Chapter 1: Hell is for Children
"You're telling me you actually knew Greta Garbo?" demanded an incredulous Will.
Helen merely raised an eyebrow.
"Seriously, dude?" Henry asked. "After everything you know about the Doc, you're really questioning whether or not she knew some Swedish movie star?"
Will flailed. "But it's Garbo!"
Helen winked at him. "Trust me, Will, she didn't truly want to be alone."
His mouth fell open and she laughed.
Kate rolled her eyes at all of them, but never let John escape from her sight. The idea that she was sitting in the well-appointed office of some immortal physician across from Jack the Ripper was slightly disconcerting, and she wasn't about to trust that he was suddenly a fluffy puppy because the others insisted he was currently posing no threat. After all, currently was the operative word.
"Anyway," Henry drawled, shaking his head at how in awe Will still was of Magnus - not that he blamed the guy - his fingers dancing across his pad, "we really need to talk about the bio units in the cryo room, Doc, because..."
He was summarily cut off when his pad locked and every single computer in the room went haywire, sirens blaring and a strange symbol appearing on all of the monitors. What was going on? This wasn't his programming. He had never before seen anything like this.
"What the hell?" he barked, trying everything in his power to reassert his control.
Kate patiently awaited someone to explain what was going on as John looked up with only mild interest. Henry frantically raced from station to station in search of answers. Will studied Magnus, whose face was pinched and very pale.
"What is this, Magnus?" he asked in a low voice.
Helen opened her mouth, but no sound emerged.
"What's that symbol mean?" Kate asked.
"It's an omega," John replied, "the last letter of the Greek alphabet."
"I got that, thanks," she snarled.
He waved a dismissive hand in her direction.
Helen calmly reached for her phone and pressed a button. "It's me. I need a jet ready in twenty minutes. The destination is Dayton International. Once there, I'll need a chopper on standby to take me to Lima, Ohio." She then placed the receiver back in its cradle, tented her fingers, and stared off at nothing.
"What's in Ohio?" Henry absently asked.
"Do we need to suit up?" asked an eager Kate, desperate for something to do.
"Not at this time," Helen replied, a forced smile on her face. "A situation has arisen which requires my immediate attention. While I'm away, Will is in charge of the Sanctuary." She nodded at him, which he reluctantly acknowledged with a nod of his own. "I shan't be gone long."
A sullen Kate sat back down, defeated.
"Is everything all right, Helen?" asked a suspicious John, his eyes narrowed, having picked up on the subtle changes in her demeanor.
"Quite," she tightly replied. "It's merely a personal matter to which I must attend."
"And the symbol?" Will pressed.
Helen glared at them before her eyes darted around the room. Finally, she sighed. "I'm not getting out of here without providing some answers, am I?"
"Nope," Kate chirped, shaking her head.
Bigfoot grunted, obviously worried for his friend.
"I'm still hung up on this omega thing," Henry said.
Another sigh and Helen reached over to her keyboard and restored to normal the operating system.
"Thanks!" Henry said cheerfully. "Now, what's up?"
Helen ran her tongue across her upper row of teeth, anxious and trying to determine the best way to explain herself.
"Just tell us, Magnus," Will said quietly.
She cleared her throat and nodded. "There's a young man living in Ohio upon whom I've had an eye for several years. His name is Kurt Hummel and he's seventeen years old."
"Is he an Abnormal?" asked a curious Kate.
"He's human," Helen said. "I was once very close with his parents. His mother died several years ago and I fell out of contact with his father. At any rate, I promised Suzanne on her deathbed that, should something happen to her husband, I would assume the responsibility of caring for their child."
"So you're this boy's godmother?" Henry asked.
"For lack of a better term, yes."
Will's eyes widened. "And that's what the symbol means? That his father has...gone?"
"Died," Helen said softly. "I have an operative in Lima who was to alert me if anything befell Burt Hummel. Were he merely injured or incapacitated, I would not have been informed."
"And the symbol itself?" Will asked, positive it meant more than what she was saying. "Why an omega?"
Helen pressed two fingers to her weary eyes and gathered a breath. "As John explained, the omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet." She swallowed heavily. "As Ashley was the alpha, Kurt is the omega, the last of my line."
Kate's eyes widened. Henry dropped his tablet. Will stared.
John stood and bellowed an incoherent roar, disappearing in a flash of light.
Helen sighed and closed her eyes. "Kurt Hummel is my son."
Several hours later, Henry was sitting, stupefied, before his command center.
"I can't believe she never told us," he whispered.
It went unspoken that it was the fact she had never told him which he found so troubling.
Kate was restlessly picking through myriad spare parts, her thoughts confused and unsettled. "There was no reason for her to tell anyone," she said. "The kid isn't really hers. She may have donated an egg, but she didn't carry him. She didn't raise him. He doesn't consider her to be his mother."
Bigfoot grunted. "She is his blood, his kin. She's the only family he has left. That matters."
"What do you think, Will?" Henry asked.
Will blinked owlishly. "Actually, I've been trying not to think," he said. "I know Magnus plans to bring him here, to live at the Sanctuary, and maybe that's what's best for him, but what if it's not?"
"You think she's using him to replace Ashley," Bigfoot surmised.
"Isn't she?" Kate asked.
Henry was indignant. "Magnus would never do that," he insisted. "You can't replace one child with another, and she knows that. What's she supposed to do? Leave the kid on his own to fend for himself? How's that fair? He's still a minor; he'd be placed in foster care. You can't tell me that's a better solution."
"It's not," Will hurriedly said, "I'm just concerned how this situation will evolve. I'm concerned for all of them, Henry. Magnus is still mourning Ashley, and Kurt will be mourning his father for a very long time. For him to come here, to see what we do, might help distract him, but it's going to be a big adjustment for him. He'll be leaving his life as he knows it. His friends, his school. Also, our work is dangerous. If he becomes attached to Magnus and something happens to her, what becomes of him then?"
No one had any response.
He sighed. "And god forbid something happens to Kurt while he's here. It probably won't, but just let me play devil's advocate for a minute. Ashley was targeted because she was Magnus' daughter. Who's to say some other idiot won't target Kurt because he's Magnus' son? What will that do to Magnus? Besides, is this really the place for a teenage boy whose world has just been ripped out from under him?"
Henry sighed and Kate slowly nodded her head. Will had made very fair points.
"He has no one else," Bigfoot grunted. "Magnus is doing what's best for him."
The others knew it was best not to argue, but they worried.
After a week of stumbling around in a daze and allowing others to dictate his life, Kurt woke up Saturday morning with a new sense of purpose.
His heart was broken and would be for a very long while, but he was no longer content with everyone else deciding what was best for him. He had to take control of the situation because everything was falling apart. At the end of the day, this was his life, and it was up to him to make it count.
He had agreed to the funeral service only to placate Carole, who had been shattered by his father's death.
Kurt was an atheist, and while he knew for a fact that there was an afterlife, no deity ruled it. His father had been agnostic, so even though Burt Hummel hadn't been a religious man, neither would he have objected to the ceremony. Therefore, neither would Kurt.
It was such an inconsequential thing, really, and would help to provide some measure of closure for Carole and Finn, so Kurt had decided it best to allow it. Besides, it kept Carole occupied and out of his hair, as she had been determined to fuss over him as much as possible. Strangely, Kurt was only able to cry for his father when he witnessed Carole sobbing and was thus often nervous when in her presence.
His father's insurance would pay the medical bills, and his life insurance would pay off the mortgage to the house. The shop was in the clear. Kurt knew that, theoretically, he could petition the court to have himself emancipated and continue living in Lima. Truthfully, he didn't see the advantage in staying. Lima had been painful enough even with his father's steady presence. Now that he was gone, it would be unbearable.
He had several trust funds which would provide for his education and ensure that he wouldn't have to work if he had no interest in doing so. He could go anywhere in the world and live comfortably, but he would also be alone. The thought didn't please him, but he had considered it.
In the end, however, he had decided to go and live with Helen for the time being, at least long enough until he was able to pull himself together, finish high school, and leave for college. In the grand scheme of things, two years didn't amount to much.
He had experienced a curious mixture of relief and resentment when Helen had appeared at the hospital. His father had written a living will, and once it was clear that he would never recover, the staff had disconnected life support. Kurt hadn't even been consulted. It had infuriated him, but he had been rational enough to understand that his father had made his wishes expressly clear. He wouldn't have gone against them even if it had been an option.
After the paperwork had been completed and a numb Kurt was standing in the hallway of the hospital, wondering what he was supposed to do next and listening to Carole bleat about how he would come live with her and Finn, Helen had arrived and offered him choices.
He had always known that Helen Magnus was his biological mother. His parents had tried to conceive for years but, for whatever reason, Suzanne Hummel had fallen into the small percentage of women who could carry a pregnancy to term but had no viable eggs. She had known Helen Magnus for decades, though the extent of their relationship had never been adequately explained to Kurt, and he didn't much care. At any rate, Helen had donated an egg, it had been fertilized and implanted within Suzanne, and roughly nine and a half months later, Kurt Hummel had been born.
He had never experienced feelings of confusion about who his parents were. His father was Burt Hummel and his mother Suzanne Hummel. He shared a blood relation with Helen Magnus, but she wasn't his mother. Suzanne had carried, birthed, and helped raise him.
Helen respected that, for which Kurt was so very grateful.
She hadn't swooped in, trying to control things or him, but instead had presented him different options, which he had desperately needed. Explaining their relationship to Carole had been awkward; trying to explain it to Finn had been sheer hell. Finn, of course, had then gone and blabbed about everything to the entire Glee Club, all of whom felt they deserved to weigh in on the situation and his decision.
They had converged upon his house two days later, allowing him a day of solitude merely for the appearance of propriety, all of them squawking protests or attempting to suffocate him with hugs.
Finn had demanded that Kurt stay in Lima because, as far as he was concerned, they were brothers and that trumped everything else. Rachel had whined about statistics for Sectionals and that no one understood her like he did. Mercedes had moaned about her boo and how he needed her right now. Quinn had wanted him to speak with her pastor in order to gain some perspective, and while he appreciated her concern, he was uninterested.
Brittany, Tina, and Artie, his oldest friends, were far too devastated about his father's death to do much more than cry with him. It hadn't made him feel any better, but perhaps less alone.
