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Fidelity

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It’s the end of the first full week in January, and ever since Dave left school 20 minutes ago, the engine of his Buick has gone from making low, sporadic coughing noises to this constant gagging sound with an overtone of someone running their fingernails across a chalkboard.

Dave pulls off into a drug store parking lot and tries not to panic. He’s supposed to pick his dad up from work in a few hours – because it’s his dad’s car, really, but Dave has been using it to drive to school ever since he transferred since there’s no bus that will get him there. He drops his dad off at work every morning, and picks him up once every other week or so on the rare evenings that Paul Karofsky can’t get a ride home with a co-worker.

And one of those evenings is tonight, and Dave is stranded in front of a CVS afraid to turn the engine back on because he knows absolutely nothing about cars. When the other Scouts in his troop were pursuing their merit badges in automotive maintenance, he stuck his head in the clouds and went for aviation and astronomy.

He drops his forehead a little too heavily against the top of the steering wheel. “You’re so fucking useless, Karosfky,” he mumbles to himself, and wishes he could disappear.

But then, in his head, he hears that soft, firm voice that he adores: “I wish you wouldn’t say that, David. It’s not true.”

Which is when he realizes where he's really, really close to.

He's only been to Kurt's house once – last spring, when Santana walked up to Dave in the hallway after school with a history textbook in her hands and said, "Kurt was in such a mad rush to go park with his boy toy at the Lima Bean that he left this behind. Since it's your sworn duty as a Bully Whip to do everything you can to help the only out gay boy at this school, be a dear and drop it off at his house."

"You're a Bully Whip, too. Why don't you?"

"I have a manicure in twenty minutes. I needs to get my nails resharpened." She held them out to him like claws. They already looked unreasonably dagger-like. "Just in case you do anything that makes me have to slice out your family jewels and add them to my crown."

That's how he ended up on Kurt's stoop that afternoon, propping the book against the front door. He'd stuck a little note in it (he'd written and rewritten the note a dozen times, finally settling on a neutral-sounding Kurt – Santana asked me to drop this off for you. See you tomorrow. – Dave.) so he could dash off before anyone answered the doorbell, just in case Burt Hummel happened to be home.

Dave is only three blocks from Kurt's house now – Kurt who knows stuff about cars. Kurt who, when they're at Blaine's, takes phone calls from a panicked Finn to help him figure out what's wrong with some engine he’s working on at their dad's garage.

Dave bites his lower lip and sends a text.

* * *

Kurt is in the kitchen getting stuff together for family dinner night when his phone buzzes.

Dave: I'm supposed to pick my dad up from work at 5:30, but my car sounds like a gagging hyena. You think it will survive until then?

Kurt: You’re not driving right now, are you?

Dave : I pulled over.

Kurt: What exactly does a gagging hyena sound like?

Dave: Bad.

Kurt: Is the engine smoking?

Dave: No.

Kurt: Smell anything funny?

Dave: Other than the banana peel I accidentally left in here this morning, no.

Kurt: Where are you?

Dave: Three blocks from your house.

Kurt: Can you drive here?

Dave: Probably?

Kurt: I'll look at it.

It doesn't give Kurt much time to put the food back in the fridge or change into his rattiest pair of skinny jeans and one of his oversized sweatshirts from his days as the McKinley Titans' kicker, but he manages to get it done before Dave drives up in his dad's Buick. He doesn't usually like to be seen in such shoddy clothing, but he supposes the entire football team saw him close to this – and it's not like Dave is all that picky when it comes to what people wear. Anyway, if he's going to be reaching into an engine, the crappy outfit cannot be helped.

* * *

Kurt is Jesus-fucking-Christ hot. Like, unbelievably, mesmerizingly, deadly hot. His jeans are torn and the neck of his sweatshirt is stretched out so that it keeps falling down his (porcelain, perfect, lickable) shoulder as he waves Dave into the garage. Dave has never seen Kurt look so slovenly, and yet he still has that air about him of polish and perfection and control and god, Dave just really, really wants Kurt to get into the car with him and pin him to the seat and grope him so hard that the weak spots of Dave’s jeans start to rip open, too.

Kurt knocks on the window and says something. Dave hears it through the glass – he really does – but he can't for the life of him figure out what it means because Kurt is looking down at him with that sort of haughty, sort of distracted look he gets when he starts telling people what to do and just expects them to do it and Dave kind of wants to die right now because this is probably the closest thing to perfect Dave will ever experience, and it would be nice to have it as his final memory.

Coming here was a very, very bad idea.

But it would be suspicious to back out of the garage now – especially given the weird-ass noise the engine is making. So he rolls down the window and tries not to look directly at Kurt so that maybe he can get a few words of intelligible English out of his mouth. "Sorry. What?"

"Your engine sounds awful. Turn it off and pop the hood."

Dave does as he’s told and gets out of the car. It's freezing in the garage – Dave's not sure how Kurt can be warm enough given that his sweatshirt is practically falling off his body and he's only got a tank-style undershirt on beneath it – although Dave's trying not to pay attention to that and is really, really trying not to think about what Kurt's nipples look like when they're cold.

