Title: Nothing Rhymes with Circus. Prologue.
Pairing: Dave Karofsky/Kurt Hummel.
Rating: PG for this chapter.
Word Count: 56oo this chapter.
Disclaimer: Pfht, if I owned Glee, Blaine wouldn't be on it.
Summary: Dave is just a humble young man whose only expectation from life is having somewhere to sleep at night. Everything changes when he's invited to join a very unique travelling circus where he'll meet a group of very peculiar people, discovering that he's not what you could call a regular guy.
A/N: This is a complete AU and time fic, that takes place in the late 30s. I'm trying to be as accurate as I can with things the way they were back then, but I apologize if something is not exactly the way it was back in the late 30s.
William walks on the side of a completely empty road, under the burning sun. He took off his jacket a couple of miles ago, then that wasn't enough so he rolled up his sleeves and unbuttoned his waistcoat. It's still damn hot. It doesn't matter if he has his hat on or not, his head is still on fire.
He's expecting to at least find one car or truck that could give him a ride to the nearest gas station. It wouldn't be the first time in his life he's had to hitchhike, but so far he's had no luck. Not because no one offered him a ride, but because within the last hour not even one car has passed by on this road.
He knows it's his own fault. He should have checked the gas meter before his car started running on fumes. Sadly, William came to that realization when his truck stopped completely, after letting out some loud and scary sounds.
So now his truck is abandoned several miles back while William walks down the road, hoping to find something. A car, a gas station, a truck stop… he doesn't even care about the gas anymore. He would kill just for a glass of water. Not literally, but he certainly would do anything to have something to drink.
His eyes light up when he spots what seems to be a small gas station in the distance. William lets out a loud, desperate laugh. It could be just a mirage fueled by his thirst but right then not even his aching, weary feet could stop him from breaking into a jog to get closer to the image. His smile grows even wider as he gets closer to the shadowy impression, realizing that it is indeed small gas station. His mind wasn't playing tricks on him after all.
As he keeps walking forwards, William does his best to put his thoughts in order, trying to plan his next move. He has only three dollars in his pocket. The whole idea behind driving to Columbus's racecourse was actually to win some money to get by on until their next show. Last Sunday, Kurt said he was going to win today. William frowns at that thought, taking out his pocket watch and noticing that the race has ended already.
Kurt is never inaccurate.
William rolls his eyes at his own stupidity when he remembers that the last time he saw Kurt was two days ago. Only in passing; William always tries to stay away from Kurt in order to not make things any worse. But they did run into each other early in the morning at the costumes trailer. William was walking out while Kurt was walking in. They merely greeted each other with a small nod, as usual. But then suddenly Kurt grabbed him by his arm, and said out of blue. "Please, remember to fill up your truck with gas."
After saying said that, Kurt went on his way. Kurt's behavior wasn't odd to William, so he also continued with what he had intended to do next, which was to meet Sam, Noah, Artie, and Quinn to talk about their rehearsal schedule; William completely forgot about Kurt's words.
So it's not that Kurt was inaccurate. William is simply an idiot.
But the main thing is that William is walking towards the gas station with the small amount he had planned to use for betting. Money is tight, as usual. Running a circus where you have to feed fourteen people, plus a tiger, and still have money to buy gas to move thirteen trucks with fourteen trailers attached around the country is not an easy task, especially in the current economy.
William is not sure if he should spend the little money he has on gas and a soda, or if he should keep it until the show next weekend in Aurora. If there's some kind of emergency, they could need that money. William always hates having to persuade people to get what he needs, but if something big comes up and they are out of money, they could be in a tight spot. Maybe this time persuading someone just to get a little gas and a soda wouldn't be so dishonest. William is in need, and ultimately he can always return when he has more money and pay it back. It wouldn't be the first time he's done that.
When he finally gets to the gas station, William looks around and realizes there's no one to be seen. He hurries to find some shade under the roof, which is set between the store and the only two gas pumps that the station has. An old truck that has seen better days is parked by the store's side and the building itself looks completely ramshackle. The paint on the walls is falling off, but William's eyes are drawn to the rusty sign advertising Coca-Cola in an old fashioned ice box; his mouth waters a bit. He steps closer to the ice box, chancing a glance inside to look for a drink but the machine is not only empty but also unplugged.