Mike and Sam had stood awkwardly in his living room and tried their best to corral the others and maintain some semblance of order. Mike had offered quiet condolences, as had Sam, who often shot looks at Kurt which led him to believe the other boy had a crush on him. While flattered, he couldn't deal with it.
Surprisingly, it was Noah and Santana who had ridden to his rescue, telling him that he didn't owe them shit and should do whatever was best for him. Everyone else could go fuck themselves.
It was exactly what he had needed to hear.
Helen had eventually thrown all of them out of the house and left him alone, giving him space to make some difficult decisions. He knew that she was still mourning her daughter; she respected his grief.
His feelings about Ashley were very confused. He hadn't known her but, although he didn't consider Helen his mother, Ashley, for all intents and purposes, had been his sister. He wished they had met, even if only once.
She hadn't known about him, Helen had explained, because the girl wouldn't have rested until she had reclaimed him as her brother, uncaring that he already had parents whom he loved and who had loved him. He had to admire her dedication to family. Selfishly, he wished she were still alive, if only to help deal with everything.
The service was in three days and Kurt was determined to wrap up as much as possible before he left. He had no intention of ever returning to Lima. He wasn't looking forward to sharing his decision with his friends.
"I thought I heard you," said a quiet voice.
Kurt startled. He certainly hadn't heard her come down the stairs, which was fairly ridiculous considering the heels on her boots. He looked up and stared at her, and Helen couldn't help the feeling that she was being judged.
Well, perhaps not being judged so much as critically assessed. She couldn't blame him. She could only guess as to what he was feeling, how he was coping, and she wasn't about to press him for answers, though part of her desperately wanted to do just that. Not for the first time, she was ruing the fact she hadn't brought Will with her. Surely a psychiatrist would be useful in such a situation.
As she stared into her son's empty eyes, she reconsidered. She recognized the value of therapy, but she also knew there were times when it simply wasn't useful, when pushing things before a person was ready to discuss them was the worst thing possible.
She had kept track of Kurt, yes, but she didn't know him. That had been mostly her decision. Burt and Suzanne had encouraged her to be a part of Kurt's life, but, at the time, she had deemed it too painful. She accepted that he was not her son, but she had never felt as anything other than his mother. She knew she had to check those emotions now. She couldn't make this better for him. He had to go through the experience himself, much as she was doing with Ashley's death.
"Is it strange that I feel nothing?" he asked softly.
Surprised that he had initiated meaningful conversation, for he hadn't until this point, she hesitantly stepped forward and took a seat on his sofa. "Not at all. You're intelligent enough to understand that you're still in shock."
"I guess denial is the next stage," he said, "although I can't see how it will manifest. He died right in front of me. I held his hand the entire time. It took over an hour after they turned off the machines." His eyes grew hazy. "I've actually watched someone die. He never regained consciousness." His jaws clenched. "I will never forget the sounds as he struggled to breathe. I'll never forget the moment he stopped." He stared down at his bed and picked restlessly at the comforter. "No, denial is impossible. I've moved straight on to anger."
He raised his eyes, his gaze searing her. "I am so angry, Helen. I don't think I'll ever get over this and, at this point, I'm not sure I even want to."
She said nothing for several long moments. "I understand," she finally whispered.
He gave a swift nod. "I know." He cleared his throat. "I've made some decisions. I'll need your help."
"Whatever you need, Kurt, I'm here."
It wasn't the first time she had said those words, but it was the first time he had believed them.
Chapter 2: Promises in the Dark
Just a reminder this story is Kurt Hummel/Will Schuester. It is not a romance, but this particular chapter focuses on their relationship to support later plot. They are together now and will be staying together. Schue will flit in and out as the story warrants, but the focus is not on their relationship. That said, anyone strongly opposed to Kurt/Will should just abandon the story now. No hard feelings.
Kurt was aware of the legend of Helen Magnus, of the nature of her work, and even of the woman herself, but he had never before seen her in action. Despite his many musings on whatever connection he shared with her, particularly if he had perchance inherited her amazing longevity, he had failed to take into account that Dr. Helen Magnus was a looming, if shadowed, presence in the contemporary world.
Translation: the woman had some sick skills and contacts throughout the entire globe in every government, industry, and academic institution. The sheer ease with which she had plowed through the seemingly insurmountable tasks for which he had asked her assistance was astounding.
That she got it all accomplished in two days - on a weekend, no less - had left him somewhat in awe of her, even more than he already had been.
Monday morning rolled around, and as he prepared himself to explain his future plans to his friends the next day, he found himself more curious about his biological mother than he ever remembered being.
"Good morning!" she cheerfully greeted him as he entered the kitchen. "Tea?"
He blinked. "Yes, please. Thank you."
She smiled and quickly prepared him a cup, setting it before him.
He stared down at it, brow arched.
"Is something the matter?" she asked, a trace of worry in her voice.
"No," he said slowly, "I was just wondering how you knew how I took my tea, or even that I liked tea at all. We tend to be a coffee nation."
She stared at him for a long moment, though unintentionally. "I didn't know." She shook her head to clear it. "My apologies," she said, forcing a smile. "I prepared your tea as I would prepare my own."
"But this is how I take my tea," he said, bewildered.
They looked at each other, perhaps for the first time with such careful scrutiny, each wondering about what other similarities they shared. They began cataloguing the physical resemblances.
"The shape of the eyes," she murmured. "Almond."
"A slightly different hue," he replied. "The cheekbones."
She grinned. "English heritage. Hair texture."
"Yours is darker."
"Chemically treated. I'm a natural blonde."
"I was blonde until I was six."
Kurt frowned. "Dad was very smart."
"Oh, of course he was, Kurt," she said quietly. "I meant no offense. I knew Burt, I know he was smart, but intelligence is separate from intellect. I've seen the books lining your walls, as well as the languages in which they're written." She raised a brow, another similarity they both noted - the arch of their eyebrows - and fixed him with a stare. "We both know your father couldn't have read even a quarter of them. I sincerely doubt any of your classmates could, either."
He nodded cautiously. "I'm sorry. I'm rather touchy."
"Well, that's to be expected, isn't it," she said briskly, determined not to allow him to slip too far into maudlinness. "Kurt," she said, voice more sedate, "please don't worry about offending me. I can only imagine the turmoil you're experiencing, and I know there's little I can do to alleviate it."
"You've done more than enough," he whispered. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Thanks are unnecessary. There is nothing I wouldn't do for you, Kurt, and I'm not saying that simply because of our shared genetic matrices. I loved your parents. I would be here now regardless of whether or not you are my son."
He swallowed heavily and nodded. "May I ask a personal question?"
"Of course you may."
"Do you think of me as your son?"
She froze in place, honestly having not expected that question, or perhaps thrown by the bluntness of it. She wished to craft her answer carefully, but didn't wish for it to be dismissed as contrivance or prevarication. Finally, she shook her head and sighed. "Yes," she said, "I do."
He nodded once more, appearing lost in thought.
"Does that bother you?" she asked hesitantly.
He blinked owlishly. "No. I can't say that I appreciate it, or even understand it, but it doesn't trouble me." He paused. "Thank you for your candor."
"I need you to understand just one thing, Kurt," she said.
"I am in no way using you as a substitute for Ashley. It's important to me that you know that." She blinked back tears. "You cannot replace one person with another, and you can never replace a child. I think of you as my son, but I know that I am not your mother. All I'm asking is that you consider me a friend."
"Oh, I do," he said earnestly. "I hold no resentment or anger toward you, Helen, and I know that I only exist because of you and your kindness." He picked at his cuticles. "All I ask is that you give me time. I had a mother whom I loved very much. I never expected to have another. When Dad and Carole got engaged, she made very clear to me that she wasn't seeking to replace my mother, which I appreciated, and I'm sure the same is true of you."
He sighed, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I'm not explaining myself very well."
"Just take your time," Helen encouraged. "I'm not going anywhere."
As soon as she said the words, she became cognizant of the reason for his unease. She repeated her last statement slowly and clearly.
"I'm not going anywhere, Kurt."
He gasped slightly and found he could no longer meet her eyes. "That's what he said," he whispered. "After Mom died, he promised he would always be there." He hastily wiped his eyes and scrubbed at his face with a hand. "But he's not. He's gone. Ten years after she died, so did he, and now I'm alone."
He held up a hand to stave off her protest.
"It's true. I'm alone." He sipped his tea. "You're my mother, Helen, but you were never my parent, and please understand that I'm not saying this to hurt you. What you gave my parents was the most generous gift anyone ever could, a part of their very self, but they were my parents, and now they're gone. I need to deal with that."
She couldn't help but stare at him, marveling that this amazing boy had her blood coursing through his veins. She was so proud, but understood her pride was not what he needed right now.
"You said you're not using me to replace Ashley," he continued, "and I believe you. What scares me is that I might use you to replace them, that I might end up clinging to you like a lifeline and start to forget what they meant to me." Finally, he looked at her. "Things are happening so quickly, and it would be so very easy for me to turn to you, to dump all my problems in your lap and expect you to make them go away."
He arched a brow. "And you would do that for me, because you love me and you want me to have peace of mind." He shook his head. "If I let you, then I lose a part of myself which I value highly, and I can't allow that to happen."
"Of course you can't," she agreed. "Kurt, however you wish to proceed is exactly what we will do. I'm not going to pressure you. I'm not going to parent you. I'm not going to dictate your life. What I would like is the opportunity to help guide you; to assist you, if I can, when I can." She paused. "We don't know each other well, but I do believe there exists between us some modicum of respect. I would like that to deepen, but only on terms to which we both agree."
"I'd like that," he said quietly.
"Good," she said, nodding. "How can I help you?"
"Would you tell me about the Sanctuary, please? I have an understanding, but I'd like the details. If I'm going to be living there, I need to be informed of its function, how it operates, and the other people involved."
"That's a good place to start. Let me get my computer. I'll get you up to speed on our mission, how we go about meeting it, and my colleagues. As I've told you, they're already aware of who you are, and I'm sure they're anxious to meet you. I will, of course, put them on notice that you are not to be harassed."
He smiled, though it was strained. "I'd appreciate that." He cocked his head. "Are they all like you? I mean, your longevity..."
"No," she smiled, "but not all of them are strictly human, either." She looked into his eyes. "Does that frighten you?"
He scoffed. "Of course not. I seriously doubt they would pose any danger to me, or you wouldn't allow me to live there. As for living on the periphery of humanity, one day I'll tell you about what it means to be gay in a small, conservative, semi-rural community."
