Spoilers: Up to 2.08.
Warnings: Bullying, homophobia, sexual assault, mentions suicide attempt.
Disclaimer: RIB and FOX own everything ever.

Enjoy, best beloveds.~

To be perfectly clear from the start: Azimio really dislikes Hummel. Hummel is weird, annoying, and confusing. He looks like a freakish hybrid of a twelve-year-old girl and a teenage boy, he acts like he learned human behavior watching reruns of Will and Grace, and he dresses like an Easter egg.

And Azimio knows more of Kurt's secrets than any two of the little creep's loser friends combined, easy.

This is his own fault. Their French teacher, Madame Mitchell, told them their first class, at the beginning of sophomore year, that they had sixty seconds to pick the partner they'd be with for the rest of the semester. She told them in French. Most people understood at least her expansive hand gestures, and everyone started shuffling around – uncertainly, but with some kind of purpose.

As far as Azimio was concerned, she'd flapped her fingers a few times (he'd been looking at Silverman's chest and wondering whether she'd gone the Lopez route or if that was natural, okay, he might have missed a few things) and babbled a little bit, but he happened to be standing close to Hummel, who looked irritated enough that he definitely knew what was going on.

"Hey," Azimio said, nudging him. "What're we doin'?"

"Partners," Hummel sighed. "For the rest of the semester, really? I don't think there's anyone in this room I can stand for that long at a stretch."

Two things factored into Azimio's decision: 1) He's not cruel. Sure, he hates a lot of people and he thinks anyone who isn't a jock or a cheerleader deserves to be humiliated at least once a day to remind them of their place in the scheme of things, and he enjoys being the one to do it. But he's not the kind of guy who gets a kick out of watching a kid picked last for a team, at least not unless there are other dudes around to get a kick out of it with him. 2) He really wanted a passing grade.

He grabbed Kurt's shoulder. Kid looked at him like he was trying to decide whether to run or just decontaminate his shirt, but right then Madame Mitchell got to Azimio on her list and asked if he had a partner yet (in French still, but this time he was watching her and had picked up a few of the words from last time). "Yeah, I got Hummel," Azimio said.

"Oh my god," Hummel groaned.

"Shut up, homo," Azimio grunted, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It turns out that French is stupid easy, at least for Azimio. He picks it up like the lunch money the smaller losers drop when he and his bro Karofsky shake them upside down by the legs. But as long as he makes like he doesn't understand shit, Hummel does everything for both of them and doesn't expect him to participate in conversations. It's a pretty sweet deal. It's junior year now and he'd nabbed Hummel for his partner again because this thing works.

So, on the downside, he knows way more about Hummel than he ever wanted to. He's pretty sure he was the first one to know for actual certain-sure that the dude's queer and not just metro, because:

Madame Mitchell makes them talk to each other for at least ten minutes every lesson, and in their third week Hummel, who had plainly already studied this crap, said in French, "I go to the restaurant every day at four. You do not understand a word I say, do you?"

"I go to the lamp day at two past three," said Azimio charitably.

Hummel's expression didn't change. He said, "I am gay."

Yeah, no kidding. "When do you go to the lamp?" Azimio asked.

"My god. I have never told anyone."

And just like that, he was Kurt's new best friend. Kind of really, because a lesser man would have used that as primo blackmail material. Azimio, not being cruel, continued to support Puckerman's dumpster tosses, to trip Hummel up in the halls, to throw slushies his way, and to make fun of him for being gay – but he didn't let on that he knew for a fact that Hummel whacks himself off to the image of other dudes. Just his good deed for the decade.

