green eyes, a sight that would have broken her heart if there had been anything left to break. “I really am sorry. I never meant for this to happen.”

The corners of her lips twitched aside and a new coat of tears wandered down her cheeks as she nodded. “I know. It’s just so unfair.”, she said, her voice breaking again when she pressed those last four words out of her lungs.

He watched her, silent for a moment in which his gaze slowly wandered along her facial features, taking in every line, the smallest creases, the red tint on her cheeks. And he cast her a small smile.

“You look tired. Let’s go to bed.”, he said, unwrapping his arms from her with a kiss against her forehead, ready to leave the bathroom when she stopped him.

“Kurt?”, she asked shakily, and he turned back to her. “Will you hold me until I fall asleep?”

His gaze softened and he nodded. “Yes.”

“Wait.”, she said, her fingers closing around his wrist. “Will you still be here in the morning?”

His frown reappeared on his brows as he eyed the fear in her eyes. And the sincere expression on his face already told her the answer to a question she could have answered herself. “No.”, he said apologetically, his hand moving in hers so he could entwine their fingers. “But for now, let me help you change.”

Her front teeth clasped her lower lip and she looked down as he led the way to the bedroom, only raising her head again to give him a small nod when he fished a random pair of pyjamas, smooth, ruby red silk, out of her closet and held it up to her with a questioning look on his face.

Silently, he put the clothes on the foot of the bed and stepped behind her, slowly unzipping her lacy black dress, her eyes falling closed when she felt him pressing a gentle kiss on her bare shoulder, a soft shiver, a small coat of goose bumps running through her body.

“So… how did it go today?”, he asked cautiously, and her eyes shot open, her lips pressing together in a grim look.

“Oh, just fabulous.”, she answered, her voice smaller, more affected by her exhaustion than she had intended it to be.

But he snickered anyway. “I always liked your sarcasm.”, he mumbled and pulled the tight lace sleeves off her arms.

One corner of her lips twitched aside and she nodded to herself. “I know you did.”, she whispered as he tucked the dress over her hips and let it pool around her stiletto heels on the floor.

“Why are you still wearing your shoes?”

She had always known that she could tell him everything. But it wasn’t easy as it used to be. It wasn’t that easy to explain that this was one facade of the way she had been trying for the last week to act like this wasn’t her home, no place to grow too comfortable in, not when he wasn’t there to make it whole. He would’ve understood despite the silliness of the thought, somewhere deep inside her she was convinced of that. She just wasn’t sure if she felt quite ready to admit this layer of her own irrationality to herself.

“I don’t know.”, she said while awkwardly stepping out of her shoes, because it was easier this way. And she didn’t have to look at him to know that he didn’t believe her. But he also knew better than to push her tonight, at least not about something so seemingly unimportant as stiletto heels on the light beige carpet.

Gently, he unclasped her bra and she shrugged the straps off her arms. His warm hands landed on her shoulders, silently asking her to turn around in the wordless language of their love and mutual understanding, a language they both still spoke fluently, like a dead language, only to be read about in the following ages of people who would not get to witness it first-hand, in good times and bad times, beyond death doing them part.

She turned to him and watched as his eyes roamed over her figure, inhaling a deep, ragged breath in discomfort when his gaze met hers and revealed his concern, a look she had always tried to avoid for his sake, a look that had once caused her to take better care of herself than before, and now.

Because he wasn’t here anymore to give her a reason to do so.

“You look thin.”, he said softly, as though he were saying it to himself rather than her. As if the lines of her ribcage on her chest, the prominent bulges of her collar bones that had always been sharp and visible but not close to the way they were now, were leaving nasty, raw scratch marks in his heart. “Did you lose weight?”

It was a rhetorical question he had not actually needed to ask, and she was tired of telling people the obvious. Because it was clear that she wasn’t doing well, it was obvious that she needed company she would not ask for because it would not be able to compete with the one her heart was craving anyway. And the fact that she had lost weight was as obvious to anyone as the fact that she was hurting.

She shrugged, her eyes drifting away from his.

“Di, have you eaten anything today?”, he asked, his fingers nudging her chin up, forcing her to take in the worry in his eyes, and making her swallow hard against the dryness in her throat.

“I had breakfast with your sister.”, she mumbled lowly, feeling her cheeks blush with a thin layer of anger to conceal the fragility of pain underneath as he scoffed, knowingly and frazzled, as though he were the one entitled to feel this way.

“Coffee isn’t breakfast.”, he remarked and she snorted, casting him a bitter smile.

“Well, what do you care?”, she snapped with an angry tilt of her head. “I think it’s fair to say that my well-being is not your responsibility anymore.”

She glared at him, trying to hold on to her anger until the light shifted in his green eyes, the pain flashing through them and into her chest. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.”, she stammered, reaching out for his hand and squeezing it when he let her take it.

He shook his head. “No, don’t be.”, he said lowly. “I just wish you would treat it like it was yours.”

Diane’s lips parted, ready to protest when she realised that there was nothing she could say. As much as she wanted to give him the peace of mind he deserved, not unlike the way he wanted to make this better for her, they both knew there was no way to do either of it.

“How is she holding up, by the way?”, his voice suddenly pulled her out of her thoughts, and her brows shot up in confusion.

