Disclaimer: I do not own Blindspot. I only wish I owned Blindspot. More like it's the other way around… I've come to realize that THEY own ME. :) (The … indicate The Script song lyrics, which I also DO NOT own. I'm nowhere near talented enough)
A/N: Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review this story. This time it IS the last chapter… It's even longer than the previous one was before I split it, but it's all one section and I just gave it and let it be ridiculously long. So gather provisions before you start, if necessary… I hope you like it. :)
The first time he saw what the CIA had done to her, it happened completely by accident.
It was a Saturday, and Jane was having a somewhat lazy morning at home. Kurt had told her that he'd be back at some point, though they hadn't said a specific time. While it was only barely 10:00 am, it had only been a few hours since she'd last seen him. Despite how decidedly not innocent she knew that it would have sounded if she had told anyone that he had stayed over at her place the night before, again, as he had most nights recently, the reality was quite the opposite.
While most people would probably describe the pace with which things were moving between them as somewhere between glacial and traffic jam, to them it was perfect. Really, Kurt was fine with whatever Jane wanted, and Jane was, after everything she'd been through, understandably… cautious. No, cautious didn't cover it, but it was the right idea. So far he'd slept beside her numerous times and held her close to him almost as many times – which had started after she'd had a nightmare but was no longer limited to those instances – and there had been some kissing, but so far, that was it. The only thing he cared about was that she was comfortable and happy. Whatever had been done or not done, and said or not said between them, he knew that she loved him. The things that she dealt with weren't like what anyone else ever had or ever would, so their relationship didn't have to be like anyone else's. To him, it all made sense.
He also knew that it wasn't just Jane, that he had enough issues of his own. The two of them reminded him of a quote he'd heard somewhere once, long ago, though he had no idea where, or why on Earth he remembered it. Something from Jane Austen, he was pretty sure.
"Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another."
He was not at all a sentimental guy. He'd never had anything about which to be sentimental. However, this quote had surfaced again in his mind not too long ago, and now he couldn't help but think of it sometimes when he looked at her. It seemed to sum things up perfectly.
She had fewer nightmares lately, which she attributed to his presence, though she still had them often enough that since the night she had called him to come over the first time, he'd been there more nights than he hadn't been there.
After a few of those phone calls, he'd just decided it made more sense if he stayed there from the beginning of the night. "If nothing else," he'd insisted at first, "that way you don't have to call me, and wait for me to get here, and I don't have to drive across town when I'm half asleep. It's just me being selfish, really." He'd said it with a grin, and she had rolled her eyes, but smiled right back at him. Really, she had no desire to argue with him, and she felt much safer when he was there.
Of course she didn't want him to feel like he had to be there, but he'd assured her that was not the case. On the contrary, he had said, "I'd rather be with you than not with you, so if I need an excuse, then not driving over in the middle of the night is my excuse." And since she also preferred to be with him than not with him, though she didn't actually say it in so many words, she stopped any pretense of telling him that she didn't need him there. Things were just better when he was there, after all.
This morning he'd gone out to run a few errands, one of which included going back to his recently much neglected apartment, so he had said that he would get those few tasks out of the way and then be back.
As soon as I can.
The words echoed pleasantly in her head, and a smile seemed to be stuck on her face. She'd be seeing Kurt again soon, and that was all she needed to be in a good mood just then.
It was an unseasonably warm day for what was usually a cool time of year, and Jane was wearing jeans and a tank top – the outfit that had once been her favorite. Even covered in tattoos, she'd found herself dressed that way, usually only varying the color of her tank top, more often than not. Sometimes had added a jacket if she was going anywhere besides the FBI building, but that was about it. Since the end of her three months with the CIA, however, her preferred style had changed, for a very specific reason. If they had noticed that she now kept as much of herself covered as possible, the others had not mentioned it.
They have to know, she often thought. And of course it's no surprise that they don't bring it up. Why would they? It's uncomfortable for all of us. Just the fact of her CIA imprisonment was a source of great awkwardness within the team. As far as they'd all come past it, that topic wasn't something that any of them touched with a ten foot pole if they could possibly avoid it. She understood the team's hesitation to go anywhere near the subject, of course, and she had accepted that however angry she had been with them for it all, they had not known everything. If they had known what had actually been happening to her beyond just that the CIA had "taken her into custody," things may have happened differently. Never mind that they should have known what "CIA custody" entailed. If she had dwelled on that, they would never have moved forward.
At least, she chose to tell herself that things could have been different, because if she didn't, there was no way she could ever trust them again. And as much as she didn't want to at first, and didn't care whether they trusted her or not, she needed to trust them again – she needed to trust him again – if she wanted to take down Sandstorm, just like she needed them – but especially him – to trust her. And then, slowly, it wasn't about Sandstorm anymore. She just needed them – especially him – to trust each other. And then, again very slowly and almost against her will, she just needed him, as she had a long time ago. It seemed that they had come full circle.
When she'd first come back and the weather had been warmer, everyone had been so busy glaring at her, hating her, they hadn't really looked at her. She was fairly sure that no one had taken any notice of what she was wearing. Now the weather was cooling off, and it made more sense to wear long sleeves anyway. This suited her just fine. Considering the scars left on her body from the torture she'd endured at the hands of Keaton and his goons, she wasn't sure she'd ever wear anything but long sleeves in public again. When she thought back now to the part of her life as Jane where her tattoos had made her self-conscious… Well, horribly scarred tattoos were a whole new layer of uncomfortable to look at, and she almost longed for the days when she had only had her tattoos to feel self-conscious about. She could only hope that eventually, they would heal, and that she would again look the way she had before.
