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Toujours

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“It tastes like pink. It tastes like pink! Pink!” Rachel yelled drunkly into the microphone as the bass to “Like a G6” pumped so loudly in the room it rattled the partygoers bones.

Kurt asked Finn, “Are you not drinking?”

“No. Designated driver. What about you?”

“I’m still trying to impress Blaine. Can’t get too sloppy.” Kurt answered while dancing. Looking back over his shoulder at the visibly smashed Blaine, he added, “Clearly, he doesn’t have the same concern.”

Blaine walked up to Finn and put his left arm up on Finn’s shoulder. “Hey! It’s so cool that you are Kurt are brothers. Right? Like, brothers! Wow! You’re so tall.”

Kurt spoke up, “You having fun, Blaine?”

Blaine stepped slightly away from Finn and answered, “Yeah.” Slurring his words, “This is the best party ever!” He put his left arm around Kurt and nearly fell down the tiny step off the stage he had been standing on, only managing to stay upright because he was leaning on Kurt.

Rachel started hanging on Finn and he gave her a run-down on the different types of drunks. She wasn’t pleased with his assessment of her being a needy drunk and got up and walked off. She call for everyone to sit in a circle to play Spin the Bottle.

First to kiss were Sam and Brittany. Santana was not pleased and broke them up when she thought it had gone on too long. Rachel declared that she was next. She spun and it pointed to Blaine.

She pointed at Blaine and said, “Blaine Warbler, I’m gonna rock your world!”

The other New Directions were chanting, “More, more, more.” And their kiss went from a closed mouth kiss to french kissing quite quickly. Both of them were really into it. Blaine wrapped his hand around the back of Rachel’s neck.

Kurt said, “I think we’ve had enough of that,” trying to get them to stop.

They pulled apart slightly, but Rachel leaned back in to kiss Blaine again. “Your face tastes awesome,” she said before completely disengaging. “I think I just found a new duet partner.”

Once the game was done, Blaine and Rachel were up on the stage together singing a very flirty rendition of “Don’t You Want Me?” which included a bit of bumping and grinding.

Kurt was sitting looking forlorn, but attempting to pretend he was enjoying himself.

When the party finally ended, Kurt drove Blaine’s car to the Hummel’s because Blaine was far too drunk to drop off at his own empty house. He was so hungover the next day that Kurt ended up driving them back to Dalton as well.

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The following Monday after school, Blaine and Kurt went to get coffee.

Blaine was arguing, “I didn’t drink that much.”

“Are you kidding? You spent the entire night sucking Rachel Berry’s face.”

Blaine cell phone buzzed.

Kurt continued talking as Blaine reached inside his peacoat to get his phone. “That, sir, is what we call rock bottom.”

Blaine looked at the caller ID, “Oh, my God, speak of the devil.”

The barista put their coffee cups on the pick up counter.

Blaine answered, “Hi, Rachel. Kurt and I were just talking about you.”

They picked their cups up and walked toward a table.

“You’re such a cutie pie with your blazer and your pants. So, I have a question for you. I wanted to know if you’d go out with me to see Love Story tonight?”

Kurt asked Blaine, “Is she drunk?”

Blaine answered, “Um, yeah. I’ll see you then."

“I look forward to it. At 6:00, don’t forget,” she said.

“Okay, Bye.”

Blaine put his phone down.

“Rachel just asked me out.”

Kurt laughed and said, “Oh, that’s amazing. She’s got a girl crush on you. Wait a second - why’d you say yes? You can’t lead her on.”

“Who says I’m leading her on?"

Kurt looked totally perplexed. “You can’t be serious.”

“When we kissed, it - it felt good.”

“It felt good because you were drunk.”

“What’s the harm in going out on one crummy little date?”

Kurt leaned in and whispered, “You’re gay, Blaine.”

“I thought I was. But I’ve never even had a boyfriend before.”

Kurt thought, “not for lack of effort on my part”, but he kept his mouth shut.

Blaine continued, “Isn’t this the time when we’re supposed to figure stuff out?”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this right now.”

“Maybe I’m bi. I don’t know.”

Kurt blurted out something that he would later regret having said. “Bisexual is a term that gay guys in high school use when they want to hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.”

“Whoa. Wait, wait. Why are you so angry?”

“Because I look up to you. I admire how proud you are of who you are. I know what it’s like to be in the closet, and here you are about to tiptoe back in.”

Blaine got really agitated. “I’m really sorry if this hurts your feelings or your pride or whatever. But however confusing it might be for you, it’s actually a lot more confusing for me. You’re 100% sure who you are. Fantastic,” Blaine said sarcastically. “Well, maybe we can’t all be so lucky.”

“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of luck, Blaine.” Kurt’s words were laced with even more sarcasm and some anger. “I was really lucky to be chased out of my high school by a bully who threatened to kill me.”

“And why did he do that?”

“Because he didn’t like who I was.”

“Sort of exactly what you’re saying to me right now, isn’t it?” Blaine said disdainfully.

Kurt looked shocked and even more confused.

“I am - I’m searching, okay?”

Kurt continued to look totally lost.

“I’m honestly just trying to figure out who I am. And for you, of all people, to get down on me for that,” Blaine said hatefully and continued, “I didn’t think that’s who you were.”

Blaine stood up to leave. “I’ll see you.” He added a jab for extra emphasis, “I’d say ‘bye’, but I wouldn’t want to make you angry.” He picked up his satchel and walked out of the coffee shop.

Kurt just sat at the table stunned. He tried to process what had just happened. He thought about how he had confessed to having feelings for Blaine in the same coffee shop he was in. Blaine had turned him down, citing that he didn’t want to hurt their friendship. But then suddenly, he’s not only willing to hurt their friendship by walking out on a conversation, but he’s willing to date Rachel. After one drunken kiss, he’s seriously considering that he might be bisexual and he is willing to date Rachel. But he wasn’t interested in considering Kurt as a potential dating partner after having spent over four months getting to know each other.

Kurt eventually picked up his empty coffee cup and the cup that Blaine left behind and threw them in the trash and called Finn to come pick him up at the coffee shop, even though it was a 30 minute drive from their house. He was going to have to get his dad to drive him back to Dalton since he had ridden to the coffee shop with Blaine.

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Kurt decided to you use his unexpected evening at home to work on Burt’s cooking skills, but things weren’t going well.

“I would have been happy with you to teaching me how to make toast.”

“Okay, I’m sorry, Dad. It’s Blaine. He’s interested in Rachel.”

Burt turned to get something out of the fridge, “I’m confused. I thought he was gay too.”

“Oh, he is, he is. He’s just ... experimenting.”

Burt laughed, “Yeah. He’s not the only one.”

“What does that mean?”

“Look, I need you to ask me before you have someone sleep over.”

“We were fully clothed the entire time. Blaine was too drunk to drive, so I let him crash here. I was being responsible.”

Burt asked angrily, “You kids are drinking now?”

“Finn and I didn’t have any, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No, I’m worried about you being inappropriate in my house.”