“Andrea?”, she asked and he nodded, his lips pressed closed. He had never wanted this, she could see it in his eyes, knew that the last thing he had been meaning to do was causing them, the people who loved him, pain. “She’s…”, Diane began, her voice raspy, but she did not care to conceal it, knowing that she did not have to, never had, at least not in front of him. “She’s missing you. It’s hard on her.”

He looked away for a moment, as if something behind her had caught his gaze, and he shook his head.

She had not known him when he had been younger, had only gotten to be a part of the last fracture of his life. But she knew what a good brother he had been, the responsible one, the one his sister could have called at any given time of the day and he would’ve been there, without a single complaint, no matter how big or small the matter. He’d had to seen her grieve her own husband, witnessed the way the grief had almost destroyed her. And his biggest fear was to be the cause of history repeating itself, manifested in her, or mirrored in his wife.

His eyes shot back to her, the knot in his throat audible in his low voice when he spoke. “As hard as it is on you?”

Her tongue darted out to fly over her bottom lip as she contemplated her answer. “I don’t know. Maybe… Probably. She stayed here with me for the last week and it was good to have her around, but…” Her voice drifted off.

Kurt eyed her, almost expectantly beneath the layer of understanding for her silence. He had always been like this, loving her rambling speeches, and understanding her rare loss for words. “But?”, he asked softly after a moment, squeezing her hand in his.

“It hurts, Kurt.”, she said shrugging, her voice monotone and clear, like it was not actually hers, at least not anymore because the burden of having to carry it with her, to feel it scratching her throat and strain her lungs had become too much additional pain. “Seeing her. Seeing your eyes in hers, the way she looks at me like you used to look at me when you were worried, the way she laughs and cries.” She shrugged again, her front teeth scraping over her quivering bottom lip before she cast him a small smile. “It just hurts.”

He eyed her for a moment, until he let go of her hand and reached beside him, picking up the ruby pyjama top and giving her a small nod, either because he understood or to silently tell her to lift her arms, she did not know. Maybe the answer was just a combination of both, as it so often was—had been—with him, a man who had rarely spared a word too much whenever he could avoid it.

Gently, he pulled the silk over her head and met her gaze again when her arms fell back to her sides.

“Di, can you do me a favour?”, he asked, his hands landing on her upper arms, softly wandering up and down over the smooth silk that covered her skin.

“What?”

“Call her back. When she reaches out to you. I understand that it can be too much to be confronted with spontaneously, but please Di, call her back.”

The urging, almost pleading look in his eyes stayed on her until she nodded. “I’ll try.”

“Promise?”, he asked, and the second the word escaped him, she could see he regretted it. Their history of keeping promises had not exactly proven to be trustworthy, not to mention tactful to bring up.

But she was tired of being angry with him. No matter how hard she tried, her anger wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

“Okay.”

He cast her an appreciative smile, helped her wordlessly into her pyjama pants before he lowered his stance and leaned down to press a kiss on her lips. The tip of his index finger tapped against the silver heart chain on her cleavage as they parted.

“I love this necklace on you.”, he said and she looked down on it. And when she met his gaze again, the look of love in his eyes was the same she had seen in them almost eleven years ago, when she had unwrapped the box he’d given her and found the dainty necklace in it that wasn’t close to something she would have picked out herself, but still so easy to adore, knowing that he had been standing overwhelmed in the jewellery store for her in the prospect of her first upcoming birthday they had spent together, all in the hopes of finding something that would make her happy. And he had. “I was so scared you wouldn’t like it.”, he said smiling, and she beamed up to him.

“At the time, it was the best present anyone had ever made me. I thought I was the luckiest woman alive.”, she remembered, a lightness in her voice that, for the first time in seven days, made it feel like hers again.

He smirked, his fingertip tracing gently along the small silver chains of the necklace. “When did reality dawn on you?”, he chuckled and her smile disappeared, her expression turning serious again, so sudden that he stopped the movement on her collar bone.

“Last week.”

One of his brows furrowed momentarily, an apology on the verge of his parted lips that she did not want to hear. And he shook his head before he gestured to his left.

“Let’s go to bed.”, he said and she nodded, taking his hand as he guided her to her side, watching him turn off the lights as she took off the necklace and placed it carefully on her bedside table. A necklace she would not have picked out herself, but after all, today had not been normal.

Swiftly, she slipped under the covers, closing her eyes when she felt the mattress shifting beneath her as he settled in next to her, on his side of the bed, as though the smell of him had never started fading from the bedding, as though he had never left his side on her left, right where he belonged.

Like everything was alright.

His left arm slung around her, his front curving against her back as he pressed a kiss on the silk that covered her shoulder. The blanket felt cold in contrast to his warm skin and her fingers curled around his forearm, her irritated, swollen eyes shooting open into the darkness as she felt them burning with tears again.

“Are you okay?”, he asked, and she nodded wordlessly, feeling a single tear drifting down her temple as her grip on his arm tightened.

“What are you thinking?”

Diane sniffed. “Nothing.”, she breathed out, feeling his frown behind her.

“Tell me.”, he asked softly and she shook her head.

“It’s stupid.”, she hiccupped, her red nails digging into his skin. “It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter.”

She felt him shift behind her, freeing his arm from his weight before his fingers brushed through her hair. The most soothing touch had always been his. “It matters to me.”

