Hi, I'm CP Coulter and I'll be your author for this fic.
A year has passed since I first wrote the pilot episode for Dalton, and I can honestly say that never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was going to bring me to this point, that I would have written something the some people even cared to read about, let alone wait for. Each and every time I look at things readers send me, notes or artwork, gifts and videos, I am always taken by surprise. I often feel like Alice, wondering if I am still myself, and (if I were not) if I had changed so many times that I was someone else.
A long time has passed since the beginning, and I am learning about myself each day as a human being, flaws included. That it was alright to be strange, to be different, to do something that made me happy, to want to be happy, living each day trying to be a better person than I was yesterday. And I wanted to thank each and every one of you, friends and family, for accepting me, flaws, strangeness and all, and for helping to shape me into the person that I am. And it is a new beginning for me, this year. To learn from my mistakes, to live without regrets, to look forward to the future with hope, and to just go with what life brings.
Life has brought me you, and this story. And I am forever grateful for all of you.
As you many of you may know this episode has already been posted much earlier in my own website cpcoulter dot com. This is the method that I might be using from now on. You can check my website for news and updates about upcoming episodes.
I continue to be forever grateful for all the kindness that you have given to me, and, as always, I can only humbly present this new Episode, with love and hope, that you will enjoy reading it.
(Disclaimer: I do not own Glee. Glee is seriously way too awesome to be mine. All I've got are these lunatic OCs and their stories.)
Episode 27 - Blackout
Wes lay amidst the rubble, smoke billowing out over his head, the flickering fires casting shadows in his face. He wasn't quite moving, and when he breathed it was shallow.
David was screaming—it took three boys to keep him held back as he cried out to the burning inferno that was the Art Hall…
When he stirred, just slightly, Charlie realized that he could barely breathe—as smoke began to fill the air. Beneath him were a hundred glass shards…
"Let me through!" Shane was screaming, his mother trying to hold him back. "My brother is in there! Reed! Micah!"
From where he lay at the school clinic bed, Derek stirred slightly through the darkness. He heard the others run off—he felt danger…
Justin coughed hard, struggling to get up on his hands and knees. Ms. Blumenfeld was still next to him—and he could see no sign of the other boys…
From where he was lying, Evan began to stir. He thought he heard his brother's voice…or was that his? Ethan, from where he lay at the doors, twitched his hand as he roused himself—and knew immediately his brother wasn't there…
He heard the crackle of the flames, of the burning wood near his ear. He felt the blood drip down his temple and his body screaming in pain. Dwight slowly opened his eyes, forcing himself to wake, forcing himself to fight this dimness…
There were others needed to be saved.
From the third floor, Reed didn't move from where he was lying near the debris that now blocked the fire escape. In his mind, he thought he heard Shane. He thought he heard his mother. He thought he heard the sound of the toy xylophone he had when he was little.
A distance from him, Julian lay curled on the ground next to his friend, their hands inches from each other. He couldn't breathe—the fire crackled furiously around them—he couldn't move—the injuries he sustained were beginning to numb. He couldn't feel. He couldn't feel his own breath…but he was alive, he had to be.
And slowly, from next to him, Logan began to open his eyes; the first thing he saw was Julian's hand, lying next to his. Beyond the smoke, and the orange roar, he stirred, and felt everything—the pain of the wounds, the fear, the sense of dread—everything. He saw that pale hand next to his and he saw Julian opening his eyes, but unmoving. Logan blinked away the painful sting of the smoke. "…Jules?"
The sound of Logan's voice so near made Blaine stir. Blaine lay face-down on the ground, one arm draped over the more slender body next to him. It was his first instinct when everything blew—to leap for Kurt when the world exploded. And now he lay there, not quite waking, not quite asleep…but completely aware of both worlds. He hauled himself out of that dimness now, aware only of the shallow breathing from Kurt.
Coughing, Blaine got to his knees. "Kurt…" he whispered hoarsely.
The sound of his voice, and the name it uttered, brought Logan back to the reality of the situation. His skin felt as though it was searing already, all the rest of him ached painfully, but it all only meant one thing: it was time to go, no matter what.
He immediately moved and clasped Julian's hand near him. "Jules—! Come on, get up!" his voice came out hoarse and strained, but he was sure that Julian heard, even if his friend didn't respond. He felt Julian's hand tighten on his, and then he turned behind him. "Blaine—are you and Kurt—"
Amidst the steadily growing flames, Blaine pulled him closer to him, using his body to shield him from the glare and the growing fire, and he choked out, "Kurt's unconscious! Kurt! Come on, wake up, please! Kurt!"
In the blackness of his mind, Kurt heard the fire roar. It sounded and felt as though he were in the throat of a great dragon. He imagined a great animal roaring in the darkness—in this black tunnel, racing for him.
"Kurt, say something!"
…what's happening to us…? He wondered as he felt the heat glow around him. His mind wandered. He remembered back before this all happened. He remembered sitting in Warblers' Hall and knowing everything. He had every suspicion and all his instincts had cried out the answer that had proven right in the end. But he had pushed it away; he hadn't wanted to believe it.
I give myself very good advice…but I very seldom follow it…
…I have this terrible feeling… His world was starting to shake. The darkness rippled and peeled away, giving way to his senses waking. The dragon was gone but the fire remained.
"Kurt—wake up—wake up!"
…that we ran out of time… He could hear Blaine's voice. That was Blaine's voice—Blaine, who flew at him the instant the door blew to shreds—he heard his body thud next to his before he hit his head and things went black and everything was gone.
And there he stopped.
…where are we now?
…which way should I go?
Follow the White Rabbit.
And amidst all this chaos, Kurt's blue eyes flew open, staring into the ceiling. A cough burst from his throat. Smoke swirled above him—flames trickled down from the walls and from the debris. He could feel Blaine take a sudden breath from next to him—he could feel his own heart pounding—he could feel the world clearing—
He was alive.
My name is Kurt. And this is Dalton Academy.
We didn't think Hell Night would become so literal—trapped in a blazing inferno with barely a way out. When the worst happens, it really makes you think. It makes you appreciate the times when everything was good.
And it makes you realize how far you'd go to get those times back.
How far we would go, to hold on to Wonderland.
"Kurt!" endless relief flooded into Blaine and the way his voice broke made Kurt think that he must've almost been to tears. Kurt tried to speak and only ended up coughing. He clutched onto Blaine and pulled himself up, clasping at his throat. "What happened…?" he croaked. "Are you all right?"
"We have to get out of here," Blaine responded. Kurt saw that Blaine had nasty gash by the side of his head that was trickling into his uniform shirt. He must've busted it open when he hit the floor after the explosion.
"Come on—!" Logan's voice sounded from a way off. Kurt looked up and saw him getting to his feet a little unsteadily, pulling Julian up with him. "We have to go! Now!"
"Where's Reed?" Kurt demanded hoarsely as he got to his feet carefully with Blaine, his joints sending rivets of pain in protest. Blaine, holding on to him securely, looked around. Above them, soot and fragments and glowing embers dribbled down. Smoke was growing. The third floor was already a mess, but it wasn't completely hopeless…yet.
Then Kurt saw his friend, lying by the end of the hall and unmoving. "Reed!" he choked. "Over there!
Julian was nearest—he broke away from Logan for a moment; the taller boy tried to clutch him back—and ducked some spraying embers before he reached Reed. "Reed!" he leaned down for a moment as though trying to see if he was breathing. He looked up when Kurt and the others reached him.
Kurt dropped down next to his friend, heart racing. "Just breathe—come on, breathe—!" Julian panted as he tried to revive him, rouse him, something—anything.
Blaine shook his head and said, "We can't do this here, we have to just carry him out!"
"Wait—just wait!" Kurt protested staring at his friend's pale form. Reed just had to show some sign of still being alive—
There was a sudden choke and Reed came to life, coughing dryly. Kurt grabbed his hand and barely had time to express relief when Logan cried out sharply. "Move!"
The tall blond shoved Kurt with a force hard enough to bruise. Past the impact, Kurt saw everything happening down to the minutest detail: Logan had pushed him into Blaine's arms, who stumbled backward with him. Then Logan's hand went onto Reed's shirt and he'd pulled the smaller boy up—Julian's sleeve was clutched in his other hand—and he too leapt back with the two of them, just as a fragment of the ceiling crashed were Reed had been lying moments ago.
Kurt blinked a moment, and then suddenly time moved forward rapidly. Blaine was suddenly covering his face using his arm, shielding him from the cinders that flew when the ceiling piece hit the floor. They hadn't even noticed that the ceiling was about to come down.
Reed was coughing as he clutched against Julian to keep his balance, and the actor yelled over the roar. "We have to go! Now!"
"How?" Kurt yelled back. He pointed to the end of the corridor, where they had meant to go before the blast. It was now covered in smoldering debris. "It's blocked!"
"We have to find a way down through there!" Logan cried back, his skin scorched by the growing flames, and Kurt saw his uniform sleeves charred when he pointed down the hall to the direction of the central staircase. "It's the only way left! Blaine! Get going!"
Blaine didn't wait. He grabbed Kurt by the arm and the two of them ran down the hall. Kurt kept his arm up, coughing at the side, as more smoke and ash began to blow towards him. He could hear the others running behind them and coming fast—Logan was still an athlete of some kind and since apparently Julian did all his own stunts, he should be able to keep up the pace. Kurt was most worried about Reed, who never did respond pressure well.
And this was more than enough pressure from everybody.
Fire had a sound—it roared—and it moved like it was a living thing. Kurt realized this as they entered the main hall of the third floor. It was an inferno and the heat was already making them wince. But as they reached this more open ground, they heard echoes of a sound that wasn't fire, rippling up to them. Voices crying out their names desperately.
The two looked at each other.
That sounded a lot like their friends.
"Blaine!" Justin was yelling through the carved wooden doors that would open to the glass staircase that led to the third floor. "Kurt! Can you hear me?"
He didn't hear any response. He winced a little and looked at Ms. Blumenfeld's form leaning against the wall where the door was. He winced, coughing a little as he looked back to the roaring flames and tried to see his other friends.
"Charlie!" he yelled. "Charlie, answer me, man! Where are you?"
As for the Windsor prefect, the moment Charlie laid his hand onto the ground, he made a hiss of pain as he cut himself on the glass shards around him. They were from an object that he'd flown into during the explosion. He heard it—Justin's voice. "Charlie!" over the fire, from nearby.
"Over here!" he coughed out. He slowly pushed himself up, fingers ribboned with scarlet. "Justin!"
"I'm here by the door! Can you move?" The Hanover prefect asked. He couldn't see him. There was too much smoke.
"Yeah." Charlie blinked painfully through the smoke and called out to the others on the second floor. "Wes! Evan, Ethan! Dwight!"
Justin looked up when he heard a sound near him—a cough. He saw the form of another young man sprawled there, coughing in trying to get up. Justin realized that he hadn't seen him before because he had been blocked from view by one of the fallen display pillars, and had been lying unconscious. He ran over and saw Micah, who he did not recognize. "Who are you, and how the hell did you get in here?" Justin demanded as he tried to help him up, thinking that this had to be someone at Parents' Night's brother or cousin or maybe even Adam's accomplice for all he knew.
"I have to—" Micah tried to push himself up, coughing, "—help Reed—!"
Justin would have responded to this had he not seen a more pressing concern: Micah's left arm was effectively pinned under a decorative plaster pillar. Micah tried to pull it out, relieved he could even feel it at all. The pillar wasn't brutally heavy, but he was effectively stuck. Justin took the pillar and pulled it up just as Micah's pants leg caught fire. He pulled the other boy up and immediately started frantically swatting away the flames.
There was a hissing blast of chemical fume—one that quickly petered out to nothing—put Micah out. The two of them looked up and they saw Charlie nearby, panting, and dropping the last empty fire extinguisher. He saw Micah and groaned as he recognized him. "Oh great! You're here too, Micah?"
"Got another one of those?" Justin panted.
Charlie shook his head. "It was near me."
Dwight had been the one who was holding that fire extinguisher—he had held onto it with the adrenaline grip of someone who knew that it could be the way to salvation, but when they jumped out of the way of that falling debris from above, he'd lost hold of it and it had thudded and rolled to where Charlie was.
He didn't know it was gone. He simply knew that he was awakened when he thought he heard someone call his name.
Someone small and very young.
When he opened his eyes a fraction, it was someone much older who then said his name, someone who certainly hadn't been the first voice that he heard and made him wonder if he imagined it. "Hey!" Wes exhaled shakily, looking relieved. "You're okay. Come on, get up!"
Every bone in his body felt like it had been liquefied. There was no way in this universe that Dwight thought he could get up. He felt Wes' hand close over his tightly to help him. "Come on, hurry! It's getting closer!"
What was—? Dwight turned his head to where Wes seemed to be looking—he saw it. It was another smoldering chunk of ceiling that was drooping down from above. Dwight didn't even want to think about how unsteady the floor of third floor must be right now if the ceiling was falling apart like this. Wes tugged at his arm as though he had intentions to amputate it and he managed to drag Dwight out of the way before it went down.
The crash sounded in the second floor, making the others look up. "Ethan?" Evan cried from one side of the fire, alarmed. "Ethan, say something! Ethan!"
The twin nearer to the doors, where the prefects were, looked up, coughing. "Evan?"
Evan, vastly relieved to hear his voice, made to step forward, but a blockade of flames stood in his way. He threw up his arm against the heat that glared up at him when he tried to come through. "Ethan!" he yelled. "I'm going to try and get to you now, okay?"
"Don't do anything stupid!" Charlie yelled back from across the way—he was holding onto the back of Ethan's shirt now, as though to keep this twin from plunging into the fires to get to his brother.
Wes arrived next to Evan, limping slightly and a pitiful sight with his ruined uniform and grimy countenance. "We have to find a way through this," he panted. Dwight stood next to him, clutching his arm in pain. Everything was taking a toll on the sophomore and Wes could see that. "Charlie!" Wes yelled over the crackling. "Charlie, we're going to try and make a way through this rubble or we're never getting out of here! Get Blaine and the others out of the third floor!"
"We're trying!" Justin snarled as he tried to kick open the door. Something had to be jamming the other side; that was the only reason it couldn't be opened even with the full strength of both Charlie and Justin trying to crash through it.
Micah grabbed Justin. "Stop! Stop!"
The newcomer pointed up to the ceiling. With every impact that Charlie and Justin made, the force caused the wall to vibrate and the ceiling cracks worsened. Sparks rained down. Charlie took one look at it, and tried the door again.
"Charlie, what are you doing?" Justin demanded.
"One more—just one more!" And with a splintering sound, Charlie hit the door once more—and it gave way. It cracked open, and Charlie couldn't touch the metal handle without burning himself, but it gave him a bit of a view of the other side. There was no way he'd squeeze through this, because wooden beams had fallen in the way of it, crisscrossed. This was why they couldn't open it.
No one was at the staircase. But he could see the orange glow from the third floor.
"Blaine!" Charlie yelled. "Kurt! Reed!"
Outside was no better than the inside. The call for firefighters had already gone out, and many students gathered up fire extinguishers, trying to put out the area by the door, trying to give anyone inside a way out. Some glanced up to the fire escapes and saw no one there.
The teachers and parents who were now starting to gather were horrified. The students scanned the windows for any sign of their schoolmates. After the third explosion, glass shards had gone flying and everyone was forced to back away by the teachers, who formed a barrier keeping any other student from doing anything as ridiculous as those Windsors did.
Students were running in from all directions carrying pails of water. They flung them into the first floor as hard as they could, trying to help keep the fires down or at least open a way out for those inside, but it couldn't do enough.
Howard knew that the boys didn't have very long and it was evident that every parent in the vicinity, numbers increasing by the second, was going to end up plunging in there after a missing son. One in front of him right now, a brother, was already difficult to keep at bay.
Shane hadn't stopped fighting the boys to get through. Three of the most important people in his life were in that giant bonfire. And he was standing outside of it, watching. The mere idea that this was literally happening before his eyes nearly brought him to his knees.
Mrs. Anderson had materialized among the throng, and she was clutching her younger son tight. In her mind, she pushed away all desire to run in there to find her older son who had been so long ostracized. She already nearly lost Shane once, and with Blaine's situation, this was all nearly more than flesh and blood could take.
"Please…" Shane was weeping now, even as his struggles weakened. "Please let go of me, mom, please—"
"Shane, no—" Mrs. Anderson shook her head, keeping her hold tight on her son. "No, you can't go in there, Shane!"
"Please…" he was weakening, gasping for breath through his sobs. "Please…I have to—Blaine—Reed—and Micah! I have to…! Why won't you just let me…?" He broke down entirely, sinking against her.
"No, Shane…" tears laced Mrs. Anderson's eyes. "No, I can't let you go in there—I can't."
The fact that majority of the boys in the inferno were from Windsor House was not lost on anyone. Only Windsors would be crazy enough to compound to the count of those already inside by leaping into the fray in a desperate attempt to tear them all out. Valiant of them, but no one on the grounds could deny that it was weapons-grade idiotic, least of all David, who already knew how bad an idea it was but was still fighting the other boys to be let through.
Over half the things going through his mind right now was heaping insults at the boys who he had come to know as his brothers, for being so monumentally idiotic because in David's opinion, there was no reason in the world that none of them should still be in there.
They just had to emerge any second now. They just had to.
"Let go of me right now!" David heard cloth tear as Satoru and Todd tried to keep him back. The other two Windsors were having problems holding him back. He was stronger than they were.
"David, you can't go in there, you'll make things worse!" Satoru protested, still gripping his friend's sleeve. "We have to wait for the firefighters to get here!"
David was so worked up that he could barely think, let alone wait for any firefighters. "By then, they could all be—!"
"They're not!" Todd shot back, trying to keep their fellow Windsor back. He himself hardly had an easy time trying to believe the things he was saying. Dwight had been one of the first to go missing and knowing his roommate, he was doing more crazy things in there than the others. The "chickenheart" had always had a nearly self-destructive desire to be a hero.
David wasn't having any of it. "Then while they're still—I'm going in there to pull them out!"
"You can't!" Satoru retorted, knowing he was fighting a losing battle against David, but he was going to try anyway. It was better than having another head in there.
At this point, the Windsors' "Hatter" was furious as he rounded on the young scientist. "Why the hell not? All the others—"
And then Satoru burst, unable to hold back anymore. "Because—there's no way in!"
That was different. David stopped and turned to look at him. "What did you just—?"
Satoru was shaking, staring at him and he gestured to the flames beyond the entrance, the same one that the teachers were barring them all from. "The doorway that the Twins and the other just went through…" he pointed to the door. "Drew and Han aimed some of our lab stuff—judging by the heat and temperatures, there's debris blocking it. Like a campfire. No one is getting in anymore."
David took a shuddering breath as he looked up at the inferno. No one else is getting in. Without firefighters—at least—no one will be getting through. It also meant one more thing:
No one is going to get out.
"Where…" David said with an edge in his tone, his face resolute, "…is Han?"
And he might as well ask. The only conspirator who had zero intention of running into that fire was outside of it for good reasons. He was sitting not in front of the building, but to the left wing of it, where, with every upward glance, he could see flames blazing beyond the shattered glass windows. The wind fanned the flames. He was sitting fifty yards from the wall, laptop and equipment around him, as well as Drew, who had been the one to lend him anything and everything that should conceivably help him analyze the situation properly.
After he realized that without some kind of a way in or out, even the firefighters might be having problems. Why did anyone build this place like this anyway…? Han wondered angrily as his fingers flew over his laptop keyboard. Why would they make it out of stuff that catches fire and breaks apart—all that wood and glass—for the sake of freaking architecture—? Why would they put that fire escape all the way there? Careless, that's what it is—
"Come on—come on!" Drew begged from next to him, glancing worriedly at the growing roar.
"Shut up!" Han's hands were shaking hard even as they flew over the keys. "Shut up—I can't think!" His eyes flicked over all the screens he could pull up from days before—trying to see every possible exit, every window, every door—
Han looked up, eyes watering with the smoke blowing at him and he rubbed them under his glasses to hide what he dearly hoped were not tears of frustration. His friends, his schoolmates, the only actual real-life people apart from his family that he really cared about, were in there.
All he saw were flames—flames licking up the whole building. Han's hands were still shaking even as he continued to look for a way—some way, any way—
He had to find them a way out.
When the five of them reached the open area of the third floor, they knew they were in trouble.
There was something wrong with the third floor. They had been hearing cracking and splitting sounds, but the sound seemed to be coming from underneath and above them.
"This is really really bad…" Reed said under his breath before wincing again as he turned his face away from the heat for a moment.
Logan watched Kurt take a step forward into the open before he heard something crack. "Be careful!" Logan reached out and grabbed Kurt back immediately—beneath Kurt's leather-shoed feet, the floor split and gave way, leaving a foot-sized hole. The support from below had already fallen down to the second floor, and the rest of it was weakening.
"Here, take him." Logan carefully slipped Reed to Kurt and for a moment seemed to look around, Blaine doing the same. The third floor was littered by flaming things. They had to be careful.
Blaine looked wildly around for something they could use. Finally he spotted something at the far wall. "Wait here!" he cried to Kurt.
"Blaine, what are you doing?" Kurt cried as he tried to grab him back, but Blaine was running to one side of the hall where he had seen the tell-tale red box. The glass was cracked and broken already—but he pulled out the fire blanket and the fire extinguisher there. He winced as he touched it; the metal was already getting warm.
