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A Recovery Story

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Blaine was awake. Blaine was awake and aware and looking at him. Blaine had said his name.

Kurt couldn’t break eye contact, couldn’t seem to look away. He swallowed hard, unaware that there were tears slowly tracking down his cheeks. Blaine wasn’t going to die. The realization came over him slowly, growing in his chest until he wanted to jump up and punch the air, scream at the top of his lungs. Blaine was going to live. They were going to have a chance.

The next few minutes happened in slow motion moments that passed far too quickly.

 

Mrs. Anderson reached the bed. She cried out Blaine’s name, cupped his cheek, turned his head. The eye contact was broken. Kurt took a shuddering breath. He was fairly certain he’d forgotten how to breathe. He looked away, not wanting to see whatever emotion was playing over Mrs. Anderson’s face. He didn’t think he could handle that.

 

Nurses. He wasn’t sure if Mrs. Anderson had called them in or if they’d just gotten tired of waiting behind the door. Hell, maybe Kurt actually had shouted, and they were reacting to that. He didn’t know. Laura. A woman in green scrubs he recognized but had never spoken to. A man speaking far too loudly, far too rapidly. They were never going to hear Blaine in all of this. There were too many people talking, a bunch of medical jargon he didn’t understand. Someone ran past him into the room, then ran back out. Kurt stumbled slightly to his right as they passed, eyes moving back to meet Blaine’s. Except all he could see were blank eyelids. Blaine’s eyes were closed. He felt himself starting to panic.

 

Laura was standing in front of him, holding his arms. He had no idea how long she’d been there. “He’s awake.” His breathing was too fast. He was shaking. His voice was rough.

“He is,” Laura said reassuringly, her expression remained concerned. “He’s awake. Are you okay?”

Kurt had no idea how to answer that question. He was thrilled. Terrified. Ecstatic. Paranoid. Hopeful. He shot her a helpless look.

She nodded. “Right now, the doctors need to run some tests, so we’re going to go back to the waiting room. Besides, I’m pretty sure we need to get you sitting before you pass out.”

She guided him gently toward the door. He pulled his arm away, feeling that surge of panic again. “No, he- he closed his eyes, what if he’s-“ He looked frantically back at the bed. Blaine’s eyes were still closed. A doctor (when had a doctor arrived?) was holding one eyelid up and then the other, shining a pen light in his eyes. They were pulling the ventilator toward the bed again. “What happened? Is he going back into the coma?” He knew he was being too loud, shrill, his voice cutting through the room.

Mrs. Anderson looked at him, her expression unreadable. She spoke quietly to a nurse by the bed, and then Kurt’s arm was in Laura’s grip again. He was spending an awful lot of time today being pulled around by his arm. He wondered vaguely if he’d wake up tomorrow with bruises.

“I’ll explain everything, okay, Kurt?” Laura said gently as she steered him toward the door again. “Come on, let’s sit down in the waiting room, and I’ll answer all of your questions.”

 

Kurt was sitting. There was coffee in his hand and a scratchy blanket around his shoulders. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and started working his way through what was going on.

He was a lot more stable once he’d had a moment to process, a moment to breathe without a flurry of activity. And then there were the questions. He asked dozens of them, waiting only long enough for Laura to give him a satisfactory answer before charging into the next one.

Apparently, this sort of thing was perfectly normal. Well, not the waking up bit. That had everyone quite excited. The word ‘miracle’ was being thrown around more than Kurt was entirely comfortable with. But Blaine going back to sleep after waking up was normal. His body was processing the trauma of waking. He’d be in and out for several days, at least. Possibly weeks Maybe even longer. Now that he’d woken up, the chances of him slipping back into the coma were fairly slim. It wasn’t impossible, but it was unlikely.

Blaine would be put back on the ventilator and slowly weaned off it. He’d managed to breathe on his own for quite some time when they’d taken it out. Now they were going to help him with some exercises for his lungs.

There was a lot coming. Evaluations to see how much damage there was from the initial attack, how much of his muscle mass had atrophied during his coma. What degree of brain damage he was suffering.

Kurt looked up at that last one, frowning, a little bit of that panic back in his eyes. “Brain damage?”

Laura nodded. “He’s been in a coma for a long time after a massive trauma to his head. There was swelling, initially, a brain bleed, and he had a punctured lung. They had to resuscitate him. He was unable to breathe for a little while. The chances are that there will be some deficiencies. But there’s good news, here.”

Kurt met her eyes, stomach dropping as he started to realize the weight of their situation. Blaine was awake. That didn’t make him well. “What’s that?”

“He’s spoken,” she said gently, “and he remembers you. Those are both incredibly good signs. With luck, he’ll be able to make a full recovery, in time.”

“How much time?”

Laura’s expression was gentle as she took Kurt’s hand. “This sort of thing isn’t easy to come back from. Blaine’s a fighter, he pulled out of it when almost everyone had given up on him. That’s amazing. But a full recovery, if it happens, will probably take a long time. Months. Years. It’s hard to say without having done the evaluations.”

A year. At least a year. Blaine was going to be recovering, here, in a nursing home in Ohio, for at least a year. He took a deep breath and nodded, shoulders set. “Right. Okay. Do you have-,” he couldn’t believe he was about to ask for these, “pamphlets? Or brochures or anything? I want to know what to expect. Google’s amazing, but I’d rather fall down some rabbit hole and come back convinced that he’s going to start speaking in tongues and I’ve got toe cancer.”

Laura laughed, rolling her eyes a bit. Still, she squeezed Kurt’s hand and nodded. “Let me take a look. I’ll see what I can find.”

 

He sipped on terrible hospital coffee while he waited. He made a face, shaking his head. He’d have to start bringing Blaine real coffee, as soon as he was cleared to have that. Hospital vending machines were terrible. And he’d never even tasted Lima Bean coffee. He started making lists in his head of all of the things he should bring Blaine. Music, audiobooks, copies of Vogue. He figured he wouldn’t have much range of motion, at first, but he could listen to things. Disney movies. Marvel movies. Blaine was a complete dork, he’d love all of it. Some flowers for his room, some softer blankets. He looked up as Laura walked back over to him, surprised by the stiffness in her posture, the set of her jaw. “What’s wrong?”

She handed him a stack of brochures and pamphlets, taking a deep breath. “Nothing. I just- I’m sorry, Kurt. Right now, Blaine’s going to have pretty limited visitation. One visitor at a time.” That was nothing new, he’d always been able to only have one visitor at a time. There was something else. She looked him in the eye. “Mrs. Anderson has requested that your name be taken off the visitation list, for now.”

Kurt’s stomach dropped. He could nearly feel his eyes bugging out of his head. Mrs. Anderson was cutting him off from Blaine. Hands shaking, he took a deep breath and forced himself to pull it together. Blaine was awake. He was going to hold onto that bit of good news for all he was worth. Mrs. Anderson would change her mind. She had to change her mind. He cleared his throat and nodded. “Thank you for telling me. If I leave you my number, can you give me a call when that changes?” It would change. Kurt had not gone through the past three months just to be kicked out of Blaine’s life now.

Laura nodded, hiding a smile. “You know, I think you just might have stubborned him back awake.” She handed him a notepad and a pen from her pocket. “I’ll put your number on file with a note to give you a call if and when the visitor list changes. You’ll be the very first person to know.”

Kurt nodded. He set his coffee aside and stood, stretching out his shoulders. He was sore from being so tense for so long. He didn’t even know what time it was, anymore. He cleared his throat. “Do you mind if I call? If I have questions on the pamphlets or anything?”

Laura’s grin only widened. “You can call any time. Ask for me. I’ll answer anything I can. I can’t give you specifics on Blaine, but I’ll do my best to tell you what you need to know.”

Kurt nodded, determined to leave the hospital with his dignity, at the very least. He could sob in the car when no one was looking. “Thank you, Laura. I’ll see you soon.” And that was a promise he intended to keep.

 

It didn’t dawn on him until he was halfway home that he didn’t have time to wait on Mrs. Anderson. He was leaving for New York in less than a week.

Chapter Text

Three AM. Kurt looked down at the little clock in the corner of his computer screen and ran his hand over his face. He should be sleeping. He’d been up all night reading, researching, doing his best to understand what was coming. The pamphlets had helped, though the information provided by the hospital had been less in-depth than he’d been hoping. On top of that, he didn’t have any details about Blaine’s mental state or progress.

He sighed, head falling back, rubbing his shoulders to try to get some of the stiffness out of them. His desk chair had never been particularly comfortable, and he’d been sitting there since he’d left the hospital. Biting his lip, he pulled up his email and stared at it. His mouse hovered over the compose button. He closed his eyes as he clicked it, then started typing. Eventually, he pushed the keyboard back, groaning in disgust. He’d written paragraphs on paragraphs, and he hadn’t managed to say anything at all. He’d written and deleted the same line a half a dozen times. Maybe it’d be easier to write when he’d had some sleep.

 

Pam was asked to leave the room while they re-intubated Blaine. She slipped out of the nursing home doors, forcing a smile at a nurse just coming on shift. She pulled out her phone and sighed. No missed calls. No attempts at communication from her husband. She dialed his number. He hadn’t wanted to see, hadn’t wanted to watch Blaine leave them behind. She couldn’t understand it. She hadn’t been about to allow Blaine to be alone as he died. She knew deep down that they were probably just dealing with this in different ways, that John was probably as upset by everything as she was. But it was growing harder and harder to see it that way.

The conversation was short. She dealt with John’s questions, his assumptions, his frustration. He didn’t understand what was happening. He didn’t understand why she was upset if Blaine had woken up after everything. He didn’t see the reason to come back tonight if Blaine was just going to sleep through until the morning. Maybe he’d swing by tomorrow.

She had to take a moment to collect herself before she could go back to the room.

Walking in to see that damned tube emerging from his mouth again broke her heart. She breathed deeply, closing her eyes. He’d woken up. They weren’t going backwards. The doctors had walked her through all of this. They were going to wean him off of it, he’d be getting rid of the thing for good soon. Within the day, if they were lucky. She walked over to run her fingers through Blaine’s hair like she had so many times before. If her face was wet by the time she sat back in the visitor’s chair, that was no one’s business but her own.

Time passed. Nurses came and went.

It was nearly three in the morning when Blaine woke again. Frantic eyes looked up at her from the bed, his hands twitching, trying to reach to the tube in his throat. She jerked awake from her half doze, standing and trying to meet Blaine’s eyes. He was panicked, confused, gagging on the tube in his throat. She pushed the call button and held his hands down, trembling slightly as she tried to keep him from hurting himself. “It’s okay, baby,” she said soothingly, trying to calm him. “Blaine, please, focus. I need you to focus on me.” His eyes rolled to her and away, over and over again, but they never actually connected.

“Please, Blaine.” Nothing.

Perfectly normal, the nurses assured her as they sedated him.

She sat in the visitor’s chair, head in her hands, and did her best to keep herself under control. She didn’t manage to sleep any more that night.

 

Seven AM. Kurt had managed a few hours of sleep, at least. Not much, maybe, but it was something. He woke and went downstairs to cook a far too elaborate breakfast for his dad and Carole. He ignored the raised eyebrows and the unasked questions. Carole thought he was just in a good mood, but his dad knew better. He only cooked like that when he was stressed. Luckily, Burt had a doctor’s appointment that morning, and Kurt jumped at the opportunity for a shift at the shop without his dad there to ask awkward questions. He needed a distraction, anyway. As he dressed in his coveralls (because even his least favorite pair of jeans were not getting motor oil all over them), he glanced at his computer, email still up on the screen. He bit his lip, shook his head, and closed it out. Later. He’d deal with that later.

 

When Blaine woke again, it was nearly ten in the morning. Pam felt a squeeze on her hand and immediately sat up, straightening her hair the best she could and rubbing at her raw eyes. She needed a shower, a change of clothes, a nap, but she wasn’t about to leave her son’s side.

“It’s okay, Blaine. You’re okay. The tube’s helping you breathe. Please don’t panic.”

He blinked up at her, eyes wide and uncomprehending. So far from the sweet, intelligent boy she’d known all his life. She held his hand tightly, desperately searching his eyes for some hint of her son. “Blaine.”

Nothing.

She looked up as the doctor came into the room. With barely a glance at Blaine, he started talking to her, throwing around words she didn’t understand. Intercranial pressure, hemorrhage, hydrocephalus. Things that had happened, things to watch out for. She couldn’t tell the difference, though she was doing her best to pay attention.

She’d heard it all before, in the beginning, when they’d had some hope that Blaine would wake up. She’d listened to every word, kept every scrap of information they’d handed her. She’d have to dig it all out from the boxes in Blaine’s room.

God, Blaine’s room. They’d gotten rid of so much of his furniture, so much of his clothing, so many of his things. She swallowed hard against a lump in her throat as the doctor prattled on about watching out for post traumatic brain injury symptoms. She nodded dumbly, thumb moving over Blaine’s hand in a gesture that was meant to be soothing.

 

Noon. Kurt was sitting in the break room of the shop, eating a salad he’d thrown together that morning, utterly engrossed in an article he’d printed about personality changes after an injury like Blaine’s. He wasn’t worried. He knew him. Surely, if he was going to experience those effects, they would have taken effect on ghost Blaine, too. It did raise a question, though. What if his personality really had changed? What if he’d been an asshole or something before the injury? He smiled a bit at the thought, tucking it away to tease Blaine about if Mrs. Anderson ever let him see him again. When. When Mrs. Anderson let him see him again.

He blinked as his phone beeped, nearly throwing his lunch across the room in his hurry to grab it. After all, Laura had said she’d call. His stomach sank with disappointment when he realized it wasn’t a phone call from the hospital. It was a text. From Rachel.

So Lisa from the apartment called. We’ve got to check in with the her by 3 PM, so we need to leave by 6, maybe even earlier. She said she’d been trying to call you all week, but she hasn’t gotten through. Think we can leave that early? Maybe we should leave the night before? I already have all of my vegan snacks packed for the trip. We could leave today, as far as I’m concerned. But you promised you were going to plan all of this, and you’re not even answering phone calls from the apartment lady! You’re starting to scare me, Kurt. We’re supposed to be leaving in just a few days!!!

Kurt bit his lip and stared at the phone for a long moment. He’d missed a lot of calls, lately. Or he’d answered only to promise he’d call people back. He hadn’t. He’d had more important things to worry about. His thumbs hesitated over the keys. It took him ten minutes to write out everything he needed to say. He stared at the message for a long moment, sighed, and erased it all. What he sent instead was simple, straightforward.

We should leave around 5 at the latest. With bathroom and food breaks, that’ll still be a little tight. I’ll call Lisa and let her know. Don’t worry, Rachel, everything’s going to be fine.

He went back to his lunch, a heavy weight in his stomach that he didn’t quite understand.

 

Extubating Blaine went well. Pam was there to hold his hand through the entire procedure. After, they went ahead and took out the feeding tube. She couldn’t hide her excitement, and she didn’t try. He was one step closer to being his old self. When it was done, he was left with only the IV and a slim oxygen tube in his nose. He looked so much closer to the boy he’d been, Pam couldn’t help but smile.

When he woke, he seemed a little more present. Immediately, she moved to the table at the side of the bed to pour him a cup of water, holding the straw to his lips. “Slow sips, okay?” He didn’t have any trouble swallowing, any difficulty using the straw. She smiled down at him as she pulled the cup away and set it aside. “How are you feeling, sweetheart? Do you know what’s going on?”

Blaine looked up at her, and Pam felt tears stinging at her eyes again. This time, she didn’t mind. He was there. He was awake. He was aware. And for the first time, he seemed to recognize her. “M-mom?”

Pam swallowed hard, nodding eagerly, her smile almost painful it was so wide. Her son knew her. She leaned down to kiss Blaine’s forehead. “I’m here. I know. It’s okay, you don’t have to talk. They said your throat would probably hurt. That tube’s been in there for a long time, and you haven’t used your voice.”

She felt a weak squeeze at her hand and pulled back, stroking his cheek. Maybe he was pale, thinner than she’d like, he looked tired, but he was Blaine again. She brought his hand to her lips and kissed the back of it.

Her grin faded a little when she realized he was searching for something, eyes darting around the room. Like he was expecting someone else to be there. Her stomach sank, mind wandering to that boy. The boy he’d asked for instead of her, when he’d first woken up. “It’s alright, it’s just us.” The look of disappointment on his face threatened to kill her smile altogether. She cleared her throat quietly. They’d have to discuss all of this, but it wasn’t the time. He was barely awake. He was finally himself. She wasn’t going to talk about anything that might upset him. Or her, for that matter. “Right. I- You’ll probably be tired for a while. It’s okay if you need to rest. Or I can put the tv on, find something to watch.”

She felt that squeeze to her hand again.

“Kurt.”

The word was so small. Unimportant. And yet. She looked up, and Blaine was looking right into her eyes. He was foggy, clearly confused, but there was a determination there that she recognized. It was the same look he’d given her when she’d suggested that he shouldn’t come out at school, the same way he’d looked at her when she’d told him he couldn’t compete in a singing competition with laryngitis. She reached up to cup his pale cheek. “We’ll talk about that later, love. You need to rest.” The way he raised his eyebrow reminded her entirely too much of his father. She shook her head, unable to help the fond smile on her lips. Despite everything, she couldn’t help but be grateful for every little glimpse of Blaine. “I promise. But for now, rest.”

 

Seven PM. Kurt was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital, feeling numb. He still wasn’t on the visitor’s list, but he hadn’t been able to stay away. He hadn’t seen Laura, which was probably a good thing. With any luck, she didn’t have a shift tonight. He didn’t know any of the other nurses as well, so he could just sit in the waiting room and wait. They didn’t know who he was here to see. Or not see, as the case may be.

He flipped through his phone, taking a deep breath before calling the woman at the apartment. He needed some details from her, anyway. He arranged their arrival time, made sure she knew Rachel would be coming for the keys. He took notes on a page of his sketchbook, doodling in the margins.

The notes quickly changed into a to-do list, color-coded by when things needed to be completed. As he worked on it, it morphed from a basic series of steps to prepare for the apartment to a sort of catch all for everything he needed to do. Slowly, he began to realize it was splitting into two distinct lists. Two possibilities. He had to make a choice.

 

Pam sighed. Blaine was asleep again. She’d spent a few hours talking, letting the sound of her voice fill the room as she told him about her job, her father’s business trips, the shows she’d been watching. As she spoke, she watched his eyes. Attentive and inquisitive at times, glazed and unresponsive at others. It didn’t seem to matter what she was talking about. She didn’t know how much of it he was even following. He was still Blaine, that much was obvious. She knew her son. But he wasn’t exactly all there, either. The doctors had warned her about that. There were all sorts of potential side effects to watch out for. Personality changes, cognitive difficulties, speech problems. At least he was able to speak at all. He recognized her. He remembered her and Kurt, whoever he was. All good signs.

She sighed as she leaned back in the chair, exhausted. Before the dance, she and Blaine hadn’t spoken all that much. She didn’t know what he enjoyed. She knew he liked music, but she didn’t know what kind. She was fairly certain he still liked fantasy movies, but she’d never watched them with him. Not since he’d outgrown Disney movies, anyway. They’d always just seemed silly to her. She didn’t know what he’d want to read or watch or listen to. She had absolutely no idea how to help him reconnect. Andrew was dead. Blaine hadn’t really had any other friends. He was alone in the world. And no matter how much she was trying, she was rapidly realizing that she didn’t really know her son very well.

She kissed his forehead, squeezed his hand, and took a deep breath. Coffee. She needed coffee.

She slipped out of the room and down the hall toward the vending machine. Out of habit (and maybe out of hope that her husband would actually show up today), she glanced into the waiting room.

She raised an eyebrow as she spotted Kurt, looking nearly as exhausted as she felt. He was frowning down at a sketchbook in his lap, chewing on his lip. His hair was a mess. He’d spread out his bag and his things over a half a dozen seats, getting comfortable. Clearly, he’d been there a while. Something in her chest ached at the sight. She’d taken him off Blaine’s visitation list. He knew he wouldn’t be allowed to see him. And yet, there he was, sitting there for who knew how long, waiting on the off chance that she may change her mind.

She looked away and started walking again, brow furrowing in thought. She had no idea how to reach Blaine. But that boy just might.

 

Eleven PM. The hospital waiting room closed its doors at ten, except in cases of emergency. He hadn’t been able to convince the nurse on duty (Darcy, this time) that his sitting around waiting to be invited into Blaine’s room was urgent. So now, he was staring at his computer screen. In one window, he had open half a dozen different tabs detailing traumatic brain injuries, their symptoms, what he could expect. He’d found a support group for recovering from brain damage, another one for dealing with physical therapy. They were both based out of Columbus, but they had online chat rooms, group emails, meet ups around the area. Blaine wouldn’t be alone.

In fact, he had an entire list of resources going for Blaine, dozens links with descriptions and his own little notes.

- Brain damage information, scary but really detailed
- Support group: seems to be mostly people in their seventies, but everybody’s super nice and welcoming
- Support group with resource pages on TBI from impact, DO NOT look at pictures!
- Information on comas and coma recovery, incredibly boring, but good information

He sighed quietly, looking over the list again. He could print them for Blaine before he left. Laura might even deliver it for him, if she was feeling generous. Blaine would have resources, information. If he couldn’t read it on his own, maybe his mother would read it to him. Or one of the nurses. He ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head.

It was going to be a long time before Blaine was up to doing much on his own. He’d been unconscious for years. No one had any idea what the short- and long-term damage was going to be. Rebuilding the muscles he needed alone was going to take a very long time. Much less helping him get over whatever was going on in his head, mentally or emotionally.

He looked at the second window he had open. The email he’d written that morning. He glanced down at his to-do list. Two options. Diverging paths. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. A sense of calm washed over him as he started to type. It took a while. What he’d written the night before was an almost incomprehensible mess. But eventually he managed to clean it up so it made sense. His mouse moved back and forth between send and discard as his heart slowly sped up in his chest.

When it was done, he reached for a pen and ticked off the first box on the right-hand column, hand shaking. He’d made his choice. Now he just had to hope he wouldn’t regret it.

Chapter Text

Kurt woke early the next morning. He had to be at the hospital the second visiting hours started, if he had any hope of catching Mrs. Anderson at some point. He’d only spotted her once the day before. He printed off the list of resources from his computer (two copies, actually), and headed to the nursing home.

As he slipped out the door, he sighed, grateful that Burt had already gone to the shop. As much as he hated dodging his dad, it was necessary. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it up forever, but that was a problem for tomorrow. Burt would see through him in a second. And today, he had things to do.

 

He was expecting to go to the hospital, sit in the waiting room, spend some time on his phone. He was hoping to catch Mrs. Anderson when she went out for coffee or something. He had no idea he’d nearly walk right over her in the parking lot. He stumbled backward just before they made contact, blinking owlishly. “Mrs. Anderson.”

She looked better today. She’d clearly had the chance to go home and clean up, maybe even get some sleep. Kurt wondered if Blaine had been left alone during that time. If he’d had any other visitors. He cleared his throat and took a breath. “Right. I was actually sort of meaning to talk to you.”

If she was surprised to see Kurt, she didn’t show it. She simply looked exhausted. She straightened her blouse and seemed to grow an inch taller. Someday, he was going to figure out how she did that. It was absolutely terrifying. “Kevin,” she said quietly, nodding her head in acknowledgement. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m on my way in to see Blaine.”

“Kurt,” he corrected automatically. She knew his name. He knew she knew it. But she wanted him to think she’d already forgotten. He could play this game. He could be polite. He had to be, if he wanted to have a chance in hell of seeing Blaine again. “I sort of figured you were on your way in to see him. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to see Blaine.”

Her eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hairline at the directness of the request. “Blaine needs his family. He’s recovering from a coma that’s lasted years. Do you really think seeing you is the best idea, in all of that?”

Kurt took a deep breath and nodded. “I do,” he said quietly, meeting her eyes. “I think he needs me. And I know I need to see him.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes, turning to walk into the hospital, but he stepped in front of her.

“Mrs. Anderson,” he said gently, “I know that I probably didn’t leave the best impression on you. I mean, I showed up at your doorstep and asked to see him, and then I turned up again the day you were- well, when you had to make that decision. And on top of that, I kissed him. Which probably seems really strange out of context.” He hadn’t even thought of how he was going to explain that. His cheeks started to heat up. “I get that I’m probably your least favorite person on the planet, right now. Honestly, I probably should be. But your son is really important to me. And I think I’m important to him.” He took a deep breath. “I just want to ask you one thing. If the answer is no, I’ll walk away right now, and I’ll never bother you again.” He looked up at her. “Has he asked for me?”

Mrs. Anderson watched him for a long moment. He felt like he was being weighed, judged. His heart on one side of a scale, on the other, a feather. Too heavy, and he’d be tossed into the underworld forever. Eventually, her relaxed just slightly. “You’re right. It was completely inappropriate.” It wasn’t an answer, but it gave him the information he needed. If Blaine hadn’t asked for him, he’d be in his car on the way back to Lima, by now.

Kurt nodded, breathing slowly, knowing he needed to tread carefully. “You’re right,” he agreed quietly. “I don’t have any excuses. It was inappropriate, and I apologize. Really, I owe him an apology, but I can’t exactly do that if I’m never allowed in the room.”

Her raised eyebrow didn’t stop him.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen. I wasn’t thinking. He was dying and I-“ He hesitated, taking a moment to gather his thoughts. He didn’t bother trying to hide his expressions. Being vulnerable had never been a comfortable thing for him, but he needed to show her that this was serious. That he wasn’t lying. He sighed quietly. “All I could think about was his laugh.” He glanced up at her, shaking his head. “That stupid laugh that he has when he throws his head back and laughs until he actually snorts. There were so many things running through my head that day, but that was the one that stuck. I said… Well, I said a lot of things to him that are frankly a little too personal to tell his mother. But I knew how he’d react. I knew the smile he’d give me. I knew that everything would be awkward and weird and wonderful at the same time. And I kissed him.” He set his shoulders, preparing for her to berate him, at best. “I owe him an apology for kissing him when he didn’t say I could. It won’t happen again. But it wasn’t out of some weird desire to be manipulative or to take advantage. I just looked at him and I didn’t have a choice.”

The silence stretched between them. It was uncomfortable. He felt like he’d just laid out his soul, and she was watching him with an expression he couldn’t even begin to decipher, though he tried. Sadness. Pity. Fear. Understanding. Recognition. Maybe even a little bit of happiness for her son. “His father won’t be happy if I let you back into that room.”

Kurt nodded again. “I understand that,” he said softly. “I’ll speak with him, too, if you’d like. I’m not leaving this hospital until I see Blaine.”

She just looked at him, tilting her head. “You lied to me, the first time we met. How do you know my son?”

Kurt knew this question was coming. Of course it was. It made perfect sense. Didn’t mean it was going to be comfortable. “Yes, I lied to you. I don’t go to his school. I graduated in May. I’m supposed to be going to New York soon, actually. Very soon.” He shook his head, clearing away thoughts of the city. “I’m sorry that I lied to you about how I knew him. But Blaine is one of the most important people in my life. He’s my best friend. He’s the person who makes me happiest.”

Her expression remained completely neutral. “He never mentioned you. All he spoke about was Andrew.”

“I know he didn’t. I went to McKinley, not Westerville. We talked a lot.” He wasn’t technically lying, but it wasn’t exactly the truth, either. She would assume he was a friend from before the coma. But there was no other way to do this. She’d think he was insane if he told her the truth. “We got to know each other kind of unconventionally, I guess. But I know all about Andrew. I know how much he cared about him. I know what his life was like at school after he came out. I went through a lot of the same things at McKinley. We understand each other. I knew he hadn’t told you about me when we met.”

“So you lied. To protect my son from me.”

Kurt had no idea how to react to that. He looked up at her quickly, but her expression was still calm, neutral. He hadn’t thought of it that way, but it had some truth to it. She wasn’t exactly a welcoming woman. And Blaine had known she would disapprove.

“Why did it take you so long to find me? To ask about him? You say he’s important to you, but it was nearly three years after the attack that you finally showed up.”

Kurt didn’t know if this was working. He didn’t know if she believed him or if she was just interrogating him for the hell of it, now. He had no idea how to manipulate the situation into what he wanted. So he resigned himself to simply telling the truth. Or as much of it as he could without making her shove him toward the psych ward. “I didn’t know where you were, at first. I- I had to find you. And I didn’t think Blaine would have wanted me to talk to you. He was pretty insistent that we not meet. It took a long time for me to build up the courage. I found some articles about him online, and I decided that seeing him was more important than keeping his secrets.”

She hummed quietly, but said nothing.

“I was leaving, Mrs. Anderson. New York City. I wasn’t going to be coming back here, not for a long time,” Kurt said quietly. “If I hadn’t found him, I never would have known. I thought he died. I was sure of it. The articles when he was hurt all talked about losing him, about the tragedy at the school. But I finally sat down and read them again before I left, knowing I needed some closure. They never really confirmed anything, never stated what had happened to him. And I had to know. There was this- There was this hope that he was somehow fine. That something had changed, that he was hurt but not lost, that I could keep my best friend. I had to see you. It didn’t matter what I was risking, at that point. Even if he hated me when I found him, it would mean he was there.”

He had no idea what he’d said that had changed her mind, but when he looked up again, her eyes were soft, almost warm. Some sort of understanding passed between them, and when she spoke, he knew they were going to be alright. Maybe she didn’t understand everything. But she understood how Kurt felt. “I know I’m going to regret this. I’ll ask Laura to put you back on the visitation list. You can come in this afternoon to see him, not before. I want some time with him before you get there.”

Her expression shuttered again as she looked firmly at Kurt, holding his eyes with her own. “And if you so much as look at my son inappropriately again, I will have you kicked out and possibly arrested. What Blaine chooses to do and whom he chooses is his own business, but he’s very vulnerable right now. I am not having anyone taking advantage of that. Even someone who means well.”

Kurt wondered if he would ever really understand Mrs. Anderson. Every time they spoke, she managed to surprise him. She wasn’t exactly a warm woman, but she loved her son. And she was the most frightening person he’d ever met. He swallowed hard, taking a half a step back. “Right. Thank you, Mrs. Anderson. This means the world to me. And I won’t. Absolutely nothing inappropriate with your son.”

She nodded, taking a half a step back, clearly signaling the end to the conversation. “Come back around one. I’ll be back at five, and I expect you to be gone.”

Kurt nodded as she turned and walked away. He shook his head, a little dazed. She might hate him, but she was letting him back in to see Blaine. He couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. He was seeing Blaine again. He’d face that glare a million times for that.

Chapter Text

When Kurt returned, Laura was on duty. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief at the familiar face as he stepped up to the desk, clearly nervous. “How is he?”

Laura grinned at the sight of him. “You know, I was going to call you when you were put back on the list, but Mrs. Anderson might have mentioned being convinced by a certain someone.” She shook her head. “You’re my hero. That woman scares me to death.”

Kurt couldn’t help but laugh a little at that, shrugging his shoulders. “I guess it just depends on how important something is to you. I needed to see Blaine. So, I had to talk to her.”

Laura shot him an amused smile. “Well, you’re on my bravest people of all time list, kiddo.” Her expression softened. “Blaine’s recovering. He’s still sleeping a lot. He’s not speaking much since the last time you were here, but he’ll probably respond if you ask him questions. We’ve been using the blinking system. Once is yes, twice is no. Don’t be surprised if he’s a little confused, he’s likely to have some memory and processing issues. The doctors are still evaluating him.” She squeezed his arm. “I promise, it’s not all that scary. He’s just taking some time to adjust. He’ll be back to his normal self in no time. A little confusion and difficulty talking is pretty standard for being in a coma and on a ventilator so long.”

Kurt nodded, frowning at the thought of having to communicate with Blaine via blinking. He hadn’t really considered that once Blaine woke up, he wouldn’t be able to speak. He’d known it was a possibility, but he hadn’t thought it would actually happen. They’d always spent hours talking. What were they meant to do now?

Laura led Kurt through the hospital to a wing he hadn’t seen before. In the center of the area was a glass-walled gym. Doors lined the walls across from it, providing easy access for recovering patients. He watched as a ridiculously fit guy helped a young woman in a wheelchair into a harness. She was lifted to her feet, grabbing two parallel metal bars as the guy cheered her on loudly enough that Kurt could hear it through the glass. It looked like she was learning how to walk. He turned to follow Laura, realizing he was sort of spying on someone’s physical therapy. Blaine would probably have to go through all of that. “I hope you’re still getting him the right sheets,” he said, trying to ground himself in this new situation with something familiar.

She laughed, nodding. “Of course. Nothing but the best for Mr. Anderson.” She nodded to the gym. “He’ll start physical therapy as soon as he’s strong enough. He’s off the ventilator, but we’re still working on getting his lungs back up to par. He’ll be doing physical therapy in bed, at first, little exercises. Eventually, he’ll move out here.”

Kurt nodded, trying to look much more prepared than he felt. PT in bed, then more in the gym. How long was Blaine going to be in the hospital, exactly? He didn’t ask. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.

He blew out a breath as they stopped in front of room 237, trying to psych himself up. “Alright. New room number, new section of the hospital. Perfect.”

Laura took Kurt’s hand and squeezed. “You’ve got this. The guy behind that door is exactly the same person you’ve been coming to see for ages. Just take a deep breath and walk on in.”

Kurt smiled at her, squared his shoulders, and did exactly that.

 

Mrs. Anderson wasn’t there. He’d been almost expecting a chaperone, considering the conversation he’d had with her. He took a tentative step into the room, hugging the wall. There was Blaine. Eyes closed. The ventilator was gone, replaced by an oxygen tube in his nose. No feeding tube, either. The IV still hung down to his inner elbow, but he was propped up to a half seated position. He didn’t look all that different. It felt like he should. Like there should be some massive physical distinction, now that he wasn’t in a coma.

Kurt had no idea what to do, how to speak to him. When he’d been a ghost, he’d been awake. Laughing, talking, crying. He’d been real. Unconscious, he’d been blank, someone Kurt could talk to without any fear of judgment. Now, he was just Blaine. Limited by his physical state, but mentally present. Solid and real and Kurt had no way to judge how aware he was. He took a deep breath as he stepped further into the room, sitting in his customary chair. The room may be new, but some things never changed.

“Hi.” Brilliant. Groundbreaking. He sighed out a breath, shaking his head. “Sorry. This is insanely awkward. It shouldn’t be. It should be easy. It’s always been so easy to talk to you.” He reached for Blaine’s hand, holding it between both of his own. He kept his focus there. “They haven’t let me back. That’s why I haven’t been visiting. I wasn’t on the visitor’s list anymore. But it’s okay. I talked to your mom. Pretty sure she thinks I knew you pre-coma, now.” He huffed out a breath, shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, you try explaining our situation without sounding completely insane.”

He ran his thumb over Blaine’s knuckles. “So, I owe you an apology. I-,” he looked up, and Blaine’s eyes were open, focused on him. His chair made a loud scraping noise against the tile as he jumped nearly out of his skin. “Hi, there.”

Kurt was uncomfortable, every bit of this was uncomfortable. Blaine was looking at him, but something was off. He didn’t seem to recognize him, his eyes clouded over with pain or meds or confusion. Kurt swallowed hard. “Do you- Do you know who I am?”

Blaine was silent for a long time, blinking, looking over Kurt’s face. Kurt felt his stomach start to sink. Blaine didn’t know him. After everything, Blaine had no idea who he was. He swallowed hard, thinking of the email he’d sent off that morning, the conversations he was going to have to have. He squeezed Blaine’s hand without even thinking about it, his gaze falling to the blanket as he tried to keep himself from panicking. He wanted to be here, needed to be here, but the thought of having to restart their relationship from the beginning was terrifying.

“K-Kurt.”

Kurt blinked, looking up at Blaine, feeling like he might pass out from emotional whiplash. He met Blaine’s eyes. They were still confused, foggy, but he found the recognition he was searching for.

“Kurt,” Kurt repeated back to him, unable to hide his relief. “Right. Hi. I’m Kurt.” He couldn’t help the grin breaking across his face. “Hi. I’ve missed you.”

Blaine’s lips broke into a slow smile.

“You have no freaking idea how nice it is to hear your voice.”

He spent a long moment just sitting there, letting his nerves settle again, letting Blaine’s hand in his calm him down. ““Right. Okay. Um, apology time.” He cleared his throat. “So, the last time I was here, I- I was trying to wake you up. Do you remember that?”

Blaine looked like he was trying to say something, but Kurt caught a little flinch. Trying to speak was hurting him. He quickly squeezed Blaine’s hand. “It’s okay. You can do the blinking thing instead of talking. Laura warned me about that. One means yes, two means no, I’ve got it.”

Blaine blinked at him once. “Does that mean you remember?” One blink again.

“Right. Well, I was trying to wake you up. And I was… I mean, I was kind of having that whole verbal diarrhea thing that I get around you all the time. Saying some really sentimental things, because I sort of thought you were dying. And I-,” Kurt could feel his cheeks turning bright red. He could actually feel the depth of the color. He huffed out a breath, saying the next part so quickly the words blurred together. “I kissed you.” He swallowed hard, speaking more slowly. “I kissed you while you were unconscious and that makes me, like, a level twelve creeper because you were completely out of it and I am so, so sorry.”

Silence. Stillness. When he realized why, he felt like an idiot. Blaine wasn’t speaking. If he didn’t look at him, they couldn’t communicate. He looked up at Blaine’s face, chagrined.

Blaine was amused. Kurt blinked and looked again. His eyes were sparkling, he seemed to be holding back laughter. “Hey, what the hell?”

Blaine snorted. Actually snorted. And then he was chuckling, and then he was laughing, and Kurt was mortified. “Hey! I’m trying to apologize, here! I kissed you while you were unconscious. I Sleeping Beauty-ed you. I Snow White-d you!” Another peal of laughter, this one even louder. “Would you stop laughing at me?”

Blaine lost it, letting go of Kurt’s hand as peals of laughter made his eyes water. His head fell back, eyes closed. It didn’t sound quite right, but it filled Kurt up with joy, anyway. Blaine was laughing. Kurt had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from smiling. “I’m trying to make a very serious apology!”

