It had rained the day of the memorial. Burt had stood with Carole leaning into his side and holding his hand tightly. Finn had been on his other side, shoulders bowed over by the weight of loss. Kurt’s friends from in town were seated close to the front, but Burt didn’t have any more energy for the kids right now.
His little boy was dead. They hadn’t even found his body. Burt had prayed so many nights for God to take him instead. To bring the cancer back, if only they would find his son alive.
When the service started, he had taken his cap off in respect. But he had worn the NYADA cap Kurt had given him, because Kurt was so used to seeing it. Burt figured it comforted Kurt sometimes to see his dad as he should look, and not trussed up in a suit with a bare head. There were other things that should have been done at Kurt’s funeral, but for the life of him, Burt could not remember what they were when he was asked.
Rachel, Mercedes, and Santana came to the front after the pastor had said a few (brief, out of respect for Kurt’s feelings) words to uplift the crowd.
“We’d like to sing a song for our favorite guy in the whole wide world,” Mercedes said. “The boy who taught us that we deserved to be treated like queens.”
“The boy who told-” Santana faltered and covered her mouth as the tears she was fighting choked her.
Rachel touched her shoulder and spoke. “The boy who made magic for everyone around him.”
“This song is a weird choice, considering what happened, but I really think he would have chosen it himself,” Mercedes explained. “He always loved Celine Dion. He once led the McKinley High cheerleading team to victory, singing her songs for them to perform to, in French. This was one of his guilty pleasure songs. And the movie was, too, even if he always yelled at Rose at the end to let Jack get on that damn piece of wood with her.” Mercedes gave a soft laugh, and the crowd followed.
Santana wiped her eyes and nodded to the others, and they began.
Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you. That is how I know you go on.
Far across the distance and spaces between us, you have come to show you go on.
Burt had choked a little. It was funny, sort of, at the same time it was terrible. And Kurt would have chosen that sappy song from Titanic. To make people cry. To make them smile. The year it came out, Kurt had sung the melody of it with his mother so many times that Burt could hum along with it in stores when it came on over the radio. By the time Kurt was old enough to actually watch the movie, Burt had the damn song memorized and occasionally had it pop into his head while he was working.
Then he’d turn around and beg Lizzie to sing something, anything, else.
“Rose, move your fat ass over and let him get out of the freezing water!” Kurt threw popcorn at the screen, and beside him, Blaine just laughed and shook his head in disbelief.
“Get used to it,” Burt advised the boy in the Dalton uniform as he strolled in and leaned on the back of the couch. “He always does this.”
Blaine raised his brows and watched Kurt instead of the movie, still laughing softly.
“Stupid ging’,” Kurt muttered. Then he sunk back into the sofa. “C’mon. Let Leo on your floaty door. He’s too cute to die.”
“I don’t think the wood would have floated if Jack had gotten on the door with her,” Blaine said, frowning a little in confusion.
“Unn.” Kurt scrunched up his face and started to huff in anticipation of the next scene unfolding. As Rose realized that Jack was dead, a tear started to trickle down his cheek, and Burt rubbed his shoulders. Why Kurt watched these sad movies that made him upset, he had no idea.
What blew you away was that there were just so many people there at the memorial. Not just from their small McKinley group. There were friends from Lima, his French teacher, Will and Emma Schuester, that crazy Sylvester woman with her baby, one or two boys from Dalton and one of the teachers from the school, a smattering of young gay boys that Burt had only seen once or twice talking to Kurt and getting advice, and the Karofsky boy, who looked like someone had reached into his chest and crushed is heart with one hand. A cluster of Kurt friends from NYADA had come as well. At group of at least twenty. And then he spotted a tiny, well-dressed blond woman. Probably one of the ones from New York, but she was in her forties, at least. She approached the front as though floating in her fancy heels and reached for the picture, as though she might caress the side of Kurt’s smiling face.
“Not much of a fairy godmother after all, hm?” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
Burt didn’t understand what that meant, but he could see in her pained expression that she had tried to care for Kurt. That wasn’t a detail he would miss.
A lot of it washed over Burt. He just couldn’t focus. But so many people came up to speak. So many people shared stories of things Kurt had done for them. So many had songs they wanted to share with the group for Kurt. (Few as wickedly and beautifully appropriate as the first. Though Santana returned to the front to sing a slow, sad version of Pink’s “Perfect” with Brittany, and Burt knew Kurt used to sing that song a lot when he was bummed.)
