A/N: I'm mad at Kurt, his personality is taking a turn for the worse, that sentiment produced this fic. For the record, I did try to be also mad at Blaine for the Klaine ship becoming canon but I just can't, his smile prevented it. Damn him and his irresistible charm!
This is based on rumors for the Night of Neglect or Born This Way episode, although it's probably going to end up being AU anyway. Lyrics are from Right Here, by Staind
The choir room is unusually silent. Not that it never is, just not during the week prior to Nationals. There has to be pandemonium, choreographies rehearsed, scales recited, something, anything.
But not right now. At the moment it's just Dave, sitting in the back, waiting for the rest of the club. He's made a habit of arriving way too early, to avoid the awkwardness of choosing next to whom he'll sit. He prefers to let the others make that choice. It's actually educational, noticing who'll make that one step towards accepting him more.
Today, Mike and Tina arrive first. They take a seat close to him but not too much, leaving two chairs between them and Dave. One brief smile is exchanged and the couple resumes their giggling whispers. Kurt and Blaine are next, strutting happily. They settle in the front row, like always. They have been ever since they joined New Directions. Place of the stars. Far away from Dave, without being too obvious. After all, the 3 boys are aligned but with this arrangement, no eye contact is possible.
One after the other, every member makes his entrance, Mr. Schuester closing the parade. Then the awkwardness really spreads, for the jock at least.
If only they weren't necessary. Those few minutes during which everyone greet everyone else, the casual conversation, all that shit that's so easy for this close-knit group. Hell, even Lauren doesn't seem as uncomfortable as he does and she's barely been here longer than him. Yet she has no problem carrying on, bantering with Puck and Artie. Dave sighs, opening his mouth a little wider to conceal the complaining sound into a normal respiration. He looks away, fixating on the trophy case to ignore the increasing discussions around him. While they all, no, most of them, are quite civil to him, no one has really befriended him. Okay, maybe Finn has, a bit more than the rest. But does it really count? The guy would rather be dead than have someone not like him!
No, it's still a rather chilly atmosphere for Dave Karofsky, former bully, current paradox of the jock/singer form. He has performed all the requirements though. Formal apology to Kurt? Check. Active campaign to put the brakes on the bullying at McKinley? Check. Honest and eager participation to the glee club meetings? Check.
It's not really that he's not tight with Mercedes or Sam that bugs him. It's not that hard to get that while they seem to have forgiven him, it doesn't mean they'll all suddenly find dozens of things in common with him. And he's fine with it. Maybe not happy but fine.
The real problem is them. Kurt and Blaine, goo-goo eyed couple and gay pride ambassadors extraordinaire. Although the main responsible is Kurt, without any surprise. His intervention was uncalled for, insensitive, crass even. He can't forget it, and they seem to keep making sure he won't. The bile rises again in his throat, a familiar burn that seems stuck with this particular reminiscing. He swallows it down but it keeps on coming. "Damn it" he thinks, "I gotta do it now."
Will leaves his post at the piano and walks toward the center of the room. He coughs twice in an attempt to gain everyone's attention, but Dave beats him to the punch.
"Mr. Schue, is it okay if I start today?" he asks, his voice way louder than he intends.
"Sure Dave, you got something you wanna propose for Nationals? It's a little last minute for that but we're still open for suggestions…" the teacher replies hesitantly.
"Actually, it's just a personal thing I wanna say." the jock offers, unwillingly shifting on his seat. He still has to grow accustomed to eyes on him when he talks in here.
Will simply nods, gesturing him to step forward as he retreats to the side of the room. Dave maneuvers between the plastic seats, picks up a guitar on his way and swings it unceremoniously on his knees as he sits on the performing stool. He expires strongly, looking down. When he tilts his head back up, his eyes automatically go to Kurt. No reaction there, he gets a blank stare in return. After a few seconds, the younger boy scoffs lightly and turns his head away to avoid the gaze. It doesn't make a difference, Dave remains unfazed.
Singing a song in a competent manner, that's easy, always has been. Pouring the right emotion behind the words, that's the tricky part. Well, not today, not this song. In fact, he feels like he already has a memory for each line. He detaches his stare long enough to confirm the position of his fingers on the chords. It returns to its original contemplation fast and stays there.