The laughter started to die down a little, and Blaine’s breathing became more labored. He was wheezing a bit. Kurt’s amusement faded as he laid a hand on Blaine’s chest. “Hey, seriously, take a couple of breaths for me. Nice and slow.”

Blaine tried to do as he was told, looking to Kurt with slightly panicked eyes as he fought to get a deep breath in. “Good. Really good. Let’s try in for two and out for two, okay?” He had no idea whether this would help. It was a warm-up they’d done in glee all the time to work on breath control. Different context, but it should work the same muscle groups, right? He counted to two twice, then doubled it to four, then eight. When they were done, Blaine’s eyes were a little cloudy with pain, but his breathing was normal again. “Note to self, don’t make you laugh.” He took his hand again and squeezed.

Blaine looked exhausted as he met his eyes. “Okay.” His voice was rough, and that time he even sounded like he was in pain.

“I really hope that means that you’re okay,” Kurt said quietly. One blink.

“And that you forgive me for being a little bit skeezy and kissing you without asking or anything, even if my intentions were good.” An eye roll and then a blink.

He bit his lip, running his thumb over the back of Blaine’s hand. “Are you okay? Really?”

One blink.

Kind of a stupid question, actually. “Are you hurting?”

Blaine hesitated for a moment, then blinked once. Kurt had the feeling he didn’t want to admit it, didn’t want to talk about the harder parts of all this right now. “It’s okay,” he said softly. “I’m not going to call a nurse in or anything unless you want me to. I just-… I hadn’t thought about it. That you might still be in pain. I sort of assumed that the coma would’ve healed everything.” Probably a stupid assumption, but this was his first time dealing with the aftermath of anything remotely like this.

He held Blaine’s hand for a long while, not sure what to say. “I’m sorry it hurt you,” he said quietly, “but it was really amazing to hear you laugh. I was starting to think I wasn’t ever going to hear that again.”

Blaine’s expression was soft as Kurt looked up at him. Even through the pain, he was smiling. Kurt’s chest hurt in the best possible way as something settled into place. Despite everything, he was still Blaine. They still had their connection. Maybe things were different, now, but that didn’t change what they were to each other. They just had to get a little bit creative.

He grinned, letting go of Blaine’s hand long enough to reach down into his bag.

“Alright, well, I sort of assumed we’d be having some incredible, in-depth conversation, but we’ll put that on hold for now. Instead, we can look at this.” He pulled out the latest copy of Vogue, grinning. “I was looking forward to hearing your commentary, but we’re going to have to settle for you just squeezing my hand when you see something particularly hideous. And trust me, you’re going to be squeezing my hand a lot. There’s a hot pink, taffeta ballgown in here, Blaine. Pink. Taffeta.” He heard Blaine huff out a quiet, amused breath and felt a hard squeeze on his hand. They were still Kurt and Blaine, even with limitations. They were going to be just fine.

Chapter Text

Rachel was staring at him like he’d just admitted he was an alien bent on world domination. “What do you mean you’re not going?”

Kurt flinched, ears physically hurting at the sound of her shrieking. He really should’ve been expecting that. Maybe earplugs would’ve helped. “I’m not going, Rach. I can’t.”

Her stare was unnerving. “But it’s New York.”

“Yes, I’m aware of where we were going.”

“But it’s your dream.”

Kurt sighed. “I know. And it’ll still be my dream in a year’s time.” He reached out for her hands, prepared to launch into his list of reasons, carefully cultivated to not mention Blaine at all. “This isn’t a no forever, Rachel, it’s just for now. Just for a year. It makes sense. I can work at Dad’s shop, I can save up some money, move when I’m a little more ready financially. I can spend another year getting him ready to do the diet thing on his own. Making sure he actually takes the walks he’s supposed to take, that he’s not downing a massive meatlovers pizza every time I turn around.”

Rachel made a face. “That was one time! There’s no way he’s eating those things constantly or he’d have had another heart attack already.” At Kurt’s answering expression, she looked a little sheepish.

Then her eyes narrowed. “This is about mystery boy, isn’t it?” His expression must have given something away. “I thought you said he was our age! He can just come with us! I know it’s a little apartment, but we can find room, and splitting the rent three ways is even more brilliant than splitting it in two! It’s perfect!”

Kurt shook his head. “He can’t go with us. Things are... complicated. He can’t move to New York. And I’m serious, this is better for me and for my dad’s financial situation. I know it’s short notice-“

“We’re supposed to leave in two days!”

“-but I’ll still make the drive up with you and all of your stuff, help you get settled, and I’ve got the first month’s rent all figured out. You’ll only be on your own for a month, and I’ll spend every night on skype with you interviewing candidates for your roommate, if that’s what it takes.”

Rachel stared at him, pulling her hands out of his. “You’ve already got it all figured out. You’ve been planning this.” She swallowed hard, betrayal and understanding battling it out in her expression. Understanding won out. He wished it hadn’t. It was much easier to deal with an angry Rachel than a sincere one. She moved in close again. “I know you’re upset over NYADA, but you’ll get in next semester, and it’ll be fine. You have Vogue. You have one of your dream jobs, in the city you’ve always wanted to live in. I know how scary it is to move away from everything, but that’s why we’re doing it together. Safety in numbers. Everything will be better in New York. You’ll see.”

Kurt’s stomach clenched at the mention of NYADA, though he tried to keep his expression neutral. As disappointing as that letter had been, this really wasn’t about not getting in. He’d been prepared to go with Vogue as his main plan. Hell, he’d been over the moon when he’d received that letter. He’d danced around his room, singing it out at the top of his lungs. But the one person he’d wanted to tell had been lying in a coma, unconscious. He wanted NYADA, Vogue, New York City. He just didn’t want it alone. “It’s not about NYADA.” Kurt’s expression softened as he reached for her hand again. “It’s really not. I already spoke with my hiring manager at Vogue. After explaining everything, they’re letting me defer my internship for a year. I’m already accepted for next fall. I can reapply to NYADA, spend the time I’m here focusing on my audition. When I join you next year, it’ll be with both dreams fully intact and a fistful of cash.” He forced a smile, trying to meet her eyes. “I know this isn’t fair to you, Rachel. I’m sorry. But I’m going to be there for you through the whole thing, I promise.”

She still looked crushed. Kurt sighed, deciding to throw her a bone. “And maybe when I move next year it’ll be with mystery boy in tow.”

Rachel let out a watery laugh, letting go of Kurt’s hands so that she could wipe at her eyes. Kurt hated tears. Especially real tears. This wasn’t Rachel being a drama queen. She was afraid, upset, worried. He was abandoning her just a few days before they were meant to move in together. “But you’re just leaving me. We were supposed to go together.”

“I know. You’ll never know how sorry I am for this, Rachel.” He tried to will her to understand, though he knew she couldn’t. He couldn’t even explain everything to her. “It’s the right call. It’s right for my dad. It’s right for our money situation.” He took a deep breath. “And it’s right for Blaine. I told you, things are complicated. He’s... he’s going to need time. I want to be there for him through it. It’s really important to me.”

“He shouldn’t be asking you to abandon your best friend.”

Kurt didn’t bother correcting the phrasing. Mercedes wouldn’t mind, she was already off in California. “He didn’t ask. He never would. He doesn’t even know, yet. This was my choice, because I want to stay. He’ll probably be furious when I tell him.”

Rachel looked at him for a long moment, searching his expression. Eventually, she sighed, her shoulders deflating. “You’ll help me interview every single possible roommate? All of them? Even the ones that you try to rule out because you call them insane?”

“I promise,” he said seriously, meeting her eyes. “Though my veto power is absolute. You burn the applications from the crazies. That’s non-negotiable. You are so not ending up with some psychotic roommate.”

“Am I at least going to get to meet him?”

Kurt was quiet for a long moment. “Maybe when you’re home for Christmas. There’s a lot I need to explain in our weekly, hour-long Skype sessions.” The hopeful expression on her face made him smile. “Once you get your class and rehearsal schedules figured out, tell me when works for you. I’ll even let you use me as practice for auditions. Though only if you let me dress you.”

She nodded and squeezed his hand. Things were a little broken between them, but he could fix them. With time and some effort on his part, he could make this right.

 

“You’re not going.” Burt’s voice was neutral in remarkably dangerous way.

Kurt took a deep breath and nodded. Rachel had been hard enough. Taking to his dad felt impossible. “I’ve already talked to Vogue. They’ll let me defer for a year. I’ve talked to Rachel. I’m paying my half of the first month’s rent and helping her find a roommate. We’re going to skype all the time. I’ll reapply to NYADA, help you in the shop, maybe get a second job-“

Burt held up a hand to stop his son’s nervous rambling. Kurt’s mouth closed automatically and swallowed against a dry throat.

“Tell me why.” The words were simple, straightforward. Not exactly an accusation, but not exactly not, either. Kurt swallowed again.

He started in with his prepared speech. He’d practiced in the mirror dozens of times. “It makes sense, financially speaking. Going with only one month’s rent saved up seems a little silly. And you know you still need me around to force you to follow your diet. I didn’t get into NYADA, so I can spend some time working on my resume and audition. I can also build up my portfolio for Vogue. It’s the responsible, adult decision.”

Burt’s expression didn’t shift. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, tell me why.”

Kurt’s expression fell. He’d really been hoping his dad would take his explanation at face value. None of his spiel was even a lie, it just wasn’t the full truth. He sighed quietly, chewing on his lip. “Blaine.”

Burt raised an eyebrow. “The kid you’ve been hanging out with at coffee shops all summer? He’s asked you to stay here?”

Kurt shook his head. He took a steadying breath, trying to figure out how to explain any of this without having to lie or sounding like he’d had some sort of psychotic break. “He was hurt,” he said quietly. “I have been spending time with him this summer, but a lot of it’s been at the hospital. He was- He had a really bad head injury, and he was in a coma.” He cleared his throat and looked up, meeting Burt’s concerned eyes. Even if his dad thought Blaine was keeping him home selfishly, he still felt sympathy for his situation. That’s just the sort of man he was. “He woke up recently. He’s not- He’s got a lot of recovering to do. He was on a ventilator, so speaking is hard for him, they’re worried he might have some memory problems. He doesn’t have the best support system here. I mean, his dad is piece of-,” he cut himself off when Burt cleared his throat, shaking his head. “He’s just not supportive, to say the least. And his mom is- She’s trying, but I don’t think they have that great a relationship. He doesn’t have any friends that he’s close with, other than me. No siblings. He’s alone, Dad. He needs me. He hasn’t asked me to stay. He would never do that to me. He was thrilled when I told him about New York. But I can’t leave him. I can’t and I won’t.” He looked up at his father, trying to will him to understand. “In a year, he’ll be recovered enough to go with me,” at least, he hoped so, “And if that doesn’t happen, it’s okay, too. But at least I’ll have helped him through the worst of it.”

Burt’s expression remained neutral for a long moment, like he was sizing Kurt up, weighing what he’d said. Sometimes, he hated how measured and controlled his dad could be. Eventually, Burt sighed. He lifted his baseball cap to run a hand through what little hair he had left before settling it back down. “I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s a good idea to put your life on hold for a guy you just met, even if he has been hurt. I’m sorry about that. No kid deserves to go through something like that. But Kurt, I know what New York means to you. You care about him a lot. And if he cares about you, he’s not going to want you to stay in Ohio.”

Kurt swallowed hard. Burt understood what Kurt was giving up in a way Rachel didn’t. She knew he was choosing not to follow a dream. But she didn’t understand what he was really losing. Acceptance. Freedom. He could get away from that small-town mentality. He could get away from all the people who hated him because he dared to be different in a way they didn’t understand.

When Kurt spoke, his voice was clear. “I’m staying. It’s not up for debate. It’s not your decision. And it’s not his. I need to be here for him.”

Burt held eye contact for a moment and then nodded. “You’re eighteen. You’re old enough to make that choice. And I hope like hell it’s the right one, kiddo.”

Kurt nodded. He was sure. Blaine was worth it. What they had was worth delaying all of that for a little while, no matter how it made his heart ache.

Burt’s posture relaxed. If he was disappointed in Kurt’s choice, he didn’t show it. “Alright, we’ll work out your schedule at the shop. I don’t know about a second job, we’ll talk about that. Depends on how many hours I’ve got for you there. I want you to have time to get everything ready for your try outs and stuff for next year.”

Kurt fought the urge to give his dad a hug, just nodding again in agreement. “Got it. Thank you, Dad. I’ll be there in a year. It’s not so long.”

Burt’s grin was a little sad as he clapped his son on the shoulder and headed to the living room to watch whatever game was on. Kurt took a deep breath, closing his eyes. He was doing the right thing. He had to be.

Chapter Text

Kurt walked into Blaine’s hospital room and nearly tripped over a little ball rolling toward him on the floor. He stooped to pick it up, precariously balancing two coffee cups on top of each other so he could. He stood up and raised an eyebrow at Blaine. “Frustrated? Or just bored and throwing things at me?”

Blaine rolled his eyes, though he lit up at the sight of coffee. “Is that- um, real?” He was sitting up in his seat, staring at the cups with a desire that nearly made Kurt jealous of cheap cardboard and plastic. He hated to burst his bubble. “Hot chocolate, actually.” Which was a little hard to find, at the end of the summer during Ohio’s hottest days. But Blaine had been staring longingly at his coffee for the past week of visits, and Kurt had wanted to get him the next best thing. He wasn’t quite cleared for caffeine yet. He set his coffee and the hot chocolate down and held out the ball to Blaine.

Blaine’s face fell when he realized he wasn’t getting real coffee, and Kurt fought off a wave of guilt. This was for his health. Until the doctors cleared him, he wasn’t allowed to have anything that could mess with his system. Even caffeine. Kurt shook the ball in his hand that Blaine was pointedly ignoring.

“You told me that your PT said this was good for you. Reaching out and grabbing things. What’s his name again?” He’d been hearing all about Alex for days, he figured it was an easy question. He was supposed to be helping Blaine with his memory, as much as possible.

Blaine huffed out a breath and shook his head. “I’ll just miss it.” He wasn’t taking the bait, wouldn’t answer the question. He was getting awfully good at that. Kurt couldn’t tell if it was because he didn’t know or because he was annoyed by people pushing him to remember.

Blaine was improving. He didn’t need to be on the oxygen anymore. He was sitting up in bed, propped up on a pile of pillows. Kurt had yet to meet his physical therapist, but he was looking forward to it. The guy had a way of getting under Blaine’s skin that always made Kurt smile. And he was genuinely helping. Every day, Blaine had new little exercises he could do to help with range of motion. Alex was a miracle worker, according to Blaine’s mom. He held the ball up a little higher, balanced perfectly in his palm. “Come on, you know it’s good for you.”

Blaine rolled his eyes and pouted, leaning back against the pillows. He switched tactics, looking at Kurt with wide, pathetic eyes. “But he said I need to keep squeezing it, to work on my finger strength. You wouldn’t deny me that, would you? If I reach, I’ll just miss. I might give up altogether. Forever. I’ll just be useless and… um…” he trailed off, segueing into full on puppy dog eyes.

Kurt raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Yep. You’ll just have to be trapped forever, barely moving.” He sipped at his coffee in his free hand. “There’s chocolatey goodness waiting for you if you’ll just reach out and take the ball, B. I even got you mini marshmallows. And a little bit of caramel.”

Blaine glared at him. “I hate you.” He reached out and tried to grab the ball, missing Kurt’s hand by a solid six inches. It was an improvement on what he’d done a few days before. Then he’d been off by at least a foot.

Kurt grinned. “You’re getting better. Little bit to the left.”

Blaine moved his hand with a grunt of effort until it knocked into Kurt’s. Kurt rearranged them so that the ball was under Blaine’s hand, and helped him grip. He really was improving, day by day. Blaine couldn’t see it, but Kurt could. He was able to maintain eye contact all the time, now, he always recognized Kurt and his mother. He was almost back to a normal sleep schedule, only taking a short nap in the afternoon if he was exhausted. “Good job.”

Blaine pulled the stress ball back to rest on the sheets, squeezing it weakly with his right hand. “Yep. I’ll be the strongest man in the… um, strongest in the whole hospital in no time.”

Kurt smiled at him and nodded. “Absolutely. They’ll start having you compete in strong man competitions before you know it.”

Blaine snorted. “Pretty sure those aren’t a thing anymore, but I’ll let you know.” He kept working with the ball, most of his focus on his task. Kurt had seen him work hard at PT, even when it hurt, even when he wasn’t seeing the results that everyone around him could see. He managed to keep a smile on his face every day, always in the mood to chat or to joke around with Kurt. It was amazing. Kurt had no idea how he did it. He would have been going crazy by now if it had been him. It made things so much easier, knowing Blaine would be happy when he saw him.

They’d fallen into a routine the past couple of weeks or so. Kurt was at the shop from eight to five most days. He came by every day after work to check in with Blaine and make sure he was okay. He spent all day Tuesday and Thursday with him. Well, as much of the day as he could. He was kicked out for physical therapy twice a day and he didn’t always stay around for Blaine’s nap, but he figured that didn’t count as much time apart.

He’d gotten to know the nurses’ schedule fairly well. He wasn’t let in until 8, after rounds were complete, unless the doctor was running late. If he did happen to be there for them, the nurses would come by, say hello, check Blaine’s IV. They’d hand him a little cup full of pills in preparation for getting the IV out altogether (within the next few days, if Blaine continued to do well). He’d asked once what was in there. The nurse had spoken so quickly that he’d barely processed it. He’d caught a few of them. Pain medication, something for nausea and vertigo, an antiepileptic. He was going to ask Laura for a list, eventually.

They were getting better at just talking. They couldn’t have the easy, hours long conversations they’d had before. Blaine was still a little stilted when he spoke. Sometimes, he seemed to forget what he was saying halfway through, like the thought had just flown out of his head. Even when the words flowed steady and sure, it seemed to take a lot out of him. But they’d worked their way up from awkward silences to being able to talk and joke within a matter of a week or two. It wasn’t perfect, but every day was easier. And despite all of that, Blaine was still Blaine. So Kurt did most of the talking, blathering on about Gaga’s latest single or the newest musical he’d been made aware of, or work at his dad’s shop. Simple, innocuous topics.

Today, they were working their way through yet another old edition of Vogue. Blaine had plenty of bad fashion to catch up on after three years of sleeping. He was pulling out his copy (annotated, so that he could keep the conversation going, even if Blaine grew tired) when Blaine spoke first.

“What’s the date?”

Kurt blinked, looking down at the magazine cover. “This one’s September of 2010. Why?”

Blaine shook his head. “Today’s date.”

Of all the questions he’d been expecting, that one hadn’t been on the list. He looked at his phone and shrugged. “August 28th.” He started to open the magazine, but the look on Blaine’s face stopped him. He tried to parse out exactly what that expression was. There was a question there. Hope. Fear. Frustration. Blaine was chewing on his lip.

Kurt shifted a little in his seat. “What’s so important about the date, Blaine?”

“It’s the end of August.”

Kurt nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

Blaine just looked at him. “You were- You and- and your friend. You were going to- um, you were leaving.”

Kurt felt his adrenaline spike, heart beating a little faster in his chest. Blaine hadn’t mentioned New York. Not once since waking up. He’d half hoped he’d forgotten. There had been a lot to talk about since. He hadn’t been thinking all that clearly. Kurt cleared his throat quietly and nodded. “Rachel. Yeah. Rachel and I were going to go. But there’s been a change in plans.”

Blaine just looked at him like he was processing that. “A change in plans.”

Kurt cleared his throat, and he nodded. “Yes. Now, can we get back to Vogue?” He reached for Blaine’s hot chocolate, trying to distract him. “Or do you want a drink of this? I can probably dig up a coffee straw or something.”

Blaine just kept watching him. His expression was drawn, tired. “Why?”

“Because chocolate is delicious, Blaine, and it helps you feel better.” Kurt was trying not to snap, but this was a sore subject, and he didn’t know if he was ready for this conversation. But Blaine wasn’t backing down. He simply raised an eyebrow and watched Kurt try to dodge him. Kurt sighed, setting the hot chocolate back down on the rolling table beside Blaine’s bed. “I wasn’t- After everything that we’ve been through, I couldn’t just leave you. You’re here. You can’t leave here. And everything that I thought we could do- Skype dates, talking on the phone, even texting- it’s just not possible yet. If I left, I would have been leaving you behind. I wasn’t ready to do that.”

Blaine shook his head, squeezing the stress ball rhythmically. “We could have figured it out. I’m not- I’m not that broken.”

Kurt took a deep breath and reached for Blaine’s free hand. “I know you’re not broken,” he said quietly, his voice firm. “You’re the furthest thing from broken.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Kurt smiled a little sadly. “Because I knew that you would tell me to go. Because I know you’d never feel comfortable with me staying here for you.” He shrugged. “I couldn’t let you talk me into going, Blaine. So I couldn’t tell you.”

Blaine squeezed his fingers weakly, staring down at his lap. Kurt couldn’t see his expression well enough to tell what he was feeling, what he was thinking. “Blaine?”

Blaine’s expression was cloudy when he looked up. “I can ring the nurse for a… a…,” he gestured to the coffee cup on the table.

“Straw,” Kurt provided softly, filling in the word in the way he was getting increasingly used to. “Yeah, let’s do that.” He hit the call button and sat back in his chair, opening the magazine to the first page. He moved closer so that Blaine could see, and things returned to their new version of normal. Still, even as Blaine started to point to the bow ties with a grin, Kurt could see that it was a little rough around the edges. The conversation may be over for now, but he had a feeling it wasn’t done.

Chapter Text

Kurt wiped off the oil on his hands onto his coveralls as he slid out from underneath yet another car. His phone was going off. Again. He ran over and caught it on the very last ring, forcing back a groan. Rachel. For the twelfth time today. “Hello?”

“Kurt! Oh my God, you haven’t even replied about the last three applications I’ve sent you for my roommate!”

Kurt winced at the tone of her voice and reminded himself that he actually did like this girl, when she wasn’t being needy beyond belief. He nodded. “Yeah, I know, I’ve been working. You know, that thing that people have to do for money, sometimes.”

“Yes, well, you really need to reevaluate your priorities. Some of these people have deadlines for other apartments!”

Kurt gave up the fight and groaned. “Please tell me you didn’t say yes to the first person who told you they had a deadline.”

Silence on the other end of the line.

“Rachel, that’s how you end up with crazy. Do you really want to live with crazy?”

Rachel sighed. “I didn’t say yes. But I seriously considered it. He’s a tenor, our voices would sound good together. I told him to send in an audition tape.”

Kurt shook his head. “I’ll do my best to Skype soon, okay? Send me all the applications and I’ll look them over. We’re only interviewing the good ones, remember? And an audition tape really shouldn’t be necessary to be someone’s roommate.” He heard the ding of the bell in the office and bit his lip. He couldn’t let someone go unhelped in his dad’s shop because of Rachel’s drama. “Listen, Rachel, I’ll call you back, okay? I need to go give somebody an oil change or something.”

He hung up over the sounds of her protesting, knowing that taking any longer with it would probably scare the customer off. Besides, he really would call her back. As soon as he got a chance. Well, maybe after five minutes to himself. Ten, max. Definitely not more than an hour.

 

He walked out to the front of the shop, clearing his throat. “How can I help you?”

The man standing in front of him was tall. He was wearing a well-cut suit that had to have been made for him. Kurt couldn’t quite clock the label. His bright green eyes seemed to move up and down Kurt’s body, sizing him up. Kurt forced himself not to sigh, used to this by now. Maybe it was the voice, maybe it was his skin, maybe it was the way he walked, but every customer who came in expecting his dad did the same thing. “Sir? Can I help you?”

He tilted his head to the side, meeting Kurt’s eyes for a solid thirty seconds before speaking. “I’ve got a flat. I’d like you to take a look at it. I’ve heard good things about this shop.”

Kurt nodded. “Well, we’re the best. Number one in customer service.” Even if the customer in question didn’t deserve it. He was laying it on a little thick, but it could be hard to win someone over when they’d decided they didn’t like him in less than thirty seconds.

The man nodded, still looking at Kurt like he was figuring out how to deal with him. There were two major options. He’d be a polite customer and Kurt would deal with his car. Or he’d be an asshole and Kurt would throw him out. “We’ll see,” the man said simply.

Kurt nodded, managing not to roll his eyes. People in Ohio were a gift. They’d helped him thicken his skin, so this guy barely phased him. At least he was still being polite. “Right. Well, I’ll need your car keys. I’ll go take a look, and then we’ll talk about what needs to be done.”

The man handed over his keys and nodded. “Tire’s in the trunk.”

He headed outside to see a 2012 BMW, less than a year old. He took a moment to let himself hate the fact that smarmy assholes like that got to drive beautiful cars like this. As Kurt opened the door to grab the mileage off the tachometer, he wasn’t surprised to see the interior had been recently detailed. At the very least, he was taking care of his car. A Beamer with a dirty interior was just depressing. He closed the door and went to check the tires, noting that the back driver’s side had been replaced with the spare. He popped the trunk, half lifted the tire, and gave it a once-over. When he was satisfied, he headed back inside, careful to lock the man’s car.

“Okay, so there’s nothing obviously wrong with the tire. It’s most likely a small puncture. If it’s on the rim, we’ll need to sell you a new one. If it’s in the tread, I’ll patch it and get you on your way.” He looked at the board behind the desk. “There’s no one in front of you at the moment. My other guy is working an oil change, but I can take care of this. Shouldn’t take too long. A half an hour, you should be on your way. There are some shops and restaurants that are walkable, if you’d rather not wait in here.”

The man nodded. “I’ll wait here.” Again, he was looking at Kurt in a way that was odd. It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t even creepy. Kurt just felt like he was being judged. Not that he wasn’t used to that feeling, but something was telling him it wasn’t only the gay thing, this time.

“Have you worked here long?”

Kurt shrugged, filling out the paperwork. “My dad owns the shop, so I grew up here. Worked over the summers during school.”

“You don’t seem the type.”

Kurt looked up at him sharply. “Your car’s drivable. If you’d rather go to someone who you think looks like a mechanic and will charge you more than we will, I can hand your keys right back.” He could handle the silent judgment, the odd looks. There wasn’t much he could do about that. But he wasn’t going to tolerate being spoken to like that. And his dad wouldn’t blame him, even if they lost a customer over it.

The man raised his eyebrow, and for a second, Kurt caught something that might have been familiar in that look. Then it was gone. “No, thanks. I’d rather stay here. I was just commenting. I’ve got a son your age, and he’s not exactly the best with cars.”

Kurt sighed quietly. “Yes, well, I’d appreciate if you didn’t. I’m going to be the one fixing up your tire, so clearly, I am the type. As for your son, I’m sure he has plenty of other interests. Not everyone likes this sort of work.”

“But you do.”

Kurt looked him in the eye, expression neutral. “I do.”

The man tilted his head, a slight concession.

Kurt handed over a clipboard with the paperwork for the guy’s flat. “Just sign here, and I’ll go get started.”

The man’s signature was a scribble on the sheet, nearly illegible. He must be a doctor or something, they were supposed to have terrible handwriting. Kurt nodded to him and headed outside to grab the car. One of the techs was in the back, just a quick shout away if he needed anything, already working on the oil change. The man who owned the BMW had walked outside, watching Kurt drive the car onto the lift. He probably thought he was going to crash it or scratch it or something. Kurt rolled his eyes, setting to work as soon as he was out of the car. He pulled the tire out of the trunk, completely ignoring the man behind him. The sooner this was done, the quicker that guy would be out of his hair.

“So is this what you’re going to do? Stay here and take over your dad’s tire shop?” The man’s voice nearly made him jump out of his skin.

Kurt battled mentally with himself. He wanted to just ignore the question. But he’d already had one brief moment of rudeness earlier, and businesses lived and died by Yelp reviews, these days. This guy seemed like the type to write a ten-page diatribe if a hostess didn’t say ‘Good evening, sir’ on the way out of a restaurant. It was always the ones in the suits. He shook his head. “No, this is a temporary arrangement. I graduated in May. I had plans to leave, but things changed.”

“What happened?” Kurt turned to look at him before shrugging and turning back to the tire, trying to find the leak.

“Someone needed me more than I needed to get out of here.”

There was silence from the man for a short time. “Your dad? He’s not here today, is he sick?”

Kurt shook his head. “My dad’s in perfect health.” Close enough, anyway. Maybe this guy was looking to buy. He wasn’t going to let him think that Burt might be selling sometime soon. “No, I have a-,” given the guy’s reaction to how he looked, he wasn’t going to give him any more fuel, “I have a friend who’s been in the hospital for a while. He’s recovering, but he needs support.”

The man was quiet again for a while. When he spoke, his tone was disbelieving, almost condescending. Like Kurt couldn’t possibly understand the words coming out of his own mouth. “You stayed in Ohio, working at your dad’s tire shop, for the sake of a friend.”

Kurt was getting a little tired of the questioning. He turned to face the man, wiping off his hands. “I chose to stay in Ohio because it’s what I wanted. Not that people like you don’t make me constantly question my decision. What keeps me here is my own business. Not yours. Whatever you think of me, and whatever reason you think it, I really don’t care. Right now, I’m going to patch up the hole I just found in your tire, you’re going to pay me, and then we’re done. Understood?”

He stared at him for a moment, then nodded. If Kurt hadn’t known better, he would have said the man was hiding a smile. “You’re certainly not what I expected.”

Kurt just raised his eyebrow. “Yeah, well, the world’s a funny place. Sometimes a gay teenager can change a tire better than a straight guy in a suit.”

The man raised an eyebrow, tilted his head again slightly, and walked back into the office. Kurt watched him go, more confused than he had been when he’d started. He pushed it out of his head and focused on the task at hand, patching up the tire like he’d done a million times before.

When the tire was finished and he’d moved the (still perfectly clean, despite the temptation to get motor oil all over those beautifully detailed leather seats) car back to the parking lot, he returned to the office.

The man was sitting in one of the plastic chairs across from the desk, frowning down at his phone. Kurt cleared his throat lightly. He had to do it twice before the man looked up, expression cloudy for a moment before clearing. He walked up to the desk and pulled out his wallet. Kurt ran the card without bothering to look at it, printing off the receipt and handing over both to the customer.

He looked at Kurt for a moment, then held out his hand. “What’s your name?”

Kurt blinked in surprise, but he knew a handshake when it was offered. He took the man’s hand, gripping it hard, meeting his eyes. “Kurt.”

The man smiled and nodded, like he’d been expecting the answer. “John.” He let go of Kurt’s hand, took the paperwork, and walked out the door. Kurt sighed and shook his head. He could not wait to be out of Ohio.

 

An hour later, he was back at home. He chatted on the phone with Rachel on speaker while texting Blaine about Alex the PT’s latest torture for him, scrolling through a website detailing the physical therapy exercises he was trying to describe. He was extremely slow to respond, but he was managing just fine. “No, Rachel. Absolutely not. The man has thirteen exotic birds! Who owns that many animals, much less birds?” The man in the suit was completely forgotten. He had more important things on his mind.

Chapter Text

Blaine was smiling at him.

Kurt raised an eyebrow, inviting him to comment or do whatever it was he was clearly so keen on doing. “What?”

“Nothing.”

Kurt went back to reading his book. Blaine had been watching something on tv, some animated thing that he adored but Kurt had absolutely no interest in. Instead, he’d pulled out his copy of Diane Von Furstenburg’s biography. It was interesting enough, and he had nothing but time on his hands, these days. He was hoping to get some tips for the designs he was working on. He glanced up to check on Blaine, only to see he was staring and smiling again. Kurt met his eyes for nearly a solid minute before he had to ask. “What is it?”

Blaine’s grin grew even wider, and he was practically vibrating with excitement. It made Kurt smile, even if he had absolutely no idea what was going on. Blaine’s joy was infectious, always had been. “Come on, now you have to tell me, this is getting ridiculous.”

“I want to show you something.”

Kurt laughed and nodded. He made a show of carefully placing his bookmark into his book, closing it, and setting it aside on the table, scattering a few of the sticky notes that had been slowly taking over Blaine’s personal space since he’d been trying to write again. He figured they were all for practice, since they were now decorating the table, the rails on Blaine’s bed, the reading lamp his mom had brought in. “I’m all eyes.”

Blaine took a deep breath, seeming to concentrate. Kurt watched with a raised eyebrow as nothing happened for the next minute and a half. “Um, if it’s just you sitting, I’ve definitely seen that before.”

Blaine huffed out an annoyed breath and shook his head. “No, just- I’ve gotta, um,” he waved his hand in the air, nose wrinkling the way it always did when he’d lost a word or a concept.

“Focus? Concentrate?” Kurt provided, watching Blaine’s face to try to catch which one was correct.

He looked vaguely annoyed for a moment, but then it was gone, replaced with that grin. “Yeah, those ones. Now shush.”

Kurt shushed. After another thirty seconds, Blaine moved slightly, leaning forward. He braced his hands against the mattress and slowly started to shift his weight.

Kurt felt his stomach drop, nerves taking over as Blaine started to adjust his position. His first instinct was to panic, to call in the nurse. Blaine was going to fall right off the bed. But Blaine kept moving, slow, steady. He turned his chest toward Kurt, arms shaking as he lifted part of his weight off of the bed so he could scoot himself to face Kurt a little more with his full body. Then he relaxed, took a breath, placed his hands again, and started the process over. It was mesmerizing. Kurt couldn’t have looked away if he’d tried.

When one leg reached the edge of the bed, Blaine grabbed it with both hands to help ease it over the side. For a moment, his balance wobbled. Kurt could see the exhaustion in his face, in the way his back bowed, his hands shaking as they came back up. But he saw something else there, too. Determination. Focus. Blaine took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and braced his hands again. He managed to get the second leg off the bed. He fell back onto his palms, arms planted, straightened out to keep him upright. Kurt could see that they were shaking with the effort, but the grin on Blaine’s face was absolutely effortless. “Tada! See? I can- I can totally sit- on the- on the edge of my bed!” He was breathing hard, nearly panting.

Kurt looked at him, really looked at him. He was exhausted, sweaty, beaming like an idiot. He was stunning. And he’d moved his entire body. Arms, legs, abs, everything was working. He was holding his own weight in a seated position, without the help of a pillow or the bed. He couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face as he stood and walked over to Blaine. He was moving. Blaine was actually moving on his own. “Blaine, you- that’s- this is absolutely amazing.”

Blaine laughed. “Starting to sound like, like…”

“Like you,” Kurt said softly. He reached for Blaine, then stopped. “Can I-?” He wasn’t going to make another stupid mistake like their first kiss. And this was important. He’d held Blaine’s hand constantly since he’d woken up. It had become their default state, any time they were in the room together. But the tubes and wires and impracticality of Blaine being on the bed had kept them from doing anything else. He gestured toward Blaine’s body.

Blaine looked up at him, expression soft. Kurt wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch the curls that were just starting to get a little shaggy above his scar. He wanted to cup Blaine’s face and kiss him again. He wanted to lift him out of that bed and carry him far away from the beeping of heart rate monitors and the smell of disinfectant.

Instead, he leaned in and slowly, carefully wrapped his arms around Blaine in a gentle hug. He pulled him in close, taking the weight off of his arms, supporting him. After a moment, Blaine wrapped himself around Kurt’s waist in turn. It was their first hug. Their first real embrace. Blaine was warm and solid and real against him. His curls tickled Kurt’s chin. He smelled like hospital. The angle was a little bit awkward, with Kurt standing and Blaine sitting. He couldn’t have possibly cared less. Kurt swallowed hard against a lump in his throat, squeezing Blaine a little more tightly than he probably should. He didn’t think Blaine was hurting, if the answering squeeze was anything to go by.

“You know,” Kurt said softly, “I’ve wanted to do this since that very first day in the graveyard. Do you remember?”

Blaine nodded against his chest and his hair brushed up against Kurt’s skin. It was perfect. “I did, too. Never wanted to touch another person so badly.” Blaine’s voice was soft. The words seemed to come easily, if only for the moment.

“We can, now,” Kurt said quietly, gently rubbing Blaine’s back through his t-shirt. “It’s okay, Blaine. Now you can sit up. We can hug whenever you want, I promise.” He could only imagine what it had been like for Blaine all that time, never being able to have human contact. He was just grateful that they had this sort of second chance.

He didn’t pull away for a long time. Eventually, Blaine started to breathe a little harder against him. He wasn’t used to supporting his own weight for so long, even with Kurt’s help. He was probably in a decent amount of pain. Kurt shifted a little so he could look into those beautiful eyes. They were closer than they’d been since the day Blaine had woken up, the day Kurt had kissed him. He felt his cheeks flush and he cleared his throat. “You should probably sit back a little. Can I help you?”

Blaine looked away from him for a moment, grip tightening around his waist. But then it softened, Blaine’s shoulders sagging. He nodded, and Kurt helped him lean sideways against the pillows. He lifted each of Blaine’s legs onto the bed in turn, glad that the hospital was letting him wear his own pajamas. Hospital gowns were difficult in all kinds of ways, and now that most of the tubes were gone, Blaine was able to be a little more normal. Kurt smiled as he sat back down beside Blaine in his customary chair.

He reached out to take Blaine’s hand. It was warm and solid in his own. When he squeezed his fingers, Blaine squeezed back. He’d never forget what it was like when Blaine hadn’t been able to. The improvement was amazing. He was getting better, so close to the boy Kurt had spent hours with in the coffee shop that sometimes Kurt had a hard time remembering that all of that had been closer to a dream than reality. “You’re getting so strong, Blaine. Before you know it, you’re going to be back on your feet.”

Blaine smiled slightly at that, watching Kurt’s thumb rubbing slowly against the back of his hand. He kept breathing slowly, head leaning back against the pillows. Kurt knew that look. He’d be out like a light in a few minutes. “Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “Um, Alex has been working with me… um, pretty hard. We’re doing… mostly upper body stuff right now?” He looked at Kurt, like he was making sure he had the right words. Kurt nodded at him, and Blaine managed a tired little smile. ”He says… I’m gonna end up with… um,” he made a face, raising his arm halfheartedly and sort of flexing.

