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I Know Where I've Been

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When his father’s heart stops (and Kurt’s along with it), he doesn’t cry.

Kurt’s friends offer their homes to him but Kurt has no fight left in him, no energy to make a decision about the next few hours let alone weeks, and it was already planned long ago that he’d go live with Andy, his uncle and godfather in Georgia, should something happen to his father.

Now that something has happened, Kurt finds himself in such a state of apathy that he only registers a few thoughts, the primary one being that living with his uncle was what his dad clearly wanted, and it’s really the last thing Kurt can do; to carry out his wishes. But mostly Kurt knows he just can’t face Lima without his father.

It only takes two days to sort everything out, to pack up, sell, and give away nearly all of Kurt's - and his family’s - belongings. He doesn’t care anymore - not about Glee or his extensive wardrobe. He just packs a suitcase with a handful of outfits and a few other cherished items and says goodbye to his friends. They all stand in the driveway of Kurt’s house, the For Sale sign visible just beyond their clump of a group, all of them waving sadly as Uncle Andy drives in the vague direction of Kurt’s new home.

Kurt settles restlessly in for the two-day drive. He spends a great deal of his time reflecting on his emotions, or lack thereof. He’s sure he’s supposed to be catatonic with grief over his father’s death but he thinks perhaps his heart is so broken it can’t feel anything anymore. His dad is gone, and there’s nothing he can do about it; no amount of crying will bring him back.

Kurt’s learned that lesson before.

Andy attempts to make conversation during the drive (“So, Kurt, your dad told me you were on the football team last year?”) but Kurt’s not in the mood to talk. And Andy seems far too comfortable talking about his dead brother, so Kurt tells him that he’s really tired and needs to sleep.

So he sleeps.

In fact, he’s asleep when, on the second day of driving, Andy turns down a dirt road. Kurt can feel the change in terrain from inside the car where he’s been sleeping fitfully, and he blinks blearily out the windshield at the dirt road ahead of them. He hears and feels the tires turning over stones and sees up ahead a parking lot that faces an enormous campsite.

“Where are we?” Kurt croaks as he sits up straight, an inexplicable feeling of dread coming over him.

Andy doesn’t answer, just pulls into a parking spot with a few other cars nearby and turns off the engine. Kurt steps out of the car on sleep-tired legs.

There’s a large building about thirty feet away and a huge sports field on one side of it. Standing on the field are about ten teenage boys roughly Kurt’s age. They’re playing soccer in some sort of standard gym uniform, and as Kurt stares curiously at them, a few of the boys stop to look at Kurt where he’s standing beside the car.

“What is this place?” Kurt asks again with trepidation, watching Andy take Kurt’s suitcase out of the car and drop it down on to the ground.

There’s something wrong.

“This is a year-round camp where they teach you dramatic arts as well as academics,” Andy explains, far too enthusiastically. “I thought it’d be more fun for you than some regular public school!”

“E - excuse me?” Kurt says in shocked disbelief. “You’re telling me I’m – I’m expected to attend school at a campsite? You cannot be—”

“Well, hello there! Welcome!” A man whose chest is double the size of Kurt’s has materialized in front of them.

Without warning or prior indication, Andy jumps into the driver’s seat of his car with a slam of the car door, starts the engine, and peels out of the parking lot and down the dirt road back the way they came, tires screeching and engine revving.

In one split-second of absolute sheer terror, Kurt is running at breakneck speed after the car. But Andy is driving so fast he’s put about twenty feet between them in a matter of moments and has hit the main road before Kurt has reached the main gate of the camp site. Kurt stops running abruptly when he sees a guard watching him carefully from the front entrance.

With a rising panic twisting in his stomach, Kurt turns around on the spot, searching his surroundings for an escape.

There’s no hope of catching up to his uncle now.

Kurt has no idea where he is.

The first man is heading towards him.

“What is going on?” Kurt demands, stumbling backwards away from him. “Where am I?”

“Come along, Kurt. We’ll get you settled in.”

Kurt plants his feet into the ground. “I’m not going anywhere until someone explains what I’m doing here and where the hell my uncle went.”

“You are going to walk to that building over there, and then you will be briefed on everything.”

Kurt considers the man with uncertainty warring inside him. On the one hand, the longer he takes to leave the harder it’ll be to find his uncle, but on the other hand – maybe he’ll get some kind of explanation.

He needs to figure out what’s going on, and so he drags his suitcase along as he follows the man past the boys playing soccer. Now the entire group of boys is watching him but only for a few moments before a camp counselor whistles for their attention and they start playing again.

Once they’re inside, the stranger arranges himself behind a large table so that it’s between the two of them and taps its surface. “Slap that thing on up here.”

Kurt stares. His suitcase is gigantic; this man could probably lift it effortlessly, and he expects Kurt to haul it up instead?

“We encourage using physical strength to do things for yourself,” Muscle-Guy says when Kurt still hasn’t moved. “My name’s Paul, I’m head counselor here,” and, after Kurt only stares at him, flabbergast, he continues, “Hummel, I haven’t got all day, and we need to check your belongings for anything illicit. Let’s go.”

Kurt doesn’t move. “I want to know what’s going on.”

“I am not going to ask you again,” Paul states in a purposely calm voice that instantly puts Kurt on edge, and without another thought Kurt puts his arms around his suitcase and hefts it up on to the table. “Thank you,” Paul says without a trace of actual gratitude. “Not so hard to do a little manual labour, is it?

Kurt bites back a snappy retort, eyes narrowed.

“Well, you don’t need any of this now that you’re here,” Paul says flippantly without even opening the suitcase. He sets down three t-shirts, three sweatshirts and three pairs of sweatpants, all in the same dull grey colour. Next he lays down the same gym uniform the boys outside were wearing, along with four packages of generic underwear and socks, a pair of black boots, and a flashlight and watch. “These are the items you’ll need while you’re here. You’re expected to wear these clothes only. Your toiletries are in your cabin waiting for you. Finally, here is a list of the rules.”

“I beg your pardon? Who the hell are you people? Give back my belongings right now.”

Paul ignores him, searching Kurt’s items instead. He unzips one of the pockets on the front and removes Kurt’s iPhone before setting it aside.

“I can’t have my phone?”

“No, you cannot, as it is no doubt full of faggot music that we do not tolerate here. You are at Camp Change, a rehabilitation program that you have been selected for because of your homosexual conduct. Your legal guardian has consented to your stay here until you have successfully assimilated to the acceptable, appropriate lifestyle. You will stay here until you have rehabilitated yourself, and you won’t be leaving here until you do.”

As these words register, white noise fills Kurt’s ears, blood pumping quickly through his veins. His heart is racing, head pounding, and he promptly turns and marches across the hall and bursts out through the double doors.

Trying to keep his threadbare calm, Kurt casts his eye all along the visible parts of the camp grounds, breaths punching out of him. The camp grounds are surrounded on one side by a lake down the field past a sea of trees and dense forest on the other. He wonders how large the forest is, if he can possibly make a run for it. Across the sports fields is a wide path that leads down to more fields, and Kurt can just make out a few dozen cabins further in the distance.

He has no idea where he is because he’s spent most of the drive sleeping. All he knows is that he’s somewhere in Georgia, and that is not very much information to go on.

“This happens to everyone,” Paul says from behind him, and Kurt whips around to find him holding the clothes he showed Kurt before. “First they resist and then they comply.”

“I can just run away!” Kurt tells him defiantly, trying to breathe through his fear.

“You could. But what are you going to do when you leave here? We have a signed consent form from your uncle that says you voluntarily submitted to the program. You can’t go to the police when we have every right to keep you here. Besides, who would believe you?”

Kurt can’t speak.

Paul takes advantage of Kurt’s silence, “So, Hummel, you can do this the hard way or the easy way. The hard way consists of manual labor and no dinner. Or, you can take your belongings to your cabin, number 10, and start getting settled in until Therapy begins. That’ll be back here at the main hall in an hour. It’s your choice.”

Kurt grabs his new belongings from Paul and breaks into a run down the path toward the cabins.

---

In the first hour, Kurt explores the camp grounds, mind whirring.

He thinks about swimming to another area outside the camp perimeter but upon inspection of the beach a couple hundred feet from the cabins he quickly realizes that there’s someone keeping watch. Is there someone guarding this area at all times, like the main gate?

How much forest is there between him and a safe place? He has no sense of where he is on a map or how far from home he is, and he has no idea what’s in that forest – could there be wild animals?

He could wait until dark and escape through the forest. But if he manages to escape, where is he supposed to go? His bag is long gone now, with Andy. He has no access to his suitcase for emergency money, and Ohio is quite far to go without any money to get him there.

And as Kurt rapidly considers the situation, he’s not even sure it makes sense to go back to Lima. There might not be anyone from New Directions willing to take him in, and even if they were, Paul has a point that Andy could just find him and bring him right back here.

Kurt could go to the police but he has no proof of anything problematic; if anything, with that consent form, the evidence is stacked against him. The police could give him right back to his uncle.

He’ll have to run away for good, completely start over.

But he has no money, isn’t entitled to the money his father left him for another two years.

He has nothing.

He is so incredibly fucked.

Kurt heads morosely back to his cabin to get dressed and join the group.

When he gets there he finds a sheet of paper waiting for him on his pillow that reads:

Camp Change Rules & Regulations

1. It is obligatory to be on time and present to scheduled activities, unless instructed otherwise by a counselor.
2. All prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications must be left in the care of your camp counselor and taken according to the prescription provided.
3. No sexual/emotional misconduct is allowed. Any temptations, fantasies, or dreams are to be presented during program only. Sexual and emotional misconduct includes emotional dependency, voyeurism, stalking, masturbation, mutual masturbation, or any form of genital or sexual contact with another patient. Sexual temptation, as well as the above, is not to be discussed between patients outside of program.
4. No hugging or physical touch is allowed between patients. Brief handshakes or a brief affirmative hand on the shoulder is allowed, only in the context of the program and not outside scheduled activities.
5. It is obligatory to remove all facial hair seven days weekly. Sideburns must not fall below the top of the ear. Clean business-like haircuts must be worn at all times. Hair must be long enough to be pinched between two fingers.
6. It is forbidden to speak to one another outside of scheduled activities unless there is a potentially life-threatening emergency.
7. It is forbidden to spend time alone with one another.
Consequences for breaking rules include manual labor, skipped meals, and isolation from the group.

Kurt takes in the words, unabashed terror finally settling in.

-

‘Therapy’, as Paul referred to it, is a joke and a nightmare.

The campers are split into groups of five, all of them apparently gay. Kurt finds himself in a group with four others boys, some of whom look basically dead in the eyes. It is horrifying to the extreme. The counselor in charge of Kurt’s group is a man named Tom, and he introduces Kurt to the group as soon as they assemble.

“Kurt’s just arrived today, and I’m sure you all remember how tough your first few days here were, so please be courteous and provide him with all that you’ve learned. Kurt, do you have anything to say?”

Kurt glares silently back.

“It’s hard to speak up the first time, we understand. There’s always tomorrow.” He turns to the boy on his left. “Go ahead and introduce yourself.”

“Derek.” Dull, quiet, uninterested. It’s the same for the others: “Len,” “Shawn,” and “Stephen.” Kurt stares at each of the boys in turn but they won’t make eye-contact, as if they’ve been conditioned not to. Kurt shivers at the notion.

“Thank you, boys,” Tom says. “Now, yesterday we were talking about how hard it can be to shut down inappropriate fantasies. Derek, you mentioned that sometimes you think about Shawn in the shower.” Kurt winces, and then a second time when neither boy mentioned reacts. “It can be really hard to admit to these fantasies but they are important for recovery. Shawn, we didn’t talk about how it felt to hear that. How did Derek’s confession make you feel?”

Shawn answers as if reading from a script. “It felt bad.”

Tom laughs. “Come now, Shawn. Did it really make you feel bad? Be honest now.”

A look of panic flashes across Shawn’s eyes; Kurt sees it clear as crystal. When Shawn speaks, his voice is barely above a whisper. “Well, at first it felt… good, to hear him say that.”

Tom sighs heavily. “Thank you for your honesty, Shawn, I know it wasn’t easy. Why don’t we all pray for Shawn, that he can resist these temptations. Kurt, would you like to give it a go?”

“I’m an atheist,” Kurt says without hesitation. He sees flickers of surprise from the other boys, perhaps at his daring. Or maybe they’re all Christians now. Hell, maybe they were all Christians before they arrived here.

“That is inappropriate, Kurt,” Tom says quietly.

