Just before reaching the highway, Kurt pulled the Mustang over to the side of the road. Blaine turned in his seat to see his boyfriend gripping the steering wheel with shaking hands. His skin was deathly pale, but blotches of red painted his cheeks.
"Do you need me to drive?"
Kurt's neck snapped in his direction. "Do I need …? Blaine." A note of hysteria crept into Kurt's voice. "Your family is unbelievably cruel, and you're still asking what I need?
"Right now, I just want to get back to your house."
Blaine climbed out of the car and rounded the hood. Kurt had slid over into the passenger seat by the time he got to the driver's side door. He stroked Blaine's cheek as soon as he was settled behind the wheel, and the shorter boy smiled sadly at him.
"I'm not upset, Kurt. But I know you are. You don't have to touch me."
"How can you not be upset?"
"I just can't think about it right now. I'm thinking about one thing at a time, and right now, that's getting to your house."
"I don't care about going home."
"Well, I do! I feel like everything will be all right if I can just get to your house. Is that selfish enough for you?"
"That's hardly selfish at all. But it'll have to do."
Blaine eased the Mustang back onto the road, and two hours later, pulled into the Hummel's driveway. Before he'd even gotten the car into park, Burt came storming out of the house. Kurt's dad was already dressed for their evening at the Lima Community Center in a pair of pressed khakis, a blue button down, and no baseball cap. Blaine found himself pulled into a hug the moment he stepped out of the car.
"You're all right, kid."
"Dad … there's more. After I texted, something else happened."
Burt saw the bruise from Alec's fist on Blaine's cheeks and his face darkened. Before he could work himself into a frenzy and hurt his heart, Blaine hurriedly explained about the fight in the parking lot. Kurt watched him closely for any sign of hysteria waiting to creep back in.
But Blaine didn't feel volatile or manic anymore. He felt calm, like the turmoil inside had dampened down at long last. Would something unexpected set him off in the future? Possibly. Probably. He wasn't going to kid himself that everything was okay now. But he'd walked away from a fight with his father for the first time ever. Now that he'd found the strength to do it once, he thought he could do it a hundred times.
Not that he planned on having a hundred fights with his dad. He fully expected he would not see his family in the foreseeable future. Summer approached rapidly, so he couldn't stay at Dalton, and if his dad followed through on the threat to not pay tuition next year, maybe he'd never be going back. But Nick lived in a house with too many rooms and not enough parental supervision; Wes's mom had long ago started calling the guest room 'Blaine's room'; there was the possibility of performing at Six Flags in Chicago all summer; and he had a home with the Hummels.
No, Blaine would not be going back to his parents' houses for quite some time.
"Sounds like I'd better never meet your dad or I'd be going to jail," Burt commented. "But what are you thinking, kid?"
Burt put his hand on Blaine's shoulder and squeezed. The gesture comforted Blaine in ways he couldn't articulate. It was their thing, he realized. They had a thing. He could smile just a little and jerked his head towards the deck.
"Can we sit?"
Burt and Blaine settled onto the edge of the deck with their legs hanging over the side. Kurt hovered for a moment, unsure if he should stay or go, until Blaine beckoned him over. He sat on the other side of Blaine and wrapped both hands around one of Blaine's.
"Talk to me, Blaine," Burt directed, concern lacing his voice. "I don't like seeing you this calm after what you just told me. There's something you're thinking that you haven't said yet."
Blaine swallowed thickly. "Do you know of anyone who would be interested in buying a rebuilt vintage Mustang? I think I'd like to drive … a Camry."
He saw the worried look pass between Burt and Kurt. They thought he'd cracked. Their worry for him made him grin, which only called his mental health into question even more, which in turn made him laugh a little, and the vicious cycle continued until he got himself under control.
"I'm not going back to live with my parents anymore," he announced. "I know I'm not eighteen yet, and technically, they could probably force me, but something tells me they don't care enough to go to that trouble."
"That sounds like a good idea," Burt stated, his brow still creased. "Are you asking if you can live here?"
"No. No, I can't impose – "
"Because I would say yes. All you have to do is ask."
Blaine mouthed wordlessly at his boyfriend's father. Kurt's hand seized around his so tightly it hurt a little. He knew Kurt wanted him to ask, but he wouldn't yet. They'd been friends and lived across the hall from each other, but they were boyfriends now and it was too soon. He had Nick, Wes, Jeff, and David, and he suspected most of the other Warblers too.
"Thank you, sir. I actually … I brought it up because I want to explain."
"I think it's obvious," Kurt chimed in. "You don't have to explain anything."
"But I do. Because I told you to do things, Kurt, that I've never done. I told you to stand up to Karofsky and to educate him. And now here I am, again, running away."
Blaine sighed and ducked his head.
"I have to explain because I don't want you to think I'm a coward and a hypocrite and a bad son. I want you to be able to respect me as a man. And how can you do that if all you ever see is me running away?"
Kurt's jaw worked, but no sound came out. He turned his shining blue-green eyes onto his father, silently begging him to have some words of wisdom. Burt sighed and ran a hand over his bald head.
"You ever think about the difference between 'running away' and 'walking away'?" Burt asked. "When you run away, you're scared, you just want to put distance between yourself and the people or things that are hurting you. It's instinct, it's adrenaline. But when you walk away, you're calm, you've thought about it and you're separating yourself from something toxic. It's deliberate, it's logical. And it's a hell of a lot harder than most people think it is.
"Abuse of any kind is like an addiction. After awhile, you don't know how to live without it. A world full of love and kindness doesn't make sense to you anymore. So walking away, you don't think it's an option because you don't know what else is out there. I hope I don't sound conceited when I say that maybe my family showed you there is something better and that you deserve it.
"So, no, Blaine, I don't think it makes you a coward or a bad son that you're walking away. I think that, finally, you're taking your own advice. You're standing up to your bully in the only way he'll understand. I think that makes you brave."
Blaine had always known moments of clarity existed. He had experienced two himself: one during Kurt's rendition of "Blackbird" and one just yesterday by the duck pond. He had realized truths about other people that changed the way he felt about them. But he had never understood himself so well as he did in that moment. Everything that he hated about himself, everything he did that baffled him, it suddenly all coalesced into a stunningly clear portrait of a man.
For the first time, he saw himself objectively. Not in relation to other people, not as a son or boyfriend or brother or student. But as Blaine. Some things he saw, he didn't like; some he thought he could change with work; but mostly, he loved what he saw, and finally, he understood how others could love him too.
He felt Burt's arm around his shoulder and heard Kurt's weepy sniffs before he realized he was crying. But his tears weren't full of sorrow or grief. Laughter punctuated his gasps and bittersweet happiness swelled in his heart.
"Thank you," he murmured over and over.
The Andersons would never be the Hummels. They would always be consumed by anger and resentment, just as they always had been. But Blaine could step out of the cycle, could be better than his upbringing. He had the support and courage to do it.
Blaine Anderson had learned how to save himself.
Thank you for reading Catch the Wind. Your reviews and messages have blown me away. I'm so touched that you've favorite, alerted, and reviewed this story. The outpouring of love I've received has amazed me.
As you may know, Catch the Wind is the first sequel I've ever completed. Will there be another sequel? No. Walking away from abuse is a heroic victory. I can think of no happier ending than the one I've written.
If you feel so compelled, please leave me a review to let me know what you thought of the story.
Until next time,