The Music Store Down the Road

Summary: Cooper was sixteen when they told him his brother was dying. Blaine was only eight.



Cooper was sixteen when they told him his brother was dying.

Blaine was only eight.

It was horrifying. A horrifying feeling, knowing he could do nothing. A horrifying image, his brother in that hospital bed. Cooper had to just stand off to the side, do nothing as his little brother sobbed while doctors poked him with needles, ran all kinds of tests. Little Blaine would sit on the bed at first, whimpering, crying, and Cooper could literally do nothing. Over time Blaine got more used to it, got stronger. He didn't cry, didn't freak out, it was just part of his life, he'd come to accept it.

Cooper hadn't.

The big brother spent most nights sobbing himself to sleep – most nights he didn't even sleep. Just the thought of his little brother, sweet, innocent, perfect Blaine. He's only fucking eight. His life had only just begun.

By Blaine's ninth birthday he'd lost all his hair.

The straight, brunette locks were gone, making Blaine look even sicker, even smaller.

Cooper wasn't really sure what to do with himself them. His parents busied themselves with work, and then cried themselves to sleep. Cooper could hear it, how could he not? They were much louder criers that he was. Or at least, his mother was.

It's never fun to hear your mother sobbing hysterically.

It's even less fun when you know it's over your dying nine year old brother.

When his parents started falling apart that was when Cooper knew he needed to shape up, keep it together. Blaine needed some support. He was being the strongest of all of them. And he was the fucking dying nine year old.

So Cooper took a breath, vowed not to cry anymore, and spent every waking minute of every day with his brother trying making him happy. It was his mission: make Blaine happy.

He'd fall asleep at his bedside and wake up actually in the bed, with Blaine curled around him. Eventually they just started sharing a bed. During the day Cooper would take Blaine out. Go to the park, go to the movies, go to the museum, go anyway.

One place they went a lot was the music store that Blaine loved. The one down the road, Baron's Place, the one where all the college kids went. It was a little too hipster for the almost-college-student, but little Blaine loved it. Loved pretending to be a cool adult, flipping through the Roxy music (with Cooper picking him up so he could reach it in the back).

They were there so much the workers fell in love with Blaine. With their pierced faces and tattooed necks they pretty much melted every time Blaine walked in. They chatted with him about the new music that came in, called him by his name. One of the workers even gave Blaine their beanie, something Blaine never took off afterwards. One time Cooper went to use the bathroom and when he came back Blaine was sitting on the counter, legs curled under him, guiding the workers and few customers there in a sing-a-long to the Lion King soundtrack.

Cooper had never cried so hard in his life.

Every time they came in the manager, a bearded, burly man named Baron, would pull Cooper aside, ask what Blaine's prognosis was, if it had changed. Cooper always had the same answer, "He's still going strong." He really didn't know what else he could say.

They offered him a job too. But Cooper said he wouldn't be interest until Blaine got his clean bill of health. He refused to believe he wouldn't get it.

So every week Cooper and Blaine went into that shop, browsed the music, chatted with the workers. Blaine had gotten so many free CDs in that time their father had to buy him a new set of shelves to put them on.

It was kind of funny, Cooper thought, how a simple music store could make his dying little brother so happy. Bring him so much joy through the music, the friendships, all of it. Cooper could never repay those people for making Blaine, and Cooper, so happy in such a dark time.

But around Christmas time Blaine got sick. They were worried it was pneumonia, so they locked him down in the hospital. The frail little boy slept most of the day, coughed the rest. The doctors assured them that Blaine wasn't going to die from it, but it was best to be safe and keep him in the hospital.

Cooper wasn't comforted by the words.

Two weeks went by and Cooper couldn't take it anymore. He had to get out. So kissing Blaine on the forehead he promised to be back when he woke up from his nap, and Cooper made his way outside. He walked for a long time, ignoring the snow falling on him. He wasn't sure where he was going, what he was doing, until he found himself standing outside the music shop.

He stood there for a long moment, just staring at the double doors, before he went inside. It was warm, welcoming, familiar. All the feelings that he needed right now. As soon as one of the workers saw him, a male named Troy, his eyes lit up.

"Coop!" He called brightly, gaining the attention of the other workers. "You guys haven't been here in two weeks! We were worried-" His words cut off as he noticed Blaine wasn't with him. His face paled and Cooper knew what he was thinking.

"He's not-" Cooper quickly started to say, "He's not—d—gone." He ground out, telling himself the tears on his face were from the wind making his eyes water. "He's just—pneumonia." Cooper shrugged, looking down and running his fist under his nose. "So…yeah…"

"Oh, sugar." A different worker, a girl named Raven, moaned. He felt her arms around him, hugging him tight. "What did the doctors say?"

