Title: Redemption

Characters: Kurt/Karofsky

Rating: PG 13 for one instance of homophobic language

Spoilers: 1x06, Never Been Kissed

Summary: Kurt pushed himself away from the locked after Karofsky added another bruise to his already impressive collection. This has to stop!

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee. I'm just borrowing it.

A/N: I'm loving this pairing, and I'm not sure why...

Kurt pushed himself away from the locked after Karofsky added another bruise to his already impressive collection. His first attempt at a confrontation with Karofsky had just made things worse, but this has to stop!

In the past two weeks since Karofsky had stolen his first real kiss, his attacks had gotten more violent, rougher, and more frequent. Kurt was tired of it. He had to do something.

And it's not like anybody's going to help me, he thought for the dozenth time that day. He dodged around one student and squeezed between two others to catch up with Karofsky's retreating form. Blaine would try to help, but Karofsky'd probably rip him apart. Finn, my almost-stepbrother, would just say that I'm being overly dramatic. And Dad, Dad needs to focus on getting better. I don't want him back in the hospital because of me, because of this. Kurt finally caught up with Karofsky and tapped him on the shoulder. Maybe I won't get pulverized.

Karofsky turned around, eyes going a little wide when he saw Kurt. Kurt grabbed his arm as he started to walk away.

"We need to talk," Kurt said, grip tightening on Karofsky's arm. Oh, he was living dangerously.

"Get your hands off of me, homo," Karofsky muttered, looking anywhere but at him.

Kurt snatched his hand away and, without thinking about it, slapped Karofsky hard across the face. Of the few remaining students in the hallway, only one looked up, then quickly turned back to jamming a book in his locker.

And then Kurt did something stupid—he didn't run for his life. Instead, he watched Karofsky's face flush red (redder in the faint outline of a hand print across his cheek) and his hands ball into fists. Belatedly, Kurt realized that fighting violence with violence was a very, very stupid idea. Especially when your opponent was twice your size and had a notoriously bad temper.

Kurt watched Karofsky's arms shake as he fought the urge to hit him.

"What," Karofsky growled through clenched teeth, "was that for?"

"You know exactly what that was for! Never call me that again!" Kurt was proud that his voice only wavered a little.

Karofsky's arms relaxed and he jammed his hands into his pockets. "What, I can't call you by your last name anymore, Hummel?"

"You said-"

"Hummel." Karofsky said.

"And not..."

"Not this time," he muttered.

"I'm sorry," Kurt sighed, "and thanks for not hitting me." Why am I being so polite to this jerk? Maybe you want to survive the next few minutes and not be turned into pâté? An inner voice answered.

"What do you want?" Karofsky asked, pulling hands from his pockets and crossing his arms, looking generally menacing.

"We need to talk."

"You said that already."

"You want to talk here? That's fine with me." Kurt looked down the now-deserted corridor. "But what if someone walks around the corner when I start talking about how you—"

"Fine!" Karofsky walked down the hall and found an empty classroom. He walked in without glancing back, confident that Kurt would follow. Against his better judgment, Kurt did.

"What do you want?" Karofsky asked, leaning against a desk.

"You said that already," Kurt snapped. Did he have a death wish? Pretending that he hadn't just tried to antagonize his tormentor, Kurt spoke again.

"We need to talk about what happened."

"Nothing happened," Karofsky said, voice low with either warning or embarrassment. Maybe a little of both.

"You stole something from me that I can never get back after tormenting for my whole high school life! You're such a—" Kurt clenched his jaw before he said something bad enough to set Karofsky off.

Karofsky pushed off the desk and got in Kurt's face. "I'm what? Such a dumb jock, such a chubby jerk that it's beneath you to kiss me! Is that it?"

Kurt's heart was thundering in his chest; he was well aware that things could go very badly very quick. Karofsky was nose-to-nose with him, and he was shaking again. Kurt could just feel the waves of anger roiling off of him, but he could also see a hint of fear and desperation in his eyes. Suddenly he didn't feel like yelling at Karofsky anymore.

It wasn't like he wanted to hug him or, Gaga forbid, kiss him again, but he felt a rush of understanding for the guy. What would Kurt be like without Burt there, not really getting it but trying to understand him and love him no matter what? Would he have turned out differently if he hadn't had his dad and friends there to accept him for who he really is?

Oh, it didn't excuse Karofsky's actions by any means; he was still a violent jerk who'd made Kurt's life miserable. But the fact that Karofsky was actually listening to him definitely meant a step in the right direction.

Karofsky was still in his face, but his anger had softened into confusion.

"Why aren't you yelling?" He asked, eying Kurt suspiciously.

"Because, Dave," the name felt weird on Kurt's tongue, "I think you may be making good, albeit slow progress on your issues. Very slowly."

Karofsky backed up a step, still confused. "What do you mean?"

"You haven't hit me, pushed me against the wall, kissed me, or punched anything in the past few minutes. I call that progress, although you do need to work on not being such a-," Kurt hesitated.

"Say it," Karofsky said, arms crossing again.

Kurt's danger-meter started going Ding! Ding! Ding! Red alert! So he kept his mouth shut, hoping to avoid injury. And things were going relatively okay-ish, he thought.

"Say it," Karofsky repeated, his tone gentler but stance just as aggressive.

Kurt shook his head. Next time, no matter how futile it may seem, he'd go talk to a teacher about his problem instead. It would be much safer.

"I was going to say that we need to work on you not being such a self-hating closet case and such an ignorant jackass."

Karofsky's face twisted into what Kurt believed was supposed to be a scowl, but that wasn't quite right.

"You just called me a jackass." There was incredulity and—was that a laugh? Karofsky was deflecting the real issue, and Kurt knew it.

"And a closet case." Kurt said.

"No one's ever called me a jackass before." He said, ignoring Kurt's comment.

Karofsky was laughing at him and refusing to acknowledge the real issue. Kurt gave in to temptation.

"Of course they haven't! People are too scared that you'll beat them into a bloody pulp if they say it to your face!"

"And you're not? Is that it?" Karofsky was smirking at him when he should be apologizing or at least looking serious.

"I am terrified that you'll snap and beat me black and blue, Karofsky! Worse than you already do shoving me around, that is. You've abused me in just about every since of the word over the past few years! You torment me and my friends on a daily basis! It would be stupid of me not to be scared of you."

Kurt watched Karofsky crumble before him as he finally vented his frustrations, but he couldn't stop until he was out of breath. Karofsky's face had gone from angry to shocked to ashen to ashamed in the course of Kurt's rant. Kurt saw the guilt and self-hate written in Karofsky's hunched-over posture and expression. In part, Kurt felt good seeing Karofsky raw and open like that, but another part of himself felt guilty for causing it.

Karofsky looked at the wall, not at Kurt, as he spoke.

"I'm not a jackass," he said, shaking his head. "I'm an asshole."

Kurt's empathy beat out his self-righteousness as he replied, trying to lighten the mood.

"Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to—"

"Oh, shut up," Karofsky interrupted, annoyed at Kurt's sing-song tone. He looked up and noticed that Kurt wasn't giving him the evil eye anymore. He wasn't smiling, but...

"I'm sorry," Karofsky said, "for—"

"For everything?"

"Yeah. Is that—are we okay?"

Kurt looked him over, sizing him up in a way that reminded him of how hockey players on the opposing team looked at him right before the match. He tried to meet Kurt's eyes, but it was difficult.

Finally, Kurt smiled at him, eyes still a little cold.

"Not yet," he said, "but it's a start."