“And if Puckerman had a sleepover with Finn, would that be inappropriate?”

“That’s different.”

“Because they wouldn’t have sex?”

“No, I would never allow Finn to have a girl sleep over in his bed.”

“But would it make you uncomfortable if he did?”

“Hey, when have I been uncomfortable with you being gay?”

“So, it’s not being gay that upsets you, it’s just me acting on it.”

“I don’t know what two gay guys do when they’re together. You know, I sat through that whole Brokeback Mountain. From what I gather, something went down in the tent.”

“What do you want from me, Dad?”

“I want you to apologize for being inappropriate and promise me you’ll never do it again.”

“Fine. I’m sorry. I won’t have sleepovers with anyone that might be gay without asking you first,” Kurt said, with his voice on edge.

“Thank you.”

He turned to walk off, clearly uninterested in continuing their cooking lesson or their conversation. He got a few feet away, then turned back and said, “But maybe you could step outside your comfort zone and educate yourself, so if I have any questions, I could go to my dad like any straight son could.” He turned and walked out of the room.

He went straight to Finn and asked to borrow his truck for a while.

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He drove around for a while and tried to figure out what to do. His truck was at Dalton. He didn’t want to spend an hour and a half in a car with his dad, even though that had been the plan after Blaine ditched him. He knew it was already too late to get Finn to drive him back. He would have asked Carole, but she was at work.

He stopped at Lima Bean and ordered a decaf and sat inside for a while. It wasn’t a good choice. His mind flashed back to earlier that afternoon. He was really angry with Rachel, but he thought maybe she’d come to her senses and apologize for asking the guy she knew he liked out on a date, plus he was hoping he’d get the chance to say “I told you so”, just this once. She always got her way, and frankly he was sick of it.

He left the Lima Bean and drove to her house. She let him in. He offered to help her clean up the mess, so they went down into her basement.

“Thanks for helping with the party clean up, especially since you didn’t even drink.”

“I was in the neighborhood.”

“At 10:00? Are you sure you’re not here just to find out how my date with Blaine went?”

“Oh, was that tonight?”

“Look, we’re friends, so I’m going to be honest with you. The date was lovely. We saw Love Story at the Revival Theatre. We even dressed up as the characters.”

“That’s not gay at all.” He said facetiously. “Did you kiss?”

“No. Our lips spent the evening mouthing Ali MacGraw’s dialogue. Frankly, I did expect a little snog as the date drew to a close, but I guess the timing just wasn’t right.”

“Or the blood alcohol level.”

“Look, I know that you have feelings for him and I’m sure that you think I’m crazy for asking him out. But Blaine is obviously conflicted and if he turns out not to be gay, well then, I guess I will have done you a favor.” “And I’m doing you a favor by telling you that Blaine is the first in a long line of conflicted men that you will date that will later turn out to be only the most flaming of homosexuals.”

“Blaine and I have a lot in common.”

“A sentiment expressed by many a hag about many a gay. Look, I don’t doubt that you and Blaine would have a jolly good time shopping at Burberry and arguing about who would make the better Rum Tum Tugger. I don’t dispute that. But there’s something that you and Blaine will never have and that’s chemistry.”

“Fine. Then I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m gonna to take the beer goggles off and I’m gonna kiss him sober. And if the spark is still there, then I’m taking you to your bakery of choice for a piping-hot slice of humble pie.”

Rachel got the details on when Kurt and Blaine normally went to the coffee shop and arranged to meet them there the next day.

At that point, Kurt gave up on the idea of Rachel apologizing or coming to her senses.

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He left Rachel’s house and drove back home. On the drive back, he called his RA and explained that he’d be spending the night at home and he’d be back for school in the morning. A few minutes later, his phone rang. His dad called because the RA called him to confirm the fact that Kurt was actually at home.

“I thought I was driving you back tonight, then you walked off and left me with a disaster in the kitchen.”

“I’m sorry, Dad. I was a lot more upset about Blaine that I had realized. I needed some time to try to clear my head. I’m on my way home right now. I should be there in about five minutes.”

“Fine, but we’re talking more when you get here.”

“Okay, Dad.” Kurt hung up and kept driving.

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Kurt and Burt went out on the back deck to talk.

“So, why does this have you so upset? I’m trying to understand.”

“Dad, Blaine was the first guy I met that’s like me. He likes fashion, he likes Broadway, old movies.”

“I get that.”

“And now, he and Rachel enjoyed their date. She wants to meet up for coffee tomorrow where we normally go after school. Don’t worry. This time I’m driving myself, if I go.”

“So, they enjoyed themselves. What’s that got to do with you?”

“You don’t get it, Dad. If Blaine is bisexual and he dates Rachel, then he’s not like me anymore. He’ll pass, Dad. He’ll be normal and I’ll still be me, on the outside, alone.”

“So, you think he won’t be friends with you anymore if he starts to date Rachel?”

“Oh, he probably will be willing to be friends, after he finishes with his ‘I told you so.’ lecture about how he was right that he is bi.”

“But you don’t want to be friends with him if he’s bi?”

“That’s not it at all, Dad. I’m not against people being bisexual. I’m friends with at least one bisexual person, maybe two and I’m not actively opposing their sexualities.”

“Then, I don’t get it.”

“I feel like I’ve been lied to. He’s been this out, proud gay teen. I looked up to him for being bold and proud of who he was. It was like, ‘here’s this guy who could pass for straight, but who’s proud enough of who he is that he doesn’t hide behind his ability to pass.'”

“And now?”

“And if he’s bi, then he can fit right into regular society and choose a girl and no one will ever know. And I go back to being the only out gay guy that I know.”

“I see.”

“I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I’m going to head to bed. We have to leave really early for me not to be late to my first class tomorrow.”

“Night, kiddo.”

“Good night, Dad.”

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The next day at lunch, Kurt cornered Blaine. “Please come eat with me outside. I need to talk to you.”

Blaine took his tray and followed Kurt outside to an isolated bench under a tree in the corner of the courtyard.

“First off, I want to apologize for what I said about bi teen guys yesterday. I was angry, which I will explain in a minute. But it doesn’t excuse what I said. I’m friends with two people that I am 99% sure are bisexual. I’m not someone who doesn’t believe in bisexuality.”

“Good to know,” Blaine said rather flatly.

“As for why I got so angry. Please try to listen without interrupting.” He explained exactly what he had explained to his dad.

Blaine tried to summarize what Kurt had said. “So, you think that if I start dating Rachel exclusively, that people we meet will believe that I’m straight and therefore include me and Rachel socially in ways that would not happen if I were bisexual and dating a guy exclusively.”

“It’s not a matter of me believing that. It’s a matter of fact. You can pass for straight as it is. As I said, that was one of the things that made me admire you more. You were willing to risk being rejected for who you were. You didn’t hide when you easily could have.”

“I think I get it. Bisexual teens that choose an opposite gender partner fit into the straight world where gay teens are excluded. And that makes it seem like the bisexual teen is back in the closet.”

