i wish we could open our eyes, to see in all directions at the same time
oh what a beautiful view, if you were never aware of what was around you
and it is true what you said, that I live like a hermit in my own head
but when the sun shines again I’ll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in
The first thing Sam hears every morning is the organ music.
The memory of the organ music that is, which makes it a thousand times harder to block out. As much as he tries to ignore it or smother it, block it out or pretend it doesn’t exist, it’s always there with him, the first thing that reminds him that he’s emerging into waking life.
And how unwelcome the thought, considering Kurt no longer is.
Had Sam known three months ago, that as he walked up the isle towards Kurt’s casket that it would have been the background noise that would haunt him long after Kurt was put in the ground, he thinks he would have thought to wear ear plugs. Or earmuffs. Or headphones, replaying one of the sixty mp3’s Kurt had sent to him in sophomore year of high school, the ones that he’d swore had been deleted, but lived on in boxes of old flash drives and CD’s from the Ohio days.
Sam doesn’t know what he wouldn’t pay to have an eight year old recording of Kurt singing Little Lion Man be the first thing to spring to his mind upon waking up, instead of the ending bars of Sheep May Safely Graze. Then again, he thinks, if he had to chose what to wake up to in the morning, his first choice would be Kurt himself,untouched by the accident and reminding Sam in a sleepy voice that he has an assignment due on Thursday.
Sam’s become so accustomed to this thought pattern in the morning that every separate idea fits like a gear in his morning routine. Blinking open his eyes in his bleak New York flat while the ghosting memories of the pipe organ tails his dreams, rolling over while he ignores the undeniable absence of Kurt’s warmth in his bed. Standing in the shower for a few minutes and pulling a clean shirt over his head while he remembers Kurt’s never-wavering notes in Fireflies, and finally, staring at his bowl of cereal in front of him while imagining having Kurt back, thinking about the softness of his skin and the brightness of his eyes and his very existence that Sam didn’t think he could live without until he had to.
Like the music, he thought at first that the memories would fade and the weight on his chest would lighten and he’d be able to breathe again one day. But staring at the empty seat in front of him and the wind chime Kurt had hung over the stove last year because having the window open was too cold robs him of the opportunity. He lets his spoon fall into the soggy cereal and deposits the dish in the sink, among similarly half picked at, unappetizing brethren. He grabs his coat and makes for the door, looking behind him like he’s been for months, for the past year and longer, and tells the emptiness “I’ll be home at eight. See you then.”
Kurt’s voice doesn’t bounce back from the bathroom with “Okay, see you then! Pick up some bread on your way back?” And Sam tugs his hoodie up over his ears.
Three months. How can it possibly have been only three months? As Sam moves down the cold, gray sidewalk he thinks to himself that it feels like years since he’s last seen Kurt. Not even counting the funeral, or the week before when he had been called into the police station to identify the body.
But he’s sure it’s been longer than three months since he’s last seen that smile. That cheeky grin that only once in a blue moon showed off both rows of teeth, the one he got when he said something that caught Kurt off guard and made him break out into laughter. Sam’s sure it’s been something like three years since he’s seen that smile.
And it has to have been decades since he’s heard Kurt sing. Not the recordings, the one’s Sam’s listened to endlessly since he could bear to hear them, but Kurt’s actual voice, the singing and humming he’d do around the apartment while he was sweeping or styling his hair.
And most of all, he’s sure it’s been a lifetime since the last time he’s felt Kurt’s lips on his, the softness of his breath and the blue-green of his eyes as they met Sam’s, wide and excited, before fluttering shut so he could kiss Sam again, pull him close and whisper we made it into his collarbone.
It can’t have been only three months, but Sam guesses it has to be, considering every day drags on for weeks.
“Hey, are you okay?”
A voice perforates Sam’s memories, and he looks down to see someone staring at him, the slide of tears on his cheeks following the tilt of his head. He blinks once, twice, before he’s pawing at his face with his sweater sleeve and he’s nodding, yeah, fine. The stranger thinks nothing more of it and leaves a wide girth between herself and Sam as they board the city bus. Sam doesn’t notice as he checks his phone for the first time that morning.
