A/N: I swore I wouldn't let a whole year go by without updating this. Made it by about 15 minutes. I'm truly sorry, to those of you who are still around and have been so kind and patient. I had gotten so many hateful messages demanding updates, that I couldn't write anything for a while, I'd have a panic attack just at the thought of it. Then so much time went by that even when the panic stopped, I couldn't bring myself to update because I thought it would need to be SO long and SO amazing to make up for the wait, but everything was already plotted out and outlined and I couldn't figure out how to make it more exciting. Then I realized there was some character development in future chapters which wouldn't make sense unless you could knew the details of what happened in the attack, which you couldn't in this story because Blaine doesn't remember it. Which brings me to my next point:
If you have not yet done so, please read the story "Red As, Cold As" now. Before reading this chapter, if possible. It is the story of the attack from Kurt's POV and it will become important.
Also, for the hell of it, you might want to reread chapter 29 to remember WTF this story is about.
There are a few chapters left. According to my outline, probably either 2 or 3 more, depending on how verbose I get. I promise that I will write them in a timely manner. The writer's block is gone, partly because in the past year I learned not to base my self-esteem on the anonymous criticisms of strangers. It was tough, but I figured it out. In the long run it probably was a good thing? Made my skin thicker.
As always, t-vo0810 was an invaluable sounding board as beta, guiding and encouraging me along the way. She is simply amazing. Any mistakes contained in this story are my own.
Also, for my fellow tumblr users, sorry about the secret penis. I don't even know.
My doctors keep me at the hospital for observation one more night, so that they can make sure the swelling has gone down in my head. Then I'm free. Mom and Dad head to the billing department to sign some paperwork, while Kurt carefully wheels me down to the lobby and parks the wheelchair near a couple of guys in Cincinnati Reds hoodies. Then he starts chastising me about the amount of hair gel I used this morning.
"Dime-sized dollop, Blaine. That's all you need."
"That's all you need, maybe. You don't have the world's curliest hair. A dime-sized dollop wouldn't make a dent."
"Your hair looks good with a little wave to it. Gives it character. You're not fooling anyone into thinking it's straight with all that shellack, you know."
"It's been a long time since I've been able to fool anyone into thinking part of me is straight, that's true."
"Right. Not since Rachel." He lasts about three seconds before bursting into giggles, and I swat at him playfully with my good arm.
"Trust me, it looks better this way. You have no idea just how curly it is."
"Of course I do. You think you never showed me your curls? I begged you one time when we were spending a weekend at Rob's apartment. You took a shower and towel-dried it, and then it just grew and grew and grew." Kurt's eyes widen at the memory.
I sigh. "Wow. You saw the fro and you didn't run for the hills. You must really love me."
His expression grows soft, and he reaches for my hand. Then he glances over at the guys nearby and drops his hand quickly.
"What's wrong?" I ask.
"Nothing," he says tightly.
"You've already had your head bashed in twice," he murmurs. "Let's not draw attention to ourselves and make it a third."
I look over at the two guys, who are bent over an iPhone and seem oblivious to us. "You do realize they weren't hate crimes, right?"
"The attacks. In McKinley's parking lot, and in the apartment. They weren't hate crimes. I mean, yeah, Morgan hated me, but it wasn't because he was a homophobe."
Kurt starts to reply, then frowns. "Oh." Then he's quiet for a long time. "I kind of got used to assuming that's why it happened."
"I know. Me too."
He glances at the guys again. I wait for him to relax, but he doesn't.
Much to his chagrin, Kurt has to leave for work once I get situated at home. He doesn't go into detail, but it's clear, things at the tire shop aren't going well.
"I could help out," I tell him.
"Absolutely not. You need to rest."
"My dad and I rebuilt a car once, I know my way around an engine. Even with one arm in a sling."
"We'll be okay." He kisses my forehead gently. "I'll see you later?"
Mom busies herself around my room once he leaves. She fluffs my pillows and refills the water pitcher next to my bed. "Do you need anything, honey?" she asks. "Toast? Maybe some soup?"
"I'm not sick, Mom, I just have a concussion. I'm fine, really. Don't you have a Junior League meeting today?"
"Oh, I won't go to that."
"But you have that charity auction coming up."
"There are more important things than auctions, dear."
"Like watching me watch the wall?" I stop her as she reaches to re-fluff my pillow. "Mom. I'm fine. You heard Dr. Weeks this morning; I don't need monitoring anymore, I just need rest. Go to your meeting. I'll call if I need anything." She hesitates, and I add, "You know Belinda Cartwright is going to completely ruin the auction if you're not there overseeing the planning."