Kurt gasped as Blaine ran back to them and immediately wrapped the blanket around him. "Here," Blaine panted. "Stay under that—"
"Wait—what about you?" Kurt demanded as he tried to pull Blaine to the blanket as well, but the other boy just shook his head. "It's not meant to be used that way, but maybe it can protect you a little."
Blaine looked at Logan as he held up the single fire extinguisher and said, "We've only got this. But we all have to get to the staircase."
"Guys—" Julian never really got further than that as over them, there was a deafening crack and the ceiling threatened to collapse. He shoved Logan forward. "Go! Run!" Logan grabbed the fire extinguisher from Blaine and ran ahead, trying to blast a clear path as best he could.
"Come on!" Blaine grabbed Kurt again as they both hurtled across the third floor, Logan and Julian in the lead. Around them, the ceiling began to come down, revealing roaring waves of flames that were climbing up the beams to the roof.
Kurt kept Reed pulled under his wing as they ran, his arm and the blanket over their heads to shield them from falling embers from above, pinpricks of fire that burst with each falling wood beam.
It wasn't until he caught sight of a path that led to the doorway that he realized that Blaine had not let go of his hand this whole time. Blaine kept close to him and Reed, protective and eyes wide, reflecting the growing flames, searching for that way out—any way out—of this inferno.
Logan moved twenty paces from them, sleeves singed already, and hearing the cries of the ones in the floor down below, calling out to them. When he moved forward, Kurt saw that Julian went with him. The wounded actor didn't really have a choice—the way Logan's hand was gripping onto his wrist suggested that Logan might have been intending on breaking it.
Let him look after Julian, then—we have other problems… Kurt looked wildly around. From where he and Blaine stood, they had only moments to get clear to the staircase. He could hear voices shouting up to them. That was Charlie, he could definitely hear Charlie, beckoning to them.
He felt a powerful tug—Blaine was pulling them away just as something cracked down from above and landed where Kurt and Reed last stood. Ceiling. The roof, the ceiling, it was collapsing.
"Come on!" Logan yelled from where he and Julian were closer to the staircase. Blaine grunted with effort as he tried to keep his balance, holding both Kurt and Reed up.
Blaine coughed, fighting through the smoke and the stinging in his eyes, making it difficult to navigate. He could see the two Stuarts. "This way, Blaine!" Julian cried. He pointed to the clear path. "Follow us—hurry!"
"You can do it, come on!" Logan shouted over the din.
Nodding, Blaine pulled Kurt closer and pointed to the path the other two were gesturing at. He felt Kurt's hand tighten on his. It felt like a promise—to get out of here alive together. And the Windsors made a break for it, running to the staircase.
"Charlie!" Wes yelled from the floor below. The flaming barricade that stood before him, Dwight, and Evan kept them away from Ethan, Justin, Charlie, and Micah. This same barricade of debris would make it difficult for the rest of them to get out too. It was blocking the way. They had seen it—the people on the other side were ringed by flames. They had to come up with ideas fast, the art hall was coming down. And he finally got one.
"Charlie, I've got an idea!"
Wes bolted off to one side of the main area, headed to one of the plaster pillars that had fallen over. Around him, smoke was rising as more wood charred and paper ignited.
"Wes! Wes, come back!" Dwight yelled, his face white, expecting his friend to erupt into flames any minute now. Wes ignored him and picked up the plaster pillar with both arms. "I know what I'm doing, just give me a second—!"
"We don't have that long—!" Evan howled back.
"Shut up and help me!" Wes panted as he dragged the plaster pillar to them.
"What are you doing with that?" Dwight demanded, wincing as a loud crack sounded from the beams overhead. Fortunately, nothing fell on their heads—yet.
Wes smirked at them, looking exhausted. "We're going to ram that thing." He nodded to the pile of debris.
"Ram it?" Dwight demanded.
Wes yelled loudly, "You guys watch yourselves, we're going to ram that pile over there! We're going to bust it apart, you hear me?"
"I thought I told you not to do anything stupid?" Charlie yelled back.
"If you haven't realized, running into a burning building is plenty stupid for all of us already!"
Charlie got the point. He looked back to the direction of the staircase. There was no way anyone was fitting through that gap they managed to make at the door—and from all testimonies from the people outside, there were, hopefully, five or six people to have to get through there.
Maybe Wes had the right idea. The only way to get through anything was to bust it wide open. Windsor was good at smashing into things anyway.
"Justin—I need something to break this door with!" Charlie panted. He looked wildly around. "Is there anything we can use?"
"Blaine!" Micah yelled up the stairwell. "Blaine! Kurt! Reed! Can you hear us?"
Micah pressed his ear close to the partially opened doors as the others tried to find something they could use to open that door with. He thought he heard something. A response, a cry—something beyond the flames.
There was the splintering sound of a crash as something powerful hit the pile of debris that blocked their way out. Ethan looked up and stared, waiting for the whole thing to give way and perhaps give him a clear view of his brother.
Micah called for the ones upstairs again, loudly, as Charlie ran back and tried to move him away, carrying one of the tall candelabras. That metal was searing hot, and it would be scalding Charlie's palms by now. Micah listened harder even as Charlie tried to pull him off. "Micah, you have to stop—!"
Micah shrugged him off when he heard that sound again. "I've almost got it—! A little more—!" Micah called upstairs one more time. "Blaine! Answer us!"
Another crash from the ones beyond the debris. Ethan leapt back to the others as cinders flew from the pile. The high pile began to collapse and he saw the forms of the other boys past the flickering of the flames. "You're almost there!" he cried out to them.
Micah looked up when he heard it, "We're up here!" That outcry: Blaine's voice. "Can you hear us?" He was close—and alive. Micah's heart jumped in relief and he looked up at Charlie, "I can hear them! They heard us!"
"All right, move!" Justin grabbed Micah away as Charlie wedged the candelabra through the gap and used it like a crowbar as he tried to pull the doors further open. Wood creaked and splintered and soon Justin was holding on as well, the two prefects trying to tear the door open.
Charlie looked up as he and Justin pulled with all their might—the metal starting to bend with their effort as the door refused to give way—and he saw them: atop the glass staircase. He saw Kurt and Blaine.
Kurt and Blaine looked down from the shattered glass doors that led to the staircase where they heard the echoes. Blaine's face was an honest testimony of distress and desperation as soot streaked up his cheek. He looked at Kurt. "That was Micah. That was definitely Micah!"
"Micah's in here…?" Reed asked groggily.
"I wish I could say he wasn't, but I know that voice."
"Charlie!" Kurt called down, voice cracking. He coughed and tried again. "Charlie, we're up here!"
Relief was evident in his prefect's voice even as it sounded stressed. He could hear splintering of wood downstairs. "Kurt, we're trying to get the door open now! Who's up with you?"
"Me and Blaine, Reed, Logan and Julian!"
"They're all alive?" he heard Justin say. "What happened to Adam? Oh thank god—"
Logan dropped the empty fire extinguisher, exhausted by putting out as much of the flames as he could. He looked down at Kurt and Blaine, who were a couple of steps down the stairs. They stared at the dark, flame-lit tunnel that led to the second floor doorway. "Oh no."
"Don't say oh no, Wright!" Charlie yelled. "I don't like the sound of "oh no"!"
"Charlie, there are beams blocking the door!" Blaine called down. Crisscrossed in front of the door was a pile of ceiling debris—rocked by the explosion, no doubt—and it smoldered. "It's why you can't push it open! Hinges are on the inside!"
"That's why we're trying to wreck it open!" Charlie screamed back.
Kurt looked up at Blaine, trying to get a breath in the stairwell. "We have to get out of here, I don't think Reed's doing so great." He clutched his friend under the blanket.
"I'm fine…" Reed coughed.
"You're not fine," Kurt retorted, trying not to stare at the matted patch at the back of Reed's head. Kurt looked up and heard more splintering. How Charlie was managing to get that carved door open—what Charlie was even doing in here—he didn't know, but it had to be wrought by adrenaline. "Who's with you?"
"A whole bunch of idiots who shouldn't be—"
"You followed us!" Ethan's voice yelled.
"Shut up, all of you!" Justin declared, furious. "Now's not the time! Ethan, help us get this door open!"
"Listen!" Julian suddenly said and looked up. The five boys in the stairwell looked up when they head the splintering sound. It sounded like it was coming from overhead. Blaine blanched immediately. The uncommon architecture of the building made it so that this stairwell acted rather like a bridge from the second floor to the third. With the fire eating at the supports, there was a huge chance that the ceiling could cave in on them.
"Okay move, let's go!" Logan declared.
The five boys carefully made their way at the glass staircase, their feet looking for steady footing on the scorched surfaces. Blaine and Logan moved ahead—Kurt was slower, as he had Reed with him, and Julian was with them to make sure nothing fell on them.
A beam slammed down from above. Kurt screamed.
"Come on!" Blaine yelled. He and Logan dived down towards the doors. Julian kept his arm around Kurt and Reed, warily looking up for falling debris as the fallen beam seemed to be the start of some kind of domino effect—more debris began to fall. Kurt kept as tucked under the fire blanket as he could with Reed. Every time he tried to pull Julian under it, the boy had just swatted him off. It was impossible to put three people under there.
"Charlie! Justin!" Blaine gasped as he and Logan reached the beams that blocked the door. To their relief, they saw that the combined strengths of the people behind the door was starting to open up a bigger gap. The beams were like a jungle gym that they had to pass through.
"Let me try." Logan grabbed one of the beams and tried to pull it up. Blaine began to help him pull it up and get it out of the way. They could feel the heat emanating from it and the two boys managed to pull it out a short way before the heat made them let the beam go.
Blaine heard Reed cry out and a large beam and some of the ceiling slammed down. Flames roared. More splitting sounds followed. "Come on, come on!" Blaine called desperately.
"Here, take Reed!" Kurt cried, passing the smaller boy and the blanket down to the two boys on the lower steps.
"Jump, Reed, go!" Blaine called. Their schoolmate winced and leapt over the flaming debris and crashed into Blaine, who just barely managed to catch him. Coughing, Reed staggered to his feet. "I'm okay," he panted.
"Get down through the beams, get out through that gap!" Logan told him. Reed looked scared. "What about Kurt?"
"Go, Reed! Hurry!" Kurt yelled out.
Blaine could hear the doors getting opened wider as Reed picked his way through the beams, ducking his head as Charlie and Justin reached out to him to pull him out the doors. There was a sharp cry from Logan as more beams and debris fell into the pile. And Blaine looked up to the other two on the upper flight.
Kurt had thrown his arm up as he turned away from the flying cinders when the debris fell again. Through the rippling air, he could see Blaine and Logan on the other side.
And it was as though they all knew—there was going to be something bad about to happen.
There's this moment that happens at certain times to a person.
Kurt knew it well, because he's had it happen to him before. There was this moment when everything hangs still, goes quiet, and you suddenly have one eternity to make a single choice that could change everything, here and now.
The flames stop jumping, the roof stops cracking, everyone goes still and a blink of an eye is all it takes. He saw everyone and everything.
He saw the terror in Blaine's eyes, the shock that wracked Logan, Reed's scream and the determination on Julian's face. Charlie's hand reaching out to them all, Justin was struggling to keep the door open, the other boys desperately trying to clear a way. Reed was almost to them.
He blinked once, amidst the smoke and soot and ash, and wondered if they were all going to make it out. He wondered if they all could.
When something was so horrible that it was like it wasn't real…It was as though your mind stops accepting it. And it happens in front of you as though you were watching yourself in it.
The roof was caving. There was only one chance left. Both Blaine and Logan looked like they were coming at the upper flight, aiming to pull them out before the beams fell again. But they wouldn't have time. It was too fast.
Kurt couldn't think. And he realized that someone had to make a choice.
He could see Blaine and Logan moving to them—the both of them trying to achieve what was essentially impossible. They could only reach out to one person in those couple of seconds—two heartbeats pass—and Kurt could see Blaine staring at him without a single hesitation in his eyes, reaching out to pull him.
Logan was the one who looked torn and scared, more so than he'd ever seen him be. Unlike Blaine, he looked as though he had no idea what to do. He didn't know who to reach out to first.
Logan's eyes seemed to flicker, looking to and fro for a moment that couldn't have been more than half a second—something you don't do on purpose, something you just do because you were following a thought process—and Kurt realized…that there was just so much more to the choice—the idea of having to choose— than he could understand at this moment.
And then he saw it. One flash—from one face—who made the choice of who got that last chance.
Time had slowed almost to a stop, allowing forever to come in, to make that decision to change everything. You couldn't know what could happen after that, but it was a leap of faith.
That everything was going to be okay after.
Someone already had made a decision.
And he didn't need eternity.
"Kurt!" Blaine screamed.
Kurt felt it: the powerful slam on his back of an open palm, fingers splayed, forcefully throwing him forward with no control over his own balance and movement—he was falling through the hot air, practically tripping all over the broken debris on the ground—
He hit another body, all the air pushed out of his lungs by the impact. He looked up and saw a pair of green eyes staring down at him, startled and confused.
And it was only then that he realized why the face of the one who pushed him looked so determined. Kurt was in Logan's arms now, the taller boy holding him, and he felt Logan's chest dip when he cried out.
The debris crashed down. The staircase was barred now by flaming beams, more threatening to fall overhead. Cinders flew, embers rained. Blaine covered Kurt with his body, and so Kurt was now effectively pinned between both him and Logan. Kurt could see, from where he was pressed there, the boy beyond the beams that had fallen.
"Are you guys alright?" Charlie cried in panic.
"Julian—!" Logan cried out.
"Go!" Julian yelled back, effectively trapped now, with no other direction to go but the third floor. "Get out! Get out of here right now!"
"No!" Logan screamed. Another beam fell. Everyone leapt back.
"Get out!" Julian commanded furiously at the blond boy even as Blaine wrenched Kurt away and now began to back up towards the beams, but his eyes never left the two Stuarts at the impasse.
"I can't—I won't!" Logan shouted back up to his friend, the angry tears following. "I'm not leaving here without you!"
Julian stamped his foot in frustration, the smoke stinging his eyes—but somehow he wasn't sure if that was why he was crying. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was because he heard him say something that he didn't think he would hear. Maybe it was just the desperation. "For crying out loud, Logan, just go! Get out of here now!"
"Logan, come on!" the boys at the door were yelling. Time was running out quickly. If they didn't get out now, no one was getting out.
"Kurt, come on, hurry!" Blaine was ushering him down towards the tangle of beams, urging him to get to Charlie. But he glanced back to where the other two were, not knowing what to do and torn.
"We can't leave Julian here!" Kurt protested.
"Yes, you can!" Julian shouted back. He looked at Logan again, eyes desperate. There was only one directive in his world right now and it had nothing to do with finding himself an escape route when there was none. But someone else—the more important one—did. "Please—just get out of here!"
"I can't do that to you!" Logan cried furiously. This wasn't fair—this couldn't be happening—none of this was supposed to happen! "You think I'm going to leave you here to die? I'm not doing that to you—!"
"You want to do something for me? You want to do something—then get out! Out of this building! Save Kurt and the others—go, Logan! Now!"
Before another word could be said, the ceiling now began to fall all over the place. The glass staircase cracked with each impact. "Come on!" Justin yelled. "Get out of there! All of you!"
Julian made a sound—it sounded like a grunt of pain—as he shielded his eyes from the embers. He stumbled back upwards, towards the third floor. "Wait—!" Blaine shouted out, but there was just no time. The ceiling was caving in. It was time to go—Reed was already out.
Kurt watched in horror as the actor fled back upstairs. Blaine did the only thing he could do at this point: to grab Logan by the back of his shirt and drag him back towards the doors. "We have to go!" he choked.
"No!" Logan was moving towards the blockage at the staircase.
But Blaine refused to let him go. "Logan, for the love of God—!"
"Let go of me! There's still time—!" Logan's eyes were fastened on his friend who was now racing upstairs, ducking the pieces of ceiling falling down. "Julian!"
"Logan!" Kurt grabbed onto him as well and he pulled so hard that he nearly sent the taller boy falling over. He hated this, he hated everything—he hated this building, this event, the fire, the stubbornness of everyone and the fact that he was now forced to leave someone in this inferno. But he'd be damned if he was going to let another one get stuck when he could still do something about this one. "Logan!" he yelled to him. "We have to go! Now! If we get out fast enough, we can tell them where Julian is and they can save him!"
And with Blaine's help, he hauled the blond boy back. Kurt ignored the struggles from Logan as he and Blaine now pulled him towards the doors, ducking through the beams. The ceiling fell fast. Not even Logan could think he could do anything now, as everything caved in. They ducked and dodged the beams, with Charlie and Justin still holding the door open.
Kurt was out first, then Blaine, then Logan. Everything on the other side crashed just as they made it out to the second floor.
"Oh my god." Kurt was panting and he was a mess. He found himself surrounded by the Windsors, and Justin, who asked, "And Julian?"
Kurt grabbed Logan's shoulder immediately, as though the reminder would cause tall boy to take flight back. Blaine shook his head, pale. "He's trapped. He's up there. We have to get out and tell the firefighters that—"
There was a sickening crash and debris flew. The barricade fell apart. And in the tunnel of flames, Wes appeared at the other side with Dwight and Evan. "Let's go, come on!" Wes screamed from the other side.
"Move!" Charlie pushed the others on. "Go! Get out, now!" He waited for Justin, who lifted up Ms. Blumenfeld again. "Come on!"
"Han, is this going to work?" Drew demanded as he, Satoru and Todd now dragged Han's "idea" up the side of the Art Hall, the side according to Han had the lowest temperature level right now. It took a number of boys to do it, it was a wonder they managed to do so at all without anyone seeing them. Spencer, Merril, Jeff, and Nick were helping them, in spite of all better judgment that this was, in fact, a truly idiotic thing to do. "Because we've done really stupid things before and this what we're doing is some pretty gold standard stupid and coming from me and Satoru—"
"Do you have any other ideas?" Han snapped back.
"How do we know this thing isn't going to blow up?" Todd asked mistrustfully as they began to set it up. "How do we know it'll manage to catch them?"
Han was running out of patience and the ability to stay calm under pressure. He could hear the attempts of the rest of the school trying to douse a way into the front door—which was where a lot of the fire was gathering. It was going to be if not inefficient, futile.
So he looked to his friends and said, "Look, that thing can be up fast enough, it's going to be full of air, there's no other way out and according to all our stupid if-panic-hasn't-rattled-us calculations, anything from the second floor is within height limit, as well as the fact as this is the side of the building that has the lowest temperature and if we keep it a certain distance, it's not going to catch fire because it's upwind. But beyond all that, we have no idea. If you have any other plans short of causing a hurricane to rain here this precise moment, I want to hear it!"
It was a plan that no one should be attempting at all, but if there was anything Windsor boys loathe it's the fact that they were told that they cannot do what they wanted to do. And what they wanted to do right now was do was save the ones inside with no way out. As Todd stared at Windsor's resident "hermit", Satoru popped up from the other side of the set up.
"You guys going to keep arguing or are we gonna do something?" He leapt back as the object they had managed to drag over began to rapidly gain in size.
Less than six months ago, the twins Evan and Ethan displayed their ability to produce things that no normal human being tended to have around their living area. Todd and his crew had been trying to film a "movie" for a school project and they mentioned wishing they could do crazy stunts.
While Wes had the presence of mind to tell Todd and co. that a filming of Windsor's daily shenanigans would produce enough crazy stunt footage and explosions to fuel a Michael Bay movie, the Twins had produced something that, to this day, they could not explain why they were in possession of.
But whatever their reasons were, it was Blaine's memorable action sequence of paintball shooting while falling a storey or so (Kurt nearly getting heart failure when he witnessed it) into this double motor inflatable landing pad that caused Han to remember that they may have a rough chance.Maybe.
Han watched as the stunt air landing pad began to inflate rapidly. His heart was thudding in his chest and he looked up. He grabbed Drew by the arm. "Catch their attention now while it's inflating. Sound the alarm."
"You think they'll hear it?" Drew asked he fumbled with the siren.
"They had just damn well better."
The air-raid siren filled the air. All of the boys practically covered their ears as soon as Drew began sounding it. "They're only going to be able to jump one at a time, you know that, right?" Satoru yelled, over the sound.
"That's why they have to start as soon as it's ready!" Han screamed back. "And hope to whoever's listening up there that they're only on the second floor!"
"What are you boys doing?"
The group of them looked up to see Mr. Harvey and Ms. Medel running up to them, looking aghast and covering their ears at the sound of the siren. Drew and Satoru froze, horrified that they were caught, but Han waved them on to make sure they didn't stop. Of course they would get caught, there was no way to do this without getting caught—
"What do you boys think you're doing?" Harvey roared at them over the sound.
"There's no way anyone is getting into that building fast enough!" Han yelled back, hands still covering his ears. "They're going to have to jump! And we're going to catch them!"
"Oh my god…" Medel stared at the set-up as Harvey ran off to a different direction—heading back to the front entrance of the Art Hall. Medel stared and had a thousand concerns that the boys must've already realized for themselves and had simply chosen to overlook in favor of action. It couldn't be safe, but as opposed to burning alive right this moment in the Art Hall, what choice did anyone actually have?