Kurt's eyes go wide as he props open the hood and looks down at the engine. "Jesus fuck."

"What?" Dave says, walking over to stand next to Kurt. He doesn't look at the engine himself – half because he's afraid of how bad it is, and half because he's never looked at a car engine very carefully and is afraid it will show on his face that he has no idea what he's looking at.

"Did you get your oil changed recently?"

Dave nods. "This weekend. Why?"

Kurt points to the engine and Dave looks. There are black spatters of oil everywhere. "Whoever changed the oil forgot to put the cap back on." Kurt says, then squints his eyes at Dave in what could either be disapproval or curiosity, but in any case ends up in Dave getting a very inconvenient woody. "It wasn't you, was it?"

Dave shakes his head, tugging at the hem of his jacket to hide his hard-on. "No. I don't know jack-shit about cars. I took it to my dad's mechanic – you know, Meyer's Auto Repair on Reynolds?"

Kurt sighs dramatically. "They don't know jack-shit about cars, either. I can't tell you how many of their fuck-ups we've had to fix at my dad's shop." Kurt emphasizes his words with a few choice gestures, and the sweatshirt shifts and slips again on his shoulder, and Dave is going to die of sexual longing if he doesn’t look away and start conjugating irregular German verbs in his head.

It turns out, though, that Kurt befiehlt mich, Kurt hat mich befohlen, Kurt befahl mich (“Kurt commands me, Kurt has commanded me, Kurt commanded me”) is maybe not the best way to try to kill a boner. Dave scrambles for something more innocuous. Steigen (“to climb”)? No, that won’t help. Überwinden (“to overcome”)? Zwingen (“to compel”)? Greifen (“to grasp”)? Mahlen (“to grind”)?

He is totally, totally fucked.

“Okay, I have a plan,” Kurt says.

Dave’s silent for a moment. He’s still fishing for a non-dirty German word to think about. Backen (to bake)? Yeah, that could work. Er bäckt das Brot, er hat das Brot gebacken, er buk das Brot; ich backe das Brot, ich habe das Brot gebacken, ich buk –

“Dave, are you listening? Hello, Dave. Earth to David.”

Dave looks up from the engine. “Um, yeah, sorry. Just kind of freaking out mentally. You know, about that mess on the engine.”

Kurt smiles softly and puts a hand on Dave’s shoulder. "Don’t worry. Here's what we're going to do," he decrees. "We're going to go inside and give the engine a few minutes to cool down. While we're waiting, we're going to call Meyer and tell him his guys almost killed your car. Then I'm going to pour some oil in your engine, you're going to drive it over to Meyer's place, and he's going to clean it up for you so your engine doesn't catch on fire." He takes his hand away.

"I usually have to make an appointment."

Kurt smirks. "Let me do the talking, and I promise it will get done today."

In the kitchen, Kurt asks for Dave's phone, then proceeds to kick ass and take names as he paces across the kitchen floor. Kurt introduces himself as Dave Karofsky, insists on speaking to Mr. Meyer himself, goes into a long, assertive spiel that includes a lot of mechanic jargon, I wasn't born yesterdays and the threat of a class-action lawsuit. By the time Kurt hangs up, his ears and collarbone are pink from exertion. He hands the phone to Dave and smiles. "They're expecting you as soon as you can get there. You should be out of there by 5. And he offered free oil changes for the next year, but I wouldn't take him up on that. You'll lose more money than you'll save."

"Okay," Dave says dumbly. He shifts in his chair. His hard-on is damn close to poking a hole through the front of his jeans.

"And he also said something about the next nitrogen fill being free." Kurt is hovering over Dave now and looking down his nose at him. Well, of course he's looking down at Dave, because he's standing up and Dave's sitting. But there's a definite air of looking down at Dave, too. It's Kurt's familiar imperiousness – but there's something different about it than the times that Kurt has talked to him that way before. Something sort of … playful. "You don't seriously let that guy fill your tires with nitrogen, do you?"

"That's how my dad likes it."

Kurt scowls. Dave's heart flutters. "And I bet he charges you $10 a tire for it, too, doesn't he?"

Dave nods.

"You do realize that air is already eighty percent nitrogen, don't you?"

"Well, yeah. But he says it's that other twenty percent that makes the difference."

Kurt rolls his eyes and sinks into the chair across Dave. "And you're the one who's supposed to be good at science," he says airily. "Seriously, you tell your dad to fill the tires with regular compressed air and give you the $40 he's saving to bet on fantasy football – or basketball. Whatever the season is now." He waves one hand in the air dismissively. "At least then, there's a statistical chance that you'll get something back on your investment."

Kurt looks at him with one eyebrow raised, waiting for Dave to answer. Dave doesn't, though. All he can do is stare. Kurt is ravishing when he gets all self-righteous.

Dave is rescued from speaking by the sound of footsteps galumphing down the stairs. "Who's in trouble this time, Kur – Oh." Finn stands at the kitchen entryway, staring slack-jawed at Dave. "Kurt, Karofsky's in the kitchen."

Dave's cock deflates almost instantly.

