Title: The Dalton Prison Study
Authors: Sarah and Alexei
Summary: Kurt and Blaine are strangers in need of some quick cash when they both sign up for two week research study on prison life. Blaine’s assigned to be a guard and Kurt is his prisoner. Can they find love (and each other) in such a hopeless place? AU Klaine based on the landmark Stanford Prison study conducted in 1971.
Characters: Kurt Hummel, Blaine Anderson, Sebastian Smythe, & David Karofsky. Minor Burt Hummel, Carole Hudson, Finn Hudson, Sam Evans, Noah Puckerman, Brittany S. Pierce, & Jeff, Nick.
Pairings: Major Klaine, some one-sided Seblaine, and a tiny bit of Niff if you squint.
Rating: M for profanity, homophobia, bullying, slurs, nudity, and sexual banter. If you’ve read about the original Stanford Prison study, you know that shit got real there, very quickly. I’ll post chapter by chapter warnings as well.
Previous Chapters: 1 – Reflected Appraisal ◊ 2 – Self Presentation ◊ 3 – Moral Exclusion
Chapter: 4/14 – Cognitive Dissonance
Chapter Word Count: 7,457 words
Chapter Warnings: Profanity, homophobia, slurs, and implied unwanted sexual contact.
Author’s Note: I’m so excited for all of you to read Chapter 4 as this is the chapter that the story has been building towards since the first word. In this chapter, Blaine and Kurt finally meet and we get a taste of what prison life will be like for everyone involved. And it isn’t pretty, as you can probably imagine. Alexei and I have been thrilled to see how you are responding to the story. In particular, it has been so gratifying to have discussions with you about the nature of the Stanford Prison Study and how it will apply to our characters. I have a feeling that this is a chapter that will bring up a lot more discussion and debate. Stick around after this chapter for a few notes about some of the specific plot points and how they relate to the original study, since I don’t want to give too much away before the chapter starts. As you probably remember, the last chapter was exclusively from Blaine’s POV, so we start this chapter with Kurt’s POV as he is waiting to be “arrested” from his house before the pivotal moment that Kurt and Blaine will (finally) meet. If you’re interested, you can also see footage of the arrest from the actual Stanford Prison Study here. Enjoy!
Cognitive Dissonance: Discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (ideas, beliefs, values, etc.) or attempting to justify behavior that opposes one’s views.
He had the rest of the day to prepare for his role as prisoner. First things first: he needed the right wardrobe. Something prison chic. He needed to look…dangerous for his arrest. Maybe leather? A little Marlon Brando and a bit James Dean? Oooh and stripes? He chuckled to himself, his mind already racing with possible outfit combinations as he headed upstairs to his closet.
Kurt buckled the last strap on his motorcycle boots before standing in front of the full length mirror, admiring his outfit appreciatively. It had taken trying on a lot of potential outfits and a bit of shopping before Kurt had finally found the right look. He was dressed from head to toe in black. The jacket was fitted across his broad shoulders and cut in just the right amount at the waist. On his waist, Kurt wore fingerless black gloves. The jacket was covered in studs and zippers. Paired with the jacket were skinny jeans in black that hugged his body in all the right places. The outfit was finished off with a black studded belt slung low across his waist. It was perfect.
Kurt glanced at his watch, confirming that it was just after nine. The experimenter said to be ready by 9 AM. He should go downstairs. The last thing he wanted for his dad, Carole, or Finn to be the one to answer the door. Kurt looked in the mirror one final time, smoothing down a wayward lock of hair, when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Shit.
Kurt flew down the stairs, anxious to be the first to answer the door. As he rounded the corner, it was apparent he was too late. Carole was at the door, frowning slightly at the police officer dressed in full uniform.
“Can I help you?” Carole asked the officer. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes ma'am, I’m looking for Kurt Hummel,” he responded gruffly.
“Oh hey Carole, yeah that’s me. I got this,” Kurt replied.
“Kurt? What’s going on here?” Carole asked with concern.
“It’s nothing, Carole. Really. It’s for this job I was telling you and Dad about. Don’t worry. Everything’s fine,” Kurt soothed.
“Okay, Mr. Hummel, you’ll need to come with me. You are under arrest for armed robbery. You have the right to…” But before the police officer could finish reading Kurt his rights, Burt came flying into the room.
“Kurt? What the hell is going on here?” Burt asked, his voice a mix of concern and anger. He stepped towards the cop, drawing up to his full height. “Look, I don’t know what you think my son has done, but I can assure you that there’s been some sort of mistake.”
“Dad – I…” Kurt started again.
“Dude! What the hell did you do? Kurt got busted?” Finn exclaimed with disbelief.
“Okay, will everyone calm down, please?” Kurt shouted over the din. “Dad, Carole, Finn, everything is fine. I’m not being arrested for real. It’s for an acting job. I’m getting paid to pretend to be a prisoner for two weeks. Long story and one that I’ll tell you all about later.”
“Kurt, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Burt asked, unsure. “I don’t like the look of this.”
“Yes Dad, I’m sure. They’re just really into the whole Method thing, hence the squad car and ‘arrest’ but nothing is going to happen to me. Besides, the money is pretty good and I’m getting paid to act instead of make coffee,” Kurt explained impatiently.
