The Ghost of Christmas Past
Kurt heaved his luggage into the trunk of his car while trying to maintain his footing on the iced over pavement. The light rain from the previous day had frozen as temperatures had dropped over night and now Kurt was forced to deal with the slippery sidewalk. If only he hadn't had to work the night before, he could have been back in Ohio already instead of trying not to end up in the hospital with a broken coccyx.
"That's the last of them," Finn said as he added to the pile in the trunk. "You know, we're only going back for a week, not moving back in."
"Jeans and flannel are not appropriate attire for every occasion," Kurt replied with an irritated glance at his brother.
"What's wrong with flannel?" Finn asked. He slammed the trunk closed. "Want me to lock up or you?"
"I'll do it," Kurt said. "I want to make sure I haven't forgotten anything."
"I think you left the kitchen sink," Finn called out as Kurt opened the entry door.
Kurt started to return some pithy comment, but then decided that Finn probably wouldn't understand it so let it drop. He ran up the stairs and did a run through of the apartment to make sure he hadn't left anything on that shouldn't be and hadn't forgotten something that he wouldn't be able to live without for a week. Satisfied that everything was as it was supposed to be, Kurt locked up the apartment and returned to the car.
Finn already had the car running and the windows cleared when Kurt slid into the passenger side and buckled up. "I hope the heat works in this death trap," Kurt complained.
"Don't talk bad about Betty," Finn said. "She's sensitive."
"Does Rachel know you're secretly in love with a much older woman?" Kurt asked as they pulled away from the curb. "This thing has to be from the fifties."
"She may have the body of a sixty-year-old, but she has the soul of a twenty-year-old," Finn said.
"That's really reassuring in a car, Finn," Kurt said. "Couldn't you have gotten something that was manufactured in this century?"
"Betty is a classic," Finn protested.
"Betty is ready for retirement," Kurt replied.
Finn patted the dashboard. "Don't listen to him, sweetheart. He's just upset because he had to leave his Navigator back in Ohio."
Kurt huffed a bit. "No point in having a car in the city." If there was someplace that Kurt couldn't get to by walking or public transit – which was hardly ever - he could hail a cab. Keeping a car that he hardly ever used was just an added expense that he couldn't afford.
"Glad I don't live in the city," Finn said, shaking his head. "You and Rachel can have it." Finn lived and worked in a small town outside the city and seemed to enjoy not being part of the rushed city life.
"I talked to Rachel last night," Kurt said while watching his brother's reaction. "Her father is doing better. She thinks she'll be able to return by New Year's."
"I'm surprised she agreed to let her understudy do to the last week's performances," Finn said with a sigh. "It's good to know at least something means more to her than being on Broadway."
"It's been her dream since we first met," Kurt agreed. "At least you'll be able to spend Christmas together this year." Finn always made time to go home to Ohio for Christmas, unlike Rachel who was normally too busy to leave New York.
"I know and I'm glad she's doing all the things she dreamed of," Finn said, but his tone was rather melancholy. "We never get to spend any time together though." He paused for a moment. "Any chance you'll see Blaine this Christmas?"
"I believe that ship has sailed, Finn," Kurt said in a tone that indicated he didn't want to discuss the subject. Unfortunately, Finn was either oblivious or obstinate.
"Maybe the ship will dock again and you could see if your ticket is still good," Finn said with a weak attempt to continue Kurt's metaphor. "Might even dock in Lima."
"Lima is landlocked," Kurt said.
"You know what I mean," Finn said.
"I'm sure Sebastian will make sure that ship never docks anywhere near my port," Kurt said. His lips twitched slightly when Finn grimaced at the image that brought up. It didn't seem to deter his brother inquisition though.
"Sebastian? You mean his costar in that series? What does he have to do with anything?" Finn asked. Then understanding seemed to dawn. "Wait, was he that Warbler that kept chasing Blaine our senior year?"
"I see Alzheimer's hasn't set in yet," Kurt said.
"I didn't think Blaine was interested in him," Finn said. "Is that why you guys broke up?"
"We broke up because having a relationship while one person is on the west coast and the other is on the east coast only works in fairy tales and romance novels," Kurt said icily. "From what I've read, Sebastian has been more than happy to pick up the pieces of Blaine's broken heart and glue them back together."
"You read the tabloids?" Finn asked in surprise.
