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The Other Side of Someday

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If Kurt had to pinpoint when it was his life had changed, he could tell you down to the minute: Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm. That was the day he first heard the voice of Blaine Anderson serenading him over the local radio station.

It was the summer before his senior year at McKinley High. School had been over for a few weeks and Kurt could finally feel himself starting to relax. He was no longer under the constant threat of locker shoves and slushie facials from that Neanderthal Karofsky and he no longer flinched at every loud, unexpected noise. He'd fallen into a routine of shopping with Mercedes and Rachel, helping his dad at the garage and working on his vocals. He was going with New Directions to Nationals again if it was the last thing he did. But this year, they would win and the rest of McKinley would finally respect them.

He'd just dropped Mercedes off after their latest shopping excursion and returned home to begin sorting through his closet, weeding out items from this past year he was unlikely to wear again. He had to make room for the new winter collections, after all. He'd been mindlessly singing along to the Lady Gaga song on the radio when the DJ announced a brand new song by a brand new artist. Kurt paused in his sorting, always curious about what new music was coming out. The song started out pleasantly, a lone guitar strumming a light melody… and then came the voice: it was light and easy and sounded so carefree. It wasn't Kurt's usual taste in music, but something made him stop and pause to give the song his full attention. It was unlike anything Kurt had heard in a long time. In this day and age of over-processed and auto-tuned music, this was raw and stripped down. It was a little folksy, a little bluesy, and it had a relaxed edge to it that immediately captured Kurt's attention.

It was a love song, as most pop songs were. However, devoid of any identifying pronouns it was just as easy for Kurt to imagine this Blaine person was singing to him instead of the girl who was probably the intended subject.

As soon as the song was over, Kurt jumped on the internet and tried to dig up any information on Blaine Anderson that he could, and try to find that song so he could load it onto his iPod to play over and over again. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to find. There was a very barebones page on the official website his label had probably set up. There was hardly any personal information, only a simple bio stating that Blaine was from Ohio (which was quite surprising) and that he was about to turn seventeen years old. Though disappointed that there weren't any interviews that may have more insight into Blaine, Kurt was not disappointed when he clicked on the Gallery section. Blaine was absolutely gorgeous.

He had dark curly hair, styled with way too much gel that Kurt immediately wanted to wash out. He was wearing a suit in most of the pictures, though some were more formally styled than others. He looked like he could have stepped straight off the silver screen in the day of Cary Grant. Dapper was really the only word Kurt could think of to describe him. Then he saw the gallery entitled "Live." He clicked and was immediately left speechless at the pictures that greeted him. As charismatic as Blaine seemed in the formally posed photos, these live, candid shots were even more amazing. He was sweaty, his eyes closed as he sang, cradling the microphone close. He had on a short-sleeved black button down shirt that looked like it was absolutely soaked with sweat complemented by a red and white striped bowtie and… were those green suspenders? It should have looked completely ridiculous, but somehow it all just worked. There was something in the live pictures that belied the seemingly proper persona the official pictures hinted at. Kurt was definitely intrigued.

Then, a light bulb went off. If there were pictures of a live performance, there were bound to be videos. He immediately pulled up YouTube and entered Blaine Anderson in the search bar. The first video that came up proclaimed to be from a show at The Roxy out in Los Angeles and from the thumbnail appeared to be the same show as the pictures. He clicked on it and the two seconds it took for the video to start loading seemed to take an eternity. Blaine introduced the song as one he wrote when he was fifteen. So, really, not too long ago. But it was still more than anything Kurt had done at fifteen.

Watching the video, Kurt was absolutely mesmerized. The song spoke so strongly of everything he was currently feeling – the loneliness, the contradictory nature he often felt of wanting people to notice him but at the same time remain invisible. And yet, the song seemed to be ray of light peeking out of the clouds and illuminating the same feelings in everyone. But that just makes me a dumb human, like you, Kurt sang along as he watched the video for the tenth time. The more he watched, the more enamored he became of Blaine. He was such an amazing performer. He put everything he had into the song, hamming it up for the crowd when he could and then bringing it all back down to the music. He was like an old Hollywood star come to life.

Kurt eventually paused the video and picked up his phone.

"What's up, Boo?" Mercedes answered.

"Mercedes," Kurt said breathlessly, still staring at his monitor, Blaine frozen in musical rapture. "I'm in love."

Mercedes came over to Kurt’s house the next day and the two spent the morning scouring the internet for anything they could find on Blaine. She agreed with Kurt that he was definitely cute and the song was great. She also had much more impressive Google-Fu and was able to find more videos and pictures of Blaine for them to ogle.

They found a few more videos from the show at The Roxy, including the single from the radio. There was also an incredibly moving rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Kurt had never been one much for that holiday, but he was considering changing his mind after hearing Blaine’s version of the song. What Blaine did to close out the show completely blew Kurt's socks off. He sang a stripped down, acoustic version of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. It should have been absolutely ridiculous, but Blaine was just so earnest and honest in his performance that Kurt was mesmerized. And the growl that came out of his voice in certain places had a warmth settling low in Kurt's stomach and just made him want to do… things to Blaine. Things that usually involved darkness and hushed tones and maybe those skintight jeans and hands that Blaine was singing about.

Kurt snapped out of whatever trance he had been in when he heard Mercedes laughing at him.

"What?" he asked.

"You have got it bad, Kurt," she said with a smile.

"Can you blame me?"

"Hell, no," she replied with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, please. It's a harmless celebrity crush," Kurt said lightly. "He's bound to be straight anyway, so he'll just be added to my fantasy fodder with Johnny Depp and Paul Walker."

"I still don't know what you see in Paul Walker."

"It's mostly the car thing," Kurt said dryly.

"So, it's not Paul Walker you have a crush on. It's Officer Brian O'Conner."

Kurt just shrugged in response, turning back to the computer and the pictures Mercedes had found. There was one group that looked like they were probably more official promotional photos. They had Blaine in front of a plain, white backdrop posing with various musical accoutrements – microphones, speakers, guitars and the like. These were much better than the other ones, Kurt thought to himself. The styling was much more relaxed and his hair wasn't being held down by 100 pounds of hair gel.

"He is very cute," Mercedes commented. "And the boy is definitely talented."

"That he is," Kurt sighed.

No matter what he told Mercedes, he couldn't help wishing that perhaps Blaine was different. There was certainly nothing in the little information they had found so far to even hint at what his orientation might be. The few love songs were devoid of any gender specific pronouns and Kurt couldn't help holding on to the one glimmer of hope he had that maybe Blaine could be like him. There was just something there, right on the edge of Kurt's brain, tickling at him like the beginning of something. All he knew was that Blaine was going to be very important to him

Over the next few weeks, Kurt's life consisted of working at the garage when his dad needed him, letting Finn win at Call of Duty when his other friends were busy and obsessively stalking searching the internet for anything he could find on Blaine Anderson. He'd set up a Google alert that emailed him every article posted that had anything to do with Blaine. The first week or so was mostly repeats and rehashes of everything he'd found previously. But, slowly, new information started showing up from different sources.

Blaine was born and raised in central Ohio and had attended the Dalton Academy for Boys in Westerville before leaving for Los Angeles. That was just two hours away from Lima. Kurt couldn't believe he'd been so close! He wondered if they'd ever managed to cross paths without ever knowing. He had a younger sister and was of Filipino and Irish heritage. His favorite food was Snickers and his favorite drink was Dr. Pepper. When Kurt saw that Blaine had been part of the glee club at Dalton, he wondered if he had still been with the group when New Directions competed against them at Sectionals last year. Kurt had been so nervous about the solo that Mr. Schuester had assigned him that he hadn't paid much attention to the other groups that had performed. That would definitely be an interesting coincidence.

At the end of June, he came home to an alert from Rolling Stone in his inbox. The message promised an article in their mid-July issue that was to be the first full and complete Blaine Anderson interview with "all the scoop you could want to know." It would coincide with the release of his first album and the singer's seventeenth birthday.

Suddenly, July couldn't arrive fast enough.

Chapter Text

The morning of Friday, July 22 dawned dark and stormy, but Kurt didn't let that sour his mood. Blaine's Rolling Stone cover story was coming out today and he planned to be the first in line. He went through his morning routine quickly, forgoing most of his hair care and deciding to just wear a hat with the weather outside. He ate a quick breakfast and headed out the door with a call to drive carefully from his dad.

As the weather was so poor, the roads were mostly empty and Kurt made it to the Barnes and Noble in record time. Kurt was in and out and back in the car in less than five minutes. He pulled the magazine out of the plastic bag he'd made the cashier use and just stared at the cover. It had made Kurt's breath catch in his throat when he pulled it off the shelf and now having the time to examine it closer, he was speechless.

It was a simple shot that showed Blaine straight on as he stared broodingly at the camera. He was wearing a brown t-shirt with his arms wrapped around himself. His hair was loose, one curl almost falling into his eyes. He had two beaded bracelets on his right wrist and a necklace tucked under the shirt. The headline yelled out "BLAINE ANDERSON: America's newest pop sensation tells all."

Kurt pulled in a deep breath to compose himself before driving to the Lima Bean across the street. He tucked the magazine into his messenger bag before making a mad dash for the front door. He made it inside relatively unscathed and ordered his usual grande non-fat mocha before settling into one of the leather armchairs by the windows. He took a few sips of his drink before finally opening the Rolling Stone to Blaine's interview.

My interview with Blaine Anderson had originally been scheduled to take place at his manager's office, but at the last minute I received a call from Mr. Anderson himself changing the location to a local diner. He explained that he wanted a less formal setting for our chat and I was more than happy to oblige.

You see, this is the very first interview the young Mr. Anderson has given. By virtue of the fact that very little is known about the pop star that has been blowing up America's radio stations for the past four months, I'm a little wary about how this interview will go. Will he be nervous and quiet? Will I have to pull answers from him like a dentist pulling a tooth? Or will he be open and honest? As a seasoned journalist, I always hope for the second option but prepare for the first. This is why I have no issues with changing the location of our interview on such short notice. Anything that will make the interviewee more comfortable is the right move in my book.

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in early June, I drove out to Los Feliz and Home restaurant to meet Blaine Anderson and get the scoop that everyone is dying to hear.

I enter the diner and immediately spot him at a booth in the back. His hair is slicked down, as it always seems to be. He's wearing a white polo shirt with a red cardigan and, as he stands to greet me, dark wash jeans and black leather booties. He is the very picture of today's modern youth – handsome and charming, dapper some might say. He shakes my hand firmly and offers a warm smile as I approach. I return it happily, telling him what a pleasure it is to finally meet.

Blaine Anderson: No, it's all mine. Please have a seat. Sorry about the last minute change in venue, but offices are just so stuffy and corporate.

Rolling Stone: It's not a problem, at all. I, myself, prefer diners or restaurants for interviews. Anything to make the subject feel more relaxed.

BA: Oh? Should I be nervous? [laugh]

RS: Oh, not at all. This will just be the standard getting to know you chat where I ask all the really personal questions and try and get you cry.

BA: I didn't realize I was going to be interviewed by Oprah! Perhaps I should have brought some Kleenex.

Our initial chat is interrupted by our waitress coming to take our order. Blaine orders huevos rancheros, a side of bacon and more coffee. I order an egg white omelet and some tea. It's obvious by his breakfast order he hasn't been in LA long.

RS: How are you enjoying L.A.?

BA: It's nice, really. I mean, you hear stories about how fake and glossy everyone is out here, but the people I've met seem to be really genuine. I don't know if I've just gotten lucky or am insanely naïve, but I really like it out here. The weather is a definite improvement.

RS: You're from Ohio, right?

BA: Yup. [nods] I grew up in Westerville, just a few hours from Columbus. It was great being out here in January and teasing all my friends back home as they were buried under a foot of snow.

RS: How have your friends responded to your meteoric rise to fame?

BA: For the most part, they've been amazing. Very supportive, buying the singles and telling me they call the radio stations all the time to request my music. If nothing else, this has shown me who my true friends really are, who it is that is going to stick by me through everything.

RS: So, there has been some negative reaction then?

BA: Some, yeah. It's mostly been from the guys who I just considered to be more acquaintances than real friends, anyway. It hasn't been anything I haven't heard before, just more of the same.

RS: Like what?

He pauses before he responds and I can see that he is unsure of what exactly he should tell me.

BA: I was part of my school's glee club, The Warblers. We were entirely student run and it was all very democratic. Starting last year when I was a junior, I guess I became the unofficial front man for the group. I started getting the majority of solos for competitions and while we always held auditions, some people started to comment on why we were even having auditions if I was just going to get the part, anyway. I just…. I never really understood where they were coming from, I guess. I auditioned like everyone else and the council decided on who was best for the part and the team. If they felt that was me, it was entirely their choice. But it seemed like some of the other guys were blaming me, like I had done something to influence their decision.

RS: And it's because of your position in the group that you're sitting here now, isn't it?

BA: Yeah. We were performing at the Sectional Show Choir Competition last fall where we unfortunately finished second. But the team that won was definitely very deserving. I'll never forget their opening number. They did this bizarre mix of The Beatles' Help with Huey Lewis' Back In Time. There's no way it should have worked, but the boy they had singing lead was so amazing. I've never heard anyone with a voice like his. And he was just so… .

Here, Blaine pauses and smiles to himself as if remembering a fond secret.

Kurt paused, his coffee cup hovering in the air half way to his lips and reread that last paragraph about six times. That was him. Blaine Anderson was talking about him. He had been there and Kurt had never known and Blaine Anderson remembered him and thought he was amazing. Kurt was going to die. He was going to hyperventilate and die right there, in the middle of the Lima Bean.

RS: What was so special about him?

BA: He's a countertenor. It's not a voice you really hear very much in music today. A lot of guys can use their falsetto and get up there if they need to, but to have a natural voice in that range is pretty astounding. In fact, we've been looking for someone like that to add to the Warblers for years. I was actually a little jealous of their group for having him.

RS: You don't sound too disappointed about not winning.

BA: I was, of course. We'd all worked really hard and it's always a little disappointing when you lose out on something like that. But I can't say that the winning team didn't deserve it.

RS: What happened after the competition?

BA: We were out in the lobby, waiting for the bus to come pick us up when I was approached by Mr. White. He told me he was a talent scout and was interested in working with me. I was hesitant, at first, because that kind of stuff only happens in movies. But, he gave me his card and when we were on the way back to school, one of the other members asked me who that had been. I showed Nick his card and he promptly freaked out. [laughs] It seems that Mr. White was legit and a big time agent out here and Nick told me I was nuts if I didn't at least talk to him.

RS: What did you think?

BA: I was still a little wary of the whole thing. I mean, I love performing; I worked at theme parks over school breaks, but I guess it was just never something I saw myself doing as a career. I always pictured myself going off to college, studying business, maybe pre-law and getting a job, one day taking over the family business. Perhaps, if I had time I would join a local theater company, or play in coffee shops on weekends. Show business just never really figured in as a viable career choice.

RS: And now?

BA: I can't imagine doing anything else. It's one thing to be on stage performing someone else's work, but when it's your own words and your own feelings that the audience is responding so positively to, well, it's intoxicating, really.

He smiles his big infectious smile that just lights up his whole face and we're once more interrupted briefly by the waitress dropping off our food. We make small talk as we dig in to our meals – local hot spots he loves, the process of actually creating an album.

RS: I did get an advanced copy of the album before this interview.

BA: They did tell you it's not completely finished, yet, right?

RS: Yes, they did. So, I won't be going into a full technical analysis, but I did want to talk about some of the recurring themes in your songs.

BA: Certainly.

RS: You co-wrote all the songs on the album, right?

BA: With the exception of the Keane cover, I did, yes. That was really the main sticking point for me, I think. If I was going to do this, I wanted it to be me. So, the lyrics are me. Well, probably 95% me. The song writers they hired helped me flesh some things out, gave me some tips on what works in the market. They also helped fill in the rest of the music. I can play piano and a little guitar, but I have no idea how to write for drums or bass or all the rest of it. [laughs] But they were great. They really listened to what I wanted, how I wanted the songs to feel and I think we came out with something that's really fantastic.

RS: How long have you been writing music?

BA: Gosh, forever it seems like. [laughs] My parents were away quite a bit on business when my sister and I were younger, so to entertain ourselves we would write little plays to perform for them when they got home. After I got older and started taking piano lessons, we turned them into musicals. It was always silly things. You know, songs about slaying the monster in the closet or about the wicked witch who lived down the street. I didn't write my first real song, I would say, until high school. But it was sort of like once I started I couldn't stop. I would be jotting down lyrics in math class instead of the problems on the board and then I begged my parents for a guitar for Christmas and every free chance I had I was writing songs.

RS: It's certainly quite different from a lot of stuff that's on the radio now. It almost feels a live album as opposed to a studio one.

BA: When we first started recording, we did the usual way of laying it down track by track. But when I heard it, it just didn't feel right. And Matt [Serletic, producer] was amazing through it all. We talked it out, and he figured out what I was having issues with, so he suggested we try one take as a whole band to see what that would give us. We started with I Still Think and when I heard it played back, it was exactly what I wanted. It was raw and honest and real. So much music today is so over processed and I wanted to strip all that away and just let the music do the talking, not the production.

RS: The record company certainly seems to have a lot of faith in you, giving you that kind of freedom on your first album.

BA: Believe me, I know! [laughs] Alan [White, Blaine's manager] was very instrumental in letting me do this my way. He really believes in me and he's been with the label for years, so they trusted him. Even still, I didn't do this all on my own. I had help from some really amazing people. This has all been one very strange ride but I am incredibly grateful for everything that's been given to me.

RS: Getting back to the songs themselves, there seem to be two major recurring themes in your songs – identity and self-discovery. What can you say about that?

BA: I think for most people my age, those are the two big issues we have going on in our lives. We're not really kids any more, but legally we're not yet adults. It's this weird limbo where you try and get through school and deal with your parents and family and friends while also trying to figure out who you are and what kind of person you want to be. Personally, I had gone through a bit of a rough time a few years back. Some of my fellow students took umbrage at the honesty with which I presented myself. For awhile it made me question if my revelation was a real one or if there was some way I could be normal, like them.

RS: Me, Myself and Lies is a very powerful song.

BA: I wrote that one after the summer I spent rebuilding a car with my father in our driveway. Most boys my age probably would have loved it. But with what had happened earlier that year at school, I was fairly certain this bonding was merely an attempt to make me straight.

Kurt nearly choked on his coffee and had to reread that sentence ten times just to make sure he wasn't seeing things. But, no. Blaine Anderson had basically just said, "Oh, yeah, I'm gay" like it was nothing.

RS: That must have been difficult.

BA: It was. It still is at times, to be honest. It's hard to go through that time and not feel like you can talk to the one man who's supposed to love and understand you no matter what.

RS: And now?

BA: It's better, in some ways. In other ways, this [gesturing around him] has made things more complicated. He'd always talked about me possibly taking over the family business one day, like I had thought. It took some convincing to get him to agree to let me try this. I think it helped that I'm still young enough and I can go back to school if things don't work out.

RS: Let's talk about your first single, Don't You. Why go with that one over the title track?

BA: That was another interesting discussion with the label. I was pushing for Human. That song, to me, is something I think everyone can identify with. Kids, adults, everyone in between. It's about trying to fit in when you feel like everyone else already has their place and then coming to that realization that everyone is just as lost as you. We're all just stumbling through this life the best we can.

RS: That does certainly seem like a fairly universal feeling.

BA: [nods] But the label was insisting on Don't You. They have all this data and reporting that shows love songs often indicate better long term success for an artist when released as the initial single. I did end up trusting their judgment on this, and we're prepping Human to be the second single.

RS: Was Don't You written about anyone in particular?

BA: Oh, no. [laughs] It's really sort of my fantasy date, I guess you could say. One of those times you're out with someone and everything is just going so well and you're getting along even better than you had hoped that you don't want the night to end.

RS: You seem to have something of a romantic streak in you. Even Though and On The Road are both rather romantic, as well, in different ways.

BA: Even Though is another one of those songs that I think a lot of people can identify with. Everyone's out there looking for that perfect someone and you don't always see that that person is already standing right in front of you.

On The Road I wrote earlier this year. The record company sent me on a little mini-tour around the West Coast and I just fell in love with all the little towns we stopped in and the people there. I've done a fair amount of traveling with my dad on some of his business trips, but it's always been to places like New York or Chicago. Getting to see all those little out of the way places really opened my eyes to a lot of things and different people. It was a really wonderful experience.

RS: Stutter, on the other hand is a very angry song.

BA: That was actually written about a friend of mine. She had gotten involved with this guy and it was a huge mess with him running hot and cold on her. We all knew he was bad news, but she just didn't want to see it. So, that song was sort of my way to try and help her see that she was really too good for him. She did eventually dump him, so I consider it a success.

RS: I would have to say that you're on the right track to have great success, Blaine.

BA: Well, thank you. I just hope I can live up to everyone's expectations.

We part with another handshake and a promise to keep in touch about the article. He's doing a photo shoot to go along with it later this week and I mentioned dropping by if I need to follow up on anything. He assures me that it wouldn't be a problem and wishes me well. I make my way back to my car and look back into the restaurant to see that he has joined an older couple who had been sitting a few tables away. I immediately realize that these must be his parents and I wish I had known they were there so I could talk to them, as well. But, perhaps, that was part of his plan.

So, get ready, America. Blaine Anderson is not going anywhere.

Kurt sat back and tried to absorb everything he'd just read. If nothing else, he was just more impressed with the picture of Blaine that he now has, but two major points keep coming back to mind: 1) Blaine is gay and 2) Blaine knows who he is and thinks he's amazing. He really could not wrap his head around that last point. It was too much.

He packed his things and headed back out to his car, grateful that the rain had finally stopped. Mercedes had better be home and awake. He needed his best friend, right now.

Luckily, she was home when Kurt got there and freaked out just as much as he had.

"I knew I recognized him!" she said. "He was the lead singer for The Warblers; they did Hey, Soul Sister and Breakeven. Santana was going nuts over them. I mean, it was a whole choir full of cute boys in school uniforms. Who wouldn't?"

Kurt just shrugged in reply.

"You really don't remember?"

"I was trying to concentrate on not throwing up before singing in front of several hundred people. I don't even remember the other numbers we did and barely remember winning. Just that everyone hugged me, so I figured something good must have happened."

"Well, yes. We won because you were amazing and Blaine obviously recognizes talent when he sees it."

Kurt just flopped down on her bed, not sure what he should be feeling. He was overwhelmed and excited and nervous. If he should ever have the chance to meet Blaine, what would he say? Should he mention that he was that boy from the competition? It was just too much.

"Come on," Mercedes said, slapping his arm. "My cousin is getting married in a couple months and I need you tell me if I have anything in my wardrobe that is acceptable or if we need to go shopping."

Kurt nodded as he sat up. As always, Mercedes knew just what he needed. A little retail therapy was just what the doctor ordered.

The following Tuesday, Blaine's album was released and Kurt had been guilted into working at the garage with his dad. One of the guys was on vacation and they had been inundated with people wanting tune-ups in advance of their family vacations. So, Kurt was stuck doing oil changes instead of sitting at home, locked in his room with Blaine's album on repeat like he wanted.

Luckily, his dad seemed to notice how distracted he was and let Kurt go after lunch. He drove straight to the nearest Best Buy and headed directly for the New Releases section.

There it was. The first album in the row: Blaine Anderson – Human.


Kurt gently picked it up from the shelf and marveled at the album cover. It was a simple profile shot of Blaine and a microphone. His eyes were closed and he just looked so calm and peaceful. Kurt immediately loved it. He turned it over to review the track listing and recognized several of the songs from the videos he had seen. He was also happy to see Somewhere Only We Know listed among them. Ever since Blaine mentioned he had covered a Keane song in the interview, Kurt had been hoping it was that one. He couldn't wait to hear how Blaine sounded. He snapped out of the daze he'd been in when he realized he wouldn't know unless he actually bought the album so he could listen to it and find out.

He made his way up to the cash registers, quickly bought the album and hurried back to his car. He debated whether or not he should pop the disc into the car stereo or wait until he got home to listen to the CD. Kurt figured that once he started listening, he wouldn't want to stop and would want as few distractions as possible. Instead, he hooked up his iPod and tuned it to the Blaine Anderson playlist he had made of the few songs previously available. It was only a twenty minute drive home. He'd waited this long already, another twenty minutes would be nothing.

Of course, that's when Murphy's Law stepped in and caused the usually short drive to take almost an hour thanks to a couple accidents and a very long freight train. Kurt was practically vibrating with the anticipation by the time he pulled into the driveway. He ran into the house and straight up to his room, forgoing the shower he would normally take after working at the garage and immediately put Blaine's CD in his stereo.

The first track was the radio single – Don't You. It immediately helped Kurt calm down and he eventually decided he should at least change clothes and clean-up a little more so he didn't get grease and dirt all over his room. After changing into an old t-shirt and pajama pants and quickly washing his hands, Kurt pulled the booklet out of the case as the next track began.

He read along to the lyrics of Human, the second song he had ever heard Blaine sing back in June when he found those videos on YouTube. "Why do I have this incredible need to stand up and say, 'Please pay attention'? It's the last thing that I need to make myself seen. Well, that ain't my intention," Kurt sang along. How did Blaine know exactly what Kurt was feeling? These words were just everything Kurt could never figure out how to say. He wanted to jump up on the roof and just shout it to the world.

Having relaxed a bit, Kurt decided to take his stereo into the bathroom so he could finally clean up properly. One Track Mind, On The Road and Even Though washed over him as he rinsed the shampoo from his hair. He couldn't help dancing along to On The Road with its catchy, slightly country-sounding, guitar licks.

When the piano started up on the next tune, Kurt paused and gave the song his full attention. It was Somewhere Only We Know and Kurt just knew Blaine would sound amazing on it. He was not disappointed. Blaine was amazing. The rawness in his voice, the feeling he was able to evoke moved something deep inside Kurt. It was like Blaine was singing just for him.

Then the disc completed shifted tone as I Still Think began to play. It had Kurt smiling and even laughing in some places. Blaine was really a phenomenal song writer.

Kurt had just finished getting redressed and was finishing up his moisturizing routine when the haunted strains of a lone piano poured out of the speakers. Kurt picked up the disc and saw that it was Me, Myself and Lies, the song Kurt had been most anxious to hear ever since the interview. It was a slow progression of chords, B minor if Kurt remembered correctly. And then Blaine's voice joined in and the pain that Kurt heard in those words had tears forming immediately.

I tried so hard to be
Who you wanted me to be
To be the son you loved
And the friend you admired

I pushed it all away
Pushed it all down and tried to hide
All the hurt and the pain
The whispers and stares from time gone by

But that's just not me
I'll stand up and shout
Until you believe
It's just me, myself and lies

By the end of the song tears were just streaming down Kurt's face. Kurt knew exactly how Blaine felt. And to know that Blaine felt it, too? That Kurt wasn't alone? It felt like some huge weight had been lifted.

Sure, the other kids in glee were bullied and slushied on a regular basis, but they had never had to face the fundamental hate other people had for him simply because of who he loved. They would never understand; Kurt had started to think no one else ever would. Then, here comes this boy, who had apparently been two hours away and at one point, ten feet away and Kurt had never seen him. He wondered what his life might have been like if he'd met Blaine at the Sectional competition that year. He wondered what it would have been like to have someone who could truly understand what he was facing every day. His dad tried and he was great, really, but he couldn't know what it was like to walk in Kurt's shoes. He wondered how different his junior year might have gone if he'd had someone to lean on when it got really tough.

By the time Kurt cleared his head and brought himself out of his reverie, he realized he'd missed most of the rest of the songs. It was only the shock of the loud, angry guitar that brought Kurt's attention back to the CD playing. Stutter was such a contrast to what the rest of the album had been that Kurt couldn't help snatching up the liner notes to read along with the lyrics. Man, Blaine sounded pissed.

I know you could be better
Don't have to waste my time
It's not like I need you more than
I need me and mine

But I know that you want it
Trying to get you on it
Baby we could fuck the rights
Turn around and wrong it

Kurt felt his face flush hot as Blaine said "fuck." Damn, that was hot, Kurt thought to himself. He didn't know why, it's not like he and his friends never swore, but hearing Blaine say that word with that voice made Kurt think really bad thoughts. Well, maybe not bad thoughts, per se, but definitely those of an impure nature.

He decided after the day he had he deserved to indulge himself a little. He dug out the old Discman he still had somewhere and put Blaine's album in, with Stutter on repeat. He laid down on the bed and let Blaine's voice just carry him away. He could listen to the rest of the album later.

Later that week, he met up with Mercedes for lunch on his break from the shop. He'd had Blaine's album on repeat non-stop and could not stop humming whatever song was fresh on his mind. He walked into the sandwich shop singing the chorus from Allegedly to himself. Mercedes was waiting in line to order and he joined her, dropping an arm across her shoulders.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Oh, not much," Kurt replied. "The usual oil changes and people not understanding why they need oil changes and so not understanding why we tell them their whole engine is almost shot and they should just buy a new car. But still, could be worse."

"You do seem to be awfully chipper."

"Blaine's album came out the other day," he answered. "And it is amazing. Mercedes, if you haven't bought it yet, you are heading out to get it immediately after we eat. It will change your life."

"It's that good?" she asked.

"It's quite possibly one of the best albums I've ever heard," Kurt said. "There's just so much emotion and he feels, like, everything. For a debut album, it's pretty amazing."

"Okay, then. Looks like I have a stop to make before I head home."

"What about you? What's new?"

"Same as you, really. Stupid customers that don't seem to have common sense and want everything right then even when it's not physically possible."

He hugged her in sympathy and then it was their turn to order. They took their sandwiches out onto the patio to enjoy the summer weather and caught up on what had been happening over the last couple days. There was a casual lull in the conversation and Kurt decided he should check his email. He'd had a conversation going with Artie last night over some ideas for glee and wanted to see if there was a response yet. He nearly choked on his sandwich though when he saw the first subject of the first email in his inbox – BLAINE ANDERSON, TOUR DATES.

"You okay?" Mercedes asked.

"Um, yeah. Sorry. I just got an email with Blaine's tour dates!"

"Oh my god! Is he coming here?"

"Let me see," Kurt said as he opened the message and started scanning the dates. The usual cities were on the list – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vegas and Chicago. Then, half way down the list, there it was – Saturday, October 15 at the House of Blues in Cleveland. "Yes!" Kurt said, showing Mercedes the message.

"We are so there," she replied, high-fiving Kurt in celebration.

"Oh, yes. There is no way I will not be there."

That was going to be the perfect time for the concert, too. The middle of October is usually when the back to school drag hit full force and the mid-terms started which were bound to be doubly stressful with it being senior year. Yes, October was going to be wonderful.

Chapter Text

The week that Blaine's concert tickets were scheduled to go on sale was the same week McKinley High started back to school. Luckily, the first week back was always a short week with the first day being Wednesday and a half-day to boot with the Welcome Back pep rally. Kurt walked into the school slightly apprehensive but head held high. With Karofsky and Azimio off to college, he had decided that this year would be better. He would step up more in glee club, push for his ideas to actually be heard and not just dismissed out of hand. He was just as talented as Rachel Berry and it was time he proved it to everyone else.

He went through the day with a positive attitude. This year no one would ridicule him; this year no one would toss him in the dumpsters. He was a senior and, damn it, he deserved their respect. Surprisingly, the day went smoothly. He liked his classes and his teachers. Even though the material was not challenging in the least, he was actually looking forward to what he had to learn.

By the time he walked into glee club that first afternoon, Kurt was actually smiling. He'd had some classes with Mike, Puck, Mercedes and Rachel so had caught up with them earlier in the day. Since they only had a short amount of time before the assembly, they mostly discussed what they had done last year and how to improve their chances even more to win Nationals. They all walked to the assembly feeling rejuvenated and excited by the year to come.

Unfortunately, the good luck was not to last. The next day, the entire glee club was greeted with slushie facials from the hockey team, a new teacher suddenly appeared in his chemistry lab and decided to see where everyone's skill level was with a pop quiz and by Friday, he was ready to strangle Rachel and her ridiculous ideas for a Carpenter's medley for Sectionals. Maybe if they wanted to put the judges to sleep, that would have been a good idea. Oh, and apparently Finn had dumped her for Quinn. Again. Or something.

By the time Kurt got home that afternoon, he just wanted to curl up in his bed and sleep until Saturday morning. He'd been talking about the concert ever since the announcement was made last month and his whole family had been made aware that Saturday morning was very important and he should not be disturbed unless the world was ending. He just…. He needed something to look forward to so he didn't go mad from all the drama.

Saturday morning, Kurt was up early, logging on to the internet to make everything was working and up to speed. The show was at the House of Blues down in Cleveland, so it was standing room only which meant there was no need to worry about if they would get good seats, but he didn't want to take the risk of the show selling out in five minutes.

Once he was sure everything was in working order, he made a light breakfast before texting Mercedes a quick smiley face. Her family was heading over to Indianapolis for her cousin's wedding or she would have been there with Kurt. He got a smiley in reply and was just about to hop in the shower when his phone rang. Seeing his dad's number at the garage, he picked up.

"Hi, dad!" he answered.

"Hey, Kurt," Burt replied and Kurt did not like the tone of voice he was using. "Listen, I hate to do this, but I really need your help down here."

Kurt closed his eyes and his shoulders dropped in disappointment. "But the concert…" Kurt said, knowing any excuse would be meaningless. He knew his dad wouldn't be calling if it wasn't urgent.

"I know and I'm sorry, but Steve and Joe both called out this morning. Kevin is still working on Mrs. Patterson's car that should have been done on Thursday and we've just been slammed with a half dozen walk-ins wanting oil changes."

"Fine," Kurt said eventually. "Let me hop in the shower and I'll be right there."

"Thanks, Kurt. You know how much I appreciate this."

"I know. I'll see you soon," Kurt replied before hanging up.

This is just fantastic, Kurt thought.

He sent a quick text to Mercedes to update her on the concert situation before hopping in the shower. He had a "sorry. :( good luck!" waiting in response when he was done. He just prayed the show didn't sell out before he would be able to get home later. That would be just his luck, though.

Six hours later, Kurt had finally helped his dad clear the back log of cars and made his way home. The garage had been non-stop all day. There was grease and oil and all matter of dirty things embedded under his nails and in his cuticles. Kurt felt disgusting. He needed a shower stat. But before he could do that, he needed to get those concert tickets.

He slowly trudged upstairs and finally made it to his room. He logged on to his computer, trying to be careful and not spread the dirt and filth everywhere. He headed over to the Ticketmaster website and pulled up the page for Blaine's show. His heart dropped and his eyes teared up as two words immediately came into focus: SOLD OUT.

This just…. it wasn't fair. Couldn't he ever have anything he wanted? It wasn't like he was asking for much, just two measly concert tickets, but apparently even that was too much for Kurt Hummel. Why couldn't the universe just let him be happy for once?

Kurt had plans to meet with Mercedes before school on Monday for coffee and he was dreading having to tell her he wasn't able to get the tickets. It was going to be like reliving it all over again.

Kurt's dad had felt awful when he got home later that evening and he found out the show was sold out. Kurt had tried to wave it off, but he knew his dad wasn't buying it. Carole apparently sympathized and made Kurt's favorite meal to try and cheer him up, but even her delicious eggplant parmesan wasn't enough to break Kurt out of his funk. He barely ate half of it before excusing himself and just heading to bed. He pulled out his iPod, queued up his Blaine Anderson playlist and let the other boy's voice lull him to sleep.

By the time Monday morning rolled around, Kurt was feeling a little better. He was still upset about not being able to get the tickets but it had settled into a faint disappointment, rather than the bone-deep sadness it had initially been.

Luckily, Mercedes was understanding if also disappointed.

"Yeah, it sucks, but there's nothing you could have done," she said. "Besides, I'm sure the radio will have a give-away when it gets closer to the concert."

"True," Kurt agreed. "But then I would have to have the kind of luck that would actually allow me to win such a thing."

He took a sip of his mocha as he sighed. Oh, if only, he thought. Winning a radio contest would probably come with a little something extra besides just tickets. They usually did. What he would give to be at the sound check or maybe even a meet and greet, if he could.

Mercedes just smiled and winked, making Kurt laugh. He relaxed and finally asked her about the wedding. He got lost in her voice describing the rather raucous event and the crazy hats that many of her relatives had worn. She promised to have some pictures posted later on Facebook.

That afternoon, Kurt and Mercedes walked into glee club together to find Mr. Schue already there sorting through some sheet music. Kurt's stomach dropped in anticipation of what whacky theme he had waiting for them this week. As soon as everyone was gathered, he walked to the white board and one simple word – HOMECOMING.

Everyone just groaned. But, no. Kurt was not going to be a defeatist this year. He was a senior. This year, he would prove that he could be just as much of a leader as Finn was and gain some real respect from his fellow members.

"I know," Mr. Schue said. "But Principal Figgins has specifically requested we perform at the pep rally next week and I think we could use this as an opportunity to try and pull in new members. With Sam gone and many of you graduating this year, we're going to need all the new members we can get."

"Mr. Schue?" Rachel interrupted raising her hand. "If I may. I spent the summer brainstorming ideas for how to get the kids in this school excited and I think I have the perfect idea – a Gershwin medley!"

"Isn't he that pickle guy?" Brittany asked.

"Maybe if you want to get everyone excited about thinking up new ways to torture us this year," Santana remarked.

"That's a great idea, Rachel," Mr. Schue said, cutting off any other comments. "However, Figgins has actually also requested we do something more current; something released in the last six months. I think it's a great idea. The summer months have a history of providing some of the most fun and upbeat songs in pop history. So, any ideas?"

The usual Britney Spears and Beyoncé were tossed around before Finn, surprisingly, came up with an excellent idea.

"What about that Blaine guy?" he suggested. "I mean, he's all anyone can talk about and he's from around here, too."

"That's a great idea," Mr. Schue agreed.

"No offense," Puck said. "I mean, I kinda dig what that Blaine kid is doing, but isn't his stuff a little mellow for a 'pep' rally?"

"That is a valid point, Noah," Mr. Schue said. "Which gives me an idea."

Kurt, despite trying to keep his positive attitude, groaned. Mr. Schue's spontaneous ideas never turned out well.

"We'll split up into two teams and you'll each come up with a more upbeat number to mash with one of Blaine's songs."

"Boys versus girls?" Rachel asked eagerly.

"You know what?" Mr. Schue said after a brief pause. "No. Let's shake things up a bit. I'll put everyone's names in a hat and the first six are one team and the next six the other."

This, at least, perked Kurt up a little. He wouldn't be stuck on a team with all the stupid boys and forced to do some ridiculously macho number. In the end, Kurt wound up on a team with Santana, Mercedes, Lauren, Artie, and Puck. While Mike, Finn, Rachel, Tina, Brittany and Quinn were on the other. As much as Kurt would have loved to have Mike or Brittany on their team, he was very glad that he wouldn't have to deal with any of the Rachel/Finn/Quinn insanity that was sure to rear its head.

The two groups split and immediately started brainstorming ideas. They would perform their mash-up next Monday for a panel of special judges (Ms. Pillsbury and Coach Beiste, no doubt) and then the whole group would perform the winning number at the assembly on Friday.

Santana and Puck immediately started throwing out stupid ideas to try and mash-up Blaine Anderson with Metallica or Paramore which, just no. Kurt was thinking, trying to figure out what would actually have a good chance of winning when he started humming Don't You under his breath, his new go-to stress relief song. Suddenly, he had the most perfect idea.

"Fellow teammates, if I may?" he said, silencing everyone else. "I believe I have come up with the perfect idea. A mash-up that will win us this competition and prove to the school that we do know how to have fun: Blaine's Don't You mashed with…" Kurt paused for effect. "Last Friday Night by Katy Perry!"

Everyone kind of stared at him blankly for a moment.

"Come on!" he urged. "They're perfect together. They're both songs about having the greatest night of your life and partying and having a good time which everyone loves!"

"That is actually kinda brilliant," Mercedes commented.

"And we can all wear the most garishly awesome 80s clothes I can find. It'll be fantastic!"

"Okay," Santana commented. "I think I can get behind that. Now, the main question, who's singing lead?"

Everyone turned to Kurt for his opinion.

"Well, what if we mixed things up even more?" he said. "Mercedes and Santana can share the Don't You part while Puck and Artie do Katy Perry?"

"Don't you want lead?" Mercedes asked. "It's your idea."

"I'll be too busy coming up with costumes for everyone," Kurt said. "Don't worry. I know you guys can handle it. I'll get lead next time."

"We can totally rock this, yo," Artie said, slapping Puck's hand.

Everyone else added in their agreement and they set to work trying to figure out how to best meld these two songs together. Puck pulled out his guitar to start working on the musical arrangements with Artie while Santana and Mercedes started thinking up possible choreography. Kurt pulled Lauren into a corner to help brainstorm costume ideas and organizing the best plan of attack for hitting all of Lima's best resale and second hand shops. They were totally going to kick the other team's butts!

And they did.

