There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the frightened, thoughtless search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone
You know things are bad when you linger on the practice fields after school because you literally have nowhere else to go.
It was my all time low. I couldn't help Quinn with her baby, couldn't help Puck with his mom, couldn't even help Mike with his math homework. And I definitely couldn't talk to Kurt.
I'd been practicing in my head all day, when I was taking a shower, when I was walking to class. Ideas and words and sentiments would start running through my head, one right after the other, until there were so many things to say I'd be choked by them all. Remember to apologize. Remember to empathize. Remember to…
But when I finally came face-to-face with Kurt, I backed up a step, actually looked around for a quick way out. Kurt's face burned with either shame or anger, but he didn't look away from me, in fact looked like he might have been open to talking. Kurt wasn't one for letting wounds fester.
But I was. And I ran.
Leaving me here, on the field, trying to decide whether to do laps around the field or run up and down the bleachers. I wondered vaguely which one would kill me faster. I wondered vaguely who would care when I died.
My pity party was interrupted by a figure I saw out of the corner of my eye. I swore up and down to Puck that being QB – no matter how bad I was – made my peripheral vision better. Puck said I was full of shit. But I did see Kurt stagger down the gym steps, stumble blindly onto the fields, waver, collapse heavily onto a bench.
This was the cross roads those poems and quotes and PBS messages were always talking about. I could either act and a) be swung at by a very angry, very gay guy or b) be forgiven. Or I could leave Kurt on the bench alone, get in my car and try to see my mom and talk to her about what had happened, forget about the friendship I might have forged with this unlikeliest of people.
And, like that sappy poem we had to read in English, I decided to take the road less traveled by. I swung my bag over my shoulder and took a deep breath, almost forgetting to let it out when I got to the bench Kurt had commandeered.
He was bleeding, steady drips from his forehead and lip with one hell of a shiner over his eye. Raspy breathing and years of watching and sustaining football injuries suggested bruised ribs, if not broken. A hot flame of anger burst in my chest: maybe everything Burt Hummel said about me was true. Maybe I wasn't entirely okay with gay people, and maybe I didn't go out of my way to make life easy for them, but even at our worst, Puck and I had never made Kurt bruised and bloody, not like this.
Kurt suddenly noticed my presence and lifted his head and – I swear to God I'll remember this until I die, that look on his face... – he flinched back, breathing heavier. I could see him calculating the odds, mentally realizing that his ability to flee had vanished along with his ability to draw deep breaths.
When he realized this…it was like the fight went out of him. "Go ahead. Not like I can stop you."
Okay, I know things haven't been right as rain between me and Kurt. I said some pretty nasty stuff at his house and hadn't yet summoned up the courage to apologize. But I wouldn't punch a guy when he was down, and I would never hurt Kurt like he'd obviously just been hurt. Like calling Becky a retard, like all those names I yelled in anger the other night, that would have been cruel.
"I'm not going to hit you." Maybe some of the anger I was feeling came out in my voice, because it was hard, raspy, low, and Kurt flinched again, looking at me with eyes that were just really, really tired. "Kurt…who did this?"
"It does to me."
He looked at me like he didn't believe me. "Some jocks. Nothing I can't handle." And, man, did I admire him for trying to do this on his own, but he was shaking so bad I thought he was going to fall off the bench. "It's nothing that hasn't happened before."
The sad part was that was undeniably true. "That lip looks pretty bad." I said, because it was the injury that was bugging me the most, that and the whispery, winded quality to his voice. Blood dripped onto his chin and Kurt didn't bother wiping it away.
Kurt shrugged noncommittally.
"You want to go in the locker room? It's always unlocked and there's some wraps in there…it sounds like your ribs can use them." He stared at me, those same tired eyes that were starting to really scare me. "Look, if you can't walk I can help you. I saw you stumbling…"
"What do you want, Finn?" He asked, exasperated. "Why are you doing this? It's not like you haven't thrown me in trashcans yourself."
Except that this wasn't the product of dumpster diving, and we both knew it. But the words hurt lower, deeper. Kurt was dismissing me, writing me off as another person who just wanted to hurt him, who had hurt him. "Kurt…"
"Just go away." Now the tired voice was gone, replaced by tears. "I'll go home when they get out of the parking lot. Just go away."
But I couldn't leave him. Our parents were dating, as much as I disapproved. They might even get married, if I hadn't royally screwed things up with my outburst. That made me and Kurt something. It made us family.
And if that didn't, then Glee did.
So I sat down next to him and carefully, gently, slowly lifted his shirt up. He stiffened and looked up, biting his lip, tears streaming down his face, probably from the helplessness of his situation as much as from the injuries. "Hey, I'm not going to hurt you." I stopped, stared at him until he looked at me. "Kurt, I would never…" Then I glanced down at the bruises.