"Rachel buys them. She believes that seeing her name in print is just another step on her way to winning a Tony."
"Maybe she should talk to Puck. I'm sure he could get her name in the news," Finn said.
"I don't think stealing an ATM was what Rachel had in mind," Kurt said. As far as Kurt knew, Puck hadn't continued his life of crime since their high school days, but there are some things you just don't forget. "What is Puck doing these days, anyway?"
Either Finn was sufficiently distracted by the change in subject or he had decided that there wasn't any use in pursuing the Blaine-topic any longer. They compared notes on what their various Lima friends were doing, who was with whom, how many kids they had, whose career was doing well and whose was floundering.
Kurt wondered how many of their friends were having a similar conversation and what they would be saying about him. He was living exactly where he'd always wanted - New York City – but his so-called career consisted on walk-on parts and waiting tables.
As the conversation dwindled, Finn fiddled with the radio until he found a station playing nothing but Christmas music. Kurt sang along with him for a while and then eventually settled back to take a nap. When he woke up, the radio was silent.
"Had enough Christmas cheer?" Kurt asked as he tried to stretch in the confining seat.
"I wasn't getting anything but static," Finn said.
Kurt looked around at the passing scenery which pretty much looked the same mile after mile. There wasn't much variety on the interstate. "Where are we?"
"Somewhere in Pennsylvania. You feel like stopping for something to eat?"
"I would like to get out and stretch a bit," Kurt said. He pulled out his cell phone and checked for messages – not that he was really expecting anything. "Wonderful, no signal."
"There's an exit up ahead," Finn said. "Looks like a gas station just off the exit."
"Looks like that's all that's there," Kurt replied with a sigh. A real meal would have been nice.
"Well, let's give it a try," Finn said. "Even gas stations have snacks."
Kurt wasn't interested in eating out of what amounted to a vending machine, but a few minutes out of the car would be nice. He checked his phone several times as the exit approached and Finn left the interstate, but they must have hit a rather large dead zone. That didn't bode well for their being anything more than the single gas station that they could see from the exit.
"Guess you're right. Not much here," Finn said as he coasted to a stop at the end of the exit ramp.
Kurt wasn't sure the gas station was even in business. "It looks pretty deserted."
"Well, as long as we're here, let's go down a little ways and see if there's anything else," Finn suggested.
"Suit yourself," Kurt said with a shrug.
Finn pressed the gas and the engine coughed a bit, sputtered and died.
"Do not tell me that Betty has decided to go no strike," Kurt said icily.
Finn began muttering words of encouragement to his car as he tried to restart it. The engine turned over a few times – each time more slowly than the last – but didn't start. Finally, the only response they got was a clicking sound.
Kurt checked his phone again –still no signal. "Of course, your car has to die in a dead zone."
"It must be the alternator," Finn said. "Easy enough to fix."
"Oh, you just happen to have a spare in the trunk?" Kurt asked.
"Of course not," Finn said. "I just meant, if we can find a parts place, I can get us going again pretty quick."
"It's Christmas Eve, Finn, and we are in the middle of Nowhere Pennsylvania, five hours from home, with no cell phone signal. Where do you propose we find an alternator for this… antique that you mistook for a reliable mode of transportation?"
"Hey, don't blame this on Betty," Finn said. "It's not her fault."
Kurt's tone turned glacial. "I apologize, Betty. I'm sure you can't help it if my brother refused to accept that you should have been put out to pasture years ago, if not shot in the radiator as a mercy to kept future idiots from attempting such a fiasco."
Finn huffed a bit in irritation, but for the most part ignored the jab. "I guess I could walk a ways down the road and see if there's anyone that can help us."
"And leave me here by myself?" Kurt gasped. "That sounds like the plot of a bad horror movie."
"It's the middle of the day," Finn pointed out. "But you can walk with me. Betty isn't going anywhere."
Kurt snorted. "As if anyone with sense would want to steal this piece of junk."
"Good camouflage, huh?" Finn asked with a grin. Kurt wasn't sure if he was serious or just making a joke, so didn't comment.
The brothers climbed out of the car and argued a moment about which direction to go before finally setting off down the roughly paved single lane road. The only cars Kurt could hear were from the interstate behind them and that faded quickly as the distance between them and the car increased. Kurt wouldn't have been surprised if they'd turned a corner to find the pavement had turned to dirt so he was surprised when the rounded the trees to find a small town intersection ahead.
