Kurt was aware of the legend of Helen Magnus, of the nature of her work, and even of the woman herself, but he had never before seen her in action. Despite his many musings on whatever connection he shared with her, particularly if he had perchance inherited her amazing longevity, he had failed to take into account that Dr. Helen Magnus was a looming, if shadowed, presence in the contemporary world.
Translation: the woman had some sick skills and contacts throughout the entire globe in every government, industry, and academic institution. The sheer ease with which she had plowed through the seemingly insurmountable tasks for which he had asked her assistance was astounding.
That she got it all accomplished in two days - on a weekend, no less - had left him somewhat in awe of her, even more than he already had been.
Monday morning rolled around, and as he prepared himself to explain his future plans to his friends the next day, he found himself more curious about his biological mother than he ever remembered being.
"Good morning!" she cheerfully greeted him as he entered the kitchen. "Tea?"
He blinked. "Yes, please. Thank you."
She smiled and quickly prepared him a cup, setting it before him.
He stared down at it, brow arched.
"Is something the matter?" she asked, a trace of worry in her voice.
"No," he said slowly, "I was just wondering how you knew how I took my tea, or even that I liked tea at all. We tend to be a coffee nation."
She stared at him for a long moment, though unintentionally. "I didn't know." She shook her head to clear it. "My apologies," she said, forcing a smile. "I prepared your tea as I would prepare my own."
"But this is how I take my tea," he said, bewildered.
They looked at each other, perhaps for the first time with such careful scrutiny, each wondering about what other similarities they shared. They began cataloguing the physical resemblances.
"The shape of the eyes," she murmured. "Almond."
"A slightly different hue," he replied. "The cheekbones."
She grinned. "English heritage. Hair texture."
"Yours is darker."
"Chemically treated. I'm a natural blonde."
"I was blonde until I was six."
Kurt frowned. "Dad was very smart."
"Oh, of course he was, Kurt," she said quietly. "I meant no offense. I knew Burt, I know he was smart, but intelligence is separate from intellect. I've seen the books lining your walls, as well as the languages in which they're written." She raised a brow, another similarity they both noted - the arch of their eyebrows - and fixed him with a stare. "We both know your father couldn't have read even a quarter of them. I sincerely doubt any of your classmates could, either."
He nodded cautiously. "I'm sorry. I'm rather touchy."
"Well, that's to be expected, isn't it," she said briskly, determined not to allow him to slip too far into maudlinness. "Kurt," she said, voice more sedate, "please don't worry about offending me. I can only imagine the turmoil you're experiencing, and I know there's little I can do to alleviate it."
"You've done more than enough," he whispered. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Thanks are unnecessary. There is nothing I wouldn't do for you, Kurt, and I'm not saying that simply because of our shared genetic matrices. I loved your parents. I would be here now regardless of whether or not you are my son."
He swallowed heavily and nodded. "May I ask a personal question?"
"Of course you may."
"Do you think of me as your son?"
She froze in place, honestly having not expected that question, or perhaps thrown by the bluntness of it. She wished to craft her answer carefully, but didn't wish for it to be dismissed as contrivance or prevarication. Finally, she shook her head and sighed. "Yes," she said, "I do."
He nodded once more, appearing lost in thought.
"Does that bother you?" she asked hesitantly.
He blinked owlishly. "No. I can't say that I appreciate it, or even understand it, but it doesn't trouble me." He paused. "Thank you for your candor."
"I need you to understand just one thing, Kurt," she said.
"I am in no way using you as a substitute for Ashley. It's important to me that you know that." She blinked back tears. "You cannot replace one person with another, and you can never replace a child. I think of you as my son, but I know that I am not your mother. All I'm asking is that you consider me a friend."
"Oh, I do," he said earnestly. "I hold no resentment or anger toward you, Helen, and I know that I only exist because of you and your kindness." He picked at his cuticles. "All I ask is that you give me time. I had a mother whom I loved very much. I never expected to have another. When Dad and Carole got engaged, she made very clear to me that she wasn't seeking to replace my mother, which I appreciated, and I'm sure the same is true of you."
He sighed, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I'm not explaining myself very well."
"Just take your time," Helen encouraged. "I'm not going anywhere."
As soon as she said the words, she became cognizant of the reason for his unease. She repeated her last statement slowly and clearly.
"I'm not going anywhere, Kurt."