“Alright, Mr. Hummel, we need to get moving. They’re expecting you at the station for booking,” the police offer stated impatiently. He placed a hand on Kurt’s shoulder and started to guide him out the door.
Carole exchanged another worried look with Burt. They followed the officer and Kurt outside, watching in horror as the police officer forced Kurt to place his hands against the car and began to pat him down, presumably for a weapon. But Kurt just shrugged and laughed, making it clear that he wasn’t taking things that seriously. After the pat down was complete, the police officer prompted Kurt to put his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed.
The police officer was just about to place Kurt in a squad car when Burt called after them. “Wait! Hold on a minute. Kurt, how are we supposed to contact you?”
Kurt looked to the police officer who merely shrugged. “I’m not sure, Dad, but I’m willing to bet we will have telephone access. Even prisoners in real prisons are entitled to make phone calls. How about I just call you after I get settled in, okay?”
Burt nodded. Kurt seemed perfectly unfazed by the whole thing, but Burt was nervous. After all, it wasn’t every day that he had to watch his son get arrested, even if it was just for an acting gig. He watched with apprehension as the squad car pulled away from the driveway and disappeared down the block. “What has Kurt gotten himself into?” Burt mumbled quietly to himself.
Kurt sat silently in the back of the squad car, watching the scenery blow past him. It was a bit of the drive to the station and Kurt was exhausted after having worked on his outfit late into the night only to arise earlier to finish his outfit preparations. His eyelids felt too heavy to hold open, so eventually Kurt surrendered to the fatigue, his head lolling against the window as he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Kurt awoke with a jolt nearly an hour and a half later to the sound of a door slamming shut. He sat up quickly, taking a few seconds to reorient himself to the unfamiliar environment. He shifted forward in his seat, groaning slightly at feel of the chafed skin on his wrists from where the handcuffs had dug into his delicate skin.
The police officer quickly rounded the car and opened Kurt’s door, extending a hand to help lift him from the squad car. “Alright, Mr. Hummel. Let’s get you booked,” he commanded, all business-like efficiency.
Kurt was led into the mostly deserted station and put through a series of mind numbingly boring procedures. His mug shot was taken, he was fingerprinted, and then was told to sit and wait on a nearby bench, his hands still tightly handcuffed behind his back. Finally, he was told that they were ready for him at the prison, so he was once again escorted to the police car, this time with the additional indignity of being blindfolded. “Well, here goes nothing,” thought Kurt resignedly.
A short while later, Kurt’s blindfold and handcuffs were roughly removed and he found himself blinking against harsh fluorescent lights as he tried to take in his surroundings. It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust from the darkness of the blindfold to the bright industrial lighting. Once he was finally able to see clearly again, he found himself suddenly wishing he was still blindfolded. They appeared to be in some sort of basement, as there were no windows or natural light giving even the smallest glimpse of the outside world. The air was damp and chilly with the slightly stale, musty odor. Kurt was standing against a neutrally painted cinderblock wall in a long narrow hallway. On either side of him were doors that led to various rooms. Several of the doors had small windows covered by bars, leading Kurt to suspect that these were to be their prison cells. All in all, it was one of the least inviting places that Kurt had seen which seemed to fit with the overly Method, highly detailed prison set up that he’d been on the receiving end of thus far.
After familiarizing himself with the bleak surroundings, Kurt turned to look at his fellow prisoners. There were five of them in total, counting Kurt. On Kurt’s right, there were two guys about his age, one blond and one brunette. Both were dressed preppily in khaki pants and pastel polo shirts. They were clearly trying to project a blasé detachment from their surroundings, but it was easy to see that they were a bit nervous and jumpy underneath the cool demeanor. Immediately to Kurt’s left was a tall, well muscled guy with a mohawk and perpetual scowl. Next to the guy with the mohawk stood a tall, slightly lankier guy with beach blond hair dressed in well worn clothing that was frayed and rumpled looking. Rather than surveying the environment or other prisoners, he simply stared at the ground, looking as if his mind was elsewhere.
“Dude, what’s up with this place?” the mohawked guy next to Kurt whispered angrily. “They’ve got another thing coming if they expect me to sleep in this shithole. It smells like ass in here. I’m Puck, by the way.”
Kurt smiled at Puck and extended his hand in greeting. “I’m Kurt. Yeah, this place is pretty hideous, but I guess that’s the point since they want it to feel like a prison and everything.”
Before Puck could respond to Kurt, both were half-deafened by the shrill bleat of a whistle. They looked up, Kurt watching in amusement as three guys about their age marched into the room, dressed in full prison regalia. Kurt surveyed each of them in turn, laughing under his breath a little at their stairstep progression. The first guy was tall and stocky with the hulking build of a former jock gone a little flabby now that his high school glory days were over. His eyes were as harsh and unforgiving as a snake’s and his chest puffed out comically as he stood in front of the prisoners, clearly already relishing the power his role afforded him.
Following behind the jock was a second guard who was nearly tall as the first guard, but with a lean, lanky build. Unlike the first guard, it was clear that he put a fair amount of thought and work into his appearance. His skin was well moisturized and lightly tanned and his hair was sculpted into the casually messy appearance that Kurt knew could only be accomplished with expensive hair products and many minutes in front of the mirror. His eyes flickered with amusement as he took in the prisoners and Kurt couldn’t help but notice how obviously he ogled each prisoner, his eyes lingering over chests and legs for slightly longer than was decent.
