Return to Glory – Chapter One – Lost!
It is when we are most lost that we sometimes find our truest friends.
~The Brothers Grimm, Snow White
Mt Russell, Oregon
“Jordan, where are you?” Blaine's voice echoed through the forest. It was an unseasonably hot day and Blaine had started to sweat.
“It isn't all that far from home, do you think he can find his way?” Kurt asked again, wiping his brow with a handkerchief. Their son had wandered away from his twin sister and grandfather on their blackberry hunting expedition.
“I don't know, Kurt. We haven't been over this way and it's half a mile from home...” Blaine said, looking through the brush and trees to find a trace of his son.
“He was trying to show off, thinking he could find his way home by himself. I told him he was going the wrong direction!” Katura piped up, untangling a bit of her long red hair from a spruce tree. She had undone her braids and hadn't bothered pulling the long tresses into a more manageable ponytail.
“Katura, we've talked about this. Jordy can make decisions on his own, he doesn't need you to micromanage his every move, honey. You cannot parent your sibling. Let's focus on finding him, okay?” Blaine gently chastised his daughter.
Since the twins had turned ten, Katura had gotten a lot more mouthy – with everyone – and spent too much of her time on social media. Jordan buried himself in his electronics, too: spending every spare minute on his tablet or game system. Blaine and Kurt had felt they were losing their children to the modern world. After long talks they decided they needed a big change in their lives.
Since adopting the twins, Katura and Jordan, ten years ago, they split their time between the Victorian house in Philomath where Burt and Carole now lived and the log house on Mt. Warner that was built near the lumber camp where Blaine had saved Kurt over fifteen years ago. They had moved from the log house on Mt Warner to the new log house on Mt. Russell just a few weeks ago and were just getting used to the land surrounding it.
Blaine had surprised Kurt with the house for Christmas a year ago last December and now it was May. In seventeen months the crew had built a two-story log house that Kurt had designed himself. The plumbing, phone, and propane were due to be hooked up before October but in the mean time it was a bit rustic. Lucky for them, the electricity had been turned on before they came.
The twins were going stir-crazy.
Finally, their Grandpa Burt had come to help. Carole was in New York with Finn and Rachel, awaiting their baby and Burt was going a bit stir-crazy himself. He'd retired from the garage he'd bought in Philomath and although he still owned half of it, Puck was managing it and was buying it from Burt over time. Burt had finally stopped going over to hang out.
He wanted . . . no, he needed to have something meaningful to do. The twins weren't tiny anymore and didn't need the constant care they once did but when they moved to 'Outer Mongolia' (as Katie put it) he came to see what he could do to help.
Grandpa Burt knew there were blackberries not too far from the house and led the grandchildren to a field of them. It was hot on the mountain today and Burt was glad he'd brought along lots of water for the kids. They were deprived of their electronics, tablets, laptops, and game systems, which made both of them grumpy.
Burt had broken up several arguments and was getting tired of their constant bickering. He only had Kurt to raise and hadn't had to deal with sibling rivalry, so he was not on firm footing when it came to the best way to stop the combat. Hard work had dominated his young life, leaving no time to fight with his brothers so this was new territory. Maybe hard work would be the ticket here, too.
After half an hour of picking and filling a large tub of them, he looked around and Jordan was missing.
Realizing he didn't know enough about finding his way in a forest, he followed the path back to the house to enlist his son and Blaine in finding the boy.
“Well, it's only 2 o'clock and the sun is out. It's been plenty warm at night so we don't need to worry about that, so let's go in pairs around the edge of this field and see if we can call for him. He was wearing his whistle, right Katie?” Blaine asked. The twins each had a silver whistle that they wore around their necks in case they got lost.
“Yes, Tatay. We always wear them,” she answered, remembering seeing Jordy with it around his neck when they left the house that morning.
“Okay, I'll go with Katie, you two start around the other way,” Blaine said and watched as Kurt took off with Burt to the eastern edge of the blackberry field.
They walked along the edge, pushing branches and scooting between brambles as they made their way along. Every twenty steps or so they blew the whistle – Blaine and Kurt wore them, too. No returning blast pierced the still afternoon air. Even the birds were resting in the heat.
They saw a lot of animals: dwarf bunnies, a martin stalking something by a tiny pond, many types of birds. But no brother.