"I'll make sure you don't miss a word of it." he smugly thinks. A deep breath and he plunges, playing the notes a little harder than necessary. He forces his thoughts on the surface, instead of pushing them away like he's used to. This has to be expressed, and the recollections help. His deep voice emerges, rich in meaning, while his mind switches between the lyrics and the moments where they find their resonance.
I know I've been mistaken,
But just give me a break and see the changes that I've made.
I've got some imperfections,
But how can you collect them all and throw them in my face?
Ever since he came back, boy-toy in tow, payback has been the sole motivation of Kurt, so it seems. It didn't matter that Dave had apologized at the first opportunity. A rambling, disorganized, utterly clumsy plea but honest nonetheless, that didn't have the expected effect. Kurt had politely accepted it, even sanctioned Dave's presence in New Directions. Yet things were… off. There was no moving on, on Kurt's part at least. Dave had tried both the "let's-be-friends" approach and the "I'll-leave-you-alone" one. Nothing had worked. Kurt kept on bringing the past up, in subtle or direct hints, as often as possible, whenever he thought Dave couldn't hear. As a result tension was growing and for once, Dave knew he was blameless.
But you always find a way to keep me right here waiting
You always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting
And if you chose to walk away I'd still be right here waiting
Searching for the things to say to keep you right here waiting
Again, that day when he transferred back is on his mind. How can he forget it? He had stood still, back pressed to his locker. He had fumbled with his books in a desperate attempt to cover his confusion. Furtive glances had allowed him to take in what he thought he'd never see. Kurt prancing down the hallway, with something better than confidence in every step. There was victory in his demeanor, as if his simply being back was a giant slap in the face of everyone. Which it kind of was for Dave. A slap filled with yearning, and jealousy. Clearly that semester away had made Kurt grow, while he was still stuck in the same place. Just as confused, just as unsure inside. Watching him walk away, he had also found out that he was still obsessed. And that there was no changing this.
I hope you're not intending
To be so condescending, it's as much as I can take.
And you're so independent, you just refuse to bend
So I keep bending 'till I break
But in the end, it all came down to that meeting, two weeks ago. He had seen it coming, in a way. After his apology to Kurt, the tension between them kept growing instead of dissipating. Clearly, resolution wasn't attained yet. So when Kurt had approached him in the parking lot after school, he had managed to keep his calm and listen to his speech. However, his composure had dissolved quickly when he understood what Kurt was proposing. Regardless of the words chosen, it could be summed up into this: "Either come out to everybody or I'll do it for you." The shock of that request had felt like an icy earthquake, shattering his strength, his ideas about Kurt, pretty much everything. All that was left was the capacity to nod numbly, agreeing to his former victim's terms.
The next chorus passes in a blur, his mouth forming the words without him registering it. Whenever he thought about this moment, this performance, he could never decide whether or not go ahead and sing the bridge. It wouldn't be a question if he'd actually kept his promise. Since he didn't, having never found the courage to literally put himself out here, the problem remains whole. Does it reveal too much, those lines that are coming up awfully quickly? Will they catch on and finally notice this crush that is, in his mind, so plain to see?
His gaze never faltered while he sang and now more than ever, it's fixed on Kurt with renewed determination. He detects a smudge of disdain around the young man's mouth, and that sight finalizes his decision. "Fuck it" he thinks and he plunges. Might as well throw all the cards on the table at once, even if it's kind of sick and masochistic.
I've made a commitment, I'm willing to bleed for you
I needed fulfillment
I found what I need in you
Why can't you just forgive me?
I don't want to relive all the mistakes I've made along the way...
Kurt grows steadily paler with each line. Consequently, Dave grows more and more unsure, his voice trembling a bit by the end of the verse. He can't keep it up any longer and his eyes deviates, landing on his shoes. Anyway, he's almost done, the message is delivered. The rest of the song is more about what he wishes.
But I always find a way to keep you right here waiting
I always find the words to say to keep you right here waiting.
