DISCLAIMER: I do not own Glee, FOX does. This story is loosely based off of Armor For Sleep's What To Do When You Are Dead. It's probably my favorite concept album, right before American Idiot. There are certain lyrics woven into the story to move dialogue along, and some scenes were inspired on their own by individual songs or individual lines. It goes in an almost-chronological order even though there's no set song for each new scene. I wrote this out to be a jerky stop-and-go sort of storytelling to emphasize how Kurt can't keep time moving smoothly and how even though he's there, it's like he's not.
Warnings are: minor swearing, character death, and angstangstangst.
The piece of paper is frayed, worn thin in places where fingerprints have smeared the ink into blue-black bruises. Fold lines cross like rivers on the page, cutting words into half. Unsure hands shake as it's pulled from a back pocket for the thousandth time. For the last time.
Tears had blotched torn corners, fallen and splattered thick and heavy on the writing.
Another tear slips from Kurt's eye as he stands over the bed. He looks at Blaine's peaceful, sleeping form, reaches out a hand to stroke back an unruly black curl. He knows this is for the best, knows all the pain he's caused Blaine and how it needs to stop. He fingers the note again, tracing the outlines and rips that he's grown to know so well, before gently placing it on his still-warm pillow on the other side of the bed.
Kurt's voice cracks as he says, "I love you," one last time.
Turns and thinks, it should have been said more.
There's no going back as the front end of Kurt's car crashes through the guardrail and careens over the edge. He has a split second of utter panic, why did I do this, oh god why, eyes wide as he flies through the air, imagines his car is like the van in Inception, falling impossibly slowly, before finally hitting the water.
Everything suspended in a fraction of a second.
The flashback thing is true, because as he smashes forward onto the steering wheel he sees every memory he's ever had playing like it's being fast-forwarded. He knows, then, that he's fucked up. The seatbelt holds tight, and Kurt's fingers can't seem to work it.
Time's running out as the water gets darker.
The glass of the windows cracks, smashes open with the force of the water pressure as he sinks deeper, darker. Seeping cold and extreme panic are the last things he remembers.
Blaine wakes up in his own panic, chest heaving and eyes wide in the darkness. He closes them tightly and a tear trickles out from under one eyelid. "Shit," he breathes. He clenches at the sheets unconsciously for a few minutes before he calms down enough to think, his heart rate slowly returning to normal.
The nightmare had been so real. Kurt had gone off the edge of a bridge and Blaine was there, watching it all, completely helpless. His feet were frozen to the spot and his mouth was glued shut. He had gone to the gap in the guardrail, looked over through the twisted metal and saw the ripples splaying out over the river.
But no car.
"Kurt," Blaine says shakily, twisting his body to face the opposite side of the bed, wanting to forget everything in the familiar smell and warmth of Kurt's body. He creases his brow when he sees it's empty. He finds the note, carefully centered on the pillow, and stares before cautiously picking it up. He tenderly unfolds it, as if it's going to disappear in a cloud of smoke at any moment.
Blaine shakes his head as his eyes fly over the words, says, "No, no," and throws it to the bed. He gets up and runs out of the apartment, goes down to the parking garage in just his boxers.
He rushes to where Kurt's car is normally parked, bare feet cold on the concrete, and when he gets there it's empty, an ominous free spot that can only mean that Blaine wasn't truly dreaming. He opens his mouth but no sound comes out, tries to breathe and the breaths get lodged in his throat. It's a nightmare but he's not dreaming.
"Kurt!" he screams before falling to his knees and sobbing.
I love you. You know I do. But I… I know I've let you down in so many ways. I know I can't hold you back from what you really want to do, so I'm freeing you. After tonight you can do whatever, because I'll be gone. Don't think of it as your fault, because it's not. It never was.
I got addicted and I let it consume me. I now wish that I hadn't, because every day I see the pain in your eyes and I know it's not okay. No matter how many times you tell me that it will be I know that it won't. Someday this will all work out, because even though you can't save me in life, maybe I can save myself in death.
I love you. Forever.
When Kurt wakes up he blinks a few times to make sure he really is up. He doesn't feel anything even though the waves of the shore are lapping hungrily at his ankles; waves he knew were ice-cold before. The moon rests in the sky, the same one as when his car sank down.
He doesn't feel any pain, any sadness, any guilt. It was like his slate had been wiped clean, like he was born anew. His chest doesn't ache with the need to breathe. When he blinks it's purely out of reflex, not need.
There's no burn from where the seatbelt cut into his chest, no crushed ribs or flooded lungs.
