Kurt Hummel meets Blaine Anderson at the end of sixth grade.
Blaine is cheerful and friendly and smiles all the time. He plays piano with the same teacher that Kurt does, and he’s much better at it. He knows all the words to The Sound of Music, he agrees with Kurt when he makes disparaging remarks about Rachel Berry’s sense of style, and he pretty much wants to hang out with Kurt wherever he goes.
All of this is very, very new for Kurt, who maybe abuses the privilege of having a best friend, just a little. He’s never had a best friend before. He’s never even really had a friend, before.
Blaine’s not like him, in that. Blaine’s always been friendly with all the other boys in his old school, and he goes into his summer soccer league ready to play around with kids like Noah Puckerman and Mike Azimio (who is twice as big as Mike Chang, and doesn’t stutter) just like it’s nothing.
It’s nice, for Blaine. Kurt tries not to be bitter when school starts up, and he figures he’s going to lose Blaine to whatever cool crowd will have him. Blaine almost makes him startle right out of his one-of-a-kind designer Chuck Taylors when he falls into place right next to Kurt’s right shoulder on their way into school the first day.
Blaine doesn’t get it--nobody’s ever called him queer before, or ladyboy, or teased him for being a girl--so when the rest of the school realizes who he’s been hanging around with, he doesn’t know how to come back. Kurt’s spent years learning how to keep his head high and hit them with a smart remark so they never win completely. Blaine just sort of stands there like a hurt, confused puppy that doesn’t know why it got kicked out into the rain, with big, confused, hurt eyes while Davey Karofsky and Mike Azimio give each other high fives.
There hasn’t been anything Kurt could do for himself, but he’s not going to leave Blaine like that alone. So he sharpens his tongue, wades in, and pulls himself up to his full, tiny height before he lays into Azimio and Karofsky with everything he’s got in front of the entire seventh grade lunch room. Blaine stands there with wide-eyed adoration.
It shouldn’t really work, but Mercedes Jones--who is super-popular for being the best singer in the school that everybody doesn’t hate like Rachel Berry--thinks it’s awesome and invites Kurt and Blaine both to her party that weekend.
Before they go, Kurt sits Blaine down in his bedroom and gives him a list of rules about how the social system at Lima East Middle School actually works. Then he picks out outfits for both of them that are both sharp enough to cut glass and not too faggy for a middle school in East Lima.
He keeps an eye on Blaine for the first forty-five minutes or so of the party, until Blaine is safely involved in making out with Tina Cohen-Chang on Mercedes’ couch. He made Blaine promise to try and get at least to second base if he could. Then Kurt goes off to find Mercedes and be as much of whatever she seems to find charming as he can until she lets him do the same.
Seventh and eighth grade are when Mike Azimio stops going by his first name at all and just becomes the hulking, lurking terror that is Azimio, and when Finn Hudson shoots up like a string bean and gets even more awkward and weird around girls, and when everyone decides for good that that weirdo Santana Lopez is really that dyke Santana Lopez, and write her off completely. They steal her books sometimes, and write things inside them, or shove little notes inside her locker where the teachers can’t see. Kurt watches all of it carefully, then makes sure that he sneers about her to a couple of the coolest girls in school while she’s still in earshot.
It’s mean, but it’s life. Kurt is safe and so is Blaine. Sometimes they still hang out in Kurt’s basement bedrooms and listen to his mom’s old records and sing along to old musicals together, but Blaine’s not the world’s best liar, and that’s the kind of behavior that gets you the Santana Lopez treatment, so it’s not the best idea to do that as much any more, either.
Kurt first meets Quinn Fabray on the first day of freshman Cheerios tryouts. He doesn’t even mean to be trying out; he’s loitering near the line, flirting with a couple of girls he made sure to hook up with over the summer.
It turns out, he’s recently discovered, it’s not that hard to fake being interested in sex, if you try to ignore all the weird wet squishy parts and just focus on the hand touching your dick. All the girls say he’s a very good kisser, and he’s been gradually steeling his nerve and working his way up to being very good at even more. If he’s the biggest stud in the ninth grade, or if Blaine is, then they can’t possibly be gay, or bullied, or have to worry. If all the girls are on Kurt’s side, then the other boys know the girls won’t put out if they go too far, and that’s been enough to keep them in line. Not that Kurt can entirely say he understands why teenage boys are so fascinated by getting their girlfriends to put out, but maybe he just doesn’t understand because it comes so easily for him.
So he’s in the cheerleading tryout line and some girl he’s never seen before who’s still carrying a few vestiges of baby fat makes a remark about fags and their hags. Kurt just raises his eyebrows and turns, slowly, and everybody in the entire hall feels the temperature drop ten degrees. Everyone who’s gone to school with Kurt Hummel for the past few years takes at least half a step back. That just leaves the new girl.
Kurt is good at witty and cutting, and he’s learned not to be afraid to step in closer and use what little size he has to make himself physically intimidating, even on girls. Maybe even especially on girls. Of course, Quinn gives just about as good as she gets, and they go at it for a good five minutes, with everyone watching in shock, until Sue Sylvester strides up, grabs both of them by the shoulder, and drags them off to the gym where she’s been holding tryouts.
She lets Quinn do her tryout first, and then tells Kurt to do a routine. Which has him arching perfect eyebrows and pointing out that he never intended to try out for the Cheerios, which has Sue asking just what he can do, besides appearing extremely gay and attempting to work his way through the entire female population of whatever school he happens to be in.
So Kurt--who is extremely limber anyway, and can kick over his head no problem even now--sings something. Sue just watches, eyes narrowed, and then puts Kurt and Quinn both on the squad. Together.
Blaine doesn’t join the cheerleading squad. He laughs at Kurt a lot for even suggesting it. He does join the jazz band, though, and maybe marching band if McKinley’s alternate reality allows for a marching band that still leaves him plenty of free time and some remaining social cred.
Kurt and Quinn become best frenemies by Christmas and get made co-captains by sophomore year. They go to parties a lot together, Kurt and Quinn and Kurt’s tag-along Blaine, who’s a little too nice but has probably slept with more girls in school than anyone, which bumps his social cred up enough for Quinn to be seen with him. She drags Kurt and Blaine both to chastity club.
Santana’s life sucks, freshman year, and sophomore year doesn’t start out looking much better. She’s the school dyke. Slushies and locker checks and nasty notes and threatening glares and all of the whispers behind her back--they’re just par for the course.
She signs up for glee club because why the fuck not, it’s not like her life could get any worse.
Also trying out for glee club:
Mike Chang, whose father thinks he has excellent academics but needs some extracurriculars to strengthen his application to Harvard. Mike Chang Sr. also thinks that singing might help Mike Chang Jr. get over that stutter he hasn’t had the heart to admit he’s been faking since sixth grade.
Artie Abrams, wheelchair kid, jazz band afficionado, AV Club mastermind, bff with Mike Chang and all-around cool guy.
Noah Puckerman, who got kicked out of sports within the first few months of freshman year for being too violent and unpredictable, and has been the invisible bad boy at McKinley ever since. There’s a fine line between ‘James Dean dangerous and sexy’ and ‘poor end of town dirt under my shoe’, and Noah and his guitar are just over the edge of it.
Rachel Berry, who is, as ever, Rachel Berry.
Santana and Noah discover that they get along way better than is probably safe for anyone else in the vicinity. They bond over music and talking about hot girls and they probably enjoy at least some of the same TV shows. She schools his ass at video games. They rock.
Unfortunately, this still doesn’t get Will Schuester a full functional glee club. Nobody in the club is remotely popular, and they need at least some social pull to get them going. And who in this school is an excellent singer and has social pull? Besides Sue’s head cheerleaders? Mercedes Jones.
Planting pot on Mercedes Jones would be just about the stupidest damn shit Will Schuester might ever have pulled, so it’s a really good thing he mentioned trying to get her into the club to Emma first. Emma actually vaguely knows Mercedes (because....reasons) and is smart enough to just ask her. As one asks or begs for a favor. And Mercedes, magnanimous, agrees.
So then there were six: Mercedes, Rachel, Artie, Noah, Mike, and Santana. Their ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is a song called ‘Marching On’. And together, in bright red, they march.
Blaine, as we’ve said, is in the jazz band. Kurt has up until now mostly let this pass.
But things are all sort of getting complicated in Kurt’s life too right now, okay? Coach Sue is growling about that Glee club almost constantly, and those parties that happen all the damn time are suddenly way too complicated to handle.
For instance, he’s at a party with Blaine and Quinn, as usual, and over there in the opposite corner is the Unholy Trinity of Lauren Zizes and her two freakish sidekicks from the track team, tiny gothy Tina Cohen-Chang and lumberingly awkward Finn Hudson. Zizes manages to wield considerable cred at McKinley despite her really tragic, well, everything, and Cohen-Chang and Hudson both hang in the murky, undefined social region of having everything it takes to be successful--Cohen-Chang is easily attractive and limber enough to be a Cheerio on top of the pyramid, and Hudson, for all his genius, is definitely athletic--except the personality. Everything should be going as normal, except Quinn, for some reason, keeps disregarding guys like Strando and Karofsky to talk to Finn.
Also Blaine is a beer and a half in and has Lisa Davies and Renee Applmeyer hanging all over him, which means that if Kurt plays his cards right there might be a foursome in it for him tonight. It’s...easier, when Blaine’s there, somehow. They play off each other well. And Kurt’s always been a show-off.
(And there was that time this past summer, right after Kurt got the Navigator, that they took a six pack all the way out into the middle of an empty field, and clambered up to the roof with the beer to look at the stars. And three beers each isn’t enough to get either of them wasted, but it’s Kurt’s excuse, for how they fell towards each other without any girls there at all, and kissed, and kissed, and kissed until the whole night blurs together in his memory and all he has left is an image of the next morning, bright sun and his dad’s disapproval when he finally came home, and the drying stickiness in his jeans.)
So Quinn looks like she’s actually considering dating Finn Hudson, and Lauren Zizes, who is Kurt’s number one best bitch he respects too much to actually try to fuck, looks none too happy about any of this, and then Mercedes Jones shows her face and there are whole gales of mocking and laughter over that whole glee club thing, and...it’s just complicated these days, that’s all.
And then Coach Sue tells Quinn and Kurt under no uncertain terms that they are to infiltrate the glee club and report back about everything, so Kurt has to stop mocking Blaine for helping them out with the jazz band and get him to help Kurt out with an audition number instead.
The next few weeks are kind of a blur. For reasons of her own, Lauren Zizes has also decided to take her two henchmen and join the glee club, at which point--for possibly the very first and last time in his entire little life--Finn Hudson managed to find himself at the peak of a love triangle between two extremely attractive, loud, and highly demanding women. Kurt himself is back to courting Mercedes. She likes to be kissed and she usually refuses to let him do any more but puts it around that he has, and they have more in common than Kurt usually lets on with most of the girls at school.
Santana Lopez has made herself foremost among the Guys of Glee. It’s her, Noah, Artie, and Mike, with the occasional addition of Blaine when he’s not busy with Kurt, or, more rarely, Finn, when he can get away from the sheer drama of all the women in his life. She’s still sort of alone but she’s not lonely any more, not in the same way, and if Mr. Schue won’t give her solos, well, the only people who get solos are Mercedes, Rachel, and Finn Hudson, when Rachel demands it. Never mind that Santana and Noah are both better singers than any of them any day.
But anyway, then comes the night of yet another party at Mercedes Jones’ house, one she’s somehow brave--or stupid--enough to actually invite the other Glee kids to, too. And there’s whatever happens that makes Finn and Rachel storm out early, and Santana ends up standing awkwardly trying to make small talk with Stuttering Mike for half an hour because nobody can find Noah, and somehow, much later, a just-sober-enough-for-the-task Kurt finds himself carting a sobbing, utterly trashed Quinn Fabray back to her parents’ house.
He goes through a drive-through 24 hour Dunkin Doughnuts to get some coffee, then climbs into the back seat with her in a deserted parking lot to try and sober her up, and she gets herself together enough to kiss him and ask if he thinks she’s pretty. They’ve never done this before, usually they hate each other, and Quinn Fabray opens her knees to no man, but Kurt hasn’t made it this far by turning girls down.
(He keeps condoms in the glove box, and Noah Puckerman claims never to have used one ever, so even after both the first and second wave of Babygate hit, he feels justified in staying away. Quinn is giving the baby up, and between Kurt, Noah, and Finn, Noah’s the only one who actually wants something to do with it, so Kurt settles for an extra-large helping of bitchery in the hallways for a while.)
(He also goes home with Blaine more than once while Mr. and Mrs. Anderson aren’t going to be there, and they do the things that aren’t supposed to count or ever even happen, things with tongues and fingers and hips that let Kurt turn his entire brain off.)
(But these are all secret things, things that happen in the implication and the parentheticals and not on screen. Kurt Hummel is not gay, remember?)
Tina Cohen-Chang has never sang or danced outside her bedroom in her life. She’s a good, quiet, reliable girl who likes running because it makes her feel free in a way not a whole lot else in her life does. She follows Lauren because Lauren has good ideas, is smart, and is kind of scary sometimes. Besides, girl athletes have to stick together. And yeah, that does include Finn.
Well, maybe not literally. But they’ve been calling him ‘Finn Hudson, Lesbian Queen’ for so long it might as well be true. Sure, he doesn’t know any more about hair and makeup than Tina or Lauren--and probably a lot less than Kurt Hummel--but he really does react like a girl to stuff. The whole Rachel-and-Quinn thing made him cry.
Mostly it’s just a feeling Tina gets, and usually ignores. She’s not there to notice stuff. She’s there to sing backup and dance when they need her to.
Artie stops speaking to Mike for a week when he finds out the stutter is fake. Plus Noah’s all mooning over Quinn and glaring daggers at both Hudson and the one guy in this school who’s taken enough of Sue Sylvester’s lessons to only make Noah wish he were dead. Santana is not having this shit.
Plus she’s got her own crap to deal with, you know? At one point, probably just to piss Mr. Schue off, Coach Sylvester recruits her and Mike to the Cheerios for a while, and she’s still the only gay kid in this entire school which means all the other cheerleaders demand that she change in the boys’ locker room, with Hummel and Mike and the guys who do the basket tosses. She can respect Hummel for being a clever asshole, but mostly he’s just mean. Plus, after a couple of things Anderson’s said? Santana’s pretty sure they’ve totally at least done the threesome thing a couple of times, and it just figures, doesn’t it? It’s not gay when the head cheerleader does it.
Santana’s still a fucking virgin, although she’s gotten enough use out of her right hand and the contents of the bottom drawer of her nightstand that she feels like there really ought to be another word for it. Where the hell is she going to find another lesbian her own age in the state of Ohio?
She actually tries dating Blaine for all of a week, just to see. He doesn’t try to push her when she can’t go any farther than some incredibly awkward making out, which is sort of better than she expected from him. Santana just needs to face it, until she can get the hell out of here and hightail it to New York, she’s just gonna be alone.
That doesn’t mean her idiot boys have to be. She shoves Artie at Mercedes Jones and then makes him and Mike apologize a week later. Mike only lasts about six weeks on the cheerleading squad, but Santana makes it all the way to Nationals. It feels good to win something for once.
Burt Hummel meets Carole Hudson at a parent-teacher conference night entirely in spite of his son’s best efforts to steer them apart. They both want to know more about this Will Schuester guy who somehow has their sons wanting to stick around after school for something that won’t increase their social cred. The rest, as they say, was history.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, despite the fact that she’s only a freshman and barely in charge of the running of her glee club in any way, the romance of Rachel Berry and Jesse St. James proceeds almost exactly the same way.
Nobody bursts into song at the Fabray family dinner table to tell her father she’s pregnant. She just quietly goes on for months, getting little by little bigger and bigger, until finally it’s her own mother’s slip of the tongue--the mother who wouldn’t say two words to Quinn about it, god forbid she should ever acknowledge that as real--that brings the matter up to the table. Quinn is nearly five months pregnant at the time, and the whole school already knows Finn’s not the father. When she tries, in desperation, to play Noah and Kurt off against each other, the whole school finds out the rest of it, too. She’s nothing but a worthless slut anyway.
