AN: So...this was a fill for the glee_angst_meme. I'll probably post a few other fills of mine that I've posted on livejournal and not here, soon enough.
Kurt is smaller than the other boys, and different from them too. It's something that's been noted for a long time, if not accepted, by everybody, something that has been thought about and perhaps regretted by his father, something that has been discussed among his teachers in hushed voices while on coffee breaks, something other boys have teased him mercilessly for.
He's been bullied ever since the first day he arrived at Lima Grade School after being home schooled by his mother in the time before her death, a precocious little boy, seven years old and wracked by grief. It's second grade, and all the little boys laugh at him as he fixes his hair and straightens out his pinstriped pink and black shirt and smooths down his pleated beige pants. He doesn't play with trucks or in the sand box at Recess, instead he tries to join in on the little girls' game of dress-up, and is shunned by them as well and because of this goes to play in the corner with delicate dolls-alone.
This is how Kurt Hummel finds himself in the wrong place, not accepted by the boys because he doesn't like what they like, not accepted by the girls because at that age all boys have cooties, no matter how much they like sparkles.
The boys start to tease him and push him and sometimes hit him, and even though he doesn't cry, he closes off from the other children completely. Nobody likes him and he seems to not be bothered at all by this. Throughout the years in grade school and then junior high he does not make friends, he does not break out of his shell of ice, instead he stays perfectly put together and silent and looks at the games and the laughter of the children from a distance. He goes into the gifted programs and stares at the counselor, wordless, when he is brought in about his friendlessness and mysterious bruises, and he is the music teacher's little star and continues to be teased and pushed by the other boys and shunned by the girls.
The bullying does not get better in high school, only worse.
He moves on to high school, and he continues to be a star student, just as vibrant in his designer clothes and manicured nails and perfect hair. He rarely smiles or laughs with the same purity as his peers, and even as he moves on to glee club and begins making friends for the first time in his life, and eventually joins the Cheerios and then quits, he continues being an outcast.
Guys try to beat him up (and much of the time succeed), and the jocks seem to be especially intent on making his life a living hell.
He tries to deal with it, because now that he has friends things have steadily begun getting better for him. But still, sometimes he's terrified of what the jocks might do to him.
He's a little happier now, though, and things are going a little better, and the whole conflict with Finn has finally blown over and he's even kind of started bonding a little with Puck (they have a handshake). He smiles a little more readily now, and thinks that all of these better times might be worth the occasional shoves and bruises and cruel words.
As it turns out, they aren't.
Puck kind of likes Hummel. Like, a lot, because the kid's funny-has a kind of sense of humor he can appreciate-and edgy and also pretty okay when he gets to know him a little better. He thinks they might have kind of gotten to be friendly, because the other boy has never judged him for his major screw-up with Quinn and the subsequent baby drama. They're not really friends yet, though they're teammates, but slow and sure, they're kind of working towards something, whatever it is.
So Puck thinks he's probably losing potential-friend points when he gets together for a laid-back kind of gathering with his football buddies. They've got beer, and are having a blast exchanging hot girl stories and sex having stories. Puck's a total badass, and even though it's kind of annoying to have to remind everyone about it after joining glee, it's totally worth it to see the renewed awe in their eyes when he talks about that smoking hot senior Cheerio he bedded just a couple of days ago. But being a badass jock comes with some ground he's...not all that into any more, and even though he pretty ashamed about it, he doesn't like smashing the glee kids that much anymore.
Which is why he tries to stay quiet and true to his maybe-kind-of-sort-of-loyalty-friendship-t
hing to glee and Kurt, he tries not to say anything when he football buddies start laughing at Kurt and his gayness. He just laughs along with what he now kind of gets are pretty shitty comments about people and drinks a lot of beer.
Then, Johns turns to him and says, "C'mon, man, now that you're in glee you prob'ly got so much more stories about him. Has he tried to grope you yet?" Everybody laughs, egging him on. "He's such a freak."
Puck knows that what he says next is losing him potential friend points, like, lots of them, but he says it anyway because he doesn't want anybody else questioning his badassery. "Yeah, he's such a fuckin' sissy. I bet..." And he kind of word vomits out the next words, because he doesn't know how hard they'll come back to bite him in the ass. "...I bet he's scared of the dark."
Everybody laughs at that, and start planning ways to rag on Hummel even more, and Puck feels bad but, well, not that bad because these guys are his friends, kinda, and he has to keep up his repuation.
After that, though, he gets up and stumbles back home, a bit tipsy, and then crashes on the futon in his room while Quinn, still up, gives him a kind of judgemental look but passes him a blanket from her place on the bed anyway.
A month after that conversation, Kurt walks out of the auditorium after staying for a while after another practice. He whistles quietly, distracting himself from the light that's dimming outside. He's stayed really late, he notes with a short moment of surprise, there's nobody around. Then he notes a stronger body behind him, and picking up the pace, he ducks into a more isolated hallway, one that not many people ever go into, where the abandoned girl's room and old janiot's closet lie.
