Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Upon his wife's disappearance, Mr. Hummel double checked all the doors and windows of his dark house. He latched each lock and switched off every light, and once he had reassured himself that he was quite safe, he retreated to his room, drew the curtains over his windows, and promptly fell in a deep, dreamless sleep.
He awoke to the sound of the clock in the hall chiming, bright and cheerful. It was then that he remembered his wife's words- expect the first spirit when the bell tolls one.
But that was merely a dream, wasn't it? He hadn't seen the ghost of his wife after all.
He rolled over onto his side in an effort to go back to sleep, and found himself face to face with the first spirit.
She seemed quite young, perhaps sixteen years old. Her blonde hair curled softly to her shoulders, charming and old-fashioned in its look, and one side was pinned back with a sprig of holly. She was dressed in white lace that enveloped her like a cloud and was sashed at the waist with vivid red ribbon. While she was pretty and delicate, there was something still quite solemn and frightening about how sharp her green eyes were, as if she could see straight through him.
Mr. Hummel squared his shoulders. "Are you the spirit my wife told me about?" he asked.
"I am," she said, her voice curiously soft and low.
Mr. Hummel frowned. "Who the hell are you?" he asked.
She frowned right back at him. "I am the ghost of Christmas past," she said. "And there's no need to be rude."
"Well, what kind of past?" he asked.
"Your past," she said.
Mr. Hummel sighed. "I don't understand why my wife sent you," he snapped.
The spirit crossed her arms. "Your redemption," she said, slightly irritated. "Now get up, and walk with me."
"Walk with you where?" he said skeptically. She pointed towards the window, her irritation clearly growing, and he folded his arms. "In case you didn't notice, I'm human. One jump out of there and I'm dead."
"A touch of my hand, and you will fly," she said. He remained skeptical, and she grabbed his hand and dragged him towards the window.
It seemed to take only the blink of an eye, but Mr. Hummel found himself on the sidewalk outside his own home, the spirit still gripping his hand. The house seemed the same, and yet different. The exterior was not so shabby, and cheerful Christmas lights blinked in bright colors around the roof. He glanced towards the driveway to see the pickup truck he had driven as a young man in his late teens and twenties, until the transmission had died on the interstate one fateful afternoon. Another car was parked beside it, a blue sedan coated in snow, and he swallowed thickly.
"You know this place?" the spirit said.
"Well, yeah, of course," Mr. Hummel stammered. "It's just…it's different."
"Of course it is," she said. "This is the past."
She walked towards the door, her steps making no print in the thickness of the snow, and he followed her dumbly. The door was barred, but they stepped through as if it was merely fog.
Mr. Hummel blinked and caught his breath. It was his own living room, but quite different. The room was tidy and cozy, a fire crackling merrily in the fireplace, and a lavishly trimmed tree, decorated with a charming disregard for rhyme nor reason with its gold tinsel, colored lights, and hodgepodge of ornaments, stood in one corner, ringed in gaily wrapped presents. Three stockings hung on the mantel, names embroidered across the top in slightly crooked stitches, fairly bulging with small prizes.
But most startling of all to see was his own self, nearly thirty years younger, still handsome and healthy. The Burt Hummel of the past busied himself with poking at the fire, adding another log and carefully tending the flames till they roared merrily.
"Well, Daddy, look who's up from his nap?"
Mr. Hummel turned around to see his long-dead wife standing in the doorway, their baby in her arms. He nearly stopped breathing. She was beautiful- long hair combed in sleek waves over her shoulders, still wearing her red velvet Christmas dress, her blue eyes sparkling in the firelight.
"Mollie," Mr. Hummel breathed.
But she didn't see him or hear him. In fact, Mr. Hummel realized that his past self had walked right through him, approaching his lovely wife with a smile and a kiss. "I've got the fire built," Burt said. "Is the little guy awake enough to open presents?"
"Burt, he's only eight months old," Mollie laughed. "He's not going to care about presents."
"Yeah, but Daddy cares, right, scooter?" Burt said, scooping up the drowsy baby and planting a kiss on his round cheek. "This is more for Mommy and Daddy, huh, Kurt?"
The baby crowed sleepily as Burt nestled him in his arms, cuddled up close to his chest. Mollie smiled, petting the soft dusting of brown hair on the baby's head. "His first Christmas," she murmured. "He's getting so big."
She leaned in to kiss the baby's nose, earning a smile and a happy babble. Mr. Hummel watched the shades of his wife and child hungrily, remembering those days, long-forgotten. The firelight made Mollie's hair shine in hints of red-gold and her blue eyes were bright.
