Author's Note: I'm very new to The Vampire Diaries fandom, so this story is something of an experiment, one which I'm not sure will continue. This is a story I have a great interest in writing, but I'm not sure how often it will be updated, if ever. I'm always reticent about stepping foot in a new fandom, but I love most of these characters, so I've decided to give it a try. If you choose to read this, I hope you'll enjoy it. For those who are dedicated enthusiasts of TVD, I hope you'll forgive what is sure to be my many missteps. I ask that you allow me time and extend me patience as I fumble my way through this. Thank you.

Also, this has not been proofed yet. I expect this chapter will be replaced with a more polished version at a later date.

Kurt Hummel was awakened by the sound of his own screaming.

His eyes flashed open and was blinded by the darkness that enveloped him. Blinking harshly to force his eyes to adjust, his breathing ragged, he winced when his fingers cramped in protest to how tightly he was gripping the sheets. He coughed against the imaginary smoke that was choking him.

He released his hold and reached reflexively for Sam's solid form, but finding nothing. Grief swelled within him once more, his heart as empty as his bed.

Seven months and the loss hadn't abated in the slightest. He doubted it ever would. In a very strange yet visceral way, he was grateful for that. His pain over Sam's loss seemed, at times, to be the only thing tethering him to this life. More than once, he wished the drunk driver had killed him as well.

Tears blurred his eyes, but he forced them back, as he had been for the past two months. He knew Sam would be furious with him for that; for so many things, really.

He had spent the first three weeks after Sam's death in the hospital, recovering from his injuries, ones which he had deemed so minor as to be offensive. What did he care about a broken collarbone and concussion when the man he had been intending to marry was lying dead in the morgue three floors down?

The guilt he felt for surviving in place of Sam often paralyzed him, only compounded by the guilt he felt for his complete disinterest in the life waiting for him to begin anew. How was he supposed to go on as though his entire world hadn't shattered? Worse, many of his friends were constantly needling him to do just that, arguing that Sam would've have wanted him to move on with his life, as if it were as easy as saying those words.

Immediately following the accident, there had been the requisite sympathy and lamentations. Mercedes had flown in from Los Angeles and cooed and clucked over him, not really knowing what to say. They hadn't been close since their senior year, and while they maintained the shared delusion that they were still best friends, they hardly knew each other anymore. She was already working on her second divorce as she prepared for her third album.

Mercedes had never really forgiven him for not following in her footsteps, for giving up his dreams of stardom, which, in truth, he had abandoned before college, and going off to study something as banal as medicine. He knew, even though she would never admit it, that she had been jealous of his multiple Ivy League acceptances while she had only received entry to Ohio State. She had skipped college altogether, preferring to take her chances out West. That she had succeeded, and quite marvelously, in fact, did little to quell her resentment.

She had never approved of his relationship with Sam, still suspicious that he had done something to break up her and Sam during their senior year. She knew it was ridiculous, of course, but blaming him made it easier than blaming herself, or the boy from Dalton with whom she had cheated.

Still, she had sat next to his bed and held his hand for those long three weeks, fluffing up his pillows and handling as much as she could for him. She had left immediately after the service, but he was still appreciative. They had spoken rarely since then, but he knew, as did she, that if something truly dire ever happened to either one, the other would be there in a heartbeat.

Kurt sighed, wishing he had the courage to call and allow her to baby him as he shook off the effects of the nightmare.

He gingerly stepped into his slippers and shuffled into the kitchen, determined to make himself a mug of warm milk, the thought of which immediately set his mind on Finn. He smiled and shook his head. He loved his brother dearly, but Finn had yet to grow up, despite the fact that he now had a child of his own.

It was still bizarre to think of Finn and Rachel as a married couple. They had taken the plunge immediately following his graduation from Stony Brook University and hers from NYADA. Finn had double-majored in physical education and history, shockingly passing both with high marks. Kurt still believed Rachel had written most of Finn's papers, but that was neither here nor there. She had graduated with honors, but her time in the city had drastically changed her outlook on life.

In Lima, Rachel had been a star, the big fish in a rather small pond. Her first year at NYADA had seen her shed her rose-colored glasses, finally admitting that, while talented, she wasn't very unique. There had been twelve girls in her class alone with almost identical voices. Always determined, she had stuck with the program, however, and wringed from it every drop of training possible, honing her craft with a relentless zeal.