Walking around the other way, Kurt blew his whistle and slowed his pace to sit down on a log. He was never as spry as his husband and although he was strong from his life in the wilderness, Blaine was stronger. The summer heat was wearing on all of them.
“You okay, Kurt?” Burt asked as he came up and sat next to Kurt, trying to mask how hard he was breathing.
“It's that old injury. You remember when I broke my leg?” Kurt asked, referring to when he fell over a rocky embankment into a deep crevice on the beach when flying a kite with Blaine.
“That still bothering you? That was....over a decade ago!”
“Yeah, but it still aches when the weather changes or if I walk too far,” Kurt admitted. He was a bit sore but the real reason he stopped was that he was worried about his dad. Burt had bounced back from his heart attack he'd had when Kurt was in high school and had led a good, healthy life – that is until a few years ago when he'd had a few episodes of heart trouble. He was doing fine now, but slowing down. He was nearing 65 years old and just wasn't a spring chicken anymore. It was part of why he didn't go to the shop anymore.
“Okay, son. We'll just rest for a bit,” Burt said, settling down on the log and looking around to see any signs of Jordan. He thought maybe there was some trampled grass about ten yards away and pointed it out to Kurt. They got up and headed that way.
“I don't know why he'd leave our sides,” Katura told her tatay. 'Tatay' is the Filipino word for daddy and was what the twins called Blaine.
“Maybe he saw a better bush with more blackberries and went to pick there then just walked away looking for more?” Blaine proposed.
“He just doesn't want to be near me,” Katie said, stomping along.
“Let's try blowing our whistles together,” Blaine said, ignoring his daughter's obvious complaint about her twin. They seemed to argue all the time anymore, which was part of the reason he and Kurt decided to move to the house here on Mt. Russell before it was finished.
The whistles, blown together, were really loud and they waited to hear anything, but no luck.
“I remember looking for your daddy like this once,” Blaine said. He was just rambling but Katie stopped walking.
“Oh, well, when your daddy first came to Warner Mountain he and I had an argument and he ran away from me. He didn't know much about the forest and he got lost. It took me two days to find him – and I was riding a mule,” Blaine explained to his daughter, thinking about when Kurt was angry and left without thinking. He got caught by two men who thought Kurt was a freeloader who didn't belong in the camp. They kidnapped him and it took Blaine, Cooper, and August to save him.
“Was it Claudius?” she asked, naming the old mule that spent his time eating in the meadow near their old home now.
“Oh. I miss Maxi,” Katie said, her eyes tearing up. Katie was outspoken and bossy, but she could be very emotional.
The kids had learned to ride on the old mules: Claudius, Caesar, and Maximus. They had originally been used to haul logs from the forest and then used as pack or riding mules for Blaine, Lenore, and Cooper. Now in their old age, the two remaining mules lived in a large meadow – free to eat grass and play together all day.
“I know, honey, but he was almost thirty years old. That is older than most mules ever live. He had a good life, baby,” Blaine tried to tell his little girl. He wished he could shield her from things like death, but his children knew that death was a part of life and nothing to be afraid of. At least that was what he and Kurt had tried to teach them.
“I know, Tatay, but I still miss him. Are Claudius and Caesar going to die soon?”
“I don't know, honey. They are very old for mules. They are Maximus' brothers but younger than he was. I think they are both around twenty-five. They are both still in good health so don't worry too much, okay?” Blaine offered, sweeping her into his arms for a hug.
She started to tear up once again, burying her face in her tatay's neck.
“What's wrong, honey? You're getting my shirt all wet,” he tried to kid her. He knew she loved Maximus, but he died over a year ago. “This isn't about Maxi, is it?”
“No, Tatay. Can Jordy die if he's lost in the forest?” she whispered.
“We're going to find him, okay? He's smart, he'll be careful,” Blaine soothed her.
“But what if we don't? What if he's in the woods at night and bats and lions and bears come? They could eat him. He can't swim as well as I can, what if he swims out too far on the lake and can't get back?”
“Hey, hey, Katura. What makes you think he'd go to the lake?” Blaine asked, beginning to see that there was something Katie wasn't telling him.
“He just might...it's a hot day...” she whispered.
“If you know where Jordan is tell me right now,” Blaine demanded, a frown on his face.
