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These Are the Golden Days

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Being somewhat of a hopeless romantic, Kurt's pretty sure that the thing he wants most in the world, after equal rights for gays and world peace, is a boyfriend.

He'd thought that transferring to Dalton would be the ticket, too. When it was just someplace he'd visited, it seemed like a mythical gay paradise – a glittery Xanadu rising from the mists – but in reality, it's an all-boys school whose population of gays is no higher than any other high school, really.

There's him, of course, and Blaine, and one guy named Kris who's on the baseball team and thus has next to nothing in common with Kurt other than a proclivity for boy-lips. And that's it.

McKinley was bigger, of course, and the only other gay student he'd known was so deep in the closet that the only boy-lips he'd gotten anywhere near were Peter and Edmund Pevensie's – the incident that shall not be spoken of notwithstanding – so it had seemed irredeemably lonely.

And while Dalton is much better in that he has a friend and a confidant who genuinely understands him, it's still nothing close to what he'd imagined. His imaginings, if he were pressed to admit them under oath, had consisted mainly of group showers and stirring Bette Midler tributes.

It's strange, but the thing he misses the most is the girls, which isn't exactly what one would expect if one were to base one's assumptions on stereotypes. But Kurt's social circle of people who actually want to talk about which boys are cute and which episodes of Gossip Girl are the most relevant has been cut from several down to one.

But such is life, and Kurt is making due the best way he knows how: Singing a lot and attempting to get Blaine to notice that he's boyfriend material. Blaine has this silly notion that Kurt isn't ready for such activities, though, which is noble and heroic and just makes Kurt want him more.

"You've been so hurt," Blaine will say dotingly, ruffling Kurt's hair like he's a Pomeranian. "You need to find yourself."

Kurt wants to argue that he knows exactly where he is, and exactly what he wants, but Blaine remains noble – and celibate – like a crown prince or a monk or something.

Kurt misses the excitement of McKinley. He misses the gossip and the secrets and the fake baby-daddies. He misses the way he used to craft his outfits so carefully each morning, rather than putting on a blazer that looks more suited to a doorman and just calling it a day.

He doesn't want to go back, though. He loves being able to be himself (albeit a drab, blazered version) and never have to be scared, never have to be threatened. It's... nice.

The problem is that 'nice' is for sweater weather, apple cobbler, and hugs from your grandmother. It's not what the sophisticated, urbane, and okay, hopelessly romantic, teen craves this season.

So when he gets a text from Mercedes during algebra that says 911!!!!!!! Call me nowwww!!!! he leaps up from his desk without thinking.

Everyone in the classroom looks at him curiously. "Sorry. Ahhh... leg cramp," Kurt explains lamely.

"No phones in class," the teacher says, and Kurt scowls. How do teachers always know these things?

He has to wait twenty torturous minutes until he can call Mercedes back, and when he does, it goes straight to voicemail. He debates kicking the wall, but his shoes are new – a Christmas gift from Carole – and he doesn't want to scuff them. A couple of agonizing minutes later, Mercedes calls him back.

"Sorry, sorry, I had to get a bathroom pass. I was in English," she says in lieu of a greeting.

"What?" he demands, having no time to waste.

"Sam said Karofsky's been asking about you!" Mercedes says in her best juicy-gossip voice. Kurt's heart starts to beat double-time.

"What...? What did he want?"

"I don't know, but Finn's gonna ambush him after school and rough him up!"

Kurt gasps, pressing a hand to his chest. His stepbrother – who, okay, is his stepbrother, but is still definitely a hottie and could give Blaine a run for his money in the heroics department – is going to fight a large and scary football player for his honor! It's too delicious for words! How Kurt wishes he could be there!

"Oh, Mercedes! You have to try to get video! Promise me. Promise," he begs, shame flying out the window.

Mercedes clucks her tongue. "Like I didn't already think of that for you. I'm gonna try, okay? But I have to get back to class."

"Me too," Kurt says, depressed. They hang up and Kurt stuffs his phone in his pocket angrily. The event of the season and he's missing it. It's really untenable.

He sighs and heads to his next class. Mercedes had better follow through with the video.

~*~

After class, he goes back to his room and paces the floor, alternating between hoping Finn kills Karofsky and hoping he doesn't even try, because, well... Karofsky scares Kurt more than anything in this world. The worst part is that he knows that what's behind Karofsky's anger is fear. Numbing, blinding, screaming fear and it makes Karofsky more dangerous than Finn or anyone else can understand.

Kurt curses his romantic streak for making him focus on the fact that there is going to be a fight over him – sort of; he'll take what he can get – and forget that he probably should have warned Finn somehow. He doesn't know how to do it without spilling Karofsky's secret, though, which is something he won't ever do. Karofsky is evil personified, true. He's a shitty, miserable excuse for a human being. There's no mistake; Kurt isn't protecting Karofsky for any noble reason. He just knows he can't be the one to say it. It has to be Karofsky and it has to be when he's ready.

Plus he at least half-believes that Karofsky would follow through on his threat to kill him. Maybe not literally put him in the ground, but putting him in the hospital isn't out of the question.

It's far too late to say anything to Finn now, though. It's getting on towards four o'clock, and the confrontation will be over by now. Finn is either on his way home or he's in intensive care. Both are equally likely.

Kurt tries Finn's phone over and over, while he alternately rehearses his eulogy for Finn and the testimony he'll present at Karofsky's trial. He's right in the middle of trying to think of a somber synonym for 'tall' when Finn answers the phone.

"Oh god, Finn, you're alive!"

Finn sounds slightly confused. "You thought I wouldn't be? Also, why do I have like seventy missed calls from you?"

"Mercedes said you were going to fight Karofsky! I've been understandably concerned!"

"No, I told her I was going to talk to him," Finn says. "No one said anything about fighting."

"Oh," Kurt says, trying not to sound too disappointed. Talking about his honor is nowhere near as exciting as fighting for it. "Wait, what did he want? What did he tell you?"

"Nothing, really. He wanted to talk to you, actually."

"Why?" Kurt is scandalized at this news. He has nothing to talk to Karofsky about. He wouldn't talk to him if they were the last two people left on earth and Kurt's only alternative was speaking to a volleyball.

"He said he has to apologize to you," Finn says.

"I don't want to hear it!" Kurt sputters. He can hear the sound of the ice maker in the fridge and he can picture Finn in the kitchen – his kitchen – and it gives him such a strong stab of homesickness that he sinks onto the bed, suddenly tired and wishing for Friday.

"Hey, don't freak out. He meant that he really has to apologize. Not that he wants to. I guess Coach Beiste told him that he can't play in games unless he formally apologizes to you. Me and Sam and the other guys were talking to her about what happened and she was pretty pissed. Figgins went along with it, too, so if he wants to play, he's got to say he's sorry. And mean it, too."

Kurt sniffs. "I have no intention of accepting any apology from him. Especially not just so he can get back to busting heads with the other Neanderthals. No offense."

"I don't know if you have to accept it," Finn says, sounding apologetic. "He just has to say it. Or write it or something. But he wanted to know if it would be better to call or to write a letter. I said a letter so you don't have to talk to him or see him. I gave him your address over there."

"Thanks," Kurt says, relieved that Finn made the decision for him. "Was he…? Did he seem like he was sorry?" Kurt doesn't know why he cares, but it seems like it's important to ask.

Finn pauses for a second before he says, "Honestly, he was sort of a dick about it."

That makes Kurt feel marginally better. It's still Tuesday, the world's still turning, and Karofsky's still an asshole. It's like all's right in the universe.

"Well… thank you. For handling that."

"Yeah, any time, bro. And hey... everyone misses you, you know."

Kurt smiles into the phone. "I miss everyone, too. Hug my dad for me, okay? And I'll see you guys on Friday."

"Will do. See you Friday!"

Kurt hangs up, still smiling. He misses his dad and his friends and everyone, but he's been going home every weekend (unless there's a Warblers event), which makes things better. There's not much to do at Dalton on the weekends, anyway. Especially since Blaine usually goes home, too.

He sighs, refusing to let himself dwell on Blaine. Or Karofsky.

Anyway, he's got to get in touch with Mercedes and bitch her out for getting him all excited over nothing.

~*~

Kurt has a busy week. Classes are harder at Dalton and he has to think a lot more to maintain his usual A's and B's. The Warblers are fun, too, even though he still doesn't have the level of input he'd like from a choral situation.

It's not like he's forgotten about the Karofsky thing. It's more like, he figured that it would probably just go away. Like Karofsky would write some half-assed letter, show it to Coach Beiste, and conveniently forget to mail it, because, hello. It's not like Karofsky actually gives half a crap about Kurt.

When he gets out of class on Friday, his mind is full of things he has to do to get ready for the drive home, so he barely pays attention when he grabs his mail from the row of boxes outside the main hall.

Pocketing his mail key, he flips through the stack on his way up the stairs. His heart stops for a second – and he nearly trips up the stairs – when he sees the letter addressed in messy boy-writing, with a little American flag return address sticker that says The Karofsky Family.

He stuffs the rest of his mail in his school bag, but he keeps the letter out as he goes into his dorm room. His hands are shaking hard enough that the envelope is almost flapping. He doesn't know why he's so scared. It's not like a letter can hurt him. There are no suspicious lumps that could be explosive devices or live bees. It's just a plain, standard envelope.

He holds it up to the light, but it's the security kind that has a blue pattern inside so he can't make out anything through it. He takes a deep breath and sticks his finger under the flap, tearing it open. It's a single sheet of paper and it's not even handwritten. Although, it's probably unreasonable to expect Karofsky to know that typed letters are impersonal. Considering the source, he's just glad it's not made from scraps cut out of the newspaper.

Kurt smoothes the paper nervously and finally begins to read.

Dear Kurt,

I'm really sorry for all the things I did. It was very wrong to push you into lockers and throw slushies at you and to threaten you. I hope you can forgive me but if not its okay. I will understand. But I know I shouldn't have done that and I hope you believe me that I feel bad about it.

It's signed in ink at the bottom, a messy scrawl that's vaguely recognizable as 'Dave Karofsky.' And that's it.

Kurt stares at it in disbelief. "This is the worst apology letter ever," he says to the empty room. Disgusted, he tosses the letter and the envelope onto his desk and flops on the bed. It's just so… cold! Where's the tortured angst? Where are the pleas for forgiveness? The begging?

The whole thing sounds like something parents forced their petulant child to write after he hit his little brother. It's obviously completely insincere! The only part that seems even slightly genuine is the last sentence, but it's much too little and much too late.

Kurt stomps back to his desk in disgust and pulls out his stationary box. Selecting a boring piece of blue paper with subtle gray lines and a black ballpoint pen, Kurt sits down to write.

Karofsky,

I just read your letter, and it was the most pathetic excuse for an apology that I have ever personally witnessed. First of all, if you weren't a complete cretin, you would know that typed letters are a disgusting and impersonal form of communication. Why not just send me a text message? Or tweet me? Letter writing is an art and it should be treated with some care. Secondly, I don't believe in the least that you are sorry. You were abominable to me for eons and the best apology you can come up with is "I'm really sorry. It was wrong." I'm honestly aghast. Lastly, I can't believe that you still can't even admit why you did what you did. I won't discuss it here as I am a compassionate human being (unlike yourself) and if this letter were to fall into the wrong hands, it could hurt you. I (again, unlike yourself) care about hurting people, even if the person is a complete dog turd like you.

In conclusion, I seriously hope you can do better than this in the future, otherwise I will personally contact Coach Beiste and inform her that you are a spineless animal and she would do better to replace you on the football team with some other more useful and noble vertebrate, like a skunk or a rat.

He signs his name with a flourish and folds the paper into thirds, creasing each fold with his thumbnail angrily. He copies Karofsky's address off the envelope, adds a stamp and one of his personal return address labels, and marches downstairs to throw the letter in the outgoing mail slot in the entryway.

When he gets back up to his room, he feels strangely light. Giving Karofsky a piece of his mind in a safe setting where he can't get punched – or worse – feels liberating. He wonders if he'll get a better, more properly apologetic letter in the future. He bets not, since Karofsky is a bare minimum sort of guy, and having done his duty, probably won't see fit to exert any more effort.

Either way, Kurt feels better than he has in a while. He does so enjoy a verbal flaying and he knows that he totally won that round. Content, he goes to finish packing his things for the trip home.

~*~

He doesn't tell anyone about his moral victory over Karofsky. He doesn't really like talking about Karofsky at all, because he hates the looks of pity that his friends get when the name is mentioned. It makes him feel weak.

He already feels weak enough currently, because for some reason, he keeps waiting for another letter. He has a beautiful fantasy that Karofsky will send him a note filled with confessions and recriminations, possibly stained with his guilty tears, that Kurt can stash somewhere and use as insurance policy in case Karofsky ever tries to hurt him again.

However, he realizes that it's slightly twisted. He's smart enough to be able to do some self-analysis when the need arises, and he knows that wanting to hear from Karofsky is a little sick. It's like the lightest form of self-harm. Correspondence masochism.

That must be why, when he checks his mailbox a week later and finds a letter from Karofsky, the initial rush of victory is immediately tempered by shame. It doesn't stop him from rushing to his room and tearing open the missive.

It's typed again, and even shorter than last time.

Hummel –

You know what fuck you. I tried to be honest and you had to be a dick about it. I'm not going to talk about gay shit with you. I'm not a fag. I said I would say I was sorry and I did. Fuck you if you don't think its good enough.

Kurt crumples the note in his hand and throws it against the wall as hard as he can. Unfortunately, it's hard to throw a single sheet of paper with any force and it sails to the floor, mocking him and leaving him unsatisfied.

Full of impotent frustration, Kurt pulls out another sheet of stationary and starts scrawling.

Fuck me?!?!? No, fuck you, Karofsky! Although, you know what? I wouldn't fuck you if you were the last man on earth! You're stupid and disgusting and worst of all, you're cruel. You can lie to yourself all you want, but you kissed me. You wanted to kiss me. And that doesn't necessarily make you a "fag," but it doesn't make you a "normal hetero" like your friends on the football team, either and you know it. I'm done trying to talk to you, though. Keep telling yourself that you don't want to fuck boys. Maybe some day, you'll convince yourself.

Thank you for your letter, because I admit, I was scared of you for a long time. But you cured me of that. Now I can see that you're just a pathetic, scared boy who can't handle the fact that he's different. I can deal with it and you can't. Knowing that makes me realize that I'm more of a man than you will ever be.

Don't bother writing me back. If I see another letter from you, I'll burn it. Enjoy your personal hell.

He doesn't even bother to sign his name. He folds the paper haphazardly and stuffs it in an envelope. Still shaking, he speed-walks to the entryway, taking the stairs two at a time and chucks the letter through the slot, clanging the flap closed angrily. Karofsky can go straight to hell.

After that, he honestly doesn't wait for any more letters. He's a drama queen, but he's not an idiot. He's so finished with Karofsky that it isn't even funny. He'd meant every word of his letter. He used to be scared shitless of Karofsky, true, but he'd also felt pity for him, and alright, some empathy, too. He knew Karofsky was an unrepentant dick, but he also knew why Karofsky acted that way.

Now he's washed his hands of the whole situation. He's got a life to live and it doesn't involve Dave Karofsky at all anymore.

~*~

Almost a month after the letter fiasco, Kurt is sitting at the food court in the mall on a sunny Saturday afternoon with Blaine and three of the Warblers who go to the Lima area on weekends. It's casual and companionable, and Kurt is flushed with joy that Blaine's visiting him on his home turf. He's leaning on Blaine's arm and Blaine is letting him. He feels perfect. So of course that's when things go to shit.

He's taking a big sip of his smoothie when he sees Karofsky and he almost chokes. Blaine leaps into action when Kurt starts coughing, patting his back and offering a napkin attentively. "Are you alright?"

Kurt coughs again, waving his hand. "Wrong pipe," he manages, scanning the food court for Karofsky. He sees him over at the Thai place, waiting in line with some girl Kurt doesn't recognize. He doesn't seem to have noticed Kurt. He's got his hand on the small of the girl's back, and they appear to be on a date.

Blaine must follow Kurt's gaze, though, because he says, "Hey, isn't that the guy who…" he trails off, but the others jump in.

"What guy?" Charlie asks.

"Just some guy who was harassing Kurt at his old school," Blaine says smoothly. "Maybe we should go before he sees us."

It's too late, though, as Karofsky must feel their collective gaze and he turns around. His eyes narrow when he sees Kurt and his friends.

"Let's just go," Kurt murmurs, trying not to move his lips too much.

"It would be awkward now," Blaine says. "You shouldn't seem like you're running away. Just ignore him, Kurt."

Kurt tries. He really does. But a few minutes later, he feels a shape loom over him and he looks up to see Karofsky standing at their table. "Can I talk to you?" he asks.

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Blaine says heroically, putting his arm around Kurt's shoulders.