"Hello?" William calls out, leaning against the window of the store, hoping to see someone there; he can certainly hear a radio on inside. "Is anybody there?" William sees some movement inside the store and he quickly steps back, fixing his clothes in order to look as presentable as he can; even if that's something hard to achieve when you've been walking an hour along a dusty road, with the sun burning the top of your head.
A young man walks out. William stares at him, and notices that this young man can't be any older than his kids. 'His kids.' William reminds to himself that he needs to stop calling them that since none of them are his children, even if he feel like he's everyone's father. But in any case, this guy is big; bulky, with broad shoulders, and taller than William himself. He's dark haired, with some curls here and there, but in spite of his strong look, he seems quite young. He is also wearing an old pair of brown trousers, dark shoes, a stained white wife-beater and suspenders. William instantly assumes he's just an employee and not the owner, but ultimately that's irrelevant. Even more so when he sees the man is holding a bottle of Coke in his hand. The only thing William has to do is ask for it, but no matter how thirsty William is, he has manners.
Or something like that. There's only a certain amount of manners you can have if you're someone like William Schuester.
The young man looks to behind William and then directly at him. "Hello, can I help you?" he asks grumpily. "Especially since you don't seem to have a car," he points out.
William laughs. "Good afternoon, young man," he greets the other man pleasantly, "My truck ran out of gas some miles back," he explains, pointing at the road.
The employee arches a brow like he's surprised. "You walked all the way down here? It's a damn hot day."
"Believe me, I know," he states, stepping closer to the other man. William carefully places his hand on the young man's bare arm and says quietly: "Please, give me that drink."
His heart almost stops when the young man frowns at him, instead of handing over the drink right away as he should have done by now.
"There are still a few left in the store you can buy."
William grows instantly uneasy. This has never happened before to him; not even once in his life. He always hates having to persuade people to get what he wants; that's reason he hardly ever does it, unless it's strictly necessary. His ability is always in conflict with his morals, and more than once, William felt it was a curse. But suddenly it's gone, something has happened and William feels he's almost naked and lost. He quickly tries to put his thoughts in order, but now the situation is completely different. Nevertheless, William still needs to go back Fairview where his kids are staying.
Just in case, he makes another request before breaking physical contact with the employee. "Could you give me a bit of free gas?"
The young man snorts. "Sorry, sir. It's not my station. My boss would kill me if I did that."
William removes his hand from the young man's arm as if it burned him. His mind is reeling but he tries to remain calm. It's hard though. Why isn't it working? How long has his ability been gone? He never manipulated his kids' will, and lately he's only been surrounded by them. But he did persuade a lot of people to go to see their show when they performed in Springfield two weeks ago. What on earth happened to him between then and now?
"Are you alright?" The voice of the young man breaks his train of thought.
William blinks, and then he smiles. "I'm sorry. I'm… I'm finding myself in a predicament right now. See, I was heading to Columbus when my car ran out of gas, and I hardly have any money with me. I have no way to contact my people in order to get a ride or money to buy gas, or even a drink, although I'm probably very dehydrated."
The young man chuckles, gazing at his own drink, "Man, have this. You probably need it more than I do. I would offer you some water, but you wouldn't want to drink that. When you open the faucets, first some mud comes out and then brown water."
William looks warily at the drink but takes it anyway because he's way too thirsty. Maybe his power of persuasion somehow acquired a delayed effect?
He drinks the whole soda in one go. The cold drink coming down his throat feels like heaven, and once he empties the bottle, he catches the employee staring at him, amused.
"Oh, where are my manners? Thanks a lot for this. I'm William Schuester, by the way," he introduces himself, extending is hand to the young man.
"David Karofsky. Dave," he replies, shaking William's hand.
"It's nice to meet you, Dave."