Her eyes hooded. "Tell me now."
He pursed his lips and shot her an unimpressed look. "For future reference, the scary voice won't work with me. However, since I'm going to be leaving this hellhole behind, why not?"
He proceeded to detail the campaign of harassment he and his father had been enforced to endure ever since Kurt matriculated middle school: the looks, the mutterings, the phone calls, the vandalism, the bullying, the physical assaults, and the complete lack of interest on the part of the school administration and local law enforcement.
He recounted the entire sordid affair, precisely and unemotionally, and was proud of himself for never once succumbing to the tears which threatened. It was very cathartic, cleansing in a way, and he felt better for having done it. He had been holding it in for so long, he felt as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
When he was done, he leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"Well," Helen said stiffly, "that is entirely unacceptable. No one should be forced to endure such agony, and certainly not you."
He gave a mild shrug. "It is what it is." He frowned. "Or was." Another sigh. "I just can't find it in myself to care at this point. I'm unsure if I no longer allow it to get to me, or if I've simply become inured to it." He chuckled darkly. "I don't know which would be worse. At any rate, letting the pain consume me gets me nothing."
She made some noise of agreement, but was simmering with rage. She forced it away so that she better focus on the situation at hand. "I'll just fetch my laptop and give you a crash course on the Sanctuary, shall I?"
Hesitantly, Kurt reached out a hand, allowing it to linger in the air for a moment before placing it gently atop her own. "Thank you, Helen. For everything."
Kurt couldn't help but stare. "You live here?" he demanded, staring at the picture on the screen before him.
Helen released a peal of throaty laughter and nodded, eyes sparkling. "Indeed. I've lived there so long that I sometimes forget the scope of the compound."
He shook his head. "Please forgive me for being indelicate, but exactly how much money do you have, Helen? I can't even fathom the resources something like this would require, let alone all of the other Sanctuaries across the world."
"I'm extremely comfortable," she said blithely, "as are you. Granted, my family was affluent and I've had almost two centuries to accumulate even more wealth."
He nodded absently. "But what you do with it, something so profound and meaningful...it's difficult to grasp."
She blushed lightly and ducked her head. She didn't find it so remarkable, really, but then she had been doing it for so long, she couldn't imagine doing anything else.
"Where would I stay?" Kurt asked, frowning. "I'm assuming there's some kind of residential hall, yes?"
She nodded. "Quite. You're more than welcome to live there, but if you'd like more solitude, there are numerous rooms available."
He snorted. "How about something with battlements and a turret?"
"Actually..." She pressed a finger to the screen and enlarged a section of the Sanctuary.
Kurt was floored. "I was joking!" He peered closer. "But now that you've offered..."
"And the others?"
She nodded. "Ah. Well, the first of which you should be aware is an Abnormal who has been with me for almost sixty years now. He's a Sasquatch."
Kurt raised a brow. "As in Bigfoot?"
Tinkling laughter was her reply. "Very much, yes, but he's extremely intelligent and incredibly loyal to me. I count him as one of my greatest friends."
He accepted it with remarkable aplomb and nodded. "Then I look forward to meeting him."
She smiled brightly at him, surprised with how open-minded he was. Of course, given what he had been forced to endure, perhaps she shouldn't have been.
"The newest is a young woman named Kate Freelander. She's of Indian descent and came to the Sanctuary with...less than altruistic goals," she said carefully. "She's determined to prove herself, however, and she's very skilled in a variety of areas. A Jill-of-All-Trades, you could say."
"The next is Henry Foss. He's what's known as a HAP, a hyper-accelerated protean."
His brow furrowed. "A werewolf?"
Her surprise was obvious. "Yes. Henry has been with me since he was a child. I found him alone one night, wandering the moors, and brought him back to the Sanctuary with me. He has no memory of his biological parents." She hummed. "I suppose he sees me as somewhat of a maternal figure. It's not something we really discuss."
She cleared her throat. "At any rate, Henry is our resident technical genius. His skill with computers is almost unparalleled, and he's responsible for all of our security and the majority of our weaponry." She smiled. "Henry is very unique. As bright as he is and as much as he's seen, he's very grounded, yet maintains a sense of innocence and whimsy that I've found most others have abandoned."
"He sounds like fun," Kurt said.
"He is," Helen agreed. "I should warn you, however, that he's very excited to meet you. He was raised in the Sanctuary alongside Ashley. I think that, besides myself, he misses her the most. He regarded her as a sister. Most likely, he will come to view you as a little brother." She watched closely as he digested that information.
Indeed, Kurt was thinking heavily on her words. He had always wanted a sibling, but the closest he had come was with Finn, a tenuous connection at best. Still, the man sounded interesting and, as he was hesitant to discuss Ashley with Helen, Henry might be the best choice to pump for information. He decided he might like having a big brother.
"I think that would be nice," he said shyly.
Helen was elated. It was important to her that Kurt establish relationships with those closest to her, and she knew Henry would look out for Kurt without suffocating him. In fact, she was betting that Henry would become Kurt's champion in a way, sticking up for him and giving voice to thoughts Kurt might normally have left unsaid.
"The last is Dr. Will Zimmerman. He's been with us about two years now, and is a forensic psychiatrist. His mother was killed by an Abnormal when Will was quite young, as he's struggled ever since to find his place in this world. I'd like to think I've helped him with that."
Kurt eyed her. "You saved him, didn't you?"
She blushed lightly.
He chuckled. "My boyfriend is also named Will."
Helen gave an exaggerated blink and slowly turned to face him. "I wasn't aware you were seeing anyone." At his resulting blush, her maternal instincts kicked in and screamed at her to eviscerate this boyfriend. "I'd like to hear about him."
Kurt snorted. "Most people would. When I tell them I'm involved with someone, they usually don't believe me, convinced it's a ploy to safeguard myself from actually having to step out into the world and meet people."
That set off alarms in her head. "Does he not wish for you to claim him as your significant other?" she asked evenly.
He hesitated a fraction too long and she barely refrained from exploding.
"It's not like that," he said softly. "He'd like nothing more than to tell everyone that we're together. I'm the one who refuses."
She frowned. "Why?" She paused to think about it. "Was your father aware you have a boyfriend?"
He shook his head. "He wouldn't have approved."
Helen was now teeming with protective urges to get her son the hell away from this other boy. "And why is that?" she asked, forcing a smile. "Is he older? A senior?"
Kurt's eyes widened.
She exhaled slowly. "Older?"
"He's a teacher at McKinley," Kurt admitted, blurting it out in a rush of words.
Her eyebrows all but shot off her head.
"Please listen," he begged. He closed his eyes and sighed. "Just once, I'd like someone to listen to me, to trust my judgment and that I know what I want. That I know what I'm doing."
She released another controlled breath. "I'm listening."
His eyes shined with such gratitude that she wanted to shoot everyone who had ever made him feel that he had to hide parts of himself in order to placate others.
"Will is the director of my glee club, which is an extracurricular activity and not a class, as well as the school's Spanish teacher. When I began McKinley, I was already fluent, so he's never technically been my teacher."
Well, that was something, she supposed. She nodded for him to continue.
"We've never had sex!" he loudly announced.
Her eyes widened.
"I've wanted to." He closed his eyes. "You have no idea how badly I've wanted to, but he's always refused." He cracked open an eye and looked at her anxiously. "Too much information?"
"No," she said carefully.
Bloody hell, no! It wasn't nearly enough information!
"He wants us to wait until I've graduated," he continued, "so that if any there's any negative recourse when we go public, it won't be directed at me." He looked at her earnestly. "Will is very preoccupied with protecting me at all costs, even from himself. He's very honorable. I'm above the age of consent, but he's more concerned with me being emotionally ready."
She rolled that information around in her mind. She nodded.
He heaved a sigh of relief, grateful that she was at least willing to hear him out. "I love him very much, Helen, and he loves me. Please don't ask me if I'm sure about this, or if I've given it enough thought. The answer should be obvious. I never would've entered this relationship had I not given it, and all of the ramifications, due consideration."
"I agree," she said slowly. "I don't believe you would act recklessly."
"And Will wouldn't, either," he rushed to add. He arched a brow. "We've been together six months, Helen, and we're not having sex. Do you really think he'd still be with me if he didn't care about me?"
She sighed, shielding her eyes with a hand. "You're making it incredibly difficult for me to shoot him."
His eyes widened, his alarm obvious. "I would hope so!"
"Oh, Kurt, I wouldn't really shoot him, but I've yet to hear enough not to convince me to put him on my operating room table."
He rolled his eyes. "He would resign if I asked. In fact, he's been dropping hints about it for several weeks now." He turned pensive. "I don't think he's happy at McKinley, and I know he hates what happens to me there."
He eyed at her. "I know what you're thinking, and I've asked him not to interfere because there's really nothing he can do. The faculty has about as much pull as the students as far as the administration is concerned. Besides, the moment he stood up for me, the rumors would fly. Really, the entire school is like one big powder keg, ready to blow at any moment."
"Then I'm glad you're leaving," she said, shaking her head. Honestly, what on earth had happened to schools? How could such blatant harassment be tolerated? It only proliferated further abuses. She blinked, remembering the principal was of Indian descent and named Figgins. She turned thoughtful. Perhaps she could have him deported. "Have you told Will your decision?"
Kurt shook his head. "I want to do that in person. I told you about him so that you weren't taken by surprise when he comes over."
"Isn't that dangerous, having him at the house?"
He grinned. "The pretext is that he's delivering me my assignments which I'll never complete."
She rolled her eyes.
He then launched into vaguely hysterical babble, explaining the events of last year, particularly about Terri Schuester and how she had deceived Will about the phantom baby. It was a calculated move, designed solely to manipulate Helen into feeling sorry for Will. She recognized the tactic for what it was, but that didn't stop her from pitying the man.
Kurt then dovetailed the information with his inappropriate and humiliating crush on Finn, as well as the fallout. Helen was left with no choice but to view them as two broken people who had found solace in each other, eventually leading to something more. Something neither foresaw, but obviously didn't regret.
"So," Kurt nervously said, "what do you think?"
She exhaled. "That's a loaded question, as I'm thinking many things. I can't in good conscience condone your relationship, but neither can I dismiss it outright." She shrugged. "I'm in a difficult position. I want to castrate him, but I'm almost two hundred years old, Kurt. I, more than anyone, understand that age is relative. Who am I to decide your relationship isn't real, that you don't love each other?" She shook her head. "I won't interfere, but I will put the fear of God in him before all is said and done."