Kurt realizes then that he wasn't fooling himself. He really isn't scared of Karofsky anymore. Karofsky's just another person. No different than anyone else. He takes a breath. "No, it's alright, Blaine. I'll speak to him." He slides out from under Blaine's arm and stands up. He walks a short distance away to stand by a large potted palm tree at the edge of the line of tables. He doesn't look back to see if Karofsky is following him.

A second later, Karofsky is in front of him. "Where's your girlfriend?" Kurt asks snidely.

Karofsky's eyes shift away. "Finding a table. Listen, I don't want to fight with you. I just want to tell you…"

"Yes? I don't have all day. I'm here with my friends."

"Is… Is that your boyfriend?" Karofsky asks, his tone sort of strange and strained.

"What's it to you?" Kurt spits, not wanting to have to say no.

"Whatever. I just wanted to tell you that you're wrong. I'm not…" He looks around for a moment, trying to see if anyone's listening. "I'm not like you. I'm dating Melissa now. What happened… before… It was a mistake, okay? You were wrong about me."

Kurt laughs loudly enough that several tables of people turn to look at them. "You keep telling yourself that."

"I'm not," Karofsky insists earnestly, reaching for Kurt's arm, but drawing his hand back almost immediately, as if he's thought better of it.

Kurt thinks for a minute, trying to gather his thoughts. He's not sure what the mature response is. After a bit of thought, he says, "Fine. I believe you. People get confused sometimes and that's okay."

Karofsky's mouth drops open unattractively for a second before he clamps it shut. He nods once, like things are settled. "Okay. Well. Thank you."

"Anytime," Kurt says, and turns around to walk back to his friends. He feels strangely proud of both of them. Even though Karofsky is clearly full of shit, they managed to have an actual conversation where no one yelled and no one got hurt. It's progress.

"Are you okay?" Blaine asks as Kurt rejoins their table.

"Fine," Kurt says, taking another sip of his smoothie.

"What was that about?" Blaine asks, leaning closer to Kurt's ear, which Kurt definitely appreciates.

Kurt considers the question. Finally he says, "Closure."

~*~

Almost three months go by and Kurt has seen neither hide nor hair of Karofsky. Kurt is somewhat depressed as spring break begins in mere days, and he's no closer to making out with Blaine than he was when he transferred to Dalton Academy.

He's also not looking forward to an entire week at home with Finn, because even though he likes his stepbrother's company, spending time with Finn makes him miss McKinley even more than usual. He's hoping he can carve out some quality time with Mercedes and the others during the break, too.

When he finishes his last class on Thursday, he finds a yellow envelope in his mailbox. There's no return address, which is a little strange for something that appears to be a greeting card, based on the shape and weight. Figuring it's probably from his senile great-aunt who never remembers exactly when his birthday is, he takes it to his room along with his new issue of GQ.

He opens it standing over the trash can, prepared to dump it unless it contains money. However, it's not a birthday card. The front has a picture of a sad-looking puppy on it and it says 'I'm Sorry' at the top. Confused, he opens the card and reads the messy handwriting inside.

Kurt,

You were right. I broke up with Melissa. I really am sorry about everything I did, but this fucking sucks. I bought a card and I'm writing in it. I hope you're happy with it.

It's signed more neatly this time, and Kurt presses his thumb on the signature, feeling how the pen pressed into the cardstock. The note is dripping with venom, but Kurt feels his old friend empathy rearing its ugly head. Is this Karofsky coming out to him?

The tone is petulant again, and full of self-pity, but it's more honest than either of his other messages before. And it contains the phrase 'you were right' which always appeals to Kurt.

Sighing, he stashes the card in his sock drawer and sits on the bed, staring at the wall. He's not sure of the best course of action. His first instinct is to ignore it. He had told Karofsky that if he ever sent any more letters, he'd burn them. But he has the nagging feeling that Karofsky is… what? Reaching out? Looking for help? Something.

He tries to forget about it, though, as he heads for Warblers rehearsal. He eats dinner with Blaine and some of the other guys in the dining hall and he manages not to think of Karofsky even once.

That is until the next day when he's in his Navigator, driving back to Lima for a full eleven days home with his family. He's got the Rent soundtrack blaring and he's singing along, but his thoughts keep straying to the card that's tucked in his suitcase.

Logically, he knows that the reason he can't get it off his mind is guilt. He can't help but think about the time that he'd had a long talk with Blaine that was very cathartic, and he'd thanked Blaine afterward for listening. Blaine had smiled his little Mona Lisa smile and said, "It's sort of our job as gay men to be there for each other, isn't it?"

It's not like Karofsky's said he's gay, but he's come closer than Kurt had ever imagined he would. He's not really repaying Blaine's kindness very well if he ignores Karofsky completely. He needs to do something to reach out, he decides.

If Karofsky brushes him off or even gets mad, oh well. At least he's tried.

~*~

Kurt doesn't have time to attempt anything with the Karofsky situation until after dinner. Friday night family dinners are an even bigger deal now that it's Kurt's weekly 'welcome home' dinner, too.

Once his dad and Carole are ensconced in the living room playing backgammon and Finn's gone off to his room, Kurt finds the phone book in the kitchen junk drawer and takes it down to his bedroom. There's only one listing for 'Karofsky,' so Kurt dials it.

"Hello?"

Kurt recognizes Karofsky's voice. "Karofsky? I mean, Dave?"

"Hummel?" Karofsky sounds sort of shocked.

"Yes. I… I got your card. Thank you."

"Oh. Yeah. Um… Good."

Kurt doesn't want to make small talk, so he just blurts out, "Were you saying what I think you were saying?"

There's a slightly long pause and then he says, "Is this your cell number? Can I call you back in a minute on my phone instead of my parents'?"

"Sure," Kurt says. They hang up and Kurt sits for a while, staring at his phone and wondering if Karofsky really is going to call back. The phone buzzes in his hand a moment later. "Hello?" he says, not wanting to assume.

"It's Dave. Karofsky. I wanted to go out to my car. My dad is home."

"Understood," Kurt says. "So. What did you mean when you said I was right?"

"Fuck, I don't know," Karofsky says. He sounds a little angry, but not necessarily at Kurt, so Kurt presses on.

"If you really don't know, it's okay. I meant what I said at the mall. It's okay to be confused."

"God, don't talk to me like you're my therapist!" Karofsky snaps.

"You have a therapist?"

"No! Fuck… I just mean… I don't need you to tell me what's okay. I know what's okay."

Kurt sighs a little. "Why did you send me that card if you didn't want to talk to me?"

"I wanted to say I was sorry!" Karofsky says, sounding pissed off. "You keep acting like I don't really feel bad or something!"

"What do you feel bad for?" Kurt asks, honestly wanting to know.

"All of it!" Karofsky shouts, and Kurt has to hold the phone away from his ear. "Why do you want to make me say it?!"

Kurt almost breaks then. Maybe he's being sadistic. A masochist and a sadist. He's almost as fucked up as Karofsky. He sort of wants to know if Karofsky can say it, though, the part about the kiss. And he also wants to know if that's one of the things he's sorry for or not. "I don't want to make you say it. I genuinely want to know what you feel bad about. I think it's important if we're going to talk."

Karofsky makes an outraged-sounding huff and the call ends. The bastard hung up on him! He's just looking for something to throw to calm his impotent rage when the phone buzzes again. It's Karofsky. "That was rude," Kurt says.

"Yeah, sorry, okay?"

"So that's one thing you're sorry for," Kurt says, smiling a little to himself.

"Jesus, Hummel, do you have to be such a twat?"

Kurt bursts out laughing. It's not really that funny – actually, it's kind of uncalled for – but for some reason, possibly because the whole conversation is Twilight Zone levels of weird, it just tickles him.

"It's not funny!" Karofsky protests indignantly.

"Sorry," Kurt says, trying to calm his giggles.

"So that's one thing you're sorry for," Karofsky says, mocking in a much more gentle tone than his usual.

"Shut it, Karofsky. I'm waiting for my apology."

Karofsky pulls in a big breath. "Okay, I'm sorry I was a dick to you. I'm sorry I threatened you. I'm sorry I shoved you and I'm sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry I made you feel scared, and I'm sorry you left the school because of me."

He sounds genuinely contrite and it does beautiful things for Kurt's psyche to hear the repentance spilling out of Dave Karofsky's mouth. "Thank you," he breathes, feeling strangely as if he could cry.

"No problem," Karofsky mutters, sounding kind of embarrassed.

There's one thing Kurt needs to know, so he takes a deep breath and just says it. "Are you sorry you kissed me?"

Karofsky's quiet for a moment, but Kurt can hear him breathing, shallow and fast, so he knows he's still there. "Yes," he finally says. "Because it scared you and you didn't want me to."

Kurt breathes out hard. He hadn't realized he was holding his breath. "Thank you."

They're both silent for nearly thirty seconds before Kurt says, "That was my first kiss, you know. With a guy, I mean, which is the only kind of kiss that counts as far as I'm concerned. And you took it from me. I can't get that back. That's… That's one reason I was so upset."

"I'm sorry," Karofsky says again, his voice low and tortured.

Kurt's choked up again and he's not sure anymore if he wants to be having this conversation at all. He leans over, putting his head between his knees, still gripping the phone to his ear. "Listen, maybe we've talked enough for today. Maybe you can call me another time. When you're ready. I don't know if I can be your friend yet, but you need someone that you can talk to about these things, and I'm probably the only one you have. So… if you call me again, I'll answer. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Karofsky says, still sounding sort of far away. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Kurt hangs up the phone and lies back on his bed, suddenly so tired. He feels so much older than his years, bone-weary and careworn.

While the number is still on the screen, he enters Karofsky's cell in his address book as 'D.K. Cell' which should be innocuous enough not to arouse suspicion if someone scrolls through his calls. He drops the phone on the bedspread and scrubs at both eyes with the heels of his hands.

He's startled out of his funk by a knock on the door. "Hey Kurt! Want to play Rockband?" Finn yells.

Kurt gets up and shouts as he starts up the stairs, "Okay, but I get to sing."

"As always. Hey, are you okay?" Finn asks, looking at Kurt critically.

Kurt nods, managing a small smile. "Yes. I really am."

~*~

Surprisingly, Karofsky calls Kurt again just two days into spring break. Kurt's sitting in the living room watching his dad and Finn watch sports. He's actually quite happy for the interruption, even if it is Karofsky.

"Hey, H – Kurt. What's going on?"

"Nothing. Bored. What're you doing?" Kurt asks, getting up and walking down to his room in case it becomes evident that he's talking to someone other than Mercedes or Blaine. He's not necessarily ready for his dad or Finn to know he's communicating with Karofsky in a non-hostile way.

"Same. There's nothing to do in this town. I'd almost rather be in school. But not really," he finishes with a little laugh.

Kurt curls into a chair, smiling a little. "I know the feeling. As soon as I graduate, I'm so out of here."

"Where are you going to go?"

"New York City. L.A. Paris even. I don't know yet. Someplace that isn't Ohio," Kurt says with feeling. It's a little strange, but after their cathartic conversation, it doesn't feel at all awkward to talk to Karofsky just like any other person. "What about you?" he asks, thinking how strange it is that he really knows next to nothing about Karofsky as a person.

"Well, I'm sort of hoping I'll get a sports scholarship, but I probably have to bring my grades up for that. And it'll still probably only be a state school. But if it was any other state but this one, it would be nice."

"Right? Even, like, South Dakota would be preferable."

Karofsky chuckles a little. It's strange to hear him being affable and friendly, but it's a nice change. "So..." He clears his throat a little nervously. "I was, uh, wondering if maybe you want to hang out sometime while we're on break? Like... I don't know, have coffee or something? I don't really drink coffee, but..."

Kurt's stomach twists painfully from the fear that Karofsky might be asking him on a date. It's not like he hasn't made a move on Kurt before. And come on strong about it, too, to say the least. And Karofsky is still confused as hell and...

"Kurt?"

Kurt realizes he's been silent a long time. "Oh, well... I don't know. I just... I don't think I can right now," he finishes lamely.

"Oh... okay, if you're busy..."

Kurt sighs and takes the plunge. "Are you asking me out? Like on a date?"

"No!" Karofsky says, a little too loud. "What, are you crazy? Like, I would... I mean, you wouldn't want to... Fuck it. Never mind."

"Dave, I just..." Kurt searches for the right words, trying to be kind.

"No, I get it. I'm not your type or whatever. But I meant it just as friends, okay?"

"It's not about types!" Kurt snaps, unwilling to let Karofsky down easy now that he's trying this tactic. "I used to practically pee myself when I saw you in the halls! I had bruises that covered half my body thanks to you! I don't give a crap what you look like. You're not going to make it about that!"

"I said I was sorry!" Karofsky protests, like an apology is the be-all and end-all.

"Like that magically fixes how I feel?"

"It doesn't matter! I wasn't asking you out! I don't even want to go out with guys!" Karofsky shouts.

"You're a liar and you know it! I took a huge step in forgiving you enough to be friends, sort of, because I know you need a friend like me. I was the bigger man again. But I'm never going to want to go out with you because I might forgive you but I'm not going to be able to forget what happened long enough to trust you, and I can't go out with someone that I can't trust!"

Karofsky sighs hard. "Dude, it wasn't a date."

"Fine. Then ask me again sometime, when I'm done being pissed at you. But it's not going to be a date. It's never going to be a date," Kurt tells him, struggling to keep his voice even.

"I understand," Karofsky says coldly. "Have a good vacation," he says, hanging up in Kurt's ear.

Kurt slams the phone down on the end table next to his chair. "Asshole," he mutters.

"Who's an asshole?"

Kurt almost falls out of his chair, whirling to face Finn. "Were you eavesdropping?"

"Dude, no way," Finn says, holding up both hands. "Swear. All I heard was 'asshole.' Were you... having a fight with someone?"

Kurt sighs. He's been toying with the idea of confiding in Finn and it's grown too tempting. He loves his girlfriends to death, but there isn't a single one that he truly trusts to take a secret to her grave. He's been enjoying Rachel's company a lot lately, but she couldn't keep a secret to save her life. Mercedes is probably the best, but if she ever thought he might be in trouble, she'd tell anyone and everyone in a heartbeat. And Blaine, well... he already knows about Karofsky, but Kurt wants to date Blaine. The last thing he wants to talk to Blaine about is some crazy guy that may or may not be creepily obsessed with him.

Finn isn't a perfect choice by any means, but he's the best Kurt has. "Are you busy? Can we talk about something serious?"

"Yeah, totally," Finn says, sitting on the bed. He moves a throw pillow gingerly like he's afraid he'll damage it. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Just a little... confused."

"Is this, like, boy problems? Because I'll listen, but I don't know how much I can help you, dude."

"Sort of, I guess. It's about Karofsky."

Finn's hand tightens on the throw pillow. "Is he still bugging you?"

Kurt cocks his head and considers this. "Not in the same way, no. Listen, if I tell you what's going on, will you promise not to tell anyone? Not the New Directions, not my dad or your mom or anyone."

Finn looks concerned, but he nods. "Yeah, I promise."

"Okay, well, remember how he was going to send me a letter? Well, he did. And I sent him one back, and we sort of argued. By letter. It was a thing. Anyway, we finally talked on the phone and we... settled it, I guess."

"Like you made up?"

"Well, kind of. He said he was sorry and I forgave him. Mostly. And I... I want to help him."

"Help him with what?" Finn asks.

Kurt takes a deep breath. "Finn, Karofsky's gay. He hasn't come to terms with it yet, but he is. And I'm trying to... be there for him."

Finn's sitting there with his mouth open and Kurt almost smiles. "Are you serious? Are you, like, punking me? Are you videotaping this?"

"I'm dead serious, Finn. It's why he was such a jerk in the first place. I think he was freaked out by the fact that I'm proud of who I am, and he's scared of himself. And I think... I think he kind of liked me."

"He liked you? Like, romantically? How do you know?"

"Well, I honestly didn't have any clue until I confronted him in the locker room and he kissed me," Kurt confesses.

"He kissed you!?" Finn stands up dramatically like he's going to march over to Karofsky's house and kick his ass or something.

"Shhhh," Kurt hisses. "I don't want our parents to hear!"

"Sorry, but that's messed up, dude."

"Tell me about it! So anyway, we had a very nice, healing talk and whatever. This was just a few days ago. Then he just called me now and basically asked me out."

"He wants to go out with you? After what he did?" Finn presses both hands on his thighs, seething with righteous indignation. He looks sort of hot.

"I know, right? That's what I said! I said I was willing to be his friend because he needs one right now. But after the way he treated me... Anyway, he said it wasn't a date, but I'm not sure. I mean, he kissed me after all. He must at least be... attracted to me. Or whatever."

Finn looks away, slightly uncomfortably. "Wow. This is, like, a lot to take in right now."

"Sorry to dump this on you, but I didn't know who else I could talk to who wouldn't say anything. And you can't say anything. Karofsky might be an ass, but outing him before he's ready would just be... No one deserves that."

