No Rhyme, No Reason
Summary: Far from town, far from help, lie a father and son, bleeding and broken. The night passes by both far too slowly and far too quickly.
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor claim to own, anything Glee related in what follows.
Note: My medical knowledge is limited to that which I have experienced myself – and having only ever had one or two of the injuries described, I apologize for any inconsistencies – this story was written fairly quickly, and with little time to spare. Hope you guys can read it and enjoy it regardless!
Burt sat on the side of an empty stretch of forest-lined road, in the middle of the night. Everything was so quiet that it felt seriously wrong. Scenes likes this shouldn't play out in such silence, not after screeching wheels and screams and ear shattering crashes of bone crushing metal. In the movies, on TV, there were always instant sirens and people demanding a list of injuries – maybe there'd be a doctor in the crowd or something. Not this. Not this. Please not this.
Burt glanced down at the boy in his arms. Kurt was blinking up at him from his position against Burt's chest, cradled tightly in his father's arms. Burt untangled one arm from the embrace to wipe some blood that was trickling from a wide gash on his son's temple.
"Dad, stop it. It'll be fine. They'll be here soon."
Burt had to choke down a laugh at the reassurance in Kurt's raspy tone – his voice should never be raspy, never. Only when he was just waking up in the morning, looking rumpled and all of five years old. Or when he was sick and pouty and whining just like that same five year old. Not because he could barely summon up the air required to speak. Not that. Never. Please.
"Dad." Kurt was trying to sit up but Burt wouldn't let him – he squeezed him a little tighter. It got a wince out of his son, but it also got him to lie still. "Okay, but please calm down. It isn't as bad as it looks. I don't feel . . . okay, I feel like I've been dumpster-tossed and then had that same dumpster rolled down a hill . . . the size of Everest . . . but other than that . . . and oh God, please don't tell me what my hair looks like right now."
Burt tried to devote all his concentration to that sweet voice that was gaining strength as it ranted, using it as a distraction. Kurt looked bad; the boy clearly couldn't feel the mangled mess that was his left leg and his shoulder was either dislocated or broken.
"Dumpster tossed and then rolled, huh? Did those jackasses ever do that to you?"
Kurt reached up with his good arm, returning the favour and wiping away blood from Burt's forehead. "No. They did used to put Artie in the portable washrooms and roll those. Once they did it to Artie and me together because I refused to leave him alone when they had him cornered."
Burt blinked. "Wait. Come again?"
Kurt let out a wheezy little sigh. "Oh, come on, you are not getting angry about this now. It's been a year."
"Just tell me – was that the day you came home with a sprained wrist and twisted ankle? And you told me you'd just been tripped in the halls and – Kurt, kiddo . . . How many times do I gotta ask you to be more upfront about these things?" Burt chose to ignore the part of his brain that was calling him a dumbass for scolding his son now. "Why the hell do you refuse to gimme names?"
It was frustrating, because Kurt didn't have that much of a problem with telling him about stuff like this (maybe he made it appear like less than it was, and maybe he left out painful details, but he was honest), but one thing his boy had never done was name his assailants.
"Because I don't want to be paying visits to you in a high-security facility for the rest of my life," Kurt offered with a grin that descended into a grimace as he pulled on one of the cuts on his face. Burt dabbed at a new trickle of red, and focused on the words.
"I'm not gonna kill them." Hurt them, maybe. "Report the little asswipes to your useless principal, maybe the cops, 'cause I'm sure putting a wheelchair kid in a porta potty demands legal action of some kind. I'm assumin' Artie's parents don't know about that, right?"
Kurt was silent for a bit, but his eyes remained open, tracking Burt's movements, and he knew that was a good sign. "I don't know for sure, but you're not going to tell them. Dad, you know how it is. You're suppose to take it – you're not suppose to like it, and you can spit and curse as much as you want, but when the authority figures come around, everyone smiles and pretends everything's kosher."
Burt did know how it was. He had been one of those idiot jocks in high school who thought it was cool, expected, to pick on the lesser beings. The freaks. The different ones. Like his son. And never did he hate himself for that more since the first time Kurt came home in tears because some boys had shoved him around and called him names that Burt could remember quite clearly falling from his own lips at that age. He'd wrapped his tiny son up in his arms and he'd made himself a promise: Kurt was his boy and he was going love every single damn thing about him, learn to love the things he was uncomfortable with and protect him from jerks like the one he used to be. That stupid kid-Burt who would've picked on a wonderful person like his son? Any remnants of that idiot were dead in that very moment, which included his ideas about what was right, wrong, and what made a man, a man.
He liked to think he made good on that promise, but there'd been some hiccups along the way. He was going to have many more years to keep adhering to his word. Damnit, he was.
He was jerked from his reverie when Kurt gave a hitching little breath, a soft, "Dad?" escaping between dry, cracked lips.
"Tell me a good story – tell me about some time when you got one-up on the pricks," Burt demanded abruptly. "I'm sure you've done it at least once, knowing you."
"Well, I have had many plans." Kurt coughed here and in the dim light from the moon, Burt couldn't tell if his boy was coughing up blood – indicating internal injuries. God. He renewed his concentration on that voice because once the grim-sounding hacking stopped, it came out again, although it was raspier. "Never had the ability to put them into action until I had back up. It was just after I joined the football team, and one of the junior jocks – some kid named Bernard – decided that he was going to start picking on Tina. Sort of like how Puck used to focus on me as the representation of all –"
"That Puck kid was one of your bullies?" Burt pictured the boy in his head – mohawk shaved off, hands shoved deep in his pockets as he called Burt 'sir'. "Seriously? Are we talking about the same kid that hangs around my garage now? The one that passes you tools and lets you insult him up and down?"
"You'll notice that he also flings back insults, though with lesser alacrity, and that he comes by to hang around with Finn just as much." Kurt smiled. "Puck's an ass, dad. He's the one that got Quinn pregnant. Mind you, he's less of an ass now."
"I knew about Quinn. I did, but . . ."
But he couldn't reconcile that with the teen who hung around Kurt and Finn. He was rough around the edges, but Puckerman tried to be polite and was always respectful to him.
"Duh, dad." Burt hadn't realized he'd said any of that out loud. "You scare the crap out of most of the guys in town – Puck's living in fear of the day when you finally . . ." Kurt paused to catch his breath, eyes fluttering a bit. Burt felt a stab of fear but Kurt pushed himself awake. "When . . . when you finally bust a cap in his ass." He giggled a little there, and Burt had to smile weakly.
"So, then tell about getting one over that Bernard ass."
Kurt nodded, and Burt adjusted his hold on him – why did it feel like Kurt kept escaping his grasp?
"Okay, well, this particular jock's modus operandi was a slushie combined with a locker shove or trip or whatever. Which is what set us off in the first place – you do not hit girls, I don't care who the hell you are."
Kurt said this with such vehemence despite everything, that Burt's smile was strong this time – he was the one who'd hammered that lesson home, after Kurt had pushed a younger cousin down for stealing his GI Joe (that had been dressed in a Ken doll suit, with its tiny nails painted, Burt remembered fondly).
"So, we faked him out and . . ."
Kurt could feel Bernard approaching and made sure that everyone was in place with a quick text.
Kurt had to smile to himself. Like clockwork, this jerk. God, it was almost embarrassing. He sort of wanted to point the poor idiot in Puck's direction – whatever other forms of idiocy the mohawked-jock was plagued with, at least he had an idea of the element of surprise. With the exception of dumpster-tosses, but those were an institution of this school, and thus scheduled and observed ritualistically.
