Hi, I’m CP Coulter and I’ll be your author for this fic.
A year has passed since I first wrote the pilot episode for Dalton, and I can honestly say that never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was going to bring me to this point, that I would have written something the some people even cared to read about, let alone wait for. Each and every time I look at things readers send me, notes or artwork, gifts and videos, I am always taken by surprise. I often feel like Alice, wondering if I am still myself, and (if I were not) if I had changed so many times that I was someone else.
A long time has passed since the beginning, and I am learning about myself each day as a human being, flaws included. That it was alright to be strange, to be different, to do something that made me happy, to want to be happy, living each day trying to be a better person than I was yesterday. And I wanted to thank each and every one of you, friends and family, for accepting me, flaws, strangeness and all, and for helping to shape me into the person that I am. And it is a new beginning for me, this year. To learn from my mistakes, to live without regrets, to look forward to the future with hope, and to just go with what life brings.
Life has brought me you, and this story. And I am forever grateful for all of you.
And now an important note. Please read and bear with me; I am aware that this is very different from what we are all accustomed to, but I am trying out this new venture for this next Episode, and I humbly hope for your understanding (I’m not Han, I can’t work miracles on websites like he can):
I continue to be forever grateful for all the kindness that you have given to me, and, as always, I can only humbly present this new Episode, with love and hope, that you will enjoy reading it.
Episode 27 - Blackout (Part 1)
Wes lay amidst the rubble, smoke billowing out over his head, the flickering fires casting shadows in his face. He wasn’t quite moving, and when he breathed it was shallow.
David was screaming—it took three boys to keep him held back as he cried out to the burning inferno that was the Art Hall…
When he stirred, just slightly, Charlie realized that he could barely breathe—as smoke began to fill the air. Beneath him were a hundred glass shards…
“Let me through!” Shane was screaming, his mother trying to hold him back. “My brother is in there! Reed! Micah!”
From where he lay at the school clinic bed, Derek stirred slightly through the darkness. He heard the others run off—he felt danger…
Justin coughed hard, struggling to get up on his hands and knees. Ms. Blumenfeld was still next to him—and he could see no sign of the other boys…
From where he was lying, Evan began to stir. He thought he heard his brother’s voice…or was that his? Ethan, from where he lay at the doors, twitched his hand as he roused himself—and knew immediately his brother wasn’t there…
He heard the crackle of the flames, of the burning wood near his ear. He felt the blood drip down his temple and his body screaming in pain. Dwight slowly opened his eyes, forcing himself to wake, forcing himself to fight this dimness…
There were others needed to be saved.
From the third floor, Reed didn’t move from where he was lying near the debris that now blocked the fire escape. In his mind, he thought he heard Shane. He thought he heard his mother. He thought he heard the sound of the toy xylophone he had when he was little.
A distance from him, Julian lay curled on the ground next to his friend, their hands inches from each other. He couldn’t breathe—the fire crackled furiously around them—he couldn’t move—the injuries he sustained were beginning to numb. He couldn’t feel. He couldn’t feel his own breath…but he was alive, he had to be.
And slowly, from next to him, Logan began to open his eyes; the first thing he saw was Julian’s hand, lying next to his. Beyond the smoke, and the orange roar, he stirred, and felt everything—the pain of the wounds, the fear, the sense of dread—everything. He saw that pale hand next to his and he saw Julian opening his eyes, but unmoving. Logan blinked away the painful sting of the smoke. “…Jules?”
The sound of Logan’s voice so near made Blaine stir. Blaine lay face-down on the ground, one arm draped over the more slender body next to him. It was his first instinct when everything blew—to leap for Kurt when the world exploded. And now he lay there, not quite waking, not quite asleep…but completely aware of both worlds. He hauled himself out of that dimness now, aware only of the shallow breathing from Kurt.
Coughing, Blaine got to his knees. “Kurt…” he whispered hoarsely.
The sound of his voice, and the name it uttered, brought Logan back to the reality of the situation. His skin felt as though it was searing already, all the rest of him ached painfully, but it all only meant one thing: it was time to go, no matter what.
He immediately moved and clasped Julian’s hand near him. “Jules—! Come on, get up!” his voice came out hoarse and strained, but he was sure that Julian heard, even if his friend didn’t respond. He felt Julian’s hand tighten on his, and then he turned behind him. “Blaine—are you and Kurt—”
Amidst the steadily growing flames, Blaine pulled him closer to him, using his body to shield him from the glare and the growing fire, and he choked out, “Kurt’s unconscious! Kurt! Come on, wake up, please! Kurt!”
In the blackness of his mind, Kurt heard the fire roar. It sounded and felt as though he were in the throat of a great dragon. He imagined a great animal roaring in the darkness—in this black tunnel, racing for him.
“Kurt, say something!!”
…what’s happening to us…? He wondered as he felt the heat glow around him. His mind wandered. He remembered back before this all happened. He remembered sitting in Warblers’ Hall and knowing everything. He had every suspicion and all his instincts had cried out the answer that had proven right in the end. But he had pushed it away; he hadn’t wanted to believe it.
