So, um. This is the first ever time I'm dipping out of the Brittana fandom. I apologize if I couldn't get their voices right - this is a first for a lot of things for me. I've never spoken as Blaine or Tina or Puck and many others, so this was a new experience for me. It's not blatantly Klaine but it's definitely there, which is why it's filed under. I supposed it's Kurt-centric but not, if that makes any sense. The song is Passage by Vienna Teng and it's just a little bit beautiful. Go listen.
I, personally, have not dealt with the loss of a loved one, but have tried my hardest to re-create it. A bit different from my usual style - it's difficult to write long stories in rambling train of thought. I hope you enjoy and tell me how I did.
I died in a car crash two days ago
When they pulled me from the gears
You were beautiful.
Out of them all, you were supposed to be the one who would do something, make it big.
The world is laid out for me, darling.
You moved to run, escape, rejoice in your new found freedom – you were not meant to be cooped inside with violent eyes and cold cold winters. Your voice was strong (stronger than anybody else's) with the lilt that betrayed yourself to others.
And that was okay, really. You had long learned to block out the pain and focus on the good things in life. (Newly cut grass, sun on your back, the feeling of complete serenity.)
Spoken of one that had suffered early and was ready to shed all of this and come out something bigger, better, stronger.
No one's fault, no one's bottle
No one's teenage pride or throttle
Our innocence is all the worse for fears
This was wrong.
(Wrong in the worst of ways, wrong because this wasn't something she could fix with stares and threats of meeting a better place. Wrong because there's no bringing him back.)
She could feel it deep within her bones, a tremor that starts and won't stop. Santana barely restrains herself from cryingscreamingdestroying the closest thing in sight as the doors open to swallow her whole into somewhere that is supposed to be home. Her suit swishes crisply against her taut thighs and she finds herself wishing to be in sweatpants and a loose shirt, wanting to hide from all these feelings that threaten to paralyse her speech and render her into some fragile, broken thing. She thinks of all the things she could do to try and soothe her own fears, but none seem adequate in the face of this.
(She catches a flash of golden hair and cringes, hating herself for what she's about to do.)
"You're here early, babe." Is her greeting, full of warmth from the sun and distant dreams spun into reality. Brittany drags the backs of her fingers along her cheek; Santana just breathes. The latina everybody sees – the lawyer with a razor sharp mind and even more dangerous tongue – wouldn't hesitate (detach, relapse) but this vulnerable, scared and stricken one can't form the words.
Brittany frowns and places a palm against her heart.
She catches the fingers with her own and promises whoever will listen that she will never let her go.
"Brit, there's... there's been an accident."
Such a neutral word. It doesn't hold the weight that should of been behind it, of all the lost memories and hidden guilt and he didn't deserve this, why wasn't it me?
Shaky words are forced out to explain the basics in simple terms of fatality, blown tire, head trauma. All these syllables don't say the things she really wants to let out into the open air (manslaughter, mutilation, massacre. A body unrecognizable, caught in the wreckage). The dancer's face crumbles – and she looks like a sparrow with a broken wing, all sad and lost and hopeless. "Who?" she whispers, burrowing her face into a tan neck in anticipation for the worst.
Santana holds her tightly, never letting go.
"Kurt, sweetheart. It was Kurt."
My lover sits, the silent eye
In a hurricane of warmth and word
He should feel something, anything. Blaine wants to pull at all the emotions he knows are flitting around inside the cage he's shoved them in; last-ditch effort to avoid the inevitable breakdown of screaming sobs once he realizes that yes, he's gone. He's gone and not coming back and oh god I miss him so much but won't because all these things will rip him in two (and unlike all these times before, there are no lithe fingers to guide him back together again).
People touch his shoulder gently and their consolation – pity? - burns his skin with a brand that he cannot erase no matter how hard he scrubs. It seeps down into his bitter bones and erodes, corrodes, deteriorates until he is raw and hurting and ready to give in.
His thoughts are on infinite loop, whispering quiet consolation mixed in with this is your fault and why did you let him go and even you didn't deserve him.
(Why can't they leave him be? He just wishes to sit with all his fears and wants; regrets that the last time he spoke to Kurt was because they fought. Things thrown in anger and exasperation – but not hate, never hate – can never be retracted now, and that kills him almost as much as the fact that he wants so badly to fix it.
Wants, but can't.)