He gasped slightly and found he could no longer meet her eyes. "That's what he said," he whispered. "After Mom died, he promised he would always be there." He hastily wiped his eyes and scrubbed at his face with a hand. "But he's not. He's gone. Ten years after she died, so did he, and now I'm alone."
He held up a hand to stave off her protest.
"It's true. I'm alone." He sipped his tea. "You're my mother, Helen, but you were never my parent, and please understand that I'm not saying this to hurt you. What you gave my parents was the most generous gift anyone ever could, a part of their very self, but they were my parents, and now they're gone. I need to deal with that."
She couldn't help but stare at him, marveling that this amazing boy had her blood coursing through his veins. She was so proud, but understood her pride was not what he needed right now.
"You said you're not using me to replace Ashley," he continued, "and I believe you. What scares me is that I might use you to replace them, that I might end up clinging to you like a lifeline and start to forget what they meant to me." Finally, he looked at her. "Things are happening so quickly, and it would be so very easy for me to turn to you, to dump all my problems in your lap and expect you to make them go away."
He arched a brow. "And you would do that for me, because you love me and you want me to have peace of mind." He shook his head. "If I let you, then I lose a part of myself which I value highly, and I can't allow that to happen."
"Of course you can't," she agreed. "Kurt, however you wish to proceed is exactly what we will do. I'm not going to pressure you. I'm not going to parent you. I'm not going to dictate your life. What I would like is the opportunity to help guide you; to assist you, if I can, when I can." She paused. "We don't know each other well, but I do believe there exists between us some modicum of respect. I would like that to deepen, but only on terms to which we both agree."
"I'd like that," he said quietly.
"Good," she said, nodding. "How can I help you?"
"Would you tell me about the Sanctuary, please? I have an understanding, but I'd like the details. If I'm going to be living there, I need to be informed of its function, how it operates, and the other people involved."
"That's a good place to start. Let me get my computer. I'll get you up to speed on our mission, how we go about meeting it, and my colleagues. As I've told you, they're already aware of who you are, and I'm sure they're anxious to meet you. I will, of course, put them on notice that you are not to be harassed."
He smiled, though it was strained. "I'd appreciate that." He cocked his head. "Are they all like you? I mean, your longevity..."
"No," she smiled, "but not all of them are strictly human, either." She looked into his eyes. "Does that frighten you?"
He scoffed. "Of course not. I seriously doubt they would pose any danger to me, or you wouldn't allow me to live there. As for living on the periphery of humanity, one day I'll tell you about what it means to be gay in a small, conservative, semi-rural community."
Her eyes hooded. "Tell me now."
He pursed his lips and shot her an unimpressed look. "For future reference, the scary voice won't work with me. However, since I'm going to be leaving this hellhole behind, why not?"
He proceeded to detail the campaign of harassment he and his father had been enforced to endure ever since Kurt matriculated middle school: the looks, the mutterings, the phone calls, the vandalism, the bullying, the physical assaults, and the complete lack of interest on the part of the school administration and local law enforcement.
He recounted the entire sordid affair, precisely and unemotionally, and was proud of himself for never once succumbing to the tears which threatened. It was very cathartic, cleansing in a way, and he felt better for having done it. He had been holding it in for so long, he felt as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
When he was done, he leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"Well," Helen said stiffly, "that is entirely unacceptable. No one should be forced to endure such agony, and certainly not you."
He gave a mild shrug. "It is what it is." He frowned. "Or was." Another sigh. "I just can't find it in myself to care at this point. I'm unsure if I no longer allow it to get to me, or if I've simply become inured to it." He chuckled darkly. "I don't know which would be worse. At any rate, letting the pain consume me gets me nothing."
She made some noise of agreement, but was simmering with rage. She forced it away so that she better focus on the situation at hand. "I'll just fetch my laptop and give you a crash course on the Sanctuary, shall I?"
Hesitantly, Kurt reached out a hand, allowing it to linger in the air for a moment before placing it gently atop her own. "Thank you, Helen. For everything."
Kurt couldn't help but stare. "You live here?" he demanded, staring at the picture on the screen before him.
Helen released a peal of throaty laughter and nodded, eyes sparkling. "Indeed. I've lived there so long that I sometimes forget the scope of the compound."
He shook his head. "Please forgive me for being indelicate, but exactly how much money do you have, Helen? I can't even fathom the resources something like this would require, let alone all of the other Sanctuaries across the world."
