A/N: I literally only threw this together at work today. It's not particularly high quality and it's pretty short for one of my fics, but I found it was a plot bunny that just wouldn't let go. Also, long story short, it was very cathartic for me to write. Reviews are, as always, both love and the crack to my addiction. Constructive Crit is always welcome, but don't be a dick about it. Also, don't complain that Kurt's reaction is unrealistic. Abuse victims react in different ways, and sometimes they're just looking for a little safety in order to talk.
WARNINGS: Sexual abuse of a minor, minor self harm. If either of those things are triggering for you, you may want to rethink reading this.
Will knew it was an awkward situation. A male student... reacting to another student's dance performance in class was always going to be awkward, particularly when the performer was another boy. The teacher understood Kurt's embarrassment, that he'd just wanted to go to the bathroom to "compose himself". He was sure it had happened to all of the boys at some stage, watching all the girls in Glee gyrate and twist as they did. He'd seen Artie put his bag on his lap on multiple occasions, and Sam and Finn slowly and deliberately crossing their legs. Puck didn't even bother hiding it, just shooting whichever girl it was a wink and allowing Quinn to smack him across the back of the head. The teacher always just winced in sympathy and didn't acknowledge it; he'd been their age once, after all. He'd just make sure they weren't the next ones to perform and allow them to go to the bathroom without questioning why they were gone for so long. It was embarrassing as hell for the poor kid, but it was a natural, if unfortunate, part of being a teenage boy. So Will couldn't understand what he was seeing.
Kurt had been gone for nearly half an hour when the teacher had finally sent Finn to find him. There was time to "compose" yourself and just avoiding returning to class. He figured that, as the boy's were basically step brothers, sending Finn to find Kurt in a potentially personal situation was the most reasonable. But Finn came back about five minutes later without Kurt, and frantically waved Mr Schuester outside the class. The teacher indicated for Rachel to take over the vocal warm ups and slipped outside, frowning.
"What's up, Finn? Couldn't you find Kurt?" he asked, taking in Finn's tense posture and worried frown with concern. Finn shook his head.
"No, I found him fine, he's right over there," he pointed to the Girls' bathroom across from the choir room. "But he won't come out. I thought he might be, you know... taking care of things-"
He cut himself off at Mr Schuester's surprised look with a blush, "Yeah, I noticed. I don't think anyone else did, though, I was just sitting next to him. But I don't think he is, you know... I mean, I told him to hurry up and he told me to... well, "eff off". I have never heard him swear before, and he kinda sounded like he was about to cry. I think something is really wrong but he wouldn't talk to me and I can't really go into the girls' room."
Will sighed and nodded, "Okay, I'll go talk to him. Go back in, Rachel is just running through the scales. Just don't - tell anyone, okay?"
"No, I won't," Finn assured him, eyes wide and earnest. "I mean, I get it. Who hasn't it happened to? It's embarrassing, yeah, but I don't get why he's so upset."
"I'll try to find out," Will patted Finn on the shoulder as the boisterous boy bounded back into class. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but his heart is in the right place, at least. The teacher could hear water running when he approached the girls' bathroom, pausing at the door to pull a post-it note out of his pocket, scrawling Out-Of-Order across it and sticking it to the door; he didn't want any girls wandering in to find a boy and a male teacher having a heart-to-heart about unintentional erections. Why is he in the girls' room anyway?Maybe he doesn't think he'd be safe in the guys room in his condition. God knows what a jock would do to him if they found him.
He stuck his head in first, not wanting to start talking only to find that Kurt was gone and a girl was in there instead. But it was Kurt leaning over the sink, rinsing his mouth out and scrubbing his hands under the running water. The teacher cringed. Guess he did take care of it after all.
"Kurt," he said softly, raising an eyebrow when the boy flinched and shifted away, looking over at the teacher with red-rimmed eyes. Will's eyes widened when he took in the tear tracks on Kurt's cheeks and the pallor of his normally pale-enough face. The boy went tense when the teacher stepped into the room, suspicion twisting his child-like features.
"Mr Schuester," he muttered formally, returning to scrubbing at his hands. "Can I help you?"
"Yeah, I sent Finn to find you and he said you sounded upset," the teacher let the door shut behind him, taking a casual step towards the boy. He faltered when Kurt pressed himself into the counter, shying away. He continued after a pause. "I know you're embarrassed, Kurt, but it's really no big deal. Only Finn and I noticed, and we're not going to talk about it."
The teacher froze as a shudder ran through Kurt's body, his hands working furiously under the tap. The teacher's gaze dropped to the water.
Is that steam?
