Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
It haunted his dreams afterwards.
Why didn't you just move faster? he would scold himself as he untangled himself from his bedcovers, his body dripping with cold sweat. If you had just been faster, none of this would have happened.
But he wasn't, and it did.
And it was his fault.
Sebastian pulled the slushie cup out of nowhere. One second he was singing, smirking at them, taunting them. The next he had a had a slushie cup in his hand and a wicked smile on his face, and he pulled his arm back for a well-aimed throw.
There wasn't an impressive bit of slow motion, no time standing still. He didn't even have time to blink. Pushing Kurt aside, stepping in front of him…that was out of the question.
Time didn't stop until the red slush crashed into Kurt's face. Then he saw everything, every detail, laborious in its torture. The way Kurt scrunched up his face. The way he flinched. The way he threw his arms up in a belated attempt to protect himself.
Kurt recoiled, losing his balance and sliding backwards on the concrete. Blaine put his hands out, limp and useless, powerless to help him. Kurt slammed to the ground, the thick cracking sound of his head hitting the pavement echoing in the vacant garage.
And then he didn't get up.
Blaine stared at him, horrified, frozen where he stood. The others grouped around him, shocked into silence. Move, he told himself. Move.
"Kurt?" Rachel whispered.
Kurt didn't make a sound, but his shoulders began to shake. He huddled on the ground, knees tucked into his chest. "He's not getting up," Quinn murmured. She crouched over him, touching his shoulder lightly. "Kurt? Are you- oh my god."
"What? What's wrong?" Finn demanded. "It was just a slushie, it can't-"
Quinn tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and bent over Kurt. "Slushies don't do this," she said. She tugged at Kurt's shoulder, trying to get him to roll onto his back. "Kurt? Look at me, please."
Blaine still couldn't move.
If you had been fast enough, this wouldn't have happened.
Anger coiled in his stomach, hot and fast. He clenched his fists.
Fuck cognitive behavior therapy.
"You son of a bitch!" he bellowed, taking off after the retreating pack of navy-blazered bastards. He ran after them, shoving David to the side (as hard as he would have shoved Kurt to get him out of the way if he had just been fast enough), pushing past Nick, grabbing a handful of Sebastian's sleeve and yanking so hard the prep-school bitch tripped out of his shoe. "You son of a bitch, what the hell did you do?"
"Just a slushie," Sebastian said, oily smile still in place, adjusting his tie as he toed into his shoe. "I hear they're de rigeur where you come from."
Blaine drew his arm back and punched him.
He hadn't spent hours in his makeshift gym in the garage punching at a bag for nothing. The throw was swift, decisive, slamming into the side of Sebastian's nose with an echoing crack. Sebastian doubled over, hands over his face.
Blaine wasn't done. His mind fell into that hot thoughtless zone of pure rage, his fists flying in rapid throws, heedless of the adrenaline coursing in his veins, the heat of his blood, the pain in his knuckles. He pinned his enemy to the concrete floor, mindless of humanity, hitting every vital and tender spot in the robotic motion of constant practice.
"What the hell, Anderson, don't kill him!"
Arms wrapped around his chest and heaved him back, his arms still swinging like a broken toy's. "Let go of me!" he seethed. "Let go of me, I want to kill him!"
"Dude, you almost did," Puck said, giving him a firm shake. "Chill, chill, we got this."
Blaine blinked, falling back into himself, staring in startled disbelief at his handiwork. The Warblers clustered in shell-shocked little huddles, speechless and wide-eyed. Sebastian writhed on the ground- hair mussed, clothing torn, face smeared in blood and ground. "You broke my nose!" he shrieked. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
Blaine's blood boiled. He leaned over and spat at him; Puck jerked him back. "What did you do to Kurt?" he demanded.
"It…it was just a slushie," Trent whispered, nearly inaudible. "That's…what he told us."
David took a cautious step towards him. "Blaine, are you-"
"Fuck you," Blaine spat. Memories burned, memories of supportive friends that helped him through repercussive night terrors that left him weak and last-ditch study sessions to keep him from failing yet another grade and private rehearsals until he found his voice again. "Fuck all of you. You were our friends. You loved us. You got both of us through some of the toughest times in our lives, and now this." Nick took a step back. Jeff seemed near tears. Thad just stared, stunned. "Fuck all of you."
