A/N: Many many thanks to my amazing beta, t-vo0810, for her patience and guidance, and to cakecakecake13, who again shared her medical expertise for this chapter!
Someone is screaming.
Up and down, up and down, someone wails, not even bothering to stop for a breath.
"Blaine? Can you hear me? Open your eyes, Blaine."
My eyelids flutter open, and a man in a white collared shirt swims across my vision.
"Good, that's good. Do you know where you are?"
The scream seems to grow louder. My head is killing me. "What?"
"Do you—" The man keeps talking, but the shrieking wail drowns him out.
"Screaming," I murmur. "Stop the screaming."
The man turns and yells something, something about a switch, and the noise cuts out all at once. I suck in a sharp breath of relief. The room we're in is shaking, vibrating, humming. But the walls aren't screaming anymore.
"Do you know where you are?"
There's another man crouched on the other side of me. He's dressed in a thick navy coat with a patch on it. He's grasping my elbow. There's a sharp pinch, I flinch, and then my shoulder cries out sharply in pain. Or maybe that's me.
My limbs feel so heavy, and I sink through the sheets, through the floor, through the ground, through the earth as the wail begins anew.
It's hard to stay awake.
It's hard to stay asleep, too, with how often nurses keep waking me to ask me questions. But once that's over, I drift off to sleep again, especially when the morphine kicks in. It's a strange sort of sleep, though. My eyes are closed, my body limp, but bits of conversations around me scuttle their way into my ears and crawl into my brain:
"Shouldn't have let him go. This never would have happened if we'd kept him at home."
"Vitals look good. Let's get a CT scan of his head, check for hemorrhage."
"What were we supposed to do, lock him in his room? He's nineteen, Cecelia. Whether we like it or not, he's an adult."
"I'm so sorry, Blaine. I just wanted to protect you, and look what happened."
I wake up for a while, when the room has grown hushed and still. I look around blearily at my hospital room. There's an IV tube stuck in one of my arms. The other arm is in a sling; I guess I was right about my shoulder being dislocated. I wiggle my fingertips, wiggle my toes. How long have I been asleep?
Mom is slumped awkwardly in a chair beside me, leaning forward against my bed, her head and arms resting on the sheets beside me. Dad is in a recliner on my other side, twisted uncomfortably and frowning in his sleep. I watch them both for what might be hours, but might also be seconds. In either case, I watch them, and they don't move.
The room is bright when I wake again. Mom and Dad are standing in the doorway, talking with someone who's standing in the hall. I strain my ears to listen, and when I hear a faint voice, my eyes widen and I struggle to sit up.
Dad glances over at me, then does a double-take, hurrying to my side. He whispers my name, his palm hovering above my head as though he's afraid to touch me. Mom runs over too, her eyes bright with tears.
I try to speak, but my throat is too dry, and I start to cough. Mom grabs a pitcher of water off my nightstand and, with trembling hands, fills a cup and sticks a straw in it. Gratefully I lean forward, drinking thirstily.
Once the cup is empty, I lie back again, sighing in relief. "Thanks, Mom," I say, and they both breathe in sharply.
"We were afraid you might not..." My dad blinks rapidly. "Well. You're awake. Thank god."
"Can we get you anything?" Mom asks. "Are you in any pain?"
I glimpse some movement near the door, and a tall brown-haired figure darts out of sight. I take a shaky breath.
"Who was that? Who were you talking to, before?"
My parents glance at each other.
Dad shakes his head. "I..."
"Blaine," Mom says softly, reaching over to take my good hand. "You, ah... you have a boyfriend. He cares for you very much. You care for each other very much."
"I know this might be overwhelming right now," Dad says, "but once you're feeling a bit better, you can meet him."
My chest feels tight all of a sudden, like my heart is too big for the space. "You could've just said it was Kurt, guys."
"You... oh." Mom huffs out a sound of surprise. "Sorry."
"Don't be." I squeeze her hand tightly. "Don't be. That... that means a lot."
