Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Westerville, Ohio. August of 1916.
His first impression of Kurt was that he was rather a wildcat.
Of course, he didn't know who he was, or his name. In fact, he still wasn't entirely sure where he was. He had just stepped through the thick double doors from the oppressive summer heat into the cool mustiness of the front hall, flanked on one side by his father's lawyer and the school administrator on the other. For a moment he stood there, blinking in the shadows as his eyes adjusted, and he heard the shrill shrieking echo through the once-grand atrium.
"You bastard! You broke my nose!"
"You deserved it!"
"I'm gonna kill you, you little quiff!"
His father's lawyer put a restraining hand on his shoulder as two teachers struggled past, each attempting to hold back a student. The bigger one was bleeding profusely from the nose, red spilling over his chin and already dirty shirt. The smaller one had a large red splotch across his otherwise white face, but there was a fire in his eyes as he fought the teacher holding him back.
"Don't you dare touch me!" he screamed, wrenching away at the grip on his arms. "Don't you dare touch me, Karofsky!"
The older, bloodied boy snarled and the teacher drew the thinner boy back. "Kurt, don't make this worse for yourself," he warned. The teacher glanced up apologetically at the school administrator. "I'm sorry, sir. They were fighting."
"I can see that, Mr. Schuester," the administrator said. "Take David to the infirmary and send Kurt to solitary."
The teachers obeyed, dragging their unwilling captives away down the hall. The administrator turned to him as he stared, shocked into silence. "Welcome to Dalton Reform, Mr. Anderson," he said dryly. "Follow me, please."
Blaine obeyed, his father's lawyer still keeping a tight hold on his shoulder. The halls were dim and musty; the large windows were so caked with dirt and their curtains so weighted with dust that it did nothing to brighten the darkness. "Dalton began as an elite boys' school," the administrator explained without prompting. "However, Westerville isn't necessarily considered the poshest of places, and few wealthy families chose to send their sons here. Our charter changed about fifteen years ago."
He pushed open the door at the end of the hall and ushered them inside. Blaine stepped into the office, still clutching the handle of his monogrammed leather satchel in his hot, sweating hands. It was nicer in here, cleaner and brighter. The desk was adorned with a polished name plate engraved with the name Phillip Trevelyan, gleaming under the light of a green-shaded electric lamp. Dr. Trevelyan sat down behind the desk and gestured for Blaine to take a seat.
His father's lawyer pulled a stack of papers out of his valise. "You'll see Mr. Anderson has everything in order for his son's transfer," he said, handing the paperwork over.
Dr. Trevelyan scanned the pages. "I was curious when Mr. Anderson sent the wire inquiring about openings at this school," he said. "It's highly unusual."
"Blaine made an unfortunate habit of acting out at his previous schools," the lawyer informed him. "Sneaking around, smoking on campus, betting in after-hours poker games. Several…illicit relationships."
Dr. Trevelyan raised an eyebrow. Blaine stared him down, his chin raised.
"When he was caught in the middle of a study period with a flask, the school turned him out," the lawyer continued. "His father wishes to teach him a lesson, so rather than send him to yet another private school, he decided a term or two in a country reform school would do him some good."
"And there are no reform schools in upstate New York?" Dr. Trevelyan inquired.
"Mr. Anderson has kin in Ohio; you'll see the emergency contact information written down on page four," the lawyer explained.
Blaine gritted his teeth. Of course his father's lawyer would never explain the truth- that it was easier to hide Blaine and his transgressions several states away than let him stay in New York and risk one of his wealthy clients finding out that Mr. Anderson- church deacon, prominent lawyer, pillar of society Mr. Anderson- had a wayward son.
Although, to be quite honest, 'wayward' was putting it mildly.
He dug his fingernails into the arms of his chair. If only his sister were here. She wouldn't let this happen. After all, she had been a bit of a hellion herself- dancing with every boy who asked her, raising her hemlines to distinctly unladylike heights, knocking back shots of whiskey like a man instead of delicately sipping champagne.
But Francey was married now, traveling through Europe on a grand tour with her newly minted husband for their honeymoon.
"We'd best travel while we can, darling, while there's still a Europe to see," she'd said gaily. He worried over her sometimes, traveling through England and Austria and France while a faraway war raged, but she sent him picture postcards like clockwork, scribbled with happy messages in her loopy cursive. For a moment he wondered if she would notice when his letters of reply abruptly vanished.
Maybe his mother would tell her. Maybe she would tell Francey his change of address. Perhaps she would even tell Francey the whole story and his sister would come home in one of her black Irish rages, storm into this Dalton Reform nonsense and withdraw him immediately so he could go live with her and her husband in their townhouse on Park Avenue.
