Author: Keitorin Asthore PM
AU. The last thing Burt Hummel wanted was a foster kid, especially one as skittish as Kurt. But when he finds out that Kurt has been viciously abused, it changes the game. Maybe he needs this kid as much as the kid needs him.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Hurt/Comfort - Kurt H. & Burt H. - Chapters: 19 - Words: 76,753 - Reviews: 2,171 - Favs: 1,175 - Follows: 1,753 - Updated: 02-18-13 - Published: 11-26-11 - id: 7584431
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Burt reached out a shaking hand. "Kurt," he whispered. "Kurt, don't be scared. It's me. You're okay."
The skeletal little creature hissed at him, shrinking away. His clothes were filthy and his hair hung over his eyes. He clutched a blanket-wrapped bundle in his bony arms, and as Burt knelt down to get a better look into the closet he drew his knees back. His feet were bare and blue with cold.
"Oh, god, that's your kid?" Cal breathed. "Holy God…"
"Just call an ambulance," Burt snapped. The child pulled further back and broke into a cough, loud and barking. Burt knelt as close as he dared. "Hey. Hey, kiddo. It's okay. It's me. It's Mister Burt."
The child wiped his mouth with his equally dirty shirtsleeve, his whole body trembling with the exertion, and finally looked up at him with glazed-over eyes. Burt forced himself to smile, knowing full well it couldn't possibly be comforting. "Yeah, honey," he said. "It's me. Can you move at all? You need me to pick you up?"
The little boy leaned forward, his body drooping, and with a start Burt realized that he was tied to a painted-over pipe in the back of the closet, caged like an animal. The child let out another horrible noise and hunched over, clutching the wrapped bundle in his arms. "It's okay, it's okay," Burt soothed hastily. "I'm gonna get you out, okay? Don't be scared."
He fumbled in his coat pocket for his army knife and sawed at the fabric keeping the boy imprisoned. It wasn't much, just a winter scarf, poorly knitted, but the knots were tight enough to leave red marks in his deathly pale skin.
"C'mon, kiddo," Burt whispered as he pulled the remnants of the scarf away from the child's upper arms and torso. He cupped his thin dirty face in his hands. "C'mon, just say something. Let me know you're still in there."
The little boy blinked once, twice, slow and uneven, but recognition seemed to dawn and his foggy eyes faded into focus. He mouthed something, his voice too weak and raspy to be heard, but his face crumpled and he let out a terrible wail.
Burt smoothed his dirty, greasy hair. "Kurt, you're okay," he promised. "You're gonna be fine. I'm here. I'm here now. Nobody's gonna hurt you. You hear me? No one's gonna hurt you again."
Cal's footsteps echoed behind him, fast and heavy. "I called an ambulance," he said. "They're on their way. God, that's where he's been? Oh, God…"
Burt kept his hands against Kurt's hollow cheeks. His skin was dry and blazing hot despite the cold air. "Cal, turn the heat on," he ordered.
"Nothing's working, the power's been cut off."
Burt cursed under his breath. "Get the blanket off the bed," he said. His hands moved to Kurt's narrow bony shoulders. "There's an ambulance coming. We're gonna get you to the hospital and you'll be fine. Let's get you out of that closet, okay?"
Kurt let out another hollow scream, pulling further away. Burt held his hands up in surrender. "It's okay, buddy, I'm not gonna hurt you," he said, trying to keep his voice soft. "Here, you give me what you're holding, and I'll get you out."
Kurt shook his head, holding tighter. He was mouthing something, his lips slack and clumsy from cold, and it took several false starts before sound came out. "No," he rasped. "No. Mine. Safe. Keep safe."
"Kiddo, whatever you're holding, we'll keep it safe," Burt promised. He glanced back to see Cal waiting anxiously with the quilt from the bed in his hands. "See? There's a blanket for you, but it's gonna be hard to get you out and wrap you up if you're holding on to something."
Kurt gazed down at the blanketed bundle, his eyes beginning to lose focus again. "Baby," he murmured.
Burt tugged back the blankets a little. Sure enough, Kurt held a little baby in his arms, perhaps three months old. There was no need to check for a pulse.
He cleared his throat. "How about we get a nice warm blanket for this little guy?" he offered, his mouth gone bone-dry.
Kurt shook his head fiercely. "Her," he said.
"Oh," Burt said. "Well, let's get the little girl her own blanket, okay?"
