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A Lucky Star’s Above, But Not For Me

Chapter Text

“I was a fool

 

to fall and get that way.

 

Hi-ho, alas, and also lackaday.

 

Although I can’t dismiss

 

the memory of his kiss,

 

I guess he’s not…he’s not for me.”

 

Slouching on the backseat of her car, she’s savoring the lingering residue of her last glass of Bourbon. After being informed by Renee that the offered partnership, which she’d decided not to give up her current position in a relatively not appealing firm for, was taken by, now her former partner, Barbara Kolstad, she indulged herself with several extra glasses of Bourbon. The smarmy bartender, again, attempted to impress her with a few shallow jokes, which she neglected with nonchalant smiles. She thought that after one-year devotion, she might have won the trust from the partners. She thought that despite of some minor disharmony she might have developed a companionship with the female senior partner. Can there ever be no backstabbing just for a minute? She wonders. She laughs at the fact that it never ended well between her and a female partner. Why is it so hard for women to simply stick together? Why is she always the last one to be aware of the schemes against her, which never even appeared to have a solid ground? Dizzy and intoxicated, she cannot continue bothering her mind with the messy thought. If only there could be, for just a short moment, a peaceful land where she is able to take a breath not worrying about the stress of keeping the firm afloat, not worrying about the relentless lawyer killing, and not worrying about the madness of this crazy world, if only just for a short moment……

Her slender fingers reach for the out-attached pocket of her clutch. Feebly, she takes out that little green vial containing the mysterious liquid. She did not think of trying it when the bartender promoted its tantalizing effect. Drugs? Never for Diane Lockhart, not even in her youth. When the darkest hours befell, the nearly bankruptcy of her firm that she dodged, the overture of her seemingly happy marriage, the catastrophic loss of her personal finance and the stained reputation due to the connection with the Rindell name, not once has she tried to give herself a break and escape from the turmoil. She hustled around to regain what she almost lost, to keep everything rolling, to prove herself and to win respect and trust from peers with her unyielding will, impeccable professionalism and zealous passion for justice, but when is the end of this? A dirty plate comes before she can wipe the one in hand. It’s an infinite loop, and what’s the meaning of all these, being driven by last-minute crisis, being swirled in the flow you don’t even know why, just drifting and not being able to spare a second to contemplate how she really feels, to question whether it worths the mindless efforts to accept the passiveness for life. Then, what would it cost to add a little innocuous madness to the crazy world that has already been out of her control? Probably nothing.

Screwing the lid of the vial, she raises the dropper over her mouth. Slightly squeezing, she feels a cool droplet of liquid taking over her tongue, a bit bitter and astringent, and gradually seeping to her throat, bringing a tingling to her temples when she swallows slightly. Relaxing her neck and extremities, she squirms on the seat to adjust to a cozier position before it kicks in. Squinting her eyes, she sees through the windshield. It is a lovely neighborhood away from the dazzling city light. The darkness of the night sky is thickly dotted with twinkling stars, and that scattered twinkling becomes brighter and closer as the jazz music crawls into her ears and starts to echo in her brain. She has never seen a night sky like this, so enormous and deep, like it will gradually take her into that unknown abstruseness, oh, except when she was in the country, at his farm, in his arms, with his mustached lips teasing, more like soothing, the skin behind her ear, one of her happiest memories of country life. Eyes drifting close, she is breathing slowly and evenly. The dark night sky disappears in her sight, as the hold of his arms and the touch of his lips escape from her at the same time. The surfaces bracing her weight become softer as she feels her body is carried by marshmallow-shaped clouds and surrounded by huge bubbles reflecting pink and purple lights. Raising her hand, she tries to reach the colorful bubbles, which suddenly breaks into nothing under the touch of her fingertips. The bubbles and the clouds are gone. She finds herself in an endless field of blooming lavender spreading ridge after ridge until it blends with the skyline. The floral scent calms her nerves and brings a feeling of lightness to her brain. Running her fingers back and forth through clusters of the purple flowers, she feels scented breeze kissing her hands softly. As she strolls in the purple sea, a humming sound interrupts the immersive joy occupying her mind. Without opening her eyes, she reaches her hand into the clutch. Her phone is vibrating.

……

The regular dripping sound creeps in her ears, causing creases between her brows the same pace along the dripping. She really needs to have someone see to that tap. Having moved to this new apartment for months, she is awakened by the same sound every day before the dawn when she is gradually released from deep sleep. Opening her sleepy eyes, she tries to catch the somber light outside the window through the narrow lines of her sight. Feeling thirsty, she swallows, attempting to moisten her throat but only causing a pricking hurt. Looking down, she finds herself still in her dress.

“God, not again.” It happened a few times. When she was off work too late, sleepiness and tiresome drew her right into bed. She promised herself to just lie down for a minute before changing into her pajamas and washing up, but never has she followed through that promise. The dizziness gradually fades away. She raises her left wrist from her stomach to catch the time, but her eyes are suddenly widened when she is startled to find a hand is held in her palm with fingers entwined not long before she feels a light rock of the mattress behind her followed by a gruff grown.

“Feel better?” Before turning back, she recognizes his voice.

Chapter Text

An emergency meeting called by the State Attorney’s Office summoned him in town for the discussion of a new evidence. The meeting was over around 9 p.m. He didn’t plan to pay his first visit to her new apartment unannounced, but after hearing the news about the lawyer killing, he thought she might need company. Now, it is 11 p.m. He has been waiting outside her apartment for more than an hour. He’s checked the address for a few times to make sure he’s not in the wrong place. For fear of interrupting her during work, he didn’t intend to call her earlier, but as time goes by, his concern directs to somewhere else. Maybe, she’s got company. Maybe, she will stay out over the night. Leaning against the handrail of the staircase, he picks up his phone.

Nibbling his bottom lip, he waits for her to pick up. He doesn’t know what he expects to hear. Being stuck at work would be a release, but what if she’s not, what if she’s with someone, and what would he say to her? Waiting at her door like a teenager in love? A few beeps later, there’s the cue for voicemail. He hangs up and leaves his hand holding the phone to his side in dismay. Descending from the staircase and stepping on the sidewalk, he prepares to leave but takes a halt at the curb. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he dials her number again and shoots a look to the dark window of her apartment. On the eighth beep, he almost gives up. He is about to hang up before hitting the voicemail again, when he hears the line is through. He waits for a second or two but there is no voice.

“Hello? Diane?” Still no response. There’s some sizzling sound on the other side of the phone.

“Are you there, Diane?” Now a little worried, he tries to get a response.

“Hello?” He figures out her voice but not the unusually light tone.

“Hey. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything.”

“Hi, sweetheart. Nice to hear from you!” His heart skips a beat at the “sweetheart” part. When was the last time she called him that? A throb of joy reaches his eyes, but he is dragged back to his soberness by the confusion of her abrupt use of a pet name and her cheerful and octave tone. He can imagine that she’s smiling.

“Diane, where are you?” His other hand rubs the pocket of his jeans restlessly.

“Um, somewhere over the rainbow, maybe.” Her voice is idle and strengthless.

“Are you drunk?”

“No…Maybe.” She laughs.

“Seriously, where are you?” Her light mood only sounds more unsettling to him.

“Um, my car, or someone’s car. I don’t know.”

“Diane, tell me where have you been drinking?” He asks slowly and patiently making sure that she can concentrate on his question.

“The bar at the funeral, Reddick’s. There were three funerals today of the people I know, can you believe it? It’s insane. You know what, I have to go.” She whines.

“Don’t hang up, don’t hang up! Diane, Diane?” The other end of the phone goes dead.

……

He tells the driver to pull over when he spots the black Cadillac. Through the car window, he sees her lying on her side at the backseat. Flicking the door handle, he’s a little surprised that it’s unlocked. Her face is buried in her blond hair, only showing her slightly parted maroon lips. Her hand extends under her head still holding the phone. Taking her hand and grabbing her shoulder, he tries to help her sit up and makes room for himself to slide in. As soon as he sits next to her, she adjusts herself in his arm, lands her head on the crook where his neck and shoulder meet and puts her hand on his lap. Brushing her nose on his neck, she takes a deep breath and lets out a puff of hot air to his skin. A mixed scent of Bourbon and her perfume brings a tingling to his nerves.

“What brought you here, cowboy?” Not opening her eyes, she says lazily.

“How could you get so drunk on a funeral, Diane?” He scolds softly, putting his hand on hers and giving gentle strokes.

“People are dying on me.” She chuckles and her pouting lips tease his neck.

“They are not.” Bracing her back to lean on her side of the seat, he tries to reach the seatbelt.

“Let me take you home, okay?” Putting her hands on her lap, he bends to reach the small bag near her heels and tucks her phone in it. Hearing a click sound, he doesn’t mind much. He looks at her again, making sure her head in a cozy position, before getting out of the car and taking the driver’s seat.

……

The drive home is mostly quiet except when Diane humming intermittently some melody he cannot recognize. Drunk as she is, she can still wobbly stand on her feet. Thanks to her slim frame, it is not difficult for him to take her into the apartment with his arm holding her waist and hers hanging around his neck. It’s a way smaller apartment compared to the grand one that she used to live in. From the door, he can see through the hallway directly conjuncted to the kitchen with a dinning table separating a small sitting area by the French window. He doesn’t have to ask to figure that the bedroom is on the second floor but he still feels it polite to ask for her instruction.

“Bedroom?”

Head on his shoulder, slightly raising her arm, she gestures to the direction of the stairway without looking. Weighing whether she can make it to the second floor even with his help, he measures the width of the stair with his eyes.

“Diane, I need you to hold me really tight, all right? Can you do that for me?” Taking her other hand to his neck and dipping his head, he says softly. She follows and tightens both of her hands around his neck before he bends down, puts his arm behind the back of her knees and carries her in his arms. She’s lighter than he expected. Haven’t seen her for two months, he presumes she must have lost some weight due to irregular meals. His heart tightens just thinking of her not taking good care of herself and him failing to take care of her at all.

“Taking me somewhere, cowboy?” Shooting him a smile, she caresses his cheek tenderly with her long fingers but doesn’t catch the short hint of guilt in his eyes.

“Anywhere you want, Ms Lockhart.” He smiles back and heads to the stairs.

Chapter Text

Light as she is, his arms still protest at the last few staircases. Landing on the second floor, he looks at her regrettably and says breathlessly, “I wish I could give you a whole journey, but can we walk from here?” His words make her chuckle into his shoulder.

“Put me down, old man.”

Helping her sit on the bed, he holds her shoulder with one arm and reaches the other hand to switch on the bedside lamp before seating himself beside her and adjusting his breath. She leans on him, burying her face in his neck. Neither of them tends to talk for a short while.

“I was in the building.” She says dispiritedly, “I was in the same building.”

“What, dear?” He tightens his hold on her shoulder, trying to figure out what she’s talking about.

“I was in the same building. I heard the gunshot.” She continues wobbly. “I didn’t know it was him. I had no idea.” She is choking with sobs. He gets what she means, which is also the reason that he intended to check on her tonight. He brushes his hand on her arm and presses a kiss on her forehead.

“If I knew Will was shot, I could have looked for him, I could have tried to stop the bleeding, I could have…and he might not be…” She gasps. Her tears wet his collar.

“It was my fault. I could have persuaded him not to take the case, it was Alicia’s client. I could have talked him out of his rage, but I didn’t. It was my fault.” She is trembling in his arms, clenching the lapel of his jacket into her fists.

“No, no, Diane, it’s not true.” He removes his hand from her shoulder and puts his hands firmly on her arms making her to face him.

“Diane, look at me, look at me.” Her eyes redden. She looks vulnerable and helpless and tries to catch her breath.

“Will was a victim. That kid panicked. He was the only one to blame. That’s it. Will tried to stop him from shooting more people. He was the hero.” He tells her seriously.

“But what if…” He cuts her off.

“No, Diane. It happened the way it did. No one could have changed it. Okay? There was nothing you could have done to make it any different. You hear me?” He looks into her eyes intensely. Her gaze softens and her breath becomes even when he wipes the tear trials on her face with his thumbs.

“I miss him.” Eyes still watery, she calms down with a light frown.

“I know, dear, I know. He was your best friend.” He says genuinely, “and he was a good fellow.”

“And a huge pain in the ass.” She adds. They both laugh, while he softly wipes the last drop of tear from the corner of her eye.

“Kurt, you’re good to me.” She leans closer to hug him.

“Not good enough.” He murmurs into her hair with glistening guilt in his eyes. He knows her intoxication limits her judgement just to the present. He blames himself for not being there for the many crises and challenges she had to face all by herself not to mention himself constituting a huge part of that crisis.

“I think you need some rest.” His fingers draw circles on her small before leaning back.

“May I?” He reaches for the buckle of her pearl necklace waiting for her permission. She nods slightly, smiling.

