Awww, yeah, this story definitely lives. I think this chapter is longer than usual—or just longer than the last one. I can't really remember how long the average is for this fic. I don't think there are any special warnings for this chapter.
Thank you to anyone who has reviewed, favorited, alerted, etc. And a HUGE thanks to anyone who is still reading this!
By the way, a creepy thing: before I uploaded this chapter, the story had 11 chapters and 111 reviews. You're welcome for THAT useless tidbit.
Anyway, in this one we have NEW DIRECTIONS. And WARBLERS. And a (very) little Klaine. And Burt being a sweet dad.
A few days later, Kurt goes into the hospital again for tests. By now, he is accustomed enough to the prick of a needle that he barely notices it in the crook of his elbow.
When the results come back, Burt takes the call and listens intently for a few minutes, occasionally uttering an acknowledging grunt or hum. The leukemic cells are fewer, but the chemo didn't have as much of an effect as Dr. Miele hoped they would. They will start the second round of chemo as planned, but they will have to find a way to adjust the medication or the dosage so it's more aggressive.
Kurt doesn't like the idea of a more aggressive chemo regimen. He kind of had the crap kicked out of him by the first round. He complains when his dad tells him the news, but receives only a glare in return.
For now, though, he has almost a month before he needs to worry about it.
Unfortunately, as he soon learns, he has plenty more to worry about. The prednisone has weakened his immune system to the point that he's more susceptible to illness than usual. On Friday of that same week, he is struck by a nasty cold, cutting off his plans to hang out with his girls. His dad frantically drags him to see Dr. Miele, and, after a small amount of deliberation, she decides that it's nothing to worry about at this time. His immune system is still strong enough that he'll be able to fight off the minor infections he gets by himself.
It still sucks, he decides, as he lies in bed amid a veritable sea of used tissues, trying to fight the impulse to cough until his lungs just come right out of him. He's curled up under the blankets, holding a box of tissues to his chest, and his dad has forbidden visitors. Kurt had insisted he was being overly cautious, but his usual persuasiveness has been lessened a bit by the sore throat and stuffy nose distorting his voice. Burt didn't budge.
His phone lights up and buzzes cheerily on his bedside table. Groaning at the thought of having to emerge from his nest of blankets, he pokes his head out and gropes around on the table until he can wrap his fingers around the phone.
How are you feeling?
Kurt retreats back under the blankets to type his reply.
Terrible. I miss you.
He closes his eyes and the phone vibrates again. He is tempted to ignore it and just read it later, as his head is getting heavy with sleep, but it just continues to buzz. He's getting a call, not a text.
"Hello?" he whines into the receiver, disappointed at being pulled away from a potential nap.
"Hey," Blaine's voice greets him softly. He sounds a little breathless. "I wanted to sing you something."
So Blaine clears his throat and begins to sing—not in his usual way, not like he's singing to a big audience. His voice is quiet and a little rough and it's just perfect—it's a little concert just for them. It's private and beautiful.
"You are my sweetest downfall. I loved you first, I loved you first. Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth. I have to go, I have to go. Your hair was long when we first met.
"Samson went back to bed, not much hair left on his head. Ate a slice of Wonderbread and went right back to bed. And the history books forgot about us, and the Bible didn't mention us, and the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.
"You are my sweetest downfall. I loved you first, I loved you first. Beneath the stars came falling on our hats. But they're just old light, they're just old light. Your hair was long when we first met.
"Samson came to my bed, told me that my hair was red, told me I was beautiful and came into my bed. Oh, I cut his hair myself one night, a pair of dull scissors in the yellow light. And he told me that I'd done alright, and he kissed me 'til the morning light, the morning light. And he kissed me 'til the morning light.
"Samson went back to bed, not much hair left on his head. He ate a slice of Wonderbread and went right back to bed. Oh, we couldn't bring the columns down, yeah, we couldn't destroy a single one. And the history books forgot about us, and the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.
"You are my sweetest downfall. I loved you first."
Kurt smiles, tucking his face into his pillow, and says teasingly, "Blaine, Regina Spektor wrote that song about her friend who died of cancer. And all that talk about 'not much hair left on his head'? So insensitive."
Picking up on his tone, Blaine chuckles lightly. "I thought you'd enjoy it."