"Listen, I can't really give you free gas," Dave tells him. "My salary is pretty low, and my boss takes the cost of anything that's missing from my paycheck. But there's a phone inside. I'm not sure if it works; I never used it. But if you want to try…"
William presses his lips tight. His kids are nowhere near a phone.
"I… I guess that wouldn't help. My people are currently staying in Fairview, but we're set up in a open field. It's nowhere near a phone. I'm part of a traveling circus," William informs him. "The New Directions Circus."
"Never heard of it, but it sounds fun," Dave says casually but not showing as much excitement as people typically do when William tells them he's part of a circus.
"It is, actually."
Dave scratches the back of his head like he's thinking about something, and William only stares at him, hoping this young man will help him somehow.
"Fairview is not far from here. I mean, it's a long distance to walk, but it's only half an hour by car. Maybe less," Dave notes. "Columbus is tough, that's far. I can't give you anything for free, but I could give you a ride to Fairview."
William can't help showing a grateful smile. It's not much, but in his current situation, that's something huge.
"But you're the only one working here? I wouldn't want to get you in trouble if someone shows up…"
Dave chuckles. "This road is dead. You really picked the worst way to drive to Columbus. You're the first customer I've have in three days."
"Your boss won't mind?"
Dave snorts. "That bastard shows up once every two weeks - maybe - to pick up the profits and take money from my salary. He dropped by the day before yesterday. Showing up twice in the same week is definitely something he wouldn't do. He won't know that I was gone for less than an hour."
"Then I gladly accept your help."
Dave nods and disappears inside the store. William fidgets in place, trying to figure out where he's going from here. His truck is abandoned in the middle of the road, and the fact that he didn't get any money from the bet he never made is now the least of his worries. Suddenly his worries start and end with the inability to persuade people. And he has to work it out on his own. When his kids have problems, they go to him; but William is in charge of his kids' welfare, and he's responsible for them. What's he going to do if he can't take care of them? Of course, to a large degree he takes care of them without using his ability, but that ability is William's last resource in an emergency and the circus is in need far too often for it to just disappear.
Dave walks out of the store carrying a chain and a big lock. He locks the door , and motions William to follow him. They get into the old truck that William saw parked by the side of the station. When Dave turns the engine on, the truck lets out a painful roar. William wonders suddenly if they will make it to Fairview.
Apparently, Dave catches William's concerned face. "It lets out some scary sounds, but it's never let me down."
"I'll take your word for that."
As they hit the road, they start a polite conversation. Actually, Dave brings up the circus, which doesn't surprise William, since circus performers are not something people encounter every day.
"So a circus, huh?"
William smiles courteously. "A circus, indeed."
"What do you do? I mean, do you juggle stuff or throws knives or something?"
"I'm the host, actually; the M.C. We don't have a juggler, but Mike is our knife thrower."
Dave nods. "That sounds fun. I've never been in a circus, but I've seen street posters announcing them and stuff. People usually like them."
"Thankfully, people like our circus."
"Where's your next show?"
"Aurora, next weekend."
"Must be weird, uh? A traveling circus; you get to see all different parts of the country… and, boy, circus people! I bet you have plenty of crazy stories."
William lets out a small laugh. "Actually, it ends up being an ordinary life. After a while, being in three different cities within a week and seeing Finn spitting fire or Brittany sticking her head inside her tiger's mouth stops being surprising."
"That sounds pretty crazy to me."
Before long, they spot William's truck parked on the side of the road. It's almost painful to realize that he walked over an hour, a distance that is easily covered with not even ten minutes of driving.
"That's your truck?" Dave asks as they pass it by.
"Yeah, I wonder if someone will steal it."
"Nah, I told you no one uses this road. Listen, I have a stud link in the back. I can tow it to the station on my way back," Dave offers. "You can pick it up later. Since it's a traveling circus, I assume you have plenty of cars, so you can come back with someone, either to tow it or to fill it up with gas if you get money."
William tilts his head to the side, considering it. Apparently, he's going to have to spend his money one way or the other and to pray that none of his kids has an accident or falls sick or something before their next show. But after all, their next show is three days away and it's not like bad things happen to them often. Still, William doesn't like to tempt fate since bad things usually happen at the worst moments.