Kurt paused, then reluctantly curled his fingers back, loosening his grip. Burt cautiously lifted the bundle out and passed it to Cal, who cradled it in shaking arms and handed the quilt over to him. Kurt's thin arms drooped, exhausted, and he let out a weak cry of pain.
"Yeah, they're gonna be stiff, you've been sitting the same way too long," Burt said. He rubbed Kurt's arm gently, slowly easing the crook of his elbow straight. "You're gonna be fine. I promise."
He took his time massaging the stiffness out of Kurt's skinny arms. The child slumped forward, his shoulders shuddering as he attempted to take a deep breath. His breathing was thick and labored, breaking off at the end of each inhale, and Burt felt a spike of panic that he tried to tamp down.
"There we go," he murmured, wrapping the quilt around Kurt tightly. "There. That's better, right?"
Kurt nodded, shivering in the depths of the blanket, and Burt scooped him up gently. He felt too light, fragile and birdlike, but he could feel Kurt's heart racing. "You're gonna be okay," he murmured, hugging Kurt to his chest in an effort to keep him warm. The sound of sirens crept up on them, slowly growing louder. "You're gonna be okay, little boy. I'm not gonna leave you again."
Sammy crept over to them, his paws light on the floor. He nudged his nose against Kurt's thin grimy cheek, offering a gentle lick on the side of his neck. Kurt blinked, a little bit of color fading into his eyes. "Hi," he croaked. "Hi, Sammy."
Sammy whined and crawled closer to Kurt, pressing the warm weight of his body against Kurt's skeletal little frame. Burt smiled. "Yeah, kiddo, I brought Sammy," he said. "He missed you."
Kurt's mouth twisted. "Hi," he rasped again, but speaking just those few words seemed to drain his strength, and he sagged back against Burt.
Burt stroked the child's back as the sirens screamed louder, soft and calming. "It's gonna be okay," he said. "We're gonna take you to the hospital, okay?"
He could hear the noise of the ambulance below, clanging doors and shouting voices. The neighbors were probably beginning to cluster around the door like greedy-eyed cockroaches. Burt pulled the quilt tighter around Kurt's trembling body, the grime of his skin rubbing onto the fabric.
"…he's in here, he's just…god, those kids were in there for days, I can't believe it. I just can't believe it," he heard Cal babble frantically, leading two EMTs into the apartment. "And, oh god, the baby…"
There was a pause. Out of the corner of his eye Burt saw the male paramedic take the blanketed bundle from Cal's arms. "Dead," he said. "Probably for a day or two."
A paramedic made her way over to them, a slight woman with large dark eyes and lines around her mouth. Burt reluctantly loosened his grip on Kurt so she could look over him. "What happened?" she asked, prying Kurt's limp body from his arms and laying him flat on the floor. "What's his name?"
"Kurt, his name's Kurt. I'm Burt Hummel, I was his foster dad," Burt said, unable to tear his eyes away from Kurt as the paramedic checked him over, gloved hands quick and practiced. "His mother took him back a month ago and I went looking for him. He was locked up in the closet."
The paramedic nodded absently as she pulled out a blood pressure cuff. "All right, Dad, I need you to keep him still," she said.
"I'm not his-" Burt started to say, but Kurt let out a startled shriek as the cuff began to tighten around his narrow arm. Burt touched his forehead lightly. "You're okay, kiddo, you're okay."
The other paramedic moved beside the woman, the two of them working over Kurt, tossing numbers back and forth. Burt kept his hand on Kurt's hair, listening dumbly. High temperature, sluggish pulse, low oxygen. None of it sounded good. Fear began to coil around his heart.
"All right, we're going to move him onto the stretcher," one of the EMTs said. "Dad, I really need you to help keep him still, he might panic."
Burt nodded numbly, his hand moving from Kurt's hair to his narrow chest. His heartbeats thudded slowly against his ribcage. "It's okay, Kurt," he murmured as the paramedics shifted him. "It's all right."
The EMTs buckled Kurt into the stretcher, the stained blanket still wrapped around him. The woman pulled out an oxygen mask and placed it over Kurt's nose and mouth; the man swiftly prepared an IV and swabbed a clean spot on Kurt's arm. "God, he's a hard stick," he mumbled to himself, and Burt kept his hand to Kurt's heartbeat until the needle reached a vein and the bag of saline was safely hung.