"It's like… Mayberry," Finn said in surprise as they both stopped to stare. "Hey, a diner. Let's get something to eat."
"We need to get your ailing vehicle repaired," Kurt reminded his brother.
"We can ask at the diner," Finn insisted.
Kurt decided that it wasn't worth arguing with Finn's stomach and let his brother lead them to the quaint building that was just off the intersection. The few people that they saw nodded with friendly smiles as they strolled passed which seemed rather strange to Kurt after living in the rushed atmosphere of the city.
Since it was well past lunchtime and not yet time for dinner, there were only a few other people inside the diner when the brothers walked inside.
"I smell apple pie," Finn said with an enraptured sigh.
"You can't eat a pie for lunch, Finn," Kurt said in exasperation as they took seats at the counter. Kurt would have preferred a table, but Finn seemed to want to be as close to the pie as possible.
The waitress walked over and interrupted before Finn could reply. "What can I get you boys to eat?" she asked with a smile. She wore the traditional waitress outfit with a name tag that read 'Linda'.
Kurt wondered if everyone in town were on some sort of 'happy pill'.
Finn ordered the biggest burger on the rather limited menu while Kurt opted for a turkey sandwich. The waitress left to put in their order, but was back a moment later with their drinks.
"So, what brings you boys to our little town this time of year?" Linda asked.
Finn explained that they were going home for Christmas, but the car had broken down and they had walked to town to find someone to help them.
"Well, most businesses have closed for the day – it being Christmas Eve and all," Linda said thoughtfully. "We'd be closed too, except we always make pies for the town folks today. Might be a difficult to get parts. Closest store is about an hour's drive and they're bound to be closed 'til after Christmas."
"I'm not spending Christmas in the middle of nowhere with people I don't know," Kurt burst out. He knew it wasn't Linda's fault, but he had never missed Christmas with his father before.
"Maybe we can call Burt and see if he knows someone that can bring us the part," Finn suggested. As a mechanic with his own shop, Kurt's father had connections all over. He might be able to call in a favor to help his sons out.
Kurt pulled out his phone and then growled in frustration when it still showed no bars. "Do you have a phone we could use?" he asked Linda in a much more humble tone. "I'll be sure to call collect."
"Not a problem, sugar," Linda said, completely unruffled. "Phone's in the corner. Help yourself."
Kurt left Finn in Linda's care while he attempted to make the call home. After several attempts to get the operator without success, he slammed the phone into its cradle and stomped back over to the bar.
"It appears that the phone lines are down," Kurt said as he retook his seat.
"Oh, happens all the time," Linda said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Roy'll be coming by later to pick up his pie and I'll let him know. He'll have it up by morning, I'm sure."
"I take it that Roy works for the phone company?" Kurt asked. He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. This was a disaster of epic proportions.
"And runs the dry goods store down the street," Linda said. She snapped her fingers as a thought occurred to her. "You know, Jim hasn't come by for his pie yet either. He usually has a tow bar in the back of his pickup. He could help you boys get your car into town, at least."
"He doesn't happen to have a spare alternator in his pickup truck, does he?" Kurt asked. Finn kicked him with a scowl.
"Wouldn't put it past him, but odds are it's for one of his trucks," Linda replied with a grin. She didn't seem the least bit perturbed by Kurt's less-than-congenial attitude.
"You could be a little nicer," Finn said under his breath as Linda walked away to check on her other customers – all two of them.
"I know," Kurt said with a sigh. "It's hardly the fault of some waitress in the middle of nowhere that we're stranded on Christmas Eve."
"Meaning it's my fault," Finn said in a hiss.
Kurt considered insisted that it was indeed Finn's fault for driving the piece of garbage that he called Betty, but cars broke down all the time and he couldn't blame his brother for having bad luck. "It's not your fault, Finn. We'll get home somehow, even if we have to hitchhike."
"Well, now, there's an idea," Linda said as she plopped their plates of food in front of them. "I'll ask around and see if anyone is heading your way. Where is it that you're going?"
"Lima, Ohio," Finn answered before diving into his sandwich.
"Thank you, Linda," Kurt said as he picked daintily at his food while trying not to watch Finn inhale his. He had to admit that the taste was much better than he'd anticipated.
People came and went as they finished up their meals. Most came in to pick up a pie for Christmas and Linda asked each one if they could help the two stranded, young men make their way home. Kurt could feel his heart sink a little at each regretful refusal.