"I'm extremely comfortable," she said blithely, "as are you. Granted, my family was affluent and I've had almost two centuries to accumulate even more wealth."
He nodded absently. "But what you do with it, something so profound and meaningful...it's difficult to grasp."
She blushed lightly and ducked her head. She didn't find it so remarkable, really, but then she had been doing it for so long, she couldn't imagine doing anything else.
"Where would I stay?" Kurt asked, frowning. "I'm assuming there's some kind of residential hall, yes?"
She nodded. "Quite. You're more than welcome to live there, but if you'd like more solitude, there are numerous rooms available."
He snorted. "How about something with battlements and a turret?"
"Actually..." She pressed a finger to the screen and enlarged a section of the Sanctuary.
Kurt was floored. "I was joking!" He peered closer. "But now that you've offered..."
"And the others?"
She nodded. "Ah. Well, the first of which you should be aware is an Abnormal who has been with me for almost sixty years now. He's a Sasquatch."
Kurt raised a brow. "As in Bigfoot?"
Tinkling laughter was her reply. "Very much, yes, but he's extremely intelligent and incredibly loyal to me. I count him as one of my greatest friends."
He accepted it with remarkable aplomb and nodded. "Then I look forward to meeting him."
She smiled brightly at him, surprised with how open-minded he was. Of course, given what he had been forced to endure, perhaps she shouldn't have been.
"The newest is a young woman named Kate Freelander. She's of Indian descent and came to the Sanctuary with...less than altruistic goals," she said carefully. "She's determined to prove herself, however, and she's very skilled in a variety of areas. A Jill-of-All-Trades, you could say."
"The next is Henry Foss. He's what's known as a HAP, a hyper-accelerated protean."
His brow furrowed. "A werewolf?"
Her surprise was obvious. "Yes. Henry has been with me since he was a child. I found him alone one night, wandering the moors, and brought him back to the Sanctuary with me. He has no memory of his biological parents." She hummed. "I suppose he sees me as somewhat of a maternal figure. It's not something we really discuss."
She cleared her throat. "At any rate, Henry is our resident technical genius. His skill with computers is almost unparalleled, and he's responsible for all of our security and the majority of our weaponry." She smiled. "Henry is very unique. As bright as he is and as much as he's seen, he's very grounded, yet maintains a sense of innocence and whimsy that I've found most others have abandoned."
"He sounds like fun," Kurt said.
"He is," Helen agreed. "I should warn you, however, that he's very excited to meet you. He was raised in the Sanctuary alongside Ashley. I think that, besides myself, he misses her the most. He regarded her as a sister. Most likely, he will come to view you as a little brother." She watched closely as he digested that information.
Indeed, Kurt was thinking heavily on her words. He had always wanted a sibling, but the closest he had come was with Finn, a tenuous connection at best. Still, the man sounded interesting and, as he was hesitant to discuss Ashley with Helen, Henry might be the best choice to pump for information. He decided he might like having a big brother.
"I think that would be nice," he said shyly.
Helen was elated. It was important to her that Kurt establish relationships with those closest to her, and she knew Henry would look out for Kurt without suffocating him. In fact, she was betting that Henry would become Kurt's champion in a way, sticking up for him and giving voice to thoughts Kurt might normally have left unsaid.
"The last is Dr. Will Zimmerman. He's been with us about two years now, and is a forensic psychiatrist. His mother was killed by an Abnormal when Will was quite young, as he's struggled ever since to find his place in this world. I'd like to think I've helped him with that."
Kurt eyed her. "You saved him, didn't you?"
She blushed lightly.
He chuckled. "My boyfriend is also named Will."
Helen gave an exaggerated blink and slowly turned to face him. "I wasn't aware you were seeing anyone." At his resulting blush, her maternal instincts kicked in and screamed at her to eviscerate this boyfriend. "I'd like to hear about him."
Kurt snorted. "Most people would. When I tell them I'm involved with someone, they usually don't believe me, convinced it's a ploy to safeguard myself from actually having to step out into the world and meet people."
That set off alarms in her head. "Does he not wish for you to claim him as your significant other?" she asked evenly.
He hesitated a fraction too long and she barely refrained from exploding.
"It's not like that," he said softly. "He'd like nothing more than to tell everyone that we're together. I'm the one who refuses."
She frowned. "Why?" She paused to think about it. "Was your father aware you have a boyfriend?"
He shook his head. "He wouldn't have approved."
