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Fidelity

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Prologue

In April, after meeting with Dave in Principal Figgins’ office to lay out the terms of his return to McKinley, Kurt goes back to his house to figure out the logistics of his decision. He sits down at his vanity with a piece of paper, planning to draw up a proposed schedule for seeing Blaine during the week, but what comes out instead is, “Things For Which I Might (Or Might Never) Forgive David Karofsky.”

Kurt’s not quite ready to forgive Dave for anything just yet. But he needs to figure out a truce, at least. They’ll be spending large chunks of every day together, thanks to Santana’s Bully Whips patrol. And Kurt’s ingenious PFLAG idea means that he’ll have to look at Dave’s face for long stretches one or two afternoons a week. He should have thought of that when he’d come up with the idea. But he hadn’t.

It’s not that Kurt’s afraid of Dave’s face anymore. He’s not. He’s just kind of disgusted by it. And, at the same time, it fills Kurt with pity. The two emotions are balls of yarn that have gotten tangled together, and they’re so knotted up now that it’s hard to feel one without the other. It makes Kurt’s stomach twist.

So – forgiveness. If Kurt figures out what he can forgive Dave for – not today, but one day, if Dave sticks with the plan and doesn’t go back to being a capital-M miscreant as soon as Kurt walks back through the doors of McKinley – maybe those balls of yarn can start to untangle a little, too. Maybe he won’t be able to undo all the knots, but he can snip away at the disgust (which is another word for anger) until it’s no longer getting in the way of the pity.

Kurt starts his list:

Locker slamming.

That one is easy. Kurt has plenty of practice forgiving people for things like that. He’s mostly forgiven Puck for the things he used to do, and the rest of the football team for the dumpster tosses. If Karofsky doesn’t start it up again, Kurt can forgive him.

Kiss.

That one’s a little harder. After the initial shock, Kurt was furious about it for weeks, and sad, and even entered a sort of state of mourning over the theft of his first kiss with a boy – a state of mourning that never fully ended until just a few weeks ago, when Blaine pressed their lips together and – oh. That thing with Karofsky hadn’t been a kiss at all. More like a punch in the face. And Kurt forgives violence. So he can probably forgive the kiss, if Dave really reforms.

On the other hand, the kiss wasn’t actually a punch in the face, and Kurt wonders for a moment if maybe he should read something more into it – if there wasn’t just general closeted gayness behind it, but something more specific, like attraction. Kurt’s stomach twists again and he almost puts the thought aside. But if he doesn’t deal with it now, the question will fester and taint all his interactions with Dave. And there are going to be so many interactions.

Kurt wants to slam his head against his desk, but instead he takes a deep breath and thinks.

If Karofsky was attracted to Kurt, it makes the whole thing a lot creepier. But as his dad has so graciously pointed out to him, Kurt’s been creepy in want before, too. Not on purpose, but because every time Finn didn’t look at him, every time they didn’t touch, Kurt felt like he was dying inside. Reaching out for him felt like the only cure, even if that wasn’t what Finn wanted. Kurt would make Finn want it eventually, one way or another. So he set up their parents, and somehow convinced Burt that it would be great to have Finn move into Kurt’s room, and … okay, so yeah. Creepy.

Kurt didn’t go about things the right way, but it didn’t make his attraction to Finn wrong. It didn’t twist his desire to be loved and held and wanted into something sick. And if he’d just let his fantasies be fantasies, without trying to foist them on Finn – well, then, he was entitled to them, just like Finn was entitled to masturbating to pictures of Taylor Swift (not anything Kurt had ever wanted to know, but sometimes you learn too much about a guy when you become brothers).

All of that is easier thought than believed – Kurt still feels conflicted sometimes when he masturbates and thinks of Blaine, even though they’re boyfriends now and Blaine probably thinks of Kurt when he does the same thing (and whoa, an image comes to mind that makes Kurt want to throw down his pen and unzip his pants now) – but Kurt knows it’s true. It’s not fair to fault someone for an attraction. The only thing you can fault them for is what they do with it.

So Kurt will fault Karofsky for the kiss, but he won’t fault him for anything that may or may not have lain behind it. As long as Dave keeps it to himself from now on, it’s none of Kurt’s business.

It’s how Kurt would have wanted Finn to have dealt with his attraction, rather than shaming him for his feelings. So Kurt can do the same for Dave, even if he doesn’t like him.

Kurt moves on.

Threatening to kill me.

Okay. This one … is not going to be easy. Kurt’s blood still boils at the way Dave shrugged it off at today’s meeting with, “It’s just a figure of speech.” And adding that he felt awful about it wasn’t the same as saying he was sorry.

So, no. Kurt’s not anywhere near ready to forgive Karofsky for threatening him. He’s not ready to forgive Karofsky for the way he repeated the threat over and over again with small, stabbing looks. He’s not ready to forgive Karofsky for stealing the sense of invulnerability that every teenager is entitled to have.

Kurt doesn’t know if he’ll ever be ready, or what it will take to make that happen. An apology would be nice – but apologies are just words. Saying “I’m sorry” never prevented anyone from doing the same thing over again.

Actions are Dave’s only way out of this one. Kurt’s just not sure what actions it will take, though. Maybe if Dave came out, subjecting himself to the same sorts of daily assaults to his safety and dignity that Kurt has had to live through – that might tell Kurt that Dave is sincere. Maybe true contrition – the kind full of tears and empty of ego – that might do it, too.

It’s hard to imagine David Karofsky doing either of these things.

* * *

After his meeting with Kurt and their dads in Principal Figgins’ office, Dave goes home and opens the bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out a bundle of plaid cloth. It’s his old Cub Scout neckerchief, and he lays it on the top of his desk to unwrap it slowly, with the same methodical care he used to successfully solve the equations on his AP Calculus final.

In the center of the cloth is a porcelain figurine of two people joined at the hip: a woman in a white bridal gown, a man in a tuxedo. Bride and groom.

For the past few months, Dave has looked at this cake topper at least once a week, always with a confused mixture of tenderness and shame. He can’t look at it without remembering how he stole it: the way he let his face twinge into that threatening, silent smirk before prying the couple from Kurt’s hand; the thrill that the momentary contact with Kurt’s skin sent through his body; the sickening clutch in his stomach when he realized that the only response Kurt would ever have to his touch would be abject fear. He can’t look at it without remembering how far away Kurt had to run, because of him.

But rising to the surface with the guilt is always the thought, This is something that Kurt loves.

Dave can never be something that Kurt loves, but he can hold this thing that Kurt cares about, and if he holds it long enough, he can feel some of Kurt’s affection bleed from the object into his skin.

No one in his right mind would choose to give love to someone as fucked up, as ugly, as confused as David Karofsky. So Dave takes what he can get. Usually in the worst of ways.

He needs to stop.

He wraps the figurine back up in his neckerchief and slips it into a padded envelope.

Dave means to give it back the day that Kurt returns to McKinley. He walks around with it inside his Bully Whips jacket, waiting for the right moment to arise while escorting Kurt through the halls.

But the eyes of everyone in the school are on them, and Dave constantly feels like his stomach is pressing against his throat. At the end of the day, he shuts it in his locker and tries to forget.

Kurt never mentions Dave stealing it. He doesn’t mention their past at all. At the PFLAG meetings, Kurt treats Dave like any other unknown kids who show up – cautiously, like he’s waiting for them to prove that they’re there for honest reasons. Not surprisingly, most of the kids don’t return. But Dave always does. Even without Kurt’s threat to out him, even without the fact that it’s an excuse to be near Kurt, Dave wants to be at those meetings. Maybe if he goes to enough of them, he’ll stop being scared of people finding out who he is.

On the last day of classes, during the last break before the last period of the day, Dave walks Kurt down the hall. Their small talk has become easier over the past weeks, since Dave’s apology just before prom. They’ve ended up talking about a lot of things in the hallways and the sparsely attended final two meetings of PFLAG – differential equations, and the link between football and dancing, and Kurt’s detailed explanations of gay icons whose names Dave can never remember, and Dave wondering if it’s safe to come out to his dad – but Dave hasn’t told Kurt the thing that’s weighing most on his mind: he’s not coming back next year.

