So, update, update, update! Monday as hoped for, too, so yay. Monday's are gonna become a thing unless I saw otherwise, mmkay?
All right, so there's another little time jump to start this, but after this it 's staying in the same time/year: Kurt's junior year at McKinley. We'll be hanging out there until the end, probably with several flashbacks along the way. And another note to make, yes, to the few people who caught it, Lyra w as intentionally made that young when she had Cooper. It really wasn't that uncommon given the time. All of my grandmother's sisters were off and married with a kid by about 15 since marriage was their only option for getting out from under their father 's rule since they lived in the middle of nowhere. Kinda like Lima. I'll probably have Blaine mention it at some point.
So, hmm... you'll probably have a lot of new questions with this one, though I promise all with be fleshed out/explained as the story unfolds. If you've got any questions you can always drop them in my tumblr ask and I'll answer even if it's just to say, "Can't say right now , but the story will explain." Yup, I think that's it for now. Enjoy and I'll see you next Monday!
Chapter 1: Distance Between
8 Years later...
The taped knuckles of Blaine's left fist smacked against the plump punching bag swinging precariously from the ceiling. It was early, or would be if Time existed in the Between, and Blaine was running through the last of his morning boxing routine before he decided on how to spend the rest of his day.
He kept up the rhythm, working vigorously through the last motions of his workout until sweat was stinging his eyes and the little pops of memory stopped buzzing in his head.
Every day he woke up and beat back the nightmares that had roused him.
Every day he hoped for a change, even though none had come.
Blaine had always thought it was funny that, even though his death had torn him from Time, he still had all the memories from his life. There was still an unchallenged sense of who he was and what had happened to him, and every time he thought about it, his head pounded like his fists did every morning. Sometimes he hated the attachment he still had to his life, and some days he wanted nothing more than to forget all of it. His parents, the friends he'd made and lost, his hobbies and likes, the future in New York City he'd been working towards, even Cooper.
No matter how much time passed, in his current reality or in his old one, he still missed his older brother.
With a grunt, Blaine slammed his right fist against the punching bag, catching it with his arms when it swung back towards him like a pendulum, and holding on as he breathed in deeply. Even fifty years later, it was still bizarre to know he was breathing without any purpose. It was just a natural instinct he still followed, and part of the reason he was stuck here in the first place. Like so many other aspects of his current reality, it was just old habits from a different place, one where he'd still grown and changed and wasn't stagnant as a teenage boy always one month shy of his seventeenth birthday.
His brain still wanted to be alive, still wanted to deny the attack that had severed his connection to growth, change, and mortality. So he breathed, allowing his unconscious bodily functions to happen as they always had, despite his body being molecularly different without the physicality of Time to ground him. Everyone else who lingered here with him did the same until they sorted out whatever aspect of their old life needed self-acceptance and understanding.
Until he faced his uncertainty, fears, and nightmares he was going to linger in the Between, never moving Beyond and never capable of suturing himself back into Time now that he'd left. There was no returning to the world he'd left, not permanently or into the same life. Time had journeyed forward without him and, after fifty years, there was nobody and nothing to return to. He could journey back to guide and help others as he weaved a path towards soothing his own demons, but never for long and certainly not in a real way.
Time wasn't a part of his existence anymore and without it he didn't have life. He was granted assignments and tasks that allowed him to briefly reenter the Timestream in the Present, but it was painful and unnatural for him to do so. No matter what, Time always caught them, and when it did he got thrown right back out.
Panting and sweating, Blaine stepped away from the punching bag and over to the corner where he kept a few towels by his sink.
The accommodations in the Between were remarkably similar to the one's he'd left behind and part of that, he knew, was because everyone else that was here had also come from Time. This plane of existence was created and built by people who had been pushed out of Time for reasons they didn't fully understand yet and so they brought their knowledge with them, trying to establish some sense of normalcy while they figured out how to move beyond themselves. Each and every one of them in his west-central Ohio district understood and knew what sinks, beds, and kitchens were. They all had similar timelines and therefore pictured similar settings to live in, even if there was no reason to eat, bathe, or sleep here. That didn't prevent most of them from partaking in their old habits, but it did make Blaine feel silly on occasion despite the simple and familiar comfort it offered.
