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A Fling Before the Ring?

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Monday morning, Kurt woke up to the sounds of Carole in the kitchen, despite her obvious efforts to be quiet. To give her the ability to surprise him that she had gotten up early to accomplish, he lay quietly with his eyes closed and let her go on with her plan. This was his third birthday with her as a part of the family. He knew that she was making waffles because that's what she had always done for Finn's birthday. He realized that she had to have packed the waffle maker with her in her suitcase. He was glad that he was facing the TV and she couldn't see the smile on his face.

I'm 20 years old. He thought about how odd it was for his teen years to be over. Looking back, he could think of so many things he would have done differently, but he lacked the knowledge about so many things at those points in time, so he tried to cut himself some slack and not feel too much remorse.

He thought about how glad he was that Sebastian came back into his life. It's funny how meeting someone at the wrong time can be so hurtful. And how meeting him again now is turning out to be so amazing.

His mind flashed to David – how different he had seemed at Scandals that night, and then again after his attempt. He reminded himself to send him an email to catch up a little. It had been a while since he had last gotten an email from him. He was in Chicago studying chemistry or something that had to do with math or both. He couldn't remember. He was too caught up in his own messy life at the time – the breakup, Rachel, and then Santana. Situations he had survived, but not without battle scars. He was glad not to be dealing with any of that anymore.

Santana. She was still acting like a real human. It was still disconcerting.

Kurt was startled out of his thoughts by several light raps to the door. He knew who it was instantly. He got up from the couch and went to the door. "Hey, Adam. Good morning." He let Adam step inside, and then hugged him.

"Happy birthday, love. No longer a teen, but not quite legal here still." He stopped in his tracks and stepped back. "I'm sorry. I should have called."

"It's fine, honey. Come on in. You're just in time for Kurt's birthday breakfast."

"You're sure? I don't want to interrupt."

"Nonsense. You came over early to surprise Kurt. I got up early to do the same. Kurt can go bring Sebastian's desk chair in here and we can all eat. I'm making waffles."

"It smells delicious. If you're sure you don't mind, I'd love one."

"Let me go get dressed really quick. Make yourself at home, as always." Kurt headed towards his room.

"I'm Adam Crawford. I didn't know Kurt was having family in." He opened the refrigerator and put a small box inside.

"He didn't know either until yesterday morning," she smiled at him. "I'm Carole, Kurt's stepmom. Burt should be out soon. He was showering, but I don't hear the water anymore."

Burt came out of Kurt's room and Kurt went in. Burt stepped out into the living room. Carole stepped past the end of the wall.

"A friend of Kurt's stopped by to wish him happy birthday. I invited him to stay for breakfast. Burt, this is Adam."

Adam got up and greeted Burt, offering his hand. "It's nice to meet you both. Kurt always has the nicest things to say about the two of you."

"Well, then he's just keeping the bad stuff to himself," Burt said. "He's like that."

Adam nodded. "That he is."

"You're the British guy his talks about all the time. I appreciate you being a good friend to him. God knows he needed one with all of the backstabbing supposed-friends he had. He kept their bad sides from me too, but as it usually does, the truth came out."

Adam nodded and sat back down. Burt sat across from him. Kurt came back fully dressed with his hair tamed enough to look presentable.

"I see you've all met. Let me go grab Sebastian's chair." He brought it back and put it up to the table next to Adam and sat down. "You'll love Carole's waffles. They're fantastic. She won't tell me her secret."

She smiled and chuckled. "It wouldn't be a secret if I told you."

Kurt sighed. "Of course not, but I still want to know."

"Maybe that will be my present to you on your 30th birthday."

Kurt looked at Burt and laughed. Burt turned red. Carole looked at the two of them inquisitively, but said nothing, not wanting to embarrass either one of them in front of Adam. She put the plate of waffles on the table, along with the bacon and sausage she had been keeping warm in the oven. She put out softened butter and maple syrup as well. They served themselves and began to eat. Carole asked Adam about England and what he had enjoyed about being in the US, which took the pressure off of Kurt.

When they had finished breakfast, Kurt grabbed the bed linens off the sofa and put them in the washer to get them out of the way so that everyone could sit down. Adam approached Kurt as he stepped away from the laundry closet.

"I put what I brought for you in the fridge. I know you'll enjoy it. I won't stick around this morning, but give me a call later, if you have time, and we'll go out to dinner."