Puck's arms were still tight around Blaine's chest. "I second all this, but Anderson, you gotta calm down," he said. He dragged Blaine away from them, Blaine's heart racing under Puck's hand. "Kurt's a mess. You calm enough to be around him, or you need a minute?"
Blaine closed his eyes, inhaled slowly, counted to four, exhaled on eight. "I'm fine," he said quietly. "I can handle it. I can."
Puck let go of him slowly, as if he was waiting for Blaine to shatter. "You sure?" he said.
"I'm sure," Blaine said, flexing his fingers. They were going to hurt when the adrenaline wore off. "Let me see him."
Puck stayed close as Blaine continued to breathe deeply, keeping his steps calm and measured. By the time he reached Kurt, he felt a little more like himself again.
Until he saw him.
Kurt was still hunched over, his forearms crossed over his face. Brittany sat close, her hand hovering over his back, as if she wanted to soothe him but didn't know how, and Quinn knelt at his side, her hand smoothing over his hair. "Kurt, please, just look up," she coaxed. "We can't help if you won't show us what's wrong."
Blaine swallowed hard, walking like a zombie towards his boyfriend. "Let me…let me try," he said, his throat suddenly gone bone dry.
Quinn rocked back on her heels, making room for him while still keeping her hand's steady rhythm in Kurt's sticky hair. Blaine knelt down on the dirty cement. "Kurt?" he said. "Kurt, it's me. Can you look at me?" Kurt ignored him. Blaine cupped his hand around the back of his neck. "Please, honey. For me?"
He rubbed his thumb against the back of Kurt's neck, something he knew always soothed him, but Kurt didn't look up. Instead he stayed hunched over, forearms shielding his face, his whole body trembling.
Blaine bent closer. "Please, baby, let me-"
He realized with a jolt that Kurt was screaming into his arms, soundless and terrifying.
Blaine wrapped his arms tightly around Kurt, taking him away from Quinn, pulling him into his chest. "Kurt, Kurt, please," he begged. "Let me help you. Please, I just want to make it stop hurting."
He hugged Kurt close, feeling his whole body tremble, and nodded to Quinn. She gingerly pried Kurt's arms away.
Without the sleeves of his leather jacket to muffle the sound, Kurt was left gasping in the cold open air, sucking in quick panicky breaths and breathing them out as raw hoarse whispered screams. Blaine tilted him back a little, trying to see what was causing Kurt's pain.
His face was ravaged.
Kurt's fair skin was tinted red and raw, erupting in vast patches and swathes of scarlet. Angry little pockmarks peppered his cheeks and forehead, as if someone had sprinkled the remains of a firework across his face. The paleness of his complexion, the smoothness of his skin, even the tiny faint freckles that dotted his nose and cheekbones…all lost.
"What's wrong with him?" Finn demanded. "What happened?"
Blaine leaned Kurt back into the cradle of his arms. "His face is burned," he said. "Something in that slushie burned him."
"Oh my god," Quinn breathed. "Oh my god, Kurt…" Kurt tried to cover his face again, his arms shaking, but Quinn took his wrists. "He bit through his sleeve. Oh my god, Kurt…"
Blaine stared in dismay. The sleeves of Kurt's jacket were shredded from teeth marks. He had been stifling his screams by biting into the leather so hard it tore. "Babe, it's okay," he said, involuntarily squeezing him closer to his chest. "You're okay." Kurt's eyes were bloodshot; the force of muffling his sobs had popped blood vessels. "Oh god, babe, you're going to be okay."
Finn leaned over and pried Kurt from Blaine's arms. "I'm taking him home," he said, pulling Kurt back by the shoulders and scooping his arms under his knees. "Mom will know what to do."
"Shouldn't we take him to the hospital?" Quinn asked. Blaine stared down at his knees, unwilling to see how limply Kurt slumped against Finn's shoulder. His arms felt empty. "His face…"
"My mom's a nurse, remember?" Finn said sharply. "And Kurt hates hospitals. She'll take care of him. If he needs to go to the ER, she'll take him." He glanced down at his brother's reddened face, swallowing hard. "I want to get him home."