Once he was settled they raised the gurney, locking the wheels in place. Sammy barked. "You go on, I'll keep an eye on your dog," Cal offered. "You stay with the kid."
Burt didn't have time to thank him. He stayed close to Kurt, still keeping his hand against his chest. Kurt gazed up at him, his eyes large over the rim of the oxygen mask. Burt tried to smile at him, but as they moved out of the apartment and into the pale early-evening light, he nearly choked.
If it hadn't been for the soft flicker of his long lashes and the faint fogging of the plastic mask, he wouldn't have believed that Kurt was still alive. The child's skin was shadowed in blue from cold and yellow from jaundice. His lips were white, the skin cracked and bleeding, and his eyes were colorless. He was scrawny and filthy and feverish but he was alive.
And that was all that mattered.
The neighbors gathered on the stairs, gawking and whispering to each other. Burt anxiously smoothed Kurt's hair, trying to shield him from the stares. The stairs rattled with every step as they made their way cautiously down to the waiting ambulance.
The paramedics loaded the gurney into the ambulance with minimal jostling. Burt stepped back to let them lift the stretcher, but he head a frantic shriek of terror from inside. "It's all right, your daddy's right here, he's right outside the door," he heard the male paramedic say, but Kurt let out another anguished cry.
Burt climbed into the ambulance and grabbed Kurt's hand, not caring if he held on too tightly. "Hey, buddy, it's me," he said. "It's all right."
He sat down beside Kurt, squeezing his hand, feeling the tiny fingers grip back with as much strength as they could muster. The paramedic closed and locked the door, and with a lurch and a sudden blast of siren they were on their way.
The ride to the hospital seemed to take ages. Kurt fought for every breath, the plastic mask over his face fogging weakly. One of the EMTs raised the gurney so that Kurt was sitting up a little, easing his breathing.
"We're almost at the hospital," Burt told Kurt. "You're gonna get fixed up just fine. I promise." He leaned over Kurt, touching his forehead to his, feeling the heat of his fever. "I promise, baby."
The ambulance pulled up under the emergency room awning and screeched to a halt, the sirens still wailing. The doors burst open and Burt was quickly lost in the shuffle as they hoisted the stretcher out, pulled it inside, left him behind. He followed closely, trying to keep up.
"O2 stats are at 89%."
"Temperature at 102."
"Respirations at 24."
Burt pushed past a nurse, clenching his fists in frustration as Kurt began to cry again. They lifted him from the gurney to an examination table in the triage room, the oxygen mask shifting and the IV bag swinging.
"Sir, you have to-"
"I'm his dad," Burt snapped, reaching for Kurt's hand again.
A doctor in blue scrubs held a flashlight over Kurt's eyes. "Can you tell me your name?" he asked.
The child blinked slowly. "Kurt," he rasped.
"Hi, Kurt, I'm Dr. Tanner," he said, watching Kurt's pupils closely. "Can you tell me where you are?"
"H-hospital," he croaked, swallowing hard.
"Yes, that's right," he said. "All right, we need to take a little blood so we can run some tests. You're going to feel a little stick. Just hold onto your daddy's hand, okay?"
Kurt whimpered. Burt squeezed his hand as the doctor pulled out the needle. "Kurt?" he said softly. Kurt turned towards him, slow and sluggish, his eyes wide and unfocused. Burt smiled at him. "Hey, buddy. How're you doing?"
"I don't feel good," Kurt rasped, just as the doctor pricked the soft skin of his arm to draw blood. He let out a startled shriek, turning towards the source of the pain.
"Hey, hey, hey, just look at me," Burt coaxed, stroking Kurt's tangled hair. "Come on, baby, just look at Daddy. I'm right here. Daddy's here."
Kurt moaned, too weak to pull away from the doctor's firm hands. Burt shushed him gently, smoothing Kurt's hair in rhythmic, lulling strokes.
"All right, Kurt, you did a great job," the doctor said. "We're done with that. You did great." He removed the oxygen mask and guided Kurt into a sitting position. "I need to listen to your breathing. Take a deep breath in for me, okay?"
Kurt struggled to obey, the bluish tinge around his lips intensifying without the help of the oxygen. The doctor held the stethoscope to his back in a few places, then to his chest. As he moved the stethoscope to his belly, the child began to cough, his whole body spasming. The doctor quickly set the stethoscope aside. "Take him down to x-ray," he said to a nurse. "Full chest."
The nurse nodded. "You can't go in with him," she said apologetically to Burt.