I give myself very good advice…but I very seldom follow it…
…I have this terrible feeling… His world was starting to shake. The darkness rippled and peeled away, giving way to his senses waking. The dragon was gone but the fire remained.
“Kurt—wake up—wake up!!”
…that we ran out of time… He could hear Blaine’s voice. That was Blaine’s voice—Blaine, who flew at him the instant the door blew to shreds—he heard his body thud next to his before he hit his head and things went black and everything was gone.
And there he stopped.
…where are we now?
…which way should I go?
Follow the White Rabbit.
And amidst all this chaos, Kurt’s blue eyes flew open, staring into the ceiling. A cough burst from his throat. Smoke swirled above him—flames trickled down from the walls and from the debris. He could feel Blaine take a sudden breath from next to him—he could feel his own heart pounding—he could feel the world clearing—
He was alive.
My name is Kurt. And this is Dalton Academy.
We didn’t think Hell Night would become so literal—trapped in a blazing inferno with barely a way out. When the worst happens, it really makes you think. It makes you appreciate the times when everything was good.
And it makes you realize how far you’d go to get those times back.
How far we would go, to hold on to Wonderland.
“Kurt!” endless relief flooded into Blaine and the way his voice broke made Kurt think that he must’ve almost been to tears. Kurt tried to speak and only ended up coughing. He clutched onto Blaine and pulled himself up, clasping at his throat. “What happened…?” he croaked. “Are you all right?”
“We have to get out of here,” Blaine responded. Kurt saw that Blaine had nasty gash by the side of his head that was trickling into his uniform shirt. He must’ve busted it open when he hit the floor after the explosion.
“Come on—!” Logan’s voice sounded from a way off. Kurt looked up and saw him getting to his feet a little unsteadily, pulling Julian up with him. “We have to go! Now!”
“Where’s Reed?” Kurt demanded hoarsely as he got to his feet carefully with Blaine, his joints sending rivets of pain in protest. Blaine, holding on to him securely, looked around. Above them, soot and fragments and glowing embers dribbled down. Smoke was growing. The third floor was already a mess, but it wasn’t completely hopeless…yet.
Then Kurt saw his friend, lying by the end of the hall and unmoving. “Reed!” he choked. “Over there!
Julian was nearest—he broke away from Logan for a moment; the taller boy tried to clutch him back—and ducked some spraying embers before he reached Reed. “Reed!” he leaned down for a moment as though trying to see if he was breathing. He looked up when Kurt and the others reached him.
Kurt dropped down next to his friend, heart racing. “Just breathe—come on, breathe—!” Julian panted as he tried to revive him, rouse him, something—anything.
Blaine shook his head and said, “We can’t do this here, we have to just carry him out!”
“Wait—just wait!” Kurt protested staring at his friend’s pale form. Reed just had to show some sign of still being alive—
There was a sudden choke and Reed came to life, coughing dryly. Kurt grabbed his hand and barely had time to express relief when Logan cried out sharply. “Move!!”
The tall blond shoved Kurt with a force hard enough to bruise. Past the impact, Kurt saw everything happening down to the minutest detail: Logan had pushed him into Blaine’s arms, who stumbled backward with him. Then Logan’s hand went onto Reed’s shirt and he’d pulled the smaller boy up—Julian’s sleeve was clutched in his other hand—and he too leapt back with the two of them, just as a fragment of the ceiling crashed were Reed had been lying moments ago.
Kurt blinked a moment, and then suddenly time moved forward rapidly. Blaine was suddenly covering his face using his arm, shielding him from the cinders that flew when the ceiling piece hit the floor. They hadn’t even noticed that the ceiling was about to come down.
Reed was coughing as he clutched against Julian to keep his balance, and the actor yelled over the roar. “We have to go! Now!”
“How?!” Kurt yelled back. He pointed to the end of the corridor, where they had meant to go before the blast. It was now covered in smoldering debris. “It’s blocked!”
“We have to find a way down through there!” Logan cried back, his skin scorched by the growing flames, and Kurt saw his uniform sleeves charred when he pointed down the hall to the direction of the central staircase. “It’s the only way left! Blaine! Get going!”
Blaine didn’t wait. He grabbed Kurt by the arm and the two of them ran down the hall. Kurt kept his arm up, coughing at the side, as more smoke and ash began to blow towards him. He could hear the others running behind them and coming fast—Logan was still an athlete of some kind and since apparently Julian did all his own stunts, he should be able to keep up the pace. Kurt was most worried about Reed, who never did respond pressure well.
And this was more than enough pressure from everybody.
Fire had a sound—it roared—and it moved like it was a living thing. Kurt realized this as they entered the main hall of the third floor. It was an inferno and the heat was already making them wince. But as they reached this more open ground, they heard echoes of a sound that wasn’t fire, rippling up to them. Voices crying out their names desperately.
The two looked at each other.
That sounded a lot like their friends.
“Blaine!” Justin was yelling through the carved wooden doors that would open to the glass staircase that led to the third floor. “Kurt!! Can you hear me?!”
