Author: LucyToo PM
When an act of gay-bashing hits Lima's only gay bar, it puts the small town in a bigger media spotlight than anyone anticipates. Unfortunately that spotlight lands directly on Dave Karofsky. Slash, Klaine at the beginning, eventual Kurtofsky/Seblaine.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Hurt/Comfort - D. Karofsky & Kurt H. - Words: 3,988 - Reviews: 57 - Favs: 55 - Follows: 161 - Published: 11-09-11 - id: 7538051
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This takes place a few weeks after The First Time - spoilers abound. Warning for talk of violence and for acts of gay bashing, profanity, and eventually there might be sexy times. Starts out Klaine, just like in canon. Eventual Kurtofsky and Seblaine.
Writing a campaign speech is proving harder than Kurt predicted.
So far he's got a list of all the issues that are important to him, as a candidate and as a student at William McKinley High School. He also has a list of the issues that he thinks the kids at McKinley care about, the things that will stir their interest and make them vote.
There isn't a single shared item between those two lists.
And the nearly-blank word document staring at him from his monitor isn't any more inspiring. During a fit of pique his opening line so far reads, Students of McKinley High - I'm running for your president because everything you say and do is completely wrong.
Which, while true in most cases, will not make him a winner.
The trouble is, if popularity is the deciding factor then Brittany has already won. If fear and intimidation sways things then a mullet shall wear the crown. If sheer lunacy prevails, Rachel has it in the bag.
Kurt's problem is that he can't think of the scenario that would have to occur to make him the winner.
It's a sad fact about McKinley, and one that he has come to terms with only recently, only after letting himself get excited about the election: kids there are simply not allowed to have more than one identity at a time. Maybe it's high school everywhere, he doesn't know, but it's sure true at McKinley. Kurt isn't going to win this election because all he is and all he ever will be to the kids there is The Gay Kid.
Nobody is allowed to branch out. The quarterback of the football team is incapable of exploring the part of him that wants to sing without Loser becoming his new identity. Lauren, Puck, they couldn't survive the transition un-slushied. And now that Lauren isn't in Glee anymore she's just The Badass Tough Girl again as if her musical stint never happened.
It's such a black and white world. (That's number four on his Reasons to Run list.) It's ridiculous, really, how boxed in everyone is. How the teachers encourage it, all the clubs and activities exacerbate it. How the kids seem to truly believe it.
Brittany can be president because she's Popular. She even survived joining the glee club unscathed. Popular and President go hand in hand.
Gay and President do not.
It's something that Kurt isn't going to be able to change anytime soon, especially before election time. What makes the speech-writing all the more frustrating is realizing that whatever words he settles on, no matter how true or strong or pithy, he'll just be shouting them into a vacuum, never to be heard by any but the few kids who already agree with him.
Still, Kurt Hummel might be The Gay Kid at McKinley, but he's still Kurt Hummel. Hummels don't throw in the towel just because there's no chance in hell of winning.
This speech is going to get written: Burt Hummel's little boy never quits. And it's going to be fabulous, because Kurt Hummel demands no less.
Even so...it's really really frustrating.
Luckily before he can get too carried away in his thoughts and too sidetracked from the actual speech, his phone starts bleating out Adele from over on his bedside table.
He reaches for it fast, glad for the distraction, and smiles at Blaine's picture on the display. He presses the screen to answer the call.
"Thank God, you have got to say something to get my-"
Kurt's words die off; his smile fades. "What's wrong?"
"Turn on your television. Channel five, the news is on." Blaine isn't a grim person - this tone of voice is new coming from him, and sharply worrying.
Kurt is out of his chair in an instant, grabbing the remote to his small flatscreen and turning around in his desk chair. He hits the power button and immediately lowers the volume - it's late - before finding channel five.
He keeps the phone pressed to his ear but Blaine doesn't say anything more, and after just a moment Kurt doesn't need him to.
There's a live camera feed from somewhere, smoke and night air behind a grey-suited woman holding a microphone. There's a crowd of people behind a barricade. Police, firemen.
"-appears to have been started deliberately," the woman is saying into the camera. "The police haven't offered any statements, but witnesses here say that a fight among patrons is what lead to the fire being set. There's no official confirmation of any details as of now, Michael, but we do know that at least five people have been taken to West Lima General, and witnesses claim that at least one of them was a fatality."
The screen cuts to some tanned man sitting behind a desk and frowning bland concern at the camera.
Kurt sags back in his chair.
"Kurt? Did you see it?"
