A/N: Thank you to all those who left such kind comments, and the ones that left constructive criticism! It has been greatly appreciated. Bear with me thought, this chapter is a bit shorter than the rest, and isn't as punchy but it is integral to the next. This chapter is dedicated to every single one of you that comments all the time, and those who have just started reading. You guys are fab. As always, if you want to get the fanmix, find it on livejournal at goddamnwrite.
Kurt watched as Mrs. Peirce poured hot water into a cup on the coffee table in front of them, and pushed it gently towards him.
"Spiced apple and camomile, it will help calm you down." She smiled, her blue eyes crinkling. Kurt took it gratefully, wrapping his hand around its warmth. "It smells like Christmas," he said, breathing in its fragrant steam.
She wasn't how Kurt had imagined Madame Cassandra. He had expected someone in flowing, chiffon-ey robes, possibly wearing some sort of head wrap, who smelled like cats and wore big, dangly earrings. The woman in front of him had a short, blonde bob, pearl earrings and a pale blue angora sweater. Kurt couldn't help but notice that, like her daughter, she had legs up the wazoo. Exactly how he had imagined Brittany's mom, but he had never in his life expected her to be the kind of person that devoted her life to tarot cards and pursuit of the supernatural. Brittany was sat next to her mom, smiling in her vacant way at Blaine who was staring back, slack jawed and waving an absent hand in front of her face.
"You're funny. I can see why Kurt likes you."
"Blaine, stop it!" Kurt hissed, and Blaine snatched his hand back with a guilty expression on his face.
"Oh, Blaine is here?" The older woman asked gently, eyes searching the area where Blaine was sat. Kurt must have looked confused because Brittany answered brightly, "Mom can't see ghost-friends." And sat back, crossing her legs. "It's just me."
Did she just wink at Blaine? No, he must have imagined that...but Blaine's ears were tinged pink. Kurt ignored the twinge in his stomach and turned his attention to Brittany's mom instead.
"Cassandra, please," she interrupted. "Mrs. Peirce makes me sound like my mother-in-law."
"Well that's what I was going to say, you're nothing like what I expected. You're so...conservative, in comparison."
"Let me guess, you were expecting a 'Mother Earth' type, barefoot in a kaftan?"
"Isn't a kaftan like an RV?" Brittany asked Blaine, who shrugged.
"Just because I believe in the supernatural?" Kurt nodded. "Well, honey. Have you taken a look in the mirror lately? Because you're a far cry from the kind of people you're thinking of."
"Oh I'm not..." Kurt trailed off, looking at Blaine. Blaine wasn't a hologram. He wasn't being punk'd. Blaine was 100% ghost and he had known that for a while now.
"I'm sorry," He apologised. "It's just a bit of a surprise. You're Brittany's mom!" Kurt laughed, slightly erratically, and pulled at his collar, clearing his throat.
"Britt, how comes you never told me before that you could see Blaine?"
"Because he was your friend. It's not like he was hurting you or making your life difficult."
"Oh, how wrong you were," he muttered darkly, shooting a sideways glance at Blaine who was still gaping at Brittany. "How can you see ghosts anyway? Especially if your mom can't?"
"Mom says I'm special."
"Brittany is very open. Her spiritual chi flows freer than anyoneI've ever had the pleasure of meeting." She leaned over and grasped her daughter's hand warmly. "I'm just proud that she's mine."
" Mooooom. " Brittany rolled her eyes.
Openwas never a word that Kurt had thought to use with Brittany before. Well, unless he was talking about her legs. Oh, that was mean! (but true) No! No. Kurt pushed the bitchy thought out of his head in case Madame Cassandra was a mind-reader. Thinking about it, Kurt guessed that it wasn't that Brittany was stupid, more that she just had a very different way of looking at the world.
"How long have you been able to see...people like me." Blaine asked Brittany curiously. She shrugged simply.
"Ever since I can remember. When I was four my Nana died; then she came to say goodbye."
Blaine uttered a soft 'wow' and sat back, his eyes glued on the blonde.
"So what are you here for, Kurt?"
"Well... it's a bit odd really. We're sharing dreams."
