It was a busy summer – there was work at the garage with his dad, endless senior-year-and-beyond planning sessions with Mercedes or Rachel or Blaine (depending on which part of his life he was planning), there was endless hours spent wheedling Blaine to convince him that yes, Dalton would look better on a college application, but spending their last year of high school together would be worth that sacrifice.
He won, of course. Kurt can be very persuasive when he wants to be. And Blaine lets him get away with a lot.
Anyway, it was a busy summer all around, so it’s only when he hears Dave Karofsky’s name in the hallway the second day of school that Kurt realizes he hasn’t spared a thought to his bully-slash-protector-slash-almost-frien
It’s not like they hang out in the same circles. The people Kurt knows and spends time with who also know Karofsky don’t exactly spend time talking about him.
He hears that name – Karofsky - floating back to him from up ahead, and his first thought is ‘oh, right, him’ and this feeling like he ought to track Karofsky down and check up on him. But that thought, and the rather generous spirit it comes from, gets buried under other thoughts when he sees who it is who’s talking about his old bully.
It’s…Rory, Kurt thinks is the boy’s name. He’s a slip of a kid, a new junior imported from Ireland as part of some cultural exchange thing that Figgins probably agreed to to get some extra funding or whatever.
He’s adorable, but Kurt has only seen him once or twice in the halls after Mercedes pointed him out. They’re not likely to have any classes together.
He’s tall and dark-haired and each time Kurt has seen him he’s been smiling. Currently, though, leaning against a locker and surrounded by cooing girls, he’s also pale from cold and clutching a stained towel, dripping with slushing green ice.
Kurt would normally just shake his head in sympathy at how nothing ever changes, but this recently-slushied exchange student is saying Karofsky’s name, and Kurt is instantly so angry that he stops his jaunt towards his AP French class and heads over to the kid.
“Are you talking about David Karofsky?” he asks, cutting through the gathering crowd of tiny bare-shouldered and giggling underclassman girls.
The kid’s eyes come over, red-rimmed from a sting Kurt knows too well. “David? Is that his first name?” he asks in that Lucky Charms accent that has the girls sighing all the harder for him.
One of the girls reaches out and takes the towel from his hands, tsking as she starts mopping green from his hair and down his neck. “Poor thing.”
“Aye, it was awful,” the kid sighs, but Kurt catches the lift of his mouth and it’s clear he’s playing up the sympathy angle in front of the girls. Not that Kurt hasn’t done the same thing. There is a certain amount of mollification to be found in being babied after going through a slushie attack.
Kurt frowns – the girls have this well in hand, and the kid hardly seems traumatized, but Kurt turns and frowns down the emptying hallway.
He didn’t think about Karfosky all summer, and it’s clear that three months was enough time for the jerk to go back to his old ways. It sparks a flare of anger in his gut, annoyance that he really believed David could change.
Well. Even if Karofsky hasn’t grown up at all, Kurt Hummel has. And he’s going to track that ass down and make sure he knows full well that he will not be bullying Kurt and his friends.
“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened to me yet,” Blaine admits as they sit down at the lunch table and Kurt’s on a constant lookout for letterman jackets and that big stupid face. “I was almost looking forward to it.”
“Uh huh,” Mercedes answers at Kurt’s other side. “Spoken like a true innocent.”
Blaine grins. “Well, that’s the thing. You guys all talk like it’s utterly traumatic. I just want to know for myself.”
“Well, if Kurt is really looking to pick a fight with Karofsky, you’ll probably get your chance.”
“It just bothers me,” Kurt cuts in, frowning at the Karofsky-less cafeteria and turning to his tray of lunch in defeat. “He kept the bullywhips going until the last day of school last year, I just really thought he actually changed.”
“Maybe he did.” Blaine smiles. “There’s a big difference between hurting someone and pouring ice over them, right? Maybe he just hasn’t changed as much as you wanted.”
Kurt shrugs. He shouldn’t even be wasting their time talking about this – it’s the second day of school, they should be groaning over their teachers and schedules, chirping about upcoming Glee auditions. He’s sitting at lunch with his best friend and his boyfriend, he should be beaming out at the world like an idiot pretty much nonstop.
He’s just…disappointed. Really. More than he would have thought.
“Is that him?”
He looks over instantly at Blaine’s question, but the ‘him’ Blaine’s looking at isn’t Karofsky, it’s the Irish kid. “Yeah. Rory. I think?”
“Rory.” Mercedes grins. “He’s in Tina’s pre-calc class. She says he couldn’t say a single world all period without a whole chorus of sighs.”
Kurt considers that – the kid’s got a couple of girls following him, a tall junior in a hockey jersey walking beside him. He sure doesn’t seem like a lonely stranger in a strange land.
“It is a cute accent,” he concedes. Though apparently Karofsky is immune to Irish charms.
Kurt turns back to his tray, and from the corner of his eye he can see Blaine watching him. He looks over, eyebrows raised. “What?”
Blaine smiles, but it’s sympathetic, and his sparkling hazel eyes are concerned. “Did you really think he changed all that much?”
Kurt shrugs. The longer they talk about it the sillier he feels. But yes. He had thought. He’d hoped. “I suppose I’m an optimist.”
Blaine leans in and nudges his arm – he seems to be more reserved than Kurt would have thought about holding his hand or kissing him or anything too demonstrative, even though everyone pretty much knows that he’s gay and that he and Kurt are dating. But he leans in close and his hand rests for a moment on Kurt’s arm, and his voice is warm.
“That’s one of the things I like best about you,” he says with a smile. “Don’t let Karofsky damage that part of you.”
