Scars of a Love Gone Wrong (part two), Kurt/Adam, 2372 words
Summary: Clarity comes in steps- from a bar, in the form of a friend, in the form of her ex and one night, in the form of Santana Lopez. How Kurt comes to the conclusion that he isn’t fine. (TW: There’s an OMC and a scene in a bar between him and an OFC that could be triggering to someone. Past warnings for victim-blaming and slut-shaming still apply. Santana’s effemiphobia which is sadly still canon. Ugh.)
Just a few months shy of twenty, Kurt doesn’t have time for epiphanies. He has part-time work at one of the busiest fashion enterprises out there, full-time school at the most competitive performing arts school in the country and a very active social life since winning his first and only Midnight Madness.
It’s rare that he has a night like this- where he can pull on his best date-casual and join the Apples at their version of Callbacks for drinks. Adam’s gone with Praji and Tim for a round of shots, even if a third of them are still underage. Kurt’s leg is thrown over the empty chair to his right, laughing as Madison Ray tries to tell them her joke without spoiling the punchline with her giggles when a stranger walks right up to their table.
The air is heavy with silence as he stares.
The flush drains from her cheeks as the man steps closer. “Keith. You’re not supposed to be here.”
"You haven’t been returning my calls, I sent you flowers- did you get them?"
Madison’s grabbing her jacket, hands shaking as Keith steps in again and Praji shows up behind him, hands full of tiny glasses of alcohol. “Hey- you need to leave.”
Keith startles at Praji’s deep, furious voice, eyes narrowing on the shots in his hands. “This the new guy, Madds? You moved on that quick? Are you sleeping with him now?”
“Keith!” Madison snaps, walking around the table to shove at him. “Stop. Go home- you’re drunk and you’re embarrassing yourself.”
Clumsy hands reach for her waist as Keith pulls Madison close. “Don’t be like that, I’m just trying to have some fun.You wanna have some fun with me again? Like old times? Remember?”
It’s stupid, the way a chill creeps up Kurt’s spine, even as Praji shoves the shots across a neighboring table and hauls Keith off Madison like he’s nothing. Alicia’s already steering Madison back towards her seat as Johnny and Praji manhandle Keith out of the bar completely.
It’s stupid because nothing even happened to him. He didn’t even move to help Madison- who’s so sweet and shy sometimes it hurts Kurt- but he’s panting like someone put their hands on him again.
He feels shaky, temples damp with cold sweat when Adam and Tim show up. Adam immediately cups his cheek, looking concerned. “What happened?”
Kurt palms the hand on his face and tries for a smile. It hurts somehow. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
He’s starting to think it’s been a lie for a very long time.
Adam’s swinging their joined hands between them as they walk through New York City at twilight, looking so happy when Kurt asks, “who’s Keith?”
Adam’s quiet at that, fingers tightening around Kurt’s hand. With the simple joy of being together gone from his face, he looks tired, weary.
"It’s not exactly my story to tell," he hedges but Kurt knows he’ll tell it anyway. "I’ve known Madison ever since she was a freshman at NYADA. She’s come up with all of the concept art for the Apples ever since."
Kurt’s seen her artwork, seen the stripes of paint in her hair at rehearsal sometimes. Talented isn’t a strong enough word to describe her ability.
"She’s always been a little insecure, despite the fact that Praji’s been in love with her for ages," Adam says, brushing his thumb across the back of Kurt’s hand. "In her sophomore year, she met Keith."
Kurt shivers. He’s not cold.
"Don’t get me wrong, the man was charming. Maddy’s easily embarrassed but he was loving whenever we went out together." Adam huffs, darkly amused. "Praji absolutely loathed him. We assumed he was jealous."
Kurt tries not to hold his breath, heart trembling at the pause. “What happened? She looked terrified.”
"It was insidious," Adam says softly. "How he’d gotten into her head. It took ages really but in no time at all, it felt like he’d stolen her very being. All of her work was either for him or about him, her art was darker and less confident."
"She seemed so small around him then, and looking back of course, you notice the little things." Adam tilts his head back to sigh into the night. "How he’d still her hand while she scribbled on paper napkins, how he’d flirt with the other women at the bars but grow cold when Maddy smiled at a stranger, disapprove of her clothing if he thought they brought her too much attention."