Everything here at McKinley is too much. It’s not just the well-intentioned sympathy he got after prom for almost having to dance with Kurt Hummel. It’s not just the ill-intentioned lewd remarks he got about the same. It’s not just having to see Kurt several times a day, every day, the exhaustion of being filled simultaneously with awe over Kurt’s strength, and guilt over how he might have destroyed it.

For Dave, McKinley has become synonymous with hiding and rage and fear. He needs to move on.

As they approach Kurt’s last class, Dave pulls the padded envelope from the inside of his jacket and hands it to Kurt. “I can never make up for what I did to you,” he says, “but at least I can give back some of what I stole.”

Kurt stops and pulls the bundled neckerchief out. “What – ?” he starts to say, but his fingers have already made quick work of the wrapping, revealing the white netting of the bridal veil. He looks up at Dave with a stunned, silent oh on his lips. “Thank you,” he finally says.

“No, please don’t say that,” Dave says. “Not for this. I stole it from you.”

“Okay,” Kurt sighs. “Not for this. But for – becoming yourself. It suits you.”

Dave can feel tears pushing against his eyes. “Santana will meet you when the bell rings,” he says. “Have a good summer.”

“You, too,” says Kurt, and he looks like he wants to say something else, but he doesn’t – or Dave doesn’t let him, because he turns then, unable to look at Kurt another moment. He doesn’t need to look at Kurt any longer, really, doesn’t need one last imprint for his memory. Kurt’s face has long ago burned itself into Dave’s mind.

He leaves Kurt outside the classroom with the cake topper and kerchief. When his father first tied it around Dave’s neck, Dave felt so proud of being one year older and a better Scout for it, felt like he was on the cusp of becoming a man.

Dave’s not sure he’ll ever be a man now. Not with what he’s become. Not after what he’s done to Kurt.

The best thing that could happen is if Kurt treats that kerchief like a rag – throws it in the trash or gives it to his dad for wiping up spills at Hummel Tires & Lube. It’s the kind of fate that Dave’s hopes deserve.

Dave doesn’t go to his last class. He walks to his locker, empties it of his things, and walks home. He says goodbye to no one.

When he gets to his room, he locks the door, lowers the blinds and turns his stereo up as loud as he can to Rachmaninoff’s Élégie in E Flat Minor, and cries the hardest he has since, at the age of seven, someone close to him died.

Chapter Text

The first time Dave goes to a gay bar, he's already a little drunk.

It's July and the summer heat is unbearable and everything is unbearable.

So he takes a sip out of every bottle in his parents' liquor cabinet, calls a taxi, and tells the driver to drop him off at a McDonald's three blocks away from Scandals.

He takes a circuitous path to the bar, walking into the parking lot from the back where it abuts a garden center. He looks over his shoulder a lot and never removes his baseball cap, even though his hair is soaked through from the humidity.

When he gets to the front door, he goes on automatic pilot. He's been to regular bars before with Azimio, so he knows the routine: Just act like you belong there. So he does. He shows his fake ID to the bouncer and heads to the bar, sitting down at one of the swinging stools like his name's written on it. He asks for a pale ale and plops down a five without being told the charge, then stares at the Cincinnati Reds playing on TV. That's his first nice surprise of the evening – he totally thought if there were any TVs here at all, they'd be playing Lady Gaga videos on continuous loop.

His second nice surprise is when a tall, sandy-haired guy who can't be much older than him leans across the bar and orders a pitcher.

"You go to Rhodes State?" the guy says when the bartender turns away toward the tap.

It takes a moment to realize that the guy is talking to him. "Um, yeah," Dave says. "You?"

"Nope. I go to school in Columbus. Home for the summer." He reaches out his hand. "Sebastian Smythe."

Dave shakes it. "Dave."

"Well, Dave, we've got a vicious game of shuffleboard going on over there." Sebastian cocks his head over his shoulder. "Want to join us?"

The game of shuffleboard really isn't that vicious, although Sebastian says cutting things every time someone makes a mistake. The insults are smart and witty and remind Dave of Kurt, except there's something vaguely meaner about the way Sebastian talks. Dave can't quite put his finger on how.

He finishes his bottle of beer and pours himself more from the pitcher and Sebastian keeps coming back with new pitchers and somewhere in the evening one of the guys christens Dave "Bearcub," but by then Dave is so drunk he doesn't really understand the explanation of his name and just goes with it. It sounds sweet on their lips – except for Sebastian's, where it sounds kind of mocking – and for some reason that leads to Dave liking Sebastian best of all, and when the game's done he takes Sebastian's hand and pulls him out to the dance floor even though it's disco and that's really, really gay. Dave doesn't care about the music. Mostly he just wants to be near another guy and move against him, and Sebastian is the one he wants right now because he likes the way that Sebastian looks down his nose at Dave even when their faces are on the same level.

Somewhere in there, Dave gets his first real kiss from a guy, but he’s so far gone he hardly even registers what it feels like other than good and finally.

They make out in the middle of the dance floor, and then in a dark corner, and then outside in the horrible humid air, and then in Sebastian's car, where no matter how high Sebastian cranks up the air conditioning, the air is still stifling.

"You're voracious," says Sebastian, and Dave feels a hand on his cock and suddenly, he feels very, very sober.

"Um, not that," Dave says, although he can't for the life of him figure out why.

"Wait – are you a virgin?"

Dave shrugs and shuffles back toward the door.

"No worries," Sebastian holds up his hands in reassurance. "That's what I specialize in."

Dave opens the door and falls out backward.

Sebastian crawls out after him. "OK. Suit yourself. The night is young; I can still find someone else to screw."

Dave spends the next hour vomiting in the restroom, the guy who christened him "Bearcub" helping him clean himself off after every hurl. When they emerge, Sebastian is tongue-fucking with some Donald Glover lookalike next to the pool tables.

Dave walks the five miles home.

*

Despite the semi-disaster of his first time at Scandals, Dave keeps going back. There's nowhere else to go to.

If he's not feeling very confident, he checks for Sebastian's car in the parking lot and leaves if it's there. But when he’s fortified with bravado (it usually comes in the form of a pre-bar gulp of whiskey), he goes in whether Sebastian’s car is there or not.

He goes straight to the pool tables to play with the folks he's started to call "the Bearcub Posse" in his head, and avoids looking in the dark corners where Sebastian does most of his making out – except sometimes when he's drunk and horny, and Sebastian is there and unoccupied, he walks straight over to him and lets Sebastian insult him for five minutes. Then, they start kissing.

It always ends the same way: Sebastian starts moving them closer and closer to the front door, and Dave digs his feet more and more heavily into the floor until Sebastian finally says in disgust, "Fine, have it your way. We're done for tonight."

Dave doesn't know why he always stops things from going farther. He wishes he wouldn't.

*

Dave never expected to see Kurt at Scandals.

He never expected to see him anywhere, actually, except maybe in 11 years at McKinley's Class of 2012 reunion, which Dave will go to if he's brave enough by then, and which he really hopes that Kurt will go to, just to throw his success in the face of all his mediocre classmates – including Dave himself.

But Kurt is here, now. And he looks so much – what is it? – older? more confident? more comfortable in his skin? The way his hips tilt forward with each step, calling out, Here we are. Too bad if you want us. We're not yours. We belong to him.

The him to which Kurt's hips refer is sauntering in next to Kurt. They pause to take in the dance floor and their arms touch.

Dave would feel a pang of jealousy at that inadvertent intimacy if he were drunk – but he’s sober now, so he won’t allow himself to indulge in it. Because he remembers what that kind of jealousy does to him, the way it makes him spit out nasty words like "buckboy" and shove and fight.

The first time Dave saw Blaine with Kurt, the pain was like a chest spreader flaying his ribcage open. The second time, months later, it was a chef's knife being twisted into his gut. Whenever he passed Kurt's open locker and caught a glimpse of the photo with those jeering eyebrows and lush pink lips, he wanted to throw something.