"I didn't...not a lot, but...was that...?" The building wasn't very visible behind the smoke and crowd, but the dim neon of a sign he saw not too long ago showed through the smoke, and Kurt noticed two or three battered drag queens in that crowd behind the reporter.
"Scandals," Blaine confirms.
Scandals. The one gay bar in Lima. Kurt sits back and sets the remote down on the desk, watching the news story switch to something political, something with footage from a campaign speech.
There's a ticker going at the bottom of the screen: Breaking News: Two Alarm Fire Hits West Lima Business.
No details. Nothing certain.
"Sebastian thinks it's a bashing," Blaine says in his ear, still hushed and grim. "He thinks it's something big."
"She said someone might have died? People are hurt?"
"I don't know – Sebastian called me, I haven't seen anything more than the news story. I guess we'll find out in the morning."
Blaine is north of Lima, half an hour drive at the best of times.
Kurt is ten minutes from West Lima. 'The morning' doesn't seem good enough.
He gets to his feet, nervous and unsure as he watches some old man make a speech behind a podium. The news won't go back to it, not unless something happens.
He's ten minutes away.
It's the gay bar. Lima's only gay bar.
"Kurt? Kurt, are you-"
"I'm going to go over there."
"What?" Blaine sounds startled.
Kurt is already looking around for his keys. "We've been there! We might have met some of the people who are hurt. What if they..."
He stops dead, blinking over at the TV.
Dave Karofsky, his mind says, loud and clear as if it were a real voice. He ran into Dave Karofsky his first time at Scandals, and Dave said he went there a lot, right?
Kurt grabs his jacket from its hanger and digs his keys from the pocket. "I'm just going to go see what I can find out," he says fast, the words spilling over each other too fast. "It's not like it's dangerous, there are cops everywhere."
"You won't even get close to-"
Kurt pushes out of his bedroom and moves, fast and quiet, down the stairs. His dad and Carole are already asleep, and explaining everything would take too much time. He doesn't sneak out, exactly, but he treads lightly down the stairs and pulls the front door shut with the faintest click behind him.
He accidentally hangs up on Blaine somewhere between the front door and the car, but he drops his phone on the passenger seat and promises himself he'll call him back once he's reached the bar.
He gets closer than he thinks.
The cops have some police tape up and cars blocking the road, but he parks on the sidewalk and goes on foot and the crowd is right there, only halfway across the street in front of the bar.
The fire is still going – there's the green and white of the West Lima Fire Department and the darker green and grey of Lima's fire engines, and there's water in a big arch shooting down on the bar from both sides.
Kurt watches for a minute, hypnotized by something he doesn't see outside of movies. He can't see any flames, but the windows are knocked out and there's black staining up the dark brick of the building, and smoke pours out to vanish up into the black sky overhead.
It smells like smoke, thicker than the few times Kurt's sat in front of a fire. Acrid, chemical, and that must be how fires smell when they're burning something more than wood logs.
After just a minute, though, he shakes himself and turns to focus on the crowd around him. Plenty of onlookers, passers-by, people drawn by the action. Closer to the police line there are a few people draped in scratchy-looking brown emergency blankets, some talking to police. There are the drag queens, the young guys in their club gear, the older men in flannel standing together holding hands and staring at their bar.
Kurt makes his way over, slow, trying not to draw any attention. He looks through that part of the crowd, looks for broad shoulders and dark hair or a baseball hat.
He doesn't see Dave.
It makes him move faster, push around the people who are gaping at the smoke like this whole thing is some tourist attraction.
He hasn't seen Dave since that night at Scandals. They haven't talked, he's only thought about him now and then. But it hits him hard, realizing that something might be wrong and he doesn't know how to be sure.
A phone number. He should have at least gotten a phone number.
He spots the half-flattened hair of a tall, thin drag queen. She's blonde tonight, maybe going for some kind of RuPaul look, but Kurt sees under the hair that this is the same Tina Turner who coaxed Dave out onto the dance floor last time around.
That was a fun night. A good night. It ended badly, but only after they left the bar. Kurt and Dave didn't talk more after that – Kurt asked Dave to point out the bathrooms at one point, and Dave asked if Kurt needed help pouring Blaine into the car as they were leaving, but mostly Kurt focused on forming a one-man barricade to keep wayward Warblers from touching his man, and Dave spent time with a few strangers who seemed to know him.
Still. It was a good night. If Blaine hadn't screwed everything up in the end, maybe Kurt would have thought more about Dave, about coming back to the bar and catching up for real.
Kurt feels strangely jumpy as he moves in a straight line towards the blonde drag queen.
