Work Header

John Doe

Chapter Text

Kurt lets himself into the loft and then shuts the door with a relieved sigh. More than two years after he and Rachel moved in, and despite a sometimes–revolving door of roommates, they’re back to how they were in the beginning: just the two of them, and there are days Kurt suspects that they’ll be living together for the rest of their lives.

The facts are simple enough, when Kurt thinks them over. Rachel hasn’t really maintained a long-term relationship since Finn, and Kurt’s engagement with Blaine had seemed so perfect, right up until the point that Blaine and Kurt were living together in New York. Their relationship had unraveled almost predictably over the course of a year, though it had taken another three months for Blaine to find a place and move out of the loft. Santana, though not romantically involved with either of them in the past or present, had moved out a month after Blaine.

A quick check of the calendar confirms that Kurt has the loft to himself until later in the evening, and he pulls out a container of leftover soup to heat before sitting in front of the television and switching it on.

One of the odder changes in Kurt’s life, at least to his own mind, is how he watches the news whenever he can. Usually the evening news, and it doesn’t happen every day or even every weekday, but as Kurt starts to eat his soup, he changes the channel and settles in to catch up on the headlines. Between classes, social outings, and work, it’s been more than a few days since he was able to watch the news, and Kurt puts his phone on silent so he won’t be disturbed.

There’s the usual-of-late smattering of stories about the presidential primaries to lead off, followed by local news and other national news, and it isn’t until around twenty-five past the hour that they get into the human interest stories. The anchor starts talking about an unidentified young man in Philadelphia, brought into a hospital with no identification.

After the anchor’s brief lead-in, the reporter on scene at the hospital smiles widely at the camera, and begins with, “Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, has fallen in love with a man known only as John Doe. Brought into the hospital’s emergency room by Philadelphia police, with no identification or money, but instead, a treasure trove of mystery items in his pockets. Though we as yet have no real information about John Doe or his past, these items hint at a story of a love lost.”

As the reporter continues talking, her image is replaced by photo stills, quickly presented one after another as she narrates, “An engagement ring, a toy train, a stack of old playbills tied with a ribbon, a handful of glittery confetti, and a ticket stub from last season's game between the Eagles and the Tennessee Titans are among the items found in John Doe’s pockets. What does it all mean? With John Doe too ill to explain, all we can do is guess at what drove this man into the streets of Philadelphia this winter.”

“Jefferson Hospital and the Philadelphia Police Department are asking for the public’s help in finding this young man’s family,” the anchor says in voiceover as a picture of the patient is shown, first from what looks like the foot of a hospital bed, and then a close-up of the patient’s face.

Kurt drops his soup. Except for a scar running along the hairline, the John Doe in Philadelphia looks exactly like Finn. Then the picture changes to one with John Doe awake, and Kurt tries to tell himself to calm down. The stranger in the picture doesn’t have the same look in his eyes than Finn always had. If anything, John Doe looks a little empty, like something is missing.

The resemblance is strong enough, though, that Kurt reaches out for the pen on the table, scribbling down the website address and phone number displayed on the screen. Finn is dead, and Kurt knows that, but he has to understand why Finn’s doppelgänger is lying in a hospital in Philadelphia.

Kurt has never believed in miracles, but that doesn’t stop him from sometimes wishing for them.

When the local news ends and goes to the national broadcast, Kurt half-listens to the entire half-hour, wondering if the story has been picked up outside the east coast. There’s no mention of the John Doe in Philadelphia, though, and Kurt turns off the television and finally cleans up the cold soup, finishing just before he hears Rachel outside the door.

He sits back down and looks at the scrap of paper, trying to decide what to say to Rachel. She has Finn’s name written on her skin, and she deserves to know if there’s even a very small chance that John Doe is actually Finn Hudson. Kurt nods to himself and turns towards the door with a fixed smile as Rachel starts to open it. He can’t hide this from her.

“Good evening, Bibi!”

“Hello gorgeous!” Rachel replies in her Barbra voice. She leans over the back of the sofa and plants a smooch on Kurt’s cheek, simultaneously handing him a pint of Häagen-Dazs.

