Sometimes you have to live second to second. It's too much to live minute to minute. It's too much to think that far ahead because everything ahead just aches. Sometimes all you have is the quiet in out in out of your breathing to keep you sane. Focus only on your next breath. He knows this. His husband has told him this day in and day out.
So he knows that if he can just make it through the next second. If he can just hold on, he'll eventually manage minute to minute. He'll eventually make it hour to hour. And maybe, one day— though that day seems so far away—maybe one day he'll begin to live day to day, month to month or year to year.
But for now, all he has is that steady in out in out to keep him going. All he has is the steady beep of the machines to tell him that his husband is still alive. That for now, in this second, all the hopes and dreams that they've had together for the past 10 years aren't over.
"911, please state the nature of your emergency?"
"I need help. My husband... he's not breathing. My family was attacked and now he's not waking up and I... he's not breathing. Please."
He knows that he needs to be calm. His family is counting on him to help them through this. But he can't stop himself from panicking. There's blood spattered across sand and the few people out today are just standing around shocked and unmoving. He's alone in this.
"Sir, I am going to help you, but I need you to calm down for me so I can ask you a few questions."
He can barely hear her with Olivia screaming into his ear. He absently pats her head, knowing it will do nothing to calm or quiet her while she's still got a bone sticking out of her leg.
"Sir, can you tell me where you are?"
"The park. I can't remember... The one off of 5th and Madison? It has a name, I don't... I came here all the time as a kid. Oh God, I'm sorry, I just... I don't remember what it's called."
It's the simplest question. All they need is the address and the EMT will arrive. They will show up and his husband will start breathing and they'll have some injuries, but they'll get through it together. All he needs to do is answer a simple question.
His mind is blank.
Thirty nine minutes.
"What are you doing?" Blaine asks. Olivia is screaming and crying as he watches a nurse begin to search through different drawers. They've only been at the hospital for ten minutes, but they have already been given a bed and paperwork to fill out. His mind is racing and he can barely see straight in order to fill out the tiny boxes on the forms.
The ambulance ride over had been terrifying. They'd had to shock his husband's heart on the way over, and he hadn't started breathing on his own again by the time they arrived and rushed him down the hall. Blaine had tried to follow them, but Olivia was put into a bed and a nurse had begun to check her out. He couldn't leave her alone.
He has to take deep, steadying breaths to keep himself from sobbing. What had started out as a lovely holiday back home had quickly turned into his worst nightmare. He can't stop seeing flashes of baseball bats swinging. He can't un-see his husband lying lifeless in a park that he'd grown up playing at. He can't stop thinking why us? Why him?
"I'm going to put an IV in her so that we can have a line open. She's going to need pain medication and probably surgery, so I'd like to be prepared. I'm going to need you to hold her still for me, can you do that?" The nurse speaks to him in a soft soothing voice. He knows that she's trying to keep them both calm, but it's having the opposite effect.
His body moves of its own accord and he soon finds himself sitting down on the bed, careful not to jostle her broken leg. This is how it's been for him since the attack. He's been working on autopilot. Too stuck in his own thoughts and guilt to realize what he's been doing.
He tries his best to focus on Olivia, knowing how much she needs him now, but it's hard. Every few seconds he's glancing out the crack in the curtains looking for something, anything, that will tell him what's going on.
"Okay," the nurse comes over to the bed, setting her equipment down on the table beside her. "Olivia, I'm going to give you some medicine now, and when I'm done, you're going to start to feel better, okay?"
Olivia shies away from the nurse, burrowing into his side.
"I'm going to need her arm," the nurse says, giving him an expectant look. "Try to keep her distracted and calm."
He nods. He takes a deep breath and tries to put everything except for Olivia out of his mind for the next minute or so. In. Out. In. Out. He reminds himself.
"Hey, Liv. Do you want to practice Little Mermaid with Daddy?" Blaine asks, trying to sound cheerful but failing miserably.
"Papa!" she cries, looking up at him with sad eyes. His heart breaks. He knows that she's going to be traumatized for the rest of her life after this. She's only four years old and has just watched her papa get beaten within an inch of his life. But right now, it's his job to keep her mind off of that.
"Aw, come on. You know Papa's favorite song is Little Mermaid. I'm sure he would love to hear you sing it when he's feeling better. But... no, I don't think you know the words," Blaine says, carefully detaching one of her hands from his shirt and handing it to the nurse so she can get the IV in place.
Olivia turns to look at the nurse, tries to pull her arm away, but Blaine catches her attention again by putting a hand under her chin and forcing her to look at him. "I guess I'll sing to Papa alone then."
