When Karofsky grabs Kurt’s face and presses his lips to Kurt’s, it’s the first time in months that anyone’s touched Kurt’s bare skin.
What’s almost worse than the violation of the kiss is the sound of Karofsky’s thoughts running through his head: fucking tempting fag stop fucking shoving it in my face gonna beat your fucking perfect face off--. Kurt struggles, breaks away, shoves Karofsky back (hands on his jacket, careful) when he tries to go back for seconds. He gets out of the school as fast as he can, not really caring who sees him. He doesn’t run (running just makes it clear that you have something to run from), but he walks with his head down, dodging the choir room (he does not want Mr. Schue’s false sympathy now) and the exit that he knows Finn uses. Kurt knows that at this point he’s running on sheer adrenaline, and as soon as he doesn’t have to think anymore (once he gets out of the building), he’ll be able to collapse.
He doesn’t remember how he gets home.
* * *
When Kurt is next aware of his surroundings, he’s standing at the bathroom mirror, clutching a toothbrush in his gloved hand. His cheeks are flushed bright red, and he still looks wide-eyed and terrified.
He puts down the toothbrush (his mouth tastes of nothing but mint and his gums are smarting, meaning that he’s probably been standing here for a long time), checks his hair, takes a deep breath, and walks out of the bathroom. Kurt grabs his bag from where he dropped it as he walked in, curls up on the couch, and tugs off his fucking useless gloves. He’s still not sure what time it is, but it doesn’t seem like his dad is home yet, so it can’t be too late.
Kurt doesn’t know who to talk to. He knows that he should-- that he has to tell someone what happened-- but he can’t think of the right person. Mr. Schuester is almost worse than ineffective (how many times had he seen Kurt cornered by the football players and done nothing to stop it?), regardless of his seemingly new-found sympathy for Kurt. Coach-- Principal Sylvester might be able to do something, but the thought of going to her without proof or evidence-- well, as much as she may seem to like him, the fact that she has called him “Lady” for so long does not make him immediately inclined to trust her.
He can never in a million years call his dad. This goes beyond the shoving and the verbal abuse and into a whole separate realm of bad. If his dad gets involved-- Kurt’s not sure what would happen, but he’s fairly sure that it would end with his dad in jail and Karofsky in a world of hurt, and as much as Kurt hates Karofsky right now, he wouldn’t wish that on the guy who is probably literally his worst enemy.
Mercedes might get parts of it, but he doesn’t want to burden her with this, he doesn’t want to bring something this wrong into her imperfect but optimistic life. It would also bring up the whole mutant thing, and --
He can-- he can call Blaine, but maybe that’s not the best idea, because it was at Blaine’s suggestion that he confronted Karofsky in the first place, but at least Blaine might have some sympathy, might--
--but the one secret Kurt’s always kept, aside from telling his dad, is that he’s a mutant. He doesn’t want to have to explain that not only is he the only out gay kid at McKinley, he’s also, as far as he knows, the only mutant.
Whatever, he can explain it without going into the whole mutant thing (it’s not like what Karofsky did was because Kurt’s a mutant, it’s just worse because of it and Kurt can’t really explain why, because the physical action doesn’t change), so he digs in his bag for his phone-- which, he now recalls, Karofsky hit out of his hand earlier that day. And Kurt didn’t stop to pick it up.
Fuck. He’s a teenager; he lives his life by that phone, and right now he can’t really contemplate going back to McKinley just to look for a phone that might not even still be there. Probably won’t be-- it’s an iPhone, and they’re something that his fellow students would just pick up, especially if the screen isn’t cracked from where it hit the floor. It probably is; his iPhone is probably now just a brick of useless plastic, glass, and metal, and it’s his life-- he doesn’t have Blaine’s number anywhere else, and--
Kurt notices that he’s breathing really heavily and feels like he’s about to cry, still mostly curled-up, surrounded by the bits and pieces of paper and all of the random, useless things that he’s flung out of his school bag. He hates crying, he hates how it makes his eyes feel and his face look, because he turns all red and blotchy, so he closes his eyes (he realises that he must have been starting into his bag for the last minute or so, because his eyes feel both dry and stinging with tears at the same time) and starts breathing slowly.
He can do this. He’ll be-- he has to be-- fine. Soon. He synced his phone with his laptop last night, so Blaine’s number will be there, and he can call him from the house phone.
If Blaine is the right person to call. If Blaine (confident handsome perfect Blaine) wants to take on the responsibility of listening to Kurt talk about his miserable, fucked-up life.
He doesn’t call Blaine, not that afternoon.
He’s still doing his best not to think about the thoughts that had been running through Karofsky’s head.
* * *
Kurt spends the next three days in turtlenecks, caps, long pants, and gloves. It’s the right time of year for that kind of fashion, at least, although it’s almost unseasonably warm. He’s sure every morning that his dad has figured out that something’s wrong, but his dad never says anything, even as the temperature climbs towards the 70’s.
He feels incredibly lucky when it turns out that Tina had picked his phone up in the hallway; the screen is, indeed, cracked, but the phone still works. Every afternoon after glee club, he thumbs down to Blaine’s number and almost, almost calls. It’s not radio silence-- they text back and forth, sometimes, but it’s less revealing than it used to be. (Used to be! They’ve only known each other a week, but it seems like so much longer.)
He can feel Karofsky’s thoughts vibrating underneath his skin, buzzing until they’re almost all he can think about. He’s never had anyone stick with him this long (Mercedes is bright and frequently cheerful; his dad is solid and so, so, loving; Brittany was clear, direct, and easy to deal with), and it’s making him itch. He almost wants to grab someone else just to overlay the self-loathing and violence of Karofsky-- but doing it to someone who doesn’t know-- wouldn’t that make him as bad as Karofsky? Using someone else like that? It would be just another kind of violation, doing that to someone else who doesn’t know what Kurt’s getting out of it.
By the end of the third day, the itching is almost physical, and he has to stop himself from scratching at his elbows and his shins, where the vibrations feel strongest. He’s almost buzzing out of his skin, and he is so, so glad when it’s finally Friday and he can hibernate in his room, alone.
It doesn’t get better. By the end of Saturday afternoon, he’s huddled under a mountain of blankets with his phone. He’s feeling the kind of internalized self-loathing that he never really got from being gay, and, much as he might hate his stupid useless mutation, never got from being a mutant, either. Kurt knows that the feelings aren’t his, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling them. His dad thinks he’s sick (he’s sick, he shouldn’t be trusted, he’s a freak, he’s so sick, he shouldn’t be allowed to exist), and, knowing Kurt’s standoffish demeanor while he’s sick, stays out of his way. For the first time in a long time, Kurt wishes that his dad would come downstairs, take his temperature, touch his forehead and project that aura of caring into Kurt’s skin.
But that would mean explaining why he wants his dad to touch him, which is something that he would really rather forget. Once he told his dad about his mutation, and about how uncomfortable he is when he inadvertently reads someone else’s thoughts, his dad has been really conscious of where he is in relation to Kurt: he doesn’t hug Kurt unless Kurt initiates it-- same with high-fives or holding hands. It’s part of what had made Kurt so worried when his dad had the heart attack, because for the first time in years, he had held his dad’s hand and hadn’t heard anything.
He’s so glad, so lucky, to have a dad that gets it. Yeah, his dad’s also a mutant (being able to talk to cars comes in handy when you own a mechanic’s shop), and he also gets how it feels to have a power that you can’t turn off (because the cars talk to him whether he wants them to or not, which is useful when they’re about to fall apart and kill their owners-- less useful when they’re self-centered and just want a new paint job). And while he’s almost always happy that his dad’s entirely careful around him, it would be nice, sometimes, to get that physical and mental reassurance-- something that he’d know wasn’t fake or exaggerated just to make him feel better.
So, no, he doesn’t tell his dad. Because, as mentioned, his dad would freak. Majorly. But he’s still anxious and itchy and he feels wrong, like his skin is too small and too soft and he needs to go. He needs to get out of his basement. It’s been three and a half days; he should be feeling better by now. Other people’s thoughts have always faded faster than this (he once got his dad’s support to last for two days, and he’d felt more confident those two days than he had in the rest of his life combined), so something must be wrong.
Kurt’s still fully dressed (in knits, which won’t wrinkle even if he gets them all scrunched up), even under the blankets, so it’s the work of a minute to peel his comforter back and send a text to Blaine. All it says is coffee?, no capitalization, because he’s still jittery. He grabs his bag, pulls out the binders and textbooks left over from the week, finds the pair of thin leather gloves he’d left in one out of the outer pockets, and slings it over his shoulder.
He’s not sure what he’ll do if Blaine doesn’t respond (probably grab a mocha and run (walk) out the door), but he knows that he has to get out of the house, at least for a few hours.
“Dad?” he says once he’s climbed up the stairs to the living room. “I’m feeling a lot better-- I was going to go and get coffee with a friend?” He hates lying to his dad, he hates the way he sometimes speaks in questions, but he needs to get out of the house. “I’ll be back later tonight. I’ll give you a call if I’m going to miss dinner.”
“You sure you’re feeling okay? You still don’t look that good,” his dad says, skeptical.
“Yeah, dad, I’m fine. Really, I feel better.” He’s faking as best he can, anyways. His dad still doesn’t look convinced (and it probably doesn’t help that Kurt is worrying at the seam of his glove-- it’s one of the nervous tics that sometimes gives him away).
“Who are you meeting?”
“Just... a friend.” That will totally get his dad off his back, and he’s mentally rolling his eyes at himself even before his dad objects.
“Really. Is there any particular reason you’re not telling me who it is?”
“I’m... not quite sure he’s a friend, quite. We just met last week.” This is the absolute wrong thing to say to his dad, and he knows it, but he doesn’t know how else to describe Blaine. They’re not friends; they’ve barely known each other long enough to be acquaintances, but there’s this connection that he feels, finally, to a guy his own age.
“Is there anything I should know? I mean, I don’t think I’m quite ready to have the boyfriend talk, but is this guy--”
“His name’s Blaine.”
“Blaine, whatever, is he more than a friend?” His dad is sincere and concerned and everything that Kurt can’t even deal with right now.
“No. But... I don’t know. He’s...” He doesn’t even know what to say. He scrubs at his face for a moment, being as careful as possible with his hair. “I’m hopeful. I met him last week, when I went to-- I drove all the way to Westerville to spy on Dalton Academy’s glee club. He’s their lead singer, he’s gay, and I just-- having someone else to talk to is really important to me right now.”
This is, of course, making his dad look even more worried. “Are you sure you’re okay to go? If you’d rather stay in, watch a movie--”
“Thanks, dad. I mean, really, thanks. But I think I need to go.” Kurt is edging toward the door, and his dad finally recognizes that Kurt wants to get out the door and leave.
“Call me if you’re going to be late?” He can tell that his dad isn’t reassured, but is eternally grateful when his dad lets him go anyway.
* * *
“Hey, so, I got your text-- I’m about halfway there. Meet you at the Lima Bean, yeah?” Blaine’s voice is tinny and casual over the speakerphone. They’ve discussed meeting for coffee a few times-- thankfully, they both like the Lima Bean (it’s not in Lima-- it’s about thirty miles out towards Westerville, but apparently the owners couldn’t resist the pun in the name).
Kurt’s actually sitting in his car in front of the cafe; he hasn’t quite worked himself up to actually getting out of the car and walking in. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll meet you there.”