All of this not withstanding, that day Jane had been in a good mood simply because the weather was nice and she had a day off of work filled with Kurt's company to look forward to. The TV was on, but she wasn't really watching whatever the show was that was on at the moment – it wasn't American Ninja Warrior, so she wasn't interested, anyway – it was just on for background noise while she was moving around the house. She'd been cleaning for a while, and then she'd sat down with her sketchbook, and now she hummed along with the tune of the commercial as she worked on her current drawing.
When she heard a knock on her door, she looked up in surprise. He's back already? She thought of nothing except the fact that she was excited to see him, and completely forgot that she hadn't put on the long sleeved shirt that lay at one end of the couch, ready to hide the scars that riddled her arms, back and abdomen. Her tank top hid some, but far from all of them. While she knew that it was only a matter of time before he saw them, if they were to continue getting closer, she hadn't consciously decided how she would handle that.
Thinking only that her day had just gotten even better, she stood up and walked to the door. Things had been going so well for them, and she had finally stopped being terrified of her own happiness, stopped expecting everything between them to disappear as soon as she got used to it. She was still cautious, but for the first time, overall, she was… happy. She liked this feeling, and it was because of him.
She opened the door for him, and for the first few seconds, his grin matched hers. It always seemed to be this way lately – every time they saw each other, they both looked giddy, as if it had been weeks, months even, since they'd seen each other. He was poised to say something in greeting, when she noticed that he was suddenly distracted. Whatever he'd been about to say, the words seemed to die on his lips as she watched in confusion.
Still, she stepped back to let him in, despite a rapidly growing unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Hey, you're back early," she said as he moved inside quickly, looking more and more alarmed.
What is he looking at? she wondered with increasing concern. That was when she realized that he was looking at her, and that she wasn't wearing the long sleeved shirt that she had meant to put on before he arrived. In her haste to open the door, she had completely forgotten. Now it all rushed back to her: the fact that since she had purposely worn long sleeves around everyone, him included, for the last few months, this was the first time he'd seen her this exposed in a very long time.
Was it silly to feel self-conscious, almost naked, around him while she was still technically, completely clothed? Some might say yes, especially since he'd spent so many hours studying pictures of her in which she was actually completely naked. And yet, she did.
He was going to see them eventually, wasn't he? The way things have been going between the two of you? her mind demanded as she scrambled to think of a way to stop the panic she felt increasing exponentially every second inside her. That thought, while logical, didn't stop her mind from spinning out of control, however.
His hand moved slowly to what was left of a particularly wide and gruesome looking gash in her left upper arm, just below her shoulder, and by the time he touched the skin there, he looked genuinely horrified.
"Jane," he whispered, but no other words came out.
Damn damn damn! she screamed in her head. I didn't want him to see any of that. I didn't want him to see me like that. Again, the fact that it had been logically inevitable didn't make her feel any better. Not even a tiny bit.
She turned, no longer looking at him, to try to walk away, to reach where she'd left her shirt on the other side of the room, or at the very least to not be standing in front of him, having to watch the horror and revulsion in his face, but he stepped in front of her, setting his hands gently on her shoulders, looking down at her in, she saw when she finally looked up at him again, anguish.
"Jane," he said again, and once again, he could say nothing else. He had no words as he looked at the skin that was now visible around her tank top that was normally covered by her less revealing long sleeved shirts. It was only now that he realized that he hadn't seen her in less than long sleeves and pants since she'd been back, since she'd been held by the CIA, with the exception of that hospital gown which covered almost as much…
What did you think happened to her in that black site? his mind demanded. She'd told them that she had been tortured, and the FBI doctors had confirmed this. He'd even skimmed her file after the doctor's report had been added… The only way he could not have known about this was because he willfully refused to acknowledge it. And now, here was the evidence in front of his eyes… the consequences of his actions. He wondered if he was going to be sick, and silently begged himself not to be. That would definitely not help Jane's ego, even if it was himself that he was nauseated by just then, not her.
His fingers were moving from the first gash he'd seen, on to the next badly healed wound, and then the next and the next, as if he was connecting a twisted set of dots. She wanted to stop him, or better still, wanted to scroll back time and put her other shirt on before she'd gone to the door. Closing her eyes, she willed it all to stop, willed him to stop… willed herself not to be there at all, while she was at it… but no words came out.
Instead, suddenly she saw Keaton and the other men who'd been with him, heard their voices in her ears, smelled the stench of their breath in her face and of the dungeon she'd been held in, and worst of all, felt the blows that had given her those scars in the first place – those scars and some other, even more painful ones that were still hidden beneath her tank top. Her eyes squeezed shut on their own, as she suddenly tried to retreat inside her mind, as she had done so often at the black site.
No…. no no no no no no no no no… Suddenly it was the only word she could form, though it was still only in her head.
Though she knew that it was all in her mind, that she wasn't there any longer, that it was Kurt standing in front of her and that he would never hurt her, she suddenly couldn't convince herself of that fact. Without opening her eyes, she began backing away from him, losing all sense of where she was or what was around her, and almost immediately tripping backwards as she bumped into the corner of the wall where it turned and opened into the living room. This only made the panic she felt that much worse, as her arms flailed out behind her and she stumbled, falling to the ground and then blindly scrambling to get away. She didn't know what she was doing or where she was going, and even when she opened her eyes, it was as though she didn't see her actual surroundings – her safe house – she saw only the dungeon of the black site where she'd been tortured for months.