"I wanna sing, too," she says, pouting at him. She's still crying, but she seems to have settled down enough.
"Okay, well let's practice together then, okay? The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else's lake," Blaine sings into her ear. His breath almost catches at the memory of the three of them singing this at the airport just yesterday afternoon, but he holds it steady for his daughter's sake.
"You dream about going up there, but that is a big mistake," Olivia sings along quietly. She's always been a shy child. She's much like her papa in that respect, but singing usually helps her come out of her shell.
"Almost done, Dad. You're doing a good job," the nurse says, sending him a smile.
"Just look at the word around you, right here on the ocean—Owww!" she screams and tries to pull her arm away, but Blaine quickly takes hold of her.
"All done," the nurse says. "Wasn't that easy?"
"No," Olivia says in a bratty voice.
"Liv, be nice," Blaine says, patting her on the back.
"She hurted me." She pouts, crossing her non-IV'd arm across her body while the other one hangs off to the side pathetically. Shy or not, his child is definitely a drama queen.
"The doctor should be just a minute," the nurse begins to explain before two men pull at the curtain slowly and interrupt them.
"Yes," Blaine says, nervously. He sees a flash of their badges and he realizes why they are here. It makes his stomach churn. They are going to want a statement about what happened. He knows it's necessary, but doesn't know if he's ready to talk about it just yet. Not while it's still so fresh in his mind. Not until he knows that his husband is going to be alright.
"Right, can we have a moment of your time?" One of the officers nods his head towards the lobby while the other comes in and sits next to Olivia in the empty chair the nurse has left.
"Hi, I'm Detective Henry, I like your dress," the officer says to Olivia. Blaine watches the exchange closely. She doesn't take well to strangers.
Olivia remains silent, looking at them cautiously, but she hasn't burst into tears again so Blaine assumes she'll be alright for a few minutes.
"Mr. Anderson?" the second officer puts a hand on his back and gestures for him to come outside. With one last look towards his daughter, he leaves walks out into the lobby.
"I'm Detective Williams, do you mind walking me through what happened?"
Blaine runs a hand over his face while he tries to calm his nerves. He knows that they've done nothing wrong, but he can't help but feel like he's in trouble. Can't help but remember the last time he's been in a situation like this. He'd been fourteen and more or less told that it was his fault he'd been attacked. He was gay, and if that was how he decided to live his life, these things were going to keep happening.
God. How did this keep happening to him? And why did it have to happen to his family? His vision begins to get blurry and it's hard for him to breathe. He closes his eyes to try and steady himself, but that only makes it worse as imagines of an aluminum bat being taken to Jake's head flash through his mind.
"Mr. Anderson?" Detective Williams asks, placing a hand on his arm.
Blaine jerks away from his touch. He can't breathe. He's gasping for air and his vision is swimming. He hears the man call for help before everything goes black.
Fifty seven minutes.
"This is Dr. Hunter at St. Ann's requesting a transfer of a 29 year old male, severe blunt force trauma to the head with extensive internal bleeding..."
He wakes up to the sound of the doctor's voice on the phone. He tries to listen in closer, but everything sounds like he's underwater. He catches glimpses of words like "catastrophic" and "need neuro" but he can't make it all out. He moves to sit up, but instantly feels nauseous.
"What do you mean you can't tell me? He's my brother-in-law," a familiar voice is yelling.
"And while I can appreciate that, unfortunately their marriage isn't legal in the state of Ohio and I'm not allowed to give out information to anybody but immediate family," a second, female voice, answers.
"Fuck that, his family doesn't give two shits about him. Blaine has power of attorney and medical proxy, you legally have to let us know."
"Sir, I don't make the rules, but I do have to follow them. I suggest if Mr. Anderson has a medical proxy, to get us a copy as soon as you can. But I'll let you know that for now, I still won't be able to give information out to you."
"Coop?" Blaine calls out. Instantly the curtain in front of him is pulled open and Cooper rushes to his side to pull him into a hug.
"Thank god you're alright," Cooper says.
Blaine's heart sinks. He shouldn't be alright. He's the one that goes to the gym regularly. He's the one that has been taking boxing classes since high school. If there was going to be a fight, he should have been the one defending their family. Jake was the most peaceful man he's ever met and now he's... well, he doesn't know how Jake is, but it can't be good.
"What happened?" Blaine asks, looking down at the IV running into his arm.
"You passed out, sir," the nurse comes in to check on him. She has him sit up slowly so that she can check him over. "You appear to have had an anxiety attack and that, mixed with your concussion, caused you to lose consciousness for a few moments. We gave you a minor sedative. Are you feeling dizzy or nauseous? Does your head hurt?"
