Title: Harder to Breathe
Pairings/Characters: Kurt/Blaine; Mr. and Mrs. Anderson
Warnings: anaphylactic shock and medical squick
Word Count: ~3500 this chapter (~20,700 so far)
Summary: Friday night dinner at the Hudmels' becomes a nightmare when Rachel brings dessert and Blaine neglects a childhood allergy.
A/N: I planned on this one being up sooner, but you can blame Darren Criss for having too many shows this weekend and for making me cry like a small child after I finally got to thank him. So.
Again, not a trained professional, though this chapter is medical!light in the grand scheme of it.
And many, many thanks to preciousmellow who is the reason this exists, and who greatly encouraged me to finish this chapter and pep talked me through it. And because she's generally fabulous.
- - - - -
“You’re okay, Blaine.”
Kurt keeps his hand against Blaine’s chest, continues to rub comforting circles across Blaine’s collarbone. He can feel how rapidly Blaine’s breathing, the way the breaths seem to catch and cut off. He imagines it’s a combination of the broken ribs and how strange Blaine’s neck must feel, and he tries to offer comfort for that, ease the pain away.
Carrie’s moved to stand next to Kurt, smiling at her son in what she hopes is a reassuring way. Blaine’s eyes shift rapidly between them, as if he’s not sure who to look at. John has yet to return with a doctor, and Kurt’s mildly worried Blaine’s going to work himself into a panic attack if he continues to breathe as quickly as he is.
“Relax, Blaine. You’re in the hospital, and you’re safe. Just focus on me.”
Kurt’s not sure how he’s managing to stay so calm, but it’s working to calm Blaine down, so he tamps down on his emotions and focuses on Blaine. He mutters strings of nonsense syllables, keeps his voice even and quiet. Blaine tracks back to Kurt, blinking heavily, as though staying awake is taking effort.
Blaine opens his mouth again, experimentally trying to force out a sound. He manages a quiet grunt, a flash of pain crossing his face as he works his throat. He meets Kurt’s eyes again, pleading for an explanation.
“Blaine, you-” Kurt stumbles, suddenly afraid that he’ll say the wrong thing, say too much. It’s not exactly his place, he’s not got any say or pull over Blaine’s care. Not for the first time, he feels entirely out of his element. Carrie rests a gentle warning hand on his arm, steps up to take over for him.
“Blaine, sweetheart, you had an allergic reaction.”
Blaine turns his face towards his mother, rolling his lips under before parting them slightly. They’re chapped and dry, sticking together, and Blaine pokes out his tongue to attempt to wet them. Kurt hisses, bends to dig in his shoulder bag and pulls out a tube of chapstick.
“Here,” he says quietly, spreading some on his finger. Kurt leans back over Blaine, gently runs his finger along Blaine’s lips, trying to soothe them. Blaine presses his lips together gratefully, and Kurt pulls back, wiping the excess chapstick on his jeans before he thinks about it.
“Thank you,” Blaine tries, his voice so quiet and rough that Kurt’s not sure if he’s actually heard Blaine, or if he’s imagined it. Blaine frowns at Kurt’s expression, but chooses instead to turn back to his mother.
He’s barely speaking, more like mouthing the words, and Kurt finds himself wishing he could read lips, understand Blaine without making Blaine stretch himself too thin. Blaine’s about to try again, force the words out, but Kurt stops him with a firm hand against the side of Blaine’s face.
“Shhh,” he whispers, brushing a thumb against Blaine’s lips. “Rest your voice. Your mom will explain.”
“You were at Kurt’s house, do you remember that? Friday night?”
Blaine nods, brow furrowing as he thinks back. Realization dawns on his face, and he looks back to Kurt, who smiles sadly at him.
“You ended up ingesting something with sesame in it, Blaine. Do you remember that?”
Blaine meets Kurt’s eyes, and Kurt knows he’s remembered something. Kurt tilts his head gently, nods, and he and Blaine silently come to an understanding-Blaine remembers making out, remembers Kurt above him, but doesn’t remember much else. They’ll talk about it later, Kurt knows, once Blaine’s processed nearly dying and the hole in his throat. Until then, that conversation will sit on the back burner.
He turns back towards his mother, and nods minutely. She takes his hand in hers, squeezes gently.
“It was a bad reaction, Blaine. You didn’t have your EpiPen on you, and-well, do you remember that one you had back in second grade? At grandma’s house?”
Blaine nods again, wrinkling his nose at his mother. Kurt wonders if that was how they found out about Blaine’s allergy, if that was the first reaction he’d ever had, and the reason he's been told to carry an EpiPen. He realizes it would make sense-it's been nearly ten years since his last severe reaction, no wonder Blaine's gotten complacent.
“Well, it was-it was a little worse than that one, Blaine. You-”
Carrie trails off, puts her free hand on top of the one she’s already joined with Blaine’s.