"Do you want to talk to him?" Dad asks.
He turns and strides over to the door, disappearing down the hall. Mom strokes my head gently, tutting over the state of my hair. "You need a good shampooing," she murmurs.
"What'd the doctors say about my head?"
"Another concussion. You were lucky he only hit you once." She swallows thickly, then turns away.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I never meant for any of this to happen."
"I know you didn't."
I can't give her a proper hug, not with my arm in a sling, so I wrap my good arm around her back, patting her awkwardly so I don't dislodge the IV.
Dad comes back into the room, looking perplexed. "He was just here," he says. "I don't know where he went. Your friends said they saw him heading for the elevators a couple of minutes ago."
I frown at that, then blink. "My friends?"
"Didn't you hear them earlier? They were all singing together, until one of the orderlies told them to stop."
"They've just about taken over the waiting room," Mom says. "There must be a dozen of them out there. Michael, and Wes, and Artie, and that nice lesbian girl who pretended to be Mrs. Morrow's granddaughter—"
My laugh rings out, startling all three of us. Then Mom starts to laugh, too, and Dad, and the three of us are howling with laughter, even though I can't find anything funny about the situation at all.
I get a steady stream of visitors. Observing the hospital's visitation policy, they come in two by two, like some bizarre version of Noah's Ark. I expect Kurt to be the first one through the door, but instead it's Mike and Finn. Mike is warm and friendly, but Finn hangs back a little, watching me warily.
Finally I speak up. "I'm okay, Finn."
"That's good." His expression doesn't change. "So did you get all your lost memories back?"
"I'm pretty sure that sort of thing only happens in the movies," Mike supplies. "Brains don't have reset buttons."
Finn nods. "So are you... what do you, uh..."
"Tell him I'm still New Blaine. Tell him I'm still the guy he woke up with this morning."
"Um, Blaine..." Mike says hesitantly. "Kurt woke up in the waiting room this morning. We all did. You've been out of it for a couple days now."
I close my eyes briefly. Kurt must be going out of his mind with worry. "Can I see him? Please?"
They glance at each other. "I'll see if I can find him," Finn says. He heads out into the hall.
"How'd you know he came in here spying for Kurt?" Mike asks.
"Because I know Kurt." I steel myself before asking my next question. "Mike, is Sebastian—"
"He'll be okay," he assures me, and I let out a long breath of relief. "He's pretty banged up, and they've still got him in the ICU, but his doctors expect him to make a full recovery."
"Good. That's good."
"The guy who did this to you..."
"Right. He was arrested that night. His parents posted bail, but he's on house arrest until his trial. They've got him in one of those electronic ankle bracelets, so they'll know if he tries to leave the house."
This all feels so surreal. Like a very vivid dream I'd have after falling asleep during a Law and Order marathon.
"How has Kurt seemed to you?"
"Not good," he says honestly. "He hasn't really talked to anyone. He just sits by himself. Every once in a while he disappears for an hour or so. No one knows where he goes." He sighs. "If you want, I can help Finn look for him."
"I'd appreciate that. Thanks."
He leaves, and I straighten my hospital gown, trying to look more presentable for Kurt. But when someone walks in the door, it's not Kurt at all.
"Hi, kid." He looks exhausted. He has a couple of days' worth of stubble on his cheeks, and there are dark circles under his gray-blue eyes.
"What are you doing here?"
His jaw tightens, and he sticks his hands in his pockets. "The police called me on Thursday night."
"Yeah, apparently they have to notify you if your apartment is the scene of a crime."
I wince. "Oh."
He nods, pursing his lips. "So, ah, your mom and dad say your prognosis is good."
"Doesn't seem to be any sign of—"
"Rob, I'm so sorry. Really, I am."
He shakes his head over and over, looking at the ground. "I was an idiot. I thought I was protecting you by giving you a key to that place, and look what happened."