This is a conversation they should have in public. If they’re in public, Blaine won’t be able to freak out the same way he might in private, right? Blaine was fine with Kurt being gay-- Blaine is gay-- so maybe that makes him more tolerant? Kurt wants to know that Blaine will be okay with Kurt being a mutant, but the only way for him to know that without asking is to do the one thing he really does-- and doesn’t-- want to: come up with a way to read Blaine’s thoughts without his knowledge.
So he waits, and frets, (and plays a few mindless games on his iPhone) until Blaine’s car pulls up next to his. Blaine taps on his window, like Kurt doesn’t know that he’s there, and they walk into the cafe together.
Somehow, Kurt expected that Blaine’s coffee order will be complicated, but it’s not; it’s the same thing that his dad gets, even when Kurt tries to talk him into ordering something fancier.
Together they walk towards a table in the back. Kurt sits in the chair that faces the rest of the cafe, leaving Blaine nothing to look at aside from Kurt and the fake stone that makes up the back wall.
“Any particular reason you wanted to get coffee today? Aside from the fact that it’s finally the weekend?” Blaine is smiling. Kurt knows that he probably looks like a crazy person, eyes wide and hands shaky, and he feels even more off-balance, looking at Blaine’s calm. Kurt’s got his elbows planted firmly on the table (the jitters have moved to his wrists and fingertips; they’re easier to disguise as caffeine cravings).
He takes a deep breath. “I need to tell you something. And I need you to listen, until I’m done, because I’ve never told anyone. Well, except for my dad.”
He can’t look at Blaine while he’s saying it, so he stares into his latte. “I’m a mutant. I can hear people’s thoughts when I touch them-- or when they touch me. That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
Risking a glance up, Kurt sees that Blaine still seems miraculously calm. He looks back down at the table. “I-- if you never want to see me again, I completely understand. I can answer questions, if you have any-- I just. I wanted to tell you.”
“Thank you for telling me,” Blaine says. Kurt looks up; maybe this will end up being all right. “Do you mind telling me how it works?”
“I just-- I touch someone, and I can hear their thoughts. It’s words, mostly, but sometimes I get emotions.”
“Do you have to touch someone for a long time to make it work? Or is it instantaneous?” Blaine seems genuinely curious, and Kurt is encouraged.
“It’s like changing channels on the TV-- there’s a second of lag before the new picture comes in. A high-five won’t trigger it, but a handshake will.” He’s starting to calm down, slip into a comfortable, knowledgeable space. Blaine didn’t freak out. He’s okay with mutants.
“That’s why you wear the gloves, isn’t it.” It’s a statement, not a question, but Kurt feels compelled to answer as if it had been.
“Yes-- they keep everything under control. I don’t pick up anything through the gloves, so it means that I can get through school without freaking out.”
“I’m glad that you feel safe in telling me,” Blaine says, “but why are you telling me now? It’s not an obvious mutation-- you can’t have been too worried that I’d figure it out, or else you’d have told someone aside from your dad.”
This is part of what Kurt had been worried about: Blaine had seemed so perceptive when they met at Dalton, and as much as Kurt knows that he needs to tell someone what happened with Karofsky, he doesn’t want to. He never wants to (and part of that is the fringes of his mind, where he’s calling himself Dave instead of Kurt and making sure to never, ever, seem like a homo), but he has to tell someone, and Blaine is it. Blaine’s his newest friend-- sure, he’ll be hurt if he looses him, but not the same way he would if he lost Mercedes’ friendship or his dad’s support.
To his horror, he feels his eyes filling with tears. As much as he hates crying while he’s alone, he hates crying in front of other people more. He blinks back the tears as much as he can, and closes his eyes again.
“Oh my god, Kurt, are you okay?” Blaine’s voice is nothing but concerned. He feels Blaine carefully take one of his hands, just barely feeling the warmth through the leather of the glove. His fingers are shaking in Blaine’s grasp, and he feels a breakdown building in his chest and his throat. “Hey, come on, I’ve got your coffee,” Blaine says, and he somehow manages to grab both coffee cups and Kurt’s elbow, and the two of them stumble out the door, minutes after arriving.
Kurt feels like a mess, like a failure, but he somehow manages to get his car unlocked. He’s absolutely certain that Blaine will get him into his car, and then leave. It’s not fair to Blaine to expect him-- hell, to even hope that he might want to stick around through Kurt freaking out more than he has in months. Kurt manages to haul himself into the driver’s seat, thinking that he’ll stay there long enough to calm down, drive home, and call Blaine to explain as much as he can. He’s sitting, clutching the wheel, head down, which is why he’s so surprised to hear the passenger door shut.
One of Blaine’s hands smooths over Kurt’s back. Blaine doesn’t say anything, aside from soft, soothing, wordless noises, until Kurt has stopped shaking. He’s not sobbing, but there are still tears running down his face. Eventually, the shakes turn into shivers (the November weather is finally starting to show, and the cold cuts through the glass and metal of the car easily). He manages to take a few slow breaths and drops his hands from the wheel, straightening to sit upright, and Blaine’s hand slips off his back.
He doesn’t dare look at Blaine.
“I’m sorry for freaking out on you like that-- it’s been a hard week at school. I think I’m okay to drive now,” he says, hoping that Blaine will take that at face value. Really, they’ve known each other for ten days at most. He shouldn’t be worried that Blaine will be so concerned, but at the same time... Blaine had seemed to just get him, when they met. And e-mailed. And texted.
Blaine, though, isn’t quite content to let it lie. “Kurt-- obviously you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to-- but did something happen? When you told me about what was happening at your school, you were way more composed. I can’t help but wonder if things have gotten worse?”
This is it. He can either lie to Blaine now-- tell him that it was nothing, that it was just more of the same, or he can out another student (one who is obviously way more conflicted about being gay than Kurt ever was) and try to explain to Blaine that right now, Kurt would like nothing more than to hold hands with someone who doesn’t think that he’s wrong.
It’s not even a question. He thinks he can understand what Karofsky’s feeling, even if he is still entirely freaked out and just plain scared to have to be around him at all. It’s not okay to out someone else-- he knows that it’s something you really shouldn’t force. He also can’t help but be afraid of what might happen if Karofsky finds out that he’s told anyone.
Which is why it makes no sense when he opens his mouth to deny that anything’s wrong and says “Yes, it-- something happened.”
“Are you okay? I mean, god, you’re obviously not okay, but you’re not, like, hurt, are you?”
It’s out there now-- it wouldn’t do anything for Kurt to try to deny it. He swallows, glances at Blaine (nothing but concern and worry on his face), and tries his best to explain. “Remember that... neanderthal that I said had been harassing me? The one you said that I could stand up to? I did. I refused to be the victim, and he--”
If the way Blaine’s hands are moving is any indication, Blaine’s worry is edging over into panic, so Kurt hurries to finish, staring out the windshield while he talks. “It wasn’t-- I mean, he didn’t beat me up, or anything. I feel like I’m making a bigger deal out of this than it was, but-- he hit my phone out of my hand.”
“I was in the hallway, looking at that text you sent me, and he came up out of nowhere and slapped the phone out of my hand, and I left it in the hallway and followed him. He walked into the locker room, and I followed him. It was-- practice hadn’t started yet, and it’s the off-season anyway, so I don’t know what he was doing there, but I yelled at him, I said everything that I’ve wanted to say to him for years. I think I even said that he could go ahead and hit me, because I wasn’t going to change.”
“He didn’t, did he?” It’s definitely panic in Blaine’s voice, tinged with guilt.
“No. No. He-- he grabbed my face. And he kissed me.”
At this Blaine makes some wordless hurt noise. “It could have been so much worse,” Kurt continues, raggedly, “but I just-- it came out of nowhere. I wasn’t ready for it, and then he was there in my head.”
He doesn’t say “He’s still in my head and he won’t leave, and I’m terrified that I’m turning into him.” He doesn’t say “I want to hear someone else, even just for a minute, and that goes twice for you, so that he will go away.”
Or “It was how all his fantasies start.”
“Kurt-- that’s. That’s bad enough. That’s-- god, I can’t even-- I am so, so sorry that happened to you. I’m sorry that I told you to confront him. I-- at my old school, with me, it was only ever rumors, things written on my locker-- it was never physical. I didn’t know; I am so, so sorry.”
Kurt sighs. He really is feeling better-- embarrassed about breaking down in front of Blaine, of course, but he doesn’t feel that godawful pressure to tell someone any more. “It isn’t really your fault,” he allows. “I didn’t tell you-- I didn’t tell anyone-- about the shoves or the rest of it. And saying those things to him felt incredibly good. So it really wasn’t terrible advice, just mis-aimed.”
“Is there anything I can do? I mean, I understand entirely if you never want to listen to my advice again, and I can’t make this guy stop harassing you, but I-- I mean, is there anything?”
Maybe if Kurt asks, it will be okay. He takes a deep, steadying breath (it seems like he’s been doing that a lot lately), and says, “Look, it’s-- I don’t want you to feel pressured or anything, and I will be fine if you don’t want to. We’ve only known each other for, like, a week, and this is way more than I’d ask from anyone--”
Blaine cuts him off. “Just ask, Kurt-- I’ll say yes.”
“No, wait, you should know what I want first. When Karofsky-- when he kissed me. Like I said, he was in my head. And now it’s like he won’t leave-- I’m stuck with the fear and the anger and the hatred and it’s making me literally, physically sick.”
“He sounds like a pretty miserable guy.”
“God, he is, and I can’t get him out. Could you-- I really mean it, that you don’t have to do this-- could you hold my hand and think about something safe?” He feels pathetic just for asking, but at this point (four days in and counting, feeling he’s going to shake out of his skin or split it open) he’ll do just about anything to drown Dave out.
“I won’t lie and tell you that it doesn’t make me kind of nervous, Kurt-- I know you’d pick up on that. But it seems like that’s something I can do. I’d like to help.”
Kurt slumps in relief. He tugs off one of his gloves and offers his hand to Blaine, who, hesitating only slightly, slides his fingers in between Kurt’s.
There’s that moment of connection--
--and he’s flying, laughing, glorious and joyful. Warren’s got him grasped firmly around the waist, and they’re buzzing trees, skimming the lake. It’s the kind of day you get right at the beginning of fall, and the wind is in his hair (cut too short; his mom had insisted), the sun bright in his face, as they climb higher and higher--
Kurt gasps and comes back to himself. He feels tears on his face for what seems like the millionth time that day, but this time it’s from sheer overwhelming positive emotion. He pushes against the boundaries of his mind, and there’s no feeling of Dave, no slight thought in the back of his head that he is wrong, and he looks at Blaine with something like wonder.
For the first time in nearly a week, Kurt can breathe. “Thank you,” he whispers. “Thank you so much.”
Blaine is grinning at him, genuine and openly pleased. “So it worked? You’re feeling better?”
Kurt grins back at him. “If you’ll forgive the over-dramatic metaphor, I feel like I’ve been suffocating all week and just took my first breath of fresh air. I feel amazing.”
They sit in silence for a moment, savoring their small triumph. They haven’t fixed Kurt’s problems at school, but at least now they know that Blaine can help with this, at least.
“Who’s Warren?” He has a sense that the moments he’d had of the memory are the happiest Blaine’s got-- the parts that surround it are bittersweet.