The window in the second floor smashed into a thousand pieces, glass tinkling down from above—a piece of wood was sailing over their heads and vanished into the trees. Everyone looked up as smoke began pouring out as though it too had been searching desperately for an escape.
Han's heart jumped. They must have heard the siren by now.
"You heard that?" Kurt gasped after his coughing fit stopped. The second floor was more maze than space by now, with the structure coming apart at the seams. It had gotten so bad, flames everywhere casting a glow as though they were in the heart of a sunset but a hundred times warmer, flanked by trenches of black smoke.
"Yes!" Blaine exclaimed. He pointed down the direction of an exhibit space—the siren noise was coming somewhere past that area. "Windsor's siren!"
"You have a siren? You named it?" Justin managed to demand in the state of panic he was in. And considering he'd been dealing with Windsors for four years now, he was mystified that he'd never heard it.
"Rulebook says," Blaine coughed, "In an extreme moment when no other course of action can be taken—"
"—life or death situation, mainly—" Reed choked.
"—any able Windsor can sound the siren and any Windsor within hearing distance must drop absolutely everything to go to it," Charlie finished, already half dragging the others to that direction.
"You have a rule book? With that kind of rule?" Justin was aghast.
"Oh please, we know Hanover and Stuart have their own books and that they've been around for twenty-five years same as ours—"
"You're not supposed to know about that!" Logan burst out, possibly more because panic was getting the better of him. He kept looking back up to the direction of the staircase.
"Can everyone shut up, stop standing around, and just head for the siren?" Kurt finally screamed, tugging Micah along—he was the one holding Reed protectively now.
The problem, Kurt decided, was that they were clearly losing their sense of sanity when the odds where overwhelmingly against their favor, and were grasping onto what few realities they could still accept. And they were not the kind of realities that Kurt believed constituted responsible thinking at this moment.
"Come on, hurry!" Evan panted as he urged the others to go on. His brother reached him and effectively stalled there, refusing to go anywhere without him. Evan hauled him along with him. The group headed en masse towards the direction of the siren, the labyrinth of mess all around them, with Wes and the two prefects leading the pack. They couldn't crowd in the paths even if they wanted to—so much was falling from above that they had to choose when they ran forward or else be caught by something flaming that was falling.
Wes and the prefects moved ahead of the pack. Others straggled. But they all headed directly for the sound. It was definitely coming from the side of the walls that they were now facing, past the sealed windows.
"We have to get this open!" Wes looked around for something to smash the windows with. There had to be something—
A piece of smoking wood literally went flying just inches from him and it smashed through the window with all the force of the most desperate home run in a World Series championship. Except that piece of wood had been kicked.
Kurt Hummel stood panting as his stunned boyfriend stared at him. Of course his foot hurt and he had to have destroyed his patent leathers but that was beyond the point when the windows were open and redemption had to be imminent. There had been an effective piece of debris lying conveniently in front of him, and he had kicked it into the window with all the force of his days as a kicker gave him, and that was that.
Charlie kicked the rest of the now weakened glass to widen the awning that Kurt's assault had impacted upon it. Below, he saw the set-up:
A small smattering of boys was staring up at him, and the incredible inflatable landing pad that the Twins had smuggled away onto campus was filling with air very quickly. Han was leaping up and down, screaming something unintelligible through the sound of the siren. But it was obvious what he wanted him to do. "Oh my god, this has got be the gold, silver, and bronze in the idiotic stunt Olympics," Charlie muttered.
"Well?" Justin demanded from next to him. "What are you waiting for, Charlie? Choosing between jackknife or swan? Here, take her—" he promptly moved Ms. Blumenfeld into Charlie's arms, and he turned back to the blaze for the others.
"What the hell are you waiting for, Justin?" Charlie demanded, clutching onto their teacher. "Come on!"
"We still have time!" Justin shouted back as he gestured to the others that it was safe for move forward, eyes still glancing upward, careful for any debris.
"Okay, go!" Dwight yelled, gesturing for the others to hurry. Wes looked out the window and saw the landing pad starting to fill to its optimum efficiency. "Oh damn, we can only go one at a time—!"
"Charlie, you first! You've got Ms. Blumenfeld!" Justin called down.
"What?" Charlie looked down out the window. Could it even take two people at one go? Can it even do that?
"Charlie, what are you waiting for?" Justin demanded. "No one else is jumping out until you manage to!"
Charlie had to take point for the rest of them and that would've been so much easier if he didn't have to care about a) the landing pad catching them, or b) the fact that first to jump meant first to get out while everyone else was still inside. Danger or not, Charlie was still the damned Windsor prefect and his priority was the younger ones' safety.
The siren died. Below, Spencer howled, "Come on!"
"The landing pad's up!" Han's voice broke—he was no accustomed to raising his voice louder than what was needed to curse at a WoW guild-member. "Jump, Charlie, damn it!"
The Windsor Prefect took one more look at his best friend and then at the boys he was supposed to be protecting. He could feel Kurt's overwhelming desire to kick something at him in order to make him jump.
Charlie looked down at the landing pad, clutched his teacher close—and leaped.
The boys scattered as with a loud slap, Charlie and Ms. Blumenfeld hit the landing pad. Han was in a state of panic. They didn't know what would happen if two people jumped at one go, if the pad was damaged, then no one else would get down—
"Charlie!" Ms. Medel desperately tried to grab the senior from the landing pad, fighting through the puffed waves of material. "Lily!" she managed to reach her colleague first as Charlie struggled to get out of the pad.
"Are you okay?" Drew gasped as he tried to help him. Charlie was a horrendous mess—soot, glass cuts, blood and he looked positively furious. That twist in his expression was either pain or panic, but what was important was that he was alive. He looked up overhead at the window. There was no sign of anyone else.
"Where are the others?" Spencer, who helped Medel with Ms. Blumenfeld, asked in alarm.
"Still up there—"Charlie fell into the ground in a disgraceful flop and the boys scrambled to help him. He shrugged them all off except Merril, who refused to be deterred, and he managed to get to his feet.
"Charlie, we have to get you out of here—!"
"I'm not going anywhere until the boys are out of there—!"
Shane came racing in from the darkness, David hard at his heels. "Where are they? Where's my brother?" Shane was talking a mile a minute and David tried to stop him from panicking.
There was a crash from overhead. People from below gasped as blast of ash and smoke blew out of the window. Something big must have fallen.
Charlie, still weak, raised his eyes up above. "Han…is that pad going to hold?"
"I hope to God it does," Han breathed.
A figure appeared in the window. It was Justin, clutching onto the edge of the pane.
That crash had been the result of the ceiling massively caving in. There was almost no time left. What was previously a clear path was now littered once again by flames. The boys had been scattered as they tried to protect themselves and each other from the flames. In all honesty, by the way everything was falling, Kurt was half-horrified that at some point, Julian was going to come falling from above.
Justin was the one to make it to the window. "He made it!" he panted to the others. "And the landing mat is still holding!"
The Twins exhaled from where they were still climbing over fallen beams, helping others through. There was barely any time to talk now, so much was falling from above and they were afraid that the entire structure would just ultimately come down to rubble.
"Hurry!" Wes panted as he helped Blaine get past one of the piles. "Come on!" he added when Blaine refused to move until Wes helped him pull Kurt over the same obstacle course of soot and flame and debris.
Blaine ignored him completely, holding securely onto Kurt's hands as he helped him over. The Twins now helped haul Reed with him. Coughing as he looked up, Kurt realized that he could hear a sound in the distance that wasn't the same siren he'd heard before. It definitely had to be the siren of the firefighters on the approach. They were almost there—almost out.
Kurt dropped down and saw Blaine and the Twins heading momentarily over to where Dwight was sprawled on the ground. "Dwight? Dwight!" he hurried to them—Blaine tried to push him to the direction of the window as though to tell him that he would deal with this and that Kurt should get to safety, but Kurt pushed his arm away.
"Dwight? Dwight, can you hear us?"
"Dwight, you have to get up, please—" Blaine looked at the Twins. "He hasn't moved?"
Kurt put a hand on Dwight's back, half afraid he was injured somewhere. "Dwight?"
Dwight could hear them well enough, through the fog and the smoke in his mind. It was just that he was incapable of getting up. His body hurt everywhere—too much to somehow manage get up. And after everything he'd done today, he wondered if he even should. He couldn't bring himself to care.
"Dwight…?" he vaguely heard Kurt say.
He just wanted to sleep…
"Dwight…?" said someone else. That small one—that small voice again. Inwardly, Dwight smiled at the sound, wondering how it even got here.
…where was here?
Without warning, he felt it—many hands grabbing onto him, as though pulling him up from very thick liquid, like tar. Dwight took a deep breath and coughed. He felt a hand on his cheek—it smelled like ash and moisturizer. "…Kurt?"
"You're okay, come on…" Kurt said, helping him lift himself up. "Come on, we're almost there, I swear—"
"Sorry—" Dwight gasped for breath as his surroundings returned to full clarity. His momentary lapse had cost him and his friends vital moments. Unacceptable. He urged Kurt back to Blaine, feeling adrenaline start pumping through his veins again. This place was hell on earth. "Go—go now, quick—!"
"Come on, let's go!" Wes was bellowing, urging them on. "Hurry before it all goes down!"
"What are you waiting for?" they could hear people screaming from outside, desperation rising to the peak.
"Okay let's go, come on!" Blaine began to pull Kurt along once more as Ethan began to grab for his brother, Micah reaching for Reed.
That was when the ceiling crashed almost entirely over their heads. Hands grabbed as feet lost foothold in an instinctive jump—Logan grabbed Blaine and the two of them hit the floor just as they heard Ethan scream, having been shoved back by Evan. Weakened by the first crash, the second fall left nearly nothing of this side of the second floor ceiling. The boys vanished in the dust and smoke clouds, but it was screaming that filled the air—
"Kurt!" Blaine was screaming. "Kurt, where are you?"
"Over here!" Kurt immediately tried to scramble to his feet, hands feeling scorched as Dwight pulled him and Reed up with Micah's help. "Blaine—are you—?"
"Stay back!" Dwight called out over the noise, pulling Kurt backward from the massive tangle that now separated him from Blaine, with more debris adding to the pile overhead. The trickle of falling fragments was almost steady now. Kurt, Dwight, Reed, Micah and one twin were at one side, all the others, Blaine, Logan, Wes, the other twin and Justin, were almost to the window.
Kurt coughed through the dust. "Blaine—you can make it, jump out of that window now!"
"Have you lost your mind? I'm not just leaving—"
"Get out, Ethan, go!" the twin on the other side commanded with anguish. "Just go!"
Blaine felt the tug of Justin's hand on his elbow and it drove him mad. He jerked away as though it burned him. "I'm not leaving here without Kurt!" He ran forward to the mess with Logan—"Blaine! You can't do this—!" Wes screamed, "Blaine! Come back!"—the two of them trying to tear the debris out of the way with their bare hands—to no avail. This had too much weight, and not even they could get through it. It was very quickly getting engulfed in flames.
"We have to get through—" Dwight panted, eyes scanning every inch of the pile. "We have to get through—!" He leapt forward.
"What are you doing?" Kurt demanded as he clutched onto Reed.
Dwight took a large beam into his hands and with all the last of his newfound strength through adrenaline—he felt nothing anymore, it didn't weigh like anything and he could barely feel the heat—began to hoist it up. "The rest of you, jump!" he screamed. "Jump out the window now!"
"Blaine, if you don't jump out that window, I'm going to throw you out there!" Justin threatened.
"Not without Kurt!" Blaine shot back. He could see the pile crumbling—someone was moving things from the other side. "What's going on?"
Justin turned his attention to Logan, "Logan, get out of here now!"
"But—" his eyes flickered to the ceiling first, to the third floor—Save Kurt and the others!—and then back at Justin, "—but what about—!"
"Logan—just go!" Justin screamed. "Tell the firefighters where everyone else is, go on! Go!"
"Logan, I'm going to shove you out that window—!" Wes was dragging the Stuart prefect off to the direction of the window.
"Wait—!" Logan's hand caught onto Blaine's and he pulled him with him in spite of the shorter boy's furious protests, still calling out to Kurt.
"Come on, what's the matter? Jump, for godssakes!" Han screamed from down below. The pad had already recovered and was waiting for the next jumpers.
Blaine came flying from the window—he had to have been forced to jump, he would never have left Kurt on his own—and he crashed into the mat with a powerful flop. The boys scrambled immediately to get him off it. "Blaine! Blaine, oh my god—" Han pulled his friend off it. Blaine was covered in soot and had a cut on his temple, battered and bruised.
"Blaine!" Shane ran to him the moment the boys pulled the older Anderson off the landing mat—he grabbed his brother into a hug and burst into tears. "Oh god, oh god—I thought you were—!"
Blaine held onto his brother, shaking. "Shane…" he exhaled, holding his brother as thought trying to remember this was real, and that he made it out—and then he looked up to the window again. "The others—!"
A blond boy flew off the window next and landed with a slightly less awkward thump into the mat. "Logan!" came the chorus of the other boys who started pulling him off it just as more and more students and teachers began to run towards their direction.
"Logan—!" Spencer and Merril hauled the prefect off the mat, as quickly and as carefully as they could. Logan managed to get his feet onto the ground, but he nearly fell over the next instant. He clutched onto Spencer, "Where are—"
"Logan!" from the ranks of the boys, everyone looked up to see Derek tearing past them. A lot of the other Stuarts looked worried—he still had a bandage around his head—but he stumbled to his friend desperately. "Logan! Are you all right? Where's Julian?"
Logan clutched onto his friends shoulder, eyes wild with fear, "He's still—I tried—I—"
Another blond boy came flying out the window screaming and landed onto the pad with a heavy thump. Audrey Brightman broke through the boys and tried to help her brother up. Unlike many of the other parents and guardians who thought that the siren was one of the ways the emergency was being broadcast, Audrey (who could not hear this siren) then saw that a lot of the boys running away were Windsors, just like her brothers.
She had followed them. She now grabbed onto the battered twin that had just gotten away from the mat and stared at him in the eyes.
"Audee!" Ethan was crying so hard that he could barely see and he clutched at her as though he were a man drowning. "Audee—Evan—Evan's still—Audee we have to help him, please!" He was shaking so violently that he could barely sign the words right to her. Audrey grabbed his hands to stop him and tugged him close to her, not knowing what to do as Ethan continued to scream into her chest.
There was another outcry as another body slammed into the mat. David immediately tore forward as Wes coughed into the mat, struggling to free himself. "Wes!" David put both arms around him and pulled him out of the pad, already nearly to tears. "You idiot—you stupid—you—I can't believe—are you out of your mind?" he finally exploded in a fit of relief as he looked from him to Blaine, and then back up at the window.
"Where's Justin?" Charlie demanded. "And the others?"
"Still—" Wes coughed, gesturing up to the window.
When Kurt heard Wes all but nearly push Blaine out the window, he thought he'd cry in relief and fright and everything that came with the knowledge that the boy he loved was safe while he himself was still in this bonfire. He wondered if that had been what it was like for Julian, who watched Logan go, and Evan, who could not repress a sob when Ethan was forced to jump. The flames encroached on them, and Micah clutched onto Reed, the two of them terrified as they looked around.
Dwight absolutely refused to give in. Kurt saw Evan move to help him now, the two of them pouring their strength onto the beam Dwight was forcing upward. Kurt tore away from Micah and Reed and grabbed onto the beam, helping them pull it up.
"There has to be a way to get to you—!" Justin coughed from the other side.
"I've got this!" Dwight yelled. "Get out, Justin!"
"What are you doing?"
"If I—if we get this beam up—the others can crawl through the space and you can grab them!" Dwight yelled.
Kurt looked down at where Dwight meant. He was right. If they could lift it, there was a small space that they could get through. It was brilliant. He pushed the beam up higher with this knowledge. He could feel Micah and Reed getting up to try and do the same, but Dwight kicked Kurt in the shins suddenly.
"Quit it!" Dwight panted. "Let go! You go in first!"
"What?" Kurt gaped at him.
There was a cry of effort from the boys as the beam gave way. "Get it up to that wood sticking out like a ledge—!" Evan panted.
There was a noise of assent as they moved to do so, pulling it up to that ledge. As soon as the beam rested and they tried to let go, it threatened to topple everything over—"Whoa—!" Justin called out. "Stop! Stop, or it'll all fall on you!"
"We can tell!" Evan yelled back. The wood took some of the weight, but it still needed to be held up. Everything was crumbling haphazardly. "That's it—go on! Alice, get the Dormouse and go!"
Kurt nodded shakily and also pulled onto Micah. "Wait—!" Reed cried.
"There is no time left!" Dwight screamed, knowing it was truer than anyone knew. He gave the beam everything he had to hold it up. Embers rained down, clothes were going to catch fire. "Evan! Go with them, I can hold this myself!"
"Yes I can!" Dwight yelled with the effort. "For heavenssakes go!"
"Dwight!" Reed screamed even as Micah and Kurt pulled him through the crawl space. "No! Dwight!"
""Just go—go now—go!" Dwight cried in alarm as everything began to collapse and fall, with him still holding the beam up. Even if he tried, he'd never make it now as the last to go. "Evan, you can make it!"
Evan forcibly shot himself through the crawl space as the entire pile collapsed with a roar that sent fire roaring everywhere and everything on the other side of the hall was now gone from vision.
"Dwight!" Kurt screamed in horror. He was gone! He heard him scream when it fell—
"Jump!" Justin yelled as he just barely managed to get Reed and Micah out. Evan stared in terror at the flames where they had last seen their friend and Justin had to pull him back. Kurt felt hot tears stinging his eyes and he wanted to fight back when Justin grabbed the back of his shirt but he was too weak to even fight that.
Bodies landed one after another outside, everyone watching as boys began jumping from the window. There was uproar as Windsor extracted Reed from the mat, all of them carefully handing him out when they saw that he was injured.
The mat barely had time to recover when Micah slammed in next, scrambling off it after. Shane tore towards them both, grabbing onto Reed first and holding him tight, crying too hard to speak and he tugged Micah down with him, clutching onto his sleeve.
Blaine looked at them and stared up at the window desperately. Logan stood next to him, staring at that gaping hole in the glass. Who knew what went through his mind then, but Blaine only had one thought: Please, God, please…Please, come on, I'm begging you, don't take him from me, please, please—
A lithe body jumped and his heart leapt the same height. Blaine was racing at the mat almost before the jumper even hit it.
Kurt felt him—he heard Blaine and he felt his hands on him—and the first thing he did was clutch onto his strong arms and let him pull him off the pad. They hit the grassy ground and they clutched to each other tightly, weeping beyond their control. Logan reached them and stopped, staring. And then he looked up to the glass again.
"You're…oh God…" Blaine closed his eyes, tears running down his face as he held Kurt tightly. "I thought—I—"
Kurt just shook his head, rendered speechless by the entire ordeal which wasn't even finished yet. He clutched tightly onto him, sobbing in silence and just holding him. He was safe. It was safe, he was outside and he was safe and there was no fire here—just Blaine holding tightly onto him with no intention of letting go.
He swallowed and barely had the strength to turn around and look up to see a blond boy hit the mat. Ethan tore away from his sister and scrambled to his twin, pulling him out the landing pad. "Evan—Evan!" he was holding him tightly, sobbing.
The older-by-two-minutes twin only clasped at his brother who was already practically hysterical. And just as Audrey Brightman ran up to them, the landing bad barely recovering from Evan's last landing—Justin hit the pad.
Charlie pulled the Hanover prefect out of the pad quickly—Justin looked shaken. He was trembling slightly even as he held Charlie's arms. "Send people in—hurry! Houston—he's in there and he—"
"Julian!" Kurt heard Logan cry out from next to him and Blaine. It didn't even sound as though he really expect an answer. It was the yell of someone who just tried because there was nothing else he could do.
"Please, please someone—you have to help Dwight, he's still in there!" Reed wept from where was with Shane.
"Come on, Dwight," Charlie hissed as he looked desperately up at the glass.
Kurt pulled Blaine to his feet and the two of them clutched each other close as they too stared at the glass window begging for a figure to appear there. Already Kurt was sure that the paramedics and firefighters were there. They would be trying to put out the front. In minutes, they would go around the building and they'd find them all like this, in this crazy attempt to escape.
"Come on, Dwight, please…" Kurt whispered under his breath.
Dwight stumbled backwards when the entire thing collapsed. He stumbled backwards and tripped and fell to the ground. He could feel rubble raining on his face, and dust all around. The smoke thickened. His strength gave out.
In this dizzy fog, he heard his friends still—they were jumping out the window now, successfully escaped. He couldn't open his eyes fully to see, and even then, he was sure he wasn't going to see anything.
What was it that movie said?
Keep knocking on the devil's door long enough, and sooner or later, someone's going to answer you. Dwight closed his eyes. All the things he had been doing, feigning being some kind of hero…they were paltry things compared to what he saw before him the moment he saw his friends were in actual danger.
Being a hero in this mess was tiring, exhausting, overall a test of suffering to protect someone else while you put yourself in harm's way. But he'd thrown everything he had into it, because no one was dying on his watch again. Not now, not ever. And now, his friends were safe. It was over. It was all over.
Everything hurt. He was so tired. The place past consciousness seemed to comfortingly cool against the blaze he was in.
Thank God. It was all over.