"Yes, dear brother, I'm aware of that. I'm the one who invited him in."

Finn doesn't take his eyes off Dave. His mouth is still hanging open in this way that makes him look a little like a constipated baby. "Why would you do that?"

Kurt sighs. "Oh, Finn. How quickly we forget our manners. Sometimes I wonder why I even try teaching you common etiquette."

"But Burt said –"

Kurt shoots Finn a warning look, but Finn must be even stupider than Dave thought because he doesn’t respond to it at all. He opens his mouth and keeps talking as if ignoring Kurt Hummel were a perfectly ordinary thing to do. "You need to leave, dude. Whatever you want with my little brother, you need to leave now."

"Finn," Kurt snaps. "Save the testosterone for your bizarre heterosexual mating rituals. He's my friend now, remember? Bully Whips? PFLAG? Any of that ring a bell?"

Finn stammers. "But he just did that stuff so I wouldn't kill him."

Kurt goes cold and hot at the same time. His eyes are like ice – bright, clear blue – but his ears go from pink to beet red, and his shoulders shake like a pot of water that's just about to hit the boiling point. "Don't ever let me hear you talk about killing people again." There's a distinct chill in Kurt's voice. "He's my friend. Got it?"

Dave’s heart flips over at the sound of the word "friend." It's an odd feeling – pleasant, mostly, but also a little reminiscent of that feeling you get right before you throw up. He starts counting his breaths to try to calm himself down.

Finn slumps down into the chair next to Kurt, shrinking visibly. "Sorry, dude.  I just – Burt was so mad at me the last time when I didn't do anything."

Something in Kurt softens immediately. Dave can see it in Kurt’s eyes, and the way he starts to breathe more slowly. It’s so much like the way Kurt used to look at Dave last spring, full of tender, undeserved pity. "Let's start over," Kurt says. "Finn, this is my friend Dave. You might think you know him, but I assure you:  you don't. The guy he reminds you of was possessed by demons and is no longer with us."

Dave lets a small huff of laughter. Finn’s confused-constipated look returns.

Kurt nods at Finn. "Go on. Shake hands."

Finn complies, reaching across the table. He even makes an effort to smile at Dave as their hands touch and they grunt out mutual "hey"s, but it comes out as more of a grimace.

"Dave's here because Meyer Auto committed medical malpractice on his dad's Buick. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to go back out to the garage so I can get it in good enough shape to survive the trip to the shop."

Finn looks at Dave, his lip curling slightly. "You went to Meyer? You sure you're not still a bad guy?"

Dave doesn't know if Finn means it as a joke, but he busts out laughing anyway.

*

"Sorry about that," Dave says as he steps into the garage with Kurt. "I don't want to start any trouble with your family."

Kurt shakes his head as he flips on the infrared heater. "Don't apologize. It's my fault. My family doesn't really know I've been hanging out with you since you transferred. It's not –" He turns and looks straight into Dave's eyes in that way that makes Dave feel stripped. "I'm not ashamed of you. I just – I don't know how to explain it to them. I don't think –" Kurt shifts, pushes his sleeves up past his elbows. "I don't think they'll ever forgive you unless they know why you did it. And it's not my business to tell."

Dave feels a smarting pain near his heart. "I'm sorry." For the first time, he sees that even now, when he's not angry and homophobic and beating up on people, his staying in the closet is hurting Kurt.

Kurt shakes his head. "You don't need to be. I already tried to force you out of the closet once. I'm not going to do it again."

"Well, maybe you could tell your parents." Dave ignores the rising tide of panic in his chest. "If it would help."

Kurt looks at him, blinking rapidly like someone who's just woken up. "You sure?"

You can take it back, Dave thinks to himself, but he nods his head, anyway. "It's not like they're going to go tell anyone."

Kurt smiles gently. "I won't say anything unless I feel like I need to. And I'll make sure Finn doesn't find out, okay?"

“Thanks,” Dave mumbles. “For everything.”

“No problem. Now let’s get back to work so we can forever put Meyer Auto to shame, okay?”

Kurt walks over to a shelf to grab a pair of rubber gloves, a few rags, a roll of aluminum foil, and a bottle of motor oil. He sets the last three items on the edge of the engine block, pulling on the gloves with the same slow deliberation that women pull on stockings in old black-and-white movies. Dave has never found the stocking unrolling particularly appealing, but seeing Kurt now, he suddenly understands why straight guys have a thing for tights.

"Here, let me show you what I'm doing," Kurt says, leaning over the engine. His shoulder blades shift under the sweatshirt as he starts wiping up the oily mess. "You should at least learn a little about how cars work. It'll keep people from taking advantage of you."

"That's why you know so much, isn't it? About everything, I mean."

Kurt looks up from his work, raising his eyebrows in question.

Dave shrugs. "If you know more than your enemies, it's harder for them to hurt you, isn't it?"

"You've figured out one of my secrets." The smile on Kurt's face is tight. It makes Dave want to apologize, but he's not sure what he'd be apologizing for. So instead he grabs one of the rags from the edge of the engine and starts dabbing at the oil.