It’s Blaine’s turn to look out the windshield-- Kurt can seem him withdraw into himself, just a little bit. “At my old school, I had a lot of friends at first. Mostly kids from my middle school-- we’d known each other for years. In the summer after my eighth grade year, before things got bad for me, one of the kids in our group-- Warren-- grew these absolutely gorgeous wings. He was the first person that I met who I knew was a mutant. In August, just before we were supposed to go back to school, Warren took me flying. He left the next week for some school in New York-- I haven’t heard from him since. But that afternoon? When it was just the two of us? It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
“Thank you for sharing it with me,” Kurt says sincerely. He’s feeling warm, safe-- trusted. Contentedness has settled in his bones, confidence in his mind. His skin is the right size again, his hands just feel like hands again.
“He was my best friend. And my first crush,” Blaine says with a small smile. “After he left, his parents wouldn’t give any of us his address, and we just... fell apart after that. I hope that he’s still doing okay.”
* * *
They text back and forth all the time. Kurt’s actually been able to figure out what the class schedule is at Dalton based entirely on the times that he receives texts from Blaine. The breaks aren’t the same at McKinley, so he has to wait to answer them, but feeling the buzz of his cell phone precisely at 8:55, 9:40, and 11:30 is more comforting than perhaps it should be.
Kurt’s a lot more careful with his phone now than he was before the whole incident, so he waits to check it until lunch, when he’ll be surrounded by friends. Somehow, even though their schedules are different, their lunches overlap, so he knows he can expect a reply at some point during the period.
How’s school today? Wearing anything fabulous? Never mind, you always are! ;) says the first text.
Seriously, how does Mr. Siegel manage to make history so boring? is the second; Kurt vaguely remembers Blaine complaining about his history teacher a few days ago.
The third one reads Having a slushee and locker-slam-free day?, and that’s the one Kurt responds to.
So far, but that’s only because I haven’t actually seen anyone in a letter jacket today-- there’s a football tournament this weekend, and Bieste has called extra practices.
Glad to hear your no-doubt fashionable ensemble is surviving the day! Kurt smiles to himself.
Finally, a full day to enjoy the McQueen!, he responds quickly.
Mercedes is the only one at the table so far; Mike and Tina are off getting their lunches. He knows that he should have told her about everything that happened at Dalton-- about Blaine, about what happened with Karofsky-- but for now, it’s his secret to keep. He feels a little guilty about keeping her out of this, when it feels like it could build into something big and important. She’s his best friend, and he hasn’t been very open to her recently.
“So, who’s that you’re texting?” she asks. Well, there goes the plan to keep Blaine under the radar.
He’s blushing; he can feel the heat in his cheeks. “Is it a guy?” she asks, gleeful. “Did you meet someone? Kurt, spill!”
Her enthusiasm is contagious, and he feels a grin to match hers spread across his face. Last week’s miserableness feels like it happened to someone else. “He-- his name’s Blaine. We’re not dating, we’re just friends-- but Mercedes, he’s like me.”
“Wait, you mean he’s gay? Kurt, where did you meet him?”
This is where it gets tricky. The whole mess with Rachel and Jesse St. James still pops up from time to time, and the last thing he wants is for his friendship with Blaine to be compared to that. Still, the facts are the facts. “Remember last week, when I went to spy on the Warblers? The glee club from Westerville?”
“Yeah-- I’m glad we talked Rachel out of doing a capella after she found out about them. Are you saying that Blair--”
“--whatever-- that he’s a member of their glee club?”
“...he’s their lead soloist. But I swear,” he says, nervous at her near-murderous expression, “he’s nothing like Jesse St. James.”
“You’ve known him what, two weeks? How can you be sure?”
And that’s the problem-- he can’t explain how he’s sure. But he is sure, because underneath that amazing memory of flying had been a steadiness and complete lack of the slime he associated with people who were hiding something.
“I just know, okay? He’s-- he’s a really nice guy. He gets me, he’s interested in so many of the same things-- just let me have this, Mercedes, please.”
She doesn’t look convinced. “Fine. But I expect regular updates. And if the Warblers show up with any of our songs, don’t think I won’t tell Rachel.”
Kurt sees Mike and Tina making their way across the lunchroom, dodging jocks and cheerleaders-- he’s never been happier to see them.
* * *
“I feel bad for Karofsky,” he says on the phone that night.
Blaine’s silent on the other end.
“I mean, I still feel awful and-- violated-- by what he did to me, but he’s so afraid and angry. All the time, and, I mean, it stopped for me, but it hasn’t for him.”
“Maybe we could reach out to him,” Blaine says. “Tell him that he’s not as alone as he thinks he is-- that he’s not the only one who has had trouble accepting who he is.”
His basement room feels safe again, finally. He’s curled up in the corner of the couch again-- it’s become his go-to comfort spot. “Do you really think that’ll work?” He can’t help but feel skeptical.
“You know the guy better than I do-- do you think it will?”
He doesn’t know, not for sure. But there is a chance that it might-- so doesn’t that make it worth it to try? “Maybe? It doesn’t seem wrong to try.”
Blaine sounds as unsure as Kurt feels. “I’m happy to come along and help. Maybe if there are two of us, he’ll be less confrontational?” Or more, Kurt thinks, because he feels like we’re ganging up on him.
“That would be... good. I don’t know if I’m up to taking him on solo again.” He’s terrified about it, actually, but Blaine doesn’t need to know that, and maybe if he keeps telling himself that he’s okay with it, he will be.
“I’m free this Friday-- it’s an in-service day for our staff. I can meet you at lunch, and we can find him then.” For this, Kurt is glad to have Blaine make the decision.
* * *
It turns out that he can confront Karofsky again.
* * *
The harassment doesn’t stop. Kurt’s still getting slammed into lockers. He’s got bruises on his forearms, on his back, but no one sees them.
He wears long sleeves until the marks on his arms fade, makes sure to stand facing his locker for as little time as possible (long enough to glance at Blaine’s picture and where he’s cut out letters to spell courage, as if seeing it written every day (he looks at the text every morning before he leaves for school) will somehow grant him the courage he lacks.)
It’s not enough to make him happy; he thinks he hasn’t been really happy in a long time. He’s sick of the teachers not noticing anything, frustrated because he knows that even if he went to them, there’s nothing that they can-- or will-- do. Sometimes he sees sparks of hope in his teachers; his English substitute that week, Ms. Holliday, actually seems to care about what her students think. When the few days of respite from Mr. Sherman’s tedious lecture on the symbolism in The Scarlet Letter are over, though, school goes back to being incredibly dull, punctuated by nothing more than moments that are okay (French class and glee club, mostly), and moments of absolute terror.
* * *
Once he knows he’s got Ms. Holliday’s commitment to run the glee club while Mr. Schue’s out sick, Kurt feels like he’s got his confidence back. He’s got Blaine (there goes his phone again; must be mid-morning break), even if only as a friend, he’s got his dad and maybe, for once, glee club will listen to him-- after all, didn’t he just save them from a week of Rachel-run chaos?
There’s something about Ms. Holliday that makes him feel free and relaxed-- like she knows everything about him and doesn’t care about any of it. He reached out to her first, but when they’re singing-- even though it’s a song to prove Santana wrong, she reaches out to him first. He’s never been first in glee club; he’s too strange, his voice is too high for anything but harmonies on the songs that they sing, and Mr. Schuester is just plain uncomfortable with him.
Kurt even leaves off the gloves during rehearsal. His hands feel naked, but maybe that’s okay. His sleeves are rolled up, he’s only wearing one shirt. He feels so exposed, and it’s wonderful. He even grabs Ms. Holliday’s hand to help her off the piano, and the second he gets from her of showfaceshowfaceshowface is worth it-- he’s having the most fun he’s had during a song than he’s had in ages.
He’s leading the dance for the boys. Sure, it’s just a one-off performance in the choir room, un-rehearsed and thrown together, but that never happens, and he is immensely grateful for Ms. Holliday.
It doesn’t make the rest of the week any better. Karofsky winks at him during lunch, like they’re friends, like they’re something more, and it makes Kurt’s hands itch again. He knows it’s a bad sign, that he should really call Blaine again, but they’re seeing each other over the weekend (tickets for Rent! He’s never seen it live!), and he thinks he can wait.
Karofsky grabs him by the shoulder in the hallway, and his thumb brushes Kurt’s neck. It’s barely enough time to get anything from him, but he still gets that flash of pure hate and fear.
Karofsky’s scared enough about staying in the closet that he’s willing to kill Kurt-- or at least, threaten to kill Kurt-- to stay in there. It’s-- well, they’re in Ohio. Kurt’s been getting anonymous phone calls since he was twelve, been harassed nearly his entire life, but this is the first time someone’s actually threatened his life.
Kurt’s unbearably glad that it’s Friday, that he and Blaine are seeing Rent tonight. The itch is spreading again, reaching his elbows, but now he knows that listening to someone else will make the jittery feeling go away. If Blaine’s not comfortable with it, then he will hug his dad. He’s not going to let it get as bad as it did last time, not now that he knows there’s a way to fix it.
They’d decided to drive together for ease of parking (not that it’s hard to find parking in Lima), and Kurt is pleased to see that Blaine arrives in time. Blaine raises his eyebrows when Kurt answers the door without his gloves-- and leaves the house without them. (Okay, well, he’s got two emergency pairs in his car-- one in the glovebox, one in the trunk, but Blaine doesn’t need to know that.)
As they’re walking out to the car, their knuckles brush and hold together-- sunshine in January, thin and bright-- and Karofsky’s gone again.
They’re going out to dinner before the play-- not at Breadstix, because that would be too much like a date, but to a smaller restaurant that is less likely to be populated by other kids from McKinley. It’s so nice to be with Blaine, someone who cares as deeply as Kurt does about politics in other states that they can’t influence, about national policies that they can’t affect. His dad tries, Mercedes tries, but until now, there hasn’t been anyone in person who connects with Kurt on the political level.
He and Blaine are so caught up in their conversation that they almost leave too late to make the curtain. The performance is good, especially for community theater, and Kurt is so honestly surprised to see Rent being performed in Lima, of all places. The actor who plays Angel is gorgeous, and his chemistry with the man playing Collins is tangible. Kurt finds himself yearning for that sort of connection, that sort of spark-- someday. He’s resigned himself to not dating until he’s out of high school (and out of Ohio) (and now there’s Blaine, which changes things entirely), so his dreams have always been of far-off places, of falling in love between skyscrapers, diving into the subway, hand-in-hand.
Blaine puts things in a different perspective. Blaine is here-and-now; even if he’s not interested in Kurt in that way, he’s still another gay kid trying to make it through high school in Ohio.
If Blaine’s out there, then there must be more gay kids than just the two of them, just like Blaine’s friend Warren means that there must be other mutants.
* * *
The next few weeks see Kurt disappear in a blur of wedding preparations-- everything from finding a venue to getting the bridesmaids fitted to deciding that it’s perhaps not the best idea to feed doves glitter. The texts back and forth with Blaine slow down as they get more comfortable with each other-- Karofsky’s avoiding him, at least for the moment, so they don’t have to talk about anything on that end, and the rest of the cretins on the football team are leaving him alone as well.
Until one morning he’s standing by his locker (Finn’s pleased with his plans-- he thinks he’s actually looking forward to gaining a brother, which is a strange feeling), and Karofsky is just-- there. Not storming down the hallway, just a huge, looming presence on the other side of his locker door.
Karofsky doesn’t say anything at first, just presses his hand to Kurt’s chest. He trails it down in some mockery of a caress, takes the cake topper.
