A/N: This story involves one of my favorite guilty-pleasure tropes, but I hope I can still make it new and interesting. There are twelve parts total, apart from this short little prologue. I'm also posting it on kurt_blaine if you prefer that format. Thank you for reading!

Summary: After a mutual split in college, Kurt and Blaine have settled into a comfortable friendship, but things become complicated when an untimely tragedy forces an overwhelmed Kurt to return to Ohio. In theory, one person's loss may be another person's gain, but Blaine discovers that it's rarely so simple in practice.

What I Have Lost

July 2020 - Westerville, Ohio

Blaine Anderson hated grocery shopping.

He had nothing against it in principle, exactly - it was oddly satisfying to pick through the shelves and bins for the best prices like some sort of post-modern forager. He just hated shopping alone. There was something a little sad about the pile of single-serving frozen dinners and one-person macaroni packets piled haphazardly in the bottom of his cart.

Turning down the canned goods aisle, Blaine stopped in front of the endless rows of soup, momentarily distracted. There were too many choices. What was the difference between low sodium and reduced sodium? Was it better to get lower fat content or lower cholesterol? He just wanted some damn chicken noodle soup.

A teenage girl ducked in front of him to snatch up a can, muttering a brief 'excuse me' as she dropped her prize in her cart. Blaine turned unconsciously to watch her leave; a boy with red streaks in his hair hurried to catch up with her, giving her a little swat on the seat of her jeans that made her squeal.

There were a few other people on the aisle too: a middle-aged woman with upswept hair and a neatly-pressed formal suit steered her haul past the cereal boxes, three small children clinging to the bars of the cart; Blaine smiled at the youngest one, who waved at him shyly. An elderly gentleman passed by with another man, probably his son, the two of them talking in hushed tones.

Blaine shook his head a little, clearing his thoughts as he glanced down at his pocket-watch. It was almost six, and he still had plenty of work to do for tomorrow's filing overhaul at the office. He picked a can of chicken noodle soup at random, adding it to his stash, and headed for the dairy section.

His cell phone buzzed just as he was reaching for a half-gallon of milk, and he closed the freezer door, fumbling in his coat pocket. "Hello?"

"Blaine, you didn't call yesterday," his mother scolded. "If you can't talk, you need to remember to send me a text or voicemail to let me know. I missed a card party waiting for you. It's only polite."

"I completely forgot," he sighed, frustrated at himself. "I just haven't been myself this week, sorry."

"Are you sick, dear?" His mother's tone changed instantaneously. "I can bring you a jug of herbal tea."

"No, no, I'm fine. Don't worry."

"Maybe you should take some anyway. You do get hit hard by colds - you and your brother always had poor constitutions."

"Mom," Blaine cut in, a little irritated. "I'm fine, and I'm twenty-six years old. I think I can weather it by myself, thank you. And it's not a cold anyway."

Years of strict adherence to social niceties overrode Mrs. Anderson's maternal instincts, and she didn't press the matter. Blaine finished the rest of his shopping while she briefed him on the activities of the last two weeks instead.

"Your father sent a postcard from Venice," she remarked as Blaine scoured through the selection of brightly-packaged candy. "The meeting is going well so far, and he left a folder of instructions for you at the office. And . . . and he sends you his love."

There was just enough of a waver in her voice that Blaine knew that his father had done no such thing. "Thanks, I'll be sure to pick the folio up tomorrow morning." He plucked a bag from the shelf to give him something to occupy his hands with.

"Are you sure you're feeling well? You know . . . you know you can tell me anything, don't you, Blaine?"

It was more true now than it had been even two years ago. She had put in a genuine effort to make some progress, to try to understand him - she really had, and it was better between them now. Easier.

He took a steadying breath, staring at the package of jelly beans in his hand until the gaudy colors blurred together. "Kurt and his son are coming home today."

His mother inhaled sharply, her breath crackling over the line. "I see." A few beats of silence passed. "Are you going to see him?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "I haven't decided yet, and he might not be up to visitors right now. I don't want to push."

"Poor boy," his mother said, and she actually sounded sincere. "I hope he can find some peace here."

"He's not a boy anymore," Blaine said, smiling a little sadly. He did some quick mental math and added, "He'll be twenty-seven this year."

"Well, you're not a boy anymore either." He heard a shuffling noise on the other end of the line before her voice came back clear. "I know things were uncomfortable back then, but I always thought Kurt seemed very nice. Very polite, very fond of you. If you and he managed to stay good friends through . . . everything, then I'm sure he would want to reconnect. He may need his friends more than ever."

"But maybe - maybe I don't know if I can do it." He held his breath, waiting for her response, knowing how much he had just given away.

"I love you, Bunso," his mother said firmly.

Blaine felt unsettled, stripped open in the middle of a Safeway for everyone to see. His mother hadn't called him by that name for years, not since he was small, and he'd always loved the sound of it, how it rolled so fluidly off her tongue. His father hadn't liked it - he'd said it was gibberish.

"I . . . thanks," he said awkwardly. "I love you too, Mom."

"You'll know what to do," she told him. "Give him a call, see how the wind blows, and maybe you can find some measure of peace yourself."

She hung up before he could say a word, leaving him standing alone in the middle of the aisle with a dial-tone buzzing in his ear.

*Bunso: a Tagalog term of endearment for the youngest child.