"Chang, c'mon you blood-sucking freak, turn around and lemme give you something new and better to suck on!"
Kurt's smile fell and he felt his mouth tighten into a line. Bastard. Tina hadn't mentioned that he was getting this bad with the insults. Well, no matter, Kurt would deal with that personally.
He waited until he could practically feel the boy's body heat, and whipped around, grinning. "I didn't know you rolled my way, Bernie."
The look on the jock's face was so priceless that Kurt was mourning the lack of camera. Well, that could come later if the jerk didn't back down.
"What the – the – Hummel!"
Kurt yanked off the wig – it had been getting hot and itchy. He tossed his damp bangs, batting his eyelashes. "Oh, don't pretend you didn't know!"
The moron kept right on stuttering all over the place, and that's when Artie and Mercedes struck. Mercedes swung around a corner, a slushie in each hand, nailing the jock with one right after the other. Artie had two more in his lap, one of which he passed to Kurt as he came to a stop. Artie visibly took great pleasure in drenching the jock, but Kurt waited until Bernard had managed to wipe most of the sticky mixture out of his eyes.
Kurt took off the kilt one-handed, leaving him standing in black jeans, the tightest he owned, his scariest combat boots, black lacy mesh gloves that matched with his lacy top, and a feminine fitted blazer. It wasn't something he would typically wear, but he felt pretty badass in it.
Once Bernard was focused on him, Kurt strutted right up to the jock and said, silkily, "You are going to leave Tina Cohen-Chang alone. You will not look at her, talk to her, or so much as breathe in her direction. Re-direct your attention to jerking off at home alone. Find some other outlet for your repressed male aggression that isn't the harassment or assault of other students, because if I find you victimizing another person at this school, I will give you something new to suck on - like time in juvenile detention with boys much bigger and scarier than you."
And with that, he grabbed the other boy's belt, yanked on the baggy pants and dumped that entire jumbo slushie down his shorts.
The shriek echoed down the empty hallway, in the deserted corner of the school where Tina had her locker. They had accomplished their mission and it was now time to bolt. Which Bernard did first, almost crying in pain and it was glorious. They headed out a side door and met Tina by the bleachers. She was chewing on her purple-lipstick coated bottom lip, and when Mercedes, Artie and Kurt strolled up, she instantly burst out with, "You guys are okay! You –"
"We taught that boy some manners," Mercedes said proudly. "You shoulda seen Kurt – not only was it damn impressive, it was damn hot!"
Kurt felt himself blushing, but Tina just gave Kurt a teasing up-and-down look, which did nothing to alleviate the burning in his cheeks. "I b-b-b-bet. Hey, you know, I have this d-dark blue corset you c-c-c-could totally rock!"
Kurt pursed his lips. That could be fun, and he definitely had shoes that would be appropriate.
Tina hugged each of them in turn. "I w-w-wish I could have s-s-seen it."
"Well, I do have some of it on my camera phone," Artie put in, blushing as Tina let him go, then grinning evilly. "In case Bernie decides to try again. I almost want him to."
They all burst out laughing, riding the high of a job well done.
Burt was chuckling, basking in Kurt's proud smile. "Oh wow. Why don't you deal with all the jackasses that way?"
"Because Bernard was a small fry – an idiot, with no back-up and with his penchant for picking on girls, not likely to start something when outnumbered or confronted with another guy – whether or not said guy was dressed like a girl."
Burt enjoyed the imagery of Kurt teaching that little ass a lesson. And then he noticed Kurt going quiet.
"Kurt! Kurt! Wake up, kiddo!" Burt tried to keep the panic out of his words, but it was impossible.
Kurt's eyelashes flickered before his eyes opened again. "Sorry, dad – just tired."
Burt swallowed and had to wait before he could speak without a lump in his throat. "So, I guess you don't need me to head down there. You can take care of yourself."
"Been doing that for a while, dad," Kurt pointed out, his eyes still heavy, only half open. Burt felt a pang at the truth in that statement because Kurt had always been an independent little thing, and sometimes Burt took for granted that his son could deal with things on his own, when he shouldn't have to. "But yeah. I am pretty capable. And Finn and the other guys do a good job of keeping most of the assholes away now. I mean, I think most of them are backing off just because they're confused. The . . . very foundations of their universe have been shaken . . . Jocks joining Glee club? And liking it! . . . And being friends with geeks! What to do! Is the . . . apocalypse nigh?"
Kurt was pausing to breathe more often. Burt's guilt at keeping Kurt talking was increasing, but he needed to hear his son speak. He needed it; otherwise he would go insane with his boy's fragile, bleeding body in his arms.
"Kurt, tell me something about Cheerios – you don't really give me details about what goes on in your practices and stuff, like you do with Glee club. Tell me something about those girls you hang with – the ones in Glee with you, that blonde you dated and the scary brunette."
He was rambling and desperate, and he knew that Kurt was aware of it, because he was shooting him concerned looks with those hazy eyes. Burt could not believe how unaware his son was of his own injuries. It was beyond crazy and it couldn't be a good sign. That operator at the end of his 911 call had said he and Kurt were far out from town, and some other excuses Burt hadn't really been paying attention to, but that she could get an ambulance there in ten minutes. It had to have been more than ten minutes and his boy was bleeding out on Burt's lap and he couldn't do a damn thing about it.
"Oh . . . okay. Um. Just for the record, I want to establish that I don't like girls."
This jerked Burt out of his steadily mounting rage and panic. He raised his eyebrows at his son, drily saying, "Yeah, I think I get that by now."
"Right, but just so you understand that I in no way enjoyed certain parts of this story. See, a while back, the guys on the Cheerios were kinda annoyed with some of our latest routines . . ."
"Excuse me?" Kurt stared at Todd, a black-haired Cheerio with a highly irritated look on his face.
The taller (though not by much and Kurt absolutely loved that he was finally growing into his massive feet) boy jabbed Kurt's chest. "You heard me. We want to go back to the old routines. Before you came along with your songs and ruined things for the rest of us."
There was enthusiastic agreement coming from the other male Cheerios.
"Um, I'm sorry, but I fail to see how your occasional omission from routines is my fault."
"It's because," this time it was Lenny, a blond with wide brown eyes, who spoke up, "Coach Sylvester figures you're the safer choice – you're going to replace us all. She's been looking for the solution to keep us away from the girls and still have a kick-ass team, and you're it! Ever since that stupid pep rally with you and Jones taking lead, she's been phasing us out!"
Kurt blinked. "Guys, you've officially lost me."
Todd sighed. "It goes like this. Sylvester's head cheerleader gets preggo. She goes postal. And then Quinn goes to be a happy member of the gleeks, and Sylvester now hates something else as much as she hates Glee club. Us. Or, rather, our sperm and our sexuality."
Kurt was pretty sure that this was a conversation he did not want to be having. But he had to ask, "So, I'm guessing the Coach said as much?"
Lenny groaned. "Man, don't even start with that! She gave us this whole lecture about how we gotta stay away from the girls, and suddenly the routines involve a hell of a lot less touching and stuff. And now, more singing and barely any touching at all! And I know you don't care, Hummel, but a lot of us joined Cheerios because we could get gropes in during practise!"
Kurt put a hand to his own forehead, exhaling slowly. It was all clear to him now.
"You want me to convince Coach Sylvester to let you in on the choreography more – and go back to some good old-fashioned tossing, catching, and general free-for-all when it comes to sneaking your hands up skirts?"