"Kurt, how hot is that water?" he asked, alarmed. When Kurt didn't answer him, he stepped forward and grabbed the boy by the wrist. Near-boiling water flicked onto Will's hands from the tap, and the teacher's mouth dropped open when he saw the scalded flesh on Kurt's hands. He turned the tap off as Kurt yanked himself free, flinging his slender body against the nearest wall and glaring at Mr Schuester. For a moment they just stared at one another, the teacher's brain struggling to catch up to the previous few seconds and Kurt just silent and glaring.
"Kurt," he started, his voice shaking slightly. "Your hands are burnt."
The boy just shrugged, folding his arms over his chest, "They're fine. They're clean."
"I'll say, they're burnt," the teacher repeated. He reached over and turn the cold water on, waiting a moment until he was sure that it wasn't going to burn him before he beckoned Kurt over. "Come on, we need to put cold water on them."
Kurt didn't move, blue-green eyes still narrowed suspiciously at the teacher. Frustration welled in Will, making him feel hot with anger, "Kurt, come on. I don't know what this is about, but you need to get over here. You must be in pain."
"I'm fine," Kurt insisted, still lodged firmly against the wall. There was an edge to his voice that softened Will's irritation and left concern bleeding through the cracks. "Really. I'll come back to class. You can go now."
"You're clearly not okay," the teacher shook his head, looking at the now trembling boy. What the hell is going on in his head? "Kurt, you're shaking. I know you must be embarrassed, but you have nothing to be embarrassed about. It's totally natural-"
Kurt flinched and shrank back further, squeezing his eyes shut. For a moment the teacher froze, then took a tentative step forward. Kurt dropped to the ground with his arms around his knees, pulling himself into a tight ball and letting out a choked sob.
"Oh, Kurt," Will breathed, his heart breaking to see one of his kids so hurt. He was still confused - surely the boy couldn't be that embarrassed - but he pushed that aside in favour of trying to comfort him. He crouched next to the boy and placed a hand on Kurt's bony shoulder, only for the boy to cringe away.
"Please don't touch me," he muttered, pulling his face up enough that his teacher could see the fear on his face. Will raised his hands in a placating gesture.
"Okay, I won't, but you need to talk to me," he said firmly, Kurt's movement showing his scalded hands. "You just hurt yourself, Kurt. I can't let that go."
Kurt looked up a little more, staring at his hands in surprise. He ducked his head and mumbled, "I didn't mean to. I couldn't feel it. I just needed to clean my hands."
Will winced, "Yes, I understand that, but the water was boiling. In fact, stick out your hands, I should check them for blisters."
The boy pulled his hands close to his body before Will could even finish the words, his red-rimmed eyes going wide.
"I'm not going to touch you," Kurt blurted out, his already high voice rising in pitch. His face contorted into an ugly scowl, a deep betrayal and fear in his usually masked eyes. The teacher froze.
"I don't want you to touch me," he said slowly. "I don't need to touch you either. I just need to see that your hands aren't too badly burnt."
He held up his hands in front of him, "Just hold them up like this, so I can see them."
Slowly, Kurt obeyed. The teacher inspected them from a distance, the boy watching him like a hawk. The skin on his hands was red and slightly swollen, but there were no actual blisters.
"Okay, those look okay," he confirmed cautiously. Kurt instantly pulled his hands back behind his legs, which were still drawn tightly up to his chest. The teacher sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as Kurt glared at him. "Why did you use boiling water, Kurt?"
Kurt shifted, "I didn't notice it was boiling."
"You scalded your hands, you're trying to tell me you couldn't feel that?" Will shook his head as Kurt shrugged sullenly. "Kurt, I know that you're embarrassed, and I get that. I was 17 once too, you know. It happens."
Kurt's shoulders tensed, and his eyes narrowed. The teacher continued, determined, "And I know you might be embarrassed at having to... deal with it at school, but-"
"What?" Kurt's eyes widened, and he gave his teacher a horrified look. "You don't think I - did that, do you?"
Will hesitated, "Well, you were washing your hands-"
"I'd been throwing up!" Kurt cried, scowling and outraged. "They smelled bad. I wouldn't - I never - how could you think I do that? It's disgusting."
The teacher raised his eyebrows, "We're talking about the same thing, right? I've never heard a teenage boy refer to masturbation as disgusting before."
Kurt made a disgusted noise at the back of his throat, looking vaguely nauseous and frightened, "It is disgusting. It's demeaning and dirty and - how could you think I was doing that? I would never do that."
"Okay, okay," the teacher soothed, raising his hands in surrender. "I didn't mean to offend you, Kurt. I just thought - you'd been gone a while."