"So beautiful," Mr. Hummel murmured.
"A delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered," the Ghost of Christmas Past remarked. "She died a woman and had one child. Your son, Kurt."
"He looks so much like her," Mr. Hummel said absently.
The Ghost of Christmas Past smiled a little to herself, as if she held a secret. "Let us see another Christmas in this house," she said, and in a blink the scene altered. It was early morning, the pale winter sun shining on the snow outside, and the fire died upon the hearth. The presents under the tree were bigger and grew in number, till they crowded out from under the tree and onto the piano bench. Mr. Hummel smiled absently at the empty plate of cookies and drained-dry glass of milk on the coffee table, left behind in a note written in badly-disguised handwriting. He always did like writing notes from Santa to Kurt. The kid always got such a kick out of it.
He heard little rapid footsteps on the stairs and turned to see his son, small and delicate and flushed in excitement, racing towards him. His hair stuck up a little in the back, mussed from sleep, and he was dressed in red striped pajamas. He couldn't be more than five years old. Without thinking Mr. Hummel put a hand out towards him, as if to catch him, but Kurt ran past him without raising a breath of air.
"This is the past," the Ghost reminded him soberly. "He can neither see nor hear you."
Mr. Hummel watched as his little boy scooted closer to the Christmas tree, one sock sliding off his foot, his eyes wide at he stared at the heap of presents in rapture. Kurt was so caught up in his reveling, in fact, that he didn't hear his mother's soft steps behind him. Mr. Hummel did, of course, and smiled as his wife drew close to Kurt, a pale blue bathrobe tied over her pajamas and her hair loosely curling down her back.
"Did Santa come, baby?" she asked softly.
Kurt whirled around and wrapped his small arms around her. "He did!" he said, hugging his mother fiercely. "I must've been awfully good, Mommy."
Mollie laughed and picked him up. He was almost too big to be carried, but judging by way she cuddled him close and the way he nestled his head against her shoulder, neither of them minded. "Merry Christmas, sweet boy," she whispered, pressing a kiss to his temple.
"Merry Christmas, Mommy," Kurt sighed.
Mr. Hummel watched them wistfully, his pretty wife and his little boy unaware of his presence. He'd forgotten what Kurt had been like at that age- sweet and charming, sometimes willful but always loving. It was hard for him to remember that, ever since that terrible argument when Kurt was still in high school.
"Hey, you didn't get started without me, did you?"
Mr. Hummel looked up to see himself walking down the stairs, grinning widely. Mollie laughed. "Of course we didn't, Burt," she said.
"Daddy!" Kurt crowed, stretching out of his mother's arms.
Burt laughed and swept him up into a hug, holding him easily. "You excited, kiddo?" he asked.
"Santa brought a lot!" Kurt said, eyes wide. "Mommy said I was really good this year."
"You're always good," Burt said. "You wanna open a present?"
"He can open his stocking presents, but big presents have to wait till after breakfast," Mollie reminded them.
"Fine, fine," Burt said. He held Kurt up to lift his stocking from the mantel and sat down in his usual armchair; Kurt scrambled into his lap to open his gifts.
Mr. Hummel felt unusually uneasy. He had forgotten what it had been like when Kurt had been just a child. It was easier to ignore him when he didn't remember.
"I'm sure you know that this isn't a usual Christmas in this house," the Ghost said.
Mr. Hummel's blood ran cold, for he knew what was coming. "No, please," he said. "This is enough."
But the ghost was resolute, and in a moment the happy, idyllic scene faded. The house was again decorated for Christmas, but the tree was stripped of gifts and the stockings dangled from the mantel, empty and forlorn. With a start Mr. Hummel recognized himself slumped in the armchair by the fire, alone save the beer bottle in his hand.
"No, spirit," he pleaded. "I don't want to see this."
Her lips thinned to a white line, impassive and disapproving. "You shall," she said.
Small footsteps sounded from the stairs, echoing in the empty house, and Kurt peeked into the living room. He no longer seemed the same happy child that Mr. Hummel had mused over just a moment ago. His face was pale and his eyes rimmed in red; his pajama shirt was misbuttoned and his pants were too long.
"Daddy?" the child whispered.
Mr. Hummel knew better than to expect an answer from the man sitting in the corner.
Kurt hesitantly edged into the darkened room. He looked around from the Christmas tree, morose without its lights and empty of presents, to the abandoned stockings. The plate of cookies was untouched. "Did…did Santa not come?" he questioned, his voice wobbling.
"No, Santa didn't come," Burt said bitterly.
"Was I bad?" Kurt whispered.