Kurt hasn’t been able to say something after his initial, pointless protest. He is grateful beyond belief that he’s not feeling as cocky as he had been when Ms. Holliday was present, that Karofsky’s hands are pressed over layers of wool and cotton, not the thin, flimsy fabric of his favorite henley.
Amazingly, finally, one of the staff members notices something is wrong. It’s Mr. Schuester, who wouldn’t be Kurt’s top choice of confidante, but he takes them to Principal Sylvester, and somehow that’s better. Coach Sylvester was on Kurt’s side during the whole mess with the glee club wanting to Jesus it up (even if it was partly for her own purposes), and it seems like they’ve achieved some kind of rapport.
He feels more confident and comfortable talking to Coach Sylvester than he ever could to Mr. Schue; he’s able to ignore Mr. Schue sitting beside him-- until he lets something stupid slip about what Karofsky is capable of and suddenly it’s two adults standing over him and he just wants to get out of that office.
Coach Sylvester is surprisingly sympathetic, all things considered, and seems genuinely sorry that she can’t do more to help-- almost regretful that she’s used the tripping excuse often enough that it won’t be any use, even if his bruises hadn’t mostly faded. When Kurt calls her out on her own bullying of him, she is-- honest. Maybe. Or she’s treating it like an inside joke, making him privy to it, giving him some amount of agency. Everyone Coach Sylvester notices gets a nickname (his isn’t the only hurtful one), and being able to choose his own is validating. Coach Sylvester even actually smiles at him.
* * *
Kurt is really, honestly happy that his dad is getting married. He likes Carole a lot, and he and Finn have finally started growing closer since that whole awkward crush-thing came out into the open.
He just can’t help but feel, selfishly, that he really doesn’t want to tell Carole and Finn about his mutation. He’s pretty sure that his dad has told Carole about the fact that cars talk to him, but his mutation is his-- it’s private and somehow more dangerous than his dad’s. If his dad and Carole are still together, then clearly Carole’s okay with mutants in general, but there’s a difference between someone like his dad, who can easily pass for normal, and someone like him, who can only pass if he spends the day halfway out of his mind with worry.
But if they’re all going to be living together, he needs to tell Finn and Carole, so that they’re not even more weirded out than they already are by him. His house is somewhere safe, somewhere that he doesn’t have to wear gloves all the time and be constantly on the lookout. Kurt is worried that Finn, especially, will not want to live with someone who could, theoretically, read his mind.
He talks it over with his dad-- he’d been right, his father had told Carole-- and his father is happy to support whatever Kurt thinks works best.
So one night during dinner (it’s a Wednesday, nothing special, just grilled chicken and salad), he just blurts it out. “I’m a mutant,” he says, with no elaboration.
Finn drops his fork. “Dude!” he says. “Are you sure?”
“I’m pretty sure, yes. Considering I’ve known since I was 14.”
“What’s your mutation? I mean, it’s obviously not something physical-- unless it’s some weird thing with your hands, since you wear those gloves, like, all the time.”
“No, it’s not.” He’s silent for a minute. At least right now Finn seems curious, not pissed off or freaked out. “I’m a touch-telepath-- I can read people’s thoughts when I touch them.”
Finn cringes back, and it’s what he was worried about, that Finn would be uncomfortable. “It doesn’t work from across the table, I have to be touching your skin with mine to get anything. And it’s not something I enjoy, it’s not something I want to do, but it’s part of who I am. I didn’t get to choose being a mutant any more than you got to choose being freakishly tall.” His eyes are stinging and he just can’t look at Finn right now. He doesn’t want to cry again-- it seems like it’s all he’s been doing recently.
“Hey,” Finn says. “I wasn’t trying to-- it’s just kinda a shock.”
Carole, at least, is looking un-surprised. “Thanks for telling us, sweetie,” she says, and leans over to pat his shoulder. Even though she doesn’t seem hugely physically affectionate, he’s come to appreciate her for what she does give him.
“Yeah, so. Um, pass the dressing?”
If that’s the only conversation they ever have about Kurt being a mutant, it will make him more than happy.
* * *
Being gay and being a mutant are two unavoidable, unchangeable facts of Kurt’s life. They’re two things that mark him as different, as other-- there’s a reason that he’d idolized Northstar when he was twelve (he still does, honestly). Seeing someone out there who could be brave and proud (courage, his mind whispers) gave him strength.
He needs that strength now more than ever. Things are escalating with Karofsky-- not physically; Karofsky hasn’t pushed him or hit him in the last few days. Instead, it’s been winks and standing too-too close. Kurt’s not weak, he’s not fragile (he’d been on the Cheerios, and no one could say that they aren’t almost freakishly athletic), but Karofsky’s got inches and breadth and pounds of muscles more than Kurt.
That’s what makes it terrifying to just be at school. He can deal with the purely physical aspects of it-- being shoved, pushed, tripped; he can even deal with the name-calling because those actions are so clearly not about him. They’re about general homophobia, about kids who don’t know any better parroting their parents.
What Karofsky’s doing is personal. It’s because Kurt is Kurt, not some nameless gay dude, and it is so much worse. Now that he’s removed enough from that first shock of Karofsky’s feelings, he spends hours trying to untangle them. What Karofsky did is so clearly not because Kurt was the only person Karofsky knew for certain was gay-- it was because Kurt stands out, because Kurt had been noticed. Because Kurt is fabulous and fashionable and pretty.
Even though Kurt’s been as careful as he can be-- not telling his dad about really anything about Karofsky, about the escalation and the twist in the harassment-- his dad finds out. It’s awful and awkward and somehow Kurt can even come up with some sympathy for Mr. Karofsky-- Paul, he’d told Kurt’s dad to call him, who clearly has no idea why Karofsky’s acting the way that he is, why he has fixated on Kurt, of all people.
But all the sympathy in the world can’t trump the exhilaration he feels when Karofsky is expelled. If he didn’t think it would get him exiled forever from the school, he’d hug Coach Sylvester. And his dad. And, hell, he’d hug Blaine for making his life worse. Because even though taking Blaine’s advice had been a bad move of epic proportions, the fact that he could now look forward to days with half the number of slushies, fewer taunts and jeers. It was Kurt and his dad (and Coach Sylvester) who got Karofsky expelled, but Blaine had acted like a catalyst to get Kurt to be loud, stand up for himself even when he thought there would be no chance he’d be heard.
Not that he’d been heard in the way he’d wanted to be, but still.
Kurt floats through the rest of the day, buoyed by the expulsion-- by the freedom-- and by the exhaustion, which is just now setting in. It’s like he’s been running on adrenaline for weeks, ever since the kiss, and he’s just now coming down. But he can’t quite yet-- he’s got a wedding to finish planning and a boy to take to coffee afterwards.
Not that Blaine is his boy-- not yet, and maybe not ever, but just because Blaine’s the only other gay kid Kurt knows, that doesn’t mean he’s the only gay kid Blaine knows (he’s not even counting Karofsky, because it really doesn’t matter what Karofsky’s orientation is-- Kurt is never, ever going to consider him as even the most remote of possibilities.)
But there is a wedding to finish planning (he coordinates with the caterers during lunch; sends the girls over to the dress shop with strict instructions for a fitting after rehearsal), homework to do, and a new family to fully get used to. He and Finn have reached a truce of sorts-- they’ll work on being brothers slowly, and if they start out more as acquaintances, that’s okay.
When Finn dances with him at the wedding, it’s everything he would have wanted a year ago-- well, not in the romantic sense, but reaching out to him instead of having to push so hard for recognition, for acceptance.
And that’s the other thing, because he’s not wearing his gloves (and Finn knew that he wouldn’t be wearing them, because he’d asked Kurt, awkwardly, if all of the guys were going to have to wear them if Kurt did), so he can hear Finn loudly thinking brothersbrothersbrothers like some sort of half-frantic mantra. When it feels right in the dance, Kurt leans in close and whispers “You don’t have to think so loud-- I get it,” at which point Finn’s thoughts are way more about the lyrics and how to move his feet than about Kurt.
When it all comes crashing down a few days after the wedding, Kurt’s been expecting it. He’s learned by now not to expect anything good to last.
* * *
Really all Kurt wants is to find equilibrium. He’s happiest when he sings, happiest when he is the center of attention, when he stands out, but he can settle for being... well, not average, but part of a crowd. He‘s sure that can manage the academics at Dalton, given a few weeks to catch up, but he and his dad spend the weekend in a mess of paperwork, trying to get the transfer sorted out.
He has to request letters of recommendation from at least two teachers, provide transcripts, complete an application that includes a list of outside activities, and make it through an interview with Dalton’s occasionally-intimidating Head of School. In part because Kurt’s always been able to fake more class than he was born into, he makes it through with enough financial aid to cover most of his tuition and boarding-- one large enough that his dad and Carole’s (his parents’) honeymoon money will last more than a month or two.
Dalton’s semester break isn’t until late January, so Kurt dives in mid-quarter, three months behind his classmates. The uniform proves to be a bit of a lifesaver, as Kurt doesn’t need to spend any time in the mornings deciding what to wear-- it gives him an extra half-hour to finish his homework and catch breakfast before class.
It turns out that Dalton’s zero-tolerance anti-discrimination policy includes mutants (of course it does), so, for the first time in his educational history, Kurt’s father tells the school nurse and the principal. Other people know, and it’s okay. Kurt is given permission to wear his gloves, as long as they are in uniform colors or black (not that it leaves him many options; there’s only so much even he can do with navy and red).
He’s constantly buried under homework, Warblers’ practices, trips home on the weekends. He doesn’t have any close friends at Dalton, aside from Blaine, but everyone is unfailingly polite. It’s like living in another world.
Dalton isn’t that big, though, so it doesn’t take Kurt more than a few weeks to notice that maybe he isn’t the only mutant on campus. There’s a boy in the P.E. class just after his with sharply-pointed ears and slit pupils-- nothing that would keep him from being able to attend school, but enough to mark him as different. He catches Kurt staring, once, as they pass in the hallway, and Kurt flushes, embarrassed at being caught, before tugging significantly at his gloves.
“So, touch-related extra senses?” The voice startles him. He’d been the first to arrive at the Warblers’ usual table, and hadn’t seen anyone else in the group approach. Instead, it’s the other mutant who half-flings himself into the chair across from Kurt. “Or really weird fingers?”
It’s safe, Kurt reminds himself, there are policies in place. This guy is the first person to independently realize that Kurt’s a mutant, and the fact that anyone can tell is worrisome. “The first,” he manages.
“Oh, cool! I’m Josh,” he says, holding out a hand to shake, which Kurt does, nervously. “It’s mostly just the physical for me, but I’ve got sweet night vision and wicked hearing.”
Josh is smiling at him, open and friendly, and Kurt gives a hesitant smile back. “I’m a touch-telepath,” he says. “And as much as all of you are very polite, I’d rather not get hit with the innermost thoughts of high school boys all day. Hence the gloves.”
“Ah, right. I was figuring that’s how you got around the dress code-- they’re super strict about, like, everything. So who’s your favorite mutant?” Josh is grinning, almost bouncing in his chair. It occurs to Kurt that just as Blaine is the only other gay guy he knows, Josh might not know any other mutants.
“Northstar,” he offers. “Aside from that time he went evil.”