Kurt tries to breathe normally, fingers aching and cold with despair. “Sounds frightening.”
He swallows down the word ‘familiar’.
”She wouldn’t be alone in a room with Praji for weeks, after he’d know somehow,” Adam continues. He sounds wrecked still, at the thought. “She’d find any way she could to make sure Keith never found the two of them in the same place. Alicia- Maddy’s old room mate before she’d moved in with Keith- was heart sick over it.”
"What happened? How’d she leave him?"
Adam slows their walk, eyes speculative at Kurt’s voice. “Are you sure you want to know this? You seem…affected.”
"Mad-Madison’s my friend," he says, but his voice catches and his throat aches for someone else. "Please just tell me."
Adam pulls him close instead, arms wrapping tightly around his waist and ribs. “We tried to force her to see it and she quit the Apples completely. I know that eventually Alicia went to the counselor on campus for help but there was little they could or would do without proof that Keith was a danger to Maddy.”
Adam strokes gently at his back, hands firm and soothing as they slip steadily up and down his spine. “We’re not completely sure what happened but she eventually left him. Packed her things and met Praji at the train station. No one’s quite sure if they’re together but he’s been good to her and in the end, Maddy saved herself.”
Kurt sniffs hard, vision blurry. Everything feels wrong, like the world’s been turned upside-down and everything he’s known is two steps to the left of reality. Memories he’s kept as bittersweet reminders feel tarnished, boiled away until nothing but the bitter remains.
"I’ve upset you now," Adam says desperately, tightening his grip. "Please don’t fret- this story has something of a happy ending."
Kurt makes a low, mournful noise and admits for the first time, if only to himself, “Not every story does.”
He avoids Madison.
Not because of anything she did, but because it feels a little like looking into a mirror. It’s not a reflection Kurt’s sure he wants to see.
He Googles ‘I think I was abused’ and gets so many links and options he closes the entire thing down, palms over his eyes as he tries to breathe.
He wipes the internet history a few minutes later and forgets the entire thing.
He’s not about to make someone else’s pain his own.
Kurt has enough already.
Madison corners him a week later.
"I’m sorry if Keith upset you," she says, gaze darting down before she eventually steels herself and keeps her chin up. "I’m sure someone’s told you and-"
Kurt takes her hand in his, he can’t not. “It’s fine. I’m so-” His voice waivers warningly. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Madison’s never been as willfully blind as some of Kurt’s other friends.
”I was hoping I was wrong.”
It’s too soon to a newly discovered hurt for Kurt to take. “I don’t know what you mean?”
"You’ve got that look," she says with a wry, sad smile. "The one that tells me you know exactly what I mean.”
"I’m not a victim of anything," Kurt says but it feels false this time, uncertain. "I’m not. I know better.”
Maddy’s tentative smile drops. “If you think all it takes is knowing better- I don’t have the time or the patience to tell you any better.”
Shame burns hot against his skin as Maddy drops his hand and exits stage left. He’s beginning to think that he doesn’t know anything at all.
He doesn’t even know how it comes up with Rachel, not really. One moment they’re talking about Mad Men, about toxic relationships in general, and Kurt finds himself asking “do you ever think any of our relationships were like that?”
Rachel stills. “Our- like Finn? No-“
"No," Kurt shakes his head so hard his teeth hurt. "I just meant- I don’t know what I meant. Not Finn. I mean, has anyone ever just seemed bad for each other?"
"Is this about Blaine? Are you going to take him back?" She looks torn. "I know he’s really sorry. I just don’t want you to get hurt."
Kurt hugs her instead, feeling awful for the look on her face. “It’s nothing. You know I’m happy with Adam.”
Santana interrupts them with loud, mock retching.
"So happy I’m going to miss your weird non-sexual romance. You know, I’m like a 100% sure if Lady Face were actually a lady, the two of your would single-handedly make this city even more gay. San Fran would weep."
"Make good choices!" Rachel calls as Santana leaves. She sounds too sincere for it to be ironic.
"Let’s see if Les Mis finally downloaded.”
Kurt volunteers to stay up to make sure Santana gets in safely, waving as Brody steers a barely conscious Rachel into their room.