“Biceps?” At Blaine’s nod, Kurt laughed. “Good. I happen to like a man with biceps. I’m glad Alex is helping you so much.”

Blaine shot him a grin, cheeks flushed, though he broke eye contact a little too quickly. “I’m just glad I can… sort of move again.”

Kurt squeezed Blaine’s hand hard. “Not sort of, Blaine. You’re moving. This is- You are absolutely amazing. You know that, right? You’re making progress every single day. I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

Blaine met his eyes again, and this time, he held eye contact. “I’m really… really glad you’re here.”

Kurt felt a warmth fill him up from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Blaine was recovering. Blaine had sat up on his own, today. Things were finally starting to look up. “There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.”

Chapter Text

Burt sat on the sofa, listening for the familiar sound of the door slamming shut. He didn’t have long to wait. Kurt was always on time after a shift. He was probably only planning on being here for a few minutes to change clothes before disappearing to see Blaine.

“I know,” Kurt’s voice was somewhere between exasperated and amused. He paused. “Yes, of course I know that.” Another pause. “Well, you can’t expect him to understand. It took me years, and you two have only been living together for a little over a month.” Longer pause, this time, “Seriously? You’ve been counting? Yes, fine, it’s been 46 days. Which is a little over a month, which still makes me right.” An irritated sigh and the sound of something being muttered under Kurt’s breath. “Yeah. Yes, fine. I will help you draft an official rules list. Not that he’ll follow it.” A pause in which Burt could practically hear Kurt’s eyes rolling. “Because, Rachel, allowing you to practice at four in the morning because you were feeling vocally adventurous and needed to prep your vocal cords for unexpected auditions is something he’s never going to sign off on.” Kurt walked into the living room, running a hand through his hair in the way he only did when he was reaching the end of his patience. “Yes, Rachel, both roommates have to sign off on rules,” he trailed off when he spotted his dad.

Burt simply raised an eyebrow, expression neutral, gesturing to the seat across from him.

“Uh, Rachel? I’ll call you back.”

Burt could hear half a protest through the phone, and then it was shut off as Kurt stepped further into the room. His expression shifted between curiosity and nerves, and Burt wondered if he was thinking about the last time they’d sat down in the living room for a conversation like this. That one had involved pamphlets and far too much desperate googling on Burt’s part. He shook his head to push the memory of that little conversation aside. “Have a seat, kiddo.”

Kurt shot the table a pointed look as he sat primly on the edge of the seat, legs crossed. Burt had pulled out Kurt’s old stash of Vogues and had piled them onto the coffee table. He’d grabbed his books of sheet music (no new additions since the end of the year), and added those, too. Smack in the center was Kurt’s sketchbook.

“Dad? What’s going on?”

“This, Kurt,” Burt said seriously, “is an intervention.”

“An intervention.” Kurt shot him a disbelieving look.

“Yep,” Burt said with a nod. “That’s what you need, so that’s what you’re getting.”

Kurt looked at him like he’d gone insane. “Yeah, pretty sure I’m not getting high or drinking or gambling or anything. I haven’t even done any serious damage to my emergency credit card since the Great Boot Incident of 2010. So can we just… not do this?”

Burt snorted. “You had to work in my shop for months to pay that off, don’t think I haven’t forgotten. When did you finish up? April?”

Kurt shot him an indignant look. “January. And I paid it off with interest, thank you.”

Burt shook his head. “I’m not talking about spending on shoes or you getting drunk or high, though I’m glad to hear that’s not a problem.” He looked up at Kurt, expression soft. “When’s the last time you did anything other than work or go see Blaine?”

Kurt immediately crossed his arms over his chest, shifting in his seat. He was trying not to look defensive and failing miserably. “I do things. I was just on the phone with Rachel. That’s not on your list.”

Burt tilted his head slightly, not quite conceding defeat. “Yeah, I’ll give you that. But Rachel’s not the most relaxing person, and she’s got absolutely bupkis to do with you improving your portfolio or working on audition songs.”

Kurt looked almost surprised.

“Yeah, kid, I paid attention to your reasons for staying. More than you did, anyway. You’ve been working at the shop and seeing Blaine, but what happened to the others?”

“Rachel helped me dig through my books for a decent audition song.”

“Yeah? When was that?”

Kurt shifted in his seat. “Before she left.”

“Before she left. In July.”

Kurt shrugged.

“It’s October.”

Kurt cleared his throat. “I know, Dad. It’s been a while. But that’s just because I’ve been busy.”

Burt nodded. “I know you have been, kiddo. You’re running yourself ragged trying to keep up with a full-time job and seeing Blaine all the time. I know you go to the nursing home every day after work. You’re barely here, you don’t have time to work on anything for you. I bet you haven’t so much as looked at application deadlines for NYADA.”

Kurt sighed, looking more tired than an eighteen-year-old kid should. “I know. It’s on my priorities list, I promise. I just- It’s been really busy at the shop. And Blaine,” even through the exhaustion, there was a little smile on his face the second he said his name, “Blaine’s been making some real progress. His legs are getting stronger. He’s going on and on about the new workout regimen Alex has him on. He never shuts up about that guy. Not that I’m allowed to see it. Or meet him. He’s still kicking me out for PT every day. But he’s really starting to make some headway with strengthening his muscles.”

Burt hummed. “Minute and a half.”

Kurt looked at him blankly.

“That’s all it took for the conversation to turn to Blaine.” Burt held up his hand when he saw that Kurt was about to protest. “You know I don’t mind you hanging out with him. I know he’s important to you. I don’t want to pull you away from him any more than you want to be pulled. But when we talked this over, you said you were going to work on your life in New York. This was supposed to be temporary.”

Kurt deflated. Burt had him, and they both knew it. Kurt wasn’t making plans for the future the way he was supposed to be. They both knew why. Blaine was improving, but it wasn’t enough. Kurt was already waffling about his decision to stay for only one year. And if Burt did nothing else, he was going to pull him out of that mentality. Blaine was a sweet kid, from what Kurt said about him, but he wasn’t the only important thing in Kurt’s life. He couldn’t be.

Kurt took a breath and met Burt’s eyes. “Blaine’s in a rough place right now. He’s together enough to be bored, but still not quite well enough to go home. Strong enough to know that he’s not far off from being on his feet again, but not quite there. We’re really hoping that he’s going to be able to start standing, soon. And then maybe even walking. I- I need to be there for him. I need to encourage him, to push him. He’s getting better, Dad. He is.”

Burt nodded. “And you will be there for him. Part time.”

Kurt’s face paled and he shook his head, but Burt powered through. “Every other day at most. Three times a week. You can spend as much of the day there you want, if you don’t have a shift. Other than that, you’re going to start working on remembering that you had a life before you met Blaine. I don’t want you to lose him. But I don’t want you to lose you, either.”

Burt could see the conflict in Kurt’s expression, and he knew what it meant. His son had fallen ass over teakettle for this kid. But right now, Burt needed to remind him that there was an entire world out there beyond Lima, Ohio. He needed to see that spark in Kurt’s eyes again when it came to music or fashion, not just when they were talking about Blaine.

Kurt set his jaw and countered, “Four times a week. That’s every other day.”

Burt shot Kurt an unamused look. “Three. That’s every other not including Friday, and you know that’s family day. You can call him whenever you have the time. I’m not cutting you off.”

Kurt glared at Burt, stubborn. “I know what you’re trying to do, but I promise, I can handle this.”

Burt pushed Kurt’s sketchbook toward him, over the table. On top was a piece of paper. “That’s the name and number of a vocal coach guy from the music shop in town. He’s all enthusiastic about musicals. Seemed thrilled when I talked to him about you. You’re gonna call him. Then you’re going to start working on outfits again, or accessories, or hats, for all I care. You’re going to be there for Blaine as much as you can while still moving forward with your own life, Kurt. And I’m not just pulling you back to half time on him. You’re going half time at the shop, too.” He looked at Kurt, expression soft. “You need some things in your life that are all about you. Start designing again. Invent a new sort of man-purse thing. Take lessons so your NYADA audition is a shoo in. That way, when you’re ready for New York, you’re really ready. You can handle anything. You’ve proven that your whole life. But sometimes, you need a little reminder that you’ve got to take care of you, too.”

Kurt chewed on his lip, but he took the piece of paper. “I guess… I mean, I guess I can at least talk to the guy, right?” Burt caught Kurt’s eye, and he knew he’d done the right thing. Kurt needed an excuse to have a life of his own. If that made Burt the bad guy, he was more than okay with it. Kurt would understand, in time. “I’ll start working on my portfolio again. I mean, if Blaine needs me to come to the hospital, I won’t say no. But I’ll shift my focus.”

Burt nodded. “Seems fair enough. And when you are shifting your focus, I expect regular updates I barely understand about all of this stuff. I may not have any idea what the hell you’re talking about, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear. Got it?”

Kurt looked up at him, and Burt saw a little hint of a smile hidden under the disappointment. “You’ve got it, Dad.”

Burt nodded. “Good. Now, I’ve got some of that leftover cauliflower pizza stuff in the fridge. It wasn’t half bad. Let’s heat some up for dinner and find one of those dumb reality shows we both like to watch.”

Burt stood up and headed to the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway, looking back to see Kurt frowning down at the paper, tapping his fingers against the arm of the chair. Burt knew that look. Kurt’d have that poor vocal guy begging for mercy after two lessons. He smiled as he turned to the fridge, feeling like they’d already taken a step toward putting Kurt's life in balance.

Chapter Text

Kurt took a deep breath, standing outside of Blaine’s closed door. Blaine was finally cleared for actual caffeinated beverages. To celebrate, Kurt had picked him up a medium drip coffee with a dash of cinnamon, the way Blaine had been waxing poetic about since the day he’d woken up. He hoped it softened the blow of this a little bit. Blaine wasn’t going to like what Kurt had to tell him.

He stood in front of the door for a long moment, just staring at it. Eventually, he shook off his nerves and knocked quietly, reaching for the doorknob. He jumped as the door opened before he could touchit, looking up to see Mrs. Anderson. “Oh. Um, hi. I’m sorry, is this a bad time? I can- I’ll come back, I just-“ he held up the coffee cup as if that explained everything.

Mrs. Anderson looked exhausted. Her hair was a mess, her makeup was smudged. If he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn she’d been crying. Kurt quickly took a half a step back. “Really, I can come back another time.”

He heard Blaine’s voice from inside the room. “Kurt?”

He looked a little helplessly at Mrs. Anderson. For her part, she’d schooled her expression into something closer to what he was used to seeing, calm and collected. Still, he could see the mascara beneath her lower lashes. She nodded to Kurt, and then to the room. “There’s no point in you leaving. I was on my way out.” She glanced over her shoulder at her son, then shook her head and straightened her blouse. “I’ll be back in the morning.”

Kurt stepped aside to let her pass. “Thank you. I’ll, uh-,” he had no idea how to finish that sentence. He hadn’t seen Mrs. Anderson anything like this in a long time. So he let the sentence trail off to nothing as she brushed past him and he stepped into the room.

Blaine was sitting up in bed, eyes on the squishy ball he was slowly squeezing in his hand. Most of the lights were out, leaving only the lamp by his bedside to illuminate the room. The sticky notes had officially taken over. They were starting to stack on top of one another, orange and green and blue and pink, almost dizzyingly bright, even in the lamp’s pale light. Blaine himself looked tired. He was breathing a heavily, there were dark circles under his eyes. Kurt stepped further into the room, expression soft. “How are you feeling?”

Blaine looked up at Kurt and grinned as he came closer, and Kurt thought that maybe he was in better shape than he’d assumed. It was possible he just hadn’t slept well. The grin seemed genuine, even if there was a sadness in his eyes that Kurt didn’t quite understand. “Good,” he said softly. “I’m good.” His eyes landed on the drink in Kurt’s hand and his eyes nearly bugged out of his head. Kurt would have laughed if the effect wasn’t slightly unsettling against his pale skin. “Is that, um,-?” He shook his head, giving up on the word quickly and just reaching out, trying to grab the cup out of his hand.

Kurt did laugh at that, stepping a little bit closer. “Coffee,” he said quietly. “It’s real, honest-to-goodness coffee, just for you.”

Blaine took the cup carefully, holding it in both hands as he lifted it to his nose. He breathed in deep, expression settling into something almost serene. “You know my… um, my order.” His shoulders relaxed a little, and Kurt sat in his customary place beside him.

“Of course I do,” Kurt said with a soft smile.

“You have no… um… clue?” His brow furrowed, and Kurt wondered why the words seemed harder for him today than they had been lately. “Yeah. Clue. Um, no clue how much I need this right now.”

Kurt sipped at his own coffee, though it was hot enough to nearly burn him. “Your doctor’s finally cleared you. At least, that’s what Laura told me earlier.”

A shadow passed briefly over Blaine’s face, but whatever it was, he didn’t share. He glanced at one of the sticky notes on the side of his bed and lowered the cup to his lap. He was probably just waiting for it to cool. Kurt looked him over again. He really didn’t look great. His hands were still slightly shaky, and his eyes kept going out of focus.

“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Blaine looked at him like he had something important on the tip of his tongue, just about ready to fall out into the open. And then he shrugged, leaning back against the pillows on the bed. “Didn’t sleep much.” When Kurt raised an eyebrow, clearly knowing there was more to the story, he continued. “Alex was…,” his nose wrinkled and he closed his eyes for a moment. Something clicked in Kurt’s head. The dim lighting, the way he was missing words, the way his hands trembled. He must be hurting. He’d read up on that. Migraines were common among people with traumatic brain injuries. Or at the very least, pretty gnarly headaches. “Um, my PT was hard today.”

Kurt nodded. He wanted to ask, but Blaine was always so twitchy when Kurt mentioned anything medical. Instead, he chose a neutral topic. “You’ve been working hard on your penmanship, too, if the sticky notes are anything to go by.”

Blaine nodded. “Alex says… he might, um, he’s going to… He was gonna get me something else. Little board things? With, um,” he shook his head, “not pencils, the other ones. Like you use when you’re a kid and you’re- um, in, um…”

Kurt winced. If Blaine really was in pain, it must be messing with his ability to communicate. It was never exactly easy, but this was painful to watch. He laid his hand gently on Blaine’s arm. “It’s okay. You can tell me about it later.”

Blaine deflated a little, but Kurt figured it was for the best. Speaking so much was probably getting to him. It’d be driving Kurt insane, if he had to stutter and stumble through sentences like that. Better for him to just relax, talk about it later when he was feeling more stable.

“I’m glad to hear that you and Alex are getting along. He’s sort of all you talk about these days. Should I be jealous?” He grinned as he looked up at Blaine, trying to lighten the mood. Blaine huffed out an almost laugh, and Kurt’s grin widened. “Whatever it is he’s planning on getting you, I’m sure it’ll be great.”

Blaine nodded, seemingly more relaxed than he had been. “Maybe he’ll bring them… um, before you get here… tomorrow.”

Just like that, Kurt’s face fell. He chewed on his lip, remembering why he was here. He took a breath. “Right. I sort of need to talk to you about that.”

Blaine’s head tipped to the side, his expression more curious than concerned, for now. Whatever was bothering him, he seemed to push it down so he could focus on Kurt.

“So, I had a conversation with my dad last night.” He met Blaine’s eyes, trying to shoot him a reassuring smile. “We talked about- well, we talked about a lot, actually. He wants me to start to focus more on New York. On NYADA auditions and my internship. And I think that he might be right.”

Blaine’s expression shuttered off almost completely as soon as Kurt stated his agreement with Burt. It was a little unnerving, how quickly he could do that. Kurt raised an eyebrow, hand lifting to reach out for him before he thought better of it. He was used to Blaine being responsive. The brick wall in his expression reminded Kurt of Blaine’s mother. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

“I’m not going to be away forever or anything. I can still come see you three times a week. And we’ll talk on the phone every single night, if you want. I’ll call you all the time. We’ll Skype. I’ll get you a stand for your phone so you don’t have to hold it. I’ve been meaning to download a better app that you can use to translate talking to text on your phone, anyway. We’re going to be okay, Blaine, I promise.”

Blaine’s eyes moved to his coffee cup and he nodded, clearly not willing to look Kurt in the eye. “We’ll be okay.”

Kurt had known this would be difficult, but this reaction seemed extreme. Kurt had been here nearly every day since the beginning of the summer. Blaine couldn’t possibly be upset that he needed to spend some time working on other priorities. “Hey,” he said softly, trying to soften this as much as he could, “I promise that this doesn’t change anything. You’re still the most important person in my life. I just have to spend some time planning for the future, too.”

Blaine nodded again. Between the lighting and the angle of his head, Kurt couldn’t see his face. It left him feeling unsettled, not knowing what Blaine was thinking. He wanted to talk it over in detail, but Blaine was already having so much trouble communicating, he didn’t want to make it worse. Maybe they’d talk about it tomorrow. He would understand. Kurt was entitled to a life, the same as Blaine was.

For tonight, it seemed like the conversation was over, if only because of technical difficulties. “Mind if I stay? We can watch a movie or something.”

“No.” Blaine’s voice was soft, but certain.

Kurt’s stomach dropped, frustration and guilt twisting in his guts. Blaine was shutting him down because he needed to focus on his eventual life in New York? How was that fair? A warm hand touched his arm and he looked up to see Blaine’s amber eyes. He was balancing his coffee on one thigh so he could reach out to Kurt. His expression was still more shuttered than Kurt was used to, but he looked apologetic. “Sorry. No to the movie. I- um, I have a- um, a-“

“Headache?” Kurt asked quietly. At Blaine’s stilted nod, his shoulders relaxed. He blew out a steadying breath, nodding. Blaine wasn’t saying he couldn’t stay. He wasn’t cutting Kurt off because of New York. He was only saying that a movie would be too much right now. “Okay. No movies. What if I read to you?”

Blaine pulled his hand back to his cup and nodded.

Kurt shifted closer to the light and pulled a battered copy of Harry Potter out of his bag. None of this was ideal. He knew that Blaine was upset. They’d both miss being able to spend so much time together. But they’d talk it out. They’d be okay. He glanced at Blaine, the distance between them, the shadows on his face. They had to be okay.

Chapter Text

Kurt was restless. He kept staring at his bed, pacing the room. He was supposed to be working on his portfolio. He just couldn’t seem to concentrate. No matter what he did, his eyes kept being drawn back to the bed. Blaine’s side of the bed. They’d never really shared it, but Blaine had always curled up on the left side to watch a movie or listen to a new soundtrack. He could picture him, hands disappearing into the bed as he lounged back on his palms, nodding his head along to the beat of some new Katy Perry song. Or laying down on his stomach on the floor, head on his crossed arms, kicking his feet as he read an article in the Vogue pages Kurt had left spread out for him.

He missed him.

The realization hit him all at once. He missed Blaine. He missed his constant presence in his house. He missed coming home to the sound of Blaine belting out a Broadway standard at the top of his lungs. He missed his penchant for randomly jumping on the furniture, the exaggerated way he’d serenade Kurt with his latest musical obsession. He missed his enthusiasm for Disney and sci fi and even football. When he’d been visiting Blaine in the hospital, at least he’d been seeing him every day. It wasn’t the same as it had been when Blaine was his own personal ghost, but it was something. Now, he was alone. He hadn’t seen Blaine in three days. Sure, they’d texted, but it wasn’t the same.

He huffed out a breath. He was being ridiculous. He flopped onto his side of the bed and grabbed his phone, clicking on Blaine’s contact information and drumming his fingers on his leg as he waited for him to pick up.

“H-hi.” Blaine was out of breath, panting. Kurt’s mind flashed to places it definitely shouldn’t go before he realized he was probably just with his physical therapist. For some reason, the thought wasn’t as comforting as it might have been.

“Bad time?” He tried to hide the way his stomach sank. He didn’t want to make Blaine feel bad for working on getting stronger. Even if it was with the mysterious Alex.

He could hear shifting on the other end of the line, a quiet comment from a voice he didn’t recognize, a thump, and then it was quiet. “Sorry,” Blaine panted into the line. “Had to- um, sit down.”

Kurt bit his lip, not sure what to make of that. But then the words registered. “Sit down? As in, you weren’t sitting? Were you- Blaine, were you standing up?”

Blaine laughed, and Kurt could hear that his breathing was starting to even out. “Sorry. I was in my- my new chair. Wheelchair.”

Wheelchair. For some reason, Kurt hadn’t even thought of that. The possibility of Blaine needing a chair. He’d always just assumed that he’d be in bed until he could walk again. For some reason, the thought made him uncomfortable. It just felt so… permanent. He realized he’d been quiet for too long and forced a smile that hopefully sounded genuine. “That’s great, Blaine. You’re getting wheels. Does that mean I’ll get to take you on a cruise the next time I get to visit?”

He could picture Blaine’s face. The uncertainty from the slightly off tone of Kurt’s voice, the tilt of his head as he tried to figure it out. Before, over the summer, Blaine would have called him out on it. He would have asked. Now, there was just silence for a minute. He probably didn’t have the words. “Soon. Promise. Just- um, gotta get used to it.”

Kurt sighed, leaning back against his pillows. He hated not being able to just talk. He hated their limitations, the hitch in Blaine’s voice, the way the words seemed to vanish constantly. He glanced at Blaine’s side of the bed, speaking before he could think it through. “Do you ever miss it? The way things were before you woke up?”

There was silence on the other end of the line for a while. Kurt’s mind started to wander. Maybe Blaine didn’t even remember anymore. Maybe all of that just seemed like some kind of weird coma dream. Maybe they were both crazy and it had never happened. Maybe the Blaine he missed had never really existed.

“I don’t know,” Blaine said softly. There was something odd in Kurt’s tone, but he couldn’t place it.

“I wonder sometimes, you know? I think about why I could see you. What it could mean. Why you were able to come to me.” Why he seemed so different, now.

No reply.

Kurt cleared his throat. “I sort of miss having you around. It was a lot easier to share things with you when you were here, laying on the bed or dancing around the room.”

He knew Blaine was still on the other end of the line. He could hear him breathing.

He wanted to talk about why. He wanted to piece it all together so that it made more sense. He wanted to know that they’d get back to the way they had been. But he was afraid to ask. Blaine was already going through so much; Kurt couldn’t make him feel guilty about being different. It was just hard to accept that the brilliant person he’d met, the guy who never stopped moving, the guy who could prattle on for hours about any topic on the planet, was stuck in his own head, barely speaking, trapped in a wheelchair. It wasn’t fair.

Kurt was so lost in his own head that Blaine’s answer made him jump. “Yes,” he said softly. “I, um miss it.”

“Me, too.”

There was nothing else to say. Kurt wasn’t in the mood to talk to himself, and Blaine wasn’t up for much conversation. Eventually, Kurt forced a smile again and promised that he’d be by the hospital the next day. Hanging up the phone left him feeling hollow. Maybe phone conversations just weren’t their thing. He was never quite so aware of the difference between the boy he remembered and the boy in the hospital as when they were on the phone. At least in person, he could still read Blaine’s body language, see his facial expressions.

He grabbed his laptop to distract himself, flipping idly through Marc Jacob’s line for the fall, frowning at the ridiculous fur hats. He needed a distraction. So he started to type a facebook post about them. Then about the entire line. He didn’t hold back. He was snippy, sarcastic, critiquing every piece he could find in photographs. When he was done, the rant was far too long for facebook. He thought about deleting it. No one would read it, anyway. But he wasn’t exactly struck with any brilliant inspiration for his own clothes, at the moment. He could use a distraction. Something fashion related to keep him plugged in while he tried to find his muse. Maybe inspiration would come by way of critique. Stranger things had happened, right?

He found a site that would let him build a blog, picked a name, and posted his work. He didn’t expect anyone to read it, but he didn’t mind. He was used to his interest in fashion being something unusual. This was for him. Something to focus on that had nothing to do with comas and brain trauma and the way he hadn’t seen Blaine’s smile for a while. And so, the Broadway Fashionista blog was born.

Chapter Text

Burt’s intervention had fundamentally changed Kurt’s world. Without seeing Blaine every day, he suddenly had far too much time on his hands. Since sitting around worrying was the worst of bad options, he started to fill his days with as much as he could, keeping busy, working on plans for New York.

The first new addition to his week was the blog. It had started as a way to work out his frustrations, but he’d quickly discovered a community full of people able and willing to help him with his fashion career. He posted critiques of other designers’ work mostly, but he’d even started showing off some of his own designs. He’d expected no one at all to read it, but apparently, people thought he had something interesting to say. The response had been overwhelming. Support and criticism from all over the world. He hadn’t exactly gone viral, but there were people out there enjoying his work. For the first time, he felt like he was actually interacting with the fashion community instead of just staring at it from a distance. It was amazing.

On top of the blog, there were the job at the shop, his three-times-a-week vocal lessons, once-a-week skype dates with Rachel, and visits to Blaine as often as he could manage. His schedule was completely packed. He’d bought a planner to help keep himself organized. Blog posts went up on Monday, after a full day of work at the garage and a quick vocal lesson. Which meant Sundays were mostly spent writing content and editing his sketches from the week or panicking that he wasn’t going to be able to hit the high note in his latest vocal assignment (he always did). Tuesdays were Blaine days, marked with little hearts in his planner that he would never admit to drawing. Wednesdays were a morning shift at the garage and a vocal lesson in the evening. Thursdays were Blaine days part II, though he had to come and go while Mrs. Anderson spent some time with her son. That gave him some time to work on the blog post so he wasn’t too swamped on Sundays. Fridays meant family night, dinner and a movie with Carole and Burt, and as much vocal work as he could fit in while he had the house to himself. Saturdays were vocal lessons, a quick trip to see Blaine, and sewing, trying to bring some of his latest designs to life. He was busy. And, honestly, he was happy.

Well, mostly happy.

Today was Tuesday. Blaine day. And he was late. Very, very late.

He’d been called in to an emergency shift at the garage this morning. He’d awoken to the sound of his phone ringing, so he hadn’t managed to let Blaine know that he was going to be late. One of the techs had been out with the flu, and they were utterly swamped with people getting ready to travel for the holidays starting in November. Kurt had come in to see his dad doing heavy lifting in the back, which he was not supposed to do under any circumstances. So he’d grabbed Burt and stuck him in the office where he belonged. He hadn’t even realized he’d forgotten his phone in his locker until he was elbow deep in grease.

When he’d finally managed to pick it up again at lunch, he had a half dozen messages from Blaine. With how long it took him to type, that meant he’d been trying to reach Kurt for hours. He’d felt his stomach sink through the floor as the texts moved from a flirty ‘Bringing my cofee today? Cant wait to see yo u!’ through ‘So I guess youre caught up somewwhere?’ to ‘Pleas let me know if youre coming’ to ‘I hop whatever it is youre okay.’ Blaine thought he was blowing him off. He texted back, but there was no response. And when he tried to call, the phone went straight to voicemail. Blaine wasn’t always the best at charging his phone, and he tended to forget things like that when he was upset. Kurt had groaned in frustration, walking to the office to see if he could leave at lunch. But of course, when it rained, it poured. The only other tech working had managed to eat a bad breakfast burrito and was definitely not going to make it through his shift. Kurt couldn’t get to Blaine until the late enough that he’d typically be on his way home already.

 

It was nearly four when he finally made it to the nursing home. Kurt practically ran inside, narrowly avoiding running straight into a police officer on her way out. He managed to balance his two coffee cups in one hand so he could wave at Laura, who seemed to be a little off, barely looking up as she dug through a file cabinet. She’d probably had a rough day with a patient or something. He slowed down a little when he entered the area for long-term care. He paused outside of Blaine’s room to catch his breath, practicing the speech he was going to use over and over in his head. He was on his third round of increasingly ridiculous apologies when he heard a grunt of pain from the other side of the door. Without even thinking, Kurt threw the door open. Blaine might be hurt.

“Come on, you can do this. You’ve got another ten seconds, just try to keep breathing.”

The room was a mess. Sticky notes covered every inch of bare space that Blaine could reach from his chair. The room was bright, chaotic. Kurt had to shake his head and focus on the figure of Blaine. Blaine, who was half in and half out of his wheelchair, grabbing desperately at a stranger’s hands, trying to stand. Blaine, who was sweating and red-faced and breathing like he was going to pass out. Blaine, who was leaning completely on a man that Kurt had never seen before.

The man standing in front of Blaine was tall, with biceps the size of Kurt’s thighs and short, dark brown hair. He was wearing scrubs that could just barely stretch over wide shoulders, and he was holding both of Blaine’s hands in his, staring into his eyes.

“Five seconds. Come on, buddy, dig deep! You can do this! You’re almost vertical!”

Kurt knew he shouldn’t be watching. Blaine had very deliberately kept him out of this part of his life. But he’d never seen him like this, determined and exhausted and working hard enough that Kurt was genuinely worried about him. He should leave. Instead, he took a step to get a better view of Blaine.

Blaine was red-faced, grimacing, teeth bared. His focus was utterly on the stranger in front of him, and the stranger was staring back with dark brown eyes. They were so caught up in each other, neither one of them had even noticed Kurt. Blaine was trembling from head to toe, trying to straighten his back. He was going to make it. He was going to stand up straight on his own. And then, Kurt saw his knees buckle. He collapsed and Kurt gasped, trying to reach for him. But the stranger was there before he ever could be.

He caught Blaine around the waist, gently helping him back into his chair. He was saying things in a voice so soft that Kurt couldn’t hear. The entire scene made Kurt want to step back out into the hall. He felt like he was intruding on something private. Intimate.

“That’s it. Good job, Blainers. Deep breaths for me, in and out.” He crouched in front of the chair, seemingly unbothered by the hitch in Blaine’s breathing that was driving Kurt insane with worry. He held one of Blaine’s hands in his own, the other resting gently on his chest.

Blaine’s eyes flew open and he stared at the man, panicked and shaking, trying to draw in a breath and failing, starting to hyperventilate.

“Hey, none of that. The air’s there. It’s right there. You just need to relax. You’re stronger than that, yeah? Come on, bud. Deep breath. You’ve got this. We both know you do. You’ve had a lot worse than standing up.”

Blaine’s breathing hitched again. And again. And then, finally, he seemed to be able to draw a deep breath. The stranger didn’t move from his crouch, running his thumb over the side of Blaine’s hand absently, all of his focus on his patient. Eventually, Blaine slumped backward in the chair, breathing hard, like he’d just run miles.

Kurt swallowed, torn between about eighty different emotions he didn’t understand. He took a half a step toward the door, aiming to get out of there as quickly as possible, needing some time to process the fact that some muscle-bound, gorgeous stranger felt comfortable stroking Blaine’s hand like that.

Blaine’s head snapped up as Kurt started to move, and Kurt flinched slightly, knowing he’d intruded. “Kurt.”

Kurt glanced over, taken aback by the tone. Blaine didn’t sound pleased to see him. He sounded angry. He met his eyes and flinched. He’d never seen Blaine so furious. He looked back and forth between Blaine and the stranger, his stomach sinking. If Blaine was angry, that had to mean he’d intruded on something he wasn’t meant to see. He bit his lip, straightened his spine, and walked right up to the man, holding out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Kurt.”

The stranger stood, and Kurt was suddenly aware that he must be at least 6’4”. His handshake was firm, his expression open and honest, his smile disarming. He was one of the most stunningly gorgeous men Kurt had ever seen. “Hi, Kurt, I’m Alex.”

Chapter Text

“So,” Kurt said quietly, sitting a little awkwardly in the visitor’s chair beside Blaine’s bed, “that’s Alex.”

Blaine closed his eyes, still breathing a little harder than Kurt would like to see. He was ignoring him. The silence between them was intensely uncomfortable.

“How long has he been a PT? Probably forever, with muscles like that. I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t just happen. And you’re clearly friends.” At the very least. He remembered the way Blaine had been staring at him. Like the whole world had vanished. Like it was just the two of them. He looked to Blaine, trying to gauge his reaction.

Blaine’s eyes were still closed, his breathing slowing more and more.

“Gonna let me just sit here and talk to myself?”

Blaine huffed out a breath and looked to Kurt for a moment before his eyes settled on the ceiling. Kurt hated the anger in his expression, hated that he was shutting down again, turning away emotionally, if not physically.

“You were… supposed to be here, um,” his nose wrinkled, brow furrowing as he tried to find the word.

“Earlier? Yeah, I know I was. You wouldn’t believe my day. I got called in to work because of some ridiculous combination of flu and bad burritos, and my dad was trying to throw tires around like he was ten years younger than he is. It was an absolute nightmare. I know I was supposed to be here earlier, but I just- I couldn’t get here in time, you know? I meant to text, but by the time I got back to my phone, yours was already dead.”

Blaine was still staring at the ceiling, growing more and more tense with every word. “You said you’d be here… before,” the word was pointed, and Kurt felt weirdly defensive for apparently guessing wrong. He knew he was wrong for being late without notice, but there hadn’t been any way to contact him. Besides, it wasn’t like he owed Blaine being here on time, or anything. They’d never set a schedule. He was supposed to be able to come and go as he needed to. “You didn’t text or call or um, anything.”

Kurt frowned and huffed out a breath. “Well, yeah. I mean, I was trying to get here, Blaine. But I have other things going on in my life. When my dad calls and asks me to work a shift, I have to work a shift. I can’t just lay around all day in bed, flirting with some ridiculously attractive therapist.”

Blaine blinked and looked at him, confusion shifting to hurt shifting right back to anger. Blaine’s jaw set, his hands twisting in the sheets as he looked away. Kurt sighed. “That’s not what I meant, Blaine. I know you’re working hard. And I know- I mean, he’s your therapist. He probably has to be in close quarters. But he was staring at you and you were staring at him and it was-,” Kurt trailed off when he realized Blaine was glaring at him again, clearly furious. “What?”

“I was… I was /trying/, today,” Blaine got out through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, I could clearly see that. He had you close to passing out. Maybe he’s got a thing for somebody being dependent on him or something. You sounded like you could barely breathe.”

Blaine’s jaw set and he crossed his arms over his chest. “Alex is my- um, my-“

“PT? Friend? Come on, Blaine, I need a little more to go on, here.” The inability to communicate was driving him insane. He knew Blaine must be frustrated with it, too, but it wasn’t like Kurt could read his mind.

“Stop!” Blaine’s voice was too loud for the small room. Kurt could have sworn he’d heard it crack. He was stunned into silence for a moment, looking at Blaine with eyebrows raised. He’d known he was angry, but Blaine had never yelled at him.

Blaine closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths in through his nose. “You’re… not helping. I can… I can…” His mouth twitched, nose wrinkling as he struggled with the words. It was always worse when he was upset, and Kurt was pretty sure Blaine wasn’t exactly relaxed. “I can do it.” He balled his hands into fists in the sheets, his knuckles turning white. Kurt wanted to touch him, try to calm him down, but he didn’t think it’d be welcome right now. “Alex is… my physical… physical… physical therapist. He- he’s helping… my legs get… um, better.”

Kurt’s mind flashed to how Alex had been holding Blaine up, the gentle encouragement, the intensity with which he’d been watching him. “Yeah, I know he is. But it looks like that’s not all he’s doing. He doesn’t need to be that close. Plenty of physical therapists help their patients without being all up in their business.”

Blaine ground his teeth for a moment before speaking again. “He’s my- my friend.”

“I’m your friend.” Kurt looked at him pointedly. “He’s here because it’s his job, Blaine. And if he’s here because it’s his job, then he should be professional about it.” He didn’t think that was unreasonable.

Blaine swallowed hard, mouth twisting into an almost snarl. “He’s my friend.”

Kurt laughed, the sound unexpectedly harsh as it bounced off the walls. “He’s here to get a paycheck. Come on, Blaine, he’s just a guy working a job. Has he ever visited after hours? Ever done anything with you that wasn’t related to physical therapy?”

Blaine’s hands were trembling in the sheets. Kurt looked from his hands to Blaine’s face and felt his stomach plummet. Blaine was fighting back tears. He blinked rapidly, running over what he’d just said again in his mind. He had a tendency to lash out when he was feeling insecure. But Blaine was looking for reassurance that he’d made a friend. Kurt had thrown it in his face because he was jealous. How many friends did Blaine have? He knew his mother was visiting. And Kurt, when he had time. But who else did Blaine have? His best friend had died the night he’d been attacked, anyone else who knew him had moved on a long time ago. “Blaine,” he said softly, but Blaine wouldn’t look at him, “I’m sorry, I- I didn’t mean that. I’m sure he likes spending time with you.”

Blaine stared at the wall in front of him, unblinking, not so much as turning toward Kurt’s voice. “I’m tired.”

Kurt’s heart ached. It was a dismissal. Blaine wanted to be alone. He wanted to fight. If Blaine had only told him about Alex, if they’d only had this conversation months ago when Blaine had first met him, it wouldn’t be an issue. Or if Blaine hadn’t been with Alex at exactly the wrong time. It wasn’t even the time of day for one of his standing PT appointments. “Blaine,” he tried again, “I know you’re tired, but I want to stay, okay? We can talk about this. Or if that’s too much, I’ll just sit here. Read to you or something. Don’t kick me out because of this. Let me stay.”

There was a long moment of silence. Kurt could hear his own breathing, the room was so quiet.

“No.”

Kurt swallowed hard. One more try. “No?” He reached for Blaine’s hand, but he reacted like he’d been burned, jerking out of the way. “Please, Blaine. Don’t make me go because of that guy. Don’t let him do this to us.”

Silence. Blaine wouldn’t look at him. Kurt waited for a minute. Two. But Blaine was done talking. Feeling shaky, numb, he grabbed his bag from the floor. He’d come back on Thursday. Blaine would let him come back on Thursday. Right?

Chapter Text

Kurt sighed heavily as he stepped through the front door. He let his head fall back against it with a thud.

“Rough day?”

Kurt jumped at the sound of his dad’s voice, looking up to see him walking toward the living room with a beer in his hand. “You’re not supposed to have that, Dad.”

“One’s not going to kill me, and you know how crazy the shop was today.” He nodded toward the sofa. “Come on, sit with me for a little while.”

