Four year old Kurt sat in the middle of his living room floor, sucking on the toes of his left foot and watching cartoons after his bath the first time he noticed them. He padded into the kitchen where his mother was fixing the dishes his father had loaded into the dishwasher.
"Mommy, what's these?" Kurt asked, plopping his little butt down on the floor and sticking his foot in the air for her inspection. Elizabeth glanced at him for a moment, smiling slightly at the sight.
"Give me one second, sweetie, and I'll explain." She moved one last dish before closing the dishwasher and turning it on. Drying her hands briefly, she tossed the towel on the counter and bent over, sweeping her son up into her arms. Kurt giggled as his mommy tickled him as she carried him back to the living room and sat on the couch. Elizabeth propped him up on her right leg and slid her left foot out of the flat she wore around the house.
Setting her foot on her knee next to Kurt, she pointed to the arch, where three letters stood out against her pale skin in the exact same spot as Kurt's. He reached out, gently touching the letter B until his mommy's foot jerked and she let out a giggle. "Sorry, baby, mommy's ticklish. These are called soul marks and everyone has them. They tell you who your soulmate is. See the letters?" She traces over the initials BSH. "They stand for daddy's name, Burt Samuel Hummel. Daddy has my initials on his right foot."
"Why on Daddy's right foot?" Kurt wondered.
"Because Daddy is a dominant. Ours are on our left foot because we're submissive."
"What that means?"
"I'll tell you when you're older. For now-" Elizabeth scooped him back in her arms, tickling him as she raced down the hall to his bedroom, "it's bed tiiiime!"
After his mommy and daddy gave him kisses night night and turned off his big light, Kurt sat up in bed and pulled off his left sock. He knew his alphabet pretty well and he mentally repeated the letters in his head as he drifted off to sleep.
Little Kurt didn't pay any more attention to the marks on his foot after that. He would still see them every so often, but now that he knew what they were, he mostly forgot about them.
Until it was too late.
Eight year old Kurt wiggled happily in his seat, pleased that his mama was letting him sit in the front for the first time. It was only for a quick drive to the store, but it made him feel very grown up. "I'm wearing my new shoes today," he piped up, grinning over at Elizabeth.
"I see that, baby," she said, staring straight ahead and not at his shoes. Kurt sighed, lifting his legs up and swiping his feet back and forth in front of him in the air, admiring the shiny black shoes his dad had bought for him.
The light was bright against the white ceiling and he blinked slowly, trying to figure out where he was and what had happened. His body was sore and felt heavy, like he was moving through syrup before his mama warmed it for pancakes that morning. Hadn't he just finished washing his hands before going to his room to play? He could hear voices murmuring not far away, quiet enough that he couldn't make out the words, though one sounded like his dad, who was supposed to be at the shop all day.
He let out a groan as a sharp pain shot through his foot. It was worse than that time he had dropped a stack of books on it and he tried to lift his head to see what was wrong with it. At the noise, the voices paused and then, yeah, there was his dad, hovering over him anxiously.
"Kurt? How are you feeling, buddy?
"Dad? Where's Mama?" His head flopped to the side, eyes flickering lazily around the room. "Where are we?"
"Just stay calm, buddy, all right?"
Kurt blinked at him slowly, panic, hard and heavy in his chest, beginning to set in at the look on his dads face. "Daddy?"
A shaky hand brushed his hair back from his face and, for the first time in his memory, Kurt didn't protest, just leaned into the touch. "Buddy, you're in the hospital."
Terror shot through him like lightening, fast and terrible and too, too much all at once. He shivered from sudden chill as the terror built inside him. "Where's Mommy? Daddy, where is she?"
"There- There was an accident." Tears began falling from Burt's eyes and that scared him more than anything. His hand found his fathers and clenched it tight. "You're okay; you hit your head and your foot is messed up, but-" Burt took a deep breath, his eyes squeezed shut. "Kurt, your mom, she didn't make it."
Something tight in his chest loosened, like a knot pulled too tight snapping from the tension. A buzzing roared in his ears and he hadn't even realized he was crying until a calloused thumb wiped away the tears. He lurched toward his father, only to stop with a cry when he jolted his left leg. Shaking his head, Burt moved closer, wrapping an arm around Kurt's shoulders. He didn't ask about his leg just then, his small, shivering body soaking up his fathers' warmth as they cried, feeling the pain that comes when part of you is missing.
The doctor came to visit him for the first time the next day. His heart still ached and tears would randomly fall, but he forced himself to pay attention.
"Hello, Kurt, how are you feeling this morning?" Doctor Abrams asked.
Kurt shrugged, picking idly at the thin blanket covering him. Burt nudged him when he didn't speak. "Don't be rude; it's important he knows what's going on with you."
Kurt sighed, not long suffering like he would have before, but quietly as he braced himself. "My head hurts a little and so does my arm," he raised the limb, wrapped in gauze so that the medicine they put on all of his scraps and stitches wouldn't rub off on everything, "and my leg hurts a lot. And my chest feels like an elephant is sitting on it."