In a lot of ways, Blaine's part of the Between was no different than the area of Ohio he'd left behind. There were streets and buildings and people, but there were no vehicles and distance wasn't something established and necessary for this plane of existence. His eyes might still deceive him into believing that the walk from his room to the office where he was trained and given assignments was several blocks, but it took only a few seconds to get there, regardless of his pace and stride.
That was another huge adjustment he'd had to make when he'd woken up in a dull looking room with stained carpets and filthy walls fifty years ago. Time was measured here with the usual clocks and gadgets, but it didn't actually exist or define anything in this reality. It was used because it was something everyone already understood and because it defined the place most of the workers returned to. Each of them had their own story, problem, or struggle that had led them here after death. They'd all been full human beings on Time's plane of existence and now they were as dead as he was, waiting and learning and hoping to find their way Beyond.
Nobody in the Between understood exactly what Beyond meant, only that it was meant to be peaceful, a better place and perhaps another life to live once they cut the last ties from their old ones. The people that did move Beyond never came back, so Blaine had no way on knowing which, if any of those, it was for sure, but he hoped it meant something better and happier than the nightmares bouncing around in his skull and the hideous, red scar that marred the skin on his chest.
As he set the towel down, Blaine tugged his thin, sweaty shirt off and glanced into the mirror, lips curling slightly at the skinny sixteen year old that stared back at him.
Even if he worked out for days without pause, his body never changed. His shoulders remained boney and stretched looking, while his chest and stomach looked like they'd been on the verge of filling out with muscles but had never had the chance. It was the scar along his right side, jagged as it crossed over several ribs, that always caught his, and everyone else's, attention. The mark had no semblance of ever being healed, and when Blaine considered that it had still been a gaping, nasty wound gushing blood and soaking his clothing when he'd died, he thought himself lucky that his skin had patched itself together at all.
There was a knock at the door then, and Blaine half turned as a head popped in. It was Brian, a man who lived a few rooms down and was another agent who jumped in and out of Time to aide his own advancement from here.
"Hey, Blaine, the big guy wants to see ya at headquarters," he said without preamble, looking nervous. It was uncharacteristic and caught Blaine's attention immediately. Something was up if it had Brian twitching; something big.
"I'm not in trouble again, am I?" Blaine wondered vaguely, heading to his closet and tugging another shirt out.
It wasn't uncommon these days for Blaine to be called in for not doing something or forgetting to go somewhere. He'd been here long enough to do everything twice, and while it gave him a lot of experience, it never gave him any leeway with his assigned boss, a man he'd always been at odds with for as far back as Blaine could remember. As he pulled his shirt on, he heard the door snap shut softly and found Brian leaning against it, looking jittery.
"No, no, I mean, trouble doesn't do much here, anyway, but– " Brian bit his lip, eyes bright and it wasn't fear or worry in his gaze, but hope.
The sight made Blaine's skin tingle in a way it hadn't in over a decade. They had a mission for him, a long-term one and not the rinky-dink ones he'd messed with since his last stint at McKinley in the early nineties.
It wasn't that Blaine didn't enjoy the short missions, some of them were his favorite memories from the last fifty years, but they were busy work while he waited for Time to move forward enough for his return to the same location to go unnoticed. There had been dozens in the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement had been happening, and others just focused on helping kids his own age with personal issues, school work, and family problems. Most of them were simple, met to be little brief jumps into Time for a few minutes to several days. A lot of them hadn't even involved interaction with the main person, just his guiding hand behind the scenes, helping along what needed a push.
Others had been more one-on-one as his mission with a young boy had been several years ago. That had been one of Blaine's hardest and best achievements. He still found himself wondering about Kurt, the magnetic little boy that had a snarky wit and a bright smile most days. Something special had always seemed to hang in the air around the eight-year-old, and at the end of each jump, Blaine found himself dreading having to leave, wishing he could stay and make sure Kurt didn't have another nightmare, and then regretting the bitter, simple, and necessary lies that he had to tell about getting home to dinner with parents he didn't have.