He puts the pearls on the nightstand and turns to unbuckle her earrings. Squinting his eyes, he carefully runs his fingers on her earlobe in fear of hurting her with his clumsy movement. After taking off her jewels, he slides down from the bed and kneels in front her, one hand on her knee and the other reach for her heels when she starts giggling.

“What?” He raises his eyes confusedly.

“Are you going down on me?” She says sheepishly yet still flirtatiously enough, more like an invitation than a question.

Shaking his head, he laughs. God, she’s so drunk. But his eyes cannot help noticing the irregular tiny bump on her lap under her dress just inches away from his chin. It’s her garter. It’s not hard to imagine that garter is hooked with her black panties with a nicely-cut see-through lacy front and a silk back tightly covering her, and there must be a matching black lace bra stiffly holding her breasts. Diane loves keeping everything as a perfect set. He knows her too well. Her perfection in wardrobe choice, undergarment included, and demeanors always seems so effortless. The elegant way she holds herself is something constant, even when she’s not sober, instilled in her nature as the way she was raised as a girl. There is always something erotic and profound about that chic quality in her that tempts him to unravel her mind and to explore her soul, since the first time he met her. His eyes are fixated on that tiny bump. Without even realizing it, he gives a soft squeeze on her knee.

“Penny for your thought?”

He blinks hard and licks his lips. “Nothing. I’m, uh, just taking off your shoes.” He takes one foot in his hand and helps her slip out of the suede leather high heel.

“What a pity!” She feigns a sigh.

A grin creeps on his face. He raises his eyes to meet hers.

“I thought you had a very rough day.”

“So, this is you being nice to me?” She covers her face with both her hands.

“Yes, at my expense.” He smirks with a light frown.

“There are no words for how much I love you.” A little startled, his face tenses. She hasn’t mentioned that word for a long time since that horrible day in court. He has no doubt that she does, but to hear her say it even though he knows it is the alcohol that weakens her barricade, his heart swells.

“Really? No words, huh?” He attempts to lighten the mood, his own, to be exact.

“Well,” squinting her eyes, she seems like contemplating, “I love your soft lips, sometimes firm when needed, uh, your affectionate eyes, sometimes uninterpretable,” she grimaces, “and your hair” she runs her fingers in his hair near his temples, “but I seriously thought you should reconsider your sideburns the first time I met you.”

“So, you’re quite into my looks, huh?” He is amused by her comment on his appearance and feels like playing this little game with her.

“Partly, yes. I’m not sure I would love you this much if your were fat and bald.” They both laugh.

“I should take a note on that. Anything else?” Eyes back down, he holds her ankle and pull the high heel off her foot.

“Oh, your honesty, of course, the best thing I love about you.”

Holding her shoe in his hand, he freezes.

Chapter Text

Her words are like a slap on his face. After all this time, after what he did, the one quality about him that she holds the highest regard to is still his honesty, reminding him again of how deeply he has hurt her. It was something more than cheating. It was the betrayal of a consensually honored bond, which tarnished their unconditional mutual trust. If the last person she thought that could ever lie to her chose to humiliate her with infidelity, what is left in the world to trust. By breaking his vow, he managed to demolish her belief. Tears are pricking his eyes by the sudden rushing feeling of shame and grief. That feeling never goes away and keeps haunting him from time to time, whenever he’s alone thinking of her, whenever he sees that impalpable hurt and hesitation in her eyes. Tonight is actually the first time since their separation that the sense of ease between them returns as the effect of alcohol disarms her to express her true feelings and to approach him in their usual affectionate and flirtatious way. He misses this.

Staring at her dainty feet, her slim ankles, he imagines how many nights like this when she needed someone to confess her feelings, when she needed a shoulder to just lean on, and he was nowhere to be found. Now, think of it, how many times has he been there supporting her or comforting her when she was caught in professional distress or emotional arc? It is known that she is a strong and powerful woman, capable of taking care of the problems whether in her career or her personal life, but that doesn’t excuse him from not doing his part. At some point, he began to take the modern way of running their married life for granted, to take his occasional absence, presence more accurately, for granted, to take her impeccable control over everything by herself for granted, until the frightening consequence of his affair made him realize how unbearably disastrous it would be to lose her. Has he ever tried to make a shift of priorities in his life, to make her top of the list? It’s true that neither has she, but has he ever considered it? On what ground indeed does he claim himself a husband? Every time he condemns himself as a failed spouse, he pictures her being with a man who can actually be there when she needs him. He knows there is a long parade for that if she is willing to get involved in another relationship.

Putting down her shoe on the floor, he tries to keep the tears at bay before lifting his head and dodging eye contact with her. Hard as he has tried, his face betrays him.

“You don’t look happy.” Moving her hands from his cheeks, she rubs the creases between his eyebrows with her thumbs.

He feigns a smirk but still cannot look into her eyes. She bends down and presses a long and firm kiss where her thumbs were previously trying to flatten.

“There.” Holding his face in her hands, she draws him closer to her. He looks up and meets her gaze. Her lips are so close. Her beautiful, sparkling, light blue eyes are wide and innocent, in which the tender care and love somehow make his heart ache more.

“I’m sorry, Diane.” He reaches for her hands covering his face and holds them to his lips.

“I’m just so sorry.” Pressing a kiss on her fingers, he meets her confused and sad gaze with his.

“Ohhhh…that’s okay. I understand.” Rubbing his hands in hers dearly, she comforts him. “I could walk by myself. You didn’t have to carry me all the way. I wouldn’t let it happen if it will hurt you.”

She was talking about tonight, but weirdly it matches the exact role of him in her life, rare presence, and her arrangement of their married life, not making him feel obliged to sacrifice. She would be the first one to apologize when their political stands clashed. She would never push him to keep her company for charity events, business occasions or balls when he showed little interest in dressing up in a proper suit and talking to people he definitely didn’t like, until she stopped asking. After being queried where the husband was, she had to embarrassedly fumble her wedding ring and lie that he was out of town, even when he wasn’t sometimes. She would get home in her fabulous gown and enthusiastically share anecdotes and successfully pitched clients with him, without mentioning the short moment of feeling abandoned and alone that evening. It was the last thing that she would do to cause any unhappiness to him by making him feel his feelings neglected. He did his part of making her happy in his stoic and implicit way, but not as much as she did to him.

“I…” Words fail him, as she narrows the gap between them and presses another kiss on the corner of his mouth.

“It unnerves me when you get grumpy.” Her lips hover over his. Her eyes are dreamy, fixating on his agitated earthy green. Her fingers slip from his grasp and hold his jaw to a proper angle before she softly kisses the other corner of his mouth.

“Diane,” he hisses her name, trying to wake her dizzy mind, but more like to warn himself before sinking into the irrational abyss.

“What?” She puffs a hot breath to his lips with a seductive whisper. Her blurry eyes lazily wander over his now darkened orbs then linger on his slightly parted lips. A strand of loose hair hangs over her right brow reflecting the shining gold caused by the dim light. She’s so charmingly sexy. His heart palpitates as he runs his eyes over her blushed cheeks and finally pauses at her plump maroon bottom lip.

“I don’t know…I…” He swallows. His breath is heavy.

“Then, stop talking.” She shoots him a reproachful smile before pressing her soft lips on his fully.

His eyes drift close and roll back to his brain. Not intent to rush, he mirrors the tender movements of her lips, savoring every sensual touch of their flesh, measuring the flexibility of each other’s lips with teeth gently nibbling and releasing and then repeating the routine. Sunk into the kiss, he gradually rises from his knees while she slips her hands into his jacket and shrugs it off his shoulder. Getting rid of his outfit, he wraps his arms around her slim waist and holds her tightly against him before slightly lifting her and landing them on the center of the bed when they both let out a rapturous groan into each other’s mouth. Her leg entwines with his by brushing his jeans-covered calf with her teasing heel. His right arm still clings around her back holding her tightly against his body, while his left hand grazes her curved torso and fondly strokes her breast. He deepens the kiss to an escalated level of passion by parting her mouth wider with his forcible lips and scraping her bottom lip with his tongue senselessly before darting it deeper in seeking of hers. Her fingers caress his cheek endearingly before crawling to the back of his neck then into his hair and pressing his head closer as their tongues collide and dance in the most arousal way that only they know.

Kissing her, savoring her, melting with her, it’s one of the many ways that proves how much he loves her, how much she loves him back by the erotic way she is responding to him, and how much he wants this moment to last to eternity and mark her his forever. His love for her, since that day she left him that sensual kiss before leaving in the middle of their first date, keeps growing and deepening, along the long course of their on-and-off relationship. For a long time before their marriage, every time he embraced and kissed her, a feeling of missing her already would take a corner in his brain, for fear of her slipping off his arms and running away from him. That same feeling came back again the moment he kissed her that day in the empty auditorium after his speech several months ago and still haunts him every time they get intimate. Her hand trails down to his neck and touches the revealed chest while the other unbuttons his shirt at a slow and gentle pace. So drawn to her touch, he hopes they could just be stuck at this moment, not a second before, not a second after, right this moment, before she slips off his grip, before she runs away from him, before she is…before she is sober again… God, what is he doing?

His eyes are suddenly wide open. His hand pauses at her hip. Drawing away from the glued seal of their mouths, he looks at her, panting, shocked at his own weakness. The abrupt loss of his touch makes her automatically reach up for his lips to resume the kiss. He stills her with his hand holding her chin and thumb gently brushing her swollen bottom lip. Her lipstick is messily smudged around her parted mouth, evidence of him totally losing himself just seconds ago.

“What?” Slowly opening her eyes to catch his gaze, she looks at him perplexedly. Her chest is heaving fast.

“Diane, I’m sorry. I can’t.” His eyes are apologetic.

A grin creeps on her mouth as her hand reaches down to touch his hardness, causing him a sudden wince.

“I doubt that.” Narrowing her eyes, she says viciously.

“No, no, Diane,” He grabs her hand and leans back further away from her touch, “I mean, I shouldn’t. We shouldn’t.” Shaking his head, he tries to dissolve her confusion. “You don’t really want this.”

Tiresome and dizziness prevent her from further protesting. Her head falls on the mattress. She lets out a long sigh.

“Forgot you were being nice to me.” She giggles and arches her right brow at him.

“Sorry that I didn’t live my words.” He smiles back.

“And then what?” She asks feebly.

“We should put you into bed.” Bracing his elbow against the mattress, he sits up beside her.

“I think we already have.” Patting the sheets between them, she says playfully.

How come she can be so drunk but still witty at the same time? He wonders.

“I mean, let you get some sleep.” He smiles meaningfully. “Wait, I’ll get you some water first.” He climbs down from the bed and heads to the bathroom.

“Kurt!” Bracing her head with her arm, she looks up to him.

“Yes?”

“Will you lie with me?” She asks expectantly in a sleepy voice.

“Uh, if you like, yes.”

“Hands holding?” He chuckles. Her expression looks like a little girl asking for her teddy bear.

“Anything you want, Mrs McVeigh.”

Chapter Text

“Kurt?” Loosening her hand from his abruptly, she braces her arm against the pillow and turns to confirm his surprising presence in her bed.

“What are you doing here?” Her voice is weak but acute. Not only once has she fantasized about waking up in his arms and snuggling up with him before beginning the new day like she used to, but not like this, not after a night she doesn’t even remember, not after she just…She remembers that little green vial. 

He rubs his sleepy eyes with the back of his hand, before clearing his mind and forming the words, as the astonishment has already driven her away to the other side of the bed.

“I called.” he clears his throat lightly, “You were drunk, and I brought you home.” Stretching his right arm, which she has been lying on the whole night, he sits up and dangles one of his legs over the edge of the bed with the other curling up. 

His brief description brings nothing to her memory but the vagueness in details only agitates her nerves for the possible concealment of something embarrassing she might have done. How did he find her? Did she say or do anything stupid? Did he know that…she was on drug? Her heart is racing fast for fear that her first attempt of crossing the line of morality was discovered by not anybody else but the last person she would let down.

“Where is my bag?” Her hand covering her forehead, she tries to calm herself. If he knows, he should disclose her little secret now, but he doesn’t.

“Um, let me see.” His gruff voice makes the wait longer than it actually should be. “Here.” He fetches the clutch from the floor next to her high heels and hands it to her. She takes it instantly and then intently slows down the movement to disguise the unnecessary urgency.

“I put your phone in it.” He adds, “You find anything missing?”

Tucking her fingers in the out-attached pocket, she feels the vial right next to her phone. Thank god, he didn’t notice but it was so close. She lets out an almost unnoticeable sigh of relief.

“No, no, I’m just, uh, check if anyone reached me.” Squeezing the little bottle deeper to the bottom of the pocket, she takes out her phone and pretends checking her inbox, with the other hand putting the bag behind her out of his sight as far as possible.