She can’t go home with Noah and she won’t go near Kurt after the things he’s said about her, so it’s her car for two nights before, of all people, Lauren Zizes takes her in. Lauren doesn’t give a fuck about who Quinn’s fucked, although she does have some blunt words about how, if she’s gonna do the time for it, she really should’ve enjoyed it. Lauren’s irreverent and mean and doesn’t actually care about Quinn, except as a teammate who ought to get kept in one piece, and after a while Quinn just finds it liberating. Everyone else in her life is a falling-down disaster. Why shouldn’t she be, too.
They do a Glee Girls outing, all six of them, a few weeks after Beth has been born when school’s getting close to letting out. Quinn lets Santana Lopez cut her hair. It’s too short and it makes her look like a dyke, but Lauren proclaims it “almost punk”, and that sounds better. It just takes some pink dye to take care of the rest.
Lauren’s dad starts making noises about wanting the spare room back around the end of the school year, so fine, whatever, Quinn moves back in with her mother. Her dad is gone, so nobody’s going to throw her out again, but her mom doesn’t actually care what Quinn does. Fine. Neither does Quinn.
Blaine Anderson has made out with pretty much every girl in school, now that he’s finally checked Santana Lopez off his list, but he still looks at Kurt with exactly the same wide, shining, heart-spangled eyes as he does in canon. He’s been looking at Kurt that way since he was twelve years old.
It’s love, Blaine’s never questioned that. There are a lot of different kinds of love, and he and Kurt are the Sam and Frodo, together forever, no danger too great for them kind. There’s nowhere Kurt could go that Blaine won’t follow, and that means he understands so much more about Kurt than anybody else in the world.
He understands that it’s dangerous, because Blaine may know that there are more different kinds of love than people have names for them, but the average teenage resident of Lima, Ohio only really comprehends one. He understands that they have to be careful. Kurt’s said it enough times.
Most of the rules that keep them on the safe side of society at McKinley are Kurt’s, because he’s the one with so little faith in humanity that he’s cynical enough to make them. Blaine’s tried to be half as cynical as Kurt is, but how can he be? How can he be, when every person he’s ever met aside from Burt Hummel is convinced that Kurt spits poison and pure ice runs in his veins. Blaine’s seen him cry at the end of movies and on the anniversary of his mother’s death. Blaine knows what he looks like when he can’t bear to let on he’s scared. Blaine knows exactly how much of Kurt’s machinations and vicious temper is designed to protect himself. How much is there to protect Blaine.
And if all of that--if all of that goodness and love can be there inside someone where nobody else in the whole world can see it, Blaine has to believe that everybody has more to them than meets the eye.
And if maybe Blaine thinks sometimes that he and Kurt are meant to be less the Frodo and Sam kind of heterosexual lifemates and more actual, not-at-all heterosexual soulmates...well, Blaine’s not the only one who’s slept with half the cheerleading squad, and judging by how frequently and vigorously Kurt tends to get into it with one girl or another, he’s not the only one who’s enjoyed it.
Sometimes Blaine wants to hold hands for a while, just to see what it would be like. Sometimes he wants his own solos in glee club, too. Sometimes he wants a lot of things that are against Kurt’s rules.
It’s not like Kurt doesn’t follow his own rules too, even stricter and more unforgiving with himself than he’s ever been with Blaine. McKinley’s a dangerous place. Blaine’s got it good. He’s happy.
Over the summer, Carole and Finn Hudson move into the house where Kurt and his father have lived alone for almost ten years.
Kurt’s dad likes Finn, and Kurt understands why. Finn is a good guy underneath all his awkwardness, sweet, the kind of kid who follows the rules his parents lay out for him before the rules of the high school shark tank where he actually lives. He follows Burt around lapping up his sage advice when Kurt hasn’t quite been able to trust it in years.
Basically, when Quinn Fabray told Finn he’d gotten her pregnant, he was prepared to uproot his entire life for her. When she told Kurt the same thing, he wasn’t even willing to give her the chance to prove she wasn’t lying. It makes Kurt a cold, callous asshole compared to the decent sort of human being his dad would probably like him to be. But on the other hand, Finn’s the one who nearly destroyed his own life for a baby that wasn’t even his.
Kurt threatens Finn within an inch of his life when he moves in, should he breathe a word of Kurt’s involvement in Babygates part 2-7. What little of his father’s respect Kurt still has may be based on a lie, but it’s still all he’s got.
He spends most of the rest of the summer sleeping on Blaine’s couch, or floor, or the other side of his bed, depending on how drunk they are and how much they expect to feel like justifying themselves to themselves or the Andersons in the morning. The addition’s done by the time school starts up again. Kurt lets Finn keep his old bedroom and takes the new one for himself. It’s got a window that’s easier to climb out of. Most terrible teen movies he’s seen say that helps.
Quinn doesn’t show up to glee club when the year starts back. She doesn’t go out for cheerleading this year, either; Kurt’s back up in charge of the squad himself, with Becky as Sue’s right hand lady, and being the only one at the top should feel so much sweeter than it does.
They spend weeks fluttering and flailing around, trying to get Quinn to come back. They have a Queen week that ends in Mr. Schuester fronting a performance of ‘Body Language’ that really would’ve gone over better if it hadn’t been a faculty member doing it.
They don’t get around to recruitment for a few weeks after that. Everybody gets temporarily really distracted by Kurt’s dad’s heart attack. Kurt has absolutely no interest in speaking to anybody other than Blaine all week, and actively snaps Blaine’s head off at one point, but the general fear everybody has of him keeps the religious overtures from getting too over-the-top. It turns out that people fall over themselves a lot less with sympathetic overtures for the biggest bitch in the entire school than they do for the poor, cuddly little inoffensive gay boy.
(It turns out that, because it’s New Directions, they still try pretty damn hard anyway.)
(Kurt doesn’t sing ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ in the choir room, he can’t, he can’t, and this Kurt hasn’t been close with his father in years anyway. This Kurt is still refusing to admit that there’s a closet to be in, let alone come out of it, and he hasn’t been able to come to his father with hopes or fears or worries of any sort in a long long time, and yet. And yet he sits in that hospital room, after he’s verbally torn Blaine a new one and thrown everybody out, and holds his dad’s hand in one of his, and he sings the song.)
(Blaine stands out in the hallway the whole time, just out of sight, and listens.)
A few weeks later, Mercedes takes matters into her own hands and tracks down new girl Sunshine Corazon who she’s heard singing along to a glee club performance or two. None too soon, because Noah gets thrown into juvie that week, and the duet scramble begins.
Sunshine isn’t even Santana’s type. It’s just that Noah’s gone, and he’s her everyday partner in everything, and something about the way the new girl keeps eyeing Berry makes Santana think that maybe....just maybe, okay?
And anyway, Fabray’s been after her worse and worse ever since school started back up, and maybe Santana just wants something that’s hers. Maybe she wants to get up there and sing the sluttiest duet she can with another girl just to shove it in everybody else’s face.
It’s working too--it turns out Sunshine knows a bunch of Spanish, so that’s just great, they can sit around in the back of the choir room and say things nobody else can understand, not even Mr. Schuester because he’s even more useless as a Spanish teacher than a choir teacher.
Until little miss well-intentioned Rachel Berry starts coming over all concerned. Because in three months at this school, Sunshine’s maybe somehow managed to miss the giant neon sign everyone keeps hanging over Santana’s head that says ‘RAGING DYKE’. Because hey, Sunshine is foreign, she might not get it. It’s not fair for Santana to unleash her freakishly conniving gay wiles on the new girl who’s too nice to understand that she can say no.
Santana does the stupidest thing ever after that. She goes to Mercedes Jones for advice.
Okay so yeah, maybe Santana had a tiny little (raging, enormous) crush on Mercedes last year. They got past it, all right? Mercedes is as straight as they come, she’s been dating fucking Wheels since Santana set them up last year. They’re the perfect pair. Mr. Schue still doesn’t really like Artie as a frontman, but the two of them basically run this glee club, aside from the fact that Rachel Berry’s pores basically ooze with melodramatic bullshit.
The point is, Santana respects her opinions, right? If Berry is just making noise like Santana knows damn well she is, whatevs, Santana can just ignore her and get on with her life.
But Mercedes frowns all thoughtfully and says, “Look, Santana, maybe this time Rachel has a point. I’m just saying, sometimes you can come on a little strong,” and fine, whatever, fucking fine, if the High Queen of Glee Club still isn’t over last year, then Santana doesn’t need to sing with fucking anybody. She’ll go rob a liquor store and get herself thrown in juvie with Noah, how about that? They’ll fucking duet together.
Blaine says, “So I’m still really into what we did with Queen last month, you want to do our duet to ‘Under Pressure’? I’ll let you be Bowie,” with his most winsome smile, and Kurt has to pull away from mapping out Blaine’s collar bone with his tongue and make sure he hasn’t accidentally lost another sweater under Blaine’s bed, right now.
“We’re not singing the assignment together, Blaine,” says Kurt. “Not actually gay, you know.”
“Well maybe we are,” Blaine says, and Kurt freezes in the act of bending down to look under the bed. “That thing you were just doing with your mouth: pretty damn gay.”
“There’s a difference between actually being gay and two guys helping each other out,” Kurt says very tightly. He stays seated on the edge of the bed as he is. It’s easier if he doesn’t have to look at Blaine’s big, puppydog eyes while he’s saying any of it. “That difference is singing duets together in glee club.”
“Fine,” Blaine says after a long pause. “I’ll just ask Santana or something.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Kurt bites out scathingly.
They don’t make out any more that afternoon after that.
Rachel Berry is really easy to talk into bed. Blaine spends the whole encounter just feeling all kinds of glad that she wants it just as much as he does. Their voices sound great together, their bodies fit well, and her dads aren’t going to be home until late.
They’re going to be awesome, in fact, Blaine just knows it, until he runs into Rachel in the hall the day before their performance and she slaps him across the cheek.
Kurt finds him in the boys’ bathroom looking in the mirror trying to see if she broke the skin.
“What did you do?” Blaine asks heavily, and Kurt leans against the neighboring sink with all the grace of a panther.
“I told her the truth,” he says. “I’m not the one who was stringing her along.”
“Sorry, I was what?” Blaine asks. Everything had been going so well. Their duet was good, the sex was good, Rachel was actually a lot of fun once you got past the occasional histrionics...
“She was a virgin, Blaine. She didn’t even put out for Jesse St. James last year. Yes, alright, she’s been alone ever since so she’s clearly desperate--”
“Hey,” Blaine protests, straightening up. With him at his full height and Kurt leaning like that, Blaine’s actually taller for once.
“She thought she was special, Blaine,” Kurt explains with exasperated patience.
“She was special,” Blaine says.
“Specialer than every other girl in this school you’ve fucked?”
“They’re all special,” Blaine mumbles a little, dropping his chin. Kurt reaches out and puts a hand on his left shoulder.
“I know you think so,” Kurt says. “But Rachel was going to do a lot more than that to you once she found out just how much your definition of ‘special’ differed from hers.”
In the end, nobody wins, since every single person in the choir room votes for themselves, including Blaine Anderson (who’s still a little pissed at Kurt) and Rachel Berry (who’s still very much righteously indignant at everyone). Finn takes Sunshine on a date to Breadstix anyway.
Kurt rewards Lauren with a slushie--the kind still in its original cup--for her extremely badass rapping skills, and then gets the hell out of dodge before she can start asking awkward questions about why Blaine and Rachel didn’t perform and looking at Kurt like she already knows the answers, and just why did he insist on ‘Love The Way You Lie’, anyway?
Time goes by, life goes on. Noah gets out of juvie and Artie ends up thrusting him upon the McKinley High Asian Students Society (Membership: four) to help him get his grades up enough so he doesn’t end up expelled. Rachel breaks down in an overdramatic way and then enlists Lauren’s help in getting Blaine to be her actual boyfriend.
Santana gets shoved into lockers by Quinn Fabray hard enough to bruise right through her jeans twelve times in one week.
It’s not like anybody cares. It’s not like anybody would do anything about it if they did.
What’s Noah going to do, hit a girl? Santana fights her own damn battles, thank you very much, even if her best friend ever would take her side in a fight against his probably-babymama. Noah still thinks what’s going on with Quinn is his fault.
Zizes could pound Quinn into the pavement but she doesn’t give a crap about Santana. Artie and Mercedes might do something about her if they could, which they can’t, if they didn’t decide they wanted to save her again. There’s Hummel, maybe, as if Santana would ever go to Ice King Hummel for help on anything without knowing what the cost would be or whether he’d just laugh in her face.
Basically, Santana’s alone. And it’s fine, whatever, she’s been alone since seventh grade when she was stupid enough to tell her then-best friend about the dreams she was having about Nicole Kidman, it’s not even new. She keeps a spare change of clothes or two in her locker for the slushies, she knows how to keep her head down so the ice doesn’t get down her cleavage too much, and the calendar in her locker’s been counting off the days until graduation since the second week of freshman year. She’s more than halfway done now. She’s good to go.
It’s just that she and Quinn were something almost, a little bit, like friends once, last year while Quinn was pregnant. And the way Quinn’s been harassing her lately...it just doesn’t feel like the way the other skanks screw with their victims, is all. Quinn keeps stepping a little too close, staring at Santana a little too long. She thinks she’s even caught Quinn staring at her in the girls’ locker room once or twice, and usually nobody in there even dares acknowledge that Lezzy Lopez even exists. It’s weird. It gets under Santana’s skin. It’s just creepy, okay?
So fine, Zizes thinks Santana should go cut a bunch of classes she doesn’t pay attention in anyway and go stalk the Crawford County Keynotes, what the fuck ever. She can do that.
She has to raid Rachel’s wardrobe to get the skirt--Santana would ask why Rachel doesn’t just go herself, since she’s obviously already got the uniform right there, but apparently miss Rachel Berry is just too iconic to pass unrecognized. All right, Santana gets the picture.
It’s hard to feel fierce and self-assured in a pleated skirt and a dainty headband, but Santana does her best. It gets her in the front door without a problem. There isn’t even a glaring hall monitor making sure you sign in at the front door of this school. All the halls are gleaming tile and endless dark wood trim. It’s hard to feel fierce and self-assured around decor like this at all.
Still, she’s Santana Lopez, and she can still feel fiercer than that girl. The blonde one, standing in the middle of the hallway sort of gazing off into space. Sure, she looks a little like she won’t be able to help Santana figure out where these Keynote bitches are practicing anyway, but if that’s true then she probably also won’t notice that the plaid on Santana’s skirt is a completely different color than everybody else’s anyway.
“Scuse me?” Santana says, and the blonde turns around. Santana has to stop a little in her tracks, then.
She’s beautiful. Damnit, just the bright, friendly smile that lights up her whole face is more welcoming than anything Santana’s seen in her so-called glee club in months. And that’s besides the fact that she is independently, objectively gorgeous. Santana’s mouth goes a little dry.
“Hey,” she says. “I’m new here.”
“Welcome to Crawford,” says the blonde. “I’m Brittany.”
“Santana,” says Santana, and holds out her hand. Brittany’s palm is dry under hers, the bones in her fingers delicate. She never wants to let go.
Somebody has to protect Finn Hudson from himself. Once upon a time, that person was Lauren Zizes, but now that their parents are getting married in a matter of weeks, it’s become increasingly a job for Kurt.
Blaine and Finn like each other. They flop down in Kurt’s bedroom like a spaniel next to a great big golden retriever, and tell stories about their days, and grin a lot. Kurt would really like to maintain at least eighty to ninety percent of full bitch capacity on such afternoons, but it’s hard, in the face of a pair of puppies like that.
Inevitably he ends up splayed out on the bed in between them while they talk about this week’s assignment in glee club, math homework, and everything else under the sun. It’s warm, even as November slides towards winter, and Kurt’s room usually smells like cinnamon but pressed close like this there’s also the scent of Blaine’s aftershave and Finn’s soap, and something subtly pleasant underneath that he almost recognizes from some of those times with Blaine.
Those times have been happening less and less lately, though, because Blaine is dating Rachel Berry as though he actually means it, and apparently that means he doesn’t need “helping out” any more. Now he and Finn lay around and talk about their girlfriends while Kurt rolls his eyes and tries not to puke.
On one hand, there’s the fact that Sunshine comes up approximately to Finn’s waist, she knows more about things like cyclones and ancient history than any American TV show of the past ten years, and every time Finn starts going on about her Kurt suspects just a little more that Finn would much rather be Sunshine Corazon than date her. On the other hand, there’s the fact that Rachel Berry is the single most obnoxious girl in all of McKinley High, she wears sweaters with unironic animal prints on them, and every time Blaine starts going on about her Kurt suspects just a little more that Blaine doesn’t care.