“Pretty much. I’m not denying that bisexuals exist or that their sexual orientation isn’t valid. I just meant that a bisexual person who chooses a same gender partner would be ostracized as if they were gay, but if the bisexual person chooses an opposite gender partner it’s as if they can hide their LGBT status and be ‘normal’. Does that make more sense? I was angry and upset and did a terrible job explaining what I meant yesterday.”

“Yeah, that makes more sense. We’ve been friends long enough that I should have tried to listen to how you felt about all of it.”

“You also ditched me 30 minutes from my house and an hour from school. I know you were excited about your date with Rachel and you obviously rushed home to change into the appropriate attire to watch Love Story in, but I had to get Finn to drive 30 minutes to pick me up and then my dad had to drive me an hour and a half this morning because I couldn’t manage to ride in the car with him that long last night after the lecture I got about MY inappropriate behavior for letting you sleep off your drunkenness in my bed Saturday night.”

“Oh. I didn’t know you’d get in trouble.”

“Yeah, well, neither did I. So, needless to say, you can’t spend the night at my house anymore.”

“Okay.”

Kurt couldn’t believe that the only thing Blaine had to say was “okay”, not “I’m sorry” about any of it.

Blaine asked, “So, are we still on for coffee after school today?”

“Yeah, Blaine. Sure. But this time, I’m driving or we can drive separately.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you at the coffee shop at 3:30.”

Blaine picked his tray up and went back into the cafeteria.

Kurt just sat on the bench wondering how Blaine could sit there and listen to his apology, then learn that Kurt had gotten in trouble for Blaine’s drunken sleepover and not say a single work indicating that he was sorry about the things he had said or done. He compared what Kurt had said to him to the way Karofsky had reacted. Blaine knew that Karofsky had threatened to kill him to keep him quiet about his own sexuality, not because Kurt himself was gay. He didn’t get an apology for that or even for the obvious, like ditching him at the coffee shop.

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Rachel met Kurt at the coffee shop. They arrived before Blaine.

“You said he’d be here at 3:30?”

“Like clockwork - for his post-rehearsal medium drip.”

“I just can’t wait to lay one on him,” Rachel said as she applied lip gloss.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Rachel. I don’t mean to be a scold, but I don’t want you to get hurt either. There’s no victory in this for me either way.”

“Who cares about you, buddy? I may get a new boyfriend out of this who can keep up with me vocally and in the future give me vaguely Eurasian-looking children.”

Kurt was stunned, but kept his composure. “There he is - dreamy as ever.”

“Okay. Wish me luck.” Rachel got up and walked directly to Blaine, who had gotten in line to get his coffee.

“Hey, Rachel. What’s going on?” he asked with a big smile on his face.

She didn’t say anything. She grabbed him squarely by the shoulders and rose up on her toes and kissed him. The kiss started out chaste, but quickly started to build like it had the night at the party. Rachel ended the kiss, but pulled Blaine by the hand out of line and went outside and walked him around the back of the coffee shop where no one could see and pulled him back into a passionate kiss that lasted until they were out of breath and had to take a break for a minute.

“Wow,” Blaine said.

“Definitely, wow,” Rachel agreed.

“So...”

“So, Blaine, will you be my boyfriend?”

“I would be honored.” He offered his hand and Rachel took it.

They walked back into the coffee shop and got in line.

“What would you like?” Blaine asked her.

“Oh, um. Some green tea. Thanks.”

Neither one of them noticed that Kurt wasn’t there anymore.

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Kurt left the coffee shop and drove back to Dalton. He waited at the cafeteria doors for it to open at 4:30 and grabbed an apple, a banana, a carton of milk, a bottle of juice and two sandwiches that he wrapped in napkins. He stuffed the food in his pockets and left the cafeteria to spend the evening in his room.

He had only been in his room long enough to change into his Dalton-issued sweats when his phone pinged with a text.

To Kurt: What the hell, dude?

He picked up his phone and responded.

From Kurt: ?

His phone rang. He answered.

“What the hell, Kurt?”

“Finn, I have no idea what you are talking about. What did I do?”

“She changed her Facebook status.”

“Who?”

“Rachel.”

“Oh. Why are you yelling at me?”

“If you hadn’t brought him to her party, this would have never happened.”

“You think I’m glad about this? Finn, I can’t even talk about this with you.” He hung up and turned his phone off.

He plopped down on his bed and thought about how he could take his mind off of things. He came up with nothing. He realized at that moment that he had done nothing to make any friends at Dalton. He didn’t even have a roommate. He had allowed Blaine to be his whole life at Dalton.

Blaine had made himself Kurt’s whole life was more like it. Blaine was always hanging around, gently touching his shoulder or arm. Always talking to him. Boy was he lousy at reading people or maybe Blaine’s just a flirt. He was so outgoing, maybe he thought the way he behaved wasn’t leading Kurt on.

Kurt didn’t know what to think anymore. He decided to just eat the food he had brought back with him, do his homework as quickly as possible, take a shower and just go to sleep. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help clear his head.

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The next day was a strange one for Kurt. He kept having the overwhelming sensation that he was being watched, but he could never actually see anyone watching him. At lunchtime, he opted for a hot meal since he had skipped out on eating anything much at dinner the night before. He found an empty spot at a table that was mostly hidden from view of the food line.

He sat and ate his meal in silence. He put his tray, plate and utensils away and left the cafeteria to study in the music room. He had a couple of other classes before Warblers rehearsal at 2:00, but it was a quiet place to read during lunch and it was almost always empty since the Warblers were the only ones allowed to use it during lunch.

He caught up on his French reading that he had fallen behind on Monday night because he didn’t have the book with him when he ended up at home all night. The bell rang and he attended his last two classes then headed back to the music room for Warblers rehearsal.

He walked into the room and that overwhelming sensation returned. There was something going on. He decided to ignore it until he had a better idea of what “it” was.

David began talking. “So, we’ve been working on 'Animal' and we’ve found a time and place where we can perform it for the Glee club at our sister school. The Crawford County Day girls will be meeting us in their old gym this afternoon at 4:30. We won’t be rehearsing now since we’ll be heading over there later. I don’t want anyone to fall behind on their schoolwork because of an unplanned performance.”

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The Warblers carpooled over to the old gym and they rehearsed the vocals once, outside behind the building before going inside. The girls were already inside waiting for them.

Blaine stood in front of the line of girls and started talking. “As you know, the Warblers are competing in our show choir’s Regionals Championship week after next. So, what we’re going for today ladies, is something a little - a little sexy. But we need your input. Are we scream worthy? Do we make your knees turn to jelly? So, without further ado, hang on to your bobby socks, girls, ‘cause we’re about to rock your world.”

