Kurt is in the middle of an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon with Rachel when he gets the call. He misses the first one, his phone having been buried somewhere amid the various blankets and pillows he and Rachel have festooned the couch with. Whoever it is rings straight back, though, and Kurt manages to locate his phone underneath Rachel’s foot just in time, frowning when he sees his dad’s name on the screen.
“Hey buddy,” His dad’s voice sounds too controlled and the sickening sense of foreboding escalates into definite déjà vu. Rachel sits up next to him, fingers already clutching into the blanket on her lap.
“Are you…okay?” He tries, telling himself that Carole probably just has a cold. Or maybe the garage hasn’t been doing so well. It’s probably nothing to worry about.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” He pauses and Kurt can picture him brushing off his jeans nervously. There’s definitely something off with his tone.
“Dad?” Kurt asks, a little more desperately than he’d meant to, every cell in his body frozen on the edge of please no, anything but that.
“I really wish I didn’t have to say this, bud.”
A deep breath. A shaky exhale. A pillow clutched too tightly.
“It’s Blaine. He’s, uh—he’s in the hospital.”
This time, it doesn’t feel like Kurt’s world is collapsing around him; it feels like everything has turned to glass and he’s trapped in the middle of too many walls going up too quickly. Everything is solidifying before he can break them down. He’s stood on a glass platform, boxed in, waiting for it break under his weight, waiting for the stomach-jolting plunge downwards. Or maybe it’s already broken and he’s in freefall right now because the air seems to be whistling past his ears, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end as his surroundings bleed into one another, paint dripping down and staining everything in sight.
A small part of I’m wonders if Blaine is going to keep self-imploding, if this is a never-ending cycle of falling and crashing. An even smaller part wonders whether Kurt will eventually get dragged into the vortex with him, both of them crushed into nothing, trapped in too much glass. A vicious mental voice considers letting Blaine go, a selfish, instinctual kind of self-preservation, but then he realises that he wouldn’t be saving himself at all; a life without Blaine would be damnation.
No, he will always choose to jump into the blender with Blaine, even if it means they both get shredded into tiny, irreparable pieces. Hell, if Blaine’s wellbeing really does rely on proximity to him, he knows he would move back to Lima in a heartbeat. Words like co-dependency and unhealthy mean nothing in the face of this gut-wrenching panic, of this simultaneous desire to find out why and not utter another word ever again.
“D-dad?” He wants words of comfort, but he doesn’t want them from his dad, not really. He wants Blaine. “I don’t….He was doing so well, I swear—It wasn’t going to happen, not again—oh, God, I can’t—”
“Kurt, you’re not listening to me!”
“I heard. Blaine’s—he’s in the hospital again, dad…”
“Kurt, stop! It’s not like last time. I need you to listen to me, please.”
Kurt stops talking, but his mind is still flashing through a hundred images a second, trying to reconcile his Blaine with this new time bomb, exploding at random intervals and taking Kurt down in the blast. He suddenly understands why people stay with drug addicts, or alcoholics, or convicted criminals; you can hate that person as much as you want, but they’re still your person.
“…him up. He didn’t do it to himself. Are you listening to me, Kurt? Because God help me I will get on the first flight to New York and shake it into you if I have to.”
The words drift into his ear and they’re too loud and confusing, puncturing the black hole currently twisting through his mind. Apparently they’re loud enough that Rachel can hear them, too, because she slaps him hard on the arm and pushes the phone harder against his ear, the pressure slightly painful.
“He didn’t try and kill himself, Kurt! He’s going to be fine and he didn’t try and kill himself so for the love of God will you just calm down and let me explain.”
“No. Those assholes at that pathetic excuse for a school did though. It’s not pretty.”
“Why hasn’t…he didn’t tell me.”
“The poor kid only woke up fifteen minutes ago. They got him pretty bad; he’s been unconscious.”
And just like that, the haze is lifted and an onslaught of colours and undiluted anger hit him all at once as his father’s words sink in.
“What the fuck? How dare they even—oh my God! I hope you’ve phoned the police because there is no way in hell they’re getting away with this. How is he? Can I speak to him? I’m getting on the next flight back to Ohio and those jerks better be locked up by the time I do because I—”
“Woah, kid, slow down!”
Kurt forces himself to breathe and almost laughs at Rachel’s comically wide eyes, the way she’s edged away from him on the couch.
