Kurt Hummel knew that he shouldn't be wandering the streets alone in the middle of the night. He should have been tucked safely away in his bed, behind the locked doors of the Hummel-Hudson house. He should have been sleeping, but sleep would not come and his mind refused to stop spinning, twisting words and thoughts and fears around in a tornado of emotions that kept him tossing and turning. And so, rather than staying in bed with his life in turmoil, Kurt had gotten up, pulled on a pair of jeans he only wore at the garage or to do yard work and a v-necked white undershirt that his dad had shrunk in the wash (at least it wasn't pink like the other load of whites his dad had done before Kurt banished him from the laundry room for good).
The streets of Lima were deserted after 11 at night. Not only was there a curfew, but there really was nothing open that late. Event he movie theaters closed around then. The only places still open were the bars on the South side of town and the 7-11. Kurt had no intention of going to either. The South side was an area he usually avoided even in the daytime, and the 7-11 usually had guys hanging out in front, the type of guys that liked to toss Kurt into dumpsters or throw slushies in his face.
Since the end of last year, dumpster dives and slushie facials didn't seem to be enough for some of the worst bullies. Azimio and Karofsky were the worst, but there were others. They had upped the ante. It had started with shoves into the lockers in the halls or knocking him down in the cafeteria. Then the little slaps to the face to piss him off. Then the slaps weren't so little. But they were afraid of leaving marks on his face where anyone could see, so they started with the punches to the gut or the back or right on his kidneys where it would do the most damage. And there was always more than one of them. In the week and a half since school had started, Kurt had been jumped three times.
So there was no way Kurt would ever wander over to the 7-11. He did wander around the residential neighborhood where he had grown up. Most of the houses had been built in the sixties or early seventies and were getting to be a bit dated. After all, the architecture of that era hadn't exactly proved to be timeless. But the houses were mostly in good repair. People took pride in their homes in this neighborhood.
Kurt wandered up to the reservoir. The housing development had been planned and laid out around the reservoir that provided most of the water for Allen County. His dad used to bring him there to fish when he was little, before Kurt was old enough to explain exactly why spending hours in the sun torturing fish was not a fun way to pass time. He climbed the steep hill at the end of the dead end road and looked out over the expanse of water. It was rather pretty with the moonlight reflecting off the glassy surface.
Things had been better with Finn for a while but now that the new school year had begun, Finn seemed to be falling back on his old ways. Kurt knew that the other boy knew that the other jocks were beating up on him, but he wouldn't do anything. Maybe Finn thought if he ignored the problem it would go away, but in the meantime, Kurt was getting the shit beat out of him.
Kurt was glad that his dad and Carole were getting along so well, it even looked like they might get married soon, but a part of Kurt was dreading having Finn and Carole move back in. He really wanted his dad to be happy, and he loved Carole, but Finn was… an ass. There was no way he would react well if a wedding was announced. And Kurt really didn't think he had the patience to deal with another incident like happened when they tried moving in the last time. He knew he would lose it. He was already on the verge of cracking. There was just too much pressure.
Kurt wanted to tell someone about what was happening, but it was like the dumpster all over again. The first few times it happened in freshman year, he had reported it to a teacher or the principal. Each time, he was told that it was a matter of his word against the other boys'. And since no one wanted to take the chance of being targeted by the bullies, no one would speak up for Kurt. Kurt had somehow let himself believe that making friends in glee would change that, but he had been fooling himself. Sure none of the football players in glee tortured him any longer, but none of them stuck up for him either. That new kid, Sam, seemed nice enough but Finn kept telling him to stay away from Kurt.
Kurt couldn't tell his dad. Besides the fact that he didn't want to disappoint him any more than he already did just by being who he was, Kurt really didn't want his dad to feel like he had to fight all of Kurt's battles for him. Kurt was 17; he should really be able to fight his own battles by now. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Every time he tried to stand up for himself, he ended in deeper trouble.