Kurt sneers. “Well, I’m being kept here against my will so I’m not about to go along with your so-called program. I don’t believe in God; I won’t pretend I do, so I’m definitely not going to pray his gay away.”

Tom shakes his head sadly. “Kurt, some of the other patients felt like they were being kept here, too. Change is hard, and sometimes it’s easier to resist, to claim we have no control over our actions. It is difficult to accept our brokenness and admit we need healing. The other boys here struggled with that as well, right?” He waits for the other boys to nod. “See? But you’ll come to understand the glory of God’s healing grace with time.”

Kurt laughs. “Wow, do you actually believe the crap you’re saying right now? If you do, you are seriously deluded. If there was a God, don’t you think he has better things to do than worry about our masturbation fantasies?”

“That is quite enough,” Tom says sharply. “For your insubordination you will be doing manual labor tomorrow afternoon. You can think about what God wants for you in that time as well.”

Kurt crosses his arms and looks away from Tom’s disgusting face.

Manual labor? Kurt has to wonder what that will entail; it certainly doesn’t sound like a great time, which distracts him enough that he barely notices as Tom moves on to another topic. Kurt tunes it all out, his emotions a complicated mix too intense to concentrate on anything else.

When Kurt arrives at the main hall for dinner that night, Paul pulls him aside.

“I’m going to introduce you to the group once everyone’s seated.”

“Do you think I care?” Kurt asks him.

Paul ignores his question.

The room has been rearranged since ‘Therapy’. There are now six dining tables set up, each able to seat up to six boys and two ‘camp counselors’. Kurt watches the others ‘campers’ settle in. They move stiffly, and as soon as they sit down they are completely silent.

“Good evening, boys,” Paul announces, his voice carrying over the silent room with ridiculous ease. Kurt feels uncomfortable as all eyes in the room turn to the front of the hall where he and Paul are standing. “As you can see, we have a new patient in our midst. This is Kurt. You were all new once, so be sure to model appropriate behavior as Kurt adjusts his own to the requirements of the program. Hold him accountable whenever necessary.”

Kurt holds in a shiver as the hair on the back of his neck stands up.

“Thank you for your attention,” Paul concludes. “Enjoy your dinner.” Paul turns to Kurt now. “You will sit with your cabin group during meals. Your cabin group is over there; your counselor’s name is Greg. You can find your seat now.”

Kurt turns away without a word and looks at the second table on the left, the one Paul pointed him to. There is one seat available, and it’s beside Derek from his Therapy group. Kurt is grateful for a familiar face.

He sits down and looks around the table before he turns to address Derek directly. “Hey, it’s Derek, right?”

“You’re not supposed to talk during meals,” Derek tells him in a whisper. “You’re not supposed to use my name outside of Therapy, either.” He glances nervously up the table at the nearest ‘counselor’.

“We’re supposed to be completely silent through the meal?” Kurt asks with a fair amount of incredulity, taking in his fellow prisoners and the robotic way they’re eating, and sure enough it’s all done in silence. “And we can’t even address each other? What kind of prison is this? Actually, prison’s probably better; pretty sure you can talk to the other prisoners.”

Derek looks around in alarm. “Please don’t talk to me. They’ll punish me, too, and I really don’t want isolation again.”

Kurt’s mouth snaps shut as he considers Derek’s anxiety. Isolation must be pretty awful. He redirects his attention to the room and what’s going on. Kurt starts when a prison guard clatters a plate of food down on the table in front of him and keeps moving to deliver food to the other prisoners.

Kurt stares down at his plate in distaste. It’s some kind of smelly meat and cheese casserole, and it’s accompanied by a single bread roll. Kurt picks up a small amount with his fork and sniffs at it; his stomach turns. It looks and smells terrible.

“Disgusting,” Kurt spits out, looking up at the other prisoners at his table to get their reactions. They all pretend not to have heard him, looking down at their plates almost in unison. “You guys are actually gonna eat this crap?”

The prison guard at Kurt’s table has noticed the disruption. “Hey, listen up. You’re new, so I’ll cut you some slack here and give you a warning – do not talk to the other patients. What’s your name again?”

Kurt does not give the man his name. “I don’t get it. Is forbidding us from speaking supposed to make us straight? Does simple conversation make people gay now?”

The prison guard stands up and approaches Kurt. “I said, patient, what is your name?” he barks.

Kurt crosses his arms defiantly.

“His name is Kurt,” Derek says quickly. “He’s in my Therapy group, sir.”

“I did not ask you what the patient’s name was. Drop and give me twenty.”

Derek gets up quickly and crouches down to start doing push-ups. Kurt watches the spectacle with his mouth actually agape.

“This has got to be some elaborate prank,” Kurt croaks out. “You cannot seriously have just ordered him to do push-ups like we’re in the army. And how exactly is this going to deter us from being gay?”

The prison guard gets in Kurt’s space, hunching slightly to get his face right in front of Kurt’s. “You will address me as ‘sir’ when you ask a question. And during meals, the only question you should be asking is whether I can pass the salt or the water jug. Got that, patient?”

“Oh yes, sir, my hearing is perfect,” Kurt assures him. “It’s your methods I’m questioning, sir.”

“Stand up!” the prison guard shouts.

“Yes, Caption von Trapp,” he quips, standing and giving him a lazy salute.

“No dinner for you tonight, patient, and you can drop and give me fifty push-ups.” When Kurt just stands there unimpressed, the prison guard shouts, “NOW!”

Kurt drops to the floor, heart pounding. He struggles to comply with the prison guard’s demands, not remotely accustomed to doing push-ups. The prison guard stands there watching him, and at the tenth push-up, he says, “Start over, patient. That one wasn’t a full push-up and we don’t half-ass things around here.”

Kurt bites his lip on a retort and keeps going, this time more careful about doing complete push-ups. He loses track at around fifteen and does an extra five push-ups at the end just to be sure he hasn’t missed any but by that point he is sweating profusely, his stomach is protesting the lack of food (he hasn’t eaten anything since early this morning), and his arms are trembling to hold his weight.

He finally comes to a stop and only barely resists the searing urge to collapse to the floor; he has a feeling that could result in having to do more push-ups.

“On your feet, patient,” the prison guard states. “No food tonight, so sit down and wait until dinner is over. You’ll have your meal privileges returned tomorrow morning.”

Kurt spends the remainder of dinner watching everyone else silently eat, somewhat grateful since the food truly looked hardly edible. The prison guards at each table ask the campers questions, receiving one- or two-word answers, but the boys don’t talk to or look at each other. He wonders how long everyone else has been here; it must be terribly lonely.

Kurt distracts himself from his hunger by trying to remember any signs that Andy was homophobic. He’s really only seen his uncle once every year or two, for holidays and family reunions. He briefly wonders how on earth his father could have fucked up so badly when arranging for Kurt to live with Andy in the event of an emergency. Did he not know his brother’s feelings about Kurt? Did he know and just not care?

How could his dad die and leave Kurt like this? How could his dad have been so incredibly stupid?

And then Kurt feels awful.

He misses his father so much he can hardly breathe from it.

After dinner, the prisoners are escorted to the lake where they have to spend some time doing laps. All the boys are obliged to wear shirts, Kurt presumes because they won’t be able to control themselves and will suddenly start blowing each other in a giant circle. As Kurt lets his feet dangle in the water, he roundly decides that if he can keep his head on straight (ha), then he might be able to escape this place unscathed by the brainwashing. He formulates various plans in his head but none of them seem to make much sense upon further exploration.

After swimming they head back to the main hall to watch a propaganda film about how to stop gay attraction. It’s full of stupid advice like: ‘Try fantasizing about women. Try giving up feminine activities.’ It would be funny if it weren’t so offensive and terrible, and if he wasn’t so on-edge. In addition, the boys have to sit on the floor with two feet of space between them so that there is no physical contact whatsoever. Kurt kind of wants to test that boundary but he doesn’t want to get any of the other boys in trouble. And he’s had enough defiance for one day.

He’s so damn hungry, and he has that manual labor scheduled for tomorrow.

Then it’s bed time. The cabins are divided five boys to each with one counselor who sleeps in the cabin with them. Kurt’s counselor (prison guard) is called Greg, and his presence is deeply unsettling. He barely says a word to the boys, just watches to make sure they aren’t doing… well, ‘gay stuff’, Kurt assumes.

Kurt lies awake for hours after lights-out, going over the day in his mind and ignoring the hole in his stomach.

He should have tried to remain in Lima. He’d just gone along with Andy’s plan none the wiser. He wishes now that he could talk to any one of his friends. God, even Puck would be a delight right now.

And he deeply, desperately misses his father.

When wake-up time rolls around several very long hours later Kurt has not slept at all.

It’s as he’s heading to breakfast that he has an idea. If he just refuses to eat, they’ll have to call his uncle eventually to come and get him, or they’ll have to admit him to a hospital once it becomes a risk to his health. This place won’t risk a lawsuit just for one person.

The plan isn’t perfect but it’s all he’s got, so Kurt refuses to eat his breakfast. The decision to do so out of choice has settled his stomach a bit, so he doesn’t feel quite as hungry as last night. No one seems to notice that he’s not eating and that’s good since he doesn’t want to draw too much attention to himself until it’s too late to intervene without medical attention.

After breakfast, everyone files into the chapel. Kurt follows along, actually sort of curious what this will be like. Kurt takes an aisle seat next to a kid with blond hair. Kurt nods hello at him automatically, forgetting the rules, and the kid turns away without acknowledging him. It feels awful.

A man in a suit approaches a podium once all of the prisoners have sat down.

“Good morning, gentlemen. We have a new camper among us. Kurt Hummel, will you please stand?” Kurt’s ears begin to ring with the sudden attention. He slowly, shakily stands and stares straight ahead, heart thrumming in his chest. “Everyone please welcome Kurt.”

For the first time, Kurt hears the other boys’ voices, all thirty of them rumbling out some sort of welcome.

“Welcome, Kurt,” the man says. “I am Pastor Geoffrey, and I’m here to provide spiritual counsel to you and all the other wonderful young men here. I know this will take some adjustment for you but it’s all in name of our good Lord.”

Kurt cannot help but stare, shocked at the man’s audacity. He is welcoming Kurt as if Kurt had any choice in the matter. “Everyone, let’s pray for Kurt. Heavenly father, please help your son Kurt, that he can appropriately adjust to this new environment and give all of himself to the path you have set before him. Please help him to turn away from sin and move towards rebirth as the man you intended him to be. We know you have the power to bring healing and wholeness to us, and we trust you will do the same for Kurt, and for all your sons. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.”

Kurt’s ears burn with fury.

“Now let’s all stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Kurt refuses to pledge any sort of allegiance. He instead takes in his fellow prisoners with some measure of curiosity, and it’s not long before he notices that there are others not reciting.

For the first time it occurs to Kurt that there might be other boys who want to fight back, who haven’t been brainwashed completely into docility.

And that means there may still be hope.

-

Kurt grips the axe in his hand, pulls it back over his shoulder, and slams it down on to the log with as much force as he can. The blade settles only an inch or two into the center of the log before stopping dead. Kurt jolts with the reverberation and bites his lip hard to hold back the immediate swell of tears.

He will not cry over this. He will not cry over any of it. He won’t because it is exactly what they want, so they can use it as ammunition against him.

He will not let them win.

Breath rattling out of him, Kurt yanks on the handle of the axe to dislodge it from the log but it overbalances and the log tumbles off its pedestal and on to the ground, blade still deeply embedded.

Manual labor sucks.

Kurt bends over to remove the axe from the wood, and with the movement gets another unfortunate look at the horrid sweatpants he’s being forced to wear every day, a bland grey color not unlike the ones Finn would wear around the house on lazy days.

He very briefly wonders if he will ever see Finn again but quickly banishes the thought. He will see Finn again. It’s the only thing that will keep him going.

“You’re holding it wrong.”

Kurt is almost proud of the noise that comes out of him; he’s not sure he’s quite reached that octave before. When he whips around he sees another boy standing a few feet away, a fellow prisoner of this awful place. The boy must be close to Kurt’s age, give or take a year, and he has dark hair that is gelled in place like shellac. Kurt takes a good long look at him, scans the boy’s body from top to bottom, and decides he really likes what he sees. When his gaze finally settles on the boy’s face there’s a look of such deep turmoil there that Kurt feels ashamed and then promptly hates himself for feeling it at all.

“I’m sorry?” he finally manages to say. He’s having trouble keeping track of the conversation but there’s another prisoner talking to him, something that is expressly against the rules. And he’s cute!

“You’re holding the axe wrong,” he repeats softly, gesturing to the ground where the axe is pointing up from the log Kurt’s been trying valiantly to chop for the last ten minutes. Kurt glances down at it and back up at the other boy, eyebrows raised in a way he cannot help.

