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Redemption

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Title: Redemption
Category: TV Shows » Glee
Author: Leista
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Drama/Romance
Published: 11-15-10, Updated: 12-22-10

***

Kurt pushed himself away from the locked after Karofsky added another bruise to his already impressive collection. His first attempt at a confrontation with Karofsky had just made things worse, but this has to stop!

In the past two weeks since Karofsky had stolen his first real kiss, his attacks had gotten more violent, rougher, and more frequent. Kurt was tired of it. He had to do something.

And it's not like anybody's going to help me, he thought for the dozenth time that day. He dodged around one student and squeezed between two others to catch up with Karofsky's retreating form. Blaine would try to help, but Karofsky'd probably rip him apart. Finn, my almost-stepbrother, would just say that I'm being overly dramatic. And Dad, Dad needs to focus on getting better. I don't want him back in the hospital because of me, because of this. Kurt finally caught up with Karofsky and tapped him on the shoulder. Maybe I won't get pulverized.

Karofsky turned around, eyes going a little wide when he saw Kurt. Kurt grabbed his arm as he started to walk away.

"We need to talk," Kurt said, grip tightening on Karofsky's arm. Oh, he was living dangerously.

"Get your hands off of me, homo," Karofsky muttered, looking anywhere but at him.

Kurt snatched his hand away and, without thinking about it, slapped Karofsky hard across the face. Of the few remaining students in the hallway, only one looked up, then quickly turned back to jamming a book in his locker.

And then Kurt did something stupid—he didn't run for his life. Instead, he watched Karofsky's face flush red (redder in the faint outline of a hand print across his cheek) and his hands ball into fists. Belatedly, Kurt realized that fighting violence with violence was a very, very stupid idea. Especially when your opponent was twice your size and had a notoriously bad temper.

Kurt watched Karofsky's arms shake as he fought the urge to hit him.

"What," Karofsky growled through clenched teeth, "was that for?"

"You know exactly what that was for! Never call me that again!" Kurt was proud that his voice only wavered a little.

Karofsky's arms relaxed and he jammed his hands into his pockets. "What, I can't call you by your last name anymore, Hummel?"

"You said-"

"Hummel." Karofsky said.

"And not..."

"Not this time," he muttered.

"I'm sorry," Kurt sighed, "and thanks for not hitting me." Why am I being so polite to this jerk? Maybe you want to survive the next few minutes and not be turned into pâté? An inner voice answered.

"What do you want?" Karofsky asked, pulling hands from his pockets and crossing his arms, looking generally menacing.

"We need to talk."

"You said that already."

"You want to talk here? That's fine with me." Kurt looked down the now-deserted corridor. "But what if someone walks around the corner when I start talking about how you—"

"Fine!" Karofsky walked down the hall and found an empty classroom. He walked in without glancing back, confident that Kurt would follow. Against his better judgment, Kurt did.

"What do you want?" Karofsky asked, leaning against a desk.

"You said that already," Kurt snapped. Did he have a death wish? Pretending that he hadn't just tried to antagonize his tormentor, Kurt spoke again.

"We need to talk about what happened."

"Nothing happened," Karofsky said, voice low with either warning or embarrassment. Maybe a little of both.

"You stole something from me that I can never get back after tormenting for my whole high school life! You're such a—" Kurt clenched his jaw before he said something bad enough to set Karofsky off.

Karofsky pushed off the desk and got in Kurt's face. "I'm what? Such a dumb jock, such a chubby jerk that it's beneath you to kiss me! Is that it?"

Kurt's heart was thundering in his chest; he was well aware that things could go very badly very quick. Karofsky was nose-to-nose with him, and he was shaking again. Kurt could just feel the waves of anger roiling off of him, but he could also see a hint of fear and desperation in his eyes. Suddenly he didn't feel like yelling at Karofsky anymore.

It wasn't like he wanted to hug him or, Gaga forbid, kiss him again, but he felt a rush of understanding for the guy. What would Kurt be like without Burt there, not really getting it but trying to understand him and love him no matter what? Would he have turned out differently if he hadn't had his dad and friends there to accept him for who he really is?

Oh, it didn't excuse Karofsky's actions by any means; he was still a violent jerk who'd made Kurt's life miserable. But the fact that Karofsky was actually listening to him definitely meant a step in the right direction.

Karofsky was still in his face, but his anger had softened into confusion.

"Why aren't you yelling?" He asked, eying Kurt suspiciously.

"Because, Dave," the name felt weird on Kurt's tongue, "I think you may be making good, albeit slow progress on your issues. Very slowly."

Karofsky backed up a step, still confused. "What do you mean?"

"You haven't hit me, pushed me against the wall, kissed me, or punched anything in the past few minutes. I call that progress, although you do need to work on not being such a-," Kurt hesitated.

"Say it," Karofsky said, arms crossing again.

Kurt's danger-meter started going Ding! Ding! Ding! Red alert! So he kept his mouth shut, hoping to avoid injury. And things were going relatively okay-ish, he thought.

"Say it," Karofsky repeated, his tone gentler but stance just as aggressive.

Kurt shook his head. Next time, no matter how futile it may seem, he'd go talk to a teacher about his problem instead. It would be much safer.

"I was going to say that we need to work on you not being such a self-hating closet case and such an ignorant jackass."

Karofsky's face twisted into what Kurt believed was supposed to be a scowl, but that wasn't quite right.

"You just called me a jackass." There was incredulity and—was that a laugh? Karofsky was deflecting the real issue, and Kurt knew it.

"And a closet case." Kurt said.

"No one's ever called me a jackass before." He said, ignoring Kurt's comment.

Karofsky was laughing at him and refusing to acknowledge the real issue. Kurt gave in to temptation.

"Of course they haven't! People are too scared that you'll beat them into a bloody pulp if they say it to your face!"

"And you're not? Is that it?" Karofsky was smirking at him when he should be apologizing or at least looking serious.

"I am terrified that you'll snap and beat me black and blue, Karofsky! Worse than you already do shoving me around, that is. You've abused me in just about every since of the word over the past few years! You torment me and my friends on a daily basis! It would be stupid of me not to be scared of you."

Kurt watched Karofsky crumble before him as he finally vented his frustrations, but he couldn't stop until he was out of breath. Karofsky's face had gone from angry to shocked to ashen to ashamed in the course of Kurt's rant. Kurt saw the guilt and self-hate written in Karofsky's hunched-over posture and expression. In part, Kurt felt good seeing Karofsky raw and open like that, but another part of himself felt guilty for causing it.

Karofsky looked at the wall, not at Kurt, as he spoke.

"I'm not a jackass," he said, shaking his head. "I'm an asshole."

Kurt's empathy beat out his self-righteousness as he replied, trying to lighten the mood.

"Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to—"

"Oh, shut up," Karofsky interrupted, annoyed at Kurt's sing-song tone. He looked up and noticed that Kurt wasn't giving him the evil eye anymore. He wasn't smiling, but...

"I'm sorry," Karofsky said, "for—"

"For everything?"

"Yeah. Is that—are we okay?"

Kurt looked him over, sizing him up in a way that reminded him of how hockey players on the opposing team looked at him right before the match. He tried to meet Kurt's eyes, but it was difficult.

Finally, Kurt smiled at him, eyes still a little cold.

"Not yet," he said, "but it's a start."