The backup vocals started and the Warblers all took their places on the scaffolding that was set up. Blaine entered from the top and made his way down the left side weaving through the other Warblers. Kurt came in singing the second verse from the floor level on the right. They met in the middle and sang together. Kurt hadn’t performed in such a provocative way since the New Directions performance of “Toxic”. Kurt pulled out all of the stops and was full-on seductive and flirtatious. The girls were all dancing and cheering and clearly enjoying the performance.

After the song was over, Kurt was sitting on the scaffolding fixing his hair. He saw two girls approach Blaine and hand him their numbers.

“Sorry girls. I already have a girlfriend.” They shrugged and walked off.

“Well, I can say you completely shocked me with your performance, Kurt. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“What were you expecting? Me to get up there and act like a wallflower?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“Blaine, I’m a performer. I perform. This isn’t my first sexy song rodeo. Get over it. I can be whatever is called for in a song or a play. That’s the point of being a performer, isn’t it?”

Kurt got up and walked out of the gym and opened the Navigator for the guys that had ridden over with him and they all climbed inside. He had nearly half of the Warblers in his Navigator since it could seat seven.

“Wow, Kurt. That was awesome. We should definitely keep use that number in our set list,” Nick said.

“I think that and ‘Raise Your Glass’ will be good choices,” Trent said.

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When they got back to Dalton, Thad hung back. “Kurt can I talk to you?”

“Sure, Thad.”

“Let’s walk this way.” Thad led Kurt around the outside of the building to the entrance of the garden area on the west side of the school.

“What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Well, I wanted to know if you would go to the movies with me Friday evening.”

“Sure,” Kurt answered quickly and cheerfully. “Who else is going?”

“Um. No one. I meant as a date. Just you and me.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll go. What time?”

Thad sat down on stone wall. “Well,” Thad pulled out his phone to look up show times. “Here’s what’s playing. Do any of those look interesting to you?”

Kurt sat down next to him to look at his phone. “I’m a sucker for animated movies. And I could use a good laugh. How about Rango?”

Rango it is. Show times are 4:45 and 7:00.”

“Let’s go at 4:45. It will be less crowded and we can get something to eat afterwards if you want. There’s a good sub shop in town if you like subs. Or we can go wherever you like. I’m not a picky eater.”

“I like subs. I actually just like food in general,” he laughed.

“Me too. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Honestly I didn’t know you liked guys, so I would have never been the one to ask you. But why did you ask me now?”

“To be honest, I thought you and Blaine were dating. I thought the GAP Attack was some sort of flash of insanity and that maybe you had broken up with him and he was doing the rebound thing in a major way. But then even afterwards, he was always hanging around wherever you were. I thought maybe he had apologized and you took him back? He was always being just below the radar flirty with you. I thought you had some issue with PDA or something, so he kept it on the DL.”

“Oh. Well, I’m not big on making out in public, but that’s more of a self-preservation issue.”

Thad looked at him questioningly.

“In Lima, where I’m from, two guys making out in public would get their butts kicked. It’s not exactly a gay-friendly place.”

“Oh. I’ve never been there. My parents travel a lot and my grandfather went to school here, so they decided that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. I’ve been here for two and a half years.”

“Where do your parents live?”

“Right now, they’re in Germany.”

“Two and a half years. So, you’re a junior.”

“Yes. And you are too, right?”

“I am.”

“I’m just going to be bold.”

“Go for it.”

“I like you. I’ve liked you since you got here. You’re funny and smart and talented. I think we could go out and have fun together. Are you interested in just casually dating? For a while? I’m not trying to get you into bed. I’m not asking for a lifelong commitment. I can understand if you’re not interested.”

“No, actually it sounds fun. We’ll just see how things go. If there’s no spark, we can just hang out and go out and do things as friends. I could use some friends. From the overwhelming feeling I’ve had all day today, I’m betting that you weren’t the only person that thought that Blaine and I were dating.”

“Well, I can answer that for you. All of the Warblers thought you two were dating. I don’t know about the rest of the school, but I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty much everyone who knows you, thinks you were dating Blaine, especially since very few of them would have any knowledge of the GAP Attack.”

“Great, just great. So, does everyone think he dumped me? I broke up with him? What’s the gossip going around?”

“People are trying to figure it out. You’ve been less than your cheerful self last few days and he’s been quite animated. So, the consensus has been that he broke up with you since he’s the one that publicly updated his Facebook page to ‘in a relationship with’...”

“Rachel.”

“Right, Rachel. He put his relationship with Rachel out for public view, so most of the guys think he broke up with you to date her. You know about it at least.”

“Oh, I know. My stepbrother called and yelled at me about it. Rachel is his ex-girlfriend, whom he still has feelings for. According to him, it’s all my fault that Blaine and Rachel met, so he’s mad at me.”

Thad looked like he wanted to ask a question, but restrained himself.

“Rachel had a party over the weekend. I invited Blaine to go. They made out during Spin the Bottle and she declared him to be her new duet partner. They went out on a date Monday and became official on Tuesday - yesterday.”

“I see.”

“So, that’s the whole story. Oh, except the part where Blaine and I have not been dating at all, ever. I’ve actually never dated anyone. Before I met Blaine, I was the only gay guy I knew.”

“Well, you and Blaine are not the only gay Warblers.”

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t ask people questions like that and you’re the first in four months here to say anything to indicate that you like guys.”

“Just to clarify, I’m gay.”

Kurt was starting to shiver. “Okay. I’m all for talking more if you want, but I’m getting really cold out here. You can come to my room. I don’t have a roommate. If you have homework, you can bring it and do it on the empty bed or desk in my room.”

“Sure. I’ll go grab my stuff.”

“385.”

“Got it.”

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

The next day at lunch, Blaine looked until he found Kurt and sat his tray down on the table next to him and sat down.

“Hello, Blaine. To what do I owe the honor of your presence?”

“Um. I just wanted to eat lunch with you. Is there something wrong with that?”

Just then, Thad walked up and put his tray down and sat on the other side of Kurt.

“Hey, Blaine.”

“Thad,” Blaine said cooly.

“Is there a problem, Blaine?” Kurt asked.

Blaine just looked at Thad. “Um. No, no problem. I didn’t know you two were friends is all.”

“Well, actually it turns out that I realized Tuesday that I didn’t actually have any friends here at Dalton, except you. Do you know what else I found out?”

“What’s that?”

“That everyone in this school that knows who I am thought that you were my boyfriend and that you dumped me over the weekend and started dating Rachel.”

“What?”

Thad spoke up. “Blaine, you have monopolized Kurt’s time since the day he got here. You asked him to sing with you. The two of you went out to coffee like three times a week. You’ve been to his house, met his parents, went as his guest to his friend’s party, you’re always putting your hand on his shoulder and standing right next to him. What on earth did you think people thought?”

“Oh, wow. I was just trying to make him feel welcome here. He didn’t know anyone.”

“Well, monopolizing his time and making everyone think you were his boyfriend didn’t help him get to know people.”

“I can see how that could be true. But I didn’t do it intentionally.”

“Intentional, unintentional. Same outcome,” Thad stated emphatically.