"Sometimes I share dreams with Santana." Brittany piped up brightly.
"It's more like sharing memories? Blaine's memories...uh...some particularly intimateones?"
Blaine's face flushed a brilliant scarlet and he glared at Kurt. "Ratty little fink." He muttered. Madam Cassandra's face turned sharply to his direction.
"I may not be able to see you, but I can hear you young man." Blaine's mouth clapped shut and he shrank back against the sofa.
"What exactly are you worried about, experiencing Blaine's memories in your dream?"
"Are you serious? It's horrible!"
"But they are happy memories?"
"Yes, but that is irrelevant. They're not my happy memories. Not only am I intruding on someone else's past, I'm having to feel their feelings? Its messed up! I'm messed up. I don't know where my emotions end and Blaine's begin. And then I wake up and nothing that just went through actually happened to me, but it felt real and—ugh!" Kurt buried his face in his hands. "I don't even know what I'm saying any more."
"It's okay, I understand. It's hard to be that closely connected to someone and then be wrenched apart from them." Madam Cassandra nodded sagely as Kurt looked up.
"What do you mean?"
"It's like in ET!" Brittany cut in. "When he's at home and Elliot is at school and Elliot is drunk and kisses the girl and all the frogs go free because ET is an environmentalist. And also drunk." She shook her head sadly and wiped at her eye. "Poor ET. He had a problem."
Kurt screwed up his face in confusion. "Wait, what?"
"You and Blaine have created a bond, one that exists between the realm of the living and the dead."
"Then why doesn't he see my memories?"
"Because the both of you are focused on him. "
"See! I knew it was you being a scene-stealer!" Kurt swivelled round and brandished a finger in Blaine's face. Blaine pouted, brows furrowing.
"I'm not a scene stealer!"
"Oh, please. I'm surprised my furniture doesn't have teeth marks in it."
"Okay boys, stop bickering." Madam Cassandra pursed her lips, fixing Kurt with a stern look. He sat back, chastened. "I did say you were focused on him too, Kurt." Something in Cassandra's eyes said that she meant more by that then she was letting on. Kurt felt the back of his neck flush hotly.
"Well, how do I—we, stop this?"
"I don't think it's as simple as that, dear. I think both you and Blaine need to talk more, about the things you are experiencing. They are obviously important to him. Is that correct, Blaine?"
"Yes, M'am." Blaine answered almost automatically, snapping to attention.
"The importance that you place on these events, and the amount of your attention that they take up, are the reason why they are in the forefront of your mind and therefore leaking into Kurt's dreams. These are things you need to address, dear."
Kurt saw Blaine swallow thickly and stare down at his hands. What was he so afraid of? He had been the one to push Kurt into helping Billy, what wasn't he telling him?
"You need to figure out what you want. And face the things that you're scared to admit to yourself."
"But there isn't anything—"
"Are you happy, Kurt?"
Kurt opened his mouth to respond and closed it again. Was he happy?
"You know already why you can see Blaine. Maybe it is time to take a look at those things in your life that are causing the emotional upset."
As they walked back to Kurt's car, Brittany waving them goodbye from her front porch, both boys were silent. Kurt didn't know what to say, Madam Cassandra had answered his questions but raised many new ones, and he wasn't entirely sure he could answer them. The drive back to his house was short and quiet, with a slightly tense atmosphere. From the corner of his eye he saw Blaine stare out of the window at the passing lights and people bundled up in sweaters and scarves dragging trees to cars.
"So many things have changed." Blaine's voice cut through the silence of the car like a fish through water. Kurt turned right.
"Well, it's been a long time."
"A very long time." Blaine said quietly, his elbow propped up against the window and his chin cradled in his hand. "I've out on so much."
Kurt didn't know what to say, so he kept on driving.
It wasn't long till they were home, and the first thing that hit Kurt as he walked through the door was the blast of Bing Crosby rhapsodising about the Christmases he used to know.
"Oh hey, I love this song." Blaine smiled softly, and Kurt itched to erase the sadness from his face. He wanted to say something, but any coherent thought that was about to make his way out of his mouth was crushed by the sight of Finn in a Christmas hat, packet of Orville Redenbacher in his hand, bounding towards him like an overexcited puppy.