“They’re still checking him over now, but they’ve fixed up his ribs and head already, and now that he’s woken up they’re confident he’s going to make a full recovery. And I really don’t think you need to miss more school by flying back here again.”
“But, dad, it’s Blaine.”
“Yeah and he’s gonna be fine. He’s a strong kid and he’s got his parents, and Carole and I, and all of his friends. So here’s what you’re going to do,” He hurries on before Kurt can protest. “You’re gonna hang up now so I can go and check on the patient. Calm yourself down for half an hour, get Rachel to make you a cup of that herbal crap, and then you can speak to Blaine. The last thing that kid needs right now is you badgering him about the police and stuff. It seems like his dad is actually stepping up to the plate for a change so he doesn’t need me to be his father and he sure as hell doesn’t need you to be his father. He needs you to be his boyfriend, okay?”
Kurt blinks with vague annoyance at how right his dad always is. “How did you even know that Blaine and I were back together?”
“It was only a matter of time. Look, Kurt, I know this isn’t a phone call you wanted to get and I’m sorry if I didn’t explain clearly enough to begin with. But I promise you, Blaine’s going to be okay. I would never lie to you about that. I also know that you’re feeling overwhelmed and I don’t want either of you freaking the other out. So just give it twenty and then call him and tell him you love him.”
“Fine, yes, okay.” He pauses, eyes flicking down to the blanket twisted on his legs. “Can I text him?”
His dad just laughs. “Pretty sure you’re going to no matter what I say, kiddo.”
“Yeah, I am. Dad?”
“Thanks for calling and for—knowing me, I guess.”
“Of course. This better be the last time I have to make one of these calls, though.”
“You can say that again…”
The first thing Kurt is greeted with as he clicks ‘accept call’ on his laptop is Blaine’s grinning face. Well, Blaine’s grinning face with one eye swollen around the socket, a gash above one eyebrow and another on the opposite cheek, and a neck disappearing into an uncomfortable-looking hospital gown.
“Blaine.” The whine comes out unconsciously.
“Hey, no, don’t do that. I’m fine, I promise.” Blaine’s looking so earnest and when Kurt mouths an apology, he resumes smiling.
“What damage did they do? Did the doctor explain everything? Did he say how long it would take you to recover? You are going to recover fully, right?”
“Woah, Kurt, slow down! Breathe!”
Damn, his dad was so right; he’s not helping Blaine in the slightest with his inevitable freaking out. He drops his head in self-deprecation and forces himself to take a deep breath and let the panic drain back out of his eyes before he looks up again. He wishes so badly that he was back in Ohio, that he could wrap his arms round Blaine and prove to himself that he’s still living and breathing.
“Sorry, you’re just—you’re kind of precious to me. Seriously, though, where did they hurt you?”
“Um, I’ve only got a broken wrist and a couple of broken ribs so at least I’ll be able to walk soon. Luckily, it didn’t puncture a lung or whatever so I don’t need surgery; they’ve basically just strapped me up and told me to sit still for a few days. And they’re monitoring the concussion at the moment because apparently I hit my head pretty hard. I’m okay, though! It’s not as bad as—last time. And they’ve got me on pain meds so I’m good. In fact, if they give me any more I’m going to be too good. Do you remember after my eye surgery? I’m pretty sure my brain turned to mush.”
Blaine’s tone is light and breezy; Kurt can’t work out if it’s the calm before or after the storm. He’s still smiling, but Kurt catches the downwards flicker of his eyes during a particularly controlled blink. He’s not as put-together as he’s trying to pretend he is.
“It’s okay to be scared, you know.” Blaine looks at him sharply at this, and Kurt can see the denial is on the tip of his tongue. “If I’d just had the crap beaten out of me for the second time in my life, I would be. I’d be terrified.”
Blaine stares back at Kurt for a long time and Kurt wishes yet again that there wasn’t a screen between them.
“I’m so sick of being scared, Kurt.”
The admission is quiet, but the microphone picks it up nonetheless.
“I know. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, though.”
