Kurt stared at his own reflection in the little mirror in his locker. He had dark marks beneath his eyes, and he was paler than usual, but he really did feel better than he had all the past week. He could stand, he could walk, he could get himself out of the house and all the way to school. It was an improvement.
When someone called his name from behind he jumped. He turned to face Miss Pillsbury, who smiled at him a little nervously. "I'm so happy to see you back at school," she said. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," Kurt croaked out from his sore throat. "It was just one of those cold/flu things."
She nodded sympathetically, but took a step backward so as not to breathe his air. "And winter is only just beginning, you poor thing. Did you get a flu shot?"
Kurt nodded. "But they never work."
"Well, drink lots of orange juice. And keep washing those hands!" She laughed, but Kurt didn't. He just nodded again. "Maybe you should spend the long weekend in bed."
He almost asked her what she was talking about, but before he said anything he managed to remember Thanksgiving was tomorrow. No school. He should have just stayed home. There was no point in going to school for just one, random Wednesday.
He mumbled something about agreeing with Miss Pillsbury and she happily wandered away. He didn't know how much longer he could stand in the hallway. He wanted to sit.
He'd taken about two steps toward his last class of the day when Rachel rushed to his side and locked an arm with his. She talked a mile a minute, and was practically dragging him down the hallway, and he couldn't concentrate on anything. "Okay," he said mostly to himself, pulling away from her to lean against the wall. "You are definitely too loud and too fast and too much all at once." He covered his eyes with his hands.
"You're not better at all," she scolded. "How are we supposed to have the best Thanksgiving ever if you're half dead?"
"I didn't know we were supposed to be having the best Thanksgiving ever," Kurt whined back from between his wrists.
"Well, we are. My dads are out of town for a romantic getaway to celebrate one of their birthdays, and -"
"Gross," Kurt sighed.
"I don't approve of romance." He dropped his hands to his sides and frowned at the floor. "Just the thought of it makes me feel exponentially worse."
"Whatever," she hit him in the shoulder. "In any case, it means I'm coming to your house for a Hud... Hum...sels... Berry..." she paused, thinking about it. "Hudmel-Berry Thanksgiving! Obviously the best Thanksgiving ever."
"Okay, but don't kiss Finn in front of me all night. Or sit near him. Or look at him, at all, while I'm in the room."
She rolled her eyes and draped one of his arms across her shoulders. "Come on, weakling." She helped him across the hall to his classroom and deposited him in a seat in the back row, closest to the door. With quick precision she poked her hand into an open pocket in his backpack and removed his car keys. "I'll come get you later. I'll drive." She grinned.
"Later? Tonight? Are you coming over tonight? It's not Thanksgiving tonight." He groaned and rubbed his head. "Why is everything so confusing?"
"We're having a sleepover tonight," Rachel said simply. "I'll see if anyone else wants to come. Bye!" She bounded out of the room before he could refuse.
Some hours later, he found himself in his pajamas, watching sappy movies on the floor, surrounded by most of the Glee club and ten bags of popcorn. He still felt like he was dying, but no one else seemed to notice.
Tina was practically sobbing over the movie, which Kurt had stopped paying attention to about the moment it started playing. He just stared, blankly, at the screen.
"It's just so sad, and so sweet," Tina said.
"So sweet and so sad," Brittany agreed.
Rachel entered the room with her own bag of butter free popcorn and plopped herself between Kurt and Finn. "God," she said, "your parents are so cute."
"What did they do?" Kurt and Finn asked in unison, both with a tone that meant they didn't actually care.
"They're just so happy together. They act like teenagers in puppy love. It's so cute that they finally found each other." She paused, and then amended, "Not that I'm saying they're old."
"It's good it took them so long," Finn said with a frown. "Actual teenagers who find their soulmates aren't cute, they're like... drooling, brain dead idiots."