"There isn't a Santa, Kurt," Burt snapped. "It was me and your mom, every time. And now your mom's dead, so…"
His voice trailed off. Kurt stood at the foot of the stairs, clutching the banister, his face fading whiter and whiter. "Wh…what?" he stammered.
Burt stood up and viciously yanked Mollie's stocking off the mantel before tossing it into the dying embers of the fireplace. Kurt flinched. "We're not doing Christmas this year," Burt shouted. "Go get dressed, we have a funeral to go to."
Mr. Hummel stared at the scene before him. The little boy ran past him, fleeing to the safety of his room, his breath catching in his throat. "Your wife was killed a few days before Christmas," the Ghost of Christmas Past remarked. "A car accident. She was hit head-on and died instantly."
"We buried her on Christmas Day," Mr. Hummel said, his mouth dry.
"And you stopped celebrating Christmas."
"How could I?" Mr. Hummel snapped. "It's nothing but a reminder that my wife was taken from me!"
"And yet you were not alone," the Ghost said. "You chose to grieve alone."
She walked up the stairs, her feet hovering above the ground, and Mr. Hummel was compelled to follow her. Silently she led him into the little bedroom at the top of the stairs- Kurt's room.
The little boy had thrown himself across his bed, facedown amongst the unkempt covers, and he was crying, the force shaking his entire tiny frame. "I wanna die!" he sobbed into his pillows. "I wanna die like Mommy! I don't wanna be here!"
Mr. Hummel stared at him, thunderstruck. "I didn't…I didn't know," he said. His hand raised of his own accord, reaching to smooth Kurt's soft hair away from his hot forehead, or perhaps to dry his tears, but his hand faded through and he could not touch him.
"You sent him away and he cried alone," the Ghost said, her voice devoid of compassion. "In a moment he will get up and dress for his mother's funeral and wash the tears from his face, and you'll never know."
"He never told me," Mr. Hummel stammered.
"You never asked."
The child continued to sob into his pillow, his small body wracked with each harsh hitching breath. It was a heartbreaking sight, and Mr. Hummel turned his face away.
"Spirit, why are you showing me this?" he demanded.
"These are the shadows of things that have been," she said. "They are what they are. Do not blame me." Her eyes narrowed. "Let us see another Christmas."
The house changed again, growing darker and shabbier, and the tree faded away entirely. Mr. Hummel shifted his weight uncomfortably as once again he saw himself sitting in his armchair, idly watching a football game.
His son sat on the couch opposite him, dressed in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, absently looking at a book while he rested his chin in his hand. Even Mr. Hummel could see that he was unhappy- though about what, he couldn't be sure. He was a teenager now, but still small for his age, his cheeks still round.
The two of them sat in silence. There was no sign of Christmas anywhere in the room, even though the jaunty lights of the house blinked a cheerful red and green through the front window. Burt flipped through the channels on the commercial break, looking for something to watch while he waited for the football game to come back on.
"You still on the football team?" Burt asked, breaking the silence.
"No," Kurt said quietly.
"When'd you quit?"
Burt scowled. "Don't you like football?" he said.
"You're not gonna get into college if you don't have anything on your application," Burt said. "What d'you wanna join, the glee club?" He didn't wait long enough for Kurt to answer. "Yeah, right. Like I'd ever let a kid of mine do that." He flipped back to the basketball game and settled back in his chair. "Leave the singing and dancing to the pansy-ass fags."
Burt didn't notice his son flinch, but our Mr. Hummel did. The jab seemed all the sharper now.
"He already knew," the Ghost said. "He knew who he was, and you refused to give him the safety to come out."
"I know that," Mr. Hummel snapped. "I just didn't…I didn't want my kid…" His voice trailed off. "Just…take me somewhere else."
The Ghost said nothing, but things seemed to change. Burt was still sitting in his armchair, but a different game flashed on the television. Kurt was gone from the couch.
"Kurt, dinner ready yet?" Burt called.
"In a minute, Dad."
Kurt walked out of the kitchen, and Mr. Hummel caught his breath. The boy was definitely in high school- fifteen, perhaps sixteen years old- but he looked dreadful. His face was thin and angular, his skin sallow and his eyes ringed in dark shadows. He wore his shirt buttoned to the neck and the sleeves pulled over his skinny wrists, and his jeans were a good two sizes too big for his skeletal frame.
"You want water with dinner?" Kurt asked.
"Nope, get me a beer."
"We're out of beer."
"A Coke, then."
Kurt bit his thin lower lip. "Dad, your heart-"
Burt finally turned around. "You're not the boss," he said. "Get me a Coke."
