The Round Room - Epilogue
Written for the 2014 kurt_bigbang, featuring cover art and illustations by Riverance.
Please find full headers with warnings here.
[ Prologue - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Epilogue - And in the end ]
Kurt's letter concludes: "I'm staying in Ohio for a few days. If you want to meet, come to the Caverns after dark on the fourteenth or fifteenth. I'll be there."
There's no signature at the bottom of the letter. Blaine holds the thick sheaf of handwritten pages, shuffles the last page to the back, and doesn't do anything for a long moment. Today is the fourteenth. Blaine doesn't move, doesn't think, doesn't even breathe. Doesn't question the incredible tale he's just read. His decision was made before he even opened the mailbox. In his heart, where Kurt is concerned, the decision has always been made.
He doesn't wait until his parents come home, leaves the driveway unshoveled and them a note explaining that he's gone to the library to do research on a Physics paper. He won't be home until after dinner, may even crash at Sam's if he doesn't get finished until late. He'll text them if he won't be home.
He has a few errands to run before dark. Things he's sure Kurt will need, some other things that may help him. Then Blaine drives the hour out to the state park just as dusk settles, indigo and blue, in the western sky.
It's not hard to get in after dark, but Blaine avoids the main road in, climbs a fence in the dark with his shopping bags, and it feels like a real adventure for a moment. But it's not play. Whatever has happened to Kurt, whether what he wrote is literally true or not, has been anything but fun. And Blaine knows Kurt, knows he wouldn't make up something so elaborately horrible if it were only a game.
Unfortunately, Kurt didn't say where in the park he would be, so Blaine heads down toward the small lake. He's not sure he'll find Kurt in the caverns, but the water, he knows, Kurt will find calming.
The picnic tables are all vacant, and the moon rises, bright upon the water. Blaine keeps looking, walking around the perimeter of the lake, looking back toward the trees and limestone hills, unsure whether he should call out.
Then from behind, he hears his name, spoken softly in such a familiar voice and with such fragile wondering, Blaine's heart fumbles its next beat.
He turns around, not knowing what to expect, but hoping. Hoping.
Kurt's wrapped up in his dark coat, the hood pulled low to obscure his face, but Blaine would recognize the lines and stance of his body anywhere. "Kurt," he exhales, and he goes to him.
But instead of coming into a welcoming embrace, Kurt takes a step back and turns his head. The moonlight catches his face. His gaze is fever bright and wary. "You're alone?" Kurt asks.
"Yes," Blaine says.
"No one knows you're here?"
Blaine shakes his head. "I haven't told anyone anything, Kurt. I promise. My parents think I'm at the library."
"Okay," Kurt says. "Let's go in." He turns away and walks up the slope toward the cavern entrance.
"Is that safe?" Blaine asks. Enclosed spaces, Kurt had written, bring danger.
"It can't come into these natural caverns, they're too irregular. It hasn't found me here yet anyway. It's not close."
"Okay," Blaine says, and he follows Kurt. He can't tell if Kurt is wholly himself, or if he is suffering a delusion of some kind. But Kurt speaks calmly enough, and he doesn't seem dangerous.
Inside the limestone cavern is a small campsite, ringed with LED lanterns that provided a dim, pale light and stretched long dark fingers of shadow about the cave walls. Kurt's belongings are there, including props from the letter's story. Blaine sees the occult books, the device, the small brass elephant. Kurt steps between two low stalagmites and slips off his coat. The pommel of the dagger at his belt glints red, and Kurt's left arm is in a makeshift sling. He's dressed in a shirt and cardigan with only a few buttons done up.
His face is drawn, and he's definitely lost weight. Fatigue darkens the skin under his eyes. He looks at Blaine nervously, and Blaine understands what he's seeing in Kurt's gaze, an unnatural brightness to the blue, almost as if Kurt's wearing colored contacts. Something has changed him.
And then Kurt smiles, and he's suddenly entirely himself, entirely known and familiar, the boy Blaine remembers, loves, and misses. "Thank you for coming," Kurt says, and he sits down on a smooth boulder, gestures for Blaine to come closer.
"You had to know I would," Blaine says, but he hesitates to sit anywhere; he sets down the shopping bags. "I'll always come if you ask me to."
