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Failing the Test

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“Stage combat! It’s not for the weak of heart!” Mr. Hansen called out as he made his way about the classroom, checking on the students at the different stations. Some were practicing holds and throws on the mats, he had a few fencing and others taking the chance to work with the free weights.

“Our bodies are our weapons!” he reminded, urging his students to push themselves into making their physiques as strong as the weapons they worked with.

“Speaking of weapons, check out the gun show,” Matt commented admiringly, watching as Kurt did some arm curls with a twenty-pound dumbbell.

Kurt looked up at his good-looking classmate, allowing a pleased smile to touch his features. “I finally hit puberty,” he joked, placing the weight down. No more toothpick arms, he noted with satisfaction. He was getting very proud of the defined muscles he was currently showing.

“Seriously… make a muscle,” Matt requested with a flirtatious chuckle, and Kurt couldn’t resist obliging him, showing off a well-developed bicep.

If someone had told Kurt a year ago that Introduction to Stage Combat – Weapons and Movement would become one of his favorite classes at NYADA, he probably would have laughed right in their face. Back in high school, he hardly had an inclination for sports or rigorous physical activities. Sure, he was on the football team… for all of three weeks before he quit. He enjoyed dancing and his work with the Cheerios, and he was pretty good at both. Still, few would have considered him any kind of real athlete.

It wasn’t that he didn’t dabble with weapons before. He’d enjoyed watching videos of martial artists and learning how to manipulate his sai swords, coming to the point that he could twirl them with easy dexterity. It was like learning a new dance with a fascinating prop and he seemed to have something of an aptitude for it. Stage Combat was letting him find a part of himself that he hadn’t allowed to emerge before and since his encounter that landed him in the hospital, he was finally able to allow this ferocious creature that had been hiding deep inside him to emerge.

And unlike his dance class, which was a required course for all students, everyone in Mr. Hansen’s class actually wanted to be there. Those that were less physically coordinated tended not to sign up or dropped out early when they realized that the class would be a lot more difficult than they anticipated. The fact that pretty much everyone in the class, male and female, seemed to be very fit and astonishingly attractive was an added bonus. There was a lot of eye candy to enjoy.

Call him shallow, but he was enjoying being eye candy to others. Between his dance class and hours spent weekly at the gym, Kurt had whittled away the last of the baby fat and his body was finally starting to fill in from his final growth spurt. The result was a figure that was decidedly less willowy and more leanly toned. His shoulders now had enough breadth that he’d needed to have a good amount of his wardrobe re-tailored over the past few months and he was liking the contrast between his muscular torso and slender waist. He was finally starting to become more comfortable in his own body and was taking satisfaction in the admiring stares of his male classmates.

If there was anyone in the class that didn’t seem to belong there, it was his fiancé, Kurt considered as he watched their teacher pull Blaine off the bench where he had taken root for some one on one work. Mr. Hansen was a great teacher and Kurt enjoyed working with him, but he suspected that Blaine was not appreciating he attention, judging from the put-upon expression on his face.  This wasn’t the kind of focus that you got when you were doing well in a class. Blaine was struggling and Kurt suspected that Mr. Hansen was trying to help him catch up with the rest of the class.

Not for the first time, Kurt wondered why Blaine had applied to NYADA. Because it was becoming fairly obvious to Kurt that Blaine had as much interest in actually studying and trying to grow as Rachel had. Was it only to get a prestigious line on his CV? Or to get him back? To ensure that no other men had the chance to win Kurt’s attention? Blaine was becoming a headache the same way that Rachel had been and he’d only just gotten her out of his life

Rachel had just moved out the week before, granting Kurt a blessed relief from the tension that existed between them since she quit school. Fortunately, their schedules had kept them apart most of the time and he tended to only see Rachel late in the evening when she got back from rehearsals. That still meant a lot of strained civility, as Kurt tried to be polite while making it clear that their relationship would never return to the cordiality that they’d previously enjoyed.

After loudly complaining that Kurt’s refusal to forgive her was impacting her performance negatively, as it was his fault that she couldn’t separate her personal issues from her work, Rachel got her fathers to move her into an apartment of her own. It had come of something of a pleasant surprise to return from school and find all her belongings gone, leaving just a terse note informing him of her new arrangements. Kurt didn’t know where she was living now or how she would manage financially on her own, but that was no longer his concern.

His first call at finding himself minus a roommate had been to Santana, assuring her that Rachel was indeed gone and inviting her to move in formally. Rachel had taken all of her furniture, but they could check out the NYADA classifieds as people were always selling things. Santana happily accepted the offer and wasn’t at all put out over returning to the sofa to sleep on until they got her set up.

While money was going to be a little tight for a bit, the next month’s rent was already paid and he would be able to manage until Santana returned from Los Angeles in a few weeks and took over Rachel’s share of expenses. In the meantime, he was enjoying the gift of privacy and quiet that he badly needed.

He knew that he made the right decision by not even broaching the idea of Blaine moving back in. Not after the last time when Blaine had managed to totally upend the refuge that he’d built for himself in the loft. However much he loved Blaine, Kurt was very cognizant of needing time away from his fiancé if they were going to avoid killing one another. He forced himself to ignore what that might mean for the long-term prospects of their relationship for the moment.

He felt himself frowning when he saw how out of breath Blaine was getting after a relatively brief sparring match. Given how Blaine had boasted about his fight club experience before the semester started, seeing his fiancé having so much difficulty in keeping up with the rest of the class had come as a bit of a surprise to Kurt. It was becoming apparent that Blaine was not quite as in shape as he was back in high school and it was showing in his lack of stamina.

Kurt knew that the sweatshirt Blaine was wearing hid the softness that had crept to his middle, giving him a bit of a paunch. While Blaine had never been overly muscular, he had been in good physical condition and there was a definite difference that Kurt had noted the last few times he has seen Blaine without a shirt on. Blaine had clearly put on more than a few pounds since he’d arrived in New York. Kurt didn’t mind and thought that his little belly was sort of cute.

Blaine, clearly, did not share Kurt’s opinion. While they were cuddling a few nights ago, Kurt had made the mistake of calling Blaine his “squishy boy” which ending up with Blaine all but throwing Kurt out and pouting until Kurt apologized.

Kurt sighed to himself as he stripped off his fingerless gloves and tossed them into his athletic bag. That error had cost Kurt one of the infrequent evenings when he and Blaine had some alone time and Kurt was becoming increasingly aware that now that he was wearing Blaine’s ring, it seemed like they spent less time together than ever. Kurt had to practically schedule appointments with Blaine’s social calendar so that he wouldn’t conflict with Blaine’s plans to spend time with Sam, which for some strange reason always seemed to take priority.

Once their class was dismissed, the group trooped into the dressing room to strip down and make use of the showers if they wanted. Kurt quickly fell in alongside Blaine, least his fiancé feel that Kurt was neglecting him. “You were looking good there,” he complimented, trying to cheer him up.

Blaine grunted distractedly, shrugging. “I don’t get why he’s picking on me,” Blaine complained breathily, still winded as he slumped on the bench by his things. “I’m not doing that badly.”

“Mr. Hansen just wants all of us to do well,” Kurt assured him. He’d used that argument with Rachel when she complained about their dance teacher and hoped that he would have more success this time. Maybe Blaine didn’t have quite as much ego as Rachel did, but he was very much like her in that he was always sensitive about being seen as less than competent in any area.

“I don’t see him working with you like that,” Blaine grumbled resentfully, pulling his sweatshirt over his head. Kurt did not miss how his fiancé seemed to hold the rumpled garment in front of his belly, as if to hide the bulge peeking over the top of his sweatpants.

Kurt didn’t respond to that, not wanting to instigate an argument in front of their classmates. He knew that Blaine seemed to genuinely resent that Kurt was not struggling and had gained the regard of not just their instructor, but the rest of their classmates. Kurt wasn’t exactly holding himself back since that would affect his grade, but he was trying to be supportive of Blaine.

