Story: Element – 2/?
Characters: Kurt, Karofsky
Disclaimer: I don't own these people, they own themselves and are just nice enough to let me spin them around the page now and then.
Summary: Sometimes being out of your element can be a good thing...
Warnings: up to NBK; this story was started during the Xmas hiatus which means it's largely AU now… It predates Actual Klaine, it predates TSSBS, and it predates the hoped for Redemption of Dave Karofsky in the final episodes of the season (2)…
A/N: The author does not in any way condone bullying or any form of aggression towards homosexuals, or anyone else, for that matter.
Element – Part 2
[from part 1…]
So how did it happen that Kurt, after a year of living non-dangerously, should still be alone, because Blaine, god-damn him, was involved and committed to someone else, and Karofsky, who had looked like he'd rather die than open that closet door, let alone set one foot outside of it, was sitting in a food court, at a mall outside of Columbus, Ohio, holding hands with some boy?
Some pale-skinned, narrowed-shouldered, dark-haired boy…
WTF, world, right?
He'd lost the drive to shop anyway. He needed to get the hell out of there, grab his bags, take his finally paid for mochachino, and head for the parking lot.
He might have made it, too, if that stupid newbie barista hadn't forgotten to give him a straw, which Kurt then promptly dropped, and if Kurt hadn't bent over, gracefully, of course, and set off a scream and a giggle from his fangirls on the line.
Flustered, he straightened up and without even looking made a dash for the elevator.
The glass elevator.
Trapped in the contraption, he had to watch as Karofsky, sans the Pale Wonder, ran to the staircase that curled around the elevator and took the steps, two at a time.
Kurt considered not getting off and taking the car back up to the food court, but again, felt thwarted – exposed – by all that glass. Seeing the determination on Karofsky's sun-kissed and flushed face, he suspected the boy could have kept up the game of staircase/elevator tag all day…
The last one out of the elevator, he made a vain attempt to slip off to the side, but Karofsky jumped in front of him.
"Hummel," he said breathlessly, and Kurt wasn't prepared for the brightness there, the lightness, as though he'd expected the bloated and bitter bully persona to slip back into place once his old target had been sighted. "How funny to run into you here."
Is this something we're laughing about now?
Despite the busy, public location and the almost jovial tone to Karofsky's voice – and that silly, hopeful expression on his stupid, tanned face – Kurt felt the familiar feelings slip into place; fear, anger, his own brand of bloated bitterness. Had they switched emotional roles?
"What do you want, Karofsky?" he rasped, hand on the railing, an eye out for sympathetic passers-by. Maybe his fangirls would back him up? They were leaning over from above, grinning and giggling, excited at the idea of having caught him in the act of being gay… Hoping to disabuse them of the notion, he plastered on his best sneer. "Want me out of your mall now, Karofsky? Have you claimed Columbus as your territory, too? Sorry, but I haven't seen the latest list of Places Kurt Can't Show is Gay Ass."
Karofsky seemed somewhat taken aback by the venom in Kurt's words. He just stood there, blinking guiltily, his ruddy cheeks flushing beneath the sunburn, and for a second, Kurt almost felt remorse. Almost. He was expecting the Fury to show itself any moment; Karofsky was just trying to wrap his tiny brain around all those words Kurt had thrown at him. As soon as he did, he'd start sputtering and growling and waving his fists around, Kurt was sure.
Instead, the big behemoth actually looked away, eyes scanning the balcony above until they lit on the pale boy he'd been sitting with, hovering a few feet away from Kurt's fangirls. There was a look exchanged, from the behemoth, a grimace and a nod, from the boy, a faint smile, and then the boy turned and left. He was rather beautiful, actually. And young.
Karofsky, what are you doing?
"Sorry, Hummel, I…" he whispered, swinging back around to look at him. "I know I deserved that."
Now it was Kurt's turn for surprise. Was Karofsky actually apologizing? And what was he apologizing for? For chasing him out of the food court in the Columbus Galleria or for making his life a miserable, living hell the past couple years? Whatever it was, both or either, Kurt wasn't ready to accept something offered merely in response to Kurt's witty and biting riposte.