Kurt grabbed Burt's shirtsleeve. "I'll stay with you as long as I can," he promised the little boy as they prepared to move him. "You're gonna be fine. You're safe."
He stayed close as they moved him from the triage room, trying to keep his hand on Kurt's shoulder or hand or belly, just keeping that reassuring contact, but they were moving so quickly that it was hard to keep up. But he tried. It was all he could do.
"You're going to have to wait out here," the nurse said impatiently as they opened the doors to x-ray.
"But he-" Burt started to say, but the doors swung shut in his face. He clamped his mouth shut and crossed his arms. He had no choice but to wait.
Burt Hummel was not okay with waiting.
He began to pace up and down, glancing occasionally towards the doors. Faintly he could hear Kurt crying, scared and defeated, and he swore under his breath. He couldn't do anything. He was powerless. Completely powerless.
Ages passed. The doors opened, and in a second he was by Kurt's side again, clasping his cold hand. The child was white and shaken, his cheeks splotched with red from fever and his eyes teary. "Hey, buddy, it's me," Burt said. "You all right?"
"He did just fine," the nurse said. "They have a room ready for him in pediatrics, so we're going to take him straight there." She smiled down at the little boy. "We're going to get you cleaned up. How does that sound?"
Kurt ignored her, staring wide-eyed up at Burt, his bleeding lips parted as he struggled to take a deep breath. Burt squeezed his shoulder, feeling the birdlike bones tugging against his skin. He couldn't think of anything to say.
They brought Kurt into the pediatric wing, a cheerful little section of the hospital with brightly painted walls, and into a small private room, the door closing behind them. A young nurse was already there getting the room ready, and she smiled as she saw Kurt. "Hi, I'm Alice," she said. "And you're Kurt?"
The child didn't respond, his arms and legs limp as Burt helped transfer to him the bed. The other nurse left, and Burt kept his hand on Kurt's knee as Alice adjusted the IV. "All right, we're going to get you cleaned up," she said cheerfully. "You'll feel better, I promise."
She stripped Kurt's filthy clothing with gentle hands, draping a sheet over him as he shivered. "You just lie still and rest," she told him. "Dad, do you want to help?"
Burt nodded and she placed a warm damp washcloth in his hand. She took charge, gently wiping Kurt's face clean, and Burt followed her lead. Kurt's skin was dry and hot to the touch, fragile enough that he felt like the tiny bones would break under his clumsy hands. It reminded him of those early days, those first few weeks when he would care for the sores and bruises covering Kurt's small body. He could still see faint off-color splotches on Kurt's skinny back, reminders of the injuries already inflicted on him.
The nurse bathed Kurt carefully and Burt tried his best to help. He looked a little better by the time they were done, still pale but cleaner and calmer. The nurse dressed him in an oversized hospital gown and tucked him under the clean sheets. It did nothing to calm his restless shivering.
"There, that's better," Alice said. She moved a chair beside Kurt's bed and nodded towards Burt. "Here, take a seat. His test results should be back soon and the doctor will be up in a minute to look in on him."
"Thanks," Burt said, sinking into the chair. He cupped Kurt's hand in both of his, smoothing his thumb across his knuckles. "Hey, kiddo. You doing any better?"
"Hurts," Kurt whispered.
"I know," Burt said. "You're going to feel better soon, though. I promise."
The young doctor from earlier walked into the room, a clipboard in his hands. "Mr. Hummel?" he said. "You're Kurt's guardian, correct?"
"Sort of," Burt said. "He was put in an emergency placement program back in March and he lived with me until his mother took him back a month ago. I got worried and went looking for him and found him…like this. Locked in a closet, probably for a couple of days."
"So the mother did this?" Dr. Tanner asked. Burt nodded. The man let out a low whistle. "Well, we've notified the authorities. They'll be here later to talk to you and to Kurt, once he's a little stronger." He turned a paper back on his clipboard. "Kurt is severely dehydrated, but the IV drip is helping and it should bring his levels back up. He's malnourished, but that was probably already in effect before he was abandoned." He pulled out a glossy x-ray from his papers. "He also has pneumonia, pretty advanced. We're going to keep him on low levels of oxygen and start him on antibiotics."
Burt took a deep breath and squeezed Kurt's hand, rubbing some warmth back into his brittle fingers. "But he's going to be okay, right?" he said.