Kurt walked along the ridge of the reservoir for a while, looking over the houses on one side and the water on the other. He let his imagination wander and wondered what would happen if the reservoir gave way. Would all of those houses be washed away? Or would it just flood the basements and be a general nuisance. Kurt rather thought it would be the latter. After all, Lima Ohio was the capitol of boring. Nothing as exciting as a flood would ever happened there. The closest thing to a natural disaster that they had ever had was when a tornado had taken out the old bowling alley when his was in middle school. But since the old bowling alley had been condemned, it really wasn't much of a loss.
Kurt reached the northern edge of the reservoir and rather than continuing his trek around, he carefully climbed down the embankment. There wasn't much on this side of the reservoir, most of the houses having been built to the west and south. There were a few old farms still along the road to the north, though Kurt wasn't sure what they actually grew, if anything.
Kurt had been walking along the roadside for about ten minutes when he heard shouting and cheering coming from behind one of the farm houses. There was a flickering light, like a bonfire, and he could see people gathered together around… something. Letting his curiosity guide him, Kurt cut across the fallow field and headed for the crowd of people.
It wasn't until he got closer that Kurt thought that maybe it was a bad idea just walking up to a crowd of strangers in the middle of the night, out in the middle of nowhere. But it was too late to back off now. Whatever they had all been watching had obviously stopped and people had begun milling around. A couple people had spotted him and were heading his way.
"Hey kid," one of the people said. In the light of the bonfire, Kurt could see that it was a woman, but her flannel shirt and saggy jeans wouldn't have given away that fact. The man with her was dressed almost the exact same way. "You missed most of the fights, but you're in time for the main event. $5 to watch and another $5 if you want some of the beer. And Jack's keeping book tonight."
Fight? They were fighting? Kurt had sudden flashes in his head of that movie a few years ago. Was this a fight club? Kurt hadn't really believed that back alley boxing actually existed.
"Um, who's fighting?" Kurt asked, pulling out his wallet and handing $10 to the woman. He figured his safest bet was to try and blend in and pretend like he meant to be there. If that meant swigging a beer from the keg he spotted in an old tin tub filled with ice and laying down a few bucks on a fight, he'd do it. At least it would take his mind off everything else going on in his life.
"We got a champ in from Columbus," the man said. "He's supposed to be unbeatable and the odds favor him to win. But he's going up against our local champion. Puck's not lost any fight he's been in yet."
"Puck?" Kurt asked. Could it really be Noah Puckerman? Kurt looked into his wallet and pulled out two twenties. "I'll put $40 on Puck."
The guy took his money, wrote something in his little notebook. The woman put an arm around Kurt's shoulder and directed him towards the crowd of people now gathered around the keg. "Let's get you a beer. I'm Meg, by the way."
"Kurt," Replied with a wary smile. Meg ushered Kurt right to the front of the line and grabbed two plastic cups from the guy who was pouring before taking Kurt over to where some lawn chairs were set up.
"Have a seat," Meg said. When they were both sitting, she said, "I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that this is your first fight."
Kurt flushed and hoped that the dim light from the bonfire would hide his blush. "Am I that obvious?"
"You're pretty easy to read, kid," Meg said. "But you know Puck, so that's good enough recommendation for me.
"How long has Puck been fighting?" Kurt asked and took a sip of the bitter tasting beer.
Meg paused to consider the question. "Well, Jenny, my youngest was in kindergarten, so that would have been three years ago."
"He was 14?" Kurt asked with horror.
Meg laughed. "Yeah, well, he was big for 14, and he started off with some of the lightweights. He's worked his way up through the ranks and now holds the top spot. He's not lost a single fight. Came close once or twice, but that kid's got guts and determination like no one I've ever seen."
Kurt snorted. "I can agree with that. So how does all this work? I'm going to assume it's not like that awful movie a few years ago."
Meg laughed at that. "No, it's not like that at all. We're just really a bunch of friends who like to watch boxing, but out here, there ain't much boxing to be had. So we get together once a month and set up fights. The guys who want to fight are sorted by skill level and then matches are drawn from a hat. They get ranked based on the number of wins and the ranks of the guys they beat. The higher the ranking, the more money they can pull. Winners get a percentage of the house winnings and cover money. Losers get jack."
"So, if Puck wins tonight he'll make how much?" Kurt wondered.