He didn’t hear any response. He winced a little and looked at Ms. Blumenfeld’s form leaning against the wall where the door was. He winced, coughing a little as he looked back to the roaring flames and tried to see his other friends.
“Charlie!” he yelled. “Charlie, answer me, man! Where are you?!”
As for the Windsor prefect, the moment Charlie laid his hand onto the ground, he made a hiss of pain as he cut himself on the glass shards around him. They were from an object that he’d flown into during the explosion. He heard it—Justin’s voice. “Charlie!” over the fire, from nearby.
“Over here!” he coughed out. He slowly pushed himself up, fingers ribboned with scarlet. “Justin!”
“I’m here by the door! Can you move?” The Hanover prefect asked. He couldn’t see him. There was too much smoke.
“Yeah.” Charlie blinked painfully through the smoke and called out to the others on the second floor. “Wes! Evan, Ethan! Dwight!”
Justin looked up when he heard a sound near him—a cough. He saw the form of another young man sprawled there, coughing in trying to get up. Justin realized that he hadn’t seen him before because he had been blocked from view by one of the fallen display pillars, and had been lying unconscious. He ran over and saw Micah, who he did not recognize. “Who are you, and how the hell did you get in here?” Justin demanded as he tried to help him up, thinking that this had to be someone at Parents’ Night’s brother or cousin or maybe even Adam’s accomplice for all he knew.
“I have to—” Micah tried to push himself up, coughing, “—help Reed—!”
Justin would have responded to this had he not seen a more pressing concern: Micah’s left arm was effectively pinned under a decorative plaster pillar. Micah tried to pull it out, relieved he could even feel it at all. The pillar wasn’t brutally heavy, but he was effectively stuck. Justin took the pillar and pulled it up just as Micah’s pants leg caught fire. He pulled the other boy up and immediately started frantically swatting away the flames.
There was a hissing blast of chemical fume—one that quickly petered out to nothing—put Micah out. The two of them looked up and they saw Charlie nearby, panting, and dropping the last empty fire extinguisher. He saw Micah and groaned as he recognized him. “Oh great! You’re here too, Micah?!”
“Got another one of those?” Justin panted.
Charlie shook his head. “It was near me.”
Dwight had been the one who was holding that fire extinguisher—he had held onto it with the adrenaline grip of someone who knew that it could be the way to salvation, but when they jumped out of the way of that falling debris from above, he’d lost hold of it and it had thudded and rolled to where Charlie was.
He didn’t know it was gone. He simply knew that he was awakened when he thought he heard someone call his name.
Someone small and very young.
When he opened his eyes a fraction, it was someone much older who then said his name, someone who certainly hadn’t been the first voice that he heard and made him wonder if he imagined it. “Hey!” Wes exhaled shakily, looking relieved. “You’re okay. Come on, get up!”
Every bone in his body felt like it had been liquefied. There was no way in this universe that Dwight thought he could get up. He felt Wes’ hand close over his tightly to help him. “Come on, hurry! It’s getting closer!!”
What was—? Dwight turned his head to where Wes seemed to be looking—he saw it. It was another smoldering chunk of ceiling that was drooping down from above. Dwight didn’t even want to think about how unsteady the floor of third floor must be right now if the ceiling was falling apart like this. Wes tugged at his arm as though he had intentions to amputate it and he managed to drag Dwight out of the way before it went down.
The crash sounded in the second floor, making the others look up. “Ethan?!” Evan cried from one side of the fire, alarmed. “Ethan, say something! Ethan!”
The twin nearer to the doors, where the prefects were, looked up, coughing. “Evan?!”
Evan, vastly relieved to hear his voice, made to step forward, but a blockade of flames stood in his way. He threw up his arm against the heat that glared up at him when he tried to come through. “Ethan!” he yelled. “I’m going to try and get to you now, okay?!”
“Don’t do anything stupid!” Charlie yelled back from across the way—he was holding onto the back of Ethan’s shirt now, as though to keep this twin from plunging into the fires to get to his brother.
Wes arrived next to Evan, limping slightly and a pitiful sight with his ruined uniform and grimy countenance. “We have to find a way through this,” he panted. Dwight stood next to him, clutching his arm in pain. Everything was taking a toll on the sophomore and Wes could see that. “Charlie!” Wes yelled over the crackling. “Charlie, we’re going to try and make a way through this rubble or we’re never getting out of here! Get Blaine and the others out of the third floor!”
“We’re trying!” Justin snarled as he tried to kick open the door. Something had to be jamming the other side; that was the only reason it couldn’t be opened even with the full strength of both Charlie and Justin trying to crash through it.
Micah grabbed Justin. “Stop! Stop!”
The newcomer pointed up to the ceiling. With every impact that Charlie and Justin made, the force caused the wall to vibrate and the ceiling cracks worsened. Sparks rained down. Charlie took one look at it, and tried the door again.
“Charlie, what are you doing?!” Justin demanded.