"Your car will be safe," Dave says, interrupting William's thoughts. "I can be a lot of things, but I'm not a thief."
"Oh, no! Sorry! I wasn't thinking that," William hurries to say. "I was about to accept your offer, but I spaced out. I was just thinking about who could drive me to the station before we hit the road again."
"I really appreciate your help. If you could tow my truck, it would certainly put my mind at ease. Otherwise I'd spend the day wondering if someone had stolen it. I guess I could pick it up tomorrow before we head to Aurora."
Dave nods again. "Whatever suits you best. Your truck will be at the station. I'm the only employee so nothing will happen to it."
It only takes them about fifteen minutes to reach the circus camp. As usual, William and his people decided to camp in an open field, a little way off the road. Staying at motels is always expensive, considering how many of them there are. They stay at the municipal fairgrounds sometimes, but only on performance nights or when they need to use the showers. He and his kids feel better when they are outside the towns and away from people. No one ever gives them trouble for camping in such out of the way places, even if it's not strictly allowed. And the few times that local authorities told them they weren't allowed to camp somewhere, William politely asked the officials to pay no attention to them.
is always handy.
"That's the place?" Dave asks pointing at the group of cars, trailers and trucks parked away from the road in an open field.
"That would be it."
Dave turns, leaving the road and driving on the field in direction of the camp.
"Oh, that wasn't… I could have walked," William says, even as he feels grateful for Dave's kind gesture. The camp is far from the road and William's feet are killing him.
"You walked enough. It's no big deal to drive you this last bit," Dave replies with a flat tone.
They end up parking near the trailers. William gets out of the car and walks around to the driver's-side door. "I really appreciate your help. I'll probably show up at the station later today or tomorrow to get my truck."
Dave nods nonchalantly. "Your truck will be there, so there's no need to worry about that. Whenever you can pick it up, it's fine by me."
"William is everything alright? We saw a strange truck driving here and got a bit worried."
William turns around to find Noah walking towards him with Rachel jogging right behind. They both stop in front of Dave's truck, giving it a suspicious look. "Yes. My truck ran out of gas; this nice young man offered me a ride."
He sees Rachel gazing at Dave and her eyes snapped open. She covers her mouth with her hands. Then her wide-eyed gaze shifts to William, then to Noah, and she lets out a high pitched squeak "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"
William and Noah look at her, concerned, because Rachel is normally subtle and doesn't show any emotion when she reads someone else's mind, so as not to raise suspicion. Noah approaches her carefully, as her face shows nothing but despair and worry. "What's going on?" he asks, gazing at Dave.
Inevitably, William gives Dave a wary look since he assumes that Rachel read something really bad inside Dave's head. If it wasn't that bad, Rachel would have at least concealed her reaction.
"You circus people are weird," Dave points out flatly. "I'll tow your truck on my way back. As I said, whenever you can pick it up, it will be there."
"Thank you," William replies, since no matter how much of a mess his head is right now, no one needs to find out about what he or his kids can do. He has to remain casual. "I really appreciate all you've done for me."
"No problem. See you around."
"I can't read anything! I can't see anything!" Rachel whispers to him and Noah while Dave is busy turning his engine on.
William's blood turns cold. He can't persuade people; Rachel can't read people's minds…
"Noah, try to lift her," William mutters hurriedly to him. Noah frowns, but picks her up in the air. It was stupid, since Noah is someone who could lift Rachel up with or without super strength, but surely he will be able to tell the difference.
"She's a bit heavier than usual…" Noah's words trail off, and he put her back on the ground.
Dave starts driving away in direction of the road and William blurts out: "It's not working with me either. I thought it was only me, but now you… I don't know what's happening, but I couldn't persuade him and-"
"It's back! It's back!" Rachel cuts him off, a big smile on her face. "You tried to persuade him to give you free gas and a soda," Rachel says, reading William's thoughts.
William blinks. That's exactly what he was about to say. What the hell was going on?
Immediately, Noah holds Rachel and lifts her in the air again, letting out a relieved laugh. "Light as a feather again! What the hell just happened, Will? What was that? It really scared the hell out of me."