Blaine shakes his head. His vision is still swimming but he doesn't need anyone fussing over him. "Where's Olivia? Where's Jake?"
"Liv is with Mom. They are getting her prepped for surgery," Cooper says.
Blaine shoots him an alarmed look and moves to get out of bed, but Cooper pushes him back down.
"It's a fairly simple surgery. She's going to get some screws put in to hold the bone together while it can heals. Her surgeon specializes in pediatric orthopedics and she said we shouldn't be terribly worried about her growth plates, which is good. You don't need to worry about her. She's going to be fine."
"And Jake?" Blaine says, terrified to hear how his husband is doing. He'd gotten the worst of it.
"Nobody here will tell us anything, we're not family."
"What?" Blaine looks over at the nurse, confused. "There are federal regulations. You know you'll lose your funding if you deny us access."
"Sir," the nurse says with a pleading voice. "Trust me, I think it's stupid as well. But the regulations that got passed give you permission to see your husband and allow you to make medical decisions with your husband's permission. Unfortunately, since your husband is unable to give us permission, we can't do anything without paperwork clearly stating your husband's wishes. I told your brother here that if you have a medical proxy, the sooner we can get a copy the better."
"Tell me you have a copy of your paperwork in Ohio," Cooper says.
"I... where's my phone?" Blaine asks, looking around. He's going to need to make a phone call. They'd packed for Ohio in such a hurry, not knowing if they were even coming until the last minute. Paperwork had been the last thing on either of their minds. Why should it? It wasn't an issue anymore for pretty much any other state.
"I gave it to Liv so she could play that duck game. She was panicking and it calmed her down."
"Right," Blaine says, instantly feeling guilty again. His family needs him, he can't be lying in a hospital bed as well.
"Coop, I need you to call Wes Montgomery, his number is in my phone. He's the one that did all of our paperwork and I know he's got copies. Call his house number, his wife makes him turn off his cell phone on holidays."
Cooper nods and walks away.
"Mr. Anderson," the nurse says, drawing his attention back to her.
"Blaine," he says. Mr. Anderson reminds him of his father and he just can't deal with that memory now. Not on top of everything else.
"Blaine," she says with a small smile. "I need you to tell me if anything else is hurt besides your head?"
"No," he lies.
"Is that so? Your right wrist is pretty swollen," she says.
"Listen, I know you're just doing your job, but I'm fine. So give me whatever papers you need me to sign so that you'll let me go."
"Blaine, I don't think that's a good idea," she says, giving him a disapproving look.
"Well, quite frankly, I don't really care." He glares at her. She couldn't honestly expect him to lay here with everything else going on.
"You're not going to be any help to your family if you're hurt," she says with a condescending tone and he wants to snap at her. He doesn't appreciate being talked down to, especially by somebody who's younger than him.
"And I'm pretty sure I have the right to refuse care. Or do I need my lawyer to fax over a lawsuit as well?" He says harshly.
He knows it's harsh and unfair. It's not the nurse's fault that his family is here today. But his temper has been raging ever since the attack this afternoon and he's been itching for a fight.
"Fine, I'll go get a doctor so we can discharge you."
Two hundred and sixty minutes.
Blaine paces an empty hallway, his cellphone heavy in his hands. His mom and Cooper are still at St. Ann's waiting for Olivia to come out of surgery. Her doctors have assured him that the second she's able, they will have her transferred to Mount Carmel West as well so that she can be closer to her papa. He's been here, alone, for two and a half hours. Cooper had offered to stay with him, but he'd begged his brother to go back and wait with their mom. He feels guilty enough as it is not being with Olivia. He can at least make sure that her grandma and uncle are with her when she wakes up.
But two and a half hours alone has done nothing to help ease his troubled thoughts. He still doesn't know if Jake is going to make it. He's three hours into surgery and the surgical resident that keeps coming out to update him tells him that it's still too early to tell. They've removed his spleen which was causing him to hemorrhage, but there's still a long way to go.
He's seen the pitying looks from the nurses walking by. He understands that the staff doesn't think that Jake will make it through, but Blaine refuses to indulge this thought. He simply can't imagine a world without Jake in it. And he refuses to believe that one homophobic asshole has turned a wonderful Thanksgiving home into a complete nightmare. That one man has single handedly ruined his life.
But deny it all he wants, he still knows what he needs to do now. Knows that he can't avoid this phone call. He has to call Jake's parents, even if they haven't spoken to their son since he came out to them nine years ago. They deserve to know about his condition. They deserve a chance to say goodbye—because as much as he tries to ignore that thought, it's the only thing the nurses quiet whispers can mean.