Helen was now teeming with protective urges to get her son the hell away from this other boy. "And why is that?" she asked, forcing a smile. "Is he older? A senior?"
Kurt's eyes widened.
She exhaled slowly. "Older?"
"He's a teacher at McKinley," Kurt admitted, blurting it out in a rush of words.
Her eyebrows all but shot off her head.
"Please listen," he begged. He closed his eyes and sighed. "Just once, I'd like someone to listen to me, to trust my judgment and that I know what I want. That I know what I'm doing."
She released another controlled breath. "I'm listening."
His eyes shined with such gratitude that she wanted to shoot everyone who had ever made him feel that he had to hide parts of himself in order to placate others.
"Will is the director of my glee club, which is an extracurricular activity and not a class, as well as the school's Spanish teacher. When I began McKinley, I was already fluent, so he's never technically been my teacher."
Well, that was something, she supposed. She nodded for him to continue.
"We've never had sex!" he loudly announced.
Her eyes widened.
"I've wanted to." He closed his eyes. "You have no idea how badly I've wanted to, but he's always refused." He cracked open an eye and looked at her anxiously. "Too much information?"
"No," she said carefully.
Bloody hell, no! It wasn't nearly enough information!
"He wants us to wait until I've graduated," he continued, "so that if any there's any negative recourse when we go public, it won't be directed at me." He looked at her earnestly. "Will is very preoccupied with protecting me at all costs, even from himself. He's very honorable. I'm above the age of consent, but he's more concerned with me being emotionally ready."
She rolled that information around in her mind. She nodded.
He heaved a sigh of relief, grateful that she was at least willing to hear him out. "I love him very much, Helen, and he loves me. Please don't ask me if I'm sure about this, or if I've given it enough thought. The answer should be obvious. I never would've entered this relationship had I not given it, and all of the ramifications, due consideration."
"I agree," she said slowly. "I don't believe you would act recklessly."
"And Will wouldn't, either," he rushed to add. He arched a brow. "We've been together six months, Helen, and we're not having sex. Do you really think he'd still be with me if he didn't care about me?"
She sighed, shielding her eyes with a hand. "You're making it incredibly difficult for me to shoot him."
His eyes widened, his alarm obvious. "I would hope so!"
"Oh, Kurt, I wouldn't really shoot him, but I've yet to hear enough not to convince me to put him on my operating room table."
He rolled his eyes. "He would resign if I asked. In fact, he's been dropping hints about it for several weeks now." He turned pensive. "I don't think he's happy at McKinley, and I know he hates what happens to me there."
He eyed at her. "I know what you're thinking, and I've asked him not to interfere because there's really nothing he can do. The faculty has about as much pull as the students as far as the administration is concerned. Besides, the moment he stood up for me, the rumors would fly. Really, the entire school is like one big powder keg, ready to blow at any moment."
"Then I'm glad you're leaving," she said, shaking her head. Honestly, what on earth had happened to schools? How could such blatant harassment be tolerated? It only proliferated further abuses. She blinked, remembering the principal was of Indian descent and named Figgins. She turned thoughtful. Perhaps she could have him deported. "Have you told Will your decision?"
Kurt shook his head. "I want to do that in person. I told you about him so that you weren't taken by surprise when he comes over."
"Isn't that dangerous, having him at the house?"
He grinned. "The pretext is that he's delivering me my assignments which I'll never complete."
She rolled her eyes.
He then launched into vaguely hysterical babble, explaining the events of last year, particularly about Terri Schuester and how she had deceived Will about the phantom baby. It was a calculated move, designed solely to manipulate Helen into feeling sorry for Will. She recognized the tactic for what it was, but that didn't stop her from pitying the man.
Kurt then dovetailed the information with his inappropriate and humiliating crush on Finn, as well as the fallout. Helen was left with no choice but to view them as two broken people who had found solace in each other, eventually leading to something more. Something neither foresaw, but obviously didn't regret.
"So," Kurt nervously said, "what do you think?"
She exhaled. "That's a loaded question, as I'm thinking many things. I can't in good conscience condone your relationship, but neither can I dismiss it outright." She shrugged. "I'm in a difficult position. I want to castrate him, but I'm almost two hundred years old, Kurt. I, more than anyone, understand that age is relative. Who am I to decide your relationship isn't real, that you don't love each other?" She shook her head. "I won't interfere, but I will put the fear of God in him before all is said and done."
"I guess that's fair," he chirped.
