"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." ~ JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Sam carefully positioned Kurt against the wall of the men's room, concerned when the other boy didn't utter a remark about germs or hygiene. Considering who Kurt was, Sam knew this was highly unusual, so he took a closer look. Kurt looked dazed and slightly confused, and Sam worried the other boy might have had a concussion. Finn hadn't been holding back any punches. Literally.
For his part, Kurt was unable to reconcile the fact that Finn had actually struck him. There were times over the past year in which Kurt had been sure Finn had wanted to hit him, and perhaps it had been warranted, but he had somehow managed to restrain himself. Granted, the punch had been an accident, Finn had been aiming for Noah, but that did little to dispel the fear and anxiety he now held for Finn.
"I should have stopped this," Sam angrily hissed.
"Don't be ridiculous," Kurt replied. "It was an accident, and certainly in no way was it your fault."
"I should have pulled you out of the line of fire before it even got to that point," Sam countered. "I saw how dangerous the situation was becoming."
"I would have punched you had you tried."
One corner of Sam's mouth pulled up. "Yeah, you probably would have. I bet you've got quite a right hook."
Kurt sniffed. "Naturally." He raised a brow. "I'm Burt Hummel's son."
Sam's face lost any trace of mirth and he shuddered. "Point taken."
Kurt smirked with satisfaction, then winced and released a low moan of pain.
"My poor baby," Sam murmured, gently stroking the apple of Kurt's cheek.
They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment, and then said moment passed, as all moments do. Sam was the first to look away.
"Let's clean up your face as much as we can." He promptly began rummaging through Kurt's bag, knowing exactly which unguents and remedies Kurt would require to look his absolute best.
"Sam?" Kurt whispered, unsurprised when Sam staunchly ignored him.
What the hell had just happened?
No. He absolutely could not deal with that at the moment. He was far too busy trying to figure out a decent explanation for his father as to why and how Finn had hit him. The immediate secondary worry was what to do about Noah.
Things obviously couldn't continue in the manner they had been. It had been one matter when Finn was merely trying to keep them apart, but to resort to physical violence? That was simply unacceptable.
"How did their fight start?" Kurt asked.
Sam sighed, tightening his grip on the cotton washcloth he had fished out of Kurt's messenger bag. "We were all talking about our plans for this weekend. Santana mentioned that you and she were going shopping, and Puck started complaining that he wanted to take you out for dinner and a movie, which was much more important than anything you could possibly be doing with her."
"Great," Kurt muttered.
Sam nodded. "And then Finn chimed in that maybe you were finally getting your priorities in order and were planning on dumping Puck, because even Santana would be a better choice for you than him."
Kurt frowned. "He actually said that? Was he serious?"
"Very," Sam said with finality. "Rachel interrupted the conversation and declared that if you were ever going to date a woman, it would have been Mercedes. Brittany and Santana had a lot to say about that, as you can imagine. Mercedes held her tongue, so Quinn spoke for her."
Kurt gnashed his teeth. "Don't those people have anything better to do than discuss my love life?"
Sam snorted. "Apparently not, because then Finn started telling everyone that if it wasn't for Puck, you and I would be dating, as we should have been for the past two months." He shook his head. "Well, Finn finally hit upon a topic with which Santana agreed, and she began telling Puck everything she thought was wrong with him, with Brittany just adding fuel to the fire. Mercedes and Quinn got in a few comments in support of him, and then Tina started yelling at all of them about how they were self-righteous, egotistical assholes. Mike backed her up."
He exhaled. "Artie then took up the cause by declaring that if they didn't have the guts to say to your face what they were saying behind your back, they should just shut the hell up. He told Rachel that if you were going to date a girl, it would be Brittany, and that your relationship with Puck wasn't anyone's business. He told Finn that it was suspicious how invested he is in your personal life, which I think set off alarms in Puck's head, and then Artie told Rachel that maybe she should have her dads talk to Finn about alternative sexualities and how to tell if you have one."
Kurt closed his eyes. "I love Artie, I really do, but what was he thinking?"
"That's when Puck and Finn stood up and started screaming at each other. Santana egged them on, according to her shifting moods," Sam finished. "And here we are."
Kurt sighed. "And to think there was a time when all I wanted was friends."
Sam smiled, but it was weak.
"How did I miss this?" Kurt wondered. It was a non-sequitur to the conversation at hand, yet Sam had no problem catching it.
"I didn't want you to see it," he replied. "I didn't want to be yet another problem you have to deal with."
"You could never be a problem, Sam," Kurt softly countered. "You're my best friend. You and Santana are the best friends I've ever had. But, I have to admit, I'm surprised."
"So was I," Sam admitted. "I didn't see it coming."
Kurt thought about the unintentional irony of that statement. Suddenly he wanted nothing more in the world than to tell Sam about the dreams, about his abilities. He knew Sam would understand and never judge him, nor would he suffocate him. He trusted Sam completely. He trusted Noah too, despite his affair with Quinn, but had the sense that Noah, like Mercedes, would try to manage him if he knew about the dreams. Santana just accepted them as part of who he was, as would Sam. He wondered why he never had told Sam. It seemed stupid that he hadn't.