Blaine stood up, his clothing thoroughly begrimed from the dirty ground and his ripped-open knuckles already turning stiff and sore. "I'll go too," he said. "He'll want me."
He reached over and took Kurt's hand, seizing it tightly. Kurt squeezed back slightly, limp and not very reassuring. "What should the rest of us do?" Rachel quavered, tangling her fingers together.
"Go home," Blaine said sharply.
"We'll keep you updated," Finn promised.
The others dispersed in shock-silent clusters- Rory and Brittany clinging to Santana, Mercedes and Rachel gripping each other's sleeves, Puck and Sam skulking away with their hands in their pockets. Quinn paused. "You need any help?" she asked.
"Get his keys out of his pocket," Finn said.
Quinn fished in the pocket of Kurt's leather jacket. "God, the slushie hit everything," she said, pulling the sticky keys apart and unlocking the doors of the Navigator, the headlights flashing obscenely bright in the somber shadows. She pulled the backseat doors open and Finn helped Kurt inside, supporting most of his weight. Blaine put a hand out to brace the small of Kurt's back.
"You guys, stop!" Quinn said suddenly. "Stop, he's-"
Kurt suddenly slumped back, his body turning to dead weight in Finn's arms. "Oh god!" Finn exclaimed.
"He blacked out," Quinn said through her teeth. She opened the other door to the backseat and climbed up quickly, tucking her hands under Kurt's arms and pulling him inside. "I saw his eyes roll back."
Blaine climbed in beside Kurt, prying away the torn, sticky jacket from his arms and lifting Kurt's legs across his knees. He rubbed his side gently, staring down at Kurt's mottled face, his slack lips, his closed eyes. Quinn rested Kurt's head on her lap, smoothing his hair back. "Finn, just drive," she murmured, reaching around Kurt to wrap the center seatbelt around his waist.
Blaine kept his eyes on Kurt, waiting for him to wake up, to open his eyes, to acknowledge that he was still in there somewhere. He kept his hand against Kurt's side as Finn pulled out of the parking lot, waiting anxiously.
Kurt's lashes fluttered and Blaine let out a tight breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Hey, babe," he said softly. "Hey, you're all right. Take a deep breath. I'm right here."
"Is he waking up?" Finn called from the front seat.
"Yes, now stop hollering and drive," Quinn said. She cupped a hand under Kurt's chin- one of the few spots on his face and neck that weren't burned- and smoothed his sticky hair. Kurt whimpered. "Lie still. We're taking you home. You're going to be okay."
Blaine forced himself to smile, resting his hand on Kurt's chest, feeling the rapid, shaky rise-and-fall of his ribcage. Kurt stared up at him, dazed and unable to speak, his eyes pale and half-lidded. Light from the rapidly passing streetlamps flickered over his face, highlighting it in monstrous shadows. He tried to say something comforting, but everything died on his lips.
Quinn was more comforting than he was. She stroked Kurt's hair, one hand still cupped under his chin, her golden head bent over his, murmuring soft nonsensical little noises, soothing and rhythmic, sh-sh-sh.
Blaine's blood boiled. He was angry still. Angry at Sebastian for causing this, angry at Puck for stopping him from bashing Sebastian's brains out, angry at Quinn for being more comforting than he could manage, angry at Finn for being so inept, angry at himself for being such a…such a fucking idiot.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply through his nose. Four breaths in, he counseled himself. Eight breaths out. Four in…eight out…think it through.
He opened his eyes and kept his hand against Kurt's chest, feeling the fresh heat of his anger begin to fade around the edges. His smile softened, turning small and real, as he worked through his cognitive distortions in his head, pressing through them until his fury was small and manageable, safely tucked away until he could take it out to examine later, like a cockroach under a magnifying glass.
Anger later. Comfort now.
Blaine bent over Kurt, taking his hands in his. Kurt's fingers shook in his grip, cold and breakable. "Finn just pulled into your neighborhood," he whispered. "We're almost home. You'll be safe at home." He squeezed Kurt's fingers, trying to still the tremors. "Are you there? Are you listening?"
Kurt nodded slightly, eyes squeezed tight. Blaine raised Kurt's hands to his lips and pressed kisses over his knuckles, warm and light and soothing.
