"So, who's the lad?" his dad asks during dinner the following night. He's trying to be inconspicuous about it and of course failing miserably. His dad has never been good at subtility. It's not exactly a disadvantage.
Kurt looks up from his potatoes-and-chickenwings plate with wide eyes. "Who?"
"Asian kid? You've been sneaking him downstairs for the past week?"
Kurt feels his cheeks heat up in what he hopes is an invisible blush. Not subtle - maybe. But also, not blind. "His name's Mike, and it's not like that. It's just practice for Glee. He's good at dancing, and he helps me and the girls out - well. He helps Tina out. Brittany and me, we're naturals. We're just there for moral support."
His dad makes a sound, like "haa-rhump", and eyes Kurt for a few more seconds before dropping his fork to get himself another helping of dinner. "This is really good, kid," he says and quirks a half-smile, like he's proud.
"It's just dinner," Kurt says, ducking his head, but his belly lights up with warmth at the compliment. He found the recipe in his mom's old cookbook, the one he unearthed from the cupboard below the cutlery, underneath the century-old "Mary Alden's Cookbook for Children", and that first edition of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", which is in good enough condition that it might be worth quite a bit of money.
Not that he's an expert.
His dad ruffles his hair when he passes Kurt to reach the stove, and Kurt glares, but doesn't really mean it.
"By the way," his dad says. "Now that football season's over - do you have any plans to join the basketball team?"
"The basketball team!" Kurt tells Brittany the next evening while they're sitting on the stairs to his basement kingdom, waiting for Mike and Tina to show up. "Like I'd ever do anything for sports that could ruin my manicure!"
Brittany nods. "I completely understand," she says. "When Ms. Sylvester first ordered us to do handstands in the dirt, we were all, 'oh, ew!'." She sighs. "But you know Ms. Sylvester. At least we get free weekly visits to Mrs. Carlson's beauty salon down by the shopping center."
"What is taking them so long?" Kurt checks his cell phone for missed calls. "We said 6pm, right? It's twenty past, If they're not here in ten minutes, we're starting without them. We're wasting valuable workout time -" Then something occurs to him. "They're not hooking up, are they?"
Brittany rolls her eyes. "Uh, no? First off, Tina hates him since sixth grade when he stuffed toilet paper down the front of her pants, and they just ride together because she doesn't have a car. And also, no, because Mike's gay."
Kurt stares. "What?"
"Oh, yes, it was a little bit funny, but really, someone should have clocked him one for it. Poor Tina. He used to be a bit of a jerk, but he's changed now -"
"No, wait. I meant the gay thing!"
"Oh, that." Brittany nods. "Not a lot of people know, since, you know, the football team and all, but he told a few of us. Santana and me, and Tina, now, and I think he told Finn and Quinn a while back; Matt, of course. I think they even tried to hook up once, to try the best-friends sex, like Santana and I do, but Mike said kissing Matt was really weird -"
"Okay, that's enough." Kurt interrupts her. He blinks a few more times, but the mental image doesn't go away, so he shakes his head. "That is the most unfair thing I've ever heard. How does Mike Chang get more action than I do? And with straight guys, too?"
Brittany puts her arm around him and pulls him close, squishing their cheeks together. "Are you ever going to stop crushing on Finn?" she asks him, with that 'aw' implied that tells Kurt she's feeling sorry for him. "You really should. There are so many nice gay boys you could be dating."
"Like who?" Kurt asks, and pushes her away. "Not in this miserable backwards town, I couldn't."
Brittany pouts, but instead of replying, she suddenly jumps up and pulls out her cell. "Oh, that's what's been vibrating all this time!" she exclaims, "Who turned my phone on vibrate?" Then she squints. "Tina texted me that Mike is having car troubles. We should start without them."
Their gazes meet.
"Thriller!" Brittany cheers and Kurt laughs and goes to get the CD. They don't share this one with anyone. After all, they've been dancing it, just the two of them, since second grade.
Also, it's embarrassing. And all the more fun for it.
"So. Christmas," Mike says a week before the holidays. Glee club is sitting around in the rehearsal classroom after practice, and Mr Schuester has gone home already. Quinn and Puck are off in one corner, talking quietly. "Is anyone doing anything cool?"