"Like I said, I was puking," he snarled. He was pressing himself back into the tiled wall so hard Will worried he was going to bruise. "But I've finally stopped so you can go back to class, I'll be there in a minute."
"I think maybe we should talk a bit more, Kurt," Will said gently, furrowing his brow. "Reacting like this to something that is a natural - though embarrassing - part of life isn't normal."
"Stop using that word," Kurt growled, digging his fingers into his knees so hard his knuckles turned white. "It's not natural, it's sick and disgusting and wrong and I hate it when it happens to me."
Will drew back a little, shocked by the vehemence in Kurt's voice. Alarms started buzzing in his head at the boy's conviction. What the hell...? "Kurt, maybe we should go and have a talk in my office-"
"No," Kurt snapped, putting one hand down on the floor to try and push himself back even further. "I'm not going to your office with you so you can show me how natural it is."
"Okay, it's okay, I - show you?" Will paused, the odd choice of words sinking into his consciousness. "I don't understand what you mean."
The boy just glared. A sort of creeping fear was slipping into Will's head as he took in his student's pale face, his terrified but furious eyes, the tension in his body. Has someone... tried to show him before?Will swallowed convulsively, feeling a tiny shake in his voice when he said, "Would it make you feel better if I stood a little further away while we talk?"
"I don't see why we have to talk about anything, but yes," Kurt's voice was hard and haughty, but there was a tremor to it that completely ruined the angry effect. "If you could get out of my personal space, I would appreciate it."
"We need to talk about some of it, Kurt," Will said firmly, getting to his feet and taking a few steps back. Kurt slowly followed his lead, rising to his feet and folding his arms in front of his stomach, but staying pressed up against the wall. "Getting physically ill and hurting yourself just because you had an uncontrollable reaction to something isn't normal, and it isn't healthy."
Kurt snorted and tossed his head, fixing his fringe with a trembling hand, "What, just because I don't enjoy demeaning and degrading myself, I'm not normal?"
"I'm not saying you're not normal, Kurt," the teacher shook his head. His face felt a little hot at having to explain this to his student, but his concern over rid his embarrassment. "I'm just worried. This is a very violent reaction to something that is - and I don't know why you're so resistant to the idea - natural."
"Stop saying that!"
"You told me you wouldn't let me show you that it was natural," Will spoke over Kurt's furious words, feeling a pang in his chest when angry tears welled up in those bright eyes. "What did you mean by show you, Kurt?"
"Precisely what I said," Kurt snarled. He dropped his hands to his sides, the elegant fingers curled into tight fists. He was breathing heavily, his eyes darting between glaring at the teacher and staring intently at the door. He looked ready to throw a punch at the first sign of trouble, and it was so far from his usual composure that Will would have been amused if he wasn't so terrified. "If you try to 'show me how natural' it is I swear to God I'll scream."
Horror at the implications of Kurt's words momentarily stunned Will, "Kurt, no. Do you really think I would do that? That I would - molest you, or something?"
"I wouldn't have," Kurt admitted, still clenching his fists. "But I didn't before, either, and this conversation is beginning to sound awfully familiar. I won't let you touch me."
The words sent a jolt of horror through the teacher, even as his suspicions were confirmed. Kurt seemed to be trying to stare him down, like he was a threat to the teen, and Will just shook his head, disbelieving.
"Kurt, I want you to listen to me very closely, okay?" he tried to keep his voice soft, soothing, but his distress added an edge to his voice that he couldn't control. "I will never, ever lay an inappropriate hand on you or any other child. Ever. I might be pretty affectionate person, I know I hug you guys a lot but it will never be sexual, and it never should be. I - who did you have this conversation with before, Kurt?"
Kurt's gaze got a little less angry as Will spoke, but he just pursed his lips and looked away when he was questioned. Will waited for a few long moments, the silence tense and strained. The teacher spoke quietly, "Kurt, you're talking about someone sexually abusing you. That's really serious. I can't just let it go. You need to talk to me, or at least talk to someone. Mrs Pillsbury-Howell, or your dad-"
"Dad would go after him with a shotgun," Kurt interrupted, shaking his head. "And Ms Pillsbury-Howell is certifiable. I'm fine, okay? I don't need to talk about it. It was ages ago and I don't see him much anymore."
"Much? So you still see him sometimes," Will deduced, automatically taking a step forward. When Kurt flinched, he froze. He slowly stepped back, keeping a decent distance between them. "You don't have to be afraid of me, Kurt. I'm not going to hurt you."
"I never thought he would, either," the boy muttered. Some of the rage was slipping from his posture, leaving something small and hurt in its place. "I was such an idiot."