A missed call and a voicemail from Rachel, an unopened text from Finn. He wants to ignore them, they both share a few key elements with a part of his life that he doesn’t quite want to address, but he can’t take the risk. What if it’s about Burt, or the call from NYADA they’d put in four months ago about the missing box of sweaters and undershirts? He can’t skimp out on these things.
Finn’s text invites Sam to Ohio later in the year if he wants to spend some time with people, especially people that understand. Rachel’s called once again to see if he’s okay.
He deletes both messages.
Sam can’t think of a time in the future where he’ll have an opening in work that coincides with having enough money for a ticket to Ohio. It’s a nice offer though, he dimly tells himself. As far as Rachel, he knows she knows the answer. She’s known since she came to check in on him and found half of the couch unused, and later a pillow on the floor that hadn’t been moved since its original owner had knocked it off the bed in a fit of sleep-twitching.
She’d called it conventional mourning and had held it together for a good ten minutes before they collapsed on the foot of the bed and cried into each other’s arms. She hasn’t been over since then, but she keeps in touch. They all do, because the world feels colorless and cold without the heartbeat of a specific boy, and none of them know how to face a world without it.
Even Blaine calls in to check up from his place in California, Finn’s told Sam. He and Kurt’s former boyfriend don’t share words often, but a mutual understanding has long since settled between them. What’s the point in bitterness and grudges anymore? Why pretend they hold weight?
But seeing people now isn’t something Sam wants. He’s shed all the tears, had all the conversations. He tells himself to call Rachel later and tell her that he’s doing fine.
It’s all a lot to take in on the morning bus, but Sam lets the thoughts pour through the cracks in his mind like water as the bus pulls up to NYU. By the time Sam settles into class and sits up like he’s going to pay attention, the lump in his throat has dissolved enough to that he can pretend to focus on the lecture in front of him.
Unfortunately, Sam reminds himself sharply, college doesn’t absolve bad grades in lieu of anyone’s boyfriend of two years dying. Dyslexia and a full time job have never done his grades well, but he’d always managed before. But now that he finds his gpa straddling the line between comic book illustrator and street artist hoping to go viral, he knows there’s a level of focus he has to find. He pushes the thoughts of the past into the back of his mind forcibly and takes down notes.
Five minutes in he sketches the lines of Kurt’s fingers into the margins of his notebook. He stops when he starts to sketch them folded over one another.
Near the end of the lecture, his professor reminds the class that finals are in a few weeks. Sam almost laughs as he doesn’t think about late night cram sessions sitting opposite Kurt, and Kurt reaching over to move his hair out of his eyes and asking if Sam would let him near his head with a pair of scissors.
After classes comes work, and the looming knowledge that there are only so many hours Sam can pick up before he burns out, and that there was a reason that two people picked a one bedroom apartment in New York. Rachel says she knows of a place that’s cheaper, that’s not too far away, that maybe even she can room with him after she moves out of NYADA’s dorms and before she pursues a place with Finn.
But Sam can’t leave that place. It’s more than just an overpriced, cramped space in the middle of the city. It’s their place, Kurt and Sam’s first and only and last home, and Sam can’t leave behind the walls that he and Kurt painted and the bleach stain in the carpet that Kurt called a misguided but good attempt and every memory that’s packed into the cramped space. Even if it means living off of soup and cereal, it feels worth it. He doesn’t eat that much anyway.
But worst is the nagging knowledge that he’s being stubborn and stupid, and that he’s got a full class load and a full time job and a place that needs to be paid for and a dead boyfriend. And like dominoes, if he keeps fighting the inevitable, the rest will fall, and even being homeless and hopeless won’t free him from the memories of Kurt who had once told him to take care of himself.
But today, like most days, he wants to pretend that he can do it all, have it all, and let himself think that he’ll get home and Kurt will be hunched over the table in the kitchen while Jeopardy hums on the tv in the living room.
Sam wonders when he last paid the cable bill. They must have disconnected it a month ago.
When he finally makes it home, he’s exhausted and rubbing at his eyes, and he calls Rachel to tell her he’s doing fine and she makes him eat a bowl of cereal while she’s on the line. She tells him that she found an old pin of Kurt’s today in an old box, and asks if Sam wants it. By the time they arrange a visit for tomorrow, he can hear Rachel’s faint sobs over the phone, and he apologizes for opening a can of worms, and she tells him that she just misses him so much.