I had to breathe in through my nose and look away, try to remember the techniques Coach had taught us for going against a team that just won't stop trash talking. Because those injuries were hurting me as much as they were hurting Kurt. When I finally could look at him, I touched the side of his face so he'd look at me. "Kurt, man, your ribs are broken."
His choked sob was almost a laugh, and he tugged his shirt out of my hands, thrust it down and groaned with the pain. "You know, Finn, it's not the bruises that hurt." And I knew what he meant, didn't need for him to continue. He did anyway. "It's not the bruises, or the dumpster diving or the black eyes. It's always, always the names."
Whoever said names will never hurt you had obviously never lived through high school.
"And Finn?" The voice was almost normal, but serious and now not tired, just so damn sad. "You hurt me more than those guys ever could." He caught my gaze, held it. "I thought you were my friend. I thought you understood all the crap I have to go through every day."
"I'm sorry." I said, quickly, before I forgot all those notes I'd written myself mentally earlier in the day. "I'm sorry for what I said. I was…angry. Not at you. I was just angry, and you were closest." Suddenly the words I'd said rushed between us like a wall, blocking all other sound and thought. The meanness, the cruelty of the statements was appalling.
I knew I didn't deserve forgiveness, but Kurt gave it anyway, though whether it was because he didn't know if he could get off the bench without assistance or because he'd really put our last encounter behind him, I could never tell.
Kurt's face twisted in what might have been an apologetic smile if it hadn't looked like a Halloween mask. "I shouldn't have redone the room without asking you. It did end up looking kind of…gay. I got Mercedes' opinion."
I touched his leg in a place I hoped had no bruises. "I really am sorry. And I hate what these guys did to you."
He quirked a quick pseudo-smile again. "And I wish I was kidding when I said it's happened before." He looked helplessly down at his body. "Wish I was kidding when I say I can't really make it that far if you don't help me."
Another flair of anger and sudden concern that something worse, much worse, than a single high school beating had taken place surged. I searched Kurt's face, panicked. "Can you stand? Did they…?" I couldn't speak the words over the sound of blood pumping in my ears. I'd end them. I'd kill them.
"What?" For a second, it was simple, utter confusion, then there was an almost visual click. "No. No. I don't think they would ever go that far." A sigh, this one of humiliation, embarrassment, and for the first time Kurt turned away from me, moaning a bit as his ribs clattered in his chest. "They had me on the ground and kicked me a few times. The bruises are probably there already."
I wish he could tell me who they were. I wish that just once I could actually take down the foe hurting my friends. "I can get you to your house. I'll have Puck swing by later with your car."
And then a level of forgiveness I couldn't possibly deserve. "Our house, Finn." At my surprise, another slight smile, this one more forced. The pain was getting worse. "I can't be the cause of my dad breaking up with your mom. I'll have to convince him, but I'm pretty sure he'll let you stay on probation if we talk up the knight in shining armor routine."
I was far from a knight in shining armor, but I knew an olive branch when I saw one. It was surprisingly hard to get words around the lump in my throat. "Thank you, Kurt." Nothing was okay, not really. Quinn was still sixteen and pregnant. Puck was still trapped with his crazy mother. I had still screamed awful words at someone who should have been my friend. Kurt would still get beat up every week, but maybe between Puck and I we could make it less often, could make sure it didn't escalate to the point where we could no longer put Kurt back together with friendly gestures and Band-Aids.
It was hard to figure out how to get Kurt to the car without causing more pain (I ended up carrying him). It was harder to walk across the fields, listening to his sharp intakes of breath that meant that he was hurting. It was harder still to listen to Burt's fair arguments about me staying in the same house as his only son.
In the end, we ended up in the same spot as the night before. I was in Kurt's redecorated room, thinking about Puck/Quinn/Rachel/Kurt. It was exactly the same, except that I was regretting like hell most of the things I'd done over the last twenty-four hours. Yelling at Kurt. Leaving. Not talking to him during the school day…
"Thanks for helping me today, Finn." Kurt's voice drifted, unanchored in the darkness, but it was as honest and earnest as anything he'd ever said. "I couldn't have…I mean…thanks."
I smiled, turned onto my side and flicked on the lamp light, illuminating that god-awful room. And Kurt and I talked, quietly, not yelling, getting both sides out. We talking as the numbers on the clock crept past midnight. We talked like best friends wanting to make up after a fight.
Neither of us had ever had a sibling, but near the end of the night I confessed that, perhaps, this would be something like a conversation between brothers.
Kurt agreed. And never in my life had I regretted a lost night of sleep less.
Four chapters is not a lot, but, again, it's a side story that we hope Glee, in its infinate wisdom, will get around to clearing up next season. Here's wishing a happy and safe summer to all Gleeks!