He pulls up the contact information for the Koleson's and dials it before he can change his mind. He wonders if their number is still the same. It's been so long since they've heard from them.
"Hello," a sugary sweet voice answers the phone and it makes his stomach churn. He remembers that voice, even though he's only heard it on a few rare occasions. It's the voice that told Jake he would burn in hell. It's the voice that told Blaine he was to blame for turning Jake gay.
"Mrs. Koleson?" he asks. It's stupid, he knows it's her.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, um... this is Blaine, Jake's husband?" He has to close his eyes to keep the room from spinning. He feels like he's going to be sick. It's been a long day, and this is the absolute last thing he wants to be doing.
"What do you want?" she says, her sweet tone instantly replaced with one full of hatred.
"There's been an accident with Jake..." He pauses, waiting to hear her reaction.
"And?" She asks, her tone indifferent.
"We don't know much at the moment. His injuries are extensive. They seem to have gotten most of the internal bleeding under control, but he's... He's still in surgery. They have him at Mount Carmel West in Columbus and I thought—"
"You thought what?" she asks, her tone spiteful.
"I thought you might want to come and see him," he says in a quiet voice. He's a grown man now, no longer a child, but this woman makes him feel like he's 13 years old again, arguing with his father.
"I told him a long time ago, if he stayed with you and continued to live a life full of sin that he would no longer be my son. Thank you for the phone call, but if this is God's punishment for his behavior, then we all need to accept it."
"He's your son," Blaine says, his eyes filling with tears. Even when his parents had been at their worst, he could never picture them turning their back on him like this. How can she just ignore Jake like she hadn't raised him for the first eighteen years of his life?
How can she just act like it doesn't matter if Jake dies? Blaine can't imagine the next thirty minutes without his husband, let alone the rest of his life.
"He's no son of mine," she says and hangs up the phone.
The abrupt end of the call throws him off. His eyes are swimming with unshed tears and he wants nothing more than to call her back and give her a piece of his mind. Tell her that Jake is twice the parent that she will ever be. That he's accomplished so much more than they ever had and they should be proud. Tell them that the world would be much better without them in it. How is it that his Jake, who has done so much good for so many people, is the one that's dying, while people like that got to live long and healthy lives? It wasn't fair.
He doesn't believe in God, so he doesn't have any religion to lose. But he knows if Jake dies, Blaine's faith in humanity will never be the same.
Blaine punches the wall in anger and instantly regrets it when he remembers that his wrist is still hurt and possibly broken. There are now shooting pains up his right arm, but he finds he doesn't mind. The pain helps drown out the desperate ache in his heart.
He looks down at his phone and sees a familiar name right below Jake's parents. A number he's always called whenever he's had a problem. The person that, next to Jake, knows him better than anyone else.
Before he realizes what he's doing, he's calling.
"Hello?" Kurt picks up the phone, his voice soft and gentle if not a little confused. The familiar sound causes his unshed tears to fall, but he can't bring himself to say anything. Not after over five years of no contact.
"Blaine?" Kurt says again when he doesn't respond.
Blaine immediately hangs up the phone. What is he doing? Here his husband is, quite possibly dying, and he's calling his ex-boyfriend for comfort? Who does that? He hasn't talked to Kurt since that night. Told Jake that he never would.
His phone rings in his hand and when he looks down, Kurt is calling him back. Blaine's thumb hovers over the screen for several rings, debating. He knows how easy it would be to answer it. To lay all the broken pieces of himself out for Kurt to skillfully put back together. But he shouldn't. His family needs him. His husband needs him to be here. And Kurt? Kurt shouldn't get to see him like this. Not anymore. The phone goes to voicemail before he can make up his mind.
Three hundred and fourteen minutes.
"Hey... I'm not sure what that was just now. Maybe you just dialed my number by accident? But... call me. I know it's been awhile, but I told you once that I'd always answer the phone if you called. No matter what, that hasn't changed. So, call me back. I'm worried. You never call me unless something's wrong... So, yeah. Let me know that I'm overreacting and worrying over nothing."
The sound of his voice alone helps calm him and he knows talking to him would be even better. But he can't. He's not ready to explain what's happened to Jake to anyone. Not yet. And though he knows Kurt's just a friend, has only been just a friend for close to eleven years now, he can't shake the thought that he promised. He promised Jake, but more importantly, he promised himself. No contact.
So he listens to the voicemail seventeen more times, trying to calm his nerves. But never once does he allow himself to make the phone call.
Six hundred and eighty minutes.
"Mr. Anderson?" a doctor walks over to him and takes the empty seat in front of him. His mother instantly grabs for his hand and holds in tight in hers. She's been waiting with him ever since Olivia got transferred an hour ago and he's never been more grateful for her presence than now.