“Ooh, thank you,” Kurt says. “Rachel, we need to talk about something I saw on the news.”

“Can’t it wait?” Rachel pleads. She drops onto the sofa next to Kurt, putting her bare feet on his lap. “It was a long day, and all I want to do tonight is eat our ice cream and continue our Sex and the City marathon.”

“It won’t take long,” Kurt promises. “It was just a story on the news.” He says it more to convince himself than Rachel, unable to reconcile what he knows and what he saw.

Rachel wiggles her feet, making a comical little pout. “Rub while you talk?”

“Fine,” Kurt says, heaving an overly theatrical sigh as he picks up one of her feet. “There was a story about a man in Philadelphia. He was brought into the hospital without any identification whatsoever, and they showed pictures of him. They’re trying to find out who he is.” Kurt’s hands still and he closes his eyes briefly before continuing in a whisper. “Rachel, he could be Finn.”

“Kurt,” Rachel says, her tone sympathetic rather than condescending. “We can’t start doing this again. I almost broke my ankle following that man who turned out to be in his fifties once I got close enough to really look at him, and remember, that Chinese gentleman was very kind to not press charges against you.”

“I’ll show you,” Kurt says, picking up his phone and entering the website address. He waits for it to load fully before turning it towards Rachel. “There are pictures.”

“Fine, I’ll look, but Kurt, I do—” Rachel cuts herself off abruptly with a soft gasp. “He does resemble Finn,” she continues after a few beats. “But Kurt, you and I both know that can’t be him.”

“I know it can’t be, but this picture suggests it is,” Kurt says, because he deliberately chose the one that most closely resembles Finn. “I’m going to call them tomorrow,” he says, making the decision as he speaks. “Just to ask a few questions.”

“You can’t do this to yourself. You can’t do this to us!” Rachel protests.

“Even if it’s a very slim chance, I have to know,” Kurt says softly. “I won’t bring it up regularly.”

Rachel shakes her head as she continues to frown. “We went to the funeral. We saw the ashes, even. That’s not a mistake someone would make, Kurt. All that’s going to happen is that we lose all the progress we’ve finally managed to make in moving on with our lives.”

Kurt laughs bitterly. “What progress, Rachel? Neither of us is seeing anyone. Neither of us can stand going back to the state of Ohio very well, and we actually asked Puck and Quinn not to call us.” Kurt sighs. “I can’t explain it, Rachel, but I can’t just drop it.”

Rachel sighs, too, changing positions on the sofa so she can curl up against Kurt’s side, her head on his shoulder. “And when it turns out to not be him? What do we do then?” she asks.

“The same things we do now,” Kurt says. “Classes, work, and marathons of good television with ice cream to keep us company.”

Rachel wraps both her arms around Kurt’s arm. “Okay,” she says. “If you need to do this, I support you.”

“Thanks, Rachel,” Kurt says, trying to muster a smile in her direction. “I’ll try not to upset you too much.”

“I’m just as worried about you as I am about me,” Rachel says.

“I’ll be fine,” Kurt assures her, though he doesn’t know if he’s more desperate to convince Rachel or himself. “Shall we start tonight’s episodes?”

Rachel snuggles against Kurt’s side. “I don’t think Carrie and Big are really over at all,” she declares.

“You’ve seen this show at least five times,” Kurt says, shaking his head and draping his arm around her.

“I know,” Rachel replies. “That’s why I’m so sure it’ll all work out.”

The two of them fall asleep on the sofa, which happens a few times a week, and after Rachel’s alarm goes off and she takes the bathroom first, Kurt stretches and turns his phone off silent. Aside from the lack of sex and sexual attraction, what he and Rachel have is almost as fulfilling as a real relationship. From an emotional point of view, it’s probably more fulfilling than what Kurt shared with Blaine at the end, even. Kurt and Rachel have what Kurt can best describe as a shared pain, one that no one else around them seemed to understand, not even Blaine. That’s why Kurt had resisted Blaine’s suggestions that the two of them move out on their own well ahead of the wedding. Kurt couldn’t leave Rachel. Like he told Blaine at the time, Rachel is family, and Kurt doesn’t leave family.