Thanks to Rachel trying to mash Blaine's Lights Off with Lady Gaga's Judas, the other team just crashed and burned. Kurt had to admit Mike and Brittany tried to do their best to save it with their dancing, but it was clear they hadn't meshed as well as Kurt's team.

By a unanimous vote of 3-0, Kurt's team was declared the winner and the whole group set out to pump up their routine. By the end of the week, they had a really amazing number that should get at least some kids interested in joining New Directions.

"Now," Principal Figgins said at the assembly on Friday. "Your Regional Show Choir Champions, the New Directions!"

The lights went down in the gym and the two spotlights hit Puck and Artie on cue. They started off with a remix of the chorus of Last Friday Night before Santana and Mercedes stepped up to belt out the chorus of Don't You. Mike and Brittany's additions to the choreography were amazing and really played up the best of everyone's abilities. By the end of the routine, most of the student body was on its feet cheering and clapping enthusiastically. Kurt just grinned as the number ended. They had done it. He couldn't wait to see how crowded the choir room would be Monday afternoon.

The months passed easily for once. There had not been a single slushie incident since that first week back. Oh sure, there were still the occasional sarcastic comments and some boys would still make sure to whack Kurt with their backpack as they passed him in the hall, but at least he wasn't getting body checked into lockers anymore. He had been right. With Karofsky and Azimio out of the picture, the bullies had lost their ring leaders and had taken to basically just ignoring everyone, which was perfectly fine with Kurt.

Glee club was going well. They'd gained a half dozen new members after their performance at the Homecoming rally and Kurt was happy to see they were all actually talented. Maybe not as talented as him, or even Rachel, but they were certainly able to hold their own.

Mr. Schue had been pushing them to start thinking up original songs again as that had proved to be successful for them last year. One of the new girls, Brianna, had actually proven to be rather adept at song writing. She and Rachel had teamed up one week and produced a very powerful ballad about the fears they all faced of an uncertain future. Everyone had liked it so much they had agreed to keep working it for Sectionals with the two girls actually sharing the lead as a duet. Kurt thought that showed a lot of growth on Rachel's part, letting one of the new kids share lead with her at a competition, no less.

All in all, Kurt's senior year was going pretty fantastically.

The first week in October was a little bittersweet. Blaine's concert at the House of Blues was coming up and the radio stations were going nuts with the promotion. It seemed like they were playing his songs every hour and KISS 93.9 was promising an interview with Blaine early next week.

That Wednesday, Kurt was at his locker before class getting himself organized for the day when Mercedes sidled up with a smile on her face.

"How much do you love me?" she asked coyly.

"I love you until the ends of the earth and the depth of the oceans," Kurt replied flatly pulling out his calculus text book. "You are the Billy Crystal to my Meg Ryan and I cannot imagine my life without you in it."

"I'm very glad to hear that because I have a surprise for you."

"What is it?"

"Guess who won tickets to Blaine's concert next weekend?"

Kurt slammed his locker and almost dropped his bag as he whipped around to face her.

"Are you serious?" he said.

"100 percent."

Kurt pulled her into a hug and wanted to start jumping up and down he was so excited. This was amazing! He couldn't believe it! He was going to go to Blaine's concert!

"Oh, but that's not all," Mercedes added.

"It's not?" Kurt asked, his stomach filling with butterflies.

"These are super special concert tickets that also come with passes to the pre-show sound check and a private meet and greet!"

"Oh. My. God," Kurt said. His heart was pounding, he could feel sweat starting to trickle from his forehead. "We get to meet Blaine?"

"We get to meet Blaine."

"I could kiss you right now," Kurt said. He took her arm and they started walking down the hall towards first period. "This is amazing. This is just beyond. Oh my god! What are we going to wear?"

Mercedes laughed and promised Kurt a trip to the mall that weekend to be sure he had the perfect outfit.

All that week, when Kurt wasn't doing his homework or rehearsing for glee, he was scouring his closet and the internet to try and come up with the perfect outfit for when he met Blaine and brainstorming ideas for Mercedes. He had to be fashionable, but approachable; fabulous, but still tasteful. He kept falling back into wanting to do some sort of James Dean-esque 50s inspired look. He thought it was something Blaine would respond well to, given his own fashion sense. He printed out a couple ideas and gathered them for his shopping trip with Mercedes. He would use his own dark wash, skinny jeans and either a pair of Converse or the new vintage leather booties he had picked up last month. All he needed was a shirt, a jacket, leather of course, and maybe an accessory or two. For Mercedes, something purple or navy would look fabulous.

Their first stop was the Hand Me Down, Lima's premiere resale shop. It wasn't a huge store, but they had an excellent selection and Kurt had scored many deals on vintage designer pieces here. He wanted to look for the jacket first as that would probably be the hardest piece to find and he could build the rest of the outfit around that.

"So, what exactly are you looking for?" Mercedes asked as they entered the store.

"Something vintage, something cool. Think James Dean," Kurt explained. "Nothing motorcycle-chic, though. I really can't pull that off."

"Black? Brown? Color?"

"Whatever we can find. This jacket will the base for the entire ensemble so tweaks can be made depending on the best one we find."

"Got it," Mercedes said. "I'll take the left, you take the right and we'll meet in the middle?"

"Sounds like a plan."

The two split up and began their search. Kurt shuffled through rack after rack of harsh, black motorcycle jackets and was starting to get discouraged when Mercedes called out.

"I think I found it," she said, holding it up as Kurt approached.

Kurt actually gasped when he saw it. It was gorgeous. The jacket was a soft black that was completely broken in around the hem and cuffs. Even so, it was in excellent condition and none of the leather was actually cracked. The zipper was off-center, running on a slight diagonal with a large tear-drop shaped pocket on the left side and a second slitted pocket above that. He unzipped it to take a look at the lining and was pleased to see it intact. It was a beautiful deep, emerald green silk that was so soft to the touch. He gingerly took it off the hanger before slipping it on to try it out. He practically purred as he pulled it on. It fit perfectly. The sleeves weren't too wide and hugged his arms and broadening shoulders so well. He zipped it up and moved to look at himself in the mirror.

"Okay," Mercedes said. "I am making you buy that jacket. I don't care if you wear it to the show or not, but you need that jacket in your wardrobe."

"I totally agree," Kurt said. With the jacket zipped up, it stopped just above the top of his jeans, showing off his trim waist perfectly. "It's perfect."

Only one small fact remained – the price. He slowly held up his right arm where the price tag was dangling from the cuff. He closed his eyes and prayed to whoever was listening that he would be able to afford it. When he looked, he almost cheered - $50. Totally in his price range! He hugged Mercedes and the two ran up to the cashier to purchase it. This day was starting off perfectly. He couldn't believe what a find the jacket had been.

"What's next?" Mercedes asked as they got back in the car.

"Now, we find a shirt," Kurt replied. He paused as he started the car, thinking of what direction he wanted to go. "If I wanted to keep with the straight-up 1950s James Dean theme, then I would just need a plain white t-shirt. But, that's a little boring, I think."

"Yeah. You can definitely pull off something more fabulous than that," she agreed.

"So, plaid was another big thing back then. And it's also back in style for the fall, so it should be fairly easy to find something."


"And for you, I'm thinking navy or a deep purple. Maybe even something with bling or studs on it."

"I can dig it," Mercedes agreed.

They pulled up to the mall a few minutes later and set out on their quest to find the perfect shirt to complete Kurt's outfit. After striking out in the department stores, they finally headed to H&M. Kurt immediately saw the perfect top for Mercedes. It was a bright purple crew-neck cardigan with elbow-length sleeves. There were small metal grommets around the cuff and the buttons were large and a distressed silver.

"You can pair it with that feather print t-shirt we got a couple weeks ago. You'll look amazing," he said.

"I love it!" she said happily. "I can totally wear this with my gray skinny jeans. It's perfect."

"Excellent!" Kurt said. "Now, is there anything here for me?"

They started wandering through the racks, and while there were plenty of plaid shirts to choose from, nothing jumped out at him. He was about to give up and move on to the next store when a lone shirt on the sale rack caught his eye. It was a short-sleeve bright blue, large print plaid with stripes of white and navy. The plaid was off-center lending a more visual interest to the shirt.

"What do you think?" he asked holding it up for Mercedes.

"Yes," she said. "That blue really makes your eyes pop. It'll look great with the jacket, too."

"Fantastic," Kurt said. "Let's go check out and grab lunch. I'm starving."

"Shopping is so exhausting," Mercedes agreed. "I don't know how you do it as often as you do."

"Practice," Kurt said. "You start slow and gradually build up your stamina. With my comprehensive training program, soon, you, too, can be spending entire days at the mall with nary a second thought."

Mercedes laughed and swatted at Kurt's arm. They checked out quickly and decided to head over to Breadstix for lunch. They spent the meal firming up the details for the concert next week. With the extras that came with the tickets, they had both managed to convince their parents to let them stay in Cleveland overnight, rather than having to leave early to start the three hour drive home. Kurt was especially grateful as he wouldn't have to wear his concert outfit in the car and could change when they got to the hotel.

"What time does the sound check start?" Kurt asked.

"It starts at 3:00 and the meet and greet is after that," Mercedes said. "The concert starts at 7:00 with The Formula opening. So, Blaine should go on about 8:00, I think."

Kurt nodded as he started planning the timetable in his head. The tickets were still at will call, so they should be at the venue by 2:30 at the latest. A three hour drive meant they should probably leave by 10:00 am if they wanted time for a quick lunch and to freshen up once they got to the hotel.

"Wait a second," Kurt said as something occurred to him. "The House of Blues is standing room only. If we're backstage at the meet and greet are we going to be shoved to the back of the crowd after they let everyone else in?"

"Didn't I tell you where the seats are?" Mercedes said.

"No, you did not," Kurt confirmed.

"We get to sit in the private boxes that are right next to the stage! There's wait staff there so we can order food and drinks and whatever without having to lose our place!"

"That is fantastic!" Kurt said clapping a little in excitement. "This is going to be the best night ever!"

When Kurt got home that afternoon, he pulled his purchases out of their bags and got his jeans and a couple pairs of shoes from his closet. He needed to try everything on and figure out what shoes would best complement the outfit.

But first, he wanted to inspect the jacket a little closer, just to make sure it was in as good a condition as it looked in the store. He examined every seam on the outside and all the zippers, very pleased to find everything was in working order and there were no rips or pulls. None of the pockets had any rips in their lining and the buckles around the cuffs were still perfect. He gently turned the jacket inside out to check the lining a little more carefully. Replacing the lining on a jacket could get expensive, especially on a vintage piece. There was no designer tag, though, so it could very well be an excellent quality knock-off. Happily, though, everything was secure and in mint condition. He ran his hands over the lining again, smiling as his hands glided smoothly over the silk. It was so beautiful, Kurt wanted to know the jacket's story. Who was its previous owner? Why had they gotten rid of it? Where were they now?

Kurt paused as his fingers snagged a little at the hem. He bent down to see what it was and quirked his head at the embroidery he found. It was very small, but Kurt was pretty certain it was a set of initials. He pulled out the magnifying glass he kept with his sewing kit for the finer work he did and almost dropped it when he saw what the initials were.


There was only one person that could be – Yves St. Laurent.

Holy. Crap.

How had he managed to get a vintage YSL jacket for $50? His pieces usually fetched thousands of dollars. No doubt the original owner had no idea what they had had in their possession. If this was from the 1950s like Kurt suspected, it had to be from when Yves St. Laurent first started working at Dior.

This was the find of a century.

One week later, Kurt picked up Mercedes and they started the journey to Cleveland. Kurt had surprisingly never been there before and his dad was a little nervous about him making the drive. Kurt reassured him that the GPS in his Navigator was working properly and had also printed out directions from Google Maps as a back-up. His phone was fully charged and with one last hug to both his dad and Carole, Kurt was off.

The drive was easy, taking US 30 to I-71. They set-up the Blaine playlist Kurt had on his iPod and sang along the whole ride there, discussing his music and what they thought the show would be like. Mercedes wanted to hear I Still Think and Lights Off while Kurt was pulling for Me, Myself and Lies. They both agreed that Stutter would be amazing live. Kurt secretly hoped Blaine might throw in the cover of Teenage Dream he seemed to favor from the all the internet videos Kurt had watched.

They found the hotel easily and were very happy to see the Holiday Inn was definitely within walking distance of the House of Blues. Kurt could actually see the venue from the window in their room after they had checked in. He graciously offered Mercedes the bathroom first to freshen up and change. He carefully unpacked his bag, hanging up his clothes for the show and the drive home tomorrow. He may be stuck in a car for three hours, but every moment was an opportunity for fashion. Being in the car with the cool weather was the perfect chance to try out how warm his new shawl collar cardigan was. He hated being overly warm or cold in the car.

"How do I look?" Mercedes said coming out of the bathroom.

"You look amazing," Kurt replied. She had indeed paired the purple cardigan with the feather print tee and gray jeans. She'd added the heavy gold boombox necklace she had and black high top sneakers. Her hair was smoothed down and parted straight down the middle. "You are one fabulous diva."

"Thank you," Mercedes said. "Now go get dressed; it's been too long since breakfast."

Kurt grabbed his garment and toiletries bag and raced off to get changed. He'd tried on everything when he'd gotten home from shopping last week so he knew it all fit perfectly. He had settled on the mock snakeskin brown leather boots to complete the outfit. They had a little bit of a heel and were the perfect punctuation mark on a perfect outfit.

He quickly stripped out of the simple tee and looser fitting jeans he'd had on in the car, making sure not to disturb the perfect pompadour he'd managed to style his hair into that morning. He pulled on the white tank undershirt and plaid shirt, rolling up the short sleeves a little more to get that true 1950s look. Feeling a little daring, he decided to leave the top two buttons undone on the shirt. Not that he thought he actually had a chance at anything, but it made him feel good. He struggled into the skinny jeans and tucked the shirts in. He added a distressed brown leather belt before bending over the put on his shoes. Once dressed, he turned to look at himself in the mirror. He looked good. He felt good. There was electricity in the air, a wave of anticipation of something exciting waiting for him.

He pulled his toiletries bag closer and pulled out his hairspray and brush. He coaxed a few stray strands back into place and finished everything with a quick dust of translucent powder on his face to help stop any shine from popping up. He nodded to his reflection and pulled on the leather jacket. A quick spritz of his favorite cologne and Kurt was ready to go.

He exited the bathroom and found Mercedes lounging on one of the beds, flipping through the TV.

"So?" he asked.

"Wow, Kurt," she said. "If you weren't gay and my best friend I would be all over that. You look fantastic."

"Well, thank you very much," he said with a small curtsey. Kurt grabbed the insert from Blaine's CD for Mercedes to carry on the chance they were actually able to get autographs at the meet and greet. Then, he took her arm and the two left to go find some lunch. Now if he could just get his stomach to settle enough to eat something, he would be good to go.

They had a quick bite and were at the House of Blues box office by 2:30. Mercedes picked up the tickets and they were ushered inside for the sound check. There were maybe thirty other people, all girls, when they made it inside and Kurt was very happy that this was going to be small and intimate. Plus, he was the only boy. This was very good news, indeed.

Just before 3:00 someone of import came out and explained how the sound check would work. They would not be allowed to take pictures or record what was happening. Blaine would play a couple songs, maybe not even in their entirety and then they would all be ushered backstage for the meet and greet. Kurt was a little disappointed at the formality of this. He was beginning to worry that the meet and greet would just be a quick two second handshake and a picture before the next group was ushered in. He tried to remain positive. Even if that was all he got, it was better than nothing and more than he ever thought he'd get. He would be fine.

Kurt was discussing his fears with Mercedes when a couple girls let out a cheer. Kurt's head whipped around to the stage and he couldn't stop staring as Blaine walked on stage. He was wearing a simple black and white striped Henley with slim fitting gray trousers and what looked like incredibly soft Italian leather booties. He conferred with a couple of the other band members on stage before pulling a guitar over his head.

"Oh, hey, guys," he said into the microphone as he looked out at the crowd. He smiled brightly as he made brief eye contact with each person. Kurt's breath caught as his gaze locked with Blaine's. God, he was just gorgeous. "I'm Blaine. You probably already know that. Um, so we're gonna do a couple songs, play around with a few things, give you all a little preview of what you'll hear later tonight. And maybe a little Q&A if there's time."

The band members started picking out random chords, getting everything tuned up and the various levels evened out. The stage lights started flicking on and off in seemingly random intervals. Blaine moved around the stage, stepping in and out of spots as they lit up. It wasn't very elaborate as far as stage shows went, but then again Blaine's music didn't really call for pyrotechnic flashes and strobe lights.

"Can we try that amber filter we used in Chicago?" Blaine called to someone off-stage.

Immediately, the lights became softer, as if the stage was lit by candles. The audience "ooh"ed in response.

"You guys like that?" Blaine asked.

"Yeah!" some of the girls cried out.

After a few more minutes of lighting tests, Blaine finally stepped up to the main microphone.

"What do you say we play a little music now?" he asked.

The crowd erupted in cheers and Blaine just laughed. He turned back to his band members, conferring about which song to play. The drummer counted off and then I Still Think came pouring through the speakers. Kurt laughed as Mercedes whooped and started dancing around. But he couldn't keep his eyes off Blaine for long. If Kurt had thought he was charismatic in video, it was nothing compared to seeing him live and in person. The energy just poured off him, washing over the crowd with a raucous infection. Soon, the whole crowd was dancing and cheering along. Blaine laughed and hammed it up for them, getting even crazier and busting out some truly ridiculous dance moves. Kurt doubled over in laughter as Blaine misjudged the distance and ended up running into the microphone as the chorus started back up. They finished with a flourish and the whole place went wild.

"Thank you," Blaine laughed. "That's pretty much par for the course for us. I'm surprisingly uncoordinated when I'm not dancing, so I tend to run into things all the time. I'll probably break at least 2 guitar strings tonight, too. So, anyway, any requests?"

"Stutter!" one of the girls yelled out.

"You got it," Blaine said. "Here we go."

Remember that time?
When you wouldn't talk to me?
You wouldn't talk to me
All night.

Remember that song?
And all the words we'd sing?
Well here's a song I sing
All right.

In a stark contrast to the last song, everyone just stood still with their eyes glued to the stage. No one was moving, no one was singing, Kurt wasn't even sure they were breathing; he wasn't sure he was breathing. It was mesmerizing. That was the only way to describe what was happening. It was like everyone had been hypnotized by the show on stage and couldn't do anything until Blaine let them. Everyone finally broke out of their trance when they reached the bridge of the song where he got the audience to sing along. Kurt's voice rang out strong with the rest as Blaine sang over them:

Don't you tell me that you don't want to.
Don't you tell me that you don't want to.

Blaine grinned as he joined back in:

Oh, don't you tell me no
'Cause there you go again
You're ten out of ten
I'm sorry d-did I just s-stutter?

Won't tell you what you know
But this is the end
You were never my friend
You were never my-
You were never my no, no, no, no!

"Thanks, guys!" Blaine said after the song ended. "You were amazing! This is gonna be a good show, I can tell. Hey, can I get the piano out here?" he said to the stage hands, putting his guitar away. "Um, I've been working on something new I'd like to share with you. It's not finished, so it'll be brief, but I'd love to hear what you guys think so far."

A grand piano was wheeled out on stage and Blaine took his place behind it. He played a few random chords and scales to warm up before seeming to settle down. He started playing a haunting but hopeful melody before his voice rang in strong and clear.

I've been alone
Surrounded by darkness
I've seen how heartless
The world can be

I've seen you crying
You felt like it's hopeless
I'll always do my best
To make you see

Baby, you're not alone
Cause you're here with me
And nothing's ever gonna bring us down
Cause nothing can keep me from lovin' you
And you know it's true
It don't matter what'll come to be
Our love is all we need to make it through

Kurt blinked back the tears that were threatening to fall. Once again, Blaine had managed to say so eloquently something Kurt had longed to hear. He looked over at Mercedes who had taken his hand and saw the same look on her face. He squeezed her hand and she looked over, smiling a little sadly. Kurt couldn't help himself and pulled her into a tight hug, whispering "Thank you" in her ear.

"I love you," she whispered back.

"Love you, too," he replied.

One last chord rang out from the piano and then Blaine was silent. The whole place was still, wrapped in awe at what they had just heard. Kurt was actually the first to compose himself and start applauding. That seemed to snap everyone out of it and they were all clapping and cheering very loudly.

"Wow. Thank you," Blaine said sincerely. "So you liked it?"

"Yeah!" they all shouted.

"Good. Good," he said. "Well, I think that's all for now. We're gonna head back and finish getting set-up and I'll see you all backstage shortly."

With a quick wave, Blaine was offstage and the whole room erupted into excited chatter at what had just happened.

"Oh my god!" Mercedes exclaimed. "That was amazing."

"That was so amazing," Kurt agreed. "How are we going to survive a whole concert?"

"How are we going to survive meeting him?"

"Oh my god!" Kurt shouted. "How did I forget that? I'm going to die, Mercedes. Please tell my dad and Carole and Finn that I love them and that my clothes should be donated to charity and not just tossed out."

"You're not going to die," Mercedes said, smacking Kurt's shoulder. "You're going to be fine because Blaine is amazing and friendly and he is going to love you because you are amazing and awesome."

"Right," Kurt said, taking a deep breath to calm himself. "I can do this. Just, be cool, be myself."


They stood patiently for a few more minutes before someone came to direct them backstage. Kurt kept his fingers crossed for something better than the two second handshake he had been fearing. He was quite pleasantly surprised when they were shown to an area that had been set-up with high cocktail tables and stools. There was a buffet of appetizers and some beverages for them to partake. The same person who had taken them backstage introduced himself as Blaine's manager and explained how the meet and greet would work. Blaine would come around to each table and chat for a little bit with everyone. They were all asked to remain at whatever table they had chosen and not go wandering once it had started. When that was over, they would have the chance for autographs and a photo if they wished.

Kurt and Mercedes grabbed a table in the middle of the room and were joined by two other girls – April and Kerry. They were from Cleveland and part of their school's theater group. They talked briefly about the similarities and differences between show choir and a full on theater production. Kurt was a little jealous to hear that the theater and music departments were actually respected in their school, having won several state and national titles.

Kurt and Mercedes eventually made use of the buffet, grabbing a light snack before Blaine came out. Kurt nibbled on some carrot sticks as Mercedes chatted with the other girls. The longer the wait got, the more nervous Kurt became. Couldn't Blaine just get out here already so they could get this over with? He still hadn't decided if he should say anything to Blaine about him being that boy from the competition he had gushed over in the Rolling Stone article. Mercedes was firmly in the Yes, you should do it camp, but Kurt still wasn't convinced. He didn't want to seem like he was just trying to get Blaine's attention. He decided to just wait and see what happened and if an opening came, he would take it. Maybe.

Shortly after, Blaine came out from a side door and made his way to the first table. Kurt kept a close eye on what was happening and was very glad to note that everyone seemed to be behaving themselves. He would have hated if anything had to be called off because of overzealous fans.

Blaine went around the table, shaking hands and talking briefly with each person there before sitting in one of the empty seats. He stayed for a good fifteen minutes before moving on to the next table. With the layout of the room, it was over an hour later before Blaine finally made it to Kurt and Mercedes' table. But that was fine. As long as they all got the same amount of time, Kurt would wait hours for Blaine if he had to.

"Hi, everyone," Blaine said as he reached their table. "Hey! Another guy!" he added as he noticed Kurt. "Finally. Not that I don't appreciate you ladies, but sometimes it's nice to know there's another guy around."

Everyone laughed and Kurt was instantly at ease. He could do this. Blaine was just another guy. No big deal at all.

"What's everyone's name?" Blaine asked, looking to April. She introduced herself and her friend before Blaine turned to Mercedes and Kurt. He shook Mercedes' hand first, before finishing with Kurt. Kurt went to pull back, but found he couldn't as Blaine was still holding on.

"I'm sorry," he said looking between Kurt and Mercedes, still holding Kurt's hand. "But have we met? You look familiar."

Kurt glanced at Mercedes, suddenly tongue tied. This was his chance and he was failing horribly.

"Um, not formally," Mercedes said. "We're part of the show choir from McKinley High in Lima, the New Directions. I believe we competed against you in last year's Sectionals contest."

Blaine looked between them some more, as if trying to place their faces. Then suddenly, his full attention was on Kurt, and he grasped Kurt's hand tighter with both his. Kurt started at action.

"Oh!" Blaine cried. "You're that boy! You were so wonderful! I wanted to find you after to tell you, but so much happened and then we were swept off back to the bus so I never got a chance to tell you."

"Oh, well thank you," Kurt said quietly, a blush creeping onto his cheeks. "That's very kind of you to say."

"It's just the truth," Blaine replied. "Seriously, ladies," he said turning to April and Kerry. "You should hear him sing. He will blow your mind."

Kurt meanwhile was fixated on the table where Blaine's hand was still wrapped around his. It was like Blaine had forgotten he was even holding Kurt's hand.

"How did you guys do at Regionals?" Blaine asked, turning back to Kurt and Mercedes.

"We won," Kurt spoke up. "Unfortunately, we didn't even place at Nationals, but just getting to see New York was exciting enough."

"I bet," Blaine said. "It's a wonderful city. Did you get to see any shows while you were there?"

"There wasn't enough time," Kurt said. "We were pretty much in and out. But if things work out, I'll be back there for college next year and I can finally see Wicked on a proper stage. If it's still playing."

"Oh, Wicked is breathtaking. I was lucky enough to get to see it with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel when I was on a trip with my dad."

"And now I officially hate you," Kurt joked.

Blaine just laughed and shoved at Kurt's shoulder playfully.

"So, is that what you want to do with your life?" Blaine asked. "Perform?"

"I think so," Kurt replied. "I would at least like to try and see what happens. I know I don't have the most conventional male voice, so I don't know if there's even a place for me. But I think I'd always wonder 'What if?' if I didn't try, you know?"

"I think you would be wonderful," Blaine said. "From what little I saw at Sectionals, you are an amazing performer."

Kurt smiled shyly, slightly astounded that someone like Blaine could believe in him so strongly. Blaine smiled back and time seemed to stand still for a moment as they just stared at each other, the air crackling between them.

The moment broke when Kerry knocked over her glass and Coke started seeping into the tablecloth.

"Oh my gosh!" she said, trying to sop it up with the tiny cocktail napkins they had. "I'm so sorry! I'm such a klutz!"

"That's okay," Blaine said, calling over someone to help clean up. "I'm sorry. I've been ignoring you."

Blaine turned his attention to the other girls which was fine with Kurt. He was still reeling from his interaction and was glad for the break to gather his thoughts. He spaced out a bit and was ashamed to admit he didn't really listen to what they talked about. It was just… Blaine remembered him. Honestly remembered him and thought he was wonderful. And Kurt was sure he hadn't imagined that moment between them.

"Well, guys, I'm afraid I have to be moving on," he said patting Kurt's hand. "Oh, gosh," he said looking down. "Have I been holding your hand this whole time?"

"So it would seem," Kurt said, a little breathless.

"I'm so sorry," Blaine said, slowly pulling his hand away.

"Believe me, it's not a problem," he replied with a laugh.

There was another pause as their eyes caught one last time. Blaine's manager finally came over to get him moving to the next group.

"It was great meeting all of you," Blaine said cordially. "I hope you enjoy the show."

After he had moved out of ear shot, April leaned over and whispered, "Are you that boy from the Rolling Stone article?"

"I am," Kurt admitted.

"Oh, wow! My friends are not going to believe I met you!" she exclaimed. "You have been the subject of some interesting gossip in the Blaine chat rooms."

"I… What?" Kurt asked, confused over the fuss. "Why would anyone care about me?"

"Because Blaine does," Kerry explained. "We all figured you had to be someone special if he remembered you so fondly."

"Well, I don't know about that," Kurt replied. "I honestly didn't even remember him from that competition."

"How could you not remember him?" April asked.

"I asked the same thing," Mercedes replied. "That boy is fine and was super talented even back then."

Kurt just rolled his eyes at Mercedes' fawning. "I had my first competition solo that night," he explained to everyone else. "I was a little distracted with concentrating on not throwing up or fainting on stage."

"Still, he seemed very taken with you," Kerry remarked. "You should totally go for it."

"What?" Kurt exclaimed. "No. No, I don't think so. Why would he even…? No."

"We all saw how he was looking at you, Kurt," Mercedes said. "That boy is yours if you want him."

Kurt looked over towards Blaine at the next table. Could he? Why would Blaine even want someone like him? He could have his pick of guys. He was just Kurt Hummel from Lima, Ohio. Besides, how would that even work? Blaine was in L.A. when he wasn't on tour. There was no way it could work.

About 45 minutes later, Blaine was done making his rounds and everyone got ready for the autograph and photo session. Mercedes passed Kurt the CD cover as they got in line. When it was his turn, Blaine greeted him warmly, like an old friend.

"Go for it, Kurt," he said he passed the cover back and laid his hand over Kurt's again. "You can do it and you should."

"Thank you," Kurt said sincerely and moved off to join the second line that was forming for the photo ops. He glanced back at Blaine after a minute and smiled when they caught eyes again. He looked down at the autograph and smiled as he saw the simple message Blaine had inscribed –

To Kurt,

Blaine XO

He tried not to read too much into the "XO" but after what Mercedes and April and Kerry had told him, he couldn't help wishing maybe it did mean something.

During the photo op, Blaine actually hugged them briefly but firmly. "Can you guys hang around for a second?" he asked when they were done. "I just have a quick question when this is all over."

"Yeah, sure," Kurt replied. "We'll just be over there," he said gesturing vaguely to the area off to the side.

"Great," Blaine smiled. "I'll be right there."

Luckily, they had been near the end of the line so it was less than five minutes before Blaine joined them. Kurt noticed that interestingly, Blaine had not hugged anyone else.

"So, um, I would love to talk to you guys some more, if you're free after the show," he said. "I need to go get ready, but there's an after party thing back at the hotel and I'd love if you could make it. Unless you need to get back home?"

Blaine just looked like such an eager puppy that even if they did have somewhere else to be, Kurt would have gladly blown it off just to be able to say yes to Blaine.

"No, actually," Kurt said. "We were going to spend the night at a hotel before heading back home in the morning."

"Great!" Blaine said, a large grin spreading across his face. "Um, if you want to give your info to my manager I'll make sure you guys are on the list and you'll know where we are and all that stuff."

"That sounds great!" Mercedes said.

"Awesome. Well, see you later!"

Blaine ran off with a wave and his manager came over to get their info. They were at the Ritz-Carlton a few blocks away, but they should be able to get a cab there and back to the Holiday Inn without much trouble. They were then ushered out into the hall to make their way towards the special seating area. Kurt paused when they were half way down the hall and clutched onto Mercedes' arm.

"Did that just happen?" he asked.

"It did," she replied.

"Pinch me. I must be dreaming."

"Well, if you're dreaming, I am, too, boo. This is amazing."

"Blaine Anderson wants to hang out with us! In what world does this happen?"

"Uh, no," Mercedes said. "Blaine wants to hang out with you. He's just too polite to leave me out of it."



"So, you think…?" he trailed off.

"Oh, he wants to tap that," Mercedes said.

"Mercedes!" Kurt admonished, playfully shoving at her and blushing at her crudeness.

"Sorry!" she said holding up her hands in surrender. "But it's true. That boy is gone on you."

Kurt just smiled as his head spun. Blaine liked him. Like liked him. He couldn't help as a laugh bubbled up out of him. This was too much to believe. A boy, a wonderful, amazing, beautiful boy liked him. Kurt didn't know what to do with himself.

The concert was just as amazing as Kurt knew it would be. Blaine pulled out all the stops and put on an amazing show. And he would periodically look over to their seats, searching out Kurt and smiling when he found him through the bright stage lights. There was one moment, though, that Kurt knows he will remember for the rest of his life.

"I'd like to slow things down a bit, if that's all right with you," Blaine said to the crowd.

The grand piano from the sound check was wheeled out onto stage and Blaine tinkered with it a bit before speaking again.

"Um, I hadn't planned on this song, but if the band will allow me a few moments of indulgence. I'm sure they'll be glad for the break, anyway."

The crowd cheered and laughed as the band exited the stage, leaving just Blaine and the piano in the spotlight. With the way the stage and box seats were set-up, the piano was side on to the audience so Blaine was facing Kurt straight on.

"I would like to dedicate this to someone special," Blaine said, as the tune started falling into place. It was Teenage Dream, the slowed down acoustic version Kurt had watched on YouTube so many times. "Well, he might be special. One day."

He started singing, his eyes closed as he concentrated on the song. When he reached the chorus, though, his eyes snapped open and his gaze landed directly on Kurt.

You make me feel like I'm living a teenage dream
The way you turn me on, I can't sleep
Let's runaway and don't ever look back
Don't ever look back

My heart stops when you look at me
Just one touch, now baby I believe
This is real, so take a chance
And don't ever look back, don't ever look back

Their eyes stayed locked through the rest of the song and Blaine smirked as he reached the part of the song involving skin-tight jeans. Kurt couldn't help blushing at the implication which only seemed to spur Blaine on more. He played it up even more, his voice taking on that gravelly quality that made Kurt's knees turn to jelly. Blaine winked as the song ended and the crowd erupted in applause. Mercedes and the other girls in their little booth whooped outrageously and shoved playfully at Kurt.

Kurt meanwhile, kind of just wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. He was definitely not used to this kind of attention. However, since there was no hole available to hide in, he simply smiled at Mercedes and considered what he might do later.

Would this be worth it?

A few hours later, Kurt and Mercedes made their way through the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton and up to the sixth floor lounge that was hosting the after-party. They paused in the doorway after being let in by the bouncer, unsure of what to do. It looked the party was in full swing already with the music pumping and lights flashing. Kurt noticed a few of the musicians he had seen in Blaine's backing band, but didn't see Blaine anywhere. He was just about to suggest they head out, it was a good try, when he heard someone call his name. He turned around to see Blaine bouncing across the dance floor towards them.

Kurt took the moments he had to admire Blaine's off-stage apparel. He had changed into dark wash, straight leg jeans and a black t-shirt with some sort of metallic design emblazoned on the front. He looked amazing. He definitely had very, very nice arms.

"I'm so glad you guys made it!" he said exuberantly.

"Wouldn't have missed it!" Mercedes said.

"Come on!" he said, once more grabbing Kurt's hand and dragging him over to some couches on the far side of the room. Mercedes followed closely and Kurt found himself being pulled down on one of the couches and Blaine's arm thrown over his shoulder.

"You're here!" Blaine said.

"We're here!" Kurt agreed. The music was really loud; it was kind of hard to hear anything.

"Can I get you guys anything?"

"Um, a couple waters would be great," Kurt said, exchanging a look with Mercedes.

"Water. Got it. Be right back!" Blaine bounded off to get their waters and Mercedes sat down next to Kurt on the small couch.

"Is he drunk?" she asked.

"If he's not, I think he's on his way," Kurt said.


Kurt wasn't quite sure what to say, either. Sad as this was to admit, this was the first real party he had ever been to. He didn't count Rachel's failed house party last year when her dad's were out of town. That little shindig had been over before it even started. As such, he was a little wary as to what was going on and what would be expected of him. And, well, his one previous experience with alcohol had been enough to have him swearing off everything until he was at least twenty-one, if not longer.

And Blaine's current state of inebriation left him a little confused. He'd just never seen Blaine as the kind of guy, teenager that he was, that would really drink that much. Then again, Kurt really didn't know Blaine. They had just met for the first time a few hours ago and were pretty much complete strangers. This was fine. He just had to adjust his picture of Blaine a little. It didn't mean he wasn't the nice guy Kurt thought he was. So, what if he had a drink on occasion? Half of New Directions was at Puck's every weekend getting their drink on and they were fine. So, yeah. This was totally fine.

Blaine hurried back over with two bottles of water in one hand a tall glass filled with something blue in the other. Kurt eyed Blaine's drink warily and daintily sipped from his bottle.

"So, what did you think of the show?" Blaine asked.

"You were amazing," Mercedes said. "Definitely one of my top five concerts."

"Thank you very much," Blaine said. "That means a lot. Kurt?"

Kurt was suddenly very aware of how small this couch really was. The three of them were pressed hip to hip and Blaine's hand was very close to Kurt's knee and it was kind of hard to concentrate on anything with everything that was going on around him.

"I, um, yeah," Kurt said. "Definitely one of the best."

Mercedes stood up suddenly, causing Kurt to almost topple over into the now vacant space. "I'm gonna go find the restroom," she said.

Kurt wanted to beg her to stay. She must have seen something flash across his face because she just waved him off and squeezed his shoulder in support. Kurt took the opportunity to move away from Blaine a bit and tried to remember how to breathe. It was so stuffy.

"Are you okay?" Blaine asked, placing his hand gently on Kurt's knee.

"Yeah," Kurt said and took a gulp of water. "Sorry. It's just a bit overwhelming in here. I'm not really used to this."

Blaine nodded and appeared to think for a moment before motioning Kurt to follow him. He hesitated, not wanting to disappear on Mercedes, but he actually spotted her a few feet away talking to one of the guys in the band. She just smiled and nodded at him to follow Blaine. Kurt smiled nervously and quickly hurried after Blaine.

They left the lounge and walked a few doors down to another bar. This one was empty save for a piano in the corner. The chairs were resting on the table tops and half the garish fluorescent ceiling lights were on. Blaine, of course, headed straight for the piano and sat down to fiddle with the keys. Kurt hesitantly moved to sit next to Blaine on the small bench, removing his leather jacket as the room was quite warm.

"Is this better?" Blaine asked quietly.

"Yes, thank you," Kurt admitted. "But you didn't have to leave everyone; it's your party. We can go back."

"Kurt," Blaine said calmly. "It's fine. No one's going to miss me. Besides, they know where to find me if they need me."

"Come here often?"

"Well, we've only been in town a couple days, but I found this room the first night and kind of adopted it as my hiding place. To be honest, all that's not really me, either."

"Oh? You seemed to be having a good time."

Blaine just scoffed and gulped down the last of his drink.

"Okay," Kurt said. "Not to be Debbie Downer or anything, but couldn't everyone get in a lot of trouble if you get caught?"

"Who's gonna tell?" Blaine asked. "Sorry. God, that sounded horribly pretentious didn't it? I don't drink, at all really. I mean, my parents let me have a glass of wine with dinner every now and then, but I really don't do this."

"So, why are you?"


Kurt nodded.

"I guess I needed a little Dutch courage. You make me nervous."

Kurt just stared at Blaine, his eyebrows creeping closer to his hairline.

"I make you…?" Kurt asked. "But, why? How? I just… I'm nobody."

"You forget, Kurt," Blaine said coyly. "I've been thinking about you for a year now and what I would say if I ever got to meet you."

"And did you ever figure that out?"

"Sing with me," Blaine said after a pause.

Kurt blinked at Blaine. His mouth opening and closing with no sound coming out. What was happening to him? How had this become his life?

"I want to sing with you. Please," Blaine pleaded.

Kurt finally nodded, hoping his voice wouldn't fail him in this completely life-changing moment.

"What," Kurt said clearing his throat. "What do you want to sing?"

"I think," Blaine said, adjusting his hands on the piano, "that this would do us well."

Kurt listened as the familiar strains of For Good finally took shape. He smiled at Blaine who started them off with Elphaba's part.

I'm limited
Just look at me - I'm limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn't do, Glinda
So now it's up to you
For both of us - now it's up to you...

Kurt sat up straight and took a deep breath. This was his chance. He closed his eyes and sang.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Kurt opened his eyes as the last note rang out. He turned his gaze to Blaine who was staring at the piano, giving Kurt the opportunity to stare at his profile. The way his eyelashes fell across his cheeks, the slight bump in his nose, his strong jaw and chin. He was, to be honest, everything Kurt had never known he'd wanted. His crushes had always tended towards athletic guys, Finn being chief among them once upon a time. Blaine was the complete opposite of all that. He was shorter than Kurt, but there was still strength in his slight build. His wild hair and golden-hazel eyes at odds with perfectly groomed men he usually admired.

Blaine looked up and smiled the song reached the part where their voices finally joined together.

"Because I knew you," Kurt interjected before singing with Blaine, "I have been changed for good."

They traded leads once more before the final chorus as their voices united in harmony.

Who can say if I've been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Kurt's gaze never wavered from Blaine's. "And because I knew you..."

"Because I knew you..." Blaine answered.

"Because I knew you," they sang together. "I have been changed for good."

Blaine's hands rested on the keys and the air in the room grew heavy. Kurt was barely breathing, every fiber of his being completely aware of how close they were. The hair on his arms stood on end where it brushed against Blaine; their legs were pressed together from knee to hip as Blaine had moved during his playing. Kurt watched as Blaine's eyes dilated and he licked his lips in anticipation. Oh, god. This was it. Kurt was going to get his first real kiss.

And it was going to be from Blaine Anderson.

His gaze dropped to Blaine's lips as they leaned in to each other. His heart was beating so loud he was sure Blaine could hear it. He could feel Blaine's breath on his cheek and he was so close. He closed his eyes and…

"There you are," someone interrupted.

Kurt pulled back quickly, his face heating up at having been caught almost doing something.