She huffs out a breath. "Belinda Cartwright. That woman doesn't know the first thing about event planning."
"She might order carnations," I say seriously, and Mom is on her feet in an instant.
"You promise you'll call if you need anything? Anything at all?"
The house grows quiet and still once she leaves. I'm not supposed to watch TV, read, or use a computer, so my options are limited. I wander around the house and down the stairs, smiling when I take the non-squeaky route out of habit. It makes me think of that night Kurt, Puck and I broke in to retrieve my cell phone, just a few weeks ago. It was a night of stolen glances and stolen kisses and a stolen phone, heavy in my palm as I turn it over. Kurt's too busy for a phone conversation, and there's no one else I can think to call. Mike and I may be rebuilding our friendship, but he doesn't strike me as the type who'd want to chat on the phone for longer than a minute or two.
Hours pass. Kurt texts me often, asking how I'm feeling. I tell him I'm fine. I am fine, as long as I keep the house dim and quiet. Recovering from a concussion seems minor, compared to what I went through last year. I swallow a couple of Tylenol to help with the shoulder pain, and try to nap. But when I close my eyes, I see the swing of a crowbar, and they pop back open.
The house becomes stifling as the afternoon crawls onward. I think of Rob's apartment, with its homey modern furniture and warm ambiance. That's all gone now. I was upset with Rob at first for selling it, but now I can't imagine going back to a room stained with my blood. Not to mention Sebastian's.
Sebastian. No one has updated me on him, not since Mike told me he was in the ICU. I wonder if he's still there, or if he's been discharged like me. My thumb runs over the face of my cell phone, before I turn it on and call the hospital.
"Hi, can you connect me to Sebastian Smythe's room, please?"
The operator taps a few computer keys, then says, "I'm sorry, Mr. Smythe is in the ICU and can't currently accept calls."
"Oh." I frown. It's been days. "Thanks."
The walls creep slowly toward me as the sun begins its descent. Mom calls just before four, and I tell her I'm going to take a nap.
"Daddy needs to work late, but I'll try to be home by seven. Is that okay?"
"Don't rush, Mom, I'll probably sleep till at least eight."
"Eight it is," she says, sounding distracted. "I'll see you then. Enjoy your nap."
"I will," I say, ending the call and pulling up the number of a local taxi service.
The harsh fluorescent lights in the hospital hurt my head, so I stop at a water fountain to take a couple more pills. Then I take an elevator up to the ICU.
I hate hospitals. I've been in enough that I can say that with some authority. They all smell like antiseptic and antibiotics and pee, and there's no dignity as you roam the halls in a paper-thin gown with your ass on display. This is the ICU, though, so the patients are all in their beds, the steady beeping of monitors and low hum of conversations the only sounds to be heard as I step through the set of double doors. I get a few curious glances from orderlies, but most people ignore me as I wander past each room, trying to peek inside without being intrusive. Room after room, and no Sebastian.
Once I round the corner, there's no need to keep looking. A large blond boy is sitting in one of the chairs outside a room, his head in his hands. I approach slowly, and he looks up just before I reach him. "Hi, Lawrence."
"Hi." He looks exhausted.
"May I?" I ask, gesturing to the chair beside him.
"Sure, yeah." He waits till I'm seated, then clears his throat a little. "So, uh. How are you feeling?"
"Okay. How's Sebastian?"
"Still unconscious. Doctors say we have to wait and see what happens when the swelling goes down. But there's good... brain activity, or something?" He rubs a hand over the back of his head. "I don't know. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But his nurse said they're optimistic he'll make a full recovery."
"Good, that's good."
He nods, and we sit in silence for a bit. A nurse goes into Sebastian's room at one point, but she heads out again shortly.
"Are his parents here?" I ask.
"No." There's no mistaking the bitterness in Lawrence's tone. "They're on vacation in Rome."
"And nobody's been able to reach them?"
"Oh, we reached them. But his mother said they're not scheduled to come back until after the new year, and they're not cutting their trip short."
I gape at him. "Their kid's in intensive care."
"And they're staying in Rome."
"It's..." He shrugs. "It's how they are. I've known Sebastian most of my life. His parents act like he's a trophy. Something shiny to take out and wave around when they want to impress someone, and then stick it back on a shelf. Why do you think he ended up in so many boarding schools?"
"Is that what happened with Morgan too?"
"Morgan. No, Morgan's parents aren't like that."
My cell phone buzzes, and when I check it, there's a message from Kurt, asking how I am. I type back a quick text and send it to him.