“One more—just one more!!” And with a splintering sound, Charlie hit the door once more—and it gave way. It cracked open, and Charlie couldn’t touch the metal handle without burning himself, but it gave him a bit of a view of the other side. There was no way he’d squeeze through this, because wooden beams had fallen in the way of it, crisscrossed. This was why they couldn’t open it.
No one was at the staircase. But he could see the orange glow from the third floor.
“Blaine!” Charlie yelled. “Kurt! Reed!”
Outside was no better than the inside. The call for firefighters had already gone out, and many students gathered up fire extinguishers, trying to put out the area by the door, trying to give anyone inside a way out. Some glanced up to the fire escapes and saw no one there.
The teachers and parents who were now starting to gather were horrified. The students scanned the windows for any sign of their schoolmates. After the third explosion, glass shards had gone flying and everyone was forced to back away by the teachers, who formed a barrier keeping any other student from doing anything as ridiculous as those Windsors did.
Students were running in from all directions carrying pails of water. They flung them into the first floor as hard as they could, trying to help keep the fires down or at least open a way out for those inside, but it couldn’t do enough.
Howard knew that the boys didn’t have very long and it was evident that every parent in the vicinity, numbers increasing by the second, was going to end up plunging in there after a missing son. One in front of him right now, a brother, was already difficult to keep at bay.
Shane hadn’t stopped fighting the boys to get through. Three of the most important people in his life were in that giant bonfire. And he was standing outside of it, watching. The mere idea that this was literally happening before his eyes nearly brought him to his knees.
Mrs. Anderson had materialized among the throng, and she was clutching her younger son tight. In her mind, she pushed away all desire to run in there to find her older son who had been so long ostracized. She already nearly lost Shane once, and with Blaine’s situation, this was all nearly more than flesh and blood could take.
“Please…” Shane was weeping now, even as his struggles weakened. “Please let go of me, mom, please—”
“Shane, no—” Mrs. Anderson shook her head, keeping her hold tight on her son. “No, you can’t go in there, Shane!”
“Please…” he was weakening, gasping for breath through his sobs. “Please…I have to—Blaine—Reed—and Micah! I have to…! Why won’t you just let me…?” He broke down entirely, sinking against her.
“No, Shane…” tears laced Mrs. Anderson’s eyes. “No, I can’t let you go in there—I can’t.”
The fact that majority of the boys in the inferno were from Windsor House was not lost on anyone. Only Windsors would be crazy enough to compound to the count of those already inside by leaping into the fray in a desperate attempt to tear them all out. Valiant of them, but no one on the grounds could deny that it was weapons-grade idiotic, least of all David, who already knew how bad an idea it was but was still fighting the other boys to be let through.
Over half the things going through his mind right now was heaping insults at the boys who he had come to know as his brothers, for being so monumentally idiotic because in David’s opinion, there was no reason in the world that none of them should still be in there.
They just had to emerge any second now. They just had to.
“Let go of me right now!” David heard cloth tear as Satoru and Todd tried to keep him back. The other two Windsors were having problems holding him back. He was stronger than they were.
“David, you can’t go in there, you’ll make things worse!” Satoru protested, still gripping his friend’s sleeve. “We have to wait for the firefighters to get here!”
David was so worked up that he could barely think, let alone wait for any firefighters. “By then, they could all be—!”
“They’re not!” Todd shot back, trying to keep their fellow Windsor back. He himself hardly had an easy time trying to believe the things he was saying. Dwight had been one of the first to go missing and knowing his roommate, he was doing more crazy things in there than the others. The “chickenheart” had always had a nearly self-destructive desire to be a hero.
David wasn’t having any of it. “Then while they’re still—I’m going in there to pull them out!”
"You can’t!" Satoru retorted, knowing he was fighting a losing battle against David, but he was going to try anyway. It was better than having another head in there.
At this point, the Windsors’ “Hatter” was furious as he rounded on the young scientist. “Why the hell not?! All the others—”
And then Satoru burst, unable to hold back anymore. “Because—there’s no way in!”
That was different. David stopped and turned to look at him. “What did you just—?”
Satoru was shaking, staring at him and he gestured to the flames beyond the entrance, the same one that the teachers were barring them all from. “The doorway that the Twins and the other just went through…” he pointed to the door. “Drew and Han aimed some of our lab stuff—judging by the heat and temperatures, there’s debris blocking it. Like a campfire. No one is getting in anymore.”
David took a shuddering breath as he looked up at the inferno. No one else is getting in. Without firefighters—at least—no one will be getting through. It also meant one more thing:
No one is going to get out.
"Where…" David said with an edge in his tone, his face resolute, "…is Han?"
And he might as well ask. The only conspirator who had zero intention of running into that fire was outside of it for good reasons. He was sitting not in front of the building, but to the left wing of it, where, with every upward glance, he could see flames blazing beyond the shattered glass windows. The wind fanned the flames. He was sitting fifty yards from the wall, laptop and equipment around him, as well as Drew, who had been the one to lend him anything and everything that should conceivably help him analyze the situation properly.