“No, it’s not…that.” Blaine takes a moment to think again and Kurt feels so incredibly proud that Blaine is choosing to trust him with this whereas a couple of months ago, he wouldn’t have dared to voice any of it. Granted, Kurt probably would have accepted his too-bright smile in the first place and not pushed for the underlying emotion, but still, it’s progress. “I guess I’m just tired of being afraid of everything. I’m scared of what people think of me, that they’ll get the wrong idea or maybe too much of the right idea. I’m scared of the stupid jocks and the bullying and that makes me mad because they shouldn’t be able to get to me that way. They shouldn’t.” He pauses, gaze flicking between each of Kurt’s eyes. “Mostly, though, I’m scared of everything collapsing again. It feels like I’m going to mess up at any moment and everyone’ll hate me again—and I’ll hate myself, too. I hate how I’m on edge the whole time; even when I’m happy, there’s still this little bit of fear in the back of my mind. What if this happens, or what if I do that and can’t handle it. I’m fed up of being scared that the slightest thing will push me over the edge. I’m just…fed up.”
Kurt nods slowly and raises his index finger to the screen, tracing the line of Blaine’s cheek. He wishes he could feel what’s on the screen, not reach through it exactly, just get the full sensory experience, the one that includes the soft skin of Blaine’s cheeks.
“I think…” Kurt starts and then pauses, digs his nails into his thigh. “I think you need to talk to Dr Marissa about this because I’m no expert on anxiety, or any of this stuff really. I also think you’re the bravest person I know for just getting up each morning and dealing with all this. You’re scared, but you’re not letting the fear control you. That makes you so brave and I wish you could see that.”
Blaine shakes his head, trying to sit up further and then wincing at the pressure on his ribs. “I am though. Letting the fear control me, I mean.”
“Just because you acknowledge it doesn’t mean you’re letting it control you. You were scared of those idiots, but you didn’t run from them. That takes strength.”
“The only reason I didn’t tell anyone was because I was more scared of getting depressed again than I was of them—of this.” He gestures at his bruised face, gaze lowering. “I was being a coward.”
“No, they were being cowards.” Kurt can feel his hands twitching with the need to grab Blaine’s face, to tilt it upwards. “Look, Blaine, if you want to argue about this until you succeed in convincing someone, do it with Dr Marissa. ‘Cause I’m more than happy to listen if you want to vent, or scream, or explain every inch of what you’re feeling, but I will never, ever see you as anything remotely close to a coward so don’t even try.”
Blaine huffs out a breath and looks back down at his hospital gown. For a moment Kurt thinks he’s pissed off, that damage control will need to be done, but then he glances up and his eyes are shining with unshed tears.
“Thank you.” He says quietly, and he sounds so young and so vulnerable that Kurt can’t help the watery little laugh, more of a sob, really, from falling out of his throat. Apparently they make each other emotional wrecks, though given the bruises littering Blaine’s face he thinks they should be excused on this occasion.
“God, I wish I was next to you right now…”
“Me too.” Blaine agrees, despondent as he watches Kurt’s face and rearranges the blankets. “Kurt?”
“You realise we haven’t been in the same state since we got back together?”
Kurt groans. “Don’t remind me. Talk about torture.”
Blaine laughs and then their gazes catch and Kurt’s struck by how beautiful Blaine is. Yes, there’s a purpling shadow of a bruise around one eye, accentuating the dark circles that have faded but not disappeared completely, the skin of his face swollen and angry in several places, but he’s still the most beautiful person Kurt has ever seen.
“Kurt?” Blaine’s voice is lower now, rougher.
“What would you do if I was next to you?”
Kurt’s mouth drops open and he makes a very undignified noise before he forces his eyes to take note of the background behind the smouldering gaze. “Nu-uh. No way are we doing this right now. You’re in a hospital, Blaine. A hospital!”
“I could totally see you as a hot doctor…”
“Oh my God, Blaine, stop!”
A pause, a dangerous glint in his eyes. “Make me.”
“I can’t—you can’t just—”
Luckily, or maybe unluckily because Kurt’s resolve was about 0.01 seconds away from crumbling and he’s already uncomfortably flustered, someone else enters Blaine’s room then and Blaine’s eyes snap away from Kurt’s face and towards the intruder.
“Dad?” Blaine says, face flattening, and Kurt doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry because of course it would be Blaine’s father. Of course it would.
“Oh, sorry, didn’t realise you were talking to someone.”
“Um, yeah, sorry, I can sign off…?”
Kurt cringes at the awkwardness of the exchange and half-expects Blaine to just end the call without even saying goodbye. It wouldn’t be the first time.
But then something happens that makes Kurt jump simply because no part of him expects it: Mr Anderson’s face appears on the screen beside Blaine’s.
