Actions

Work Header

Being Kurt Hummel

Work Text:

Kurt Hummel knows he's different from the second he asks for a pair of sensible heels for his third birthday and his father's usually steady and kind eyes widen in shock for a moment before he nods. He knows he's different when he realizes he's the only boy who prefers having tea parties with the girls at school to playing ball with the other boys. He knows he's different when he goes to school at nine wearing his mother's favorite scarf in her memory on her birthday and even the girls laugh at him about it, no matter how well it complements his coloring.

He knows as surely as he is sure the sun will rise and hemlines will drop that he is different from the other kids around him.

The thing is, though, that despite there being times when he might wish he were like everyone else, down deep Kurt knows he can't change. He just doesn't always know what it means to be himself.

*

Kurt is eleven or twelve when he first realizes that the word 'gay' might actually apply to him. He's heard the term a lot in school, sometimes coughed out in his direction by the boys in his class but mostly just meaning something stupid (like them, as far as Kurt is concerned), but it's actually the guys at his dad's shop who make him realize what it might mean about himself in a real way.

He's outgrown his old coveralls, so he brings his hot glue gun and collection of sequins and iridescent beads from home to decorate the new ones. He's in his father's office trying to decide if he wants to follow the similar outline on the trim he'd done the last time or if he wants something more interesting like an animal print pattern across the back and arms (leopard, maybe, or zebra) when he hears Wayne and Gary talking outside the door. He's kneeling on the floor to work; they can't see him through the window.

"Burt's gonna have to watch that one," Gary says. "Past time to get him into football. Bulk him up a little, get his head on straight. The rest of him, too."

"He's a good kid," Wayne replies. "You should see the job he did stitching that seat back together on that Caddy the other week; you couldn't even tell there was a rip."

Kurt swells with pride, because his stitches really had been perfect. He'd worked very hard on it.

"Yeah, I bet he's good with a needle and thread," Gary says with a laugh.

"Watch it," Wayne tells him, his voice going low. "That's the boss's son. And he knows his way around an engine, too."

Gary drops his own voice, and the gentle, honest concern in it makes Kurt's stomach twist more than the laughter ever could. "I'm just saying, if Burt's not careful that kid's going to turn out gay."

"I'm pretty sure Burt already knows he won't be getting any grandkids," Wayne says. "Got to say, given how much my kid's wedding set me back I kind of envy him for not having to worry about that."

They move on, leaving Kurt gaping on the floor, staring at the neat swirls of sequins he's laid out as a test on the arm of his coveralls. He might not have a wedding? He's never thought about having kids, but he loves weddings. He has a dozen glossy bridal magazines in his hope chest already.

But as he thinks about it, he realizes that as much as he likes making frothy white dresses for his dolls, and as much as he loves finding pictures of the most perfectly cut tuxedos, he doesn't actually imagine himself in that tuxedo across from a woman in a gown. When he thinks about holding hands with a girl and dancing with her it sounds nice enough, because girls are pretty and tend to smell good, but when he thinks about doing the same with a boy his heart speeds up in the most awful and unpleasant way. It's horrifying. He has to push the idea aside.

He doesn't want a girlfriend. He definitely doesn't want a boyfriend. Why would he? He wants to bedazzle his clothes and figure out how to perfect that prosciutto scone recipe he's been working on. Maybe he should try using buttermilk.

Kurt bends his head over his work and decides to go with an abstract geometric pattern. It's different but safe. He's mostly finished by the time the day is over, and Burt shoots him a smile as he walks in, wiping his hands on a rag as he inspects the coveralls.

"That looks real nice, Kurt," he says with a nod, patting Kurt's shoulder with a thankfully clean hand. "You've got a good eye for that kind of thing. That's a talent."

The praise makes Kurt's throat close up, and he can only smile his watery reply.

That night, Kurt lies awake in bed, trying not to think about Wayne and Gary and all that they said about him. He knows he's not like anyone else, but that doesn't mean he's gay. He's not going to let his father down by being gay. He's just different.

That's all; he's just different.

The unwelcome mental image of a handsome, dark-haired man in a tuxedo smiling at him makes Kurt's stomach flip, and he squeezes his eyes shut so tightly that his tears can't escape.

*

Mrs. Fielding, his middle school music teacher, likes to laugh and tell him that when his voice changes from his clear boyish soprano he's probably going to turn into a baritone or a bass, just to shock everyone. He laughs, too. He can't wait to stop being shorter and weaker; he's ready to be more than just this.

All of the other boys go through their Peter Brady moments around him, squeaking and cracking at the most embarrassing times and starting off gales of laughter among their classmates. One by one, the boys move to the other end of the risers. Kurt remains where he always is, in the second row, all the way to the right, in with the sopranos.

Kurt's voice does finally break, the last in his grade. It doesn't drop far. By the time he's comfortable in his tenor range as well as the higher countertenor he's somehow retained, he's so used to singing in the girls' section of the school choir that it feels strange to be standing among the boys again.

He tells himself he hates not being allowed to soar for the high notes and being crowded in among the boys as they jostle for position on the risers - and he does go hot with rage and shame when they deliberately make him lose his footing (but never, not once, his place in the song) - but he likes being tucked in against other male bodies just a little too much.

He quits middle school choir and tells himself he'd much rather be a solo performer.

*

Kurt loves musicals. He loves their magic, their romance, the way emotions always seem stronger and truer when they're expressed through song and dance and perfect costumes.

He's always loved them since he first watched the video of Beauty and the Beast while curled up on the couch with his mother and when it was finished immediately asked to watch it again and then go to the fabric store so he could find just the right gold material to make Belle's sparkling gown for one of his own dolls.

He moved on fairly quickly from Disney to real musicals, to Fred and Ginger, Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Gene Kelley, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli, anything he can get his hands on from the library, even an oft-regretted weekend marathon of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon films.

After his mother is gone, his father watches them with him when Kurt asks, though it's clear that he's not all that interested. His own picks from Blockbuster on their movie nights are similarly uninspiring to Kurt.

"A superhero movie? Really? Does it have any songs?" Kurt asks one night, turning the DVD box over in his hands.

"Only one way to find out," his dad replies. Kurt knows that's a no, and he goes to make popcorn with a sigh.

X-Men does not have songs. It does, however, have Hugh Jackman. He is a very compelling actor.

Kurt tells himself that he spends his allowance on the DVD for his dad's birthday (his other present is a new cap he decorates himself with fabric pens in a very handsome and masculine paisley pattern, and he makes a proper sachertorte for the cake, with handmade apricot jam and his own addition of marzipan flowers on top) because he wants to give his father something they can do together. He wants them to share more interests, and the movie wasn't bad.

As he sits there on the couch that night with the popcorn bowl between them and a throw pillow clutched to his chest, Kurt knows in the back of his mind that he's not responding to Wolverine's fighting abilities because he's such an impressive pugilist. He's not impressed by Wolverine's physique because the man clearly takes very good care of himself. He doesn't clap at the end with his father because of the rush of the storyline. That's not why he likes the movie at all.

Kurt and his dad sit down with X-Men together a half dozen times over the next months, and Burt seems pleased that he and Kurt have something they like in common. He brings home a movie poster for Kurt's room one day and starts to rent more superhero movies when it's his pick on movie nights.

What he doesn't know is that Kurt watches X-Men obsessively after school for months, sliding the DVD into its case and tucking it back into place on its shelf while his heart races with more than guilt before his father comes home.

At night Kurt dreams of the hard planes of Wolverine's back and the musculature of his chest and legs, and he wakes up gasping in the dark feeling lost and desperate. He doesn't want to play with action figures or collect key rings with the characters on them. He can't ever tell his dad and hurt him like that, but he doesn't.

He wants something else, something more, and every time he watches the movie his heart breaks for Rogue, who knows what she wants but will destroy everything she holds dear if she ever lets herself touch it.

*

The high school gym locker room is a revelation, and not just because on the first day of gym class Coach Tanaka describes more places fungus could grow on a human body in his lecture on personal hygiene than Kurt could ever have imagined possible. He stocks up that very afternoon on a stylish pair of shower shoes, a set of towels strictly for his own use, and a variety of anti-fungal creams, just in case.

The locker room is also a revelation because it means boys, boys who have started to go through the growth spurts Kurt has not. And they shower and walk around nearly naked just feet away from him. It's heaven. It's hell.

Kurt knows he can't look. He knows he absolutely cannot look, because then they will know about him, and he doesn't want anyone to know.

But of course he does look. He's only human, and there are boys right there, all broad shoulders and muscled arms and flat stomachs, skin and hair and sweat and beads of water dripping in a shimmering tease down their backs. He wishes he weren't entranced, but even when their jokes are horrible and their smell is even worse he still wants to reach out and touch them to see if they feel as good as they look.

If he gets a little faint when he watching at them out of the corner of his eye, that reaction helps keep him from watching more boldly, because he isn't going to be able to hide anything if he is openly gaping at the seniors on the football team.

Somehow, though, they find the time between comparing the sizes of various body parts to notice him moisturizing or carefully hairspraying his bangs in the corner, not even peeking as they walk past. They see Kurt anyway, the perfectly coiffed ghost in the room. He's not sure how the barest touch of his eyes is so much more offensive to them than the way they smack each other's butts, but he goes from being the kid who dresses weirdly to the kid who attracts their attention in exactly the way he does not want.

The slurs they laughingly fling at him in the hallways and showers are all too familiar.

Getting tossed in the dumpster each morning becomes just as familiar.

*

Sometimes the weight of the secret knowledge that he really is gay makes Kurt feel as scared as a rabbit with a hawk circling above him in the sky, because if he so much as twitches he will be caught. High school - all of Lima - is full of hawks.

Sometimes in the quiet hours of the night, though, he feels more like a butterfly frozen in its chrysalis, all curled up full of promise and waiting to burst free and spread his bold, beautiful wings.

*

Finn Hudson is the most incredible boy who has ever walked the face of the planet. He is tall and strong, popular, funny, athletic, charming, kind, and so, so attractive. His shoulders are beautiful. So are his eyes. Kurt gets the feeling watching him trying and failing to open his locker with his left hand that he's not particularly bright, but that's okay, because Kurt is smart enough for them both.

Kurt notices Finn the first month of his freshman year at McKinley when he nearly gets his lunch tray swatted out of his hands and hears a burst of uproarious laughter when his milk splatters all over his new oversized Marc by Marc Jacobs cardigan. It's a bunch of boys at a nearby table, their letter-jacketed ape of a friend the one who bumped him in the first place, and Kurt glares daggers at them as he realizes that he's going to have to ask for a raise in his dry cleaning allowance and that he's going to have to go without lunch because milk-drenched french bread pizza is just not appealing.

The boys continue to laugh and jeer, but there's one of them who laughs less than the rest, who frowns a little when Kurt turns and dumps the contents of his tray directly into the trash. He's the one who occasionally will let Kurt take his coat off before he gets thrown into the dumpster. He's the one whose bag never quite connects when he and his friends pass by Kurt in the hallway or library.

His name is Finn Hudson, and he's the most amazing boy in the world.

*

Kurt gets called a lot of names by his classmates: fairy, fancy, freak, flamer, femme, fag, and those are just the Fs.

Mostly they're just tossed out at him in the halls as casually as candy from a parade float, and he lets them fall off of his back and onto the ground just as easily. His classmates don't matter. They don't know him (except they do, his mind whispers). Their opinions are meaningless to him.

If the other kids at school batter him with words, judgmental glances, and occasional blows of an elbow or backpack, they don't touch him with much else. No one wants to sit beside him at lunch. No one wants to be his lab partner in science. No one wants to help him up off the mats when they do trust falls in gym (and whatever moron of a teacher thought having teenagers do trust exercises should have been fired on the spot and then taken to a police station to report their brain as missing).

The girls aren't so bad; mostly they just don't notice him one way or the other. The boys, though, treat him like he's carrying the plague when he pushes past them in the library stacks or in the lunch line. At best they shy away like being gay is contagious. At best.

"Hands off, Hummel," Karofsky says when Kurt brushes against him in the corridor to get to his locker, which is blocked by a handful of football players trying to impress one of the blonde cheerleaders whose locker is a few down from his. "I know I'm all that, but you've seriously got to control yourself."

"I should be the one complaining; the synthetic fibers of your coat might have damaged the pure alpaca of mine," Kurt says archly. He knows it's a mistake, but he can't just stay silent.

The mud they throw his coat in does far more harm to the garment than the proximity to polyester ever could have, and the way the boys make a production about sending Karofsky off to the showers after to get the gay off of him after hurts Kurt almost as much.

He knows they're morons. He knows they're wrong on so many levels. He also knows they aren't going to change.

He makes more of an effort not to touch any of them without deliberate thought. He holds himself straighter and further away. He snaps back at them when they dare to speak to him. If they're going to stay away, he wants it to be because he wants them to.

Kurt wants to be the one in control.

*

The Friday after Kurt comes out to his dad - and he jolts awake at night for weeks afterwards in heart-stopping terror, half because he can't believe he did and half because he's afraid it was all a dream and he didn't - Kurt's dad comes home with a DVD he bought when he was out at Target picking up some cleaning supplies and a new clock radio for his bedroom.

"Thought we might watch this one tonight," he says, putting the still-wrapped case on the kitchen counter and opening up the refrigerator to sort out dinner, since it's his night to cook.

Kurt drifts over, sees the cover, and can't bring himself to pick it up. It's Brokeback Mountain. He hasn't seen it, but he knows what it's about. Everyone knows what it's about.

He touches the corner of the case through the cellophane and wonders what he's supposed to think. Is he trying to push Kurt into a talk Kurt isn't sure he has the energy to have? He knows the movie doesn't end happily. Is his dad trying to warn him off? He said he was supportive, but -

"Can't beat a cowboy movie," his dad says, resettling his cap on his head. He clears his throat and watches Kurt with his eyes a little tentative but as full of love and acceptance as they always are. "I hear it's good. A love story. Might even have songs in it."

It takes Kurt a moment to find his voice. "I'm pretty sure it doesn't have songs, Dad."

"Only one way to find out." His dad pats Kurt's shoulder. "Come on, let's order pizza. We'll start the movie while we wait for the delivery guy."

Kurt's chest is aching from trying and failing to hold back his tears by the end of the movie, but his father's arm is tight around him, holding him together. Holding them together.