"Sorry, boys. Doesn't seem like anyone's going to be leaving town until after Christmas," Linda said. The pies were nearly gone and it didn't seem likely that anyone was going to come to the boy's rescue. "Mrs. Greene has a rooming house just down the block. She sent word by her grandson that she'd be glad to give you boys rooms for the night without charge. She only has one other boarder at the moment, so has plenty of room."
"Guess that's better than sleeping in the car," Kurt grumbled to himself while Finn thanked Linda and paid for their meals.
As they walked outside, Kurt noticed that someone had towed the car into town and parked it at the boarding house Linda directed them to. Linda had promised to pass the word around town to see if anyone had a part they could use, but Kurt wasn't very hopeful. The best he hoped for now was that the phones would be repaired by morning and that they might be able to find a ride to Lima then, even if that meant his father had to drive out to pick them up.
Kurt and Finn walked over to Mrs. Greene's boarding house. Like everyone else in the small town, Mrs. Greene was a friendly woman. Kurt couldn't decide on her age, but put her at least at sixty. She showed them to side by side rooms, indicated where the bathroom was and told them when dinner would be served. Finn was thrilled to hear that there would be more of the diner's pie after dinner.
"There's another young man staying with us, but he seldom joins us for meals," Mrs. Greene said. "He rather likes his privacy, so I ask that you respect that."
"Not a problem," Finn said as he dropped his bags in one of the rooms. "We appreciate you taking us in for the night."
"Well, no reason for you boys to freeze to death in your car when I have plenty of room not being used," Mrs. Greene said. She left the boys to organize themselves and returned downstairs.
Once Kurt had finished rummaging through his bags to find those things he needed for the night, he walked back to Finn's room. His brother was sitting on the bed with a troubled expression on his face.
"I'm sure there will be plenty of pie, Finn. You needn't worry," Kurt said. He leaned against the door frame and waited for Finn to respond.
"Kurt, did you ever see that Supernatural episode where the car breaks down and the couple stops at this diner and they feed them pie, but it turns out that the people are just fattening them up for some monster that's going to eat them when they try to leave town," Finn asked.
Kurt found it really difficult not to laugh at his brother's far-fetched imagination. "Finn, that was a television show. This is real life; cars break down, phone lines go out, cell phones have dead areas. It's not a plot by a bunch of small town folks to pacify some monster."
"How can you be sure?" Finn asked, fidgeting.
"It doesn't look like we're leaving town anytime soon. So, unless you think Mrs. Greene is the monster, I think we're safe."
Finn leaned forward and lowered his voice. "What about this boarder that doesn't want anyone to see him? He could be a monster and is just waiting for us to go to sleep."
"Are you twenty-three or three?" Kurt asked. When Finn looked sheepish, but still glanced around nervously, Kurt shook his head and turned back to the hallway. "I'm going downstairs to see if the phones have been fixed yet. Feel free to barricade yourself in your room."
As he reached the top of the stairs, Kurt could hear guitar music coming from the mystery boarder's room. It was so despondent that it brought tears to Kurt's eyes before he hurried down the stairs and out of range. Finn followed him downstairs and left to see if Linda had found anything new in the time they'd been gone.
A teenage boy was sprawled on the sofa reading a book when Kurt walked by the parlor. He looked up and grinned when Kurt cleared his throat.
"Hey, you must be Kurt," the teen said as he stood up and put the book aside. He introduced himself as Sam. "Grandmother told me to keep an eye out for you and your brother in case you needed anything."
"Do you have an alternator for a 56 Ford Fairlane?" Kurt asked.
"Sorry, not much of a car person," Sam said with a rueful laugh. "Jerry went out to Mr. Cooper's junk yard to see if he had anything though." He glance out the window. "Be dark soon though, so he might not have any luck."
"I'd be surprised if he had luck at high noon," Kurt replied. He asked about the book Sam was reading, more to make conversation than anything else, and they chatted for a while.
Finally, Kurt couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. "So, what is it with this mystery boarder? I heard him playing the guitar as I walked by."
Sam shrugged with a small frown. "I've only seen him a few times. Calls himself Andy, no last name. He was heading for New York about a week ago. Stopped at the diner and when he came out, had a flat tire. We fixed him right up, but he decided to stay on for a bit."