He took Sam's face in his hands. "I love you so much, Sam. I honestly don't know what I would do without you. If we ever tried…and it didn't work…I don't think I'd survive it. I can't lose you."
Sam pressed his forehead against Kurt's own. "I know. I feel the same way, and that's why I didn't say anything. This is new for me, too, and I don't know what to say or do about it, so I wanted to keep it to myself." He bit his lip. "Most of the time, I do okay. I know you love Puck, and I would never try to get in the middle of that. But today, when I saw Finn punch you," he closed his eyes, "I wanted to kill him, Kurt. Watching you get hurt…something broke inside me." He pulled away. "I'm sorry."
"Never apologize for what you feel," Kurt snapped. "But I can't, Sam," he said more quietly.
Sam smiled, and this time it wasn't pained. "I know. I understand that and I don't expect anything from you. Just…just don't shut me out, okay? Now that you know, don't shut me out."
"Never," Kurt swore. "Sam, other than my parents, you're the first person I've ever told that I loved them."
Sam blinked. "Not Puck? Santana?"
Kurt waved a dismissive hand. "Santana knows. We don't need to say it, and we would never feel comfortable doing so. As for Noah, I love him, yes, and he loves me, but it's something we don't discuss. You're the only person with whom I've ever felt comfortable enough to say it."
"Will you say it now?" Sam asked after a long moment.
"I love you, Sam."
Sam nodded, ducking his head. "Just not the way I want. That's okay. It really is. I'll deal."
"You didn't want me to push you away," Kurt said, swallowing heavily, "but are you going to push me away now?"
Sam shook his head, still unable to meet Kurt's eyes. "No. Even if I wanted to, and I don't, I never could. You're…you're part of me now, Kurt. I don't want a life without you in it, whatever form that takes."
Kurt released a long, loud breath. "Good, because I'm about to take horrible advantage of our friendship."
Sam gave him a puzzled look.
"Will you hold me?" Kurt asked, his voice shaking slightly. "Just for a little while?"
So Sam did.
Santana kicked back in a chair in Figgins' office, feeling damn fine. Finn had at last shown his true dumbass colors, and while she was pissed that Kurt was hurt in the process – and she would be exacting recompense for that – she had high hopes that Kurt would be so disgusted with both Finn and Puck that he would cut them both out of his life. Then he could be with Sam, like she knew he was meant to be.
Puck was worried. He should've just walked away when Finn had started ranting. He didn't know why he had allowed the idiot's words to affect him so badly. Well, okay, he did. As much of an asshole as Finn was, he was right that Kurt deserved better than a colossal fuckup like Noah Puckerman. But, of course, he hadn't listened to his brain and had instead replied with threats and intimidation, both of which had failed and resulted in Kurt, the only innocent one in all of this mess, being hurt. He'd never forgive himself for that. And now there was a good chance he would be sent back to juvie, all because he still hadn't learned how to think before he acted.
Finn was terrified. He was sure to end up in a shallow grave by the end of the day, courtesy of one Burt Hummel. That is, if his own mother didn't murder him first. That didn't even take into account the things he was sure Santana, Puck, Sam, Artie, Tina, and Mike wanted to do to him. And last, but certainly not least, there was the fact that he was pretty much positive his relationship with Rachel was now over. Even though Kurt had forgiven him for that night in the basement, he doubted that Rachel would. He didn't blame her, either.
"This kind of behavior is unacceptable," Figgins said harshly, "and while I am highly disappointed in the three of you, I cannot say that I am surprised. You're nothing but thugs."
Santana raised a brow. "Excuse me?"
"Did you just insult one of my Cheerios?" Sue howled.
Figgins ignored them. "Each of you is suspended for the rest of the week. Mr. Puckerman, I will be contacting your probation officer and advising him of these developments."
Santana crossed her arms over her chest, blew a lock of hair from her face, and snorted. "And while you're doing that, I'll be contacting my attorney," she said, smirking. "Who is, by the way, my father."
"On what grounds?" Figgins demanded.
"That is the question, isn't it?" she cooed, her dark eyes flashing. "On what grounds are you involving Puck's probation officer? He did nothing wrong. He didn't throw the first punch." She cocked her head. "In fact, he threw no punches at all. He never became violent, despite being provoked, not even in defense of himself and his boyfriend. That was all Hudson." She grinned. "And me, of course."
Puck shot her a look of such heartfelt gratitude that she almost experienced an emotion. Then she remembered that he was a complete asshole and the feeling left her.
"I think you'd be better served, Principal Figgins," she continued, "by considering the ramifications of the assault on Kurt Hummel, because, and make no mistake here, that's exactly what it was. Hudson punched him in the middle of a crowded cafeteria, just brimming with any number of witnesses who would happily testify as to what they saw. Hudson, unprovoked, attacked a defenseless student who is several inches shorter and many pounds lighter than him."
"I didn't mean to hurt Kurt! I would never hurt him!" Finn wailed. "I was aiming for you!" he howled at Puck.
"Is that what happened?" Santana asked lightly, her eyes brimming with innocence as she stared up at the ceiling. "I don't remember it that way."
