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04 April 2012 @ 09:57 pm
Home Part 2-B  
Spoilers: Up to 2.22
Warnings: Kidnapping, violence, ableism, homophobia, physical abuse by a caretaker, a smidgen of Stockholm's, serious injury, tertiary character death.
Rating: R
Word Count: Whole fic: 52, 000; Part 2: 15, 140
Disclaimer: RIB and FOX own everything ever.
Beta: rdm_ation


1A | 1B | 2A | 2B | 3A | 3B | 3C

This prompt. If Will wants a family, Terri will give him a family. And if he wants his precious glee kids - two birds, one stone.




Terri was delighted that Kurt had come around so quickly, not just because she didn’t want to have to deal with any more sulky teenage shenanigans than strictly necessary, but because they had such a lot to get done. It was vital to get the kids started on their new routine as quickly as possible. They needed to feel secure and know that she was in control, and letting them laze around brewing discontent would not achieve anything.

Personally, she was looking forward to crafting with them more than anything else, but she supposed she ought to start with something a little more serious.

“What in the world…?” Kurt, seated next to Rachel on the couch, stared at the still-quivering coffee table.

Terri worked the kinks out of her wrists; the horrid book was made up of a set of six formidable volumes. “You said you wanted books, I got you books. Educational ones. I’m not going to let your minds stagnate just because you’re not in school at the moment; I have a fulfilling and challenging curriculum planned.”

“Is this…” Kurt turned a few volumes over. “Is this –”

“Marcel Proust’s À la recherché du temps perdu, unabridged, in the original French,” Terri said firmly. “I wasn’t in that school long, but I did pick up on a few things, namely that some of you felt you were too good for the academics on offer.” She beamed. “And I agree entirely. I think you’ll find that homeschooling suits all of our unique needs much better.”

“I’m certain that’s true,” Kurt said. Rachel, inexplicably, frowned at him. Who knew with kids?

“We’ll start right away,” Terri continued. “I want you to know I take your education seriously.”

“Thus the whiteboard.” Kurt nodded. “And the glasses. I was wondering, as I was under the impression that your eyesight is fine.”

“Oh, these don’t even have glass in them.” Terri tapped the frames. “I wanted to look the part. I think it makes everything seem more official. I don’t want you two thinking you can get away with anything just because you’re in your own home.”

“I definitely don’t think that,” Kurt said. “Any of it.”

Rachel kicked his ankle.

“We really need nail clippers, in addition to razors,” Kurt commented. “I think you just gashed my leg, Rachel.”

Terri glared over the top of her glasses. It was a satisfying feeling; she should have gotten these years ago. “Pay attention.”

Kurt mimed locking his mouth and tossing the key. Rachel settled in and looked alert.

“Now, I have assignments for both of you to keep you busy while I’m at work. Kurt, I want you to read this monstrosity,” Terri tapped the paperbacks on the table with one of her dry erase markers, “and write a short summary of each chapter. As well as a formal essay on each volume, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there in seven hundred pages.”

“Okay.” He had the decency to appear intimidated, even if he was looking at the book instead of at her.

“Rachel, I don’t have anything to give you per se, because I can leave a paperback book here – one at a time, Kurt – but I don’t plan to leave anything as solid and dangerous as a TV or a laptop lying around with you two still so new to this. I’m going to rely on your memory. I want you to start out with an twenty-page essay on the relative success of created families in The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The King and I, and more recent plays like The Kid or They Chose Me. Start brainstorming and try to remember what you think up, because I’m not leaving pens or pencils here until you’re both more settled.” She clapped her hands together. “Do you both understand your assignments?”

“I know all of those plays by heart,” Rachel said, flipping her hair. It was a few days overdue for a good shampooing, limp and uncooperative, and the gesture was much less impressive than Terri was sure it would have been otherwise.

“I thought you might. My smart girl.” Terri patted her shoulder. “Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for your first history lesson! I will be delivering a series of lectures based on what I remember from high school and the period costume dramas I sometimes watch when there’s nothing else on.” She paused, allowing them to take this in. “Let’s start with the Ottoman Empire.”

Kurt raised his hand.

“Yes?”

“Is there going to be a test? I’d like to take notes.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. I’m a very busy woman. I’m not going to design and grade tests. I trust you to do your best to remember everything in the interests of bettering yourselves as people.”

Kurt subsided with an inexplicably cross look; honestly, you’d think they’d be glad that they didn’t have to take tests. But then, she did have a very special pair on her hands; it wasn’t as if they were like other teens.

“The Ottoman Empire was essentially the biggest, baddest empire in town, and it didn’t dissolve until the twenties, can you believe that? I always thought Turks were extinct before then. It’s amazing what PBS will teach you. They took over just about everywhere, and brought all kinds of scientific advancements and clean habits. Now, one of the ways the empire made sure that everyone behaved was to take the kids of their tributaries and let them stay as guests in the royal palace. Doesn’t that sound nice?” She paused for affirmation.

“Very nice,” Kurt said, eyebrows high in what was surely an expression of deep sincerity.

“Lovely,” Rachel said, nodding fervently.

“Well, once upon a time, they took two young princes to stay with them in their shining castle, even though the princes were from a nasty, dank place called Wallachia. One of the princes adapted completely to the empire’s more advanced and hygienic ways and stayed with them for the rest of his life, except for a while when he ruled Wallachia. He even had a passionate romance with the prince of all the Ottoman Empire, the scamp!”