***

Kurt knew that it was too good to be true...He'd had a little over a week free of abuse, or even Karofsky acknowledging his existence. Kurt thought that maybe that was the end of that. Karofsky would just pretend that he wasn't there. Kurt was perfectly fine with that. It didn't bother him at all that the only other gay guy he knew of in the school was avoiding him. Why would it bother him?

Kurt was stuffing a book into his locker when it happened. Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and the next thing he knew, he had a face full of red slushy. Once he cleared the goop from his eyes, he saw a Letterman jacket disappear into a group of students.

He sighed, grabbed his backup clothes, and made his way slowly to the restroom, careful not to slip on melting slushy as it dripped from his face and shirt to the floor. He almost collided with a guy as he practically ran out of the bathroom, eyes wide and confused.

He walked in and glared at Karofsky, who was leaning against the far wall.

"Why?" He asked, stalking over to Karofsky in all his slushied glory.

"I got you good, didn't I?" Karofsky sounded pleased. The nerve of this guy!

Kurt was ready to give Karofsky a verbal lashing, he'd already opened his mouth, then he closed it with an audible click of teeth. Karofsky raise a slightly crumpled paper towel that Kurt hadn't even noticed he was holding, and slowly ran it down Kurt's cheek. The paper towel was already sodden and pinkish, but Karofsky reached towards him again.

Kurt grabbed his wrist, and Karofsky met his eyes. Kurt couldn't read his expression.

"What do you think you're doing?" Kurt asked icily.

"I made a mess," Karofsky said. He jerked his hand away from Kurt tossed the tissue in the trash. "I was cleaning it up."

"And why, pray tell," Kurt's tone was still cold, angry, "did you feel the need to ruin of one of my most prized shirts?" Kurt waved to the purple spots splattered over the sky blue fabric.

Karofsky looked slightly guilty, so Kurt moved to the mirror to asses the damage. His shirt was obviously ruined, with a big splotch at the neckline and dribbles all the way to the waist, but his hair wasn't too badly damaged in the melee. He snatched a paper towel from beside the sink, dampened it, and started wiping away the congealing mess. He caught Karofsky watching him in the mirror and gave him a dirty look.

"You still haven't told me why you did this."

"Would you believe that I just wanted to talk to you?"

Kurt whirled around. "You wanted to talk? Then why didn't you just slip me a note, text me, or, oh I don't know, say something like 'Hey, Kurt, let's talk' instead of ruining my clothing and making me dislike you even more, which I didn't think was possible!" He threw the damp paper towel at Karofsky, who dodged but got hit in the shoulder by it anyway.

He did not giggle when Karofsky dodged the towel, covering his head, as if it had been a weapon of some kind. He was too pissed off to giggle, dammit!

"Uh, Hummel, are you bipolar? You're scaring me, man."

Kurt shook his head and took a deep breath. "I don't think I'm okay. I mean, I'm actually talking to you even though you're still a jerk. I think I need to have my head examined."

"Are you okay?" Karofsky's brow was furrowed in what looked to be honest concern. It snapped Kurt back in to reality.

"I'm fine," Kurt said, his anger and annoyance now grumbling in the background. "Next time, just text me. And you're buying me a new shirt."

"I don't have your cell number. And that stuff you wear is super expensive, isn't it?"

Kurt rolled his eyes and said a curt "Yes." And gave Karofsky his number anyway.

"Wanna do something this weekend?" Karofsky's shoulders were hunched and he wasn't meeting Kurt's eyes.

"After what you just did? You are a moron, aren't you? I'm still mad at you."

Karofsky leaned closer, trying to intimidate Kurt. It worked a little, but he refused to back down. If he backed down now, Karofsky would probably keep trying to intimidate him into submission, using fear to get his way. Kurt was not going to let him get away with that.

Kurt acted bored. "This whole 'Imma beat you up' act is getting old very fast. Either stop it or I'll stop trying to help you."

"Help me? You're driving me crazy! Always showing up wherever I am, wearing those tight pants and-" Karofsky stopped himself mid-sentence, blushing. "I've gotta go," he muttered but Kurt blocked the door.

Kurt felt his own face heat up, but decided to ignore the comment, and the fact that he still had slushy in his ear because of the guy still looming over him.

"I know you're going through a lot right now and it's confusing and painful, but I want to help you. I'd like to say that I understand, and I kind of do, but I've always had someone to talk to about being gay. I don't think you have." Kurt said evenly. "I want to be that person for you but, if you ever push me or bully me again in any way , I'm never speaking to you again."

Karofsky looked conflicted, which wasn't surprising. He'd always been the 'bad guy' because it was better than being picked on for being different. Kurt was giving him a way to, with one person in the universe, be himself. But if anyone ever figured out that Karofsky was getting buddy-buddy with him...

Kurt shook his head. "Just think about it." He turned to open the door, but Karofsky was suddenly there, pushing it closed again. He was too close. For a moment, Kurt was worried that he was going to kiss him again, but he didn't.

"Wait." Karofsky said, his voice was hoarse, emotional. "I just hate it so much when my dad starts going off about—if I don't do something about it I think I'm gonna explode. When can we talk?" From Karofsky's tone, Kurt felt that if he hadn't interrupted himself, Karofsky would have wound up yelling and hitting things or crying. At this point, he didn't know which was worse.

"After school?" Kurt asked, still a little nervous at Karofsky's close proximity. He slipped to the side a step and turned to the mirror. Getting the glob of slushy out of his ear was the perfect excuse to put a little distance between them.

"Where?" Karofsky leaned against the door, watching Kurt's face through the mirror.

Somewhere public, was his first thought but Karofsky interrupted his mental list of possible locations before he'd started good.

"I mean, you won't tell anybody, will you? Because if you do I'll—" Karofsky's expression grew thunderous and his fist came up, but he stopped the threat when Kurt turned to face him, hands on hips.

"Put The Fury away, Karofsky. Of course I won't out you. How would that help me? You would just start acting worse than you already do."

Karofsky looked surprised. "So, you're really helping me for selfish reasons?"

"No, it's because of your winning personality. Sorry, sorry, that was rude." Kurt tried to find a way to tell the truth without alienating the tiny amount of trust he felt he'd gained from Karofsky.

"I just think that, if you work through some of your issues, you won't be so angry all the time. Less anger equals less bullying equals less problems in my own life. It's win/win."

"Makes sense." Karofsky agreed. Really? He suddenly seemed more relaxed. "I thought that you were just trying to..tell people about me or help me out of the goodness of your heart. You just being nice to me for no reason like that? I didn't believe it. I was too much of a douche to you for that."

"That's true. So do you want to..."

"Yeah. But I don't wanna go anywhere we might—"

"Run into your dumb jock buddies?" Kurt sounded angry, bitter, but he'd been going for faintly sarcastic.

Karofsky looked embarrassed, a little mad, but he just said "Yeah."

Kurt still didn't like the idea of going anywhere with him...He decided to try something a little different. He shuffled through his bag for a sheet of paper and a pen, scrawled something across it and gave it to Karofsky.

"That's my Messenger ID. Why don't we just use that for the time being? Or just call me."

Karofsky looked over the paper, then slid it into his pocket. He smiled at Kurt, an honest to goodness smile, and Kurt couldn't help but return it.

"Cool. Sounds like a plan; much better than risking— I'll...talk to you later." With that, Karofsky left.

Kurt's mind felt jumbled. Anger, triumph, nervousness and who knew what else were bouncing around in his brain. Kurt made one decision despite the confusing whirring of his thoughts. He looked down at his poor, ruined shirt. If Karofsky didn't replace it, the deal was so off.