That was when she started screaming and struggling against him. He'd attempted to catch her before she'd fallen, realizing too late what was happening. He'd been too caught up in his shock over the marks on her skin and what they meant. Now she was on the floor, struggling to get away from him as if her life depended on it, and all he knew was that he just had to somehow get through to her before she hurt herself. He scrambled after her, calling her name, before realizing that restraining her would be a bad idea. Not only could she probably get away if he tried to hold her, and kick his ass in the process, but she wasn't in her right mind right now, and whatever she thought was happening too her, she was reliving what she'd been through.
It was the first time this had ever happened when she was awake. She'd had nightmares about Keaton and the CIA for months afterwards on an almost nightly basis, and sometimes she still did even now, but she'd never slipped back to that place while she was awake. Her mind was split between needing to get away at all costs and being conscious of the fact that what she was seeing was not actually happening to her. She wondered fleetingly if she was losing her mind.
Suddenly the hands that had been trying to catch her were gone, and as she stopped fighting, simply stopping, frozen in place and trying to catch her breath, the rest of it faded as well. Before she knew it, she was back in her safe house, crouched on the floor, hearing Kurt calling her name somewhere in the distance. She was gulping for air so hard that she was almost choking, and there were tears pouring down her cheeks. Curling herself into a tight ball, she shook her head against it all. She felt utterly powerless, and what had just happened had been terrifying.
I can't, she thought simply. No other words would come.
It had taken all of his willpower to back off, away from her, when he could see what was happening, but it had been the right call. She'd started to come back to the present, as if whatever had just happened in her mind was suddenly fading and she sensed that she was back in her actual surroundings. He'd seen the difference in her eyes when she'd regained consciousness, before she'd squeezed them tightly shut again. And then, just like that, she'd curled herself into a ball, eyes closed, cutting herself off from everything.
His heart ached for her, possibly more now than ever before – though there had been so many times when he had felt for her so desperately, it was impossible to be sure. For some reason, for Jane it always seemed to be one step forward and five steps back. Unable to watch her suffer like this any longer, and fairly sure that she was no longer hallucinating about being back at the black site, he was now officially done keeping his distance from her. After all, contact had always been the way he had calmed her down, and that was the thing she needed most just then. Moving towards her steadily – though not too fast, lest she open her eyes and find him threatening again, for whatever reason – he reached her side in seconds.
"Jane," he said once again. Her name was still the only word he uttered since he'd arrived. "Jane… I'm sorry." He stroked her hair gently a few times, watching as the tension that had electrified her a moment before seemed to simply flow out of her, leaving her limp and helpless. Her body now shook violently, racked with her sobs. It was killing him to see her like this, and suddenly he knew what he had to do.
She'd rolled herself into such a tight ball, it was easy for him to reach all the way around her. Before he did any more than put his arms around her, however, he leaned down to first whisper in her ear. "Jane, it's me. It's Kurt. You're okay. I'm going to lift you up now, okay?" He leaned his forehead against the side of her head, just above her ear, for a few seconds, willing her to breathe, to stay with him. Then, gathering his strength and hoping that she had heard him, and that she wasn't going to panic, he slowly began lifting the small bundle that Jane had molded herself into, managing to somehow get to his feet and moving slowly and carefully towards the couch.
Once there, he held onto her as he sat down slowly and carefully, letting her fall into his lap while keeping a firm, but not tight, hold around her. He pulled the beige blanket from the end of the couch over her, thinking that its soft texture might be soothing. After all, it was the opposite of whatever she was flashing back to. She was still crying, eyes shut tightly, and hadn't said a word, but she wasn't struggling against him, which was a good start. He reached for the TV remote and hit the 'Off' button, opting for quiet rather than the noise of whatever had just come on.
"Ssshhhh," he murmured soothingly, kissing her forehead. "Come back to me, Jane." He put one hand on the back of her neck, one of the few places that he knew was safe to touch without triggering anything, moving his thumb back and forth slowly, simply focusing on listening to her breathing in and out, rocking her slightly in his lap.
She was slowly calming down, he could tell. Her breathing had slowed down almost to normal, and her hands were no longer clenched in fists, but had instead slowly wound around her middle, as if she was bracing herself for blows from an invisible enemy. Seeing her like this only made him hold her closer.
Her cheek leaned against his chest, the top of her head tucked under his chin, and the last thing she wanted to do was to move. Just listen to his heartbeat, she told herself, focusing on that and nothing else for quite a while. As she calmed down, her thoughts began to stray to what had just happened. She knew that they were going to need to deal with this, to talk about it. Even if she put on her long sleeved shirt now, it couldn't make him un-see anything. Besides, as she'd told herself before, as close as they had gotten, it had only been a matter of time.
Somehow, it never occurred to her that he would be far more concerned with the fact that she'd been hallucinating about being back at the black site than he was about the scars on her skin. In her mind, she assumed that he would find them – her – grotesque. It never occurred to her that what might horrify him was not the way her torture had scarred her, but that she had been tortured at all.
After allowing herself another ten minutes or so of sitting quietly with him under the blanket, listening to his heartbeat, she forced herself to pick up her head and sit back slightly to look at him. "I'm sorry," she said quietly. "For… freaking out."
He shook his head at her in what appeared to be disbelief. "Jane, don't… you don't have to apologize for that. After everything you've been through… I just…" He had trouble getting the words to come out, but he pressed forward. "All I care about is that you're okay."