"He plays that guitar all day and night. It doesn't seem to bother Grandmother, but then her bedroom is downstairs and on the other side of the house," Sam continued and then leaned forward conspiratorially. "Some in town think he's running from a broken heart. Others think he's just running."
"Like, 'America's Most Wanted' running?" Kurt asked in concern.
Sam shrugged. "He seems nice enough, but then they say that some of the most famous serial killers were charmers."
"Wonderful, Finn will be so pleased," Kurt said.
"Samuel, I will not have you speaking poorly of our guest," Mrs. Greene said as she breezed into the room. "Now, why don't you go chop some wood for the fireplace? It's going to be a cold evening and I find a fire to be quite cheering."
Sam muttered something that sounded like a cross between an apology and acquiescence as he marched out of the room with his head lowered.
"Please forgive my grandson," Mrs. Greene said. "Like most small towns, gossip is considered a viable pastime. The more mysterious the individual, the better for the imagination."
"You don't believe there's anything nefarious about your boarder then?" Kurt asked.
"I believe he is a young man seeking a refuge from his problems, which I do not believe to involve any illegal activities," Mrs. Greene replied. "And what about you, young man? Any unlawful undertakings in your past that I should know about?"
"You won't find my picture on the post office wall," Kurt promised.
"I didn't think I would," Mrs. Greene said with a chuckle. "I'm a good judge of character and I don't see either you or your brother as any sort of threat."
"Accept to the pies," Kurt corrected.
Mrs. Greene laughed outright at that. "I appreciate a man with a decent appetite. My husband, rest his soul, always enjoyed a good meal."
The front door opened and closed.
"Be careful, he's like a stray dog. Feed him and he might never go away," Kurt said with a return smile.
"Did someone mention food?" Finn asked as he walked into the room. He appeared to have gotten over his phobia about the town.
"I'll just go check on it," Mrs. Greene said. "Perhaps you'd be so kind as to knock on Andy's door and let him know we'll be eating shortly."
"I didn't think he ate with you," Kurt said as Mrs. Greene began to walk across the room.
"It's only polite to offer," Mrs. Greene said.
Kurt shrugged as she left the room and turned to Finn. "So, how long are we stranded for?"
"No phones yet, but Roy is working on it. No luck with the alternator, but Jack says he'll drive up to the parts store first thing after Christmas and get the part for us."
"Any chance of a ride to a bus station or something?" Kurt asked, feeling a bit desperate.
"I'd hate to ask someone to leave their family on Christmas to drive us to a bus station," Finn said with a sigh.
Kurt shook his head at his brother's softheartedness, but if he was honest, he wouldn't have asked someone to give up their Christmas for a stranger either.
"You going to let that Andy-guy know dinner is almost ready?" Finn asked with a nervous look up the stairs. Apparently he wasn't quite over his phobia just yet.
"Am I going to have to ask Mrs. Greene for a nightlight for your room?" Kurt asked with a snort.
Kurt rolled his eyes when Finn gave him his best puppy-dog begging look. "Fine, I'll knock on the mystery-monster's door and tell him that you're getting fattened up for his midnight snack later."
"You'll be sorry if we wake up dead," Finn warned.
It was difficult, but Kurt refrained from pointing out the illogic of that statement. Instead, he walked up the stairs and tapped lightly on Andy's door. The guitar music stopped and a soft voice called out, "Yes?"
"Mrs. Greene asked me to let you know that dinner is almost ready," Kurt called back.
There was a long pause before Andy answered. "Thank you, but I'll have to decline her kind invitation."
"Suit yourself," Kurt said with a shrug. He tried to think of something else to say; something that might shed some light on who the mystery guest was, but the guitar began to play the same melancholy tune from earlier. Kurt sighed and went back down the stairs to where Finn waited.
"Did he say anything?" Finn asked in a whisper.
"Yes, Finn, he does speak," Kurt said in exasperation. "Quite politely, as a matter of fact."
"Did he sound, you know, normal?" Finn asked in the same hushed tone.
"No, Finn, he sounded like a demon from another dimension bent of ripping our still beating hearts from our chests and eating them while we gasp our last breath," Kurt replied.
"Really?" Finn asked with a worried look up the stairs. Then he glanced back at Kurt and his gaze turned sheepish. "Oh, you were joking."
Kurt was saved from any more of Finn's nonsense when Sam popped his head through the door to announce that dinner was ready.
