Author's Note: Do they serve coffee at sports bars? If not, one of my jokes is going to fall flat.
This is another response to an Angst Meme gem.
Also, for the 60 or so reviewers and over 100 favoriters of Secret Agents... wow. I am writing more Klaine for ya'll, because you are amazing enough that if you ask for something, I am going to give it to you. I seriously can not thank you guys enough. Well, I can thank you guys with stories, but I still don't think that's enough. You made my week. You rock so hard.
Every Tuesday afternoon, Carole and Kurt have what she likes to mentally refer to as their bonding moment. She'll be sitting on the couch, relaxing after a morning shift, and Kurt will come home. He'll walk through the door, greet her with a "Hi, Carole," and close himself in his basement. It lasts about eight seconds. If she's lucky, she can respond before his door shuts.
It's not that Kurt's avoiding her. He's just a solitary boy. Or, at least, that's what she tells herself.
Today, however, is different. He takes the journey slowly, silently, and there's a stiffness to his step. It's slight enough that Carole isn't sure if she's imagining it, but she is sure that if she comes on too strongly, she'll just end up pushing him away. "Hi, Honey. How was your day?" She tries to pass it off as the default greeting for her own son, but she can't quite muster the usual cheer.
"Fine." Ah, that response. Carole knows it well.
"Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm okay. I'm just tired." And, Carole's heard that one before, too. Like when Kurt became a lumberjack, and when Finn and he had fought in the basement, and when he was sitting beside his father's hospital bed.
Instead of retreating to his sanctuary, Kurt stands in the entryway, watching Carole with... hope?
It hits Carole like a motherly-instinct freight train. That little phrase, seemingly so dismissive, is Kurt's way of asking for help.
"I have the perfect remedy for that," Carole stands, heading for the kitchen. On her way past him, she puts her hand on Kurt's shoulder to guide him to their destination. He leans into her touch ever so gently. "How about I make you some tea, huh? It'll warm you up a bit, and has just enough caffeine to get you through the afternoon."
She's already heating up the teapot, but it's nice to hear Kurt's, "I'd like that, thank you," anyway.
She rummages through the cupboards, "Finn was always a fan of hot chocolate, but something tells me you're more the Earl Grey type." She fishes the box out and shakes it enticingly.
Kurt nods. His smile is small, but real.
"I know my tea drinkers." She doesn't mention that Earl Grey is the only tea in the cupboard, and she knows for a fact Burt doesn't actually understand the concept of any beverage not served at a sports bar. "Do you like it with milk and sugar, or black?"
"Black is fine." Carole doesn't quite know the kid enough to tell if he truly prefers his tea black or if that was his way of not putting her out, but she figures if he really wants the milk, he knows where to find it.
She grabs a mug she's seen Kurt drink from before. It's light blue and has a bright yellow sun on the side opposite the handle. It's pretty, and she assumes it's his favorite. She sets it down on the counter next to the tea bag.
On cue, the teapot squeals. A pour and a plop and the tea is steeping. She picks up the mug by the handle, careful to avoid burning herself, "Let's take this to the couch."
Kurt follows and sits himself on the couch cushion in front of where she placed his mug, on the far left.
Carole mutes the soap opera she'd been less than enthralled with and takes the middle cushion, keeping space between the two of them, bet remaining within reach.
"Do you want to tell me what happened at school today?" She hopes she isn't being too forward.
Kurt's silence tells her she might have been. He takes his mug into his hand and lightly traces the sun with his index finger. He follows the circle, then each sunbeam a few times, with practiced ease. "This was my mother's mug. It was part of a set, but I broke all the others. This is the only one left."
Okay, so that mug may have been a mistake.
Kurt continues, this time looking at Carole, "You are a great mom, Carole. But, you aren't my mom. I have a mom, and it's not her fault she isn't here. I can't... I can't betray her like..." His voice disappears as his throat tightens. It's obvious he's been dealing with these feelings for a while.
"Sweety," Carole puts her hand back on Kurt's shoulder, "I'm not trying to replace your mom. I know it's not possible. But, we're going to be a family soon, and that mean being there for each other, supporting one another. That's not betraying your mom."
Kurt looks like he's thinking her point over, so Carole pulls out the big guns.
"Christopher, Finn's father, he never would have wanted for Finn to push your dad away. He would have wanted his son to have someone to talk to, who understands him, or at least tries to. As parents, we just want to know our kids are doing okay."
Kurt sets down his mug, no longer requiring it as a distraction. "And you're trying to understand me?"
"I'd like to think I'm getting to know you." Carole hopes he doesn't try and challenge this.
Kurt sighs, "I'm just having a little trouble at school." It seems Carole's sincerity might have won out.
She stays quiet for a moment, hoping Kurt will continue. He doesn't.
She tries prompting, "With the other kids?"
He shrugs, "A few of them." This time, Carole's silence works, and Kurt says more, "William McKinley High School is a cesspool of homophobia, and I happen to be the only thing for them to prey upon."