There were grins and vehement nodding at this.
"Start with convincing Santana – Coach hasn't exactly made her the new head, but we're pretty sure that's how it's going to go. Now, they should still be in the locker room, so –"
"Hold on a second!" Kurt was being pushed and dragged towards the girls' locker room. "Still a guy here – not allowed in there. Can't this wait –"
"Please, you use the girls bathroom all the time!" came a call from the back of the group.
"That's to avoid getting swirleed in the guy's room!" Kurt called back, trying to wrestle his way out of their grip. "C'mon guys –"
"Get to it, Kurt!" Todd held open the door. "Report back to us when you're through!"
And Kurt was unceremoniously tossed into the girls' locker room.
There was some screeching and some cussing, but once they realized who it was, most of the Cheerios just stared at him with raised eyebrows and continued about their business.
Kurt, for his part, was learning far more about the female form than he ever wished to. Had he ever wished to. Which he most certainly had not. He was sure the boys waiting on the other side of the door would kill to have the view Kurt was currently subject to. There were breasts and skin and lots of hair tossing and towels being dropped.
It was Santana who approached him first. She was, thankfully, fully clothed in jeans and a T-shirt, hair loose around her shoulders. "What the hell are you doing in here, Hummel? I thought the guys were cool with you in their locker room."
"They are," Kurt said, trying to focus on Santana and not on Chloe Saunders, who was shooting him teasing winks from over by the showers. She was naked. And jiggling. And Kurt wanted to be out of there, like, now.
"So, what's the deal?" Santana growled, crossing her arms.
"Apparently, I am their messenger boy and the message is urgent enough to inflict this trauma upon me." Kurt sighed. "They want back into the routines. And I mean all the way in, not the occasional bout and then back to the bench."
Santana actually smiled, something that made her seem less frightening, but Kurt knew better. "Huh, I figured they were getting frustrated, but . . . yeah, I get that. But what do they expect me to do about it? Coach Sylvester is on a rampage, and I'm not stupid enough to put myself in the line of fire."
Kurt shrugged. "Well, it is rather unusual for a cheerleading squad to compete without their male cheerleaders assisting in lifts and tosses. You could appeal to her competitive nature. My singing alone can't win Nationals."
Santana thought about it for a moment before shaking her head. "No. She's probably already considered that herself – why do you think she's given you that fourteen minute French solo? She's sure she can win without too much fondling going on – Quinn's baby drama has made her anti-man-Cheerio. Even though most of us go more for the football and baseball jocks. Sometimes soccer."
Kurt considered this as well, before giving Santana a slow smile. "Well, why don't you show her that my brilliant singing as well as a return to kick-ass Cheerio's routines of the past, will not just give us a good chance at Nationals, but cinch it for us?"
Santana already had both eyebrows raised. "You mean choreograph our own routine with the guys and prove to her it can be done with no babies resulting? . . . Fine, Hummel, but I get to choose the song."
Kurt already thought of Santana as the HBIC, so he had no problem with her leading the way. "Sure. But allow me to assist in the choreography. And let me get out of here."
Santana laughed at this, waving him out with a somewhat imperial gesture. "Dismissed, Hummel."
Kurt gratefully turned around to bolt like a bat out of hell, and that's when he found himself wrapped up tightly in a pair of damp arms and a tongue shoved messily into his mouth. It was a girl tongue – and he was ashamed to say he recognized it. He disentangled himself from the limbs wrapped around him rather easily, but the mouth on his was more difficult – and this was all done to a background of squeals and laughter. When Kurt finally managed to push the girl away, he was left with a towel clad Brittany pouting at him.
"Brittany, we've talked about this!"
She kept right on pouting. "But I thought you coming in here to perv on the girls meant you were straight again."
Kurt rubbed at his forehead. He realized this was probably karma-type retribution for going butch for a week and using the girl in front of him (who didn't mind being used, but that wasn't the point).
"I never was straight. Brittany, please, you have plenty of guys and girls eager to have at you – go jump them. I, for one, am deeply honoured to be your friend and I prefer we stay that way."
Brittany grinned happily at that. "Friends like me and Santana!"
Kurt blinked and he could hear Santana trying to hide a laugh with a cough.
"No, friends like . . . me and you. Kurt and Brittany, with no making out. Okay?"
"Okay," she said, disappointed again. But her sadness lasted for all of a second as she perked up, shooting him a hopeful look. "But can I still get facials? And manicures?"
"Always," Kurt promised with a soft smile.
It was a much more cheerful Brittany that parted from him and he was finally allowed to escape. Once he passed through the door, a chorus of 'So!' and 'What'd she say!' greeted him. He crossed his arms. "Just for the record, if you ever force me to endure something like that again, I will make sure that you never get a taste of any female cheerleader for the rest of your life at McKinley High."
There was some groaning, a few 'we swear!'s, and Kurt took pity on the rather pathetic sight before him. "Right. Santana and I are going to take care of it. Now go away – I am in desperate need of a shower after that."
Kurt's voice faded and Burt shook him slightly. "Kurt. C'mon kiddo, I wanna know what happened next."
"Can I have a nap first? I hate it when I have dark circles under my eyes," Kurt complained groggily.
"No dark circles," Burt whispered, leaning in closer to speak into Kurt's ear. "You look just fine. I promise. Now, what happened next, Kurt? C'mon buddy." He gave Kurt another little shake as those blue eyes closed. Burt felt tears pricking at the corners of his own, but he refused to let them fall. That would be like admitting Kurt wasn't going to make it out of this. But he was – there was no way Burt would allow anything less. He already had done everything the operator had asked of him, everything he could without the paramedics there. And where the fuck were they?
" 'Kay, but I really need to sleep, after." Kurt burrowed his head further into Burt's chest – something he hadn't done since he was about ten, and if that didn't make the burning at the corners of Burt's eyes stronger . . .
"So, Santana chose some Elvis – that JXL remix of A Little Less Conversation. And I told her that I wasn't very good at that kind of singing . . . but she just looked at me . . . was all: 'Just do what you did . . . in 4 Minutes. I can promise ya that's all you need'. I don't . . . think much of my lower register . . . the girls keep saying it's sexy. Whatever."
"Just trust me, Hummel – like we've rehearsed!" Santana hissed as they all marched into the gym a couple of weeks later, Coach Sylvester tapping her foot impatiently and glaring at all the boys as they didn't take their oft-used place on the bleachers.
"Lopez, front and centre," the woman barked into her megaphone.
Santana held her head high and strode over. "Yes, Coach Sylvester?"
Sue Sylvester did not lower her megaphone during Cheerio's practise, even if the Cheerio she was speaking to was less than a foot away. "Clearly, you all have something to show me. Or say. You may do so, but you have only ten seconds to engage my attention, starting five seconds ago!"
Santana turned to screech to the sound crew. "Now!"
The music kicked in and they all launched into action. The flips were spectacular and the tosses were shocking in the height they achieved – and Kurt slid and danced his way through all the coordinated acrobatic chaos, cheerleaders missing him by a hair's breadth at times. When Coach Sylvester didn't demand that they stop after the first few seconds, they only picked up the pace, taking the moments of build-up in the song to set-up some of the most frightening moves Kurt had ever seen. He kept right on singing (the girls joining in as back-up here and there) as if he was performing to a crowd of thousands instead of just the one terrifying woman glaring at them all.