Suddenly, somebody much stronger than himself grabs him and, covers his mouth with a large hand. He screams behind the muffle, startled, and struggles as well as he can as he's dragged towards some unknown destination. He catches a flash of white and red, and puts two and two together to realize it's a football player. He's got to say he'd a bit terrified. It's never gone this far. He fights back, at least, and manages to claw at the football player, drawing some blood, and kicks him and tries his best to break away, but can't quite succeed when he's spun around and shoved into some space. He makes an attempted getaway before his vision goes white and there's a glaring pain in his right cheek, and then the wind is rapidly knocked out of him by a very strong fist. Hands wander down to his pants and he feels a hand tuck in to his waistband before kicking desperately and managing a pretty good hit to the guy's groin. The football player groans in pain and then shoves Kurt against something hard and punches him as hard as he can in the face again.
"Why are you even doing this?" The boy manages to say through the preoccupying pain in his face.
"Your own fucking fault for joining that pansy-ass club and quitting on our team. You've almost taken away one of our best linebackers, you and your freak show friends."
"Fuck you," Kurt manages to spit out, unable to really say something intelligent through the pain and fear encroaching in on him.
"I've got the upper hand, freak. Lets see if you really are scared of the dark."
His bag is taken away from his and thrown against a row of rarely used lockers.
Kurt hears a door slam, and he falls hard against a broom, and a bucket filled with rancid water spills all over his clothes.
His vision finally clears after a minute, and in the absence of white hot light, he notes two things:
He's in a very small space.
And it's dark.
Crippling fear suddenly moves in on him and his breathing suddenly goes short as through his panic, he throws himself at the wall, hitting at it and screaming at the top of his lungs until he finally just starts clawing and pounding at the door at regular intervals and his hands start bleeding, the kinds of stains that will never come out of his clothes. His throat gets sore and his whole body exerts itself with force of trying to breathe and not collapse from the convulsions that seem to have started as bile rises in his mouth.
It must have been at least two hours now, Kurt's panic addled mind manages to think. His clothes are smeared with blood and so are his hands, he can feel it. The closet is still almost pitch black, even though his eyesight has attempted to adjust to the light. His eyes go in and out of blurriness.
I'm never going to get out, I'll die, I'll die, I'll die.
He screams again, a desperate plea for help before he realizes there's nobody to help him, and he's completely alone.
He tries to stay awake throughout the night, tries his best. His phone rings, and rings, and rings, and he wonders who's calling him because his dad is out in Germany visiting his uncle (the last surviving of the family Hummel, save themselves).
He stays awake throughout the night, eyes puffy and partially closed, tears leaking down his face.
He's a mess, a total mess.
He wishes he could die.
Eventually-it must be three in the morning, maybe four-he can't take it anymore, and without much oxygen in his head, he passes out into a convulsive and unpleasant nothing.
Puck's at his locker. He's not really sure why, he never uses that thing, but he's there, and Finn walks up to him, which is surprising because he hasn't still totally made up with him over the whole baby drama.
"Dude, did you see Kurt?"
"Uh, no, I don't hang out with him."
"Oh. Well, he's staying with mom and me while his dad's out, and didn't come home last night. I, uh, figured he'd pushed up his sleepover with Mercedes a night but she hasn't seen him either."
Puck feels a sort of worry creeping up on him. He shrugs. "Whatever," he mumbles, and Finn gives him and angry face and walks away.
While he's walking to class some jock passes by him-it must be Jones-and slaps him on the back. "Thanks for the heads-up, Puckerman."
Puck has no clue what he's talking about and rolls his eyes. He was never that stupid.
It's after glee practice-at lunch, because Figgins has reserved the auditorium after school for some stupid reason-that Mercedes approaches him, almost frantic.
"Hey, Puck. You seen Kurt anywhere? He's just kind of disappeared. We had a mall date after school and he never showed up, and I was callin' him all night and he never picked you might know where he is?"
"No clue. Probably just sick or something."
"Yeah, thanks for the help." Mercedes leaves to talk to Quinn.
In the mean time, Puck's kind of freaking out. That thing Jones said to him, Kurt missing-it's all kinda suspicious, and all of a sudden some words he said a few weeks ago come flying back to him: I bet he's scared of the dark. He's actually pretty proud of deducing something from all of this, and besides, with the unoriginality of the jocks, the one thing he can think of is: closet.
He books it out of that room like there are piranhas after his ass.
He knows enough about the jock psyche to know that if some jerk wanted to freak Kurt out, he'd try to put him somewhere people wouldn't really stumble on him. The old hallway, the one with the abandoned girl's bathroom.
Puck finally turns onto it, and walks down the place. "Hey," he says loudly. "Anybody here?"
There's pounding on a door (Kurt came to an hour after passing out, trapped in a totally dark place) to his left.
