Death Could Have Been Kinder | Part 2 of 2
Summary: well this thing took on a life of its own. This is not at all what I had in mind when I wrote part 1. Or what I had in mind when I started part 2 for that matter. But it is what it is. I hope you like it.
She was weightless— feather like— floating lightly in an infinite void.
And then suddenly— it all flipped over. She was heavy. Heavy. Heavier. Unbearably heavy. And being pulled quickly down out of her weightless void. The drop was fast. The bright light that had surrounded her quickly turning dark. And her chest felt like it was collapsing into her.
Braced herself in anticipation for the crash. Heavier. And heavier. And she waited to hit a surface.
But she didn't. She hit nothing.
She was still being pulled down but now— as she still felt heavier and heavier— Jane's chest started to burn. And the fall slowed down.
She knew this feeling. In the back of her mind she recognized it.
Like an anchor dropping to the bottom of the ocean— she was drowning.
She looked up and above the surface of the water, she saw a glimmer of light.
Below her, just more water. And darkness.
She remembered she knew how to swim. The order issued from her brain to her limbs to start moving. But nothing. Her body was solidified. Her muscles frozen. And she was panicking— quickly losing oxygen and losing control.
And it burned. Everything burned.
And then, in the distance, above the surface of the water, a distant voice— it called her name.
And a hand broke through the surface and reached for her.
She scrambled— struggled to reach for it— fingertips brushing frantically— until the hand above grabbed her wrist and began to pull her up.
The panic began to subside. The fear slowly crumbling away to be replaced by a glimmer of hope.
She looked down and that was when she saw him.
At the bottom of the ocean. Flat against the ground. Not moving. Kurt.
No. No, no, no.
The panic returned. Ten fold. And she fought against the hand that was pulling her up.
Let go. Let go of me.
She had very little strength in her but she knew it had to be enough to send her down and get him.
It had to be.
She wasn't going to leave him there.
She struggled. She tried to pull her wrist free. But whoever that was pulling her up was stronger. Determined.
Stop. Stop. Please let me get to him. I need to get to him.
But she was getting farther and farther away. Closer to the light as he disappeared into the darkness.
It burned. Everything burned. Her lungs. Her stomach. Her muscles.
She tried to fight back— to swim back to him— but the pull towards the light was stronger.
Her chest was getting tighter and tighter and —
Light filled her eyes like a hot spear through her brain. And the air entered her lungs like an explosion of ice through her body.
Why did it hurt to breathe?
And why was she dry?
The water. The ocean. Drowning.
She recognized the voice.
She recognized the gentle touch against her arm.
She recognized the room she was in. The smells around her.
She recognized the face face that stood above her— the worried blue eyes.
"You remember who I am?"
Jane tried to push herself up. The needle in her hand stinging painfully when she pushed against the bed and she realized then just how aware she was of every cell in her body. Everything was hyper alert. Her skin tingled violently. Her breathe labored forcefully. Her heartbeat thumped like a marching band in an empty gym. And the blood in her veins flowed like a raging river. And she was aware of it all.
She blinked rapidly as she adjusts Ed to the light and focused on Patterson's face— her mind trying to rationalize her friend's odd question.
"Of course I do, why would—"
And then she remembered. Ivy. The lab. The ZIP bomb. The white cloud that engulfed.
Where was Kurt?
"Oh thank god!" Patterson sighed next to her, "I had no way to test the antidote when I was developing it and when you were brought in, I just had to—"
Somewhere in her brain Jane remembered something Patterson had mentioned about synthesizing an antidote just in case one of them got exposed to the ZIP again.
It seemed to have worked.
Jane searched her mind and couldn't find any gaps that seemed to worry her.
Her only worry was Kurt.
Did Patterson have enough antidote for both of them?
"Where's Kurt?" Jane asked, swinging her legs to the side of the bed, stubbornly ignoring how every muscle screamed in agony and her head swirled, the room around her spiraled and her stomach turned in knots.
