Disclaimer: I do not own Glee, therefore this story is strictly for entertainment purposes.
The Chalice Lighting was taken from the 1997 UUMA Worship Materials Collection and the closure for the service is one often used at Olympia Brown U.U. Church in Racine, WI.
I cupped Kurt's cheeks, my big hands swallowing up the sides of his face and leaned in, crushing his lips beneath mine; I was rough and over-eager. He was shaking so badly and when he gasped I forced his lips wider. Our teeth clicked together painfully as I licked into his mouth, exploring the softness of it until I was forced to come up for air, my hands leaving his face in a caress.
The look on his face took my breath away. His ever-changing eyes were wide and shining and his face was flushed. I leaned in for another kiss just as the fire alarm started going off incessantly...
"Damn it!" Rolling over, I swung a pillow at my alarm clock, knocking it and a small pile of books off the little table next to my bed. Grumbling incoherently I rolled out of bed, dropped to my knees and scooped up the alarm, fumbling with the buttons until it stopped making that awful, wailing sound.
"Yeah, Dad. Sorry," I called as I rolled to my feet and set the little clock back in its place.
"That's fine. Just try and keep it down. Its early."
"Yes, Sir. Sorry." My shoulders slumped; I couldn't help it. It seemed like all I'd done since that whole mess with Hummel was apologize. To my Dad, Principle Figgins, Azimio. Pretty much everyone but Hummel and his Gleeky friends.
Hummel. Kurt Hummel. Kurt of the ever-changing blue-green eyes and the sinfully soft lips. Kurt who made me question everything I ever believed about myself. Kurt who I desperately wanted to apologize to. But with him away at Dalton and glued to that pretty boy's side I had no hope of getting near him, much less apologizing to him.
Guilt and shame are pretty heavy things. Ever since Kurt had left, I felt like I was on the verge of collapse, crumbling under their combined weight. But, if I was honest with myself, the biggest chunks of guilt and shame I was carrying around had to do with the way I thought of myself. The way I treated myself.
Every homophobic slur, thrown slushie and forced laugh in the locker room about getting to third base with some girl was just another bit of added weight. I knew if I didn't do something, and quickly, I was going to break into a million tiny pieces.
Which is why, at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning, I was fumbling with my alarm clock. I wasn't really sure about my decision to go to church, any church, but I figured if God could forgive me then maybe, even without Kurt's forgiveness, I could start to forgive myself. And if I could forgive myself, I reasoned, then maybe I could drop the walls and masks, let go of the hate and just be me.
With my thoughts all tangled up and the remnant of the dream teasing me, I hopped in the shower, scrubbed up quickly and then retreated to my room to figure out what to wear.
I mean, even if the church I was going to wasn't really a church per se but a fellowship, I really wasn't sure what to wear. Whenever I went to church with Dad, which was like all of twice a year on Christmas and Easter, we dressed up but I didn't want to be pretentious and that just felt like overkill. Everything I knew about the Unitarian Universalist Church led me to believe that everyone was welcome and that made me think that I'd be better off just going casual.
"Gah. What the hell, Karofsky, you're not a girl so quit obsessing," I whispered to myself, grabbing a decent pair of jeans and my favorite, teal blue, polo from my dresser. The shirt was almost two years old and the color was as vivid as the day I'd brought it home; not surprising as it hadn't seen the light of day since I'd purchased it on a whim. It wasn't really the kind of thing I'd wear to school, not with the way Azimio and the others tended to slap labels on anyone who dared to dress in something other then ragged jeans, t-shirts and trainers.
After a quick check in the mirror, I grabbed my IPod and crept past my dad's room to head downstairs. I grabbed an apple and froze at the sight of my varsity jacket where it hung in its place of honor just to the right of the backdoor. That jacket was a part of my mask, a kind of safety blanket proclaiming my tough guy, jock status; I never went anywhere without it.
My hand trembled as I reached past it to grab my keys and I had to crank down on the anger and bitterness rising up inside of me. As much as I loved the status that the red jacket represented, I hated everything else it had come to represent in my life. Shaking my head I pushed out the door, leaving the jacket on its hook. Hunching my shoulders against the early spring chill I hurried to my red, slightly rusty '96 Ford F150.
I relaxed when the door closed behind me and exhaled roughly. The truck, a gift from my dad on my sixteenth birthday had become my haven in the past few weeks. I felt safe enough when I was shut up inside that I could let go of the rage, just a little, and relax. Smiling, I pulled my IPod's car kit out of the glove box and plugged it in before turning on the engine.
As I backed out of the drive, Linkin Park's Crawling filled the cab and I lost myself in the beat and the lyrics, singing and screaming out the lyrics as my hands drummed on the faded grey vinyl of the steering wheel.