Kurt’s and Rachel’s expressions softened identically, as Terri had guessed they would. Raised on Disney, the dears. Now, though, was time to drive home the harder part of the lesson.

“His older brother,” she continued, “did not see the light of civilization, and spent a lot of his life in prison once he got back to Wallachia and started betraying people too often. He was miserable and hateful and left a trail of maimed, brutalized corpses behind him all his life. And he was Vlad the Impaler, also known,” she paused, eyeing them, “as Dracula.”

“Oh,” Rachel said at length.

“Just you think about that.” Terri patted her knee.

“Oh, we will,” Kurt promised. “And might I just add, you are stunning in glasses. See, Rachel, this is how librarian chic is done.”

Rachel gasped. “Well, she’s not doing sexy schoolgirl at the same time!”

“No, she’s not. Most people don’t.”

“My look is unique –”

“For good reason.”

“All right, you two.” Terri tried not to smile during her remonstration, but they were too cute – too perfectly siblings. “That’s enough. Thank you, Kurt, for the compliment, but please leave your sister’s fashion choices out of it.”

“Fine,” Kurt said.

“Thank you.” She beamed at him and squeezed his shoulder. “Now I’m going to read you an inspirational quote from I’m a Winner and You’re Fat, by Sue Sylvester, to give you food for thought this evening.” She pulled out today’s index card; she had a whole stack of them in her bedroom, waiting to enrich these precious young minds. She cleared her throat for the officialness of it and read, “‘SueTip 48: Taking lemons and making lemonade is for suckers. When life gives Sue Sylvester lemons, she crushes them with her bare hands and smears the juice into the paper cuts of her enemies. Then she has a refreshing glass of protein shake, because the sugar in lemonade is for fatties.’ I think it’s one of her most motivating quotes,” Terri sighed.

Kurt closed his eyes and massaged his temples, certainly in thought. Rachel stared wide-eyed and slightly slack-jawed, then brightened and said, “That does sound like Coach Sylvester!”

“Mm-hm,” Kurt agreed, lips tight.

“Well, you think about what an important role she’s played in your lives, and how richly deserving of your respect she is, and give her words the consideration they deserve.” Terri looked fondly down at them, then removed her glasses. “All right, I’m going to put these things away. Kurt, why don’t you take your book and go to your room; Rachel, you may go to your room as well and wait for me to come in with the carpet cleaner. I believe you have a mess to tidy up!”

“Oh,” Rachel said, shoulders slumping.

“What?” Kurt asked, taking his sweet time about collecting the first volume of the horrible collection. Terri scooped the others up and took the whiteboard in hand. She really had to remember to make helpful diagrams next time.

“I was sick earlier,” Rachel began to explain; Terri left them to it, escaping to her room and locking the door behind her. She’d have to be very careful neither of them ever slipped in here with her; it was a bastion of everything impossible to child-proof but necessary to have one hand – cleaning chemicals, makeup, knives, a phone, a toolset, the paintings she hoped to hang on the wall once she could be sure neither of her darlings would tear it off and use it as a blunt instrument, her sewing and crafting supplies…

She set Kurt’s books back in their place on her dresser, between a Tupperware container of knives and a basket full of scissors, needles, a glue gun, and a tool for cutting perfect circles during scrapbooking.

She hesitated, looking up into the mirror above the dresser. The room reflected behind her looked more like a garage sale than a bedroom. She was hundreds of miles from home, and all alone with –

But she wasn’t alone. She had her kids, and soon she would have Will, too. The house might still be bare, and her room was a disaster area, but she would figure things out. When Will got here, everything would be perfect. She was home.

Terri brushed her hair into place and unearthed a bucket and a bottle of Pine Sol for Rachel. She had work to do.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Rachel woke the next morning to a sharp knock on her door, which was already open. “Up, up, up!” Terri chirped, smiling in at her. “Mommy has to go to work today in order to go over the ropes with the old regional manager, so I need you on your best behavior.” She disappeared and Rachel could hear Kurt getting the same treatment.

By the time they had both shuffled into the hallway, Terri had unlocked the kitchen as well. “One of you hop in the shower,” she called, “and I want the other one in here helping me make breakfast.”

Kurt grabbed Rachel’s hand. “See if there’s anything we can use out here, or any kind of feasible exit,” he breathed, close to her ear. “I’ll case the kitchen. She can’t have child-proofed the entire place, and if there’s something sharp, that’s where it is.”

Whatever it takes. Rachel nodded. “Be careful.”

“You too.” His fingers tightened on hers before he headed toward the kitchen.

Rachel was careful. She turned on the shower, leaving the bathroom door cracked open, and walked on tiptoe, which was at least a good calf exercise, if not a good habit to get into for her Achilles’ tendon. Of course she also had to waddle, keeping her chain stretched tight enough not to clink, and the whole thing felt ridiculous.

All of the bedrooms had padlocks attached – securely attached, she found when she tugged on hers and even tried hanging all of her weight on it. Only the room that had to be Terri’s was locked at the moment, no doubt on a haven of everything they needed – keys, a phone, sharp things, heavy things, normal clothing… the gun.