His house is still untouched. Kurt's books lay open on the page he left them at, scraps of material for his newest design scattered about at every turn. Their little dog winds its way between his legs and asks when he's coming home. Sometimes if he turns around too fast or lays so very still, he can hear the voice or feel the arms that have left him behind; it's bad but he's content to wallow in his half-bubble of lingering doubt and tainted contentment for as long as he possibly can. Blaine has never been good at facing his own demons, and this is no exception. But that's okay. Honestly, it is. He'll never have to own up and move on if he avoids them, right? Right?
Rachel must have come into the house. It takes three hours before he notices the fireplace crackling gently – he tries (so, so hard) to smile but it's like his face has forgotten how in these brief two days that he's been gone.
(Gone, but not dead. Never dead.)
My mother trembles with the sobs
Whose absence seems absurd
He's seemed to have aged ten years in two days. Ever since the trembling voice on the other side of (the world, it seems) the phone informed him (i'm so sorry Burt there's been an accident and Kurt's gone. He's gone and they couldn't bring him back) that his boy, his beautiful baby boy had gotten into an accident, the lines of his face have sunken and his eyes coloured a deep purpleblack. Burt has always known that this world was too big, too painful, too dark for somebody like Kurt to flower within but he didn't know that it would simply be a twist of fate to have him wrenched from his grasp so quickly.
Still, he doesn't know what hurts worse. The fact that he's gone or that there are some people out there who spit on his name simply because he was so strong, always strong. Strong enough to bare what he was out into the daylight without fear of repercussion. Kurt was always astounding people with his brilliance (bright as a diamond, as the glow of New York's signs, as those people who sing on stage; all lonely but so very free) and this will never be an exception.
Sometimes bad things happen. It's God's way of testing us.
Fifteen years ago, somebody delivered those exact words to him when his wife was laying on her bed, slowly wasting away into nothingness. Now, he can't help but wonder if there is even a God; if he is so omnipotent and omniloving, why has he taken every piece of sunshine in his life until they're gone and he's here and he's not allowed to hold either of them again because he wants to switch places so badly it hurts? How is that anything short of sadism and cruelty and why do so many people love you?
He tries to believe, but it's hard.
Burt shakes until his eyes dry and wonders when it'll finally be his turn.
My sister shouts to let her see
Through the cloud of crowd surrounding me
It took a while, but he came around. It was hard adjusting to the name calling, but he struggled through it. It was years of impatient patience to slide into the little world he'd created around himself, but eventually he became a constant (important) fixture. A defender against a world that had no place for another boy with stars in his eyes and a wish of something better.
But he managed. And grew to love him, too.
Love him so much that he feared it would burst through his chest and strangle him with all these worries and wishes that he never wanted for anybody else before. Before leaving Lima, his world never revolved around anything complicated aside from junior year, but this, this – love that makes him do stupid things just to keep him happy and away from the wrong side – was set for a slow, steady burning. He'd save the ferocious flame for Blaine.
(Whenever Kurt would look up, all red lips and gleaming smile and fluttering fingers Finn would thank whoever was listening because he'd never seem anybody so happy and watched him to learn the secrets of life.
And it worked that way. Kurt was the driving force and Finn was the shield that would guard him from the worst of harm. From the jealous stares and disgusted glances and the anger that smoulders at nothing and everything all at once.)
All he had to do was call – once, just once – and he would drive (run, if he had to) to his side. He struggles to reach where he rightfully belongs through the hands that grasp and hold and pull at him to stay away and safe and ignorant like he's been for the rest of his life. But there's this one feeling in his chest, that if he reaches him it will all just be a bad dream and he'll be okay and the smoke that's rising up from the ruined husk he can glimpse isn't-
"Let me go!" They are strong but this wild and feral panic won't ever let him leave – it whispers of so many things that he doesn't want to hear and breaks free, barrelling through like this is the only thing keeping him going, wanting to just be okay please be okay don't do this I swear I'll be better just let him be okay. All the surrounding people stare as his hulking mass smashes through the lines and he witnesses the carnage; broken glass and shattered memories sprinkled with red that drips pretty little patterns underneath the smoking wreckage that must be Kurt's Porsche.
And in the midst of it all, a pale hand hanging from a body bag that has the edges stained a crimson that doesn't match the suit that he was wearing at all this morning.
But he could scream his name for years – the hand will not move to grasp his own.
My colleagues call for silence in my name
She gets the call at work.
He wasn't answering his phone and there's a new client howling on the other end and goddamn it, boo. I'm going to strangle your scrawny neck if you don't get your ass up here now.
It rings once, twice. She picks it up with the controlled strain of a budding entrepreneur.
