It's totally innocent, the way Brittany reaches over during Glee club and runs her finger over his scar, asking how he got it. Santana swears, wondering how she's never noticed it before, and Kurt has to cross his legs to keep himself from bolting.
"I was really little when I got it," he says easily, lifting his hand to his neck as if he'd forgotten it was there, "I don't remember."
Kurt remembers exactly how he got it. He'd been eight years old when he'd gotten it, and he remembers every detail from that night.
He wants to lift his palms and press them against his eyelids to get rid of the images dancing behind them, but he can't do that, can't let anybody know what's wrong.
Days like these, when somebody notices or if he's had a nightmare about it the night before (he'll have a nightmare tonight, for sure, just because he's thinking about it), he usually he crawls under a big afghan that his mother knit and watches TV; it's just reruns of Seinfeld and Friends, but his dad always knows what's wrong without asking and holds him while he freaks out and they both get paranoid for a few hours.
Except they can't this time, because Finn lives with them now and Carole is home when he gets home.
He helps her cook dinner in silence and picks at his food without eating much. He always throws up after the dream, so he knows he does need to eat a little so he's not just vomiting his stomach lining. His dad watches him, brow drawn together in concern, but he doesn't say anything in front of Carole.
Later, when they've all piled onto the couches in the living room to watch The Good Guys together, his dad glances over and raises an eyebrow. Kurt lifts his hand in response and rubs his fingers over the scar on his neck once. His dad's expression softens, and Kurt turns his attention back to the show.
He stays up late, playing videogames with Finn, who only asks what's up once and then drops it, and when Finn crashes, Kurt lies on his bed and struggles against the pull of sleep.
He's never been able to avoid it, even when he knows he's going to dream. Except it never feels like a dream. He's always there, always just as unable to escape.
"Snow way!" his mom reads, pointing to the words on the paper, and he giggles quietly. They're tucked into Kurt's bed together, reading a bedtime story, and neither of them hears the creak from down the stairs.
She closes the book, leaning down to give him a kiss on the forehead, "Are you ready for bed, bumpkin?"
He shakes his head, "No, I want daddy to read me one."
She smiles, "Daddy's not home yet. Remember, he gets home late tonight from Auntie Millie's house?" Kurt nods, looking away from her sadly, and she pulls him in close, "I'm sure he'll read you two stories tomorrow."
He looks up at her, a huge smile spreading across his face, "You think so!"
"I know so," she says back, tapping his nose with her finger. She opens her mouth to say goodnight and the door swings open, light spreading over the bed. They both look up, staring at the doorway, and then Kurt can't really see the man there anymore because his mom has pulled his head down against her side and is using her arm to shield him, "What do you want!"
The man doesn't say anything. Not then, and not the whole night. Not until later, when he's kneeling in front of Kurt, who's huddled in the corner trying to hide his face, when he's whispering horrible words that Kurt will never forget.
He motions with a large knife and Kurt's mom gets up, trying to tuck Kurt into bed and leave him there. The man points at Kurt and motions for her to bring him.
"No," she pleads, her voice as steady as she can make it, "Don't do anything to my son."
"Mommy, what's going on?"
"Shh, sweetheart, everything is fine."
The man steps closer, motioning again, and she puts herself in between them, "I'll bring him, just don't hurt him. Please." The man doesn't move, but she reaches for Kurt's hand and leads him towards her bedroom, where the man is directing them. He's tall and stone-faced, his skin smooth and dark in the dim lighting. He takes Kurt from her, pointing the knife at her face when she lunges for him, and eases him backwards into the corner beside his mom's dresser.
"Mommy?" Kurt asks again. When the man silences her with the knife against her throat, Kurt takes a step forward, "Don't hurt my mommy, sir."
The man backhands him hard and he stumbles backwards, hitting the dresser and hearing a loud crunch before moving back into the corner. He slides down the wall, cupping his stinging cheek; he stares at his mom, who has tears pouring down her cheeks now.