But you always find a way to keep me right here waiting
You always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting
And if I chose to walk away, would you be right here waiting?
Searching for the things to say to keep me right here waiting
He plucks the last string roughly, letting the note resonates as a loud finale. His fingers tingle from the exercise. Surely it's the reason why he has trouble replacing the guitar on its stand. Yeah, that, and not the fourteen inquisitive faces turned in his direction. One big breath to steady his heart and diminish his blush. … Okay, maybe another is needed. When he finally musters the courage to look back at his teammates, it's enough to make him want to run away. They're looking at him or Kurt, confusion and question in equal parts plastered on their face.
Kurt himself is indecipherable. Sure, he's paler than he's ever been, but whether it's from anger, guilt or embarrassment, it's hard to tell. A tide of adrenaline would normally rise then and threaten to wash over Dave's resolve and make him flee. However, he's feeling vindicated here and it makes him stay in the same spot. This time, it's Kurt who deserts the scene. Mercedes and Blaine exchange a look, as to decide who should go after him.
"For Christ's sake, Blaine, just go. He'd want you to, you know it." Dave sighs, exasperated, before sitting carelessly on the piano stool. The curly haired boy nods, darting out of the choir room and calling Kurt's name. The rest of the Glee club starts murmuring excitedly, now that some of the tension has faded. While the gossiping goes on, there's actually one member who's utterly silent. Finn.
Finn, who spent the entire song in his typical position, slouched beyond belief on the plastic chair. Except the second it was over, he'd gotten up, standing still and staring at Dave's slumped form. Now, with a few steps he reaches the piano. Dave suppresses a yelp of surprise when his sleeve is grabbed and he's towed out of the room. Mere seconds later, the two guys face each other in the deserted hallway.
"You acted on it?" the quarterback asks.
No intro, no context, just the simple question. Dave shrugs his shoulders. Part of his mind is still clouded by the baggage brought on by the song. The other part is rightfully lost as to what Finn can mean.
"Well?" Finn insists. "Fess up Dave, you just poured your heart out in front of everybody. I had a major Jessie's Girl flashback just watching you letting it all out! So you like Kurt, pretty easy to get from that. What I want to know is if you did anything about it." he adds.
"I-What? How did…" Dave stammers, taken aback by the sudden perspicacity of his teammate. He chooses his time to become smart! "No, I didn't." he assures. Not lately at least. "Besides, maybe you noticed that the song wasn't just about that."
It's Finn's turn to shrug. "That part, I don't care. I have one thing to worry about and it's to make sure Kurt is OK. Him coming back here came with that responsibility." He steps forward, one hand landing on Dave's broad shoulder as to emphasize the words with physical contact.
"You got better, Dave. You improved and man, we're almost friends now."
Dave mutely agrees.
"But that means nothing if you mess with Kurt again." Finn adds. "He's happy, he's got Blaine, who's a big part of the reason he's happy. You make him lose any part of it and you're gonna have to answer to me. And then to many others. Got it?"
A red veil spreads over Dave's eyes, fueled by anger and helplessness. Why it is automatically assumed that he's to blame? Nowadays, Kurt is much more likely to hinder his happiness than the other way around. A voice at the back of his head tells him that's the price to pay for his past. He looks away from Finn, muttering his agreement. That voice is right, why should he fight?
They're interrupted by a thumping sound. Both heads turn to the left. A second before, Dave was grateful for the distraction. However, seeing as it's Blaine running in their direction, maybe his relief was premature.
The singer slides to a halt, a few feet away from the football players. A mixture of worry, relief and confusion color his face, and for a while he just stands there, compulsively shifting his shoes on the floor. That squeaky sound is quickly getting on Dave's nerves.
"There you are!" Blaine starts off, panting sligthly. "-Kurt wants -to see you, in the -auditorium."
"You're kidding me!" Dave scoffs. "Not a time for jokes Anderson!"
"I promise you, that's what he told me!" Blaine continues, catching his breath. "I found him there and he wouldn't talk to me. He just sent to get you, so here I am."
Dave, along with Finn, just stares dumbly in response. Blaine makes a defeated motion, moving away to let a stunned Dave pass.