"Kurt, is that you? I swear to Gaga, sweetheart, if you don't-"
"Mercedes..." The voice is weak and breathy on the line; she barely even recognizes the murmured strains and something cold and heavy settles in her gut. Rachel is so lacking of the bright unblinking sunshine and it throws her off, displacing her thoughts with an absent chill that she wants to hide away forever and never think about again.
"Rachel? What's wrong?" Muffled movements and stilted sobs, the receiver is fumbled until Finn appears on the line. She thinks she can pick out Tina, but it's difficult to tell over the sound that has her pacing into a frenzy (what why who) as he trips over his syllables until it all comes out in a tangled mess of something that's entirely too raw to be spoken of (hush, child).
Time stops momentarily and gravity works against her feet – she sits down in her plush chair and she feels herself sinking downdowndown into this place that she hates and can't navigate but doesn't want to leave even if it kills her because this doesn't make sense, one second she was talking to him and the next the closed phone is pressed against her shaking lips and things seem entirely too bright. A ragged noise startles her and she realizes too late that it's her that's making it.
She sits and feels everything stop around her and tries to pretend that if she doesn't think it'll go away, pretend that he's just late and will come all flustered and apologetic in those skinny jeans they bought on Tuesday, pretend that he's okay and here and will come down to smooth her hair and whisper that it's okay even though it will never be.
Days and weeks. Months. Years. Without him.
(She doesn't want to say it.)
Instead she sits in the dark until she can inhale without choking and presses the button of the intercom, watching in muted gratitude and anguish as all the workers seem to look up and then look down in contemplation as the news and wave of jumbled reality hits until they're all swept away with the tide.
I died in a car crash three months ago
They burned me until I glowed
And crumbled to a fine gray sand
Brittany cries with Rachel's eulogy.
Santana usually hates when she goes all Broadway diva on them - and really she'll never admit it, but - now it seems painfully fitting as she channels Kurt's favourite musical in a way that resonates the way Rachel always used to; deeply. (They just never admitted it.)
"You said that you were lucky to be our friend. But you got it all wrong, babe. It was us. We were the lucky ones."
You watch the tangle of limbs with a distant envy for something you miss. They compliment each other almost jarringly; sandy brown and porcelain white so close they breathe one another's air (or maybe they are each other's air? You could never tell with them).
You remember when you could sit like them, all wrapped up in worries and hopes and fears. Dreams of a life where you can finally be what you want to be.
It's too bad it was cut so short.
When your fingers graze blond hair, slated eyes seem to glance up momentarily. They stare at the space you should be with palpable confusion, cradling the teary blonde even as she searches for something.
Her words are soothing in a way that only an experienced lover knows how; murmured reassurances and the delicate touch of skin that has a story hidden underneath the surface. They fit so closely together they become a singular being – white-gold tangles with black in an effort to bear the brunt of their pain together. Brittany always feels too freely while Santana is afraid of giving up her heart; this is the perfect compromise.
(You touch your fingertips to hers that have stretched out – when she shudders you smile because it means that they have not yet forgotten and perhaps never will. It is enough for you to forgive.)
Now I am nothing, everywhere
Several breaths of strangers' air
And all thoughts ever written in my hand
Mercedes is the only one who wears white to the funeral.
For a week straight. Her own unique way of grieving.
Boo wouldn't have wanted us to be sad, you know. He never did.
But it's really hard to take her own advice. She believes in what she preaches – this time, though, she's making an exception.
(She tried the traditional ways, but it just didn't feel right. Like she was suffocating his memory into silence.)
Her eulogy couldn't be completed because she was choked by the tears, feeling too entirely like this was the end of an era; the end of something huge and the beginning of something bigger. All she could say (think, feel, live) was a mumbled mantra of I miss him he's gone why is he gone and people couldn't find the words to stop her.
Burt guides her away, trying to be strong for the people his son left behind.
The workplace is dark. Quiet.
(Always quiet now. It misses a spark it used to have.)
Her fingers brush against the roughly sketched designs, feeling entirely lost and confused without a second hand to critique all her choices or choose the right colour or even roll the eyes and say darling, that is so last year. You're better than that because she doesn't know why all the patterns swirl together into a singular mass of chaotic tendrils.
Mercedes stuffs them into the trashcan angrily, not wanting to watch her failure.
The paper expands and crinkles in its new home; it's half past one but there is nobody able to be called on the phone because she's lonely and tired and entirely sick of feeling like this.
Is that it? Is she lonely?
(This doesn't feel like loneliness. It's something raw and dark and entirely untouched. Something she never wanted to feel because it's so hard to stop.
It feels like despair.