Kurt smiles instantly, leaning in to Blaine’s touch for a quick moment. “He couldn’t possibly. Not if you’re always around to remind me of the good things.”
Blaine grins and pinks and turns back to his tray.
Mercedes rolls her eyes. “Listening to this kind of stuff is going to be my whole year. God give me patience.”
He doesn’t actually see Dave until the day after that. And he’s been looking, so it’s a little strange that it takes him so long to actually notice the guy. But they don’t seem to have any classes in common, and for some reason the letterman presence in the hallways seems less overwhelming than usual.
Dave isn’t even wearing a letterman when Kurt finally notices him. He only ends up looking twice in that direction because once again he sees the grinning Irish kid leaning back against a locker.
Only he’s not grinning now, he looks pale. And he’s not surrounded by fawning accent-addled girls. He’s being towered over by a dark hear of hair and a striped polo shirt.
Kurt’s been ready since the day before, so he doesn’t miss a beat. He shoves his notebooks back in his locker and slams it without locking it, and he marches over with all the outrage he’s held on to since yesterday.
Rory looks over first, and his eyes get a bit wide – hope, maybe. God, has Karofsky really picked this innocent Irish kid to be his new favorite target?
Dave looks over, and he straightens when he sees Kurt coming.
He’s a little different than last year. Kurt’s gaze sweeps over him imperiously but he can’t help but note that the shirt’s hanging off of him a bit, and his hair’s a little longer and disheveled-looking. He looks oddly worn-out.
But Kurt has no sympathy to waste on a bully.
He strides up to them. “What’s wrong with you? Leave him alone.”
Dave smirks, and it seems half-hearted. “What’s up, Fancy? Not happy with your prep-school import? You got the hots for Ireland over here too?”
“Shut up!” Kurt scowls and folds his arms over his chest – he isn’t scared of Dave. Maybe Dave has gone back to being a bully, but Kurt is never going back to being his victim. “Get out of here, hamhock. Leave him alone.”
“Oi,” Rory speaks up suddenly. “Look, I can—”
“Yeah, sure,” Kurt answers, his eyes glued to Karofsky. “You can take care of yourself, whatever. I know this guy, okay? He’s violent.” He matches Karofsky’s smirk with his own, strong and proud. “Davey here doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get what he wants. And trust me, you do not want to know what happens when he wants to shut you up.”
Dave flushes, eyes jerking to Kurt’s mouth and back up. He steps back, hands balling into fists. He glances over at Rory and his flush darkens, but he doesn’t lash out.
He doesn’t do anything, actually. He looks at Kurt, tense, and then turns on his heel without a word and stalks down the hall and away from them.
Kurt lets out a breath – okay, he’s strong and proud, sure, but Karofsky’s still got like a hundred pounds on him.
He looks over at Rory. “Are you okay?”
Rory gapes at him.
Kurt waits, but the kid keeps staring. “I’m new to being on the rescuer side of this scenario, but it seems like you could say thank you or something.”
“What in the fecking hell is wrong with you?” the kid asks instead.
“Jesus, I heard there were some bullies in the States, but that was bloody well uncalled for!” The kid frowns down the hall like he’s looking after Karofsky.
Like he wants to go after Karofsky.
Kurt grabs his arm when he steps off the locker he was leaning against. “Hey.”
The kid scowls, and it’s surprisingly fierce on that wide-eyed innocent face of his. “Sod off, you.”
Kurt lets him go but speaks fast before he can storm off. “I thought he was…he wasn’t threatening you?”
“Threatening?” The kid laughs, sharp. “Why would he save me from those animals with the ice drinks yesterday just to threaten me today?”
Kurt blinks, feeling like he missed an entire middle part of the conversation here. “He saved you?”
“That’s right.” Rory gives him an up and down look, still angry but it’s already softening. He must really be as amiable as he seems from a distance. “Right, so you thought you were helping. Good for you, boyo, but next time get your facts straight.”
Kurt looks out down the hall, but of course Karofsky is long gone. He reaches out when Rory turns to go. “Are you going to find him? I should…” What? Apologize, probably.
Rory flashes a sudden smile like there was never a moment of bad feelings between them. “You find him later, yeah? I saw him first.”
Kurt looks back at him, eyes widening. “You…you saw him…?”
“Well, I suppose not first if you knew him already, but you’re a bit of a bastard, aren’t you, so you don’t count.” Rory grins cheerfully, looking down the hall after Karofsky with a look on his face that’s practically dreamy. “I’ve never had a boy step in front of a cold drink for me before.” He sighs and suddenly Kurt wonders if his own face looks something like this when he’s around Blaine. “And you should’ve seen what he did to the one bloke that managed to hit me.”
He straightens suddenly and looks back at Kurt, completely unembarrassed. “Cheers, thanks for the help, and don’t ever do it again. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Kurt doesn’t stop him, and the guy’s obviously not waiting for permission.
He watches the grinning Irish kid hurry down the hall after the long-gone Karofsky, and when left to himself he slowly starts to realize exactly what it is he just did. What he said to Karofsky…Dave…assuming that he was back to his old self. God, and before yesterday Kurt had been sure that they were…if not friends then something like friends.
Great. And now Kurt’s made a complete ass of himself, been blatantly rude to Dave, and all for nothing.
Still, as he turns and heads the opposite way down the hall, his chagrined frown softens and curls upwards when he wonders if Rory’s caught up to Dave yet, and how exactly Dave is going to react to a blazingly cheerful guy like that.
Not even one week into the school year and he already owes Dave Karofsky the world’s biggest apology. Keeping his distance at least for the rest of the day and giving Rory a chance to chase him down seems like a good way to get that apology started.