"I can do it, Dave," Kurt says, resuming his work. "That stuff will ruin your clothes."

"In case you haven't noticed, my clothes aren't exactly worth keeping clean."

When Kurt looks up this time, his smile is loose and genuine. It makes Dave's heart do that flipping thing again. "I don't know about that. You have your own style. Ironed-baggy chic. It's a little hard to pull off clothes that are both loose and well-pressed, but you do it well."

Dave's mouth goes dry. "How did you figure that out?"

Kurt smirks. "That your clothes are baggy?"

"No. That I iron them."

Kurt's smile grows wider. "I didn't know that you ironed them. I wasn't sure if it was you or your mom. I guess it could have been your dad, but – My dad doesn't iron much, so I didn't think of it."

"Neither does mine. He takes his shirts to the dry cleaners."

"But you, on the other hand?"

Dave shrugs. "It's relaxing."

"I like the smell of warm cotton, myself."

"Me, too."

They work mostly in silence for the next few minutes, Kurt occasionally pointing to some part of the engine and explaining to Dave what it does – Dave follows a little of it since he's read a lot about old airplanes, and some of the parts turn out to be similar, although a car obviously doesn't fly. Kurt finally gives in and lets Dave help with mopping up the oil, and Dave purposely gets a couple stains on the sleeves because he wants something to remember this afternoon by.

Dave is still mulling over the fact that Kurt seems to know everything while Dave knows so little – about cars, about language, about figuring out other people's secrets – so it's not a non sequitur when he starts, without thinking, "I looked up what a meat rendering plant is."

Of course, it must sound like that to Kurt, who looks up at him with a startled, "What?"

"Last year – you told me that my greatest achievement in life would be to become a supervisor in a meat rendering plant, and I didn't know what it was."

Kurt goes still for a moment. Then lifts up his blackened rag and frowns at it, turning around to toss it into a pail on the shelf. His back is still to Dave when he starts to speak. "We said a lot of ill-advised things to each other last year."

Dave wads up his own rag in a tight ball. "Sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up. I was just – I don't know. I just remembered it, all of a sudden."

"Did I –" Kurt turns around. "Did I say something to remind you of that? Was I talking down to you? Sometimes I do that to people without noticing."

"No." Dave shakes his head. "It's not that. I was just thinking about how you know a lot of things I don't, and it reminded me of some of your insults. They're pretty clever."

Kurt takes a clean rag and starts dipping it into the crevices of the engine block. "It's not true, you know. I didn't know a thing about you, and now that I do, I really doubt you're going to be a supervisor at a meat rendering plant, unless for some odd reason that's what you decide to set your sights on. I –" Kurt looks up. There's a slight blush on his cheekbones. "Do you want to know a secret?"

"What?" Dave begins working on the opposite corner of the engine from Kurt.

"After my mom died, and the kids at school started making fun of me –"

Dave's hand stops moving. Or, rather, it stops the large movements of cleaning and shifts to the small, barely perceptible movements of trembling. He looks up. "Wait. Kids made fun of you for your mom dying?"

Kurt looks back at him, his eyebrows raised in sympathy, or maybe surprise. "Yeah. Kids make fun of anything they perceive as a weakness."

Dave nods. He wishes it were easier for him to cry.

"Anyway, after she died, I started carrying around a little notebook in my pocket, and whenever I came across a good insult on TV or in a book, I'd write it down. And then I'd memorize them so that if someone said something to me, I'd have something to fling back at them and they’d shut up. It worked pretty well, actually, because most of the insults I used were way above the comprehension level of fourth and fifth graders. But then it started up again in middle school, only this time it was about me being a 'fag' and a 'sissy,' and the stuff I had in my repertoire didn't work anymore. So I started looking over my lists of insults and trying to figure out what they had in common – why they were good, you know? What made them … sting. And then I'd come up with my own. Sometimes I'd just pick a random word from the dictionary or a book I was reading and see what I could build off of that."

"I guess that's one way to build your vocabulary," Dave says, because he can't think of anything else to say. Because he's one of the reasons Kurt spent so much of his time this way.

"I did pretty well on the verbal part of my ACTs, that's for sure." Kurt sighs and looks at the engine. It's not spotless, but it's not shining with grease anymore. He takes the rag in both gloved hands and twists it nervously. "The meat rendering one, I came up with in my freshman year when we were reading The Jungle. Because that book was just … disgusting. And I'd been saving it in my stash ever since. It really had nothing to do with you. I mean, I was mad at you, and I wanted to shut you up –"

"I deserved shutting up."

Kurt nods. "But the insult wasn't really … inspired by you. I mean, I clearly didn't know anything about you.” He looks at Dave like he’s a fragile thing that might break if not handled gently. “You're not as ordinary as I thought."

An ache builds up under Dave's cheekbones. "I wanted to be, though."

"I know." Kurt reaches his hand out across the engine for Dave’s dirty rag. Handing it over to Kurt, Dave feels like he’s handing over the part of himself that's just as stained and soaked with filth. Kurt drops the rags and his gloves into the pail.

"I don't want to, anymore – be ordinary, that is," Dave stammers.