Kurt groaned. All he wanted to do was go up to his room and wallow. But he followed at his dad’s insistent look, flopping onto the sofa and slouching down into it, looking as miserable as he felt.

“Your visit with Blaine went that bad, huh?”

Kurt shrugged noncommittally.

“You’ll feel better if you talk about it.”

Kurt sighed. “It’s all Alex’s fault.”

“The PT?”

“Yes. The stupidly good-looking, annoyingly strong, super handsy PT.”

Burt raised an eyebrow, welcoming Kurt to continue.

“He’s ridiculously attractive. Like, Jesse Williams levels of attractive.” Burt clearly had no idea who that was. “The really hot one from Grey’s Anatomy?” He shook his head when he saw his father’s continuing blank look. “He’s basically a movie star. And I got there and Blaine was in the middle of a PT session. I didn’t know when I walked in, and then Alex was, like, kissing distance from him and he kept touching him and it was insane.”

Burt hummed quietly, and Kurt had to take a moment to appreciate the fact that he and his dad were currently talking about his love life. If he weren’t so annoyed, he’d be incredibly proud of him. “You think Blaine’s got a thing for his physical therapist?”

Kurt’s nose wrinkled. “Well, no. Not really. I mean, maybe. I can see how he would develop a crush. The guy is annoyingly gorgeous.”

“Okay, the physical therapist is a nice looking man, and he was close to Blaine. But this was during a PT session, yeah?”

Kurt shrugged. “I mean, yeah. He technically had a reason to be close, in case he needed to catch Blaine. But he kept touching his chest after Blaine was back on the bed.”

At Burt’s worried look, Kurt continued, not wanting to give his father the wrong idea. He didn’t like Alex. This was definitely all his fault. But the guy hadn’t been doing anything inappropriate. “No, not- I mean, Blaine’s breathing had changed, it was too fast and really harsh, so I think he was helping with that. It was just a lot of touch.”

Burt was quiet a moment, lips pursed. “So his physical therapist was helping with physical therapy.”

Kurt glared at him. “You don’t have to make it sound so innocuous.”

Burt shot him a look. “What happened then?”

Kurt shifted on the couch, clearly uncomfortable. “Well, I might have made some comments that were… probably a little too much.”

Burt raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, fine, they were definitely too much. But it’s only because I had to see the PT all up close and personal. You should have seen the way they were looking at each other, Dad. How close they were. He kept saying all of these things I couldn’t hear, like he was hiding them. He called him Blainers. What the hell is that?”

Burt took a sip of his beer, nodding slowly. “You’re jealous.”

“I’m not jealous.”

Burt’s disbelieving stare had Kurt squirming in his seat. He deflated, picking at the hem of his shirt. “Fine. I may be just the slightest, tiniest bit jealous.”

Burt nodded. “And is it because you think Blaine’s attracted to him? Because he’s good-looking?”

Kurt hesitated. “I… I mean, him being built like a Greek god doesn’t help, but I think it would be the same even if he was a troll.”

“So what’s the problem?”

Kurt had to think about that for a second. “It’s not – it’s not that they’re friends. I want Blaine to have friends. Honestly, he needs them. I’ve been trying to figure out how to help him meet people. It isn’t even- If I’m honest, it’s not even that they were so close. If I think about it, it’s kind of necessary for PT. And it’s not any more crazy than getting a hug, I guess.”

Burt nodded. “Then why are you so jealous?”

Kurt chewed on his lower lip. “Because it wasn’t me.”

Burt was quiet, waiting for Kurt to work it out on his own.

“Because it’s someone else who gets to encourage him through things when he’s all sweaty and upset and in pain. Because this is a whole gigantic section of his life that I don’t get to be a part of. I mean, he’s been in PT basically since he woke up, and I’ve never seen a single session. He still kicks me out. I don’t know anything about how he’s doing, medically. I know that his speech is getting better, except when he’s upset. I know that he’s physically a lot stronger than he was. He can move around so much on his own now, it’s unbelievable. I know that he still has trouble grabbing things if he’s just looking at them, he still misses. But everything I know about how he is, I got from being there. Seeing him in action. We never talk about it. We talk about how PT is hard, but never details on what they’re doing. We talk about Vogue and Broadway and meaningless crap that doesn’t matter.” He huffed out a breath. “I get that I’m probably his escape from a world that’s got way too much medical crap in it already, but I hate that there’s so much about his life I don’t know. Alex gets to be a part of all of that.”

Burt’s expression shifted to a sad smile. “You know,” he said quietly, “when your mother was sick when you were a kid, she wouldn’t tell me anything.”

Kurt paused, not sure how to react to that. He’d never talked with his dad about his mom’s illness. Not since he was a child and Burt had explained why they were suddenly having to see doctors a lot more.

“She’d hide doctor’s appointments, medications. I knew she was sick, of course, but she did everything in her power to keep me out of that part of her life.” He shook his head. “Damn woman was so stubborn, you wouldn’t believe. And the more she kept from me, the more upset I’d get with her.”

Kurt shook his head. “Why wouldn’t she just tell you? You only wanted to help.”

Burt reached out and gently clapped his son’s shoulder. “Because she was scared. Her life had changed, and she didn’t want to drag us into it. She didn’t want us hurting on her behalf by knowing all the things she couldn’t do anymore. She hated the thought of us knowing she was in pain. Sometimes, people hide things from those they love to protect them. She didn’t realize that it was killing me more, not knowing.”

Kurt could understand it, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. He wanted to be a part of Blaine’s life. All of it, not just the fun, easy parts. “How did you get her to tell you?”

“I had to sit down with her and talk about it,” Burt said simply. “We went out to dinner and we put everything out on the table. She told me why she didn’t want me involved. I told her that she didn’t have much of a choice.” He shrugged. “Her being sick didn’t have to define us, but I did have to be a part of it. We were married. What happened to her happened to me, too.”

Kurt chewed on his lip. He’d been okay with it, at first. PT had been humiliating for Blaine, and there were things Kurt just hadn’t wanted to see. He hadn’t wanted it to change the way he saw Blaine. But Burt was right. If they were going to be together, then Kurt had to know. He flushed at the thought. Together. Like a real couple. They’d never even had that conversation. “What if he doesn’t want me to be in that part of his life?”

Burt smiled. “I think you’ll find that once you break through the stubbornness, he’s probably dying for a support system. It’s hard to recover on your own. I bet you’ll find that he needs someone as much as you want to be there.”

Kurt nodded slowly. After a moment, he sat up, tilting his head as he looked at his dad. “You know, you’re not half bad at this advice-giving thing.”

Burt rolled his eyes. “You should really take me up on it more often. Now go. Figure out what you want to do to fix this. And stop lashing out at him.”

Kurt flushed. He hadn’t exactly admitted to that. “You know me far too well.” He stood and hesitated, standing by Burt’s chair. “Thanks, Dad. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

He headed up to his room and flopped onto the bed, looking at Blaine’s side. He hated confrontation. He hated the thought of upsetting Blaine. But they needed to talk about Kurt’s role in his life, and what he wanted moving forward. He grabbed his phone and sent Blaine a quick text. Nothing heavy, just a quick check to make sure he was okay. The answering text took nearly twenty minutes and was only a few words long, but it was enough. He would wait for Blaine to be ready to see him again. And then they were done with secrets. All of them.

Chapter Text

Thursday came and went without any mention of Kurt seeing Blaine. He’d hinted at it through the day, but Blaine had shut him down every time. Apparently, he still needed some space. So Kurt would wait. He was as patient as he was capable of being. Days passed, and they barely moved past awkward, stilted conversations on the phone. At least Blaine was improving at texting. Kurt was doing his best to stay calm, to hold onto hope that he hadn’t somehow managed to ruin everything.

He was doing his best to communicate in ways that would let Blaine know he still cared without overstepping. He sent him playlists, he recorded him little voice messages that he was almost certain Blaine remembered how to play back. He sent long paragraphs of text, even when the response he got was a single sentence. It was discouraging, but Blaine hadn’t cut him out. He hadn’t decided Kurt wasn’t worth his time. No text went unanswered.

Two and a half weeks after what Kurt had started calling ‘The Fight’ in his head, he was sitting in his room, responding to a commenter on one of his funnier blogs (A History of Tafetta and Why It’s Just the Worst) when he heard his phone chime. He practically jumped over the bed to get to it, hoping it would be Blaine on the other end. He wasn’t disappointed.

Can you come tomorrow? I have something to show you.

Kurt grinned. An invitation. An actual invitation. There wasn’t a chance in hell he was missing this opportunity to finally lay everything out in the open.

Wouldn’t miss it for the world :)

 

Kurt pulled up to the hospital early the next morning. He checked to make sure he had everything. Dozen roses, check. Perfectly coiffed hair, check. He smoothed out a single strand in the mirror and nodded, grinning to himself. His stomach was twisting in knots, but he didn’t mind. This was the good sort of nervous. The things-are-changing sort of nervous. He climbed out of the car, careful not to jostle the roses too much.

Laura looked as flustered as she had a few weeks ago as Kurt stopped to check in at the front desk. “Hi,” he said with a soft smile. “How’s our favorite guy doing today?”

Laura shot him a strained smile as she tucked away a business card into a folder. It looked official, with W.P.D. stamped on the back. “Hey, kid.”

“So, how is he?”

Laura nodded, her smile growing slightly more genuine. “He’s doing really well. Alex has been working with him more than usual. He’s made some real progress.” She shot him a serious look. “Be careful with him, okay? He’s been pushing himself hard. Just make sure Alex is in the room before he does anything stupid. Better to be safe than sorry, yeah?”

Kurt had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but he nodded anyway. “Right. Sure thing. I’ll make sure Alex is in the room if he tries anything crazy.” He shot her a winning grin as he signed the visitor’s log. He didn’t want Alex around for this, but if it was best for Blaine, he’d deal with it.

 

He knocked lightly on the door to Blaine’s room before stepping inside.

Blaine was sitting up in his wheelchair, parked across from the door. He was staring at the floor, an intensity on his face that Kurt had never seen before.

“Blaine?” he called softly. “Earth to Blaine?”

Blaine jumped and looked up at him, features rearranging into a determined expression that Kurt recognized. He’d seen the same look when he’d seen Blaine stand for the first time. He looked a little pale, a little tired, but Kurt doubted that would stop him.

“Hi, Kurt.”

“Hi.” Kurt pulled the vase carefully from behind his back. “These are for you.”

Blaine managed a half a smile at that, but it faded quickly. He looked- well, frankly, he looked nervous. He had a notebook in his hands that Kurt didn’t recognize. Kurt took a half a step closer, holding the flowers out so that Blaine could have a better look. They were yellow, fading to red on the edges. Love and friendship intertwined. He hoped it wasn’t too on the nose.

“Kurt, they’re- um, beautiful.” When Blaine smiled again, it was more genuine. His eyes lit up and Kurt’s heart skipped a beat.

Kurt grinned in return, feeling his cheeks flush. He set the roses on the table by Blaine’s bed, taking a deep breath. “They’re an apology for my truly terrible case of jackass-itis the other week. I- I’d say I don’t know what I was thinking, but I do. And I’d like to explain, if you’ll let me? I have some things I’d really like to talk to you about.”

Blaine took a deep breath and nodded, then shook his head. Kurt frowned slightly at the mixed messages. “I have something to, um… to say, too.” He touched the cover of the notebook like it was a good luck charm. “I have- I have a lot to- to tell you.” Kurt’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t interrupt. “Things I should’ve told you about- um, before.”

Kurt felt his stomach drop as he nodded. His mind immediately flashed to mumbled explanations of Blaine and Alex’s torrid affair, but he pushed the thoughts down. Assuming he understood the situation was what placed them in this mess to begin with. They had plenty to talk about that had absolutely nothing to do with Alex. “You can tell me anything. I’m ready to listen. Really listen.”

Blaine looked at him, head tipped to the side, sizing him up. After a moment, his shoulders relaxed marginally, and that grin came back. “I will.” He cleared his throat. “But I- I need to- I have- um, you’ve-” He took a deep breath and sighed, opening the notebook to a page marked by a blue sticky note. Kurt wondered what could possibly be written there, but he didn’t dare ask. Blaine was finally going to open up to him. All he had to do was be patient. “I know that things haven’t been perfect lately. I want to talk to you about everything. But I need you to know that I’m getting better before we go there. I need to show you. Can I?”

He looked up from the book, meeting Kurt’s eyes expectantly. Kurt was busy trying to pick his jaw up from the floor. That was several complete sentences without a single stutter or pause. He couldn’t help a small smile. “Well, that trick is certainly new to me. Can we count that as showing me improvement?” At Blaine’s serious expression, he sobered. “Yes, Blaine. Whatever it is, you can show me.”

Blaine took a couple of deep breaths. His hands were shaking. Kurt had never seen him so nervous, not even when he’d been talking about the dance. Kurt tried to move closer to help, but Blaine held up his hand. “Stay- um, stay there.”

Kurt nodded, watching as Blaine reached for the brakes of his chair, locking the wheels in place. There were only so many things Blaine could be doing, locking the wheels and keeping Kurt a few feet away. Laura’s warning echoed in his head. Maybe he should get Blaine to call Alex. “Blaine? What is it?”

There was no response. Blaine carefully lifted each foot out of the footrests, placing them on the floor slowly, deliberately. Kurt felt hope and panic warring in his chest. He tried to step forward again, managing to shuffle a half a foot before Blaine glared at him. He glanced at the door, wondering if he should get someone’s attention. “Blaine, I really want to see what you want to show me, but I think it might be better to have someone here, just in case.”

Blaine shook his head hard, looking up at Kurt with a fire and determination that Kurt couldn’t deny. It really wasn’t fair to be on the receiving end of that stare when he was trying to do the right thing. Blaine had to have practiced whatever he was going to do, right? He chewed on his lip for a moment and nodded, shuffling forward another half a step. Whatever this was, Blaine wanted to do it on his own.

Blaine braced himself on the arms of the chair with shaky hands and took a few deep breaths. Then he pushed. He wobbled, nearly keeling over headfirst. But he caught himself. His knuckles were white on the arms of the chair. His legs straightened slowly. He let go of the armrests.

He was standing.

He was breathing hard already, his cheeks flushed, his eyes slightly glazed as he concentrated. His posture was terrible, he was bent nearly in half. Kurt wondered if he should be holding onto something. He swayed slowly on his feet, and Kurt reached out instinctively. He was still too far away to catch him if he fell. Again, he glanced to the door, knowing he should try to get one of the nurses, at the very least. But then he caught a glimpse of Blaine’s expression. His eyes had brightened with unmistakable hope. He was making eye contact with Kurt, grinning through his panting breaths. He looked so much like the boy Kurt had met in the cemetery that it took Kurt’s breath away. He felt an answering grin spread across his own face, and for just a moment, he forgot everything around them. The world belonged to him and Blaine, and nothing could possibly go wrong. Blaine was standing completely on his own, beaming at Kurt.

That moment of distraction was all it took. He didn’t notice Blaine’s left foot move forward to take a step. He didn’t notice the way it landed, the weight of Blaine’s body coming down on the side. He saw a flicker of surprise over Blaine’s face, then panic. He heard a loud crack and Blaine started to tip sideways.

Kurt tried to catch him, but he was off-balance, mid-step, still too far away to be of any help.

Blaine hit the floor with a thud.

Kurt scrambled down beside him, gathering him up in his arms, hands hesitating over Blaine’s body as he looked for any way that Blaine might be hurt. He was terrified to touch him in case something was broken. Blaine was shaking. “Blaine? Blaine, are you okay? What hurts? Can you tell me what hurts?” Maybe they’d gotten lucky. Maybe he wasn’t injured. “You’re okay. Your foot just landed a little wrong, that’s all.” He needed a nurse. The call button was on the bed, out of reach, five feet away. His phone was in his pocket, but he couldn’t reach it without jostling Blaine.

Blaine was still trembling, and Kurt suddenly realized why. He was crying. Silent sobs were shaking his small frame as he curled against Kurt’s chest. He could hear it in the way his breath hitched, feel it in the way he grabbed at his shirt. Kurt didn’t know what to do. Blaine was clearly in pain, but he had no idea how to help. He needed someone who knew how to deal with a fall like this.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay, Blaine. It was just a little fall. People fall all the time. No big deal. We’ll get back up and try again, okay? It’s going to be okay.”

“No- No, it’s- it’s- it’s, um-,” Blaine cut off, giving up. Kurt could hear the defeat in his voice that went much deeper than just a misstep. He wished he could read Blaine’s mind. Maybe if they’d had a conversation about what was happening, Kurt might be able to help. He bit his lip, rocking Blaine gently as the sobs started to subside. As much as he hated what Blaine was feeling, this was exactly what they needed to talk about.

“You’re okay,” Kurt said quietly. “We’re okay. I’m not- I want to be here for this, Blaine. I want to be able to help you when you’re hurting. I want to be a part of your recovery. And I know that I haven’t been showing that. I haven’t been making the effort. That’s completely my fault. But I- You’re so important to me.”

He was having difficulty articulating this, with Blaine still sniffling in his lap. This was beyond not the time to continue this conversation, but it was the opportunity that he had. He wanted to reassure Blaine that none of this was going to scare him off. “I- I brought you flowers today because I wanted to do this right. This isn’t- Well, it’s not what I pictured. But we’ve never been traditionalists. I met you when you thought you were dead.” He was hoping for a laugh. There was no reaction. Blaine was staring at Kurt’s chest, expression blank, eyes unmoving as he took shaky breaths. Kurt cleared his throat. “I don’t- I’ve been your friend since that first day in the cemetery. But you’ve become so much more than that. You’re the person I most want to be around. You’re my best friend. You’re everything to me. I want to be there for absolutely everything that you’re going through. The good, the bad, the ugly. And I- I want that to be reflected in our relationship.” He took a deep breath. “Blaine Anderson, will you be my boyfriend?”

Blaine swallowed hard. The silence stretched on as Kurt’s stomach tried to drop through the hospital floor. Blaine didn’t look at him, didn’t stop staring at that one spot on Kurt’s chest. His breathing was picking up, faster than it had been before. Then Blaine said the single word that changed Kurt’s world completely.

“No.”

Chapter Text

Blaine’s head was killing him. That in itself wasn’t exactly surprising. His head hurt most days since he’d awoken for the first time a few weeks ago. But today, even the light filtering through his eyelids was excruciating. He stayed very still and focused on breathing through his nose, trying to let the pain pass. It didn’t help much. He needed a distraction. Luckily, he soon realized that he wasn’t alone in the room.

“Mrs. Anderson, please calm down. We knew this was a possibility. We’ve discussed it at length.” That voice was vaguely familiar. Low, masculine, soothing in a sort of off-putting way. He couldn’t quite place it, though his brow furrowed with thought as he tried.

“I am perfectly calm.” The sharpness of her response contradicted her statement. “I understand that we’ve discussed it, but it’s different to see it happen. And I thought he was on medication to prevent this sort of thing.”

“Yes, ma’am, I understand why you thought that, but you have to realize that we weren’t entirely sure…”

Blaine lost track for a moment, focus drawn to his body when he tried to adjust the position of his arm. Every single muscle was sore. He felt like he’d been run over by a truck. He bit back a groan, knowing the conversation in the corner would end if they knew he was awake. He tried to remember why he felt like this. He had barely moved at all, other than sitting up very slowly with the help of Kurt or his mother and the bed. How could he possibly be sore in his toes from carefully sitting?

“We’ve started him on,” he missed the end of the sentence from the first voice. “We’ll likely need to adjust the dosage, but this is perfectly controllable. He can have a normal life, even if it persists.”

He couldn’t make out his mother’s response.

“Mrs. Anderson, that’s hardly necessary. Plenty of people manage conditions like your son’s with very little changes to their quality of life.”

Another unintelligible comment from his mother, though the doctor’s voice had taken on a frosty tone when he heard it again.

“Now there’s really no need for that. I’m doing everything I can to ensure your son’s health. If you have additional questions…”

Blaine lost the thread of the conversation as someone walked up to the side of his bed.

“It’s okay,” one of the nurses said softly. Blaine didn’t open his eyes to see her, but he knew that voice. “I won’t tell them you were awake. This is just a little something to help you rest.”

He didn’t see the meds go into his IV, but he felt them soon enough, drifting off into a dreamless sleep.

 

“Hi, sweetheart.”

Blaine blinked up at his mom slowly, wincing at the bright light in the room. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep, but it was long enough that the heavy pounding in his head had lessened to a dull roar.

She seemed to notice his discomfort. The lights shut off, though she moved to crack the blinds enough to let them both see. “I’ll get you a lamp. Something that’ll help when you have these headaches. I know it doesn’t feel good.”

Blaine blinked. Had they talked about his headaches? He didn’t think so. He didn’t like bringing it up. Everyone had enough to worry about without him adding to the pile with things no one could control. He’d remember if they’d had that conversation. Right? He quickly schooled his expression as his mother sat down beside him. He didn’t want to worry her with his slightly wonky memory.

He was finally able to force his eyes to focus on her in the chair. The dimmer lighting helped. “Thanks,” he said softly.

Her hands hovered over her lap. For a moment, he thought she was going to reach out, touch his hand. She’d done it when he was in the coma. But no, she folded them primly and tucked them away. Blaine did his best not to be disappointed.

“So, honey, I know the doctor was in earlier to talk to you, but I wanted to discuss everything with you, too.”

Blaine swallowed hard against a wave of panic. He didn’t remember talking to the doctor. He didn’t remember doing much of anything. He’d woken up with a headache. He’d overheard parts of a conversation, and he’d gone back to sleep. He hadn’t had time to talk to a doctor, he’d only just woken up.

“He’s given me a list of signs to watch out for, but I need to know if there’s anything you felt yesterday before the seizure that might tell us what to look for in the future.”

Blaine paled. He’d had a seizure? He didn’t remember anything. He tried, eyes closing as he searched for the memory. He’d eaten dinner, with the help of a patient and long-suffering nurse. His mother had left the room when they’d started. It was too hard on them both to for her to see someone steady Blaine’s hand and guide it to his mouth. He’d felt a little queasy, after, but that was nothing unusual. He’d tried to text Kurt (the results were equal parts hilarious and ridiculous). He’d watched a couple of clips from the Tony’s over the past couple of years that Kurt had sent him. He hadn’t been feeling particularly well, the food too heavy in his stomach, so he’d asked the nurse for help to lie down. He must’ve fallen asleep after that; he didn’t have any memory of the rest of the night.

“I didn’t- there wasn’t- I didn’t have a- a-,” his voice was rough, hesitant. He still wasn’t used to speaking.

“Yes, you did,” Pam cut him off sharply. “You did. I came in to wish you goodnight after dinner and you were-“ She shook her head, blowing a breath out through her nose. Whatever she’d seen had obviously been pretty rough on her. He felt guilt twist in his stomach, though there was nothing he could do about it. He didn’t even remember the stupid thing. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not- you don’t need to hear about it. It was a grand mal seizure according to your doctor. He walked you through all of this earlier, Blaine. Your new medication, the pills you have to swallow?”

Blaine didn’t remember taking any pills. He remembered being sore this morning, the sound of his mother’s voice. But her expression told him he couldn’t admit to that. He forced a smile, smoothing out the worry lines in his forehead. “Oh, yeah. New, um, new meds.”

The relief on his mother’s face was worth the little white lie. All he had to do was remember that he had a pill to take. It wasn’t like he could forget. One of the nurses brought them in every morning. “Yes, honey, those.”

She seemed to relax a bit in her seat, and Blaine relaxed right along with her. She looked at him expectantly. “Well, do you remember anything from before it happened last night?”

Blaine tried. He wracked his mind for anything that had felt weird, but it had been almost identical to every other night since he’d come back from the coma. “I… I felt a little…” He didn’t know how to articulate it. He’d just felt a bit off, a bit like the world was shifted a degree or two on its axis. He made a face, eyes focused on a corner of the ceiling as he desperately searched for the words.

“Hot? Cold? Sick? Uneasy? Some people feel a sense of dread before a seizure, was that it?”

She was making his headache worse. The flood of words was overwhelming. Even if she’d picked the right one, he wasn’t sure he would have had time to respond to it. He bit his lip and shook his head. “No. No. Fine. I felt… I felt fine.”

She looked vaguely disappointed in him. He may not remember the conversation from that morning, but he remembered coming home to see that look on his mother’s face plenty as he grew up. His stomach twisted, and he shifted a bit on the bed, his muscles protesting at the movement. A seizure would at least explain the soreness. He forced that smile again. “I’ll… try to, um, try-,”

“Remember. You’ll try to remember.” She nodded, huffing out a breath and reaching up to smooth her bun. He wondered if she’d looked so put together when she was speaking with the doctor, earlier. Some part of him sort of hoped she hadn’t. That maybe seeing him seizing had ruffled her, since nothing else had.

“Right. I’ll- um, try to remember.”

 

He lay in bed hours later, trying to remember everything he could since coming to the hospital. He knew his mother had been with him. His throat had hurt. Nurses had come and gone. He’d seen Kurt. They’d talked about something. Something important. He could remember laughing with him. The sparkle of bright blue eyes in fluorescent hospital lighting. Kurt’s teeth disappearing when his smile grew too big. He remembered the warmth of a hand in his. But the details of the conversation, whatever Kurt had been laughing about, it was all gone. His stomach sank as he realized that he had already forgotten what he was supposed to be trying to remember. Maybe he wasn’t quite as okay as he’d been starting to hope.

He picked up his phone to text Kurt. That always made him feel better. Maybe he had some idea of what he was supposed to do about seizures he didn’t even know were happening. He froze, Kurt’s name on the screen. His fine motor skills weren’t good enough to articulate what had happened. And even if he could, Kurt was already having to deal with the fact that he could barely hold a conversation. He couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t even drink coffee. He closed out of the text message, the few words he had managed to type unsent. He’d keep it to himself, for now. Not forever, just until he knew exactly what was happening.

Chapter Text

“Mr. Anderson?”

Blaine looked up at the knock to his open door. He was half sitting, holding a water cup carefully between his hands. He was trying to gain back some semblance of independence. The first step was drinking water. Then eating without a nurse’s help. They seemed like tiny, insignificant goals, but he knew they would make a difference. Already, he’d gone from being unable to hold an empty cup in his hands to being able to lift a full one. Progress.

He carefully rested the cup in his lap as he looked up to see the woman in the doorway. She was tall and slim, wearing a pair of slacks and a blazer. There was a gun holster on her hip. Her hair was pulled back into a bun. Though her voice was kind, her eyes never stayed in one place, scanning the room. “Um, it’s Blaine,” he said quietly. No one had ever called him Mr. Anderson unless he was in trouble. It reminded him of being in the principal’s office when he was seven years old after serenading his best friend in the middle of class. He’d jumped all over the desks, belting out N’SYNC at the top of his lungs. The principal had been laughing as she’d told the story of ‘The Ballad of Mr. Anderson’. His father had not.

“Hi, Blaine,” she corrected with a smile that put Blaine a little more at ease. “Can I come in?”

Blaine nodded. He really didn’t have any reason to say no, though he found himself digging around for an excuse. He had a feeling he knew why she was here. He could only hope he was wrong.

She stepped into the room and walked up to the side of the bed, though she didn’t sit down. “My name is Detective McMillan,” she said softly. “You can call me Sarah, if you like. I know you’ve been asleep a long time, and I know that you’ve only been awake a little while. But I’d like to talk to you about how much you remember from before your coma.”

Blaine tensed, trying to figure out a way to dodge this conversation. He could already feel his heart beating in his chest, a little too hard and a little too fast. He chewed on his lip, staring at the blanket over his legs.

She tried to catch his eye, but he wouldn’t let her. He remembered Max’s voice. He remembered the feeling of his ribs cracking, the sound of Andrew screaming. He remembered the things they’d shouted at him, the way Max’s shoe had caught the light as he pulled it back to deliver the final blow. He remembered blood on the pavement. He couldn’t remember what he’d had for breakfast, but that night was burned into his memory like it had been branded there. Max. Pete. Danny. Alex. He couldn’t have forgotten them if he’d tried. He didn’t even realize that his hands had started shaking.

“Blaine, if you remember anything, we could finally put these guys away. We could get them off the streets. At the very least, they’d be tried for aggravated assault for what happened to yourself and Mr. Lavery. They could go away for a long, long time, and not be able to hurt anyone again.” Blaine flinched at the mention of Andrew’s last name. He could picture him, too. Smiling at him shyly as they traded boutonnieres, laughing at some horrible math pun Blaine had made in class. His chest ached. He shook his head.

“Blaine,” she said again, coaxing. “You don’t have to give a full statement right now. But the more detail you give us, the more we’ll be able to pin on these guys. They could go to prison. No one else would ever have to be afraid of them the way you have been for so long. They could never put someone else through what you’ve been through.”

Blaine couldn’t breathe. His chest hurt. He squeezed at his water cup rhythmically until he crushed a crack into the side of it. He felt dampness start to spread over the blankets, but he couldn’t seem to care. All he could picture was Andrew’s face, hear his last cry around the corner of the building. He could actually feel Max’s hot breath against his cheek. His eyes stung. He couldn’t stop trembling.

Detective McMillan immediately stood when she saw the water start to spill. She grabbed the cup out of Blaine’s hands, leaving him clutching at nothing. She pressed the call button and shouted for a nurse, setting the cup on the table. The detective was saying something, the same words over and over again, but they didn’t have any meaning to Blaine. He couldn’t breathe. He could feel the pain of broken ribs in his chest. He could feel concrete scraping along his back.

“Blaine, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. You’re going to be alright. Everything’s going to be alright. Try to breathe.”

She stepped to the side of the room as Laura came in, running to Blaine’s bedside and checking his vitals. “Blaine, are you okay? Can you look at me? I need you to look at me, Blaine, okay?”

The familiar voice caught his attention and he blinked, managing to focus on Laura’s eyes. She had pretty eyes. Green and warm and beautiful. Andrew had had green eyes. He reached up to clutch at his throat, trying to show her that he couldn’t breathe. He felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest.

Laura squeezed his hand and then left the room. She was back in seconds. She must’ve been running She had a syringe in her hand. She left his field of vision, injecting it into his IV, and then she was back, holding his hand. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “It’s just a little something to help you calm down. It’s okay, Blaine. Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay.”

It kicked in almost immediately. The elephant grew lighter and lighter until it vanished. Blaine’s eyes slipped closed. He breathed through his nose, still shuddering occasionally. Eventually, the warmth of Laura’s hand left his own. She must have thought he’d fallen asleep.

“We can’t let you come back in here and question him like that again,” she said softly. “I know that you’re trying to do a good thing, but Blaine’s health has to come first. And if you couldn’t tell from that episode, he isn’t ready to talk about this, yet. His parents won’t even allow us to get a psychiatrist in here.”

Detective McMillan sighed. “I understand,” she said softly. “I’ve been after these boys since the night it happened. I know he remembers something.”

He heard rustling, movement. He didn’t peek.

“Here, take my card,” the detective again. “If he wakes up and he wants to talk, I can be here any time, day or night. I don’t want to upset him again, but we need to know who did this. We need to be able to put them away. I don’t want some other kid having to go through something like this.”

Laura responded, but Blaine didn’t hear it. He was floating away to somewhere Andrew’s ghost couldn’t find him. He slept.

Chapter Text

Blaine was very quickly growing tired of staring at the ceiling. To be perfectly honest, he was bored out of his mind. Sleeping was out of the question. He kept dreaming any time he tried to sleep through the night, and they weren’t exactly pleasant. He caught naps during the day when he could. That was enough for now.

His mom was visiting a lot. She was trying to get to know him, making an effort. He was seeing her more now than he had in the years leading up to the incident. He should be thrilled. But with his limited ability to communicate, it wasn’t exactly easy. She didn’t seem to understand that his inability to find words didn’t mean he didn’t still have a decent vocabulary. He understood everything people said to him, he could read and understand texts from Kurt, he was just slow to respond. She tended to use small words with him, treat him like a child.

Still, she was trying. She’d started bringing him things to fill his time. He’d expected the historical fiction novels she liked or documentaries. Instead, she’d started bringing him copies of Vogue, musical soundtracks. She asked him incessantly what he’d talked to Kurt about, and as soon as he mentioned a show or a designer, she’d show up with something related to it the next day. He had a shelf by his bed that was getting more and more populated by the day with scripts and books and fashion magazines. He wasn’t always steady enough to hold them, so she’d started bringing him audio plays and soundtracks. She wouldn’t listen with him, of course, and she turned up her nose any time she walked in and he was watching Cats or Hairspray, but she never said a word. He could give her credit for that. In the past, she would have taken away anything she deemed ‘too gay’. For her, this was a Herculean effort. Things might not be perfect between the two of them, but they were making some progress.

The real bright spot in his day was Kurt. Every day, without fail, he’d come to the hospital. He seemed to understand Blaine’s inability to communicate in a way his mother didn’t. He would help him find words, instead of assuming he had no idea what he was talking about. Sometimes, he corrected Blaine a little too quickly, but that wasn’t really his fault. He was used to full conversations, not having to wait for someone to dig around for a word that didn’t want to show up. Besides, it was nice to have someone to talk to who didn’t assume he had the mental capacity of a toddler. He would sit with him for hours, holding his hand. They’d talk. Or, rather, Kurt would talk, about anything and everything. Blaine could listen to his voice forever.

But.

Blaine had always been an antsy person. He had always preferred movement to sitting still. Now, he couldn’t so much as tap his foot without it hurting. He was getting stronger, yeah. He could scoot a little on his own. He could lift cups and forks to drink and eat. But at the end of the day, that just wasn’t enough.

Thus the overwhelming boredom as he tried to find a new pattern in the dots on the ceiling.

“Blaine Anderson.”

Blaine looked up, blinking at the stranger in the doorway. “Do I... um, do I... know you?”

“Nope!” The man was tall, dark-haired, dressed in scrubs. He had to be someone who worked at the hospital. Another doctor or a nurse, maybe. He was wearing a grin that was absolutely infectious. Blaine found himself answering it, though cautiously.

He walked right up to the bed and held out his hand. “My name’s Alex.”

Blaine flinched at the name. His mind immediately snapped back to that night. Alex, one of Max’s cronies, pulling Andrew around the corner of the building. He remembered the sound of his voice taunting them. He remembered the look on his face as they’d disappeared, right before Andrew had called out for the last time. He’d been grinning. He shuddered, taking a deep breath and forcing himself back to the present.

Alex was looking at him a little funny, head tipped to the side. “You okay?”

Blaine nodded, looking at the hand that was still extended for him. Alex from school had been far younger, sandy-haired, short. This guy had dark hair, bright brown eyes; he was ridiculously tall. They couldn’t possibly have been any different. Alex was a common name, that was all it was. He took another breath and blew it out.

No one on the hospital staff had shaken his hand, yet. At first, he’d been too weak to move that far, anyway. Then, everyone had assumed that was still the case. He was just a patient, nothing more. They treated him professionally, but there was no personal connection. Blaine looked up into Alex’s face and saw friendliness, a smile that seemed genuine. He wasn’t worried, he wasn’t afraid that Blaine would hurt himself. Blaine made his choice. He had to struggle to lift his arm, but Alex didn’t seem particularly bothered by the long pause and the awkward movement. His grip on his hand was weak, but Blaine felt himself smiling very slightly. “Hi.”

Alex’s grin widened. “I’m your new physical therapist. And I’m here to help you build up that handshake again, among other things.”

Physical therapy. He’d been looking forward to this. It meant he’d be able to move again. A name was just a name. He could handle this. He nodded, scooting very slightly higher on the bed as Alex eyed Blaine’s position, nearly laying down in the bed.

“Alright, let’s start simple. Get you sitting up, see what you’ve got.”

Blaine stared at him, waiting for him to reach for the bed controls. He didn’t. Alex just raised an eyebrow, expression blissfully optimistic. He wanted Blaine to sit up. Without the use of the motorized bed. He wanted him to use his arms to push himself up. Blaine felt a little thrill, fear and curiosity lighting him up. He bit his lip. “What if I... um... if I...” He couldn’t find the word. He felt his cheeks start to flush, but Alex just tipped his head to the side.

“Want a little help, or want to find it on your own?”

He froze. It was the first time someone had asked instead of bowling him over, guessing at what word he needed. His mother would speak over him the second he stumbled. Kurt was a little more patient, but he hated to see Blaine trying to find something just out of his reach. It was shockingly nice, a simple question asking what he wanted, instead of another assumption. He considered his answer for a moment before shaking his head. It took another minute or two of searching, but the word finally clicked into place. “Hurt. What if I hurt myself?”

Alex grinned at him, shaking his head. “That’s why I’m here, bud. I’ll catch you if anything goes wrong. Think of me as your own personal security blanket.”

Blaine raised an eyebrow. He didn’t know if he believed that. Alex was standing too far away to catch him if something went wrong. But he was curious. He wanted to try. And why not? The bed was soft. At worst, he was falling a few inches onto a padded surface. His body had certainly been through worse. He took a steadying breath, more nervous than he should be. Eventually, he braced his hands against the bed, closed his eyes, and pushed. He grunted as he managed to lift his back a few inches off the bed, muscles already trembling with the strain.

“Good job,” he heard Alex say, and he blinked his eyes open, making eye contact. He wondered if his new PT ever stopped smiling. “You’ve been working on your own, haven’t you? I’m gonna have to start calling you muscles. You’re halfway up. Halfway up and you haven’t even had a physio session yet. That’s insane! Come on, push a little bit harder. You can do it.” Blaine dug deep and tried, letting out an incredibly undignified sound as he strained to push himself higher. He was nearly there, just about vertical, when he felt his left elbow buckle. He had just enough time to start to panic before Alex caught him. He had no idea how he’d crossed the distance between them so fast, but his grip was strong and solid as he eased Blaine back onto the bed. He hadn’t fallen. He huffed out a few breaths, unable to stop himself from grinning. He’d nearly sat up, all on his own.

Alex adjusted the bed until Blaine was sitting, and then he sat on the edge of the bed near his feet, facing him. No one had done that, either. He wondered if he could convince Kurt to sit on the bed with him. He should remember that. He tried to repeat it in his head a few times, hoping that’d make it stick.