“Oh man, that’s awesome. Usually, like, everyone says Spiderman, and he’s not even really a mutant. Mine’s Storm-- that chick is smokin’ hot. So anyway, just wanted to welcome you to our fair campus-- I have to run to get to chemistry before I’m counted as really late.” With that, Josh springs out of his chair with as much energy as he’d flung himself into it. Kurt is reminded of no one so much as Tigger as Josh bounces out of the room.
Kurt’s thoughts are still whirling when Blaine and David show up. “I see you met hurricane Josh,” Blaine jokes, and his grin is almost a match for the one that Josh had been sporting.
“Is he always like that?” Kurt has to ask.
“Our resident mutant trying to scare you off?” David asks, but he’s smiling too. Kurt almost can’t deal with how friendly everyone is here.
“No, he was. Um. Welcoming me to the family.” It’s not the best thing Kurt could say, but it’s true. Dalton is safe. Kurt trusts David, and Blaine already knows. “Also, he’s not the only resident mutant.”
David raises an eyebrow at Kurt. “I thought you left your old school because of the homophobia.”
“I did,” Kurt explains. “I’m just also a mutant. No one there even knew.” It feels weird to be telling David before he’s even told Mercedes (and he’s feeling more guilty about not telling her with every day that passes), but he figures it’s a good dry run.
* * *
After sectionals, after Christmas (Blaine dancing around him, cautious and careful with his hands, his face-- even though Kurt doesn’t mind at all when he gets flashes of Blaine, because Blaine is so, so good), Kurt’s finally starting to feel caught up. He works the hardest he’s ever worked over winter break in order to actually pass all of his classes, and by the end of January, he’s starting the new semester fresh. Josh is in his art history class this semester, and they sit together sometimes. He’s slowly feeling out his friendships at Dalton-- there’s Blaine, there’s Josh, some of the juniors in his class, and, of course, the Warblers-- and while they’re not as close as his friends at McKinley were, it’s still good. There’s no sense of shared panic or dread, which, he knows, is part of what had brought New Directions together.
Things are easier at Dalton. The students worry less about their social status (he finds out eventually that the soccer team is almost as highly regarded at the Warblers, and is dragged to games for a few weeks in a row), which gives the teachers more time to get into the academic material.
At the same time, things are harder at Dalton-- saying “the classes are harder, but the people are kinder” is really just the beginning. He’s doing work at Dalton as a junior that he wouldn’t ever expect to even see offered at McKinley. Blaine is there all the time and while his crush had been manageable before (built as it was on a few short meetings and more text messages than his phone could hold), seeing him every day is something different.
He gets to see Blaine in the mornings before his hair is shellacked to his head with way too much gel. He sees Blaine studying at night, papers and books spread out over a whole table, color-coding notes like his life depends on it. He’s learning, slowly, that maybe Blaine has just as many faults as he does.
As he finds out over Valentine’s day, being absolutely clueless is one of those faults. Kurt is almost cursing himself for not taking some chance to find out how Blaine really felt about him before the over-commercialized holiday commenced. He can’t help but be just a little bit happy (okay, a little bit overjoyed) when Jeremiah rejects him. Blaine is crushed, of course, and seems almost confused when Kurt tells who, exactly, Kurt though Blaine wanted to sing to.
Still, at least Kurt gets to be Meg Ryan. Eventually.
* * *
Rachel’s party is ridiculous. Everybody except for Finn and Kurt gets absolutely smashed. There’s that stupid game of spin the bottle that leads to Kurt’s current crush and his brother’s ex-girlfriend making out two inches in front of his face.
Then there’s that night. Kurt wears long pajamas, socks, and his gloves to bed, and shoves himself all the way to the other side of the bed from where Blaine has collapsed-- adorably-- and is now snoring quietly. It’s so frustrating, because he really does like Blaine, and this is not the way he’d imagined their first time sleeping together.
Blaine is rumpled and confused but miraculously not hung over the next morning, and they get back into their coffee-and-conversation with no mention of the awkwardness that Kurt, at least, had felt at the party-- at least until Rachel calls Blaine.
It’s a little hypocritical-- okay, a lot hypocritical-- for Kurt to freak out at Blaine for thinking he might be bi. On the other hand, Kurt’s never thought that he might actually be attracted to girls in general; he was just willing to try to make his dad’s life easier.
Just... why does it have to be Rachel? He’s finally getting somewhere in his friendship with her, now that they’re no longer competition, and bringing in that romantic angle again makes it that much harder to be friends with her. I’ll still be ahead of you because I’m a girl, he remembers her saying, and he hates it, because it was true about Finn and he doesn’t want it to be true about Blaine as well. He feels betrayed by her, because she knows that Blaine is gay (and he is, Kurt’s sure of it).
He’s said some awful things to Blaine, and Blaine comes right back at him. As much as they might pretend not to be, they are both teenaged boys, and they go right for where it hurts the most. It’s their first real fight about something that matters.
“Have you tried just, you know, grabbing his hand to see how he really feels?” Josh says the next day at lunch. They’re not sitting with the rest of the Warblers because Kurt and Blaine are, in fact, that mad at each other.
“That goes against so many of my ethics that it’s not even funny.” Kurt is actually horrified at the suggestion.
“But I mean, what’s the point of having crazy mutant powers if you’re not going to use them?” Josh asks, complete with strange-looking jazz hands.
Kurt takes a minute to actually think about why it’s a bad idea. “I respect Blaine too much to try to just grab that from his mind. It would make me happier to have the information, yes, but I want Blaine to figure it out for himself, not have me have to tell him that he’s totally gay.”
Josh pouts at him for a minute, and Kurt has to remind himself that yes, he does actually like Josh. Usually.
“Look-- if I started to use my telepathy to figure everyone’s issues out, I’d never get anything else done. There are lines I don’t cross, and reading someone’s mind without their consent is one of those lines.”
“You’ve never asked to read my thoughts,” Josh whines. He still looks disappointed.
“That’s because your mind is probably more hyperactive than a group of seven-year-olds on a sugar high in Disneyland. My brain would fry from having to be excited about everything all the time.” He turns his best withering glare on Josh-- who, of course, ignores it.
He is finally proven right, and he can tell from Rachel’s kiss on his cheek that she’s genuinely joyous, which just seems so strange to him. Usually, people feel the opposite way when they find out they have incompatible orientations-- but no: she is, in fact, looking forward to the songwriting possibilities.
He orders Blaine’s coffee and waits for him to come out of the restroom. It’s a little bit awkward, sitting with two coffees and an unresolved fight.
Blaine drops down into the chair across from him and grabs his coffee. “So.”
“So. Rachel left.”
“I... can see that, actually. Wow, that was really rude of me, to just walk off like that.” Blaine wrinkles his forehead (adorably, and really, Kurt has to stop thinking about it now).
“I think I owe you an apology,” Kurt begins, because he really does. Blaine didn’t deserve to have Kurt’s issues projected all over him in a truly messy display. “I was awful to you, and you really didn’t do anything to prompt it.”
“I said some pretty horrible things, too,” Blaine admits.
“I dated Brittany.”
“Okay? Is is non sequitur time, or is there a story behind this? Are we playing world’s strangest couples?” This is the Blaine that Kurt’s missed.
“Last year, for a week, I tried to be straight. I mean, obviously, it didn’t work, but I was doing it for my dad. And for myself-- to see if I could be happy dating a girl. I wore hugely unfashionable clothes, I sang Mellencamp, and I dated Brittany. I was miserable, and I really didn’t want you to... I’m saying this wrong.
That’s part of it. The big reason that I freaked out at you is because I really look up to you in some ways, and having you question yourself-- I’ve done my questioning, and if you were unsure... What I said still wasn’t okay. I know that there are bisexual people-- who knows how Brittany and Santana even work, but I couldn’t deal with hearing that from you. I’m sorry.”
Blaine looks conflicted, like he can’t quite decide what to do with what Kurt’s telling him. “That isn’t what I meant to be for you at all. I am happy to be there for you, I like being friends with you, but I-- like I told you, I don’t know what I’m doing. It makes me feel good to help other people feel-- wow, that was coming out wrong. Look, can we just--” Blaine thrusts his hands vaguely in Kurt’s direction, and it takes Kurt a minute to recognize the gesture.
“You realize that this isn’t a substitute for talking about it, right?” he asks. It’s one of the things that he really doesn’t want, for his telepathy to become a crutch in his general battle against making things up in his head. Nonetheless, he tugs off his gloves, dropping them on the table.
“I wish that this went both ways, so that it would be more equal,” he says. It still doesn’t feel entirely right to be doing this out in the open.
“I wish that you’d tell me everything you’re actually okay with me knowing. I hate having to guess at things and getting them wrong.”
They’re at an impasse-- Kurt can take Blaine’s hands and take the knowledge that’s there, or they can keep muddling through.
He’s still private enough about his mutation that he’d really rather be doing this elsewhere. He can’t pick up Blaine’s hands in public; there’s enough general anti-mutant sentiment out there that he doesn’t trust the other coffee shop patrons to ignore someone doing something that might be related to a mutation. He picks up his gloves instead. Seeing Blaine’s disappointed expression, he says “I don’t think I can do this here. Can we go back to the dorms?” He doesn’t want to sound needy, but he thinks-- hopes-- that Blaine will understand.
“Oh, of course-- I guess I wasn’t thinking. Mine or yours?”
He’s not sure he wants to have to tell Blaine to get out of his room if this doesn’t go well. If they’re in Blaine’s room, and something goes wrong, his room will stay untainted by that. “Yours, I think?”
The hour-long drive back to Dalton gives Kurt time to think about what he’s going to do. He’s pretty much said that he’s okay with whatever Blaine wants to show him, but what if it’s bad? What if it sticks with him the same way that Karofsky did?
He hasn’t come to any conclusions by the time he gets back. Blaine has beaten him there, and is waiting inside his room when Kurt gets there. The room is messier than Kurt’s is, but Blaine’s bed is clear and neatly made. Without really talking about it, they sit there with legs crossed, facing each other. Kurt pulls off his gloves for the second time that day. Blaine holds his hands out, and with the same hesitation that Blaine had shown the first time, Kurt takes them.
Blaine’s best friend is Warren and next year, they’re going to rule the freshman class at Woodbine. Blaine would be a lot more confident in this if his parents hadn’t spent--
Except they’re never going to make it to Woodbine together, because Warren is a mutant. Warren’s parents will never let him--
“Fuck you, Blaine Anderson,” Hannah spits at him. “Don’t use me to figure yourself out. Don’t make me lie to your parents again. We all know, okay? We all know that you’re gay, and it’s only a matter of time before the whole school knows, because Joel can’t keep his fucking mouth shut--
There’s writing on his locker, and Blaine can’t look at it right now, because if he does, he’ll get angry enough to punch someone, something, and he must stay calm and friendly so that he can just make it through the--
His dad’s handing him a pair of spark plugs. It’s satisfying to work on the car-- he likes seeing how all of the pieces fit together, enjoys the physics behind it all, but it’s so clear that his dad is doing this with him to take his mind off of the choir that he joined last year and that boy his dad had caught--
Thundering over all of this is his dad saying “No son of mine--” and Hannah and Warren don’t really matter any more, if they ever really did, because dad isn’t happy, and that always, always takes precedence.
Blaine drops Kurt’s hands.
Oh. So, Blaine doesn’t really talk about his parents. Kurt had noticed, but he’d thought that maybe they were just-- distant. Not cruel, like Blaine’s dad’s voice had seemed.