It’s miserable. Kurt really doesn’t know how he’s going to survive.
Here are some things that Santana Lopez learns about Brittany S. Pierce during the first few weeks of meeting her:
She’s a natural blonde. Santana doesn’t know this from experience, or anything, but Brittany offers the info a propos of nothing, and Santana files it away to think about later.
She’s been at Crawford County Day School for one and a half years. She’s old enough to be a junior, but she had to repeat freshman year.
The other Crawford Keynotes can’t seem to decide whether she’s an adorable fluffy mascot or some sage mystic that ought to be sitting on a mountain somewhere, dispensing cryptic advice that they all fall all over themselves to follow.
It’s not some cryptic metaphor. She really does think the moon is made of cheese.
She’s the single kindest, most nonjudgmental individual that Santana has ever met in her life, and Santana would follow her to Tierra Del Fuego on foot just to see her smile like that.
She’s at Crawford because, in her freshman year in public school, some guys caught her kissing another girl behind the gymnasium at the Spring Fling and beat them up so bad Brittany had had to miss school for the rest of the year.
Here are some things that Santana Lopez learns about Quinn Fabray during those same weeks:
She can walk almost silently. Santana doesn’t know if that’s from training for a year under Sue Sylvester or just from being Quinn, but it’s sort of terrifying either way.
She doesn’t really carry razorblades in her hair. She keeps them tucked beneath her wide leather wrist cuffs.
The entire faculty at McKinley High, from Mr. Schuester to Miss Pillsbury on up, still feels guilty about how last year turned out for Quinn and is willing to excuse her almost anything because they think it’s their fault.
She tastes like cigarettes and spearmint gum, and kisses like an invading army.
When she issues death threats, she’ll break into your car and leave you presents just to prove she means it.
She’s the most dangerous person in all McKinley high, because she’s already lost everything in the world but her pride, and she’s got nothing left to lose.
Some things that Santana Lopez learns about herself these weeks are:
She really can still cry. In public, even. It just takes the first person who’s ever seemed to understand where she’s coming from in her entire life to act like they actually care.
Maybe she can stand to sit through Justin Bieber, if it’s done by a really hot blonde chick who’s singing like she means every word, and staring right at Santana the entire time.
She can’t take Quinn Fabray in a real fight.
Here’s what Santana learns about her parents:
When she’s got the scratches to prove that she actually is in way more danger than anyone at this fucking school can ever bear to admit, and trying to fight it out sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, they really do care more about her life than money.
Here’s one more thing Santana learns about herself, at the end of all that:
She’s a fucking coward when it comes to things she can’t talk her way out of. Only cowards run, right?
There is nobody at McKinley more dangerous than Quinn Fabray. There is nobody at McKinley more filled with self-loathing, and there is nobody in all of McKinley High more terrified.
It’s getting cold out, so her fall and spring home under the bleachers is starting to ice over; it’s one thing to have to put on a coat to go take a cigarette break, it’s another to have to stand around that way for hours just to skip a class. She’s taken to actually going to her classes again, something she hasn’t done regularly since the beginning of last year, before her ever-widening girth gave her an excuse to spend all afternoon in the nurse’s office and a reason to want to try.
It means she has to walk through halls thronging with other students, ones that get out of her way when they see her coming, ones that spent all last year whispering behind her back. She has to deal with teachers’ eyes on her when half the class has a hand raised. The old Quinn would have been up at the front of the classroom in seconds. And all the teachers, with all their pitying, pleading looks just keep waiting for her to be that girl again.
Well Quinn can’t and Quinn won’t. It’s all she can do to keep her head above water, okay? It’s all she can do to keep the rest of the skanks in line behind her, to avoid her alcoholic mother, to not get kicked out of her house again only this time she’d have nowhere to go. It’s all she can do to keep guys like Karofsky and Azimio more afraid of her than they are jeering.
(It’s all she can do to know, no matter what she did last year, no matter if she’s a slut, a whore, if she steals and lies and dishonors her parents and takes the name of the Lord in fucking vain, no matter if she presses Santana Lopez up against the lockers in a deserted hallway and waves one of her wristcuff razor blades under her nose...those are things she chose. Those are all actions. Quinn chose to be like this, she chose to be sinful and miserable, if she were stronger she could choose to repent it all and God would take her back, but it’s not who she is. Quinn wasn’t born a failure. She wasn’t born wrong. She’s a fuckup and a sinner and it’s all on her filthy sinner’s soul, but it was all a choice.)
(The way Santana felt, when Quinn shoved her up against those lockers...that’s not a choice. That’s a wrongness that Quinn cannot, will not allow. Not even her.)
So Quinn is a liar and a thief and a whore, she’s Eve herself, and what do whores do? They have sex with men. That’s what makes a whore, that’s what they do, and it’s the first thing that started Quinn down this path to the dark, cold cave beneath the bleachers, but maybe she hasn’t been living up to the title well enough.
(Maybe that’s why Santana. That’s why the smell of skin and soap, the softness of her chest against Quinn’s forearm...Quinn lost control, that’s all. That’s why.)
Quinn wouldn’t go near Noah Puckerman right now with a ten-foot restraining order, and Kurt...he’s too smart for her own good. He’d start thinking he knew things, expecting things...no. There’s only one boy at this school Quinn can use right now.
Finn has a girlfriend, but so what? He’d been on the edge of dating Rachel Berry when Quinn coaxed him into the hot tub with her last year. He’d been supposedly dating her when she caught him making out with Rachel at that stupid party, the one where Noah Puckerman found Quinn getting drunk and then took her into the back bedroom like some kind of gentleman or something. Finn’s a cheater. If he weren’t a cheater, Quinn wouldn’t be dragging him down beneath the bleachers with her, breath fogging in the air between them until she pulls him down by the shoulders and closes their lips together.
Kurt Hummel gives people what they want. Ask anybody in McKinley. It’s his not-so-secret super power. Kurt Hummel can somehow, always, give you exactly what you want.
Even if you didn’t know you wanted it. Even if you didn’t ask for it, or wouldn’t have if you’d known you could, even if it was a want you knew better than to ever act on...sometimes, just because he can, Kurt Hummel will do that for you.
He introduced Rachel Berry to Jesse St. James, after all, didn’t he? He made over Lauren Zizes for Homecoming until she looked like a queen. He made sure Quinn Fabray was absolutely convinced, that night in the back of his Navigator, that she was desirable.
He makes no guarantees as to the consequences. Kurt just does favors for people. He doesn’t make any promises that they’ll last.
Blaine’s greatest dream involves a white picket fence, a two-car garage, and total, comfortable, domestic safety. Kurt can’t get him the house or the car or the life or the career in music or the big fluffy dog, not yet, but he can make sure Blaine survives long enough to get there, and he’s been working on that full time for years. He maybe overlooked the part of that dream that involved an actual spouse, not just an artistically placed wedding ring. It looks like Blaine’s found somebody to take care of that part of his dream himself, though, if the past two months and the New Directions Christmas skating party are any indication, so Kurt just won’t worry about that part.
It’s Christmas. Kurt’s best friend is happy. In fact, it has Kurt in the magnanimous sort of mood. There are all sorts of people around him with unfulfilled dreams he could do something about.
For instance, Kurt happens to know for a fact that his stepbrother has dreams of a world where he isn’t, once again, cheating on his girlfriend. It’s almost ironic, seeing as how Sunshine has dreams of a world where her boyfriend would actually rather be with her than McKinley’s resident Queen of the Underworld. Artie has dreams of a girlfriend who looks like a video game character, is willing to listen to him going on about video game characters, and doesn’t make damn sure she’s in charge at least fifty percent of the time. Mercedes dreams of being able to stay upright on ice skates.
It’s not hard to arrange for at least three out of four of those to come to pass. He just has to get the girls to take Sunshine shopping. Kurt’s been the designated shopping companion for most of the girls of his acquaintance for years. He’ll carry bags without complaint, make them feel sexy in what they’re trying on, and sometimes he’ll spring for an extra purchase or two. He always makes excellent suggestions.
Sunshine, it turns out, is more than pretty underneath those giant glasses of hers. She’s gorgeous. Like a short, Asian nerd stereotype of a hot girl, in fact. She makes Artie’s eyes pop open when he sees her.
“You and Mercedes aren’t in love, you know,” Kurt tells Artie companionably in the library that afternoon. “Why are you still together? The sake of the glee club? We’re not the children of a messy divorce, we’ll survive. You’re a junior in high school. Why shouldn’t you get what you want?”
In the end, everybody gets what they want. Finn gets to continue his shameful, clandestine meetings with Quinn with a clear conscience, Sunshine gets a boyfriend who can’t stop looking at her, Artie gets a girl who’s polite enough not to stop him when he’s talking, and Mercedes gets to storm around in full dramatic ire for a week and a half before Kurt takes her out and buys her dinner at Breadstix.
In fact, even Kurt gets what he wants, in the end. Blaine is exploring the world of monogamy? Kurt can do the same. Mercedes has always been an excellent date.
The glee club is almost--though not quite--popular at McKinley High. Mr. Schuester doesn’t really help, but before she threw her lot in with the glee kids, Mercedes Jones was one of the most popular girls in school. People like her. They don’t fear her, but they’ve always liked her, and it’s easier to look past some of the glee club’s crazier stunts for that.
It’s popular enough that when Santana defects to the world where dreams and lesbian porn movies are made, and Mr. Schue sends Lauren out recruiting, she comes back with the actual quarterback of the football team. Sam Evans is new this year. He’s got a pretty good singing voice. He plays guitar, so it’s enough for the rest of the kids to like him.
Sam’s got his own problems, not that he has any inclination to talk about them to this bunch of freaks and crazies. His parents’ finances are starting to run kind of low. Still, the singing helps.
Brittany S. Pierce is amazing, fantastical, gorgeous, funny, an amazing singer and dancer, and in her own way, completely brilliant. Santana is head over heels.
Which is kind of a problem, because Brittany can apparently friendzone like nobody’s business. Valentine’s Day? After Santana drops about a bazillion hints and spends two weeks trying to figure out what Brittany wants, apparently Valentine’s Day is all about serenading some assistant manager at H&M with a Selena Gomez song. That takes, like, two pints of ice cream with Noah and Mercedes to get over. Apparently Mercedes misses Santana enough to want to help check up on her sometimes. It’s surprisingly nice.
And after that, there’s the booze-fueled New Directions party in Berry’s basement, where Santana finally gets a good look at the new kid they found to replace her, and Brittany decides the new kid is her damn soul mate. He and Brittany are going to have beautiful blonde babies together being just as straight as the straightest, most perfectly Scandanavian all-American couple could ever hope to be.
It’s not all about Brittany. It’s learning to cut her way through the gossip and tiny, innocent-seeming little lies of the other Keynotes, how to mourn the Christmastime death of their canary mascot properly when nobody in the world Santana’s really cared about has ever died before. It’s the sheer overwhelming terror of the first time Santana sets foot back in McKinley doors for the New Directions benefit concert to get them to Regionals. There’s Quinn Fabray in the hallways, Karofsky and Azimio sitting in the audience heckling like some kind of high school Statler and Waldorf, and Brittany right behind her, reaching up to squeeze her hand, reminding Santana of what she has to be brave for.
It’s about the Head Council’s sudden conviction that the only way to win at Regionals is to completely swamp the judges with their overwhelming power of sexy. It’s about every baggy, high-necked dyke cliche of a shirt Santana ever wore to school before she made it to Crawford, just to maybe keep a few of the eyes off of her. It’s about the fact that Quinn Fabray wasn’t even the fiftieth person to stare at Santana in the hall, to push up too close to her like maybe Santana just needed a little taste of dick to teach her a lesson. Quinn was just the first person who Santana was supposed to be actually attracted to who made her skin crawl like that.
Santana doesn’t like being looked at, okay? She’s spent her whole life in Lima. She’s just lucky the boys never got up the guts to go too far beyond looking. So maybe Santana understands why everybody thinks lesbians just hold hands and cuddle all night.
It’s the first time Brittany’s ever not been able to get it. Brittany can hike up her uniform skirt to halfway up her thighs, can spend a whole week making out with Sam Evans before she decides she’s not that into guys after all, and shrug the whole thing off just like that. It’s like Brittany’s never been scared before, and Santana knows that can’t be true, but if not then why...
Crawford’s got a permanent sub for Health class this quarter. Santana’s heard the vice principal and the dean got into a total shouting match over whether to fire her the second week of classes for actually putting sex ed on the syllabus. Santana’s not in health class this year, but Brittany is--Nikki and Jess whispered something about the Keynotes banding together to get her schedule switched after they realized Brittany still thought babies came from storks.
And Brittany just can’t let anything go, she’d be the best friend Santana ever had if Santana could just stop wanting to kiss her so badly, Brittany can’t ever just drop things. Which is how they end up peeking tentatively around the doorway of the health classroom, Brittany holding Santana firmly in place by her wrist.
“Miss Holiday?” Brittany asks. “I think my friend needs to talk to you.”
Blaine Anderson is cheating on his girlfriend.
It’s not Rachel’s fault. It’s not. Blaine loves her completely. She is so, so passionate about everything she cares about, from glee club to her future to trying to talk him into giving up meat. Rachel has dreams. She wants, without shame, or hesitation, or anything that Blaine’s used to associating with desire.
Rachel wants Blaine. She holds his arm in the hallways, she sings to him in glee club, and she’s never once hesitated to kiss him in public.
Rachel is perfect. They could have a real future together. But here Blaine is, in his bedroom again, watching Kurt pull his pants back together so casually they may as well have spent the past twenty minutes playing video games instead of the panting, gasping grinding that’s still got Blaine laying dazed on the bedspread.
It’s not ‘just two friends helping each other out’, not when Blaine knows Rachel would kill him if she ever knew. This is not anything easy or meaningless, or Blaine would have no problem giving it up. Blaine just doesn’t know what it is.
This isn’t what love is supposed to be, these sordid little run-ins hidden away from both of their girlfriends and everybody else in the world. Blaine loves Rachel. This is so much more twisted, more complicated, and Blaine is getting tired of all the confusion and guilt.
When Blaine lets himself actually sit down and think words that Kurt’s rules for being safe won’t even admit exist, he keeps landing on ‘bisexual’. Guys aren’t supposed to be, but maybe that’s just more rules. Kurt would say that he only has any interest in labels when he’s buying clothes to impress a girl, but maybe Blaine needs some, these days.
“Kurt,” says Blaine, interrupting the slightly rambling scathing assessment of this week’s glee club assignment. “What are we doing here?”
Kurt stops, raises his eyebrows. “How do you mean?”
“I mean when Rachel and I have sex, it ends in cuddling and talking about our feelings,” says Blaine. “When we--”
“It’s not sex, Blaine,” Kurt interrupts, rolling his eyes. “But why am I not surprised you and Rachel Berry have sex like a couple at the end of a Hallmark movie? She probably calls it ‘making love’, too, doesn’t she?”
“Well maybe it is,” says Blaine. “But I’m still here, doing this with you, even though I don’t know what you’d call it--”
“Breaking up the monotony of the evening,” says Kurt.
“I just know that this...relationship that we have, it’s really confusing for me,” Blaine says, sitting up and trying to look just a little more pitiful.
“Breakfast is confusing for you,” says Kurt. “Last week you spent four days in a deep ethical and philosophical quagmire over whether it was all right to eat bacon.”
“I want to talk to somebody about this, Kurt,” says Blaine. “Somebody who’s a real adult and maybe actually knows about things like sex and relationships.”
“Where in Lima are you going to find one of those?” Kurt scoffs. Blaine glances down.
“Well, there is one person who keeps telling us both to come to him if we ever need to talk...” He glances up. Kurt’s frozen like a statue at the foot of the bed.
“No,” he says. “No, no, not if the sun explodes and we’re nothing but talking specks of charred dust, no. I am not telling him about this. Not ever.”
“It would be okay, Kurt,” Blaine says wearily, but Kurt’s shaking his head.
“You don’t know that. You start explaining what we do here and people will think things, Blaine, and he can’t, I can’t...”
“Fine,” Blaine says, slumping defeated against the pillows. “I won’t make you. I promise not to tell anybody about what we do like this.”
“Good,” says Kurt.