A couple of times, he did.

As Dave started to change, the roaring flames of jealousy began to die into glowing embers. But it was still there after Kurt returned to McKinley, a little pang of hurt and want every time Kurt mentioned Blaine's name. It was there when Kurt walked into prom with Blaine. Dave wanted to be the one standing beside Kurt at the edge of the dance floor, even if he wouldn't understand half of his color commentary on the outfits.

Later that night, Dave got his chance to stand with Kurt, to touch him without hurting him, to be brave together. And he walked away from it.

After that, after hearing about how Blaine had taken Kurt's hand and twirled him around the dance floor with the eyes of the entire junior class watching, it was hard to feel pained by Blaine's presence in Kurt's life. Blaine was everything that Dave wasn't. He was everything that Kurt needed and deserved.

So tonight, instead of jealousy, Dave lets himself feel a weird sense of pride in Blaine. Because maybe the subtle and seismic changes in the way Kurt holds himself are because of that preppy time-warp weirdo with the sweater-vest and bow tie and polished hair.

Blaine must have figured out how to give Kurt all the things Dave wanted to, but never, never could.

Dave plays his pool game, and he watches. He watches Kurt and Blaine walk right up to Sebastian and tries to ignore the warning sirens that go off in his head. He watches Kurt grab Blaine's hand and saunter them over to the jukebox. He watches Kurt back at the bar, alone, after Sebastian drags Blaine out onto the dance floor.

It's one, two, three songs that Kurt sits alone, staring sometimes blankly, sometimes dejectedly, sometimes with utter contempt at the two boys as he twirls his straw in his drink. Dave thinks about going over there, distracting Kurt – but he's not sure the distraction would make Kurt any less disgruntled than he is right now.

So Dave stays back, keeps playing pool until Kurt's face goes still and icy in that way that Dave has seen before. There's a storm brewing under there, and Kurt is liable to lash out – and if he lashes out at Sebastian, fine; but if he lashes out at Blaine – Dave doesn't want that. He wants the return of the look that was on Kurt's face and in Kurt's hips when he walked into the bar.

"Hey." Dave hands his cue over. "An old friend of mine is here. I'm gonna go say hi."

* * *

Kurt doesn't recognize the voice at first.

Which is really, really surprising, once he realizes who it is. Because Kurt used to be able to recognize that voice from 100 yards away. He'd memorized it in all its variations – whisper, yell, taunt, whine, mumble, laugh – because he never, never wanted it to catch him unaware.

He knows Dave has changed – he saw it happen in front of his own eyes, those two months at the end of the last school year – but he's a little taken aback at how elemental the change really must be if he didn't even recognize Dave's voice.

Or his profile.

It could be because Dave's wearing a baseball cap, which Kurt hasn't seen before. But he thought he'd always remember that tense jaw and get a quiver of pity every time he saw it.

Maybe that's the thing. The jaw isn't tense. Kurt swings on his barstool to get a better look. It's relaxed by a small smile.

Small talk, Kurt tells himself. He's done it dozens of times, walking down the halls with Dave as his detail or sitting in those PFLAG meetings waiting for people to show up – even after Kurt told Dave he didn't have to come anymore, that he wouldn't tell in either case, because Kurt wanted Dave to know that he could finally trust someone.

Small talk – that's where Kurt can start.

So that's what he does. He asks Dave about his new school, and Dave answers vaguely, and then he tells Kurt about "bearcub" being some kind of gay slang – which, okay, Kurt didn't think Dave would ever teach Kurt about anything having to do with being gay.

He’s pondering the best way to incorporate a John Waters reference into his next sentence to prove that he’s still better at being gay than Dave, when Dave interrupts his thoughts. "So is this the point where you judge me?"

Kurt’s heart flinches. "No, as long as you're not beating people up, I'm all for being who you have to be at your own speed." And it's true, kind of. It's what the pragmatic part of him says. The other part – the dreamer – wants Dave to be who he has to be two years ago. It's what he wants from everybody. It's what he wants from himself. Kurt's not the person he needs to be, not completely, not yet – not for himself and not for Blaine.

Kurt looks back over his shoulder at his boyfriend, who's swaying about in his own little world, arms waving and eyes on his own two-stepping toes, as Sebastian butt-bumps some other guy a couple feet away.

"Right now, I'm just trying to get through high school," Dave says.

Me, too, Kurt wants to say, but he doesn't. Everything will be easier when he and Blaine are in New York and married. They'll know each other better then, and Kurt will have money and fame. They'll stop having to worry so much, and making so many mistakes.

Dave raises his bottle to Kurt. "Here's to baby steps."

Kurt clinks his glass against it, repeating the words, and lets his eyes drift back to Blaine. Blaine is raising his eyebrows at him and his shoulders are shimmying and his mouth falls open in a drunken come-hither, and Kurt suddenly wonders if none of this dancing has had anything to do with Sebastian, or if Blaine has been dancing for Kurt this entire time, trying to get Kurt to pay attention.

"Baby steps," Kurt repeats, setting his glass down on the counter.  "Thanks, Dave."

Dave's face lights up with those two simple words, and he looks down at his hands with a bashful smile. Kurt feels like he's done his first right thing of the day.

And now for the second right thing. Kurt twirls off the stool and does his best predatory stride toward Blaine, reclaims him with a shoulder-shove to Sebastian, sweeps him away with a shimmy and swerve and spin.

They may both still be virgins but, deep down inside, Kurt knows that few things turn Blaine on quite like Kurt staking his claim.

* * *

Blaine’s world is happy and shiny and beautiful, just like Kurt is beautiful; Kurt who is finally here – with Blaine, touching him, showing Sebastian who he belongs to.

There's been something off about this whole night. Kurt wouldn't come and dance, so Blaine's been dancing near Sebastian and it's just been no fun, not like dancing with Kurt is. Well, shaking his tail at Kurt while Kurt sat at the bar and making eyes at him and doing fancy footwork so Kurt's eyes might be drawn to his naked ankles – that part was fun. Not the rest, though. The rest was off.

But now it's right. Blaine's hands are in Kurt's and they're swaying and jumping together and Sebastian gives up and wanders back to the bar and drags his hands down the broad back of some guy in a jean jacket and baseball cap and the guy turns around and smiles because that's just the way that people react to Sebastian, and wait, hey, "Is that Karofsky?"

Kurt smiles, oh he finally smiles that smile that's like a hundred million tiny white Christmas lights glowing against the snow. "Yup, it's Dave," he says. "I was just talking with him, actually. While you and Sebastian were – "

Oh. Blaine doesn't like the sound of Sebastian's name on Kurt's tongue. It's bitter like unsweetened coffee. No, no, let's forget that name. Let's look into Kurt's eyes and forget all other names. "At Scandals? Did he finally come out?"

"To himself, I guess. To the patrons of this fine establishment." Kurt skirts the room with his electric blue eyes. "To me, more or less. Baby steps."

"Good." Blaine hops a few times – a little unnecessarily for this part of the song, probably, but it's fun and free and Kurt's eyes are holding his, tethering them together. "Now we won't have to shove each other anymore, me and Karofsky. I mean, right? He won't have to pretend to hate me for being gay?"

Kurt wraps his arms around Blaine's shoulders and sways. "Well, I think that's been the case for about six months now. It's been a while since you two were in a fight."

"Good. I don't like having enemies. Especially gay enemies. We can be friends now. We can be best friends and talk about football and, and – what else would I talk about with Karofsky?"

"He likes math."

"I don't," says Blaine, but he's sure he can find something else in common with Karofsky – he can find lots of things in common with just about everyone he meets. It's one of his talents. "Hey! Maybe he can tutor me."

"Maybe," Kurt smiles and Blaine thinks it's one of Kurt's happy-I-love-you smiles, but sometimes Kurt's unreadable, and he doesn't like Blaine being friends with Sebastian, so maybe he doesn't want Blaine to be friends with Karofsky either. Well, Blaine isn't going to make the same mistake twice.