“So,” She raises her eyes to look at him. The light is still dim outside. She can only figures his vague frame in the semi-darkness of the room. “I’m sorry to bother you, Kurt.” She says sheepishly, “and thank you.”

There is a second of silence before he says anything.

“You don’t…” Slightly shaking his head, he then stares at her intensely, “Diane, you don’t need to thank me for something I should do. I’m your…” He looks away momentarily before turning his eyes back to hers, “We’re married.”

He’s right. No married couple apply such courtesy to each other, which they have been subconsciously live with since their separation. The bit of tension and the sense of awkwardness are still there every time they meet regardless of how the meeting ends with intimacy eventually.

“Okay,” Rubbing her stocking-clad knee, she doesn’t intend to protest. “But, I am still very sorry for making you worry.” She adds, “It was a stressful day, and I just…I needed a break.”

“Can I ask you for something?” He hesitates before shooting the question.

“Kurt, I know I shouldn’t have drunk down my sorrow, and it was dangerous to let myself alone in a vehicle so wasted. It won’t happen again, okay?” Moving closer to him, she says apologetically and affirmatively.

“It’s not that.” Eyes on his knee, he shakes his head, “but since your mentioned it, yes, that too.” He looks up to her. “I hope,” His hand rubbing his jeans covering his knee, he nibbles his bottom lip before continuing, “if you need anything, a lift, a drink, someone to talk to, whatever, give me a call, or you can come over to my cabin for the weekend if you’d like a short break from work. We didn’t discuss this before, but the truth is, we have’t spent much more time together after we got married than that when we were…” He attempts to find a proper word, “well, dating, if we could call it that.” He looks down on the wrinkled sheet between them, “I understand that we’re still in separation,” Eyes on hers again, he continues, “but I just hope I could be around more often if you let me. I shouldn’t be the last one to know that you might be in danger.” I won’t forgive myself, if anything ever happens to you. He didn’t say it out loud, but it is all written in his sincere and concerned eyes.

He’s making a request, which sounds more like asking for a favor. It reminds her of his extended hand that day in her office seven years ago when she rejected his proposal to make a life together, a life just about themselves. Not since that day has he ever pushed her in their on-and-off relationship. He had made himself clear. He knew exactly what kind of life he wanted to share with her. He knew exactly what he was about to give up by settling down, and he was ready for it. However far she wanted to go in this path, he was there already, waiting for her to take her own steps. He couldn’t make a second offer not that he didn’t want to, but that every time he made an advance, admitting his affection to her, confessing his love, or proposing to her, it went quite the opposite, which only drove her further away. He never blamed her for not feeling the same or for not expressing her true feelings. He understood that earlier in this relationship, he was nothing but a distraction to her that she was so afraid to get too deeply involved in, even though her feelings were just as strong as his. She loved him and still loves him, which is something she has been so certain about, but her concerns could not be dissolved by such acknowledgement back then and neither can they right now. 

He is right. Although they had been busy running away from each other before the wedlock tied them up in paper, they had spent more quality time than they did during their marriage. Every time she stood him up or missed an anniversary, there was an option of maybe next week or next month to make up for him, for them. The backup plan of there always being a tomorrow to spend more time with each other has indulged them to neglect so many ‘presents’ until ‘tomorrow’ was no longer an option. She would be lying to herself if she did not worry about the risk of living two separate lives as a married couple, but the way she was forced to face their problems was utterly unexpected. She wanted to work things out, otherwise she would have straightly asked David Lee to deal with the paperwork a year ago without having to see him again. But this is new to her, too. She can’t overlook her true feelings and pretend that it doesn’t hurt anymore, because it surely does despite how she feels about him per se. 

She knows that look in his eyes. He’s blaming himself for not being around when she needs him. She felt exactly the same when she received that phone call from the emergency room a few months ago. She had been tortured her stirred mind with multiple possibilities on the way to the hospital. What if he was so badly injured? What if he lost his consciousness and never woke up? And the worst of it, what if…what if he was dead? At that moment, she blamed herself for not taking his phone call earlier that morning, for not being nicer to him and not telling him that she still loved him and was willing to work things out. It even crossed her mind that this wouldn’t have happened if she divorced him, if she never proposed, if they never knew each other. When one aims oneself as a target, there is no logical thinking but unreasonable self-condemnation. Any connection with her at any possible time could have changed what was happening that day, which made her feel heavily responsible for his accident.

The empathic feeling makes her emotional.

“You called, last night?” She asks softly with her slightly glistening eyes staring at him.

“I…” The sudden tenderness in her voice somehow makes him stutter. “I was in town. I saw they arrested the realtor that ran over his lawyer. I thought, you might need company.” He says bashfully. “And maybe, you wanted a drink. I didn’t know that you already had your share.”

She chuckles softly, which makes him smile, too.

“Diane, I didn’t mean that we had to rush into anything. I’m just hoping we could be more involved in each other’s lives, only if you want me to” He emphasizes.

“Kurt, I run a law firm, and you’re always on the road.” Not intent to brush him off, she is just stating the fact, which is the main cause of their dysfunctional marriage from the beginning.

“I know, I know.” He looks down on the mattress. “I’ve been thinking maybe I should change that.”

“Kurt, you love what you do.” She cuts him off in a serious tone. “I won’t appreciate it if you make any stupid choice out of guilt.”

“I do like ballistics, yes, but I don’t like trials.” He nibbles his lips slightly before continuing. “Florrick’s trial should have been my last one, and I was ready to live without that complicated procedure. I was tired.” Furrowing, he seems struggling whether to continue. “But I picked it up, after what happened between us. I kept doing my job not because I wanted to. I had to keep myself busy at work because there was nothing else left in my life.” Dipping his head, he stares at his hand on the knee.

Her eyes redden. She remembers that she was doing the same by burying herself in paperwork, trials, calls and meetings in those few months. As the senior partner, she kept herself unnecessarily busy in any minor details of every case she worked on, because the second she took a breath from work the only thing that came to her mind was her failed marriage. When she couldn’t sleep at night and stared at the ceiling in the darkness, she would wonder how he was, what he was doing, whether he was thinking of her too. Until she saw him again leaning on the railing at her front door, she confirmed her presumption. He was in a mess. Attired in his worn-out jeans and woolen jacket like he usually did, he looked old and slovenly with the pouches under his eyes, deep creases on his face and untrimmed white beard thickly sprawling his jaw and chin. He probably hadn’t attended to his hair for quite a while. It was not hard to imagine what he had been through. She was amused by herself that broke as she was, apart from informing him of the potential risk of his own finance, she couldn’t get rid of the idea of taking him somewhere to get a haircut.

“Kurt, I won’t approve of it if you give up your job just because you want to make things up to me.” Blinking her tears away before he notices, she says steadily. “Besides, you still have to testify for the Clarkson case. Boseman takes your analysis as our strongest shot. You can’t back out.”

“I know. I wasn’t gonna.” He looks to her, defeated. He knew from the beginning that whatever he proposed she would turn him down, just like how it used to work.

“But,” She draws his attention, again. “I think you are right. Maybe, we should see each other as often as we can. Maybe, we can make regular phone calls to catch up, and,” She looks away shyly as she sees his eyes lighten up. “And I’d like to come over to your cabin for the weekend.”

Lifting her eyes, she steals a glimpse of him. He is staring at her with his wide eyes, agape.

“If it doesn’t work for you…”

“No, no.” He throws his hand in the air to make himself clear. “I mean, yes. I’d like that.” His lips are pressed together awkwardly as he is trying to restrain a smile. 

As the dawn draws closer, the semi-darkness of the room is gradually taken over by the looming daylight. The evident joy in his eyes brings a warm feeling to her chest, but her smile is gradually succeeded by a light frown as his face comes clearer in her sight. He is caught a little off guard when he finds her crawling closer to him. She places one hand on his arm and the other softly on his forehead and stares at him worriedly.

“My god, I hit you, didn’t I?” Worry and guilt flit across her eyes as she locks her gaze with his confused eyes.

“What?” Before he can figure out what she is talking about, she wrenches the cloth of his sleeves in her hands agitatedly.

“I’m so sorry, Kurt. I had no idea. Where else did I hurt you?” With her fingers holding his jaw, she gently turns his head to check if there are bruises. “Whatever I did, whatever I said last night, I’m sorry, and I didn’t mean it.”

Grasping her wrists, he tries to calm her down by making her siting next to him.

“Diane, no,” He snorts a chuckle. “You didn’t hurt me. What are you talking about?”

“Kurt, you don’t need to lie to me. Your forehead is red.” Her eyes are glistening with guilt.

“What?” He rubs his forefinger between his brows and finds red stain on the fingertip. “Ah, it’s…” He looks at her sheepishly. “It’s your lipstick.”

“My…” Her eyes are wide with astonishment. “I…” Her cheeks blush as she just notices that his loose shirt is four buttons open, revealing part of his robust and hairy chest.

“I threw myself at you?” She mutters feebly, more like asking herself rather than him.

Chapter Text

A sudden rush of embarrassment burns her cheeks, making her automatically retreat her hands that previously held his face.

“I…” Mirroring the sheepishness in his eyes, she sputters.

“God, this is awful.” Tightly closing her eyes, she furrows hard, cutting the awkward eye contact with him. Collapsing into the mattress, she shakes her head slightly. The thick locks of her hair follow the movement, creating irregular golden waves that bury her face.

“Diane, it’s not what you think.” He reaches for her forearm to explain, feeling terrible for making her misread the appearance.

“I almost stripped you, Kurt. What else would it be?”

Lifting her eyes to meet his warm gaze, she lets out a bitter chuckle, refuting his kind gesture to make her feel better. Now looking at him, she just notices that he has shaved his beard and had his hair cut since she last saw him, so short that she couldn’t recall a time when he ever wore it that way. No thick strands of hair pulled back that nearly reach the back of his neck, no natural curls near his temples or behind his ears, just short and stiff in its own neat and silver accord with considerably trimmed sideburns, highlighting his perfect jawlines. God, he’s so handsome and his obliviousness to his own beauty makes him even sexier. Finding him so attractive now in her sober state, she can just imagine herself losing it to that look on his face, groping him and tearing his shirt when her inhibition was totally crushed by the effect of alcohol and that devilish liquid last night. She never loathes herself as she does right now, picturing herself being so horny and insatiable.

“It’s not like that!” He exclaims. “Diane, you were drunk, and…” Scratching the back of his ear for nothing, he hesitates with a hint of shyness across his eyes.

“And…I might, kind of, have encouraged you. You were caught in the moment, I mean, we were caught in the moment and…we just…uh…fooled around a little.” He shoots the last two words almost in a whisper.

“We fooled around?” He nods slightly.

“Before you rejected me?” Her voice rises an octave, with her left brow arching.

“Not that I wanted to,” He immediately defends himself, or in this case her, when a more upset look creeps on her face.

“Well, I didn’t mean I wanted to sleep with you.” Her confused frowning makes him nervous.

“No, I mean, of course, I, I want to sleep with you, but it’s, it’s not what I think about all the time.” He stutters.

“What I’m trying to say is,” He takes a breath.

“I mean, you were, you were quite irresistible with those charmingly melancholy eyes, soft tone, and…your garter…” He lightheartedly adds the last one when his eyes agitatedly wander around and accidentally catch that tiny bump under her dress again.

“My garter?” The corners of her mouth lift slightly. During the course of his explanation, somehow he manages to take over all the embarrassment from her and makes it his own burden. Long forgetting her own share, she starts to enjoy watching him struggling with words, which she would always find adorable in the past. He’s never a big talker, and she loves that about him, most of the time.

“What?” Eyes widened, he surprises himself. “Did I just say that?”

“You did.” She looks at him expectantly while playfully flashing her lashes.

“Uh… Diane, don’t take it the wrong way. I didn’t picture you in your underwear.” His ears turn red. Did he just tell her what he was fantasizing about her last night? What is wrong with him? He wishes there were a crack on the floor that he could just jump into.

“Jesus!” He slaps his forehead hard before he can put himself together and look into her eyes defeatedly.

“Okay, I was always distracted when you dressed like…” He waves his hand up and down into the air next to her, gesturing the unfinished part of his sentence.

“And I, kind of, lost myself, but I realized you didn’t know what you were doing, and I wasn’t sure if you were really attracted to me or, it was just the alcohol. And…”

He swallows and gazes at her momentarily with a look mixed with guilty and sorrow before drifting his eyes elsewhere.

“I didn’t want you to feel regret in the morning.”

He knows that feeling too well, waking up in the morning without any memory of what happened but not being able to change anything. Those enormous throbs of guilt, shame and powerlessness made him want to disappear in this world, not having to hurt her with his fault. But here they are, both bearing the consequence of his failings.

