Burt drops him home from the airport which is incredibly nice of him considering it’s well out of his way. His mom opens the door and she looks more anxious than she should do, her hands already flapping at her sides. Blaine worries that she’s been on edge like this the entire time he’s been away.
She thanks Burt and says something vague about meeting up for drinks which Blaine knows will never happen. Burt’s smirk suggests that he recognises the polite offer for what it ultimately is: empty. He shares one last conspiratorial look with Blaine and then climbs into his truck and drives away.
“Let’s get you inside then,” Blaine watches his mom take his bag, regardless of his protests, and fuss over him as they go inside. He gets why she’s been a bit more over-protective lately and he can’t blame her for that, but she seems almost jittery as she makes him sit at the table and have a glass of water.
“Had a busy few days?” He asks nonchalantly, stirring his plastic straw in the clear liquid—the straw that she hasn’t given him since his eighth birthday party.
“You’d better drink that up; airplane travel is always dehydrating. I think it’s because of the recycled air system they use. Do you want something to eat, too?”
Blaine’s starting to feel a twinge of foreboding in his stomach; she definitely just avoided his question. It’s really quite frustrating because the knot of anxiety that he’s been carrying around for months, the one that makes him feel simultaneously like he’s wound up too tight and unravelling too fast, finally loosened itself the other night and he was enjoying the lightness in his chest.
“Mom, what’s going on?” He puts his glass down and turns to look at her, but her eyes are fixed on something beyond him. “What…?” He swivels to follow her gaze and sees his father stood in the doorway—except it doesn’t really look like his father.
First of all, he isn’t wearing a business suit, or his formal ‘home-wear’, which is unheard of apart from that one time when they took a family trip to Disneyland and he bought a pair of shorts. Instead, he’s wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, the yellow colour of which does very little for his currently wan complexion. What catches Blaine’s attention before all of that, though, is the swelling on the left side of his face and what look like stiches over a gash near his temple. Then there’s the fact that his entire left forearm is covered by a cast.
He’s clearly not on his deathbed, but the contrast from his usual detached toughness makes Blaine feel strangely sick. He stands up on shaky legs, his pulse quickening for no discernible reason. He reminds himself that it’s not possible to have a panic attack without something triggering it and this is in no way panic-inducing. It’s like the foreboding from a moment ago has turned into a living creature in his stomach, gnawing away at his ability to reason.
“Your father had a bit of an accident. He was hit by a car two days ago—”
“—Clipped; it barely hit me. I was leaving the office and I got clipped by a car.”
Blaine nods, wishing his stomach would stop churning.
“He’s very lucky it wasn’t worse.” His mom adds, fussily making her husband a drink now.
“Thank goodness—I can’t golf for three months as it is.”
He still sounds like himself, but his usual, irritated voice sits incongruously with his injuries and it frightens Blaine. His father is human, of course he is, but he’s always seemed invincible somehow, unbreakable. Blaine’s sweating and the lighting in the kitchen is too bright all of a sudden; he has to get out of there.
Neither of his parents stop him as he dashes out of the kitchen and up the stairs, water untouched on the table. He feels better as soon as he closes his bedroom door, as if he can shut everything out and keep it contained downstairs. He sits on the bed and closes his eyes, counting to ten and making it to six before his thoughts are drawn back to his father.
It’s utterly ridiculous; it’s a broken arm and a swollen face, for God’s sake. His father will be fully recovered in a matter of weeks and everything will go back to normal, yet for some reason that doesn’t stop Blaine from feeling unsettled. His first thought is to call Dr Marissa because this feeling is not normal, but when his shaky fingers dig his phone out of his pocket, it’s Kurt’s name that they gravitate towards. It barely rings twice before Kurt picks up.
“Hey, you! Did you have a good flight? I’m guessing my dad only just dropped you off because he hasn’t called me yet.”