And when a woman came up to the front with a tiny little girl at her side, Burt felt his heart surging in his chest. Kurt’s voice urged him in his head to take it easy.
“My name is Melissa Reed, and this is my little girl Amy.” She pulled the girl up into her arms. “Kurt Hummel saved my daughter’s life. When the ship started to go down, Amy slipped from my arms, and quick as the Flash, that boy left his safety at the stage and grabbed her. He held on... so tightly to the tables, and when the staff came to rescue them, he got her into the man’s arms first. I didn’t know him. I’d never met Kurt Hummel. All I know is that he had a beautiful voice, and he was a hero.”
She leaned her girl towards the mike. “Amy? Sweetheart?”
“Thankoo, mista Kuwt.”
A high, strangled sound came from Carole’s throat, and Burt squeezed her tightly.
God, if Kurt only knew how much he had mattered to all of these people. All those times he’d been beaten down or depressed, if he could have only seen this.
Kurt Hummel had been a well-loved young man. With him gone, the world was missin’ out.
It had been three weeks since hearing about the cruise ship going down. And a week since the memorial service. Burt didn’t know whether it was better or worse that they didn’t have a body to deal with. But the amount of time didn’t seem to be having any effect.
Burt still felt like he had his insides removed. He’d had a fairly explosive fight with Carole about what to do about Kurt’s room. Finn was talking about taking a break from college, even though he’d really just started. Sam had pretty much stopped washing his hair and spent most of his time in the guest room, aside from the times he emerged to steal dry pasta of all the crazy things.
Burt wished that he could do something more for them. But he had nothing.
“Whadda ya want?” Burt stared down at the tiny blond girl, an Asian girl wearing pigtails and a frilly baby doll dress, and a tall young man whose mouth seemed to be sewn on crooked. They’d come to the shop earlier, and he didn’t have the time to talk to them. Especially since they didn’t appear to have a car.
“We... We called,” the young man said. “Um...”
“Well, you got my attention now. What.”
They looked between each other. Burt scowled and started to shut the door.
“It’s about Kurt,” the blond girl said.
Burt stared them down. “You press?”
They looked at each other in surprise, but between working in the state senate and the public coverage of the loss of his son, he’d learned that some plucky reporters were quite young.
“No,” the Asian girl shook her head. “I’m My. This is Kiera and Joey. We were Kurt’s friends at NYADA. We wanted to talk to you about using one of Kurt’s scripts. He’d showed it to Adam, and... Adam just loved it. I know Adam was helping him revise it.”
“N-not that there was anything wrong, just... Adam had already taking script writing classes and arrangement, and... y’know. British,” Joey said.
“We want to put it on and donate the money we make to The Trevor Project. We know that was important to him,” Kiera said.
“Then why don’t you ask Adam? He probably saved it,” Burt said.
“Adam... didn’t survive the shipwreck either,” Kiera said in a strained tone.
“He jumped out of the life raft when Kurt... He tried to save him, but...” My wrinkled her nose and looked own at her shiny pink shoes.
Burt tightened his jaw. “I’m sorry. C’mon in.”
Kiera came in first, followed by the others, and Joey looked around, bunching his lips together.
“What do you need?” Burt asked. He motioned vaguely for them to sit, but none of them did.
“We need to see if he had any of the notes in his room, or on his computer, maybe,” My said. “We looked through Adam’s computer, and we couldn’t find the edits, so we thought maybe Kurt had them. We wouldn’t have bothered you with this, sir, but it’s the last thing they created, so...”
Burt touched the girl’s shoulder as her tears got the best of her. “I haven’t opened that room in a while. Find what you need. Don’t make a mess.”
He let out a heavy sigh and headed to the kitchen to make some coffee. “Kurt didn’t like a mess.”
Realizing that he was never going to get over this came slow. Though it should have been a forgone conclusion. Even knowing that there was a group of energetic young people in New York, dedicated to making sure that Kurt and his friend Adam were both remembered, even knowing that so many people’s lives had been touched by his amazing boy, even knowing that he had Carole and Finn, Burt slowly came to know that there was no going back to happy. There was no going back to remotely okay.
The best he could do was promise Carole that he’d try harder to be a person. And when he did that, she kissed his brow and told him to stop worrying about her. Finn sat next to him on the sofa, and the two of them watched sports, silently. They would heal around each other, eventually. Maybe after a few years had passed.