"No, dude, I get that. I won't say anything to anyone. But man... This is..."

"Messed up?" Kurt suggests.

"No kidding. You better not tell mom and dad about this, though. They might kill him or something and they'd go to jail and then we'd have to be in foster care and it would be bad."

Kurt smiles indulgently. He enjoys Finn's wild tangents. And he loves how easily Finn has taken to calling Kurt's father 'dad.' Kurt hasn't exactly had the same ease with Carole, but then he's lucky enough to actually remember his mother, so it's a little different. At first, he'd been mildly threatened, but he's secure enough to know that it's okay if his dad and Finn love each other a little. It's not taking anything away from him, and it helps cement their new family. And at times like these, he's pretty glad that his family includes people other than just his dad now.

"I won't," he promises. "Listen, I'm sorry but I had to talk to someone about this. I was going a little crazy."

"No, it's cool. I just wish I knew what to say that could help."

"It's enough to just get it off my chest, I think."

Finn nods, making a face like he wants to say something but he can't spit it out. Finally he says, "Did you... like it? When he kissed you?"

"Honestly, it scared the shit out of me. I mean, it's not like I think this now because I understand him at least a little bit better, but at the time, I thought he might... I mean, we were alone and..." He trails off, not wanting to verbalize the terror he'd felt in that moment.

Finn's clenching the pillow again. "That... fucker," he says with feeling.

Kurt laughs a little, surprised at hearing Finn talk like that. "No, I swear it's okay. I know now that he wasn't going to hurt me. When I pushed him away, he stopped. It's not like I could have stopped him if he didn't want me to. That says a lot. And he apologized for that, specifically. It was just scary as hell in that moment. I hope I can do it again sometime when I'm not fearful for my life."

"With Karofsky!?"

Kurt laughs again. "No, of course not. Maybe with Blaine, though," he says, letting his voice get a little dreamy.

Finn rolls his eyes. "Okay, that's my cue to leave." He's smiling though and Kurt stands up, holding out his hand.

"Thanks," he says.

Finn smiles at him and ignores his outstretched hand in favor of giving him a quick hug. "Anytime, bro."

After Finn leaves, Kurt doesn't necessarily feel better, but he feels lighter somehow. Freer. It's nice.

He thinks about Finn's mistaken assumption that he'd kiss Karofsky again. At this point, he's up to thinking that maybe, if they were literally the last humans on earth and his only alternative was to make out with a tree or a dog or something, that he might pick Karofsky over the tree. Maybe.

But probably not.

~*~

Spring break is almost over when Kurt gets the letter. No return address again, but Kurt recognizes the handwriting on the envelope. Not like he's read the card from Karofsky eight hundred times or anything. He's just checked on it a few times, making sure no one's tampered with it.

No one's around, but out of habit, he takes the letter to his room anyway.

Dear Kurt,

I'm sorry I fucked up again. I don't know how to do any of this. I'm not used to this personal shit. I really wasn't trying to ask you out. I know you wouldn't want to go out with me because of the stuff I did and I get that. But like I said it doesn't matter because I wasn't asking you on a date. I just wanted to hang out and talk and what ever. It's not like I can talk to anyone else right now. If you want to maybe do something sometime as friends you can let me know. But I won't hold my breath. Give me a call sometime ok? I didn't want to call you because I didn't know if you wanted to talk to me anymore. Anyway I'm sorry.

Kurt sighs. Karofsky's not exactly William Shakespeare, but he's getting slightly better with an apology letter.

Cursing his weakness, he pulls out his phone. Karofsky answers with a surprised, "Hey Kurt."

"Hey Dave," Kurt says, giving the first name thing another try. "Thanks for your letter. That was... sweet. And I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions like that. It was silly of me."

"Nah, it's cool. It's not like I made a good first impression with you or something." He chuckles ruefully.

"No shit," Kurt says, and Karofsky's chuckle turns into a genuine laugh. "Maybe it's just because I have such a crush on the first out guy I met, I assumed... Well, you know what they say about assuming."

"That guy you were with when I saw you at the mall? He's the guy you like?"

"Yeah," Kurt admits. As he's saying it, he realizes that is is sort of strange. Blaine is the first out guy he's met. The first guy to take him under his wing and show him the ropes. It's not as though he likes Blaine because he feels grateful or something sad like that, of course. There are a million things he likes about Blaine.

"But you're not going out?" Karofsky asks, interrupting Kurt's musing.

"No, unfortunately," Kurt laments. "He doesn't seem to think I'm ready for that yet, or something. But I'm definitely ready."

"So, you want to, like, have a boyfriend?" Karofsky sounds truly curious, and Kurt wonders if his interest is a step towards admitting what he wants for himself.

"Yeah, I really do. I want the same things that everyone wants. Don't you?"

"Don't I what?"

"Want to be able to hold someone's hand and kiss them and walk down the hall at school like a couple?"

"I guess. I did that with Melissa and it wasn't, like, exciting or anything."

Kurt smiles to himself. "Yeah, I did it with Brittany and it wasn't exciting either. It's because I don't want a girlfriend. Do you... think it would be different for you if it was a guy?"

Karofsky snorts. "There's no way in hell I'd walk anywhere holding a guy's hand."

Kurt curses himself for pressing too hard and ruining the dialogue. Karofsky clearly isn't ready. Being a mentor is hard. Blaine was lucky – Kurt was totally ready to open up and grow and blossom. Karofsky is like a stubborn weed.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"You didn't," Karofsky says, but he sounds prickly and defensive.

"Let's talk about something else. How was your break?"

"Shitty," he says, but doesn't elaborate further.

"Mmmm," Kurt says, not sure how to respond.

"Sorry, I'm in a bad mood today. Not your fault, either. I had a fight with my dad last night about stupid stuff, and..."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No. It wasn't about any of this stuff. But, um, thanks for asking."

"That's what friends are for," Kurt quips. After a second, he says, "I am your friend. You know that, right?" Just in case it's open for debate.

"Well, yeah. I guess." Karofsky sounds kind of embarrassed and Kurt smiles a little to himself.

"Well, just know that I am. And if you want to talk – about anything – I'm here."

"Yeah, okay. I... Thanks. I'm just..."

"Not ready?" Kurt suggests.

"I guess. I mean... How do you even know?"

"Know what? If you're gay?" Kurt asks, his heart speeding up. They're getting closer to the truth with each sentence and it's exhilarating to think that he might actually be able to help someone accept their sexuality. Even if it's a toad like Karofsky.

"God, this sucks so bad to even talk about! I feel like such a tool," Karofsky says, sounding pained.

Kurt supposes that meatheads like Karofsky, gay or straight, aren't really used to talking about their feelings. "Hey, it's okay," Kurt says, trying not to sound like a therapist. "Why don't I just tell you some stuff about me and you can listen. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

"So, I think all this has been easier for me because of who I am. I've always liked show tunes and fashion et cetera. I've thought about this before, and I think a lot of people would assume that I like those things because I'm gay. I don't think that's it at all. I feel like, if I were straight, I'd still want to dress nicely and sing and everything. There are a lot of straight guys who have the same interests as I do. It's just easier to like those things when you're gay."

Kurt takes a breath and ventures on. "I'm sure straight guys who are fashion designers or Broadway stars get called gay a lot, and I bet it's hard. But I almost wonder if it's harder to be a guy who has traditionally masculine interests, but is actually gay. No one would suspect it of him. No one would ever assume that a guy who plays sports and is big and tough and can't tell a McQueen from a McDonalds is gay."

Karofsky makes a little murmur that might be agreement, or it might be protest, so Kurt worries that he might be pushing it a little too hard. Not wanting to spook Karofsky, he veers back to talking about himself.

"I just sort of always knew I was gay. I don't ever remember a time where I thought about girls romantically. I had my first crush on a boy when I was in kindergarten. I didn't know anything about sex or love, but there was this boy in my class, and I knew I wanted to sit next to him and hold his hand. The first time I heard what 'gay' meant, I knew that it applied to me and that that's what I was. So... Yeah. I've had a long time to get used to it, I guess. I'm lucky in that, I think."

He pauses for a long moment, but Karofsky doesn't say anything. After a couple of seconds, Kurt ventures, "Do you want to keep talking, or...?"

Karofsky clears his throat. "I'm sorry, I was thinking." He doesn't elaborate as to what he might have been thinking about, and Kurt doesn't feel like he should ask.

"Well, I didn't mean to talk your ear off," Kurt says, just for something to say.

"No, you didn't. I wanted to know. About you, I mean."

"Do you... want to talk about you?"

Karofsky clears his throat again. "Um... Not right now, okay?"

"Sure," Kurt says. He takes a breath. "Hey, want to get coffee sometime soon? As friends," he clarifies with a little smile to himself.

"Yeah. That would be cool. When?"

Kurt had meant it more hypothetically, so the question gives him pause. "Well... I'm going to a movie with Mercedes tomorrow. And I think I'm supposed to hang out with my family on Sunday since it's the last day before school starts again... But I come home every weekend. Unless there's a school thing."

"How about next Saturday? We could meet up somewhere. Or whatever."

"That sounds good," Kurt says, surprised by how much he means it. He's proud of how far he's come that socializing with Dave Karofsky sounds... not horrible. "I'll call you when I get back on Friday, okay? And text me any time. Really."

"Thanks, man. That's... that's really cool of you."

They end the call, and Kurt flops on his bed. He feels sort of queasy for some reason. It's not like he hasn't seen Karofsky in person since they started being civil to each other, but running into him in the mall and having a two-minute conversation with him under Blaine's watchful eye isn't quite the same as a social engagement.

~*~

Karofsky takes Kurt up on his offer and they text reasonably frequently throughout the week, usually about innocuous things. Kurt's surprised to learn that Karofsky's actually sort of funny. He texts Kurt random things like, I think the cafeteria nacho cheese n th peanut butter are the same damn thng and slightly more personal things like, Got a d on my geo test. My dads gonna kill me. Small things that add up to a larger picture of who Karofsky is.

Kurt always responds, and he doesn't push the gay thing at all. He doesn't call, either. His roommate, Jonah, is on the student council and in Model U.N. and isn't in the room a lot, but Kurt can't guarantee a level of privacy appropriate for conversations of that magnitude.

On Friday, after his weekend bag is packed, he texts Karofsky, On my way home. Still on for tomorrow?

He's halfway home before he gets a response. For sure. Call me in the am. Kurt smiles a little and puts the phone away. His dad will officially murder him if he texts and drives.

Either way, he's looking forward to the family dinner. He's still on the fence as to whether or not he should tell anyone that he's meeting Karofsky. His dad and Finn would both take it very badly, probably.

He figures he can figure it out in the morning after he talks to Karofsky. He's got a date with his family and a Scrabble board to think about first.

~*~

Kurt calls in the morning, waiting until eleven because Karofsky seems like the type who sleeps in late on Saturdays.

"Hey, Hummel," Karofsky says when he picks up the phone. "How was Scrabble?"

Kurt had forgotten that he'd told Karofsky about his plans. It had been several days ago and he's surprised that Karofsky remembered. "Amazing, actually. A decisive victory for me. I scored thirty points with 'quinoa' on a double-word score, and Finn challenged the word, so he lost a turn. He should really know better by now."

Karofsky chuckles. "I would challenge that, too. What the hell is it?"

"It's a grain. Very good for you. So... Do we have a plan for today?"

"Did you still want to get coffee? We could go to Beans."

Beans is a popular coffee shop near McKinley and a lot of kids hang out there. Kurt's surprised that Karofsky would suggest somewhere so public. But he's not going to make a big deal over them hanging out together if Karofsky isn't. "Sounds good."

"I gotta be back by five. My grandma's coming for dinner."

Kurt sighs. "Unfortunately, I was going to say I couldn't do it until later. My dad took my car in for an oil change."

"Oh," Karofsky says, sounding kind of upset. "I could pick you up, I guess. I mean, if that's okay."

"That would work," Kurt says before he thinks it through. Meeting Karofsky somewhere when he has his own vehicle and an escape route is one thing, but being his captive... He shakes his head. He can't think of it that way. He's not scared of Karofsky anymore.

Before he can talk himself out of it, he says, "Well... I'll see you in a bit, then." They say goodbye, and Kurt goes to take a shower and get ready. There's no sense in making a big deal about everything.

Although, after his shower, he stares in the mirror, wondering if he's making a huge mistake by letting Karofsky into his life.

After a couple of minutes, he comes to the realization that the difference is that he's letting Karofsky into his life. They're not being thrown together by circumstance and school districts. He didn't choose to socialize with Karofsky before. Now he's making a conscious choice and it's on his terms. That makes him feel much more comfortable about the whole thing.

That, and he's pretty certain now that Karofsky doesn't want him dead, which is nice. He promises himself that he'll at least tell someone where he's going, though. And maybe take down Karofsky's license plate number, just to be on the safe side.

Before he leaves, Kurt slips into Finn's room and puts a note on his bed that reads: Karofsky is picking me up and we're going to Beans for coffee. It is not a date. Don't freak out and for god's sake don't go over there. We're just going to talk as friends. But I wanted to tell someone, just in case this is all an elaborate plot to abduct and kill me. XOXO, Kurt

So he's got a flair for the dramatic. Sue him.

When it's almost time for Karofsky to arrive, Kurt goes out onto the porch to wait. He's not there long before Karofsky pulls up to the curb.

Karofsky doesn't get out and open the door or anything chivalrous like that, which is a comfort. His car is a beat-up black sedan that's definitely not going to win any beauty contests, but when Kurt gets in, he sees that it's quite clean and the engine isn't overly noisy.

The radio's playing a Top 40 station, but it's turned down low. "Hey," Kurt says, buckling his seatbelt.

"Hey," Karofsky says back, giving Kurt a small, slightly nervous smile before he puts the car in gear.

"So... How are you? Did you get to make up that geometry test you told me about?" Kurt asks inanely, wanting to start a conversation somehow.

Karofsky launches into a tirade about his unreasonable geometry teacher, and Kurt watches his profile as he talks. He looks kind of good like this, honestly, his big hands capable on the wheel.

It's been some time since they've been face-to-face, and Kurt can't resist studying him a bit. It's not like he's attractive or anything, but Kurt allows that perhaps if you're into the blue-collar meathead type, he's not that hideous, really. Of course, Kurt's type is the complete opposite – smart, charming, artistic, urbane, fashionable.

He could never go for a jock with a thick neck and five o'clock shadow at one, whose idea of a date look is old jeans and an even older leather jacket with a small hole in the shoulder where it's snagged on something.

Kurt startles himself then, because, hello. This is not a date, for pity's sake! He looks out the window, scared of himself in this moment. It must be some sort of bizarre Stockholm Syndrome that he's developed from being trapped in the car with Karofsky for nearly three minutes. He must be mentally ill.

Although, trying to regain his rational thinking, he reasons that it is sort of nice to have a guy that isn't a straighter-than-arrows buddy pick him up and take him somewhere socially. He can only imagine how nice it'll be when he does finally have a real date with a guy that he actually likes.

Karofsky pulls into the Beans parking lot and Kurt shakes himself out of his reverie. "You okay?" Karofsky asks as he parks the car. "You're being kind of quiet."

"Sorry, I was just thinking. I... had a busy week. At school, I mean."

"Oh. Do you want me to just take you home or something? We don't have to do this today if you've got other stuff to do." Karofsky's looking down at his hands, and Kurt almost smiles, viciously pleased at Karofsky's unease.

"No, it's fine. I could use some coffee, honestly," Kurt says. He walks half a step behind Karofsky across the parking lot, watching the whitish square on the backside of his jeans where his wallet has worn its impression into the fabric. Then he realizes he's basically staring at Karofsky's ass, and he looks away.

When they reach the door, Karofsky holds it open for Kurt in a surprisingly gentlemanly fashion. Although it could just be an everyday courtesy that he'd provide for anyone walking behind him. Maybe Melissa trained him, Kurt thinks snidely.

He manages a small smile as he passes Karofsky, though. No sense in being completely rude. He's angrier at himself than Karofsky at this point, disgusted with his brief flight of fancy in the car.

"Why don't you find a table and I'll order?" Karofsky suggests. "What do you want to drink?"

"I'll have a peppermint mocha, all soy, no whipped cream," Kurt says with a small smile, wondering if Karofsky can handle that. He hurries off then, seeing some older people vacating a table with two cushy chairs. He practically throws himself in the chair before two young girls can snag the table. He smiles charmingly at the girls who wander away, disappointed.

A few minutes later, Karofsky shows up and hands Kurt a drink and a giant chocolate chip cookie which he so didn't ask for, but certainly isn't going to turn away. He apologizes to his hips as he sets the plate on the table. "Thanks," he tells Karofsky.

"No problem. One second, I'll be back." He leaves, presumably to get his own drink. He returns to the table a moment later with a coffee cup, but no cookie.

"How much do I owe you?" Kurt asks, reaching into his pocket.