The bathroom was useless, stripped of anything heavy or potentially sharp or even abrasive. At the end of the hallway, outside Terri’s room, a trapdoor in the ceiling led to the attic – she assumed – and might be their best hope, but she couldn’t reach the truncated string to pull the door open.

Finally, there was the front room. The dining room’s only offering was the chance that they could swing a chair at Terri’s head, but the front room had a window. A big front-and-center window, like in a normal house. And still there were bars over it – but at least she could see outside.

Her first thought was to find a neighbor, but all she could see was a dirt driveway, winding into a marshy stretch of land with no other breaks, swarming with midges in the morning sun.

But she has to get to work, Rachel told herself. We’re within commuting distance of a Sheets-N-Things, and that means a city, outskirts, towns…

She crept hurriedly back to the bathroom and tore her shirt off, just managing to get her hair thoroughly wet before Terri poked her head in and said, “Breakfast is ready! Come on out, baby, I don’t have a lot of time.”

“Okay,” Rachel said. The water blasted down, drowning out the quiver in her voice.

As she climbed out, Kurt rushed into the room, holding a shirt out to her.

“Kurt,” she yelped, reaching for a towel.

“Never mind, let’s not pretend I haven’t seen it,” Kurt hissed, handing her the shirt and the towel both. “Hurry for breakfast before she gets impatient, but Rachel –” he bent toward her, Terri already calling for them from the dining room, “I have a plan.”

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Kurt had entered the kitchen and, at first, been crushed. The room was incredibly sparse, with a stove, counter, microwave, and a single shelf covered in plastic and paper dishware. A table was heaped with cartons of prepared food and a smallish refrigerator hummed in the corner. The window was open but barred and screened, looking out on the same green-gray swamp he saw from his own room. No heavy pans stood out, no knife drawer, no glass measuring cups for the smashing, no back door.

Terri sat in the single available chair, filing her nails on a soft, rounded file, nothing capable of damage. “Good morning, baby,” she said, smiling up at him.

“Good morning,” he said, and she raised an eyebrow, her smile turning frigid. “Mom,” he said, tongue heavy and clumsy.

She nodded and stood, pressing a kiss to his forehead. She smelled like vanilla. “Would you put some oatmeal on? I need to paint my nails.” She fluttered her fingers. “First day on the new job.”

“…Sure,” Kurt conceded. He bloated when he ate oats, but under the circumstances he supposed he had more pressing concerns. “Where is the oatmeal? And I’ll need a pot, and a carton of milk…” He approached the stove, trying to remember the portion of milk per cup of oatmeal – he’d long since graduated to Florentine quiche or perhaps a nice crepe for something lighter, and recalling the baby steps to Breakfast for Beginners was something of an effort.

“Oh, no, pumpkin – right here.” Terri pointed at some packets of pre-processed, sugary Quaker Oats product, color-coded for flavor.

“Really?” Kurt picked up a bag of sugar packets, the kind restaurants put out on tables. “I can make real food, you know. I don’t mind. I’m very good.”

“I have two little chefs?” Terri beamed. “That’s wonderful! I’ll pick up some spaghetti and sauce fixings on the way home and you can make dinner, how does that sound?”

“Child’s play,” Kurt scoffed.

“Ooh, I see. I’ll surprise you with a fancy sauce order, then.” She tapped a packet of oatmeal mix. “Simple and fast for now, though.”

“All right,” Kurt sighed, retrieving three paper bowls and checking the packages for microwave time. Radiation would be the first thing he experienced this morning.

“I am a working woman,” Terri said.

“I know. I’m sorry.” Kurt flashed his most charming smile as he wrenched a bag open.

“Now, Kurt.” Terri smoothed a soft peach shade over the nails on her left hand. “You’ve been such an angel since you came around, and I want to reward you – and Rachel. Positive reinforcement is just as important as negative. I think, if you can maintain your positive attitude, you can both look forward to some better clothes soon.”

Kurt looked over at her, throat closing on his own humiliating hope – not having to contend with both ankle restrains and the constant threat of exposing himself every time he took a step seemed next to heaven at the moment.

Terri smiled, all sympathy and understanding. “I can’t give you pants, because they wouldn’t work with the ankle restraints and you’re a long way from earning your way out of those, mister. But a little birdie told me that you do wear skirts sometimes.”

“I, ah…” Kurt ran a roughly correct amount of tap water over the oatmeal; they were going to die of food poisoning anyway, so he saw no need to go looking for bottled or filtered. “I do… sometimes. Not very often.”

“No, I understand. I’m sure you prefer to have your options open and that you only wear men’s skirts, and those… boy concerns.” Terri waved a hand as if she could dismiss all “boy concerns” by shooing them away. “But since things are… the way they are… I know this is hard for you to adjust to, but I am going to take care of you, baby, I promise. You’re not going to get hurt, and I’ll do my best to make you comfortable. But you have to meet me halfway. Could you compromise for me, sweetie?”

“Sure thing.” Kurt set the timer on the microwave and smiled. It felt stilted, too wide and thin, but Terri looked touched.

“My good boy,” she said. “I’ll start on yours tonight while you make dinner, all right?”

Kurt’s heart sped up. He took a breath to speak, but changed his mind – asking her would only tip her off. But if she was going to be sewing during the food preparation… “I didn’t know you could make clothes,” he said.

She winked at him. “I’m really quite crafty.”