"Me either," Puck said, smirking.
"I can't recall," Sue said blankly.
"Mr. Schue!" pleaded a panicked Finn.
Will said nothing, still very disturbed by the scene in the cafeteria. He had never known Finn to be violent, but seeing the boy punch Kurt had enraged him. And then the revelation that Finn had called Kurt that…that word. He could even pinpoint when it must have happened. He remembered with vivid clarity the shift in their dynamic last year. He should have suspected something then, should have questioned them. But, as usual, he had stayed out of it.
"I do wonder what Uncle Burt will have to say about it all," Santana nonchalantly remarked. "Uncle Burt loves his son very much, and I know you're well aware of that, Principal Figgins."
Figgins paled. The last thing he needed was Burt Hummel raising hell in his office. Again.
"And then there's Justine Westgate to consider," Santana finished, smiling slyly.
At this, Sue also smiled, baring most of her teeth. She had listened to Westgate's takedown of Figgins earlier that morning, the monitoring equipment for once functioning properly, and it had been almost orgasmic, scoring the cop a lot of points in Sue Sylvester's slam book.
Figgins swooned slightly.
"Who?" Finn asked.
Santana stared at him. "His partner?"
"I thought Puck was his partner," Finn said, frowning. "That's the proper term, right?"
Puck rolled his eyes. "His work partner."
Finn blinked. "Kurt has a job? What, in a store or something?"
Santana blanked her face. She'd had no idea Kurt hadn't informed Finn of his extracurricular crime fighting, but she could understand why he wouldn't, and of course Finn was too clueless to have picked up on anything. Even if he had, it would have been easily explained away by Kurt or Burt. If Finn was this overprotective about Kurt's relationship with Puck, it would stand to reason that he would be completely ridiculous about a job that put Kurt in real, physical danger. Shit.
"The Duchess works with the D.A.," Puck snarled. "His partner is a cop."
Santana wanted to beat him to within an inch of her life. She settled for gauging his forearm with her talons.
"What?" asked a panicked Finn.
Puck finally realized the nature of the situation and winced. "Shit."
"Language!" Figgins admonished.
Sue stared at Santana, who obviously knew whatever the hell was going on with Alabaster and his little volunteer position. Santana glared back at her mutinously and Sue knew that, no matter what she threatened the girl with, Santana would give her no answers. She almost respected her for it.
"Why is Kurt working with the police?" Will wondered.
Sue then spun a lovely little tale which took up several minutes but ultimately revealed nothing. Finn, satisfied that Kurt was in no danger, let it go. Will knew there was far more to the story, but sensed he'd get no further information from Kurt, Sue, or Santana; for whatever reason, Puck appeared to be in the dark about what Kurt was really doing.
"Whatever," Santana huffed. "Can we get back to the point here? Namely me." She turned to face Figgins. "If you want to suspend me, fine, but I will fight it. If you take this to the Puckhole's probation officer, I'll make an end run around you to the school board. If Hudson's punishment isn't worse than mine, after he was the one who started this whole thing, I'll whine and cry about misogyny and racism to whatever media outlet I stumble across first."
Figgins curled a lip and glared at her.
She held his gaze placidly, smirking so lightly it almost could have gone unnoticed.
"Do not threaten me, young lady," Figgins warned.
"As you just threatened Puck?" she promptly asked. "You don't scare me, Principal Figgins. You know why? Money. As in, I've got a lot of it. I could care less about what shows up on my school record, as my police jacket is far more inflammatory. " She paused. "By the way, I wonder if anyone has bothered to make sure that Kurt is okay. He did, after all, receive a hard blow to the face, followed by one to the back of his head when he fell to the ground. He could have a concussion. He could require medical treatment."
She leaned forward and gave the man a feral grin. "He could sue the school."
Will blinked. Damn, she was good. One look at Sue told him she thought the same.
Figgins paled even further, picked up his phone, and asked the secretary to find Hummel and make sure he was escorted the nurse's office.
Santana noted with pleasure that her words once again lighted rage and worry in those present, smirked, leaned back against the chair, and began filing her nails.
Agnes Hamilton, the school secretary, had delegated the task of tracking down Kurt to Emma Pillsbury, who raced up and down the halls of McKinley in search of the boy, her worry growing with each passing second.
She had only the barest idea of what had transpired - namely, that Finn had punched Kurt during lunch - but she was worried about possibly serious injuries. Head wounds were nothing to dismiss out of hand. The thought of Natasha Richardson's fate circled about her mind.
Finally she spied him emerging from the boys' locker room, being carefully shepherded by Sam Evans.
She paused in her tracks and suppressed the desire to coo. Sam, like Kurt, was one of her favorite students, though neither had any idea they were held so high in her esteem. She was so glad that they had become friends after Sam had migrated from Tennessee. She always worried about the students finding their niche, and worried particularly about those who never did. Kurt had taken Sam under his wing early on, and now Sam was returning the favor. They really were such sweet boys, even though Kurt could be horribly evil when it suited.
"Kurt!" she squawked. "Are you all right?"