"Wait, is it okay if I become friends with Karofsky? I mean, I assumed, because you kind of seemed to develop a soft spot for him last year, you know, after the PFLAG stuff and all – " Blaine's not sure if soft spot is the right word, but his brain is too excited and happy to be able to judge things like that, and he's not sure how else to summarize Kurt becoming a little protective of Karofsky, explaining over and over why Blaine shouldn't be hostile to him anymore, shouldn't worry about Kurt being alone with him when they planned those PFLAG meetings.

"Of course it's okay, Blaine. He could use a friend." Kurt's face is warm and smiley and one eyebrow arches in amused curiosity. Oh, that look makes Blaine's stomach delightfully weak and flippy and his lips tingly and his pelvis flushed with amorous craving.

Blaine loves Kurt. He loves him so fucking much. He wants to kiss him. He should kiss him. Yes. He kisses him.

It's a yay-fantastic play of tug and linger and worship. Kurt lets out a little cat-moan and Blaine unravels with oh that he can make Kurt feel this way and oh that he wants to make Kurt feel this way forever. Kurt's hand on the nape of his neck, pulling him in, yes he wants to drown in Kurt, because drowning in Kurt wouldn't kill anyone, it would just be swimming-happy-floaty-embraced with no need for air because it's everything and all and good.

Kurt shrugs back, bashful and blushing. Blaine loves that blush, the way it spreads all the way from Kurt's forehead and the rims of his ears down his neck and clavicles until it almost reaches his perfect pink nipples. He wants to see those nipples now, lick them into hard little points and hear Kurt purr.

"Blaine," Kurt sighs, smiling.

"Hmmmm. I like kissing you in public. I like everyone knowing I belong to you."

Kurt kisses Blaine on the cheek and the forehead and it's better than a June breeze. "And I like dancing with you in public." Blaine's heart does happy little somersaults, because he's here with Kurt and Kurt loves him and they're so so close, arms wrapped around each other and torsos almost touching in an exquisite tease. Kurt's jaw is right against Blaine's nose and it's the best smell ever, citrus-earthy something mixed with Kurt's skin. He wants Kurt to hold him like this forever; he wants to hold Kurt like this forever. And, afterward, he wants to go someplace where they can rip each other's clothes off and he can watch what happens to those endless eyes when Kurt comes.

They dance and dance and it's slow and sweet, even when the music thumps and demands more action. They hold each other and Blaine tells Kurt a million secrets – none of which seem to surprise Kurt, and Blaine loves that – about his dreams for the future and for now, about music and art and joy and Kurt and love.

When it's time to leave, Sebastian's nowhere in sight and Blaine thinks it wasn't very polite of him not to say goodbye. He says so and Kurt murmurs something under his breath about the bathroom that Blaine doesn't quite catch and he'd ask, but Kurt seems annoyed, so he doesn't.

Karofsky's still here, though, over at the pool table – hey, Blaine likes to play pool, too; it's not only football they have in common! – and Blaine would usually shake his hand but they're going to be friends now, and they're not out in the stupid straight world where guys are afraid to hug each other because of what people will think. So Blaine runs up to Karofksy – or should it be Dave now, if they're friends? – and throws his arms around him and wow, it's like hugging a huge teddy bear,Blaine had one just like this when he was little, a bit bigger than him and so nice to hug, and apparently Blaine said some of that out loud because everyone at the pool table is chuckling, but Blaine doesn't care because it's true, and it's so wonderful that it's true, because before this all he ever felt of Dave Karofsky was hard, hard hands.

But now he can see that Dave is as soft on the outside as Kurt told him he was on the inside, and of course he is because Kurt is always right.

So Blaine makes Dave take out his cell phone and dial Blaine's number, and Blaine dials back, and now they are officially friends, and do they show football games here? Because they should really watch a Buckeyes game together sometime. Because it's just occurred to Blaine that there is no better place in the world to watch football than at a gay bar.

Blaine feels Kurt's arm slip around his waist and yay he is all Kurt's, he belongs to Kurt and soon he's going to show him just how much. They wave goodbye and turn around and Kurt leans in and presses his forehead against Blaine's scalp and whispers, "I love you," warm and breathy into his ear, filling his brain and blood up, oh he wants to be full of Kurt. Blaine has a new friend and one less enemy and the best, most beautiful, most awesome-delicious boyfriend in the whole entire universe. They pass the big lit-up letters that spell out B-O-Y and that's how being Kurt's boy makes Blaine feel, all bright and radiant and shining, and they're through the door, and you know what Kurt? "This is the best night of my life."

Chapter Text

It turns out that tonight is not the best night of Blaine's life.

If it had ended the moment he exited Scandals, it might have been. But outside of that refuge, everything goes awry. Love and desire, it turns out, are not enough to get him and Kurt to the place they’ve both said they want to go.

There has to be something else, too. Blaine has a hard time figuring out what that something is because Kurt pulls away from him the way he pulls away from everybody, and he’s yelling and starting to cry, and it shatters Blaine into nothing to see Kurt that way. Even if Blaine weren't drunk – and yes, he knows now for certain that he is – he still wouldn't be able to wrap his mind around anything, not when Kurt is so distressed.

So even though it almost kills him to do so, because all he wants is to be near Kurt, in whatever way Kurt will have him (even if that means relegated to sit alone in the back seat like the irresponsible child he is), he gets out of the car and walks away. Because he needs to understand what he did wrong, and he is never going to understand anything when Kurt is looking at him that way.

He doesn't figure it out that evening, because he's drunk and because all he can hear in his head, over and over again, is Kurt's voice breaking, calling out his name.

* * *

When they leave the bar, Kurt learns that he actually is as strong as his father believes him to be.

He learns that even when he feels like his body will break for wanting, it won't.

He learns that he loves Blaine even more than he thought he did, because to shatter Blaine's heart shatters his, too, dashes it against the asphalt of the parking lot so that it scatters out, tiny pieces rolling under the cars and toward Blaine's feet and past them, little specks of rounded glass to catch the gleam of the stars and the streetlamps and light his way home.

Soon, Kurt knows, he'll be able to show Blaine how much he loves him, in a way that Blaine will understand. But that knowledge doesn't fill the hollowness in his chest.

Over the next two days, Kurt watches Blaine, but they don't talk much. They don't remember how. Rehearsal on Thursday is endless, and afterward Blaine is running through everything again – first with Rachel, then on his own. Kurt sits in the back of the theater where Blaine won't be able to see him and he watches.

There's no reason for Blaine to be running through all this again, and yet he is. Blaine is perfect. Of course he hits the notes, never flat or sharp. Of course he delivers every line with finesse. But it's more than that. He is Tony – lovelorn and lost, found and redeemed and lost again. The way he stands before Maria, tremulous and brave, the way his voice goes soft and proud at her name – Kurt believes it with all his heart.

Kurt pulls his phone out of his bag and sends a text to Blaine: "You're perfect." He knows Blaine won't believe it, but maybe soon, he'll start to. Baby steps.

On Friday, after the performance is over and Burt and Carole have given them both hugs before rushing off to Toledo; after the theater has emptied and the cast members have shed their costumes to become, once again, their pedestrian selves; after Kurt has washed his face and stared at himself in the mirror for eons, wondering if he has the strength to be what he needs to be, for himself and for Blaine; after the back stage has stilled of its frenzy and just about everyone has left for Breadstix, Kurt goes where he knows Blaine will be, without having ever asked.

Blaine is there, on the stage, practicing his dance steps, silently berating himself for being human.

Kurt doesn't believe in gods or angels. He doesn’t want perfection of that kind. Not when there are people like Blaine in the world – flawed and foolish and yet somehow the exact thing that Kurt needs.

So he tries to tell Blaine that, but he's not sure he gets it across. Kurt has years of practice at using words to tear people down; he's a novice at trying to build them up. He wants to tell Blaine how much he loves him, but his tongue doesn't cooperate. It makes stabs about Sebastian, about Blaine making out with Rachel last spring. Everything is coming out wrong.