“Blaine, they had to do CPR.”
The statement sits heavily in the air, hangs between them as both Carrie and Kurt watch Blaine comprehend what that means. It's clear when it finally dawns, when Blaine comprehends that needing to have CPR means that he nearly died. Blaine’s face pales, his eyes fall closed and his head falls flat against the pillow.
Blaine pulls his hand from his mother’s, shrinks as small as he can. He draws back even from Kurt’s hand, into himself as the gravity of what’s happened hits him. It’s obvious he’s feeling overwhelmed, and Kurt slides off the bed, gives Blaine a bit of room. Carrie doesn’t move, her hand hovering awkwardly over Blaine’s arm even as Kurt steps behind her.
“Blaine, everything is okay now. You’re okay.”
Blaine’s eyes open again, and he looks at his mother, bringing a hand up to the gauze at his neck again, questioning. Carrie understands what he’s asking, nods and takes his hand, pulls it gently away from his neck.
“Your doctor will come explain that to you,” she tells him, setting his hand next to him on the bed, before reaching up to brush his bangs from his forehead. “They had to make sure you could breathe, that was most important, okay? We can deal with everything else, what matters is that you’re okay.”
Blaine nods, parts his lips to try to say something else, but is cut off by the arrival of John and one of the nurses on the floor.
“He’s still awake?”
“He’s tried talking a few times, and yes, he’s still awake. He can also hear you, John.”
Carrie’s smile softens the edge to her words, and she steps back, lets John take her place beside the bed. The nurse-Ally-introduces herself and goes about taking down Blaine’s vitals, checking the IV bag and the port in the back of Blaine’s hand. She looks up, curiously watching John approach his son awkwardly.
John steps up, hands dangling at his sides as he meets Blaine’s eyes. Neither of them makes a move, John shifting on his feet awkwardly while Blaine eyes him apprehensively. Ally stands opposite, eyes flicking between her patient and his father before she interrupts.
“I know you’ve just gotten him back, but I should probably look Blaine over before the doctor heads up to speak to you?”
“Of course,” Carrie responds, squeezing Blaine’s knee through his blanket and taking John’s hand in hers. She tugs him gently backwards from the bed, and Kurt follows.
“We’ll be just outside, Blaine.”
They leave the room, and suddenly Blaine’s alone with Ally, unable to effectively communicate much of anything. She smiles at him, pulls a chair up to the bed and sits on it backwards so she can talk to him.
“You looked a little overwhelmed with them all staring at you like that,” she tells him, leaning forward and resting her chin on crossed arms. "I figured I'd give us a bit of a chance to talk, see how you're doing without them hovering."
She watches his face for his reaction, when it dawns on her.
“Your throat’s killing you, isn’t it?”
Blaine nods, biting his bottom lip as he rolls his head towards her. Ally stands, removes her stethoscope from the pocket of her scrub coat and leans over the bed.
“Let me check you over real quick, and then we’ll see about getting you something for the pain, and getting your family back in here.”
She folds down the top of his gown, places the bowl of the stethoscope against his chest.
“Can you try to take a deep breath for me?”
He does his best, his breath catching at the end thanks to his ribs. She has him do it a few more times, before fixing his gown up and replacing her stethoscope. She pulls on a pair of gloves from the box next to the bed, before gently peeling back the gauze at his neck. Turning to the side, she drops the old gauze in the trash, before pulling out a fresh stack and turning back to the bed.
“I'm just going to check the wound real quick,” she tells him, feeling gently around the incision and his neck, checking for signs of infection or issues, before replacing the gauze with the fresh set, taping it down. She disposes of her gloves, and turns back to Blaine, regarding him carefully.
“It seems like everything’s coming along nicely. Your ribs seem a little painful, is that the case?”
Blaine whispers an affirmative response, still taken aback at how rough his voice sounds. He tries again, but Ally stops him with another question.
“It hurts to talk, doesn’t it?”
“Little bit,” Blaine gets out, breathing in sharply. His voice is raw and quiet; forcing sounds out moves his throat in ways he’s not quite ready to contemplate. Ally hums sympathetically, drops back into the chair.
“Anyone explain to you what happened?”
Blaine shakes his head, blinks at her. Ally nods, and rests a hand on his shoulder to keep speaking to him.
“The swelling in your throat was too severe by the time the paramedics arrived. They couldn’t get it down quickly enough to get you oxygen, and they couldn’t secure an airway any other way. It’s not permanent, but they had to cut that hole in your trachea to get you oxygen, Blaine.”
Blaine blinks, his jaw drops slightly, and he raises his hand back to his neck. He finally understands what is underneath the gauze, what the cause of the pain is. He thinks if he tries hard enough, he can feel it all the way through to his windpipe, the open wound and the pain. It's itchy and uncomfortable and he's definitely sure he doesn't like it. He keeps his fingers over the gauze, seeks out Ally again.