“Ah, should’ve guessed it would be Kurt.” He says and there’s no bite behind his words. He looks a little uncomfortable maybe as he sits on the edge of Blaine’s bed, but there’s a small smile on his face and he offers Kurt a weird half-wave which Kurt tentatively returns. Blaine looks slightly shell-shocked.
“Hi, Mr Anderson.”
“Oh, you can—please, call me John.”
“Um, thank you, Mr—John.” He’s stuttering and he sounds every bit as ridiculous as Blaine did when he had this exact same conversation with Burt.
“How have you been, Kurt?”
“Good, thank you. Busy juggling everything at the moment, but good.”
Mr Anderson—John—nods and glances over at Blaine who is still staring like a fish out of water. A very, very attractive fish, but still.
“Did you know that the bullying was this bad?”
Kurt feels his back stiffen. “No! I mean, I knew it was bad, but not this bad. If I’d known—”
“I’m not blaming you. Not at all. I just don’t understand how none of the teachers saw what was going on.” He breaks himself off, scrubs a hand over his face. “Thank you, Kurt. For being there for my son—for being such a good friend to him.”
“Dad, Kurt’s not my friend; he’s my boyfriend again.”
It’s the first time Blaine’s contributed to the conversation and the silence that follows his statement makes Kurt’s ears tingle unpleasantly. For one horrible, horrible moment, Kurt thinks Mr Anderson is going to say something homophobic, or simple get up and leave.
But he doesn’t; he looks between his son’s face and Kurt’s slowly, eyes roaming over their expressions, and then chuckles. “’Bout time.”
For a moment, he sounds so like Burt that Kurt can do little more than blink. As it happens, his sudden lack of brain function doesn’t seem to matter because Blaine and his dad are looking at each other, both seemingly surprised at the words now floating in the air between them.
“You should’ve told me, Blaine. We can arrange that football game we talked about.”
“What football game?” Kurt asks and Mr Anderson looks back at him.
“Blaine and I thought it might be fun to all go to a game sometime.”
Kurt wonders if it’s the first time the phrase ‘Blaine and I’ has ever crossed his lips.
“It’ll be the wrong season now, dad.”
Mr Anderson shrugs. “So we’ll go next year. What do you say, Kurt?”
Kurt hates watching football with a passion, but there’s no way he’s turning down an invitation from Mr Anderson, not when it’s clearly an invite to so much more than a stupid game.
Blaine knows him too well, though. “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new scarf to wear. And I’ll pay for your snacks.”
Kurt honest-to-God giggles and smacks a hand over his mouth, grinning into his palm as he soaks in the look of pure happiness on Blaine’s face. It takes Kurt back to those first few months of dating, back when everything was a giddy rush, more I can’t believe this is happening than this is forever. It was freeing in a way that their relationship hasn’t been since Blaine transferred to McKinley, yet Kurt wouldn’t exchange what they have now for the world. Because those first shy dates and tentative kisses might have made his head swirl with excitement, but that’s nothing compared to how he feels now. The way that Blaine knows him so completely, even those insecurities that his 16 year old self didn’t fully comprehend, the way that Blaine accepts all of those things about him, makes him feel an incomparable kind of giddy; it buzzes just underneath his skin, a euphoric rush each time Blaine catches his gaze. He doesn’t love Blaine the same way he did when they first fell together, but he loves him more. He loves him completely.
Mr Anderson coughs. “Right, well, I’ll leave you boys to it. Just came to ask if you wanted me to get you something to eat, Blaine? I know this hospital food is beyond crappy and I’m headed to the store anyway.”
“Ooh, yes, please. Just get whatever looks appetising and easy to eat with plastic utensils. Oooh and d’you think I can get some pastries and Nutella for breakfast tomorrow—Kurt, don’t even bother, I know granola is healthier, but it’s not as delicious.” Kurt laughs, mouth snapping shut. “And dad?”
It’s another moment before Kurt hears the door to Blaine’s room shut and he looks away until he does, not wanting to intrude on their moment. Oh God, Blaine and his father are actually having a moment.
Kurt doesn’t know what to say after that, he feels sort of like he does when he’s just woken up from a nap, and apparently Blaine’s in the same boat because he remains quiet, too.
“Kurt?” Blaine says eventually, picking at the blanket on his lap.
Blaine glances up at him from underneath his long eyelashes. “What would you do if I was next to you right now?”
The shriek that Kurt makes can probably be heard down the entire hospital corridor, but he can’t bring himself to care—not when Blaine is grinning like the adorable idiot on pain meds that he is.