She smiled, though it was forced, and looked down as she nodded. "I know," she replied, feeling her eyes grow suspiciously damp.
"I didn't… I mean, I should have…" He couldn't form another sentence. He'd never in his life felt so remorseful, so guilty... No, that was wrong. It was exactly how he'd felt about Taylor's disappearance, and then again when he'd found out about her murder at the hands of his own father… The pain in his heart was suddenly overwhelming.
Oh, God, he thought as the emotions that he'd been suppressing for so long flooded back and threatened to incapacitate him. How have I made so many bad decisions when it comes to Jane? How do I seem to manage to always fail the people who mean the most to me?
The sorrowful look on his face was painful for her to look at as he looked away from her. It was clear that he was torturing himself now.
I wanted him to feel guilty, she remembered vaguely. When they brought me in, I wanted them all to feel guilty for what they had let the CIA do to me… But not anymore… There was still one thing she simply could not understand. How did he not know about all this? she wondered. The FBI doctors saw everything, it must have been in the report.
He was too busy hating you, her mind whispered in reply. This thought would have crushed her earlier, but now she had already moved beyond this fact. It didn't matter anymore. The only thing that mattered was right now.
"Kurt," she whispered breathlessly, "I am… okay, I mean… Or I… want to be…" She inhaled a shaky breath, trying to steady herself, but feeling anything but steady. Exhaling and feeling herself shake just as much, her face contorted in frustration. When she spoke again, it was with great effort as her voice broke, but she pushed the words out anyway. "I just want it all to be over… but it feels like it's never going to be over." Tears fell down her cheeks again, and she leaned her head against him, defeated.
If he could have done only one thing in the world, it would be to lift this burden that she still carried after all this time. All of it. He had thought that she was doing so much better, and now he was afraid that he'd just set her back to the beginning again. Why life had decided to dump so much on one person, he couldn't understand.
That's interesting, coming from you, he thought. He realized the irony then, because a hell of a lot had been dumped on him in his life, too, and yet all he could think about was her. He pulled her just a little tighter, running his hands gently over her hair. "It's over, Jane, I promise," he whispered.
Nodding quickly as her eyes closed, she concentrated only on the sensation of Kurt's hand, of this other arm around her, and of the soft fabric of the blanket that covered the two of them. He was the opposite of what she'd been reliving, after all. While Keaton had used every means available to him to inflict pain on her, both mental and physical, Kurt would never do anything to hurt her. She knew that. She just had to focus on it.
After nearly an hour like that, he thought that she might be asleep. He was perfectly content where he was, so time was irrelevant for the moment. He had nowhere else that he needed to be, unless of course work called, which it had done far less during the off hours since Sandstorm had been taken down. What was even more important, there was nowhere else that he wanted to be – nowhere but there with Jane.
Finally, she sat up and leaned back again, her resolve strengthening. "I'm sorry that I didn't say anything," she began, but he was already shaking his head. "I thought you knew."
"No," he said. "I knew where you'd been. I didn't…" Now it was his turn to look away, his expression pained. "I couldn't… I guess I just couldn't let myself believe it." The last words barely came out. It hurt to know that he'd known that this had happened to her, but that he had chosen to ignore it because he hadn't been confronted with the reality directly. They all knew that she'd been held in a black site. They hadn't known at the time, maybe, but they'd certainly known since they got her back. What had happened to her there should have been easy to guess. He simply hadn't allowed himself to focus on that part…
I could have at least read her file carefully, he thought miserably. I could have asked her… I just assumed… I don't even know what I assumed... That she looked fine to me, so she was fine?
"It's not your fault," she whispered, but he just shook his head.
"I should have…" he began slowly, but there was no way she was letting him go down that road. After all, how many things were there that they both should have done along the way? If they started thinking that way, they would never stop.
"Maybe," she replied matter-of-factly, cutting him off. He looked up at her in surprise, because it was not what he'd expected her to say. "But think about all the things we should have done since we met. We can't go there, can't do that to ourselves. It's just… there's way too many of them. We're here now, not there. We just have to… let those things go." She paused, watching him carefully and hoping that logic would prevail. "Okay?"
He digested her words slowly. Though it was hard to swallow, he knew that it was the truth. There were far too many things that they both regretted saying and doing, enough to build a mountain that would tumble over and crush what they had managed to salvage. No, she was right, they couldn't do that. Not if they wanted to keep what they had carefully rebuilt between them – and he wanted that more than anything.
He looked back at her then, his expression pained. "Did you at least… I assume that the doctor… treated you for… them, somehow? When you… got back?" Every one of those words felt wrong coming out of his mouth, like he had no right say them to her somehow, after waiting so long. But he had to know.
She nodded, watching the anguish on his face. "Yes, they kept me under observation for a while, when everything was… fresh… to make sure they didn't get infected. I still have some cream for the bad ones…" She shrugged as if it didn't matter. "But I can't…" Realizing what she was saying and what his reply would be, she stopped mid-sentence, shrugging again and looking away.
Dammit, she thought.
"But you can't reach them all," he finished for her, and he actually felt her wince at his words. She obviously knew exactly what came next, after all, and she was shaking her head before he'd opened his mouth to speak. "Don't argue with me, Jane," he said seriously, despite the fact that she hadn't said a word to argue with him. They both knew the other's thoughts, so they'd simply skipped saying them out loud. "Because I'm going to, and you know it." Then, his voice softening, he said, "I owe you at least that much." Again, she just shook her head, closing her eyes for a second before looking back at him.