"Sorry," the guy said, clearing his throat. "Alan was just wondering where you were. There's cake."

"Right," Blaine said. "Thanks, Terry. I'll be right there."

"Thought you said no one would miss you," Kurt said trying to laugh.

"I kinda forgot about the cake stuff," Blaine said. "Hometown show, so to speak. Gotta make it extra special."

"Right," Kurt agreed. He stood awkwardly and pulled his jacket back on. "You should get back to your guests."

"You're leaving?" Blaine asked.

"Yeah. It's getting late," Kurt reasoned. "We should get back to the hotel soon. Check out is 10:00 am, so, no sleeping in for us."

"Oh, yeah. Right," he replied. "I, um. It was great to finally meet you, Kurt."

"Yeah," Kurt said with a smile. "Yeah, this has been probably the best night of my life."

Blaine quirked his head and smiled at Kurt wistfully.

"What?" Kurt asked.

"Just… wondering, I guess. What if and all that?"

"What if what?"

"What if… we had met last year? What if I was still just… Blaine Warbler?"

"Another life, I guess," Kurt replied.

"Could I…" Blaine paused. "Do you think we could trade numbers? I'd like to stay in touch, if that's okay."


"Yes, of course."

Kurt pulled out his phone and passed it off to Blaine who handed his to Kurt. They programmed their numbers into each other's phone and walked slowly back to the party, their hands brushing but never quite catching hold. They stopped just outside the door, neither sure what to say. Kurt finally laughed at the tension and boldly pulled Blaine into a hug.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Blaine just nodded as they pulled apart, his hand trailing down Kurt's arm and giving him goosebumps even through the leather.

"Take care," Blaine replied. "I'll talk to you soon."

"You better," Kurt teased.

Blaine just chuckled and left Kurt with a wave and a wink. Kurt did a little happy dance once Blaine was out of sight. He was just about to text Mercedes to meet him in the hall, when she walked out of the lounge.

"And what do you have to be so excited about?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing," Kurt said, linking arms with her. "Just the best night of my life."

Chapter Text

"Tell me again," Mercedes said with a grin as they cruised down the highway back home.

Kurt sighed, but happily told Mercedes all that had happened between him and Blaine for the third time since they had left the party last night. Honestly, Kurt was kind of glad for Mercedes' nagging. The more he told the story, the more he believed that last night had actually happened.

"So, when are you going to call him?" Mercedes prodded when Kurt finished.

"Oh, I'm not calling him," Kurt said with a laugh.

"But he gave you his number, right? That means he wants you to call him."

"You don't call someone like Blaine Anderson, you wait for them to call you," Kurt explained. "Which I will and if, perchance, he calls more than once then maybe, I might call him one day."

Mercedes narrowed her eyes in confusion. "What if he's waiting for you to call?"

"He won't be. He's too busy and too important to sit around waiting for some boy from Ohio to call him. It'll be fine. If he doesn't call, well, then at least I have one night of amazing memories to keep."

They lapsed into silence after that, the radio a dull buzz in the background. They were approaching the exit for Lima when Kurt's phone rang. Expecting it to be his dad, Kurt picked up with the Bluetooth in his car and answered, "We're almost home. Just getting off the highway."

"That's good to know, I guess," Blaine said with a laugh.

"Blaine!" Kurt exclaimed. "Sorry, I thought you were my dad. He worries, you know."

"As any good parent should be."

"Um, so was there something you wanted?" Kurt asked after a pause.

"Oh, yeah," Blaine replied. "I just wanted to make sure you guys made it back and off this morning."

"Well, we did," Kurt said.

"It was great to meet you!" Mercedes chimed in.

"It was nice meeting you both, too," Blaine paused. "OK. Well, I'll let you go and get back to driving. I'll talk to you later?"

"Sure," Kurt replied. "Call me whenever."

"Will do. Bye!"

"Bye!" Kurt and Mercedes chirped.

"Oh my god!" Mercedes exclaimed when the call ended.

"What the hell was that?" Kurt asked.

"That was a morning after phone call," Mercedes said. "That is a very good sign. He is definitely interested, Kurt."

Kurt silently freaked out in the driver's seat. A boy liked him.

And not just any boy – Blaine freaking Anderson.

Who was the most amazingly talented, gorgeous, charming boy Kurt had ever met. Blaine Anderson who could have anyone he wanted and he wanted Kurt. It was just mind boggling.

He dropped Mercedes off and headed home, trying anything he could not to think about everything that had happened. He even turned on his Broadway playlist just so Blaine's music wouldn't distract him. When he got home, Kurt managed to hold a very civilized conversation with his father, leaving out most of the details of the evening, before heading upstairs where promptly threw himself face down on his bed and screamed into the pillow.

Things like this did not happen to Kurt Hummel. Kurt Hummel got thrown into dumpsters and shoved into lockers and had slushies thrown in his face. Handsome pop stars did not have crushes on him and want to spend time with him. God, he wanted to jump on his roof and yell it to the world.

But, no.

There was no way. This had to stay a secret. And, to be honest, Kurt really had no idea what Blaine's intentions might be. Sure, Blaine had tried to kiss him last night, but Blaine had also been rather drunk at that point. Who's to say Blaine wouldn't change his mind once he actually got to know Kurt?

Kurt rolled over and took a deep breath to calm himself. It was best to try and put this amazing experience behind him. Even if Blaine never talked to him again, it was still the best night of Kurt's life. But, sadly, life must go on and Kurt had calculus homework to do.

By Tuesday evening, Kurt had mostly recovered from the weekend. He'd only thought about Blaine a couple times a day, instead of all the time. He was ahead in his classes and finally figured out a topic for his research paper in French that was due at the end of the semester. So, he decided to indulge himself in a bath before bed. He'd picked up some new bath oils a couple weeks ago and hadn't had the chance to use them yet. They were infused with a little peppermint oil and it had smelled absolutely divine in the shop. He set up his iPod dock on the counter and set his Blaine playlist to play. He set his phone on the floor within easy reach, but not close enough to get wet before slipping into the bath. He sighed as he relaxed in the water and let the music wash over him.

He was so relaxed he was almost asleep when he heard is phone ring. He debated on whether or not to answer, but Mercedes more often than not left her homework for the last minute and would often call Kurt with questions. He wiped his hands on a towel and picked up without checking the caller ID.

"Hello?" he said.

"Hi, Kurt."

"Blaine!" Kurt exclaimed sitting up abruptly and almost dropping the phone. "Hi."

"Hi. Am I interrupting something?"

"Um, no, no. I'm just… getting ready for bed," Kurt said almost letting slip that he was in the bath, but quickly realizing that would probably be way too much information this early in their relationship. "Early morning for school tomorrow."

"Right. So, how's your week been so far?" Blaine asked.

"Fine, if a little boring compared to the weekend," Kurt teased.

Blaine laughed in response. "Yeah, it was a pretty good weekend," he agreed.

"So, where are you off to now?"

"We were in Pittsburgh last night, did some more press this morning and are currently making our way towards Boston for two shows starting tomorrow."

"Boston should be lovely this time of year. I've always wanted to see New England in the fall," Kurt commented.

"I'll have to send you some pictures then," Blaine said.

"That would be nice."

"So, what about you? How's school going?"

"Oh, you know," Kurt said dismissively, not wanting to get into all the drama so early in their still burgeoning friendship. "Boring and repetitive. It's high school."

"Do you at least have any fun electives being a senior?"

"Just glee club. McKinley isn't exactly one to push for high academic standards. I think they offer auto shop, but I could pass that in my sleep."

"Oh, really?" Blaine asked.

"Oh, yeah. My dad owns a repair shop. I usually help him out on weekends and over school breaks."

"I never would have guessed that about you."

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Blaine Anderson," Kurt replied. Oh, goodness, he thought. I'm flirting with Blaine Anderson. It was just too much.

"I'm beginning to see that," Blaine whispered.

Kurt bit his lip, blushing and very grateful that Blaine couldn't see him right now.

"Listen," Blaine said after a pause. "I'm actually going to be back in town for a couple days next week. If you're not doing anything would you and Mercedes like to have dinner one night?"

"Um, yeah, I think we should be free," Kurt replied trying not to swallow his tongue. "I mean, Sectionals is in a couple weeks, so after school rehearsals have been running longer. But a weekend should be fine. I'll have to double check with Mercedes."

"Yeah, no problem," Blaine said. "I'll be town starting Friday and I'll probably be heading out sometime on Monday. So, if you guys are free that Saturday, the 29th, I think?"

"That should be fine," Kurt rushed. "I'll get back to you for sure in a couple days, but Mercedes hasn't mentioned any plans."

"Okay, great," Blaine said and Kurt couldn't help thinking he sounded relieved. "Well, give me a call when you know and we can go from there."

"That sounds great."

"Good. So, um, I'll let you go. Get back to whatever you were doing and I'll talk to you soon."

"It's a plan," Kurt said.

"Okay. Well, good night, Kurt."

"Good night, Blaine."

Kurt hung up with Blaine and immediately called Mercedes. He had to tell someone and she was the only one who knew anything. And, he had to ask if she was free, too.

"Kurt, any plans I may have had are now cancelled. Ain't no way I'm passing up dinner with that fine man."

Kurt just laughed and confirmed that Mercedes really was free for dinner. He wanted to call Blaine back immediately, but knew he couldn't. He had to play this cool. Today was Tuesday, he would call Blaine back Thursday night. Well, afternoon. Blaine had just mentioned that he had two shows in Boston so he would be busy Thursday night. He could probably sneak off during lunch to call. Yes, that would work just fine.

Blaine was waiting when Kurt and Mercedes finally arrived at Breadstix. Kurt was worried they were late. He'd been ready since about 3:00 to try and avoid this very thing.

"No, don't worry," Blaine said when they sat down. "It's me. I'm just always early everywhere I go. My manager loves and hates it all the same time."

Kurt and Mercedes laughed as they looked over the menu. Not that it had changed since they were here last week or anytime in the last two years, really. But, well, it was something to do while they tried to work through that awkwardness that kind of felt like a first date.

"How's the tour going?" Mercedes asked.

"It's going really well. Everyone's really happy with the ticket sales and the audiences have been amazing."

"That's great," Kurt said.

"Excuse me?"

The three looked up to see a couple junior high aged girls next to their table.

"Are you… Blaine Anderson?" one asked nervously.

"I am," Blaine said with a smile.

The two girls giggled and one held out a napkin. "Could we get an autograph?"

"Sure! What are your names?"

"I'm Hannah and this is Leah."

"It's nice to meet you," Blaine said as he signed their napkins.

When he was done, he stood up and gave them both a quick hug before they left.

"Sorry about that," Blaine said.

"That's okay," Kurt said. "Does that happen a lot?"

"Not really, thank goodness," he replied. "Usually it'll happen on the day of the show if I run out for lunch near the venue or something. I don't really get a lot of random strangers stopping me in the street yet."

"That would drive me nuts," Mercedes said. "I don't know how celebrities do it."

"It's an adjustment," Blaine said. "My manager keeps telling me I need to find my 'public persona', whatever that means. But, I don't know. I get excited when other people are excited. If they're happy to meet me, the least I can do is be genuine and honest in return."

Before Kurt or Mercedes could respond, their waitress came by and took their order. Once she was gone, Blaine turned back to the two of them.

"So, how did you get started in glee club?" he asked.

"Sophomore year, the previous director was fired for 'inappropriate conduct'," Kurt explained. "I have no idea why there were even kids in the club with him leading it. He was so creepy."

"He really was. Did you know it was Rachel that turned him in?" Mercedes said.

"She did?" Kurt replied. "I really shouldn't be that surprised, I guess. That's totally something she would do."

"Who's Rachel?"

"The self-appointed diva of the club," Mercedes told Blaine. "She gets almost all the solos and thinks she's God's gift to McKinley."

"As much as it pains me to admit this, she is very talented," Kurt added.

"Almost as talented as you," Mercedes said.

"Well, thank you," Kurt said with a smile.

"You totally should have won the diva-off that first year."

"Diva-off?" Blaine asked.

"Yes," Kurt said dryly. "Mr. Schue wanted us to do Defying Gravity and just told Rachel she was going to sing it. I protested that just because the song was customarily sung by a girl didn't mean a boy couldn't sing it."

"And he was amazing. Until the end," Mercedes added.

"What happened?" Blaine asked.

"I… cracked on the high F," Kurt said. "Guess I just didn't have it in me that day."

"But you can hit a high F," Blaine said. "You did it at Sectionals."

"Yes, I can," Kurt replied. "Like I said, I guess I was just off my game that day."

They talked a bit about the other members of New Directions. Mike and Brittany's amazing dance moves, Puck's bad boy attitude that hid a heart of gold. The three Cheerios who oddly enough, had become really good friends. Artie, who liked to consider himself the next Eminem. And, of course, Finn.

"Who is now Kurt's stepbrother," Mercedes added with a grin.

"Really?" Blaine said. "That sounds like an interesting story."

"Oh, it is."

"Shut up, Mercedes," Kurt said.

"No, please," Blaine said. "Do go on."

"I can tell the story or you can," Mercedes taunted.

"I hate you so much," Kurt said under his breath. "Okay, it's not really that interesting. But, my mom passed away when I was eight and Finn's dad died in Iraq. I thought our remaining parents might get along and introduced them at one of the parent/teacher nights. They liked each other, got married last year and the end."

"You left out the best part!" Mercedes said.

"What's that?" Blaine asked.

"The real reason Kurt introduced them to begin with."

"Why are you doing this to me?" Kurt asked. "Do you want me to die of humiliation right here in the middle of Breadstix?"

"It can't be that bad," Blaine said.

"Okay. Fine," Kurt relented. "I had… a crush on Finn and I thought if our parents started dating then we would all spend more time together and I could get him to switch teams. Happy?"

Kurt took a long sip of Diet Coke and looked everywhere but at Blaine or Mercedes.

"So, wait," Blaine said. "The guy you have a crush on is now your stepbrother?"

"Had," Kurt emphasized. "Had a crush on. Believe me that crush has long since died a horrible death and he is now merely my slightly dim witted stepbrother who leaves his dirty socks all over the house."

"That's good to hear," Blaine said. "Otherwise, talk about awkward family dinners."

Kurt and Mercedes laughed and the conversation moved to slightly less embarrassing topics. By the end of the evening, it really felt like they were all on the way to becoming true friends.

That dinner started a tradition of sorts for the three friends. Kurt and Blaine took turns calling each other during the week and texting when something struck their fancy. Whenever Blaine was in town he would call and arrange dinner or coffee with Kurt and Mercedes. More often than not, they ended up meeting somewhere between Lima and Westerville to help cut down on one of them always driving two hours just for dinner. Plus, there was less of a chance of them running into someone they knew. There was something in Kurt that wanted to keep this thing with Blaine just his for a little longer.

Occasionally, Mercedes wouldn't be able to make it and Kurt would often pretend he was on a real date with Blaine. Or the nights when Blaine ended up coming over for dinner as Kurt was too busy to meet him out, he imagined Blaine was his boyfriend having dinner with his family. He knew it was foolish, but he couldn't help hoping.

It was really nice to see the way everyone accepted him so easily. Kurt knew Blaine didn't have the same relationship with his parents that Kurt had with his dad and Carole. It was good to see Blaine so happy and relaxed in those times.

There were times when Kurt would catch Blaine staring at him a little too long. He would always touch Kurt in some little manner, a hand on the shoulder or his arm to get his attention, a squeeze to his knee when something was particularly funny. He always insisted on inviting Mercedes along whenever they went out and the times she couldn't come, he seemed rather nervous and slightly withdrawn.

Even still, Blaine was well on his way to becoming Kurt's best friend, as much as it pained him to think that. Mercedes was wonderful and amazing and would always be in Kurt's life, but… Blaine knew what it was like to be Kurt. He could commiserate and comfort Kurt in a way no one else could. Kurt had confessed some of what happened to him at McKinley during the first three years. He tried to make light of it, not wanting to get into the gritty details of his daily life. Blaine, in turn, admitted that he hadn't always attended Dalton. He had transferred after his freshman year due to similar taunting.

There were a few nights they stayed up way too late on the phone discussing… everything. Their hopes and dreams; their fears and doubts.

"I mean, I'm still not sure this is something I want to do forever," Blaine confessed one night. "It's a lot of fun, sure, but doing this when I'm 40? Or 50? I just can't see it."

"Who says you have to?" Kurt asked. "A lot of musicians move on to behind the scenes stuff when they're done performing. Producing, talent scout, or even just being a songwriter for other artists."

"That's true," Blaine said. "What about you? What do you see yourself doing in 20 years?"

Kurt just sighed. He'd been asking himself this very question almost every day since his senior year started. It was so strange to think that his entire life could very well hinge on where he chose to go to school and what he wanted to study for the next four years.

"I've always said New York and performing, but lately... . I guess it's just that self-doubt everyone has. Will I be good enough? Can I do this and not starve? And the pressure is just increasing because applications need to be sent in soon and some of the application fees are insane. If the application is that expensive, can I even afford to attend for four years? And New York is just so far away. It's one thing to visit for a few days, but I don't know if I could leave my dad for such a long time. It was just us for so long…" Kurt trailed off.

"But now he has Carole and Finn, too."

"I know. But," Kurt took a deep breath before he continued. "He had a heart attack last year, and he's fine now, but if something else was to happen and I wasn't here… ."

"I can't even begin to imagine what that had to be like, but, Kurt? You can't let the fear of what might happen keep you from your dream. Your dad has to know that, right?"

"He does," Kurt admitted. "I can tell he's scared to let me go, but over the summer we sat down and talked about college. He told me he saw how happy and excited I was when we got back from New York and if that's where I wanted to go, then we would make it work."

"There you go. Everything will work out, Kurt. Have you narrowed down your choices yet?"

"I think so. I think it'll be NYU, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Oberlin and Northwestern. NYU and American Academy of Dramatic Arts are obviously my top choices, but the competition to get in there is so fierce… ."

"You can do it, Kurt," Blaine said. "Have you given any thought to what your audition pieces are going to be?"

From there, the conversation took on a much lighter, if still serious tone. They weighed the pros and cons of all the songs in Kurt's repertoire. He enjoyed the Beatles and always sang them well. Or he could really go for the gusto and do something from Gypsy or Wicked. He still had some time to think and Blaine offered his ear if Kurt wanted to rehearse when Blaine was next in town. Kurt was a little worried about the dramatic monologue. He hadn't done much straight up acting and was a little worried about which way to go – comedic or serious? If he did a song from Wicked, should he do a scene from it, as well? Or would that be overkill?

There was just so much to think about and Kurt's head was spinning with where to even begin.

Thanksgiving was coming soon and Blaine called wanting to take Kurt and Mercedes out to dinner while he was home as a celebration of New Directions' win at Sectionals. Since all of the nicer restaurants were booked up with reservations weeks ago, they once more descended on Breadstix for their meal.

"How was the competition?" Blaine asked.

"The Warblers were wonderful," Kurt said knowing that's what Blaine was really asking. "They did a fantastic cover of the new Kings of Leon song. Nick sounded great on lead."

"Nick's on lead now?"

"Actually, Nick sang lead on that one, and Trent and Jeff shared the lead on Come on, Eileen."

"They did what?"

"It was fantastic!" Mercedes said, laughing. "It was completely ridiculous and they knew it and they just hammed it up so much. They really looked like they were having so much fun."

"Well, good," Blaine said. "That's good. Those guys needed to loosen up a bit."

"Have you seen any of them?" Kurt asked.

"Some of the guys," Blaine said. "I keep in touch mostly with Nick and Jeff and we had coffee when I was in town a couple weeks ago. When the tour is done in a couple weeks, I'll be back probably until the beginning of January. I was hoping to maybe plan a bit of a reunion when they're done for the semester and some of the other guys are back in town from college."

"That sounds nice," Kurt said.

"What about you guys? Any big plans for the holiday?"

"Not really," Kurt said. "I think my dad mentioned…"

Kurt trailed off, his hand frozen in midair, half way to his mouth and he just stared at something over Blaine's shoulder. He looked absolutely terrified.

"I have to go," he whispered. "I have to go. I need to get out of here."

He scrambled out of the booth, almost knocking over everyone's drinks in his rush. Mercedes looked over to try and see what had frightened Kurt, but she knew only one person could have that kind of effect.

"Shit," she said when she saw it was indeed Karofsky standing in the lobby of the restaurant. She pushed off to chase after Kurt before turning back to Blaine. "I'm sorry. I need to… Can you take care of this?"

"Yeah," Blaine said. "Absolutely. Just go make sure he's okay."

Kurt ran out the side door, grateful it was there and he wouldn't have to run by Karofsky to get out of the restaurant. He dropped to his knees on the little patch of grass next to the dumpsters, trying to remember how to breathe. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and looked over to see Mercedes there.

"Why does he still…" he gasped. "Why can't I…"

"Shh," she said. "Just breathe. Come on, with me. In, one, two, three. Out, one, two, three. That's it. Nice and easy."

She rubbed his back as Kurt got his breathing back under control. When he was calmed down enough, he turned over and sat down properly, his head falling to Mercedes' shoulder and she rubbed his arm in comfort.

"Better?" she asked quietly.

Kurt just nodded, still not trusting his voice. He concentrated on his breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth. He was almost feeling human again, when a pair of shoes stepped into his view. He looked up to see Blaine staring at him, a look of concern and confusion on his face.

Blaine. Shit.

"I'm sorry," Kurt whispered. "I shouldn't have just… ."

"Hey, no," Blaine said crouching in front of him and taking his hand. "Don't even worry about it. It's fine. Did you… do you want to go?"

Kurt just nodded. That would probably be for the best.

Blaine dropped Mercedes off first and he was about to head towards Kurt's house next when Kurt put his hand on the steering wheel.

"Can you just drive for a bit?" he asked. "I'm not quite sure I'm ready to go home."

Blaine just nodded. Kurt noticed Blaine kept glancing at him; his mind was no doubt whirling with whatever thoughts he had about what had just happened. Eventually, he pulled into an empty park and they just sat there, staring out the windshield at the abandoned swings.

"His name is Dave Karofsky," Kurt said quietly. "He is responsible for making my life a living hell. He shoved me into lockers so hard that sometimes I would have bruises for a week. Once he managed to push me just right so the vent cut into my shoulder. I still have a little scar from it. He slushied me at least three times a week. Occasionally, it was every day. I always had a change of clothes in my locker. I could never figure out what it was that I had done to make him so angry at me. I didn't have any classes with him; I never spoke to him. It was like one day he just decided I was the target. Then one day… It was just getting to be too much and I was getting so angry because no one cared what he was doing and what right did he have to do that to me?"

Kurt paused as the memories of what had happened almost exactly a year ago flooded his brain.

Regionals were in less than a week and glee rehearsals had been running longer every night. They had finally finished for the day and everyone was packing up to leave. Kurt double checked he had all the books he needed for that night's homework and realized he had left his history book in his gym locker. He quickly walked the length of the school; it was late and he just wanted to go home.

Luckily the locker room was empty when he reached it and he hurried over to his locker to grab what he needed. He closed it and was about to head out when someone shoved him from behind, sending him sprawling across the floor and banging his shoulder on the bench.

"Hey, lady boy," Karofsky said as he stood over Kurt.

"What is your problem?" Kurt spat as he stood up.

"I just don't want you ogling me, Hummel. The girl's locker room is across the hall."

"Right," Kurt said, dusting off his coat. "Because that's what every gay guy does in the locker room. Has it ever occurred to your Neanderthal brain that your virtue is perfectly safe because you're not my type?"

"Is that so?"

"Yeah. Dumb as a rock isn't exactly high on the list of attributes I look for in a guy."

"Back off, Hummel."

Kurt looked down and saw Karofsky's hands balling into fists. "You want to hit me?" he asked.

"I almost wished he would have," Kurt admitted to Blaine. "Maybe a black eye would finally be the proof the administration needed to have him expelled. But what he actually did?"

Kurt just shook his head as the memories washed over him. He'd tried so hard to forget what had happened.

"It's okay," Blaine said. "You don't have to tell me."

"He kissed me," Kurt said finally looking over at Blaine. "He just leaned in and kissed me. And, god, that was so much worse than him punching me. Hate, I can deal with, but that? The idea that he might have feelings for me? And I couldn't just leave it alone. I had to push and prod until he broke."

"Hey, no," Blaine said, reaching up to wipe the tears Kurt hadn't even noticed were falling. "It's not your fault. That? It's all on him. He's obviously not able to accept himself and he lashed out. Unfortunately, you got caught in the crossfire."

"I've never told anyone what happened. Not my dad or even Mercedes. I don't know why. It would serve him right, you know? But I couldn't do that. It's not my place to out him to anyone. That just pissed me off even more."

"You did the right thing, Kurt. Pushing him out of the closet wouldn't have benefitted anyone. It probably would have made things worse."

"I know," Kurt said. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For listening. It actually feels kind of good to get all that off my chest."

"You're welcome." Blaine took a deep breath, looking like he wanted to say something else.

"What is it?" Kurt asked.

"I came out of the closet rather spectacularly my freshman year just after the winter break. Every spring, my old school had a Sadie Hawkins dance. I asked a friend of mine, who was the only other out gay kid at the school, if he wanted to go with me. So, we went and had fun. It was nice, even if we didn't actually dance together. So, after, we're waiting for his dad to come pick us up, just standing in the parking lot, talking and laughing." Here, Blaine paused and Kurt could see he was struggling to continue. "Then these three guys came out of nowhere and just… beat the crap out of us. I was in the hospital for almost a week. He was in longer. They managed to kick him in the head in just the right place that he suffered severe head trauma. He's in a remedial school now for kids with learning disabilities. He was so smart, too. He was going to be a lawyer and he was going to be amazing. Now, his mom has to help him get dressed in the morning."

"Oh my god, Blaine," Kurt whispered.

"It's okay," he said. "I made my peace with it and they caught the guys that did. They did some jail time, so that's something, I guess."

Kurt was utterly speechless. Compared to what Blaine had just told him, McKinley was practically a cakewalk. Blaine had been gay bashed and he still had such a positive outlook on life? It was staggering. Blaine made him want to be better. He wanted to live up to the expectations Blaine had of him.

"I don't mean to belittle anything you've been through," Blaine added. "I just… I know what it's like to be so scared, to be so absolutely terrified and completely helpless to do anything about it."

"I think I'd like to go home now," Kurt said after a few minutes.

"Sure," Blaine said, putting the car in gear and pulling out.

They rode in silence to Kurt's house, each lost in their own thoughts. Kurt wanted to tell Blaine how brave he was and how much he admired his perseverance, but he just couldn't find the words. They pulled up in front of Kurt's house a few minutes later and Kurt just turned to look at Blaine one last time. He smiled sadly and reach for Blaine's hand that was resting on the gear shift.

"Thank you," Kurt said again. "For sharing that with me. You're an amazing person Blaine."

Blaine just smiled and shrugged, dismissing Kurt's compliment. He squeezed Kurt's hand in return and reached to unlock the doors. "I'll see you in a couple weeks."

"Yes, you will. Oh! Carole wants you over to bake cookies, apparently. It's something of a tradition we started last year with our first Christmas together."

"Oh, no. I couldn't intrude on your family time like that."

"Yes, you will. You know Carole won't take no for an answer and, well, you are family."

"All right then," Blaine nodded. "I'll give you a call when I'm back in town and we can arrange a day?"

"That sounds good."

"Okay. Good night, Kurt."

"Good night, Blaine."

Something inside Kurt tugged at him to lean over and kiss Blaine. He hesitated for a moment and heard Blaine pull in a deep breath in anticipation, but… Kurt just nodded and stepped out of the car. He couldn't risk the rejection and humiliation.

He turned around when he got to the front door and waved one last time before entering the house. When he got upstairs, he pulled back the curtain on his window slightly and saw Blaine was still sitting in the driveway. He wanted to run back downstairs and say screw it all and fall into Blaine's arms and never let go. Something was holding Blaine back, though, so Kurt would wait. He would wait forever if that's what it took.

It was almost a week before Kurt heard from Blaine again, which wasn't too surprising. Their last conversation had been pretty intense and Kurt was still trying to come to terms with everything. Eventually, Blaine called with when he would be in town and they arranged the time he would be over for holiday baking with everyone. To be honest, Kurt had never really enjoyed Christmas much since his mom had passed. Plus, being an atheist, even celebrating the holiday in a strictly secular manner still felt wrong. This year, he had to admit he was kind of looking forward to it.

Blaine's initial phone call seemed to finally break down the dam that had built between them. Their confessions that night seemed to only bring them closer together. Their phone calls increased to an almost daily basis, even if it was just five minutes at the end of the day to say hello and good night. Kurt wasn't too surprised then, to find Blaine showing up at his house periodically over the break to just hang out.

One Saturday in mid-December, he had managed to escape the chaos of his house and was over at the Hummel/Hudson residence trying to get his sanity back. Burt and Carole were both at work, so it was just Kurt, Blaine and Finn. Finn, though, was apparently in an epic Gears of War tournament with Puck, so Kurt and Blaine would be lucky if he came up for food.

"I mean, I love them all," Blaine said as he lounged on Kurt's bed while Kurt poked around on his computer. "Sometimes, though, enough is enough. There's suddenly all these aunts and uncles and cousins wanting to see me and pretending like we've known each other for years when I have no recollection of ever meeting them. It's just so ridiculous."

"Well, you know you can always come here whenever you need a break," Kurt replied.

"Thanks. I really appreciate it."

"Well, what are friends for?"

Blaine just laughed and nodded. "So, what's going on with you? How's glee club?"

"Oh, you know," Kurt said passively. "Rachel's being a diva about the Regionals set list, Finn keeps leaving his dirty socks all over the house, and Mr. Schue is crazy."

"So, nothing new then?"


Blaine just laughed at Kurt's sour expression. "What's the assignment this week?"

"It's so ridiculous; I don't even know where to start."

"Well, start at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop," Blaine said sitting up and giving Kurt his full attention.

Kurt just rolled his eyes in exasperation. "You think you're so cute."

"I think I'm adorable," Blaine replied, a ridiculously huge grin on his face.

Kurt just ignored him and launched into the tale of this week's glee drama.

"So, Holly Holiday is back. I think I've mentioned her before?" Kurt asked, glad to see Blaine nod in response. That would save a lot of explanation. "She's been hired on as the part-time sex-ed teacher and the whole school has gone safe sex crazy! Even Mr. Schue. Our assignment this week – sexy."

Kurt just stared as Blaine burst out laughing.

"It's not funny," Kurt said seriously.

"I'm sorry," Blaine said, composing himself. "I just had the sudden mental image of Finn trying to sing 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy'!"

"Oh, ew!" Kurt exclaimed, swatting Blaine on the arm. "Why'd you have to say that? I'm gonna need brain bleach to get rid of that mental picture!"

Blaine, at least, had the decency to look properly chastised for inflicting such horrible imagery upon Kurt.

"So, what's the problem?" Blaine asked.

"What's the problem? For one thing, if we're trying to learn about safe sex then shouldn't we be performing the least sexy songs we know instead of purposely trying to titillate each other? And two, I don't know how to be sexy, Blaine! I have all the sexual knowledge of a baby penguin."


"Um, yeah. Why would I lie about that?"

Kurt just stared as Blaine paused, as if waiting for Kurt to continue. When Kurt didn't, Blaine eventually spoke.

"So, you really have no idea, do you?"

"About what?"

"Kurt," Blaine said calmly. "You are probably one of the sexiest guys I know."

Kurt just scoffed and rolled his eyes. Yeah, right, he thought.

"I'm serious," Blaine insisted. "You want to know what being sexy is all about?"

"Sure, what?" Kurt asked blandly.

"It's just confidence," Blaine replied. "It's not about showing yourself off or even knowing about sex. Knowing who you are and being confident in that? That's the sexiest thing you can do." Blaine paused and Kurt could see him thinking about what to say next. "It's one of the things I admire most about you."

Kurt just sat there for a moment, unsure of what to think of what Blaine had told him. "You admire me?" he asked quietly.

"I do," Blaine confirmed. "You're so sure of who you are and you're not afraid to just… live that."

"Well, what about you? I mean, you came out in your first interview with a national magazine. That could have stopped your career before it even started."

"Maybe I am confident, or maybe I'm just stupid and don't know when to stop talking," Blaine said. "You know what happened to me in high school. I ran. I didn't have the courage you did to stay and stand up for myself."

"Yeah, and look where that got me."

"I know it's not always easy for you, but things do seem to be getting better, don't they?"

Kurt nodded. With Karofsky gone and Kurt's status as a senior this year, the bullying had pretty much stopped. There was the occasional comment, but the physical abuse was definitely no longer an issue. Most people just seemed to ignore him now. Sometimes, though, Kurt wasn't sure which was worse.

"So, anyway," Blaine said. "Back to the assignment. What songs did you have in mind?"

"Um, nothing?" Kurt replied. "As I said, I can't do sexy."

"Yes, you can," Blaine insisted. "Now come on, give me sexy."


"Show me sexy."


"I'm not going to leave this alone, Kurt. Show. Me. Sexy."

Kurt just rolled his eyes before relenting. He knew Blaine and there was no way he'd be able to escape this. He screwed up his courage and tried giving Blaine his best come hither look. He narrowed his eyes and curled his lips, snarling at Blaine like some kind of sexy animal. That worked, right?

Blaine's response was not what Kurt was expecting. He looked vaguely nauseated and quirked one eyebrow at Kurt.

"I told you," Kurt said dropping his face to his hands. He was so embarrassed, he wanted to die.

"No, stop it. It wasn't that bad," Blaine said.

"You looked like you were going to be sick," Kurt replied.

"OK. Come here," he said, holding his hands out to Kurt.

Kurt slowly walked over and joined Blaine on the bed, sitting cross-legged, they faced each other, knees touching.

"Now, what were you thinking about just then?"

"Well, nothing really," Kurt admitted.

"That's your problem right there. OK, let's try something. Close your eyes."

Kurt just looked at Blaine like he had three heads.

"Do you trust me?" Blaine asked.

Kurt paused before nodding that he did. He probably trusted Blaine more than he trusted anyone, and that was kind of scary to think about.

"Then just… close your eyes."

Kurt took a deep breath before closing his eyes. Feeling Blaine's hands still holding his he squeezed gently and received a small squeeze in return.

"Now, imagine yourself at a party," Blaine said softly. "Maybe it's in college or little later. But you're standing with your friends, laughing, having a good time. Across the room, you see this guy you've had your eye on for awhile. Do you see him?"

Kurt nodded as an imaginary Blaine immediately filled his mind's eye.

"Good. Maybe you've known him for a few weeks and maybe you've even flirted a little, but neither of you have made a move yet. But tonight, that's going to change."

Kurt's breathing sped up as he imagined everything Blaine was saying. He could see his imaginary Blaine on the other side of the room. They kept trading glances and smiling at each other, but neither of them moved away from the group they were with. He could feel the excitement in the air of something possible, something new.

"He sees you," Blaine continued. "He smiles and you smile back."

Kurt smiled as Blaine seemed to be reading his mind.

"You see him move away from his friends towards the backyard. You follow, knowing that now is your chance. He's alone when you catch up with him on the deck. It's quiet and peaceful out there, so you don't want to say anything and ruin the moment. You know he likes you, so you just… look at him. You let everything you're feeling show in your face, all the desire, all the want."

Kurt's breathing became rapid. He felt himself practically panting as he imagined the desire coursing through him.

"Open your eyes," Blaine whispered.

Kurt slowly opened his eyes and immediately locked onto Blaine's. He saw Blaine's breath catch in his throat and felt him squeeze his hands in response.

"Kurt," he whispered hoarsely and he started to lean in close.

Kurt knew what was coming. His already shallow breathing quickened and he licked his lips in anticipation. Kurt saw Blaine's eyes flick to his lips as he licked his own in preparation. Kurt wanted to lean in and close the distance and finally have that kiss he'd so long desired, but he was frozen to the spot, not quite believing that this was really happening.

"Hey, guys. I was going to order pizza. Did you want…" Finn said as he barged in the door.

Kurt quickly pulled back from Blaine, dropping his hands and the contact between them. He watched Finn look between the two of them, noting the blush that was certainly still visible on Kurt's face and Blaine's awkward body language.

"Sorry," Finn said. "Did I interrupt something?"

"No," Kurt said quickly standing up. "No, it's fine. Pizza?"

"Um, yeah. Do you guys want anything?"

Kurt looked to Blaine whose gaze was locked on Kurt's comforter. "Blaine?" he asked.

"Um, yeah," Blaine answered, clearing his throat. "Pizza's fine. Whatever you want is good."

"Okay. Um, we'll have half cheese, half sausage and mushroom," Kurt said turning back to Finn.

"Right. I'll let you guys know when it gets here," Finn said, pausing before closing the door. "Is everything okay?"

"It's fine," Kurt insisted.

Finn just nodded before finally leaving them alone. Kurt stood up from the bed, needing some space from Blaine. He went back to his computer and opened up his iTunes, idly flipping through and seeing if anything struck his fancy. He was about to give up when one song caught his attention.

"So," Blaine said. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking Adam Lambert," Kurt said, purposely ignoring Blaine's intended meaning.

"I think that sounds like an excellent choice," Blaine said.

Kurt looked over and saw Blaine smiling at him, looking like nothing had happened. Which, nothing had.

"Want to rehearse before dinner gets here?" Blaine asked.

"Sure," Kurt said.

He started the song and walked to the middle of the room, random choreography running through his head as he waited for the vocals to start. He would definitely need to find a top hat and cane for this performance and he had an old black, pleather raincoat he would probably tailor for his costume.

Adam's voice started and Kurt improvised some moves as he sang through the song once. He might have to look up the video to get a better idea of some choreography he could incorporate into his performance. He ended with one hand in the air, his head tossed back and the other hand leaning on an imaginary cane.

"That was great!" Blaine said applauding. "I've got a couple ideas, if that's okay."

While they waited for the pizza, the worked through some ideas and got a solid start on the choreography. Blaine agreed that the video would be a good place for some more ideas. By the end of the evening, the awkwardness was mostly gone and they were back to just being Kurt and Blaine. Though, once more, Kurt was left dangling with a thread of hope that Blaine really did want more, but there was something keeping him from giving in.

A few days later, Kurt strutted onto the stage in the McKinley auditorium, ready to perform his assignment for the week. He was dressed head to toe in black, complete with top hat and cane. He'd cut the knee length black coat off in the front, making a rudimentary tailcoat that had been decked out in studs and rivets and glitter. He'd squeezed into the tightest black pants he owned and finished it all off with his knee high black Doc Marten boots. His back was to the audience and he couldn't help but smile at the catcalls and whistles he heard from his classmates.

The synthesized beat started, the bright white lights flashed and Kurt moved his hips, thrusting in time to the music. He turned around just as he started singing.

So hot
Out the box
Can we pick up the pace?
Turn it up,
Heat it up
I need to be entertained
Push the limit
Are you with it?
Baby, don't be afraid
I'mma hurt ya real good, baby

He moved all around the stage, dancing with the cane, kicking it over his shoulder and flipping the top hat. He rolled around on the floor, gyrating with an as yet unseen animal ferocity.

Let's go
It's my show
Baby, do what I say
Don't trip off the glitz
That I'm gonna display
I told ya
I'ma hold ya down until you're amazed
Give it to ya 'til you're screaming my name

He ripped off his coat revealing a tight sleeveless, black and white splatter printed t-shirt. The girls and a couple of the boys in the audience whooped as he threw the coat at them.

No escaping when I start
Once I'm in I own your heart
There's no way you'll ring the alarm
So hold on until it's over

Oh, do you know what you got into?
Can you handle what I'm 'bout to do?
'Cause it's about to get rough for you
I'm here for your entertainment

Oh, I bet you thought that I was soft and sweet
Ya thought an angel swept you off ya feet
But I'm about to turn up the heat
I'm here for your entertainment

By the time he reached the last chorus, Kurt was panting from the exhilaration. He tore the top hat off his head, throwing that out into the audience, as well. He had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. He'd never felt this kind of power before and it was kind of heady. As he had in rehearsal, he finished the song with his right hand raised in the air, his hips cocked to the side as he leaned on the cane in his left and dropped his head back.

For a second, there was no applause and Kurt was worried he had overstepped the boundaries. Just as he was about to rush off stage in disappointment, the auditorium erupted in applause. Kurt never knew fifteen people could make such noise.

"Wow, Kurt!" Mr. Schuester said coming up on stage. "That was amazing. Truly. I don't think we've ever seen that side of you before."

"I honestly wasn't sure I had it in me," Kurt admitted.

"Honey," Santana yelled. "You definitely got something in you. Or maybe it's someone."

"Santana!" Mercedes yelled.

"Hey. I just call it like I see it," Santana said. She said nothing else but just looked at Kurt with a knowing glint in her eye. No, nothing had happened, but maybe Blaine was having a bigger impact on Kurt that even he knew.

Chapter Text

Kurt's Skype pinged as he flitted around his room, trying to find his left boot. He absently hit the ACCEPT button as he rushed over to check under his bed. Again. It had to be here somewhere. It's not like it got up and walked away on its own.