“So, bud, let’s talk goals. What do you want to be able to do?”

Blaine blinked. Another question he hadn’t been expecting.

Alex grinned. “You don’t have to have any grand plans. I’m not expecting you to want to run for president. But what’s the most important? Walking? Sitting up on your own? Kissing that cute boyfriend of yours?”

Blaine flushed bright red, ducking his head at the mention of Kurt. He couldn’t help his smile, even with the mortification of being called out. “He’s not- um, my boyfriend.”

Alex brushed that thought away. “Come on, you’re gorgeous and he’s visiting you every single day. Laura’s told me all about him. I think she’s got a crush, except she knows he’s taken. Trust me, bud, it’s only a matter of time. And I’m here to help you woo him.”

Blaine snorted out a disbelieving laugh, looking up at his PT again. He certainly wasn’t what he’d been expecting. His mind wandered back to Kurt. Kurt, with the gorgeous hair and the perfect smile and the eyes that always seemed to sparkle. Kurt, who knew exactly what to say in every situation and never failed to make Blaine laugh. Kurt was amazing. Beyond beautiful. He was talented and kind and perfect. And Blaine was stuck in a hospital bed with an ugly scar across his forehead, unable to so much as sit on his own or remember Kurt’s name half the time. He reached up to tug at his hair. Alex didn’t stop him, didn’t comment on it. After a while, Blaine remembered he’d been asked a question. “Um, what am I- What was the- um, the question?”

Alex just grinned. “Goals!” he said brightly, seemingly unbothered by having to repeat himself. “Preferably goals that help land you a boyfriend, but I’m not picky. Any old goals will do.”

Blaine bit his lip, thinking hard. He didn’t know about goals specifically to get with Kurt. He knew they had something special. But he wasn’t ready, yet. Not until he could be with Kurt in a way that meant more than sitting at his bedside, getting more and more annoyed by his speech problems. “I want to- um, to talk to him.” He was quiet for a moment. “Um... he texts.” He hadn’t been having much luck texting back. His fingers were stupid, pressing the wrong buttons so often that he ended up tossing his phone across the room in frustration. When Kurt was working, it was the only way they had to communicate, and Blaine was genuinely terrible at it.

“Fine motor skills, got it,” Alex said with a grin. “Easy. You’re already holding things, from what Laura’s been telling me. Here, grab this.” He held a pen out in the air.

Blaine shook his head. This guy was ridiculous. He lifted his arm carefully, though he started shaking almost immediately anyway. He reached for the pen, closed his fist, and realized he’d grabbed the air about six inches from it.

Alex nodded. “Your sense of self in space is a little off, that’s probably part of the difficulty you’re having when texting. Keep hitting the wrong buttons?”

At Blaine’s blank stare, he shrugged.

“All it means is that your brain is telling your fingers to push a button on the left side of the screen, but your finger thinks it’s already there when it’s actually on the right side of the screen. It’s really common with head trauma. And it’s a skill we can teach you all over again. You’ll be back up to snuff in no time at all. It’ll help with grabbing things, too. And playing catch. Just wait until we can play wheelchair football, you’re gonna go nuts.”

Blaine nodded, something clicking in his head. He wasn’t just uncoordinated or clumsy, his fingers weren’t stupid, it was a side effect of his head trauma. And it was learnable. The relief he felt was nearly overwhelming. He raised an eyebrow at the thought of wheelchair football. He was doing an awful lot of that, today. He definitely needed to remember that one. Hopefully the weirdness would make it stick. He cleared his throat, feeling a little bolder. “I want to-... um, to write.” It was driving him nuts to not be able to write himself little notes, given the state of his memory. “And I want to- to be able- to um,” his cheeks flushed, and this time, it had nothing to do with forgetting a word, “to hug him.”

Alex grinned. “Those are some excellent goals, my friend. A couple of fine motor skills, and some body positioning and strengthening.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together.

“So, I’m going to make us a game plan, now that I know where you’re at. In the meantime, we’re going to start your training right now, young padawan.” He reached down into a bag Blaine hadn’t noticed and pulled out a squishy stress ball. “Let’s start with this. Use it whenever you can. Squeezing it’ll strengthen your hands and fingers. Tossing it in the air and catching it will help you figure out where your limbs are in relation to your body. And, if someone really annoys you, you can chuck it right at their head without hurting them.” He grinned. “I’ll be back tomorrow with a plan with a little more detail and some more goodies for you. You and I are going to be spending an awful lot of time together. Twice a day, every day, from now until you’re ready to go home. Sound good?”

Blaine nodded. “Sounds good.”

He watched Alex walk out of the room wearing the same bright smile he’d had when he came in. Maybe he was a little bizarre, but Blaine could feel something like hope building up in his chest. He had a plan. He had goals. He had a completely insane physical therapist. For the first time since he’d woken up, he felt like he was moving forward.

He couldn’t wait to tell Kurt.

Chapter Text

Blaine was grinning from ear to ear, bouncing slightly to the rhythm of the music. He tugged at his bow tie, pulling it off and slipping it into his pocket. He was hot. Stifling, really. He needed to get outside, get a breath of fresh air. A girl from his Spanish class was standing beside him, gossiping about one of their classmates. He laughed, though what she was saying didn’t really register. He didn’t care, he was just enjoying the music. The room was dark, but the strobes were bright, leaving afterimages every time he blinked. He spotted Andrew through the crowd by his hair and started to follow. “Andrew!” he called, but he wouldn’t turn and look at him. “Andrew!”

He pushed through the crowd of people. It was friends from class, at first, girls and guys dressed in their best dance attire, moving and shaking to the music. But the further he went into the crowd, the less familiar the faces seemed. Their clothes changed from colorful dresses and suits to amorphous black. He couldn’t make out the details in their faces anymore. Their movements were slightly off-beat, sinister. They started pressing into Blaine, resisting him, hands dragging along his coat as he pushed past. The music had stopped. Instead, there was only a steady drumbeat, the sound of his own breathing in his ears. “Andrew!”

He could still spot him, but barely. He hunched his shoulders and shoved through the crowd, feeling hands grabbing at him as he started to run. His heart was pounding in his throat. His coat was stifling, far too hot and heavy for the room, but the buttons weren’t working. He couldn’t get it off. He could see Andrew. If he could only get to him, they could go outside. They could get out of this place with the dead-eyed strangers. They could go home. “Andrew! Head for the doors! Andrew!”

Andrew paused for a moment, and someone else joined him. Light brown hair, coiffed in that signature swoop that Blaine would know anywhere. “Kurt! Andrew!” His stomach twisted. He needed to get to them. Something terrible was going to happen if he didn’t. The drumbeat grew louder. The hands clawed at his coat, his pant legs, his hair, pulling him backward. He pushed and shoved at them, his progress painfully slow.

Andrew and Kurt had stopped moving. He took one step and another, feet dragging with the weight of the crowd. His head was pounding. He was soaked in sweat. But he was gaining. He reached a slight part in the crowd where Kurt and Andrew were standing, facing away from him. The drumbeat stopped. The boys were still. Silent. “Andrew?” He reached out as though to touch Andrew’s arm, but hesitated. Suddenly, he didn’t want them to turn around. He didn’t want to know why they weren’t making a sound. He tried to pull his hand back, but it was too late. He watched in horror as it brushed against Andrew’s suit jacket.

They turned in perfect synchronization, and Blaine scrambled back, pinwheeling his arms as he nearly fell into the crowd. Andrew’s skin was pulled tight against his bones, dirt coating his black suit and tie, hair a matted mess. He looked like he’d clawed his way out of his grave. Kurt was bleeding from a wound in his head, a nasty cut winding its way through his hair, down to his left eyebrow. His eyes were glassy and grey, his skin pallid and pale. They were dead. He tried to force his way backward through the crowd, but they kept pushing him, holding him in place as Andrew and Kurt took shuffling footsteps toward him. Hands and bodies pressed against him. His feet slid on the ground as he was shoved toward the nightmare in front of him. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t get any air. The people all around him started to scream.

The screaming morphed to the shrill beeping of his alarm as he jerked himself awake. He was twisted in his bedsheets, hyperventilating. He could still feel the hands on his body, choking him, pressing him down, pulling him back into the press of bodies. He clawed at the sheets that had somehow ended up tangled around his torso and neck, desperate to get them off. He had to get out. Had to get away. He was going to die. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t stop seeing Andrew and Kurt’s faces, their dead eyes.

He didn’t see Alex come into the room, but suddenly he was there by his side, looking Blaine over, hands hovering over him.

The beeping stopped. Alex was holding his phone. He set it aside on the table and gently reached toward Blaine, laying his hand on his chest. “It’s okay, Blaine,” he said softly. “I know you’re scared. But whatever it is, it can’t hurt you, yeah? You can breathe. I need you to take a deep breath and stay focused on me, okay?”

Blaine couldn’t. His eyes kept darting around the room, searching for Kurt and Andrew. He tugged harder at the sheets, trying to show Alex the problem. He was being murdered by his bedding.

“Stop that,” Alex said quietly, though his voice was firm. “Stop pulling, it’s going to make it worse. The sheets aren’t tight enough to hurt you. I promise, Blaine, you can breathe.” He pressed a little more firmly against Blaine’s chest. “Focus right here. Close your eyes if you need to, listen to my voice. Focus on my hand on your chest. I need you to feel the movement of my hand when you breathe. Can you feel how jerky and uneven it is? I need you to smooth that out. Make it rise and fall nice and slow and even. You can do it. The air’s right there, you can do this.”

Blaine whimpered, eyes shutting as he tried to do as he was told. He could feel Alex’s hand on his chest, jerking up and down as Blaine’s diaphragm spasmed, lungs desperate to pull in air that he somehow couldn’t reach.

“You can do this, Blaine. Slow it down. Focus. Concentrate.”

Blaine tried. He managed to hold his breath for a moment, letting it out in a sudden rush.

“Good,” Alex said quietly. “Really good. Now do that again.”

Blaine concentrated. On his next breath, he was able to let the air out over the course of two panicked heartbeats instead of one. He had no idea how long it took, but eventually, the movement of his chest started to become almost smooth, if far too fast. Blaine’s twisted muscles began to ease.

“Okay, good. Now we need to slow it down a little. I’m going to count for you, bud. In for two and out for two.”

Alex counted. Blaine breathed. Slowly but surely, the panic lessened. His body was still tense, his stomach twisting, and he was covered in sweat, but he was able to breathe again. He was able to think. They made it all the way up to eight in and eight out before Blaine felt stable enough to open his eyes. Alex watched him for a long moment before carefully pulling away his hand. He started moving Blaine’s body and the sheets gently until they were off him. He tossed them away, letting Blaine breathe without anything on top of his chest.

“Nightmare?” he asked quietly.

Blaine hesitated before nodding. There wasn’t any point in lying.

Alex nodded, coming to stand beside Blaine again. “Those can be really scary. Is that the first one that you’ve had?”

Another pause before Blaine slowly shook his head. It was the worst one he’d had so far, but it certainly wasn’t the first. It was the first that involved Kurt, though.

“Have you told anybody about them?”

Blaine sighed, closing his eyes again, this time to focus on his words. “I don’t- um, I don’t want anyone to- to- um, to worry.”

Alex smiled a bit at that. “Bud, I think you’ve got that twisted. People are more likely to worry about you if you aren’t telling them about what’s going on with you. And I don’t mean a doctor. You could talk to your mom. Or Kurt.”

Blaine flinched slightly, shrugging his shoulders as he looked back up at Alex.

“Still not telling him anything, huh?”

Blaine shrugged. “Mom- um, Mom knows a lot, and she…- she- she just thinks I can’t,” he sighed, shaking his head as he dug through his mind for the right word. “Um, that I’m… stupid. That I’m broken.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t think that, Blaine. She’s worried, and everybody reacts differently when they’re worried about people they love. If it bothers you, you should talk to her about it. Frankly, you should talk with both of them about it.”

Blaine just shot him a look. He wasn’t going to talk to his mother about anything. Not when she could get all the details from his doctors. Not when they were at least making a little progress in their relationship. And when it came to Kurt, he was hopeless. When Alex shot him an unimpressed look right back, Blaine sighed. “Kurt… stayed here. He gave up… um,… the city. For me.” He shook his head. “I’m not- not going to let… him, um, know how broken… I really am.”

Alex sighed quietly. “Bud, that’s a really bad idea. You’re not broken. You’re healing. It takes time to heal from something like this. A lot of it. Kurt knows that. He’s aware of what he signed up for. Keeping things from him isn’t going to help, it’s just going to let all of this pile up between you. Recovering is a huge part of your life. If he can’t be a part of that, what are the two of you going to have? Maybe it’ll be fine for now, but the longer you let it go without talking about it, the worse everything’s going to be. Trust me on that.”

Blaine huffed out a breath, but didn’t respond. He was too exhausted to talk about this right now.

Alex hummed. “Okay, I’ll let it go for now. But try to think about it? He cares about you enough to be here every single day. Eventually, he’s going to find out. Either everything’s going to come to a head, or he’s going to walk in on you mid-seizure. Trust me, that is not something anyone wants to experience by surprise.”

Blaine closed his eyes, looking well and truly miserable.

Alex reached out and squeezed his hand. “Hey, I might have something that helps in the meantime.” He rummaged through the bag he always seemed to have with him and pulled out a pad of sticky notes and a pen.

Blaine cracked one eye open, looking from the notes to Alex and back again.

“Think of it as PT for your brain and your hand at the same time. You can write yourself little notes. It’ll help with your memory retention and with your fine motor skills. Two birds, one stone.” He smiled, setting the pen and pad on Blaine’s table, where they’d be in easy reach.

He grabbed Blaine’s hand again, holding it gently. “You’ll figure it out, bud. You’re on new medication for the seizures. I can teach you some techniques to help when you start feeling panicky like that again, at least until your parents agree to let us send you someone to talk to, professionally. Your memory will improve the more you exercise it. Just promise me you’ll think about telling Kurt?”

Blaine shifted slowly, sitting up. He needed the help of the bed, still, but he could do it on his own. He chewed on his lip as he reached out a shaky hand for the sticky notes and the pen. He missed, Alex pressing them into his palm. He doodled on one of the notes as Alex watched him, expecting an answer. Kurt’s name was a messy sprawl across the sticky note, something he might have written in Kindergarten. He traced a shaky heart around the letters before looking up to meet Alex’s eyes. He nodded. “I’ll- um, I’ll think about it.” He already knew his answer. He didn’t want Kurt to see what he’d become and compare that to who he’d been all summer. Not now. Not when he was still such a mess. Eventually, he’d tell him everything. When he was strong enough. He took the sticky note off the top of the stack and stuck it to the railing of his bed where he could see it every morning when he woke.

As soon as he was strong enough.

Chapter Text

Blaine’s head was killing him. PT had been rough. He was finally working on building some real strength in his legs, and Alex had pushed him hard. He didn’t blame Alex, of course; his head had been aching since he’d first woken up. He’d have been asleep already, if not for the fact that Kurt hadn’t been by yet. It was a Wednesday; he never came by until after work on Wednesdays. Blaine had it written down on a sticky on the side of his bed. ‘Kurt. Weds. Don’t expect b4 6’. He couldn’t help but look to the clock every few minutes. It was 6:30, now. But sometimes Kurt ran late. Sometimes he had to close up at the shop, or he had to talk to his dad, or he had to cook dinner. Still, Blaine kept watching the clock.

Eventually, he sighed, pulling up a playlist of songs from a musical he’d been reading about. A New Brain. It seemed apt, given the circumstances. He was listening through his headphones at a low volume, the headache at least manageable for now, when he heard a knock at the door.

He looked up with a grin, expecting it to be Kurt. He didn’t mean for his face to fall when he saw his mother, but he couldn’t help it. Immediately, he started wracking his brain for the details of his day: what he’d had for lunch, whether or not he’d taken his pills, which nurse had been on duty. It was all gone. Hell, he may have even listened to this playlist already today. He grabbed for the sticky notes he always kept just out of her line of sight for the details. She was always so disappointed if he didn’t remember. He didn’t want her to have to worry. He memorized what he could (Chicken noodle soup, yes to the pills, Brenda), and pulled his headphones off. “Hi, Mom.” Good start, so far. Two whole words without losing track of anything.

Pam walked in with a tight smile, sitting down primly on the edge of the visitor’s chair. She looked upset. He tried to remember if he’d done anything that might have upset her. He came up blank.

“Hi, sweetheart.”

There was a long, awkward silence.

“What are you listening to?”

Blaine held up his phone so his mom could see the title. “It’s a- a show. I’m gonna- I’m gonna show Kurt. It’s about-,” he frowned, concentrating, trying to make this as smooth as possible.

A New Brain? Please tell me that the title’s metaphorical.”

He flushed slightly. “It’s about… um, a guy with- with- with brain trouble.” He made a face at the inaccuracy, but it was the best he could manage when caught off guard. Especially around his mother.

“Did Kurt suggest this one?”

Blaine shook his head. “Nope. He’s still- um, he’s trying to get me to- to listen to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.”

Pam nodded, and he wondered if she actually paid attention to the show names he threw out there. He glanced to his shelf. Maybe that’s how she was figuring out what held his interest. He didn’t write down everything they talked about. Mostly because by the time she was gone, he didn’t remember. He took a breath. “What’s up?”

Pam looked Blaine in the eye, her expression soft, a bit unsteady. It put him on edge. He wasn’t used to seeing his mother vulnerable. “You didn’t tell me that a police officer came to speak with you.”

Blaine’s stomach dropped. He hadn’t mentioned the detective to anyone but Alex. Laura knew, since she’d been on duty when she came by. He hadn’t managed to figure out how to tell Kurt, yet. He’d completely forgotten about telling his mother. They didn’t talk about what happened that night. She’d never asked. He’d never volunteered the information. Everyone knew the basics, anyway. It didn’t take a genius, with the injuries he’d been dealt. Dragging it all up and laying it out would only upset her. “I didn’t- um, talk to her.”

Pam nodded, fiddling idly with her purse in her lap. “Yes. Laura told me as much, when she mentioned it today. She told me that the woman had called when I came to chat with the doctor earlier.”

Blaine frowned slightly at the fact that his mother had been speaking to his doctors without him again. He’d have to write that down so he could bring it up later. “I’m sorry I didn’t- um, tell you.”

Pam nodded. She cleared her throat, folded her hands in her lap. “I need you to promise me that you aren’t going to speak to her.”

Blaine stared at her for a long moment. Maybe the pounding in his head had made him mishear. The headache was getting worse. “What?”

“We’ve been through enough. We’ve all been through enough. What happened to you, it was- It was horrible. But it’s in the past now, Blaine. You’re recovering. We’re moving forward. I don’t want you reliving that with strangers. Do you understand what it would mean?” She looked up to catch his eye, a pleading expression on her face.

Blaine bristled. ‘We’. She kept saying that they’d been through enough. They were moving forward. She hadn’t been hurt in the attack. She hadn’t been the one lying on the ground, certain she was going to die. She was so flippant about it. ‘It’s in the past’. Like it had no bearing on their current situation. He swallowed hard, squeezing his stress ball, nails digging in to leave little crescent shapes behind. He could feel his heartbeat in his temples. “You- I- I can- I- I know- it’s-,” he couldn’t get the words out in the right order.

“You would be put on display, Blaine. You would have to testify. Do you understand?” He knew she thought he was an idiot, but it was a slightly insulting question. He nodded shortly, but she barreled on. “You would be on the stand, in front of a jury, in front of your father, in front of the boys who did this to you. You’d have to see them again. You would have to describe that night in excruciating detail. Drag it all up again, to the forefront of your mind. Our names would be in all the papers. Your father’s business partners would start asking questions. People have forgotten, Blaine, this wouldn’t just pull it all to the surface for you, it would be a reminder for the entire community.”

Was she upset because Blaine would have to relive it all? Or was she upset because the public would see it, hear it? She wanted this thing to remain firmly in the past, where she thought it belonged. But it wasn’t that far away. For everyone else, it had been three years. For him, it had been one really long nap and a handful of months of awareness as a ghost. No matter how much she insisted that it was a distant memory, to Blaine it felt like yesterday. She was assuming that it was buried deep in his mind, but it was always there, right at the forefront. Maybe she’d managed to forget. He would never be able to. His hands were shaking. He could feel his breathing starting to pick up.

The picture she painted was painful. He’d never been in a courtroom, but he could imagine it from what he’d seen on tv. Dark wood paneling everywhere, churchlike pews in neat rows facing the judge. He’d be sitting in a box at the front of the room. Max would be staring at him. His father would be sitting, arms crossed in the second row, glaring at Blaine, daring him to admit to being gay under oath. His mother would sit beside his father, expression blank, carefully avoiding eye contact with Blaine on the stand. Blaine himself would be trying to tell his story in his halting, broken way. He’d have to talk about Andrew.

He tried to control his breathing, closing his eyes and trying to focus on the things Alex had been teaching him. It took him a moment to remember. He could never think properly when his head was hurting. Five things he could see. He opened his eyes. Pink sticky note. Blue blanket. Daisy in a vase that Kurt had brought last week. Dots on the ceiling. Kurt’s chair. His mother was talking again, but he tuned it out. Something about his being traumatized and her not wanting him to experience it again. Touch. Four things he could touch. His own hands. The plastic of the railing on the side of the bed. The squishy ball. He squeezed it, just because he could. Soft sheets, the ones Kurt had made sure he had.

Kurt’s presence was everywhere in this room. From the sheets to the flowers to the light smell of his cologne on the sweater he’d left behind last week. He thought of the way Kurt faced the world, shoulders back, head high. He thought of what Kurt would do, if their situations were flipped. He’d tell the truth. He’d demand justice for what had been done to him, to Andrew. He would be too brave, too strong to hide away in a hospital room when he could be helping to put the people responsible away.

He closed his eyes for a moment and imagined the courtroom again. Paneling. Pews. Blaine, alone on the witness stand. Max glaring at him from one of the tables at the front. His father and mother a couple of rows back. But this time, Kurt was there, as close to Blaine as he could get without physically being on the stand with him. He was dressed in some fabulous hodgepodge of designer pieces, utterly unafraid of being himself. He held eye contact with Blaine, calm and confident. He wasn’t afraid of the boys who had hurt him. He was worried about Blaine being alright, concerned about the outcome of the trial, nervous on Blaine’s behalf, but he wasn’t scared.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling more settled. Kurt would never let him go through that by himself. Kurt was visiting him every day. He’d been there every moment since Blaine had woken up. Hell, he’d been there since the day Blaine had first met him at the cemetery. Kurt would never abandon him.

Pam was trying to get his attention. He turned to look at her, no longer holding onto his stress ball with a death grip.

“Blaine, please,” her expression was intense, her eyes searching his, hoping for an answer that he couldn’t give. Maybe this really was concern about his having to relive everything he’d been through. Maybe she was trying to protect him. “I need you to promise me. I can’t let you go through that again. I can’t let this family go through that again.”

Blaine’s expression was calm as he reached for her hand. “I- I don’t know what I’ll- um, choose to do,” he said softly. “But it’s my- my- um, choice. It has to be- um, mine. Not yours. Not- not Dad’s. Mine.” He didn’t know if he could be brave enough to stand up in front of all those people. He didn’t know if he could talk about what had happened without panicking. But he would make that choice without some promise to his mother hanging over his head. “I can’t make- that- that promise.”

Her face fell as she pulled away her hand, eyes flickering up to the ceiling. He could see tears on her cheeks. It broke his heart, but he couldn’t give her this. He wanted to reach out again, but the moment had passed. The connection was broken. She’d never been much of one for physical contact, anyway. He picked up the stress ball and squeezed, trying to give her a moment to compose herself.

He looked to the door when he heard a knock. Kurt. It had to be Kurt. He glanced back to his mother, expecting her to be cool, calm, and collected again. She wasn’t. Her mascara was smudged. She looked as tired as he felt. He couldn’t quite place the look in her eyes as she straightened her blouse and stood. Something had shifted between them. He opened his mouth to speak, but she held up a hand, turning away. She opened the door. He heard a familiar voice. All he could think was how much he needed his best friend.

“Kurt?”

Chapter Text

Blaine’s life became a mess of sticky notes and physical therapy. Alex was coming by his room at least twice a day. Most days, more. Without Kurt visiting every day, Blaine really didn’t have much else going on. The nurses would come by to check on him. His mother would visit and stay for half an hour or so. He hadn’t realized how many hours Kurt had spent sitting there, keeping him company. He still tried, of course. Blaine received text messages constantly and the occasional phone call. Kurt would send him links to playlists and suggest musicals or audiobooks he might like. But it wasn’t the same.

He had made some progress. The new meds they had him on were keeping the seizures under control. He’d only had one big one in the past week and a half, which was a major improvement. Having the wheelchair meant that Alex could take him out to the gym, and he could work harder on improving the muscle mass in his legs. He wasn’t exactly moving forward at the pace he’d like, but baby steps were still steps. Even if they were more metaphorical than physical.

He missed Kurt. He missed him sitting by his bedside, holding his hand and laughing at some Broadway conspiracy theory he’d managed to track down. But the more Blaine improved, the more aware he was of all the things he missed about being whole. Sitting across from Kurt at a coffee shop. Walking with him down the block. Sprawling out on his bed. Making Kurt laugh with a clever word in just the right place. He missed being the person Kurt had spent time with at the Lima Bean. He had seen an awful lot of worry lines in Kurt’s brow, lately, and very few smiles. He was tired of always being the cause of Kurt’s worry.

Kurt had stayed home in Ohio because of him. He’d given up New York. He’d given up his dream. He was stuck changing tires and working on engines when he should be singing on a stage or designing fabulous outfits. He’d given up everything, all for the sake of someone who could barely talk to him, barely move.

So Blaine worked.

He played memory games on his phone that made his head pound; but were supposed to help him learn to make connections again. He wrote things out over and over again until he could answer questions about the books and musicals Kurt sent him without having to refer to his notes. Alex had brought him a notepad for that, once the sticky notes had reached critical mass. He worked his muscles until they were so sore he could barely move, and only stopped when Alex made him. But it wasn’t enough.

All those effects were physical. Even the changes in his memory were caused by trauma to his head. If he really wanted to be good enough for Kurt, if he really wanted to be worth everything that he’d given up, then he had to fix everything else, too.

He stared down at the card in his hand. He’d asked Laura for it. It had taken him almost a day and a half to remember who had been with him that first day, after he’d panicked. Eventually, with Alex’s help, he’d managed. Laura had been hesitant when Blaine had asked for the contact information (probably his mother’s doing), but she’d handed him the card in the end. Detective McMillan. He’d been thinking about this for days. He’d been having new and terrifying nightmares about sitting at the front of a courtroom, stumbling over words that couldn’t get past the block in his head as the panic built. He was getting far better at calming himself down after a nightmare. But in the waking world, he had a secret weapon that he never had in his dreams. He had Kurt.

Today was Tuesday. Kurt always came on Tuesdays. Even with Burt cutting down the number of days they could spend together, he was always there, first thing in the morning. Blaine could explain everything. He was finally ready. He could tell Kurt about the panic attacks, about the seizures. He could tell him about the detective and his fears about having to testify. He’d written it all out in the journal, pages upon pages of everything he’d been feeling since he’d woken up. If he couldn’t say it, he could just hand Kurt the book and let him read for himself. He would understand. Kurt would be there for him, just like he always was. And then he would stay while Blaine told the police officer the same story he’d told Kurt in the Lima Bean all those months ago. He hadn’t written that one down. Every time he’d tried, his hands had started shaking. But with Kurt beside him and able to help prompt him when he was getting stuck on a word, he could tell it. He could do something good; he could lock up the boys- men, now- responsible for Andrew’s death. He could protect everyone. And then they’d both have something to show for Kurt staying behind. Kurt would be proud of him.

He typed the number into his phone carefully. He listened to it ring, stomach twisting. The waiting was torture. He just had to make this phone call alone, then he’d have Kurt by his side. His skin flushed hot and then cold, his fingertips going numb. He bounced his leg. And then he heard a click. His mouth was suddenly dry.

“Detective McMillan.” The voice on the other end of the phone was exactly as he remembered it. He swallowed hard, tried to clear his throat. “Hello?”

Blaine focused on his breathing the way Alex had taught him. He just had to get through a few sentences, and then he could wait for Kurt for the rest. “H-hello?” He had wanted to sound sure of himself, not like a scared little kid.

“Who is this?”

“Um, Blaine,” he answered softly, wondering if she could even hear him, but he couldn’t seem to speak any louder. “Anderson.”

He could practically feel her demeanor change through the phone. Her voice softened, and she sounded genuinely happy that he’d called. “Hi, Blaine. I hear you’ve been feeling better. I’m glad for that.”

Blaine nodded, though she couldn’t see him. He twisted his sheets in his fingers, swallowing again. He felt like he was going to throw up. “I- I think I- I um, I remember. A little.” When he’d played this out in his head, he’d been confident, sure of himself. He’d told her that he remembered everything, that he wanted to make his statement. He closed his eyes, stomach fluttering. He kept counting his breaths.

Her voice was extremely gentle. “I’m so glad that you do. Can I come see you so that we can talk about it?”

This was his chance to back out. This was his moment to either have courage or be a coward. He squeezed the sheets, picturing Kurt’s hand in his. “Y-Yes. Can you- can you come after... um, after... noon! Can you- please- this afternoon?”

He heard the scratching of a pen on paper through the phone. “Of course,” she said softly. “I’ll be there at three, how does that sound? And you can have anyone you want with you. I know how scary this is, Blaine. You’re very brave.”

He didn’t feel brave. He felt tiny and terrified and like he was going to fall to pieces. He didn’t say any of that. Instead, he mumbled a quiet ‘Thank you’ and hung up the phone.

 

He’d timed it pretty much perfectly. Alex walked in a few minutes later. He didn’t hesitate, just walked up to the bed and sat down on the edge of it, looking Blaine over critically. “Nightmare?” he asked quietly.

Blaine shook his head. By way of explanation, he held out the card.

Alex looked it over and let out a low whistle. “Wow, bud. I’m really proud of you. That’s going to be a hard conversation to have.” He looked up at Blaine, meeting his eyes. “You sure you’re ready for it?”

Blaine nodded, fingers still twisting in the sheets. The panic was fading a little, but the horrible twisting sensation in his stomach hadn’t lessened at all. “Kurt’s gonna- gonna be here.”

Alex nodded. “That’s good. I’m glad you’ll have him for moral support.”

Blaine chewed on his lip. “I’m gonna tell him- um, everything.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. “Everything?”

Blaine nodded. “Everything.”

Alex grinned at him. “Well, it’s about damn time, Blainers.” He ruffled Blaine’s hair and stood up again. “We’re going to celebrate with an awesome work out. I’ll go get your chair.”

 

Blaine was back in his bed, freshly bathed, journal in hand at 9 AM. Physical therapy always made him feel better. Alex thought it was something about the flood of endorphins. Blaine figured he was just too exhausted to manage the energy for panicking and working out at the same time. Either way, he felt calmer. He had butterflies in his stomach, but that was to be expected. He glanced up at the clock. 9:01. Visiting hours started at 9. Kurt would be here any minute. He took a deep, shaky breath and let it out slowly. He was ready.

 

9:15. No Kurt. He reached for his phone, biting his lip. He was probably just running late. Maybe he slept in a little. He should start with something easy. He typed slowly, carefully, his fine motor skills still not great with the tiny screen. ‘Bringing my cofee today? Cant wait to see yo u!’

No reply.

9:30. Still no Kurt. He tried again. ‘Barrista running slow?’

Nothing.

At 10, he tried again. Then again at 11. Then again at noon. By 1, he was starting to freak out. Kurt hadn’t texted him, not a single time. The detective was going to be there in two hours, and he hadn’t heard a thing from Kurt. He wasn’t going to have time to explain it all before she got here. He wouldn’t have time to prepare.

Around 2:30, he finally had to acknowledge it. Kurt wasn’t coming. For the first Tuesday since Blaine had woken up, Kurt wasn’t going to be there today. Something in Blaine’s chest cracked. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t talk to the detective. Not on his own. He wanted to be brave, but he wasn’t. He never had been. Not without someone to help him, a hand to hold. He just wasn’t strong enough.

 

Detective McMillan came through the door at exactly 3:00, a smile on her face. “Hello, Blaine.”

Blaine looked up at her and swallowed. “Hi,” he said softly. Something in his expression must have given him away. He watched her smile fade into resignation as she realized this wasn’t going to happen today. Blaine’s stomach dropped through the bed.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “My, um, my-,” she raised an eyebrow, clearly expecting him to find whatever word he was searching for, “um, Kurt. He was supposed to- to- to, um be here. He was- he is- I- I need him for this.”

She nodded slowly. “I did say you could have whoever you wanted present.” She sighed. “Is there anyone else who can help?”

Blaine shook his head, the movement twitchy, too sharp as his lungs struggled to take a deep breath. He could have Alex there, but it wasn’t the same. He wasn’t ready to tell Alex everything. Alex was his friend. Kurt was what he needed.

She sighed. “Can we set up another time? This is really important, Blaine. You’ve already done the hard part. You’ve made the choice to help us. Now we just need to sit down and have a conversation.”

That wasn’t the hard part. She didn’t understand. Making the phone call had been tough, but it was nothing compared to telling her about Max and his gang, about that night, about pain in his chest and hearing Andrew scream and the world going black. He swallowed hard, fingers twisting in his sheets and feeling beyond exposed. He shook his head. “I-... I’ll call if- um, if I can.” It was all he could give her. It wasn’t enough. He watched the disappointment in her face, her body language, and he let it soak into his skin. Kurt could have done it. He could have given her exactly what he needed, without a second thought. Probably the first day she asked.

He looked away, staring at the blankets on his bed.

 

The next time he looked up, Alex was there.

“Hey, kiddo,” he said with a grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “What’s going on?”

Blaine didn’t know how long Alex had been standing there. From the worry in his eyes, it had probably been a while. He looked down at the journal in his lap and closed it, tossing it carelessly onto the table. He wouldn’t need it. Kurt had left him on his own. He wasn’t brave enough to speak to the detective, he wasn’t brave enough to tell Kurt everything. What he was, was frustrated enough with himself to crave a really brutal PT session. “I need to- to stand.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. “Stand. As in stand up?”

Blaine nodded. He needed his legs to burn and ache. He needed to accomplish something. He needed to try to save some moment of this remarkably shitty day. Maybe if he’d worked a little harder to be standing, to be more eloquent, to be more charming the way he used to be, Kurt wouldn’t have given up on him.

Alex was quiet for a long time. Blaine knew he was trying to evaluate his mental state, see if he was ready for this. But Blaine was an excellent actor, when the situation called for it. He shoved his anger, his pain down into his chest so it wouldn’t show on his face. “Please.”

Eventually, Alex nodded. “Okay. We’ll get you in your chair and try standing from there. This is an evaluation only. We need to see where you’re at. You’re getting stronger every day, but this is going to be hard.”

Blaine nodded again. He didn’t care if it was hard. He wanted it to be hard. He shifted himself slowly until he was sitting sideways on the bed. He shifted his arms around Alex’s neck so that he could lift him into the chair. The first few times going through the transfer had been humiliating. He’d felt like a sack of flour. Now, it was just a part of his life, as normal to him as hundreds of sticky notes and listening to the same musical three times before he was able to retain any of it.

Alex was uncharacteristically quiet as he set Blaine down in his wheelchair and moved him to the center of the room. Maybe he was picking up on more of Blaine’s stormy mood than he’d like. He braced himself in front of Blaine’s chair and held out both hands. “Okay, you know how to get your feet on the floor. We’ve been practicing in the gym. Go.”

Blaine did as he was told, carefully shifting each foot off its footrest and onto the cold tile. He wiggled his toes, taking a deep breath.

“Good,” Alex said with a nod. “Now, take my hands. I’m going to help support you while you try to get vertical, okay? Only go as far as you can, and then we’re going to sit back down, nice and easy.” Blaine took his hands and he squeezed them. “You can do this, bud, okay? You’re ready.”

Blaine took a deep breath and looked up into Alex’s eyes. He had to forget about Kurt, at least for now. He had to focus on what he was doing. That was the brilliant part of PT. He couldn’t be worried about the world when he was trying to make his legs function. He squeezed Alex’s hands, pulled, and pushed into the ground with his feet.

Blaine was standing. He was hunched over almost double, but he was on his feet. His back started to ache immediately. He felt dizzy. His legs were shaking, his knees trying to give out on him. He held onto Alex with a death grip, sure he was going to keel over. He stared at his friend, using him as a grounding point, breathing hard. Alex was talking, but it was just noise. Blaine didn’t care how long he had left in his little test; he didn’t care whether or not he was doing a good job. All he could think about was the burn in his thighs, the pain in his knees, the harsh rasp of his breathing. His chest ached with the pain of trying to draw air into his lungs. He was red-faced and sweating like he’d run a marathon. He was standing.

It was the left knee that was the weakest link. He felt it buckle, let out a surprised little yelp, and then Alex’s arms were around him, guiding him carefully back into the chair. He collapsed, desperately trying to catch his breath, torn between physical and emotional exhaustion, the pain of the day making tears spring to his eyes.

“I can’t- can’t- can’t breathe,” he panted between harsh breaths, his voice quiet as he looked to Alex with a panicked desperation.

Alex laid his hand on his chest, crouching beside Blaine’s chair, meeting his eyes. He started walking him through, helping Blaine focus on his breathing, on moving his hand nice and slow. It was comforting, now, familiar after too many nightmares and too many panic attacks. Eventually, Blaine felt stable enough to break eye contact.

They weren’t alone.

He looked up to see someone standing in the doorway. He felt exposed, vulnerable, raw. He’d left him alone all day when he needed him, only to show up when he absolutely didn’t want an audience. Something like fury bubbled up in Blaine’s chest.

 

“Kurt.”

Chapter Text

Blaine was journaling, writing down everything that he could remember from the night before. Kurt not showing up, the text messages, the detective, Alex helping him with PT, Kurt coming in and seeing. He was angry. He didn’t understand Kurt’s reaction. His head was pounding as he detailed every single second he could remember of the night, desperate to get it out while he still could.

