Fear is like a ripple on water: any tiny thing can set it off. When you throw a pebble into a lake, the water ripples and churns, disturbing whatever lies in its path. Though the waves will eventually still, though the lake will once more be smooth as glass, the pebble remains below the surface, forever changing what lies beneath. Once stirred and acknowledged, fear never truly dissipates.
It's so dark here, dark and cold.
Where am I? Why does it smell like Christmas?
Where's Mommy? Why hasn't she come for me?
I'm so hungry. I was bad to eat the cookies all at once, but they were so good.
I need to go potty. I don't want to use the bucket. That's so yucky, and it stinks.
I don't like it here. I just want to go home. Why can't I go home?
I'm a good boy. I know I am.
My ankle hurts, like the time I slipped and fell off the diving board at swim practice. The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone…
Jeff is back. Mommy, where are you? Don't let him hurt me again! Please, Mommy, I'll be good. I promise! Pinky promise!
Too bright! My eyes hurt. Is the sun out? What day is it? Wednesday's child is full of woe…
"You've been a bad boy, Kevin."
Kurt awoke with a gasp, batting at invisible hands, the cloying scents of pine and terror assaulting his senses. After a few moments, he realized he was safe in his basement bedroom, his father sleeping just upstairs, the man who could slay any monster, real or imagined, which might be lurking outside their home.
He inhaled sharply and promptly began coughing. He grabbed the bottle of water he kept by the bed for emergency hydration. The heating system in the house played havoc with his skin. He savored the sensation of the cool liquid traveling down his throat. He coughed once more before finally asserting control over his own body, trying in vain to shake off the emotional remnants of the dream.
It was never easy; he supposed it shouldn't be. He was shown these things for a reason, he knew, so that he might help those who couldn't help themselves. But did they have to affect him so damn much?
His eyes darted to his bedside alarm clock. Only four.
He debated momentarily about trying to squeeze in another two hours of sleep, but he knew it was a lost cause. If he went back to bed now, by the time he fell asleep it would be time to get up again. He had no idea who the little boy, this Kevin, was, let alone where to find him. He couldn't even tell if the dream was relating past or future events, or if it was happening in the present time. He supposed it didn't matter. Kevin needed help and, for whatever reason, he had reached out to Kurt for assistance. What difference was another two hours of sleep?
He sighed and leaned over, opening the drawer to his nightstand, from which he withdrew his sketchpad. He quickly drew a decent likeness of Kevin. Not a truly accurate representation, of course – he was no Rembrandt – but it was a good enough approximation to begin a search. He paused just long enough to note that the face looking back at him was eerily reminiscent of his own at that age: same upturned nose with a dash of freckles; same pale skin, probably from being in that cellar – was that right? A cellar? Yes. – for so damn long; same dark hair, parted on the right.
It was almost uncanny, and certainly disconcerting.
He shook his head to clear it, ripped the sketch from the pad, turned it over, and began writing as many details as he could remember in his neat, careful script. He'd go to the shop before school and fax it to Justine. Hopefully Kevin had already been reported missing so that they wouldn't have to waste time trying to discover his full identity, instead focusing on finding him and tossing that monster, Jeff, into a cell as cold and dark as where he'd hidden Kevin.
Kurt looked over at his closet, the outfit he'd chosen for the day hanging from the door and ready to embrace him with all of its fabulosity. His homework was complete and his bag already packed. He had almost four hours to kill and absolutely nothing to do. He supposed he could run through his playlist for Glee Club, though he thought it rather pointless; he had already memorized his own parts, as well as those of all the other members. He couldn't practice for fear of waking his father. The poor man was more sleep-deprived than his son. Maybe a movie? Something simple and sappy, with a horribly clichéd happy ending. He sure could go for one of those right now.
Thank goodness Carole and Finn hadn't slept over. He still didn't know how to tell them about any of this. He guessed he should have thought about that before opening his big mouth and trying to manipulate a straight boy who had no use for him as anything other than an object of complete bafflement. He supposed he should have felt guilt or contrition for his machinations, but he couldn't be bothered. He hadn't seen his father this happy since before Kurt's mother had gotten sick. In the end, that happiness was really all that mattered and, as he no longer cared what Finn thought about him, self-recriminations were a waste of time.
They probably wouldn't believe him anyway, but it was getting more difficult to conceal. The dreams came with increasing frequency as he got older. Now they were an almost nightly occurrence. With winter coming, there was no way the extension on the house could begin, so he would be sharing a bedroom with Finn for the foreseeable future. He didn't know how that was going to work. It was unfair of him to subject Finn to his special gift-without-purchase. Talking in your sleep was one thing, but it was something altogether different for a generally happy-go-lucky guy like Finn to be asked to endure late-night phone calls, sleepwalking, and night terrors.