The doctor nodded sympathetically as he picked up Kurt's chart, checking over whatever was scribbled on there. His forehead was wrinkled as his eyes darted over the page and he took a deep breath before he looked up. "Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is the surgery to fix your foot was successful. You'll have to be on crutches for a while; how long will depend on how well you heal. You're young, though, so I don't doubt things will be okay."
"All right, doc, what's the bad news?" Burt asked when the doctor paused for a little too long.
"Well, it's nothing big, but the way the metal cut Kurt's foot, it sliced through his soulmark. We won't know what the damage is until we can take a better look at it, but I wanted to prepare you."
The next few weeks were scary for Kurt. He had to hobble around awkwardly on crutches, which made school difficult for him. The teachers allowed him to leave class a couple of minutes early, but no one would help him by carrying his books. More than once, he was shoved by some of the bigger Doms, who sometimes knocked his books out of his hands while he was trying to balance them. But the worst part, by far, was his mother's funeral.
It took place a week after their accident and four days after he was released from the hospital. They had first worried about his concussion, and then about a possible infection in his foot that turned out to be nothing. It had rained for the past two days and the mud sucked at the bottom of his crutches as he tried to maneuver to the gravesite. His dad was right there the entire time, looking a little like he was lost in his own world. They were almost there when his crutch slipped on a mostly buried rock and Kurt pitched forward.
"Whoa, there, buddy, I gotcha." He was scooped up into his father's arms, chest rumbling as he thanked Kurt's Uncle Pete for picking up the fallen crutches.
"Dad, let me down," Kurt huffed, though he didn't really fight his hold.
"Nope, we're almost there and I won't have you falling down some ho-" His face tightened, looking pinched as he stopped whatever words that were about to come out. "Let me sit you down, all right?"
Kurt nodded and spent the entire time staring blankly at his mother's coffin. At the hole in the ground where she would be buried. He would never get to see his mother again, never get to crawl in her lap and watch The Sound of Music or watch her get ready for a night out with his dad or press his face to her chest when he felt bad. All because some lady had gotten sick behind the wheel of a car she wasn't supposed to be driving and hit the car when he and his mommy were going to the grocery store.
The preacher droned on and on until they lowered his mother into the ground. People got up, moving around, talking to his father, to each other, to everyone but him, his eyes trained on the gaping hole that swallowed his mother.
He tore his eyes away from the -he was loathe to think the word -grave. "Yeah, Dad?"
"We need to be heading to the house; do you need me to carry you?"
Kurt shook his head. "No, I'll walk."
Burt handed over his crutches, still looking unsure. He followed closely behind, always ready to catch him if he fell again.
The rest of the day was a blur. He forced himself to eat so that he could take his medicine and thankfully was excused to go lay down, since it made him sleepy. He woke up to say goodbye to most of the family and only once the silence echoed back at him did he move to the movie shelf, pulling out the battered case of their copy of The Sound of Music. He pushed the cassette into the player and turned on the tv before hobbling over to the couch. There was the sound of ice hitting the bottom of a cup and liquid splashing and then his dad was walking into the living room. He handed Kurt the ice water and settled down next to him.
Kurt immediately curled to his side, carefully repositioning his leg where it was propped up on the coffee table. And firm kiss was pressed onto the top of his head as the movie began. "Love you, buddy."
"Love you, Dad."
As he lay curled under his blankets that night, staring at a picture of him and his mom on his nightstand, lit by the moon light creeping through his window, his thoughts turned sour. Promises of nightmares niggled at him, keeping him awake and scared, until he heard a noise. It was quiet, almost like someone was choking. Terror filled his breast as he stood, grabbing his crutches to go check on his father. Not him too, Kurt wouldn't be able to handle his dad leaving him too, it wasn't right; it wasn't fair...
When he pushed open the door to his parents' bedroom, he saw his dad sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands and his shoulders shaking as he tried to suppress the sobs racking his body. He looked up at the CLACKthump of Kurt's crutches as he made his way across the room. The moment he got close enough, Burt drew him into his arms, holding him tightly as Kurt squeezed his neck with all his strength.
Doctors offices all kinda looked the same after awhile, Kurt thought. He had been to a few different ones lately, so he was sure he was at least a little bit of an authority on the subject.
First, there was Doctor Abrams office and, even though it was located in the hospital, it still had the same look as the others. He had to go to several appointments at his pediatrician's office for checkups following his accident, then to the podiatrist Doctor Sackey had referred his dad to, and now here, at a specialist they had been sent to by that doctor. Kurt remembered hearing them talk over his head about his soulmark and complications. He hadn't tried looking at the bottom of his foot at all, not even when the doctors had offered when his foot was unwrapped. He didn't want to see; didn't want to know.
Why did they all to be some ugly shade of beige? And he didn't know who painted those scenery pictures, but they should not have been combined with those thick, gaudy frames. Maybe when he was older, he would become an interior designer and give doctors offices a good discount and make over their offices. Well, he mused, maybe not so much his pediatrician's office, since he liked the themed rooms and stuff. But the walls in the waiting room, those could change.