“It’s gonna hurt for awhile, and talking’s going to be frustrating for a bit, too. But you’ll get there. It’s already knitting, so it hopefully won’t be too long. You’re lucky, Blaine.”
He scoffs quietly, drops his hand back to his side and closes his eyes, swallowing. The wound in his neck is impossible to forget about, and pulling air past the the open incision burns. He bites his lip at a particularly sharp twinge, and sucks in a breath.
Ally catches it, squeezes his shoulder reassuringly before standing up.
“I’ll bring you some ice, it’ll help soothe the burn from how dry your throat is and give you something to wet your mouth. I’ll also check with your doctor, see if we can get some pain meds in you. I’ll be right back. You want me to send your parents back in?”
Blaine nods, and within seconds Carrie and John are back at his side, Kurt hanging back by the doorway. Ally slips out of the room, returning a few moments later to press a Styrofoam cup filled with ice chips and a spoon into Carrie’s hand.
“Only a few at a time, but they’ll help his throat.” She smiles at Blaine before continuing, “I also have some mild painkillers that will take the edge off.”
Ally pulls a syringe and a small glass vial from her pocket, draws up the correct dosage of medication and uncaps the port. She pauses to turn Blaine's wrist, check the birthdate on his admission bracelet, before hooking the syringe into the IV line and depressing the medication.
"That should help somewhat. It's nothing too strong, just to take the edge off your ribs and the cut in your neck. Dr. Waltman will be up in a bit and can give you something stronger if you need it. I'll be outside at the desk-just give a shout if you need anything. You're doing great, Blaine."
She smiles at everyone in the room in turn, then she’s gone, and suddenly, they’re alone again. Carrie pulls Ally’s abandoned chair up to the bed, and offers Blaine the cup of ice chips.
“Do you want my help?” she asks quietly, and Blaine nods. Carrie scoops a few onto the spoon, tipping them gently into Blaine’s mouth. His eyes flutter closed as the ice melts, and Carrie puts the cup on the bedside table, in easy reach. She brushes a hand through Blaine’s curls, smiles sadly at him.
“How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
Blaine shrugs noncommittally, cracks an eye open to look at Carrie.
“Hurts,” he breathes out, gesturing vaguely at both his neck and ribs. Carrie sighs, lets her thumb rub gently along the edge of the gauze as she drops her hand from his head.
“I wish I could take it away,” she whispers, more to herself than Blaine. He frowns up at her, tries to communicate with his eyes that he doesn’t fault her. John clears his throat, steps closer to the bed.
Blaine rolls his head towards his father, watches as John drops into the chair opposite Carrie. He suddenly feels tense, almost afraid of what his father will say or do, but John remains quiet, simply sits back in the chair and watches Blaine.
Before anyone can speak, break the silence, there’s a quiet knock at the door, and they all turn to see Carole standing in the entrance to the room, dressed in her scrubs but with a backpack slung over her shoulder.
“I hope I’m not interrupting? I was clocking in for my shift, and figured I’d check in on you all and bring Kurt a change of clothes.”
She steps into the room, greets Carrie and John before turning to Kurt. She pulls him into a hug, pressing the bag into his hands.
“I figured you’d want a change of clothes,” she says by way of explanation. Kurt smiles, opens the bag to find a complete outfit.
“Rachel helped you?”
“Did it myself, kiddo. Don’t underestimate my style.”
“Oh, thank god,” Kurt breathes, zipping the backpack up and hugging Carole. “I was starting to feel disgusting in these clothes. I could use a shower, though.”
“I’m sure you all could. If you want, I can let you into the staff locker room when we’re done here.” Carole turns back towards Blaine’s parents, extending the invitation to them as well. “I can get you guys a set of scrubs, if you want to change? I know you’ve been here for a long time.”
“You’re too kind,” Carrie says in thanks, standing to fully shake Carole’s hand. “I’m not sure we’ve properly been introduced.”
“Carole Hummel. I’m Kurt’s stepmom, but Blaine here’s found a way to make us all fall in love with him.”
“He tends to have that affect on people,” Carries says fondly, smiling back at Blaine, who’s blushing furiously. She releases Carole’s hand and returns to her place by the bed. Carole finally focuses on Blaine, smiling at him warmly.
“How are you feeling, sweetie?”
She steps up to the foot of the bed, rests a hand gently on Blaine’s ankle.
“You gave us quite a scare.”
“Us?” Blaine rasps out, looking back to Carrie and then John, before raising an eyebrow at Carole.
“Carole helped-uh, Carole helped me,” Kurt pipes in from the doorway, finally rejoining the conversation. “With the CPR.”