She had known Broadway was a long-shot, and rather than pounding the pavement for a decade, waiting for a break that would see her playing half her age, she had married Finn and settled on Long Island, Finn already having procured a position at a local high school. Slightly more than nine months after their wedding - and Kurt had seen people mentally counting - Rachel had given birth to their first child, a little girl named Cosette. As much as Kurt wanted to ridicule that choice of name, he hadn't the heart. He had been the first to hold his niece after her parents, and had fallen completely in love.

Three months later, Rachel had been back in fighting form and begun her domination of the Long Island theater community, where she was in high demand and once again a star. Everyone knew, however, that she was far more interested in being a good mother - which she absolutely was. She doted on her child without suffocating her. Kurt didn't know how she managed it, given that she was Rachel Berry, but all the kudos to her.

Outside of Kurt himself, it had been Rachel who was most devastated by Sam's death. She and Sam hadn't been very close, but she had understood and respected what Sam had meant to Kurt.

Kurt carefully poured the milk from the pan into the waiting ceramic mug. He sat at his small café table and surveyed his kitchen. There wasn't much left to pack.

He was of two minds about relinquishing the apartment. On the one hand, it held so many good memories of his life with Sam, even though they hadn't planned on staying there once Kurt graduated from his Masters program. On the other, those same memories were slowly killing him. Everything reminded him of Sam, from old sneakers still waiting by the front door to the way the pillows smelled. Sam was everywhere, all the time.

His vision once again blurred as a new onslaught of tears demanded release. He blinked them back, inhaling deeply, and stared down at the table.

There was no logical reason to keep the apartment. He had put off moving for as long as possible, tenaciously clinging to the idea that he couldn't break his lease, though he could have easily afforded the penalties. However, now the lease was up, and next month would see all the units converted to condos. He couldn't see the point of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a condominium that was making him miserable, no matter how much it reminded him of Sam.

The bottom line was that Sam was gone, and no matter how many times he opened the door and called out a greeting, Sam was never going to answer. He had to stop looking around every corner for a mop of fake blond hair. He had to stop making a full pot of coffee every morning and then drinking the last drop, not wanting to waste it. He had to stop wearing Sam's cologne.

This time, he didn't stop the tears from falling.

"I hate you for leaving me," he whispered. "How could you leave me all alone?"

And he was alone.

His father was dead. Sam was dead. Finn was married with a baby. Carole had stayed in Lima. Mercedes was in Los Angeles. The rest of the glee club was scattered throughout the country. He hadn't spoken with Noah, Mike, or Artie in years. They had come to the funeral, and he hadn't spoken with them then, either. Of course, he hadn't spoken to anyone, other than Sam's family.

He still wasn't sure when it had happened, when Sam's family had become his own. He didn't remember when he had started addressing Savannah and Scott as Mom and Dad, or when he had begun to regard Stacy and Stevie as his own brother and sister.

He knew both Finn and Carole harbored some resentment about that, but he honestly hadn't been able to bring himself to care. For the most part, they were happy for him, and they had loved Sam in their own ways.

He was unable to qualify their loss; their grief angered him. Sam had been his, not theirs. It was all he could do not to scream into the phone during Savannah's weekly calls to check in on him. He knew he was selfish. He knew he should respect the fact that the woman had lost her son, but it was difficult. For six years, he and Sam had made a life with each other in Providence, cocooned in their own world, and now that Sam was gone and that world was in pieces, he was furious that others were intruding upon it.

He sighed, gripping the mug so hard that the handle snapped off.

He had to leave. He needed to be away from the city and his friends. Providence no longer felt like home, and all of the people he knew there knew him as part of a couple. For the past six years, he had been Kurt and Sam. Now he was just Kurt again, and no one knew who Kurt was, including Kurt himself.

No, he had to get out of there. The sooner the better.

He might not have wanted to start over, but he could no longer pretend it wasn't necessary.

Two days later, the apartment was spotlessly clean.

Whatever he hadn't thrown out, he had donated to charity: most of Sam's clothes, except the few overlarge shirts Kurt had kept to wear for bed, and a good portion of his own wardrobe, save the things Sam had given him which he had never worn. It seemed so stupid now, not wearing the things Sam had painstakingly picked out and bought with his own money just because of some fashion standard that was ultimately irrelevant.

Most of the small appliances and all of the furniture had been sold on Craigslist. There was nothing Kurt wanted to keep, as most of it had been of mediocre quality, transitory placeholders until they could furnish a home of their own in the way they wanted.