She’ll be over after work tomorrow. She’ll bring casserole.
Stomach feeling too full after having eaten, Sam pushes the mountain of homework he has off to the corner of the room, choosing instead to nestle into the left side of the couch and not disturb the right, flipping though channel after channel of static until he finds a non-cable show about a happy go lucky family and their wacky, 8:30 p.m. timeslot adventures. Sam falls asleep within minutes.
When Sam opens his eyes, he can see everything.
He finds it hard to encompass what his eyes are taking in past that, because words have fled him and he hardly notices where he is or what’s going on, because New York’s skyline is laid out in front of him in all it’s tall, glistening glory. He can see for miles and it’s amazing.
“Breathtaking.” A voice says next to him. Sam turns to see Kurt, hands clutched to his chest and eyes wide, and within a heartbeat Sam loses the ability to think for a moment. For the first time he realizes he’s on the lip of a very tall building, because he almost loses his balance and topples off a second later, but Kurt is there, and he’s grabbing Sam’s arm and pulling him back, off the ledge, to safety.
“Woah there, big boy.” Kurt laughs, and his voice sends sparks up Sam’s spine. Kurt smoothes Sam’s jacket, brushing out the wrinkles and looking pleased with himself. Sam is just gawking, because he’s had dreams before, but they at least had the decency to not be lucid, and Sam almost wants to will Kurt away because he knows he’ll remember this when he wakes up.
Kurt turns away a second later, inching towards the edge of the building and drinking in New York’s vastness, looking dazzled. Sam watches him, studies him for anything that will make the dream less real, a lack of a scar or a hair out of place, but as far as he can tell the real Kurt Hummel is standing right in front of him.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Kurt asks.
“Yeah.” Sam replies, not taking his eyes off of Kurt.
Kurt sees this, just like the real Kurt would have, and rolls his eyes affectionately. Sam’s hand twitches by his side, he wants to reach over, touch, see how far the illusion lasts, but he doesn’t dare disturb it. Instead he remains a spectator to the dream, watching as Kurt turns back to the skyline and smiles.
“I always wanted to do stuff like this. All the touristy things like seeing the Statue Of Liberty and the Empire State Building. If I’d have known I was running out of time, I wouldn’t have put if off so much.”
That breaks the spell.
Sam hates talking about Kurt with anyone, he hates being reminded that Kurt had existed, that his life had been cut short. But he listens, because he doesn’t know how to not, and he endures what people have to say. But listening to Kurt talking about what had happened to himself? No, there’s no way he’s letting this dream drag on.
Shaking his head, he begins to back up, trying to wake himself, or change the dream. He’s trying to turn it into anything else, a reoccurring nightmare about being a closeted high school student again, but Kurt’s image doesn’t waver. He see’s Sam a moment later.
“Oh! I’m so sorry Sam. I forgot you wouldn’t want to talk about that.”
“I don’t want… I can’t, I want to wake up now.” Sam says numbly, feeling his heel nudge the concrete behind him. Kurt sees this and his eyes widen, and he hurries forward to take Sam’s hand, and the feel of his skin is so perfectly normal and the pressure he applies to Sam’s hand has been put there a thousand times before. Sam follows it because even if he doesn’t want this he wants it more than anything.
“Woah, woah, woah there,” Kurt says as he starts to back up, pulling Sam behind him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
He looks at Sam like he expects an answer, but try as he might, Sam can’t think of anything past how perfect Kurt looks, and how he can’t understand why his mind would drum this up.
“Well?” Kurt asks, folding his arms and eyebrow spiking. It’s the same look he used to get when he promised to do the dishes but didn’t, and Sam has the same trouble fumbling for words to piece into an apology just like he did back then.
“Sorry, I didn’t, I don’t know, I just-“
Kurt looks down and smiles and the tension fades, and Sam can’t take it anymore. He has to feel him again. Hell, his hand still warm from where Kurt gripped it and that’s driving him crazy. He moves closer and watches, letting Sam’s fingers trail over the soft fabric of Kurt’s scarf, familiar as Sam’s own wardrobe. His hands move up, gently, to Kurt’s jaw and its light coating of stubble, up to where he’s tucking a hair behind Kurt’s ear. Kurt watches him, smiling.
