Author's Note: I'm new to Glee but not new to writing. Any grammar mistakes are because I am a dumbass, any fandom mistakes are because I'm a newb. Forgive me. And please, heed the warnings in the summary. If anything about a non-con situation might trigger anything, skip this one. It's definitely more comfort than hurt in the end, but the hurt is bad and I'm not one to shy around it.

It starts with an email.

Kurt doesn't recognize the sender's address. He would just delete it as one of the increasingly annoying pieces of spam that his hotmail account seems entirely unprepared to weed out (despite their frequent promises and the optimistically-named Junk folder they created for him) except for the subject line:

Just hear me out and I wont bug you again

He's seen some rather creative spam subject lines before, but when he hovers his mouse over the delete button some little niggle of instinct stops him. He opens the email instead, prepared to at lightning-fast speed send the thing into spam purgatory the moment he notices a hotlink or any reference to the size of anyone's anything.

Santana doesnt want to do the Bullywhip thing anymore since she didnt get prom queen (and if Kurt wasn't already distracted by who he instantly knows this email has to be from, he would wince at the reminder of who did get prom queen) and without her doing it I really dont have an excuse. Anyway, I dont think I did enough yet, so if you see me hanging around sometimes I dont want you to get scared. Im not stalking you or whatever, and Im not gonna do anything. I just think someone should keep an eye out for a little longer. And if anybody gives you shit just let me know.

The email is signed with just 'Karofsky', and Kurt isn't sure whether to laugh ironically or shake his head sadly when he sees that the sender's address is 'thisiswhereyousendmeemails' at gmail.

It's strange, and unexpected, but Kurt doesn't delete the thing without a second thought the way that he maybe should.

Karofsky apologized to him once, and Kurt didn't see a hint of dishonesty in it. He believes that the overcompensating closet case really is sorry, and even though it isn't the solution to all their problems it's enough that Kurt has learned to stop being scared of his former tormenter. But they aren't anything like friends: he's tempted to ask how Karofsky even got his email address.

When he responds to the email, though, he doesn't ask. He doesn't say a lot of the things that he wants to. He keeps it - miracle of miracles - simple.

You don't think you 'did enough yet'? If you mean that you think you owe me something, you don't. We made our peace and I'm fine with that.


The answer comes faster than he expects, his email notification beeping even as he's settling in to Perez Hilton for gossip and the always refreshing reminder that despite what his friends sometimes say, there are gayer people than Kurt Hummel in the world.

Well, Im not fine with that. I know its not enough. If it freaks you out tell me and Ill fuck off, but I still owe you.

Kurt isn't a saint. Even though he doesn't believe in God, he knows that rare people are capable of completely selfless lives full of forgiveness and turning the other cheek and all those Mother Theresa type virtues. But Kurt isn't one of those people. Sometimes he still gets furious over Karofsky, over the constant abuse and the way no one bothered to try to stop it. He still feels like the school board revoking Karofsky's expulsion was just one more hard slap to Kurt's face.

Karofsky really is sorry, but sorry is an easy thing to be. There's no challenge in 'sorry', no effort to it. Karofsky's right – wearing a ridiculous beret and parading the halls like live-action commercials for Santana the Law and Order Prom Queen isn't nearly enough to make up for what he did.

But Kurt for all his glitter and smiles isn't completely naïve. In fact, he can be downright cynical about some things. Getting an apology out of a bully isn't enough, but it's more than most people ever get. Getting a complete closet case meathead to out himself in a moment of anger doesn't absolve said meathead of all his dirty deeds, but then most closet cases like Karofsky stay hidden for far too many miserable decades. Sometimes they never leave Narnia at all.

Kurt is a bright-eyed Glee kid but he knows how the world works. He knows that justice is what you make of it. Karofsky is getting off light with a 'sorry' and a beret, but he's a world away from where he was months ago, and that's something.

So he's sincere when he types out a careful reply to Karofsky.