"It's just one story, Kurt," his dad murmurs. "Not even real. You'll have a different one."

Kurt nods against his dad's chest and wishes he knew what it was and if it would be any happier.

*

Kurt is in some ways a typical teenage boy. That means he has breakouts no matter how thoroughly he cleanses his face morning and night, a frustrating habit of outgrowing his new clothes just as the season turns, and an unshakable curiosity about sex.

He invests in the best acne treatments he can afford, learns to stop buying his wardrobe so far ahead, and, late one night when his whole body aches with need and his father is snoring loudly down the hall, goes searching on the internet.

At first, Kurt cannot believe what he finds. There are pictures of men everywhere. He goes beet red at all of that tanned, oiled skin, and he can barely glance below their waists, because, wow, he is not built like that. He doesn't know where to look, where not to look.

After a few heart-stopping minutes where the blood rushing south through his veins makes him feel dizzy and he keeps shutting his laptop at the imagined footsteps of his dad, Kurt takes a deep breath and tucks himself under his covers with the lights off and his laptop balanced on his knees. He bites his lip and looks. He looks, because there's nowhere else in his life where he can. These men aren't going to stuff in him a locker if he stares. They aren't going to call him names. They don't even know he's there, and obviously they don't mind if he is because they posed for the pictures in the first place.

It's amazing, so many men. Standing tall, lying down, bent over, flexing, smiling, touching themselves, kissing other men, touching them, inside of them in various and sometimes creative ways. It's shocking, and he starts flipping through images faster, not sure if he wants more or less of them. It's more than he could have ever imagined, and the way his body responds to the pictures tells him more than anything that everyone was right about him long before he could ever have admitted his orientation to himself.

The pictures make him uncomfortable, too - and not just because he's hard and throbbing in his pajama pants - because there's so little of it he wants for himself. He wants to touch a boy, sure, but he wants to hold hands first. He wants to talk and be flirted with. He wants to go to dinner and see a play.

It feels like he's skipped all of the good parts to have the first sight of a man be with him without any clothing. He doesn't know anything about them apart from their physical attributes. Does the beefy guy with the chain link tattoo around his arm have a sense of personal style, or does he actually like the tank top he's barely wearing in that picture? Does the lithe boy with the ponytail prefer Patti to Bernadette? Does the dark-haired man bending that other man in half have a sense of humor? Does he like candlelit dinners or picnics under the moon? Or is he as stupid as he looks with his face screwed up like that?

Kurt's clicks turn listless, his heart falling. A picture is a moment in time. There's no tenderness unless he reads into the way one boy is cupping another's face as they kiss naked on a big rumpled bed. And they're being paid to kiss, so it might not even be real. Maybe he needs to see them in action. Maybe he needs to hear their voices. Maybe then it'll feel less empty.

But the videos are worse. It's big guys pushing smaller ones onto their knees. It's slighter, paler men being bent over and taken by larger ones. It's "come on, baby, suck it, you know you want it" and "yeah, fucking take it, you love to take it" and "your ass was made for this." It's those mewling boys letting it happen, only saying "yes" and "more" and "do it" and "give it to me" no matter what's being done to them.

It's skin slapping and muscles flexing and grunting and shoving and grabbing and taking, and it's every demeaning thing Kurt already hears about himself from the boys at school, only worse.

He closes out of the browser and pushes away his laptop, his stomach roiling with disgust. He feels tears pricking behind his eyelids, and he presses the heels of his hands over them to try to keep them from falling.

If that's what sex will be for him, being constantly reminded that he's small, he's weak, he's lesser, he's passive, he's there to serve someone else's pleasure, he's 'the girl', then Kurt doesn't want it. He doesn't want to be touched like that. He doesn't want to be talked to like that.

Kurt wants the romance of his favorite musicals, someone courting him just for the honor of holding his hand, someone looking at him like he's the most wonderful person in the world. He wants someone to want to love him. That is what he wants. He doesn't want sex at all.

He doesn't go back and look at porn again. He tries to put it out of his mind entirely, in fact.

Maybe his curiosity about sex isn't all that unshakable after all.

*

Brittany is Kurt's first kiss. It feels wonderful.

It not the physical experience of it that's so earth-shattering for him, really, though her lips are soft and do taste good, and though it's nice to be so close to someone for such a long period of time. It feels wonderful because Kurt feels like he's finally doing something right, something that his dad will be proud of. Well, apart from the clothes; he doesn't know anyone who could be proud of so much denim.

But Kurt knows his dad will be proud of him because he's being the son his dad wants to have.

(If he goes to bed with Brittany's descriptions of kissing boys echoing in his mind instead of his memories of kissing her, no one has to know but him. It's still about her, he tells himself. He's still trying.)

*

It turns out that no matter how hard he tries Kurt still fails at being anyone but who he is.

It also turns out that his father is going to love him the same no matter what. Kurt already knew that, but there's a difference between knowing and knowing.

*

"Ooh, do we want to take the quiz?" Tina asks, spreading the Cosmopolitan over her pajama-clad lap while Kurt sits behind her on the bed braiding her hair into a crown. He's getting pretty good at complicated styles, he has to say.

"No," Mercedes says from the floor of Rachel's room. "Please, no. Last month's convinced Rachel she was too available, and she kept flouncing out of the room every time a boy looked at her."

"How was that any different from usual?" Kurt asks.

"Hey." Rachel pokes him in the shoulder and sits up on her knees beside Tina to peer at the magazine. He's not sure he's ever going to get used to how comfortable the Glee girls are touching him, but he doesn't really mind anymore, especially since they know to wipe the pizza grease off of their hands before touching his pajamas. "I'll have you know, it worked very well. A certain someone was always chasing after me down the hallway."

"Only because he was trying to rehearse the damn number," Mercedes says.

"Anyway," Rachel continues, "I think we should do the quiz."

"No quiz," Mercedes and Kurt say in unison, and she shoots him a grin.

"We could just talk about it," Tina says. "It's about what our types are. You know, in boys."

"We thought it was asking about blood types," Kurt drawls, and Tina elbows him and nearly makes him lose his place in the hairstyle. "Watch it, or I'm going to make this braid lopsided on purpose."

"I don't have a type," Mercedes says as she rummages through Rachel's box of nail polish. "I do not need a man."

"None of us needs one," Tina replies. "But that doesn't mean we don't know what we want in one."

"My type is very specific." Rachel settles back down and crosses her legs, staring dreamily off into the distance. "Tall. Broad shoulders. Athletic. Handsome, of course."

Mercedes laughs. "Of course."

Rachel ignores her and continues. "Musical, but that goes without saying. A singer and probably also proficient in at least one instrument. I am partial to percussion at the moment. His voice must be a good blend with mine, and - "

"Finn," Kurt tells her with a roll of his eyes. Why beat around the bush? "You might as well just come out and say your type is Finn."

"Well, I - " Rachel breaks off, obviously flustered. "Given our history, it's no surprise that I find him attractive, but - "

"What's your type, Kurt?" Tina asks, probably kindly meaning to take the focus off of Rachel. She half-turns to look at him, his fingers still in her hair.

The question stops him in his tracks. He's never really considered it. It's not like he has any options, so what does it matter if he prefers a brunette to a blond?

Besides, after what happened with Finn, after the insults Finn spat at him in Kurt's own house, in the room Kurt had decorated so carefully for them to share, it's taken some of the shine off of being attracted to anyone; his top two requirements right now are respect and kindness, and he knows those should just be a given. But they aren't, not in his world.

(It's so much easier to refuse to back down from expressing himself and risk a punch from Azimio than it is to brace himself against the unexpected revulsion of someone who supposedly likes him.)

"Yeah, Kurt," Rachel prompts with bright, interested eyes. "Tell us."

Kurt carefully pins up the end of Tina's braid; it looks incredible with the streaks of blue in her dark, glossy hair.

He tries to think of what to say, what's okay to say, because even though they all know about his sexuality it's still not all that comfortable for him to talk about what he wants.

He isn't sure he wants to want.

Kurt decides to deflect; it's always a safe strategy. "Depending on my mood, it's a toss-up between Hugh Jackman and John Barrowman," he says, and as he predicted Rachel squeals and begins to detail all of the productions they've been in and who sang which songs better and with whom, and the conversation devolves into musical theater trivia until Mercedes threatens to go home if they don't stop immediately and put in a movie.

The conversation is successfully derailed.

Tucked between Mercedes and Tina while they watch Sleepless in Seattle for the millionth time, Kurt, for the moment, is safe from the questions. He's safe from himself.

*

Rachel's dads are everything Kurt has ever wanted. Not them in specific, because they are old, seem to like living in Ohio, and have wardrobes seriously short on couture, but they sing before dinner and finish each other's sentences. They bicker fondly about each doing their fair share of the household chores. They give each other kisses on the cheek when one of them leaves the house. They are gentle and refined.

They're what Kurt wants because Mr. and Mr. Berry - "Call us Hiram and LeRoy, Kurt, otherwise it's a crap shoot about which one of us you'll get." - are together. They're a couple. They're a family. He didn't know gay men could have that in Ohio - maybe anywhere - and here they are, right in front of him.

Kurt first meets them when Rachel invites him over to her house to go over something for Glee Club, and he's in such shock at how open they are that he barely speaks at all the entire night. He's never seen that in person. He's never seen it at all, he realizes that night as he stares at the ceiling of his room. Men can love each other like that.

He quickly grows more comfortable with them as his friendship with Rachel steadies, and he helps set the table while they fix dinner and joins in with them at the piano, soaring up to the high notes with Rachel and basking in their smiles of approval. He loves his dad more than anything, but there's something about Rachel's house that also feels like home.

One night when Kurt is helping dry the dishes after dinner while Hiram and Rachel are off pulling sheet music for an impromptu evening of Sondheim and cranberry spritzers, LeRoy says in that casual way adults have that means the comment isn't casual at all, "We're glad you and Rachel are friends, Kurt."

"I do try to calm some of her diva instincts down to more appropriate levels," Kurt replies with a smile. He puts the plate up on the shelf where it belongs.

"Yes," LeRoy says, smiling back, because he may adore his daughter but he still knows her faults, "but I meant more that we're glad that you can come here. To our house."

"Thank you," Kurt says with some confusion.

Busying himself at the sink, LeRoy glances at him out of the corner of his eye and hands him the next plate to dry. "We hope when you have a boyfriend you'll bring him here, too."

Kurt swallows against the sudden pounding of his heart, because there are so many promises in that sentence that he aches for that he can't even think about them all. A boyfriend, a real one, one who will go on dates and meet his family and maybe like the idea of a home and a future and nights of music and joy...

He rubs at the plate with his towel and says quietly, "I don't think I'll have a boyfriend in Ohio."

"Can I tell you a secret?" LeRoy asks, leaning in and glancing toward the kitchen door, through which they can hear Hiram and Rachel warming up. Kurt nods. "I didn't think I would, either. But here we are."

Kurt smiles a little, but he has to point out the flaw in the comment. "You didn't meet in Ohio."

"It doesn't matter where you meet. It just matters that you're going in the same direction."

*

Kurt is told by Finn, by his own father, to back away from Sam so as not to harm the new boy's reputation. He can understand why it might, but it still hurts.

Despite the fact that Kurt has more friends than he once did, apparently to them his gayness can still be contagious, like instead of a fact of biology it's an affliction he can spread.

If only it were that simple, he thinks with a sigh as he walks down the hallway and only nods back when Sam flicks out his hand in a waved hello. If only he could make more people just like him so easily. If only he could do such a little thing and no longer be alone.

*

There's something about how Karofsky looks at him that makes the hair on the back of Kurt's neck stand on end. It's not just hatred, though there's plenty of that in his gaze. There's something else, something deeper and darker, and Kurt doesn't know what it is.

And then, in a shock, he feels the hot, soda-sweet press of Karosky's mouth over his own, and Kurt knows exactly what lies beneath those looks. It's still hatred, but it's also desire and demands and selfish, grasping, thoughtless greed.

It's the last thing Kurt wants from anyone. It makes his heart race with fear and disgust instead of elation. It makes his hands tremble with anger instead of eagerness. It's the furthest thing he thinks of when he stares out of the window and daydreams of well-dressed young men sweeping him off of his feet.

It's the last thing he wants. It's the last way he wants to be wanted.

It's his first kiss from a boy.

*

Kurt's father's wedding is perfect. It's magical and romantic, and it reaffirms to Kurt that he'll have the best wedding in history when it's his turn. (Carole left most of the planning in his hands, but not all of it. He still can't believe she wanted shrimp cocktail.)

Of course, it may never even be his turn. It isn't as simple as finding a man to marry, and that part's going to be difficult enough; he also has to live in a state where its residents haven't decided he's not worthy of marrying at all.

He watches the news. He knows that part's even more difficult than finding a man to love him.

Kurt will never understand why it has to be such a fight for him just to have love.

*

Dalton is like what it must feel like to be struggling in quicksand and step out onto solid ground. It is relief. It is safety. It is blessed silence after a deafening din of profanity and hatred and having to shout back to be heard.

Kurt treasures the silence. It's foreign, but it's wonderful.

The problem is that even though he doesn't want to have to shout all of the time he still was born to be loud. He likes to be.

He tries to pretend it doesn't hurt a part of his heart that he has to learn how to be quiet.

*

When he lets himself (late at night, on his parents' anniversary, in very boring French classes), Kurt fantasizes about meeting a kind, handsome, talented boy who shares his love of fashion and music and who is gay. He never thought he'd find one before he left Lima, but he does. He meets Blaine, who is all of those things and more, and Blaine likes Kurt, too. He likes Kurt a lot. He texts him when they're apart and sings to him when they're together. Blaine goes to the theater with Kurt, to the mall, to that quirky antique store Kurt loves that all of his other friends insist is creepy and Blaine thinks is the best hands-on fun house of odds and ends he's ever seen. They spend hours together laughing, talking, and sharing themselves.

Blaine is everything Kurt could have asked for.

Well, Blaine is almost everything. He is attractive, attentive, charming, sweet, and gay... and he is not at all romantically interested in Kurt. No matter how many times they go for coffee or how many flirty duets they sing with the threat of mistletoe in the air, no matter that Blaine is rejected by a floppy-haired Gap employee and reaffirms his sexuality via kissing Rachel, Blaine isn't interested in Kurt.