Baby steps.

He bites his tongue and inhales. He starts over with his own apology (he should probably apologize more often; Blaine does it so much and Kurt does it so little, but they must make the same number of mistakes, Kurt's sure, even if he can't always see his own).

*

"I don't deserve you," Blaine says in the entryway of the Anderson house. They're holding each other by the waist, catching their breath from a bout of more-nervous-than-usual kissing.

"Don't say that. Please."

"It's true. I've made so many mistakes –"

"I love you exactly the way you are. I don't want you to be anything else." Kurt steps back – not enough to let go of Blaine, just enough so that he can focus clearly on his eyes. "That's why I'm here, tonight. I want you to understand that."

Blaine looks again like he's about to cry – the way he looked on stage tonight when Kurt told him he was proud of him. "Kurt –" Blaine starts, but nothing else comes out.

"Come here." Kurt pulls Blaine against him, leans his face into Blaine's neck and holds him close. Their chests rise and fall against each other with every breath. To Kurt, it's as intimate a sensation as kissing.

Kissing. The thought of kissing leads to kissing; Blaine's skin draws Kurt's lips like a magnet. He presses them against Blaine's earlobe, then around it, pulling gently until Blaine lets out a soft moan that ripples down Kurt's spine.

"I love you, Blaine. You're beautiful and perfect –"

Kurt is suddenly pressed against the wall, Blaine's tongue sliding past Kurt's lips, his chest still rising in time with Kurt's. Everything about Blaine is instantly bold. Kurt is owned and wanted and he's getting really, really turned on really, really fast.

Kurt leans sideways long enough to gasp, "We should go upstairs."

As soon as Blaine manages to get his own sweatshirt off, Kurt runs his hands up and down Blaine's shoulders, fingers rippling over muscle and tendon. He's done this before – of course he has, nervously at first in the early days of summer, more boldly and less shy of his arousal every time since – but the knowledge that he's going to be able to touch more makes the touch somehow even more erotic – and Kurt finds himself pressing not only his chest against Blaine's, but his hips against Blaine's, too, and – oh.

Oh.

They fall onto the bed, their cocks still touching. Kurt is acutely aware of the extraordinarily high risk he's at of coming in his pants. "Sorry, I'm getting a little, um, carried away." He presses his forehead to Blaine's shoulder and breathes deeply.

"I'm so sorry, Kurt, I didn't mean –"

Kurt shakes his head. "Don't apologize for that. I want –" Kurt feels his face flushing, but he charges on. "I want to do that. With you. A lot. Just – with all of our clothes off."

"Oh."

"Is that not okay with you?"

"It's more than okay. I've wanted to see you forever."

Kurt's pretty sure his face turns even redder. His instinct is to try and hide it from Blaine by kissing him senseless, but he fights it. Baby steps. (An ironic mantra to rely on when you’re about to get naked with your boyfriend, maybe, but it works all the same.) "I've wanted to see you forever, too," Kurt says. "All of you, I mean."

Blaine blushes. "No, you haven't."

"Um, okay, only since the day I met you."

"Nah-uh."

Kurt twists to look into Blaine's eyes. "I have, Blaine. Everything I've seen of you is beautiful, and I know that everything underneath this –" Kurt brushes a hand down the outside seam of Blaine's pants, "– is beautiful, too. I've just been waiting for the right time. Because at first it was too much for me to deal with, and then – I didn't want you to think it was just about –" Kurt bites his lip. "– getting off. I want you to know how important you are to me."

"Kurt." Blaine’s eyes go watery again.

Kurt presses a soft kiss to Blaine's lips. "Will you take my clothes off?"

Blaine's hands begin a fine tremble before he even touches the first button on Kurt's vest. By the time he's fumbled through each one and peeled off Kurt's Henley beneath, they're shaking hard.

Kurt strokes Blaine's forearm. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Blaine nods. "Just overwhelmed."

"Do you want to stop?"

Blaine shakes his head. "No. It's just –" He fixes his eyes on Kurt's. "I'm just realizing how much I'm in love with you. It's … a lot."

Time stops. Ormaybe it's not time that stops. Maybe it's only Kurt's breathing.

Whatever stops, it feels monumental and wonderful. And then it starts again and it feels even better – exhilarating, the blood pounding through his body, the hair of Blaine's forearms against the palm of Kurt's hand, of his heartbeat against Kurt's chest through the cotton of their undershirts.

They don't hurry. They talk and kiss and gaze at each other and kiss and hold hands and kiss and roll around a little, over and under each other, giggling like children. And then the kisses move downward, to the hollow of Kurt's neck and to the prominence of Blaine's collarbone, and Blaine's hands start trembling again as they start to slide under Kurt's undershirt.

Kurt whispers, "I love you so much sometimes it scares me."

"I think it's why I wanted to do this drunk." Blaine's voice is almost inaudible, as if he's speaking to himself.

"We'll protect each other." Kurt tangles his fingers in Blaine's.

"I know."

* * *

He does know, in his head – even if it's hard to feel it with his heart.

Blaine's not used to the idea of anyone trying to watch out for him and make him feel safe.

His parents aren't horrible people. But they are sad people. His father, when he's home, spends the evenings nursing glass after glass of scotch while catching up with the Wall Street Journal. He's a quiet drunk, sedate and introverted, with occasional short outbursts of unwarranted affection. "You are the best son a man could have, Blaine!"

"You're forgetting about Cooper.'"

"Cooper, too! You're both the best! You got that from your mother. I hope one day you find a woman as good as her."

"I'm gay, Dad."

"Oh, right. Well, then. A man as good as her."

Logically, Blaine knows that's better than someone who gets pushy and violent and out-of-control – but sometimes he wishes there were more upheavals in his house. Then he would know how everyone really felt.

His mother tries. She remembers his birthday, and made sure his dad wasn't drunk for his middle school graduation, and takes him to Brooks Brothers twice a year. The summer she was in Al-Anon, she'd ask him to help her in the garden and teach him the names of plants, and tell Mr. Anderson to schedule his own time with his son whenever he came out and asked Blaine if he wouldn't rather be working on the Chevy.

When Blaine went back to Dalton in the fall, she would come out every weekend and take him to coffee or lunch and listen to him talk about his life. Well, the parts of his life that he could share – learning about the Great Chain of Being in his Shakespeare class, getting chosen as the lead soloist for the Warblers, the rigor of fencing. He didn't tell her about going to the boxing club or about the beautiful boy who descended down the spiral staircase as if from the sky to steal his heart. He thought, eventually, when he knew that she was here to stay, he might be able to tell her the more private things.

But the visits dropped to every other week, and then less. She had several new cases at work and just didn't have the time – "You understand that I need to help these people, don't you? They've been through so much."

"Of course," he told her. "Everyone needs someone to look out for them."

She's like Cooper, in a lot of ways – there and then not, an enemy and a friend and then a stranger.

Kurt's love is better than the love Blaine learned from his family. That's what makes it so frightening. It's like he's stolen something as sacred as fire from the gods – and he knows what happened to the guy who did that.

He wonders what Prometheus felt, the first time he stepped close to a fire – if it was the way that Blaine feels around Kurt – his skin flushed and his heart thawing, his eyes reluctant to look away because they don't want to miss a moment as the object of his desire dances and crackles and sparks into ever-changing, ever more beautiful forms.

* * *

Under everything, Blaine is more beautiful than Kurt imagined. And Kurt is a visual person with a vivid imagination, so that's saying a lot.

"Oh my god," he says, even though he doesn't believe in one.  And then, "Blaine." Because he believes in that.

Blaine blushes – the same subtle, warm glow he gets when he's singing. It reminds Kurt of the sky shifting colors at dawn.

"You're too far away," Blaine says, even though they're lying right next to each other, Kurt's fingers brushing his waist and his hips and his thighs, Kurt's mouth pecking small kisses on the lines of his chest and stomach. Blaine shudders, and Kurt shudders in response.