"Kurt Hummel?" His head swiveled around to where the nurse was smiling softly at him. He stood with now practiced ease and swung over to the door she was holding open for him. Burt closed it behind them as they followed her down a short hallway (again with the light beige color) into a small exam room. His dad helped him onto the too tall table and settled into one of the chairs while the nurse opened his file. She asked questions that his dad was quick to answer and then left to go get the doctor.
They sat there silently for several minutes, the only sound coming from the crinkling of the paper covering the bed Kurt was sitting on whenever he shifted. He let out a sigh, running his thumb over one of the armpit pads. He had tried to decorate them, make them a little more stylish, but only succeeded in hurting his armpits.
"Hello, Kurt, Mr. Hummel, how are you today?" A smiling man stepped into the room, folder in hand. He shook Kurt's hand first and then Burt's. "I'm Doctor Tommlyn, the soulmark specialist," he said as he sat in the rolling chair. "Now, I was told you were in an accident and your foot got cut, right?"
"Yes, sir," Burt replied when Kurt said nothing, staring down at his hands in his lap.
Dr. Tommlyn smiled at his briefly before looking at Kurt. "Do you mind if I take a look at your foot, Kurt?"
When he still didn't answer, Burt poked his shoulder, making Kurt glare at him. "No, sir."
He laid back, staring at the ceiling, still resolute in his desire not to see his foot. The plain white brought back memories of waking up in the hospital and not knowing how he got there or what had happened, unknowing that he was about to receive the worst news of his young life. He listened as the doctor made little humming noises as he examined Kurt's foot, fingers light and warm on his skin.
"Alright, Kurt, you can sit up, if you want," Doctor Tommlyn said. Burt helped him as the doctor sat back. "Now, your foot is healing very well, considering the damage, and your soulmark is mostly intact. The problem is, with injuries like these, a lot of the time, there are, ah, complications with the connection being broken."
A dull roar filled Kurt's ears at the words. They had learned about soulmarks and the connections they brought last year in school.
In a world of Doms and subs, Doms were marked on the arch of their right foot with their soulmate's initials and subs were marked the same on their left foot. Whenever their soulmate touched the mark, the connection between the two people would bring a rush of emotions, either a feeling of comfort or love or something purely sexual, whatever the person bearing the marking needed at that time. If his mark was broken, the connection broken, then...
"Does-" Kurt swallowed thickly. "Does that mean I won't- I won't be able-"
He sighed, looking sad. "It means that you might never be able to feel the connection."
"Which means I'll never know if the person I'm with is my soulmate," Kurt whispered, blinking back tears.
"I'm really sorry, Kurt, I wish I had better news."
Kurt nodded, tuning out everything as his dad spoke with the doctor for a moment. He wordlessly followed him, catching words like "second opinion" and "doctors don't know everything." He allowed himself to be taken to doctor after doctor, even travelling as far as New York to get a different opinion, but every time it was the same. By the time summer came around, Kurt put his foot down.
"There's this doctor in London, supposed to the best in the world about this kind of thing," Burt said one night at dinner.
"I thought maybe we could-"
"Dad, please, just stop," Kurt begged. Burt looked up from his pork chops. "I don't- It's pointless; the diagnosis isn't going to change. As much as I would love to take a trip to England, I don't want to see any more doctors." He swiped angrily at the tears that were trying to fall. "Please, dad," he whispered.
"All right, buddy, all right." There was a clatter of silverware and then he was being enveloped in the warmth and familiar smell of Old Spice and motor oil as his father held him, letting his tears of anguish soak the worn flannel.
It took more than a year after the accident before Kurt was able to make himself look at his mark. Other people in school were talking about their marks, giggling to each other if their marks matched up with someone in class. There were even two people in the grade above him that had matching initials and had shared a connection. Curiosity got the better of him and, two days after Christmas, he sat at his vanity and took a deep breath before twisting his leg up.
His bottom of his foot was still smooth, but now broken by a pink scar, slightly raised, cutting diagonally from his big toe to his heel. The first initial was a clear B, and the second one was mostly clear, a D with a bit of the curve obscured. But the last letter was messed up beyond recognition. All he could see was a little marking drawn out from the scar.
Tears, hot and angry, trailed down his cheeks as he let his foot fall to the floor. He brought his feet up and buried his face in his arms, sobbing as quietly as possible so his dad wouldn't hear. He made a decision that night as he lay in bed; it was better to let go now of the idea that he would ever meet his soulmate so that he wouldn't suffer later in life when, if, he found someone and felt nothing when they touched his mark.
Over the next few years, he curled in on himself, showing nothing but an icy exterior to the world. Most people sneered at him, telling him that it was un-sub-like to act like he was just as good as the Doms. The barbs stung, but no more than any of the other words thrown at him. He held his walls up with ice and fiery words, quickly tearing down anyone who acknowledged him. If they couldn't get close, they couldn't hurt him in the long run, right?