“This is too real.” Sam says. He watches Kurt watch him as his heart starts to speed up, and his hand drops from Kurt’s face as excitement starts to thrum through his veins.
“Is it real?” He asks blankly, not letting himself hope while his heart pounds in his ears.
“No, you’re dreaming.” Kurt answers flatly, and Sam’s excitement burns out like a cigarette left on concrete.
Kurt laughs a small, quiet noise and Sam picks his head up. He wants to feel something, but he doesn’t know what. Just seeing Kurt there, watching his posture and mannerisms in their most casual manner feels right, like he’s not been gone at all. He feels like any second they’re going to turn around and go home, and normalcy will usurp the past few months of hell Sam’s been through.
But at the same time, Sam knows that isn’t going to happen. Because Kurt’s dead and Sam’s dreaming, and there will be a time soon where he’ll have to wake up, and he really really wants to feel something more than casual comfort right now.
He doesn’t realize he’s staring until Kurt starts to squirm under his gaze, as though it hasn’t occurred to him that all Sam’s wanted for months has been to see him again. Sam gets the idea though, and looks away. He stays close however, not wanting to lose Kurt by simply not paying attention.
They watch each other for a moment, avoiding each other’s eyes and sighing along with the wind that sounds louder at the top of the world.
“I came here to talk to you.” Kurt says finally, not looking at Sam. Sam frowns, and Kurt folds his arms gently before taking a step closer to the blonde boy. “It’s about… you.”
Sam doesn’t move.
“You came here?” He asks, because he’s not sure which part of Kurt’s statement to tackle first. Kurt waves it off though.
“Let’s not waste our time discussing the secrets of the universe. It’s not important.”
Sam laughs, an unfamiliar noise to his own ears. Only Kurt.
“Okay.” He agrees, because he doesn’t really have another choice, “Then, why do you need to talk to me?”
As much as he’d like to ignore it, he can feel goosebumps on his arms and worry stir in his gut. He liked things a lot better two minutes ago when he thought this was something he’d made up, that Kurt was an idea his brain had given him while he rested. He tries to tell himself that this is Kurt, the same Kurt he’d seen put in the ground all that time ago, but his brain can’t wrap around the thought. Just like it can’t realize that Kurt is dead. There’s just no winning.
“You’re not going crazy, if that’s what you’re wondering.” Kurt says with a small smile, and Sam relaxes a little because everything sounds like the truth coming out of Kurt’s mouth.
“Would a sane person really dream about being on top of some building in New York, having a conversation with his d- with his boyfriend?” Sam shoots back. He intends to sound as casual as Kurt, but even the hint of the word ‘dead’ bleaches out the rest of his words and makes them brittle. He has a hard time saying the words out loud when he’s awake, but saying them to Kurt is so much harder.
But the other boy doesn’t take notice of Sam’s blunder, or chooses to skip over it. Instead he unfolds his arms, and Sam realizes that they’re less than a foot away from each other, and Kurt is taking Sam’s hands in his own.
“I don’t think anyone knows what a sane person dreams about,” Kurt says lightly, “But I do know that this has always been a dream of mine. You and me, on top of the world, ready to take it by storm.”
And for the first time since Sam’s been aware of him, Kurt’s face starts to fall and the skin around his nose begins to take on a red tint. Sam squeezes his hands and opens his mouth, wanting to beg him not to cry, but knowing he can’t ask such a thing of a dead boy.
“I always knew there would be someone out there for me, you know. Someone who would walk into my life and who would stay there forever. And from the second I saw you; I could feel it inside me. There were times that I doubted it, even forgot, but it was always there. You were so different and so special, and I had to watch you leave me twice before I found you again. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t lose you, that even if you didn’t feel the way I did I would keep you close, because people don’t find each other three times and feel the way I felt for no reason. And the day you said I Love You back was the best day of my life, Sam.”