"I'm Dr. Monroe. I was one of the surgeons who operated on your husband."
Blaine can barely look at the man. His expression is grim and though he's been trying to hold onto the fleeting feeling of hope all day, he's been expecting the news. This is it. This is the moment when his life falls apart.
"He had massive internal bleeding, which forced us to remove his spleen. We repaired perforations in his stomach as well. There's still a long way to go, but we seem to have gotten most of the bleeding under control."
"What?" he asks, shocked. Because this hasn't been the conversation he's prepared himself for. It sounds almost as if... "Wait, he's... Jake's alive?"
"He's in ICU at the moment."
"Oh my god," Blaine says, leaning back into his seat, his hands over his mouth in shock. His mother has her arms around him.
"I should warn you, Mr. Anderson. Your husband has suffered a great deal of trauma and he currently has a lot of swelling in his brain that still concerns us. We've put a shunt in to help with the swelling, but there's still a long way to go before we really know."
"Know what?" Blaine asks, his stomach dropping again.
"The rest of his body will be fine. But his brain... Well, I've never seen anybody recover from this kind of trauma. I'm afraid you're going to need to start considering what you will do if it becomes clear that he can't survive off of a machine."
Beside him, his mother takes in a great gasp. Blaine just feels numb. They've never discussed something like this. He doesn't know how he's supposed to make a decision like that. It's too much responsibility. It was one thing to prepare for the possibility that Jake wasn't going to make it, but now that he's alive? Now the doctor is telling him that it's his responsibility to decide wither his husband lives or dies? How does he do that? This man is his entire world. He's nowhere near ready to become a widower. He's only thirty-one. They've barely had any time together. When they'd taken vows to love each other forever, he expected forever to last so much longer.
He doesn't have the strength for this. He knows that death would be Jake's choice. He wouldn't want to live like this. He believes in God. He takes Olivia to church every Sunday. Jake would tell him to let go. But Blaine doesn't believe in things like heaven and doesn't know how he is just supposed to send his husband off into nothing. How does he goes from waking up next to this man every morning to this?
No more breakfasts in bed. No more cold feet tucking under Blaine's thighs as they watch TV in the evenings. No more fighting over preschools or iTunes downloads. No more off-key sing-a-longs in the living room. And that's just him. That's not even considering what he would be taking away from Olivia. God, she would be losing her everything.
He can't do this.
"He'll wake up," Blaine says with a steely determination. He can't afford to consider any other option.
"I hope he will," the doctor says with a sad smile. "But I just want you to be prepared. We'll keep an eye on him for a few days. If his swelling doesn't go down or it becomes obvious that he's lost vital brain function, we're going to need to consider the possibility that—"
"He's going to wake up. He has to."
The doctor doesn't say anymore on the subject, for which Blaine is grateful. He stands and gives them a nod.
"You won't be able to see him for another hour or so. Should I tell the nurse to come and find you when he's ready? I know they admitted your daughter and you'd probably be more comfortable waiting in her room."
"Yes, that would be nice," his mother speaks for him. He's lost his ability to say anything.
What is he supposed to tell Olivia? She's going to be waking up in a few hours, groggy from pain meds and demanding to see her papa. He simply can't do this. Not without Jake. Jake always gave him strength, he doesn't know if he will survive the night without him, let alone the rest of his life.
"Sweetheart?" his mother says gently, snapping him out of his thoughts. "Is there anyone you want me to call? Any of your New York friends you think need to know?"
Oh God, he hasn't even thought of calling all of their friends. Wes, at least, knows what is going on and has probably called a majority of them. At some point he should probably call Rachel and Mitch. She'll want to know what's going on. And if Wes has already called her, she's probably freaking out.
There is one person though, he needs to talk to right now. One person who will be able to give him the strength to get through the next few days, hell, the next few hours. He ignores the feeling that it's wrong. Ignores every promise he's made to himself and his husband and pulls his phone out of his pocket with a shaky breath. Is he crying? When did that start?
"I'm just..." Blaine looks at his mom, unsure how to explain himself right now. He doesn't think she'll care about who he's calling, but Cooper sure as hell will and he knows that his mom will tell his brother. "I'll see you back in Liv's room, alright?"
She gives him an understanding nod, hugs him tightly and then leaves.
"Oh thank God," Kurt answers his call on the first ring. All it takes is the sound of his voice to let Blaine know that he's made the right decision in calling him.
"I don't know how to do this," Blaine cries, breaking down in a way he hasn't for years. Not since college. Not since his dad died. And not since the breakup.