There were a few boxes of Sam's possessions he had sent to various members of the Evans family, things he hadn't been able to part with after the funeral. All of the photographs had been copied onto his laptop and the originals sent to Savannah. He sent Stevie all of Sam's sports paraphernalia, and his books to Stacy. Scott received Sam's diploma in Psychology from RIC.

Kurt smiled as he remembered how hard Sam had worked for that degree, how tireless he had been in overcoming his dyslexia, even though he had begged Kurt to proofread every single term paper, which Kurt had happily done.

Sam had been so much smarter than anyone, Sam included, had ever known. It was heartbreaking that a mind that sharp, a soul that pure, was gone for no good reason. Sam had desperately wanted to help people, to make his life meaningful, and he had, though he had been slow to realize it. Despite his intelligence and that incredibly gorgeous face, Sam's self-esteem had been poorer than Kurt's own, which was really saying something.

Eventually, Sam had fought his way through it and emerged on the other side. His last two years of school, he had interned at the suicide prevention center, and had been remarkably successful. More than a dozen students had written letters or made personal visits to thank him for his help. Sam had always blushed and accepted their gratitude with humility, but had never quite understood that his greatest gift, his empathy, had literally saved lives.

How could he be gone?

Logically, Kurt knew that Sam would always continue in some form, through the kids he had helped, through his donated organs, and in Kurt's own memories, but it was cold comfort.

He finished wiping down the windows in the living room and stepped back to survey his work. He nodded. Satisfactory. He startled and wondered what Coach Sylvester was doing.

He had been shocked when she had made an appearance at the funeral. He had been stunned that it was at her side that he had stood, her hand he had held as Sam was lowered into the ground. She had never said a word to him, but had held his hand tightly, anchoring him to the reality surrounding him, and had brushed aside almost everyone who had tried to approach him. She had only let Santana, Quinn, and Brittany through, and he had only allowed Brittany to hug him.

He should call them. He'd been meaning to for six months.

He really was a crap friend.

He jumped when the phone rang. He blinked slowly, the bottle of Windex slipping from his hand and falling to the floor, as his nightmare from two day previous reasserted its terror.

"Jenna," he whispered. "Oh, god, it was Jenna."

He raced to his bedroom and the closest receiver. "Jenna?" he panted into the phone.

He knew from the lengthy pause that it wasn't her. That she was, in fact, dead. That his nightmare had been her last moments.

Why hadn't he known at the time? Why hadn't he had been able to prevent it? What good was all of his supposed power if he couldn't protect the people he loved?

Elena and Jeremy. Oh, god.

"I'm trying to reach Kurt Hummel," said a timid, reedy voice.

Kurt immediately realized from the officious tone that his caller was most likely an attorney. He hated lawyers. "This is he."

"Ah. Mr. Hummel, my name is Lyle Fitzgerald. I am the attorney for your cousin, Jenna Sommers."

"When did she die?" Kurt quietly asked. He needed the confirmation. He needed to know how badly he had failed. Again.

Another stunned pause. "Two nights ago, I'm afraid."

"How?" Kurt demanded.

"There was a fire..."

Kurt tuned out the explanation as he remembered the smell of smoke clinging to him when he had awoken.

A fire. She must have died in agony. He closed his eyes.

"Mr. Fitzgerald," he interrupted, "this is obviously very upsetting news, but I'm sure there's another purpose to your call. I presume it's about Jeremy and Elena. How are they?"

"They are holding their own."

What a ridiculous phrase, Kurt thought, as he pulled the receiver from his ear and glared at it. They had lost their parents only a year ago, and now their aunt. Oh, but as long as they were holding their own. He barely managed to refrain from asking just what, precisely, they were holding.

"Ms. Sommers specifically stated in her last will and testament that custody of your two minor cousins was to be given to you in the event of her death..."

Kurt's eyes widened. What?

"Ms. Sommers' boyfriend, Alaric Saltzman, has assumed temporary guardianship."

Kurt wanted to demand an explanation for such a preposterous name. He wondered why he hadn't known Jenna was seeing someone. He couldn't even remember the last time he had spoken with her. He hadn't been able to attend the funeral for Miranda and Grayson, due to finals, and Jenna had been more than kind by excusing his absence. And then Sam had died.

"What about Grayson's brother? John, I believe."

A sharp inhalation. "Mr. Gilbert passed away last year."

Kurt was now horrified by his own behavior. He hadn't told his cousins that Sam had been killed, and while he had sequestered himself in his apartment, leaving only to finish his schooling, he had completely cut himself off from what little remained of his blood family. John had died, and no one had told him, and now Jenna was dead. What the hell was happening in that town?