So Blaine can’t involve Kurt in any advice he gets, but he needs something. There’s still only one man Blaine’s seen be there for them again and again, no matter how assholish they were acting or what else was going on in his own life, and Blaine’s sick of turning him down. He’ll just...talk around the Kurt bits.
“Mr. Hummel?” Blaine asks tentatively, coming into the middle of the familiar garage. Burt Hummel glances up from an engine. “Can I talk to you about some stuff?”
(On the other side of town, Quinn Fabray and Finn Hudson have silent, secretive sex, always filthy and ashamed by the end of it, always coming back anyway.
They barely acknowledge Finn’s dick after they get their underwear off. It’s present in the room, so all parties involved can feel safe in the fact that this is completely heterosexual sex. One person has a vagina, one person has a penis, all conditions have been met and all the rules have been followed. There’s nothing saying they have to deal with it, beyond that. Finn’s just gotten very good at eating girls out, that’s all. Quinn doesn’t want another pregnancy scare.
There’s so much history packed between them, but that very first time, when Quinn pulled Finn under the bleachers and kissed him, she leaned in to his ear just to whisper, “Just pretend you’re somebody else.” So they do.
Finn pretends he’s shorter, less awkward, maybe graceful like Tina, or, or Kurt or Mike Chang. Pretends he knows what he’s doing. Quinn pretends Finn is softer around the edges and smells more like somebody else’s raspberry-scented body wash, and that she’s some other person altogether. That she’s not even here.)
(Everybody in glee club is paired off, besides Noah, and the new kid, and Zizes. Tina and Mike are perfect, Blaine and Rachel are cloying, Kurt and Mercedes seem to forget they’re dating each other for days at a time.
Artie and Sunshine manage nearly a month and a half before, with Kurt no longer paying attention to either of them, they have to face the realization that they have about as much chemistry between them as a wet toad. It falls apart pretty quickly after that.
Noah Puckerman, with his shaved head and his shitty part-time job, is still, as he has ever been, the dirt under this whole damn school’s collective shoe. Someday, he’s going to kill that Hummel kid, just for having every damn thing in the world that Noah never had, and not caring.
Everybody in the school knows that Quinn and Finn are fucking. Everybody.)
“Hey, no,” Miss Holliday says encouragingly. “Sex isn’t supposed to be scary.” She made them pull a couple of desks up close to hers, and now they’re sitting cross-legged on top of them, Santana, Brittany, and Miss Holliday in a circle so that both of them can look at Santana and judge her for being a freak. “Yeah, it’s messy, and it’s awkward, and it can be kind of embarrassing, but if somebody’s getting hurt you’re doing it wrong.” She pauses for a second. “Or very, very right, but only within predetermined limits if you’ve both agreed on a safe word.”
“Well yeah, but what if I don’t want to have sex?” Santana asks, ignoring that last bit for now. “What if I don’t want all these guys looking at me wanting things that I don’t want to give them?”
“But Santana, of course people are going to look at you,” says Brittany. “You’re beautiful.”
It’s not the first time Brittany’s called Santana beautiful but it’s the first time it’s made her want to shrink away and hide this badly. She doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want any of it.
Girls were supposed to be different, all soft and not terrifying like every guy in the halls who’s ever made her into a piece of meat. But Santana’s only been kissed by a girl one time, and it felt the same. It felt exactly the same as Dave Karofsky grabbing her ass in the lunch room or Kurt Hummel telling her that her tits looked hot in the shirt she was wearing with a leer like only basic etiquette was keeping him from fondling them right in the choir room.
“Then you say no,” says Miss Holliday. “Look. All those people...they don’t matter. They’re gonna be there whether you have sex or not, no matter what you wear, no matter how you act.”
“Well that makes me feel better,” Santana grumbles. “Look, I don’t know what kind of students you’re used to working with? But in this part of Ohio the boys aren’t that big on taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
“I’m not saying it’s not scary, or that you shouldn’t be careful around them,” Miss Holliday says. “What I’m saying is, sex can be an amazing, awesome thing. And if you let them take that away from you, if you let being afraid of them stop you from having all the good stuff sex can mean? Then that’s when they win, honey. When you think you’ve got to stop getting what you want for you.”
Santana has to take some deep breaths. Brittany’s just watching her, head cocked to one side, smile all patient and encouraging, and Santana wonders, for a minute, how Brittany could not get it. Sam Evans wasn’t the first boy who ever kissed her, she said, and she went through almost a whole year in public high school before making it to Crawford, and there are things that Brittany just doesn’t say about her past, sometimes, that Santana’s brain tells her should be there.
It’s scary. It’s all just, really scary.
“You’ve spent a lot of time worried about what other people might want from you,” says Miss Holliday, sympathy clear in her voice. “Don’t you think you deserve to worry about what you want for yourself?”
“All right, sit down,” says Burt, because Carole is at work and Finn is off doing things that mean he really needs to have this conversation twice this week. “It’s time we had The Talk.”
Kurt, in the middle of settling into a chair at the dining room table, freezes and lifts his eyebrows. “I already know how sex works, Dad.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.” Burt could really wish he wasn’t so sure, but he’s making up for lost time now, or something. “And I’d better keep being sure you know about staying away from STD’s, or how not to end up getting a girl pregnant like your friend Quinn, or that condoms are only about ninety-five percent effective if you use them properly. I swung by the free clinic and got you some refresher pamphlets.” He slides them over the table.
Kurt flips through the pamphlets and freezes at the last two. “These are about gay sex, Dad.”
(Blaine looking earnestly over the engine of a car, saying, “When we were in seventh grade, a couple of guys called me a homo in the lunch room. I didn’t even know how to react, but Kurt somehow got us both dates with two of the most popular girls in school, and he made sure none of the other girls would go near those guys for the rest of the school year.”)
“I know,” says Burt.
(The look on Laura’s face when they read Kurt’s Christmas list the year he was three. The look on Laura’s face when she glanced over to share the laughter with Burt and saw the expression he was wearing.)
“I don’t--” Kurt starts blustering, but Burt raises a hand to cut him off.
“Look me in the eyes and tell me you’ve never gotten drunk and started fooling around with one of your guy friends before,” he says, and Kurt swallows and looks down.
(The stains on the laundry that Burt stopped being allowed to do when Kurt turned twelve, when he glanced at it anyway. The noises from the basement or behind the closed bedroom door that he never knocked on.)
“It doesn’t mean anything,” says Kurt. “It’s just a couple of guys helping each other out.”
“Oh yeah?” says Burt. “Maybe so.”
(Blaine, finishing up the most meandering speech Burt has ever heard, with a hard swallow and, “I think I’m in love with your son.”)
“But Kurt, I’ve gotta tell you,” says Burt. “I don’t care whether it’s guys, girls, or aliens from Mars, but we are way overdue for a talk on how you treat people, how you treat sex, with anybody.”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Kurt repeats stiffly, and Burt sighs.
“That’s where you’re wrong, kiddo,” he says. “It means a lot.”
(That conversation with Carole, last spring, about Quinn Fabray, when he finally found out all about that Noah Puckerman kid. The way Kurt’s told him almost nothing about the thing even now, and that little moment of relief when Burt heard the whole story, that Kurt had nothing to do with it at all.)
“You may not want to admit it,” says Burt. “Lots of guys don’t. But sex does something to you. To your head. To your heart. Maybe you think it’s all just harmless fun, and fine, it’s fun, but I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve known get in way over their heads with some girl, when they only ever planned on having a little bit of fun.”
“But that’s not going to happen to me, Dad,” says Kurt.
(The way Kurt lights up when Blaine enters a room, the way he talks to that new girlfriend of his, the way Mercedes’ eyes follow him everywhere and he almost never looks back.)
“Oh yeah?” Burt asks. “Did you ever think about what you might be doing to them? To those girls who do understand that sex means something, and decided to share that something with you?” Kurt shrugs a little. “Kurt, sex is just about the most intimate thing you can do with another person. You’re laying your whole body out there for somebody else, and they’re doing the same thing for you. And if you can go through that and not feel any kind of connection at all? Then I’ve got to tell you, kid, I worry about you.”
(The three different women before Carole, after Laura died. How weirdly light and hollow he felt after the first one, the one he’d barely looked at the whole time. How calm and almost-okay after the other two, because even if he would never see them again it was enough just to have those moments of knowing somebody understood, of not being alone.)
“Nobody’s getting hurt,” Kurt says.
“You know, right up through seventh grade I was convinced you were gay,” Burt says. “Just waiting for you to tell me. And then all of a sudden you start bringing home these girls, and was I a little relieved? Just a little bit? You bet.”
“Well I’m glad I lived up to your standards, then,” Kurt says stiffly.
“I’m not finished,” says Burt.
(Every single goddamn news report and Youtube video from last October, because even though Burt couldn’t be sure of anything one way or the other any more, didn’t mean he didn’t still watch.)
“I figured, hey. This way my kid’ll be safer. This way my kid’ll have an easier chance of getting through life in Lima, Ohio without worrying about all the things that would’ve made his life so much harder if he were gay.”
(Those PFLAG pamphlets Burt’s had in the back of his closet since Kurt was ten years old.)
“What I forgot,” Burt continues, “is that life is hard no matter who you are. Has going around dating girls made your life easier than it would’ve been if you were dating boys? Sure. Maybe. But on the other hand you’re going around sleeping with girls you don’t care anything about, lying to me, lying to you brother and stepmother, and the only person in the whole world you seem to really trust is your best friend.”
“Is this a sex talk, or a lecture?” Kurt asks. “Should I be apologizing for turning out straight?”
(Kurt is probably never going to forgive Blaine for this, if he realizes why they’re having this talk. Burt almost can’t blame him. If he were any other asshole dad in Lima, Ohio, this discussion would be going a whole lot differently.)
“No,” says Burt. “I don’t need any kind of apology. What I need is to know that you know that what you’re doing matters. The people you’re doing it with, they matter. And Kurt, the things you want, the things you’re feeling--you matter. You matter way too much to go throwing yourself around like you don’t.”
(“Hey Blaine,” Burt asked across the hood of the car, the whirring and clanking of the garage covering their conversation from everyone else. “All these feelings you’re talking about. Kurt know about them?”
Blaine paused, and glanced over to his left, and straightened his shoulders. “He has no idea,” he said. “It’s just me. Not him at all.”
Burt hasn’t made it this far as Kurt Hummel’s dad by not being able to tell when a teenage boy is lying to protect somebody.)
“Can I go now?” asks Kurt. He brings the pamphlets when Burt waves him away.
Santana Lopez breaks things. It’s her not-so-secret super power. Ask anybody at McKinley. Just walking into a room is enough to kill all conversation. She got April Rhodes kicked out, didn’t she? She completely destroyed Quinn Fabray’s happy little ‘let’s play house’ life plans with Finn Hudson just by opening her mouth to the wrong person at the wrong time and unleashing all the fury of Babygate parts 1, 3, and 4. Mike and Tina almost broke up just dancing backup for her last fall.
She’s been on her best behavior since her first day at Crawford, though. This is her best chance to actually get out of here. This is a place where Santana is actually safe. This is a place where she’s got friends who are actually girls. This is where Brittany is.
So, no swearing, no drinking, no smoking, no cutting classes,no mouthing off to authority figures. No getting into fights with the other Keynotes, especially the girls on the council, about how all-girls’ schools are apparently some kind of hotbed for gossipy backstabbing drama. No making waves. No shoving her sexuality down anyone’s throat. Santana has a uniform now. It’s good at anonymity. She should use it. Right?
So five months in, what’s that gotten her? Santana’s got a club full of so-called friends who apparently can’t keep each others’ secrets for ten seconds to save their lives, a permanent spot on the left side of the second row of the formation backing Brittany while she sings lead, and a best friend who wouldn’t look at Santana like an actual romantic possibility if they were the last two lesbians on earth.
McKinley was hell, but at least it was home. Santana misses game nights with her boys. She misses lunch with Noah in whatever emptiest corner of the cafeteria they could find, not saying anything except for low snarky remarks about every person to walk past. She misses feeling like she could just say whatever she was thinking, instead of reminding herself to bite her tongue over things she’s not prepared to lie about. She wants a goddamn drink. And maybe Santana never got solos in New Directions, either, but at least they never sang any fucking Justin Bieber.
“Don’t you think you deserve to worry about what you want for yourself?” Miss Holliday had asked.
“Look, can we just cut the crap?” Santana says, standing up. Every head in the room swivels to look at her.
“I know that this whole ‘assigning solos based on who stabbed your best friend’s second cousin in the back in kindergarten’ thing is how the Keynotes do it, and I respect that, but if we actually do that setlist at Regionals, New Directions is going to kick our asses so hard we won’t be able to show our faces outside the rehearsal room for a week,” she says.
“Santana, I don’t know how they did things at your old school, but the Keynotes don’t have any space for that kind of attitude in our meetings,” says Dana, straightening in her chair behind the council table. It’s basically what Santana’s been figuring since day one, but you know what? Fuck it. They can’t kick her out of Crawford for getting into an argument with the glee club.
“I thought these meetings were about making sure the Keynotes do well,” Santana says. “I want that just as much as any one of you. I care more about that than the fact that Nikki stole Wendy’s boyfriend in the seventh grade and that’s why she never gets the solos.”
“That’s ridiculous,” sputters Wendy, reaching for her gavel, but Thea raises a hand to stop her.
“What do you suggest then, Santana?” asks Thea.
“I want to audition,” Santana says. “A real, open audition, in front of the whole club, not something behind closed doors that only the council gets to hear. And whether I’m good enough to sing it or not, I think the Keynotes should do something at Regionals that won’t have anybody in that audience thinking we’re a bunch of innocent schoolgirls with all the emotional depth and range of a whole flock of baby kittens.”
It’s the moment of truth. It ought to get her kicked out of the club, if Brittany doesn’t say something. And Brittany’s just sitting there, and if this doesn’t work the next few months are going to kind of suck here, but if Santana doesn’t do this then they’d kind of suck anyway. She doesn’t need the Keynotes to be okay here. She needs to stop feeling like she’s hiding who she is all the time. Santana’s never done closeted real well.
“I think Santana should get to try out,” says Brittany. It’s expected, sticking up for your best friend like that, but nobody in the club is going to argue with Brittany Pierce. Not even Santana.
She doesn’t look at Brittany while she sings. ‘Out Here On My Own’ is a hard enough song, and Santana hasn’t had a whole lot of practice by herself in front of a whole group lately. Santana belts out “baby be strong for me, baby belong to me,” in a voice that could rival Mercedes Jones or Rachel Berry any day of the week, and does not check to see if Brittany is looking back.
Blaine Anderson loves his girlfriend. He brings Rachel coffee every morning for almost three weeks, and she slips her hand into his and they walk down the hall together. She babbles on about glee club, and doesn’t look at him funny when he joins her in enthusing about Andrew Lloyd Webber, or romantic tearjerkers from the 1980s. Whatever he may feel for Kurt, he knows that he at least loves her, so he hasn’t been with Kurt in any capacity since his talk with Mr. Hummel.
Blaine is not, he’s discovered, a naturally deceitful kind of guy. Can he date a beautiful girl he’s definitely attracted to, and just never mention to anyone that his eyes sometimes wander in the locker room after PE? Yeah, he can manage that. It’s not anybody’s business, and Rachel doesn’t have to know. Can he keep carrying out some kind of clandestine affair with his best friend and never tell anyone? No. Not any more.
They haven’t talked, really, since Blaine talked to Mr. Hummel. Blaine had half-expected Kurt to show up for school the next Monday with murder on his face, but instead he’s been quieter than ever before, contemplative. They pass in the halls and nod at each other in glee club and somehow just...don’t quite talk, ever. They’re too busy with rehearsals for Regionals to be spending much time at each other’s houses anyway.
Almost a week after the last time they’d done more than meet each others’ eyes and look away, Kurt picks up his guitar and walks up to the front of the choir room. He doesn’t really introduce anything, just sits on one of the stools and lays the guitar across his lap. It’s a sweet, well-kept little acoustic, something Kurt bought in the eighth grade when he decided that if he couldn’t help being musical, at least he’d do it in a way that was historically good for getting girls. Blaine’s heard Kurt play that guitar a hundred thousand times.
Kurt glances up and meets Blaine’s eyes for, “mirror in the sky, what is love,” and drops them back down until “I built my life around you.” Blaine has to drop Rachel’s hand. His palms are sweaty and his stomach is roiling, and Kurt is looking right at him with every single word.