"Can't use that in here, they'll yell at you," Lawrence says, so I power it down.
"You've known both of them a long time?"
"Yeah, we all grew up together. Sebastian got shipped off to a few boarding schools overseas before his parents decided Dalton was a better option. All three of us transferred in at the same time. I was pumped about their lacrosse team. Morgan just kept talking about how great it would be to see Sebastian again. I figured he'd just missed him a lot or something, I didn't know he..."
"Nah, I knew that, he'd told me back when we were in middle school. I just didn't know he had a thing for Sebastian at that point."
"So what happened?"
"Sebastian became Big Man on Campus. He had his pick of pretty much any guy at Dalton — even most of the straight guys wanted him. Every once in a while he'd get really drunk and hook up with Morgan. Just enough to keep stringing Morgan along."
I study his face. "You blame him for this?"
He looks up at me sharply. "For this? For Morgan beating him to a pulp? For ruining your life? I'm not insane, Blaine. I don't think there's any excuse for what Morgan did to you guys."
"Except the first time around."
He sighs deeply. "You heard that."
"Yeah. You said Morgan told you it was self-defense."
"There were two of you, and only one of him, and..." He spreads his palms. "He was my friend. I trusted him. And I guess deep down I didn't want to believe the alternative."
I nod. "Thanks for calling 9-1-1 that night, by the way."
"How did you—"
"The police said it was an anonymous call from a pay phone near the stairwell, about ten minutes before Kurt called. Anyone else would have stayed with Sebastian and waited. I figured it had to be you."
Lawrence shrugs. "I didn't know if Morgan would go after me too. And I had to get help."
"I know. Those ten minutes may have saved his life."
He scoffs. "Ten minutes. Morgan had called me about it half an hour earlier. If I'd called the police right away, maybe Sebastian would be awake right now."
"Why didn't you?"
"I didn't want to believe it was true. I hoped he was exaggerating, or making it up. I mean... who wants to believe their best friend is capable of something like that?"
I try to imagine getting a call from Mike, saying he'd attacked someone. The idea is too far-fetched to even fathom. "Did you tell the police it was you who called?"
"No, but they took my fingerprints. They probably figured it out." He pauses. "Do you think I'll get in trouble?"
"For calling 9-1-1?"
"For not telling them it was me."
I look at the dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. "No, I don't think you will. Seems like you're punishing yourself enough right now."
Someone is crying in another room. Great big sobs, and I feel uncomfortable overhearing them.
"He's at home now?"
"Yeah, his parents posted bail while he was still in a holding cell. He'll be there until the trial."
"Is that normal? To be put on house arrest instead of going to jail?"
"There is no normal when you're Henry Adams's kid." At my blank look, he rolls his eyes. "Henry Adams? The stock market guru?"
"His dad's a legend, man. Inherited six million dollars when he turned 21, turned that into six hundred million in ten years just by playing the stock market. Cashed in everything before the big market crash in '08. Wrote a couple books, hosts that show about money management on CNN... you've seriously never heard of him?"
"He's one of the most powerful men in Ohio."
"Yeah, I'm sure he's hot stuff. Doesn't mean his kid didn't turn out to be a psychopath."
Lawrence pauses. "He, uh... he wants to talk to you, by the way."
A trickle of fear runs down my spine. "No."
"You might want to—"
"I have nothing to say to Morgan. And I certainly don't intend to put myself in the same room with him ever again."
"Not Morgan. Henry, his dad."
"Why, so he can try to buy my silence like he bought his son's freedom? Not a chance."
"It's not like that. Henry's a good guy, he wouldn't—"
"I'm not for sale," I tell him sharply.
An alarm goes off in the room next to Sebastian's, and two doctors in scrubs race down the hall toward it. A nurse follows, wheeling a crash cart, and I figure it's a good time to leave. Lawrence doesn't look up as I go.
I turn my cell phone back on while I'm waiting for a taxi, just in time to get a new text from Kurt. I tell him I'm fine.
I tell myself I'm fine, too.
I arrive home just before seven. Plenty of time to heat up some macaroni and cheese for dinner. Mom walks in when I've just started trying to wash the dishes with my one good arm.
"I can get those, sweetheart. How did you sleep?"
"Fine. How's the auction planning going?"
"Fantastic. One of the ladies on the committee is an old friend of Ted Strickland's, and said we could probably get him to be a celebrity auctioneer." She chats amiably while scrubbing each pan, and I grab a dish towel to dry them off. It reminds me of when I was little. I used to keep a footstool in the kitchen so that I could help Mom wash the dishes after dinner each night. She would ask me about my day, and I'd skip all the ugly parts—
"Blaine?" She's peering at me, looking concerned. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, fine."