Azimio knows a lot of things he'd rather not thanks to these little sessions, and he never tells any of it. He could probably write a biography of Kurt Hummel. He knew when Kurt had a crush on Hudson, and how their parents met, and why that particular crush died. He knew when Kurt told Jones about him being a homo, and when he told his dad. He knows how and when the kid's mom died, and that he worships his dad like the sun rises and sets on him but is terrified of how hard it is for them to have a simple conversation. He knows that he misses his mom so much he still cries sometimes, but that he doesn't really remember her too well. He knows what Kurt thinks of everyone's outfits and how he's getting along with Jones and Chang. He also knows a hell of a lot of totally gay shit about the musicals Kurt never shuts up about, and even more totally gay shit about who the ten hottest guys in school are on any given day, ranked according to not just physicality but how they've chosen to dress (Sam Evans usually beats Anthony Rashad, but not when Rashad picks a nice sweater).

So they've been at this for a year and change, and Azimio feels like he's been damn solid about the whole thing. Hummel gets to be a control freak about their projects, and Azimio repays him for the work by not using the nuclear ammo he's been provided with. Madame Mitchell is always harping on how they got to participate or they won't learn, but Azimio's participation is limited to seeing how ridiculous he can make his answers without tipping Hummel off, and he just got one hundred and five on his last exam. This thing they have, it works.

Until Kurt sits down next to him and tells him that Dave Karofsky is gay.

There have been other times that Azimio has had trouble keeping a straight (oh, ha ha) face. The worst of these:

1) "I hate it here so much. I get sick to my stomach every morning." (Because oh okay fairy, sorry life ain't perfect. It's not like anything dangerous happens. He almost laughed at that one, but they were supposed to be talking about the time of day.)

2) "I am in love with Finn." (Because… gag. And didn't that mean Hudson was a fag too, or what? How does that shit work, anyway?)

3) "I hate you." (Because yeah, duh, he hates Kurt too, that's the way it should be, but he said it with such a sweet smile and so much vitriol, it was skin-crawling creepy. Like, dude, it's just high school, they have roles to fill, nothing personal, why's he such a bitch about it?)

4) "Light blue is actually a very nice color on you. It is a pity you should be a cruel, stupid excuse for a human being whose miserable life will amount to nothing of significance to yourself or to anyone else. You do look handsome today." (Because is that how girls feel when he checks them out? He actually stopped doing it for a few days just in case. And Jesus, talk about bitter. The little bitch.)

5) "If my father dies, I will too." (Because. Because it sounded like a promise.)

And now. Now.

Kurt slides into the seat next to him and just stares at him for a long time. His eyes are red and his lips are puffy.

Azimio peers at him suspiciously. "We gonna try and have a conversation here, or what?"

"In French, please," Madame Mitchell says, in French.

"I'd like to finish this up, fag," Azimio whispers in English, sliding his book over so Hummel can see; maybe he's forgotten the grammar points for today because his loser friends hurt his feelings by not wanting to wear skirts made of sequins or whatever.

Kurt laughs. He doesn't sound amused; it's a nasty, scornful little noise. "You asked for this," he says in French, and leans closer. "Your best friend kissed me a few hours ago." He sinks back in his chair. "Now you could be as awful to him as you are to me if you had the brains of an ant or the attention span of a small child."

Your best friend. It takes Azimio a second to figure out who he means.

By the time he does, the moment has passed. He doesn't think he does his best "I have no idea what's going on" face ever, but Kurt is looking at the book and talking too quickly, complaining about the sweater Berry is wearing today and wondering if he could set her up with Jones for a makeover. She wouldn't trust Kurt, he thinks, not after last time.

Azimio knows what he means by "last time." He knows a lot of things about Kurt Hummel.

He asks to be excused. Kurt looks up when he does, a flicker of worry on his face, but shrugs and looks away again, flipping through Azimio's textbook. Azimio is surprised he doesn't keep talking. Kurt's never really been talking to him, he thinks, just… talking. Unless Azimio poses an immediate threat, he doesn't even register. He hardly even makes bit player in The Life and Times of Kurt Hummel.

But Dave Karofsky. Azimio is important to Dave Karofsky.

So, apparently, is Kurt.

