Author's Note: All I'll say up here is I'm sorry it took so long, this has been such a hectic summer. Final notes are at the end.
Chapter 31 - Black Star
The fever broke overnight for Blaine, curled up in Kurt's arms. He woke with a clear head, chest still aching, but overall not like he wanted to climb into bed and never leave again. Kurt, however, was not so lucky. The medicine wore off while he slept and he woke sweating and shaking in Blaine's arms, tears seeping into Blaine's shirt as he sobbed. It had been everyone this time, screaming out in anguish that Kurt couldn't save them from. Someone had been holding his hands behind his back, laughing silkily in his ear, and he twisted desperately until he woke to Blaine's lips over his, whispering love onto his skin. He let Blaine hold him until the shakes stopped.
A phone call came from Blaine's mother soon after, and he had to leave Kurt's bed, giving him one last, desperate kiss and a promise that he would be back as soon as he could. Kurt watched him go, blinking into sleep and back out when Carole pressed another couple of spoonfuls of medicine between his lips. She drew him a bath, which he walked to on shaky legs and then curled up under the water, on the edge of sleeping and slipping under. His father knocked on the door and he was too weak to protest as he was washed, his hands covering himself in some attempt at decency.
"Come on," Burt said, putting a hand under his arm. "Can you get out?"
"Yeah," Kurt whispered, leaning heavily on his father and stumbling out of the bath and into the waiting towel. "Thanks, Dad." He leaned into Burt, resting his head on his chest and sighing into him.
"Need to make sure you're okay," Burt replied, an arm around Kurt's shoulders despite the water on his skin.
Kurt didn't say anything, just leaned and rested and breathed his father in before he was led back to his room. He dried himself off and put on the clean pyjamas laid out on his fresh sheets. Carole had been in here, he could tell, and there was more water on the bedside table, a vase of flowers beside it. He climbed back into bed, coughing into the back of his hand and picking up his phone. There were a few messages of love and concern from Blaine which he replied to with a smile, and words of worry from Mercedes which warmed his heart. There was nothing from Rachel, which he tried not to think too much on. She was at his house so often now, he was sure she would know that he was sick. He wasn't expecting messages, but it was odd not to have heard from her at all.
Finn clumped into his room with another tray some time later. Kurt wasn't sure of time any more; it was all fluid, sleep and waking shivering together like ink on water. Kurt chewed at the edge of his toast without butter, propped up on his pillows, and watching Finn in the chair beside his bed.
"I don't even know if I love Quinn any more," Finn said, rubbing a hand over his face. "She tries to control everything and everyone in her life, even us, and I don't know if I can deal with it."
It was hard for Kurt to decide whether to be Blaine's boyfriend or Finn's brother at that moment. Loyalty was a convoluted concept. In the end, he tried for both. "If breaking up is the best for both of you, you shouldn't be afraid of it."
"You think I should break up with her?"
"You just said that you don't think you love her. I'm not telling you what to do. It's not my relationship. I just know that if you're doubting how you feel about her, you should… maybe tell her?" Finn nodded, reaching out to pick at Kurt's bedspread. "Is this to do with Rachel?"
"What?" He looked up at Kurt, expression almost guilty. "No. Well… kind of, I guess. Just that she's so different, you know? She reminded me what it's like when everything just works. It's easy to be with her."
"Relationships are never easy, Finn."
"I know, but." He groaned. "This isn't coming out right. She makes me remember what I always wanted. It was never like this with Quinn, she's always too focused on other people and what they think of us, and her own popularity. It's all about image with her."
"Rachel's just… Rachel. It's nice."
Kurt nodded, nibbling at the last piece of toast. "Have you seen her lately?"
"Rachel? No, not since before Prom. I thought she was hanging out at Blaine's house or something."
"You haven't spoken to her at all?"
"No. Have you?"
"No," Kurt said, frowning. He grabbed his phone, shooting off a text to Mercedes. "Neither has Blaine."
"Huh." Finn sat up in his chair. "I don't know, I didn't want to push too much, so I just left it.
"Wait, what day is it?"
Finn gave him a strange look. "Tuesday. Dude, how out of it are you?"
"Very," Kurt muttered, picking up his phone again. The least he could do was warn Blaine that he might be getting a heartbroken Quinn that afternoon. "Look, I'll call Rachel and see where she's been. You just… go and sort out your life."