"You don't owe me anything," she replied, her own voice only coming out in a whisper.
"We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one," he said, his mouth curving into a sad smile. Then, after a pause, his face changed and he tried without success to convey what he was thinking. "I mean, I know that it's… I just wish that I'd realized… That…" He wished that he hadn't been so stupid. That she'd said something to him, even though there was no reason in the world why she should have had to. He shook his head and gave up trying to express his thoughts for the moment.
Sighing, she looked down at the front of his shirt, unable to meet his eyes. "Even if I'd realized that you didn't know, it's not really something that comes up in conversation. You know, 'Hey, so you know how the CIA tortured me? Well, it's really, really, gross, you should take a look.'" She paused and looked up at him with a sad smile, then added, "I didn't want you to see me like that. You haven't even seen the bad part. It's… pretty gruesome." She shuddered just thinking about it.
Now it was his turn to inhale a slow, shaky breath. "Jane, I…" He was still having trouble finding the words. Any words, really. "I don't care about that. You know that, don't you? I only care about you. That you're okay. The only thing that horrifies me is the idea that anyone could hurt you like that."
She just stared down at his shirt for a few more seconds, wanting to believe him, and yet… When she finally forced herself to look up into his eyes, however, she felt herself stabilize. Yes, she knew it. She wanted to tell him that she did know, but words failed her. And then, as much as she desperately wanted to believe it… could she?
There's only one way to be sure, the voice in her head told her.
Without another word, she scooted herself slightly away from him, moving with some effort, with both how far she'd been leaning into him and the angle of the couch working against her. She moved the blanket off of her and scooted forward, so that when she finally stopped moving, she was sitting at the edge of his lap, facing away from him, perched on his knees with her feet on the floor. She looked back at him over her shoulder, making eye contact with him and holding it for what felt like a long time before finally looking away. In that time that they looked at each other, everything and nothing passed between them, like a long, deep conversation between people who knew each other so well that no words were even necessary for understanding… because that was exactly what it was, what they were.
"Jane," he said quietly, putting his hands lightly on her hips, touching the bottom edge of her tank top ever so slightly with his thumbs. Somehow he was almost certain he knew what she was about to do.
"You don't have to do that," he told her, shaking his head.
"I know," she whispered, but didn't stop moving.
Turning back to face away from him, she crossed her forearms over each other as she grasped the bottom edge of her tank top, pausing for a few seconds to ask herself if she was sure that she wanted to do this.
No, she thought, I don't. But it's important… and it's Kurt. She couldn't have explained why that made it okay to do something that she never would have done voluntarily in front of anyone else, she only knew that it was important for him to see her scars. Without allowing herself another second of hesitation, she pulled her tank top over her head, holding her breath for what came next, her hands clasped anxiously in front of her.
He gasped slightly, without meaning to, before he caught himself. He'd somehow known what she was doing when she'd looked over her shoulder at him, and he could read in her eyes exactly how much she didn't want to do it. Never in a million years would he have insisted, or even asked her to do that. On the contrary, he'd meant it when he'd told her that she didn't have to. But the fact that she now sat there in front of him completely vulnerable, solely so that he could see exactly what the CIA had done to her, only made him love her more. At the same time, he felt his heart breaking for her all over again.
The things that she endured because she believed that it would keep us – keep me – safe… even when she believed that we had turned her over to the CIA willingly. It was unfathomable.
And yes, she was sitting in front of him in only her bra. Under other circumstances, the effect would have been completely different, of course. That wasn't what this was about, however, and it was all that he could do to force himself to look at the horrific ways that her skin had been mutilated by the torture she had endured. After having spent hours staring at pictures of her tattoos in the time since he'd met her, he was dismayed to see the way that they had been disfigured, to the point that some of them were almost unrecognizable. While they had been forced on Jane without her consent by the person that she no longer was, and therefore were in one way a violation of her, at the same time, they had been like intricate works of art, something that had simply become a part of her being Jane. But now…
She heard a choked sob behind her, and a shiver ran down her spine. His fingertips were on her back then, just barely touching her skin, but moving across it nonetheless. She shivered again, closing her eyes as more than a few tears were pushed down her cheeks by the motion of her eyelids. She reminded herself to breathe, willing herself to remember that she was safe.
The only silver lining that she'd come up with in all the time since she'd been back was that she herself didn't have to see the scars on her back, at least not as often as if they'd been on the front of her – though of course she had looked at them in the mirror on many occasions. She knew from comparing them with the ones that she could see that the ones on her back were the worst. It didn't help that she couldn't reach a good portion of her back to be able to apply the cream that they'd given her when the doctor had cleared her, so they weren't healing as well as they were supposed to. Who they'd assumed that task would fall to, she did not know.
While a part of her wanted to see his reaction, and a part of her was thankful that she didn't have to, and just then she couldn't bring herself to turn around. The next thing she knew, she felt his forehead against the center of her back, on the spot where she knew his name was, though it no longer looked the way it did in the pictures in her file. She knew from memory that the burns that had been inflicted on that part of her skin had made his name only partially legible.
Somehow he had been able to look at the mass of scars that covered her back for several minutes, taking in every detail in horror. Though he had desperately wanted to look away, he had found that he couldn't – not before he had studied every inch of every scar. After all, he had looked away for long enough. All of the wounds were at least partially healed, though some of them looked like they must still be very painful. There were burns of many different shapes and sizes, wide gashes, huge areas that were still discolored, even months later… These discolorations were completely unlike the colored ink used in her tattoos, and were obviously severe bruises, possibly the remains of internal bleeding. There were also many, many narrow lines that looked as though they had once been incisions… and then a sickening number of marks that he couldn't identify. He felt bile rising in his throat as he thought of the circumstances under which all of those marks had ended up there, and he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
I allowed this to happen. Through my inaction, I allowed this to happen, he thought over and over.