He’s only got eyes for Blaine at this point, understands that he’s just told Blaine something that could easily freak Blaine out. How do you process that your boyfriend is literally the reason you’re still alive?
Blaine, for his part, looks stunned, but his eyes dart between Kurt and Carole equally, and he seems simultaneously overwhelmed and terrified. He catches Kurt’s eye, mouths “thank you” before holding a hand out to Carole.
She takes his offered hand in hers, squeezes tightly. Blaine’s eyes are filling with tears, a few spilling over onto his cheeks.
“Thank you,” he tries to say, but it comes out as barely more than a hoarse whisper. He drops her hand as the tears really begin to fall. She shakes her head, rubs a hand reassuringly along his arm as he cries, trying to hide the fact that he’s crying from everyone in the room.
“It’s okay, Blaine. You don’t have to thank me. You’re as much a part of my family as Kurt at this point.”
Kurt shifts uncomfortably, acutely aware that his family has accepted Blaine in ways Carrie and John haven’t been able to accept him. He doesn’t quite fault them for that anymore-the weekend he’s just spent with them has given him all kinds of insights into John Anderson, but it still makes for awkward conversation.
“We never really thanked you either,” John says, reaching to shake Carole’s hand. “If it weren’t for you, for Kurt, I don’t-I’m not-”
“Please don’t thank me,” Carole responds, squeezing John’s hand. “It’s not exactly my pleasure, and I wish I hadn’t needed to, but you don’t need to thank me.”
Carole runs a hand over her eyes, brushes away her own gathering tears, before smiling back at Blaine.
“I’m going to take Kurt to get cleaned up, but I’ll stop in before the end of my shift. Take care of yourself, Blaine, and get some rest. I’ll send him back in a little while.”
Kurt gestures for Carole to wait, and bends over Blaine, drops a kiss to his cheek before leaning to whisper in his ear.
“I’m leaving you your cell. I have mine. We can text each other if you need to tell me anything, okay?”
Blaine nods, and Kurt slips the phone into his hand, lets his knuckles brush against Blaine’s as he pulls away.
“Love you,” Blaine breathes, closing his fingers around the phone and watching Kurt and Carole leave the room. He lets his eyes fall closed again, breathes as deeply as he can against his ribs before turning to look at John.
“You scared us, Blaine,” John says, and there’s an edge to his voice Blaine hasn’t heard since he woke up after the Sadie Hawkins. “When Kurt called us-when we showed up and they had to explain that they cut a hole in your neck-”
“John,” Carrie warns, looking at him over the bed. He takes a deep breath, collects himself, before putting a hand on Blaine’s shoulder.
“Blaine, I just-I hate worrying about you like this, and I hate that I can’t keep you safe forever, and why the hell was your EpiPen in the car and not on you?”
“‘M sorry,” Blaine manages, his fingers tightening around the phone in his hand and his breathing increasing. He turns back towards Carrie, seeks her out in the way he always has when John gets like this.
“Maybe this isn’t the best time for this conversation,” she says, stroking a hand along Blaine’s arm in a comforting gesture. He calms beneath her hand, but keeps looking at her, as though almost afraid to turn back to his father. John’s hands clench in his lap against his will, and a pang of guilt shoots through him.
It’s not that Blaine’s afraid of him, or that Blaine doesn’t love him.
What bothers him is that, when Blaine needs comfort-and Blaine does, right now, so very badly-it’s Carrie he turns to, Carrie he seeks that from.
Blaine associates John with discipline and disappointment, and now, when Blaine’s scared and upset and needs his parents, it’s Carrie he thinks of.
That hurts worse than John cares to admit right now, but he pushes that away, and focuses on Blaine.
He tightens his hold on Blaine’s shoulder, brings Blaine’s attention back towards him.
Blaine’s eyes are unreadable-clouded over with pain and confusion and maybe a bit of fear, and John bites his lip, forces down everything else he wants to say, address.
“I love you.”
It’s the first time he’s actually said it aloud in a long time, and Blaine’s clearly taken aback. He blinks heavily at his father, brain working through what’s just happened, before it slams into him and he gasps.
Fresh tears gather in Blaine’s eyes as he looks at John, who’s biting back his own.
“Love you,” Blaine replies simply, his voice even more rough with choked off sobs. He tugs on John’s shirt sleeve, pulls his father down towards the bed. John resists at first, unsure, but Blaine’s insistent.
He pulls John into an awkward hug, using the leverage he has to pull himself into a semi-sitting position as he embraces his father.
It’s the first hug they’ve shared in four years.
They’re both crying openly when they pull away.
“I love you so much, Blaine, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I don’t tell you. I’m sorry.”
Blaine tries to speak, finds he can’t force the right words out, so he settles for resting his hand against John’s heart, whispers the only thing he can without causing himself excess pain.
“I love you.”