Kurt gave himself an odd look in the mirror. Why am I still smiling?

***

Kurt was searching for a song for his glee assignment. He made sure that messenger was opened and minimized, on the off chance that Karofsky actually decided he wanted to talk. He had narrowed his list down to a few possible songs when a message window popped up.

hockeyjock: hey this Kurt?

wickedgaga: Dave?

Kurt rolled his eyes. Who else could it be?

hockeyjock: Yeah. U busy?

wickedgaga: Not really. I'm just looking for a song for glee

hockeyjock: what kinda song?

He's being too polite. Kurt felt suspicious.

wickedgaga: Schue's making us sing something that represents our antithesis.

hockeyjock: huh?

wickedgaga: It's opposite week.

hockeyjock: oh, so it'd be like u singin I love me some titties oh yeah, oh yeah

"Ugh," Kurt said out loud.

wickedgaga: Ugh...

wickedgaga: But yeah, that's the general idea. (Rachel's doing "Freak on a Leash" and Finn's trying to talk Puck into singing "Man! I Feel Like a Woman.")

hockeyjock: I could so write that song 4 u than

wickedgaga: *thEn. That's sweet but no thanks.

wickedgaga: You're a songwriter?

hockeyjock: no but I could try it

Kurt shook his head, staring at the computer screen. It was like Karofsky was a different person outside of school. Maybe he didn't have to pretend to be somebody he wasn't online. Or maybe it was just too difficult to threaten people long distance, so he didn't try.

hockeyjock: want me to write it? I just bout got the chorus down

wickedgaga: …

wickedgaga: Moving on...

Kurt had a feeling that Karofsky hadn't just messaged him out of the blue.

wickedgaga: How are you?

hockeyjock: ok

wickedgaga: ...

hockeyjock: It's just my dad...and my mom too actually

wickedgaga:yeah?

hockeyjock: He's all high and mighty and bitches about everything

hockeyjock: theres this radio show he listens to all the time. only reason he does is to complain bout what the host says. Most of the time he yells at the radio that abortion is bad and ppl who do it r goin to hell n 'those fags wantn to get mrried r gonna burn right nxt to em'

Kurt knew that Karofsky wasn't the best typer in the world, but the increase in spelling errors gave him a hint to the way he was feeling. He was probably scowling and slamming the keys in anger and frustration.

wickedgaga: Oh, wow that's terrible. I'm never gonna take my dad for granted again.

hockeyjock: I didnt really give a damn bout the marriage thing

wickedgaga: but the marriage thing wasn't what your dad was really attacking

hockeyjock: yeah

hockeyjock: it would be so bad, but my mom just ignores him. she used to argue wit him bout that kinda stuff all the time but not anymore.

wickedgaga: So, your mom's...more understanding?

hockeyjock: She used to be. Now shes just there. she rolls her eyes and leaves the room, but doesnt say anything like she gave up.

wickedgaga: I'm sorry.

Kurt couldn't think of what else to say. Karofsky had just opened up to him in a major way. He never could have guessed that that would ever happen. It probably never would have in person. Something about computers, text instead of voices, had always made Kurt feel as if it were less real, and he wasn't sure why. Now he had the feeling that Karofsky felt the same way.

What Karofsky had to put up with, on the other hand, was too real. His dad seemed like a homophobic jerk, and his mom, Kurt was no expert but it sounded like his mom was depressed.

Kurt felt really grateful for Burt, all of a sudden. His dad wasn't perfect, but he was always there for him. Always supporting him, even through the bad patches. One specific thing his dad had said to him, it was probably years ago, came to mind. Kurt didn't know if it would make Karofsky feel any better, but he could try. Then he realized he hadn't replied in around five minute. Oops.

hockeyjock: …

wickedgaga: Just think of it like this.

hockeyjock: like what?

wickedgaga: gimme a minute to type

hockeyjock: I'm waiting

hockeyjock: ...

hockeyjock: still waiting

Kurt copied what he'd gotten typed so far and erased it.

wickedgaga: Patience!

hockeyjock: what I said I was waiting

wickedgaga: You're just doing that to annoy me...

hockeyjock: maybe

He then decided to ignore Dave and finish typing his original message. Even though little blips kept distracting him.

hockeyjock: .

hockeyjock: ..

hockeyjock: …

hockeyjock: Are u writing a book?

Kurt rolled his eyes. He'd been typing for less than a minute. He finally hit enter.

wickedgaga: One day when I was really little I got picked on at school and came home crying. Dad got mad and complained to the school, then he told me not to pay any attention to it. He told me to think of it like water off a duck's back. Just let it splash over you without getting inside. That always stuck with me.

He felt a little awkward and nervous sharing that with Dave, but knew it hadn't been easy for Karofsky to share his feelings either.

hockeyjock: now I feel bad for annoying you

wickedgaga: You should.

hockeyjock: Bitch.

wickedgaga: Asshole.

hockeyjock: Thanks for listening to me bitch and whine

hockeyjock: it actually helps more thEn I expected

wickedgaga: You're welcomed. (It's thAn this time...:) )

hockeyjock: whatev

hockeyjock: gotta go

wickedgaga: See you later.

~hockeyjock has logged off~

Kurt still wasn't sure whether or not Karofsky would treat him like an actual human being the next time they met in person, but he felt like they'd made a connection. He turned back to his song list, trying to put Karofsky to the back of his mind for the time being. He wondered if he should pick Zac Brown Band's "Toes," (one of his dad's) or Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell."

***

Over the next few weeks, Kurt got used to chatting back and forth with Karofsky. It just became a part of his routine: get home from school, homework, dinner, shower, moisturize, chat with the guy who used to make his life miserable. Perfectly normal. He was surprised at the multitude of random stuff they talked about, from the normal fashion (which bored Karofsky) and hockey (which bored Kurt) to Karofsky's surprising love of baking and Kurt's own obsession with first-person shooter video games.

Not that anyone could tell by the way that they acted at school. There was no more violence or glaring, but they didn't speak either. Sometimes it annoyed Kurt, the way that Karofsky's eyes seemed to slide over him or look through him without any note of recognition. Some days he wanted to throw a book at Karofsky's head. Other days, he just wanted to shout 'Look at me or I'm telling everyone that you like Taylor Swift!' He never did, but oh how he wanted to.

On this particular day, Kurt was extremely stressed. His teachers had all gotten together behind his back and decided to give him more homework than it was humanly possible to finish in a weekend, he just knew it.

He was poring over his history notes, looking for the answer to a study question, when he heard the familiar blip that meant he had a new message. He'd been about to check Wikipedia for the answer, anyway...

hockeyjock: sup?

wickedgaga: I'm obscenely busy. Go away.

hockeyjock: nope. And if u try to ignore me i'll just keep sending u messages. I know how the beep annoys you.

wickedgaga: Please, Karofsky, I've go to do something. You can annoy me to your heart's content later.

hockeyjock: what R U doin, watchin porn?

wickedgaga: Ew, no.

hockeyjock: as girly as U dress, I know ur a guy.

wickedgaga: No, I'm not watching porn.

wickedgaga: Why did your mind immediately go there?

hockeyjock: your the 1 that said obscene.

wickedgaga: Right...

wickedgaga: Oh. My. God. Are you watching porn right now?

hockeyjock: No

~hockeyjock has logged off

Kurt dropped his head into his hands. Then he remembered that he had too much to do to be embarrassed.

