3. Paper Bag
Song choice: Paper Bag
NOTE: This oneshot was written before "Wheels" was aired. I actually quite like Kurt's father, I think he's a decent character. But for the sake of this oneshot, he's slightly OOC. As well, I've changed the lyrics of the song slightly to better fit the story.
Kurt Hummel knows what it's like to be an involuntary outcast; he's been one since before school started, and he knew it before the other kids told him what a "freak" he is. If someone were to ask him, Kurt would admit that he first felt like an oddball at the age of four, in fact, it was on the day of his fourth family birthday party. He had to have a joint birthday party with his cousin Jeremy, who played in the dirt and stomped around making obnoxious noises under the guise of being a dinosaur. Kurt could never see the appeal in such things- getting dirty, making noise without purpose- on the day of his fourth birthday party, when the cake had been eaten and the presents unwrapped, he was bitterly disappointed that no one had gotten him the Barbie play set he wanted. He'd gotten a set of army men, a children's thesaurus, clothes (ugly overalls and a sweater without glitter) and his father had gotten him a football autographed by someone who's name he didn't care to know.
"Wow!" Jeremy's eyes popped when he saw the football. "An autographed ball from Steven Marshall… he used to go to school here, you know."
"It's nice." Kurt couldn't understand what the big deal one. It was a ball. Big deal, he'd have more fun with a 'mini-manicure' kit from the drugstore. But Kurt knew better than to be ungrateful for a gift (no matter how useless it was), he thanked his father with a less-than-enthusiastic expression of gratitude and went back to staring listlessly at the ball.
"Kurt, why don't you and Jeremy go toss the old pigskin around?" His uncle Myron suggested. Kurt looked up, finding a countless number of adult faces staring expectantly back at him. He knew they all wanted him to play with Jeremy, he'd been wandering around, clinging to his mother's sleeve or off to one side all day, avoiding the messy games his cousin tended to engage in.
"Uh…" his blue eyes went to his mother. She had beautiful long dark hair, fair skin, and crystalline eyes that mirrored his. For a split second he thought she might help him; decree that he didn't have to play, he could stay at the table with the adults. But she only smiled and said,
"Go on, honey, go play."
"O…okay." Kurt frowned and hesitantly stood from his chair. Jeremy, who was just itching to toss the football around, grabbed him by the elbow and ran from the kitchen out into the backyard, dragging Kurt along with him. Ten minutes later, it was apparent that Kurt would later be the kid who was always picked last at recess to play sports.
"You suck at this!" Jeremy shouted, frustrated. "Haven't you ever played ball before?"
Kurt shook his head. "N-no."
Jeremy sighed with all of the world-weariness of an old man. "It's easy. I'll teach you." Kurt wasn't fond of the idea, but when he glanced over his shoulder, he could see his mother and father watching him from the window. His father winked, his mother waved. He managed something of a pathetic wave back and returned his attention to his cousin, who was holding the football and hopping from foot to foot, vibrating with excitement.
"It's easy." Jeremy insisted, jogging to the other end of the backyard. "Watch!" He shouted. "I'll throw it and you just have to catch it! Okay?"
"Okay." Kurt bit his inferior lip. This wasn't going to end well.
"Ready? One, two, three!" Jeremy wound up and threw it with all the strength in his little arm as though it were a baseball rather than a football. It torpedoed Kurt full-force in the stomach, knocking him backwards, straight into his Aunt Clarissa's flower garden. Flower garden. Dirty.
Kurt pried open his tightly-scrunched eyes, his arms wrapped around his aching middle. The ball was resting point-up between his legs, it would've been an understatement to say that Kurt was a physically frail child. But the tears didn't start until he saw the dirt on his clean white dress shirt. He let out a pathetic half-whimper before bursting into melodramatic sobs.
Kurt's parents had run out the backdoor and were sprinting for him. They slowed as they approached, gauging the situation. Jeremy was standing, frozen in shock, at the other end of the backyard. Whether he was frightened by his cousin's banshee-like wailing or scared of being punished for playing roughly was unclear.
"Kurt, man. You're okay. Stand up, buddy." Kurt's dad ordered. "Be a man." Kurt shook his head, blubbering wildly. He couldn't be a man. He didn't want to be. "Oh God." His father mumbled, looking embarrassed and stepping to one side. "Don't be such a sissy, boy. On your feet now, c'mon." He tried yanking Kurt up by his elbow.
"Red!" Kurt's mother chastised her husband and gently removed his arm from Kurt's elbow. She took the boy into her arms and let him cry his little heart out.
"Are you upset because you're hurt?" She whispered gently in his ear.
"No, Mommy. My shirt is ruined." Kurt, mindful of his father staring, whispered quietly. His mother straightened up with a smile. Kurt thought she might be upset with him, but she simply brushed the dirt off of her clothes and picked him up, shifting the boy in her arms.
"Red, I'm gonna take Kurt home. I think he's had too much… excitement."
"That wasn't anything." Kurt's father protested. "He should learn to toughen up… c'mon Marcie, how's he ever gonna assert himself and be a man if he cries during football?"
"You cry every year during the Super Bowl." Marcie Hummel returned smartly, and she began carrying her son into the house, already planning her goodbyes. Kurt's blue eyes locked with his father's disappointed brown ones. It was then that the four-year-old got another pain in his stomach, this one unrelated to his clumsiness: it was the feeling of failure. He knew right then as he continued to look back at Red Hummel, that cursed football lying on the ground, that he would never be the son his father wanted him to be.