“Rachel’s not the first girl I’ve ever dated. I’ve tried to like girls, and I know that I’m gay, but every time I go home for Christmas, my dad looks so disappointed when he can’t relate to me. Not-- god, your dad loves you so much, Kurt-- he’s not disappointed that I haven’t been able to find love. He’s disappointed that he’ll never have a daughter-in-law. He wishes I were straight, and not in that protective kind of way. So I try so hard, Kurt, because once I’m out of college-- if I’m still out, still gay, I get no support.” Blaine looks defeated, like there’s nothing he can do to change his situation.
The worst thing about it is that Kurt’s not shocked that Blaine’s dad feels that way. There was nothing in what he got about Blaine’s mom, though, so that’s... encouraging? He’s still trying to articulate why the whole thing with Rachel had bothered him, though, so he says “You always seem so... confident in your sexuality, I guess. I think that’s what really made me anxious, because even during the whole Brittany debacle, I still knew that I was gay. I was just... seeing if I could pretend. And if it’s something that you’re not confident in--”
“--then maybe you’re wrong too.”
They’re both silent, sitting across from each other on Blaine’s bed.
* * *
After leaving McKinley, Kurt has tried his best not to think about Karofsky any more than he has to. When people ask him why he transferred-- especially why he transferred mid-semester, not even at one of the quarter breaks-- he says it was because of homophobia and bullying. He doesn’t mention Karofsky by name. He doesn’t talk to anyone about it.
He’s been ignoring his dreams as much as possible. They’re vivid and confusing and incredibly disturbing. His hands always look wrong (they’re too big, and rough).
The night that he dreams about (fucking) himself is when he figures it out. He’s in a room that he’s never seen before, walls covered in posters for bands he doesn’t listen to. He is warm and pliant beneath himself, smiling and inviting and surging up to kiss himself. But his hands are too big, and he pushes himself back on the bed with more muscle and weight than he’s ever had. He catches his eyes in the sliver of the mirror and they’re the wrong color--
--he reaches up at himself and tugs himself down into a kiss, and Kurt thinks that this is wrongwrongwrong and somehow wrenches himself out of Dave Karofsky’s dream. He wakes up shaking and sweating and horribly, painfully hard. He shoves himself out of bed, grabs the wastebasket he keeps next to his bedside table, and gags but doesn’t vomit.
His body is tense and curled in tight on the carpeted floor of his dorm room. It’s hours before anyone else will be up, but he stays awake the rest of the night, pulling back into control of his body and his mind. The next day is miserable, but he makes it through on sheer determination and more coffee than is perhaps healthy.
He can’t make himself stay awake that night, and sleeps all night without dreaming, but the dreams are back the night after that (pressed in close in the locker room we have to be quiet or else the whole team will hear and he is smiling at himself).
Things come to a head after that nearly-disastrous performance for the girls of Crawford Country Day. He can accept some criticism from Blaine, but not about this, not when he’s grateful for the anonymity of the uniform and the fact that for once, he doesn’t stand out.
“I don’t look sexy because I don’t want to look sexy, Blaine!” He is feeling vicious and incisive, and he knows that he’s lashing out at someone who isn’t Blaine, but Blaine is a convenient target right now and Kurt is angry. “Karofsky went after me because he thinks I’m pretty, not because I threatened his masculinity, not because he’s afraid of the-- of the fag. He’s attracted to me, and it’s terrifying, because kissing is not even close to everything that’s in his mind.”
“Kurt-- are you--”
Kurt cuts right through Blaine. “I know exactly how he sees me. I know that he wants me on my-- on my knees, that he wants me willing. He sees me looking alluring, not that he would know what that means, but he wants me to want it. He sees me as sexy, as desirable, and I’m sorry if it’s what you want for the Warblers, but I can’t. I can’t be what you want.”
He realizes that his hands are shaking and folds them in front of him. There’s Blaine, legs crossed, looking shocked and completely overwhelmed.
This is what Kurt hadn’t said to anyone. It wasn’t just the violence, it wasn’t just the violation, it was all of this. In ten seconds, he’d learned more about sex than he had ever wanted to know. For Kurt, the brush of fingertips is incredibly intimate. Kissing is something that he can consider, just barely, as long as it’s something he’s in charge of, something that he can affect.
“I think you’d better leave,” Kurt says tightly. All of him, not just his hands, is going to start shaking in a minute. “I need to be alone right now.” Maybe he does, maybe he really should be around other people for a while, but he absolutely cannot break down in front of Blaine about Karofsky again.
“Kurt, are you sure? I mean, you look really--”
“Blaine. I’ll call Mercedes once you leave, but I really, really cannot be around you right now.”
Hands raised in surrender, a worried frown crossing his face, Blaine grabs his satchel and leaves.
Once the door is closed and Blaine is all the way gone, he curls up in the warm spot Blaine has left on his bed and stares at nothing, and waits to stop shivering.
Eventually, a few hours later, his phone rings. He answers it without looking. “Hi, Mercedes,” he says.
“Kurt,” she says, “Blaine just called me, and he sounded really worried. You want to tell me what that’s about?” She seems more scared than angry. He thinks-- maybe-- that he can have this conversation over the phone. He’s just not sure how to start.
“Do you remember about a month before I transferred? That afternoon that I cut class-- I said I hadn’t been feeling well, but I wasn’t released by the nurse?”
“Yeah,” she says.
“It wasn’t-- I wasn’t sick. I went after Karofsky, in the locker room.” He can hear her gasp on the other end of the line, but he has to keep talking or he’ll never get through this. “He’d been harassing me for so long, so I got in his face and yelled at him. And-- look, you can’t tell anyone about this, even the other members of the glee club-- he kissed me.”
“Oh my god, Kurt.”
“I mean, that’s pretty bad, right?” He can tell her the rest-- Storm is a personal style icon of hers, she’s never called anyone a mutie, but thinking about losing her as a friend is terrifying. “Mercedes, I’m a mutant. I read people’s thoughts when I touch them-- or when they touch me. So it wasn’t just a kiss.”
“Are you okay? Because you don’t sound okay, and if I have to borrow my brother’s car and drive all the way out to freaking Westerville to see you, I will.”
“No, I’m not okay right now. But most days, I am. Tonight’s just-- hard.” He breathes for a minute. She hasn’t said anything about his revelation; maybe she’s still processing it. “Do you mind if we change the topic? I’d really prefer to think about something else for a while.”
“Yeah, of course. Did you hear about what happened with Brittany and Santana today? Because I’m starting to think maybe you aren’t the only gay one in glee club.” It’s a good change of topic, because he’s always up for gossip. He misses the incredibly fluid nature of relationships in glee club-- it had certainly given him and Mercedes something to talk about.
For tonight, it’s enough. He can forget about Karofsky, forget about Blaine, and concentrate on Santana singing confused love songs to Brittany in front of the whole club-- had Santana seriously cried? That was amazing.
* * *
Blaine is careful around him for the next few days, wary of pushing too far or getting too close. They don’t avoid each other, precisely, but their orbits get larger.
“It wasn’t you I was yelling at,” Kurt says one night when it’s just the two of them in a study room, sitting at adjacent tables.
“I kind of figured that out,” Blaine replies, still looking at his history notes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Really? No. I should, but it’s not something I want to do. Two awkward conversations about sex in one week are really enough for me, thanks.”
“Okay. Just-- know that I’m here, if you ever want to talk.”
“Thanks,” Kurt says. He wants that to be the end of the conversation, but he can’t help himself from saying “I’m sorry.”
Blaine sighs. He sounds tired-- more tired than studying for his history test should make him. “You don’t have anything to apologize for, Kurt, except yelling, and you’ve already done that. None of what happened is your fault, and I am sorry that you had to go through that.”
“Are you okay?” It’s the first time he’s thought to ask Blaine that when there hasn’t been something definitely wrong.
“I’m fine,” Blaine says. “I’m just tired from all this work.”
“That was not an I’m-sick-of-history sigh, Blaine.”
“Kurt, I don’t want to argue about it. Not right now. Can we just-- can we put this on pause? I’m tired, I have this history test, and I can’t be fighting with you.” Blaine’s voice takes on a pleading note. “I’m not going to tell you how to deal with what happened to you, but keeping it in until you explode at someone who wasn’t even there isn’t good.”
“I didn’t realize my feelings were taking a toll on you,” Kurt says. He’s honestly not angry at Blaine at all-- maybe a little frustrated.
“Kurt, they’re not-- you are entitled to feel what you’re feeling. I just wish you’d let me do more to help.”
“You already do-- have done-- so much for me, Blaine. From the first time I met you, really. Helping me with Karofsky, helping me get accepted here--”
“I did so much to help with Karofsky, didn’t I?” Blaine’s voice is bitter, and honestly? Kurt got over that a long time ago.
“Blaine, I don’t blame you for that. It freaked me out, I’m not done dealing with it, but it really wasn’t your fault. Oh, come on, I know it wasn’t mine either. Just-- stop blaming yourself for it. I hate that it happened, but I don’t hate you.”
Blaine looks more relieved at that than Kurt had expected. He’s even almost smiling. “I’m not trying to lecture you,” he says, “but if things get to that point again? With you feeling that way? Can you-- can you promise to talk with someone about it? It doesn’t have to be me-- Mercedes, your dad, whatever-- but I’ve been so worried about you.”
From the time he was eight, Kurt’s never really had anyone aside from his dad. He’s slowly figuring out how the whole boarding school support network works (Wes serves tea in his room every Thursday before chem tests; Josh is prone to walking up to people and hugging people “who look like they need it”). He’s not used to having anyone else to go to. “I will. I promise, really.”
They haven’t dealt with everything. Kurt knows that Blaine’s making things up as he goes, the same as any other 17-year-old. Karofsky is a problem that remains unsolved, but they’re making steps. Small ones; they’re tiptoeing towards a solution that doesn’t involve Kurt spending all his time attached to happy people.
They’ll get there in the end. It’ll just take a while.
* * *
If he can sleep through the night without freaking out, he'll be able to succeed at Dalton.
If he succeeds at Dalton, he doesn't have to go back to McKinley. He doesn't have to go back to Karofsky and his looks and his feelings.
So: getting rid of the dreams.
If his life was a romance novel, or a love story, Kurt would go to Blaine for help. They'd sleep together, pressed close, and Blaine would wake Kurt up before the nightmares get bad. They’d fall in love with each other in Kurt’s dorm room (or in Blaine’s), tangled up in sheets and too much knowledge about each other. They'd make it through together.
Because it's not, Kurt spends a week staying up as late as he can. He gets almost manic, trying to read late into the night. He finishes his homework before midnight, then spends the next few hours studying. He tries to keep whatever he's studying on the top of his mind; it works, sometimes, and he dreams about Eleanor of Aquitaine or parabolas.
There are a few good nights.
There are more bad ones.
He walks straight into Thad at Warbler's practice and falls, breaking his fall poorly and straining his wrists. They're sore for a few days-- longer than they should be; he's out of the reserves he needs for them to heal.
It's not Blaine who comes to him about it; instead, it's Wes and Josh, serious for once. He’d hidden himself in one of the study rooms alone in order to actually try to concentrate on in what order and by what method Henry VIII’s wives had died. He’s so engrossed in his work that he doesn’t notice the other two enter, but he does notice when they sit down at his table.
"Have you been sleeping okay?" Josh asks. "It's just, you seem tired all the time. And I heard that you forgot the choreography. You never do that."