He searches the darkened room for the slim figure of Kurt. No sign of him at first glance. He's about to leave when he finally sees the recognizable hair of the boy protruding from one of the seats of the front row.
"Kurt?" he calls hesitantly.
"What was that about, Karofsky?" Kurt answers, not even bothering to get up.
The dry reply antagonizes Dave in a flash. His comeback is dripping with disdain. " You made me come here to ask me that? You're an intelligent guy, Kurt, can't you figure it out by yourself?"
Kurt springs from his seat, turning swiftly to face Dave. "Oh, I get it just fine thank you! I was asking about the public affront. What was that for?"
"Well, Schuester is always going on about using music to express our feelings. You're certainly not shy about displaying your emotions, why should I?"
They both take a deep breath. It fails miserably at calming either.
"Fine, I'll grant you this one." Kurt concedes. "But you don't think you went over the top here?"
"Look who's talking! No Fancy, I didn't!" an exasperated Dave replies. "I meant every word and each was true. You know it." he says in a little softer tone.
A guilty look shadows Kurt's features for a brief moment. "What do you want from me then?"
"What do I want?" Dave repeats, incredulous. "How about a fucking apology, or a decent attitude!"
Kurt looks bewildered and lets out a sarcastic puff when Dave pauses. It infuriates the jock even more.
"Screw you, Hummel. Just because I used to bully you, I can't complain now, I can't be hurt?"
"Pretty much, yes!" Kurt counters. They both cross their arms in defiance. Any other day or persons involved and the symmetry of the gesture would have been amusing.
A lopsided smile appears on Dave's face. "You know, that might be the thing I'm most sorry for." A silent question passes in Kurt's eyes, it's promptly answered. "Turning you into this vindictive bitch."
The comment is met with pursed lips and eyes flaming with anger. "I'm not a vindictive bitch!"
"Fuck yeah, you are! You won't let it go!" Dave insists. "I apologized, I try my best to act in an accommodating way. Is it good enough for you? No! You and Bland have to bring it up, all the time. What, you both get off at this? Bringing me down is your new thing? When is it gonna be enough for you?"
"You're referencing to what exactly?" Kurt asks with a shaky voice.
"The constant slaps in the face, so to speak. You and your arm candy, always going on about how you're so much better, happier than me. It's even worse than you blackmailing me into coming out. Those comments are so low, you should be ashamed!"
Kurt's face relaxes and a smirk of derision appears, replacing the culpable expression. "That's your paranoia talking, Karofsky. You see it that way because it suits you to do so, comforts you in your twisted world perspective. You want to entertain those delusions of persecution, fine. That's your choice."
Dave fumes at those words, letting Kurt go on nevertheless. Might as well let him finish and be done with it.
"I'll admit it, that idea of mine to force your hand into accepting yourself was misguided, at best."
The justification elicits a derisive sound from Dave, yet the soprano continues.
"There might have been a part of me that enjoyed having the upper hand, for once. However, it stopped right there and then. The rest is all your creation, I assure you. To mock you would require caring, which we don't."
No response from Dave. In the wake of the speech, he finds himself quite at a loss for words. Kurt cocks his head to the side questioningly
"So? Anything to add to your show?" he says, taking a step forward. Dave reflexively steps back.
A wave of weariness sweeps over him. This constant confrontation is exhaustion wrapped into words. Yet, he must speak, again.
"I do." he starts off. His arms untangle and fall limply at his sides, while the rest of his body flops down in the nearest seat.
"You don't get it, how it is for me. You think everyone lives it like you." He buries his face in his hands, searching for the things to say, like he sang about. Although it's more about the way to say it. His hands glide down and he looks up to catch Kurt's eyes. His voice is more pleading when he continues, hoping for a positive reception to the ideas forming in his worn-out mind.
"You wanna know Hummel? No one cares that you're gay. For real. If you weren't, maybe you wouldn't be teased so much, yes. But you'd still be the center of attention, all the time." "Your style, you personality" he says with a vague movement of the hand, "that wouldn't change and it's what everybody keep noticing. And you like that. Hell, I think you thrive on it."