Blaine means to dawdle after glee club, but he’s supposed to be having dinner tonight with Rachel and her dads, and she tugs him out to the parking lot almost as soon as the last note’s been sung.
Kurt doesn’t call that night, or come looking for him at school the next day. Blaine finally gets up whatever guts he needs to IM his own best friend on Friday night, and they spend half an hour talking about trigonometry and the party Mandy Lewis is having on Saturday. Blaine can questions ready to pour out right from his fingertips. Why did you sing that song to me. What do you want from me. What did your father say to you, even, only it’s clear Kurt is still talking to him, so that’s the last thing Blaine wants to bring up.
In the end, Blaine can’t make himself type any of it. He fishes for his cell phone on the floor next to his bed, and calls Rachel instead.
Brittany leads a whole group number at Regionals to Selena Gomez’s ‘Who Says?’, and Santana does a solo on Amy Winehouse, and if the judges hadn’t been a tee-totaling Tea Partier and a crazy nun with a grudge against the Disney Channel, they would’ve won. Santana’s still going to pay for that back at school.
New Directions slushies the entire audience in confetti. Nobody gets it except for Santana, who squeezes the hand Brittany placed over hers on the arm rest.
The bus ride back to school is full of quiet grumbling, girls bitching about elbow room and iPods. Santana sits in the back leaning her head against the window, wishing she’d gotten a chance to do more than just wave Noah hello and goodbye, that she’d seen more of Mercedes than a quick thumbs up and a wink while the Keynotes were filing onstage.
It isn’t a total loss, though, because Brittany grabs her hand as soon as they’re back inside Crawford and tugs her down the kind of short cut that would take them half an hour longer even if they weren’t stopping in the little alcove across from the stained glass windows in the mosaic hall.
“So I was totally saving this for a reward when we won, but you deserve it anyway,” Brittany says. Santana’s just opening her mouth to ask what Brittany’s talking about, but then there’s a hand on her cheek and a pair of lips soft against hers, tasting like coconut Lip Smackers instead of menthol cigarettes, and oh. Oh. This was maybe worth waiting for after all.
Glee clubs tend to be disproportionately filled with queer youth. That’s the stereotype, right? All the gay kids flock to glee club and theater to sing and emote their little hearts out? The boys, anyway; lesbians are supposed to be something like field hockey, or badminton, but the closest McKinley gets to offering anything like that is the co-ed golf team.
Most of New Directions is straight, if by ‘most’ you mean more than about fifty percent, most of the time. Santana Lopez is gone, which brings the numbers back down, but Blaine Anderson is only going to be able to stay in the closet for so long. Kurt Hummel...he can keep it pushed down as far as it’ll go until he’s ninety, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s gay.
He’s in love with a boy, and the slightest brush of Blaine’s fingertips gives Kurt goosebumps in ways no totally naked girl ever has. He’s in love with a boy who goes wandering the halls of McKinley arm in arm with the single most annoying human being Kurt has ever had chance to meet. He’s in love with a boy, he’s in love with a boy, he’s in love with a boy, and Kurt is going to have to go the rest of his life knowing that this is what love feels like, and he will never be able to fake it with a girl again.
Kurt will never manage normal, in the end. If he can’t fool himself any longer, it’s only a matter of time before he can’t fool somebody else.
Kurt’s been telling himself for the past five years that it’s all been about taking care of Blaine--which maybe should have been a hint all on its own, in retrospect--but maybe it’s always been about protecting himself. Blaine is deliriously happy dating the least popular girl in school. Maybe he never needed anything at all.
(The ratio of secretly queer youth was always a little off in this glee club, particularly back in the first days, when Quinn, Santana, and Finn Hudson would all sit in the back row, barely acknowledging each other. Three lesbians to one gay and one bisexual boy isn’t the usual stereotype for a glee club like this. Maybe it’s McKinley’s fault for not having a field hockey team.)
Kurt puts the last pieces of the puzzle together during what is very nearly the scene of a terribly ugly collision in the east hallway.
He’s supposed to meet Blaine at his locker, but Rachel is already there, and Kurt catches himself at the corner of the T-intersection of the hallway, heart clenched up in his throat, just watching them. Blaine is digging through his locker while Rachel leans against the neighboring one, talking about something at a mile a minute while Blaine just nods along.
It would be hard to miss his stepbrother, towering over the crowd, or Quinn Fabray, stalking through the crowded hallway all in pink and black with a whole ocean of space around her as students part like the Red Sea trying to get out of the way of Sue Sylvester. Yet somehow, despite Finn walking basically three feet behind her on the opposite side of the same hallway, they’re giving off all appearances of having not even noticed each other. Kurt rolls his eyes. Finn needs more practice in the slightly subtler points of subterfuge.
They’re drawing up even with Blaine and Rachel, and Kurt braces himself for a collision of some kind, but Quinn Fabray seems to be feeling magnanimous today. She passes on by, and if Kurt wasn’t so busy watching Quinn and his brother’s eyes to see if they’ll look at each other even once, he’d miss it. Instead, it’s something like a hilarious double-take, Finn on a three-second time delay: each one of them getting up to the exact same point in the hall even with Rachel and Blaine, glancing to the left to check out Rachel’s boobs for the same brief length of moment, and walking on towards the exit that leads to the bleachers.
Kurt ends up frozen in place, blinking at their backs in shock, understanding, and cold schadenfreude amusement. Well doesn’t that just figure.
He can use this for something. He saw Santana with a couple of the other guys at the Lima Bean just last week. She has a dream of coming home. Quinn has a dream of being able to keep terror and respect in the hearts of the student body without having to carry razor blades around everywhere. Kurt, well, he has a dream of being able to orchestrate a misdirection so big he’ll make it through the end of the school year without having to sleep with one more girl, and still keep his masculinity from being questioned.
Finn dreams of the day when somebody will explain the fucked-up mess inside his own head to him so it might actually make sense, but Kurt has every intention of avoiding fulfilling that one by any means necessary. Even Kurt can’t make Finn short or X-chromosomey enough to fix everything that Kurt suspects is going on in there. The least he can do is hope to keep Finn more or less in ignorance of all the things it’s not safe for him to want that he’s never going to get. Finn making it safely through high school is one of Carole’s dreams. Kurt can work with that.
On one hand, Santana has the best girlfriend in the entire world. On the other hand, four and a half months at Crawford have taught her for sure what she’s always pretty much suspected: a whole group of nothing but girls, left unchecked by the sane, straightforward presence of a couple of guys in their midst, will descend into petty cattiness in no time flat.
“We should skip glee club,” she whispers into Brittany’s ear as Britt licks down the line of her jaw towards her throat. “Go out to the soccer field and just make out.”
“Santana, we’ll get in trouble,” Brittany chides, and Santana sighs. Why can’t she just have this? Why can’t she just go out for coffee with Brittany and hear about Lord Tubbington and the tooth fairy and a whole litany of the most astute observations ever about the whole rest of the Keynotes, and then go back to her or Brittany’s bedroom and make out for hours? It’s not like they’re missing anything except for another drawn-out rehearsal for another nursing home show, made even longer by way too much petty arguing.
Brittany doesn’t even like all the other Keynotes. She thinks Wendy’s a stuck-up dictator who’s surgically attached to her gavel, and she basically wants Grace to die in a fire. Not that any of the other girls notice. Brittany is way too sweet and innocent to actually dislike anybody. In fact, that’s almost word-for-word the phrasing Grace used last week to explain why Brittany’s support didn’t mean anybody else should listen to Santana’s ideas ever again. Santana is kind of with Brittany on the hate, there.
Nobody at Crawford is going to take Santana out by the dumpsters behind the school and literally stab her with a knife, which is honestly more than she can say of Quinn Fabray, though, so for now here she is. In an alcove off the mosaic hallway, late afternoon sun sending cascades of colored light through the stained glass windows over the both of them, making out with the best girlfriend in the entire world.
“We can be five minutes late,” Santana says, and Brittany meets her for another kiss. The situation has its compensations.
“Meet me at Breadstix, Lucy Q,” Kurt says, and leaves Quinn gaping. “Tonight, seven o’clock.” Then he walks away, back to the busy populated areas of the school.
It’s not hard to blackmail somebody you know as well as Kurt knows Quinn. It’s harder when they know you just as well, but it’s still doable. It just becomes all about making sure you have the more-stacked deck, and blackmailing them into something they’re secretly just waiting for the excuse to do anyway.
All pleasantries aside, dinner is more like the tense part of a poker game, as everybody flips cards over one by one, to see how they stack up.
“In middle school you were fat and nerdy, and not a single person at McKinley would actually be as afraid of you as you need them to be if they ever found out.” Kurt pauses. “I bribed Lauren Zizes to run a background check on you when we were freshmen and Coach was picking head cheerleaders for sophomore year, then I bought her silence with a box of Toblerone.”
goes up against
“What I know about your brother could finish him at this school. You think what they did to Lopez was bad? Just think about what they’d do to him.”
and gets countered by
“They’ll do worse to you once they find out why you chased her out of school. Why I caught you checking out Rachel Berry’s rack this morning.”
And then he gives her another one, because trapping Lucy Quinn Fabray in a corner like an injured animal is never going to be a good plan for anybody:
“Please, it’s the same reason I was watching Blaine’s ass, only I never actually threatened to kill anybody over it. You’re gay. I’m gay. McKinley High is the world’s worst place to be seventeen and gay, so I’m assuming you want that little secret getting out just as much as I do. Now can we work together on this, or not?”
It’s the first time Kurt’s said the words out loud to anybody. They’ve been tripping all over themselves in his head for weeks, gay gay gay gaygaygaygaygay, but it comes out so smoothly, so self-assured. Kurt’s always been good at faking more confidence than he feels.
“What do you want?” asks Quinn, and now it’s just time for the settling up.
What Kurt wants is to become known throughout the school for the Pygmalion story of the Rehabilitation of Quinn Fabray. He wants to be prom king. He wants to be the man who turned Quinn Fabray from Queen of the Underworld into prom queen. He wants to spend the next year and a half with her on his arm, terrifying away all comers, ensuring he never has to fake his way through sex with another Cheerio again. And he wants Santana back at school, because as much fun (all right, admit it, as extremely attractive) as Sam is, nobody can do the throaty alto like Santana can.
What? So Kurt cares about glee club now. Big deal. It gives him a chance to sing, and even after he orchestrated the perfect relationship swap that broke up half the couples in glee, everybody was still talking to him. They forgive him for things like that.
(Oh right, he’s sort of supposedly dating Mercedes right now. Well, it’s New Directions. Presumably they’ll forgive him for that too.)
Okay, to be clear: if anybody in New Directions had been asked what it would take to get Santana Lopez back into McKinley? ‘Kurt Hummel and Quinn Fabray decided to resolve their years of differences, start dating, and run for prom king and queen together’ would not have been it.
Let’s be clear about something else: Mercedes Jones has always liked Santana, deep down. Sure she could be kind of hard to deal with sometimes, and yeah, that crush sophomore year made things sort of awkward, but Santana doesn’t beat around the issues, doesn’t lie, and never tried to steal anybody else’s girlfriend or boyfriend just because she could. Unlike some people who Mercedes is apparently not dating any more that she could name.
Mercedes doesn’t really know what’s going on between Santana and Noah Puckerman, and she doesn’t ask. They’d probably still call each other best friends, if anyone asked, but Noah’s always off with Mike and Artie and Blaine these days, and it’s clear that enough’s shifted there that Santana doesn’t really fit any more. Santana’s different, too, now. She’s quieter, less out there. She smiles more. She’s totally in love with that girl of hers, and Mercedes for one is glad to see it. Girl deserves a little happiness.
Mercedes doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot going on in her social life lately anyway, so yeah, Santana’s a good hanging out buddy. Brittany’s hilarious, and Mercedes totally believes it when Santana says she can be a lot more than she appears. She’s seen some of that girl’s webshow. Nobody drops that many little barbs by accident. Mercedes is just glad to hear Santana say that, until next competition season at least, Brittany’s on their side.
It’s a whole hell of a lot weirder having Quinn Fabray back in the group, but Mr. Schue’s never been able to turn anybody down, and she hasn’t done anything to hurt anybody else yet. She sits on the opposite end of the room from Santana, up in the back row next to Kurt, with her hair dyed back to blonde in all these little pink babydoll dresses like it’s two years ago September, and anybody on earth’s gonna just forget everything she’s done in between.
She’s a good singer, though. She’ll be an asset come Nationals, if they can all survive having her, Santana, and Noah Puckerman all in the same group.
“You’re really dating Quinn?” Blaine says, instead of “hello” or “how was French class” or “have you seen what they’re serving in the cafeteria today?” or anything else that a normal person asks their friend. But Blaine doesn’t really know what he and Kurt are any more.
Kurt grabs his wrist and brings him to the empty choir room and makes him sit down in the front row, and he says a lot of things but not one of them is a direct answer.
“Just...sit there,” Kurt says, and walks over to stand by the piano. “And listen.”
It’s Rumors week, and maybe Blaine should have expected something like this, because Kurt seems to have developed a deep emotional connection to Fleetwood Mac, but Brad starts playing and Kurt starts singing and Blaine freezes in his chair at the first few notes.
“To you, I’ll give the world,” Kurt sings, and he doesn’t glance down like he did for Landslide, just keeps his eyes up and fixed on Blaine’s for every word. This isn’t...all Blaine had wanted was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. To know if Kurt is happy, now, like he never seemed to be before. Maybe some kind of explanation for Landslide, last month, but Blaine isn’t greedy. He never asked for Kurt to give him this.
“And the songbirds keep singing like they know the score.” Kurt is crying. Blaine reaches up to touch his own cheek. He is, too.
The music dies away. Brad disappears, like he does when he’s not playing, or maybe he’s still sitting right there. Blaine’s not looking.
“Why?” Blaine asks, surprised though he shouldn’t be at the catch in his voice. “Why would you sing that for me?”
“Because it fits the week’s assignment and I can’t exactly just say it, can I?” Kurt asks bitterly, kicking at the ground.
“Did you mean it?” Blaine asks. “And Landslide, was that about me too?”
“You know it was,” says Kurt. “It’s always been you. Who else, Quinn? Tch.”
“Kurt,” says Blaine slowly, trying to pull the pieces together. “Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?”
“Can you not say that where somebody else could walk by and hear you?” he asks, and the bottom of Blaine’s butterfly-filled stomach drops out.
“Two minutes ago you were standing there singing about how much you love me,” Blaine says, although he lowers his voice for the last part of the sentence. Kurt looks relieved. Blaine feels sick.
“I know that, but there’s no reason everybody else in school has to,” says Kurt. “I could have just been rehearsing for glee, for all they know.”
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Blaine says, a little dizzy, holding back any more tears that might be threatening. “I have a girlfriend, Kurt.”
“So what? It’s just Rachel. She’s a stupid girl, you’ve had dozens of them, they don’t matter, Blaine.” Kurt takes a step forward, entreaty written across his face. “We matter, you and me. This thing that we have, this--”
“You want to keep it a secret,” Blaine cuts in. “You want me to break up with my girlfriend, who I love, so I can be with you in secret and never let anybody know.”
Kurt flinches, again. “You don’t have to say it like that,” he whispers. Blaine shakes his head.
“No,” he says. “I can’t do it, Kurt. Even for you, I can’t. And I won’t let you do that to yourself.”
It’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done, to get up and walk out of that choir room. Kurt is there, Kurt is there right behind him, and if Blaine just turns around he could walk three steps and have Kurt back in his arms, not because they’re drunk or bored or pretending but because they both know it actually means something.
They would know. It wouldn’t mean enough to tell anybody else.
Blaine closes the choir room door behind him.
Prom candidates at McKinley High traditionally run in pairs, but they’re elected singly. There’s no rule against an individual candidate, just a little thing called voter bias. It’s not fond of candidates who don’t subscribe to the dominant system of boyfriends and girlfriends, and obviously it has very little patience for those that can’t get a date. That said, in the case of candidates who are dating, for instance, a senior, voter bias can actually work in favor of a candidate running alone.
The ballot for Junior Prom Queen, McKinley High 2011, goes to print reading:
Other (name here): _____________________
The ballot for Junior Prom King, McKinley High 2011, goes to print reading:
Other (name here): _____________________
The results of extremely thorough pre-prom polling conducted by Jacob ben Israel are updated daily on his website, with a biweekly writeup to keep everybody as informed as humanly possible.