Kurt turns, stretching a new pair of gloves over his fingers. His smile is bright – maybe a little impish. "Good," he says. "Because you're not. And you really sucked at pretending."

What Dave feared were sobs building up bubble out as laughter, instead.

Kurt’s smile lights the whole block.

* * *

Half an hour later, Dave is gone and the Moroccan chicken is simmering on the stovetop, the smell of cinnamon permeating the air. Kurt's only 20 minutes behind in preparation. He's pulling the salad ingredients out of the drawer when he hears the front door open, followed by the sound of his dad's familiar footsteps coming toward the kitchen.

"It smells like oatmeal cookies in here."

Kurt shuts the refrigerator, dumps the vegetables on the counter, and throws his arms around his dad. "Sorry to disappoint, but it's Moroccan chicken. Didn't think oatmeal cookies would be the most nourishing dinner for you after your first official week in Washington, Congressman Hummel." Kurt lets go and stands back, evaluating his dad's ensemble. He's in one of the outfits that Kurt picked out for him – a navy suit with red tie (the tie has already been loosened) and long trenchcoat. Nothing that Kurt would ever, ever wear, but perfect for a politician.

"No time," his dad sighs.

"Well, I had to help a friend with an oil change this afternoon, so I'm running a little late with getting everything on the table. You have time to wash the stink of politics off of you, if you're so inclined." Kurt avoids biting his lower lip as he waits for his dad to ask Which friend?

But Burt doesn't. He just smiles and reaches out to tousle Kurt's hair. "I missed you, kiddo."

Finn doesn't blurt out anything about Dave at dinner. Kurt keeps the conversation safely away from the topics of car repair and things that happened this afternoon, and when Finn gets a little lost during the discussion about congressional committee selection and turns to Kurt like he wants to start a side conversation, Kurt studiously avoids eye contact.

By the end of the meal, Kurt’s barely touched any of the food on his plate. He needs to say something about Dave before Finn says something stupid. He tries to quiet his roiling stomach by doing the yoga breathing Blaine taught him while he assembles dessert alone in the kitchen. As he methodically arranges the figs and dates in a spiral, his brain calms enough to come up with a reasonable plan.

*

"Did you know that Meyer charges ten dollars a pop to fill tires with nitrogen?" He drops the bit of information casually as he pours his father's mint tea.

"Ten dollars for the whole set, or for each tire?"

"Each tire." Kurt moves to Carole's cup, then his own (Finn doesn't want any, because mint should taste like Wrigley's) as Burt lets out a low whistle.

"What a scam. The things I could make money on if I was willing to take advantage of people."

Kurt sits down. "I know. They also forget to put the cap back on after doing oil changes. That's why I had to help Dave out with his car this afternoon. There was almost nothing left in the engine."

Burt scrunches his eyebrows. "David? From the Warblers? Isn't he off at Yale or Princeton or something like that now?"

Kurt shakes his head casually. "No, Dave Karofsky."

"Huh." Burt scratches the back of his head. Just as Kurt expected, his face is unreadable. "So he called you?"

Kurt pretends not to understand the intent of his dad’s question. “I’m no slouch at car repair, even if I could do without the uniform.”

“I didn’t say you were. Just surprised that you were the first person that Karofsky kid thought to call.”

Kurt pops a date in his mouth and starts chewing. Maybe if he talks with his mouth full, it will hide some of the nervousness in his voice. "He's Blaine's math tutor now. So we’ve been in touch again."

Burt swallows his fig before he says anything. "Interesting."

"I didn’t know about it either," Finn interrupts unhelpfully. "But he was here this afternoon and he didn't seem like too much of a dick."

"Finn, watch your language," Carole says, even though Kurt's heard her say a lot worse. "We're at the dinner table."

Kurt shrugs. "Dave's really good at math and Blaine's – well, not. At least not geometry."

Carole clears her throat. "Well, that's an unexpected turn of events."

"Sure is," Burt says. He takes a sip of his tea and gives Kurt that look he sometimes does – like he's an enigma, and if Burt watches him long enough, maybe he'll puzzle him out.

Carole comes to the rescue then, asking Kurt where he got the idea for putting mint in the salad at dinner. A little tension lifts from the table, but Kurt knows the conversation is far from over.

*

Burt turns the TV off as soon as Kurt appears in the doorway of the living room. "What the hell is going on?" There's a tiny bit of fire in his voice, but mostly he sounds confused. He tosses the remote on the ottoman.

Kurt sets a bottle of beer on the coffee table like a peace offering. The house is quiet. Sam’s gone to Kentucky to visit his family for the weekend; Finn left after dinner to see a movie with Rachel; and Carole made herself scarce soon after, yawning dramatically and announcing that she would be going to bed early – "Don't worry about me, you two Hummel men can catch up with each other!"

Kurt sinks down onto the couch next to his father. It's only just now that it strikes him how much he misses his dad these days when he’s in D.C., and his term hasn’t even started yet. He has the urge to rest his head on his shoulder, to reassure him that he'll always be his father's little boy – but now's not the time. Now's the time for being an adult.