Karofsky waves his hand. "It's on me."

Kurt arches an eyebrow at him. "We're here as friends."

"Friends don't ever buy things for each other?" Karofsky asks with a small smile.

Kurt acquiesces gracefully. "Fine, but you have to share this with me," he says, pushing the cookie to the middle of the table.

Karofsky nods and takes a sip of his coffee. He makes a weird face and Kurt almost laughs. "What did you get?"

"Same as you. I don't drink a lot of coffee so I just got two of these. It's... minty."

Kurt does laugh then. "It's a peppermint mocha. You were expecting strawberries?"

Karofsky shrugs, smiling back. He takes another drink, though, without the face. The conversation about the drinks finished, they lapse into a somewhat uncomfortable silence. Kurt breaks off a piece of the cookie and chews.

"So, how was your week? At school?" Karofsky asks, and Kurt laughs again.

"Fine, dad."

Karofsky looks away sheepishly. "Well, you said you've been busy..."

"That's true. Yeah, I just had a test in History and I didn't study as much as I should have. And then we got new lab partners in Physics and mine is a complete idiot, which means I'll have to do double the work, and just... You know. Everyday school issues. Nothing special. Or interesting to discuss," he finishes with a small smile.

"So you like it there?"

"I do. I miss my family sometimes, but it's kind of fun living in the dorms. My roommate is nice. It's worked out well because he's not the kind of guy I'm ever going to be close with. He's very into politics and world affairs. But being best friends with your roommate seems to be a recipe for drama, from what I've noticed. I'd rather just be polite acquaintances. And the classes are more challenging, but Dalton will certainly look good on my college applications."

Karofsky nods. "I'm glad you like it there. I'm... I'm really sorry that I..."

"Chased me out of school with your sexually frustrated rampages?" Kurt suggests.

Karofsky makes a strangled noise someplace between a laugh and a choke. "That's not how I'd say it, but... maybe."

At least he hasn't disputed the sexually frustrated part, which is more than Kurt had expected. It's just starting to feel like they might be able to have an actual conversation about something deeper than mint and lab partners, and then it all goes to shit.

The door opens and several large guys in McKinley letter jackets walk through the door. Kurt hears Azimio's loud voice carrying across the café as he says something about orange-pineapple. Karofsky can't see the door from his angle, but he must hear the voice and he stiffens.

Kurt leans over towards Karofsky. "Want me to... go?"

"Where would you go? I drove you here. And don't be stupid. We're just sitting here. They probably won't even see us."

Kurt slumps back into his chair because that's some pretty wishful thinking. Before he can even respond, he hears someone say, "Well, look who it is!"

The herd of football players move closer to the table, and Kurt steels himself for the moment he knows is coming. "Karofsky?" Azimio says, sounding completely appalled. "What the hell are you doing here with him?"

Karofsky looks defeated, beaten down, and before he can do something potentially incriminating, Kurt says smoothly, "Don't you know that Coach Beiste told him he had to apologize?"

Azimio nods a little. "You sent him some bullshit letter, I thought."

Kurt puts his nose in the air. "I refused to acknowledge it. It wasn't even handwritten."

"Oh," Azimio says, seemingly mollified. He looks at Karofsky and smirks. "Well, hurry up and kiss his faggot ass and you can get out of here with us."

Karofsky's knuckles go white on the arm of the chair. "Don't talk to him like that," he says, low and threatening.

Azimio looks shocked and then a little angry, so Kurt attempts to diffuse the situation. "Do you want to have to buy me coffee too? I could call Coach Beiste..."

"Whatever. Fuck this," Azimio says, his face contorted with disgust. "Let's go. It's way too fucking gay in here."

He goes back to the counter and snatches up a smoothie cup. The other football players grab their drinks and follow behind him. Kurt looks at Karofsky, who is breathing shallowly, his hands still clenched on the chair.

"Are you okay?" Kurt asks.

"I didn't need you to do that," he says, his voice low. "I could have..."

"What? Kicked his ass? Caused a scene? Come out to him?"

Karofsky looks away, red-faced. "I should have told him that you're my friend and I'm hanging out with you because I want to."

Kurt is sort of relieved that Karofsky didn't make a big scene. He has such a weakness for heroics and nobility, and he doesn't necessarily want to have to think of Karofsky in that light. "It's fine, really. I just wanted them to go away as quickly as possible." He slides the cookie plate across the table. "You're supposed to be sharing this with me."

"You eat it. You're skinny. And I just should have done something."

Kurt can practically hear the unspoken 'I'm the man' at the end of his sentence and he shakes his head. "I'm not a girl. You don't have to protect me. Maybe I didn't handle that like you would have, but I handled it. You might be bigger and tougher than I am, but I've got balls, too," Kurt finishes with a smirk.

Karofsky smiles, too, a little sheepishly, which Kurt takes as confirmation that he was right in his assessment of the situation. "Yeah, you do," Karofsky admits. "Sorry I handled that badly, though."

"You're a first-timer at these things. I have a lot of practice. And have some cookie. I was just trying to hurt your feelings when I called you chubby. You're just... big."

"All over," Karofsky says with a leer, and Kurt can feel his ears turning red.

"Shut up and stop flirting with me," he says, before he can think better of it.

Karofsky doesn't get offended, though. He merely grins and breaks off a small piece of the cookie and pops it in his mouth with relish.

It's the first time Kurt has ever seen Karofsky make a genuine smile that isn't tentative at best, or a sneer or a smirk at the worst. He actually looks pretty cute when he smiles.

Kurt has the sudden and startling realization that if this were a date, it would be going pretty well, interruption by homophobes notwithstanding.

His phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out. "Sorry, probably just Mercedes," Kurt apologizes, checking the text. It's from Finn and it says R u ok w karfsky? Want me to pick u up?

Kurt smiles a little and holds up his phone. "My stepbrother. He thinks you might be murdering me and wants to know if I need help."

He means it as a joke, but Karofsky gets a strange look on his face. "He thinks that I'd... hurt you? Still?"

Kurt immediately feels like shit. "I'm sorry, I was joking. Or trying to, anyway. I told him that we're friends now and that everything is good between us. He was just asking if I needed a ride or anything."

Karofsky nods, but he still looks sort of upset. Kurt berates himself for ruining what had been a pleasant mood. He blames the fact that he'd been so discomfited to realize that he'd actually been having a nice time with Karofsky, who's kind of good-looking when he's not being menacing. Because that realization would shock anyone into saying something asinine, honestly.

"Do you want him to pick you up?" Karofsky asks.

Kurt sighs. "No. I'm sorry, that was stupid of me. Hang on."

He types out, Im having a great time actually. Hes turning out to be a really nice guy. Thanks for asking tho. and hands the phone to Karofsky. "Here."

Karofsky smiles for real again, and Kurt feels like a weight has been lifted off his chest. He goes to hand the phone back to Kurt and Kurt waves his hand. "Hit send for me," he says, just in case Karofsky thinks he's going to delete the message.

Looking pleased, Karofsky does so and then Kurt takes the phone back and turns it off before putting it into his pocket. He imagines Finn will have a surprised response, but he doesn't even want to read it.

"Hey, want to get out of here?" Karofsky asks. "I mean, I don't have to be home for like another hour, but..." He gestures to their cold, empty cups and the plate that now contains only crumbs.

"We've done all we can do here," Kurt says dramatically, making it sound like they've just examined a crime scene or something.

Karofsky chuckles. "Exactly. I mean, I don't know where we can go, though."

"You don't have to tell me about the living ennui that is this town. We'll find something," Kurt promises, surprised at himself that he's in no hurry to get out of Karofsky's presence.

They clear their table and get back in the car. Karofsky drives for a bit until they get to a big park. It's one Kurt remembers loving as a kid because there's a duck pond. "Want to just walk around for a while or something? It's pretty nice out."

It's still a little cool actually, but Kurt has his pea coat and a scarf, so he smiles and says, "Sure." It's actually a nice – if slightly date-like – idea.

The park is completely deserted and Kurt figures it's a good place to try out some heavier conversation, as there's no chance at all of being overheard. The rolling grass stretches out on either side of the cement path, making it impossible for anyone to get near them without being seen. "So, have you been doing any more thinking? About... anything?"

"Yeah," Karofsky says, looking away.

"Such as?"

"This is still hard to talk about."

"I know. But there's no one around. Have you thought any more about what we talked about the other day? About whether it would be different to hold someone's hand, to date them, if it was a guy instead of a girl?"

"Yeah," Karofsky admits.

"What did you decide?"

"It would probably be different. Better," he admits quietly.

Kurt sighs a little. He feels a rush, almost a high, at the idea that he's helped with this progress.

"When I..." Karofsky stops for a second, taking a deep breath. "That time in the locker room? With... us?"

"Mmhm," Kurt murmurs, giving him tacit permission to discuss The Incident.

"It's not like I haven't kissed girls or anything. I have. I tried. Before that and after that, and it just..."

"It didn't do anything for you?" Kurt suggests. "Because it didn't for me. I mean, I made out with Brittany Pierce. Like, a lot. Things got pretty... far," he admits. "And it was just... I mean, it was good. Hot even, don't get me wrong. Much better than kissing my grandmother or whatever they say. But still not... right."

"Yeah, right," Karofsky says. "But then... with you, I... God, I can't talk about this with you! It's too fuckin' weird!"

Kurt puts a hand on his arm, slowing his pace. Without thinking about it, he reaches down and slides his fingers into Karofsky's hand until he gets the message and wraps his hand around Kurt's, lacing their fingers.

"What're you...?"

"This isn't a date," Kurt reiterates. "We're just seeing if it feels different."

They walk in silence for a few minutes until Kurt says, "Better, do you think?"

Karofsky clears his throat. "Yeah."

They stop and Karofsky drops Kurt's hand. When Kurt looks up to say something, he stops at the look on Karofsky's face. It's intense and he barely has time to react to it when Karofsky's hands are on his face, his neck, cool against the skin that's been warmed by his scarf. Karofsky leans in and Kurt panics.

"Dave, n-no, we can't," he stammers, backing up fast.

"God, I'm sorry, I just..."

"I know, it was my fault, I shouldn't have... Maybe you should... take me home now."

"I'm so – "

"Don't," Kurt interrupts. "I'm the one who crossed a line. Let's just... forget it."

"Yeah, sure," Karofsky mutters, turning and practically speed-walking to the car. Kurt has to hustle to keep up with his shorter legs.

Karofsky drives Kurt home in uncomfortable silence. Kurt alternates between anger at Karofsky for ruining things by making a move and anger at himself because he totally asked for it. What had he been thinking, holding Karofsky's hand like that and thinking he was cute and making jokes about flirting like they're some kind of couple? He's such an idiot. He can't blame Karofsky this time, but habit and shame make him want to anyway.

When they pull up to Kurt's house, Kurt looks at Karofsky. "Thank you. For everything. I'm sorry I ruined things." He gets out of the car before Karofsky has a chance to protest. Before he shuts the door, he says, "I'll call you soon. I promise."

He walks up to the door and turns to watch Karofsky's car disappear down the street before he goes in, feeling strangely empty.

Finn pounces on him as soon as he gets in the door. "Are you okay? You look upset! What did he do?"

Kurt sighs. "Can we not talk about this right now? He didn't do anything wrong, though. This was all me." He starts trying to go down to his room, but Finn follows him stubbornly.

"What happened, Kurt?"

Kurt gives him the nutshell version, watching Finn's eyebrows get closer and closer together until Kurt finishes with the awkward ride home.

"So you, what? Like him now?"

"Well, I don't dislike him. I want to be his friend. If I didn't mess up irreparably."

"No, I mean, you like-like him?"

Kurt mulls that over for a second. "Well, I don't dislike-like him," he says, and then realizes how that sounds. "No," he says more firmly. "I don't like him as anything other than a friend, I promise."

Finn sits on the bed, looking at Kurt in a way that clearly says he doesn't believe him in the least. "This is really disturbing, Kurt. If you start dating Karofsky, I'm gonna disown you."

"I'm not going to date him! I already told him that. The problem is that, with our history, I can't trust him. And I can't date someone I can't trust. But... I don't know. Maybe I might be a little attracted to him, I guess. Just a tiny bit."

"Oh god," Finn groans, putting his head in his hand. "This is worse than the time I found my mom's vibrator. There are some things I just do not want to know."

"Grow up, Finn! It's not like I can help it! It's... hormones. Or something. I'm sure you've been attracted to people that weren't exactly girlfriend material."

Finn nods, appearing to accept that. "Yeah, you're right. Remember Mr. Shue's ex-wife, Terri?"

"Oh, god, Finn! Gross! What is it with you and domineering harridans?"

Finn shrugs. "I think it's easier sometimes when the girl just tells you what to do."

Kurt shudders. "If you're into getting dominated or, like, adult baby play or something, I don't want to know anything about it."

"Adult baby play?" Finn asks, looking confused.

"Google it. And now leave me alone to stew about my complete and utter failure as a mentor."

Finn gets up off the bed and claps a hand on Kurt's shoulder. "At least you're trying. It's not like he's making it easy, either, right?"

Kurt nods. "Thanks."

After Finn leaves, Kurt ponders his words. Karofsky really isn't making it easy. He can't even actually admit that he likes guys!

Although, a small traitorous part of his brain points out, if Kurt would have just kissed him back, just melted against him and let go, things would have gotten very simple between them very quickly. At least for a little while.

~*~

Kurt waits a couple of days before he calls Karofsky. He wants to make sure the awkwardness has faded. When Karofsky answers, he says, "Hey Kurt," in a normal, friendly manner, and Kurt's stomach eases.

"Hey, Dave. How're you doing?"

"I'm okay. But hey, I want to talk about Saturday..."

"Let's not," Kurt says, the tension returning. "Please? I already feel bad enough."

"Oh... You don't have to feel bad. It was my –"

"If you say it was your fault, next time I see you, I'll kick you right in the balls. I have a great high kick."

Karofsky laughs. "Okay, you convinced me. Let's not talk about it."

"Good boy. So, I've been wondering, have Azimio or any of the other guys been saying stuff since they saw us together?"

Karofsky pauses. "Yeah. Just stupid shit like, 'How was your date?' or whatever. At least I can tell the truth when I say it wasn't a date."

"You know, you don't have to be loyal to me. Or protective of me or anything. It's not like I'll ever know, so if, to survive, you need to say things about me, like, like what you used to say, it's okay. I just want you to know th –"

"Shut up," Karofsky growls, interrupting Kurt's speech when it was just getting impassioned.

"No, I need to say this –"

"No, you need to shut the fuck up right now, Hummel," Karofsky's voice is low and dangerous and for the first time since they started communicating again, Kurt feels sort of threatened. "If you think I'm going to make fun of you behind your back now after everything we... After all of this, then you're an idiot. Do you understand me? You're the only person in the world that..." Karofsky stops talking and sighs, sounding frustrated. "I know I used to be horrible to you and you have a negative opinion of me. But things change. People change and that's not me anymore. Especially not with you."

Kurt releases a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "I'm sorry," he says again. He seems to be apologizing to Karofsky a lot lately, which is undoubtedly not the mark of a good mentor.

"Whatever. Like I said, it's not like I've given you a reason to think I'm anything but a total asshole. But you have to believe me about this."

"I do."

"Because... Because when I called you a homo or whatever, I was... If everyone thought that I hated gay people than no one would ever think that I might be."

"There's such a thing as protesting too much," Kurt says gently.

"Not in high school," Karofsky says wryly. "Not protesting enough gets you ragged on way worse."

"Did you ever wonder if you were saying it to yourself?" Kurt asks. "I mean, not to sound like a therapist again, but when you insulted me, you were insulting yourself, too."

"But I'm not... Sorry, force of habit," Karofsky says, a trace of amusement in his voice.

Kurt laughs at that. "You don't have to say that you are, but not claiming that you aren't is a good start."

"Well, like you said, wanting to kiss you isn't exactly normal."

"Normal is overrated," Kurt declares grandly. "And wanting to kiss me, well... That's just good taste."

It comes a little too close to discussing The Incident(s), but luckily Karofsky just laughs and doesn't point that out. They exchange a few pieces of gossip about people they both know and a few anecdotes about school before Kurt has to get going to meet Blaine in the dining hall for dinner.

"Listen, you don't have to say the words 'I'm gay' to be gay. It doesn't make you any more or less to use the words. But if you think it's true, you might want to try saying it sometime. It might make it more real. You don't have to say it to me or anyone else. You could just say it out loud to yourself," he says, trying to inject just a bit more mentoring into the conversation before it's over.

"Kurt..."

"Don't. Just think about it, okay? And take care. I'll talk to you soon. Promise."

"I will," Karofsky says, and he doesn't even sound that grudging. They say goodbye and Kurt rolls off the bed, looking for his shoes. He feels like he might possibly have partially redeemed himself in the mentorship department, so he counts the day as a success. He just hopes Karofsky will take his advice.