(Why do the boys Kurt likes always like Rachel? She's similar enough to him he feels he ought to have at least a little chance with the same boy, but even officially completely gay Blaine falls for her and not Kurt.)

Then again, Blaine has been privy to what Kurt had thought were his most seductive faces. Blaine had been kindly, almost patronizingly clear about what he felt about them.

It's bad enough for Kurt to be told he isn't attractive by people whom he detests; it's devastating to be told that by the boy he's in love with. But at least Blaine is being honest, not cruel. He's trying to help.

Kurt looks at himself in the mirror one evening and, in a sour mood, catalogues his faults. He still hasn't grown out of all of his baby fat. He not as tall as he hopes he will be. His skin still breaks out despite his best efforts. He'll always be pale, thin, and high-voiced. That one eyebrow will never quite behave, and the scar on his throat won't fade completely. He'll always be sharp-tongued, quick to judge, and uncomfortable letting go anywhere but in performance. He'll always stand out. He'll always be different.

He is who he is. He can't change that.

Kurt's phone trills. He turns away from his mirror and types out a reply to Blaine's good night text with a smile and a sigh. Blaine's friendly good night text.

It doesn't matter that he's found Blaine Anderson; he'll always be Kurt Hummel.

*

Porn isn't any better once Kurt meets Blaine. Kurt tries looking again, just so he'll feel a little less naive (and maybe, just maybe, to give himself something to think about in his private time beyond the way Blaine's lips must taste from the cocoa butter lip balm Kurt gives him as part of his Christmas care package present, because they are friends, and Kurt shouldn't think about that at all), but it still seems demeaning and empty. He feels sick to watch it. He feels sad, because the "performers" are being paid to do these awful things with their bodies with people they don't care about. He wonders what they think. He wonders what their parents think. They can't brag about that on the family Christmas card.

The pamphlets his father gives him aren't much better. They're clinical instead of provocative, but it's still all about orifices, awkward positions, diseases, and types of lubricants. Apart from his dad's mortifying and yet really kind of thoughtful lecture, there's nothing at all about feelings.

It's the furthest thing from love he can think of.

*

Kurt wonders sometimes, as he watches his best friend not fall in love with him day after day, if he's just not the kind of person anyone will ever pine over. His heart will flutter, his eye will be caught, his interest will be sparked, but it won't happen in return.

He wonders when he should think about getting used to the idea.

*

Kurt thinks it's all supposed to be simpler once he has a boyfriend.

It isn't.

For one, he's so shocked by Blaine's declaration of his feelings that he can barely hear them over the bee-swarm buzzing of rising hope in his ears, which makes it much harder for him to replay the words and fervent kisses later over and over again in the privacy of his own mind.

(He manages. Blaine's mouth is warm, tender, and eager, and the drag of the slight chapping of his lips sends sparks down Kurt's spine, even if it means he is robbed of the opportunity to taste that lip balm for himself. The glow of happiness in Blaine's eyes, the careful touch of his fingers to Kurt's face, the way he asks without words before he leans in.... it's nothing at all like Brittany or Karofsky. He can barely call them kisses after what he gets with Blaine.

Blaine's is the best first kiss Kurt could ever have dreamed of having.)

But it's also not simpler because Kurt isn't sure what he's supposed to do. It turns out that the vast majority of dating Blaine is pretty much like being best friends with Blaine - which is a vindication for Kurt that he's been sure they were perfect for each other all along - but those times when they're not discussing how Austin was robbed on the rerun of the first season of Project Runway or studying together at the Lima Bean or the Dalton library, those times when it's just the two of them and their mouths can't seem to stay apart, are this vast universe of new experiences.

Kurt has no idea what he's doing. He's barely able to figure out where his hands should go (face is safe, shoulders are lovely, curled in Blaine's hair gets him a groan that goes straight to Kurt's groin, and he doesn't know if that's good or bad), nevertheless what comes after kissing. Their bodies know, the way bodies apparently do, and when he finds himself being pressed back into the leather cushions of the couch with Blaine all but draped over his lap he feels like he could fly up into the heavens with the power of it, at least until Blaine pulls back with a blush, an apology, and a tug to reseat his own loosened tie.

Kurt's not sure if he should feel guilty for not pushing him away sooner or if he should just haul him back in. He doesn't know which Blaine wants.

What he does know is that Blaine is a leader, he's more knowledgeable, and he should be Kurt's example. Kurt wants things, but he doesn't know what they are or whether it's okay. Blaine must. Kurt has never known where the lines are supposed to be in his life. He's never really cared. Now, with Blaine, it suddenly matters to him that he doesn't. He wants to get this right, especially since his romantic instincts in the past have led him to stalking his future step-brother and looking like he has intestinal pain.

Blaine is Kurt's charismatic, self-assured, at least marginally more worldly (Kurt does have his pamphlets) boyfriend, so Kurt needs to follow his lead. He needs to meet Blaine halfway but no further. He needs to let Blaine woo him, charm him, and set the pace like the gentleman he is.

Kurt isn't good at following, but he knows he's supposed to.

*

Kurt is perfectly suited for the activity of dating. Special outings, special outfits, warm-eyed compliments across the table, hand-holding in the dark of a movie theater, being walked to his front porch at the end of an evening - all of it makes him float up the stairs to his room feeling like Audrey Hepburn, Meg Ryan, and Julia Roberts in every happy ending in a rom com all wrapped up in one.

Except that he isn't a woman, and Blaine doesn't want him to be, which is the best part of all.

*

Kurt would never in a million years have asked Blaine to come serenade him out in the courtyard when he transfers back to McKinley. It hadn't even crossed his mind. All he is thinking about when he skips down those steps is being with his friends again.

And yet, as he walks down the familiar halls of his new/old school that day, some of the incandescent joy of being back where he belongs comes from the visible, undeniable proof to his peers that, yes, despite what all of them might have been telling him for as long as he can remember, somebody can want him after all.

*

The problem with Blaine's uniform - apart from it needing a nip here and there to tailor it to his perfect frame - is that, despite how handsome Blaine looks in it, it is always in the way. The thick fabric doesn't let him feel Blaine's body heat or much of his muscular arm when Kurt tucks his hand in the crook of Blaine's elbow. The shirt, though always neatly pressed, is buttoned at his wrists and throat and topped with a tie. It looks nice on him, it's surprisingly attractive for a uniform with bright piping, and it's in the way.

Kurt loves layers and accessories, but he also loves choices. When he is going to have a half hour alone with his boyfriend to make out on the couch while they're supposed to be making dinner, he can choose to wear a thin cardigan instead of a structured military jacket. He can choose to wear a boat neck shirt instead of a bow tie. He might not, but he can.

Blaine, on the other hand, always comes directly from school with his tie knotted at his collar and his blazer buttoned.

Kurt loves the blazer, he does, but when he's aching to get his hands just a few inches higher up Blaine's back underneath it to feel the flex of his muscles at his shoulder blades and is stopped by the way the material is stretched across that delicious area from Blaine's arms being wrapped around him, well... there's only so much kissing can make up for, really.

Kurt makes a frustrated noise against Blaine's mouth and slips his hands down and around so that he's gripping Blaine's lapels. "Seriously, Blaine, can we just take this off already?" he asks without thinking and then wonders if that's too forward, if he's crossed a line, if that's too fast when they've only been dating a little while and Blaine's so very careful with him and -

Blaine's eyes go dark and thrilled, and after a breathless moment he scrambles out of his blazer like it's on fire. He lunges back for Kurt, who stops him with a light hand on his chest. Blaine catches himself and waits, while Kurt revels in this new sensation coursing through him.

It's power. Confidence. He knows them well, but never when it comes to other people.

Blaine's face is open with desire and confusion, his hands flexing where they rest on his own thighs. He isn't upset. He isn't rejecting Kurt. At all. He isn't pushing, but he wants this. He likes it.

Oh.

A thrill going up his spine, Kurt narrows his eyes and says, "The tie, too."

"Okay." Blaine's smile is huge as he tugs his tie free, and Kurt reaches up with hands that do not shake - he doesn't let them - as he unbuttons Blaine's collar.

"That's better," Kurt says and sees Blaine shiver at the touch of his fingertips to his throat before Blaine's mouth is back on his, even hotter than before.

*

Being back at McKinley feels in many ways like Kurt never left. He's still fighting for solos with Rachel, rolling his eyes at the idea of football jerseys as appropriate clothing anywhere but on the field, and sighing over the lack of green vegetables in the cafeteria. He's sandwiched between Tina and Mercedes at lunch, picked by Mr. Schuester to teach Finn the latest choreography (a mixed blessing), and given the top grade on his French test.

The only thing different, really, besides the promise of sweet texts from Blaine throughout the day, is that he isn't slushied, slammed into a locker, or taunted, not once.

Not there aren't offensive comments, but they're from people who are nominally his friends, so they don't really count.

"Must be tough being back here after your stay at Hard-on High," Puck says, sitting down next to Kurt in the choir room like they're best friends.

"Excuse me?" Kurt says in his coolest, least interested voice.

"You know, that school you went to. Must've been awesome for you, right? All those desperate guys with no girls around. Must've been good pickings."

Kurt rolls his eyes to the ceiling. "You have got to be kidding me," he mutters and reaches down to get his phone out of his bag.

"So, were there orgies?" Puck asks, leaning his arm over the back of the chair and watching him with interest. "There must have been. I heard it happens in juvie sometimes, but I didn't see any."

"Why, are you interested in gay orgies?" Kurt replies pointedly.

Puck shrugs. "I'm not into dudes, dude. I'm just curious."

"There were no orgies."

"That sucks," Puck says with feeling. "Still, you got yourself a boyfriend out of it, so thumbs up, right?"

"Puck..."

"What? He seems nice. You know, for a short guy with weird hair."

Kurt narrows his eyes at him. Blaine has very nice hair, unlike that rat that's living on Puck's head. "Like you should talk."

"Whatever. I'm just saying he seems nice. If there had been orgies, he totally would have hooked you up."

"Puck - " Kurt counts silently to five. "Blaine is a gentleman."

"Oh." Puck looks him up and down. "Gentleman, huh?"

"Yes."

"Guess that answers who's the lady in the relationship, then."

The comment twists, burns, and lodges deep in Kurt's gut, but it's only Puck. He knows how to handle Puck. Deflection without reaction, that's the secret. "Like we don't know who wears the pants between you and Lauren," he drawls in reply.

"Hey, I never said it was a bad thing," Puck says with a grin and turns around to bother Finn instead.

A few of the other Glee guys also make some odd comments (Artie seems to think Kurt having a boyfriend requires a high-five every time Blaine's mentioned for the first day, Sam asks very seriously how he's handling the separation a week after he transfers), but it seems to be out of interest. Kurt's female friends are intensely curious to the point of being annoying about the details of his relationship.

The rest of McKinley says nothing at all. Kurt walks through the halls without being called names, without being hit by bags, without anything more than curious looks, and those could be about the amazing new items he's added to his wardrobe over the months he was away.

He knows they still don't understand him, but they don't say a word.

Maybe, Kurt thinks with a loose-limbed amazement as he moisturizes his face after gym class without a single remark about other kinds of facials being tossed his way, Santana and Karofsky have actually done some good.

*

"Hey, Kurt," Kurt's dad says the night before prom while Kurt is at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on his outfit, clipping the last loose threads and checking every button and sequin. It is, just as he'd thought it would be, amazing.

Kurt knows Blaine is tentative about drawing attention to themselves at the dance, and he understands why, but Kurt also knows he's going to stand out anyway, so he might as well wear what he wants. Even with how calm everything is at McKinley now, he still knows he cannot hide.

Still, if he can't hide, he can be smart, which is why even though he's wearing a kilt he isn't going to push Blaine to dance or hold hands or any of the other things he wants to do, because if he always has a target on his back he doesn't have to put one on Blaine's, too.

"Looking good," his father says, coming over. "I bet that'll sparkle real nice in your pictures."

"But not too much," Kurt replies with a nod. "There's a fine line between fashion-forward and only suitable for Las Vegas."

"Right." His dad adjusts his cap on his head and leans against the counter. "We need to talk, Kurt."

Kurt looks up. That's his dad's serious voice, but Kurt doesn't think he's done anything wrong. "Is this about my outfit?" he asks, straightening up. "Because Blaine is okay with it now, and I am not going to wear some rented tuxedo that - "

"It's not that."

"Okay." Kurt puts down the scissors and looks at him; his dad fidgets a little and takes a deep breath. This must be something big. He hopes his dad and Carole are okay.

"So, tomorrow is prom."

"Yes," Kurt says slowly.

His dad takes another deep breath. "Look, you're a good kid. Smart. Blaine, too. But it's prom. I know you've got those pamphlets from before, and you know I think you're too young, but I also remember what it was like to be a teenage boy, so..."

Kurt can feel his face turning hot and his eyes growing wide. "Oh, no," he says softly and wishes the ground would swallow him up.

"I'm not saying I'm okay with the idea of it, but if you're going to... you know, I put some stuff in a shoebox in the linen closet. I won't check and see what's in there, if things are missing or - I know you'll want your privacy, but I want you to be safe."

"Oh my god, Dad," Kurt says, mortified beyond words at the thought of his father leaving condoms (and other things?) in the closet for him to use. A part of him is also deeply touched, but mostly he's mortified. "No. No. We haven't been dating for that long."

"I know, and I'd be happy if you took it as slow as molasses in the winter, but it's prom. It's a... it's a rite of passage for a lot of kids, and I just don't want you to get caught up in that and lose your head."

"Oh my god," Kurt says again. "Really? Do I look like I'm going to lose my head over a bunch of tacky decorations and inedible hors d'oeuvres?"

His father stares him down. "I know how you feel about prom, Kurt," he says firmly. "Decorations or not. You've always wanted this. And I'm glad you're getting it. It's okay if the night feels magical. It's great if it does. It should. But you still should be smart if magical gets you thinking about... magical."

Kurt fights the urge to cover his face with his hands. "Blaine and I are not - No. Thank you, I appreciate your concern, but no."

"Hey, that's even better," his dad says with a shrug.

"Excellent," Kurt says crisply and goes back to his jacket.