I lost my voice, throat closing as the next song started, and tightened my hands around the wheel, knuckles going white and bloodless, fingers cramping. Eddi Reader's soulful voice swelled in the cab and by the second verse of Bell, Book and Candle I was singing again, my deep voice finding the harmonies, my heart understanding the words just a little too well. This was the song I'd cried myself to sleep listening too the night I'd forced Kurt into the kiss he so obviously hadn't wanted.
As the song ended I pulled into the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and flicked my stereo off. I was way early, like almost twenty minutes, but the lot was full except for one spot at the very edge. I eased my truck into the spot, rolled my window down part way and cut the engine.
The sky was cloudless and despite the chill in the air the sun, streaming through the glass, was hot. Within minutes I was sweating and the left side of my face felt like it was on fire but I didn't mind. The quiet gave me time to think and to try and relax. Before I knew it there was like five minutes left till the start of service.
I was nervous, shaking on the inside even if my hands were steady as I slid out of the truck. Squaring my shoulders, I walked slowly across the lot, my eyes focused on the large white house with its crisp green I climbed the stairs, the screen door swung open.
I froze, trapped by the dark eyes of the guy holding the door. He smiled and I think I smiled back but it felt more like a grimace. My shoulders tightened and I forced myself into motion, feet dragging across the gray wood of the porch.
"Hey," he said, meeting my eyes without fear; his smile was bright and friendly and, oddly, I noticed that while his teeth were toothpaste commercial white, his left incisor was crooked.
He was gorgeous. Kurt Hummel was pretty but this guy was drop dead gorgeous. I couldn't help but stare. For starters, he was tiny, I wasn't sure, just looking at him, if he'd even clear my shoulder. His hair, dyed a startling shade of fire engine red, was cut short like mine on the back and sides but long and blue-black in the front; the chin-length fringe kept falling over his eyes every time he moved his head. Like me, he was dressed in a pair of jeans and a simple polo, though his was black.
"Uh, hey." I nodded, reaching out to shake his extended hand without even thinking about it.
"First time, huh? Mine too," he admitted, shaking my hand firmly. "I'm Alex."
"C'mon. Service is about to start." He tugged and I belatedly realized that he hadn't let go of my hand, just shifted his grip to draw me inside. I almost whimpered when he let go and turned to find a seat but I bit back the sound and followed, settling carefully on the folding chair beside his just as a deep, resonant gong sounded.
People had been talking when we walked in, but at the sound the room fell respectfully silent and people settled, turning their attention to the front of the room where a small gold cup sat on a pedestal. To my right was a podium with a design on the front that looked a lot like the cup.
Alex leaned over, his shoulder brushing mine, and whispered softly. "That's the Chalice."
I nodded and scrunched down in the chair, offering Alex a small smile as a woman approached the Chalice with a lit taper. Smiling, she began speaking reverently.
"Blessed is the fire that burns deep in the soul.
It is the flame of the human spirit touched into being by the mystery of life.
It is the fire of reason; the fire of compassion; the fire of community; the fire of justice; the fire of faith.
It is the fire of love burning deep in the human heart; the divine glow in every life."
As she finished, she touched the taper to the center of the Chalice and a bright, warm flame flared to life. My chest hurt and I clenched my jaw, straightening as another person moved to the podium. Unlike the services I'd been to at the Catholic Church, this one started with a quick rundown of reminders as well as social and charitable events sponsored by the congregation. When that was done the woman who had lit the Chalice Flame stepped forward again, smiling warmly.
" Welcome friends and seekers. If this is your first or second or third time with us, be doubly welcomed. If you're brave enough, you can feel free to stand and introduce yourself," she added with a laugh, eyes sparkling.
I swallowed a groan as Alex leapt up, flashing that bright smile, and all eyes turned towards the back of the room.
"Hi, I'm Alex. I just moved here from Racine, Wisconsin and I'm hoping to find a new home away from Olympia Brown."
People smiled, called out greetings as he sat down then turned their eyes to me. I shifted uncomfortably under that collective stare and pushed awkwardly to my feet as Alex nudged me.
"Um. My name's Dave," I said, my voice sounding so soft and uncertain. "I guess I'm here because I'm looking for something. Though, I'm not really sure what." I sat quickly and tucked my chin to my chest as I received the same warm welcome as Alex.
The service was relatively simple, consisting of readings and music. With Alex's help I was able to follow along. I sang though I was surprised at the variety of music, almost none of it what I would classify as church music.
At one point, just like at Mass, everyone stood and shook hands or hugged the people nearest them. I offered Alex my hand but he pulled me into a tight hug. Blushing, I returned the hug and couldn't help but smile when I realized that the top of his head fit neatly under my chin.
After that came Joys and Concerns. A handful of people lined up near a stylized metal tree that held maybe twenty or thirty little unlit candles. One by one they each offered up a piece of themselves, sharing something that had happened since the last time they were here. Many of the things shared were definitely joys but there were a few concerns.