"Kurt! Hey! Where've you been? We're gonna decorate the tree!"
"You picked a tree without me?"
"I went with Rachel to get one for glee club and thought I might as well pick one up whilst I was there. Come on! Let's make popcorn! We can string it up to put on the tree!" he grabbed Kurt's hand and attempted to drag him towards the kitchen. Kurt squawked and swatted him away.
"Finn Hudson, over my dead body are you putting something as tacky as popcorn-tinsel on that tree."
"It's Chriiiistmaaas, Kurt." Finn wheedled, still clinging to his hand. "Tacky is the best thing about it!"
"Oh, yeah? I've just come from Brittany's, she seems to think the same thing; and if you think I'm going to let you put up an inflatable snowman in the front yard, you've got another think coming."
"I think you mean thing."
"No, I don't. Anyway, don't change the subject. No popcorn." He said firmly, prising Finn's fingers from his wrist.
"Okay, no popcorn." Finn pouted, looking wounded. "Homemade decorations?"
"Home made as in yesterday or home made as in childhood?"
"Popsicle sticks or painted styrafoam?"
"Sticks. With sparkles."
"You have wooed me with glitter." Kurt smiled, "Okay, I'll be down in a minute? I just need to put my things away." Finn beamed, looking proud with himself.
"Cool. Be quick." And with that he loped off, whooping at the sound of Rockin' Around The Christmas Treekicking in on the stereo. Kurt turned to Blaine.
"Would you like to come help?"
"I don't think I'll be much help." Blaine said sadly, passing his hand through the dangling length of Kurt's scarf. Kurt could kick himself. Of course, how insensitive did he want to be? Do you want to help, person who no one knows exists? Ha ha! Funny!
"Do you want me to stay with you? I can make an excuse? I mean, Dad tried to cook last night, I—"
"No thanks, I...I just need to be alone for a little while."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Blaine pressed his lips together in a half-smile. "Go on, have fun. I'll be fine." Kurt shrugged and made his way up the stairs to his room.
The rest of the evening was spent wrestling decorations that didn't match his chosen colour scheme out of Finn's hands, 'you can put them on the other tree, Finn!' 'But there isn't another one!' 'That's what you get for having bad taste.' And singing along to Burt and Carole's dusty old record collection, which held a surprising amount of Christmas albums between the two of them.
"Mmmm, Last Christmas. You know, I had my first kiss to this song with a guy that looked exactly like George Michael."
"I'll have you know, Finn, that George was very hot back in those days."
"And also very gay."
"Dude, George Michael isn't gay. Have you seen the video to Faith?"
Kurt looked at Carole who just shook her head.
"I think it's sweet." Burt said, kissing Carole. "You know, I used to have hair like George Michael when I was Kurt's age. Streaks and everything." He waggled his eyebrows at Carole who raised hers appreciatively in return.
"And then you had none. How tragic."
"Bite your tongue, kid. You know baldness runs in the family."
"That's the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me." Kurt frowned. He patted his hair nervously and made the mental note to start checking his pillow for stray hairs. Carole took the record off the player, sliding it back into its sleeve.
"What's next, boys?"
"Anything but that one about the bells not ending. It makes my ears bleed."
"I can't believe you don't like The Darkness' Christmas song, Kurt. It rocks!"
"It's awful. It's full of shrieking and that snuggle-toothed weirdo prancing around in lycra."
"You wore lycra when you did that Single Ladies dance."
"I do not have snaggle teeth! Or a perm."
"They're a homige to 80's hair bands."
"An homage, and I forgot. That's like your kryptonite. I forgive you... sort of."
"It also has this sweet robot in it. It's got this little face that goes 'rawrgh rawrgh rawrgh'," Finn imitated opening and closing his mouth like a ventriloquist's dummy. "It's hilarious. Sometimes when Rachel used to talk too much, which was like, all the time, I'd pretend she was the robot. It made her think I was really listening." He looked sad for a moment and fingered a long, thin present under the tree. Kurt patted his hand gently.