"Okay. But that stuff'll stay in the linen closet. Bottom shelf by the pillowcases."

"Oh my god," Kurt says yet another time, but he knows his father hears the 'thank you' in it.

It's ridiculous, though; he and Blaine are nowhere near ready for that sort of thing, and they're not going to give into hormones and a cliché like their peers. They're better than that. And they'd never take a big step like that without talking and planning. Possibly years in advance.

Still, when Kurt comes down the stairs on prom night and sees Blaine standing in the front hall, as handsome as a movie star in his tuxedo, Kurt's stomach flips and twists like he's stepped out of a soaring airplane instead of onto the hardwood floor. Blaine is like a dream in the flesh waiting for him. Kurt might have always wanted to be able to go to prom with a boy, but he suddenly understands how the transformation that comes with it can overshadow rented tuxedos and the court lines on the gym floor to make everything sparkle with true diamonds of romance instead of the cheap paste jewels of high school.

Blaine is absolutely a dream come true.

Kurt still doesn't want any of the things he knows about sex, but walking over to his boyfriend whose eyes are lit up with admiration for him, he gets a throat-tightening glimpse of how much he could want Blaine. To touch, to hold, to get utterly lost in this amazing, gorgeous boy who is there waiting for him.

Wow, he thinks with a combination of dismay and dizzying affection, he could really want so much with Blaine.

*

The scales fall from Kurt's eyes mere hours later. Not about Blaine, who is steadfast in the hallway after the announcement of Prom Queen and kind beyond belief on the dance floor, but about everything else.

People don't change. He should know that, because he doesn't change, but he'd foolishly thought that he was different in that regard, too. Hope is such a seductive emotion.

He looks at himself in the full-length mirror before he takes off his prom outfit and wonders what his classmates see that he does not. Yes, he's wearing a kilt, but that's a man's garment. Even when he's worn women's pieces, he's still clearly been male beneath. He's never once tried to be a girl. He isn't one.

To his eyes, Kurt has a man's shoulders, a man's chest, and a man's faint scratch of stubble on a man's jaw line. He has a man's hair, a man's height, and a man's wiry strength. He has a man's Adam's apple, a man's hips, and a man's in no way dainty feet.

His voice, his style, and his heart do not make Kurt female. They do not make him a queen in any sense of the word.

But when the world looks at him, he realizes - he remembers - they must see something different.

*

Blaine makes this sound deep in his throat when he and Kurt have been kissing for a while; Blaine's hands always stay gentle and respectful, but his mouth gets greedier on Kurt's, and he makes this low, gravely groan that makes Kurt's head spin. He's not sure Blaine even knows he's making the sound, but Kurt always notices. He loves it. He wants it. He chases after it, getting his hands in Blaine's hair and kissing him deeper until Blaine whimpers and clutches at him and moans again and again.

Kurt's heart races, and not just because his boyfriend is so very, very hot.

Blaine wants to be wanted, too. He wants to be wanted by Kurt.

The reality of that fact settles deeper and deeper into Kurt's heart each time they kiss until he can't doubt it anymore.

*

Kurt watches Finn, Rachel, and Quinn circle around each other with aching hearts and wonders how dating can be so hard for them when dating Blaine is as easy for Kurt as breathing. It just feels right. But then, Blaine already knew all of Kurt's faults before they ever kissed (and vice versa), and so many of Kurt's peers seem to spend all of their time with their significant others trying to hide their flaws instead.

It's so much better being able to be honest.

*

Kurt's trip to New York is life-changing and magical. He can see his future there as clearly as he can the clothes he will be wearing when he walks down those streets in a rosy glow of theater, fashion, and fame. He will be accepted there. He will be adored there. It is everything he wants.

The day after he is home, though, despite the fact that New York's wonders are still spinning through his mind, what Kurt sees every time he closes his eyes is Blaine sitting across that table and telling him he loves him.

It doesn't matter that they lost Nationals. It doesn't matter that he has to wait another year in this Ohio backwater before he can flee to the city of his dreams.

Kurt's been in love with Blaine for ages, but Blaine loves him, too. Blaine loves him right here and now, just as he is.

Kurt still can't wait to get there, but he realizes he doesn't need New York as badly as he used to.

*

The first time Kurt sees Blaine almost entirely unclothed it's at a pool party at Brittany's house, the first New Directions party of the summer. Kurt is used to ignoring (mostly) the physiques of his male friends; he isn't blind to how Sam or Puck are built, but he knows his gaze isn't welcome to linger. So it doesn't. Besides, he knows way too much about their faults to find them attractive at this point. They're like his female friends; they're objectively pretty but more like siblings than objects of desire.

So Kurt kind of tunes out the unclothed male bodies by habit, and when Blaine calls his name from the other side of the pool, Kurt turns from where he's helping Mercedes set out the snacks under the pergola and is faced with a lean, muscled, beautifully golden body with the smiling face of his boyfriend launching itself high into the air and cannonballing into the water.

Kurt forgets how to breathe. Blaine is perfect. It's not that Kurt hasn't had his hands under Blaine's shirt plenty of times or pushed the fabric up Blaine's chest to catch sight of the skin beneath, but to see him so bare from head to toe, wearing only a bright red pair of swim trunks, is a shock. It's like Kurt's sinking to the bottom of the pool instead of his boyfriend. The world goes hazy and muffled, and he can't get any air.

"Kurt?" Blaine swims over to the side of the pool by Kurt, his arms cutting in long, graceful strokes through the water. He lifts himself up onto his elbows, water dripping from his dark curls and over his lovely, well-shaped body. "Hey, are you okay?"

Kurt can't even nod.

Blaine lifts up a little more, and Kurt takes a tiny step back. "What's wrong? Did I splash you? I'm so sorry."

"No, you didn't." Kurt doesn't know what to do. He's used to not looking, but he's allowed to look at Blaine. He's supposed to. He wants to. He wants to do a hell of a lot more than look. But they're at a party with all of Kurt's friends in the middle of the afternoon. Does he really want to spend the day gawking at the boy he loves with all of those witnesses?

Another rivulet of water makes its way down Blaine's chest, and Kurt is glad he's wearing sunglasses so no one can see the way his eyes track its movement. He's glad he's wearing pressed khaki shorts and a striped shirt instead of a bathing suit not just because his own body can't compare to Blaine's but because its other responses are disguised as well.

Pleading relief from the heat, Kurt retreats to the house for a lemonade, and he spends the afternoon on one of the loungers in the shade. He chats with Tina for a while, finds himself trapped in a serious discussion about Lord Tubbington's cholesterol with Brittany, and takes control of the laptop playing music when Puck sets it to the Def Leppard Pandora station for the eighth time.

The whole time, though, Kurt keeps his sunglasses on and at least half of his attention on the pool where Blaine is swimming, diving, and playing ball, ring toss, and other pool games with whoever is in there with him. (Blaine and Santana win the marathon game of Chicken that ensues, even if Blaine nearly drowns in the deep end when they go up against the much taller Finn and Rachel; fortunately Santana knocks Rachel off quickly, and Blaine gets his head back above the surface of the water in time to breathe.)

Kurt watches his boyfriend splash and leap and comes to terms to what Blaine looks like when not all wrapped up in his clothes. He's seen Blaine's arms in short sleeves and legs in shorts, his partially clothed chest above or beneath him on the couch, but to have it all bare at once takes some time for him to stop feeling overwhelmed by the reality of it. That's Blaine's body right there. That's what he looks like. It's almost too much.

When his heart stops skipping in his throat with fluttering nerves and returns to a more normal position in his chest, Kurt just starts wishing they didn't have an audience.

Late in the afternoon Kurt is in the kitchen getting another drink and giving himself a break from the bright glare of the sun - too much squinting produces premature crow's feet; he'll have to make sure he applies extra eye cream tonight - when Blaine comes in, his feet bare and his hair wet and curly but wearing a thin grey Dalton t-shirt over his suit. He smiles at Kurt, the expression as loose and contented as the rest of him.

When he comes closer, Kurt can see the pink blooming on Blaine's nose from too much time in the sun. He knows he ought to offer sunscreen and perhaps a flirty but factual little lecture on sun damage, but instead he curls his fingers into Blaine's t-shirt and pulls him in, getting his mouth on Blaine's without even a word of greeting.

Blaine makes a sound of surprise, but his hands come up immediately to rest at Kurt's waist, and he goes easily when Kurt backs him up the foot to press him against the counter. He should be gentle the way Blaine always is with him, but he can't. Blaine is beautiful, and he's Kurt's. He kisses Blaine hard and deep, not caring that the water still on Blaine's arms is soaking into his shirt, no matter that the chlorine could bleach out the colors. He doesn't care about anything other than the solid body warm against him and the way Blaine clings back and kisses him just as hard.

"Blaine," Kurt murmurs in a gasp against the corner of Blaine's mouth, his head swimming with what he should have already known, that there's a them beneath their clothes.

He's not ready to explore it yet - well, maybe getting Blaine's shirt off should be more of a priority for him in the future - but if that's what is waiting for him, then he has more incentive to consider it.

*

Over the summer, Blaine learns that Kurt likes it when Blaine picks him up for a special night out with no explanation of what they're going to do besides how to dress, dances with him under the stars, and presses hundreds of soft kisses along his fingers and the palm of his hand.

Kurt learns that Blaine likes it when Kurt picks out duets for them to sing together, wears anything with short sleeves, and ends up on top when they're making out.

Kurt likes all of that, too, especially when he realizes that Blaine's even happier when Kurt pushes him onto his back, pins him there with just his weight or his hands on Blaine's wrists, and takes control of the kiss.

Blaine makes the best noises when Kurt does that.

So, if he's being honest with himself about it, does Kurt.

*

There's a way that Blaine says his name, this low, breathy exhalation of the syllable that's half a sigh and half a plea and all wonder and adoration, that makes Kurt forget every negative word that's ever been thrown at him, every slur, every insult, every time he was judged and found lacking. For the span of a few seconds, Blaine erases it all.

It's not why Kurt loves him, but he loves that it's true nonetheless.

*

Summer gives Kurt and Blaine a lot more opportunity to be alone. It's not regular or even necessarily in lengthy stretches, since Blaine is working odd hours and Kurt has his musical and his time at his dad's shop keeping him busy and since Finn's schedule is equally erratic even when Kurt's dad and Carole are both at work, but they do sometimes find themselves with three or four hours with no one to answer to but themselves. Usually they go out and do something - head to the air conditioned bliss of a movie theater, browse for bargains at the mall, drink iced coffees and talk for hours at the Lima Bean, run errands, pore over sheet music, take a road trip to Blaine's favorite ice cream stand near Dalton, anything and everything as long as they're together - but sometimes they end up at one of their empty houses and take advantage of having more time and space than a quick, fevered make out session in the back of Kurt's car at the end of a date.

They can kiss and touch and lie close to each other until Kurt is drunk with how amazing Blaine feels against him, his head spinning and his hands so, so ready to slide up beneath the hem of Blaine's shorts to feel more of the strength of his thighs or under his waistband to press into the gorgeous muscles that Kurt watches disappear beneath it when Blaine's shirt is off.

(His own shirt he's less eager to remove. He can see in the heat in Blaine's eyes that he's no longer the weird-looking kid he once was, but he's still nothing in comparison to his boyfriend. He knows his body is lean and strong. He knows how to use it in ways he never has before thanks to intensive dance rehearsals and the slow thaw Blaine's hands and mouth have left in their wake over their months of exploration. He's no longer just a form to fill out clothing but a passionate young man fully alive beneath, and yet when Blaine's hands skim up Kurt's back Kurt's stomach still squirms for a moment with the knowledge that he never will compare.)

"Kurt," Blaine moans, low and gravelly as Kurt mouths down Blaine's bare chest one afternoon at Blaine's house after heady hours of being wrapped in each other, and the sound is so intoxicating that all Kurt wants to do is keep moving down his body, touching everywhere, tasting the skin at Blaine's waist, nuzzling the bone of his hip, settling his hand over the bulge in Blaine's shorts that Kurt tries so hard not to notice.

He wonders if Blaine would stop him.

Kurt lifts his head and looks at Blaine - dark-eyed, open-mouthed, so very aroused Blaine - and knows with utter certainty that the only thing stopping him is himself. Blaine loves this, loves him. Blaine will follow him anywhere, even if it's not planned, even if neither of them is thinking clearly, because he wants to give Kurt everything.

Whatever Kurt wants in the moment, Blaine will do.

Kurt pushes himself up onto his knees, shaking with a mixture of power and terror that he doesn't even know how to process, and grabs Blaine's hand to hold it fast when Blaine tries to pull him back down. He doesn't trust himself so near, not this very second. He wants so much that his body is trembling with it, he doesn't want to have to stop or think at all, but it's in his hands and his alone.

"I need a minute," he says when Blaine looks up at him with lust bleeding into confusion.

"Of course," Blaine says, and that's the flip side of the coin, that he's so willing to follow Kurt's lead that he'll never pressure Kurt beyond where he's comfortable.

Kurt takes a moment to breathe, and then he squeezes Blaine's hand. "We need to talk," he says softly. "I need to talk. Can we get some iced tea and sit? Maybe not on a bed?"

Blaine looks worried, but he immediately agrees, and he shrugs into his shirt, serves them both ice cold glasses of tea with fresh mint, and leads Kurt to the big, comfortable couch in the den. They sit side-by-side, and after a few sips of his drink Kurt takes Blaine's hand and smiles at him. Blaine smiles back.

"I'm not ready to have sex," Kurt says, feeling the blush burst over his cheeks in a flash like a time-lapse film of a flower opening. Blaine opens his mouth, and Kurt shakes his head. "I know you're not pushing me, and I don't want to push you, but I think - I think we need to set some limits, because sometimes it's very hard to remember that I'm not ready when I'm kissing you."

Kurt laughs a little; now that he isn't so wrapped up in Blaine it seems crazy that the stomach-twisting worries that are present when he thinks about sex could flee so easily. He's not ready to be so exposed. He's not ready to do those things. He wants Blaine, but he still doesn't want so much of what sex is. "You make me forget things, and I don't want to be the only one trying to remember. I want to do this together." Now he understands what his father meant about getting caught up in the magic of prom and losing his head. It's just not prom that's pulling him in like the tempting music of a fairy mound, asking him to give up all of his other worries; it's Blaine, not because he's pushing but because he's so perfectly, wonderfully himself.