If she was going to sew the whole time, he’d have access to a pot of boiling water.

The microwave dinged, and he managed to fit in both other bowls in one go.

At the table, Terri sighed when she smeared her nail polish, trying now to paint her right hand with her left.

“Let me help,” Kurt said, taking a step toward her.

“Do you know how?” She looked more dubious than he felt was strictly necessary.

“I’ve been painting Mercedes’ nails for years,” he said, trying not to sound defensive.

“Well, thank you.” She held her hand out and gave him the polish.

He slipped his hand under hers. I could swipe her eyes with this, he thought, fingering the bottle. It would have to sting. He smoothed the paint across her thumbnail. Blind her, for just a while. The keys are on her, she just opened all these locks. Maybe not the key to the front door, but that would be in her room.

“What are you thinking?” She tapped his temple with a careful finger.

“You have beautiful skin,” he said, which was true. She plainly moisturized. He turned the brush on its side, edging carefully along the border of her nail. He hadn’t learned this with Mercedes. He’d learned it with his mother.

“I try to take care of myself,” she preened. “Despite my hectic schedule and the appalling amount of stress in my life.”

“I try to tell,” Kurt said, and choked. “I try to tell Rachel,” he amended. “How important it is to make time for your skin.” He tried to tell Carole, really. She seemed to think that facials were something for special occasions only, and while she plainly had very good genes and luck, they might not last her forever. A woman her age had to think about her pores.

“We’ll take care of her,” Terri said.

“I am going to take care of you… You’re not going to get hurt…” This could work. It could.

“We will,” he agreed. He wasn’t going to be able to go for her eyes. Not like this. Too much could go wrong. All she had to do was flinch. He didn’t know for sure whether or not she had the gun hidden under her blouse. But it was fine. It could wait for tonight.

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After breakfast, Terri locked Kurt in his room. Rachel she left with free rein, comparatively speaking. “I want you to tidy up, sweetheart,” she said, smoothing Rachel’s hair. “There’s a vacuum in the hallway, and a duster, and the bucket from yesterday and a sponge in the bathroom – don’t tire yourself out, but keep it looking nice, okay?”

“I promise.”

“I won’t be back until six, so dinner will be late, but you have lunch…” Terri looked around the room, hands on her hips. “All right! I’ll see you later.”

“Goodbye –” Rachel stepped forward when Terri unlocked the door.

“Rachel,” she said, voice hard, eyes bright on Rachel’s face.

“Bye,” Rachel said, and waved with a smile.

And then she was alone with the vacuum and lunch, which consisted of a bottle of water, two bananas, and a pack of beef jerky. She heard Terri’s car pull out, the engine fading slowly into the distance, and then silence seeped in. She stood for a moment, air pressing in around her. A chill draft prickled around her legs, the moist heat from the momentarily-open door sticking to her face. The air conditioner hummed. She thought she could hear insects singing, unless it was just a ringing buzz in her ears. She took a breath and it was the loudest sound in the room.

“Kurt,” she said, running for his door. “Kurt, answer me, Kurt!”

“Rachel,” he said, too late, after she’d already seen her own future – Kurt dead in his room, Terri in a car crash, and Rachel all alone and going slowly crazy as she starved to death and left an emaciated, unattractive corpse for the crime scene photographers.

She gasped for air, but managed to sound comparatively normal when she said, “We’re alone.”

“Thank god. Can you get into the attic?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll drag a chair down and see. What if she can tell I’ve been up there?”

“I don’t know. What if we actually have to go through with my plan?”

“Oh.” She nodded at the door, which did nothing helpful in return. “I wish you were out here with me. “

“I do too.”

“I’m going to try the attic now.”

“Be careful.”

Once again, Rachel was careful, and once again, it didn’t matter – not because she got caught, but because there was nothing helpful to find.

She dragged a chair from the dining room down the hall, grateful for the carpet she’d be vacuuming over anyway – there would be no lifting these monsters. Even dragging one, she had to stop once to rest, and the legs left deep groves on the carpet. Dragging it on wood would have been out of the question, and swinging one at Terri’s head was probably out.

She got it under the trapdoor and balanced with one hand on the wall to pull the string, calling intermittent progress reports to Kurt. The string worked; standing on a chair in the direct path of the descending ladder did not. Rachel fell flat on her back (although it felt more like something huge and angry had smacked the back of her ribcage in a concerted attempt to get at her lungs). The ladder creaked, dangling halfway open above her as she gaped at the ceiling and tried to breathe.

“Rachel? Rachel!”

“I’m fine,” she gasped as soon as she could make a sound. “I just – had the wind knocked out of me – oh my goodness.” She scooted to the wall, feeling gingerly for breaks. Her limbs proved to be intact, thank God; an improperly set leg could ruin her dancing. “The stairs knocked me over,” she added, so as not to leave Kurt in the dark.

“Are sure you’re all right?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Maybe we should wait until she leaves us both out before we try this.”

Rachel started crying, taking herself by surprise. “I can do it,” she said, wiping her cheeks and clambering to her feet. It felt like she’d been waiting ever since they were taken to hear Kurt that cared, not just that they got away, but that they were intact when that happened.

She shoved the chair out of the way and pulled the stairs down; they were rickety and stank of must. There were spiders clinging to them in a few places.