Kurt startled, turned to face her, and nodded, wincing with the effort and at the horrified look on her face. "Thank you, Ms. Pillsbury, I am. The bruising is unfortunate, but it could have been much worse."
She bit her lip. "Principal Figgins wants you escorted to the nurse's office."
Kurt exchanged a glance with Sam and frowned. "That won't be necessary, thank you. I've taken some aspirin, and the pain has already receded. I think I was more in shock than in actual physical distress."
She nodded worriedly. "Would you like to come lie down in my office for a while?"
Kurt was surprised. It wasn't like her to make such an offer, but he was more than happy to take her up on it. He had no desire to spend the next hour in the nurse's office, where he would be fussed over and stared at, not to mention easily found by those he wished to avoid.
"I'd appreciate that, yes," he replied.
Emma nodded and was already writing a pass for Sam to deliver to the teacher of his next class.
"I can stay with you," he whispered to Kurt.
Kurt shook his head. "I don't want you to fall behind. You're going to make honor roll this term if it kills you." He paused. "And if it does, it will still make a nice epitaph on your headstone."
Sam rolled his eyes. "You've recovered."
Kurt sniffed and turned away. "Go to class, Mr. Evans."
"Yes, sir!" Sam sharply replied, standing at attention and saluting him.
"That's the attitude I like to see," Kurt said, smiling.
"When have you not liked being in charge?"
Kurt raised a brow. "I don't know. It's never happened."
Emma watched this with fascination, quite aware of the innuendo behind the words. Interesting. And adorable.
She also saw the shadows gathered in Kurt's eyes and recognized that they hadn't been placed there by his altercation with Finn. Oh, dear. He'd had a vision, she was sure. She cleared her throat.
"Sam, you should get to class. I'll send word to Principal Figgins, Kurt, but I really would prefer it if you would lie down for a little while."
Sam immediately looked to Kurt, as if in search of permission, which made the other boy feel awkward and vaguely uneasy.
"Go on, Sam," Kurt quietly urged. "I'll see you later."
"All right," said a dubious Sam. "Text me if you need anything."
They stood there, both suddenly uncomfortable, before Kurt finally rolled his eyes and gave Sam a hug. Sam smiled and dropped his chin on Kurt's shoulder.
"I love you," he whispered. "I know you don't feel the same way, but I need you to know I love you."
At Kurt's soft gasp, Sam gently extricated himself from the embrace and hurried off down the hall, a worried Kurt staring after him. It was one thing to know Sam loved him in that way, but another thing altogether to hear it.
"Are you all right?" Emma asked in a low voice. "I know you came in this morning with Justine. New case?"
Kurt nodded absently. "Two, actually. A double homicide in Kettering, and an unknown kidnapped child."
Her eyes filled at the thought.
"The perpetrator of the Kettering murders is aware of who I am and what I do," he quietly murmured.
Emma stared at him, fear plain on her face. She swallowed heavily. "And the child?"
"Kevin," Kurt said dully. "He's dead. I saw his ghost while in the locker room with Sam. I need to contact Justine."
Emma covered her mouth with a hand as all the blood rushed from her face. She rushed him toward her office.
Emma sat rigid in her chair as Kurt spoke with his partner, horrified by these developments and worried for her student. It wasn't fair that Kurt saw these things, was forced to bear these burdens. No matter how mature he might be, he was still a child, at least in her eyes. No child should have to witness the senseless and craven violence to which Kurt was subjected.
And there was absolutely nothing she could do. She'd never felt so helpless or so angry.
"Lake Hope State Park," Kurt said, sighing. "He's been dead about four hours, Justine." He frowned. "I know it's not my fault. I never thought it was. I can't predict my dreams."
Emma winced. She knew that no matter how much or often Kurt eschewed blame, he felt horribly guilty for the people he was unable to save. She could only imagine how the loss of a young child made him feel. That he was more interested in placating and subduing his partner spoke to his character, but Emma wasn't fooled, and she doubted that Justine was, either. Kurt would view this death as a personal failure and take it very hard.
It was awful that he was made to see these things at all, let alone such terrible acts in which his interference never affected the outcome. It was pointless and cruel to foist such atrocities upon him.
"Kevin wasn't able to tell me much," he continued. "He hadn't fully comprehended that he had died, and I still had to hold up my end of my conversation with Sam." His eyes widened. "I am not dating Sam! You know I'm with Noah!" His eyes narrowed as he listened to her blather on. "Your opinion of my boyfriend is irrelevant, Justine. You are not my mother!"
He blanched. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "That was inappropriate of me. I am not...feeling well."
"Do you need to go the hospital?" Emma suddenly exclaimed, her worry over his head injury still paramount in her mind.
Kurt covered his eyes with a hand as Justine's screaming exploded from his cell phone.
"Justine? Justine! I'm fine. There was an altercation during lunch period, but I'm fine. My glucose levels are probably low because I missed lunch, and therefore I'm lightheaded."
Emma glared at him, which he ignored. She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Let's return to the issue at hand, shall we?" Kurt pointedly asked, returning Emma's glare with one of his own. "His name is Kevin Parker, age six. He's from Riverlea, outside Columbus. You have the sketch. He wasn't able to tell me his address." He grimaced. "Yes, I know I'm using the present tense. Yes, I understand that he's dead. However, that means very little to me, as I can communicate with the dead!"
