What He Needs
How Kurt Hummel Finally Learned to Stop Planning His Life and Start Living it
No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
- You Can't Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones
Kurt was three when his parents divorced. His memories of them together were scattered for the most part, but he liked to think they had been happy together. They seemed happy in all of the pictures he had of the three of them, at least, so he thought that it must be true.
He had always known that there was something off about their relationship growing up, but he had never been able to put his finger on exactly what it was. He wasn't the only kid around with divorced parents, but he was the only one that had divorced parents who actually got along. In all of his sixteen years, he'd never even heard an angry word exchanged. Of course, it helped that they never saw each other often since Kurt and his mom lived in Cincinnati where his grandparents lived and his dad lived in Lima.
Still, he knew that it was odd – especially since his best friend's parents used to fight all the time even though his dad lived all the way in California and would only see Sam once a year, if even that. Plus, he'd seen the way they looked at each other when they thought the other wasn't looking. He'd always wondered why it was they were apart when it was obvious that they still loved each other.
His mother explained it to him once when he was fourteen and heartbroken over his first boyfriend breaking up with him. They were cuddled up on the couch together watching The Sound of Music with the sound turned down so they could act out the parts themselves. This was one of Kurt's favorite things for them to do together.
"Sometimes, baby, love just isn't enough."
Her smile was sad, and while she was looking into the blank space above their television, Kurt had a feeling that her thoughts were a million miles away from their living room.
He did not have an unhappy childhood despite his parents' divorce. If anything, they tried that much harder to make sure he had everything he could ever want. He attended a string of private schools and had lessons in anything that might interest him – piano, voice once he was old enough, violin, and ballet were the only constants although there were other, more masculine, pursuits that were encouraged by his father during their shared summer vacations such as Little League – which lasted all of a week – Cub scouts – which lasted two weeks, and taekwondo – which had actually lasted for an entire summer. He even remembered going through a period when he was twelve where he was determined to be a figure skater after avidly following the 2006 Winter Olympics.
There were only two times in his life that he could remember being truly unhappy. Not the bummed out kind of unhappy you get when you have a bad day, but the kind of unhappy where you feel this awful pressure in your chest that just won't go away, and if just one more thing goes wrong, you're sure that you'll do nothing but scream for the rest of your life kind of unhappiness.
The first time was during the summer between his freshman and sophomore year of high school. Normally, he spent the entirety of the summer with his father, but now that he was attending Dalton Academy, a boarding school, he had to split his summer vacation between his mom and dad. He was to spend the first half of the vacation with his dad before returning to Cincinnati, so he was surprised when he returned home from a piano lesson one afternoon only a week into his stay at his dad's to find his mom waiting for him in the living room of his dad's small house.
One look at their faces had been enough to tell him that something was definitely wrong. Not something, it turned out – everything. Everything was wrong because his mom had cancer, and he might not have known a lot about science or medicine, but he knew enough to know that there was no cure for it. He returned home with his mother that day, unable to even fathom being apart from her now that she was sick, and spent the rest of his days that summer in a whirlwind of doctor's appointments and treatments. At night, they would camp out in the living room with movies and magazines and eat copious amounts of whatever food his mom could keep down, mostly ice cream, without ever complaining about the caloric intake.
He hadn't wanted to return to Dalton in the fall. In fact, he and his mom had had a huge fight over it, the first fight he could ever remember them having, but in the end, he agreed to do so only because she insisted that it was what she wanted.
Once at school, it had been easy to pretend that nothing was wrong. There was a new student, Blaine Anderson, who Kurt instantly became friends with. Between his new friendship, his intense classes – IB was no laughing matter – and the Warblers, he was always busy, busy, busy. He still spoke to his mom every day, still went home every Friday night for their "Fabulous Friday Night Extravaganzas," but he was always so distracted by everything going on in his life he never noticed how tired and weary she sounded and looked.
It wasn't that he was selfish, not in the sense that he didn't care, because he did care, so much, but if he had thought about what was really happening with his mom – if he had so much as let his thoughts wander to the fact that his mom was dying, that every minute, every day, she was growing just a little closer to the end, then he wouldn't have been able to get out of bed much less function on the level that a rigorous school such as Dalton demanded. Besides, she had said everything was going great, and the cancer was responding to the treatment. She'd never lied to him before, so he hadn't even thought to consider that she might now.
Hindsight was always twenty/twenty because Kurt saw for himself over Winter break that she definitely was not doing great. Far from it, in fact, but they tried not to talk about it, choosing instead to have the best, most fabulous, Christmas ever. That it would be her last Christmas hung heavily between them, but they didn't talk about it.