"Yes, yes, you did," he said, levelly, trying to avoid eye contact. Karofsky didn't deserve eye contact. "And more. You know, I could have pressed charges. Even if I couldn't have proved it, it would have gone onto your school records and affected you when the time came to apply to colleges." He saw Karofsky's eyes goggle, as though he hadn't thought of that. Kurt wanted him to know how much power he, the little gay boy, had actually had over him. Even without Outing him to the Principal, his father, and the entire school. And he wanted him to know that he wasn't the vengeful type, even when he had every right to be, mostly become it made it clear what a superior human being Kurt Hummel was. "I took pity on you, Karofsky, because I knew you were going through something really hard." In the sunlight filtering in through the glass ceiling, he thought he saw Karofsky's eyes shimmer, wet with sudden moisture, and he felt an unwarranted pang himself, fleetingly reminded that whatever else, Karofsky was still just a kid, like him. That he was still just a gay kid, like him.
Karofsky, for his part, suddenly seemed every bit the pathetic teenage loser he was. Uncomfortable, he cleared his throat, glancing up at Kurt quickly, then back down at his own worn leather sandals. "I appreciate that, Kurt," he said softly, his voice cracking on Kurt's name, inspiring a second spike of regret in Kurt's belly. "I really do."
Just then the elevator dinged! its arrival and a crowd of shoppers poured out, just in time to break the moment and Kurt was grateful for it. He'd been starting to loose his edge, that anger/hatred edge, and it had been the only thing keeping him standing and talking to this utter mistake of a person, the only thing keeping him from running for the exit. (He was small and wiry and had the reach and speed of a dancer, but Karofsky was a seasoned athlete, powerfully built, and had clearly been working to loose some of that blubber he'd been carrying around.)
Lost in the total distraction of the exiting crush of shoppers, with their bags and baby carriages and half-consumed flavored coffees, Kurt found his mind wandering, felt himself idly wondering if he'd ever really looked at his bully before, if he'd just been too busy flailing and falling to the floor, too busy screaming at the asshole to notice that he was…that he was actually not awful looking. Some aberrant portion of his brain offered up the word 'handsome' and Kurt smacked it back down to the basement, where he kept things like images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the entire wardrobe from the TV show Dallas…
"Can we talk upstairs," Karofsky asked abruptly, taking a step closer as the crush of exiting shoppers cleared. "I actually left my salad in the food court and I'd like to get back to it before they chuck it." He took a quick glance upstairs again, either looking for his little friend or maybe, to see if he could actually see his salad from where they were standing…
Kurt knew he had plenty still to say to Karofsky, volumes, but he doubted there was anything the behemoth could say to him that he actually cared to hear.
"What do we have to talk about, Karofsky? You got what you wanted, didn't you? You got to spend the rest of the year," be paused to rattle his cache of shopping bags in Karofsky's direction, "without having to see me and my "faggy" outfits. And all those Slushies must have been a big drain on your allowance."
At this, Karofsky's eyebrows pinched in the middle and a vaguely pained expression came over his face. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head, peering at Kurt through squinted, somewhat guilty eyes. "That's not what I wanted at all, Hummel," he said softly, as though that should have been obvious.
Kurt was stunned. "Not what you wanted," he yelled, tone and pitch rising. "'Not what you wanted!'?" Fuming, he started waving his arms, bags shifting noisily, mocha threatening to squirt out the top of its cup. "You made it very clear what you wanted! That you didn't want me there, that my mere presence offended oh, so delicate you, that I—"
They were starting to draw a good bit of attention from the mall crowd and panicked, Karofsky had clamped a hand over Kurt's mouth, an act so radical and so unexpected, that Kurt just froze.
What. Is. He. Doing!
And with all these witnesses!
Just as suddenly, Karofsky removed his hand, seemingly shocked at his own behavior. His expression bore equal parts fear, regret, and dismay, as though he wished he hadn't done what he had. Disappointment was plainly etched on his face, though Kurt couldn't tell if he were disappointed in himself or Kurt.
Heaving a weighty, pained sigh, Karofsky turned abruptly and lumbered back up the stairs and it was Kurt's turn to stand there blinking dumbly.
With the show apparently over, the crowd went back to their lattes and Auntie Anne's pretzels, and the typical mall murmur resumed. Only Kurt's fangirls still seemed interested and after that last display, they were gamely trying to pretend they weren't.
For a moment, Kurt was too confused by what had just happened to move.
