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Harder to Breathe

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“So I put the cheese on top of the pasta? I thought it went inside them, I don’t-”

“No, Blaine, you have to-give me the knife.”

“I was just going to-”

“Chop these instead,” Kurt interrupts, sticking a tomato and a cutting board in front of Blaine after pulling away the bowl of ricotta Blaine had been mixing absently. Kurt hands the knife back to Blaine, refusing to let go until he meets Blaine’s eyes.

“Unless you can’t handle dicing a tomato?”

Blaine snatches the knife back from Kurt, pretending to pout even as he cuts into the tomato. Kurt watches him for a moment, torn between finding Blaine adorable, and exasperation, but he loves the way Blaine’s tongue pokes out as he concentrates on making the pieces the same size, so he lets it slide. Blaine catches him staring, smiles.


“They’re all different sizes. You can’t even dice correctly.”

But there’s warmth in his voice (and the pieces are almost precisely the same size, so Blaine knows he’s joking), and he softens the blow further with a smile.

“Is that so?” Blaine asks, his voice light and teasing, as he puts the knife down and leans over to Kurt, pressing their lips together. Kurt smiles into the kiss, pulling back slightly until only their foreheads are touching.

“You’re a terrible cook.”

“Isn’t that why you’re teaching me?”

Kurt leans forward again, is about to press another kiss to Blaine’s mouth when the front door bangs open, Rachel sweeping into the kitchen seconds later, her arms laden with bags and Finn trailing behind her.

“Hello, boys,” she greets, dropping the bags on the counter and starting to unpack their contents. Blaine jumps up to help, starts pulling stacks of Tupperware from the largest bag.

“Rachel, what-”

“I brought dessert. I figured since you and Blaine were cooking dinner this week, I could contribute this much.”

“Rachel, this is practically an entire bakery. What on earth did you bring?”

Kurt’s joined them at the counter, picking up one of the containers suspiciously and shaking it, frowning as he attempts to see inside.

“Those are my vegan chocolate chip cookies, and in the bag Blaine’s holding are vegan oat cookies. And then I brought strawberries for your dad, since I know you hate when he eats sweets, Kurt.”

“And the rest of this?”

“Finn said you were making ravioli, and I know you wouldn’t have vegan cheese so I brought my own!”

Kurt quirks an eyebrow as Rachel steadily unpacks what amounts to an entire vegan meal onto the counter. In all honesty, Finn had never told them Rachel was coming to dinner, so he and Blaine hadn’t bothered with Rachel-approved alternatives. While Blaine has been at every Friday night dinner for the last three months, Rachel tends to show up sporadically and unannounced, so they’ve stopped trying to plan around her.

“Do you, uh, need help?” Blaine asks apprehensively, mouth working in shock as Rachel continues to unpack. The counter has quickly disappeared beneath containers of vegetables and other ingredients, and Kurt would find Blaine’s look of shock funny if he weren’t so annoyed at Rachel.

“Oh, no, I’ve got it. You guys go back to making your pasta, I’ll just work over here.”

Both Blaine and Kurt watch her for a minute as she starts to open containers and measure ingredients, before turning back to their own project at the table. Blaine picks his knife back up, sets back to work on the tomato with a slightly bemused expression on his face. He meets Kurt’s eyes over the half-finished ravioli on the table, Kurt smirking and wiggling his eyebrows at Blaine who dissolves into silent giggles.

“So when will it be ready?” Finn asks, dropping into the free chair at the table and putting their silent conversation to a halt.

“Finn, it’s four o’clock. You can’t possibly be hungry already.”

“I’m always hungry,” Finn counters, reaching his finger into the bowl of ricotta and swiping out a glob, popping it into his mouth.

“Finn!” Kurt slaps at his hand with the spatula when Finn goes in for a second scoop, and the other boy scowls, pulling his hand back.

“Sorry, wow. What is-”

“Your fingers, Finn. You can’t put your fingers in other peoples’ food. That’s disgusting.”

Blaine is watching the exchange with a smile, looking between Kurt and Finn as if he’s not sure who’s more amusing at the moment. Kurt swats Finn’s attempt to grab a piece of the pasta dough away with a loud smack, and Finn pouts, crossing his arms to glare at Kurt.

“But I’m-”

“Go help your girlfriend,” Kurt orders, pointing with the spatula to the counter, where Rachel is currently stirring a bowl of something Kurt doesn’t want to think too hard about. Finn groans as he stands up, but crosses to Rachel nonetheless, reaching into the bag of baby carrots she’s opened.