The creature in his stomach calms slightly at the sound of Kurt’s voice. He almost doesn’t want to explain what’s happened because there’s something incredibly comforting about Kurt not knowing. Blaine can sit here and soak up Kurt’s happiness and not think about his own unease. Except he can’t because that was the point of ringing Kurt in the first place.
“My dad, he, um, he had an accident.”
He shouldn’t have made it sound that dramatic and now Kurt’s inhaling heavily and Blaine can picture him clutching the phone tighter. “What happened?”
“He’s fine,” There, that wasn’t so hard. “Well, he’s not because he doesn’t look normal—sorry, I’m not explaining this very well.”
“That’s okay, take your time.”
“He got hit by a car and he’s fine, he is—I just—it’s weird seeing him with a broken arm, you know? And his face is all busted up and I know it’ll heal, but—Kurt, he’s wearing sweatpants…”
“Oh my God!” Kurt’s exclamation is caught somewhere between concerned and amused. “Okay, I can see how that would freak anyone out.”
“Yeah,” Blaine agrees, feeling less nauseous already. “I’m not—it’s not the fact that he’s injured. It’s just—he’s my father and he’s meant to be—I mean, he always acts so…I don’t know…”
“Invincible?” Kurt supplies and Blaine does that thing where he nods before realising he’s on the phone.
“Exactly. It’s funny because I haven’t felt any kind of connection with him since I was like six, but then he gets roughed up a bit and I’m…scared almost?”
“Blaine, that’s completely understandable. You might not be that close, but he’s still your dad, you know? And you only get one of those.”
Blaine exhales, fingers unclenching. Kurt gets it, just like Blaine had subconsciously known he would.
“Not sure what for, but you’re welcome.”
“For understanding and stuff. I should probably go now so your dad can get hold of you. I just really needed to tell someone and my mum looks like she’s about to have a breakdown right now; she gave me a straw with my drink, like I was a kid again.”
“Oh, no, not the sippy straws!”
Blaine laughs, the noise dislodging the lump in his throat and allowing the anxiety to drain out of him with each breath.
“I’ll talk to you soon, Blaine. Love you!”
“Love you, too.”
Kurt waits for Blaine’s reply and then hangs up and Blaine smiles at his lack of goodbye; some things never change.
Dinner is minestrone soup and bread, evidently so his father can eat one-handed without help; it’s nice to not be the elephant in the dining room for once.
Afterwards, Blaine does something he hasn’t done for months: he goes to sit in the front room. Dr Marissa had told him to try and surround himself with others a bit more, even if he’s just a passive observer of life’s general hustle and bustle. Blaine had briefly considered going to the park each day after school to do just that, but he had never really had the energy to attempt it. There’s very view people he wants to be around. Tonight, however, he decides anything is better than sitting alone in his room and follows the sounds of the television into the sitting room.
He expects it to be his mom catching up on one of her favourite crime dramas, the predictable but absorbing variety, yet when he tentatively pushes open the door, it’s his father sat in the chair, newspaper balanced on his lap. He regrets his decision instantly; his claustrophobic room is preferable by far to being alone with his father. The problem is that his father has seen him come in, even if neither of them has acknowledged the other, so now he can’t leave without showing his weakness. As much as he doesn’t want to start the first battle with his father, he also doesn’t want to lose it.
He awkwardly perches on the sofa, trying not to put too much weight on the cushions as if he’s sat on someone’s lap. He smooths his hands down his thighs, wondering if his mother will bustle in shortly and relieve the thrumming energy in the room, preferably before Blaine’s eardrums burst with the uncomfortable pressure.
“What are you watching?” He ventures, focussing his gaze on the screen rather than the injured face that makes him squirm.
His father makes a show of pushing his newspaper away, squinting towards the television. “Some documentary on the Amazon. Your mother was watching it.”
He has a habit of doing that, pushing everything onto Blaine’s mom so that he can’t be incriminated himself. It’s presumably meant to uphold his impenetrable façade, yet it only serves to make him look pathetic in Blaine’s opinion. Does it really matter who chose to watch the nature documentary?