Rachel emerges from the bathroom in her robe, her hair piled up and wrapped in a towel. “I left you some hot water,” she tells Kurt as she passes the sofa. “I hope you left me some coffee!”

“Don’t I always leave you coffee?” Kurt asks her as he stands. “Remember, Santana was the worst coffee thief.”

“That’s why she’s gone and you’re my best friend!” Rachel calls over her shoulder as she disappears back into her bedroom.

“Love you!” Kurt says as he goes into the bathroom and sets his phone on the sink. He has two straight hours of class, but then he has a break for half an hour, and he knows that’s when he’s going to call the number that the hospital in Philadelphia set up with the police in Philadelphia.

A shower, two cups of coffee, a quick breakfast, and two hours of class later, that’s what Kurt intends to do, finding a quiet corner on campus and staring at the number and his phone for at least three minutes before pressing in the numbers, his hands shaking slightly as he does it. The phone rings once, then twice, before there’s the familiar click of a call being answered.

“Central Detective Division, Detective Lumm speaking,” says the brisk voice answering the phone.

“Hi,” Kurt says, taking a deep breath. “My name is Kurt Hummel, and I’m calling about the John Doe in the hospital.”

“Yeah, you and half of Philly,” Detective Lumm says.

“Oh. I’m in New York, actually, but—” Kurt cuts himself off. “I think there’s a possibility that he could be my brother. It doesn’t make any sense, but except for the scar, he looks a lot like him.” Kurt starts speaking faster, not pausing for the detective to speak. “Not in the picture where he was awake, he looked sadder and emptier than Finn ever was. That’s his name, Finn. Finn Hudson. And it doesn’t make any sense because Finn is supposed to be dead, and he’d never been to Philadelphia, but I could send you a picture?”

“Yeah, can you slow down and go through all that again?” Detective Lumm asks. “Not the stuff about the picture. Name, age, social if you’ve got it?”

“Finn Hudson. Finn Alexander Hudson. He would be twenty-one. I don’t have his social security number, but I could probably call my dad or stepmom if it gets to that point.” Kurt bites his lip. “I don’t want to mention it to them unless necessary, though.”

“How long has Mr. Hudson been missing, and is there a missing persons report filed with your local department?”

“He’s not. He’s supposed to be dead, but— big mistakes happen, right? It was a car accident, in Lima, Ohio. The really big one, two years ago, with the whiteout conditions and the fire.” Kurt shudders, remembering seeing the pictures on the news, before they knew that Finn had been caught in it. “The one with all the injuries and fatalities.”

Detective Lumm doesn’t respond immediately, long enough that Kurt starts to worry that the call has been disconnected or put on hold. Eventually, though, the detective sighs. “I’m sorry to hear about your loss, but given the circumstances, I’m not really sure how your brother would’ve ended up in Philadelphia,” he says. “Did he have a history of any mental illness at all?”

“No,” Kurt says, then realizes that answer probably won’t get him further information. “He did once backpack for a month or so without telling anyone where he was going, right after being discharged from the Army. He shot himself in the thigh accidentally. Was there anything with the John Doe? Does he have a scar on his thigh?”

Kurt can hear some papers shuffling in the background before the detective answers, “We do have a note here that he has a large scar on his leg. Doesn’t specify thigh.”

“It’s on his left thigh,” Kurt says, his voice shaking. “He’s about six feet four inches tall. If— if he really smiled, you’d know it. Has anyone played any music for him?”

“Not sure about that,” Detective Lumm says. “I can give you the number for our contact at Jefferson, but I do know they’ve said they think he might be schizophrenic or have some other mental disorder. He hasn’t been able to give them any real information.”

“Yes, I’ll take that number,” Kurt says. “I appreciate your help.”

The detective gives the name and number for a case worker at Jefferson, winding up the call with, “Hope it turns out to be the guy you’re looking for.”

“Thank you,” Kurt says as he ends the call, and before he can talk himself out of it, he immediately calls the number at the hospital, crossing his fingers that someone answers.

“This is Geraldine Fitzwaters, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Case Management. Can I help you?”