“It must be bad if Finn is willingly resorting to vegetables,” Blaine laughs, finally finishing the tomato and sweeping the diced pieces into the bowl Kurt indicates.

“He’s just impatient. Can you do the onions next?”

They work quietly for the next half hour or so, until they’ve finally put together a sauce and enough pasta for everyone but Rachel, who’s crowding them out at the stove for space on a burner. It takes longer than it should, but eventually dinner is on the table and the counter is mostly clean. Burt and Carole join them at the table, Carole just getting in from her shift at the hospital, Burt from the garage.

They pass the meal in pleasant conversation, Blaine so comfortable in the Hummel household that Kurt can hardly remember a time before Blaine had been in his life. Rachel’s presence is slightly more awkward, if only because she keeps passing her casserole around the table and insisting on spooning it onto their plates.

It’s a longer dinner than they normally share, because no one really wants to leave the table. They’re all so comfortable, Burt and Carole throughly enjoying the relaxation, while Kurt and Blaine share quiet glances and tangle their feet beneath the table. Rachel’s been watching them on and off the whole night, a knowing smile on her face even when she turns to her own boyfriend.

“Thank you for dinner, boys,” Carole says, pushing back from the table finally and putting an end to the conversation. “It was wonderful. But I’m pretty exhausted from work, so I’m going to head on upstairs. Do you need help cleaning up?”

“I think the four of us can manage.” Rachel’s pushing back from the table as well, gathering dishes and carrying them to the sink. Blaine jumps to help her, taking his own and Kurt’s and turning the tap on, starting to clear off the plates Rachel hands him.

“I can’t believe you both managed to find these two,” Burt comments with a laugh, watching as Rachel and Blaine argue over exactly how clean the plates should be before they go into the dishwasher.

“And I don’t intend to let him go,” Kurt murmurs, his heart swelling as he watches Blaine finish up with the dishes, teasing Rachel the whole time. He loves when Blaine’s over, loves watching his boyfriend do silly things like this. There’s still so much they have to learn about each other, but Kurt is looking forward to the time he has to share with Blaine, the things they have to come.

“Well, I’m going to join Carole. If you need us, you know where we are.” Burt groans as he pushes back from the table, his joints cracking as he stands. He pauses in the doorway to the kitchen, eyes both couples critically. “Bedroom doors open, don’t let me catch you breaking the rules.”

Blaine and Rachel both turn red, while Kurt gapes after his father and Finn stands there dumbstruck. They all know both Burt and Carole are at least aware of what they do while they’re alone, but that doesn’t mean any of them want to think about that. They stand in awkward silence for a few minutes, while Blaine and Rachel finish the dishes, before Finn breaks the quiet, interrupts.

“Well-I think we’ll go up to, I mean-if you want, Rach, we can go watch a movie in my room-”

Rachel nods, slips her hand into Finn’s, and suddenly, Kurt and Blaine are alone in the kitchen, a small stack of mixing bowls and utensils the only thing separating them from relaxing.

“I should finish cleaning up,” Blaine shrugs, placing the bowls in the sink and turning the tap back on. Kurt slips behind him, slides his arms around Blaine’s waist and hooks his chin over Blaine’s shoulder.

“I love when you’re this helpful,” he whispers in Blaine’s ear, pressing a kiss to the skin just below it. Blaine shivers in his grip, his hands stilling in the water in the sink. “I love how much my family adores you.”

Blaine turns in Kurt’s arms, leans up slightly and initiates a proper kiss, tilting his head slightly to change the angle. Kurt pulls away after several seconds, breathing Blaine’s air as they stand together.

“My room?”

“Your room,” Blaine agrees, the dishes all but forgotten. Kurt lets him go, eyeing the dishes in the sink critically even as Blaine stops in the doorway, turning back.

“Kurt, come on.”

“You head up. I’m just going to put these last few away,” Kurt smiles, gesturing with his head for Blaine to go without him. Blaine pouts, but heads upstairs regardless after blowing a kiss in Kurt’s direction. Kurt smiles to himself, humming quietly as he quickly puts the last of the dishes away, wiping down the counter and surveying the kitchen. Everything’s in place, and it looks as if they’d never been there, except for the stack of Tupperware on the counter.

