Grin and Bear It

Notes: This is my first Glee fic. Wow. And it's filling a prompt at the Glee Angst Meme over at livejournal, asking for a fic where Brittany has this conversation with Kurt about it looking like it hurts him when he smiles. So enjoy! (:

Her hand is grasping his tightly, their fingers intertwined, much like they used to do back when they were 'dating'. But, Kurt reminds himself, he's far from dating Brittany now. She's with Artie, and as she once put it, he's 'capital-g gay', but they're still walking hand-in-hand at the mall. After all, she's off for break and he gets out of class early on Fridays, and all it took was a simple "I miss you," from the blond for him to insist they go to the mall and share a pretzel. Not to mention, he has desperately missed shopping with his female friends since his transfer to Dalton.

It takes him a moment, after they've settled on the edge of the fountain and he's torn their pretzel in half; he's brushing off the huge bits of salt on his portion, when he realises that Brittany isn't eating hers, she's simply staring at him.

He looks at her questioningly, his hands still on his pretzel. "What's wrong, boo?"

"Does it hurt?" she asks him.

He stares blankly at her, completely bemused by her question. At first, it sounds like some sort of attempt at a pick-up line before he reminds himself that she knows he's not straight, and besides, the comment about falling from heaven is preceded by a 'did it hurt?', not a present-tense question.

Unable to work her question out in his mind, he sighs. "Does what hurt, Brittany?" he finds himself asking.

"It just..." she pauses. "It always looks like it hurts." She looks behind them at the fountain. "I thought it would be better now that you don't go to school with us. You always looked like that at Glee club when Karofsky was picking on you."

Kurt continues to stare at the cheerleader in front of him, his hands falling down to his lap, still clutching his half of the pretzel. He is now completely intrigued, in addition to being absolutely baffled by her words. "I don't..."

"Your smile," she says in a small, sad voice, and Kurt feels his heart shattering at her words. "When you smile, it looks like it hurts you. If so, then you shouldn't do it any more. I don't want you to be in pain."

He takes her hand in his, abandoning his pretzel on the ledge of the fountain beside them. His first instinct is to force a smile, just like he always finds himself doing, but he finally sees how wrong that is, now.

"Why does it look like it hurts you so much?" she asked.

He wants to tell her. He wants to tell her everything about Karofsky, about how he stole his first kiss and how he threatened to kill him. He wants to tell her how he feels suffocated at Dalton, unable to wear his designer fashions and sing the songs that let his voice shine. He wants to tell her how being completely in love with Blaine is almost worse than Finn because before, he knew the object of his affections couldn't love him back, and now if he's rejected it's not because his crush is incapable of reciprocating, but simply because he doesn't. He wants to tell her how much it all hurts and he can't tell anyone. Not really, anyway.

But Brittany stares at him with her sad, blue eyes as he mulls over how he would say it all, and he sighs.

"I guess," Kurt says slowly, "it's because it does hurt."

Brittany frowns. "Have you tried taking Tylenol for it? That helps when my head hurts, maybe if you..."

But Kurt shakes his head. He hesitates again, trying to choose his words carefully to explain how he's feeling. "It's not that kind of pain," he says, and he bites his lip. "I'm just trying to grin and bear it."

"I don't get what bears have to do with it," she comments flatly, blinking at him.

"No, no," Kurt says quickly. "It means that even when things are hard, and they get you down... you smile anyway, because there's nothing else you can do. You just sort of have to push through and hope that it gets better."

"Oh," Brittany says simply. "Well, you don't need to hope."

Kurt raises an eyebrow. "I don't?" he asks, and she shakes her head.

"Of course it'll get better, Kurt," she tells him. "You're too nice for bad things to happen for you too long."

The corner's of Kurt's lips twitch. "Thanks, Britt."

And before he knows it, the blond cheerleader's body is colliding with his as she squeezes him tightly. When at last she draws away from him, they stand, and Kurt brushes off the remaining bits of salt from his uniform pants.

"Come on," he says. "I'm in desperate need of some new winter ware. I haven't bought anything new this season, and I only have one more week before I'm finally out of school and out of this uniform for a bit."

She smiles at him, taking his hand in hers once again, her tiny fingers enveloping his.

"Your hands are still really soft," she tells him as they begin to walk. Still grasping his fingers, she rests her other hand at the crook of his elbow. Then, suddenly—"I'm really glad you're my friend, Kurt."

"I'm glad you're my friend, too, Brittany," he says, and he can't help but smile at the girl's beautifully innocent honesty. However, she immediately stops walking, pulling back from him slightly and he turns to her, once again confused. "What's wrong?"

"It didn't look like it hurt that time!" she tells him ecstatically, and he lets out a small laugh at the girl's excitement.

"No," he says, "I guess it didn't."

"So," she prompts slowly, "it doesn't hurt every time you smile?"

Again, he lets out a tiny laugh. "No, no, it doesn't."

The giant grin is plastered on her face as she resumes her spot, clutching onto the boy's arm and forcing them forward again with the stream of other shoppers.

"That's good," she says.

"And why is that?"

"Because I like it a lot when you smile."