After he realized that without some kind of a way in or out, even the firefighters might be having problems. Why did anyone build this place like this anyway…? Han wondered angrily as his fingers flew over his laptop keyboard. Why would they make it out of stuff that catches fire and breaks apart—all that wood and glass—for the sake of freaking architecture—? Why would they put that fire escape all the way there?! Careless, that’s what it is—
“Come on—come on!!” Drew begged from next to him, glancing worriedly at the growing roar.
“Shut up!” Han’s hands were shaking hard even as they flew over the keys. “Shut up—I can’t think!” His eyes flicked over all the screens he could pull up from days before—trying to see every possible exit, every window, every door—
Han looked up, eyes watering with the smoke blowing at him and he rubbed them under his glasses to hide what he dearly hoped were not tears of frustration. His friends, his schoolmates, the only actual real-life people apart from his family that he really cared about, were in there.
All he saw were flames—flames licking up the whole building. Han’s hands were still shaking even as he continued to look for a way—some way, any way—
He had to find them a way out.
When the five of them reached the open area of the third floor, they knew they were in trouble.
There was something wrong with the third floor. They had been hearing cracking and splitting sounds, but the sound seemed to be coming from underneath and above them.
“This is really really bad…” Reed said under his breath before wincing again as he turned his face away from the heat for a moment.
Logan watched Kurt take a step forward into the open before he heard something crack. “Be careful!” Logan reached out and grabbed Kurt back immediately—beneath Kurt’s leather-shoed feet, the floor split and gave way, leaving a foot-sized hole. The support from below had already fallen down to the second floor, and the rest of it was weakening.
“Here, take him.” Logan carefully slipped Reed to Kurt and for a moment seemed to look around, Blaine doing the same. The third floor was littered by flaming things. They had to be careful.
Blaine looked wildly around for something they could use. Finally he spotted something at the far wall. “Wait here!” he cried to Kurt.
“Blaine, what are you doing?!” Kurt cried as he tried to grab him back, but Blaine was running to one side of the hall where he had seen the tell-tale red box. The glass was cracked and broken already—but he pulled out the fire blanket and the fire extinguisher there. He winced as he touched it; the metal was already getting warm.
Kurt gasped as Blaine ran back to them and immediately wrapped the blanket around him. “Here,” Blaine panted. “Stay under that—”
“Wait—what about you?!” Kurt demanded as he tried to pull Blaine to the blanket as well, but the other boy just shook his head. “It’s not meant to be used that way, but maybe it can protect you a little.”
Blaine looked at Logan as he held up the single fire extinguisher and said, “We’ve only got this. But we all have to get to the staircase.”
“Guys—” Julian never really got further than that as over them, there was a deafening crack and the ceiling threatened to collapse. He shoved Logan forward. “Go! Run!!” Logan grabbed the fire extinguisher from Blaine and ran ahead, trying to blast a clear path as best he could.
“Come on!” Blaine grabbed Kurt again as they both hurtled across the third floor, Logan and Julian in the lead. Around them, the ceiling began to come down, revealing roaring waves of flames that were climbing up the beams to the roof.
Kurt kept Reed pulled under his wing as they ran, his arm and the blanket over their heads to shield them from falling embers from above, pinpricks of fire that burst with each falling wood beam.
It wasn’t until he caught sight of a path that led to the doorway that he realized that Blaine had not let go of his hand this whole time. Blaine kept close to him and Reed, protective and eyes wide, reflecting the growing flames, searching for that way out—any way out—of this inferno.
Logan moved twenty paces from them, sleeves singed already, and hearing the cries of the ones in the floor down below, calling out to them. When he moved forward, Kurt saw that Julian went with him. The wounded actor didn’t really have a choice—the way Logan’s hand was gripping onto his wrist suggested that Logan might have been intending on breaking it.
Let him look after Julian, then—we have other problems… Kurt looked wildly around. From where he and Blaine stood, they had only moments to get clear to the staircase. He could hear voices shouting up to them. That was Charlie, he could definitely hear Charlie, beckoning to them.
He felt a powerful tug—Blaine was pulling them away just as something cracked down from above and landed where Kurt and Reed last stood. Ceiling. The roof, the ceiling, it was collapsing.
“Come on!!” Logan yelled from where he and Julian were closer to the staircase. Blaine grunted with effort as he tried to keep his balance, holding both Kurt and Reed up.
Blaine coughed, fighting through the smoke and the stinging in his eyes, making it difficult to navigate. He could see the two Stuarts. “This way, Blaine!” Julian cried. He pointed to the clear path. “Follow us—hurry!”
“You can do it, come on!” Logan shouted over the din.
Nodding, Blaine pulled Kurt closer and pointed to the path the other two were gesturing at. He felt Kurt’s hand tighten on his. It felt like a promise—to get out of here alive together. And the Windsors made a break for it, running to the staircase.
“Charlie!” Wes yelled from the floor below. The flaming barricade that stood before him, Dwight, and Evan kept them away from Ethan, Justin, Charlie, and Micah. This same barricade of debris would make it difficult for the rest of them to get out too. It was blocking the way. They had seen it—the people on the other side were ringed by flames. They had to come up with ideas fast, the art hall was coming down. And he finally got one.