"Oh, I know!" Rachel pipes up. "We should do a Christmas concert, like, on the last day of school -"
"Yeah, how about no?" Mercedes rolls her eyes. "Like anyone's gonna want to stay in school longer than they have to. It would just be us, Mr Schue and Miss P -"
"- and Rachel's two gay dads," Matt throws in, grinning.
Rachel rounds on him, eyes sparking with indignation.
"Don't start," Finn reminds everyone. "It was just an idea. Anyway, I wouldn't be able to stay for a concert, my mom and I are going to visit my aunt and her family up in Jersey right after school ends, so."
"I wouldn't mind a Christmas concert," Brittany says. "But Rachel - aren't you Jewish?"
"Well. Yes," Rachel says, looking sheepish.
"What about you?" Mike slides a little closer to Kurt and jostles him with his shoulder gently. "You're not saying much."
"Oh, we don't do a big Christmas thing at home," Kurt says. He doesn't sound like he wants to share, but Mike's nothing if not persistent. And they've been friends for a while, what with the whole dancing-in-Kurt's-basement thing, so he tries again.
"Come on, you can tell me. What do you do?" he needles.
Kurt gives him a narrow-eyed look. "We build an altar for the sun god Sol, sacrifice a calf on sundown and spend the next two days in a pot-induced trance supposed to simulate our unification with nature. Oh, and we do it all naked."
Mike grins in delight. "Wicked!"
Kurt rolls his eyes. "We eat pizza and watch old Charlie Chaplin movies. My dad and I are both atheists."
What Kurt doesn't expect is to find a letter in the mail addressed to him on Christmas morning. When he opens it, he finds two tickets for the musical Chicago, and a little card that says, "Merry Christmas! I know you don't celebrate it or whatever, but I do, and my mom works in Cleveland at the theater - I got these two for early January, hoping you'd go with me." It's signed Mike, no sparkly letters or hearts floating around the name.
Kurt had almost expected it at this point.
Once inside, he ignores his dad's shouted, "Any mail, son?" and heads downstairs, grabbing the phone off his nightstand as he bounces stomach-first onto his bed.
Brittany picks up on fourth ring. "What?" she asks, yawning. "Gosh, Kurt, it's eight am, don't you ever sleep?"
"Not when Mike's getting me theater tickets for Christmas and invites me to go with him. Though theoretically, he gave me two, so I could just ask you. Would you go with me?"
"You're being stupid," she says. "He has a crush on you. Just go with him."
"What? Since when?"
"A few months, I guess? Why do you think he joined Glee?" Brittany yawns again. "Look, if you're not going to be reasonable about this, I'm going to go open my presents now. Since you woke me up. Also, it's no fun being the smart one in the relationship."
Kurt groans and hangs up on her. He tries Mercedes next.
He gives up when Finn tells him to quit being stupid, that it's cute and that Mike's a nice guy.
"Just, give him a chance, you know?" he offers.
Kurt snaps, "Gee, thanks, like I don't have four girl friends who told me the same thing, Finn." Then he hangs up. Straight boys. Useless for anything but unrequited crushes, apparently.
When Tina calls to make sure they have another meet-up for New Year's Eve, Kurt doesn't think much of it.
"I'm bored," she says. "And Artie's still mad at me, so I don't even have a date for the evening. We should listen to hot music, eat expensive chocolates and drink champagne. We can pretend like we're in an Audrey Hepburn movie."
"And I need a make-over," Brittany chimes in. "I'm sure Santana will come if there's a make-over."
They're having a threesome - phone conversation. Phone. Conversation. Kurt hopes the association he has with that thought never crosses his mind ever, ever again, or he'll have to shoot himself in the head to avoid the pain.
"Fine," he says. "Just - let's not invite Mike, okay?"
He doesn't know himself why he's being so strange about this whole thing. After all, it's not like he has a crush on Mike. He has a crush on Finn. Sweet, slightly dim, caring and very straight Finn, and Mike is nothing at all like Finn. He's flashy and outgoing and brash and he certainly wouldn't cheat off Brittany in math - or fall for the 'We didn't have sex, but it's definitely your baby' line. He's not charming.