He heard Alex come into the room, but he didn’t so much as look up, scribbling away in the journal. His handwriting was a mess, but it was legible enough for him. He couldn’t let the details slip away. He needed to remember.

Alex stood and watched him for a long time in silence. Eventually, he sighed and took a step forward, holding out a little paper cup of pills. “Laura said you wouldn’t take these this morning. I know you’re in the middle of throwing a tantrum, but I need you to take your medicine. Seizures aren’t going to make you feel better.”

Blaine glared at Alex, huffing out a breath and carefully setting his pen down so if his hands started shaking, he wouldn’t leave behind a bunch of ink splotches. “I am not throwing a- um, a tantrum.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. “That’s exactly what you’re doing, actually. You’re pouting alone in your room, scribbling in a notebook, refusing to work out or take your pills or talk to anyone. You’re acting like a two-year-old.”

Blaine’s nose wrinkled and he crossed his arms over his chest. It didn’t exactly help with being compared to a toddler, but what was he supposed to do? “Kurt was a- an asshole- um, last night.”

Alex just looked at him. “Okay,” he said simply. “Let’s start there. Use me, instead of the journal. What’re you so upset about?”

“He was- um- he didn’t show up on time.”

Alex nodded, expression neutral. “Okay. Doesn’t exactly seem like a breakup-worthy offense.”

“We’re not- not together!”

Alex shot him a look. “Okay, okay, then it doesn’t seem like a throw-your-best-friend-out-of-the-hospital offense.”

Blaine was quiet for a long time. He reached for his journal and wrote for a solid five minutes. Alex waited patiently. Sometimes, this was what Blaine had to do to get the words out. He’d discovered he could read better than he could speak. He shook out his hand as he set the pen down, holding the notebook up to the light.

“He wasn’t here when I needed him for the detective. He never called. He walked in late without knocking. He was acting like a jealous idiot all night. He kept correcting my words and treating me like a kid. I needed him, and he left me alone, then came in basically accusing me of cheating on him when we aren’t even together.”

Alex sighed quietly, moving to sit in Kurt’s- in the visitor’s chair. He was slow with his response, weighing his words before he spoke. “Alright, Blaine, there’s a lot there. But before we move into the rest of it, I need to ask you one question, and it’s really important. Did you tell Kurt that you needed him yesterday morning?”

Blaine’s jaw set and he glared down at the sheets. “No.”

“Did he know that the officer was coming to take your statement? Did he know that it’d been a rough day?”

Blaine’s shoulders sagged a little bit. “No.”

Alex nodded. “I get why you’re upset, buddy. And you have every right to be. He wasn’t there for you when you needed him. And when he did show up, he acted like a grade A asshole. But try to see things from his perspective. He didn’t know it was an important day. He and I have never met. He walked in and I was really close to you. He hasn’t seen any of the physical therapy process, he doesn’t know that I have to be close to catch you if you fall. This is all just as new and scary to him as it is to you.” He grinned, trying to catch Blaine’s eye and lighten the mood. “And we do have awesome friend chemistry. Two dashing guys like us? Can you blame him for thinking we look good together?” He winked exaggeratedly at Blaine, though Blaine couldn’t seem to summon up a smile for him.

Blaine swallowed hard. There was no ‘I told you so’ in Alex’s words, but it belonged there. He’d warned him ages ago that locking Kurt out of this part of his life was going to make a mess of everything. And he was right. That was the worst part. Kurt didn’t know because Blaine hadn’t told him. He had never let Kurt see PT because it was humiliating. He knew what he looked like, what he sounded like when he was huffing and puffing like a freight train. He hadn’t wanted Kurt to see him struggling. Weak. Broken. Kurt had started to like him when he was a whole person. Blaine hadn’t wanted to see the look on his face when he realized just how limited he was. He ran his hands over his face, then reached for the pen again. He didn’t feel like stuttering his way through sentences today.

“I know it’s partially my fault. But he should’ve talked to me before getting all jealous.”

He hesitated before starting to write again, cutting Alex off with a raised hand when he tried to speak. He wasn’t done yet.

“I know I need to tell him everything. But every single time I try, he’s just not there. He has a life. He’s building this entire world that doesn’t include me at all. I don’t even blame him for it. I want him to have those things.”

Alex tipped his head and looked at him. “Kiddo, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve done the exact same thing. Your life here, us being friends, the nurses who love you, the crap you’re going through trying to get better? You’ve built all of that deliberately to keep Kurt out of it. Can you really be upset with him for responding by doing the same thing?”

Blaine couldn’t seem to work the tension out of his jaw. His eyes stung. He hadn’t thought about it like that. He hadn’t been trying to exclude Kurt from everything, he just hadn’t wanted him to worry. Or worse, see what was happening and leave. For the first time, he considered that maybe Kurt was building up a life to fill in all the spaces Blaine had kept him from.

Blaine didn’t want to hide anything anymore. He was tired of it. He wanted his best friend back. He wanted to sit around and talk to Kurt without worrying that he’d let something slip and forget something important or mention his new epilepsy meds. But as much as he wanted to let Kurt in, he wasn’t ready. There was that constant fear in the back of his mind that Kurt would give up on him as soon as he knew. That suddenly New York would be a lot more tempting and one day Blaine would wake up and Kurt wouldn’t be coming back again. But if he could improve, if he could show Kurt that he was really doing better, it would be different. He could tell Kurt about all of this in the past tense. He would be the guy who had been broken, but had healed. They could talk about the future. Maybe they could even go off to New York together.

He took a deep breath and blew it out as he started to write. “I know I need to talk to him. I will. But I need to be stronger, first. I need to be able to tell him everything without stuttering like an idiot. I need to be able to show him that I’m getting better. Then, when I tell him everything, he won’t have to worry. He’ll just be proud.”

Alex shook his head. “Blaine, I don’t think your recovery is the problem. You are stronger than you were. You’re working hard. You’re making progress every single day. Do you have any idea how impressive your progress has been? I’m proud of you. And I’m sure he’s proud of you, too. You don’t have to prove anything. Putting it off until you reach some milestone isn’t a good idea. You need to let him know why you need him, now. Talk to him about why you were so upset. Have a freaking conversation, before you lose him.”

Blaine knew that Alex wasn’t wrong. But he didn’t think he was completely right, either. He needed to be better. Then Kurt would see that he wasn’t an idiot or a panicky kid, that he was improving steadily. He wouldn’t accuse him of sitting around doing nothing. He’d see that Blaine could be the guy he liked when they were in the Lima Bean. He’d understand that he hadn’t given up New York for nothing. And Blaine knew the best way to prove it. He reached out his hand for the little cup of pills.

“I think I’m- um, ready for- for PT, now.”

He spent two weeks answering Kurt’s messages, but dodging any conversation about him coming back to the hospital. Two weeks of physical therapy as many times a day as he could convince Alex to take him. He was constantly doing leg lifts in bed, working on the strength in his thighs. He started trying to help with wheelchair transfers, insisting on keeping his feet on the ground so he could learn to handle part of his own weight. He worked day in and day out. If he wasn’t at PT, he was writing out his story, trying to think of the questions Kurt would ask, building himself a script so he could speak smoothly when he was trying to explain everything.

It was a Wednesday. He was almost ready. He’d been able to stand on his own for nearly a minute the day before. Alex had insisted on bringing in cupcakes to celebrate, but Blaine had been quiet. He needed just a little more time. A week, maybe less. His journal was almost ready. His legs were almost ready. He was almost ready.

He’d just lifted his journal to re-read for the millionth time after a brutal PT session, still red in the face and breathing hard, when he heard someone walk into the room. He groaned, closing his eyes for a moment and laying back. “I really- um… I can’t- can’t eat, um, yet. Too tired.” He expected a snarky response from Alex. Instead, he heard someone clearing their throat. He froze at the familiar sound, shifting a little bit on the bed so he could look up. His father was standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest, looking unimpressed.

“Blaine,” he said simply, stepping into the room and standing beside the bed, looking down at Blaine.

Blaine was uncomfortable, breathing too fast, covered in sweat. His curls were in his face. He knew he looked terrible. He tried to run his fingers through his hair to get it in some semblance of order. Sticky notes littered the bars on his bed, some had fallen onto the floor. His notebook was open on his lap, pens and empty water cups were scattered across the table. He’d left one of the scripts he was trying to read open, face down to mark his place. He watched his father take it all in, feeling the sudden, panicky urge to tidy the room and apologize. Instead, he focused on sitting, using the bed to help him. His muscles were exhausted, and falling flat on his back in front of his dad was not something he needed to experience.

“Dad. I thought you were- um, Alex.” He’d seen his father once or twice in the hospital. Never without his mother, and he’d never come into the room. Blaine had accepted the fact that his father wanted nothing to do with him. Seeing him up close for the first time since waking made Blaine feel weirdly like he was on display. His dad would notice the things his mother wouldn’t. The tremor in his hands when he was tired, the hitch in his speech, even when he did manage to find the right words. He always noticed everything. Blaine folded his hands in his lap to try to keep them steady and out of the way.

John hummed. “That’s your physical therapist, yes? I’ve met him. Bit enthusiastic for my tastes. He had nothing but good things to say about you.”

Somehow, that sounded more like a judgment of Alex’s character than a compliment to Blaine. “Why are you- um, here?” Blaine wished Kurt was here. Or Alex. Or his mom. Anyone, really.

“Your mother’s not going to be here for a few days, she had to go off for a conference. She’ll be back on Monday.”

Blaine nodded, able to relax a little at that. It made sense that his mom would’ve sent him in to deliver that message. She didn’t trust Blaine’s phone much. Besides, she was the only person who could’ve guilt-tripped his dad into coming to the hospital at all. He didn’t mind that she’d be out of town for a few days. He’d been so focused on his physical therapy that he’d barely noticed when she’d been there, anyway. But when John didn’t leave the room, Blaine started feeling distinctly uncomfortable. There was clearly more to this conversation. “Okay,” he said quietly, lifting his eyebrows, waiting for him to continue.

John sat in the chair. Kurt’s chair. It made Blaine’s teeth set on edge. “She’s kept me from coming to talk to you about this. She’s somehow gotten it into her mind that it’s good for you to be spending time with that little gay boy.”

Blaine’s eyes went wide. His dad knew about Kurt. And apparently, his attitude hadn’t changed much. “His name is- is- is Kurt. He’s not- not any of your- um,”

His father plowed right over him. “I went to meet him, months ago. Wanted to know the sort of person you were spending time with while stuck in the hospital.” He shot Blaine a tired look. “Really, Blaine, did you learn nothing from all of this?” There wasn’t any venom in his voice, but it stung anyway. “You know exactly why those boys targeted you. You know exactly what set them off. And now you’re doing the same thing all over again.”

Blaine shook his head, even as guilt twisted in his stomach. “I didn’t- We weren’t- I’m not-,”

John held up his hand to stop Blaine from trying to speak. “You were attacked because your lifestyle isn’t the sort of thing that’s tolerated in this community.” He looked to Blaine as though this was all blatantly obvious, immutable, as natural as the rising of the tide. “Seeing as you’re still a part of this community, do you think it’s a good idea to continue flaunting it?”

Blaine swallowed hard. He wasn’t flaunting anything, he was spending time with his friend. His stomach twisted at the implication that he still wasn’t safe. He hadn’t even considered that. Everyone at the hospital had been warm, accepting. Alex had been trying to get Blaine to go out with Kurt since the day they’d met.

“Do you have any idea what your mother went through, after your attack? She let you go to that dance with that boy because she loves you, Blaine. She prioritized your happiness over your safety. But what did that win you, in the end? You nearly died.” He shook his head. “You and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye on much since you outgrew little league, but I don’t want you going through something like this again. At least Andrew could pass as somewhat normal. I’ve met Kurt. It’s obvious the second he walks through a door or opens his mouth, what he is.”

Blaine’s hands were shaking, despite being tightly clasped together. He knew what his father was implying. Kurt had never been anything but unapologetically himself. He couldn’t pass as straight, the way Blaine could. The way Andrew had. His dad wasn’t wrong. If people had hated Andrew and him for going to a dance together where they’d barely touched, they’d hate Kurt just for existing. But didn’t they hate Blaine for the same reasons? He couldn’t hide who he was forever. If they hated Kurt, they’d hate him, too. He didn’t stop being gay if he was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and talking about football. He opened his mouth to try to explain, but he couldn’t seem to draw a deep enough breath to get the words out.

“Frankly, if you care about that boy, you won’t let this happen. Andrew was an alright kid. He kept to himself, didn’t draw attention to his preferences. Do you know what happened to him? Your mother didn’t want to tell you. She thought it would upset you too much. You haven’t asked for him a single time. I figured one of the nurses probably let it slip.”

Blaine didn’t want to hear this. He didn’t want to hear details, he didn’t want to know what his father knew. He’d seen Andrew’s gravestone. He’d felt that guilt, he’d shed those tears. He shook his head, trying to get his dad to stop speaking. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

“They killed him, Blaine. By the time someone called an ambulance, he’d been bleeding internally for too long. He survived to make it to the hospital, but he was declared dead soon after. I was in the waiting room with his parents. Your mother and I attended the funeral. They haven’t been the same, since, either one of them. Neither has your mother. Three years of waiting for you to wake up, knowing that you were hurt nearly as badly as he was. It was only a dance, Blaine. Is a dance or spending time with some boy really worth the price you almost paid?”

Now Blaine really felt like he was going to throw up. He hadn’t thought about Andrew’s parents. The waiting must have been torture, sitting on those hard, plastic chairs, waiting to hear. The doctors coming in to announce that he’d passed away. He tried to control his breathing. He knew what his father was implying. He’d gotten Andrew killed for the sake of a dance. He shook his head, trying to deny what John was saying, though it rang true in his head.

John looked at him with a soft expression, more compassionate than Blaine had seen him since he’d been a little kid. It made it worse, somehow. “I spoke with Kurt at his father’s tire shop. He wasn’t what I was expecting. He’s got some fight to him, at least. He was planning on leaving here, going to New York where your… choices are more accepted. That’s a good thing, Blaine. A person like that doesn’t belong here.” He shook his head. “Maybe you’re thinking that you can both go, if he just waits for you long enough. But you need to be realistic. You’re still bedbound, for the most part. A wheelchair isn’t practical in a city that big. You’ve got a lot of recovering to do before you’re ready for something like that. You’re not going to be leaving Ohio for a very long time. Letting him go will keep you both safe. He can go be loud and brash and open, and you can stay here and not have people assume things about you.”

John moved to stand with a sigh, straightening his suit coat. Blaine couldn’t look up at him. His head was buzzing, his stomach clenching. As much as he wanted to deny it, some small part of him thought that his dad might just be right. They would be safer apart. Kurt would be safe in New York. Blaine was safe at the recovery center, at least. But Kurt was working in a tire shop in Ohio. He was exposed to new people every day. People who might just hate him for who he was.

“I’ll send Pam to see you when she gets back. Think about what I’ve said, Blaine. If not for your sake, then for his.”

And then he was gone.

Blaine stared at the sheets, trying to keep the guilt and worry from eating him up alive. It wasn’t his fault. His being gay wasn’t a reason to be attacked. Those guys had been bullies. They’d been terrible. If they hadn’t come after them for being gay, it would’ve been something else. Right? He wasn’t making a target of himself and of Kurt. He swallowed hard, mind flashing back to his reoccurring dream. Kurt with a cut on his forehead that mirrored Blaine’s scar. Kurt, with wide, dead eyes.

No. No, it was going to be fine. His father was wrong. Blaine wasn’t going to let Kurt get hurt. The only thing he’d been right about was Kurt needing to get out of Ohio. But Blaine was stronger than his dad thought he was. He would prove it. To Kurt, to himself. He grabbed for his phone, inviting Kurt to the hospital. He’d take the first baby steps tomorrow. Literally and figuratively. He’d tell Kurt everything. They’d sit down together and figure out what happened next. He’d be strong enough that they could start planning a real future for themselves. A safe future. Far away from Ohio.

He swallowed hard, heart pounding in his chest. Tomorrow. Everything depended on tomorrow.

Chapter Text

No.

The word seemed to echo in the room. Kurt had imagined dozens of scenarios, but never something that simple. If Blaine had said no in his many imagined scenes, there was always some long speech about why. Kurt was a jackass about Alex, so they couldn’t be together. Kurt hadn’t been around enough. Blaine didn’t even remember meeting him and their entire relationship to this point had been a part of an elaborate prank. He’d come up with some ridiculous reasons, but there had always been something. He’d never imagined a simple no.

“Why?” He knew he had no right to ask. He shifted a little, trying to get Blaine to look at him properly. He wouldn’t. He didn’t seem capable of anything but staring at Kurt’s shirt, his breathing becoming more and more labored. “Blaine, I- I don’t understand.” No response. He looked around the room, knowing that he needed to get them off the floor, needed to help Blaine, even if his mind was reeling. “I have to- I need to get you up, okay?”

Blaine’s fingers tightened in his shirt, and he shook his head. Something was wrong. Kurt had no idea what it was, but something was very wrong. He swallowed hard. “Okay. I won’t try to get you up. But I have to get to the call button, okay? We can- We’ll talk later.” He shifted slowly, laying Blaine down on the ground and scrambling up to the bed, hitting the call button hard. Blaine curled up on himself on the floor, barely breathing. His eyes kept moving around the room, focusing on anything and everything except Kurt.

Kurt knelt back down beside Blaine, scared to touch him in case he was hurt, or in case he wasn’t welcome anymore. He didn’t know what to do. His head was reeling. All he wanted to do was ask why until he could get Blaine to answer him.

Laura came into the room quickly, eyes locking onto Blaine on the floor. Her expression fell as she rushed over to him. She knelt beside him and spoke quietly enough that Kurt could only catch every third or fourth word. ‘Breathe’, ‘five’, ‘touch’, ‘Alex’. None of it made any sense, but his stomach still twisted at the thought of Laura using Alex’s name to calm Blaine down. He tamped down the jealousy, knowing that he had no right to it. He bit his lip, hands twisting in his lap as he tried to figure out a way to help.

“Is he okay?”

Laura looked up at him, nodding as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. Kurt wondered if she was planning to call Alex. “He’s going to be just fine. I need you to go so that we can do some scans and see if he’s hurt himself. I’ll call and give you an update later, okay?”

Kurt shook his head. “No, I- I want to stay. I- This is my fault. You told me to call for Alex before I let him do anything, and I didn’t.”

Laura didn’t correct him. She couldn’t. He was right. Instead, she held up a hand. “I get that you want to be here right now, Kurt, but I need you gone. I need to see how hurt Blaine is, and he’s not going to be honest with an audience. You can stay in the waiting room, if you want. I’ll find you.”

Kurt opened his mouth to protest again, but then looked to Blaine. He was pale, still shaking. His breathing was labored. He wouldn’t so much as look at Kurt. Feeling something heavy settle in his stomach, he nodded. “I’ll be here.”

He left Blaine behind.

The waiting room was nearly empty. He sat chewing on his nails (a terrible habit he’d broken years ago), waiting for Laura to appear. After a half an hour, he started to get a little nervous. He hadn’t seen Pam, so at least it wasn’t serious enough to call her in. He was trying to let that thought comfort him when he spotted a vaguely familiar profile walk through the door. A mean wearing a nice suit, perfectly polished shoes, an expression on his face that implied he was smelling something unpleasant. Kurt’s brow furrowed as he tried to place him. He never forgot a face.

To his surprise, the man walked right up to him.

“Kurt.”

Kurt blinked, not entirely sure how he was supposed to react to being called by name by a stranger. He met the man’s eyes, and it fell into place. The man from the shop, months ago. A BMW with a flat tire. Kurt stood, holding out his hand. “It was… John, right?”

John nodded, eyeing Kurt’s hand, but not taking it. “You need to leave.”

Kurt shook his head. “No,” he said simply. “I- I was with my friend, and he’s having a sort of bad day. I’m not leaving until I hear an update.”

John’s face twisted into a sneer. “No, you were with Blaine, and you somehow convinced him to get up and try to walk. Now he has a broken ankle. You’re not staying anywhere near this hospital.”

Kurt paled, folding his arms over his chest. “Blaine has a broken ankle? How do you- What- What’s going on?”

John shook his head. “I warned him about you. And here we are, my son being put into a plaster cast on behalf of some idiot who decided to get him hurt.”

The crack. The crack he’d heard when Blaine had fallen. He’d thought it was the impact. Blaine’s ankle was broken. That would set back his progress by months. He’d be stuck in a cast, unable to put weight on it. Kurt’s eyes stung and he felt vaguely like he was going to be sick. Blaine was hurting because of him. He’d let him get up and try to walk. He hadn’t called in the PT because he’d wanted a moment alone with his- well, his friend. He’d asked him out while he was laying on the ground with a broken ankle. He ran a hand over his face. “I would never have hurt Blaine on purpose. He wanted to walk, I should have stopped him.” Something else clicked. “Wait, he’s your son?”

John simply raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t strike me as quite this stupid when I was in your father’s shop.” He nodded to the door. “Leave. Blaine’s not going to be up for visitors any time soon, and I don’t want you here. He needs to focus on healing, not on whatever it is the two of you do when you’re alone in his room.”

Kurt blanched, trying to keep his breathing calm and even. He didn’t want to think about what the man was insinuating. He didn’t have the energy to worry over Blaine and be furious at this prick at the same time. Besides, John was upset. His son was hurt. Kurt was the reason, at least in his mind. He was probably as worried as Kurt was, and just taking it out on an easy target. He set his jaw and took a deep breath. “Right,” he said after a moment, his voice shakier than he’d like. “I’m staying. You can hate me all you want, but you can’t have me kicked out of a waiting room.” He sat down, arms crossed over his chest, and tried to look defiant. It wasn’t easy when he felt like he was going to vomit.

John glared at him, huffing out a breath through his nostrils. Kurt could feel his stare prickling against his skin. He raised a hand, and for a moment, Kurt braced for impact. But John pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and turned away on his heel, walking away from Kurt as he dialed someone on the phone. Blaine’s mom, maybe. Kurt let out a shaky exhalation and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands buried in his hair. He just needed to know how Blaine was doing. That was what mattered. Everything else would sort itself out.

So Kurt waited.

It was nearly two hours later when Laura finally walked into the waiting room, looking exhausted and upset. She made a beeline for Kurt, sitting in the chair beside him.

“How is he?” His voice was rough.

“He’s okay,” Laura said quietly. “He’s hurting and humiliated. He won’t speak to anyone, not even Alex.”

Kurt shook his head. “This is all my fault.”

Laura reached out and took Kurt’s hand. “You should have called,” she said, voice soft. “But this was Blaine’s choice, too. Alex talked to him dozens of times about not doing anything stupid. So did I.” She shrugged. “He’s still recovering, but he’s smarter than this. He knew what the risks were, and he did it anyway. You should’ve called someone. But Blaine never should’ve put you in that position to begin with.”

Kurt shifted in his seat, a little uncomfortable with her blaming Blaine for his injury.

Laura only sighed. “He’s not going to be seeing anyone else for the rest of the night, and his father has requested that we go back to only allowing family in his room.” She looked up at him with a sad smile. “When Pam gets here, she’ll probably be able to change his mind.”

Kurt chewed on his lip. “Blaine, did he- Was he- Did he ask for me?”

Laura’s smile fell and she broke eye contact. “Go home, Kurt. I’ll call you if and when they change the visitors’ list again. Blaine’s resting, he’s going to be just fine.”

Kurt swallowed hard. Blaine hadn’t asked for him. Or worse, he’d explicitly said that he didn’t want to see him. Kurt nodded, feeling oddly numb. Guilt twisted in his stomach as he grabbed his phone and stood on shaky legs. As he left the hospital, he felt more alone than he had in a very long time.

Chapter Text

Kurt tried. He reached out in every way he could. He texted. He called. He facebook messaged his old account, though Blaine hadn’t been on there since before the attack. There was never a response. The texts went unread, the phone calls went straight to voicemail. Blaine had either blocked him, or his phone was dead somewhere. Kurt even tried going to the hospital. He spent hours in the waiting room, but he didn’t even catch a glimpse of Pam or John. Whenever he spotted Laura, he’d ask, but the visitor’s list hadn’t been updated. After a week, he stopped going to the hospital. After two, he stopped trying to call. And then, there was silence.

Kurt hated it. He always had his phone with him, just in case, as the month turned over and everyone started planning for Thanksgiving. He wanted to speak with Blaine so badly he couldn’t stand it.

What was worse was the guilt. Not just because he’d been the reason Blaine had hurt himself. No, he felt guilty because as much as he hated to admit it, life was a lot simpler now. He wasn’t constantly driving between Lima and Westerville. He wasn’t waiting half an hour at a time for slowly typed text messages. He had the time to work on his blog and his vocal lessons without interruption. Rachel had helped him pick half a dozen songs to focus on for his NYADA audition. He was building some of his designs to add photos to his portfolio, recruiting his old friends to model them. He even had time to call Mercedes and talk to her about her burgeoning career in LA. As much as he missed talking to Blaine constantly, he finally had the bandwidth to focus on preparing for New York. In some small, dark corner of his mind, it was a relief.

It was late on a Thursday when he heard his phone chime. For a moment, he felt a surge of hope that it would be Blaine. But it never was. Besides, that chime belonged to an email, not a text. He almost ignored it. He had things to work on, after all, and most of the emails he received these days were spam. But he may as well. Maybe it was Rachel sending him a new song recommendation. He opened the app and froze, breath catching.

Vogue.com HR.

He took a deep breath, tried to still his shaking hands, and opened the message.

Mr. Hummel,

I understand that you chose earlier this year to defer your acceptance to the Vogue.com internship program. After reviewing your file and your deferment letter, I wanted to send my sincerest well wishes. We’re all thinking of you here in New York, and we wish your friend a speedy recovery.

However, we’ve recently had a position come available for the spring. One of our interns has had to leave the program for personal reasons. An editor in our organization, Ms. Isabelle Wright, has been reading your blog. She’s become something of a fan, and she insisted that we offer the position to you first. You have several fans here in the Vogue.com building, Mr. Hummel.

The opportunity is for a paid internship starting in late January, though the start date can be moved to accommodate your timeline for moving to the city. Typically, this internship is only available to college juniors and seniors working on journalism or fashion degrees, but your unique voice and insightful critiques have led us to make an exception. You would be working directly with Ms. Wright to create and edit copy for the website.

Please let us know by no later than the 1st of December if you’re willing to accept. We’re all sincerely hoping that you can arrange to join us. We would love to have you. If you choose not to accept the opportunity, then we will resume your deferral, and you will be welcome to join the other unpaid freshman-level interns in the fall.

Best wishes from New York,
Natalie Coleman
Human Resources
Vogue.com

Kurt stared at the email, heart in his throat. He read it. Read it again. Googled the woman to make sure it wasn’t some sort of hoax. He knew Isabelle Wright, of course. She was one of the head editors of Vogue.com. He’d done his research when he’d accepted the first internship. And there, right on the Vogue.com website, was that name. Natalie Coleman, HR, next to a picture of a smiling young woman in a fashionable dress. Kurt swallowed hard. A paid internship at Vogue.com. Moving to the city a half a year early. He wouldn’t have to have a second job. He would be helping to write and edit actual copy for the magazine. It was an insane opportunity. He grabbed his phone and started searching for Blaine’s name out of habit to call him, then froze. Blaine.

Blaine wasn’t speaking to him. They hadn’t had so much as a text message between them in ages. Blaine’s father hated him. His mother hadn’t said a word. He glanced at the top of his desk, still littered with medical pamphlets, lists of good speech therapists from Columbus to Westerville, lists made from memory of what symptoms he’d seen. He could give all of that up. Move to New York. Live the life he’d dreamed of for years. He could have his internship, audition for NYADA, move in with Rachel. Everything he’d planned for August, just a few months late.

But he would lose Blaine. Really lose him. They’d gone without speaking before, when one of them had screwed up. They’d always come back together. He’d always been able to see Blaine’s eyes sparkle, hear him laugh. His stomach clenched. He missed him. He didn’t just miss the put-together friend sitting at their table at the Lima Bean. He missed Blaine’s hand in his, sitting in a hospital room. He missed watching his eyes light up as he listened to a musical for the first time with Kurt (or the third time, really, Blaine always lit up with music). He missed his boundless optimism. He missed mis-typed texts and the look of pride and accomplishment in his eyes when he reached a goal for the first time all over again. He missed Blaine. His Blaine.

He stared at the screen for a long time, looking at Blaine’s contact picture, the two of them beaming at the camera in Blaine’s hospital bed, Blaine waggling his eyebrows. His heart hurt.

He was an independent person. He always had been. But when he was well and truly lost, there was only one person he could really talk to. He closed the email, took a deep breath, and headed downstairs.

“Dad?”

Burt looked up from his spot in his favorite recliner, immediately reaching for the remote to mute the tv playing some football game or another. “Hey, kiddo, what’s up?”

Kurt chewed on his lip, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned on the wall of the entryway to the living room. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

Burt nodded, shifting so he was sitting up in his recliner. He gestured to the couch beside him. “You know the answer to that’s always yes.”

Kurt sat down on the sofa, staring at his hands in his lap as he tried to figure out what to say. His dad was infinitely patient, giving him time to get his thoughts in order. “So,” he said eventually, “you might’ve noticed that I haven’t been to see Blaine in a while.” He glanced up to see Burt nod. “So I tried to talk to him. But he- well, he wanted to show me something. And… okay, a lot happened that I don’t even know how to tell you about. But he got hurt.” He shook his head. “It was just- It was a bad day. A really bad day. And I think it was pretty much entirely my fault.”

Burt frowned. “Blaine’s hurt?”

Kurt sighed. “He was pushing himself. He tried to walk. He… He told me that we could talk, but he wanted to show me something, first. He stood and started walking toward me, but he fell.”

Burt nodded. His brow furrowed. “That’s terrible. I’m sorry that it happened to him. But setbacks like that happen when you’re dealing with physio. How badly was he injured?”

Kurt nodded. He didn’t know exactly how much he wanted to say. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “He broke his ankle. I didn’t know that, at the time. I was trying to talk to him about… about stuff. About the two of us. I didn’t know he was hurt, so I tried to bring it up. I’ve always had the world’s worst timing. I called the nurse and sort of got kicked out of the room, and I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Burt sighed quietly as he shook his head. “That’s awful luck, bud. Have you tried talking to him?”

“A few times. But he hasn’t- He hasn’t responded. He hasn’t sent anything at all, actually. No phone calls, no texts, he’s not on skype. I got kicked off the visitor’s list, so I can’t just go into his room, and I think the nurses are tired of seeing me loiter in the waiting room.” He ran a hand over his face. “Dad, it’s a complete mess. And there’s something else.” He pulled out his phone and opened the email from Vogue, handing it over to his dad.

Waiting for Burt to read was absolute torture. He bounced his leg, chewing on his lip, trying to keep himself relatively calm. His dad was going to tell him to take the job. Maybe that was what he wanted. Maybe it was the adult decision, walking away from Blaine, leaving all the drama behind and going somewhere he was wanted. He could be somebody in New York. No more glares on the street, no more muttered comments. He would find friends who loved theatre and fashion as much as he did. As much as Blaine did. He looked up to see Burt looking at him with an unreadable expression, holding out his phone. He took it with shaky hands.

“I’m not going to tell you what to do, Kurt,” Burt said quietly. “That’s an amazing opportunity. You should consider it. But it all depends on what you want. What I don’t want you to do is leave and then regret it later, because you never actually talked all this over with Blaine.” He shrugged. “It’s gotta be your call. I’ll support you either way. But don’t make a rash decision. You’ve got time before their deadline. Figure it out.”

Kurt sighed, letting his head fall back against the sofa. “You know, sometimes I really miss you just telling me what to do.”

Burt clapped Kurt’s knee and nodded. “I know, kiddo. I know.”

 

Kurt took a deep breath, staring at the hospital doors. He was talking to Blaine. No one was going to keep him away. Not today. He was going to see his best friend if it killed him. He hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to do it, but he was determined. That had to be enough.

He stepped in, and his plan became remarkably simple. There was no one at the reception desk. He’d seen it happen a few times before, but with his luck lately, he’d assumed today would be a fight. Apparently not. He signed into the visitor’s list, more out of habit than anything, and turned down the hallway toward Blaine’s room. If Pam or John were there, then Kurt would have a conversation with them. He could be convincing. He’d changed Pam’s mind before. And if John didn’t want to speak with him, then he’d just talk loudly enough that Blaine could hear. At the very least, he’d know he was there.

At the door, he paused. He listened to make sure Blaine wasn’t in the middle of PT. None of them needed to go through that again. The room was silent. Kurt took a deep breath, straightened his spine, and pushed open the door.

Blaine was gone.

Kurt stepped inside, frowning. He’d never been in the room without Blaine there. Maybe he was in the gym? Kurt turned to look through the glass windows into the gym opposite. Blaine wasn’t there. He turned back to the room, swallowing hard as he walked toward the bed. The journal Blaine had been writing in was sitting on his roll-away table, along with a pile of post-it notes. The lamp was gone. The nice sheets were gone. The little shelf full of scripts and books was empty. He was looking at the remains of Blaine’s existence in the nursing home. He was really gone.

He jumped at the sound of a knock to the door, whirling around to see Alex standing there. His face fell, and he didn’t bother trying to hide it. “Is he- What happened?” There had to be some sort of logical explanation. Blaine was recovering. And if the worst had happened, someone would have called. Or maybe Blaine would have come to him as a ghost again. He shuddered at the thought.

Alex stepped into the room, smiling a little sadly at Kurt. “He left,” he said quietly. “His parents packed him up and took him away. They said that a center that allowed him to hurt himself wasn’t the type of place they wanted their son.”

Kurt shook his head. “That had nothing to do with the center. And it certainly had nothing to do with you.” He shifted, looking up at Alex defiantly, trying to hold onto some semblance of the frustration and jealousy he normally felt for the guy so he didn’t dissolve into tears. “Do you know where they took him? He hasn’t been texting, he hasn’t been calling. I need to know where he is. I have to talk to him.”

Alex shook his head. “They might have taken him home. He was pretty close to ready for a move like that. He still needs PT, speech therapy, things like that, but medically, he’s been stable for a while.”

Kurt swallowed hard, fighting off the urge to cry. He was finally here, he’d finally managed to pull himself together enough to have this conversation, and Blaine was gone. He shook his head, turning toward the door. There was nothing for him here. Blaine had left and hadn’t even bothered texting to let him know.

“Hey,” Alex said gently, “is that it? You’re just going to give up on him?”

Kurt blinked hard, staring at the ceiling to try to keep the tears from falling, facing away from Alex. He was not going to cry in front of Blaine’s PT. “What else am I supposed to do? He doesn’t want to talk to me. He hasn’t responded to anything. He isn’t here.”

Alex was quiet for a moment. “You know, he wouldn’t say a word to me after you left. Or anybody, as far as I’ve heard. It’s like he just shut down. I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but he was a complete mess.”

Kurt shook his head sharply. “I really don’t need a reminder of my colossal fuck up, thanks.”

Alex stepped a little closer, Kurt turning warily to look at him. “That’s not what I meant, Kurt.” His expression softened. “I don’t think you did anything wrong.” Kurt’s stomach twisted. “There’s no guarantee that even if I’d been in the room, I could’ve stopped him from taking a wrong step. He’d been pushing himself for a long time, harder than he probably should have, we’re lucky he didn’t hurt himself before.”

Kurt rolled his eyes and shook his head. “It’s not just that. I mean, yes. Yeah, I let him get hurt, which is freaking awful. But the stuff I was trying to talk to him about, it was- The timing was terrible. I was acting like an idiot. And now he’s just- gone.”

Alex tipped his head to the side. “What stuff?”

Kurt glared at him. “That’s really none of your business.”

Alex held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Fair enough. But did you know that the timing was terrible?”

Kurt sighed, exasperated. “Of course I didn’t know. I never would have brought it up if I’d realized he was hurting. All I wanted was to be there for him, I just- I don’t know how. He won’t tell me anything. He’s my best friend in the world. I tell him every mundane detail of every day of my life, but he’s been cutting me out of his since the day he woke up. Maybe I’ve just been delusional. You’re more of a best friend to him than I am. How can we be close if I don’t even know when he breaks his fucking ankle? I’m starting to think that I was making all of this up in my head.”

Alex’s expression was unreadable. Eventually, he nodded to the pile of sticky notes and the journal on the table. “I was supposed to toss those out. I’ve been holding onto them, hoping Pam would come back to get them. Maybe you should take them, instead.”

Kurt let out a bitter laugh. “Why? Too lazy to throw things out?”

Alex shook his head. “Just trust me, Kurt. Take them. Maybe they’ll shed a little light on the situation.” He left the room, then, leaving the door open.

Kurt stood there for a long time before reaching for the pile of sticky notes. They were all colors, bright and far happier-looking than Kurt wanted to deal with at the moment. He remembered how they’d decorated every inch of Blaine’s space. These couldn’t have possibly been all of them. He sighed as he started shoving them into a pile to take with him. Despite himself, he found himself reading one or two.

They were completely innocuous, really, just little snippets of Blaine’s life. Kurt wondered why he even bothered writing any of it down. ‘Chicken noodle soup’, ‘A visited, new leg exercise’, ‘Need new stress ball’. Some were clearly about his recovery or other things he didn’t understand: ‘new pill Tuesday, don’t tell Mom’, ‘don’t forget blue one’, ‘one bad one this week’. He wondered what that one meant. One bad what? There was so much he just didn’t know. There was one that only read ‘McMILLAN’ in big, block letters. The name wasn’t familiar to Kurt.

