"So, are you going to try for that solo today?" Mercedes asked, leaning against the locker bank while her best friend Kurt shuffled through his books.
Kurt sighed bitterly, "What's the point? We all know Mr Schue will give it to Rachel. 'You can just feel how much she lives in the song, Kurt! Surely you see why we need that kind of singing for Regionals!'"Kurt mimicked the enthusiasm of their glee club teacher bitterly, his eyes icily cold. He loved Rachel, he really did, but he also loved singing and what was worse was that he knew he was good. Really, really good. And to have something as uncontrollable as his biological make-up prevent him from having his chance…
Well, he was just sick of it all.
"Sometime I wonder why I even bother…" Kurt murmured, half to himself, "I mean, we both know that the only reason they keep me now that we're up to the required numbers is because my voice makes for good backing. They'll never let someone like me take the spotlight."
Mercedes sighed, her eyes soft but not quite able to understand. After all, she would never have the same problem. None of the glee club kids would. Kurt was alone. One in a million, and not in a good way.
Silence reigned between them, during which time Mercedes enjoyed the protection of standing next to her best friend. Slushie-bearing jocks, sharp-tongued cheerleaders, all the kinds of people who normally goaded and bullied the glee club on a regular basis gave them a wide berth. It was as if there was an invisible ring around Kurt, and no one wanted to step over its boundaries. It had always been like this; had been ever since they were kids. On the one hand, it afforded Kurt a level of protection that none of the others enjoyed. Without even trying, he conjured a degree of fear in others that could not be quashed, however much some of the other students might think of themselves.
On the other hand… it was horrible. Those who were able to overcome their fear of Kurt soon fell back on pity. It was unclear which reaction he hated more. Even Mercedes sometimes felt a bit… off around her best friend. It was almost impossible not to. And, like everyone else, she refrained from ever touching him. He understood why she couldn't, why none of his friends could face the idea of touching his skin, but still…
Aside from fleeting glances from the braver of souls, Kurt only ever enjoyed regular contact from his dad, who made a point to hug him at least twice a day. And he remembered his mom's hugs too, soft and warm, loving. He missed those hugs, and their absence only made him appreciate the ones from his dad all the more. More recently, his new step-mom Carole had been clearly trying to make an effort. Not hugs, but little touches here and there that made all the difference.
Nevertheless, it had reached the point where Kurt had realistically submitted himself to a rather lonely future, because what kind of boy would want to be with a freak like him? Lack of touch from friends he could accept, it had even become the norm for him, but there was still that nagging hot want for there to be someone out there for Kurt, someone who wouldn't care…
It wasn't unheard of, for people like him to find someone who would love them, but add in the fact he was gay… he had just given up… It was depressing, but there you go. Kurt was a rarity, a minority in every aspect of his life. Registering at a mere 0.5 on the Hawkins Scale of Empathic Sensitivity, Kurt could neither sense the emotions of other people, nor have his emotions felt by others. He was like a black hole, a horrible blank space on the scope of every other person's sense of reality.
But that didn't mean he was emotionless! It didn't mean he was incapable of feeling, or incapable of feeling empathy for the plights of others! He just… he just had to do it the hard way. If anything, he often thought that he felt more emotion than anybody else, all bottled up with nobody to share it with…
Lonely. Unique. Removed. Special.
You could dress it up however starkly or prettily as you liked, the fact still remained that Kurt was not normal, and he was reminded of it every day.
"Wow, check out the new kid." Mercedes hummed appreciatively, nodding in a direction behind Kurt and pulling their conversation away from Kurt's despondency.
He turned, and Mercedes was definitely not wrong. The newcomer was gorgeous. The best way to describe his overall impression was neat. He was small, but in a way that worked, his preppy-style clothes flattering on his compact frame, and his black hair gelled down within an inch of its life. His tan-coloured skin was flawless, a fact Kurt could readily appreciate, and as he walked closer to them, Kurt couldn't help his heart was swooping slightly at the adorable little frown that crinkled the boy's brow as he scanned for locker numbers and-
Yep. Mercedes was way too in tune with what kind of boys Kurt was attracted to.