"We are doing this together, and we'll set whatever limits you want," Blaine says earnestly, putting his other hand over their joined ones. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable at all. That's the last thing I want, Kurt."

"I know." Kurt swallows, because it's an unspoken confirmation that he's the one calling the shots. He's the one slowing them down. But he's never had a problem sticking to what he wants, and he's not about to stop doing that now.

"I love you," Blaine reminds him.

Kurt smiles, and a little of the weight lifts from his chest. "I love you, too," he says. And he does, because he knows Blaine is listening.

*

It is a lot easier to get right up to the edge of where the boundaries are in a desperate, delightful tease when both parties are in agreement about where they will be stopping.

Kurt thinks in a haze, when Blaine is slowly rocking his hips down against Kurt's as they kiss and kiss and kiss, that boundaries are the best thing ever, because he can live in this glorious moment of pleasure and Blaine without worrying about either of them tipping over into too far. He can just enjoy every second of it.

*

Kurt learns that he has two kinds of mirrors: the ones in his bedroom that reflect the precise fall of his jacket, the sweep of his hair, or the form-fitting silhouette of his jeans, and the one of Blaine's eyes, which reflect those with appreciation and reflect everything else about him, too, with love, with admiration, and with desire.

Kurt likes them both.

*

One night after he can hear his dad and Finn snoring in their rooms and hopes Carole has invested in a good pair of ear plugs, Kurt creeps out into the hallway and kneels down to check the box in the linen closet, just to see if it's still there.

It is.

Kurt opens it with nervous fingers to find condoms and lubricant, a few different kinds of each as well as some more pamphlets with detailed pictures and health warnings inside, and he shuts the shoebox again without taking anything and tucks it back into place. He retreats with a red hot face and a surge of affection and gratitude for his father, who went to the drug store and the clinic, picked it all out, and had to look someone in the eyes while paying for it.

Kurt has never been so grateful that he knows how to shop online so he won't have to do the same someday.

*

Brittany throws another pool party at the end of the summer, and although Kurt stays out of the water during the games and splashing portion of the afternoon, in the evening when most everyone has stumbled out, waterlogged, to find sodas, food, and the refuge of dry land, he pulls off his shirt, slides into the most comfortable- and stable-looking floating pool chair, and sets himself adrift in the deep end. The water feels wonderful after the sticky heat of the day, and the marmalade-thick rays of the slowly setting sun are still bright enough to make him happy for his dark glasses and layer of sunscreen (reapplied every two hours throughout the afternoon).

He shuts his eyes and lets his head loll back onto the perfect spot on the headrest as the party goes on around him, just that much more distant from his new seat.

"Looking good, Hummel," Santana calls with a laugh from by the grill, and Kurt leaves his eyes closed and waves a regal hand in the direction of her voice. It's a little disconcerting to be dressed only in a pair of Burberry Brit board shorts in the company of his friends, but he's been learning over the past months through the tiny hitches of Blaine's breath when he strips Kurt of his shirt and through the hungry touch of his hands afterwards that not everyone is going to like what they see when they look at him but that he doesn't have to hide what lies beneath the barrier of his clothes.

"He always looks good," is Blaine's reply to her, and Kurt smiles to himself and floats.

*

Kurt still likes going to Rachel's house for all of the reasons he always has, but the best part has become watching Blaine watch Hiram and LeRoy. Blaine is friendly and helpful, of course, happy to lend a hand in the kitchen or a voice at the piano, but there's an edge of wide-eyed awe that he can't seem to shake when he sees them living their lives as a couple.

There's a tremor in his voice whenever he talks about marriage equality, which is now a reality in New York.

Yes, Kurt thinks with a small, satisfied smile. He wants it, too.

*

Blaine at McKinley is a lot like Blaine at Dalton; he shines whenever he sings, whenever he walks down the hall. He's still finding his place, but Blaine is already more popular, more accepted, and more mainstream than Kurt will ever be.

There are times that the unfairness that Blaine is given parts inside and outside of Glee that Kurt must fight and claw even to be considered for burns in Kurt's chest, but it's impossible to be bitter about it when first thing in the morning, in the lunch room, and at the end of every amazing performance Blaine comes back to him.

There is no question that Blaine is exceptional. He's talented. He's charismatic. He's meant to be out front and seen. He is undeniably special in a different way than Kurt is. And yet, with everything that he is and has, what Blaine wants, what he seeks out every single day in gestures small and large, is Kurt.

There's a peace in it, a sureness, that Kurt cannot ignore.

Proud and enthralled, Kurt watches Blaine sing, watches Blaine's eyes twinkle in his direction, and thinks yes. He watches Blaine bounce right back to his side at the end of the song, eagerly drinking in Kurt's approval, and thinks soon.

He just wishes he had a friend to talk to about his feelings besides Blaine. He knows Tina would be a sympathetic ear about love in a stable relationship, but his worries aren't so much about his heart but about the rest of him, about what he wants to do and what it means and where the line of virginity is for gay men (if he even cares what other people think about that, which he's pretty sure he doesn't), and there's nowhere for him to turn but himself.

*

One afternoon when he is at home alone, Kurt takes some of the supplies from the closet into his room. Just a few, just in case. He's not ready to use them, but he's ready to have them.

He can barely look at his father at dinner.

*

Kurt knows that Sebastian would get drunk with Blaine at the gay bar.

Sebastian would dance and grind with Blaine on the dance floor all night long.

Sebastian would make out with Blaine on that dance floor without blinking an eye.

Sebastian would have sex with Blaine in his car, in a seedy motel, pretty much anywhere. Blaine wouldn't have to ask. Blaine wouldn't have to wait. Sebastian would do whatever Blaine wanted confidently, easily, eagerly. He'd touch Blaine, get lost in him, suck him, fuck him, without boundaries, without talking first, without needing reassurance, without thinking of anything but pleasure.

Kurt, as much as he loves Blaine with all of his heart and as much as it makes him sick to think of Blaine doing that with Sebastian or anyone else, can do none of those things.

Sometimes it's hard for him to feel good about knowing how to say no. He would love to give Blaine everything he wants.

But if Kurt says no, if he listens to himself, then he knows he will be nothing but happy when he finally is ready to say yes.

*

The best thing about having no trouble saying no when it is wrong is that once he and Blaine work things through and it's actually right Kurt finds he knows exactly how to say yes.

He says yes and yes and yes and yes. He gets to say yes to Blaine's mouth on his, Blaine's hands pushing off his shirt, Blaine's fingers shaking against the button of his jeans, Blaine's bare legs tangling with his and holding him close as their hands explore newly exposed skin.

He gets to say yes to every promise Blaine makes with his lips, his touch, his low moans and soft cries. He gets to say yes to the laughter they share at how easy it is to lose the rhythm because they're so caught up with how good each other feels. He gets to say yes to slowing down and not rushing and yes to going faster just to see what happens to Blaine when he does. He gets to say yes to Blaine's helpless whimpers when he can't make himself stop moving his hips at the touch of Kurt's hand. He gets to say yes to the way Blaine's caresses make sweat prickle on Kurt's skin and his arm tighten around Blaine's back and his body ache from head to toe to get just that much closer to this boy he loves so desperately. He gets to say yes to letting himself go when they can't hold back anymore, falling into Blaine's touch and his arms and his love and trusting that it won't hurt when they reach firm ground again.

It doesn't hurt at all, because they both are ready. It doesn't hurt at all, because they are doing it together.

It doesn't hurt at all because Blaine smiles at him afterward like Kurt is the moon and the sun and every other celestial body all wrapped up into one, and Kurt knows just how he feels, because Blaine is the same for him.

*

Everything between them feels a little brighter, deeper, and more intense now. Every meeting of the eyes across the table, every brush of their hands as they walk down the corridor, every door that they hold for the other, every surprise coffee, every shared joke, every 'I love you'.

It all feels the same, just more.

*

When Mr. Martinez comes to teach Glee, Kurt can barely look away from him long enough to blink. He is so attractive. His arms alone are worth some serious admiration, and then there's the rest of him.

Kurt doesn't feel guilty looking, partly because Mr. Martinez is strutting around singing to encourage that very sort of attention, but also because he knows there's a huge difference between the fluttery feeling of attraction and the love he feels for Blaine. They're not even in the same universe.

He doesn't get a lot of opportunities in Lima to swoon over a gorgeous man right in front of him without danger. He takes full advantage of it.

*

"Can I? I want to. Let me do this for you, please let me?" Blaine asks, his breath hot as he pants against Kurt's bare hip, and Kurt silently whites out with panic that he's going to do everything wrong and that he's going to have to do it back and that he's not ready and that he's so ready and - and - and he takes a breath, makes himself trust in Blaine, and jerks his head in a nod. He knows it's the right choice when Blaine's eyes go grateful as well as hungry.

Oh, god, Blaine's hungry for this, for him. Kurt shivers; Blaine is hungry for him.

"Kurt," Blaine says, like Kurt has given him a gift instead of being the one receiving it, and Kurt's heart seizes in his chest that Blaine thinks of it that way, that Blaine wants him that way, that Blaine wants to do this to him, for him, with him.

Blaine surges up to kiss him, and Kurt can feel the eager tremors vibrating through Blaine's body before he slithers right back down to where he apparently really wants to be.

Blaine's mouth is possibly too eager at first, licking and sucking and kissing along Kurt's cock in a flurry of disorganized sensation, but it doesn't matter because Kurt is still clutching at the sheets and squeezing his eyes shut and trying not to come in the first thirty seconds of his very first blow job. This is happening.

And then Blaine relaxes into it just a bit, slows down and gets his hand tight around the base and his slick, warm mouth sinking in a slow torture up and down over the shaft, and Kurt's rolling his head on the pillow and forcing his hips to stay flat against the mattress and making these breathy moans that don't even sound like him.

Blaine strokes his cock, strokes his hip, gasps for air as he sucks kisses along the crease of Kurt's thigh and then goes back for more. It feels terrifyingly wonderful and new, but when Kurt looks down at Blaine's body curled over his and the satisfaction on his face, Kurt feels all of the love in every touch. Blaine is doing this because it feels good but also because he loves Kurt. He wants Kurt. As amazing as it feels - and Blaine's mouth really does feel better than he could ever describe - the reason behind it is what burrows into Kurt's brain and sends rivers of sparks dancing down his spine and along every nerve.

All too soon, Kurt can feel his body coiling and focusing into the single-minded desire to come, and he warns Blaine with a whimper that is apparently just comprehensible enough that Blaine pulls off and uses his hand to guide him through what is the best and most devastating orgasm of Kurt's life to date.

"Kurt? Kurt?" Blaine is saying when Kurt's ears start working again, and Kurt nuzzles against his cheek and opens his eyes to see Blaine's concern melt away at Kurt's smile.

"You are so hot," Blaine tells him, rutting a little against Kurt's hip, and Kurt pulls him on top so that Blaine's cock can slide slippery-slick through the mess on Kurt's stomach, because that's about all Kurt's limp muscles can manage and Blaine clearly can't wait long enough for him to regain control of his limbs. "That was so hot," Blaine says a little hoarsely against Kurt's mouth. "You're so hot. Oh my god." His hips snap faster, his hands sinking into Kurt's hair as he kisses and mumbles along Kurt's jaw. "I loved that. Love you. Love how you taste, how you sound, how you felt in my mouth. I loved it. I didn't know I'd - I want to do it again. Can I do it again? Please?"

"Right now?" Kurt says with a laugh and a little gasp when Blaine's mouth targets that magical spot under his ear.

"Oh my god, Kurt," Blaine says, and it's like the very thought is what sends him over the edge, shaking as he comes between them.

Kurt's stroking his fingers through Blaine's hair when Blaine raises his head again, his eyes hazy-vague but happy. "Hi," Kurt says.

"Hi," Blaine says, smiling and leaning in for a kiss that tastes just enough differently than usual that Kurt's skin tingles with the knowledge of why. "I liked that. You did, too, right?"

Kurt nods, swallowing down his nerves, because it's really okay that he did. It's okay that he likes how it felt to be touched that way, how it feels to know that Blaine wants him that way, wants to love him that way. "You just surprised me."

"Is that okay?" Blaine asks, looking a little worried.

"Yes," Kurt hastens to assure him. "But maybe, not now, later, we should talk about what we might want to try. Just so it's out there." He knows it will be a horribly embarrassing conversation on so many levels, from the lines that are uncomfortable for him to cross to the words they'll have to use, but he feels better just thinking about it, because it's them being them, talking and respecting each other.

"Everything," Blaine says immediately. "Anything you want."

"Well," Kurt says, feeling panic rising in him again at all that 'everything' encompasses, "we can't all do it at once."

"We could try," Blaine replies with a wide grin, and Kurt swats at his shoulder and sends him off with a kiss to get a towel to clean them up.

*

Returning the favor is harder for Kurt, not because he doesn't want to do it but because he's been told so often for so long that this is one of the only things he is good for that the part of him that refuses to bend to the rules of society hates that they might actually be right.

He ultimately tries with Blaine lying on the bed so that Kurt isn't kneeling at his feet and warns Blaine - who, they've learned through a good deal of experimentation and a bit of chance over the past weeks, loves being on his knees and having Kurt's hands in his hair and on his face when he's the one using his mouth - not to pull at his hair.

"I wouldn't," Blaine says, his eyes wide and a little hurt. "I never would, Kurt."

"I know," Kurt says and kisses Blaine's stomach, his hand stroking Blaine's erection in apology. "But I have to say it."

Kurt has become very well acquainted with Blaine's cock over the previous months, but it's one thing to know exactly how hard and heavy it is in his hand and another actually to take it into his mouth. He takes a breath and shuts out all of the voices in his head but Blaine's, because it only matters what he and Blaine think.

Giving a blow job is okay on its own merits. The taste is only in any way appealing because it's Blaine, the angle is a little awkward, and no matter how wide he can open his mouth while singing it just doesn't seem big enough for this sort of activity. But the way Blaine moans and thrashes his head, his hands in his own hair and nowhere near Kurt's, the way Blaine chants Kurt's name like a mantra and a plea, the way Blaine whimpers when Kurt hums and swallows around him, the way the mounting tension in Blaine's body makes it clear he's trying to hold back but he can't and comes so soon with a sob half across Kurt's fingers and half over his own stomach - all of these it adds up to Kurt loving it, because he made Blaine act like that, feel like that. Him.