Finn chuckled, pushing himself out of the chair like it was a monumental effort. "Alright, bro. Say 'hi' to Rachel for me, yeah?"
"Yeah," Kurt said, forcing a smile. As soon as Finn was gone he grabbed his water and drank half of it, desperately trying to abate the headache he could feel pressing at his temples. His chest blocked up and he cleared his throat a couple of times, coughed once, drank more water and leaned his head back against the wall. Why did everything around him always fall apart?
Blaine gave Quinn a tight hug when she arrived. He'd already bought her coffee, as well as a cookie to make her feel better. When he had ushered her into her seat she gave him a suspicious frown over the tabletop.
"What's going on?"
"I – nothing." So it hadn't happened yet. "I'm just really glad that we're friends."
Quinn narrowed her eyes at him. "No, that's not it. What have you done?"
Blaine's stomach curled in on itself because that was the problem really, wasn't it? He had done so many things wrong and hurt Quinn so many different ways without her even knowing. "No, it's… I just…"
Quinn's phone buzzed on the tabletop. She picked it up, glancing over at him once she'd read the caller ID. "It's Finn."
"Oh. Yeah, answer it." He bit his lip, watching her pick up the phone. He crossed his fingers under the table that Finn had the decency to at least break up with his girlfriend face to face. He listened to Quinn's side of the conversation, but it gave very little away. When she hung up the phone, she didn't look crushed and she hadn't yelled, so he hoped for the best.
"He wants to see me."
"Okay. Do you need to leave?"
"Not just yet." She wrapped both her hands around her cup and dropped her head. "He's going to break up with me."
"He invited me to his house."
"He what?" Blaine snapped, realising too late that he hadn't reined in his shock. Quinn looked up at him, frowning again. "He's just, um, he's never done that, right?"
"No, because he thinks I'm going to sell out his faerie stepbrother."
Blaine choked on the air in his throat and quickly brought his cup to his lips to stop him from saying something stupid. On the other side of the table, Quinn groaned. "And there, I did it. That makes two times."
Blaine didn't say anything; couldn't say anything.
"Do you have a problem with faeries?" she asked, wondering at his choking silence.
"No." The word came out too vehemently and Quinn sat back a little. "No. I'm… you could, um, call me a faerie rights activist."
Quinn's lips parted, but it took her while to find a reply. "So I guess you don't agree with me outing him to you."
Blaine could feel his resolve buckle and crumble: he couldn't keep lying to her like this. "Look, Quinn—"
The phone buzzed again and she snatched it up. "Yes, Finn, I'm on my way." She stood up, slinging her bag over her shoulder and draining her cup. "I'll be there soon." She hesitated before leaning over to hug Blaine goodbye. He clutched her to him, hoping this wouldn't be the last time he had the chance, and tried to thread every inch of apology into that embrace. She pulled back with a slight sheen over her eyes, hanging up the phone and staring at it for a moment. "I'll see you next week."
When Kurt emerged from his room feeling like a fully functioning human being two days later, it was to find his living room full of people, posters, blaring television and scattered remnants of abandoned speeches. He paused in the doorway, watching Mercedes and Blaine pick up a pile of posters, evidently ready to paper the neighbourhood once more. Carole was sitting with Burt as he edited something at the coffee table. Finn was intently watching WOHN, where they were announcing the latest polls between Burt and the other candidates. Rachel was in the corner, fiddling with a piece of paper. Even Mercedes' family was there, her parents in discussion next to Burt and Carole, Abel curled up on the couch with Finn. There were piles of newspapers – all the locals and the state-wide – on all surfaces. It was madness.
Blaine saw him first, grinning widely and bounding over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "You're feeling better."
"Yeah," Kurt said, still looking around at the room. "What's going on?"
"Your dad has an election to win," Mercedes said, joining them in the doorway. "I know you've been sick, but don't tell me you've forgotten."
"Wow," Kurt said, watching Mercedes' father reach over and edit something for Burt. "Your family's helping?"
"They thought it was about time our families joined. We're not kids any more, so accidental connection's much less likely. Plus, our parents get on really well."
Kurt grinned, reaching out to squeeze her hand. He linked his arm through Blaine's, pulling on the pile of posters to see what they said. "Wait, tomorrow? He's debating tomorrow? He didn't tell me."