But then, something rather unprecedented happened. Something that made many students surreptitiously stop and pretend they weren't watching, something that made Mercedes' eyes widen and Kurt just… Well to be frank he just gaped openly in such a way that made him cringe when he replayed it back later in his head.
The boy walked right up to them, offered a shy smile, and turned to Kurt as if he was as normal as every other student in the school, "Umm, hi. Do you… could I, I mean, do you mind if I could just get to my locker? I think it's this one next to yours if I've counted right…" The boy seemed nervous, but not repulsed or even curious as he stared at Kurt for a response, his expressive honey-coloured eyes open and searching.
Kurt blinked, once, twice, and then finally kicked himself into action, slamming the door of his locker with more force than he meant to, shaking his head slightly, "Right, sorry, sorry, sure, here you go."
The shorter boy mumbled a thanks with a half smile, his head ducking to his bag as he fumbled for books, his hands carefully remaining stuffed up his strangely too-long sleeves. Kurt exchanged a pleading look with Mercedes, who just rolled her eyes at him and jerked her head pointedly in the newcomer's direction.
Kurt still had no idea what possessed him, but suddenly he was opening his mouth and – "My name's Kurt, and this is Mercedes – we're both juniors here. Is this your first day?"
The boy jerked his head up, startled, eyes wide. For a moment, Kurt was certain that the boy was going to turn tail and run, but then, "I'm Blaine, sophomore. And yeah… I'm a little lost. It took me twenty minutes just to find my locker..." A shy, self-deprecating grin warmed the boy's – Blaine's – face for a fleeting moment, but then it was gone again, his eyes flicking downwards.
"Oh, did your parents move to Lima?" Mercedes piped up, stepping around Kurt. It was a logical question. McKinley wasn't really a school to get mid-semester transfers, especially in March.
Blaine nodded, and even Kurt could tell that he was deeply uncomfortable with the question. Mercedes' sudden frown only served to prove his observation. Any further line of questioning was cut off by the bell, and before Kurt could say another word, the new boy had already scurried away.
Mercedes shook her head, "Damn… hot, shy, and mysterious. I bet he's gay too!"
Kurt rolled his eyes, "Oh shut up." They headed to World History together, and Kurt really didn't intend to keep thinking about the encounter…
He just couldn't stop. And it wasn't just his inability to get the mysterious, quiet boy off his mind either. Suddenly, he was looking for him everywhere. By the end of Blaine's first week, Kurt had already observed and noted a few choice pieces of information. The most noticeable was how elusive Blaine was, while the second was how little Kurt had seen the boy smile. This especially just seemed wrong to Kurt, who was having serious trouble putting that beautiful tiny smile Blaine had offered him on the day they had met out of his head.
Blaine had also managed to garner himself a bit of reputation, as attractive, quiet new kids are wont to do. Especially ones who succeed in maintaining an air of mysteriousness in a world full of empaths. According to Tina, his emotions were nearly impossible to read, because they just seemed to be a reflection of the person next to him. The McKinley rumour mill was rife with theories, most of which Kurt discounted out of hand, but he did now know that Blaine was dropped off and picked up every day by a seriously hot older man – Tina had been practically salivating when she had recounted the tale.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Blaine – although to be honest, as Mercedes enjoyed pointing out, Kurt was hard pressed to find an aspect of Blaine he didn't find interesting – was how he started to appear at glee rehearsals. Not the ones in the choir room, but when they practiced in the auditorium, Blaine was nearly always there sitting near the back, watching them, often doing homework at the same time. More than once Rachel had tried approaching him, but each time he had run away before she could get close.
And so, for over a week, Kurt was contented to enjoy the mystery that was Blaine Anderson – he had discovered the boy's surname from Sam, who shared some of his classes. Until the Wednesday that changed everything.
Kurt had, overall, had a pretty crappy day. Almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and to round it all off, his genius of a step-brother had forgotten they had carpooled that morning, and driven away while Kurt was finishing up in the library.
