Title: Keeping the Balance (6b/9?)
Warning: deals with issues of consent, homophobia, and memory loss
Summary: No one recognized the name when Kurt first spoke it–a name he'd found buried somewhere in his dreams–but he couldn't shake the feeling that it was important: "Blaine". Whatever had been taken from them had something to do with Blaine.
Chapter Summary: Blaine has plans. Sebastian wants to know them.
A/N: Gasp.Is that a KtB chapter posted sooner than four months from the last? And it's a Blaine chapter! I was going to go straight to Kurt again with this one, but I think a few things needed to be seen before I could continue with Kurt's story. So, with that in mind-here it is! Hope you enjoy! As always, your reviews and comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!
Chapter Seven: Now Turn Red to Tempt Snow White
The wood grain beneath the pads of his fingertips was smooth and cool. Logically, he knew it was a few degrees colder than room temperature. He knew he had a high fever, and that it should feel like ice against his skin. It should feel rougher. It should feel immediate, present, because it was right there in front of him, not miles away. He was awake. He was alive. He was in his body. He should be able to feel the grain that made up the doorway.
He rested his head against the wooden frame, closing his eyes. His fingers carefully traveled up the material, stroking slowly up and down. These are your fingers. These are your fingers. Feel the wood and prove it. He breathed slowly, focusing all his attention. (Or—some of his attention.) Feel the wood.
Voices cried out for him in his head, calling his name. Over and over and over. Kurt, Rachel, his mother, a little girl from middle school who kept dying over and over and—
Wood grain. The door. This is your body. These are your fingers. Feel the door.
Nothing. Just sound. From downstairs; from Lima, Ohio; from a house he'd forgotten the location of. Sound, noise, people saying words, people speaking to him, people feeling feeling feeling things. The door. Feel the door. Feel—emotions loud in his ears, plans loud in his mind, and everybody crying out help, help us, help me, help, and eventually it would all swell and spike and suddenly cut off as it always did, and someone would die—again—in a middle school bathroom a foot from his desk, bleeding out onto the floor, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and—
No. He had to think. Focus.
He pulled out of himself a little more.
He breathed. Opened his eyes. He looked at the wood.
He dragged his fingers. Slow. Careful. He watched their progression, saw them trail past lines that spoke of thousands of years of history. Wood, used to be bark. Used to be a tree, like the tree in Kurt's backyard—hiding secrets and doorways into other places, other worlds. Then it was cut and re-made into something someone could use, its body stripped and burned away.
He would die before he was used. Not again. He would kill himself. Like the girl in middle school, bleeding out onto the floor, everything swelling once before cutting off for the last time. He still had the right to choose, the capacity to think and make decisions. He still had his mind, even if his body was slowly disintegrating into uselessness. Despite what Andrew thought, he still had options.
He dug his nails into the doorframe. (Nothing.)
He still had options.
Something steadily grew in his chest, interrupting his thoughts: a foreign body he vaguely recognized. He filled with relief as it turned up the volume, spreading out into the room. Thank god. Finally.
"Where have you been?" he asked, toying with the edge of the doorframe. "I needed you."
Silence greeted him. He paused, a sharp dip of fear plunging down his chest. …There was someone there, wasn't there? His brain told him to turn around and check, but he was frozen still. No; he wasn't that far gone. Was he?
"…What are you doing?" asked a quiet voice.
He fell limp in relief, rabbit's heart slowing in his throat. His fear came out heavy through his mouth, and he tried to calm himself. "Inventory," he responded. Then, softer: "Don't do that to me."
"I thought…" his eyes squeezed hard. It can drown you, his mother answered him years ago. You can't let yourself rely on it, or you'll lose yourself. "…Never mind." Licking his lips, he turned around. Plans. His eyes zeroed on the empty hands in front of him. "You didn't bring the counteragent," he noticed.
Sebastian's eyes bore into him. "Amsugnol is the only thing that can counteract those herbs," he said flatly.
And? His lifted eyebrow implied. "Yes," he agreed. "You didn't bring it."
Sebastian's disturbance played cellos in his ears. "Amsugnol is poison to you," he said.
He pushed off the doorway and made his way to the bed. "Did Wes tell you that?"
"No one sees Wes except David."
He sat down on the mattress, sending Sebastian a hard look. "Did Wes tell you that?" he repeated firmly.
Sebastian ground his teeth together. "…Yes," he admitted. Hope feathered a light flute's melody. "Is that why you told me to find something for the herbs? So I would meet Wes?"
"No," he traced the weave of the blanket underneath him. "I wanted the amsugnol."
"Why?" the question burst out of Sebastian's lips. "Do you want to die?"
"Yes." He looked up and met the other boy's shocked face. His eyes narrowed as he studied the music Sebastian was playing him: unease. Betrayal. "Didn't they tell you?" He tilted his head curiously. "I thought everybody knew. I'm a loose cannon. Unstable. Can't make my own decisions."