Burt sighs. "Let me start over. How long have you been spending time with David Karofsky? I mean, you know, after all that Bully Whips and PFLAG stuff wrapped up last year."

Kurt clears his throat. "Since West Side Story. That's when he started tutoring Blaine."

"Criminy Kurt. You mean this has been going on since before I was elected? That’s – what is that? Two months?"

"I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't want you to worry."

"How many times do we have to have the 'It's my job to worry about you' conversation before that message sinks in, Kurt?"

Kurt looks down at his hands. He doesn't feel like an adult right now. "Apparently a few more times."

"Okay. So explain to me why I shouldn't worry about you and your boyfriend hanging out with the guy who threatened to kill you.”

"It's complicated."

"Try me."

Kurt takes a deep breath, fiddling with the foxtail that’s strapped to his belt loop. "He's different now."

"Like, no longer a homicidal maniac?"

Kurt looks up at his dad. They’re both as stubborn as mules. “Look, Dad, I trusted him as little as you did last year when we met with Principal Figgins."

Burt lets out a bitter laugh. "So you finally admit that."

"Yeah, I do,” Kurt answers, only a little petulantly. “And you were right last spring. I had a reason to say I believed him even if I didn't, because I wanted to be back at McKinley. But I don't have any motive now. He's changed. He'd changed a lot before he left McKinley, and when we ran into each other in November, he'd changed even more."

Burt raises an eyebrow. "And you know this how? Just because someone stops throwing you against lockers doesn't mean he wouldn't if he had the chance."

Kurt takes a deep breath and flattens the tail out on his lap. "Okay. Play along with me for a minute. Remember when I was twelve and you wouldn't let me go to Cora Silverman's sleepover because you didn't think it was ‘appropriate’?"

"Yes."

"And to get back at you, I took your vinyl copy of John Cougar's American Fool and melted it in the oven?"

The look on Burt’s face is almost as pained as when he came home that day and saw the warped record cooling on a cookie rack. "Your mom gave me that record."

Kurt twists the tail in his hands. "I know. I'm still sorry. You know that, right? That I would do anything to undo that if I could?"

"Yeah."

"How do you know?"

Burt leans toward the coffee table and picks up the bottle of beer. He takes a slow swig and sighs. “You remember how after I stopped yelling at you, we barely talked for – what was it, three days?”

“Yeah.”

“And you refused to eat dinner with me?”

Kurt nods.

“And then the night that you would have gone to the sleepover, I came home from work and you’d made dinner and it wasn’t the usual … well, fancy stuff you like to make. It was bacon cheeseburgers and fries.”

“I beg to differ. I made those fries from actual potatoes, and the peanut oil was a rather gourmet touch.”

Burt smiles. “We’re really lucky you didn’t end up burning the house down using the fryer.”

Kurt smirks. “I knew where the fire extinguisher was.”

“Anyway … I wasn’t sure if it was an apology or your way of just trying to get me to forget that anything had happened. But you were 12 and my son and as much as I loved that record and as much as it made me think of your mother – It was just a record. And I could live with losing that record. But I couldn’t live with losing you.”

Kurt leans back against the couch cushions. “But you still didn’t know for sure? That I was sorry, I mean?”

Burt shrugs. “I kind of knew. But I guess I wasn’t sure. You’ve never been an easy one for me to figure out, you know.”

“I know.”

“But later it became kind of obvious. Remember that summer, when you were helping me at the garage and ‘Jack and Diane’ came on the radio?”

Kurt nods. He can still feel the slow, steady tightening around his lungs that started when the song came on, like a strap wrench gripping down on a pipe. The air wouldn’t move in and it wouldn’t move out, and Kurt just stood there next to the carburetor he was supposed to be cleaning, not breathing at all, until the next thing he knew, he was opening his eyes and his father was crouching over him, shaking him into consciousness.

The worry in his dad’s eyes was as visible as the flecks of green there, and the air whooshed into Kurt’s lungs so fast that they ached, and suddenly Kurt was crying – violent, uncontrollable tears that made his whole body shudder.

The rest of that afternoon is a blur, but he remembers the feeling of his dad’s arms lifting him up and carrying him to the car, the warm security when they got home and Burt walked him to his room and made him lie down, gave him water and kissed his forehead and said, “Kurt, it was just a record. I would always rather have you.”

Kurt scoots closer to his dad and leans his cheek against his shoulder. “I remember.”

“It killed me to see how much it was eating you up.”

Kurt reaches for his father’s hand. It’s warm and callused and as anchoring as it always has been. “That’s how it is with Dave,” he says quietly.

“It’s eating him up?”

Kurt nods against his dad’s shoulder.

“You know it’s not your job to make him feel better about himself, right?”

Kurt nods again.

They’re silent for a minute, until Kurt speaks. “After I came up with that brilliant PFLAG idea, I was kind of forced to spend a lot of time with him. And I could see that he really was changing. It was only … baby steps, I guess. But baby steps are a big deal for someone who's never walked before."

"What do you mean?"

The words are barely audible when Kurt speaks them. "He's gay, Dad."