She snivelled. “I just… I keep asking myself why you had to surprise me. Why couldn’t you just pick a date and tell me like I asked you to? I’d have appreciated it just as much, Kurt, this was never an invitation for you to make one of your grand gestures, it was about the time I wanted to spend with you and you ruined it. I would have talked to Will and the others, I would’ve handled it, I had it all planned out and they knew we were going to go stay at the cottage once a year, so why couldn’t you just have gone to work that day? Why…” She paused, gasping for air as she felt the dampness of her tears on her pillow. “Why didn’t I offer to drive you that day and why, why for fuck’s sake did neither of us prevent this when there were a million possible ways to do so but the one we chose?”

His arm tightened around her, his fingertips roaming over her side just below her breast as she buried her face in her hand and muffled a small sob that she could not hold back, the fingertips of her other hand clinging harder and harder to his arm.

She inhaled sharply. “And I know I don’t even get to be angry with you because… because of Will and the baby, but…” Whimpering, she pressed out the rest of the sentence. “I just miss you so much.”

His thumb rolled over her skin and he pressed another kiss on her shoulder. “Diane. You’re allowed to be angry. I’d be furious with you if the roles were reversed.”

And despite the sympathy in his voice, the way he comforted her with his words, she knew it wasn’t true. He was stronger than her, always been and still was. He could have handled this without feeling like he’d lost his mind when he’d lost her, would have kept it together and sought for help when he couldn’t.

He’d loved her, she never doubted that. But he had been stronger than her, so much that she couldn’t help but wonder if part of the strength she’d always thought she had, had always just been manifested in her because she had had him in her life, like a trick of her mind, a joke on her heart’s expense that had always tried to keep parts of him safe in it.

“Can I see you again?”, she asked softly.

“That depends.”, he answered, and she turned her head, looking at him from the corner of her eye.

“On what?”

A knowing smile curled his lips upward. “On you.”, he said, and she turned away again, her head settling back on the damp, silky pillowcase.

They lay in silence for a while, his even breath nuzzling her neck, until they eventually thought the other had fallen asleep.

Gently, her voice lingered in the air in a small whisper, careful not to wake him in case he had. “Tell me something, Kurt.”

“What?”, he whispered back.

“Anything. I just want to hear your voice.”

And so he talked, talked while he held her in his arms, in the love he shared and the safety he provided.

And when she woke up the next morning in bed, alone, it was almost like she was being told that he was gone all over again.

Only that it was worse.


It was my favourite play
Watching our stories in your eyes
And losing the concept of time and day
But we never had forever
Even though we treated time that way

Chapter Text

February

It was the tenth day.

The birds were flying through the snowy wind, floating above the cluttered noon traffic down beneath them that cluttered up the icy, grey concrete streets. People were chatting their lunchbreaks away during short walks across the sidewalks between the corporate skyscrapers, impatient drivers were blowing their horns, yelling at each other from behind their front shields that blocked out the noise of possibly thoughtful and witty—but most likely aggravatedly dense—comebacks to the other’s profanities, and the wind kept blowing to dishevel neat haircuts while the birds kept following their invisible path on their ways over to Lake Michigan and further into silent freedom, away from this messy, lousy city she had once loved so dearly, that had once felt like home before its colours had faded away, before the tall office buildings and large harbour shippers and ferry boats had swirled into a big, undefined puddle of grey, like the melted snow mash on the rims of the busy sidewalks.

Diane clenched her entwined fingers together in her lap, pale pink flesh tightening around her knuckles that still ached from the cold outside. Slowly, her gaze wandered down until it stilled on the bright, yellow gold on her left ring finger. Her digits disentangled and the tips of her thumb and index finger closed around the cool band, starting to twirl it around as she tried to concentrate on the feeling of its material gliding against her fingertips and the way it reflected the rich, warm office light, like the motion of the sharp turns of the wind that had tousled her hair on her way here that she had not cared to fix in the elevator, until she was forced to look up.

“Diane? Do you have any questions?”

It was the tenth day, one and a half weeks later and the world had kept on spinning without him, as if his absence no longer made a difference to anyone but her, now that they had all recovered from the quick distraction of his passing thoroughly enough to live their busy daily lives again, like it had been a change in the universe too small and easy to forget, too irrelevant to disrupt their precious routines that blinded them too brightly to be able to see anything outside of their bubbles that none of them even seemed to notice how it was keeping her from going on with them.

She had always known that the dead were easy to forget, but she had never expected that the dark wings of loss were wide enough to hide the living beneath them, too. For protection or further misery, she did not even seem to know the difference between the two anymore.

Maybe they had not been all that different from the start and she had just grown comfortable with the simplicity of ignoring their striking similarities, until now, now that there was no one to distract her from noticing these things anymore, thoughts that almost felt like déjà-vus, like memories from a past life she had been born to leave behind and forget, like they had once crossed her mind before in a different century, another lifetime, before he had appeared and kept her from remembering them vividly enough to be able to find a trace of comfort in their familiarity.

“No.”, she answered, her voice raspy and low.

She watched calmly as his brows furrowed, his lips parting as he seemed on the verge of asking again, or worse, asking if she was okay, an almost hysterically rhetorical question since they had known each other long enough for him to know the accurate answer, but he closed his mouth before he could offend her by asking anyway and nodded quickly instead.