She's watching the bar, standing straight, chin in the air, and maybe it's just the reflection of the sirens but her eyes are blazing. She looks dangerous, statuesque in her platform shoes and a good six inches of blonde wig.
The smell of smoke is thicker now, coming off the clothes of some of the crowd around him, the actual crowd from the bar. They're hushed, talking to each other quietly or grumbling as they watch the fire, and there's a tension thick inside the group of them that Kurt feels strange intruding.
He doesn't hesitate, though.
"Excuse me," he says quietly when he's reached the drag queen.
Her eyes move to him, and this stone-faced woman is a very different person than the one laughing and dancing with Dave as he feigned reluctance and shot Kurt occasional winks.
His stomach churns. "Do you know Dave Karofsky?"
Her brow furrows and she looks back towards the bar. "I know a lot of people, baby," she says.
He wouldn't use his last name in a bar, right? People tend to be first names only in places like that?
"David," he tries again, insistent, moving around in front of her. "He's my age, dark hair, hazel eyes. Burly," he adds, his mind fresh on that first night at Scandals. Bear cub, he almost adds, but it's not a familiar enough term to sound normal, and this situation feels too grim for something like that.
Bear cub, he thinks. Why the hell didn't he get Dave's phone number?
She looks down at him again, and her expression softens a little. Maybe she sees the worry in his eyes. "He was here?"
"I don't know. He comes here a lot."
She frowns, but her expression clears a moment later. "He dress like he wants to blend into the walls?"
Kurt nods instantly – he doesn't know, but Dave seemed a little too bland last time. Still hiding, in some ways. Even there.
"Yeah, I think I know who you're talking about." She looks past him and raises her voice. "Hey, Shawna. What's Cub's real name?
"Cub...the one Junior's got such a thing for? The one with the eyes?" Another drag queen – barely trying, stubble and hardly any makeup beside a streak of red lips – leaves behind a couple of older men and approaches, looking at Kurt with narrowed eyes. "Dave, I think? Ray, maybe? We just call him Cub."
"He doesn't talk about himself a lot," the former Tina Turner adds, turning back to Kurt.
Kurt wants to make a note of all of this, all the details – Cub, and Junior, and 'the one with the eyes'. But he can't lose focus.
"Was he here? I don't see him."
The two queens trade a look. The second one, Shawna, reaches out and grabs some other guy's arm.
When he turns Kurt thinks he recognizes the bartender from last time – cute, but unremarkable.
"You see Cub in here tonight?"
The guy looks around at the three of them and nods.
Kurt's throat works. The longer this takes, the more he has to ask, the more tense he feels.
The guy's eyes land on Kurt and stay there. "Who's the chicken?"
The throaty voice of Tina Turner behind him answers. "Friend of his, I don't know." But her hand is suddenly on Kurt's arm, firm. "You see the kid's scared about his friend, right? Don't be a dick."
The guy scowls. "You a friend of his?"
Kurt nods instantly, edging forward a step in case this guy might have his answer.
The guy's eyes sweep him up and down, but he shrugs. "He was here. He took off, I think just before shit went down." And then he turns around again, dismissing Kurt just like that.
Tina's voice speaks soft in his ear. "Don't worry about him. Junior's got a thing for your friend."
Kurt turns back to her, and her eyes are much warmer than they were. She still seems set and grim, the light from the police cars and fire engines still makes her eyes blaze, but she offers him a smile and her hand stays on his arm.
The other drag queen, Shawna, snorts. "Making him fucking mean, if you ask me. Especially with cute little chickens. Not your fault that Cubbie goes for boys like you."
"What..." Kurt can feel heat rising to his face, but knowing that Dave left early and is probably fine at his house makes him brave the question. "What's that mean?"
"Chicken." He smiles, sheepish. "I thought I was...a twink. Or something. Isn't that what they call-"
They both laugh, but Tina at least is soft, not mocking. "Oh, baby. You try to keep up with the lingo here if you're not part of the scene and you're fighting a hell of a war. Don't worry about it, it just means you're freshly hatched and young. It's a good thing. Especially if you've got a thing for Cub."
By now Kurt's face must be red. "I don't..." But he can already tell that he might as well save his breath. "I just wanted to make sure he was okay."
Her eyes go over his head back towards the bar, and her smile fades.
He turns around to face the smoking building. "What happened?"
"I don't think anybody knows yet," she says softly. "It was just a normal night. I heard there was a fight outside - somebody came in telling Junior to call the cops. Next thing we know..."
He looks over and up at her profile.