As he is shortly caught in his self-remorse again, he gives little attention to her gradually softened eyes. He winces back a little when startled by the tender touch of her hand on his face. Before he realizes it, her face draws so close that his sight of her becomes blurry. His eyes drift close and his head tilts to meet her. The next thing he knows is that she is pressing her soft lips on his, light brushes at first before she draws his bottom lip between hers and sucks on it firmly as it occurs to her now that he has caught up with what is happening and begins to respond to her in the same tension. His hand, however, hovers at her side but barely touching her. Not quite believing this is happening after his very inarticulate explanation, he simply follows the command of his instinct to kiss her back, matching the tender and firm movements of her provocative lips. Slightly stroking his bottom lip with the tip of her tongue, she slowly pulls back before opening her eyes and meeting his amazed gaze.

“Your beard is gone.”

He reaches up to grab her hand, which has been caressing his cheek dearly, and fondly rubs his fingers over the back of her hand.

“Just for a change.” His wandering eyes run over her blushed cheeks then linger on her moist peachy lips.

“I should have left last night.” But his arm betrays his words by circling around her waist and holding her closer but not too tightly.

His gingerly movement makes her smile.

“I must have made it hard to.” She leans in and buries her smile in his lips.

This time, he doesn’t hesitate before meeting her opened mouth with his tongue first. Fastening his grip on her narrow waist, he pulls her up tightly against his chest. Framing his face in both of her hands, she runs her fingers through the nicely trimmed hairline at the back of his head before clasping her arms around his neck and deepening the kiss by fiercely tangling her tongue with his. As they keep kissing sensuously and running their hands over all the possible surfaces they can reach of each other, she darts her tongue deeper to sweep the roof of his mouth erotically, provoking a muffled groan from his deep throat. She misses the feeling of kissing him so sexually and senselessly at the same time, with the full obsession of his soft and firm lips, the cureless addiction to the tickling of his mustache over her sensitive skin and the uncontrollable self-indulgence with the artistic movements of his teasing tongue. If there weren’t such a thing called breathing, she would rather never stop kissing him. It was a naive thought that popped in her head in their early relationship when she was overwhelmed by how quickly she became obsessed with his touch, how reassured she felt just by the sight of him and how at loss she would be when he was not around.

She never felt the necessity of marriage in her life, especially after entering her later years. Nor could she understand the need to establish a certain bond with someone and gain strength from that person when she was too perfectly self-sufficient to need that. Many marriages, according to her observation over the years, slid down its way from love to indifference, sometimes hatred, in special cases like Sweeney’s, even murder. Her take on the matter had never changed until he strode in her life, baffled her with his unrestrained manners that she could only channel with the characters in old western movies and challenged her deep disbelief of the existence of a perfectly matching equal for her. The revelation of him being that exact person almost shocked her when she first realized it not long after they started dating. When she looked in his eyes and he looked back in hers, it was something more than attraction, something more than infatuation. It was like she had reached the unreachable before she was even ready, making her feel stronger and weaker at the same time, making her feel excited, and at the same time terrified. Such mixed feelings made her uncertain about what hung in their future, or more likely, it was the very certainty that there would be a future in front of them that scared her and kept her running away. Yet inwardly she hoped that she could just leave everything behind and go with him, but she was not that woman after all, who could give up what she had dedicated her whole life to and start a different life experience on a whim.

Pulling back for air, she is panting heavily with her forehead against his.

“Any schedule today?” She asks breathlessly in a shattered voice.

“Depends.” Adjusting his own breath, he puffs into her mouth, roaming his hands across the fabric of her dress.

“On?” The corners of her mouth lift into a wry smile. Apparently, she knows the answer.

He turns a little bit to properly hold her in his arms before landing her on the pillow and bracing his elbow against the mattress to keep the scarce distance between their lips. His desirable eyes are fixated on hers and his Adam’s apple shudders caused by a deep swallow.

“What you have in mind.” A dreamy smirk crosses his mouth, and he knows what impact that will bring to her.

Lower his head, he presses his lips on hers again to devour her emerging grin in his kiss. Sunk into his hot and forcible kiss, she runs her hands from the back of his head to cover his face before teasing his sparse chest hair with her fingers and slowly reaching down to undo the rest of the buttons of his shirt. His hand glides across her hip, her waist and then fondly traces the contour of her breast before reaching to her back to unzip her dress in a slow-motion while indulging his other hand in following the rail of the zip and touching every silky inch of the newly revealed skin. The familiar routine of undressing each other is like an unfair game, with his so easily removable clothes and the multiple layers of her fancy attire and delicate fabric of her expensive undergarment, which requires his extra attentiveness, extends the process before he is allowed to touch her milky and soft skin, but never reduces the build-up desire that both pleases and tortures him.

As she untucks his shirt from his jeans and has her hands working on his belt, he abruptly ceases the kiss and lifts his head to stare at her. At the sudden loss of his lips, she opens her eyes and returns his gaze with confusion.

“What’s wrong?”

“Are you sure about this, Diane? How do you feel?”

“Wha…How do I…What do you mean?” She’s totally perplexed.

“I mean, you just had a hangover. Do you feel well? Any headache? Do you need anything? Like…I don’t know, a hot tea or something?” He asks concernedly.

Her eyes soften. She presses her lips tightly to restrain a giggle, remembering how sweet he is as always.

“I do want a tea.” Slightly frowning, she feigns a serious tone.

“Okay.” Missing the satire, he answers resolutely and is about to get up before she instantly grabs his collars to pull him back to her side.

“No, no, Kurt!” She starts giggling.

“I’m just joking.” Caressing his cheek tenderly, she lets out a grateful smile. “I feel well. Actually, I feel superb, but…”

“But what?” His relaxed nerves just tense up again.

Her hand keeps caressing his jaw as she brushes his bottom lip with her thumb meaningfully.

“But my garter keeps bothering me. Will you do me a favor and attend to it?” A wicked smile emerges on her lips before she purposefully moistens her bottom lip by nibbling it between her teeth.

He gruffly chuckles at her mocking request shortly before his gaze at her turns serious. Dipping his head, he damps his own lips by lightly brushing hers before moving his mouth to kiss his way over her jaw, her hot cheek and her hairline. Softly clamping her earlobe between his teeth, he whispers.

“With pleasure.”

Chapter Text

As he puffs his hot breath in her ear, his hand has already slid down her torso and reached for the hemline of her dress. Lifting his head, he meets her expectant gaze. His fingers graze her stocking-clad thigh up and down momentarily before sneaking their way under her dress and seeking contact with the scarce patch of her soft flesh exposed between her stocking and her panties. His hand traces its way up to feel the flimsy fabric of her panties and push her dress up until it is wrinkly piled around her waist. He breaks their eye contact and looks down. A grin emerges on his face as he sees what wrap her tightly down there are her black panties with delicate see-through lacy front, exactly what he imagined last night.

“God, I love your taste on underwear.”

He presses a short but firm kiss on her lips before sliding down to attend to her ‘emergency request’. She looks down, following every movement of his. He positions himself between her spreading legs. Grabbing her ankle, he bends her knee and throws her long leg over his shoulder. Tenderly running his fingertips over the skin alongside the tight black strap of her garter, he presses his lips on the skin near the edge of her stoking before synchronizing the movement of his fingers by kissing along the supple skin upward her inner thigh. Her heart is pounding fast and her extremities tense up. She roughly snatches his hair with one hand and kneads the sheet near her hip into her fist with the other. The unexpected less hair in her grip, which she hasn’t become accustomed to yet, causes a startling short gasp in her breath, but the familiar way that his lips and hands roaming over her skin reassures her that he is still her cowboy. As his lips reach the edge of her panties, he opens his mouth to devour the soft skin at the root of her thigh dangerously close to her heated core and keeps biting and sucking hard for like an eternity before taking a pause to look up at her. The desire in her stare tells him where she desperately wants him now, but he shoots her a lopsided grin before jumping his lips over her core to kiss her other thigh in the same pattern.

His ‘scheme’ works as her chest is heaving fast driven by his cruel stimulations and her pelvis uncontrollably pushes up in the hope to seduce his lips elsewhere. His hand moves to the back of her thigh before sliding up to cover her ass clad in silk fabric, where he cannot help giving a full squeeze, causing her back arching again. Reaching up across the back of her panties, he feels the thin lacy of her garter belt before long spotting the small clasp with his fingers around her waist. With a flick, the flimsy material loses its integrity, so do the four straps attached to it. He removes the tricky device off her waist and takes off her stockings by tucking his fingers into the tight rims and caressing her smooth legs from her knees to her ankles before ripping them off her feet.

After finishing the task, he presses kisses on her dainty ankle before joining her side again while his hand still lingering on her thigh with his fingertips playing with the edge of her panties. She suddenly pulls his face closer to melt her lips with his for an eager kiss and let out a muffled groan into his mouth as they deepen the kiss with the dance of their tongues. He pulls her dress down from her shoulders and helps her arms rid of the sleeves before she squirms it down to her legs and then shoves it off her feet. Now with full access to her skin, he splays his hand over her stomach, firmly caresses her side and softly squeezes the supple flesh between his fingers. He deliberately traces his fingertips along the waistband of her panties back and forth, bringing waves of tingling to her core yet restraining any further steps.

“You’re torturing me, McVeigh.” She scolds him breathlessly in between their kisses, yet keeping the tight lock of her arms around his neck to press his lips closer.

“You need another favor, Ms Lockhart?” He grins, leaving peck kisses over her jaw.

“Depends.”

“On?” He gruffly laughs into her mouth.

She pulls back and locks her sparkling eyes with his and then stare at his lips.

“What you have in mind.” She emphasizes with a big grin.

Amused by her imitation of his exact words, the corners of his mouth lift up to form a pampering smile. Tucking a loose strand of her hair back, his fingertips gently trace her hairline along her forehead to her temple before he caresses her cheek with the back of his fingers endearingly. He looks into the ocean blue of her orbs, glistening and peaceful like deep water. Her eyes reveal so much of her beautiful soul. Even when they darken with desire and lust, there are always traces of purity and clarity, which he found so special and valuable the first time he saw her. Somehow through the short conversation of their first meeting, he managed to sense something profound about her behind those expensive clothes, behind that poised and put together posture and behind her fancily clear articulation, something about goodness and integrity, which assuringly reflected just part of a heart of gold. She’s, no doubt, a beautiful woman, but her inside is even much sexier than her charming appearance with so much depth and richness in her character that drives him crazy. She is too good to be true.

“Well, someone made a request last night. It’s a little late, but uh…I feel obliged to honor it.” He smirks.

“What?” Her previous steady gaze winces as her cheeks blush again.

“Why don’t you just leave it to me?” Smirking, he leans in and kisses her soundly at a soothing pace.

His hand roams at her waist before sliding across her stomach to hold her breast, rubbing it, his thumb keeps softly stroking her hard nipple covered by the fabric of her lacy bra. Because of her, he has developed such a mature obsession with the material in that exact color of black. The delicate texture, the complex patterns and the rough feel, combined with the mystery of black, just make her slim and perfectly curved frame so erotic to watch and desperately draws him to explore what’s underneath. His hand reaches to her back and unclasp her bra with a quick move. Taking the straps off her shoulders, he carelessly tosses it over his head before tightly wrapping his arms around her. It exhilarates him to feel her soft breasts pressing on his chest. The contact of their flesh is such a turn-on that she automatically thrusts her pelvis against his, drawing out a rough groan from his deep throat. Breaking their glued kiss, he runs his lips over her chin and leaves wet kisses on her throat. His arms retreat and loosen the grip of her waist before he lands his large hands firmly on her hips. Mouth on her damp chest, he sucks hard on the skin between her breasts before, with a swift move, lifting her hips up to position her back against the headboard.

“Kurt!” Startled, she places her hands on his face to meet her confused gaze.

Hands on her hips, he stills her against the pillows behind her ass.

“I’ll be careful.” He shoots her a confirming look before dipping his head and resuming the contact of his lips with her stomach.

Spreading her legs wide, he positions himself between them and lets his hand graze her thigh. He runs his lips over her lower abdomen and then across the waistband of her panties to press kisses on the fabric.

“Kurt!” She cries out. Her back arches automatically. Cannot take his teasing any longer, she pricks her fingernails into his shoulders.

Still fixing his mouth on the see-through lace, he reaches his hand up to hook his fingers on the waistband of her panties and slowly pull them down. As she is gradually being exposed to him, his hot lips are now on her flesh but he doesn’t rush his way downward. Ripping her already soaked panties off her feet, he grabs her ankle and puts her leg over his shoulder. Pressing his lips on her lap, he kisses his way up to the root of her inner thigh before nibbling the sensitive skin there. Eyes rolling back to her head, she runs her fingers frantically in his hair as she grinds her skin between his teeth by swaying her hips.

“Diane.” 

“Diane.” He calls her again.

He needs her attention. She opens her eyes to look down at him, dizzily panting.

“I want you to watch me, hon.” He commands.