~*~

Over a week after their not-a-date, Kurt is sitting around in his dorm room working on homework when he gets a text from Karofsky. They've been texting frequently over the last couple of weeks, but this one is different. It says, I said it and it does make it feel more real. Ur a fucker u know that!?

Kurt lets out a whoop, punching the air. He feels so proud in this moment, like he's actually made a difference in someone's life. A difference in the world.

He calms himself enough to compose a reply. Congrats dave! Welcome to the club! Seriously im proud of you. <3

It only takes a few seconds for the reply to come back. Thanks man. U busy? Call me if not k?

Jonah's out at a rally for some congressional candidate so Kurt doesn't hesitate before he calls. "Dave! I'm so happy for you right now!" Kurt says, trying to keep his excitement in check so he doesn't end up squealing in Karofsky's ear.

"It's not really a big deal," he protests.

"The hell it's not! That's a huge step. I remember the first time I said it out loud. The first time I said it to someone else. It is a big deal. It's acceptance. Accepting who you are and that you're not going to lie to yourself anymore. I mean, if you want to lie to other people, I'd never tell you not to. We have to do what we have to do. But just telling yourself the truth is... It's a milestone."

"Jeez, dude!" Karofsky sputters, clearly embarrassed.

"Sorry. It's just... This is what I was hoping for when we started talking."

"What was?"

"That you'd come out. Even if it was just to me, I mean. I know what it's like to be in the closet and it sucks royally."

"I thought you weren't ever in the closet," Karofsky says.

"Well, like I said, I have a personality and mannerisms and likes and dislikes that made people think I was gay. However, there's a big difference between people assuming you are and you telling people that you are. There's even a big difference between just not denying it and then actually standing up and saying the words."

"I guess so. I just... I don't like it that you're so excited."

"Why?" Kurt asks. There's a long pause before Karofsky answers.

"I'm probably not going to tell anyone else for a long time. It would just be too hard with my situation and school and everything. And I feel like you'll be... disappointed if I don't. Or something."

"Oh, god, I've been pushing too hard. I knew it. Listen, I will never be disappointed if you don't tell anyone else. I mean, maybe if you're thirty and no one knows, it'll be a little weird, but this is high school. I said it before and I'll say it again, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I know what it's like to get harassed and threatened every day and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

"Even though I did it to you, you wouldn't wish it on me?"

Kurt snorts. "You're hardly my worst enemy. I don't dislike you even a little bit anymore. And I know why you did what you did. The other cretins that you pal around with on the other hand, well… They have no such excuse. And I'm pretty sure you'd get it worse than I ever did."

"You think so?" Karofsky doesn't sound scared, but he doesn't sound pleased either.

"I do. In a nutshell, I'm completely different from you and your football cronies. Outwardly at least, you're the same. You're one of them. If you announced that you like dick, they'd take it as a personal betrayal. One of their own, going to the dark side."

"Ugh, don't say I like dick. That sounds so gross."

"But you do," Kurt sing-songs, hoping Karofsky's ready for some gentle teasing.

Karofsky laughs. "Talking to you is like talking to a girl sometimes, I swear."

"But better. Because I have a dick. Which you like."

"Got a problem with that?" Karofsky asks, mock-challenging.

"Nope. We're two gay peas in a gay pod," Kurt says, recovering some of his earlier verve.

"Sounds like a plan. We'll be gay together. I mean, shit… That sounded wrong. I didn't mean together together."

Kurt smiles at the phone. "I know what you mean." Karofsky doesn't respond for a long moment and Kurt says, "Freak you out that you said it to me?"

"No. Well, kind of. Fuck, why does this all have to be so… dramatic?"

"It doesn't have to be. No drama. We can just talk about dick some more."

Karofsky laughs. "I guess that's okay. Man, that's something I still can't even think about."

"What, dick?"

"Yeah. Like… sex. With a guy. Jesus, I don't even know why I'm talking about this…"

"You don't think about guys when you… you know?" Kurt's genuinely curious, but he can't bring himself to utter any words that mean 'masturbate.'

Karofsky makes a strange sort of cough. "C'mon, man... That's... private."

Kurt sighs. "If you can't talk to me about this, who are you going to talk to?"

"I don't know why I need to talk about it at all. And I spent a lot of years making myself not think about that. So… I don't know."

"Well… Maybe you should try it," Kurt suggests. "If step one to self-acceptance is admitting that you're gay, maybe step two is letting yourself… fantasize."

"Fuck, Kurt! I can't talk about this anymore. I feel like I'm going to throw up or something." When Kurt laughs, Karofsky insists, "I'm serious!"

"I believe you. But promise you'll try it out."

"Goodbye, Kurt," Karofsky says, sounding terribly disgruntled.

"Bye, Dave," Kurt says, unrepentantly cheery. He hangs up and lies on his back on the bed, kicking his legs in the air with joy. He's succeeded!

He's also a little turned-on for some reason. Clearly talking about boy-sex with another guy is exciting, even if the other guy is Karofsky.

~*~

The following Thursday, Blaine invites Kurt to go shopping after school. The mall in Westerville is even more pathetic than the one in Lima, but it's good just to get out in public and smell the commerce.

And it's good to be with Blaine. They chat about the Warblers and school and general topics for a while, but Kurt can't hold back his news for long.

"Hey, remember Dave Karofsky? The bully from my old school?"

"The one who kissed you?"

"Yes. Well, I've been talking to him on and off, sort of trying to be a mentor to him, and he finally came out to me!"

Blaine smiles and touches Kurt's shoulder. "That's amazing! You should be very proud!"

"Thank you. That means a lot. I just can't believe we've gotten to this point. I mean, it's not like I didn't know, especially after he tried to kiss me again, but to hear him say it is just… It's amazing."

"Wait, he tried to kiss you again? Before you left McKinley?"

"No, this was a couple of weeks ago. Wow, that's all the time it's been?" Kurt says, almost to himself. "Things have been happening kind of fast all of a sudden. I mean, we went out the weekend before last and he still couldn't admit it, even when he was trying to kiss me, and then yesterday we were actually talking about sex," Kurt drops his voice to a whisper on the last part of that, even though no one's paying them much attention.

"You were talking about what? And you went out with him?" Blaine looks hopelessly confused and maybe a little angry, and Kurt realizes he's getting way the wrong impression.

"No, no. Nothing like that. We went out, as in out to a place. Just for coffee, as friends. Completely innocent."

"Until he tried to kiss you."

"Well, that was sort of my fault. I was sending mixed signals, I admit that now. Holding his hand was probably a bad idea."

Blaine narrows his eyes and Kurt hurries to try to extricate himself from the hole he's created. "I swear it was just an experiment. To see if he felt different holding hands with a guy. And I guess he did, since there was the whole almost-kissing thing, but I told him right away that we were just friends and that couldn't happen."

"But then you started talking about sex with him?" Blaine looks almost pissed now, and Kurt starts to get a little upset himself.

"Just in general! Nothing specific and certainly nothing personal. Please don't be angry with me about this."

Blaine immediately smoothes his face into a placid mask. "I'm not angry. I'm just… surprised. I didn't even know you were talking to this guy, and, well… I thought we told each other things."

"There wasn't really anything to tell before," Kurt says, but it sounds lame even to his own ears.

"Mmmhmm," Blaine murmurs, sort of snottily. "What do you think of this shirt?" he asks, pulling something off a rack, seemingly at random.

They spend a short time making awkward conversation about clothing before Blaine suddenly remembers a test he has to study for. Kurt is surprised at how relieved he is to get away.

~*~

The next day, he drives home, probably too quickly for his dad's taste, eager to put some distance between himself and Dalton. He needs his family.

Later on Friday night, after dinner and game night, Finn is watching TV in the living room. Kurt goes in and plops down next to him. "I think I ruined everything with Blaine yesterday and it's all Karofsky's fault."

"Hello Kurt. My day was fine. Thanks for asking."

"Finn! We already talked about your day at dinner. This is a not-for-parental-ears crisis."

"Sorry man. What happened?"

Kurt sighs. "So, Blaine and I were shopping yesterday and I started telling him about Karofsky. I didn't realize it, but I hadn't really told him that I'd been talking to Dave and he got really upset about it. I don't understand! I thought he'd be happy that I was helping other gay guys, but the sex stuff made him really angry and I don't know if he was jealous or what, but it was just awkward."

"Hold up. I have so many questions right now that I might need some paper so I can make a list."

Kurt sighs, impatient. "Such as?"

"Such as, when did you start calling Karofsky Dave? And what sex stuff? If I even want to know..."

"No, there's no sex stuff! I just told Blaine that Dave and I had talked about sex. In very vague terms," he clarifies, holding up his hand to stave off the words he can see forming in Finn's mouth. "It was basically nothing. But I was trying to say how it was such a big step for Dave. Which it is. Oh, and I don't know. I still kind of think of him as Karofsky in my head, but I can't keep calling him that to his face now that we're friends. It's... impersonal."

Finn looks really confused. "So, okay. You and Dave are friends. Who talked about sex stuff in vague terms. And you told this to Blaine while you guys were out together?"

"Yeah... So?"

"How long did you spend talking about Karofsky?"

"I don't know. A few minutes. I was excited because he came out to me."

"So he's, like, out? In school?"

"Oh god no, just to me. Don't say anything to anyone still, okay?"

"Sure," Finn agrees. "But anyway, you went out with Blaine. And you spent the whole time talking about another guy that you have a close relationship with."

Shit. Kurt's starting to get the picture now. "Not the whole time," he says lamely.

Finn shakes his head. "You're totally clueless about dating, dude. I thought I was bad at this stuff. You're like, Osama bin Laden bad at this."

Kurt groans, leaning back against the couch. "But I'm not dating either of them. Why is it so complicated?"

Finn smiles a little. "I only know about girls, not guys, but with girls, it starts getting complicated way before you start actually dating. Just liking a girl or having her like you is complicated all by itself. It's probably the same with guys."

"What should I do?" Kurt moans, dropping his forehead against Finn's shoulder.

"Hell if I know, dude. But if I were you, I'd figure out which one you like and start not talking to him about the other guy."

"I never talk to Dave about Blaine. I don't think I've even mentioned Blaine's name to Dave in ages," Kurt ruminates.

Finn slides his arm around Kurt's shoulders, giving him a half-hug as well as he can manage in their current positions. "Well, maybe that means something."

"I hope you're not encouraging me to date Dave after you told me you'd disown me if I did."

"Well, you told me you'd never want to, so maybe we'll both have to... reevaluate."

Kurt sighs again and nestles closer to Finn. "Can I just sit with you for a little bit? I'll stop talking."

Finn laughs a little, turning his attention back to the TV. "Sure," he says, and he doesn't even move his arm or try to scoot away from Kurt, which is terribly nice of him.

They're still sitting like that half an hour later when Carole walks in. She coos when she sees them and says, "Oh don't you look precious all snuggled up! I'm getting the camera."

As soon as she turns around, Finn takes his arm back and Kurt pops off the couch. They smile at each other, kind of embarrassed, and Kurt says, "Thanks. I needed that."

"Yeah, you owe me one."

"Agreed," Kurt says, heading for his room before Carole can find her camera.

~*~

Kurt takes some time to stew over the fact that he might kind-of-sort-of like Karofsky – Dave – in a more-than-friends fashion. It's disturbing in a way he's never been disturbed by a crush before, and that's saying something considering he used to be madly in love with his stepbrother.

He tries to think about kissing Karofsky, in a G-rated, non-masturbatory sense, but he can only get so far before fantasies get replaced by unpleasant memories. He wonders if he should just tackle Karofsky and kiss him out of the blue to see if he can supplant his old memories with new ones, but he couldn't just do that. It would be weird.

And really forward. But at least then he'd know if it was even a possibility.

By the next Thursday, he's in a pissy-ass mood because Blaine has been treating him with a sort of detached politeness all week that's, all right, not that different from how Blaine usually acts, but Kurt can feel the difference and it rankles. He's also put-out because Karofsky hasn't called him all week, either. He's gotten a few scattered texts, but nothing initiating an actual discussion. Kurt refuses to call him on account of his sudden onslaught of feelings. Possible feelings.

He can't call Finn about any of it, either, because after their marathon cuddle session over the weekend, he's pretty sure he's used up his entire quota of Supportive Stepbrother for the week. He goes back and forth with himself as to whether or not he could talk to Mercedes, but he always comes down on the side of not, and that's putting a strain on their relationship, too. He knows she's blaming it on Kurt being away at Dalton, which is a gross oversimplification at best, but Kurt can't bring himself to tell her otherwise.

Everything in his life is just saturated with a vague sense of ickiness and it sucks.

He's been snapping at everyone all week, and he's been short-tempered with everyone – Jonah, the Warblers, even his teachers.

He's just getting back from dinner when Karofsky texts him, Busy? Can we talk?, Kurt hates himself for how fast he fires back, No. Call me?

The phone rings a second later. "I thought you were boycotting me," Kurt says as he picks up.

"Nah. Just been busy. Thinking about stuff."

Kurt immediately feels like a douche. Karofsky's only just officially accepted his sexuality and Kurt has been whining about not getting enough attention. He's not sure how he's been so narrow-minded as to not realize that Karofsky would have other things on his mind.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I hope you've been doing okay. With your... thinking."

"Yeah, I have been. I even looked in the mirror and said, 'I'm gay' out loud. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be."

"Try saying 'I like dick' next time," Kurt suggests, picking up the thread of their last phone call.

Karofsky laughs a little. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that, too."

"Dick?"

"No, dork. What we talked about last time. About... thinking about... stuff."

"Ah... How did that work out for you?"

"Pretty good, actually," Karofsky admits with another little nervous laugh. "I actually looked at some stuff. Online, you know. For, like, ideas. Or whatever."

"David Karofsky, are you telling me you watched gay porn?" Kurt asks, fake scandalized.

Karofsky snorts. "Well... Haven't you?"

"Of course. It's the internet age. Did you... enjoy it?"

"Well, I couldn't really enjoy it because I don't have a computer in my room because my dad thinks I might look at porn." Kurt snorts at the irony. "Anyway," Karofsky continues, "I had to use the one in the den. Which meant I couldn't get too much... enjoyment."

"I hope you erased the history."

"I'm not an idiot, jeez."

"Sorry. Well, did you at least mentally file some things away to think about for later?" Kurt asks, glad Karofsky can't see the little smile on his face.

"Yeah. God, this is awkward to talk about."

"It's just me, remember? Peas in a pod," Kurt says, trying to tell himself that he's acting out of an altruistic desire to help Karofsky's budding sexuality develop and not because he wants to talk about adult topics.

"Well... Do you, when you're... doing that, you... you think about guys, right?"

Kurt can't help laughing a little. "I'm gay. Of course I think about guys."

"Oh. Well... what do you think about?"

Kurt can feel his face heating up. "That's definitely none of your business," he says, wondering if he's bitten off more than he can chew.

"You started this!"

"I wanted you to think about guys in general! I didn't want to know what you'd think about doing to guys!" Kurt's face is definitely on fire now, and he considers throwing out a fake 'my roommate just came in' to abort the mission. But the topic of conversation is just too enticing.

Karofsky clears his throat. "Well, if you can't talk to me about it, who can you talk to? Peas in a pod, right?" he asks, neatly turning the tables on Kurt.

He figures that he's gone this far and if he stopped now, he'd regret it in the morning, so he says, "Hang on," and goes over to make sure the door is locked. Jonah is at a student council meeting and Kurt has at least half an hour before he'll be back.

"Okay, sorry," he says, going back to his bed. "Anyway, I don't know... Normal stuff. Nothing kinky or anything. Just... sex, I guess. Porn is good for... inspiration, but when I'm really... alone, I usually think about stuff that's more... personal."

"Like what?" Karofsky sounds a little breathless and Kurt realizes his own heart is beating double-time.

"Like doing it myself... Kissing first, usually," he says, stretching out a little on the bed. "And then sometimes, like... oral sex or whatever." His face is burning, but he's also a little startled to realize that his dick is rock hard in his pants. He presses a hand against his crotch and has to swallow a gasp.

"You think about... doing that?" Karofsky asks, and he's definitely breathing heavily now. It's ten kinds of hot and Kurt unbuttons his fly.

He can't quite believe he's talking dirty with another guy – another first Karofsky can claim – but Kurt swallows hard again and presses onward. "Yeah. I think about doing that. Sometimes all the way. Just doing it until he comes."

Karofsky makes a strangled noise that makes Kurt's dick jump in his hand. He knows that Karofsky is turned on – his dick is probably just as hard as Kurt's, and Kurt can almost picture it – and the idea that he's the one doing it to Dave is heady.

Karofsky still hasn't said anything, so Kurt continues. "Sometimes I think about how I'd do it. What I'd do with my tongue and how I'd suck it."

"You haven't... Right?" Karofsky sounds like he's almost panting too hard to even complete a sentence.