“Just give me a call if you do. Or feel free to drop by my office any time.”, he said, the uncharacteristically warm sympathy in his voice distorting it as if it did not even belong to him and he was just borrowing it for the occasion, like a pricy suit that only rose attention because it blatantly didn’t look his style.

She nodded once out of curtesy, not sure if she was even considering the offer or if her auto-pilot just ran on a lifelong habit of good manners that had been so deeply important to her parents and teachers and more adults she had lived to impress ever since she had opened her eyes or the first time. “Thank you, David. I really appreciate it.”

His eyes thinned, his lips curling into a smirk and he spoke before she even registered the hollow look in his light eyes disappearing. “No need to thank me, you know I charge every commenced hour.”

A small moment of uncomfortable silence passed between them until his lips tightened again, his eyes still on her as if he were expecting her to say something.

She cleared her throat uncomfortably, the tip of her index finger brushing over the smooth surface of her ring again. “Is that all?”, she asked, one of her brows furrowing as David swallowed hard.

“Well, there’s one more thing…”, he began, his fingers sneaking into one of the three open red folders on his desk between them, his eyes staying on her as he blindly fished something out between the pages, like his hand was working on its own accord.

He pulled it out and placed it on her end of the desk, forcing her gaze to involuntarily leave his while he kept looking at her; she had always hated not having the upper hand in a conversation.

It was an envelope, half letter sized, made of thick, crème white parchment that was disturbed by a familiar scribble on the front, placed around half an inch too far on the left to let the words it formed sit in the centre as the one they belonged to had probably intended when he had written them. She recognised the writing at once, the lines thin from the light pressure that had been applied to the expensive looking parchment, the narrow, lowercase ‘t’, the messy dot over the ‘i’ that rather looked like a lopsided apostrophe, and the slight tilt to the left at the top of the letters.

Her eyes stayed glued to it, the sudden ringing in her ears barely letting David’s low, cautious voice through to her.

“He asked me to give this to you. Last November, if that means anything to you.”

Her teeth sank into the inside of her cheek as she stared at the envelope, eyeing it almost dangerously, like she was fearing that it could hold half a ton of anthrax in it, because this was so startlingly unlike him.

It was not like him to do something like this, to leave a couple of last words for her when he, more times than not, had not even had the words to say when he’d still been able to say anything to her. It wasn’t like him to have been so sentimental, him, the guy who had scoffed at every last romantic storyline in the movies they had watched together over the years. It wasn’t like him to have thought ahead like this, to have been so thoughtful as to even worry about big ‘what ifs’ like this, to even have considered a world after him, to have thought about the aftermath of the consequences of his reckless actions.

It wasn’t like them that he would turn out to be the one who had seen this coming. She was the organised one, was neat and thorough and deliberate, the one that had both their social security numbers memorized by heart, the one who reminded him every year that they needed to file their tax returns, the one who scheduled doctor’s appointments and reminded him of birthdays on either of their sides and she was the one who should have expected something like this to happen, her, not him.

She was still staring at the slim letters when David’s voice fought its way through to her again, this time betraying his better knowledge of her and asking the question they both normally would have scoffed upon together. “Diane, are you okay?”

Slowly, she pulled her bottom lip behind her front teeth, the tip of her tongue gliding over her flesh as if she were trying to soothe it, while she parted her shaky hands and reached out, picking up the envelope and quickly sliding it in her purse and out of her sight.

Then she stood up straight and cast him a fake smile. “Thank you, David. I’ll see you next week.”

And before he could deign to cast her another look of further irritating compassion, she turned around and walked out of his office, her mind twisting and turning too harshly to allow her to register where her feet were taking her, until she found herself closing the door to her private office bathroom behind her, twisting the lock and meeting her own gaze in the mirror.

She watched her reflection as her hand slid into her purse, watched as her fingers curled around green glass and only closed her eyes when she tipped her head back to taste a handful of droplets of bittersweet grape juice on her tongue, the haunting image of his handwriting finally disappearing from behind her eyes, the lines blurring and the ink slowly fading as though the parchment was sucking it towards the back side when she heard his voice, the squiggly, thin letters that formed two words that suddenly felt a little less impactful to consume her mind in whole and weigh on her chest like they were trying to break her ribcage.

-to Diane-

For a moment, they were trapped in her purse, none of her concern for just a little while. For a moment, they disappeared and she could breathe again.

“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?”

Slowly, she turned her head to her right, opening her eyes to meet his gaze.

“Because it’s the only thing left that feels easy.”, she answered in a bland tone, screwing the vial closed and dropping it back into her purse, trying not to register the feeling of the edges of the envelope brushing against her wrist, shutting out the feeling on her skin, shutting out the pain in her chest.

His brows were arched together in a frown, casting her this look that disturbed the calming green of his eyes and usually forced a knot into her throat. She knew that he hated seeing her like this, but she could not even bring herself to feel guilty about it because she hated seeing him like this, too, and yet it was all that either one of them had left.

“You don’t need this to read my letter.”, he said sternly and she scoffed, a bitter grin parting her red lips.

“I’m not going to read it here.”, she mumbled coolly. The mere thought of wasting his last words to her in aseptic, unflattering lighting of a room just wide enough to fit in a toilet and a small sink was just as appalling as the prospect of having to walk out of here for her partners and entire staff to witness her trying to hold on to her last bit of dignity to hide what whatever he might have written would do to her.