He suddenly remembers Rachel’s dessert, wonders if any of them care enough or have enough room to eat the cookies. He figures he’ll be kind, and pops the lid on the first container, fishing out a few of the cookies-were those the oatmeal ones, or the maple, or what exactly did Rachel say was in them?-Kurt doesn’t know, but he finishes off three before wiping his hands on a dishtowel, heading upstairs.

The cookies aren’t all that bad, though they have that strange aftertaste everything Rachel bakes always has. He thinks briefly of running back to grab a few for Blaine, but remembering Blaine reminds him that his boyfriend is waiting for him (on his bed) and they have precious few hours to make use of before Blaine has to head home for the night. The door to his room is cracked open, per Burt’s request, but the lights are as dim as they can make them, and Kurt pushes into the room, smiling when he sets eyes on his boyfriend.

Blaine’s lying on his bed, sprawled unceremoniously across the duvet with his head on Kurt’s pillow. He’s kicked his shoes across the room (because he knows how much Kurt hates shoes on his bed), and his socked feet stick out from beneath the hem of Blaine’s pants. Kurt pauses, can’t believe that Blaine is his, before toeing off his own shoes, crossing to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Hey,” he breathes, sliding onto the bed and settling himself between Blaine’s spread legs, hovering over Blaine’s body, bracing himself with both arms on either side of Blaine’s shoulders.

“Hey,” Blaine returns, his own voice breathy as his eyes flick to Kurt’s lips. He wraps his arms low around Kurt’s back, pulls their bodies flush together as he presses their lips together. They stay like that for several moments, feeling, breathing, being, before Blaine pulls back, a small frown on his face.

“Is that maple?”

“I ate a few of Rachel’s cookies, why?”

“You taste-it’s sweeter than usual.”

“I think there was maple in them, yeah,” Kurt replies, pressing their lips back together. Blaine is talking far too much for his liking, and there’s not nearly enough kissing. They trade kisses back and forth for a few minutes before Kurt hears it.

They’re both breathing heavily, a product of the lack of proper oxygen and proper time to breathe, but there’s almost a whistle in the air as Blaine breathes; Kurt stills his own breaths to listen to it, frowning.

“Are you wheezing, Blaine?”

“It’s kinda hard to breathe,” Blaine acknowledges, nudging Kurt off him and pulling himself into a sitting position, trying to catch his breath. He’s itching at his chest and neck, pulling at the collar of his shirt as he pushes back from Kurt. Blaine’s face has gotten flushed, a bright red blush creeping into his cheeks and down his neck to the little bit of his chest Kurt can see.

“Are you okay?”

Blaine doesn’t get like this from kissing, not unless they’ve been going at it for awhile, and he’s never been short of breath like this. Kurt’s instantly on guard, hovering at Blaine’s shoulder while he attempts to figure out what’s going on.


“It’s warm in here, isn’t it?”

Blaine’s pulling more strongly at the collar of his shirt, and even as Kurt watches everything suddenly seems to fall apart.

The wheezing is worse, Blaine’s abandoned tugging at his shirt in favor of clutching at his chest. Blaine seems to deteriorate before his eyes, and Kurt’s on the edge of panicking now, watching as Blaine mouths wordlessly, struggling to get something out. Kurt’s got a hand on his shoulders, torn between shaking Blaine and calling for help, for Carole, for anyone.

“Blaine, I can’t hear you. What are you saying?”

His voice has taken on that high pitch he despises, but he can’t be bothered to care as Blaine clutches at Kurt’s shirt, still trying to speak. Blaine’s face is red and blotchy, and this close Kurt can clearly hear the shallow breaths, the whistle on the end as Blaine struggles to breathe. Something is constricting his airway, but Kurt doesn’t think Blaine’s choking-he hasn’t eaten anything, it can’t be something caught in his throat.

“...‘lergic,” Blaine manages to get out, and Kurt’s heart drops. Blaine’s never mentioned allergies, let alone one like this. Kurt doesn’t know what to do, only remembers what he’d learned in his required first-aid classes in health. If Blaine has an allergy like this, he must have an epi-pen, something to inject himself with in case this were to happen.

But Blaine’s never mentioned this, never mentioned carrying anything like that. Kurt wracks his brain quickly, tries to remember if he’d ever seen anything in Blaine’s locker, his car, his backpack. He comes up blank, so he turns back to Blaine, rests a hand along Blaine’s cheek to attempt to ground them both.