But no. His mother would never tell. He doubted his motlher even knew where he was.
His mother loved him. He knew that. But Anna Anderson had grown up sheltered in the South, sipping mint juleps under broad branches of magnolia trees, and while he knew his parents cared for each other, a shy Southern belle and a silent Yank lawyer did not a perfect marriage make.
For a childish, selfish moment he thought of his mother sitting alone in their house in the Hamptons, in the morning room writing letters or in the garden with a bit of embroidery in her hand. He wished he could go back to his childhood, quiet and idyllic, playing croquet in the back lawn with his sister, both of them small and round-faced, dressed in their linen summer clothes, giggling as they chased after their colored balls while their mother looked on and smiled and clapped.
But he was seventeen, not seven, and in the past ten years it had become much, much harder to get anyone's attention. Much less his own parents'.
Blaine glanced up, a sullen look under his lashes, as Dr. Trevelyan slid a brown paper folder across the desk at him. "Your student handbook, Mr. Anderson," he said. "You need to understand what's expected of you."
He glared at it; his father's lawyer nudged him and he picked it up reluctantly. "His father will send him a monthly stipend," the lawyer said. "And if he finds himself in any sort of trouble again…Mr. Anderson has made it quite clear that he is willing to pay whatever is necessary to keep his son here."
Dr. Trevelyan turned his gaze towards Blaine. "I see," he said, and his eyes sought Blaine's so firmly that he squirmed and looked away, pinned under the uncomfortable feeling that the administrator saw more than brown eyes and lashes and a fading bruise. "Well, Mr. Anderson, the other boys are in their free period at the moment. We'll have a teacher bring you up to your hall so you can get settled. Dinner is served promptly at six, followed by an evening devotional."
Blaine just looked at him. His father's lawyer nudged him. "Yes, sir," he finally said in a low voice.
Dr. Trevelyan held out his hand. "Welcome to Dalton Reform, Mr. Anderson," he said.
Blaine wandered into the dining hall more than a little bit out of his element. Obviously the room had once been some sort of ballroom, with vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers and a parquet floor, but the rafters hung thick with cobwebs like old scarves and the chandeliers gaped with empty spaces and the parquet floor was rife with chips and dents and the dirt from a thousand shoes.
Long rough-hewn pine tables stood in straggling lines across the floor, flanked by narrow benches. Boys milled about everywhere, every shape and size, some with hardened eyes and big hands and some so small and apple-cheeked that they looked out of place away from their mothers. Their clothing was faded and ill-fitting; their shoes were worn and scuffed. Blaine suddenly felt self-conscious in his own clothes- he was still sweaty and travelstained from his long train ride, but his clothes was still miles away from anything these boys wore.
He stood awkwardly to the side, watching the boys fall into place and grab their plates eagerly, the set pattern of a thousand evenings. He didn't know where he belonged.
It was a statement, not a question. He turned to find another Dalton boy, slim and dark haired, standing beside him with a faint smile quirking his lips. "You've got the fresh meat look in your eyes," he said. He held out a bony hand. "The name's Nick."
"Blaine," he said, shaking his hand firmly. His father always said a man's handshake spoke louder than his words.
"We've got space at our table," Nick said.
"I don't need charity," Blaine said stiffly.
Nick looked him up and down, from his wrinkled polished cotton shirt to his still mostly clean brogues, that faintly amused smile still turning up his lips. "I don't suppose you do," he said. "But you'll learn quick that at Dalton, you find your place before someone finds it for you."
He turned towards a nearby table and Blaine, without a proper response, followed him dumbly. Nick sat down with an easy grace. "We've got a new fellow among us, boys," he said, nodding towards Blaine.
The blond next to Nick looked up at him, smiling. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," Blaine said warily. Something about the vagueness of the blond's eyes unsettled him, and he sat down on Nick's other side.
"This is Blaine," Nick said. "Blaine, meet Jeff, Dylan, Trent, and Thad."
Blaine surveyed his new comrades. They nodded towards him in cool civility, as if they were as wary of him as he was of them, except for Jeff, who continued to smile at him.
"What brings you to Dalton Reform, Blaine?" Thad asked.
Blaine shrugged and looked down at the bowl of stew in front of him. "This is disgusting," he said.
"It's better than what we usually get," Dylan offered.
"Don't mind him, he's an eternal optimist," Thad said with a roll of his eyes. "If you don't want it, we'll take it."
Blaine pushed the bowl away. Trent grabbed it eagerly and scooped Blaine's discarded dinner into equal portions between the other boys, although it seemed Nick and Jeff got a little more than the others.