His body feels lightweight when he pushes himself off the ground. The sand should be gritty against his palms, should dig into the soft skin, but it doesn't. It's like he doesn't exist.
Like he's a ghost.
He blinks again.
This time when Kurt comes around he's not on the shore anymore. He doesn't really know where he is, just that it's sometime in the late afternoon, the sun dipping below the horizon and casting long shadows on the ground. He doesn't remember anything between last night and now.
Kurt looks around and sees that it's a cemetery and he's not sure why he transported himself here. Where he's standing is fresh dirt, piled high. He stoops down to sift it through his fingers, but he finds that he can't touch it. He swivels and looks at the headstone, crying out when he sees that it's him.
He's standing on his own grave.
Next to the marble headstone there's a note. Kurt reaches down, surprised when his fingers make contact with it. He tenderly unfolds it, as if it's going to disappear in a cloud of smoke at any moment.
It was always my fault.
He may not feel guilt, but he feels regret. And just like that the sky clouds up and fat raindrops are pelting his body, ones that should be cold with winter temperatures but have no effect on him whatsoever.
He doesn't know what to do.
When Kurt finally gets control over his body it's been days, weeks even. He knows that by concentrating he can transport from one place to another. He knows that any memories he has of Blaine, or anyone else, are cracked like broken glass. Fuzzy like they're standing on the precipice of being lost forever.
Anymore, Kurt's alone in his world.
He misses Blaine, misses what he can remember of their time together even though it feels like he's swimming through jelly when he tries to conjure up memories and mental pictures. He misses waking up next to Blaine in the morning. Misses sleeping next to him every night.
When Kurt is outside, it rains. When he's inside it doesn't. He misses sun and warmth and everything that he had taken for granted when he was selfishly alive and continuously spiraling downward.
When he gets to the apartment he ends up in their bedroom. Clothes are strewn over every inch of carpet space. The sheets are unmade, hanging limply off the bed, navy blue comforter that they had picked out together twisted and snarled on the floor. Even in his state of limbo Kurt can feel the stagnant loneliness and desperation that is in here.
In the hallway he hears the soft patter of feet, and a few seconds later Blaine appears in the doorway, looking more tired and gaunt than Kurt—thinks—he remembers. The hair he had always so meticulously gelled since their Dalton days is longer, unrulier than when Kurt… died—and he shudders to think of that word because it's too true, too real—and hanging oily around his sallow, tired face.
The nightstand is covered with newspaper articles, and on the very top Kurt sees one, the headline saying they've found his car. The photo is of the police pulling it out of the water, the windows cracked and water spilling from every crevice. His death on cheap wood pulp, blown up in grainy ink for the area to see.
Kurt can see the ink splotched from tears. Just the way his note was.
Kurt stands by the corner, watches as Blaine collapses on the bed, curling in on himself, looking smaller than he ever has. Than Kurt thinks he ever has. Blaine's hand clutches at the sheets and Kurt can hear the deep breath that he takes. The phone rings but Blaine doesn't get up.
The answering machine kicks in, and Kurt's only half-surprised when he hears that it's still their old one, their two voices chorusing together to leave a message. Wes's voice comes on the machine. "Blaine, I'm worried about you. I spoke to Kurt's stepbrother and he says that you won't answer any calls. Apparently, you won't answer mine either. Please, just…" A pause and a heavy sigh. "We're all worried about you." A click and a dial tone.
Kurt blinks, closes his eyes for three seconds accidentally. When he opens them it's later and the sun's coming in low through the window, shading things in reds and blues, and Blaine has barely moved. At first Kurt's afraid that he's dead, but then he hears Blaine's voice, broken and whispering and hoarse from lack of use.
"Kurt, I miss you," he says, sniffles. "Fuck, I miss you so much. I feel like it's my fault that you're gone because I never said anything. I never told you enough how much I love you. Goddamnit, I never did."
Blaine rolls over and Kurt can see the tear tracks that are clearly marked onto his face like highways. Sees how his mouth is pulled into a tight frown, how his eyes are stormy and angry. Blaine says, "I tried to join you but I couldn't… I couldn't bring myself to do it."
Kurt sees the marks on his wrists from fumbled, half-hearted tries. Sees the pain clearly etched onto Blaine's face as he convulses in a sob. "I couldn't save you and I couldn't even bring myself to join you. I'm so pathetic."
You're not! Kurt wants to scream. He wants to yell and break things and tell Blaine that he's not the reason this happened. That he regrets taking his own life and he's the one who's so fucking pathetic.
"Why did you go?" Blaine asks the darkening room quietly, reaching a hand up to scrub at his eyes, smearing the tears that have fallen and gathered. "Why did you leave me?"