Their big finale was a cascade of carefully arranged tosses that ended in flips and roundoffs, in perfect time to the beat and the final vocal note, followed closely by the last moment of music. It was magical, and when they finished, it was hard to restrain their glee at having managed it. They all waited, trying to keep their exhausted panting to a minimum as Coach Sylvester surveyed them all, megaphone clenched tightly in one hand.
It was raised, ever so slowly and deliberately. "Boys. I want you to stay put. You've been out of practise too long. How can you expect to take on some of those tosses you just sloppily performed at Nationals? And we have another pep rally coming up, and those lifts need work before then! Girls, and Lady Face, take a break while I whip these morons into shape."
"That's it?" Burt wondered. "That's all it took to change that woman's mind?"
Kurt managed convey a shrug with a tilt of his head. "She probably already knew it herself – just didn't want to have to admit it. We sort of helped her along. And . . . I could be made head cheerleader next year – but don't mention anything to 'Cedes, it isn't set in stone . . . Coach only said 'You, Lady Face, might have the makings of a great captain – my right hand, if you will. And you know what they say: 'Better to be at the right hand of Sue Sylvester than in her path.' Keep doing what you're doing and I might consider it – pear hips or not.' "
"'Pear Hips'?" Burt raised an eyebrow.
Kurt half-smiled. "Don't worry, I have no false illusions about my body. And just between you and me – I don't follow any of the Cheerio's diets since my first stupid and failed attempt at them. I'm on my own fitness regimen."
Burt groaned. "Don't I know it. I'll never forget that time I accidentally ate one of your left over 'turkey' sandwiches – who the hell came up with tofu-turkey? God, turkey is already a flavourless bird –"
"Hey, it's a perfectly healthy . . . alternative . . . one you may need soon, considering . . . how much crap you're . . . clogging your arteries with." Kurt was panting by the end of that, beads of sweat mixing with streaks of blood and grime.
Burt wiped at his son's forehead, mindful of the cuts. "Kurt? Tell me what's wrong, kiddo?"
"It . . . it hurts." A few tears escaped between tightly shut lids. "Dad . . . I . . . it hurts, everywhere, and I . . . God, I'm sorry, I've been trying to . . . but it's starting to hurt so bad . . ."
Burt heard a choked sound escape from between his own two lips, and he realized that Kurt had been in pain this whole time. Maybe he was feeling it more now, or maybe it had been full blast since the moment their truck flipped over that log, dropped from the back of lumber truck that didn't even slow down – that lousy son of a bitch – as they rolled and crashed into the trees on the side of the road.
Burt had been knocked out cold, and he had woken up to his son's frantic pleas. And it had been going so damn perfect before this . . .
"Dad, please – I can't take much more of this!" Kurt moaned, hands pressed to either side of his head.
Burt just turned the music up louder, singing along to Mellencamp as if he was in the front row of a concert. Kurt was shooting him pained looks, and Burt only laughed. "C'mon, Kurt. You can't tell me don't like it, even just a little!"
Kurt huffed. "Are you kidding? Dad, I love you, but this – this isn't worth it. Turn it down or I swear I'm going to open the door right now and take my chances hitchhiking home!"
Burt just hummed, pretending not to hear his son's continued bitching. Their fishing day had gone pretty damn well. Despite Kurt's reservations about baiting hooks, they'd had a great time. Despite the fact that Kurt's prattle had probably scared away most of the fish, Burt had relaxed and had fun just the same – and they had managed to catch a few big ones to fry up later. It had been a good day.
"I mean, I'm sure someone will be willing to pick me up! I'm not a scary, orange-jumpsuited hitchhiker – I look more like a Disney character than anything else!"
Burt had to grin to himself at that one. Kurt kept right on with his rant, clearly audible over the blaring music.
"Hm, they'll probably be some guy, around your age, coming back from his own fishing/camping thing. You know, older, creepy man, sees a slender young thing, all alone on the side of the road –"
Burt switched off the music quickly, levelling his son with a glare. "That was low. And please, God, never talk like that again."
Kurt grinned somewhat evilly. "I'm sorry, dad, but really, desperate times, desperate measures. And you do not have to worry your baseball-capped head about that ever happening. Like, ever."
"Damn straight," Burt grumbled to himself. "You just tell me if any pervert ever looks at you that way – they won't be able to find the body. Not even the pieces."
Kurt's teasing grin softened into a smile. "Are those the words you're going to use on my first boyfriend too? Let me know now so I can warn the poor guy ahead of time."
Burt was turning to tell Kurt that his first boyfriend was going to go through an interrogation that would make the ones on NYPD Blue look like afternoon tea, when it happened.
They had been catching up to a truck with huge logs in the back – and the guy had clearly been going way too fast. Something snapped, cracking loudly into the night – and a log went flying at them faster than Burt could curse and swerve out of the way.
He wasn't sure how the thing hit the ground and flipped them – he was only aware of gravity abandoning them, and then screwing them over as the world spun crazily around him, whipping him one way and then another. The sound was deafening and everything went black as he panicked in his mind – Kurt, Kurt, Kurt.
And it was the sound of, "Dad, dad, dad!" which brought him back to the world.
He blinked away his blurry vision and tried to zero in on his son. The truck was tilted, and he thought maybe they were braced against a tree or something – his side was closer to the ground. Kurt's side was mashed up against the tree.
When he finally managed to bring Kurt into focus, the boy let loose a wet gasp, smiling through streaks of crimson. "Oh God. Oh thank you God. I thought you were . . . Dad, are you okay?"
Burt's head was still whirling but he managed to give himself a mental once over – other than a headache to end all headaches, and general aching everywhere – he felt okay. Intact. His son – it was his son he was frantic about. "Kurt, Kurt, tell me – what's hurting?"
Burt was fumbling with his seatbelt, glass bits hitting the dash and floor as he moved, crunching beneath his feet. Kurt blinked a couple of times, before raising a shaking hand to brush his hair from his forehead – revealing a deep gash. Burt freed himself from his restraints, pushing the airbag out of his way as he reached for his kid. Kurt was trying to undo his own seatbelt, but hissed as one arm wouldn't cooperate.
"I think . . . I think something's wrong with my shoulder – it's dislocated, maybe. And . . . my leg. My leg hurts."
Burt grabbed Kurt's hand, squeezing tightly. "Okay. Okay. Anything else?"
"My . . . head, my chest – probably from the seatbelt. And . . . I don't know what else." Kurt turned his head to face his father, biting his lip. "Dad, we both might have concussions. My phone . . . have to call –"
Burt already was searching around Kurt's feet for his messenger bag, and when he managed to pull it out in a shower of yet more glass, he tried to restrain a shocked gasp – it was covered in streaks of blood. Kurt's leg must be . . He pushed the thought away, digging around for the phone.
"Dad – please, can we get out of here? It . . . I want to lie down, or something, this position . . ." Kurt winced as he spoke.
Burt obeyed his son instantly, opening the door behind him easily, grateful that they were at least somewhat upright. He tossed the bag out onto the grass. Kurt slid himself across the divide between seats, gasping in pain, a few tears running down his cheeks. Burt ignored the flare of pain that seemed to be coming from his entire body as he grit his teeth, getting his arms around his boy. He carefully manoeuvred them out of the beat-up truck.
When they both lay, breathing hard, on the grass, Burt reached for Kurt, pulling him into his lap as he grabbed for the bag with his other hand. He found Kurt's phone tucked into a side pocket, and it was blessedly undamaged. He called an ambulance right away, listening with rapt attention as the operator told him exactly what to do with his son.