“Charlie, I’ve got an idea!!”
Wes bolted off to one side of the main area, headed to one of the plaster pillars that had fallen over. Around him, smoke was rising as more wood charred and paper ignited.
“Wes!! Wes, come back!!” Dwight yelled, his face white, expecting his friend to erupt into flames any minute now. Wes ignored him and picked up the plaster pillar with both arms. “I know what I’m doing, just give me a second—!”
“We don’t have that long—!” Evan howled back.
“Shut up and help me!” Wes panted as he dragged the plaster pillar to them.
“What are you doing with that?” Dwight demanded, wincing as a loud crack sounded from the beams overhead. Fortunately, nothing fell on their heads—yet.
Wes smirked at them, looking exhausted. “We’re going to ram that thing.” He nodded to the pile of debris.
“Ram it?!” Dwight demanded.
Wes yelled loudly, “You guys watch yourselves, we’re going to ram that pile over there! We’re going to bust it apart, you hear me?”
“I thought I told you not to do anything stupid?!” Charlie yelled back.
“If you haven’t realized, running into a burning building is plenty stupid for all of us already!”
Charlie got the point. He looked back to the direction of the staircase. There was no way anyone was fitting through that gap they managed to make at the door—and from all testimonies from the people outside, there were, hopefully, five or six people to have to get through there.
Maybe Wes had the right idea. The only way to get through anything was to bust it wide open. Windsor was good at smashing into things anyway.
“Justin—I need something to break this door with!” Charlie panted. He looked wildly around. “Is there anything we can use?”
“Blaine!!” Micah yelled up the stairwell. “Blaine! Kurt! Reed! Can you hear us?!”
Micah pressed his ear close to the partially opened doors as the others tried to find something they could use to open that door with. He thought he heard something. A response, a cry—something beyond the flames.
There was the splintering sound of a crash as something powerful hit the pile of debris that blocked their way out. Ethan looked up and stared, waiting for the whole thing to give way and perhaps give him a clear view of his brother.
Micah called for the ones upstairs again, loudly, as Charlie ran back and tried to move him away, carrying one of the tall candelabras. That metal was searing hot, and it would be scalding Charlie’s palms by now. Micah listened harder even as Charlie tried to pull him off. “Micah, you have to stop—!”
Micah shrugged him off when he heard that sound again. “I’ve almost got it—! A little more—!” Micah called upstairs one more time. “Blaine!! Answer us!!”
Another crash from the ones beyond the debris. Ethan leapt back to the others as cinders flew from the pile. The high pile began to collapse and he saw the forms of the other boys past the flickering of the flames. “You’re almost there!” he cried out to them.
Micah looked up when he heard it, “We’re up here!!” That outcry: Blaine’s voice. “Can you hear us?!” He was close—and alive. Micah’s heart jumped in relief and he looked up at Charlie, “I can hear them! They heard us!”
“All right, move!” Justin grabbed Micah away as Charlie wedged the candelabra through the gap and used it like a crowbar as he tried to pull the doors further open. Wood creaked and splintered and soon Justin was holding on as well, the two prefects trying to tear the door open.
Charlie looked up as he and Justin pulled with all their might—the metal starting to bend with their effort as the door refused to give way—and he saw them: atop the glass staircase. He saw Kurt and Blaine.
Kurt and Blaine looked down from the shattered glass doors that led to the staircase where they heard the echoes. Blaine’s face was an honest testimony of distress and desperation as soot streaked up his cheek. He looked at Kurt. “That was Micah. That was definitely Micah!”
“Micah’s in here…?” Reed asked groggily.
“I wish I could say he wasn’t, but I know that voice.”
“Charlie!!” Kurt called down, voice cracking. He coughed and tried again. “Charlie, we’re up here!!”
Relief was evident in his prefect’s voice even as it sounded stressed. He could hear splintering of wood downstairs. “Kurt, we’re trying to get the door open now!! Who’s up with you?!”
“Me and Blaine, Reed, Logan and Julian!”
“They’re all alive?!” he heard Justin say. “What happened to Adam?! Oh thank god—”
Logan dropped the empty fire extinguisher, exhausted by putting out as much of the flames as he could. He looked down at Kurt and Blaine, who were a couple of steps down the stairs. They stared at the dark, flame-lit tunnel that led to the second floor doorway. “Oh no.”
“Don’t say oh no, Wright!” Charlie yelled. “I don’t like the sound of “oh no”!”
“Charlie, there are beams blocking the door!” Blaine called down. Crisscrossed in front of the door was a pile of ceiling debris—rocked by the explosion, no doubt—and it smoldered. “It’s why you can’t push it open! Hinges are on the inside!”
“That’s why we’re trying to wreck it open!” Charlie screamed back.
Kurt looked up at Blaine, trying to get a breath in the stairwell. “We have to get out of here, I don’t think Reed’s doing so great.” He clutched his friend under the blanket.
“I’m fine…” Reed coughed.