Kurt might not get off just on having Blaine's cock in his mouth the same way Blaine seems to feel about his - although the focus on the maleness of Blaine is such a turn-on, and maybe he'll grow to love it - but he could definitely get addicted to having this kind of power over Blaine's body, to playing him like an instrument. He could get off on giving Blaine this sort of pleasure, driving him so far over the edge Blaine can't pull himself back. He could love the way Blaine's hands are still shaking when they reach for him afterwards, needing so badly to drag Kurt up for a kiss that he doesn't want to wait another minute.

He can see how he might ache to give this to Blaine because of how much Blaine loves receiving it.

*

Kurt clings to Blaine for a long moment after he visits David in the hospital, before they get dressed for Rachel and Finn's idiotic wedding. He wraps his arms around Blaine, feels the strength in his spine, the solidity of his shoulders, the steady rhythm of his breath against his cheek, and is grateful beyond words that somehow, despite all of the hate they've both faced alone and together, neither of them has ever been as desperate to escape to take that final, drastic step.

He'd like to think neither of them would ever have done so under any circumstances, no matter how much worse things could have gotten. He'd like to think that neither of them could ever have internalized all of that hatred thrown at them to such a degree that they turned against their very selves.

But Kurt remembers how scared he was before he came out, how alone he felt before Blaine, how marginalized he still feels walking down the street or in Glee Club on any given day, and though he still doesn't think he would have made the choice David did to end his life he's smart enough to realize that he just can't know for sure.

*

Kurt is still invited to sleepovers at the girls' while Blaine gets the invitations for Call of Duty marathons from Artie or Finn. He's not sure how offended he should be about that distinction between them, but it suits his purposes, so he doesn't push. He has no interest in video games, and he likes to be able to gossip with his friends without his boyfriend there.

(Blaine is a terrible gossip, not in the sense that he loves to tell secrets but because he tends to think the best of people and is quick to make excuses or remind people that they shouldn't share sensitive information.)

So Kurt is happy to enjoy mud masks, pizza, and hair styling conversation with his favorite ladies, and he's lying on his stomach on the floor of Rachel's bedroom one Saturday night, painting Tina's toenails a bright metallic pink after they all took advantage of the home pedi-spa kit Rachel had bought for the occasion, as the conversation turns to sex.

He half-listens; painting nails requires concentration to do neatly, and as far as he's concerned toenails require the same attention as fingernails, no matter that Tina's are usually well hidden inside of her excellent collection of footwear.

"We've been talking a lot about sex with the God Squad this week," Mercedes says in reply to a question of Tina's that Kurt doesn't catch. "You know, what is and what isn't. What counts."

"Yes, what is going on with you and Sam?" Rachel asks with interest.

"This has nothing to do with him," Mercedes replies; the defensiveness in her voice makes Kurt file that topic away for further investigation. "I'm just saying, it's complicated. I think a lot counts, but not everyone agrees."

"Sure," Tina says. "I mean, there are a bunch of things you can do that aren't - " She makes air-quotes around the next word. "'sex', but they still mean something, you know? Like, sex is a big deal, but it's not like having a guy go down on you isn't just as intense. Or going down on him."

"I don't like to do that to Finn," Rachel says primly, pulling her pink fuzzy robe around herself and tucking her feet under it on the bed. "I have to preserve my voice, after all, and I prefer more mutual intimate connection."

"Oral can be mutual," Tina says, and her toes squirm a little like she's uncomfortable. Kurt almost smears the nail polish and taps the top of her foot to remind her not to move it on the pillow. "I just don't think I'm very good at it."

"I'm sure you're fine," Rachel tells her, patting her on her shoulder. "He should be happy you're willing to do it at all."

Tina shakes her head. "It's not like that. Mike always says nice things about it, and he's amazing when he does it to me, but I always feel like I'm fumbling or doing it wrong… or I'm just boring. I don't want to be boring."

"That would be horrible," Mercedes agrees.

"You should talk to Blaine," Kurt says absently, cleaning up Tina's cuticle with a cotton swab. "He does this thing with his tongue." His toes curl in his slippers just thinking of it, and he laughs to himself. "It is never boring."

The room is silent, and Kurt looks up to see his three friends absolutely gaping at him, their eyes wide and their mouths open. He feels the heat flood into his cheeks. What did he just say? The fumes from the nail polish must have gotten to him.

He caps the jar and pushes himself up to his knees. "I'm just going to - " Leave the room, the house, possibly the country…

"Kurt!" Rachel squeals, lunging forward with preternatural speed and grabbing his shoulder.

"You have to tell us!" Tina says, catching his hand.

"Oh my god," he breathes in horror at the thought of sharing so much, but a part of him is utterly delighted that they want to hear about him, too. They might actually want to know about this part of his relationship, too.

Or maybe they just want the insider knowledge about boys he now has. He edges toward hysteria when he thinks about the Glee Club guys coming to him to thank him for their girlfriends' new-found knowledge in the bedroom.

He has never been so grateful for Rachel's father as when Hiram sweeps into the room and announces that he has whipped up some cocoa and cinnamon twists that they absolutely must devour before they get cold.

Kurt knows from Rachel's speculative look that he's not off the hook, but at least it gives him time to regroup.

*

Kurt skips down the steps with even more of a song in his heart than usual and opens the front door to find Blaine there, impeccably dressed in a sweater vest, bow tie, and new blazer, holding out a single red rose. Kurt takes it with a smile he can't quite keep under control and steps back to let him into the front hall.

"You look amazing," Blaine says quietly, his eyes darting over to where Kurt's father is sitting watching TV on the couch.

"Thank you." Kurt twirls for him, showing off his own new jacket, which he'd just finished taking in a half hour ago. He knows he looks good; he's been planning this outfit for a week. "You do, too."

Blaine mimics him and spins as well, his arms out and a grin on his face. Kurt's smile grows even wider. He is in such a good mood, and Blaine is, too. This is going to be a great night.

"See you later, Dad!" Kurt calls over his shoulder, patting his pocket to be sure he has his phone.

"Curfew's at ten," his father calls back. "And that means inside with the door shut, not out on the porch."

Kurt's heart falls. It's already six-thirty; they'll barely have any time together, and Kurt had plans for a moonlit walk (and possible making out session) after dinner. "Ten?"

"School night," his father says with a shrug.

Kurt gives Blaine an apologetic glance and steps closer to his father, lowering his voice. "Dad," he pleads. "It's our anniversary."

His father gives him a long look, then turns his attention to Blaine, who is waiting by the door with the politest, saddest, most unassuming expression on his face as he deliberately doesn't watch them.

Kurt knows his father is going to stick to his curfew. He knows he is. It is a school night, and when his dad is around he's strict about it, probably because he feels like he needs to make up for being away so much.

"You have to be in by ten," his dad says, and Kurt can feel his throat tightening with disappointment, "but Blaine can come over and stay 'til twelve if his parents agree. Down here, not your room."

Kurt nods immediately. He's willing to give up his intimate plans if he has to, but he really doesn't want to give up Blaine. Maybe they can sit out on the back steps; that'll still be romantic under the stars.

"Okay?" his dad says to Blaine, who looks a bit like he was just told he won the lottery.

"Yes. Thank you," Blaine says.

"Thanks, Dad." Kurt gives his father a quick hug and heads toward the door with all of the elated bounce back in his step.

"You're welcome," his dad calls after him. "Happy Anniversary."

Kurt takes Blaine's hand and leads him down the driveway toward his car. He doesn't want to be late for their dinner reservations. They've been together a year - a whole year, so much longer than most high school couples, but then he and Blaine are far better and stronger of a couple than those others could ever imagine - and there's so much to celebrate.

*

Kurt knows he's unique, but he isn't Unique. He has no urge to look like a woman. It's fine that Wade does, but that isn't for Kurt at all. He's a man. He wants to look like a man, albeit with a fabulously creative sense of style.

He hates that yet again society around him is so narrow-minded that they - and he, because he never really considered otherwise - lump the two of them together without making a distinction. Not because Kurt doesn't see the similarities but because once he's thought about it he also appreciates the differences between them.

The good thing about saying the wrong thing to Wade is that Kurt knows better now, both about himself and about the diversity of people around him.

Different isn't just one thing.

*

Kurt is used to the only person in his life who looks at him with appreciation for his style and his features being Blaine. Boys and girls both drool over Blaine, but Blaine is the only one who is attracted to Kurt, and even then it took Blaine a while to see.

Blaine has more than made up for his initial blindness, although as Blaine backs off little by little as the spring semester goes on a part of Kurt wonders if it was always inevitable. They're in love, they're best friends, but the reality is that from the start Blaine wasn't drawn to Kurt the way Kurt was to Blaine. Kurt doesn't like the loss of the stars in Blaine's eyes, but maybe he has to accept that they were only ever going to be temporary.

Then there's Chandler, and Kurt learns from the interest in his expression and the forwardness of his texts that not everyone in the world is blind to him. He learns with a thrill of vindication that other boys can think he's attractive from the first second they see him.

He learns that it's a seductive thing for him to be wanted. He learns that it clouds his judgment as surely as alcohol does Blaine's.

He learns that Blaine's love for him is no less intense for being filled with insecurity and fear.

Kurt learns that there's a big difference between him being captivated from afar by a handsome man like Cooper and encouraging the attention a not-so-innocent boy who finds him attractive.

He never thought he'd have be in the position to learn it, but as he walks down the hall with his arm around his boyfriend he's glad he did. Not just because he still has Blaine but because now there should never be a doubt in either of their minds that they're together because they want to be, not because there aren't other choices.

*

"I want to do something with you," Blaine tells him over the phone one night as they're studying for finals in their respective rooms.

Kurt almost has his math problem solved, so he answers with a vaguely inquisitive sound.

"Kurt," Blaine says, something vulnerable in his voice catching Kurt's attention.

Kurt raises his head. "I'm here," he says, and he has no idea why his heart is suddenly pounding so hard.

"I know we should be talking about this in person," Blaine says softly into Kurt's ear, "but I want to - I've been thinking about - you."

"Me?"

"Yes." There's the sound of something rustling, like Blaine has put his books down or has turned onto his side. "I've been thinking about you… in me. And I'd like to, if you'd like to."

Kurt's brain freezes, because he'd assumed it was about - about - he can't even think about what had been in his head ten seconds ago. Blaine's saying - Blaine wants him to -

"We don't have to," Blaine says into Kurt's stunned silence. "Really, it's fine, don't even think about - "

"Okay," Kurt says, and he's impressed that he can manage not one but two syllables.

"Okay?"

"Yes."

Blaine laughs a little, the sound a combination of relief and nerves. "Okay. We should, you know, talk about it and - but - okay."

"Okay," Kurt says with a laugh of his own.

So a week later when they have the time and space in Kurt's empty house they curl up facing each other on Kurt's bed with their shoes off and their clothes on and talk in soft voices about Blaine wanting to feel that close and Kurt wanting to be sure he's not still feeling insecure about Kurt leaving, because the last thing he wants is for Blaine to do something he's not ready for because he's afraid of losing Kurt.

"No," Blaine says, rubbing his thumb over Kurt's cheek. "I promise. I don't want to lie and say that you going away isn't part of it, but it's because when we do take this step I want to know we're still going to have months together before you leave."

It's a lot to take in, and Kurt has to be sure. He hadn't thought they'd get here yet. He'd always assumed it would have to be the other way when they did. "Blaine, not every gay man even does this, and we can wait until we're together again in New York next year. We have our whole lives for this - "

"I know, and we can wait if you want to wait," Blaine tells him, his eyes and his voice steady. "Of course we can wait."

"But you want to?" Kurt asks just as steadily.

Blaine nods and flushes a little, but he doesn't look away. "I've been thinking about it. I can't stop, honestly. I think I'd really like it."

"You do?"

"Yes," Blaine says, flushing even more. "And I'd like to feel that close to you. I'd like to be as near to you as I can. I want to have that with you. I want to be able to remember doing it with you instead of just imagining it."

Kurt thinks for a minute about what it would mean both emotionally and practically, thinks about whether he'd like it (the idea of Blaine stretched out under him, around him, wanting him inside of him is a yes like a punch to the gut), thinks about how he wants Blaine to be his first everything - his only everything - and wants to give Blaine every first he wants, too.

He kisses Blaine softly on the mouth and says, "Okay." He doesn't know how he could possibly say no when Blaine is opening up his heart like that.

Blaine smiles - warm, happy, and without a hint of reservation - and pulls Kurt in for another kiss.

They have plenty of time that day, and Kurt uses it. He kisses every inch of Blaine's skin, lets Blaine blow him until they're both aching with it and then goes down on Blaine until he comes and gets hard all over again. (He read it will help if Blaine is relaxed, but it also takes some of Kurt's anxiety away because he already knows he's made Blaine feel good even if the rest of the afternoon goes horribly wrong.)

And then with his heart full to bursting with love and terror he gets lubricant on his fingers and slowly works them into Blaine.

"Okay?" Kurt asks over and over, with each press deeper, with each additional finger.

"Kurt," Blaine finally says with a fond gasp of a laugh, "do I look like it's not okay?"

Kurt looks up from where his fingers are twisting in Blaine's body and sees the sweat on Blaine's skin, the fullness of his cock against his belly, the way he's continuing to rock his hips even now that Kurt's hand is still. "Oh," Kurt says, feeling like a fool.

"I love that you want this to be good," Blaine says, pushing himself down a little harder onto Kurt's fingers, "but it is and you are and would you please just fuck me now?"

The juxtaposition of 'please' and 'fuck' in Blaine's sex-dark voice almost makes Kurt laugh, only he has something he'd much rather be doing right now. So he gets a condom, makes sure they're both ready, hovers over Blaine to center himself with a long, greedy kiss, and looks into Blaine's eyes as he pushes inside.

It's not what Kurt thought it would be. He doesn't know what he expected, but it's not this, this amazing pressure, this burning heat, these noises coming low from his own throat just from the sensation of Blaine's body opening around him and Blaine's hands on his skin urging him even closer.