He'd finished history and started in on his math when Karofsky logged back on.

hockeyjock: u still busy?

wickedgaga: Yes. But all the numbers are blurring together...I need a break.

hockeyjock: math? thats the easy stuff

wickedgaga: Are you kidding? It's evil! Math makes my brain hurt.

hockeyjock: thats what u get for being good everything else

Kurt couldn't think of good way to respond to that, but he was saved the necessity.

hockeyjock: BTW I was totally watching pron earlier

wickedgaga: I figured as much. Now can we never speak of it again?

hockeyjock: that would be great

wickedgaga: Now what do you mean, math's easy? And what the hell's a logarithm?

00000000

Kurt was dozing off, listening to music on his laptop when he heard a faint blip over the sound of music. He sat up and pulled his laptop into his lap.

hockeyjock: Kurt

wickedgaga: Yeah?

hockeyjock: kjdsfhdfhgkfjd

wickedgaga: What?

hockeyjock: I'm pissed

hockeyjock: urfesjipoawjpdxgh

wickedgaga: Um. You have to type words for me to understand.

hockeyjock: srry. dads being a douche. Its gettin to me worse now that

wickedgaga: Now that you've started talking about it?

In the entire two and a half months that they'd been IMing and texting, Karofsky had not once used the word 'gay.' Kurt hadn't pushed the issue. He knew that Karofsky was in a delicate place and one nudge in the wrong direction could turn out to be catastrophic. And it seemed like Karofsky's dad was doing a lot more than nudge.

Kurt made a quick decision. He and Karofsky had been getting along very well long distance...

wickedgaga: Call me.

hockeyjock: y?

wickedgaga: So we can talk.

hockeyjock: we are

wickedgaga: We're typing. It's not the same.

Kurt had to wait for a few minutes for the next reply.

hockeyjock: it'll be awkward

wickedgaga: Why? I kindof hear your voice in my head when I read your comments anyway.

hockeyjock: whatev

~hockeyjock has logged off

Kurt set his laptop to the side and wondered if Karofsky would actually speak with him instead of chatting over the internet. His cellphone rang before he'd finished the thought. He answered.

"It's just a lot of bullshit, y'know?"

"Hello to you, too," Kurt said, stretching out on his bed.

"I wanna hit something," Karofsky's voice was positively a growl.

"Nuh-uh, big boy, no hitting." Big boy, are you kidding? Why on earth did I call him that? "Acting out in anger will just make it worse."

Karofsky was silent for a moment; when he spoke there was an edge of confusion covering the anger in his tone.

"Why did you call me big boy?"

"I honestly have no idea, Karofsky. Can you just forget I said that?"

"Only if you stop with the last name shit. It gets on my nerves." The rough edge was back to Karofsky's voice in full-force.

"okay, Dave," Kurt said soothingly, then jumped when he heard an odd thump from Kar—Dave's end of the line.

"What was that?"

"Nothing." Karofsky sounded defensive. Kurt didn't say anything.

"A pillow. I threw a frigging pillow! Is that okay with you?" Easy, there.

"Dave?"

"What?" Kurt bit his tongue. He wanted to snap at him so badly, wanted to give him a good verbal thrashing, but he knew that would only make things worse. He resisted the urge. Barely.

"Where are you?"

"In my room. Why?" That hint of confusion was back.

"Do me a favor. Go pick up the pillow. Then go sit down, lie down, just try to relax a little."

"Fine." Dave muttered. Kurt heard the shuffle of feet, a grunt, the creak of mattress springs.

"Now what?" Karofsky asked, his voice still rough but already a little calmer.

"I don't know. Turn on some music. Just make sure it isn't metal or anything like that. Oh, put on some Taylor Swift! I know you like her."

Kurt heard a mixed groan-laugh from Dave. Mission accomplished.

"I never should have told you that." The anger had nearly disappeared, replaced with faint laughter.

"Probably not," Kurt said cheerfully, trying to send good feelings through the phone.

Karofsky snorted. "I love you." The words tumbled out of his mouth.

Kurt sat straight up in his bed.

"WHAT?" Click.

"Hello?" Kurt checked his phone. Call has ended.

Kurt placed his phone on the nightstand, then rolled over onto his side.

Did that just happen?

***

Kurt was not moping; he didn't care what Mercedes said. He may have been irritable and brooding, but not moping. Not that he was upset because Karofsky hadn't spoken to him all week following a phone conversation which included a blurted "I love you" followed by dead air. Because he wasn't.

Mercedes didn't know about the latter, but she gave him that look when he denied the former.

"I'm not pouting, Mercedes!"

"MmmmHmmm." She crossed her arms. Not the look again...

Kurt wanted to bang his head against the wall, or at least run away from his friend so he didn't have to deal with the third degree.

"I'm perfectly fine, just a little tired. I'd feel even better if you stopped trying to over-analyze my every mood. I'm a teenager, aren't we supposed to be moody?"

"I guess so."

"Thank you."

"But Kurt, you know you can talk to me, right? I'm here if you need me." She smiled at him, a little sadly.

Kurt felt the annoyance and frustration seep out of him.

"I know, Mercedes, and thank you. But I'm not really ready to talk about it right now." That was partly a lie. Kurt would have been fine with talking to her right then, but he knew that Karofsky would freak out and push him away even more, if he did.

~~~

Since he couldn't talk to his best friend about Karofsky, Kurt called in reinforcements. He set up a meeting with Blaine at a random coffeehouse. Kurt ordered a cup of coffee and watched it steam, then cool as he waited for Blaine to arrive. He jumped when Blaine sat in the seat across from him, in his uniform, as always.

"It's been too long, I've missed you!" Blaine smiled at him.

"You saw me last weekend," Kurt couldn't help but smile.

"I know. Last weekend: too long ago. And you haven't really talked to me that much this week, not since you told me about your bully-buddy Dave's declaration of love."

Kurt sighed, but didn't say anything, still collecting his thoughts.

"I take it from the tragic way that you're letting a perfectly good cup of coffee go to waste that you don't have good news." Blaine tilted his head, frowning.

Kurt shook his head. Now that he had someone ready and willing to listen to him, he didn't know what to say.

"That bad, huh?"

"He's acting like I don't exist. I've tried calling, texting, he just won't answer."

Blaine twisted his own cup of coffee in his hands. "Here's what I think, and I may be wrong, so...I just—maybe he just needs some time. Davey-boy probably hasn't even accepted that he's gay yet. It may take him a while to come to terms with it. Right now he's probably freaking out because he's just getting used to the idea of liking guys, then what does he do? He tells a dude that he loves him. That was a big jump there."

Kurt doesn't know how Blaine does it. He just comes in, rambles for a minute, and then Kurt has an entirely new perspective on what's going on. He had been focusing on Karofsky avoiding him instead of paying attention to the bigger picture. He suddenly felt selfish and guilty.

Blaine, apparently picking up on his mood, wrapped a hand around Kurt's on his coffee cup. He smiled at him.

"Hey, you're doing a good thing, here. You know that right? You could have left the guy swimming in a pool of self-loathing, and no one would have blamed you. Karofsky was an ignorant, arrogant, hateful jerk. I've only seen him once since you've taken him under your wing, but he seemed calmer, happier, to me. Don't let this hurdle get you down. Just have patience." Blaine smiled at him again, then moved his hand away.

"Thank you," Kurt said, eyes a little watery.

Blaine shrugged, "I spoke the truth." Then he steered the conversation on to happier topics, so that Kurt was suddenly arguing with him good-naturedly and laughing.