And Sam’s ripping in half because Kurt’s sobbing, gripping his hands hard enough for his knuckles to go white while tears spatter his face and clothes. Sam’s crying too, the last shreds of him pretending that this encounter is nothing more than a weak dream slipping away under Kurt’s quivering voice.
“And then I, I- I left you.”
“No,” Sam answers faster than he’d intended. “It wasn’t your fault. “
“But it’s my fault that you’re falling apart.” Kurt sobs back, gripping Sam’s hands like lifelines, which is a thought Sam pushes away as soon as he thinks it.
“I’m not falling apart.” Sam says, knowing it’s a lie even as he says it. “I just, I’m getting used to living without you. I mean, I did it for sixteen years before, right?” He says over the lump in his throat. Kurt is just shaking his head, refusing to meet Sam’s eyes.
“You’re such a bad liar, Sam.” He says, trying to let go of Sam’s hands. But Sam holds on, because touching Kurt feels real again, and he can’t will himself to be apart from the warmth he’s missed so much.
“That’s why I’m here, why I have to talk to you.” Kurt says, drawing in a shaking breath and trying to stabilize himself. He shudders out a shaky breath a moment later, but his balled fists relax as Sam draws slow circles over the knuckles with his thumbs.
“I have to tell you that it’s okay to move on.” He says, and as he does he lets out another short breath, his shoulders sagging. Sam watches for a second as Kurt relaxes into his skin before he opens his mouth.
“I don’t want to move on, Kurt. It’s only been three months, and I’m not going to forget you.”
“Well I don’t want you to forget me.” Kurt replies with the tiniest hint of amusement in his voice, and it makes Sam smile through his tears.
“But I’m watching you fall apart because of me. I’m watching you stop caring about class and the apartment and the other day you ignored three texts from Artie. Artie! When was the last time you two talked?”
Sam finds it a little easier to slip his hands out of Kurt’s and he pulls back, walking away from Kurt. He only takes a few steps though, before remembering he has nowhere else to go. He hangs his head.
“You don’t get it, you’re not the one who has to be alive.” He says, and the end of his sentence is punctuated by a knot in his stomach. But he keeps going, because Kurt looks all kinds of angry and upset and he feels the same way, but towards who he doesn’t know.
“Everything reminds me of you, that you’re gone. And I do my best, but everything feels stretched and empty without you, like a part of me is gone. And if I’m not thinking about you I’m thinking about your family or about our friends, but most of the time it’s just remembering you and how you helped me find myself and you telling me that I would always be your first choice and how you said that we wouldn’t ever have to leave each other again and it all comes down to me feeling like I don’t know how to live without you!”
He turns away from Kurt, folding his arms and facing the city, ignoring the dizziness that follows the confession. He feels stupid, weak for admitting to Kurt that his life isn’t livable without his boyfriend. He’s seen this romance movie, but he knows it can’t end with the both of them riding into the sunset.
Halfheartedly, he wills himself to wake up so he won’t have to face Kurt again.
He doesn’t, but instead feels the pressure of Kurt’s hand on his shoulder.
“I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about, someone you love.” He says, his voice quiet. Sam turns gently to hear him better. Because if he’s going to admit to Kurt’s ghost-spirit-apparition thing just how much he can’t get over him being dead, he might as well listen to what he has to say.
“And I know how it feels for the world not to make sense anymore. The emptiness, the quiet where there should be laughter. And I know how easy it is to let it become you, to let it pull the color from every corner of your life. That’s why I’m here. Because I had someone to keep me from falling, someone I couldn’t turn away.”
Kurt’s crying again and Sam feels the corners of his eyes start to sting. He doesn’t want to be told this, be told to move on and keep living. But there’s no escaping Kurt’s words, even as they tear him apart.
“And I’m not going to tell you to forget me, or pretend that what we had was anything less than perfect because frankly, I don’t want to be forgotten and I know you know what we had was special. But,” He takes a small breath, “I’m dead now, and I won’t stand by and watch you turn into nothing because of me.”
Sam shakes his head, trying to interrupt, but Kurt cuts him off.
“You’re so special Sam, and you don’t even know it. I know you like to joke about me falling in love with your body, but there’s so much more to you than you know. You have words that needs to be shared, you have a heart that needs people, that wants to reach people, and you have a life that I won’t have wasted on someone without one.”