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "The name of the assailant is Jeff Washington. He's the assistant coach of Kevin's soccer team. I know there are about sixty cabins at Lake Hope and, while it's not exactly in season, the park still receives moderate traffic until the winter holidays. I assume he picked a cabin as isolated as possible to minimize notice."
He nodded, his face now flush with anger. "Find the son-of-a-bitch, Justine. He's an obscenity that shouldn't be allowed to walk this earth."
Emma's eyes widened.
"Anything on the Andersons?" Kurt then asked. He listened, frowning. "I really don't see the purpose, Justine. There's nothing my presence would add to the questioning. The children all have alibis, correct?" He nodded. "Then I would prefer not to be involved at this juncture. Whomever the killer is, he was watching the family. He's aware of the two of us, and I really don't want to draw further attention to myself. This whole affair is very unsettling."
He sighed and nodded once more. "I assume the family will be monitored and that there will be a police presence at the funerals?" He shook his head. "I agree, I doubt the killer will make an appearance, but it doesn't hurt to be cautious. Still, I stand by my earlier hypothesis: this was professional, not personal. He's long gone by now. He's too good at this not to have done it before, and I'm sure he'll do it again."
He bit his lip. "How's Liza?" He sagged at the diatribe which spewed from Justine's mouth. "Please try and cut her some slack, Justine. I can only imagine how she's acting, but you know the mayor and city council will be merciless with her until more information is gleaned. If you think it will help, I'll speak with her and remind her that micromanaging you will do little good."
He shook his head and chuckled darkly. "Don't worry about me, Justine. I'm too valuable for her to alienate and, at the end of the day, you're my partner, not her. She knows my participation is conditional on being paired with you."
He smirked. "Yes, well, there was no reason to inform you of that tidbit before now." He laughed. "Don't threaten me with a good time, lady!" He shook his head in mirth. "I'll see you on Thursday, Justine. I'll get myself to the courthouse; there's no reason for you to act as chauffeur, and Liza's already prepared me. Please keep me apprised about any new developments with Washington or the Anderson case." He nodded. "Goodbye."
He hung up and heaved a great sigh, looking far older than his years.
"Are you all right?" Emma carefully asked.
He shrugged. "I don't even know how to answer that. Frankly, I'm exhausted, but I still have classes and Glee to get through, and then I'll somehow have to explain this," he gestured at the large bruise covering a third of his face, "to my father. I'm certainly not looking forward to it."
She nodded sympathetically. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No, but I thank you for the offer. If you don't mind, I'd just like to sit here quietly until it's time for my next class."
"Of course, Kurt," she said softly.
Thankfully, the rest of the school day passed without incident, though Kurt received many curious and unsubtle glances, as the story of the lunchroom incident had spread quickly throughout the school. His afternoon courses were, by chance, those he didn't share with most of his friends, save Santana or Tina, one of whom was glued to his side until the final bell rang.
He entered the choir room, escorted by Tina, and was met with gasps of shock, as those who hadn't seen him since lunch got their first looks at his face.
"Oh, my god," Rachel whispered, her eyes filling.
Kurt barely refrained from rolling his own eyes, not in the mood for her theatrics. Regardless of what had transpired, they were not friends. He had no interest in her sympathy or guilt.
Tina guided him toward the first row and deposited him between Sam and Santana, who promptly began smothering him.
"Are you okay?" Sam demanded.
"Say the word, and I'll have Hudson jumped like the bitch he is," Santana swore.
Kurt did roll his eyes at that, but assured them both that he was just fine and preferred to move on from the incident. He noted, however, that Noah was keeping his distance, and Mercedes, though she watched him from the corner of her eye, said nothing.
He was grateful. He didn't have it in him to deal with either one at the moment.
Finn was desperately trying to get his attention and would have already crossed the room to his side, had Mike and Artie not been murmuring dire threats to him. Finn looked ready to burst into tears at any moment, and Kurt couldn't bother to feel any sympathy. He knew that he himself had a temper which he often allowed to get the best of him, but his wasn't violent; Finn's was, however, and he needed to learn to get it under control. Further, while he was sure that Finn felt guilty and remorseful, the boy was probably far more worried about how Burt Hummel was going to react.
Brittany sat behind him and busied herself with his hair. For some unfathomable reason, grooming his hair always calmed her down, and the last thing he needed was an unstable Brittany attacking Finn.
"How did it go with Figgins?" he asked Santana.
She rolled her eyes. "I have detention today and tomorrow, and Hudson has it for the rest of the week. The Puckhole got off."
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Don't be," she said fiercely. "I'd do it again in a minute. Besides, this isn't the end. He still has Berry to contend with, as well as your parents. The Cheerios are all furious, and so is Sylvester. Hell, even Schuester was bitching him out."
Kurt arched a brow. "Really?" he asked, disbelief tingeing his voice.
She nodded. "He was, I don't know, offended for some reason. I guess a lot of his illusions about Hudson were shattered today."