If you really think you still owe me something, you already know the one thing I want from you. Every time I tell you to come out, you refuse without thinking about it. That's all I want from you, okay? Not even the coming out thing. I just want you to really think about it. I've met your dad. He seems understanding. Maybe you could start with him and just see how it goes. Really at this point I think you should start by just saying the words out loud into a mirror. I know you think I'm a broken record about this. But I've been where you are, and I came out the other side alive, right?


The reply is slow in coming. Kurt opens up Perez in another tab and scans the posts absently while waiting for the indicator to beep again. He has a sudden and probably unfair mental image of Karofsky sitting at a computer pecking out his slow reply with two thick fingers, all but cross-eyed from the effort of spelling words correctly. Which, okay, petty, but no one has ever said that Kurt Hummel can't be petty. It's one of his defining characteristics.

Finally, it comes.

You know why I first hated you? Cause you did what Im too chicken shit to do. Youre this walking reminder that Im a fucking coward. Sometimes I want to do it, you know? And I think well hell, you could do it so why not me?

But thats bullshit. My life isnt anything like yours. Your friends are different and your dads different and just because you could come out to them and everythings all flowers and unicorns or whatever that doesnt mean its gonna be the same way for me.

It fucking sucks, aint gonna lie. Sometimes I hate my fucking life so much I think of doing some really stupid things. But if I tell people the truth then it might suck even worse. Anyway this doesnt make any fucking sense and I dont know how to say it right, but whatever. Just dont get freaked out when you see me in the halls, thats all im saying.

Kurt is a broken record but even he can get tired of repeating himself. He would almost be ready to let this drop, but there's a last line a few spaces down, like Karofsky jammed the enter key a few times just thinking about typing it.

If all you want is for me to think about it than I guess I already win. Because mostly I can't think about anything else.

It's an unsatisfying victory, but Kurt will take it. He keeps his answer short and final:

So think about this: if you do it, what's the very worst that could happen? Honestly, I'm not being flippant, you should really think about that. Because if you imagine the absolute worst thing that could happen, and then compare that to going on living this miserable life of'll see which choice is worse, and you can make a decision more easily.

And, fwiw...even if you don't choose the way I think you should, I'm still kind of proud of you.

It's strange to write that and strange to actually send it. Strangest of all to realize that he means it. He's got issues with Karofsky that no amount of retail therapy can heal, but he also knows what it's like hovering in the closet door, obsesssing over taking that first step out.

He waits around for a while, window-shopping Prada online and checking out the cheekbones on the latest Hugo Boss models. When he realizes he's waiting for an email from David Karofsky of all people, the surrealism finally becomes impossible to ignore. He clucks at himself and shuts his laptop to wander downstairs and see what Carole's making for dinner.

The next day in the crowded hallway he sees a letterman jacket as he moves from English Lit towards the music room. Karofsky leans back against the wall, casual, until Kurt and Finn are far enough away, and then he straightens up and heads after them. At a distance – Finn doesn't even notice him – but near enough that Kurt only has to glance back to see the red of the jacket.

It doesn't bother him, he decides quickly. Maybe he should be proud and manly and tell Karofsky off for thinking that he needs to be babysat, but then Kurt doesn't exactly have a track record for fending off bullies.

When they reach the music room Kurt holds the door open for Finn and hangs back long enough to watch Karofsky approach and swing off to the side like he had been headed towards the art room all along. When Karofsky passes, Kurt feels himself smile. It's small, uncertain, but it's what he has to offer.

"I'm going to call you Dave now," he announces, nodding to himself as the words come out, pleased with this decision.

To his surprise Karofsky doesn't tense – much. Instead he meets Kurt's eyes for a fleeting second and smiles back. Just as small, just as unsure, and...strange, almost shy. It's a new look for him, and something about it makes Kurt's shoulders relax and his own smile grow.

Karofsky-who-is-now-Dave doesn't say anything. He just keeps moving down the hall. Kurt lets the music room door close behind him, and he braces for another hour of Rachel showing off among the various hetero-tragic soap opera plotlines that love to work themselves out in this room.

So that's how it starts. With an email, and a shy smile in the hallway, and no clear idea where things are going to go from there.

Where it ends, though...where something entirely new and entirely horrible starts in a dim locker room with panicked voices and Kurt's entire view of the world cracking and shifting into something he doesn't recognize.

