Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Rory squinted at the floor as the dodgeballs pelted him, bouncing into his back and face with deceptively cheerful boing…boing…boing noises. He rolled into a smaller ball, waiting for it to stop. The girls were laughing at him. Brittany was laughing at him.
"Stop it! Stop it!" he heard a voice shriek, and the assault finally ceased fire. A firm arm wrapped around his shoulders and he leaned dizzily into a sitting position. "For God's sakes, he's bleeding."
Rory blinked. Kurt Hummel was kneeling beside him, his hand gripping his shoulder. He wasn't entirely sure why Kurt was so concerned- the older boy hadn't exactly become his new best friend since he joined the glee club. But at least the dodgeballs had stopped.
"Maybe that's how the others treat us around here, but we don't do this to each other," Kurt snapped, glaring at the girls. A few of them had the grace to look ashamed. "We're better than this."
Santana rolled her eyes. "God, calm down, Grandma," she snorted.
Kurt helped Rory to his feet, keeping his hand tight on his arm. "This game is over," he said.
Rory allowed Kurt to propel him out of the gym. The others had fallen silent, staring at them. "We still won," Sugar offered, but Mercedes sent her a stone-cold glare.
Rory tripped over his own trainers as Kurt guided him into the boys' locker room. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Besides the bloody nose, obviously."
"I think so," he said, sinking down on one of the benches. "Maybe some bruises." He tugged on the hem of his sleeve to swipe at the blood dripping down his face.
"Oh, no, don't do that," Kurt scolded, yanking his sleeve out of his hand and wiping his hand on his oversized black basketball shorts. "Ew. Ew. Okay, here, tilt your head down."
Rory obeyed. Kurt sat down beside him and covered his nose with a layer of folded paper towels, pinching the bridge expertly. "All right," Kurt said. "Sit like this till the bleeding stops."
Rory screwed up his face, breathing through his mouth. "Thanks," he mumbled through the paper.
"Hold still," Kurt commanded.
The door creaked open and Rory squinted up to see Blaine walk in. "Is everything okay?" he asked.
"Just a bad nosebleed," Kurt said. "We're fine. Thanks, Blaine."
"Do you want me to get an ice pack?" Blaine offered. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and his eyes were trained on Kurt. "I can grab one if you want."
"No, I think a heat pack might be better," Kurt said. He pulled the bloodied paper towel away, eyed Rory's nose critically, and replaced it. "They got a couple of good hits to his back. The heat pack would be nice."
"No, I mean…for you," Blaine said. Kurt looked up and frowned. "You got hit in the eye, Kurt, and it's already turning red."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "Blaine, I'm fine," he said. "I've had much worse, believe me. But can you get a heat pack for Rory, please?"
Blaine opened his mouth like he was going to argue, then closed it, smiled sympathetically at Rory, and left. "I don't think I really need-" Rory started to say.
"Oh, trust me, you do," Kurt said absently, adjusting his fingers against the bridge of Rory's nose. "You'll feel so much better with one. I practically lived on mine last year when…" His voice trailed off and he smiled apologetically. "You'll want one."
Rory fidgeted. "Kurt…you mind if I ask you something?" he asked.
"No, go ahead," Kurt said, keeping his fingers pinched, tight but not too tight.
"You seem sort of…passionate about this whole…bullying thing," Rory hedged.
"That's not quite a question."
Rory wrinkled his nose, trying to shake off the awful crawling feeling of blood dripping down his face. "Do you…get bullied too?" he asked.
Kurt was quiet for a moment. "Not as much as I used to," he said.
"But…you know what it's like," Rory said. "The slamming into lockers, the slushies, the insults…"
"I do," Kurt said.
Rory sighed. "This school's mean," he said. "You'd think the teachers'd do something, wouldn't you?"
"You would," Kurt said. He pulled the paper towel away and tilted Rory's chin back up. "But they won't."
"Won't anyone try?" Rory asked.
Kurt got up and walked over to the sink. "Last year, I was the school's favorite target," he said quietly. "Whatever you can think of, they did. Slushies. Dumpster tosses. Thrown into lockers so hard I fell." He pulled several paper towels out of the dispenser and folded them into a neat packet like he was creating origami. "One particular individual…singled me out. He was the worst. He threatened to…well, I suppose it's not important now."
Rory stared at him, transfixed. "What'd you do?" he asked.
Kurt ran the paper towels under a cold tap. "I like to say I ran. My dad likes to say I retreated to fight another day," he said. "I went to a different school. They had a no-tolerance policy. I was safer there."
"Then why didn't you stay?" Rory asked.
Kurt knelt beside him and dabbed gently at the congealing blood on his face with the wet paper towels. "Because I had to come back," he said. "Just because I left…it didn't fix anything. It just left everything to hibernate."