Blaine had hung around for several months for that particular assignment, mostly just for a handful of hours every afternoon, until Kurt seemed ready to handle his mother's death on his own. They'd even had a tea party on Kurt's front lawn a few weeks after his mother's funeral, when Kurt's father had been too sick with grief to leave the house. It was easily one of Blaine's better memories, from his own life or his time here.
"Blaine, I- I got there earlier than I was supposed to and it... I think this is your last one if you do it right," Brian whispered, hugging himself tightly and looking both sad and thrilled at the prospect. "The kid you're helping has a history like yours or something– I dunno, I couldn't hear everything, but– you've been here so long and– here," Brian finished, reaching behind himself and handing Blaine a thick marigold envelope with his name stamped across it. "They said to give you your mission assignment and have you head over immediately."
"All right," Blaine agreed, reaching out for the envelope. As soon as it brushed his fingers, a thrill ran through him that he couldn't force down.
This could be the last time he ever did this. As much as he enjoyed helping the people who were still alive, it was painful always going back and knowing he would never be a full part of that again. Having the one chance and life he still dreamed about surrounding every crevasse of his body and seeping into his skin and senses was as close to torture as Blaine could handle. Watching other people experience life and firsts, from helping one girl ace her classes to watching others fall in love, wasn't easy when his own heart still yearned to live and have those simple, irreplaceable joys.
But he never would. He was dead and left in a static, lifeless place. The world kept living and Time moved on without him, uncaring and unknowing, leaving him just as he was, unmarked expect for the scar that reminded him that Time had terminated his necessity.
"Good luck, Blaine," Brian said earnestly as Blaine shook his head a little to pull himself out of his thoughts and started to open the envelope. "I really hope this is it for you. If any of us deserve to get Beyond, it's you."
"So do you," Blaine countered. "You've done a lot, too, Brian. Don't belittle it."
"I guess," Brian muttered, scratching his neck and staring down at Blaine. "I always feel like you're so much young than me even though I know you've been here twice as long," he added, eyes crinkling up a little as Blaine smiled softly. Brian had been almost forty when he'd died and here in the Between for almost ten years. "Even now, I forget how little appearances matter."
"Well, it's a good thing to keep in mind for when you head back," Blaine reminded him as he tugged the packet of papers out. "Most of them have no idea how little it really matters and that it doesn't mean anything."
"Yeah, it's weird to realize how much time we wasted on shit that doesn't matter," Brian agreed with a laugh. "Makes me wish– " He shook his head sadly a minute later and patted Blaine on the shoulder, leaving the thought unfinished. Blaine didn't need to hear the rest to know what was meant. Like so many others, Brian wished he'd lived differently, still had chances to do things and make sure the people he'd had in his life knew how important they had been to him. "Good luck, Blaine. You're going to do great for this kid, I know it."
Blaine nodded absentmindedly as Brian let himself out. He dropped down onto the bed in the corner and started scanning over the first few pages on the file. There was the usual basics for the mission: dates, location, housing in the Present and the person who would be accompanying him since he was a minor in that world. Most of it was just logistics he'd peruse later after his briefing. The information of real importance and intrigue was the actual guts of the mission, the details listing the living people involved and what sort of situation he was being assigned to help out with.
As he set the first pages aside, the main person's file was revealed and his heart leapt into his throat when he read over the old name. Blaine had thought he'd never see it again when he opened one of these. A repeated person had never happened before in all his fifty years and finding it now was shocking. His eyes roamed over the neatly printed letters as his mind tried to make sense of what he was reading and what it could possibly mean for the boy he remembered.
Kurt Elizabeth Hummel
Cameron detested waiting. It was one of the things he'd hoped would be eliminated from the Between when everything had first been explained to him, yet it had the unfortunate ability to still exist even in a place only abstractly structured by the idea of a linear progression. Even without real time and change, he still had to wait over and over, and more often than not it was on the same young man.