He's in the music room again. (This is a week after the emails and the little smile in the hallway, and the decision that Karofsky's new life deserves 'Dave', but the music room is a common stage setting in Kurt's dramatic little life.)

"Besides, I think we have to admit that while he has impeccable fashion sense and a flair for the theatrical, some people might find his song choices just a little...inaccessible."

Kurt rolls his eyes and puts a hand out to stall Mercedes even as she's drawing in a breath to fire back. He flashes Rachel his sweetest smile. "And I think," he says cheerfully, legs crossed and arms folded carefully in a pose that screams confident diva (he practices it in the mirror, he knows), "watching a teenage girl sobbing her way through songs about other people's problems isn't the highlight to anyone's evening either."

Mercedes sits back, sighing out her braced breath with a satisfied air.

Rachel turns the most delicate shade of pink (she probably practices that in the mirror somehow) and her shoulders go stiff. "Feeling the emotion in my songs is hardly something I consider to be a detriment."

"That's a point, honey," Kurt says with a grin. "Except you feel all the emotion, there's none left for anyone else. Nobody in the audience is going to shed a tear when you're already drowning in your own."

Rachel spins around in her chair to face him straight-on. "I will have you know that Uta Hagen herself once said that a performer's job is to-"

"Okay, I tell you what." Mr. Schue, conciliatory as he always is, moves up to the front of the room. He flashes a quick grin at Kurt and a longer, pandering smile down at Rachel. "Kurt brings up an interesting point. And I'm glad he did, because to be honest I didn't have a clue what this week's assignment was going to be."

Rachel settles down, turning back around in her chair to give her full attention.

Mr. Schue looks around at everyone, getting that time-for-the-life-lesson look on his face. "Most of the time I ask you to choose songs around themes, around how you feel or how someone else feels. This week, though, I want you to find a song that is meant to make your audience feel. Happy, sad, angry-"

"Horny?" Puck cuts in, taking a hard elbow to the side by Lauren but ignoring it with impressive fortitude.

Mr. Schue laughs. "Possibly, but keep it clean."

"Clean horny?" Puck glances at his fierce girlfriend. "Does that exist?"

She shrugs. "Preteen girls around Justin Beiber."

He considers that.

Mr. Schue shakes his head with a smile. "Seriously, guys. It's easy to cry when you sing a sad song. It's something else to sing a song that makes your audience cry, for you or for themselves. Best of all? We get to guess which emotion it is that we think you're trying to wring from us. That's your assignment."

There's the usual mix of groans and excited whispering, and Kurt wastes no time in turning to Mercedes with wide-eyed fear. "I have no instant idea for this assignment."

She laughs, slapping his arm. "Lucky for you there's a whole week." She sits back, a self-satisfied smile on her face. "Me? I've got this on lock."

He rolls his eyes. "Tell me you're not gonna sing some hymn trying to make us all see God."

"Hush, heathen. I'm not telling, you'll steal my idea."

Mr. Schue goes over to have a quiet conference with Brad at the piano, giving them some time to discuss their ideas, and Kurt leans over and taps Finn on the arm.

"What about you? What emotion are you going for? I love you and all, bro, but you're not deep."

Finn grins, as usual not taking it personally. He shrugs and sings tunelessly, "'Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?'"

Kurt beams instantly. "You just sang from a musical! Me and my gay are totally winning!"

"Shut up. Anyway, you laugh whenever I sing anything, so I figure that one's easy."

"I would never laugh at you for your singing," Kurt answers, affronted. "That would be inconsiderate, and frankly I have far too much class. I may find a little bit of humor in that balanceless flailing you sometimes do while you're singing, but the singing itself?"

Finn rolls his eyes. "Don't worry, I was gonna add choreography for this assignment."

"Then that should be perfect., it would be perfect but you just told everyone what emotion you're going for, and we have to guess, remember? Now you have to try something else."

Finn thinks about that and scowls. "Damn it."

Quinn leans in to murmur something to him, but her tinny little Britney Spears ringtone cuts her off. She ignores Finn instantly to grab her phone.