“Well, obviously,” Kurt scoffs. “I’ve never chopped wood in my life! And they didn’t bother to show me how before leaving me here so I really don’t know how they can expect me to chop thirty logs before 3:00.”

The boy nods slowly like he’s just waking up from a long sleep, which doesn’t seem likely since it’s midday. But it’s not tiredness, Kurt knows; that’s just how so many of the boys look – like they’re perpetually sleepwalking. The boy walks forward and grasps the handle of the axe, pulling it out of the wood with relative ease. He places the wood back on the pedestal, pulls the axe back, and chops the log clean in half.

Kurt’s actually a little turned on at the display. His mind is flooded by the image of grabbing the boy and kissing him. He looks away quickly, surprised at how vivid the fantasy is.

“It takes some practice,” the boy says, interrupting Kurt’s thoughts. His voice is soft-spoken in that way everyone here seems to talk, quiet and unemotional. “Someone else showed me how to do it. So you can just—you know, pay it forward when the next guy arrives.”

“Thank you. You know, for helping me. But also for talking to me,” Kurt says. This boy could get in trouble for talking to him; Kurt can’t deny the effect that knowledge has on him. “I’m Kurt, by the way.”

The boy does glance around quickly to make sure they’re still alone but he says, quite clearly, “Blaine.”

“Blaine,” Kurt repeats, almost sing-song. The subsequent few seconds of direct eye-contact boil hot with tension between them and then Blaine cuts his gaze downward and holds the axe up between them.

“Come on,” Blaine says gently. “You have to hold your hands further apart. Haven’t you seen Titanic?”

And god, it’s the very first joke and the first reference he’s heard to anything outside this world since he got here. How can Kurt not swoon?

“Of course I’ve seen Titanic,” Kurt teases once he’s recovered, “but excuse me if I forgot about that one scene with Wielding An Axe 101.”

That’s a smile. Definitely a smile. Kurt hasn’t seen a real smile since he arrived either. It is ridiculously intoxicating. But Blaine hands the axe to Kurt and nods his head in encouragement, and Kurt holds up the axe in an approximate copy of Blaine’s earlier stance. Blaine bends to pick up a new log of wood; Kurt unashamedly watches the muscles of his ass flex as he does, surprising himself again with his open interest.

“All right, just bring your right hand a bit further back,” Blaine coaches. “Stand a little bit sideways when you face the log, with most of your weight on your left foot.” Kurt follows his instructions. “Great, now bring it back but not as far as you were holding it before; just hold it up by your ear. Good, now push forward on to your right foot and bring the axe straight down on to the wood. Follow your instinct.”

Kurt follows Blaine’s instructions as best he can. The axe cuts through the wood, slightly off-centre so that one part of the log is quite a bit larger than the other. Still, success! “I did it!”

“Good,” Blaine says encouragingly, voice smooth, and he’s smiling a little. “Well, you’ve got the basics down, now you just have to keep practicing until you get really good at it.”

“Thank you, Blaine,” he says, purposely using his name. Then he gets started on placing another big piece on the block, trying to look busy in case someone comes to check on him. “Can I ask you a couple of questions while I chop?”

He chops the next piece while he waits for a response. It’s already a bit easier. Just when he’s added the new pieces to his tiny pile of wood, Blaine says, “Yes. But you have to be quick, I’ve got about six minutes before I have to be at the main hall.”

“What do you know about this place?” Kurt asks immediately, imploringly. “Please, I barely know anything. I don’t even know what city we’re in.”

Blaine is clearly uncertain. He’s looking back toward the only path leading into the field, and his straight-backed posture screams discomfort.

“Okay,” he says, rushed, “here’s what I know from the four months I’ve been here.” (Four months!? Kurt’s mind splutters.) “We’re technically in Waycross, Georgia, but several miles away on either side from anything remotely metropolitan. The camp’s surrounded by the lake on one side and forest on the other.” Kurt’s stopped chopping and is openly staring at Blaine, hungry for information and shocked into silence. “The stuff they told you when you got here is mostly true. You’re here until they believe you’ve been rehabilitated. You transition once they think you’re not gay anymore, but I’ve never seen someone transition. And Jake, you know that kid with the scar above his eye?” Kurt shakes his head, wracking his brain. “Well, anyway, I overheard a counselor say he’s been here for at least a year.”

Kurt’s body actually seizes with fear.

Blaine continues, more animated the longer he talks: “If they think you won’t go back to your sinful ways then you’ve got a decent chance of getting out of here. The gayer they think you are the longer you’ll be here. And Jake? He’s what they call ‘at-risk for relapse.’”

Kurt’s heart is pounding, and he feels nauseous. “But – how did this all happen? How did you get here?”

“My parents paid a lot of money to get me a spot here,” Blaine says. Sneers it, really. “It’s some kind of wilderness training, like they do for juvenile delinquents. Except for us it’s not that we’re delinquents, it’s that we’re gay.”

“So your parents forced you to come?” Kurt is horrified.

“It’s more like I gave in and agreed to it.” Blaine closes the distance between them. “Listen, Kurt! Because this is the most important thing, and I only have a few moments.” Kurt stares into Blaine’s eyes. “You wanna get out of here? Don’t look if they can see, don’t talk if they can hear. They won’t physically harm you; I think that’s their only limit, but they will take away your meals, and they will put you in isolation. They use humiliation and they make examples out of us. You better just keep your head down because the sooner you can get out of here, the better. Don’t give them a reason to make your stay here any longer.”

With that Blaine turns and speed-walks to the main path and is quickly out of Kurt’s sight.

-

Skipping lunch had not been so difficult for Kurt. It’s only now, as his prison mates are eating dinner, that Kurt’s resolve to starve himself begins to crumble. He used so much energy today chopping wood. He hasn’t eaten anything in about 48 hours. It’s this gnawing reminder; all he can think about is food. He sticks to water and pushes the food around his plate. He wonders what effects the fasting will have on him, and wishes he had his phone so he could google it.

The evening activities are a little harder to accomplish due to his lethargy. He swims a little, faking it to keep from being noticed. He already brought a lot of attention on himself with that display last night.

Kurt’s saving grace is breakfast the next morning (after a fitful sleep). His energy is low but his mind is strangely clear. He feels all the more resolved and is all set to continue his fasting until Blaine appears and suddenly pulls Kurt into an area off the main path to a smaller path hidden by some trees.

He says determinedly, “You need to eat.”

“Shit! Give a guy a little warning, would you?” Kurt mutters breathlessly, trying to tame the spike in his heartbeat.

“Stop starving yourself,” Blaine says. “I know what you’re trying to do, and it won’t work.”

Kurt is transfixed momentarily by Blaine’s gaze. “I—how do you know I’m not eating?”

“You’re very noticeable,” Blaine says, soft as silk.

Kurt is speechless.

“Just stop starving yourself, okay?” Blaine continues. “It won’t help. Trust me, I tried that when I first got here, and they eventually noticed and hooked me up to an IV. You don’t need to experience that,” he mutters darkly.

Kurt is powerless to stop himself from grasping Blaine’s hand. “That’s terrible!”

Blaine pulls his hand away. “Promise you’ll eat.”

“I promise,” Kurt tells Blaine’s retreating form.

His first bite of food at lunch is indescribable.

-

It rains on his fifth day at the camp. The weather affects his mood and makes him even more morose than he's been. He notices he is not alone; he sees slumped shoulders, frowns, and dragged feet throughout the day. It’s even quieter than usual, somehow.

It helps a bit to see that the other boys are not actually robots.

As far as Kurt can tell, boys at the camp fall into two categories: boys who genuinely believe that they are curing their homosexuality due to whatever influences in their lives, and boys who seem to be going along with the charade in order to appease whoever sent them here, and get out as quickly as possible, like Blaine.

The only way Kurt can really tell the difference is that the boys who are going along with it seem more rehearsed in their compliance. Kurt rationalizes that he merely recognizes a fellow actor. By the end of his first week, Kurt thinks he’s gotten pretty good at figuring out who’s faking the whole assimilation thing. It took a while because those who are have excelled at hiding it for obvious reasons. But now that Kurt’s worked it out he’s in a fair amount of awe over the acting work being done.

Maybe his uncle wasn’t entirely wrong about this being a dramatic arts camp!

Out of approximately thirty boys, Kurt figures a little less than half are just faking it. In Kurt’s own Therapy group, or as Kurt refers to it in his head, Brainwashing, there’s Len. He wasn’t sure at first but it’s only taken a few Brainwashing sessions to realize that Len has to hide his smile when Kurt makes a snarky comment.

Then there’s a guy called Sebastian that shares the field with Kurt during Sports. On Kurt’s third day he told prison guard Cal that he’d like to practice his ball-handling. He got a day of Isolation for that, something Kurt has yet to experience, and he would like to keep it that way. When Sebastian joined the group again he looked very much out of it. Kurt gave his shoulder a quick pat when he walked by between Sports and Brainwashing that day, and Sebastian gave him a quick, barely-perceptible nod at dinner.

There are others, but he does not yet know their names. It’s not as easy to observe the others outside of structured activities since they are so heavily monitored.

And of course there’s Blaine. It’s been several days since they met, and Kurt can’t help but watch him throughout the day. It turns out that they’re in the same group for Roleplay Scenarios, which is a real thing in which they all have to role-play male friendships with one another instead of romantic relationships. (Kurt had pointed out it was possible for gay boys to have both, and had spent the next afternoon chopping wood again.)

Roleplay Scenarios is quite possibly the funniest thing Kurt has ever seen, while simultaneously being the most ridiculous and offensive. The first roleplay scenario Kurt witnessed was one between Stephen from Kurt’s Brainwashing group and another boy called Alex. They were supposed to be talking about girls. The exchange had gone something like:

Alex: Those girls over there look really hot.
Stephen: Yeah, they do.
Alex: Do you think I could get the blonde girl’s number?
Stephen: Yeah, man, give it a shot.

The delivery of the extremely uninspired script had been so dead Kurt was ready to check its vitals.

Having Blaine in his Roleplay group is very distracting. Kurt doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that he has never before felt this sexually awakened in his life. His fantasies have never been so vivid or frequent. He does occasionally catch Blaine glancing over for a moment but he always looks away quickly before a prison guard can see.

Those brief moments of connection are the highlights of Kurt’s days.

-

Kurt winds up with manual labour every single day of his second week. He gets two days in a row for bursting into laughter during one of the propaganda films and then gets another day added when he asks a prison guard how swimming laps is supposed to make them straight.

In Brainwashing, Derek has just told the group about a sexual experience he had with another boy in his neighbourhood after his 16th birthday party.

Tom turns to Kurt with a tut-tut sound. He’s been trying to get Kurt to participate for a few days now. “Kurt, what do you think about Derek’s conduct?”

Kurt smirks. “I think it’s odd you’re trying to cure homosexuality by encouraging us to divulge graphic sexual history. You just asked him, and I quote: ‘How did you feel as you performed fellatio on him?’ You don’t see how that might not be the best way to make us repress our sexuality, that maybe asking us to reflect on how we feel about all those fantasies and experiences will remind us of how good they were?”

Kurt looks around at the other boys in his group to gauge their reactions. They’re all looking for Tom’s reaction, eyes wide.

Tom looks agitated. “The point is to identify the feeling so that it can be translated to an appropriate setting. By doing so, you will be able to feel those sensations and emotions when you are with women.”

“Ah yes, that is sound psychology right there,” Kurt laughs. “It’s not as though so-called therapists have been trying to change sexual orientation without success for numerous decades and haven’t managed it yet. It couldn’t possibly mean that it can’t be done; no, you homophobes just think you haven’t found the right strategy yet.”

Tom smiles pleasantly, and Kurt suddenly, shockingly, wants to hit him. “God is the right strategy. He is the only one who can change your heart.”

“Great strategy he’s got there,” Kurt retorts. “He makes us all gay in the first place then has his followers go around telling us we chose this, like we’d choose to be harassed and bullied and discriminated against every day.”

“Kurt, here at Camp Change we understand that your homosexuality was caused by early childhood trauma and that your choice was to pursue sinful activities with members of the same sex. For example, victims of childhood sexual assault who were preyed upon by the opposite sex may turn to the same sex due to the associated trauma.”

Kurt’s mouth drops open. Fury pounds through him. “Do you even hear yourself, you ignorant scumbag liar?” Kurt snaps, incensed.

He gets three more days of manual labour.

