You flip through the keys on your key ring while struggling against the weight of four bags of groceries, finally managing to locate your house key before proceeding to drop the keyring entirely. Fuck. You reach down to pick it up and find your house key again, balancing two heavy bags on each arm, but you manage to unlock the door and stumble inside, kicking it closed behind you with one foot and setting your bags on the table.
“I'm home,” you call out, but no one answers. Weird.
You look around in the kitchen, and then the living room, but Jane is nowhere to be found. Her car is still in the driveway, though, so she has to be around here somewhere.
You poke your head into the master bedroom and that's where you find her, wrapped in a quilt on your bed, her back to you, shuddering and sobbing and taking in deep gulps of air, struggling to breathe through it. Fuck, you left her alone like this. Dammit, Lalonde.
“Hey,” you say softly from the doorway, “Janey, I'm home. You okay?”
She doesn't turn to look at you, but you see her shake her head slightly before sniffling and patting the bed next to her. Okay, so she wants you to help her through this one. Cool.
You make your way over to her, and sit down beside her, careful not to touch her, just letting her know that you're there.
Ever since the game, you've all had your own ways of coping. You drink. Jake forgets. Dirk...dammit, Dirk, you don't even wanna think about it.
Jane's been battling deep bouts of anxiety and frequent, sudden panic attacks ever since the game. There are still nights where she wakes up screaming and in a cold sweat, and all you can do is hold her and kiss the back of her neck until it subsides. The panic attacks are probably worse than the nightmares, though. They come fast and they come hard, and each one is different. You're never quite sure if she wants you to talk her through it, or hold her until she can breathe again, or if she just needs to be by herself. As a consequence, you've developed your own way of asking her how you can help.
Jane sniffles and tries to take a deep breath, it cracks halfway through and turns into a gasp for air. You've had one panic attack before, it was before the game and you don't even remember what brought it on. It was a fairly mild one, but you know what it's like to have your chest seize up and refuse to let you breathe as your heart pounds and your thoughts race. It was awful and Dirk ended up talking you through it on Pesterchum, and shortly thereafter you drank yourself into a stupor, but you can't even imagine going through them as badly and as routinely as Jane does.
She's strong, stronger than she knows. You love her for it.
You feel a sudden pressure on your hand and look down to see that Jane is holding it, her sky blue nail polish chipped against your pale skin. You take her hand in both of yours and sigh, rubbing over her knuckles softly with your thumb. She always says she likes it when you do that, and what's important right now is soothing her the best you can.
“Do you want me to hold you?”
She exhales, a deep, shaky breath, gasping air back in for a moment before managing to nod slightly.
It must be worse than usual. She never wants you to hold her unless it's especially bad.
You lay down on the bed and gently pull her down next to you. She rests her head on your chest and tucks her knees up towards her chest. You wrap an arm around her and press a kiss to her hair. You feel her shudder against you and you run a hand through her hair, running your nails softly across her scalp. She always loves that. You kiss her hair again, and she nestles against you, crying into your shirt, and you hold her, shushing her gently and stroking her hair.
“Just breathe, Janey. It's okay. I'm here, we're out. I know it's hard, but you gotta try to breathe.”
She sighs, finally managing to get a good breath in, and you can feel her relax a little against you as she quiets herself.
“It's okay, you're okay,” you whisper as you hold her. You're shit at this, Dirk is so much better at calming people down, but you can try, you always try, and the most important thing is that Janey's gonna be okay.
She sighs again, curling closer into your touch and pressing a soft kiss to your collarbone. You're not gonna rush her. Whenever it's this bad, you know she's gonna wanna talk about it once she comes down, but she'll talk when she's ready. It's not your place to push her.
“I'm sorry,” she whispers, whisper-soft against your skin and you're not sure you even heard it. “I'm sorry.”
You sigh and you want to scream that it's bullshit, that she's perfect the way she is and that she has nothing to be sorry for, but she knows all of that anyways and right now, she doesn't wanna hear it. So instead you just settle for “I know.”
With an idle finger she absently traces patterns across your skin, shoulders and collarbones and the beginnings of your chest not covered by your boatneck shirt. She sighs again, sniffling quietly and trying to blink the sting of tears out of her eyes.
“I remembered the game again,” she whispers, swallowing a lump in her throat and moving her feet restlessly in their place by your right knee, curling her toes softly and looking down. She's nervous and uncomfortable. She never wants to talk about it, but she always has to, she feels the need to explain herself. You wish you could tell her that it's okay to break down sometimes. You never need an excuse to cry.
You don't interrupt her though. It just makes it harder for both of you. You've learned to just let her talk, so instead you just ignore the hurt in your heart for her and pull her closer to you, stroking her hair away from her face and curling your arm around her a little tighter, and you try to forget that your pale, skinny forearm can't protect her from the hurt of the world.
“Right after I went godtier,” she says, and you suddenly understand. You don't often think of the time when she was under the batterwitch's control. You've always known that she is a leviathan of a girl, but you don't like to remember the things she used her strength for then. You wonder what brought it on, but you know that Jane's thinking the same things you are. She's spoken to you about it on a handful of occasions, during lightning storms at night with you curled up against her, in that idyllic space where you can both pretend to forget everything by the morning. She says the things she did still haunt her. You're convinced they always will.
You feel her calm and quiet against you, and you think of that old quote about storms being named after people, and you understand. Your job is to understand. To let Jane know that she doesn't have to lock these things away inside of her, and to soothe her when she cracks.
“I know,” you say again. It's all you ever say, but somehow it's enough.
She sits up, stares down at you, and smiles, brushing a few stray tears away from her face. “Thank you,” she whispers. “I love you.”
You grant her a small smile and look up at her. She's beautiful even like this, her eyes teary and her nose all red and splotchy. You love her, you love her so much and instead of answering you lean up and kiss her, and you may not be a breath player but you try to breathe all the love your heart holds for her into that kiss and you're pretty sure she feels it. She kisses you back and it's a kiss of gratitude and appreciation and sadness and more than anything, love. You pull back after a moment and smooth tears off her cheeks with the pad of your thumb, and she rests her head on your shoulder and you just settle back and pull her into your lap, wrapping both your arms around her and resting your chin on her head.
You wonder how you ever got so lucky as to end up with her. She always asks you the same thing.
She is strong and she is real and she is beautiful, and you always have to remind yourself that she's what keeps you grounded. Your aspect was always void but Jane is tangible, and real, and perfect, and you'll never understand what you did to deserve her.
She kisses the place where your neck meets your shoulder and you smile and her hand finds one of yours and holds it and damn it, you're supposed to be consoling her, not the other way around.
But then again, you tell yourself that it's a give and take, and you two couldn't last as long as you have if you didn't complete each other. You've always thought of it that way. Life and Void. Everything and nothing. She's your everything, she's fucking everything to you, entire universes contained in the body of one small girl, and you are nothing.
Somehow she loves you anyway.