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Fic: You're Young Until You're Not (6/7)

Title: You're Young Until You're Not (6/7)
Fandom: Glee
Characters: Blaine, Kurt, Rachel
Rating: PG 15+ (occasional language)
Word count: 2,023
Warnings: Character death
Disclaimer: I do not own any of this. Except a few OCs.
Summary: In which Blaine loses somebody close to him and must face the grim reality of death.

Previous chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


Part Six

The Andersons left for New York the following morning, and the funeral was held two days later, on a bright, sunny, normal day. So much for pathetic fallacy, Blaine thought as the casket was lowered into the grave, he had tuned out. He could hear words, but he was not listening.

In the midst of life we are in death…

Cooper would hate this, Blaine found himself thinking, too low key. He looked around. His parents were stood front and centre, his mother in tears, understandably. His father stood next to her, his arm around her waist. His grandfather was there too. And his great grandmother. She was nearing one hundred. I bet she’s seen a lot.

He watched his great-grandmother closely. There was a great sadness to her. More so than any of the other mourners. A woman of one hundred. A woman who had buried all of her friends, a woman who had buried her son before his time, and was now at the funeral of her great grandchild. She had an aura of sadness about her that Blaine knew he would never understand.

We therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…

Cousins he had met once or twice before were standing around, crying. They hadn’t known him, and here they were. People he was unfamiliar with, people he assumed were Cooper’s colleagues, also crying.

‘Amen,’ a chorus of voices rang out.

‘Amen,’ he added, out of synch with everyone else. He walked over to join his parents, playing an arm around the shoulders of his mother. She gripped his hand with hers, smiling sadly at him.

Cooper’s wake was held at his grandfather’s house, but he could not handle it. He did not want to be approached by so many people he did not know telling him how sorry they were for his loss. He went in with his parents, and minutes later, he was back outside, alone.

The streets of New York filled him with joy. He and Cooper had spent many days outside, running up and down with the other neighbourhood children. They were probably all gone now. He wondered if the bookstore he and Cooper used to go to was still there. Probably not, he thought. Still, he made up his mind. It was only a half an hour walk from his grandfather’s house. He’d be there and back before anyone noticed.

The walk was shorter than he remembered. That, or he’d forgot to factor in the fact that he’d grown considerably since he had last walked there. And there it was. He smiled. ‘Perkins: Book Merchant’.

A flood of nostalgia washed over him. All the times Cooper had brought him here. Originally there had been a music store next door, so Cooper would drop Blaine off in the bookstore and he would venture into the land of Alanis Morissette, The Smiths and The Beatles.

He pushed the door open. The little bell was still there, and rang just as loud as it always had. The store looked just the same as it had the day they had moved to Ohio. It had been seven years, but he could still remember the smell. The smell of old books, of coffee.

The music store had closed down the year before they had left New York. Blaine insisted Cooper join him at the bookstore, and one day, out of boredom, he did.

‘Blaine Anderson?’ a voice called out in disbelief. It was a woman. A woman with a very distinguished British accent. The eponymous owner, Perkins. Jane Perkins. She hadn’t changed either. She was walking towards him, emerging from two sets of shelves. Blaine smiled. Her hair was greying now, but she still had the same youthfulness he had known seven years prior.

‘How did you know?’ Blaine asked her. She pulled him into a hug, and hugged back.

‘One does not simply forget a set of eyebrows like yours,’ she laughed. Blaine grinned. ‘I heard about your brother. Tragedy.’

‘It was,’ Blaine said.

‘I’m not going to say sorry, because it was nobody’s fault,’ she said sharply, in a way only she could. ‘But you have my condolences.’

‘Thank you,’ he replied, looking around the store. ‘It’s very quiet.’

‘Nobody likes book stores these days,’ she replied, slipping away from him. She pulled her cardigan around her body, folding her arms. She looked around at the near empty store, and for the first time in Blaine’s memory, she looked her sixty five years, her face etched with years of worry. ‘I’m so happy that I have more money than sense. If not, I’m sure I’d have closed up shop a long time ago.’

Blaine didn’t know what to say to this. He just hugged Jane again. ‘I don’t think I’d have been the same person I am today without this place.’

‘That’s sweet of you to say,’ replied Jane.

'You always brightened up my day when you smiled,' added Blaine, 'You have a beautiful smile.'

Jane felt herself smiling involuntarily at this comment. The door opened, the bell ringing out. 'Customer!' she whispered excitedly.

'I might just look around then,' Blaine told her as she went to assist the customer.

The shelves were stacked full of books. New, old, well-known, obscure. There was no order. There had been no order when he had first visited the store so many years ago. Nothing had a place, everything mixed. Agatha Christie could be found with Beatrix Potter, Thomas Harris with J.K. Rowling. He ran his index finger along the spines of some books on a shelf.

Leather bound, paperback, hardcover. Books brought Blaine joy. This was the first time he had felt happy, felt safe, since Cooper had died. He looked around the corner of the shelf. Jane was standing behind the counter as the customer - a young adult, he supposed, of indeterminate gender.