After wasting precious minutes figuring out exactly where they were, she told him that they were far – that there was some stupid issue with the highway besides. Burt didn't listen to that bit, only the part where she said hold on – 'hold on for ten minutes and we'll get someone out to you'.
And Burt had hung up because Kurt was calling for him, demanding his attention. His little boy, bleeding and hurting, and oh God, why was it so peaceful and quiet around them . . .
"Shh, Kurt, it'll be okay – help is coming, kiddo, just hold on." Burt had been whispering this over and over as the accident flashed before his eyes again.
Kurt made a sound – it was near silent, but it was so agonized that Burt felt a tear escape from his eye at last, and he hated himself for it.
"I think I'm outta stories, dad," Kurt mumbled, not even trying to keep his eyes open. They remained at half-mast, clouded.
Burt shook his head. "No, what about . . . you never told me what the hell you and that Puckerman kid were up to last time he came by the garage. Remember, he had you on his back –"
"Dad," Kurt groaned, and this time it wasn't a sound of pain – just humiliation. Hope crackled to life in Burt's chest as Kurt opened his eyes a little further. "C'mon – I already explained it was a dance move for Glee – Puck was paired up with Rachel and she was refusing to teach him since he stole one of her bras to . . . give to Jewfro as payment for . . . never mind. Point being, I offered to help him out . . . 'Cause I'm nice like that."
"Right – what did he have to do?"
"Fine. He let me pick his clothes for a week. But it . . . was for the greater good. God, it's bad enough that Rachel is . . . but Puck . . ." Kurt faded out there, but before Burt could shake him back, he regained his strength all on his own. "Anyways, please. It was a one time thing."
"I just . . . I don't trust Puck all that much, nice kid or not, and I really don't want you crushing on another . . . guy, who can't . . . return that feeling."
"Seriously?" Kurt tried to raise an eyebrow, but couldn't. "You want to have this conversation now?"
Better now than never, Burt's thoughts informed him, traitorously and horribly truthful.
"I don't have a crush on Puck," Kurt continued unprompted. Burt was mildly relieved by that. "It's just that . . . he treats me like one of the guys, and makes fun of me for everything – including my sexuality, but he doesn't use certain . . . words anymore . . . And I throw his manwhore ways back at him and . . . I never knew I could be like that . . . with a guy-guy. It's always been either hopeless crushes or bullying for me . . . Artie's great and one of my best friends, but he's careful not to touch on certain topics, and so is Finn . . . Puck just lets it all fly, and I throw it back in his face . . . it's rather awesome."
"Hey, don't forget our guy-guy fishing trip," Burt put in, twisting an arm around so he could stroke his son's hair. "And our garage time. Those are guy things, I guess, if you wanna go by stereotypes. You're a guy, Kurt. You can do guy things, as much as you want to."
Burt was sorry if he ever let his son think otherwise, but sometimes Kurt was so different that Burt forgot about the parts of his personality that were just like his own – the things they had in common.
"Does this include crushing beer cans on my forehead . . . and yelling out . . . vaguely sexual compliments to pretty girls . . . or I guess boys," Kurt mused.
Burt shook his head. "That's not a guy thing – that's a douchebag thing."
Kurt let out something that sounded like a chuckle and Burt looked out across the darkness . . . Wait, were those . . . There were red lights flickering in the distance. Considering that there wasn't any light for miles but that provided by the moon, Burt couldn't imagine being wrong. Please, don't let me be wrong. But the thing was, even if he was right, the lights were faint enough to still be far, far away. Too damn far.
"So, you . . . satisfied, dad? . . . No crush on Puck," Kurt murmured.
Burt stared down at him, and at first he thought Kurt was trembling, but then he noticed the tremors were coming from his own arms. He dismissed that in favour of trying to pull Kurt even closer, grateful that it was at least a warm night.
"We need to talk more," he said quietly.
"We do talk, dad."
"Yeah, but we need to do it more. And you need to stop holding back on stuff just 'cause you think it'll make me angry, or upset me. I'm pretty sure telling me you were gay was the biggest secret in your arsenal, even though I already knew it – nothing else could top that."
"Are we back . . . on the naming the bullies thing? I already told you –" Kurt stopped there, eyes going wide, mouth gaping.
"What, what!" Burt's heart was in his throat, fighting for room next to his stomach as Kurt wheezed.
"Don't know," was the gasped out response.
"C'mon, Kurt, stay with me . . . it's my turn to tell a story now, c'mon," Burt begged, and Kurt's battle to breathe tore at him – made him want to breathe for him, give him his lungs, whatever it took. Eventually, his son started taking in full breaths of air, but they rattled and were uneven. Kurt's hands, even the one belonging to his bad arm, were clenching at his shirt, knuckles prominent as they pulled.
"What . . . what story?" Kurt breathed out shakily.
Burt frantically went through his memories, his mind calling up images of a young Kurt, looking not much different than sixteen year old Kurt, other than smaller and with a rounder face. And those eyes, seemingly larger and clearer.
"How about when you were ten, when you tried to hide in the garage for the entire night – you were mad at me –"
"You threw out . . . my glitter sneakers – I was more than mad. I was furious . . . I decorated them myself."
"Right," Burt encouraged. "But they were about a size too small and you had blisters from squeezin' your giant feet into 'em."
"Not giant," Kurt countered.
"Yes, and they haven't stopped growing since."
"Shut up . . . it's your fault . . . your feet are . . . monstrous."
Burt smirked. "Yeah? Well, they're only a half size bigger than yours, kiddo."
"Pfft . . . you said I could stay in the garage all night . . . and I did. All by myself."
"Are you kidding?" Burt actually managed a chuckle, dry and weak though it was. "All right, clearly I have the better memory – this is how it went . . ."
"Kurt? Kurt, where are you?"
Burt flicked on the lights, searching Hummel's Tire and Lube for his tiny ten year old son. The boy had run out of the house at around seven, just after dinner, after Burt informed him that the reason why he couldn't find his favourite sneakers was because Burt had put them in a bag for Goodwill, and they were already on their way to another little boy (or girl) with feet smaller than Kurt's.
Kurt was stunned by this news, and had instantly demanded that his father get them back. Which, of course, Burt had said no to.
And then his son had promptly whipped around and stormed right out of the house. Burt knew his kid well – he was stubborn, like his old man and his mother, combined, but he would never defy his father for long. He figured following the kid would just give him something to work with, and he was probably sitting on the front porch, sulking, like he sometimes did when he was upset.
After about an hour of this, Burt was fed up. He marched out onto the porch, ready to tell the boy that under no circumstance was this kind of tantrum going to be permitted.
But Kurt had not been on the porch. Or in the backyard, or hiding out in the car.
Burt was about to panic when the phone rang.
He picked it up, praying it was Leo or Dan, his other mechanics and closest friends, telling him that Kurt had shown up on their doorsteps. His prayers were answered in an unexpected way.
"Daddy? I'm at the garage. And I'm not coming home – so don't come get me!"
And Kurt hung up. Burt stared at the receiver incredulously.
Kurt had walked all the way to the garage, by himself, and was now informing his father to stay away. That damn independent streak of his was going to be the death of him. Burt drove over to the garage, getting there in less than twenty minutes. And that was where he was now, calling for his son, who could most likely hear him, but was refusing to answer, the headstrong little brat.
"Kurt! You tell me where you are right now, or so help me, I'll go after the heels next!"
"No, dad, you promised!"
That had come from somewhere above Burt, and he looked up to see one of his customers' cars lifted high, his son's face peering down at him, angry and flushed.