Instead, they performed all of their favorite Christmas traditions even those that Kurt had really gotten a bit too old for, like hanging his stocking and reading The Velveteen Rabbit while drinking hot chocolate made with carob due to his chocolate allergy covered in goey marshmallows. On Christmas morning, they cooked an elaborate breakfast that was sure to add ten pounds to their hips and ate the entire thing in their pajamas cross-legged on the living room floor before opening their presents. They spent the rest of the morning gorging on food and watching their favorite old Christmas movies, White Christmas for Kurt and It's a Wonderful Life for his mom. The afternoon was spent napping while his Dad, who had showed up inexplicably around lunch, attempted to make Christmas dinner. By the time Kurt fell asleep that night, stuffed full of food and pleasant memories, he felt as if they had crammed in several years' worth of Christmases in that one day.
His mother had died the next day.
The second time Kurt was unhappy – truly unhappy – was when his father had a heart attack. It happened on a Friday. Friday nights were special nights for Kurt. They were the nights he used to spend with his mother. No matter what he was doing, no matter what was going on during the weekend, what big tests he might have the upcoming week, what completely ridiculous but oh-so-important bonding ritual the Warblers had planned, he always went home on Friday nights.
The Friday in question was doubly special for Kurt because it was the night of the Sing-Along Sound of Music, the first one since his mother's death less than a year ago. The Sound of Music was kind of their thing, and they'd gone to the Sing-Along every year for as long as he could remember. He hadn't wanted to go – emphatically hadn't wanted to go – but Blaine had convinced him to.
"You'll regret it if you don't. I know you will, Kurt. It was all you talked about for weeks beforehand last year, so I know it means a lot to you. I'll go with you, if you want," Blaine had told him over breakfast Monday morning when Kurt confessed he was thinking of not going.
"I don't know…" he trailed off, the words 'if I can go without her' going needlessly unsaid.
Blaine had pulled him into a hug – a completely platonic hug, thankyouverymuch, because despite what Sam might think or however he might wish otherwise, they are really just friends. "She wouldn't want you to miss it."
And Blaine was right; she wouldn't want him to miss it, to miss any of it, living, that is. He knows she wouldn't because they'd had this conversation, this meaningful conversation one Friday night last spring, before everything had changed where she talked to him candidly about sex and love and how it wonderful, wonderful, it could be – it would be – with the right person. They talked about other things, too, but it all boiled down to one thing: she hadn't wanted Kurt to miss out on anything.
"Not everything is going to be perfect," she had told him, "and that's okay. Sometimes the best things in life aren't perfect. Sometimes everything will be messy and hard and nothing like what you had planned on, but that's just life. You can't always choreograph every moment."
Kurt must have looked confused because she continued. "I just… I don't want you to get so worked up about the… execution of it all… that you forget to actually live. Do you understand what I mean?"
He hadn't, and he told her so. She had sighed but had also given him a fond smile though she had the faraway look she often got if she was talking about his dad. "Life isn't like your musicals, you know. Love isn't like your musicals. It's unpredictable and scary, but you can't let that stop you from taking risks. If you do, you'll always wonder what might have been. You don't want to spend your life wondering if you made the right decision or not. Just remember that nothing is perfect, Kurt. No one is perfect."
So, he'd agreed to go.
His dad had called him on Wednesday which was, if he was being honest, a little strange, because his dad didn't often initiate contact. They spoke dutifully once a week, on Sunday mornings generally, but Kurt always called him in between his morning ritual and Sunday brunch with Blaine.
"I want you to come home this Friday. I'm seeing someone, and I think it's time for you to meet her."
"Friday? I kind of already have plans with Blaine, Dad."
There was a long pause before he spoke again. "There will be other dates, Kurt. I'm asking you, as your father, for you to do this for me. It's important for me for you to be here. We don't see much of each other, I know, but I want to change that. You and me, we're a family now and that means something to me."
Kurt might not have wanted to go to the Sing-Along at first, but now that he had agreed to it – now that Blaine had agreed to go – he couldn't even imagine not going. It would be hard and weird going without her – he's already accepted the fact that he's likely to be crying far too hard to even sing – but he has to go. He knew if he told his dad why he couldn't go home on Friday, he would understand, but the thing of it is is that he didn't really want to tell him because this is – was – their thing, and it felt wrong to share it with his dad.
"I can't. I have plans with Blaine. I can come home on Saturday, but-"
His dad cut him off before he could even finish speaking. "I don't ask you for much, Kurt, but I haven't even seen you at all since you went back to that school of yours. I just thought…" he trailed off with a sigh. "I thought you would want us to be a family."
"I do. It's just… I've had these plans for months now," which is not exactly a lie because he'd gone every year, just… not with Blaine, "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, so am I. I gotta say, I'm real disappointed in you, kid. I expected better from you," he said before hanging up.
He was sitting in his French class when his guidance counselor, Mr. Bartholomew, escorted him from the classroom to his office where he was told that his father had had a severe heart attack and that he would be excused from classes for at least the following week.
He managed to pack a suitcase of clothing along with the school things he knew he would need, there was always some sort of reading to be done that he might possibly be able to do in the hospital if for no other reason than to take his mind off of what was going on, and be on the road for Lima before the next bell even rang, quite a feat given the sheer expanse of his wardrobe and his meticulousness.