Finally, a shorter, dark-haired guy brought up the rear. His hair was slightly too long and messy, but in a careless way that suggested he simply hopped out of the shower and let it air dry on its own. He looked awkward and uncomfortable in his uniform, nearly tripping over the hem of his pants that were slightly too long for him. Despite the poor fit, Kurt had to admit that he wore the uniform well. All the guards wore khaki colored button down shirts with matching pants. The first two guards were wearing matching aviator sunglasses made popular by a variety of cop shows and movies over the past few years. The lenses were mirrored, making it impossible to see their eyes clearly which Kurt assumed was probably the point of wearing them. However, the third guard simply held his sunglasses, twirling them nervously in his hand as he followed behind the other guards, giving Kurt the opportunity to study his face. Kurt couldn’t help but notice that the guard had a nice face framed by light hazel eyes and the kind of eyelashes Kurt would kill to have naturally. But while the other guards appeared excited and raring to go, Kurt could see a surprisingly strong undercurrent of pain and reluctance radiating from the third guard. He held himself like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and looked lost in private thoughts. The guard must have felt Kurt’s eyes on him, because he suddenly looked up at Kurt, catching his eyes. Kurt startled slightly before giving him a small smile and the smile that he received in turn transformed the guard’s face into something strangely beautiful.
The moment between them was short-lived; however, due to the hulking guard at the front of the line letting loose with a speech that Kurt could have sworn came directly from a John Wayne movie. It was so ludicrously over the top and overacted that Kurt found himself trying (and failing) to suppress snorts of helpless laughter.
“You think that’s funny, lady boy?” Karofsky shouted, his eyes narrowing with fury at the snickering prisoner in front of him. “You do not want to be on my bad side, lady, you got that? Now what do you say?”
Kurt merely rolled his eyes, finding it hard to take this walking cliché of a person seriously. It was clear that this guy would not be giving up his day job for acting anytime soon. “Umm, sorry?” Kurt responded with icy detachment.
“What was that? It should be 'Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,’ you got that, lady?” Karofsky spit at Kurt, already seething with barely suppressed rage.
“Was this guy for real?” Kurt couldn’t help thinking. This was getting more ridiculous by the second. But in hard times, Kurt was good at reminding himself of the bottom line. “Acting gig, this is just an acting gig, one that I’m getting paid good money for. Just have to sit tight and play my role.”
He looked up at the guard and tried his best to put himself back into the prisoner role. “Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky. So sorry, sir. Whatever you say,” he spit back, his voice containing only the slightest hint of sarcasm.
“That’s what I thought,” said Karofsky, momentarily mollified. “I’ve got my eye on you, kid. You better get your ass in line or I’ll make your life a living hell.”
Blaine stood before the five prisoners, shifting his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably, feeling awkward in his own skin and the heavily starched uniform he was being forced to wear. He surveyed the “prisoners” in front of him, curious to gauge their reactions to Karofsky’s ridiculous power trip. He felt certain that Karofsky was cribbing most of his lines directly from some crime drama, but his height and bulk did give his words a bit of weight. Seeing the harshness in Karofsky’s eyes as well as the perverse pleasure that he seemed to be taking in asserting his authority and dressing down the prisoners, Blaine had no doubt that most of what was being said was not just idle threats. And that, more than anything else that had come so far made Blaine nervous.
Blaine had tried to put the prisoners at ease from the start to counter Karofsky and Sebastian’s reign of terror, taking a moment to study each prisoner’s face and smile at them apologetically, hoping that they would find him reassuring. Blaine was almost immediately drawn to the prisoner in the middle of line-up, particularly to his piercing crystal clear blue eyes and his air of casual indifference. A quick glance at the roll call sheet helpfully provided by Dr. Cohen identified the blue-eyed student as Prisoner 219. Throughout the study, the guards were to refer to the prisoners only by number and not name, a tactic that would supposedly mimic the anonymity of prison life while forcing the prisoners to conform to their roles as prisoners. Blaine found the very idea repellant, but was trying not to rock the boat too much for fear of being removed from the study.
Blaine’s gaze lingered on Prisoner 219 just a few seconds too long, and suddenly he was being elbowed by Sebastian who gave him a knowing smirk. “You need to put your glasses on, babe. Rules are rules. Once they’re on you can stare all you want and no one will notice. Trust me.” Blaine’s face flushed red and he reluctantly slid his mirrored sunglasses on, wondering if he looked as ridiculous as he felt.
Both Blaine and Sebastian were startled when Karofsky suddenly lunged forward, his eyes bulging with a barely suppressed rage and his voice rising in volume and intensity.
“Lady, if you don’t wipe that smirk off your face right now, I swear to god I’ll knock it off for you, got it?” Karofsky’ shouted angrily, drawing himself up to his full height and stepping forward until he was looming over Prisoner 219 menacingly.
Blaine held his breath, waiting to see how Prisoner 219 would react, ready to spring into action if needed to keep Karofsky from ripping his head off. Blaine was blown away by what came next. The prisoner simply smiled patiently, his lip curling in slight amusement before responding in a voice so filled with mock earnestness that it was practically dripping with contempt. “Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,” Prisoner 219 replied.
