The sound of the screen door slamming was barely audible to Kurt over the sizzling of the chicken in the pan in front of him. He placed the lid carefully over it and reduced the heat with a critical little frown as he called out to the next room.
"Dinner in ten minutes, Dad."
Burt Hummel appeared in the kitchen doorway, wearing his coveralls, his face and hands smudged with motor oil as he crossed to the stove, sniffing experimentally. "What're we having?"
Burt gave his son a teasing smirk, quirking a single brow upward. "Didn't we have that once before? The first time you tried to cook, when you were about eight?"
"No," Kurt rolled his eyes with a weary sigh. "That was just plain black chicken. This chicken is blackened with Cajun spices and the proper cooking temperature, not with… overcooking and negligence." Despite his feigned irritation, a bittersweet smile played about his lips at the memory of his own childish efforts.
His dad wasn't the only one who had tried so, so hard to make things normal again in the wake of his mother's death.
Kurt was drawn out of his memories by the realization that his dad was still standing there, a dubious, vaguely distrustful look on his face.
"You'll like it," he assured him with slight impatience. "I promise. It's healthy, but it's spicy."
"I'm sure I will." Burt gave Kurt a warm grin as he headed past him toward the stairs – but couldn't resist ruffling a hand through his son's shower-damp hair first.
"Dad!" Kurt objected – but he left his protest at that, his pleasant – if a bit pensive – mood undeterred.
He'd helped his father in the shop all afternoon, and that was something he very much enjoyed doing, if only to spend quality time with his father doing something they were both good at. Then about an hour earlier, he'd come home and taken a long, hot shower in complete privacy, uninterrupted by the raucous sounds of boys laughing and running footsteps on tile and all the other noisy sounds he'd become accustomed to while using the semi-public showers at Dalton.
It was nice to be back in his own house, with his own things, wearing his own clothes.
It was nice to be back with his dad.
Kurt was happy at Dalton; he really was. He liked being able to freely walk the halls of his school – hand-in-hand with his new boyfriend, if he wanted to – without fear of being mocked or harassed or worse, just for existing. He liked the fact that his classes were challenging, and that being in the Warblers was stretching his vocal skills, teaching him things he hadn't realized he was missing. He liked the fact that he could feel safe again, for the first time in as long as he could remember.
Still, Kurt found himself a little homesick every now and then.
"It's been a long time since it was just the two of us," Kurt observed as they ate the meal he'd prepared – which was completely delicious, if he said so himself, and Burt seemed to think so too, judging by the speed with which he devoured two platefuls. "This is nice. I mean… don't get me wrong, I love Carole and Finn, and… I'm really glad things are how they are now, but… but this is nice."
Carole and Finn were out of town for a funeral – some distant relative of Finn's father, yet close enough to their family that it was only appropriate for them to go. Opting to avoid the potentially very uncomfortable encounters that such a visit might have involved, Burt had chosen to stay home, and Kurt had been glad for the excuse to come in for the weekend to keep him company.
He spent more weekends home than not, though it wasn't really convenient for him to come home every weekend – but Kurt would have, if he could.
Burt rose from the table, crossing to where Kurt sat to affectionately mess up his hair again. Kurt just smiled, not even bothering to pull away, as his dad's hand lowered to cup his cheek with a hand that was both rough and gentle at the same time for just a moment, before lowering that hand to his shoulder and squeezing lightly.
"I miss you, too, kid," he admitted matter-of-factly before heading off toward the bathroom, not giving the moment time to turn from sweet to awkward. "Meet me in the living room in a few minutes?" he offered. "We can watch a movie or something."
"Okay. Hey, Mercedes said she might drop by later, if that's okay. Not for another couple of hours, probably, but…"
"That's fine, Kurt, she likes movies, too, right?" Burt smiled. "You know, with you out of the house and all, I think I might miss your friends as much as you do."
Kurt smiled despite the melancholy ache he felt with the words, humming a little to himself as he rose to take care of the dinner dishes. For the moment, he was home, and he meant to enjoy it; there would be plenty of time to miss his dad and his friends later, when he was actually away from them.
He had just finished placing the clean dishes in the draining rack when the sound of the doorbell caught him by surprise. He dried his hands quickly and headed through the living room to the front door, already speaking as he opened it.
"'Cedes, you're early…"
The words died on his lips as someone shoved past him into the house – someone tall and male and definitely not Mercedes.
Someone who wore a black ski mask over his face.
Kurt's stomach lurched with realization that his mind hadn't quite caught up to yet, as another stranger followed the first one, closing and locking the door behind him. Kurt turned toward him to protest the intrusion, but the first man grabbed his arm in a painfully tight grip and spun him around to face him.