Well, he's a little charming. Especially when he dances right behind Kurt with a hand on Kurt's hip, doing four steps to each of Kurt's two.
"Oh, all right," Tina agrees. "Though it'll throw off the whole routine. And I don't wanna go back to doing 'Single Ladies'."
"I'll think of something," Kurt tells them.
Of course, 5pm sharp on the 31st, the doorbell rings, and Mike is standing there, a box in his arms, which turns out to be filled with a few rounds of fireworks, his Wii and a handful of CDs and DVDs. "So, when are the girls coming?" he asks, looking excited.
Kurt sits down on the edge of his bed while Mike takes the Wii and starts plugging it to Kurt's TV. He has a really strange sensation in his stomach, like he was just played for a fool.
"I - think they might be not coming," he says meanly. "And believe me when I say that when I get my hands on Tina the next time I see her, she'll end up wearing a wig to school for a long, long time."
Mike turns his head and frowns at Kurt. "Why? What did she do?"
Kurt gets up and heads towards the stairs. "I'm gonna get drinks." Quietly, he adds, "I have a feeling I'm going to need a lot of alcohol."
"Dance routines?" his dad asks when he catches Kurt sneaking back towards the basement door, champagne in one arm, bottle of coke in the other.
"Uh," Kurt says, flushing. "Would you believe me if I said that this was completely unpremeditated?"
"No," his dad says amiably. "But as long as he goes home for the night, I don't think I can exactly object, seeing as I'm going to have a few drinks with the guys, too. I'll be back around 1am. Be the responsible boy I've raised, though, will you?"
Kurt splutters. "He's not - we're not going to -"
His dad turns bright-red, too. "Not what I meant," he says, nodding at the champagne in Kurt's hand.
"- and don't want to think about it."
"Good! Me either!"
"Uh. Good. Have fun, then?"
"You, too, dad," Kurt manages to choke out before he swallows and hurries downstairs. He's going to kill his girls.
Mike is belting out Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' when Kurt gets back, jumping up and down like a maniac, and Kurt is embarrassed on his behalf, at least until he pops the cork on the champagne and takes a few big gulps. Afterwards, he feels weirdly better.
"Oh, oh, I have the perfect song for you!" Mike tells him when he's gotten Kurt to laugh, finishing the song with a robot-dance and a flourished bow, and pushes a microphone into Kurt's hand, scrolling through the menu of the program. "Here."
"Sugababes," Kurt pronounces in his deadliest voice. "Are you trying to kill me?" But then, of course, his competitive spirit gets the better of him and he tries to hit as many notes as he can, winning easily, because, well, Mike's vocals aren't exactly up there with Rachel's. He gets points for trying, though.
They do all the songs, splitting them half-half, and Kurt wins in a landslide, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun. Actually, it's the most fun he's had in a while, especially since Mike doesn't care a single bit whether he wins or not; he even cheers Kurt on when he gets to do 'Apologize'.
"One of my favorite songs of this year," he says afterwards, sitting beside Kurt, their thighs touching. He makes a grab for the bottle of coke that's in front of them, and takes a sip. "You hit it out of the park, man. Amazing."
"Thanks." Kurt smiles, turning his head. "I won't deny that I've practiced this one before."
Mike laughs easily. "Of course you have."
He leans over, and Kurt's heart starts to beat heavily, like a drum, hard and fast, and his stomach drops, because Mike's hand is suddenly on his knee, thumb pressing against the bone there, and he's got that scent of boy, and sweat, and sugar, so close, almost touching his lips - and then Kurt pulls away, jumps to his feet, and stutters, "I - um, I'm a little hungry, maybe we should go upstairs and figure out what to make for dinner!"
Which is the worst excuse ever, but at least he didn't say he has to pee.
Mike looks sad for a second. The expression disappears quickly though, and moments later, he rises from his sitting position as well, a half-smile playing his lips. "Yeah," he says. "I could eat." His smile widens. "I can always eat, man. Growing boy and all that."
