Author's Note: Welcome to A Touch of the Fingertips! I've already posted this on my lj, so you may have seen it there. I thought I'd bring it over here, too. I hope you like it.
The first time Kurt touched someone outside of his family, he was eight years old. He had begged his father to let him go to the playground, and Burt had agreed because he knew Kurt was lonely in their house. It had been better when he had his mother, but she was gone now, and Burt was left as the only person Kurt was connected to.
It was the middle of winter, which is why Burt allowed them to go to such a public place – a place where there would normally be children in droves, bumping shoulders with his son without any idea as to the consequences. But the Ohio snow was three feet thick, and Burt considered that cautionary weather enough.
Kurt would insist on walking into the deep snow on the sides of the path, relishing being outside of his own house and garden, even if there was nobody else around. He fell a couple of times, and Burt would instinctively try to grab him, that inexplicable fear taking over his body as he watched his child lose control of his movements, but the soft snow always caught Kurt before his father could. The little boy would laugh with a sound far more carefree than had been heard in the Hummel house for a while and brush himself off as he stood up. Once or twice he complained about the water ruining his pea coat, but he seemed too enthralled by the snow to care that much; and if you knew Kurt, which nobody did except his father, you would know that he took pea coats very seriously.
Burt brushed snow off a bench in the playground and watched his son swinging on the monkey bars, trying to stop the fear that he would get frostbite through his gloves. Protecting Kurt was what Burt spent most of his life doing, which was particularly difficult when Kurt didn't know that he needed to be protected. He wasn't aware that he was different – and Burt wasn't just talking about pea coats. (Not that he really understood what a pea coat was.)
He was watching his son run up the steps to the slide when he saw the small family join them in the playground. Burt immediately stood up, on alert, and he began to move towards Kurt. The little girl beat him to it, though. Kurt took to the slide and stopped gracefully at the bottom just as she arrived beside him. Burt saw her introduce herself, and he thought well, she can talk to him. Talking does no harm.
Then Kurt slipped off his glove and held out his hand to the girl in front of him. She giggled and mimicked him, removing her own glove. Burt had a sudden memory of Kurt forcing him to watch one of those black-and-white movies about love and New York; he remembered the man taking off his glove before shaking hands; he remembered Kurt turning to him with a very serious expression and saying, "That's the height of politeness. When I shake hands with people, I will always remove my glove first." Burt had intended to tell Kurt that, no, he should on no account take off any gloves near anyone else's hands; not because it wasn't polite, because Burt was sure it was. No, it was just that Kurt should not – could not do that. But here he was, hand outstretched, skin exposed to the elements, and Burt tried to lunge forward, he tried to push his son's hand away, but he was too late. The girl's hand had met Kurt's in what would have been a playfully firm handshake, but did not turn out that way. Kurt did not shake her hand, but simply held it. His eyes closed, and Burt watched a shiver run through his son with a sinking feeling in his stomach. For so many years, Burt had been keeping Kurt safe. For so many years, he had been trying to avoid just this.
But now it had happened, and Kurt and this little girl, whose name Burt did not yet know, were connected.
Because when Burt said Kurt was different, he most definitely was not talking about pea coats. He wasn't talking about styled hair or clothes made to flatter your shape or magazines under pillows. He wasn't talking about an unbroken voice and the illegality of a wedding for his son. What Burt was talking about was much, much bigger than that. When Kurt shook Mercedes' hand, he did more than press his skin against hers. He joined himself to her emotionally, in a way that was frighteningly deep but completely out of his control.
Burt knew that if Kurt was ever integrated into society, people would call him all number of names. 'Fag' would be thrown around too much for any moral person to be okay with it; 'lady' would be another; but 'fairy' was the one that worried Burt the most, because the people who would say it would not know how almost-right they were. Change a few letters, replace an honorary vowel with two real ones, and you were there: faerie. It wasn't obvious and it wasn't some form of debilitating illness. You couldn't catch it, it didn't affect you – although people thought it did. It was just what Kurt was, by a mutation of his cells, by the process of evolution, by nature's own design, by the hand of God – who even knew?