"Oh, god no. I've only even kissed a boy one time."

"That... that time? What about... Blaine?"

"Nothing ever happened with Blaine. That time with you... That was it."

He's not sure why that causes Karofsky to make a little noise, but he lacks the mental acuity to try to figure it out now, so he goes on. "Anyway, I don't know how it would be in real life, but I think about it. What I'd want to do. How he'd come in my mouth and I'd swallow it."

Karofsky flat-out moans at that, and Kurt has to roll over onto his stomach, pressing his dick against the mattress. He's well aware that he's basically having phone sex with Dave Karofsky at this point, which is sort of messed up and amazing in fairly equal parts, but he knows it's the single most erotic experience of his life up to this point. And he can't stop now.

"Sometimes I think about a guy sucking me. Getting me all wet and spitty and then touching me... putting his fingers in me."

"Fuck," Karofsky mutters.

"And then using lube so he can go deeper, harder. And... we'd have sex... He'd... fuck me," he finishes, the last words in a whisper. He doesn't use that word aloud very often, and in this context, it feels hyper-forbidden.

Rubbing against the mattress isn't really doing it for him anymore, so he rolls back over and reaches into his pants, stroking himself in earnest. He doesn't know how he can tell exactly, but his instincts are telling him that Karofsky is doing the same thing.

"What... what are you doing right now?" Kurt asks, because he needs to know. He wants to know if he's right.

"What do you think?" Karofsky pants, his voice tight and strained. "Same thing you're doing."

"I want you to tell me," Kurt whispers, almost high with his impending orgasm.

There's a pause before Karofsky says, "J – jerking off. Thinking about fucking y – fucking..."

Kurt's heart speeds up. He's ninety-nine percent sure that Karofsky was going to say that he was thinking about fucking Kurt. Which is seriously the biggest turn-on ever.

As Kurt strokes harder, he has the startling realization that in most of his sexual fantasies, he starts off with Blaine or a random celebrity or guys he's seen around, but usually when he gets to the good part, the part where he's on his hands and knees or on his back with his legs in the air or bent over against a wall, the person with him is always big.

Someone big and strong who can bend him and pull him and lift him. Someone who, when he's behind Kurt, covers him, dwarfs his frame and just takes him.

And he realizes he's thinking about him now. About having sex with Karofsky. About Dave being the person holding him up, holding him down. And there are no bad memories attached to any of it. Just wow-fucking-good and he comes at that moment, grunting and gasping, nearly dropping the phone.

Karofsky breathes out something that sounds like, "Oh, fuck yeah," but Kurt can't process coherent thoughts at the moment. He comes back to himself just in time to hear sounds that are unmistakably orgasmic coming through the phone, and even though his dick is completely worn out, it still twitches with interest.

After a minute, Kurt says, "Shii-iit," stretching the word into several syllables.

"What was that?" Karofsky asks, breathless and distant.

The question doesn't really sound rhetorical. He sounds like he honestly needs to know, so Kurt says, "I think they call that phone sex," trying to be helpful.

"Are you saying we just had sex?" Karofsky asks, sounding like he can't decide between elation and horror.

"I suppose so. In a manner of speaking," Kurt says. Chalk up another first for Karofsky. It's like fate or something, honestly.

"Is that... bad?"

Kurt takes a breath, wiping his hand off on his pants and grimacing as he does so. "No. It was pretty good, actually."

"Oh," Karofsky says, like that's not at all the answer he was expecting. "Well... good."

"Yeah, good," Kurt agrees. He wants to stop saying 'good,' but his usual grasp of the English language is dulled by climax and confusion.

What he sort of wants, though, now that it's over, is to run away. His self-protection instincts are telling him to just bury his head and pretend none of this is happening. But he's a hopeless romantic first and foremost, and he kind of wants to know what it would be like to hold Dave's hand again when it means something.

Biting the bullet, he says, "So... How about you ask me out again?"

"Like on a date?"

"Yes, on a real date."

Karofsky clears his throat. "Do you want to go on a date with me?"

"Yes, I'm starting to think that I'd really enjoy that."

"How about tomorrow? You're coming home, right? Do you have plans?"

Kurt can hear the smile in Karofsky's voice. He's supposed to help Finn do some clothes shopping when he gets home, but they can do it on Saturday. And if Finn can't, he can go screw himself. Kurt has a date. "No. I'm free. Eight?"

"Okay." Karofsky sounds totally thrilled and it's really rather charming.

"It's a date. Now I have to go. I have to... wash my hands," Kurt says, looking down at his pants in disgust.

Karofsky laughs. "Me too. I'll see you tomorrow, then."

"See you tomorrow," Kurt echoes, ending the call.

Well shit. He seems to like-like Karofsky after all. In a sex stuff way. He's a little worried that this might possibly end badly, but for now, he's too busy thinking about the fact that he has a real, actual date. His first.

Damn meddling fate, anyway.

~*~

Since Kurt only has a small window of opportunity in which to prepare his family for his date with Karofsky, he wastes no time in getting started. As soon as he's settled in his room, he texts Finn. Come down?

A couple of minutes later, he hears Finn galloping down the stairs. "What's up?"

"You might want to sit down," Kurt says. Finn sits, looking alarmed. "I have a date tonight with Dave Karofsky," he says quickly, ripping the Band-Aid right off.

"Like an 'I have a movie date with Mercedes' date or an 'I might get laid' date?" Finn asks, smirking like he assumes it could never be romantic.

"The latter," Kurt says, blushing at the idea that 'getting laid' could enter into the equation. Not that it will because Kurt's not easy or anything, but still.

Finn doesn't answer, and Kurt realizes it's because he's trying to figure out which one is 'the latter' again. "The second one," Kurt clarifies. "I mean, it's not a friends date. It's a real date."

Finn appears to go through the five stages of grief before Kurt's eyes before he settles on acceptance. "I'm not gonna tell you what to do, dude. But if he does anything..."

Kurt holds up his hand. "Finn, we know his biggest secret. If he... hurt me or something, it's not like we'd protect him anymore. Besides, you don't need to worry about it. I know him. I know it hasn't been that long, but I know him much better than I know Blaine, for example, and if Blaine wanted to take me out, no one would care."

"Blaine didn't spend a year of his life shoving you into lockers and calling you names."

"People change. You've said some things to me that weren't exactly kind," Kurt points out. He didn't really want to play that card, but he needs Finn to get on his side on this one before he tells their parents. And he'll use force if necessary.

Finn's glance slides away guiltily and Kurt immediately feels bad. "I shouldn't have said that. I just..."

"Nah, it's okay," Finn says. "If you trust him, I'll... Well, I won't trust him, but I'll give him a chance. I guess."

"Have you talked to him at all? In school, I mean. Since he and I became friends?" Kurt asks, wondering why he's never thought to ask that before.

Finn shakes his head. "No. I don't know why. Habit, I guess."

"Maybe you should give him a chance there, too. Finn, he's really alone at school. I don't think he has real friends there. Not like you and I have. I mean, he's friends with some of the football players, but no one he could really talk to. He's taking a huge step by going on a date with me. If someone sees us... Well, there's a possibility that he could find himself even more alone in the future. And even if he and I start seeing each other, there isn't much I can do for him during the week when I'm at Dalton. He could use an ally, even if you're not willing to be his friend."

Finn stands up and puts a hand on Kurt's arm. "Remember all that mushy crap about you teaching me how to be a man that I said at our parents' wedding?" Kurt nods. "Yeah, it's still true."

Kurt grins. "Thank you, Finn. That means a lot."

"I'm still not going to trust him. Maybe after you've been going out for, like, a year."

"That sounds fair. Help me break the news to dad at dinner?" Kurt asks.

"Yeah, okay, but he's going to be pretty freaked out."

Which is what Kurt's afraid of.

However, his father is a pretty level-headed guy, and he trusts Kurt's judgment, so when Kurt tells him about the date, his father just finishes his bite of steak and says, "If he does anything you don't like, I'm gonna beat him with a lug wrench until there's nothing left of him to bury. And when he picks you up, I'm gonna tell him so."

Which is probably the best Kurt could have hoped for, and it makes him feel totally warm and fuzzy. Carole kisses his cheek and sends him a text message after dinner asking if he needs condoms and promising not to tell his father if he does.

Which is pretty much the worst thing Kurt could have been faced with, although it's nice that she cares. Kurt replies: Thank you but not until im 18 and maybe not even then. Please lets never speak of this again. And bless her heart, she doesn't mention it further.

Kurt spends the rest of the evening pampering himself. Even though he has absolutely no intention of letting Karofsky get away with anything untoward, it still seems like it's vitally important to be cleaned and moisturized and wearing his very best underwear.

He's not a slut or anything, but sometimes things just happen. It's not like he'd planned what occurred the previous evening, but it still happened. And things happening over the phone is one thing, but things happening face-to-face, well... Cute underwear falls into the better-safe-than-sorry category.

It doesn't even need to be sexual. They could get hit by a bus. One never knows these things.

Regardless, he's dressed and combed and cologned and chapsticked by quarter after seven and he's faced with the interminable task of waiting forty-five minutes for Dave to arrive.

After he's been sitting for about twelve minutes, perched on the edge of his slipper chair and attempting not to muss himself, he gets a text from Dave that says, Whats up?

Kurt smiles and texts back, Nothing. Got ready too soon and have to wait now.

When he gets Dave's reply, he can't help laughing out loud. Me too. Want to just go now?

He replies, YES. :D and hurries upstairs to find his shoes.

His dad and Carole are in the living room watching one of Carole's favorite home décor shows and Finn is nowhere to be seen. They're not expecting Dave to arrive for half an hour, and Kurt wonders if he'll be able to slip out without them noticing.

He throws his light pea coat over his sweater and gets out his favorite Italian loafers. He's about to see if he can just sneak out the door and wait on the stoop when the doorbell rings. He panics a little, because seriously, was Karofsky already in the car on his way over when he texted? It's been like four minutes.

He's getting ready to fling open the door and flee, but then his father is looming over his shoulder. "That can't be your date already, can it, Kurt?"

"Um... We changed the time," Kurt mutters, picking a small piece of lint off his jacket. He hears Finn's galumphing feet coming down the stairs behind him and it's way too late to do anything but accept the impending humiliation.

"Well, get the door," his father prompts, like Kurt doesn't know that.

He opens the door and says, "You should have just parked at the curb and honked."

Dave smiles ruefully. "That wouldn't have been very polite," he points out.

Kurt sighs and opens the door wider. "Maybe if you don't move, they won't see you."

Finn practically shoves Kurt out of the way. "That's T-Rexes. And hey Kar – Dave. Welcome." He holds out his hand, and Dave glances nervously at Kurt.

"I had to tell him. All of them. I mean, you're picking me up, and..." Kurt hadn't even considered the fact that Dave would panic about being outed to Finn. It's not like he doesn't know Finn and Kurt live together, but he clearly didn't think about the implications of that. Kurt wonders if he should have just told his family that it was a friends thing.

Although it would have been hard to fake that, because Dave is clearly dressed up. His version of it, anyway. He's wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt that looks like it might be new, unzipped over a reasonably ordinary blue button-down that's tucked into his pants, which are khakis instead of jeans. And he's wearing brown dress shoes, his ratty Nikes nowhere in sight. He actually looks really nice, and Kurt wishes he could say so, but things are already awkward as hell.

"Hey, dude, don't worry. I'm not going to say anything. Kurt is my brother and as long as you guys are friends or whatever, you're a friend of mine, okay? I won't say anything to anybody. You have my word." He extends his hand again and this time Dave shakes it.

"Thanks, man."

"So," Burt says, pressing forward into the entryway, "what are your intentions with my son?"

"Dad!" Kurt yelps.

Dave blushes, but he says manfully, "We're just getting to know each other better, Mr. Hummel. That's all for right now."

Burt nods like he accepts that and Kurt starts breathing again. Then his father says, "I've been having some issues with the ol' ticker, but I'm well enough to kill a man with my bare hands. Now you kids have fun."

Kurt starts sputtering, but he can't even formulate a response before Carole says, "Okay, Burt, Finn, move out of the way so I can take a picture."

"Oh my god, Carole!" Kurt cries, launching himself far enough away from Dave to ruin her chances of getting them both in the frame.

"Carole," Kurt's dad says, coming to the rescue, "put the camera down. They're just going to the movies or something. It's not the prom."

"Thanks dad. Bye everyone," Kurt says pointedly, lunging at Dave and practically dragging him out the door.

As soon as they're safely in the car, Kurt says, "Oh my god, I am so sorry for that fiasco. My family is sort of insane."

"It's cool. I just... Are you sure Finn won't...?" Dave's hands clench a little on the wheel before he makes a visible attempt to relax them.

"Very sure," Kurt says. Not wanting to start their first real date with deception, he continues, "If I tell you something, will you promise not to get mad?"

"Yes," Dave says, no hesitation at all. Kurt likes that.

"Finn's known for a while. A few weeks, anyway." Dave's hands clench again, but he doesn't say anything. "He heard me on the phone and I just ended up telling him everything. I've kept him... updated, and he's been really supportive. To you, too, even though you didn't know about it, because he hasn't told anyone anything. I'm sure you'd know about it if he had."

Dave snorts. "No kidding. But that's... that's really cool of him."

"He's a pretty cool guy," Kurt says. "You look nice, by the way."

"Thanks. So do you. I should have said something before."

"Well, you did sort of get ambushed back there," Kurt says, chuckling.

Dave joins him, and Kurt reflects again and how handsome he looks when he laughs. And now that it's okay to look, Kurt is really enjoying the way Dave drives – masculine and confident.

Kurt's about to say something that's probably lame and mushy when Dave says, "Where are we going anyway?"

"You asked me out. You're supposed to plan it," Kurt points out.

"But you told me to ask you out," Dave argues, grinning at Kurt again.

"You're right. Turn left here," Kurt orders, watching Dave make a quick lane change and mentally adding 'men with large hands piloting a vehicle competently' to his list of turn-ons.

"Where are we going?" Dave asks.

"Turn right at this next driveway," Kurt tells him, avoiding the question. His heart is pounding out of his chest and he's not sure he has the balls for what he wants to do next.

Dave complies and then says, "This is a factory, Kurt. And I think it's closed down."

"I know," Kurt says, unbuckling his seatbelt. He leans over and touches the side of Dave's face, tentatively, experimentally. Dave turns, surprised, and Kurt slides closer, tipping his face up.

Thankfully, Dave understands completely. He makes a little shocked noise even as he's twisting in his seat to press his mouth against Kurt's. They can't really maneuver well enough for it to progress too far, especially since Dave still has his seatbelt on, but the soft press of Dave's mouth against his is enough for Kurt at that moment.

It's enough to chase away the memory of the last time – the first time – they did this, when Kurt was shocked and scared and Dave was angry and overwhelmed. Now it's just... calm. Easy.

Then the car starts to roll forward and they jerk apart as Dave slams his foot on the brake. Kurt concentrates on breathing for about ten seconds before he realizes that they totally could have crashed into something and he gets the giggles.

Dave laughs a little too, but he still looks kind of shell-shocked. "I'm sorry. I should have put the car in park. I didn't expect that, though."

Kurt shrugs, still grinning unrepentantly. "The lot's empty. We were safe."

"What was that, anyway?" Dave asks, a bit dazed still.

"I just wanted to see how it felt when I wanted it too," Kurt says simply.

"How did that work out for you?"

"Really well," Kurt says, nodding a little. "Really, really well." They grin at each other for a second and then Kurt says, "So, I thought you were supposed to be taking me out?"

Dave rolls his eyes. "I was. You're the one who took me to an abandoned parking lot and tried to molest me."

"I'll never do it again," Kurt vows, pressing a hand to his heart dramatically.

"I hope that's a lie," Dave says, turning around and pulling out onto the street again. "So... Anyway. Dinner? Are you hungry? Or did you eat with your family?"

"I didn't really have dinner," Kurt says, leaving out the fact that it was because he'd been too nervous to eat anything.

"Do you want to go to Breadstix?"

Kurt swallows. It's pretty much the main date place in town, and being seen at Beans might cause people to talk, but being seen at Breadstix on a Friday night would cause open speculation. "I would, but are you sure...?"

Dave taps his finger against the wheel a bit nervously. "Yeah. I know I said I wasn't ready to tell anyone, but if we're going to go out, we're going to go out. I'm not going to act like you're some dirty secret. You told me before that there's a difference between people assuming and actually telling people. I don't feel like I want to say it, especially to the other guys on the team because I know they'll be assholes about it, but if someone sees us and people think we're dating, then let them. I'm not going to deny it."

Kurt's beyond touched at Dave's words and he reaches over, putting his hand on Dave's leg. "Thank you," he says, not trusting himself with any more words.

Dave reaches down and covers Kurt's hand with his own. It's about twice the size of Kurt's and Kurt can't see even a glimpse of his own hand under Dave's. It makes him feel protected. Safe. And okay, a little horny. He's a teenage boy. It's likely inevitable, especially after last night.