Dwight…? He knew that voice. Inwardly, he smiled again.
"…Alan…" he whispered.
It was all over.
A strong hand clamped like a vise onto his arm. A fire blanket was thrown over him, and the pinpricks of the embers stopped. He was hoisted up. "Look at me, Dwight! Open your eyes!"
Startled, Dwight opened his eyes. His vision cleared and the sound returned to his ears. "What…who…"
"You'll be all right, just follow me!" Mr. Harvey said, keeping Dwight with him under the blanket, the blanket now mostly on the student.
After he had left Sylvia with the boys of Windsor, he knew that the situation was even more dire than he had initially thought. He didn't doubt that the landing pad would work. It looked like it would definitely work. But what mattered was that the boys made it through the floors and out that specific area for the whole plan to work. There was a chance that some of them would not make it out, simply because they didn't or could not take that route. With everything falling apart, it was possible.
It took him less than a second of standing in the front of the hall with the parents and the students for him to realize that those boys—his boys—were in there. And that there shouldn't beany reason to even hesitate.
A fire extinguisher, a fire blanket…
He took those things, broke through the ranks, and furiously fought his way in. He couldn't even remember how he managed it—he had felt the skin on his arms burn, and the heat could kill a man lesser armed. But for him, there was just no other option.
Kurt, the boy who changed everything. Blaine, the one who had held them together. Logan, the one who he himself had tried to pull from the brink. And the others, even the ones who were not Warblers. They were his students, all taken under his wing at some point. They all were bright, and full of life. They had everything left before them. They were his students, sons, and brothers.
He had been a Windsor once, Mr. Harvey. He was Greg of Windsor House once. He knew what it was like to hold on to a group of boys to call family. He didn't doubt the motivation that compelled all those boys who had run into the building. They were in there to protect their own.
And he went in to protect the same thing.
He was right. One was left behind. He found Dwight.
There was no way out left—the boys had been very lucky to have made it out at all. Greg looked around and tried to find another path, however small the chance could be. The last of the fire extinguisher he'd sparingly used was already being used now as he tried to find a way for him and Dwight to get out. Dwight was in a terrible state—he was weak and he could barely keep standing. He helped him move through the labyrinth. They had to get to the window.
Finally, Greg found a gap in the pile of rubble that Dwight could possibly clamber through. It was on fire. But he blasted it with the last of the fire extinguisher and tucked the blanket around the boy.
Dwight knew. He looked at his teacher in the eyes and hot tears fell. "But…"
"Go," he said in his commanding tone. His skin bled, his hair singed. He gestured to the clear path—narrow, only someone of Dwight's size and build could squeeze through that. "It won't be there long. Go, Dwight. Right now. Run, don't look back!"
"Mr. Harvey…" Dwight choked back a sob.
"I know you can do it—Hurry!"
Weeping furiously, Dwight crawled through the gap right before the rubble took it back. He landed heavily onto the messy floor, pushed himself up, and flew across the way, crying too hard to see and refusing to look back—if he saw his teacher again, he'd never make it out, it'd be too hard—
He hurled himself out the window.
Harvey stepped back.
All of Windsor grabbed the boy, pouring tears of relief when he landed on the mat. Kurt grabbed him along with the others and pulled him out of the pad. He was so weak, he could barely stand, but he didn't have to—they all practically carried him.
"Dwight—oh thank god! Dwight, can you hear us? Dwight, say something, please! Please! Dwight!"
He had never felt so many hands on him, so many voices speaking to him, coaxing life out of him. He could hear them weeping in relief, begging for him to speak—and he couldn't even recognize some of the voices. Who were these people…? Why did they care?
And in this moment, he felt his entire body go slack. All these hands on him, lifting him practically off the ground; it felt as though his body was shutting down. Blackness raced to him at full speed, and all the energy he had fled him. Lost and powerless, Dwight closed his eyes as he fell against his friends—his family—and went limp in grateful surrender.
He wanted to smile when that cheerful voice called in his mind before everything disappeared.
"Dwight!" the other boys caught him just as he fell, and he was borne amongst them carefully, mindful of the wounds that littered him. They surrounded him, staring down, not knowing what to do…helpless.
As the boys panicked, a pair of green eyes scanned the windows in the same sentiment. His eyes flickered up to the third floor. The other boys had made it out…all…except one. Even as Derek tried to pull him away, he felt his friend grow weak when the smoke and flame engulfed the window.
He remembered the staircase. He remembered being told to go. He remembered Julian running up to the third floor, without so much as a goodbye.
When Julian had run up to the third floor, he knew he was trapped. It was worse than ever, and the floor was giving way beneath him. He'd picked his way through safer ground. He thought that he could get the fire escape to open again. But he found himself finding the only remaining steady ground in the third floor—where the night had begun.
Julian fell onto the floor, on his hands and knees, coughing violently. The smoke stung his eyes. And this room…this terrible room…was the only area that didn't have a floor that threatened to collapse yet.
The roof was caving in. Fire was growing. The smoke was thickening. And when Julian looked up, he saw Adam, still lying in a prone form, on the floor. In spite of himself, Julian crawled over to him. A moment of hesitation, and he grabbed his wrist. A pulse. Adam was alive, but barely.
And then Julian suddenly had the most inappropriate desire to laugh at himself. It was a bitter, futile laugh that died too quickly in his hoarse throat.
He slumped back for a moment against the wall, trying to breathe as much as he can while he could. And revel in the fact that Logan could have been rescued by now. Would he be rescued? Would anyone even make it up here, with the staircase gone?
Julian looked back to the direction of that place, where he had screamed for Logan to go. Logan had been his first and only priority and in hindsight maybe he should have thought it a little more through. But mindless idea that the blond best friend he'd had for three years was same gave him the only reason to smile even a little right now.
Logan was safe. He was going to be safe.
And he wouldn't have even had to go all these things too, if it hadn't been for him. He made this mess—it was only right that he fixed it.
All the things I've done…all the things I've tried…
He remembered one night after he received that message from Derek—the one that told him that their friend was "forgetting" to take his medication. That night he knew—he knew that there was very little time. He'd seen what happens when Logan flew past the haze and into the fury of his rage. Self-destruction would follow and he couldn't let that happen—
"I really think you should go to Winter Fest, sir."
"And why do you think that?"
"…there's just something you have to know. Something you have to see."
He had tried. He thought that the only way to shake his friend back to reality was if the monster came banging at his door and reminded him. If he could compel the father to come—sure there would definitely be trouble but…maybe Logan would at least be pushed back from the brink and be bought more time. It would make him try to save himself. Enough of a scene and the others would hear. And they'd save him. And maybe…maybe his father would hear him sing and understand.
"Logan doesn't sing," the senator looked bewildered.
Kurt almost smiled. "Are you sure about that?"
And then he had sung that song. Julian had stood at the entrance doors, beyond the stage lights so no one near the stage could see him. Alone, listening, watching. When Logan looked at his father and sang, Julian knew that if he ever found out that he was the one—that he had been the one to tell…
He would hate him.
The senator walked past him down the hall, his wife Michelle in tow. Julian didn't move from where he stood.
"…he sings very well, doesn't he, Senator? He's looks different."
The senator gave him a long hard look, but kept walking. But Michelle looked at him and gave him a smile—one that made Julian wonder sometimes how much she really knew of the situation past what she was letting on. She gave Julian a hug—"Thank you."—and left with the father.
Julian had blinked back the mists in his eyes, and waited until the song was over. And then he left.
She thanked me because she didn't know. If she knew what would happen after they let Logan stay one more year…
I did this, didn't I?
Yes he had.
Everything he had tried to do for him ended up going wrong. He tried to fix things with Blaine when it had been him—that went to hell. He had tried with Joshua, but that didn't work either. And now Kurt. Beautiful, brilliant, blunt Kurt—he would have been perfect for Logan, of that Julian was sure.
And he ended that too. With this.
Maybe when this was all over, Logan would realize the implications of the confession that he was forced to say when Adam held that knife to him. Maybe he would grow to hate him for not saying a word. That's good…it should be easier for him to deal with this…fiasco.
He didn't even want to know what his mother and father would say. Maybe for the first time in a while, they'd talk about something that had nothing to do with a script. Maybe Hollywood would declare it a freak accident. Maybe they'll write Grant's character off.
Lots of maybes.
It was fine to imagine.
Julian opened his eyes. He saw the hall. Reed's paintings were all ruined now. Petals were still everywhere. Everything a mess. His blood, everyone else's, was on the wood floor. It was horrible and nightmarish and he refused to die in this hell. If he was going to die—it would be by his own terms.
I can't give up. I'm not going to die in here. Or at least…not in this room.
It was a last ditch attempt. The only way he knew. Anything was better than this hell. He crawled to the axe left on the ground. He reached down and picked it up, using both hands because he was so tired. He panted down at Adam, "You're not going to die here, you bastard. No. You're not getting away that easily. You don't get to die and get away from everything you've done. You're going to live through this and face some fucking justice." And he turned to the glass windows—and hurled the axe through it.
It smashed to pieces. Julian picked up the baseball bat that still had blood on it and walloped the window open a bit wider until he couldn't be assed to do it anymore. The fire was eating away quick.
Three stories up. Fire at his back. The empty air in front of him. Julian couldn't have asked for a more dramatic setting. He reached down and pulled Adam's limp form over to him, draping his arm over his shoulders.
I choose this.
The roof collapsed. Julian felt himself impact glass, slicing through his clothes, and skin. And in those moments, when he felt the impact, and he felt no ground beneath him, just the endless falling and the knowledge that an even greater impact was waiting…
…he wondered not of green eyes that had fascinated him for three years, but if Alice, who seemed to enjoy her fall amidst the books and furniture, feared not the falling, but the sudden stop that came after.
All the boys on the ground burst into roars of exclamation when they heard the smashing sound. Something flew through the air and vanished into the darkness. And then it happened:
An honest-to-goodness miracle from God, as everyone would say later.
A third floor window smashed as something mortal broke through it—not quite right over where the pad was, but close.
There was uproar as the two bodies that flew out hit the trees first—a branch broke. And it knocked them off course. They kept hitting branches and getting steered off course and then with nearly half a tree's crown following them in twigs and branches, two bodies slammed painfully into the pad.
There was a cry of horror from the onlookers. The second floor might have been just enough height, but nobody knew if the third floor was even an option for that landing pad. But everyone fought through the leaves and branches to find two bodies on the pad, having very nearly missed it altogether:
Adam Clavell, in a bruised heap, lay on top of Julian Larson, who had taken a lot of the impact into the branches first and then the pad.
There was a moment of pure terror when neither of them even so much as moved.
"Julian!" Kurt's cry broke the spell and he was moving to the mat. Suddenly boys were everywhere, pulling branches and twigs off. Justin was the one to pull Adam out of the mat first, and he was startled to hear him cough.
Adam was alive. Justin pulled him to the ground and lay him out. Another cough—Adam was definitely alive, and regaining consciousness. The other Hanover boys immediately moved forward to stand around him, all of them cautiously watching him.
"Oh god…" Kurt tore his eyes away from that sight and looked to the actor who lay on the pad. He hadn't moved. And he was very white. "Julian…?" he and Blaine ran to the mat just as Logan and Derek did.
"Julian!" Logan took his friend up, carrying him off the pad, but the weight made his knees buckle and they both ended up on the ground. It didn't matter. He sat up, eyes wild, clutching his friend close in his arm and pushing the bloody locks from the face that had graced so many posters and magazine pages, and the smiling photographs in his room.
"Julian…? Julian, please, open your eyes…" he clasped the cold form, begging it to show life, as though the mere touch of someone alive could revive him. "Julian, please, I'm begging, you, come on…" Logan's voice broke when his best friend simply lay there. He felt helpless, lost, and he looked around as though looking for something, anything that could possibly help, and found nothing.
He looked at Kurt with a gaze that had no meaning. Kurt stared back at him, not knowing what to do or say. He simply dropped his eyes back down to the person who they could've called their mutual friend.
"Come on, Julian…" Kurt whispered, staring at him, holding his hand tight. "Julian, please."
Derek stepped back, hit a tree and slid down, unable to hold back tears as he looked up at the sky trying to wonder what they did to deserve this.
Logan choked back a sob, keeping the body close to him. After all they'd been through tonight—after all they fought for—didn't they deserve a reward? After Julian did everything he could, after he bared his heart and soul out to him, this wasn't allowed, this wasn't fair. Logan refused to be left with no choice but to take that revelation and not be able to say something, anything back, no matter what it was.
This was Julian, for the love of God, this thing didn't happen to them or him! He wasn't allowed to simply say "I love you", change everything he'd known for three years, and then evaporate. That wasn't how it worked! "This isn't fair—this isn't fair, you can't do this—you can't! Please… Open your eyes…"
Kurt watched as Logan bent down and pressed his lips to Julian's singed hair.
Julian didn't move.
Kurt had to let go. He stumbled back, feeling sick, the world spinning around him. He crashed into someone and knew who it was without having to look—he simply buried himself against Blaine, trying to breathe, the whole ordeal breaking him down. Blaine's arms tightened around his body as he sobbed against him, mostly in fright, and exhaustion, and surrender.
He could hear Logan crying, begging his friend to wake, and Kurt couldn't bring himself to keep listening to it. Not when he had been so close—not when he knew everything—not when he had the chance to change things—not when he had seen him not even all that long before, still alive, and yet now…
Kurt's world spun. His knees went weak. Blaine's voice echoed in his ears—but just that, an echo. And then another sound—
He thought he heard his father call his name before his body gave in to shock and everything went black.
The hospital was very clean, and very white. Kurt didn't dream; his body was too tired, battered, and weak to do anything but shut down and recover as much as possible. He sensed, however slightly, the protective weight and warmth of his father's hand over his. But he was in such a deep sleep that he did not hear his father rise from next to his hospital bed to go to the doctors who were standing outside, trying to speak to all the parents whose children were currently within the hospital.
To say that uproar followed the end of the fire was a vast understatement. The firefighters had come and took control of the inferno before it could spread beyond the Art Hall. Each and every boy who had been in that building had been rushed to the hospital, as well as the ones left injured by Adam's wrath prior to the fire.
And from within the charred building, they retrieved the body of Mr. Gregory Harvey. He had died of suffocation before the flames encroached fully upon him, which was hardly a comfort to those he left behind.
That included those rescued boys who were still conscious—and there were few.
The damage done to both people and property was such that the administration had to corral themselves with the police in order to get a full scope of what exactly had happened, as the high-profile parents who had sent their boys to the school would not easily be pacified. So long as the parents' first concern remained toward their children, administration had time to prepare for the horrible fallout following the fire. It also didn't help that local news got wind of the event—and while it wasn't a "media circus" yet, owing to the complete lack of solid information, there was a great potential for it to be.
The parents' concerns, however, remained with the boys.
"How is he?" Burt almost breathlessly asked the doctor who had just stopped outside Kurt's door. From the moment he had heard about the fire to this very moment, he had been gripped by great fear and stress, fearing for his child who he had tried to protect with every ounce of strength he had. He had already lost his first wife. In spite of the love he felt for Carole and Finn, Kurt was one part of him that was too precious—far too precious—to be lost.
"Burt, please, calm down…you can't get worked up either…" Carole took his hand as though to soothe him, and Finn leapt to his feet, looking at the doctor.
The doctor, who had been assigned to look after Kurt, had been working in this same hospital for a long time. He was getting old and he knew it. And when he was an intern, he had worked here. He remembered that once, a long time ago, this hospital also played host to a slew of boys following an accident from the same academy. He wondered what actually went on in that school.
"Kurt has undergone quite a great deal of stress. But he's not as seriously injured as what outside appearance might suggest. He'll need a few days of stay here in the hospital to fully recover, and for us to make sure that he's out of danger." He looked intently at the father and the mother. "He will be all right. Those boys are tougher than they look, and they looked out well for each other. They'll be put to bed for a week, some of them, but I don't see permanent physical damage. Especially in Kurt's case—they seemed to have looked after him well in spite of the events. I suggest, though, that he not put too much stress on his ankle for at least two weeks. That is, by far, his worst injury. But…we'll still have to see how he takes the whole ordeal upon waking up."
Burt looked as though he would faint in relief, and Finn had to help him sit down. "He's going to be okay," Burt said it as though he were telling himself more than anyone. "He's going to be okay."
Carole was hugging him at the next moment, eyes wet but looking full of hope. Burt looked blearily around him at the other people. "Did the, uh… The other kids who didn't um…pass out, are they okay? Are they all right? Have they said anything?"
"There's a bit of the story going around," Finn replied as Mercedes—face still set like granite, the way it had been since she heard of the fiasco in Dalton—and Rachel—who looked composed for the most part, but her swollen scarlet eyes were testament to restrained distress—now approached them with the rest of New Directions.
"Is Kurt okay? Is he going to be okay?" Mercedes immediately asked.
"He's going to be okay," Finn replied. He looked back at Burt. "Some of the other boys who had been in there…they've told a bit of the story. But it's not a good one."
"Is it true?" Rachel demanded. "That some psychopath broke into the school and held them hostage up there?"
"I heard that it was someone's stalker that did all this," Quinn replied.
"I heard it was a student," Mercedes replied, shaking her head. That was when everyone started talking all at the same time about what they had heard from the parents talking and from Dalton students who were passing word along.
Finn's head was clearly swimming with all the "Well the bottom line is…someone took them all up there, set fire to the place…and the other boys got involved because they were trying to save them. Kurt had been one of the people pulled in first."
"I'm glad they all made it out, but that stunt was crazy," Puck shook his head. "Jumping out like that onto the landing pad—that takes serious balls, man."
"It was either that or being burnt, Puckerman—what would you have done?" Santana replied.
"Can we not talk about that right now, kids, please?" Burt interrupted, still clutching at his scalp. He exhaled. All that mattered to him right now was that his son was safe. That he was going to staysafe. A familiar rage that he'd been thinking of for a while now began to bubble. He had sent him to Dalton with full confidence on his safety. And he ended up with a son who was in far worse shape than ever.
Burt was not alone in this end. Dalton Academy had always been seen as sanctuary, and a safe place to send sons of privilege and keep them protected from harm. Many of the parents were livid at the proceedings. This did not only include the parents of the boys of were in the fire, but also a large percentage of the boys whose parents had sent their sons to Dalton with full confidence of their safety and the security of the school.
This security had, by this event, been shattered to pieces. A mutinous grumbling filled the waiting rooms as parents came together in packs, discussing with disgust the laxness that had let all of this come to pass.
There were, however, some parents, who simply couldn't bring themselves to dwell on such matters. No, not when boys were still at stake. They were, after all, still in the hospital.
A man wearing a crisp black suit, was walking from one parent to another—those who were still waiting for news from doctors or those who were holding vigil over beds. He and his wife were late to this entire episode, having sent his daughter ahead to watch the program earlier.
He had arrived at the worst time: just as when parents and students were peeling away from the scene, with paramedics and firefighters everywhere, and the school, which had been his own once, in flames, and being told that his two sons had been in that inferno.
"Mr. Burt Hummel?"
From where he sat, Burt looked up and saw the tall man standing there. He was very blond, and his eyes were penetratingly blue, and he looked very concerned. He looked like a banker and for a moment, Burt was confused. "Yes?"
A hand was extended to him. As Burt hesitantly shook it, the man said, "I'm Colin Brightman. What's happened to your son it's…it's a terrible, regretful thing and it should never have happened in Dalton Academy."
"Brightman?" Burt sat up a little, surprised. "Those twin boys—"
"Yes, Evan and Ethan are my sons." Colin sat down next to him, exhaling and looking anxious and tired. "They're…" he gestured weakly for a moment before running a hand through his hair with a sigh. "My wife and daughter are with them." His eyes lingered on down the hall to where, presumably, the Brightman twins could be found.
"Yes, yes, I heard that your boys, they were…" Burt shook his head, sighing.
"I have no idea how this happened," Mr. Brightman told him. His face bore signs of stress, at a level that only a few of the parents seemed to have. "I'm a businessman, Mr. Hummel. I have a lot of work to do, and I have to admit that maybe I haven't given my boys the attention they deserve… I should have at least cared about what was going on in the school."
"Yeah, well…" Burt wrung his hands, looking around at the students and the parents who were in the waiting areas, "I don't think anybody would've thought that this kind of thing would just go and happen on a big posh private school…"
"That's exactly it," Mr. Brightman remarked, looking distressed, more so at Burt's words. "I should have at least kept a better eye on how this school had been working. I suppose it was because back when I went to school here…everything worked out well enough, so I imagined that it would just keep on doing that. I should have paid better attention."
"You used to go to Dalton?"
"Yes. I didn't have a choice," Mr. Brightman gave him an odd smile. But he patted his shoulder and said, "I will do my best to make things right, Mr. Hummel. Whatever it takes. I don't think this can rest easy on my conscience—never will. All those boys…those poor boys…"
"Thank you, Mr. Brightman, but…I'm not sure what more anyone can do at this point." Burt looked grave and distant at the same time. "How could this have happened…?"
Carole walked over at this moment, looking at Burt. She gave Mr. Brightman a smile before looking at her husband. "Burt? I brought you some coffee." She handed him the steaming cup, which he took with a grateful glance at her direction before staring back at the door to Kurt's room.
"Mrs. Hummel," Mr. Brightman rose at her presence. He shook hands lightly with her. "Is your son going to be all right…?"