"Hi, Blaine!" he called out.

"Kurt? Where are you?" Blaine asked.

"I'm looking for my boot," he muttered. "The left one has gone missing and they're the only shoes that will work with this outfit."

"Oo," Blaine teased. "You got a hot date tonight or something?"

Kurt paused in his search and took a deep breath, grateful that Blaine couldn't actually see his face right now. He and Blaine had been growing closer recently and the holidays had firmly cemented Blaine in his daily life. His dad was always asking after him and was insisting that Blaine come for dinner whenever he was in town. But, if sometimes Blaine smiled at Kurt like they were the only two people in the world that mattered, well, that was just between them. So, no matter how firmly they had established themselves in the "friend zone," this was going to be awkward.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Kurt replied, finally coming to sit in front of his computer.

"Oh," Blaine said, a look of confusion on his face. "I mean, that's great, but I thought you were the only out kid at your school?"

"I am," Kurt replied slowly. "He doesn't go to McKinley. We met at the mall, actually, and he goes to Ohio State."

"Ah! An older man, huh?"

Kurt just rolled his eyes at Blaine and was happy to hear a laugh in return.

"He's only a freshman, so he's barely a year older than me. Don't go getting any funny ideas, Mr. Anderson."

"I would never," Blaine insisted, his face the perfect picture of innocence.

"Right," Kurt teased.

"So, you met at the mall?" Blaine finally said, breaking the somewhat awkward pause.

"It was so cheesy," Kurt laughed. "If it hadn't happened to me, I would swear whoever told me this story was making it up."

Their trip to the mall had been all Mercedes' idea in the first place. The girls needed dresses for Regionals and the multitude of post-holiday sales were an excellent opportunity to score some awesome deals. They were on their way out of Barney's, which had been a complete bust, to check out H&M when Kurt got distracted by the accessories rack; there was a bow tie hanging there that was calling his name. It was absolutely perfect and he could already imagine at least 6 different outfits he could make with it. And at 50% off, who could resist?

"Oh, sorry," Kurt said as his hand bumped into someone else's.

"No, that's okay," a deep voice rumbled with a small laugh. "I think this is much more your style."

Kurt looked up. And up and up before finally making eye contact with a very nice looking boy. Young man. Boy. Whatever. He had short, dark blond hair styled in that trendy faux-hawk that Kurt could never pull off, warm brown eyes and a smile full of straight, white teeth that Kurt tentatively returned. With the square jaw and the muscles filling out his clothes, he definitely looked like a jock. Guys that looked like that generally did their best to avoid Kurt, or their best to purposely get in Kurt's way to shove him into a locker.

"Are you sure?" Kurt asked.

"Yeah, definitely," he replied. "I'm not really a bow tie kind of guy but my friend Olivia insisted bow ties were 'in' and that I should give them a shot."

Kurt instinctively tilted his head and appraised the man before him. He had an athletic build with broad shoulders and a muscled chest; the sleeves of his tee were pushed up to his elbows revealing powerful looking forearms and strong thighs strained against his fitted jeans.

"Yeah," Kurt agreed. "Right as your friend was about bow ties being in, they're all wrong for you."


"Trust me. With your build a bow tie is only going to make you look wider and, well, bulkier. Stick with a classic skinny tie if you want to spruce up your wardrobe. Vertical lines will help you look leaner and taller. Not that you really need help with that," Kurt said nervously.

"I'll keep that in mind, thanks. I'm Charlie," he said after a pause holding his hand out.

"Kurt," Kurt replied shaking his hand.

"Listen, do you maybe want to go get a cup of coffee? Give me a few more fashion tips?" Charlie asked.

Kurt paused, momentarily stunned by the question. This never happened to him. He hadn't been sure before, but now there seemed to be no doubt – Charlie was flirting with him. He was about to agree just because he might never have the chance again, when he remembered that Rachel and Mercedes were waiting for him over at H&M.

"I, um, I can't," Kurt said. "I would love to, but my friends are actually waiting for me."

"Oh, sure. No problem. Could I maybe call you sometime then?"

Kurt blinked, once again a little surprised at Charlie's question.

"Really?" he couldn't help asking.

"Yeah, really," Charlie said with a smile.

"Um, yeah, sure."

Kurt pulled out his phone and the two exchanged numbers before Charlie walked off with a promise to call Kurt in a couple days. Kurt, of course, wasn't holding his breath, but it was nice to have that little hope for a moment. And, as soon as Charlie was out of sight, Kurt paid for the bowtie and took off running to fill in Rachel and Mercedes on what had just happened.

"Was he cute?" Rachel asked.

"He was beyond cute," Kurt replied. "Scorching hot is more like it."

"What are you going to do if he calls?" Mercedes asked.

"I don't know. Talk to him? Maybe say yes if he actually asks me out? Not that that's gonna happen."

Mercedes smacked him on the arm, a stern look on her face.

"What?" Kurt asked.

"He asked you out just now, didn't he?"

"Yeah, and I said no and he left and he's going to run into some other guy who's actually his type and forget all about me," Kurt rambled.

"Fine. Twenty bucks," Mercedes replied.


"Twenty bucks that he calls you and you have a date next weekend."

"I'm in!" Rachel added.

"Whatever," Kurt said rolling his eyes. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"And as you can probably tell he did call. So, here we are and I'm out forty bucks," Kurt concluded.

"Is that the tie?" Blaine asked.

"It is. What do you think?"

Blaine squinted and tilted his head appraisingly. "Let me see the whole outfit," he said.

Kurt stood up and backed away so his webcam could capture the full outfit, twisting and turning so Blaine could see the outfit from every angle. The bowtie was dark blue with a Japanese inspired floral print in ivory. He'd paired it with a light gray shirt that had a subtle white stripe and his dark gray, knee length trousers. He'd wanted to wear his favorite black knee-high Doc Marten boots, but not if he couldn't find the stupid left one. And if he couldn’t find the other boot then he would have to change the pants. Ugh. This was such a mess.

"It's good," Blaine said. "What about the gray kilt and leggings? Then you could wear the white Doc Martens."

"You don't think that would be too much?"

"Not at all," Blaine said.

"OK, hang on one second."

Kurt did one last frantic search of his room for the missing boot and not finding it, rushed into his closet to change into the kilt. He made the change in record time and grabbed the white Doc Martens from their place on his shelf.

"How do I look?" Kurt asked, stopping a ways back from the webcam to allow Blaine to get a good look at the whole outfit.

"You look perfect," Blaine said a fond smile on his face.

Kurt just smiled and blushed a little in reply.

"Hey, now. None of that mister," Blaine chided.

"Fine. Thank you," Kurt replied.

"Good. So, what are you guys doing?"

"Oh, just the typical dinner and a movie thing. I think he mentioned something about the new Johnny Depp movie."

"Oh, that looks good. You'll have to let me know how it is."

"Will do," Kurt said.

Blaine looked like he was about to say something when the doorbell rang.

"That's him," Kurt said nervously.

"You'll be fine," Blaine said with a tight smile. "You can do this, Kurt. It's just dinner and a movie. Nothing you haven't done before."

"Right. Thank you," Kurt replied, suddenly serious.

"For what?"

"For… everything. For being my friend. For being amazing. For being… you and letting me be me."

"Well, you're welcome. Knock him dead, Kurt," Blaine said switching off the chat suddenly.

"Bye," Kurt whispered to the blank screen.

He sat there for a moment, wondering about Blaine's sudden attitude change. He looked towards his door and caught sight of his left boot sticking out from behind his dresser. How had it gotten back there? Anyway, there was no time to wonder about that now. Charlie had already been alone with his dad for much longer than Kurt would have liked. He rushed out of his room, hoping to make it downstairs before too much damage was done.

"Sorry, I kept you waiting," Kurt said as he rushed down the stairs.

Charlie was standing in the entry with his dad, smiling, which Kurt was glad to see. His dad had a worried look on his face, which Kurt was expecting.

"That's all right," Charlie said. "Your dad and I were just getting to know each other a little."

"You didn't mention he was in college, Kurt," his dad said with a tight smile.

"I didn't? I was sure I had," Kurt said, pulling on his coat and scarf. "Well, anyway, he's only a freshman, dad, so don't be too worried."

Burt just looked between the two boys, a frown creasing his forehead.

"Where are you boys going?"

"Breadstix and a movie," Kurt explained. Again.

"Curfew is midnight."

"I know, dad," Kurt said dragging Charlie towards the door.

"It was nice to meet you, Mr. Hummel," Charlie called as they left.

Kurt was eager to just get in the car and away from the house and his dad, but he stopped short when he saw what was sitting in the driveway. It was a 1953 Chevrolet Tin Top Woodie.

"That's an… interesting car," he said.

"It's my roommate's," Charlie explained. "I don't actually have my own car, yet."

"Is he from California?" Kurt asked.

"As a matter of fact, he is," Charlie said with a laugh.

"Then what is he doing in Ohio?" Kurt said as they climbed in the car. "Not that, you know, Ohio isn't a lovely place, but when you're in California… ."

"Apparently, he grew up here and didn't actually move to California until his sophomore year of high school. All his friends were back here and most of them went to OSU, so he did, too."

"Oh. Well, that's nice, I guess," Kurt remarked as he straightened out his kilt.

"Is that a kilt?" Charlie said.

"It is."

"That's awesome. I could never wear something like that. Isn't it a little… drafty?"

"That's why you wear leggings under it," Kurt said. "I had trouble finding the shoes I wanted to wear with the pants I originally had on, so I had to change into this, and that's why I was late, which, sorry again. About my dad. He wasn't too mean, was he?"

"No, he was fine. Just a little concerned. I think I only got the first degree and not the full third."

"Well, at least Finn wasn't thrown into the mix, too."

"Finn?" Charlie asked.

"My step-brother. He was out with his girlfriend, and Carole, my step-mom, was at work. So, at least you didn't get interrogated by the whole family." Kurt paused. "This whole thing has been a little awkward for him," he confessed.

"Why's that?"

"Um, this is my first date?"

"Really? I find that hard to believe."

"Well, believe it because it's true."

"Seriously? But… how?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, Lima, Ohio isn't exactly a hot bed for gay men. I'm the only kid that's out at my school. And it's kind of hard to date people when they're still in the closet."

"I guess it would be," Charlie said. "Well, then. I'll just have to make sure this is the best first date ever."

Kurt just smiled shyly, his nervousness finally settling in. He was on a date. With a boy. A boy who seemed to really like him for some reason. Charlie reached over to turn on the radio to fill the silence and Kurt was grateful, music he could do. Madonna's newest single poured out of the speakers and Kurt started singing along softly and dancing as much as one could in a car seat.

"You sing?" Charlie asked.

"Oh, yeah," Kurt said. "I'm part of the glee club at school."

"Glee club?"

"You might have heard it referred to as Show Choir?" Kurt prompted.

Charlie just shrugged, looking confused. "Sorry. I'm just totally musically inept so I don't really pay much attention to stuff like that."

"Oh," Kurt said. "Well, it's like regular choir but we dance and there are costumes and lighting and all that theatrical kind of stuff."

"That sounds kind of interesting, actually."


"Well, yeah. I mean, I may not know much about music, but I have been known to enjoy the odd musical on occasion," Charlie said.

"Oh. Well, it's nothing that elaborate, and our director seems to prefer the musical stylings of Journey over the classics of Broadway, but I guess that's the basic idea."

"Journey?" Charlie laughed.

"Yeah. I think we've sung just about every song in their library at this point. And most of the other 70s power bands."


"I mean, that's not all we do. We've done Britney Spears, Queen, Parliament Funkadelic, Jay-Z, we even tried to put on Rocky Horror last year."

"Let me guess… " Charlie interrupted.

"No," Kurt said firmly. "I was not Frankenfurter. I got harassed enough already, there was no need to add me in drag to the equation. I was Riff Raff and I was amazing, if you must know."


Of course. Leave it to Charlie to pick up on the one thing Kurt really hated talking about.

"Um, yes. Did you miss the part where I was the only out kid at school and part of the glee club?"

"What did they do?"

Kurt paused, unsure of what to really say. Should he tell Charlie everything? I mean, this was their first date and they'd only talked on the phone twice before and those were brief conversations. They really didn't really know each other that well at this point.

"I'm sorry," Charlie said. "You probably don't want to talk about that."

"Not really."

"Well, we're here," Charlie said, putting the car in park. "Let the date commence."

"This isn't Breadstix," Kurt said as he got out of the car in front of what looked like a kind of rundown Mexican restaurant.

"Yes, well, when you mentioned this was your first date, I figured I could do better than Breadstix. I'm guessing you've probably been there a few times?"

"At least twice a month," Kurt said.

"Exactly. So, instead, I thought I would bring you somewhere you probably haven't been. Hence, Rosa's. I know, it doesn't look like much, but this is real, authentic Mexican and it's fantastic. You do like Mexican food?"

"Um, yeah. Well, what little I've had, at least. My dad doesn't really like spicy food, so I haven't cooked it as much as I would like."

"Come on," Charlie said holding out his hand. "You'll love it. And if you don't, then we can go to Breadstix."

Kurt took a deep breath and slipped his hand into Charlie's. And, oh wow. He was holding hands with another boy on the streets in Lima. This was certainly a night for firsts.

They walked into the restaurant and Kurt paused to take in everything. It was small, maybe fifteen tables total in the place. The walls were painted bright yellow with a border of Mexican tiles running around the middle. Paintings of desert scenes and landscapes were placed haphazardly and Kurt had to admit, it had a certain charm to it. People were talking and laughing, customers were joking with the waiters and waitresses. One server passed by them, a tray full of steaming food and it smelled so wonderful Kurt almost moaned.

"What do you think?" Charlie asked.

"I think," Kurt replied, "that we should grab that last table by the window before someone else comes in."

Charlie laughed and led Kurt over to the table, picking up two menus that were propped between the salsa and hot sauce. Kurt looked over the menu and his mouth started watering at all the wonderful choices. He had no idea how he would ever decide what he wanted.

"If you don't know what you want," Charlie interrupted and seemingly reading Kurt's mind, "they do actually have a sampler platter kind of thing. It's not on the menu and it's usually just a mix of whatever the chef wants to serve, but I've never been disappointed."

"That sounds excellent," Kurt said.

Their waiter arrived shortly after that and they placed their order – Kurt asking after the sampler platter and Charlie ordering the chicken enchiladas with the verde sauce. A slightly uneasy silence filled the space between Kurt and Charlie after the server had left.

"Um," Kurt said clearing his throat. "How do you know about this place? I've lived in Lima all my life and I never knew this was here."

"A friend of mine from OSU, David, grew up here. Me and a couple other guys came up for a visit during a long weekend and we stumbled on this place. Well, I kind of fell in love with in it."

"It certainly is more than it appears, huh?" Kurt admitted.

Charlie just nodded in response and sipped his water. Kurt smiled as he waited for Charlie to say something.

"So, um, did you catch any of the playoffs?" Charlie asked.


"College football?"

"Oh, um, I don't really watch sports," Kurt confessed. "I think I caught part of one game while my dad and Finn were watching. On New Years?"

"That was probably the Rose Bowl," Charlie said.

"Oh! That's the one with the big parade, right?"

"Yeah," Charlie laughed. "It used to be the championship game between the top schools, but now they rotate that between all the tournaments."

"How many are there?"

"There are four major games: the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. And then a bunch of minor ones that are too hard to keep track of."

Kurt just nodded unsure of how to reply. Were all dates this awkward? Because this was really awkward. The time he spent with Blaine wasn't nearly as odd as this. Maybe because they weren't actually dating, even if they did do date-like things. Kurt took a sip of the water the waitress had brought and looked out the window. It got dark so early this time of year; it always made Kurt a little sad. He'd read something about that once. How people got depressed in the winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or something like that.

"So, um, your dad is remarried?" Charlie asked, interrupting Kurt's thoughts.

"Yeah. Last year," Kurt answered. "I actually introduced him and Carole at one of those parent-teacher nights. Finn, my stepbrother, is actually a classmate of mine."

"That's interesting. What about your mom?"

"Oh, she, um, died when I was eight."

"Oh, crap. I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay," Kurt reassured him. "You couldn't have known. It's been long enough that it's not as bad anymore."

"Can I ask what happened?"

"Cancer. So, we kinda knew it was coming. They caught it too late to really be able to do anything."

"I'm really sorry," Charlie said, laying his hand on Kurt's. "I can't even begin to imagine what that had to be like."

"It was rough for awhile. My dad and I made it through and now we're really close. When I came out to him, it wasn't a big deal. Well, you know, it was, but it wasn't. I know some kids don't have the best time of it. But, we have a great relationship. He's really kind of amazing."

"That's awesome," Charlie said. "My dad's not really like that. He kind of just ignores the whole gay thing. Like, if he doesn't acknowledge it, it'll just go away. I had a boyfriend in high school for a couple months and he came over for dinner a few times. My dad just basically ignored him."

"Oh, god," Kurt said.

"Yeah. Luckily, my mom is great. She tried her best to make him feel welcome, but… . It was hard. Ended up being one of the reasons we broke up."

"I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Charlie said. "We've come to something of a silent truce. He'll at least talk to a guy when I bring someone home now, even if he doesn't refer to them as anything other than a 'friend'."

"That's gotta be tough."

Charlie just shrugged. "I mean, I'm off at college now so I'm not home all the time anymore. Could be worse."

Luckily, they were saved from anymore awkwardness by the arrival of their food. Kurt took one look at the platter and almost started drooling. It smelled delicious. There were two soft tacos with shredded beef, beans and rice, an enchilada of some kind with red sauce and a small chicken quesadilla. There were also sides of salsa, guacamole and sour cream to top it all off. He was going to have to spend an extra hour working out this weekend, but with the way everything smelled, it would definitely be worth it.

"This all looks really good," he said. "I don't know where to start!"

"I think that's a pork enchilada," Charlie said pointing at Kurt's plate. "That looks like the sauce it usually comes with, at least."

Kurt looked over the plate again figuring out where to start. Since the enchilada and quesadilla were wrapped, they would probably stay warm longer. So, tacos it was. He scooped some salsa and a little guacamole into the first shell before folding it up and taking a bite.

"Oh my god," he moaned around the food. "Sorry, but wow. That is possibly the best taco I've ever had. No, it is definitely the best taco I've ever had."

"I told you," Charlie said with a smile.

"That's amazing. It's spicy, but not just hot. There's a whole bunch of flavors just hiding underneath the heat. This is delicious."

Charlie just smiled and continued eating his dinner.

Kurt quickly finished the first taco and decided to try a bit of the enchilada next. He cut off one end and watched as shredded pork and rice and peppers and onions and cheese came oozing out. He took the first bite and this time he really did moan. He practically melted into his chair as the flavors exploded on his tongue.

"I have died and gone to food heaven," he said.

Charlie laughed out loud at that, drawing the attention of most of the restaurant.

"Seriously," Kurt said. "I'm bringing everyone I know here next weekend. This is amazing."

"Good," Charlie said. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself."

"I really am," Kurt said. "Best first date ever."

"Ah, but the night is not over yet," Charlie insisted. "I still have time to make it even better."

"I'm not sure that's possible."

"Is that a challenge?"

"Perhaps," Kurt teased.

Charlie winked. "I'm always up for a challenge."

"Um, so do you play football?" Kurt asked after a pause.

"No. Lacrosse, actually."

"That's the one with the sticks, right?"

"Yeah," Charlie laughed. "It's the one with sticks. I'm actually at OSU on a partial scholarship for lacrosse."

"Oh, that's exciting."

"What about you?" Charlie asked. "Any idea on where you want to go to college?"

"I'm looking at New York, actually," Kurt said. "NYU and American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A couple closer colleges, too, but New York is the dream."

"Ah. Some kind of performing arts, I take it?"

"Yeah. Musical theater," Kurt replied. "We went to New York for the National Show Choir competition last year and I just totally fell in love with the city. I need to see if I can make it there," Kurt added with a laugh.

Charlie just smiled weakly in response. Kurt sighed to himself. If he had made that joke to Blaine, they would have been laughing for the next five minutes and probably launch into a discussion on the merits of film versus live theater; Liza Minnelli's outstanding career achievements and probably then into a discussion of who was the best MC from Cabaret. Blaine preferred Joel Gray, while Kurt had a strange fondness for Alan Cumming. Apparently Charlie's knowledge of musical theater wasn't as extensive as he implied earlier.

"Anyway," Kurt continued. "It's a little scary because the competition is so fierce, even more so for the scholarships I would need to attend either school. There's auditions and essays and interviews and just… so much. It's a little nerve-wracking."

"What do you need for auditions?"

"Well, each school is a little different," Kurt said. "Generally a monologue of some sort and a couple songs so they can see the range of your talent, I guess."

"Have you decided what you're going to do yet?"

"Not entirely," Kurt moaned. "I have it narrowed down somewhat, but I just haven't been able to decide for sure."

"How much time do you have left to decide?" Charlie asked.

"Two weeks," Kurt laughed. "A friend of mine is going to be in town later this week and he said he'd help me make the final decision. So, hopefully everything will be finalized soon and I can stop panicking about that and start panicking about what I'm going to wear."

Charlie laughed a little too loudly at that. Kurt didn't think it was that funny, but he'd take it as a win at this point.

He wasn't joking, though. He'd literally had nightmares about showing up to audition and walking out on stage in those stupid overalls and the flannel shirt he still had in the very back of his closet from his John Mellencamp phase.

There was yet another moment of awkward silence between the two of them. Kurt started playing with his napkin and tearing to shreds while he tried to think of something to say, but he was just coming up completely blank. Luckily, he as saved yet again, by the waitress dropping off the check. Charlie grabbed it before Kurt could even offer.

"Don't bother," Charlie said. "I asked you out, that means I pay."

Kurt smiled his thanks before taking one last sip of his Diet Coke.

"You ready?" Charlie asked.

"Yup," Kurt replied.

They walked back to the car, Kurt's thoughts drifting to Charlie and how this date was going. Sure, Charlie was a nice guy, he was good looking, but it seemed like they didn't really have that much in common. Which, that could be a good thing, right? There had to be something to that old opposites attract adage.

"So, you enjoyed dinner?" Charlie asked as he pulled away from the restaurant.

"I did," Kurt said. "I've never had food like that."

"Good," Charlie said. "And now the date continues."

Kurt looked out the window as Charlie turned down a side street and noticed they weren't heading in the direction they should have been.

"We're not going to see a movie, are we?" he asked.

"Nope," Charlie replied.

"Are you going to tell me where we are going?"


"Not even if I tell you I hate surprises?"

"Do you hate surprises?" Charlie asked.

"Not really," Kurt had to admit.

"Then, no."

Kurt sighed and turned back to the window. He tried to figure out where they might be going by the neighborhoods Charlie was driving through, but he was completely turned around. Then Charlie made one last turn and Kurt's stomach dropped. When they pulled into the parking lot, Kurt was just in shock, really.

"Ice skating?" Kurt said. "That's such a cliché."

"It's not cliché. It's romantic!"

"What is romantic about strapping extremely sharp steel blades to your feet and trying to walk on ice without falling on your butt and probably bruising your coccyx?"

"Because I'll get to hold your hand to keep you from falling down."

Kurt couldn't help but smile as Charlie's cheesiness. "Well, when you put it like that," he said.

"And I'll buy you a hot chocolate when we're done."

"Deal," Kurt agreed.

That was how Kurt found himself being lead cautiously out onto the ice by Charlie. The last time he'd been ice skating was with his mom when he was probably six. So, yeah, he was a little nervous. He tried to push off and immediately fell on his ass.

Then promptly burst out laughing.

He should have been mad at possibly ruining his clothes by snagging them on the ice, but somehow, it was just hilarious.

"Are you okay?" Charlie asked, helping Kurt back up.

"Yeah," Kurt said. "Mostly bruised my ego, I think."

"Want to try again?"


Kurt let go of the wall he'd been leaning against and placed both his hands in Charlie's who started skating backwards very slowly. Kurt let himself just be pulled along until he got the feel for it. Once he was feeling more steady, he lifted one foot and tentatively pushed off again. This time he stayed standing.

"There you go!" Charlie encouraged.

Kurt just smiled and squeezed Charlie's hands in return. Surprisingly, he was actually having fun. He pushed off again and ended up putting so much oomph behind it, he ran into Charlie and sent them both sprawling to the ice. This time, though, Charlie was there to break his fall. Literally.

"Oh my god!" Kurt cried as he rolled off Charlie. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he said, laughing. "I'm fine. You want to keep going?"

"Definitely," Kurt said helping Charlie up. "How did you know about this place?" he asked as they set off again, side by side and still holding hands.

"I did a little research on Lima before I came up," Charlie said. "Just in case something caused a change in plans, so we wouldn't be stuck with nothing to do."

"I think I'm glad you did," Kurt admitted.

They skated around for another twenty minutes or so. Charlie talking about his hometown, a small suburb of Chicago.

"Public school is public school, anywhere, I think," he said. "We had our cliques like any other school, but no one ever really picked on anyone else. I mean, you had the occasional fight when one girl 'stole' another girl's boyfriend or something, but for the most part everyone just seemed to get along. If there were people you didn't like, you just ignored them."

"That sounds nice. McKinley is nowhere near that civilized," Kurt admitted.

"Oh?" Charlie asked.

"Oh, yeah. Let's see…. The baseball team hates the basketball team. The hockey team hates the football team. The football team just hates everyone. Except the Cheerios, probably. They're the cheerleading squad. And anyone in glee club is at the bottom of the high school food chain, regardless of them being on the football or basketball team or part of the Cheerios. Somehow, the A/V kids are fine, but I'm pretty sure it's because they have the school wired and have blackmail material on just about everyone."

"Well, that sounds delightful," Charlie said sarcastically.

"That's not even the half of it. There's a slushie machine in the courtyard. Oh, yeah," Kurt replied in response to Charlie's unasked question. "Most of us have taken to keeping a change of clothes in our locker."

"Wait, what? How can the administration let something like that go on?"

"Sue probably has something to do with it."


"Sue Sylvester," Kurt explained. "She's the coach of the Cheerios and since they've won 6 consecutive national titles they pretty much let her get away with whatever she wants."

"That's horrible."

"Yeah," Kurt agreed. "She has her moments, though. She stepped down from being appointed principal to help keep an eye out for me in the halls."

"Why would she need to do that?"

Kurt sighed, regretting bringing up that time, but there was nothing he could do now. "Um, well, I tended to get the most unwanted attention, you could say. Being the only out gay kid and part of the glee club didn't exactly have me ranking high on the social ladder."

"I'm so sorry," Charlie said.

"It's okay," Kurt said. "This year has been much better now that the ringleader is gone, so. I'm fine, we're fine and next year I will be out of here."

By the time Kurt was done explaining life at McKinley, they'd gotten their skates off and were headed back to the car.

"So, how about that hot chocolate I promised?" Charlie asked.

"That would be lovely," Kurt replied. He ended up directing Charlie to the nearest Lima Bean as his Lima research hadn't been that intensive.

They snagged a table by one of the windows and chatted more about their differences growing up. Charlie was the middle of three children with an older brother and younger sister. His sister was actually eight years younger than him and had apparently been quite a surprise to his parents. Eventually, the evening ran down and the Lima Bean started to close.

They drove back to Kurt's house in silence, Kurt contemplating the evening and how it had gone. Overall, he thought it had gone well. There had been a few moments of awkwardness, but that was bound to happen when you were just starting to get to know another person, right? Well, except for Blaine. The only moment of awkwardness there had been between them had been earlier that evening over Skype. Even back when they first really met there had been an instantaneous connection, like they had known each other forever. But, well, that was never going to go anywhere.

So, here was Charlie. He was cute; he was nice; he seemed to genuinely like Kurt. Maybe that spark wasn't there quite yet, but Kurt could see the potential. If it didn't work out, maybe they could at least be friends.

When they arrived back at the house, Charlie got out and walked Kurt to the door, which Kurt had to admit was a nice touch.

"I, um, I had a nice time," Kurt said. "Thank you."

"I did, too," Charlie replied.

Kurt wasn't sure how to respond to that. Should he bring up the possibility of another date now? Ask if Charlie was going to call him? This was so weird. Then he noticed Charlie's eyes had dropped a little lower and seemed to be fixed on Kurt's lips that were currently being bitten in nervousness.


Kurt sucked in a deep breath as Charlie leaned in and gently pressed his lips to Kurt's. It wasn't the best kiss, not that Kurt had much to compare with it. Both their lips were a little chapped from the cold and the angle was a little off, so Charlie got more of the corner of Kurt's mouth. Kurt tilted his head just slightly and it all finally clicked into place. Charlie's lips were a warm contrast to the cold air swirling around them and Kurt breathed in sharply when he felt Charlie's hand come up to cup his jaw. Charlie pulled back abruptly at the sound.

"Sorry," he said dropping his hand. "That's probably cold."

"That's okay," Kurt said a little breathlessly.

"So, I'll call you later this week?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that would be nice."

"Okay. Good night, Kurt."

"Good night, Charlie."

Kurt turned and walked into the house, peeking back out the window as Charlie drove off. He hung his coat and scarf in the hall closet and walked in a bit of a daze to the kitchen. He'd just been on his first date and gotten his first real kiss. There would probably be another date in the near future. Kurt Hummel's life was definitely looking up.

"Did you have a good time?"

Kurt started as his dad's voice interrupted his thoughts. He turned and saw his dad sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper and sipping some coffee as Carole paid some bills. She just looked up and smiled softly at Kurt. He had walked right by them and didn't even notice.

"Um, yeah," Kurt said. "It was a really good night."

"That's… that's good," Burt said.

"Are you going to see him again?" Carole asked.

"I think so. He's a really nice guy."

"We're happy for you, Kurt," Carole added.

Kurt walked over to the sink and filled a small glass with some water.

"I'm going to go do some reading and head to bed," Kurt said.

"All right. Night, Kurt," Burt said.

"Good night."

Kurt ran up the stairs to his room, gulped down the water and pulled out his phone to text Mercedes. Best first date ever!

Kurt spent Sunday catching up on the homework he didn't get to on Saturday and planning his weekly wardrobe. He was just putting the finishing touches on his English essay when his phone rang.

"Hello?" he said not checking the caller ID.

"Hey," Blaine said quietly.

"Blaine! Hi!"

"How are you?"

"Good, great. How are you?"


"So, what's up?"

"Um, I just wanted to check if we were still on for this weekend?" Blaine asked uncertainly.

Oh, right. Blaine was going to be in town and had offered to help Kurt make the final decision on his audition pieces.

"Yeah, definitely if you think you can still make it."

"Yeah, I'll be there. My flight gets in late Thursday evening. I can come over Friday after school if that works?"

"Actually, we have an institute day on Friday if you wanted to come over earlier?"

"I can do that," Blaine said. "Would 10:00 work?"

"That sounds great."

"Great. I'll, uh, I'll see you then, I guess."

"I'll be here."

"Well, bye."


Kurt hung up staring quizzically at his phone. That was weird. Things were never that weird between them. That was definitely the shortest conversation they'd ever had. Kurt's dad was constantly yelling at him over his phone bill and the hours long calls to California that happened several times a week. Blaine was probably just busy and distracted with the ten thousand things he had going on.

Luckily, that week was too busy for Kurt to dwell much on it. Mr. Schue was pushing really hard to get the original songs ready for Regionals next month, he had a test in economics and French and there was still a lot of audition material to sort through. By the time the doorbell rang Friday morning announcing Blaine's arrival, Kurt was ready to pull his hair out.

"Thank god," Kurt said as he opened the door for Blaine.

"Long week?" Blaine asked.

"Crazy week. Tests and song writing and choreography and songs to practice and monologues to learn and, well, yes," Kurt sighed. "I'm so happy you're here."

"What can I do to help?" Blaine asked as they walked into Kurt's room. His normally neat abode was littered with papers – sheet music, applications, monologues and homework were strewn everywhere. Kurt walked around picking up seemingly random sheets as he gestured for Blaine to make himself comfortable.

"Okay," Kurt said joining Blaine on his bed. "I have the songs narrowed down to these five that I need to choose for the last two pieces."

"Defying Gravity is your first song, right?" Blaine asked as he shuffled through the papers.

"Yes," Kurt confirmed.

"Then, I think you should go with this one as it's an older piece and should contrast well with Wicked. Then, hmm… ."

"I was thinking this one," Kurt said pulling out a song from the bottom. "I thought I could play the piano myself on it to help show that I can do more than just sing."

Kurt watched as Blaine looked the song over, humming to himself.

"I agree," Blaine said. "I think this is an excellent choice."

Kurt clapped in excitement. "Thank you so much! I'm so glad that decision is over."

"What about the monologue?"

"I think I have the perfect one. Would you like to hear it?"

"I would," Blaine said.

Kurt stood up and walked to the center of the room. He closed his eyes to get into the proper character and when he opened his eyes he was a young man, dying of a terrible disease and trying one last time to bond with his father.

"You've just told me some high spots in your memories. Want to hear mine? They're all connected with the sea. Here's one…"

Kurt paused as Blaine cocked his head as if looking confused.

"What is it?" Kurt asked.

"Nothing, why?"

"You just look like you want to say something. Is this not a good choice?"

"No, it is," Blaine said. "I guess I'm just a little surprised at your decision."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing, I just… I guess I didn't think Eugene O'Neill was something you would be drawn to."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"You just, you know, you're singing Defying Gravity and you wear kilts and glitter on a regular basis."

Kurt was fuming. What right did Blaine have to judge him like that? Blaine was his friend. He thought Blaine knew him better than that.

"You know the whole speech I'm about to say, right? How do you think a speech about a man not feeling like he belongs is something I might not be able to sympathize with? Despite what you may think you know about me," he told Blaine, "there is more to me than unconventional song choices and a fabulous wardrobe. I'm not as superficial as you apparently think I am."

Blaine dropped his head and sighed. "I'm sorry," he said. "You're right. I'm stressing and taking it out on you and… I should know better than that."

"What's wrong?" Kurt asked.

"Nothing serious, I promise. Please, I'd like to hear the rest of the monologue."

Kurt nodded, giving Blaine a break, but he wasn't done. They were bound to stop rehearsing at some point and he would get Blaine to talk. He got himself back into the headspace he needed and started again. This time he made it all the way through before waiting for Blaine to respond.

"Wow," Blaine said. "That was really… not bad."

"Your confidence in me is overwhelming," Kurt said flatly.

"No, sorry. It was good, definitely, but it could use some work."

Blaine motioned Kurt over to the bed and they proceeded to tear the speech apart, looking for words or phrases to emphasize, any moments that would benefit from a little physical acting. Kurt didn't want to overdo it, but he also didn't want to just stand there like a mannequin delivering a speech.

They worked until their stomachs started rumbling too loudly to ignore and decided to take a break for lunch. They went down to the kitchen and raided the fridge for sandwiches.

"Where's Finn?" Blaine asked.

"Over at Rachel's, I think. They're working on a song for Regionals."

"You guys are doing all original songs again?"

"Yup. Well, except for the Song From A Movie requirement for this year."

"Have you figured that one out yet?"

"Of course not," Kurt said, to which Blaine laughed. "Mercedes and I are pushing for Seasons of Love from Rent. With a lot of us being seniors this year, we were thinking we could split the few solo parts between all of us. Plus, Mercedes would totally kill that note."

"That she would," Blaine agreed. "That girl has got some pipes on her."

"She really does. So, what has you all moody?" Kurt asked changing the subject.

"Nothing. Just… Indecisiveness, I guess. The label wants me to go back into the studio and start recording another album. Alan wants me to keep touring, but as the opening act for a more established group. He thinks it would be good to get me in front of stadium audiences to try and draw in new fans."

"What do you think?" Kurt asked.

Blaine just blinked at Kurt in surprise. "You know," he said. "You're the first person to ask me that."

"So, if you had to make the decision right now, which would you choose?"

"Tour," Blaine said without hesitating. "Getting to record an album is great and everything, but, man, there's nothing like that rush from a live audience."

"Well, there's your answer then."

"But it's not up to me."

"It should be somewhat," Kurt said. "It is your life. When you get back to LA, call Alan and tell him what you want to do. I've only met him briefly, but it seems like he really has your back."

"Yeah," Blaine said. "He does. He's a good guy."

"Then, he'll make it work."

"Thanks, Kurt."

"You're welcome. Now, if he mentions anything about touring with Lady Gaga, you will call me immediately so we can figure out how to smuggle me into your luggage."

Blaine laughed so hard that Kurt was afraid he might crack a rib. He couldn't help but smile in return. It seemed like whatever weirdness there had been between them was gone and they were back to being Kurt and Blaine, again.

"Now," Blaine said once he'd composed himself. "How do you feel about a little sight reading?"

Over the next month, Kurt and Charlie managed to get a fairly regular schedule of phone calls and chatting set-up. Kurt eventually convinced Charlie to try Skype and they had a standing "date" every Friday evening.

One Friday night, Kurt logged in and rang Charlie, but it seemed as if Charlie was running late as he didn't answer. He hung up and pulled out his monologue for the audition while he waited to try back. He was about half way through his second read when his Skype started ringing. He looked up to see Charlie calling him. He accepted the call and waited for Charlie to come on screen.

"Hey!" Charlie said.

Kurt, however, was briefly speechless as Charlie was sitting there, shirtless and wet, water running down from his hairline and cascading along his wonderfully muscular neck.

"Sorry," Charlie apologized. "Practice ran late and I just got out of the shower. You weren't waiting long were you?"

"No," Kurt said, shaking his head out of the stupor. "It's fine."

"So, how was your week?" Charlie asked as he stretched and folded his hands behind his head.

Oh, wow, Kurt thought. Charlie had some really impressive biceps and shoulders. Not to mention his chest and what little of his abs Kurt could see.

"Kurt?" Charlie said.

"Yes! Sorry, what?" Kurt said. He could feel his face heating up and really hated that he blushed so easily.

"I'm making you uncomfortable," Charlie said.

"No!" Kurt said. "It's just, um, unexpected, I guess. Rough practice?"

"Not anymore than usual," Charlie said. "The season starts in a couple weeks, so coach has been pushing us extra hard lately. How about you?"

"Not too bad. I've figured out everything I'm doing for my audition next month, so that's a relief. Now I just need to practice until I can do it all backwards while standing on my head."

"I'm sure you'll be great," Charlie said.

They talked for another half hour or so before Charlie had to go. There was team bonding night out or something that he had to get ready for. Charlie promised to call in a couple days before signing off.

Once his Skype was closed, Kurt turned and flopped face down on his bed, groaning in frustration. He'd figured Charlie would have an awesome body from the way he dressed and his being an athlete, but actually seeing it was awakening feelings that Kurt wasn't sure he was ready to deal with yet.

The first week of February, Kurt and his dad made the drive out to New York. At two o'clock on Friday afternoon, Kurt walked out onto the stage of the NYU auditorium with his heart pounding in his chest. He handed his paperwork and headshot to the student helper, the sheet music to the accompanist and walked to the mark downstage center as he had been instructed and stared at the panel of four judges, waiting for them to acknowledge him and the audition to begin.

"Name and hometown, please," one of the judges said as he flipped through a stack of papers.

"My name is Kurt Hummel and I'm from Lima, Ohio."

"Small town boy with big dreams of Broadway, huh?"

"Yes, sir," Kurt replied confidently.

"All right. We'll start with your monologue and then move on to the pieces of music."

"Certainly," Kurt said. "I'll be doing a speech by Edmund from Long Day's Journey Into Night."

"Whenever you're ready."

Kurt closed his eyes and took a deep breath to center himself. He set the scene in his mind. He wasn't on a stage in a New York college; he was laying bed, recalling fond memories of his youth with his father. He opened his eyes and began.

He'd practiced this speech so much that it was just second nature at this point. All the notes he'd made with Blaine, the movements they'd penned in, the words that should be emphasized over others, it all just flowed. Before he knew it, he'd reached the end and slowly came back to himself and his environment.

"Well done, Mr. Hummel," the judge on the end said.

"Thank you, ma'am," Kurt replied politely.

"I see you've chosen Defying Gravity as one of your audition songs. Can you tell us why?"

"Ever since I first saw Wicked I've felt a strong connection to Elphaba. We were both teased and persecuted in a sense because of how we were born. I can't help being gay any more than Elphaba could help being green. Most of the kids at my school didn't understand this and decided to make my life a living hell. For me, Defying Gravity is about realizing that it's everyone else who has a problem and no matter what they think, I can do whatever I want."

"Very well. Whenever you're ready."

He took a deep breath before nodding at the pianist to begin. As the piano introduction ended, he sang the words he'd sung so many times before. But today, oh today, he was amazing. Today, he was Elphaba showing all those dumb jocks that Kurt Hummel would not be pushed around. Today, he would show all those small town, close minded idiots that Kurt Hummel was a force to be reckoned with. And today, when he came to that last note, he hit the high F with all his might and it rang out clear as a bell in that auditorium.

"Very impressive," one of the judges commented. "Do you always sing in the countertenor register?"

"Most of the time," Kurt replied. "There have been a few times that I've had to sing lower to help balance out the other voices in my glee club back home."

"Have you prepared She's Got A Way in its original key?"