~~~

Kurt made it to the following Wednesday using Blaine's advice. Whenever he saw Karofsky or thought too long about him, he would just use patience, patience, patience, as a mantra and go on with his life. He didn't want to push Karofsky too much, afraid he would send him running for cover, or deeper into the closet in this case.

Unforunately, patience had never been one of Kurt's strengths, and pride had always been a major vice. He wanted to hit the fast-forward button and bring Dave to his senses so that they could start talking again, but he didn't. Not until his pride took one blow too many after being ignored by the object of his irritation yet again. That was why Kurt finally snapped.

Karofsky looked through him, again, and Kurt gave in to temptation. He trotted to catch up with Karofsky, then "accidentally" bumped into him, just to gauge his reaction.

"What the-" Karofsky's eyes widened when he stared into Kurt's angry eyes from inches away. Then he grabbed Kurt by the lapels and pulled him into a nook next to a water fountain.

"Notthejacket! Not the jacket!" Kurt said, wincing at Karofsky's fists balling up the fabric.

"Sorry." Karofsky let go quickly, then tugged at the material, but only made the problem worse. He ran his big hands over Kurt's chest, trying to smooth out the wrinkles. Kurt felt his heart flutter and his pulse speed up, but he wasn't going to be distracted. He was mad.

"Stop ignoring me!" Kurt hissed, glancing to the side as a student walked past their hiding spot.

Karofsky, one had toying with a button on Kurt's jacket, looked up and seemed to remember where he was. He looked around quickly, then whispered. "Fine! I'll call you tonight, okay?"

"You better." Kurt swatted his hand away, looked to the side, and froze. Please tell me that wasn't Finn. Please tell me—crap! Kurt sighed. He thought he saw Finn walk by out of the corner of his eye, and then he was certain of it when Finn came back into sight a few seconds later, walking backwards.

"Kurt?"

"Yes, Finn?"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm perfectly fine."

"But..." Finn motioned to Karofsky with his head.

Karofsky leaned into Kurt's personal space, and for an instant Kurt felt nervous. "I'm watching you Hummel!"

"This is me, terrified." Kurt faked a yawn. He saw Karofsky's lips twitch before he stalked away, ignoring Finn completely and looking like the cover-boy for Aggressive Bullies – R- Us magazine.

"Are you sure you're okay, Kurt?" Finn's brow was furrowed and he exuded brotherly concern. Kurt patted him on the arm.

"I'm fine, thank you, Finn."

Finn gave him a quick smile and nod before heading back to wherever he had been going in the first place.

Kurt leaned back against the wall, knocking his head against it roughly, and closed his eyes. Why did Finn have to have the worst timing in the history of the universe?

~~~

The rest of Kurt's school day consisted of him obsessively watching the clock and periodically pretending to pay attention in his classes. He expected Karofsky to put off making the call until late that night, so he jumped when his phone rang as he pulled up to his house. He parked the Navigator and answered.

"Look, I've been a jerk and everything, but I—"

"Do you ever just say 'hello'?" Kurt asked.

"What?" Kurt's interruption threw him off.

"And I know you've been a jerk. That's why I'm mad at you." Kurt crossed an arm over his chest, but couldn't move the other because of the phone. Then he realized that it didn't matter because Karofsky couldn't see him.

"Would it help if I said I was sorry and that it won't happen again?"

"Maybe a little," Kurt huffed.

"My God, but you're a drama queen," Karofsky grumbled.

"And don't you forget it."

Kurt heard Karofsky sigh, then mutter something under his breath.

"What is it?" Kurt suddenly lost his icy tone.

"Do you have any plans for Friday night?" The words were mumbled, but clear enough for Kurt to understand. And Kurt was suddenly tired of giving Karofsky a hard time.

"You—do you want to do something, like in person?" Kurt asked.

"Yeah, that'd be cool." Karofsky sounded relieved.

Kurt tried to keep his mouth shut, but couldn't. "Don't think you're off the hook for ignoring me for a week and a half, Karofsky."

"I'll make it up to you, Hummel." His tone was light, teasing, but Kurt didn't really care. He hung up and headed for his front door.

Screw patience, that was progress. Then he realized that Karofsky still hadn't said anything about how he was feeling or how he was dealing with his issues. So much for progress...

***

Friday night came a lot quicker than Kurt expected. He was rushing to get ready for his night out with Dave when he was waylaid by his dad.

"Why are you getting dressed up so fancy?" He smiled, taking in his son's wide eyes and slightly flushed face.

"Dad, I always get dressed up 'fancy' as you so eloquently put it."

"But you never look quite so nervous about it. You have a hot date or something?"

"It's not a date. It's just...a night out with a friend."

Right. Are you going somewhere with Mercedes?"

"No, it's—" Kurt couldn't remember if he'd ever mentioned Karofsky by name during the bullying fiasco, so better safe than sorry.

"-just a friend," he finished lamely.

"And I take it this 'friend'," Burt used air quotes, making Kurt roll his eyes, "is a guy?"

"Yes, but it's not like—Dad, I really need to get ready."

Burt held up his hands in defeat. "Have fun on your date, Son. And don't forget that pepper spray I got you; you can never be too careful."

"Yes, Dad," Kurt sighed, rushing back downstairs to his room.

No thanks to his nosy father, Kurt was ready in time to rush out to Karofsky's car before his dad had a chance to interfere. It was a sleek little sedan than was nothing like Kurt had expected. He'd thought Karofsky would be driving a beat-up pickup or monster SUV. He slipped into the passenger seat and smiled awkwardly at Karofsky, feeling a little nervous.

"Nice car." He said it mainly to fill the uncomfortable silence.

"It gets good gas mileage." Karofsky shrugged, then threw the car in drive.

"So, where are we going?" Kurt hadn't even thought about it.

"Do you wanna catch a movie?"

"Isn't the theater in the other direction?"

"I know another, less crowded place." he snuck a look a Kurt before turning back to the road, "It's a nice little mall with a theater. I haven't been there in a while, but it was nice."

Kurt nodded, then pursed his lips. Why am I so nervous?

Karofsky took a deep breath. "Look, Kurt, I'm sorry about not talking to you. I just...panicked, y'know?"

"I understand." Kurt knew what Karofsky was going through, thanks partly to intuition but mainly because of a reality check from Blaine earlier.

Karofsky shot him another look, and back to the road. "I didn't mean to say it." His voice was level, a little rough, as if he expected Kurt to call him an idiot or something.

"I figured that much out," Kurt was doing his best to be polite, kind, open. "That—that same thing had happened to me before."

"Really?" Karofsky's fingers clenched on the wheel; he stared straight ahead.

"Well, kind of. It was Mercedes, so it wasn't quite as...We were joking around, and she said something that was so Mercedes that it just slipped out. She just laughed and said 'I know.' and that was that." Kurt tilted his head, trying to read Karofsky's expression in the flash of streetlights.

Karofsky's hands relaxed on the wheel, and he gave Kurt a long look. "I have to say it out loud, don't I?" He muttered, steering the car back between the lines from where he'd veered.

"Say what?" Kurt picked at the sleeve of his shirt, refusing to look at Karofsky.

"You're not going to make this easy, are you?"

"How can I make it easier?" Kurt asked.

Karofsky laughed humorlessly. "Good point. I guess you can't."

"I think you're stalling," Kurt looked up at him.

"I think you're right," he muttered, "I just need to say it and get it over with."

"Like ripping off a band-aid."

"But I never ripped off band-aids, I always—"

"Dave..." Kurt's voice was soft, barely a whisper of a word.

"I'm sorry I was such a dick to you," Dave kept his eyes on the road. Kurt wondered if that was why he decided to bring it up just then. Se he didn't have to look him in the eye.

"I know it was wrong, stupid, and fucking evil of me to treat you the way I did. I know it's pointless for me to make excuses because there aren't any. I was just so frustrated and pissed off about the way you made me fe—that you could be all 'out and proud' while I was terrified that somebody was gonna find out about me." Dave flexed his grip on the steering wheel, still focusing on the road. "My parents would probably disown me, and Azimio and the guys would try to kick my ass if they knew."

They pulled into the parking lot and Kurt noticed, in the glow of the streetlamps, that Dave's shoulders were hunched and his face was flushed, his expression an obvious mix of guilt and anger. Dave turned to stare out the window.

Kurt unlatched his seat belt and scooted over in the seat. He curled his hand over Dave's, still gripping the steering wheel like a lifeline. I shouldn't give in this easy, Kurt thought, I should feel like raging at him and yelling that what he did to me was unforgivable. But he didn't.

He ran his thumb over the back of Dave's hand and smiled, a miniscule tilt of lips, when Dave turned to face him.

"I forgive you," Kurt said, looking him in the eye.

Then he was suddenly getting out of the car, getting away from the raw, intense look that Dave had given him. He had to get out of there before he, or worse Dave started to cry. He took a deep breath of cool air, leaning against the hood of the car, and waited for his date to join him.

000000000000

"This is nice," Kurt said dubiously as they walked through the sliding glass door.

"Yeah,"Dave said, looking around as a few shoppers sauntered by.

"How long has it been since you came here?"

"Around a year," he said, feeling like an idiot. They passed a closed down nail salon, a shoe store, and a dingy looking fountain that had definitely seen better days. Dave turned a corner, "The theater's this way. It's a nice little place. They have reclining seats and dammit!" Of course it's closed down...

He heard Kurt stifle a giggle and turned to look at him. "What?"

Kurt shook his head, "Your face...you looked like someone just told you they ate your puppy. Sorry."

Dave looked heavenward. Ugh, water damage, even the ceiling looks bad. "Let's go, I'm sure we can find—" he had turned to leave, but Kurt's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Look, a toy store, let's go!"

Dave knew his eyebrows were just about to his hairline. "You want to go to a toy store?"

Kurt crossed his arms, "What, am I not allowed to reminisce about my childhood?"

"Sure, I just didn't—"

Kurt didn't give him time to finish. He turned on his heel and made a beeline for the toy store.

Dave rolled his eyes and followed. He nodded to the cashier as he walked in and instantly felt ten years younger. He spotted a remote controlled dinosaur.

"Why didn't we have cool stuff like this when we were little?"

"Because we had the brilliance of the Etch-a-Sketch," Kurt said, picking one up, then getting distracted. "Oh, a slinky!" He grabbed it and started playing.

Dave was a little confused. Since they had gotten there, Kurt had been acting...different. "Are you okay, why are you acting so...strange?"

Kurt stopped playing with the slinky, put it back on the shelf.

"Look, if I'm going to forgive you, I have to do it right. I can't just be angry all the time and hold it over your head; that would drive us both insane. I may not ever forget what you did, but I can pretend to. Don't make me regret it."

Dave's throat felt tight. He took Kurt's hand in his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I'll...I Won't."

***

Despite the fact that they spent the evening exploring a run-down mall, searching for ways to amuse themselves, Kurt actually enjoyed himself. He happened to glance at his watch just in time to realized that he would be pushing it to get home under curfew.

The ride home was comfortable and only slightly awkward. Dave turned on the radio and flipped through stations until Kurt waved his hand away from the dial. When the pulled up in front of his house, Kurt started feeling a little nervous.

"Even though tonight was a complete disaster," Kurt said, "I had fun."

"So did I." Dave gave him a sidelong glance.

"Bye." Kurt said, then got out of the car before he did something stupid.