"I guess that's fair," he chirped.
She soured. "You just want to cluck over him once I'm done."
His eyes sparkled. "That, too."
Will nervously held up his finger to ring the bell to Kurt's door, but hesitated, feeling very much like he was showing up to meet his date's parents.
He blinked. Well, he supposed that he was.
It was still odd to consider that Kurt had a mother. Another mother, he corrected himself, although Kurt had been very clear that Helen Magnus, while biologically his mother, was more a distant relative than anything else. Nevertheless, Will suspected Kurt would latch on to her rather ferociously as he waded through his grief over his father.
He wanted to make a good impression, but knew it was probably futile. When Kurt had informed him that he had told his mother about their relationship, Will had wanted to flee the state, terrified the woman would meet him with a shotgun, several rabid dogs, and a vat of acid.
Kurt had calmed him down, as he always did, and Will had agreed to come to the house. He believed the real reason for the meeting was for Kurt to explain that he had decided to leave Lima, with which Will wholeheartedly agreed. He wanted Kurt out of this town, free from being stifled and beaten down into submission. Kurt had rallied and refused to give in, but Will knew the longer Kurt remained, the more likely it was that Lima would ruin him.
Not that he wanted Kurt to leave, of course. Even the idea of being separated from him filled Will with sadness and anger, but he wanted what was best for Kurt, and that sure as heck wasn't Lima.
So he had decided that if Kurt made any argument to stay, Will would discourage that with every fiber of his being. He feared that Kurt felt leaving would mean the end of them as a couple, but there was no way in hell Will would allow that to happen. He had waited too long to find Kurt. He wouldn't give him up now. They could and would survive the separation.
Once Kurt was settled and had formed a bond with Magnus, Will had every intention of resigning from McKinley and moving to be with the man he loved.
He nodded to himself. Kurt was a man. He wasn't a little boy who, like Puck, was hot for teacher. Kurt loved him. Will knew this because Kurt had told him so, and Kurt never said anything he didn't mean.
He smiled at the memory of the first time Kurt had said those words. He had uttered them freely and without prompting, without fear or confusion. It had meant more to Will than anything ever had.
He had stayed in a bad marriage because he hadn't wanted to be alone. He'd had a flirtation with Emma because he had known she wasn't ready for a relationship. After the truth about Terri's pregnancy had been revealed, and that she had been ready to pass off Puck and Quinn's child as his own, he was done. He had ended things with Emma as well, unwilling to commit to yet another relationship he knew would be doomed to failure.
In the middle of all that, he and Kurt had gone from grudging colleagues to...something more.
He still wasn't sure when it had happened, or even why it had happened. All he knew was that he had woken up one morning so desperate for Kurt Hummel that he didn't think he could survive the day without kissing him. He'd never felt that before in his entire life, and when Kurt had kissed him back - enthusiastically and breathlessly - Will knew he never wanted to live without it.
They had been very careful, very respectful of each other, despite the fact that both of them knew Kurt was ready, almost needy, for more. Will certainly wanted more, but he never wanted Kurt to feel pressured, that sex was expected and should be given for the sake of it.
Truthfully, he was more than a little paranoid about their first time. He wanted to be good for Kurt, to make all his fantasies come true, but he wasn't any more experienced at sex with men than Kurt. He'd read up on the subject, of course, and had indulged in some...visual aids...but he remained anxious, and his anxiety only increased whenever Kurt was pressed up against him and...
The door flew open just as Will was lost in a dream involving a sauna and a very naked Kurt.
"I was wondering when you were going to ring the bell!" Kurt exclaimed. He peered closely at the other man. "Are you all right, Will?"
Will blinked and then smiled. "I'm just fine, honey." His smile became a beam as he watched a flush of pleasure creep up Kurt's neck and across his cheeks, as it always did whenever he used a term of endearment. His happiness died away. "How are you, really?"
Kurt ducked his head and gave a mild shrug. "It hurts," he said softly.
"I should have been here," Will seethed, furious with himself.
"You're here now," Kurt said. "Would you come in and give me a hug? Because I really need one."
Will raced across the threshold, shutting the door behind him, and wrapped his arms tightly around Kurt, who sank against him bonelessly and released a choked sob.
"Thank you for coming," Kurt whispered.
"There's nowhere else I'd rather be."
They stood there for a few moments, hanging on to each other like lifelines, as Will desperately tried to memorize everything about this moment: how Kurt felt against him, what his hair smelled like, the sensation of Kurt's soft cheek pressed against his.
"I'm so sorry," Will murmured.
"Me too," Kurt said miserably. He slipped a hand into Will's and led them over to the couch.
"Is there anything I can do?" Will asked, pulling Kurt toward him.
"Just hold me?"
Helen stood unobserved, watching their interaction.
She could never say she was pleased with Kurt and this man as a couple, but neither could she deny they obviously cared a great deal for each other. Perhaps they were even in love. She had always been a good judge of character, a skill which she had further honed for over a century, and she could tell this Will Schuester meant a lot to her son, and her son meant the world to him.
She repressed a sigh and quietly left their presence, determined not to be a voyeur.
"I wanted to tell you what I decided," Kurt said quietly, nestled in Will's arms.
Will leaned over and deposited a soft kiss on Kurt's temple. "I think I already know the answer."
Kurt was silent for several long moments. "Are you mad?" he finally asked.
"Of course not. I want what's best for you, Kurt, and while I don't yet know Dr. Magnus, I know the best for you doesn't exist in this town."
"You're here," Kurt whispered, laying his head against Will's chest. "You're what's best for me."
Will chuckled. "Well, I'm glad to hear that." He paused. "But I can't be everything for you, Kurt. I'd like to be, but I know that would be a selfish choice."
"I think we're owed some selfishness," Kurt protested.
Will nodded. "Perhaps, but it would be wrong for me to keep you here for the sake of our relationship." He cupped Kurt's chin in his hand and forced the boy to look at him. "A relationship which is absolutely not in danger," he said definitively. "We're not going to end simply because you move."
"You don't know that," Kurt said, closing his eyes.
Will scoffed. "Of course I do. Why would you think any differently?"
Kurt sighed, restless hands fidgeting in his lap. "You could meet someone else, someone more...appropriate. Someone who could give you the things I can't."
"Like children?" Will gently asked.
Kurt nodded tightly, his eyes remaining closed. "I know how badly you want them."
"That's true," Will conceded, "but do you know what's more important to me than having children?" His fingers carded through Kurt's hair. "Having them with the right person. Looking back on everything that happened last year, I know now the right person wasn't Terri. It never would have been. She faked a pregnancy to save a marriage that was already dead. I wanted the baby, Kurt, but I no longer wanted her."
Kurt's eyes fluttered open. "What are you saying?"
Will raised a brow. "Why don't you tell me?"
Kurt's mouth moved soundlessly. "You think...I'm the right person?" he asked hesitantly.
"When you're ready, yes," Will answered simply. "There's a lot against us right now, Kurt, but that won't always be the case. Once you're free of Lima, I don't imagine I'll stay here for very long. I'd like to see the Glee Club through their senior year, and then I'll leave. This isn't my home anymore, Kurt. You are."
Kurt's face scrunched up and tears slipped from his eyes, which Will wiped away. "But how do you know?" he warbled. "I won't be here. Emma...Terri..."
"They don't matter, honey. You do. That's not going to stop. I don't want it to stop."
"Do you trust me, Kurt?"
"Of course I do."
"Then what is this really about?" Will asked.
"Why would you want me?" Kurt blurted. When he registered his own words, his eyes flew wide open, humiliated by his unintentional admission.
"Are you serious?" Will demanded.
Kurt said nothing, flushing and turning his head.
"No, no," Will said, again forcing Kurt to look at him. "We're going to discuss this."
Kurt groaned and hid his face in his hands.
"What makes you think you won't find someone else?" Will asked. "Someone more appropriate for you? Someone your age, with whom you can share the experiences you'll have? College, professional school? I'm almost twice as old as you, Kurt. You're just beginning your life. You may soon find I don't fit into it."
"You really think I'd leave you?" Kurt barked.
"The idea terrifies me every single day."
Kurt balked, never before having considered that Will might have been just as insecure in their relationship as he himself was. Not that he doubted their love for each other, but that they shared their fear of the circumstances surrounding them was surprising.
"But I love you, Will. I can't imagine my life without you in it." He shook his head. "I don't want to date around. I don't want to hang out in bars, cruising the singles scene and hoping to make a connection I've already found. You're my connection. You're the only one with whom I want to share my life. You're it for me."
"As you are for me," Will said, voice grave, "and I mean that, Kurt. I don't want anyone but you. I know it sounds ridiculous, and many people will probably tell us that it is, but I know my heart, and it belongs to you for as long as you want it. Geography won't change that." He took Kurt's face in his hands. "I love you."
Kurt bit his lip, his tears renewing themselves. "Everyone leaves me."
Will closed his eyes and sighed. "No one has ever left you by choice, baby, and you need to remember that. I'm no exception." Before he even knew what he was doing, he put a hand in his pocket and slowly withdrew a velvet box, palming it. He gently released Kurt and slid from the sofa onto one knee.
"What are you doing!" Kurt exclaimed, voice thick with tears.
"What I've wanted to do since our first kiss," Will said, presenting the box and opening it.
Kurt stared, mesmerized by the burnished gold band, set with a large green gemstone with red flecks in a cabochon cut. "A bloodstone," he murmured.
"It's the gem of courage," Will said. "It's said to increase personal strength, enhance self-esteem and self-appreciation, and calm anxiousness." He smiled wryly. "I think we both need that."
"It's not an engagement ring," Will interrupted, "not yet, but it is a promise ring. It's my promise to you that I will love you for as long as you'll let me." He stared into Kurt's eyes. "For so long, I did what was expected of me. I went to college, married my high school girlfriend, and came back to Lima to begin life as an adult. I denied parts of myself completely, convinced that I had to settle for things I didn't want because I would fail if I tried for something better.
"You're my better. You've made me better. You're everything I've ever wanted, everything I was afraid I'd never find. You're beautiful. You're so brilliant that it's scary. You're talented. You're more yourself than anyone I've ever known."