"I have, yes."

"We'd like to hear that next."

"I'm also prepared to accompany myself on that piece, if that's all right," Kurt added.

"That's fine."

Kurt moved over the piano as the accompanist stood. The sheet music had already been arranged, but Kurt took a moment to settle himself in front of the piano, letting his fingers get a feel for the keys. He played the opening chords and relaxed his vocal chords to be sure the opening note came out strong and on key. He'd had a habit of starting off flat while practicing, overcompensating too much for his naturally higher voice. Not today. Today he was dead on. He closed his eyes and let the music just take him away.

He was stopped half way through the chorus the second time. "You have a very impressive range, Mr. Hummel. What sort of training have you had?"

"Vocally, well, none, sir," Kurt answered taking his place downstage again. "I did take piano lessons for several years and my teacher would occasionally work vocal exercises into the lessons when she found out I could sing, but I haven't had any real formal training."


Kurt wasn't sure how to respond to that and so said nothing. He waited as the judges talked among themselves for a few minutes.

"We're going to move on to the sight reading piece. You'll have one minute to look it over before we begin. The cuts are noted in the music. Your time begins now."

Kurt looked down at the sheet music he had been handed by the accompanist - With Cat Like Tread from Pirates of Penzance. He was vaguely familiar with the show, but not this song. He hummed the first couple bars to try and get a feel for the melody and tempo. This could definitely be a tongue twister, he thought. But he felt confident that the last three years of preparing numbers for competition at the last minute with New Directions, and his time with Blaine, had him fully prepared for this moment. He counted off the bars until it was time for him to come in and hoped he sounded confident as he started.

With cat-like tread,
Upon our prey we steal;
In silence dread,
Our cautious way we feel.
No sound at all!
We never speak a word;
A fly's foot-fall
Would be distinctly heard

He made sure to pay particular attention to the dynamics of the vocals, when he needed to be loud and strong and when to be quiet and subtle. The song went through that first chorus, the first verse and bridge and then one more repeat of the chorus. Kurt was very glad when he made it through with little difficulty and only stumbling over a few of the rhythms. Overall, he was very happy with how the whole audition had gone.

"Thank you, Mr. Hummel," the head judge said. "You'll be hearing from us by mid-March."

"Thank you very much," Kurt said before leaving the stage. Once he was out of sight, he ran back to the lobby where is his dad was waiting for him. "Dad!" he called.

"How'd it go?" Burt asked standing anxiously.

"It was amazing! I nailed everything. It was as close to perfect as it could have been. I think they really liked me," Kurt said.

"Of course they did. Why wouldn't they?"

"Thanks, dad."

"You're welcome. Now, how about a steak to celebrate?"

Kurt just laughed and tried to talk his dad into something a little healthier.

Later that evening, Kurt wandered down to the hotel lobby to call Blaine as he'd promised. He curled up in a chair tucked away behind a plant and waited for Blaine to pick up.

"How'd it go?" Blaine said as soon as he answered.

"Well, hello, to you, too," Kurt teased.

"Yes, fine, hi. Now, how'd it go?"

"It was amazing, Blaine. I was amazing," he said. "Everything was so spot on; I nailed every note, every emotion. It couldn't have been more perfect."

"What was the sight reading song?"

"With Cat Like Tread from Pirates of Penzance."

"Oo. Gilbert and Sullivan. That can be tricky."

"It was," Kurt agreed. "I got through it, rather well I think."

"Did they say when you would hear?"

"Sometime in March," Kurt sighed. "So, like six long weeks."

"That's not that far," Blaine said. "You do have Regionals coming up to help distract you."

"This is true. Did you figure out whether or not you would be able to make it back for the competition?"

"I think so. My sister's birthday is the week after that, so I should be able to be there for the weekend before that. I'll give you a call when I know for sure."

"Sounds like a plan," Kurt said.

"You'll get in, Kurt," Blaine said quietly. "They'd be crazy not to take you."

"Thank you," Kurt said, his voice tight as his eyes began to tear.

"What is it?" Blaine asked.

"Nothing," Kurt laughed as the tears escaped. "Just, you've been wonderful, really, and no matter what happens, I… I appreciate everything you've done for me. So, thank you."

"You're my friend, Kurt," Blaine replied. "If I can help, I will."

"Well, either way. Thank you."

"Then, you're welcome," Blaine said.

Kurt yawned audibly, his jaw cracking with the motion.

"Sounds like you should get to bed," Blaine laughed.

"Yeah, it's been a long day," Kurt agreed. "Good night, Blaine."

"Good night, Kurt."

Sunday night, after Kurt and his dad and had gotten home and filled everyone in on the audition, he finally called Charlie.

"Hey!" Charlie said as he answered. "You guys back home?"

"Yeah, we got in a couple hours ago, but there was dinner and catching up with Carole and Finn. I'm not interrupting, am I?"

"No," Charlie said. "I could use a little break from the homework. So, how'd it go?"

"It went really, really well. I don't think I could have done any better."

"That's excellent. Do you know when you'll find out if you made it or not?"

"Sometime next month."

"Oo. That's a long wait," Charlie said.

"It is!" Kurt exclaimed. "Everyone keeps telling me that the time will just fly by, but why can't I just find out now?"

Charlie chuckled at Kurt's rant. "Hey, here's something to help pass the time. A bunch of us are going to be up in Lima for the weekend. Would you like to meet us at the movies Saturday night?"

"You want me to meet your friends?" Kurt asked.

"Yeah," Charlie assured him. "I may have been bragging about you a little bit. Some of them aren't sure you exist, so I would love to be able to prove them wrong."

Kurt was really glad Charlie couldn't see him right now as he was pretty sure he was turning a really interesting shade of red. "I, uh, yeah. I think I can do that."

"Great! I don't think we've settled on a movie yet, but I'll call you as soon I know anything."

"Sounds like a plan."

"Excellent. Well, I better get back to this organic chem lab write up."

"Well, that sounds like fun," Kurt teased.

"It's not," Charlie laughed. "It's really not."

"I'll talk to you later. Night!"

"Night, Kurt."

Chapter Text

By the time Kurt pulled up to the movie theater that Saturday, it was 6:23. The movie had been scheduled to start at 6:10 and, while he knew he was only missing some trailers, Kurt hated having to make people wait for him. Luckily, Charlie had understood when Kurt called to explain the four car pileup that was delaying him.

"Hi," Kurt said as he rushed up to Charlie. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Charlie replied kissing Kurt on the cheek. "Accidents happen, and, hey, we've only missed like two previews. No big deal."

Charlie handed their tickets to the usher and they hurried to the theater, taking the seats at the end of the row where Charlie's friends were sitting. They had to sit through three more previews and then the movie started. To be honest, Kurt wasn't entirely sure he was going to enjoy the movie. It was Hollywood's latest car chase, action movie, blow stuff up extravaganza and Kurt generally enjoyed a little more substance to his films. Still, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to be with Charlie when he had made the effort to invite Kurt along.

Just over two hours later, the end credits started rolling and Kurt was surprised to find he hadn't actually hated it. There had been a bit of a twist to the usual storyline that made it a little more interesting and Kurt was actually rooting for the protagonist to win. Kurt and Charlie lead the group out to the lobby where they were trying to figure out what to do next.

"This is your new boyfriend, Charlie?"

Kurt froze as that oh, so familiar voice rang in his ears. He slowly turned and saw Karofsky heading their way.

"Yeah, this is Kurt."

"I didn't think jocks were your type, Hummel."

"Wait. You two know each other?" Charlie asked.

"Yeah," Karofsky replied. "We went to McKinley together."

Kurt couldn't take it any longer. He turned and marched straight out of the theater towards his car.

"Kurt! Wait!" he heard Charlie call after him.

But Kurt didn't stop. He had to get away. How could Charlie be friends with… him of all people?

"Kurt! Stop!"

Charlie finally caught up with him as he unlocked the doors. He put his hand lightly on Kurt's shoulder and Kurt all but collapsed under the gentle weight.

"What's going on?" Charlie asked.

"What's going on? What's going on is I'm trying to understand how you can be friends with that… homophobic Neanderthal!"

"Who? David?"

"Yes, David. He is responsible for making the last two years of my life a living hell. He is a bully and a homophobic prick."

Kurt turned to open his door, but stopped when he felt Charlie's hand on his arm.

"I'm sorry," Charlie said. "I just… I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Do you really think I would be friends with someone like the person you just described?"

"Well, you are," Kurt said. "So, I guess that answers that question."

"Hang on a second," Charlie said. "I'm sorry, I'm just having some trouble reconciling the David I know to the person you just described. I'm not doubting what you say happened, but I don't think he's that guy anymore. He's one of my best friends. Hell, half the guys back there are gay. I mean, every now and then he'll make a comment or stupid joke, but we'll get on him about it and he'll apologize. Whatever happened in high school, I think he's trying to change."

"Well, that's great," Kurt said dryly. "But what he did to me is completely unforgivable. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll be heading home now."

"No, wait, hang on," Charlie begged. "I asked you out because I wanted to see you and we've barely had any time to talk all night with the movie. Let me just… I'll tell the guys we're heading out somewhere ourselves and I'll meet up with them later."

"But they're your friends…" Kurt said.

"Yeah, and you're my boyfriend. So, right now, you matter more."


"Yeah," Charlie said with a smile. "Just wait here and I'll be right back."

Kurt nodded and accepted a brief kiss before Charlie ran back to his friends. He turned and rested his forehead on the window of his Navigator. He hated that Karofsky still had this power over him. That Karofsky could still make him feel like a… child was so frustrating. He was supposed to be free of all this, but it seemed like no matter where he went, David would be there to just tear him back down.

And Charlie was friends with him? Kurt didn't even know how to begin processing that piece of information. He wanted to believe David was better, that he was more understanding and maybe even on the road to his own self-realization. It was just so hard to overcome two years of torment and torture in one evening.

Kurt eventually climbed into his car as he waited for Charlie to get back. This was just… too much. He had sworn to himself that once Karofsky was gone, Kurt would never think about him again. Why should he continue to torment himself over something someone else had done? The universe apparently had other plans as he was now dating one of Karofsky's BFFs. Kurt heard the passenger door open and looked over to see Charlie climbing in.

"Okay. The other guys are going to head over to this 24 hour diner on the other side of town," he asked and Kurt nodded that he knew what Charlie was talking about. "So, if you want to go get some coffee or ice cream?"

"Ice cream?" Kurt laughed.

"I don't know. Does Lima have a soda fountain?" Charlie teased.

"We do, actually," Kurt said.

"Awesome! I've always wanted to go to a soda fountain."

"Are you gonna pin me, too?"

Kurt blushed as he realized what he had said and how it sounded.

"Maybe not yet," Charlie said with a smile.

Kurt bit his lip and put the car into drive. The small soda shop was about a twenty minute drive and they were only open until 10:00, so they wouldn't be able to stay long. Which, honestly, Kurt was kind of okay with that. As nice as Charlie was being, the whole Karofsky encounter had just put a damper on everything.

Kurt pulled up outside the soda shop a short time later and couldn't help laughing as Charlie gawked at the bright blue neon sign announcing "The Jukebox" as the diner's name. They walked in and Charlie started laughing as he saw the authentic 1950s interior complete with black and white linoleum floor and red vinyl on the stools and benches. The jukebox in the corner belted out an Everly Brothers tune and servers with those little paper hats weaved in and out of the crowd.

"This is awesome!" he exclaimed. "I feel like I'm in Pleasantville or something."

"You are such a dork," Kurt said fondly.

They grabbed one of the booths by the window and looked through the menu. Kurt was glad they had some items made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. They had a fresh fruit parfait Kurt had had before that quite delicious.

"What do you think?" Kurt asked.

"I think I'm gonna go for an egg crème. I've always wanted to try one of those," Charlie said.

They gave their orders to the waiter and sat there in a somewhat uncomfortable silence for a few minutes.

"So, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to," Charlie said eventually. "What exactly happened between you and David in high school? I mean, I guess I'd kind of like to know if I need to rethink my friendship with him."

Kurt just sighed. This was all such a mess.

"Just, you know. Shoving me into lockers, calling me names, things like that," Kurt said quietly.

"That doesn't sound so bad," Charlie replied.

"Well, when it happens every day, it gets to be a bit much."


"You said he's different?" Kurt asked.

"He seems to be, I guess. He didn't bat an eyelash or anything when I told him I was gay. His roommate is gay and, as far as I know, it hasn't been an issue."

"That's… that's good," Kurt replied.

"This doesn't have to happen again, Kurt," Charlie said, resting his hand on Kurt's. "If he makes you this uncomfortable, I'll make sure he knows he's not welcome when you're around."

"You'd do that for me?"

"Of course," Charlie said. "I want you to be happy, Kurt. I don't like seeing you like this."

"Thank you," Kurt said with a smile.

"I think maybe you could give him another chance," Charlie continued. "He really does seem like he's trying to be a better person."

Kurt just shook his head. Not yet, he thought. It's still too soon.

"Okay," Charlie said.

They sat there in silence until their food arrived. Kurt took a few bites of his parfait before attempting conversation again.

"Is that as good as you were hoping?" he asked Charlie.

"It is. It's a lot lighter than I thought it would be. Do you want to try some?"

"No, thanks. I'm not really a big fan of chocolate."

"So, no box of chocolates on Valentine's Day, then. I'll try to keep that in mind," Charlie said with a wink.

"Valentine's Day?" Kurt said.

"Yeah. I mean, I know we haven't been seeing each other very long, but I was hoping we could see each other that weekend, maybe."

"What did you have in mind?" Kurt asked. He hoped his voice was steady, but inside he was freaking out. Valentine's Day was a big deal.

"Well, the weekend after, on the 18th, we have a pretty big home game against Notre Dame. I was wondering if you might want to come down and watch the game and we could go out to dinner after?"

"Oh, um, yeah," Kurt said. "I'd like that. I mean, I'll have to ask my dad, but I'll see what I can do. And next week is Regionals, so maybe we'll have something else to celebrate, too."

"I'm sure we will," Charlie said confidently. "You could bring your stepbrother or something if you think that would help, and I'd like to meet your friends, if you want."

"You want me to bring Finn on our Valentine's Day date?"

"Is he dating anyone? We could make it a double or something."

"I'm not really sure, actually," Kurt laughed.

"Does he go through a lot of girls?"

"No," Kurt said. "Just keeps bouncing back and forth between two of them. Which gets really awkward because we're all in glee club together."

"Oh. That would be awkward," Charlie agreed.

"Well, I'll mention it. It might make my dad feel more comfortable with the idea if I'm not going down to OSU by myself."

"Okay. Well, let me know when you can."

"How did you get started with lacrosse, anyway?" Kurt asked.

"Um, I've played sports as long as I can remember, t-ball, baseball, pee-wee football. I was on the soccer team my freshman year in high school and a friend of mine was on the lacrosse team. I went to watch some of his games and thought it looked like fun. He showed me some stuff, taught me some of the basics and I ended up making the team sophomore year. Been playing ever since."

"That's cool. I know I said before that I wasn't really into sports, but I was actually on the football team for a couple weeks my sophomore year."

"Really?" Charlie asked.

"Yup. I was the kicker and actually won our team their first game in, like, five years," Kurt said. "I was going through this thing and trying to bond with my dad and he's into sports and stuff. So, yeah. That was interesting. And then there was the time I was on the Cheerios."

"Wait. I thought the football team and Cheerios hated the glee club?"

"Yeah, well. Quinn, Santana and Brittany are all on the cheer squad, so it's not as bad with them as it is with the football team. Even if the quarterback is in the glee club. Anyway, it was pretty much just Coach Sylvester wanting to use me to help her win Nationals."

"Did you win?"

"Of course. It's hard to resist a thirteen minute Celine Dion medley in the original French."

"Wow. That's actually kind of impressive."

"Only kind of?"

"Okay," Charlie laughed. "It's really impressive."

"Thank you," Kurt replied.

Unfortunately, that seemed to bring an end to their conversation and they once more sat in silence as they waited for the waiter to bring their check. These silences were really starting to get to Kurt. With any of his other friends, Mercedes, Blaine, even Finn or Rachel, it seemed like they never ran out of things to discuss. He supposed it was because he had more in common with those people. But it was still early in their relationship and Kurt didn't want to write Charlie off just yet. Charlie insisted on paying when the bill came to make up for the Karofsky thing, even if he had no idea it was an issue and Kurt silently vowed that he would pay the next time they went out.

Kurt drove them over to the diner so Charlie could meet up with his friends. It was getting close to curfew, so Kurt couldn't really stay. He accepted a brief kiss from Charlie before heading home. The whole drive back, Kurt couldn't help but thinking this whole thing with Charlie just wasn't going anywhere. It disappointed him more than he wanted to admit.

Two days later, Kurt was waiting by the piano when glee club started at the end of the day. Regionals were that weekend and they had a lot to do, but Kurt was just too anxious to wait.

"Kurt," Mr. Schue said as he entered the room. "Did you have something you wanted to share?"

"I did," Kurt said excitedly. "I know we have a lot of work to do before Saturday, but I've been working on a song with a friend that I was hoping we might be able to perform at Nationals. The song isn't finished yet, but I'm really excited about what is done and I wanted to get some feedback before we work anymore on it."

"Sure," Mr. Schuester said. "I think we have a few minutes before we need to get started."

Kurt clapped excitedly and sat down at the piano. He laid the sheet music out and got himself situated. He laid his hands on the keys and started plucking out a light and bouncy tune. It was rough, but he could feel how this was going to sound once it was complete. After a few bars of the introduction, he started singing.

From out of the blue
Someone comes along
They can change your world
In the beat of a song

Not even rain can dim the sun
The sky is new, the birds are free
Doubt has all vanished
A smile comes so easily

With the hand of a stranger
You're lead to a new day
With the hand of a friend
You finally find your way

Kurt played a few more bars before coming to a rest. He smiled as his classmates broke out in applause.

"It's called With the Hand of a Friend," he said standing in front of the group.

"That was amazing, Kurt," Mercedes said.

"I agree," Rachel added. "I think you've got something we can work with."

"Well done, Kurt," Mr. Schue said. "We can pick up with that next week after we win Regionals."

A cheer went up from the group with that and they got down to perfecting their songs and routines for the coming competition.

Later that night, Kurt finally broached the subject of Charlie's invitation down to OSU at dinner. He'd talked to Finn earlier and he'd been happy to agree to accompany Kurt if it helped. He told Kurt that Rachel would be busy with a family thing that day, so she wouldn't be able to join them. Kurt made a mental note to ask Mercedes if she wanted to come if his dad agreed.

"Dad?" he said as they were finishing their meal.


"In two weeks, Charlie has a home game against Notre Dame and he invited me to come watch and maybe get dinner afterwards. Can I go?"

"You want to go to OSU by yourself for the day?" his dad asked.

"Well, um, I don't have to. Charlie said he'd like to meet Finn or one of my friends if I or you wanted someone with me."

"I'm more than happy to go with him," Finn said.

"It's an added bonus for me so he can explain what's happening during the game," Kurt added.

Burt looked between Kurt and Finn for a minute. Kurt put on his best innocent, but hopeful look, silently begging his dad to say yes.

"I'll think about it," Burt finally said.


"I didn't say no," he interrupted. "I will get back to you tomorrow night, okay?"

"Okay," Kurt sighed. That was never a good sign. I'll think about it almost invariably meant No.

However, Kurt was pleasantly surprised the next evening when his dad agreed to let him go on the condition that Finn went along, too, and that he was still home by midnight. Curfew was curfew, regardless of how far Kurt had to drive.

"I promise!" Kurt swore. "Thanks, dad!"

He ran upstairs to call Charlie who immediately started brainstorming dinner ideas. Even in light of their previous dates not going terribly well, Kurt was actually looking forward to this outing.

By Saturday evening, Kurt was in even higher spirits celebrating the New Directions win at Regionals on the bus home from Cleveland. They had completely blown the competition away. Rachel had killed her ballad, as expected and Mercedes, Artie and Tina had shined in their group number. They had ended up going with Elephant Love Medley from Moulin Rouge for their movie number and shared the leads between all the seniors. Kurt had beamed as he stepped up to sing Ewan's verse with Silly Love Songs and Up Where We Belong. The group had received a standing ovation that had gone on for at least five minutes when they were done. There had been no doubt in anyone's mind that New Directions would be heading to Nationals in Atlanta in a few months.

By the time Kurt and Finn made it home, Blaine was there with Burt and Carole and a celebratory cake. There were hugs and cheers all around. Kurt even decided to indulge and actually had a piece of the gooey, sugary confection.

"You were fantastic," Blaine told Kurt when they had a moment alone.

"Thank you," Kurt replied. "I'm glad you were able to make it."

"Actually, I have some good news," Blaine said with a smile.


"I will actually be in town for the next month while everyone back in L.A. finalizes what I'm doing next."

"Are you ever going to tell me what that is?"


"Seriously? Not even a hint."

"Nope. I want to make sure all the details are in place before I say anything."

"You swear it has nothing to do with Gaga?"

"No," Blaine laughed. "Sadly, there is no Gaga in my future."

"Hey, you two," Burt said coming into the kitchen. "Listen, Carole wants to make a nice dinner tomorrow to celebrate your win. Blaine, you're invited, of course."

"Oh, no," Blaine said. "I couldn't impose… ."

"Nonsense," Burt replied. "Dinner is at six. Kurt, why don’t you call Charlie? See if he's free to come?"

"Really?" Kurt said.

"Yeah. If you're going to keep seeing him, I'd like to get to know him a little better."

"Um, sure. Okay."

Kurt couldn't help but notice Blaine fidgeting nervously beside him. This had the potential to be very weird if Charlie was free to come to dinner. Having Blaine and Charlie in the same room might just be one of Kurt's nightmares come to life.

The next night, Kurt was living it. He was standing awkwardly in the living room as he introduced Charlie and Blaine to each other.

"It's nice to finally meet you," Blaine said.

"Yeah, you, too," Charlie replied, a strange smile on his face. "Sorry," he added. "I'm just a big fan and Kurt never mentioned you were Blaine Anderson when he talked about you so this is a little strange for me."

Blaine just laughed and Kurt felt himself finally relaxing.

"Well, thank you," Blaine said. "That's always nice to hear."

The three boys sat on the couch as they waited for dinner to be ready. Kurt said another silent thank you to Carole for keeping his dad busy in the kitchen. Finn was up in his room, finishing his homework for tomorrow. Kurt just sat back and watched as Charlie and Blaine got to know each other. Charlie asked after Blaine's career and how he had gotten started. Kurt could listen to Blaine talk about music all day. He was so passionate about what he did that it was just really exciting to hear him talk about it.

"Kurt?" he heard Charlie ask.

"Hmm?" Kurt replied shaking himself out of his stupor.

"Blaine mentioned that you were writing a song for your glee club?"

"Oh! Yes, I am," Kurt said. "We started doing original songs last year for competitions and it seemed to work well for us, so we're doing the same thing again this year."

"Did you perform it for them yet?" Blaine asked.

"The other day, actually. What I have of it, at least."


"And they really liked it. Rachel seemed particularly excited by it, but there is no way I'm letting her take the lead on it. It is my song and if we end up doing it at Nationals I will be singing it."

Blaine and Charlie chuckled good naturedly at Kurt's insistence and Kurt was very happy to see them getting along. After his father, they were the two most important men in his life and if they hated each other, well, Kurt didn’t know what he would do.

"Dinner's ready," Carole said coming in to the room.

They followed her into the dining room, almost running into Finn as he came charging down the stairs.

"Hey," Finn said as he saw them.

"Finn, this is Charlie," Kurt said finally introducing his boyfriend to his stepbrother.

"Oh, hey. Nice to finally meet you," Finn said shaking Charlie's hand. "Thanks for the invite to the lacrosse game."

"No problem," Charlie said. "I'm glad you guys can make it down. Did you find out if Mercedes was going to come, too?" Charlie said turning to Kurt.

"Oh! Yes, she is. So, it'll be the three of us if that's okay."

"Of course," Charlie said squeezing Kurt's shoulder.

"Lacrosse game?" Blaine asked.

"Yeah," Kurt said. "Charlie invited us down to watch the home game they have on Saturday. It's the same day as your sister's birthday party, so…"

"Oh," Blaine said. "Well, good luck," he told Charlie.

"Thanks," Charlie replied.

The four boys finally made their way to the table and took in the delicious spread of food that was laid out for them. There was oven roasted chicken, fresh whipped potatoes, string beans and asparagus, some salad and fresh rolls Kurt had helped her make that morning.

"This all looks delicious, Mrs. Hummel," Blaine said.

"Blaine," Carole replied. "How many times do I have to tell you to call me Carole?"

"Sorry, Mrs. Hummel."

Carole just laughed and gestured for everyone to take a seat. Kurt ended up on one side of the table with Charlie to his left. Blaine was across from Kurt, next to Finn. Burt and Carole were at the two ends, opposite each other. They began passing the food around, Kurt carefully watching to make sure his dad didn't take too many potatoes. Once their plates were all full, Burt raised his glass in a toast.

"To Kurt and Finn," he said. "Congratulations on your win at Regionals and best of luck at Nationals."

"Here, here," Charlie added as they all clinked glasses.

Charlie leaned over and pressed a quick kiss to Kurt's cheek. Kurt couldn't help blushing at the open affection, especially in front of his family; he just wasn't used to it yet. He also couldn't ignore the fact that Blaine looked away, looking uncomfortable, too. Kurt would have to ask him about that later.

"So, Charlie," Carole said. "What are you studying at school?"

"Education with an emphasis in math," he said. "I think I'd like to teach high school or junior high and maybe coach, too."

"That sounds nice."

"Yeah. I worked at a lacrosse camp last summer and it was really great getting to see how all the kids improved even in the little time we had together."

"What do your parents do?" Burt asked.

Kurt rolled his eyes. He shouldn't have been surprised at the questioning. It had to happen at some point and he was just glad there were witnesses around for it.

"My father is an accountant and my mother is a pediatrician. I also have an older brother who is finishing his degree in finance and a younger sister who's just eleven."

"That's quite an age difference," Blaine remarked.

"Yeah," Charlie said with a laugh. "My parents were a little surprised when they found out my mom was pregnant again, but it's great. My mom loves having a little girl and she's not nearly as annoying as all my friends' little sisters."

"She's still young," Blaine said. "Just wait a few years."

"Kurt mentioned it's your sister's birthday soon?"

"Yeah, she'll be fourteen in a couple days. She started the rebelling a couple months ago and dyed her hair bright red. My mom freaked out, of course. It's been a little tense around the house and her party was almost cancelled, but they apparently reached a truce of some sort last week. So, it could be worse."

"Oh, awesome. Thanks," Charlie said sarcastically.

"No problem, man," Blaine said with a smile as the rest of Kurt's family laughed.

The conversation turned lighter after that. Charlie talked sports with his dad and Finn while Kurt and Blaine got in a discussion about the latest issue of Vogue with Kate Winslet on the cover and her upcoming movie.

Kurt looked over at Carole at one point and noticed she was looking between Kurt and Blaine with an odd look on her face. He would have to grab a moment with her later and ask what that was about.

The rest of the evening went much better than Kurt had been expecting. Charlie ended up leaving fairly early as he had a 7:00 am practice the next morning. Kurt walked him out to the car and they finalized their plans for the game. It started at 2:00, so they should be able to grab a fairly early dinner ensuring everyone would make it home in time for curfew. After a quick kiss good bye, Kurt waved him off and headed back into the house. Blaine was waiting for him in the living room as his dad and Finn had gone off to catch the end of the Sunday night football game and Carole was cleaning up in the kitchen.

"So," Kurt said.

"Charlie seems nice," Blaine replied.

"He is."

"I didn't realize he was so… athletic."

"Yeah. Apparently he's played sports since he's been able to walk so… ."

"He seemed to get along with your dad and Finn."


They stood there just staring at each other and it was so… weird and uncomfortable. They were never like this.

"Is something wrong?" Kurt asked.

"No," Blaine said quickly. "No, not at all. I just… I should go. There's a lot to do before Moira's party."

"Okay," Kurt said. "Well, thanks for coming."

"Sure. I'll call you later this week."

Kurt stood there confused after Blaine had left. There was something more going on, Kurt was sure. Did he not like Charlie? It seemed like they had gotten along, unless Blaine had just been pretending. Blaine had never been anything but honest with him. Though, if Kurt really thought about it, Blaine had been acting differently ever since he had started dating Charlie. Was he jealous? He couldn't be. Blaine just wanted to be friends and that was fine. This was all just so confusing. Kurt wandered into the kitchen and started helping Carole with the last of the dishes.

"Charlie seems like a very nice young man," she said after a few minutes.

"That he is," Kurt replied.

"I couldn't help but notice you spent most of dinner talking to Blaine, though."

Kurt closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "Please don't," he said quietly.

"I'm sorry, Kurt. I'm not trying to upset you, we just… we want you to be happy."

"Yes, well, Blaine had his chance but he decided he just wanted to be friends. Charlie is nice and we get along well enough and he actually likes me for whatever reason, so… ," Kurt trailed off.

"All right," Carole said gently.

"I have some homework I need to finish," he said drying the last dish.

"Okay. Good night."

Kurt went up to his room and just flopped down on his bed. He didn't have any homework to finish, but he just needed to get away from Carole and her disturbing insightfulness. Blaine was just making him more and more confused. Maybe Kurt had been thinking about possibly breaking it off with Charlie. He was a nice enough guy, but there just didn't seem to be any kind of spark there. Whenever they talked on the phone or Skype, they never talked very long and often ran out of things to say in fifteen minutes. Plus, there was the whole Charlie being friends with Karofsky thing. Kurt didn't want to tell anyone who they could or couldn't be friends with, but if he popped up on any more of their outings, Kurt didn't think he would be able to take it.

Why did relationships have to be so complicated?

"What position did you say Charlie played?" Finn asked as the trio took their seats in the stands at OSU. They were sitting just off the center field line and should have a good view of the whole game.

"Midfield," Kurt replied, scanning the field. "There he is. Number 26," he added, pointing out to the team warming up.

"That's good," Finn said. "He should see a lot of action then."

"Oh, really?" Mercedes said with a grin.

"Oh, stop it," Kurt said, swatting her on the arm. "Is lacrosse that difficult of a sport? He was kind of acting like I should be impressed that he was here on a sports scholarship."

"Well, it can be quite physically demanding," Finn explained. "It's kind of like soccer with a lot of running up and down the field and trying to keep the ball away from your opponent. Midfielder's especially. They play pretty much all over the field. So, if nothing else he's probably in really good shape."

"Mmm," Kurt just nodded as he sipped his Diet Coke. Charlie was definitely in very good shape, but Finn didn't need to know Kurt knew that.

"Are there a lot of positions, like in football?" Mercedes asked.

"Only a few: attack, midfield, defense, and the goalie. Attack players are the ones trying to score." Finn said.

"So, what's with all the lines on the field?" Kurt asked.

"Boundaries mostly, but the midline," Finn said pointing to the middle of the field, "can determine off-sides if you don't have enough players on one side and no one's allowed in the crease—that's the circle around the goal—except for the goalie."

"Hey!" Mercedes said. "It looks like they're getting ready to start."

The two teams jogged out onto the field, the players taking their positions. Kurt sat up a little straighter when he noticed Charlie was making his way to center field for the face-off. Charlie hadn't mentioned that to him. The Buckeyes were playing Notre Dame this week and, according to Charlie, it should be an exciting game with the long-standing rivalry between the two schools. The whistle blew moments later with Charlie quickly gaining control. He passed to one player who ran off towards Notre Dame's goal as players from the opposing team kept tapping on his stick. It looked like he was about to lose the ball, but he managed to pass it off to another player. Play continued like that for awhile, the Buckeyes coming close to scoring, but not quite managing to get past the Irish's defense when a whistle blew and play stopped.

"What happened?" Kurt asked.

"I think that was slashing. Number 8 hit Notre Dame's guy on the shoulder with his stick and you can't do that," Finn explained. "So, now that player has to sit out," he added, pointing to the OSU player jogging off the field, "while the game goes on."

"So, we're playing a man short?" Kurt asked.


"How is that fair?"

"Well, it's not. That's kind of the point of penalties. If there were no consequences then all hell would just break loose on the field."

"Hmph," Kurt said slumping in his seat. This is why he didn't like sports. The seemingly arbitrary rules for what was allowed and not just never made sense.

The game resumed with the Buckeyes down a man for a short time. One of the OSU attackers got possession of the ball and moved behind the goal so the other players could get into position. He seemed to be calling out a play of some sort as the rest of his team members started running quickly, trying to get away from the Notre Dame defenders. The ball was passed to Charlie, who ran to the opposite side of the field from where Kurt was sitting before he quickly flicked the ball back to another attacker. After a few more passes and some close calls, the Buckeyes finally managed to score the first goal of the game. The stands erupted with cheers, Kurt and his friends joining the crowd on their feet, cheering and hollering the Buckeyes.

"Well, that was exciting!" Mercedes said.

"It kind of was!" Kurt laughed.

The fans settled down as the players retook their positions for the next face-off. Notre Dame took control this time and the stands got rowdy trying to stir up the Buckeyes. There were a few moments of really quick action where the ball seemed to change hands every two seconds. Then one of the Notre Dame attackers missed what should have been a simple pass and the ball bounced onto the field, free for anyone to take. Kurt watched in awe as Charlie seemed to come out of nowhere to steal the ball and lead the team in a charge back down into Irish territory. After a few minutes of intense battle, Charlie managed to score another goal for the Buckeyes when none of the attackers were open in front of the goal.

Kurt jumped up and down, hugging Mercedes, so excited for his boyfriend. His boyfriend.. Kurt still marveled every time he thought that to himself. He had a boyfriend and he was an amazing guy and a phenomenal athlete. Kurt was so happy right now, he just couldn't stop smiling.

"Go, Charlie!"

Kurt froze as he heard a familiar voice call out from the stands behind them. He turned and was not surprised to see Karofsky there, cheering with the rest of the fans. Kurt was suddenly not so happy and sat down heavily in his seat.

"What is it?" Mercedes asked.

"Karofsky," Kurt said simply.

"What? Where?"

"The next section over, a few rows back."

"I didn't realize he went to school here," Mercedes said.

"He does," Kurt replied. "And he's apparently totally BFFs with Charlie."

"What?" Mercedes exclaimed. "Does Charlie know?"

"Does Charlie know what?" Finn asked sitting back down.

"That his bestie, Dave Karofsky, used to torment Kurt," Mercedes said.

"Mercedes, please," Kurt said.

"Wait, what? Charlie is friends with Karofsky?"

Kurt sighed and finally told them both the story of what had happened at the movies when he had run into Karofsky again.

"What are you gonna do?" Mercedes asked.

"I don't know," Kurt said honestly. "I mean, Charlie says that David seems to be a different guy, a whole bunch of their friends are gay and David's fine with it. And he said he'd make sure David wasn't around if I met up with them all again, but I don't know. If he's just going to keep popping up in random places like this… ."

"You gotta do what's right for you," Mercedes said.

"Yeah, totally," Finn agreed. "I mean, Charlie seems like a nice enough guy, but you shouldn't have to deal with Karofsky anymore if you don't have to."

Kurt just nodded. They were very valid points and he had a lot of thinking to do.

The first quarter ended not long after that, with the Buckeyes still up 2-0. The second quarter started much like the first with several close calls on both sides before Notre Dame finally managed to score their first goal of the game. There were boos of disappointment from the stands, scattered with some cheers from the few Notre Dame fans in attendance.

The crowd got pumped up again when the players took their positions for another face-off. It was a few tense moments before Charlie was able to get the ball out to his team and Ohio stormed down the field. The ball changed teams a few times, Ohio managing to keep Notre Dame off their side of the field, before Ohio seemed to catch a break and they got a shot off with it sailing just wide of the goal. At the same time, one of the Notre Dame players went crashing to the ground and the ref's whistle was blown to stop play. It looked like they were charging Charlie with a penalty of some kind. Kurt looked to Finn in confusion as he hadn't noticed Charlie doing anything obviously wrong. Finn just shrugged in return, having missed the alleged penalty while watching the failed goal attempt. Kurt tensed as he saw Charlie throw his stick to the ground and start arguing with the ref. Obviously, he wasn't pleased with the call that was made. The ref eventually just walked away and play was back under way.

However, whatever had happened between Charlie and the Notre Dame player was not over. Any time they were near each other for the rest of the game, they were constantly bumping shoulders and hitting each other with their sticks. Most of the hits were legal, if not a little harder than necessary. A few were not as legal, and both boys had 4 penalties by the end of the third quarter and the score was tied at five all.

The fourth quarter started much the same as the other with possession changing hands several times before OSU got the ball under their control. The Badgers took off running down the field, Charlie and the Notre Dame player once more getting entangled. Kurt didn't notice anything out of the ordinary happening, but the other player was suddenly on the ground and the ref was signaling another penalty for Charlie. Charlie ripped off his helmet, throwing it to the ground and started yelling at the ref. The ref blew his whistle one last time and gestured off the field. The stands erupted in boos and jeers as Charlie's teammates surrounded him, pleading with the ref.

"What's going on?" Kurt asked.

"Charlie's being ejected," Finn replied. "He's got five penalties and talking back to the ref like that is not going to help his case."

Finally, Charlie grabbed his helmet and stick from the ground and marched off the field toward the locker room. Kurt sat down, deflated at the turn of events. This sucks, he thought.

Play resumed soon enough, but Charlie's ejection seemed to have taken the wind out of Ohio's sails and they ended up losing 8-5. Kurt, Mercedes and Finn left the field, feeling as dejected as the rest of the Ohio fans. Kurt had arranged to meet Charlie outside the locker room before they went to dinner, but he was a little unsure if their plans still stood with what had just happened. Kurt asked Finn and Mercedes to give him a minute before following some of the other students towards the locker room. He waited outside for Charlie and started becoming concerned when it looked like all his teammates had left, but he hadn't seen any sign of Charlie. Debating whether or not it was worth the risk, Kurt finally decided to take a chance and slowly pushed open the locker room door.

"Charlie?" he called quietly once he was inside.

When there was no answer, he moved deeper into the open area and called out again. Faintly, he could hear the sound of running water and hoped it was just Charlie as he slowly made his way towards the noise. He rounded the far corner of the locker room and stopped dead in his tracks as he spotted Charlie standing under one of the showers, his head tipped back as he rinsed the suds from his shampoo, the water sluicing down his toned body in a tantalizing manner. There was a half-wall blocking Kurt's view of anything below Charlie's waist, which Kurt was honestly kind of grateful for. He wasn't sure he was ready to see Charlie in all his naked glory.

"Charlie?" he called again from where he stood.

Charlie started, turning towards Kurt's voice.

"Kurt!" he exclaimed. "Hi."

"Hi," Kurt replied quietly, concentrating very hard on keeping his eyes from wandering.

"I, um, just give me a second." Charlie finished rinsing off then grabbed the towel hanging on a nearby hook. "Sorry about that," he said stopping in front of Kurt.

"That's okay," Kurt replied resolutely keeping his eyes on Charlie's face. "I, um, I just wanted to see if we were still on for dinner?"

"Oh, yeah. Yes, of course. Just let me get dressed and I'll meet you out front in five minutes?"

"Sure. We'll be there," Kurt said.

"That's right," Charlie said. "Your stepbrother and friend are here?"


Charlie blew out a breath and Kurt could see him tensing about something. He didn't want this to be a stressful situation.

"It's fine," Kurt said. "We can get together some other time. You've obviously had a rough day. We can go and… . Yeah, we'll go… ."

"No!" Charlie insisted. "No, I'm sorry. I just, I'm worried I won't be good company and I just hate that you guys had to see that. You have to know I'm not like that. This other guy, he just… ."

"It's okay," Kurt insisted. "Really."

"No. You drove all this way just to see me and it's supposed to be our Valentine's date. We can get dinner. I'll be fine. Let me just… pull myself together and I'll see you out front."

"If you're sure?" Kurt asked.

"I'm sure," Charlie said with a smile. "I promise."

"Okay," Kurt said with a smile of his own. "We'll meet you outside." He made to leave but turned back when Charlie called his name.

"It's good to see you. I'm glad you came," Charlie said.

"Me, too."

Kurt left the locker room, heading for where he had left Mercedes and Finn, glad that Charlie was happy to see him, but still worried about what had happened earlier.

"Everything okay?" Mercedes asked when he met back up with them.

"Yeah," Kurt said. "He said he's fine and dinner is still good, but I don't know. He just seems stressed out and I don't want this to be awkward.

"What if we went somewhere else?" Finn asked. "Me and Mercedes, I mean? You could go out with Charlie and then we could just meet up for coffee or something after dinner? Would that be better?"

"You guys would do that?" Kurt asked.

"Yeah, totally. I saw a diner just down the road as we drove in, we can grab a bite there and you can call us later and we'll meet up somewhere," Finn continued. "I mean, I felt kind of weird crashing your Valentine's date, anyway."

"It's totally fine, Kurt," Mercedes added. "You go have a nice dinner with Charlie. We'll be fine."

"Okay. Thanks guys," Kurt said.