With no more teasing, he lays his lips on her wetness and opens his mouth to swallow her in. On the tingling touch, her muscles all tense up and her leg on his shoulder curls around the back his neck to draw him closer to her heated core. Sucking her hard in his mouth, he keeps lapping her clit fiercely with the tip of his tongue, rolling and releasing, attacking and retreating. God, she tastes so good. He keeps the routine for minutes, yet feeling like hours for her.

“Oh, god, Kurt!” She cries out through her ragged breath.

Her fingers trapping his skull, she presses herself against his mouth. He loves hearing his name screamed by her while building up her climax, an audible reassurance to encourage him.

“You’re so hot, Diane.” He praises her out of breath, shortly breaking the contact with her.

He slides his hand near the core and inserts a finger in her. The effect is evident as her whole body tenses up on his assault. Whimpering, she throws her head hard against the headboard when she feels one more finger inside her. She clenches her bottom lip between her teeth, letting out consecutive octave moans. As she is thinking this is too much to take, she feels his tongue inside her again to join the former duet into a trio. His fingers start curling inside her while his tongue sticks to the very spot that brings formidable throbs to her core. Throwing her other leg on his shoulder, she locks him tightly against her and presses herself fiercely to embrace his assaults at the same pace of his moving fingers.

“Kurt, please!” Running her fingers through his hair, she begs him.

“I need you, Kurt!” Her breasts keep arching into the air, synchronizing with her audible panting.  She feels her skin is so heated up near explosion. She is close.

Hearing her begging, he sticks his fingers deeper into her walls and replaces his mouth with his thumb to keep rolling her clit. His other hand is fixed on her hip to keep her in position. Following the lead of her arms around his neck, he rises to press his weight on her and hovers his shining lips over hers.

“You taste so good, Diane.”

She pulls him close and collides their lips together. He restrains from moving his mouth first, just letting her hungrily lick up her own wetness on his lips before he finally gives in and swirls his tongue into her mouth, sharing the taste with her by tangling their tongues frantically. She is so close. Tasting herself in his mouth and pushing her on his rolling fingers, she feels her vessels near her brain are bulging. She groans into his mouth as his fingers are coated by a new hot wave of her wetness. Her grip on his neck loosens and her chest is slowly falling down. Pulling his fingers out of her, he raises his hand between them. Eyes still on hers, he swallows his fingers in his mouth before bringing them to her mouth. She reaches up to suck the remaining wetness on his fingers before brushing her lips on his and lazily exchanging the taste of her orgasm between their mouths.

“Muh.” She moans in pleasure.

Her hands escape from his face and slide down to caress his chest before reaching down to his unfinished belt, which she unbuckles with a practiced flick.

“You don’t need to rush, Diane.” He murmurs in her ear, pressing kisses on her cheek.

But she doesn’t slow down. Unzipping his jeans, she grabs the waistbands of his boxers and jeans and pulls them down to his knees in one quick move. They resume the slow kiss and lazily fumbling over each other as she tucks her foot between his knees to remove his pants down. However, her bent knee unintentionally touches his hardened length causing him an abrupt wince before he rids his jeans and boxers off his feet.

Suddenly pushing him away, she flips them over and has him lean against the headboard. She straddles on his laps with her knees on either side of his hips.

“Diane?” Surprised by her move, he looks at her amazed.

She leans in and kisses him soundly as he wraps his arms around her, but she abruptly pulls away.

“Shush.”

She whispers into his mouth and shoots him a wicked smile before her hand roams over his lap and squeezes the skin near the root of his inner thigh. She is revenging him for teasing her for too long just moments ago. Grabbing his length, she starts massaging him between her slender fingers and her palm, making him groan gruffly and bury his face in her chest. He runs his lips on her stomach and then hungrily traces the underside of her breast with hot, wet kisses. He is so drawn to the feel of her soft flesh on his lips that he widens his mouth to suck in as large a patch of skin as he can and keeps powerfully stroking her hard nipple with his rolling tongue unabashedly when his arms around her smalls tighten to push her harder into his mouth. Keeping his length in her hand, she gradually guides him in before pushing his back to the headboard. Leaning in, she places a hot, wet kiss on his lips before letting her mouth glide down his jaw then to his throat. Nibbling kissing his neck, she revels in the salty taste of his damp skin. His hands reach up to her spine and across her shoulder to her neck before he places a hand on her cheek. She takes his hand to her mouth and kisses his fingertips and his palm before guiding his hand to feel up her throat, then her chest and finally pressing her breast in his palm while she slowly grinding herself on his hardness. She leans in to kiss him chastely and draws a groan from his throat.

“God, Diane.”

Her hair messily tousled with a few loose strands curtaining her face. She pressed her breast harder in his hand. Holding his wrist, she guides him down across her stomach, then her lower abdomen before placing his fingers where she wants them the most. He tucks his fingers in her and rubs her clit at the same pace as her grinding on him and his other hand slides down from her back to cup her ass. On the touch of his hand, she suddenly speeds up the movement and further presses herself to take him all in. She braces her arms against the headboard and rests her chin on his shoulder. As his fingers keep stimulating her and his veins bulge inside her, she feels heavenly lightheaded. She wishes that they could be stuck at this moment, keeping him inside her and feeling his touch all over her, and never let it stop.

Puffing hot breath in his ear, she keeps murmuring, something like “I love you” but too weak for him to figure out. He moves inside her fiercely. She groans loudly and continuously as she is about to come again. They are panting heavily and the air in the room seems heated up by their hot breath. With an injecting spill, she lets out a shrieking moan and they peak together. Her extremities feebly stretch out. Head on his shoulder, she lies on him with his arms still wrapping around her. The paces of their heaving chests match perfectly with hers rising and his falling.

Busy catching their breath, they don’t know how long they’ve been like that. When he totally goes limp, she eases him out and rolls over to lie on her side of the bed. He sits up to pull the sheets and covers their naked frames. Lying on his side, he braces his head with his arm and studies the beautiful afterglow on her face.

Eyes still closed, she starts laughing loudly.

Chapter Text

“Are you all right, Diane?”

“I’m just…” She keeps laughing. “Yesterday I was surrounded by deaths. Now I’m reminded what it’s like to be alive.”

“Three funerals, huh? Tough.” He arches a brow. “With one more and a wedding, you could make a sequel movie.”

“How did you know that?” Opening her eyes, she looks at him surprisedly.

“A little drunk bird told me.” He smirks.

Pursing her lips slightly, she thins her eyes.

“Did I really ask you to do that?”

“Actually, you asked if I was gonna.” He snuggles closer and reaches out his arm, which she takes automatically before placing it around her neck and landing her head on his shoulder. She reaches for his other hand and entwines their fingers.

“Glad you could read my mind.” He adds teasingly and places a kiss on her crown before closing his weary eyes. He is worn out. They snuggle up with each other cozily for a moment.

“Kill all the lawyers.” She imitates the tone of the arrested realtor. “Have you seen that?”

He fastens the grip of her hand in silence.

“Even murderers quote Shakespeare these days, should we drink to that?” She chuckles bitterly.

“You don’t need to worry about that, Diane.”

“Do I? I felt like he was yelling at me like I was already targeted.”

“Have you ever pissed off your clients?”

“You need to ask?” Amused by his naive question, she chuckles.

“But you really think they could be that angry at you, even willing to risk a life sentence for it?”

“Not that I could think of.”

He admires her truthfulness that she never disguises her excitement about winning a large settlement on a case or the successful pitching on a lucrative client, meanwhile, she never quits a battle to defend her pursuit of justice sometimes even at the expense of threatening her own recognition and reputation as a liberal icon and dedicated democrat. He holds the highest respect to her professionalism as a lawyer that she never mingles her emotion with fact, from which he, himself, has benefited as her client and suffered as the opposed witness, a destructive and heartbreaking experience that he would never want to go through again, and she never lets personal grudge affect how she performs professionally because it would be so beneath her to do the opposite. He loves it when she mocks his stubborn rule of not testifying for the assumed guilty because he can sense the envy in her bitterly joking tone. In an ideal world, she would not hesitate to turn down notorious murderers or embezzlers and devote her energy wholeheartedly to the honorable fights that truly deserve her defence. After decades of practicing law, she’s witnessed many cases being treated unjust and she perfectly knows there are limits of the law, but part of her remains the idealist who fights against the injustice with the passion and determination that have accompanied her since her first day at law school.

“You are the best lawyer I know, Diane. You zealously represented all your clients.” He goes on. “The Sweeney’s case and even the pro-life case. What’s her name again, Stacy…”

“Stacy Groom.” She rolls her eyes. “She was not my client, just a witness, and it was not a pro-life case, it was about free speech.” She argues.

“Shhhhhh, hon. I didn’t say anything. Okay?” He holds her shoulder tighter and presses a kiss on her forehead to chill her down. He finds her adorable when she eagerly defends her stands on free choice, but he has no intention to start a debate, maybe another day, but not now.

“What I mean is that you’ve worked so hard, I just couldn’t imagine anyone who would hate you for what you did, not even your opposite counselors.”

“But sometimes it’s not up to me. They just like what we represent, the image, you know. I almost lost a client for that yesterday, the Obama library project, a huge one, and we had to…”

She pauses to look at him reproachfully.

“Hey, I saw that!”

“What?” He answers innocently.

“You rolled your eyes!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You so did! Come on, you think they are hypocrites, don’t you.”

“Yep.” Short and resolute, he says.

“And do you think I’m a hypocrite just like they are?” She pursues.

“Nope.” Unhesitatingly, he takes in her gaze seriously.

A hint of tenderness flits across her eyes before she lands her head on his shoulder again.

“You are just saying that. Sometimes, I doubt whether I am.” She signs.

“And that makes you not one.” He says affirmatively.

She chuckles.

“I was offered a partnership at a law firm yesterday, twice as the size of Reddick, Boseman.”

“And?”

“I turned it down.”

“But?”

“Barbara Kolstad took it.”

“And…that made you want it again?”

“No, I still don’t. It feels weird though. It’s just…” Slightly shaking her head, she shrugs. “She and Boseman have been partners for more than a decade. I, kind of, feel it’s my fault that she decided to leave.”

“How’s that your fault?”

“She thinks I am threatening her ‘territory’.”

“You don’t want to leave because you like working here. She did want to leave because she cared for a better job. You want different things and you both made the decisions to make yourselves happy. Diane, you don’t need to feel guilty for the loss of something that they don’t even care that much themselves.”

Smiling, she raises her eyes to meet his tender gaze.

“You’re good at this.” Hand on his jaw, she leans in to give him a peck kiss. “Especially as a man of few words.”

“Do I look like I’m into Jazz?” Head tilting, she pulls back and asks abruptly.

With no idea where this is coming from, he frowns but doesn’t want to miss the chance of teasing her.

“Nonsense, you’re apparently a Jay-Z girl.”

She chuckles into his neck.

“Why? You finally get over your odd band of Vivaldi, Bach and the unmatchable Sting?”

She lifts her head to meet his jealous smirk.

“I only mentioned him once, and I used ‘incomparable’. It’s just a celebrity crush.”

“Diane, it’s not just a crush. You know it’s a fever. Why did you ask anyway?”

The odd conversation between her and the bartender replays in her mind, and then the green vial…

“Nothing, just wondering how people think of me at first sight.”

“Well, you didn’t look like that you were into jazz when I first met you, but I did think you were someone who would have classic music on when having sex.”

She bursts into a long, throaty laugh, throwing her head back on his shoulder. It’s been a while that she has been amused to laugh so hard with tears in the corner of her eyes.

“Thank you, Kurt.” Slightly removing her head from his shoulder and lying on the pillow next to him, she looks into his eyes intensely.

“For?” He smirks.

“Being here.”

Sparkles glint in his eyes. That’s all he needs to hear, her wanting him to be around. That’s all he needs to be certain about before making the arrangement he’s been thinking about and putting an end to the separation. His gaze softens before he leans in to press a lingering but innocent kiss on her lips.

“Thank you for opening up.” He smiles gratefully. He likes it when she tells him about her work and shares her feelings. He’s happy to help dissolve her anxiety with his philosophy.

Mirroring his smile, she snuggles closer with her arm circling his neck and his arm wrapping her waist more tightly. It just feels so right being held in his arms, being touched by the gentle movements of his fingertips across her skin, being loved by the man she never stops loving despite everything. She closes her eyes and enjoys the peaceful moment of their intimacy.

“Diane?”

“Uh-huh?”

“Where’s the gun I gave you?”

“In the kitchen drawer downstairs. Why?”

“I think, maybe… you should be carrying.”

“For what? Shooting people?” Jerking her head, she looks at him unbelievably.

“No, Diane, I know it’s very unlikely that someone would come after you, but it does no harm to be prepared.”

“No, I would not carry a gun.” She says resolutely, even a little anger in her tone.

“It’s legal to defend yourself.”