"Kurt! What the hell have I told you about working these machines with no one around!"
Kurt stuck out his tongue. "I can do it by myself now. And I'm still mad at you!"
Burt wanted to say 'Fine! Me too!' but that would just be incredibly ten-year old of him, and he needed to be the grown up here.
"All right, son, I probably should've asked you first before I tossed out your shoes, but Kurt, they're way too small for you. Your feet must hurt when you wear them."
There was a disdainful sniff from above as Kurt disappeared from view. "Not really. I could've worn them for a while longer."
"Yeah, and then you'd look like one of those Chinese chicks from way back when they used to do foot bindings," Burt reasoned, using a random fact that Kurt himself had informed him of, all wide-eyed and fascinated.
His son did not appreciate having his own words thrown back at him, it seemed, because all he did was scoff. "No way. And you shouldn't have done it without telling me!"
"Okay, what's got you more mad here – the fact that I did it, or that I did it without askin'?"
" . . . Both. Leave me alone."
Burt sighed, scrubbing at his face. "Kurt, you can't stay here forever."
"Maybe not. But go away."
Burt rolled his eyes. He could just lower the car himself and drag his kid home, but he'd learned already that actions like that only made Kurt more certain of his position – determined to play the victim.
"Fine, you wanna be stubborn – I'll leave you alone. See ya in the morning, kiddo."
He waited a minute or so, and when Kurt made absolutely no sound in reply, he turned, walked out the door, and slammed it shut behind him.
He gave it a few minutes, walking back to his car to make sure it was locked and staring up at the sky, wondering if his wife would have handled this any better than he was, before returning to the garage. As stealthily as he could, he opened the door silently and crept in.
Kurt was still up in the car, and Burt could hear him moving about restlessly. God, this boy of his was something else.
He could be patient. He sat down on the ground, back against the door, not willing to go further into the shop and alert his son to his presence. He waited. And waited. Kurt made hardly a sound except for the odd shuffle against leather seats, or the rustling of clothes. Burt kept right on waiting until there was nothing but complete and utter silence.
That's when he stood up, hearing his bones creak and crack, protesting the hour-long stay on the hard ground. He walked over to the car Kurt was hiding in, staring up at it. "Kurt?"
No reply. Good. Burt dug around his tool area, grabbing the spare controller, and began lowering the car back to the ground, as slowly as he could.
As soon as the car was eye level he could clearly see, through an open window, Kurt curled up in the front seat. He was sound asleep, and if his kid was anything, besides annoyingly stubborn and independent, it was a heavy sleeper. That he definitely got from Burt – Kurt's mom had been one of those people who would wake up if a neighbour's door slammed three houses down or if a floorboard creaked ever so slightly.
That had come in handy after Kurt was born – Kurt was one of the quietest babies ever. Burt didn't think too hard about the meaning behind things, but he knew all about irony – and considering the endless jabbering and the powerful set of lungs on his kid now, those near silent cries that Kurt used to give, and the worry he and his wife had that Kurt had lung problems . . . the very definition of ironic.
He smiled to himself, and once the car was resting comfortably on the floor, he walked over, opening the door, and carefully manoeuvred his son out, cradling him against his chest. He took a moment to marvel, for probably the hundredth, if not thousandth time, how small Kurt was. And how big his feet are, Burt thought to himself, amused. Hopefully that was an indicator of how tall his boy would be. And . . . hopefully that growth spurt was a ways off. Burt wasn't quite ready to surrender the ability to carry his son like he was still a baby.
Kurt made a sleepy noise and burrowed his head further into his father's chest, hands coming up to loosely grip his flannel shirt. Burt unexpectedly had trouble swallowing. He shook it off, marching out towards the car, putting Kurt in back gently, clicking the seatbelt around him.
Once he got home, Kurt was again in his arms, and being taken to his bedroom, a small room next to Burt's. Once he was in his bed, Burt stripped him down to his shorts and T-shirt, and covered him up to his chin.
He stared at Kurt for a while. The boy scrunched up his face, as if he could feel his father's gaze. Burt snorted – quietly – and turned to head to his own bed.
The next morning, Kurt arrived rumpled and contrite to the breakfast table.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, legs kicking as he ate his cereal.
Burt accepted the apology with a nod, and gave his son a grin. "Didn't expect you to stick out the night in the garage, kiddo. I'm sorta impressed."
Kurt looked up from beneath brown bangs, a smile playing about his face – a bit of disbelief in there too. "I did, didn't I? When did you come and get me?"
Burt waved it off. "Doesn't matter. So, you get that I had to give away those shoes, right? And that I'm sorry about not asking first, but you were wrong to pitch a fit like that?"
Kurt nodded, taking another bite of cereal. "Yes, daddy."
"Good. Then we're going shopping for new shoes today."
His son perked up, a wide grin on his face. "Really? That's so cool, dad – do you think I could get some new loafers too? Oh, and there's these moccasins with –"
Burt held up a hand. "One pair. A replacement pair of running shoes."
Kurt pouted, looking like Burt had just crushed his soul, which was part of the reason why, of course, Kurt ended up getting two pairs of shoes. But only part of the reason.
His son had been eying a pair of sneakers that had blue, green and pink patterns along the side, and sparkling laces. Burt had winced at the sight of them . . . and Kurt chose a pair of red and black sneakers instead. Whether or not he did it because he saw the look on his father's face, Burt didn't know. But he felt guilty for possibly making Kurt choose something he maybe didn't like as much, which is why he allowed him another pair. Kurt immediately grabbed some shiny black dress shoes – and Burt approved them. But he kept glancing at the . . . well, girly runners, and Burt's stomach was twisting. He knew his son damn well – the stubbornness, the independence, the fact that he was likely . . . that Kurt wasn't like most boys.
"Oh, dad, look! They have my dress shoes in your size too! Why don't you get a pair?"
Kurt looked up at him imploringly, and Burt shook off his funk – it didn't matter. It didn't matter because this was Kurt. This was his son, and he was only ten. He'd worry about . . . stuff like that when he got to be a teenager or something. For now, he was just a little boy . . . who loved to accessorize. End of story.
Burt bought himself the matching pair of dress shoes. And then he sent Kurt to get candy from those 25¢ machines just beyond the cashiers, and purchased the girly-looking running shoes too, a half size bigger than Kurt currently was – he was planning to give them to the kid on his birthday, and considering that that was still a couple of months away, he figured Kurt would be up by half a size by then, or would be soon after.
As they walked to the exit, Kurt was nattering on about what kind of pants Burt could wear with his new shoes, and he listened intently, smiling at the spark in those blue-green eyes. When they made it out of the store, he swung Kurt up into his arms while the boy protested and squealed. He still had a year, maybe two, of this to go and he wasn't going to waste that time.
"You're such a sap, dad," Kurt whispered hoarsely.
"Can I help it? I have one kid, one son." Burt knew he had a few tears crawling down his face, but at this point Kurt had his eyes shut – hadn't opened them for a while.
"Hm . . . can't believe you made me think I'd actually . . . stuck out the night."
"Well, I figured pretendin' you'd sorta won that part of the fight would make it easier on both of us – and I was right."
Kurt mumbled a bit before saying a little more clearly, "I would've . . . if you hadn't taken me home."
"Yeah, I believe it. You're just that damn headstrong."
"Get it from you . . . And mom, I suppose."
Burt felt his mouth go dry as Kurt's voice dropped beneath a whisper. "Dad? I think . . . I think I need to sleep now."