I had to! Kurt wants to yell. I'm sorry, but I had to!
Blaine's eyes dart around the room and he sighs in resignation when it remains still and quiet. There's so much that Kurt wants to say, things like I'm miserable without you and don't believe that it's better when you leave everything behind.
He reaches forward and blinks.
When he settles back into real time, night has long since settled. Blaine hasn't moved but his chest rises and falls steadily in sleep. The scene is so serene, so typical that for a millisecond Kurt almost believes that nothing is wrong.
Then he blinks again.
Apparently there are lots of rules to being an ethereal ghost-thing. After stepping half into a bright patch of sunlight he found himself transparent and somehow paralyzed until the sun sunk. The blinking thing, that he had figured out pretty quickly. Close your eyes for too long and time passed quickly. It's easy to miss everything when you're not really there.
The best way to travel is to focus hard on your destination.
It's strange, Kurt thinks as he floats from place to place undetected minus the occasional animal or passing child, that time passes so smoothly. When his car had crashed through the water it had been January. Now it's sometime around March, he reasons, if the changing scenery is any indication.
He's been dead for three months. Grass is spouting up over his grave when he visits it a second time, spring tulips and daises pushing their way through the frozen winter soil. He finds another note on his headstone. He reads it.
I still love you.
Blaine's two notes sit side-by-side at the base of Kurt's headstone, the first one in the first few stages of disintegrating. There are small bouquets of artificial flowers laid out by unknown people, some already fading with sun exposure. Kurt puts the note back down.
He feels like screaming at the injustice of it all. At his stupid fucking decision and leaving Blaine behind like the coward he is. He regrets his car going into the water and coming out a few days later with his body, his soulless shell still in it. He regrets making Blaine cry, regrets making him never move on because Kurt knows he won't.
It's raining again today, he notices.
Just like it does all the time for him.
"You were right," he says one night when he's hovering in his old apartment, Blaine sitting at the kitchen table looking thin and forlorn. "None of those people were ever my friends." He gives a hollow laugh and reaches for a half-empty glass of what he assumes is brandy that he knows he won't be able to grasp. His fingers slip through it like it's the thing that's not really there. "But I won't fall for it next time."
He feels anger being to bubble up inside as he says, "You know why, Blaine?"
Blaine remains as unaware and unresponsive as ever. The anger and energy boil over and Kurt can suddenly feel the glass in his fingers, can feel the weight against his palm and he never knew that ghosts had to be angry to physically move things. "I won't fall for it again because I'm dead!" he screams as he throws the glass as hard as he can.
In real time—as the glass crashes to the wall on the other side of the apartment in Kurt's time, shattering and spraying liquid everywhere—the glass flies a few feet before falling to the hardwood floor and shattering there, dark liquid seeping around the shards.
Blaine jumps out of his chair, knocking it over where it falls with a floor-shaking thump, and scrambles back until he's pressed as close as he can get against the wall. His eyes are round and unblinking and his breaths come in short, staccato pants. He looks for a few seconds like he wants to say something, but the want comes and goes, like it's too hard for him to think of the correct words.
He's terrified and also mystified and hopeful.
Kurt's still fuming, still angry enough that he could touch the coaster that the glass had been resting on and throw it to join the shards and brandy on the floor. He doesn't, choosing instead to gauge out Blaine's reaction.
Finally, what seems like minutes later, Blaine says in a timid voice, "…Kurt?"
"I'm here," Kurt replies, but his answer is unheard.
Blaine swallows, licks his lips and opens his mouth before pausing, drawing in a deep breath instead. "Kurt, if—if you're here, I… I still love you."
"I know," Kurt says softly. "I love you, too."
Blaine reaches out and Kurt reaches out. He imagines the warm feel of skin-on-skin, the familiar threading of Blaine's fingers between his, the security of being held. He imagines some fairytale ending where they touch and suddenly he becomes visible and they're both crying and laughing and everything is right again.
Kurt doesn't touch anything. His hand goes straight through Blaine's like it's not there, but he doesn't miss Blaine's shiver, how he retracts his hand as quick as possible and tears well up in his wide, wide eyes and he clenches and unclenches his hand.
Maybe it's a start.
His main reason for being, well, dead is that once he and Blaine had moved to New York the summer after their graduation Kurt had quickly discovered how cutthroat everything in the city was. Being a small-town kid from Ohio he had never really been fully exposed to the world of "thin is beauty," a prevalent motif in their new home and among his new, shallow friends.
Really, he was never expecting to fall so deep into that pit that he could never dig himself out.