"Hey, hey, hang on," Patterson held her steady, "I still need to—"
"Where's Kurt?" Jane tried to push her friend away— the woman she knew she could easily take down any day but somehow right now she seemed ten times stronger than Jane was.
"He's in the next room," Patterson said calmly— a hand still gently on Jane's shoulder, "I'll take you to him in a minute but I need to run some tests first—"
"You can run your tests in the other room. I need to see Kurt," Jane almost hissed at her.
He didn't know how to describe it. He didn't know how to describe anything.
There was nothing.
There was no edge. No end. No beginning. Everywhere he looked there was nothing. Just a cold plain light grey. Beneath his feet, the ground was just as grey. Neither hard nor soft.
And the air was cold— not unbearably or uncomfortably so— but cold enough for him to notice that it was not warm.
Rich was sitting by Kurt's bedside, diligently watching the monitors— nervously biting his lip.
He turned at the sound of someone entering the room and his eyes almost lit up when he saw Jane walk in— followed closely by Patterson who gave him a knowing look.
His heart was at a loss— he wasn't sure which was better— that she woke up with all her memories back or that she would have woken up without any memories given that they didn't know Kurt's fate yet.
The thought of one of them remembering everything and the other having no memories of any of it was heartbreaking.
Would they be better off both waking up as strangers and saving one of them from the unbearable pain of losing the other?
Jane barely noticed Rich's presence. She barely noticed Patterson going to the the IV drip and adjusting something. Jane saw nothing but Kurt lying on the hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and machines. And unconscious.
"Why hasn't he woken up yet?" She murmured, pulling a chair close to his bed and reaching for him.
"Did you give him the antidote?" She asked, her eyes not leaving his face.
"We did," Patterson explained calmly, "we're just—"
"Then why isn't he awake?"
"With you, I knew exactly what the dosage should be," Patterson said, her voice still calm and reassuring, "you've been through this before. With Kurt, we weren't sure how his body would react to it. I didn't want to overdose him. I want to take things slowly. Carefully. To make sure—"
"What aren't you telling me, Patterson," Jane squared her jaw, knowing that there was still something Patterson was keeping from him.
Patterson and Rich shared a nervous look. And even though she wasn't looking at them, Jane sensed them— sensed it— the tension between them— the vital piece of information they were keeping from her.
She squeezed his hand and fought back the angry tears.
"He woke up," it was Rich who spoke.
Jane's head shot up.
"When the ambulance got here, while you two were being transferred here," Patterson swallowed hard at the memory— just a few hours ago but still so traumatic.
"He... he woke up? Did he—"
"He didn't seem to recognize us... or where he was..." Patterson whispered.
"Or who he was—"
"No," Jane sobbed.
This can't be happening.
She brushed her hand against his cheek and whispered his name.
He was walking around. Not that it seemed to make any difference. It all looked the same— plain empty grey nothing. He couldn't tell if he was going in circles or a straight line. His steps left no prints in the ground and nothing around him changed. Nothing appeared. Nothing.
Nothing except the grey. The cold. And him.
But then— something did. Something changed.
A brush of warmth against his skin.
He spun around quickly, trying to see where it had come from. But it didn't seem to come from anywhere. At least not anywhere... here.
It was a situated warmth. Against his arm.
Against his cheek.
It was loving. Stilling. And then changing location. But it was just against his skin.
Or on his skin.
Or from his skin?
He tried to hold on to it— to pin it to one location. But he quickly realized he was not in control here.
What he could control was his own motion and he decided to stay put. To stop moving. Because this is where the warmth— the oddly welcome warmth came to him. And somehow he knew he had to stay with it.
"There has to be something we can do?" Jane said, "do you even know if he is responding to the antidote?"
"I'm not sure," Patterson admitted, "nothings changing on the chart here—"
"Then increase the dose!" Jane urged her.
"We don't know how he would react to that," Patterson said sadly.
"It can't be worse than this!"