“Is it any good?”
“I haven’t been watching it. It’s not really my sort of thing.”
“Too faggy for you, huh?” Blaine doesn’t know what makes him say it. One moment he’s nodding along and then his tongue is forming words that he would never say out loud in a million years. Don’t fire that first shot, Blaine, he admonishes too late.
His father looks at him. “Don’t say that word inside my house.”
Blaine feels his insides contract with fear, the words tattooing themselves painfully into his brain. Don’t say that word inside my house. It sounds just a tad too close to don’t be that word inside my house which, in turn, sounds a little too like get out. Blaine shivers with the weight of that implication; although he’s always known that his father doesn’t accept him being gay, he’s never worried about him actually acting on those feelings. Of course he’s heard of kids being thrown out or beaten up by their parents for their sexual orientation, of course he has, but it had never felt like a palpable threat to him. Providing he didn’t start the first battle, his father could remain impassively distant. Blaine may not enjoy being held at arm’s length, but it was a damn sight better than being let go of completely.
Except he has just pushed a little too hard, maybe set some invisible time bomb off—he can practically feel it ticking in the air between them as he whips his gaze back to the television. Logically, Blaine knows his father is in no fit state to beat him up, but Blaine hasn’t boxed in a while and his self-defence is a little rusty. He feels too fragile suddenly, his skull too breakable underneath a fist. And if this time bomb explodes like Blaine thinks it might do, a fist is going to be the least of his problems.
Suddenly, his father stands up, newspaper slipping to the floor and Blaine flinches instinctively, cowering back against the sofa before he can even register what he’s doing. He looks up to see his father staring at him, having not moved from in front of the chair, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Just getting a beer.” He says, voice strangely distant as he regards Blaine. “Want one?”
It feels like a test, or maybe some sort of code that Blaine hasn’t learnt to interpret yet. “Um—yes, please—thanks.” He sounds ridiculously weak and he waits for his father to comment on it, but no cutting remark follows. His father merely reaches down and picks his fallen paper up, placing it carefully on the seat before leaving the room.
Blaine’s muscles unclench slowly, the cushion behind him anchoring him to his surroundings. He can’t disappear into his head right now; he needs to stay alert. He listens out for the sound of the fridge opening, but the whole house is silent. What if his mom has gone out? What if they’re completely alone?
He doesn’t hear his father coming back until he enters the room, shirt rumpled slightly and two bears clutched in his good hand.
His father hands him a bottle and sits back down again, sipping the beer and staring at the wall above the screen.
“How’s Kurt?” It’s probably meant to sound natural, but it comes across as incredibly strained.
Blaine considers his options. He could just retreat back into the trench and wait for the gun fire to be over. Or, he could load up his own gun, stare his father down until one of them surrenders for good. The latter is riskier, but he won’t be exposed to that horrible darkness and dirt anymore.
clench around the beer. “He’s…good. He’s got a big showcase coming up since he
missed the Autumn one—you know, to come back here and all that.”
“He’s been a good friend to you, hasn’t he?”
Blaine’s not sure what angle his father is firing from. Is that meant to hammer home their break-up or undermine Kurt’s significance in his life?
“Yes.” Blaine says shortly, tracing the rim of the bottle with his index finger.
“I fear I haven’t been a very good friend to you.”
The admission causes Blaine to look up, shocked. He’d never even considered that the previous question was his father turning the gun on himself. Blaine doesn’t even know what to say to that so he lets the silence play out.
“I always wanted us to be friends.” It sounds childish coming from his father’s lips, his injured arm suddenly a result of a playground accident; it doesn’t sit right with his lined face and his tired eyes.
Blaine nods, wondering if his father was abducted by aliens on his way to the kitchen and this man here is simply an implanted prototype.