He closed his eyes, unable to look at the damage that had been done to her for another second. Not because he was disgusted with her, but because it physically hurt him to imagine that one human being could do that to another human being, especially to someone that he cared about so deeply.
His head fell forward against her back, just happening to land against what was left of his name. He was struggling to breathe normally, but failing. His hands still sat on her hips, and as his head leaned against her back, he slowly wound his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him without even a thought about what he was doing. He simply needed her closer, to reassure himself that she was there in front of him, and that he wasn't just staring at pictures of what had happened to her. That she was still alive, because how could anyone survive something like that?
Breathe in, breathe out, he reminded himself. Breathe in, Breathe out. And then, the only other word his mind could form just then… Jane…
The pain he felt inside of him reminded him of when he'd found Taylor's remains – that was how sharply it cut through him… except this time, he had no one else to blame. This time, it was his fault.
Now that he was closer to her, his head now pressed into her hair, she could feel him shaking. She'd been holding her shirt balled up in her lap, and though she didn't hate the feel of him holding onto her against her bare skin, Kurt had clearly reached his breaking point. She almost felt guilty for springing so much on him at once, but there was really no gradual or gentle way she could have done it. What had been done to her was horrific, and there was no way around it. No matter what the circumstances, his reaction would have been the same.
So now she spread her shirt back out on her lap, then lifted it carefully, trying to work around the tight hold he had on her. She slipped the tank top back over her head, moving gently just a fraction of an inch away from him so that she could tug the fabric between them, and then pulled it down to where it was supposed to sit, covering at least some of her scars once more. At least the worst ones.
"I…" she started, but she simply didn't know what to say, so she just shook her head. Kurt was still holding onto her tightly, but she managed to turn back around, sliding back down to where she had been sitting in his lap. She tried to look into his eyes, but he couldn't bring himself to look at her. For a second she felt guilty, wondering if she shouldn't have shown him, or what would be far worse, if he was now disgusted by her… Her first thought was that that was unlikely, and yet… it made her very uneasy that he wouldn't he look at her.
"I'm sorry, Jane," he said in a choked whisper then, his voice barely loud enough to hear. She looked back up at him, seeing him finally meet her eyes. In them she saw the better of the two alternatives, all things considered: guilt was better than disgust.
Tears were already in her eyes before she'd had time to think about how to react. For a long time, she had wanted nothing more thanfor him to feel guilty about what had been done to her. But now? Seeing the anguish that it was causing him, she wished for anything but this.
She pressed her hand against his cheek, the scruff a welcome sensation beneath her fingers. The rough texture of it made him just feel that much more real. "Don't…" she pleaded. "It's not your fault. It's… it's done. I know that you'd never…"
This Kurt Weller, the one holding onto her tightly, he would have done anything to stop this from happening to her, as would the one who she had once upon a time told that he was her starting point. The one that she had known in between… she understood why he had been angry. She understood that while he hadn't actively wanted any of it to happen to her, he hadn't exactly stopped it, either. Not that he'd had all of the information… But holding onto the place where they'd been stuck for so long, where so many of their demons still lurked, wouldn't do either of them any good. On the contrary, it would only take away what they now had.
It was done. They couldn't go back. What was more important, they didn't have to go back.
Tears were on both of their cheeks now, and they were clinging to each other fiercely, as if at any second, some force might try to pry them apart. Every once in a while one of them would start to murmur something, and the other would snuggle tighter against them. Mostly they were apologies, all of which the other refused to allow. There was no blame left between them, except what they held onto for themselves.
Eventually, she leaned back slightly and stretched. "I'll be right back," she said, pushing herself slowly to sit up.
"Hold on," he said, catching hold of her shoulders, but quickly moving his hands to her cheeks. He held onto her face while he leaned forward to kiss her. A small part of her had been afraid of how he would react to her after he'd seen what he'd seen. She knew better than to think that he would judge her for it, but at the same time… she knew exactly how gruesome it was. And as he kissed her as if she was the most precious thing in the world to him – which she was, of course – she felt the doubt melt away.
Opening her eyes again, she found him looking at her fondly, and she couldn't help but smile. She tilted her forehead forward, and he took the opportunity to lean towards her and plant a kiss there, as well.
"I love you," he whispered against her forehead, and she tilted her face back up towards him, slowing almost to a stop with less than an inch between them, which made him grin with anticipation. Moving forward agonizingly slowly, as far as he was concerned, she whispered, "I love you, too," just as she leaned her lips against his, kissing him once again. A minute later she leaned back just a fraction, barely enough to be able to talk while still keeping their lips against each other, she said, "May I go to the bathroom now? I was trying to be subtle, but someone started kissing me…" He leaned back and laughed heartily in surprise, thinking that this woman could not be any more perfect if she tried.
"Only if you promise to come back," he said with a grin.
"Always," she replied sweetly, kissing him quickly once more and then pushing herself up off the couch for the first time in what she discovered, upon consulting the clock on the wall, was several hours.