At some point Sam had turned around, watching Kurt as he pieced together his words, never looking away from Sam’s eyes once theirs locked. He wasn’t sure when, but his hand had once again found Kurt’s, and now Kurt was the one not letting go, holding tightly as he waits for Sam’s response.
Sam opens his mouth twice before he manages one syllable.
Kurt smiles, wiping at his tears with a free hand and nodding slowly.
“I can’t give you a handbook, unfortunately. But I can tell you it’s okay to be happy, and to smile. And you don’t have to be scared when Rachel starts to cry when she comes over, and it’s okay to smile and talk to my dad when you see him because he needs all the memories of his son he can get. But most of all, I want you to live. We always said the world was ours, that we’d tour every state and see a thousand sights because if we’d made it out of Lima, we could accomplish anything. And I can’t do that anymore, but you can.”
Sam takes a deep breath, copying Kurt and using his free hand to dry his face. What Kurt is saying is ideal, it’s the dreams he’s had not just since college, but since he’s been a child. But the idea of doing it all without Kurt is nigh unthinkable.
“But… I don’t think I can do it without you. That was our dream. I can’t just go at it alone.”
“You’ll figure it out, Sammy. You’ll take the apartment with Rachel and you’ll pass your finals. You’ll get the job you’ve wanted since you were eight, and one day you’ll look up and feel really, actually happy. And then you can tell yourself that you did it, that you accomplished so much not only for you, but for the both of us.”
Kurt watches Sam with red-rimmed eyes and a tight, holding-back-more-tears smile. His words hum through Sam like his heartbeat, something he needed to hear and something that keeps him alive. Sam thinks for a long second before opening his mouth.
“Is that the ending to one of those romance novels you always tried to make me read?” He asks, and Kurt’s face flashes from surprise to laughter in a heartbeat. The hand still holding on to Sam’s squeezes.
“Find out for yourself. Rent the audiobook, I know you don’t read for pleasure.”
A quiet settles between them, everything that’s needed to be said out in the open. And their faces are red from crying and their smiles are bittersweet, but for one lasting moment there’s peace.
Kurt chuckles gently, Sam swings the hand he’s holding gently towards the lip of the building and back. When he takes a moment to really look at the skyline, he finds it actually is beautiful.
Sam catches Kurt watching him and his stomach twists gently.
“It’s almost over, isn’t it.” He says, knowing the answer. Sure enough, Kurt responds with a quiet “Yeah.”
“This won’t ever happen again, will it?” He asks, knowing full well that Kurt will shake his head and not look Sam in the eyes, as he answers “No.”
And suddenly he really needs to feel Kurt again, pull him close until their chests are pressed tight against one another and they’re clinging to each other’s shirts and Sam’s head is tucked tight in its spot between Kurt’s neck and shoulder.
“You promise me you won’t go under? You promise me you’ll get better?” Kurt asks, holding on to Sam so tightly that his arms are shaking.
“Yes, yes yes yes,” Sam answers a thousand times, unwilling to remove himself. But even as he tries to hold on he starts to feel lighter, his limbs weak. His string of yes’s turns to no’s as he feels distance between himself and Kurt, and he scrabbles to keep Kurt in his arms.
But it’s inevitable and it’s happening now, and Sam can’t make his mouth say goodbye.
Kurt looks at him, a mix of sadness and contentment, and Sam starts to shake his head as the light around them grows bright. He tries to speak but nothing happens, so it’s Kurt who talks instead.
“I’m gonna miss you, Sammy.” Kurt says, pulling Sam close.
“I’m gonna miss you too.” Sam says, surprised that he’s able to get the words out. And the air around them is thin and the light is bright, and it’s getting harder and harder to see Kurt with every second and so he closes his eyes, leaning forward and feeling the perfect warmth of Kurt’s lips against his.
He blinks awake in the flat, gasping for breath as sunlight streams into the window. He’s slept the whole night through, curled up on the couch, head resting on Kurt’s armrest. He looks around frantically, every detail of his dream burned into his memory.
He’s three steps into the kitchen before he realizes that the organ music is gone.