"And neither of us would be alive now if they met as teenagers," Kurt pointed out, not really sure why he was defending Finn's bad mood, or even why he was speaking. His head and throat were throbbing with pain.
"Yeah, yeah, everything happens for a reason. I just think it's adorable when soulmates find each other."
"Me too," Tina sniffed.
Finn mumbled something negative to himself.
"Just because you two don't know who your soulmates are doesn't mean you need to be so grumpy about it. Maybe it's even better for you. It could be anyone. Maybe you'll just see them someday, and know." She was gesticulating now, and looking starry eyed at some imaginary, invisible person only she could see.
"No," Kurt and Finn said together.
"Maybe you're each other's soulmates!" Brittany yelled suddenly.
Everyone made a noise at this, varying from amused to disgusted. "Ew!" Kurt said. "They wouldn't... inbreed us. That must be against the rules."
"You're not actually brothers, maybe it's not against the rules," Santana said.
"Can we stop talking about this?" Finn asked. "It's stupid. Soulmates are stupid. Look at how many millions of people aren't married to their soulmates, and they're perfectly happy."
"But not completely happy," Rachel smiled at him. "Whatever, I'm in just as bad of a position as you. My soulmate has a Chinese name. He probably actually lives in China. What am I supposed to do, go to China and look for him?"
"Is it Mike Chang?" Mike Chang asked.
She smiled at him. "No."
"They wouldn't put you with someone you couldn't find," Tina told her. "He's probably around here somewhere. Want to come with me to Asian club on Monday?"
Before she could reply, Finn interrupted. "Who's 'they'? Seriously, who is it? The government? A psychic? A magic fairy? God? Give me a break. Rachel and I are together, we're in love, we're happy, and we aren't each other's soulmates. Who cares? We're happy, right?"
"Of course!" Rachel took his hand.
"Stop," Kurt snapped, and she let go.
"Of course we are."
"Mine's -" Tina started, but Finn cut her off.
"Can we please stop talking about this? It's stupid. It's like believing in magic, or Santa, or something."
"What?" Brittany asked.
"They make a website to find your missing soulmates, you know," Mike said. "It's practically impossible that neither of the two would know the name of the other."
Tina gasped. "Fi-" she began, but saw Rachel shaking her head at her, with a sort of death glare, so she changed her words. "Kurt! You could join it! Your other half is probably looking for you. That's so romantic."
Kurt somehow found the energy to turn his eyes to look at her. "No."
"Look," Mike said, holding up his phone. "I have the site right here. It's free to join."
The girls all gasped and grabbed for the phone. "Kurt!"
"Stop," Kurt said again, feebly.
Finn stood up, popcorn falling from his lap. "You guys are all insane. I'm going to bed." He stomped toward the door. No one stopped him. He turned around. "Do not put my name in that thing. I would never forgive any of you." He made sure to give a pointed look to Rachel and Kurt before leaving.
There was an awkward, silent moment in his wake, but Rachel was the first to break it. "He hates this stuff. He thinks it's like... being persuaded. Like, of course you'll fall in love with someone you think you're supposed to fall in love with. But he thinks you'll realize eventually that you were just... caught up in the idea. That it's not real." She paused. "Kurt, I'm looking you up."
"No!" Kurt tried to yell, but barely said at all. "I don't want to know."
"How could you not want to know? You can still date whoever you want. It's just something to keep in the back of your mind."
"Do it," Mike said.
"Do it," Brittany said.
"Oh my God, do it," Tina said, peering at the phone over Rachel's shoulder.
Kurt didn't have enough energy to argue anymore. He didn't have enough energy to storm out of the room like Finn had. He just sort of slumped against the couch and closed his eyes and waited for his destiny to be revealed to him.
They were quiet for a long time. He supposed they were waiting for it to load, or whatever. But then they were still quiet. He opened his eyes. The four of them were looking at the screen, and then looked up at him in unison. They all had a weird look on their faces, that Kurt was too sick to decipher.