But the horrid feeling was forgotten when they got to the car and his mother pulled out a "surprise" from underneath her seat. It was wrapped up in bright paper, and upon tearing into it, Kurt found the Mattel product he'd been yearning for. He grinned and looked up at Marcie, seeing her grinning back. His mother would always accept him, of that he was sure.
The flaw in Kurt's logic, he will admit it now but only to himself, is that while his mother will undoubtedly love him for all eternity, she won't be around forever. He's thirteen now and watching his mother die of a slow, undignified cancer is the hardest thing he's ever had to do. He sits in her hospice room- she's not even in the hospital anymore! The doctors moved her to a hospice so she could die "comfortably". How the fuck could dying ever be considered comfortable?- every single day and cries his heart out, holding her hand while she cries too. Sometimes he reads to her, but mostly, when he's not bawling like a baby, he talks to her.
Marcie Hummel may be bed-ridden and too weak to even hug her son properly, but she still likes to know what's going on in his life. She always asks how school is going and if there are any pretty girls in the class/ When he is thirteen, he is watching his mother cling to her last shreds of life, and he knows he has to tell her the truth.
"Mom," Kurt says seriously.
"Yes, baby?" She responds, eyes half-closed.
The words are stuck in his throat, refusing to come out. He doesn't want to tell her, he really doesn't, because even though she never said anything, what if she was expecting a normal son? A normal, straight son?
"Kurtis Hummel, what is it?" Her weak hand finds his and gives it a squeeze, ordering him to proceed. Tears build up in his eyes but he fights them back, determined to be strong this time. For her.
"Mom, I…" this is it. He doesn't want to tell her but he can't let her die without hearing the truth either. "I think I'm gay." Marcie's eyes open and her pretty mouth curves into a smile. Even in such a wretched state she's one of the most beautiful women Kurt has ever seen.
"I know, honey."
"Y-y-you're not mad?" He swallows another lump, feels himself slouch in the chair. A shameful slouch.
"No, Kurt. I love you just as you are." She assures him in that way that only she can, and in that moment he believes her. He believes her as if she's had truth serum and cannot tell a lie. The despicable secret of his sexuality doesn't have to be such a burden- who cares if he's gay? He's still Kurtis Patrick Hummel, and that's all that matters. He'll always be his mother's son.
But when she passes away two days later, Kurt's world is torn apart. He's never had a great relationship with his father, and Red seems to blame him for Marcie's passing.
"If you'd been stronger," he says venomously, the day of the funeral. They are both dressed in black suits and ties, waiting for Aunt Clarissa and Uncle Myron and Jeremy to come pick them up. "If you'd been stronger for your mother, maybe she wouldn't have had to be strong for you." Red spits then, it's a real loogie that ends up splattering Kurt's cheek. He doesn't care. He stands there as is, knowing that he deserves every particle of hatred his father feels for him.
He was never the boy that Red Hummel wanted. He was always his mother's son.
That night, after the funeral and everything else, Kurt collapses in bed, his formalwear still on. He hates himself, he decides, as he pounds at his pillow and bites his lip to stifle any crying. He wants to hide his head in a paper bag and be invisible to the rest of the whole prejudiced world. He hates himself and he wishes he was dead. At least then he'd get to be with his mom. Red is all he has left, and if he can't be the man he's expected to be, he won't ever know love again. Thirteen-year-old Kurt Hummel knows that.
In his sophomore year of high school, following his first real football game (a ploy designed to impress his father), Kurt just blurts it out. He was amazing at the game, everyone thought so. Even the stoic Red. But as he's washing his face with cleanser, thinking over the events of the game and how good it felt to be good at something his father supports- he sees her face in the mirror. Mom. She looks disappointed, and before he can convince himself that the water the towel boy gave him was spiked, he remembers that scene in the hospital:
"Mom, I…" this is it. A lengthy pause as he hesitates, thinks about how beautiful Marcie is. The moment of truth. "I think I'm gay."
"I know, honey." No backlash? What?
"Y-y-you're not mad?" He was in disbelief, he remembers.
"No, Kurt. I love you just as you are."
What was it that she'd said? "I love you just as you are."
"Hey, Kurt." Red Hummel greets him, shattering the silence. It's then that Kurt knows what he has to do. He has to stop trying to use football as a smokescreen- he needs to be a man and tell his father the truth. Marcie loved him just as he was. If Red can't, that's his problem.
When he finally tells him, he doesn't even remember saying the words. He knows they come out of his mouth but a second later his mind is left blank, in a deadlock as he waits for the explosive, negative reaction of his father. The monster who's been stopping him from coming out of the closet since he was four-years-old. He expects to hear yelling, furious denials, he even anticipates the feeling of Red's fist slamming his jaw. But instead he feels two strong arms around him, hugging him, pulling him close.
And for the first time since his mother's death, Kurt Hummel loves himself.
He don't run from the sun no more
He boxed his shadow and he won
Said "I can see you laugh
Through these bottle caps
And this wire around my neck ain't
There for fun"
But someday we'll all be old
And I'll be so damn beautiful
Meanwhile I'll hide my head
Here in this paper bag
'Cause if I cant see you
Then you can't see me
And it'll be okay
Fly little bee away
To where there's no more rain
And I can be me
I apologize for the long wait, this was by far the hardest 'Glee' oneshot I've ever written. I don't think it's very good, but honest feedback is appreciated :) the song "Paper Bag" fits most (if not all) of the student characters pre-Glee. I've divided it into two parts. This one was based on Kurt, and the next instalment is a surprise :)