"As the main event?" Meg said. "He gets about a grand; probably a lot more tonight since his opposition is so heavily favored. Most of the lower level fights average around three or four hundred dollars."
Kurt looked around the yard and counted maybe 150 people. "There don't seem to be enough people here to pay that much."
"Well, if the only people betting were the ones here, no, there wouldn't be," Meg agreed. "But half the county puts bets down on these fights. The results are posted in the classifieds, though they don't say exactly what the results are for. Then people go collect their winnings. Whoever hosts keeps book, and divvies up the money between the winning bets and the fighters."
"So the fights aren't always here?" Kurt asked.
"Good lord, no," Meg said. "I couldn't stand hosting this mess every month. Several of us take turns."
"But isn't this illegal?" Kurt asked quietly, afraid that he might be pushing his luck.
Meg shrugged. "We're outside city limits and the county sheriff doesn't really have the time or energy to chase us down. In fact, most of the city cops place bets."
Jack came and gave them both another beer before taking the seat on Meg's other side. Kurt hadn't even realized that he had finished his first beer, but sure enough his cup was empty, so he started sipping from the second beer.
"You been filling in the newbie?" Jack asked.
"She has," Kurt said with a smile. He took another sip of beer and realized that he was feeling very warm and fuzzy inside. Huh. He remembered this feeling from his days of drinking from April Rhodes' thermos. It was the good part, before it got to the sick part. Kurt figured that two beers would definitely be his limit or he'd not only have trouble walking home, but he'd probably ralph again. "How long before the fight?"
Jack looked over to the back porch of the house and saw that two guys were walking down the stairs. "Now."
Kurt followed his gaze and saw Puck talking and laughing with some guy who made Dave Karofsky look small. The other guy laughed at something Puck said and then shoved Puck in a friendly way. Of course, that friendly shove just about knocked Puck off his feet.
"Is that who he's fighting?" Kurt asked in fear.
"Too late to change your bet, kid," Jack said with a laugh.
Kurt shook his head. "I wasn't thinking about my money. I was thinking about Puck's face."
Jack and Meg both laughed. "Don't you worry, Puck can hold his own."
There was no announcer or referee. The two combatants just stood in the middle of the circle of people and when they were ready, they started to fight. A part of Kurt wanted to cover his face and not watch, but another part of him was completely fascinated by the completely barbaric exercise taking place in front of him. This was not a sport; sports do not draw blood with the first hit. There were no cushy boxing gloves, just taped knuckles. There was no rule against kicking, biting pulling hair, or anything else that would give you an advantage over your opponent. When Kurt saw the big guy from Columbus try and grab at Puck's hair, He suddenly had a better understanding about why he sported the Mohawk.
While it was true that the guy from Columbus had both height and weight on his side, it soon became apparent that Puck had speed and agility on his side. He moved around the giant of a man and landed punches and kicks before the other guy could fully realize what was happening. There was blood—lots of it—but most of it was coming from the giant's mouth and a cut above his right eye. Kurt winced when the guy landed a few punches to Puck's ribs. Puck staggered back, but quickly righted himself and returned with a roundhouse kick to the guy's chest, felling the tree of a man before straddling his chest and landing several blows to the guy's face.
There was a few seconds of silence when Puck stood up and the guy didn't, and then the whole yard erupted in cheers. Kurt could see that a lot of the people were upset at having lost their bets, but happy that their local boy had beat the Columbus champ.
Kurt stayed where he was as Jack was crowded by the few people who had taken the long-shot bet. While he passed out their winnings, Kurt watched as someone checked the guy from Columbus and used smelling salts to wake him up. He looked a bit dazed, but he staggered to his feet and shook Puck's hand. After a few minutes, they were back to laughing and joking together. Kurt found that to be the oddest part of his night, seeing the same two people who had been trying to beat the crap out of each other being friendly only a few minutes later.
The same guy who had the smelling salts began cleaning and patching up both the giant and Puck's wounds. There wasn't much they could do for the bruises, and Kurt could already see that Puck's chest and left side were already beginning to turn colors. The boy was moving very carefully as he began to walk over towards Jack, presumably to collect his winnings. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Kurt.
"Hummel? What the fuck are you doing here?"