A/N: so, here's the long and angsty epilogue that no one asked for... okay maybe one person :D
He was strung up by his arms, in an all too familiar position. Completely helpless as Jane ran straight into the trap that had been laid for her; unable to even warn her as an unseen assailant kept beating him in the chest with a bat, not allowing him any air.
She collapsed in front of him, just metres away. Kurt tried to yell for her but again he was struck in the ribs as Ivy stood over Jane, kneeling on her windpipe while his wife was already passing out.
Jane struggled for a moment but soon her body sagged and went completely still. Weller hung there and hollered her name, over and over until there wasn't a breath left in his broken body. It was then that the bat came at him again, smashing him in the sternum and his world exploded in pain.
Weller awoke with his entire torso on fire, and the sick thud of metal hitting bone still ringing in his mind. He was gasping for air in absolute panic, desperate to find Jane and feeling like he was being seared from the inside out. Which made that day just like every other day of his recovery so far, the agony of his body eternally reminding him of what had happened to him, even in his sleep.
But, as always, although he was barely awake and choking on his breath, Kurt also became aware of a comforting pressure his chest. A light but solid feeling that somehow pushed back against the panic and the pain that threatened to overwhelm him.
He'd experienced plenty of abuse and torture on the job, as well as numerous medical procedures to fix the damage from those incidents. But Weller had never hurt that badly, not even after the multiple abdominal surgeries he'd needed to fix the bullet hole in his side. Nor had he ever had such intense dreams, worse than the ones he'd had after finally finding Taylor.
Yet at the same time, Kurt had never been so pampered, so completely taken care of that he was feeling anxious about it. Not that he didn't want Jane's constant attention and concern; only her touch could soothe the unrelenting distress of his body. And, though he hated to admit it, Weller had succumbed to the fact that he needed her help to even take a piss; the journey to the bathroom still too far to make on his own. Yet he could also see the toll her new role as fulltime nurse was taking on his wife and that was eating at his heart. Especially because he knew she was hurting too, her own body and mind also still recovering from everything that had happened.
"You're okay, you can breathe," she whispered, her lips close to his ear. "I'm right here."
Waking up was often the hardest part of the day, that moment of remembering how agonizing it was to be conscious. And of course his body was extra tight in the mornings, all his abused muscles and tendons stiff with disuse. His first movements also pulled at the scabbing on his back, all of it ripping a little as he shuffled around in bed.
Then there was the issue of his damaged lungs constantly pushing against his shattered ribcage. Honestly, there were some days when he had just gotten back from the hospital that Weller genuinely thought he couldn't cope with the burning in his chest, even after taking the prescribed medication.
But Jane had always been there beside him, literally holding him up and talking him through the pain, no matter how long it took. Even though she was supposedly sleeping in the other room because any movement of the bed disturbed his already fractured sleep. He was sure she was awake all night checking on him. It was the only way to explain how she heard his silent screams and always showed up just when he needed her.
She was so patient he didn't understand how she managed it, listening to him moan endlessly with the slightest movements. Especially since it had already been a week since he'd been released from the hospital and his function had barely improved. Weller was still exhausted and in constant pain, basically needing her for just about everything. Which was wearing on him; starting to make him feel even more pathetic than he thought possible.
He hated being so out of control of his own body and also being so emotional too, especially after a lifetime of hiding behind solidly constructed walls. But it had been a slippery slope ever since Jane came into his life and compelled him to let her in. Right up to that point, with him leaning on her so hard that he could see her falling, unable to hold up the weight of his need.
The anxiety of that thought echoed through Weller's mind and quickened his already short breath. Which then stoked the fire in his chest again, pushing him towards the panic that kept trying to take over his existence. All of this happening before he could manage to open his eyes and remember that he was safe, in his own bed, in their apartment in New York.
All their previously government-seized property had been given back to them as soon as they'd been officially cleared. Yet Weller's head was still having a hard time processing it all and kept dreaming of being in the bunker still, or worse, in Ivy's torture chamber again. Then, just like that morning, he'd wake up screaming and Jane would be there rubbing the palm of her hand on his shoulder, the only place on his torso that wasn't too tender to touch.