She soured. "You just want to cluck over him once I'm done."
His eyes sparkled. "That, too."
Will nervously held up his finger to ring the bell to Kurt's door, but hesitated, feeling very much like he was showing up to meet his date's parents.
He blinked. Well, he supposed that he was.
It was still odd to consider that Kurt had a mother. Another mother, he corrected himself, although Kurt had been very clear that Helen Magnus, while biologically his mother, was more a distant relative than anything else. Nevertheless, Will suspected Kurt would latch on to her rather ferociously as he waded through his grief over his father.
He wanted to make a good impression, but knew it was probably futile. When Kurt had informed him that he had told his mother about their relationship, Will had wanted to flee the state, terrified the woman would meet him with a shotgun, several rabid dogs, and a vat of acid.
Kurt had calmed him down, as he always did, and Will had agreed to come to the house. He believed the real reason for the meeting was for Kurt to explain that he had decided to leave Lima, with which Will wholeheartedly agreed. He wanted Kurt out of this town, free from being stifled and beaten down into submission. Kurt had rallied and refused to give in, but Will knew the longer Kurt remained, the more likely it was that Lima would ruin him.
Not that he wanted Kurt to leave, of course. Even the idea of being separated from him filled Will with sadness and anger, but he wanted what was best for Kurt, and that sure as heck wasn't Lima.
So he had decided that if Kurt made any argument to stay, Will would discourage that with every fiber of his being. He feared that Kurt felt leaving would mean the end of them as a couple, but there was no way in hell Will would allow that to happen. He had waited too long to find Kurt. He wouldn't give him up now. They could and would survive the separation.
Once Kurt was settled and had formed a bond with Magnus, Will had every intention of resigning from McKinley and moving to be with the man he loved.
He nodded to himself. Kurt was a man. He wasn't a little boy who, like Puck, was hot for teacher. Kurt loved him. Will knew this because Kurt had told him so, and Kurt never said anything he didn't mean.
He smiled at the memory of the first time Kurt had said those words. He had uttered them freely and without prompting, without fear or confusion. It had meant more to Will than anything ever had.
He had stayed in a bad marriage because he hadn't wanted to be alone. He'd had a flirtation with Emma because he had known she wasn't ready for a relationship. After the truth about Terri's pregnancy had been revealed, and that she had been ready to pass off Puck and Quinn's child as his own, he was done. He had ended things with Emma as well, unwilling to commit to yet another relationship he knew would be doomed to failure.
In the middle of all that, he and Kurt had gone from grudging colleagues to...something more.
He still wasn't sure when it had happened, or even why it had happened. All he knew was that he had woken up one morning so desperate for Kurt Hummel that he didn't think he could survive the day without kissing him. He'd never felt that before in his entire life, and when Kurt had kissed him back - enthusiastically and breathlessly - Will knew he never wanted to live without it.
They had been very careful, very respectful of each other, despite the fact that both of them knew Kurt was ready, almost needy, for more. Will certainly wanted more, but he never wanted Kurt to feel pressured, that sex was expected and should be given for the sake of it.
Truthfully, he was more than a little paranoid about their first time. He wanted to be good for Kurt, to make all his fantasies come true, but he wasn't any more experienced at sex with men than Kurt. He'd read up on the subject, of course, and had indulged in some...visual aids...but he remained anxious, and his anxiety only increased whenever Kurt was pressed up against him and...
The door flew open just as Will was lost in a dream involving a sauna and a very naked Kurt.
"I was wondering when you were going to ring the bell!" Kurt exclaimed. He peered closely at the other man. "Are you all right, Will?"
Will blinked and then smiled. "I'm just fine, honey." His smile became a beam as he watched a flush of pleasure creep up Kurt's neck and across his cheeks, as it always did whenever he used a term of endearment. His happiness died away. "How are you, really?"
Kurt ducked his head and gave a mild shrug. "It hurts," he said softly.
"I should have been here," Will seethed, furious with himself.
"You're here now," Kurt said. "Would you come in and give me a hug? Because I really need one."
Will raced across the threshold, shutting the door behind him, and wrapped his arms tightly around Kurt, who sank against him bonelessly and released a choked sob.
"Thank you for coming," Kurt whispered.
"There's nowhere else I'd rather be."
They stood there for a few moments, hanging on to each other like lifelines, as Will desperately tried to memorize everything about this moment: how Kurt felt against him, what his hair smelled like, the sensation of Kurt's soft cheek pressed against his.
