Kurt realizes the truth while his face is pressed uncomfortably against the inside of a locker, clothes rumpled and a bump forming on his forehead from the impact against the cold metal.
He is not going to survive high school.
Kurt is very self aware, despite what his classmates think, and knows he was bullied for many reasons, not the least of which are his clothes, feminine voice, short stature and baby face. Only one of those was something he can change, which meant if he doesn't come up with something soon, the bullying is going to follow him into his freshman year. And high school bullies? Much, much worse than those at North Lima Middle School.
So, after asking around, he finds out roughly what he can do.
1) Change absolutely everything about himself
2) Transfer out of state
3) Join a sport
4) Accept the inevitable bullying
His future looks dim.
The obvious choice is to join a sport, except Kurt has no skills in any of them. His small frame means he probably isn't going to do hockey or basketball, his terrible aim meant baseball is off the table and the volleyball team is bullied because they suck, not that he is any good at volleyball.
Which leaves football.
Sitting down to watch the game with his dad is new. He and his dad had bonded over cars more than anything else, and it is routine for him to avoid watching sports with his dad. So when he sits down one night in his matching pajama set, Burt gives him some strange looks, but decides not to ask, thankfully. He really doesn't feel like being laughed at tonight.
Watching the game, it is clear that if he is going to have to try out for football, there is only one spot for him. The kicker is the smallest player on the field, and doesn't get mauled like the rest of the players. Promising. But then he sees the cheerleaders, and a light-bulb flashes. Kurt always says he has no athletic skill, but that is wrong. He had taken five years of gymnastics and eleven years of ballet, which left him with a dancers body and enough strength and agility to be a cheerleader. He can definitely make the..what are they called...the Cheerios. That is a guarantee he doesn't have with the football team and, from the rumors around the school, the Cheerios coach is vicious, which means even though he would be a male cheerleader, he can't get bullied too badly in case it damages his ability to perform.
His decision is made by the time school is over for the year. He figures, though, that his best friends, Tina and Artie, will probably try and talk him out of it, so he doesn't tell them about his plan.
Summer is a blur of all of his responsibilities and it feels like he never gets a chance to breathe, what with ballet, voice lessons, training for his cheer tryouts, working at the garage for the first time, summer homework and spending time with Tina and Artie. His body aches by the end of his run every night, and he has to up his skincare routine with how much he is sweating.
Also, after hours of deliberation and trying to talk himself out of it, he reluctantly decides to tone down most of his wardrobe, leaving his more outré styles for special occasions and buying simpler styles with more muted colors, along with more workout clothes since his ballet ones aren't good for all of his training. It isn't his favorite decision but he decides he can stay fashionable without painting a huge target on his back. He still mopes for days after packing up most of his clothes, though.
When the first of September dawns, Kurt wakes up at five thirty, stretches and then changes into a large sweatshirt and workout pants. He ties up his sneakers, sticks his earbuds in his ears and starts his morning jog.
The leaves have only just began to fall, the trees a soft mixture of greens, oranges, browns and reds. The weather is a little cool in the mornings and at night now but warmer still during the day. He breathes in the crisp air, his cheeks pink from the wind. He sings along softly to the music in his ears but uses the time to center himself. It is like moving meditation.
By the time he gets back inside his house, he is panting and sweaty but wide awake with only an hour until his dad will take him to school. Kurt takes his time in the shower, scrubs himself down with expensive products and replaces the smell of sweat with a sharp, clean, manly scent his father had convinced him to buy, instead of the fruity scents he likes.
After his shower, he sits down in front of the mirror and exfoliates, moisturizes and applies toner to his skin to even out his skin tone. He blows his hair dry and runs a brush through the soft brown locks before he sprays them into his usual neat side-sweep. He pulls on relatively loose blue jeans that are a far cry from his usual skinnies and slips a light brown, form-fitting sweater over a lavender button up. He tightens his ankle boots that are just androgynous enough to avoid an asskicking and then stares at himself in his mirror. He looks good and his new clothes enhance his best features.
"Kurt, are you up?"
His dad calls down the stairs, voice gruff from sleep and Kurt shouts up an affirmative before rising from his vanity and slinging his tan messenger bag over his shoulder. He climbs up the stairs to get his breakfast and sits down at the table with some fresh fruit he had prepared last night and a few slices of toast. He watches his dad stumble around the kitchen, still half asleep as he waits for his coffee to finish brewing.
"Oh, you look- Is that what you are wearing today?" His dad blinks at him, looking just a tad puzzled.
Kurt quirks a fond smile at him. "Yes, why? Don't you like it?"
"No, it looks nice. It's just a lot simpler than what you've usually worn to school. No crazy colors or patterns or ten layers."
"I haven't worn anything like that in a month at least," Kurt says as he watches his dad with amusement.
"I thought that was because it was warm. Anyway, I'm staying late at the garage tonight since you don't have any classes. Thankfully, McKinley is close enough you should be able to walk home." Burt sits down and they continue talking over breakfast, leaving the house fifteen minutes later.