-

It occurs to him as he’s chopping wood on his last day of punishment of the week: Blaine was right. He is not any closer to coming up with a plan of action than he was on his first day here, and by sticking his head out he is bringing more attention to himself. If he’s going to get out of this place he needs to pretend to comply – there doesn’t seem to be another option.

He heads to Brainwashing on his 13th day at Camp Homophobia with the intention of cooperating and turning over a new leaf. As luck would have it, Tom begins by addressing Kurt.

“I know you’ve had a hard time adjusting, Kurt. We all need to share in the circle or this won’t work,” he explains. “You can’t transition if you don’t participate.”

Never mind that Kurt doesn’t want this to work. But he does want to get the fuck out of here, and if transitioning really is the only way…

“All right, fine,” Kurt says. He sees the other boys in the group look up and over in surprise. Tom seems taken aback as well.

“Great!” Tom says. “Why don’t you tell us about one of your same-sex experiences.”

Kurt closes his eyes and purses his lips on a retort, wishing for patience. He considers his options, if it would be better to be honest and say he hasn’t any sexual experiences or if he should just tell tall tales like Len seems to. He’s running out of time to decide, though.

“I don’t have any ‘same-sex experiences’ to share,” Kurt says, only slightly mocking Tom’s description. “I only came out last year, and Lima, Ohio isn’t exactly brimming with out gay teenagers. I made out with a girl for a few days to pretend I was straight, which was a spectacular failure. Do you want to hear about that?”

Tom ignores Kurt’s snark, glomming on to the first part of what Kurt said. “You say you came out last year? Let’s talk about that, and what preceded it.”

“What preceded it,” Kurt echoes with a snort. “What preceded it was everyone – literally everyone in my life – already knew I was gay, some before even I really knew. Eventually, it just became too difficult, and frankly ridiculous, to pretend I was something I’m not.”

Tom leans forward, apparently very excited by Kurt’s words. “You say people knew about your homosexuality before you did. Do you think it’s possible their ideas about you could have influenced your behaviour?”

“You really don’t get it, do you?” Kurt says, trying to keep his composure. “There was nothing to influence. I’ve been this way since as far back as you can possibly go. I have never been able to hide this. When I came out to my dad he told me he’d known since I was three because I asked for a pair of sensible heels for my birthday that year.”

The other boys have been listening riveted to Kurt’s words, and at this Len chuckles but quickly looks shocked that he broke character.

“That’s not funny, Len,” Tom admonishes.

“My point is,” Kurt continues, “the writing was on the wall a helluva long time ago. I’ve known I was gay since I was five. I only learned the word when one of the boys in school called me a fag and I looked it up in the dictionary at home and found out its synonym. I discovered that day that being gay wasn’t considered a good thing, and that I better not say anything to anyone about it. I’d certainly say the hateful ideas about my character based on my sexuality had an influence on me, but not their expectations that I’d be gay.”

Kurt looks around as he concludes his monologue and sees his group mates are listening with no longer blank but openly interested expressions.

“Kurt, let’s get back on track,” Tom says. “As we’ve discussed, homosexuality originates from early childhood trauma—”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Kurt interrupts, “but my childhood trauma came after I worked out my sexual orientation. But nice try.”

“You’re referring to your mother’s death?”

Kurt is motionless for only a moment before he’s up off his chair and staring horrified at the man before him. “How dare you!” He only realizes how loud he’s shouted it when the other Brainwashing groups turn to gape. But he doesn’t care at all. “You have no right! That is a matter of my private personal life!”

So much for complying with the program. It’s no real mystery where Tom got that information from but now Kurt has to wonder what else his piece of shit uncle told the prison guards to use as ammunition against him.

“When your mother died,” Tom says, as calm as Kurt is enraged, “it’s possible you took on a more feminine role to compensate for the loss, and that your father was too grief-stricken to provide you with a solid male influence in your life.”

At the mention of his father, Kurt suddenly feels calm and centered, and a little dangerous. He closes the distance between them in two strides. “You’ve clearly never met my father,” Kurt says with a remarkably steady voice, staring Tom down. He does not even know where his words are coming from. “If he were here right now, he’d be a solid male influence for me by beating your ignorant ass.”

It’s Kurt’s first experience with isolation, which is clearly a last resort punishment because it’s the very worst of them. Kurt’s marched to a tiny room inside of which you can’t stand in order to fit comfortably. The room is entirely without windows and has only one source of light, a dim light bulb that hangs directly above Kurt’s head.

Because his watch has been taken from him, he has no way of keeping track of the time. Kurt does fine initially, perhaps that first hour though Kurt has no way of knowing for certain, by focusing his hatred and anger for this place and the awful people running it as a distraction. But soon his mind starts to play tricks on him. The roaring silence begins to creep in as he loses track of the time. Soon he finds himself singing songs from Glee as comfort.

There’s just the one flickering light bulb in the center of the room, and it’s not long before Kurt has fantasies about smashing it with his bare hands just so it will stop. Sometime later, he actually does break it and blood trickles from a cut on the heel of his hand, the scent strong in the enclosed space.

When the door opens on Tom’s smirking face what feels like days later, Kurt blinks blearily at him and decides that he will do everything in his power – oh yes, he will not rest until that asshole is forced, along with the rest of these bastards, to spend the rest of their miserable lives rotting in prison.

Then they can experience the joys of isolation.

-

Kurt is shaky for hours after his release. He lies awake trembling until the big bell for wake-up is ringing in his ears, and then he gets dressed on jelly legs. He doesn’t know if he can keep fighting, not with the possibility of isolation hanging over him. Part of him wants to give up.

But when he gets to the dining hall for breakfast, Blaine is sitting in the spot Kurt usually sits, and he places a covert hand on the bench next to him to signal Kurt should sit down, too. It’s not where Blaine is supposed to be, so he’s risking punishment for this.

Kurt gratefully accepts the invitation. A moment later Blaine’s hand settles companionably on his knee for what must only be 1.5 seconds, but it’s enough to bolster Kurt with the strength to come back to himself just a little.

Kurt needs a plan. No more sitting around; it’s time to take action.

No one pushes Kurt Hummel around.

Finding a way out is easier said than done, though.

He spends the next few days considering his options, using the opportunity to completely ignore Tom during Brainwashing and refusing to answer questions in favour of remaining entirely mute during all other activities of the program. But he keeps going over the same crappy ideas, hoping somehow that he just hasn’t figured out the right angle.

It’s starting to feel hopeless until it hits him out of the blue during breakfast one morning. How does the camp get restocked with food and other supplies? There must be a delivery truck for that. Is there someone guarding the main path while the supplies are unloaded?

The only way for Kurt to really find out is to scope out the situation. The hitch is that it could take weeks of observing, and Kurt’s not even sure where to start. He can’t just camp out all day and night. The only option is to ask someone but that presents a risk as it’s unlikely anyone would be willing to be caught talking to Kurt after everything he’s pulled these past few weeks, and more importantly he has no real idea who he can trust.

Except for Blaine.

Somehow he knows he can trust Blaine.

That night he ensures that he is at the giant sink attached to the outdoor bathroom at the same time as Blaine. He waits until another boy, Daniel, has walked away before he turns to Blaine.

“Can you meet me later? Behind the shed in the second field, around 1:00 am? I know I’m asking a lot but—”

Blaine looks frantically for the potential shine of a prison guard’s flashlight then promptly shakes his head. “I can’t,” he whispers.

“Please!” Kurt begs. “I just need a bit of help and then I promise to leave you alone.” Blaine hesitates, and it’s enough for Kurt. “I’ll stay for half an hour. I’ll understand if you can’t come.”

He leaves Blaine to his thoughts.

He sneaks out of bed once he hears Greg’s snores, takes careful, silent steps across the cabin to the door and slowly pushes it open to avoid any squeaking of the hinges. He closes the door behind him in tiny increments until he is finally outside in the open air and cannot quite believe he managed to get out without being noticed.

He is not really expecting Blaine to show up and so he is genuinely surprised when Blaine silently sits down next to Kurt behind the shed some time later. He immediately says, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

“Thank you, Blaine,” Kurt says, more grateful than words can express. “And thank you for the other day, after I got isolation. I needed that anchor so badly. It meant a lot.”

“I know what isolation’s like,” Blaine says softly, and Kurt supposes that’s really what it comes down to.

“Well, it helped. And I don’t mean to put you in danger here, I just… I really need to get out of this place. I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s thought that. Has anyone tried to escape before?”

Blaine isn’t looking at Kurt but keeping his gaze forward instead like he’s afraid a prison guard will call him on it out here in the dark. “One guy took off a few weeks after I got here. They told us he was found mauled by a bear in the woods and that he wouldn’t be coming back.”

“Oh my god!” Kurt gasps. “Is that true?”

“I don’t know,” Blaine mutters. “I don’t really believe anything they say but I don’t know for sure. They left it ambiguous, wouldn’t say if he died or just wasn’t coming back because of injuries.”

Kurt closes his hand around Blaine’s. “That must have been so horrible for all of you.”

Blaine pulls his hand out of Kurt’s grasp and puts some space between them. “What do you want to know, Kurt? How to escape? I can’t tell you that.”

“No,” Kurt says, clearing his throat quietly and getting back to the point. “No, I’ve already worked out a possible plan but I need some information. I figure my only shot at escaping is when they’re distracted so I was thinking that I might be able to get out when the camp supplies are dropped off. Do you have any idea when that happens?”

Blaine ruffles his now gel-free hair anxiously, sighs deeply. “Uh. Well, I don’t know what time they come exactly but it’s always during the night on Tuesdays. I’ve heard the truck.”

Kurt feels a strong well of hope rising up through him, and it is beyond wonderful.

“Oh Blaine, thank you! That helps so much. You know, if you – if you wanted to come with me—”

“No,” Blaine says, emphatic. “That is not a reality for me. I just need to keep it together for a while longer, and then I get to leave.”

“But you said you’ve been here four months already!” Kurt points out. “I mean, think about everything you’ve missed in that time, and how much you’re going to miss until they let you out.”

“Look, I helped you, didn’t I? Just leave me alone, Kurt! I can’t – just stay away from me!”

Blaine actually runs away. Kurt watches him retreat as long as he can in the dark.

-

He’s been at Camp Homophobia for two and a half weeks but it feels so much longer with the long hours of silence and sunlight that follow him. There are only five days until the next Tuesday night, until he can take his opportunity to escape.

To fly under the radar, Kurt makes sure to keep his cool and participate in program from the very next day after his meeting with Blaine. The prison guards encourage him and comment positively on this change in behavior.

His plan is to escape while the guard at the main gate is distracted. Once he’s out he’ll make it on foot as far as possible, probably have to hitchhike part of the way and call Mercedes or Rachel or Finn for some help getting back to Lima.

It’s a plan that could go very wrong but it’s the only one he’s got.

He’s in Roleplay Scenarios on the Saturday before his escape, and he’s been paired with Blaine. They’ve been grouped together for scenarios before but there’s always been another group member to buffer the contact between them. Not this time. This time they’re roleplaying how to resist another guy’s sexual advances. Blaine’s making the advances; Kurt’s supposed to resist them.

Their prison guard for Roleplay Scenarios, Frank, sets the scene for them. Kurt’s supposed to be a freshman in college, and he’s being propositioned by Blaine the senior. Since Kurt’s been cooperating with the brainwashing crap in order to seem less suspicious, he’s all set to follow Frank’s orders and get it over with.

With anyone but Blaine, it might have been possible to pull off the roleplay without a hitch.

But Blaine’s leaning against the wall with his hips pushed out in an incredibly inviting way, and he has one arm draped against the wall above his head. He’s committed to the part, Kurt knows, since he wants out of here as badly as Kurt does. “Hey baby,” Blaine says, voice pitched low and unbelievably sexy; he is a clear natural at this. Kurt is supposed to keep walking with a clearly stated, “I am not interested.” Instead, he stops dead in his tracks and stares right at Blaine who looks up at Kurt through his long eyelashes.

Kurt’s a goner.

“Can I help you?” he asks Blaine, uncontrollably flirtatious. “Do you need something?”

“Mhmm,” Blaine says huskily. “I need you.”

Kurt feels the beginnings of arousal stirring within him and struggles to stay ‘on-script’, wanting so desperately to go to Blaine. Frank softly coaches Kurt: “Steady. Come on, Hummel, tell him no.”

But he can’t. Blaine is like a magnet; Kurt closes the distance between them and Blaine drops the raised arm to his side in clear surprise. Kurt traps Blaine there with his hands pressed just above Blaine’s shoulders on the wall. He leans in and only just resists the pounding urge to kiss Blaine, says silkily, “Mmm, and what do you need me to do?