Blaine continued to walk around, browsing. P. G. Wodehouse, Jennifer Worth, H. P. Lovecraft. The Bible, the Quran, the Torah. All mixed in with trashy pulp and classic literature.

'Thank you for your custom,' he heard Jane say. He heard the bell ring again, and soon the store was empty once more.

'Nothing's changed at all,' he called out from behind a shelf.

'It's so much work to catalogue everything for one person,' she called back. 'And I like the disorganisation. You never know what you'll find.'

Blaine walked out from behind the shelf to join the woman.

'I missed this in Ohio,' he said to her, sitting up on the counter. 'Bookstores like this, they don't exist anymore.'

'And now you see my problem,' Jane told him. 'People don't want homely, warm. Everything has to be instant, at the click of a button.'

'I'm sure business will pick up,' Blaine said to her hopefully. Jane smiled at him and shook her head.

'I've been saying that for the past five years,' she informed him. 'Maybe this year will be better, maybe I won't be running at a loss again, maybe I won't ever have to close, but that's so naïve, Blaine. It's almost inevitable.'

Blaine looked at her sadly, her face looked wrinkled, her hair greyer than he had first thought, her once full cheeks becoming gaunt, prominent frown lines had begun to appear near her mouth. Nostalgia had prevented him from noticing at first. She was still a beautiful woman, still striking, but time and worry had ravished her. Her once graceful aging rapidly speeding up.

'You are an amazing woman,' he whispered. 'So much strength, to carry on.'

'There are times I feel like crying myself to sleep at night,' Jane told the boy, 'but then I remember that there are people out there so much worse off than myself.'

Blaine jumped down off of the counter and pulled Jane into another hug. She smiled again.

'So, Blaine,' she began, her voice shaky, as if she wanted so desperately to cry. 'Has your opinion on coffee changed since you've been away?'

'Absolutely,' he beamed. Jane laughed.

'You wait here then...' she said, and as she walked off, Blaine could see her wipe her eyes on the sleeves of her cardigan.

Whilst Jane was in the kitchen, he continued to browse. He recognized books that had been there when he was a child, books he had read waiting for Cooper to finish choosing the latest album by the latest band.

Sophie's Choice and Charlotte's Web were sat side by side. Birdsong and Mein Kampf. The side of the latter having been crudely defaced. The corner where he had curled up and read still looked cosy. The window above it slightly dirtier.

'Blaine?' Jane called out. Blaine walked back to her, his head full of memories. Jane had set a jug of coffee in the centre of the counter, two mugs and a bottle of milk.

'Your brother and I would have coffee and talk whilst you went off and explored,' Jane informed him as he poured himself a mug. 'He loved you very much.'

'There were times when it didn't feel like it,' Blaine responded, finally willing to open up. 'Anything I did wasn't good enough.'

'He could see you had talent, even if you didn't,' Jane said. 'He wanted you to be the best. The last thing he told me before you moved was that he was determined to make you see how good you were.'

'He didn't have to be so hard on me.'

'That's the only way you'd learn.'

'I miss him so much,' Blaine said, tears beginning to form.

'Let me tell you something, Sweetie,' she began, taking a sip of coffee. 'I'm sure people have been telling you that it gets easier.'

'Yeah,' he answered, nodding.

'It doesn't,' she said bluntly. 'It doesn't get an easier at all. You just learn to live with the pain.'

'That...'

'I know it seems impossible to do, but you end up doing it, no matter how much it hurts,' she looked out the window of the store, at the bustling New York street outside. 'Not a day goes past when I don't feel pain at the loss of my son.'

Blaine looked shocked. In all the years he had known Jane, he had no idea she had a son. 'What happened?' he asked.

'He had leukaemia,' she said, her voice growing shaky once more. 'Died before his eighth birthday.'

Blaine did not know how to respond. He took another gulp of coffee.

'I'm... I'm sorry,' he stuttered, reaching out and taking her hand. He squeezed it tightly, and she squeezed back.

'It never goes away,' she said to him. 'Thirty years later, the pain is still there. It always will be.'

Blaine and Jane spent the afternoon drinking coffee, reminiscing. Laughing. Enjoying one another’s company.

'When he saw what you were reading...'

'I've never seen him angrier...'

Blaine wiped tears of laughter from his eyes.

'Mein Kampf is a little heavy for a nine year old...' Jane added, taking another sip of coffee.

'Sorry about the spine.'

'Nobody was going to buy it anyway...'

Blaine felt his phone begin to vibrate in his pocket. He grabbed it. 'Nanay.'

'I better take this,' he said to Jane, who nodded.

'Nanay...'

His mother launched into a rant born from worry. Al he could do was nod along. Not that she could see.

‘Calm down, nanay!’ Blaine urged, ‘I’m not that far away. I’ll be there as soon as I can.’

His mother said a few last words. Blaine hung up and turned back to Jane. She smiled and nodded.

‘I’m so glad you came today,’ she said to him, wrapping her arms around her frail body. ‘You were the only person who took the time to get to know me all those years ago.’

‘It felt rude not to,’ Blaine said as he let her go. ‘Look, if I get the time, I’ll come back before we leave.’

‘You better,’ Jane laughed. The pair walked to the door. And then he left her.

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