"I'm guessing the school didn't welcome you back with loving arms," Rory said dryly.
"They voted me prom queen."
Rory gaped at him. "They what?"
"They voted me prom queen," Kurt repeated. "And my favorite tormentor was my king. Although I think the general student body did that part on accident."
"So what'd you do then?" Rory breathed.
Kurt smiled, curiously without bitterness. "I accepted my crown," he said. "They wanted to break me, and I couldn't give them the satisfaction."
Rory sat in silence, mulling the story over as Kurt washed the blood from his face, fingertips gingerly brushing against his injured nose. "And the school did nothing," he said.
"Nothing," Kurt said.
"And the guy, the one who…well, 'teased' sounds too easy, but-"
"That chapter's closed," Kurt said softly. "He doesn't go here anymore. He's off on his own, sorting things out. I've moved on."
"You forgave him?"
"I moved on."
They fell silent. Rory looked down at his shoes. "How'd you get through it then?" he asked.
Kurt smiled- soft and sweet this time, like he had a secret. "I wasn't alone," he said. "I had a lot of support."
"From Blaine?" Rory guessed. Kurt frowned, but the smile returned when he realized Rory was teasing.
"Yes, from Blaine," Kurt said. "But also from my family. My dad mostly…but Finn, too, once it finally sank in what was going on."
Rory frowned. "Finn? Really?" he said.
"I know it's a shocker," Kurt said. "He really is very sweet when he doesn't have his head in his ass. And he does like Blaine- he just doesn't like Blaine in glee club, that's all. Don't worry, I've got a handle on it."
Rory sighed as Kurt continued to gently wipe the blood from his chin and neck. "I know what you're meaning, though, about the support," he said. "Some days I feel like I can do it…some days I want to run home to my mum in Ireland, y'know?"
"I know," Kurt said.
Rory tangled his fingers together. "So…support?" he said. "That's all it took?"
"Not exactly," Kurt said. "I received some very wise advice." He smiled. "I could stand up. I could refuse to be a victim."
"And that's why you stood up for me?" Rory asked.
"I don't want anyone else to go through what I went through," he said. "It's the least I could do. I know it was just dodgeball, but…baby steps, you know?" He threw the paper towel away and smiled. "Today no dodgeball…tomorrow a zero-tolerance policy."
The door to the locker room opened and Blaine walked in with a sheepish smile. "Hey," he said. "Rory, you feeling better?"
"Much, thanks," he said.
Blaine handed him a microwaved pack full of rice, already warm. "I borrowed this from Coach Beiste," he said. "Good thing I'm so charming. Here, put that on your back."
Rory obeyed, wilting in relief at the warm light pressure. Blaine pulled out a second pack, blue and iced over, and waved at Kurt with a wide smile. "And you. Sit down," he said.
"Blaine, I'm fine," he said.
"Ah-ah-ah, don't fight it," Blaine said, tugging him over to a bench and making him sit down. "Now look up. Stop sulking, babe, just look up."
Kurt huffed and obeyed. Blaine tenderly placed the ice pack over the red mark on his cheekbone. "You know I can just cover that up with makeup," Kurt said.
"Just because you can doesn't mean you should," Blaine said, guiding Kurt's hand to hold the ice pack in place. "Rory, make him stop arguing with me."
"If I've got to have mine, you've got have yours," Rory said, adjusting the heat pack against his back. Kurt rolled his eyes and Rory grinned. "You two, you act like you're married."
"We get that a lot," they said at once, and Blaine laughed.
"No, really, we get that a lot," he said. He sat down next to Kurt and tucked an arm around his shoulders. "And hey…don't let the bullying get to you. We've been there, we know how it is. If you need anything…don't hesitate to come talk to us."
Rory perked up. "Does this mean you're sort of my two American gay dads?" he said.
"All right, that might be a little too far," Kurt amended, pointing playfully at Rory.
My first Rory-related story!
I just love Rory. I think he's an absolute sweetheart. I just want to bundle him up in a quilt and boop his nose and listen to his accent.
I also just adored the end of the dodgeball scene, with Kurt being so protective. I about cried. And then I just wanted to write this.
I think the dodgeball moment was what pushed Kurt to change his stance from obesity (safe, nonpainful platform) to bullying (super personal and dangerous platform). And I think Kurt started with dodgeball because it was a baby step. Banning dodgeball can lead to banning slushie throws to banning dumpster dives to a zero-tolerance bullying policy. One step at a time.
But I'm not going to lie, I have a feeling that I'm just super excited about Kurt and Blaine adopting Rory as their little Irish padawan. I think it would be adorable.