"I'm so sorry," Will murmured.
"Me too," Kurt said miserably. He slipped a hand into Will's and led them over to the couch.
"Is there anything I can do?" Will asked, pulling Kurt toward him.
"Just hold me?"
Helen stood unobserved, watching their interaction.
She could never say she was pleased with Kurt and this man as a couple, but neither could she deny they obviously cared a great deal for each other. Perhaps they were even in love. She had always been a good judge of character, a skill which she had further honed for over a century, and she could tell this Will Schuester meant a lot to her son, and her son meant the world to him.
She repressed a sigh and quietly left their presence, determined not to be a voyeur.
"I wanted to tell you what I decided," Kurt said quietly, nestled in Will's arms.
Will leaned over and deposited a soft kiss on Kurt's temple. "I think I already know the answer."
Kurt was silent for several long moments. "Are you mad?" he finally asked.
"Of course not. I want what's best for you, Kurt, and while I don't yet know Dr. Magnus, I know the best for you doesn't exist in this town."
"You're here," Kurt whispered, laying his head against Will's chest. "You're what's best for me."
Will chuckled. "Well, I'm glad to hear that." He paused. "But I can't be everything for you, Kurt. I'd like to be, but I know that would be a selfish choice."
"I think we're owed some selfishness," Kurt protested.
Will nodded. "Perhaps, but it would be wrong for me to keep you here for the sake of our relationship." He cupped Kurt's chin in his hand and forced the boy to look at him. "A relationship which is absolutely not in danger," he said definitively. "We're not going to end simply because you move."
"You don't know that," Kurt said, closing his eyes.
Will scoffed. "Of course I do. Why would you think any differently?"
Kurt sighed, restless hands fidgeting in his lap. "You could meet someone else, someone more...appropriate. Someone who could give you the things I can't."
"Like children?" Will gently asked.
Kurt nodded tightly, his eyes remaining closed. "I know how badly you want them."
"That's true," Will conceded, "but do you know what's more important to me than having children?" His fingers carded through Kurt's hair. "Having them with the right person. Looking back on everything that happened last year, I know now the right person wasn't Terri. It never would have been. She faked a pregnancy to save a marriage that was already dead. I wanted the baby, Kurt, but I no longer wanted her."
Kurt's eyes fluttered open. "What are you saying?"
Will raised a brow. "Why don't you tell me?"
Kurt's mouth moved soundlessly. "You think...I'm the right person?" he asked hesitantly.
"When you're ready, yes," Will answered simply. "There's a lot against us right now, Kurt, but that won't always be the case. Once you're free of Lima, I don't imagine I'll stay here for very long. I'd like to see the Glee Club through their senior year, and then I'll leave. This isn't my home anymore, Kurt. You are."
Kurt's face scrunched up and tears slipped from his eyes, which Will wiped away. "But how do you know?" he warbled. "I won't be here. Emma...Terri..."
"They don't matter, honey. You do. That's not going to stop. I don't want it to stop."
"Do you trust me, Kurt?"
"Of course I do."
"Then what is this really about?" Will asked.
"Why would you want me?" Kurt blurted. When he registered his own words, his eyes flew wide open, humiliated by his unintentional admission.
"Are you serious?" Will demanded.
Kurt said nothing, flushing and turning his head.
"No, no," Will said, again forcing Kurt to look at him. "We're going to discuss this."
Kurt groaned and hid his face in his hands.
"What makes you think you won't find someone else?" Will asked. "Someone more appropriate for you? Someone your age, with whom you can share the experiences you'll have? College, professional school? I'm almost twice as old as you, Kurt. You're just beginning your life. You may soon find I don't fit into it."
"You really think I'd leave you?" Kurt barked.
"The idea terrifies me every single day."
Kurt balked, never before having considered that Will might have been just as insecure in their relationship as he himself was. Not that he doubted their love for each other, but that they shared their fear of the circumstances surrounding them was surprising.
"But I love you, Will. I can't imagine my life without you in it." He shook his head. "I don't want to date around. I don't want to hang out in bars, cruising the singles scene and hoping to make a connection I've already found. You're my connection. You're the only one with whom I want to share my life. You're it for me."
"As you are for me," Will said, voice grave, "and I mean that, Kurt. I don't want anyone but you. I know it sounds ridiculous, and many people will probably tell us that it is, but I know my heart, and it belongs to you for as long as you want it. Geography won't change that." He took Kurt's face in his hands. "I love you."