"Mr. Saltzman has indicated interest in assuming permanent custody..."

"I don't think so," Kurt again interrupted, voice hard. "I'm more than happy to meet with him and discuss our options, but I'm not about to turn over my family to a man I've never met, let alone even knew existed." He cleared his throat. "When is Jenna's funeral?" he asked more sedately.

He grabbed a pen and began taking copious notes; for the next five minutes, he help up his end of the conversation with one word replies unless otherwise absolutely necessary.

Finally, he thanked the man for his call and hung up. He didn't feel guilty for cutting Fitzgerald off, as he was sure the lawyer would be submitting a bill to the estate.

He began pacing about the room.

The entire affair was ridiculous. He was twenty-four years old and in no way emotionally ready to parent two teenagers. He couldn't even imagine how Jeremy and Elena would react once they were told. He was sure they'd be furious; he certainly would be, were he in their shoes. He hadn't seen Elena since she was seven, and he'd never even met Jeremy. They knew each other enough to send birthday and holiday cards, though Jeremy had stopped sending cards years ago, but they were in no way close.

What had Jenna been thinking?

He could almost hear her voice: family looks out for family, dumbass.

The corner of his mouth lifted. He supposed that was true enough. Regardless of anything else, Jeremy and Elena were his family, his only family now. He was sure this Alaric person was a very nice man, but he meant what he had said to Fitzgerald: he wouldn't simply turn over Jeremy and Elena to someone he'd never met.

So, he guessed he was heading to Mystic Falls.

He wandered through his almost empty apartment.

Perhaps this was a sign. Maybe this was the next phase of his life. Even if he allowed Alaric Saltzman custody of his cousins, he still wanted to a part of their lives. He wanted them to know that they weren't alone in the world, that they still had family, even if comprised only of one person.

He'd been locked away in the haze of his own pain for so long that he had forgotten others had their own pain to consider. Jeremy and Elena had certainly been dealing with more than their share. If Saltzman checked out and the kids wanted to stay with him, Kurt would agree, but only on the condition that he himself would be a part of their lives. Granted, it was obnoxious on his part, and he was admittedly desperate for something to which he could cling, but that didn't change the fact that Jenna had specifically asked him. He wouldn't dishonor her by refusing.

He nodded to himself.

Well, if he was going to spend an extended amount of time in Mystic Falls, Virginia, he really should acquaint himself with the town.

He booted up his laptop.

Three hours and three glasses of wine later, after scouring the archives of the local paper, Kurt was pissed off beyond the telling of it. Animal attacks. Yeah, right. There were certainly a lot of them.

He sighed and glared at the screen. "It would be vampires."

He wondered just how much Jenna knew about him, and if she had shared that information with anyone else.

He stood and crossed the room, opening the trunk that stood before the sofa and acted as a coffee table. Carefully, he withdrew his Book of Shadows. He knew there were no specific entries regarding Mystic Falls, but that didn't mean there wasn't some information to glean.

Forty minutes later, his search had proved fruitless.

He spent the next twenty minutes trying to summon Jenna, and then Miranda. Neither appeared, which didn't bode well. There was no reason to assume they hadn't passed on into one of the heavenly realms, which meant it was likely that someone was blocking his attempts.

He'd tried for months to summon Sam, but to no avail. He knew it was because he hadn't truly accepted Sam's death yet. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to summon Sam, and it was like a knife in his gut.

In a last-ditch effort, he summoned his father.

Burt's shadowy form appeared in the circle, but it was obvious the man was desperately struggling to manifest himself fully.

"You have to help them, Kurt!" Burt yelled. "They need you!"

"Dad, what's going on?" he asked, fear and anxiety lacing his voice.

"Someone's trying to block me. Go, Kurt. Help them before it's too late."


But Burt Hummel had already disappeared.

Kurt stared sightlessly before him. With a wave of his hand, he extinguished the candles.

Who had dared to interfere with the summoning of his father? Further, who possessed that kind of power? Whoever it was, it was apparent they wanted to keep him away from Elena and Jeremy, which merely cemented his resolve to get to them as quickly as possible.

He could be on the road by nightfall. It would take him two days, and he should arrive just in time for Jenna's funeral.

He was betting Jeremy and Elena had the answers he needed.

"Get ready, Mystic Falls. Your deficiencies are about to be redressed."