"Ok," Patterson took a deep breath, "ok, ok, ok."
He had stopped moving completely— not that he had had anywhere to go to before- and was instead focused on that warm touch— caress. He found himself first tracking it with his gaze, and then unconsciously, he was following with his own fingers— tracing over the part of his skin that it was touching, trying to hold on to it, to catch it— to connect with it.
It had to be coming from somewhere and that somewhere was the only thing that wasn't scaring, confusing him, infuriating him. It was the only thing that was keeping him from going mad in this grey void.
And then, out of nowhere, a flash of— something else. A bright light. Almost blinding. A flash that lit up the entire grey universe he was holed up in and then is disappeared. Faded. He urged his legs to move, to follow it as it retreated away from him. Something told him the light and the touch were connected. They had to be. They were the two things that felt familiar in this strange world. The only two things that he wanted to hold on to.
He ran. Faster and faster and faster after that light as it became smaller and smaller. More and more distant.
And as he did, he felt himself get warmer, not sure if this was a warmth from within, or that same warmth that had visited him earlier, spreading to reach more of him.
Jane squeezed Kurt's hand tighter, pressed it against her chest and leaned closer to him, burying her face in his neck. "Come on, Kurt," she whispered, "come back to me. Please."
"I've increased it by 10%," Patterson said, "let's wait to see if that improves his condition."
"Please, Kurt, please don't give up. Please."
There was someone there— at the edge of the light— where the light didn't end but... concentrated. It gathered in one spot and at the center of it all was someone else.
It was a woman. Tall. Thin. With short brown hair. Big green eyes. And colorful patterns across the exposed skin of her arms and neck.
"I've been waiting for you," she said with a smile.
She didn't seem to be reprimanding him but still he felt the need to apologize.
"Don't be," she replied, "you showed up when you were meant to show up."
Her reply confused him— more than he already was— but he was currently more intrigued by this woman, standing there, bathed in the light— or was she the light?— and smiling at him.
"Do you know me?" He asked her.
"I only know what you know," she confessed mysteriously.
He cocked his head and studied her closely. "Do I know you?" He asked.
"Do you think you know me?"
"I want to believe that I do," he admitted.
He took a moment for that and then he just shrugged. Because the thought of knowing you is comforting, he thought to himself.
"What is this place?" He asked.
And again she shrugged. "I only know what you know," she repeated.
"Am I dead?" He wondered aloud.
"Do you think you're dead?"
"I don't know what death should feel like," he said, "but this feels—"
"Not like death."
She finished his sentence for him but he knew before he bothered to ask that was o it because she only knows what he does.
"What are you?" He asked this time and he saw her smirk at his question.
"Consider me a starting point."
"Ok, he's reacting better to this higher dose," Patterson sighed.
"What does that mean?" Jane asked not looking up.
"It means, we give him some time and let him heal," Patterson said.
"There has to be something more—"
"Stay by his side," Patterson said gently, "you more than anyone know how hard this is. How scared and confused he must be right now. He needs you. Help him through this, Jane."
Jane kissed his forehead and closed her eyes. "You can do this, Kurt. I know you can."
"Can we leave this place?" He asked as he walked closer to her.
"Ok then, let's go," he replied urgently, "lead the way."
"I don't know the way out," she told him, "I only know—"
"What I know," he sighed, "how are we supposed to leave then?"
"When it's time to leave, you'll know how," she said.
"When will that happen?" He was growing angry.
"When you know how," she replied cryptically.
I don't know anything! He wanted to scream at her. At the void. At the grey.
I want this to end! I want this to stop!
Jane had been pushed back almost violently by Dr. Horne and her nurses.
Out of nowhere, Kurt's temperature had spiked, his heartbeat become erratic and his muscles spasming. She stood back against the wall, tears falling down down her cheeks and terrified.
It took hours— or maybe just a handful of minutes— but they managed to get things back under control.
"He's going to be ok," it was Rich's hand on her shoulder and his gentle voice that brought her back to reality. He squeezed her shoulder and helped her go back to Kurt's side.