He goes to the bathroom like he said he would, because he can't think of anywhere else in particular to go, and makes himself feel better by giving Jew-fro a swirly. They're always the most satisfying on that one; he's got lots of hair and he squeals enough that you know it means something. He knows where he stands with Jew-fro. He knows where he stands with most people. Just not, suddenly, his "best friend."

Karofsky doesn't seem to notice that he's flying solo lately. He barely texts, doesn't question Azimio's refusals to come over and play video games or swing by Thompson's parties, doesn't mind missing their ten o'clock slushies when Azimio doesn't show up.

Karofsky is too busy thinking about Hummel, and now Azimio doesn't know how he missed it all this year. His boy is anxious and mean and antsy, and every time he can bring the goddamn conversation around to what a fag Hummel is he does it, and every time he can slip off to whack Hummel into a locker he does it, and it's personal. Keeping freaks in line is not supposed to be personal. It's how high school works, not a chance to get your hands on a scrawny little homo so you can get yourself off to it later.

Azimio doesn't remember the last time Karofsky was like this. He's pretty sure he never has been. Ever since they met in the ninth grade and Azimio deigned to help a chubby pseudo-loser with too-good grades and not enough anger management skills make the hockey team, Karofsky hasn't had an interest Azimio doesn't share. Azimio suggests an activity, it sounds fun. Azimio wants to play this video game, watch this movie, go to this party, well hey, wouldn't you know, that's exactly what Karofsky wanted to do himself. Karofsky mentions TV shows and games and people casually and gets Azimio's reaction before he invests himself one way or the other. And Azimio knows it and has to admit it doesn't suck; it's like being a big brother. He takes his responsibility seriously and guides Karofsky right. Or he thought he had. He's pretty sure he'd made clear that kissing dudes was uncool; that had been the point of their anti-Hudson campaign last year, and Karofsky had seemed to be all about it. He seemed to be all about whatever Azimio said he should be, though, and now – now Hummel. He doesn't know what to do with this.

So he doesn't do anything at first. Later, Kurt is surly in class and their participation grade is going to suck, and he mutters something in French about "your best friend" and "winked at me, can you imagine it," and keeps twisting his hands together. It occurs to Azimio that this might not blow over.

"Yo, dude," Azimio says when Karofsky picks up, the third time he calls. "We got have ourselves a serious conversation."

"Oh, yeah? What about?"

"You got to give this Hummel thing up, man. You're on him full time, it starts to look fuckin' gay."

"Fuck you," Karofsky spits, and hangs up.

By the end of the week Kurt's jumping at shadows. When Azimio asks him in deliberately labored French to describe his room (or, the way he pronounces it, his barracks), Kurt says, "He is sick. He said he would kill me if I told what he did." He looks like he might hurl. "He was serious."

Azimio says, "Where… is… my… sofas."

Kurt draws both of their diagrams and fakes Azimio's handwriting on one of them. He's good.

And Karofsky is still avoiding Azimio. Who told him what was what, straight up, and got ignored. Since. When.

He corners Karofsky after practice, before he can disappear into the crowd in the locker room and then the parking lot and be just… gone. "All right," he says, "this time, we are havin' a talk."

"Nothing to talk about." Karofsky shoves at his shoulder. "If you're just gonna get up in my face about doing what we do every day, like all of a sudden you're better than this – what, you got a thing for Hummel now? You the new Hudson, defender of the lame? Maybe you're the one who looks fuckin' gay."

"You let it get personal," Azimio says. "You lost the mission. You supposed to keep them in their place, not issue death threats. That shit, man, I dunno –"

Karofsky blanches. "Issue what?"

"You heard me." He hadn't meant to do that.

"He's lying," Karofsky says smoothly, with a smile Azimio's never had directed at him before. He's seen it aimed at teachers and parents, but never at him, that weirdly shy little trust-me-I'm-a-good-lad thing that means he's putting one over on someone. "This is something Hummel said? He's lying."

