New York isn't all glamour and fun and games anymore.
Rachael Berry's mind is fixated among the vibrant city lights as they buzz, the jazzy tunes coming from an Italian restaurant just near her apartment, and the sight of a few half-dressed chorus girls standing near the barista in their matching sets of cherry-red ballet flats, and their short, tight black dresses that show the outline of their shimmery skin. She shuts her eyes for a moment, and hears the sound of life, flashing cars, and sounds of something better always drifting in the air tonight. She opens her eyes, to take another glance at the city of hope; -
His name's Ryan, blonde, blue-eyed Ryan with eyes so blue the skies are supposed to cry, but they don't. Not to Rachael Berry, as in her mind, the bluest eyes in the world hold both the oceans, and the skies, and the sapphire-coloured engagement ring on her finger – they belong to Kurt Hummel, happy, beautiful, blue-eyed Kurt that has proclaimed the colour blue in his eyes with just a single glance and then twice again with a smile that lights up his eyes like flying birds and switching clouds. At night, the glitter looks a bit like nebulas and supernovas, and something along the lines, she gets lost in them too.
They're lost in themselves sometimes, too.
Ryan leads her into New York – Shame Alley and The Walk is separated by the barrier that is her paper-white apartment with black markers writing names of people that won't even be remembered two years later. Shame Alley is where all the beggars go, to find scraps of canned tuna and fish, and she always seems to pass by a new murdered body, left for dead, without a care in the world – the bodies are transcended as if the quality of life for that person is so low that they don't even deserve a funeral. Her hand tightens as they pass by Shame Alley, eyes on the eloquent, elegant and posh Walk. The Walk is the wealthier part, whereas every car parked is a shiny new Lamborghini or a Mercedes-Benz, and she swears the asphalt even shines just a little cleaner when the sun-light hits the grey. She swears that whilst the beggars are looking for canned tuna, they have appetisers with every meal made out of bleu cheese, fresh baked bread and expensive crackers, gourmet beef, chicken and fish, and desserts made out of coffee-flavoured éclairs, and small bonbons passed around small, pristine cups of tea.
Her apartment is dispersed as a barrier between them, and she can't take it any longer, as she takes in a puff of the cold air. Her – Kurt's – snow-white furry shawl doesn't keep her warm anymore, and her legs feel like ice against the turquoise dress that covers her body and she vaguely remembers Kurt saying if you wear the pink one, I will murder you and lie you in a grave of roses—the turquoise one makes you look so much more beautiful, and it compliments your complexion quite nicely. She doesn't feel so beautiful tonight, feet burning into the soles of her glittery diamond-studded heels.
"Always is here," Ryan says, eyes set on a boy near Shame Alley and Rachael feels sick, because he's so pale, and he looks so sickly. He doesn't look older than her, and Ryan seems to move towards him. Rachael follows him, despite the ache in her feet. "He's always here," Ryan repeats and Rachael notices it too, that he's there every day, just standing, waiting, staring, and hoping.
"Hey, what's your name?" Ryan suddenly asks, watching the boy slowly stare at them and suddenly, Rachael feels the need to throw up her five-star meal seeing someone so lost, so starved in front of her, just struggling to stay alive as he is. She can't help but mourn him, and feel shaky for his future. Hers are no-doubt bright, but his look jaded and between the lines, and she doesn't want to unmask the blurred lines.
Rachael wants to cry, because of Finn, because she remembers Finn back in Ohio, whom had tried to kill himself two months after they'd ended. The minute that Kurt had heard about it, he didn't think about staying in New York for just a bit more, as he packs up his things and says that he just has to. Rachael hasn't heard from Kurt since, and he doesn't pick up his phone anymore. She seems them all in the holidays, but it doesn't feel like enough and Christmas is approaching, but she can't feel the happiness and celebration.
She can only feel the cold.
He looks close to crying, eyes tired and bloodshot from sleepless nights under the metro, pants out-dated, distressed and worn-out to the point of the pockets being torn and are barely held up by how gaunt he is, his dusty and dirty white black shirt is hanging off his frame, and Ryan slowly takes off his jacket, and wraps it around him. It engulfs him like it would a small child, as Finn stares at him with wide eyes. It's too cold tonight, and Rachael can't stand the sight of those bloodshot eyes any longer.
"Are…are you sick?" Rachael can't help but notice how pale he is in the moonlight, chalky paleness that makes him look nearly dead.
"Uh huh," Finn's voice is strained as if he's tired of talking. "Cancer," he adds on, voice softer now, and Rachael can feel the tears burning into her big doe brown eyes. He's got stray brown hair, messy and dishevelled, with pale, dead skin with a tinge of grey, sunken and hollow cheeks from pure emaciation, a faded silvery scar stretching from his cheeks to his neck, and a puncture wound resides on his hand that makes Rachael cringe. He's shorter than Ryan's six feet, and is much taller than Rachael, but she can't put a height on him at all.