“It's not my fault. He didn't want to be here picking with me and we had an argument. I told him if he didn't want to be there with me, he should go swimming in the lake. I said the whole family would be there. I didn't think he'd really go,” she said, her lip quivering.
Blaine walked into the blackberry field and blew three sharp whistles . A minute later he heard three from across the field. He looked over and saw his husband and Burt starting towards him. He was closer to the lake, so he waited for the two men to catch up and explained the situation to them. All four started to the west, towards the large lake about a quarter mile away.
“Jordan!” Burt called, but had to stop and cough.
“Hey, Dad? Can you walk slower here with Katura so Blaine and I can run? I don't want to leave her alone even though we're on a trail,” Kurt asked. Burt knew it was because he was slowing them down but he let it go. He was slower and was a big enough man to admit it.
“Sure, son. Katura, I guess it's you and me, sweetheart,” Burt said, holding his hand out for her to hold. Katie ran to take his hand, knowing her grandfather would not be too mad at her, no matter what. She knew she deserved a stern punishment and worried what her fathers would do.
Blaine and Kurt walked at a much faster pace, hoping that they would find Jordy sitting beside the lake. Both twins were in serious trouble and they were going to find themselves doing a lot of extra chores to make up for it.
As they walked along, Blaine began to sing.
“….the sadness will leave your face
As soon as you've won your fight to get justice done
Someday, little girl, you'll wonder what life's about
But others have known- few battles are won alone -
So, you'll look around to find
Someone who's kind
Someone who is fearless like you
And the pain of it will ease a bit...”
“I remember the first time I heard you sing that song, Blaine. It was when the camp bounty hunters kidnapped me and you found me. August hit Porter in the head with a rock and Chase let me go like a hot potato. You don't forget things like that,” Kurt grinned. Blaine blushed. He hadn't realized what he was singing but thinking of that incident earlier must have put the seed into his mind.
“You would have been fine if you'd listened to me,” Blaine laughed. Kurt rolled his eyes.
They kept up a quick pace and Blaine started singing again.
“One day you will rise and you won't believe your eyes
You'll wake up and see a world that is fine and free
Though summer seems far away
You will find the sun one day.....”
“I remember renting that movie when you came to live with us in Lima,” Kurt reminisced.
“Can't beat John Wayne – and True Grit was one of his best,” Blaine said.
“You should know. I think Dad rented every John Wayne movie ever made because you would watch them with him,” Kurt mentioned, laughing.
“Okay, enough of the trip down memory lane,” Blaine laughed, blushing at the memory.
Kurt loved it when Blaine blushed, and he did it just as often as he had as a sixteen-year-old kid. Kurt moved closer and stopped Blaine with a touch to his shoulder. When his husband turned to see what Kurt needed, Kurt kissed his cheek. Blaine smiled and the blush deepened, leading Kurt to give him a real kiss. He pulled Blaine closer and put his arms around him tightly.
“We'll find Jordy, I promise, Baby,” Kurt whispered in his ear.
Blaine gave him a sad smile and a tight hug before turning back to the trail. He caught Kurt's hand and held it as they continued along the trail to the lake.
They walked in the hot sun, observing the trees and birds around them. Kurt had always thought Warner Mountain was a wild place, even after he'd lived there for a dozen years, but this place was a different world. Few human beings had ever set foot here before they broke ground to build their house. It was a surprise to Kurt to see such a wide array of animals.
He could tell they were getting close to the lake because there were frogs singing. He remembered the trips up Warner Mountain with Blaine the first times, riding close together on Caesar and seeing so many little creatures he'd never thought of.
As they neared the lake, Blaine got his whistle out and blew it. They heard an answering bark and a few minutes later Lucy and Scout, the family's flat-coated retrievers, came running up to him. They wagged their tails and walked along with the men towards the lake.
“Well, maybe Jordan is at the lake but didn't hear our whistles?” Blaine said.
“Let's try again,” Kurt suggested and blew his whistle. This time there was a echoing whistle blown three times.
“There he is!” Kurt crowed, breaking into a run.
He and Blaine came to the end of the trees, seeing Jordan running towards them, a smile on his face.