"They said he'd be ok." Cooper said, pulling back from the hug to see all the other workers had gathered around. "I just…he's been there for almost two weeks now. I needed to get out." Raven nodded, running her hand up and down his arm.

"If the doctor says he'll be ok then he's going to be better than ok." Baron announced, getting nods from everyone else.

"Thanks, guys." Cooper laughed slightly, looking down. He paused for a second before saying, "I'm not even sure how I got here. I just…started walking."

"It's because you're drawn to us." Another worker, Joseph, teased, puckering his lips. Cooper laughed outright.

"Yeah, that's it."

"Do you need a ride back to the hospital, sugar?" Cooper considered it before nodding. Raven led him out to her car and drove him back. "Give him a kiss from us, ok?" She called as Cooper got out of the car, and the older brother just laughed, nodded.

A week later was Christmas and they got the best gift they could at the time, the news that the cold was cleared up, Blaine could go home. Their parents were in the hall, talking to the doctor, and Cooper was sitting on the bed with Blaine, tying his tiny boots, when there was a knock on the door of the room.

"Barry!" Blaine called brightly, and Cooper looked up to see Baron standing there, a smile on his old face.

"Hey boys!"

"What are you doing here?" Cooper laughed, happy to see the man.

"Well, see, a little birdie told me you guys were still here." Baron said, pulling something from behind his back, "So we all wanted to make sure you got our Christmas gift." Both brothers' eyes widened as Baron revealed a guitar case. Handing it to the brothers they opened it to find one of the most gorgeous acoustic guitars either had ever seen. "And that comes with free lessons at the store, because we missed your shining face, Ace." Baron grinned at Blaine looked up at him with wide eyes.

"I—I-" Blaine quickly handed the guitar to Cooper, all but fell from the bed, and hugged Baron tight. "Thank you so much." He whispered, tears in his little eyes. "This is so awesome!"

Cooper himself wiped away his tears before Blaine turned back around to gawk at the guitar some more. "You didn't have to do that." Cooper said quietly, "We—that must have cost so much."

"Don't worry about it, boy." Baron ordered. "We wanted to do something. Lord knows we can't do much, but we can do music."

Cooper ran his fist under his nose, fought back his tears, and wrapped his arms tight around the old music store owner. "Thank you, you don't know how much this means to him. To us."

That was the greatest Christmas to date.

Soon the house was constantly filled with the sound of Blaine trying to master the guitar. He was a quick learner, the workers of the store taught him a lot, and though half the time he'd hit more sour notes than right notes, hearing the music was the greatest thing he could have heard.

It was around Blaine's tenth birthday that they got a better gift. Something a guitar couldn't dream to live up to.

They got Blaine's clean bill of health.

Cooper didn't really understand what the doctor was saying, and Blaine probably didn't either, but they got the gist of it.

Blaine was healthy.

Blaine was going to be ok.

Cooper cried about ten times harder than he did at the Lion King sing-a-long.

Sharing the news with the music store was a sight to be seen. There were tears, there was screams of joy, there was lots, and lots of music. Cooper and Blaine ended up being sappy, thanking the workers for being so good to them in their time of need. Cooper cried, Blaine cried, the workers sobbed, and Baron just smiled, his eyes glassy with tears.

Even though they had more happy than they were ever going to need, they continued to go to the store every week. As Blaine's hair grew back it wasn't the same straight locks it was before, but rather now it came back darker, more voluminous, and really,really curly. His eyebrows grew back bushier than before, and he suddenly looked so much older. His hair became a hit at the store. The workers loved it, touched it all the time, Cooper forgot they had never seen Blaine's hair before that. The straight locks that made him look so young.

The curls that had never been were suddenly Blaine's defining feature. It was kind of funny.

Cooper took Blaine to his guitar lesson every week, browsed the store and chatted with the workers while it went on. They continued as they had while Blaine was sick, only now everything felt so…perfect. They could have both happy and healthy, they didn't need to choose.

Cooper and Blaine continued to go to that store once a week as time went on, as they got older. They couldn't let go, not of the store, not of the workers. The store had been their safe haven, their happy place, during the darkest time of their lives. These people had given them happiness and hope when they thought it wasn't possible to have any. And they hadn't even done it on purpose.

No, even as Cooper got older, started acting, and as Blaine got older, discovered himself, the workers were there. They'd become like a family. Cooper wasn't going to walk away from that. And neither was Blaine.