It's very awkward as they look at each other, Kurt frozen and umcomfortable, Mike with that strange understanding in his eyes that makes Kurt want to bitchslap it out of him, because isn't Mike supposed to be a total goof - why isn't he doing his I'm-oh-so-funny routine to distract from the situation? But no, he lets the awkwardness stand until Kurt turns and heads upstairs, and just follows, not saying anything else.
They make pizza - because Kurt makes a mean pizza, and Mike offers it up when asked for his favorite source of nutrition - and they don't mention the abortive attempt at a kiss. They talk about Glee instead, how psyched they are for Regionals, and Nationals, and about school work, that history paper they're supposed to write over the break; about their parents (Mike's are strict but fair, apparently, and living divorced for a few years now, with his mom living in Cleveland - "that's how I got the tickets, you know?") - and then they watch a movie on the TV upstairs, which is bigger than Kurt's.
Mike doesn't try to kiss him again that night.
"What is wrong with you?" Mercedes asks him a few days later, when he tells her. School started up again, and they're standing by Kurt's locker, watching students pass them by and chatter about their break, the holidays. "He tried to kiss you!"
Kurt scowls. "I'm aware. Now, can we get to class? I'm just dying for a math pop quiz this morning." He yanks on his prada bag, the momentary pride and joy of his existence, and almost hits her in the face with it. "Also, I have a few girls to torture till they die slow, agonizing deaths."
"You're being super weird," she tells the back of his head.
"I think the word you're looking for is 'queer', actually," Kurt says succinctly.
The thing is, by thinking he had it over with going through the whole 'please light fireworks with me'-date with Mike, Kurt completely forgot about the tickets, and that Mike was dead set on taking him to that stupid musical.
"Can't he just give them to someone else?" Kurt asks Matt, because he's seriously running out of people to talk to about this. Everyone's acting like he's supposed to jump at the chance to get with Mike, as if they don't all know that he - has better things to do. "You can go with him, right? You're his best friend."
"Uh, dude," Matt says with a frown. "I'm not going to go see a theater play with Mike. Don't get me wrong, I like being in Glee, but that is sort of gay."
"Musical. And believe me," Kurt tells him, patting his wrist. "You're one of those guys who could benefit from a little more gay."
"I'm seeing Leena, though. And she likes me the way I am. Also, she's posessive. Going out with Mike is not a good idea."
Kurt's shoulders drop. "Fine. Anyone else who'd like to go with him?"
"Maybe Santana?" Matt offers. "She'd try to seduce him, mind you, and probably manage it, too. She's hot. I'd do her even if she was a guy."
"How does that even make sense," Kurt snaps, suddenly irritated, and turns around to leave. Stupid, horny straight boy friends of unreasonable, crushing gays are the worst.
In the end he joins Mike for the three-hour car drive himself, after all. And in all honesty, sitting in the passenger seat of Mike's car, listening to Mike's music collection, is not half bad, as long as he ignores the occasional rapper and mock-hip-hop sounds: after all, Mike likes show-tunes too. Kurt's slightly appeased when The Wizard of Oz makes an appearance.
"So," Kurt clears his throat. After half an hour of silence and fiddling with the CD player, he feels like he should contribute to the conversation. "What's the story with stuffing toilet paper down Tina's pants?"
Mike turns his head and Kurt has to yelp, "Eyes on the road!" before Mike concentrates back on driving. He's laughing, though. "It was just a dare," he says. "And a pretty stupid one at that. I was lucky no one filed a sexual harrassment suit, actually."
"Yeah," Kurt snorts. "Rachel wasn't there, after all."
Mike laughs again. He has a really nice laugh, all wide and happy and it sounds - normal. It sounds totally normal and fine. It's no wonder Mike likes to laugh so much.
"She still hates me for that, huh?" Mike says ruefully.
Kurt shrugs. "Yep."
"Aw, damn. I've apologized like, five times now. I even bought her flowers, but then she thought I wanted in her pants, like, another way, and punched me." He rubs his nose. "That really hurt, by the way."
"Did she break your nose?" Kurt asks with a smile.
"No need for unholy glee, Kurt," Mike reminds him, grinning back. "And no, she didn't. But there was blood, if you must know."