“Daddy, Tatay! I had just about given up waiting for you. I had waded around the edge of the lake, but I know better than to get in to swim alone. Lucy and Scout found me, so I thought everyone would be here soon – but I've been waiting forever!” Jordan rushed out, hugging first one then the other of his fathers.
“Wait, you thought we were all coming to swim at the lake?” Kurt asked.
“Yeah. Katie told me to come first and they would all be here...” he stuttered to a stop. “She lied, didn't she?” Jordan said in a sad voice.
“Yes, honey, she did. We've been searching the forest in back of the blackberry patch for almost two hours. She only fessed up a little while ago and we came straight here,” Blaine told his son. Jordan teared up, closing his eyes and putting his arms around Blaine. Kurt put his arms around both of them.
“Hey, you're okay. We need to talk about this, about you coming here alone. It was wrong, no matter what your sister told you and you knew that, didn't you?” Blaine said.
“Yes, Tatay,” Jordy replied, looking miserable.
“We were so worried, and something might have happened to you. I know you're growing up but you are not old enough to be alone in the wilderness. We've gone over this time after time, young man. Life is not a video game, Jordy. You don't get to come back to life and play again – there are real consequences to your actions,” Kurt said, though he tried not to be too harsh because Jordan was a very sensitive boy. He took everything to heart.
Burt and Katura came around the edge of the trees and Katie ran the last ten yards to her brother, hugging him and telling him how sorry she was that she'd tricked him. Jordan hugged her back.
“Why, Katie? Why did you do that to me?” he asked, his eyes tearing up. “I would never do that to you.”
“No. No, you wouldn't and I'm so, so sorry. I promise I'll never do it again. I was mad at you and it was such a bad thing to do...” Katie said before she began to cry.
“I wish I believed that,” Jordy whispered to himself before hugging his sister. Only Burt heard him.
“Well, it's good we found you, kiddo,” Burt said. “Who would I go fishing with if you were lost?”
“I wasn't lost. I knew where I was,” Jordan said, his face so serious.
“I guess you did at that,” Burt smiled and gave his grandson a hug.
“It is hot out here. Everyone want to go swimming?” Blaine asked and got a resounding cheer.
The Hummel-Anderson clan all stripped down to their skivvies and got into the cool, clear water of the lake. Even Burt. They swam for over an hour, then got out and dried off by sitting on the warm rocks that surrounded the lake. Lucy and Scout swam with their humans, getting out and running around the shore barking.
Sitting on the bank, Jordan saw a family of wood ducks swimming along the shore and pointed it out to his daddy, who was sitting near to him. Katie grinned at him. Jordan was always the first to see wildlife.
It was late afternoon and clouds were gathering in the sky. It cooled off a bit, though it was by no means cold. More wildlife began to show themselves as Jordan sat alone on a warm granite rock a way down the shore from the rest of the family.
He looked over in the woods just in time to see a fox walking along the edge of the trees. She was stalking something and Jordy watched as the small dog-like creature jumped straight up in the air and pounced on a small animal. It was probably a mouse or something similar and the vixen disappeared back into the forest, probably to feed her brood of kits. Jordan smiled at the thought of the tiny baby foxes, so cute at this stage. He'd seen many of them in the meadow in back of the house on Warner Mountain.
“Earth to Jordy,” Kurt called and Jordan noticed the family was dressed and walking back towards the house.
“I'm coming, Dad,” he called back, sliding on his jean shorts and pulling his shirt and boots on before joining the family. He knew as well as Katura did that although they had a good time cooling off in the lake that they were still in trouble and their Daddy and Tatay wouldn't forget it.
Burt walked slowly, holding the hands of his grandchildren. He could tell they were thinking, probably of their punishment awaiting them when they got home. He squeezed their hands and gave each a smile. Jordan and Katura smiled back.
Blaine sighed and whistled for Lucy and Scout to walk close back to the log house. He and Kurt were holding hands, both in deep thought about how to get through to the twins. Since they had been going to school in Philomath, both of them had changed – and not for the better. Both Blaine and Kurt had begun to notice little things – the attention to social media was the most concerning.
Katie had begun to think more about her appearance, making the perpetually happy child into a sad and sulky kid. She suddenly hated her body, her hair, her eyes. Nothing she owned fit her or was fashionable. She had been a leader at school and among her friends but Kurt could see she was slipping into a depression.