“Good, that’s what I thought,” murmured Karofsky. “That goes double for you. When I give an order, I expect you respond the same way. Got it?” Karofsky paused expectantly, obviously waiting for the other prisoners to respond in kind.
“Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,” the prisoners replied in unison after a moment’s hesitation, the mohawked prisoner to Kurt’s left looking practically murderous as he half-heartedly mouthed the words.
“Now that’s more like it, ladies. Alright, because you are filthy, no good criminals who are probably bringing all sorts of disgusting diseases into our prison, we’ve got no choice but to shower and delouse you. Then you’ll be given your uniforms and assigned to your cells. We picked out some dresses special for you ladies since that’s obviously what you’re most comfortable in. Now everyone give me fifty jumping jacks while us guards decide what to do with you.”
The prisoners exchanged glances, wondering if the guard was serious. The blond prisoner on the end was the first to respond. He simply shrugged his shoulders and began to do half-hearted jumping jacks, with the other prisoners following suit.
Karofsky motioned to Blaine and Sebastian, bringing them in for a quick conference.
“Alright so we need to each pick our prisoners. I’ve got the two guys on the end. They’re the biggest and the one with the stupid fucking haircut looks like trouble,” Karofsky responded confidently.
Sebastian looked at Blaine and Karofsky with amusement, deciding to let Blaine go next, although he was pretty sure he knew who Blaine would pick. “Blaine, you just wanted one, right. Pick your poison.”
“Uhh, I guess I’ll take the one in the middle. Prisoner 219?” Blaine answered gratefully. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something about taking care of Prisoner 219 just felt right. It would also help that he clearly had a sense of humor about the whole thing, because Blaine was feeling fairly ridiculous at the moment playing dress up in the basement with a bunch of guys on a power trip.
Sebastian smiled knowingly before responding. “Of course you will, hon. Works for me, so it looks like I’ve got the two on the end.” Sebastian leered obviously at each of them in turn before nodding appreciatively. “Sure, they’ll do. The blond one’s pretty hot. This could be fun.”
Kurt was panting hard from the exertion of fifty jumping jacks when the guards returned, motioning them to stop. The short guy with nice eyes stood in front of him, extending his hand as if to shake it and then looking embarrassed when Kurt did not respond in kind.
“Hey, I’m Bl-uh-Correctional Officer Anderson. I guess that’s what you’re supposed to call me. Fuck, I’m no good at this. So I’m going to be the one guarding your cell, apparently.”
Kurt considered the guy in front of him. He was not bad looking, although his best feature (his eyes) was now hidden behind the dark mirrored sunglasses. And he was just so adorably awkward that Kurt couldn’t help but feel for him. It was obvious that he hadn’t the slightest idea what he was doing, which Kurt could empathize with. Maybe he could even give Anderson a few acting pointers.
“Interesting,” was Kurt’s only response. He couldn’t make things too easy for Anderson, at least at first. He was his guard, after all. “Apparently I’m not supposed to tell you my name,” Kurt replied after a moment’s hesitation. “Research confidentiality or some such thing. I’m 2-1-something. I forget.”
“Yeah, you’re prisoner 219, I know. I’ve got a cheat sheet,” Blaine responded, holding up the index card with the prisoner list from his pocket.
“A cheat sheet, huh? What else does it say about me on there?” Kurt asked curiously.
“Uh, that’s it,” Blaine finished lamely, stuffing the index card in his pocket. He ran a hand through his mussed up hair, feeling immediately off balance and ill at ease in trying to talk to Prisoner 219. “So uh, I guess we need to…” Blaine trailed off, unsure how to introduce what was supposed to come next. Because really, how do you say “Hi, perfect stranger whose name I don’t even know. Please get completely naked so I can strip search you, scrub you down with some possibly toxic lice shampoo, and dress you in a smock with no underwear for no other reason than that some weird dude in a white coat is paying me to do so.” Yeah, that wouldn’t be weird at all. But that was the job.
As Blaine ran through the wording in his head, trying to find the least awkward way to introduce what was coming next, Sebastian stepped in, leering suggestively at both Kurt and Blaine in turn. “Come on, babe, don’t dawdle. We’ve got showers to get going and these prisoners aren’t going to strip search themselves.” Sebastian turned to Prisoner 219, feeling smug as he watched his mouth gape open in surprise. “Oh don’t look so shocked, love,” Sebastian called out. “I’m not buying the sweet little virgin act. You look like someone who’d drop the soap on purpose.” And with that, Sebastian linked arms with his two prisoners and tugged them towards the showers, whistling all the way.
It took Blaine several seconds to regain his composure before he could even look at Prisoner 219. “I’m really starting to fucking hate that guy,” Blaine muttered under his breath. It was the first genuine smile he’d gotten from Prisoner 219 all day.
“So uh, if you want to hand me your stuff, I’ll put it in a locker for you. You’ll get it all back after the study’s over,” Blaine started, fighting the urge to look anywhere besides Prisoners 219’s face. Karofsky and Sebastian’s prisoners had already been stripped and had made their way into the communal showers, leaving only Blaine and Prisoner 219 in the changing area alone. The weird blend of intimacy and anonymity was making Blaine’s head spin, causing him to feel constantly off balance, as if the ground beneath his feet was constantly shifting, making it impossible to regain his footing. Through it all, Prisoner 219 had been surprisingly blasé, following Blaine’s directions with little comment or discussion. Blaine couldn’t imagine how awkward things must be for Prisoner 219, but somehow he’d managed to project a sense of distance, as if he was above all of it and simply observing from a safe distance. It was disconcerting.
