It’s dead quiet except for the gentle beep of the heart monitor. Kurt is sleeping. The doctor assured Blaine he wasn’t in a coma – not like that other boy. The one that was friends with their neighbor and who’d swung around once in a while and Blaine doesn’t think he knew his name then. He should have. He should have asked the boy’s name because it was weird holding a candle and leaving flowers and sharing all these feelings for a boy beaten into a coma for being who he was. And not knowing his name until after.
Blaine doesn’t know if Kurt knew Russ’s name before. Kurt mentioned seeing him around. Mentioned his smile which Blaine had also noticed. It was wide and genuine. Kurt’s eyes were so dark when he’d told Blaine what had happened. How Russ had been walking with his boyfriend when … Kurt said the attackers had struck from behind according to eye witnesses.
And then he’d cursed. “Fucking cowards.”
And it’s not like Kurt never curses. He can let it fly as well as the next person. More so than Blaine who still feels the weight of his mother’s stare saying, “Language, Blaine.” But there was something about the way Kurt said the words. The cracking of the consonants. He spit out the phrase like a wasp had flown into his mouth, eyes narrowed and lips tight.
They’d walked holding candles and Blaine’s shoulder brushed Kurt’s and the air felt charged with sadness and hope and prayers to unseen things that maybe weren’t really invisible. Maybe they were praying to each other. Kurt’s eyes had glowed in the amber lights, deep blue edged in silver, like a lake with moonlight shimmering on its edges. He’d taken Kurt’s hand and squeezed once and Kurt had looked over at him, the smallest smile tilting his lips and crinkling the sides of his eyes. And he’d squeezed Blaine’s hand back once. And Blaine thought I love you , like he did a thousand times a day. But he hadn’t said it. And now … now he wishes he had, wishes he’d said it each and every time he’s thought it.
There’s a knock and Rachel enters. “We … they said visiting hours are over.”
Blaine nods. Stands and gives her a hug. They’ve been amazing, their friends. He remembers the way his heart stopped when the words ‘emergency contact’ were uttered in a flat tone over his cell phone. He remembers Sam staring at him questioningly and how it’s not that his knees buckled but more like they lost all substance, like they were made of a gelatinous material instead of bone.
He goes into the waiting area and hugs them all.
“You’re not coming with?“ Sam asks.
Blaine shakes his head and is already turning back to the room where Kurt is sleeping. Just sleeping. The only sound that heart monitor. He’ll wake up. It’s not like Russ. He’ll be fine.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Blaine tells them all.
Sam stops him, draws him in hard and Blaine buries his head into Sam’s shoulder, resting for a moment. “Thanks,” he murmurs before letting go and returning to Kurt.
The scene is unchanged. Blaine props himself in the plastic chair beside the bed. Kurt’s so still. He knows the doctor said Kurt’s asleep but Blaine has seen Kurt sleep and he’s never this still. He shifts and turns and sometimes his mouth moves a little and his eyelids twitch when he’s dreaming. Yeah, Blaine knows it sounds creepy that he’s watched his lover sleeping enough to know these things. But Kurt is so beautiful and he never lets Blaine just look. He gets embarrassed and laughs and covers his mouth or makes a flip comment or calls Blaine silly. And Blaine never wants to make Kurt uncomfortable so he forces his eyes away. But sometimes it hurts to do that.
Kurt’s so still now it’s eerie. Only his chest moves, up and down, gently. The rhythm matches the beeps. Steady. True. Alive. The ragged cut near his hairline is stitched neatly. Blaine had asked about it, asked about scarring, but the doctor said it shouldn’t. Because Kurt gets so sensitive about things and Blaine didn’t know how he’d feel about a mark, didn’t want Kurt to have any more reasons to call Blaine silly for looking.
His cheek is swollen, swirling angry reds, purples, blues, like a broken mood ring.
They punched him, kicked him, beat him. Two-on-one. Blaine’s not entirely sure how long Kurt lay in that filthy alley, bleeding. Alone. If Blaine hadn’t moved out, maybe it would have gone differently. If he’d been there.
And done what?
There’s no question who the brave one is. Blaine has a grand façade of bravery … and Kurt has all the reality.
