Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters; Ryan Murphy and Co. hold that honor. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.
Kurt feels almost giddy as he unties his apron, his hands shaking with excitement. Just one more day until they get to perform at Williamsburg Music Hall, and if Blaine stays true to his word, then he'll be there to see it. The mere thought of being so close to mainstream exposure makes it almost impossible for Kurt to concentrate on work. All he wants to do is beg off for the rest of the week to prepare, but he knows that Gunther is being generous already with his schedule. No need to antagonize his boss to cope with his own excitement, Kurt reminds himself. They have plenty of time to rehearse between shifts and, besides, the moment will come just as quickly either way.
Best of all, though, he only has three more hours until Blaine flies in. He's already traded a late shift with Rachel so that he can meet Blaine at the airport. And with Santana staying at Dani's for the night, they'll have at least four hours of alone time at the loft.
It's perfect. It might be precious rehearsal time, but he hardly thinks of it as a loss. Besides, if Pamela Lansbury does go mainstream, then they'll more than make up for a few hours missed in the end.
Tying the apron up on the rack and clocking out, Kurt lets out a deep breath of relief as he tugs on his own jacket. Evening shifts may be grueling at times, but at least the wealthier clientele never seems far behind the performers that like to trickle in after six; agreeing to a ten-to-four shift is an even greater test of Kurt's mental stamina to stay focused on the job and not wistful imaginings about his band's future success.
They still haven't performed in front of a large audience. For all he knows, they'll be booed off the stage, scorned by the community and rejected by their peers. It's a devastating possibility, but he struggles to even entertain it, convinced that with Elliot's vocal range, Santana's dexterity, Rachel's Broadway voice, and Dani's own formidable talents, they can't fail. (Not to mention his own fearless leadership and perfectly attuned countertenor, but he already knows that he's a strong asset to the group.)
Humming to himself as he pulls out his phone, he frowns as he turns it on again, surprised that he left it off in the first place. Idling out of the crowded back-of-the-house to the slightly less crowded main floor, he ignores Dani's inquisitive "Where are you going?" and waves a hand dismissively as he exits the diner.
As his phone comes to life, he notices the little phone icon at the bottom of the screen first.
There are fifteen missed calls on his phone. Six are recent, all from his dad.
Kurt feels sick, his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth, his stomach plummeting. It's not him, he reminds himself forcefully, borderline hysterical because it can't be, Carole his a phone, she would call him from hers if it was his dad, if it was serious, but it must not be his dad because his dad is the one calling him, so it –
He closes his eyes and for a moment forgets how to breathe. Blaine.
Then he forces himself to open his eyes and sidestep the pedestrians milling around him so he can put his back against solid concrete, because he isn't sure if he can keep his feet underneath him if he doesn't. It's nothing, he tells himself, the white noise in his ears making it almost impossible to process anything other than Dad (6).
The earlier ones seem innocuous – seven took place before noon, five of them from Rachel and two from Elliot – but two of the later ones are from Tina, mere minutes before his dad. It doesn't seem like a coincidence, not when Kurt knows that his dad works from eight to five on weekdays and Tina doesn't call him during school unless –
Shakily, he dials his dad's number, holding the phone up to his ear and struggling to remember how to breathe normally. It's nothing, he tells himself, chanting it like it'll somehow make it so. You're overreacting. It's nothing.
But he remembers last time this happened, and it takes everything in him not to break down and sob when his dad's voice finally asks gruffly, "Kiddo?"
"Dad," he says, expelling the word in a breathless gasp, his fingers clutching the phone so tightly that he's afraid he's going to crush it before he can even get the words out. "What happened? Is Blaine okay?"
Kurt's knees feel weak. The relief aches in his soul, so intense that he can barely breathe. "What happened?" he demands again, somehow even more breathless than before but steadier, less likely to tip over the edge of sanity.
"He passed out at school." Kurt's fingers tense around the phone, but he doesn't say a word as his dad adds, "He's fine. They took him to the ER and they're checking him out now –"
"Where are you?" Kurt asks. He doesn't know where the impulse comes from; he only knows it is right. Somehow his feet are moving, and he's grateful that everyone in New York is always too busy to care about everyone else, because right now he doesn't think he could bear to be noticed. Melding in with the crowds is so much easier; he already knows the route back to the loft by heart. "Are you at the hospital? Is he?"