Blaine bites his lip and looks up at Kurt with clear desire and longing, and Kurt drops his gaze to Blaine’s mouth, is only inches away. If he were to just—

“STOP.”

Frank steps between them, grabs Kurt around the arm and roughly yanks him away. “Deliberately making a mockery of the proceedings, Hummel? Manual labor, tomorrow.”

“I was not mocking!” Kurt starts indignantly but Frank’s not hearing it, and he sends Kurt away to sit in a corner for the rest of the roleplay session. Kurt supposes this is what happens when you get a reputation for being a rebel.

He only notices Blaine is staring at him when Roleplay ends and everyone’s moving to head back to their cabins.

Only a few minutes into his manual labor the following day, Kurt decides that chopping wood is so much better than participating in program. He doesn’t have to act like he’s assimilating out here, he can think some more about his escape plan, and the gentle breeze rustling the trees is calm and soothing. Particularly now that he’s got the hang of it, manual labor’s actually kind of pleasant.

It is even more pleasant when Kurt looks up half an hour later, wiping sweat off his brow with his arm, to see a prison guard emerging from the wooded path leading into the field with Blaine in tow. He leads Blaine to a chopping block about twenty feet away from Kurt’s, then says something to Blaine and leaves the way he came. Kurt watches the prison guard make his way back toward the main path and disappear through the trees.

His gaze flits back over to where the prison guard left Blaine but he’s not there anymore. No, he’s headed straight for Kurt, eyes blazing with intent, and Kurt drops the axe and starts to sprint toward Blaine. They meet somewhere in the middle and launch themselves at each other and into one another’s arms. Their mouths meet, and a spark jolts through Kurt, which has really been evident to him since the first moment they met.

Kurt breaks away to gasp, “Those idiots leaving us alone together!”

Blaine sucks hard on the skin under Kurt’s jaw and hums, the sound so sexy Kurt’s knees nearly buckle. “I broke a rule on purpose, talked to Bruce during lunch,” he breathes out. “Had to have you, Kurt, I’ve tried so hard not to look at you, not to want you, but you’re so hot and sexy, damn–!”

Blaine slams their mouths together again and licks into Kurt’s mouth. Kurt grasps Blaine’s hips in both his hands and pulls him in with a wrench of muscle. “You were such a little shit in roleplay yesterday,” Kurt mutters against Blaine’s collarbone, his teeth digging in. Blaine laughs breathlessly. It’s ridiculously sexy. “Come on,” Kurt says, tugging on Blaine’s hand, “let’s go to the shed.”

Blaine is frantic. “Yeah, yes, please.”

They flat-out run to the shed and burst inside. They immediately look around for somewhere to spread out and find piles of extra mattresses along one wall of the shed. Kurt grabs one and drops it on the floor, and then pulls Blaine over so they can lie together on it.

Kurt kisses Blaine with an urgency that’s completely foreign to him. He’s so hard; never been this turned on in his life. He’s thrusting down into Blaine’s lap without even really deciding to, and Blaine is thrusting up and pulling Kurt’s hips in the direction of his own.

When Kurt can’t bear the lack of contact any longer, he slides his hand inside Blaine’s pants and begins stroking his cock with shaky, desperate pulls. Blaine is hard and wet, and he thrusts up to get closer, crying out.

Kurt’s never done anything like this before, and in fact has really only thought about it at night when he’s in bed or after a particularly vivid dream. He doesn’t even really know where the gall is coming from, and it’s almost frightening how much he wants this, how much he wants Blaine. No part of him can resist it.

“Shitshitshit,” Blaine cries, “god, that’s, fuck!” His hand is clenched painfully tight around Kurt’s forearm but Kurt doesn’t mind, just revels in the pressure and caresses Blaine’s hip. He hums a little as he picks up the pace of his hand on Blaine, and it’s not long before Blaine seizes up with a nearly-anguished wail and comes, wave after wave of obvious shuddering pleasure.

Kurt’s eyes rove over Blaine’s beautifully expressive face as Blaine comes down from it, and he pulls his hand away, places one soft kiss on Blaine’s lips. Next moment Blaine is crying quietly with his eyes squeezed shut, head thrown back against the mattress, biting his lip to contain his sobs. Kurt crowds into Blaine’s space to stroke his face and mutter, “You’re okay, I’ve got you.”

It’s several minutes before Blaine gathers himself together and sits up to reach for Kurt, grasping the waistband of Kurt’s pants and ignoring Kurt’s babble of, “No wait, you’re upset, you don’t have to—”

Blaine quiets him with a kiss and closes his hand around Kurt, beginning a gentle stroke.

Kurt has done this for himself many times but not since he arrived here, and Blaine’s hand is big and warm and so soft around him, so different from his own. Kurt comes so fast and so hard his vision goes white for several prolonged moments.

Once they’ve collected themselves they walk back to their chopping blocks, arms brushing on the way. They kiss once, after a quick glance around, and then they split up to do some more work.

Kurt feels genuinely good for the first time in weeks, and it is simply addictive.

-

Kurt finds Blaine brushing his teeth at the sink after program ends. There’s a prison guard on the main path but he’s just far enough that Kurt can whisper and not be heard. He squeezes toothpaste on his brush and says, “Think you can get away? Same place as last time.”

Blaine touches Kurt’s wrist and nods, then he pulls away to rinse and walks off without a word. Kurt’s skin tingles from the contact.

It takes at least an hour but eventually he hears Greg’s snores and is able to start off for their meeting spot. The crisp night air feels like freedom as Kurt makes his way quietly through the trees to the shed. Blaine’s already there, leaning against a tree and staring up at the night sky with his long throat gleaming in the moonlight. Kurt walks right over and kisses Blaine, feels affection pump through him. Blaine kisses back, pressing his hand into the small of Kurt’s back.

“So glad you came,” Kurt whispers.

“Of course I came,” Blaine says, and he is smiling in a way Kurt has not seen on Blaine before. It’s the most beautiful thing.

He knows that smile won’t be there in a few seconds, though.

“We have to talk,” he says.

Blaine looks down. “Kurt…”

“No, listen. I’ve been thinking; it’s pretty much all I do now. And there’s nothing else for it, we have to get out of here, Blaine. We won’t survive if we don’t. And I have a plan now, a proper one. We can leave on Tuesday, just go and never look back.”

Blaine looks terrified. “I already told you, Kurt, I can’t! Look, I made an arrangement with my father that I would come here for the program, and in return I get to choose where I go to college and in which city. If I hadn’t said yes he would have cut me off financially, maybe even kicked me out, and then I’d be broke and homeless. This way, when I’m done here I can go to New York or L.A, and I can have my freedom, but I just need to wait it out until they let me leave.”

“But when, Blaine?” Kurt demands. “You said yourself that you’ve never seen someone transition out of here. And let’s say they eventually let you out – will you really be free to have the life you want? What happens when you want to date a man one day? Do you think your father will still pay for your schooling then? Are you going to hide this your whole life? Just pretend?”

“You don’t get to judge me for this, okay?” Blaine says harshly. “You don’t understand my life, don’t you dare pretend to! Kurt, please, can’t you just wait it out and—”

“I had no choice,” Kurt snaps. “I was forced to come here, and I want nothing to do with it.” He makes his voice less harsh, speaks more gently this time. “Isn’t it killing you? Don’t you feel your soul withering away by the day? And hell, I don’t know if I even really believed in souls before all this!”

Blaine stands up, and Kurt can see he’s shaking even in the dark. “I can’t. Good luck, Kurt. I hope you get out safely. It was—” Blaine falters, “it was nice meeting you.”

-

Of all the experiences he’s had at this place so far, Blaine’s assertion that he’s staying at this terrible place is absolutely the worst.

But with or without Blaine, Kurt has to leave.

Just over 24 hours. That’s how long he has to stick it out, and then he’ll be a free man. And not a moment too soon!

During breakfast on the morning of his escape, Kurt wonders if any members of New Directions have tried to contact him. He’s sure they haven’t; he barely said a word to them before he left, hardly even goodbye. Maybe they won’t even want to speak to him.

But he can’t think like that. He can’t lose his nerve.

He’s on his way back to his cabin to get ready for Brainwashing when Blaine grabs Kurt by the hand and pulls him off the main path and down a less beaten one into a spot hidden from prying eyes. Blaine kisses him tenderly; Kurt’s powerless to resist returning that intimate action.

Soon Blaine pulls away just enough to tell him, “I’m coming with you.”

Kurt pounces, elated at the good news.

“But I’m scared,” Blaine admits when Kurt has finished thoroughly kissing him. Kurt makes a soothing sound; Blaine’s fear is obvious by how his hands are trembling in Kurt’s grip.

“So am I,” Kurt assures him. “But doesn’t this non-life scare you more?”

Blaine doesn’t say anything for a minute. “Kurt, if we fuck up…”

“There is no room to fuck up. Blaine, I will not let this get fucked up, okay? There’s too much at stake. Meet me at our usual spot tonight and I’ll tell you the whole plan.”

They go their separate ways but Kurt comforts himself with the knowledge that they’ll be together again soon.

At Brainwashing, things are proceeding normally when Derek says he had a sex dream about Hugh Jackman last night.

Kurt bites his lip on the urge to tell Derek he is not alone on that one.

Then Len clears his throat and says, “I had a sex dream too, Tom, but it was about you. You were getting me off.”

Kurt’s jaw drops. The other boys gasp and Tom splutters wildly, “Freeman, that is completely inappropriate! Not to mention disgusting. It sounds to me like you need a reminder of what should be shared at these therapy groups. Tomorrow you’ll be doing manual labor.”

Kurt whips his head around to glare at Tom. “Hang on, I thought we were supposed to share our fantasies?”

“Kurt, no one is permitted to speak gratuitously about sexual experiences or fantasies.”

“Oh, you call that gratuitous? Well, what about yesterday when you made Shawn tell you in explicit detail about his hook-up at a gay bar, huh? You wanted plenty of gratuitous details then. You know, I believe the rules state that we can’t speak about our fantasies outside of Therapy. Where are we right now, Tom? Or do you mean that we can’t speak about our shameful fantasies if they involve you?” Kurt knows he’s treading thin ice here but Tom infuriates him in ways he can’t seem to control. “Len was just telling you what happened, only this time it made you uncomfortable because it involved you. Are you turned on, Tom? Is that it?”

“Silence, Hummel!” Tom thunders, and now everyone in the hall is staring at them. Which is becoming a thing for Kurt. “Manual labor, every afternoon this week.”

“Oh, go on, make it two weeks!” Kurt trills with a grin, hardly concerned since he’ll be long gone.

Tom stands up so that his chair scrapes back. The silence in the hall is deafening. “Isolation, Hummel,” he says, clear and dangerous. “12 hours, starting now.”

Kurt violently curses his big mouth.

He won’t be escaping tonight.

-

It’s two in the morning by the time he’s escorted back to his cabin after isolation. Tom walks away when Kurt gets to the front door, and Kurt thanks the universe for that small act of mercy and waits five minutes before heading off to their usual meeting spot. He has no idea if Blaine will be there but on the off chance…

He’s shaking when he finds Blaine. He sits down, more like collapses, and Blaine cradles Kurt’s face in his hands, makes Kurt look him in the eye. It grounds Kurt a little more, and after placing the most gentle kiss on his mouth, Blaine moves to spread out on his front, perched over Kurt’s lap and peering up at Kurt through the moonlight with his eyes shining. Kurt’s heart starts pounding; he knows what’s about to happen. It’s something he’s fantasized about only very briefly and on very few occasions.

Blaine pulls the waistband of Kurt’s pants down and drags the material to his ankles, and then he slides his mouth slowly down on to Kurt’s half-hard cock. Kurt bends his legs at the knees, kicks his sweatpants off, and only just stops himself from crying out when Blaine bears down again.

The sensation of Blaine’s mouth around Kurt is something Kurt has no frame of reference for. Blaine pulls off for a moment and makes a soft sound of pleasure when Kurt’s knees squeeze tight to either side of Blaine’s head. Kurt sees stars and beautiful light behind closed eyes. Blaine buries his face closer, takes Kurt in again, groaning a vibration from his throat that has Kurt coming weakly into Blaine’s mouth and trembling through the aftershocks.

Kurt can’t speak. He knows that at some point during those heady few minutes he fell dangerously in love with Blaine. It’s overwhelming and inexplicable when he’s only known Blaine for such a short time so he says nothing, the feeling inside him far too enormous for words.

When Kurt finally feels grounded in reality he grips Blaine’s hand like a life preserver. “We’ll just have to wait until next week.”

They arrange to meet the following night to go over the plan. Blaine refuses to let Kurt go over the details right now, sending him to bed for rest instead.