The excellent meal followed by apple pie seemed to assuage Finn fears and by the time they were pushing back from the table, he appeared to have forgotten all about the boarder upstairs. Linda dropped by, but she had no better news than they'd already heard. When a few other townspeople came by to wish Mrs. Greene a merry Christmas, Kurt and Finn excused themselves and returned to Finn's room.
Finn sat gingerly on the side of the bed and stared at the wall between his room and the mystery-boarder's. Kurt thought he could hear singing as well as the guitar music, but it was too soft to be sure.
"Maybe he's like a siren and lulls his victims to sleep before he kills them," Kurt suggested with a smirk.
"Okay, I get it. You think I'm imagining things," Finn said. His irritated look became crafty. "Since you're so sure it's nothing, why don't we switch rooms?"
"You've got to be kidding?" Kurt blurted out. "You expect me to move all my stuff just because you've watched too many hours of the Chill channel?"
"I'll move it for you," Finn offered.
Kurt shook his head in amazement at the six foot-plus former football player. "You realize that I'll never let you live this down."
Finn grimaced. "What would it take to get you to keep this between us?"
Kurt smiled slowly. "Oh, why don't we just say you owe me one?"
Finn winced, but nodded in agreement. Kurt supervised while Finn swapped their things, being extra careful with all of the bottles that Kurt had laid out on the dresser in his former room.
They talked for a while longer, this time in Finn's new room, before Kurt excused himself to begin his nightly bedtime routine. Now that he was paying more attention, he realized that Andy would play a few notes, pause for a moment and then play again. The tune wasn't familiar to begin with, but by the time he finished his nightly routine, Kurt found himself humming along and realized that Andy was writing a new song – one that reached into a person and forced the swell of painful emotion from their soul.
"What sort of heartbreak have you gone through to make you write music like that," Kurt asked the wall softly. He feel to sleep with the melancholy tune playing in the background.
Kurt was jarred from a sound sleep and stared around the unfamiliar room with a racing heart, unsure what had woken him or where he was. The room was dark, but a sliver of light slipped in through the slightly opened door leading to the hallway.
Kurt pushed himself upright and stared at the door which he was sure that he had closed before going to bed. Perhaps Finn had come in for something, but hadn't wanted to wake him.
Kurt slide out of bed, pull on a robe and slippers and cautiously opened the hallway door and peered out. The house was silent and he didn't see anything out of the ordinary. He walked down the hallway and cracked Finn's door open to glance inside. His brother was curled up under the massive stack of bedclothes, snoring softly.
Puzzled, Kurt turned back to his room, but instead of stopping, he continued on towards the stairs. Unsurprisingly, Andy's door was closed and it slowly dawned on Kurt that the guitar music had stopped. Well, even mystery boarders had to rest sometime.
As Kurt stood at the top of the stairs berating himself for being up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, he heard a slight noise from downstairs. He took a few steps closer to the stairs and strained to identify what the sound was. Unsure of what he was hearing, Kurt slowly descended the steps, curious despite the small voice in his head that told him he was wasting valuable beauty sleep chasing ghost. If he had bags under his eyes come morning, he was going to blame Finn and his earlier paranoia.
The stair under his foot creaked and the sounds from the kitchen ceased. Kurt froze in fear of being discovered. He couldn't have explained why he was frightened, but blamed that on Finn as well. He should have been in his own room back in Ohio, in his own bed where there were no ancient cars that died in the middle of nowhere or talk of town's people who were secretly plotting to feed you to a monster.
"You will pay for this, Finn Hudson," Kurt muttered under his breath as he resumed his descent.
Kurt paused at the bottom of the stairs long enough to determine that the sounds were coming from the kitchen. Perhaps Finn's monster was getting a midnight cup of cocoa. Kurt crept as quietly as he could towards the kitchen, feeling a bit foolish for his anxiety at facing whatever was inside that room. He wondered where he could find a piece of coal to give Finn for Christmas.
Kurt took a deep breath when he reached the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Stealing himself, Kurt pushed the door open far enough to peer inside.
The monster was sitting at the kitchen table with his back to Kurt. He hadn't turned on the overhead light, but the gas lamp on the table put his silhouette into sharp relief. He was smaller than Kurt expected a demon to be and appeared to be eating a sandwich with a glass of milk chaser.