"Why... why happened?"
"It's just part of the process," Dr. Horne said, "his mind and body are going through an almost unbearable ordeal right now but his strong and he's healthy. As long as his mind can hang on, his body can withstand it."
"This is going to happen again?"
"There is a chance it might," the doctor admitted, "the faster his mind gets through this the easier it is on him physically."
"Can we up the dose to help him—"
"Right now, it's a risk we shouldn't take," Dr. Horne admitted.
She left with another apology, reassuring them that she and her tram were just outside.
Jane brushed away her tears and came back to him. "You can do this, Kurt, I know you can."
She gently placed her hand on his chest, above his heart, and with her other hand, she brushed the sweat away from her forehead.
He wasn't sure what had happened. One moment he was ready to scream out in anger, and the next minute, the world around him was spinning. He felt sick. He felt like he was losing what little control he had in this strange world. He felt like what little progress he'd made with this mystery woman had trickled away through his fingers—
"I'm here," her voice was faint and distant in the chaos, but he recognized it. It was the only thing he was aware of in this void besides his own presence.
"I'm right here with you," she said again, "just breathe."
He closed his eyes and inhaled.
And when he opened them, he was back in the grey, back within the faint light she'd brought with her. And she was there, standing right in front of him then, so close he could feel her breath on his skin and see his own reflection in her bright green eyes.
His own reflection.
And then he noticed that there was something else. Against his fingertips. A gentle steady rhythm. He looked down and realized she had a hold of his hand. And she was pressing it against her own chest.
"Just breathe, Kurt."
That was his name.
"You know my name."
"You know your name."
He studied her for a moment as she continued to hold his hand, her thumb brushing against the back of it— and he recognized the warmth it generated. It was her. It had been her that whole time.
"What does this mean?" He asked.
"It means you're on the right track.
"To find your way out of here," she smiled.
"What do I do now? What should I do?"
"Whatever it takes," she smiled, "you can do it. We're all rooting for you. And we're waiting for you."
"He's doing great," Patterson smiled, "I think it's safe to up the dosage a bit now."
Jane felt a fresh batch of tears fill up her eyes but still she smiled. "This is is, Kurt," she whispered, "you just have to hang in there a little bit longer."
She brought his hand up to her lips, brushing a soft kiss to his wedding band. "You still owe me a week away at the cabin," she said, "you're not getting out of it this easily."
Kurt felt a sudden change. It wasn't anything he could identify exactly. But the light seemed brighter around them and the air that filled his lungs suddenly felt less sterile.
He looked back down between the both of them— their hands still against her chest— and noticed something.
Something he hadn't noticed before. Or was it that it had just appeared now? Something shone on her hand and when he focused he saw it. The ring on her finger.
Unsure why he did so, he found himself bringing his own left hand up. And there it was. A ring on his finger as well.
He looked back at her and she was smiling again. Not that simple smile from before. This time it was different. A smile of joy instead of that of politeness.
"You're my wife."
"I'm your wife," she confirmed.
He smiled then too— and as he looked between their rings and her face— the world around them changed once again.
The light spread— flowing towards one direction— and as it did, the ground beneath its path also changed. A narrow track cracked through the unassuming plain grey and it trailed father and farther away from them.
"Do you think we should follow that path?" He asked her.
"Do you think we should follow that path?"
A bubble of frustration threatened to pop within him but he understood now that she was only a reflection of his own consciousness.
"You said when I know I'll know," he said calmly.
"And what do you know?"
"I know who I am, and I know who you are," Kurt said confidently.
"That's all you know."
This time he was the one to smirk. "That's all I need to know," he said, "everything else will come in due time."
He dropped his hand from her chest and took her hand in his.
"We'll figure out the rest together," he said.
"We always do," she confirmed.
A quick shared smile and they moved towards the path.
"Are you sure?" She asked one more time.
"Yeah," he squeezed her hand, "let's move."