"Man, I don't even know you anymore." Azimio shakes his head. There's no one else on the field now, but he lowers his voice anyway. "You kissed the fag."

For a second, Karofsky's smile sags. Then he says, "That's not what happened. He was getting up in my face and he kissed me. Maybe I got a little carried away trying to make him back off, can you blame me? I'm the one who got gayed at, why're you being such a dick?"

Azimio turns this over for about two hopeful seconds and realizes he's lying. He knows Karofsky well enough to tell, and somewhere along the way he got to know Kurt well enough to tell, and Karofsky's the one who's lying. "Whatever," he says. "Just… pull it together or go ahead and join Homo Explosion, man. But you pick a side."

"Azimio." Karofsky grabs his shoulder when he turns to go, and Azimio shoves it off. He doesn't need to go catching the queer. Karofsky pauses, but then says, "Listen. You don't need to tell anyone. You know how it sounds." He looks like he's asking for something more than he's saying.

"You heard me. Pick a fucking side. Then we'll talk about who needs to know."

Azimio has never hated Kurt Hummel as much as he does when he saves his life. The thing is, he didn't really mean he'd tell anyone. He just wanted to give Karofsky the kick in the pants he clearly needed to get him back on the right track. But maybe it wasn't the best thing he could've said.

McKinley doesn't have metal detectors or anything. It doesn't need them. No one walks around with knives or guns or shit like that, not even Puckerman, and that dude is psycho, newfound lameness aside. Knives and guns are serious, dangerous. What they do at McKinley, it's not dangerous. Slushies and lockers and dumpsters, no one gets hurt. It's not dangerous and it's not personal. Fistfights sometimes, but those aren't bad either, and they're rare.

The last time Kurt tells Azimio anything in French class, he's late and Mr. Schuester is hovering behind him, looking frustrated. He puts a hand on Hummel's shoulder and whispers something to him; Hummel nods and smiles weakly. He hands a slip to Madame Mitchell before he sits down next to Azimio.

Halfway through a conversation about whether or not they should walk the dog given the inclement weather, in which Azimio keeps reading the example sentences over and over and waiting for some color to come back into Hummel's pasty-pale face or for the glassy look to leave his eyes, Kurt segues abruptly into, "I could have told the principal what he did."

"I think we should wait until the sky clears," Azimio offers.

Kurt's eyes look worse. Like he might actually cry. He's staring at the desk. "I do not know what they would have done differently."

Just to switch things up, Azimio uses one of A's example sentences instead of B's, and says, "No, the rain is not bad and it is not cold. Let us walk the dog now."

"He did not do anything to me this time. Well, he did steal the," and he uses a word Azimio doesn't know. "He did not hurt me. But I have never been so –" He shudders.

So Azimio knows that Karofsky is still on this and as soon as school lets out, he goes after him, which is how he saves Kurt's life.

That's not right, really. Karofsky wouldn't have hurt him. He just wanted to scare him. If Azimio had gone temporarily insane and kissed a dude, he'd do the same.

But he does have a knife when Azimio finds them out in back of the school. He wouldn't even have found them if he hadn't thought to call Karofsky's cell; he'd seen him headed for the back of the building but somehow Karofsky's gotten Hummel over in this weird little dip at the left side of the school, behind some stairs. It's easy to overlook and people don't usually go there except to smoke. Azimio jumps over the side of the wheelchair ramp and almost heads in the opposite direction, but thinks to call first. Karofsky's phone buzzes loudly enough that he goes the right way.

It's just a pocket knife. It's unfolded in his hand. One of his hands. The other one is over Hummel's mouth and –

Azimio could swear Karofsky sees him from the corner of his eye.

He stops talking, whatever he was saying, a low, heated rush. Still holding the knife against his face, he runs his free hand down Hummel's back to clutch at his waist. He's crying. He jams his lips against Hummel's.