Dave manages to keep a hand on Kurt almost the entire way to the restaurant, and when they arrive, Dave says, "Hang on," and comes around the car to open the door for Kurt.

Kurt fights off a swoon, but it's a close thing. The urge gets stronger when Dave guides him in the door with a hand at the small of his back, which he does like it's an unconscious instinct rather than a dramatic gesture.

The hostess leads them to a table for two, and it's all just suddenly so real. He's really here on a date with a guy who's smiling nervously at him over the stubby candle burning low in the center of their table like he wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world, and it just hits him low in his gut. All the maybe-I-like-him and maybe-I'm-attracted-to-him waffling ends in that moment.

He's totally sprung on Dave Karofsky, of all people, and he doesn't even care. In fact, he feels sort of like he could lift his feet off the floor and go floating to the ceiling like Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.

Then he notices that Dave looks less pleasantly nervous and more freaked-out nervous, his eyes darting around and his jaw set. "Hey, are you okay?" Kurt asks.

Dave looks at Kurt, startled, like he didn't realize what he was doing. "Sorry, I just..."

"We haven't ordered anything yet. Want to just go?"

"I don't want to –"

"This is my first date," Kurt says gently. "I want to enjoy it. Not sit here worrying that someone we know will come in and cause some... scene." He stands up and grabs his coat. "C'mon."

Dave gets up too and follows him, and as they hustle out, Kurt can hear the hostess asking if something was wrong. It's a little bit funny and a little bit freeing, the rush of a dine-and-dash without the guilt, and when they hit the parking lot, Kurt breaks into a trot. Dave starts running too, and suddenly they're racing to the car. They're pretty evenly matched, since Dave's more athletic but Kurt's smaller and lighter.

Kurt beats Dave by a step, but Dave grabs him from behind and lifts him bodily, twisting them so their positions are reversed. With Kurt still in his arms, Dave says, "I won."

"You cheated," Kurt pants.

"Prove it," Dave says huskily, sliding Kurt down until his toes touch the parking lot, rubbing their bodies together the whole way down.

Kurt gulps. He wants to say something suave and flirty, but he's never been close with a guy like this. Things had gotten intense quickly the previous night, but that had just been talking. He hadn't had Dave right there in front of him. It makes it hard to think, let alone come up with witty banter, so instead he says, "I'm not going to have sex with you."

Dave lets go so abruptly that Kurt almost falls over. When his brain catches up to his mouth, he says, "I didn't mean it like that! Oh god. I'm sorry, that sounded really bad."

Dave shrugs and leans back against the car, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Whatever man, it's cool. I mean, I know it's going to be hard for you to trust me, and –"

"Stop! That's not what I meant, I swear," Kurt says, stepping closer, sliding his hands over Dave's chest and into the sides of his jacket where it's warm. "I just... I had this idea that I wasn't going to do anything sexual with anyone for a long time because I'm really not that kind of boy, but if just touching you makes me want you this much, I think it's going to be very difficult to keep that promise to myself."

Dave grins and Kurt can tell he's made it better. "You're such a girl," Dave says, "with your... romantic ideas." He steps a little closer, wrapping his hands around Kurt's face in what Kurt's come to think of as Dave's signature move. His hands cover half of Kurt's face and a lot of his neck, they're so big. Maybe there was a time when Dave did this in a way that felt threatening, invasive. But Kurt can't remember that time right now.

Another memory, cleaned, scrubbed, and replaced.

He scoffs anyway, because really. "I'm so not a girl," Kurt says. "I don't think girls have any trouble resisting. Isn't it always the guys who have... urges?"

"You might be right," Dave murmurs, lowering his face until his forehead is touching Kurt's. Kurt tightens his arms around Dave, stretching his hands up Dave's broad back. "But if you're a guy and I'm a guy and we both have urges...?" Dave lets the thought hang there, tantalizing.

Kurt breathes in, a little shakily. He's really, really screwed. Perhaps literally.

"Well, we'll have to be men, then. Not boys, not guys. Men. And men control their urges."

Dave exhales against Kurt's cheek and Kurt is pleased that his breath is nice and minty. Pleased enough that he squeezes Dave a little, bringing their hips into better alignment, which is just barely this side of decent.

He's painfully aware that they're standing in the Breadstix parking lot, inches away from making out, and if anyone from their school sees them this way, it would be a lot more damning than having dinner together. At least you can claim that you're just hanging out as friends if you're sitting innocently in a restaurant.

Dry-humping against a bumper cannot be misconstrued. "We better not do this here," Kurt says. "People could see."

"Fuck people," Dave says, gripping Kurt's face more tightly and tilting him into just the right angle to kiss. They've both been heading here for several minutes, and it's the first time they've kissed where neither of them is surprised by it. Dave doesn't hesitate. He fits his mouth over Kurt's like they're made to go together and Kurt sinks his fingers into the heavy muscles of Dave's back.

Dave sucks Kurt's lower lip into his mouth, catching it between his teeth, and Kurt moans, pushing Dave harder against the car. Dave slides a hand up the back of Kurt's neck to grab the hair at his nape and Kurt jams a leg in between Dave's thighs, taking things from almost-dry-humping to someone-might-call-the-cops. He doesn't care, though. He's not a girl, and he does have urges, and fuck people anyway.

Suddenly Dave is pushing Kurt away and Kurt is seized by a sudden fear that he's done something wrong. "We have to... slow down. We're not... being men."

"Forget all those things I said," Kurt tells him, pressing back into Dave's personal space.

"We're in a parking lot," Dave pants.

"What happened to 'fuck people?' I was on board with that."

Dave snorts. "I'm not worried about some dipshit from my math class seeing me. I'm worried that I'm gonna do something that'll get us both arrested for indecent exposure. And I really don't want to go to jail, man."

"We're underage. We won't go to jail," Kurt points out.

"Whatever. I don't want to go to juvie, either. Let's go finish our date, okay?"

Kurt knows that arguing at this point would just be counterproductive, so he agrees.

They get in the car and stop at the next drive-through they pass. Dave takes them to the park where they held hands on their first non-date, because apparently he's even more of a sentimental softie than Kurt could have imagined.

After they eat their burgers and fries, they get out of the car and Dave's big hand finds Kurt's almost immediately. Another memory fixed. They're changing everything they've ever done that wasn't perfect and making it new. They're going to have to do the McKinley locker room next, which suits Kurt fine because he's always had ideas about those long benches.

When Kurt tells Dave this, Dave laughs for a few seconds before his eyes glaze over a little and he looks at Kurt with such naked lust that Kurt has to close his eyes for a moment to weather it.

"We're going to get so busted," Kurt says. "You know that, right? You're positively abysmal at hiding your feelings."

"Am not."

"Liar. You were completely undressing me with your eyes just then."

"Maybe," Dave admits, bending down to press a kiss to Kurt's mouth. It's a sweet, quick because-we-can kiss and Kurt feels elated at the idea that they can do it whenever they want. Unless someone's around.

Dave must feel Kurt's change in mood because he says, "If we get caught, we'll deal. I'll deal."

"It's not easy. I should know," Kurt tells him.

Dave squeezes his hand. "Whatever. I'll kick everyone's ass if I have to."

Kurt sighs. He's searching for some sage advice when he realizes that he doesn't have to be the mentor anymore. Dave might not be marching in any Pride parades anytime soon, but he's not confused. He's nearly as far along as Kurt is, honestly. They're sort of... equal now. Kurt doesn't have to try to help him. They can help each other.

"Are you cold?" Dave asks solicitously, interrupting Kurt's epiphany.

"I'm okay, but we can go back if you want."

"Back to the car? Or are you ready to go home?" Dave sounds a little frightened by that prospect and Kurt smiles at his obvious nerves. He's glad to know he's not the only one who's unsure sometimes.

It's barely nine o'clock, though, and Kurt has no interest in ending things so soon. "I don't have to be home until eleven," he says, smiling at Dave in what he hopes is a coquettish manner. Dave grins wolfishly and Kurt's stomach flips over a little.

They hurry back to the car, but Dave doesn't start it up. "Do you want to go somewhere else? A movie, or...?"

"No," Kurt says. He twists up onto his knees on the car seat, facing Dave, and leans in to kiss him again. He hopes he's not being too slutty, because their date has basically consisted of kissing in various locales and very little of anything else, but he's got several years of built-up wanting and he can't bring himself to waste any opportunities.

Dave slides his tongue along the edge of Kurt's lower lip and Kurt is suddenly very glad that he's not wasting any opportunities. And also that he's turning out to be a little slutty after all.

His stomach is churning with nerves, because honestly he has no idea what to do with a guy, but Dave seems to be setting the pace, which suits Kurt fine. He knows how to kiss – thank you, Brittany – but this feels so different that it might as well be a wholly different activity.

He'd been worried that kissing a guy, especially one who's large and powerful and definitely not feminine in the least, would be more... sloppy, maybe? But Dave is an awesome kisser and he's kissing Kurt like he has all the time in the world. Like he knows they're not going to do anything between now and curfew other than sit in the car and kiss each other.

Finally Kurt starts getting a pain in his back and he pulls away a little, stretching. "Sorry," he says.

Dave shakes his head, looking a little dazed, like he might be drunk or concussed or something. "Why are you sorry? This is awesome."

He sounds so amazed, like he's talking about a holy miracle, and Kurt can't help laughing because he knows the feeling. He'd thought Dave was so wrong for him, but somehow everything's working together, like singing harmonies or coordinating colors.

Kurt sees now. He's purple and Dave's green. The problem with Blaine is that he's pink. Purple and pink are too similar together. Too cutesy. He needs contrast. He needs pop and sparkle and pizzazz.

He needs Dave Karofsky, which is just all kinds of crazy, but somehow it's exactly right.

Dave smiles at him like he knows what Kurt's thinking and he leans down and slides the car seat all the way back. Then he grabs Kurt's hand and tugs him closer. Embracing his inner sex kitten – and thanking his yoga DVDs for his flexible limbs – he swivels himself into Dave's lap, straddling his thighs.

"Hi," he says inanely, lacking for sex-kittenish dialogue now that he's here.

Dave grabs Kurt's hips so hard that Kurt can feel Dave's thumbs pressing into his hipbones though his pants. He doesn't have any fear, though. Hasn't for a long time. All he feels is pleasure as Dave reclines the seat, pulling Kurt down to lie on top of him.

It's a lot all of a sudden and Kurt murmurs against Dave's neck, "I'm still not going to have sex tonight. Not on the first date and certainly not in a car."

"We don't have to do anything but this," Dave says, but his hands are on Kurt's ass now, squeezing him gently and pressing their hips harder together.

"I want you to respect me in the morning," Kurt says against Dave's ear, before he takes the lobe in his teeth.

Dave hisses a little. "I will. Promise. I'll put it... God, yeah. I'll put it in writing."

"Where are we going to find a notary at this hour?" Kurt asks, not even aware what he's saying at this point. His dick is harder than he can ever remember it being, throbbing painfully against his zipper, and he leans forward, changing the angle so he can feel Dave's erection against his own.

They both make whimpering noises at the contact and Dave says, "Fuck a notary," which makes no sense but Kurt doesn't give a crap.

Dave's pulling Kurt's hips down hard against him, and Kurt's dragging upward with each thrust and he's close to coming in his pants when Dave releases his hips and starts fumbling with Kurt's fly.

"I don't know..." Kurt starts to say, reflexively more than anything else.

"No sex. Just let me touch you, okay?" Dave asks, even as he's pulling the zipper down.

"Yes, please," Kurt says, arching into Dave's hand. "Do it."

Dave pauses for a second, his hand hovering in midair. "I don't really know how this works..."

Kurt huffs in frustration. "It's a dick. It works like yours. Just do something."

"You're the boss," Dave says with a little smirk. Kurt's poised to make a snappy retort when Dave covers Kurt's cock with his hand and rubs.

"Oh god yes," Kurt moans, sounding a little too much like a porn star even in his own head. It's so good, though. Frantically good. He's not sure how it can be so much better than his own hand – a hand is a hand is a hand, right? – but it is.

He's really glad he wore his cute underwear, but Dave doesn't even seem to notice it as anything other than a barrier to entry. He doesn't even bother to pull Kurt's pants all the way down before he gets his hand around him, stroking awkwardly backwards in the cramped quarters.

Kurt tries to keep breathing, his hands scrabbling for purchase on the front of Dave's shirt. Dave's biting his lip with concentration and when he feels Kurt's eyes on him, he looks up. He holds Kurt's gaze for a long moment and it seems even more intimate than the hand on his cock.

He has to look away, and instead, he focuses his attention on Dave's shirt buttons. He's suddenly overcome with the need to touch skin. He practically rips the buttons away until he can rub his hands over Dave's chest, surprised that it's covered with hair. It feels good under his fingers, but it doesn't quite distract him enough and he can feel himself edging closer to coming.

"I'm gonna –"

"Do it," Dave interrupts, his voice husky and commanding. Kurt's never been that good at following orders, but apparently he can learn, since he comes all over Dave's hand and stomach. "Jesus, that's fucking hot," Dave says, almost to himself.

He's rocking up against Kurt's ass and even with his brain muzzy with orgasm, Kurt realizes that the only thing keeping them from having sex right now is pants. That and the fact that Dave probably doesn't have lube in his glove compartment, but still. It's right there.

And clearly ready.

Kurt swings himself back into the passenger seat and gets his pants in order hurriedly before he attacks Dave's belt. "You don't have to," Dave starts to protest.

"I want to," Kurt says, wondering what kind of idiot he's dealing with here. He gets Dave's pants open and... wow. Too bad he's not a size queen because Dave is... gifted. It's a good thing Kurt has long fingers.

He doesn't hesitate in grabbing Dave's cock and stroking. He wants badly to put his mouth on it, just to see how it tastes, but he's already been forward enough for one evening. Have to save something for the second date.

Dave's clearly close already and Kurt can't get enough of watching him arch up, eyes closed, with his lip between his teeth again. He feels powerful and magical and just when his arm is starting to get tired, Dave makes a beautiful noise and comes, splattering his stomach and Kurt's hand.

"Jesus," Dave hisses, sucking his bitten lip. "That was... unexpected."

"Liar," Kurt says mildly, rifling in the bag from their dinner for some leftover napkins. "After what happened yesterday... Well... And here. You're covered in..."

"Spunk," Dave supplies. "Wow, yeah. Good thing you unbuttoned my shirt. I would have been disgusting otherwise."

They stuff the napkins in the bag with the trash and Kurt gets out to throw them in a garbage can near the park's entrance. When he gets back in, Dave has his pants zipped and his shirt buttoned. "What do you want to do now?" he asks Kurt.

"That's a dangerous question," Kurt tells him and they both grin a little, excited and maybe a little embarrassed now that it's all over.

"I did think something was going to happen," Dave admits, sliding the seat back into an upright position. "I hoped anyway."

Kurt nods. "I did too. I wore cute underwear."

"I didn't even notice," Dave says with a little laugh. "But I'm sure it's great." After a second he says, "Was this okay? I mean... are you okay with... everything?"

"Were you paying attention?" Kurt asks, incredulous. "I think you got a load of how okay I was all over your stomach."

"Just trying to... be polite. Or whatever."

He looks so disgruntled that Kurt leans over and kisses him again, soothing the bitten lip with the tip of his tongue. When he leans back again, he says, "It's a little odd, just in the sense of not being what I always expected. But it's better than what I expected, so I don't know why I was expecting something else in the first place. Does that make sense?"

Dave chuckles. "Not really. What did you expect?"

"I just... I always pictured myself with a guy more like... me."

"Like Blaine?" Dave asks, shifting his gaze away.

"Yes," Kurt says, because he doesn't want to lie. "But Blaine was too much like me. I just wasn't interested. I tried to make myself be, because on paper, he seemed perfect."

"Yeah, not a fat meathead who treated you like shit, I get it."

Kurt marvels at how fast Dave can throw his shields up. He's like the king of defensiveness. "That's not what I meant at all. And stop it with the 'fat' talk. If I can get past you throwing slushies in my face, you ought to be able to forgive me for calling you chubby. I'm trying to tell you how wrong I was. I'm trying to tell you that I can't imagine doing anything like this with anyone else."

Dave reaches over and takes Kurt's hand. "Sorry. That's... That means a lot."

"I mean it," Kurt says. He glances at his watch and sighs. "Damn, I've got to be home soon."

"It's cool. I'm kind of tired now anyway," he says, smirking at Kurt.

"Ugh, please don't tell me you're one of those men who falls asleep right after sex."

"Even if I do, I promise to cuddle. Does that help?"

"Marginally," Kurt says, smiling fondly.

Dave's silent for a few long moments before he says, "Hey, I gotta ask you... Fuck, I feel so gay for saying this..."

"Is it gayer than having my come on your chest?"

Dave laughs, sharp and startled. "Yeah, much gayer."