And then the phone rang. Kurt had been lost twenty-seven days, and it had been sixteen since they’d been told the search was officially off and they should try to accept that it was extremely unlikely that Kurt could have survived. And the phone rang.
Burt’s eyes were glued to the television when Carole came into the room.
“We’ll be there... Can you give me the name of the hospital again?”
Burt didn’t look up. Finn just looked at him. Carole thanked the person on the phone at least three times. Then she put the phone down and came over to the sofa.
“Honey. Honey, listen,” she said.
Burt raised a brow. “What’s up? Your aunt again?” he grunted.
“They found him,” she managed, struggling to breath. “Burt, they found him. He’s in a hospital-”
Burt was up on his feet, clutching her shoulders, and she looked up and laughed.
“They...” Burt bobbed his head in disbelief. “They found ‘im. They found Kurt?!”
She nodded and let out another joyous laugh as tears started down her cheeks. Suddenly Finn’s arms were around them both.
“Wait... Hospital? He’s in the hospital?” Burt said, stepping back.
“They didn’t say what happened.” Carole shook her head. “But if he’s been in a life boat for... The Coast Guard said that he’d have either drown or frozen within a few days. I’m guessing that he needs treatment from exposure at the least.”
“Well, whatever it is, I wanna see him,” Finn said.
“Pack,” Burt ordered. He jogged upstairs and rapped on Sam’s door. “Get your butt in the shower and pack a bag if you wanna come with us to New York.”
Sam cracked the door open and looked out. “What?”
“They found Kurt.” Burt punched the boy’s shoulder lightly and turned around. He needed to book them on the first plane up there.
He couldn’t wait to see his little boy.
When doctors spoke, it was usually bad news. They’d all been hoping that Kurt would be ready to go when they got there, but it had just been a hope. Burt could see in the doctor’s eyes as she approached that she didn’t have good news.
“Mr. Hummel? I’m Doctor Reyes. Oh, is this... the family?”
She looked at the cluster of people behind him. Carole, Finn, Sam, and Blaine, and then Rachel, Santana, and Mercedes, who had heard the news and gotten to the hospital first, but couldn’t get any information on Kurt since they weren’t family.
“This is everyone we could bring on short notice.” Burt crossed his arms. “What’s goin’ on with my son? Is he...?”
She held up a hand. “He’s still in surgery. When the Coast Guard found them, they were on an island pretty far from the site of the shipwreck. They’ve been through a lot, and first they were treating him for exposure, dehydration, malnutrition-” She nodded with each item she listed off. “-but he sustained a serious injury when the ship was going down a puncture wound to his abdomen, which has partially healed during the time he was stranded on the island. His condition started to go south, so we rushed him in to an exam room as soon as they arrived here.”
“What, you just wanted to root around in there?” Blaine asked angrily. Sam bumped his shoulder.
Burt shot him a look and the boy quieted. He turned back to Dr. Reyes. “You couldn’t give him an MRI?”
“The wound was caused by debris from the ship. We were afraid he might still have part of the metal inside him, which would have drastically bad results if we put him in an MRI.” She took a breath. “So far we have found one fragment, and repaired some damage. He’ll be out soon, but he’ll probably have a longer recovery than you’d hoped-”
“Doc,” Burt said, putting up a hand. “I’m just grateful he’s alive.”
Carole clung to his arm. “You’ll let us know when he’s out of surgery? How soon can he see us?”
“When he gets out of surgery, we’ll have him in post-op for a little bit. And after that, you’ll be able to see him. His system is pretty taxed.”
“Does that mean... What does that mean?” Burt asked.
“It means the sooner he wakes up, the better sign it’ll be.”
“My son’s the stubbornest son of a gun in the world. He’ll wake up.”
Adam’s eyes opened to the bright hospital lights.
“Is that a plane?”
“Get the flare gun!”
He closed them.
“God, how long have you two been out here?”
“Kurt, wake up!”
“I need to see him,” Adam murmured.
“Are you awake?”
“He does this sometimes... I think it’s because of the wound in his side... but it’s healed, on the outside...”
“There’s likely to be internal bleeding.”
“Get the oxygen.”
“Will he be all right?”
“Well, will he??”
“Mr. Crawford?” The nurse touched Adam’s shoulder.