"Don't play with me. You know I don't think that. You seem to have forgotten that I'm here to help you."
He smiled at Sebastian softly. "If you were here to help me, you would have brought me the amsugnol."
Sebastian breathed sharply, tensing against the urge to hit something (he knew, because the urge sang loudly in his ears). "I hate to bring him up," he said through his teeth. "But what about that boy… Kurt? You're just going to die with him?"
The smile stayed on. "It wouldn't be the ideal solution, no."
Speaking of Kurt… a brief, questing tendril caressed his brain, searching for reassurance. He closed his eyes, focusing. The choir room. He breathed it out of himself, sending it toward Kurt's grasping fingers.
"The amsugnol is Plan B," he chanted, tilting his jaw and weaving knowledge into the patterns of Kurt's mind. With his mind opened like that, downstairs seeped its fogging smoke of music notes into his pores. His fingers played the keys on top of the blanket underneath him. Percussion and strings and voices crowded his mind, tempting him with siren songs. Listen. Listen. They were ugly-beautiful, irresistible. A tide ebbing into him and threatening to pull him out of himself as it hooked around his heart and tugged. So easy to get lost in it.
"What's wrong with you?" the words came to him from far away. "You're… different."
"Am I scaring you?" he breathed out, a strange euphoria creeping over him. "I can't tell if that's you or someone else."
"Where are you?" Sebastian's voice was low, insistent. "It's like you're only half here."
Someone called his name, panic swelling around the curves of the words. Kurt, dreaming again? No: Rachel.
"Lima, Ohio," his voice used his lips to answer.
Courage, he sent her, trying for beautiful letters and calming lines. They were so close. He could hear it—tonal shifts in their song. They were so close to where he needed them to be.
"Look at me," said the far-away voice. It threaded into the swell of the orchestra. "Blaine. Look at me."
Look at me, the voice inside of his body stretched out. Give me your eyes. I can take care of you. It grasped at him with claws for hands. Open your eyes. Look at me.
Blaine was floating, sinking…"They are open," he whispered.
A hand grabbed his wrist, and desperate anger flooded into him from the contact. "Come back!" someone whipped into his skin. Demanding—commanding.
Blaine jerked as the strings snapped and he was forced back into stark awareness. His eyes shocked open, his nerves electrified, stinging like fire all at once, all over his body, shuddering through his muscles like millions of swords slashing through him. "No—stop it!" He wrenched his arm from Sebastian's grip, flinching away from him. Pain assaulted him, everywhere pain, and he choked on it. Shaking, he brought his palms up to dig into his forehead. His head throbbed. "Why did you do that?" he cried, pressing hard into his temples.
"Are you kidding me? Where the fuck were you just now?"
"What?" Blaine gasped out.
"You were gone, Blaine, I called you to look at me for like ten minutes, and you were gone!" Sebastian's panic sliced into his head like knives, clouding him from formulating a response.
"Stop it," he breathed, flinching. "Stop."
"You can't keep running away."
"It's not running," he snarled. "Kurt is my anchor."
"How was that at all anchoring for you?!" Sebastian exclaimed incredulously. "What the hell do you think you're doing to yourself?"
"Stop. No. You—stop." Blaine shot up off the bed, pacing the length of the room. Walls closed tight around him, cutting off his air. "You commanded me. You just commanded me."
Sebastian faltered. "I didn't know what else to do—"
"You don't," Blaine snapped, feeling his muscles tense, his balance fall, his mind shut down. "You don't do that. You never do that, do you understand? You never do that!"
"Okay!" Sebastian held up his hands in surrender. "I'm sorry, I didn't know how else to bring you back!"
"You never—!" A thick sludge of loud engulfed him and he gasped down a breath. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt! His muscles quaked and he forced them to stay open as his body tried to curl in on itself, fingers spasming apart. Release. Release. Leave, god, just go away, shut up, get out of his head out of his veins his heart out out out out jesus god it hurt it was too much too much loud loud loud out get out release release leave please please please out out out out out out—he tried to shout, tried to scream, bent in half and retched dryly but nothing escaped him.
"I can't think like this," he huffed. "I can't do anything like this!"
"You couldn't feel the way you were," Sebastian pointed out carefully. "I thought the point was not to lose yourself."
Blaine swallowed convulsively, shook his head, still shaking, shivering. "I need to be able to think," he said helplessly. "I have to. They need me."
"You're playing right into Erickson's hands," Sebastian interrupted. "You know that, right?"
Blaine trembled as the words settled in his brain. He… what?
His body ached. An overpowering temptation to pull away, pull back, coaxed at the edges of his consciousness. Pull back how far? I can take care of you, echoed the voice of a monster buried deep inside of him.