"Thanks for stopping by. I'll walk you out." He hugged Adam again before he stepped back inside the apartment.

"He seems sweet," Carole said as she put the last of the dishes into the dishwasher.

"He is. He's amazing. He's the first friend I made here."

"What was that look and the laughter about?" she asked.

Kurt shook his head and snickered. "When Dad gave me 'the talk' when I was 17, he told me that having sex would be a great gift to myself for my 30th birthday."

"Burt Edward Hummel. That was ridiculous," she laughed.

"I knew he'd find out about Scandals eventually. I didn't want him to just go hook up with some random for his first time. I wanted it to mean something to him with someone he cared about."

"I get that," she said. "I'll go finish getting ready and we can head out." She headed into the bathroom.

"It was on your own terms, wasn't it?" Burt asked. "When I found out that he cheated on you, I realized that you two had been having sex. I had pushed it out of my mind as a possibility because as a parent, that's just what we do. It's a natural part of life that no one wants to think about for their kid. And I know you're 20 now, but I'm still working on the 'you're an adult' thing. And that's my issue not yours."

"I've been to counseling, and I'm still going, so I've worked through a lot of my issues."

"That wasn't really an answer."

"I know."

Carole came back with Kurt's birthday card in her hand. "You can open it now or later."

He went ahead and opened it. It was a really sweet card from both of them.

"I renewed your Kindle Unlimited."

"Thank you. It's been really helpful."

"You're welcome," she said.

"So, are we ready to go then?" Burt asked.

"Yep," Kurt said. He hopped up. He stood the card up next to the TV. "Let's go."

Kurt took them on a tour of the City College campus. The school's bookstore was closed, but the store that sold fan gear and clothing wasn't on campus and it was open. They went inside and Burt bought himself a new hat in black with the City College logo. Carole insisted that he get something to show his school spirit. He ended up choosing a lavender pullover hoodie with the school logo on the front that reminded him of a hoodie he had back in sophomore year that he had loaned to one of the girls at a sleepover, which had never been returned. She bought herself a window cling for the back of her car to show her support. Burt slipped off the hat from the tire shop he was wearing, put it in the bag when they left, and wore the CCNY hat the rest of the day.

They went to Central Park for a while and rode the Staten Island Ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty before they headed back to the apartment. Burt and Carole headed back to DC late in the afternoon. Kurt did schoolwork until it was time to leave to meet Adam for dinner.

Kurt stepped inside the Thai restaurant and looked around, but didn't see Adam. About a minute later, Adam walked in behind him.

"Sorry, I'm late, love."

"You're not late."

They got in line and ordered and took the number to the table Kurt found while Adam got their drinks. Adam sat down across from Kurt.

"So, how's the birthday celebrating gone?"

"It was nice to have them here. I hadn't seen them in six weeks, since the weekend after the memorial. Carole put a lot of effort into being herself for two days. I know it was killing her on the inside, but she did it for me. She's really sweet. She renewed my Kindle Unlimited for the year as my gift. Getting to a library to get a book isn't always that easy with my crazy schedule, so being able to borrow them has been handy."

Their number was called. Adam stood up, grabbed their number card, and took it to the counter to pick up their food.

"This looks good," Kurt said. He lifted both dishes off so Adam could put the tray out of the way.

"There are so many restaurants in the City, I don't think anyone could ever try them all, but I've done my best while I've been here," he chuckled. "My budget has limited some of my choices, but I found this place last week."

Kurt took a bite of his dish. "It tastes as good as it looks. Thanks for treating me for dinner."

"You're welcome, love."

"Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Actually I don't even know how to ask it. I just want to thank you for being my friend and not giving up when I had so little to offer you in return. I asked you out and I thought I was ready to move on, but I was in too much turmoil over my dad's medical problems to see that I wasn't. You asked me if you were my rebound back in February. I said that you weren't, but then never allowed this to move past us just being friends. I just want to make sure that I haven't hurt you in some way because that was never my intent."