"I didn't mean to wake you," the monster said in a soft voice.
"You were in my room," Kurt said. His heart was pounding as took two steps into the room and let the door swing shut behind him. He knew that voice, but it couldn't be. What would Blaine be doing here?
"I wanted to make sure you were asleep before I came downstairs," the man said.
Kurt slid around the periphery of the room until he reached the chair across from the monster. He barely managed to pull the chair out before his legs gave way. He stared across the table in shock. "What are you doing here?"
Blaine shrugged. "It's a nice place to lay low for a while. No one seems to know who I am so they leave me alone. The people are nice and don't ask a lot of questions. Cell phones don't work, so no one can harass me."
"I thought you were in California," Kurt said. He raised his chin slightly, daring Blaine to contradict him. "Won't your handlers be looking for you?"
"Good luck finding me here," Blaine said with a small smile. "I was rather shocked when I saw you and Finn walking up the road earlier. What are the odds?"
Kurt swallowed past the lump in this throat. "You're Andy. How clever."
Blaine shrugged again. "Just a small play on words. Like I said, no one seems to know me, but I didn't want to take too many chances."
"I'm sorry I've intruded on your little refuge. Finn and I will be gone as soon as we can get his car running," Kurt said stiffly.
"You can take mine," Blaine said softly, without looking up from his forgotten sandwich. "I've nowhere I have to be anytime soon."
"What about Sebastian? Don't you think he'll be worried about where you've disappeared to?" Kurt asked.
Blaine looked up with a puzzled frown. "Sebastian has never cared about anything except Sebastian."
"And getting you into his bed," Kurt said.
"He can keep on wanting," Blaine replied. "There's only one man I'd have in my bed and he wants nothing to do with me." Blaine cocked his head to one side with narrowed eyes. "Is that why you broke up with me; because of Sebastian?"
Kurt looked away as his feelings of self-righteous anger began to morph into guilt and regret. "Being on opposite coasts wasn't going to work out; you know that as well as I do. I just put an end to something that already dying painfully."
"And you just happened to decide that right after Sebastian got a part on the same series as me," Blaine said. "I don't know why I didn't see the connection before."
"Because you've always been oblivious to the obvious," Kurt replied. He lifted his chin defiantly again and looked at Blaine directly. "Are you going to deny that the writers intended Sebastian to be your character's new love interest?"
"I have no control over what the writer's intend, Kurt, but they figured out fairly quickly that there's no chemistry between us and I'm not a good-enough actor to fake it."
Kurt felt tears prickling the back of his eyes. Had he ruined everything for no reason at all?
Blaine stood up and dragged a chair over so that he and Kurt were sitting close enough that he could put his hand over Kurt's. "My contract is up in a few months. If there's any chance at all that we can fix this, tell me and I'll forget the series and come back to New York."
Kurt couldn't speak through the tightness in his throat, so he shook his head. He didn't want Blaine to give up his chance at fame. There were other options that he should have considered before instead of just giving up on them.
Blaine pulled back, apparently thinking that Kurt was rejecting him again, but Kurt grabbed his hands and held on. "Don't leave," was all Kurt managed to say.
Kurt took several deep breaths to calm himself while Blaine watched him uncertainly. "You've worked too hard to give up your career now," Kurt finally managed to say.
"It doesn't mean anything if I don't have you to share it with," Blaine said.
Kurt held up a hand to stop Blaine from saying more. "Perhaps it's time I gave L.A. a chance." He leaned forward until their foreheads touched. "Maybe we should show those writers of yours what chemistry really looks like."
Blaine chuckled raggedly. "And I won't even have to draw on my acting skills."
They sat for several minutes just enjoying each other's presence and that the world was going to okay once again.
"About this car of yours," Kurt said. "There is room for three and luggage, right?"
Blaine chuckle was steadier. "We'll make it work," he promised.
Kurt slide forward and rested his head on Blaine's shoulder. He was positive that they would this time.
~ Epilogue ~
"Are you sure this is the place?" Burt asked as he and the four boys exited their vehicles. Kurt wasn't surprised that his father was going to personally make sure Finn's car was running before he let them return to New York City.
"That looks like the diner we ate at," Finn said in confusion. "But what happened to it?" Part of the roof of the diner had collapsed, but it looked like it had happened years ago, not in the last few days.
