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Only This Fight and Nothing More

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She sits and holds Dan’s hand and tells herself he’s just asleep. He’ll open his eyes soon. He’ll laugh, and it will be weak, but when she hears it, her heart will swell with all the love she’s ever felt for him, with all the love anyone’s ever felt anywhere in the world.

He’ll be sad he ruined Darlene’s wedding and the family will come together, because that’s what Conners do. They will be there for him, they will talk too fast and their eyes will shine with tears, and when they reenact the reception, there will be this fragile happiness, this overwhelming joy which they fear because it could break at any moment.

Roseanne presses a kiss to Dan’s fingers. His skin is cool, and salty from her tears.

~*~

She’s been with him since she was sixteen. Sixteen. Half her life and more she’s spent with this man and she’s not ready to be alone.

~*~

He’ll open his eyes and he’ll smile so soft and she will mock the hospital because that’s how she manages her emotions, in laughter and teasing and cutting comments that hurt because they’re true.

She’ll tell him about D.J.’s CPR and D.J. will be the hero. He’ll deserve a reward. A car. Her gratitude. Her pride.

Definitely the car.

She’ll rant at God and she’ll rail at God but in the end, God comes through and Dan lives. There’s no way God could be so cruel to give her a different story. Hers is her family and her family is Dan.

~*~

“Twenty-five years,” she whispers, and she doesn’t recognize her own voice. “I feel helpless for the first time in twenty-five years.”

Dan is silent and cold.

~*~

Darlene and David renew their vows eighteen months later. They very carefully choose a date that isn’t this one.

~*~

Roseanne knows she should tell D.J. it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault. CPR fails, some things just happen. God’s will, as so many people tell her. God’s will or not, it wasn’t D.J.’s fault. It wasn’t, but she doesn’t have the words to tell him, because if she tries, she knows what she’ll say instead.

It wasn’t his fault. It was hers.

~*~

She squeezes Dan’s fingers and waits. He’ll wake soon, and she’ll break the news that he had a mild heart attack, a mild -- emphasis -- heart attack -- in a quiet rush -- and eventually she’ll put them on a diet. No more fried food, no more bacon, no more double cheeseburgers, no more fast food, no more beer, no more chips, no more smoking -- but they quit that years ago -- no more no more no more no more.

She sits and she chants, but it sounds more like please.

~*~

Dan has never cheated on her. He’ll reassure her of that when she wakes, because that’s the sort of ridiculous thing he wants her to know when he’s scared for his life, when the real time for fear has passed. It’s ridiculous because it’s true. It’s ridiculous because she knows he hasn’t, and he knows she knows, and he’ll say it anyway. Because he wants her to be sure.

~*~

Death is like a lover. She remembers that from something in high school, but she can’t remember what. Death is like a lover, but she’s Dan’s lover, and this is a betrayal. This is a broken heart.

~*~

“Please,” she whispers. Dan will wake soon and his fingers will tremble when he touches her cheek.

~*~

“Mrs. Conner, I’m sorry.” It’s the same nurse who’s checked on her three times already. Once. Twenty times. Roseanne can’t remember. Dan’s awake sometimes when she comes. He’s not. He is.

“I’m sorry,” she says again, and her face is blurred when Roseanne blinks at her. “We have to move him now.”

~*~

Dan will wake soon and the nurses will move him out of the ICU and the family will come visit him, because that’s what Conners do. They stand together and they lean on each other and they weep into dark clothes and each other’s shoulders -- no. NO! They make inappropriate jokes because he’s alive, he’s survived.

He will never die, Roseanne swears, and their house will always be a home.

~*~

Roseanne sits and holds Dan's cold, still hand and tells herself stories.