Blaine Anderson was unlike most of the cases he worked with for a number of reasons. He was his youngest worker by biological age, but easily several decades older than the others, despite his youthful face and teenage body. Most people were in the Between for fifteen to twenty years on average, close to half were even less than that. Cameron had been there for almost thirty-three. He was another rare case of a long struggle he was finally starting to overcome. It wasn't easy to accept that the worst of yourself had been reinforced by your own stubbornness for entirely unfound and wrong reasons.
All of the cases and workers Cameron was assigned to oversee involved similar people in west-central Ohio, namely anyone of a sexuality that he had once defined as filthy and vile in his life. The majority of them were young, in their twenties and thirties, even a few late teens, except for Blaine.
He was a rare exception, having the mental strength to still want more after death and not being resigned to giving up and moving on before he'd materialized here. Most boys his age couldn't have handled it well enough to make it here; most would have skipped the Beyond on this life and moved on to another, new life instead of forcing a broken mind and body through such a struggle. Blaine also hadn't ended his life at his own hand either, which was the case with most of Cameron's cases. Over half of them had parents or grandparents much like Cameron had been in his life. They'd given up on the world they were in, one that was repeatedly telling them how wrong their feelings and ability to love was until it had been too much to take. Once a soul took so much damage, there was nothing, not even a long journey in the Between, that could help mend them.
For Cameron, it had taken years in the Between to finally see the truth of himself and why he'd been given an assignment he'd initial protested, but he knew now, even if it was only through silent admissions to himself, that he had been a homophobic bigot. He'd said and done terrible things to the few people in his life that had trusted him with that deepest secret. First his best friend of twenty years and then later his grandson, who had taken the brunt of his disgust and ridicule. That was why he'd been dislodged to the Between: to learn how wrong he'd been and make things right with the one person he still could.
Blaine; the grandson he'd thought he'd lost to sin over fifty years ago, and the one he'd lost to death less than six months after. The young man who had guided him through his first hours here and made sure he was okay on his own. And the only thanks Cameron had offered at the time was a barely contained sneer at the brush of the boy's hand against his arm when he'd stumbled.
Yet his grandson was remarkable in a number of ways and had always been a joy for Cameron, at least until his confession at the end of his sophomore year of high school. Cameron would never forget it – the disappointment and disgust that had flared up in the pit of his stomach, crashing through his veins like a tidal wave until he'd tossed the boy from his house and refused to acknowledge him afterwards. The same feeling still surged through him when he remembered that day, only now the loathing was directed at himself.
With a deep sigh, Cameron turned in his plushy desk chair, resting his elbow on the arm of it and his chin on his knuckles as he stared at the monitors in front of him. They were much like computers, according to his newest generation of workers, though there was no electrical power source or anything remotely mechanical about the glass screens. They had always been there and would always be there from what he understood, cycling through millions of clips of information in an endless stream from Time.
He knew someone had once figured out how to tap into Time for the benefit of those stuck in the Between and that, until the moment, these had been created anyone who found themselves here was stuck, but with them and the discovery of how to rupture, people had begun learning and moving to their individual Beyonds.
It was the same thing Blaine would start today and the thought made Cameron's heart sink.
As much as he liked to think he'd made everything up to his grandson since his arrival here three decades ago, Cameron knew he'd yet to even come close.
Blaine was one of the best after fifty years of service. He was incredible with anyone they placed him with and had only had a few minor speed bumps in the beginning that were typical of a newcomer, especially with a traumatic history. That was before Cameron had arrived here and had his entire understanding of an afterlife flopped over on its head. There had been moments of harmless trouble, of course, silly little pranks typical of a teenager and several disgruntled fights between himself and the young man, but they'd always fought even before they'd arrived here and been assigned to work together.
His fingers began tapping on the glass plate that served as a monitor, scrolling through the countless missions the young man had accomplished and the growth he'd had since his traumatic arrival in 1960. So much achievement, so much talent and selflessness on his part without any idea of the Beyond he would find himself in if this last mission went well. All because of a simple, solitary match – the last for Blaine in this world and the only one the other boy had compatibility with.