Kurt paced around the tunnel outside the locker room, fiddling with the strap on his messenger bag as he waited for Charlie to finish getting ready. He had been looking forward to this dinner, but now he wasn't so sure. Charlie's reaction to what happened during the game had him worried, and once again, Karofsky had popped up taking Kurt completely by surprise. If all relationships were this complicated, Kurt wondered how people managed to stay together long enough to get married.

"Hi," Charlie said as he exited the locker room and planted a quick kiss on Kurt's cheek. "Sorry about the wait. Where's Finn and Mercedes?"

"They, um, they decided to go get dinner on their own. They suggested we could all meet up for coffee after or something."

"Oh," Charlie said. "Is this because of what happened?"

"A little bit," Kurt said. "But not in the way you're thinking. They just didn't want to get in the way and Finn said he felt bad about crashing our Valentine's date anyway, so I guess it all worked out okay."

"Oh, okay, then," Charlie said. "Well, we should probably get going. Our reservation is in half an hour and it's about a twenty minute drive on a good day."

Kurt followed Charlie out to the parking lot and they hopped into his roommate's car once more; Charlie quickly called the restaurant to let them know of the change in their numbers for the reservation. The drive was pleasant enough, even if the conversation was stilted. Charlie still seemed tense from whatever had happened during the game and Kurt wanted to give him breathing room to pull himself back together. When they pulled up outside a nice looking steakhouse, Kurt was glad he had dressed up a bit, even with sitting through the game first.

"This looks nice," Kurt said as they walked into the lobby. The lighting was soft, but not too dim. The walls were a light cream color with some accents of dark brown around the bar and a damask patterned wallpaper in shades of green. There were curtains around groups of tables, helping to give the air of more privacy than one might get in an ordinary restaurant.

"Thank you," Charlie said. "It came highly recommended by several friends and the menu seemed to have a decent selection."

They were quickly shown to their table and the hostess took their coats to be checked in.

"You look very nice," Charlie said.

"Thank you," Kurt replied. He'd been a bit unsure of what to wear as the weather was still quite chilly and he wanted to make sure he was warm enough at the game, but didn't want to be too warm for dinner. He'd finally decided on the fully lined wool trousers he had that were dark gray with a faint pinstripe, a simple white button down with a red cardigan and his antique clock bowtie. With the addition of his Doc Marten's and his pea coat and scarf, he had been plenty warm at the game. "You look very nice, as well," Kurt said in return. "I see you took my suggestion of trying a skinny tie."

"I did. Do I pass inspection?" Charlie said with a smile.

"Yes, you do," Kurt replied. Charlie has also gone the simple, but classic route in black trousers, a light gray shirt and a skinny tie with a black and white paint splattered effect pattern. The shirt was fitted very nicely to his athletic physique without being overly large. Kurt suspected a tailor had been involved.

After having their water glasses filled by a busboy, Kurt finally opened the menu to try and decide what he wanted. He didn't often get to have steak of this quality and was thinking he might allow himself to indulge on this special occasion.

Or not, he thought as he got a look at the prices. $15 for a crab cake? $8 for a bowl of soup? These prices are ridiculous.

"What are you thinking?" Charlie asked.

"Um, I think I might just have a salad," Kurt replied. "I'm not really that hungry."

Charlie looked at him bewilderedly. "Price is no concern, okay? This is a special dinner, Kurt. Let me treat you to something nice."

Kurt nodded but still felt a bit guilty as his eye wandered to the New York Strip au Poivre. He loved a good pepper sauce with his steak, but $40 seemed a bit much.

"Have you ever had oysters?" Charlie asked.

"I have not."

"Would you like to try the appetizer? They're really delicious."

"Sure," Kurt said. Oysters were something he'd always wanted to try, but he really didn’t trust the seafood at a place like Breadstix.

Kurt was still debating whether or not to get a salad with his dinner when the waiter appeared to take their order. Kurt gestured for Charlie to order first so he could finish deciding what he wanted. When he heard Charlie order a bowl of soup in addition to the oyster appetizer, Kurt decided to just go for it and ordered the spinach salad, too.

After the waiter had taken their orders and left, Kurt shifted nervously. He wanted to ask Charlie what had happened as it was obvious something more than the usual rough play had been going on. But at the same time, if it was something really awful, Kurt didn't want that to put a damper on their date. In the end, though, the only way to know for sure would be to ask.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.

"Not really," Charlie said bluntly. "You should know that what happened today was very out of the norm for me. I hardly ever get penalized let alone rank up enough to be ejected like that. That guy, though, he just… ."

"What did he do?"

"He called me a… fucking fag," Charlie replied in a hushed tone. "He just kept making these jabs at me, saying stupid things about how I was only in sports to ogle other guys in the locker room and that guys like me had no right to be playing in case I started bleeding and gave him AIDS."

Kurt just gasped. "That's awful," he said. "I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Charlie said. "I've dealt with it before and I'll probably deal with it again. It's just been so long since this was an issue of any kind. All my teammates know I'm gay, I don't hide and none of them have any problem with it. Really, it's guys like him that shouldn't be playing. I'm just really sorry you had to be there to see it," he apologized again.

"It's fine, really," Kurt insisted. "You're only human; you can't be expected to ignore that kind of thing."

"Thanks," Charlie said, laying his hand on Kurt's. "Now, I know we haven't been seeing each other very long, but I got you a little something for Valentine's. It's just something I saw and it reminded me of you."

He pulled a small jeweler's box out of pocket and Kurt got a little nervous.

"I actually got you a little something, too," Kurt said. "Though I'm afraid it might not be as nice as what you got me."

Charlie chuckled at Kurt's admission. "I'm sure I'll love whatever it is. If it makes you feel better, I did find your gift at a second hand store."

Kurt just smiled before reaching down to pull the thin box from his bag. He handed it shyly to Charlie who accepted it with a grin.

"Could this be what I think it is?" he asked.

"Perhaps," Kurt replied. "I guess you'll have to open it to find out."

"You first," Charlie insisted.

Kurt picked up the box and slowly flipped the lid open. His breath caught in his throat as a pair of onyx and silver cufflinks were revealed. The stones themselves were square, with a slightly rounded shape to the top. They were set in sterling silver with thin threads running across the top in a loose mesh pattern.

"They're beautiful," Kurt said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Charlie replied before gently tearing open the wrapping on his gift. It was nothing really special. Just a simple emerald colored tie with a subtle tone-on-tone paisley pattern to it. Kurt had seen it and instantly thought it would look amazing with Charlie's beautiful, brown eyes.

"This is great, thank you!" Charlie said enthusiastically.

"I know it's not much…" Kurt started.

"Stop that. Believe it or not, I've actually been looking for something like this. I have this one shirt that I thought would look really good with a green tie and this… it's perfect, really."

"Well, good. I'm glad you like it."

"I love it. Happy Valentine's Day," Charlie said offering a toast.

"Happy Valentine's Day," Kurt replied as they clicked glasses.

Kurt took a sip of his water and set it back down. His eyes wandered around the restaurant, taking in the décor and other diners. There was quite a mix of people: older couples, younger couples, some families even. Kurt was quite impressed, actually.

"So, um, Blaine seems like a nice guy," Charlie commented.

"He is," Kurt confirmed.

"How did you meet exactly?"

"Mercedes won tickets to his concert last year from the radio and they included sound check and meet and greet passes," Kurt explained. "Though apparently we just missed each other at last year's Regional competition. He was there with his show choir and actually remembered me."

"Oh, that's pretty cool. It seems like you guys have a lot in common, then."

"I guess so," Kurt agreed.

Unfortunately, that seemed to be the high point of the meal. The rest of the night was really just a case study in How Not To Date Someone. Charlie asked Kurt what he'd thought of the game, but Kurt didn't really have much to say other than it was exciting. Not being a sports fan, it was difficult for Kurt to get into any particulars. Kurt tried to talk about fashion or pop culture, but with Charlie's limited knowledge of those subjects, the conversations were brief. It was so uncomfortable, Kurt was almost in pain.

The food, however, was quite delicious and Kurt ended up enjoying the oysters a great deal. He would definitely have to try them again. The steak was also amazing: juicy, tender and cooked a perfect medium. Charlie also commented that his steak was just as perfectly done.

And that was pretty much the end of their conversation for the evening. Several topics did pop into Kurt's mind, but he knew they weren’t anything that Charlie would be interested in, so he didn't even try. They sat there in awkward silence as they waited for the check, both of them forgoing dessert to try and put an end to this miserable evening.

"I'm sorry," Charlie said as they pulled back into the parking lot of the diner where Finn and Mercedes were waiting for them. "This was a… really bad date."

Kurt just looked over at him, unsure of what to say. He didn't think he was supposed to agree, even if it was awful. So, he settled for saying nothing.

"I, um, I should go," Kurt said.

"Okay," Charlie said. "Please give them my apologies."

"I will." Kurt paused before exiting Charlie's car. Gathering up all his courage, he leaned in and kissed Charlie for what could be the last time.

He hurried out of the car before Charlie could respond and quickly found Finn and Mercedes in a booth near the back. He collapsed next to Mercedes and dropped his head on to the table.

"What's wrong?" Finn asked.

"I think I have to break up Charlie," Kurt mumbled.

"It was that bad?" Mercedes asked.

"It was awful. Easily the worst date in the history of dating."

"It can't have been that bad," Finn said.

"It wasn't just tonight," Kurt said lifting his head. "Things have never really been that… great between us. I mean, he's a nice enough guy, but there's just nothing there. That spark or whatever it is everyone says is supposed to be there? We just don't have it."

"I'm sorry, Kurt," Mercedes said rubbing his back.

"It's okay," Kurt said. "I mean, it's not like we were head over heels in love or anything."

"I hate to say it, Kurt," Mercedes said. "But to be honest, you have more chemistry with Blaine than it seems you have with Charlie."

"Don't," Kurt said. "Just don't. It's not fair to compare them. They're two completely different people. Just because Charlie isn't Blaine doesn't mean he isn't a good guy."

Finn and Mercedes settled their bill not long after that and they started the drive back to Lima. Kurt thinking over how he should break up with Charlie. The nice thing to do would be to do it person, but he couldn't really ask Charlie to drive two hours just to dump him. But doing it over the phone or even Skype just seemed so… cold.

Maybe he could give Charlie another chance? That night's disastrous date wasn't entirely Charlie's fault. Kurt, maybe, hadn't always been entirely present whenever they went out. For some reason, he couldn’t stop comparing Charlie to Blaine and that wasn't fair to either of them. It was probably because things were so easy with Blaine and with Charlie it all seemed to take so much effort. Conversations were still a struggle with their vastly different interests, and it seemed like he had to work harder to get time with Charlie even when Blaine was in a completely different state. Weren't the best things in life supposed to be worth trying for?

Kurt's head was still going around in circles when Finn finally pulled back into their driveway. Finn headed upstairs to call Rachel and Kurt wandered into the kitchen for some tea and toast. He was actually really glad to see his dad sitting at the table.

"Hey, kiddo. How'd the date go?"

"Not so good," Kurt said.

"What happened?"

"Something happened with one of the Notre Dame players during the game that just got Charlie in a bad mood and it carried over into dinner."

Kurt paused as the kettle whistled and he went to go fix his tea and snack. When he sat back down at the table, he took a moment to figure what exactly he wanted to say.

"When you and mom first started dating," he said, "was it hard?"

"You bet it was," Burt replied. "I was the son of the town mechanic and her parents came from money. We weren't exactly a match made in heaven in their eyes. I remember that even after she told them about us, they kept setting her up on dates with boys that they deemed more appropriate for her to be seeing. What's going on?"

Kurt just shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, sometimes it just seems like we don't have all that much in common and I know that's not everything, but it shouldn't be so hard to find things to talk about, should it?"

"I can't tell you what to do, Kurt. Charlie seems like a decent enough guy and he seems to really like you. Unfortunately, only you can know if that's enough to keep the relationship going."

Kurt thought over what his dad said. It was pretty much the same thing he had been thinking, but it was nice to have someone confirm his feelings. He could give Charlie one more chance, make more of an effort himself and after that, well, he'd just have to wait and see.

Tuesday evening, Kurt called Charlie and they arranged a date for the following Saturday. Dinner and a movie should be safe enough. They finally decided to see the latest Hollywood swords and sandals epic that promised to launch Zac Efron onto the A list of Hollywood leading men. There should be plenty of blood and action to entertain Charlie and hot men in skimpy Grecian robes to keep Kurt's attention. Kurt had insisted on meeting at the theater, so if the date went that terribly, he wouldn't have to endure the awkward drive home.

The movie was entertaining enough, if a little thin on plot. Kurt called the ending about half an hour in and leaned over to whisper his theory to Charlie who just hushed him before he got two words out. There was only one other couple in the theater besides them, so it wasn't like Kurt would have been disturbing anyone. Kurt sat back in his seat and pouted. For one, he hated being shushed like that, and two, if Blaine had been there, they'd be laughing over Kurt's brilliant description of how the heroine would escape the clutches of her captor only to get lost in the maze of underground tunnels but miraculously stumble across the hero as he was chased through those very same tunnels by the guards.

No. Kurt wasn't going to do that anymore. Charlie was not Blaine and would never be Blaine and he needed to accept that. He decided to give dinner a chance so they could actually talk, instead of just scrapping the date and relationship right then and there.

"So, what did you think of the movie?" Kurt finally asked after they had given their orders to the waiter.

"It wasn't bad," Charlie replied. "Fairly typical Hollywood fare, but the effects were pretty cool. That last fight scene was pretty epic. What about you?"

"Yeah. I kinda felt like I'd seen most of it before. But Zefron certainly wasn't bad to look at for an hour and a half," he laughed.


"Zac Efron?" Kurt said. "The guy who played Heron?"

"Oh! Him! I thought he looked familiar. He did that high school movie, right?"

"High School Musical, yeah," Kurt replied.

"My little sister loves that movie now, apparently. I was talking to my mom the other day and she was over at a friend's house and her older sister showed it to them. She made my mom buy her all the movies and I think she mentioned wanting a poster?"

"Oh, god," Kurt said. "I'm so sorry. That's going to be awful when you get home."

Charlie chuckled. Kurt smiled as he sipped his Diet Coke.

After a small lull in the conversation, Charlie launched into a story about something stupid his friends did the other day that apparently involved the flag pole, someone's underwear and a bucket of water. They were interrupted briefly as their food arrived and then Charlie picked right up where he had left off.

"So, then James is jumping up and down yelling something in French and then Dave…"

Kurt visibly tensed and dropped his fork with a little more force than he meant to at the mention of that name. He was just never going to get away was he? Kurt would never be the kind of guy to tell someone who they could or could not be friends with, but honestly, the fact that Charlie was friends with Dave really bothered him.

"What is it?" Charlie asked.

Kurt just sighed. This was it. The moment he'd been dreading for the last couple weeks was finally here. He could do this.

"This isn't working," he said.

"Is your lasagna not good? Should I track down the waiter?"

"No, Charlie. It's not the food. It's us. We're not working," Kurt said looking Charlie straight in the eyes.

Charlie just looked confused at what Kurt was saying. Could he really not see what was happening? Or not happening between them?

"I don't understand," Charlie said.

"Oh, come on," Kurt said. "You can't tell me you don't notice how awkward things are between us whenever we go out. We barely have anything in common; our phone calls have been getting shorter and shorter."

"Does this have anything to do with Dave?" Charlie accused.

"I would be lying if I said no," Kurt admitted. "I tried not to let it bother me and trust your word that he's better than he was, but you don't understand what he put me through, Charlie. I just… I can't be around that. In any way."

"I see," Charlie said.

"I'm sorry, okay," Kurt said. "I think you're a great guy, really. Just… for someone else."

"I think you should go now," Charlie whispered, turning away from Kurt.

If Kurt didn't feel bad already, he certainly did now. Charlie was taking this a lot harder than Kurt imagined he would. Kurt reached into his wallet and pulled out $40. That should be enough cover the meal and leave a generous tip, too.

"Take care, Charlie," Kurt said as he left.

Kurt drove home in silence, leaving the radio off and letting his thoughts wander. He just did something he never thought he'd actually do – he broke up with a boy. This was huge, really. For so long Kurt had thought he'd never find anyone. Now, he'd actually had a boyfriend and then broken up with him. Strangely enough, Kurt wasn't even that heartbroken over it. Sure, he felt bad for hurting Charlie like that, but mostly he was just… relieved. Dating Charlie had started to be more stressful than it was probably worth and to have that weight lifted was like a breath of fresh air.

Now, he could move on with preparing for Nationals and waiting anxiously for the acceptance letters to start rolling in.

When Kurt got home, it was still early and he hadn't been able to finish his dinner, so he went to the kitchen to get a snack. There was some hummus leftover from the batch he made the other day, so he grabbed that, some carrot sticks and a Diet Coke and went to join his dad in the living room. There was some sporting event on the TV, but Kurt just wanted the company.

"You're home early," his dad said after a bit.

"Yeah," Kurt replied.

"Are you gonna tell me what happened?"

"I, um, I broke up with Charlie," he said quietly.

"I'm sorry, Kurt," Burt replied. "Are you okay?"

"Surprisingly, yeah. I mean, Charlie seemed a lot more upset than I thought he would be so I feel bad about that. In a way, I'm just kind of glad it's all over. I mean, he's a nice enough guy, but going out with him was just a lot harder than it should be, I think."

"Well, then, good," Burt said.

"I think I'm gonna go call Mercedes and head to bed. Night, dad."

"Night, Kurt."

Kurt did call Mercedes, but ended up getting her voicemail and left a brief message that he and Charlie were over. He thought it over for a minute and decided to call Blaine, too. Maybe he could come over tomorrow to help Kurt with the song he'd been writing. That would be a good distraction.

"Hey, Kurt," Blaine answered.

"Hi," Kurt said flatly.

"What's wrong?"

"I broke up with Charlie."

"Oh, Kurt. I'm so sorry," Blaine said.

"It's okay. It was never that great between us and we were just dragging out the inevitable," he admitted.

"Can I do anything?"

"Actually, I was wondering if maybe you were free tomorrow to help me with the song for Nationals?"

"Yeah, of course. I actually have a family thing in the morning, but I could come by after lunch. Would 2:00 work?"

"That sounds great. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

A heavy silence hung between them. It should have been weird just lying there, listening to Blaine breathing on the other end of the phone, but it was just… peaceful. If Kurt closed his eyes, he could imagine Blaine was there with him and not at his house two hours away. He could imagine Blaine running his hands through his hair before tangling their fingers together. If he imagined hard enough, he could take a breath, lean in and press his lips to Blaine's.

But this wasn't his imagination. This was reality and something was holding Blaine back. Whatever that was, Kurt wanted to know so he could stomp it out and just yell, "I'm here! I'm right here!" He had a feeling that even if he did that, it wouldn't make any difference. He'd tried to hang on to the small thread of hope that everyone who knew them, told Kurt that Blaine had feelings for him, but the longer Blaine went without doing anything the harder it was to believe them.

Just after two the next afternoon, the doorbell rang announcing Blaine's arrival. Kurt, who had been hovering near the door since at least 1:45, took a moment to smooth any nonexistent wrinkles from his t-shirt before opening the door and letting Blaine in. Kurt saw that Blaine had brought his guitar, which he was happy about. They'd been playing with a slightly amped up instrumentation and Kurt had had an idea he wanted to run by Blaine. He was about to lead them upstairs to the keyboard he had set-up in his room, when he quirked his head at Blaine. Blaine who had on the cutest pair of small silver rimmed glasses on.

"What?" Blaine asked.

"You wear glasses?"

"Oh, yeah," Blaine said. "Well, contacts usually, but they were bugging me this morning, so glasses it is. Why? Do they look weird?"

"No, not at all. I just didn't know that about you. I like them; they're cute." You're cute, Kurt thought.

"Thanks," Blaine said smiling awkwardly. "You ready to get to work?"


Kurt showed Blaine the rest of the verses he had written, as well as a short bridge before the final chorus. Together they worked on getting the melody finalized and reworked some of the wording to make the verses flow better. Blaine worked out some additional guitar and bass lines before they got to work on the vocal harmonies. Kurt couldn't believe he was sitting in his room, singing and writing a song with Blaine Anderson. It was moments like these that he could look back on and marvel at the fact that someone like Blaine was probably his best friend.

"I think that's it," Blaine said a few hours later.

"Really?" Kurt said turning slightly to face Blaine who had joined him on the small bench in front of the keyboard.

"Yeah. You, Kurt Hummel, have just written your first hit song."

"I don't know about a hit song…" Kurt said.

"It's a great song, Kurt," Blaine said, laying his hand on Kurt's knee. "Really. You should be a shoe in to win Nationals with this."

Kurt turned away from Blaine. With the way Blaine was looking at him, Kurt was liable to do something really stupid, like kiss him. So, he took a deep breath and centered himself again.

"Thank you," he said quietly as he tipped his head to the side and rested it on Blaine's shoulder.

Blaine didn't say anything in return, and Kurt felt him turn his head and inhale deeply with his nose buried in Kurt's hair. Blaine's hand tightened briefly on his knee and Kurt swore he felt Blaine kiss the top of his head. Kurt squeezed his eyes shut as the flood of emotion overwhelmed him. Why did Blaine have to do this? Why did he have to be so easy with his affection and get Kurt's hopes up, but then just… nothing? Did he not know what he was doing Kurt?

"Did you want to stay for dinner?" Kurt asked finally breaking the silence.

"I better not," Blaine said, moving away from Kurt. "I should get home. Family stuff."

"Everything okay?" Kurt asked becoming concerned.

"Oh, yeah. Everything's fine. I promise."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Blaine said with a tight smile.

"Okay. Well, call me if you need to talk."

"I will."

Blaine packed up his gear and Kurt walked him out to his car.

"Thanks, again," Kurt said as they hugged goodbye.

"You're welcome. Good luck tomorrow. Let me know how the song goes over."

"Will do. Bye."

Blaine drove off with a wave and Kurt headed back inside to help Carole with dinner. He couldn't help thinking that maybe things had a chance of changing, that maybe Blaine would be able to get past whatever was keeping him from his feelings for Kurt. He just had to hold out a little longer.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind for Kurt. Midterms were coming up, New Directions was blazing head strong towards Nationals and, of course, there was Blaine. There were dinners and movies, sometimes with Mercedes, too. There were also quiet evenings in when Kurt was so wired from all the adrenaline, but too tired to do anything. Nights when just the company of Blaine next to him on the couch as they watched old Hollywood musicals was enough to calm him down.

Kurt barely had a foot in the door at school one Monday morning in mid-March when Rachel was on him, shoving a magazine in his face.

"Are you dating Blaine Anderson?" she asked abruptly.

"What?" he asked, shoving her and the magazine out of the way, trying to get to his locker.

"Are you and Blaine Anderson dating?" she asked again, holding up the magazine for him to see once they stopped at his locker.

It was the latest issue of US Weekly and featured a picture of him and Blaine leaving the movie theater after seeing the latest ridiculous rom-com. They were smiling at each other and Blaine was laughing, his hand on Kurt's shoulder. Kurt remembered he had just made a stupid joke about the actress in the movie they had seen being on Team Edward. It hadn't really been that funny, but apparently Blaine had thought it was hilarious.

"Where did you get that?" he asked, grabbing it from her.

"It was all over Jacob's blog this weekend. Now answer the question – are you and Blaine… ."

"No!" he interrupted. "We're not… dating. We're friends."

He read the small caption with the picture and felt sick to his stomach.

Pop star Blaine Anderson caught out with a mystery male last week in Lima, OH. Are they just friends or has one of America's most eligible bachelors been snapped up?
"This is ridiculous," Kurt said. "This is just… Why do people do this? We were just seeing a movie. How is that news worthy?"

"Why didn’t you tell us?" Rachel prodded.

"Tell you what?" Mercedes asked, joining the two in the hall.

"That he knows," she said pointing at Kurt, "and is friends with Blaine Anderson!"

"Oh, yeah," Mercedes replied casually. "We met him at his show a couple months ago. He's a great guy."

"You knew?" Rachel said accusingly.

"Why does it matter?" Kurt asked.

"Because he's Blaine Anderson! We could have used him… ."

"And that's why we didn't tell you," Mercedes interjected.

"Oh my god!" Rachel cried. "Is he the friend you wrote that song with? Do you think you could convince him to come in and… ."

"Rachel, just stop," Kurt interrupted. "He's not someone I want to use for some nefarious purpose. He's really nice and a really good friend," Kurt explained. "I don't have any gay friends, Rachel. He understands what I'm going through because he's been there. So, excuse me for wanting to have something for myself." He grabbed Mercedes' arm and they walked off leaving Rachel alone in the middle of the hall, her mouth gaping open in shock after them.

The rest of Kurt's day didn't get any better. No one else came out and said anything directly to him, but Kurt could see everyone whispering behind their hands and staring at him. He wanted to yell at them to stop it, that he knew what they were saying, but it wouldn't do any good. People would believe whatever they wanted to believe, regardless of how loudly you yelled the truth at them.

By the time glee club rolled around, all he wanted to do was go home and crawl under the covers. Could he please have a do over? Because today? Sucked. He was the last to arrive to practice and sighed in exasperation as everyone stopped talking and turned to just stare at him. He walked to the last row and threw his bag down before stomping back to the front of the room.

"Kurt," Mr. Schue started. "Are you-"

"I'm only going to say this once," Kurt interrupted. "Yes, I'm friends with Blaine, no we're not dating and no I didn't tell any of you about it. He's my friend and that's all that should matter. Now if we could please get on with rehearsing. Nationals is in less than two months and I for one would like to actually win this year."

"But, Kurt," Rachel said.

"Rachel," Mr. Schue interrupted. "Kurt is right. What happened is a horrible invasion of privacy and if Kurt doesn't want to talk about it, we need to respect his wishes. Now, Mike and I have been working on some choreography for Kurt's number and I'd like to start going over that with everyone."

They worked hard for the next two hours, getting the first half of the choreography down. Finn would need some extra work as usual, but he was at least moving to the right places at the right time, even if he didn't quite have all the steps exactly right yet. They were all packing up to go when Kurt saw someone hovering in the doorway to the choir room.

"Blaine!" he exclaimed as he saw who it was. He rushed over and pulled him into the room all the way. "What are you doing here?"

"I just found out about the magazine and I wanted to see if you were okay. Your dad said you were still here."

"Yeah, we're just finishing."

They turned to find everyone in the room staring back at them.

"Um, everyone, this is Blaine," Kurt said. "Blaine this is the New Directions."

"Hi, everyone," Blaine said. "Hey, Finn."

"Hey, Blaine."

"You knew?" Rachel hissed as she slapped Finn in the stomach. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"He blackmailed me!" Finn said pointing at Kurt. "I couldn't tell anyone."

"Guys!" Mr. Schuester said. "Sorry about that," he added coming over to greet Blaine. "It's nice to meet you, Blaine."

"You, too, Mr. Schuester. Kurt has said some wonderful things about your group."

"Well, thank you. We're all big fans of your work."

"Thank you. I didn't mean to interrupt or anything…" Blaine trailed off.

"Oh, not at all. We're done for the day, so Kurt's all yours."

Kurt looked away and blushed at the double meaning of Mr. Schue's words. If only, he thought.

"Thanks. It was nice to meet you all," Blaine said as Kurt directed them out of the room, quickly tossing the car keys to Finn. He could catch a ride with Blaine when they were done.

"I'm so sorry, Kurt," he said once they were in an empty classroom.

"For what? This isn't your fault," Kurt replied.

"I know, but I still feel bad. I'm usually better about spotting that kind of thing, but no one's ever bothered me here before and I must have just slacked off."

"Don't worry, it's okay."

"Is it? Did anything happen today?"

"Nothing worse than usual," Kurt said dismissively. "Just whispers and people staring. No one actually had the nerve to say anything to my face, so I'm pretty sure they're all just jealous."

Blaine laughed with Kurt. "Of course. Who wouldn't want to be mistaken for my boyfriend?"

"Oh, no. They're not jealous of me, they're jealous of you. After all, you did get photographed hanging off the arm of Lima's most eligible, if only, gay man."

"Kurt!" Blaine cried as he doubled over in laughter. "Seriously, though," he said after he calmed down. "Everything's fine?"

"I promise," Kurt swore. "It's nothing I can't handle."

"Okay," Blaine nodded. "Come on. I'll give you a ride home."

That night over dinner, Blaine and the Hudsons and Hummels had a good laugh over the new celebrity in the family. Kurt just turned bright red and wanted to hide under the table.

The next morning, Kurt drove up to the school and almost turned around as soon as he saw the news vans and photographers camped out on the front lawn. He would have, if his Navigator hadn't immediately been swarmed by those very same people.

"Finn?" Kurt said in a panic.

"Okay," Finn said, obviously trying to think. "Okay. You stay here and lock the doors. "I'll go get Beiste and the football team and we'll run you into the school, okay?"

Kurt just nodded as he shrunk down in his seat, trying to hide behind his bag. What was going on? How was he news? This was absolutely insane! Luckily, Finn was back before Kurt completely broke down and the football team elbowed their way through the crowd and blocked the door as Kurt got out. They surrounded him and rushed him into the school, where Beiste was waiting with Principal Figgins, Sue, Miss Pillsbury and Mr. Schue. They ushered him to Figgins office where Kurt collapsed on the couch and tried to remember how to breathe. Distantly, he thought he heard his phone ringing. He pulled it out of his coat pocket and saw it was his dad's number at the shop.

"Dad?" he said, feeling like a scared child.

"Kurt!" his dad cried. "Are you okay? There's all these reporters here at the shop. I'm trying to get out to make it to you, but they're just everywhere."

"Yeah, they're here at the school, too," Kurt said. "I'm in Principal Figgins' office and I don't know what to do. What do I do?"

"You just hang tight, okay? I'll be there as soon as I can and we'll get this sorted out, okay? I love you."

"I love you, too, dad." Kurt was about to hang up when he saw Sue gesturing for his phone. "Hang on, dad. Coach Sylvester wants to talk to you."

"Mr. Hummel, Sue Sylvester here. I just want you to know that your son's safety is our number one concern at this time. I've already called in a favor with the local PD and expect them to be here any moment to secure the school premises from these so called journalists. Do you need me to send any of them your way? … Yes, okay. I'll make sure you get an escort from your shop. … Yes, we'll see you soon." Sue hung up and handed the phone back to Kurt. "Your dad's going to get here safely, okay, Porcelain? You just sit here and we'll make sure everything is taken care of."

"Thank you, Coach," Kurt said. He started as his phone rang again. "Hello?" he said not checking the caller ID.

"Kurt?" Blaine said.

"Blaine! Are you okay? Did they find you?"

"They found you? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm at McKinley. There's a whole bunch of them parked outside."

"They're all camped outside our house, too," Blaine said. "I'm so sorry, Kurt. I never wanted any of this-"

"Blaine, stop," Kurt interrupted. "This is not your fault, okay? Yeah, it sucks but you are in no way to blame for what's happening."

Blaine sighed. "Still, this is happening because of me, because of who I am. I understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore."

"What?" Kurt cried. "No, Blaine. No. You're… you're my best friend. This'll all blow over in a day or two when they realize there's nothing interesting to report. Really, Lima, OH isn't exactly a hot bed of gossip activity."

"Okay," Blaine said softly. "There's something else. My manager wants to issue a statement and we need you to agree to what it says since you're mentioned in it."

"What's it say?"

"I need to get your agreement in writing, so I'll email it to you. But, basically, it's just acknowledging that yes, we know each other and are friends, but are not romantically involved. Pretty simple and straight forward."

"Okay," Kurt agreed. "I'll try to get back to you as soon as I can. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to my email."

"Sure, sure," Blaine said. "The sooner the better, obviously."

"Of course. I, um, I should go. My dad should be here soon so we can get this all straightened out."

"Okay. Call me later? When you get home so I know you're fine?"

"Yeah. I'll call you tonight."

"Okay. Take care."

"You, too. Bye, Blaine."

"Let me have your phone," Sue said as Kurt hung up.

"What? Why?"

"They know your name and where you go to school. It'll only be a matter of time before they find out your phone number. If anyone calls whose name is not in your caller ID, I will answer and give them hell for harassing a seventeen year old boy," she explained.

"Okay. Thanks."


The group in Figgins' office turned to see the members of the glee club rushing in.

"Are you okay?" Mercedes asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Physically I'm fine. Mentally, I'm kind of freaking out."

"If there's anything we can do to help," Rachel offered.

"Thanks. My dad's on his way from the shop with a police escort so we can get this all straightened out."

"Excuse me?"

Everyone turned and made room for the police officer who had just arrived.

"Which of you is Kurt Hummel?" he asked.

"That's me," Kurt said, standing up.

"I'm Officer Murphy," he said shaking Kurt's hand. "I just heard from Officer James. He has your father and they should be here in about ten minutes. Can you tell us how this started?"

Kurt launched into an abbreviated version of what happened over the weekend with the magazine. The officer asking questions every now and then to get all the facts straight.

"How did they even find out who I am?" Kurt asked.

"These journalists are ruthless and have sources everywhere. With your picture, all they would need to do is ask the right questions to the right people and they would have all the information they needed. Has anyone tried calling you yet?"

"No, they haven't," Kurt said.

"This is his phone," Sue said handing it over.

"Thank you, Miss Sylvester," Murphy said. "Once your father is here and everything has been straightened out, you'll want to turn this off and leave it off. If this escalates in anyway, you might have to change your number."

Kurt just nodded, trying to take everything in. This was completely insane. Changing phone numbers? Why was this happening? Suddenly, Kurt's phone rang and everyone turned their attention to the officer as he answered the phone.

"This is Officer Murphy of the Lima Police. Who is calling? … No, there is no comment or statement and if you call this number again you will be jailed and charged with harassment of a minor. Do I make myself clear? … Good."

The next few minutes were filled with tense silence as they waited for Burt to arrive at the school and hopefully put an end to all this craziness. Finn stayed behind, but one by one the other members of the glee club trickled off to class. Figgins insisted on everyone at least attempting to get through the day on a normal schedule, even if no one was paying attention to anything anyone said. Luckily, they didn't have to wait long and Burt came storming into the office followed by three other police officers.

"Dad!" Kurt cried, running over and hugging him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, kiddo. How are you doing?"

"As well as I can, I guess. This is all so crazy."

Once everyone was settled in, the real discussions began. The police department had managed to move everyone off school grounds and into the park across the street. Even though school grounds were technically public property, as the journalists did not belong there the police were able to threaten everyone with charges of loitering or harassment if they hung around too long. An officer had been sent to the hospital where Carole was working to inform her of the situation and provide any protection she might need. Several cars had also been sent to their home to secure the premises.

"Have you heard from Blaine?" his dad asked.

"Yeah, he called not too long ago. It seems they're going through the same thing over there and he needs me to okay a press release they want to issue about this whole situation."

"I feel so bad for that kid. He's gotta be beating himself up over this," he added.

"He does," Kurt agreed. "He said he would understand if I didn't want to see him anymore."

"That might actually be a good idea, Kurt."

"Dad! No!"

"Not forever. But maybe just until all this blows over, you shouldn't be seen out with him. If there's nothing to report, they'll have to leave eventually, right?"

"I really do think that is your best course of action," Office Murphy agreed.

"What about school?" Kurt asked. "If they're outside our house and here, I don't know that I would really feel safe leaving, anyway."

"We can arrange to have Finn bring your schoolwork to you," Principal Figgins said. "You're a good student, Mr. Hummel and as long as you keep up with the assignments, I don't see any problem with you staying home for a few days while this blows over."

"I can do that," Finn said. "No problem."

Kurt nodded. He was going to be a prisoner in his own house. When had his life become like something out of a movie?

They wrapped up the final details and Kurt grabbed his bag to head back home.

"Wait a minute!" he said. "What about glee club? We have Nationals coming up and I can't miss all the practices."

"You could have rehearsal at the house?" his dad offered after a few minutes. "The backyard should be big enough and now that the snow is gone, you shouldn't have to worry about that. It might be a little chilly and soggy, but I think you guys can make it work."

"We can definitely make that work, Mr. Hummel," Mr. Schue said. "Thank you. I'll cancel practice for today to let you guys get everything settled at home and tomorrow we'll be over at about 3:30?"

"That sounds perfect," Burt agreed.

"Thank you," Kurt said.

"Take care, Kurt," Mr. Schue said. "If you need anything from us, please let me know."

"I will. See you tomorrow."

Kurt, his dad and Finn were escorted out of the school by the police officers and given an escort back to their house. The street was line with news vans and reporters, but everyone was being kept off their property and Kurt and his family were soon safely inside.

"They've tried calling Kurt's cell phone," officer Murphy said, "so, it's probably only a matter of time before they try your home line, too. I would recommend letting all calls go to your answering machine or voicemail. If the calls start becoming forceful or dangerous, let us know immediately and we'll do what we can."

"Thank you, officer," Burt said shaking his hand.

"There will be one officer parked outside to help keep people away so you folks can have your privacy. If anyone should get through, just call 911 and we'll be here right away."

With that, Office Murphy left and the three men were finally alone.

"I'm so sorry, dad," Kurt said quietly, sniffing back unshed tears.

"Hey! None of that," Burt said. "This is not your fault. And you make sure Blaine knows we don't blame him for this either, okay?"

Kurt just nodded, not trusting his voice.

"You look like you could use a nap, kiddo. Why don't you go get some rest and we'll have a family meeting when Carole gets home."

Kurt hugged his dad and Finn before slowly trudging up to his room, the events of the day finally hitting him hard. It was barely 10:00 in the morning but he felt like he'd been awake for days. He changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt and climbed under the covers. He closed his eyes and willed sleep to whisk him away, but his mind wouldn't stop humming. Was this what Blaine had to deal with every day? How did he even manage to leave the house knowing he could be photographed anywhere he went? How did someone live like that?

After tossing and turning for almost an hour, he realized he wasn't going to get any sleep until he talked to Blaine. He grabbed his phone from the nightstand and turned it back on. He had 15 missed calls and 8 new voicemails. He quickly scrolled through the missed calls to see if any of them were from people he knew, but they were all unknown numbers. He deleted the voicemails without listening to them knowing they were just going to be from those vultures. Once that was done, he pulled up Blaine's number and hit DIAL.

"Kurt?" Blaine said after one ring.

"Hey," Kurt replied.

"Is everything okay? Did you make it home okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine. My dad and Finn are here. There're news vans everywhere, we have a police car sitting out front and I'm basically confined to the house for the rest of the week," he said.

"Kurt, I'm so sor-"

"Don't," Kurt said cutting him off. "I've already told you this once and I don't want to have to say it again. This is not your fault. I mean, yeah, everything kind of sucks right now, but it has nothing to do with you."

"How can you say that?" Blaine said. "This has everything to do with me. If Hollywood wasn't so obsessed with stupid celebrity gossip, I could just live my life and you wouldn't be trapped in your house."

"Blaine, stop," Kurt said, the tears finally falling that he'd been holding back all morning. But Blaine didn't hear him and just continued on.

"This is why… . It's hard enough when it happens to me and I can't even complain that much because I chose this. I chose this life, but to see the people I care about being harmed by just being friends with me? When you never wanted anything to do with this? I will do whatever I can to protect you and your family, Kurt."

Kurt's breath caught in his throat. He could hear the desperation in Blaine's voice and knew where this was headed. He couldn't let Blaine do this, though. He couldn't let Blaine just write him off because of one stupid picture.

"Blaine, please," Kurt begged. "Don't do this, okay? I know it probably doesn't seem like it now, but you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being your friend is the greatest thing I could ever wish for and I don't want one stupid picture to suddenly make you decide that you're not good enough for me."

"But, Kurt-"

"No. This is my life, too, and you don't get to decide what I do or do not want. I want you in my life, Blaine. I can't imagine you not being around. Now, my dad happens to agree with you slightly. He thinks we need to stay out of the public eye until this is all over. As much as I hate to admit it, I think he's right."

"I'm confused, Kurt. Do you want to still be my friend or not?"

"Yes, of course, Blaine. I'm just saying that perhaps it would be prudent if we actually took the advice of my dad and maybe didn't see each other for a week or so until those so called journalists are gone. I'm really not going to be able to leave the house, anyway, and I'm sure you're pretty stuck, too. So, let's just take a deep breath and not do anything rash right now."

"Okay," Blaine said. "When did you get to be so smart?"

"Oh, I've always been brilliant," Kurt teased. "I just let you think you were smarter than me so I didn't damage your ego."

"Oh! Ouch!" Blaine laughed.

"So, how are things over there? Really?" Kurt asked.

"About the same as your house, it sounds like. News vans and police cars everywhere. Phone calls from unknown numbers."

"Yeah, we're getting those, too. If you need to reach me, call my cell since that has caller ID. We're really not answering the land line right now."

"You, too."

"Okay," Kurt said and yawned, his jaw cracking. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay. You sound tired."

"Yeah, it's been a long day."

"You get some sleep. I'll talk to you later."

"Later. Bye, Blaine."

"Bye, Kurt."