Burt shook his head. "No. No sleep allowed – you stay awake."
"Dad . . ."
"No! Damnit, Kurt." He glanced up, and those red lights in the distance were distinct now – not just vague blurs. And was he hearing the muffled sound of sirens too? So close, so damn close – just a little while longer, kiddo, please.
"Kurt . . . sing something for me."
That got him a faint snort. "I'm not gonna sing," he slurred out, hands unclenching from Burt's flannel shirt. "That is . . . so cliché."
Burt choked back a hysterical laugh. "If you don't sing, I will."
Kurt didn't protest. Just frowned a little – but he didn't say a word.
"C'mon – you were complain' the whole drive up that I was tone deaf!"
Kurt turned his head. "You're . . . not. Just . . . crappy music."
He sagged further down despite his father's firm grip, and Burt leaned in, pressing his forehead to his son's. "Kurt."
"I . . . don't want to . . . sleep, dad, but . . . it'll be okay . . . I promise to wake up . . . never leave you, not on purpose."
It was the 'not on purpose' bit that got him. He started crying in earnest, hot tears streaking down his face unrestrained, and he squeezed Kurt to him as tight as he dared considering the injuries.
And that's when he finally, finally, finally, for sure, heard the thrice-blessed sirens.
"Kurt, help is here, kiddo – open your eyes."
No response. Kurt's eyes remained shut, and his hands had dropped away completely. His breathing . . . it sounded faint to Burt's ears. It was there. But only barely, and sometimes it sounded like Kurt was skipping a breath or two.
The ambulance pulled up not two seconds later, and the paramedics were cautiously removing Kurt from his father's grasp – fussing over both of them, but Burt was having none of it. It was his son – all about his son.
The looks they were exchanging over Kurt . . . they weren't good.
And when they tried to usher him into his own ambulance – tried to separate him and Kurt – that would be when he lost it after keeping it together, after holding it all in for what had felt like an eternity. He fought and shouted, and he just wanted to be with his son, was that so damn complicated?
He wasn't too sure if they sedated him and he passed out, or if he passed out first and then they pumped him full of drugs for his own injuries . . . either way, as he fought to his son's side again, the world spun for the second time that night, and went black.
" . . . and then the game ended in a tie, which was really stupid because the guy had such an opening for a shot, and we totally need to watch it together when you wake up, 'cause, man, it sucked."
Burt wasn't sure who was talking away, but the voice didn't match up with that high timbre he found so soothing. That kept him sane. In other words, it wasn't his son.
He tried to open his eyes, but the lids felt like they weighed about a hundred pounds each, and were glued shut besides. He groaned, angry and frustrated, and he needed to get the hell moving. Where was Kurt?
"Burt? Burt, you awake?" the non-Kurt voice asked eagerly. It did sound familiar . . . Finn. It was Finn.
Burt got his eyes half open, and sure enough, the tall teenager was looming over him, a smile bursting forth on his face. "Oh, this is so awesome! I'll . . . I'll page for a nurse! Just –"
Finn pushed the call button somewhere near Burt's right hand, and the man could only blink, now working on getting his voice functioning so he could ask about his son.
"Mom is with Kurt right now – we've been trading places, back and forth, like, all night and most of the day – we were so freaked out. Especially mom. Oh man, she's going to be so relieved to see you!"
Burt liked Finn – he really did. And he could honestly see a future with Finn as his step-son, loving the kid and treating him as family – not that he didn't already do that. But he needed to know where Kurt was. Actually, screw that, he needed to see for himself.
"Oh, Mr. Hummel, good to see you awake!" A young doctor came through the door, along with a nurse. They fiddled with the equipment around his bed for a bit.
After a few minutes of frustration, Burt managed to get his vocal chords to cooperate. " . . . Kurt. How's Kurt?"
"Kurt's doing just fine," the doctor said kindly. "Your son is a strong one. But I'll give you the details in a minute – first let's make sure you're on the mend too."
Burt impatiently sat through the check-up and the questions, and he felt himself waking up more and more – mostly due to annoyance. He wanted to see his son, damn it! The last time he'd seen him, he was a bleeding, barely-breathing mess in his arms, and that was not sitting well with him – he had to see Kurt, alive and patched-up.
"You have quite a few cuts and bruises, a few nasty gashes that could've been real trouble but we got them all stitched up for you. Other than some serious whiplash and a concussion, you're pretty much okay, Mr. Hummel – you'll be out of here by tomorrow morning."
Finn breathed out a sigh of relief next to him. "Awesome. Do you mind if I go get my mom?"
Burt shook his head. "Don't go yet – I really appreciate everything Dr. . . ."
"Hannigan," the man offered while writing something on Burt's chart.
"But I have to see my son. Do you think I can head over to him?" Not that he was really giving the man a choice – he was already prepping himself to bolt from the bed.
The doctor studied him for a minute before nodding. "Sure. I'll get you a wheelchair – you'll be too sore to get there on your own, and you've been in bed for over twelve hours on top of that. Give us a hand, Finn."
The wheelchair appeared almost five minutes later and soon enough, Finn was wheeling Burt down the hall as Dr. Hannigan paused at the nurse's station to drop off Burt's chart. Three rooms down from his own, and sitting outside his son's room, was a hoard of teenagers – and he recognized all of them as Kurt's friends from Glee. They all grinned and greeted him as he approached.
"Mr. Hummel!" came the happy cry from Finn's girlfriend, Rachel. "Oh, you're awake!"
"Hey, Mr. H.," was the wearied greeting from Mercedes, and Burt wasn't surprised to see her so tired and drained. She managed to give him a real smile though, wide and sweet. "It's good to see you up."
"How's Kurt?" he asked her. "Doctor said he was fine but –"
"He is, or he will be," Mercedes answered, rubbing under her eyes, yawning. "Sorry – left late last night, got here first thing in the morning."
"Your son is going to be good as new – it'll just take some time." Dr. Hannigan appeared again, this time holding what was likely Kurt's chart. "He had some serious injuries though – looks like he got the worst of it."
"Tell me everything," Burt demanded, hands gripping the armrests of his wheelchair.
"Well, he has some serious blood loss issues due to all the cuts and a bit of internal bleeding. He also had a punctured lung and is coping with a couple of broken ribs. Add to that the dislocated shoulder, fractured tibia – that would be his shin bone – and all the other injuries associated with car crashes – whiplash, seatbelt bruising, and a concussion a tad less serious than yours – he's lucky we got to him when we did. But, like I said, he's a strong kid."
The young doctor grinned down at Burt. "He came to for a bit before we took him to surgery – first thing he asked for was you – and then ordered us to tell you that he was fine as soon as you woke up."
Burt felt his lips quirk at that. "Is he awake now?"
Dr. Hannigan nodded. "He's been awake for a while longer than you – Mrs. Hudson is with him."
Burt nodded, satisfied for now. "Okay. Let's get going Finn."
Finn pushed Burt into the room, a nurse holding the door open. Burt immediately sagged in relief as he saw his son – his absolutely perfect son. Kurt sat up a bit, smiling broadly as soon as he caught his father's gaze; his face had ugly stitches here and there, a large bandage at his temple, and he was definitely paler than usual. The cast for his leg was already scrawled with signatures and drawings.
And he'd never looked better, in Burt's eyes.
Carole was sitting next to Kurt – or she had been. She had flown at Burt the instant they crossed the threshold, hugging him tightly. "Oh thank God. Oh, they told me you were going to be just fine but . . ."