Kurt can't remember if they're on again or off again, or if Rachel's in the picture, or what. Two decades ago he might have been one of those soap-loving gay boys who cried every year Susan Lucci didn't win any Emmys. But with his life as it is? Soaps are passe and he has so much drama around him that he's almost grown weary of it.

Quinn stares at the display on her phone and makes a face before shoving it back in her purse, still ringing. "Ugh, I wish I never gave that psychotic woman my number."

"Who?" Finn asks, sparing Kurt from having to express an interest in Quinn's life.

"Coach Sylvester," Quinn says with a prim little laugh as her phone finally falls silent. "She makes the Cheerios give her all their contact numbers. Seriously, all of them. She actually called my grandfather's house once when I was late for practice."

"So why don't you change your number?" Mercedes asks over Kurt's shoulder.

Quinn smiles suddenly, and Kurt has to admit that for all the drama and heartache the girl drags along behind her, she really is quite lovely. "I can't! My last four numbers are 2883, and I just realized like last month that that means I can tell people my phone number is 577-CUTE."

"Oh my God." Kurt laughs and instantly pulls out his own cell to see what he can spell from his number. Mercedes already has her phone in hand, and they huddle in.

Behind Quinn, Santana's phone starts blaring out an ominous little tune. "Crap, Sylvester's calling me now."

Finn looks back at her. "You have a ringtone just for Coach Sylvester?"

"It fits. It's Puddle of Mudd. 'Psycho'."

Her phone cuts off mid-lyric. Almost instantly beside her there's a burst of tinkles that resolves itself into the My Little Pony theme song. Brittany of course goes right for her phone and doesn't even bother to look at it, though Santana reaches out with horror in her eyes to stop her.

"Hello? Oh, Coach Sylvester!" Brittany listens for a minute and her vague smile fades. Suddenly she holds her phone out towards the piano. "Mr. Schue? It's for you."

He blinks, but comes over and takes her phone. He makes a face towards Kurt and Finn and looks at the phone as if he's seriously debating just hanging up and handing it back, but with a bracing breath he lifts it to his ear. "Sue? We're rehearsing right..."

He trails off. The playfully scared look on his face vanishes, twisting into something Kurt can't instantly interpret.

He turns away from his students and ducks his head. "Hey...hey! Sue! Slow down, what are you-"

Everyone's quiet now, their morbid curiosity about Sylvester's inevitable but usually entertaining rages fading into more genuine curiosity. Kurt slips his own phone back into his pocket, frowning at the sudden tense line of Mr. Schue's shoulders.

"Hang on. Where are...who needs..."

He turns suddenly, and his face is completely pale. He looks right at Kurt. "What does Kurt have to do with..."

Kurt sits up straighter, and something in his gut starts to thud like a heavy heartbeat.

Mr. Schue shuts the phone suddenly, his eyes wide and his expression odd. He draws in a breath and quickly gestures at Kurt. "Come with me, Kurt. Mercedes," he says when he sees her still holding her phone. "Call the police."

The air in the room thins out a little.

"The police?" Mercedes flips her phone open but hesitates. "What do I say?"

He shakes his head, reaching out and pulling Kurt by the arm when he doesn't move fast enough. "Get them over to the gym. Tell them someone is hurt." He doesn't give her time to ask more questions, just turns and leads Kurt to the door and out into the hall. He moves fast and his face is drained of all color, and there's a tense set to his jaw.

Kurt wants to echo the question Mr. Schue asked the coach – what does he have to do with anything? But he stays silent and keeps pace with Mr. Schue's urgent steps.

There's noise behind them and Kurt glances back to see Finn and Puck, and Santana. Mike and Sam are pretty close behind them. They all look confused, but they're obviously not willing to wait around and find out what's happening from someone else. Finn nods at Kurt, looking tense and confused, and Kurt would usually warm a little at the sign of support but he has no idea what's going on and he's never heard Mr. Schue sound so grim.