"You would have tried to get out of bed," Blaine said, raising his eyebrows when Kurt made a noise of denial.
"Wait, what are you all doing here? It's the middle of the day."
Mercedes frowned at him. "School's out, remember?"
"You're all on vacation?"
"Free, all day, every day," Blaine said, grinning widely at him. His eyes were sparkling and Kurt was sure Mercedes knew what he was getting at, but couldn't care. He laughed and took half the pile from Blaine.
"Well, let's get postering. Put all your free time to good use."
Kurt pulled his hat lower, trying to cover his face a little more. He looked around the hall, bare hands tucked into his elbows with Blaine and Mercedes flanking him. There were so many people, more people than he'd expected. It brought him back to Times Square and his hand slipped out to clutch tightly to Blaine's. Blaine stepped closer to him, hiding their hands between their bodies, and Kurt held back a sigh. He didn't think he'd ever get used to the outside world, where he and Blaine had to hold back from being themselves.
Carole settled them into the front row, Finn by her side. Rachel settled in next to him, then Mercedes, Kurt and Blaine. In the row behind them, Mercedes' and Rachel's parents were discussing their own "child prodigies". Kurt huffed a laugh, leaning into Blaine.
A man walked out onto the raised stage at the front of the room, tapping on a microphone and effectively silencing the crowd. He looked out at them with a wide smile, introducing their candidates for the evening. Behind him, they filed onto the stage, each taking a seat at the back. Burt was spruced up in a suit; he'd wanted to keep to flannel and a cap, take his place as one of the people, but Kurt and Carole had given him identical looks and he had relented.
They watched a few of the other candidates take to the podium. Kurt couldn't understand how some of them were actually running for this, with the things they talked about. Even more shocking was that a lot of the crowd seemed to like their "policies".
When Burt finally stood behind the microphone, Kurt's fingers squeezed painfully tight around Blaine's. Burt looked out at the room, gave a smile and gruff clearing of his throat, then glanced down at his notes before training his eyes up again. He caught Kurt's gaze as he began to speak.
"Equality. That's one word I believe you should be hearing a lot in the coming months. Marriage equality. Social equality. Equality in healthcare, equality in taxes and funding. Equality in faerie rights.
"We're all equal. Whether our blood runs red or blue, it doesn't matter because we're the same. I don't back the faerie rights repeal bill. I will never back it because it goes against all those things I believe are right for our country. This is America, the country of freedom. Of dreams. A place where everyone should be able to get what they dream of if they work hard enough. You take rights away from people, people just like us no matter what we call them, then you take away those chances. America takes more than one step backwards into segregation and prejudice. I thought we had moved on from that and I want us to keep on moving into a better society, an equal society."
Kurt blinked hard, pushing back the tears welling up. He watched his dad stand in front of so many people and speak from his heart about the people's rights, about his son's rights, and it gave Kurt an aching, expansive feeling in his chest; the kind of ache that warms, like his heart was growing and his chest was stretching to accommodate it. He was proud, he was grateful, and for the first time in a long time he was hopeful.
They waited for Burt outside the hall, where people were milling about exchanging chit chat and views on the debate. Kurt kept his fingers locked with Blaine's, glancing around at the people spilling out of the doors.
They both looked up, and in front of them was a blonde family of three, parents making polite conversation with other locals and the neat and beautiful features of Quinn Fabray smiling at them. "Quinn, hi," Blaine said, leaning over to give her a hug. "I didn't know you would be here."
"Same here. You came all the way from Westerville?"
"Yeah, well, can't miss Burt Hummel," Blaine said with a wide grin. Kurt smiled beside him and Quinn's gaze slid to him. Glancing down, she noted their locked hands.
"Oh, you must be the boyfriend." She grinned, holding out a hand. "Quinn Fabray."
Kurt stared down at her hand, trying to think of a way out of this. He didn't have gloves – stupidity, utter stupidity. He began to reach his hand out, but Blaine's hand came up to take his arm just as "Kurt Hummel" fell from Kurt's lips before he could think.
"Hummel?" Quinn said, hand still poised. She looked at Blaine's restraining fingers curiously.