Her throat works as she watches the bar burn. "Somebody did it. Threw a bomb or...or something. The whole front of the building just...went up."
He can see the black brick clearer now that his eyes have adjusted. The whole front of the building. The awning is gone, the sign in the front is gone. The one on the side, the one he saw on the news report, is flickering and dying.
"Everybody got out, though," she says a moment later, suddenly louder as if shaking herself awake from a daze. "We keep the place up to code, fire exit in the back. Junior was fast, got everyone out before it got too far inside."
Shawna comes up to her, sliding past Kurt and lacing an arm around hers, and they watch the smoke and the hoses silently.
Kurt feels suddenly like he's stepped into the middle of someone else's story, and he backs up a few steps. "Thanks for your help," he says quietly, and then he turns away to leave them to watch their bar burn.
Dave is safe. Dave left before the fire.
But. This is still big. It's still horrible, and there's something behind it that Kurt doesn't want to think about right now. The only gay bar in Lima going up in flames can't be some kind of random circumstance.
He sees things like this on the news sometimes. Lima...it's small, it's small-minded, it's got its problems. But he didn't think something like this would happen in his back yard. He always thought...well, that the gay population around here was so small and so invisible that it wouldn't even attract attention.
Blaine said that this is something big. Or that Sebastian thought it was something big, whatever. It feels big. There's still a ball of tension in his chest that walking back through the crowd away from the bar can't get rid of. Nothing to do with Dave or anyone else in particular. It's to do with all of them.
As he reaches the edge of the crowd and pulls out his phone to call Blaine and fill him in, he knows that one thing he was worried about an hour ago is suddenly ridiculously easy to solve: that speech he's writing, those two lists of topics he's been going back and forth over...
There's only one of those lists that really matters. If Kurt isn't going to win the election, he's sure as hell going to use his ten minutes in the spotlight to say something important.
He gets up early to watch the news, and there are only a few more details.
Tina was wrong and the news reporter was right - not everybody made it out alive. One person is dead, but the police haven't released any details. There are five people in the hospital. Two just for smoke inhalation - they'll be out before Kurt's out of school - two for minor burns. One with more serious injuries, but again, annoyingly, there aren't any details.
The police do say one thing firmly and clearly: this was deliberate. The front door and the front walk and everything went up at the same time, all at once, and the cops think it was gas or something. The morning news show has these two reporters sitting at their desks staring at some cop in a suit who's explaining about filling bottles with gas and stuffing rags in the necks, and it feels so surreal.
His dad is gone to work before he gets up - he didn't catch Kurt out the night before, so he won't find out what happened until someone gossips about it at the garage or on one of his campaign phone interviews.
Finn figures it out fast when Blaine swings by the house and they drive to school together like usual. Kurt's turn to drive, and the music stays off and the two of them sit in silence in the front seats until Finn pokes his head between them and asks nervously if they're having a fight or something.
It just feels heavy. It feels unreal, and Kurt sits in class and keeps his phone in his hand not to text, but to check the local stations' websites for updates. Nobody talks about it, not that Kurt hears. Nobody laughs about it, nobody's asking anybody if they saw the fire, nothing.
Maybe they don't know - most kids don't watch the morning news. Maybe they just don't care. It was the gay bar, after all.
By the time glee is set to start rehearsing, Kurt's dragging his feet and staring at his watch and flashing glares at anyone who tries to talk to him about songs or harmonies or ballads.
He's angry, more and more as the moments tick by, but he's not panicked anymore. He's not scared.
Not until the end of rehearsal.
Not until Finn comes up to him, still shoving things in his bookbag, and says casually, "Dude. Karofsky's dad was here."
And it's just like the night before all over again - his chest clenches and he's tense with nerves. "What? Why?"
Finn lowers his voice, and he doesn't seem worried but he doesn't seem particularly cheerful, either. "According to Jacob, some freshmen heard him and Figgins asking Beiste about Karofsky. If he's been around or whatever. I think his dad's, like, looking for him."
That Junior guy only said he thought Dave left right before the fire.
Kurt doesn't have a phone number or email or address or fax number or anything, he couldn't follow up to make sure. He just...the guy thought he got out and Kurt was satisfied and he left it alone.
"Looking for him," he repeats, voice thin. "As in...?"
"He doesn't know where he is. I don't know, Jacob said that Lee Parnell told him that the freshmen heard his dad tell Beiste that Dave just didn't make it home last night, but..." He shrugs his doubt in Jacob ben Israel's reliability.
But Kurt has no doubt.
He hears Finn calling out for him as he's charging out the door to the choir room, but he doesn't even slow down.