“There’s no way that I will shoot to kill, no way.”

“Just hear me out.”

“Don’t talk.”

“But…”

“The case is closed.” She cuts in, leaving him swallowing his words, but the defeated look on his face makes her regret the sudden snapping.

“I know you are concerned, Kurt, but it’s against me to do that. And…” Her gaze at him softens.

“And I don’t know whether I could handle it if it really happened to me. What if I hurt innocent people? I probably would hurt myself, too.”

“Care for a practice on my farm?”

“Kurt.”

“I promise not to train you into a killer.” He tries to lighten the mood with a joke. “Come on, just spend a weekend in the country, take a stroll or fire a gun, if you like.” Softly running the back of his fingers over her arm, he says with begging eyes. “You seem stressed up.”

The truth is, she is stressed up recently and she does miss shooting a gun especially with him instructing and watching her. It’s been…she can’t believe it, it’s been over a year since the last time they did that when she persuaded him to testify for her client. She felt guilty for making him unwillingly present the immature testing result in favor of Florrick’s trial, but never would she know it was just the beginning of revealing the skeletons in the closet, which almost ended their marriage. She remembers that she blamed herself so much for breaking his rule and causing him to suffer on the stand. She remembers that she crawled into his bed in the middle of the night and wept her apology into his ear and promised to make him happy every single day in his life. She remembers that he disarmed his disguise of sleeping and gave her silent forgiveness by tightly holding her hand in his and pressing his lips on her fingers to reassure her that everything was all right. When she played all these back in her mind afterwards, she realized that the hurtfulness on his face and the hesitation in his eyes whenever he tried to open his mouth but swallowed his words had nothing to do with what she did.

“Kurt, I don’t think I could spare a long weekend.”

“You don’t need to, and you don’t need to worry about the long drive. I can pick you up on Saturday morning and drive you back home the next day. Safe and sound. What do you say?” He offers genuinely.

Returning his expecting gaze, she knows how badly he wants a simple “yes” for an answer or even just “maybe” could make his day. Now thinking about it, she just realizes not only haven’t they spent any quality time since the separation, but also that what kept bringing them together was him asking for a favor on his speech, his accident, her need for a ballistic expert on a tricky case and him checking on her after hearing the appalling news of the lawyer killing. Haven’t spent a night or had a nice dinner together out of prearrangement, they kept finding excuses to see each other when apparently he doesn’t need any excuse other than simply wanting to see her and she difficultly disguises her missing him. But is this the right thing to do, to get back on the track of how they ran their married life before, partly in the city and partly in the country? She has no doubt about how she feels about him, but she can’t say that she’s totally over his infidelity. It’s just that she hasn’t thought about it that much when they are together. She’s uncertain whether it counts for some progress of their reconciliation if the affair doesn’t come to disturb her mind as often as it used to. But god, why does he have such dreamy eyes that she could never resist?

“I… I guess, muh…” Before she can say more, he leans in and kisses her fully. She’s caught off guard at first but soon drawn to the kiss and caresses his cheek dearly with her fingers. He holds her shoulder tighter in his arm and runs the other hand over her side. The sheet covering her body slips down to her waist caused by the movement, and his hand keeps its tour over her silky skin by touching her waist, her stomach before tenderly massaging her breast in his palm. Moaning lightly in between their slow and wet kisses, she loves the way he touches her, powerful enough to make her feel protected and gentle enough to make her feel treasured. Maybe, she shouldn’t feel embarrassed about wanting to spend more time with him. She remembers how she badly expected their “special week” back when he came home from a long trip of trial and they were blessed with a whole week to be together by ending each day with wild sex and waking up in his arms and beginning the new day with sweet kisses the next morning. She remembers how badly she wanted the “special week” to be not special and to have him around every regular day. She couldn’t be happier when he told her about his decision to retire and live together full-time. She couldn’t wait to finally spend every day with him like a normal married couple. However, the world was upside down even before she could have a glimpse of their new life. If she agrees to give it another try, will they go over that mess again? She cannot bother her mind with the thought right now since she’s busy brushing her lips on his and running her fingers through his hair. Maybe, she should put aside what concerns her, what concerns both of them, and just live this moment and go with the instinct, just focus on one thing that dominates her mind right now, that she can never stop loving this man.

“Do you need to get ready for work?” Breaking the kiss, he looks over her shoulder to the red digits on the nightstand, which reads 08:05.

“I’ll be late anyway. I’d rather sleep in. It’s okay. I’ll text Marrisa later.” She says lazily.

Pinning him on his pillow again, she gives him a chaste kiss before resting her head on his shoulder and wrapping her arm around his waist.

“If you don’t mind that I keep you a little longer.” She nuzzles his neck for approval.

“As long as you need.” Burying his smile in her thick hair, he presses a kiss on her crown and pulls up the sheet to cover her naked torso before tightening his grip on her shoulder.

……

His face is right before hers when she opens her eyes again. The slow breathing, the regular heaving of his chest, the stubby mustache over his lip, the beautiful curve running from the tip of his nose to his creased forehead, the untrimmed manly brows and the long lashes thickly adorning his closed eyes, there is not one thing that she doesn’t love about his peaceful sleeping face. She always feels reassuring when watching him in sleep. If only she could see this beautiful scene every morning. She would love to just keep studying the loose hair over his forehead, the evident muscles on his arms and the bulging knuckles of his large hands if she didn’t have to attend to something without him knowing. Gingerly moving away from him, she rids her shoulder from his arm and climbs down from the bed. She slowly opens her closet and takes out a silky robe, trying not to make a sound. Before she can even tie up her robe, she grabs her clutch from the carpet, which was kicked off the bed sometime during their wild sex. Before heading to the bathroom, she gives one more look at him to make sure that he is still in a sound sleep.

Taking out the little vial, she puts the clutch and her phone on the counter of the sink. Turning the lid, she opens the small bottle. She is about to pour the liquid into the sink when she catches her own figure in the mirror. Tousled hair and smudged lipstick, yet her eyes are shining with sparkles. To be honest, she hasn’t felt so refreshed and awakened lately. She recalls the heat of the courtroom, the passed out court police, the endless funerals and that realtor yelling at her through the screen. Nibbling her bottom lip, she moistures her lips before swallowing. Then the images of her walking in the lavender field, sitting on the clouds, being buried in pink bubbles keep flashing in front of the mirror. The feeling of that immersive lightness takes over her shoulders and weakens her arms. Closing her eyes, she lets out an audible sigh and puts the lid back on the bottle. Opening the cabinet, she puts the vial behind countless bottles of vitamins and calcium.

“I’m just keeping it. I won’t use it.”

“You know you want to do it again.” Says her image in the mirror with a wicked smile.

Shaking her head and blinking her eyes, she looks at the mirror again, only finding her own scared look. Turning the tap, she throws water to her face to cool her skin and her mind. After drying herself with the towel, she picks up her phone, the screen of which lights up at her touch and reads 09:58. She unlocks the phone and starts typing.

“Hey.” Startled by his greeting, she raises her eyes and looks at him in the mirror. Hands on the frame of the bathroom door, he is dressed in nothing but his boxers and his unbuttoned plaid shirt, revealing his chest and stomach.

“Hey.” She greets back shyly.

“You’re…heading to work?”

“Not yet.”

“‘Not yet’ means…” Eyes still on hers in the mirror, he approaches behind her and places his hands on her hips.

“Why?” She smiles at him playfully.

“No reason.” He says carelessly, but his hands roam from her hips to encircle her waist and play with the soft and slick material he finds covering her stomach. Putting the phone down, she rests her arms over his and caresses the back of his hands.

“Kurt, I was thinking, maybe, I could come over this weekend if it suits you.”

“Really? This weekend? I mean, in three days?” He cannot believe she would return his suggestion so fast.

“I will be free this weekend if nothing else comes up, but I have to check with Marrisa over my schedule first, so I cannot promise anything.”

“That’s enough a promise to me.” Grinning happily at her in the mirror, he tightens his arms around her and buries his face in her neck, giving consistent kisses there. His childish joy and teasing mustache over her sensitive skin make her chuckle.

“What time do you have to be at work again?” He murmurs in her hair.

“Before the end of lunchtime. What’s in your mind?” She turns to meet his naive grin, squinting her eyes.

“Nothing, just to be sure that I have enough time to kiss you goodbye.” He says innocently shortly before a lopsided smile creeps on his mouth.

Her eyes drift close as he lowers his head and presses his lips on hers. Light brushes of their lips at first, the kiss is soon heated up with his darting tongue into her mouth. Firmly positioning her head on his shoulder, he turns his head a bit more to kiss her properly. Her hand crawls into his hair, keeping his head tightly against hers. She responds to him by tangling her tongue fiercely with his. As his hands roaming over her silky robe, she feels his growing hardness stick to her waist. One of his hand sneaks through the loosened lapels of her robe and caresses the flesh of her stomach before finding its way upwards to cup her breast and roll her stiffened nipple between his fingers. Her knees buckle on his touch. If it’s not for the support of his body, she may not stand by herself. As she is almost melting in his arms, his other hand slowly glides downward and seeks access to the lower part of her robe. Running his fingers on her upper thigh repeatedly, he gradually moves them closer to her core. By the way she has been squirming against him, he knows she is wet and ready for him, but as he is about to tuck his fingers where she wants him, his wrist is suddenly gripped by her.

“Kurt!” Breaking the kiss, she’s panting. “I,” Adjusting her breath, she swallows, “I really have to get ready.”

“Sorry.” Being rejected abruptly, he removes his hands from her.

She asked him to stop but the loss of his touch leaves her disappointed too. Part of her regrets that she killed the mood so ruthlessly. Turning to catch his embarrassed eyes, she adjusts her robe and shoots him a pitiful look.

“I need to take a shower.” Heading to the bathing area, she takes a halt. Clenching her fists, she bites her lips before turning to him again.

“Join me?” His eyes are lightened up. “But just a shower, okay?” She knows her emphasis sounds powerless. He is already following her steps and standing right behind her.

“Well, I cannot promise anything, either.” The lopsided smile emerges on his mouth as he puts his hands on her shoulders and helps her slip off her robe.

……

11:10 a.m

She receives a message almost instantly after she pressed “send”.

“Anything wrong?” Drying his hair with a towel, he steps out of the bathroom.

“Nothing,” Frowning, she sits on the edge of the bed with her hair dripping water on her shoulders. “It’s just, she told me to take my time and attached a grinning face.”

“Uh, she knew that I was here.”

“What?!”

“Who do you think I asked for the Reddick’s address?” Neglecting the surprise on her face, he puts a new towel on her head, gently drying her hair.

“Oh, god.” Rolling her eyes, she can imagine how Marrisa’s gonna tease her with that wry look for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Three more rounds of tests were required before he could determine the most plausible trajectory of the bullet. Just finished shooting the first bullet for the last round, he was distracted by the disturbing red flash on the opposite wall. Normally, no one would call on him at this hour in the afternoon. Clients would never pay a visit without an appointment. Probably, it might be one of his neighbors who needed to borrow a tool to fix their mowers or start their tractors, but the screen of his CCTV begged to differ as to who was now standing at his door, the last person he expected to see since that day at her firm. His heart palpitated at the sight of her on the screen. Eyes hidden behind her sunglasses, he could not figure her expression, but the composed manners and tightly-pressed fuchsia lips reminded him of the similar condescension and nonchalance that she did not bother concealing throughout the deposition, unless it was her blatant intention to humiliate him. His heart hardened recollecting the cumulated anger inside him when she relentlessly bombed provoking questions on him to devalue his findings, to undercut his credibility and to mock his professionalism. Dismissing the part of himself that had been longing for her appearance for the past few days, he tried to neglect the growing desire for her expected apology and resume his tests by shooting another bullet. But that vicious red light started flashing unnervingly again.

On the settlement of the case, she didn’t think much before leaving the office immediately and driving toward the highroad. They hadn’t talked since that day he stormed out of her conference room followed by Cary who was also pissed and defeated. Not that both of them chose to be silent on the matter, it was just as many times as she tried, he didn’t answer his phone. He was mad at her, she knew. She thought that it was understood what it meant to be professional if they had to argue against each other on the case. It surprised her that he took it so personal as if he had no idea what to expect of her. It was all about work. He should have known that. She didn’t bother herself with any guilt or regret so long as she repeatedly convinced herself that she was just doing her job, but the disappointment and hurtfulness in his eyes before he left the conference table in evident rage kept haunting her, especially when she recalled the contrast look of shyness and tenderness on his face when he revealed his feelings for her just a day before the deposition. It bothered her more for not doing anything about his confession, for not reassuring him with her own feelings. As she waited in his barn with her mind semi-occupied by how to tell him that she felt the same way, the rumbling sound of the gate made her wince a little.