"But I didn't," Hummel chokes out the second he can, "I didn't tell anyone – oh god please –" He definitely sees Azimio, and hope flares in his eyes for a second and then – disappears, his attention switching back to Karofsky, like he knows Azimio won't help so he's not even worth noticing.

"Yeah, you did," Azimio says. "Jesus, Karofsky, the fuck you doing?"

Karofsky doesn't jerk away from Hummel. He should, and he doesn't. He rests his forehead against Kurt's and strokes his cheek with his thumb and traces his jaw with the knife. "You did," he agrees. "Azimio knows."

"I didn't, I didn't." He's paper-white and his lips are trembling, but Karofsky's the one who's crying. Irritation flares in Azimio, because why the fuck does Karofsky have to turn a death threat into some pussy weepathon if the faggiest fag in Ohio can keep it together.

"Yes," he says again, in French this time, "you did tell me. You have told me a lot of things."

Kurt looks at him. It takes him a second to focus. Then he vomits.

Karofsky steps out of the way and looks at Azimio. "What did you say to him?"

"I let him know I been understanding when he uses me to play dear diary in French class because he thinks I don't speak the language."

"Huh." Karofsky calmly wipes his cheeks with the hand holding the knife. He almost puts his eye out. He fastens his other hand to Kurt's collar, like he's keeping him from running away, but absently pats his back with a few fingers.

"Jesus," Azimio says again. "Let him go, man, this shit ain't worth it."

Kurt spits and straightens up, wiping his mouth. Karofsky pulls him closer, keeps him there with the hand holding the knife. It doesn't look dangerous, Azimio thinks vaguely. It's just a pocket knife. The blade is only a couple of inches long, and it's probably not that sharp. It's still a knife, and it's still pressing into Kurt's back.

"I can't now," Karofsky says helplessly. "He'll tell."

"I won't."

"He won't," Azimio says. "Ain't nothing to tell." He cracks his knuckles and glares at Kurt, which is a normal, comforting thing to do, what is this knife bullshit.

"Absolutely." Kurt puts a hand on Karofsky's arm and slowly pushes it away. "Karofsky. I would never have told him if I knew."

"Go on," Karofsky says uncomfortably, and waves a hand. It's the hand with the knife, the one Kurt just pushed away like it was nothing, but at which he now flinches violently. "Shit. Go on."

On the way past Azimio, Kurt meets his eyes for a second and his face contorts, like there are a lot of things he wants to say, and then he doesn't say any of them. Good. He hates the fag so much right now, it burns in his throat. He's unnatural and sick and he's all over Karofsky right now, like he's stealing him just by running away.

They're alone a second later, Kurt's footsteps speeding up as he gets farther away. Karofsky stares at Azimio, and folds the knife up and slips it into his pocket, and stares some more. "If he tells," he says.

"I'll back you up." Azimio shrugs. "Ain't nothing to tell," he repeats.

"You saw, though. I kissed him, you saw that, I kissed Kurt." His voice cracks on "Kurt." Later, Azimio thinks maybe it would have been different if it had been on "you" or "kissed" or anything but fucking "Kurt", if maybe it had even been "Hummel." Karofsky looks like he wants to fall apart.

That isn't the kind of best friends they are. Maybe not ever, certainly not now. "Ain't nothing to tell," Azimio tells him, and walks away.

This is the last conversation Azimio has with Kurt Hummel for a very long time:

His cell rings and he answers it absently, registering that it's not a number in his contacts but whatever, he switched phones recently.

"Hello," Kurt says, in French.

"How did you get my phone number?" Azimio asks, in French too because fuck that shit, he's as good as Hummel is at this.

"Finn got it from one of your Cro-Magnon friends in common. We need to talk about Karofsky. Thank you, incidentally, for saving my life." His tone is just scathing enough that it takes all cool out of being someone's hero.

"No, we do not need to talk about Karofsky. He is my friend, not yours, and you do not know the first goddamn thing about him."