"I like it, by the way. Your chest," Kurt confesses. His fingers already itch to touch it again.

"Yeah right. Your stepbrother used to always make fun of me for being hairy."

"Finn? He's a sweet boy, but he's no rocket scientist. And I wouldn't exactly trust his taste in guys, either. Anyway, don't change the subject. You had something gayer than handjobs to talk about?"

"Oh, right. Um... Are we like, going out, now? How does this shit work with two guys?"

"I assume it works the same with everyone."

"Well, like... Are you going to date anyone else?"

Ah, light bulb. This clearly has to do with the discussion of Blaine, but going out with anyone else is the last thing Kurt's considering now. "I don't have any plans to," he says, trying to straddle the line between reassurance and not spooking Dave with something that's potentially too commitmenty for a first date.

"Good," Dave says, nodding. He seems satisfied so Kurt doesn't continue the discussion. They can talk about being exclusive later.

Not like things haven't already progressed pretty far, but still. Kurt's sort of sleepy now too, but he doesn't want to admit it after he'd teased Dave about it.

Dave drives him home, getting out of the car to open Kurt's door for him in the driveway. "You don't have to walk me to the door or anything," Kurt says, not putting it past any of his family members to be peeking out the windows.

"I want to," Dave says, echoing Kurt's words from earlier. They walk up the path, Dave's hand on Kurt's back in that totally swoony way.

At the door, Kurt says, "I had a wonderful time. Honestly."

"It was kind of messed up, though. I wanted to take you on a real date."

"Who says what's a real date and what's not, anyway? It was perfect."

Dave shuffles his feet, looking a little sad for some reason. "Well... I'll call you."

"You better. You promised to respect me in the morning, remember?"

"Mmmhm," Dave hums, smirking at Kurt. He leans down then, touching Kurt's cheek. His kiss is gentle, almost delicate, and Kurt clings to his arms, wondering at how a simple kiss can make his knees weak after what they'd just been up to.

Of course, he is a hopeless romantic, so he doesn't question it.

When the kiss ends, Kurt says, "Goodnight," turning to put his key in the lock.

"'Night," Dave says softly, waiting until the door swings open before he turns to walk back to the driveway. Kurt watches him until he gets in the car, and then slips into the house before Dave can see that he was watching.

There's no one around in the house, which is a huge relief since he's not in the mood to talk to anyone. He goes to his room and flops on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He can't help the stupid grin he can feel stretching his face.

He's not sure what this is yet, but it sort of feels like the beginning of a happy ending.

~*~

Unfortunately though, it's him and it's Dave Karofsky, and it's him and Dave Karofsky together, so it's not like it could be easy.

Kurt spends most of Saturday in a happy 'I might kind of have a boyfriend now' fog, but by that night, he realizes that Dave hasn't called him or texted him or emailed him. Nothing. It's been complete radio silence. Which is sort of weird.

But Kurt figures maybe he doesn't want to sound too eager or anything. Maybe it's that phenomenon where guys don't want to call the person they like too quickly. Although, it's not like Dave doesn't know Kurt likes him back.

Before dinner, Kurt sends a quick text: Had fun last night. TTyl? but he doesn't get a reply, which freaks him out.

He keeps coming up with reasons why Dave could be incommunicado, ranging from the simple (his phone died and he can't find his charger) to the ridiculous (his parents found out and went ballistic and shipped him off to one of those places where they reprogram gay kids), but his speculation is wholly unsatisfying.

By Sunday morning, he's worked himself into quite a state. He's lying in bed and brooding when he hears a knock on the door. He yells, "Go away!" but of course, it's Finn, so he pays no attention and comes into the room anyway.

"What's wrong? What did Karofsky do this time?"

Kurt scowls at being so transparent. It's no use lying about it, though. "He hasn't called me since our date. Or texted me or anything."

"Did you try to talk to him?"

"I sent him a text last night, but he didn't respond."

"Maybe he's been busy," Finn suggests lamely.

"Oh shut up, Finn. Everyone knows what it means when you go on a date with someone and then don't call them. But I just don't get it. He's so different now. It's not like him to be rude. Even if... even if he changed his mind about me. But... we had a really good time. I know he had a good time. And he walked me to the door and he kissed me and he said he'd call! And now... nothing."

Kurt realizes he sounds like a total girl and groans, burying his head again.

Finn clenches his fists. "That asshole. But are you surprised? This is Karofsky we're talking about..."

"He's not like he used to be!" Kurt protests. "The way he used to act... That was... It was because he hated himself. He was tortured and confused and angry every single day. That's not him anymore. He's... happy. I thought, anyway."

"Call him," Finn orders. "It's easy to ignore a text. See if he'll talk to you."

"Fine. But you have to go. I can't do this with you looking at me."

Finn huffs a little but he goes up the stairs. Kurt stares at the phone for a minute before he calls. It rings four times before Dave picks up. "Hey Kurt. I... I'm really sorry I haven't called, I just..."

"Am being an asshole?" Kurt suggests.

"No. It's just that I... I can't do this. The dating thing."

Kurt's heart sinks into his stomach. "I thought we had a good time." He feels like a broken record at this point.

"It's not like that! We did. I just... I can't even take you out! I can't have everybody knowing that about me. I have to go to McKinley. My parents don't have the money to send me to your school. And if I leave McKinley, it'll be to drop out and that'll be the end of me getting out of this town. Then I really won't be good enough and... You deserve someone else, Kurt. You deserve someone who will take you to restaurants and hold your hand at the mall. Do something other than fuck you in a car. You don't deserve that!"

Kurt can hardly breathe. He can't take this. He can't. He could have handled anything but this. He could have handled being dumped or being replaced or being ignored. What he can't handle is Dave being noble and heroic.

Dave takes a breath. "You should be with someone like... like Blaine. Someone who deserves you. Not a guy who used to treat you like shit and won't even take you to a movie. You should have better than me."

"Don't do this," Kurt says, but Dave interrupts him.

"I'm sorry Kurt. Thank you. For everything," Dave tells him, sounding rather gutted. And then he hangs up.

For a second, Kurt feels like he might cry. But then he starts to laugh.

He hears footsteps on the stairs and looks up to see Finn looking at him like he's nuts. "Was it just a misunderstanding?"

Kurt laughs harder. "No, he dumped me."

Finn tilts his head like a golden retriever struggling to understand a command. "Why is that funny?"

"Because he was so noble about it! He doesn't want to date me because he thinks I can do better."

"You could do better," Finn says, but Kurt silences him with a glare.

"No, you don't get it. It's like a fairy tale or something. He's passed the last test! Trying to set me free just proves he's perfect," Kurt finishes with a happy sigh.

"Is this a gay thing or are you just crazy, because I don't get it at all."

Kurt claps his hands imperiously. "I need women. Bring me women."

Finn rolls his eyes. "I guess it's the latter, then."

He pauses for a second and Kurt says, "Yes, the latter is the second one. You did that right. But I'm not crazy. And never mind the women. I'll call Mercedes myself."

Shaking his head, Finn goes back up the stairs. Kurt dials Mercedes. "I need you," he says when she answers. "Can you come over?"

"I'm still at church. We're having a luncheon thing. Can it wait?"

"I totally fooled around with a guy on Friday night and if you come now, I'll tell you all about it."

"I can be there in five minutes," she says. Then the line goes dead.

"I am so good," Kurt says to the empty room. He feels good. Determined. Sure.

If he'd had lingering doubts, they're all being dispelled. He does have such a weakness for heroics and nobility. He blames Disney.

~*~

True to her word, Mercedes arrives right away. She tears into the room like she ran the whole way, panting so hard her church dress strains in the front. "Tell. Me. Everything," she demands.

"Okay, let me begin at the beginning –"

"No, begin at the fooling around," she orders, sinking onto the bed by Kurt's hip.

"Fine. Guess who I exchanged handjobs with on Friday night. Three guesses."

She gasps, pressing a hand to her chest. "Oh my gosh! Finn?"

"Finn?" Kurt is aghast. "That's seriously your first guess?"

"Well... He lives here, and..."

Kurt heaves a long-suffering sigh. "Proximity does not cause Finn Hudson to want me. I already tested that hypothesis and it failed miserably. Do we not remember this?"

"Fine... Um... Blaine?"

"Better guess, but wrong." Kurt really had wanted to start from the top, but watching Mercedes squirm is definitely entertaining.

"I only have one more guess? But I have so many I want to say!"

Kurt snorts. "I'm flattered that you think there are that many willing participants, but the deplorable state of my sex life prior to last night would say otherwise."

She rolls her eyes at him. "Okay... Puck."

"Seriously? Puck?"

"Well, he's a total ho."

"True, but incorrect. Now, will you please let me tell this my way?" He clears his throat and starts. "So, several months ago, Dave Karofsky sent me a letter."

Mercedes screams and clutches Kurt's leg. "If you tell me that Karofsky gave you a handjob, I'll eat my grandmama's church hat."

"Well, get yourself some ketchup, girlfriend. And hush, I'm trying to talk. Anyway, several months ago, Dave Karofsky sent me a letter."

He talks for nearly half an hour, waving off her interruptions, until he's spilled the entire tale. He finishes with, "Basically, Dave thinks he's completely alone, and I'm hoping to disabuse him of that notion so that he and I can live happily ever after because he's pretty much my perfect match. I mean, I can think of things I'd change, but..."

"Can I talk yet? Because I just have to say that we are on the outs. I can't believe you kept this from me!"

"To be fair, I kept it from everyone. Except Finn, that is. But I kind of had to. It's something of a betrayal to even tell you this now."

"Well, he did dump you, so you don't owe him anything now," Mercedes tells him, fiercely loyal, which Kurt adores.

"Yes, true. But still, we can't tell anyone else. I trust you and Finn to have my best interests at heart, but everyone else, well... I don't necessarily trust them to put my wishes above juicy gossip."

She snorts in derision. "True that. So what's the plan? And why do you need me? You seem to have been handling this without my help so far."

"I always need you. Plus you have to help me spread the word to the others. Tactfully. See, here's my plan..."

~*~

Kurt has in no way concocted his plan in the hopes that it'll end up in a big, romantic gesture. Honestly. Not in the least.

But whatever happens, happens. He'll roll with it. There's a chance Dave will be unreasonably angry and possibly never speak to him again, but since they broke up before they even really got together, it's not like he's got a lot to lose.

Leaving town on Sunday night with things still up in the air is one of the hardest things he's ever done. At least until Wednesday, when it's time to implement The Plan, because it requires skipping school.

Kurt's never been much of a rule-breaker, but after lunch, instead of going to class, he goes upstairs to change and then slips out to his car. He'd spent the last couple of days acting like he's coming down with something, and Jonah and his other friends had seemed pretty convinced. He hopes that this way, he doesn't have to formally announce that he's missing class. When he's absent from class, someone will say they knew he was sick.

That's his hope anyway, but he's not going to be around to find out. If he gets in trouble later, he'll deal with it.

He drives carefully the whole way, not wanting to draw attention to himself. When he arrives at McKinley, everyone is still in class. He waits in his car until it's almost time for the bell to ring. Thanks to Mercedes's sleuthing, he knows where Dave has his last class, and he hurries to stand in a place where Dave will definitely see him. He waits, leaning against a locker, pretending to check his phone. When he sees red letterman jackets out of the corner of his eye, he waits another few seconds and turns, heading for the safety of the choir room.

He thinks he hears someone say "Hey, isn't that..." as he walks away. Perfect.

When he gets to the room, everyone is already there. Mercedes runs over to hug him. "It's good to see you in this room again," she tells him.

Everyone else surrounds him, hugging him and telling him they're glad to see him. Kurt can't stop smiling. He's so happy he did this that even if the actual plan part of The Plan doesn't work out, it's still worth risking his father's wrath.

Then he sees Finn smile at someone behind Kurt, outside of his field of vision. "Hey, Dave. What's up?"

Finn walks toward Dave, hand extended. Dave looks nervous and out of place, but he holds out his hand. "Hey, Finn."

Kurt waits, hoping everyone else will cooperate. Rachel follows Finn over and extends an arm. "Come on in, Dave. I'm sure you know everyone."

"Yeah, dude. Have a seat," Puck says, kicking at a chair. "Hang out for a while. I'm probably going to sing something awesome."

"You guys want me to hang out with you?" Dave asks, looking everywhere but at Kurt.

"Well, duh," Santana says. "Kurt told us you guys are friends now. You buried the hatchet or whatever. Anyone that's cool with Kurt is cool with us."

"Precisely," Rachel says. "Thank you, Santana. And I'm sorry Puck, but I believe I won the right to sing first last week."

"You cheated, Berry," Puck growls.

"You can't cheat at thumb wrestling. It's not my fault I have nimble thumbs," Rachel informs him, her nose in the air.

"C'mon guys," Mr. Shuester says, ruffling through some sheet music. "We have a guest. Let's not give him a bad impression."

Puck grumbles something that's probably inappropriate, but Kurt can't hear it. Rachel is standing by the piano, clearing her throat and looking around pointedly, so Kurt snags a seat. Dave follows, sitting beside Kurt.

Rachel starts singing "Memory" from Cats. She's not even through the quiet part before Dave leans over and whispers, "What are you doing here?"

"Just came for a visit. I would have let you know, but..."

Dave looks away. "Why are all your friends being nice to me?"

"It's like Santana said. We support each other. If you and I are friends, they'll be your friends, too," Kurt says quietly.

"Are we still friends? I thought you'd hate me after what I did."

Kurt sniffs a little, bracing his hands on his thighs. "How could I hate you? It's the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me."

"What... What do you mean?"

"If you love something, set it free," Kurt quotes. "If it comes back it's yours. I..." He takes a breath, shaky and uneasy. Rachel's voice is too powerful for the room, and he feels like it's filling him up, buoying him. "This is me coming back," he whispers.

He chances a look at Dave, and when their eyes meet, Dave swallows hard. "I... Kurt, I just... Oh, fuck it," he says, and leans in, pulling Kurt to him and bringing their mouths together.

Rachel stops singing, as abrupt as a record scratch, and Kurt is vaguely aware of the din of excited and disbelieving voices around him, but he's too busy kissing. He's missed this. It's been five days, but he missed it – missed Dave – so badly. That really tells him something.

When they finally break apart to breathe, they're both smiling like idiots and it takes a few seconds before they realize everyone's talking to them. Rachel, being the most shrill and insistent, breaks through the fog first. "Dave, you're gay?"

Dave reaches out and takes Kurt's hand before he turns to Rachel. "Yeah. Got a problem with that?"

"Hell no, we don't," Santana says, sounding a little dreamy. "That was hot. Do that some more."

"Um, maybe this isn't the place for that, Santana," Mr. Shuester says, sounding uncomfortable.

"Are you guys boyfriends?" Artie asks, smirking at them.

Kurt looks at Dave, asking him with his eyes. "Yes," Dave says decisively, and Kurt squeezes his hand.

"Wait, is this just happening now?" Mike asks, looking puzzled.

"Well, we went out for the first time last weekend," Kurt explains. "But we hit a few snags."

Dave coughs a little, looking sheepish. Finn claps him on the shoulder and smiles. "Just don't mess it up, dude. I don't want to have to kick your ass."

"Yeah," Puck says, crossing his arms. "You hurt him, you deal with all of us."

"I know," Dave says, "I'm done with all of that."

"So you were an asshole because you were secretly gay?" Sam asks. "Dude, that's so cliché."

"But gay means happy," Brittany points out.

"Okay, enough everyone, please," Kurt says, holding up his hands. "Let's lay off my boyfriend." He can't help smiling when he says it, which sort of ruins the threat. Then he looks at Dave. "Do you want to get out of here?"

"God yes," Dave says. He stands up and pulls Kurt with him, their hands still joined.

As they walk out, Kurt hears Rachel say, "I'm going to need to take this from the top," followed by the opening strains of "Memory."

"How do you feel?" Kurt asks once they're past the choir room.

"Good. And scared shitless. You?"

Kurt laughs. "You don't need to be scared."

"Yeah right. By tomorrow, everyone's gonna know."

"Then you'll kick everyone's ass if you have to, remember? But you've got a whole room full of people back there who'll stand by you."

"Why would they even do that? I was a dick to all of them."

"Simple. You're with me now. And even though I go to Dalton now, I'm still one of them," Kurt says, his heart full with the knowledge that it's true.

Dave doesn't answer, but he does tighten his grip on Kurt's hand. Just before they get to the door to the parking lot, Kurt says, "Hey, we just walked through the halls of McKinley holding hands. Remember how you said you'd never do that?"

"Things change," Dave says. "People change."

"I'm glad," Kurt tells him.

He's got to get back to Dalton tonight, because if he doesn't show up by curfew, Jonah will undoubtedly call someone and report him missing. But he figures he can spend a couple of hours with his boyfriend before he goes back.

In all, he'd say it's a good day to be a hopeless romantic. Though right now, his hopes are pretty high.

~The End~