It was pure luck that Kurt's parents found out, because there is no obvious difference between faerie and human; impish features and large eyes are not unheard of in society, and Kurt didn't have wings or horns or a spiked tail curling behind him. There are no shocking physical aspects of faeries that make humans do a double-take. In fact, humans seem to have no idea of what faeries really do, because they've twisted the truth. They've made it into something vulgar, as they so often do, and it makes Burt feel ashamed of his own species.
It's all in the blood. When a faerie bleeds, they don't bleed red, but blue. A human can look at the inside of their wrist and see the veins sitting just below the surface, pumping with deoxygenated blood. A faerie can do that, too. But when the skin breaks and the blood is freed, faerie blood doesn't do a magical colour change that confuses children to no end. They are probably better models for children because they keep to the colour laws: it's blue there, so it's blue here.
Kurt was only a few days old and had been handled by his parents, his maternal grandparents, one doctor and two nurses. Burt was never quite sure whether the last three people had any lasting effect on Kurt, but he assumed that, due to his age at the time, the feelings were not as profound. As they say, you can't miss something you never knew you had. Elizabeth was walking Kurt around the living room of their family home in Lima, rocking him back and forth and cooing at him as Burt watched from the couch. He doesn't know how it happened, maybe it was fate, but Elizabeth's brooch unfastened. The sharp point of the pin snagged on their son's skin as his mother moved him in her arms, and the baby began to cry. Immediately, Burt was on his feet, hovering over his small family as his wife started to comfort Kurt. But when she went to remove the brooch, they both froze. A thin line of blue was leaking from the shallow cut on Kurt's tiny, pale arm.
Burt and Elizabeth had always made a habit of watching the news. Any evening of the week, you could find them on the sofa together, curled up under a blanket in the winter, or with every window thrown open in the summer, watching the major events of America and the not-so-major events of Ohio unfold on the screen before them. This nightly ritual meant that they had seen every report on the mysterious people who seemed to be forming a new race.
"-features some would consider beautiful-"
"-big eyes in delicate faces."
"They bleed blue blood-"
"Their touch is-"
"-produces great sexual desire in humans-"
"-fears that this new race will become the sexual drug of the next generation."
They were immobile for so long that Kurt's cries ceased. They stared at his blood, audaciously blue against his very pale skin. It wasn't the same blue as his eyes – which weren't even truly blue. They sometimes stepped over the lines and walked into green or grey territory. They were big, though. Big eyes in a delicate face. Big eyes in a delicate face which would bleed blue blood if you cut it.
"Elizabeth," Burt whispered, his voice shaking. "What – what do we do?"
She looked up at him then, away from her son. "Nothing. We can't do anything. He just…he can't touch anyone else."
So Kurt hadn't. He'd been kept out of the way of other children; of neighbours; of extended family members. Even when his parents had discovered, via a forum for parents of faeries, that their children did not produce sexual desire in human beings when touched and the truth had been grievously distorted, Kurt still left the house rarely. He would shop with his mother, but only when wearing gloves and kept close to her side. He would walk only the empty streets of Lima, and would learn only in his living room.
When Elizabeth had died, Burt didn't know what to do. He had to take Kurt with him to the shop, leave him in the office with schoolbooks and not let anyone go in. He knew it was no life for a child, but there were no options. Sex trafficking of faeries had become a common business across the world, despite the fact that it was based on a lie. When he lay on his side of the bed at night, trying not to think about the empty space beside him, Burt wondered how it happened. He couldn't comprehend how people were so stupid; how they let themselves believe what was not true just to fulfil their own concupiscence. He was hit with a barrage of images his mind created: faeries, broken, lying on the floors of cells; beautiful beings, raped by rich bastards; small children with large eyes and delicate faces, kept in the house of someone they did not know for the time when they were old enough; his own son, caged in his house, unable to leave for fear of these things.
Burt Hummel was grieving, but he was also terrified.
Watching his son shiver as he took the hand of the unwitting little girl was a moment Burt would never forget. He had spent eight years of his life avoiding that occurrence. When you run from something for that long, it catches you up much harder than you expect.