“Hi, my name is Kurt Hummel, and I was given your name and number by Detective Lumm, regarding the John Doe?”

“You’re calling about Johnny!” Geraldine says, sounding excited. “Detective Lumm must think you have some real information, if he gave you my number. We had a lot of calls the first couple of days they were airing the story, but the detective has been weeding them out a lot better. So, what can you tell me about our John Doe?”

“Detective Lumm said he had a scar on his leg. Is it on his left thigh?” Kurt asks, holding his breath while he waits for the answer.

“Mmhmm,” Geraldine says. “He sure does. Looks like a bullet wound. We thought he might be ex-military. We see a lot of vets out on the streets, I’m afraid.”

“Oh my god,” Kurt whispers. “My brother— he was discharged from the Army. He accidentally shot himself in the thigh. This shouldn’t be possible. He was in that huge wreck in Ohio two years ago on the interstate. My brother’s supposed to be dead,” he says, almost babbling. “But I saw the pictures on the news last night, here in New York, and he looks just like Finn.”

“Well, goodness me! I can imagine you’re dealing with a lot of emotions right now!” Geraldine says. “Do you have any proof of ID for your brother? Photographs, driver’s license, anything like that? The more you can give us, the better we can be sure.”

“I have photographs. They found what was left of his driver’s license in his truck.” Kurt takes a deep breath. “I don’t want to bother my dad or stepmother yet. I could be wrong. I have a strange question. Does your John Doe like music? Any particular music?”

“We haven’t put any music on for him, but he does like to watch the TV. Keeps him calm. He likes that American Idol show.”

“Oh, Finn,” Kurt says, laughing a little. “He would.” Kurt pauses, not sure what to ask next, when a thought occurs to him. “Would it be possible for me to come to Philadelphia and see him?”

“Can you bring any documentation you have for Finn, as well as two forms of ID for yourself?” Geraldine asks.

“Of course,” Kurt says. “I’ll try to work things out for tomorrow or the next day. If it is him— how long does he need to stay hospitalized?”

“I can’t really give you too many details about his current course of treatment, but I think you should prepare yourself for the possibility of long-term care, if this is your brother,” Geraldine says.

“Okay,” Kurt says softly. “I’m sure we can handle that if necessary. When I get to Philadelphia, should I check in with you first?”

“Yes, if you can call and let me know when to expect you, I’ll make sure to be in the office,” Geraldine says. “I’m just happy we might’ve found some family.”

“Thank you very much,” Kurt says. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I have more details.” Kurt gives Geraldine his phone number before ending the call, and he stares at his phone disbelievingly for so long that he loses track of time. Eventually he gets up and finds his way to his next class, which is already going, and Kurt drops into the back row of seats, not really paying attention.

The difficult part about getting to Philadelphia is figuring out how early of a train he should take without alerting Rachel to anything happening. By the time everyone leaves the class and Kurt follows them, he has a ticket purchased for the next morning, early enough that he should be at the hospital by 10:30 am. He waits until after business hours to call Geraldine again and leave a voicemail with his estimated arrival time, and does his best not to act different around Rachel that night at home.

Kurt leaves ahead of Rachel the next morning, knowing she assumes he’s planning to study or rehearse. Instead, he heads to Penn Station and tries to calm himself throughout the train ride. He takes a cab to the hospital, hoping he’s in the correct building, and then proceeds to a waiting area, where he dials Geraldine’s number for the third time, to let her know that he’s in the building, along with all the pictures of Finn that he could find. Either he’s a huge fool, or something extraordinary is about to happen, and either outcome makes him nervous.

After only a single ring, Geraldine’s warm voice answers. “This is Geraldine Fitzwaters, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Case Management. How can I help you this morning?”

“Hi, this is Kurt Hummel. I’m in the downstairs waiting area.”

“Mr. Hummel! I’m glad you were able to get out here so quickly,” Geraldine says. “I’ll be right down, and I’ll give our Johnny’s social worker a quick ring to meet us, too.”