Oh, and conversing with the dead. That was a nifty parlor trick for which the Hudsons had most definitely not signed up.
Kurt sighed. There was nothing he could do about it right then, so he'd just have to cross that bridge when he came to it.
He was jolted roughly from his thoughts by the shrill squawk of his cell phone. Recognizing the ring, he sighed again. That particular ring was becoming more and more irksome through no fault of its bearer; still, he smirked and thought it had been a stroke of genius when he had assigned the theme from Terminator 2: Judgment Day to Justine. Sarah Connor had nothing on that broad.
He scurried over to his vanity and removed the phone from its charger.
He was met with a snort. "Ain't nothing good about it, kiddo. Sorry to get you up so early."
"It's alright. I was awake."
"Another dream?" she asked after a beat.
"A kidnapping," he confirmed. "A little boy named Kevin. I've done a sketch."
"Shit," she sighed. "Kids are always the worst."
He paused. "I take it he's not why you called."
Another sigh. "Sorry, hon, but no."
"What is it?" He noted and disregarded her hesitance. "It's obviously something important, Justine. We've been
through this too many times. If you need my help, then you'll get it."
"I just hate that I'm always dragging you into these things, Kurt."
"You're not dragging me into anything. You don't choose your cases anymore than I do my dreams, so stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself and tell me what's going on."
There was a moment of silence which seemed into stretch to eternity, followed by a harsh peal of laughter. "Does your idiot boyfriend have any idea just how lucky he is to have you?"
Kurt smiled. "I remind him daily."
"Good. If he ever doubts it, let me know. I'll keep firing until he gets the message."
Justine was still thirty miles out, but Kurt dressed quickly.
He threw open his closet and grabbed a pair of jeans from the ridiculously large supply he had procured from Wal-Mart. Well, if truth be told, he'd had his father actually go in to the store and buy them.
There were some mountains which Kurt Hummel would simply never climb, and atop every single one sat a Wal-Mart.
Still, he couldn't disregard the chain's usefulness. On one side of his closet now resided an outrageous number of disposable cheap denims, long-sleeve t-shirts, and plain white Keds. He was not about to sacrifice his otherwise stunning wardrobe to the mess left behind at the more violent crime scenes. He might be crazy, but he wasn't stupid.
He grabbed the garment bag in which he'd stowed his change of clothes, his messenger bag, his cell, and the sketch of Kevin before heading upstairs. He should have time to brew a pot of coffee and down at least two cups before Justine arrived to pick him up.
Kurt swallowed a sigh as he blinked in the darkened kitchen. He should have known his father would be waiting for him. He wanted to laugh. Here he was, someone who could communicate with entities unknown to most people, yet his father somehow always knew when he was trying to sneak out of the house.
"Hi Dad," he said quietly.
"Another dream?" Burt softly asked.
He sighed. "Kidnapping. A little boy named Kevin. I've already given the specifics to Justine."
Burt grunted. "You going to look for him?"
"I don't where he is. I have a few details. Justine is hopeful."
Burt held out his hand. "Let me see, son."
Kurt rolled his eyes, passed it over, and waited. He wasn't surprised when, after a moment, his father's hand began trembling.
"It's not me, Dad," Kurt said gently. "Yes, there's a resemblance, but Kevin's not me. There's no one after me, Dad. I'm safe."
"This time," Burt muttered. "Coffee's ready."
"Thank you." Kurt calmly walked over to the counter and poured himself a cup, drinking it down swiftly.
It had always amused Burt that, as prissy as his son was, they shared the same taste in coffee: rich, thick, and black. He had remarked on more than one occasion that he was just fine with having a clotheshorse for a son, but had Kurt been a coffee snob, they would have had issues.
Kurt poured himself another cup, as well as one for his father, and wandered back over to the table.
"What's happened to this boy?" Burt demanded.
Kurt averted his eyes. "Kidnapping, just like I told you."
Burt raised a brow. "And?"
Kurt learned long ago not to leave his father out of the loop. If he tried, Burt just pushed and pushed until he got the answers he wanted. Kurt had tried to shield him, tried to protect him, and he still did in some manner. He gave answers only when directly asked, and even then he was as vague as possible. Unfortunately, Burt simply had begun asking more astute questions, to the point where it was all but impossible to prevaricate.
Burt blamed himself for the dreams, even though they were the legacy of Kurt's mother. He despised that his baby, his only child and all that he had left of his wife, was forced to bear witness to such gruesome acts of depravity, to the worst man could do to his fellow man. Suzanne's gift had been of a different degree; she hadn't gotten the dreams, and most of her visions had been confined to events of a happier nature: who would fall in love with whom, the gender of an unborn child. She could communicate with those who had departed, usually to give a final message to a loved one.