“Anyway,” Kurt interjected. “Thad and I are having lunch together. I’m going to look into joining some clubs if there are any still accepting new members this late in the year. I’m going to get to know other people as well. I was never a damsel in distress. I didn’t need rescued. I thought you cared. I thought the same thing that everyone else though. I thought you liked me. I told you that earlier this month when I told you that I liked you. You didn’t tell me explicitly that you were not interested in me romantically. You just said that you were bad at romance and didn’t want to mess things up between us. So, I thought that meant that you were interested, but didn’t really know how to go about moving from friends to more than friends. I was giving you time to figure it out. Then you kissed Rachel and boom - she’s your girlfriend three days later. So, clearly you don’t have the same reservations about being bad at romance when Rachel’s involved. It’s fine. Romance Rachel. But please stop being an overprotective ninny. I’m not in need of pity friendships.”

“Kurt...”

“Don’t use that tone with me. We may be able to be friends. That’s yet to be determined. I thought we were real friends, but that hasn’t been the case because real friends are honest with each other. When you can stop acting like your actions don’t affect other people and you can treat me like an equal, we might be able to become friends. Now, I hate to seem impolite, but I really have nothing else to say to you at the moment and I had planned on having lunch with Thad. If you wouldn’t mind moving to another table, I would appreciate it.”

Blaine was dumbstruck, but he stood up and walked across the cafeteria to sit somewhere else.

“That was hot,” That said.

Kurt furled his eyebrows and cocked his head to the side.

“Oh, not if it were directed at me, of course. But damn, that was the most polite epic smack down I have ever been privileged to witness.”

“It’s an art form,” Kurt said faking arrogance and tilting his head up and to the side.

“I can see that,” Thad laughed and Kurt joined in.

“I have a question for you.”

“What’s that?”

“So, you asked me about going to the movie tomorrow.”

“Right.”

“Technically, I’m supposed to go home on Friday evenings to have ‘Family Dinner’ and then stay the night and at least part of Saturday. I had forgotten about not being able to go NEXT Friday night because of Regionals. And skipping two weeks in a row is a bad idea. So, I’m offering a trade. We go to the movie and dinner tonight and tomorrow you come to Lima with me. You can sleep in the family room downstairs on the couch. It’s comfortable. And Saturday morning, after breakfast, we can do homework and then for lunch I’ll take you to this great place I found between here and Lima on the way back to school.”

“Deal. But don’t forget that we have to be back here by 2:00 for the extra Warblers rehearsal for Regionals.”

“I didn’t forget, but thanks for reminding me anyway. So, we’ll leave after Warblers practice tomorrow. Bring pajamas and two changes of clothes. We can change when we get to my house.”

“Today - my car or yours?”

“Yours since we’ll take mine tomorrow.”

“Good deal. I’ll pull up by the front stairs at 4:15 since you don’t know what my car looks like yet.”

“Sounds good.”

They put all of their lunch stuff away and headed off to their afternoon classes.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

That afternoon, all of the Warblers, except Blaine, were in the music room. Some were sitting around chatting quietly, while others were sitting at tables working on assignments. Blaine burst through the doors and tossed the pile of sheet music pages he had in his hands up in the air as he started singing “Misery”. Everyone jumped in quickly and started singing their parts. Kurt was agitated because Blaine was showboating again. There was no need to toss papers everywhere. Plus, he walked directly over to Kurt like he usually did and put his hands on Kurt’s shoulders on their way out into the hallway for an impromptu Warblers performance.

Kurt sat on a bench, interacted reluctantly, but did sing along most of the time. Thad ended up not far from the bench and saw Kurt’s ambivalence toward their performance. After rehearsal, everyone left, but Kurt stayed behind to pick up all of the papers that were all over the floor and furniture.

Thad was waiting for him outside on the bench, but when Kurt didn’t come out at the end of the mass exodus, he got up and went to look in the room to see if he had somehow missed Kurt leaving.

“Here, I’ll help.” Thad started picking up the sheets and stacking them.

“Thanks,” Kurt said. “I don’t even know what to do with them. I guess we can just put them on the shelf and if he asks where they are, we can tell him.”

“Seems reasonable. You weren’t really into it today. Is something wrong?”

“Oh, just the same old, same old, I guess. He came in here guns-a-blazing, putting his hands on me, leading me from behind. I guess I wasn’t clear enough at lunch. He needs to keep his hands off. It gives everyone a mixed message. I don’t want people thinking that I’m his boy toy or whatever. People thought we were dating because of that type of behavior and he has a girlfriend now. He needs to keep his hands off of me.”

“I get it.”

Kurt plopped down on one of the couches. “I’m a mess. Are you sure you want to date me?”

Thad sat in the middle of the couch and turned to face him. “Yeah. I mean I told you that I’m not looking to get engaged next week or something. I don’t think we know each other well enough to know whether we are compatible like that or not. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. I’d like to get to know you though. You can still make friends with other people. I’m not going to try to monopolize your life. I mean if a point comes when you really feel like you know me well enough to know that there’s no way there could be anything romantic between us, I would hope you’d say so. I think you’ve had enough of being led on not to do it to another person.”

“You’re right. Completely right. I wouldn’t do that to someone. Have you dated other people?”

“I’ve casually dated a few guys over the last couple of years, but we reached that point of realizing that we weren’t well suited to move to a serious dating relationship. I’m still friends with them.”

Kurt got up and walked over to the table where he had been sitting earlier and grabbed his stuff to leave the room. “Okay. So, I’ll meet you out front at 4:15. I’m going to change. I don’t want to go out to the movies and to dinner in my uniform.”

“Me neither. See you in a little while.”

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Kurt and Thad enjoyed the movie and their dinner at the sub shop. The next day passed without incident. Thad was packed and ready to leave after Warblers rehearsal. He and Kurt met at Kurt’s Navigator and they left for Lima. They listened to some music and talked on the way.

“I need to tell you something before we get to my house.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“Well, I just want to be honest and up front with you. I told my dad that we are friends. I did not tell him that we are dating. While my dad is completely fine with me being gay, he is not completely fine with the fact that I’m 17. He still treats me like I’m 12 a lot of the time. Unless we decide that we are ready to move forward into a more serious dating scenario, you and I are just friends. Otherwise, my dad will go into hyper-over-protect mode. Life for me as a gay person has been very, very hard here in Lima. My dad is used to people trying to do awful things to me. I don’t fault him for trying to protect me, but it’s a lot overboard, but he’s my dad and there’s not really anything I can do about it.” “I get that. If you don’t mind, what type of things are we talking about?”

“The football team nailed our lawn furniture to our roof spelling out FAG, with the additional help of several rolls of toilet paper strung between the chairs. The whole roof had to be replaced. The garage door has been spray painted too many times to remember. And those aren’t the personal things done to me.”

“Wow. I can see why he’d be overprotective. Not a problem for me.”

“I also had to tell him that you’re gay. He won’t say anything to anyone else.”

Thad looked confused.