“You’re not fine,” Kurt retorted, trying not to stare at the matted patch at the back of Reed’s head. Kurt looked up and heard more splintering. How Charlie was managing to get that carved door open—what Charlie was even doing in here—he didn’t know, but it had to be wrought by adrenaline. “Who’s with you?!”
“A whole bunch of idiots who shouldn’t be—”
“You followed us!” Ethan’s voice yelled.
“Shut up, all of you!!” Justin declared, furious. “Now’s not the time! Ethan, help us get this door open!”
“Listen!” Julian suddenly said and looked up. The five boys in the stairwell looked up when they head the splintering sound. It sounded like it was coming from overhead. Blaine blanched immediately. The uncommon architecture of the building made it so that this stairwell acted rather like a bridge from the second floor to the third. With the fire eating at the supports, there was a huge chance that the ceiling could cave in on them.
“Okay move, let’s go!!” Logan declared.
The five boys carefully made their way at the glass staircase, their feet looking for steady footing on the scorched surfaces. Blaine and Logan moved ahead—Kurt was slower, as he had Reed with him, and Julian was with them to make sure nothing fell on them.
A beam slammed down from above. Kurt screamed.
“Come on!” Blaine yelled. He and Logan dived down towards the doors. Julian kept his arm around Kurt and Reed, warily looking up for falling debris as the fallen beam seemed to be the start of some kind of domino effect—more debris began to fall. Kurt kept as tucked under the fire blanket as he could with Reed. Every time he tried to pull Julian under it, the boy had just swatted him off. It was impossible to put three people under there.
“Charlie! Justin!” Blaine gasped as he and Logan reached the beams that blocked the door. To their relief, they saw that the combined strengths of the people behind the door was starting to open up a bigger gap. The beams were like a jungle gym that they had to pass through.
“Let me try.” Logan grabbed one of the beams and tried to pull it up. Blaine began to help him pull it up and get it out of the way. They could feel the heat emanating from it and the two boys managed to pull it out a short way before the heat made them let the beam go.
Blaine heard Reed cry out and a large beam and some of the ceiling slammed down. Flames roared. More splitting sounds followed. “Come on, come on!!” Blaine called desperately.
“Here, take Reed!” Kurt cried, passing the smaller boy and the blanket down to the two boys on the lower steps.
“Jump, Reed, go!” Blaine called. Their schoolmate winced and leapt over the flaming debris and crashed into Blaine, who just barely managed to catch him. Coughing, Reed staggered to his feet. “I’m okay,” he panted.
“Get down through the beams, get out through that gap!” Logan told him. Reed looked scared. “What about Kurt?!”
“Go, Reed! Hurry!” Kurt yelled out.
Blaine could hear the doors getting opened wider as Reed picked his way through the beams, ducking his head as Charlie and Justin reached out to him to pull him out the doors. There was a sharp cry from Logan as more beams and debris fell into the pile. And Blaine looked up to the other two on the upper flight.
Kurt had thrown his arm up as he turned away from the flying cinders when the debris fell again. Through the rippling air, he could see Blaine and Logan on the other side.
And it was as though they all knew—there was going to be something bad about to happen.
There’s this moment that happens at certain times to a person.
Kurt knew it well, because he’s had it happen to him before. There was this moment when everything hangs still, goes quiet, and you suddenly have one eternity to make a single choice that could change everything, here and now.
The flames stop jumping, the roof stops cracking, everyone goes still and a blink of an eye is all it takes. He saw everyone and everything.
He saw the terror in Blaine’s eyes, the shock that wracked Logan, Reed’s scream and the determination on Julian’s face. Charlie’s hand reaching out to them all, Justin was struggling to keep the door open, the other boys desperately trying to clear a way. Reed was almost to them.
He blinked once, amidst the smoke and soot and ash, and wondered if they were all going to make it out. He wondered if they all could.
When something was so horrible that it was like it wasn’t real…It was as though your mind stops accepting it. And it happens in front of you as though you were watching yourself in it.
The roof was caving. There was only one chance left. Both Blaine and Logan looked like they were coming at the upper flight, aiming to pull them out before the beams fell again. But they wouldn’t have time. It was too fast.
Kurt couldn’t think. And he realized that someone had to make a choice.
He could see Blaine and Logan moving to them—the both of them trying to achieve what was essentially impossible. They could only reach out to one person in those couple of seconds—two heartbeats pass—and Kurt could see Blaine staring at him without a single hesitation in his eyes, reaching out to pull him.
Logan was the one who looked torn and scared, more so than he’d ever seen him be. Unlike Blaine, he looked as though he had no idea what to do. He didn’t know who to reach out to first.
Logan’s eyes seemed to flicker, looking to and fro for a moment that couldn’t have been more than half a second—something you don’t do on purpose, something you just do because you were following a thought process—and Kurt realized…that there was just so much more to the choice—the idea of having to choose— than he could understand at this moment.
And then he saw it. One flash—from one face—who made the choice of who got that last chance.
Time had slowed almost to a stop, allowing forever to come in, to make that decision to change everything. You couldn’t know what could happen after that, but it was a leap of faith.
That everything was going to be okay after.
Someone already had made a decision.
And he didn’t need eternity.