He opened his eyes again. “Can I go now?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes and checked the pillows on his bed. “You were stuck out there almost a month. Give yourself a break.”
“Do you know how he’s doing? Is he all right?”
“Your friend? I don’t know, honey.”
Adam pushed his hands through his hair and pushed himself up. “I need to see him. Do you understand? Please, if he’s sick again, or hurt-”
Her hands pressed against his shoulders. “Mr. Crawford, you need to stay in bed.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“No, you came in dehydrated and malnourished, and you have had prolonged heat exhaustion and sun exposure,” she lectured. “We need to monitor your heart for a few days, among other things, not to mention you have seventeen stitches in your leg and an infection. You have to stay in bed.”
Adam gave up and laid back in the bed. “Could you please just ask someone?”
“I’ll see what I can do, but you’re not family. I can’t release his condition to you without talking to his fam-.”
“Please, just ask someone.”
“I will. Mr. Crawford, just be patient. Okay?”
Adam curled his arms around himself. They’d been lucky that the plane had circled over them when it had. Kurt had been starting to get weak again, and there was nothing either of them could do. They tried to get enough water. Kurt used his bizarre aim and ability to handle knives (he’d said he actually trained on short swords) to supplement their food supply, and they created as comfortable a place for themselves as possible.
But it was hard work, and Kurt had never fully healed. That was obvious, even if he was no longer bleeding. And once Adam had cut his leg inadvertently on a rock... The plane spotting them and sending for help was the best thing that could have happened.
Kurt had slumped into Adam while they were being lifted back to the coast, and the medics had gotten so serious, so quickly. Adam had held his hand, cradled him and whispered that they would have help soon...
“I’ll never let go, dahling. Angel.”
The moment they were at the hospital, they were separated, and Adam hadn’t seen Kurt since, despite a few promises that they were taking care of him. He knew that Kurt had to be treated right away. He might have rallied again, or he might not, but delaying at this point would be stupid.
But being separated from Kurt when he didn’t know if he would be okay was painful. They’d been by one another’s side through all of this. Adam’s head swam with worry and fever and medication.
Adam rested his arm across his stomach and listened to the beeping of his heart monitor. His eyes drifted up to the screen, then back to the door.
As he slipped out the door, he ignored the sound of the flatline.
Only a few family members were allowed in the ICU waiting room, so Carole had sent the kids on back to the apartment and promised them to let them know when they had news. Finn had chosen to stay, and Burt had settled in to wait. Occasionally, a doctor would come out to let them know that Kurt was doing well in surgery, but all of them were very anxious.
“It’s been an hour,” Finn muttered.
“Surgery takes a long time. They have to be real careful in there, especially if they think he already has internal bleeding to patch up,” Burt said.
Finn leaned forward on his legs. “Kurt always takes his time getting ready.”
Carole smiled and rubbed Finn’s back.
“I’m gonna go get us some coffee,” Burt said.
“I could get it,” Carole offered.
“Nah. I need to be movin’ around.” Burt stood and stretched. “Beep me if they get him outta surgery.”
He strolled down the hallway, adjusting his cap and trying to get his back to pop. He was still tense, but his entire body felt different.
Because Kurt was alive. And he was fightin’ in there.
Burt’s eyes caught sight of a tall young man in a hospital gown with powerful arms and messy blond hair. He was white as a ghost, and leaning on his IV stand a little as he hobbled his way down the hallway.
Barefoot. They usually gave patients booties if they were gonna let ‘em go on a stroll.
“Hey there, buddy. You okay?” Burt asked, stepping forward, just as the man leaned into the wall.
“Oh, I’m fine,” the man, British man, said. But his voice was wobbly and his shoulders sagged.
Burt offered an arm. “Y’need help back to your room?”
“No! No. I...” He looked down, then lifted his head to gaze in front of him.
Burt inched closer. “Not tryin’ to crowd you or anything, but you look like you’re gonna keel over.”
“You forget, how much you’re running on adrenaline, and keeping on... because he needs you,” the man said, meeting Burt’s eye.
Burt nodded, even though he didn’t understand. “I’m sure he appreciated it.”
“Of course. He never let me doubt that.” The man’s blue eyes started to get teary.
He was on medication for sure. That much was obvious. And there was a large bandage around his leg. It must’ve been hard for him to be up and walking at all.
“Let’s get you a chair, then?” Burt suggested.