"Hey, bro, want to go for dinner when Burt's out?" Finn clapped Kurt on the shoulder, making him teeter towards Quinn, and Blaine pulled him back sharply.
"Finn," Kurt said, looking up at him. Quinn's head turned sharply, as did Finn's, and the two of them stared at each other.
"Quinn, um, hi." Finn took a step back, face falling. Quinn's eyes moved to behind Finn's shoulder, where Rachel was hovering near Carole, watching them. Her mouth thinned out.
Blaine thought she was going to turn away and leave them, but she suddenly span back to stare at them. Her eyes moved from Finn to Kurt to Blaine, to Kurt and Blaine's hands, then up to Blaine's face. "No."
"Quinn." Blaine let Kurt go, darting towards her. "Please, I was going to tell you."
She stepped away, holding up her hands. She looked back at her parents, gestured with her head, and led them away. Blaine called after her, but she pushed through the crowd, moving her family away with military precision. Blaine watched her go, a rushing sound in his ears. It had all crashed down so quickly. She hadn't screamed, or cried, or slapped him. There had just been nothing. No bang; not even a whimper.
Kurt's hand wrapped around his arm. "Blaine, I'm so sorry."
"Wait, you know Quinn?" Finn asked, a deep frown between his eyebrows. Mercedes and Rachel had moved forwards curiously, crowding around them. Blaine took a step back, into Kurt's chest, and tried to steady his breathing.
"Burt!" Carole called to her husband over the crowd and everyone paused a moment before stepping back and moving to greet the man of the hour. Kurt rubbed Blaine's arms, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. He could feel him shaking.
"It's okay," Blaine blurted. He took Kurt's hand. "It'll be okay. She'll be there on Tuesday and we'll just… she'll be there."
Kurt just pressed a kiss to his forehead and drew him over to Burt.
The next few days were one large flurry. Paper seemed to cover the entirety of the Hummel household and the news was constantly in the background. Tuesday came and went, with a red-eyed Blaine stumbling through Kurt's door in the evening.
Rachel faded. She hid behind the activity and the swift talking, sliding into corners and helping in silence. She didn't cling to Finn, she barely spoke to anyone. She was so different from the Rachel she had been that Kurt didn't even notice she was there sometimes. He looked up and jumped when he caught sight of her on the couch.
"Rachel, when did you get here?"
She looked up at the clock. "About four hours ago. I brought vegan cookies if you want them." She looked back at her lap, where she was obsessively rearranging a stack of promotional leaflets. "It's Wednesday."
"Yes," Kurt replied, standing to move and sit beside her. "What's so special about Wednesday?"
"It's after Tuesday."
Kurt laughed, bumping his shoulder against hers. "And why does Tuesday matter?"
Rachel was silent for a minute. She stacked, turned, lined up, turned, lined up. The pile was neat to the point of pain. She looked up around them, checking for others, but they were surprisingly all doing some other job. "Did Quinn show up?"
"Coffee with Blaine, did she show up?"
"No." Kurt watched her turn the pile a few more times before taking it from her. "Rachel, what's going on? Why are you asking about Quinn?"
Rachel stood up, walking to the window, and Kurt allowed himself a smile. She was still Rachel, living her life like one big stage, even if she was more like the tree in the background right now. "I feel bad for her. She and Finn were dating for a long time."
"Do you think you played a part in it? Is that the problem?" He didn't follow her to the window. He allowed her that little drama of distance.
There was silence as Kurt watched Rachel stare out at the street. She crossed her arms, taking a breath in and ducking her head. "Yes." She shook her head. "I'll get over it, Kurt. Don't worry."
The front door opened and Rachel shrank back, scuttling into a corner at the sound of Burt and Finn's footsteps heading into the living room. Burt took off his cap and wiped his brow, sweating from the heat outside. "Only a day now, Kiddo," he said, grinning at Kurt. "How's it feel?"
"Well, I know you're going to win, so it feels pretty good," Kurt replied with a smile of his own.
There were more footsteps, on the stairs this time, as Finn dropped onto the sofa, stretching his legs out and turning up the volume on the TV. Blaine came in behind Burt, glancing at Rachel with a creased brow before heading to Kurt.
"Is this mine?" Kurt asked, reaching out to stroke the cardigan Blaine was wearing.
Blaine blushed. "I might have spilt coffee on mine."