~~~

After that first fiasco, Kurt and Dave fell into an uneasy alliance. Kurt was afraid that Dave would fall into old habits, and Dave was scared of pissing Kurt off or letting him down. They kept texting and talking with one another, though, and eventually started to trust one another. Their alliance morphed into a tenuous friendship as they began to relax together, but a level of tension remained.

On this particular night, Kurt felt like he was in control of the situation and it made him nervous. Dave was sitting on the couch in his living room and they were both pretending to watch some movie that had a lot of blood and fighting in it. Kurt was starting to wonder if that subject matter had been a good idea. He leaned forward to pick up the DVD case and read the back when he felt a sense of movement behind him.

Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Dave had stretched his arm out along the back of the couch. If he wanted to sit back, Kurt would have to lean against him. he felt a thrill of nervousness and excitement at the idea.

Eyes straight ahead on the television screen, watching a guy get his teeth knocked out, Kurt slowly leaned back. He relaxed a little when Karofsky didn't pull him into a sleeper hold. They'd been friends, or the facsimile of, for a while, but Kurt still suffered from bouts of paranoia every once in a while. After that moment of tension, Kurt tilted his head against Dave's shoulder. Dave rubbed his cheek against Kurt's hair and sighed.

For the first time ever, Kurt felt fully relaxed with Dave Karofsky. It was short-lived.

Kurt didn't think anything about it when he heard his dad pull up outside. A random Oh, he's home early, flitted through his mind before he shifted his attention back to the movie. It was getting interesting. It looked to him that the main character had a crush on his best friend.

Kurt said a distracted "Hey, Dad," as Burt started across the living room to the kitchen. But his thudding footsteps stopped halfway across.

"What the hell is he doing here?" He asked, voice deep and thunderous.

"Dad It's okay! He's not-"

"I know who he is, Kurt! You pointed him out to me ages ago, said he was giving you a hard time." Burt had walked back over to glare at Dave.

"Get your hands off my son," Burt growled, and Kurt was reminded that his dad could be really scary when he wanted to be. But if Kurt didn't clear the air right now, it would probably never happen. He grabbed Dave's hand as he started to pull it away.

"I said," Burt's voice was low.

"He won't let me," Dave said, sounding like a scared little boy as he tugged weakly at Kurt's vice-like grip on his hand.

"Dad. Dad!" Burt turned his glare on Kurt, but Kurt had a slight immunity. He only squirmed a little under his father's gaze.

"It's okay," Kurt said, trying to keep his voice calm and soothing. "Karof—Dave is trying to atone for his actions and I think, no, I have forgiven him."

Burt's eyes widened and he finally noticed that Kurt's fingers were intertwined with Dave's. And that they were just sitting on the couch watching a movie. He calmed down a little, which relieved Kurt since he didn't want his dad to have another heart attack.

Burt leaned over Karofsky, finger in his face. "I know guys like you, hell, I was like you. I want you to listen very carefully. If I ever, and I mean ever, hear that you threatened my son again, I will hunt you down. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir." Dave was shaking a little, but his voice sounded strong and steady despite Burt's anger. Kurt squeezed his hand and smiled at him reassuringly.

"Alright, then," Burt nodded, eying one then the other of them. "You boys behave yourselves."

"Yes, Dad," Kurt said, and Dave nodded.

Burt walked into the kitchen and Dave collapsed against the back of the couch, letting go of Kurt's hand.

"I think that's the most scared I've ever been in my life," he said, voice wavering a little now.

"Yeah, Dad's a little protective." Kurt tired not to sound too amused.

"You enjoyed that, didn't you?" Oops.