William remains silent, doing his best to understand what's happening to him; to them. He doesn't want to persuade his kids, but he needs to see if his ability is still intact, like Noah and Rachel's seem to be.
"I need to try," William says remorsefully.
Rachel gives him a sympathetic look. "It's okay, William, we don't mind, unless you asked us to do something that hurt one of us and we know you'd never do that. I just had an argument with Mercedes and I don't want to apologize, even though I know I should. But you know how proud I am, right? So help me to overcome it for now, and to make Mercedes feel better. I shouldn't have said that her new costume made her look like an elephant. I was just jealous, I wanted an outfit just like hers," Rachel admits apologetically. "And I thought maybe if she didn't wear it, Kurt could alter it to fit me."
William shakes his head doubtfully but he holds Rachel by her arm and tells her: "Rachel, go and apologize to Mercedes. Tell her that she looked gorgeous and you were just jealous."
Rachel stares at him with empty eyes. A small grin forms in William's face seeing that his ability is working again. He releases her from his grip and Rachel blinks, smiling at them. "Guys, I have to go to apologize to Mercedes. I said something awful to her," she says, walking away, heading to Mercedes' trailer.
Noah snorts. "Women," he grumbles, turning to William and frowning. "What's going on, Will?"
William has no answer for Noah; he's just as confused. "I don't know. I noticed a problem when I was at the gas station. I didn't want to spend the little money I had on gas and a soda. I couldn't get to the racecourse, by the way, so it's all the money we have left until Saturday. But anyway, I couldn't persuade the boy."
Then William looks to the road and sees Dave's truck disappearing on the distance. He gasps, but then he laughs as he puts two and two together.
"I think it's him."
Noah frowns again. "What, the guy with the truck? I think he's no good, Will. Rachel saw something bad in him-"
"No. She didn't see anything," William states and grows excited as he puts his thoughts into order. "She got scared because she couldn't read him! Then she couldn't see anything in us, and you actually had to exert some small effort to pick her up!"
Noah gives him a long look, but William has never been so relieved and excited in his life. Not every day do you get to run into someone who is like them.
"So you're saying he can like… cancel what we do?"
William starts walking towards the trailers. If he's right about David Karofsky, someone could have gotten hurt. He doesn't know the range of Dave's apparent ability. Rachel could read minds again when he was almost gone, but if Brittany was with Lily and close enough to Dave to be canceled, or if Mike was trying his aim on someone, or if Sebastian was rehearsing his act… someone could have gotten seriously hurt at the sudden disappearance of their abilities.
Noah follows him around, and William does his best to figure out what to say. "Maybe, I'm not sure. But I was with him and I couldn't persuade him, right? Then he's with you two, and you suddenly can't do what you do. Yet once he left, we were all back to normal. He's the only one that connects us three."
William sees Brittany coming out of her trailer, and waves to her. He finds Mike, Quinn, and Sebastian sitting at a table in front of Mercedes' trailer having lunch. William can't hear any screams and no one is running to him worried or hurt.
Maybe no one was using their abilities at just that moment, or trying to and realizing they were gone. Maybe they weren't close enough to Dave to lose their abilities. William can't tell definitively, but he's almost sure that Dave was the answer to this sudden mess.
"Have you ever seen something like that?"
William shakes his head. "I've heard of people who could do that. Never been with one, and I don't think he's aware of what he can do."
"But that's it, right? We never see him again and we'll have no problem."
And though that would probably be the safest thing to do, William is not sure it's the right thing to do. The main intention of the circus is to give his kids a better environment to be who they are, regardless their race, sexuality or their unusual gifts. Yes, some of them can pass for regular kids, but others can hardly function around regular people. The only ones who know about the existence of people with extraordinary abilities are the people with extraordinary abilities. Even the families of some of his kids are not aware of what their children can do. People like them try to pass unnoticed and conceal their gifts from the world.
In this circus, though, they don't feel like freaks, since they are surrounded by people who are just like them. They have a job where they can take advantage of their gifts without raising suspicions. Overall, they all are happy, they feel supported and encouraged, rather than reviled. Above all, they function as a big family, none of them is alone.