Oh, god. Legs weak, he slid resignedly to the floor.
He couldn't do this.
"…It hurts," he panted, breathing too hard and fighting tears. "It hurts too much. I can't." Exhaustion tied weights around his limbs. He couldn't move.
Sebastian watched him with unreadable eyes. "It's either some pain, or insanity. Your choice, killer."
Bitterness rose within him, and silent laughter shook his body. "That's not much of a choice." His eyes closed of their own volition. Voices cried out, but he couldn't hear them, understand them. It was too hot. He was too raw. It hurt too much. "This feels like insanity."
Fingers slid down his hand. (When did Sebastian move so close?) "Do you need me to take away some of the heat?"
Blaine dropped his head forward. Too much. "No," he bit out. "It'll only come back again. I need to…" he trailed off as too many people swelled downstairs, pricking his nerves and splintering through his bones and cutting off his thought. He bit his tongue as it tremored through him.
Something snapped within him.
I need to think!
He pulled away.
Everything suddenly paled to pastels, and someone turned the sound down. Yes, this is better. Softer, clearer, clinical. It was like diving underwater. Cool ocean submerged him, and he felt his body relax, his lungs expand in relief. Yes, a voice whispered within him. Energy skittered through him. Electric.
"What are you—No!" Sebastian's fingers on his arm had lost their temperature, but they kept enough of their weight that he could still tell they were there. "You can't run from this; lose feeling and you lose yourself!"
"You have been talking to Wes," he smiled as he focused on seeking out the threads he'd dropped earlier. A horn piped Sebastian's frustration, but he brushed it off. "I can't function without this." Cracking his eyes open, he glanced at Sebastian wryly. "Didn't you say it was 'my choice'?"
Sebastian stared back at him for a long while.
"…Fuck," he finally muttered, letting go of his arm. "Fuck you."
"I think that's Andrew's ultimate plan, yeah," he shot back, standing up. He stretched out, imagining his limbs were sore. Symphonies and conversations began in his head as he settled back into the ether of not-quite-his-body, music wafting over his skin. "Speaking of, you should probably go before he comes up here. Next time you visit, bring me amsugnol."
"No. I'm not going to kill you," Sebastian protested.
Hilarity pressed itself into his mind. Uncontrollable, hysterical laughter danced out of his mouth.
"Oh my god, of course you aren't!" He turned around to look at Sebastian, and it was like he was seeing him through new eyes. The image prompted a wild, otherworldly amusement. "You humans, you think you can do anything," he grinned breathlessly. "Please. You couldn't kill me if you tried!"
Sebastian looked at him, disturbed. (He could hear it.) "Come back," he said warily. "You're not yourself."
"You're frightened of me," he noticed. "Bring me back the amsugnol, and you'll see me as myself." His gaze slid off into neverland as Lima rang loudly in his ears. (Rachel again, drawing in him in as a moth to a flame—not even realizing what she was summoning.) "You should leave before Andrew catches you," he continued absently, soothing her fears with half his attention.
"He won't be coming up today," came Sebastian's reply. "He's not even at Dalton."
It took a second for the words to register.
When they did, Blaine's insides froze.
"...What?" he asked on air. "Why did he leave?"
"I don't know."
"Where is he?" he snapped, urgency stealing into his calm.
"No one knows, he just left."
"No. No." Andrew's threats rang out in his thoughts as dread overtook him. His mind raced down the strings leading to Kurt, panic rushing bubbles up his lungs. "How long has he been gone?!" he demanded. "Where was he last seen?"
"I don't know, a few days ago? Why? What is it?"
"No. No, no, no, he can't, he can't!" Words tumbled out of his mouth as he tried desperately to establish a connection, to find an image of Kurt somewhere in his mind. The safety of the ether dissolved around him as he slid back into the physical world, frantic terror hammering his heart too hard, his blood too fast, forcing him to acknowledge the tissue and bone he was stuck in. Kurt was blocked from him. Gone. "No, no, no, no!"
His fingers came up to claw off his skin, tug himself out of the prison cell serving as his body so he could fly, scour the world, when strong hands gripped his wrists, stopping him. "What is it?" Sebastian was close, too close, trapping him in. "Stop freaking out, just, what's going on?"
"He's going to kill him!" Blaine latched onto Sebastian's neck, digging his fingers into the skin. "He's going to kill him, and I can't help him, I can't—!"
"—Who, Andrew? Andrew's going to kill who?"
"Kurt, it's Kurt, you have to help him, please!"
"Your Fascinator?" Sebastian was alarmed, confused, and useless. "Isn't he dying anyway?"
"No, he can't—you don't understand, he—Kurt is my anchor, please—" Sentences, thoughts, he couldn't form them—just an all-consuming terror, a certainty that everything would be lost, ruined, he'd be gone, one big swell of noise that suddenly cut off and left him blank, drowning, black, dead, dead, dead, dead—"He's my anchor, you have to save him—"
"I don't know what that means!" Sebastian cried. "You say that all the time, and I don't know what it means!"