"Yes, yes, the doctors said he would be once he…once he wakes up. He was—he was really exhausted and his body just decided to uh…to recover as quickly as it can once he was out of there and…and safe." Her smile looked a little tight with strain. "But he…he hasn't yet. We're just…" she seemed to swallow for a moment and manage another smile, "…we're waiting."
Mr. Brightman stared at her, not really sure of how to respond to that. Instead he just smiled slightly and nodded. "I understand…"
"Colin?" came a voice that seemed to call somewhat halfheartedly from down the hall. When Mr. Brightman looked up, he saw a dignified-looking man in a crisp suit looking at him with a concerned expression. He was familiar to him, very, in spite of the fact that they hadn't seen each other in quite a while… They had been friends for a very long time, and he'd like to think they still were, especially as their sons must have seen each other very often.
"Excuse me." Mr. Brightman nodded to Burt, who nodded back, eyes still looking a little distant and as though he wasn't all there at all. Carole rubbed Burt's arm, her face still red from weeping, and still crumpled in that way that showed for all the world that she was hurting.
It took a moment before Mr. Brightman could tear his eyes away from those two parents before he rose and walked up to Mr. Sullivan, who stood a way off, giving him a sigh. "Hello, Harry," Mr. Brightman said.
"Colin." Mr. Sullivan nodded. "Been a while."
"Yes it has…"
"Didn't hope we'd meet again this way."
"I never imagined this way." Colin Ellis Brightman looked around the cold, stark white walls, and the blinding purity of the hospital—such a contrast to the dim realities that took place in it daily, such as the one it held today. "No one has."
"How are you handling it?" Harold Sullivan said to his pale friend, as the both of them sat down again a distance from the Hummels. Colin only absently gestured once again down to hall. Whatcould he say? How does anyone handle anything like this? He, more than most people, felt responsibility for this. "And your wife…?" Harry added in askance.
Colin only shook his head, looking shaky. "She—she's with Audrey, my daughter." He had to sit down and wring his hands.
Harry sat down next to him, nodding a little. "I understand."
"My boys…" Colin exhaled shakily but couldn't continue. He looked at his old friend. "Yours?"
Harry shook his head and managed a small smile. He was one of the more fortunate ones, he believed, because his son David hadn't actually been in that inferno. "My son is…he's fine. But…he wouldn't leave his friend's side. We…we tried to get him to, but…the Hughes family told him that he could stay a bit longer…"
Colin thought about his own two boys, how attached they were to each other, and understood Harry's sentiments in letting his son stay with his friend. He raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Terrible…this is…how could this happen?"
"That's what I'd like to know!"
The two Dalton alums looked up as a tall figure, pale with rage, came striding up to them after his voice boomed down the hall. Behind him, another man trailed, looking at pains to stop him. "Johnny!" Ernest Siegerson said, looking angry and alarmed. "Stop—!"
John Wright Jr. grabbed Colin by the arm and pulled him to his feet, Harry getting up immediately after. "Do you realize what just happened? Considering who the hell you are, you were supposed to make sure nothing like this could ever—that all our sons—that my son—!" He looked as though he wanted to break down but pride wouldn't have it.
Colin stared back at him, unable to think of what to say. What could he say? John was right—he had more responsibility to this sort of thing than the other parents. If the other parents knew the influence Colin had within the school—
Ernest was furious now and he yanked John back. "Stop it, Johnny!" he hissed angrily. "You're making a spectacle. I know that you're upset, but do you think that Colin—"
"Upset?" the senator rounded on him, livid now. "Upset? This is beyond—"
"That's enough from all of you!"
They looked up as the tall, lithe figure of a man approached them, dark eyes flashing. He looked as pale and distressed as any of them, but he was holding himself up with every ounce of will he had especially at the circumstances. "This is a damn hospital!" the man, ex-prefect of Windsor Ford Houston, hissed. He was without Agatha, his sister, for obvious reasons. "Why are you all thinking all about how all of you feel right now? You think any parent or guardian in this entire place feels differently from you? What makes you so special? Do you have a right to be special? You know how many people are suffering in this hospital?"
The hall full of Legacies stood staring at him. Ford tried to catch his breath. He looked completely shaken, but controlling himself admirably. "Tell me what makes you so different. Tell me what makes you special enough to earn the right to make a ruckus like this. Tell me."
For a moment, the other fathers stared at him and then they moved apart slightly, Ernest tugging John away before he could explode some more.
Colin looked up at the ex-prefect and saw that his friend had aged Ford didn't have a son to call his own, but as far as legacy went, Ford had sent a successor into the school. And everyone knew—everyone who had seen the paramedics carrying boys off—that it was his nephew Dwight who had sustained such serious damage to his body that he wasn't even conscious when he was brought away.
Dwight's condition had not yet been confirmed.
"Now all of you pipe down," Ford hissed. "None of the other parents are howling like this—they care about what happens to their sons first, then their being upset at the school after." He looked John right in the eyes. He must have known that the senator would try to say something back, but the truth was, compared to how Dwight was doing, John's son Logan was in better shape.
"Where is your son, Johnny?" Colin asked carefully. "I saw him getting lifted out."
Logan had collapsed after they tried to take Julian from him. For a moment, when the paramedics tried to take his friend, he seemed to go into panic—this was the shock setting in—and it wasn't until Derek grabbed onto him did he collapse the way Kurt did. Ernest had swept in and pulled his son away, Derek fighting him the whole way—he hadn't wanted to leave his friends—but when John had gotten into the ambulance along with his wife and son, Logan was barely conscious enough to communicate. And then Derek sank against his father, barely able to stop the sobbing that had started not too long before, and Ernest kept his son close and also brought him away to the hospital.
"They say he's out of danger," John replied, running a hand through his blond hair. He didn't look like himself—he didn't often look agitated. And none of the men who were around him right now had seen him look this way since they'd been to school with him.
"Fancy you showing up here after all this time," Harry muttered just audibly. "I don't recall ever seeing you around during Parents' Nights, except when you popped up this year for Winter Festival—"
"I don't need you to lecture me about—" John took two steps forward and Ford was between them, glaring at them both. "Stop it. The both of you, just stop," he snarled.
"Ford," Ernest began as he glowered at John, presumably to make him shut up, "What about Rick and Pax?"
"Rick's with his son. How he's still standing, I don't know." But of course, it would take more than this to shatter the impeccable composure of Richard Bancroft. He had seen quite a bit in his life and when he had been Justin's age, this sort of thing would have almost been considered as 'Wednesday evening' for him. "He just seems glad that Justin and Laura are safe."
Harry asked, "And Pax?"
"The General doesn't arrive until later, or so I heard. He better be here." Paxton Willis would've had every viable means to get to the hospital in record time, considering the resources at his disposal. That is assuming he hadn't stopped by to demolish the school entirely with his fury before he got to the hospital.
John threw up his hands and walked a distance off, frustrated with nothing to vent it out on. From where he sat, Burt watched him go and shook his head. He hadn't known Logan very long, other than he clearly had something against Kurt and Blaine being together. But if his father couldn't even be bothered to stop ranting enough to be in his own son's room, then maybe that kid did have some problems.
Burt gave Carole a quick embrace and rose to his feet. He walked back into Kurt's room, hoping that his son would stir at any moment.
Meanwhile, Ernest shook his head. While his old friend John may have changed quite a bit since they all parted ways, there were some things about him that certainly didn't. He looked back at the others. "Rick and Pax aren't going to be thrilled."
Colin winced—he was going to catch it from Paxton, and that was for sure. Paxton's son Spencer was unharmed, at the very least, and his twin sister from Dobry Hall, Sydney, was there to keep an eye on him nevertheless. Spencer was going to and fro between Justin's room and Danny's room.
Hanover House was agog at the fact that it was one of their own that caused this mess. Windsor House could barely comprehend how many of their own had been knocked down by this blow. And Stuart House was in shambles, with their prefect and two of their most successful being primary targets of the event. If school legend was anything to go by, the academy didn't have an incident this bad since the big fiasco twenty-five years ago which led to multiple fires, students being expelled or sent away overseas, the old cathedral being closed off, the bell tower closed off as well, and one dead student whose name was inscribed in the memorial garden, and a threat to shut down the school altogether.
The odds looked as though this year was looking to match the precedent, which was more than the boys had ever bargained for.
While a number of the men squabbled amongst themselves, especially the ones who were Dalton Academy alums themselves, the women went to each other for comfort. They were all mothers, aunts, sisters—and they had sons, nephews, brothers who had just been fished from the grip of danger. They held vigil, keeping any mutinous grumbling against administration at a minimum, focusing their energies elsewhere.
A familiar woman in a silvery-gray suit emerged from her son's room, very pale and shaking slightly as she closed the door. Agatha Houston had seen quite a lot in her life, and she had already lost one son. The other was in such a condition that she needed to step out of the room for a moment, as though to try and compose herself.
Dwight hadn't stirred at all since the boys caught him.
As she sat down and tried to breathe, someone walked up to her and she raised her eyes to meet Carole Hudson-Hummel's gaze. Agatha felt a little startled. "Can I—Can I help you?"
"I'm—I'm Carole," she said, looking misty-eyed, hands clasped. "I'm Kurt's…Kurt's stepmom."
They had seen each other briefly when the boys were rushed in. Both had heard the stories from the ones who were conscious. Each story seemed worse than the last, but they knew one important thing—through that madness, the boys had tried to protect each other desperately. And their sons fought hard.
"It's just that…what your son…tried to do for mine, I just…" Carole tried to say shakily but Agatha leaped to her feet and simply, without warning, hugged her tightly, crying her heart out. The two women held each other, Carole tearing up as she patted Agatha's back, the both of them a pair of mothers who loved their sons very dearly.
Mrs. Hughes, who was just returning from fetching a paltry dinner for her infuriated husband and four anxious daughters, seemed to be called to them like a moth to a flame, and from the hallway she hurried up to them. The two women, recognizing the same plight in her, immediately pulled her into their hug, sobbing wordlessly, but understanding exactly what the other needed.
But all of them looked up when there were stifled outcries from some people, immediately followed by a resounding slap, from down the hall where some of the fathers were standing.
A beautiful woman with blonde, highlighted hair stood there, face immaculately modeled in makeup and features sculpted by master surgeons, and her brown eyes were positively blazing. Carole took one look at the soap-worthy scene and realized that once again, that senator must have said the wrong thing again—she'd heard the fathers talking heatedly, and after Burt had talked to her, she knew that the man was trouble.
With her lip still trembling as though repressing wrath, the woman who'd just arrived immediately swept past a stunned-looking Senator Wright, whose cheek was scarlet with the blow, and immediately ran toward the one of the rooms while clutching a sequined purse.
"Mrs. Armstrong, wait!" exclaimed one of the on-call nurses, going after her.
"That's Ms. Larson to you—and I want to see my son! Where is he?" the woman shot back before she blew into one of the rooms.
A murmuring rose among the people who had seen this spectacle. Everyone hears about movie stars having a diva moment, and some people may even look forward to seeing one have it in front of them, but this one was different.
"My god, this place is a circus!" Bart Anderson—who had been summoned to the scene by his wife—grumbled, looking absolutely irritated, and some of the parents shot him dark looks.
Naturally, no one was unhappier than the senator, who stormed down the hall as if to go after her. "Wait—wait! Johnny, stop! What in the world did you say to that woman?" hissed Troy Mapleton as he stared at the stunned senator.
"Dad!" Drew stared at him, stunned at the familiarity of his tone.
"John—you were the one who snapped at her to wait and that tirade about how her son was practically responsible for this mess," Ford glowered in disapproval, but the senator cut him to the quick by nearly lunging at him. Colin jumped forward but John was already past listening.
"You think after all this, I'm going to let some damn woman—"
Everyone stopped and looked up. Michelle Wright was the one who had spoken. She was the one who had been sitting with the rest of the women, crying hard but as quietly as she could, all this time. And for the first time, she had spoken.
The Senator stared at her in surprise. Michelle blew her nose heavily into the tissues that Marlene Anderson had given her and now looked up at John Wright, her eyes bloodshot with crying.
She stood, looking distressed and furious. "Stop screaming about everything! You're angry—of course you're angry—you're always angry! But you listen to that nice man—" she pointed to Ford Houston, who looked startled, "—and stop screaming! People are really upset right now and—and—and what they need is quiet to think! I know I'm not as smart as everyone else but even I can't think right now—especially about everything that's happened to Logan!"
John stared at her in amazement as she walked up to him and jabbed at his chest with a scarlet-painted fingernail. "And you—I want you to think about all the times you pushed Logan away! The times that you couldn't stop and show this kind of concern over that boy when it counted! Now he's in this hospital, he nearly died—" she wrung her hands, shakily holding a very wet handkerchief and sobbed, "You—you just sit there and think! And I—I'm—I'm going to go see my baby and see if he's okay and—"
And she burst into a fresh wave of tears and simply bolted, pushing past Carole and Marlene, who also gave her husband a hard look and followed after Michelle.
At that moment, Finn ran out of Kurt's room, looking up and down the hall for Carole.
"Kurt's awake!" he gasped.
When the world began to clear, Kurt realized his hand was wet because his father had been crying into it in relief. "…dad…?" he asked hoarsely. He remembered hearing his father's voice right before he passed out. In that long, dark, dreamless stupor, he didn't dream at all. And so as he woke, his father was the first person he sought. "…dad?"
"Right here—I'm right here, Kurt, it's okay. You're gonna be okay."
As Kurt's hand closed over his father's stronger one, he was overcome with guilt. His father was still not well; his heart wasn't well. This must've taken a terrible toll on him that he didn't deserve. He opened his eyes, blinking and wincing a little to the light. Every part of his body was sore—and for a moment he was terrified that he was lying there unable to move. But the throbbing pain told him that he was only stiff, and he could feel his fingers moving.
When his vision cleared properly, he could feel his father embracing him carefully, and he could see Carole crying, wringing his hand. Wherever he was, it was packed. Finn's form towered over the rest of them, and he was smiling, completely relieved, as the rest of New Directions stood a distance from his parents, all looking absolutely relieved.
"Hospital," Carole managed to say, very carefully hugging him.
Kurt appreciated the hug, but grimaced a little. "…everything hurts…"
"Happens after a stunt like that, son," Burt shakily responded, managing a smile of obvious relief at his son, who was slowly getting his bearings back.
Kurt took a deep breath and felt clean air—not a trace of smoke—fill his lungs. He coughed for a few moments and smiled at his father, hugging him back. Tears stung his eyes as he held his father tight. He felt absolutely, truly safe in his father's protective grasp. "I love you, dad," he whispered.
"I love you too, Kurt…" Burt whispered, hugging him tightly, sniffling only slightly, patting his son's back. "I'm so glad you're alright."
Kurt just nodded, briefly pulling his hand back so he could wipe away a tear, and returned to hugging his father. "Um…dad?"
"…what's with all the balloons?"
Kurt realized that part of the reason his eyes were hurting was due to sensory overload: the room was crammed with people and what appeared to be a massive flock of balloons with smiley faces, filling the entire ceiling. In various colors, with curling string. New Directions seemed baffled, but kept their attention on him, even as they swatted away the crowding balloons.
"It was from those weird twins," Quinn rolled her eyes. "Or at least that's what we heard. They did it to everyone. That boyfriend of yours had his room raided like this too."
"I think they're just trying to cheer you up," Tina blinked.
"…they have really creepy smiles—like they're always watching," Brittany whispered to no one in particular.
Well… Kurt exhaled, conceding to merely roll his eyes with some relief, …at least I know that the Twins are okay enough to still be doing this kind of thing…
Just how badly had things gone for everyone anyway…? "What happened?" he asked, looking at all the familiar faces surrounding him. As these people seemed to look at each other, as though also trying to figure out how to explain, Kurt realized something:
None of the faces before him were the same ones he'd seen not too long ago, amidst the backdrop of the fire. As this realization sunk in, he looked up at his father with wide eyes. "Dad…where's Blaine?"
Blaine had been the one holding him, Kurt remembered, after he landed on the mat and got out of the flames—right before he heard his father's voice. In this white light and comfort, Kurt had overlooked the other boys, a transgression considering when he had seen them all last.
"Where's Blaine?" Kurt choked, looking around.
"Well, he—" Carole looked at her husband, looking unsure.
There was a brief commotion outside Kurt's door as a group of people seemed to be arguing and struggling.
"Wait—wait—! No, don't go in there yet!"
"Please, I just want to see if he's okay—!"
"You're not okay—!"
Kurt was already sitting up with Burt's help when Blaine came into the room—New Directions had moved aside and at this point the room had all it could hold—and made his way to Kurt. He was limping slightly and he was still heavily bandaged, his mother and brother hovering anxiously outside the door.
Blaine looked at Burt, with apologetic desperation in his eyes—to which Burt only nodded slightly, but did not leave his son's side—and then Blaine was hugging Kurt, who looked as though he would cry again, hugging Blaine as tightly as he could. When he breathed, it was as though he had held his breath all this time.
"After you fainted—" Blaine just managed to choke out starting to relax now, relieved to see that Kurt was all right after all; his hands flew up to cup Kurt's cheek as he stared at him, as though unable to see enough, "—the paramedics—and I thought that you—"
Kurt looked up at him in concern. "You were limping. And your shoulder! Are you—"
"I didn't feel anything when we were still in there but—but now it's either they gave me some pretty intense painkillers or it wasn't as bad as it seemed while everything was going nuts…"
"You were stabbed, Blaine."
"I remember that vividly, Kurt," his boyfriend responded, without changing expression. Blaine sighed, but he shook his head, touching his stabbed shoulder lightly. "But it'll get better…with time… How do you feel? How's your leg?"
"I feel sore everywhere but…but I think I'm…better than I had expected…" Kurt managed a smile at him, then looked up at his father again. Burt nodded and said, "Yeah, it's not as bad as we first thought, but you should take it easy for a while. I'm throwing out those weird sparkling shoes in your room that look like lobster claws."
"From my Lady Gaga outfit?" Kurt looked scandalized.
Blaine now looked toward Burt with an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry I just ran in here, sir… I…I just wanted to see if Kurt was all right. I'm…I'm sorry I wasn't able to put a stop to this."
"We're glad you're both all right," Carole replied emphatically, putting a hand on Blaine's shoulder. "I was with your mother while you weren't up yet." She glanced back at Marlene, who was smiling a little bit, at the sight of her son. Blaine followed Carole's gaze and smiled faintly at his mother, a little abashed by his own impetuousness. He noticed that Shane was gone.
Blaine looked around the room and saw the balloons. "Hit you too, huh?"
"At least we know the twins are okay…"
"No, these were all sent in via courier. Mr. Brightman said that the Twins demanded for them, but they couldn't do it themselves. They're still recuperating—they haven't let go of each other."
"They are…? Where are…" Kurt's voice caught at that moment, and Blaine looked at him. "…what happened to the others?"
Blaine stared at him. For a moment, given what he knew, he wasn't sure what to say. He wasn't sure what Kurt knew and remembered—he just remembered Kurt falling limp in his arms and then he had started to panic. Nothing would rouse him…
Burt had run in after that moment, as the rest of the Dalton boys tried to bring their schoolmate to consciousness. The paramedics and firefighters had arrived—and they were already blasting the front of the building with water. When they realized that there were students who'd jumped from the other side, the paramedics ran to them.
Burt had immediately taken his son to get him medical help, and for a moment, Blaine was disoriented—he had been through more than enough today to lose his head for that brief instant. He saw Burt carrying his son to the paramedics and Blaine had tried to follow them—he just wanted to make sure Kurt was all right—until he felt his mother grab him back. Marlene had come with the other parents, and when Blaine saw her, he finally gave in to the exhaustion and his knees gave out.
As his mother held him, he felt as though he could see and remember everything in blinding clarity. There was Shane; Shane who was holding Reed in his arms and crying, leaning against Micah, whose clothes were singed and sporting some burns on his forearms. Reed was already unconscious then.
The towering figure of Clark had come at Reed then, and as Clark picked up the shorter boy, Shane turned his attention to Micah, who didn't seem to be able to walk that well. Micah was pushing him away, as though telling him to go see to Reed, but Shane would not leave him.
Blaine's eyes went to the Twins, who were being pulled away by their sister. They too struggled for a bit; they didn't want to go anywhere just yet, and it was evident from the way they tried to help the other students first. They were clearly in pain, same as everyone else who had been hauled out of that inferno, but Ethan and Evan first made sure Justin could stand (he could), made sure Charlie was conscious (he was), and made sure Dwight was breathing in spite of unconsciousness (he was, however weakly).
They looked around for Wes, who was already lying on the stretcher, an oxygen mask strapped to his face, with David following after him looking distraught —he looked up just as Wes' family ran to them. But before the Twins could get to Logan, Audrey and the emergency personnel won out and pulled the Twins away.
Blaine had turned his still stinging eyes towards the direction the Twins were looking to—where they could see Logan. Blaine couldn't see through the crowd until a group of Hanovers moved and he saw Logan sitting on the grass, Julian still in his arms. Derek had put a hand to his shoulder and was shaking him, as though trying to rouse him.
The paramedics were drawing Derek away, concerned by his bandage-wrapped head. Then the paramedics had taken Julian almost forcibly from Logan, and then the crowd blocked Blaine's sight again.