He shook his head. "You've changed me in ways I never dreamed possible. You've made me more brave, more kind, and more honest." He paused. "I think the reason I could never make it work with Terri or Emma was because I didn't like who I was when I was with them. But I like who I am when I'm with you. I know I don't deserve you, that I haven't earned you, and that most everyone we know will fight us on this."
"But they don't matter. I can't guarantee us a happily ever after, but I know that I could never be happy without you. I can't imagine anything in my life that would ever be more important than trying to make you happy. If I know anything for certain, Kurt, it's that I was meant to learn from you. I was born to love you."
Kurt's hand flew to cover his mouth as he choked back a sob. He blinked several times and finally scowled. "I'm going to start blubbering and my skin will turn blotchy. I blame you for this."
"But will you accept the ring?" Will nervously asked.
"You sweet, stupid man," Kurt mumbled, shaking his head and extending his hand, which was then tightly grasped by one of Will's own.
Will quickly withdrew the ring and slipped it onto Kurt's left ring finger before either one of them could change their minds.
Kurt marveled at the weight of it, of how right it felt, and couldn't stop staring at it. He felt...chosen, possessed in a way he had never dared hope he would experience. "I don't have anything to give you," he lamented.
Will bit his lip as, finally, his tears began. "You've given me your heart, Kurt. How could a ring ever compare to that?" Again, he took Kurt's face in his hands. "This ring is my promise to you that I will do everything in my power never to give you cause to regret it."
Will followed Kurt into the kitchen, their hands tightly joined, completely unready but willing to meet Helen Magnus, who was waiting for them, arms crossed over her chest, hip cocked, and a blank expression on her face.
He took a moment to appreciate how beautiful this woman was. It obviously ran in the family.
Hair, worn long and only a few hues darker than Kurt's own, tumbled down past her shoulders in waves. She was fairly tall, but she almost towered over them both, as her black leather boots had a five-inch heel. It was then he noticed the woman was actually entirely dressed in leather, from head-to-toe. She wore it well, though, for some reason, he was reminded of armor.
He was suddenly struck with the realization that he feared this woman.
Everything, from the wardrobe to the offensive stance, screamed that she was in control of her life and most likely those of the people who surrounded her.
Kurt had filled him in on who Helen Magnus was, of what she did, of her true age, but he hadn't truly recognized the gravity of the information imparted to him. He thought now of everything this woman must have seen, everything she might have done, and how she could probably squash him like a bug if he so much as made her son pout.
And that, more than anything, was what had earned her his eternal respect, because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would go to the wall to protect Kurt, and that was the only thing that mattered. If he got in her way and she had to put him down, he was fairly certain he would have deserved it.
He felt the tension in his shoulders slip away, once the more primitive portion of his brain deemed her an alpha. He didn't have to fight this woman. He didn't have to challenge her or prove himself worthy. He simply had to treat her child with the respect he was owed.
Helen stared at Will with undisguised and unflinching scrutiny, recognizing his silent submission and assigning him bonus points for it. He felt threatened without her having to lift a finger, and she liked that. Nonetheless, she shifted her hip and afforded him full view of the gun strapped to it.
She then let him contemplate it as she performed a more thorough inventory.
William Schuester was handsome in an old Hollywood way. His face was very strong, particularly the chin, but his features went well together. She thought it interesting that she couldn't readily place his age. Had Kurt not told her, she would have guessed him to be as young as twenty-five or as old as forty. There was a hardness about him that made her wonder as to his life experiences, but his eyes were gentle.
He wanted her approval, not for his sake, but for Kurt's, and that mattered to her.
He wasn't as tall as she had expected; he had maybe two inches on Kurt. Despite his absolutely horrendous wardrobe, which she desperately hoped Kurt would soon remedy, his physique was strong, powerful. He could defend himself, she was sure, but would most likely be reluctant to do so. This man was a lover, not a fighter, though she suspected he would defend Kurt if the situation demanded. Kurt, on the other hand, though very slender - bordering on reedy - could, with the right training, easily take apart a man of much greater size.
The hair she refused to consider.
Her eyes flitted down to the ring on Kurt's hand, recognizing it for what it was. Will missed the look; Kurt did not, but declined to comment on it. Therefore, she said nothing. Outwardly calm, her mind raced with curiosity, for she truly had not seen this coming. She was distressed to find herself puzzling over possible ulterior motives, for what grown man gave such a ring to a boy almost half his age?
She forced her thoughts to slow and think about why he would have done this. He had no reason to offer such commitment; that is, unless he truly loved Kurt. She doubted it was a manipulation to compel Kurt to stay in Lima, because the fact of the matter was that she didn't believe anything could accomplish that. Also, if Kurt remained in Lima, he wouldn't have been able to wear the ring in public. It was obvious, by the fact that he had not attempted to hide it from her, that he had no intention of hiding it from anyone.
This man loved her son.
She had expected it, but not yet accepted it. Now she had no choice.
She could rail against them, but it would be an exercise in futility. In only a handful of months, Kurt would be of age and could do whatever he wanted; she had no say in his life once that point arrived. He had the financial resources to live independently anywhere in the world. He might have needed her now in order to navigate the murky waters of his current legal status, but that time would soon pass.
Besides, she longed for him to want her, not just need her.
Were she to interfere in his relationship now, he would merely bide his time while growing increasingly resentful of her, and she would lose him. She certainly didn't want that to happen.
She repressed a sigh. For now she would support them. And then complain to anyone who would listen.
Will was performing his own examination, looking for recognition points Helen shared with Kurt. Besides the height and the hair, which appeared to be of a texture similar to Kurt's own, there was the patrician forehead and the shape of the widely-spaced eyes. Helen's eyes were more of a blue-gray, similar to those of Kurt, but his also had flecks of green and gold, which made them mercurial and subject to change, dependent on his mood. Her nose was more petite and defined, though her chin was equally as strong. Her mouth was shaped like a Cupid's bow, but her lower lip was full, like that of her son.
Were he to pass her on the street, he never would have considered she could be Kurt's mother. In the here and now, however, it was obvious.
Helen forced herself to smile, and Will was struck by how brilliant it was. He then noted the dimples, much like Kurt's own.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, William," she said evenly.
The English accent was exquisite, and Will thought that this was how Kurt should speak. His word choices, always so elegant and specific - the very embodiment of the Queen's English - were made for such dulcet tones, and the musical lilt to his voice would lend itself well. He had the feeling that within three months time, Kurt would sound exactly like his mother.
Will held out his hand with more bravery than he felt. He was unsurprised by the strength of her grip, one which promised death.
When they released each other's hands, her smile turned hard and her eyes cold.
"Shall we get the threats and intimidation out of the way?" she tinkled.
"I would appreciate that, Dr. Magnus," he said neutrally.
She nodded. "You know what I am. You know what I do. I am almost two hundred years old, and have seen and done more than you could ever hope to understand. I have contacts in every government in the world, and have clearances higher than the current president of your country. I speak over thirty languages and am proficient in more than a dozen forms of martial arts. I am a master of every weapon you can name and of more than you could even dream exist. I have more money than some continents possess."
She took a step forward and stared into his eyes. "Should you ever hurt my son, it won't be a question of me killing you, but of how long and in what state I'll allow you to linger until finally putting you out of your misery. Are we clear?"
Chapter 3: We Belong
Early the next morning Helen hung up the phone, pleased with how things were progressing. She stood and left the dining room, heading for the living room, where Kurt was busily packing up family photographs. She lingered on the threshold, just gazing at him for a very long time.
"I've hired people for that, you know," she said softly.
"I do," he said, voice light and hazy, "but I prefer to do some of this myself. Photographs and memories are all I really have left of them." He gently placed a framed picture into a box. "I'm so scared I'll forget what they looked like, what they sounded like. I used to be able to conjure up images of Mom with no problem, but with each year, it gets more difficult. The pictures seem to fade in my mind and the voice I remember is now distorted, like a warped record."
She sighed, leaning against the wall. "I wish I could say it doesn't happen, but I have no desire to lie to you. It's the curse of living, Kurt. Life goes on and that's the end of it, no matter how unfair it is to those left behind. If your will is strong enough, you won't forget."
He stared out the picture window, resenting how normal the world appeared, as if his own hadn't been shattered. "Will you forget Ashley?"
"Never," she said, "and that's why it hurts, why it will always hurt. Every day I wake and remember my daughter is dead, that she is never coming back. Then I force myself to remember everything I loved about her, every fight we had, every single eyelash, and I grieve anew. Each day, however, the pain recedes, though only minutely. Forgetting is not an option."
He nodded absently.
She was content to wait him out, until she realized he was no longer registering her presence, lost in his own world of memories. "When are you going to tell your friends?"
He sighed. "I don't know. I can't decide whether I should do it at school, so that I can also clean out my lockers, or invite them here. I'm fairly certain one or more of them will make a scene, so perhaps it's best to have it made away from prying eyes."
She frowned. "What do you mean, make a scene?"
Kurt ran his fingers through his hair, blinked harshly as he realized what he was doing, and then desperately smoothed it back into place. "Finn has already made his opinion very clear. As far as he's concerned, I belong here because he thinks I do." He shrugged. "I'm not sure how Mercedes will react, but I doubt it will be good."
"I'm sure they'll miss you very much," Helen said.
He scoffed. "Mercedes might, but I sincerely doubt Finn will. He clings to me only when his world is falling to pieces around him, but wants nothing to do with me when things are going well."
She frowned. "And Mercedes?"
He sighed and shook his head. "I just don't know," he murmured. "Sometimes it's as though we're one person, and at others I can't get far enough away from her." Color rose in his cheeks. "I know she doesn't have a crush on me anymore, but sometimes she acts as though she ... owns me, for lack of better words."
Helen refrained from mentioning her own opinions of the boy and girl, not wishing to influence Kurt against his friends, but she really had no use for either of them. Both resented her presence and had been deeply offended she not only existed, but that Kurt had never told them about her, as though he should flay himself open for their notice and approval. She thought it best to shift topics.
"Have you spoken to William this morning?"
Kurt's blush deepened and he mumbled affirmatively.
Helen forced herself not to smile. She still was very unsure about this relationship and could only imagine what Burt would have said on the subject, but it couldn't be denied Kurt was deeply in love with this man. Regardless, she had successfully distracted her son from his dark thoughts, and that was really all that mattered.
"Would you go with me?"