"He has to live, or I die! Everything's over and I die—Magic dies!" The truth spilled out of him like blood from an open wound, and he bled, helpless to staunch the flow.
Sebastian drained of color, disbelief in his eyes. "What are you talking about?" he demanded.
"He's—my Fascinator," Blaine tried to explain helplessly. "You have to help."
"What did you do to him?"
"I didn't, I— I love him, I gave him—myself. All of myself." He didn't know how else to explain it, lost for words or feeling.
Hurt; jealousy; yearning: they shuffled in Sebastian's eyes for quick seconds, even quicker static shocks of them sparking from Sebastian's fingers into Blaine's skin. Blaine jerked back as the other boy pulled away from his grip.
His lips parted as realization hit him, sketching itself over the room. He watched, stunned, as Sebastian swallowed back his envy. "Sebastian…" he began softly.
"He dies, you die," Sebastian interrupted roughly. "That's what you're telling me?"
Blaine let him get away with changing the subject, wrong-footed at his sudden understanding of the other boy's feelings. "…He's part of the cycle. If Andrew breaks it..."
"So he can live, but you die either way. Either he kills you, or youdie when he does. Am I getting this right?" Not quite, Blaine thought but did not say. It didn't matter, anyway. What mattered was saving Kurt.
"He has to live. I gave him a part of myself, if he can just get to me—or if I die before he does—!" Blaine began.
"I'm not helping you kill yourself," Sebastian said shortly. "Not happening."
Blaine clenched his jaw tightly.
"Does Andrew know this?" Sebastian asked.
"Does Kurt know?"
Blaine avoided Sebastian's eyes. "No," he admitted. "I… it was a last-minute thing. Right before Andrew took me from him. I—didn't really know what I was doing. It was more instinct than anything else."
"It was instinct to ensure that no matter what happens, you die," Sebastian said flatly.
Blaine stared at him in challenge. "No one is going to use me," he said quietly. "It was Plan B."
"Your Plan Bs are pretty fucked up, killer. What the hell is Plan A?"
Blaine avoided answering. "Save Kurt," he pleaded. "Please. Go to Lima and save him. I can't release any Magic, I can't cast anything. It's stuck inside me, it's driving me insane, I can't reach him, please, I can't warn him, and I can't stop Andrew. Please. Please, save him, please, he has to live."
"Kurt is Plan A," Sebastian said, something ugly and disbelieving in his tone.
"Please, Sebastian." Hot tears burned behind the bridge of his nose. "He has to live."
Sebastian stared at him, searching for something in his face (Blaine didn't know what).
"Jesus Christ." He ran a hand through his hair distractedly. "The things I do for you. Fuck."
Blaine almost collapsed. "Thank you, god, thank you," he nearly sobbed in relief.
"If I'm doing this, you have to stop hiding from the real world. You have to stay awake and in your body until I come back."
"Deal," he agreed immediately.
"I don't even know how to get there," Sebastian muttered.
"Wes will know, Flint found the doorway twice," he rushed. "Andrew must have used it since."
Sebastian started sprinting to the door. "I'll have to get to Wes, then." He passed under the herbs and through the doorway before something stopped him. Blaine watched as he stilled, then turned slowly back around to face him.
"This was your plan, wasn't it?" Sebastian accused. "To get me to go to Lima."
"We don't have time to talk anymore. Please, Sebastian, I don't know how much time he has," Blaine replied intently.
Sebastian stared. He leaned angrily into the doorway. "If there is any scenario that ends with you living at the end of this nightmare? I'm taking it," he threatened. "If you're hiding something from me..."
His eyes pierced through Blaine—who only stood silent, defiant, offering no answer. Sebastian set his jaw. Then, finally, he turned and disappeared down the hallway.
Blaine waited a few minutes, tensely, as Sebastian's footprints faded away. Pain began to creep into the edges of his vision. He breathed out, trying to adjust and sliding slowly back into full awareness. His senses prickled, feeling coming back to his muscles as he woke up. Stay in the physical world.
Then: A sudden, sharp cry, and a swell of emotion.
Blaine gasped. So clear, like he was screaming into his ears—help, crying for help—
He didn't even stop to think as his eyes slipped shut, breaking the promise he'd just made only minutes earlier. Kurt, hold on, I'm here!—
Pulling away from his body and searching for Kurt's signature, a voice whispered from inside his heart: I can take care of you.
Claws, reaching, grasping, crawling up his neck. Threads leading him to Lima, pulling, beckoning, screaming, and he followed.
Give me your eyes.
He slid into the waiting darkness.
He was so far away he couldn't even feel it as his body buckled—collapsing to the ground like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.