Finn pulled the Navigator into the driveway. "Mom's home," he said, relieved. He cut the engine and twisted around in his seat. "Kurt? You're gonna be okay now. Mom'll fix you up."
He slid out of the driver's seat and pulled the backseat door open on Quinn's side; the overhead light flooded the interior in an eerie yellow glow. "Okay, okay, I got you," Finn mumbled out of the corner of his mouth, half to himself, as he pulled Kurt from the backseat and lifted him against his chest. Blaine scrambled out behind him, fighting down a stab of irrational anger because I can carry him, I can take care of him, he's mine.
Quinn slipped ahead of Finn to open the front door of the house. It was beginning to rain, lightly pelting their faces and hair and clothes, making their shoes slip on suddenly-slick pavement. Blaine followed close, his hand reaching for Kurt's ankle, just to reassure himself.
"Kurt? Honey, is that you?"
He could hear Carole's footsteps approach from the living room. "Did you bring your brother with you?" she called. "I swear, I don't understand why that teacher of yours keeps calling for late rehearsals like this…"
She rounded the corner into the foyer, halted, and gasped. "Kurt's hurt," Finn blurted out, cradling his younger brother in his arms like a child holding up a beloved broken toy for a parent to fix. "Mom…his face, he-"
"Put him down on the couch," Carole said. "What happened? How is he hurt?"
Finn obeyed hastily, carrying Kurt into the living room and setting him down carefully. "It was a slushie," Quinn said, following close. "But it wasn't a normal one. There was something in it. It…burnt his face."
Carole switched on the tableside lamp and Blaine recoiled. The red had been duller, harder to see in the car, but now it stood out across Kurt's white face like flames were licking at the skin. "Oh my god," Carole murmured. She reached out gingerly, paused, and then stroked a lock of hair from Kurt's blistered forehead. "Poor little boy…"
"What…what is it?" Finn asked. "Is he-"
"Chemical burns," Carole said, tilting Kurt's chin gently. "God…I think we need to take him to the hospital."
Kurt roused at that, blinking rapidly. "No," he said hoarsely. "No, no, no…"
"Honey, these are third and second degree burns," Carole protested. "I can help some, but you need a doctor to take a look at these. Maybe even an IV drip. Burns are dangerous, sweetie, you can-"
"No, I don't want to," Kurt mumbled. "I hate hospitals. Don't make me go."
"No!" he begged, pushing himself up on his elbows. "No, please, I don't want to, no, no, no, no…"
Blaine flinched as Kurt began to cry, fingers tangled in Carole's sleeve, begging her helplessly, unashamed in his terror. He knew why Kurt was crying, why he hated hospitals- the sickening smell, the hopeless waiting, the poking and prodding, sleeping in his mother's frail arms while they waited for her to die, sitting stiffly at his father's bedside while he waited for him to leave too. He knew, and yet he still couldn't move to comfort him.
Do something, you fool.
"All right, all right," Carole relented, curling her hand around Kurt's feverish grip on her sleeve. "All right, don't cry. Don't cry. The salt will make it sting worse." She untangled his fingers and held his hand snugly. "Finn, I need you to go get some clean washcloths from the linen closet. Quinn, I want you to go in the kitchen and fill a bowl with cool water. Not cold, just cool."
Blaine swallowed hard. "What can I do?" he asked.
Carole glanced back. "Just sit with him," she said quietly. "Hold him steady." She got up from the couch and placed her hand on Blaine's shoulder. "This isn't going to be easy."
Blaine sat down on the edge of the couch. Kurt's eyes were wet and red-rimmed, his lips parting as he struggled to regain his composure despite the sting of salt against his raw skin. His chin was lifted, firm and stubborn, but his eyes were wide, pleading.
And suddenly Blaine's anger melted away. He couldn't be angry now, not while Kurt needed him. It could wait. Everything could wait.
"Hey, love," he murmured. "It's all right. I'm here." He raised Kurt gently from the couch, settling behind him and letting him rest against his chest. Kurt fell back against him, sagging in relief. Blaine wrapped his arms around his chest and kissed the top of his head. "I love you."
Kurt gripped Blaine's wrists. "This is going to hurt, right?" he whispered.
"I won't leave," Blaine promised, unable to tell him the truth. "Hold onto me if it hurts."