A nurse came hurrying with an orderly up to them. “Mr. Crawford, you need to get back to bed. We thought you were coding!”
“I’m fine!” the man snapped.
“Hey.” Burt touched his arm gently. “Maybe we can find somethin’ out about your boyfriend. Send someone to find out while you get back in bed. Somehow I’m thinkin’ he wouldn’t want you getting worse just because you were worried about him. Would he? Wouldn’t he want you to be taken care of?”
“He would... I just need to know if he’s all right. But I can’t. I’m not family.”
Burt nodded slowly. He looked at the nurse. “Did the family say no?”
She shook her head. “Sir, I just got on my shift. I don’t know anything about this, but I promise-” She looked up at her patient. “-I will find out where he is, and if we’ve found his family, and if you can see him.”
“Thank you,” the man whispered.
“Your family’s here. Would you like to come back and see them?” she asked as the orderly pulled over a wheelchair.
“Mum’s here? Already?”
With a gentle pat from Burt, the young man let himself be helped into the chair.
“Oh, no, it was your father, and your sister.”
His eyes went round. “My father.”
“Good luck,” Burt told him.
The man nodded and reached over to squeeze Burt’s hand.
“When he starts to come out of the anesthesia, he may wake a few times,” Dr. Reyes warned. “He’ll probably be disoriented, and he may feel a little sick.”
“But the surgery was fine?” Carole asked, again.
“He’s doing extremely well. The debris inside him did do some damage, but we were able to repair it. He showed no problems in post opt. It’s possible that he could make a full recovery.”
Burt swallowed and sat in the chair by Kurt’s bed. He looked so pale, and fragile. But he’d gone down with a shipwreck and survived on a deserted island for nearly a month.
“This kid. He’s amazing,” he muttered.
“He definitely is,” Dr. Reyes agreed.
Carole and Finn joined Burt by Kurt’s side as the doctor left the room. Burt reached over and took Kurt’s hand. His eyes fluttered.
“Where’d...?” Kurt muttered.
Burt squeezed his hand. Kurt scrunched his brow up, blinked at them, and fell back asleep.
Finn laughed softly.
“Yeah, this is basic anesthesia stuff,” Burt told him with a smile. “God, look at ‘im.”
“He looks really... white,” Finn said.
“He just got out of surgery,” Carole pointed out.
“And dry,” Finn added. “I brought some of his moisturizers in my overnight bag. Y’know, if he wants them.”
“That’s so sweet,” Carole chuckled.
“Don’t I... um...” Kurt said, opening his eye a little. He stared at them once again.
“Hey,” Burt said softly.
“Oh... Oh, um...” His face crumbled as though he was about to cry.
Burt could only grin from ear to ear and reach over to hug his boy. “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s me. It’s us.”
Burt petted the back of his hair gently, and Finn patted Kurt’s leg.
Kurt blinked at them sluggishly. “Oh! Omigod!” he said suddenly.
“We’re right here. It’s just the anesthesia,” Carole reassured him.
“God, we are so glad to see you again,” Burt said. He bowed his head and wiped away a tear. “Kurt... God, Kurt, we thought you were gone.”
He kept shaking his head, and Carole rubbed his back. She and Finn exchanged a smile. They let him doze again, and wake a few times more only to seem surprised and confused at their presence each time.
Soon Finn was just shaking in laughter, and Burt knew that they all felt so much relief to see Kurt, even if he was drugged out of his mind. He was here, and he was still in their family.
“Dad... Is that you?” Kurt muttered after sleeping for a little bit longer.
Burt rubbed his thumb over the crease in Kurt’s forehead. “Yeah. It’s me. And Carole and Finn.”
Kurt screwed his brows together. Then he started to sit up to reach for Burt.
“Whoa, whoa. Slow your roll.” Burt placed a hand on Kurt’s chest. “You just went through some pretty major surgery. Just let us do for you, okay? We’re all here for ya.”
“Unn.” Kurt shook his head, but reached to put his hand over Burt’s. Then blinked at them slowly. “I’m... confused.”
“That’s okay,” Carole encouraged again.
“Dude, you are so high,” Finn said.
Carole gave him a look, but Kurt returned with a wobbly smile.
“I missed you so much. Missed you all so much,” Kurt murmured.
Burt slipped his arm around Kurt’s shoulders and rubbed his chest. “We’re not goin’ anywhere.”