He groaned. "This is the last thing this club needs. We barely manage to get along as it is."
Sam shrugged. "Too bad. Bottom line is that you didn't do anything wrong, baby, and neither did Satan."
Santana preened, but then blinked owlishly and slowly turned to look at Sam. "Baby?" she repeated.
"Don't start," Kurt warned her.
"I won't," she chirped. "I just have one question."
He dropped his head and sighed. "What."
"Why can't you date Hot Lips?" she whined. "He's so much better for you!"
She held up her hands. "Okay. I've said my piece."
Kurt looked at her and snorted, filled with disbelief that she was letting it go so easily. No, he knew she was plotting something. He wasn't overly concerned, as he knew she would never be malicious to him. He was worried, however, that Sam might get caught up in her scheme and be hurt, which he would never allow. He would just have to remind Santana later of possible repercussions.
"I need to talk to you later," she suddenly hissed at him. "There's something you need to know."
That sounded ominous, and Kurt wasn't looking forward to the conversation.
Will bounced into the room, his eyes immediately landing on Kurt. He blinked, scowled ferociously at the bruise, and then glared at Finn, who quailed under the silent assault. There were so many things he wanted to ask, but most prominent of the questions was ones he needed to ask of himself: why hadn't he noticed how badly things had deteriorated between Kurt and Finn?
How many other things had he missed?
He had prided himself on caring for these children, on being there for them not only as a teacher, but a mentor. It pained him to admit how badly he had failed. He was close with Finn, Quinn, Rachel, and, surprisingly, Puck. However, he also knew Rachel had little respect for him other than as a person in a position to further her own agenda. He recalled with deep shame that any closeness he might have enjoyed with Finn was predicated on a lie about drugs Will himself had planted in the boy's locker.
Quinn had turned to him for support when she was going through the worst experience of her life, but that was more because Sue had dumped her and she had no one else, not even her parents. Will suspected that Quinn might actually have liked him as a teacher, but he doubted she would come to again if she needed help.
Puck was a mystery. Sha-boom.
He knew next to nothing about Tina, Artie, and Mike, and had never even held a conversation with Matt when the boy had attended McKinley. Sam had never had much use for him, probably because he had made friends immediately upon his arrival.
Will knew he had missed his chance with Kurt, who now had Sue and Emma squarely in his corner. He didn't know what it was that existed between Kurt and Emma, but there was something there, something which united them, which had caused Emma to become ferociously protective of him. The real surprise was Sue. No matter how much Will despised her and her games, he could never deny that she held real affection for Kurt. It had reached the point where she didn't even bother to hide it, which spoke as to how genuine it was.
Santana and Brittany had Sue; they had never needed, nor wanted, him.
And Mercedes - well, he wasn't too sure what was going on with her, actually. She appeared to be struggling through some kind of identity crisis and had been displaying behavior for which Will didn't much care. He couldn't have been alone in that boat, otherwise Kurt never would have ended their friendship. Something severe must have happened, and he was very curious as to what it was.
Whatever Kurt was hiding, Sue knew only the basics; Santana and Emma knew everything. Puck and Finn had purposefully been kept in the dark, which suggested to Will that whatever Kurt was doing was dangerous. He wasn't sure what to think about Sam, other than Sam would have supported Kurt regardless of his own misgivings.
His eyes flitted in the direction of the boy in question, who was making cow eyes at Kurt, and that was when Will realized that Sam was in love with the other boy. It was yet another thing which was so obvious, yet he had missed it.
But what about Kurt and Puck?
He didn't know what to think about that pairing. On some level, it made sense, and from what little interaction he had observed between the two, Kurt and Puck truly cared for each other, perhaps even loved each other. They had gotten together at a time in which they had both needed someone, and each had been good for the other, but he wondered if there was enough between them to sustain the relationship. He somehow doubted it.
Will blinked harshly and shook his head to clear it, as he finally noticed Rachel desperately trying to get his attention.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I was lost in thought." He cleared his throat. "Kurt," he said gently, deeply sad when the boy flinched at being addressed, "are you all right to perform today? We can always reschedule."
Kurt's eyes widened with what Will wanted to hope was gratitude, but was probably just incredulity. The boy then shook his head, even though the effort obviously pained him. "No, thank you, Mr. Schuester. I'm fine."
Will nodded slowly. "Okay. In that case, would you mind going first, please?"
He didn't say anything, but he didn't want Kurt to sit around waiting forever for his turn, because eventually that horrific bruise would settle and begin to ache terribly. At the first sign of Kurt failing, Will would send him home to rest.
"That would be fine, thank you," Kurt said, nodding.
He slowly got up and trudged toward the front of the room, once again debating the sagacity of what he was about to do. It was cruel, he knew, but it had to be done. Things simply couldn't continue in the vein they had been. He loved Noah, but wasn't in love with him. Noah loved him, but wanted to be with Quinn; however, he was too scared to leave Kurt, fearful of what Kurt might do.
