"One day, I'll be free," Kurt says, smiling sadly.
Finn just nods.
The crisp Ohio air sent chills across Finn Hudson's skin as he paid the flower vendor. The bouquet was lilies, of course; it was Kurt's birthday, and they were his favorites.
The tall man walked down the road, taking in the beauty of the autumn day. The trees were dying, going out in a blaze of reds and golds. Kurt would approve.
"I get so scared, sometimes," Kurt whispers one night, curled around himself underneath a blanket on the couch. Finn sees the bruises on his brother's thin arms, the shadows rimming his sleepless eyes.
"We'll protect you, Kurt," Finn whispers back. "I'll keep you safe."
Kurt smiles, lighting up the room.
Finn's phone rang, shaking him from his trance. He answered, smiling. "Hey, sweetie."
Lena's voice was warm in his ear, even through the phone speaker. "Hi, love. Will you be home soon?" She asked, the telltale sound of the television on in the background.
Finn's smile dropped a little as he walked through a wrought-iron gate. "I just have a little detour to make, then I'll be right there."
He could hear his wife's grin widen. "Well, just hurry home as soon as you can. You know how testy Kurt gets."
"He's very bossy, isn't he?" Finn agreed, chuckling. Still, he tightened his grip on the lilies. "I won't be long."
Lena sighed softly. "I love you."
"I love you, too. See you soon." He hung up, tucking the phone into his pocket.
Kurt isn't crying, and that scares Finn. His brother is covered in deep gashes, ugly bruises, and – Finn retches at the sight – the word FAG carved into his cheek. Kurt is dripping blood like sweat, but he isn't crying. He just won't; he can't.
"This isn't the end, you know," Kurt murmurs softly. "They won't stop until I'm…" He trails off, leaving the rest unspoken. Finn shivers. "And to think – they hate me because I'm gay, and yet I've never even had a boyfriend…never even kissed a boy…"
He laughs darkly, and Finn holds a towel to his stepbrother's face, soaking up the gratuitous blood.
Kurt lets out a small sob, blinking, then presses his lips to Finn's, pulling back quickly.
"I'm sorry. I-I just…I don't want to die…without a kiss…" Kurt looks away, but Finn pulls him closer, burying his nose in Kurt's hair.
"You're not going to die," Finn said. "You're not going to die, because I won't let you. I promised to protect you – and I will." Tears leak from his eyes, falling onto Kurt's shoulder. "I will."
Finn sets the lilies down by the headstone, looking up at the calming autumn sun.
"It's…it's just not the same without you," he muttered, wiping at his eyes. "I'm so sorry…"
He left quickly, unable to stand in front of that grave for long. Besides, Kurt was waiting for him.
Finn runs into Lima Memorial Hospital, searching for his parents. They're standing outside of a lonely, white room, and – shit, his mom is sobbing. Finn approaches cautiously, heart standing still as Burt turns to face him. Their eyes meet, and Finn understands. He leaves the hospital, sprinting through the parking lot.
That night his fists fracture and his ribs bruise and his shirt stains with blood, but it's the happiest he'll be for a very long time.
Finn walked into his modest home, calling out, "Lena! Kurt! I'm home!"
Lena came out to kiss her husband, reprimanding him half-heartedly for tracking wet leaves across the floor. He pecked her cheek in apology, causing the woman to giggle.
"Kurt's waiting for you in the living room. He's been anxious to see you," she said, smiling at Finn. The tall man felt a swell of happiness fill his chest.
"Perfect!" He walked into the living room, holding out his arms to pull Kurt into a hug.
The funeral is cold and rainy and dramatic, just the way he would have wanted it. Finn breaks down as they lower the coffin into the earth, sinking to his knees.
White lilies are everywhere, and Finn wants to tear them all to shreds, until their remains blow away in the wind and wash away into the gutters and ravines, gone from the world. They're too pretty, too perfect for such an ugly, horrible day.
He stays by the grave until it falls dark, mud soaking into his black pants and staining his legs.
Kurt ran to hug Finn, legs lifting from the ground.
"Daddy!" He cried, hugging his father tightly. "I missed you!"
Finn hugged his son back, tightening his grip. "I missed you, too." Tears were flowing down the man's cheeks, and Kurt Hudson noticed.
"Why are you crying, Daddy?" The little boy asked, pulling back to examine his father. Finn rested their foreheads together.
"Kurt, I will always be here to protect you, okay? Remember that. With me, you'll always be safe."
The boy grinned. "You're a daddy! It's your job."
Finn chuckled and set the boy down. "Just remember that, okay?"
Kurt nodded. "Okay!"
He took his son's hand, and they walked into the kitchen to meet Lena. Kurt gripped his fingers tightly, smiling up at his father. Finn let out a small sob.
Finn finds a note addressed to him a week after the funeral. It's sort and kind and Finn carries it with him everywhere he goes for years to come.
If you're reading this, then I'm gone. But, please, don't blame yourself. Just remember: you didn't fail; they just cheated.