"You did protect me," I tell him earnestly. "You gave me and Kurt somewhere we could go and just be ourselves. You gave us a home." He doesn't answer, and I remember with a sinking feeling how the apartment looked the last time I saw it. "By the way, I promise I'll replace your rug."
Rob's head shoots up, his eyes wide with incredulity. "My rug?"
"Yeah, I threw up on it that night. After he hit me, I—"
"You actually think I would keep that place?"
"I..." My heart starts to race. "You can't get rid of the apartment. You can't."
"Like hell I can't. You know what it's like to get a police escort into your own home, and see—" He makes a small noise. "Your blood all over the—"
"It wasn't my blood, it was Sebastian's—"
"It doesn't matter whose blood it was. What matters is that it never would have happened if I hadn't given you a key to that place. You'd still be safe at home with your parents."
"Rob, please. Please don't sell the apartment."
He shakes his head again, his eyes bloodshot. "It's already done. I've hired a moving company to box up everything. I'll drop off your stuff at your parents' house."
But he's already heading out the door, and Wes and Rachel are coming in, wearing tentative smiles on their faces.
Kurt is avoiding me.
I know he hasn't left the hospital since I arrived; everyone who comes in tells me how he's been pacing the waiting room for days, and how he could really use a shower and some soap. Plus, he comes in when I'm asleep, to leave me little notes. Every time I wake up, I find another one.
Sorry I missed your window of consciousness. See you soon! xo Kurt
Hey Sleeping Beauty, I stopped by again. Hope your head's feeling better. -Kurt
Have I told you how very un-stylish that sling is? We've got to bedazzle it or something. K
They're there literally every time I wake up, and I wonder how he always seems to know when I fall asleep. Then I start to notice how Rachel, in particular, keeps me asking whether I'm tired. At one point I lie, faking a huge yawn and saying, "Actually, yeah. I think I'll take a nap."
She taps out a quick message on her cell phone, and now I know I'm not making it up. "Okay, well... feel better!"
I mumble incoherently, hoping I'm not overselling it. I must not be, though, because it's only a couple of minutes before I catch the sound of someone tiptoeing over to my bedside. I wait until he's leaned over to put a note on my nightstand to open my eyes.
"Oh, god!" Kurt jumps, one hand flying up to his chest. "You startled me!"
"It's okay. I just thought you were sleeping."
I watch him carefully. His red-rimmed eyes are darting from my flowers in the corner, to my balloons by the door, to the folded blanket at the foot of the bed. Anywhere but at me. "Kurt, why have you been avoiding me?"
"What are you talking about? I'm here, aren't I?"
"Yeah, because Rachel told you I'd be sleeping." I'm relieved when he doesn't try to deny it. "Where have you been? Didn't Finn tell you I wanted to see you?"
He nods. "Sorry, I've been... trying to deal with some stuff."
"I don't know what's going on, but I need you, Kurt. I mean, I was lucky to get out with just a jammed shoulder and a concussion. I could have—"
"I know. I know what could have happened. That's the problem." He folds his arms, looking agitated. He still won't meet my eyes. "I read online that every brain injury you get now runs the risk of causing amnesia again."
"Well, I didn't get it this time. And besides, it's not like I make a habit of getting brain injuries—"
"Two in a year. Two."
"That's not fair, someone attacked me—"
"We live in backwoods Ohio. There'll always be someone who wants to attack you. And what if next time, you end up forgetting everything? What if you're a blank slate, and nothing that draws us together is still there anymore? What then?"
I shake my head helplessly. "So, what, you're breaking up with me?"
"That's not what I'm saying."
"Then what are you saying?"
"That I wouldn't have fought for you," he blurts out, then covers his mouth with both hands. "Shit."
"I didn't mean to tell you like this, I wanted to wait until you were out and we could sit down and talk without hearing the beeping of your monitors—"
"Kurt. Talk to me."