“At home then?”, he pushed and Diane rolled her eyes, zipping her purse shut quickly before she glared at him.

“Would you stop pressuring me?”

“I’m not. Di, I’m not even here.”

She chuckled bitterly, shaking her head, the icy look in her bright eyes sharp enough to cut through glass. “Oh, thank you so much for reminding me. It could’ve slipped my mind.”

Kurt’s eyes thinned, his lips parting as he studied her, holding her gaze like only he ever could, him, the only person she had let in and still never managed to intimidate into running from her.

He’d always been able to take it, all her ups and downs, had managed to love her at her best and at her worst, and he had always seen beyond it, taken her in and really seen her, the things she was behind each of her carefully crafted facades that were supposed to create illusions of happiness and carefreeness, of cruelty and anger to hide all the things she herself could hardly identify. The only person who had cared to truly know her.

“What are you really angry about?”, he asked gently, one of his hands curling around the sleeve of her wool coat as he began to trace patterns over her upper arm, the movement cautious as though he were expecting her to flinch away from him or shrug his hand off.

But she didn’t.

“Oh, for fucks sake, Kurt, what does it matter?”, she hissed, her watering eyes betraying her words. “The world keeps turning anyway, no matter what I feel. My partners go to work, they have lunch and meetings and their pointless little management complications that keep their lives interesting, and then they go back home to their families every day, like nothing happened. And you leave me a letter, expecting me to let it make everything go back to everyone else’s abstruse idea of normalcy again.” She snapped her fingers, swallowing against the pressure in her throat. “Just like that, like this was supposed to happen because there’s a deeper meaning behind it all and I’ll just have to deal with that, even though what happened was nothing more than a worthless tragedy. Because guess what? Nothing will ever be normal again, no matter how much they all like to pretend.”

His fingers were still roaming over her arm. One corner of his lips twitched aside in a sad smile. “Diane, this doesn’t have to change anything.”

“Of course it does! It changes everything. And it should.” She lifted her hand and gently brushed her fingers against the side of his neck, looking attentively as though she feared he might evaporate under her touch if she were too rough. “Why do you keep doing this to me?”, she whispered shakily, her gaze rising up to meet his again. “Why did you always have to make everything so much more complicated?”

His free hand cupped hers, his warm palm hugging the back of her cold hand and pressing her fingers more firmly against his skin. “I did this because I wanted to make sure you would get an apology in case I would break my promise.”

Diane’s teeth caught the tender flesh on the inside of her cheek and she looked at him, sorrow in her eyes, pain in each heavy breath she took and she shook her head, like a little tremble she couldn’t suppress.

“I’m not ready for last words, okay?”, she told him, her voice stronger than she had expected it to be.

He nodded. “Okay.”

“I didn’t think I would ever get another word from you again and I’ve been struggling to accept that this is it. That what I got was all I’m going to get and that everything you did is done and I won’t get anything else. I’m not ready to let there be nothing else left waiting for me, no other part of you I can hold—” She paused, shaking her head. “I mean, look forward to. So, please just give me time. Okay?”

“Okay.”

She nodded, then leaned in to press her lips on the corner of his mouth, before she let go off him, looking at herself in the mirror again before a shy, almost embarrassed gaze slid up to the reflection of his eyes again. “I’m still angry.”, she said softly, raw exhaustion in her voice that showed how little sleep she had gotten in the past ten days. “I know it doesn’t change a thing and there is no one to blame. But I’m still so angry. What does that say about me?”

He squinted his eyes, watched her pleading look as he debated his answer. “Are you angry with me?”

“With you. With the world.” She shrugged, casting him a sad smile. “With myself.”

Kurt sighed, like the action helped him carry the weight of her world on his chest. His hands rose to her temples, calloused fingertips gently tucking her hair behind her ears, his skin brushing softly against the small, cut-shaped scar behind the arch of her eyebrow that she had worn since that day at the grocery store in November, mere days before he must have written the letter that was lying heavy in her purse today.

“I think it says you’re human.”, he said lowly, like he was thinking aloud. “And there’s nothing wrong with being human.”

Diane nodded slowly, escaping his eyes to look at the tips of her high heels. “Will you walk me home? I won’t take a cab, I’m in no rush anyway.”

He nodded. “Always.”

She swallowed and tried to flash him a small, grateful smile before they stepped out of the small bathroom and walked out her office, side by side. Diane barely had time to exhale the breath she had taken before she passed Marissa with a quick tug of the corner of her lips when she found herself face to face with a pair of hazel brown eyes.

“Oh hey!”, Will said, his face brightening sweetly. “I thought you weren’t coming back until Monday.”

Diane forced a startled smile. “I’m not, I had an appointment with David.”, she said, her own voice sounding like it rooms were parting it from her ears. She shook her head, trying not to look aside when she felt Kurt’s hand settling on the small of her back. “I was actually just heading out.”

Will’s eyes widened, his smile stumbling off his lips. “Oh, right. He read the will today.”

She gave him a tight nod, her eyes on him, resisting the urge to meet Kurt’s dark green gaze beside her.

Will remained silent until a split second before she would have felt the need to let out an awkward cough. “Hey, are you hungry?”