"His parents are out of town," his dad admits. "I'm in the lobby now. I tried to reach you earlier –"
"I'm so sorry, my phone was off." Kurt's throat threatens to close up on him again as he pauses at the sidewalk's edge as the light turns red, trying to understand how he could have missed this, how he could have possibly lived in such blissful ignorance that he didn't know his fiance was in the hospital.
His fiance is in the hospital. The thought alone makes him walk a little faster when the light finally goes green, the apartment so very, terribly far away.
"Tell me more," he demands, and his dad does. He doesn't know much, but he knows enough: Tina called him in a panic and Burt called to try and placate him, and the cumulative effect was more phone calls to stress Kurt out than either wanted. Kurt bites his lip and says nothing. The more his dad talks (and the subsequent less Kurt learns about Blaine's actual condition), the more he feels like he's going to be sick.
"I'm coming home," he blurts, and hangs up before he can second-guess himself. Guilt washes over him a moment later, but he's at the foot of the apartment, now, and he takes the stairs two at a time, shoving the loft door back carelessly.
"You're back early," Rachel says, flipping through a magazine on the couch. There's music playing softly in the background, but Kurt barely hears it, the ringing in his ears loud and obtrusive as he storms across the floor, bee-lining for his bedroom. "Kurt?" Rachel prods, worry lacing her tone as she gets to her feet. Kurt packs a bag even as he hears her turn off the music and pad over to him, leaning against the door and frowning as Kurt grabs a stack of essentials and stuffs it carelessly away. "What are you doing?"
"Blaine's in the hospital." His voice is wavering already and he feels perilously near tears as he adds, "I'm going home."
Rachel doesn't speak, frozen, before stepping forward and asking in a low, worried tone, "What happened, is he –"
"He's fine," Kurt says. Even as he says it, the words feel wrong – Blaine isn't fine, he's in the hospital, he's in the hospital and Kurt is six hundred miles away, and something isn't right – but he can't bring himself to say all of that, so he tenses his jaw and heaves his bag over one shoulder. "I'm going to the airport. I'll book a flight on the way."
Rachel doesn't respond, only stepping aside to let him out of the room as he stalks past her.
"What should I do about our gig?" Rachel asks, her voice surprisingly steely. Resolved. Resigned, Kurt amends, as he turns to face her briefly, seeing the pain and mingled concern in her eyes.
"You could come, too," he says softly, and she folds her arms across her chest, hugging herself, visibly torn. He knows that uprooting is hard, even for crises – airports are disasters and flights are never on time and everything can go wrong – before at last she lets out a slow breath.
"Someone has to watch the apartment," she reminds.
Kurt nods, accepting the rejection as he steps outside the door and calls back softly, "Don't cancel yet. It might not be serious."
In his heart-of-hearts, he knows, it doesn't matter how serious or not serious it is: he won't be back tomorrow.
Not until he's positive that Blaine is okay.
The door slides shut heavily behind him, leaving Rachel alone in his wake, and a long walk ahead of him.
He takes the first step and fishes out his phone, already calling his dad once more.
"I'm sorry," he says, as he emerges on the street below, aware of the silence on the other end, the patience. "Thank you. For telling me."
"It's okay, Kurt," is all his dad says, and Kurt has to fight to keep the tears at bay, his fingers clinging to his dad's words.
It's okay. It has to be.
He doesn't give his evening plans a second thought as he books the first flight that he can find and takes off for La Guardia airport.
. o .
There are voices in his head. It takes him a moment to recognize the first as Sam's, then Tina's, then someone he doesn't know, startled, alarmed. He tries to tell them that it's too early to be fussing over anything – it's too early to be alive – but they don't seem to notice his vague attempts at communication. His mouth doesn't want to cooperate and his limbs feel heavy; after a moment he realizes how futile it is to try and talk at all and gives up, sinking below until someone calls his name incessantly, Blaine, Blaine, Blaine, Blaine.
He blinks awake, vision hazy but clear enough that he can see Marley smacking Sam on the back of the head, already snapping something Blaine can't understand at him. He lifts a hand in a placating gesture and realizes that it's shaking, setting it back by his knee before they can notice. "I'm fine," he assures them, but none of them are listening, Tina biting her lip and Sam arguing pointedly with Marley while some girl – Penny, Penny, her name is Penny – stands nearby, wringing her hands anxiously. "Guys," he says, and it's enough to shut them up, at least, before he adds in a tired slur, "I'm fine. Stop it."