Kurt blinks and casts his gaze down. "I'd never expect you to, not now. You should know that. This is all... oh, god." He shudders and then his back heaves spasmodically. Kurt brings his free hand to his face and lets out a soft sob. "Blaine," he says, and that single syllable is weighted with all the pain from the letter, all the despair; all the suffering, confusion, and fear.
"Hey," Blaine says, and he approaches Kurt slowly, holding his hands out with open palms to show he's not a threat. It's like approaching a frightened cat. "It's okay."
Kurt drops his hand and looks at him then, tears wet on his cheeks, his eyes glassy and red. "Nothing is okay," Kurt says bitterly. "You read the letter?"
"Yes," Blaine says, and he sits next to Kurt gingerly, doesn't try to touch him. "I read it."
"All of it?"
"And did you believe it?"
Blaine presses his lips together and keeps looking at Kurt, trying to find the answer to that simple query. "I don't know," he says at last. "I believe you've been through something terrible, but the details are hard to accept."
"Yeah," Kurt says, wry. "They really are. I wouldn't believe it myself if I got that letter."
That makes Blaine exhale a soft laugh. "All right then."
"I want you to believe me though," Kurt says more softly, and then he looks back at the shopping bags Blaine set down. "What did you bring?"
"Oh," Blaine gets up again and gets them, brings them back to where they're sitting.
"Food and clothes mostly, some toiletries for you, things I thought you could use," he says. "Take anything you want." He bends to reach into the bottom of one of the bags and brings out a small, rectangular, pink and red striped gift box and a card. "And this," he says, and hands them to Kurt, who takes them with a startled expression. "Happy Valentine's Day, Kurt." Blaine says.
Kurt takes the card and box into his lap so he can use both hands. "I didn't get you anything."
"It's not much, really," Blaine says.
Kurt opens the box first. Inside is a glass vial which holds a small measure Blaine's blood. One of Blaine's stops on the way had been at the medical labs where one of Cooper's ex-girlfriends worked as a phlebotomist. Blaine told her he needed a favor, for a Biology project.
"What is this?" Kurt demands, and his alarm pitches his voice higher.
"In the letter, you said sacrifices made with love could give power to... things. So I thought... maybe?" Blaine shrugs "The needle really hurt."
Kurt's eyes fill with tears again, and he slumps forward over the open box and whimpers. He's so fragile, Blaine realizes, and he reaches out to lays an open hand upon Kurt's back, strokes lightly to soothe. "Was that the wrong thing to do?"
But Kurt doesn't answer his question. "You must believe me, then," Kurt says. "To give me this?" He turns his face to look at Blaine and sniffs.
Blaine hadn't thought about it that way; he'd simply gone with an impulse. "I guess maybe I do?"
"I don't want this kind of thing from you, Blaine. It's not why I wanted to see you. I never want to—" Kurt breaks off with a distressed hiccup. "Take anything from you like this. It's too horrible."
Blaine attempts levity. "It's just blood. I'll make more of it."
That's enough to make Kurt smile weakly. "Honestly? I don't even know what to do with it. I'm not a vampire."
"I'm sure you'll come up with something."
"Well, thank you," Kurt says, and he straightens as his smile fades, "But if you ever do something like this again—? Please don't ever do something like this again. I couldn't bear for you to be involved or in danger."
They fall into silence then. The implication of Kurt's words sink in uncomfortably. He doesn't want Blaine to be involved. What does that mean? But before Blaine can ask, Kurt speaks up, a spark of humor in his gaze, an attempt to alleviate the increasingly awkward silence. "So I guess it's lucky for me that hanging out with Sam has made you credulous."
But Blaine can't bring himself to laugh now. He slides his hand up to Kurt's shoulder, and then reaches to brush his fingertips against Kurt's cheek. "No," he says. "It's just you."
Kurt's lips part, but he says nothing. Blaine lets his gaze drop down to the loose buttons of Kurt's shirt. He can't see any of the Elder Sign, and so he asks, "Could I see it? See you?"
The work of Kurt's jaw reveals his discomfort. "It's ugly," he says.
"But you're not," Blaine replies.
Kurt looks away for a moment, and then back at Blaine, his gaze uncertain. But, "Okay," Kurt accedes, and he stands, his back to Blaine, while he pulls the sling off over his head and sheds his layers.