"That's Mrs. Greene's house," Kurt said, just as confused as Finn. The tidy house that they'd stayed in just a few days ago now had an overgrown yard and the porch was listing to one side.
"You slept in there?" Burt asked.
"There's Betty," Finn said, pointing to where back end of his car was visible in Mrs. Greene's driveway.
"Guess it is the right place," Burt said, still not sounding convinced. "You boys weren't celebrating a little early, were you?"
"I swear, it didn't look like this," Finn protested. He looked at Blaine and Kurt for confirmation.
"He's right, it wasn't like this…" Blaine trailed off uncertainly. "What could have happened? Where are all the people?"
Burt shrugged and directed them toward Betty. He and Finn worked on the car while Blaine and Kurt wondered around trying to some clue as to what had happened to the town they remembered. There didn't seem to be anyone left to answer to their questions.
"Car coming," Blaine said from the doorway to the diner they didn't dare enter. They both turned as a truck that looked even older than Betty clattered up the road and rolled to a stop beside them. The window rolled down and an ancient looking man peered out at them. "Need some help?" the old man asked.
"My brother's car broke down," Kurt said, waving a hand toward Betty. "He and my father are working on it."
The old man nodded. "Not the best place to break down. Lucky he managed to get help."
"Do you live near here?" Blaine asked politely. "We haven't seen anyone else come by this morning."
"Live about ten miles that way," the old man said with a jerk of his chin in the direction he'd been heading. "Ain't too many still live in this area except for us farmers."
"What happened to the town?" Kurt asked.
The old man shook his head with a frown. "Ain't been no one living here since I was younger than you boys. No work so the people just move somewhere else." The old man looked thoughtful for a moment. "It's a real shame. That diner there made the best apple pie I've ever had. Heard Miss Linda moved down south somewhere with her daughter about thirty year ago. Ain't had the like since."
Kurt exchanged a startled glance with Blaine. "What about that house over there?" he asked shakily. He pointed towards the boarding house where Burt and Finn were working.
"Oh, Mrs. Greene passed when I was just a boy. Don't know what happen to her grandson. He sure could spin a good yarn though." The old man paused for a moment. "Sam was older than me, so I guess he'd be gone on by now."
Kurt reached out and grabbed Blaine's sleeve to steady himself. "We'd better see if my dad needs any help," Kurt said. He tugged on Blaine's sleeve as he started to walk away.
"You boys be careful about going into the buildings," the old man called after them. "Most ain't none too stable. Could fall in any time now."
"We'll stay out of them. Thank you," Blaine said as Kurt tugged more insistently on his sleeve. He didn't want to hear any more about the town.
The old man nodded and the truck clattered on down the road, leaving a slight cloud of dust behind.
"Wow, do you think…?" Blaine started to say.
"I don't want to think," Kurt said with a shiver. Blaine put an arm around his waist as they walked back towards Betty.
"It's kind of cool," Blain continued. "I mean, it was kind of strange that we both ended up here at the same time, but maybe there was something a little supernatural that wanted us back together."
"I'm not sure if that is reassuring or not," Kurt said. The idea that they'd spent the night among ghosts was disturbing enough. To think that those ghosts had somehow managed to get him and Blaine together was downright scary.
Blaine pulled Kurt to a stopped and turned him so that they were facing each other. "Hey, I for one am grateful for help in getting you back… even if it was from a town full of ghosts."
Kurt gradually relaxed into his boyfriend's arms and nodded in agreement. "They were nice people."
Blaine gave him a brief hug and then turned towards the boarding house again. "Let's see if Burt needs any help."
It didn't take much longer before Betty was ready to return to the road. Burt made them promise to call as soon as they made it back home. Burt headed out first, returning back to Lima where his wife waited. Finn left next in Betty with Blain and Kurt following in Blaine's rental.
Kurt glanced back at the town as the pulled away and, for just a moment, he thought he saw someone walk out of the diner with a pie in his hands while someone across the street waved a greeting to a passing friend. He blinked a few times and the dilapidated buildings were lost behind the trees as the road curved and the interstate onramp neared.
Kurt turned back to his boyfriend when he felt Blaine's hand on his thigh.
"You okay?" Blaine asked.
Kurt looked back one last time and noticed a beat-up sign that he had failed to notice before, 'Hope Springs, population 364'.
Kurt smiled and leaned over to rest his head lightly on Blaine's shoulder. "Never been better."