Sitting up against the locker that he's leaning against makes the vertigo return full force, and one moment he's blinking in utter darkness, the next staring up dazedly at a ring of bright, bright lights.
He turns his head away from them and shuts his eyes. Someone knuckles his sternum – hard – and he grunts as he reaches up a hand to swat at them.
There are different voices now, but he doesn't recognize any of them. Sam, Tina, and Marley are gone, and a momentary spike of panic thrusts him back into full consciousness as he stares up at the bright lights and tries to understand anything.
"What's going on?" he demands, his voice thick to his own ears, indecipherable above the indeterminable chatter above him. Someone pauses to answer him, but the words are a long string amid the rest of the chaos and he can't understand them, either. The headache is blinding, terrible.
He doesn't drift into the darkness again, but he loses track of time, one moment in the back of a truck – an ambulance, he reminds himself, it must be an ambulance, or else he really is being kidnapped and that's too chilling to consider – before he's being carted down a hallway.
There are voices above and around him now, and all he wants is to sit up and snap at them to stop talking because all their efforts are making his headache near unbearable. Then another person – a woman – addresses him directly.
"Can you hear me?"
He grunts in acknowledgment. Talking seems useless.
"I need you to respond with words, okay?"
Another grunt. It's rude and he's been raised better, but he doesn't feel like talking. He's afraid that if he opens his mouth, all the spinning in his head will make him vomit. The last thing he wants is to vomit on himself or, God forbid, someone else.
"What's your name?"
"Blaine." He keeps the word crisp, clipped, but it still takes a long syllable to grate out.
"Do you know where you are?"
He takes a moment to look around and a slow, shallow breath. "Hospital," he rasps. His stomach sinks. "Why'm I here?" he asks.
"You passed out at school," the same woman explains, and he notices her for the first time to his left, long black hair tucked neatly over one shoulder, medical scrubs immaculate. "How are you feeling?"
He makes a vague gesture at his head. His vision flickers as he struggles to keep his eyes open.
"Blaine? I need you to stay awake." She sounds almost apologetic, but he knows better. His blood chills at the memory; blood and pain and needles and noise and confusion and no one would tell him anything, no one would even stop to let him breathe because breathing hurt so much that he couldn't draw in any air, he was strangling on nothing and –
He draws in a slow, shivering breath. His chest aches with phantom pain and his mouth runs dry, but thankfully he finds his voice a little steadier as he says, "I'm awake."
"Good. I need you to answer a few more questions for me, okay?"
"What's your full name?"
That's easy. "Blaine Devon Anderson," he says.
"How old are you?"
"Where do you go to school?"
He draws a blank for a moment, Hawthorne already on his lips before he answers, "McKinley."
"Good." Then, appeased, she explains, "I'm Dr. Haley. Your friends contacted us because you had a seizure."
The word seems sinister even in the hush of Blaine's thoughts. He can barely form the words, struggling to speak at all as he asks softly, "What?"
Dr. Haley doesn't seem overly bothered by his distress, which seems wrong to him, terribly wrong, because he's never – never – had a seizureand it's no surprise that Tina and Sam and Marley were so anxious. He closes his eyes, already regretting leaving them alone, wanting to somehow help them even though he can't even help himself when at last Dr. Haley speaks. "Have you ever had a seizure before?"
Blaine shakes his head. Words are difficult, but silence is easy, and all he wants to do is sink into the blanket of consciousness again, leaving his achy body to cope with itself for a while. Surely it can manage as much.
"We'd like to do an MRI scan," Dr. Haley is saying. He doesn't hear her. He can't over the rattle of his own breath in his chest, his own terror overwhelming him momentarily as the weight of the word – seizure – sinks in his chest.
Am I okay?
It seems like such an absurd question. Of course he is. He has to be. He's been stressed, planning for Glee club, but it's nothing serious. It can't be serious.
He might have missed a meal here or there, might have pushed himself harder than he should have, but people overworked themselves all the time and they were fine. They weren't here, lying on a hospital bed with strangers around him. They were fine.
He was fine.
He has to be.