"That's it, just keep breathing like that," Jane said, her voice full of relief. He knew how much it affected her to see him lose it nearly every day and hated himself for it. Even though he had no control over the beast or the pain.
It seemed like that was all that he was going to be capable of for awhile yet; just getting air in and out while his body tried to repair itself. And he had to be on heavy painkillers to even manage that. All of which was grating on him, making him increasingly impatient at his slow rate of recovery.
Even though Jane kept reminding him that there wasn't any rush now, that he had time to heal. He was sure she had to be sick of being stuck in the apartment, helping him with exercises and listening to him grumble. Especially since they were finally cleared and free; it should have been such a great time in their lives. But, instead, his injuries had changed the trajectory of everything and he worried that Jane was going to get tired of being his personal nurse, as well as respiratory and physical therapist, masseuse, cook, counsellor. He could already see how tired it was making her just a week in and he knew that it would be months before he could do everything himself again.
"Hey, you're awfully quiet today," she murmured against his ear. "Is everything okay?"
Busted. Of course she'd noticed he was breathing well enough to speak but hadn't even managed a word for her.
Goddammit Kurt, he thought. You have to do better.
"Yeah, sorry," he grunted. "I was just thinking."
"Thanks," he added.
Jane flashed him a suspicious look, as if she knew where his thoughts had wandered to, before her lip twitched upward and her face relaxed into an affectionate smile.
"You know you don't have to thank me for just being here, Kurt," she said.
He didn't bother arguing with her, just lay back as she kissed on his temple, then on the bridge of his nose, before finishing with a light tug on his lips. He couldn't respond quite yet due to his limited air capacity, but he lifted his hand to her cheek as she gave him a bright smile, all of the exhaustion now gone from her eyes.
"Ready to get up?"
Weller nodded, trying to ignore the part of him that just wanted to lie there and avoid the day to come. Jane kept one hand on his shoulder and slipped the other down his back, carefully avoiding his wounds until she had the right spot, then helped guide him into a sitting position despite the protests of his abdominal muscles and ribcage.
Once he was sitting, Kurt was able to push himself around and swing his legs off the bed, then got to his feet quite steadily as Jane's arm hovered behind him in concern. But after just a few steps towards the bathroom, his entire torso became heavy with exhaustion and his breathing started to quicken. Immediately he felt Jane's arm gripping him tightly, supporting him at the waist.
"That was more than halfway," she said, the pride at his miniscule accomplishment evident in her voice. "Let's take a break and you can make it the rest of the way."
Weller grunted his agreement as he leaned against her, trying to build some energy while she held him upright. Again, he thought how he was already sick of the recovery process and he looked at Jane, expecting that she'd be feeling the same impatience with how slow things were going. Yet she looked perfectly content just standing there, holding him to her with a solid but gentle grip and a soft smile at her lips. Which immediately made him feel bad about his own irritation and he mentally resolved to push away his anxieties, at least for the time being.
"Ready," he said, even though he wasn't sure it was the truth.
Jane let go of him again and Kurt stepped slowly towards the bathroom once more, focusing all his determination on putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to think about how much he hurt.
This time he made it to the bathroom, though the last few steps were precarious and he could feel Jane's arm hovering, ready to catch him if he stumbled. Then, when he made it on his own two feet, she rubbed his back gently as he held on to the vanity to rest.
On the way back to bed, Weller let himself lean on Jane, knowing that his respiratory exercises were next on the agenda. Just thinking about practicing deep breathing got his anxiety worked up again; both at the pain involved and at how weak it made him feel, needing help just to breathe properly. But there was no avoiding it, not when Jane was right there, adamantly ensuring that he did all of the reps.
So he dutifully sat on the edge of the bed and Jane sat beside him, supporting his torso with one arm and holding a pillow against his incisions with the other. All the surgeries to his chest and abdomen had left him too weak to hold himself up and protect his wounds while doing the exercises. So, on top of everything else she did for him, Jane got to watch him struggle to breathe and cough, multiple times a day.
The shame washed over him yet again and Weller could feel that it was one of those days where he couldn't shake the guilt. He'd largely done it to himself by being a stubborn ass and insisting on getting up after being beaten to shit. Everything else that had happened since was tied to that action. He'd assured Jane that he was okay to stand up and walk, which had ended up causing her so much worry that he couldn't even fathom why she was still there beside him.