“Blaine, you’re allergic? Do you have an epi-pen, benadryl, what? Blaine?”

Blaine points out the door, gesturing wildly, and Kurt feels like crying because he has no idea what that means. Blaine keeps pointing, mouthing a word that Kurt can’t read, doesn’t understand. He wonders if Blaine’s telling him where the epi-pen is, if it’s in Blaine’s car, his bag, but Kurt can’t leave Blaine like this, can’t leave him alone to go grab it, especially if he doesn’t know where it is.

Blaine’s face betrays his panic, his eyes shining as he attempts to keep breathing, attempts to focus on Kurt.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Kurt manages, fishing out his cell phone and dialing 9-1-1. He feels like he’s watching Blaine die in front of his eyes, watching him fade as each breath is more and more restricted. Kurt doesn’t know much about allergies, doesn’t know much about anaphylaxis or whatever it’s called-but he knows this is bad, that Blaine’s in serious trouble. He knows he needs something, someone, to help him, tell him what to do.

He alternates between the operator and watching Blaine, relaying his information as quickly as he can. Blaine’s face is paling quickly, his hands still clutching weakly at Kurt. Each breath is clearly becoming more and more of a struggle, and Kurt feels bitter tears streaming down his own face as he sits helplessly, trying to listen to the operator’s instructions while keeping as calm as he can, for Blaine.

It’s when Blaine’s eyes roll back in his head and he slumps bonelessly into Kurt that everything becomes far too real, and Kurt drops the phone, catches Blaine and sinks to the floor with him. The 9-1-1 operator is forgotten as Kurt lays Blaine flat on the floor, jams his fingers into Blaine’s neck to feel for a pulse and leans over Blaine’s mouth.

It’s silly, and it wastes time, because he knows Blaine’s not breathing. He watched it happen, spent the past three minutes (and it’s only been that long, though it feels like hours to Kurt) watching Blaine slowly lose his ability to perform one of life’s most basic functions.

Kurt tilts Blaine’s head back, trying to remember what he needs to do, what he’s supposed to do. Blaine has a pulse, still, Kurt can feel the beat beneath his fingers, but Blaine’s not breathing and Kurt needs to do something. He can hear the operator’s voice over the line, asking what’s happened, what’s going on, but he can only focus on Blaine, on breathing for Blaine.

He tries twice to breathe for Blaine before he realizes it’s futile-the breaths aren’t going in, there’s no way for the air to pass through Blaine’s swollen trachea the way Kurt’s trying. He’s at a loss, and the ambulance is on it’s way but it’ll be too late. His eyes are burning, tears streaming unbidden down his face when he finally remembers they’re not alone in the house, there are four other people home.

He calls the first name he thinks of, knows she’ll know better what to do because she’s trained, she does this for a living.


He’s screaming her name for what feels like forever, but when she bursts into the room a few seconds later, he’s not sure he’s ever been happier to see her. She takes in the situation quickly, and with an ease born of practice slips into a clinical role, dropping to her knees beside Kurt and assessing Blaine.

“What happened?”

“He’s allergic to something, I don’t know what, we were just kissing and then he stopped breathing and I asked if he had an epi pen but he couldn’t talk, he kept pointing downstairs but I couldn’t leave him, and-”

“You called an ambulance?”

“It’s on its way. Carole-”

She looks up from Blaine, meets Kurt’s eyes and hardens her expression.

“Kurt, listen to me. I need you to stay calm. Blaine isn’t breathing. I need you to keep trying to breathe for him, can you do that for me? Can you stay focused to do that for me?”

Kurt nods, shakily, and bends to tilt Blaine’s head again, trying to breathe for him again. He thinks it’s useless, he can’t tell if what he’s doing is helping. Everything feels futile when Blaine’s not moving, not breathing, not doing anything except dying on Kurt’s bedroom floor.

Carole swears under her breath, her fingers resting along Blaine's carotid artery as Kurt keeps trying to push breaths in. The pulse beneath her fingers is fluttering, fading, and she knows she needs to take action. She picks her words carefully, aware of the necessity of time but also aware that she needs to keep Kurt calm, collected.

“Kurt, I need you to stay calm, okay? But I’m going to need to start chest compressions, and I need you to breathe for him while I do that. You know CPR?”

Kurt nods, looking at Carole desperately.