The halls are all but silent in the middle of the period, only a few stragglers here and there. Kurt ignores them and their double-takes as half the glee club charges down the hall. It's too quiet, but Kurt's heart is beating fast and hard, and his palms are sweating. He keeps pace with Mr. Schue and the others stay behind them trying not to get noticed in case Mr. Schue wants to send them back to class.

There are more people near the gym, and inside the gym itself there's a crowd of students in their gym clothes milling around one of the back doors.

Mr. Schue heads back there without missing a step, though the way he looks around Kurt can tell he's winging it.

There are a couple of broad-shouldered jocks with that pale post-Sylvester shaken look on their faces standing in front of a set of double doors that Kurt knows lead back to the locker rooms.

"Hey," one of them says, voice shaking from whatever terror Sylvester instilled in him, "Coach says nobody goes back-"

"Let us through," Mr. Schue says with a steady look that flits between the two kids. Worry makes him strangely grim and hard; Will Schuester isn't anyone's idea of an intimidator, but those two guys move to either side of the door with only a moment's pause.

Mr. Schue pushes through the doors, and Kurt trails at his side like a nervous sidekick.

There are sounds up ahead, a voice echoing through the hallway. On one side is the girls' locker room, on the other is the boys'. Mr. Schue follows the echo of voices through the doors to the girls' side.

The first thing Kurt notices is a dent in the wall near the mirrors inside the door. Cracked plaster and a round divot, and something dark and brown staining the ugly yellow paint. He blinks at the mar, confused, as he trails behind Mr. Schue.

The voice is Coach Sylvester's. Its softer than he's heard it in a while, but he still recognizes it.

"-just wait here for them, okay?" She's a long, tall spike of iron, Sue Sylvester, but right now her voice is vibrating like someone's plugged her into a socket.

Mr. Schue turns the corner around a row of lockers and stops so fast he has to brace a hand against the locker to keep from stumbling. Kurt nearly runs into him, but neatly sidesteps thanks to years of dance practice and moves around him instead.

His feet lock into place just as suddenly.

He looks, and sees, but he can't understand what it is that they've walked into.

Coach Sylvester is on her knees on the ground beside one of the long benches between the rows of lockers. The bench itself is shoved back at an angle and there's more dark brown, like on the dented wall, smeared down the length of it in a thick streak. More brown across the back row of lockers in a line of dots like sloppily spattered paint.

On the ground beside Sylvester is...someone, a male, a student, but Kurt can't tell much more. Whoever it is is lying still, face-down. Dark wet hair, three different oversized shower towels covering most of the rest of him. Brown – no, not brown, red, dark and rusty red – is dotted over those towels. And on the floor. And pooling by that head of hair.

At first he can't see much besides wet red and dirty towels and dark hair, but then Kurt's eyes catch on a plain black cell phone that must belong to the coach, lying forgotten on the floor near an exposed, pale, flung-out arm.

It smells like iron. The whole room smells like Kurt's mouth tastes when he accidentally bites his lip in his sleep.

His eyes go back to that pale, broad forearm, and he can't manage to draw in a breath. All he can do is notice that the fingernails are blunt and short and bloody, and the floor under that hand is streaked with drying red marks. Like the owner of that hand tried to claw himself free of something.

Kurt breathes in short, sharp little breaths. He looks back at Coach Sylvester, sees the way her body is shuddering to match her shaking voice.

She looks up, past Kurt to Mr. Schue, and her eyes are wide and strangely panicked.

"What...?" Mr. Schue moves suddenly, and who knows how he found that much strength because Kurt still can't even make himself breathe. "The police are on their way," he says as he moves around the bench and crouches on the other side of the towel-covered body. "What happened?"

Coach Sylvester shakes her head, and she's breathing a little like Kurt, in fast, shallow bursts. She's a rock, so if she can't get herself together than Kurt gives up on even trying to make sense of any of this.

There's a new noise suddenly, a low sound. A murmur, from the ground, from under that blood-wet dark hair.

Sylvester's helpless moment vanishes and she leans in, laying a hand on that limp arm. "Hey. Just...just shut up and wait for the ambulance."