Shalom, students of McKinley High! Before we get to the rest of today’s gossip, let’s talk about what you’re really all here to see: prom polling numbers.
First, the long shots. Student council president Katy Hollister and her ‘I don’t need a prom king to do better than Quinn Fabray’ platform is still languishing around 9%. On the other side of the ballot, Shane Tinsley and his ‘my friends signed me up for this as a joke’ platform is scoring 6% of the vote, despite or perhaps because of his continued refusal to put up even one campaign poster. Lauren Zizes, with her inspiring slogan, ‘More badass than you, and hotter than your girlfriend’, is holding steady at 14.5% of the vote, down 0.5% from last week’s polls.
Katie Rassmussen, whose accomplishments involve being on the bottom of the pyramid for the Cheerios for three years running and the most-identified photo in last month’s ‘Can You Match The McKinley High Student To Her Tits?’ contest on this blog [link], also drops half a point to poll at 19%. Her boyfriend and running mate, Rob ‘you look at my girlfriend’s tits one more time and I’ll punch you out’ McMahon, best known for his position as goalie on the McKinley High hockey team, lost seven points this week, down to 13.5%, bringing the pair’s chances for election as a complete ticket all the way down to 11%, the lowest they’ve been so far.
What has caused such a drop, you ask? As if you don’t know already. We broke the story of latecomer Blaine Anderson’s recent entry into the race moments after its announcement, after second period Tuesday morning [link], and it has certainly caused an upset in the polling numbers over on the prom king side of the ticket. Anderson, who is running solo, is currently polling at 21.5%. When asked for an interview about his late entry and his bold choice to enter without a female running mate, this is what he had to say:
“Well, my girlfriend [Rachel Berry, links to articles here, here, and here] is a sophomore this year, so I really hadn’t planned on running at all. But I’ve been thinking lately about what kinds of things I’m capable of that I haven’t tried to do at McKinley. I wanted to give voters a different sort of candidate, one who’s cool without being on any sports teams, or the Cheerios.” When asked about his girlfriend [additional articles here and here], Anderson added, “Rachel’s been really supportive. I think she likes the idea of having a boyfriend who’s prom king.”
With this new upset, quarterback Sam Evans, previously second in the polls for prom king, drops three points down to 28%. This narrows the split between Evans and his last-minute ballotmate, Mercedes Jones, still polling at 23%, down to only five points for the first time since they entered the race. Evans’s achievements include leading the McKinley Titans to a resounding victory in the Ohio state championships this year, and lasting for more than two months in New Directions, the McKinley High glee club, without a single slushie. Miss Jones is best known for her singing voice, her leadership of New Directions, and holding the title of third least slushied member of New Directions before Evans joined the club [link].
The biggest change in the polls, thanks to Anderson’s late entry into the race, is by far the massive drop suffered by candidate Kurt Hummel, who fell more than ten points to poll at 26.5% this week. With this drop, he gives up the early lead he’s held since his entry into the race, falling back to a close second place after Sam Evans. His running mate, Quinn Fabray, one-time captain of the Cheerios, one-time pregnant outcast, one-time leader of McKinley High’s criminal underworld, and current enigma to the student population at large, picks up half a point to come in at 31.5%.
Hummel and Anderson have historically had one of the most long-standing bromances at McKinley, but sources close to them suggest that their friendship has cooled lately. When asked to comment, Hummel had this to say:
“I’m happy to have a little stiff competition in this race. Blaine is a good friend, and I’d be happy for him if he won. That said, in terms of the particular qualities that make a successful prom king candidate, such as having a girlfriend also in the running for prom queen, I think I measure up a little more strongly. I’m confident that once the initial surprise of Blaine entering the race settles down, the numbers will change to reflect that.”
Rachel Berry could not be reached for comment.
The left side of Quinn’s lip feels funny where she took out the ring. She keeps poking her tongue forward to fiddle with it during class, hitting nothing but the inside of her lip and the little divot where the hole hasn’t completely healed shut, even now.
The last time Quinn had a morning routine that took her less than forty minutes to get ready, she’d still been calling herself Lucy. It’s not harder to get up and do the layers of perfectly-applied makeup until they look like they’re barely there than it was to slather on just the right amount of super-heavy eyeliner. It’s still easier than trying to pull herself up and together and at least remotely presentable with thirty extra pounds of squirming, kicking baby resting right on her spleen.
People still part when she walks down the hallways, but they don’t draw back as far. When she was pregnant, total strangers used to come up to her and lay their palms on her stomach, like she was some kind of walking saint or statue of Buddah, touch the pregnant woman’s belly and be forever blessed. They stopped going anywhere near her after she changed her hair and bought super-dark eyeliner and got first her nose, then her lip pierced. It was nice to have a little room to breathe.
Kurt has a whole lot of rules. Quinn remembers that from their days on the Cheerios, but then it was just sort of funny, amusing. Kurt had his best friend slash minion trained like a good dog. It had made Quinn want a minion or two, too. That’s what that jealousy was about.
But now Kurt thinks he can lay all his rules out on her: quit smoking. Wear your hair normally. Dress more sexy, nobody’s going to believe that you spent almost a whole year shoving freshmen face-first into toilets for their lunch money and then regressed back to being a perfect porcelain doll of an angel.
Coach still calls Kurt ‘Porcelain’. Quinn knows just a few things about porcelain, from her own experience. It’s incredibly fragile. You can never quite put it back together the way it was. And when it breaks, the edges can cut like glass.
She’s too tired to fight Kurt on his rules, now; maybe it’s easier just to let somebody else make the decisions, just for once. He hasn’t made her stop sleeping with Finn; maybe he thinks an explosive love triangle will just shore up all three of their pretenses at heterosexuality. Things with Finn keep edging nearer something darker, more twisted and complicated than Quinn is sure she wants to go, but they shut themselves up in Quinn’s bedroom and it helps Quinn forget things for a while.
Santana is back. Quinn can see her from where she sits, upper left side of the choir room. She tries not to look too much. Maybe she’s sick of scaring people away.
It’s not entirely true that Kurt and Blaine have stopped speaking to each other. That is, to all appearances, they’re not going near each other any more, and they certainly haven’t had any real kind of conversation. But they’re both in New Directions, and that has its own ways of letting people talk to one another.
The week after the club sings Rumors into the ground, Mr. Schue suggests they try some songs with folk inspiration. Blaine spends an afternoon looking for music, then passes it out to Brad and the backup band at the start of next Glee meeting.
“I will hold out hope,” he sings. “I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck.”
If Kurt is allowed to make promises through somebody else’s words, then Blaine is too.
“So make your siren’s call, and sing all you want, I will not hear what you have to say. ‘Cause I need freedom now, and I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” It’s maybe the hardest thing he’s ever sung.
Two days later, Kurt comes back with a song of his own.
“Can you lie next to her and give her your heart as well as your body?” he asks, and Blaine squirms in his seat and holds a little tighter to Rachel’s hand.
After that it’s on, really. Blaine counters by pulling Santana and Tina up to sing backup for him, practicing for prom night: “But how can we still be friends when seeing you only breaks my heart again?”
which gets him the bitterest, most teeth-clenched “I wish nothing but the best for you both” that Blaine has ever heard, and that includes the Alanis original.
In four weeks, they go through Avenue Q (“I don’t have the time to waste on you anymore”), the Who (“no one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies”), La Roux (“I won’t let you in again”), Coldplay (“once you were gone there was never, never an honest word”), Adele (“you played it to the beat”), and the Cure (“whatever words I say, I will always love you”). By the time Blaine is standing at the front of the room, belting out, “Don’t cry to me, if you loved me you would be here with me,” without even a single hint of shame or irony, he thinks maybe things have gone a little too far.
Then Kurt pulls one of the stools up to the front of the classroom, picks up his guitar, and strums out, “When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime,” and Blaine realizes he’s really not even sure what game they’re playing any more.
All the elements for prom are set in place, except for one. We’re missing Jesse St. James, of course.
Jesse St. James expected to come back to Rachel Berry single and pining, or Rachel Berry back together with that awkward giant she’d said she’d been dating before Quinn Fabray got pregnant. Jesse St. James hadn’t expected to come back to McKinley to find Rachel Berry truly, madly, deeply in love with the only tenor short enough to match her.
Jesse St. James is not the kind of man who gets dissuaded by a little setback like that. Jesse St. James is suave, handsome, and an incredible performer. Jesse St. James has every intention of winning back the hand and heart of the only girl whose talent could ever match his. Jesse St. James thinks about himself in the third person a lot.
Jesse St. James can get himself invited to prom as somebody else’s date. Jesse St. James may not be able to get Rachel Berry to run right into his arms just by showing up, but he’s more than enough match for the New Directions new girl.
Jesse St. James doesn’t like to miss a good party.
Here’s another thing to get straight. The members of New Directions are not, by and large, stupid. They’re self-involved, self-absorbed, and sometimes kind of willfully obtuse, but they’re not all completely ignorant.
Kurt and Blaine, for instance, may have managed to convince Finn, Rachel, Sunshine, and Sam Evans that there’s nothing going on between them or ever was, but Mercedes’ eyes started narrowing around the first time Kurt sang about “loving you with my whole heart”, and even Artie had figured out that something was going on by the time Blaine broke out the Evanescence.
They don’t say anything. Santana doesn’t believe in lies, but she’s not about to go messing with whatever Quinn has set up with Hummel and Blaine, not when it got her back here and safe. Tina noticed something odd all the way back around ‘Landslide’, and shared it with Mike in time to trade worried looks over Blaine’s heartfelt rendition of ‘The Cave’, but of the McKinley Asian Students Society’s four members, Blaine’s the only one who’s never even been late to a meeting, so sharing anything with Sunshine is...complicated.
Lauren only releases information for a price, Artie and Noah aren’t quite sure what they know or who they’d tell it to, and Mercedes and Sam have their own things to worry about. Sam’s a good guy, Mercedes likes him even outside of making a good match for the prom ticket, and nobody needs the crap that would go down if the rest of McKinley ever found out where he and his parents have been living.
Quinn and Kurt trade off as to whose day it is to be snappish and overly paranoid, and whose day it is to accidentally spend the entirety of history class mooning guiltily over the object of their desire. Kurt keeps reminding himself not to ask Quinn if she’s pining for Rachel or Santana this week unless he wants her to take an extra three days of being the snappish one.
Blaine has spent more than one afternoon persuading Rachel that he doesn’t think love is a waste of his time. He’s sort of worried she might be catching on.
And then it’s prom.
Santana brings Brittany. Santana dresses in green and blue, in a dress that Mercedes helps her pick out that covers most of her cleavage but still makes her look like a hot, desirable woman. Tonight, being looked at isn’t a bad thing. She and Brittany are going to be up near the stage, dancing under the collective eyes of the whole rest of ND all night.
Quinn is in red. The dress plunges at the neck like a dare, dark satiny crimson that pools on the floor around her feet when she isn’t wearing her high heels. Kurt picked it out. They’re running this ticket on fear, mystery, and blood bargains. They might as well look the part.
Mercedes shows up with Sam on her arm in a tuxedo nobody will ever find out she paid for under the argument of needing to have an acceptably-dressed escort for the evening, head to toe in glittering gold. Lauren Zizes comes in black trimmed with blue, next to Noah Puckerman, who’s half pity date, half besotted already. Rachel is in pink. She matches Blaine’s cummerbund. Only real men are brave enough to wear pink.
It’s a full room. Jacob ben Israel is darting around the edges taking photos, Artie Abrams and Finn Hudson are lurking dateless near the punch bowl. Katie Rassmussen and Rob McMahon sweep in just as the festivities take off like they’re already royalty, resplendent in yellow and green. Becky Jackson and ‘If you use my first name I’mma punch you out’ Azimio show up forty-five minutes late and never go near the dance floor; everybody in school knows they’re only there to heckle, to make sure somebody spikes the punch, and to qualify in the running for prom shadow court. Sunshine and Jesse, for all his wrangling for a pre-prom dinner with the Anderson/Berry ticket, end up on a double date with the Cohen Chang-Changs.
Tina keeps glancing around like there’s something to spot, and Mike keeps eyeing Jesse warily, like the ozone-in-the-air-before-lightning feeling in the room of trouble about to brew must be coming from him. Like stick-skinny nerd and dancer Mike could do anything to stop it if it was.
In the end, Jesse St. James starts it, but he’s the least of what the night has to bring, really.
Blaine is singing this one with Brittany and Santana swaying behind him, glancing out at the audience and then back at each other. Blaine is tapping one foot to the beat, scanning out over the crowd for a smear of satin the color of blood, for a slender form in a matching red tie. He can’t help it.
“Louder than sirens,” Blaine sings, and the dance floor sways with him. “Louder than bells. Sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell.” The dance floor throbs like one organism, people moving their feet towards one another’s bodies. And there, on the edge of it towards the back, there’s Kurt, moving on the beat.
Meanwhile by the snack table, where Rachel is sipping unspiked punch out of Sue Sylvester’s family punch bowl, Jesse St. James has abandoned his date for the night entirely and is sidling up to her, moving his feet towards her body, and Blaine sings, “that drum’s still beating loud and clear.”
Rachel slaps Jesse, and on the other side of a crowd of writhing teenagers Mike and Tina move in towards each other, oblivious, and on the other side of that, Kurt is dancing.
Artie, lurking just down from the punch bowl, wheels around immediately, and Noah drops the cup he was ladling out for Lauren because sometimes these things are more important. Jesse raises his fists as they come at him, and Blaine sings, “as the water fills my mouth it couldn’t wash the echoes out,” and he can barely see Quinn over there, just Kurt, dancing.
Sue Sylvester is over in a second, pulling people apart, dragging Jesse by one ear and Noah by another, marching Artie out in front of her as Sunshine pushes through the crowd to gape, and Rachel stares after them all, one hand still raised, and “it fills my head up and gets louder and louder”.
Things have gone too easily tonight. Two members of glee club have already been thrown out along with the date of a third, but the low buzzing of something is coming hasn’t cleared away. It’s a notch higher, if anything, and Santana makes sure to stick close to Brittany so she won’t end up in the middle of something neither of them could handle.
In the end it doesn’t help. Nobody’s going for physical danger tonight, or at least they haven’t, yet. Total humiliation is enough.
It had to be Quinn as prom queen, first. They couldn’t just all get together and elect Santana as write-in candidate opposite Mercedes, who would probably hold her hand and dance with her and dare anybody else to say anything about it, and wouldn’t say anything if Santana started crying. No, it had to be Quinn, and Santana can’t. She can’t keep standing here, with everybody staring like this, the whole school just looking at her, so she does the only thing that’s ever saved her from them before.
Split screen. Three conversations. Six people. At least four of them crying, though it doesn’t matter which four; it could be any of them, really.
Scene one: the choir room. The closest thing to a refuge Santana’s ever had here, and Brittany’s never even been inside it but if there’s one thing Brittany knows how to do, it’s follow Santana, no matter wherever she goes.
Scene two: the first floor boys’ bathroom, the one that’s always a little bit cleaner. There’s a guy in there pissing, another one reapplying yet more of his cheap cologne that his date probably lied and said she liked. Kurt storms in with the most malevolent of glares he’s ever laid upon anybody, ever, and they scuttle out before the first guy even remembers to zip up his pants.
Scene three: the hallway, up the nearest flight of stairs by the locked library. Quinn isn’t going to wait around after that for that dyke to come back and finish off ruining her life. There’s only one person in McKinley who would care enough to come after her.
“Hey,” Finn says. “Slow down. It’s just me.”
“Of course it’s you, Finn,” Quinn says. “Who else would bother?”
“Why are you even here?” Kurt bites out as Blaine shuts and flicks the lock on the door behind them. “Shouldn’t you be off commiserating with your girlfriend?”
“I thought maybe now you’d be willing to actually talk to me,” Blaine tells him.
“Please, Santana,” says Brittany, crouching down in front of the chair where Santana finally collapsed. “Just talk to me about it.”
“I hate this stupid school,” Santana says. “I don’t know why I even came back here. I hate everybody, it’s not fair, why does it have to be like this?”
“I don’t know what you’re so upset about,” Finn says, taking another, cautious step forward. “You won, right? You’re the prom queen. Isn’t that, like, the only thing you and Kurt have been talking about for the past two months?”
“Right,” Quinn says bitterly. “Me and Kurt. I guess I should be thankful they didn’t elect him prom queen, right?”