“I had so many ideas, you know, about how we’d bond as you grew up. I thought we’d play football together on Sundays, fix up cars and random household appliances each summer; I thought we’d annoy your mother with our antics, form a united front until she gave in and let us eat in front of the game. I was going to be your role model in a way I hadn’t been able to with Cooper. I’d raised one kid, I’d lived a bit more life, had a bit more under my belt—I thought I was set. I thought I’d get it right with you, I really did.”
Blaine is enthralled, but he wishes he wasn’t. It feels like that exhilarating moment of climbing into a rollercoaster, the harness trapping him in place; he remembers his excitement from the queue, but he also really wants to get off before the ride starts. It’s the most his father’s said to him in such a long time.
“You threw me a curveball, I know that,” His father is chuckling, but Blaine feels sick; he derailed the family’s domestic bliss, he ruined his father’s plans. “I should have batted anyway, but for some reason I let it freeze me in place like a complete idiot.”
The gunfire is ricocheting round the room and Blaine’s self-preservation instinct is kicking in, but he also has the bizarre desire to force his father to duck, too.
“I like football.” Blaine states dumbly.
His father laughs harder. “I know,” he says, balancing the beer between his legs while he rubs a hand over his face. “You like it more than Cooper ever did.” He swigs back the last of his beer and Blaine wonders if it’s his first; there’s a reason why drunk people shouldn’t operate weaponry.
“When Kurt’s next in town, we should go to a game—all three of us.”
Blaine gapes and decides that his father must have had too much to drink; there is no other explanation, aliens aside.
“Kurt doesn’t really like football, he likes scarves.”
His father raises his eyebrows, swigs more beer back. “Ok, then, you can buy Kurt a nice scarf and then we can go watch the game.”
Blaine smiles in spite of himself at the mental image provided, the comfortable familiarity of it all. “I’d like that.” He admits quietly, a tiny knot loosening in the mess that is his insides.
“Great.” His father places his empty bottle down on the coffee table with some difficulty. “I’m glad he’s been a good friend to you when I haven’t.”
There’s that word again: friend. It’s so incredibly unsettling when applied to either relationship.
“He’s not a friend, dad. He’s the love of my life.” He looks his father in the eye as he says it, stands his ground as he waits for a response.
“You’re young, Blaine, you have the rest of your life to figure these things out.”
“No, you don’t—”
“I do understand. You forget that I was your age once and I fell in love with every girl I dated. None of them were your mother.”
Blaine feels blindingly angry, waves of heat rising from inside to heat up his face, at just how much his father doesn’t get it. He’s about to say as much and then he realises something that makes the fight drop out of him in shock. This isn’t an argument about being gay, this is an argument about being young, being naïve; his dad isn’t suggesting that he and Kurt aren’t meant to be because Kurt is a boy, but because they’re both young and have more changing to do, more experiences to have. Of course, he’s still completely wrong because Kurt is the one, Blaine just knows he is, but that doesn’t matter, not right now.
“Okay,” He acquiesces, offering a smile. His father returns it and taps his fingers on the arm of the chair with his good hand.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know what to do with your curveball.” The apology is unexpected and doesn’t begin to cover half of the things Blaine thinks it should but he accepts it for the peace offering it is. They both clear their throats at the same time and it’s sort of funny.
“So,” His dad says, tone too yielding for the firmness Blaine has always associated with him. “What do you say we change the station because, frankly, I can’t stand this nature rubbish of your mother’s?”
Blaine goes to bed that night more than a little bit shell-shocked. Somehow, he just spent an entire evening in the same room as his father, watching Formula 1 no less, without either of them combusting into dust. It doesn’t feel like they’re on the same side of the field quite yet, but they’re no longer aiming guns at each other; they’re meeting in the middle until they can shake hands with clear consciences and Blaine’s surprisingly ok with that. It was worth it just to see the jubilant look on his mom’s face when she’d wondered into the sitting room to find them amiably discussing tires and lap times.
Of course, he also thinks of the injustice that his father had this self-realisation now, after everything. But then again, he reminds himself as he texts Kurt goodnight, all is fair in love and war.