Burt’s hand tenses under Kurt’s. "Huh. I didn’t see that one coming.” He pauses. “How long have you known?"

"A while.” He waits for his dad to press for a more specific date, but Burt doesn't say anything. "It’s not just because he’s gay that we’re hanging out. He’s not Blaine’s and my charity case or something. We like him. He’s … nice when he’s not being so screwed up.”

“So he’s – what? He’s out now?”

"Not exactly. But he has some gay friends now – besides me and Blaine – and he's out to himself, which is a vast improvement on where he was a year ago. And he's out to you. He said it was fine to tell you. His parents don’t know yet, though."

"It's fine to tell me, but not his own parents?"

"Apparently his mom is kind of – not very tolerant."

Burt frowns. "I guess that explains some things.” He pulls off his hat and twists it in his hands before putting it back on. “Kind of a screwed up way of dealing with hating yourself, though – the stuff he did to you.”

“Hating yourself is kind of screwed up in the first place.”

“True.” Burt looks at Kurt carefully. For all Burt talks about not understanding his son, when he gives him that look, Kurt feels like his dad can see right into his soul. "You’ve forgiven him, haven’t you?”

Kurt nods. “Yeah.”

Burt shakes his head and sighs. “I don’t know how to get there, Kurt, if that’s what you want from me. I mean, the stuff you've told me helps, but … You've been under the same pressures and you never threatened to kill anyone.”

Kurt shrugs. “I don’t know that the pressures are the same, Dad. I mean, yeah, I got made fun of a lot in middle school –”

“Another thing you never told me about,” Burt mumbles under his breath.

“– but you raised me to be as stubborn as you are. And that kind of goes a long way when it comes to not letting other people’s crap destroy you.” He swallows. “I know what it’s like to be gay, Dad. But I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have the life that Dave had and the home life he has and the so-called friends, and then figure out I was gay.”

Burt’s looking at his son, and his eyes are welling up in that way that breaks Kurt’s heart. “Jesus, Kurt. You are so much like your mother. You never could’ve gotten that big a heart from me.”

Kurt rubs the back of his hand across his cheek. “You’re so full of shit, Dad. Mom was great, but you’re no asshole.”

Burt bursts out laughing. “I knew I should have washed out your mouth with soap before it was too late.”

“Shouldn’t have let me hang around the shop if you didn’t want me talking like that.”

Burt pats Kurt’s leg, letting out a heavy sigh. “You're my son, Kurt. As a parent, it's really hard to let go of the fact that someone tried to hurt you."

“I know.” Kurt wipes another tear away with the back of his hand. It makes him ache, sometimes, the love he has for his dad. “Do you want me to stop hanging out with him?"

Burt shrugs. “One of the things about being a parent is learning when to let your kid make decisions you might not make yourself, and learning when to tell them they're making the wrong decision."

"So which is this?"

"I don't know. You sure you're safe?"

"Positive. I wouldn’t spend time with him if I wasn’t."

Burt squeezes Kurt’s hand. "I trust your instincts, Kurt. If you trust this guy, he's trustworthy.” He takes another swig of his beer. “But if I’m gonna be honest, I have to say I'm not ready to look at him yet. Not until I’m more used to the idea. I mean, last time I saw him without adult supervision around, I threw him against a wall."

Kurt smiles bittersweetly. “I remember.”

“But don’t hide from me, either, okay? I mean, you could talk about him every once in a while. You know, help me get used to the idea that maybe he’s not the world’s biggest douchebag?”

Kurt’s jaw drops playfully. “Dad. You did not just say that about one of my friends.”

“I’ve said much worse about him, actually.”

Kurt should probably be offended, but he finds himself laughing into his dad’s shoulder, instead.

* * *

Blaine is at the piano when Dave walks through the door, and Kurt is there, too – straddling Blaine's lap, sucking on his bottom lip and making these little moaning noises that go straight to Dave's cock. Kurt is wearing the same red sweatshirt he wore to work on the Buick, and it doesn't look at all like he's washed it. There are streaks of motor oil on the torso and sleeves, and they rub off on Blaine's skin as he curls his fingers into the fabric.

Neither of them seem to notice that Dave's there, so he steps closer for a better view. It's only when he's right next to the piano that he realizes that it's not Kurt who's straddling Blaine, but the other way around. Neither of them have any pants on and Kurt is leaning back, his elbows nestled soundlessly against the ivories, watching with interest as Blaine nestles his crack over Kurt's oh my god huge cock.

Dave wonders if he should go to the kitchen and start his homework without them, pretend that he didn't notice they were doing something other than playing the piano.

He wonders, but he stays where he is, because Blaine is sinking down on Kurt's cock now and, damn, the look on Blaine's face – it's like he died and went to heaven or, better yet, he went to heaven without the inconvenience of dying, and Dave feels it, too – a sympathetic stretch and fullness and awe that makes his asshole quiver.

"Good boy," Kurt whispers, tilting his hips slightly upward so that the last of his cock disappears inside Blaine. Dave sinks to the floor for a better view, and Kurt notices him then, and smiles. "You like this, don't you?"

Dave and Blaine both nod.