“Oh, come off it, Finn!” she snaps. “He’s gay! I’m gay! Everybody’s gay! The only reason I’m still having sex with you is because you’re too confused to know what you are, and too much of an idiot to realize that I’m poison and you should get as far away as possible!”
“What exactly do you want me to say, Blaine?” asks Kurt. “They just elected Santana Lopez prom king. That girl’s boobs are bigger than a couple of softballs. Do you want me to just throw a party and say hey, here’s the time to come out?”
“Maybe if fewer people at this school thought they had to lie about who they are, they wouldn’t have done that to Santana,” Blaine says. “Maybe if you came out, they’d see that even the popular kids could be gay.”
Kurt stares at him. “Are you kidding me?” he asks. “Do you even know what it’s taken to keep us on top in this town for the past five years? Can you even imagine what would happen to you if it got out that Kurt Hummel was gay?”
“Yeah,” Blaine says steadily. “I thought about it. But we’re not in middle school any more, and I don’t want you hurting yourself to protect me.”
“This is why you didn’t want me to come, isn’t it,” Brittany says. “Did you know your name was on the ballot?”
“No,” says Santana, and wipes at her eyes with the side of her wrist. “I wouldn’t have gone, if I’d known they were going to do this. I just knew they were probably going to do something.”
“So you’d have missed out on all the fun we had, just because of a stupid prank?” Brittany asks.
“It’s humiliating!” Santana says. Brittany nods.
“Only if you let it be, though,” she says. “Santana, you’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. You came back here, because you knew this school had people you loved, and you thought you deserved to come home. That’s still true, right?”
“Yeah,” Santana admits wetly. Brittany reaches out and grabs her hands, holding them tightly.
“Then I say you should be the best prom king McKinley High’s ever had,” she says. “They can’t laugh at you if you’re the one laughing, right?”
“Yeah, well, I’m not laughing tonight,” Santana says, but Brittany smiles at her, and Santana can’t help smiling faintly back.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Kurt says. “How can you look at that, and think that it would ever be safe to--”
“Kurt, I love you,” Blaine breaks in, stopping Kurt mid-sentence. “And I can even say it without backing music, too. You don’t have to change who you are to be with me, or to impress your dad, or to make somebody else happy, I just want to see you not making yourself be alone any more. I’m the only person in this whole school who knows even most of who you are. And I just wish you could be brave enough to share that with some of them.”
“Why?” Kurt asks. “So they can use it to tear down the Ice King?”
“Kurt...” Blaine shakes his head. “If you could see what I see, when I look at you, you wouldn’t even ask that question.”
“You’re not poison,” Finn says, then blinks. “Wait, Kurt’s...is that why he and Blaine have been singing all those weird songs this month?”
It startles Quinn into a teary laugh, shaking her head. “God, Finn,” she says. “You really are hopeless, aren’t you.”
“Hey, no,” Finn says. “That’s not fair. I notice things, sometimes.”
“You’re not obsessed with the contents of my closet because you’ve suddenly developed Kurt’s eye for fashion,” Quinn informs him, and Finn shifts, looking to the side.
“I know,” he says. “I know I’ve got...some stuff to work through. And so do you. But that doesn’t make you poison. It just makes you a girl with some issues, that’s all. And you’re not even alone.”
“I don’t see anyone else at this school who’s gone through as many things as I have,” says Quinn, and Finn shrugs.
“Yeah, but I bet Santana would help you out with the lesbian thing if you were nicer to her,” he says. “And I mean, I...well, I mean, I think you’re really attractive, so I guess that sort of makes me...” He trails off helplessly, and Quinn laughs again, because how can you help it, with Finn?
“Come on,” she says, and grabs his arm. “Let’s go back.”
Santana doesn’t dance with Quinn. It doesn’t matter what Brittany has to say about holding her head up high, she can’t get that close to the same person who backed her up against a chain-link fence and threatened her with a knife for ever telling. Santana dances with Brittany, and Kurt, appearing suddenly out of nowhere, dances with Quinn, and onstage Mercedes and Blaine somehow cover Santana, Artie, and Noah’s absence with a cobbled-together version of ‘Dynamite’
It’s not the worst night that any of them will ever have in their life. It features Kurt and Quinn banging out a more than credible version of ‘Moves Like Jagger’, and Lauren Zizes breaking it down spectacularly in the middle of the dance floor to Mike and Tina’s rendition of ‘Love Shack’. Rachel manages to track down her boyfriend finally, in the tight knot of glee club members crowding together near the base of the stage, and he pulls her close for Sunshine’s closing ballad of the night.
“And Iiiiii-I-I will always love you,” she sings to nobody, and Rachel grabs around Blaine’s shoulders a little tighter. She’s getting his shirt front damp.
It’s not the best night any of them will ever have in their lives, but everybody makes it home alive, one by one and two by two. Mercedes makes Sam bring Santana and Brittany back to Santana’s house and drives the second car over herself. They all mean to leave half a dozen times, but somehow they all end up in a pile on the carpet, eating pizza and ice cream right out of the carton and playing Apples to Apples until it’s about four in the morning.
Lauren strongarms Mike and Tina into offering her a ride only to find Noah still waiting, sitting on the hood of his old truck in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette in the cold. She gives him a long, up and down look.
“Those things smell like cancer,” she informs him. “But that was a pretty cool thing you did, laying out St. James like that. Take me to the all-night diner over on 53rd and maybe I’ll teach you how to throw a decent left hook someday.”
It’s a night. Kurt and Finn take Quinn home in silence, then drive the rest of the way back to the Hudson-Hummel house the same way. Mike and Tina drop Sunshine off, then find a quiet place to make out and process the past several hours.
Rachel and Blaine help Brad and the jazz band put break down some of the microphones and instruments from the set before they go. It’s the right thing to do, and the gym will still be enough of a mess come tomorrow morning as it is.
She flicks the radio on when they get into the car, then off again a moment later. Blaine glances over, but doesn’t comment.
Four blocks away from her house, on a darkened street next to an empty park, Rachel says, “Pull over.”
It’s dark and quiet, too early in the year for the loudest of the crickets outside, too late at night for anything else. Blaine shifts the car into park, and waits.
“I had a really good time tonight,” Rachel says, and Blaine relaxes just a little and smiles, and says,
“I’m glad, I know it was--” and then she cuts him off with a shake of her head.
“Well actually, I had a horrible time tonight, although not as bad as poor Santana, but I didn’t care. Because I was with you.” Blaine winces, and Rachel reaches out to take hold of his right hand. “I’ve told you I love you. Please tell me you know I mean it.”
“Of course, how could I not? I’ve never doubted you for a second.” Her chin dips a little, her eyes lowering, and Blaine reaches out to cup her cheek and raise her face up. She’s crying. “Hey, Rachel, what’s wrong? Did that thing with Jesse upset you that much, because--”
“No,” Rachel sniffs, and says, “I need to ask you a question. And I need you to be completely honest with me, because I can accept the truth whatever it is, but this is the kind of lie that could shatter my fragile trust in men forever.”
“Anything,” Blaine promises. “You have my word.”
“Do you love me?” she asks.
“Of course I do,” says Blaine. “I do, Rachel, believe me, I do.” He watches her, but she seems to accept it; nods, sniffs again, and wipes at her eyes with the back of the hand not holding his.
“Do you love him?” she asks, and Blaine goes tense like somebody’s just poured cold water right down his spine. “Please, Blaine, don’t lie to me.”
“Rachel...” he tries, but she just looks at him, and all at once he sags like a puppet whose strings have been cut.
“So much that it hurts to breathe, sometimes,” Blaine admits, and Rachel bites her bottom lip and nods again.
“Rachel, I swear, I never meant to hurt you,” he says, and Rachel takes a ragged deep breath.
“I believe in your good intentions, Blaine,” she says. “I’m in love with you, of course I think the best of you. How could I not?”
“I’m sorry,” he tries, and she shakes her head.
“No,” she says. “You should be free to be with the person you love most, and I...I should be free to be with someone who makes me their first choice. That’s how it works, right?”
“Rachel, I am so sorry,” Blaine says, and Rachel leans over the center console, pressing her lips quick and dry against his.
“You should take me home now,” she says. “I promise I’ll understand and be there to listen to you talk about Kurt later, but right now I think I just want my pajamas and some Joni.”
“I love you, Rachel,” says Blaine, but it’s more like an apology than a promise. She settles back into her seat, and he shifts the car into drive.
And so life goes on.
People’s usual seats in the choir room shift, and then shift again. Sam starts sitting near Mercedes, Noah near Lauren. Rachel moves down to the center of the front row all by herself, all the better to hop up at a moment’s notice for yet another tearfully delivered breakup solo. Quinn shifts just a few seats to her right, until she’s next to Finn nearly all the time, close enough that if either one of them were to reach out, they would touch.
It leaves Kurt in the far left chair on the top row all alone, and Blaine sitting quietly by himself in the same row on the far right. Most days, nobody else is actually up there with them. It’s the closest they’ve gotten to sitting together since all the drama began.
There’s no Jesse St. James show choir consultant business, not with Rachel still bitter over prom night and Sunshine sick of everything involved in show choir politics and the dramas of an American high school. There are full weeks of intensive songwriting workshop.
Kurt misses nearly a full week of practice after Coach Sylvester’s sister dies and she loses her mind and fires Becky for it. Suddenly he’s the only head cheerleader, again, and while not having to maneuver around Quinn was nice for a while last year he’s sort of gotten used to having Becky around to rely on. As far as Kurt knows, she’s worked with Coach for a year and a half and never once so much as cried. Becky is made of pure titanium.
Becky is the only reason they even made it to Nationals this year, as much time as Kurt spent obsessing over Blaine, his own tenuous grip on popularity, and actually giving a damn about the glee club’s performance at Regionals. And now she’s off in street clothes and Kurt is somehow single-handedly responsible for running off-season training and all of Coach Sylvester’s paperwork, and Coach is nowhere to be found because the one person she loves more than anybody else in the world has died.
Kurt is trying very hard to hang on to his almighty annoyance with the situation, because when he lets it drop, something wavering dangerously close to empathy starts to well up, and he’s really had his fill of feeling like crap this year already.
Finn doesn’t say anything about it, really, just wanders into Kurt’s room without knocking right after dinner and spends a good four hours rambling about video games and the club’s latest crazy idea for Nationals and can Kurt help him figure out his English homework? It feels like a prickling, chafing sort of sympathy, like a cat being stroked ever-so-gently backwards, until Kurt remembers that he’s not the only person in this house who’s lost someone. Maybe, just sometimes, it isn’t actually about him.
Blaine comes to find him in Coach’s office Thursday, late enough that he’s had time to sit through a whole glee practice, drive away entirely, and come back with a medium drip and a large mocha with extra whip. Kurt takes the bigger cup when Blaine holds it out, and doesn’t even look around furtively to see who might catch him with such a girly drink. He needs it today, anyway.
“I wasn’t sure if we were still talking again,” Kurt says, and Blaine shrugs sort of lopsidedly. He leans back against one of Coach’s filing cabinets, and Kurt winces in spite of himself, just praying to whatever gods protect vulnerable cheerleaders that nothing actually gets knocked over.
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk,” says Blaine, and it’s Kurt’s turn to shrug.
“Finn knows about us,” he says. “Or at least, about me. Quinn told him, and it took him all of three hours of lengthy brotherly conversation about nothing to spill all. He heard your glee club songs last month just like everyone else, though, so you might want to watch out the first time Jacob ben Israel corners him on something entirely unrelated.”
“I think the whole glee club kind of knows, actually,” Blaine shifts awkwardly. “Lauren keeps giving me these significant looks, and Mercedes gets these funny expressions every time I bring you up.”
“You’ve been bringing me up?” Kurt asks, and Blaine shrugs. “Is that why you broke up with Rachel?”
“She broke up with me,” Blaine corrects, and Kurt nearly chokes on his mocha. “But yeah, that’s why. She knew that no matter how much I loved her, she was always going to be second choice.”
Kurt’s body knows what he wants before his brain does; he only realizes he’s taken half a step forward when he bangs into the desk. “So am I your first choice, then?” he asks, going for ‘coy’ and hitting ‘tentative’ right on the nose.
Blaine sighs. “You know you are, Kurt,” he says, but it’s not exactly a heartfelt promise of eternal love. “It’s just complicated. I understand why you don’t think it’s safe to come out of the closet, but I just...I just can’t. Not with as much as I care about you. If we were together I’d want to tell the whole world about it. I try to imagine going through whole years of our lives, lying to everyone we know about being more than just friends, and...” He shakes his head.
Kurt clenches his fingers, tensed so white-knuckled they stop shaking, around the edge of the desk. “I can’t,” he says. “Not yet.”
Blaine nods slowly, seriously, meaningful. “Not yet, then,” he says. “Maybe someday, just...not yet.”
“I guess that’s what it’ll have to be,” says Kurt, and carefully uncurls his fingers before he digs nail marks into Coach Sylvester’s property. “Thank you for the coffee.”
Friday after school, Kurt tracks down Coach Sylvester at her sister’s nursing home, staring at piles of boxes and old books like she’s never seen any of it before.
“You should put Becky back on the squad,” he says, and she gazes at him over all the piles of things neither of them wants to talk about.
“Why?” she asks. “You know my decisions are final, Porcelain, why question this one?”
“Because she’s been keeping the Cheerios running all year, and I won’t be coming back again next year,” Kurt says. “If you’re going to have any hope of keeping the girls in line, particularly the new ones, you need Becky.”
Coach stares at him, maybe looking for an angle, maybe--he can see lines around her eyes where there are usually none--just tired. Kurt stands impassive, meeting her gaze. He’s not going to change this decision, even if he is going to regret it.
“Well, I’ll be sorry to see you go,” Coach says finally. “Though I did get three good years out of you, that’s two and a half years more than my last male head cheerleader. Broke under the strain.” She raises her eyebrows, implying, and Kurt arches his back.
“I’m looking to explore priorities other than being popular,” he says. No, she hasn’t broken him. Maybe a few other things have, but he’s as glued back together as anybody else at this cesspit of a school, and he gets good use out of his jagged edges sometimes.
“You know, Porcelain,” Coach says, suddenly looking thoughtful enough that Kurt can only wonder if he has any secrets at all left any more, “I could be an invaluable help when it comes to exploring those other priorities, so long as you kept me one of yours.”
“I know,” says Kurt. “But Coach, if I may be blunt? I have always hated doing back handsprings.”
It gets a smile out of her anyway, grudging but real, and something like respect in her nod. “All right, kid. Now get out of here. This place is a tomb, it’s no place for someone your age and more or less adequate level of health.”
Kurt goes to the funeral. It’s tiny, quiet; he notices Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsberry up in the front on the opposite side of the church from him. Kurt doesn’t have much use for churches, but he has to admit that this one is at least peaceful.
It’s not until he turns to leave that he notices, in the back row, a small collection of bowed heads set off from the rest of the congregation. Santana was a Cheerio for almost half a school year once, and Mike had only kept it up for a handful of weeks but Coach had always liked him anyway. Quinn is sitting a little ways away from them--Kurt can only imagine how arranging those car rides happened.
Blaine was never a Cheerio, although the jazz band played for pep rallies sometimes. He’s there anyway.
Santana’s parents are confused by Brittany, but Santana’s parents are easily confused.
Brittany’s parents were cautious around Santana at first, and she can’t really blame them too much. Brittany still needs someone to remind her to look both ways before crossing the street. She’s not like other people. She’s not like anybody Santana’s ever met.
The thing Santana hasn’t figured out how to explain in words that won’t have her parents muttering behind their bedroom door like maybe Brittany’s contagious, is that the whole world isn’t like cars. Santana can keep Brittany from getting hit by cars. That’s easy, that’s the easiest damn thing in the world, if Santana has to spend the rest of her life reminding Brittany to look both ways and check for cars then she’ll be proud to.
That doesn’t mean Brittany’s parents have to be careful about her, though, and Santana can’t help the little voice that says if Brittany’s parents really understood her they’d know that already. Someday, Santana just wants to see what happens to the first person who thinks Brittany is dumb enough to fall for whatever they’re selling. It takes drunk Cheerios more time to lose their tops at a house party than it does for Brittany to figure out somebody’s expecting her to be too dumb to stop them taking advantage of her.