"Kurt, come closer."

Kurt licks a slow circle around Blaine's navel, his chin temptingly close to Blaine's cock. He's thought about Blaine's cock for a while, wanted it and wondered about it, trying to keep imagined images of it vague even though he could guess at its shape from having felt it more than once through the press of their jeans. The only thing Kurt knew for sure was that Blaine had never been circumcised, because it came up once in one of those weird meandering group-conversations-about-everything that the Warblers sometimes had after concerts. It kind of freaked Kurt out at first, but then intrigued him, and then really intrigued him; and Kurt might have looked up tasteful medical illustrations of uncircumcised dicks just to be, you know, prepared; and while looking through them, he might have discovered that medical illustrations can be a lot more fun to look at than one might expect.

Even with all that, Kurt's surprised at how much his mouth watered at the sight of Blaine’s cock, how much he wants it against his fingers and tongue, how curious he is about the foreskin, how much he wants to find out if Blaine tastes different than Kurt does when he comes. (It’s not like Kurt tastes his own jizz at every opportunity; but he has once or twice, because sex is terrifying and you might as well dip your toes into a few of the unknowns if you can ahead of time, so that the plunge itself isn’t quite so shocking.)

"How much closer do you want me?" Kurt tilts his chin up, the lilt of seduction in his voice.

Blaine puts his hands under Kurt's arms and pulls him up until they're face to face, a thin cushion of air separating their chests and cocks. He kisses Kurt fervently, breathtakingly, the way he kissed Kurt that first time in the study room at Dalton, like Kurt is water and Blaine’s been jogging in the desert.

Kurt runs his hand from the small of Blaine's back over his ass, round and gorgeous, circles his hand over it once, twice, three times, all the while resisting the urge to pull Blaine's body against his. He needs to make sure.

Reluctantly, he pulls his lips away from Blaine's. "Blaine –" He's immediately interrupted by Blaine's tongue in his mouth. Kurt only gives into the urge to suck on it for a moment, then nudges Blaine back. "Blaine. Tell me what you want to do."

Blaine's eyes are slowly melting chocolate. "I want –" Blaine lowers his eyelids and lets out a shaky breath.

"It's okay." Kurt runs a finger along Blaine's jaw.

"I know." Blaine kisses Kurt again, electric and sparking, and pulls him in by the waist until their chests, their thighs, their cocks are touching. They moan simultaneously. "That," Blaine says, his lower lip still touching Kurt's. "That's what I want."

* * *

Blaine has read and watched a lot in preparation for this evening, and he's thought a lot about this particular thing when he's alone in his room or in the shower – but none of his imaginings can compare to the feeling of Kurt's smooth skin against his, the solid warmth of cock against cock, of balls thumping lightly against one another. Blaine feels like his body has plugged into a circuit, the energy thrumming through his thighs and chest and neck and jaw and back into Kurt with every kiss.

There's this small voice in Blaine's brain that tells him he's supposed to stop and get some lube, that's what they always do in the videos, but the part that says so good can't stop oh Kurt my god Kurt overrides it. Because Kurt is nudging the head of his own cock against the ridge of Blaine's foreskin, and anything more would certainly make Blaine explode.

Like, literally.

Blaine should probably slow things down and breathe deep because they can't have been doing this for more than a minute, but Kurt is making these noises and his eyelashes are fluttering and he's so, so beautiful and he reaches his hand down between them and wraps it loosely around both their cocks, just enough to hold them together and oh god Blaine is totally going to fall apart.

"Kurt, I'm sorry, I think I'm gonna –" He turns his face into the pillow as the tight heat coils low between his ass and his balls, preparing to strike.

"I want you to." Kurt nudges Blaine's jaw with his nose – coaxing, coaxing. "Let me see you."

Blaine rolls his head back just a smidge, letting one eye peak out from the pillow. He opens it hesitantly. The heat is twisting, spiraling into his balls. He wants to lose it – god, he needs to, but he doesn't want Kurt to see. Blaine once videoed himself jerking off just to see what he looked like; it turned out his face during orgasm was a disturbing thing to watch, twisting out of control in a way that the porn stars' never do. He deleted the video before it was even done playing.

Kurt's hand and cock slow, hardly enough to notice – but the heat inside Blaine notices. It pauses, lingering in his balls as Kurt smatters kisses over his cheekbone and temple. "Please. I've wanted to see you for so long –"

Blaine turns his face up toward Kurt's and kisses him hard, lunges his cock forward through the loop of Kurt's hand until suddenly he can't kiss Kurt anymore – his body is spasming and his head is falling back and the heat that's been building in him bursts forward like waves, cresting and crashing. He squeezes his eyes shut as if that could hold it back, but nothing can – the pleasure is too intense, the pleasure of Kurt touching him and wanting him and, yes, seeing him.

"Kurt –" he gasps as his orgasm pours out of him, over the head of his cock and the head of Kurt's cock, and he wants to say more but he can't, so he opens his eyes and watches Kurt watching him, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open in a small "o" of wonder and oh my god is Kurt crying?

"Blaine, Blaine, you're so beautiful, you're so – oh fuck –" and then Kurt is kissing him hard, the salt of his tears running into Blaine's mouth. Kurt drags his cock purposefully against Blaine's damp foreskin – one, two, three times – and then his body seizes and he makes a sound like gasping as he spills himself out over Blaine.

* * *

"You okay?" Blaine says after they regain their breath. They haven't rolled apart. They're tangled in each other, their cocks still kissing, their thighs and bellies damp with each other's come.

Blaine would have expected Kurt to roll away immediately and wipe himself dry, but he's got his arms wrapped tightly around Blaine's waist and lets out soft sighs that sound like pleasure as his shrinking dick slides through the mess on Blaine's hips.

Kurt smiles and kisses Blaine's nose. "Never been better."

Blaine drags the tip of his finger across the tear track on Kurt's cheek.

"Oh, that." Kurt smiles sheepishly and half-rolls his eyes. "It was just really … moving. To see you." He bites his lip. "To watch you, um, come."

Blaine squints. "Really?"

Kurt nods. "You're so beautiful."

Blaine turns his head into his pillow. He's not sure if it's true that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to hide, but if it is, he wonders if he was one in a previous life. A foolish bird who thinks he can disappear by concealing his face. Blaine's not even sure what he's hiding from.

Kurt kisses the rim of his ear. "You're beautiful, Blaine. The beautifulest."

Blaine peeks one eye out. "The 'beautifulest'? That's not even a word."

Kurt smiles. "There are no words sufficient to describe how ravishing you are, Blaine Anderson."

"You're beautifuler." Blaine puts his hands on Kurt's shoulders and rolls him onto his back, swinging a leg out to straddle Kurt's thighs. They're sticky and goopy and it should feel a little gross, but instead it revives the heat in between Blaine's legs. He spreads his legs a little farther and slides up, nestling his crack against Kurt's half-hard cock as he bends down to bite Kurt's shoulder. Kurt giggles, the sound bubbling out of him like early morning birdsong.

Blaine straightens up, resting his ass back on Kurt's thighs, and watches his boyfriend: the rapid rise and fall of his chest as he laughs, the skin over his collarbone flushed pink with happiness, the curl of his smile and the delighted squint of his eyes. Even though they're half-closed, they're still looking straight at Blaine in open adoration, like Blaine just went and hung a new constellation in the sky.

"You really love me, don't you?" Blaine doesn't mean to say it, but the words come out all the same. Kurt does that to him a lot – makes Blaine charge right through the solid barrier he tries to maintain between the thoughts he keeps to himself and the ones he speaks aloud.

Kurt swallows hard and nods. He's still smiling, but there's something weighty about it now. "Always have, Blaine. Always will."

*

They sleep together naked that night – though sleep might not be the right word for it. It's more a cycle of clean up and cuddle and drift off for a few hazy minutes before remembering that you're in bed with the most beautiful boy in the world: skin-to-skin, legs tangled, cock resting against ass or thigh or hip – and soon they stir: first their fingers, brushing against previously forbidden skin; then their lips, touching succulent mouth or peaked nipple or soft inner thigh; then their cocks, continually reawakening throughout the night.