McKinley is much bigger than North Lima and the sheer numbers of red letterman jackets make him want to head home already.
Stepping out of his dad's car is a reality check and kills his high spirits right then. He spots some of his old bullies, looking bigger and meaner, hanging out with other Neanderthals who probably have come from the other two middle schools. He ducks his head when he passes them, going as fast as possible without alerting them, and thanks Armani that he had the idea of toning down his wardrobe.
It had been a hard but wise decision, even though he had felt he was betraying himself, but now none of the idiots who would have recognized him then notice him now in his new clothes. They are muted and boyish enough that he can slip into the crowd unnoticed. That means it is a bushy-haired ginger with hideous glasses who is grabbed and tossed into the dumpster instead of him.
Dumpsters? He could be thrown into a horrid, germ-laden school dumpster?! Just the thought alone makes him feel like he is going to hyperventilate.
The day passes similarly as he dodges locker slams, swirlies and a new one where you're drenched in ice-cold slushies that he is so relieved he avoided because getting slushies daily would be hell on his pores and his dry cleaning bills.
Classes are pretty average, which he expected, and a little below his abilities as usual. He isn't super smart, but Lima has such a low quality of education it is easy for him to be above the class by even a little bit. However, the French II class, in particular, is so below his level, he is almost offended.
He listens to his neighbor's choppy sentences during conversation time, deems him unlikely to throw him in a locker and proceeds to run circles around him verbally in the language. He answers the questions in rude ways and insults the other boy while he gapes unattractively and tries to figure out what Kurt is saying. Madame Abelle looks at him appraisingly throughout the class, but she doesn't reprimand him when he says things he probably isn't supposed to in class.
Later, just as he is exiting the restroom, he runs into her.
"I can't tell if you used the wrong bathroom or if you're here for 'Bring Your Prepubescent Child To Work' Day."
Kurt looks up and finds a Latina girl in a super-tight t-shirt and short-shorts staring at him in disdain, her long, silky black hair wild like someone's hands had been running through it.
"Seriously, whatever look you were going for, you missed. I'm afraid nothing goes with baby fat."
If he hadn't become so accustomed to blending in today, he probably would have kept his mouth shut but he has gotten almost a full day without any rude comments or physical bullying, so his tongue is a little loose.
"Do your parents even realize they're living proof that two wrongs don't make a right?"
"I'd tell you to go fuck yourself but that would be cruel and unusual punishment." The girl snaps back.
"That's okay, because the thought of the diseases you've contracted in your life brings about similar reactions for me."
The girl opens her mouth to respond, fire in her eyes, but the bell rings just then and Kurt decides he doesn't care enough about this to be late. He brushes past her without even looking back. Which means he doesn't have a chance to see her smirk at him, watching his retreating form with interest.
After school, Kurt manages to bully his way into the line for Cheerios sign-ups, remorselessly forcing himself between two girls who will very obviously not get in. When he signs up, he notices a few of the girls he saw wouldn't even be allowed to try out, thanks to the bold declaration of 'NO FATTIES!' on the sign-up sheet. He gets out of the line, hikes up his messenger bag and makes for the front door. He doesn't pay any attention to what is going on around him until he bumps into a tall, leggy blonde.
"Oh! Excuse me, I'm sorry!"
He moves quickly to stabilize the girl and looks up a few inches to find a familiar girl looking dazed.
"Oh! Brittany, right? We're in ballet together."
Her eyes brighten and she gives him a huge smile. "That's right, you're the boy I couldn't figure out if you were a girl or not until I saw you in your tights for a performance."
Kurt gives her a dry smile but knows enough about her to know she isn't being intentionally mean.
"My name's Kurt."
"It's really nice to meet you, Kurt. I love making new friends and you have wonderful balance. Your coupé jeté en tournant is flawless, which means you're probably a really nice person. Did you know the moves you excel in in ballet can say stuff about your personality?"
"Really? I've never heard that before. Tell me about it?"
Brittany gives him another huge smile, giving him the feeling that most people probably think shes crazy whenever she talks. She wraps her fingers around his bicep and leads him down the hall, chattering about ballet terms and what you could tell about a person from them. They say goodbye in front of the school where she heads towards the parking lot and he turns toward the school gates.
Kurt walks home, which takes him about a half an hour and his feet ache inside his new boots by the time he steps in the house. He slips them off and goes into his room, washing the product out of his hair before he starts cooking. He slips off his sweater when it heats up in the kitchen from the stove, and opens a few buttons on his shirt, hair curling from the steam of the boiling water.
By the time his dad clunks into the house, baked manicotti was on the dining table and Kurt is the very picture of domestic comfort, relaxed in a way he never is at school. He and his dad talk about their day over the meal and by 9 o'clock he's finished with his homework and his nightly run. He showers and once again sits at his vanity to moisturize, but his mind is preoccupied as he plans his routine for his cheer tryouts on Wednesday.