He doesn't expect to be able to laugh against Blaine's own smiling mouth at the awkwardness of adjusting to something new and then for them both to stop laughing in an instant when it's no longer awkward at all.

He doesn't expect to feel good at it. He doesn't expect the way his hips know just the right angle by the pitch of Blaine's groans. He doesn't expect how his thoughts shut off and his body takes over, thrusting slowly and carefully but with a liquid grace he didn't know he possessed. He doesn't expect the fire in Blaine's eyes, not just for the act but for him, as they move together faster and faster, finding the right rhythm together like they always do in everything.

Kurt doesn't expect how tightly he wants to hold Blaine afterwards, the lump in his throat that keeps him from speaking, or the peace in his heart, because maybe they don't do things like everyone else, but when they do things together it always seems to be right.

*

Due to the vagaries of the schedules of everyone in New Directions, Puck throws a combined graduation/going away/July 4th party on the last weekend in June. It's filled with music, alcohol, games, and crescendos of laughter that disguise the tears lurking just beneath.

Brittany puts together an iMovie of pictures of all of them (and Lord Tubbington, and, for some reason, Tony Blair - "He took England in a new direction," she says.) that sends Rachel and Tina from the room in search of tissues, and afterwards Puck brings out even more beer and a bunch of harder liquor too, and things get even crazier.

At two in the morning, Kurt finds himself tucked in a deep chair with Blaine sitting across his lap. Blaine is playing with Kurt's fingers while he talks animatedly to Rachel, who is sprawled on a big pillow at Kurt's feet. They sound happy, even if Kurt's not quite sure why they care quite so much about the animal sidekicks in Disney musicals.

It's a good moment. Kurt is comfortable and warm from Blaine's weight in his lap. He has his friends around him. A small part of him never wants to move again. He wishes he could capture this moment in a bottle and take it with him to revisit in years to come. Blaine's been drinking, but Kurt hasn't, and it's only fatigue and nostalgia that are making things hazy and thick around him.

"Presents!" Santana announces, coming in with gift bags bursting with a riot of brightly colored tissue paper.

"The invitation distinctly said no presents," Rachel leans up to tell her.

Puck looks up from the game of beer pong he's playing with Mike, Sam, and Artie. "I sent out invitations?"

"No, and you're welcome for correcting your oversight," Rachel says.

"Whatever, just take your bag." Santana drops one by Rachel and tosses one into Kurt's lap; he catches it before it smacks Blaine in the face. It's surprisingly heavy.

"Presents!" Blaine says with delight.

"Uh huh." Kurt holds it away from his grabbing hands, mostly because he has no idea what's inside. Knowing Santana, it might bite.

"Um…" Rachel is holding the strap of a red and black lacy monstrosity of a push-up bra between her thumb and forefinger.

"I was looking for hot pink, but they didn't have any in training bra sizes," Santana says over her shoulder as she drops another bag in Finn's lap and puts one on the table next to Puck. "It'll still do the trick."

"If she wears that she'll look like she should be turning tricks," Kurt says, and then he winces and wishes he never had that mental image of a scantily clad Rachel trying to attract cars on a street corner. It's not so much the prostitution as the scantily clad Rachel that's the problem.

"Hey, show business is all about looks," Santana says. "Since she's all no to plastic surgery these days, this way she'll have something to shake at her auditions."

Rachel puts the bra back into the bag as Finn's eyes follow it. "I am going to take the gift in the spirit in which it is intended and say thank you."

"What's in your bag, Kurt?" Blaine asks, leaning forward to try to look inside.

Kurt settles Blaine back more safely against the arm of the chair and says, "Somehow I don't think it's something useful like hand sanitizer or an iTunes gift card."

"It's way better," Santana promises.

Kurt pulls out the plume of tissue and looks inside. There is a huge and shockingly realistic (apart from the color) purple plastic dildo and a large bottle of what looks to be flavored lubricant.

He puts the tissue back into the bag.

Santana walks over and pulls it out again, tossing it over her shoulder. Tina giggles and bats at it like a cat. "So you won't be too lonely in New York without your pocket boyfriend. I had to guess his size, but I figure he's got to have something good going on in his pants to make up for the bow tie obsession."

"Thanks!" Blaine says. He pulls the bag out of Kurt's numb fingers and peers inside. "Strawberry, yum. Although Kurt doesn't like to mix food and sex. He says it's unsanitary."

"Blaine," Kurt warns, the fog that had descended over him clearing.

"Right, sorry, no sharing details with Santana. I forgot."

Santana leans in with a delighted gleam in her eyes. "Aw, you boys have a rule about me? Here, Blaine, let me get you another drink, and you can tell me all about it."

Kurt can feel anger boiling up in him, curling around itself like a snake getting ready to strike, and he knows with the rational part of his mind that part of it's the heightened emotion of the evening, the last time they'll be together like this. However, part of it is also that the gift is from Santana, which means he shouldn't be surprised except that she of all people should know better than to make assumptions about people and what they do in private.

It's the assumption that's the problem, he realizes. It's how she probably didn't even give it a second thought. The gift itself is tacky, but so is the bra she gave Rachel. It's that to her eyes he obviously needed the dildo. Even after knowing him for so many years, even after seeing his relationship with Blaine with their own eyes every single day, the people who are the closest to him - because as much as they might snap at each other, he still counts Santana as a friend - don't understand who he is. They're never going to understand. He's always going to be thought of as the girl in the relationship, in a relationship in which there are no girls at all.

A part of Kurt seethes with fury, because if they only knew that it's not Kurt but Blaine who likes to be on his knees with Kurt stretched over his back or sitting in Kurt's lap with Kurt buried deep in him, if only they knew how the Blaine they all admire looks at him with love and trust and adoration, if they only knew the equality and give and take between them, if they only knew what he and Blaine know about themselves maybe they wouldn't be so small-minded and make these ridiculous, gendered, narrow assumptions about two people in love.

He wants to spit something equally as hateful and angry right back at her.

But then he looks around the room at Puck, at Sam, at Joe, at these people who don't bat an eyelash when Blaine spins him around on the dance floor or perches on his lap, at these people who have hugged him tightly at competitions, at graduation, or on his worst days, and he realizes that people are always going to make assumptions, no matter how well they know him. It's what people do. They can still love him.

It is never going to sit well to be judged as anything but himself, but Kurt takes a breath and lets just enough of the anger go that he can flash Santana a tight smile, pry the bag from Blaine's hands, and put it on the floor beside his chair. He doesn't know if they'll take it with them when they leave in the morning (he thinks Blaine might like to have it, actually), but he doesn't have to throw it back in her face.

"I am going to follow Rachel's lead for once and say thank you," Kurt says.

"Yes, that's really thoughtful of you, Santana," Blaine says with a drunken earnestness.

"I wouldn't go that far," Kurt drawls.

"I told you we should have gotten the one that vibrates," Brittany tells Santana.

Blaine's eyes light up, and Kurt fights the urge to put his hand over his own. Instead he throws out a desperate disparaging remark about the genie in Aladdin and accepts the twenty minute lecture he gets from Blaine and Rachel as the price for changing the topic.

*

Blaine says yes to him. Yes and yes and always yes to duets and shopping trips and skin care and romance and sex and every little thing Kurt ever wants.

It makes Kurt want to say yes in return to everything Blaine asks for.

When he lies awake in the middle of the night thinking of the future, of New York without Blaine and later with Blaine, of being apart before they can be together again, it makes Kurt want to say yes to the things Blaine doesn't ask for, too.

*

In late July, Kurt and Rachel sign a lease for an apartment near school. Kurt can't afford to travel to see it in person, and he doesn't trust Rachel's glowing descriptions when she gets home. He does, however, trust Hiram's comments about the natural light in the living room and LeRoy's insistence that there weren't cockroaches anywhere visible. He spends the next week dreaming up color schemes and pulling fabric swatches and furniture ideas together for mood boards for every room. (All three of them - two cramped bedrooms and a living room, plus the postage stamp sized bathroom and a kitchen that can barely be called more than a sink, two burners, and an inch of countertop.)

As Kurt draws up floor plans for his tiny room and tries to come up with creative solutions for fitting even a third of his wardrobe into the apartment, he closes his eyes and imagines what he'd like to see when he's lying on his bed. Would he prefer the window that mostly faces the brick wall of the building next to theirs, or would he prefer to gaze at some picture of his choosing, perhaps a black and white antique photograph of Paris? He tries to imagine what it will feel like to sit there with his books or laptop, what kind of respite he'll need from his busy New York life.

A creeping sense of loneliness steals over him as he thinks, and he opens his eyes to his own familiar, spacious bedroom, with its trinkets and photos from his life so far. He's excited to chase his dreams, but he's leaving so much behind - his family, his boyfriend. He's going to miss them like an ache every day. It won't slow him down, but he's still going to feel it.

He thinks about everything he wants to do before he goes; he'll need to go shopping with Carole so she doesn't revert to acid wash mom jeans while he's gone, he should probably help out in the shop to spend some time with his dad when he's not out doing the political things that keep him so busy, he should go to that stupid superhero movie with Finn, and he should pay some serious attention to Blaine.

He should make sure that he doesn't lie on that bed in New York looking at whatever he's chosen and regret a minute of how he spent or didn't spend his summer.

Kurt doesn't want to regret anything with the people he loves.

So around packing and planning he finds Carole some perfect new basics for her closet (and two new dresses for events), he gets his longer fingers dirty with grease when his dad's can't quite reach the nut that needs to be tightened on Mr. Abrams' Volvo, he learns the basics of Call of Duty and Mario Kart, and he takes Blaine to brunch, to dinner, to the movies, to the theater, to the outskirts of town to look at the stars, anything, anywhere, any time they can be together.

And when Blaine's moaning brokenly around his cock and driving him right to the very edge of his orgasm before pulling back again and again one afternoon a week before Kurt's going to drive to New York with his dad and far too few of his belongings to start this new stage of his life, Kurt feels tears spark in the corners of his eyes and says in a whisper, "Blaine, stop."

Blaine does, and he looks up, his eyes as wild as his hair and his chest heaving. He wipes his red, wet mouth on the back of his wrist and swallows. "Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away. You don't like being teased so much." He rubs an apology over Kurt's thigh, leans down and kisses his hip with his eyes still locked on Kurt's.

"I want to do something else," Kurt says, and Blaine's eyes gleam.

"Okay," he replies.

Kurt takes a shallow breath and tries not to panic. He knows what he wants, and he also knows he could suggest a sixty-nine or something else they don't do often (because if Kurt likes the feedback loop of that position he isn't so fond of the way Blaine get so into it that he almost invariably ends up coming on Kurt's face, no matter that he doesn't mean to) and Blaine would go along with it. But he's (almost) never backed down from a challenge, and he's not going to start now.

"Come here?" Kurt asks; he can't do this if Blaine's so far away.

Blaine slithers up him and drapes himself half over Kurt with a smile like there's nowhere else he'd rather be. Maybe that's true.

"I want to do something," Kurt says. "Something new. For me."

Blaine's smile fades, not because he's unhappy but because he's listening. "Anything," he promises.

Kurt doesn't know how to ask. He hates that he still feels shame in saying the words, but the echoes of so many bullies are there, may always be there. He just has to talk around them.

"I've been thinking about New York. About going away," Kurt says, watching Blaine's smile fade even further into confusion. Kurt is officially the biggest buzz-kill ever in the history of everyone who has ever had sex. "Oh my god, I'm saying this all wrong." He fights the urge to turn his head away and ask Blaine to forget he said anything at all.

"Just tell me, Kurt," Blaine says gently.

"I want you to be all of my firsts, Blaine," Kurt says helplessly, knowing it's probably wrong as soon as it's out of his mouth. "I don't want to go to school and be sorry you weren't."

Blaine's face falls in hurt and dismay, and his whole body tenses. "What?"

"No, no," Kurt says, getting his hand around Blaine's shoulder before he can pull away. "I don't mean I'm going to do things with other people; I mean I don't want to be there and wish I'd done more with you when I could."

Slowly relaxing again, Blaine says, "Okay, but I also don't want you to be there being sorry you did something just because you're panicking now about leaving."

"I'm not panicking about leaving."

"You are a little," Blaine says with a hint of a grin.

"Okay, a little. But… I could never be sorry about doing anything with you, Blaine," Kurt assures him softly, and he knows that so deep in his heart not even the disdainful voices of the whole world could drown it out.

Blaine smiles at him again and asks, "What do you want to do?"

Kurt keeps his eyes open and tells him.

Blaine's hands are shaking even more than Kurt's as he caresses Kurt's back and peppers kisses down his spine. Kurt has to trust him that it is the most comfortable in this position, and if he's not so much worried about pain (because he can't imagine Blaine would ever be anything but careful with him) having his face buried in a pillow does have the distinct advantage of him not having to hide any of his expressions, good or bad.

He trusts, too, that even if Blaine is behind him and over him, too distant, his hands possessive on Kurt's hips the way Kurt likes to hold him when Blaine wants to be on his knees like this, he won't ever say any of the things that Kurt has been told over the years about this being exactly where someone like him belongs.

Blaine's fingers moving inside of him feel better than Kurt's own experiments over recent weeks, but that's mostly because they come with Blaine's murmured words of encouragement.

"I love you so much. You feel so good. You're so hot. God, Kurt, I love you," Blaine breathes, and the awe in his voice is enough to keep Kurt from feeling too ridiculous to continue.

Kurt is only half-hard by the time he thinks he's as stretched as he is going to be, but he figures he'll feel less self-conscious with Blaine's body closer to his. The position, the cool air that's around him instead of Blaine, it's not helping him let go of his worries. So he squeezes his eyes shut and tries to stay still as Blaine gets his knees between Kurt's legs, kisses his neck and shoulders, and carefully pushes his cock inside.

Blaine is so, so big and so, so careful and so, so vocal about how much he likes it that, even though he feels like he can't breathe, Kurt can assure him that it's okay.

And it is okay. It's Blaine wrapped around him, in him, breathing in hot gasps against his back and touching him with so much love and care that it doesn't matter that Kurt's panting and moaning a little but not burning with need. He can't relax into it. He can't give into it, but it feels nice to be so close. He's still doing this with Blaine, and it's making Blaine feel good, and that's plenty. Kurt doesn't have to like everything. He just wants to have had it.