Carole hopes rubbing his shoulder is response enough. She doesn't have anything to say to that. An apology would be trite and any attempt at comforting words would be belittling.
"It's bad enough when the kids in Glee make gay jokes and no one seems to care. And, I'm used to getting tossed in the dumpsters and hit with slushie facials, but... But, getting shoved into lockers hurts. It hurts. And the notes they put in my own locker? Telling me that God hates fags, and to 'Go to Hell, and soon.' What am I supposed to do with those? How am I supposed to deal with that? And every time they hit me and call me queer and no one, no one, does anything about it, they just watch it happen, it's like... it's like they're saying it's okay. Like that's just how my life is supposed to be. Like I deserve it!" He stops talking only because his body has decided to sob instead.
If Carole were to be completely honest, she'd admit she wasn't prepared for this. She thought he'd open up and admit that he was tossed in the dumpster again, something she was familiar with from stories Burt had told her, and that perhaps he stained his clothing. The fact that she trivialized it to that degree is something she will never admit to the crying boy before her.
She wraps her arms around Kurt and he falls willingly against her chest. "Kurt, you do not deserve that. No one does. Those kids are idiots. They don't understand what they're doing. You are loved. We all love you so much. Don't ever think you deserve to be hurt." She's just tossing out everything that comes to mind at this point, but she means every word, and that should count for something.
"They take everything from me!" His voice comes out a high whine of agony. "My first kiss was supposed to be special, romantic, with someone I loved. But, no. The neanderthal who makes it his mission to make my life a living Hell had to grab my face and take that from me, too."
The words ring in Carole's ears. She doesn't notice her grip tighten on Kurt's shoulder until he whimpers in pain.
Her hand flies off as an apology leaves her lips... but, she hadn't been gripping that hard. Unless...
"Let me see?"
"Lift up your shirt."
"It's okay." Carole's starting to really fear what she's going to find under the designer clothing, but she'll be damned if she lets Kurt see that.
Kurt shrugs in an "I've already come this far, so why back down now?" gesture and untucks his top. Lifting his arms above his head causes him to hiss, and he can only lift the material to just below his ribs. It's enough to show the rest won't be pretty.
Carole helps, pulling his shirt off his body and setting it on the back of the couch. She turns him so he's facing away and she can get a better look. The purple bruising spans a majority of his upper back and shoulders.
"Oh, Honey..." It takes a while for her mind to process the amount of hurt inflicted upon her step-son-to-be. As soon as it does, though, she takes action. "Stay right here." She rushes to the bathroom and throws open the doors to the cabinet under the sink. She grabs the first aid kit and doesn't waste time retrieving what she needs, just hauls the whole kit back to her patient.
She makes it back to the living room to find Kurt clutching his shirt to his chest. She can see bruises blooming there, as well, and the fact that Kurt doesn't care that he's wrinkling his clothing is not lost on her.
She pulls out a small tube of medical cream, "I'm going to rub this into your bruises so they heal faster, okay?"
Kurt eyes the medicine wearily.
She can tell he's uncomfortable, but this is important. "It's okay. I do this for Finn after football practice all the time. It doesn't hurt."
Kurt shrugs again and that's all the permission she needs. She squeezes some cream onto her fingers and gently presses against Kurt's shoulder. He flinches away from her touch.
A very bad thought suddenly occurs to her.
"Kurt, that boy who... kissed you?"
"Did he... Did he try anything else?"
Kurt pauses for a moment, confused, before understanding hits and he almost shouts, "No. No, I pushed him away and he left. That was it."
Carole is glad he's facing away from her so he can't see the intense relief wash over her. Still, that danger is not completely gone.
"Does he still bully you?"
A small nod.
"He caused some of these bruises?"
An even smaller nod.
"Honey, that's very serious."
Kurt, probably subconsciously, leans away from her, and she sees she's losing him with the way this conversation is going.
"Here," she holds the cream in front of him, ready to squeeze when his hand falls into place, "rub some into the bruises on your chest." He obeys, smearing it across his skin, then gently rubbing it in in small circles like Carole is doing.
Once the bruises are tended to, she puts the cream back in the kit and leaves the kit on the floor. There is no sense in leaving Kurt unecessarily.
His arms fold over his chest, and he sounds so vulnerable when he asks, "Can I put my shirt back on now?"
"Of course, Sweety," Carole places his shirt in his hands, even though it was closer to him in the first place.
He winces as he tries to lift it above his head, so she helps dress him. It only adds to his vulnerability in her eyes. She wonders just how long he's been made to suffer like this.
Then, she stops. She can't sit and dwell right now. There is a boy who needs comfort and she is going to be the one to give it.
She grabs a duvet from the back of the couch and drapes it over them, then hands Kurt his tea.
Carole switches the volume back on and allows The People's Court to fill the room. Mindful of the bruises where she usually touches the boy, she puts her hand on top of Kurt's own and gently squeezes it.
Kurt turns and offers her something close to a smile, and leans into her shoulder.
Right now, she'll watch horrible daytime TV with Kurt.
Tomorrow, she's taking Burt's flamethrower to that school.