The man motions for her to lie down on the bed and she does, shaking and crying. When he motions again and she realizes what he wants, she glances back at Kurt, "Sweetheart, close your eyes and cover your ears, okay?"
He nods and does what she says, but it doesn't stop him from hearing her screams. He hears the creak of the bed and his mother's pained screaming through the hard press of his palms against his ears. He presses harder, and doesn't remove his hands until somebody touches his cheek.
He opens his eyes and screams. The man is covered in blood, and he knows it's his mom's, and he's still holding the knife. His mom isn't making any noises anymore.
"Mommy?" he calls, whimpering as the man presses in closer towards him.
"Mommy isn't going to answer, sweetheart," Kurt's bottom lip begins to tremble, and his eyes flick to the knife for a moment, "I'm going to leave you a present, okay?"
Kurt shakes his head, "I don't want anything."
"That's too bad," a strong hand grips Kurt's cheek as the knife lifts. A drop of his mother's blood drips onto his shirt and he starts to cry, and then he shrieks in pain, fighting against the man's grip and the slide of the knife against his neck, "Something we can remember each other by." He lets go of Kurt, who immediately clasps a hand against the cut on his neck, and Kurt flinches backwards as the man leans in to press a kiss to his forehead.
Kurt wakes up vomiting.
He rolls out of bed, already gagging around the bile rising in his throat. He throws up all over the floor next to his bed, sobbing and choking on his own puke.
"Kurt?" Finn says groggily, and then he swears, "Hey, what's wrong?"
Kurt registers vaguely that a hand is on his back. Another rests on his shoulder and he has to remind himself he's awake, he's okay, the man isn't here, it's just Finn, don't attack, don't freak out.
"Kurt, are you okay? Do you need me to get your dad?"
"No," Kurt mumbles, dry heaving, "I'll be fine."
Finn waits while Kurt gags again and then pulls him away from the mess on the floor when it seems like Kurt might just collapse there. Kurt does want his dad, but he thinks if he can only make Finn go back to sleep he won't have to tell anyone, so he doesn't let Finn go.
"What was that about? Did you have a nightmare?" Finn asks, his voice cracking roughly from temporary misuse around the words, and Kurt shakes his head.
"It's nothing, Finn. Please go back to bed," Kurt pauses, wiping his mouth clean, "I'll clean this up."
Finn stares at him, and finally, Kurt focuses and realizes he's crying; Kurt sniffles once and wipes determinedly at his face. Finn's mouth tightens.
"I think I should get your dad."
Kurt is about to say no, but his whole body shudders, shaking with the fear he's trying to repress, and he closes his eyes against a wave of sobs, trying to control himself.
"I'm getting your dad."
Finn is gone before he can say anything, and Kurt is left alone with the memory of the man's smooth strokes down his arms, the rough press of his fingers against Kurt's chin and the cold slice of metal on his neck. He brings a hand up to the scar and covers it, feeling the ripple of uneven skin beneath his palm; he shakes with barely controlled sobs, but that's not unusual.
He thinks maybe he should try standing, make his way to the bathroom and clean up before letting his dad treat him like a baby–like he always does. His dad has never been aware of the fact that Kurt throws up, that he sobs after every dream, that he can barely control the paranoia when he's alone, long after he's recovered from the initial shock of reliving it.
His dad is kneeling in front of him and Kurt opens his eyes; he's not sure he remembers closing them, but he can't remember staring at anything in the room. All he can see is the man's dark eyes, the rough stubble that lined his jaw, and he flinches backwards.
"It's okay, Kurt. He can't hurt you here."
Finn's voice says something in the background, but Kurt's been alone too long, unable to move, that he's struggling to grasp on his dad's words.
"Why can't I just forget?"
Burt frowns, looking like he doesn't know what to do, but Kurt knows that all he has to do is open his arms, is help Kurt away from anything that reminds him what he's just seen, to cradle him against his chest like he did when he found Kurt, tucked against the wall beside a broken old dresser with blood drenching his clothes.