"No, really I didn't. I just—the look on your face was adorable, all big eyes and your mouth was hanging open."

Kurt flopped back against him, utterly at ease all of a sudden, as if the mini-disaster had been a bonding experience.

"I'm sorry for all the crap I put you through," Dave muttered.

"Let's..." Kurt didn't know what to say. He knew by Dave's tone that there was guilt and self-loathing still luring right below the surface. All those old wounds kept opening back up every time Dave apologized, which was all too often here recently. Kurt just wanted to move on.

"Let's just not talk about the past for a while. I forgive you, but it doesn't mean I want to keep being reminded of what happened. Is that okay?" He asked, turning his head to see Dave's eyes.

"Yeah, okay." Dave's expression smoothed a little. He wrapped his arm back around Kurt's shoulders and gave him a squeeze.

Kurt turned back to the television in time to see a penguin in an icy cave on the screen. The penguin said "Slide," and Kurt turned back to Dave.

"I think we missed something."

"I think you're right," Dave laughed.

~~~

Kurt was walking across the school parking lot, talking on his cellphone, when he felt eyes on his back. He glanced over his shoulder, then slowed his pace before stopping completely halfway between the school building and his car.

Dave had been following him at a distance, then trotted to catch up when Kurt stopped.

"Hang on a second," Kurt said into the phone as Dave stopped in front of him.

"Who's that?" he asked, expression bland.

"Oh, it's Blaine. We're making plans to get together on Saturday." Kurt didn't know why Dave was actually speaking to him at school, so he tried at friendly with just an edge of caution.

"You still talk to that jerk?" Dave asked, eyes on the ground.

"Blaine's not a jerk. He's my friend, and you should-"

"Whatever. He tried to..." Dave glanced around, then leaned in towards Kurt. "He tried to out me in front the whole school! He's a jerk."

Kurt heard a murmur of sound from his phone and held it back up to to his ear.

"Can I talk to him, Kurt? I might be able to help."

"I'm not sure if that's a good idea," Kurt said, eying Dace, who had his arms crossed over his chest and was glaring at Kurt's phone.

"Come on, give me a chance."

Kurt shrugged, "Fine," and handed the phone to Dave, who just stared at it and then back to Kurt.

"He wants to talk to you," Kurt said with another shrug.

Dave held the phone to his ear, wearing one of his most ferocious scowls. He just listened, then rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, that was an asshole thing to do," he finally said, then nodded to the phone. "Fair enough. But if you—"Dave looked at Kurt and stopped mid-sentence.

Kurt strained his ears, trying to pick up the other half of the conversation. All he heard was a few disconnected words. "Kurt...friend...right..." Then he got distracted as he watched Dave's angry scowl smooth out into a faintly annoyed look.

"Okay. But that doesn't mean I have to like you." Dave said.

Kurt heard a faint laugh from Blaine as Dave handed over his phone.

"Hey?"

"Yeah, I think we're fine now." Blaine still sounded amused. Kurt itched to ask him what he'd said, but Dave was still standing there, so...

"I'll talk to you later, okay? See you Saturday?"

"See you Saturday, Kurt."

Kurt slipped his phone into his pocket and looked at Dave.

"So, are you and Blaine friends now?" Kurt asked lightly.

Dave shook his head, "I still think he's a jerk."

"Buuut?" Kurt asked, noting a change in Dave's earlier tone.

"He's alright. I just don't like that he— Yeah, he's alright."

Kurt wasn't sure what Dave was going to say before he backtracked, but he had a good idea.

"Look, Blaine and I are just friends. That's it. Yeah, he's sweet, funny, a great listener, and we think so much alike that it's scary sometimes, but he's just a—"

A car door slammed and Dave jumped. He looked across the parking lot and saw a scattering of people walking to their cars and calling to one another as they left.

"Sorry, Kurt," he said, eyes a little wide, "I have to go."

Dave left Kurt staring after him in confusion as he literally fled the scene.

Kurt startled when his phone pinged as he mad his way to his car. He had a new text message from Blaine.

Congratulations. I think Davey's taking a big step forward.

"Really?" Kurt muttered out loud before pocketing his phone without replying.

***

Kurt had given in and decided to reply to Blaine's text before starting home. He recounted the way Dave had ran off and was confused by Blaine's reply.

Blaine: Invite him along on Sat.

Kurt: What?

Blaine: I dunno. Give him a push, an opportunity to step outa his comfort zone, if he's backtracking.

Kurt: You just want to make Dave uncomfortable.

Blaine: Nooo! I wanna help! Okay, maybe a little.

Kurt: Fine. But if this ends badly, I'm blaming you.

Kurt texted Dave about meeting on Saturday, then jumped when a phone chirped right outside his door. He looked up from his phone to see Dave with his hand extended, about to tap on his window. Dave paused and checked his phone, then raised his eyebrows at Kurt. He nodded.

Kurt rolled down his window. "Hello again." He said, frowning.

"I just freaked out over nothing, didn't I?" Dave mumbled, shoulders hunched.

"A little, yes." Kurt softened his tone.

"So, Saturday at lunch? With you and Blaine?" he asked, gesturing at his phone.

Kurt nodded. "If you want to."

"I'll see you then."

Kurt wanted to ask why Dave was acting so reserved, so calm, after running away earlier, but stopped himself. Dave was having a hard enough time without having to explain himself all the time. He started up the Navigator, but Dave didn't move away.

"Uh, Dave? Do...you need a ride?"

Dave started to shake his head, buts shrugged instead.

Kurt rolled his eyes. "I need a straight answer."

Dave snorted. "Go figure."

"Oh, ha ha. Get your butt in the car." Kurt unlocked the passenger door as Dave crossed in front of the car.

Dave was quiet, and Kurt didn't know how to break the silence, so he focused on the road.

After a few uncomfortable minutes, Dave finally spoke up.

"So why did you decide to invite me?"

"I didn't, actually. It was Blaine's idea."

"Why?"

Kurt shrugged. "I think he wants to check you out."

"He want's to what?"

"Not like that, he just wants to get to know you a little better. He only met you that once and I keep talking about...I think he's curious." Kurt felt himself blush.

"Right."

Kurt sighed. It was going to be an interesting drive.

~~~

Dave was tapping his fingers on the table. Kurt was twirling his straw around in his soda. Blaine was running late and they had decided to wait until he arrived to order.

Suddenly, Dave jumped to his feet, startling Kurt. Kurt followed his gaze out the window and saw Blaine slamming his car door closed.

"I'll just...make sure he knows where we're sitting," Dave said.

"But, we're in plain...sight." Kurt said, but Dave was already heading out the door. He watched, suspicious, as Dave walked out to meet Blaine.

Blaine held out his hand, and Dave actually shook it, which surprised Kurt. Blaine let go of Dave's hand, grinning, said something, then clapped him on the shoulder as they walked up the sidewalk right outside the window.

Then Dave suddenly had Blaine pressed against the window, hands twisted in his jacket. His expression was not pleasant. Kurt was rushing out the door before he'd fully registered what had happened.

Dave didn't even seem to notice him until he looked down at Kurt's iron grip on his wrist. He let go, then looked up from Kurt's hand to his face. Kurt let go.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Karofsky?" Kurt practically yelled as Dave backed up a step and Blaine straightened his shirt.

"I was just—"

"Don't worry about it, Kurt." Blaine's voice was a little breathy and he sounded something other than calm and cheerful for the first time since Kurt had met him.