As Kurt climbs silently into bed, he reflects that while he doesn’t believe in God, he still has to take a few minutes before sleep to thank the universe for Blaine. He’s not sure how he’d survive this place without him.

He wonders if Blaine sees Kurt the same way.

Due to the isolation from yesterday, Kurt is extremely lethargic. He struggles to keep up with the soccer game, and after a few minutes the prison guard on duty during Sports surprisingly allows him to sit on the sidelines. Kurt sits down close to Sebastian who’s waiting for a substitution, and Sebastian looks over and nods quickly at Kurt in acknowledgement.

Kurt leans back on his hands in the grass and closes his eyes, soaks up the feeling of a light breeze on his face. He sits there enjoying the moment, and it’s quiet until Sebastian suddenly speaks.

“I am so over this game, aren’t you?” he asks softly. Kurt looks over. “Something tells me you have a way to end it for good.”

Sebastian is not talking about the soccer game. Kurt glances at the field and swallows nervously. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do. I saw you and Blaine talking yesterday, before you got your isolation. Looks like the two of you have gotten pretty cozy. And it sounds like you’ve been planning something. An escape maybe?”

“Keep your voice down,” Kurt hisses. Sebastian’s barely been speaking above a mutter but Kurt’s not taking any chances.

“I want in,” Sebastian says. “I’m not taking no for an answer. I need to get the fuck out of here and you’re my ticket. Do I have to tell you what would happen if the prison guards found out you have a plan to escape? Or that you’ve been fraternizing with a fellow patient?”

“What proof do you have?” Kurt says, no longer glancing sidelong at Sebastian but looking right at him.

“Oh, like this place needs proof for anything.”

Kurt takes in a shuddering breath and can’t quite let it out again. “Fine,” he says, trapped. “Meet us behind the shed in the second field tonight at 2:00. Wait five minutes once you leave your cabin before you come to the meeting spot.”

The look on Sebastian’s face is one Kurt recognizes; Kurt can see that he’s just as desperate to get out of here as Kurt is. Kurt suddenly feels a lot less bitter about Sebastian manipulating them.

Game play stops for a moment, and the prison guard whistles for Sebastian to sub in.

-

Kurt told Sebastian to meet them later as he knows Blaine needs to be made aware of the new developments.

Blaine is upset when Kurt explains. “Damn it!” He paces for a few moments and comes to stop with a deep sigh. “I don’t know about this, Kurt. Don’t we increase the risk of getting caught if we have more people?”

“Of course we do, but I didn’t really have a choice, Blaine,” Kurt points out. “He threatened to tell the prison guards, and it’s not like we can risk that. We’ll just have to bring him with us.”

Blaine relents. “It’s just one more person,” he admits.

But when Sebastian arrives he is not alone. He has Len, from Kurt’s Brainwashing group, with him. Kurt’s up and on his feet in literal seconds. “The agreement was you, not everyone and their mother!” Kurt snaps at him.

“We crossed paths on my way here,” Sebastian drawls. “I wasn’t gonna give him a chance to run off and report us to the authorities, was I?”

“Sebastian,” Kurt grits out, “we can’t risk adding more people to the escape or we will absolutely get caught.”

“Look, it can’t be a bad thing to have four of us telling the same story when we get out of here; the more people, the more credible we are to the police, right?” Sebastian reasons.

“You can trust me, Kurt,” Len says with an urgency Kurt completely understands.

“Jesus,” Kurt says weakly.

“Is nowhere to be found,” Sebastian fills in. “So come on. What’s the plan?”

But at that moment there’s a rustling in the trees and two prison guards, Greg and Cal, have stepped into their meeting place, flashlights beaming brightly. Kurt’s heart sinks like a stone, and he sees that same feeling of disappointment on his fellow prisoners’ faces as they’re roughly hustled into moving out of their meeting spot and back on to the main path.

Greg uses a walkie talkie to communicate with a voice that Kurt recognizes as Paul. “Found all four. Yeah, I know. Well, we got ‘em so relax, we’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Kurt holds back tears of frustration by putting one foot in front of the other and keeping his eyes trained straight ahead as they make their way toward the main hall. Paul is waiting for them at the double doors, his expression frightening.

Greg and Cal set out chairs for them in front of Paul once they’re inside the main hall.

“Sit down,” Paul orders.

They sit.

“Whose idea was this?”

“It was mine,” Kurt says. “I was just trying to get them to tell me where this place is and how I could escape. They had nothing to do with it.”

“That’s not true!” Blaine interjects.

“Yes it is,” Kurt insists, giving Blaine a warning look. “He’s trying to take some of the responsibility but the truth is I was being selfish by asking them to come and I don’t want you to punish them for my mistake.”

Paul considers them for a moment, expression ugly. “You will be punished,” he says to Blaine, Sebastian, and Len. “You’ll each have five days of manual labor as punishment, and you can forget about eating breakfast this morning, and the rest of the day, at that.”

He turns to Kurt. “As for you. You have been defiant from the moment you arrived. You will be getting isolation immediately. Furthermore, you will have a counselor by your side throughout the day from now until we have determined that you are no longer a threat to the other patients or yourself. Now I want you to give me 100 push-ups; count them out as you do them. Should you continue to be defiant in the coming days, the number of push-ups will increase and you will continue to be placed in isolation until you are properly compliant. Get started.”

Kurt drops to the floor and gets into the proper position as Paul continues, “And you three are going to watch him carry out this punishment as a reminder of the consequences of breaking the program regulations. You might also want to think about how much you were truly involved in this so-called plan of Hummel’s and consider how that worked out for all of you.”

Kurt starts his push-ups, concentrating carefully on getting each one right. As ordered, he counts out the number of push-ups as he goes. By the time he’s reached fifty, he’s straining to complete them.

“Oh, is this difficult for you, Hummel?” Paul mocks.

Kurt ignores him and continues, body screaming at him for it. He can’t stop, though, not when there will just be more of them if he does. He pushes himself, determined to finish, and as he’s nearing the last twenty he starts to shout the numbers out, “80! 81!”

At 100 push-ups, Kurt is gasping for breath, sweat pouring off him. He keeps himself in the push-up position, arms burning from exertion, until Paul says, “Greg will escort you three back to your cabins now, and Cal will escort you to isolation, Hummel.”

As Kurt gets to his feet he avoids looking anywhere but his boots. He doesn’t want the others to get anymore punishments, and so he doesn’t try to catch their gaze or send any kind of message as they leave the room with Greg.

The isolation room is worse than it’s ever been. Kurt has difficulty focusing on one thought at a time, mind spinning without something to grasp on to. He has no idea what he’s going to do now, not if he’s going to be watched 24/7. There doesn’t seem to be any hope left – he'll have to comply until they believe he is actually cooperating with program, and then once they let up on the surveillance maybe he can try to escape again.

But as Kurt's heart pounds in the profound silence and dark, he doesn’t think he’s up for another escape attempt, another possibility to be caught. Another failure.

After some time of going around in circles about what can be done, Kurt’s exhaustion finally lets him sleep.

-

It’s the middle of the afternoon when Cal comes to get him from isolation. The last two times he endured this punishment, he was released at night when the transition from complete darkness to relative darkness was barely noticeable but the sun is now shining bright and Kurt cries out weakly as soon as he steps out of the room, clenching his eyes shut on a wave of nausea.

Kurt takes longer than normal as he showers, body trembling not just from the isolation but also due to his overworked muscles from last night’s punishment. He picks up the pace when Cal tells him to hurry it up.

He’s then brought back to the main hall where everyone is split into their Therapy groups. “Get moving, Hummel,” Cal says, and he sends Kurt stumbling forward with a shove between his shoulder blades. Kurt stops his forward momentum with the back of Stephen’s chair, and takes in several calming breaths before dropping gracelessly into the empty chair in the circle.

“Welcome back to program, Kurt,” Tom says. Kurt doesn’t say anything, is too anxious about receiving more punishments at this point, particularly now that Cal is willing to actually put his hands on Kurt. He can feel Len’s eyes on him but avoids making any connection with him, keeps his eyes on Tom instead.

Tom speaks to Kurt. “We were just talking about thought stopping as a method of control when you experience a homosexual thought or fantasy. Have you ever tried this technique before?”

It’s a test. He’s been put on the spot to see if he’s going to comply.

Kurt opens his mouth to speak and nothing comes out. He clears his throat and pinches the skin on the inside of his wrist to remind himself that he needs to participate in program, and that requires telling them what they want to hear.

“Yes, I’ve used it before,” he says, unable to recognize his own voice. He blinks away the sting of tears.

Tom nods encouragingly. “Do you want to elaborate?”

Kurt bites the inside of his lip as he nods his head, thinks about how often he actually has tried to stop his thoughts and fantasies. He did it all the time with Finn, and he was doing it with Sam a little bit. “Um, I used it a lot last year,” Kurt says, and his eyes catch on the surprised look on Stephen’s face beside him. There might be a sliver of disappointment in them, too.

He looks away.

It’s so much easier to just relent.

“I had a crush on a boy in my school’s Glee club,” he discloses. “He was the quarterback of the football team, and he was kind to me when so few were. I stuck out like a sore thumb at my school so I was a target but he sort of kept a leash on the jocks that antagonized me." Kurt swallows thickly. "I - I stopped a lot of thoughts about him.”

The next few days are an exercise in control that Kurt has not had to exert over himself since before he came out. He feels uncomfortably like he did back then but reminds himself it’s for a good reason – cooperation is his key to getting out.

He doesn’t talk back, doesn’t roll his eyes or argue with the staff. He answers their questions and follows their orders. Cal is by his side at all hours of the day until bed time when Greg takes over watch. Kurt complies, is not defiant.

He talks in Therapy about his crush on Sam. “At first I thought I was being respectful about approaching him but then Finn said that I was pursuing Sam like I pursued him last year. I didn’t want to believe him at first but I realized he was right. I was so disappointed when I found out he wasn’t gay. I put all these expectations on him, made assumptions. That was wrong.”

He's not sure what he’s saying just to appease the counselors and what his actual feelings are.

-

And then the nightmares start.

His father reminding him, “I’m real disappointed in you.”

The last words his father ever said to him.

He wakes up grief-stricken and filled with guilt, can’t get rid of the sound of the heart monitor. When he finally shakes that loose there remains only the deafening silence left behind after a hospital staff member carted the machine off, no more use for it.

He wakes up one night in a cold sweat from a nightmare where instead of accepting Kurt when he comes out, his father disowns him.

“No son of mine…”

The nightmares become so regular he can barely sleep, gets a few hours if he’s lucky. Time passes in a blur, impossible to keep track of. Has it been days? Or weeks? Kurt can’t bring himself to work it out. He’s not sure he even cares anymore.

He ignores Cal’s increasing aggression towards him. Cal gives him a hard shove into the dining table every time he delivers Kurt to his seat for a meal. Kurt has bruises on his shoulders and hips from crashing into the double doors of the main hall every time Cal pushes him into them.

The inside of Kurt’s wrist is marked up with scratches from pinching himself throughout the day, reminders to comply but also reminders he’s still alive. He has never been so silent, hasn’t gone this long without making connections. He can feel the lack of stimulation in his aching bones but has no energy, no real drive to bring himself back to a normal state of being.

The sleep deprivation and lack of appetite do not help.

He’s starting to feel like everyone looked when he first arrived.

Kurt is torn out of a horrible nightmare one night when Greg shakes him awake. “Quiet, Hummel, you’re making noise,” he grumbles.

Kurt stops his unconscious pained whimpers and rolls away, faces the wall as the memory of the nightmare comes back to him.

It wasn’t his uncle who put him in this place, it was his dad. And when the counselors decided Kurt was finally straight enough, they called his dad to come pick him up but he just told them he didn’t want Kurt anymore. He said, “I already have a son, a real man of a son that I can be proud of. Not like that pansy-assed faggot."

"You can keep him.”

Kurt shivers, teeth chattering despite the Georgian heat.

During chapel that morning, Kurt listens as Pastor Geoffrey reads an excerpt from the Bible.

“Father to the fatherless,” he reads, and Kurt’s chest aches with a stabbing pain and grief. “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry.”

He thinks of his father, how lost Kurt is without him, thinks again of how disappointed he was the last time they spoke.

Kurt will never again feel those strong arms around him, comforting him when he’s upset; never hear that gentle, gruff voice coming to his rescue. He will never again watch his father shave in the reflection of the bathroom mirror or see him come barreling down the stairs with his shirt wrinkled because he wouldn’t let Kurt iron it. He’ll never hear his father hum through an oil change for one of the customers.