Burt inhaled deeply, nose buried in her hair, wrapping his arms around her as best he could. "I know. God, it's good to have you here."
She pulled back, wiping away a few tears. "Okay. Okay. I'm gonna let you alone with Kurt. But I hope you understand that when we get you home, I'm claiming you for a solid twenty-four period – uninterrupted."
Burt laughed as both Finn and Kurt made similar noises of disgust. Carole looked at them both indignantly. "I was planning on just sitting and watching TV, stuffing him full of food and the like. You two need to get your minds out of the gutter."
"Well, maybe a little bit in the gutter, Carole, let's be honest." Burt gave her a wink and this time there were distinct groans coming from the two teenage boys.
"God, dad, you're going to send me into cardiac arrest – or a coma. And it would be preferable to this," Kurt complained, hands over his ears.
"Good thing we're in a hospital," Burt said with a grin.
"All right, c'mon Finn." Carole grabbed at Finn somewhere behind Burt.
Burt turned as best he could to glance at the boy. "Thanks, kid."
Finn smiled hugely, waving at Kurt before closing the door behind them.
Kurt sat up further in his bed, and Burt wheeled himself closer. "You doin' okay, kiddo?"
Kurt nodded. "Yeah, just . . . I was really worried about you. They were threatening to sedate me when I woke up and freaked out about you not being here."
"Really?" Burt reached the bedside and grabbed at Kurt's nearest hand. The contact was the last bit of reassurance he needed – the ambulance arriving and the waking up in his room . . . it hadn't been a dream. This was real, and Kurt was alive. "The doctor didn't mention you havin' a freak out."
"Probably because I told him not to." Kurt rolled his eyes. "Because as soon as you heard about it, you'd come running over here, undoing whatever they had to do to keep you in one piece."
"You're talkin' like I'm the one with a page and a half list of injuries. It ain't me wearin' a cast right now, is it?"
Kurt looked down at his left leg. "No, it's not. And that piece of glass was no picnic either."
Burt's gaze flicked reflexively over to Kurt's injured limb. "You had something in your leg?"
"The chunk of glass that broke off in my thigh? That's why it looked so badly mangled and bloody. And yes, it's all patched up and good to go. Minimal scarring. I made sure."
Burt gripped the hand he was holding tightly. "You made sure of a lot things. You were what kept me from losing it, you know."
Kurt shook his head, blue eyes gleaming. "We helped each other. I don't think I would've been able to get past the pain without you. I know you were hurting too."
Burt blinked. He honestly could not remember whether or not that was the case. He could recall feeling aches and pains all over while figuring out how to get out of the truck, but after that it had been all about Kurt, about keeping his son lucid and alive until the paramedics could get to them.
Kurt sighed deeply. "Carole mentioned you almost gave one of the paramedics a black eye. They were still taking about it today, she said."
Burt only had vague images of what happened once the ambulance got there, but that sounded about right.
"Sorry, it was an instinct thing. They were taking you away from me, and I just . . . I reacted."
Kurt nodded, smiling faintly. "Hence my making sure that you knew I was fine as soon as you got up."
There was a lengthy silence, during which Burt stared at their clasped hands before raising his eyes back to Kurt's face. His son was so pale and he had dark circles under his eyes, and his hair was a mess . . . but Kurt hadn't once reached up to run a hand through his brown locks, and it didn't seemed like he'd demanded his pound and a half of skin moisturizing whatevers. Well, Burt would ask Carole to bring some of the stuff on Kurt's vanity to him. And he'd make sure the nurses helped him wash his hair at some point. He wanted Kurt to feel better while his body healed, and this was the best way to get his spirits up in the meantime.
While he healed . . . There'd been a while there, on that road, when he thought Kurt was . . . No, it didn't matter, because they were here now, and Kurt was okay. Kurt wasn't bleeding, wasn't whimpering in pain or gasping for breath. Burt tried to send those images away, but he had a feeling they would be haunting him for years to come.
"You okay, dad?"
He jerked a little, startled out of his dark thoughts, but Burt nodded. "Yeah, sorry . . . just real glad everything's good now."
Kurt stared down at the sheets before speaking again, "So, I was thinking that we should make these fishing trips a monthly thing of ours."
Burt stared at his son incredulously. "What?"
Kurt looked up, another smile playing on his lips, but this one was softer and younger-looking. "Near-fatal car accident aside, I really had fun, dad. And you were right, about us talking more."
Burt reached over with his other hand, cradling Kurt's between both of his. "You're serious?"
"Yes. I'm serious. Mind you, this doesn't mean I'm willing to sit through nine innings of stirrup pants for you. Or listen to more than five minutes of Mellencamp."
Burt rolled his eyes in perfect imitation of his son. "Fine, whatever you say, kiddo. How about some neutral ground? We'll do some Queen. I know you like them since you did a couple of their songs in Glee and didn't pitch a fit about it."
Kurt pursed his lips. "Fine. Queen on the way there – but I get to listen to some Beyoncé on the way home."
"It's a deal."
Kurt leaned back in his bed, suddenly looking drowsy, and Burt felt a momentary flare of panic before he remembered that this was okay – that they were safe, and in the hospital, and it would be good for Kurt to get some rest.
"Sleep, son, I'll be right here."
Kurt opened his eyes, which had been fluttering shut. "Could you stay, please? These meds make me loopy, and when I wake up . . . I have trouble remembering where I am."
Burt nodded, his thumbs stroking the back of Kurt's hand. "Yeah, yeah. Go on, Kurt, sleep. I'll be right here, I swear."
Kurt settled down into his many pillows, eyes drifting closed, and breath coming out in regular intervals almost instantly. Burt watched him avidly.
He wasn't sure if there was a lesson to take away from this other than the usual 'life is precious, don't waste a minute' thing. Quite frankly, it was a lesson he didn't need to learn – his wife's death had taught him more than he would ever want to know about the fragility of the lives around him. But he supposed he had to take something away from that heart-wrenching, fear-filled time at the side of the road.
Kurt made a noise in his sleep – Burt didn't know if it was a sound of distress or not, but either way, he tightened his hold on Kurt's hand, stroking and murmuring to his slumbering child. Kurt quieted, looking a lot more peaceful.
Maybe the best he could do was just be grateful. Grateful that he was here, that Kurt was here, and that Kurt would wake up, and there would be more stories to share. More stories to create, between the two of them. And that's all he really needed. That's all he would ever need.
Author's Note: In trying to write a sequel for That Bit in the Middle . . . this came out instead. Sorry? :) Oh, and for those of you who read That Bit in the Middle, just in case you missed it, I added an epilogue!
I wrote this stupidly fast, and posted stupidly fast, because I'm about to head out on vacation to visit family out of the country – so, apologies for any mistakes.
Just for the record: I want to thank you all ahead of time for any kind words you might be sending my way (if you decide to review) – anyone who's reviewed my other stories knows I do my best to reply to every single comment as soon as I can, but unfortunately I have no idea what kind of computer access I'll be having. But I do promise to reply to whoever decides to leave comments as soon as I get back at the end of the month!
And finally, I know it's been a while, but to whoever nominated If Words Were Stones at the Glee Fic Awards, on livejournal . . . thank you so much. You have no idea how giddy I was to receive that message in my inbox, and I don't have the words to convey how flattered I am! You guys should head over and check out the list of nominees, it's pretty epic – rebootuniverse and whoever else may be involved are awesome for organizing this!
All right, that's it for me – off to do some last minute packing! Thank you so much to everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this!