"Oh, god, Kurt tell me what you need," Blaine says, his voice getting that growl to it that means he's getting closer. His hips snap faster, and he tugs at Kurt's hip to keep him steady or get him to rock in time, Kurt doesn't know what, he doesn't know how to do this if his own body isn't telling him. He's aroused but not enough to keep up.

He jerks when Blaine's hand slides forward to find his only partially erect cock, and Blaine stops moving immediately. His hand drops away, and he says, "Kurt?" in the most broken voice Kurt has heard from him in a long time.

"It's okay," Kurt assures him.

"What can I do?"

"Just… keep going. It's okay."

But Blaine says, "No," and pulls away, out, and Kurt turns and grabs for his wrist, because if Blaine leaves the bed, the room, Kurt's heart is going to break into a hundred thousand glass-sharp pieces.

"It's okay," Kurt tells him again, desperate for it to be.

"You're not - you don't like it," Blaine says, tears in his words as he strips off the condom. "And that's okay, that's totally okay, but I'm not going to keep going if you don't like it. That's - no. No, never."

"Blaine." Kurt gets his knees under himself and pulls Blaine into his arms. Blaine comes, and as soon as he's close enough Kurt kisses him. He kisses him to apologize for his failings, to thank him for trying, and to show just how much he loves him. "I want to be close to you in every single way I can," he murmurs against Blaine's mouth.

"I know - I know, but - "

Kurt hates the insecurity in Blaine's voice, the insecurity he put there, so he urges Blaine down onto his back and kisses him again more deeply, kiss after kiss until Blaine's melting under his touch. There's no plan to it, just the need to keep Blaine from pulling away and take away some of the hurt he never meant to deal.

Blaine's hands roam over his back and sides, over Kurt's face and into his hair, and Kurt straddles his waist and kisses him again and again until his body tells him it does know what it wants after all.

"Can we do it like this?" Kurt asks, pulling back enough that he can see Blaine's eyes.

"You don't like it," Blaine says, no judgment or hurt there now, just concern.

"Let me try." So they find the supplies and try again, and this time when Blaine's pushing inside Kurt can see the tight control on Blaine's face and the love and lust beneath it all. Kurt can squeeze Blaine's hands as he sinks lower and lower onto him until his heart is in his throat and his body is impossibly full and flush against Blaine's. He can clench and rock and move however he wants, and after a minute or two of experimentation, he finds he does want. He really, really does.

His body knows just what it wants, and Kurt gives in and reaches for it. He rocks and rides and watches Blaine watch him until Kurt has to shut his eyes and just feel. He feels so much, everywhere, all around him, in him. He feels the strength of Blaine's hands as they mold to his hips and help steady him, he feels the sweat clinging to them both as he runs his hands over Blaine's gorgeous stomach, chest, and thighs, he feels the solid heat of Blaine's cock moving within him like a second heartbeat. He feels like he's drowning in sensation. He feels like he's being taken over. He feels so caught in the moment he couldn't possibly move away. He feels Blaine everywhere, and because it's Blaine Kurt lets him in.

Because it's Blaine, Kurt lets himself go.

Blaine's groans are a steady rumble of desperation and wonder by the time Kurt tugs at him and rolls them over so he's underneath again, this time on his back, his hips rising to meet Blaine's sharp, perfect thrusts and working feverishly together to push them both over the edge. And with their bodies locked together and breathing each other's air, they get there all too soon. Blaine's not holding him down but holding him close. Blaine's not taking but sharing, and Kurt's body flexes and arches, doing exactly the same, before he loses his hold on anything but Blaine and breaks apart entirely.

Kurt's orgasm is too intense, too deep, too much, really, and he doesn't know if he likes how it's almost stifling with how much he feels split apart and exposed. He feels shattered, mute, and weak. He feels like his heart has been broken open. He feels lost, like he's shown too much of himself. He's not sure, as he curls in the safe circle of Blaine's arms, if he'll be able to put himself back together again.

He listens to the words of love Blaine is whispering, returns his soft kisses and caresses, feels the way they're both trembling with aftershocks, and thinks that even this act that used to terrify him and in a way still does (but now for different reasons, for how deeply it's shaken him and how he's pretty sure probably always will no matter how many times they do it - letting go will never be easy for Kurt) isn't the shameful surrender and submission he'd always been told it was but is a gift instead. It's the gift of letting someone close. It's the gift of letting himself go.

"How do you feel?" Blaine asks softly when Kurt looks up into his beautiful eyes and smiles at him. His fingertips glide along the edge of Kurt's hairline.

"A little overwhelmed, but I'm happy," Kurt says when he finds his voice. "I'm happy I did that with you. It was exactly what I wanted. Even better."

Blaine's smile wobbles. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Kurt tells him. He kisses Blaine's mouth, his cheek, and feels the pieces of himself reassembling as Blaine holds him like he's standing in for the armor Kurt usually has around himself until it's back in place. "Thank you for letting me figure it out."

"It was - I mean, it was definitely my pleasure when you did," Blaine says, his expression wavering somewhere between appreciative and bashful.

Kurt watches him and sees the worry still lingering in his sleepy eyes. "Are you okay? Are you happy, too?"

"Only if you're sure," Blaine says with gentle concern. "Because - "

Kurt cups Blaine's face and says, "Blaine, I am always sure when it comes to you."

Blaine smiles at him again and pulls him that much closer. "Then I'm perfect."

*

The night before Kurt leaves for New York, he and Blaine sit side-by-side out on his back steps into the wee hours of the morning, their arms around each other and their heads leaning together. All of their promises have been made. All of their fevered kisses have been given. All that's left is the quiet joy of being in the other's presence while they still can.

Kurt shuts his eyes and breathes in slowly, savoring the smell of Blaine's skin, his detergent, his hair product. His hands flex on Blaine's back to memorize the firmness of his body. He listens to the rasp of Blaine's shuddering breath so close in his ear.

It's all so precious to him. He realizes he's taken it a bit for granted, having Blaine at his side, but it's in a good way, that he couldn't even consider a different option.

Kurt lived for so many years without any of this, without the love and understanding of anyone but his father, and he knows he can do it again. He has no doubt that he can if it comes to it. He just doesn't want to.

"I love you," he whispers, one last promise, the most important one he can give.

*

Goodbyes are always going to be hard for Kurt, and he can barely breathe as he turns around in the front seat and watches Blaine's tear-stained face grow further away at the end of the driveway beside Carole's as Kurt and his dad drive away.

Starting again is hard, too. Having to make the right first impressions, having to make new friends, having to fight for recognition of his talents, it's all going to be a struggle. He's going to have to do it all on his own. But it's easier knowing that he's done it before and that he still has all of that love in his life, no matter that the people are hundreds of miles away. He hasn't lost any of it. He doesn't have to give up the love and acceptance of his family and friends to reach for his dreams.

He never really thought he'd have any of this, as much as he wanted it, and somehow he does. He does, and he gets to take it all with him.

*

Kurt takes his seat in his first class on his first day of college with a lot of excitement and a little bit of nervousness. He changed his outfit three times this morning, just to get the right blend of sophisticated and on trend, and as he looks around the room at the eclectic mix of styles of his fellow students he's not actually sure he nailed it.

"Hi, I'm Dan," the boy next to him says, and Kurt turns to him with surprise.

"Kurt," he replies, holding out his hand.

Dan shakes it, flicks his eyes over Kurt's ensemble, and says, "Gay, huh?"

Kurt chills and answers with a reserved, distant, "Yes."

"Great," Dan says with a smile. He rifles through his binder and pulls out a bright pink flyer. "I'm tacking these up today. We have an LGBT lunch group on Thursdays if you want to come. It's mostly theater gossip and bitching, I'll warn you now."

Looking down at the paper and feeling like he's been swept up in a tornado like Dorothy and has landed in Oz, Kurt manages to say, "I like theater gossip and bitching."

Dan pats him on the shoulder. "Then you'll fit right in."

*

There are a lot of cute gay boys in New York. A lot of them, and a decent number think Kurt is cute, too.

Kurt is flattered, thrilled, and charmed.

He also is never happier than when he sees Blaine's face light up on the computer screen at the first sight of him over Skype each night.

He saves those smiles in his heart for when he is lying in his bed and feeling lonely, lost, frustrated, or sad. He saves the songs Blaine has sung and the special moments he has planned. He saves the memory of every hug, caress, every kiss, every sweet touch or soft word, every groan, every plea, every gasp and moan and sigh of Blaine's desire and love for him.

He pulls them all out of his heart when he is aching from the inequities of life, school, and friends and feels not a lick of temptation when another cute boy smiles at him on the street.

Kurt knows what he wants. He knows what he's worth. He's not going to accept anything less.

*

Kurt and Blaine go out with most of New Directions to an all ages club in Lima on New Year's Eve. It's not Kurt's first choice of activities by far, but Blaine wants to go, and most of Kurt's McKinley friends will be there. So he agrees and pulls out his favorite new shirt from New York - black, tight, with a shimmer to it that will flash in the lights - to wear with his jeans.

(Blaine's eyes go hungry when he first sees him in it, and Kurt decides that it's going to be a good night after all if he's going to get that sort of attention.)

They dance mostly in a group, and Kurt gravitates to Rachel, Mercedes, and Brittany while Blaine's more at ease with the current members of the club like Sam and Tina. It makes Kurt acutely aware of how they're living their lives more separately than they were the year before, and it hurts a little even though he's glad that it isn't putting too much distance between them beyond the actual miles and the weird freeze-skip that Skype sometimes does, which makes reading each other's expressions that much harder.

While the Glee group is a writhing free-form knot of dancing and laughing in one corner of the club when the music is fast, during the slow songs they pair off. Kurt doesn't hesitate to dance with Blaine. He wants to. He's missed Blaine, and he lets himself be pulled close, cheek to cheek, because although they've spent every minute together they could over the break so far they've had very little time alone. It's a luxury just to feel the heat of Blaine's body against him, the squeeze of Blaine's arm around his back, the breath of Blaine's voice against his ear as Blaine sings along to the music. Kurt has missed this so much his chest aches with his happiness.

Late in the evening, after the ball has dropped but long before they're ready to leave, Kurt sees a group of guys glaring at them over Blaine's shoulder. Their faces are vaguely familiar. He can easily lip-read the mocking words they sneer out across the floor when they see him watching.

For a brief moment, he feels the old, bone-deep fear of what they could do to him, to Blaine. He remembers how the miasma of shame from being taunted could follow him around for days, years afterwards. He is nauseated by the sudden reminder of it all, so different from what he sees on a daily basis in his new home.

Then Kurt remembers where he is and who he is. He's not alone. He's not scared. He's not intimidated. He doesn't have to be. He doesn't have to care for a single second that they think he's weak, feminine, or freaky.

Kurt knows he is none of those things. He's strong enough to live in New York, to fight to rise to the top of a very difficult industry, and to hold the love of a kind, attractive, talented man.

Kurt just closes his eyes, tips his face against Blaine's, and ignores them, because they don't know a fucking thing about him, and, really, they never did.

*

Kurt finds the most amazing silk scarf at a little boutique in Greenwich Village. It's more than he should spend, but he loves the interlocking pattern of flying birds too much to let it pass by him. It reminds him a bit of one his mother once had, only updated for the current decade.

He saves it to wear until Blaine's visit over spring break. (It is only a little difficult to wait, but Kurt likes the sense of occasion, and Blaine is worth it.)

Rachel has flown back to Lima for the week, so he and Blaine have the apartment to themselves. They cook meals together in the kitchen, walk hand-in-hand to get the paper in the morning, and curl up on the sofa as they read it. They rush tickets for the theater, put dinner on Blaine's father's credit card, fall asleep in each other's arms in bed, and pretend, just for a few days, that this is their life together.

Next year it will be.

They sit in a café near FIT after a trip to their museum near the end of Blaine's visit, have coffee, and critique outfits of passersby. (Kurt critiques; Blaine tries not to laugh and warns him that people might overhear.)

Kurt becomes aware after a little while that Blaine's attention is drifting from his commentary, and Kurt turns and watches Blaine watch New York pass by on the other side of the big windows next to them. Blaine's eyes are bright and full of emotion, not just excitement but something else.

"What?" Kurt asks softly, nudging Blaine's leg with the toe of his boot.

"We're in New York," Blaine says with a breathless wonder, like the moment could disappear in a blink like a bubble bursting.

Kurt laughs, although he knows just what Blaine means. They're in New York. "You're just noticing now? The subway and seeing a show on Broadway didn't clue you in earlier?"

"Look around, Kurt."

Kurt does. It's a coffee shop, busy with people on laptops and chattering couples at tables. "What?"

"I'm not the only one in a bow tie, Kurt. You're not the only one wearing a fabulous scarf. You're not the only man wearing one."

"FIT is next door," Kurt reminds him, but the picture before him starts to bleed into what Blaine must see, what Kurt's never needed to see because he's always cared more about standing out than fitting in.

But what Blaine sees is that even though Kurt still has his own unique sense of style and nobody quite pulls off Brooks Brothers chic as well as Blaine they aren't the only ones in the room, in the city, who look like them.

They're not in Lima; they're in New York.

They aren't the only well-dressed men. They aren't the only gay men. Though they will always be judged on their appearance and orientation, it can't be solely about that, because they aren't the only ones like them. They're special, but they aren't all that different.

Kurt smiles at Blaine and offers him his hand across the table, and Blaine's smile is bigger than it has even been when he takes it.

Later that night when they're pressed against each other on the couch, kissing with soft smiles before they heat up into something more wicked, Kurt thinks about getting to share this big, exciting city with Blaine instead of just showing it to him. He thinks about careers and commitments and a space that's just their own.

He thinks of being two people in eight million, of the fight it will be to stand out and reach their dreams and the bliss of being just another couple in the blur of the city.

He thinks of being Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson, individually and as a pair.

Kurt isn't sure exactly where they will be or what they'll be doing when they're adults, in ten years, in twenty. He isn't sure where life will take them or what will be right for them.

But he knows, as Blaine nuzzles against his throat and chuckles to himself when he can't get the knot of Kurt's scarf undone and Kurt distracts him further by getting a hand under Blaine's shirt to skim up his ribs, that they will still be themselves.

This is who they are and are meant to be.

Kurt knows like he knows the angles of his own face that he is who he is. This is who he is.

Himself.

~end~