"How did you know that you had cancer?" Rachael's voice is soft, as if she can break him by words.
"A Doctor passes by Shame Alley quite frequently, as he's on his way to the Avenue," Finn's long, elongated finger points towards the Avenue, with has a hospital as its central ground and a cluster of pharmacies and restaurants reside in odd amalgamation. "He said he was concerned," Finn then pulls the shirt upwards, showing the rest of his wasted arm, and Rachael can now see the speck of brown-inked flesh, "about this."
"Skin cancer," Rachael realises quickly and Finn nods his head. "He did a few tests for free?"
There's a small, weak smile on her lips but it's not enough to lighten the tension in the air.
"Hey…you know…you know where I live? You're welcome to come by any soon. My roommate, Kurt Hummel, isn't around anymore because his brother tried to kill himself, so he went back to Ohio, afraid of Finn's safety. I haven't heard if he's coming back, but it's a big deal, isn't it?" Rachael realises she shouldn't be talking about suicide in front of a boy who seems to have no other options of life, but he just stares at her with a nod to show that he's listening to her.
"I'm glad he's gone," Ryan suddenly says. "Kid was so bullied, thrown around, mugged a couple of times – that was his breaking point. I was there when he took the phone call and God, I couldn't stop him from crying. Wanted to kill himself too, but I told him to calm down, and I told him to breathe and he did, and then he just stared into my eyes and asked me if it's anything he's done. I laughed and told him that he's an idiot for even considering that. We laughed, and it hurts to hear him laugh because it's so empty, because he's so empty on the inside. When he left, he didn't look back. Didn't want to. Didn't want to think about what he's leaving, and just focused on where he's going. I told him that New York isn't a place for posh gay guys trying to find a place anyway. And dammit, swore never saw eyes bluer than that."
Finn's own blue eyes twinkle at that statement.
"Should've been there," Rachael remembers that night too well, as tears cascade down her cheek. "I should've done something…he was so happy before, wanted to go propose to Blaine, but then he got that phone call and…he…he smiled first. He waited until I left before he broke down, and I didn't turn back, because he wouldn't have wanted me to. I got that part, biggest part of my life, and all I can think of is how Kurt's crying. I heard from Lisa that Finn tried to kill himself, and I just…when I got there, he was gone, and he didn't even…I didn't even…he smiled at me and waited for me to leave. He smiled at me."
There's a sound of people walking, and the sound of click-click of the heels of shoes break apart Rachael from her concentration but the tears only roll down harder now. The image of shiny loafers suddenly encompass Rachael's vision as she stares at the man, strict, green-eyed, cold and cruel in nature just from the way his posture is, and Rachael feels the need to throw up at the sight of him. She doesn't. She just smiles a fake smile, despite her obvious bloodshot eyes and salty tear-tracks and running mascara.
Finn doesn't think she looks more beautiful than she does right then. Like broken Cinderella.
She tries to wipe away her tears but it's no use as it smudges her mascara even more. She hears Finn courageously ask in a tentative voice, "…can-can I have some…some money?" his voice is small, and he's stuttering and his blue eyes are dim to the request.
Rachael gives him a comforting smile.
The man laughs.
"So you can shoot yourself up with heroin?" his eyes are evasive, and there's evidence of doubt in every movement he makes and in the way he stares at Finn.
Rachael explodes angrily. "Finn doesn't even have proper food! He doesn't sit down eating bleu cheese and crackers, and drinking cognac from the bottle! He spends all of his time in a trash can, looking for scraps of canned fucking tuna every night and makes a feast out of half a can of tuna and a piece of bread Ryan gives him every morning—"
The man cuts Rachael off, unimpressed by the level of emotion and strength she has. "You don't know these people, sweetheart. They lie, cheat and steal and they have a quality of life so low, they might as well be dead. A few bucks isn't going to save him. He's got cancer. Everyone fucking knows that. Just because he can scrape up some tuna doesn't make his life any worth living."
Rachael is going to open her mouth to speak when Finn interjects.
"Please, Rache." His voice is begging her not to make a fuss for him.
The man looks victorious when Rachael steps down, and then looks backwards. Rachael realises he's waiting for someone and that's the only reason he'd even look at Finn in the first place. His patient face scrunches up impatiently, and then he screams out, "Sebastian Pierre Smythe! Katelyn will have lunch without us!" his voice is full of coldness and contempt and Rachael freezes, because she knows—
"Sebastian?" Rachael repeats in a small, low voice.