He ran into the fray. Confronted them . And the memory rushes back from Blaine’s past, when he was a privileged teenager that never confronted a thing in his life, boldly giving a crying boy advice to face up to bullies. And Kurt did it. The very next day he got up in the face of a jock twice his size and called him a coward, and the jock, Karofsky – a name Blaine’ll never be comfortable with despite everything that came later – the jock kissed him. Mashed their lips together and Kurt was stunned and shocked and sad for a first that would never be again.
And Kurt called his new friend, Blaine, to come help him talk to Karofsky. Blaine, who plays an amazing game but is smoke and mirrors and empty air. Blaine tightened his tie and managed to choke down his fear enough to joke after Karofsky shoved him against the wall hard enough to jar his teeth. But they were in Kurt’s school, on the stairway, folks passing any moment.
These thugs, though. These guys are playing for keeps. They put one boy into a coma. And Kurt … the bruises flame against his white skin. Kurt ran into it. Charged into them and called them cowards.
So, so brave.
He nearly topples the chair in his effort to rise to Kurt’s side. Gently, careful not to hurt him further, Blaine brushes the hair back from Kurt’s forehead, barely able to speak.
“Kurt. Oh god, Kurt. You’re okay. You’re going to be okay.”
Kurt turns his head toward Blaine’s voice and his lips tilt into the weak beginning of a smile. “Fell asleep again,” he slurs groggily. His voice is lower pitched, like it’s being filtered through sand.
Kurt had been awake earlier very briefly. That’s when the doctor determined there wasn’t any neurological damage. Blaine hadn’t even thought about that until the doctor had presented it as good news. He’d nearly thrown up when the words were uttered. Because the thought of Kurt not being Kurt any longer just wasn’t anything he could think about.
“Are you in pain?” he asks now, concerned when Kurt’s eyes narrow slightly.
“’S okay.” Kurt’s hand comes up, palm facing Blaine’s and Blaine instantly takes it with his own, squeezes.
He can’t stop touching and uses his free hand to once more carefully brush Kurt’s hair. “Hey,” he says looking down with blurry eyes.
“Hey,” Kurt replies. He licks his lips and Blaine looks around for the water pitcher the nurse left earlier. “I’m sorry.”
Blaine’s brows draw together. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”
Blaine’s choked laugh sounds like a half sob. “Terrified me. But you’re okay.” That’s been his mantra for hours now. It’s the one constant drumming in Blaine’s skull. There is no alternative.
He leans in to be closer, brings his lips to Kurt’s forehead. A hand threads through Blaine’s hair. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m fine.”
“I know. I’m sorry to be so …”
Blaine’s clinging, he knows he is, he knows his eyes are stupidly wet and that his fingers are gripping Kurt’s shoulder tighter than they should but all he can see are the black threads holding Kurt’s skin together and the purple blotches marring Kurt’s cheek and the monotone beeping in the background that thuds through Blaine’s whole body. He remembers his panic, the stillness as he climbed into bed with Kurt earlier, clinging in desperation when, despite what the doctor said, Blaine was drowning in fear, and his heart clamps as he shudders.
“Oh, honey,” Kurt murmurs, and Blaine sucks in air and pulls himself together because Kurt can’t be comforting him. Not when he’s lying on a hospital bed, with a nebulae of bruises expanding along his skin and a monitor attesting to his being alive.
"I’m sorry,” Blaine repeats, straightening. He sits on the side of the bed, careful of the tubes and needles and he realizes he’s still clutching Kurt’s hand. He tries to release it but Kurt squeezes tighter.
“I love you,” Blaine says then, the words popping like bubbles from deep inside. “You know that, right? You know how much I love you.”
“I know.” Kurt’s voice is softer now, like powder. “I love you, too.”
They sit quietly. Blaine just looks and Kurt lets him. When Kurt’s hand comes up Blaine’s not sure what he’s reaching for but bends closer anyway. Fingers run through his curls. Shit, they must be coming out. It’s been hours since he’s seen himself. He must look like Bozo the Clown. But Kurt smiles, small but real, somehow knowing what passes through Blaine’s mind. “I love your curls,” he says. And it’s so honest that Blaine doesn’t quite know what to say, what to make of it. He hates his curls, has for years. Taming them turns him into himself, turns him into Blaine.
So he says nothing.
“Courage,” Kurt says into the silence.
“What?” Blaine asks, puzzled.