"I still can't believe you two broke up. She didn't even say anything."
"Well you haven't really been spending a lot of time together recently... you've kind of been off doing your own thing. And then helping out Captain Birdseye." Finn leant forward, speaking under his breath so that he wouldn't be overheard. "Dude, are you in trouble? Is the school making you do it?"
"What? No! I help out with Billy because I want to."
"Kurt, you once said that the thought of wrinkles made you want to take a bath in Crème De La Mer." Finn had a point. Before Billy, Kurt did want to balk every time his grandma hugged him; but things had changed. He was enjoying Billy's company. Even if Blaine disappeared from this earth tomorrow he—no, he didn't want to think about that happening. That was like, the worst thing he could possibly think of.
But it was going to happen at some point. Right?
Kurt tried to shake off the sinking feeling in his stomach and turned his attention back to Finn, who was eyeing him curiously.
"Look, okay. Miss. Lloyd said I could earn extra credit if I helped out at an old person's home, so let's just drop it." It must have come out a tad more irritable than he meant it to because Finn looked hurt.
"Wow, fine. I was just looking out for you."
"No, Finn. I didn't mean it like that." Kurt sighed. "Come on, let's finish this and watch Home Alone. I know you really like the bit where Joe Pesci gets hit in the face with a paint can."
The tall boy grinned, his eyes misting over in nostalgia.
"He's just like this comedic genius. "
"Sure thing, Hudson."
Kurt pushed open his door and peered into the darkness, switching on the light he looked around. No one was there. He stepped inside and pressed the door shut behind him.
"Blaine?" He called again softly. He wasn't turning up any time soon, and Kurt had a feeling he wouldn't for a while. The radio was on, turned down low, and Kurt could make out the faint, orchestral sounds of Nat King Cole.
/In the street he envies all those lucky boys And wanders home to last year's broken toys. I'm so sorry for that laddie, He hasn't got a daddy, The little boy that Santa Claus forgot./
Kurt sighed and sat down on his bed. This was the worst time of year to be alone, and despite the amount of time the two of them spent together, Blaine was very much alone. Kurt remembered the first Christmas he and his dad had spent without his mom. He remembered the bright colours and cheerful noises of the department stores, the felt-tip and glitter covered cards strung up in his classroom, the paper snowflakes on the windows, and coming home to a forlorn looking tree that he and his dad had decorated half heartedly in an attempt to make things normal. They had driven to his Aunt's house on Christmas day and his Grandmother had spent most of it crying. Kurt remembered crawling up into her lap to hug her, and having her crush him against her bosom till he thought he would drown in White Diamonds and itchy wool.
He remembered the feeling of her damp, wrinkled cheek pressed against his. It was probably where the phobia had come from. He remembered nothing more bleak and claustrophobic than her tight embrace and the wailing sound of her crying. He had tried to wriggle free but she had only held him tighter. He didn't want to be held; he wanted to see his mother again. He wondered if Blaine missed his mom and his sister, even his dad and brother.
/Its Christmas time on KWT and we're playing you some Back to Back Nat.../
How long had he spent, not being able to speak to anyone, not be seen by anyone. They say there are worse things than being invisible, but when you're actually invisible? And dead on top of that? Jesus. And Kurt thought it was bad not being able to comfort Blaine when he was upset, but at the very least they could talk to one another. Blaine had no one. He couldn't tell Billy how he felt about him, he couldn't speak to his sister...No wonder he hadn't wanted to be around his family after he died.
Wait. This used to be Blaine's house...Blaine said he had stayed here ever since he had died. How hadn't he seen them? What had Mrs. Elstow said about Blaine's sister? Hadn't she had run away not long after Blaine's death? How comes she had never mentioned Blaine's brother? Kurt's mind started working at double-speed, piecing together the bits of information that Blaine and Billy had told him over the past few weeks. What Madam Cassandra had said was suddenly clicking into place; He knew what to do next.
Kurt picked up his laptop off of his bedside table and snapped it open. He clearly had some research to do.
/And so I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two. Although it's been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.../