Every step brought her farther into the baking heat and a truly appalling smell. “Kurt?” she called down, “I think something died up here!” Which didn’t bode well for the possibility of finding an exit. But there was no answer, at least not one she could hear. She mounted the last step.

The attic was a glorified crawl space, barely seven feet long and five wide. It was dark, with only one small, round window set into an alcove. Rachel rushed to it, kneeling for the last foot as the roof descended, but it had bars as secure as the others.

Sighing, already sweating in the heat, she turned to the rest of the room. It was bare and dirty, nothing like the rest of the new-looking house. The walls sagged, insulation dribbling through the paper tacked between boards. The smell was awful.

There were only two boxes, one cardboard and one large Tupperware unit. Avoiding the walls with their attendant animal inhabitants, Rachel tried the cardboard box, holding her breath for fear of rats, ready to retreat at the slightest sign of movement.

The papers inside were in disarray, a mess of photographs, post-it notes, timetables, and pages printed from the web. Rachel was critiquing the angle of a photo which had caught her on her bad side before she realized that it was all about her and Kurt. Addresses, schedules, routes they preferred, Google Earth pictures of their houses, descriptions of the courses they were taking this summer, and candid pictures were littered over each other. So much trash now, Rachel supposed – now that Terri had what she wanted. Her throat closed looking at it all, how long they’d been watched, how easily.

She shoved the first layer of papers aside and found someone else. A handful of photos, a few handwritten notes about how often this girl was alone at Kendra’s work. Judging from the photos, she worked in some kind of high-end thrift store. The photographs were of a pretty girl with auburn hair and a striking nose, face expressionless in every one. She looked only vaguely familiar.

Rachel shook her head, closing the box, and moved to the Tupperware, prying back the lid hurriedly, hoping for some kitchenware – something sharp.

Coughing at the intensification of the odor, she looked inside. She frowned. Head tilting, she stared. Then, very slowly, she turned white and replaced the lid. Much more quickly, she turned and ran, stumbling on the ladder, scratching her leg against it. She shoved the hatch closed, sobbing for breath when she had to pull the chair over to force it home.

She sat on the chair for a while before she realized Kurt was calling out to her.

“Nothing,” she said. “Kurt? There’s nothing up there – no way out. There’s nothing we can use.”

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

By the time Terri got home and let Kurt out, he was dancing in place out of desperation to use the bathroom, and this urgent need was the only thing standing between him and death by isolation. The boredom hadn’t been as intense, with Proust to occupy him, but Kurt had never in his life spent a day locked away from everyone so completely; even in his most miserable pre-teen days he had been able to have vituperative discussions on YouTube about which version of Jesus Christ Superstar was better. Rachel had been with him today, of course, but once she got down from the attic the most he heard from her was the vacuum outside his door. She had taken her chores very seriously; everything shone, there was no dust to be seen, and the lines cut into the carpet by the vacuum looked drawn with a ruler.

He washed his hands and took several gulps of tap water before heading to the kitchen, where Terri had dumped her purchases and Rachel was silently sorting through the tomatoes. “Hi, baby,” Terri cooed, rushing over to kiss his cheek. “How was your day?”

“Long, lonely, and minimally less dull,” he said, but smiled, as she seemed to like that.

“Silly boy. I hope you made enough progress in Proust to justify complaining,” she said, sing-song. “Now, make yourself at home with the stove, because you’re making us girls pasta with shrimp Mornay.”

Kurt raised an eyebrow, wondering if he should hold out to get his hands on the cheese grater. More than that, he was fighting to keep himself from acknowledging that seafood Mornay was his favorite guilty pleasure pasta sauce. She knew, he told himself. She found out somehow. She’s doing it on purpose. He hadn’t discussed his love for the stuff with anyone in years, since his dad would respond by asking for it all the time in order to prey on his weakness and frankly, no one else cared but Mercedes – and food was a bit of a touchy subject between the two of them. Still – she could have found out somehow. “Well played,” he managed finally. “I’ll do my best to rise to the occasion.”

“There’s my boy.” Terri patted his shoulder and turned back to the table. “Rachel, would you help with sewing, baby?”

“But I don’t know how,” Rachel blurted, eyes wide and glistening, face white. Her mouth hung slightly open as if she were in shock.

“Hey, hey!” Terri pulled her into a hug, smoothing her hair. “Calm down! Stress ages you, and crying will make you all puffy. My pretty girl.”

Kurt stepped back; maybe this was some kind of distraction technique, but if so, it was coming at a very inopportune time. “I’ll just get started on the sauce, if I may,” he murmured, sidling toward the table and commandeering the grocery bag.

“You do that.” Terri nodded over Rachel’s head with a long-suffering expression. “I’m going to take your sister and calm her down. You’ll have to use the plastic knives, sweetie.” She gathered up a few plastic bags and a silent, shivering Rachel and guided her out of the kitchen.

Kurt waited until they were out of sight before he began a more serious investigation of the kitchen. It yielded nothing, no secret drawers of cast-iron skillets, no heavy-duty rolling pins. The most damage he could do here was give himself a paper cut, and even that would require serious effort, since the “paper” in question was the cheap cardboard used in cracker and Asian meal boxes. It looked like he was sticking to the plan, then. He turned back to the sauce, mouth dry and palms damp.