When she came out of the bathroom, he wasn't on the couch. Following the small noises she heard, she tracked him to the kitchen, where she found him making two of her favorite things, coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches. She leaned against the doorway and watched him for a second, before he looked up and smiled at her. When he looked into her eyes, it was as though she was propelled forward by a magnet toward him, and before she'd even thought about it, she was trying to wiggle her way in front of him where he stood at the counter, slicing cheese.
"Hey, what're you doing?" he asked, grinning and slipping his left arm around her waist, simultaneously trying to pull her out of his way so that he could continue his work – which was harder with one hand, of course, and since he was using a knife, a little bit dangerous.
"Why, do you want me to go?" she asked, looking into his eyes innocently and pretending to be serious. The twinkle in hers betrayed her, of course.
He looked at her just as seriously, leaning closer to her and whispered simply, "Never."
Without missing a beat or looking away, she replied, "Good, because this is my house." He looked at her in surprise for a second, his face breaking into a wide grin, and he leaned forward to kiss her once more. He was never, ever going to get tired of being able to do that.
"Will you please take at least one step back so that I can make you something to eat? And so that neither of us ends up with an unnecessary stab wound?" he asked her patiently. "I'm hoping to only slice the cheese." Looking at him in surprise, not having expected to be asked to step away from him, she took his words as a challenge. Therefore, she took the requested one step, moving just far enough so that she was now standing behind him, threading her arms around his waist.
"How's this?" she asked over his shoulder, standing up on her toes to try to lean closer to his ear. He couldn't help but grin, because it was so like her to do something like that.
"No complaints," he said over his shoulder, "though I am going to need to step over to the stove in a second. This may get slightly more dangerous."
"I'm ready," she replied, laying her cheek against his back, just between his shoulder blades. She felt the rumble as he chuckled, and she couldn't help but feel the glow of happiness returning to her, despite the turn the day had taken. Leaning up and standing on her tip toes to kiss the back of his neck, she hesitantly released her arms from around him.
"Just kidding," she told him, "I'll get out of your way." He grinned at her before returning his attention to the food, and she wandered out of the kitchen, back around to the living room. She walked to the small table there, where she'd left her sketchbook sitting before he'd arrived.
She'd recently started drawing again, mainly sketching her tattoos – starting her collection from scratch once again. Before, she'd had enough drawings to cover a large wall, but since they'd all been confiscated, along with everything else in her safe house, when Kurt had arrested her, she had simply started over. Though she was drawing largely the same pictures, she hadn't even thought of asking for them back. Despite the minimal differences from the ones she was now drawing, it was more what those pictures symbolized. She didn't want anything from that time back. Sometimes she wondered if it would be easier to simply erase it from her memory so that she wouldn't have to remember it.
No, she reminded herself, there are some things, even though they're painful, that we're supposed to remember. That's one of them.
The drawings were easy enough to replicate, of course, and in a way the process of doing so was soothing, so she didn't exactly mind having to start all over again… She simply tried not to think about the reason that she no longer had the others. The most noticeable difference was that this time she hadn't put them up on the wall, leaving them in her sketchbook instead. That way, she could look at them when she wanted to, but she could also close the book on them – literally – when she didn't feel like having them stare at her.
At the moment she was working on a collage of a few of her tattoos all on one page, with the "Kurt Weller FBI" tattoo at the center and others arranged around it, overlapping each other. The biggest difference between the tattoos as she was drawing them now and how she had done before was that she was drawing them the way they looked now, the lines marred and broken by the abuse her skin had suffered. Nearly all of them had been changed in some way, just as she had. In one way, it was unsettling to see them all broken, since she remembered all too well how they had looked before, but in another, it seemed fitting. After all, look at what she had survived. It was like a symbol of what she had been through.
How funny, she thought. Once upon a time, you found the very existence of the tattoos disturbing, horrifying… and now you're actually lamenting the fact that they don't look the way they used to. It was funny how things – people – could change over time.
A few minutes later Kurt walked over to the table with coffee and a sandwich for her. He stopped beside her to put the plate and mug down off to the side, and then pulled the other chair over beside her to get a closer look at her drawing. He hadn't seen this one before, and he stared at it in surprise.
"Wow," he said simply. "That's… beautiful, Jane." Looking up at him and smiling proudly, she shook her head slightly.
"Thanks," she whispered, glancing between him and her sketchbook a little bit self-consciously. "I've started drawing them… you know… the way they look now…"
"It's really powerful like that," he said, laying his hand on her shoulder and squeezing it for a few seconds, then getting up again only reluctantly to retrieve his own food. He was back again in a minute, but by then she'd closed her sketchbook, gotten up from the table and set the book on the coffee table, not wanting to take the chance of something spilling on it. As he set down his plate and mug, he watched her pick up the familiar black long sleeved shirt that lay at the end of the couch. What had happened earlier all made sense, suddenly. She'd probably just forgotten to put it on when he'd arrived.
"You're going to be pretty hot in that," he told her, "It's warm in here today."
She just shrugged, shaking it out and looking for the tag so she'd know which way to put it on. In a few steps he was standing in front of her, his hand on her arm as gently as ever. "Jane, don't put that on on my account," he said softly. "If you want to, fine… but don't do it just because I'm here." He wasn't sure she would believe him, but despite his initial surprise, he really didn't care. It was more the fact that thinking about anyone hurting her, much less hurting her that much had driven him past his breaking point.
"As a matter of fact…" he said, stepping back slightly and eyeing her tank top mischievously, "don't feel like you need to wear that one on my account, either…"
Her eyes narrowed playfully at him, and she took two steps back before she threw her now balled up long sleeved shirt at his face. "Nice try, Weller," she laughed. He caught the shirt before it could fall on the floor, grinning, and then stepped forward to catch her hand before she could step any farther away. He might have been blushing a little – it was always hard to quite tell with the scruff on his face.