Kurt bit his lip, his tears renewing themselves. "Everyone leaves me."
Will closed his eyes and sighed. "No one has ever left you by choice, baby, and you need to remember that. I'm no exception." Before he even knew what he was doing, he put a hand in his pocket and slowly withdrew a velvet box, palming it. He gently released Kurt and slid from the sofa onto one knee.
"What are you doing!" Kurt exclaimed, voice thick with tears.
"What I've wanted to do since our first kiss," Will said, presenting the box and opening it.
Kurt stared, mesmerized by the burnished gold band, set with a large green gemstone with red flecks in a cabochon cut. "A bloodstone," he murmured.
"It's the gem of courage," Will said. "It's said to increase personal strength, enhance self-esteem and self-appreciation, and calm anxiousness." He smiled wryly. "I think we both need that."
"It's not an engagement ring," Will interrupted, "not yet, but it is a promise ring. It's my promise to you that I will love you for as long as you'll let me." He stared into Kurt's eyes. "For so long, I did what was expected of me. I went to college, married my high school girlfriend, and came back to Lima to begin life as an adult. I denied parts of myself completely, convinced that I had to settle for things I didn't want because I would fail if I tried for something better.
"You're my better. You've made me better. You're everything I've ever wanted, everything I was afraid I'd never find. You're beautiful. You're so brilliant that it's scary. You're talented. You're more yourself than anyone I've ever known."
He shook his head. "You've changed me in ways I never dreamed possible. You've made me more brave, more kind, and more honest." He paused. "I think the reason I could never make it work with Terri or Emma was because I didn't like who I was when I was with them. But I like who I am when I'm with you. I know I don't deserve you, that I haven't earned you, and that most everyone we know will fight us on this."
"But they don't matter. I can't guarantee us a happily ever after, but I know that I could never be happy without you. I can't imagine anything in my life that would ever be more important than trying to make you happy. If I know anything for certain, Kurt, it's that I was meant to learn from you. I was born to love you."
Kurt's hand flew to cover his mouth as he choked back a sob. He blinked several times and finally scowled. "I'm going to start blubbering and my skin will turn blotchy. I blame you for this."
"But will you accept the ring?" Will nervously asked.
"You sweet, stupid man," Kurt mumbled, shaking his head and extending his hand, which was then tightly grasped by one of Will's own.
Will quickly withdrew the ring and slipped it onto Kurt's left ring finger before either one of them could change their minds.
Kurt marveled at the weight of it, of how right it felt, and couldn't stop staring at it. He felt...chosen, possessed in a way he had never dared hope he would experience. "I don't have anything to give you," he lamented.
Will bit his lip as, finally, his tears began. "You've given me your heart, Kurt. How could a ring ever compare to that?" Again, he took Kurt's face in his hands. "This ring is my promise to you that I will do everything in my power never to give you cause to regret it."
Will followed Kurt into the kitchen, their hands tightly joined, completely unready but willing to meet Helen Magnus, who was waiting for them, arms crossed over her chest, hip cocked, and a blank expression on her face.
He took a moment to appreciate how beautiful this woman was. It obviously ran in the family.
Hair, worn long and only a few hues darker than Kurt's own, tumbled down past her shoulders in waves. She was fairly tall, but she almost towered over them both, as her black leather boots had a five-inch heel. It was then he noticed the woman was actually entirely dressed in leather, from head-to-toe. She wore it well, though, for some reason, he was reminded of armor.
He was suddenly struck with the realization that he feared this woman.
Everything, from the wardrobe to the offensive stance, screamed that she was in control of her life and most likely those of the people who surrounded her.
Kurt had filled him in on who Helen Magnus was, of what she did, of her true age, but he hadn't truly recognized the gravity of the information imparted to him. He thought now of everything this woman must have seen, everything she might have done, and how she could probably squash him like a bug if he so much as made her son pout.
And that, more than anything, was what had earned her his eternal respect, because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would go to the wall to protect Kurt, and that was the only thing that mattered. If he got in her way and she had to put him down, he was fairly certain he would have deserved it.
He felt the tension in his shoulders slip away, once the more primitive portion of his brain deemed her an alpha. He didn't have to fight this woman. He didn't have to challenge her or prove himself worthy. He simply had to treat her child with the respect he was owed.
