Joan can't breathe.
It is so late and she is so tired but she can still hear the screams from her dream and it is ever unnerving. She had fallen off her bed, terrified and was now lying on the ground with the thin blanket she used scattered nearby. Her head was pounding and she struggles to recall her dream for a moment before it all hits her and she starts to sob.
"Jane.." she cries out weakly, remembering how the third queen in question had been killed by a very, very angry Henry. He had killed Jane and Howard in a fit of rage and all Joan could do was watch. She was useless; pathetic in the situation and she can still feel the shock of it. It felt so /real/.
/Howard had cried out her name./
Dreams can be such a violent thing, and when you were a queen in your past life it was especially concerning. But Joan was not a queen. She was a nobody. She had no reason to be so /scared/. She wasn't supposed to be shaky on the floor, sobbing about a terrible dream where everyone she looked up to and loved died.
But she was.
She holds her phone to her ear and waits, so anxious and so afraid. She had called Jane's number and now was waiting for the queen to answer, to answer her cries with sweet nothings, to tell her everything was okay.
Jane did not do that.
"You called me for /this/? Joan get a fucking hold of yourself."
Joan flinches at Jane's tone but keeps her head low as she listens to her continue over the phone.
"It was just a DREAM. You don't have any trauma, you have no reason to. You led a perfect little life. I DIED. Kitty had her head chopped off. All you had to do was go to court and serve some queens. And even that was so hard for you, wasn't it? You can never do anything right, not even in your past life.
Maybe you should stop complaining and get. a. hold. of. yourself."
The rant wasn't long, and Jane said it so quickly that if it was a little shorter Joan could probably force herself to forget about it. Forget forget forget, that's all she was supposed to do. Jane would.
The next day Jane would probably give her a half hearted apology, and Joan would forget. Joan would forget her words and /forgive/. It was her duty to serve her, she couldn't hold grudges.
"I-- im sorry I didn't mean- to bother you-- it won't- it won't happen again. I promise you." Joan struggles to breathe but manages to give Jane her apology, and then hears her hang up. Not even a sorry from the other.
Joan sits there, curled up into a ball and holding onto her phone like it was an important artifact. Like something sacred. Her blue eyes are wide and afraid, and she is about to try and sleep again, but then it hits her.
Is Howard still alive?
Joan dials the number so fast that she could have sworn she couldn't see her fingers glide across the screen.
"Y'ellow?" Howard answers sleepily, assuming its a spam call but answering it anyways out of kindness.
Joan felt a surge of relief. "H-- howard--" her shaky breath immediately concerns the pink queen, and she answers back much softer.
"Joan? Joan love-- it's 5 in the morning, shouldn't you be sleeping still?"
She'd stay awake forever if it meant she'd never have to see his terrible face or Howard's horror or the blood that splattered the ground ever again
"No-- I can't. I can't-- please--" Joan is gasping for air and she can hear Howard seem to get up from wherever she is in worry.
"Please what? Are you okay Joan? Joan--"
She wants to answer truthfully. No, I'm not.
But she doesn't. She cannot manage to get the words out.
"Please," she pleads once more.
Howard does not seem to listen.
There's a click, and then Joan is alone. "Howard? Ho-- howard did-- you-- can you hear me?"
She clings onto her small hope but deep down she knows that Howard just hung up on her. It was understandable, honestly. But Joan wanted to be understood, she wanted to be held. She did not like this at all.
Joan puts her hands to her face and sobs into them. She decides in delirium to rip her sheets, expecting for them to break and her to feel something, anything, but instead her teddy falls into her lap. It is old and worn, but loved.
There is a red ribbon bound around its neck and Joan remembers when Maria bought it for her.
Maria had told her how happy she was when she found it and thought it was the perfect fit for her, and Joan had nearly burst into tears out of gratitude right then and there.
Tears, tears of joy was what she cried then but now the salty ones streaming down her face were ones of bitterness and sadness.
Joan is truly alone.
Only minutes seem like days as Joan's breath becomes labored and her body shakes like she's in an earthquake. She whimpers and she doesn't know what to do because she is so alone and so afraid. She wishes someone was there to hold her and whisper sweet nothings into her ear and tell her everything is fine. She wants comfort.
She wants the pounding to stop.
She throws the stuffed animal across the room and covers her ears like that'll make everything stop.
But then she feels a comforting hand and she realizes maybe the pounding was not her imagination.
Her eyes widen as Howard's hand slides gently under her chin and raises Joan's head so it is level with Howard's lowered one.
"Joan," she brushes a strand of hair back from Joan's tear stained face. She must be such a pitiful sight.
"I was so worried.. Joan." Howard mutters her name like it is a treasure, and she for sure feels like one. "Are you okay, love?"
Joan wants to reply but she is so tired and she cannot bear to speak up a moment longer. So she lets her head fall and hit Howard's shoulder, and Howard easily brings her into her arms.
"Howard.." is the only thing Joan can mumble and Howard would laugh if she didn't know the reason why the music director was so tired.
"Katherine. That is my name. Kitty, kate, kat. Whatever you'd like to call me. But Howard seems quite cordial don't you think?"
Howard can tell by the way Joan gazes at her in return that she is laughing, and she cracks a smile to see if she can get anything more out of the tired one. But Joan just sighs, clearly so tired and done with everything once the adrenaline from her fear died out, and Howard's face returns to a tight knit frown.
Joan is still crying and more importantly she cannot talk because of her lack of breath and so Howard cups her face and tries to distract her.
She keeps one hand on Joan's chin while she leans back quickly to grab the teddy that had been thrown. "What is his name?" She asks gently.
Joan cannot talk but she does know sign language so she uses it instead.
"That is a lovely name, you know."
They both know who Joan named the bear after but neither would speak up about it right now, especially considering the circumstances. Joan can barely nod her head and so Howard, ever so strong, picks the pianist up.
Howard drops Joan onto her bed and looks around for a blanket. While she quickly picks it up to snuggle her in, Joan looks up at her, dazed.
"It's okay, dear." Howard reassures her, and once Joan is wrapped tightly she runs into the kitchen to grab a glass of water.
Joan closes her eyes and she is about to fall asleep when a glass is brought to her lips. "Drink," Howard says and she lifts Joan's chin so it's easier and the water won't spill over the sheets. When she has drunk all she can without choking, she turns her head defiantly.
"Joan sweetheart-- you got to drink something."
But Howard does not force her to do anything.
She places the glass on the nightstand and then fluffs Joan's pillow and makes her comfortable. "You okay?"
Joan nods, and clutches her teddy and Howard's hand in hers. "Thank you," Joan mumbles, her eyes closed and already drifting off.
Howard beams. "I'll be here for you, okay? Always."
She runs her hand through Joan's blonde hair and smiles. This is one promise she'll keep.
Trauma is such a difficult thing, and maybe if they try hard enough, they'll overcome it together.