They get out the lube and try their hands on each other. It's shocking and good, and though Blaine is tempted to turn his head into the pillow again, he doesn't. He lets Kurt watch him through the whole thing. He watches Kurt back, and feels the impulse to write liturgies in honor of Kurt's face when he comes.

They clean up and fall asleep and wake again hours before dawn, their cocks hard and aching. Kurt whispers about how badly he wants to taste Blaine, feel with his mouth what he felt with his hand, swallow everything that Blaine has to give. Kurt says it with the sweet, smitten voice of someone reading one of Shakespeare's love sonnets, and even though Blaine always thought he'd be the first one of them to give a blow job – kneeling on the floor between Kurt's open thighs, peeking up through his eyelashes to see Kurt look down at him with an open smile of pleasured approval, tonguing him from half-hard to full as Kurt made the same soft gasps he makes when Blaine sucks on his collarbone – even though Blaine has wanted that and practiced for it longer than he will ever tell a living soul, he can do nothing in this moment but give himself over, let himself feel the unearned pleasure of Kurt's mouth on him, of Kurt's lips pushing back his foreskin and pulling it forward again, sending waves of desire from the head of Blaine's cock down into his balls and up into his sternum.

He's imagined this a hundred times – imagined it and fucked his fist senseless with the image of it seared into his brain. He's tried to memorize the feel of Kurt's tongue against his, translate the sensation to his cock. Everything he's imagined has been pure bliss and yet this – this is even better. The heat is building, spreading, licking down to his fingertips and toes, setting the follicles in his scalp alight.

Kurt, Kurt, fuck me, oh god, fuck me fuck me god – They're the words he thinks over and over to himself when he's alone with himself and his cock and his thoughts, and he's saying them now, can't stop saying them, and Kurt lets out such a deep-chested moan that it vibrates down into the core of Blaine's cock, into his balls, up his ass and spine until his back is arching, writhing snakelike over the bed. Kurt sinks his mouth over Blaine, sucking wet and tight, his tongue constantly moving, roaming, drawing indecipherable patterns over Blaine's shaft and oh god beneath his sheath.

Kurt Kurt Kurt fuck oh fuck oh god you have me god fuck and Kurt's fingers dig into the pliable flesh just behind Blaine's hips to hold him still, sharp points of flame. Everything is flame: Kurt's tongue and his love and this feeling inside Blaine's chest, and without any warning the fire bursts forth out of him, hot and uncontrollable, while Kurt moans and swallows and massages the round flesh of Blaine's ass.

* * *

It's Blaine's turn to be teary-eyed now.

"You okay, sweetheart?" Kurt is next to Blaine, rolled onto his side and propped up on one elbow so he can look down at Blaine's face. Blaine is sprawled back-flat and noodle-limbed on the bed. He hasn't tried to move.

Blaine blinks, his thick lashes fanning against his cheeks like a pair of smiles. "Yeah. That was … intense. Everything's been intense, but … you, um – you swallowed me, Kurt."

Kurt hums with satisfaction. "I told you I wanted to. I've been thinking about it."

"Well, I hope I didn't disappoint."

Kurt furrows his brows. "Don't be a buzzkill. You're delicious."

Blaine's mouth drops open into a stunned half-smile. "I've tasted myself before. It's nothing to write home about."

"I didn't say I'm going to write home about it, Blaine. I really don't think my dad wants to know."

Blaine grimaces.

"Blaine, Blaine, Blaine," Kurt chides, kissing down the front of his boyfriend's chest as his laughter subsides. "When are you going to learn that I love everything about you? Your smile and your eyes and your heart and your spunk." He leans up and pecks Blaine on the lips. "Both your kinds of spunk."

"That's oddly romantic." Blaine kisses Kurt again, pressing his tongue lightly into Kurt's mouth. He can taste the remnants of himself there, and even though he doesn't particularly like his own taste, there's something indescribably hot about it when it's mixed with the fleshy heat of Kurt's mouth. It kind of makes Blaine want to slide to the floor and suck Kurt off now. Or, rather, as soon as he can move again.

Kurt settles against Blaine's side, rests his shoulder in the space between Blaine's arm and ribs before laying his head on Blaine's chest. "Hmmm," Kurt hums. "Sex with you is very romantic, I'm discovering."

"I hope I didn't … talk too much, though."

Kurt drags a lazy finger through the vertical line of hairs that run down center of Blaine's abdomen. Against his chest, Blaine can feel the muscles of Kurt's cheek shift into a smile. "No. I like it when you tell me how you feel. A lot."

"I didn't mean to swear, though."

Kurt props himself back up and kisses Blaine's jaw. "I say that word all the time, Blaine. And here – well, I'd say it was kind of contextually appropriate." Kurt's looking down at him, his smiling eyes more green than blue in this moment, shining like jade. "It was hot. I'd be kind of sad not to hear it again."

Blaine's heart swoops. "Okay."

Kurt turns his head to watch where his hand is tracing slow circles around Blaine's navel right. "Can I ask you something, though?"

Blaine looks down at Kurt's cock, still half-hard against Blaine's hip from sucking him off, and moves his hand toward it. "You want me to –?"

Kurt shakes his head. "Not that." He bites his lip. "Well, maybe in a bit. That's not what I was going to ask, though."

Blaine puts his hand down on Kurt's waist, instead. "What, then?"

"I was just wondering, when you said, um, 'fuck me,'" – Kurt lowers his voice on the last two syllables as if someone might overhear – "if you mean, well – I guess I think lots of things are fucking, but some people only use it for –" Kurt stops and blushes.

"Oh," Blaine says. "I think I just meant I really liked what you were doing to me."

"Oh, okay." Kurt nods, his face frustratingly neutral.

Blaine decides to plod on, anyway. "But that … I think I'd like that, too, if you wanted to do it. To me."

Kurt doesn't say anything, just keeps looking at him with that inscrutable expression.

"I've thought about it, I mean," Blaine says. "When I – I've experimented with it."

"Did you like it?"

Blaine thinks he might be blushing now. He nods. "Um, a lot." He doesn't say, I stick my fingers up my ass almost every time I think about you.

"Good." Kurt smiles. "I want to do things with you that you like. But maybe we should start with just, um, fingers at first? The book Carol got me said –"

"Yeah. That's fine. I mean, better than fine." All the relaxation that his body felt a few minutes ago is gone. He wraps a hand in the hairs at the nape of Kurt's neck and pulls him in, pours everything he has into the kiss, feels Kurt swell harder against his thigh with every lick and moan. "Now can I?" Blaine whispers into Kurt's mouth, smoothing the back of his fingers over Kurt's cock. “Can I – suck you?”

"Yeah," Kurt whispers back.

Blaine slides off the bed, pulls Kurt toward his face and licks his cock with unashamed urgency. Kurt enters him like a fever, his warmth burning into Blaine's heart, and Blaine loves this burn, wants more of it – wants it in his blood and his bones and his throat. Blaine tugs and squeezes on Kurt's hips, hums when Kurt gets the idea and moves – slowly at first, timidly, but losing more control with each stroke, hips stuttering forward with increasing urgency, moans sounding closer and closer to wails the deeper he sinks into Blaine's mouth; and Blaine takes him, breathes through his nose and relaxes and takes the way he’s been practicing, his mouth flooding with each incremental movement of Kurt toward his throat. Blaine grabs Kurt's ass and pulls him in deeper, feels his throat start to spasm as Kurt’s cock brushes against it, and maybe that's a gag but it feels more like pleasure to Blaine, akin to the way his hole spasms when he's fingering himself and moaning Kurt's name.

“Shit – are you okay, Blaine? Did I –” Kurt’s cock makes a wet popping noise as it slides out of Blaine’s mouth.