As the last person returned to their seat, the woman who had lit the Chalice, approached the candle tree, another lit taper in hand. "We light another candle for the Joys and Sorrows not expressed today," she said, voice reverent as she lit a tall candle at the top of the tree.
I tried to listen to the sermon that followed but had a hard time tracking what the man at the podium was saying; my mind was jumbled, even more so then when I had first woken up. It wasn't until Alex tugged me to my feet that I realized the service was almost over.
I watched his hands as he deftly opened the hymnal and couldn't stop myself from leaning close as we sang the closing song. Feeling more at ease then I had in a long time, I even returned his shy smile as our shoulders brushed together.
Anne, the woman who had lit the Chalice and the final candle during Joys and Concerns, approached the Chalice once last time. I felt Alex slip his hand into mine and then the woman across the isle stepped closer and took my other hand.
Anne smiled and winked at Alex whose face lit up as if he knew just what was coming.
"I extinguish the flame in this Chalice, but the fire and the light go on in you. This service is ended but your service is just begun. Peace and unrest," she said as she slid a lid over the flame, dousing it.
"Peace and unrest." I stumbled over the words as I repeated them along with the rest of the congregation. Alex squeezed my fingers, as did the woman on my other side and I felt this huge smile break across my face.
"So, what did you think," Alex asked as I glanced at him.
"I'm not sure. I think I liked it though," I admitted, shoving my hands into my pockets. "Course, I'm not sure I was really paying attention when that dude was talking."
Alex laughed and I tensed until he touched my shoulder. "That's okay, Dave. You look like you have a lot on your mind."
"Yeah. So, how come everyone's hanging around? Don't most people take off after service?"
"Coffee hour." Grinning, Alex slipped around me and slipped into the crowd as it flowed into another room. Curious, I followed and planted myself out of the way against a wall.
People broke off into little clusters, talking and laughing and I watched as Alex flitted from group to group, a small smile tugging at my lips. Eventually, he found his way over to me along with Anne and a boy and girl of about seven who looked like twins.
"Dave, this is my Aunt Anne and these are my cousins Eric and Sarah," he said, ruffling the kids' hair.
"Hello, David." Anne smiled and offered her hand which I took, while the twins stared up at me curiously.
"Hi." I glanced down at the twins and smiled, laughing when Sarah blushed and hid her face against Alex's side.
"So, Alex tells me that this is your first visit to a UU Church. I really hope you'll come again. Unlike what you might be used to, the format of the service changes pretty regularly and if you haven't noticed," she added, grinning, "everyone's welcome."
I nodded and bit my lips, glancing over at Alex who just flashed me that sunny smile of his. "Thank you. I think... No, I know I'll come back," I said, offering Anne another smile. It felt good to smile.
"Good! Well, I guess I'll see you next Sunday. Have a good week."
"You too, Anne," I said as she wandered off, twins trailing behind her.
"Your Aunt's pretty cool." I shoved my hands in my pockets and pushed off of the wall.
"Yeah. She is. She's a life saver, honestly," Alex said, his smile fading a bit.
"So, how long are you gonna be in Lima," I asked, weaving through the crowd with Alex at my side.
"Permanently. Or, well, at least until graduation."
"Yeah. I start school tomorrow."
"Huh. So how come you moved here of all places?"
Alex shifted from foot to foot then darted a head to catch the door, following me out onto the wide porch. "Because my parents thought my friends back home were a bad influence."
"Shit, man. I'm sorry." Frowning, I settled against the railing and dropped my eyes to the floor. "Can I ask why?"
I felt as Alex settled next to me, his shoulder touching mine again. I loved it, that little bit of contact but I hated how tense he felt!
"Its no big. They sent me here to get away from that influence but I think they forgot that Aunt Anne is a U.U." He sighed softly. "I'm gay."
I grunted and leaned into him just a little. "Me too," I said, choking back a laugh that sounded too much like a sob to me.
"I had a feeling," Alex said dryly as he glanced up at me through his bangs.
"That's the first time I've said that out loud."
"Felt good, didn't it?"
"Yeah. It kinda did."
"So, what school do you go to?"
I shifted my weight and pulled a hand from my pocket to rub the back of my neck. "McKinley."
"Guess, I'll see you on Monday then."
"Yeah. Look, Alex, you can't tell anyone. Not about me and you probably shouldn't be... Y'know, out. Not at school."
"I won't say anything about you. But I refuse to hide again. You know what its like, Dave. How bad it hurts. I'd rather get the shit beat out of me then start lying again."
"I get that. I do. Its just that you're pretty cool. I'd hate to see you get hurt." "Ditto. Look," he said, grabbing my hand as he pulled a pen from his pocket. "You ever need to talk, just call me, yeah?" He glanced up at me as he wrote his number on the palm of my hand.
"Maybe," I said noncommittally as I pulled away. I started to turn away but something pulled me back, made me grab the pen and scrawl my number quickly across his forearm. I handed him back the pen and bolted for my truck, my heart hammering in my throat.