He lowers his hands slowly, and I can see unshed tears glistening in his eyes. "That night... I was sitting on the floor holding you, and screaming for someone, anyone to come help us, and you were unconscious and I just kept thinking I can't do it again. If he forgets me, I have to let him go this time, because I can't go through all that again."
"And we made promises, I know, when we exchanged the rings, about loving each other forever in sickness and in health, and... and I can't promise that anymore. And you deserve to know that."
"You were panicking. You were scared. Of course you doubted whether you could get through it."
"I'm not panicking now." He swallows. "I'm just being honest. I'm not strong like you, Blaine. These past few weeks... it's been amazing getting to fall in love with you again, but it's also been terrifying. If I had to go through it all over again, and you didn't love me that time—" He finally meets my eyes, and I can't breathe. "I'd be broken. I'd never recover. And my dad, my family, they need me too much to lose me."
"I need you too much to lose you," I stress, grabbing his hand and holding it to my heart. "Kurt, there's nothing I can say or do to convince you that every version of me will love you. So I don't know what to do, here. Other than ask you to trust me."
He looks at me searchingly, then makes a faint noise as he leans forward, capturing my lips in a desperate kiss. I reach out to grab a handful of his shirt collar and pull him closer, unwilling to let him go.
"I was so scared," he whispers between frantic kisses.
I think back to the moments in Rob's apartment when I thought Kurt had been hurt, and the agony I'd felt. Then I imagine spending a couple of days as he did, not knowing whether I'd forget him.
With difficulty, I pull back from his lips, fixing my eyes on his. "Don't ever say you're not strong again," I murmur. "You're the strongest person I've ever met."
He traces his thumb down my cheek, then over my lips. Then he kisses me again, and I forget the pain in my head, the ache in my shoulder, the thirst in my throat. Because in this moment, he is all I could ever need.
It's Artie, oddly enough, who comes up with a solution to ease Kurt's anxiety.
The visitors can only come in one at a time now, as Kurt refuses to leave my side. He's curled up beside me as Artie tells us about his community service project. "I've been working with the Shady Pines Nursing Home. My grandma's there, and when I was visiting one time she mentioned how many people there have Alzheimer's. She said they sometimes wake up and don't know where they are, or even who they are. And when the nurses try to tell them, most times they won't believe them. So it occurred to me, whose advice would you trust most if you were the patient in a situation like that?"
Kurt is playing with one of the buttons on my pajamas, only half-listening. "Hmm?"
"Whose advice would you trust?"
"Tim Gunn's. Man has flawless taste."
Artie rolls his eyes, then looks to me. "What about you?"
I shrug. "Maybe a spouse? It depends on how much they remember. They might not trust anyone."
"Exactly," he grins, snapping his fingers. "You'd only trust yourself. So that's my project. I go to the nursing home and, on days when the patients are doing well, I record them talking about their lives. What they did for a living, who their relatives are, what room they live in at Shady Pines... anything that seems important. Then I add pictures to the videos. Recent shots of their family members, photos of their old homes, even pictures of the pills they take every day. The nurses show them the videos during their bad days, and it's had some good results."
Kurt's eyes are wide as they meet my gaze, and we both smile.
Artie sets up his tripod beside my hospital bed. I scoot over to make room for Kurt to sit beside me. Artie presses record, and Kurt and I just talk and talk. We talk about how we met, how we fell in love. How the first attack came about, and how much we lost. And later, how much we found.
Sometimes, when Kurt steps out of the room to take a shower or grab some food from the cafeteria, I watch the video. Invariably, he catches me when he returns, but he never makes fun of me. He just crawls into bed beside me and we watch together.
"I want a copy," he whispers one day, after watching me tell the camera how I'd realized I was in love with Kurt. "I want to be able to watch it when you're not around."
"Why wouldn't I be around?"
"Rob's sold the apartment. We don't have a home together anymore."
"We'll still see each other," I assure him.
"For coffee dates, maybe. An hour or two a day." He sighs when I don't respond. "Everything is going to change, Blaine."
I draw him close with my good arm and hope he's wrong.