Helen stared at Will with undisguised and unflinching scrutiny, recognizing his silent submission and assigning him bonus points for it. He felt threatened without her having to lift a finger, and she liked that. Nonetheless, she shifted her hip and afforded him full view of the gun strapped to it.
She then let him contemplate it as she performed a more thorough inventory.
William Schuester was handsome in an old Hollywood way. His face was very strong, particularly the chin, but his features went well together. She thought it interesting that she couldn't readily place his age. Had Kurt not told her, she would have guessed him to be as young as twenty-five or as old as forty. There was a hardness about him that made her wonder as to his life experiences, but his eyes were gentle.
He wanted her approval, not for his sake, but for Kurt's, and that mattered to her.
He wasn't as tall as she had expected; he had maybe two inches on Kurt. Despite his absolutely horrendous wardrobe, which she desperately hoped Kurt would soon remedy, his physique was strong, powerful. He could defend himself, she was sure, but would most likely be reluctant to do so. This man was a lover, not a fighter, though she suspected he would defend Kurt if the situation demanded. Kurt, on the other hand, though very slender - bordering on reedy - could, with the right training, easily take apart a man of much greater size.
The hair she refused to consider.
Her eyes flitted down to the ring on Kurt's hand, recognizing it for what it was. Will missed the look; Kurt did not, but declined to comment on it. Therefore, she said nothing. Outwardly calm, her mind raced with curiosity, for she truly had not seen this coming. She was distressed to find herself puzzling over possible ulterior motives, for what grown man gave such a ring to a boy almost half his age?
She forced her thoughts to slow and think about why he would have done this. He had no reason to offer such commitment; that is, unless he truly loved Kurt. She doubted it was a manipulation to compel Kurt to stay in Lima, because the fact of the matter was that she didn't believe anything could accomplish that. Also, if Kurt remained in Lima, he wouldn't have been able to wear the ring in public. It was obvious, by the fact that he had not attempted to hide it from her, that he had no intention of hiding it from anyone.
This man loved her son.
She had expected it, but not yet accepted it. Now she had no choice.
She could rail against them, but it would be an exercise in futility. In only a handful of months, Kurt would be of age and could do whatever he wanted; she had no say in his life once that point arrived. He had the financial resources to live independently anywhere in the world. He might have needed her now in order to navigate the murky waters of his current legal status, but that time would soon pass.
Besides, she longed for him to want her, not just need her.
Were she to interfere in his relationship now, he would merely bide his time while growing increasingly resentful of her, and she would lose him. She certainly didn't want that to happen.
She repressed a sigh. For now she would support them. And then complain to anyone who would listen.
Will was performing his own examination, looking for recognition points Helen shared with Kurt. Besides the height and the hair, which appeared to be of a texture similar to Kurt's own, there was the patrician forehead and the shape of the widely-spaced eyes. Helen's eyes were more of a blue-gray, similar to those of Kurt, but his also had flecks of green and gold, which made them mercurial and subject to change, dependent on his mood. Her nose was more petite and defined, though her chin was equally as strong. Her mouth was shaped like a Cupid's bow, but her lower lip was full, like that of her son.
Were he to pass her on the street, he never would have considered she could be Kurt's mother. In the here and now, however, it was obvious.
Helen forced herself to smile, and Will was struck by how brilliant it was. He then noted the dimples, much like Kurt's own.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, William," she said evenly.
The English accent was exquisite, and Will thought that this was how Kurt should speak. His word choices, always so elegant and specific - the very embodiment of the Queen's English - were made for such dulcet tones, and the musical lilt to his voice would lend itself well. He had the feeling that within three months time, Kurt would sound exactly like his mother.
Will held out his hand with more bravery than he felt. He was unsurprised by the strength of her grip, one which promised death.
When they released each other's hands, her smile turned hard and her eyes cold.
"Shall we get the threats and intimidation out of the way?" she tinkled.
"I would appreciate that, Dr. Magnus," he said neutrally.
She nodded. "You know what I am. You know what I do. I am almost two hundred years old, and have seen and done more than you could ever hope to understand. I have contacts in every government in the world, and have clearances higher than the current president of your country. I speak over thirty languages and am proficient in more than a dozen forms of martial arts. I am a master of every weapon you can name and of more than you could even dream exist. I have more money than some continents possess."
She took a step forward and stared into his eyes. "Should you ever hurt my son, it won't be a question of me killing you, but of how long and in what state I'll allow you to linger until finally putting you out of your misery. Are we clear?"