“No—”

“‘Course you are.”, Kurt’s voice interjected and she could picture the frown on his forehead without having to look at him. “Diane, you haven’t had a proper meal in over a week.”

“I’m fine.”, she added quickly to neither of the two in particular.

Will’s eyes narrowed in front of her. “Okay.”, he said cautiously, making it sound like a question rather than a statement. “It’s just, it’s almost lunch time and I have a couple of hours until the next meeting. It doesn’t have to be food, but if you just feel like having coffee together—”

“I’m fine, Will.”, she repeated, suppressing a shiver at the feeling of Kurt’s hand pressing more firmly into her back.

“Diane, what are you doing?”, he whispered, and she shook her head.

“I’m just tired, I think I’d rather head home.”

Will nodded slowly, the motion betraying the concerned glint she saw shooting through his eyes. “Did you drive here? Because I could give you a ride if you want.”

“Will, your arm is broken. And I think a little fresh air wouldn’t hurt anyway.”

“I could go with you. Get you home, take a quick walk through the snow.”

“You hate the snow. Thank you for the offer though, I really appreciate it.”

He nodded again and the look he was still eyeing her with told her that he knew she’d hardly registered what either of them had said. “No need to thank me. I’ll call you, okay?”

She forced a smile and they parted. She didn’t realize she had been holding her breath until the elevator doors closed smoothly in front of her, leaving her alone.

Almost.

“Don’t even try to lecture me right now, okay?”, she exhaled, her gaze fixated on the lit button of the ground floor.

She felt his hand brushing across her back, up to rest gently come to rest on her shoulder. “I’m not saying anything.”

“Good.”, she said, nodding, her eyes falling closed when he continued.

“The only thing I will say though is, this would have been good for you.”

Diane scoffed, suddenly looking up to face him. “What, going out for coffee and pretending everything’s alright? I think I’m failing to see how that would help me.”

The elevator pinged and she shrugged his hand off her while the doors slid open, rushing out between them as soon as they left enough space between them to let her through, not looking back in the hope that he would follow. It would have been too painful in case he wouldn’t.

She crossed the strangers in the foyer and escaped the building through heavy glass doors, harsh wind wafting through her hair, cold air burning against her dry lips and tired eyes and she stood for a moment, blinking until she took a deep breath and turned on her heels to walk down the street and start her path home.

She had been walking for nearly a minute when she suddenly flinched, looking up at the man who had wrapped his warm hand around her cold fingers.

Her lips parted as she looked at him, the worn leather of his brown jacket now hanging from his shoulders, tiny white flakes glittering on the sleeves. She had not realized that the morning drizzle had magnified to snowflakes again.

They came to a halt at a red light and she was just on the verge of blocking out the few people around them thoroughly enough to raise her voice against all better judgement, when he spoke, slowly and steadily, like a rock in the ocean of loud wind and strange faces and the way it felt like neither of them could have cared less about her.

“I think you know that trying to see that everything’s gonna be alright and holding onto any kind of perspective for hope and change when it shows will probably do a lot more than concentrating on the fact that things aren’t alright for now.”

She scoffed, looking around for a moment to see if people had turned around to the sudden noise she had made. But the young woman in a rosy peacoat next to her was still staring at her cell phone as though nothing has happened, and the elder man who was passing them at the crosswalk was looking straight through her. Like the walls of her bubble had solidified to block any sight or noise to the people around her, while it continued to fill with water that was threatening to drown her, without anyone noticing, not even if she had screamed at the top of her lungs for someone to help.

“You know what I think?”, she asked, her voice raspy, turning to him to let him see her glassy eyes. He looked at her expectantly. He was the only one looking at her. “I think that if the hope that everything’s going to be alright is solely based on make-believe, that makes it a rather bullshit mindset.”

He squeezed her hand, casting her a knowing smile that caused her to arch an eyebrow at him. “I remember a time where you used to believe it.”, he responded and she shook her head, her vision of him now blurry from unshed tears that were stinging in the cold wind, and she looked ahead again.

“I never believed it.”, she whispered, the breaking of her voice so rough that he hardly could have understood her. But he had. “I believed you.”

The traffic light turned green and they walked on in silence.

They passed a couple of blocks, leaving the business district and entering more quiet streets where the falling snow had already started to cover the trees that rimmed the sidewalks.

“Why is no one staring at me?”, Diane broke the silence eventually after a mother with her three children had crossed them without granting her a second look. She was still holding his hand.

“Since when do you want people to stare at you?”

She shook her head, sighing. “I don’t but, I mean, I’m basically talking to myself and no one even seems to notice.”

Kurt shrugged, like the answer was obvious. “Because you’re not talking to yourself.”

Diane huffed out a breath, the heavy exhale pushing a visible cloud of steam out between her red lips. “Well, you’re not here and I’m very much talking to you.”

He remained silent for a while under her gaze, let her watch one of his brows crinkle in thought until he found the right words. “You know those moments where you say something out loud while thinking that it was only a thought in your head?”

“You mean those moments that only happen in the kind of movies you always complained about?”

He smirked, squeezing her hand. “It’s like that. Just the other way around.”

Her brows shot together and she turned her gaze away again. “Okay.”, she said quietly.

“Would you rather have people see you talking to yourself, thinking you’re going crazy?”

