Disclaimer: I'm just playing in the sandbox. If you recognize it from elsewhere, I don't own it.
Ships: Klaine, plus Jeff/OC, Nick/OC, and other canon pairings
Timeline: AU Season 2
Spoilers: Up to Season 3x02
Rating: T for some swearing, sensuality, and violence

Author's Note: Hello, my name is Heather. I would like to say just a few words before you begin reading.

This is an AU fantasy. Some elements of Glee's second season will remain the same, but other parts will deviate significantly. I have borrowed some elements from Cecilia Ahern's novel There's No Place Like Here (US) / A Place Like Here (UK), all of which I explain fully in the story so there's no need to have read that novel (but it's a fantastic book!).

Sometimes readers will ask great questions that I wish I could share with the rest of the world. With a story like Once In A Lullaby, with such a complex and unfamiliar world, these great questions can be really important to the verisimilitude. So I've decided to answer questions from reviews on a blog for everyone's benefit. Also feel free to use the Ask on the blog to submit more questions. Once In A Lullaby Q&A (remove spaces): arainymonday. tumblr. com/tagged/questions_about_once_in_a_lullaby

I don't often use author's notes outside the first chapter, but that doesn't mean I don't want to get to know my readers. I would love to hear from you in reviews, PMs, Twitter, and my blog.

Thank you for clicking into this story. I hope you read and enjoy. Please review if you are so compelled and don't be shy. And now, the story begins ...


ONCE IN A LULLABY

BOOK ONE
OVER THE RAINBOW

INTERLUDE

Burt Hummel sat in the dingy office with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Through the glass in the closed door, he could hear ringing telephones and many asynchronous conversations filling the police station. After ten minutes of waiting, Detective Caroline Hart walked through the door and took a seat behind her desk. Burt gazed up at the middle-aged woman over the tops of the picture frames lining her desk. Picture frames which Burt knew to contain the smiling faces of her children. The smiling faces she would see tonight when she went home.

"Mr. Hummel … We've talked about this before. If I find out anything, you are the first person I'll call. But otherwise, there is no point coming down to the station every day."

Burt ducked his head and ran his hands over his bald head. He sighed wearily and blinked at the moisture building in his eyes. Thirty-one days. Thirty-one days had passed since Kurt left for school and never came home again. Thirty-one days Burt had left the porch light on because the psychologist at the missing persons support group said a symbol of hope would help. Thirty-one days it had only made him cry every time he passed the front window.

"Listen. I can't just go about my life while my son is out there somewhere."

"Mr. Hummel, it's been thirty-one days, and we have no leads. We're not giving up, but there's nothing more we can do at this time. As I explained to you already, your son's case will be reviewed periodically – "

"So that's it? My kid has been pushed to the back of the line?" Burt demanded angrily.

"I want to find your son, Mr. Hummel. I want to find every child whose case file lands on my desk. Hell, I want to find every child ever listed in a case file. We have explored every possible scenario, likely and unlikely, with no success. The FBI Agents assigned to the case have gone back to Cincinnati. I'm sorry, Mr. Hummel, but this long after his disappearance, the chances of finding Kurt are slim."

"No. No, I refuse to accept that. My son is out there somewhere. I know Kurt, and I know he's doing absolutely everything he can to get back home. So I'm going to do everything in my power to find him. If the police and the FBI won't help, then I'll go somewhere else."

For all her stern police detachment, Detective Hart had kind eyes. Throughout the investigation, she had been the one to deliver bad news time and again. When the FBI team had been harsh or blunt, she had softened the blow, and Burt had come to believe she wanted to find Kurt almost as much as he did. She reached into her top desk drawer and pulled out a business card.

"This is the name of a private investigator. He's the best in the business around here. But, Mr. Hummel, I have to say that I would be extremely surprised if he finds something we missed. That's not ego talking. Every detective and agent on this case is in agreement."

Burt accepted the stark business card and stared down at the name: Christian Woodsen. His agency was based in Columbus, a good two hours from Lima, but Burt would go to the literal ends of the Earth for his son. He nodded once to Detective Hart, whom he would not see again for three months unless some piece of evidence came to light, and left the police station.

He pulled out his phone and dialed the private investigator as he jogged down the steps and across the parking lot to his truck. As he listened to the ringing line, Burt reflected on the last thirty-one days. Losing his wife had been torture, and he'd thought he would never experience such profound anguish again. And then Kurt hadn't come home from school and he wasn't answering his phone and none of his friends remembered seeing him after glee rehearsal and …. And everything had spiraled from there.

Detective Hart and Agent Barring had interrogated every one of Kurt's friends, bullies, and teachers. They all said the same thing: On November 9, 2010, Kurt Hummel, 17, junior at William McKinley High School, had left the choir room after second period glee club and never showed up to third period French class. His car was found in the lot and all his belongings left in his locker.

How a student went missing from a closed campus during the school day, the administration couldn't fathom. A search of the school and grounds had turned up nothing. He had not been injured and left for dead anywhere on campus. Checking Kurt's phone records and computer raised no red flags. He had not been planning to run away. The bullies who had threatened Kurt so frequently had a reliable alibi: they were dumpster tossing Jacob Ben Israel. They had not escalated their tactics that day. No students or faculty reported seeing any suspicious person on campus.

The police were dumbfounded. Every time they thought they had a lead, it turned out to be a dead end. It was like Kurt had vanished into thin air. Like he'd disappeared through a barrier onto a train platform that shouldn't exist, like he'd stepped through the back of a wardrobe, like he'd been sucked up by a cyclone, like he'd flown past the second star and straight on 'til morning.

Kurt Hummel was nowhere that could be found.