The voice mutters again, and Kurt can't make sense of it but Sylvester must be able to. Her eyes come up and land on Kurt, still wide and strangely scared even as her voice snaps out as strong as ever, "I said shut up. Don't worry about that, he's right here, no one's going to do anything."

He's right here. 'He' is Kurt? It doesn't make sense. He doesn't understand what's happening and he can't breathe.

On the floor the limp body stirs. Kurt's eyes go from Coach Sylvester's face to the ground, and he watches the towels shift as the person under them tries to move. That dark hair lifts off the ground, and suddenly Kurt can see the pale skin of a red-spattered face, and glassy, brown-edged green eyes.

Kurt thinks to himself, clearly and absurdly, I didn't realize his eyes were that color. It's only after that thought that he realizes he recognizes the person on the ground.

That recognition blasts into his mind like a spray of cold water. In the next moments he consciously realizes more: this brownish-red all over everything is blood. There's a dent in a whole section of lockers behind Sylvester, and the bench that's been pushed aside should have been bolted to the floor in another position.

This is more than a schoolyard beating. This is serious; this is insane. And the person who two months ago would have been top on the suspect list for a fight this bad is the same person whose glazed eyes seem to be trying to focus. To find Kurt.

Kurt makes a small, scared noise, understanding more and more but trying to refuse it.

Mr. Schue looks up suddenly at that little sound. "Kurt. I'm sorry, you shouldn't be here. Go out there with the other kids, okay? Let the paramedics know where to come when they-"

Kurt moves a step closer, and then another, feeling numb and removed from his body.

He wants to be sitting with Mercedes complaining about Rachel. He wants to be running through his iPod trying to find perfect songs. He wants it to be ten minutes ago so he doesn't have to make sense of any of this.

"Kurt!" Mr. Schue's voice is sharp.

Kurt jumps.

The limp arm on the floor jerks. There's motion from the broad body under the stained towels, and the murmurs of that hoarse voice are louder.

Kurt moves in another step, unable to focus on what Mr. Schue is asking. There's nowhere to kneel that doesn't have dots of blood all over it, so Kurt crouches down unsteadily.

"Dave?" His voice is a rasp he almost doesn't recognize, like dry leaves sliding together. He still can't draw in a solid breath and his chest feels tight.

There's a sudden commotion near the front, and a bang like double doors slamming open.

Mr. Schue and Coach Sylvester are both on their feet in a flash, tearing around the corner in case its the crowd of students getting impatient and bursting in. But the velcro on the bottom of Coach Sylvester's track jacket snags on one of the towels covering that limp body, and before she can tear it off with a growl the entire towel has moved, followed her. Shifted.

Kurt's eyes go from the pale face and glassy eyes to that towel.

He sees bare skin underneath. He sees blood and there are already bruises forming down the curved line of a broad, muscled thigh. He sees blood streaking dark and thick down that thigh, smeared between his legs. He understands suddenly that Dave is entirely naked under those towels.

Kurt's brain throws all these clues together and puts a name to what has happened.

There are pounding footsteps behind him and he assumes it's the paramedics because Sylvester would have stopped anyone else. He hears voices urging him back, and sees flashes of white uniforms around him. He reaches out and lays shaking fingers along the back of Dave's limp, outstretched hand, seeing the scratches and broken skin on the backs of his fingers.

He fought back. God, he must have fought back so hard.

For a moment those glazed hazel eyes look upward and meet Kurt's.

Then a strong grip is pulling Kurt back, and before he can focus enough to protest Mr. Schue is leading him around the corner away from everything that's happening on the other side.

Outside of the rusty air of the locker room, everything is bright and loud. Crowds of people are milling, chatting, like this disruption to their day is nothing more than a chance to socialize.

Finn comes up, practically tearing Kurt away from Mr. Schue. "Jesus, Kurt! What the hell's going on in there? You look like..."

He can't answer. He can't even look up at his wide-eyed, goofy step-brother. Finn's innocent concern feels a million miles away.

Kurt shuts his eyes and forces himself to draw in a big, solid breath of air for the first time since Mr. Schue hung up the phone in the choir room. On his exhale he can feel sobs pushing out. Since he has no idea what else to do or to say or to think, he lets them come.