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“I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew,” Rachel said, watching as Terri shook out the powder blue cloth marked with a series of what looked like abstract shapes drawn with chalk. “To make things.”

“You mean you don’t know how?” Terri dropped the cloth.

Rachel shook her head slowly.

“Baby, that’s awful! Sewing is the most elementary and vital skill for a person to have! Most people say cooking, but I say you can always find someone else to do that for you.” She smiled to show she was joking, then dropped it to show she also wasn’t. “But sewing you can never really trust to anyone else, not once you get the hang of it. Only you know exactly how you want things to be, and only you can make them that way.” She winked. “That’s sort of my philosophy.”

“It sounds a lot like mine,” Rachel said, and abruptly sat down on the floor, curling her knees up until she could press her face into them.

“Hey, hey.” Terri followed her down and wrapped an arm around her. “Sweetie, you have to tell me what’s wrong or I can’t help.”

“Can you just hold me for a minute?” Rachel asked, voice thick.

“Of course, baby, anything.” Terri pulled her closer, and then scooped her onto her lap – it was a little harder than she’d expected, but Rachel was a small girl. She seemed to weigh nearly nothing once she was there, face against Terri’s shoulder, warm and solid. The shape and warmth of her went straight to Terri’s heart. This was exactly it, why she’d become a mother, the trust and sweetness of this. “There, there,” she said, petting Rachel’s hair. She couldn’t help smiling. “Once you’ve cried yourself out, we’ll start putting some patterns together, okay? And then I’ll show you how to use the sewing machine. You’ll catch on in no time.”

“Okay,” Rachel sniffled.

“There’s my girl.” Terri rested her cheek on top of Rachel’s head and inhaled the scent of her. “My good girl.”

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For a while Kurt lost himself in the rhythm of cooking – choosing, cleaning, arranging. His routines were twisted by the lack of options and accoutrements, steps thrown off because he couldn’t start anything simmering, but there was enough familiarity to the act to calm him.

When Terri and Rachel returned, it was bearing gifts – two light-weight pots, armfuls of cloth, and another light lawn chair for the table. The cloth had, he realized when they set it down, been cut according to a pattern. “You had access to scissors?” he hissed when Rachel handed him one of the pots, but she shook her head and refused to meet his eyes.

“You go right ahead with dinner, sweetie,” Terri said just then, pulling Rachel away. “We’ll be working on some decent clothes for you two, won’t we, baby?” She hugged Rachel again, settling her at the table with a package of butterfly clips in lieu of pins; she had a needle and thread for herself, as well.

“You’re not – you’re doing it by hand?” Kurt said. A sewing machine would have been nice to get his hands on. He could definitely throw one, unless it was attached to the table like his mother’s old Singer.

“We’ll just give it a run-through and see how it goes, what we need to let out, take in.” Terri smiled, gesturing to the bags on the counter.

“All right,” Kurt said in his very best “your funeral” tone, and obediently pulled out the box of spaghetti before turning to the sink with the first pot. He could see why she’d chosen these; they were too light to be much danger on their own, but big enough to render them unwieldy once they were full. Terri would see him coming long before he could do her any kind of harm. Well, that was fine. He didn’t need to get far.

He watched the pot. Contrary to popular opinion, it did boil.

“How did your first day at work go?” he asked, staring fixedly at the bubbles fired at the surface of the water to explode, one after another, then closer together, until the surface roiled with them. He took hold of the handle of the pot, registering the too-warm pressure of it only faintly.

“Oh, you would not believe this woman,” Terri said. “It’s no wonder they need me to replace her. She showed me how she’s been organizing the hand towel aisle, and I have to say, I don’t think she’s entirely well.” She nodded significantly, tapping her head. “Up here.”

“Why,” Kurt said, turning to face her, still grasping the handle, “how did she –” and the pot overbalanced.

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Rachel realized as it was happening that Kurt was going through with it, with his stupid plan, and sat dumbfounded. How could he still think that this would work, after the attic?

And then she remembered that he didn’t know, and still she sat there, silent.

The boiling water broke over Kurt’s hand in a wave, then crashed to the floor as the pot swung ponderously to its side. Kurt stood still as if shocked, eyes closed, and the water hit his right leg and foot before spreading over the floor, cooling rapidly.

Terri screamed, and only then did Kurt make a horrible choked sound and collapse, clutching his arm to his chest, leg splayed awkwardly to avoid contact between the floor and his skin. She couldn’t see his hand, but the skin of his leg flushed an angry red. “Oh my god,” he said, “oh my god, oh my god,” and his eyes rolled back in his head.

Terri caught his shoulders before his head could smack against the floor, and pinched his good arm, trying awkwardly to keep his limp form from collapsing entirely. “Kurt, sweetie, sweetie, wake up,” she said, and he did.

He let out an agonized moan the second he did, eyelids fluttering. “It hurts,” he gasped, “no, it really – it really hurts, please –”

“I know, baby, I’m so sorry!” Terri looked frantically at Rachel. “Honey, you have to get me – um, let me see – we need to clean the, the burns…” Even as she spoke, blisters were beginning to form, awful bubbles under Kurt’s skin.

“911,” Kurt said, head slack against Terri’s shoulder. “Hands, feet, percent of the body – I need… the hospital will help.” That was Rachel’s part, facts and statistics, to convince Terri that if she really cared for them like a mother, really wanted to protect them, she had to get him to a hospital. But Rachel couldn’t help him; she had to stop him.