And then, strangely, Blaine couldn't remember what happened next. He must have been taken to the hospital then, but he couldn't remember how.
He only remembered seeing his mother at his side, saying his name, and by then he was lying on the hospital bed. He was in a daze when his mom left for a moment to talk to the doctor about him.
Blaine had gotten up like someone who wasn't really awake. He pulled off his oxygen mask and felt the tight clench of the bandages around his body. He didn't have any intravenous lines on him yet, and so he had left the room by himself. He went looking for his brother and his friends, wondering where they were in the blinding white purity of the hospital halls, the whiteness burning into his tired eyes the way the fire did.
It took him a while before he realized who was sitting on the floor, back to the white wall. It was his brother, knees pressed to his chest, and head buried in his arms, sobbing as though his heart would break.
"Shane…?" Blaine blinked blearily.
"Oh my god—!" Shane flew off the floor and almost tackled Blaine to the floor, holding him tight. For a moment, Blaine had been disoriented, but Shane's strength kept him upright. He carefully patted his brother's back.
"I was—I thought you—" the words degenerated into a whining sob that Blaine had last heard when Shane had his worse days back in their old school, when he thought all hope was lost. "Don't do that to me again, ever!" the younger Anderson almost screamed. "Do you have any idea how scared I was? It was bad enough that Reed and Micah were—and then you—just when we'd gotten everyone back—!"
"Shh…" Blaine smiled faintly, still a little shaky. "Relax."
"I can't…" Shane hiccupped pitifully. He released Blaine and wiped his eyes with grubby palms. "Sorry, I—I'm going to get myself all together soon, I just—oh god, I was so scared—Are you okay now?" His eyes were still wet.
"I…" Blaine wondered if he was all right. He felt a little numbed. He wondered if it were painkillers. He looked at Shane for a moment, his little brother who just looked younger than ever right now. For some reason, Blaine remembered the times when they were little, when Shane would have nightmares and he'd sob and creep into Blaine's bed to cry. He knew everything that scared his brother, but this had to have been, by far, the scariest of it all. Because he would've been alone if things had gone terribly wrong.
"…Micah? And Reed?" Blaine murmured, having remembered Shane with them.
But the younger boy only shook his head. He seemed to gesture weakly down the hall, where presumably, Micah and Reed were. Shane looked about as lost as Blaine felt.
"I don't—I don't even know where they are right now, I didn't know who to go to first, so I just stayed here until I was sure you were okay first…" Shane choked, hands shaking uncontrollably, "…was this how he felt…? When it had been me, was this how he felt…? It's horrible…" He raised his eyes to Blaine. "Was this how you felt?"
Quietly, Blaine had nodded and he rested a hand on his brother's shoulder. Shane put his hand over Blaine's and shook his head. "Nevermind me. I'm—I'm just freaking out. You—are you sure you should be walking around? Come on, let's get you back to your bed—"
Blaine had simply ignored him as he walked a few steps down the hall. He looked around the people. "…where's mom…?"
"She went to go see the doctor about your X-rays."
Shane had blinked, looking confused. "I—I don't know. I'm not sure. But I think I saw Mr. Hummel go through a door at that direct—Blaine!"
Blaine fled down the hall, ignoring the stab of pain in his leg. He had to find Kurt.
"Blaine?" Kurt's voice pulled him from his thoughts. Kurt's perfect usually perfect forehead was creased with worry, and marred with some scratches. "Blaine, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I was just…" Blaine shook his head and managed to smile faintly at him. "I was just thinking of the others…"
"What happened to them?" Kurt stared.
"Well…after you passed out they—they were taken away too and…I haven't really heard anything yet. I…I went to you the moment I got up." He looked up into Kurt's eyes—those beautiful eyes that he, for many horrendous moments, thought he would never see again. Shakily, he held Kurt's face in his hands again as though trying to believe that he was holding him still. "…I had to see you…I had to."
Kurt managed to smile at him now and pulled him close again. "I'm glad you're okay."
Blaine held him tighter in response, looking wracked in guilt. He closed his eyes tight "…I'm so sorry…I'm sorry…"
"For what…?" came Kurt's confused tone.
"…for not knowing sooner… When you started acting strange trying to figure all this out I—I didn't even realize that you were doing everything you could to help…" Blaine clutched tighter—it would've been painful for the both of them if they held tighter. "I'm so sorry, Kurt, I should've done something…anything…I could've kept you from being in that situation…"
"You did do something…" Kurt looked at him now, touching the injured shoulder on Blaine very carefully. "You did. You…you ran in. You knew there was a madman up there, there was fire everywhere, but you ran in. In that big scuffle upstairs, you helped save us. Save me."
Blaine wasn't letting it go. "You were up there so long…on your own, Kurt. I should've—God, I don't even know anymore, I feel like such an idiot for letting this happen to you— If I'd just—" He took a shivering breath and held Kurt's shoulders. "I love you. You're…you're the most important thing in my world right now and I should've at least noticed when you started acting strange—"
"Blaine." Kurt cut in manner-of-factly, refusing to hear any blaming about this entire mess. Only one person was responsible for this whole fiasco, and wherever he was, Kurt hoped he was in restraints—and also kept away from every able-bodied Dalton boy who probably wished to do him harm. "Blaine, I love you. And there is no reason for you to think like this. What you did, it counts. You didn't ask for this. No one did. And no one could've asked you to do more than what you did up there." Kurt felt him exhale against him and he held him for a few moments longer before releasing him.
Burt nodded to Blaine a little, and carefully put a hand onto the uninjured shoulder. Burt glanced at the injury on his son's boyfriend and looked very displeased at the fact that any of these boys had to be hurt like this. "Kurt will be okay, Blaine. You should look after yourself too, can't be just running around. You should go back to your mom. She looks real worried." He nodded to Marlene, who was at the doorway, watching her son and smiling a little at the sight of him and Kurt.
Blaine looked at his mother, saw the strain in her smile, the worry in her eyes, and nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I…I should." He glanced back to Burt a moment and headed for his mother, who walked in a little to receive him.
"Blaine?" Kurt said suddenly, making his boyfriend glance back a moment just as he reached his mother. Kurt looked at him and gave him a shaky smile. "…thank you. For…for saving us. You and Logan…you…if you hadn't come when you did—and when you jumped at Adam—" He broke off there and just kept smiling. His father's hand closed over his, and he glanced at him.
Burt looked intently at his son. "Adam? Adam was the student who did all this?"
"Burt…I think we should wait until the police are ready to take Kurt's statement," Carole said in a placating tone, recognizing the telltale signs of her husband getting worked up.
"Carole, I'm fine, I just want to know—" and he looked from her and to Kurt, his eyes now looking concerned. "I just…I want to know what had happened. Can you—now, I'm not forcing you to tell me if it's too hard right now but—can you…do you think you can tell us some of what happened…?"
Kurt stared at his father, and then his eyes turned back to Blaine, who was also gazing at him as though waiting. New Directions, hovering by the door from where they had retreated, looked anxious, also waiting for the answer.
And Kurt realized that, for what must have been the past few hours, this was what everyone was waiting for. Everyone wanted to know what happened. Sure, some of the boys were conscious, but the whole story, from top to bottom, had to come from the boys who had been in the top floor of the Art Hall. Only they knew everything.
Everyone wanted to know what set the building on fire, why there was even a fire, why Kurt, Blaine, Logan, Reed, and Julian were in that fire, why Dwight had tried to save them, why the Twins ran inside, why Charlie, Justin, Wes, and Micah followed…
He had no idea what happened to the others after he lost consciousness…but only they could answer why this even happened. They were looking for a reason, for a suspect, something…
Kurt closed his eyes for a moment and tried to remember everything as best as he could. When he closed his eyes, he saw a glow of orange, the faintest echo of crackling wood. It was as though the air began to thicken almost immediately. It was frightening how quickly it came to him. He could hear the muffled tones of his friends—calling over the din—until—
He opened his eyes when he felt his father's hand on his. He stared at his father's worried face and remembered where he really was. He saw family, friends, and the concern in their eyes. He was here. He was safe. There was no fire here. Everything was cold and sterile. Fresh. Time to start again. If he went back and told them what happened, maybe they can fill in for him what happened after.
He took a deep breath as he began telling them—the story that he and the boys would be repeating for the next several days as friends, family, police officers, investigators, and press would be asking. It was the story told over the days as slowly, but surely, the boys who told it began to recuperate.
"At first, I really didn't know anything. I was just at school and everything was okay. It was after Valentines' Day, and we were getting ready for Parents' Night. That was when I really began talking to Julian Larson. We had…talked a few times before but we weren't….we may not have really been friends, exactly, but…I guess we just started to talk more… then he started to tell me that he had this problem. Julian had been having problems with a very very persistent fan that had been trying to pressure him against taking this role…"
"…so as…as it turned out…his stalker was serious about those threats," Derek said hoarsely to the police from where he was sitting with his mother and father. Ernest was staring intently at his son, listening. Derek seemed to press a hand to his forehead for a moment before adding, "…I was helping him, but he didn't want it to be broadcast out. He worried everything would escalate more if people made a big fuss and…and…he just didn't want to involve anyone. I wanted to tell someone, but—"
"—but I don't think anyone really had the, um…chance to do anything," Justin coughed, but looking remarkably composed for someone who had just been in a fire. "I was approached by Kurt about it, because he said he suspected someone who was already in the school of someone doing it." His sister, Laura, kept hold on his hand. Next to him, his mother Lindsay looked from her son to his husband. Both father and mother had arrived not long ago.
Richard Bancroft stood by the door, staring intently at his son, who added in a bitter tone, "…I didn't take action soon enough, even though Kurt tried to warn me…he said that even Dwight…Dwight tried to get to the bottom of the mess…"
"…But we didn't…pay attention," Charlie sighed from where he was with his family. Charlie's arms were bandaged. It was the second time in a year that he found himself bandaged up in this hospital but he would've taken the first time over this. "…I guess I didn't. But everyone had been talking about it, about how Kurt and Dwight were going crazy—"
"—trying to figure out who was doing it, and maybe they already knew, they were just trying to confirm it," Wes murmured, looking around at his father, his mother, his sisters—and the plethora of well-dressed but apparently very armed men who were, for lack of a better term, his father's lackeys, all of whom were crowding his room. The protective circle they made was smothering, but he didn't want to have to look at the police officers. "They were focused on this one guy—from Hanover, his name was—"
"—Adam Clavell," Danny nodded to the police officers, and Spencer and Merril who were in his room with him, other Hanovers crowding the space. He still clutched onto the cut at his collar, now covered in reddening gauze. He was still looking pale, and he had been given morphine for his injuries. "He was supposed to be my roommate. I was told to keep an eye on him to see if he really was the one responsible for all this but…"
"…but they needed proof," Han continued from where he sat. His mother and father sat on either side of him, looking anxious, his little sister Lucy had even come from Dobry Hall to be with him. His hands were still shaking. "I think that's why Dwight came to me. Looking for any footage and things. I put bugs around the school, not ashamed to say it—and it paid off. There was something there. I gave it to Dwight—"
"—and he'd really been trying to fix it all," Evan whispered. Colin sat next to his son and put and arm around him. The twin didn't look up; he rubbed his eyes a moment and Ethan took up the thread. "We don't even know why we didn't believe him at first—we should've listened to him and Kurt. We should've known something was wrong by the way they were both acting."
Ethan stopped and looked at his brother again, who added, "Something had definitely been wrong. We should've acted but then Parents' Night finally happened…"
"…then it all just happened so fast…" Reed whispered, sitting up and looking flustered. His head was wrapped in bandages and he looked as though he were still in some pain. Hilde van Kamp was at one corner of the room, away from the police, silently frothing in rage that this had happened to her precious son. Clark Sawyer glanced at her only slightly before turning his full attention to his stepbrother. "I just remember—I just remember trying to set up for the exhibit…and then the lights went out and…and he was suddenly there and—I tried to run but he knocked me out…"
"…and then he went after us," Laura Bancroft said matter-of-factly. Rick stared at his daughter, who added, "He knew we were trying to prove it was him. Dwight and I, we broke into his room. All the proof you need is right there, really. All the photos, the flowers, the hit list—it's all there. He was going to come up and find us—but Dwight told me to hide. I don't know what happened to Dwight then but he was gone when I tried to leave, and Adam was still there. He locked me up and then he left to go after the rest of the people…"
"…I had gone to look for Reed," Kurt continued, staring at the police officers now taking his statement, "and Blaine, because we really needed them for the performance. I went to the Art Hall because I figured Reed was there and he was—but Adam was there too. I—I tried to get away from him to warn someone but it was no use. He took me upstairs too and—"
"And then…and then he went after Julian, I guess…" Bailey said, looking up at the police officer taking his statement. The family lawyer stood over him, protective, and nodded for Bailey to continue what he was saying. "All we know is that we found his two best friends—Logan and Derek—incapacitated. Logan was a bit drugged up, and Derek was badly concussed. Julian was gone but we didn't know he was taken to the Art Hall…"
"—Danny came running to us…" Blaine finally looked up, running a hand over his face and looking tired and withdrawn. His mother slipped an arm around his shoulders and held tight, as though comforting him, but Blaine did not smile. His father stood in dark displeasure over at the corner, which Shane fervently avoided as he kept close to Blaine, listening. "Logan and I, we were…we were really distraught by what Danny was just saying. When I heard that Adam had Kurt involved, I'd just run off—I had to go save him. There just wasn't any time to lose. I ran to the Art Hall—"
"—and we really tried to escape," Kurt whispered later on as he looked at the other Windsors who weren't involved in the accident were staring at him, having come in to see if he was all right. "From upstairs, while Adam wasn't around, we tried to get away with Julian's help, but he threatened us—"
"—and things were already catching fire," Logan Wright said, sitting up on his own hospital bed, voice still raspy. Michelle hovered protectively next to him, disliking the fact that John wanted to hear Logan detail all of this right now when he clearly hadn't recovered completely yet. "Things were blowing up left and right…all the supply rooms went off…"
"…that's when we saw the fire…" Ethan muttered, holding onto his twin's hand—they had not released each other for hours; they even sat together on the edge of a hospital bed. "When we realized that our friends were in there…there was just no other option for us. We were the best people to get in and out—or so we thought—and we went in—"
"—and I followed the Twins because one of my two best friends is in there along with my other friends…" Wes exhaled and did not flinch when his mother held him. He glanced to his father, who looked terribly displeased. "I know—it was stupid, and it was a bad idea but…" he glanced to David, who was at the door with Katherine, staring at him as well. He looked back to his father, "But I wouldn't have forgiven myself if something happened and I wasn't there to at least help—!"
"But why did you go in there?" Erin demanded at Micah, who was also sitting up on his bed. She had waited until Shane had left before exploding on Micah. "You could've been killed, you could've died!"
Micah just shook his head as the nurses tried to dress his burns. "I had to. I just had to. Blaine was in there, Kurt was in there…and Reed was in there and if you heard Shane scream the way I heard…" He leaned back, closing his eyes. "You should've seen all those boys in there, Erin—you could see they were all scared but they were there to do something worth doing it for—"
"—and Blaine and I ran upstairs and we found that—that lunatic holding Julian to the wall with that knife and Kurt and Reed were in one side looking as though they'd been beaten badly—" Logan said to the police officer now taking his statement under the watchful eye of his still incredibly infuriated father. "He just kept screaming at us—and he made Julian…he made Julian…say things…" Logan paused for a long moment. He stared at his hands. Michelle looked up when her stepson stopped talking.
The police officers stared expectantly, at the tall blond boy who seemed to have completely derailed his thought train and was on some other plane now.
Finally, Logan looked up when he felt his father's hand on his shoulder for a moment. John looked down at him with an intent gaze. "…do you want to stop?"
"No," Logan replied, looking away from him, and very slightly drawing his shoulder away from his father's touch. He continued, shaking a little, "Blaine managed to tackle Adam and—and then he just…started hacking at us with the knife… I kicked it away, and there was this…big scuffle…then I brought the axe around and I—"
"—then we knew we just…we had to go," Kurt said, regaining his composure a little more as he exhaled. He was dressed in his own clothes now, and Burt was holding a crutch for him. He shook his head and his eyes wandered off to the flowers by his bed, mercifully devoid of roses. "…when we ran out, the…the whole place started exploding, falling apart…"
"—when we ran out—I, I remember the supply room exploding," Reed shook his head. He seemed to do a double take when he caught sight of Shane outside his door. His mother looked to where he was looking, gave Shane another glower—the first one had prevented Shane from entering the room before—but the younger boy held his ground this time, jaw set and standing stubbornly at the door.
Reed smiled at him, looking relieved. Hilde moved to close the door, and she felt a tug at her arm—Reed was holding her back with a strong grip. Her eyes met her son's, and Reed stared intently at her. For a moment, Hilde was confused, and she stopped.
Reed steadied himself, looking back to the officer. "And then I don't remember much…I remember Kurt and Julian waking me…"
"—and we were opening the door—but the ceiling was caving in on them," Charlie shook his head, clasping his hands together, leaning over his knees.
"—and then Julian—" Kurt's breath caught.
Blaine's eyes flew to him. They were standing in Blaine's hospital room, on their last day of stay in the hospital, and it was time to go. Boys less injured than them had already been discharged just yesterday. After a battery of exams to make sure that they didn't suffer serious internal damage, their burns had been treated, their injuries sewn and bandaged, and they had been set to heal. Kurt was leaning on a crutch. Blaine's arm was in a sling, and Shane had been helping him stand. Everyone in the room looked up when Kurt had stopped his story.
For a moment, the "Alice" looked a little disoriented. He wasn't sure if he should continue talking. He glanced at Blaine, who was now making his way towards him with a strange expression on his face, as though trying to see if he was all right.
"He pushed Kurt forward before beams fell. He got trapped."
The two of them looked up. Logan was standing at the doorway. He hadn't been looking at them, but he lifted his gaze to them only when he resumed speaking. "And…we couldn't really help him. …no matter how much we wanted to."
Kurt bestowed Logan with a long look for a moment, and he wondered what was going through the tall boy's mind at this moment. Logan had gone ballistic at that moment, and Kurt did not forget what he saw after Julian had landed onto the mat. He couldn't forget. He felt the push when he was given a way out, he saw him fall and he had been with Logan when they tried to revive the actor.
Logan looked up to Kurt now. It had been many days since, and it was the first time they would have seen each other since the fire.
"I'm glad you're all right," Logan murmured as Michelle put a hand to his shoulder. Logan still looked like a mess, and Kurt knew at a glance that the jagged cut to his hair was the result of the tips being singed by the flames.
"I'm glad you're okay too," Kurt responded.
Logan looked at Blaine now, seeing the sling around his arm and remembering the stab wound there. "Blaine," he nodded, acknowledging the sacrifice and thanking him for it.
"Logan," Blaine nodded back in return, smiling slightly, acknowledging Logan for his own efforts—for what they all had to go through now. "We're glad you're all right."
It wasn't until John and Michelle Wright moved down the hall with their son when Kurt murmured to Blaine, "Do you think Julian ever understood it?"
"How much he meant to Logan too."
Blaine gave Kurt a strange look of confusion. "What do you mean?"
Kurt blinked back at him in surprise, looking back to where Logan had vanished and then back again. "Oh…oh, I thought—"
"Julian's always been one of the most important people to Logan," Blaine murmured. "Even I knew that, way back when we were together. Anything Derek or Julian had to say always had weight in Logan's mind. Julian mattered to him, he always had. Same way he seems to still take in things that I say. I feel that way too, sometimes, about him. I don't think he and I ever got over what happened to us…but he did look after me too, a little… I think it's kind of why I knew he'd fight so hard for you too… Because if Logan finds you important…he really won't let go."
Kurt considered that for a moment before looking at Blaine with a small smile. "You're the same way, you know."
"You and Logan don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but you took the time to defend him too. And you really don't know when to quit, really…" Kurt managed a small laugh as he leaned properly onto his crutch. "Someone who did something very reckless told me that not a lot of people would take a bullet for someone else. You did that for me when you went running into the building without a second thought, even though you knew it was burning, that there was a maniac in there… You went in because you knew I was there. You jumped at Adam when he had us and you knew you could've been killed."
Blaine stared at him for a long moment and his expression softened. He smiled and shook his head a little. "…I'm not good with losing people that matter to me. And you… I don't think I could've lived with myself if you had…well…you know." He managed a small smile.
"So I noticed."
Someone else passed at the door, and nodded to them. Kurt looked up and smiled at the sight of Reed, who was sitting on a wheelchair and head wrapped in bandages still.
"Hello, Reed," Burt said, smiling at the curly-top in the chair, who smiled back, looking better than he had in days. He knew from Kurt that the smaller boy wouldn't be leaving his chair yet, but he was doing better.
"Hello, Mr. Hummel." Reed smiled in return and looked at Kurt now. "Sure you don't want one?" he asked, looking somehow less fragile even while wearing a thick headband of gauze. Shane was the one pushing the wheelchair.
"Blaine and I have to return to our best condition as soon as possible, we're leads," Kurt replied coolly, with a small smirk and a ghost of that diva air that was so genuinely his. "Seriously, this is nothing compared to what Vocal Adrenaline apparently does to those who fall behind. You, on the other hand, better stay in that chair."