"No, Kurt. I was interested in dating you when you asked me out. You're an amazing person, and the more I've gotten to know you, the more certain I am of that. But I've enjoyed all of the time we have spent together. And to be honest, I think if we had tried to date, it would have fallen apart because you didn't have time for that type of relationship back then. Too many people were putting pressure on you. I think dating then would have made me just one more stressor in your life that you had to make time for. Even if it had been because you wanted to make time for me, it wouldn't have been an easy thing to do. I know you would have given up sleep or put less time into an assignment to give me the time you thought I deserved as your boyfriend. That wouldn't have been healthy for you. And I would have felt bad about it."

Kurt nodded. "You're right. When we met, I was still on the 'high' of having gotten into NYADA. The newness and the excitement were temporarily pushing other things out of my mind. The first three months I was here, I pulled money from my savings from having sold my SUV to cover the deficits in my budget, and I hadn't yet faced the reality of how much time I'd spend working to cover my expenses. Once I started working at the diner to make ends meet, I just didn't have any time with the combination of the commute and everything. I just want you to know how much it means to me that you didn't just drop me like a hot coal. You've been so supportive. I just really appreciate it."

"You're welcome. Don't let anyone convince you to sell yourself short. You've had more than your share of frenemies. And I've never once regretted a moment I've spent with you. You seem down, like you have some kind of bad news to tell me."

"That's true about the frenemies." He took a drink before speaking again. "I'm leaving NYADA. I can't afford it. I'm transferring to CCNY, which is where I'm taking those core courses I'm taking this summer. They have a Musical Theatre program. I'm sure that it's not on par with NYADA, but I can at least afford to go there."

"Oh." He sounded relieved. "I thought you were going to tell me something that was actually bad news – like you were sick or your dad got bad test results or something."

Kurt shook his head. "No, nothing like that. It's just this issue that I'll have to work through. Getting into NYADA, even though I had to re-audition, was like the proof that I have the potential to make it here. Rachel nagged and nagged me to go to a New Directions reunion late last week, but I stood my ground and didn't go. Part of how I coped with how bad things were in high school was to adopt this 'You'll work for me.' attitude. I portrayed myself as better than the rest of the plebeians and Neanderthals, which his what I called the jocks who dumpster-tossed, locker-checked, and slushied me repeatedly. I was going to go to New York and be amazing and they were going to rot in their homophobic ways in that cow town making minimum wage flipping burgers or working at Wal-Mart. I'm not proud of how I acted, and now I'm dealing with coming to terms with my condescending attitude."

"We do our best to survive. You were a kid in a terrible situation."

"Anyway, I just wanted to prove myself. And if that's ever going to happen, it's not going to be for a long time. I need to come to a point where I'm happy with my own life. I have to stop comparing myself to other people." He sighed heavily. "I'm working on it."

"Unfortunately, comparing ourselves to others is part and parcel of the trade we're in and pretty much every field. But the part you said about being happy with your own life is a good goal – one I'm working on too. I'm glad you stood up for yourself. You don't owe a personal life reveal to a group of people you don't even interact with much anymore."

"You're right. Rachel just laid on the guilt, like she always has. She went so far as to offer to buy me a plane ticket."

"And yet you lived to see another day. The world did not come to an end because you didn't accommodate her wishes or cave to her demands."

Kurt smiled. "That's true." He told Adam about getting the issues with the loft resolved and his new job.

"That's perfect. That's two things off your shoulders."

"It is."

"City College may not have been what you thought you wanted, but I don't think NYADA was either. Maybe this will be a good change."

"I'm hoping so. At least I'll only be working half as many hours. I won't know what to do with myself. I was just being stubborn. I wanted to be noticed and have fun, but being a singing waiter doesn't involve nearly as much performing as I had hoped. Working at a garage is a better use of my time. Like I said, it's time to check my own condescending attitudes and get my head on straight. I've made a choice to go in a different direction. For too long I've fought to swim upstream. NYADA was more of the same. The Apples have been great – everyone else, not so much. My new course is a smaller stream with the current flowing in the direction I'm traveling, and this time I'm in a canoe with paddles."

"Following along with your analogy. I've made it to the end of my course, and hit rapids. I've auditioned for a lot of parts here, but I've only gotten a handful of callbacks and no offers. That's one of the reasons I wanted to have dinner with you tonight. I've decided to fly back home and audition for parts on the West End for the rest of the summer. I haven't gone home since winter break of my sophomore year."

"That was two and a half years ago."

"It was."

"When are you leaving?"

"In two weeks."

"Oh." Kurt tried not to cry, but tears streamed down his cheeks anyway. "I'm really going to miss you. I'm sorry I haven't been a better friend."