In an instant, Sebastian Smythe appears before them. His skin's being clothed by a fitted beige cardigan underneath a blouse, and a black tie. His trousers fit across him perfectly and he doesn't seem bothered by his Father's impatience. Rachael suddenly feels defensive on Finn's behalf, as she practically begs him, "Sebastian, please, don't say anything and make his life worse that it is. Don't say anything about him, please-"
He cuts her off with a raised eyebrow.
"Follow me, Bas." The man walks off, and Sebastian just nods and mutters a soft 'yes, Father' as he walks over. The man stops and stares at Sebastian, waiting for him to leave, instead Sebastian is pulling a wallet from the pocket of the cardigan with a white-gloved hand. He opened the leathery wallet and the man calls out again angrily.
"Sebastian, don't you dare give that worthless piece of shit—"
Sebastian's fingers pick off a few dollars from a section in the fat wallet. "SEBASTIAN SMYTHE, I AM TELLING YOU NOT TO—"
Sebastian returns the dollars. Rachael's face falls and the man's is full of triumph. However, Sebastian's eyes go to the ground. He turns to Finn and then shoves all of his wallet to Finn's bare hands, before turning to his stunned Father who can't say a singular word. Finn can easily see at least eight hundred dollars without counting the contents of the wallet. Sebastian leaves, with a simple instruction to the poor boy, "Try to stay alive." Sebastian's eyes are looking at the starved face. "Hummel."
Rachael's just staring at Finn – Kurt – as Sebastian leaves towards his angry Father, feeling a solid amount of coldness in her stomach for what Sebastian has just done. Now, she can see her Kurt embedded somewhere in those lost blue eyes, baby cheeks starved, skin grey, too small to live on.
"…Kurt?" Rachael calls out, voice soft.
"You took my suggestion," Kurt's eyes are on Rachael's dress right now as tears collect in his eyes. "You look beautiful, Rachael."
Rachael doesn't even say a word as she pulls him as close as ever into a tight embrace, doesn't ask anything as she feels him – feels what's left of him, his fallen hair, his dry neck, his prominent spine—"Rachael," Kurt calls out again, voice devoid of any real emotion, "Rachael, please."
She sees his body shaking as sobs rake out of his body. In an hour, they'll be in Rachael's apartment, and Kurt would be clean after they take a bath and he's wearing Rachael's white blouse and blue pants that act as a short to him due to Rachael's height clashing with Kurt's and he doesn't even say anything about how tacky and highly unfashionable it is. She feeds him, and he eats enough bread to ward off a family, his eyes light up at the soup, and he eats until he feels like he's going to burst out of food and there's a bit more colour to his cheeks, and his eyes brighten up the dim room again.
"I got mugged on my way to the airport—I had nothing afterwards," Kurt finally says, putting down the mug of hot chocolate. "But I couldn't go back. I didn't know – there was some sort of force that told me I needed to throw myself out and kill myself as well. Couldn't bear it anymore."
Rachael nods, and there are tears in her eyes again.
"Look at what you did to yourself, Kurt."
"I wanted to come back. I really did. Two weeks in, and I thought it was enough, but I was too sick, was too thin, was too much—for you," Kurt explains. "If you'd seen me, known it was me, you'd have thrown it all away. The engagement, NYADA, your dreams but I was always there—"
"You smile at me." Rachael finally says. "Every day when I go…you smile at me."
Kurt smiles at her right then, and nods his head. Kurt then pulls out Sebastian's leathery wallet again – the wallet itself is more than five hundred dollars from Kurt's memory, authentic leather and genuine gold, - and when he puts it on the table, a note slowly falls. He sees a number attached and a paragraph associated with it.
"NYADA expects you back next term from your emergency surgery in Connecticut (money talks). You will not die from fucking cancer, Hummel, because you're not working for me yet, and you WILL end up working for me. This IS my phone number, or rather my agent's, and yes, you will not get my personal phone number. Call her if you fuck this up so I can tell you 'I told you so'. Also, you better get Blaine a proper engagement ring, you bastard. I didn't give you my wallet for fucking nothing— SS."
Kurt laughs and it's genuine and when he flips the sturdy note, and he sees that the note's actually written behind a picture, a small picture of Kurt that's stolen from his yearbook, him happy, with rosy cheeks, and brilliant blue eyes so blue that they shine for every single dream he can think of, and so full of hope. At the end of the picture, Sebastian has drawn a small heart inked in red, with a faded bastard written in black, and an even more faded j t'a me in a smaller handwriting in red as some letters are even missing from the statement. Kurt's mind rakes to the little French he knows—j t'a me…je t'aime…Kurt's eyes are wide. I love you.
He can hear Ryan's voice in his mind, and see Sebastian walking away, no wallet in hand, towards a very enraged Father, no hope, hoping on blue eyes, "I told him that New York isn't a place for posh gay guys trying to find a place anyway."