She would know. She saw it in Quinn's eyes one too many times when she caught herself touching her stomach with silvery fine stretch marks and couldn't speak her mind to the outside world.)
Mercedes knows what he would say. But he's the whole source of the problem and she feels just a little bit awful for thinking like that.
When the paper crackles again, a hand absently reaches down to grab it. The full bin looks so wrong against the emptiness of the others, and perhaps there is something worth salvaging in the wreckage. A single sheet catches her eye, adorned in swirling shades where the others were nothing more than monochromatic brilliance.
And she sees it – something divine, daring, deep. It calls to her among its abstract lines and etchings of a new woven pattern, promising awards and money and comfort. An instant classic embedded inside the papers, put aside just high of perfection and left to be found by somebody unworthy of the honour. However, she doesn't care about any of that.
She just touches the neatly scripted Kurt Hummel in the far right corner and sobs, feeling all of her pain melt into something laced with another, new emotion. Maybe she'd say it's hope, but it feels far too familiar to be anything other than the vanilla perfume of her boo.
They plant my tree out in the yard
It grows but takes the winter hard
He's always been a green kind of guy. Said it set off his eyes or something.
Whatever the excuse, Mike doesn't comment when Tina wordlessly brings home a fragile sapling in the budding spring; he just takes the shovel and digs furiously until they can deposit their charge with utmost care. As an afterthought, they bury his bracelet when the roots are covered and it's left to thrive in place of the life that should still be here.
He knows she hurts. Hurts so hard it gnaws her bones because they were always so terribly close, they could dance Single Ladies until the brink of dawn and he'd find them cuddled together passed out in bodytight spandex. He'd roll his eyes and smile a smile reserved for those people who have their lives figured out – so very calm and what he wanted all along – before trotting off to make coffee the way they liked it.
He's always known. Everything. And that's fine, really.
It's how he knows the tree will survive the winter that tears at the thinning bark, how he simply lets Tina have her space whenever she stands by it in the freezing snow and just breathes.
(Everything has a purpose; a beginning and a end. Some just come sooner than others and he hates the world a little bit for that.)
My lover holds a knife to wrist
Says tomorrow comes, hold on a while
The day before the funeral, he contemplates it. The ache in his chest hasn't faded, will never fade; just dull once every so often when he wakes up and it takes longer to remember that the other side of the bed will always be empty. Blaine doesn't want to feel this for the rest of his life (all this hurt has worn away his spark into nothing) and doesn't know how to make it stop.
Every day, he asks why couldn't it have been me?
(He never gets an answer.)
The metal in his hand isn't lying – and there are too many liars to trust his friends – but for the sake of his memory he won't try so close to his funeral where he's supposed to honour his memory instead of crushing it into p(r)etty shards. He puts on his best pretty boy smile that made all the girls (and boys) fall head over heels when he was young and stupid and didn't know what he wanted or how to get it. The polite smile now says please, fuck off quietly and let me mourn instead of i'm confident and deep and everything you want but can't have. Sometimes he wonders when he lost that train of ideals.
Blaine wants to search him out one last time and run shaking fingers all along the placid lines of his face. From the full lips to expressive eyes and delicately arched eyebrows; down to the bridge of his nose and the place that his pulse jumps whenever he does that. Wants to bring out the boy that he fell so quickly for, and the one that grew to love him just as fast. The one that said he'd. Never. Leave.
Instead all he's left with is the faint traces of shampoo on a cold pillow and a sock that he finds abandoned underneath the bed. It hurts in that kind of way that people say he's begun to heal – but there's nothing left to mend, Kurt has taken all of him.
Still, for his (soulmatehusband) lover more than himself, he puts the razor down.
(Just one more day. Live for him, and never forget that he loved you.)
Sometimes, he believes love to still be in present tense.
He's come to think of people as emotions.
It's easier that way, because then he doesn't have to think of them as people. People happy with things he don't have anymore.
(Serenity for the high school sweethearts who have found solace in each other.
Indignation for the brother that doesn't understand the world anymore.
Sorrow for the girl who has to run a business – and a life – alone.
Once upon a time, Shame for the lawyer who didn't understand herself. Times have changed.
Disgust for the father who tried so hard and ultimately failed to protect his son from the world.)
Kurt was always Love, though. Will always be love.
My mother tosses in the sheets
And dreams me holding my own child
Day in and day out, he waits.
Waits for things to get better, waits for the punchline of the joke that he could forgive. Waits until the bottle becomes enough to erase all the hurt.
(In a sense, they've all been waiting for it – but they haven't yet gotten the memo that it doesn't exist.)