“After Blaine ended up in my bed drunk last weekend, Dad insisted that I ask in advance if gay guys could spend the night.”

“Got it.”

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Dinner went fine. The evening went smoothly. Thad turned out to be quite good at some of the video games that Finn liked to play. He was more patient at showing Kurt and by 9:00, Kurt was doing decently well at it. Puck showed up and walked in on the two of them playing.

“Why haven’t you played with us before, dude?”

“None of you had the decency to teach me how to use the controllers,” Kurt replied. “And you know I hate being called ‘dude,’”

“How about princess? Oh high and mighty one.”

“How about I kick you where it counts?”

Thad laughed.

“How about no thanks. I’ve seen you kick a football through the field goal from the 40 yard line.”

Thad laughed more, then abruptly stopped and asked, “Wait, seriously? Are you going to play for Dalton next year? We could seriously use a decent kicker.”

“I hadn’t considered it. I don’t even know if I’ll be at Dalton next year.”

Thad let it drop. He and Kurt went upstairs to the living room after Finn came down and commandeered the game console with Puck.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

After breakfast, Burt headed off to the garage and Carole left to run errands. Finn wasn’t up still.

Kurt took Thad upstairs to his room and let Thad use his bathroom to get ready for the day. He sat at the dining room table and got out his Trigonometry homework and was working through the assigned problems when Thad came back downstairs. He went the rest of the way downstairs and packed his pajamas in his backpack and brought his bags back up to the table.

They worked on schoolwork for a couple of hours. By 11:30, they had packed up and put their bags in the Navigator.

“So, where’s this place we’re going?”

“It’s surprise,” Kurt said and winked at him.

“Okay.” Thad smiled and just leaned back to relax. “So, Finn. How long have you two been stepbrothers?”

“Since the weekend before I came to Dalton.”

“So, you’re not really used to living with him.”

“Not really. We had to get the house we live in now because he refused to share a bedroom with me. And other than winter break and Friday nights, I mostly don’t see him. And even then, he makes himself scarce after dinner and sleeps in until lunchtime. on Saturdays. He’s not a bad person. He’s a product of his environment. I think if he moved somewhere else and was exposed to different people and realized that there are other types of people in the world, he could be different. But all he’s ever known is small-town life. He doesn’t really aspire to anything else though. So, I figure he’ll be the one to take over my dad’s business, even though he knows nothing about fixing cars.”

“You do?”

“Sure. I’ve been hanging around a garage since I was eight. I can rebuild an engine. I can fix most anything. I used to work in the garage, but with going to school so far away, I don’t have time to do it now. I worked there pretty much full time all last summer.”

“That’s really cool. I think you’ve been misrepresented and grossly underestimated by the Warblers. Not that your other interests aren’t fine to have, but Blaine presented you as fairly...”

“Fairly what?”

“You won’t like what I’m going to say. No threats to my person, please. I’m just the messenger.”

Kurt laughed. “Puck knew I’d never hurt him. I’ve never fought back physically, even when he was tossing me in dumpsters.”

“Wait, people tossed you in dumpsters? And your dad lets one of the ones who did it in your house?”

“Puck’s reformed. He joined Glee last year and got his head on straight. He hasn’t done anything mean to me in a year and a half. Finn used to help him do it. And now he’s my stepbrother. More than likely the two of them were part of the crew that nailed the lawn furniture on the roof. They were both on the team at the time.”

“Okay. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. These things people did that you talk about so nonchalantly are insane.”

“We can talk about that more some other time. We’ve gotten way off topic. You were going to tell me how the guys at school see me.”

“Right. You’ve been portrayed as rather feminine. Your interest in fashion, musicals, old movies, Broadway, etc. have been expounded upon. The fact that you’re a countertenor with a female range that could help us in competition. Things like that. Nothing about your rebuilding engines or playing football.”

“I see. So, I was Blaine’s ‘girlfriend’. Great. But I guess that explains my lack of invitations to the movie nights you told me have been happening all year that I was never invited to.”

“Blaine said you didn’t like action movies.”

“I don’t like horror movies, but I like action movies just fine as long as there’s a plot. I’m not big on movies that basically center around two or more factions of people just killing each other as mercilessly as possible just for the sake of eradicating the other groups.”

“Fair point.”

“Okay, we’re here.”

Kurt pulled in a parking spot and he and Thad got out of the truck and went inside. They waited to be seated.

Thad looked the menu over. “Is the food as good as the pictures look?”

“Definitely. I’d order us an appetizer because they’re really good, but we’d have to split an entrée. The portions here are huge. So, your choice. We can order the sampler appetizer if you want to try a bunch of different things and we can split an entree or we can order two entrees.”

“Hmm. Do you like lasagna?”

“Sure. Wanna split that and the appetizer combo?”

“That sounds good to me.”

They continued talking and getting to know each other while they ate.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

They made it back to Dalton with fifteen minutes to spare, giving them both time to get into their uniforms and down to the music room for rehearsal. They ran through all of their numbers twice before rehearsal finished.

The uneasy feeling was still palpable in the air. Kurt wondered what he could do to change the situation. He overheard Blaine talking about heading to Lima for a date with Rachel. An idea popped into Kurt’s mind. Once Blaine left the room, he moved to Thad’s side and got his attention discretely.

“Invite whoever you think is mostly likely to come to play video games and watch movies with us tonight while Blaine is gone.”

“Good idea.”

Thad went around the room and invited people, saying that anyone was welcome to come to the lounge on the third floor of the dorm.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Thad hooked up Nick’s gaming system and brought several movies and laid them out on the top of the TV stand. Everyone brought snacks to share and Thad had gone out before dinner and bought several multi-packs of a variety of sodas.

By 6:30, most of the Warblers had shown up. Kurt brought some card games and put them out on the table. He sat down seeing if anyone would join him. He was pretty much ignored. Thad went to sit with him.

“Okay. So, they’re here. Now, what?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. They came because you invited them. They don’t know this was my idea.”

“I have an idea.” Thad raised his voice to be heard over the group. “Everyone sit down in a circle in front of the couches.”

The guys paused the game and everyone sat down.

“So, we’re going to play Two Truths, One Lie as our party opener tonight.”

They started and went around the circle. Kurt couldn’t guess most of the time because he honestly didn’t know the other guys well enough to have any clue which thing they were lying about. Then it was his turn.

“I can rebuild a car engine. I can do a round-off back handspring. Blaine used to be my boyfriend.”

Lots of the guys guess the first two as being the lies, but they couldn’t come to a consensus. Kurt finally intervened.

“The first two are true. The third is the lie.”

“What?” he heard from several places around the circle.

“My dad owns Hummel Tire and Lube in Lima. I’ve worked as a mechanic since I was 16. I was a Cheerio at McKinley last year. Look it up on YouTube if you don’t believe me. I sang a 14-minute Celine Dion medley in French and we won the National Championship. I have never, ever dated Blaine.”