No matter what his ability is, Dave is one of them. There are not many people like them around, and William believes it wouldn't be fair to leave Dave behind. Sure, Dave doesn't seem to know that he can do something no one else can. Dave probably doesn't even know that there are people in the world who can do these seemingly impossible things
And considering what Dave apparently can do, it is even less likely he has ever met anyone special like William or his kids. Even if he did run into someone like them, it would just be a repeat of what happened with William, Rachel and Noah. If Dave can indeed cancel special abilities, then he would never see someone using those abilities.
"You're not thinking about having him join us, right?" Noah asks, and William stares at him since he had forgotten that Noah is still there with him. "It's dangerous, Will. We couldn't even perform if he's around."
William doesn't believe in dangerous abilities; not in bad ones or useless ones either. Special people like them tended to say that there are better and worse abilities, but William thinks they've got it all wrong. He knows there are dangerous people; bad, useless people. What you use you gifts for, and how you use them – that's the key.
William has heard about Dave's supposed ability before. If he could teach Dave to master it, the possibilities boggle the mind. Dave doesn't have to be a danger to them. Maybe having someone like Dave around could even benefit their circus. William can't help thinking about Kurt. Or the Dalton guys.
But most importantly, if Dave is one of them, William doesn't think it would be right to conceal his true nature from him. If William does nothing, Dave will probably go on with his life, never getting to know that he's part of a select group of people, a group he actually belongs to.
"I don't know, Noah. I have to go back to the station where he works to pick up my truck," William tells him, considering what he's going to do. "I should probably speak with the guys first about it. But I think I should talk to him as well."
Noah doesn't look very pleased about that. William can't blame him. First of all, the kids are always a little reluctant to receive new people. Their group has grown pretty much hermetic. And someone like Dave means they will have to take a lot of precautions.
"Can you tell the guys I need them together for a meeting?"
Noah sighs. "After lunch?"
"That would be perfect."
"You talk to Kurt later. I know this is kind of a big deal, but I won't make him go to any meeting," Noah tells him in a protective tone of voice, the same they all use when they talk about Kurt.
William smiles. "No, not Kurt of course. And I think it would be wise if, for now, he doesn't hear about Dave, alright?"
Noah chuckles. "You can't be serious. Actually, the only good thing about having someone like that guy around is Kurt could at least have some peace for awhile. Hmm, think about that, Will. He could actually have lunch with all of us, for the first damn time!"
"I know, Noah. I know. But until we know for sure what Dave will do, I think it's better if Kurt doesn't know. As you said, it would mean a lot for Kurt to have someone like Dave around and it wouldn't be fair to introduce them, only to have Dave decide to take off the next day."
"I guess you're right," Noah says, gloomily. "I'll tell the guys about the meeting."
Noah walks away and William heads to his trailer.
His kids will probably be quite reluctant about someone new joining their group, especially if that person is someone like Dave. But it's that way every time someone new joins them. Later they act like brothers and sisters, and William doesn't doubt that his kids will be very supportive with Dave.
William has to think about the arrangements necessary to have Dave around. First of all, he needs a trailer and that's okay since they can use Blaine's. They've been using it to store random stuff since he left. But the trailer has to be far from everybody else's', just like Kurt's.
The kids can't go without their abilities for the whole day, so Dave can't always hang around. They will also need to start being more cautious. Brittany will have to let Dave know when she's going to be with Lily, just like Mike will have to let him know if he'll be practicing his aim, and the same if Sam, Mercedes, Artie, Noah, Sebastian or Quinn are going to be rehearsing their acts. They need to create a better schedule. And, at least for now, Dave won't be allowed to attend the shows.
If Dave wants to join them, of course. William shouldn't be making so many plans yet, since Dave could choose not to join the circus. After all, young people tended to think being part of a circus must be the most exciting thing in the world, but Dave seemed only mildly excited about it. Maybe he's just not a very expressive person.
Anyway, he has to talk to his kids first. Tomorrow, he will talk to Dave and then they'll plan what comes next.