"Hey," he said, looking at her seriously for a second. "You're beautiful. I thought so from the first day I met you. You were beautiful then, and you're beautiful now. Okay?"
She stared into his eyes and felt her heart swell. How are you even real? she wondered. I don't deserve this. Several seconds went by in which they just stood there, watching each other, his hand still on her arm.
"Yes you do," he whispered, raising his eyebrows at her playfully and then letting them fall again quickly several times.
"I do what?" she asked defiantly, sure that he couldn't possibly know what she'd been thinking.
"Deserve all of this," he replied matter-of-factly – at which point her jaw dropped open and he couldn't contain his laughter. "You had the same look you always get on your face when you're thinking that," he told her. "There was one time, a long time ago, when you looked at me like that and I asked you what you were thinking. Same look." She just continued to stare at him, still in shock. "I know you," he grinned at her, now completely delighted with himself. "For example, I also know that—"
And so Jane did the only thing she could think of to get him to stop talking – she leaned forward and kissed him, not letting him stop to breathe until it was absolutely necessary, for fear that he'd restart the conversation just because he was so enjoying proving his point. When she did let them stop for air, she looked at him gleefully and said, "Oh yeah? Well I know you, too."
"That you do," he smiled back at her. Then, glancing at the table, he saw the food that he'd prepared for them still sitting there, untouched. "Hey, we should eat before everything gets cold."
"Yes, we should," she agreed. "In just a minute." With that, she leaned forward to kiss him again, draping her arms over his shoulders. And who was he to argue with her logic? Of course they would eat… eventually…
That evening, they lay on the couch together watching a movie – neither of them remembered the name of the movie, and probably couldn't have given a coherent summary of the plot, either. They were in the same corner of the couch where they'd ended up on the night when Kurt had found Jane upstairs hiding from her nightmares. This time, Kurt was laying behind her, his right arm draped over her waist as he, unbeknownst to her at first, was studying the few of her scars that were visible from his angle. The tank top hid some of them, her angle on the couch hid others, but neither of these things hid all of them.
She didn't immediately know what he was doing when she felt fingertips moving along her skin, but when he touched one of the ones that was still sensitive, she figured it out quickly. He apologized immediately when she flinched, tensing up before his eyes. He withdrew his hand, wanting to do something to fix it but was momentarily afraid of hurting her, so he just leaned away. Rolling part way onto her back to look up at him, she smiled with only a hint of sadness. "You don't have to stop," she whispered, "Just… not that one, okay?" He nodded, letting his fingers fall back to her upper back carefully, while avoiding the particularly sensitive spot as she rolled back onto her left side.
"Of course," he replied quietly, leaning down to kiss her bare shoulder, very glad that she had decided that she was comfortable in her tank top, at least around him. Instead of tracing any more of her scars, however, he simply wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him tightly. No matter that he knew that she was more than capable of defending herself under any kind of normal circumstances. Their lives had already proven to be full of anything but normal circumstances, and if he could have gotten away with never letting go of her again, of protecting her from anything and everything that could ever threaten to hurt her for the rest of her life, he would have done it. Of course, that was a bit of an issue, because her tendency to fiercely kick ass was one of the many things that he loved about her… and then there was the fact that she would never have let him shelter her so completely. So instead, he settled for just holding her tightly at that moment.
She sighed, her eyes falling closed as she gave in to the cloud of happiness that surrounded her. What had Kurt told her not too long ago? Something about how when he was with her, nothing else seemed to matter. That was exactly how she felt just then. Nothing else happening outside that room was important to her whatsoever at that moment. As if reading her mind, she heard a contented sigh from behind her, and smiled as she felt Kurt kiss her on the back of the neck, then lean his face into her hair.
"It's too good to be true, but it's still not a dream," he whispered from behind her. She squeezed her hands, which were clasped around his forearms, holding onto her so tightly, and leaned back against him happily. She wouldn't trade this moment for anything in the world.
It wasn't the first time that she'd been happy, though looking back, she could directly connect Kurt to all of the times when she had been happy – that she could remember. Laying there with him, pretending to watch a movie but really just relishing the excuse to be so close to him, as she always did, she suddenly got the feeling that whatever lay ahead for them, the good stuff was only just beginning. Surely they'd been through enough Hell for more than one lifetime, possibly two or three.
It wasthe first time, however, that after so much struggle, heartache and upheaval, she felt like she was starting to know who she was and where she belonged. She also knew that she never would have figured it out without the man who was holding onto her so tightly. Never mind that if he hadn't been there, she probably never would have been sent to the FBI and she probably would still have been Remi… He had been there, and she had been sent to him. Despite impossible odds, her happiness was because of him, and that was all that mattered now.
I know who I am now, she thought with wonder. Being Jane actually means something. Not only did she feel like she knew who she was, but she also knew that she belonged exactly where she was at that moment – with Kurt, preferably just this close to him.
The rest of her first times lay ahead of her down the road, and suddenly, she could look forward to reaching them instead of just nervously waiting to see what would happen to her next. It was just like Kurt had said: as long as they were together, nothing else really mattered.
We just now got the feeling that we're meeting
For the first time.
A/N: Thank you, everyone, for reading this little voyage into the Blindspot past and a possible (however unlikely, but adorable) Jeller future. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.