She'd nearly died because he was an obstinate idiot. But instead she'd risked her life to be with him and still helped save the city, only to be rewarded with a job being everything to a wreck of a man.
"You got this, just two more," Jane murmured encouragingly into his ear, momentarily distracting Weller from his dark thoughts.
Kurt pushed through the last reps and was rewarded with a little shoulder rub and a kiss on his temple. Then Jane lifted his shirt and checked the injuries on his back, applying antibiotic cream to everything while Weller did his best not to flinch; biting back his groans at just having his torn skin touched. No matter how impossibly gentle she was with him, the welts on his back lit on fire at the lightest sensation.
When she was finally done ministering to his wounds, Jane supported his torso as he lay back in exhaustion at completing his morning routine. Then she switched to rubbing his chest, in one of the few places that didn't hurt, until he was settled again.
It was genuinely too much, how doting she'd been. He just wasn't used to being cared for so lovingly, so it seemed overwhelming to receive, even though Weller knew he'd do just as much for her if their roles were reversed.
Kurt shuddered at the idea of Jane's body looking and feeling like his. That was one thing to be thankful for, he thought. At least Jane hadn't been tortured again.
But when he looked at the tired creases in the corner of her eyes, Weller could see how much guilt she was carrying with her, how tired she was. So, when Jane leaned over to kiss him before going to make breakfast, he reached out and gripped her hand.
"Don't go," he said.
Jane flashed him a weary grin.
"I'm just going to cook you some eggs. I'll be right back."
"Mmm. No, you're doing too much," he argued.
"Kurt, we have to eat."
"We can eat later," Weller said. "I want you to stay. And sleep with me."
There was a shift in her expression then, from resistance to softness, as he pleaded with his eyes and tugged at her hand. For a second he thought she was still going to turn him down, but then Jane very carefully stepped onto the bed; surprising the hell out of him by kneeling and straddling him. His face must have showed his shock because Jane giggled at his reaction, before leaning down and planting a kiss on his lips.
It was the lightest she'd acted in what seemed like forever and his chest warmed as she broke off the kiss to let him breathe, but continued to caress his features with her mouth until he felt her breath against his ear.
"I love you so much, Kurt Weller. And I love that I have nothing to do but help you heal. So stop being so hard on yourself. Please. That's the only thing that still hurts."
Jane finished talking and worked her mouth back down his jawbone, laying one more kiss on his lips before flipping over to lie beside him on the bed.
Weller felt a smile tug onto his face as he looked over to see Jane snuggling her head into his shoulder, making as much contact as possible. Her eyes were closed already and he could feel the tiredness flow through her body as she curled up beside him.
He had limited mobility but Kurt managed to bend over and kiss his wife on her cheekbone, making her lips curl into a smile.
"This was a good idea," she murmured, sounding well on her way to drifting off.
Weller's damaged chest glowed with warmth, as he was finally able to give something back for everything she'd been doing for him. And, even better, convincing her to get some rest somehow had involved both an endearing show of affection and a very cuddly wife
They were running again.
Why did it always feel like they were running?
Kurt was beside her as usual, pressing her forward as they sprinted away from their sadistic pursuer. He looked fine at the moment but somehow she already knew what was going to happen next, already knew that she'd missed something crucial. Dread flooded over her as Jane realized that, not only was Weller no longer next to her, he'd fallen impossibly far behind in such a short distance. She turned just in time to see him clutch his chest while collapsing to the ground and Jane suddenly understood it was all her fault. He'd been hurt and she hadn't even noticed. And now he was too far away; she was never going to reach him in time.
No matter how hard she moved her legs while sobbing and screaming for Kurt, the distance remained the same as he writhed violently, clearly struggling to breathe. Jane ran and ran, refusing to stop even when she remembered that she hadn't taken the antidote and was nearly out of time.
As she finally got nearer, a bomb somehow appeared beside Kurt; which only made her push harder. Even if he was a broken mess and obviously dying, Jane knew she could still save him if she got there.
After what seemed like eons, she was close enough to see the seconds ticking down on the bomb's display. Kurt was just within reach; they still had a chance.
But as she stumbled to her knees beside him, his chest wasn't moving anymore and he was cold to the touch. Jane screamed his name and pounded on his heart, trying to push air into his broken lungs.