“No. I just didn’t think that you could ‘go crazy’ without having the people around you thinking the same.”

“Well…”, he started, waiting a moment to make her look at him again, always able to rely on her impatience. “We choose which battles to fight in silence. If you want to do it alone, they’ll let you.”

She let out a humourless laugh. “Maybe the choice would feel a little more liberating if there was anyone here who seemed willing to fight with me.”

“But that’s because you don’t let anyone know that you might like a little assistance.”

Her lips parted, only to have her front teeth clasp the lower before she looked away again.

“I get along just fine on my own.”, she said bitterly after a couple of seconds of silence.

“Oh, I know that. And I’ll never doubt it. But a little help never hurts and, you know, it certainly wouldn’t kill you to accept some, every once in a while.”

She scoffed again. “You’re one to talk about the things that don’t kill us.”

Kurt’s eyes narrowed, pursing his lips, not sure if he was supposed to laugh or take offense. “Was that a joke?”, he asked and Diane tilted her head as if the task of holding it up had become too much about a week ago.

“I honestly have no idea.”

The stone steps by the front door of their brownstone were covered in one and a half inches of snow when they came home to a voice message from Andrea that Diane promised him to return later, even though she already knew she wouldn’t. She saw one corner of the newspaper peaking out of the snow mantle at the top of the stairs but didn’t care to pick it up.

What she did not see was the red bug parked on the other side of the street, nor the curly-haired woman behind the windshield, holding a cell phone to her ear.

“So, we’re spying on her now?”, she said with a raised eyebrow and Will sighed on the other line.

“I was just worried about her.”

Marissa shrugged. “Whatever you say. Do you want me to go in and check on her?”

“No, I don’t think she’d want that right now. I just needed to know that she got home okay.”


And if you just dared to open your eyes,
You’d see that even in your darkest moments
You’ll never have to be alone

Chapter Text

Her eyes were already open and fixated on the bright red digits on the display, waiting for the last minute to pass. They had long gotten used to the darkness of the early hour when her alarm clock finally went off and she reached out to quiet the shrill sound, a sound that almost awoke a nostalgic feeling in her stomach.

It was Monday, her first day back at work. And she had not found a minute of sleep in the past forty-one hours.

Slowly, she pushed the heavy silk sheets off her body with one hand, her other arm reluctantly dropping the pillow she had stolen from the empty spot next to her on the mattress and pressed against her torso for the last six hours, the small wet stains her cold sweat had left on the silky pillowcase long faded from the pillowcase.

It did not smell like him anymore. Some things still did, like the two leather jackets on the coat rack in the corridor that she did not dare to even touch with a careless nudge of her shoulder when she used the front door, the lighter one made of thin suede, the darker one fur-lined and water-repellent, or the flannel button-up and white t-shirt he had left lying in the walk-in closet the night before he had met with Will because he’d always been careless enough to purposefully forget that the laundry basket was just a foot or two away from the crème white armchair on which he always used to pile his clothes.

She did not have it in her to take them off, to wash and dry them and put them folded in the closet where they belonged, just as she had left his book laying on his nightstand, open-faced, the pages three-hundred-and-sixty-six and three-hundred-and-sixty-seven resting against the polished wooden surface, right where he had left them, just as she had not put the cap of his shaving cream back on the dispenser, left it lying right next to it in the bathroom shelve, and just as she had left the small silver button of her rosy silk pyjama top lying on her own nightstand. Because one day the smell would start fading, as it had faded from his pillow, as it would fade from her memory, and there would be nothing left. Nothing left for her to have. Nothing left for her to think or feel. Nothing left for her to do.

She got up, her numb legs feeling heavy as they carried her into the bathroom where she started the shower and met her own eyes in the mirror, dark shadows accentuating the hollowness in her grey gaze like a picture frame, while the water started to fill the room with steam, leaving a damp feeling on her skin as it gathered on the edges of the mirror’s glass. Her hair was messy, her lips chapped. She tore her gaze away from the pale shell of her own reflection, shrugged her clothes off and stepped under the shower head, starting to get ready.

Conditioning her hair and shaving her legs, she tried to make an effort, even if the meaningfulness of the tasks could not break through the fog in her head. Making an effort seemed like it was just one last thing to do for someone who was trying to block out that they actually could not think of a single sensible thing left for them to do.

And so, she did. She brushed her teeth and blow-dried her hair, concealed the shadows around her eyes and the small scar on her temple, painted a layer of red lipstick over her pale lips as though it made a difference and carefully picked out clothes that weren’t black. Not because he would have hated it. Not even because she would have hated it, back when she’d still had enough force left in her to care. Just because. For reasons she could not care to name.

Her purse was already packed and waiting for her on the dresser in the bedroom, next to her jewellery box. She carefully placed the sealed parchment envelope that lay atop the box aside, stared at her fairly impressive collection of earrings for a moment, as if she were waiting for a pair to step up volunteer for the day while she forced herself not to let her eyes drift down to her dainty silver necklace with the small heart-shaped charm dangling from it, until she sighed, shaking her head as she picked a random pair of golden hoops and a matching necklace, shut the box and breathed deeply through the quiet, her eyes on the envelope, her bottom lip trapped between her front teeth.