"I've enjoyed all of our time together and I'm going to miss you too. And you've been a good friend. I mean that. You've been there for me every time I've called or texted or just showed up and stolen you away to spend time with you. I figured out early on that you weren't used to having anyone be there for you, so it was unlikely that I was ever going to get a call from you requesting support of any type."

"That's true. I learned to keep my problems to myself."

"But you actually opened up to me, so no harm, no foul on not being the one to call me. I hope you realize that I would answer and do anything in my power to be there."

"I do. It just doesn't come natural. In time, it might have. You heard my dad this morning." He signed. "But now you're leaving."

"If I don't get anything over the summer, I'm going to apply to graduate programs and scholarships to come back next fall or maybe this spring if there are any programs that allow for mid-term enrollment. I need to figure out what I want to do if acting and playwriting isn't going to be what I do to support myself."

Kurt nodded and wiped his eyes again.

"If I'm intuiting from your line of questioning a few minutes ago, you wanted to know if you had broken my heart and if I felt like you've used me in some way, like I had mentioned not wanting to be your rebound."

Kurt nodded.

"After I spent a little time reflecting on what went on at the loft when we were snowed in, I put the pieces together. I figured out that you weren't ready and that you weren't going to use me when you suggested that we go to the MOMA that day instead of going to find a movie. You needed a good friend. One who would appreciate you for you, not what you could do for them. I knew what I was getting into. Are you over him now?"

"I am. It's taken me a long time, but I know I'm over him now."

"I'm glad. You can move on now."


"I think sooner than that." He flashed the smile that always made Kurt feel warm inside. "You and I will always be friends, even if we haven't seen each other in two years. You and I have a level of ease between us that allows us to go for periods of time without talking and be just as close as we were. I think it's like a lot of people are with family. I'm like that with my sister anyway. There's never any malice in the gaps between calls. Neither of us feels slighted that the other is just living. Whenever one or the other does call, we're always chatterboxes."

Kurt nodded. "I've never had that with anyone before since I grew up as an only child, but I can imagine that."

"Our friendship is different than others I have, but that's okay. We can figure out a way to keep in contact without having to run up an enormous bill from international texting."

Kurt smiled. "We'll have to. It just makes me sad. I've finally gotten to a place where I feel like I have something to offer as a friend. I was excited to tell you about how I was going to have more time to do things with you…" his voice trailed off. "I have one more week of crazy. I start my new job a week from today."

"Well, I'm glad that you're not going to keep working yourself to the bone."

"As much free time as you have in the evenings next week, I'm all yours. We can do anything you'd like."

"I'll make a list." He winked at Kurt.

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday, dear Kurt.
Happy birthday to you!

"Thanks. How's the beach?"

"It's beautiful. My parents surprised me. My mom sold one of the places in New York and bought a house here in the St. Augustine area. I thought we were just renting a place for two weeks, but it's ours. She's already getting things set up to rent it out three weeks each month."

"Well, that will be nice change of scenery for you and your family."

"Yeah." And you too hopefully. "Did you have a nice birthday?"


"Only mostly?"

"I had a good time with my dad and Carole. They showed up yesterday at lunch to surprise me. They left this afternoon."

"Well that was a nice surprise."

"It was." He paused for a few seconds. "Adam told me that he's going back to England in two weeks."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I know how much you enjoy his company. He's a nice guy and a good friend."

"All three are very true. And I'm really going to miss him. He hasn't been back in two and half years though, so he's due for sure. He says if he doesn't get anything this summer, he's going to apply to graduate schools here and hopefully come back either in the spring or next fall. As much as I'll miss him, I hope he gets a role. He's really talented."

"I think so too." He yawned. "I'm glad you called, but I need to get to sleep."

"I know. I left your present in on my desk."

"You didn't have to get me anything." Kurt left his room and went into Sebastian's.

"I know, but I wanted to."

"Is it in this brown paper sack?"

"It is."

"I'm putting you on speaker." He put his phone down on top of the desk. He pulled out a navy-faded-to-gray vintage leather belt. "Oh! It's that belt I liked from when we went shopping. Thank you!"

"You're welcome. Happy birthday!"

"Thanks. This is going to look great. I'm going to wear it tomorrow. I'll send you a pic."

"I look forward to that."