He arrived at the hospital and was ushered into the ICU waiting area only to come face-to-face with an unknown woman and an unknown, very tall, unknown boy.
The woman came up to him immediately. "You must be Kurt. Your father has told me so much about you. I'm Carole Hudson, and this is my son, Finn."
Kurt murmured a distracted hello before focusing his attention on the door.
"They haven't told us much, only that he had some sort of arrhythmia and hasn't regained consciousness," Carole continued.
Kurt didn't move from his position the doctor himself came in and confirmed what Carole had already told him.
"There's nothing that can be done except to wait," the man said, apologetically. "If his condition improves, we can move him out of ICU in the next day or two, but until he wakes up, I'm afraid we won't know how much damage there is."
"Damage?" Kurt asked in a horrified tone. "What sort of damage?"
The doctor exchanged a look with Carole before speaking again. "Your father was without oxygen for some time. It is possible that there may be some brain damage because of that, but like I said, until he wakes up, we can't be certain."
With that final pronouncement, he left the three of them alone.
"How about we go down to the cafeteria and see what sort of food they have? I'm sure you boys are hungry. I know Finn is, he's always hungry."
It wasn't until he noticed that the tall boy, Finn, was wearing a letterman jacket that he put all of the pieces together.
"You're Finn Hudson!" he exclaimed.
The boy seemed taken aback at his tone. "Yeah, so what?"
"You go to McKinley."
"A friend of mine, Sam, just transferred there this year," Kurt told him. "He said you were in glee together and that you were an excellent singer."
Finn flushed but nodded all the same. "Yeah, I guess I am. Sam's pretty good, too."
That seemed to be Carole's cue to begin gushing about her son. Kurt followed them down to the cafeteria as she told him of her son's various achievements. He listened, politely, thankful for anything that would take his mind off his dad for the moment.
He would have to call Sam later on and see if he could stay with him while his dad was in the hospital. He knew that Molly, Sam's mom, wouldn't mind. In fact, she would probably insist on it.
They had been his best friends since they were eight years old, and Sam moved into the house next door following his parents' divorce. They didn't have much in common. Sam was athletic and a complete dork who would rather watch cheesy sci-fi movies instead of musicals while Kurt was artistic and a complete fashionista, but somehow they made their friendship work with some give and take on both of their sides. For example, Kurt had refused to sit through Avatar more than once, and Sam refused to shop with Kurt anymore after one measly traumatic experience during their freshman year.
Kurt had been upset when Sam told him the previous summer that his mother's new husband had been transferred to Lima and that they were moving immediately, but he had the solace of knowing that even if they didn't live next door to one another, they would still be attending Dalton and rooming together. When Sam told him that he wasn't returning to Dalton, Kurt had been nearly inconsolable. It hadn't been so bad, though. They talked on the phone nearly every day and texted constantly, although most of his texts lately revolved around the girl he was dating, Quinn.
Carole and Finn left after lunch – Carole, for work, and Finn, to head back to school for football practice – leaving him alone in the waiting room.
He sent both Sam and Blaine a text telling them what happened. Not even a full minute later, he received one back from Blaine saying that he was on his way and not to worry about a thing.
The next minute, Sam called. "I'll be there as soon as practice ends, okay? And Mom's already said you're staying with us, and dude, I don't think that's really up for discussion."
"What have I told you about calling me dude, Sammy?" Kurt asked sweetly, using Sam's most hated nickname.
There was a huff on the other end. "Fine, but no Sammy, either. Look, I know you're probably up there freaking out, but don't, okay? Your dad is one tough dude. He'll pull through."
"You don't know that," Kurt whispered, his voice thick with tears.
Sam sighed. "You're right. Just hang tight, okay? I'll be there soon, and so will Blaine. Oh… and try not to make too much fun of my hair when I get there."
"What did you do to your hair?" Kurt cried out but the line was already dead.
He was still staring at the call ended logo on his phone screen when a cheerful nurse came into the room to inform him that he could see his father now. He took a deep breath and followed her down the hall.
If he hadn't known for sure that his father had had a heart attack and was now in a coma, he would have thought he was just sleeping. It was only when he concentrated on the many tubes sticking out of him and the beeping of the various machines around that he knew his father wasn't just asleep.
Clutching his Marc Jacobs' bag, Kurt sank down into one of the chairs beside his dad's bed.
He had never been particularly close with his dad. He loved him, of course he did, but there was a gulf between them that no amount of time spent together had been able to bridge.
He had thought, at one point, that it was because he was gay, although his dad had been outwardly supportive when he finally told him the previous year going so far as to say he'd known since he was three. Maybe it was just the fact that they didn't spend much time together when he was growing up outside of the obligatory week during Christmas holidays and then the summer. Maybe it was because they didn't have anything in common. Cars and ballet didn't exactly mesh. Nor did sports and opera for that matter.
Whatever it was, Kurt vowed to bridge that gulf if his father recovered. Because his dad was right, they were a family now and that did matter.
*Edited on 5/12/11 for mistakes!*