"It's always the quiet ones."
"It always is," Mike agrees.
They drive in silence five more minutes before Mike licks his lips and says, "You know." Then he stops.
Kurt turns to his window and looks out for a while before he says, "Do your parents know you're gay?"
Mike doesn't answer right away. When he does, though, he says, "Yeah."
"Did you tell them?"
"Does your dad know?" Mike asks instead of answering.
"Yeah, I told him a few weeks ago," Kurt says. "I was surprised how fine he was with it."
"That's good." Mike's half-smiling when Kurt glances at his face. It's really weird how he's almost always smiling. Like he can't stop, even when something's not funny at all. "My mom found out when I was thirteen, I had - there was - do you remember Lars?"
"Lars from Norway?"
"Yeah. We were friends, or. Well, he just asked one day if he could be my boyfriend, it was really funny, and I was so surprised I just said yes, I don't even know why. No, I know why, I mean. Of course, he was pretty hot. For a thirteen year old."
"Yeah, laugh at me, why don't you." Mike pokes his arm. "He came over a lot after that. My mom caught us kissing one day. She didn't deal with it too well. My dad was better with it. He just shrugged and, you know. That's one of the reasons I stayed with dad when mom left. I think she was glad I did." Mike grins when Kurt has no idea what to say. He looks sheepish. "Sorry. You probably didn't want to know all that."
"No, no, I asked. I mean." Kurt shrugs. "I was curious. I wouldn't have asked if I wasn't." He wonders, for a moment, what his mom would have said, if she was still alive. If she'd been unable to deal with it. If what his dad says about her is true, she would have been okay with it. And he believes that, he really does, that she would have loved him, no matter what. But he just knows stories. He has no idea, really.
"You haven't had a boyfriend yet, have you?" Mike suddenly asks.
Kurt crosses his arms in front of his chest and cocks his eyebrow. "I have it on good authority I've had a girlfriend, though," he says, in a tone of voice that warns Mike off from imploring further in that particular direction, and hopes that Mike can take a hint.
Mike can't. Instead of changing topics, he gallops on like he hasn't a care in the world, turning his head to look at Kurt as he says, "Because this is my way of showing I'd be interested, just in case you'd need it spelled out, and it's okay to be scared, if that was the reason you didn't want to -"
"Eyes on the road," Kurt snaps at him, and then, when Mike complies, because he just can't let things go, he adds, "And I'd rather kiss a frog than you, anyway."
Needless to say, the following two hours of the car ride are tense and more than a little uncomfortable. Kurt wants to smash his forehead against the side window, but then he decides he'd rather smash Mike's instead. That particular fantasy doesn't make the situation better, sadly.
The musical is great.
The night turns decidedly less so when he finds out Mike is not driving back the same night.
"No way, man," Mike says. "Do you want to die? I can't make another three hours after sitting for this long. We're going to my mom's to spend the night."
"There was no talk of spending the night, before!"
Mike snorts derisively. "Your precious virtue's safe there, believe me, my mom's about as enthusiastic about us doing it as you are."
Kurt wants to tell him that he didn't mean the frog thing he said - he really didn't, it's not like Mike's ugly or anything, he's actually quite good-looking, and he's nice and funny - but Mike's looking unhappy and he's not laughing anymore, and Kurt just wants to go home now. Apparently, he's not getting what he wants, either, so at least they're even.
Mike's mom turns out to be a tiny lady of Chinese descend also, and she greets Mike warmly, clasps him in a tight hug the moment he puts down the car keys. Her gaze cools when it falls on Kurt.
"Mom, this is Kurt," Mike introduces him. "He's a friend from school. Glee club, I wrote you about it?"
"I remember, I remember," she says, and bustles them through to the kitchen, where she has prepared a lovely-looking dinner. It's past ten pm, and Kurt wants to protest - he never eats past eight pm, it's bad for his skin, and it makes him fat - but Mike shoots him a glare that makes daggers look harmless, and he closes his mouth and sits down, accepting the plate with a murmured, "Thank you."