He'd gotten into the wrong group of friends, ones who were already down in the pit, taking laxatives, diet pills, binging and purging and not eating and they looked so good and Kurt felt so average and fat next to them that in no time his mindset was jutting hipbones and prominent collarbones.
He stopped eating.
Blaine never noticed.
He lost weight.
Blaine still never noticed.
In the end, he couldn't handle it anymore.
"I always noticed," Blaine says late one night when Kurt is hovering unbeknownst in the corner of their bedroom. It's like he can feel the unrest in the air, like he's still reading Kurt's mind even when he's gone. "I noticed the moment you stopped eating. But I thought it was stress. I knew how… how hard college was for you. For us." He sniffles and draws the backside of a hand across his eyes. "I didn't want you lose you. But look where that got me."
Blaine draws his knees up to his chest, hooking his chin over them and staring unseeing at the wall next to Kurt. "I pushed you away because… because I didn't want to deal with the reality of the situation. I always thought that you were stronger than that, but I guess I made it all up in my head." He gives a humorless laugh; a sharp, quick bark of a noise. "It's over now, though. We both fucked up."
Kurt doesn't feel much anymore except regret, doesn't know how to keep track of things anymore because he's been dead, been in this horrible limbo, for far too long. He watches as Blaine slowly and steadily wastes away and if Kurt could he'd slap him, yell at him to stop being so dramatic and fucking move on with your life.
He knows the thoughts are for naught because no one can see him.
He knows that if he were in Blaine's place he'd be doing the same thing.
They're both weak. Maybe this was for the better.
Not long out of high school Finn and Rachel had gotten married and gotten pregnant. That was the end of their freshman year of college, and now little Barbra is three and toddling on unsteady legs around the apartment as Blaine slumps down onto the couch in the same sweatpants-and-v-neck combo he's been donning for two days now and avoids Finn and Rachel's sad, piteous looks.
"Blaine," Rachel says gently, placing a hand on his knee. "It's been almost two years." Kurt's eyebrows rise in shock; it's really been that long? "Haven't you… There's no one else?"
The look Blaine gives her is scathing. Kurt is mildly impressed. "The only one for me was Kurt," he snaps, pushing her hand angrily off of his knee, blinking fast to ward off tears. "Moving on is just… It's sacrilege."
Finn says nothing, but Kurt can see the hurt in his eyes, the unasked Why? that's hanging around him. He feels another momentary stab of guilt for hurting someone so gentle, so kind, someone who had made so much progress since their sophomore year of high school.
He's so caught up in watching Finn that he doesn't notice that Barbra has waddled her way over to him, her huge brown eyes alight with joy as she squeals, "Hi!" in a loud, squeaky voice.
Three heads whip her way, three sets of brows crinkled in various forms of confusion at the little girl staring at a wall like it's the most fascinating thing she's ever seen. Really, for someone who's three, it's not far from the truth, and Rachel almost returns to her grilling of Blaine when Barbra says again, "Mommy, look at the pretty angel!"
Kurt is almost flattered at the little Hudson's words before he realizes that he's invisible to the three adults in the room and that, ironically enough, "angel" was a favorite pet name that Blaine used frequently when they were alone.
He's standing at a blank stretch of cream-colored wall, no pictures in sight for her to have possibly been looking at.
He's still staring at Barbra as she reaches out for him—unable to touch, of course—but he hears Blaine's muffled sobs and sees in his peripheral vision Rachel rush over to grab her daughter's hand and pull her over toward the chair she had been previously sitting on.
No one says anything for awhile and Kurt loses his grasp of time.
It becomes night and the living room is empty.
It's raining outside.
Kurt's regret has ebbed like the tide and slowly, he's learning ways not to feel. He sings, sometimes, and he notices how Blaine seems to perk up when he does, how he'll stop whatever he's doing and carefully listen, like he can only hear the distant strains of a familiar voice.
It's a crazy thought, but isn't everything now?
As the regret fades more and more with each passing day, staying on the ground is becoming harder. Bright flashes of white will come and go, and Kurt knows that his time as a tortured soul is almost up. He can't hold off heaven's calling forever.
Gradually it rains less and less. Eventually it becomes a slow, continuous drizzle.
Blaine never gets better, but he never gets worse, either. Kurt thinks he's going to move on finally, that he's going to keep only a few pictures of him and Kurt around and find someone else who can bring that smile back to his face and the golden light to his hazel eyes.
Kurt stops singing under the pretense that Blaine needs less noise, less interference in his life. He leaves to visit his grave more frequently, and even though he thinks I miss you more than you know he knows that if Blaine's beginning to move on, then he should, too.