If he was old before he is ancient now. The lines on his face are cold and empty, his house lies in disarray. Carol watches her son and husband with sad sad eyes and the distinct yearning to make everything better because it feels like she's losing more than one person. She won't ever leave but fear the person he will become, all jaded and bitter and angry at things that he cannot fathom.
Kurt spoke of having a family. With dreamy eyes and little sighs of miniature vests and skinny ties held together with designer fabrics and smart haircuts. He would dress them up in the most beautiful things money could buy and in turn be filled to the brim with a love he's always had and just been afraid to show.
Their faces haunt him now. In his sleep he sees them – little Kurts and even little Blaines that will never be born into the world. They look at him and a million things spiral through their green-grey eyes (a thousand apologies, a million insights, a flicker of a past he wants to remember).
He takes another swallow and watches their features morph into faceless blurs.
My sister plays our homemade tapes
Laughs as tears run down her face
For a minute, he's there. Breathing and alive and singing with the warmth of a thousand suns.
And then he's not, and he cries.
But he can't stop watching. Tape after tape – his living room is a mess, scattered with shining disks and a DVD heating in the background. The gentle notes rap around his brain and have him singing along, swaying in time to the almost worrying devotion that he watches the screen, taking in all the things he's missed and wants so hard to take back.
Kurt grins into the screen and pulls a blushing Blaine to him; a rosy tint adorns his cheeks and he slurs his words to the point of non-existence. You can see a swaying Mercedes howling in the background, but Finn has eyes only for Kurt.
"You... you know I love ya, right buddy?" He pauses, snickers. "Buddy. Bud. Bro. Like... like I'm from the hood, you know?" Blaine's face softens. "Honey, you're drunk." A wide grin, gleaming eyes and wicked eyebrows.
"I know, sweetheart. And now so does Finn!" Kurt plants a deep kiss onto a surprised mouth and Finn shifts uncomfortably from behind the camera. A moment later it shuts off as you distantly hear Tina's disembodied voice shrieking something about a paddle.
When it blurs back to life again, Kurt's sitting in his brand new Porsche with a smile that threatens to split his face in half. On the other side of the screen Finn returns his excitement but it's laced with something else - knowledge that it's a means to an end that could have been prevented. He doesn't even realize he's crying until he chokes on air.
(Finn forgets to sleep with the lights on, and dreams of stained white and a twisted chassy.)
I died in a car crash four years ago
My tree drinks melted snow
Just eight feet tall a pale and fragile thing
The squealing of a newborn baby hits his ears and he allows himself to smile, all stretched lips and twinkling eyes over the hair that's (still) too shaggy as he stands in the snow that makes his nose turn cherry red. They're waiting inside and they're the reason he came, honestly, but something keeps him rooted to the spot. A distance twang in the center of his chest as his fingers run against the smooth bark like there's something physically keeping him there crying out in a soft counter-tenor that mumbles i'm still here, you remember me right? And that's a stupid question because he can never forget.
(He's the only one that hasn't tried and will never try. It's a way of giving up and he'll keep on fighting until the day he dies.)
Sam learned a long time ago that memories are precious and worth holding close like the gentle gurgling of a lightly tanned baby with slate eyes and soft raven hair and the quiet confessions of a boy with a heartbreak smile and immaculately combed hair. His thumb brushes the faded picture of senior year in his wallet with all of them without regrets; all happy and smiling and unwilling to believe that the world is big and bad and doesn't want more dreamers but will take them regardless.
And his mouth opens and he talks. Talks until he runs out of syllables, until he's been filled in on the past four years, until his tongue grows dry and tired and he has to take a mouthful of snow to try again. What astounds him is how much emotion he puts into everything he tells. He likes to think that he would want to be kept in on the loop, and he hates graveyards. The silence is so loud that he feels like he's drowning.
Mike and Tina watch him from the window, crouched down and mumbling happily without a care in the world; the branches touch gently at the worn coat on his back. Where have you been? I've missed you. It's cold here, but that's okay.
This year a glimpse of second chances
Tiny apples on my tree's branches
It's been so long (it hasn't been long enough).
He's not ready for this (he's been ready for his whole life).
He travels back to the place where it all began eleven years ago. No matter how far and how long he travels, it will always rope him back in. It's an amazing stroke of luck he chose to go alone, amazing that he didn't crash into a tree because he's driving so fast he's sure he's burning holes in his tires.
While the event is important, he really just wants to see her.
She chose to take the train. Easier and quieter and without the added worry of Santana bitching her out if she happened to scratch her precious car. These days, Quinn can't afford anything but her own hopes and fears crowding her mind, settled in to stay with her own loneliness of a life she never knew she'd have and never knew she might not want.