It had been a relief and a terrifying realization for Cameron when Kurt Hummel's marker had stopped spinning two days ago. He'd had his hopes that it would ever since he'd first looked into Blaine's file thirty years ago, but matches like this were rare, especially with such a distance between them. There was no actual proof, but Cameron was certain the match was the reason Blaine had died so abruptly. Much like Kurt's marker, Blaine's must have stopped not long before he died, and when his only soulmate had been a boy born decades after him, Time had booted him to a safe zone, the Between, until they could meet fifty years later without a bizarre age gap.
Cameron's gaze shifted towards the second monitor where Kurt Hummel's file was open and the edges were still flashing a bright yellow to announce that his marker had finally established its soul's connection. It was a daunting mission to hand over to anyone. Any outcome was possible, but Cameron knew what was meant to happen. He had no idea how Blaine would handle the situation, though he hoped for the best and trusted the boy to make the right decisions and help Kurt overcome the bullies and taunts that plagued him. With any luck, Blaine would find the courage within himself and within Kurt to get him through the next nine months.
This would easily be the most difficult mission of Blaine's time here, with dire consequences if he failed. Cameron glanced at the Rupture capsule in the far corner of his office, and the two chairs waiting there for Blaine in a few days time. He only hoped that Blaine's return from this last one didn't fill both seats. It was an impossibly real chance given everything that could go wrong before June.
A knock tapped against the door and before Cameron could call for the person to enter, the door opened and Blaine appeared, slightly flushed and sweaty from one of his routine workouts, but with his last mission's file in hand and a calm expression on his face.
"Good afternoon, sir," Blaine greeted, his voice even and formal.
It was his usual tone with Cameron and whereas it had once filled the older man with pride, these days it only made him clamp down on the urge to flinch. His own ideas and standoffishness had given Blaine the understanding that their relationship was always going to be at arm's length. after knowing each other for almost sixty-seven years Cameron couldn't bring himself to change it. He wouldn't even know where to start or how to address the subject. That was why he'd been sent here and stuck for over three decades. His grandson meant everything to him, but as he struggled to accept him, he also wrestled with how to form any of his love into words.
His biggest regret would always be missing out on the chance to have a real, loving relationship with his youngest grandson. Even with this second chance in the Between he still couldn't manage to let his own pride go enough to let it happen.
"Have you read over the file?" Cameron asked instead of saying any of the phrases he'd worded and re-worded in his head for the last thirty years.
"I skimmed the basics," Blaine offered, taking his place in the seat opposite Cameron and setting the file down on his thighs. "There wasn't a set of goals," Blaine added after a moment, looking confused at the information's absence. "I'm not entirely sure what's expected of me."
Cameron watched the boy closely for several minutes, trying to decide on the best way to explain how this last mission would work. It was standard in cases like this one, when a person in the Between made it long enough to meet one of their rare matches, that no information was given on the actual assignment they were meant to complete. It was something they had to navigate on their own, much like everyday life, without any real directions for what to say or do.
"I'm afraid I can't tell you anything more specific on the matter," Cameron decided slowly, gauging Blaine's slightly surprised reaction at his words. "This... Blaine, this is going to be your last mission. What happens with it, with you, and with the people you interact with is up to you."
If anything, Blaine only looked more confused, and even a little overwhelmed at the concept. "But... there are expectations of what I should accomplish, right? Even if they're hidden."
"There are," Cameron agreed, "but it's up to you to figure this one out." He paused as Blaine processed this, watching his eyes flicker to the screens Cameron still had open.
"Is there anything you can tell me?" Blaine pressed, still looking lost and, for once, nervous.
"I– " Cameron paused again, watching his grandson closely. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he still didn't know how to say, but he couldn't force the unfathomable words out. "Trust your instincts. Do what's right, not just for them but for yourself. This is your last mission if everything goes well, Blaine, and you know what that entails."
"Facing it," Blaine echoed hollowly. Even now he still wilted at the mentions of what had landed him here. Part of Cameron wanted to call this whole thing off, to protect Blaine from having to really work his way through his own fears and painful experiences, but as his eyes fell on Kurt Hummel's face he knew he couldn't.