Jordan didn't care too much about things like fashion, but his constant need to be playing violent games on his game system was getting concerning. He skipped homework to sneak into his bedroom to play until Blaine removed the system from his room and put it in the den downstairs so he could be monitored.
While it was good that Burt and Carole moved to be close to Kurt and his family, the time spent in Philomath in the rambling Victorian house was time shared with the parents. Kurt and Blaine lived in the upstairs with the twins while Burt and Carole lived downstairs, but they shared the kitchen, yard, livingroom, and patio.
When one of the children had been reprimanded, they often retreated to the kitchen to get hugs from their grandparents. While that was nice, it undermined their fathers' authority and both of them felt their grip on the twins slipping away. It wasn't Burt and Carole's fault, and it wasn't even the twin's fault. In the end, even going up to the log house in Warner Camp led to problems with electronics and interference from well-meaning people like Shannon and Cookie, the cooks for the camp and the closest neighbors to the log house.
When the new house was ready enough, Blaine rushed them to move there even without propane and plumbing. He thought just a month or so alone with Katura and Jordan would make a difference. Kurt agreed.
Later that night, Kurt and Blaine laid together in the hammock on their balcony. One of the very best things about the house in Warner Camp was the hammock on the tiny balcony, so when he designed this house Kurt made a much larger balcony. It was big enough for a table and four chairs along with the extra-large hammock so they could eat breakfast in the cool of the morning and say goodnight to the setting sun.
The kid's rooms were on the east side of the house with morning sun shining in the windows. It tended to make both of them wake up happy and that made a good start to every day.
Tonight, after a supper of elk stew and Irish soda bread with blackberry tarts for dessert, Burt went to bed early. He was tired from the unaccustomed walking and he missed Carole. Rachel's baby wasn't due for another few weeks but Carole was convinced they might need her, so she was in New York.
Kurt and Blaine had sat their children down and talked about their disappointment in the way they had acted today. Katura had been jealous of her brother and sent him into the wilderness alone. Jordy knew better than to go by himself, but he did it anyway. Both had made poor decisions. As punishment, both were forbidden to play outside for a week. They could do outdoor chores only with an adult present, and they had to write letters of apology to their Grandpa Burt for being so dismissive of his feelings.
There were tears, which were met with hugs and cuddles from their daddy and tatay, but the punishment stood.
“Did we handle it okay?” Blaine asked Kurt, curling close and resting his head on Kurt's chest. They usually lay in the hammock before going in to bed.
“I hope so. I don't want them to think we don't love them, and I hate to see either of them cry, but they have to learn,” Kurt whispered back. He leaned down and kissed the top of Blaine's head. He combed his fingers through the silky black curls and smiled. He loved Blaine's hair.
“The weather was so hot today! I don't remember it being this hot in a long time,” Blaine complained.
“But the swim in the lake made it okay, right?” Kurt asked, thinking back on Blaine jumping in the lake, his boxer briefs tight across his ass cheeks. Even fifteen years later, Blaine was as beautiful as he was the day they got married.
“Yes, it did. That was a little slice of heaven,” Blaine smiled and snuggled closer to Kurt. It might have been hot that day, but the evening usually brought cooler temperatures in this high altitude. Blaine had lived most of his life up in these mountains but it still surprised Kurt from time to time.
“Did we do the right thing to move here?” Kurt asked. “It feels like we just ran away from our troubles. Are we teaching Katie and Jordy to run away?”
“I don't think so. It isn't as if we're going to stay here forever. Come autumn we'll go back down to the house in town. You'll need to go into the office for a while. It's fine to hole up here to work, but you need to touch base with Mr. Church.”
Kurt smiled. He loved his job as one of the partners in the architecture firm. Mr. George had retired a few years ago and Mr. Church asked Kurt if he wanted to become a partner.
“Yeah, I know. I am just worried about the twins. Are we messing up?” Kurt asked.
“No. Lots of people go on vacation for the summer. Let's just think of it as a vacation from civilization. We can teach them so many things – tying flies, baking rabbit pie, playing cribbage. All those things we did together when I met you. We'll have them so busy with new things that they won't miss the worries of town.”
“I hope so, baby. We're going to do our best. Then when we go back they might have a different perspective,” Kurt said, sighing.
“I love you, Kurt.”
“I love you, too, babe.”