"So you're just taking my clothes now?"
Blaine hugged him from behind, murmuring into his ear, "You love it."
"It doesn't go with your outfit."
"That's a lie and you know it."
"I think we've established that I'm the one with taste here. It's the wrong shade."
Blaine huffed and squeezed Kurt's shoulders a little too hard. He stepped into the kitchen and returned with a cookie in each hand, one of which he passed to Kurt. "Vegan cookies, courtesy of one Rachel Berry."
Rachel looked up at her name, as did Finn. He jumped, noticing her for the first time. "Hey, Rachel, didn't see you there."
Rachel's answering smile was brittle, but Finn didn't seem to notice. "Hi." She looked away and straightened the pile of newspapers on the dresser.
The evening was a strange sort of calm. There was nothing more they could do now – Burt had promoted and spoken and debated and plastered the whole town. All they could do was wait. The stillness buzzed and Kurt crawled into bed far too early after Blaine left to try to escape it. He lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, wishing the pressing feeling on his chest would go away. He couldn't shake the sense that something was coming. The other shoe was going to drop, and it was going to drop hard.
He rolled over, pulled a pillow to his chest and curled his body around it, balling up to push the tension out of his body. It stayed, wrapped around his muscles, and his eyes stayed open and trained on the wall.
Kurt was downstairs with the dawn, eyes dry and head pounding. He went out to see if there was any post, grabbing the paper and throwing some advertising leaflets away on his way inside. He passed the stacks of newspapers in the living room, the last words of the headline about the faerie rights bill sliding across his vision. His stomach twisted up again at the thought of people writing up the words to sign away his freedom. He dropped the post and the paper on the kitchen table and made himself a cup of coffee, sitting down and taking a sip. He blinked a few times, clearing his eyes, and unfolded the paper.
His cup landed heavily on the table, coffee sloshing over the sides and spraying onto the paper. Some of the flecks landed on the large photo on the front page, across his own chest. A huge copy of himself stared back at him. He gaped at it, eyes roving across it. He was entering the house, smiling and looking back at someone. It was Blaine – he was holding his hand – but his face was hidden. Kurt didn't need to look at the headline to know what it said; the words 'gay faerie son' were painted all over it.
His chair clattered to the floor as he ran to the bathroom, falling over the toilet and dry retching into it. His stomach was empty and his throat worked around nothing as he gasped over the bowl.
"Kurt?" His father's voice was at the doorway. Kurt retched again. There was a hand at his back and Burt's hand was pressed against his forehead. "Are you sick again?"
Kurt shook his head, slumping back against the wall. "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry."
"What are you talking about?"
"Burt." Carole came into the bathroom, paper clutched in one hand. Her wide eyes found Kurt's as she held it out with a shaking grip. "I think you should take a look at this."
The cheer when Burt won wasn't as loud as it should have been. Maybe it was because all of Kurt's senses seemed dulled, like the world was on mute. There were camera flashes everywhere, local press capturing those first moments with their new congressman. A man Kurt didn't know grabbed his arm and he flinched, but he wasn't released until he was shoved up beside his father and Carole and told to smile.
"The people are changing," Burt said over the celebration dinner. Carole had cooked for twenty and was beaming as she spooned food onto plates, the smile only dropping occasionally when she looked over at Kurt. "They knew about us." He paused, looking to his son. "They knew about Kurt, and they still voted me in. Maybe they don't care who's a faerie and who isn't, or maybe they want to back the equality we stand for. Either way, Ohio is different."
"They wouldn't have voted for you if they didn't trust you, Dad." Kurt squeezed his arm. "I'm proud of you. We all are."
A cheer rose around the table and people raised their glasses in toast. Kurt watched them all, the world back in full focus. Blaine took his hand under the table and they shared a smile. Burt was right: things were changing. They weren't sure if it would be for the better, but change was change; change was healthy. Kurt gripped Blaine's hand and looked around at his family, and for that moment he was sure they could take any change the world threw at them.
Author's Note: (The FINAL One) We've come to the end! Well, the half-end, as there is still the sequel. I plan to write that all before I begin posting, so if it takes a while, never fear. It's taken me about a year to get here. I've learned so many things about these characters, and about fic writing in general, from writing this. I hope you guys have enjoyed the ride as much as I have.