He sifted through them, sorting them into piles. As he sorted, his eye was caught by a smaller stack within the pile, all bright blue. ‘K right about Moulin Rouge’, ‘non-fat mocha’, ‘taffeta BAD’. He smiled as he read through them. ‘K coming late tomorrow’. ‘K’s best friend = car?’. Car had been scratched out and replaced with ‘Mercedes’. ‘Wicked soundtrack amazing! Tell K’. ‘Listened to A New Brain with K – he laughed’. ‘Burberry for Christmas’. Kurt swallowed hard as he dug through them, reading off little details of their lives. There were lyrics from their favorite musicals, little notes about things Kurt liked and didn’t like, ideas for gifts, reminders to tell him things. The first time they’d watched Singing in the Rain together, a conversation he’d told Blaine about with Rachel (exotic birds was written on three separate notes), reminders to tell him about a musical Blaine had found online. It was like looking at a scrapbook of their relationship. Every important moment memorialized on a little sticky note. Kurt felt the tears fall and he let them as he kept flipping through. Nearly half of the pile of sticky notes were blue, covered in his name and their memories. All the things Blaine had written, and half of them were about Kurt.

The last two made him pause. The first was written in absolutely terrible handwriting, likely from early in Blaine’s PT. It was simply Kurt’s name, surrounded by a shaky heart. He held it in his hand for a long moment. Then he looked to the second. The handwriting was far more neat, the spacing on the letters almost perfect. ‘Tomorrow telling K everything. Journal.’ It had to be the latest one, written the day before Kurt had come to the hospital. He glanced to the journal, touching the leather cover. He sat down in the visitor’s chair, his chair, holding the journal in his lap. Everything that had happened to Blaine, every frustration, every success, every breakdown was written in these pages. He could read for himself. He could find the answers to all his questions if he just opened the book.

He considered it for far longer than he wanted to admit. Eventually, he shook his head. Blaine could tell him himself. Kurt was going to find him. He’d give Blaine the journal, and they’d finally have this conversation. Something in his chest settled as he made his decision. If nothing else, it was clear that Blaine cared. Kurt was important to him. And if Kurt was truly that important, it was time for them to lay everything out on the table. He gathered up the sticky notes carefully, the one of his name sitting on the top of the pile, and headed out the door. He still didn’t know what he would do about New York, about Vogue, but he knew he wasn’t leaving without talking to Blaine.

Chapter Text

Taking Blaine out of the nursing home had been the right decision.

Pam had been talking to the doctors about it for over a month. She’d been making plans, finding a live-in nurse, selling their old house and finding one that would accommodate Blaine’s wheelchair. The incident with Blaine’s ankle had been unfortunate and had proven that Blaine needed more attentive one-on-one care. Alex had been an amazing influence on him, but he had other patients. The live-in nurse wouldn’t. She would arrange for him to be taken to a rehab center several times a week so that he could continue his PT. She’d even found one close to their new home so he wouldn’t have to spend so much time traveling. Really, this was the next logical step in getting Blaine healthy.

John’s diatribe at the hospital hadn’t exactly been a pleasant start to their transition. He’d burned bridges that Pam would rather have left intact. She understood that he had been upset. She had been, too. Blaine had finally been making some real strides forward, and now he’d experienced a major backslide. Privately, she thought John had taken it too far, but it was best to present a united front. So Blaine’s departure had been abrupt.

When she’d arrived at the hospital, things had been a mess. Laura kept apologizing, John was fuming at anyone who dared come near Blaine, and Blaine had been silent, morose. He was in his bed, of course, leg elevated on a pillow in its cast. She’d fussed over him, but he hadn’t answered any of her questions, just shaking his head whenever she asked what had happened. Pam had figured it was a reaction to the broken ankle, or perhaps the pain meds. And, if she were being perfectly honest, it may have been a reaction to spending so much time with John. So she’d made all of the arrangements for Blaine’s transfer as quickly as possible. She’d packed Blaine’s things while he was asleep, since the timetable was so tight. The circumstances weren’t ideal, but she knew that Blaine would recover better surrounded by people and things he knew.

 

The ride home had been quiet, so far. John was at the office, and she was grateful. She wanted to be able to introduce Blaine to their new home without upsetting him. She smiled as they pulled up to the house, turning to look at Blaine in the back of the wheelchair taxi. “I know it’s a bit new,” she said with as genuine a smile as she could manage, “but you’ll get used to it quickly. It’s lovely inside, you’ll see.”

He didn’t respond, but she wasn’t deterred. She knew it would take time to acclimate. She tipped the driver after he helped Blaine out of the taxi, and wheeled him toward the front door, up the gently sloping sidewalk. “Everything on the first floor is accessible, so when you’re feeling up to pushing yourself around, you’ll have free reign of the house. I wanted you to be able to have a bit more independence. Won’t that be nice, compared to the hospital?”

She pushed him into the house, through an entrance hall wide enough for Blaine to be comfortable turning his chair, past the living room with its perfectly spaced furniture, past the kitchen with its low counters. Everything in the home was different than Blaine would be used to, but he’d grow accustomed to it quickly. She hoped so. It was driving John insane, but the important thing was that Blaine could get around. She moved quickly through most of the house, figuring Blaine would want to see his room. He’d been uncharacteristically quiet through the trip. As nice as it was not to hear him floundering for words, she didn’t know that the silence was better. He hadn’t even mentioned the design of the house.

Finally, they arrived at Blaine’s first floor bedroom. “So, it’s a bit different than your old room was. I never liked that green on the walls, I figured this would be more peaceful, while you’re recovering. And, of course, the furniture is a bit different. But you finally have your own bathroom. You’ve always wanted that. Your father and I have a similar suite upstairs.” She opened the door with a flourish, pushing Blaine inside. The walls were painted a light eggshell blue. She’d put up a shelf for Blaine’s scripts and books. The motorized medical bed was just like the one he’d had in the hospital, complete with bars on the sides and a trapeze bar to help him transfer to and from the wheelchair. She’d added book lights on either side so that Blaine could have as much or as little light as he wanted. A flat screen tv was mounted across the room from the bed, right at eye level. There was a walker standing in the corner for when Blaine was ready to try walking again, and a comfortable armchair beside the bed.

“So, what do you think?”

Blaine’s eyes traveled around the room, lingering on the hospital bed and then on the walker. “It’s-… It’s great,” he said quietly, gaze returning to his lap.

Pam had been hoping for a little more enthusiasm. At least he was speaking. “Blaine,” she said gently, “I know this is all different, but you should have a space like this for yourself. Your nurse will be just down the hall. You’ve got a call button on the bed, the remote, access to Netflix, audiobooks, whatever you want. We’ll take you to your therapies from here, but you’ll be able to come home after. It’s the best possible solution.”

Blaine didn’t say a word, he simply nodded. She couldn’t read the expression on his face. She hesitated before squeezing his shoulder and promising she’d be right back.

The nurse she’d hired was a little slip of a thing named Sarah, but she was used to dealing with wheelchair-bound patients. She was kind, if a bit quiet. She had Blaine transferred into his bed in no time at all, and it was a relief. She’d come highly qualified, of course, and Pam had called every reference she’d listed. Still, a mother worried. But Blaine had everything he needed here. He would start to recover more quickly than before. She hovered in the corner of the room as he started slowly squeezing the stress ball she’d packed from the hospital. The silence was awkward. Oppressive. She was certain she should say something, but she couldn’t seem to find the words. Eventually, she cleared her throat. “Well, I’ll be back in a bit with something to eat, Blaine. Take a little while. Get used to the new room. If you need anything, just hit the button and Sarah will be right here.”

Blaine closed his eyes for a moment before nodding. She couldn’t shake the feeling that this had somehow disappointed him. She smiled as brightly as she could and bowed out of the room. Maybe he just wanted some peace and quiet. That’s what she’d want, if she’d been surrounded by doctors and nurses and therapists all day every day for months.

 

At first, she figured it was just the adjustment. Of course he hadn’t wanted to leave his perfectly comfortable room to go out into the world for therapy. It made sense. He hadn’t been home very long, he was still getting used to it. She could hardly blame him for wanting a break. And physical therapy couldn’t be all that useful when he was still in a cast and couldn’t put any weight on his ankle. So she let him skip it. He hadn’t been eating much, when she’d brought his dinner, but that was to be expected, too. He was still getting used to real food after months of hospital slop. If he’d become a bit more picky, that was hardly the worst side effect of his trauma. He wasn’t particularly talkative, but he hadn’t been that way in the hospital, either. Sure, he’d talked about Kurt, but only with prodding. His speech must simply be frustrating him, lately. She had an excuse for every behavior, a reason for every quirk.

As weeks passed and Blaine didn’t improve, she had to admit that she was trying to justify something she should be trying to fix. He wasn’t eating enough. He wasn’t working on his strength, and had lost some of the progress he’d made. He wasn’t working on his speech, playing his memory games, writing. He was polite and courteous to both Pam and Sarah, but not talkative. He never called his nurse into the room unless it was absolutely necessary, and he dismissed her as soon as the task was complete. He took his medications, he would answer direct questions, but he was clearly stalled. Stuck.

 

It had been weeks since they’d left the hospital. Pam had stayed home from work to give her a bit more time alone with Blaine. She knocked lightly on the door before stepping inside, carrying a tray with two bowls of soup balanced precariously on one arm. She’d made it herself from scratch, a skill that had been more rusty than she’d like to admit. She laid Blaine’s things out on his rolling table and sat down in her chair. Typically, they ate in silence. She was determined not to let that happen today.

“So, how’s Kurt?”

Blaine swallowed hard, staring down at his soup. He poked at it with his spoon before bringing a small bite to his mouth. He shrugged, clearly trying to keep the conversation to a minimum.

She nodded slowly. “Of course. I know you two haven’t been talking much. I haven’t walked in on you mid-skype session in a while, now.” Not once since they’d returned from the hospital, actually. “Have you been texting, instead? Working on your fine motor skills?”

Blaine shook his head. “No.” He took another sip of his soup. Pam waited for him to elaborate. He didn’t.

She nodded, then frowned. “Where is your phone, anyway? I haven’t seen it in a while. Not since you were in the hospital. You haven’t lost it, have you?”

Blaine shrugged his shoulders noncommittally.

Pam sighed, shaking her head. “If you’ve lost it, you need to tell me, Blaine. I can replace it for you. Not that I have any idea where it would be. You haven’t been out of your room in weeks.”

Silence. Another spoonful of soup.

Pam looked over at her son. He was quiet, pale, barely eating. She knew that something was wrong, but she had no idea how to help him. “Come on, Blaine, I know something isn’t right. You only pick at your food when you’re upset, and you’ve been doing this for weeks, now.”

Blaine shrugged again.

“Is it your medication? Is that making you feel ill? Your nurse said that you haven’t been having seizures, so those pills are working. Are you upset about losing your old physical therapist? I can call the nursing home, see if we can go back to him.” She reached out and laid her hand over Blaine’s where it rested on his tray. “Talk to me, Blaine. Tell me what I can do to make this better, and I will do my best.”

Blaine pulled his hand away from her. “I’m- I’m- um, fine.”

Pam’s heart sank in her chest. Blaine wasn’t going to speak to her. Whatever was broken, she couldn’t fix. She sat there a little while longer, watching Blaine take slow bites. When he pushed the bowl away, she didn’t protest. She moved the table out of the way and watched him curl up, facing away from her. He had shut down completely. At least, to her.

She made sure Sarah was looking out for Blaine, grabbed her keys, and headed out the door. Blaine wouldn’t speak to her. But he might speak to someone else.

 

She stood in front of the unfamiliar house, staring at the front door. She’d found the address in the phonebook and had driven straight here. She’d had it all planned out, exactly how the conversation would go. She would be firm, but kind. Assertive. She would get exactly what she needed, and Blaine would start to pep up again. So, of course, prepared as she’d been, no one had answered the door. It had been nearly twenty minutes, and still, no reply. She should leave. She knew she should leave. But this had been her only idea, the only chance she had for helping Blaine. She couldn’t seem to make herself give it up.

“Mrs. Anderson?”

She nearly jumped out of her skin, whirling around to see Kurt standing at the bottom of the stairs to the porch. She hadn’t even heard him arrive; she’d been so lost in her own head. She quickly straightened her blouse as though that would help, and looked Kurt over. Kurt looked about as good as she felt. He was pale, puffy. He may have been crying. She spotted something brightly colored in his hand. She cleared her throat, straightening her shoulders.

“Kurt,” she said with a slight nod “No wonder there was no answer. I was starting to believe you simply didn’t want to speak to me.”

Kurt took a step toward the porch, crossing his arms over his chest and hiding away whatever blue thing he was holding. “Not the case,” he said after a moment. “I actually went to the hospital today. I have to admit, I was hoping to speak to a different Anderson. Would’ve been nice to know where he was.”

Pam sighed, closing her eyes for a moment. She hadn’t even thought of telling Kurt. She’d assumed that Blaine would. Something in her expression must have given away some of what she was feeling, because when she looked up, Kurt’s expression was far softer. “Is he okay?”

She nodded, managing a small, slightly forced, smile. “Blaine is fine. Physically, he’s fine. Emotionally,” she shrugged almost helplessly. She took a breath and turned square to Kurt, facing him head on. “I love my son, Kurt. Everything I’ve ever done has been with his best interest at heart. I wanted him home, surrounded by family, safe. Surely, you can understand that.”

Kurt tipped his head to the side. She felt almost as though he were sizing her up. In that moment, she looked far older than his age. Eventually, he nodded. “I can,” he said simply. “I don’t like it, but I do understand.” He took a step closer to the porch. “But did you ever consider that maybe I’m a part of that family? He’s my best friend. I’ve spent every hour with him that I can. And honestly? Alex is probably a part of that, too. He’s been with Blaine through all of this. More than me,” she caught the little hint of disappointment in his voice. Whether with himself or with Blaine, she couldn’t tell, “and far more than you. You’re doing your best, and I respect that. But he needs the other people who care about him.”

Pam fought off the urge to snap at him. As satisfying as it would be, it wouldn’t do her any favors today. Instead, she smiled tightly, offering her olive branch. “Why do you think I’m here?”

Kurt blinked. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head. He hadn’t thought it through, yet, too surprised by her appearance. “You’re… recruiting me?”

Pam nodded. “I need help. Blaine needs help. He won’t open up to me. But he may just speak with you.”

Kurt’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not going to be your spy. If he talks to me, it stays between us.”

Pam sighed. “If he’s hurting badly enough that I need to get him help, you need to tell me. Anything beyond that, you can keep your secrets.”

“Alright.”

There was a long silence that should have been more uncomfortable than it was. Kurt was staring at the passenger side of his Navigator, chewing on his bottom lip. After a long pause, he turned back to her. “Okay. I’ll help. Of course I’ll help. And I have an idea.”

Chapter Text

Blaine hated everything about the new house. He hated that it wasn’t the one he’d grown up in (though he’d known better than to expect that). He hated the pale blue on the walls of his room. He hated the assist bars in the bathroom. He hated the low countertops. He hated the motorized bed and the tv across from it. He missed the hunter green he’d had in his old room, the posters from the musicians and musicals he’d loved. He missed his keepsakes lining his shelves and dresser and wherever else he could fit them, thrift shop finds he’d been absolutely thrilled to bring home. He knew most of his things were gone, but that didn’t make it any easier when his new room felt large and cold and sterile like he was still in the hospital. Only, now, he was in the hospital and completely alone. His parents lived upstairs. He saw his mom for mealtimes and whenever she decided to visit, but he didn’t exactly get much in the way of conversation. The nurse was nice, but she didn’t talk much. She didn’t want to be his friend. He was lonely. He missed Alex. And more than anything, he missed Kurt.

He hadn’t seen Kurt since that night at the hospital. The night everything had gone wrong. He’d had a plan. He’d worked on his plan. Walk to Kurt, sit back down in the wheelchair, read his journal entries. The relevant ones, anyway. He had been ready to tell Kurt everything. But then, he’d fallen. His ankle had been on fire. Kurt had been saying something- he was furious with himself that he couldn’t remember what- and then he’d asked him a question. The question. Blaine remembered that. He almost wished he didn’t, if only so he could forget saying no. He’d been so miserable, in that moment, such an utter and complete failure, that he hadn’t even considered it. But Kurt had been so upset, so hurt. The look on his face had completely devastated Blaine. He hadn’t been able to look again. He’d been a coward. And Kurt hadn’t come to see him a single time since. Blaine knew he’d lost him. He knew, deep down, that he would never see Kurt again. When his phone somehow vanished between the hospital room and the taxi, he hadn’t said a word. He didn’t need it anymore.

Since that day, he’d been trying to pull himself together. It was difficult, with his empty, boring room and no one to talk to. Physical therapy felt pointless, now, though he’d done enough with his arms that he could wheel himself a few feet forward. Speech therapy was exhausting and difficult, he avoided it when he could. His mother would just barrel over him, anyway, and no one else really talked to him these days. He had no friends, he had no goals. He had no real reason to improve. Still, he would squeeze his stress ball and try to pull the right words together in his head (even if he wasn’t speaking), work on remembering little details of his day. He wasn’t ready to completely give up. He just had no idea how to find the strength to move forward.

He squeezed the stress ball lightly in his hand, trying to figure out what to do with himself. He didn’t want to work on PT today. It wasn’t like he could get up on his ankle, and asking Sarah to transfer him so he could practice rolling around a few inches didn’t appeal today. He didn’t want to watch yet another hour of crappy tv that would either bore him to death or make him want to talk to Kurt. He didn’t want to read more of Kurt’s (hilarious, pithy, clever, perfect) blog. He was still updating that. Blaine had typed out dozens of comments to post, but he’d never actually pressed the button. He couldn’t. That was a part of Kurt’s life he had stumbled onto on one of his bad days when he’d been obsessively facebook stalking. He hadn’t been invited in. It wasn’t his place. He sighed as he let his head fall back on the pillow, wracking his brain for something, anything he could do.

 

He looked up at the sound of a knock to the door. “Mom? I – um, I- I- thought you had to- um-“ He closed his eyes, trying to find the word. He was out of practice, he needed to talk more, “go to- to- the office today.”

Pam smiled at him a little tightly and shook her head. “No, dear. I thought we’d spend a bit more time together. And I figured you could use some sun. You look so pale, and you’ve been cooped up inside for ages. Let’s go take a walk.”

He didn’t exactly want to be the neighborhood side show. He didn’t want to deal with people pointing and staring at the kid in his wheelchair. On any other day, he might have said no. But the ceiling had stopped being interesting ages ago, and if he watched one more episode of Project Runway without Kurt critiquing every outfit, he was going to start screaming. So he nodded, instead.

Sarah helped him into his chair, but his mother waved her off when she offered to push him. It was a little odd, but Blaine didn’t question it. He didn’t even really protest as he was bundled into what felt like seventy layers of coats, a scarf, a hat, and a blanket tucked around his legs. He felt a little ridiculous, but the second they were outside, he understood. It was freezing, there was fresh snow covering the ground and still falling from the sky. He ached to lean down and scoop up a snowball, fall into the powder to make a snow angel. He’d always loved the winter. He stared at it wistfully, instead, watching flakes gently float toward the ground, his lungs aching with the cold in the air. He was amazed how much he appreciated the feeling. After the kind of boredom he’d been experiencing, it just felt good to be alive and somewhere that wasn’t within the confines of his bedroom.

His mother chatted as she pushed him down the mostly clear sidewalk toward the park on the corner. He paid attention to very little of it, but it was nice to hear someone talking that wasn’t on the tv. He’d hum whenever she paused, or nod his head, not wanting her to stop. The words didn’t really matter, but he didn’t mind.

The park was gorgeous. Snow-covered trees shaded a wide, paved walking path that was shockingly wheelchair accessible. There was a pond in the center of it, just starting to ice around the edges. She walked him halfway around the little body of water before stopping, setting his brake and sitting on a bench beside him.

He looked up at her, not quite sure what to say. He figured he’d see an expectant look after a question he hadn’t been paying attention to, or hear a frustrated sigh that he couldn’t comment on the story she’d been telling. Instead, she was looking out over the water, quiet and still. Her hair was only pulled back in a half bun today. She looked softer. Kinder. Maybe it was the winter lighting, but she almost looked younger. He moved his eyes to the lake. For some reason, the sight of her like that was uncomfortable.

“You’ve always loved the winter,” she said softly. “Most kids were thrilled about summer vacation. And, of course, you loved the time off. Water parks and days at the pool were your favorites, that time of year. But there was always something about the excitement when the fall started to turn colder. You’d cross off days on the calendar in the kitchen until Christmas. Every year for the first snow, no matter how light, you’d grab that old sled of yours and go to that hill.”

He knew the one she was talking about. It’d been about a block from their old house. It wasn’t even much of a hill, really, just a bit of a slope between houses, but he’d loved it. He’d spent hours sledding down and running back up, never growing tired of the wind in his face, snowflakes stinging his cheeks. He smiled at the memory, glad that at least he had those. His injury hadn’t messed with anything long-term. Those wild (to a six-year-old) sled rides were cemented in there for good.

“You used to love ice skating, too,” she continued. “We had a little pond like this near the house, and you’d ask us every day starting in about October if you could go skating. Months before it was even close to frozen over. One year, you thought your father was lying that it wasn’t ready, so you dug out your skates and took it upon yourself to check. You should have seen how panicked he was when he couldn’t find you. It took us ages to figure out where you’d gone, but we did. And there you were, sitting on the ground with your arms crossed over your chest and your bottom lip pouted out, glaring daggers at the water.”

He remembered ice skating. His dad had actually taught him how, when he was very small. It was almost painful to remember a time when there hadn’t been that wall between them. He’d loved the smooth motion of it, the thrill of the cold and the exhilaration of skidding to a stop. He’d never been talented enough to do much with it. Hockey was way too rough for him, and he wasn’t nearly graceful enough for something like figure skating. He’d just loved it for the sake of loving it. “I- um, remember,” he said softly.

Pam nodded. “You’ve always been my winter child.” She was quiet for a long moment before she spoke again. “Maybe next year, you can come out here when it starts to freeze over. It’s not too deep, should be safe early in the season. You can set a new speed record.” Blaine’s heart twisted in his chest. Next year. It seemed so far away. But she sounded sure that he’d be on his feet again. He swallowed hard, turning his eyes toward the water. “I’d really like to see you happy like that again, Blaine. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. For you to be safe and happy.”

He didn’t know how to respond. He and his mother didn’t talk like this. He didn’t have the words, and it had nothing to do with brain trauma. After a long moment, he reached for his mom’s hand. He missed, of course, but she didn’t comment, she just reached for him. They didn’t look at each other. The silence stretched between them, awkward at first, and then fading to something more honest. They didn’t know how to talk to each other, but they could have this.

They watched the water for a long time, until his mother shivered, brushing off the bit of snow that had fallen onto her slacks. “Right. I should get you back. We’ll do this again another day, but I don’t want you out in the cold for too long.”

He nodded, pulling his hand back. The spell was broken. They were back to practicalities and wheelchairs and temperature differences. If he was being perfectly honest, he was cold. Still, he wouldn’t have given up that time for anything. He managed a smile in her direction as she moved to un-lock the breaks on his chair that was completely and utterly genuine.

 

She walked him back to the house a little more quickly than they’d walked away, probably worried about the chill. She brought him inside and started helping him out of his layers right in front of the door to his room. He thought the choice of locale was a little odd, but it had been an odd morning. He helped how he could, grateful that he didn’t have to deal with buttons. She ruffled his hair a little and paused in front of him, the pile of discarded clothes at her feet when he was down to just his sweatpants and t-shirt. He didn’t really understand the expression on her face. Whatever she was trying to say, he didn’t understand. She smiled in acknowledgement, leaned in and kissed his forehead, and straightened, cracking the door open. “I’ll let you go in on your own today. Hit the call button when you want out of your chair. Sarah will be right there.” She left before he could respond. He stared after her, wondering if there was something in the water.

 

He shook his head and turned to face his door, taking a steadying breath. For such a simple action, the walk around the little pond had been emotionally draining. He felt good. Better than he had in a while, actually, but he was still working through processing what had happened. As odd as it was to be dumped outside of his room, he was happy to have the opportunity to gather his thoughts. He pushed on the door, rolled into the room, flipped on the light, and froze.

 

Sticky notes. Everywhere, on every surface. They decorated the rails of his bed, the lamps, the wall. There were fresh pads of every color on his roll-away table. He stared, swallowing against a hard lump in his throat, his eyes stinging. They were his sticky notes. His crappy handwriting. His reminders, his memories, his life laid out in a mess that would look disorganized to anyone else. He knew where they all belonged. He knew what every color meant, every appointment, every memento. It felt like coming home, like a part of himself slipping back into place. Someone had brought him his mind. He rolled himself toward the bed, reaching out to catch the one he knew best, a light blue post-it with a name right in the middle of a shaky heart.

He heard a throat clear in the corner of the room, and he knew without looking who it was. There was only one person who would care enough to stick a million sticky notes all over his bed. There was only one person in the world who could be responsible for giving him back what he’d lost. He didn’t even look up, his voice rough as he managed to say the one word that always came to mind easily. “Kurt.”

Kurt seemed as nervous as Blaine felt. He was dressed in a fabulous hodgepodge of designer pieces, standing awkwardly in the corner of Blaine’s room and carrying his leather journal. Blaine was torn between reaching out to him and trying to figure out how to give a hug from a wheelchair and snatching back his journal to prevent him from reading it. He’d probably had it for days. He couldn’t do anything about what he’d read, now. He cleared his throat, not sure his voice would even work if he tried to speak, and folded his shaking hands in his lap.

Kurt took a breath and blew it out, crouching down so that he was at eye level with Blaine. “Hi,” he said softly.

Blaine tried to respond, but he couldn’t make the words form. His mouth opened and closed a few times as the possibilities spun in his head, none of the words connecting to his throat and lips and tongue. ‘Why are you here?’ ‘I missed you.’ ‘I’m so, so sorry.’ ‘Please tell me you didn’t read that.’ They were all stuck, fighting to get out of his throat.

Kurt bit his lip, trying to hide a grin. “I know this is a really charged moment, but you look exactly like my pet goldfish from the third grade right now.”

And just like that, Blaine was snorting, laughing even as the tears broke free and slipped down his cheeks. Some of the tension broke between them, and he managed to find his voice again. “Hi.” It wasn’t much, but it was a start. He took a breath to say more, but Kurt gently shook his head.

“I read your sticky notes,” he said quietly. “But I didn’t read this.” He carefully set Blaine’s journal on his lap, giving him back that other little piece that Blaine had been missing. He held it reverently, keeping it closed tight. There were too many intimate thoughts in there for anyone to read. Kurt might know him a little too well after that. He looked up as Kurt continued. “I-… There’s so much I don’t understand, Blaine. And I know part of that’s on me. For a while, I didn’t want to know. Everything was terrifying. I was afraid of what was happening with you. I thought if I just ignored it, maybe it would go away. You’d just heal, and then it would never be an issue. We’d be just like the way we were when we met.” He met Blaine’s eyes, searching. “That was a really terrible idea. I know that, now. I should have been pushing to know more from the very beginning. Besides, I really, really don’t want you to be a ghost.” He smiled as he reached for Blaine’s hand, holding it gently in his own. “This is too important to me.” He took a deep breath and let go. “But there’s a lot you’ve been keeping from me.” At Blaine’s quiet sound of protest, Kurt shook his head. “I don’t mean it as an accusation, B, I just- I know that you’re struggling. I know that there’s so much I don’t know. I read your sticky notes and only half of them made any sense at all. But I don’t want that anymore. I can’t do that anymore.”

Blaine swallowed hard, convinced that Kurt had come all this way just to tell him that he was done with him. He couldn’t decide if that was kinder or crueler than vanishing into the night without a word. “I need to know everything, Blaine. I don’t want to be a part of just some of your life. I don’t want you to have to hide things from me. Whatever happens moving forward, I can’t be in the dark anymore. If I’m going to be your friend, if I’m going to be-,” he hesitated, and Blaine saw a flash of something like uncertainty in his eyes, “whatever it is I am to you, I need to know. So will you talk to me? Please?” The expectation in his eyes was painful.

Blaine looked back and forth between Kurt and the journal, his stomach twisting. He knew Kurt was right. He’d been hiding things for a long time. He’d fought so hard to protect Kurt from the madness that was his life that he’d nearly lost him over it. But after everything, after failing and turning Kurt down and sending him away, here he was. Giving Blaine exactly what he needed in exactly the right way, giving him another chance. He had come back. Again. Blaine closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded. He was terrified of ruining everything, but it was time to be brave. It was time to tell Kurt the truth.

Chapter Text

Blaine seemed to write forever.

Kurt arranged the armchair and wheelchair so they were close, facing each other. He brought over a rolling table for Blaine’s journal. The bed would have probably been more comfortable, but he didn’t know how to help with a transfer. Between the two of them, he could have figured it out, but he’d learned his lesson on doing things without a PT or nurse around. So he settled into the armchair and watched.

Blaine wrote and wrote and wrote, taking breaks occasionally for a drink of water or to stretch out his shaking hand. Kurt was quiet through it all, not wanting to disturb the process. Blaine was marking sections with sticky notes, crossing things out, staring into space for long moments before quickly scribbling down a word. Kurt watched, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Blaine’s hair had grown longer, it kept flopping forward in his eyes, hiding the scar on his forehead. He was thinner than Kurt remembered. He clearly hadn’t been eating as much as he had been in the hospital. He looked pale, tired. But he was still Blaine. His face still expressed every emotion as he documented his story. His eyes were bright and intelligent and beautiful. He still bit his lip the same way when he was digging around in the back of his mind for a word. He was Blaine. Kurt’s Blaine. Could he really leave that behind for New York?

He tried to picture it. Living with Rachel, dragging her shopping, listening to her audition songs. But every time he imagined their apartment, it was with music playing in the background from one of the shows Blaine loved. There was always a pair of boat shoes thrown haphazardly by the door. A cardigan that wasn’t his draped over the back of a chair. Blaine’s voice, his laughter ringing through the air. No matter how hard he tried to envision a future in New York without him, Blaine was always there.

 

He blinked, drawn out of his thoughts by Blaine’s expectant stare. “Sorry. Got a little lost in a daydream. I’m ready.”

Blaine nodded. He flipped to a sticky note toward the back of the book, something new, and squared his shoulders. Kurt took a deep breath, sat a little straighter in his chair, and tried to prepare himself as best he could.

“Hi. I know it seems a little silly to start with that, but I haven’t seen you in forever. So hi.” He looked up with a sheepish smile. Kurt grinned back and waved. Blaine took a breath and let it out, looking back to his book. “I’m sorry, first of all. I’m so sorry for everything. I thought that not telling you about all of this would keep you safe. I was being selfish. I thought that if you knew,” he paused, swallowing hard, “if you knew, you wouldn’t stay. I know all of this is scary. I know that’s why you disappeared after I broke my ankle.”

Kurt frowned. There was a lot to unpack in so short a paragraph. He shook his head. “No, Blaine. I- You weren’t being selfish. Or if you were, we both were. We were just trying to keep our relationship as normal as we could. It was a bad call, but it wasn’t your fault. And I don’t really understand. I didn’t disappear.”

Blaine blinked, brow furrowing in Kurt’s direction. He bit his lip. “I don’t- um, I don’t know what else to…. to call it? You haven’t- Since the night we- Since you- um,” he couldn’t seem to get the words out, but Kurt understood the gist.

“Since the night you fell? Blaine, I’ve been texting you non-stop. Calling. It always went to voicemail. I tried to come back to see you, but after your dad changed the visitation list, I couldn’t get back. Laura wouldn’t even let me sneak in when he wasn’t around.”

Blaine’s stare gave everything away. For whatever reason, he hadn’t seen the messages on his phone. Maybe John had somehow blocked him. Maybe aliens had blocked the cell phone signal. Whatever the reason, Blaine didn’t know he’d been trying to get in touch with him. And he clearly hadn’t realized Kurt had been taken off the list. Kurt swallowed hard, eyes going wide. “Blaine, I didn’t leave. I never- No. Absolutely not. I left the room because Laura asked me to, and by the time you could have visitors again, I’d been kicked off of the list.” He shook his head. “I would never have just vanished like that, I promise.”

Blaine took a shaky breath. He didn’t seem to know how to react to that. He wrote for a long moment, scribbling in the margins of the page he was on. “I didn’t know. My phone’s been missing for ages, I don’t know where it is. I just thought… When you didn’t come back, I thought you were gone for good. There didn’t seem to be a point in trying to find it.”

Kurt shook his head, reaching up to run a hand over his face. So much grief on his part, all because of a lost phone and John being an asshole. He’d never say it out loud to Blaine, but he’d never been so frustrated with another human being. “Okay, well, let me put that to rest. I’m not running, Blaine. I’m not just going to vanish because things get hard.” The thought of New York flickered through his mind, but he pushed it away. “When you woke up, that was the happiest I’ve ever been. I know things have been rough. I know that there’s a ton you haven’t told me. I’m here for it. I’m here for you. Don’t ever think that you can scare me off. You were a literal ghost and I didn’t run away. Just- Just tell me the truth and trust that we’ll figure it out, okay?”

Blaine’s expression was unreadable as he looked Kurt over. Kurt didn’t shift. He meant every word. He had nothing to hide anymore. He could only hope that Blaine felt the same way. After a long, slightly tense moment, Blaine picked up the notebook again and flipped to a new sticky note, toward the beginning this time. Kurt settled in and took a breath as Blaine finally started to tell his story.

 

Kurt listened, torn between heartbreak and frustration as he realized all that Blaine had been hiding. Seizures. Medications. Panic attacks. Headaches so bad they made him incapable of functioning. Memory problems beyond what Kurt had ever imagined. No wonder seeing the sticky notes had meant so much to him. His writing was his way of organizing his world, and his mother had left it behind when she’d moved him. If nothing else, that proved that Blaine had been keeping as much as he could from everyone, not just Kurt. Pam would never have deliberately taken away something so important. Blaine had been doing all of this alone. All of the pain, the frustration, the fear, he’d been shouldering it by himself for months.

Blaine paused for a moment, breathing hard and staring at the journal. He clearly needed a break, but he wasn’t looking up. Kurt hesitated before reaching for his hand. “Hey,” he said softly, “I’m still here. I’m not- I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. This is a lot. You’ve been having seizures. That’s… That’s not exactly a small thing. But, Blaine, I just don’t get it. Why didn’t you tell me? I know that you didn’t want to scare me off, but I- I could have helped. I know I’m not a doctor or anything, but I could at least have held your hand when you were hurting, maybe reminded you about your pills, called the nurse in when you were feeling crappy. Hell, I would have known what to look for and what to do if you started seizing on me. You can’t imagine how much I would have panicked if I saw that happen. Why would you hide something like that?”

Blaine swallowed hard, squeezing Kurt’s hand gently. He looked up at Kurt, searching his eyes, trying to communicate something, though Kurt wasn’t sure what. “I didn’t… I didn’t just want to be- um, be sick. I didn’t want to be… be damaged.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I just wanted- um, wanted to be… me.”

Kurt squeezed Blaine’s fingers. “You are you,” he said simply. “You’re still the gorgeous, confident, clever, bad-joke-telling musical theater enthusiast that I met way back then. You going through all of this doesn’t change who you are, Blaine. It just means that sometimes, you need a little help. And I want to be the person to help you. It’s not about tolerating it, I’m not putting up with it until you’re better, I want it. As long as you’ll still belt out Aida at the top of your lungs in way too high a register, you’re still the Blaine Anderson I know and l- well. That I know.”

Blaine let out a watery laugh at that and shook his head. He swallowed a few times and Kurt looked down to their hands, giving him the privacy to pull himself back together. After a few moments, when Blaine’s breathing had evened out a little, he spoke again. “I’m not going to pretend I’m not a little upset about this, but it’s not going to make me leave. It is going to make me call your doctor and ask a million questions. And possibly nag the hell out of you until I get used to the idea. Deal?”

Blaine huffed out a breath that wasn’t quite a laugh. “Deal.”

Kurt looked up at him, sighing quietly. “I’m guessing that this isn’t everything, though I’m really hoping that I’m wrong.”

Blaine shot him a slightly sad smile and pulled his hand away. He flipped to a dark red sticky note in the middle of the journal and cleared his throat before starting to speak. Suddenly, the name ‘McMillan’ developed a new meaning.

 

What really annoyed him was that he hadn’t put it together already. Blaine had been the victim of a hate crime. Kurt didn’t know what the statute of limitations was for assault or attempted murder, but it should be longer than three years. The guys who had hurt Blaine should be brought to justice. Of course the police had wanted to talk to Blaine about it. Hell, Kurt should have been the one to suggest it. Maybe he would have if he hadn’t been experiencing his very own brand of denial.

Kurt winced as Blaine told him about his first meeting with the detective, about his first panic attack. He had a few choice words for that woman, when they eventually met. Clearly, she had no tact. He paid rapt attention as Blaine recounted his decision to tell her the truth, pride and hope swelling in his chest, along with about a million questions. He held them back, waiting to hear what she’d asked, the charges the men were going to face. His stomach twisted and then fell when he realized that Blaine hadn’t gone through with it. It plummeted to his toes when he realized why. Kurt had been late. He hadn’t been there. Blaine had needed him, and he hadn’t shown up. He hadn’t known. He couldn’t be angry with himself for not fulfilling a need he didn’t know about. But that didn’t change the guilt. Blaine’s attackers were still out in the world partially because Kurt hadn’t shown up to the hospital.

He tried to keep his opinions to himself. Really, he did. But Blaine’s breathing was starting to go funny, his grip on his journal white-knuckled.

“Blaine,” Kurt said gently, waiting until Blaine looked up with slightly panicked eyes. “I’m sorry.” When Blaine tried to stutter out some placating thought, Kurt shook his head. “I didn’t know, so I didn’t do it deliberately, but I wasn’t there for you. And you know what? I don’t think I would have been able to go through it alone, either. So I’m sorry you had to try. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there that day.” He shook his head, meeting Blaine’s eyes. “You’re the bravest guy I know, you know that? You called her on your own. You set it all up. You made the choice to tell a bunch of strangers about a part of your life that’s absolutely terrifying. Needing support for that isn’t weak. It’s human.”

Blaine blinked, seeming to take that in. After a long moment, he flipped to a different section of his notebook. There was another long pause as he wrote. That was going to take some getting used to, long pauses in emotionally charged conversations.