Nick still had that phantom of a smile. "You won't do that tomorrow night," he remarked. "You'll learn."
"Dalton Reform is a complicated hierarchy," Thad said, gulping his dinner down eagerly. He used his spoon to point to a table near a window. "You've got the smart ones that study all the time in the hopes of making something of themselves when they get out of here…you've got the charity cases who're here because they've got nowhere else to go…"
He swerved to point at a table in the farthest corner where a tall boy with a choppy, handcut mohawk lounged, looking down at the boys sitting around him like a king surveying his subjects. The big guy he'd seen earlier in the hall hulked beside him, his face scrubbed clean but his shirt still bloodied. "You've got the no-account rebels who will be dead or in jail by the time they're thirty."
"What are you supposed to be, then?" Blaine retorted.
Nick opened his arms wide, palms up. "We're the saints amongst the sinners," he smiled.
Blaine frowned, his eyebrows drawing down, but before he could ask what on earth he meant, the doors to the hall opened and the boy called Kurt walked in.
He didn't look like anyone around them. His clothes were just as ragged, his hair just as rakish and shaggy, but he seemed above them somehow.
Blaine had been in society; he had been surrounded by the wealthy and the titled since he could toddle. And Kurt gave him the strange, uneasy feeling that with just a bath and a change of clothes and a haircut he could stroll into any Fifth Avenue party and fit right in.
"Who's that?" he finally managed to ask.
"That's Kurt," Trent said darkly. "Kurt Dalton."
Blaine frowned. "We get orphans in here sometimes, and if they don't have a last name, they're just called Dalton," Nick explained. "He's a charity case. I don't know how long he's been here. It feels like forever."
"But someday he'll be seventeen and they'll make him leave," Jeff said.
Blaine watched as Kurt strolled across the dining hall, his pointed chin held high. Instead of the other boys who wore worn-out work shoes, Kurt wore a pair of glossy boots, laced precisely. He didn't seem like an orphan or a charity case or a reform school boy- not with the way he carried himself.
Kurt sauntered right past them, close enough that Blaine could see the bruise beginning to blossom across his cheekbone, and sat down at an empty seat at the table next to them. He beckoned for one of the remaining bowls.
"Been in solitary again, Kurt?" the blond boy across from him asked.
Kurt shrugged, clearly unconcerned. "They let me out on good behavior," he said, his voice incongruously sweet.
The little boy next to the blond, so alike they could be brothers, wriggled in excitement. "Kurt, Kurt, arentcha gonna tell us how you got here?" he asked.
The blond rolled his eyes. "Stevie, drop it," he said.
Kurt grinned without baring his teeth. "I killed a man," he said easily as he picked up a fork. "I wasn't even much bigger than you. All it took was a belt buckle and a fountain pen."
Little Stevie stared at him, bug-eyed, and Kurt laughed and took a bite of his dinner. The older blond boy jostled the child impatiently. "You know he's kidding, right?" he said. "There's no way he could kill a grown man with a buckle and a pen."
Jeff leaned in on Blaine's other side. "No one know why Kurt's here," he whispered. "He just tells stories. Nick says Kurt tells lies, but I think he just tells stories."
Blaine watched Kurt smirk as the little boy shook his head and argued with his brother. And then suddenly Kurt turned towards Blaine.
Blaine started, but he couldn't look away. Kurt's eyes were curiously beautiful- shifting colors as if they couldn't decide what they wanted to be- and even though Kurt seemed young, his eyes seemed old.
"So," Kurt said. "You must be the new boy I heard about." He made an exaggerated show of licking his fork clean, his tongue pink and shameless as he kept Blaine's gaze. "Welcome to Dalton."
"Thank you, I think," Blaine replied.
Kurt closed his mouth and set the fork down, that old, tired look in his eyes suddenly overwhelming him as they regarded each other. And then Kurt blinked and it was gone; he turned away and Blaine stared at the back of his head.
Following Nick and the others into the dormitories was just as overwhelming and disorienting as wandering into the dining hall alone. The herd of boys filtered into their rooms with a clatter of noise and obscenity-laced chatter.
"What bed did you pick?" Nick asked. It sounded like he was trying to speak over the dull roar, but his voice was so thin and thready it was hard to hear. Blaine silently pointed to a bed in the corner, the covers folded at the foot and his satchel left on the floor beside it. "You're going to want to hide your personal belongings. Dalton isn't the place for nice things."
Blaine bristled, biting back a scathing reply. He was used to nice things. He was used to the fine clothes his mother selected for him and having his own bedroom and eating off china and crystal. "It's barbaric," he said finally.