The crack was only wide enough to expose his presence. Taking off her glasses, she met his stare. She had already got used to his silence a few dates ago, the silence that she didn’t need to intentionally fill with conversation starters, the stoic look on his face that somehow she could better interpret than the actual words. Indifferent as he tried to look, the purposefulness of his attempt only did the opposite to reveal the reproach and indignation buried in his eyes. She could do nothing else but just return his stare with an expectant gaze until a slight hint of concession flit across his eyes. She shot him a charming smile as he pushed the gate just wide enough for her to step in sideways. He leaned away to make more room, but it was still so close that the scent of her hair and perfume instantly softened his strained nerves and almost made him forget why he was angry with her. How could he ever be mad at her when that irresistible confidence in her bright eyes and artless grace in her composure brought waves of warm feelings to take over his chest? Slightly licking his pressed lips, he tried to strengthen himself.

“Am I interrupting you?” Eyeing the gun, goggle and earmuff on the platform, she asked a little apologetically but received no answer. He walked past her to fetch another set and handed her the goggle in silence, which she put on skillfully.

“Oh, okay.” Before she could reach for the earmuff, she was caught off guard when he raised the earmuff and put it over her head. His face was stern still but his movement of tucking her hair behind her ears was so patient and gentle. The corners of her mouth lifted to form a restrained joyful smile. He deliberately dodged eye contact until he was done preparing for her. A transient softness flit across his face when he looked into her eyes but didn’t last as he swallowed unnoticeably and turned to get his own goggle and earmuff on.

Putting her coat and purse on the stool next to her, she stood feet away to drink him all in while he continued his tests. He straightened his back, slowly placed his arms at a certain angle and slightly tilted his head to aim. The flare of the gunshot was reflected on his goggle. The shooting recoil failed to cause any shudder of his broad shoulders. She had watched him shooting more than once. No handgun could make his arms shiver a bit, those same strong arms that could hold her so tightly that it would not matter if his fiery kiss buckled her knees and made her lose balance. Holding her own struggle toward guns, she was very repulsive when Kalinda taught her shooting for the first time, but once she fired the gun, the exhilaration and liberation of shooting the target were overwhelming as well as enticing. Inwardly, she hated the fact that she became fond of it, yet she never feel torn when watching him shooting. The blended swiftness and prudence in his movements when he assembled a pistol with skillful twists of his wrists and nimble folds of his long fingers made the process more like an artwork exhibition.

Tow months ago, she would find the idea ridiculous that she could be so attracted to a hardcore Republican, who was not only a firearm aficionado but also a Palin supporter. Yet, right now, she had to bite her lips to retain the desire to be held in his powerful arms, to be caressed by his large hands and to be kissed by those shapely lips. There was no doubt that she had feelings for him, very strong feelings, she had to admit. But to confess that meant they needed to discuss where they were in this relationship, if they could call it a relationship after five dates, which was quite a frequent arrangement given that they only knew each other for like seven weeks. Would it jeopardize what they were having now, which she had been enjoying very much, getting to know his interests, habits, temperament, arguing fiercely over politics and figuring out how to get out his good side? Inwardly, she also doubted sometimes whether this rapidly growing affection for him was purely a result of being mesmerized by novelty. Would that feeling fade away when they got to know each other better, on both sides? What she really worried about was whether he would still be interested if he found her values and how she functioned professionally were, eventually, too much to take, like this time.

He removed the magazine from the gun, put away the two parts on the other side of the platform and began to record the results on his computer. Knowing that the tests were finished, she took off the earmuff and goggle and placed them on the shelf near her. She knew she had to be the one who talk first, like always.

“So, is that for your case in Florida?” Tentatively, she asked.

Raising his eyes from the screen, he stared at her with that same stern expression.

“Why? You need information on that case, too?” He says sarcastically, making her heart tighten.

“Kurt, please. I was just doing my job.”

“I know, and I’m impressed.” His careless tone only made her feel worse.

“What did you expect me to do? Pretend not knowing what you told me during the test and cut you loose?”

“It’s not that.”

“What is it, then? My strategies of questioning a witness didn’t please you?”

“So, you tend to humiliate every opposite witness with that disparagement?”

“Dispara…what are you talking about?”

“You were so drawn to the victory that you did not even realize it, did you?” He smirked with bitterness in his tone.

“I’m sorry if you did feel that way, but I won’t apologize for how I do my job.”

“Then, why are you here, Diane?” His question caused her to gasp. Why did she have to drive all the way here?

“I…the State Attorney’s Office agreed to settle.”

“I knew that. Cary Argos called me.”

“You didn’t answer my calls, and about what you said the other day, I just…”

“Don’t worry about it.” He looked away and waved his hand in the air.

“I think we should talk.”

“No need to, I lied anyway.”

“You…” His unexpected reply almost choked her. The previous guilt was suddenly taken place by a strong feeling of being offended. Did he say that on purpose to hurt her? “You mean, you lied about having feelings for me?” Eyes glistening, she tried hard to hide the shock and hurt in her voice. “Sorry, I don’t follow, why would you lie about that if you don’t…”

“Because I’m in love with you for god’s sake.” Raising his voice, he blurted it out. His chest heaving slightly, his brows furrowed but his gaze at her softened. Curling his bottom lip between his teeth, somehow he looked relieved.

Astounded by what she just heard, she felt her heart almost racing to her throat. The trajectory of this conversation was indeed an emotionally bumping experience, from confusion and disappointment to astonishment.

The sudden silence seemed like an eternity and the air between them seemed frozen. Mouth slightly ajar, her widened eyes locked with his insecure and saddened ones.

“You can leave if you like.” Head down, he said in a low voice, leaning back against the platform.

This was not the way how he imagined he would say it. It must scare her. It had scared him too when he became aware of how he felt about her during the quite short acquaintance of theirs. Despite their disagreement on political stands, he found it unbelievably easy with her company, like they had known each other for so long, yet actually they only had several dinners and spent a few beautiful and incredible nights together. This was not his plan. He presumed that they sure would have an argument but he had no idea how the argument ended up as another confession when she hadn’t even responded to his disguised one yet. He must look crazy to her. It was over, he knew.

As he regretted his slip of the tongue with grief, her heels appeared in his sight of the floor. As her approaching steps kept closer, he raised his eyes to capture her stocking-clad knees, her dress and then her pearls. When he caught her lips, she was already standing right in front of him and gently placing her hands on his cheeks. Wearing a light smile with watery orbs, she looked into his eyes coyly before leaning in to press her lips softly on his. He almost flinched on the movement, but his arms automatically circled around her waist and ran his hands over the fabric of her expensive dress. He let her kiss him in her tender way, until he sensed the sudden tensing of her lips when she deepened the kiss to a sensual level, he slightly parted his mouth and embraced her tongue with his. Tilting his head, he tried to offer her a better access to his now burning lips. Fastening his arms around her, he kept her tightly against him. Why was he mad at her again? What was worrying him just now making him think this was definitely over? The sensation of their erotic kiss made him light-headed. Was this a goodbye kiss or was it an approval? He didn’t know, neither did he care to think about it now. Reveling in the fact that she was not going anywhere right now, all he could focus on was to keep her in his embrace and kiss her in the most loving way he could.

HE LOVES HER. If there were doubts about that, which had lingered in his mind a few days ago, now he could not be more certain about it. He could deal with his brewing anger without her presence, but holding her weight against his chest, measuring her frame with his hands, and tasting her sweetness on his lips, he totally gave in and all he was thinking about was that if only he could keep her by his side as long as he wanted and the idea that this kiss would end and that she would eventually leave seemed unbearable.

They finally broke the kiss for air. His eyes searched for her shadowed blue orbs. Her hands kept caressing his cheeks. He reached up to hold one of her hands and brushed the back of her hand with his fingers dearly.

“I won’t see you again, will I?”

“Why?” She shot him a teasing smile by arching an eyebrow.

“Because I am crazy.”

She gasped a soundless laugh.

“Old news. Message received when you prominently framed your photo with Palin.”  She pressed a feather kiss on his lips to seal her words before leaning back to look at him intensively.

“When are you leaving for Florida again?”

“This Sunday. Care for a trip to the tropical?”

“You know I can’t do that.” A big grin crept on her face while she eyed his forehead and ran her fingers through the hair at his temple. “But I may send you to the airport and see you off.”

“See me off?” His eyes were widened with surprise.

“Yeah, like, you know, being your chauffeur, how about that?” Her radiant smile had him head over heels.

“If it’s not too much trouble.” His eyes lingered on her lips again.

“No, I think my schedule is clear that day, you know, if nothing else comes up.”

“Let’s hope so.”

He suddenly grasped her hips and flipped her over against the platform before pressing his weight on her. She laughed at the abruptness of their movement but tightly clutched her arms around his neck before pulling him closer. He followed and kissed her fully before feeling her hands skating down their way from his collars across his shirt and reaching for his belt buckle.

“Kurt? Have you heard me?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He is dragged from his thought.

“I said I couldn’t make it tonight. I know I told you I might get there for Friday night. But, um, last minute call. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning like we planned?”

“Well…” His heart sinks at her hesitation. He almost sees what is coming.

“Diane, it’s alright. Maybe, we can schedule some other time.” He tries to sound positive while he aimlessly rubs his fingers on the edge of the table.

“No, no, I’ll be there. It’s just, I need to depose Clarkson again tomorrow morning, Julius just told me that he had refreshed his memory, whatever that means.” She takes a pause. “And for that, I may need to bother you for running a few more tests, too.”

“Oh, okay. You’ll drive here yourself then?”

“Yes, I’ll come directly after I finish the depo. Sorry, Kurt. I know it’s not what you have planned. But at least, we still have a whole day.” She says apologetically.

“No need to apologize, Diane. I understand how your job keeps your hands full, you know, lawyering.”

“So, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Her tone sounds relieved now.

“Okay.” He doesn’t hung up until hearing the other side of the line goes dead.

Putting down his phone, he starts collecting the fine china that he previously arranged from the table and taking the candleholder in the other hand before heading back to the kitchen and turning off the oven timer.

He’s disappointed for sure but not totally. This is not new to him. Actually, he has long been used to being stood up. But there’s a silver lining that she needs him for work, which guarantees her coming over tomorrow, because, for her, work trumps everything, always. If they do keep it as he has planned, he may have to be anxious the whole night until she doesn’t show up eventually for some emergency like that day he flew to Florida.

Chapter Text

Closing up the book he is barely reading, he puts it on the nightstand and turns off the light. His mind is otherwise occupied. She’s willing to spend the weekend with him. That should be progress, right? But he worries not just about their situation but her too. He senses that sometimes she looks distracted. He has to repeat what he said from time to time to have her concentrate. She is with him physically but seemingly not mentally. Most of the time, she is still that high-end, put-together lawyer that he has known since the day they first met, but ever since the last time he saw her after Roddick’s funeral, there has been something different in her. Maybe it is about that lawyer killing incident, bringing back the memory of losing Will and a new scare of her own safety. If it were in the past, he would not hesitate to be by her side to make her feel supported and to protect her full-time. Alas, they are not there anymore. He has no position to suggest how they should arrange the separation. He sighs and then comes the grief of doing her wrong again. It bothers him whether he should be more active but the worry of her being driven away by his aggressiveness scares him more.

The noise on the doorknob interrupts his train of thought. Before long, she slips in through the narrow crack and closing the door behind her.

“Diane?” He sits up surprisedly.

Not answering him, she almost rushes to his bedside. Eyes wide open, before he realizes it, she throws herself hard into him by tightly wrapping her arms around his neck. Her cheek is hot and humid against his skin. He hears a light sob that she tries to restrain in her ragged breath.

“Anything wrong?” He whispers gently while brushing his hand on her back. That feel of the slick material is so familiar but that thin layer of her PJs only makes her more vulnerable.

Not answering him, she slightly shakes her head but her arms tighten to press herself more tightly against him. She tries to adjust her breath. He can feel her racing heartbeat through her frantically heaving chest.

“Can’t sleep?” He turns his head to whisper in her ear in a soothing voice. Receiving no response, he feels her chin shaking on his shoulder.

“Sh…sh…” He exhales in her thick hair. “If you don’t want to talk about it, let me lie down and hold you, okay?”

Eyes down, she slowly loosens her grasp of him. He moves to the other side of the bed to make more room for her before reaching his hand.

“C’mere.”

Diane slips under the covers before scooching in his arms, resting her head on his chest and clinging her arm around his waist. Holding her shoulder tightly, he presses a long kiss on her crown. It is a rare occasion that he’s the more talkative one, but he doesn’t intend to inquire if she isn’t willing to tell him herself. He senses that her breath is now even and her body gradually relax.

Stroking her arm affectionately, he stares at the wall opposite and tilts his head.

“It looks rhombus to me. What do you think?”

Her light exhalation tells him that she’s smiling before he feels her soft lips pressing a lingering kiss on his neck.