Prisoner 219 hesitated for a brief moment, causing Blaine’s stomach to flip wildly. Maybe Prisoner 219 was uncomfortable after all. Things would be easier if they could find a way to commiserate over their bizarre shared experience. “Sorry, I can turn around if you want…if that would be easier,” Blaine finished lamely, looking at his feet.
“No, it’s not that. I just don’t want my coat to get messed up. It’s vintage. I don’t think there’s any getting around the whole nakedness thing.”
Blaine couldn’t help his sheepish grin. “Fair enough. Here, give your coat to me and I’ll hang it up so it doesn’t get messed up, okay?”
Kurt reluctantly handed over his coat, removing the last barrier between himself and Blaine. He focused on breathing deeply, trying to transport himself somewhere else. It wasn’t Kurt standing in front of this complete stranger; it was Prisoner 219.
“Umm okay, so it’s uh…just through there,” Blaine mumbled, keeping his eyes trained on Prisoner 219’s face as he gestured towards the door to the communal showers, still feeling his cheeks flush red from second hand embarrassment. He wanted to find the right words to commiserate. He felt desperate to break the tension, but was completely at a loss.
Prisoner 219 walked through the waiting doors, posture ramrod straight, resisting the urge to cover himself. Breathe.
If Blaine was uncomfortable before, the scene he was greeted with as he entered the showers did little to ease his discomfort. Sebastian and Karofsky were a study in contrast. On one side of the showers, Karofsky was roughly hosing off his charges indiscriminately spraying water and soap into both his prisoners’ eyes. Prisoner 474’s head hung in resignation, completely submitted to the abuses. However, Prisoner 378 looked ready to strike back as he actively shouted obscenities at Karofsky. As Blaine got closer, he could hear that Karofsky was also muttering furiously, slinging crude insults at both prisoners. On the other side of the communal showers, Sebastian ogled his prisoners, massaging the shoulders and scalp of Prisoner 137 while Prisoner 138 looked on uncomfortably. Both Sebastian and Karofsky seemed fully committed to their roles as guards and seemed to be enjoying their authority, albeit for very different reasons.
Blaine looked back to Prisoner 219, horrified at the spectacle before them. He felt a wash of relief as he saw his own horror mirrored back in Prisoner 219’s eyes. “What the fuck?” he muttered softly under his breath, still loud enough for Prisoner 219 to hear.
“No fucking clue,” Kurt replied, a snort of helpless laughter escaping his lips because really? It was either laugh or cry at this point. He locked eyes with Correctional Officer Anderson, and a moment of shared understanding passed between them. But as quickly as the moment came, it faded away, and suddenly their dynamic shifted.
“He’s not your friend,” Kurt admonished himself silently. Kurt was here to play a role. And even if Anderson seemed nicer than the other guards (which wasn’t difficult considering what assholes the other two guards appeared to be), he was ultimately still the enemy.
Blaine, also feeling the sudden shift in mood, became serious once again. He walked to an empty shower head, turning it on and testing the water temperature until it was warm but not hot. He motioned for Prisoner 219 to join him.
Kurt reluctantly walked towards toward the flowing water. Anderson extended a hand, leading him underneath the tap and directing the spray. “Is that okay?” he asked softly. “Too hot?”
Kurt shook his head, his eyes now staring resolutely at the floor to avoid the light hazel eyes than seemed to bore into his. He could feel Correctional Officer Anderson still studying him. Finally when he could stand it no longer, he let his eyes flicker up to Anderson’s. “It’s fine….it’s good,” he reassured, feeling something twist in his stomach at the shy smile he received in return.
“Lean back,” Blaine directed, pulling a bottle of shampoo from a small bucket on the floor. Prisoner 219 titled his head back obediently, his eyes closing as he let the warm water dampen his hair. After a second, he felt a tentative hand reach up, brushing his hair back off his forehead, fingers running through the strands until it was thoroughly wet. Blaine poured shampoo into the palm of his hand before massaging it gently into Prisoner 219’s scalp.
Kurt squeezed his eyes shut tightly, trying to keep the suds from running into his sensitive eyes. But Anderson somehow read his mind and before Kurt had time to react, Anderson had cupped his free hand against Kurt’s forehead, shielding his eyes as he rinsed out the shampoo. The whole experience was strangely intimate and charged with a meaning that Kurt couldn’t quite identify, leaving him feeling protected and exposed in equal measure. As Anderson continued gently washing and conditioning Kurt’s hair, Kurt felt the room narrow until all he sensed was the heat of the steam surrounding them, his slightly unsteady breath, and Anderson’s hands, gentle and tentative.
Both Blaine and Kurt were pulled back to the reality of their present circumstances by Sebastian, the always gleeful bearer of bad news. “I think he’s clean enough, Anderson. Get a move on. Sooner you delouse and strip search him, the sooner the real fun can begin.” Blaine flinched visibly at Sebastian’s words and the reminder of the indignities Prisoner 219 was still to face, at his hands no less. Blaine’s hands shook slightly as he quickly rinsed the remaining conditioner from Kurt’s hair, failing once again to find the right words to communicate his discomfort with what he was being asked to do.