"It was breathtaking, thank you," Kurt sighs sleepily. "I love that song." He takes a moment to blow his nose and finishes with a loud, long yawn.
"I won't keep you up anymore," his boyfriend murmurs. "Call me whenever, okay? I love you."
Kurt responds with a lethargic giggle and says, "I love you, too."
He's feeling well enough the next week to drive to McKinley to visit rehearsal. His body is thanking him for the break from chemo and the cold's really mostly gone—his throat is just a little scratchy, still. It doesn't hurt, but he suspects it will if he overexerts it. He's still pretty tired and achy, too, in general. So he'll be doing a lot of sitting and a lot of unobtrusive, easy background singing today. It doesn't matter. The thought of just being there makes him grin in anticipation.
He plans his arrival for fifteen minutes after the start of the period so the hallways will be clear. He doesn't want to risk a run-in with anyone who's stupid, large and hateful. It works perfectly; he encounters no one. He stops just before the door, adjusting his thick, knit hat over his head. Today it's a rich burgundy, which, of course, matches the rest of his outfit impeccably. He quickly makes sure it's pulled down almost to his eyebrows, over the nape of his neck, and over his ears so that just the lobes are sticking out. It feels extremely weird still to have the fabric of a hat sliding over a bare scalp—sort of like after the one time he tried shaving his legs out of curiosity and the surface of his newly-bare skin was uncomfortably sensitive to every touch.
Pushing his inane thoughts aside, he opens the door. They haven't gotten started yet, unsurprisingly; Mr. Shue is nowhere to be found and there is a general sort of controlled chaos around the room caused by the chatter coming from everyone's mouths. He clears his throat, smiling nervously at them and making his way to the center of the room.
Everything goes silent for approximately one second before Mercedes, Rachel, and Tina simultaneously squeal; this has the effect of the breaking of a dam and suddenly the voices are starting again, all going at the same time in discord, but all directed at him, expressing to him. As one unit, the glee club rushes over to him. Rachel reaches him first, pulling him into a tight hug, and Mercedes adds herself, squeezing both of them together. Everyone else waits in a circle around him to give him their own greetings. There are lots of hugs and pats on the back. Mike, the last one to get his turn, is so happy to see him that he lifts him up and twirls him a little.
Kurt is laughing a little when he gets set down, adjusting his hat. Behind him, someone clears his throat. He whirls around to see who it is and Mr. Shue is standing there with his arms crossed around a folder of music and a wide smile on his face.
"Hello, Mr. Shue," he greets, breathless with both fatigue and the excitement of being back in this room with these people.
"Hey, Kurt," the teacher says warmly. "Glad you could join us. Is everyone ready to rehearse?"
A cheer goes out across the room that is much more enthusiastic than usual; the kids' energies are fueled by Kurt's presence. For months, they have missed him, and for weeks, they have worried about him. They've felt guilt over his problems with Karofsky and they've felt guilt about being unable to help him conquer the cancerous cells in his blood. It rejuvenates them to see him, happy and alive and here.
Rehearsal goes oddly well; they are a little unfocused, with side-conversations and too much excitement, but all the extra energy they have funnels into this wonderful productivity. Kurt grins and sings along, sitting while his friends dance around him.
That night, he is exhausted in the best way possible and, despite the lingering achiness in his body, he sleeps uninterrupted through to the morning.
Saturday of the next week, Kurt's phone rings in the middle of the Top Model marathon he orchestrated with the help of his DVR. Absently, he picks it up, eyes glued on his favorite contestant as she poses for a series of headshots with leaves and twigs woven into her hair and makeup artfully smeared onto her face like dirt.
"Kurt? Hey, it's David!"
Kurt pauses the TV. "Hey, David, how are you? What's up?"
"I'm doing great, Kurt. Listen, we're having a get-together today at my place. Did you want to come?"
"Yeah," Kurt blurts out breathlessly. "That sounds great. Your place is in Westerville, right?"
"Yeah—are you—can you—I mean, someone can pick you up if you need."
"No, no, I should be fine driving myself. If you don't mind me being a bit tired. I wouldn't want to make anyone go so far out of their way. What time should I be there? Can you text me your address?"
"Are you sure you don't want someone to pick you up, Kurt? Anyone would be happy to do it. Blaine can give you a ride."