Finn brought the washcloths; Quinn carried the bowl in from the kitchen. Carole folded a cloth into a small flat pack and dipped it in the cool water. "This is going to sting," she said. "Hold still, honey."
She touched the cloth to Kurt's cheek. He flinched, hissing through his teeth in pain. Blaine hugged him closely, stroking his thumb against the smooth little dip of Kurt's chest. Carole continued, resolute, cleaning out the raw, inflamed patches of Kurt's skin. With every touch Kurt let out a strangled cry of pain, unable to turn away or shield himself. Quinn silently sat down on the edge of the coffee table and took one of Kurt's hands, cupping it in both of hers, running her fingers over his knuckles and palm and wrist.
Carole cleaned Kurt's face with tender precision, dabbing his sore skin carefully. The last vestiges of the slushie washed away, tinting the bowl of water palest pink. Without the sticky slush lingering on his skin, only the damage was left- bright red whorls and splashes of burns, circling his cheeks and nose and mouth and forehead in strange tattoos.
"Oh god," Finn gulped. "It's…wow. It's bad."
"Actually, it's not as bad as I thought," Carole said absently, patting a dry cloth against Kurt's swollen cheek. "All right, honey. Is that better?"
"I guess," Kurt gasped. Blaine felt his heartbeat stutter under his hand. "It hurts."
"Just lie still," Carole encouraged. "How are you feeling now, besides the pain?"
"I don't know," he said. His voice slurred a little. "I…I don't know." Blaine hugged him tightly and kissed a clear patch of soft white skin at his temple.
"You rest," she said, squeezing his knee. "I'll be right back."
Quinn still held onto Kurt's hand. "Finn, you should tell the others," she said. "Tell Rachel, she'll call everyone."
"Oh," Finn said, fumbling in his pocket. "Oh, yeah, I guess…"
He wandered out of the living room with his phone in his hand. Blaine kissed the back of Kurt's head. "You're so brave," he murmured. "You're so brave, baby." Kurt closed his eyes, falling back against him.
"All right, sweetie," Carole said. She had a glass of Gatorade decked with a straw in one hand and two blue capsules in the other. "This isn't going to do too much to help with the pain, but it'll help you sleep. And I want you to drink all of this- I don't want you to get dehydrated."
Blaine helped Kurt balance the glass in one shaking hand, his fingers steady. Kurt sipped the Gatorade slowly, swallowing as if it pained him, until the pills were gone and the glass was drained dry.
"Good job," Carole praised, setting the glass aside. She supported Kurt's arms and helped him up, Blaine bracing him from behind. "Let's get you to bed, okay?"
Finn walked back into the living room, phone in hand. "I told Rachel what was going on," he said. "She's freaking out, but she said she'd tell everyone else." He paused. "You need any help?"
"I can walk," Kurt said, his knees bowing and buckling. Blaine held him steady, stroking the small of his back.
"Uh…Mom, I can carry him," Finn offered.
"No, I'm fine, I can-" Kurt started to protest, but Finn had already picked him up and headed towards the stairs. "Finn…"
"I want to help," Finn said, and that was that.
Blaine followed at Finn's heels, holding onto the banister. Kurt was still protesting weakly, but his arms were tight around his brother's neck, fingers digging into the shoulders of his shirt. Blaine reached up and touched Kurt's hand; Kurt smiled at him weakly over Finn's shoulder.
Finn nudged the lightswitch in Kurt's room and moved to set him down. "No, no, not the bed, I'm sticky," Kurt said, his voice faint. Finn huffed impatiently and set him down on his feet, careful and slow. Blaine helped him sit down at his vanity instead of lying down on his bed.
"Kurt, I'm afraid you're not going to like this," Carole warned.
Kurt leaned his head against Blaine's shoulder. "That…seems to be the theme of the evening," he said wearily, sounding old and bone-tired.
"You're wearing a turtleneck, sweetheart," Carole said. "You can't get it over your head without the fabric touching your face."
Ordinarily the threat of damage to his clothing brought out the sass in Kurt- chin-lifting, hair-tossing sass. But he just sighed, drooping against Blaine, resigned to his fate. Carole picked up her gleaming silver scissors and cut through Kurt's shirt, the fabric falling away from his body like abandoned curtains. The contrast between Kurt's pale chest and ravaged face was stomach-churning.