Kurt tensed beneath Anderson’s hands, feeling the harshness of the environment flood back to his senses. He’d almost lost himself for a moment there, and not to his role as Prisoner 219. It was hard to explain, but he’d felt a strange kinship with Anderson, a shared intimacy that he couldn’t place or define. But Officer Smythe’s words had brought him crashing back to reality. The truth was that Kurt was being paid to do a job, no more, no less. And while Anderson seemed sweet and genuine, he was also playing a role. He was Correctional Officer Anderson and Kurt was Prisoner 219. Kurt found himself longing to have his wardrobe back, and not just to feel less physically exposed. Kurt had always worn his clothing like armor, using his clothing to communicate who he was. He felt protected in his Prisoner 219 attire as it gave him a tangible reminder of the role he was playing. Already, Kurt felt his disguise slipping and he was almost more frightened of the emotional nakedness and vulnerability than he was of being physically exposed.
“Catch, Anderson,” Karofsky shouted suddenly, tossing a spray bottle towards him. Blaine managed to catch it at the last second, holding the bottle up to the light to read the label “Rid X Delouse Spray.” Beneath the label, Blaine saw a warning in red print. “Spray should be tested on a small area of skin before use to ensure that it does not cause an allergic reaction. Do not spray directly into eyes or mucous membranes.” Blaine turned back to Karofsky, intending to ask him how to use it. But he saw that both of Dave’s prisoners were rubbing at their reddened eyes and decided that he was clearly not the right person to ask.
Blaine turned back to Prisoner 219 who was again staring resolutely at the floor. Blaine chewed on the inside of his lip as he tried (and failed) to catch Prisoner 219’s eyes. “Umm hey, so I’ve got to spray you down with this stuff. It’s for lice…not that I think you’re dirty or anything…I just, umm, I’ll be quick and…” Blaine stuttered, his face hot with embarrassment.
“Dude, stop pussyfooting around and do it already, or I’m going to do it for you,” Karofsky shouted impatiently. “This isn’t a fucking day spa, it’s a prison. You want me to strip search him?” Karofsky asked.
Blaine felt Prisoner 219’s entire body stiffen at Karofsky’s words. Blaine wanted so badly to be anywhere but here, hating what he was being asked to do with every fiber of his being, but he felt an equally strong desire to do what he could to protect his prisoner. If his presence kept Karofsky or Sebastian from crossing a line, he knew he had to try.
“No, I got it. Go ahead and get your prisoners dressed. I’ll be out in one minute, okay?” Blaine responded quickly. Karofsky rolled his eyes at Blaine, before turning back to Sebastian. “Make sure he does his fucking job, will you? And stop feeling up your prisoners, dude. You’re creeping everyone else out.”
Blaine let out a breath of relief and sensed Prisoner 219 doing the same. He began to talk softly, his words loud enough for Prisoner 219 to hear, but not loud enough to carry over to Sebastian. “Okay sorry, I’m going to spray this stuff, okay? Let me know if it stings and I’ll stop, okay? Umm, you should probably close your eyes too. You don’t want this stuff getting in your eyes.”
Prisoner 219 was back to his tense and ramrod straight posture, studiously avoiding eye contact with anyone, especially Anderson. He reluctantly closed his eyes as directed and after a moment’s hesitation, Blaine placed his hand over Prisoner 219’s eyes for good measure, wanting to ensure he didn’t inadvertently blind him with the quite possibly toxic substance. Prisoner 219 visibly flinched at Blaine’s unexpected touch, causing Blaine to resume chewing on the inside of his lip nervously. He couldn’t help but feel like he was doing everything wrong.
“Sorry, sorry…I just want to make sure this doesn’t get in your eyes, alright? Umm, I’m going to spray it on your back first, okay? Might be a little cold. Tell me if it burns and I’ll stop.” Blaine held the can the recommended 12 inches from his prisoner’s skin and began to spray it quickly across the exposed flesh.
Prisoner 219 winced slightly at the shock of the cold spray, his skin prickling with goose bumps from the chill. Blaine realized that he’d been holding his breath, waiting for some sort of reaction or response from Prisoner 219, but none came. “Hey, you okay?” Blaine asked tentatively, getting only the slightest nod in reply. “Okay, can you turn around now? I need to spray the rest of you.” Blaine removed his hand from Prisoner 219’s eyes as Prisoner 219 pivoted to face him. His eyes fluttered closed again almost immediately. “Here,” Blaine said, gently tipping Prisoner 219’s chin up before covering his eyes protectively once more. “Almost done,” he reassured and quickly sprayed the remainder of Prisoner 219’s body. Finally, he removed his hand from Prisoner 219’s face, gazing at him for a moment, trying to convey everything he couldn’t communicate with words with a glance. Mostly, his eyes were pleading and apologetic, already embarrassed by what he needed to do next.