What a weird time to turn coward. Hadn't Karofsky been the one to start this whole thing here today? What had he thought Kurt was going to say? 'Thank you for torturing me. Please, sir, can I have some more?' He had to have known Kurt was still going to be angry, still have major issues with him. He had to have been prepared for that, so why did he…
He just walked away?
Other than the time that they'd been arguing and Karofsky had kissed him to shut him up, he'd never seen Karofsky walk away from a fight before.
And now he'd touched him, albeit to stop him from making a scene, but still, he'd put his hand on Kurt's mouth. And then, when he couldhave put up fight, he didn't? What was up with him?
With a shock, Kurt realized that Karofsky hadn't fought back or argued or even complained since this whole encounter had begun.
Just like last time, Karofsky's own actions seemed to have surprised him so much, that he'd just retreated.
Kurt had a lot of things running through his head right now, not the least of which was a rather high pitched voice telling him to consider himself lucky and high-tail it back to the car. He weighed the options; take his own sage advice and leave now or stay and find out what the fuck that had all been about. Though he really, really wanted to get the hell out of there, wanted to never have to look at that stupid, relaxed, sun-burned face again, in the end, curiosity, and some unfinished yelling, won out.
Off the elevator and back in the food court, Kurt located Karofsky's big head on the other side of a potted palm and telling that high pitched voice to be quiet so he could think, he made his way over.
You can still leave, you know? You don't owe this jerk anything.
Except something, some heretofore unheard portion of his brain, said that he did, maybe just a little…
Piling his bags into the booth adjacent to Karofsky, he sat down across from him with a very vocal huff and took a long draw on his mocha chino, content to let the caffeine and sugar slide pleasantly down his throat while Karofsky picked at his surprisingly healthy looking salad and looked anywhere but at Kurt.
Kurt was the first was to admit he was a drama queen, in fact, it was his stock and trade, but he also knew there was a time and a place for it and maybe, just maybe, the food court at the Columbus Galleria wasn't it. Feeling a guilty for unintentionally providing the mall's lunch time crowd with an impromptu one-act play, (and maybe a little bit for screaming at someone who wasn't fighting back…). Kurt made a conscious effort to dial back his demeanor. It wouldn't be easy, Karofsky just naturally made him want to go Grrrr…., but that new voice from the depths of his brain reminded him that Karofsky was actually being pretty reasonable, that he hadn't raised his voice or gotten physical, other than to shut Kurt up, and that maybe, removed from his natural environment, he could actually carry on a rational conversation.
And a summer in the sun certainly hadn't hurt him either.
"So," Kurt started off, in what he hoped was a genial voice. "You came Out, I see." He was half-expecting the Karofsky bomb to go off, but Karofsky barely flinched at the words. In fact, he almost seemed grateful for the question.
"Yeah," he said, a half smile on his lips. "Shawn and I came out at the same time."
The boy! I forgot about the boy.
So young and so slender; clearly Karofsky had a 'type.'
Kurt shivered at the thought, conflicted. On the one hand, he was relieved that Karofsky had come to terms with who he was – and that he was moving on from tormenting Kurt –
but on the other hand, "Shawn" was just a boy…
"Don't you think he's a little young for you," he asked, as delicately as he could, aware that despite the calm, this was still Karofsky he was talking to; who knew where the landmines were?
Karofsky put his spork down on his tray, looking at Kurt in confusion.
"Young," Karofsky repeated softly, as though trying to figure out what Kurt had been getting at, as if it hadn't been completely obvious. After a breath, his expression shifted, eyebrows lifting in alarm. "Oh, no – we're not…he's not… He's my cousin, Kurt. Shawn is my 13-year old cousin."
And then, at a point when Kurt would have expected the bomb to finally go off – Karofsky did something more surprising than even that locker room kiss.
Karofsky started laughing.
Kurt sat there fuming while Karofsky caught his breath, which didn't take long once he looked up and saw the look of utter unamusement on Kurt's face.
Cheeks flushed and eyes shining, Karofsky grinned at Kurt apologetically.
"Sorry, sorry," he said, waving a hand across the table. "He's just going to get a kick out of this – he thought you might mistake him for my date." Cheeks suddenly flushing brighter, Karofsky looked away. "Apparently, I have a 'type'…"