"I was saying, Kurt will probably come over tonight. Daddy and I can stay upstairs if you two would like to watch a movie down here."
"Kurt? He didn't mention wanting to come over."
"Yes, well, it's the, ah..." She looks down. "It's been a year, today."
"Since the attack."
My stomach turns. No wonder Kurt's been texting me all day. "I didn't realize."
"Well. Things have been pretty hectic lately. Speaking of which... Christmas is three days away."
"Oh. Right." I haven't bought a single gift for anyone. Truth be told, the idea of opening a stack of presents makes me feel ill, knowing how much the Hummels are struggling financially.
"I thought maybe we could postpone it," she says, scrubbing the strainer a little harder. "Until after the new year."
"Yeah," I say at once. "Yeah, let's postpone it."
"Burt Hummel called the other day, he said they're postponing theirs too," she continues, and I wince a little. His family probably won't be exchanging gifts at all. "So maybe we could all celebrate together?"
I start to answer, then pause in confusion. When exactly did my parents become chummy with the Hummels again? "Mom... I don't think that's a good idea. They can't really afford it right now."
"I'm not talking about presents, Blaine. I'm talking about our two families coming together." She sets the strainer down in the sink, but doesn't look at me. "We've been through hell over the past year. All of us. And your father and I... Yes, we were trying to keep you safe, but we ended up making everything worse by keeping you and Kurt apart. We'd like to try to make up for that. We've spoken with Burt a few times this week, and he's been... very gracious about the whole thing. Probably more gracious than I'd be in his shoes."
I can't help reaching out for her. My hug seems to surprise her, but she hugs me back at once.
"Thank you, Mom."
She hums a little. "He's staying around for good, isn't he?"
"If I'm lucky, yeah."
"I'd like to think you're both lucky, dear."
My mom may be a few inches shorter than me, but for some reason when I hug her, I feel like that little boy on a footstool again. For a moment, I wonder if that's how she still sees me.
The doorbell rings, startling us both.
"Go let him in," she says, pulling away and wiping her eyes. "I'll finish up here."
Sure enough, when I open the front door, Kurt's standing on the front porch. He's holding a takeout bag from that Thai restaurant we went to the other day, and another bag filled with DVDs. I kiss him thoroughly, right there in the doorway, until the tension starts to ease from his shoulders.
"Hi," he murmurs.
"Sorry I didn't call ahead and ask. Is it okay for me to come over?"
We don't end up watching any of the movies. Instead, we curl up on the couch together, eating dinner and holding each other close.
"You look exhausted," I tell him softly.
"There's only so much those facial creams can do," he sighs. "I am exhausted. Dad and Finn and I are working as much as we can to keep up with the added workload — Dad had to let a couple of the other guys go because he couldn't cover their salaries — and Carole's taken on a second job, but the bills are still piling up. Yesterday we got a notice threatening to turn off our heat. Merry Christmas, right? Dad applied for a second mortgage, hopefully that will help keep the creditors at bay."
"I didn't realize the situation had gotten so bad."
"I didn't want to worry you. I only found out the full extent of it a couple of days ago."
I think guiltily of my parents' wealth, and my own sizable trust fund. Kurt catches my expression and shakes his head adamantly. "Don't you even think about offering us money."
"But I'm the reason you—"
"You are not. Don't ever think that way. And you need that money, for college."
"What about you?"
"College isn't in the cards right now," he says flatly. "Maybe in another year or two I'll look into scholarship options at Ohio State."
"Ohio State? What happened to New York?"
"Those were pipe dreams, Blaine. Reality got in the way."
"We could still go to New York. I could pay for an apartment, we could find jobs there—"
"I'm not going to abandon my family during all this," he says firmly. "If I left home, that's one more income they'd lose. They'd never have a chance at getting back in the black."
My mind goes back to my conversation with Lawrence, about Henry Adams and all his millions. And all his power. "Kurt... Morgan's father wants to talk to me."
"Yeah, he's called our house too."
"Probably wants to bribe us into not testifying against his son. As if he could convince us that Morgan belongs anywhere other than behind bars for what he did to us. I didn't call him back. You?"
"Yeah. I mean no, I haven't talked to him either."
"Who cares about that guy and all his money," he says, pulling me in closer. "As long as I've got you, I'm the richest man on earth."
I kiss his jaw and hold him tight, trying not to think about how far a man like Henry Adams might go to keep us quiet.