“I don’t feel like they’re going in, I can’t get a breath-”

“Tilt his head back further, keep trying. We’re just keeping time until the paramedics get here, okay,? They'll be able to breathe for him but you need to keep trying, Kurt, you need to focus.”

Kurt nods, and then Carole’s risen to her knees, her fingers laced and set against Blaine’s sternum. She presses down, compressing his chest several inches. She starts the cycle of CPR, counting compressions off under her breath as she does so. Kurt feels like everything is falling apart in front of him as he watches his stepmother compress his boyfriend’s chest, as he himself keeps attempting to breathe for Blaine when she indicates.

“Oh my god,” Rachel’s voice sounds from the doorway, and Kurt looks up to find her standing in front of Finn, both of them staring at the scene on the floor. Rachel's hand is over her mouth, tears streaming down her face. Finn is white, his complexion pale as he gapes at Blaine's prone body. Burt appears behind them, and pushes past them to kneel at Carole’s side.

“What can I do?”

“Grab the phone, keep talking to the operator. Kurt called an ambulance, it’s on it’s way.”

Carole’s voice is measured, keeping time with her words so she doesn’t lose count. Kurt waits for his cue, presses his lips to Blaine’s again and tries to push in two breaths. Blaine’s lips are turning blue, his complexion ashen. He’s cold, and it’s scaring Kurt more than he cares to admit.

“Blaine, please,” he whispers, keeping a hand along Blaine’s cheek even when he’s not breathing. “Please, honey, don’t-please.”

“Kurt, I need to switch. I need you to switch with me, okay? I’ll count it off.”

Kurt nods, suddenly afraid. He doesn’t remember how hard to press, how deep to push. What if it’s wrong? What if he’s the reason Blaine dies? It’s as he’s lining up his hands, pressing down on Blaine’s chest that he realizes none of that matters-Blaine’s essentially dead anyway, and the worst Kurt can do is nothing close to that.

“They’re down the street,” Burt says, finally hanging up the call and hovering at Carole’s shoulder. She’s breathing again, trying to push two more breaths past Blaine’s swollen throat (but it isn’t working, it can’t work because his trachea is past the point of allowing the passage of air, but Carole won’t tell Kurt that-can’t tell Kurt that).

“Finn, go let them in. Hurry.”

Finn nods, and is out the door and clambering down the stairs as quickly as he can. Carole mentally tries to figure how long Blaine’s been down, knows the medics will ask as soon as they’re in. It’s been at least five minutes, but they’re nearing the ten minute mark and she knows that Blaine needs advanced intervention. She hears Rachel asking if she should find the epi-pen, if that will help, but it’s far too late for that, so Carole focuses on breathing for Blaine while Kurt presses rhythmically on his chest. If she doesn’t look at his face, she can imagine this isn’t her stepson’s boyfriend.

A sharp crack echoes through the room, and Kurt cries out suddenly, and Carole knows.

"I think I broke his ribs," Kurt sobs, his compressions faltering as he feels Blaine's chest give a little. "Oh, god."

"Kurt, honey, you need to keep going, okay? That happens, but he'll be fine. Just keep pressing, keep going."

Carole waits for her cue, pushes two more breaths in and watches to see if Blaine's chest rises at all.

“They’re in here, hurry!”

Finn's back, leading a team of medics with a gurney and several medical kits. Rachel and Finn fade into the woodwork, keeping out of the way even as the medics head straight for the three people on the floor. She and Kurt are pushed aside in favor of their advanced equipment. She takes Kurt by the shoulders, pulls him up into her arms and holds him as they watch the scene unfolding on the floor.

The medics rip Blaine’s shirt off quickly, attach AED leads, and suddenly, everything narrows to a point-the shrill voice coming from the tiny speaker on the AED.

"What is he allergic to, Kurt? Do you know?"

"He's never said, I just-we were kissing, what on earth-"

"Did you eat anything before you kissed him?" Carole asks, her voice suddenly intent. She's partly trying to distract Kurt from the paramedics on the ground, the sound of the AED delivering a shock to Blaine's chest, and she's partly trying to secure as much information as she can to give to the hospital.

"I had some of Rachel's cookies, the maple ones, but I don't- I told him they were maple, if that was it-"

"They're maple oat tahini," Rachel speaks up quietly from the corner, her voice wavering. "That's what's in them. There's a tahini based frosting on them."

"Oh my god," Kurt whispers, and it hits him. He sinks in Carole's arms, suddenly unable to stand as he realizes.

"This is my fault."