Kurt had those abilities, too, but the majority of what he saw was violence.
He choked as his eyes swam with unshed tears. "Please, Dad. Don't make me do this, don't make me tell you. I don't want these images in your head. I don't want to put them there. Please, Daddy."
Burt bit his lip and fought to control himself. Kurt already blamed himself for so much, for things in which he bore no culpability: his sexuality, the death of his mother, the bigots who sought to persecute him on a daily basis.
He knew his heart attack had almost caused Kurt to come undone, terrified and guilty that he had put his father under so much stress that it caused his own body to betray him. It was ridiculous, of course. His own bad habits – greasy food, beer, probably the cigarettes he'd smoked when he was Kurt's age – were responsible. It infuriated him that he was so weak, so pathetic, that he was now just another person Kurt felt responsible to safeguard.
He hated that his son bore the weight of the world on his shoulders, and yet the boy was always searching for and willing to add even more baggage to his burden. His heart attack had served to remind them both of his mortality, of the very real truth that one day he would not be there to help his son. That was why he pressed Kurt so hard to talk about what he saw, so that he wouldn't become so consumed by pain and darkness that he was lost to both of them long before Burt exited this life.
The guidance counselor, the one named after baked goods, knew about the dreams; she even believed they were real. She tried to help Kurt as best she could, but there were limits to what she could do, given her position and training. Lima was the seat of Allen County, and McKinley was the regional high school. As much as she liked Kurt, perhaps even loved him in some manner, she had a thousand other students whom she was supposed to shepherd.
Burt was of the opinion that his son required an actual therapist, perhaps one whose only client was Kurt Hummel. Hell, studying Kurt and the things he saw could make a career. But Kurt always refused professional help, arguing that most likely what would occur would be him going in to some stuffy office, baring his soul, and being laughed right out the door. It was probably true, Burt realized. Kurt might even have dreamed of it.
The dreams hadn't started until after Suzanne's death, so Kurt was never afforded her help or guidance. Burt wasn't sure she even would have been able to help their son, and Lord knew Burt himself had been of little use. Kurt's abilities, even at eight years old, had been far beyond the scope of Suzanne's experience.
Once, Burt had been terrified of his son's power; now he was terrified for his son's sanity.
They had tried the drugs, the ones that had left Kurt numb and indifferent to the world around him. They hadn't helped; they'd just made the dreams worse, more fragmented and nonsensical, until it reached the point where the poor boy was hardly able to differentiate between them and reality. Still, perhaps that would preferable at this point.
"No, it wouldn't," Kurt whispered. "I can't put myself through that again, Dad, no matter how much better it might make both of us feel."
"Okay, first of all, stay out of my head, boy. Second…"
Kurt stood and crossed to the sink, in which he deposited his empty mug. "No, Dad. Drugs are not the answer. They changed me, not the dreams." He shuddered and looked out the large bay window over the sink. Dawn was approaching. Justine would be there soon. "We've been through this. We've read what happens to people like me, those who abuse alcohol or take drugs to dull the voices. It's a temporary fix. In the long run, it just makes it worse."
He turned to face his father. "I know this is horrible for you. I know you worry about me constantly. But this isn't just about me, Dad." He gestured towards the window. "It's about those people out there, whether they're alive or dead. They need help, they deserve justice, and if I'm able to bring them even some small measure of peace, then I'm never going to stop. I don't want praise or acknowledgment. If I manage to find Kevin, I don't care that he'll probably never know my name, as long as I can help bring him home to his mother."
Kurt sighed. "I do get it, you know. Why you're scared, why you want it to stop. I'm a child without a mother; I can't even contemplate what it is to be a parent without their child. I imagine that's your greatest fear, and, no, I didn't need a ghost to tell me so."
Jesus Christ, his boy was amazing.
"Working with Justine and Liza has helped, because now I have focus. I'm part of the process; I can affect outcomes. Now I'm able to channel all of this knowledge into something productive, and I owe it to the victims and to myself to fight for them, to be their voice after they've been viciously silenced. And if it upsets you, if it drives me crazy, if it puts me in danger, well…those are risks I'm willing to take, because the only alternative is to run away and stick my head in the sand. And I'm many things, Dad, but I'm not a coward."
Kurt tilted his head. "Justine's here. I have my clothes and my books. If I'm not back in time to pick up my car, she'll take me to school." He walked quickly toward the front door, pausing to peck his father on the cheek. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you, too," Burt whispered, realizing he would get no answers just now as to the missing boy or whatever heinous case demanded his son's presence in the dead of night.
He waited to sit back down until he heard the door close, until Kurt relocked the deadbolt, until the car door slammed and Justine Westgate was racing them towards Montgomery County.
He shoved a fist in his mouth to stifle his scream.