"He'll recover," the doctor said. "He'll need a lot of care and attention, but he should recover just fine." He closed his papers and looked at Burt. "We need to get him set up with a nastro-gastic feeding tube. It's a very uncomfortable procedure, and we'll need to sedate him."
"Do you have to do it?" Burt asked. "He's been through enough."
"There's not really another choice," the doctor said. "His system is too weak to handle anything else, and if we don't give him the feeding tube, his condition will continue to deteriorate."
Burt sighed, still holding onto Kurt's hands. "Get it over with then, I guess," he said.
Kurt shifted in the bed. "Wanna go home," he murmured.
"Not yet, kiddo, not yet," Burt soothed, tucking a strand of hair back from Kurt's hot forehead. "Listen, bud, they're gonna give you a feeding tube. You're not strong enough to eat on your own, so they have to do this. I need you to lie still and be good, okay?"
Kurt froze. His eyes glazed over. "I try to be good," he whispered, his voice hollow. "I try. I really try."
Burt swallowed hard. He had the uneasy feeling that he'd said the wrong thing. "I know you try, Kurt, and you're always good," he said. "I just need you to be still so they can put the tube in. You can do that, right?"
The nurse came back into the room with the new equipment. Kurt moaned, clamping his mouth shut and turning his head away. "No, no, kiddo, it's gonna be all right," Burt said.
Alice picked up a syringe. "I'm going to put this in his IV," she told Burt quietly. "It'll make him sleepy."
"No," Kurt whimpered. "No, no, no." He let out a harsh shuddering cry, his body shifting restlessly. "No! No!"
"You can hold him if you'd like," Alice offered. "At least until he falls asleep."
Burt sat down on the edge of Kurt's bed and scooped him gently. "No, no, no," Kurt sobbed, thumping his fists weakly against Burt's arms. "No more. No more."
"I know," Burt said, adjusting the little boy against his chest. "I know, baby. You're just going to sleep for a little bit. I'll be right here. I'm gonna hold you."
The nurse carefully injected the contents of the syringe into the catheter. Burt held the exhausted child close, stroking the back of Kurt's neck gently. The drug began to take effect but Kurt fought it, struggling to keep his eyes open. He whimpered with the effort, fragile fingers curling into limp fists.
"Go to sleep, Kurt," Burt murmured. "It's all going to be all right." He kissed the child's hot forehead. "Just go to sleep."
He rocked him gently, watching the tight lines around Kurt's mouth slowly relax and wishing he could do more, make him hurt less. Slowly Kurt fell asleep, his head resting in the crook of Burt's elbow, his hand falling limply to the side. The nurse helped him set Kurt back down on the bed and tucked him in.
"You don't have to stay for the procedure," she said quietly. "It's going to be a little rough."
Burt forced himself to stand up. "Yeah, I should probably…I've got some phone calls to make," he said. He squeezed Kurt's limp little hand. "Just…tell me when it's done?"
"I will," Alice said, and Burt set Kurt's hand down with a soft pat.
He walked to the waiting room and pulled his cellphone out of his coat pocket. For a second he stared at it, wondering how on earth he was supposed to make this call, but his fingers dialed the number on autopilot.
It rang once, twice. "Hello, Carole Hudson."
"Carole, it's-" He had to stop and clear his throat. "It's me."
"Burt?" she said. He could hear the smile in her voice. "Did you get to see Kurt? How is he? Did you tell him I miss him?"
He rested his head in his hand, unable to speak.
"Burt, what's wrong? You're scaring me."
He dragged his hand over his face. "Carole," he said. "Something's happened to Kurt."
Sweet baby Jesus.
This chapter somehow came together pretty quickly- probably because this was the first part that I scripted in my head when I first got the idea for this story. It's also the scene from the original book that pretty much embedded itself in my brain the first time I read it.
(For those who have been asking- yes, this story is inspired by Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. Look at the author's note for the very first chapter. :P)
I reread the scene in the book and rewatched the scene in preparation to write this. So many tears. Ridiculous amounts of tears.
My sweet nurse-in-training beta, Katelyn, helped me through this chapter with medical critiques and lots of flailing. so thank you thank you thaaaank you. :) And also thanks to Zoey, who is awesome.
So now you know what happened to the poor baby. Next chapter...Burt Hummel raises hell. And also cuddles his baby. But mostly raises hell.
(This is a very jolly author's note for such a sad chapter, but I can't help it. I need to alleviate the weepiness.)