"I'm fine," he says, giving them the best smile he can. He's always fine; he has to be fine. "I've just been working hard. The homework load is a lot higher than I'm used to."
"If that were the case, you would have been this tired when you first showed up. No, from what I can tell, you're actually proving to be one of our better students." Wes is matter-of-fact; he doesn't usually come to people like this unless he's sure that something is really wrong.
"I guess-- I mean, I haven't been sleeping well," he admits. He's not sure if he's willing to say more to the two of them. Blaine already knows more about the whole situation than he'd ever wanted to share with anyone.
“Late-onset adjustment to your dorm room? Loud neighbors? Haven’t had time to--”
“I just haven’t been sleeping well.” Please, he wants to say, stop asking, but if he does that they’ll go straight to Blaine (or his dad), and if Kurt Hummel is any one thing, he is proud. Blaine has seen him break enough times; his dad and Mercedes already have enough to deal with about him.
Josh reaches for one of Kurt’s hands, and he flinches back, even though he’s wearing gloves. Kurt is kind of pissed that Josh just outed him as either a mutant or someone who has serious touch issues (not that the gloves don’t make it kind of obvious), but he lets it slide. Josh sighs. “And then there’s that,” he says. “You never used to flinch when someone reached for you-- now you do it all the time.”
“Look, Kurt, we haven’t known you very long, but even we can tell that something is wrong. We’re not asking you to tell us, but you should tell someone.”
And that’s what it comes down to, because Kurt still can’t quite tell anyone. He’s told Mercedes the barest details about Karofsky, and Blaine knows a lot more. Even Blaine doesn’t know about the dreams, though, and Kurt doesn’t want to pile more on the boy who has fast become one of his best friends. Everyone has the same advice: tell someone. Deal with it.
Kurt doesn’t have the energy to deal with it. These days, Kurt barely has the energy to get out of bed in the mornings.
“I don’t want to give you any sort of ultimatum, and this isn’t one, but whatever the problem is, it’s starting to affect your performance as a Warbler. We pride ourselves on being the best of the school, and having you fall down-- or walk into someone-- in the middle of a performance because you’re so tired does not reflect that.” Wes has his committee-chair face on; Kurt can easily imagine the gavel in his hand.
“If I tell you that I’ll talk to Blaine, can we drop this?” Kurt asks. He’s not desperate, he’s not pleading, but he does not want to talk about someone else’s fantasies about him with anyone-- especially people who he’s only known for a few months. Blaine already knows a lot of the story, and adding to it can’t make it too much worse.
Wes’s face is still serious, but he relaxes when Kurt says this. “Please, do. I like you, Kurt, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know everything that’s going on in that head of yours.”
“Besides, maybe you and Blaine can bond over this,” Josh says, waggling his eyebrows. It’s entirely inappropriate humor, but Josh doesn’t know that, so Kurt laughs-- at Josh, at himself.
* * *
It’s an afternoon in very early spring, before the sun has really been able to make any sort of dent in the cold weather. He’d had a bad night (holding himself down, watching himself enjoy every minute of it), and he’s finding himself unable to concentrate on the trigonometry he’s supposed to be studying with Blaine.
Between one problem set and the next, he falls asleep.
Kurt is nowhere he recognizes. He’s warm, though, and it’s safe, wherever it is. He’s drifting on his back in water that is just warm enough. He can hear the roar of waves that he’s never heard in person, and the steady rock of the ocean is almost hypnotizing. It’s a memory, and it’s not his.
It should freak him out, make him try to wake himself up, but something about the memory projects contentment, though, so he lets it slide. He’s been so, so tired.
When Kurt wakes up, his eyes are clear and so is his mind. His head is resting in Blaine’s lap, and Blaine’s hand is slowly carding through Kurt’s hair. It must have been several hours at least-- the sunlight has mostly faded, only the last few beams passing through the blinds.
“When I was nine,” Blaine says quietly, “my parents took me to Hawaii for summer vacation. I told everyone my favorite part of the trip was snorkeling, being able to see all those animals, but it was really just-- floating. The ocean there is so warm, and long as you’re not alone, you can just lie on your back for hours out there.”
Kurt hums in agreement. He hasn’t told Blaine how much it bothers him when people touch him (although it’s really obvious), but he finds himself not minding this in the least.
“Thank you so much for this,” he says instead. “I haven’t slept like that in days.”
“I’ve noticed,” Blaine says. He looks so hopeful, gazing down at Kurt. Not attracted, not interested, but hopeful.
Kurt breathes deep for a few more seconds. “I’ve been dreaming about Karofsky. It’s why I haven’t been sleeping well-- I don’t want to dream.” Even that’s not right. If he’d been just been dreaming his own dreams about Karofsky, he could dismiss them as paranoid. But they’re Karofsky’s dreams, not his, and that makes the possibilities around them that much scarier. “That memory you shared helped today, but I can’t come to you every time I want to sleep.”
“I’d be happy to do that for you, but I see your point,” Blaine says. “Maybe-- are there things that work to get you out of the dreams? Can you wake yourself up?” They’re moving fast from contented just-awake towards problem-solving, but if this conversation is actually going to make a difference, it needs to happen now, when Kurt is relaxed for once.
“Sometimes. There are things I look for, I guess-- signs that what I’m seeing isn’t coming from my brain.”
“They’re not your dreams?” Blaine looks worried now, and Kurt curses himself for letting that slip.
He does the best he can to explain. “I’m dreaming them myself, but they didn’t come from me, I think.”
“Does this have anything to do with what you told me the other day? About knowing how Karofsky sees you?” Kurt is relieved that he won’t have to go through the whole thing again, so he just nods in agreement. “I mean, um, how can you tell? That they’re Karofksy’s, not yours?”
The world is getting sharper. Kurt’s fully awake now, starting to tense up as the conversation gets closer to things he doesn’t want to think about. He’s grateful, though, that night is falling and neither of them have gotten up to turn on the lights. He doesn’t want to have to look at Blaine while they’re talking about this, so he sits up, scooting back on the bed until his back is pressed against the wall. Blaine swings around to face him; even if they can’t see each other that well, he knows that he’s got Blaine’s attention.
“The first time it happened, I thought it was just some-- weird dream. I mean, after the time I dreamed that I was Anna Wintour’s ottoman, anything seems plausible, right? But this was different. My perspective was all skewed, and I guess the first thing to really throw me off was that my hands were too big.” He laughs. “It’s a dream, right? You expect things to be strange, because they make sense in the dream. But this stopped making sense, because I was-- I was. I was having-- he was having--”
He can tell when Blaine figures it out, because he sucks in a breath, fast.
“And I’m not. Dealing, I mean, with Karofsky, with everything. I want to be able to forget about it, to move on, and I can’t. I thought that what we did, that first time in the coffee shop-- I thought that had fixed it, that he was gone. But he’s not, he’s still there when I sleep, and I am so tired.”
Blaine’s face is full of something that Kurt is really hoping isn’t pity, because he doesn’t think he can deal with that from Blaine right now. “Can you stay? Just for tonight, I mean-- and totally platonically, I don’t mean-- I just. Let me help.”
“I think maybe. Just once. Besides, it’s not the first time we’ve slept together.” Kurt can’t see Blaine’s smile, but he’s fairly sure he’s getting one. “But I really have to find a way to fix this.”
“I think we can do that tomorrow. I know it’s still early, but I don’t think we’re going to get anything else done tonight.” Blaine finally stands to flip on the lights, and both of them blink at the sudden brightness. Kurt starts gathering his math notes and textbooks; Blaine does the same. “Let me call Wes so that he can cover for you-- um. Unless you have someone else I’d rather tell?”
“No, Wes is fine,” Kurt says. “He, ah, talked with me about this a few days ago. He doesn’t have the details, but he knows there’s something wrong, so. He’s a good person to call.”
Blaine smiles. “Go grab whatever you need-- I’ll call Wes.”
Kurt walks back to his room. The world seems all at once more present and more distant thank it has in a while, as if in those few hours of sleep, everything’s shifted just a bit. He waves at the boys he recognizes, does his best to look casual and unconcerned. He goes through his nightly skincare routine and carefully folds his pajamas and a fresh uniform for the next day into his satchel, then makes his way back to Blaine’s.
He knocks on the door; Blaine answers, wearing a t-shirt and loose sweatpants. “So, um, come in,” Blaine says. His hair is still damp from the shower, and it’s the first time Kurt can remember seeing it that curly. “Go ahead and use the bathroom to change-- sorry if it’s all damp.”
The bathroom is steamier than Kurt would prefer, but he’s happy to have somewhere to change out of Blaine’s sight. He gives himself thirty seconds to overthink everything, staring at himself in Blaine’s cloudy mirror. His eyes look like his eyes, and his hands are as slender as they’ve ever been.
When he walks out, Blaine’s already sitting up in bed. He’s got a pair of reading glasses on, and it’s quite possibly the least guarded that Kurt’s ever seen him. He looks up and Kurt and says, “I still have some reading to do for English tomorrow. If you want, though, go ahead and sleep-- I know how tired you’ve been.”
Kurt has thirty pages of Grapes of Wrath that he should really finish that night, so he shrugs and takes out of his bag. He’s trying not to look at the bed like it’ll eat him, but Blaine catches his nervousness. “We don’t have to do this if you’re not comfortable with it. It’s kind of a stupid idea, I mean-- what if I don’t have good dreams tonight? What if you--”
“Blaine,” Kurt says, cutting through Blaine’s nervous chatter. “It’s okay, I want to try. I’m just-- it’s different, doing this deliberately, instead of dropping you on my bed while you’re drunk off your ass.”
Blaine winces at the reminder. “It’s really okay? I’m, not, like, pressuring you into anything?”
“Really, it is.” Kurt climbs into bed with his book, next to Blaine.
The beds at Dalton aren’t minuscule, but they’re not built for two teenaged boys, either. They fit, but a lot more of Kurt is pressed against Blaine than he’s fully comfortable with. It's different from the sleepovers he's had with the girls from New Directions, even though both he and Blaine claim that it is entirely platonic. Neither of them say anything, though, and as they turn pages (Blaine’s reading Jane Eyre and occasionally making notes in the margins), Kurt slowly relaxes towards sleep.
He finishes his reading before Blaine does and tosses his book onto his bag, then curls up on his side. Blaine absently reaches for his hair and starts running his fingers through it (Georgiana said she dreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neither sympathy in her dejection, support in her fears, nor aid in her preparations--), until he realizes what he’s doing and freezes.
“It’s okay,” Kurt says, as soon as Blaine stops. “I don’t mind, or else I would have told you, although this is a really weird way to read a book.”
Gently, Blaine lays his hand back on Kurt’s hair. --her preparations; so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfish lamentations as well as I could, and did my best in sewing for her and packing--
It’s removed enough that Kurt can still think his own thoughts. It really is a weird way to read a book, especially one he hasn’t read before. Blaine is nearly as nervous about this whole sleeping thing as Kurt is, he thinks, so if the hair-combing and the focus on 19th-century British literature is making this work, then he’s all for it.
Eventually, Blaine reaches across him to put down his book and flicks off the bedside lamp. “Night, Kurt,” he says, yawning.
“Goodnight, Blaine,” Kurt replies. Blaine’s lying on his back; Kurt is still on his side, facing away from Blaine.
Instead of falling directly asleep, Blaine asks “What tipped you off about mine? My memory, I mean, this afternoon.”