Kurt pinches the inside of his wrist on the urge to weep, pierces the skin enough that a drop of blood pools to the surface. Kurt watches it swell and thinks about the color and the shape of it until he’s not thinking about anything else.

Kurt starts to divulge even more in Therapy. He talks about his fixation on Finn, about how he was convinced Finn would return Kurt’s feelings eventually, and how he started to actively pursue Finn. He talks about the shame he felt afterward, about the confrontation in Kurt’s bedroom. He talks about Ben, in middle school, who had asked to borrow a pencil in geography one day, and from that point on Kurt spent the rest of the year alternating between paying attention to the class material and staring at the back of Ben's head, fantasizing about stroking his hands through those soft-looking strands of hair.

He feels intense, indescribable shame over these recollections, finds himself unable to counter Tom’s assertion that these experiences were ways in which Kurt sought attention from his father. He thinks about how jealous he was when Finn and his father spent time together, thinks that he was certainly trying to get his father’s attention when he pretended to be straight.

But that’s different, Kurt argues with himself. You aren’t gay because you wanted Dad’s attention.

But Kurt’s mind supplies him with examples of behavior Kurt demonstrated to get attention, not just from his father but from other adults in his life, and people at school – the outfits, the way he walked and talked. Suddenly he’s not so sure it was merely a defense mechanism; perhaps he really was developing a whole persona based on others’ expectations of him.

Kurt can’t trust his own brain. There’s a fog where there should be clarity and reason, and he thinks he should be terrified by that but he’s actually just apathetic about it. His body and his brain are giving up on him, and he doesn’t even care.

Then comes a full day where he can’t remember a single detail of what occurred during it. Soon every day is like that, one after the other.

Kurt finally comes out of his zombie state one afternoon when Blaine collides with him as they pass each other in the main hall after Therapy. A loud gasp is shocked out of him when it happens. He hasn't seen Blaine in -

He has no idea how long it's been.

“Sorry,” Blaine says, holding Kurt's hips in his steady hands when they're knocked off balance. He hooks his thumbs up under Kurt’s sweater, makes contact with Kurt's bare skin, as he meets and holds Kurt’s gaze. Kurt is wholly transfixed by him.

“You with me?” Blaine asks him.

He wants to say, "YES!" but he has no opportunity to answer because Cal throws an arm over Blaine’s chest and pulls him violently away from Kurt.

“What do you think you’re doing, Anderson? Drop and give me fifty.”

Kurt’s heart is a vibration. It’s a hummingbird in flight headed to a source of water; he drinks in the sight of Blaine after too many days (weeks?) of being unable to, of nearly forgetting his magnificent presence. He watches Blaine’s push-ups with a sense that he’s finally breaching the surface after too long under.

After the punishment, Cal sends Blaine on his way with a week of manual labor and an order not to speak to or touch the other patients. Blaine looks right at Kurt as he’s walking away, and Kurt looks back until Cal turns him around and shoves Kurt back in the direction of his cabin so he can get changed for swimming.

As he changes, Kurt tries to remember but he has no idea what day it is and how much time has passed since he arrived at the camp. The realization fills him with icy terror. He sits motionless on his bed for long enough that Cal barges in and yanks him to his feet, pulling Kurt’s arm so hard it’s nearly wrenched from its socket. Kurt bites his lip on a cry of pain and gets moving.

He notices the change immediately now that he’s been shaken out of his frozen state.

While he’s been complying instead of rebelling, the other prisoners have been picking up his slack.

One boy, Chandler, removes his shirt at the lake in a clear move of defiance before he’s sent to isolation. Two boys during evening program put their arms around each other while the propaganda film is playing and get manual labor and fifty push-ups each before being separated to opposite sides of the room.

The very next day, Derek from Brainwashing is rolling his eyes at Tom. Kurt can see that Len has started growing out his hair and is making epic snarky comments. During Sports, Sebastian is back at it again with the sexual innuendo, and he’s not alone! Four other boys, including Stephen from Roleplay, join in. They’re all given manual labor and push-ups.

It goes like that all day; Kurt watches the defiance with absolute wonder and growing pride. In solidarity with his fellow prisoners, he raises his fist in triumph as Cal leads him toward the whole group waiting to enter the chapel. This earns him fifty push-ups but Kurt gladly takes them in full view of the other prisoners.

That evening, Kurt enters the main hall for dinner, shaking off the ringing in his head from his collision with the door after a particularly hard shove from Cal. A wall of noise hits him immediately. The boys aren’t sitting down for dinner, they’re clustered in groups outright talking to each other and ignoring the prison guards' commands. There are a few boys who are sitting down and watching in alarm but they are definitely the minority.

Kurt starts to grin as he takes it all in. Blaine’s talking to a boy a few feet away. He’s doing a little twirly dance, and he’s laughing – it’s loud and uninhibited. Kurt jumps forward, about to join them, when Cal’s hand slams down over his shoulder.

“Don’t even think about it, Hummel!”

Kurt rounds on him, memories flooding in of every act of physical aggression Cal’s subjected him to since he was put on Kurt-watch, and perhaps all the acts of aggression he’s experienced at the hands of bullies his entire life.

“You’d better get your fucking hands off me,” he spits, shoving his hand away.

In a matter of seconds, Cal has wrestled Kurt to the ground, face-down on the floor with one knee digging into his back, pinning him down. Kurt struggles but he’s no match for the man’s size and strength. He cries out as Cal bends his arm so far and so hard backward that Kurt feels an unmistakable twinge that indicates a potential break any second. He lets out a panicked shout – he can’t get away – he’s trapped!

Only he’s free the next moment because Blaine and Sebastian have pounced on Cal and dragged him away from Kurt. He scrambles to his feet, heart pounding, and takes in the utter chaos of the room.

There isn’t a single boy sitting down now; they’re all on their feet attacking the prison guards, working together to take control. Kurt is floored on the spot as he watches the group strategically forcing the prison guards toward the double doors, and although many of the campers take a few punches and kicks in the process, they do manage to push each one of the prison guards out of the main hall. The doors are slammed and latched shut to trap them out.

“Come on! Let’s barricade the doors!” someone shouts.

“Some of us need to go barricade the doors in the kitchen!”

Kurt jumps into action. He joins a group of boys moving a table toward the door. They move together to turn it length-ways and push it right up against the doors. “Let’s move something heavy to block it!” Kurt shouts.

“The piano!”

They run to the other side of the room as one unit and seize the cloth-covered piano, working together to carry it across the room and place it in front of the doors as a further blockade. Kurt can hear some of the prison guards banging on the doors but a few have moved to try and break the windows with their fists and their boots.

“Are those windows strong enough to withstand that?” Kurt asks the group urgently.

“Come on, let’s put the tables up against them!” Stephen shouts.

The boys spring forward to do the work. Kurt checks that they have a handle on it before he runs to the kitchen and finds the other boys barricading the doors in there with the refrigerator. “Good thinking!” he shouts. They all cheer.

Kurt’s moving solely on adrenaline at this point; he feels light as a feather. He cries out in joy when he sees a phone hooked to the wall beside where the fridge once was, and he sags in relief when he picks it up and hears a dial tone. He dials 9-1-1. The boys that were in the dining room are beginning to file into the kitchen as Kurt counts the peals.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“We need help right away,” Kurt says in a rush.

“Who’s we, sir?” asks the dispatcher.

“Oh god, there’s like thirty of us. We’re being kept at a campsite against our will. We’re minors. You need to send someone right away, we’ve just locked the staff out of the main lodge; they were physically violent, and they could break in at any moment.”

“Okay sir, I’ve dispatched your location and officers are on their way,” she says. “Can you tell me more about the situation? Who am I speaking to?”

“My name is Kurt Hummel. My uncle abandoned me here. We’re all being kept at a gay conversion camp. The counselors are abusive, they – they’ve been subjecting us to isolation, and taking away our meals if we don’t cooperate!”

“You said the counselors were physically violent?” the dispatcher asks.

“Yes, with me for sure but I don’t know about the others, let me check. Have they been violent with all of you too?” Kurt looks up to the group for confirmation.

“Yes,” Sebastian fills in quickly, and his succinct answer helps to calm Kurt somewhat. Kurt can see other members of the group nodding fervently along with Sebastian’s answer.

“Yeah, they’ve been aggressive with everyone,” Kurt tells the dispatcher. “We managed to lock ourselves in the kitchen where it’s safe but please, we need someone to get here soon or they might break in.”

“They're on their way. Sir, how many counselors are there?”

“I – I don’t know, I can’t think.” Kurt turns to the group. “How many counselors?”

“Ten,” Sebastian says.

Kurt tells the dispatcher.

“All right, thank you. Can you tell me –”

But at that moment they hear sirens, and the loud cacophony of cheering and shouting drowns the woman out.

He does manage to get one quick question in. “What’s the date, ma’am?”

-

A frankly ridiculous number of police officers descend upon the camp within the next 30 minutes. They immediately arrest the prison guards, and the group of boys watch the display with shouts and cheers and hugs for one another. Kurt sees a few kisses for good measure.

The police begin to spread out and search the area. Before long Kurt sees crime scene investigators scouring the entire area for evidence. A school bus also arrives within the hour to escort them all to a nearby police station. They all board eagerly, and with the noise the group is making with their laughter and shouting and singing, it’s almost like they’re a group of boys who are leaving from a regular summer camp.

Once at the station, the larger group is split into two so they can all fit into the available conference rooms. Kurt finds Blaine at some point during the chaos, and after embracing for a very long time, both of them trembling, they eventually sit down side by side, hands joined together between them.

“That all happened so fast,” Kurt says in genuine amazement. "I can't believe this."

“You were out of it for a while there,” Blaine tells him, stroking Kurt’s hand. Then he explains. “It got bad. I think they got scared when we tried to leave; all of a sudden the counselors were on top of us all the time, pushing and hitting us. Paul pushed Alex so hard last week he sprained his ankle – Alex wasn’t allowed to leave his bed for days.”

Kurt doesn’t speak, just listens.

“And then you were fading, and everyone was getting worried about you, it was so obvious something was wrong, and we couldn’t talk about it. But I managed to get a few minutes alone with Sebastian, and he said he thought the group would be willing to revolt with the counselors being violent and unpredictable. And with Cal coming after you so badly, it was pretty much a done deal. Len and Sebastian and I started getting the word to the others, and we worked out that a huge majority were ready to fight back.”

Kurt caresses Blaine’s hand with his thumb, joy building within him as he listens.

Blaine smiles. “Then it was just about pulling you back from the bad place. You did it for me once; I knew I had to try doing it for you.”

Kurt brings their mouths together, kisses Blaine like it’s vital to his being. Maybe it is.

“You take my breath away,” he whispers between them.

-

Roughly two hours after they’ve arrived at the station, the two groups that were being held in separate rooms are reunited in a larger conference room and instructed to wait for further instructions. Everyone’s quiet now, and Kurt realizes with sadness that it’s because they aren’t used to being allowed to talk to each other.

After only a few moments of waiting, a serious but kind-looking woman in a smart suit enters the room, arranges herself at the head of the long conference table, and greets them.

“I’m Cassandra July, I’m part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” she announces to the room. Kurt exchanges a significant look with Blaine. The others are just as surprised as they are.

“Thank you for your patience,” she continues. “The next few days are going to be somewhat disorienting for you. I will do my very best to keep you informed in the coming hours and days about what to expect. I want you to be as informed as possible about the protocols in place and the courses of action that will be taken.

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell you precisely what will occur in terms of legal action. Because this case stretches across several states and jurisdictions, and will include criminal charges as well as numerous witnesses and testimony, the legal proceedings are going to be lengthy and complicated. I am confident, however, that justice will be served. As I said, I don’t have a great deal of information to provide you on what to expect but the most important thing now is for you to tell us everything you can remember about your experience. Please describe your account as accurately and detailed as possible to the officers when they take your statements.

“Once you have all given your statements, you will be taken to a nearby hotel which has been provided to you for accommodation while we sort out the details of this incident. Due to the fact that you are all minors, you will at this time be entrusted to the care of Child Protective Services of your home state. Due to the nature of the negligence and abuse you’ve been subjected to, your guardians are being interviewed about their knowledge of the camp’s activities and practices, and I must tell you now that charges may be laid against them. Decisions will be made on an individual basis as to where you will be placed while the matter is under investigation. I’m sorry I don’t have more information for you at this time, but I assure you once more that I will let you know as the situation develops.”

She smiles at them all for a moment, breaking the severe expression. “Also, food will be arriving shortly, so please help yourself to as much as you want.”