He turned the corner into the corridor that would take him to his locker, planning on dropping off a few things so he wouldn't have to carry them all the way home. He was just in time to see Rick, one of the idiot puckheads, shove Blaine into the lockers, books scattering everywhere as the smaller boy fell to the floor.
Kurt was incensed, "Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Immediately, Rick's grin dropped and he raised his hands in a fake casualness, "Nothing to bother yourself with, Hummel. Anderson here just tripped." He took a strategic step backwards as Kurt stormed up to them. Not because Kurt could inflict any serious damage on the much larger boy, but because the bully was terrified of the idea of touching Kurt's skin, of feeling the emptiness that was rumoured to cling to his body, and becoming infected by it.
Ridiculous, of course. Sensitives were born, not created, and while many people's level of sensitivity was known to decrease into adulthood – usually dropping from a 3 to a 2 on the Hawkins Scale – the idea that Kurt could infect anybody was absurd. Nevertheless, this ignorance had at times served Kurt well, and this was definitely one of those times. Kurt glared, "Don't you have somewhere to be?"
Rick huffed, like an insulted rhino, "Whatever." He scowled, before directing a smirk down towards Blaine, who flinched. "Catch you later Anderson!"
As soon as he was gone, Blaine started moving. He was noticeable shaking, his hands slipping from their usual safety of his long sleeves to frantically try and gather what he had dropped. Kurt crouched, "Hey, Blaine, it's alright, he's gone. Are you okay?"
Blaine didn't reply, hands fumbling. Kurt sighed, and attempted to help instead. He wasn't even sure if Blaine registered that he was there, he seemed so panicky. That happened sometimes – people thought they were alone and got the shock of their lives when they turned to find Kurt barely a foot from them, as impossible to sense as ever.
Then it happened.
Their hands brushed as both went to pick up the same scattered sheaf of paper, skin gently connecting for but a brief second. Kurt jerked back immediately as if he had been burned, an apology ready on his lips. It made no difference to him, but from the varied reactions he had received over the years, he knew that his touch wasn't pleasant to those with higher levels of empathic sensitivity.
His apology died on his lips when his eyes met Blaine's.
Blaine had stopped, completely, his hand still hovering over the papers. His eyes were wide, mouth hanging slightly open as he stared at Kurt with unbridled shock and… wonder? Kurt was frozen, not having encountered this reaction before and really not knowing what to do. And then he watched as Blaine began to move, raising his hand ever so slowly, tentatively, until their fingertips brushed.
Kurt's breath stuttered when Blaine didn't immediately pull away. Instead he watched in fascination as Blaine's fingers began to explore with a feather light touch, taking note of each finger, over his knuckles, his palm, along the back of his hand…
Kurt swallowed, unsure, "Are… are you okay?"
With his words, Blaine seemed to snap back to reality, and the curious fingertips disappeared in an instant. Kurt found himself immediately missing their warmth, "S-sorry…" Blaine's face was flushed bright red, as if he had only just realised what he had been doing. He scrambled about, gathering the last of his possessions, stuffing them without care into his bag and locker as he stood.
Kurt rose with him, limbs feeling oddly awkward and useless, "I… I guess I'll see you tomorrow?"
Blaine nodded jerkily, "Right, tomorrow, yeah. I… Thanks, Kurt. For stopping that guy."
Kurt smiled, "Don't worry about-"
"Can I hug you?" Blaine blurted out suddenly, his words spilling out almost too fast to understand as he cut across Kurt's reply. His fingers entwined worriedly in front of him, and, if possible, his face flushed to an even darker shade of red.
Kurt was almost certain he was in shock. He was sure his eyes were as wide as they could physically go, and he knew he was gaping as he stumbled for words, "I… you… well, I guess, if you want to- oof!"
As soon as Kurt's consent had passed his lips, he found himself with an armful of Blaine. The hug was only fleeting, but it was tight and warm, and when Blaine stepped back, beet-red, he had the biggest, most stunning smile on his face that made the shock all worth it, "Thank you again, Kurt… See you tomorrow."
Kurt just nodded dumbly as Blaine dashed off down the corridor.
What the hell had just happened?