The man was tall, slim but muscular, dressed in dark-washed jeans and a turtleneck in a dark, rich shade of blue that Kurt might have admired under different circumstances. It brought out the brilliant blue of the man's eyes – the only facial feature that was clearly distinguishable through the mask that hid his face.
Kurt struggled to pull free, though it was immediately clear that the man was too strong for him to escape. "Let me go!" he demanded anyway, the indignation in his raised voice barely masking its tremor. "What are you…?"
His voice trailed off, his eyes wide with fear as they locked onto the object in the man's free hand – an object that was now being held dangerously close to his face.
"Keep your mouth shut, kid, until I tell you to open it," the man sneered, and Kurt looked up at him, chilled by the cruel smile visible through his mask. "Unless you want me to kill you and anybody else in this house."
Kurt's stomach dropped at those words, and he wordlessly, pleadingly shook his head, unable to form words even if he'd been allowed them.
"You alone?" the man holding him demanded with a satisfied smirk at Kurt's reaction.
Kurt hesitated, his gaze darting across the room to where the other man seemed to be inspecting their entertainment center, a gun matching the one currently inches from Kurt's face, in his hand. He noted with a strange sense of surreal detachment – as if he was watching this on some TruTV television program, instead of experiencing it in real life – that the other man was a littler shorter, a little portlier, than the one holding him at gunpoint.
Might be important to remember that later, when we turn these creeps in for robbing us…
He could barely process the question, his mouth dry, his heart pounding in his throat, as his mind raced ahead, struggling to make sense of what was happening.
Robbery… we're being robbed. That's what this is. They just want… want our stuff, and then… they'll go…
His captor shook him slightly, warningly, as he snarled, "Answer me, kid…" and pressed the gun up under Kurt's chin, pushing his head back slightly.
Kurt's stomach dropped, and he closed his eyes, his breath quickening with panic that he fought to keep at bay.
No, this was no cheesy, melodramatic television program.
This was terrifyingly real.
His mind raced, his lips parted but uncertain, as he struggled to focus on the question the robber had asked him, and tried to think of what was the best way to answer.
If they don't know Dad's here, then they can't hurt him. Maybe they'll be gone before he even comes back in here. But… if he comes out and surprises them, and he gets… no…
Kurt couldn't even bring himself to think it.
And then… it happened.
Burt Hummel returned from the bathroom, changed into a comfortable t-shirt and pair of shorts, stopping short in the living room doorway – but only for a moment.
"What the hell? Hey!" he barked, heading toward the guy holding Kurt, protective outrage in his voice. "Get your hands off my kid!"
Cold, ice blue eyes narrowed on Kurt, and the man abruptly let go of Kurt's arm. Kurt barely had time to feel a moment's relief or confusion, however, before the man drew back the weapon in his hand and struck hard against Kurt's cheek.
White hot pain exploded across the side of Kurt's face, and he stumbled under the force of the blow, nearly collapsing to the ground. He would have, in fact, if not for the second pair of rough, grasping hands that caught him and yanked him back up, one arm wrapping tightly around his narrow shoulders and pulling him back against the second gunman's stomach.
Kurt flinched, his heart clenching in his chest at the sudden feeling of cold steel pressed painfully against his temple.
"One more step and he'll blow your boy away."
By this point it was obvious that the first man who'd forced his way inside was clearly the leader of this operation. Kurt was struck by the soft, cold sound of his surprisingly young voice – unsettlingly calm and controlled.
Burt instantly froze in his tracks with a sharp, audible intake of breath.
"You're being robbed, Mr. Hummel," the young man informed him softly. "And unless you also want to be grieving the loss of your only child… you'll get down on the floor on your knees, right now."
Burt's helpless, frustrated gaze passed between the man and his son for a moment, finally locking onto Kurt's terrified eyes, before sinking slowly to his knees on the floor, his hands upraised in a gesture of surrender.
Kurt stared at his father in almost childlike disbelief, the trusting child in him that still believed his father could do anything desperately willing him to do something to stop this from happening; but the part of him that was closer to manhood – the part of him that had spent the last several months dealing with the painful reality that the good guys didn't always win, and sometimes good people really were simply helpless to protect themselves and those they loved – that part of him realized with fatalistic certainty that there was really nothing Burt could do.
Kurt looked away, unable to bear the stark fear he saw written all over his father's face. He had never seen that kind of a look on his dad's face before. He could clearly read the apprehension there, the dread of what could be, and it told him a terrible truth he'd rather have not known.
Oh, God. This is it. They're not going to let us go, are they? They're going to kill us.
We're both going to die tonight.