(She sees little babies and blonde haired tanned skin girls growing up and feels like she's been cheated.)
Sometimes she touches the silvery lines and licks dry lips. These are the only memories of him that she can hold, and she's not sure if she should cry or laugh.
"Puck, you made it!" A smaller blonde blur hits his stomach and he grins to himself, wrapping strong arms around the carbon copy of somebody he used to know. "You think I'd miss this?" he replies easily, fingers ghosting through the short hair that's begun to grow back. She shoots a beaming smile (all teeth that scream i'm going to need braces later and he loves her for all his imperfections) before running off into the Lima heat.
He watches her go and feels somebody step up beside him; he knows without even having to look. He always knows.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?" Contemplative. Quiet. He knows enough that it hurts her somewhere she won't care to acknowledge. "Yeah. We made that." If there's something that Puck's learned it's that life is too short and he can't afford to keep lamenting over chances he's missed and instead jump at the ones presented.
His fingers find hers and the thrill that shoots through her body is foreign and known and so pleasant she crushes his palm in an effort to remember every mistake she's made and why this time there's no voice saying that this will only end in disaster.
They stand and feel years of tension and consequences unravel into something else entirely.
My lover hears the open wind
And crawls blinking into the sun
Sometimes it hurts more than usual. When he finds a long forgotten scrawled note in a hurried hand, or an old jacket buried in the back of the closet. He'll hold it and smell his cologne, tracing thumbs along the pattern and blinking away unexpected tears. No matter how long it's been there's this hole that will never disappear, and he still haunts him in his dreams.
But the dreams are different now. Speak softer, are warmer. Before they used to be jagged metal and blood-curdling screams, but now it's a hand holding his and a fading laugh that still fills some place deep and dark inside of him. Some place that wants to love again but really never stopped.
(It scares him that he's starting to forget what he sounds like. One part wants to erase all of the hurt he's etched onto his soul, but it feels like the worst kind of betrayal – and throughout the years, the good has far outweighed the bad. And that is enough.)
At times the wind sings to him and he can hear it – naked and half asleep, unknowing and blissfully numb – travelling along his skin as a gentle whisper soothes his slowly healing wounds.
He'll stand there, barely breathing, as words come to him on the currents of a complexity he can't quite fathom. His hand raises and it twines around his fingers; a soft smell of sandalwood accompanies it with the soft whistling that ruffles his hair caught in disarray. When he looks back, he'll smile despite himself at the lump in the bed and feel it touch his cheek again before falling silent.
When he crawls back into bed and presses the sleeping warmth against his front, there is something lighter about him.
It feels like apologies and acceptance and hope.
He sleeps with a clear sound of tinkling chimes and the certainty it won't ever leave him.
My mother leafs through photographs
And thinks "yes she was a lovely one"
It's become more of necessity than choice but if it was a choice then it would be a necessity. Slowly, ever so slowly, the sharp stabbing has been replaced by a dull ache that allows him to breathe quietly and shallowly, sucking in precious oxygen to his starving lungs that haven't truly worked since the first words of cancer left the doctor's mouth years ago.
But after the third night of staying up because he's become too sick to sleep, he takes out the faded book that wrinkles just like his skin and holds up the pristine photographs to the light.
He was so beautiful. Pride. Everywhere. Only when he thinks of him. In his eyes, his smile. The way he laughs and cries and dreams. How his mind stills and comes to a halt and can finally just be with a sense of deep peace. Each picture tells a story; one that ended too soon but will never really finish, that follows the lives it left behind on infinite loop until they are cold and gone and rejoin those they have lost. Until he can reconnect with his feelings and try to be somebody better than who he is.
(But it's just so hard that it hurts to even think about, so he takes another swallow of the bottle laying close and tries too hard not to think about how much he loves Carol and hates that this is slowly tearing her apart. Everything is just so wrong and dark and off its intended axis that he doesn't even try to fix it – the years of working with his hands are long gone as they tremor ever so slightly with his weight.)
You can't do anything about it, but it doesn't mean you don't feel responsible.
Sometimes you try and hide the bottles, watch as he sweats and shakes and shouts until he slumps defeated and spends a few days in his own stupor until Carol comes and rouses him back from the dead with sweet words and empty promises. Watch as you feel a little less guilty.
It breaks your heart in this bittersweet way to watch any of them and the struggles they face, but you can barely face this without wanting to sob and pretend you're a little child again that can be held and loved. But you have to be strong. For the both of you. Sometimes you sing. When you're sad or happy or even angry. And you share. "Hang in there, Dad." Soft but strong – his head swings up and you smile a trembling grin.