Blaine stayed close as Kurt changed into his pajamas, his movements slow and stiff and labored. His fingers still shook as his did up the buttons of his shirt.
"Lie down," Carole urged, tapping lightly under his chin. "Your dad's going to be home soon. I'll tell him what happened. Don't worry about it." She kissed the top of his head. "And we're going to the doctor first thing in the morning."
Kurt nodded, shoulders stiff and back bowed. Carole kissed him again, patted Blaine on the shoulder, and headed downstairs, leaving the bedroom door open.
Kurt wilted as soon as she left, sagging down to sit at his vanity, shoulders slumped. Blaine quietly lifted Kurt's arms and wrapped them around his neck, then picked him up in one smooth motion. He felt Kurt's fingers tuck into the neckline of his shirt, his cheek resting on his shoulder.
Blaine carried Kurt over to the bed and set him down gently, then kicked off his shoes and crawled up beside him. "You need to rest," he said, propping himself up on his elbow as Kurt shifted, trying to get comfortable. He smiled, tracing the pad of his thumb along the silky swoop of Kurt's lashes. "Your eyes are barely staying open."
"That's from the medicine," Kurt slurred, his voice high and faint. He tilted his head towards Blaine. "Could you stay?"
"You don't even have to ask," Blaine said, nestling into Kurt's side. He tugged the blankets over both of them and placed his hand over Kurt's slender chest, feel the slow and steady rhythm of his breathing. Kurt laced their fingers together, already on the edge of sleep.
Blaine sighed deeply, burrowing into the pillow and nosing against the back of Kurt's unblemished neck. He loved moments like this, when Kurt let his walls down. It wasn't a secret. They'd discussed it before, in quiet late-night talks, about how Kurt closed himself off when his mother died, and how those walls built and built and built until they were impenetrable. But sometimes there was a crack, and he could silently observe Kurt- the real Kurt, behind all his armor, vulnerable and begging to be loved. It hadn't taken long to realize what a privilege that was, that it was a knowledge he could never take advantage of. That Kurt didn't trust many people, but when he did, he trusted wholeheartedly.
It was why he didn't talk about things like fight club and anger management and psychiatrist visits. Kurt had enough to be anxious about already. He didn't need anything else.
Blaine kissed the back of Kurt's neck, from his ear to his nape to the soft creamy hollow of his throat, breathing in the scent of his skin, feeling the warmth against his lips. He felt calmer than he had that entire night- the calmest he'd been in ages, actually. Just being around Kurt soothed him, let him stay in that peaceful resting place between flares of anger.
Kurt smoothed his fingertips over Blaine's knuckles, the touch light and lazy. "What happened to your hands?" he murmured, and Blaine's breath seized in his throat.
This was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Michael episode- what would it have been like if Sebastian's slushie had hit its intended target?
Originally, I planned this to be more schmoopy, and then all of a sudden Blaine was angry. There's been so many hints- fight club, boxing, his angry reaction to Sam, the interview when Blaine was described as "full of self-loathing"- it all just sort of...clicked.
Clearly I need to delve further into Blaine's psyche.
I know a lot of people get on my case about using Quinn in situations like this, but hey, I'm the one writing, and I like to use Quinn. I feel like she struggles with being kind and giving in to her emotions, but she secretly is just very maternal and doesn't know how to deal with it. Plus, she always seems to have a soft spot for Kurt.
I also decided to change the injuries because...well, y'all know about Blaine and his eye! It would have been boring to just write the same thing over again. I saw a post about how the rock salt would chemically alter the slushie, making it so cold it could cause burns, and ding, a little light went off in my head. Kurt's so beautifully fair and he spoils his skin, and now...he's badly burned. My wonderful medical beta told me he would have some second degree burns, and that his face would be swollen and incredibly painful.
Speaking of which! My darling medical beta Katelyn (rnstudentandagleek on tumblr, katexbo on this site) checked everything over for me. And my wonderful Aubrey (aubreyli on livejournal and tumblr) looked over some of the angry Blaine in the beginning (she gave me a thumbs up!). SO YAY. THANK YOU, LADIES.
I hope to write one more oneshot about the Michael episode, specifically about the Warblers, so hopefully that'll be completed in short order. Wish me luck!