It's so delicious that he gets seconds, even though he knows he'll hate himself for it afterwards. Mike's mom keeps asking Mike about school and teachers and grades and what they sing in Glee. She does glance at him now and then with a speculative look in her eye that he doesn't want to examine too closely, but Mike doesn't mention it, so Kurt decides to let it go, too.
Finally, though, when she asks, "So, do you boys want one room, or -?" and Mike shakes his head quickly and tells her, "No, it's fine, I'm taking the living room couch, ma. Kurt can sleep in my bed," that is when her eyes soften and she starts treating him like he's more than a potential target for - he isn't quite sure what.
Kurt winces. She calls him 'love' when she changes the sheets for him and makes sure he's comfortable. "I hope you'll be staying for breakfast?" she asks just before she's about to leave for her own bedroom.
"Sure, ma'm," he says politely. "If that's okay with you."
"Of course it is," she smiles and squeezes his hand.
Mike comes in as she leaves.
"Don't stay up too late, boys," she warns.
"Yes, mom," Mike says, and rolls his eyes at Kurt as he closes the door behind him. "Uh, sorry about that."
"It's fine," Kurt says. "Nothing to be sorry about."
"Is everything okay? Just wanted to check up on you before we go to sleep."
"I'm fine. This is perfect really." Kurt shrugs, feeling strangely protective of Mike all of a sudden. He doesn't think he's felt that towards another boy before, which makes him nervous. "You shouldn't need to sleep on the couch - you're the one who invited me, and got the tickets for us, and drove all the way, you should be getting rest -"
"Hah," Mike laughs. "Are you offering to share?"
Kurt feels his face heat up. "Shut up. I could sleep on the couch for a night. You know... rough it."
Mike cracks up even more. "I'd love to take you camping some day."
"Oh, believe me, you wouldn't love it. You would send me back by snail mail, if that was the only way to get rid of me. That reminds me - shower?"
"There's no need to look so hopeful," Mike tells him, grinning. "Of course you can use the shower. The door on the right when you hit the hallway where we came in."
Kurt licks his lips. "No, it's not fine. I meant - thank you, for the evening. The musical was beautiful, I enjoyed myself a lot. And - back in the car - you know I didn't mean that about the frog, right? I'd totally rather kiss you than a frog, Mike."
"Wow," Mike laughs, in that sweet way he has, face moving as he bends slightly forwards, using his whole body to express the hilarity he feels. "Way to make me feel better."
"Oh, shut up -"
"No, really, thanks. Next time I see a frog, I'll totally be like, 'Take that, frog!'"
"Oh my god, seriously!"
Kurt reaches for Mike's neck and pulls his head down to press their mouths together. For a second, everything is silent and still, and they're not moving - then Mike makes a tiny little sound, and he has his hands on Kurt's hips, around his back, pulling him in, pressing little kisses to his lips, and smiling at the same time, and it feels good in that way that makes Kurt's stomach flutter because of doing something unexpected, and brave, and because Mike likes him, which is still hard to believe.
They part, then, breathing faster, and Kurt makes a face and says, "This does not mean we're boyfriends yet, understood? I require my three dates, thank you very much!"
And Mike cracks up again, saying, "Of course you do," like he knew this before Kurt even said it. It is mildly infuriating.
Kurt sort of likes infuriating.
"Shower now," Kurt reminds him, and shoves him out the door. "And tomorrow morning, we still have breakfast with your mom to get through!"
"Oh god, finally," Brittany says when she sees them hanging out by Kurt's locker the next school day, with Mike trying to make Kurt laugh, while Kurt teaches him about the importance of having the right brand of specific items of menswear. Mercedes is grinning at him happily, and Tina has her hands on her hips, looking accomplished.
"Not a word," Kurt tells them. "To anyone."
"But I wanna see you kiss!" Tina says, pointing at them.
"We're in school," Mike reminds her. "We don't actually want to die by lynchmob. But if any of you can convince him to let me kiss him again after school, you can even bring your camera -"
"Hey!" Kurt protests. "There will be no sexy videos of any Hummels, ever, unless it's me dancing to Beyoncé, so don't even think about it."
When the bell rings, he lets Mike walk him to class - though not carry his prada bag for him. Never. There are things that a gay boy doesn't do.
~~ written December 2009