And it wasn’t only Mr. Hansen. Professor Mantha routinely praised Kurt’s efforts in their acting class, while Madam Tibideaux frequently called on Kurt to show a technique that she expected the rest of her class to master. Blaine was smarting that he wasn’t held in similar esteem.

“You know, we can practice later if you want,” Kurt offered. He knew that Mercedes would be going out with Sam and was hoping to coax Blaine into an unscheduled date night. But he was willing to give up that opportunity to give Blaine some assistance.

“I don’t need your help,” Blaine insisted sourly. “I just need our teacher to treat me fairly. Mr. Hansen is blaming me for getting into his class as a freshman and doesn’t think I belong there.”

Blaine wasn’t entirely wrong about that, Kurt considered as he stripped out of his workout clothes. The class was an elective, meant for students that had already satisfied their required core dance classes. Pushing his way in as a freshman put a target on Blaine’s back. He needed to prove that he was up to the work and so far, wasn’t doing so. If anything, it was a credit to Mr. Hansen that he was willing to devote so much attention on Blaine and try to help him rather than just flunking him and saving himself the aggravation.

But try telling that to Blaine, who at moments rivaled Rachel for self-indulgence. Kurt was starting to wonder if he was an asshole magnet, attracting so many emotional leeches to his orbit.

Deciding that trying to soothe Blaine’s wounded pride was pointless, Kurt gathered his bathing supplies and entered the shower area where most of their classmates were already cleaning up. He took the showerhead next to Matt, who had paid his increasingly muscular physique so much attention.

Turning on the water as hot as he could get, he stepped under the steam of water and dunked his head under. It felt good to get the sweat and salt out of his hair. He scrubbed at his scalp, washing his hair carefully. He lathered up his loofa and washed his body from head to toe.

He couldn’t miss that Matt was watching him out the corner of one eye while he was bent over, and Kurt was feeling peevish enough that he didn’t care of Blaine noticed his attention. If Blaine didn’t appreciate the effort that Kurt had put into strengthening his body, he’d enjoy the attention of those that did. He even smiled at Matt, letting him know that he appreciated the other man’s notice as he rinsed off.

By then, Blaine had stomped sullenly into the shower room, apparently trying to hold in his gut so that it wasn’t so apparent and for the first time, Kurt allowed himself to compare his fiancé to the other men in the room. Blaine’s physical deficits were fairly apparent, and his personality ones even more so. Kurt didn’t hold Blaine’s weight gain against him, though he would be happier if Baine took better care of himself. It was the attitude that was grating on him.

Kurt wasn’t blind to Blaine’s flaws. Despite trying to make the best of sometimes difficult situations, he never was. Between his brief flirtation with bisexuality, an unpleasant encounter in the backseat of a car behind a grimy Ohio gay bar and an episode of infidelity that he had not forgotten about, Kurt’s view of his fiancé was decidedly unvarnished. Blaine could be very sweet and loving, but Kurt wasn’t blind to the fact that he shared a good number of Rachel’s less pleasant qualities. Blaine relished attention, but not the kind that implied that he needed improvement. He seemed to be genuinely confused and offended by the fact that he was standing out, but not in a positive way. Like Rachel, he was accustomed to lavish praise and facing real criticism was something that he wasn’t prepared to deal with constructively. Whereas Kurt took his teacher’s corrections as a means to develop his skills, Blaine only saw them as an indication that they didn’t recognize how wonderful he already was.

“Hey!” Blaine shouted, launching himself across the shower room and shoving Matt. “Stop staring at him!”

Kurt looked up in shock, seeing his fiancé physically putting himself between Kurt and their classmate. Blaine was breathing hard, his eyes positively blazing with anger.

Matt didn’t seem to think that Blaine was any kind of threat. Indeed, the look on his handsome face was one of amusement as he held up his hands to placate the shorter man. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” he insisted, offering a smile.

Blaine huffed angrily, trying to puff out his chest and make himself look stronger. Kurt found himself reminded of a frog that he’d seen on the internet that swelled up to ward off an enemy but made a noise that reminded him of a dog’s squeak toy. He doubted that Blaine would appreciate the comparison.

“Don’t do it again!” Blaine snapped, not backing down despite the fact that Matt could probably lay him out flat with a swat. Blaine was a long way from his Fight Club days and Kurt knew that if he tried to escalate the matter physically, it would not end well for him. Not to mention that Blaine would get in trouble for attacking another student.

“It’s okay,” Kurt said soothingly, trying to get Blaine to back off. He placed his hand on Blaine’s shoulder to draw him back, only to have Blaine shrug his hand away. He watched as Blaine stormed out of the shower room, leaving a puddled trail in his wake.

Matt sighed and looked to Kurt apologetically. “Sorry,” he said sincerely. “Didn’t mean to make trouble between the two of you.”

Kurt sighed, accepting his apology. “It’s not your fault,” he assured his classmate, grateful that Matt didn’t try to instigate Blaine and escalate the confrontation. “He’s just being… a little overprotective.”

That’s what Kurt wanted to tell himself. That’s what Blaine told him. That since the assault that put him in the hospital a few weeks ago, Blaine was worried for his safety. It didn’t matter that Kurt had been injured trying to help someone else and that he’d made a full recovery save for a small scar that marked his brow. Blaine seemed to think that Kurt needed to be protected from the world, as if he were completely incapable of taking care of himself.

The more honest voice that whispered in the back of Kurt’s mind was telling him that Blaine’s motives were not nearly so caring, but he didn’t want to listen to that voice. He was already having enough questions about their relationship.

Matt snorted. “Dude, you don’t need anyone to protect you,” he insisted with an admiring smile. “In case you haven’t noticed, you could kick his ass any time you wanted in class. Everyone in class is wondering what the hell you’re doing with him.”

Kurt felt himself frown, ready to launch into a defense of his fiancé but decided against it. Not that he couldn’t or shouldn’t defend Blaine. It was just what he couldn’t totally disagree with what Matt was saying. However much he loved Blaine, he couldn’t deny the changes that his fiancé had undergone the past few months and acknowledge that some of them had not been for the better.

He found Blaine in the dressing area, clearly still angry as he put on his clothes and muttered to himself. Kurt approached carefully, not wanting to set Blaine off again but at the same time making it clear that his fiancé had overstepped some bounds. For all the time Kurt had bitten his tongue when other men paid attention to Blaine, least Blaine accuse him of being a jealous bitch, Blaine never shied away from making his displeasure about other men noticing Kurt very clear.

“Do you want to tell me what that was about?” Kurt demanded, letting a trace of anger enter his voice. “Matt wasn’t doing anything.”

Blaine looked up at him with a glare that at one point might have had Kurt ready to placate his moods. “I see that you’re enjoying having men staring at your ass all day,” he observed snidely.

“We’re in a shower,” Kurt reminded him, pulling the towel from around his waist and using it to mop the last of the water from his body. “It’s kind of hard to ignore that everyone is naked in there. I’ve seen you staring at more than a few asses and I didn’t make a stink about it.”

And wasn’t that telling, Kurt considered. It wasn’t as if Blaine hadn’t checked out the other men in the dressing room while changing and Kurt found it interesting that he honestly wasn’t bothered. Especially given how his hackles got raised back in high school when Sebastian flirted with Blaine and that Blaine had been the one to cheat. But then, Kurt had no interest in reciprocating Matt’s interest beyond a little mutual admiration of one another’s bodies.

“You don’t have to enjoy it so much,” Blaine groused as he buttoned up his shirt. Kurt made himself ignore that some of the buttons were straining more than a little bit.

Kurt rolled his eyes as he pulled on his underwear. “What did you expect me to do?” he demanded, not hiding his irritation. “It’s not a big deal. Or it wasn’t until you decided to act like a jealous idiot. What, did you think Matt was going to tackle me in the shower room?”

Blaine huffed, apparently grasping that he’d screwed up. “I just worry about you,” he justified, as if that answered everything “After what happened…”

Kurt was glad that his back was to Blaine because he was rolling his eyes at Blaine’s explanation. He knew that Blaine was deflecting, and that if Matt had been admiring Blaine’s ass, they wouldn’t be having this conversation.

“I can take care of myself,” he reminded Blaine, making sure to keep an edge to his voice so that the other man was reminded that he’d screwed up. “And while you may not care about getting along with the rest of the class, I do. I have friends here. I work well them and I’m not going to put that at risk because you’re being a brat.”

He felt Blaine coming up behind him before he felt the shorter man’s hands on his shoulders, squeezing gently. “I’m sorry,” Blaine apologized. “Can I make it up to you? We can do dinner at my place tonight. Sam is going to be out.”

Well, that was a relief, Kurt considered, pleased that Blaine had broached the offer of some time spent with Blaine without Sam planted on the couch playing video games.

“I’ll come over after my voice workshop,” Kurt agreed. It was one of the few classes that they didn’t share.

Blaine pressed a quick kiss to Kurt’s cheek. “Great! I’ll see you later then.”

Almost abruptly, Blaine turned to pick up his messenger bag and all but ran out of the dressing room before the rest of the class returned, leaving Kurt bemused at what had just happened. He thought that he had a handle on all this but trying to handle all of Blaine’s issues on top of his jobs and classes… Blaine wasn’t making this easy on him.

Not for the first time, Kurt had to wonder what he was doing. He loved Blaine, that was without question. He took Blaine back against all better judgement, giving up a potentially healthy relationship with Adam. He thought back on the handsome Englishman with more than a touch of regret that he hadn’t been able to emotionally give their relationship a real chance and allowing himself to be swayed by Blaine. He couldn’t blame Adam for being hurt by Kurt’s abrupt engagement and yet again, Kurt was left wondering just why he would go against his better judgement.

Well, that ship had sailed. Maybe Adam would have stayed in New York had they stayed together and not returned to England directly after graduation if Kurt had given him a real chance. He felt badly about how he’d treated Adam and there were more than a few times when Kurt wondered just what hold Blaine had held over him to make Kurt behave so badly. But to be honest, he could only blame himself in the end.

As he walked to his next class, he saw several posters for the Apples posted about the school and Kurt was glad that the group had elected to continue without Adam. He missed performing with them but knew that he still probably wouldn’t be welcome. They were loyal to one another and Kurt had betrayed Adam. He couldn’t hold it against them in the end.

He looked down at the ring on his finger, not for the first time wondering how it got there. It had always been a matter of pride that he wasn’t a fearful person, but it appeared that in one aspect of his life he actually was. Kurt had feared being alone and his relationship with Adam was still so new at the time. Only in retrospect could Kurt accept that he’d been afraid of Adam leaving once he graduated and for all his flaws, Blaine was familiar. Kurt knew what he was getting, warts and all and in the end, he made Adam’s eventual return to England a self-fulfilling prophesy. He had traded the potential for a relationship where he was constantly questioning just how happy he really was.

“Kurt? Are you okay?” a familiar voice asked.

Kurt turned in surprise, seeing Corrine from the Apples standing behind him, an expression of mild concern on her pixie-like features.

“Oh… hi,” he answered, forcing himself to smile. “Sorry, I was just thinking. I’m okay.”

She nodded, allowing a bit of a smile. “It’s just… you looked a bit unhappy there.”

Kurt sighed, adjusting the strap of his shoulder bag. “It’s okay,” he assured her. “Just some personal stuff.”

“You sure?” she pressed. “I mean, you’ve been through a lot the past few weeks, with what happened to you and that nonsense with Berry.”

Kurt wasn’t too surprised that the Apples knew what had happened to him, as the news had been all over the school. “I’m all right,” he insisted.

She cocked her head, not quite believing him. “Adam was worried when he heard about what happened,” she informed him.

“He knew about that?” Kurt asked, honestly surprised that Adam had found out and that he even cared.

Corrine nodded. “Your little escapade of heroism got a lot of attention around the school,” she reminded with a little chuckle. “And you know how good the NYADA grapevine is. Adam wanted to call you and make sure you were okay, but he wasn’t sure that you’d want to talk to him.”

He would have, Kurt considered, but it would have caused a lot of difficulty with Blaine. Adam always was too considerate for his own good, putting the needs of others before his own desires even if it cost him.

He did miss Adam and to be honest, he found Blaine’s support following the incident a bit lacking. He hadn’t forgotten Blaine’s blithe using of Kurt’s injuries to give his repeat critique performance some emotional depth and going behind Kurt’s back to cancel his critique. He doubted that Adam would have been so presumptuous and not for the first time found himself comparing his fiancé to his erstwhile suitor.

“Why don’t you give him a call?” Corrine suggested. “I know that things ended badly, but he really does care about you. I know that he’ll be relieved to know that you’re okay.”

Kurt looked at her helplessly when he remembered that Adam was no longer in New York. “I don’t even have his number,” he muttered, feeling his cheeks burning at the memory of how he’d thrown that caring man aside. He certainly didn’t deserve Adam’s concern.

Corrine hesitated a moment, as if weighing out whether it was worth it to take another chance on him. “Give me your phone,” she commanded, holding out her hand. Kurt unlocked his phone and handed it over.

Corrine opened up his contact list and Kurt hoped that she wouldn’t think he was so pathetic that he hadn’t been able to delete Adam’s old number. She didn’t comment, merely updating the information before handing him back the phone with a stern warning.

“Adam was really hurt when you went back to your ex the way you did,” she reminded. “Don’t screw around with him again. He doesn’t deserve it.”

Kurt inhaled sharply, feeling that burn of embarrassment again. “I won’t,” he promised. “Corrine … thanks.”

She pursed her lips and gave him a brief nod. “I’ll see you around,” she assured him before turning to head for her next class.

Kurt looked down at the device in his hands, Adam’s name shining brightly at him. A reminder of something that he could never get back and a question if what he traded it for was worth the loss.

* * *

Blaine greeted him at the door with a quick kiss. “Go make yourself comfortable,” he urged, nudging Kurt towards the couch. “I’ve got dinner up and it should be ready soon.”

Kurt smiled and stretched out on the sofa, finally being able to relax. It had been a long day and he was looking forward to a little uninterrupted quiet time with Blaine. No Sam to distract Blaine with his juvenile antics, which was a huge relief to Kurt. He didn’t think he’d ever forget walking in on the two of them roleplaying superheroes, with Sam running about the room pretending to be flying while Blaine jumped off the furniture to land in a heroic pose. He wanted to maintain the belief that Blaine was an adult.

Still, he was glad that Blaine seemed a lot happier and less tightly wound since his little blow up in the shower room. Kurt had been pleased by the invite and hoped that having some alone time would reassure Blaine about the security of their relationship. He’d been willing to forgive Blaine for his past mistakes and Blaine had no reason to question Kurt’s commitment.

Kurt reviewed some of his assignments while Blaine was cooking, noting that he needed to finish the edits for his playwright’s class essay that was due on Monday. He jotted down a few notes for himself while Blaine puttered about in the kitchen.

“So, I was thinking,” Kurt called out. “You know, as great as it is to have the whole gang back together again, why don’t you and I have a date night? You know… just the two of us.”

He hoped that he sounded casual and not accusatory about their lack of quality time together as a couple. To be honest, Kurt missed the pleasure of going out and just spending time with Blaine that didn’t revolve around school or catering to the needs of their friends. And he was painfully aware of the when the last time they actually spent the night with one another. Kurt was a healthy twenty-year-old with a healthy twenty-year-old’s sex drive and he was feeling the loss.

“Maybe dinner and a movie?” Kurt suggested as Blaine carried a dish to the table.

“Oh, I love that,” Blaine commented agreeably, looking up at Kurt with a smile. “I’m working on dinner, so you pick the movie. All I ask is that in color, in English and made after 1989.”

Kurt couldn’t help from chuckling inwardly at Blaine’s carefully compiled list of requirements. The last time they had a movie night together, Kurt had dragged him to a retrospective on the films of Akira Kurosawa. Blaine had gone in expecting samurai sword fights and ended up falling asleep while watching Ikiru. To placate him afterwards, Kurt had to sit through a movie night with Blaine and Sam watching an anime series that clearly had been written with ten-year-olds in mind.

Kurt slid to his feet and walked towards the kitchen, lured by some delicious scents coming from the small galley. “What are you whipping up in there?” he asked carefully. He didn’t want to offend Blaine, but he couldn’t help from smelling a lot of browned butter and melted cheese.

Blaine stepped out, stirring the contents of a large pan. “Fettuccini in a cream sauce, potatoes gratin and a molten chocolate cake for dessert,” he pronounced proudly, turning a wide smile to his fiancé.

Kurt felt his stomach lurch at the thought of so many processed fats and carbs and couldn’t help from blurting out, “We can’t eat all that.”

Blaine’s expression fell at Kurt’s rejection and Kurt immediately saw that he’d hurt Blaine’s feelings. It was clear that he’d put a lot of effort into what he’d thought was a proper romantic dinner and Kurt quickly explained, “It’s just a little heavy.”

He offered Blaine a teasing smile, hoping to take the sting out of his words. “I hope you’re not trying to plump me up,” he said with a light teasing tone to assure Blaine that he wasn’t accusing him of anything.

Blaine snorted as he placed the pan down on the table. “Since when are you manorexic?” he asked with a wry tilt of his eyebrow as he returned to the kitchen.

“I’m not,” Kurt insisted. “I’m just taking better care of myself.” He shrugged offhandedly, not wanting to make a bigger deal out of it. Between NYADA and Vogue, he was aware of all the amazing bodies in the entertainment business and if he wanted to have a shot at being successful, he wanted to give himself every possible advantage.

“You know as actors ‘our bodies are our instruments,’” he joked, mocking the tone that their acting teachers used in class. Kurt rolled his eyes, making it clear that he was trying to make light of the whole issue and wasn’t taking it too seriously.

Blaine returned to the living room and looked up at Kurt. “And my instrument is… umm… getting a little out of tune?” he asked, taking Kurt’s comments about the meal as an accusation regarding his recent weight gain. “Is that where you’re going with this?”

Kurt gave him a steady look, wanting to ensure that there was no mistaking his motives. “No, your instrument is as handsome as ever,” he assured Blaine. And he didn’t really care that Blain had put on a few extra pounds. He wasn’t that shallow.

“I was just thinking we’d skip the fettuccini, walk to the movies and pick up a salad at Pax on the way,” he suggested.

Blaine didn’t answer immediately, still a bit offended but deciding not to make a bigger deal out of it for the moment. “Sure,” he finally answered, looking at the food he set out. “I guess this will keep.”

Between Blaine and Sam, Kurt had little doubt that the food would be in their refrigerator for too long. Unlike Blaine, Sam had the metabolism of a hummingbird and worked out every day, so he could pack away carbs and fat without it affecting his weight. Maybe rather than playing superheroes, Kurt could let it slip to Sam that he should drag Blaine with him to the gym once in a while.

“Great!” Kurt answered brightly. “I’ll go look up showtimes.”

He moved to where Blaine’s laptop was sitting on the side table. “I heard there’s a great new indie playing at the Quad,” he called out. One of his friends in class had seen it the other day and recommended it. He bent down to flip the monitor open and was momentarily surprised to see it immediately come to life.

What appeared on the monitor was even more surprising. Kurt felt his mouth go dry at the tacky webpage adorned with shirtless young men with several still photos of them in various states of undress and kissing. Even before he noted the title of the page, Kurt recognized it for what it was. And he very much doubted that Sam had been the one perusing it.

“Umm… Blaine,” he called out, needing an explanation. Blaine kept insisting how tired he was from school every time Kurt so much as thought about touching him below the belt, but it was pretty obvious that he had no issues about touching himself.

Seeing the muscular bodies on the website just awoke every insecurity that Kurt thought he’d finally left behind. He didn’t resemble a twelve-year-old milkmaid any longer, but that Blaine would choose these anonymous bodies to stimulate him instead of his fiancé launched a few million questions that Kurt had been deliberately avoiding for a very long time.

Blaine emerged from the kitchen, ready to appease his fiancé. “Don’t worry,” he assured Kurt, with a little chuckle. “I won’t order popcorn at the movie theater.

“And by the way… I know that I’ve been putting on a few pounds,” he admitted, touching his stomach.

Kurt hadn’t been able to look away from the computer screen that seemed to be almost mocking him. “No, it just this…” He heard himself starting to stammer. “This very adult website I found on your computer.

“I wasn’t snooping,” Kurt insisted, remembering when Blaine had looked at his phone messages while he was out of the room and had found the messages from Chandler. Kurt had been very upset with Blaine looking at his phone and wanted to make it clear that he hadn’t been trying to check up on what Blaine might be up to. “It was open… um… right there… the window on your desktop.”

Blaine looked shocked that Kurt had found his secret recreational activity and rather than just admitting that he’d been looking at porn, and recently, Kurt heard the inevitable attempt to excuse what Kurt had found.  “Well… it was just… um…” Blaine tried to explain away, but there was no denying what both of them were looking at.

Kurt nodded in understanding. “’Frat Boy Physicals dot Com,” he noted archly, the displeasure evident in his voice. “How often are you on this?”

Before Blaine could come up with any excuse to handwave away what Kurt had found, Kurt shook his head. “No… I don’t want to know,” he stated firmly, making it clear that there was no good answer that Blaine could offer. The other man just stood there, looking sheepish under Kurt’s knowing stare.

“You know, whatever you do on your computer is your business,” Kurt granted with a sharp edge to his voice. He looked at Blaine with a glare of clear displeasure. “I just… I find it a little interesting that we haven’t been intimate in, like, a week. And maybe this is why.”

Kurt pushed past Blaine, gathering up his things and wanting to get out of there as quickly as his dignity would permit. He hadn’t wanted to be away from Blaine as much since that night at Callbacks, where Blaine admitted that there had been someone else and broke Kurt’s trust.

“Wait… Wait, Kurt,” Blaine pleaded. “Let’s talk about this.”

“I don’t want to talk about this!” Kurt snapped, his patience with Blaine’s evasions and excuses reaching its limits. Needing to get away before either them said something that they couldn’t take back, Kurt stormed out of the apartment and hurried down the stairs. It was only when the cool night air hit his face that he could mentally unclench, just a little bit.

It wasn’t that it was porn, Kurt noted. He wasn’t a stranger to adult websites, having perused more than a few of them himself. But he’d never used it as a substitute for actually being with someone. It was a way to release when he was single, and he and Adam had enjoyed watching it together. Despite what some might think, Kurt wasn’t exactly an innocent, wilting flower and he enjoyed watching well made pornography as much as most young men.

But this felt different. Blaine had never shown any inclination of wanting to watch porn with him, or actually incorporate any kind of play in their sex life. It was all pretty vanilla with the occasional toy thrown in. Blaine always kept saying that they didn’t see any bells and whistles and that he was happy with their sexual relationship.

And it wasn’t that he was upset that Blaine had been masturbating, and probably right before Kurt had arrived. Kurt’s longest steady relationship was his own right hand, ever since he was thirteen and discovered that he could enjoy his own fantasies without fear of being judged. But he’d never used self-pleasure as a preferable substitute for whoever he was in a relationship with.

Apparently that wasn’t the case since Kurt could count on one hand the number of times they’d had sex in the past few weeks. What kind of young man didn’t want to have sex with his very willing fiancé? Not first the first time, Kurt was left wondering if Blaine was actually physically attracted to him at all. Blaine might love him, but it just didn’t feel like he desired Kurt sexually at all. And maybe never did.

As he rode on the subway back to the loft, Kurt’s mind replayed a good number of moments from their relationship that he’d worked hard not to focus too closely on. The way Blaine had been so enthralled by Sebastian Smythe back in high school, the way he’d called Kurt’s insecure attempts to look sexy like gas pains, and the way he had considered a more flexible sexuality and dating Rachel before he even considered Kurt to be a prospective romantic partner. Kurt had been so painfully insecure and isolated that he ignored a lot of red flags that were waving right in his face.

Even Blaine cheating on him… Kurt had always considered infidelity the breaking point of any relationship. Why had he taken Blaine back? Because he was familiar, and Kurt feared the unknown of what might happen between him and Adam? Or that he feared being alone? Was he actually happy with Blaine?

The weekend was a long one, broken up by his shifts at the dinner where he put on his best game face for his customers and was glad for the distraction. When he was at home in the empty loft, he found himself staring at his phone as it sat on its charger. The device seemed to be mocking him with constant pings signaling another text from Blaine asking him to call him so they could talk. There was Adam’s phone number, taunting him with the possibilities that he’d thrown away. Two pasts warring with one another and causing him nothing but pain from his own weakness.

It was Sunday evening when he finally worked up the courage to try and call Adam. He heard the ringing on the other end of the line that stretched out across an ocean and when it picked up, he couldn’t help from being both disappointed and relieved that it had gone to Adam’s voice mail.

You’ve reached Adam’s phone,” the familiar voice stated with a casual cheerfulness that caused Kurt’s heart to clench. “He can’t talk at the moment because he’s off on some amazing adventures, but leave him a message. Cheers!

At the signal to leave his message, Kurt forced himself to speak. “Hi Adam. It’s Kurt… I just wanted to let you know that I’m okay and I miss you,” he admitted. “I’m so sorry for everything and if you want, I’d love to talk to you.”

He recited his phone number, just in case Adam had deleted it. “You take care of yourself,” he urged before hanging up.

He answered the last of Blaine’s frantic text messages, letting him know that he’d be working the breakfast shift at the diner before class and maybe they would meet after Kurt got off work. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do or say to his fiancé, or even if he wanted to see Blaine at all but they were at the same school. They couldn’t avoid one another forever.

In his empty loft, he had time to think. Kurt realized that having spent so much time dealing with Rachel’s drama, her fighting with Santana and all of the chaos that had filled his life, he badly needed this moment of quiet. It was hard and uncomfortable, but he finally had a chance to focus on himself.

Kurt wasn’t sure what answer he was looking for, but he was afraid that he was reaching a decision that needed to be made. He just didn’t know what was waiting for him on the other side.

* * *

Kurt might be acting a little passive aggressively, but he was glad to have gotten to school early. The dinner had slowed down considerably once the breakfast rush was over and Gunther hadn’t minded letting him leave before his shift officially was over. Blaine had texted that he would meet Kurt after his shift but Kurt didn’t mind ditching him for a peaceful commute to school. Call him childish, but he wanted to let Blaine stew just a little bit. He was tired of catering to his fiancé’s wishes all the time.

Thankfully they didn’t have any shared classes until Stage Combat that afternoon. While Blaine had been able to connive his way into much of Kurt’s schedule, Professor Dowd flatly refused to admit a freshman into his acting workshop. And he had Costuming and Makeup directly afterwards, which Blaine had had no interest in. Kurt would enjoy a few more hours of peace before having to deal with his fiancé.

By then Blaine would have gotten the message that Kurt was not only avoiding him but wasn’t exactly in any mood to speak with him. Kurt was quite pleased that he’d managed to avoid him all day. If Blaine was trying to catch Kurt in between classes, Kurt had succeeded in getting around him and enjoy his classes without interference. He’d even left campus for lunch, ensuring that Blaine would have no idea of where he was.

Kurt had made it to combat class and gone through his warmups without any sign of his fiancé, though he was quite aware that his time was running out. Blaine was late, but there was no way that he’d miss this class if it meant the chance to corner Kurt. He was talking to Matt when the salon door smashed open and Blaine stomped in, flinging his bag down before confronting Kurt.

“Hey!” Blaine called out to get Kurt’s attention. Kurt turned, seeing that Blaine was wearing the sweat that hid his body and contrasted to the more revealing movement clothes that everyone else in the class sported. Kurt himself was wearing a pair of slim-fitting workout pants and a black tank top that put his body on full display.

“We were supposed to meet at the diner so we could walk to class together,” Blaine reminded, looking upset and a little hurt at Kurt’s avoidance tactics.

“Oh, sorry,” Kurt said with a total lack of sincerity. “I got off early and I forgot to text you.” The sly smile on his face made it clear that Kurt’s actions were no simple oversight. Blaine couldn’t find the words to answer, staring at Kurt with an expression filled with hurt and confusion.

Before he could bring himself to respond, Mr. Hansen called out to the class, “Gather up!”

Even Blaine knew better than to ignore their teacher and he turned with Kurt to start the lesson despite clearly wanting to talk to his fiancé.

“Okay, today is stage weaponry,” Mr. Hansen advised, twirling the long wooden pole he held in his hands. “And yes, this is a real bo staff. And no, you will not be using real blades yet. Not until you can be trusted.”

However much Kurt wanted to finally get his hands on a real sword, he knew that Mr. Hansen was being very smart in not rushing things. The last thing anyone in the class needed was a serious injury due to a hit from a steel weapon.

Their teacher saw the look of disappointment on his student’s faces and reminded them of why he was keeping them away from the live steel for the moment. “Remember,” he insisted. “Safety first, safety last…”

“Safety always,” the class dutifully recited along with him, the most important lesson he’d taught them well hammered in by now.

Mr. Hansen nodded in approval. “That’s right,” he insisted.

Blaine didn’t dare interrupt their teacher, but couldn’t help from muttering to Kurt, “You’re still mad about that website thing, aren’t you?”

Kurt didn’t miss the tone in Blaine’s voice, as if he was being silly for being upset. Clearly Blaine had no clue over just why Kurt was angry with him. “No. God…” he grumbled, rolling his eyes.

“All right, everyone partner up and start moving your way through the weapons stations,” Mr. Hansen ordered and the class immediately broke into pairings to start their work.

Kurt moved to join them, picking up the prop shield and foam sword for the first set of exercises. Blaine watched him focused on his classwork, distraught that Kurt wasn’t being receptive to his attempts.

“I really think we should talk about this,” Blaine insisted, but only received a cool stare from his fiancé.

“You know, Blaine… sometimes I think we talk too much,” Kurt retorted, taking swing with his foam sword to get the feel of it before taking a spot in line with the rest of the class. He felt Blaine’s eyes on his back but didn’t honestly care.

Much of the class went smoothly, even though he and Blaine found themselves partnered at several points. For the most part, Kurt was able to keep his focus on his classwork, but he was acutely aware of Blaine’s close presence. His fiancé made sure to remain nearby in order to prevent any of their male classmates from attempting to partner with Kurt during exercises. Kurt suspected that Blaine was starting to crack, letting their dispute distract him from his work.

The first sign of something going seriously sideways was when they were sparring during barehanded fighting. Kurt held up the sparring mat while Blaine punched and kicked into it and it was being clear that Blaine was being increasingly angry. He was hitting at Kurt with a lot more force than was warranted and at one point, Kurt had to use the cushion to physically shove Blaine back away from him. A few of Blaine’s blows were narrowly missing his head and Kurt was reaching his limits for Blaine’s irrational behavior.

Kurt knew that he was healed from his injuries but having his fiancé acting like he actually wanted to hit him… that was something he just couldn’t ignore.

Mr. Hansen finally called them over for fencing, which Kurt had been looking forward to all class. He enjoyed working with the foils and had discovered over the course of the semester that he actually had some real aptitude for it. He turned his back to Blaine while he got into the safety gear, getting the unsettling feeling that they were reaching a breaking point.

As he’d done through the entire class, Blaine pushed his way forward so he could partner with Kurt and they took their places at the center of the room, facing off against one another. Mr. Hansen made sure that they both had their fencing gear on properly and Kurt pulled on his fencing helmet, immediately feeling better that Blaine couldn’t see his face. He was losing his ability to hide just how angry he was getting and the mask allowed him to feel safer and able to finally let his emotions free.

En garde!” Mr. Hansen called out, warning them to prepare for their bout. He waited a second as they took a fighting stance, asking “Prêtes?” to make sure that they were ready. Kurt made a quick nod to indicate that he was, crossing blades with Blaine.

Allez!”

Kurt immediately saw that Blaine had left him an opening and pressed forward on the attack, forcing Blaine back across the room until he had no place left to retreat to. Blaine tried to regroup, attempting to go on the attack but Kurt spun easily, forcing Blaine to duck in order to avoid a touch. Rather than showing poor sportsmanship and getting a point, Kurt allowed Blaine to regroup and return to the center of the room so they could continue the match.

It was obvious that Blaine was getting frustrated and he was holding his foil with both hands, as if trying to gain control but Kurt immediately as able to gain the upper hand again, pushing Blaine backwards. Blaine left a wide opening, inadvertently turning his back to Kurt and Kurt hit him with the tip of his foil, scoring a point.

Blaine turned to Kurt and lifted his mask, huffing and angry, throwing an accusing stare to Kurt as if asking why Kurt was going out of his way to make him look bad. Kurt lifted his own mask briefly, giving him a cool glare to warn that he wasn’t going to fall for Blaine’s manipulations.

Matt gave a brief clap of approval, one of several classmates that seemed to enjoy watching Blaine being shown up. Mr. Hansen ordered them back to the center of the room, letting Blaine have a second to recover but Kurt was ready to end his. He settled his mask into place and let his body slip into start position, ready to launch a final attack.

Blaine tried to take advantage, their foils striking as they attacked and retreated, Kurt was able to easily deflect Blaine’s attack. Blaine struggled to take control of the match but Kurt was ready and easily deflected his blows. Kurt pushed forward and and his fiancé’s fraying control finally snapped.

Using both hands to swing his foil wildly, Blaine frantically slashed his foil and was clearly aiming for Kurt’s head. It was totally against the rules they’d been taught, and Kurt had enough of Blaine’s antics. With a quick parry, Kurt dodged Blaine’s weak attack and landed a stinging blow to his arm causing Blaine to yelp in pain.

The strike was well within the rules of fencing but Blaine ripped off his mask yelped, “What the hell, Kurt?”

Kurt didn’t respond, glaring at Blaine from behind his mask.

Mr. Hansen saw that things had gotten well out of hand and quickly stepped in. “Blaine, are you okay?” he asked. Kurt slipped off his mask, staring impassively at his fiancé.

“I’m fine,” the younger man snapped, his anger apparent to everyone in the room.

“You sure?” Mr. Hansen asked again. “Safety first…”

“I said I’m fine!” Blaine insisted, interrupting their teacher and storming away from Kurt without giving him the customary salute with his foil. Kurt watched him with a cool gaze as Blaine dropped his foil onto the rack and stormed out of the room.

There were some chuckles and muttering from others in the class and Kurt got the clear impression that a good number of their classmates had enjoyed watching Kurt taking Blaine down a peg. Blaine wasn’t very much liked and, much like Rachel, hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to ingratiate himself with the other students. If it became a question between Blaine and Kurt, Kurt suspected that most of the class would side with him.

“All right, everyone. Let’s get back to work,” Mr. Hansen ordered. “Next pair, get ready.”

The teacher turned to Kurt. “You okay?” he asked, wanting to make sure that Kurt’s head was on straight.

Kurt nodded, taking a deep breath to center himself.

“That was some very nice footwork,” Mr. Hansen complimented. “And you kept your cool, which is a really good thing. But I need you two to keep your personal problems out of my class.”

“I’m sorry,” Kurt said sincerely. “I’ll make sure that it won’t happen again.”

Mr. Hansen nodded in approval and patted his arm before turning his focus to the next set of fencers, calling them to start their match.

By the time Kurt got back to the dressing room, Blaine was long gone. It certainly wouldn’t reflect well on him that he left class early, but that wasn’t Kurt’s problem. He was tired of catering to Blaine’s impulses and tolerating his poor behavior. He’d put up with Blaine’s passive aggressive bullshit for so long and the first time the shoe was on the other foot, Blaine actually tried to attack him physically.

Kurt had overlooked a lot of things during his relationship with Blaine but this? This was something that he couldn’t ignore. Even if he hadn’t recently recovered from a significant head injury, he could not disregard that Blaine had deliberately tried to hit him. He didn’t think that Blaine wanted to actually hurt him, but there was no question that Blaine was angry and lashing out and venting his frustration on Kurt. That wasn’t something he could just overlook.

Matt followed him into the dressing room, a concerned expression on his handsome face. “Well… that was something,” he commented.

Kurt huffed and nodded. It had been something.

Matt sat down on the bench next to him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Listen, I know it’s not really my place to say anything,” he admitted. “But you shouldn’t have to take that kind of crap.”

“I know,” Kurt agreed. “He and I are going to have a very long overdue talk.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Matt advised, nodding in approval. It wasn’t as if he and Kurt were close friends, but they had gotten to know one another over the past few months and got along well in class. “I mean, he was really going after you. We were ready to step in, but Mr. Hansen said that you were handling him just fine.”

Kurt smiled appreciatively. He was glad that no one interfered because he wasn’t some damsel that needed rescuing. But the fact that so many in the school were now aware of the problems in his relationship hammered home that this was something he couldn’t just continue to ignore.

Matt looked at Kurt appraisingly, considering how to offer some support without offending his classmate. “I know that you can handle him, but would you take my number?” he asked. “Just in case you need some help.”

Kurt let himself smile, gratified by his classmate. “Thanks,” he said appreciatively. It had been a long time since someone actually showed him some real support while not forgetting that Kurt was a grown man and could handle his own business.

Kurt didn’t return home immediately after his last class. Blaine had left him a text, wanting to talk but Kurt ignored it. After all the stress he’d been going through, he needed to give himself a little space. Treating himself to dinner at a café that he’d enjoyed and indulging in a glass of cheap house wine. Taking a walk by Madison Square park and enjoying the evening quiet now that rush hour was done.

This would be his life if he made the decision that he was moving towards, he realized with a pang of sadness. He had already evicted one long-standing relationship in his life and removing another would mean a lot of time spent on his own. Yes, he would be living with Santana but he had to accept that his relationships with some of their other friends would change. He didn’t doubt that Sam would side with Blaine and Artie was something of a wild card. He could go either way. Ending things with Blaine would mean a final break with the majority of his high school friends.

Kurt sat down on a park bench next to one of the seasonal sculpture installations, looking up at the darkening sky. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was on the precipice of a monumental shift in his life. He knew that he needed to do and what he should do. He also knew that the fall out was likely to be catastrophic. He would emerge through the other side, bloodied and apart from the life he had planned since that first day when he and Blaine had met.

But he would not be entirely alone. Santana would be thrilled for him. And Mercedes might be dating Sam and focused on her budding music career but she would support Kurt, no matter what he decided. There were other students at NYADA that he was building relationships with. Elliot and Dani would be there for him. He would build a new circle of friends where support wasn’t such a one-way street. Why was he letting his fear over losing his high school relationships stop him from doing what he needed to?

Blaine texted him that he was over at the loft, having used his key to get in. Sighing deeply, Kurt texted that he was on his way. Numerous scenarios ran through Kurt’s head about what awaited him, but by the time he arrived home, Kurt knew exactly what he wanted to say.

His phone rang as he walked up the stairs and he surprised and annoyed to see that it was Rachel. He didn’t want to deal with her on top of what was waiting for him but decided to answer the call in order to get it over with.

“Yes, Rachel?” he demanded bluntly, the tone in his voice making it very clear that he didn’t really want to speak with her.

“I just wanted to catch you before we start previews tomorrow,” she said, her voice sounding a bit tight and restrained. Kurt wasn’t sure if it was annoyance with him and his continued refusal to accept her apology or nerves about her impending opening night, but honestly he didn’t care. “You don’t answer my calls.”

“Rachel, I’m busy with school and two jobs,” he reminded her. “What do you want.”

She huffed on the other end of the connection. “I just wanted to see if you planned to come to opening night. I need to give them a list of my guests so they can reserve the seats. Mercedes already said that she can’t make it, but Mr. Schu will be there.”

Of course he would be, Kurt thought sourly as he headed towards his door. There was no way he’d miss his pet’s theatrical debut.

“Honestly, I don’t think I can be there,” Kurt stated. “I’ve got too much on my plate now and let’s be real here. We’re not friends anymore so why invite me?”

Kurt didn’t miss the hurt sound in her voice. “Kurt, I know that I upset you but we’ve been through a lot together,” she reminded him. “This is my opening night! I need my best friend there!”

“But I’m not your ‘best friend’,” Kurt insisted, the firmness in his voice leaving no room for argument about his feelings. “I’m just someone who you used to go to school with.”

“But Sam will be there,” she wheedled, trying to convince him. “And Blaine said that he planned to attend also!”

Kurt rolled his eyes as he opened his door, seeing his fiancé sitting on the couch and thinking that Rachel had absolutely no clue about how little an incentive Blaine’s presence would be. He got the impression that she was having trouble filling her guest list, but that wasn’t his concern.

“You should call Blaine directly to confirm,” he advised before hanging up the call. He placed his messenger back of one of the dining room chairs chair and slipped off his jacket, draping it over the back before giving Blaine his focus.”

“That was Rachel,” he pronounced, the tone in his voice cool and flat. “She’s going to want to confirm that you’re attending her opening night.”

“What did you tell her?” Blaine asked, not even able to look up at Kurt.

“I said that I won’t be,” Kurt informed him, crossing his arms over his chest and gazing at the other man impassively. “And that she should get in touch with you about going. That is, if we don’t kill each other in combat class.”

Blaine didn’t respond, not looking at Kurt and instead taking a long sip from his can of soda which only set off Kurt’s anger again.

“What happened in there?” Kurt demanded, making no attempt to mask his displeasure with Blaine’s behavior. “You were really coming at me… as if you had something to prove. What, I’m not sure of.”

Blaine’s mouth drew into a tight grimace, his body practically radiating humiliation and discomfort about the situation he found himself in. “That I’m as strong as you are,” he said flatly. As if the answer should be so apparent.

Blaine answer was so absurd that Kurt barely was able to keep from laughing. “Okay, but it’s not a contest,” he insisted. The whole point of being in school was to discover where they were lacking and build on their strength and skills. There were plenty of areas where Kurt found himself struggling and working especially hard in trying to develop his talents.

“Isn’t it, though?” Blaine asked a bit plaintively, finally looking up at Kurt. ”On some level?“

He inhaled deeply, clearly struggling to find the words to express just what he was feeling. “Because for the first time in my life I really feel like I’m losing,” he explained with a soft sob.

Kurt’s eyes narrowed as the weight of Blaine’s words began to sink in. That Blaine couldn’t be happy that Kurt was finally getting some credit for his hard work and being seen for his talent. After so many years of being overlooked and disregarded, Kurt was finally getting to enjoy the experience of being respected for his abilities. All Blaine could see was that Kurt was the competition he was falling behind to.

As if now that he’d finally begun to express his true feelings, Blaine suddenly couldn’t seem to stop talking, making what he was saying worse. “I’ve felt that way ever since I got to New York,” he explained, looking up into the distance, as if the air molecules dancing before him held the answers and not his fiancé.

“I feel like we’re in this race together, and you are just so farther than I am,” he said urgently, looking at Kurt with an expression filled with confusion and distress. He ducked his head, shaking it in confusion.

“It just feels like the whole balance has shifted.”

Kurt continued to watch Blaine with the expressionless stare of a sphinx as he absorbed what Blaine was telling him. “What balance?” he demanded, forcing Blaine to explain just exactly what he meant because Kurt was getting a very ugly image of just why Blaine was so unhappy and wanted to make sure that he had a very clear idea of what Blaine meant.

Blaine couldn’t bring himself to look at Kurt, as if he knew that he had dug himself into such a deep hole that nothing he could say would get him out of it. “I guess it started when we first met,” he admitted. He looked up at Kurt with a sad smile. “And you came to Dalton because you were trying to get away from Kurofsky. And I wanted to help you through that.”

Kurt moved to sit down on the couch, maintaining a distance away from Blaine but putting their gaze on a more even level. That had been an ugly point in his life, and he’d been very alone and vulnerable. Blaine’s help, however clumsy and ill-advised at times, helped him regain his confidence and inner strength.

“And you did,” he confirmed, but was cut off by Blaine.

“And I loved the way that felt,” Blaine insisted, pressing his face into his hand. “I loved being able to protect you, but now I look at your life and it’s completely different.” He shook his head, completely giving in to his feeling if self-pity and his feelings that because Kurt had somewhere along the way grown up was at fault. That Kurt should have stayed that sad, defenseless boy for the rest of his life.

Blaine seemed so confused, clearly not understanding how they got to this point. “You’re a star at school,” he pointed out. “You have all these cool new friends. You started a band.” He shrugged helplessly.

“I feel like you don’t need me anymore,” Blaine complained, his stare one of hurt accusation. “To protect or anything…. You asked me to move out, for God’s sake.” He stood up to pace across the room, as if needing to get away from Kurt

“We made that decision together,” Kurt reminded him sharply. And in the end, the arrangements had worked out better for Blaine, giving him nearly unlimited playtime with his best friend without Kurt being a killjoy. Now that Blaine’s complaints were sinking in, Kurt felt his own anger kindling.

“So, is that what all this stuff is about?” he demanded, getting to his feet and not allowing Blaine to escape him. “What’s going on? I mean, you trying to get me to eat more?” Kurt was getting genuinely angry that Blaine had been attempting to sabotage him, and then made him feel badly for not appreciating Blaine’s behavior.  

It suddenly struck Kurt that this wasn’t the first time Blaine had tried such a tactic. Suddenly the memory of the West Side Story auditions back in high school came into his mind. How Blaine had promised not to audition for the lead so Kurt could have it for his school audition, but then auditioned for his own role with a Tony song and ended up landing the role. How many times had he done something like this that he never realized?

“I don’t like the way that I feel about myself anymore, Kurt! Okay?” Blaine shouted, nearly sobbing as he turned on Kurt. “And you have, like, this amazing new body!” He covered his face with his hands, overcome by his emotions.

“Do you want to know why we haven’t been intimate?” he demanded, looking at Kurt with an expression that he would think looked sincere. “It’s because I feel insecure around you! I feel insecure around my own fiancé, and Frat Boy Physicals dot Com isn’t going to judge me!”

“And neither did I!” Kurt retorted, needing to bring this pity party for one to an end. He had a feeling that Blaine was going to hate himself in the morning when he realized just what he was doing, but the damage was done. “But I am not going to apologize for not being some delicate flower that needs his boyfriend to protect him.

“And maybe you’re right,” he granted. “Maybe it is a contest. Maybe it has to be that way between two guys. But I would rather have run this race with you then against you.”

Blaine looked up at Kurt with wide eyes, as if how Kurt had phrased his response was hitting home. “Kurt…” he said, as if to placate his fiancé, but Kurt’s cool stare struck him silent.

“You know, you never seemed to mind us being in competition when you were the one succeeding,” Kurt reminded him archly. “Every time you got a solo that I didn’t. Or a role that I tried out for than you ended up winning. And every time I would bite my tongue and hide my disappointment because God forbid I didn’t show you enough support.”

He saw Blaine’s mental gears turning, trying to figure out some way to appease Kurt’s anger but there was nothing that Blaine could say at this point. Not anymore. Blaine’s behavior over the past few weeks and the past few hours had torn the veil from his eyes. There was no going back from this.

“No, no!” Blaine insisted, realizing that he had gone too far. “I’m just so afraid that you’re going to keep changing and keep getting stronger. And one day you’re going to wake up and realize that I don’t love him anymore.”

“The only way that we could have run this race was as equals!” Kurt answered, not falling for Blaine’s manipulation. “But that’s not what you really want. You wanted someone who was happy to stand in your shadow and smile adoringly while you were in the spotlight. But you’re not capable of supporting me when the shoe is on the other foot, are you? You want me to make myself small so you can feel better.”

“Well, let me tell you something,” he warned. “I’ve worked too hard and come too far to let anyone, least of all the man who is supposed to love me, hold me back. I’m going to have enough obstacles in my career and the last thing I need is for my partner to be one of them.”

He looked down at the ring on his finger that suddenly felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. Images from their relationship flashed in his mind. Their first meeting. The backseat of his car outside of Scandals. Their first night together. The night that Blaine admitted to cheating on him. Was that another example of Blaine trying to punish him for stepping out of Blaine’s shadow? The outlandish proposal that dazzled him and left him incapable of refusing in front of everyone they knew.

He looked back up at Blaine, seeing the anger, hurt and despair painted plainly across the shorter man’s face. It was clear that it had dawned on Blaine that his admissions had pushed Kurt too far.

“This was a mistake,” Kurt said frankly as he slipped the ring off his finger. He looked at the gold band again, seeing for the first time what it had actually symbolized and held it out to Blaine.

“Kurt, please… I love you."

Kurt looked at him, seeing the pleading expression and felt… he felt nothing but irritation at Blaine’s pleading. “I know you do,” he granted. “As much as you’re capable of loving someone other than yourself. But that’s not enough for me anymore. I deserve a lot better.”

He held out the ring to Blaine, who stared at the gold band Kurt was returning to him. When Blaine didn’t take it back, Kurt sighed and reached out to take Blaine’s hand and press it into it.

“Please give me your keys,” Kurt requested firmly, the tone in his voice allowing no room for argument. Blaine fumbled at his pocket and pulled out his key ring, silently holding it out to Kurt. With wide, tearful eyes, he watched as Kurt found the key to the loft and took it off the ring before handing the remaining keys back to Blaine.

“What happens now?” Blaine asked softly, his gaze cast downward to the floor.

“It’s going to be hard at school since you’re in a bunch of my classes, but I would appreciate if you could behave civilly and professionally. Otherwise I’ll go to the faculty and ask them to intervene,” Kurt warned. “Next year, we won’t have so many classes together so it will be easier.”

“So that’s it?” Blaine asked, hurt starting to transition to anger at the very firm rejection he was on the receiving end of. “You’re just going to say goodbye to me? After everything?”

Kurt nodded. “I should have done this a long time ago,” he stated regretfully. “Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten in this deeply if I’d followed my instincts, but here we are.

“I’d like you to leave now.”

Blaine’s brows furrowed as the realization that their relationship was indeed over truly sank in. He glared at Kurt, anger now starting to replace the self-pity that he’d been wallowing in. His mouth drew down into a petulant frown as Kurt remained unmoved.

Blaine shook his head, huffing angrily. “I will never forgive you for this,” he warned.

“That’s okay,” Kurt assured him. “There are plenty of things that I should never have forgiven you for. Please go.”

Kurt took a seat on the couch and reached for the remote to turn on the television, tuning Blaine out completely. He didn’t watch while Blaine stood there stupidly, staring at the back of his head before finally giving up. Blaine got his things and made a show of stomping his feet, storming out of the loft and slamming the door shut behind him.

Kurt didn’t move for a long time. He didn’t really register what he was watching on the television. A tear began to glimmer in one eye and he wasn’t sure if it was from regret or relief.

One day, he would figure it out.

* * *

Surprisingly, Kurt had gotten a very good nights sleep despite everything. He’d updated his relationship status on Facebook and turned off his notifications so that he wouldn’t be disturbed. He had little doubt that there would be a ton of responses, mostly negative, from the New Directions group and just didn’t want to deal with them right now. His real friends would make their support clear and the others… their opinion didn’t matter.

His father called him first thing in the morning while Kurt was making breakfast. “Hey bud,” he greeted carefully. “I just saw your post. Are you okay?”

Kurt sighed and insisted, “I’m fine, dad. This just was just a long time coming.”

“I thought that you two were doing okay,” Burt mused.

“We really haven’t been,” Kurt explained. “Not for quite a while. I just took a really good, hard look at our relationship and had to make a decision if I was going to be able to stand for this for the rest of my life.”

“Okay, son,” Burt said supportively. “You know that the one thing I want is for you to be happy. I thought that Blaine would do that for you.”

“I know you did,” Kurt assured him with a sad smile. “But there are a lot of things that went down that I never told you about and things that I let go that I shouldn’t have. Getting back together with him wasn’t the right thing, let alone getting engaged.”

“I get it,” Burt stated. “Just so long as you’re happy. That’s all that matters. Listen, if you need me, I can come to New York this weekend. It won’t be a problem.”

“I’m okay,” Kurt insisted. “And I’m probably going to get some band time in with my friends now that my schedule has opened up. Let’s plan something for later this month. You and Carol can stay with me since Santana won’t be back for a few weeks.”

Burt sighed at the reminder that Blaine wasn’t the only relationship that Kurt had put an end to in the past few weeks. Kurt caught onto his concern and insisted, “Dad, please believe me. This was my choice. There was a lot of stuff going on that I was keeping to myself and I promise, I’ll explain everything later on. Just believe me that this was the right decision.”

“All right, Kurt,” Burt said. “I believe you. We’ll talk more when you’re ready. Just remember that I’m here for you.”

“Thanks Dad. I’ll talk to you later.”

Kurt knew that that he would be spending a lot of time explaining himself over the coming weeks. Unquestionably, Blaine will already have started to spin his own story and put Kurt at fault but one thing was true. Kurt was the one to end things. Once he explained his reasoning, his real friends would understand why. The others? Their opinions would not matter at all.

There was a ping on his phone, alerting him to a text message. Kurt felt his heart lurch when he saw that it was from Adam. With a nervous sigh, he opened the message to read.

I’m glad that you’re okay,” it read. “I was worried about you. Have to be at the theater soon, but can we talk sometime?

Kurt texted back that he would love to. He didn’t say anything about breaking up with Blaine and that getting back together with him in the first place had been such a monumental error. That would be a discussion for another day. He just wanted to see if he and Adam could become friends again. He genuinely missed the Englishman and was glad that he was doing well. He didn’t have the right to presume anything more.

In the meantime, he looked about the loft, absorbing the quiet of the space and ignoring the potential storm brewing outside. There would be plenty of time to deal with that. The fallout would be spectacular. Amazing in some ways and devastating in others but he was ready.

Because he was Kurt Hummel. And nothing was going to stop him.