"Honestly, Kurt. I can walk. Mom just wanted me in the chair until we got to the car. And so did Shane. But I don't intend on sitting around for where we're going." Reed smiled faintly at his friend before he looked at Shane, who smiled back down at him and gave him a small nudge, "Come on. We all better get going."
"Yeah…" Kurt nodded and rested his arm against Blaine, who kept close, holding him securely. "I don't think fashionably late applies here."
And so they all left.
"Yeah…" Kurt nodded and rested his arm against Blaine, who kept close, holding him securely. "I don't think fashionably late applies here."
And so they all left.
And it wasn't until a while later when, in the hushed assembly within the church that comprised of family, friends, colleagues, and students—a sea of dark clothing and glazed eyes who kept their eyes on the coffin—that Dwight Houston, still rather heavily bandaged but his burns healing, went up to the pulpit.
All eyes were immediately on him. As the Windsor boys looked up to his lanky form, they saw that he looked a little lost. More than one boy wanted to go up with him to help him walk up to it, but Dwight brushed them quietly away, preferring to limp slightly on his own. He stood at the pulpit to speak.
Dwight looked at the sea of black, and closed his eyes for a moment. He didn't enjoy funerals in general. He hated funerals because it means someone had gone. He had lost many things, and he'd decided to dedicate his life against people losing other people. The last time he had been to a funeral, the coffin had been small and everyone looked at him as though they expected him to cry. There was always some kind of expectation in funerals, when it comes to the bereaved. And he didn't enjoy funerals like this one, where everyone knew you were important and they expected you to say something.
Even if he was the one who had asked to speak today.
With the pause almost getting to "uncomfortable", he opened his eyes, and saw the Windsors in the pews near the front, most of whom were still bandaged. They looked at him quietly, encouraging him on with their eyes. Dwight's gaze fell to Kurt and Blaine, who sat at the front of the Windsors, right next to Charlie, who led the group.
Kurt looked at Dwight intently, passing him strength, and made a small swirling gesture with his hands. His lips moved slightly, and clearly, in perfect silence: take a deep breath.
Dwight, watching him, took in a deep breath without meaning to. And Blaine nodded, smiling, gesturing for him: and then let it out.
Dwight exhaled. And he spoke.
"Mr. Harvey showed up over me, when I was lying there after everyone had gotten out… I really didn't think he was real. I didn't think anybody else wanted to be in that place…. The last person I thought would've…gone in there was a teacher. Because teachers are smart, unlike us, who just ran in there without a thought. The rational thing to do was to wait for firefighters."
It wasn't dark or raining—it hadn't been anything. The weather was clear, the air was crisp and free of smoke. Kurt had looked to the windows and marveled at the fact that the world continued to turn. He felt Blaine's hand over his, and he looked at him to see Blaine getting ready to stand.
Let me help you up, his gaze seemed to say, nodding towards the crutch. Kurt nodded slightly and let Blaine take some of his weight as he slowly got up. Then the two of them nodded slightly to Charlie, who nodded back. And the Kurt looked to see the other Warblers getting up.
"I wasn't—I'm not really the best person to talk about Mr. Harvey, I think. Because I…I guess I didn't know him as well as other people. All the best people to speak about him will be doing something better than just talk today…they're meant to sing to him the way that he was always so proud of them for doing. But…from what they've told me…I feel as though I really should talk. Because…you should know what Mr. Harvey was like to them. To us."
Kurt smiled faintly as he moved to the side aisle with Blaine, listening to Dwight speak. Dwight had come to him in the hospital, asking him how he was doing, and if he was getting well. Dwight apologized for not being careful enough, and Kurt had to tell him the same things he told Blaine—that no one expected or wanted this to happen, and that Dwight wasn't responsible.
"You see…even though a lot of the times, we like to think of ourselves as…able to do anything, because we were so privileged in this school…we lose track of reality. That…that we're not perfect… that we're not invincible. And so when we lose our way a little…we lose our heads. We think what we're doing is right. Even though the truth is…we needed to be pulled out of our own messes…"
The eulogy Dwight was saying now was something the two of them worked on together. And as they wrote it—well, Kurt wrote most of it, Dwight softly added input now and again, and Kurt didn't press him for what happened after they thought Dwight had been left behind—for a moment, he marveled at how he had grown to like the little hunter who had tried so hard. And he marveled at how glad he was that he was okay. He knew what it was like to try and try so hard and feel that the world was against you. Sure, their situations were a lot different, but Kurt felt that strange as Dwight was…if he had been at McKinley, the glee club might have adopted him for strangeness and strength of spirit alone.
Because the strange ones had the most to fight through. They had the most to live for. The ones who had the biggest, most unlikely dreams—Kurt wanted to be a star, and being a gay boy in Lima, in a high school like McKinley, was difficult even without that aspiration—were the ones who had to be the strongest.
"We didn't like being told what to do…what we can and can't do… but when we find ourselves in a pinch…we have to admit that we need help. That we couldn't do it alone. One of us was new here, when he came to Dalton. And he was surprised by how the teachers genuinely seemed to care, in spite of the fact that we fought them at every turn. …Mr. Harvey was like that. He was…well he was the kind of teacher that just let everyone in without minding what they were like on first impression."
Kurt smiled when he remembered first singing Don't Cry for Me Argentina. When he had looked up, he was surprised to see Mr. Harvey there with a kind smile. He wasn't expecting worlds from this Academy's choir—yes, he was a brilliant performer, but even he knew that his style was not their usual fare; he had decided to overcome that by magnitude of talent. He was willing to fight and fight hard, because he expected large obstacles, which were always in the way as he aspired for what seemed to be the impossible.
Harvey had smiled and not only encouraged his singing, but let him sing to his old glee club without questions. Kurt was welcomed into a group of people with great ease for the first time.
Kurt lowered his eyes for a moment and stood in front of the Warblers assembled on the choir's dais. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as though he didn't want to see that the one who they usually sang to was now lying silent amidst the blooms before the altar.
He felt Blaine squeeze his hand. Kurt looked up, blinking away the mists in his eyes.
A man is placed upon the steps, a baby cries,
And high above the church bells start to ring…
And as the heaviness the body—oh the heaviness—settles in…
Somewhere you can hear a mother sing…
"…the thing with Mr. Harvey, see…is that he really didn't see us with any kind of distinctions. Windsor, Stuart, Hanover, day student… Even those who don't really take his classes. All of us were kind of his kids. But I think…I think the Warblers knew this better than anyone else. That's why he…he didn't want to lose a single one permanently. Even when…even when it seemed as though they were more trouble than they were worth. He stood up for them…and protected them when he could."
Kurt glanced to Logan, whose eyes looked glazed, and it was not for the usual reasons. This was the first time in the past several days that any of them had seen Logan. Even when they were telling the events to the police, all Kurt had heard of him was that after he said his side of it, he was recovering well.
Logan was one of the Warblers that, in spite of his own misgivings, Harvey looked after. That time during Winter Fest would not go forgotten among the boys, when Harvey stood up to the Senator and asked him to let Logan stay, and grow a little more with the other boys.
Kurt remembered that, even after the huge fight during Valentine's Day – a replay of what nearlydid cause Logan to be totally expelled last year – Harvey didn't believe anyone should be kicked out of the school. It as though he was confident that if they were allowed to finish what they began, things would turn out all right.
Then it's one foot then the other as you step out onto the road,
How much weight? How much weight?
Then it's how long, and how far, and how many times…
Oh before it's too late?
"Mr. Harvey always wanted them to know that…that only when they stand together can they really make the music they were so famous for. All of the Warblers are pretty attached to music… My dorm is full of them, and they break out into song now and again. I think it helps them get through the days. And I think Mr. Harvey knew that too. That if they just keep making their music, if they stayed together and believed they could, they could keep going."
The pallbearers were all Dalton boys. They all had wanted to do it, they insisted, and even Mrs. Harvey couldn't say no when she saw the expressions on their faces when they begged. This went even for those boys who were injured in the fire and were still recovering. If anything, they were the ones who insisted the most.
The parents had to intervene, and no matter how much Blaine wanted to be a pallbearer, his shoulder injury would prevent it. Kurt was out of the question as well, because of his leg. Reed certainly couldn't do it; he was still supposed to be mostly sitting down.
In the end, the prefects became pallbearers, along with the Windsor Warblers who could. Because Mr. Harvey had been a Windsor, a house banner was laid, along with the school insignia.
A soft rain had fallen earlier, making everything strangely fresh, and as they all reached out to pick up the casket—jet black, shining, covered in white lilies that lent a fragrance into the air with the baby's breath—Kurt saw the tears spring to their eyes, that the boys valiantly refused to let fall.
Calling all angels…
Calling all angels…
Walk me through this one…
Don't leave me alone…
Calling all angels…
Calling all angels…
We're crying and we're hurting…
And we're not sure why…
"We undervalue our teachers, I think. It takes a different kind of person to want to go up against all our headstrong will and try to impose some lessons which, beyond our expectations, would give us a reason to keep going. They believe we can even though we think we can't. They were students once, they should know how it's like…it's like the world will end when you hit a snag… when the truth is that there are worse things that we have yet to face, and that with every stumble, we have to pick ourselves up and believe we can beat this. They impart their knowledge onto us in the hope that it takes root. Mr. Harvey taught us about music, about how important it was to help one another, and how to not give up."
As the pallbearers walked down the steps, down the path, Kurt smiled sadly as he recalled that conversation he had with Mr. Harvey during the days to the Parents' Night. Harvey had told him that he had done so much more than he imagined he was doing when he came to Dalton. Harvey had stressed how much Kurt had helped people by coming.
It was odd, Kurt decided with the smallest fraction of a smile, as he followed the pallbearers to the cemetery grounds, that when he came to Dalton, he felt that he was the one meant to be helped. Protected from the danger he had moved away from, free to continue reaching for his dream with people who will not judge him.
It happened, all right, but he didn't know that he would come to have such an effect on the boys he met here. How he managed to be with them and somehow have an effect.
And every day you gaze upon the sunset,
With such love and intensity…
It's almost…it's almost as if…
If you could only crack the code,
Then you'd finally understand what this all means…
"How should we remember him? When you look back to this time—when you think about him, what will you remember? I know what I'll remember. Even if I tried to forget, I'd never be able to do it… I think what all of us will remember is what he tried to teach us. That…that even when all hope seems lost, there is still a way if you choose to find it. He could have waited outside, because it looked lost…but if he had done that…I would not be standing here."
But if you could…do you think you would
Trade in all the pain and suffering?
Ah, but then you'd miss…
The beauty of the light upon this earth…
And the sweetness of the leaving…
As the parents of Dalton Academy's security personnel kept the small smattering of photographers at bay at the rail fences of the grounds, preventing them from intruding too far into the funeral, Kurt turned away from the cameras and held Blaine's hand.
It didn't seem real right now that the papers were freaking out about the incident, that the school building had burned while students were in it, that the discovery that there had been a disturbed student who had done all this. That the parents were openly furious that there had been such an oversight on the architecture of the building, and that half the entertainment papers were screaming that a famous actor had been killed, making the hysteria bigger than it might have been. Passed from mouth to mouth, no one really knew.
It was almost upsetting how they didn't focus as much on the teacher. He was the only one who had passed away, leaving behind an entire school of boys who looked up to him as teacher, mentor, father, role model.
Blaine's hand tightened on Kurt's again and he looked up to see him closing his eyes against the tears that fell. Kurt squeezed his hand as he closed his own eyes against the flood, remembering Sectionals, when, with their teacher's prodding, the divided Warblers lifted their voices simultaneously, seamless, and created music.
"We can't forget the teacher. We can't forget what he did. No one will forget. What he did for all of us was something all teachers do—seemingly behind the scenes, but worth so much more than everyone can know. As his students…we all know that the best. That Mr. Gregory Harvey did things for us that are well within the realms of real heroism, and he did it every day. We won't forget that he gave us music. We won't forget that he helped save us."
Calling' all angels…
Calling' all angels…
'Cause we're not sure how this goes…
The pallbearers laid the coffin very carefully upon the casket cart placed next to an open grave of fresh earth. Kurt could smell the newly-turned earth and the blackness past it made him turn away. The casket would stay upon the cart for a moment as the priest would say the final rites, and everyone would look upon their teacher for one last time.
"I talked to Mr. Harvey a lot when Logan and I started having problems," Blaine whispered to Kurt as everyone began to gather. Some of the boys trailed behind with their parents, seemingly still talking to them as everyone gathered around the area set for mourners at the gravesite. Blaine glanced at the other boys before looking back at Kurt with a sad smile. "When Logan started to…snap at me, I asked Mr. Harvey if he knew what I ought to do, because he knew Logan longer. If he was having some problem at school or at home…"
"And then the whole story spilled out…?" Kurt whispered in reply, blinking at him. "That's how you found out that Logan had a temper problem."
"Well…sort of." Blaine sighed and shook his head. "He told me that Logan…did have the tendency to lash out. And that it was something he was seeing a counselor for. But Harvey never made it sound as though I should stay away from him. On the contrary, he…he thought I was good for Logan."
"I'm sure you were…" Kurt smiled. Blaine just shook his head.
"I guess maybe Mr. Harvey was…more tolerant than I was. I mean…I just came from my old school and I spent every day living in fear back then. I loved Logan like crazy but when he began to worsen, I… I started getting scared. I started getting scared about things that I said or did around him. I didn't want him to hurt me or be angry. When I said the wrong things, he started to push me back, and he would lunge at me. I thought, if he threw his friends into bookshelves, then what could he do to me? He tried to help himself sometimes but…" Blaine shook his head and touched his bandage as though remembering the wound just at that moment. "I think he noticed that, because it was like he kept trying to get something out of me that I…that I couldn't understand. I guess maybe I found out too late that what he wanted was for me to not be scared."
"He was hurting you, Blaine, you and the boys told me that," Kurt said quietly. "It's not a crime to edge away from a relationship where one of you got battered and bruised and the other just got angry a lot." Kurt glanced up at where the blond prefect stood, looking at the casket somewhat distractedly, as Michelle Wright tried to pull him gently away. "…you did help him. You loved him, didn't you? In the end, you did stand up to him, right? To tell him that there was something wrong. If you hadn't done what you did—that big fight in Warblers' Hall… Logan wouldn't be put onto actual treatment to help him. For what it's worth, it was a step in the right direction…because it looks like his dad sent him here just to keep him away."
Blaine smiled faintly. "Harvey was the one who figured it out first, and he was the one who pulled Logan into the Warblers when he saw that Logan seemed to particularly like music class. And then he started looking after him." Briefly, Blaine glanced to where Michelle and John Wright, Jr. stood, Logan standing a little way off and still looking lost in thought. "That's also why I made such an easy transition into the Warblers. He saw that I really liked music so… He was really glad that music helped us get back on track. He encouraged it. Which is why we could sing whatever we wanted at the duels."
"I had wondered about that…" Kurt smiled. "He was the one who made that concession."
"He did. He said that…in music, we could take out everything we felt. Ms. Medel agreed."
At the name, Kurt lifted his eyes to his remaining music teacher, who had been silent throughout the entire ceremony. She had arrived looking tall, beautiful and composed as she always did, her blonde hair shining in the sun and her clothing in deep black. Kurt had swallowed when he sensed that the black served a double purpose—to mourn, and to mask her steadily growing womb for the time being.
And though a beautiful black veil was cast down on her face by her hat…Kurt knew the red-rimmed eyes and heavy lids of someone who had cried the whole night without sleep. She remained with her colleagues. She made no move to approach the casket, nor did she make any move to come near Mrs. Harvey, who was white-faced and speaking to her husband's colleagues, and some of the boys.
"You see that that too…?" Reed whispered as he moved up to Kurt. Blaine had looked towards Shane and some of the other Windsor boys who were talking very seriously, looking distressed.
"Hard not to…" Kurt replied, glancing briefly at his friend. "I think we should talk to her."
Reed whispered to him. "And say what?"
Kurt raised an eyebrow at his friend. "We're here for you would be a good start." His glance flicked up to the bandage around Reed's head. "How are you? Should you really be walking around? You're also wearing last season's Valentino."
"Oh, I'm going to be okay," Reed replied, shaking his head. "The doctors said that it was actually a good thing that I managed to stay awake after I got hit like that." He glared slightly at Kurt for the rib on his outfit. "I was distraught; I'm allowed to make one fashion sacrilege."
"You're made of iron after all your accidents…" Kurt gave him a hug that said that he understood and was only joking.
"One good thing about being a klutz, I guess…" Reed looked up. "Oh. Can you give me a minute? There's…someone I just spotted that I have to talk to really quick before we all sing—"
"Do not run, look at the ground so you do not trip, and—" Kurt snatched the white flowers pinned to Reed's collar. "You're going to end up stabbing yourself with this so I'll take it."
"I'm not five," Reed snorted and rolled his eyes—and tripped over a rock embedded into the soil.
He gasped, flailed his arms, and there was a swift movement and Shane was holding him. The green-gray eyes of the younger Anderson looked warm. "You all right?"
Deep scarlet and ignoring the smirking expression Kurt was bestowing upon him, Reed looked up at Shane and flustered, "Yeah, I'm fine. Totally. You really have to stop doing that, you can't keep an eye on me all the time…"
"Wanna bet?" Shane smiled and Reed rolled his eyes at him, swatting him aside for a moment as he headed towards a figure in a black jacket that didn't fit well on him. Shane looked up to see who he was looking at and smiled. "Micah? You all right?"
"I'm all right," Micah said with a small smile, the bandage on his arm evident under the white shirt. Everything that he was wearing had been borrowed, since he didn't have much of funeral clothes. "I was wondering if I could speak to Reed alone?"
Shane paled just slightly. "What?"
"It's okay," Reed smiled at him and then moved towards Micah, who took his hand with a smile and led him aside.
"But—but—" Shane flustered to his brother who just rolled his eyes and took him aside as well.
"I was worried about you," Reed said, looking up at the taller boy when he released him a way off. "I was wondering what had happened, because mom didn't let me go see anybody."
"I'll be all right," Micah replied with a small smile. "I'm glad that you're all right too. You didn't look so good during that time… I thought something might have happened to you."
Reed looked at him intently. This thought had been distressing him for a while now, and he thought that now was as good a time as any to ask it. "Micah…you know you had no reason to be in that fire. To be in that situation at all. You don't even go to Dalton, and Shane wasn't even in there…! You could have died, Micah!"
"Okay, shh…" Micah looked at him with a warm smile. Reed saw the tape on his glasses and wondered if they had been broken in the fire and if he could give him new ones. Micah had looked after him protectively during the fire, and he now looked at him affectionately. "I knew Shane wasn't in there, but I knew you and Blaine were. And if anything happened to the two of you…Shane might not be able to handle it."
"Shane cares about what happens to you too…" Reed said softly, feeling a little awkward and looking away from him. "If anything had happened to you—"
"No, we're not having a discussion of who Shane will care about more," Micah replied firmly, looking down at him. "I'm just saying that it had been my choice to help you and Blaine. Especially you, since Blaine was still standing and partially able to care for himself in that fire, while you were really in bad shape. I knew I had to take care of you. I think Shane would've wanted this."
"He wouldn't have wanted you hurt. You matter to him. You always have and you always will."
"Hey." Micah put his hands on Reed's shoulders. "Look, I don't want you thinking that way. You're with Shane now, and I practically hurled you to him. Seriously. I have no intentions of getting in the way of the both of you. Yes, I love Shane…but he's happy with you and that's what matters to me. It's something I just have to learn to get over. Start fresh and all that. There's no other way to go except forward."
"Look, I've had a lot of religious stuff shoved at me for the past year. And while most of it involved people trying to use it to condemn me for who I am… If there was one thing I actually learned, it's that God notices those who try hard enough to get to a better place in their life. So consider all this as my desperate hope that He notices and throws something good my way." Micah smiled gently. "It's something to hold onto."
Reed smiled at him, eyes misting up, and he gave him a big hug. "Thank you, Micah. …really. Thank you for everything." He released him and looked up. "I…at first I'd been really… Well, before I knew you, I didn't like you all that much—"Micah's smile grew further, "—but now, I wish I was nicer or at least have more of a chance to get to know—" Reed stopped and blinked at him. "Wait, um… Do you…do you get to stay?"
Micah smiled. "I already told the others. I'm staying here in Ohio but…but not in this area. Not really going to be able to see any of you. I plan to go back to my parents and try to…work this whole thing out. Now that I know Shane's going to be okay…I can move on. I want to fight for myself now. This is who I am and I want them to accept me. I know they can."
"Another thing you're holding onto?" Reed smiled.
"Yeah." Micah pushed up his glasses. "I won't be able to come see you guys much. I'll have to work on my own for a while."
"What are you going to do now then?" Reed blinked.
"Oh, I guess for now, I'll make money tutoring…" Micah looked thoughtful. "I've already got some people…"
"Well…before you go," Reed beamed at him, "…at least let me get you new glasses."
"Deal," Micah grinned.
Kurt had meant to go to Ms. Medel when he had separated from Reed, but before he could move to his teacher, he saw her suddenly get caught in what had to be the most uncomfortable situation she could've ever get herself into—Mrs. Harvey had come over to her late husband's colleagues and started to talk to them, and to Ms. Medel. Kurt watched Ms. Medel's face remain a perfect ivory mask, barely speaking.