Blaine stood motionless for several seconds, while his instincts warred against what he knew he had to do. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, I can’t do this. Not to this perfectly nice guy who’s done nothing wrong. But if I refuse, I’m sure I’ll get kicked out of the study. And then what? Back to sleeping on friends’ couches? And how am I going to come up with the money for rent or food? Shit, it’s just a study. An experiment. I’m playing a role. So are the prisoners. It’s not like any of this was my idea. And is Prisoner 219 really going to have things an easier if I leave? Sebastian and Karofsky would eat him alive. He’ll be safer if I stay. I can do this. Deep breath. Just a role. It’s not really me.“
Blaine forced himself to start talking before he lost his nerve, for once grateful that Prisoner 219 was avoiding his gaze. He stumbled over his words, trying to get them out as quickly as possible. “Um 219, regulations require that you, uh…bend over. I have to search for contraband. Not that I think you have any, but…I have to or I’ll get in trouble. So just, bend over, and I’ll try to make this fast. I’ll just…uh”
Kurt interrupted Officer Anderson, unable to stand his awkward narration for one more second. “Could you…just not talk? Or not narrate at least? I know you’re trying to be nice, but it’s not helping. It’s just making things more awkward.”
Blaine’s face stung with embarrassment and guilt in equal measure. He found himself praying that the earth would simply swallow him up. “Yeah…sorry,” he finally replied. “Fuck, I’m no good at this.”
Prisoner 219 let out an involuntary snort of helpless laughter. “Is anyone? It’s not exactly something that most people have much practice with, you know?”
“You raise a good point. I have to admit I am not prepared for what I’ve gotten myself into. This is a pretty fucked up experiment so far,” Blaine admitted, feeling more at ease now that the giant elephant in the room had at least been acknowledged. “All done by the way,” he continued with relief. “Or sorry, is that still considered narrating?”
“It’s fine. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a jerk earlier. I know you’re just doing what you’re told,” Prisoner 219 reassured Officer Anderson.
“No, I get it. You weren’t a jerk. It’s just a weird scenario all around. Anyways, why don’t we get out of here? You’ve got to be freezing.” Prisoner 219 nodded and allowed himself to be led from the showers and back into the changing area.
“About fucking time,” Karofsky practically growled at Blaine as he tossed him a faded gray smock with the number 219 written across the chest in permanent marker. “Hurry up and get him dressed so we can do the rules.”
Prisoner 219 wordlessly took the smock from Blaine, sliding it over his own head before Blaine had a chance to help him. He was then handed a stocking cap (which he put on as carefully as possible to avoid messing up his hair), and a heavy chain was fastened around his ankle. Prisoner 219 looked back to Blaine expectantly, obviously waiting for something.
After a moment of silence, Prisoner 219 spoke up. “Well, where the rest of it?” he asked. The grey smock closely resembled a hospital gown, simply a shapeless tunic that only covered the prisoners to mid-thigh. The thin cotton fabric did little to ward off the chill in the damp basement air.
“That’s it. That’s all you get. What, you don’t like your dress, lady? It seems like a perfect outfit for you in my opinion,” Karofsky sneered, relishing the opportunity to humiliate the prisoners.
“Alright ladies, it’s time to line up,” Karofsky continued, elbowing his two prisoners until they moved into position, standing shoulder to shoulder, their backs to the wall as they faced the guards. “Time for the rules. Even think about breaking one of them and we’ll make your life a living hell, got it?”
“Rule number 1: As far as I’m concerned you lowlifes aren’t people. You don’t have names anymore. You’re just a number to us. You will answer to your prisoner number at all times. If any guard speaks to you, you will automatically answer with 'Yes sir, Correctional Officer,’ you got it?” Karofsky glared at the prisoners expectantly, pacing back and forth in front of the line as he did so. Several prisoners simply nodded their heads, oblivious, until Prisoner 474 finally called out “Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky.” The remaining prisoners quickly echoed his reply, and at last Karofsky nodded, momentarily appeased.
“That’s what I thought,” Karofsky spat. “Rule number 2: Prisoners must obey all orders issued by guards at all times. You will do what you are told, when you are told. No exceptions. Got it?”
“Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,” the prisoners chimed in unison.
“My turn,” Sebastian cooed. “Rule number 3: Prisoners will be assigned to cells. You will not leave your cell without permission. You are not allowed in the guard room, bathroom, or dining hall without a guard escort. Anyone caught out of his cell without permission will be sent to the hole for solitary confinement.”
“Now what to do you have to say to me?” Sebastian asked. “Yes sir, Correctional Officer Smythe,” the prisoners once again echoed as one. “Ooh, this is quite fun,” Sebastian exclaimed. “I could get used to making all of you my bitches.”
Karofsky shot Sebastian a look of disgust before continuing to read down the list as he paced back and forth in front of the assembled prisoners. “Rule number 4: Prisoners will be given three meals a day. You are required to finish every scrap of food on your meal plan. If you refuse to eat something, we will make you eat it. Rule number 5: You will be in charge of keeping your cells and living areas clean. Beds must always be made and you will scrub the toilets with your bare hands if I say so. Got it?”
“And last but not least, rule number 6: you will immediately stand when a guard enters the room or cell. If a guard tells you to line-up, you will immediately get into formation and be asked to count off your prison number. If you take too long to respond or mess up the count, you’ll be thrown in solitary confinement. Got it?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Correctional Officer Karofsky,” the prisoners droned in unison.