Blaine stands too, and waits for Kurt. His bared shoulders are tense, and his arms stiff as he turns. And it's truly, not nearly as bad as what Blaine has braced himself for. Kurt's had time to heal, and the dark grayish raised lines of the sigil are clean, if still inflamed at the edges. As Blaine looks he sees a blueish glint skitter along the lines, like glitter catching the light. Blaine reaches a hand out and looks up at Kurt's face. "May I?"
Kurt sucks in a shallow breath and he nods faintly, blinks back the glisten of fresh tears and looks off at the cavern wall.
With wonder Blaine touches, lightly, over the relief of the shape. It's warm and tingles beneath the sensitive pads of his fingers. "Does it hurt?" he asks.
"No," Kurt whispers. "My arm does, but this is fine now."
Blaine traces the irregular star, each long line, thinks about Kurt doing this to himself. It brings his own tears to sting his eyes. "And does it... work?"
"Once it healed well enough, and it has to be visible to, um..."
"To the hound?" Blaine asks, still watching his hand on Kurt's skin, transfixed by the strangeness of it. He isn't horrified; this is just Kurt.
"Yeah," Kurt says. "So it's not as useful as I'd hoped. I mean, I can't go around shirtless like this, and I don't want to have that thing ambushing me in a grocery store."
"So it's still hunting you?" Blaine passes his palm over Kurt's heart to feel its beat and glances up at Kurt. Kurt shivers.
"It's, uh," and Kurt actually summons a stronger smile. "Think Terminator tenacious."
And it's so lovely to see, Blaine feels drawn, to lean in and press his mouth to Kurt's smile. Kurt's reply is a hastily sucked in breath, and he stiffens for a moment. Then his lips relax and part beneath the gentle pressure of Blaine's mouth, but when Blaine tries to deepen the kiss, Kurt pushes him away and shakes his head in denial. "I'm sorry, but I can't. I can't stay here, and you can't come with me. We can't do this."
"Oh," Blaine says and frowns. "So, um?" His hand falls away from where he's touching Kurt, and his gaze slides to Kurt's injuredarm, where it's bandaged, how the effect of the injury is visible beyond the neat, clean dressing. A strange dark, glistening blue runs down the veins of Kurt's forearm and up to his shoulder. "Why did you want to see me then?"
He hears the catch of Kurt's breath, and then Kurt bends to pick up his shirt. He slips it back on. "I wanted to see you one last time, and I wanted to say goodbye."
Stunned, Blaine takes a step back. "Goodbye?"
"I'm sorry," Kurt says again, "But as long as I have to live like this, I can't risk you, or my family, or anyone. This is something I have to face myself."
"You don't have to do this alone, Kurt—"
"Yes, I do, Blaine," Kurt says, an edge to hysteria creeping in to his voice. "You read my letter, you know what's hunting me, how it got to Carmen, how I couldn't help her, and how my trying to help her? All it did was bring that thing upon me. I can't let that happen to you. I can't, Blaine. I'd rather die myself."
Blaine blinks and looks away, deeper into the shadows. "So... what does that mean?"
"It means," Kurt sighs, defeated, and he sits down again. "It means, every day, I get up, and I have to fight the monster. Or the monster kills me. That's it. That's my life. That's all I have."
"I won't accept that," Blaine says.
"You have to. Please, for my sake?" Kurt pleads.
And Blaine knows, he knows Kurt well enough, he won't change Kurt's mind today. But that doesn't mean he'll abandon him to this fate. "Okay," Blaine says provisionally. "But I want you to promise me something."
"That you'll still write to me and you'll still call me. That we'll stay in each other's lives, somehow."
"Blaine," Kurt says, pained.
"You promised me once," Blaine says firmly, stepping close and touching Kurt again on his good shoulder. "That you would never say goodbye to me. Maybe I can't help you defeat this thing, and maybe I can't keep you safe, but I still want to be able to support you, in any way I can. You're not alone with this. As long as I’m breathing, Kurt, you’ll never be alone."
Kurt’s shoulders slump and he breathes. "All right," he says, and Blaine hears relief. When Blaine reaches for him, Kurt goes willingly into Blaine’s embrace, and he holds on tightly. "All right," he says again, more softly, and with such tender gratitude it almost sounds like hope. And for now, Blaine just holds him.