"How old were you, Kurt?" the teacher asked, trying to coax an answer from the boy. Kurt snorted.
"14," he said shortly, his mouth set in a firm, hard line. "Old enough to know better than to fall for his bullshit-"
"Kurt, no," Will took a step forward. This time, Kurt didn't flinch away, just glared at himself in the bathroom mirror. "That's not true. I don't know who you're talking about, but you were a kid. If it was an adult who took advantage of you, then that's on him. It's not your fault."
"I let him," Kurt's voice was flat, hard. He was still glaring at his reflection, not reacting when Will took a tentative step towards him. "I just... let him. It was disgusting and demeaning and I knew I should stop him but I didn't, because it felt good and I let him-"
"You were a child," the teacher repeated, slowly reaching out a hand and placing it on Kurt's shoulder. Kurt didn't pull away. He looked up at his teacher with damp eyes, a hidden fury and hurt bleeding through with his tears. Will resisted the urge to pull his student close to his chest, not knowing what would frighten and what would comfort. "There's a reason kids can't give consent, Kurt. Even if their body is ready for sex, their minds aren't. No matter what you said yes to, he was taking advantage. You couldn't have known what it meant. "
There was a pause as Will tried to persuade Kurt with his eyes, the teenager's own eyes full of grief and anger. After a pause, the teacher continued, "Tell me what happened, Kurt. This - whatever it is - hurt you, and I can help you, but you need to tell me what happened to you."
They stood in dead silence for about a minute. Kurt seemed to be searching for something in his teacher's eyes, something that told him that he could trust him, that he was safe. He seemed to find it.
"Mr Ryerson," he whispered, looking back to the mirror. As the teacher cringed, he gave a half-hearted smile. "I know, right? Who else. Everyone knew he was a perv, but he as always so nice to me and I kind of thought that he was gay so I tried to befriend him, you know? I just... wanted to feel less alone."
Will felt a prickling in his eyes as Kurt's voice became softer and more vulnerable than he'd ever heard before, his eyes sad and lost and so very young. The boy continued in a rush, trying to get the poisonous words out of his system, "He told me that he wanted me to have a role in a play he was directing, and asked me to watch a film version with him. I - I can't even remember what it was called. I just remember us being alone in the choir room after school and he put on this DVD."
The boy's face went red slowly, and he couldn't even look his own reflection in the eye, "It wasn't a play. It was... one of those movies. With two men."
Kurt voice hitched and Will squeezed his shoulder a little. He continued, "I started - reacting to it. I just - I didn't get it. It was the first time I'd ever seen, you know, men and I just -"
"You can't control your body, Kurt," the teacher soothed, looking around for a paper towel when tears started falling on Kurt's face again. "Especially at that age."
"He just kept touching me," Kurt muttered, wiping his face on the back of his hands. "Everywhere. Telling me that it was natural, that it was normal, and I just let him do it."
"You trusted him," Kurt's words were ripping Will's heart into little pieces, but he managed to keep his voice more or less even. "He was your teacher. You should have been able to. That he betrayed that trust isn't your fault."
"I just want to forget," Kurt's shoulders started shaking, and he wrapped his arms around himself again. "I can't - think about that stuff without remembering, and it feels so wrong-"
"It was wrong, Kurt," the teacher slowly pulled the boy too him into a comforting hug. He made sure to keep his hands on the boy's upper-back and to keep them still, unsure of what supposedly innocent touch might set him off. "That's abuse, and it's degrading and disgusting and everything you said it was, but that's all on him. It wasn't sex. Sex is something positive that you will discover for yourself when you're old enough and ready. That he forced it on you before you were makes it abuse."
Kurt hands reached up and clung to Mr Schuester's shirt, and the teacher could feel tears soaking through the fabric at his shoulder. A sob escaped Kurt's mouth and broke the dam holding the boy together. He half collapsed against his teacher and the man just held him, whispering soothing words that pierced the haze of grief and fear and soothed something in the boy he didn't know needed it.
"You're okay, Kurt. It's okay, you're safe. It'll get better, I promise."
Those words would reverberate for both of them in different ways. They would carry Kurt through telling his father and talking to police, through therapy and trusting again, through learning that part of himself in his own time, at his own pace. They would give Will a deep sense of protectiveness for his kids, a need and a yearning to guard them from harm and to see their pain, a burning rage for those who would hurt his kids in such a way. If those words meant that the next day Kurt was in tears from dawn until dusk and Will had been arrested for breaking Sandy Ryerson's jaw, they could live with that. Those words would save them in the long term.