"What?" he finally asked.
Rachel shook her head and pushed a button that made the screen go black. She handed it back to Mike. "You're not on it."
"Oh," he said, and let it sink in. That wasn't the response he was expecting. He expected to hear some random name that meant nothing to him, and dreaded hearing the name of someone he already knew. But he didn't expect nothing. Now the last chance he had to learn the name had fizzled out. "Oh."
He remembered being a little boy and learning about soulmates. The boys at school talked about them, but at first Kurt didn't know what they meant. When they were young it was a simple concept: everyone was going to get married to someone when they grew up. It was an invisible person that you'd meet when you grew up, who didn't matter when you were young. And when Kurt was about 12 or 13, the boys at school brought it up again, but they joked about it and said they hoped they'd meet their soulmates soon, because it would be an automatic passage into a girl's bra. They made fun of boys who were paired with other boys, and girls who were paired with girls.
He remembered going home and finally asking his father what it all meant. He remembered the sadness in Burt's eyes when he said Kurt wasn't born in a hospital. He didn't get a birth certificate until he was 2 days old, and by then it was too late. "But don't worry," Burt had said. "It happens to a lot of people. Not everyone can get to a hospital on time. It doesn't mean you don't have a soulmate, it just means you don't know their name. And trust me, a name doesn't tell you a whole lot. It doesn't really mean anything."
When he was about 15 he decided to look up information about soulmates on the Internet. Not knowing his soulmate's name hadn't really bothered him until that point, but boredom and Google could lead to crazy things. He learned about the website that would help connect soulmates who didn't know the right names. Statistically, it said, if you don't know your soulmate's name, your soulmate probably knows yours, and might be looking for you. But you had to be 16 to join it, and he was too nervous to fake it. He wasn't ready to know. So he clicked the X, and explored different links.
That was when he found out about all the awful things that can come from having a soulmate. People who didn't believe, like Finn, but so fervently that they threw riots and protests. People who broke the windows out of the NICU ward of a hospital in Los Angeles in the '80s because they were so angry. People who were bullied because their whole school found out their soulmate was the same gender as they were. People who killed themselves over how angry and hopeless it made them. People who swore they met their soulmates and didn't fall in love with them. People who said it was all a conspiracy. The unusually high ratio of a second soulmate mysteriously dying after the first one did. People who said it was all a lie. And even more people who believed in it.
It was almost enough to break Kurt's spirit. He almost didn't believe it, and he certainly didn't want to believe it. He decided to stop thinking about it altogether, to just live his life. To try to fall in love naturally, with anyone he wanted, like people were supposed to. But then his father met Carole. Kurt himself had even helped it to happen. He didn't know what it all would mean. He didn't know he was helping soulmates find each other.
And then Finn moved in, and it turned out Finn didn't know his soulmate's name either, which was weird, but good. It seemed overly coincidental, but Kurt was glad to not be the only one who didn't know. Maybe not knowing was what made Finn so angry about it. Maybe not. Finn and Kurt went to their parent's wedding, and smiled, and were happy for them, but they were wary.
But Kurt always kept that website in the back of his mind. He always meant to use it, some day. Maybe after he had finished college. Would he be ready to know then? All he knew was that he wasn't ready yet, that movie night before Thanksgiving, when he was sick. When Rachel put his name in and Brittany, Santana, Tina, and Mike watched.
He barely noticed as his friends made excuses about having to go home because it was late; or as Rachel said goodnight and went to sneak into Finn's room. Kurt thought he said goodnight back, and "Happy Thanksgiving" to the others, but he wasn't sure. He just fell asleep on the sofa, numb.
He half woke up again around five in the morning, when Rachel tiptoed back into the living room and lay down on some blankets on the floor, so that Burt and Carole would find her there, and not in Finn's room, when they woke.
He had no idea that Rachel and Finn had just done something, behind his back, that would change his life forever.