"We've already been in touch with your emergency contact," Dr. Haley points out, mercifully pulling him away from his frantic thoughts. He eyes her skeptically for a moment, recalling dazedly that he filled out those silly little blue cards at the beginning of the school year for precisely this purpose: contact in case of emergency. "Your parents were unavailable," she adds. The question in her voice is obvious and echoed almost immediately by his own.
Panic threatens to overtake him at the thought that his parents aren't there (he just had a seizure and his parents aren't there) and he thinks about sitting up and demanding his release (they can't actually hold him against his will, after all, he is an adult) before slouching back against the pillow a little more.
No, they wouldn't be.
Blaine can't help it; he lets out a soft, rueful laugh as he explains, "They're in Chicago. For a . . . a convention." Tipping his head back a little so he can get a better look at his surroundings, he closes his eyes at a new wave of dizziness and breathes out slowly to control the nausea. He's aware that everything hurts a lot more than it did before, like he's gone on a hard run, or gone three days without sleep.
The latter seems more accurate as it tugs at him, threatening to pull him under completely. Even concentrating on their conversation is becoming increasingly difficult. He wonders if he'll even be allowed to sleep once she leaves. Probably not, he thinks, looking around and trying to take in the scene around him, a handful of other patients partitioned off and attended to by other nurses and doctors to varying degrees of discomfort.
Dr. Haley doesn't respond immediately, instead consulting a chart and asking another nurse if she can set him up with an IV. He flinches but doesn't speak, his fingers curling a little more around the bed sheets. You had a seizure. Refusal of treatment remains an option, but the hollow pit in his stomach tells him that he doesn't dare. He needs to know.
Dr. Haley tells him everything that they're planning – they still need to get him registered and check out his medical history before they give him anything more than fluids – but he can't focus on it. Exhaustion presses in on his chest until it's almost unbearable, his head throbbing with every beat of his heart, a soft groan of discomfort escaping him even as Dr. Haley offers an apologetic farewell and promise to return soon.
Closing his eyes to try and ease the pounding behind them, he asks the nurse that takes her place, "When is he coming?"
He can feel her gaze on him, curious. "Who?"
"My emergency contact," Blaine replies slowly. Now that he has his eyes shut, it's harder to work up the energy to open them again. The emergency room lights are bright. He prefers the quasi-darkness of his own head, aching though it may be, to the over-sharp edges of reality. It's almost possible to pretend that he isn't here at all, that it – seizure – didn't happen.
"Fifteen minutes," the nurse answers, drawing him back to the present and swabbing the back of his hand. He flinches, forcing himself to calm down. It's just a needle. It's nothing. "Take a deep breath," she suggests. "This only takes a moment." She has a nice voice, Blaine thinks, calm and uncomplicated. "We're waiting on Radiology; as soon as they're ready, we'll take you back for some scans." He hisses when the needle and catheter go in, relaxing once she finishes setting up the IV and tapes it to the back of his hand. "See? Easy."
"Easy," he grunts.
She smiles at him – he doesn't need to look to know she's smiling – and somehow even through his disgruntlement he manages a tiny smile. Niceness is contagious. He would know; the Glee club is always involved in some big project or another, and just being around people so passionate about something is enough to bring his mood up.
He loses track of time again as the nurse walks him through his medical history, aware that he's slurring his answers and unable to stop. She doesn't berate him and, following her lead, he doesn't make a greater effort, relieved to be left alone at last.
Drifting peacefully through a state of half-awareness, never fully away from the emergency room but not quite awake, either, he slips into a light sleep that seems to last a mere second before Burt's gruff voice is overhead, his weight settling into a nearby chair. They're in a room, alone. It seems strange to Blaine, the silence, after so much indistinguishable noise.
"You awake?" Burt asks.
Blaine lets out a low hum that might be affirmation. Talking is too much effort. Burt knows. He has to.
"I'll stay as long as you need me to," Burt says, reaching out to give his untethered hand a squeeze.
Blaine's heart tightens in his chest at the gesture, and he lets out another, softer hum as he turns his hand over and squeezes Burt's back lightly. "Thank you," he rasps, flexing his fingers a little when Burt releases them.
"Any time," is all Burt says.
Blaine wants to speak – to ask him about his day, to apologize for the inconvenience of dragging him away from his work, to express his terror over the inexplicable – but all he can focus on is sleep.
So he releases a soft sigh and he lets go, trusting Burt to field any unwanted visitors. As long as Burt is there, it can't be so bad.
He has to be.