The best you can do is send him whispered encouragements in his dreams.
My sister can't decide her truth
Asks aloud what I might do
It is dark and silent and he doesn't want to thinktalkbreathe because then the moment will be ruined and he'll be back where he started without an option to move forward.
Rachel is how she always is – gentle but firm and always so sure of herself; he'd do anything to swallow her confidence whole and become what she embodies in her thousand dollar dress and humility that's managed to grow in the past few years that he's been gone. She whispers the question he's always wanted to hear, a murmured breath of do you want to try again that makes his heart sing and his palms sweat; that lets his pulse pound and head spin. There's a chance to reclaim what they've lost and everything they've learned but neither of them are ready to be caged and something inside of him screams quiet protest (and for once he listens). Finn has never been good with thoughts and tries to channel all of his sensibilities but ends up coming back hopelessly confused; he bites his tongue and pleads to whoever is listening to give him guidance.
(She waits anxiously, mind already made up but craving his blessing for the sake of old memories.)
If you really love her, let her be happy.
And he smiles to himself because he's right – Rachel is somebody (something) not to be held down by something as meaningless as gravity and he can see it in her eyes; a spark that refuses to give out no matter how many people try and extinguish it. Perhaps it's her turn to carry the torch but the bittersweet smile she gives him as she wraps her small arms and squeezes tightly, tightly (like the world is coming undone at her feet) is enough to know that he's done the right thing and now he can go with one less regret weighing heavy on his mind.
They say their goodbyes that feel more like second chances and promise that they will always hold a special place. And for him, it is enough.
(And after she is gone he whisper be free to her retreating back and hears the wind murmur in agreement.)
In a conference hall my brief efforts engraved
For the fourth year in a row, she runs over the etchings with her fingers and feels a seemingly lifetime of sorrow slowly wash away. When Mercedes smiles it is slow and unsure, but the gesture is probably appreciated wherever he's ended up in the sky.
(It's not enough. It's never enough for him. But she'll keep trying until she can replicate the scripted signature imprinted on her heart.)
I died in a car crash a lifetime ago it seems
Been a decade or two or three
For once in nobody knows how long, he lets himself give in.
The bottle is so terribly far away and he's so tired – he aches all the way down to his bones and the organs that have been slowly destroyed from grief and loneliness and liquid suicide. So instead he suffers through the gradual shut-down with eyes wide open.
He's grateful for that.
He can't describe it, feeling his life slowly slip away. It hurts and burns and soothes in a way that is entirely foreign but so familiar at once (it's been happening the moment he got that call that fucked up his life so badly he couldn't recover) and clears the cobwebs that were permanent fixtures in his last years of life.
Burt doesn't protest when Blaine slips in, stoic and silent, and pulls his worn hand into his lap.
They sit in silence, knowing that this will be the last time that this cycle will repeat and the last member of the Hummel family will be reunited after so many years of wishinghopingwondering why couldn't it be me and never once receiving something that erases the pain.
"He loved you."
(It was going to be he loves you – he can still feel it somewhere deep down that only Kurt has, but Burt is slipping too fast to comprehend that their bond transcends time and space and silly trivial things like life and death.)
Light starts to fade and a slow smile creeps onto his face as the whisper of sandalwood crawls up his nose. Everything slows to a crawl and there are footsteps that echo against the hardwood; he summons enough strength to turn his head and sees his boy, his baby boy leaning over Blaine's shoulder with a gentle, wistful expression that things could have gone differently. "Come on, Dad." He murmurs (and he looks like model sculpted from the finest stone, all sad and thoughtful and nostalgic.) "Let's go home."
Burt lets the smile freeze on his face as he gathers him up in his arms and buries his face in gently combed hair, feeling the slow nods in time to the rasped i missed yous and don't leave agains and i love you so much, son.
(In another world, Blaine sits quietly as the hand goes lax and slips his eyes shut before dialling on his phone. There is something so intimate about the scene that he waits outside the door, shivering softly as he passes through a cloud of fading perfume.)
They've just release a new design
Bars and bags front and behind
It's gone and done and she feels like a lifetime of effort has just come to fruition – gripping the papers so tight she fears that they'll tear in half under the pressure of her immaculate nails. Long arms snake around her front (snow white against caramel and they glow softly in the half-dark) and lithe fingers gently remove the glasses from her face. She catches a glimpse of blonde hair from the corner of her eye and smiles tiredly, leaning back and relishes the feeling of a knot in her chest unravelling after twenty years of learning how to breathe with its weight.