Apparently with Finn and Carole here, the usual is being forgotten.
"Come on. Can you stand?" Burt lifts himself up a little, holding a hand out to Kurt, and even though he just wants to cry, wants his dad to check every room like he did when Kurt was still younger, he reaches out and slips his shaking hand into his father's.
It seems to do the trick though; it makes his dad realize how scared he is, the shaking of his hand. Kurt stumbles with the force of the tug, but his dad did it on purpose, pulling him forward into a tight embrace. Kurt buries his face in his dad's flannel pyjamas, feeling his shoulders start to shake with the force of sobs that he knows will make it impossible to keep standing.
His dad guides him up the stairs, and he's vaguely aware of Finn in front of him; Carole is already in the kitchen, bustling around preparing a pot of coffee. Burt lowers Kurt into his chair and disappears to get the same warm knitted quilt that they always use and drapes it around Kurt's shoulder.
They all sit down at the table, Carole frowning and gently setting coffee in front of each male and Finn looking more confused than anything.
"What's going on?" Finn asks, sounding like he's about to cry, "What's wrong with Kurt?"
Kurt wraps his hands around the coffee and pulls it towards him, watching the steam curl over the lip of the mug; he keeps his mouth closed, afraid that if he opens it he'll throw up again, or worse, just start screaming.
"I'm assuming Kurt has never told you about how he got his scar," Burt starts wearily, obviously trying to prep himself as much as Kurt for what he has to relive, and before he can continue, Finn cuts him off.
"Is this about his scar, cause Brittany asked about that today and he said he didn't remember and–"
"I remember, Finn," Kurt says blandly, and then just lifts his mug and takes a sip, sifting the liquid around in his mouth to rinse out the taste of bile.
His dad sighs, his hand rubbing a smooth circle on Kurt's upper back. "Kurt's mom was... She was murdered."
Carole gasps. Finn just sort of gapes, and then Burt starts telling them what he knows: how her body was mutilated, nearly beyond recognition; how Kurt had been found in the corner and had evidently witnessed it all; how Burt would not have been able to cope if he hadn't have had to protect Kurt, to get him out of that room and away from that horror.
And then he explains the scar.
Kurt blocks most of it out, and he falls asleep some time later in his dad's bed. He thinks Carole takes his for the night, but it doesn't really matter. As long as his dad holds him, he feels safe.
Finn kind of fumbles around him in the morning, obviously unsure of what to do, of how to act around him, but Kurt just offers a feeble smile and sits down at his little desk to apply a thick layer of makeup to hide his exhaustion, cover his terror.
"Are you okay?"
Kurt doesn't even blink. He simply smears his eyeliner on a little thicker, gives his eyes a touch more shadow so nobody notices that he looks just that bit haunted. "I'll be fine, really. I'm used to the nightmares, Finn."
Finn sits down on the bed behind him, and Kurt meets his eyes. "Are you scared? Like–are you scared he'll come back?"
"Yes." There's no hesitation in his voice; he doesn't have to hide this from Finn anymore, doesn't think he'd want to if he could. "I'm always scared he'll come back to find me. And he'll know, won't he, that it's me?" Kurt can't keep the terror out of his voice, because it's something he thinks about all the time, so while he's used to the paranoia, the days following the nightmare are always the worst, because he can still feel the hand on his chin, holding him still.
Finn doesn't say anything; he gets up, walking towards Kurt, and kind of sinks downward, wrapping his arms around Kurt from behind. It's awkward and makes Kurt feel guilty, the way Finn's head tucks downwards and presses against his shoulder so Kurt can't see his sadness. "I'm sorry that happened to you."
Kurt reaches up and closes his hand on Finn's.
"It's okay, Finn," he whispers, and Finn's head lifts a little so their eyes meet in the mirror again, "It's not your fault, and I'm not scared if I'm not alone."
They stay that way too long for two people with their history, but Finn doesn't seem to want to let go and Kurt isn't about to make him, considering he feels like nothing can hurt him anymore, not even his memories.
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