Kurt considers faking being asleep, but decides that Blaine deserves an honest answer for this-- if they want to fix Kurt’s problem, he’ll probably need to know a lot more than just this. He takes a minute to think back, trying to figure out what first clued him in to the fact that it was a memory, not a dream. “I’ve never been out of Ohio, for one thing, and if it were my dream-- and I realize how ridiculous this sounds, don’t worry-- if it were my dream, I would have been worried about sunburn.”
Blaine chuckles. He turns on his side, his chest to Kurt’s back (they’re not touching, not quite), and reaches for one of Kurt’s hands. “I can’t promise that all my dreams will be good dreams,” he says, “but I’ll try.” He’s projecting white noise as much as he can, and hands clasped, they fall asleep.
* * *
Waking up the next morning isn’t as awkward as it could be. It’s the first full night of sleep that Kurt’s gotten in a while, and he feels that he’d like nothing more than to lie there the entire morning. Blaine’s face is smushed against his shoulder-blade, but other than that, the only place they’re touching is their hands, still entwined.
It’s still before 6:00, still dark outside, so Kurt doesn’t get up, not yet.
Maybe his life is a little bit of a romance novel, he thinks. But instead of fixing everything, this last night has just made it clear just how much there is still to fix. Blaine is amazing, giving without wanting anything for himself, but Kurt knows that he’s already taken on enough.
For once, Kurt doesn’t remember much at all of his dreams (there’s a cabin in Vermont near a lake with the best fishing in the area, and he’d been there once, just once, with Warren), and that’s okay. Blaine will be pleased that Kurt has been able to sleep enough to get through the day without walking into anyone or drinking coffee between classes, but Kurt knows that this can really only happen once. It would be too easy to make this a habit, for Kurt to lean on Blaine until there’s not enough of Blaine left.
Because for all Blaine’s words about not minding, about wanting to help, he’s got his own problems going on. He can’t always be there for Kurt, and Kurt doesn’t necessarily want him to be-- they need to be able to stand up on their own.
Right now, Blaine is dreaming about running through a desert with a unicorn. It’s a bit bizarre, but entirely nonthreatening, so Kurt leaves his hands where they are, and drifts back into sleep for another hour, running around in that desert.
At 7:00, an hour before classes start, the alarm goes off. Blaine starts awake, fumbling for the alarm. Kurt’s in the way, though, so when Blaine starts trying to climb over him to get to the clock, Kurt manages instead to hit the snooze button. The cessation of noise knocks Blaine right back out, and he subsides back onto his side of the bed.
Kurt disentangles his fingers from Blaine’s and slips out of bed. He’s feeling better than he has in a week. He takes his phone out of his bed and walks over to Blaine’s desk, curling up on the chair as best he can. It’s no replacement for his couch at home, but he can make it work.
He’s got one hand around his knees; the other one is holding his phone. He scrolls down to the number that he calls almost every night; he hasn’t called in a few days. Blaine has enough to deal with; so does his dad. But his dad has always been there for him, no matter the circumstance, and maybe it’s finally time to tell him everything.
He presses call, holds the phone to his ear, and tilts his head to the side. He can just barely see Blaine’s head where it pokes out from the blankets, and it gives him courage. The phone rings, and his dad picks up.
“Hi, dad. No, I’m fine.”
He draws in a deep breath. This is a step. “I need to tell you about Karofsky.”
Everything isn't going to be solved in one tearful confrontation. It'll make only a little bit of difference if he rails against Karofsky, against everyone who's made his life worse. Telling his dad is difficult, because his dad doesn’t understand a lot of it, but it’s something Kurt has to do. They haven’t always been entirely open with each other, but their relationship is close. For so long, it’s been Kurt and his dad against the world, and Kurt doesn’t want to lose that.
At the end of the conversation, Kurt is promising to come home the next weekend, so that his dad can see for himself that Kurt really is-- really will be-- okay.
Blaine wakes up when the alarm goes off again-- it’s 7:15-- and Kurt retreats into the bathroom to wash his face and get ready for the day.
When Kurt comes back out, Blaine’s already dressed and running gel through his hair. He smiles at Kurt, brilliant and breathtaking in the early-morning light. “How’d you sleep?” he asks.
Kurt finds himself smiling back. “I feel incredibly rested,” he says. “Thank you.”
They keep smiling at each other, because it’s really, honestly funny. Blaine brings them back to the problem at hand, though, saying “So, um, do we want to talk about the whole dream thing? Because we totally can-- there’s still, like, almost half an hour before class.”
“Can we do it over breakfast? We missed dinner last night, and I’m not sure I can actually go until lunch without eating.” Really, Kurt’s been hungry since last night, but the prospect of a solid nine hours of sleep had been more tempting than food.
They head down to the breakfast room, easy with each other but not really saying anything.
Kurt realizes something: Blaine doesn’t stick with him. Sure, he can remember all of the memories and thoughts that he’s received from Blaine, but even after spending close to ten hours in physical contact with Blaine, there’s no feeling of wrongness in his body. His hands feel like his hands; he doesn’t expect his hair to be curly. Blaine is temporary relief, but not anything more than that-- or anything less, because it means that Kurt can touch Blaine as long as he wants to and still stay himself.
He doesn’t really care that Blaine is different from everyone he’s touched beforehand. It could just be that nearly every time that Blaine’s touched him (or he’s touched Blaine), it’s been planned and deliberate, no accidental brushes of hands or fingers touching when they pass sheet music in rehearsal.
It doesn’t really matter right then; they’re trying to figure out a way for Kurt to not be terrified about going to bed that night.
“I told my dad,” Kurt says.
Blaine isn’t shocked, but he does look surprised and relieved.
“After I got him to promise not to go after Karofsky with a shotgun, he was... okay. I mean, obviously he wasn’t okay with what happened, and he made me promise to come home this weekend to tell him in person, but the conversation was okay.”
Blaine isn’t an expert in psychology (although, as he informs Kurt, he totally took AP Psych last year, and suddenly so much more about Blaine’s advice makes sense), and neither is Kurt, but they both have ideas about making things work. Kurt can figure out when the dreams aren’t his, but usually by the time he does they’re pretty far along, which doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Blaine’s got ideas about Kurt teaching himself lucid dreaming, which sounds unbearably cool (being able to control what he dreams about sounds like, well, a dream come true), although it apparently takes a bit of work and not everyone can do it.
So, for the short term, Kurt’s going to try to look at his hands at the beginning of every dream. That sounds pretty close to how Blaine’s described lucid dreaming, so it doesn’t really make a lot of sense that it would be any different, but it’s something to try.
* * *
He’s back in his own bed that night. He’s not expecting anything to be working yet; he’s had one good night of sleep, thanks to Blaine, and a week of sleeping just a few hours a night. He’s still exhausted, though, so even though he tries to push back sleep as much as possible, so the nightmares he’s sure are coming last as little time as possible, he falls asleep before midnight.
Instead, the only dreams he remembers are of flying. Not the same memory that Blaine had shared with him, not at all-- he’s moving under his own power, flying across the skies of Lima at night. It’s an amazing dream-- and he does realize that it’s a dream-- but he checks his hands anyway, just to be sure.
They’re his hands.
When he wakes up the next morning, he holds onto his dream of flying for as long as he can, and walks down to breakfast smiling.
* * *
He’d never gotten things from animals the way he’d gotten them from humans, but losing Pavarotti still feels awful. He’d been given the responsibility of taking care of the bird, and he’d failed in that, even though he’d tried to everything right, from keeping the cage warm to making sure that Pavarotti always had food and water.
The dress code doesn’t apply to extracurriculars, so he dresses himself with solemn attention to the occasion. Even though he’s mournful, wearing his own clothing feels freeing.
It’s the first time in a long time that he’s tried to attract attention so deliberately. He’s feeling dramatic; he wants to be noticed. He wants to express himself-- he hasn’t felt this way since before he left McKinley.
Breaking protocol at a Warblers rehearsal is something akin to committing suicide by gavel, but Kurt’s willing to risk it for this. He’s so focused on himself that he doesn’t even realize until the end of the song that everyone else has been singing harmonies. It’s the most connected he’s felt to the Warblers since he arrived: he is reaching out, and they are reaching back.
He sits quietly through the rest of rehearsal; they’re running the songs for Regionals over and over again. Today, he’s content to be a Pip and let Blaine sing all of the solos. Tomorrow, he’ll probably feel jealous again.
He’s almost resigned himself to the fact that Blaine will never see him as anything but a friend. It hurts, that the first guy he’s been really into who could love him back doesn’t, but Blaine is such as good friend.
It takes him a while to realize that Blaine is looking at him differently. Not badly-- not like he’d really screwed something up by singing “Blackbird,” but like something in the way that Blaine sees him has changed. Kurt has to keep reminding himself not to get his hopes up; yes, something has changed, but he has no way of knowing-- okay, he does, but not one that he’s willing to use-- how Blaine feels now.
Kurt’s crush, simmering for the last few months, is growing again. He doesn’t let himself give in to hope (he’s been crushed too many times for that), but he lets himself look again. Blaine’s eyes rest on him a second longer than they used to. He speaks softer, warmer.
Kurt doesn’t give in to hope, but oh, he wants to.
The duet doesn’t help that. Blaine chose him, Blaine is listening to him. It even seems like the rest of the Warblers want this for the two of them. They’re smiling (well, some of them have knowing grins, like they think that Kurt and Blaine are more than friends); the vote for Kurt to join Blaine in the duet is unanimous. The Warblers aren’t family like New Directions are, but Kurt is starting to think that maybe someday they could be.
When Blaine comes to him to discuss song choice for their duet, Kurt has to keep reminding himself that Blaine doesn’t like him, that Blaine is being unconsciously flirtations and touchy. Even when they’d slept together, Blaine’s thoughts had been entirely platonic.
Blaine takes his hand, and Kurt mentally curses his gloves as loudly as he can (too bad the gloves aren’t telepathic), because he’d do just about anything to know what Blaine is thinking in this moment.
Blaine is saying things that really aren’t helping Kurt’s resolve to keep things platonic between them. And then-- Blaine is. Oh, he is.
When they kiss, Blaine telegraphs every movement he makes seconds before he make it, giving Kurt more than enough time to move out out the way, to protest and say this isn’t what he wanted at all. Finally, finally, their lips meet and Kurt has a second of enjoying the purely physical aspects of the kiss before Blaine floods out all of his other senses.
This is the longest conscious sustained physical contact that Kurt’s had with anyone since his mutation first showed up, aside from that time with Brittany (who almost doesn’t count; her thoughts match her words and her actions almost exactly). For the first time in a long time, he wants more, so he brings his hand up to Blaine’s face, and he’s drowning in the feedback.
Blaine is feeling-- was feeling, now-- nervous and scared that he’s going to be rejected, until Kurt brought his hand up and deepened the kiss. Then, now, Blaine feels nothing but joy.
Kurt can feel himself kissing Blaine and what Blaine is feeling when he kisses Kurt. It’s this circle of physicality that Kurt is entirely new to, and he wants to keep it going until he has to stop to breathe. It feels amazing and he wishes, suddenly, that his telepathy went both ways, because he wants to share this with Blaine.
Blaine, who is thinking thisonecounts over and over. And it does.
This one counts. So will the next one.
* * *
(New Directions lose at Nationals to the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, led by the entirely gifted Allison Blaire. They’re overjoyed, though, with their third-place finish, because it means that they beat Vocal Adrenaline, which placed fifth.)