"Kurt!!" Blaine screamed.
Kurt felt it: the powerful slam on his back of an open palm, fingers splayed, forcefully throwing him forward with no control over his own balance and movement—he was falling through the hot air, practically tripping all over the broken debris on the ground—
He hit another body, all the air pushed out of his lungs by the impact. He looked up and saw a pair of green eyes staring down at him, startled and confused.
And it was only then that he realized why the face of the one who pushed him looked so determined. Kurt was in Logan’s arms now, the taller boy holding him, and he felt Logan’s chest dip when he cried out.
The debris crashed down. The staircase was barred now by flaming beams, more threatening to fall overhead. Cinders flew, embers rained. Blaine covered Kurt with his body, and so Kurt was now effectively pinned between both him and Logan. Kurt could see, from where he was pressed there, the boy beyond the beams that had fallen.
“Are you guys alright?!” Charlie cried in panic.
“Julian—!” Logan cried out.
“Go!!” Julian yelled back, effectively trapped now, with no other direction to go but the third floor. “Get out! Get out of here right now!!”
“No!” Logan screamed. Another beam fell. Everyone leapt back.
“Get out!” Julian commanded furiously at the blond boy even as Blaine wrenched Kurt away and now began to back up towards the beams, but his eyes never left the two Stuarts at the impasse.
“I can’t—I won’t!” Logan shouted back up to his friend, the angry tears following. “I’m not leaving here without you!!”
Julian stamped his foot in frustration, the smoke stinging his eyes—but somehow he wasn’t sure if that was why he was crying. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was because he heard him say something that he didn’t think he would hear. Maybe it was just the desperation. “For crying out loud, Logan, just go! Get out of here now!”
“Logan, come on!!” the boys at the door were yelling. Time was running out quickly. If they didn’t get out now, no one was getting out.
“Kurt, come on, hurry!” Blaine was ushering him down towards the tangle of beams, urging him to get to Charlie. But he glanced back to where the other two were, not knowing what to do and torn.
“We can’t leave Julian here!” Kurt protested.
“Yes, you can!” Julian shouted back. He looked at Logan again, eyes desperate. There was only one directive in his world right now and it had nothing to do with finding himself an escape route when there was none. But someone else—the more important one—did. “Please—just get out of here!”
“I can’t do that to you!!” Logan cried furiously. This wasn’t fair—this couldn’t be happening—none of this was supposed to happen! “You think I’m going to leave you here to die?! I’m not doing that to you—!!”
“You want to do something for me?! You want to do something—then get out! Out of this building!! Save Kurt and the others—go, Logan! Now!”
Before another word could be said, the ceiling now began to fall all over the place. The glass staircase cracked with each impact. “Come on!!” Justin yelled. “Get out of there!! All of you!!”
Julian made a sound—it sounded like a grunt of pain—as he shielded his eyes from the embers. He stumbled back upwards, towards the third floor. “Wait—!” Blaine shouted out, but there was just no time. The ceiling was caving in. It was time to go—Reed was already out.
Kurt watched in horror as the actor fled back upstairs. Blaine did the only thing he could do at this point: to grab Logan by the back of his shirt and drag him back towards the doors. “We have to go!” he choked.
“No!” Logan was moving towards the blockage at the staircase.
But Blaine refused to let him go. “Logan, for the love of God—!!”
“Let go of me!! There’s still time—!” Logan’s eyes were fastened on his friend who was now racing upstairs, ducking the pieces of ceiling falling down. “Julian!!”
“Logan!!” Kurt grabbed onto him as well and he pulled so hard that he nearly sent the taller boy falling over. He hated this, he hated everything—he hated this building, this event, the fire, the stubbornness of everyone and the fact that he was now forced to leave someone in this inferno. But he’d be damned if he was going to let another one get stuck when he could still do something about this one. “Logan!” he yelled to him. “We have to go!! Now!! If we get out fast enough, we can tell them where Julian is and they can save him!!”
And with Blaine’s help, he hauled the blond boy back. Kurt ignored the struggles from Logan as he and Blaine now pulled him towards the doors, ducking through the beams. The ceiling fell fast. Not even Logan could think he could do anything now, as everything caved in. They ducked and dodged the beams, with Charlie and Justin still holding the door open.
Kurt was out first, then Blaine, then Logan. Everything on the other side crashed just as they made it out to the second floor.
“Oh my god.” Kurt was panting and he was a mess. He found himself surrounded by the Windsors, and Justin, who asked, “And Julian?!”
Kurt grabbed Logan’s shoulder immediately, as though the reminder would cause tall boy to take flight back. Blaine shook his head, pale. “He’s trapped. He’s up there. We have to get out and tell the firefighters that—”
There was a sickening crash and debris flew. The barricade fell apart. And in the tunnel of flames, Wes appeared at the other side with Dwight and Evan. “Let’s go, come on!” Wes screamed from the other side.
“Move!!” Charlie pushed the others on. “Go! Get out, now!!” He waited for Justin, who lifted up Ms. Blumenfeld again. “Come on!!”
To be continued soon…