Happy weekend, y'all. Lots of thanks to the lovely people who left feedback on Cohere, Redux, the epilogue to Shotgun Wedding. I'm not adverse to writing more there if people want to read it, so drop me a line and let me know :]
Special tip of the hat to JustRelax for making up half of the conversation that led to two of the upcoming chapters in this series. And a big ole' You Rock to everyone else.
I don't own anything. Someday.
Chapter One: "You owe the 1980's an apology."
This was, quite literally, the last place on Earth that Kurt Hummel wanted to be. Seriously, there were prison camps in Uganda that would have been more inviting at the moment. At least there, they'd probably shoot him on sight, instead of prolonging the torture and making him suffer.
Tina tugged him along by the sleeve of his jacket, pushing their shopping cart in front of her haphazardly with one hand. He unhappily followed her down the aisle, not caring that his deliberate foot-dragging was reminiscent of a five year old. A five year old with polio.
"Careful," he snapped at Tina as she stumbled a bit, pulling dangerously at one of the decorative buttons on his sleeve. "Just because this fabric is wrinkle-resistant does not mean it's made to stretch. This beauty is hand-stitched."
Rather than snap back at him, Tina blinked sympathetically. "I know this is really hard for you," she said soothingly, "but the faster we find everything, the faster we can get out of here."
Her gentle tone was almost enough to make Kurt cry. He did not want to be here. He did not want to be here. He didn't want to throw a tantrum in public because please, how gauche, but damn it, he was unhappy and he could feel an uncomfortable prickling in the back of his throat and an all-too-familiar pressure building in his sinus cavity and—
Miles of cheap sweatshop poly-blend. Horrid florescent lighting. Food sold in packaged quantities that could feed an entire church congregation. An honest-to-Juicy greeter in a blue linen vest at the door.
He hated Walmart.
Tina, clearly sensing his imminent meltdown, let go of his jacket and slipped her hand into his, giving it a comforting squeeze. Letting go of the cart, she pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket that Kurt recognized as the shopping list they had written earlier that day. Thanks to a well-timed sale—and consequential shopping spree—at the local craft store, the two of them already had nearly everything they needed to construct costumes that would appropriately emulate and pay tribute to Lady Gaga.
Unfortunately, there was only one store in Lima that was guaranteed to have fishing line, Halloween wigs several months out of season, and a dozen silver reflective screens normally only seen in car windshields or in the hands of foolish tween-age sunbathers.
"We're almost done," Tina promised, glancing back and forth between the list and the contents of their shopping cart. "The only thing we still need to find is a pair of white fishnet stockings." Kurt's frown deepened—no doubt aging his skin and contributing to the early development of unsightly wrinkles—and she bit her lip. "Kurt, you really don't look too good," she observed. "Are you sure you don't want to wait in the car? Or, we could go to the fragrance aisle and smell all the shampoos, if you want."
At Kurt's blatantly confused stare, she flushed bright red. "It always makes me feel better when the grocery store is too crowded," she mumbled to her shoes.
Kurt sighed. Tina looked like a kicked puppy. He should really be nicer to her; it was hardly her fault that Walmart made him break out in hives.
He sighed again and reached out, wrapping his arms around his sweet, misguided little friend. "I'm sorry," he apologized sincerely. "I know I'm being overly unpleasant; I blame the $4.99 sandals we just passed."
And he did—those sandals were hideous. And seriously, sandals? It was March. In Ohio.
He forced a smile for Tina's sake, and she smiled back tentatively. "I'll be fine," he assured her. "Let's just get everything and get out of here."
Immediately after Kurt finished his sentence, the loudspeaker above their heads crackled to life. "Attention Walmart Shoppers: Today is the final day of our sale on Men's Activewear. Buy now and take an additional 30% off, and don't forget to take advantage of our sale on Tyson Chicken Products, now through Sunday in the grocery department!"
Kurt's skin paled, even as he began sweating. "Can we go smell the shampoo?" he asked in a small voice, swallowing his urge to vomit all over his Galliano shoes. Looking similarly unnerved, Tina nodded.
As they made their way across the superstore, Kurt tried to block out his surroundings. He couldn't see the poorly made clothing, or the horrifyingly tacky gift baskets filled with grainy bath salts that smelled like chalk, or the 2 lb bags of stale, rainbow Twizzlers. No, he was in Belize, sipping a daiquiri—fantasies were calorie-free, thank you very much—and chatting intimately with a gorgeous, shirtless pool boy named Paolo.