“I’m not brave, Kurt. Please don’t argue with me on that. I made the choice, yeah, but I couldn’t follow through with it. I was terrified. I’m still terrified. When it didn’t work out, I was more relieved than anything. That’s not exactly brave.”

It was Kurt’s turn to be quiet for a moment, thinking over his words, not just saying the first thing that popped into his head. Maybe long writing pauses were a good thing. “Being afraid doesn’t make you any less brave, Blaine. It’s your choice, ultimately. I think you should talk to her again. But if you do or if you don’t, I’m going to be there. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

Blaine nodded, sighing out a deep breath. Kurt had a feeling there was more to talk about, here, but maybe he wasn’t ready yet. “I haven’t made my… um, my…,”

“Decision?” Kurt offered up.

Blaine closed his eyes for a brief moment and then nodded. “Decision. I haven’t made that, yet.”

Kurt knew what he wanted. He knew what he wanted Blaine to want. But they couldn’t work that way. He had to be willing to understand where Blaine was coming from. He had to be willing to compromise. And he had to recognize that Blaine probably had about a million thoughts going through his head that he wasn’t sharing, yet. None of this had been simple. Blaine wasn’t the sort of person to lay it all out there at once. They could come back to this conversation when he was ready. “Well, when you do, I’m here. Conversation or no conversation. Okay?”

 

Blaine nodded, avoiding eye contact for a moment. They were definitely coming back to this one. But after a moment, he re-centered himself, flipping to another page in the notebook. His voice was a little rough when he started to speak. He clearly wasn’t used to long conversations like this. Kurt could see him squinting at the page, his own handwriting seeming a little harder to read as he tired out.

“There’s not much more to tell you about. But I guess we should talk about the last of the big stuff.”

Blaine took a slow breath and blew it out. Kurt wanted to suggest a break, but it wasn’t the time. They’d get to rest once everything had been aired out.

“I feel like I lied to you when we met. I didn’t mean to. I was just acting like myself. But it was a lot easier, then. I was dead. Nothing could get to me. And then I woke up, and now I’m just afraid all the time. I panic when I have nightmares. I worry that I’m going to say or do the wrong thing and you’ll leave. I’m absolutely terrified that you being around me will end up getting you hurt. I mean, the chances are slim for something like this happening to the same person twice, right? But it doesn’t matter. I keep having dreams where you’ve been hurt the way I’ve been hurt and I can’t stop get it out of my head.

You met me the way I was before all of this happened, in a lot of ways. And now, I’m really not that person. I may never be able to sit across from you in the Lima Bean for a coffee. I may never be able to have a conversation without stuttering over all my words. I may not ever be able to be normal. But I-,”

He paused, keeping his eyes on the notebook. His hands were shaking. Kurt reached out and gently brushed his fingers over the back of his hand.

“I want all of that with you. I want to hold your hand and joke about ugly dresses and spend hours talking about our favorite musicals. I want to pull out your chair for you on our first date at a romantic restaurant. I want to walk down the street with you and not be afraid. You’re my best friend, Kurt. And you’re so much more. I want to share every possible good thing with you. When you asked me to be your boyfriend, I panicked. Not because I don’t want it, but because I do. Because I know that you’ll have to give up so much to be with me. Because I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to New York, if ever. Because I can’t even walk across a room, and you’ve given up your dream to watch me fail at basic, everyday tasks. I want to give you the world, Kurt. But my world is still broken.”

Kurt swallowed hard against a lump in his throat. When Blaine finally looked up at him, he looked like he was going to be sick. Nervous and hopeful and scared out of his mind. Kurt just wanted to hug him.

“Hey,” Kurt said softly, “you don’t have to be any of those things. You don’t have to sit with me in a coffee shop. You don’t have to be calm and collected all the time. You don’t have to find the words easily. You’re enough. You. Exactly the way you are, right now. You can walk across the room or wheel across the room or let me carry you bridal style. You’re not- none of this is a disappointment to me, Blaine. You aren’t a disappointment. If you’re scared, I can hold your hand. If you’re having trouble talking, I can help. You’re still my Blaine. You’re still the guy who makes me laugh so hard I cry. You’re still the guy who makes me grin every time I think about him. You’re still the stupid talented lyricist who once changed Defying Gravity into a heartfelt ballad about losing the tv remote. And when I miss you, I don’t miss the guy sitting across from me in a coffee shop. I miss you. Sitting half inside of my furniture as a ghost. Stuttering your way through a knock knock joke that’s not even remotely funny but makes you laugh until your stomach hurts. I don’t want ghost Blaine or Blaine before the attack or Blaine without any problems. I just want you.”

Kurt looked up to meet Blaine’s wide, wet eyes. He reached up to brush his thumb across Blaine’s cheek, catching a tear. “Hey, me wanting you shouldn’t be that upsetting.”

Blaine snorted and sniffed, reaching up to take Kurt’s hand in his own. He held it gently, like it was something precious.

“If you, um- want me, then- then I’m all yours. Every, um- every broken piece.”

Kurt grinned, nodding. “Of course I do. You swept me off my feet in a cemetery. Who else could compare?”

Blaine looked up with an almost shy smile, biting at his lip again. “Kurt,” he said softly, “do you want to be my, um- my- my boyfriend?”

Kurt flushed warm, heart filling so much he thought it might burst. He didn’t even try to contain the smile spreading across his face, lighting him up from the inside out. “Yes, Blaine. Of course I do.”

Chapter Text

Kurt stood in front of Blaine’s door, taking a deep breath. It had been a week since their first day back together. A week of texting and phone calls and skype conversations. He’d spent more hours than he was entirely comfortable admitting on the phone with Laura, asking a million questions. Once Pam had talked to the hospital and said it was alright to share Blaine’s information, he’d driven them all crazy. Laura, Alex, Blaine’s very intimidating neurologist. He’d made phone call after phone call to find out everything he could. He now knew far more than he ever wanted about post-traumatic epilepsy, migraines, Blaine’s inability to find his body in space. He knew what to look for on bad days, which medications Blaine was on and absolutely couldn’t forget to take. He had pages upon pages of notes and a cheat sheet he carried in his pocket. He knew he was being a little overzealous, and he was careful not to let Blaine see too much, but this was important to him. Blaine was finally trusting him. He was going to learn everything he could.

But today was special. He bit his lip, reaching up to straighten his tie, then looking down at his outfit. Jeans, white shirt, blue tie, grey vest with black piping. He was going for fashionably understated. They were still in Ohio, after all. He was holding a single, red rose. He ran his hand over his hair, making sure it hadn’t somehow deflated while he hadn’t been paying attention. He was ready. As ready as he could be. His heart was pounding in his chest. He knocked gently on the door, heart jumping into his throat at the sound of Blaine’s quiet, “Come in”.

He stepped into the room and his nerves let up a little as he caught sight of Blaine, sitting on the edge of his bed. He let out a low whistle as he looked him up and down, grinning. He was dressed in a pair of weirdly baggy jeans to accommodate the boot on his ankle, but from the waist up, he was a dream. Red polo, black bow tie. His hair was gelled so that it hid most of his scar. Kurt wanted to tell him that it didn’t matter, but they’d have that conversation later. He beamed from ear to ear as he stepped closer to the bed. “Hi, handsome.”

Blaine looked about as nervous as he felt, though he was grinning. “Hi.” He cleared his throat. “Are you, um, ready?”

Kurt nodded. “For my first date with my best friend?” He winked at Blaine and nodded. “Is Sarah going to come help us, or-,” he trailed off, eyeing the wheelchair by the bed.

Blaine flushed, cleared his throat, and shook his head. “I thought, um, maybe you’d- you’d um, help me?”

Kurt swallowed. His first priority (after he’d stopped freaking out that Blaine Anderson was his boyfriend) had been learning how to help him transfer from the bed to the chair and back. He hadn’t wanted to have to call in the nurse every time Blaine wanted to move. Sarah had taught him how, and he’d been practicing. He’d helped Blaine through several transfers, but she’d always been there to make sure nothing went wrong. “Are you sure?” he asked quietly. “It totally won’t ruin the mood if you want to have her here.”

Blaine laughed, but shook his head. “She hasn’t-… hasn’t actually helped in, um, in days.” He looked expectantly at Kurt.

He nodded, blowing out a breath. “Okay. But I’m going to text her first to let her know what’s happening. I’d rather have her poke her head in and then leave than have something go wrong and not have anyone around.”

Blaine nodded, failing to hide an amused smile at Kurt’s paranoia. Kurt didn’t mind. He’d learned his lesson with trying to do anything on their own. He wasn’t letting Blaine get hurt again.

Once he had Sarah’s confirmation that she’d come by in five minutes to make sure they were okay, he headed to the bed. He hesitated before holding out the rose. “This is for you,” he said, hoping the gesture wasn’t too cliché.

Blaine’s answering smile made it clear that clichés were perfectly fine as he carefully grabbed for the rose. He missed, but not by too much, only six inches or so. Kurt handed it to him. “Careful of the thorns.”

Blaine smiled, running his thumb lightly over a petal. “It’s beautiful,” he said softly. “Um,” he frowned very slightly, digging. “Thanks.”

Blaine looked embarrassed that he couldn’t find the words to say more. Kurt leaned down and gently kissed his hair. He was still getting used to this, casual touch. He felt Blaine relax a little and hid a smile in his curls. “You’re welcome,” he said quietly. “I’m just glad you like it.”

Blaine looked up at him with a grin. With an exaggerated wink, he brought the rose up and started threading it through the buttonhole on his polo.

Kurt laughed and shook his head. “You look ridiculous. That’s a long-stemmed rose. You’re going to stab yourself with a million thorns!”

“Worth it,” Blaine said with a shrug. He gestured to the chair, clearly meaning for Kurt to help him up.

Kurt couldn’t help but roll his eyes fondly as he entered Blaine’s personal space. He felt much more relaxed with Blaine acting like such a dork. He bent so that Blaine could wrap his arms around his neck and then carefully stood. He slipped his arms around Blaine’s waist and started to turn, trying to guide him down into the chair. He wouldn’t go. “Um, Blaine? Are you okay? Did we hurt your ankle? Did I do something wrong?” He was trying to remain calm, but he was terrified that he’d made some kind of colossal mistake.

“Shhh,” Blaine hushed, holding onto him a little more tightly. “Stop- um, stop that.”

Kurt froze, arms around Blaine’s waist, utterly lost. “Stop what? Am I hurting you? Oh my God, Blaine, you have to tell me if I’m hurting you.”

Blaine laughed against his shoulder, shaking his head. “Not hurting. I-‘m- I’m just- um, just-… hugging my boyfriend.”

Kurt huffed out a breath even as his heart melted. He held Blaine a little bit closer. “You jerk. I thought I was somehow re-breaking your ankle or something.” His voice was soft as he said it, and he lightly rubbed Blaine’s back. It was a hug. A real hug. Sarah had told him it was alright to let Blaine put weight on the boot for short periods of time. They were going to start working on standing again soon. So Kurt let go of the worry and allowed himself to enjoy the light scratch of Blaine’s gel-stiffened hair against his jaw.

It felt like it had somehow been an eternity and no time at all when Blaine finally pulled away and Kurt helped him sit. His chest was warm where Blaine had been pressed against it. He helped him get his feet into the footrests and grinned up at him. “You were definitely planning that.”

Blaine shot him an innocent look that Kurt didn’t believe for a moment. “You were. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. The perfectly placed wheelchair? Sarah’s willingness to let me try on my own? There’s not a chance in hell that wasn’t planned.”

Blaine just laughed, shrugging his shoulders. “Can you- um, blame me?” He winked at Kurt, grabbing for his journal and setting it in his lap. “I wanted um, a- a-,” his nose wrinkled as he lost the word.

“Hug,” Kurt said with a laugh. “You wanted a hug. Not that I’m complaining.” He gently pulled the rose out of Blaine’s buttonhole and handed it to him. “Want to take that with us, or want me to find you a vase?”

Blaine’s smile was soft as he stroked the petals. “Vase.”

A few minutes later, Blaine’s rose was in its new home on his bedside table and they were out the front door. To say that Pam had been worried would be a bit of an understatement. Blaine didn’t leave the house, much, and they were going out on their own. She’d dressed Blaine in about twenty layers before they’d been allowed to leave, giving Kurt her cell phone number (again) and the direct number for Blaine’s neurologist (again). She’d placed Blaine’s meds in a small pouch attached to the wheelchair while explaining each one, then handed him a written list with the same information. She’d reiterated half a dozen times what to do if it looked like he was too tired and needed to come home early. Blaine had sat through the display more patiently than Kurt had thought possible. Still, the air was slightly tense as they waited on the wheelchair taxi.

“She means well,” Kurt said eventually.

Blaine only shook his head. Kurt wanted to discuss it further, but the taxi was pulling into the driveway. He brushed a bit of snow off Blaine’s jacket before helping the taxi driver load him into the van. Kurt sat up front, turned halfway in his seat so that he could see Blaine, talk to him. Blaine didn’t have much to say. Kurt kept up a steady stream of chatter with the driver, checking on Blaine from time to time, but he remained quiet. Kurt was starting to worry that the day was going to be a bust. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe Pam was right about keeping him home a little longer.

They arrived at Breadstix, and Kurt couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “You okay?” he asked quietly.

Blaine nodded, shooting Kurt a tight smile. It didn’t exactly make him feel better. The driver helped Blaine out of the back of the van, and Kurt pushed him into the restaurant. As soon as they were inside, Blaine reached for the wheels, looking back at Kurt. “Let me?”

Kurt nodded, letting go of the handles of Blaine’s chair, letting him push himself. He was getting stronger every day. He was able to move around a lot more on his own, even if he couldn’t stand yet. Kurt smiled at the hostess and introduced himself. He had a reservation. He’d called ahead. Twice. He may have been just a little nervous about accessibility. The result was that they were led immediately to the back of the restaurant where Blaine might feel more comfortable, away from too many prying eyes.

Blaine huffed out an annoyed breath as Kurt sat across from him, and Kurt looked up, alarmed. “What is it?”

Blaine rolled his eyes. “Didn’t get to… to, um, to- to pull out your chair.”

Kurt raised an eyebrow. “That’s why you’ve been so grumpy? I promise as soon as you’re on your feet, I’ll let you pull out every chair for me we come across.”

Blaine shook his head. He reached for his notebook and opened it, taking his time as he wrote. Kurt was starting to get used to this, long lapses in conversation while the pen scratched across the paper. At first, it had been uncomfortable. Now, it was just something that needed to happen so they could talk. He ordered waters for them both and let Blaine work out what he wanted to say.

“I’m not grumpy. Not really. The ride was a little weird. I don’t like trying to talk to people who don’t know. Mom had a colleague over for a work meeting the other day and she kept talking to me. When I tried to respond, she got this absolutely panicked look on her face and guessed random words until I had to run away. Figuratively, of course.”

Kurt had to hide a smile. “I’m sorry your mom’s friend was a pain. But it’s just the two of us, now. I won’t make you talk to someone random again unless you want to.”

Blaine bit his lip, writing for a moment. “You’re not worried about me being anti-social or not talking to the waitress?”

Kurt immediately shook his head. “If you want, I’ll order for you. If you want to do it, then you can. I don’t care about how other people react to us. I just want to be here with you.”

Blaine’s shoulders visibly relaxed as he settled in his chair. He scratched out another line or two. “Maybe I’ll try it. I’ll just shoot you a panicked look if I’m not feeling up to it. But at least I won’t starve either way. I peeked at the menu. Bottomless breadsticks!”

Kurt laughed and nodded, relaxing as Blaine did. They could do this. They could have little pitfalls, get past them, and still have a good evening. He heard his phone chime and pulled it out of his pocket, expecting a panicked text from Pam making sure that he remembered where she’d put Blaine’s pain meds, just in case. Instead, he saw a reminder from his calendar. He swallowed hard, setting his phone aside.

“What is it?”

Blaine looked more curious than anything. Kurt shook his head and forced a smile. “It’s nothing. I- I need to make a phone call, that’s all.” Blaine tipped his head to the side, clearly wanting a little more information. Kurt’s poker face must not be very good. His mind spun with every lie he could tell, every story he could spin. He opened his mouth to diminish what was going on, reassure Blaine, and then he paused. Blaine was being honest. Even when it was uncomfortable, even when he couldn’t find the words easily, he was trying. And they were better when they had conversations. He glanced at his phone again and sighed, letting Blaine see his uncertainty. “No,” he admitted. “No, it’s not nothing. I… I got an email from Vogue a while ago. After everything happened with your ankle. It’s- Well, it’s an offer.” At Blaine’s confused look, he sighed. He pulled it up on his phone and passed it over. “I’m not going to take it. You don’t have to worry, I’ve already drafted the email a dozen times, I just figured they might appreciate a phone call.”

The silence was almost painful as Blaine read the letter. His poker face was a hell of a lot better than Kurt’s. Kurt cleared his throat, played with his napkin, thanked the waitress who brought over their waters and asked for a little more time. When Blaine finally pushed the phone back across the table, his expression was unreadable. He grabbed for his journal.

“You should take it.”

Kurt stared at him like he’d grown a second head. “I’m sorry, what?”

“You should take it.”

He shook his head. “What? No. No, that’s not happening. You need me here.”

Blaine wrote again, eyes on the paper, hand sure and steady. He wasn’t looking up at Kurt. “Of course I need you. You’re my best friend. You’re my boyfriend. You’re the person who helps me more than anyone else. And you should take it. That opportunity is insane. It’s paid. You’d be working on actual content. If you wait until August, you’ll be going in with all the other interns. You were hand-selected for this job.”

Kurt swallowed hard. “I mean, I appreciate them reaching out, but it just doesn’t make sense for us. I want to be with you, Blaine, not hundreds of miles away in New York. You’ll be going back to PT soon, your speech therapist says you need to keep talking as much as you can, there’s just too much to focus on to be worried about New York.”

Blaine looked up at him, shaking his head with an expression on his face that might have been wonder. He wrote again, more slowly. “An opportunity like that shows up, and all you can think about is that my speech will be better if we’re constantly talking.” He took a steadying breath. “Kurt, you can’t give something like this up. You’ve already stayed home a semester longer than you meant to. This isn’t just a job offer. This is the chance of a lifetime.”

Kurt knew it was the chance of a lifetime. But that didn’t change anything. “No job is worth this,” he said softly, gesturing to Blaine, the restaurant, the date. “No job is worth enough to take me away from you.”

This time, Kurt barely noticed the pause as Blaine wrote. “No job could ever take you away from me. We’ll figure out ways to make it work. You can come back to visit all the time. Maybe I can even eventually convince Mom to let me come see you out there. We’ll skype constantly. Text every day. We’ll do the same things we were doing when you were working in your dad’s shop. You being physically away from me isn’t going to split us up, Kurt.”

Kurt stared. “How are you so calm about this?”

Blaine smiled a little sadly and shook his head, writing fast. “You made the choice the first time without me. I was so afraid that it was going to make you resent me, that you were going to end up hating me for keeping you here. I know that you write on your blog all the time about fashion and New York. I know you want to be out there with Rachel. I know that you don’t belong here anymore. If you’d asked me then, I would’ve told you the same thing.” He looked up at Kurt, swallowing hard. “I can’t- um, I can’t leave. But that- that doesn’t mean that… that you have to stay.”

Kurt shook his head. “No, we can go together. In- In August, when we planned to.”

Blaine wrote in his journal again. “We don’t know if I’ll be ready in August. I hope so. I’m going to fight like hell to make that our reality. But you’re ready to go. You’ve been ready to go. This is everything you want, laid out on a silver platter. You and I will find a way to make it work long-distance.” He looked up at Kurt, meeting his eyes. “I want you to- to- to, um, to go.”

Kurt’s heart cracked in his chest. He knew Blaine wanted him here. He lit up whenever they were together. But he wasn’t lying when he said he wanted him to go, either. They’d never really talked about Kurt giving up New York for all of this. He’d thought Blaine had moved on from it. Apparently, he was wrong.

“But I’ll miss you,” Kurt said softly, his voice cracking.

“I’ll miss you, too.” He turned back to his journal to write. “I’ll miss you like crazy. But I’ll love reading the things you work on in Vogue. I’ll love taking tours of Central Park on facetime. I’ll love reading the pages-long texts detailing your adventures with Rachel’s craziness. And I’ll love seeing you be the amazing person you’ll be free to be, there.”

Kurt swallowed hard. He wiped at his face, taking a deep breath. His heart ached. He didn’t want to leave Blaine. But he wanted that job. He wanted New York. He wanted fashion and Broadway and crowded subways. He wanted to be who he was and never have to worry about what other people thought. He wanted the world. He just wanted it with Blaine.

He looked up at him, jaw set. “If it ever becomes too much, you have to tell me right away. I’ll come home. And if anything happens medically, you have to text me first. I mean, like, before your mother. You have to promise to talk to me on the phone all the time, even though I know it’s not your favorite. And you’re coming to live with me the second that you can. Got it?”

Blaine grinned, a sadness in his eyes that Kurt hated. He nodded and held out his hand. “Deal.”

Kurt reached out and took it, shaking it gently. Hope and guilt twisted in his stomach in equal measure. He was going to work for Vogue. “Okay,” he said quietly. “I’m going to New York.”

Chapter Text

Kurt sighed as he laid out the final pile of clothes on hangers onto the sofa. The stack dwarfed the back of the couch. It leaned precariously to the left, but he managed to catch it before it fell, propping it up carefully. He glanced between the pile of clothes and his relatively small suitcase. He was a packing master, used to having to fit a fabulous wardrobe into a carryon piece of luggage, but this was a bit ridiculous. He was going to work for a fashion company. It wasn’t like he could skimp out on his clothes. If the suitcase wasn’t enough, he still had boxes.

He’d packed everything else first, of course. Knick knacks, photos of his friends from glee, the printed picture of himself and Blaine that he kept in a frame on his bedside table, his many, many toiletries. He’d spent hours pouring through his audition sheet music collection, narrowing it down to only the things he truly needed. Everything was packed in boxes carefully labeled with their contents. He stared down at the pile of clothes, chewing on his lip. Clothes, shoes, accessories. Those were the final items on his to-do list. The final things he needed to sort out before he packed his Navigator in the morning.

The knock on the door made him jump. He rolled his eyes at himself as he walked over, hearing Pam’s voice through the door.

“You’re sure you took it? Because if you didn’t, I can run home and grab it. You’ll be a bit off schedule, but that’s better than not taking it at all.”

“Mom, I’m- I’m-,” an annoyed breath from Blaine, “I’m fine.”

Movement, probably Pam walking around the chair. “Yes, I know you’re fine, you’re always fine, but Sarah wasn’t there to see you take them, and I don’t want you to have to end up back in the hospital again when you only just came home-”

Kurt opened the door with a slightly forced smile, figuring Blaine needed a rescue. He looked extremely annoyed, and Pam looked extremely frazzled. Still, when Blaine caught sight of Kurt, his entire face lit up with a grin. Kurt’s answering smile became a lot more genuine.

“Hi,” Blaine said softly, clearly trying to keep himself somewhat contained, for his mother’s benefit.

“Hi,” Kurt said with an answering smile. He reached out to brush a bit of snow off Blaine’s beanie and looked to Pam, bundled up in a fabulous designer coat. “Come on in,” he said as he stepped aside.

He watched Pam push Blaine through to the living room, wincing at the little jolt as he crossed the threshold. Kurt’s house wasn’t exactly accessible. One of his Christmas presents from his dad had been a homemade accessibility ramp to put over the front porch steps so Blaine could visit. Even with that, Blaine couldn’t possibly get to Kurt’s bedroom. Thus, the massive pile of clothes on the sofa. The couch had been pushed back against the wall and the coffee table moved completely out of the way to accommodate Blaine’s chair. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start. His dad had plans for more improvements that would help Blaine feel welcome. Hopefully, they could get through them a little at a time.

“How are you, Mrs. Anderson?” Kurt asked quietly, attempting to be polite. Things were uncomfortable between them, now that he and Blaine were dating. She hadn’t taken the news particularly well, from what he’d heard. Blaine had wanted to tell her on his own, and Kurt had respected that. She hadn’t changed how she acted toward Kurt, but he had a feeling her reaction might be the cause of the friction between her and her son. He didn’t have any idea at all how John had taken it. The one time he’d asked, Blaine had stuttered so badly that he’d dropped the subject. They’d talk about it when Blaine was ready.

“He may have forgotten his anti-epileptic this morning,” Pam said immediately, turning to Kurt. “Do you still have all of the numbers I gave you? I wouldn’t have even let him come, but I know you’re leaving tomorrow, and he would never forgive me if he didn’t see you before then.”

Kurt raised an eyebrow, turning to Blaine. “Did you forget them?”

Blaine huffed out an annoyed breath. “No.” He was firm, insistent, there was no hesitation or doubt. Kurt’s shoulders relaxed, but he turned back to Pam. “Alright. I still have every number, and I promise to call if he even breathes funny. I’ve got the taxi company on speed dial, and if worst comes to worst, Sarah showed me how to help him into a car without wheelchair access and get him out again. I promise, I’ll keep him safe.”

Kurt could actually see Pam grinding her teeth. He took a half a step back so he didn’t have to hear it, too. “Fine,” she said eventually. “I’ll be back in three hours to collect him. He has his meds with him if his headache gets any worse. And don’t forget that we’re going to physical therapy after this, Blaine, don’t work yourself too hard.”

Blaine nodded, clearly too annoyed to bother trying to talk again. Pam kissed his forehead and swept out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

Kurt pulled up a folding chair he had for just this occasion to sit in front of Blaine, smiling gently at him. “Rough morning?”

Blaine sighed, opening up the journal in his lap to write. “Sarah didn’t actually see me take my pills this morning, because she doesn’t think that’s necessary anymore. Mom panicked. I took them. I know I took them. I wrote it on a sticky. I tried to show her half a dozen times, but she doesn’t think that it counts as proof.” He held up a bright green note that had a rough calendar on it and a check mark for that day.

Kurt nodded. “Well, I’m glad you took them. And that you’re writing it down. I don’t exactly want to have to see you have a seizure. I’m sorry your mom is being so paranoid. I know she’s just worried.” Blaine’s expression twisted, and he was quick to change the subject. He found Blaine’s hand and squeezed it gently. “So, how’s Alex?”

Blaine’s entire face lit up. Kurt had sat down for a long conversation with Pam when he’d first walked back into Blaine’s life about the things that she might be able to do to help him. The first order of business was getting him back to Alex for physical therapy. Kurt had gone with him, the first time he’d been back to the rehab center. Seeing the two of them play off each other had been amazing. Blaine’s speech was even better when he was with his old friend. Initially, Kurt had felt that little thrill of jealousy. It was still there, even now. But he was working on it. Alex was Blaine’s friend. Kurt didn’t want Blaine completely alone while he was gone. They were good together. Kurt just had to keep reminding himself that Blaine wasn’t interested in anybody else.

Blaine scribbled on the page for a long time before he started reading it out. “He’s great. He’s not letting me write as much to talk to him, which is annoying. I’m digging for words a lot. But he says that I’ve been doing really well at standing. I’m going to get to start trying to walk again, soon. With a walker. Or the bars in the gym. If I try on my own again, he might murder me. But still, it’s walking. Actual forward movement. He’s working with me on my arms, too. We had a wheelchair race in the hallway last time I was there, and I almost won. Have you seen his arms? I think he may have been going easy on me, but still.”

Kurt couldn’t help his grin at Blaine’s enthusiasm. “Sounds like you’re making some real progress. You’re going to have to take a video of a wheelchair race for me at some point, that sounds amazing. By the time I get to visit, you’ll be a lean, mean, walking machine.”

Blaine laughed, shrugging his shoulders. He wrote again for a moment. “Maybe. But even if I’m not, I’ll be able to push myself a little more when we go out on dates. I can’t wait.”

Kurt nodded, feeling a little thrill at the idea of more dates with Blaine. He hesitated for a moment, biting his lip. “Okay, so I know this is sort of a random transition, and I know it’s really late, since it’s January, and I know we talked about not getting each other Christmas presents, but I sort of have something for you anyway.” Blaine’s amused look at his ridiculous run-on sentence was oddly comforting. He stood and walked to the entertainment center, grabbing a stack of papers he’d left there. He straightened them, moving back over to Blaine, feeling weirdly nervous. This was a good thing. He knew it was a good thing. Blaine would probably love it. He really hoped Blaine loved it. “So, I told you that I called Vogue to accept their offer.” At Blaine’s alarmed expression, he held up a hand. “I did! I swear, I did. I would never have lied about something that important. And I’m moving tomorrow. It’d be a weird time to admit that.” He stopped himself, forcing a deep breath. Why on earth was he so nervous? “But I sort of didn’t mention that I might have… negotiated a little.” He handed over the stack of papers. “This isn’t my contract. That was super boring and would probably just give you a headache.” Or make it worse, given Pam’s comment from before. “But it’s- Well, I thought you might like a list. A reminder. When I’m not here and you’re wondering and-,” he trailed off, shaking his head. “I swear, I practiced a very suave speech to give while I handed this over.” He cleared his throat. “Well, the first page is the stuff we’ve talked about. Weekly skype calls, texting every day, phone calls twice a week. Stuff like that. I don’t know what my schedule’s going to be like, but I’m sure we’ll figure out when we can talk pretty quickly. There are some extra things on there, too, that I thought would be nice.”

Blaine was grinning, reading the bullet points. He raised an eyebrow, looking up at Kurt and reading off one of the items on the list. “Pictures at every PT session?”

Kurt nodded. “Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t have to be the sweaty part. I know that’s still a little uncomfortable for you. Though seeing my boyfriend all sweaty in the gym isn’t exactly going to have me complaining.” He flushed and cleared his throat. “The point is that I’m really proud of you and the work you’ve been doing. Plus, Alex will be there, and I know he’ll take pictures or selfies or videos or whatever, and-,” he cut himself off. “Sorry, I’m rambling. It’s weird. And if you don’t like it, obviously, we don’t have to.”

Blaine was clearly trying to hide a smile. “We’ll do our- um, our best.”

Kurt nodded. He watched Blaine get to the end of the page and flip to the next one. The butterflies in his stomach multiplied. “Right. So this is the part that I may not have told you that I discussed with Vogue. I- I actually got all of this stuff from HR. This list is what they sent me in their final email when they agreed to my terms. If you’re in the hospital for any reason, I get to come home.” There were a bunch of technicalities, he’d have to make up the hours or work from home or use his PTO, but he would always be allowed to leave. “You and I can talk about it. If you don’t want me here and I don’t think it’s necessary, I might not, but I always have the option. Ditto for if you go through with talking to Detective McMillan and you decide to testify.” A shadow passed over Blaine’s face. “I know it might not happen, but I wanted them to be prepared for the possibility of a court case. That’s all.” At Blaine’s very slight nod, he continued. “Also, they’re going to buy me a plane ticket once a month to come see you.” He had a feeling they’d dropped his compensation slightly to make up the difference, but he didn’t care. He wouldn’t have to feel guilty about buying plane tickets, and they probably had some kind of preferred pricing anyway. “We get to pick the weekend, but they’ll pay for it. So I have a guaranteed trip to come home and see you every four weeks-ish. The next twelve pages are a calendar. I put little stars on the weekends I think might work, but we’ll figure all of that out later. I thought maybe you’d want to put it up by your bed? We can put our phonecalls and stuff on it, so that it helps you know when you’re going to see or hear from me next. If you want to.”

Blaine was thumbing through the calendar. Each page was color-coded for the month (and to match the color scheme of Blaine’s room, of course), and each featured at least one picture of the two of them. It was printed out on plain computer paper. He could have had a much fancier one made, but he sort of liked that this one felt temporary. As soon as Blaine was well enough, he’d be moving out to New York to join him. He chewed on his lip as Blaine looked at each page. “Please say something, I’m kind of freaking out.”

Blaine looked up at him, then. His eyes were wet, even though he was grinning. Kurt immediately moved closer as Blaine straightened up the papers. He wrapped him up in the half hug that was possible while Blaine was in the chair. “Good tears?”

“Good tears,” came the muffled confirmation from his chest.

Kurt held onto him for a long moment, gently rubbing his back, giving Blaine a second to collect himself. He was the one to pull back eventually, reaching up to rub at his eyes. Kurt took the papers and slipped them into a folder. He tucked them into the pocket of Blaine’s wheelchair so neither of them would forget them.

Blaine looked up at him and shook his head as he moved back to the front of the chair. “It’s- it’s- um, perfect.” He reached out for Kurt’s hand. PT was helping, he was only off by a few inches. Kurt found it and squeezed. “I’m gonna get Sarah’s help to- to put it up today. And you- you really- um, convinced them to- to pay?”

Kurt grinned, nodding. “I really did. I told them that I wouldn’t accept the job offer unless there was a guaranteed, designated time for me to come home and see my family. You included.” He squeezed Blaine’s hand again. “I’m really glad you like it,” he said quietly. “I know the paperwork isn’t much, but it’s- I want you to know that this doesn’t change anything between us. I’m leaving Ohio, but I’m not leaving you. I’m going to be here every chance I get. I’m going to be with you. This is just a temporary distance.”

Blaine nodded. He took a deep breath and grabbed for his journal again, flipping to a page marked by a blue sticky note. He wrote for a moment and looked at Kurt with an almost sheepish smile. “Well, your gift kind of kicks my gift’s ass.”

“Oh, shush,” Kurt said with a laugh. “You got me something?”

Blaine shook his head. “Um, not- not really.” He looked down at the journal again. “I wanted you to have something when you were in New York, something that reminded you of me. So I made you something.” He fished in his pocket and brought out a tiny little box, wrapped terribly in brightly colored paper and a silver bow. He handed it to Kurt with a smile. “Alex helped- um, helped me wrap it.”

Kurt laughed. “Fine motor skills, huh?” At Blaine’s nod, he started carefully unwrapping the box, not wanting to tear any of it. It was ridiculous, the paper had been torn by the wrapping process in multiple places, the entire thing was held together with what had to be a pound of tape, but he loved it. Inside was a little jewelry box. It was his turn to raise an eyebrow at Blaine.

“It’s not- um, not what you’re- you’re thinking.”

Kurt hummed and opened it carefully. Inside wasn’t diamonds or a macaroni necklace (something he’d truly feared, given the wrap job). Instead, it was a stack of sticky notes, freshly out of the package, completely blank, from what he could see. They were lovely, slightly pearlescent, an entire rainbow of colors. As sticky notes went, they were insanely nice. But they were only sticky notes. His brow furrowed a little and he looked at Blaine.

Blaine’s cheeks were bright red as he looked back down at the notebook, clearly a little nervous. “Take the first one off.”

Kurt did as he was told, lifting the blank purple sticky away. On the next note down was a shakily written note. It said ‘Kurt’s Christmas Present: Day 1’. Underneath that in smaller handwriting (Blaine was gaining much better control), it said ‘I’m going to miss you. I’m proud of you. Kick New York’s ass!’ Kurt laughed, heart swelling. It was so sweet, so simple. “I love it, Blaine.”

He looked over to see that Blaine was still looking down at his journal, cheeks turning a darker shade of red. “There’s one for every day. Well, for the first 100 days. I’ll have to send you another pack after that. I know sticky notes are sort of my thing, and I don’t expect you to keep them all or anything. They’d look a little silly all over your apartment. But I wanted you to have them. A little reminder for every day that we’re apart that I’m still here and I still really care about you.”

Kurt had to swallow hard. A note from Blaine every single day. A piece of home. He carefully tucked the blank sticky note back into the box and closed it, slipping it into his pocket. Blaine might not expect him to keep them all, but he already knew he’d never be able to throw them away. He moved to crouch in front of Blaine’s chair, hands on the handles. “Blaine,” he said softly, waiting until he looked up. “That is the single sweetest thing anyone’s boyfriend could ever have possibly done.” At Blaine’s laugh, he grinned. “I love it. I- I’m going to look at these every single day, okay?” He took Blaine’s hand and ran his thumb lightly over the back of it. “I know I did this completely wrong the first time, so this time, I’m going to ask.” He looked up at Blaine, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Blaine Anderson, dearest boyfriend, person I will miss more than anyone as I move to the great city of New York, may I kiss you?”

Blaine threw his head back and laughed, the sound filling Kurt up until he couldn’t contain a laugh of his own. When Blaine looked at him again, his eyes were warm and bright and beautiful. “Yes, oh- um, dramatic one, you can.”

Kurt leaned up slowly. He cupped Blaine’s cheek with his hand, stroking over the smooth skin. He closed his eyes and pressed their lips together. His breath caught in his lungs. It was so different from their first kiss, when Blaine had been pale and still and unresponsive. Now, he was warm and real and perfect as their lips slid together. Kurt could feel his heart pounding in his chest, skin breaking out in goosebumps. It was over far too soon, as Blaine pulled away to breathe. Kurt blinked his eyes open as he found his chair again, biting at his still-tingling bottom lip. “Okay, you’re a way better kisser when you’re conscious.”

Blaine’s laugh set his heart on fire.

 

When he waved goodbye to Blaine and Pam from his porch three hours later, his clothing was packed (in his suitcase and four additional boxes), his shoes were nearly finished, his accessories had been culled and set carefully in their own box. He was nervous. He was terrified. He didn’t want to leave Blaine alone. He was afraid that he’d arrive at Vogue and somehow this would all be a prank. He was worried about getting along with Rachel’s roommate until they could get the living situation figured out, scared of leaving his dad to care for himself after his heart attack, nervous that Blaine maybe really had forgotten his epilepsy medication and he’d get the call that he was on his way to the hospital. He shivered and tucked his hands into his pockets.

His fingers brushed against something hard. A box full of sticky notes. A little message from Blaine every day for a hundred days. The worry in his chest faded as he ran his fingers over the smooth edges of the box. Things wouldn’t be easy. There would be challenges that they couldn’t even imagine, now. But with everything they’d been through, they’d come out the other side together. Whatever the world had in store for them, they could handle it. He smiled at the memory of Blaine’s bright eyes, his laugh. He turned toward the house, a determined set to his shoulders.

“New York, here I come.”