Puck grabs the handle of the door, almost tripping over Hummel's bag. "Shit," he mutters under his breath. It's locked, but he manages to force it open, putting all his weight into it and kicking down the door. There's a shriek from inside, and Puck manages to haul the door off of Kurt's body (on second thought, kicking it in hadn't been the best idea).
The normally perfectly composed young man looks awful. His eyes are red and puffy, covered with blinding panic. His breathing is ragged and strained, and his hands are bruised and bloody, and his clothes are ruined-smeared with blood and dirty water.
"Fuck, Hummel," Puck breathes, hauling the smaller boy up and trying to hold him up as he collapses onto a row of lockers. Puck holds the kid closer to him as Kurt leans over and vomits violently onto the floor.
This is when he decides that going back to school wouldn't be smart at all, and he half-carries the smaller boy out to the parking lot, where he finds his car and thanks the good lord it isn't locked as he rips open a door and basically throws Hummel into the passenger seat, climbing into the driver's seat.
"Hummel," he says sharply, and then, realizing the kid is having a panic attack and probably can't think straight, he tries to make things clearer. "Kurt! Snap out of it! Where should I take you? You've got to answer me, now!"
"F-Finn's...Hudson house...take me there..."
Puck tears out of that parking lot, but not before pressing a chaste kiss to the smaller boy's hair, hoping to calm him down.
(Under the ugly copper-like smell of blood and dirty water, his hair smells like cherries.)
He basically drags Kurt into the house while the boy shakes and coughs out bile next to him, and suddenly Puck's thinks that Kurt hasn't just been hurt: he's been destroyed.
Carole's home, thank god, even though Puck's on her shit list after all of the baby drama, it's better this way because now Kurt doesn't have to be totally alone.
She pales when she sees him, the bruises on his face, the blood on his clothes, the tear tracks that appear to have been carved into his face by now.
"What happened?" She nearly shrieks at the larger boy who's half carrying her boyfriend's son.
"Some assholes locked him in a closet all night. It really freaked him out."
Kurt's afraid of the dark, and this is something that Carole knows mostly because of the way that he doesn't turn off the light when he goes to sleep, and the way he doesn't go outside at night without a flashlight, and so many other clues. She feels a surge of anger, because this is a cruel thing to do to a nyctophobic person and obviously those idiots in high school don't seem to realize it.
"Thanks for bringing him," she says softly to Puck. "I'll take care of him now."
But the second Puck leaves, Kurt tears away from her arms. "I'm okay," he says in a raspy voice. "Really. Just leave me alone."
So she doesn't take care of him at all, because she can't really insist on it or anything like she would with Finn-he's not her kid.
He just walks away and washes his face and changes his clothes and takes a shower and takes care of himself like he always has.
And the next day, he's back in school, and when people comment on the thin white gauze wrapped carefully around his sore hands or where he was the other night, he just says he had an accident and has to stay home for a day, but no, no, he's perfectly okay now.
He swears Puck to secrecy, to never let anybody know what happened to him or his reaction to all of it, and threatens grievous harm to his groin area if he lets anything slip. He tells Carole to not say a word about, because his dad would freak and it would be unnecessary because he's totally okay.
So he stays like he always has, cool as ice and perfectly kept together, even though he can't sleep at night even with the lights on and he perspires heavily whenever he has to step outside at night.
Even though he's fine, perfectly fine, when the auditorium suddenly goes totally dark for the beginning of a number during rehearsal, Kurt feels his knees weaken and his pulse and breathing quicken.
"Oops," Mr. Schuester says from somewhere in the dark. "I can't figure out how to turn this thing back on. You guys'll be in the dark for a while, sorry."
A note of desperation rips itself from Kurt's throat, because he hasn't been in pitch dark for a while for long, long time, except-
He gropes for something, any kind of solid human, anybody breathing, and for one horrifying second thinks that maybe he's dead, or worse, everybody else is dead, it's so silent. Finally, his hand connects with a warm body, and he grips a shoulder.
"Hey!" Mike yelps. "Is that you, Kurt?"
Kurt can't say anything, he just feels his stomach roll and his eyes light with terror, because outlines are starting to draw themselves in the darkness as he tries as hard as he can to make his eyes adjust to the light (or lack of it) and he can see ghosts.
"Kurt?" Mike asks again. "Are you okay?"
His knees start giving out and his breathing finally erupts from his chest in ragged sounds. He tries to scream but can't, and feels his vision blur in and out.
"Fuck," he hears Puck exclaim loudly. "You said you were fine!"
I was never fine! He tries to yell but can't.
Finally, the lights come back on, the spotlight shining on everybody as they stare at the most put-together member of the club having a panic attack on the floor. Finn clumsily puts a hand on his head, as if missing his forehead to check for elevated temperature, but the contact calms him a little, and Puck latches onto his shoulder.
Quinn carefully sits next to him. "It's okay, sweetie," she croons quietly, putting her arm around his shoulder as he buries his face in his hands in fear and humiliation. "It'll be okay."