She startled out of her thoughts. "I'm sorry?"
"To school," he said, gazing at the floor and his hands trembling at his sides. "I've decided I'd prefer to tell them all at once, and I don't want to do it in my home. I also want to limit the possibility they'll burst into song. I'd like it if you were with me."
"Of course," she replied, struggling with her own emotions. "Let me just get my gun."
Kurt sat in silence in the car, still shocked that Helen hadn't been kidding about the gun.
"I never leave home without it," she chirruped.
"I thought that was American Express."
"Every place takes bullets."
His eyes widened. "Is that the infamous British wit?"
"No," she said, "it's the infamous British honesty."
"I thought the British were preoccupied with manners."
"I'm a fair person, Kurt. I allow for running starts."
He shook his head in disbelief. "In that case, I ask that you not shoot anyone just because they've treated me poorly."
"Acceptable, but I reserve the right to perform experiments on them."
First period was already in progress when they arrived at McKinley, greeted by the one and only Sue Sylvester.
Kurt supposed he should have been surprised that Helen and Sue knew each other but, somehow, he wasn't. When Helen explained that it was Sue who had contacted her after Burt's death, Kurt had thanked the woman, though the gratitude had rolled off her back like deodorant off Karofsky.
"I don't want your thanks, Alabaster," she barked, "I want another winning year." She cocked her head and stared at him. "I don't think I'm going to get one."
He shrugged. "You will if you put Santana in charge."
Sue grunted. "You're not advocating for the Unholy Mother?"
"I love Quinn dearly, but she would use the opportunity to reestablish herself at the top of the pyramid. Popularity is all that matters to her within this school. Wins make her more popular, but she's content to use the reputation of the Cheerios to advance her own self-interest. Santana wants to win to prove she's as good as she claims, which she is."
He raised a brow. "Quinn is ambitious, but Santana is ruthless."
Sue pondered the distinction for a long moment and at last nodded. "I'll take that under advisement."
"Helen," Kurt said smoothly, "would you excuse us for a moment, please?"
Sue's eyes narrowed.
"Of course," Helen replied. "I have to speak with your principal anyway. I'll find you when I'm done."
Kurt nodded and said nothing until he and Sue were alone. He stared up at her. "The popular saying goes that, if you're lucky, you will be gifted with one teacher who will ignore their overburdened and underpaid career miasma and actually influence your life for the better."
Sue stood completely still, staring at him.
"I don't know if you're aware of this - and if you are, you probably don't care - but I can't leave without telling you." He ran his tongue across his teeth. "You're that teacher for me. Thank you."
Then he walked away, leaving her standing there to deny to herself that she would miss him more than either of them would ever know.
He had cleaned out his Cheerio locker first, taking some moments to say goodbye to those few teammates he liked but with whom he was not in Glee. Predictably, they shed a few tears, made him promise to keep them apprised of everything via Facebook, and wished him nothing but the best.
He felt their sincerity and appreciated it.
Now he was going through the arduous task of cleaning out his primary locker, reaching the conclusion that more than half its contents were unnecessary detritus. He had never before considered himself to be a pack-rat, but was now left with that unwelcome realization. He shook his head and deposited another pile of paper into the trashcan he had pulled up beside him.
Kurt turned around and raised a brow at the interruption, annoyed but unsurprised to find Karofsky standing there. "Oh. It's you."
Karofsky flinched and Kurt wondered why his words bothered the other boy.
"Well?" Kurt prompted. "If you're going to toss me in the dumpster, you have about," he looked down at his watch, "three minutes."
Karofsky looked pained. "I just wanted to say sorry. About your dad, I mean. So ... sorry."
Kurt was incredulous. "After a decade of physically assaulting me every single day just because you could, of harassing me and my father on the telephone, of telling me what a disgrace I am and how I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity, of assuring me that my parents most likely secretly despise me and are ashamed of their unnatural son, that's all you have to say?"
He shook his head. "You know what? Whatever. I don't have time for you. Starting tomorrow, you'll have to find yourself a new target. I won't be returning."
Karofsky's eyes widened. "W-What?"
"I'm leaving town," Kurt said simply, shrugging, "and believe me when I say the silver lining is I'll never again have to lay eyes on you."
"You can't move!" Karofsky protested.
Kurt raised both eyebrows. "I think you'll find that I can. So if I were you, and I give thanks every day that I'm not, I'd run along to my next class."
Karofsky sneered in a bid to hide his desolation and desperation. "Or what?" he barked.
"Or my mother, currently standing directly behind you, will pull out her gun and shoot you."
Karfosky scoffed. "Right, your moth ..."
And then he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun chambering a round. Slowly, he turned around.
"Hello!" Helen said brightly, eyes hard. "Kurt has told me all about you, of course." She cocked her head. "How do you think I should avenge my son to the overgrown porcine bully who made his life miserable for so many years, hm?"
"Might I suggest fleeing for your life?" supplied a helpful Kurt.
Karofsky shot him a sad look before quickly lumbering away.
Kurt stared after him. "That was the oddest encounter I've ever had with him," he said, "and that's discounting the gunplay."
They smirked at each other and strolled down the hallway.
Helen watched in fascination as Kurt prepared himself to enter the choir room. She could all but see him gird his loins. His posture was textbook for the butler of an aristocratic family. His eyes narrowed fractionally and his head tilted just a bit. His nostrils flared as he struggled to breathe in an even fashion. His hands curled into fists at his sides.
Dear god. He was going to meet his friends, yes? Was he truly this on guard when surrounded by those who arguably knew him best? If so, why?
He then thrust his chin forward and stalked toward the door. He threw it open and sauntered inside, his eyes taking in where everyone was sitting. Helen saw his shoulders sag the slightest bit when he spied Will. That, if nothing else, convinced her that Will was perhaps the only person in the room who knew just who the hell Kurt Hummel was.
"Kurt!" Finn exclaimed, jumping up from his seat.
That exhortation set off a tidal wave of concerned blubbering, which Kurt sincerely appreciated, though he was deeply annoyed by so many people asking yet again how he was doing. The answer hadn't changed, and wouldn't, for a very long time.
"You're leaving, aren't you?" Brittany quietly asked.
The moment the first word left her mouth, everyone else fell silent.
"No, he's not," Finn insisted.
"Of course not," Mercedes agreed, more in a bid to convince herself than anyone else.
"I am," Kurt said.
Several began murmuring to themselves, while most settled for staring at Kurt.
Helen noticed the judgmental eyes on her son and was outraged, but held her tongue. She was not in charge of this situation and knew Kurt would only resent her should she interfere.
Brittany nodded, pulling anxiously on her ponytail. "When are you going?"
"Tomorrow, immediately following the service."
"So soon," Artie mumbled, hanging his head.
"I can't be in that house anymore, Artie," Kurt said quietly. "It was hard enough after Mom, but now ..."
Artie nodded. He remembered when Suzanne died, how Kurt and his father had taken to haunting the house as though they themselves were ghosts.
"Where will you be moving?" Tina whispered.
Kurt looked to Helen, who nodded. "My compound is located in Old City, British Columbia, about thirty miles north of Vancouver."
"Compound?" Puck repeated.
"You're moving to Britain?" asked a confused Finn.
"British Columbia is a Canadian province on the west coast of North America, Mr. Hudson," Helen said crisply.
"You can't do this," he said flatly, looking to Kurt.
"I can and will," Kurt said, his tone brooking no argument. "I have to do what's best for me, Finn."
"Don't you always?" Finn savagely spat.
"Excuse me?" Santana hissed.
"Screw you, Hudson," Puck seethed. "When the fuck has Hummel ever put himself first? It sure wasn't when the two of us were making his life a living hell. You think his old man would've been as sweet on you if he'd known even half the shit you helped pull on his son? Sit the hell down."
Finn glared at him, but sat.
Kurt took the opportunity to throw his keys at Finn. "The Navigator is yours. There's no car note and I had the title transferred to your name. The insurance is paid through your eighteenth birthday; after that, it's your responsibility. If you can't afford it, sell the truck." He raised an eyebrow and his gaze pinned a disbelieving Finn to his seat. "After all, you are my brother."
Finn flushed horribly and, though his mouth opened and closed several times, he said nothing. He knew he didn't deserve such a gift, especially after he had said such vile things. He then realized that Kurt was truly leaving. His brother was leaving him.
"I love you," he whispered.
Kurt blinked. "Despite the fact that the first time you've said those words to me was only after I'd gifted you with an expensive automobile, I believe you. I love you, too."
Finn sniffled loudly.
"I'd appreciate it if you told Carole that I had the deed to the house put in her name," Kurt continued. "She's free to do with it what she wishes. I'll be leaving most of the furnishings, and she can do what she wants with them, as well."
Finn shook his head. "You can't do that, Kurt. It's your house."
"Not anymore," Kurt countered. "It's no longer my home, Finn, and I can't bear to remain there. There are simply too many memories." He shrugged mildly. "Besides, my father loved Carole and would want me to take care of her. The house is paid off. If she wants to live there, she can. If she wants to sell it, she can do that, too. Whichever house is sold, she'll be able to pay for your college education and have a considerable amount left over."
Finn continued shaking his head, disbelief plain on his face.
"What about the shop?" Tina softly asked.
"I'll remain an owner, but I've sold a majority share to Rick Collins, who is the new manager. He'll see to the daily operations, though the name will remain the same. Essentially, I'll be a silent partner."
He looked at Puck and Sam. "I know both of you are looking for jobs. Uncle Rick said he'll be more than happy to train you, if you'd like. Certifications will be your own responsibility, including the cost, but he can give you the experience and will provide you with more than enough hours."
Sam blushed and made cow eyes at Kurt while Puck stared.
"Why would you do that for me?" Puck asked, voice cracking.
Kurt was silent for several moments, obviously searching within himself for an answer. "For better or worse," he finally said, "this club has been my family for two years. You're a part of that, Noah, and I take care of my own."
Puck blinked back tears and ducked his head, nodding.
Rachel, Quinn, and Mercedes had been quietly crying from almost the moment Kurt had begun speaking.
"I smell jewelry," Santana announced, looking pointedly at Kurt's finger. "What's the deal, Rainbow?"
At that, several of those present abruptly raised their heads to stare at Kurt's hand.
"I'm engaged," Kurt said simply, smirking lightly when he saw Will, from the corner of his eye, stiffen like a plank of wood.