That was ridiculous, of course. Kurt Hummel was many things, quite a few of which were rather unflattering, but he wasn't fragile. It was frankly humiliating that Noah believed he would fall apart were they to break up. He enjoyed having a significant other, but his identity wasn't dependent on it. He had been fine before Noah, and he would be fine after.
He would probably be lonely, but he had been lonely before Noah. At least this time, he would have Santana and Sam.
Kurt didn't know what to do about that, other than what had already been said. He was worried however, that breaking up with Noah would give Sam false hope that they had some kind of future together. He could admit to himself that it was possible he might one day feel the kind of love Sam wanted from him, but that day was a long way off.
And then, of course, there was the fallout to consider. His father and Finn would want to seek vengeance on his behalf, which he certainly neither needed nor wanted. The glee club would once again draw lines in the sand, and he was positive that, this time, the odds would be heavily stacked in his favor, which presented a whole host of other problems. Rehearsals would turn into battles in which he had no interest in participating, and that was before Rachel and Finn dealt with their own problems.
On top of all of that would be how the Cheerios would react. Very few held loyalty to Quinn, and he could absolutely see Sylvester using this to maneuver him into assuming the headship.
He repressed a sigh as he fumbled in his messenger bag for his iPod. It would probably be better if just removed himself from the equation and resigned from the club altogether.
Actually, the idea was very appealing.
He'd yet to have a solo and none was on the horizon. Mercedes and Rachel came to fisticuffs in almost every meeting. Santana was becoming more and more frustrated that her talents were being ignored, for which Kurt didn't blame her. She and Sam had presented an idea for a duet, which was promptly co-opted by Rachel and Finn.
Why did he even want to participate in this farce any longer? Every meeting was a misery, and most of the club was disillusioned. It was starting to manifest itself in their performances, as well. They had done reasonably well at Invitationals, but he sincerely doubted they'd fare any better at Regionals than they had the year previous.
But if he left, the club wouldn't even qualify, which meant they would be disbanded and he would be held responsible.
But why should he stay to help maintain the status quo when his heart was no longer invested? Just to please other people, who really could've cared less about him, so the club wouldn't lose its funding? Who the hell needed that pressure?
Rachel stormed out with regularity whenever she didn't get her way, but then she always returned and expected to be welcomed with open arms. She didn't care for them as anything other than as an extension of herself. All of the other members save him belonged to numerous clubs, but Glee was all he had.
He realized then that he had used Glee to isolate himself even further from his classmates, and for what? It didn't keep him safe. It didn't make him feel as though he belonged. It certainly wasn't showcasing his talent. He had no real performances to put on his résumé for college.
He was done.
He was done with Glee, with Schuester's obvious bias, with Rachel and her dramatics, with Finn and his sick need to be a leader in name only, with Noah and his indecision, with Quinn and Mercedes and their lies.
He had overheard Artie make unkind remarks about him on more than one occasion. Said comments were designed to help Artie fit in with the other guys, which Kurt actually understood and for which he held no grudge. He knew that Artie was perhaps even lower than him on McKinley's totem pole. However, Artie had not even realized that his disparaging comments had infuriated Noah and Sam. Mike had kept silent, as usual, but his dislike of Artie had increased exponentially, and Finn had gone along to get along, as he so often did.
He didn't know how Tina would react. He hoped she would understand, but they weren't as close as they had once been, and they were both to blame for that.
Other than Brittany, Santana, and Sam, he really didn't have friends in Glee. He would see the two former at Cheerios rehearsals, and he was fairly confident that Sam wouldn't hold his defection against him. As for the others...well.
He was just so tired.
And now he had these two cases to deal with, and a murderer possibly targeting him.
That transfer to Carmel was looking more and more lovely, to the point where he was going to discuss it with his father.
"Kurt?" asked an anxious Will.
"Hm?" He blinked. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Schue. I was lost in thought myself."
"Kurt, are you sure you're well enough to do this?"
"Yes, of course," he replied, not meeting the man's eyes.
Well, here went everything.
Kurt cued up the song he had chosen at the last moment before turning around to stare sightlessly ahead at no one in particular. He cleared his throat.
"Before I begin, I have an announcement I'd like to make."
There was some restless shuffling, but no one spoke.
"After careful consideration..."
Will immediately knew where this was going and was desperate to prevent it, though he was positive any effort he made was sure to fail. "Kurt..." he began, his voice panicked.
"...I've decided this will be my last performance with New Directions," Kurt said, loudly enough to silence Will's protestations. He held up a hand to stall the outraged and forlorn denials. "This has been a long time coming," he continued. "Today's events have only solidified my determination. This is no longer the place for me."
"Kurt, if this is about solos..." Rachel babbled.
His glare shut her up. "Rachel, this is about the fact that I have a three-and-a-half octave range which isn't being utilized. This is about the fact that, other than you, I'm the only club member who has professional training. This is about the fact that I'm a senior member of this group and have yet to be featured in any competitive performance."
He fell silent for a brief moment, ignoring the sputtering of his colleagues. The only ones who had no reaction were Sam and Santana, who were lending him quiet support with their silence. His heart skipped a beat at how well they understood him, as well as how much he appreciated them.