“Great, thank you,” Kurt says, standing up and starting to pace as he ends the call and waits. After about five minutes, a larger woman in professional dress with a kind, lined face and a smaller blonde woman who appears to be in her mid-thirties emerge from the bank of elevators and approach him.

“Mr. Hummel?” the older woman, who seems to be Geraldine, addresses him.

“Yes, hello,” Kurt says nervously, offering her his hand.

“I’m Geraldine Fitzwaters,” Geraldine says, as she shakes Kurt’s hand, “and this is Jessica Barnes, Johnny’s social worker.”

“We’re so glad you were willing to come in person,” Jessica says, taking Kurt’s hand once Geraldine releases it.

“I know it probably seems far-fetched,” Kurt says, “but the way he looks, and the scar. There just aren’t that many people that tall, right?”

Geraldine nods, an odd look on her face. “You didn’t mention the height when you called before.”

“Oh.” Kurt can feel himself deflate a little. “I’m sorry, I forgot that was the detective that I mentioned Finn’s height to. Why? Is your John Doe actually short?”

“No,” Jessica says, an equally odd look on her face. “He’s very tall.”

Kurt digs in his bag for a moment, pulling out one of the pictures he had grabbed. “This is from 2012,” he explains, turning the frame towards them. “Our high school graduation.”

Geraldine puts on a pair of glasses that she has hanging by a beaded chain around her neck, and leans in. “Well, he could be our Johnny. The boy in this picture looks much younger, though, more than just a few years.”

“That was before the Army or anything else,” Kurt says softly. “I don’t know where he would have been the past two years, either.”

“Let’s take you upstairs now,” Jessica says with a forced but kind smile. “Geraldine said you mentioned music?”

“I brought some music that Finn might recognize,” Kurt says as they walk towards the bank of elevators. “A few pictures from high school, group photos and that sort of thing. Finn wouldn’t voluntarily let us think he was dead for two years, so I assumed if it is him, he’s suffered somehow.”

“The doctor who’s been heading up his care says he thinks it could be schizophrenia,” Geraldine explains. “Not unusual for it to develop in the early-to-mid 20s. Dr. Norris can’t do much in the way of an evaluation until he’s recovered more from the pneumonia.”

“Oh.” Kurt frowns as they ride up the elevator, and they’re nearly to their floor before he speaks. “What about the scar on his head? I noticed it in the pictures. That had to be in the last two years.”

“It’s not recent, but it’s not old enough to have faded very much,” Geraldine says.

Kurt nods, following the two women out of the elevator and down several hallways before stopping in front of a closed door. “He may be sedated,” Jessica tells Kurt. “Sometimes he tries to rip out his IV line.”

“I understand,” Kurt manages as they walk into the room.

The man lying on the bed does look older, and Kurt immediately thinks that he could use both a long bath and a haircut, but since Kurt knows Finn did not have a twin, his brain can come to only one conclusion. The man lying on the bed is, somehow, Finn Hudson.

“Oh my god, Finn,” Kurt whispers, walking over to the bed. “How? How are you here?” Kurt’s hand hovers over Finn’s before he turns to Geraldine and Jessica almost desperately, pulling out more photographs and handing the pictures to them. “I don’t understand it,” Kurt says, his gaze swinging between the two women and Finn. “That’s my brother.”

“Are you certain?” Geraldine asks gently. “Sometimes the eyes can see what the heart wants them to see. We had an older woman come by on the third or fourth day, and she was sure that our John Doe was her grandson who had been abducted by his non-custodial parent. She stayed for almost half an hour before she had to accept it wasn’t him.”

“My brother also has a tiny scar on his right palm, between his middle and ring fingers,” Kurt says quietly. “Almost like a half-moon. Would you?” Kurt knows he could reach across and look himself, but he can’t do it, can’t touch this unknown person if he’s not sure it’s Finn.

Jessica nods and quietly steps around to the other side of the bed, carefully picking up Finn’s hand and turning it over. “There’s a scar like a half-moon,” she says, looking up and smiling at Kurt. “Do you know if anyone would have his fingerprints on file, so we can confirm it?”

“My stepmom might have some from when he was little?” Kurt says, frowning, then he looks up and smiles back at Jessica. “Finn worked with the glee club at our high school, the year after graduation. He laughed about having to do the background check and being fingerprinted.”