Richard pulled out his phone. He pulled up Burt’s shop’s website. There was a picture of Kurt in his coveralls in the staff photo. Flint pulled out his phone and searched YouTube for the footage from the cheerleading championships the previous spring.

“He’s not lying about the first two,” Trent said looking over the other two Warbler’s shoulders. Richard turned his phone around so everyone could see Kurt in the shop photo. Flint turned his phone around and played the video of Kurt singing.

“You can stop the video. It’s really long. They get the idea,” Kurt said.

Trent asked, “So, you and Blaine weren’t dating?”

“Nope.”

“I thought you were dating until the whole GAP Attack, then he suddenly talked about Jeremiah. But when he turned him down, I thought for sure Blaine had gotten his act together and asked you out after that,” Jeff said.

“Nope.”

“Lets keep playing. Luke, you’re next,” Kurt said.

The game went all the way around the room and came back to Kurt.

“I have over a three octave range. I was on the McKinley football team last year. I can play the guitar.”

This time, they came to a consensus quickly. “You didn’t play football.”

“Wrong again. I was the kicker. I won the only game the whole season.”

“Do you really have a three octave range?” John asked.

“Yes. Nearly three and a half.”

“Not counting falsetto.”

“Nope, not falsetto. I’m a lyric countertenor. I can sing soprano in full head voice, no falsetto.”

Trent asked, “Why haven’t you come to our other parties this year?”

“I didn’t know about the other parties.” Kurt asked sincerely.

“You didn’t know?”

“Nope.”

“Well, I will apologize on my own behalf for not making sure that you knew about them. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you myself,” Trent said. “I just thought you didn’t like to horse around and what not. You’re always so put together and serious.”

“Force of habit. I’ve survived this long by staying in control and monitoring my surroundings constantly. Even though I know that I don’t have to do that here, old habits die hard. And honestly, none of you has been overly friendly to me. You’ve all been fairly standoffish. I couldn’t figure out what I had done, but I just figured there were some unwritten rules that I consistently broke. I had too much schoolwork to do to constantly try to figure out what I had done. So, I gave up trying and just focused on learning. The classes here are much more advanced than my old school. I had a lot of catching up to do in the fall. It’s not bad now because I started out on even footing at the beginning of this semester.”

“Why did you come here?” Kurt heard someone ask, but he didn’t see who.

“What do you all know about why I came?”

He heard someone say, “Blaine said you were bullied. That’s generally the only reason people show up so late in the semester. But we don’t really know. Maybe your parents moved here from out of the country and Dalton is the only prep school in the area to offer an IB program so that you could go back to Europe and finish school there. Basically, no one knows.”

“I am an unwelcome anathema in the public school system where I grew up. My mere presence was enough to incite constant violence against me. 90% was verbal bullying, but the other 10% was quite physical. David and Wes know that I had come to spy on you guys before Sectionals. I’m sure some of the rest of you saw me there. Our Glee club was having a boys vs girls sing off and the assignment was to sing and perform as opposite of the expected as possible. I thought it would finally be my chance to shine. I’m the only one that can sing in a female range. Instead, my ideas were shot down and one of the guys said my time would be better spent spying on you guys. Things were already really, really bad for me. When people I thought were my friends sent me away, I was hurt. I drove over here less to spy and more to see what it was like here. The website talked about the No Bullying policy. I came, I spied, I got caught. Then, I went back to school. I didn’t even actually tell any of the guys that I had come here. After that, I took some advice I was given and I confronted my main tormentor. It was a stupid idea. I should have never confronted him alone. The outcome was that he threatened to kill me. He was expelled, but reinstated a few days later. I couldn’t stay. I came here a few days later.”

Trent spoke up again, visibly upset by Kurt’s story. “So, you were ostracized by pretty much everyone at your old school and you came here for a ‘No Bullying’ environment to get away from someone who threatened to kill you and none of us have reached out to you in four months.”

“That pretty much sums it up. But before you all start feeling bad, I’m not angry with any of you. The fact that none of you have done anything mean to me in four months is priceless. Being allowed to exist in peace is a gift. You can’t know how amazing it’s been to walk down the halls and NEVER have anyone do anything to hurt me. None of you have even done small things like call me names. Not getting invited to something I didn’t know was happening - think about that - I didn’t know I wasn’t being invited. There was nothing for me to be upset about. You let me join the Warblers. You have all been decent to me.”

Jeff spoke up. “We were all still in the wrong. Whether you knew or not, we should have found out why you never came.”

“Water under the bridge. Someone pick a movie. If no one likes any of the ones on the TV, someone can go get something else from their room,” Kurt said.

Nick took charge of the DVD choice. Thad pointed out that there were drinks in the fridge in the kitchen. People started opening the bags of snacks they brought and putting them on the coffee table.

Kurt saw Thad pick a spot on one of the couches and he caught Kurt’s attention and patted the spot next to him. Kurt smiled and went to sit between Thad and the arm of the couch. Once a movie was finally chosen, the lights were turned off and the movie started. Thad turned his hand palm up and offered it to Kurt, who shyly reached over and put his hand over the top. Thad closed his fingers around Kurt’s hand and squeezed gently.

He leaned over gently and whispered, “That was really brave of you to tell everyone what had happened to you. I had no idea.”

Kurt nodded.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

After that night, the dynamic in the group changed. Kurt was no longer an outsider. The next day at rehearsal that palpable weirdness he had been feeling was just gone.

The next week passed with Kurt attending his classes, Warbler practice and spending time with Thad alone and also with some of the other guys just doing things like watching movies in the lounge on their floor where they had held the party the previous weekend.

The French Club allowed him to join, so he enjoyed getting to practice his French outside class.

One night, Kurt baked cookies for everyone. He was finally feeling like he wasn’t on the outside anymore. It was a great feeling.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

The Saturday before Regionals they rehearsed all of their pieces three times each - this time with the music teacher, Mr. Browning, listening in. The Warblers were a student-led group, but Dalton offered music classes and they always asked the music teacher to listen in the week before they competed to have an outside opinion on what they needed to work on.

Mr. Browning gave them pointers and they each noted the suggestions if it pertained to their own part. By the time they made it through the third repetition, they had corrected the problematic areas and they were released from rehearsal. They thanked Mr. Browning and they headed out.

Thad caught up with Kurt. “Hey, it’s actually nice out today. Wanna go for a walk out in the woods behind the school?”

“Sure. Just meet me in my room in ten minutes. I want to change my clothes and get my coat.”

Thad knocked on Kurt’s door and he opened it to let him in. “You were quick. I don’t have my coat on yet. It took me a few minutes to get my boots laced.”

Thad looked down and then up. Kurt was wearing his tall Doc Martin “bitch boots” and skinny black jeans with a black turtleneck and a blue and black sweater over the top. He had a black peacoat laid out to wear.

“You look great.”

Kurt blushed. “Thanks.”

Thad picked Kurt’s coat up off the bed and handed it to him, but didn’t offer to put it on him like he was a girl, which Kurt appreciated. Thad had actually never done anything that made Kurt feel like he was “the girl”.