Someone was trying to pull her away and hollering something at her but she couldn't leave him. Eventually they gave up when she refused to be dragged away, leaving her there, bawling and still trying to breathe life into her husband.
But no matter what she did, he wouldn't wake up. And two horrible realizations dawned on her at once.
Kurt wasn't coming back.
And the bomb was about to go off.
Jane bolted awake, her eyes flying open as she silently screamed his name. Her heart was slamming against her ribs, filling her head with a sonic boom as she came back to reality and instantly reached for Kurt.
When he wasn't there beside her, panic jolted her the rest of the way awake and Jane remembered she was sleeping in the guest room, exactly so she wouldn't reach for him and hurt him accidentally.
No worse than she already had.
Jane tried to push the dark thought away but the image of Kurt, so cold and still, wouldn't leave her mind. Even though it was such a familiar nightmare, certainly nothing new. She couldn't help but be flooded with a sense of desperation; it was as if she were being carried away by a current of relentless guilt.
Her instinct was always to run and make sure Kurt was okay; sleeping in their bedroom as he should be. But she needed to stop crying first, in case he woke up while she was checking on him.
It would be so much simpler if he really was right there beside her - if she could be constantly reassured that he was warm and breathing. She'd nestle close enough to feel the heat coming off him and that would be enough to calm her. But instead, all Jane could do was curl into herself as she normally did, trying to sob as quietly as possible.
It had been two weeks since they came home, and in that time she hadn't really slept. Thankfully Weller had been sleeping so much Jane had gotten away with both the nightmares that started the second she made it to a REM cycle, as well as her re-found fear of sleeping.
Jane would go to bed after she'd helped him settle in for the night and sleep until the nightmares woke her. After that, she'd sneak in to check on Kurt; make sure he was still breathing. Then, the rest of the long hours before morning would be spent on the couch, listening intently for his own nightmares to start.
Thankfully Weller's bad dreams mostly came just before dawn, after he'd already gotten some solid hours of rest. She figured it was because he was so exhausted at the end of a day of physical therapy and slept so deeply that the flashbacks didn't manage to break through right away. Whatever the reason, he was generally able to sleep through most of the night, so her own problem had remained undetected.
Because this time Jane registered another presence in the room, as soon as her dream-panic had faded enough for reality to slip in. She could hear the slow shuffling of his steps and feel the weight of his concern as he approached, but nothing could stop her shuddering sobs. Even though it had only been a nightmare, and Weller was right there, sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed.
She felt the palm of his hand plant itself between her shoulder blades, in that spot that helps to calm her. And it should have made her feel warm and comforted as usual, yet she was still emotionally stuck in that image from her dream. Kurt, cold and unmoving, because she'd missed something. Gone, because of her.
He must have sensed she was still beyond words because he didn't try to get her to talk and just rubbed her back instead, speaking encouraging words into her ear.
"You're okay," he soothed. "It was just a dream."
Jane groaned at her turbulent emotions, wishing that sleeping didn't invariably make her a goddamned mess. Now that the panic had subsided from knowing that Kurt was safe, she was filled with self-hatred, along with her constant companions, shame and guilt.
She didn't want him to worry about her, not when he was dealing with so much himself. But Jane knew she'd been lucky to even get two weeks without him noticing the problem. His mobility and strength had improved with daily exercises and he'd been trying to convince her to sleep in their bed again. Now it was all too clear why she was so adamant about staying in the other room.
Of course he'd had suspicions all along the way, and kept asking her when she slept. But so far she'd managed to dodge his real question and hadn't provided him with any real evidence of her struggles.
She knew it was PTSD, rearing its ugly head again. She wasn't even surprised about it, now that Jane could remember what she'd been like after the drone attack in Afghanistan. That sense of danger being around every corner; not being able to trust anyone.
That trauma had made her rash and harsh, ready to risk her life with the ZIP and Shepherd's cause because she no longer had anything to live for, other than justice and revenge. The guilt of getting Chris killed and the nightmares that she could never escape; that was all she had back then. And the mission had been her only way out.
It had let her forget.