Nick shrugged. "It's reform school," he said. "You'll adjust. We all did."
Blaine sat down on his bed, feeling the thin lumpy mattress sag under his weight, and glanced around. "What now?" he asked.
"Now we get ready for bed," Thad said. "Lights out at ten. They're strict about it."
Nick plucked at the buttons of his shirt. "Tomorrow we'll have classes," he said. "I'm sure you'll have your uniform by then."
"Have you met any of the teachers yet?" Dylan asked.
Blaine shrugged. "I met a Dr. Trevelyan," he said.
"He's a good man," Nick said. "He does what he can for us, but he has to answer to the school board. And they're not the most pleasant people to be around, to put it tactfully."
Blaine glanced around at the roomful of boys preparing for bed and reluctantly tugged at his suspenders. "Saturday's a work day," Thad said.
Blaine paused. "Work day?" he said.
"They don't pay for a landscaper or a maid," Nick said. "We've all got chores to do."
Blaine ground his teeth and stared down at his hands. Despite all of his efforts to rebel against his parents, he'd managed to maintain his pretty boy hands- smooth and free of calluses, the nails even and unbroken. These were not hands used to work.
"On Sunday the Ladies' Aid Society from the Baptist church likes to come in and interfere," Thad said, tossing his clothes over the foot of his bed. "They basically just putter around and meddle and act horrified by all these dreadful, dirty boys." His mouth twisted up in a sneer. "It's delightful."
"It's not that bad," Nick said serenely, stretching out the length of his bed. His legs seemed too thin to hold him up. "Dr. Trevelyan usually brings his daughter around. She's the best of the lot."
"That's true," Thad admitted. "We don't mind her."
One of the teachers poked his head in the door, the curly-haired one who had attempted to restrain Kurt in the hall earlier that day. "Lights out in five minutes, boys," he warned.
"That's Mr. Schuester, one of the teachers," Nick explained as Blaine hastily undressed for bed.
"He's one of those progressive, idealistic, bleeding-heart type teachers," Thad said. "He keeps trying to start up a boys' chorus of some kind. Thinks it'll help us, or some such rot."
"I sing," Blaine said shortly as he unlaced his shoes and tucked them under his bed.
"Well, then, he'll be delighted to have you," Thad said.
Blaine chose not to tell them about the glossy black piano at his parents' home, the one where he learned to drum out simple exercises as a chubby-fingered child and later spent school holidays rippling up and down the keys in wild melodies of his own invention, or the years spent with a private tutor training him to sing properly with round tones and perfect diction.
I don't belong here, he thought bitterly. I don't deserve this.
He fell onto his bed, still uncomfortably sticky from a long day of traveling with no chance for a bath, and pulled the scratchy blanket over his legs. In a moment he kicked it aside; it was too oppressively hot to sleep covered up.
The lights switched off and the room fell in the heavy silence of the exhausted. He could hear Nick's labored, wheezing breaths and Thad tossing and turning. All he could do was stare at the ceiling, watching the journey of a spider across the rafters. He wished desperately for just a sip of whiskey, thick and comforting and warm against his throat, but his father had searched him for contraband before leaving.
No matter. If he could get booze at private school, he could definitely get booze at Dalton.
He kept staring at the ceiling, too distracted to sleep.
And then the door creaked open, and Kurt walked in.
He walked past Blaine, quiet and catlike, and paused at the bed at the end of the row. Blaine watched through his lashes as Kurt undressed slowly, stripping down to his undershorts and a thin white sleeveless shirt. But instead of crawling under his covers he sank to the edge of his bed, one slim leg folded under him, and he just looked out the window.
Blaine wished fervently that he could see his face. He could see the back of Kurt's neck, pale and slender, and the hunching of his thin strong shoulders. For a while he watched him, still and unmoving, until the next thing he realized he was opening his eyes to the first stray lights of dawn and the other boys were rousing. Kurt's bed was still made and he was already gone.
Well...so I fell prey to the bad boy trend!
I've been toying with some ideas, because I didn't want to make Blaine the bad boy and Kurt the sweet innocent boy he corrupts. I wanted them both to be bad, in their own unique ways.
And I was running laps this morning and realized..."Oh. It doesn't have to be modern."
So this story is heavily influenced by my love of sentimental, melodramatic novels from the early 20th century- particularly Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. There's also going to be some influence from the final Anne Shirley book, Rilla of Ingleside.
I also read Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson twice yesterday (don't judge! I'm a speedreader and I love that book!) and so some that book crept into this story- most notably the title. I highly recommend all of these books.
So...I hope this intrigues you. I'm going to get to work on the next chapter promptly. I'm going to crank this story out while my energy is still going!