“What school district?” Jessica asks, pulling out her phone.

“Lima City Schools in Lima, Ohio,” Kurt answers.

“I’ll call them right away,” Jessica says. “Geraldine, I’ll let you know when I hear anything. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Hummel. I’m sure I’ll see you again later.”

Kurt stumbles backwards into the chair near Finn’s bed, staring at Finn. “How long will that take?” he whispers.

“Probably won’t take too long to get the fingerprints. A few days for the whole process, maybe,” Geraldine says. “You’ll need to talk to Dr. Norris about how long Johnny—or, I guess we’d better get used to calling him Finn—will need to stay in the hospital. He was very ill when they brought him in, and there’s the potential mental health issues on top of all that.”

“I— should I wait for the fingerprints? To tell anyone else?” Kurt asks.

“That’s entirely up to you. We won’t be able to allow you to make any legal decisions for him until we have some kind of confirmation, but we won’t stop you or any other family from sitting in here with him,” Geraldine says. “I think he’s been alone long enough, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Kurt says, nodding. “Thank you. I think I need to at least call my best friend now.”

“I’ll just step outside, then. You let me know if he wakes up, or if you need anything,” Geraldine says, then she walks through the door and closes it behind herself.

Kurt stares at Finn, who appears to be sleeping quite peacefully, and makes a mental list of what he needs to do. He needs to call Rachel, though he realizes it could be late that evening or even the next morning before she can arrive. He needs to find a pharmacy or similar store, so he can trim Finn’s fingernails and, he suspects, Finn’s toenails. If the store he can find nearby is well-stocked, Kurt may even try to trim Finn’s hair. And once there is confirmation via Finn’s fingerprints, Kurt will need to call his dad.

Calling Rachel feels like the easiest to do, by far, and he presses her name before clutching his phone to his ear. It goes to voicemail the first time, and Kurt calls her back immediately, without leaving a message. This time, it only rings once before Kurt hears Rachel pick up.

“Kurt?” Rachel says, sounding out of breath. “Where are you? You missed Song to Stage IV!”

“Rachel, you need to see if you can change shifts at work or something for tonight if you can, and definitely for tomorrow,” Kurt says, trying to keep his voice calm. “Can you do that?”

“Kurt, where are you?” Rachel asks again.

“Philadelphia,” Kurt admits, staring at Finn as he talks to Rachel. “Rachel, they’re pulling his fingerprints from when he was helping with the glee club. He has Finn’s scars. It’s Finn.”

Kurt hears a gasp, then a loud clatter. Rachel says, “Sorry! I’m sorry!” at what sounds like a distance, before she speaks into the phone more clearly. “I dropped the phone, I’m so sorry, but Kurt, are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” Kurt insists. “Even that little scar on his right palm. I can’t explain it, Rachel, but it’s really him.”

“What hospital? How did you get there?” Rachel asks, rapidly firing one question after another. “Should I fly? What about the train? Where’s the nearest station?”

“You can get a train from Penn Station, then a cab to Jefferson Hospital. He’s in the main building.” Kurt releases a shuddering breath. “Rachel, he’s got pneumonia, and they think— they think he might have schizophrenia.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Rachel says softly, more like she’s talking to herself than to Kurt. Kurt can hear the sound of drawers being opened and closed. “He’s never had any sort of problems like that. Or…”

“I know,” Kurt agrees. “But Finn’s not cruel, Rachel. He’s never been deliberately cruel. He wouldn’t have let us think he was dead, not if he could have told us differently.”

“Of course he wouldn’t!” Rachel agrees. “Okay. I’ve gotten some of my things together. I’ll call work on my way to Penn Station. Is there anything you need? Either of you?”

“I’m going to go get a few grooming tools for him,” Kurt says. “Bring me at least one change of clothes? Oh, and that spare old iPod and speaker set? We can play music for him.”

“Okay. I’ll see you soon. I love you, Kurt!”

“I love you too, Bibi.” Kurt ends the call and smiles fondly at the phone, glad Rachel is already on her way.