Kurt dropped his phone onto his nightstand and his head onto his pillow and was asleep in seconds. When he awoke, the room was darker than it had been, but not quite evening. He checked his clock and saw that it read 3:42 pm. He'd slept for over four hours. He still felt a little groggy, but that was probably just due to the long nap in the middle of the day. More importantly, though, he was hungry. He hadn't eaten much breakfast and having slept through lunch, his stomach was definitely complaining. He cleaned up quickly in his bathroom, trying to tame his bedhead as best he could before heading down to the kitchen. He was surprised to see Carole standing at the sink washing potatoes and smell what seemed to be a roasting chicken.

"Carole! You're home early," he said.

"Oh, Kurt. Honey, how are you?" she asked giving him a hug.

"Okay," he said. "Kinda hungry, actually."

Carole smiled and patted his shoulder. "Well, I'm making an early dinner tonight, I think your father skipped lunch with all the excitement, too. Why don't you make a little snack for the two of you and dinner will be ready in about an hour?"

"Okay. Thanks."

Kurt dug through the fridge and ended up pulling out some cheese and fruit, arranging that on a plate with some crackers. He poured two glasses of lemonade from the pitcher and went to join his dad in the living room. His dad was on the phone, the TV on mute when he walked in.

"Okay. … Right, yeah, I should be back in a day or two. … Okay. Thanks, Steve. Talk to ya later."

"How's things at the shop?" Kurt asked.

"Seems to have quieted down. Since I'm not there, there's no one to try and talk to, so all the reporters appear to have wandered off. Where they might have wandered off to, I'm not sure I want to know."

Kurt huffed a response in agreement. He settled the snack on the coffee table and handed his dad one of the glasses.

"Thanks, kid," Burt said.

"Carole said you skipped lunch and since I slept through it, I figured we could use a little snack to tide us over until dinner."

"You really are the best, you know? The way you take care of me and all of us. I'm really proud of you, Kurt."

"Thanks, dad."

"Have you talked to Blaine recently?"

"Yeah, I called him earlier when I went upstairs."

"How's he doing? How's his family handling all this?"

"Um, about the same as we are, it sounds like. I got the feeling he was trying to downplay it. I have to imagine he probably has it worse than we do being the actual celebrity. But, he said they were doing okay." Kurt laughed as he remembered the conversation. "I think he tried to break-up with me, so to speak," he added.

"Really?" his dad said.

"Yeah. He tried claiming it would be for the best because of who he is and this wouldn't just go away. I did manage to convince him otherwise, but he did agree with you that we should maybe hold off for this week or until this all blows over."

"I really think it's for the best, Kurt."

"Since both of us are pretty much imprisoned in our houses until the paparazzi are gone, we really don't have a choice in the matter," Kurt sighed.

"This'll be fine, Kurt," Burt said. "In a few days, once they see there's no story here they'll go back to L.A. or wherever and everything will go back to normal."

"Will they?" Kurt asked nervously. "I mean, even with all those guys gone, I'm still the guy that was photographed with Blaine. Yesterday at school people were already whispering and talking about me. They're not just going to forget that."

"Then you'll deal with it," Burt said. "You're stronger than they are. But, I want you to promise me that if it ever becomes something more than whispers you will tell me immediately."

"I will," Kurt said.

They munched on Kurt's snacks as a home repair show played on the TV, Kurt lost in his thoughts. Just because the paparazzi would eventually go away didn't mean his life was going to return to normal. He needed to try and come to terms with something that Blaine dealt with every day. Finn came down and then Carole called them all to dinner not long after that. The meal that night was a more somber affair, compared to the previous evening. They all agreed that no one was to go anywhere alone and no one was to go anywhere other than school or work. Luckily, Kurt and Carole had just gone grocery shopping so they were set for the week.

The next morning, Burt, Carole and Finn all left together in Kurt's Navigator. Kurt watched from his bedroom window as the car was swarmed by reporters. His dad honked the horn to try and get them to move, but no one got out of the way until the police officer started physically moving people away from the car.

This is ridiculous, Kurt thought.

He turned away, unable to watch anymore without seething in anger. He grabbed his book bag from the floor and started in on the History assignment Mercedes had emailed him about. He'd also gotten emails from Mike and Rachel on the classes they shared. Finn would bring home the rest of his assignments this afternoon when he got home with the glee club.

He was just putting the finishing touches on his math homework that afternoon when he heard the front door slam and someone come thundering up the stairs.

Finn's home, he thought.

"Oh my god," Finn said running into Kurt's room. "You will never believe what happened today."

"What happened?" Kurt asked calmly.

"Okay. Do you know who it was that took the picture of you and Blaine?"

"Some random paparazzi. Why?"

"It was Jacob."

"Jacob Ben Israel?" Kurt said incredulously.

"Yeah. Apparently he made another post on his blog about it last night and had some more pictures to share. They're not bad pictures or anything, but still."

"But why would he…? Really?"

"Yeah. Figgins found out and suspended him for two weeks for, like, endangering the whole student body with all the reporters that have been camping out."

Kurt sat down on his bed heavily. This was… unbelievable. It was one thing to think it was some random paparazzi that had taken the picture, but to find out it was a fellow student? Jacob had always been kind of smarmy with his ridiculous investigative TV show and that stupid blog, but even this was a new low. Why was Jacob even out in Westerville, anyway?

"Are you okay?" Finn asked, sitting next to Kurt.

"Yeah," Kurt said. "It's just… . If Jacob did that, who else do we have to worry about?"

"Well, no one's ever bothered you anywhere before, right?"

"Right," Kurt agreed. "I just don't think it ever occurred to either of us that we would really need to worry about this kind of stuff here, you know? It's not like there's paparazzi hanging out on the street corners like in L.A."

"So, it'll be fine. This will all blow over in a few days and everything will be back to normal," Finn reassured him.

"Thanks, Finn."

"And I think Puck was planning on threatening Jacob with some kind of bodily harm if he should do this again, so, there's that."

Kurt could only laugh in response. He really did have some great friends.

That's how Kurt's week went. Stuck in the house, working on assignments while his family went about their lives as best they could, afternoons with New Directions in the backyard. As the days passed, the number of reporters outside the house dwindled and by Saturday afternoon, only a handful of the most stubborn were left. The situation was the same at Blaine's house, Kurt found out. Once the reporters realized they weren't going to get any information from anyone and Kurt and Blaine weren't hanging out on a regular basis, they just lost interest in the non-story.

"There's only three left over here," Blaine said Sunday afternoon. "They kind of come and go now. They're not just camped out 24/7 like they were."

"Same here," Kurt said. "A couple of them left this morning so there's only two or three over here. I'm so glad this is over. Is it weird to say that I'm looking forward to going back to school?"

Blaine chuckled. "I know what you mean. I'm starting to go stir crazy from being cooped up all week."

"Do you think we could meet for coffee or something this week?" Kurt asked.

"I don't know…" Blaine said hesitantly.

"I don't want the possibility of all this happening again to run my life and make me afraid to live it. If I want to hang out with you, I should be able to do so. The off-chance of someone taking my or our picture again shouldn't change that."

"You're right," Blaine said. "It's something I had to get used to in L.A. and I guess I need to realize that it may happen here, too."

"Good. So, coffee?"

"Sure," Blaine laughed. "How's Wednesday? That'll give you a couple days to get back into the swing of things."

"That sounds great. I'll give you a call when I'm done with glee. If it gets late, you can always come over for dinner. I know my dad was worried about you and all this."

"He was?"

"Of course, he was. He likes you, Blaine. Hell, I think my whole family likes you more than they like me," Kurt teased.

"I'm not sure that's possible."

"I know it is."

Blaine just laughed and Kurt smiled at finally hearing that again. Blaine hadn't laughed much this past week, no matter how hard Kurt had tried. It was nice to hear Blaine returning to his old self.

A few days later, Kurt met up with Blaine at the Lima Bean for a post-glee club coffee. They grabbed a table in the back and caught up on what had been going on over the week. There were some stares from a couple patrons, but for the most part, people just left them alone, which Kurt was very glad to see.

"So, Finn came home and apparently at the assembly Figgins decided to hold last Tuesday, Sue basically threatened everyone with a two hour Cheerios intensive workout if anyone talked to the press," Kurt said.

"That's insane," Blaine said.

"I mean, crazy as she is and as much as she seems to hate everyone, when it comes down to it she's got your back."

"Well, good. I'm glad someone at that school is looking out for you."

A shadow fell over their table before Kurt could continue and he looked up, expecting to have to tell someone to please leave them alone. Instead, he found Karofsky looming over him and Blaine.

"Hi, Kurt," he said softly.

Kurt calmly set his coffee down on the table, grabbed his bag from the back of his chair and turned to walk out of the shop.

"Kurt, wait," Karofsky said, but Kurt ignored him and kept heading towards the door, hoping that Blaine was following him.

"I'm sorry!" Karofsky yelled as Kurt was half way out the door.

The entire shop, including Kurt, paused and turned to look in his direction. Kurt took a deep breath. It didn't matter. Kurt shouldn't have to deal with; he didn't have to deal with it. He turned on his heel and walked out to his car. He heard heavy footsteps running after him and knew it was him. There was a tiny, very tiny, part of Kurt that wanted to hear what Karofsky had to say. It was obviously something serious if the brief encounter in the coffee shop was anything to go by, but, no. Kurt didn't owe him anything. They weren't in high school anymore and Kurt didn't have to deal with all his… bullshit if he didn't want to.

"Kurt, wait," Blaine said as he caught up to Kurt as he unlocked his car doors. "Please. I think you should hear him out."

"Why, Blaine? Why do I owe him anything?"

"You don't," Blaine said simply. "But I think this might be important. And I'll be right here, okay?"

Kurt closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to compose himself. He slowly turned away, keys still in hand for a quick getaway if need be, and saw Karofsky walking slowly after him.

"Hi," Karofsky said again as he stopped in front of them. Kurt didn't respond and simply waited for Karofsky to continue. "I, um, I wanted to apologize," he said hesitantly looking between Kurt and Blaine.

"I got that," Kurt said. "And what exactly are you apologizing for?"

"For, um, for how I treated you in high school. Especially last year."

"Is that all?" Kurt asked shortly.

"I guess so?"

"Fine. Good bye," Kurt said turning back to his car.

"No, wait!" Karofsky cried out. "Look, Charlie told me that I was part of the reason that you broke up with him and he got all mad and started acting like it was all my fault or something. He started dragging me to these… meetings with a whole bunch of gay and straight kids and I realized that what I did to you? Was wrong. I'm so very sorry, Kurt. Please. You have to believe me."

Kurt turned back around and saw Karofsky standing there, tears running down his cheeks and looking completely devastated. Kurt didn't want to, but he kind of felt bad for him. Which wasn't fair because Karofsky didn't deserve an ounce of compassion from him.

"Look, David," Kurt said. "I'm happy to hear that you're getting help. As for what you did? I can never forgive you for that. I think if you tell Charlie the whole truth of what went on, the whole truth, you'll see what a good guy he is. He can help you, David. They all can."

Karofsky nodded and Kurt turned back to his car, unlocked the door and climbed inside. He sat there as he watched Karofsky walk away. He startled slightly as the passenger door opened and he turned to see Blaine settling into the seat, looking at him warily. Kurt wasn't too surprised given how the last encounter Kurt had with Karofsky had gone in Blaine's presence.

"So, um, you are officially invited over for dinner, if you want," Kurt said, completely ignoring everything that just happened.

"Sure, that'd be great," Blaine said.

They drove back to Kurt's house in silence. Kurt thinking over the conversation with Karofsky and what it all meant. He hoped Karofsky was being honest in getting help; it certainly seemed like he was. As far as Kurt was concerned, that was the last time he would ever see David Karofsky. The whole matter was done and closed in his eyes.

They pulled up to the house a short drive later and walked up the driveway with heavy footsteps. Kurt had just stepped in the door when he heard his dad calling to him from the kitchen.

"You got mail from that one school in New York," he said, gesturing to the kitchen table.

Right on top, was a large, thick envelope with NYU Steinhardt stamped in the upper left corner.

"Oh my god," he said grabbing it and turning to Blaine. "An envelope this big is a good sign, right? They wouldn't send this much paperwork just to tell me I didn't get in, would they?"

"I don't think so," Blaine said with a laugh. "But you won't know until you open it."

Kurt looked over at his dad who was leaning against the kitchen counter with an expectant smile on his face. He quickly tore open the envelope and started reading the cover letter.

Dear Mr. Hummel,
It is our pleasure to inform you that have been accepted into the Musical Theater program at NYU Steinhardt for the 2012-2013 school year.
"I got in!" he cried as he read.

"Is there anything more?" Burt asked.

"Yeah," Kurt said as he continued to read out loud.

Furthermore, due to your impressive audition, academic standing and financial need, you have been awarded the Billy Joel Endows Music Scholarship covering all tuition and board, provided certain academic standards are maintained.
"Oh my god," Kurt said, his eyes filling with tears. "That's a full ride. They're giving me a full ride."

"Congratulations, kiddo," Burt said. "I guess you're going to New York."

Chapter Text

At the end of March, Blaine had to fly back out to LA. They had spent the last two weeks together almost every day. One nice thing about their friendship finally being out of the bag was that they felt a lot more free to be themselves and they actually started hanging out with everyone from New Directions on a more regular basis. With Nationals coming up, Blaine even came to rehearsal on occasion offering up suggestions when asked. Everyone was feeling really good about their chances for this year.

As for Kurt and Blaine, Kurt tried as much as he could, but the crush he'd had on Blaine back when they first met came back full force, but something was different this time. It felt more solid and real. He'd really gotten to know who Blaine was underneath the pop-star persona and the more he saw, the more he realized that Blaine was the type of guy he'd always wanted. He was smart, he was funny, he "got" Kurt and on those days that were just really bad, he could always count on Blaine to make him feel better. Kurt liked to think he did the same for Blaine. Kurt was sure Blaine had plenty of people he could call when things weren't going well, but he always seemed to call Kurt to rant about how his manager was driving him insane and how the labels latest music video proposal was completely ridiculous.

Those times when the realization hit as Blaine ended their conversations with "You're such a great friend" were just the worst. So, Kurt took what he could get and got on with his life as best he could. With glee rehearsals getting longer and more intense; it wasn't unusual for Kurt and Finn to be at school until 7:00. Most nights Kurt hurried through his homework as quickly as he could and texted Blaine a quick good night text before flopping down into bed and falling into a deep, dreamless sleep only to wake up after too little sleep and do it all again the next day.

There were only three weeks left to go before Nationals on May 19th and Kurt had just finished another long week of class and rehearsal. He was just laying on his bed, resting before dinner when his phone rang. He checked the caller ID to see if it was a call he could ignore or not. Seeing that it was Blaine, Kurt decided on no.

"Hey, Blaine," Kurt said as he answered his phone.

"What are you doing next Friday?" Blaine asked in response.

"Oh, nothing special," Kurt replied. "Washing my hair, sorting through my spring wardrobe from last year to see what I can keep. You know, just the usual exciting Friday night here in Lima!"

Kurt smiled at Blaine's deep laugh. Blaine had a great laugh and Kurt tried to make him laugh as often as possible.

"Well, as exciting as those plans sound, I'm afraid you're going to have to cancel."

"Oh, I am? Do you have a better offer for me?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. How do reservations at Eddie Merlots down in Columbus sound?"

"Eddie Merlots? That's not our usual Breadstix restaurant."

"I know. I just… I wanted to do something special. I have something I wanted to tell you."

"Okay," Kurt said, butterflies building in his stomach. "That sounds great."

"Good. It's a bit of a drive, so I'll pick you up just before 5:00?"

"Yeah. I'll be ready."

"Great," Blaine said and Kurt could just hear the smile on his face. "Um, crap. I have to go. But I'll see you next week?"

"Definitely. See you then," Kurt replied.

The next week seemed to fly by and crawl all at the same time for Kurt. He didn't tell anyone, not even his dad about his plans with Blaine. Sure, the specifics might be a little different, but his friends now knew that it wasn't that strange for the two of them to have dinner whenever Blaine was in town. Plus, he didn't want to build this up into something that would leave him disappointed at the end of the evening. Blaine may very well have some exciting news about a new album or tour he had planned.

Even so, he made sure to chose his outfit with care. Eddie Merlots was one of the higher end restaurants and he wanted to make sure he looked good for the occasion. He picked out a pair of navy pants with a slight military flair in the details, a deeper navy v-neck sweater with a light blue shirt and navy bow tie. It was a lot of blue, but it all looked so good and really made his eyes pop. He was just putting the finishing touches on his hair when the doorbell rang. Blaine was right on time.

Unfortunately, Kurt's dad was home and Kurt heard him answer the door before he was able to make it down. Not that he was worried about what his dad might say to Blaine, Burt liked Blaine just fine. But there was something about tonight that he wanted to try and keep for himself. There was some charge in the air that he was trying to ignore and not get his hopes up, but it was persistent. It was like there was some change coming that would impact Kurt's life in a huge way. If that was true, Kurt wanted it to stay private. He didn't want anyone intruding on what had the potential to be a very dramatic night.

"Hi," Kurt said coming down the stairs, getting his first look at Blaine.

When he saw what Blaine was wearing, his breath caught in his throat and he was very glad he'd gone the route he had. Blaine was wearing a pair of gray plaid trousers, a gray and white striped cardigan with a white shirt and dark gray bow tie. The pants and sweater showed off his trim, but muscled, build beautifully and Kurt found himself at a loss for words. He couldn't stop staring.

Blaine's attention slowly turned toward Kurt as he finished his conversation with Burt and Kurt could practically see him gasp for breath as Kurt reached the bottom stair. His eyes lit up and the smile that spread out on his face made the setting sun seem dim in comparison.

"Hi," Blaine said breathlessly, stepping up to Kurt. "You look…"

"You're one to talk," Kurt teased, needing to lighten the sudden tension in the air. "You look amazing."

Blaine just blushed in response.

That's new, Kurt thought. Why would he be embarrassed about being told he looks good?

Kurt was just about to reassure Blaine that he really did look great, when his dad cleared his throat, grabbing their attention.

"So, where are you boys off to this evening?" he asked.

"Eddie Merlots down in Columbus," Blaine answered.

"Columbus?" Burt asked, his eyebrows creeping up his forehead.

"I promise I'll have Kurt home in plenty of time for curfew, sir."

Burt just looked between the two boys. Kurt silently begged him not to do anything to mess this up.

"I guess that'll be fine. Be sure you do. Have a nice time."

He waved them off before returning to the kitchen to help Carole finish fixing their own dinner.

"We should go," Blaine finally said.

The two boys walked silently out to Blaine's car and began the two hour drive down to Columbus.

The drive down to Columbus was relaxed and the conversation between Kurt and Blaine was as easy as usual. Kurt was telling Blaine about New Direction's latest dramas, including the ever-present Rachel/Finn/Quinn debacle. There were several times where Blaine started to say something, paused, the seemed to change his mind and started discussing some mundane topic like the last movie Kurt had seen or the most recent Bachelorette episode.

The drive was surprisingly quick and easy for a Friday night and they reached the restaurant right on time for their reservation. Blaine led Kurt after the hostess with a hand lightly resting on the small of his back. Kurt could feel the heat rising to his cheeks at the intimate gesture. He'd seen Finn do this for Rachel and Puck had often done the same when he was dating Lauren. The hand on the small of the back wasn't a friends-only gesture. Could this finally be happening? Could everything Kurt had been wishing for for months be coming true?

However, as the night wore on and Blaine continued to discuss mundane, every day topics, Kurt's heart started to deflate. Sure, the conversation was interesting enough but it seemed to be lacking in their usual connection; it was almost like Blaine was trying too hard. And he had yet to mention anything seemingly important enough to warrant an advance phone call and fancy restaurant.

"Blaine?" Kurt said, interrupting Blaine's babbling about his neighbor's dog out in L.A.


"Interesting as this conversation is, I don't think you asked me to dinner to discuss your neighbor's dog's apparent incontinence issues. It sounded like you had something important you wanted to tell me when we talked last week."

"There is," Blaine said, setting down his fork. Blaine turned in his seat slightly so he was facing Kurt, looked him directly in the eyes and grabbed Kurt's hand lightly in his. "I just… I wanted to say… ."

Oh god, Kurt thought, his breath catching in his throat. This is it. He bit back a smile and waited patiently while Blaine tried to gather his thoughts.

Suddenly, Blaine let out a breath and seemed to collapse right before Kurt's eyes. He looked away, dropping Kurt's hand and laughed to himself.

"Blaine?" Kurt asked gently, growing nervous and wary the longer Blaine just sat there.

"I'm going to Europe this summer," he finally said. "It'll be a six week tour, opening for The Script for part of their whole Eurasia tour."

"Europe?" Kurt said, his eyebrows raising almost to his hairline. That… wasn't quite what Kurt had been expecting when Blaine had started this whole speech.

"Yeah," Blaine said. "Europe."

"That's… that's amazing," Kurt said, pasting what he hoped was his most convincing smile on. "Congratulations."

"Thanks. They released my first single over there a couple months ago and it's doing well, so they thought this would be a good way to get me more exposure and a bigger audience."

"Yeah, of course. It sounds like it's going to be a wonderful opportunity."

"I think it will be," Blaine said. "I'll miss you guys for sure, though."

"Oh, stop," Kurt scolded, lightly. "You'll be so busy seeing all the sights and performing to sold out crowds, you won't even have time to think of us."

"I could never forget you, Kurt," Blaine said quietly.

Kurt blushed and looked back down at his plate. The half-eaten salmon in front of him suddenly looked unappetizing with the weight that settled in his stomach. Regardless, he took a small bite to try and get his equilibrium back.

"When do you leave?" Kurt asked.

"June 2. The first show is the sixth in London."

"Wow. That's pretty soon."

"Yeah, I have to fly back on Sunday to start rehearsals, get everything organized and signed off. It's gonna be crazy, but a good crazy, I think."

Kurt just nodded along as Blaine launched into details of what all needed to be done before they left. He was trying so very hard to be the supportive friend, but he couldn't help feeling like his heart was breaking. After the way Blaine has been looking at him all night, and the small touches he would make to get Kurt's attention, Kurt had been so sure that tonight was the night. Everyone who had seen them together would comment on the chemistry they apparently had. Everyone couldn't be wrong. So, what was holding Blaine back?

Again, as they walked back to the car after dinner, Blaine's hand guided Kurt through the restaurant resting on the small of his back. It was such an intimate gesture that it had to mean something. It had to. The only other option was that Blaine was like this with everyone and Kurt wasn't as special as he thought he was.

A few hours later, Blaine pulled back into Kurt's driveway and the two boys slowly exited the car. Kurt could tell that there was something more Blaine wanted to say or do, so instead of heading inside, he wandered over to the small porch swing they had and sat down. Blaine hesitated before sitting beside Kurt, their hands resting centimeters apart on the small cushion. Kurt stared out into the night sky, glancing at Blaine out of the corner of his eye and getting worried when it seemed like Blaine wasn't going to say anything.

"Blaine?" Kurt finally asked, plucking up all the courage he had. "Was this… Was this a date?"

Blaine's head snapped over to Kurt and he looked… scared. Kurt had never seen him look like that and Kurt was suddenly terribly afraid he'd said the completely wrong thing.

"I'm sorry," Kurt said. "I shouldn't have…"

"No," Blaine interrupted. "No, you didn't… . I just… ."

Blaine stood up and started pacing. Kurt was really getting worried now. He'd never seen Blaine act like this. He was usually so cool and put together. Tonight, he was just bundle of nervous energy and Kurt had no idea if it was good or bad.

"Is something wrong?" Kurt asked gently, trying to get Blaine to just talk to him.

"No, nothing's wrong," Blaine insisted. "I just… . For once in my life, I seem to be at a complete loss for what to say."

"Why don't you just start at the beginning?" Kurt suggested.

Blaine nodded and sat back down on the bench, half turned towards Kurt and his eyes locked on his hands that rested nervously in his lap. He took a deep breath and started talking.

"When I first saw you at Sectionals last year," he began looking everywhere but at Kurt, "you completely blew me away. Your voice is so amazing and you were so talented. You looked like an angel up there underneath the lights. I was so happy for you when you won, seeing how happy it made you. Then all this stuff happened and I never even got a chance to say hello. But I couldn't get you out of my head. I think I started wondering if I had dreamed you and then we did meet and you were just as wonderful as I had remembered. We started talking and getting to know each other and I found out just how amazing you really are. I mean, with everything you've been through and you're still so strong. Most people would have given up. I did. I just… I tried so hard not to, but you made it impossible."

"You tried not to what?" Kurt asked when Blaine paused.

Blaine raised his head and finally looked Kurt in the eyes. "Not to fall in love with you," he said.

Kurt gasped at Blaine's admission, his mind reeling with the information. Blaine loved him? How long had this been going on? Why had he never said anything?

"I know it's not fair," Blaine continued, oblivious to Kurt's inner turmoil. "Because you're here and I'm wherever I am, and now this whole Europe thing and you should be with someone who can actually be with you…"

"Blaine, shut up," Kurt interrupted.

Blaine immediately snapped his mouth shut and bit his lip. He looked like a little boy who had just been scolded for breaking into the cookie jar.

"How long?" Kurt asked.

"Since Christmas," Blaine replied.

"Why did you never say anything?"

Blaine just shrugged. "I was in LA or off touring and it just didn't seem fair. Then you met Charlie and I couldn't just say, 'No! Don't date him. Date me!' I'm not that kind of guy."

"So, how was it fair for you to just make up my mind for me?"

Blaine furrowed his brow in confusion at Kurt's question. "How… how did I do that?"

"By not telling me," Kurt said. "In case you couldn't tell, I've been in love with you since we met."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Blaine accused.

"Um, because like half the country is in love with you? I didn't want you to think I was just some other crazy groupie."

"What about Charlie?"

"He just… I was so confused about you. There were times that I was so sure you really liked me, but then you'd pull back and it seemed like you just wanted to be friends. Charlie, well, he was interested. He was nice and considerate. He got along well with people."

"You never did tell me why you guys broke up."

"There's a whole host of reasons too complicated to go into right now," Kurt said shaking his head. "Suffice to say I eventually realized he wasn't what I wanted."

"What did you want?" Blaine asked quietly.


Blaine beamed at him, his eyes lighting up with the moon. The smile then quickly fell as Blaine's gaze dropped to Kurt's mouth. Oh god. This was it. Kurt was finally going to kiss Blaine. They both leaned in towards each other, Kurt's eyes closed in anticipation.

"Third time's the charm," he couldn't help whispering.

"What?" Blaine asked and Kurt could feel Blaine's breath ghosting over his lips.

"This is the third time you've tried to kiss me," Kurt answered, opening his eyes and getting lost in Blaine's that were inches from his own. "Every other time someone has interrupted us."

"Like you are now?" Blaine's eyes crinkled with a smile.

Kurt paused. "I'll stop talking now."

"Good idea."

Then, finally, Blaine's lips touched his.

Kurt was kissing Blaine.

There were no fireworks or bells ringing or choirs of angels, but it was still the greatest kiss Kurt had ever had. It was a kiss full of promise and want. It was a kiss of desire and realized longing. It was a kiss that Kurt would remember for the rest of his life.

The next morning, despite the lack of sleep from the happiness tumbling through him, Kurt rose early. There was something he needed to do, someone he needed to tell about Blaine and he just couldn't hold it in any longer. He hopped in his car and drove the fifteen minutes out to Woodlawn Cemetery in the light morning traffic. He kept his head down as he walked through the plots. He'd been coming here for 10 years now; he could find his way in his sleep.

"I met someone, Mom," Kurt said, taking a seat on the still cold ground. He pulled up some stray weeds that had managed to creep on to the otherwise pristine grave with the warming weather. "His name is Blaine and he's absolutely amazing. I can't believe someone like him could be interested in me."

He paused in his thoughts, trying to sort out what he wanted to say.

"He's a musician. Well, rock star, really, but he's so not at the same time. It's just… that's what he does, but it's not who he is. He is so much more than that. He's smart and funny and so charming. I think you'd really like him."

Kurt could almost see it in his head: Blaine coming to his home for the first time, his mother having prepared a simple, but delicious meal. Blaine would have brought her flowers, of course, and she'd have been charmed by him the moment he smiled at her. He'd call them Mr. and Mrs. Hummel, even after being told to call them Burt and Elizabeth. She'd pull Kurt aside later and tell him that Blaine was "such a nice young man. Boys his age don't often have manners like that. It's a sign his parents raised him right." Kurt would have smiled and hugged her, glad that Blaine met her approval.

"We've been friends for awhile now," he continued. "Lately it's been like there's something more, just under the surface whenever we talk. It seems like I've been in love with him since before we even met, but it's hard to know how he's feeling. Especially with what he does. He gets to travel all over the world and meet so many amazing people, what could he possibly see in little old Kurt Hummel from Lima, Ohio?"

He could hear his mother chastising him for thinking that. "Just because you're not from some big city or someone famous doesn't mean you aren't amazing and special in your own way."

"So, he called last week to say he was going to be coming into town and asked if I wanted to have dinner. Of course, I said yes. Then he told me he was taking me out and not just to our usual dinner of Breadstix or some little dive. I wanted to ask him if it was a real date, but I just…. I couldn't be disappointed like that."

Kurt paused to wipe the tears that had started falling. It was all still so overwhelming. He'd started thinking he'd never find anyone and that he'd be alone forever when out of nowhere came this boy who just casually tipped Kurt's world off its axis.

He told his mom about their evening, the delicious meal and Blaine's wonderful news.

"He was just such a gentleman that I was sure it had to mean something, you know? Even the nicest guy doesn't act like that towards someone he just considers a friend. By the time we made it home, he was just thrumming with this nervous energy and I knew there was something more he wanted to say. So, I asked him and he said…" Kurt paused again to gather his wits. "He said that he loved me, but he'd been too afraid to do anything since we basically lived two very different lives and that it wasn't fair to me. Well, screw fair. If we loved each other than we would make it work. It seemed he agreed because, well, he kissed me."

Kurt flushed as the memory washed over him. They'd ended up spending a good five minutes out on the swing kissing and trying to learn each other in new ways. Kurt couldn't keep the grin off his face when he finally made it inside after kissing (kissing!) Blaine good night. For some reason, everyone had been in the living room when Kurt walked through the house. Kurt was actually grateful as he got to tell everyone at once that he and Blaine were finally together. Carole had hugged him and Finn had slapped him on the shoulder telling him it was "about time." Kurt turned to look at this dad, who had hung back from the small celebration.

"Does he make you happy?" Burt had asked.

"More than anything," Kurt said.

"Good. That's… good. He better treat you right, though. Do I need to have a talk with him the next time he comes over?"

Kurt had laughed and assured his dad that wouldn't be necessary.

"So, that's it," Kurt told his mom. "I'm sorry it's been so long since I was last here. We've just been so busy getting the glee club ready for Nationals and graduation that it's just been crazy. I promise I'll try to visit more often; I'm going to miss you when I'm in New York next year." Kurt stood up and kissed the top of the tombstone. "Love you, mom," he said before walking back to his car.

That afternoon, he met Blaine at the Lima Bean. Blaine was already seated at a table when Kurt arrived, two cups of coffee in front of him. Kurt walked up to the table and sat down, a huge smile on his face.

"Hi," he said shyly.

"Hi," Blaine replied pushing one of the cups towards Kurt.

"You know my coffee order?" Kurt asked.

"Of course, I do," Blaine replied, reaching for Kurt's hand.

Kurt smiled and reached for the coffee with his free hand, taking a sip. He started to say something, but then closed his mouth, unsure of if he should.

"What?" Blaine asked.

"Nothing," Kurt said with a laugh. "We've just been friends for so long and now I suddenly don't know what to say."

"We're still friends," Blaine insisted. "We'll always be friends. Now there's just… more."

"More," Kurt replied. "I think I like more."

"So do I."

They spent the afternoon together much as they always had, but some things were different. When they could, they held hands; Blaine even gave Kurt a quick peck on the cheek after lunch.

"So, um, my dad insisted that you come to dinner," Kurt said. "He said 'Be sure to invite Blaine for dinner,' but I got the feeling it wasn't so much an invitation as an order."

"Oh, yeah," Blaine said. "I don't need to be worried, do I?"

"Oh, no," Kurt insisted. "I mean, I'm sure he'll try and pull the overprotective dad thing, but he really does adore you. As does Carole. It'll be fine."

And it was.

As Kurt had predicted, Burt had tried to play the threatening and overprotective father when he and Blaine first arrived home. But after staring at Blaine silently for a moment and Kurt's hand almost being broken by the grip Blaine had on it, Burt just grinned and pulled Blaine into a hug.

"Just remember, though, as much as I like you, you break his heart, I break you," Burt said.

"Yes, sir," Blaine trembled.

Unfortunately, Blaine had an early flight back to L.A. the next morning so they had to say goodbye that night. Which they proceeded to do with a ten minute long make-out session in Blaine's car. Kurt walked back into the house, his lips swollen and red, an odd contrast to the despondent look on his face.

"Everything okay, kiddo?" his dad asked.

"Yeah," Kurt said with a shrug. "I just… . We just got together and I don't know when I'm actually going to see him in person again."

"You'll be fine," Burt said. "I'm sure you'll talk all the time just like you did before."

"I know, but it's different now."

"I don't think I ever told you this," Burt said. "Your mom and I started dating our senior year in high school. She went off to college in North Carolina and I stayed here. It was hard, but we both knew it was worth it, so we made it work. So will you."

"Thanks, dad. I'm gonna head on up to bed."

"Okay. Goodnight, kiddo."

Luckily for Kurt, Nationals were now only two weeks away and he had more than enough to keep him busy so he didn't think about Blaine too much. Finn and Mercedes were the only ones of his friends who knew they had finally gotten together. He supposed he should tell everyone else, but there just never seemed to be a good time without it just feeling like bragging. So, he kept his mouth shut and when the time was right, he would share his wonderful secret.

On Thursday, May 17, the McKinley High New Directions boarded a plane to Atlanta and the National Show Choir Championships. For once, they were actually prepared and knew their songs and routines forward and back. Finn had even managed to improve his dancing quite a bit and shouldn't be such a liability this year.

Even with all the preparation, Kurt was still a bundle of nerves. They were performing his song; the song he had written with Blaine and he was singing lead. He would be singing a solo in front of the largest crowd he'd ever performed for. He knew he should get used to it as he would hopefully be performing in front of even larger crowds in the near future, but this was the most important thing he had ever done.

They arrived in Atlanta just after 6:00 pm and quickly settled into the hotel to go in search of dinner. They were all starving having not eaten since well before lunch. There were several restaurants all within walking distance of the hotel and Mr. Schuester gave everyone permission to go off in separate groups with promises to be back by 9:00 pm. They had to be up early the next morning as they had one of the first rehearsal slots on Friday morning. Kurt, Mercedes, Finn and Rachel decided to try a Greek restaurant just across the street and were pleasantly surprised at the variety. They had a filling but not too heavy meal and decided to walk around a little bit to see some of the area around their hotel. They headed back about 7:30, the long day of travel was finally settling in and they were all eager to get to bed.

Kurt stopped dead in his track just after they walked into the lobby. He blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't imagining what he was seeing, but it didn't go away, so it had to be real.

"Dad?" he said.

Burt turned and broke out into a grin when he saw Kurt and his friends walking towards them.

"Hey, guys!" he said cheerfully.

"What are doing here?"

"What? Are you not happy to see me?"

"Of course I am. I'm just confused… ."

"I think I can explain that."

Kurt whipped around to see Blaine standing next to Carole, who was greeting Finn and Rachel with a hug.

"Blaine? What's going on?"

Blaine walked over and grasped Kurt's hand lightly in his. "I know how important this is to you and how nervous you've been about the solo. I thought it might help if you had your family here to support you. Surprise?"

"So, you flew them down here?"

Blaine just nodded, starting to look worried.

"Thank you," Kurt whispered, hugging Blaine quickly before turning and hugging his dad.

"Seriously, Blaine," Finn added. "This is great. Thanks."

"You're welcome," Blaine said.

The group chatted for a bit in the lobby before they remembered they all had rooms where they could talk much more comfortably. Kurt hung back, calling that he would be up in a minute. He pulled Blaine over to a small alcove that was mostly hidden from the public's view. He immediately wrapped his arms around Blaine's neck and pulled him in for a proper thank you.

"How are you so wonderful?" Kurt asked he pulled back, his eyes full of awe at this amazing boy.

"It's no big deal," Blaine said trying to brush it off.

"Blaine. You flew my family to Atlanta for the weekend for my stupid show choir competition. That's not nothing."

"I just… I wanted to do something nice for you," Blaine said. "I could tell how nervous you were getting this past week whenever we talked and I thought this might help."

"It does," Kurt insisted. "It really does. I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank you enough."

"I have a few ideas," Blaine teased.

Kurt tensed and his eyes went wide at Blaine's words.

"I'm sorry," Blaine said quickly. "I didn't mean that. Stupid joke. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Kurt said, letting out a breath. Honestly, Blaine's comment hadn't really scared him that much. He'd just gotten a sudden mental flash of him and Blaine doing a lot of the things he'd seen in those movies and had been surprised at the rush of pleasure that had flooded him. "We should probably go catch up with everyone else."

They walked through the lobby, walking close enough that their arms brushed and they occasionally let their fingers tangle together. Blaine led them up to the eighth floor where they were staying and dropped Blaine's suitcase off in his room before heading to Burt and Carole's room a couple doors down. Everyone hung out for an hour or so before it was getting close to 9:30 and the time that Mr. Schue said he would be doing room checks. They all said good night to Burt and Carole, before heading down to the sixth floor where the glee clubs were staying. Blaine went with Kurt and they stood outside the room Kurt was sharing with Finn, Puck and Artie. Finn winked ridiculously at Kurt as he left them alone in the hall.

"Sorry about him," Kurt said laughing.

"That's okay," Blaine said. "I think it's sweet that he cares so much."

"Yeah, he's a really good brother, actually," Kurt admitted.

Blaine just nodded and they stood there in silence for a minute. Kurt couldn't help it and dropped his gaze to Blaine's mouth. He gasped a little as Blaine licked his lips in anticipation and Kurt quickly closed the distance between them. Blaine was a really amazing kisser, Kurt decided. He started off softly, just a gentle press of their lips together and then with a quick flick of his tongue, he coaxed Kurt's mouth open. His hands were always moving, too. Resting on Kurt's shoulders or pulling him in close, occasionally moving up to tangle in Kurt's hair.

Kurt, too, was getting bolder, pushing back against Blaine and fighting for control of this kiss. He flicked his tongue up behind Blaine's teeth and was pleased to be rewarded with a moan of pleasure of Blaine. He pulled back abruptly as he heard someone whistle at them down the hall.

"Get it, Hummel!"

He turned to see Santana, Brittany, Artie, Mike and Tina making their way down the hall. Kurt flushed red at having been caught in the act.

"I knew you were getting some," Santana said as she stopped in front of them.

"I'm not 'getting some', Santana," Kurt replied.

"Really? You telling me Hottie McShortstack here had nothing to do with that smokin' Adam Lambert number a couple months ago?"

"No, he didn't," Kurt said. "If you must know, Blaine and I just got together a couple weeks ago."

"It's about time," Artie said.

"Yeah," Tina agreed. "Congratulations, Kurt."

"Thank you," he said, still feeling embarrassed at having been found out this way.

"Are you just here to see Kurt?" Mike asked.

"Yup," Blaine said. "I flew out with Burt and Carole, too, so we'll all be there on Saturday to cheer you guys on."

"That's awesome," Tina said.

"Come on," Mike said. "We should get to our rooms. Night, guys."

"Call me if you need any pointers!" Santana yelled as they walked away.

Kurt just groaned and dropped his head to Blaine's shoulder. "I would say I'm sorry," he said, "but I don't think there are enough apologies in the world for her."

"Hey, come on. It could be worse," Blaine said. "At least she's encouraging us and not throwing pig's blood at us while calling us an abomination."

"Oh, thank you," Kurt said. "That's a lovely visual to end the evening on."

"Come here," Blaine whispered and once more claimed Kurt's mouth in a passionate kiss. "Are you free tomorrow at all?" he asked when they pulled away.

"Um, I think so," Kurt said. "We have one of the first rehearsal slots in the morning and Mr. Schue wants to run things through again tomorrow night, but I should be free for lunch or sometime around then."

"That sounds great."

"Okay. I'll call you tomorrow when I know for sure what's going on."

"I can't wait," Blaine said before kissing Kurt gently one last time. "Good night."

"Good night," Kurt whispered as he watched Blaine walk back towards the elevator. He hoped there never came a day when Blaine stopped amazing him like this. He swore to himself then and there that he would never take Blaine for granted. He knew he was young and it might seem crazy, but Blaine was the man he knew he would be with for the rest of his life.

Rehearsal Friday morning went amazingly well. The stage was a little larger than the one at McKinley so some minor adjustments to the choreography were made to compensate, but other than that it was smooth sailing.

Honestly, it had Kurt a little worried. Something should always go wrong during the final rehearsal so that nothing went wrong during the performance. He started running through worst case scenarios in his head and once he started, he couldn't stop.