He’s stuck on a level of 4 Pics 1 Word when Santana stumbles in, smelling like a bar floor.
Kurt tries not to give her too harsh a look.
"Oh don’t even start with me, all I know is that both of us spent the night with a girl and only one of us came away with orgasms out of the deal, I win by default."
Kurt is gracious enough to uncap a bottle of water for her anyway when she starts beating the cap against the edge of the coffee table.
They sit in the silence, the room lit up by the bright of the moon as Santana sips her water and flexes her bare feet.
"You know, it always bugged the shit out of me that gel-fro sang that song about being cheated on last year."
Kurt physically recoils from the reminder. “What-“
"I heard you talking to Rachel before I left," Santana says with a shrug, as if bringing up private conversation topics is a favored past-time Which, knowing Santana, it very well could be. "She seemed kind of spaced about it but anyone who’d willingly make the mistake of repeatedly sleeping with Finn Hudson has to be missing something upstairs anyway."
Kurt stares down at the game on his phone but the screen looks distant, the back-light fading. “I thought you liked Blaine.”
"Please," she says, waving her hand through the air. "I don’t like anyone, okay? Fact is, I threatened to eat Cool Ranch Doritos in glee club every day for the rest of last year if Sam didn’t tell me what your texts said and he broke faster than that harpy Kitty’s abstinence pledge.”
"Oh my God," Kurt whispers, mostly to himself. Once Santana gets rolling, you either get out of her way or prepare for impact.
"Look, you never cheated with that nerd you found haunting the music store," she says, plain and easy. "Those texts were like watching two crotchless ken dolls go at it. A whole lot of nothing. You were about as interested in getting with him as you are with Rachel."
"Can you not?” Kurt asks, turning off his phone and pushing to his feet. “I really don’t want to talk about this.”
Santana reaches up and yanks him back down onto the couch. “Then listen up, Judy. I’m only gonna say this once.”
She takes a deep breath. “Look, if there’s one thing I appreciate about you it’s that you know how to be fearless. That entire town was shit to you, myself included but you never let that get you down. You just wore brighter clothes and sang higher notes, even if you totally looked like some sort of weird cereal box bird I wanted to stuff and mount on my wall.”
"Then you took off for gayer pastures and came back with a piece of stale arm candy from your grandfather’s old sweater vest and it was like-" She waves her hand through the air, the only sign that she’s still kind of tipsy. "It was like all washed out and muffled. Like looking at you underwater."
Santana leans in close, her eyes wide and shining in the dark of the apartment. “People can’t live underwater, Hummel. They fucking die.”
"You’re drunk," he says, ignoring the way his heart beats too fast, the slickness of his palms. Santana shrugs but neither of them say she’s wrong and it feels a little like letting out a deep breath. Inhale and exhale. Kurt hands over two Tylenol before heading off to his corner of the loft.
He doesn’t sleep.
"I saw you talking with Madison this morning," Adam says after practice. He’s moving slow, hands deliberate as they wait for the last of the Apples to wander out of the auditorium. "I take it you’ve made up?"
"We didn’t fight."
"But things were awkward," Adam insists, swing his bag over his shoulder and stepping closer. He tries for a smile. "You know I won’t push for anything you don’t want to tell me- I’ll listen if you need someone to talk to but I just want to make sure that you’re alright."
Kurt nods, chest aching as Adam does nothing more than reach out and grip both of his hands tightly. Steady, silent support.
His fingers clench as Adam tries to pull back and Kurt finds himself with too many words crowding in his mouth.
"My ex-boyfriend," he finally says. "It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that he didn’t treat me very well. Madison tried to reach out to me but I wasn’t ready to hear it."
Adam reaches up with one hand, his palm cupping Kurt’s cheek gently and he looks like he wants to ask so badly but all Adam does is slowly drag the rough patch of his thumb under the thin skin beneath Kurt’s eye. “And this morning you were ready.”
"I’m ready to be ready,” he says with a small self-deprecating shrug. He turns his cheek into the warm of Adam’s palm. “Madison said to give it time.”
Give me time is what he’s thinking but the sentiment is too close to a commitment for either of them to voice right now.
Adam leans in, presses their temples together and curls close to Kurt’s body, a near hug. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Possibly one more part. Or two. Basically I have no idea anymore.