“I thought of that,” Kurt replies. “When I saw … I mean, I don’t remember any actual thoughts because it went so fast. A boy was being hurt and I heard … I knew … and then it was more like red. Like fire or heat. Like there wasn’t anything else but to stop it. But now, I think, it was behind me. Shouldering me, you know?”
Blaine doesn’t know what Kurt is talking about. “You’re the bravest man I know,” he says, although he doesn’t think Kurt needs him to affirm this. Look where they are, after all.
“The text, Blaine,” Kurt says like that is supposed to mean something. Oh god, had Kurt texted him for help? Something like shock must show on Blaine’s face because Kurt’s eyes go wide, a brighter blue now, so alive. “The day we met, Blaine. That text.”
That’s what Kurt’s talking about? Crediting Blaine with giving Kurt the strength to act? That’s a lie. Not Blaine. Kurt is pure courage, he oozes it from every pore. Always has. But Blaine? Blaine is a fraud. Blaine is afraid and always has been. Blaine wouldn’t have run into that alley to save anyone. Blaine would have run away.
“No you wouldn’t have,” Kurt protests and that’s when Blaine realizes he’s said something aloud. He’s not sure what. He’s beyond tired, feels like he’s been running since getting that emergency call. “There’s no way you would have left that boy.”
Blaine might have called the police. But he’d never … he’s not Kurt. “I’m not you, Kurt. Nobody is you. I hope I’d have done something. I’d like to think I would have. So I could begin to be worthy of you. But … courage? That’s all you. Always has been.”
“Not always,” Kurt says and his eyes dim to gray. There’s a strained quality to Kurt’s voice, too much emotion and too many ghosts, it lilts up and hangs like a note in a tunnel.
Blaine continues. “I know, before we met, it was getting to you. And it helped, to talk, to have a friend. Helped me, too.” His voice catches. “Changed my life.” Made my life, he thinks, but doesn’t say. Kurt knows. “But Kurt, you never gave up.” He hesitates and then adds, “Finn told me that.”
Kurt’s body shrinks into the bed, the reminder of his brother – his loss – traveling through his veins. “He did?” he asks, and he sounds so young.
“I’m not the only one who knows how strong you are. Finn did. Told me so.”
“It helped,” Kurt says softly. “When Dad married Carole, when Finn became my brother.” Kurt closes his eyes a moment, takes a breath, then looks again at Blaine, his gaze, steady, sure. Blaine thinks he wants those eyes on him forever. “But without you … you saved me. Gave me strength.”
"That was all you,” Blaine argues again.
Kurt’s eyes twinkle and he gets that determined look. “Why do you think I dragged you to McKinley with me?”
“Makeout sessions in the janitor’s closet?” Blaine quips.
Kurt’s smile brightens. “That. And I was selfish. I felt safer with you there.” The smile dims and he blinks slowly. “Almost broke us, you being left at McKinley while I moved here.”
“I would have been stuck another year in Ohio no matter what, Kurt.” But Blaine doesn’t argue it further. He’s thought before that it might have been easier to face his senior year without Kurt if Blaine had remained at Dalton. That the Warblers wouldn’t have turned to the dark side if he’d still been there to lead. Of course, all this is hard to prove. He might have been more miserable.
But, god, he wants to think that maybe his actions might have been different. That he’d never have convinced himself that Kurt was through with him. That he could have stayed strong. That he wouldn’t have … cheated. Except, it’s still just Blaine, no matter where he was going to school. Just Blaine. He’s not brave. He’s not Kurt.
He’s not sure what crosses his face except that Kurt is pulling him down. “Lay with me?”
He doesn’t need to be asked twice. Carefully he swings himself up and curls himself around Kurt. He can feel as well as hear Kurt’s heartbeat now. The double confirmation feels good. He kisses Kurt’s chest, lips pressed to the gentle movement. It’s beautiful. Kurt’s beautiful and caring and brave. “Bravest man I know,” he repeats.
“Because of you,” Kurt says back.
I’ll try, for you, he asserts silently. To protect this heart always, he whispers into the fabric of Kurt’s gown. Kurt’s arm comes around and draws him in, he’s breathing steadily and deeply and Blaine doesn’t have to look to know he’s starting to fall back into slumber.
Blaine fights sleep so he can listen to the reassuring beeps and the soft huffs of Kurt’s breath. He recites his thanks with each gentle heave, and then wonders briefly if the little shop downstairs carries hair gel before he lets himself just go.