“You’re always safe with me, Mrs. McVeigh.” His arms around her tighten.

……

Three hours ago.

Letting out a satisfied moan, she gradually opens her eyes only to find the darkness of the room. Then it becomes clearer in her sight of the large stoned fireplace and the leather lounge chair partly bathed in the milky moonlight shooting from the window. Remembering where she is, she recollects the testing in his lab, them drinking, a strike of her migraine and him offering her a head massage, but that was at dusk. She must have relaxed too much.

“Kurt?” In a weak voice, she says.

“Yes?” He responds to her in a whisper while lightly stroking the back of her hand.

“What time is it?” Elbows against the couch, she removes her head from his lap.

“I don’t know. Maybe eightish?”

With his hand bracing her back, she sits up while rubbing her temple with her long fingers. She reaches for the lamp on her side of the couch and switches it on. They both squint to adjust their eyes to the light.

“You just let me sleep on you for hours? Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I thought you really needed it.” Attempting to stand up, he fails and falls back on the couch with a light groan.

“You alright?” Putting her hand on his arm, she asks concernedly.

“I’m fine. I just need a minute to feel my leg.” He stretches his right leg back and forth to kick the numbness away.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Her eyes soften with a hint of guilt.

“But I wanted to. Anyway, how do you feel now? Still aching?” He tucks her hair back of her ear gently.

“No. But a little tired, maybe I have slept for too long.” Hand covering her mouth, she makes a yawn.

Kurt is about to mirror her but manages to restrain the attempt yet his eyes are watery like hers caused by his unfinished yawn. They both laugh at the blurry images of each other.

“Okay, maybe it’s the official bedtime.” He stands up. The loss of his warmth against her brings a sudden chill to her nerves.

“Wait, are you hungry? I have some pizza left from lunch. I ordered too much, thought you would have come earlier.” He turns to her, reaching out his hand to help her stand.

“No, not quite.”

“Okay.” He carries her sleep-over bag and heads to the staircase followed by her much quieter steps even in her high heels.

Entering his bedroom, she is so familiar with the refreshing smell of the wooden furniture and the mild detergent scent of the bedding that apparently he changed just that morning. Somehow, by crossing that door, a slight feeling of awkwardness creep on her chest. She senses the same tension on his broad shoulders and the slowing pace of his movement. 

“There.” Putting her bag on a chair near the closet, he turns to her.

“I’ve changed the bedsheet. There are new towels in the bathroom and your slippers in the cabinet under the sink. Anything else you might need?”

“Why do you sound like running a tavern?” She cannot hold her smile, amused by his careful introduction like it’s her first-time visit.

“Well,” Scratching the skin back of his ear for nothing, he lets out a shy smile while his eyes wandering on the floor. “Just want you to feel comfortable.” His agitation makes the corners of her lips lift a bit more. 

“Oh.” She remembers something.

“What?” He steps closer to her.

“I left my phone downstairs.” She is about to head to the door before Kurt holds her arm.

“Diane,” She is turned to face him. “let me get it for you. I was gonna take a bite of that pizza anyway. Take your time. Settle down and change.” He walks past her and turns to hold the doorknob.

“Okay, thank you, Kurt.”

His smile answers silently telling her it’s no big deal before he closes the door behind him.

Unzipping her bag, she takes out a few smaller bags and puts the one containing her make-up and skin-care in the bathroom. After changing into her PJs, she folds the clothes she took off and puts them back in the bag. Taking a few hangers from the closet, she hangs the clothes she brought for tomorrow. His neatly folded plaid shirts and white T-shirts pile up separately and squarely on the shelf under his coats lining up on the rack. She always respected his wardrobe choice and never commented on his taste in fashion, if there was any. But this is insane. Looking at this line of clothes that she has been seeing him wearing over these years, she wonders when she could persuade him to go shopping with her again. But she immediately laughs at the thought, predicting that he would stick to his old jackets even if she makes him buy new ones, like those two pairs of expensive suits wrapped in the bags that are pushed to the end of the rack right now. 

She sweeps her fingers over his clothes carelessly before preparing to close the door but an uneven spot of a sleeve catches her attention. Pulling out that sleeve, she recognizes the suede jacket that he wore the day he was involved in that carjack. A spot near the elbow has a trace of scratch, making the color of the spot uneven. She remembers that day. On the way to the hospital, she imagined the worst situation that she might lose him forever. She remembers that day. When she helped him take off his clothes, she was frightened into tears by the bruises and scratches on his leg, hip and elbow. Those wounds were like on her own skin hurting her physically and emotionally while he kept telling her “It looks worse than it is. It doesn’t hurt that much.” and tenderly wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes. It was at that moment that she realized nothing was gonna prevent her from caring about him. It was that moment that she hoped she could put aside what happened between them and just be his wife who could be around taking care of him, protecting him and loving him. Just the recollection of that horrible day strikes her with the morbid fear of losing him again until the sleeve becomes blurry. She blinks the tears away and gathers herself before closing the closet and heading to the bathroom.

About half an hour later, after setting herself at her side of the bed, she is patting the pillow on his side when there are gentle knocks on the door interrupting her nostalgic routine of making the bed for them.

“Come in.”

Gingerly handling the doorknob, he holds a glass and a small plate in his hands. Walking to the bedside, he puts down the plate with several chocolate cookies on it and a glass of milk on the nightstand.

“In case you might be hungry later. The milk helps you sleep well.”

“You’re so nice, Kurt.” Moved by his sweetness, she smiles at him genuinely.

“Oh, almost forget the most important thing.” Reaching for his rear pocket, he hands her the phone. “It might work better than the milk.”

Taking his teasing with delight, she shots him a meaningful smile before scrolling the screen to check her emails and messages.

“Don’t stay up too late.” He steps away and walks to the door.

Lifting her head, she is surprised by his movement.

“Kurt, where are you going?” Frowning, she’s confused.

“I’ll sleep in the guest room, just at the end of the hall.” Already standing at the door, he turns to reassure her.

“Is it really necessary?” Tilting her head, she softly sighs.

“Actually, it is. You really need some good rest, Diane. Tell me if you need anything, okay? Good night.” The door gradually seals the smile under his mustache.

Considerate as he is, Diane feels a little disappointed but she doesn’t bother herself with it for long. She replies to a few emails and checks the news for a while till her eyes feel heavy. Checking the time on the screen, which reads 9:45, she reaches for the glass and finishes the milk. Putting her phone on the nightstand and switching off the lamp, she wriggles under the cover to adjust to the height of the pillow but doesn’t close her eyes. After getting used to the darkness, the outlines of furniture and the vague pattern of the wallpaper become clear in her sight. Just realizing that it is her first time to sleep alone in this bedroom, where they have the sweetest memories as well as struggling ones, she remembers the first time she stayed overnight in this cabin. 

She drove here to apologize but didn’t end up apologizing. After he confessed love for her, they spent an amazing night in his bed. She woke up in the middle of the night watching him in a sound sleep and then observing the room in the darkness. She wondered what kind of geometric shapes were on the wallpaper but never cared much when there was daylight. She wondered how long he had lived here, what his daily routine was like, how often he would mow his lawn, or whether he would fix the roof himself when it came to the rainy season. She even wondered, what it would feel like to be the hostess of this cabin. Had he ever wanted a Mrs. McVeigh? She shortly laughed at the thought of a new letterhead “McVeigh & Gardner” before quickly shaking off the idea by reminding herself “stop overthinking, Lockhart, nobody proposed”.

“What’s on your mind?”

“Why are you whispering? It’s just us here.” Knowing that he was awake too, she chuckled slightly.

“Didn’t want to startle you. You seemed to be in deep thought.” Reaching for her hand, he put a kiss on her fingers.

“Well, your volume never startles me, but the content.” She mocked him. “I was wondering what is the pattern of your wallpaper.”

“Seriously?” He frowned. “THAT was what you were thinking about?”

She giggles.

“I was thinking about you rolling up your sleeves and fixing your truck or your roof, and me watching you while drinking Bourbon.”

“Well, instead of watching, a nice lady would hand me a spanner wrench.”

“Oh,” Putting her hand on his face and playfully squeezing his jaw, she pulled herself closer to him. “So cute that you presume I can tell what a spanner wrench look like.”

Wrapping his arms around her, he narrowed the gap between their lips.

“That’s a lesson you need to take to watch me working for free, Ms. Lockhart.” He teased her before burying her smile in his wanting lips.

Tiresome and sleepiness gradually vacate her mind from random thoughts. Hostess? It’s wired how rarely she thought about being the hostess of his cabin after they got married. Yes, it always has been his cabin. She’s never got the chance to introduce herself to the neighborhood as Mrs. McVeigh, more specifically, it has never crossed her mind. She has never thrown a barbecue party for his friends in his backyard. She has met some of his neighbors but only a few and never got to know them better. And… she’s never taken that lesson from him about the various types of spanner wrenches.

The creak of the floor crawls in her ears, very light at first before becoming louder and more urgent. She struggles to open her eyes. “Kurt?” No one answers and the commotion from the other side of the door is now louder. Getting up from the bed, she walks to the door. Opening it, the commotion suddenly ceases. The cold white light pricks her eyes. Walking out of the room, the door abruptly shuts behind her. Bracing her hand on the porcelain, she stumbles through the hallway. Porcelain? The slick and cold feeling to her fingers surprises her. Hasn’t his wall always been paint? Reaching the end of the hall, she pushes the double-leaf door open. 

Dozens of beds lining up against the wall are empty. She hears regular beeping sounds of ventilators. Looking at her left side, there’s no one at the nurse station, either. Why is she in a hospital? Did someone call? Why does she not remember? She recalls that little green vile. Did she take it before coming here? Indulging herself too much in watching the news that she found unbelievable, she uses that magic liquid for a short escape from reality. Walking past those empty beds, she suddenly pauses. Her breath becomes heavy. About ten feet away from her, there’s someone lying on the bed. The curtain is half-closed. She can only spot the legs and only one foot is shoed. 

“No, no.” She closes her eyes instantly. 

“Something is wrong here. It’s impossible.” Starting walking backwards, she cannot take a second look, until her way back is blocked. Someone walks into her. Finally, there’s someone she can talk to. She turns. Almost losing her balance, she holds onto the gurney near her.

“Wha…” The sight steals her breath. Her mouth is wide open, and her face is deadly pale. 

The man steps closer to hold her arm and hand to help her stand. His tie is a bit loosened. There are small red stains on his collars. Is that blood? His eyes are bloodshot and puffy. He looks so haggard but his hand is warm.

“Will?!” Her eyes are still widened. “Wasn’t you…” She almost turns to confirm what she saw just seconds ago but cannot take her eyes off him.

“It’s okay, Diane. I’m here.” He covers her hand with both of his. “I know it’s hard.”

“Will, what do you mean? If you are here, then there’s no shooting in the court, right? It never happened, right?” Her scare gradually dissipates and is replaced by the joy and excitement of waking up from a horrible nightmare. Her partner, her best friend is still alive.

“What shooting?” He looks confused. “I called you, Diane, remember?” He pauses to take a deep breath before continuing. “There was a car accident, and…he…he didn’t make it.”

“Who?” Her eyes are widened but for a different reason this time.

He has a hard time continuing. Holding her arms tightly, he hesitates before finally forming the word.

“McVeigh.” 

Observing the movements of his lips of pronouncing that name, she isn’t sure she heard him right. Now realizing that she didn’t take a good look at the only occupied bed in this room just now, she feels her knees are weakened. Slowly turning, she raises her eyes to that partly curtained bed. The only shoe on his foot is a worn-out boot. What she presumed to be suit trousers turn out to be a pair of dark jeans. Then her eyes are fixed on that eagle belt buckle. Her ears are humming. Her entrails are turning. The hollowing in her chest is like someone takes away her soul. Her sight is blurry. Before long, burning tears are escaping from her eyes and scorching her skin. Having a hard time adjusting her breath, yet she doesn’t make a sobbing sound.

“Mrs. McVeigh,” A middle-aged woman in a nurse uniform comes up to her. “I’m sorry. It was too late when they brought him here. Some paper needs to be signed before we can give you his belongings.”

“Mrs. McVeigh, I’m sorry for your loss. Your husband was trying to save a little girl from a carjacker. He was a great man. Is there anything we can do?” A police officer offers genuinely.

“Mrs. McVeigh,” A woman with messy hair and reddened eyes says with guilt. “I’m so sorry. If it was not to save my daughter, he would…he was a hero.”

Her head is spinning. Closing her eyes, she tightly covers her ears with her hands, but those voices keep resounding in her mind. “Mrs. McVeigh, Mrs. McVeigh, Mrs. McVeigh…”

When she opens her eyes again, she finds herself heavily panting and curling up in the bed with her fists tightly clenched. Adjusting her breath and lying on her back, she stares at that wallpaper, the pattern of which she still cannot figure out in the darkness.