“It’s okay,” she said, standing. “Everything will be fine. We need antiseptic, bandages, and painkillers. The burns are clean. He’ll be okay. We need to get him under cool running water right away and keep him there.”

“Hold him, take him, I’ll get everything, I’ll turn the shower on,” Terri said, breathless, and shoved him into her arms before rushing from the room.

“What are you…” Kurt said, eyes closed, too far gone to be angry at her.

Rachel held him close and rocked him. “We were wrong,” she whispered. “She’s not going to get help. We don’t want her to think about us dying, Kurt. She’s not going to get cold feet. She can’t see us dying as an option. She’d take it.”

“But we were going to see our parents.” Kurt’s cheeks were wet. He sounded very young.

“We will,” Rachel promised. “But this won’t work.”

“It would. How do you know?”

She set her face in his neck to whisper in his ear, close, where he still smelled faintly of some stupid spicy cologne but mostly of unwashed boy. Just before Terri ran back in, hair flying, to scoop him away, Rachel whispered, “There’s a body in the attic.”

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Only once Kurt was lying on his bed, still damp from a half an hour under cold water, bandaged and drugged into unconsciousness, did Terri’s heart slow below a hundred beats per minute. She collapsed to the floor, leaning against the bed, and tugged Rachel down beside her.

“Oh my goodness,” she breathed.

Rachel pulled her knees up toward her chin, curling around herself.

“I know,” Terri said, tucking Rachel under her arm. “That was scary, wasn’t it, baby.”

Her stomach turned at the thought of the dead-gray blisters swelling on Kurt’s hand and leg, and she pulled Rachel closer. “But it’s over,” she said, “all over now.” Although, of course, it wasn’t. She breathed deeply until the nausea passed. None of this was doing a thing for her blood pressure. “And you were so brave. I couldn’t have done it without you. You might have saved your brother’s life!”

“I know,” Rachel said.

“Well, I am so proud of you.” She kissed Rachel’s temple. “I’m going to be depending on you a lot more, now. You’re going to have to take care of your brother. This is quite a wrench in my plans, and we’re all alone out here.”

Rachel turned, meeting her eyes, and Terri realized it was the first time she’d done so all evening. Her eyes were dark. “I will take care of Kurt,” she said, voice heavy and certain.

Terri shook off a momentary feeling of unease and kissed Rachel again. “That’s my girl.” She sighed and got to her feet, one limb at a time. She felt tired. She felt old. “Let’s get you in bed, baby,” she said, waiting, eyes on Rachel. She watched with the suspended fear of someone certain that, in this moment, if the cornered animal struck, she wouldn’t be able to stop it.

But Rachel just stood and walked to the door, and the moment was over, a silly symptom of having unlocked Kurt’s restraints to tend to the burns on his leg.

She followed Rachel and tucked her into bed, smoothing the blanket up to her chin. The girl’s face was pressed against her pillow, her cheeks squished. Terri looped her hair behind her ear. “Are you going to be able to sleep okay? I could give you something.”

“No,” Rachel whispered, eyes shut tight. “I’m okay.”

“I love you,” Terri said, and left the room before Rachel could answer. She locked the door behind her.

She went back to Kurt’s room next and sat on the edge of the bed. He was pale, eyelashes dark against his cheeks, and his lower lip drooped as if in a pout. His hair lay flat over his forehead, and she smoothed it aside before laying her hand against his cheek. He groaned and turned in his sleep, curling closer to her.

“It’s okay,” she said. Kurt’s face twisted, brows drawing together, and his eyes opened slightly, only the whites showing. “It’s going to be okay,” she insisted, smoothing them closed. She started humming a half-remembered lullaby from her own childhood – “guardian angels God will send thee” – unsure what else to try. She’d never been a mother before. She hadn’t had to get to know Kurt, to raise him; so he liked music and sequins and French. That was nothing to go on.

“I my loving vigil keeping, clear through the night.”

Kurt settled down, forehead pressed against her hip. His hand was swollen under the bandages, the blisters covered but still there. They really were out here all alone.

Terri started crying, and kept humming anyway. “Midnight slumber close surround thee….

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No one woke Rachel up the next morning. She slept in fits, interrupted by nightmares and the sudden jerks into consciousness that came with them. When she did manage to get more than three consecutive hours it was near dawn. When she woke for the last time, muzzy and confused, her door was open and she heard music.

Shoving her hair down and back so that she could see, she stumbled into the hallway. Kurt’s door hung open as well, sunlight streaming through the window. His bed was empty and the sheets stripped, like a hospital bed after someone –

“Kurt,” Rachel said, voice coming out in a whisper. “Kurt!”

Even the second time, she got none of the volume she meant to, but Terri heard her. “In here!” she called.

Rachel fought for each breath until finally, too soon, she was at the door of the kitchen, following the sound of Terri’s humming – but there Kurt was, propped in a chair, clean and wearing a different shirt and a new skirt. “Oh,” she said as her lungs started working again.

“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty.” Terri smiled at her from the counter. “I thought I’d let our hero sleep in. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine,” Rachel said, “Mom.”

Terri paused, eyes racing over Rachel’s face, then walked over and kissed her cheek. “Have a seat with your brother, baby, I’ll get you some cereal.”