And then after that it’s Santana’s job to rip their fingernails out with a pair of pliers, because all right, she’ll admit it, nobody’s ever taught Brittany how to be forceful enough with the ‘revenge’ part of business. Santana can do that. Santana is a child of McKinley High, of slushies and swirlies and Sue fucking Sylvester. Santana can take all the crappy jobs, not that Brittany will let her, just so long as Brittany keeps on making her feel like this.
Santana Lopez is mean, and scared, and lonely, and ungrateful and angry and disrespectful and not good enough at anything, and that’s even before you add in having the bad judgement to turn out to be a lesbian in the middle of Ohio, and to Brittany, none of that means anything. Brittany somehow, and even Santana can’t follow her logic on this one, seems to think Santana’s the impressive one of the two of them.
And maybe she’s not completely wrong. Brittany knows things, all right? Brittany’s a fucking genius. Not for the reasons the girls at Crawford think, because she says things nobody else can understand, but because she understands things that most people don’t. She understands Santana. Nobody’s ever done that before.
So maybe they really do belong together. Brittany’s the best thing Santana knows about the world, and she still can’t always cross the street. Santana’s...well, six months ago, she’d just have said that she’s a loser and a mess. But she trusts Brittany’s judgement when it comes to people more than she trusts herself.
And then they’re in New York.
It is so. Damn. Big. Manhattan’s less than twice the size of Lima, which is hard to even believe, but that’s just left and right. Manhattan just keeps going up.
It’s a dream, an island in a snow globe, a bubble just waiting to pop, but it hasn’t yet and every single one of them is somehow here.
Fourteen students and one distracted teacher do not for any kind of well-chaperoned trip make. Mr. Schue gets his own room. This kind of makes it worse.
He deposits them in front of the doors to their two rooms, and everybody mills around in a state of ‘fourteen people is way too many for this hallway’ pandemonium. Eventually the people holding the key cards are also the people standing next to the doors, and things get opened, and sort of start sorting themselves out.
There’s a moment of awkward hesitation with Santana between the two doors; Mr. Schue had said something about segregating by sexual orientation, then glanced over at Kurt nodding Finn towards some woman walking by in spike heels and a miniskirt, and cleared his throat and changed the subject. Santana glances over at the guys, then back at Quinn and Rachel, then back, until Mercedes catches her and rolls her eyes.
“Okay, here’s how this is gonna work,” she announces, striding into the girls’ room, suitcase wheeling along behind her. “Me and Santana that bed, Rachel and Sunshine together on the couch, Quinn and Tina, and Lauren gets the roll out cot. We’re gonna settle in and unpack, and then in twenty minutes we’re going over to the boys’ room to make damn sure we’re gonna be ready for the competition in time. Did you guys catch that over there?” she calls out the open door; two loud thumps that sound suspiciously like thrown sneakers landed against the adjoining wall in response.
It’s not like there isn’t enough collective angst to go around the New Directions, when it comes to songwriting fodder, but only so much of it is actually the kind of angst any of the kids are willing to sing about. Blaine and Rachel put forth a halfhearted attempt they call ‘Only Children’. They are not the next Sonny and Cher.
A surprising number of the guys, and Santana, got their instruments through airport security. It seems like sort of a waste of a city to keep them all shut up across two hotel rooms like this, not to mention claustrophobic as hell, but it’s not like Mr. Schuester is keeping them inside.
True facts: it turns out that two singers, an acoustic bass player, and an accordionist can make about thirty bucks sitting around in Central Park if one of them forgets their instrument case lying open sort of near the path, even if they don’t have a whole song worked out yet.
There’s an easy formula to show choir sets: slow, achingly heartbreaking ballad, then suddenly lift it up about ten notches and all come together, fourteen voices just in some kind of celebration of managing to survive this far. Blaine and Rachel swear they’ve got that one under control, if anyone wants to come down near their end of Central Park and help them put a beat on it, and Mercedes has no choice but to believe them, which, unless somebody else has a sudden bolt of inspiration, leaves her holding the ballad.
She’s been toying around with ideas for this since prom happened, although nothing’s lining up right yet. It’s not about her heartbreak. It’s about everybody else’s.
It’s about feeling like it’s your job to take care of people who’re going through things you can’t ever manage to fix. Watching from the sidelines while your friends hurt and your cautious allies and acquaintances hurt and your stupid cheating ex-boyfriend hurts, and nothing you do is ever going to make it easy for any of them.
It’s about making sure Santana feels all right in her own hotel room and that nobody in the group is too hard on Quinn even if they can’t forget, helping Rachel calm down and then lifting her back up, going to all of Finn and Tina’s track meets and smiling at Noah in the halls and forgiving Kurt even if he is sort of an asshole. It’s a song about making sure Sam still has his guitar and doesn’t have to feel like he owes her for it.
“Try just moving it back to A minor,” she says, and Sam strums the chords out obligingly. “Why isn’t love enough to save us all?” Mercedes tries, and feels the notes settle in just how she wants them.
If she can’t sing for every single member of her glee club, at least Mercedes can sing to them.
It isn’t, against all odds, a complete and total disaster. They get themselves prepared so fast they should be on one of those overnight home makeover shows Carole is secretly addicted to, but it doesn’t all fall apart on stage and that’s what really matters.
In the end, all thirteen of them end up backing Mercedes up on the ballad. They’re calling it ‘Hold On Anyways’. The whole stage echoes around “take your hand if I can reach,” and “can’t stop the world from beating you down, I barely know how to help you back up again.” How could they all not join in? They all mean it just as much as she does.
It’s a little rough. They miss a few steps in the choreography, and Mercedes’ voice cracks just a little towards the end, but they get from one end to the other all right. They even get through Blaine and Rachel’s masterpiece of a pop anthem more or less without breaking out of straight face, though the mood whiplash is probably enough to cause a few traumatic head and neck injuries.
(Here is what you need to know about Blaine and Rachel, as songwriters. They are, in any possible universe, less subtle than anything Brittany S. Pierce and Artie Abrams could ever put together. “Throw the doors wide open” has nothing on “Just say it already, it’s not like we don’t all know anyway“. The less said about their version of “You and me, we’ve been dancing in the dark,” the better.)
(Kurt does not kill them. They gave him an entire verse. It really would have been nice if he’d had time to more than glance over the other lyrics in the song before getting up on stage, but clearly this is his own fault for trusting in the basic common sense of two singers who think ‘I Touch Myself’ makes a school-appropriate duet for Eighties Week. And given that Mr. Schue had kicked that week off with ‘Little Red Corvette’, it’s not like he can be counted on to keep anything in line. Next time, Kurt is demanding the lyrics to the entire song at least twelve hours in advance. He hears gay men get to make diva requests like that.)
They sing. They dance. They try, because oh holy lord, they’ve made it this far, and win or lose they are not going to survive climbing that whole range of mountains not to give it everything they’ve fucking got now that they’re nearly at the summit of this one. It’s not the hardest challenge they’ve faced this year. It’s not the hardest challenge some of their members have faced in the past two weeks.
It’s not enough, of course. Strength of heart and tests of character don’t prepare you for staying one hundred percent on key when an audience of thousands is watching your every move. Learning to live with yourself even if you can’t love it never made anyone a better dancer. Good intentions and the most heartfelt sentiments don’t turn a couple of songs composed overnight by a bunch of teenagers who spent most of this year more worried about who was secretly sleeping with whom into number one pop hit sensations. Those aren’t the skills the members of New Directions have honed the sharpest this year, and this isn’t the reward they get.
Twelfth place. It’s a dull, glancing blow of disappointment, when last night was enough to get Noah and Santana laughing together again for the first time since he chose between his best friend and his babymama by picking neither at all. The girl who, in another world, would be trying to claw another Rachel’s eyes out, just makes sure to give the crack songwriting team of Anderson and Berry an extra high five before she sneaks out onto the balcony to find a quiet spot to call her girlfriend. Brittany will want to know that they kicked the asses of those Decibelles from Vermont by seven whole slots.
The boy in another world who will hide in corners and libraries with his snow globe and his guilt, in this one can’t stop smiling. Rachel is pouting and Artie is disappointed and Lauren is grumbling in a corner, but Finn Hudson sang on a stage in New York City. Finn’s brother is speaking to people and smiling again, Finn’s not-girlfriend sang something about being more than what her parents think of her and sounded like she meant it, and Vocal Adrenaline missed making it into the top ten by a single slot.
And the girl who, in another world, would have spent all morning puking in the girl’s bathroom under the stress of responsibility for her team’s fifth consecutive national championship, clutches her gift shop t-shirt like a trophy and hugs everyone she can reach. New Directions doesn’t give out green cards as signing bonuses, and she never quite managed to find her own rhythm in this whirling vortex of melodrama that the others all seem to call ‘home’, but they’ve all learned to dance to each other’s beats by now at least a little. They’ll do even better next year, and they’ll do it without her, but nothing on this earth could make Sunshine forget McKinley High.
Some other Mercedes is sending shy, quick glances across her hotel room at some other Sam who’s only just daring to glance over back, but fuck that. Mercedes Jones will give herself what she deserves, and she will kiss that boy right in front of everyone. She’ll have him for as long as he’ll have her back, because everyone deserves some happiness: boys who never got chances in the first place and girls on their second or third, the people who have to leave to come back home and even the people who can’t quite protect the ones they’re responsible for as well as they should.
And a world away, Kurt Hummel is lifting himself out of his post-Nationals funk with memories of a secret trip to a Broadway stage and thoughts of the boy waiting at home for him. He had a pretty good year, that other Kurt Hummel. He always knew who he was, what he wanted, even if it seemed almost impossible to get.
This Kurt would give an awful lot for that kind of clarity, but there are moments and memories of this year that he wouldn’t trade for anything. They’re not all good, or even all of Blaine, but this is the life Kurt is living. He doesn’t know any better way to figure out who he actually wants to be than with that.
Kurt slips out of the hotel room as things start to get raucous. It’s still only just late afternoon in New York City, long blocks of sun stretching diagonal over the streets. His jacket is still up in the boys’ room, but it’s not so very cold; Coach used to have them out on the field in their short sleeved uniforms in worse.
All he’s looking for is a little space, some quiet. Maybe something to do with his hands. Maybe the new Kurt should take up smoking. Quinn could probably give him some advice on brands.
His pulse quickens when he hears the footsteps come up right behind him--it is New York City, after all, everybody knows the stories--but a quick glance to the left has him relaxing just as quickly.
“Did Mercedes send you after me, or did Mr. Schue spontaneously decide to take an actual interest?” he asks. Blaine pulls up next to him, so they take up the whole sidewalk, walking abreast. He’s got Kurt’s jacket slung over one arm.
“We are on the buddy system,” he says dryly, and Kurt lets out a little noise of sarcasm.
“I was just going around the side of the hotel,” he says, and stops as they reach the corner.
It’s the southwestern corner of the building, and bathed in thin golden sunlight. Kurt rests his back against the stone of the wall; Blaine leans on one palm, set on the brick next to Kurt’s head.
There are people around, walking down the opposite side of the street and hurrying back and forth along the busier cross street. Dozens of people, in the middle of the late afternoon on a Friday in May, all with their own plans and lives and concerns and not one of them sparing Kurt and Blaine a single glance as they walk.
“I’m going to live here one day,” Kurt finds himself saying, and Blaine just nods like he’s always known it to be true. “If not for college, then afterwards. When I figure out what I could possibly do with my life besides stay in Lima.”
“You make a pretty good singer,” Blaine suggests, and Kurt allows a quick, tight smile that he nonetheless means completely.
“We’ll see,” he says. “Not even Mercedes is planning to go that way.”
“I don’t know what I want to do with my life,” Blaine admits. “Except get out of Lima. I think I’m going to miss your dad more than my own.”
“He’ll probably miss you more than me,” Kurt says, and Blaine frowns, and says “Hey,” and shifts closer, and Kurt says “Don’t,” and Blaine is too close now, just a few inches away. There are half a dozen people all within view of them walking down one or the other street, and out of the corners of his eyes Kurt can’t see a single one of them even taking a second glance at all.
“We’re in public,” Kurt says, and Blaine’s whole face goes shuttered off. He starts to pull away but Kurt reaches up and grabs him by the shoulder before he can get anywhere. “I want to kiss you anyway.”
Blaine’s always had the most expressive face, and Kurt can read it like nobody else. It’s all in his eyes now, relief and cautious hope and some kind of yearning, and Kurt put that there. “So do it,” he says, and leans in, and Kurt can lean back because this is New York, city of dreams, magic island inside a snow globe whole eternities away from the real world. Kurt can have things here, things he never--
It’s warm and closed-lipped, almost chaste at first, maybe the only time they’ve ever done this without six or eight beers between them or their pants already down around their ankles. Then Blaine sighs into it and his lips part just a little, enough for Kurt’s tongue to come out, licking across them gently, automatically, like he’s coaxing a girl to open her mouth farther to his, and
And there’s a day’s worth of stubble prickling beneath Kurt’s palm, and a hand heavy on the small of his back, and it’s still slow, slow like a fucking oncoming train just making its way along its track, leisurely and completely impossible to stop. They can’t ever stop this. It’s the rightest thing Kurt’s ever felt in his life.
He closes his eyes, on a public street corner in a city full of people while he’s kissing a boy. It doesn’t matter if he’s keeping watch. A small army of homophobes would have to pry them apart with a crowbar if they showed up now anyway. Blaine is here. Blaine is here and he is Kurt’s. Kurt is out here, exposed and in public for anyone at all to see, but Blaine has one hand at the small of his back and the other cupping the back of his head, and nothing at all matters except that Kurt is Blaine’s.
They part with little gasps, open their eyes but don’t draw any further apart, lean their foreheads in to rest against each other.
“I’m sorry,” Kurt says, already missing the taste of him. Blaine lets his left hand slip down to hold the back of his neck and squeezes it lightly.
“Don’t,” he says. “I know. I--”
“I just wanted to keep you safe,” says Kurt, and
“I know, Kurt, I understand, it’s okay,” Blaine says, and Kurt continues right over him,
“I couldn’t handle it, if you weren’t safe.”
“I know,” Blaine says, one more time. “I know. Me neither, Kurt.”
And they stand, touching foreheads, touching shoulder and back and neck and cheek, breathing each other’s air in silence for long moments in the warmth of the fading afternoon sun.
“We have to go back,” Kurt says eventually. It doesn’t matter whether he means upstairs or Lima; it’s all of a piece, the reality of the world he sometimes thinks he’d do anything to leave behind.
But there’s Finn and his father and Carole. Somebody has to take care of Quinn and somebody has to stop Rachel from ever writing any more songs. There’s the last of Coach Sylvester’s paperwork to complete before the Cheerios change over entirely to Becky’s hands, and there’s the fact that he still has to apologize to Mercedes, and they can’t stay in the magic bubble of Manhattan forever.
“I don’t want to lose this,” Blaine says, and Kurt tightens his grip on Blaine’s shoulder reflexively because no. No, they can’t, he can’t-- “Please, Kurt. Don’t make me choose.”
Kurt breathes in, clenching down against the littlest hint of new tears. “I just need us to be safe,” he repeats. There’s a catch in his voice and he doesn’t even care, not if it will help him keep Blaine. In one piece, and with Kurt, in any way possible.
“Life isn’t safe,” Blaine says, and it’s an edge of dark humor or a catch of his own, Kurt can’t tell. He’s too close to see the expression on Blaine’s face.
“It doesn’t have to be as dangerous as this is, though,” Kurt says. “You know what they’ll do to us. You know.”
And Blaine breathes with him in silence for a moment, because he does know, of course he knows. Everybody knows.
And then Blaine says, “The people upstairs wouldn’t,” and Kurt has to bite down hard on his tongue to keep the tears off. He’s always cried too easily. It only made everything worse.
“They’re not exactly the whole world,” Kurt says.
“Well, school’s out in another two weeks,” says Blaine. “You’re not doing cheerleading camp, and I’m not exactly planning on talking to anyone else this summer.”
Kurt blinks. He raises his head, and Blaine lets him go, but Kurt keeps one hand on Blaine’s shoulder and doesn’t step backwards.
“What happens in the fall?” he asks.
Blaine shrugs. There’s the hint of a smile just starting to creep onto his face. “Can we see how it goes?” he asks. “It’s our senior year. I know we can work something out.”
And Kurt smiles, actually smiles, and reaches for Blaine’s free hand with his own, and grabs it, right out in public on the corner of two streets in the middle of one of the biggest cities on Earth.
It’s the first time they’ve ever held hands.