Blaine was the only person who could refuse this mission. It was his choice if he didn't feel ready for this, and Cameron knew he wouldn't turn it down. Not when Kurt's name was on the file. His grandson had always gone the extra mile to help a friend. This boy needed Blaine in his life desperately if he was going to make it through the next year. They each needed each other in countless ways that only they would be able to define.
"You've prepared for this mission for half a century," Cameron reminded him. "You'll do fine. I have every bit of faith in your abilities."
The uncertainty still lingered in Blaine's eyes before he averted his gaze to the file on his lap. Cameron couldn't imagine how daunting such an assignment was. He'd never been sent back to work with anyone, his assignment had been entirely confined to the Between, helping younger people, and then sitting back and watching as they discovered their strengths and merits, and especially as they found acceptance for being who they were.
"His soul marker stopped," Blaine said slowly, his gaze coming back up as he met Cameron's eyes. "The page in the file had a check by it, but when I tried to access it, it said I was blocked, just like I am with my own."
He'd noticed then. Cameron wasn't surprised. Blaine was typically very thorough with his cases and did his research well.
"It stopped two days ago," Cameron said simply. Then he paused before the lie he knew was necessary if Blaine was going to go into this without any defined idea of what would hopefully happen. "It's not important to the case."
A slow, careful nod was directed at him. For a moment Cameron thought Blaine didn't believe him. His eyes were narrowed and calculating as he watched his grandfather, but then he seemed to accept Cameron's answer as truthful and pushed the information aside.
"Is there anything else?" Blaine asked after a moment.
Cameron watched him through the glass screen that had Kurt Hummel's file open, taking in the strong set of his jaw and the contemplative hazel eyes. He was ready; scared, but undoubtedly ready for this. For the next nine months, he would be on his own, discovering the life he'd lost and a plethora of new experiences he'd given up on ever having. Even though he regretted how miserably he still failed when it came to their relationship, Cameron was overwhelmingly proud of his grandson and knew that nobody deserved this more than him.
"Make sure you have your cover stories memorized and one set up for questions from the staff," he said. "There's a few people who might recognize you from your last stint at McKinley, the librarian and a few teachers mostly. Everything else is in the file. We've set your Rupture for the fourth," he informed Blaine, who nodded swiftly and climbed to his feet. "Make sure you look over the era information this time," Cameron called after him. "The last thing we need is you bopping around saying everything's groovy again."
"That was one time– "
"It alienated you from half the student body," Cameron cut in sharply. "If you hadn't passed it off as part of working on that Glee Club disco routine– "
"I'll read it over, all right?" Blaine assured him, rolling his eyes dramatically. "Thoroughly."
"Good, see that you do," Cameron replied, fighting the twitch pulling at the corners of his mouth. "You're free to go now. Be here at six o'clock sharp on Friday."
Blaine turned back towards the door, hands already flipping the file back open and scanning over the pages of information. He was so focused, so determined already to do this right without even knowing what was expected of him. His grandson was an incredible young man, astute and confident, but still not entirely aware of himself and his capabilities or the depths of love his heart could hold.
His voice rang out before he really knew what he wanted to say. Blaine paused in the doorway, looking uncertain at the rough voice calling out to him. It was unheard of for Cameron to break his formal tone with his grandson, even if he'd managed it with other people here, and Blaine was clearly startled, maybe even hopeful.
"I– " He meant to say everything then, to tell his grandson how much he loved and cherished him, how proud he was of the person he had become and all of the people he had helped, but the words curled around his tongue and sprung back down his throat, still too fearful of what it meant to open his heart. "Good luck, Blaine."
"Thank you, sir," Blaine murmured, gaze dropping to the desk in front of Cameron.
Cameron watched him disappear, another wave of loathing crashing through him at his own cowardice. He had so many things to say, so many apologies to make, but his fear of never receiving Blaine's forgiveness made the thought of broaching the subject unbearable. If Blaine never forgave him, Cameron wouldn't blame him, but his own heart wouldn't survive the wounds all over again. Not when they were still as deep as Blaine's.
As much as Cameron didn't know how to say goodbye, he knew he must before this was all over. A proper one, too. Not like the last one he'd given Blaine. His grandson deserved so much more than a door slammed in his face.