“Good, now count off ladies,” Karofsky directed. “Prisoner 137?”
“Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,” prisoner 137 responded in turn.
“138?” Sebastian called next.
“Yes sir, Correctional Officer Smythe.”
“Prisoner 219?” called Karofsky. But Prisoner 219’s thoughts were on other things and he took a half second too long to reply in Karofsky’s eyes. “Hey, I’m talking to you, fag. Drop and give me twenty push ups, you piece of shit.” Blaine winced visibly of the harshness of Karofsky’s tone, feeling guilty as he watched Prisoner 219 stiffen at the word fag, his face flushing hot with anger.
“Yes sir, Correctional Officer Karofsky,” Kurt echoed, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He quickly dropped to the ground, performing twenty push ups in rapid succession before stepping back into the line up.
Sebastian finished the count, calling out Prisoner 378 and 474 in turn. He then said, “Alright prisoners, time to put you in your cells. Lights out in five minutes.” The group quickly dispersed, giving Blaine a rare quiet moment alone with Prisoner 219. He could see how on edge he still was, presumably from Karofsky’s harsh words.
“Hey, are you…? I’m so sorry. He shouldn’t have… I’ll talk to him or…” Blaine blurted out, trying to find the right way to address what had just happened.
But Prisoner 219 seemed to shut down before Blaine’s very eyes, any earlier traces of vulnerability or camaraderie now long buried. “Can you not…just…? Please stop being nice to me. I can’t…I just…” Prisoner 219 trailed off, drawing a shaky breath to steady himself before continuing. “Look, I’m sure you are a perfectly nice and decent guy in real life, but I just can’t… When you are nice to me, it’s so much harder to…” Prisoner 219 trailed off, swallowing hard against the growing lump in his throat.
Officer Anderson was silent for so long, Kurt was sure he wasn’t going to respond at all when he finally asked, “Harder to what?”
Kurt sighed heavily. “Harder to be Prisoner 219. Harder to not be me.”
Anderson let out a strangled noise, somewhere between a dark laugh and sob. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I get that.”
Both prisoner and guard were silent for several seconds before Kurt was wordlessly led to his cell, the only single in the room. As soon as he stepped through the door, it was shut ominously behind him, leaving Kurt alone with his thoughts. “One day down,” Kurt thought, as the lights turned off. “As long as I stay focused on my character, maybe it won’t be too bad.” He settled under the thin blanket on the bed, exhausted from the efforts of the day, and quickly fell into a restless sleep.
Read Chapter 5: Conformity
End Chapter Note: A few notes about how the events of this chapter compare to the actual study: Many of the most shocking procedures were lifted directly from the study. The uniforms that the guards and prisoners wear in our fic are identical to those in the original study. You can see pictures of their uniforms here. The prisoners’ smock-like gowns and lack of underwear were designed to be emasculating to mimic the feelings of powerlessness that are common in prison life. In contrast, the guards were given a hypermasculine uniforms to emphasize their power and authority. The mirrored sunglasses were also designed to give the guards more power as the prisoners couldn’t see their eyes, making their behavior more unpredictable and reducing the human connection two people typically make through eye contact.
All prisoners in the original study were arrested, handcuffed, strip searched, showered, and deloused as described in the story. The prison guards were made to do everything for the prisoners, including shower and search them. Some guards tried to this as respectfully as possible given the circumstances, while others used this as a opportunity to exploit their authority by shaming and humiliating their prisoners in the process. Ethically, none of these procedures would be allowed today and in fact, many of these things might even be considered sexual abuse or assault of some kind. That was why it was so important for Alexei and I to keep the setting to 1971 when the study was first conducted as this was the first study to really bring up the ethics and rights of human subjects in research as well as the long-term effects such a study could have on a participant.
The next chapter will deal with Kurt’s experience as a prisoner as things continue to deterioriate. As you’ve seen so far, Blaine is already struggling with the things he’s being asked to do as a guard and is very uncomfortable with the study as a whole. But he’s feeling stuck for several reasons. 1) after being kicked out of his own home, he truly has nowhere else to go and is dependent on the money he will only receive if he finishes the full two week study; 2) he feels a connection with Kurt already, even if he only knows Kurt as Prisoner 219; and 3) he fears that things will only get worse for Prisoner 219 and the rest of the prisoners if he leaves, so he’s trying to protect the prisoners by being the voice of dissent and the lone voice of reason among the guards. The chapter title, cognitive dissonance, deals with Blaine’s inner struggle between the ways he’s being asked to behave and his personal morals and values. And unfortunately, that conflict will only grow deeper in upcoming chapters.
Thanks so much for reading. One of the best parts of writing this fic so far has been how it has started a dialogue about this study. Alexei and I have been blown away by your insights and knowledge thus far, so please, please, please keep sharing them with us. As always, you can review, send us a PM, and/or come check us out on Tumblr: Sarah’s tumblr and Alexei’s tumblr. This story is co-written by both of us even though it’s being posted under my account, and Alexei definitely deserves at least 50% of the credit for getting the story plotted and written (and keeping me on the posting schedule). As the story progresses, we’ll probably post some exclusive Tumblr only special features like playlists and commentary so there are benefits to following both of us on Tumblr if you don’t already. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you back here on Wednesday for Chapter 5 and it is going to be a doozy!