But now she remembered everything, especially the weight of her guilt. She had brought all of this into Kurt's life and then, in the end, hadn't taken care of him properly. And he was still suffering because of her mistakes, only two weeks into what was going to be a long and painful recovery process.
Watching him deal with his own psychological and physical trauma was the hardest thing she'd ever experienced. His dreams would make him scream and that would then aggravate his bruised lung tissue and torn back, as well as the excruciating thoracotomy scars. It was heartbreaking to watch and made her feel horrible and helpless every night, desperately trying to soothe him as he fought for breath.
So of course she didn't want him to know that she'd been struggling too. She couldn't lean on him, not when he was so broken. Anyways, the only thing that soothed her anxiety was seeing him breathe and reassuring herself of his aliveness. That was why she went to him after her nightmares, just to watch his chest rise and fall.
This time though, he had come to her and outed her secret. Which only made Jane feel worse for waking him and making him get up. He'd recently graduated to walking between rooms by himself but each effort cost him a lot of pain and energy.
It made no sense at all that she couldn't stop crying because of a mental image of Weller, when his hand was pressing firmly into her back and his sleep-hoarse voice was tickling her ear. Especially when Jane knew that she had to get a hold of herself, to stop real-life Kurt from seeing the depths of her pain.
But she was both physically and emotionally exhausted from watching him die in her dreams, then worrying about him from that point on, all day and all night. So the tears wouldn't stop, no matter what she tried; and her breath refused to settle as well.
It wasn't until he grunted with the effort of sitting up for so long that Jane was able to bite down hard on her own neediness and force the stream of drops to end. She swallowed the rest of her despair and wiped her face roughly on the already sodden pillow before sitting up and gently sliding an arm against Kurt's back, then encouraging him to lean back against a pile of cushions she'd just created with her other hand.
He resisted for a moment, grumbling that he wanted her to lay close.
"I want to hold you," he said. "Come here."
He was still so fragile, any touch to his torso could cause him pain. It was hard enough to hold him, when he woke in terror. She was terrified of hurting him more, after everything she'd already done.
Jane considered the situation and lay her head on his thigh, then curled up as tightly as she could. Immediately Weller's arm snaked over her back and his hand found her heart, pressing solidly against her chest.
"This okay?" she asked.
"Mmmm," Kurt mumbled, with a satisfied tone.
He held her like that for so long she thought maybe he'd fallen asleep sitting up, but then she felt a little rub at her breastbone and his other hand played lightly at her hair.
"Do you want to tell me?" he asked, his voice low and empathetic.
Jane shook her head against his hand.
It was her burden to bear on her own; she couldn't let him worry about her while he was barely able to get himself out of bed. Though obviously he did anyways, despite her denials and refusal to talk about it.
"Oh, Jane," he murmured. "I know you still feel guilty. Talk to me. Please."
Of course he already knew, yet she didn't want to burden him with it. It was both totally illogical, and yet completely true.
There was no point denying it now though, when she'd been caught in the act. Kurt's touch had started to soothe her too, finally letting her chest loosen.
"I'm afraid to sleep," Jane eventually admitted. "I lose you every night."
Her heart clenched again as the cold and lifeless Kurt from her dream drifted back through her mind. But then real, warm Kurt pressed his hand solidly against her sternum, bringing her back to the present and reminding her that he was right there with her.
"I'm so sorry," she continued.
"I know," he said. "But you have nothing to apologize for."
"I should have taken you to the hospital," she argued. "I should never have let you move."
"Shhh," Kurt soothed.
"I know all the things you think you should have done. But I was there. And I'm the one who decided I needed to get up."
"You would never have let me," Jane muttered, knowing it to be true.
Weller surprised her by laughing, something he had tried to stop doing due to the pain it caused him. Jane frowned and tried to push onto her elbow to be ready to support him if he needed it. But Kurt kept her in place with his hand as he caught his breath again and found his voice.
"Babe, you went on a mission while you were dying and had to fight a murderer while blind," he said affectionately.
"You don't think I still feel bad about that?"
She had never even thought about that after it had happened, though now she could remember how much he'd apologized for something that hadn't been his fault. She'd volunteered to go, knowing what was going on in her brain. She'd been trying to convince herself she was okay, that things weren't as bad as they seemed. It had nothing to do with Kurt, who had been his usual protective and caring self.