He pauses, leaning forward and contemplating his clasped hands hanging freely between his knees. "Me? I'm not like that. I disappear in here, I'm that average. Extraordinarily ordinary suits me just fine. If I come out, fag will become the only thing people will see about me. And I don't want to be singled out. If to stay invisible I have to hide a part of me, I'll do it. Makes me a coward but I'd rather just coast through high school without making any waves." he ends in a murmur.
"You made plenty of them with your barbaric behavior…" Kurt sneers.
"Fuck you Hummel, how many times will I have to say I'm sorry? So I didn't figured myself out as breezily as you did. What, I'm not allowed mistakes? A wrong choice of outlet for the shit I was going through?" he spits angrily.
"Persistent, repeated mistakes…" Kurt carries on. Dave sends him a murderous look, one even more silencing than the one from the infamous "cake topper incident". Besides justified wrath, there's an underlying bitterness in that glare that effectively shuts down the sass in Kurt.
"Sorry." The singer mumbles. "I guess I am a little spiteful, after all."
Dave sighs deeply and glides down until his head rests completely on the cushioned back of the seat. Eyes closes for a few seconds before peering back at Kurt, who seems to wait for his cue.
"This is never gonna work." Dave states. No emotion in the sentence, he might as well have said that 2 plus 2 equals 4.
Kurt looks puzzled. Again. Dave curses inwardly. The entire conversation seems to go from enigmatic to something resembling a labyrinth. In other words, nowhere near mutual understanding. Sufficient to frustrate the most level-headed person.
"Us, finding some common ground." Dave clarifies.
Kurt agrees. "Perhaps. Is it really important?" he wonders aloud.
Harsh glare from Dave. "For you, maybe not." You're not the one in love, even if it's hopeless. It takes every ounce of his will to not say it. Stupid, since Kurt knows it anyway. Everyone knows it, or will soon.
Kurt drops himself in the seat next to Dave, an unusually inelegant gesture on his part. While they're closer, physically, both keep looking forward. Makes it easier to pretend they're not actually there, actually talking to each other.
"I refuse to feel guilty for your little infatuation. Or for not reciprocating it. It's your predicament to deal with. I don't rejoice in it though, believe me." Kurt says softly.
Dave feels the common pang of rejection piercing his throat. You just don't get used to it, even when it isn't new. A least it doesn't get any stronger with time.
A silence settles in, and threatens to persist.
"Do you feel better, with all of this off your chest?" Kurt asks.
Dave laughs lightly at the question. "Not really, no. It's weird. I thought I would, big time but nope." He shifts a bit on the chair. "You? Feel better hearing it?"
"No." Kurt replies honestly. "My brain won't believe you somehow. Like it's waiting for the old you to reappear."
"I know the feeling." Dave adds. "Except there's no reason we should be feeling that way."
Kurt starts chewing his lip, eyes looking out without seeing. "We both have some progress to make in the trust department." he says thoughtfully. "You do mean what you said, all of it?" he questions after a while.
"Yes, definitively. Like I told you before." The reply is swift, decided.
"OK then." Kurt turns around, sliding his legs underneath him to sit cross-legged. Dave waits for the rest, nothing comes. When he finally decides to look at Kurt, it seemingly entices the young man to pursue his train of thought.
"Forgive and forget, both you and me. For real this time." Kurt says. However a hint of interrogation is tinting his statement.
Dave smiles to dissipate it, turning around on his seat to face the other boy. "Agreed."
Kurt grasps the hand Dave offers. They shake in earnest and their smiles widen.
Maybe he should be demanding more. Excuses, remorse, from Kurt, from himself too. Maybe he's just tired of the tension, of the cold war. Maybe that's why he's so easily convinced to bury the hatchet. Maybe. But he knows the real reason is deeper. It's that part of him, the one that can't help hoping for a good ending.
He feels it, and he's sure he's not the only one. The change in the air. Like a lid has been lifted. It feels foreign and exhilarating, with a pinch of nostalgia, not enough to dampen the mood. Sure, some unresolved issues remain and a few unresolved feelings linger. Still, in the end, this, right now, feels like moving on. The right kind.