-to Diane-

Her chest felt tight, as though the chunky golden chains around her neck were too heavy against her sternum. Her fingertips gently brushed over the thin marks his pen had imprinted on the paper through the pressure of his wrist, and she felt her lower teeth sinking more sharply into her own flesh, an edge picking through skin and leaving a nauseating taste of metal on the tip of her tongue.

Shakily, she released the breath she had not realized she’d been holding in, then she picked up the envelope and allowed her gaze to drift away.

It’s too early, she thought.

It’ll always be too early, he would argue if he were here with her, because that was the thing with last words. No one wanted to hear them because every sentient being was born to be chronically afraid of endings. Bodies weren’t programmed to fail at the first health challenge their owners endured. People didn’t give up as soon as they were forced to face a challenge, they were supposed to be strong and strength was measured in survival, they were meant to believe that they were meant to survive. They’d invented religions to cope with the fear of their own finite lifespan, they forced themselves to trust in scenarios that only existed within the walls of their imaginations, all in their desperate need to outplay their endings like they hadn’t understood the meaning of the word. As if there was anything, anything left after an ending, like that wouldn’t defy the sole necessity for its existence.

People didn’t want last words, they didn’t want to hear them and be confronted with their fear of letting a loved one go, they didn’t want to say them and be confronted with their own deep-seated fear of never saying anything else again, of never getting another chance to determine what they would be remembered for.

People didn’t want last words. That’s why they saved them until the very end.

Diane shivered, her teeth unclenching around her lip and she dropped the closed envelope back on the dresser before she closed her shaky hand around the straps of her purse and went to the kitchen, her heels clicking in the silence of the house, like the ticking of a clock, a dripping water tap in a quiet bathroom, the steady beat of the damning continuance of time that led her closer to her own finitude, with every step and every silently passing second. A little closer to the end.

She placed her purse on the kitchen isle and opened the door of the empty refrigerator. The cool light was burning in her tired eyes.

Are you planning to eat at the office? he would ask if he were here, a judging edge in his calm voice as he’d give her a frown that would make her blood boil. Because no one made her angry like he had, no other person evoked emotions in her like him. It was as though she had lost touch with them when he’d left, like an estranged relative or an old friend she didn’t really talk to anymore these days.

And on a day like this, her jaw would tense and she would remind him that she takes lunch breaks every day and how it would hardly be a problem for her to go a couple of hours solely on caffeine, thank you very much, and he would arch an eyebrow and look at her quietly for a while, the air thickening around them and making it hard for her to control her breathing, before he would shake his head and remark that those couple of hours seemed to have become a new habit these days.

And she would scowl for a moment, followed by a bitter laugh, because she knew he wasn’t wrong, hissing that she did not have to defend herself to him. Especially now.

And he would look at her with this ache in his eyes that always darkened the shade of fir green, and he would turn away and leave the room to take a shower, mumbling something about just wanting her to take care of herself on his way out.

And she would nibble on the inside of her cheek, her gaze threatening to let the floor panels burst into flames instead of turning to look after him, her jaw tense as his. And she would hang her head low and let her eyes fall closed before they could fill with tears when she would hear the muffled sound of the shower running in the bathroom, angry with herself as she always was whenever she picked a fight with him for no good reason, because he made it so easy for her while she was doing nothing but making this difficult for either of them and she knew in her heart that someday, he would start noticing and recognise that his worth was so far out of her reach that it seemed ridiculous to try and weigh them up, to even spend more time thinking about it than a split second, like she was an imposter who had tricked him into thinking she was worth his time, worth his effort, worth his love.

Worth his last words.

And she would stand there for a couple of minutes, listening to the sound of the water hitting the shower tiles, the sound shifting whenever he moved, until it would stop and she would find herself stepping over the wooden floor until she would meet his gaze in the foggy mirror, water on his skin, a towel wrapped around his hips and a deep crease furrowing his brows that she rarely saw these days.

“I’m sorry.”, she would say lowly, forcing her eyes to hold his gaze while cold fingertips cautiously began to roam over his damp shoulder.

And he would take a deep, audible breath turn and around.

“I worry about you, Diane.”, he would say calmly, and she’d shake her head, frowning.

“Why?”

Snorting half amusedly, he would tilt his head aside, his hands closing gently around her upper arms. “Because I love you.”

She’d let her forehead sink against his shoulder and let him wrap his arms around her, her blouse dampening in wrinkles beneath his touch, her makeup smudging against his skin. And it would not matter to either one of them.

“I didn’t mean to snap at you.”, she would whisper eventually. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s alright.”, he’d simply say. And she would believe him, just like that.

But none of this happened when she closed the door to the blinding light in the fridge, picked up her purse and left the kitchen with an empty stomach.

Because there was no one left to care.

Because there was no one left to fall for her lie.

A shudder crept up her spine, her eyes falling closed for a moment in which she felt the room spinning around her as she shook her head, willing the thoughts to go away, willing his memories to leave her alone like he had outside the comfort of her own head, before she reached over the dresser, closed her fingers around the sealed envelope with his handwriting on it and slipped it into her purse, like a piece of him she could carry with her, an easy way to give in to what she could not admit to herself.

He was a part of her, no matter how hard she had tried not to depend on him. And she was not ready to allow herself to let it end.

When the light starts dimming
And the crowd clears out
I’m stuck here waiting
For new rounds of applause

Endings
They’re the reason why I feared the beginning