"What. Happened?"

Dave shrugged, mouth an angry line, and stared at Blaine.

"He was just defending his territory," Blaine quirked a half-smile. "Now that I can breathe again, I think it was kinda cute."

Kurt saw Dave's hand clench into a fist at his side, but he just took a deep breath and let it out.

"I'm sorry," he said, voice rough but trying not to glare at Blaine.

Kurt still didn't know what was going on. He looked from Blaine, who was studying Dave, back to Dave himself.

Blaine finally nodded. "Apology accepted. As long as it never happens again. Besides, I told you over the phone that Kurt and I are just friends. And I think he's told you the same thing. You don't have anythi—"

"Blaine, so help me God, if you don't shut up..." Dave trailed off, eying Kurt, face a little flushed.

Ooohhh. Kurt thought. Oh. He did not...

"Karofsky," Kurt said in his iciest tone, "please tell me you didn't just go all macho on Blaine because you were jealous."

Dave shrugged, not looking at him.

"You are such an idiot."

"And you guys are too cute!" Blaine said with a hint of a leer.

"Can we just..." Dave motioned to the door, looking from Blaine to Kurt.

"Oh. Yes. I'll meet you two inside," Blaine winked at Dave, brushed past Kurt, and walked back into the restaurant.

Neither of them moved for a few seconds. Kurt cleared his throat, then watched Dave as he shuffle from one foot to the other and back.

"What is it?"

Dave took a deep breath, then blurted, "Let's catch a movie tonight. If—if you want to, I—"

"Sure." Kurt cut him off without meaning to.

"I'll pick you up at around seven, then?"

"Sure," Kurt repeated, "Sounds great. I'll see you then." I rarely use the word 'sure!' Why did I just say it twice in rapid succession? And why did I say I'd see him then? I see him right now—ugh...

"Cool," Dave grinned and held the door open for Kurt.

Kurt knew he was grinning like an idiot, but couldn't help it. Even though Blaine's amused look from across the restaurant made him want to throw the nearest saltshaker at him.}

~~~

Kurt didn't know what had gotten into Dave. He had actually asked him to go to the movies. In public. In a highly populated area. He agreed to go, of course, but started wondering why. Why now? A day after he'd ran away because a few dozen people had been in their general vicinity.

As far as Kurt could tell, they were still toeing the line between friendship and maybe a little more than friendship. Maybe this was Dave's way of doing something official? But he felt that Dave was so not ready to go out on a date-date yet. So Kurt didn't know what to think. He would just have to follow Dave's lead.
~~~

The movie was okay. It was bland in a predictable dramatic-thriller sort of way. Kurt felt himself nod off, head bumping Dave's shoulder before he startled awake. Dave glanced away from the movie long enough to throw an arm across Kurt's shoulders, then turned his attention back to the screen.

Kurt was beyond surprised. Yes, it was dark, but the theater was very crowded and Dave had pulled him close as if it was second nature. Maybe he was just so wrapped up in the plot that he didn't notice, but with this movie, Kurt didn't think so. He felt triumphant that he managed to stay awake until the credits rolled.

He and Dave stayed seated during the credits, waiting for the crowd to thin. When the lights finally came on, Kurt stood and stretched. He turned around and froze. No...

A few rows back, Puck had just stood up, and Finn was already heading down the aisle towards them. Kurt tapped Dave on the shoulder, and he turned to look where Kurt was pointing.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," he muttered darkly.

Kurt knew what was coming. He could see the freakout written all over Finn's face, and with Puck there as his backup, things could go very bad very quickly.

"What's going on here?" Finn hissed.

"I'm teaching Dave to tap-dance. What does it look like?"

"They're dating, dude, I told you that," Puck said from over Finn's shoulder.

"How the hell do you know, Puckerman?" Dave growled, fists clenched.

"Yeah, they were totally making out when you went to the bathroom, Finn." Puck's eyes were shiny with suppressed laughter at Finn's gobsmacked expression. Kurt wondered what he'd done to offend Puck in the past.

"Shut up, Puck, and stop lying. Finn, we did not make out."

"Would've been more interesting than watching that boring-ass movie," Dave murmured, then glanced up and realized he's spoken out loud when Puck snorted.

"See, Finn? They're so doing it."

Kurt stopped Dave with a rough grip on his arm as Finn elbowed Puck in the ribs.

"What are you two doing here, anyway?" Kurt asked, trying to change the subject.

"Rachel's mad at me."

"And Santana's refusing to put out until I apologize about some shit. I was bored."

"And you had to pick this movie?" Kurt sighed.

"Is it true?" Finn asked, not willing to be sidetracked. "Are you two—"

"Having wild gay monkeysex?"

Finn winced, but ignored Puck's interruption. "Going out or something?"

Kurt looked at Dave, letting him answer. He shook his head. Then he interlaced his fingers with Kurt's.

"Yeah, we are." His tone was rough, challenging, and his grip on Kurt's hand tightened.

"Shut up, Puckerman," Kurt said as Puck started to interrupt again. Thanks for making an awkward situation even more awkward.

Dave looked to Kurt, then back at Finn and Puck.

"We're dating," he said, "and anybody who has a problem with that can take it up with the Fury." He raised both fists, even though he still held Kurt's hand in his right.

Finn looked shocked into silence, eyes wide and mouth gaping.

Puck, on the other hand, snickered.

"Fury?" He held up one fist, then the other. "Meet Pain and Fear."

"Are all jocks so unimaginative?" Kurt asked the ceiling.

Finn finally regained the power of speech. "That's—that's cool. As long as you're happy, dude. Are you?"

"Yes." Kurt answered without thinking about it.

"Well, then, uh—we're cool. I'll see you guys later." Finn started walking away, still looking a little dazed.

Puck moved away from the chair he'd been leaning against.

"Pain and Fear have your back, bro," he said to Dave, then smirked at Kurt.

Dave just nodded, looking a little dazed himself, and watched as Puck caught back up with Finn.

"What just happened?" he asked faintly.

"I think you just came out of the closet to my almost-stepbrother and his best friend." Kurt said. "I'm proud of you, bro," he added, trying his best to imitate Puck.

Dave snorted, then sobered. "The whole school's gonna know by tomorrow."

"I don't think so," Kurt said, and meant it. He knew Finn wouldn't say anything and, as much as Puck enjoyed giving them a hard time, Kurt felt that he wouldn't say anything either.

~~~

Another awkward end-of-the-evening goodbye while sitting in Dave's car. Hurrah.

"That was...Interesting." Kurt said.

"What? It was the most boring movie that I've ever seen!"

"That's not what I meant," Kurt fidgeted with his keys.

"I know," Dave's voice was soft, low.

Oh, to hell with it, Kurt thought. Then he leaned across the space separating them and kissed Dave. Hard.

Unfortunately, Dave hadn't been expecting the sudden onslaught, so he jerked back and banged his head on the window.

Kurt jumped back out of his personal bubble, apologizing. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm great," Dave groaned, rubbing the side of his head.

"I'm so sorry," Kurt opened his door, one foot on the sidewalk already, ready to flee as soon as he was sure that Dave was okay.

Dave grabbed his arm and gently pulled him back into the car. "I guess we're even now," he said.

"I guess we are."

Dave closed the remaining distance between them and kissed him. Kurt smiled when Dave pulled away. He leaned back and closed the car door, blocking the chill breeze at his back.

Oh, yes, he thought as he curled a hand around Dave's neck and pulled him in for another kiss, this is definitely a good start.

End