"It's not the same."
"Hmm, because you were the one being stubborn?" he asked.
God. She adored him so much. She couldn't let him take this all on himself though. Not when it was her job to take care of him.
"I know you can't just let it go. But you almost died too, Jane. We both let things get too far. But we're both here now too. And I'm going to be fine, it's just going to take time."
She desperately wanted that to be true, despite all her worries of long terms physical and psychological effects from what happened. The surgery he'd gone through often left patients with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Plus, there were his own nightmares and trauma from being tortured, nearly dying so many times.
"I know I can't take away your guilt. But I did it to myself, Jane. I was reckless and and now I'm totally useless. Sometimes I'm so ashamed, about needing so much from you."
Oh Kurt. She would give him twice as much if it were possible. There was nothing else to do, and even if there were still cases to solve, she would still be at his side. He was her priority.
"But the way you care for me… My entire life, I've never known that I could be loved this much."
It always shattered her when he was so open with her; when she could see the battered and broken boy who'd grown up without love. Because they were the same. She had never believed it possible either. That anyone could love her the way he did.
"I can't let you suffer alone, Jane," he muttered.
"You need sleep," she argued. "For your body to heal."
"I need to be with my wife when she's hurting."
He almost sounded angry and the words came out with too much force, making him grunt as his weakened lungs fought to reclaim his breath.
"I'm okay," she argued, trying to push up to a sitting position to examine him, but being restrained by one of Kurt's arms wrapped tight around her collarbone.
Maybe it was the tone of his voice, so pleading that it tore into her. Or maybe it was just her own pain and exhaustion finally getting the best of her. But, all of a sudden, she wanted to stop arguing, stop lying to him. Even if he was hurting, it was clear she was only making things worse by hiding her own trauma. Of course he was desperate to be there for her, especially when it was one of the few things he could do.
It still made her feel guilty, making him get out of bed and fret about her. But she also knew that continuing to hide it from Kurt would only make him more upset and cause him stress when he needed to direct all his energy at healing. So she did her very best to convince herself that part of his recovery was doing this for her. Reminding her that he was still there, that they were going to get through this together.
Jane felt her tears returning and she didn't have the energy to hold them back anymore. Instead, she let Kurt rub her chest as she sobbed once again, letting out all the latent fear and guilt still leftover from her dream, as well as all her worry about their future and the long term effects of what he'd been through. She even tried to let go of the idea that he subconsciously really did blame her for what happened, all the painful surgeries he'd been through, all the rehab he had to endure. Or that he would come to realize this as he realized how much she'd cost him.
None of it was rational but it had all been filling her head as she lived in a perpetual state of heightened anxiety. Especially since she'd been reliving things every night, or not sleeping at all. Then tending to a frustrated Kurt all day, watching as he struggled with his mobility and his emotions. He could be so angry at his limitations, and though he never took it out on her or blamed her for any of it, Jane still felt responsible for it all.
So it was incredibly soothing to let him hold her and listen to the low rumble of his voice. Even through her tears she was able to latch onto his mutters; Kurt's own audio loop of reassurances.
"I'm right here."
"None of this is your fault."
"I love you, so much."
He did it for so long that Jane stopped feeling the need to argue about the middle point, at least for the moment. She knew the guilt would come back, but right then she could let it go. It helped a lot to be reminded that Kurt didn't hold any of it against her, and that he wasn't going anywhere.
Eventually, Jane realized her tears had dried up and her breath had finally returned to normal. Weller's thumb was still thrumming against her breastbone and when she pried her eyes open to look up at him, he was gazing down at her with a soft content smile on his face. In fact, it was the happiest she'd seen him since coming home from the hospital.
She'd been so convinced that she couldn't add her emotional burden onto his already heavy plate. Yet all the while forgetting that one of Kurt's basic needs was to take care of her.
So, if part of his healing process was holding her and relieving her of her worries, then maybe it was okay to accept his love even when he was struggling too. She just needed to keep reminding herself of that when her anxieties tried to convince her otherwise.
"Mmm. Kurt?" she mumbled.
"That feels great."
His face lit up again at her words, making her chest flood with warmth. And then, with his presence surrounding her, Jane's eyes fell shut again and she drifted into a dreamless slumber.