"You're right," Kurt says, switching to English. "He's your friend. Did you hear his expulsion was reversed?"

"What?" Shit.

"Yeah. I'm leaving, I'm going to another school. But he'll be back, and he needs –" He pauses. "How long have you been able to understand everything I told you in French?"

"The whole damn time, homo."

"Oh, god." Kurt sniffs, either with disdain or because he's crying, Azimio can't tell. "No. Alright. Karofsky. Azimio, he needs you. He's a psycho who's edging on becoming a murderer and he's guilty of several counts of sexual assault and harassment, but he needs you. I – okay. I've already told you virtually every secret I have and added his to the pile, so here's one more: He's tried to kill himself."

"No way," Azimio says with absolute certainty.

"Yes. When he – when he had the knife. You came out when he was telling me. He thinks about it all the time, and he's tried it, and I really think he might try it again. I know you have a problem the size of Everest with homosexuality, but you have got to get your head out of your ass and make him talk to someone, because I won't be there and I'm not his personal gay scratching post."

"No. You can't even tell when he's lying. He was just trying to freak you out. He wouldn't have hurt you, it was just a pocket knife."

"He took twenty-three of his mom's sleeping pills. He puked them up, I don't even know if he meant to or if it just happened. Azimio…"

Azimio hangs up. He enters Kurt's number into his contacts list as "Homo Alert Do Not Answer."

He calls Karofsky after dinner. "Az," Karofsky says when he answers. He hasn't called him that in a while, not for a few years anyway, since Azimio decided nicknames weren't cool.

Azimio doesn't bother. "You know Hummel's switching schools?"


"Yeah. So this whole thing, man, we can just put it behind us."

"Right." Karofsky pauses. "Hey, man, what you saw…"

"I didn't see anything. Look, bro, whatever… experimentation thing you had to do, whatever, it's over. And I didn't see anything. You're my main boy, and I'm gonna say this just one time. You are not gay. Because you are my boy, and if my boy was gay, you know what that would make me at school? You ain't going down and I ain't going down with you."

Karofsky breathes for a minute. "But," he says. "Yeah. But…"

"Making out with Cheerios Brittany don't make you straight, and lip-locking with Hummel don't make you gay. You're normal. And now Hummel's gone, everything else can go back to normal too."

"Yeah. I mean I'm normal. I just…"

"I told you before, man. You gotta make a choice here."

"Sure," Karofsky says. "Okay. Yeah. I'll see you at school tomorrow. Everything will be normal."

Two things that happen the next day:

1) Madame Mitchell has to partner with Azimio herself, because there's an odd number of people in class now. Azimio misses Kurt. He was funny, he realizes now, and he let Azimio get good grades without being a nerd about it, and he was there the whole time. Madame Mitchell keeps having to go help people. It's boring as hell. And he really, really dislikes Kurt Hummel, but he was one of the little creep's best friends, even if he didn't know it.


2) He and some buddies round up a geeky freshman who's thinking about joining the AV club and present him to Karofsky as a gift after school.

"You get to toss him in the dumpster yourself, bro," Azimio tells Karofsky.

"Cool." Karofsky grins and hoists the little freak, getting a feel for his weight. "Bet I can do it from here?" He frowns and pauses, holding the whimpering dude in the air. "Wait, what's the occasion?"

Azimio smiles. "Didn't you notice? No Hummel." He punches the arm of the nearest jock without looking to see who it is. "Let's all give a round of applause for Dave Karofsky. Dude, you got it done, what we been working on our whole careers. McKinley High is an official gay-free zone!" The other guys whoop.

Karofsky's grin falters, then rallies. He looks a little green. He throws the freshman though, without really looking. It's nothing personal, and it's not dangerous, and Azimio claps him on the back. "Good job," he says, and beams. "That's my boy."

AN: This story has a sequel, "Eventyr", which can be found on my profile page should y'all be interested.