"What?" Mercedes whispered.
Kurt shrugged again, though the movement was weighted down by frustration and anger. "I tried to tell you," he said, "but you either wouldn't believe me or didn't want to hear me. I wasn't lying when I said I was seeing someone. Next week will be our seventh-month anniversary."
He looked down lovingly at his ring, his heart filled with thoughts of Will and the life they would one day have together.
"He gave me this ring as his promise but, as I'm wont to do, I've changed the terms. He said it was probably too soon to consider it an engagement ring, but I most emphatically disagree. I love him and I'm going to marry him. I hope it's sooner rather than later, but there's no rush."
Helen swallowed heavily and snuck a covert glance at Will, who appeared shell-shocked by Kurt's words, but in no way displeased.
"You're moving way too fast," Mercedes said.
Kurt quirked a brow. "Oh, so now you believe he exists? You've certainly changed your tune. Wasn't it you who accused me of being lonely and delusional, so desperate for companionship that I created a mythical lover to make myself feel that I wasn't quite as undesirable as I believed myself to be?"
"How supportive," Santana drawled, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at the girl, who blushed.
"You have to be fair, Kurt," Rachel said evenly. "You've told us nothing about this boy and refused to answer our questions, even when they're posed out of concern for you. What were we supposed to think?"
Kurt stared at her and nodded slowly. "You have a point, Rachel. Some of you have been kind, though curious, and worried needlessly about him and the possibility he's taking advantage of me. However, you've refused to believe that he's not doing anything of the sort, which leads me to no other conclusion than that you think me incredibly naïve or outright stupid. The rest of you thought I was lying."
Will, who'd been unaware of this, glared at his students, though none were looking in his direction. He'd had no idea Kurt's supposed friends had been giving him so much grief. Not that he could have done anything about it, of course, but he could have at least comforted his ... fiancé.
A goofy grin plastered itself on his face.
Kurt shook his head. "I wasn't. I found someone I love very much, who loves me just as equally. We're committed to each other and he will be moving to join me in Canada as soon as he's able. I'll make sure you're all invited to the wedding."
They just stared at him, some of them gaping incredulously, except for Tina, Artie, and Brittany, who had their questions, but knew better than to voice them. Kurt would tell them when he was ready and they certainly knew not to push him.
"You're far too young, and too smart, for this, Kurt," Quinn said, though not unkindly.
"I appreciate your concern, Quinn, but judging my relationship against the two of yours, when you don't even know my partner, is ridiculous." His tone was warm, but the message was clear: stay out of it.
She nodded reluctantly and let it go. She was worried about him, yes, but she was also well aware she had no room to speak. She told herself she merely wanted to give him the benefit of her experience, but Kurt was not an idiot. He had borne witness to her failings with Finn and Puck, and doubted he would make the same mistakes.
Regardless, she was pleased he hadn't dismissed her out of hand. He was grateful for her good intentions but, as he said, she knew nothing about his relationship and she had to concede that he was far more likely to make the right decisions than almost anyone else. Kurt had a strong sense of self and an eerie, almost preternatural ability to judge the intentions of others. She trusted him.
She suddenly became aware it was herself she did not trust. That realization did not sit well.
Sam felt his heart break a little, but he knew he was being a dork. When he had started McKinley and dropped subtle hints about his crush on Kurt, the other boy had made it clear that, while flattered, he was seeing someone. Despite Finn and Mercedes' assurances to the contrary, he was relieved he hadn't made an ass out of himself and pursued Kurt. He liked Kurt a lot and would probably always feel something for him, but it just wasn't in the cards.
He did, however, kick himself for nursing said crush rather than actively attempting to be Kurt's friend. From what he had just seen, most of Kurt's friends were such in name only, and it would have been nice to have had a real friend. He wasn't really close with anyone in the glee club, although he had started hanging out with Puck some, which was cool. Hopefully he'd have a chance to talk to Kurt later and wish him all the best. He did want Kurt to be happy, after all.
"Go ahead," Kurt told Mercedes. "I know you're dying to."
That was all the prompting she needed.
Mercedes gathered a breath and then unleashed a litany of her complaints and objections, which were unsurprisingly, to Kurt at least, wide in scope, covering everything from why she hadn't been called to his side when his father died; to him not telling her about Helen, at whom she glared; his resistance to the funeral; the mysterious boyfriend; and, finally, his plans to leave her.
Throughout the poisonous diatribe, she was ignorant to those around her as they stared at her in surprise, then confusion, which segued to approbation and, finally, condemnation.
Kurt stood calmly and listened to everything she had to say. When she was done, he raised an eyebrow. "Feel better?"
Oddly, she did, and said as much.
"Jesus fuck," whispered a disgusted Puck, who was shaking his head, incredulous.
A stunned Will couldn't even bring himself to admonish the boy for his language.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" a shocked Rachel said to Mercedes.
"Shut up, white girl," Mercedes spat. "This doesn't concern you."
"Yes, it does!" Rachel shouted right back at her. "It very much concerns me when someone I consider a friend is spoken to in that manner by the person who claims to be his best friend."
"I am his best friend!" the other girl roared.
"With friends like you, who needs enemies?" a sage Brittany asked. She looked at Kurt. "I'm so sorry, Kurty. I had no idea it was this bad."
Artie and Tina, who were absolutely appalled, said nothing as they glared at Mercedes, lest they lose control of themselves.
Santana was in a similar state, rolling her neck and cracking her knuckles, ready to unleash some hellfire. She had no idea how the fuck Kurt managed to rein in his powers when dealing with such buffoonery. Between Finn and Mercedes, he must have been pissed off all the time! She always knew she and Kurt has a lot in common.
Finn couldn't help but stare at Mercedes. Was that how he treated Kurt, too? No wonder his brother was leaving.
Sam was also staring at Mercedes. Wow, had he misjudged her. He'd thought she was cool and had a lot of character. He'd never realized she was batshit crazy.
Kurt gave Mercedes a hard look. "I think it's good I'm leaving tomorrow," he said quietly. "In lieu of that, I believe it best if I refrain from responding with the clever, but doubtlessly hurtful, things I'd like to say to you."
Mercedes flushed and silently admitted to herself she had stepped so far over the line that she could no longer even see it. What the hell was wrong with her? Kurt had just lost his dad, and she was making the entire thing about her. That was Finn's job. She wisely said nothing, unsurprised when Kurt then proceeded to ignore her.
Rachel seized the opportunity to commandeer the conversation. "You have to sing one last time," she ordered him. She held up a hand to stave off the protest she saw coming. "Don't even think about it. You should know by now you're not allowed to make major life decisions without expressing yourself via song."
Kurt's eyes flared with indignation, though he couldn't stop his lips from twitching, which made her beam stupidly at him.
Cut her some slack, Rainbow, Santana projected at him. Right before you got here, she went ape-shit on Hudson, who was trying to convince her they should sing "One Sweet Day" at the funeral tomorrow.
Kurt curled a lip and glared ferociously at Finn, who quailed under the assault, wondering what else he had done wrong, and suppressed a sigh. He supposed he owed Rachel for that. He nodded.
Rachel clapped excitedly.
"Requests?" Kurt asked the room.
"Sing something for your stud!" Santana called out. Loudly.
Kurt was grateful for it, relieved she had beaten everyone to the punch before one of them had asked him to sing a song for his father. He preferred not bursting into tears in front of others. He nodded again, sneaking a glance at Will, who looked like a deer caught in headlights.
"Acceptable," he said, pleased when Will began blushing slightly, though thankfully he was standing in a corner, away from prying eyes.
Helen was the picture of poise, though she was inwardly dancing a jig. She'd been told that Kurt could sing, of course, but she had yet to hear him. Oh, she'd seen the glee club's videos on YouTube - a little unofficial fact-finding - but Kurt had been a supporting member, not a featured lead. She was very interested in seeing just what her son could do.
Kurt was silent for several long moments, obviously running through selections in his mind. He wasn't interested in some generic love song which would reduce his relationship with Will to something vulgar and meaningless. He wanted a song with purpose. It didn't necessarily have to be about himself, Will, or their love, but it had to be about what Will's love meant to him.
So what was Will to him?
He nodded. Yes, that was it.
Will was elemental and he needed him like he did water or ...
He smiled, fished his iPod from his messenger bag, docked it, and cued up the song.
This would be perfect, he would make sure of that. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and slowly reached out to touch his magic. He felt Santana's flare in response. Only she and Will knew what he was - Santana, because she was also a witch; and Will, because Kurt trusted him completely.
His power was greater than Santana's own, which was actually saying rather a lot, considering just how powerful she was. They had avoided each other for years because of it, unsure how to act and react when in the presence of the other. There was also an element of fear. Both of their mothers had warned them not to discuss their powers with another witch until they knew their intentions. The problem was that Kurt and Santana were, by nature, deeply introverted when it came to personal matters, and nothing was more personal than magic.
That was why he had yet to tell Helen. He wasn't sure how she would react, and he would say nothing until he could anticipate her having at least an open mind about it.
This should be interesting, Santana communicated. I've been waiting too damn long for you to unleash the awesome.
He grinned. It was in moments like this that he reveled in her ability to manipulate his own magic and co-opt his telepathy to speak with him. It certainly made getting through boring school days a lot more fun.
He had never done this before, use his magic for a performance, always worried it might violate that pesky no personal gain rule, but he didn't see how said rule would apply in this instance. He wasn't using his magic to obtain a solo or lead a performance. He wasn't being judged, as this wasn't a competition, so there was no risk of potentially ill-gotten gains.
He would use his magic in a burst of reverse spellwork, turning his empathy outward to make the audience experience his emotions while he sang. His magic could do nothing for his voice - that was all on him. Breathing, pitch, vibrato, tonality; these were skills he had honed relentlessly for years, and he was now about to show them to full effect.
For the past half-year, though he had fought for solos, he had also instructed Will never to give them to him, mostly based in fear that, should their relationship be discovered, Will would be accused of nepotism. Will had been extremely reluctant, given that he'd heard Kurt's practices more than he had those of any other student and knew Kurt deserved to be acknowledged, but he'd complied.
Also, Kurt had always resisted the temptation to use his magic this way, afraid he would succumb to the desire to put himself before everyone else. He wanted to be the best because of his talent, not his powers.