Kurt cranes his neck up and kisses Blaine tonguefully, and Blaine gasps – gasps at the kiss and at the way Kurt rolls his pelvis and at the way Kurt presses his fingers into Blaine's hips, guiding his movements.

"So good," Blaine says, rocking up slightly to reveal the base of Kurt's cock, then down to take it all back inside himself. "You feel so good, Kurt. You make me feel like a man."

"You are," Kurt says, and he's gripping at Blaine's cock now, stroking it in time with each of Blaine's oscillations. “You’re more man than anyone I know.”

There's more kissing and tonguing and sharp bites on collarbones and then Blaine is bent over the kitchen table, completely naked, and Kurt's still got that sweatshirt on and his knee-high white boots and he's fucking into Blaine's ass slow and sweet, methodical in the way he's making Blaine shudder.

Dave sits down across from them, starts stroking himself without thinking first about whether that's rude. Blaine tilts his face up at him and opens his eyes. "You should feel what it's like, Dave. It feels so good to be loved."

Dave starts crying and Blaine reaches out to him, cups his hand around Dave's cheek as Kurt drapes himself over Blaine's back, kissing the spot between his shoulder blades. "We were lonely, too," Blaine says. "It doesn't last forever."

They're in Kurt's garage now – just Dave and Kurt. Blaine is in the kitchen teaching Finn how to use a fork. Dave's not sure how he knows this, but he does.

"You're car is never going to work again," Kurt says. He's walking in circles around it – prowling, almost. His sweatshirt sleeves are pushed past his elbows and both his shoulders are showing above the stretched neckline, his collarbone sharp and taunting. He looks at Dave with a piercing stare. "Unless –"

"Anything. I'll do anything to make it better," Dave stammers out.

Kurt laughs. "Don't worry. It won't hurt."

"But it has to hurt. Nothing will work again unless it hurts."

Kurt steps toward Dave, runs an oil-stained finger across Dave's cheek. Dave feels it leave a thick line like eye black across his cheekbone. "Oh, Dave. There are other ways."

They're in the parking lot of McKinley, on the hood of the Buick. There's a dusting of snow on the asphalt, but Dave isn't cold. The sun is shining and Kurt's body is covering him and Kurt's cock is inside him, radiating heat into Dave's center and out into his bones. Dave feels safer than he's ever felt in his life.

Sometimes Dave is on his back, looking up at Kurt's eyes. They're smiling at him, the corners crinkled, and the sun sparkles in Kurt's irises the way it sparkles on frost in the early morning, shifting the color from blue to green to turquoise to violet and back again as Kurt fucks into him, sweet and slow and then hard and fast, and then Kurt rides Dave’s cock for a while, fucking down on him with his warm, supple ass and moaning, “You feel good, Dave. Don’t you feel good?”

Dave tries to say yes, yes, because of you, but he’s forgotten how to speak English, so all that comes out of his mouth is, “Du hast mich überwunden.”

Sometimes Dave is on his stomach, his knees spread apart on the fender, and he watches Kurt's reflection in the windshield – watches Kurt take him and own him. Beyond Kurt's reflection, Azimio and someone from the hockey team – at first it's Scott Cooper, and then it's Rick Nelson, and then it's Scott Cooper again – sit in the front seat of the car and watch, and frown jealously, and mumble under their breath because they will never have this. They will never feel this invulnerable.

And then they disappear. Everything disappears except Kurt: the feeling of Kurt inside him; the sound of Kurt whispering in Dave's ear, "I told you it didn't have to hurt"; the steady movement of Kurt's fist around Dave's cock.

Wait – there’s something else, too: Clementi's Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36, No. 3. Blaine and his Steinway have rolled up next to the car, and he's talking as he plays, "I told you, Dave, you won't be lonely forever," and Dave is so close to coming, so close – feels the heat building in his balls as Kurt kisses the breath out of him and –

Dave's eyes open. It's suddenly dark, not like the bright winter light of the McKinley parking lot. Dave's sheets are soaked with sweat, and his hand is inside his boxers, squeezing at his cock.

Dave doesn't let himself think. He just moves, whipping off his shorts and scrambling off the edge of his bed as he reaches into his nightstand for the petroleum jelly. He bends over the mattress the way that Kurt had him bent over the car, and it doesn't take long before his hole is ready for the first finger, but it's not enough, so he spreads himself wider, fucks himself with two, and god it's good, so good, the friction and the filling and his cock rubbing against the mattress and the heat and yes he can take more, so he does. He pulls his two fingers out and replaces them with three and fuck this must be a little what it feels like to take a cock, feel yourself stretch open and wide, feel yourself become dizzy with the power of it, the strength of your body and your clenching muscle, and oh god fuck me, please, fuck me, I'm so close, Kurt, let me come – and he does.

The orgasm barrels down on him like an airplane barreling down the runway, the wheels protesting louder and louder against the friction of the asphalt and the whole vessel vibrating so hard he can feel it in his teeth, and his muscles threaten to unravel under the strain – and suddenly, everything goes quiet. His body is all one piece, and he's up in the air, hurtling toward the sky.