Rachel leaned over to grab Kurt’s good hand as soon as Terri turned to refrigerator. “Are you okay?”

Kurt frowned at her with obvious difficulty, hand heavy and lax in hers. “I am,” he said, “heavily medicated, my dear.”

“I ran out this morning and got several more kinds of painkillers,” Terri said, setting the milk and a box of Rice Crispies on the table along with a Styrofoam bowl. “Spoons are in this mess somewhere.” She patted Rachel’s head, then picked up a needle and a small bag of beads. “He’s also had a little wine. I thought, as long as it’s medicinal… he is seventeen.”

“That makes sense.” Rachel fished a plastic spoon out from under a pack of Ramen noodles, watching Kurt’s glazed eyes. “You’re not in pain?”

“I’m positively floating,” Kurt confided, words slightly slurred.

“Good. That’s good.” She fingered the tiny rip at the seam of her shirt where she had torn it coming down from the attic, and watched as Kurt gazed vaguely at the ceiling, mouth hanging open. She poured milk into her cereal. It would give her another stomach ache. She ate it anyway. “Do you want me to change his bandages?” she asked, eyes still on Kurt.

“I can do it myself,” Kurt snapped, almost like himself.

“You can’t, sweetie,” Terri reminded him. “Your hand is hurt. But I just got them a few hours ago, baby. If you’d do them tonight, it would be a huge help.”

“Of course,” Rachel said, and smiled. “Whatever you need.”

“My little angel,” Terri said. “I don’t know how I’d manage without you.”

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It was when she walked in on them making Kurt’s bed that Terri knew they were ready. Kurt, swathed in bandages that twisted her gut every time she saw him, tugged aimlessly at the sheets. Rachel smacked his good hand. “Don’t pretend to help if all you’re going to do is make it harder. You are such a boy,” she said.

“I’m in pain,” he protested. “And I’m more than a little drunk.”

“I am aware, thank you,” Rachel said. “Your breath makes that vastly clear every few seconds.”

“Well, excuse me, Miss Polly-Smell-Freshly, but I’m too inebriated to brush my teeth. I might vomit.”

“I’d heard that alcohol kills brain cells, but I confess I didn’t expect it to take affect so quickly.”

Despite their bickering, Rachel tightened the corners of the sheets as Kurt fumbled pillows into cases. And Terri thought, Yes. They’re good kids. We work, here, this house. This family. All they need is a father.

There was, she acknowledged in the back of her mind, a chance that this was the wrong decision. She was making it after having stayed up all night, crying and clutching Kurt’s good hand. She was making it while she was still frightened – for Kurt, of the strange look in Rachel’s eyes, of how alone she still felt even with her children. She had thought things would be different when she was a mother, and they weren’t, not really.

So maybe it was the wrong decision, but still, she made it. She went to her room and sat alone, surrounded by everything heavy and sharp, and she picked up her cell phone.





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Next part...

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Master List

 
 
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
sunflowersdreamsunflowersdream on June 25th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)
Bloody crickets!!!! A flipping body?! I need to read the next chappie
tamakitotamakito on August 18th, 2012 04:48 am (UTC)
Poor Rachel, am I right? Man, now that it's been a while since I wrote this, I am shaking my head at myself.
sparklegemstonesparklegemstone on October 8th, 2012 05:45 am (UTC)
For a while now I've been wondering about this other missing girl that was a proof-of-concept for the house that's been on the news and that Kendra's been talking about. And as soon as Rachel was repulsed by the tub in the attic I was like D-:. No. Nonononono. That's not okay.

I can't believe Kurt's plan was to give himself serious burns. I think Kurt's mission in this fic is to stress me out as much as possible. STOP IT KURT. STOP. IT.

When Terry gave Rachel that elaborate school assignment, I thought, purposefully or not, she is giving Rachel the perfect opportunity to show off to her, which of course (in ordinary circumstances) is life-sustaining for Rachel. So point to Terri--like giving a cookie to the Cookie Monster. And then you later confirmed that she can be quite conniving when she wants to be and that it was indeed deliberate when she had Kurt cook his favorite food, too. I can definitely see Kurt's and Rachel's resolves weakening under this kind of treatment.

Reading about Kurt plotting another human's serious maiming at every chance he gets is kind of unsettling, no matter how justified it is.

I can definitely appreciate the dark humor in preventing your kidnapping victims to escape a.k.a. child-proofing.

Some quotes I strongly reacted to:
“I definitely don’t think that,” Kurt said. “Any of it.”
LOL

Rachel gasped. “Well, she’s not doing sexy schoolgirl at the same time!”

“No, she’s not. Most people don’t.”

“My look is unique –”

“For good reason.”

Double LOL.

He hadn’t learned this with Mercedes. He’d learned it with his mother.
FFUUU... Why would you do that to me? Gah.

Rachel fell flat on her back
Ooowww. Having the wind knocked from you is quite scary. I know from attempting a round-off from a balance beam in my childhood. It sucks a whole bunch.

Kurt had never in his life spent a day locked away from everyone so completely
Interesting juxtaposition to the problem with his real family being that he was around people too much.

I don’t think she’s entirely well.
Oh, the sweet irony.

Kay, off to read the next chapter. How is Kurt going to put himself in danger this time?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )