Kurt Hummel prides himself on a number of his qualities. He prides himself on his sense of style, his ability to spy the best bargains from a mile away, his flexibility, his strictly regimented skin routine — but what he values most is his ability to not fall for the cliché traps of small town living. Lima, Ohio is nothing if not a town full of stereotypes and clichés waiting to be fulfilled. Hardly anyone leaves Lima, and those who do don’t often go very far. There was once a rumor during Kurt’s sophomore year that a senior, Brett, had taken off in his car one night and headed for San Francisco. This was quickly debunked when Brett reappeared two weeks later, revealing that he’d been living under a bridge the entire time to try and see how long he could go without sleeping.
Kurt fancies himself the exception to the Lima trap. He’s openly gay, which in and of itself is an achievement in such a town. What’s more notably impressive is his climb to the top of the social food chain despite the initial set back of revealing his sexuality to his close-minded peers. He’d been taken under the wing of the infamous Coach Sylvester, who had seen potential in him, and plucked him straight out of the ranks of his fellow pedestrian students to try out for the Cheerios.
At the time, Kurt had spent hours weighing the pros and cons of trying out for the infamous cheer squad. The Cheerios were social royalty — their signature red uniform demanded respect from boys, girls, and teachers alike. There was little the Cheerios couldn’t get away with in a school so dominated by archetypal high school hierarchies. But the Cheerios had never had a boy on the team before — there was no guarantee that they would react kindly if Kurt was granted a spot on the team.
In the end, that single try out was undoubtedly the best decision Kurt had made in his high school career. It had taken some time for him to win over the Cheerio’s — Quinn Fabray, their unchallenged leader — in particular. Strangely enough, the two became good friends — Quinn was the kind of friend Kurt had been waiting for all along, someone charismatic and willing to listen. For the first time in his high school career Kurt didn’t feel alone. With Quinn came the respect of the rest of the Cheerio’s, and before he knew it he’d formed his own clique — just like the ones he’d rolled his eyes at just months ago. He, Quinn, and their fellow Cheerios Brittany and Santana, ruled the halls of McKinley High with iron fists. It wasn’t a cliché, Kurt told himself, it was a story of triumph.
And in mere minutes he was going to have another triumph under his belt…
“And in first place, keeping their National Cheer Squad Champion title, we have the McKinley High Cheerios!”
The win wasn’t unexpected, but Kurt and Quinn still leapt into the air, wrapping their arms around each other tightly and pulling Santana and Brittany into their celebratory hug. It was their second championship title that they’d secured together — the fourth consecutive championship for the Cheerios overall. Coach Sylvester had worked them to the bone the second school had let them out for the summer to ensure that they were in prime shape for the competition in August. The competition, along with the everyday worried thoughts that came with entering one’s senior year of high school, had hung over the Cheerios the entirety of the summer.
But now they were free, cheering and screaming as the crowd let out a deafening round of applause. Kurt ached all over, his joints screaming in protest as he and his teammates continued to bounce with excitement. Every muscle in his body begged him to finally let it rest but the adrenaline pumping through him said otherwise. There are tears of joys in their teammates eyes and even Coach Sylvester looks over at her squad with pride. They’re being shuffled off the stage, comically large trophy in hand, when the members of the football team that had come out to support the Cheerios slide up to them.
“Well it looks like congratulations are in order,” announces Sam Evans, wrapping an arm around Brittany, ignoring the dirty look Santana shoots his way.
“Party tonight at my place to celebrate?” Finn Hudson offers, glancing between Kurt and Quinn — looking for the official approval.
“Promise your mom won’t crash and make us toss out our drinks for soda this time?” Kurt replies with a raised brow, the group snickering at the all too familiar memory of how the last party Finn threw had gone.
“That was one time,” Finn protests while throwing his hands in the air. “And yes, I promise. My mom’s out of town this time,” Finn tacks on in an attempt to save face.
Kurt rolls his eyes before shooting Quinn a look, but it’s clear from the way she’s looking around the auditorium that she’s preoccupied.
“Finn, have you seen—”
Before Quinn can finish her question she’s tackled from behind by none other than her boyfriend — the McKinley Titans’ all star quarterback, Blaine Anderson. Quinn giggles as Blaine plants a sloppy kiss to her cheek, pulling her up into the air and twirling her proudly.
“Q, you killed it out there!” Blaine praises before releasing his hold on Quinn and giving her a proper congratulatory kiss.
“Spare us the show, haven’t we already suffered enough today?” Santana pleads on behalf of the group.
Kurt, Santana, and Brittany had had to sit through plenty of PDA when it came to Quinn’s former boyfriends, most notably Finn, but thus far they hadn’t had any issues with Blaine. Granted, Blaine had arrived at McKinley midway through the previous year and hadn’t even made his relationship with Quinn official until the last week of the school year. They’d barely seen him at all, but from what Quinn had told them during their summer training sessions she and Blaine had seen plenty of each other over the course of the summer.
“We’ll save it for the party and charge anyone who wants to look,” Blaine easily teases right back, Santana smirking at his quick response.
“Finally, Quinn finds herself a man who speaks my language.” Santana offers Blaine a high five which he gladly accepts, solidifying his place in her good graces.
Finn and Sam agree to text them the details of the party, giving the squad one last round of congratulations before heading their separate ways. Kurt and the girls make plans to meet up at Quinn’s place to get ready before the party before they go their separate ways. Santana and Brittany link pinkies and make their way to where Brittany’s mom is waiting for them, holding a celebratory platter of lemon squares, while Quinn gleefully bounds over to her parents, Blaine faithfully in tow behind her. She accepts a bouquet of lilies from her father, and a kiss on the cheek from Blaine with the widest grin a girl can muster. She’s the picture of happiness, so wonderfully filled with joy that Kurt can’t help but smile along with her even though there’s no one waiting in the lobby for him.
His father wasn’t a fan of the changes he’d seen in his son since he rocketed to the top of the social food chain. He’d become shorter with his father, more annoyed when he held strong on the rules they’d had in place for years. Suddenly Kurt found his 9pm curfew unfair, never alerted his dad when he would stay over at a friends, and abandoned his yearly summer job at the auto shop for cheerleading practices. Burt wasn’t the confrontational type, but he had his ways of making his feelings clear. His lack of presence when it came to competitions and performances was one of them.
Kurt brushes off all thoughts of his father as he gives Quinn a wave goodbye before heading out to his car. The last thing he needs is thoughts of his dad disrupting his adrenaline high. He cranks up the radio and sings along to every song he knows as he makes his way home, throwing all of his lingering energy into giving his car the performance of a lifetime. An old man honks his horn and gives Kurt a thumbs up as he finishes off his performance of Shallow and he even smiles back, letting himself believe that the old man's wandering eye is flattering as opposed to creepy.
His dad is thankfully still out at the shop by the time Kurt pulls into the driveway, no doubt Burt’s attempt at avoiding a tense conversation over the competition. Kurt takes full advantage of having the house to himself as he throws himself into his post-competition routine. He indulges in a steaming hot shower, continues belting out his favorite top forty hits, and lathers his skin in the overly priced hydrating oils that he saves for special occasions.
Before he heads over to Quinn’s he ambles over to his dad’s liquor cabinet. His dad is seldom out this late, so he might as well take every advantage he has. He pours a bit of rum, the most noticeably untouched bottle, into a flask he typically kept hidden in his sock drawer, resisting the urge to take a quick swig before heading out — underage drinking he can endorse, but not before driving.
Even without that stolen sip Kurt is buzzing by the time he gets to Quinn’s place. On the car ride over he gives himself a moment to revel in the glory of it all. Nearly three years ago he’d been terrified of his classmates — keeping to himself as much as he possibly could in the hopes that he would be left alone. People like Kurt were the perfect target for the hormonal teenage imbeciles that ruled the school. The further out of sight he was, the better. Now he here he was, firmly in the sight of every McKinley student. There was a hardly a student, freshman or senior, that didn’t know about him and his rise to fame. Life is sweet, he thought. So wonderfully, perfectly sweet.
When Kurt walks into Quinn’s bedroom he can immediately sense the tension in the air. Brittany is delicately braiding Santana’s hair — her own blonde locks tied up in an intricate halo of intertwined braids. Santana is attempting to fill in her brows, but is neglecting her mirror in favor of glaring at Quinn, leaving her with a painfully thick left brow.
Quinn, meanwhile, is completely oblivious to it all, giggling and resting her head on Blaine’s shoulder. Wait — Blaine?! Kurt does a double take so swiftly it jolts a muscle in his neck and he has to struggle to hide his wince as he steps into the room. Santana shoots him a knowing look, and Brittany gives him a tight lipped smile. Quinn doesn’t acknowledge Kurt’s presence, still consumed by giggles over whatever it is Blaine’s done that’s brought her so much joy.
Blaine is equally oblivious, looking at Quinn like she’s the sun and the moon, grinning from ear to ear. He only looks up when Santana clears her throat, chasing the stars from his eyes to look up and catch sight of Kurt, frozen in the doorway.
“Took you long enough!” Quinn chastises as she leaps out of Blaine’s arms to run to Kurt.
She gives him a kiss on each cheek and Kurt can smell the fruity notes of wine on her breath, her lips leaving sugar-sticky marks in their wake.
“I like to drive sober, sue me,” Kurt replies dryly.
“Admirable,” Blaine comments from his place on Quinn’s bed, lifting his beer in a toast.
It’s the first time Blaine has ever spoken to him, Kurt realizes. Most of the previous school year had been consumed by Blaine and Quinn’s dance of will-they-won’t-they — too busy passing notes and exchanging glances to pay much mind to anyone outside of their orbit. His hair is less gelled than he’s seen it before, loose curls framed nicely with just the right amount of product — if Kurt says so himself. He wonders if Quinn styled him for the night — he doubts anyone in Lima, Ohio would think to pair such a dashing blue J. Crew polo with the snug khakis he has on. He makes a note to congratulate Quinn on a job well done.
Quinn pushes a red cup into his hands, the same fruity scent on her lips emanating from it in waves. Whatever it is, it’s a lot stronger than the wine coolers they were used to sneaking in between Cheerio practices. Santana appears to be in much higher spirits now that the Blaine and Quinn Show has been interrupted, breaking her eyes away from Blaine to blow Kurt a welcoming kiss.
“Thanks for joining us, Princess of Genovia,” she greets with a regal wave.
“For the record, I’m taking that as a compliment,” Kurt retorts, taking a sip of the drink Quinn handed him and immediately sputtering. “Jesus, what is this? Wine coolers and motor oil?” he balks as he hands the drink off to Brittany who accepts it eagerly.
Santana and Blaine are fighting back chuckles while Quinn huffs at her best friend’s response. “I tried to make us a specialty drink. Don’t be ungrateful, this is top shelf stuff,” Quinn corrects, stealing the cup back from Brittany and handing it back to Kurt firmly.
“More like top shelf at my dad’s shop,” Kurt whispers under his breath as he crosses the room to take his usual spot at Quinn’s vanity.
His whispered comeback isn’t as quiet as he thought though, as Blaine easily picks up on it.
“Your dad owns the auto shop on Main Street, right?” he asks, shifting himself to the edge of the bed.
“Yeah. Why?” Kurt replies, not sure how Blaine hasn’t picked up on the well known fact that Kurt Hummel has a direct relation to Hummel Tires and Lube.
“I had to swing by there a couple of times over the summer. My car’s been on its last legs for a while now.”
“B still drives the car his granddad gave him when he turned sixteen — I swear it’s going to fall apart every time I get in it,” Quinn laments, ignoring the eye roll Blaine gives her and the scoff from Santana at the matching nickname. “Kurt, tell him he needs to upgrade to a car from this century,” Quinn commands with a wave of her hand.
“For the safety of my best friend, and your bank account, I’m going to say you should bite the bullet and start taking the bus again,” Kurt says directly to Blaine with a shrug.
“It’s from the nineties, it’s a little banged up but it’s got good bones,” Blaine defends, his cheeks tinged pink.
“Speaking of bones,” Santana interrupts more loudly than necessary, attempting to shift the focus of the room back to anyone that wasn’t the uninvited guest. “That guy from Ohio State sent me a dick pic last night,” she says with a mischievous smirk.
Quinn and Brittany immediately flank her, peaking over her shoulder as she pulls up the photo in question. Kurt rolls his eyes and Blaine wrinkles his nose at the sight. While the girls may love to squeal over the elicit photos they frequently received from the slobbering men they encountered, Kurt preferred not to have to look at photos of anatomy similar to his own.
“Sorry, you’ll have to get used to this,” Kurt excuses on behalf of the girls to Blaine.
“Thanks for the warning,” he murmurs in reply, shaking himself off before turning to Kurt with the same earnest, puppy dog eyes Kurt had thought were reserved for Quinn.
“I think I saw you over the summer — at your dad’s shop.”
Kurt certainly hadn’t noticed Blaine at any point during the select few times he was at the shop over the summer, and he’s not sure how the thought of Blaine seeing him but not saying hello makes him feel. He knows Blaine means well but he can’t help but feel as though he was a prey being watched closely by its predator.
“We had Cheerio practice most days. I only went to the shop maybe a dozen times. You probably saw someone else,” he replies, hoping to keep things casual.
“No way, it was definitely you. Q always talks about great your style is — there’s no way anyone could’ve rocked those coveralls but you,” he insists and Kurt is shocked to say the least.
His custom designed coveralls, adorned with embroidered lilies along the sleeves and a series of tasteful patches along the back, had caused quite a bit of chatter over the years — so much so, in fact, that Burt had politely asked his son to only bring it out when his usual coveralls were all dirty.
“We’re here to focus on cars, bud. This isn’t a runway,” he’d said, which had led to yet another enormous fight — one in a series of enormous fights that had led Kurt to crash at Quinn’s house for a week straight.
“Thank you. My dad kind of hates them actually,” Kurt admits sheepishly, not sure why he’s revealing such a fresh wound to someone he barely knows.
“Well, I’m not one to disrespect my elders, but…” Blaine leans in closer to Kurt, a mischievous smirk playing at his lips, “He’s insane if he doesn’t love them,” Blaine assures, giving Kurt a wink.
With that Blaine lifts himself off the bed and slides on over to the girls, wrapping an arm around Quinn’s waist and whispering something in her ear that makes her blush. In his wake Blaine leaves an open-mouthed Kurt, still reeling and at a complete loss for words. Perhaps it had all been Kurt’s imagination, but Blaine’s words seemed as though they were bordering on something more than just casual conversation. It had seemed… flirty?
No, absolutely not, there was no way Blaine was trying to flirt with him. He was already off whispering what were likely dirty sweet nothings in Quinn’s ear as though his brief conversation with Kurt had never happened. It had been weeks since Kurt had had any kinds of development in the romance section of his life — maybe this was his body’s way of telling him it was starving for male attention. Maybe it was time to redownload Grindr…
Kurt shudders at the thought of revisiting the god-awful app. Santana had convinced him to download it the previous summer after he’d spent too many afternoons moaning and groaning about being the only person on the squad who had never been kissed. Downloading the app had helped him succeed in crossing his first kiss, and a few other intimate items, off of his bucket list — but it hadn’t been without its fair share of drama.
The girls are well ahead of Kurt when it comes to drinks, and thankfully none of them notice when he pours the rest of his own ‘specialty drink’ out the window. They down two more drinks each — Blaine opens up a second beer for himself — and the tension finally begins to melt away. Santana, reinvigorated with each passing sip, forgets that she was angry with Blaine for crashing their ‘girls’ only pre-game in favor of grilling him with a series of blush-worthy questions. Quinn is too busy fretting over Brittany’s makeup to pay them any mind, but Blaine artfully works his way out of answering any of Santana’s prying questions without igniting any of her wrath. Kurt is fine with watching the spectacle unfold, enjoying the way Blaine squirms under Santana’s gaze a bit more than he should.
It seems like Santana finally has Blaine cornered, persistently asking him about his sexual escapades before he transferred to McKinley, when Quinn finally decides to intervene.
“Draw your claws back in, Santana. He’s not one of your chew toys,” Quinn admonishes, swatting her hand at Santana until she’s backed a reasonable distance away from Blaine.
“I’m just giving him the proper “Quinn Fabray’s Latest Boyfriend Treatment.” It wouldn’t be fair to let him slide,” she snaps back, her words all bite and no humor.
Quinn shifts uncomfortably, avoiding the confused look Blaine gives her. It’s no secret that Quinn’s gone through her fair share of boyfriends — Blaine alone was her second boyfriend that year. It was a sensitive topic for Quinn, something she only confided in Kurt about — that her need for security and love and affection outweighed her insecurities over being seen as the flighty serial boyfriend hopper.
The tension creeps back into the room as everyone carefully thinks through what to say next. Brittany shoots Kurt a pleading look — they both know it’s on them to shift the mood of the room. With the amount of alcohol flowing they’re only seconds away from someone saying something they may regret.
“I think we’ve pre-gamed enough,” Kurt announces loud enough to gather everyone’s attention, standing up and clapping his hands together for good measure. “We’re already bordering on un-fashionably late. Let’s go before the meatheads drink all the good stuff,” he suggests, Brittany nodding enthusiastically.
Typically Kurt hates being stuck as the designated driver — driving around a pack of tipsy high school girls demanding to stick their head out the sun roof and play the same songs over and over could drive anyone insane — but it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make to keep Quinn and Santana from tearing each other apart before the night has even begun. Blaine, the second most sober person in the room, happily agrees to be the navigator and takes the passenger seat. The tension has mostly dissipated as the girls climb into the backseat together, chattering and giggling amongst themselves and paying their dutiful drivers no mind as they take commemorative selfies in between sharing pieces of gossip.
Blaine, to his credit, is a helpful navigator — keeping his calm the entire drive as he helps keep the girls from getting too rowdy, and even very gracefully convincing Santana not to flash the car beside them when they’re stopped at a red light. When he leans just a tad too far over to look over Kurt’s shoulder at the GPS Kurt tells himself that maybe Blaine’s the type of person who doesn’t have boundaries.
When Blaine accidentally drops his sunglasses on the console between his and Kurt’s seats and brushes his pinky finger against Kurt’s thigh while retrieving said glasses, Kurt tells himself that Blaine is definitely the type of person who doesn’t have boundaries.
When Quinn tries to get Kurt to take part in their game of fuck, marry, kill and he refuses so he can focus on getting himself out of the confusing intersection they’ve found themselves in, Blaine comes to his defense when Quinn begins to whine. He placates her by playing along in Kurt’s place and leans across the center console to whisper in Kurt’s ear.
The whispered words are hot and breathy against Kurt’s ear and he prays that Blaine doesn’t notice the goosebumps that bloom along the skin where his lips had hovered just seconds earlier. These are the first three signs that Blaine Anderson is going to be a problem.