But now he was ready. He had finally mastered his control and would marry it with his singing ability, demonstrating just what his vocal training had prepared him to do. He was trained in many genres, but Glee didn't often go outside its own comfort zone. This was the perfect opportunity and he felt his magic rise to the occasion.
He released his breath and turned to face the others, his face the very picture of calm, radiating serenity and love.
Santana gasped softly, ducking her head to avoid notice.
Sam and Finn were transfixed, helpless but to stare at Kurt as he regarded the room. Whoever the mysterious dude was, if he could put that look on Kurt's face, well, he had to be a good guy, right?
Finn also acknowledged, somewhat painfully, that he himself had never put that look on Kurt's face, and any fantasies he might have entertained that Kurt still loved him - that he was Kurt's One - promptly died. It hurt more than he thought it should.
Brittany, Artie, and Tina had soft smiles on their faces, happy that Kurt had found someone who so obviously loved him; he deserved that. Quinn's unexpressed sentiments were similar.
Puck looked extremely uncomfortable, but always did whenever emotional songs were performed. He had done a few in his day, but they were usually more confrontational or bitter. He had never before seen Kurt look so utterly carefree. It was unnerving.
Mercedes wondered if she and Kurt would be on speaking terms before he left town tomorrow.
Rachel looked like the first of her Hanukkah presents for this year was about to be delivered. She would never admit it, but Kurt's ability was the only one who even approached her own, and while they often gave each other grief - sometimes real and sometimes for the sake of it - she always enjoyed his performances. She doubted this one would be any different.
The opening measure was nothing but stringed instruments in a somewhat distinctive pattern, which Will, Rachel, and Helen recognized as the hallmark of an Italianate piece. Helen, a connoisseur of this subgenre, immediately realized what Kurt was about to sing and was surprised, as she didn't believe this to be his usual fare. She wondered how well he could pull it off.
Rachel didn't know the piece per se, but somehow understood it was operatic in nature, or at least a pop-opera hybrid of the type successfully popularized by Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, and other classical crossover artists. She gave a slow blink. She'd never heard Kurt sing anything like that before and doubted he could do it justice. Still, she had to give him credit for his ambition.
As her gaze narrowed on him, however, she began having second thoughts. His entire presentation was different. His posture, while always exquisite, appeared even straighter. His carriage and bearing filled the room, and he suddenly had so much more presence than ever before. He was holding himself differently and his breathing pattern was far more structured.
She had always known Kurt was the only other member of New Directions to have had professional training, but never had she comprehended that instruction included opera. She was stunned but didn't really understand why. Then she realized if Kurt was trained in opera, he must have been holding back significantly during rehearsals and competitions, which made her angry. That anger also confused her momentarily, then she recognized that she was furious because she was embarrassed.
She had been obnoxious in her insistence that her voice was superior to that of everyone else in the club, but if Kurt could sing opera, she knew her belief was a fallacy. She had attempted opera several times, but always failed. She could appreciate the art, but didn't truly like it and had difficulty relating to the material. Also, it had been made clear to her that her voice simply didn't suit the genre and it would be best for her to focus on more standard fare. Rachel Berry was always one to play to her strengths.
Will stared at Kurt and knew on an instinctual level that his world was about to shift on its axis, that this would be the performance of Kurt's life to date ... and it was dedicated to him. And the smile on Kurt's face, that beatific smile reserved only for him, confirmed it.
If this was going to be Kurt's last performance at McKinley, Will was determined to make it count. He stole over to the classroom telephone, removed the receiver and laid it on the table aside the base, before dialing into the intercom system.
Kurt sent him a wink, gathered his breath, and opened his mouth to sing.
And it was magical.
He stood in the center of the room, the small round fluorescent light above shining down atop his head and giving him a burnished halo. He actually glowed and was made all the more beautiful by the smile which never left his face.
His voice soared through keys and octaves, many of which the rest of the company had never heard him use; had not, in fact, even realized he was capable of producing. Just as he hit the most glorious high note - in full voice - he shifted up a key and held it effortlessly in a stunning fermata. When it appeared he had reach the upper limit of his voice, they were shocked when he simply went further. There seemed no boundaries where Kurt was concerned, not anymore.
As he sang, as the notes fell from his lips, the others in the room would have sworn those notes - those golden notes themselves - became visible, tumbling from his mouth in a harmonious waterfall before then floating around all of them, enrapturing them in his song.
It didn't matter that he was singing in Italian, nor did it matter they knew not what he was singing. They felt it. They felt his emotions as he sang them: his joy, his elation, and his exaltation.
They felt his love.
They felt his love for his father, for his mother, for Helen, for themselves, and for this unknown man. Even those who knew him well had never guessed the depths of feeling Kurt Hummel experienced. He had always been aloof, distant, circumspect, and introverted.
That was gone now, and the world was a better place for it.
His ecstasy uplifted them. His belief in love itself humbled them. He awed them.
And as his song spilled forth from his mouth, out of the room and throughout the school, his joy multiplied and was transmitted to everyone in the building, all of whom stopped whatever they were doing to close their eyes and revel in its majesty.
For a moment, a single moment, every person in William McKinley High School felt the love Kurt Hummel held for Will Schuester, and it forever changed them. Years would pass and they would still be trying to recapture this feeling, this pure and utter bliss. In the here and now, however, they could only hope they themselves would someday love like this, and that their love would be returned.
Finn, Rachel, and Mercedes sobbed loudly. Quinn and Brittany sat in silence, though tears streamed down their faces with no signs of abating any time soon. Puck was in a similar state but either was in denial about it or refused to acknowledge it.
Mike stared at Kurt in total fascination, wondering just how it was that he had been so overlooked, because it was absolutely criminal. Finn was good and Rachel was phenomenal, but Kurt was in another league entirely.
Tina and Artie, who had long known of exactly what Kurt was a capable, were quite smug. They thought back on every time Rachel had belittled Kurt's talent, on all of those times Mercedes had dismissed him because of lack of belting ability, on all of the solos Schue should have given him and never had. Kurt was now making it clear that he didn't care, that he had never cared, that the only person to whom he had prove himself was himself.
And he had.
Santana was on overload. Kurt's magic felt like nothing else ever had. It was warm and gentle and kind, but it was so strong, so powerful. It ... it was addictive. He was actually making her high.
But the feeling in his song - his words, the feelings they engendered within her - was stultifying. Was this how he felt all the time? How could he cope with such a dearth of emotion? And who the hell was this mysterious lover who could evoke such a response?
Sam, despite his longing, was happy because Kurt was happy. That's all he'd ever wanted.
Helen had lived for over two hundred years. She had seen the world's finest singers in every major capital on the planet. She had been moved to tears more times than she could count. She had always been envious of an ability she would sadly never possess. She understood more than most that music was truly universal, that it was as essential to humanity as oxygen, that it enjoined in a way nothing else ever could.
None of that, however, had prepared her for this moment.
She stood there, looking at her son, her baby, and never before had she been so spellbound.
This child, this amazing young man, had come from her. All of her adventures, her discoveries, her pioneering methods, her work with the Sanctuary - in the end, they meant little.
Kurt and Ashley were her only real legacies. They, not her enhanced blood, were what made her truly immortal.
Will knew he was the luckiest bastard alive. He planned on spending every day giving thanks that Kurt even bothered to notice him, let alone love him.
Kurt's love washed over him in wave after wave after wave, and Will was forced to close his eyes and lean back against the wall to avoid collapse as tears slipped down his face.
This is what Kurt felt for him? This was how much Kurt loved him?
How could that be possible? How could anyone love so much, let alone love him? But Kurt did. Kurt loved him, unselfishly and without restraint. He vowed then and there never to give Kurt cause to regret it. He would live the rest of his life proving just how much he loved Kurt in return.
Then the final note was sung and the golden glow disappeared, but the feeling was slower to dissipate. It left them giddy and ardent and almost desperate, desperate to seize that feeling and never relinquish it, or at least learn how to replicate it for themselves.
It took everything with Kurt's power not to turn to Will, not to run into his arms, so he settled for a warm smile and he stared down at his ring.
Will's heart was thudding painfully in his chest.
What the fuck was he doing? He was just going to let Kurt leave?
Why? For what?
So he could see the rest of the club through their senior year? Did he truly believe he made that much of a difference in their lives?
It didn't matter that he would eventually join Kurt in Old City. The fact was that Kurt was leaving tomorrow and Will would slowly go out of his mind. He couldn't live without Kurt, not even for a year.
He loved the kids and knew they loved him in a way, and that they loved Glee and the safe space it provided for them. He shouldn't abandon them, he knew, because there was no one to take his place. Figgins would simply disband the club and its funding would be reabsorbed into Sue's budget. He had promised them he would be there. He'd been shit about keeping promises and he knew he'd regret not keeping this one.
But would he regret it more than watching Kurt leave tomorrow?
He knew Kurt wanted him to go with him, but would never ask. That just wasn't who Kurt was. He also knew Kurt would feel guilty he had taken him away from the others. No matter what Will said, Kurt would feel that guilt, and Will wasn't going to do that to him.
What he was going to do, however, was put everyone on notice.
Because it didn't matter anymore. Kurt would be gone tomorrow and he just didn't give a shit what anyone would think or say. They were ultimately irrelevant. They didn't pay his bills. They didn't even respect him, not really. Sorry, Emma. Screw Figgins and Sylvester. Fuck you, Terri. All that mattered was Kurt.
Will had no second thoughts as he stormed across the room and drew an astounded Kurt into a tight embrace. Then he delivered a searing kiss which had both of them curling their toes.
When they finally pulled away, they looked into each other's eyes, the decision made. Will would stay through next year, presuming he wasn't terminated, but they weren't going to hide this any longer. They had nothing of which to be ashamed and anyone who had a problem with them as a couple could suck it.
They ignored the gasps, stares, shrieks, screeches, and bellowing.
"I love you," Will quietly said, though everyone still managed to hear him.
Kurt smiled and cupped Will's face in his hands. "I know."
Will dismissed the club and left with Kurt, Helen hot on their heels. They all ignored the stares as students and teachers alike lined up outside of classrooms to watch them walk past, their eyes lingering on Kurt and Will's joined hands.
They'd deal with the rest tomorrow.
End Note: I decided against translating the song myself, as I haven't exercised my Italian in many years and don't wish to offend native speakers. In lieu of a translation, the song Kurt sings is Canto Della Terra. Katherine Jenkins' arrangement is the one I prefer, and the one I envisioned while writing.