"No, I'm sure. I'm perfectly capable of making it there myself."
"Okay, then. See you around five?"
"I'll be there. See you later, David."
Top Model marathon forgotten, Kurt launches himself off of the couch and heads to his room to start preparing.
Kurt arrives at the party wearing another one of his hats, though he hasn't pulled it down quite so far as he used to. His hair has grown in a little, covering his head in a soft fuzz so that he doesn't look like some freakish q-tip, but not enough that he feels comfortable debuting it in all its glory. He's also pulled on his favorite outfit, the one with the jeans that never fail to make him look fabulous. It's unavoidable that Blaine occasionally sees him looking less than his best, and he's more or less fine with that, but if he's going to be going into public and seeing friends, he needs to look good.
David answers the door and welcomes him with a huge smile and a tight hug. "Come on in, man, everyone's really excited to see you. Blaine's here, too."
Kurt follows him inside, a little nervous, to where the Warblers are sitting around on the floor and on the couches and armchairs that are set around the room. There's a movie on the screen, but they look up and grin and shout when he comes in. Most of them jump up to give him hugs just like the one he's just received from David or a pat on the back. Blaine is last, pulling him into a hug and finishing with a peck on the cheek, and he ushers Kurt over to the plush chair he's been sitting in.
"Here, Kurt, have my seat," he says, and Kurt, a little achy, gratefully sits. Blaine happily takes the spot in front of him on the floor, leaning back against the chair next to the legs of his boyfriend, who runs his fingers through his curls.
They watch the movie distractedly, carrying on conversations amongst themselves and snacking and laughing. After the movie's over they still talk, loudly, goofing around and playing games and sometimes breaking into song.
When it comes time for some of the guys to leave, Kurt begins to realize that he is very, very tired.
"I don't think I can drive myself home," he admits sheepishly.
Blaine squeezes his hand, and David says, "Some of the guys are staying the night. You can stay, too, if you want, and you can drive home in the morning."
"Yeah, okay," Kurt agrees, and goes into the next room to call his dad.
"Absolutely not, Kurt."
Shocked, the teen lets his mouth hang open while he searches for words. "Dad, why not?" he finally manages.
"I want you here."
"Wha—I don't understand. What's the problem with me just staying the night at a friend's house? I've done it a million times!"
"Yeah, buddy, you did it when you weren't sick!"
The confusion gives way to anger, white hot. Kurt curls his free hand into a fist, screws up his face, and snaps, "So what are you saying? Since I'm sick I'm, what? An invalid? I can't handle a night away from home?"
Burt calms down, instantly contrite. "No, that's not what I meant—"
Kurt, too fired up to stop, interrupts him. "I'm not weak, Dad, I don't need you to tuck me into bed every night."
"Kurt—please. I'm sorry. I just meant—It's not that I don't think you can handle it. I know, I know you're not weak. I just… I just get scared, son."
Kurt remains silent.
"It's not fair to you, I know. It just scares me to know that you're not here, with me, so I can make sure you're okay. I know I can't be around all the time, I can't always help you with everything, but that doesn't make me stop wanting to try… Especially now."
After a few moments, all Kurt can think to murmur is, "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm sorry."
"Hey," Burt responds, voice forceful again. "Don't you ever think you need to feel sorry about any of this, okay? It's not your fault you got sick, buddy. All the rest of this crap—me feeling scared and all that—that just comes with it."
"I'm scared too," Kurt admits, playing with a loose thread on his sleeve. "I… I do… need your help with this, Dad. I wouldn't be able to do this alone. So… thank you."
"Just doing my job, kiddo. Listen, you stay at David's. You're right, you shouldn't be trying to drive home if you're too tired. Stay, have fun with your friends, get a good rest, and then come home tomorrow. Sound good?"
"Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow."
Kurt awkwardly shuffles back into the next room, where the rest of the guys are pretending they didn't hear him shouting. Blaine smiles at him, shy and encouraging, understanding and loving.
"It's a go," is all Kurt says, and Jeff woops exuberantly and pulls him over to the couch to play a round of Call of Duty. Blaine moves to sit next to him, and their thighs touch softly.
Again, many thank yous for reading! Please, please review—I love to hear back from all of you!