Santana should be used to it – she carried one all through high school and then a different, deeply seated pain through most of her adulthood. Now she lets it fly and tingles as it warms the hollow in her chest.
"He'd be happy." Murmurs soft lips against her skin, skimming the clutched fingers and touching words like safety and recommission and design. "You worked so hard."
And even though she has – down to her bones, down to the pits of her soul while pressing her quicksilver tongue and all the favours she's ever created – it feels like it was only partly her. Like there was someone guiding her the entire way.
"Yeah, Britt. He would."
My fate now an impossibility
The lights are bright and she hurtshurtshurts and there's only a passing glance of fuzzy faces with unfamiliar masks and painted on eyes before she's swept under again.
Memories come in flashes and glimpses of a better time, a calmer time.
(A warbling voice as it sings Happy Birthday, the first unveiling of their new product, watering of green-grey eyes as he clings on and won't ever let go.)
Part of her wants to hold these so close to her chest and never let go because she feels she's been cheated out of a life where she's pleased to be content, but the ever insistent tugging on her heart and the steady throbbing pain in her leg brings her to scrape the surface of the waking world with eyes half-shut and still seeing another reality.
"Ms. Jones? Open your eyes for me."
She doesn't want to – it takes so much effort and she'd rather sit here with all her feelings that are scrubbed raw for her to see; looking young and fresh and indifferent to her struggles over the past years (lifetimes) that she's had to go alone. Mercedes lets herself float down the river that she feels is taking her somewhere that she's wanted for so long, but feels ashamed to.
Sweetheart, open your eyes.
She's read books on near-death experiences and hallucinations, but he's so real that she can reach out and run her fingers in his hair and smile like the world's coming undone and this is the last chance she'll ever have to make peace with him (and herself). All these things she wants to say bubble in the hollow of her throat and leave her breathless in time to Kurt's quiet not yet, but i'll be waiting for you. I always wait for you.
(There is a moment of hesitation before acceptance and the distant feeling like she's being yanked away back into a place that's so bright and shiny and new she swears she's nothing but a newborn baby.)
When the walls come back into focus and people are swarming all around there's a large hand clasped around hers and skin drained of blood; they all look so young and scared that she thinks she's gone back in time for a moment to were they were stupid and their voices weren't close to being heard. If she blinks, she can almost see the swish of redwhite skirts along the planes of Brittany's thighs.
Questions rebound inside her mouth and somehow they can see it in the creases along her eyes so Sam takes up her train of thought, lips moulding each word with care in that way he always does; he hates for them to have no meaning and takes his time to craft a masterpiece whenever he lets himself breathe into the open air. "You were in a car crash." Seeing your droopy eyes widen slightly, he shakes his head and swallows down the uncomfortable deja-vu that hangs like the silent elephant. (It whistles and trumpets and they all silently acknowledge the massive bulk but do nothing to make it leave.
Perhaps they like it that way.)
"But you're going to be okay. It's all going to be fine."
My lover very much alive
Arms wrapped now around his wife
"Do you think about him?"
He licks his lips, caught between a lie and a truth that threatens to slip out between loose teeth. The topic is rarely brushed because after twenty years it's still tender and unwilling to be stirred, but he finds himself nodding and can't stop; a bobblehead that's gained too much momentum.
"Always." Bangs are brushed from his face and chocolate eyes search his own. They scrouge for hidden truths and Blaine only gives pure sincerity. He's learned to love all over again but sometimes the budding (blooming) romance he had rears his head and he's reminded of the bond they shared that never really broke. "Do you miss him?" It shouldn't even be a question and he shows as much, fingers tightening around the waist in front and eyes darting off to some distance place the other is not privilege to enter.
You've always known.
No matter who he's with or where he'll go, you're meant to be together. Even now the invisible bonds tug at your heart, moulding your emotions into tangible things that loathe to be shrouded in shadow. You smile at each and every one of them and welcome them into the light, sighing contentment as the rays warm all the regrets in your chest and allow them to come out as something else entirely.
The jealousy that burns white-hot through a non-existent body fades at his words and you smile so bright you fear your cheeks will split, reassured that he will never leave you and this lifetime of separation will have not been in vain. Your fingertips stutter momentarily over his brow before you step back and feel the past decades winding away from you, allowing the wounds of your own to slowly close in time to his powerful heartbeat.
(It will always call you, no matter where you are. There is love and then there is love, and it's just a travesty that you weren't given the rest of your life to show it.)