Or Raphael. He wasn't picky.
"Oh my—Kurt, look." Kurt was abruptly jarred from his daydream by Tina stopping suddenly and hissing insistently in his ear. Neglecting to reprimand her for damaging his eardrum, he turned to look at the menswear section (a painful eyesore) and spotted the source of her excitement.
Will Schuester was shopping for clothing at a Walmart on a Monday evening.
As Mercedes would say, Aw Hell to the Naw.
Kurt looked quickly at Tina. "Baby, I have to," he implored, giving her the most desperate, pleading puppy-dog look he could muster up with such short notice.
Apparently it was enough: Tina looked down at the floor and sighed. "I'll get the tights," she agreed, with a tone of longsuffering resignation. "Just don't get us thrown out before I can buy everything this time, okay? They still won't let me into CVS after last month, and I'm starting to run out of excuses when my Mom tries to send me there on errands."
Kurt smiled deviously and kissed her cheek. "I make no promises," he said neutrally, making Tina shake her head nervously as she walked away with the cart.
Kurt strode through the Menswear department purposefully, assessing the damage as he wove through the racks. Mr. Schue had a basket containing three plastic-wrapped shirts and a watch, and was currently holding up two ties, frowning back and forth between them.
"Mr. Schuester," he said firmly, making the man start with surprise.
"Hey Kurt," Mr. Schue said amiably, lowering the ties slightly as he smiled. "What are you doing here on a school night?"
Kurt's hands dropped to his hips. "Playing the role of the Fashion Police, apparently," he quipped, raising an eyebrow. "Forgive me for intruding, but you're not seriously intending to buy those, are you?"
Mr. Schue's friendly smile faltered a bit. "Is there something wrong with them?" he asked guardedly, his grip on the fabric tightening almost imperceptibly.
Kurt shook his head. Men.
"Several things are wrong with them," he pointed out with a near-supercilious air, "but I'll save you several hours and give you the short list. That one," he pointed, indicating the monstrosity in Mr. Schuester's left hand, "is paisley. The fact that somebody actually conceived of a paisley tie makes me want to vomit, but that's beside the point. The point being that Vera Bradley is the only acceptable maker of paisley accessories, and even then you really shouldn't try to pull them off unless you're a girl under the age of 9 or over 45."
Mr. Schue was looking vaguely constipated, so Kurt moved on to the other tie. "And that tie is royal purple, bordering on eggplant. I'm sorry, but you're not a Fall. Eggplant is not a color you can expect to wear without considerable effort, and I just don't think you're willing to put in the work." He reached out and gently eased the offending clothing out of his teacher's hands.
Mr. Schue, who had been listening to Kurt in what was doubtlessly a stunned silence, revived at the loss of his ties. "Kurt, I really don't think—"
"Exactly," Kurt stressed, cutting him off. "Pardon my frankness, Mr. Schue, but you're buying clothing from a store that also sells ammunition and 5 gallon jars of mayonnaise. Plus, you're wearing a sweater vest that practically requires a handwritten letter of apology to 1984 for stealing its signature piece. And," he continued, trying to stay calm as he grabbed Mr. Schue's basket off of the atrocious carpet, "you obviously mean to purchase shirts which you've clearly not tried on—a grave shopping error, as well as a rookie mistake. Not to mention the cheap stainless steel watch; do you have any idea what discounted metal does to your skin?"
Kurt dropped the watch carelessly back into the basket and looked pityingly at Mr. Schuester. "I know you're shopping on a teacher's salary," he said kindly. "But you have options. There are so many choices out there that don't involve pastel diagonal stripes. There are people out there, experts, that can help. I just don't want to see you make a choice that you might regret later."
Whatever Mr. Schuester had intended to say to that, Kurt would never know—feeling his phone buzzing in his pocket, he flipped it open to find a text from Tina, telling him to meet her at the register. "Well, I have a costume to make," he said airily. "See you tomorrow, Mr. Schue."
And with that, Kurt turned and strutted out of the department.
And if Mr. Schue never wore that particular sweater vest again, it had nothing to do with the faint strains of Chaka Khan or Lionel Richie he swore he could hear every time he saw it hanging in the closet. Not at all.