He goes back to the apartment for a final, one-sided goodbye when he sees Blaine curled up in a ball on the couch, his heart-wrenching sobs reverberating off the walls as he chokes out, "It's almost been two years, Kurt. Nearly two years without your smile every morning and your warmth every night and it's killing me. I miss you more than you know."
He echoes Kurt's thoughts, and suddenly the lights are off and Kurt's lost again.
Summer's arrived, Kurt can tell from the rain-soaked green leaves. His own rain has returned to a steady downpour again, and when he follows Blaine on his nightly walks aimlessly around the block, he finds it weird that Blaine doesn't get the slightest bit wet even though he knows that they exist in two different worlds now.
Walking at night like this, alone, is a death wish, and if Kurt hadn't been following Blaine's every move for two years he'd question his sanity, ask him why he's risking being mugged on the unforgiving streets of New York City.
Blaine hasn't been talking much—it's almost like he's retreated into himself—but on these walks he actively talks as if Kurt's there with him, and Kurt's mouth maybe twitches up into a smile or two when he realizes that, yes, he actually is there with Blaine and if only the other man knew how actively present he's been. He'll always be there, now that the light has faded and he's grounded again.
Blaine tells pointless stories with no beginning and no real ending. He'll talk about some people he's just met at work, how he thinks that Kurt isn't listening but also kind of feels like he is, and Kurt will answer in his own little timeframe, saying things like Can you please keep talking to me and I'm listening, of course I am.
"I hate walking alone," Blaine says one night, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans. "I can't stand how it feels. It's like I'm empty, like I'm truly alone." He draws in a shaky breath and Kurt is pleased to see that his hair is neatly trimmed but still loose and that he appears to have gained some of his weight and color back. Blaine chews on his lower lip for a second before saying, "I really don't know if you can hear me, Kurt, but you'll always be it for me. You were my endgame."
"Mine too," Kurt whispers and doesn't stop himself from reaching out, brushing his fingers over the thin sleeve of Blaine's shirt and pretending that he can feel the fabric underneath his fingertips.
The shudder that it draws from Blaine means that at least one of them feels something.
Kurt eventually comes to the conclusion that he's stuck here in this purgatory of sorts just for Blaine, to try and help him through the grief. Personally, Kurt thinks he's doing a pretty lousy job because Blaine just fell and fell until he stopped and stayed where he was at. Never got better and never got worse.
If this was some kind of heaven test, Kurt is well aware that he's failed it miserably.
But he doesn't even care because he just misses Blaine and their lazy days and being there both emotionally and physically. This is hell being unable to do anything but stand on the outside—metaphorically—and look in as the man he loved—loves—gradually loses himself to grief. Grief Kurt himself caused because he wasn't strong enough to pull himself out of his own rut.
The regret has come back stronger than ever and Kurt wishes he could cry, wishes that he wasn't so goddamn numb about everything else. He wants to get angry and throw things again, things to get Blaine's attention to forget about him and please find someone else and have a happy life. He'll understand.
Only, he won't. He won't understand and selfishly he doesn't want Blaine to move on.
For the first time in… Days? Months? Years? Kurt blinks and everything fast forwards.
The apartment is empty when he regains his bearings. He doesn't know how much time has passed because everything looks the same, albeit a little dusty and untouched. He doesn't think much of it; Blaine was never much of a cleaner, grief-stricken or otherwise.
He entertains himself in Blaine's absence by looking at the various photos still up in the apartment, photos of a happier time back in Ohio when they were still young and stupid. Kurt still wants to feel the pinch of tears behind his eyelids, just to prove that he's still a human being, body notwithstanding, but he's dry and numb, like he has been since he crashed.
He's just tracing a finger along a photo of them taken a few days before they moved to New York—they're both smiling with arms slung around each other's shoulders, sky a bright Ohio blue behind them—when he feels a tap on his shoulder. He jumps at the touch, a foreign feeling that shouldn't be, and whirls around. His mind blanks.
"Excuse me," Blaine says, a warm smile on his face that's been too, too absent in the two years of following him around like a shadow. He has an ethereal glow to him and Kurt knows without really even knowing what Blaine has done. "Can I ask you a question? I'm new here."
"Blaine," Kurt not-really breathes out. "Oh Jesus, Blaine. You didn't."
"I love you," is Blaine's response, so pure and simple that Kurt can't help but say "I love you, too, been saying that for years now." They embrace and it's like no time at all has passed, and Kurt doesn't need Blaine to explain anything, not right now when they hold on to each other and gradually, gradually it stops raining.
The light comes back and now, Kurt's not so lost.