With that, she leaves the room and several police officers arrive to begin escorting them out to give their statements. They are interviewed individually. While they wait, they eat. And they talk. When it’s his turn to give his statement, Kurt kisses Blaine and goes with a woman who leads him into a small room and tells him to make himself comfortable. She provides him with a bottle of water and a box of tissues.

Two officers enter and give introductions. “Kurt, I’m Officer McConnell and this here is Officer Hoffman. I am sure this will be very difficult for you so please let me know if you need to pause or take a break at any time.”

“Thank you,” Kurt says, genuinely touched.

They sit down across from Kurt, and he watches Officer Hoffman open a leather file folder and begin to fill out a blank form. Officer McConnell smiles gently. “Officer Hoffman is going to fill out the victim’s report while you tell me what you experienced, okay? Can you start by identifying yourself and providing your personal information?”

It takes just a few minutes, and Kurt is calm and steady as he gives his identifying information. When that’s done, Officer McConnell says, “I wish that were all the information I needed from you but that is unfortunately not the case. Do you feel comfortable to begin giving your statement, Kurt?”

“I do,” Kurt says. He takes a rallying breath and begins, “My father died eight weeks ago…”

-

Kurt finally, slowly and purposefully, strips the uniform from his body. He places the clothes inside the evidence bag that was given to him for that purpose and leaves it on the desk beside the television.

He runs the water in the bathtub as hot as possible and turns the tap to stand under the shower spray with his skin tingling from the searing heat. He sees himself lying in bed in that horrible cabin, most nights barely able to keep his hope alive. He sees himself chopping those blocks of wood and fantasizing about escape, sees himself pleading with Blaine to leave. The four of them getting caught, the weeks of compliance. He considers the damage it did to him, and how much worse it is for the boys who spent so much longer here - there, here's not there anymore.

He thinks about the boys and their revolt, their incredible strength, and euphoria pours out of him.

He doesn’t know how long he stands under the water but his fingers are considerably pruned when he shuts the water off. He slips out of the bathroom and stands naked in the center of his hotel room. Breathes in and out. Takes in the solitude, the silence, the freedom.

He only moves again when there’s a sharp rap at his door.

Kurt pulls his bathrobe on and pads over to the door. He checks the peephole and sees Blaine on the other side, anxiety evident even in pint-sized form. He yanks it open. “Blaine?”

Blaine pushes inside and kisses him. Kurt blindly closes the door over Blaine’s shoulder and returns the kiss.

“You okay?” he checks.

“I am now,” Blaine croaks out. “Shit, I’m sorry, maybe you need some space? I just feel so weird being alone in there.”

Kurt makes a comforting noise and drags his fingers through Blaine’s wet hair. “No, I get it, me too,” he says, brushing his lips against Blaine’s. He presses their foreheads together, and they breathe each other’s air.

Blaine pulls back, and his eyes pierce Kurt to his core. “I'd like to touch you,” he says, barely more than breath. “Is - is that okay?”

In answer, Kurt leads him to the bed and strips Blaine of the striped pajamas he’s wearing, begins stroking his hands all along Blaine’s beautiful, warm body. He stares down at this boy he loves more than he can make sense of. Blaine gasps for breath through his tears, hands gripping Kurt’s naked thighs. He reaches up and undoes the belt of Kurt’s robe, pushes it slowly off Kurt’s shoulders, and Kurt shivers and groans as he leans all the way in to suck Blaine’s tongue into his mouth, to drag his wet mouth across Blaine’s hot throat.

Blaine arches up with heavy, uncontrolled panting. Kurt presses his body to Blaine’s, and for a couple of minutes they merely bask in each other’s nakedness.

Kurt fixes his mouth to Blaine’s nipple, to the other, and down Blaine’s beautiful sternum past his navel and right to Blaine’s gorgeous cock. Kurt looks up at Blaine as he sinks his mouth down, meets that teary gaze and groans as he comes back up. Kurt never breaks eye contact, and neither does Blaine. He only looks away many minutes later to move back up and hold Blaine’s wonderful body against his own.

He catches Blaine’s gaze again and waits for Blaine’s shaky nod to press their cocks together in his hand, and then they start moving together. The sensation of friction between them, of their cocks pressed alongside one another, is transcendent. Blaine must feel it, too, because his body starts to shake with sudden sobs. Kurt stops moving, cups Blaine’s face with his free hand to check in with him. “Are you still with me, Blaine? Do you need me to stop?”

Blaine shakes his head frantically through his sobs. “Don’t stop!” he cries. “Feels perfect.”

When he makes Blaine come, he holds Blaine’s precious face in his hands and says, “I love you, I love you” over and over again, doesn’t stop chanting it until he seizes up and comes, heart racing and racing.

He doesn’t realize he’s started crying until Blaine rolls him over and begins to wipe the tears away, pressing sweet kisses to his mouth every few seconds. Kurt throws his arms up around Blaine’s neck and weeps uncontrollably on Blaine’s shoulder. He cries for his father, for the too-short time they had together, for all of the moments his father will miss. He cries for his mother. He cries for Blaine and Sebastian and Len, and for the boys in his Brainwashing group; for every single boy at that camp and what they were subjected to.

He cries for himself.

He cries until he can’t anymore. Blaine holds him the whole time.

“What happens now?” Blaine asks after a time of sweet silence.

Kurt slides his hands up Blaine’s arms and leaves them on his shoulders. “I don’t know, Blaine. My dad,” Kurt breathes deep to steady himself, “My dad died a week before my uncle dropped me off.” Blaine squeezes Kurt’s hand in his, and Kurt is grateful as ever for the anchor Blaine provides to him. “My mother died when I was eight so I – I don’t have a family anymore. I know I’m definitely gonna sue my uncle for emancipation, that’s for damn sure! But as for where I’m going, I don't really know yet. I suppose I’ll probably go back to Ohio. But that’s—”

Blaine stiffens in his arms. “Ohio?” he asks, voice trembling.

“Yeah. What is it, sweetheart?” Kurt strokes Blaine’s cheek in some semblance of comfort.

I live in Ohio.”

Kurt’s heart leaps, and he cups Blaine’s face in both hands. “Are you serious? Blaine, that – that can’t be coincidence.”

Blaine’s voice is all tremors as he grasps Kurt tightly. “It can’t be,” he agrees.

“Blaine, I don’t know what happens now, not for sure,” Kurt says when he can speak again. “The only thing I am sure of,” Kurt whispers after brushing their lips together again, and again, “is that I want to be with you after all of this. I know I only just met you, and maybe I should be suspicious about my feelings for you in case they’re borne out of, I don’t know, desperation for intimacy and affection? But I just know that it’s more than that. I love you, Blaine. I feel like we were meant to meet. If it were under different circumstances...”

Blaine kisses Kurt hard. They get caught up in that for several moments before Blaine pulls away to look him in the eye. “I love you, too. And maybe it is the desperation talking, like you said, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like I’ve been getting to know you, like I’m remembering you from something. Kurt, all I really want after this is to spend more time with you.”

Kurt embraces Blaine, injects their next kiss with the song in his heart, and begs the universe to grant them some time together.

The universe owes them a solid, damn it.

-

Kurt, Blaine, Len, and Sebastian meet up after dinner outside in the gazebo of the hotel’s garden courtyard, ostensibly to talk about the next few weeks and months. No one speaks for several minutes, though, until Sebastian starts laughing suddenly.

“Oh god, the look on Paul’s face when the cops arrived!”

They start to laugh right along with him until they’re all cackling, heads thrown back and bodies shuddering with it. It’s a hysterical kind of laughter that brings tears and doesn’t end when it should; they’re crashing into each other trying to hold their bodies upright. Every time they start to calm down one of them gets up to imitate one of the prison guards’ reactions and they start up all over again.

Several minutes go by before they manage to pull themselves together.

Then the talking starts.

“I got a can of Coke from the vending machine,” Blaine whispers like it’s a dangerous admission.

“I just had a piece of chocolate before!” Len says, and the three of them rib him cheerfully for not bringing some along for them. “Sorry, guys, it was just one piece,” Len assures them with a smile.

“How good was it?” Kurt asks.

“Fuck, there are no words.”

“The beds, though!” Blaine enthuses. “So soft it’s almost too comfortable.”

“Oh yes, I have become far too accustomed to an uncomfortable mattress!” Kurt agrees.

“Now that all sounds great, boys, but what about uninterrupted masturbation?” Sebastian drawls.

That sets them all off again for a couple of minutes.

“I can’t believe that actually happened,” Blaine says after a prolonged but comfortable silence.

“Feels like a dream,” Sebastian admits.

“And it’s all thanks to you, Kurt,” Len says, and Sebastian and Blaine hum in agreement, nodding.

“Uh, I don’t think so!” Kurt chuckles. “I was checked out. You’re the ones who fought, picked up my slack.”

“No, you were the catalyst,” Sebastian says. “You don’t know what it was like before you got there, it was totally different. Nobody put up any kind of fight. Everyone just stayed in line until you started making noise. It was obvious you were something else the first night, when you stood up to John at dinner.”

Blaine and Len nod their agreement.

Kurt feels supremely uncomfortable with the direction this conversation has taken. “It was only because I had no choice,” he explains. “I don’t deserve any credit. I just refuse to let anyone be bullied, to be treated like second-class citizens. We have rights. And if they won’t give them to us, we have to demand them. Now we know who we are without a doubt. They couldn’t take that away from us.”

Kurt’s words seem to have affected the other boys because there’s simply a reverent silence left in their wake. Then they all laugh at him.

“You see?” Blaine says, shaking his head fondly and kissing Kurt’s temple. “You really are something else.”

-

Kurt has a vivid dream of his father a couple nights after the rescue.

They’re in Kurt’s room, and his father is watching Kurt in the vanity mirror as he does his skincare routine.

“There’s my boy.” His dad is beaming, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Oh hell, you’re not a boy anymore. You’re a man,” his father says fiercely. “Such a beautiful man.”

"Dad..."

“I’m so proud of you, Kurt. I love you.”

Kurt wakes with tears on his cheeks, the words still echoing in his head, in his chest.

---

Kurt, Blaine, Sebastian and Len have all been seated around one side of a large oval coffee table, one chair facing them on the other side. There are water bottles and boxes of tissues again. Hiram and Leroy Berry are standing just a few feet away with Rachel, and they’re talking with a representative from the ACLU who introduced himself to the boys earlier with tears in his eyes.

The ACLU has been an invaluable resource in getting all of the boys who survived the camp the resources they need, whether financial, legal, or emotional. Thanks to the Berrys’ connections to the ACLU, the human rights violation in Georgia has become international news, and as a result, a resource fund was subsequently set up for the victims.

Kurt has not let go of Blaine’s hand since they first entered the room twenty minutes ago to conduct an interview with MSNBC. The other boys nominated the four of them to give the interview, and they all agreed unanimously to travel to New York to do the interview and get the story out with accurate information from the source.

Kurt could never have imagined this would be the reason for his first trip to New York.

They’ve already been prepped on how to deliver the story, to keep basic details as brief as possible due to the impending lawsuit, and to instead talk at length about the events that occurred in general terms and how the boys felt while they were there.

The reporter walks in just a few minutes before the time designated for the interview. She is dressed in bright colours, her long hair flowing free behind her. “I’m Isabelle Wright,” she announces as they stand to greet her. She shakes each of their hands and waits for them to introduce themselves.

“Gentlemen,” she says. “Thank you for your strength. I am not going to sugarcoat this: you are going to be very publicly known once this airs. Please let me know now if you’ve changed your mind about the interview at any time.”

Kurt’s eyes prickle with tears. He cannot believe the kindness with which they have all been treated since they left that dreadful place.

Kurt takes in his friends’ determined faces. “We’re ready,” he says resolutely.

“Well, alright then,” Isabelle says. “Since I don’t sugarcoat these things: don’t any of you hold back on exposing those bastards. Give ‘em hell.”

Isabelle turns away to speak with the camera operator and director, and that gives them a moment to collect and prepare themselves which Kurt thinks was entirely intentional.

Kurt thinks back to that day all those weeks ago when the grief for his father was so strong he couldn’t fight his uncle on the move, didn’t even really want to. He’s fighting the bastard now in the Ohio courts, and it won’t end with emancipation.

He thinks of his father, considers how he couldn’t bring himself to stay in Lima without his stalwart presence but now knows for certain is his home regardless. He thinks of how stagnant he felt, how incapable of facing the loss of his father and a life without him.

He was dead then, barely breathing. But now…

Blaine squeezes Kurt’s hand as Isabelle sits down and they receive the motion to begin. He basks in the love Blaine is sending him, and he sends it all back.

Oh, he’s alive now.