"The risers could collapse," he told Blaine that evening. "Or I could lose my voice. Or Rachel could lose her voice. Oh my god. That can't happen. If that happens, we're done for. I should make sure she's drinking plenty of water. Where did she go?" He stood up and started to rush out the hotel restaurant where he was having a late dinner with Blaine.

"Kurt, stop," Blaine said and forced him back into the chair. "Everything will be fine. I'm sure Rachel is resting her voice and drinking plenty of tea. Just sit down, okay? Finish your dinner, please."

"You're right," Kurt said as he sat back down. "I'm sorry. I think it just kind of all hit me at once. A whole year of work and tomorrow's the day. I just… I don't think I could take it if we didn't even place again this year. I don't think the glee club would survive if we did that poorly. I don't think I could take it if I didn't get to sing our song. I just… I don't want to fail."

"So, you won't," Blaine said.

"It's that easy, huh?"

"It is," Blaine agreed. "Listen, Kurt, you have the strongest musical numbers of anyone here. Performing original songs is an amazing idea and it's going to give you a huge leg up on the competition. Just keep doing what you've been doing and you can't lose."

"You have to say that because you’re my boyfriend," Kurt said.

"No. I get to say that because it's the truth," Blaine said taking Kurt's hand in his. "You're going to be amazing tomorrow. I can't wait to see you get up there and claim the first place trophy."

Kurt smiled at Blaine's honest praise and took a quick peek around the restaurant. Once he was sure no one was looking, he lifted Blaine's hand in his and kissed his knuckles. "Thank you," he said.

"Now, you should get to bed," Blaine said. "You have a big day tomorrow and you need to get some sleep."

The two got up from the table and walked through the lobby towards the elevator.

"I don't know if I can," Kurt said. "I'm so nervous I'm worried I'll just lay there tossing and turning all night."

Suddenly, Blaine smiled. "I have an idea," he said, as they got off the elevator on Kurt's floor.

"What?" Kurt said nervously.

"It's nothing bad, I promise. I think it might help you sleep, if you need it."


"You go get ready for bed, and if after fifteen minutes, you still can't fall asleep, call me. You have your Bluetooth, right?" Blaine asked and Kurt nodded. "Good. Put that in and call me if you're still awake."

"What are you gonna do?"

"You'll find out."

"Okay," Kurt agreed. "I guess I'll be calling you in about half an hour."

Blaine chuckled. "Good night, Kurt," he said, kissing him lightly.

"Good night."

Kurt entered his room to find all his roommates asleep, Finn snoring away. He quickly gathered his things and went through nightly ablutions. He quietly dug through his bag to find his Bluetooth and tried to crawl into bed without waking Artie. He set everything under his pillow and closed his eyes, attempting to sleep.

As he had predicted, Kurt did not fall asleep. All those worst case scenarios came flooding back into his mind and he was falling off the stage or Finn was running over Mike and breaking his ankle. It was awful. After tossing and turning for twenty minutes, he gave up and called Blaine.

"Hi," Blaine said, picking up after the first ring. "Don't say anything, I don't want you to wake anyone else, just listen."

There was a slight pause and rustling noises as if Blaine was setting the phone down. Then, a familiar melody filled the air. Kurt smiled as Blaine started singing.

Say, wasn't that a funny day?
Gee you had a funny way, a way about you
A kind of glow of something new

Sure, I'll admit that I'm the same
Another sucker for a game kids like to play
And the rules they like to use

Don't you want the way I feel?
Don't you want the way I feel?
Don't you want the way I feel for you?

Kurt felt his eyes growing heavy as Blaine continued to sing. Sometime in the middle of Teenage Dream Kurt fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, a smile on his face, he swore he could remember Blaine telling him, "Good night. I love you."

As Blaine predicted, New Directions performed extremely well in the first round and easily made it through to the top 10. Finn and Rachel's duet, while predictable, was flawless and their group number was as perfect as it's ever been.

They were standing backstage, waiting to take their place for the final round and Kurt was pacing back and forth quietly freaking out. His solo was their opening number and he couldn't help thinking that it all rested on his shoulders. Everyone had been amazingly supportive and encouraging during rehearsal, but this was still a lot of pressure. Kurt was sure he was about to hyperventilate and pass out when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Blaine smiling at him.

"Oh my god," he said pulling Blaine into a hug. "I'm so glad to see you. I don't know how I'm going to do this. Has anyone actually died from stage fright before?"

Blaine just laughed and rubbed Kurt's back reassuringly. "You're going to be fine," he said. "You're going to be better than fine; you're going to be amazing." Blaine pulled back, keeping his hands on Kurt's shoulders. "You can do this. You know this song."

"There's so many people, though," Kurt whispered.

"Ignore them," Blaine said. "Ignore everyone out there and the judges and just sing to me. Just like you've done a thousand times before back home. Just close your eyes and sing to me."

"Okay," Kurt nodded. "I can do that."

"Places!" Mr. Schuester called.

"I better go," Blaine said. "You can do this," he said with one last squeeze to Kurt's hands.

Kurt just nodded and took his place on stage with the other boys in the choir. They had decided to make Kurt's song just one for the guys. He stood front row center with Mike to his left and Puck to his right. He felt Finn squeeze his shoulder from behind and relaxed and took a deep breath. The curtain opened and Kurt was momentarily blinded by the spotlight. The band started playing and the other boys started humming their backing vocals. Just as Kurt stepped forward to begin his song, he found Blaine in the audience and everything else melted away. He smiled as he sang to Blaine, just as he had done so many times before in his bedroom back in Lima. His voice soared over the notes, clear and pitch perfect. The last note hung in the air, Kurt's arms raised in triumph. There was a moment of silence before the entire auditorium erupted in a standing ovation. Kurt beamed before taking a short bow. He looked out into the audience and saw Blaine blow him a kiss. If it was possible, he grinned even wider and moved back to take his place for the rest of their performance.

The next eight and a half minutes were a blur for Kurt. He had done his part perfectly and could now relax and watch the rest of his team perform. The ballad that Rachel and Finn shared with Tina and Mike was beautiful and their group number had everyone on their feet and dancing by the end. They ran off-stage after the curtain closed, jumping and cheering and hugging everyone. Kurt had tears in his eyes as he hugged Mercedes. He felt so good about what they had done it really didn't matter if they ended up winning or not. He knew they had done the best they could.

Four hours later, New Directions stood on stage with the other top ten teams, waiting for the results. They were all clutching hands nervously; the butterflies in Kurt's stomach were flapping wildly. The audience clapped politely as the head judge came out to announce the winners.

"We would like to thank all these choirs for a wonderful show this evening. The judging was a very difficult process as everyone performed extraordinarily well," he began. "Now, the winners. In third place – from Portland, Oregon, Suite Sound!"

Everyone applauded as the group came forward to receive their trophy. Kurt was sure he was going to throw up. Why did this have to take so long? Couldn't they just get to the winner?

"And in second place – from Boston, Massachusetts, Vocal Point!"

Kurt was sure he was going die. There were eight teams left and only first place to announce. It had to be them. It had to be. They had been so much better than all the other teams that were left. They had to do it.

"And now. The winners of the 2012 National Show Choir Championship are… ." Kurt knew he had to do it for dramatic purposes, but that stupid pause was the longest two seconds of Kurt's life. "From Lima, Ohio, the New Directions!"

All of New Directions immediately went wild – jumping and cheering and hugging everyone. Kurt saw Rachel trying to surreptitiously wipe some tears from her eyes. Kurt would be lying if he said he wasn't doing the same.

They did it. They won. Kurt was part of the National Champion New Directions. He had an amazing boyfriend and wonderful friends. Could life possibly get any better for Kurt?

The Monday after Nationals was both amazing and absolutely ordinary. There was a large congratulatory banner in the main hall at school that was torn down and defaced by lunch time. Their performance at the assembly that afternoon was flawless and greeted with loud cheers from Ms. Pillsbury and Coach Besite and polite applause from half the students. Sadly, it wasn't anything unexpected, but it still hurt. They were the first school team to win any kind of national championship in years and no one cared.

Tuesday afternoon, Finn was waiting for Kurt at his car after school which was odd because Finn usually went out with Puck or Rachel after school.

"Everything okay?" Kurt asked.

"Yeah," Finn said hesitantly. "Sort of. I guess."

"What is it?" Kurt asked after they were settled in the car.

"Rachel keeps mentioning prom and I know she's waiting for me to ask her. But, dude, prom totally sucked last year. It was boring and stupid and there was this really disgusting punch that Coach Sylvester was looming over the whole night. I know how girls are with this prom stuff and I don't know how to tell her that I don't want to go. And it's like this weekend. Shouldn't that, like, be a big hint or something?"

"Why don't you just tell her the truth?"

"Because she'll just tell me to suck it up and go anyway. It's prom, Kurt. It's like a rite of passage. I saw how upset she was last year when no one asked her and this is her last chance and… I just don't want to let her down."

Kurt said nothing as he thought over what Finn had said. He'd never really given much thought to prom figuring he'd never have anyone he wanted to go with anyway. But now there was Blaine and he had been thinking about maybe broaching the subject and seeing how Blaine felt about it. With Blaine out in L.A. and preparing for his tour and prom being so soon, he didn't really see how it would work, though. And if it was as bad as Finn said, maybe he didn't want to go?

"Well," Kurt started. "What if we did something else? Had our own New Directions Prom or something? That way no one has to worry about having a date or not. It could just be like a big end of year, we won Nationals kind of party with really good music and food."

"That's actually kind of an awesome idea," Finn said. "Where would we have it?"

"Um, Rachel's house maybe? They do have that finished basement."

"Yeah, they do. And, hey, maybe she'll be more likely to go for it if we suggest her house. I know she likes playing hostess and all that stuff."

"Okay. Well, why don't you call her when we get home and if she agrees we can propose it to the rest of the group tomorrow."

"Thanks, Kurt," Finn said with a smile. "That is a really excellent idea."

Luckily, Rachel was very open to the idea and promised to talk to her dads about having a party. So, the next day before Mr. Schue arrived for rehearsal Kurt, Finn and Rachel proposed their idea to the group.

"No one at this school really cares about us anyway," Finn said. "So, why not have our own party instead of going to what's probably going to be a really boring and dull dance?"

"I heard Principal Figgins is trying to get Air Supply to come play," Santana added. "Air Supply. What is this? 1982?"

"I am in," Puck said. "Prom last year was totally lame. The music sucked; the food sucked and I couldn't even spike the damn punchbowl!"

And that was that. Everyone else quickly agreed and it was decided that the New Directions Anti-Prom would take place on the same night as the McKinley prom, May 26th, just three days away.

There was no way Kurt could ask Blaine to come home, but it was okay. He still had Blaine and half of New Directions didn't have dates to this party. Everything would be fine.

The next day, Blaine called to catch up as it had been three days since they last spoke and that was just way too long.

"How's things at McKinley?" he asked.

"Oh, same ol', same ol'," Kurt said. "Still at the bottom of the proverbial ladder."

"Really? Winning Nationals hasn't changed anything?"

"Nope," Kurt sighed. "I mean, I didn't really expect it to, but there was still a small part of me that hoped maybe something would be different. Sadly, it's all still the same."

"I'm sorry," Blaine said. "Well, what about New Directions? Are you guys doing anything to celebrate?"

"Sort of," Kurt said. "We're having our own 'prom' this weekend in Rachel's basement. Apparently, last year's prom was awful and Rachel had been bugging Finn about going, but Finn didn't want to, so we decided to have our own."

"That's awesome! Should I ask who your date is?"

Kurt could hear the smile in Blaine's voice as he asked the question. For a moment, Kurt thought about teasing Blaine, but he just couldn't.

"Well, my first choice for a date is sadly unavailable."

"Is it anyone I know?"

"I'm sure you do," Kurt replied. "He's a very famous musician, adored by many."

"He sounds like quite a guy."

"He is. I don't know how I got so lucky."

"Well, I'm sure he's beating himself up at not being able to be there for you."

"He's a very busy guy. I get it."

"Well, since your first choice isn't available, who are you going with?"

"Mercedes," Kurt said. "It'll be great. I'm pretty sure no one outside of New Directions is going to be there anyway, since anyone who's dating someone is dating someone in New Directions."

"It's all a bit incestuous, isn't it?"

"It can be," Kurt admitted. "I'm just glad I never got sucked into it."

"Oh, but you wish you would have," Blaine teased.

"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"

"Nope. It's just too easy."

"So, how's things out in L.A.?" Kurt asked changing the subject.

"Busy," Blaine said. "Rehearsals are going well. A tour on this scale is just so huge, there's so much more involved than my first little tour. It's a little insane."

"You're going to be wonderful," Kurt said, quietly. "Everyone will love you and you'll come back an even bigger star than you were."

"Thank you," Blaine said. "It really means a lot that you believe in me."

"Just…," Kurt paused. He didn't want to say what he was thinking, what he was fearing. He didn't want to be one of those boyfriends, but he couldn't help it. Blaine was going to go off to Europe for six weeks where he was going to meet so many amazing people. Kurt couldn't help but worry a little bit.

"Just what?" Blaine asked.

"Just don't forget about me?" Kurt said hesitantly.

"Oh, Kurt," Blaine said. "I could never forget about you. I think about you all the time and I miss you like crazy. It's kind of scary because we're so young, but…. You're it for me, you know?"

"Me, too," Kurt said.

"I hate to do this, but I really have to go," Blaine said.

"Sure, of course," Kurt said.

"I miss you," Blaine said.

"I miss you, too," Kurt replied.

"Good night."

"Good night."

Kurt hung up with Blaine and surreptitiously wiped the few tears that had fallen. This was so hard. They'd just gotten together but couldn't just be together. It really sucked.

Saturday morning, Mercedes called to arrange what time she would pick Kurt up. Kurt's house was on the way from Mercedes' to Rachel's and even though Kurt had tried to insist on being a gentleman and picking up Mercedes, she had claimed that it made more sense for her to go to Kurt's house. They had decided to have dinner before the party so everyone was to arrive at Rachel's about 5:00. They had decided that Mercedes would be at Kurt's house and 4:30 and then Kurt would drive them to Rachel's.

Kurt started getting ready early. Even if it was just a party in Rachel's basement, it was his prom and he wanted to do it right. He'd been saving a vest he'd found buried in a sale rack at Nordstrom's for a special occasion like this. Sure, it was technically a woman's vest, but it looked fabulous on him. It was dark gray with a high collar and a single button on the placket covering the zip closure. The vest was open in the back, save for the v-shape just between his shoulder blades where two straps crossed and fastened to the pants like suspenders. He had a pair of skinny pants that were the exact same shade of gray that would work perfectly, a very fitted white shirt under the vest and his black Doc Martens. It would be amazing.

He was almost done getting ready when he heard the doorbell ring. It was only 4:20; Mercedes was actually early for once. He finished as quickly as he could and ran down the stairs to meet Mercedes.

But Mercedes wasn't there.

Instead, there was Blaine in a gorgeous black tuxedo, holding a single pink carnation. A matching flower was fastened to his jacket as a boutonniere. The smile on his face as he saw Kurt was quite possibly the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He wanted to run over and jump in Blaine's arms, but he didn't want to ruin that beautiful suit and his flower. This was just too much.

"What are you doing here?" Kurt asked.

"I can go, if you want," Blaine said with a smirk.

"No!" Kurt said, rushing over. "I just… . You're so busy, how did you get away?"

"By promising to be back first thing in the morning," Blaine said flatly. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but after we talked the other day, I called Mercedes and she let me know what all was going on and I… I had to be here. I wanted to be here for you. Everyone should have the date they want to the prom."

Blaine held out the flower to Kurt and Kurt tried so very hard not to cry. Blaine was just so amazing. He was so much more than Kurt deserved.

"Thank you," Kurt whispered as he took the flower and finally stepped into Blaine's arms.

"Have a good time, you two."

Kurt looked over, surprised to see his dad standing there. He'd been so distracted by Blaine he hadn't even noticed his dad was in the room.

"Hi, dad!" he said jumping out of Blaine's hold.

"Don't worry about it," Burt said with a laugh and squeezing Kurt's shoulder. "You two go have fun at the party, but remember – "

"I know, dad,' Kurt interrupted. "Curfew is midnight. We'll be home by then, don't worry."

"Yes, sir," Blaine added. "I have an early flight myself, so Kurt will be home in time."

Kurt waved good bye to his dad, grabbed Blaine's hand and rushed out the door before there was any more embarrassment from anyone. They hopped in Blaine's car and Kurt immediately leaned over to kiss Blaine hello.

"Hi," he whispered against Blaine's lips as he pulled away.

"Hi," Blaine replied.

"I can't believe you're here," Kurt said as he ran a hand through Blaine's hair.

"Of course I'm here. I wouldn't miss this for anything."

"What about Mercedes?" Kurt asked suddenly remembering his actual date.

"She's getting a ride with Tina and Mike," Blaine replied. "Don't worry. It's all fine."

"I still can't believe you flew out just for me."

"You're worth it, Kurt," Blaine said sincerely. "I just wish I could stay longer."

"Don't even," Kurt said. "This is so much more than anything you needed to do."

Blaine leaned over and gave Kurt a quick kiss before settling back in his seat and finally starting the car. Once they were on the way, Kurt reached over and gently placed his hand on top of Blaine's where it was resting on the gear shift. Blaine smiled at Kurt and turned his hand over to link their fingers together. Kurt smiled shyly back at Blaine and turned his attention back to the neighborhood as it flew by. Yes, Kurt Hummel had a pretty good life.

The New Directions prom actually turned out to be a pretty awesome party. Rachel's dads had apparently gone all out with the food and ordered catering from at least three different restaurants. There were Italian, Greek and vegan options. Somehow they'd even been talked into opening the liquor cabinet. Kurt wasn't sure he wanted to know how that conversation went, but Puck seemed very happy with that bit of news. Still being wary of alcohol from his last encounter a couple years ago, Kurt didn't want to go overboard, but figured with it being a celebration one drink would be fine. He somehow trusted Puck enough to mix him something. The wink Puck gave him as he passed the drink over and told Kurt, "Enjoy your Long Slow Comfortable Screw Against the Wall," were enough to get Kurt's cheeks flaming. He was just glad Blaine hadn't been there to overhear. He almost changed his mind, but it had orange juice in it, so it couldn't be too bad. He took a tentative sip and hummed happily as the rather pleasant taste exploded on his tongue. The tang from the juice seemed to override any bitterness from the alcohol and Kurt quickly made his way back to Blaine.

"What is that?" Blaine asked.

"Um, I'm not sure," Kurt lied. "But it tastes pretty good. Want to try some?"

"No, I'm good. Designated driver and all that."

Kurt slowly sipped his cocktail over the rest of the night. He got into the groove of things as he danced with Blaine and Mercedes. He may have even danced with Puck at one point. He looked over the dance floor and saw Blaine dancing with Santana to Don't You Want Me. When Total Eclipse of the Heart came on near the end of the night, Blaine grabbed Kurt's hand and dragged him out to the middle of the floor. He pulled Kurt close and started swaying back and forth. Kurt, feeling a little light-headed from the drink, just wrapped his arms around Blaine's shoulders and rested his head in the crook of Blaine's neck. He sighed happily and settled himself in Blaine's hold.

"Thank you," Kurt whispered.

"For what?" Blaine asked.

"For tonight. This was amazing, Blaine."

"Well, you're welcome."

They stayed like that for the rest of the song, barely even moving, just happy to be able to be with each other. When the song ended, Kurt pulled back and yawned as everything seemed to catch up with him at once.

"Come on," Blaine said. "It's getting late; I should get you home."

They made their rounds, saying good night to everyone. Finn had managed to convince Carole to let him stay at Rachel's. Kurt was pretty sure lying about other people staying over had been involved, but he wasn't going to say anything. Blaine got Kurt settled in the car; his head was still spinning a little. Kurt was pretty sure Puck kept topping off his drink throughout the night. Luckily, he had been sipping it slow enough that he was never really drunk, just pleasantly tipsy. He smiled at Blaine as Blaine settled behind the steering wheel. Blaine smiled fondly at Kurt and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. Kurt hummed happily in response and sank deeper into his seat.

It wasn't a long drive from Rachel's house, but Kurt managed to fall asleep anyway. The next thing he knew was Blaine shaking him awake gently after they pulled into his driveway. Kurt glanced at the clock on the dash and saw that it was 11:48. He still had twelve minutes before he had to be in the house. He stumbled out of the car and made his way over to the porch swing. This time, when Blaine sat next to him, they immediately curled into each other, Kurt resting his head on Blaine's shoulder.

"I wish you didn't have to go," Kurt said quietly.

"Me, too," Blaine agreed. "We leave next week and there's still so much to do."

"I know," Kurt said. "I get it, I do. It just… kinda sucks for us, you know?"

"I know."

They sat in silence for a minute, Kurt trying to soak up as much of Blaine as he could before they were once more parted.

"There's something I want to ask you," Blaine said seriously.

"What is it?" Kurt asked, sitting up to face Blaine.

"Before you came downstairs earlier tonight, I asked your dad something. He was a little hesitant, but I think I got him on my side. And he said that if you agreed, he would be okay with it."

Blaine paused a moment and Kurt's head was reeling with possibilities. What could Blaine have possibly been talking to his dad about?

"Kurt, would you like to come to Europe with me?"

Kurt was sure he had misheard Blaine.

"I… what?" he said.

"I want you to come with me on the tour."


"Yeah," Blaine said.

"Oh my God, yes!" Kurt cried as he flung himself at Blaine. "My dad is okay with this? Really?"

"Well, I had to convince him that most of the time we would be on a tour bus where the beds are barely big enough for one person and there would be adult supervision everywhere since we're both under eighteen for now, but yeah. He trusts you. I think he trusts me," Blaine said nervously. "I know this is a big deal and, well, you would miss your graduation and your birthday."

"I would?" Kurt asked as his mind ran through the dates.

"Yeah, that's the day we leave. You would be done with classes and everything, but you wouldn't be here for the actual ceremony."

"That's okay," Kurt said hurriedly. "I'm totally okay with that. Europe or graduation? I think I'll take Europe!"

Blaine laughed and pulled Kurt into a hug. "There's more," he said.

"More?" Kurt asked. How could there possibly be more?

"The last night of my stop with the band is in Paris and I managed to convince my manager to let us stay a couple extra days. Almost a week, actually."

"A week in Paris?" Kurt gasped. This was too much. How was this his life? This was amazing.

"So, that's a yes, then?" Blaine asked.

"Yes, of course, yes!" Kurt exclaimed.

He clung to Blaine. His heart was racing with excitement, his mind whizzing with everything he would get to see and do.

"Oh my God!" He suddenly exclaimed pulling back from Blaine. "I have to pack clothes for six weeks? How the hell am I going to do that?"

Blaine just laughed and kissed Kurt. "I'm sure you'll figure it out."

The next morning, Kurt woke up with his mind still running at full speed. There was so much to do and so not enough time to do it in. He wandered downstairs for breakfast and saw his dad and Carole sitting at the dining room table. He paused, just watching them for a moment. Carole was so good for his dad. Kurt was very glad someone would be around for him when he went off to college. Eventually, he walked into the kitchen and greeted his dad with a hug.

"I love you," Kurt said.

"I take it Blaine asked you?" Burt replied.

Kurt just nodded.

"There will be rules," Burt added. "But… I trust you. You're a good kid, Kurt. This'll be an amazing experience for you."

"Thank you, dad," Kurt said.

"I know Blaine is off to L.A., so later this week, you and I will sit down and discuss what I expect from both of you on this trip."

"Of course," Kurt said.

He chatted with his dad and Carole for a few more minutes before grabbing a quick breakfast and heading back upstairs to study for the couple of finals he had later this week. With his grades, he had been exempted from most of them, but apparently Home Ec and Statistics still wanted final exams from him. Home Ec would be easy enough. He'd been cooking dinner for him and his dad for the last 6 years. Statistics, well, that might be a little harder. He might have to call on Artie for some tutoring later this week.

Later that day, just after lunch, Kurt's phone rang. He was tempted to ignore it as he felt like he was finally getting somewhere with the math, but then he saw that it was Blaine and figured a short break would be fine.

"Hi!" he said excitedly as he picked up the phone.

"Hi," Blaine replied.

"How was the flight?"

"Oh, fine. I slept for most of it, which was good. I barely got any sleep last night."

"Me, neither," Kurt admitted. "Too excited, I guess."

"Yeah," Blaine said. "I can't believe you're coming with me."

"I can't either," Kurt laughed. "This is so amazing, Blaine. Thank you."

"I'm glad I can take you. Everyone should see Europe at least once in their life."

"Have you been before?"

"I've been to London a couple times when my dad had business there. The last time I was there was when I was ten. I can't wait to see it with you."

"And Paris!" Kurt added. "I can't believe I get to spend a week in Paris. Where else are we going?"

Kurt listened as Blaine's voice washed over him, talking about all the places they would go and the cities they would see. London and Dublin, Barcelona, Nice and Rome and so many other amazing places Kurt could hardly stand it. Sure, Blaine was probably going to be quite busy but Blaine mentioned that they should have most of the daytime to themselves before he had to be at whatever the venue was for sound check.

"This is going to be great," Blaine said.

"Yeah, it is," Kurt agreed. "Oh! So, my dad wants to lay down some rules before we leave."

"That totally makes sense," Blaine said. "Please let him know that I will do whatever I can to make sure you're safe and looked out for. I don't want anything to ruin this trip."

"I will let him know," Kurt said.

"I have to go," Blaine said. "We just got to the studio and Alan is freaking out since I was gone yesterday."

"Yeah, of course," Kurt said. "Go do your thing and I'll talk to you later."

Kurt went back to his studying but found he was too distracted to absorb anything useful. He might as well take a break to try and get his mind back on track. He walked into his closet and started sorting out what he would need for the trip.

The rest of the week flew by and before Kurt knew it, it was Friday night and he was packing the last of what he would need for the trip. Mercedes was over helping and Carole was cooking a good bye dinner.

"I'm going to miss you so much," Mercedes said.

"I'll miss you guys, too," Kurt said. "I'll be back in July and we'll have plenty of time to hang out before you head off to Chicago and I head off to New York."

"It's still not the same as having the whole summer with you."

"I know."

"You better bring me back something fabulous."

Kurt laughed as he hugged Mercedes. "Of course I will," he promised.

"Kurt! Mercedes!" Carole called. "Dinner's ready!"

"Be right there!" Kurt called back. "I think that's it." He looked around his room one last time and except for a couple of his toiletries he would use in the morning, everything had been crossed off his list. He would be meeting up with Blaine and everyone else at JFK in New York and from there they would be off to London. This was really happening. He linked arms with Mercedes and they headed down to dinner. They had just turned the corner into the dining room when Kurt realized something was off.

"Surprise!" everyone from New Directions yelled as they came into view. A huge GOOD BYE KURT. WE'LL MISS YOU banner was hanging from the ceiling.

"What? You guys!" Kurt exclaimed. "It's not like I'm leaving forever."

"Well, six weeks is long enough," Burt said, "and your friends wanted to do something special since you won't be here for graduation tomorrow or your birthday."

"Thank you, guys," Kurt said sincerely. "I will miss you all. Even you, Rachel. I can't wait to tell you about everything when I get back."

There were toasts and laughter and everyone dug into the feast Carole had made. Kurt looked around at everyone and smiled. For the first time in his life, Kurt could say he was truly content. It was a long road to get here, but he wouldn't trade it for anything.

The last six weeks had been some of the most amazing times of Kurt's life. Seeing Europe and seeing it with Blaine had exceeded every expectation. He really hoped to come back one day and see everything properly.

Earlier that evening, they'd checked into the Empire Suite at the Georges V Hotel. It was the most lavish room Kurt had ever seen with heavily curtained windows, exquisitely detailed furniture and the most amazing view of the Eiffel Tower Kurt could imagine. As much as Kurt wanted to stay out on balcony all night just staring, he was so tired. They ended up ordering room service and curling up on the couch watching movies. Kurt translated for Blaine as best he could, but his eyes were so heavy.

The next thing he knew, he was blinking awake in the dark room. Something warm and slightly wet was ticking his cheek. He smiled when he realized it was just Blaine, kissing him gently. He sighed and settled back down into Blaine's arms.

"I love you," he said.

Kurt's eyes snapped open as he realized what he had just said. He sat up and looked at Blaine, nervous and apprehensive at what Blaine would say. Sure, when they first got together they had both admitted to having been in love with each other, but they had never actually said, "I love you." Blaine just smiled and cupped Kurt's cheek in his palm.

"I love you, too," he replied and kissed Kurt gently on the lips.

Kurt just sighed in relief. He didn't know why he had been so worried. Blaine had demonstrated more than once that he loved Kurt, but it was still nice to hear the words.

"Hey, now that you're up," Blaine started, "there's something I want to tell you."

"What is it?" Kurt asked.

"I've been doing some thinking. About what will happen when we get home and then when you go off to school in the fall. I'm really not worried about the long distance thing, but I don't want to be apart from you if I don't have to be."

"What are you saying?" Kurt said.

"I'm saying that when we get back to the U.S., I'm moving to New York." Blaine smiled tentatively as he finished sharing his news. Kurt, however, was a little confused.

"I thought your record company was in L.A.?" Kurt said.

"They are," Blaine said. "They have an office in New York, too. Even if they didn't, there are recording studios everywhere. I don't have to be in L.A. to work with them. Especially now that I'm a little more established, I have a little more freedom with where I want to actually live. Well, if you're in New York then that's where I want to be."

"I love you so much," Kurt said as he launched himself at Blaine.

Blaine was going to be in New York. He was going to be in New York. They had a whole week in Paris. Kurt Hummel's life was pretty amazing.

Chapter Text

Blaine tossed and turned in his sleep, trying not to wake Kurt. It was late. Or early, depending on how you looked at things and they both had a very busy day ahead of them. Kurt would be giving his final performance as Elliot, the lead in Elton John's newest Broadway hit and Blaine would be giving the last of his sold out shows at Madison Square Garden. Then there was the after party with all their family and friends and then packing for the three month world tour.

Blaine rolled over and looked at Kurt. There was a slight smile on his lips and Blaine wondered what he was dreaming about. Something pleasant, no doubt. He couldn't resist and reached to gently push back a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. It was times like these where Kurt's beauty struck deep into Blaine's core and stole his breath. Blaine was so lucky that Kurt was his. These last seven years had been even better than Blaine could have imagined and it was all because of Kurt.

Sure, they'd had their ups and downs and kind of, sort of broken up on a few occasions, but they always found their way back together. That's how Blaine knew that this was it; this was forever. Even when they'd first gotten together and they were still so young, they always talked of their future together. It was never "I" or "me"; it was always "us" and "we". Everyone thought they were naïve and silly, but Kurt and Blaine knew better.

"Hey," Kurt whispered, bringing Blaine out of his reverie.

"Hey," Blaine said with a smile. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't," Kurt insisted. "Why are you awake? You should be asleep with me."

"Just nervous I guess," Blaine said.

"About what? This whole tour has been a phenomenal success. Everyone loves you."

"I know," Blaine said. "It's not that."

"What is it then?"

Blaine closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This really wasn't how he imagined this happening, but was there really anything else he needed?

"For months, I've been trying to figure out how to say this," Blaine started. "I must have started to compose a dozen different songs and played around with the lyrics of other songs to try and find the words. I tried to find the right when and the right how, but then I realized all I needed was the right who."

Kurt just looked at him quizzically. Blaine chuckled a little at the confused look on his face before rolling over and pulling a small jeweler's box out of his nightstand. He cradled it in his palm, shielding it from Kurt's view for a moment.

"All I needed was you," he continued, "and just four simple words." He paused as he opened the box, revealing the simple platinum band. "Will you marry me?"

Blaine waited as Kurt absorbed what he had just said and asked. He knew Kurt was probably still half asleep and this might not have been the best time, but Blaine just couldn't wait anymore.

"Yes," Kurt whispered through his tears. "Yes, of course I'll marry you."

Blaine smiled as he pulled the ring from the box and reverently placed it on Kurt's hand, sealing it with a kiss. Kurt looked up and Blaine couldn't help from laughing he was so happy. He pulled Kurt to him and kissed him deeply, putting every emotion he felt into it.

He went with the motion as Kurt pushed him back down to the bed and crawled on top. Kurt deepened the kiss; Blaine could only moan in response and hold on tight. Blaine was glad it was summer and the two of them were only in boxers at the moment. It made getting undressed so much easier.

Blaine quickly reached down and pushed both their boxers off in one swift move. They both moaned as their bare cocks brushed against each other. Blaine spread his legs wider, letting Kurt take control. They had both been so busy lately that it had been far too long since they'd had time for anything more than rushed hand jobs in the shower. Blaine was perfectly fine with letting Kurt have his way.

He settled into the bed as Kurt's lips wandered from his, down his neck and paused briefly to play with Blaine's nipples. Kurt's hands were busy, too, stroking down Blaine's sides before reaching around to cup his ass. Blaine arched up into Kurt and moaned as Kurt's fingers found their way inside. It was dry and burned a little bit, but Blaine kind of liked it that way. He reached under the pillow and pulled out the lube, though, for later. Kurt grabbed it, spreading some on his fingers, and reaching for Blaine again. Blaine raised his feet, hooking them across Kurt's back and allowing Kurt easier access. Blaine reached up to bring Kurt's mouth back to his, sucking on Kurt's bottom lip like Blaine knew he liked.

"Now," Blaine whispered. "Please."

Kurt pulled back slightly, covering his cock with more lube before pushing into Blaine in one easy motion. Blaine arched up, the breath pulled from his body with Kurt's actions. They stilled for a moment, no sound in the room except for their panting breaths. Kurt's hand stroked Blaine's flank, calming him and gentle kisses were dropped across Blaine's face.

Blaine reached for Kurt's hand and twined their fingers together, anchoring him in the now. He looked over as the felt something cold and smiled at the ring glinting in the moonlight that now rested on Kurt's finger.

"I love you," Blaine whispered.

Kurt crushed their mouths together and finally started moving. Blaine was so on edge and so full of emotion he knew it wouldn't take him long. A few short strokes later, Blaine coming, his cock untouched. He groaned as Kurt kept moving, the feeling almost too much. Blaine squeezed Kurt's hand and turned his head to kiss along the stretch of Kurt's neck that he could reach.

"Say it again," Kurt whispered, as he buried his head in Blaine's neck.

"I love you," Blaine replied. "I love you so much and I can't wait to be your husband."

Blaine felt Kurt still as he pulsed deep inside him. Kurt collapsed on top of him, panting harshly from the exertion.

"I love you," Kurt said, as he finally rolled off of Blaine but keeping hold of his hand. "I love you so much that sometimes it doesn't seem real."

"It's real," Blaine assured him. "I'm real and I'm not going anywhere."

Kurt nodded as he stared at their hands. "Did I ever tell you I almost went to Dalton?"

"You did?" Blaine asked.

"Not like I almost attended Dalton, but I almost snuck in one day," Kurt replied. "It was during my junior year, just before things started getting really bad. Mr. Schue had divided us into those stupid boys versus girls groups and the guys were not listening to anything I had to say. We'd also just found out who the other choirs would be at Sectionals. Puck waved me off and told me it would be better if I went to spy on you guys so I could scope out the competition."

"What did you do?"

"I raided my closet and put together my best approximation of the Dalton uniform. I actually drove out there one day, but I just sat in the parking lot. I couldn't make myself go in. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I would have run into you then. What might have happened if I did."

"I don't know," Blaine replied. "I think I'm glad things worked out how they did, to be honest."

"Me, too," Kurt said. "Honestly, as awful as that year was, everything that's happened led me here and to you. I wouldn't trade that for anything."

Blaine smiled and kissed Kurt before snuggling back down in the sheets for sleep. Kurt curled in close and Blaine wrapped his arms around his future husband. He was still smiling as he finally fell asleep.

"Thank you, everyone!" Blaine yelled to the crowd. "You've been an amazing audience. Good night!"

He had just finished the encore of his last show in New York and he ran off stage and looked around for Kurt. He was supposed to be waiting for Blaine after his own show finished and right now, Blaine needed him.

He finally spotted Kurt over by the light board and hurried over, lifting Kurt up and twirling them around.

"Stop it!" Kurt said, laughing and swatting at Blaine's arms.

Blaine set Kurt back down, and quickly kissed him hello.

"You need a shower," Kurt said.

"I really do," Blaine replied. Normally, he wouldn't bother and just shower when he got home, but they had a party to get to and family and friends to impress. He pulled Kurt after him as he made his way through the venue to his dressing room. He was tempted to pull Kurt into the shower with him, but knew Kurt would just complain about having to fix his hair again and then they would be even later to their own party and no one wanted that. So, Blaine showered as quickly as he could and left Kurt to scour over his meager clothing options for something suitable to wear.

Blaine was toweling his hair dry as he stepped back into his dressing room and looked over the outfit Kurt had selected. It was nice. It was casual and it went well with what Kurt was wearing without being all matchy-matchy. He dressed quickly and they hopped in the car waiting to take them over to Tavern on the Green for the private party.

Everyone was there when they arrived, Burt and Carole and Blaine's family. Finn was there with Rachel and their daughter, Abigail. At least half of New Directions and most of The Warblers were in attendance along with almost all the friends they had made in the last seven years in New York. Blaine had never felt so much love in one room, it was astounding. They hugged everyone hello and were about ready to make their way over to the bar when Carole stopped them.

"Honey," she said pulling at Kurt's left hand. "Is this…?"

Blaine watched as the realization dawned on her face and tentatively looked at Burt standing next to her. Kurt just nodded in response and Carole pulled them both into a hug. Burt shook his hand once Blaine was free and hugged Kurt. He whispered something to Kurt that Blaine would have to ask him about later as it made Kurt tear up a bit.

"Hey, everyone!" Burt called out. When no one listened, he whistled harshly and the whole party turned to look his way, the DJ even quieting the music. "This just turned into an engagement party. My son's getting married!"

The cheer from the crowd was practically deafening and Kurt and Blaine were once more swarmed with well-wishers. They smiled and shook hands and hugged everyone for a second time. Blaine didn't care.

He was going to marry Kurt. He was about to embark on a sold-out world tour and when they came home, Kurt would start rehearsals on the musical Blaine had sold a couple months ago. It was a small production, nowhere near the scale of some of the shows Kurt had worked on, but it was theirs and Kurt was going to be spectacular.

Life was pretty amazing.


Chapter Text

I first started contemplating this story in January of 2011. And then on September 30, almost ten months later, I finally wrote those two little words, "The End." There were a few times I wasn't sure I would make it, but thanks to some wonderfully amazing people who didn't let me give up, I did it. I wrote the longest story I have ever even considered writing and I am so, so proud of what I did here. Even if no one reads this, I'm just so happy that I actually finished this.

To my tumblr dash for putting up with my ramblings and cryptic posts about this epic thing I was writing, well, this is it! Thank you for putting up with me and cheering me on when I needed it. I love you all more than you will know.

To everyone at kurt_blaine and beyond_dapper, I have never felt more welcome in a fandom as I have in this one. And believe me, I've been around long enough to know. The encouragement and comments on all my previous fic endeavors really helped me believe I could do this.

Thank yous
theemdash for filling in all the gaps of my lacrosse knowledge. Which are admittedly many as I know nothing about lacrosse.
oddwritesstuff for the fashion chats and links. Kurt's wardrobe was pretty much the third main character in this story.
rainbowmcgee09 for being an amazing sounding board and beta. She let me talk at her and work out my problems and this fic is so much better for it. She also came up with most of the other song titles for Blaine's album, so all appreciation should go to her on those.
To brihana25 for being an amazing friend and cheerleader. I've rambled at you I don't even know how much during the writing of this and your feedback and comments have been invaluable.

Additional Story Notes
Charlie's physical appearance is based partially on that of Jon Hall, aka beatboxing!Warbler. He was always one of my favorites and then hearing the stories of his and Chris' epic bromance on the tour over the summer combined with this gif pretty much sealed the deal on that one.

I have compiled a short soundtrack of the songs referenced in the story, including those that are on Blaine's album that actually exist. You can download Blaine's album here and the other songs here.
NOTE: As of 8/25/17, the downloads above are not available. I am looking for somewhere else to house them. Blaine's album:


The scholarship Kurt is awarded does actually exist. You can read about that here.

Pictures and Videos
Since Blaine is not actually a popstar, I had to borrow some things from Darren. But they are the things that I think are very much Blaine, too.

The first pictures of Blaine that Kurt finds on his website are these. The Live pictures are from Darren's show at The Roxy. The pictures with the various musical accoutrements are here.

The videos Kurt finds on YouTube are also from Darren's show at The Roxy:
Don't You
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Teenage Dream

In my head the version of Teenage Dream that Blaine sings at his concert to Kurt, is actually rather similar to this one that Darren performed at the Festival of New American Musicals on 12/4/11.

The inspiration for Me, Myself and Lies on Blaine's album was taken from here and the inspiration for the original song Kurt writes with Blaine is from here.

If you want to see what some of the clothing Kurt wore throughout this story looks like, I've compiled a small gallery here.