Kurt opened up his mouth to argue, then closed it. Mr. Hummel watched him walk into the kitchen, noting the way he seemed to favor his right knee. He opened the refrigerator to reach for a soda, but an uncovered container tipped as his arm brushed against it, spilling over his shirt.
Kurt closed his eyes, his lips pressing into a white line, and he slammed the door of the refrigerator before yanking viciously at the buttons of his shirt and sliding it off his arms with a sharp wince.
Mr. Hummel caught his breath at the sight before him. Kurt's slender back was peppered with black and blue bruises, his spine arching in a line of bony bumps. He stared aghast at the sight of his child. "What happened to him?" he said, watching in horror as Kurt walked over to the tiny laundry room and picked up a clean shirt.
"Bullies," the spirit said simply. "They tortured him. He couldn't eat. He couldn't sleep. You used to yell at him about his dropping grades. Did you ever think to ask him why?"
"No," Mr. Hummel whispered. "No, I never…I never did."
His chest ached at the sight of his son, his only child, struggling to pull a clean long sleeved tee shirt over his heavily bruised body. He had never realized…he never noticed.
"Please don't make me watch this anymore," Mr. Hummel whispered.
"Fine," the Ghost said. "But you're not going to like the next Christmas much more than this one."
He didn't think that could be managed, but with a touch of her hand, the spirit brought them into the self-same living room for yet another Christmas. But this time, Mr. Hummel remembered it.
"Oh god," he breathed. "No. Not this one."
"Yes, this one," the Ghost said, nonplussed.
It was their house, and it was Christmas, but father and son were caught in an argument, screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. "No son of mine will be a queer!" Burt bellowed.
"Dad, please, stop saying that!" Kurt begged. "I'm still your son!"
"Kurt, I'm not gonna tolerate this," Burt snapped. "You can't be gay. I didn't raise you that way."
"You didn't raise me at all!" Kurt burst out. "Ever since Mom died, you just let go of everything. You let go of me. You haven't noticed me since I was eight years old!"
"God, Kurt, stop it," Burt said. "Of course I noticed you. I kept you fed and clothed, a roof over your head…"
"Dad, enough!" Kurt shouted. He dragged his fingers through his hair. "Enough! Enough of everything. I can't take it anymore." A sob caught in his throat. "Don't even bother, Dad. I got accepted to a school in New York. I'm leaving when I graduate, and I'm not…I'm not coming back!"
"Fine, then," Burt snapped. "Do what you want. Do whatever the hell you want."
"I will," Kurt said, holding his chin stubbornly high, but Mr. Hummel could see the tell-tale tremble in his narrow shoulders.
"Spirit, no more," Mr. Hummel said. "I can't take this anymore."
"Neither could your son," the Ghost of Christmas past snapped, and suddenly they were no longer in the living room of the house, but in his own garage. He could see his own past self working busily on an engine, not even noticing that his own son was approaching him.
Kurt was still painfully thin and his eyes were anxious. "Dad?" he ventured.
Burt glanced at him over his shoulder. "Kurt," he said, seemingly unaffected. "Haven't seen you in a while."
"It's been six years," Kurt said quietly. "You…you never answered any of my letters."
The Ghost of Christmas Present glanced towards Mr. Hummel. "Did you read them?" she inquired.
"I…most of them," Mr. Hummel stammered. "But I never…never answered him."
Kurt was twisting his fingers together in the fringe of his scarf. "Dad, I have something important to tell you," he said.
"I graduated a few years ago, remember?" Kurt said. He squared his shoulders, his face falling into grim lines like a soldier marching into battle. "Dad, I'm getting married."
Mr. Hummel flinched.
"To a woman?" Burt asked.
"No," Kurt whispered. "I'm marrying Blaine. We've been together since my freshman year of college. Remember?" "If you're not marrying a woman, you're not getting married," Burt said flatly, turning his back to pick up a wrench.
"It's legal!" Kurt protested. "And Dad, I…I love him."
Mr. Hummel's mouth went dry. "Spirit, don't make me watch this," he begged. "I can't. I know I could've been better. Stop torturing me like this!"
The Ghost did not answer, but in a moment the scene faded, and Mr. Hummel found himself once again alone in his room, his head spinning in the sudden silence.
Waaaaah, my eternal Kurt-related creys.
Why do I torture the Hummels so?
But I hope you enjoyed this chapter anyway. And next chapter you get see what Kurt and Blaine and Finn are all up to, so yay!
Also, the Ghost of Christmas Past was Quinn. Because it's an unholy trinity of ghosts...