“Ready?”

Kurt checked his pockets for gloves, just in case his hands got cold. He found them. He slipped his phone into his interior coat pocket.

“Yep. Ready.”

They walked out the back of the building and out to the woods. Some of the trees were starting to get small leaves budding on them.

“I bet it’s beautiful here in the spring,” Kurt said.

“You notice the beauty everything, don’t you?”

“I try.”

“Is it okay if I hold your hand?”

Kurt reached out and offered his hand and Thad took it and smiled. They walked for a while on a path. They mostly walked in silence, but each of them pointed out things they saw along the way, a bird, a rabbit, early flowers blooming, and even a turtle. Eventually the path led to a small clearing with a stone bench. They sat down. Thad didn’t let go of Kurt’s hand.

“I know I asked you about casually dating and it’s only been a week and a half, but can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“You’re pretty tense. Are you uncomfortable holding my hand? Am I pushing you?”

“No, I don’t feel like you’re pushing me. I’m honestly not used to anyone touching me. Growing up with ‘gay cooties’ pretty much eliminated all sources of benevolent touches from my life. I actually like it that you want to hold my hand. I just have to get over my knee-jerk reaction to freeze up when I come in contact with someone.”

“Wow, those jerks really did a number on you, didn’t they?”

“You could say that.”

“How about this? In light of your unpleasant history with being touched, and my lack of knowledge of the details - which I do not expect you to tell me until you’re ready to, if you ever want to - if I do anything, anything at all, that makes you uncomfortable, you just tell me and I won’t be offended at all.”

“That sounds really great. You’re not ready to turn tail and run because I’m so messed up?”

“I don’t think you’re ‘messed up’. I think you’ve been treated quite poorly and have a lot of reasonable built-up fears because of that. But, I don’t give up that easy. I really like you. The more time we’ve spent together, that’s just become more evident to me.”

Kurt blushed.

“I’m not a mind reader, but I would venture to guess that you like me too, or you wouldn’t blush like that.” “I do. I do like you.” His blush deepened.

“Good. That makes me able to ask my next question. This isn’t a request to move past holding hands or whatever you’re comfortable with, but I wanted to ask if you’d be interested in us dating exclusively, meaning that we won’t date other people. I’m not asking you to not have friends. I just want you to be my boyfriend.”

“Really? Even knowing that I’m so uptight.”

“Yes, really. Automatic reactions like flinching can fade with time. I think the more positive input you get, the more those negative auto-reactions will fade. If holding hands with me makes you feel the way it makes me feel, then I think you’ll start enjoying being touched.”

Kurt smiled and nodded his head. “I’m sure you’re right.” He squeezed Thad’s hand.

“You didn’t answer my question. It’s okay if you want to say ‘no’ and keep things the way they are between the two of us.”

“Yes. I’ll be your boyfriend.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Thad pulled Kurt’s hand up to his lips and gently kissed his knuckles.

They just sat for a while, holding hands and looking out into the woods.

Kurt was the first to speak again. “I think if you keep the touches where I can see that it’s you, there won’t be a problem. We can test my hypothesis, if you want.”

“Test it?”

“Yeah. Stand up and hug me. I’m pretty sure that I won’t flinch if I know it’s you. If you don’t want to hug me, that’s okay. I’m not trying to force you.”

“You’re not. I’d like to.”

They stood up. They were pretty close in height, with Kurt being just slightly taller. Kurt relaxed his stance and Thad stepped toward him and tried to put his arms around Kurt’s shoulders. Kurt wrapped his arms around Thad’s torso. It was pretty difficult to do with both of them wearing pea coats.

Kurt started laughing. “Our coats are not cooperating. It’s nearly 50 out here, we won’t freeze in five minutes. Let’s take our coats off and try again.” They laid their coats on the bench and Thad wrapped his arms around Kurt’s neck and Kurt put his arms back around Thad’s torso.

“Much better,” Kurt said. He could smell Thad’s cologne or something. It took a minute or so and Kurt relaxed into Thad’s embrace. Thad smiled when he felt Kurt relax.

Thad didn’t let go. “So, what’s your conclusion to our scientific experiment?”

“That hugging is really nice. I’ve never really hugged anyone like this.”

“I agree. I enjoy hugging.”

Kurt decided to venture into the unknown and be bold. “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”

“Definitely.”

Thad lifted his head from where they had been standing cheek to cheek in the hug. He looked into Kurt’s eyes and waited for Kurt to lean forward and initiate the kiss. The kiss was very gentle and slightly hesitant, but sent heat shooting through both of their bodies. Kurt pulled back a bit, waiting for Thad to open his eyes.

“Okay?” Kurt asked.

“More than okay.”

Thad leaned forward and reconnected their lips, still gentle and chaste. Once they both moved past the awkward moment of it being so new, they both relaxed. Kurt parted his lips slightly and brushed his tongue slightly against Thad’s lower lip. Thad followed Kurt’s lead and within a few minutes they were kissing quite passionately. They paused for air and just stood holding each other.

“That was amazing,” Thad said.

“I agree,” Kurt said still slightly out of breath. “I’ve never kissed anyone that I liked before. It’s amazing, like you said. You said you dated guys before, though. So, I assume you’ve kissed other guys.”

“Not like that,” he laughed. “Maybe it’s like you said, I never liked any of them the way I like you and that makes the difference. Plus, none of that kissing ever involved more than our lips. That’s why those guys and I are friends and we never made it past the friends point. Definite lack of spark.”

Kurt leaned in and kissed Thad again. Thad responded eagerly. When they came up for air, Kurt said, “Well, I don’t think lack of spark is a problem. Refraining from kissing you all the time seems like more of an issue.” He laughed and went back to kissing.

Thad felt Kurt shiver a bit. He pulled back. “Put your coat back on. We can kiss with our coats on somehow, I’m sure.”

They both picked their coats up off the bench and put them on. Kurt checked his phone for the time.

“We should probably head back if we’re going to eat dinner in the cafeteria. It’s only open for another hour since it’s Saturday.”

“Or we could go out somewhere.”

“We could.” Kurt stepped toward him and slipped his arms inside Thad’s unbuttoned coat. Thad followed Kurt’s lead and instead of trying to put his arms around Kurt’s neck, he just wrapped them around Kurt’s torso. Kurt leaned forward and kissed him again.

“We could go pick something up and eat it in your room and watch a movie.”

“I like that idea the best. Chinese?” Kurt asked.

“Sounds good.” They kissed again before letting go of each other.

Kurt offered his hand and Thad took it. Kurt interlaced their fingers. They slowly made their way back through the woods, still talking and pointing out things on their way. They got to the parking lot and Kurt walked them toward his Navigator.

“I only know one Chinese place in town and it’s decent, but I’m open to trying other places if you know of one.”

“Actually, I don’t. So, let’s just go to the one you know about. We can start a search of places to try and make a list and explore if you want.”

“That’s a good idea.”