"This is about the fact that I'm unhappy here," he said more sedately. "I used to wake up every morning and couldn't wait to start my day with a song." He shook his head. "That joy is gone. Singing was one my respite, it was what made me happier than anything else, but that's no longer the case. It's become a chore, a thankless burden which is never rewarded." He raised his eyes and his gaze ensnared the entire room. "I deserve better than that."
Mercedes crossed her arms and huffed. "And what about the rest of us? Without you, we don't have the numbers to compete. We'll all lose the club."
"That's not my problem," Kurt said dispassionately, "and don't you dare make me responsible for your welfare. Low numbers have been an issue since we were freshman. You've never done anything to alleviate that. You've recruited no new members. You haven't come up with any fundraising ideas or publicity events."
"Neither have you," she countered.
He shrugged. "True enough, but I certainly do more for this club than you. I design and create costumes, as well as tailor them. I fill in for Brad when he isn't available. I select and rearrange music, as well as rewrite lyrics and give voice lessons to those I help on my own time."
"Like who?" she demanded.
Sam, Santana, Mike, Brittany, Puck, and Finn raised their hands.
Rachel and Will looked at them with wide eyes.
Kurt smiled at his friends, though not at Puck or Finn, and then became serious once more. "You'll notice, Mercedes, that we didn't hold a fundraiser this year." He raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Schuester, who provided the necessary funds which the budget did not cover?"
"You did," Will quietly answered.
Mercedes flushed and dropped her eyes as several others regarded Kurt with an equal mixture of gratitude and discomfort.
"I may not have brought in any new members, Mercedes, probably because, other than the Cheerios, the people in this room are the only one who will speak to me in this school, but I've done my part. You, however, are much more content to sit in every meeting, fighting with Rachel and whining about the solos you never get, so you don't get to sit there and blame me for having the courage to bow out of this sham before it's brought to a halt."
He raised an eyebrow. "Outside of Finn and Rachel, you've been the singer most featured. You resent being asked to belt the final notes of songs, but it's certainly more than the rest of us have been afforded."
"Damn right," Santana barked, nodding and glaring at the girl.
"That's true," Tina said quietly.
"Besides," Kurt added, shrugging a shoulder, "most of us don't even like each other, and it's becoming apparent with each performance. There's no unity, no sense of common purpose or a shared goal." He cocked his head. "Outside of a few people, I dare say I won't be missed. The contempt most of you have leveled at me over the years, quiet or not, has not gone unnoticed. Your comments about me, my sexuality, my clothes, and my voice have not gone unheard. You don't need me; you just need my physical presence to fulfill some random statistic. I'm worth more than that."
He was silent for a moment. "This club was once one of the most important things in my life, and I have had some good experiences here, but not enough to justify being continually ignored or belittled. Those people who are truly my friends will continue to be such, regardless of whether or not I'm a member."
"Kurt," Will said quietly, "I'd like to discuss this with you privately, please."
"There's really no point, Mr. Schuester. There's nothing you could say which would change my mind. I really do believe you've tried to do right by us, and I hold no ill will for you or anyone else. It's just time for me to move on."
As he spoke them, Kurt realized his words were true. He didn't resent Schuester. The man had arguably done the best he could. He'd had no experience running a show choir, and the group would have been disbanded much sooner had he not taken over. He'd had no support from the faculty or administration and, in fact, had been actively and routinely sabotaged. He'd been dealt an incredibly pathetic budget and had done what he could with it. He had featured Finn and Rachel because they had the most commercial voices and were, therefore, the best shot the club as a whole had for notice.
No, he hadn't always been fair, but was it even realistic to have expected him to be? This wasn't a youth group where they sat around discussing their fears and woes. All of them had focused much more on their personal dramas and travails than working as a cohesive unit.
"You do what's best for you, Kurty," Brittany said. "Don't worry about us. You're not responsible for Glee."
"Thank you, Sweetness," he said quietly.
Sam wanted to say something, but couldn't find the words. He understood all too well how Kurt felt. He had been enthusiastically recruited by Finn, but little had resulted from his joining. He hadn't been given any solos outside of mandatory assignments. Mostly, he was just stuck playing guitar for Finn and Rachel when Puck couldn't be bothered.
He turned to look at Santana, who was staring down at the floor, and realized she was having similar thoughts. She had one of the best voices in the club, but she was routinely ignored. He knew she had no use for most of the people here. She was also the featured soloist for the Cheerios; if she left, she still had that on which to focus.
Santana sensed his eyes on her and raised her gaze to meet his. They both nodded.
"Thank you for listening," Kurt said primly, again crossing over to the piano, on top of which sat the iPod docking station. He pressed play and centered himself as he waited for the music to begin. He thought about Noah.
This was going to be one of the hardest things he'd ever done in his life.
End Note: I decided to end this on somewhat of a cliffhanger simply because I haven't done that for a while and I didn't want the chapter to go on longer than necessary. This chapter dealt with a lot of secondary issues which needed to be addressed to move story along and free Kurt for future plot points. One thing I want to state clearly is that this story is indeed a true crossover between Glee and Medium. I'm not just borrowing Medium characteristics for the story. Allison DuBois, et al will be appearing soon.