"Not a good idea," a voice whispered behind him when he made to head towards Ms. Medel in an attempt to rescue her. When Kurt turned around, he saw Logan standing behind him. Kurt stared—up close, his face looked paler and his eyes were heavily rimmed in dark circles. He looked very tired. "You'll make her look suspicious if you take her aside just as Mrs. Harvey is trying to talk to her," he added softly. "She's already been dodging her."
"You—you know?" Kurt stared, surprised and aghast at Logan's appearance.
"I could tell," Logan replied with a strange smile. "The way they looked at each other sometimes. Had to be something. When I saw the look on Ms. Medel's face today, I knew properly." Logan sighed and fixed his tie absently. "…like your world just broke apart."
Kurt stared at him. After watching Logan unsuccessfully fiddle with his tie, he swatted his hands away and did it for him, but not without a sour expression. "You're going to make it worse. You're singing with us, we have to look our best for our teacher."
"I know. I came because Mr. Harvey…"
"I know." Kurt let go and sighed. He looked at Logan. "You and Ms. Medel have the same look."
Logan looked at him and glanced into the distance. "…yeah, maybe we do."
"The boys talk. They said no one's seen you. Until today anyway." Kurt tried to catch Logan's gaze. "Is it your father who's kept you away?"
"No, my…my father's been acting a little differently." Logan glanced back to where the parents were. They were gathering together, the fathers, and still talking, keeping half an eye out on their sons. He looked back to Kurt. "…he hasn't said anything bad about me all week. …Must be some kind of record. He'll burst soon. He has a reason to…"
"You can't be thinking that any of this was in any way your fault—"
"I was at the hospital all week, or thereabouts. As often as I could."
"Oh." Kurt blinked. "Was it that bad? Where were you hurt?" He looked around for Logan's injuries which didn't really seem all that evident.
Logan simply shook his head. "No, I…" he took a long pause and then muttered, "…I was trying to see Julian."
Ah. So that was why. Kurt lifted his head and kept his face as devoid of expression as possible. "Oh. How…how is he?"
For a moment, it was as though Logan was lost in thought, but Kurt did not see any of the usual signs of his medicated haze. He was clearly simply very occupied in whatever thoughts swirled in the aftermath. "…I…I don't know for sure."
"You're there all week and you don't know…?"
"Dolce Larson." Logan didn't meet his eyes. "His mother won't let anyone at all come and see him… He hadn't…I hadn't seen him since— I…I heard he wasn't awake yet. That's all I know. …Derek and I, we took turns, trying to see if at some point she or any of Julian's people will let us see him, but…Mrs. Larson doesn't want anyone coming near. And after the way my dad talked to her, apparently…" He shook his head.
Kurt looked at him sympathetically and put a hand on his arm, trying to calm him. Strangely, when he put his hand there, Logan was not trembling with repressed rage or shaking with grief. He was still, very still, and seemed filled with the sadness of someone who is looking for a direction or a way to feel. "…he's alive. That's what's most important. He's going to be okay."
"You don't know that—" Logan whispered with some defeat.
"He will be," Kurt glared at him.
"You don't know that! I jumped and left him in there—"
"You didn't have a choice, no one had a choice—!"
"Kurt, if he dies—!"
A few heads turned. The Windsor boys who had been talking were now looking at them. Kurt found the Twins still as strangely identical as they stood, looking at them. He knew that they couldn't have possibly gotten identical injuries—they must have bandaged themselves to look alike still. They kept close to each other, watching them. The Stuart boys also glanced up, and Derek stood from one of the chairs and took one step forward.
Then Blaine appeared next to Kurt and looked up at Logan. For an instant, the two of them who shared so much history looked at each other as though meeting for the first time. Blaine broke their gaze to pat Logan's arm slightly. "Let's go. …We have to sing for Harvey one last time. …We both owe him."
Kurt nodded and let Blaine step forward to lead Logan with the Warblers, heading towards the coffin with the black lacquer. And as they moved, he heard Blaine whispering to Logan. "…he'll be all right. He's your best friend. …He always comes back. He leaves and he leaves…but he always comes back." Blaine looked at him. "You'll be all right too. You're really too headstrong. You're impossible to stop sometimes. And you have a little too much pride…to let this break you. You've never let anything stop you before. I don't think you'll let this be it."
"And you know me so well…?"
"I just remember a guy – who was supposed to hate me with a passion – calling for extra backup to save my brother from a rockslide, and sat and talked to me when I felt like the world was coming down on my head. You ran into a burning building with me and that whole…mess happened…and you stood by us and him the whole time, whether you were in that building by the end or not." Blaine glanced at him. "…I know you enough to know that you're better than what we give you credit for sometimes and what you give yourself credit for."
Logan exhaled, looking up at the sky for a long moment, blinking. "Apparently you're also better than I give you credit for."
Kurt smiled faintly at the sight of the two of them more or less getting along. He supposed that people who had to go through what they did together would find some same ground to meet in. He moved up next to Blaine as the Warblers circled the casket, preparing to sing. Around them, friends and family stood. Logan glanced back and met Derek's gaze. Derek nodded somberly to his friend, but it was encouraging. Logan nodded back.
Silence fell around the grave as all eyes went to the Warblers and the casket. Everyone was still for a moment as the boys looked their last upon the closed lid, and the flowers that rested on top of it.
Blaine took Kurt's hand and squeezed it. While Kurt didn't look back to him, he placed his other gloved hand over Blaine's encouragingly. The curly-haired Warbler whispered, "…thanks, Mr. Harvey. …for everything. …for giving us a chance."
Logan lowered his eyes and whispered something Kurt could only make out as a very small "thank you, sir". Kurt looked at the casket now, and smiled very very slightly, taking a deep breath. "…thank you, Mr. Harvey."
Blaine closed his eyes and began to sing softly as the Warblers joined him.
There's no one in town I know…
You gave us some place to go….
I never said thank you for that…
I thought I might get one more chance…
Blaine laid a carnation gently down onto the coffin as he sang, and his hand shook just so slightly as he put down the flower. He managed a small, shaky smile as he gave his teacher a last look.
Kurt moved forward then. He was holding a white carnation, and very gently, he laid it onto the casket. As the bloom slipped away from his fingers, he gave the coffin a long, lingering look before stepping back and lowering his eyes, singing with the others. He wouldn't forget the welcome for as long as he lived. Then he took Blaine's hand, and the two of them moved back to the warblers.
Logan stepped forward after him, and laid another carnation onto the casket. He had stopped singing briefly, to whisper, "…I'll try to make you proud, sir." And stepped back to join the others again, seemingly vanishing amidst the blue blazers.
What would you think of me now,
So lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
Now I'll never have a chance…
May angels lead you in…
Hear you me my friends…
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in…
Wes stepped forward and nodded once, slowly, to the coffin, in respect, before placing the flower down. He let out his breath, clasped his hands and stepped back, eyes closed. "Goodbye, sir…"
David nodded to him as he passed him and laid down a coffin. His lips were pressed together and he laid his hand on the coffin with the very smallest smile. "…we'll do our best."
Reed smiled at David and Wes before he walked forward. He placed a carnation with a handmade lace ribbon on it, and he smiled faintly at the coffin. "Thank you for taking care of us…"
The Twins helped him walk back, before both of them stepped forward. They stood over the casket, and the two of them placed a single carnation with two ribbons on it. "May angels lead you in…" they whispered.
So what would you think of me now,
So lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
Now I'll never have a chance…
May angels lead you in…
Hear you me my friends…
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in…
One by one, the Warblers moved to place their carnations onto the casket. Danny stepped back with the smallest repressed sniffle and Wes put an arm around him. Thad crossed himself before stepping back, after he had placed the flowers. Nick and Jeff bowed to the coffin in reverence before they put theirs down. And when Bailey, with scarlet eyes, placed the last two carnations onto the coffin, whispering softly, "Thank you for looking after us, sir…" the Warblers stepped back to let others through.
Blaine looked up when he saw Dwight. He continued to sing, nodding for the younger boy to move forward.
And if you were with me tonight,
I'd sing to you just one more time…
Dwight came forward slowly, the white carnation he had was wet with his tears. His hands were shaking when he laid it down. And for an instant, they thought he couldn't let go. Then he whispered, "…thank you…for saving me…thank you…"
A song for a heart so big,
God wouldn't let it live…
He shook with the force of the sobs he tried to stop, and Kurt stepped forward again. He put his arm around his shoulders and gently led him back. "It's okay…" he whispered. "It's okay…" Dwight sank against him, sobbing hard, following him as he led him back to the others.
The Windsors enveloped him their fold. The Twins broke off ranks in the Warblers to move over him protectively and led him carefully back to where his mother stood waiting for him.
May angels lead you in…
May angels lead you in…
Kurt had just reached Blaine once again when he looked up and watched as their teachers' colleagues then moved forward and began placing flowers as well. His gaze lingered a moment to Ms. Medel, who looked and moved as immaculately as ever. He face was hidden behind the veil on her hat.
He kept singing, watching as she moved forward and placed a white rose—not a carnation, which Mrs. Harvey had said Mr. Harvey had liked when she put them around the house onto the casket. Her hand never shook, but it lingered for the briefest fraction of a second.
Kurt saw a tear slip down her cheek when she finally turned to walk away.
May angels lead you in…
Hear you me my friends…
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in…
The few words the priest said went by so quickly to Kurt—lost in his own thoughts—that before he knew it, the casket was about to be lowered. The family and friends of their deceased teacher surrounded it, and the students ringed this circle of people, glancing amongst each other, many with heads still lowered.
Blaine remained standing outside the ring, and as Kurt stood by him, leaning on his crutch slightly, he saw that the boys around seemed to be filled with great distress. They looked at each other as though anticipating a greater problem. As though Mr. Harvey disappearing from them was a sign of something worse that had been bubbling up for the past few days. Kurt watched as the coffin sank into the blackness and wondered what else they had to fight through this time…and how they would do it.
He felt Blaine move a little closer to him.
"…you know…" Blaine began and then he stopped. When he lowered his eyes towards the jet black casket, Kurt could see his lashes still wet. "…I'm not really all that fond of funerals."
Kurt gently adjusted his sling for a moment and then looked at him. He reached out to take his hand, but Blaine met it halfway. He smiled, and Kurt smiled faintly back. Blaine said, "You know…it's like I can hear his voice in my head. Possibly getting irritated. Wondering why we're so upset, wanting us to move on."
"Well…" Kurt smiled briefly, "…it sounds like something he'd say." He sighed, and looked at the wealth of white lilies that contrasted so powerfully against the coffin. He tightened his hold on Blaine's hand. "What he did for us… I think…maybe he would've wanted us to repay him by…being strong. It's what he'd want, I think."
He looked at Blaine, who looked lost in thought again. "…we'll get through this."
Blaine looked at him and smiled a little. "Yeah."
"That…might be a little more difficult than we anticipated," came a whisper.
The two leads looked up to see Wes and David standing near them. They both looked unsettled. Kurt glanced for a moment, saw that the coffin was gone, and he turned away from the sight of the blackness of the grave and it felt like losing a safety net.
He looked back to the two Windsors who'd moved to them. "What do you mean?"
"There's a problem, and we only realized how big today now that we've managed to talk a bit better, and we're all in one place," Wes said uncomfortably. Next to him, David stepped aside as the Twins also arrived. "It's about the school."
Blaine felt something cold pass him. "…what about the school?" He almost didn't want to ask—because his father and his mother had mentioned something more than once that he didn't want to hear.
"The parents met up and they're petitioning to shut down the school," David whispered, looking at them, distressed. "Even the Alumni. They're waiting until after Mr. Harvey's funeral to do proper work to shut it down."
"Even the Alumni?" Kurt stared.
"No one has been inside school grounds since the fire, no one has been allowed in," the Twins murmured. They looked at each other and then back at Kurt. Evan sighed, "So for over a week, Dalton had been at a standstill."
Ethan nodded. "And the parents are talking, saying they don't want the students to go back into the school after the big security oversight."
"And the architecture of the Hall wasn't helping," Reed added as he and Han came up to the group. He was frowning now. "They're saying that all those paints shouldn't have been in there, that they were flammable and then how the building was built…"
"They've checked the other buildings—nothing was quite as bad as the Art Hall," David muttered. "Good news is, apparently Windsor's the most well-built of the buildings; thing could withstand a gas blast apparently."
"It withstands Drew and Satoru, it better," Han remarked.
"No seriously," Wes broke in, looking at them urgently. "If even the Alums are on board then we're all going to see Dalton shut down! All of us…we'll be separated." He looked at them, and the varying expressions on their faces. "We'll be taken to other schools, or overseas. We'll…have to start all over with different people. And…we'd only see each other in the vacations and…"
"…and the Warblers will be gone." Blaine finished, closing his eyes. He didn't dare turn to look to the grave again. "Not that…that's the biggest concern, but…"
They all knew what he meant. Mr. Harvey's boys were going to be separated. Their friends would be going elsewhere now. Silence fell amongst them all.
After a moment, Blaine whispered, "Even your dad, David…?"
David shook his head sadly. "Dad said he didn't want to really…close the school down but…but considering the situation…what the other parents are making out of it—and Julian! He isn't even conscious yet!"
"How do you know?" Kurt frowned a little.
"Everyone from school knows Mrs. Larson's got her son locked up in steel hoops. That not even Logan or Derek can come see him. Although as far as most of the media is concerned, Julian's had an "incident" with a stalker and is undergoing recovery."
"Everyone's trying pretty hard to cover up the worst of what's happened here…" Reed murmured. "More for the Larsons' sake, really. They said they didn't want full details of what happened inside the art hall public…other than the stalker part."
"My dad agreed," Kurt murmured, remembering a conversation with his father while he was still in the hospital. "He said it…might be for the best that everyone doesn't know everything that happened inside the Hall. And for Adam's family."
The boys all winced at the name. But it was true.
When Mr. and Mrs. Clavell came to the hospital, everyone knew. Everyone had stared, watching as they made their way to see their son, who was in the hospital psych ward, away from everyone injured, and was cuffed to the handrails of his bed. The parents had arrived by police escort but no one came near them. Kurt had seen Adam's parents, because they had tried to speak to him. They had tried to speak to everyone that their son had hurt. Burt didn't let her speak to Kurt…but he did talk to her outside. He saw through their shadows through the glass.
Mrs. Clavell looked like a good woman, and Mr. Clavell looked like a quiet man. But both of them had clearly looked so very tired. As though just hearing the news of what happened here in the school was enough to drain them of whatever vitality they possessed.
According to Burt, Adam's parents had no idea about what their son had been doing. They knew he liked to be by himself, that he could get particularly…worked up about some things. They knew that there was trouble at his old school, about how some of the other students treated him, but again and again, Adam had simply retreated into his room and didn't tell them much. They thought Adam would be all right, at least until he got through high school.
They thought wanting to go to a new school was a sign that he was starting to get unhappy, and he wanted to get away from things. When they heard about the distance, they weren't sure, but Adam had so viciously demanded to be sent there and so they felt they had to concede. So they let him. They had no idea of what their son was doing, had done. But they were silent, very very silent, when they took their son away with them, and they were followed by the stares of all the other parents.
"But my dad did also say…" and Kurt let out his breath, "that he's furious that the school wasn't able to protect us. That he agreed to send me to Dalton to be safe and this…isn't part of the package. I think he's on their side."
Han shook his head a little, looking uncomfortable. "Overlooking a killer stalker in school is a big deal—"
"No school is prepared for a killer stalker," Wes muttered darkly.
"Fact stands," David muttered, "A teacher's—Mr. Harvey died, a lot of us got injured—"
"We went in there by ourselves," Blaine reminded them.
"Tell them that!"
Kurt held a hand up for silence. Then he looked at the Tweedles. "…so you're saying… after all this, that we can't…we can't even pick up the pieces and try to fix it? That officially…we are going to get our school shut down?"
The Twins looked at each other and then back at him. Evan said, "Not…officially just yet."
Ethan nodded slowly. "There's a board meeting later this evening. They were waiting until after the funeral. The people who run the school will be talking then. But they say that, with all this coverage…" he glanced to the fences. Cameras clicked distantly, as though trying to see who had come to the funeral. "…it might just be formality."
The boys all let out their breaths.
After a pause, Han began to say, "I should've—"
"Stop," Blaine responded immediately with a direct stare to him. "…no one is going to start any sentence with "I should have" when it comes to this. No one is going to start blaming anything on themselves. This…this was out of our control."
"We had the illusion we had control," Kurt muttered. He looked back to the grave. "…no one did. We couldn't have imagined any of this would happen."
"Yeah well…" Reed murmured softly, "…someone is blaming himself."
"Who?" David blinked.
"Logan was. I heard him."
And Blaine looked to the sky, exhaling into it as though it explained his distress.
Where is Logan…? Kurt wondered as he looked around. The ceremony was over, people were starting to leave, some of them, but he realized that he hadn't seen Logan since he placed the carnation on the coffin. He looked around and couldn't find the willowy blond anywhere.
His eyes landed on Derek, who was still amongst the mass of Stuarts to one side. They were gathered together, also looking worried, and there was no sign of their prefect.
Derek didn't look up from where he kept his head down, staring at the coffin and the people around it singing. Bailey elbowed him again. "Hey!"
"What?" Derek hissed, in no position to humor him.
Derek looked up, and froze. A girl with long dark hair, wearing a trim black dress, looking more formal than he'd ever seen her, was walking to him from where she broke off the contingent of Dobry Hall girls who had also come to pay their respects, and to help their counterpart school through the situation. She walked towards him with steady purpose, the same way she had done when she had walked away from him some months ago. For a moment, he stared. "…Casey…?"
He couldn't see her expression from behind the sunglasses she was wearing (they were the same Chanel sunglasses he'd bought for her), but she clutched her black purse tightly as though she was fighting her own will. Derek swallowed and glanced back to the casket once more before going to her, the Stuarts staring after him.
"Derek," Casey replied, looking up at him as she removed the sunglasses. Her eyes were red as she looked up at the bandage he wore. "A-Are you… I heard—I heard about what happened. To you and your friends and…and the fire and you got—" She took a breath and made herself regain composure. "…are you okay?" she said fervently, almost demanding, which was her usual way.
Derek stared at her and then pulled her against him and held her tightly, closing his eyes as he clasped her close. The girl seemed startled for a moment, but she didn't fight his grasp as she normally would've. When she felt him shake, repressing a sob, she put a hand on his back.
"Who is that?" Kurt asked, surprised.
"Casey Lambert," Wes said with a faint smile. "The only girl who got Derek to come close to settling down. They dated, exclusively, for two whole months, which for Derek was a record."
"Nice of her to come by…" David remarked. "He looks like he needs her." He saw Katherine among the Dobry girls and nodded to his friends before making a beeline towards her. Kurt glanced to Blaine and whispered, "Shouldn't he be with his best friend?"
"I think his best friend is with their other best friend," Blaine replied softly. "I saw Logan leave after the song. …he had talked to Derek, I think he went off somewhere. His father and Michelle are still here, so…"
"He went back to the hospital…" Kurt murmured, considering. "Blaine…I don't know how you feel about him right now, but I think he needs someone to talk to. We have to talk to him. He didn't sound right earlier, you talked to him—"
"Kurt," Blaine smiled at him. "Kurt, I know. I understand. To be honest, I'm pretty worried about him too. I think we should go see him, talk to him. We have to see how Julian's doing anyway."
"We'll go with you!" the Twins volunteered.
"I'm sorry, but that is not possible."
The group of them looked up. Mr. Brightman was walking to them, with Audrey Brightman. She smiled softly at the group of Windsors and signed, "Hello. How are you boys doing? We were worried."
"Doing better," Reed replied with a smile, one of the Twins signing simultaneously for Audrey's benefit.
"Why can't we go?" the other Twin asked their father.
Mr. Brightman looked around at the group of boys, looking a little sad. He hadn't wanted to close the school either, but with the mounting pressure, some of the people who were going to be in the board meeting felt that this might be the only way to curb a very possible backlash against the school. Already a number of parents have expressed yanking their sons from the Academy.
It was for the best, he told himself, and that was what John and the others had said as well.
Mr. Brightman spoke, but he signed as well, for the benefit of his daughter. "I need you to gather up your classmates. And you're to go back into school grounds."
"We can go back?" Reed's eyes lit up and Kurt looked in surprise.
Mr. Brightman smiled sadly at Reed. Audrey answered, looking sad. "…you have to go back to your dormitories to get your things," one of the twins said out loud for the others.
"Get…our things…" Han stared.
"What do you mean get our things?" Dwight suddenly spoke, coming up to them, eyes wide.
The twins' father exhaled and replied, "…the board thinks their decision will be made final tonight. Or at least by tomorrow. We want the boys to go back into the dormitories and clear out their things…and tomorrow the school will be closed."
Kurt stared at him with the same expression as all the other boys. "…you're…you're really doing it. You're closing our school."
In the next episode: They say that friends are the family you choose for yourself. Warblerland's occupants stand and look to each other, the ones they still have, the ones they could possibly lose, as they struggle to pick up the pieces through words, memories, and music. Especially when it seems as though they would not even get the chance to move on from this together. In the fight to retain hope, the boys' courage as friends, as a little family, is tried one more time when Dalton Academy's shut down comes to a head. (for more news and updates and early-release updates about Dalton, visit cpcoulter dot com.)