“Oh my god, Kurt. That was the best part.” It comes out more petulantly than Blaine intends it to, but he just had Kurt’s cock in his mouth and now he doesn’t and how else is he supposed to react?

“Oh, sweetheart.” Kurt strokes his thumb against Blaine’s cheek and smiles down at him with a crinkly-eyed smile that’s so bright it could light up the whole neighborhood. And then he moves his thumb to the hinge of Blaine’s jaw – not pressing, but it’s enough to tell Blaine he can open his mouth again – and inches his cock back through Blaine’s lips.

Kurt. Kurt. Kurt. Blaine can't say it, but he sings it with his body, feels the syllable tattooing against his throat and in his blood and into his scalp, where Kurt's fingers grasp hesitantly. Blaine covers Kurt's hand and presses it into his hair, hoping that Kurt will get the idea and he does, kind of, breaking his fingers past the shell of gel and clutching, tilting Blaine's head back just a notch and oh god, suddenly Kurt is deeper, and deeper; Blaine bobs his head more urgently and sucks in his cheeks until they ache and it’s almost deep enough but still not quite there, so he grabs Kurt’s ass and pulls him in with one quick thrust, and finally – there – Blaine can’t remember how to breathe but he doesn’t care because Kurt’s inside him, he’s so far inside him and will always be inside him and oh fuck Blaine's entire body shudders like he's coming , except it's not like coming, it is coming – Blaine hole clenches around nothing and his cock spurts out what little is left in his balls and his throat tightens and slackens around Kurt's smooth head, burning with the pleasure of being fucked.

"Blaine, I'm gonna – where do you want me to – " Kurt lets go of Blaine's hair, dropping his hands into the sheets, but Blaine takes them back, guiding Kurt to cup them around the back of his skull. "Blaine." And with one last thrust, Kurt spills into Blaine's throat, languid bursts that Blaine can hardly taste because they're so far back in his mouth. Blaine pulls back just enough to catch the last of it on the center of his tongue, licks Kurt clean and practically purrs as Kurt's body quakes with the aftershocks.

* * *

They eventually fall asleep for a few solid hours, woken by the bright light of a cloudless November day. Kurt is the first to open his eyes; he gazes at Blaine with the same awed wonder he did the last time he woke up next to him in a shared bed, the morning after Rachel's party eight months ago. This time, though, it's without any dread clawing at his stomach; Kurt's body is lax and loose, drunk with serenity.

Blaine's mouth is slightly open, his breaths coming in low whistles over his tongue. His jaw is darker than it was last night, and Kurt wants to run his fingers over it, see if its texture is more cat's tongue or burlap, but he resists. He's discovered quite quickly that he loves watching Blaine asleep, wrapped in himself and unworried about the world outside. He's not going to bring it to an end before its time.

Blaine rolls over, his back to Kurt, and mumbles incoherently. Kurt inches toward him, draping an arm around his waist and softly kissing the back of his neck. He's surprised how tame Blaine's hair has stayed in the night, especially after – oh. Tactile memory flashes through Kurt's cells: Blaine's hair wrapped around his fingers, Blaine's throat wrapped around the head of his cock, Blaine's moans buzzing up through his body. He curls his body more tightly against Blaine's, but Blaine's hair is, miraculously, hardly curling at all, even with the way that Kurt yanked at it last night. There are a few tendrils escaping wild against his nape, and a cowlick sticking up at his crown, but overall the gel has done its job better than any hairstyling product could be expected to. Kurt's not sure whether to post a ringing product endorsement on the manufacturer's Facebook page or file a complaint. He has, when he's imagined sex with Blaine, assumed that his curls would spring loose like the coveted corkscrews of Medusa before her hair was turned into snakes.

Of course, Kurt imagined lots of things. Ultimately, none of them were as good as the intimate reality of it, or could have prepared him for how he feels right now, lying with Blaine. It's like a breaking, and a birth. Like they spun themselves into a chrysalis and emerged from it as something altogether new.

Blaine eventually awakes, smiling that glorious, bashful smile that means love. But when Kurt tries to kiss him, he flinches back and giggles. "You seriously do not want to know what my mouth tastes like first thing in the morning, Kurt. I wish I didn't know."

They're too giddy to feel the weight of their exhaustion as they start their day, parting ways for a few terrible minutes to shower and do their hair in separate bathrooms. Kurt makes crepes and Blaine makes espresso and they stare at each other love-addled through all of breakfast, so that by the time they're done they barely have the patience to rinse the jam off their hands before they run back upstairs and peel each other's clothes off much faster than they did the night before. "Where'd you put the lube?" Kurt whispers as he slides his fingers under the waistband of Blaine's burgundy briefs and into the cleft of Blaine's ass. "I want you to show me how to make you feel good back there."

“Already?” Blaine says.

“Yeah. I’m kind of – I don’t know. My dad said that once I started, I wouldn’t want to stop. I guess he was right.”

Blaine squirms away from Kurt’s hand. “Oh my god. Please do not mention your dad ever again when we’re naked.”

Kurt snickers. “As long as you don’t ever mention sex to my dad again. You’re the one who put him up to that talk, remember?”

“Okay. Deal.”

They cuddle and kiss and talk for a while to recover from the unfortunate mention of Burt Hummel, and soon enough they both forget it and Kurt’s hand is creeping back down under the elastic of Blaine’s briefs.

"Like this," Blaine says, smiling meekly as he rolls onto his back and spreads his legs wide. "I want to be like this when you touch me."

Kurt smirks and snaps Blaine’s waistband. "I think it would be easier with your underwear off."

Blaine smiles coyly. "We could leave them on for a bit. Until – until I can't stand it."

"They might end up a little sticky."

"That's okay. We have a washing machine."

Blaine crawls out from under Kurt long enough to dig the lube from where he dropped it last night between the nightstand and the side of the bed. His ass is prominent in the air as he bends over the edge of the bed, round and succulent, and Kurt can't stop himself from pulling down Blaine's waistband and biting it. The firm resistance against his teeth is delightful – another one of those sensations that Kurt wasn't quite capable of imagining. His cock stands at attention upon the discovery.

"God, Kurt, I can barely stand it already." Blaine shuffles backward onto the bed, still on all fours, and before he has a chance to turn over onto his back, Kurt stops him with a touch to his shoulder.

"Um," he says. "Could you stay like this for a minute? Just – so I can look at you? I don't want you to do it if it makes you uncomfortable, though."

Blaine blushes. "No, that would be nice. I just – when you're inside me, I want to be on my back, okay? So I can see your face?"

Kurt nods. "Okay."

Blaine turns and folds his arms onto the pillow, resting his cheek against them, his ass high in the air. "How's that view?"

Kurt swallows drily. "Awesome." He almost chokes on the word.

Kurt pulls the waistband back up over Blaine's cheeks and rubs his hands gently over the fabric. "I have no idea what I'm doing other than being wildly turned on. So if I need to do anything different, just tell me."

"Mmmm, that's nice for now," Blaine says. "I like when you … explore."

Kurt bites Blaine's flesh through the fabric, eliciting a pleasured gasp. "I like exploring you."

Kurt lets his hands roam – over the fabric and under, fingers teasing into the leg openings, brushing against Blaine's balls and the bewilderingly smooth skin between his balls and ass. Blaine hums and arches more into each touch the closer it gets to his hole.

"So," Blaine says, his voice drugged with pleasure, "have you ever done this to yourself?"

"Not much." Kurt's petted his own hole before, but he's never pressed a finger inside – by the time he gets to the point of reaching back there, he's usually so close to coming that there's no time.

Blaine lets out a sudden groan when Kurt wins his battle with the leg opening of Blaine's brief, reaching his finger in far enough to skirt it along his crack. "You really like it, don't you?"

Blaine doesn't say anything, just nods vigorously and presses his ass against Kurt's hand.

"I think I better take these off," Kurt says, wrapping his fingers around the waistband, but keeping them still as he waits for Blaine's consent.

"I think you'd better, too," Blaine says shakily.

So Kurt does. He pulls them off and oh Blaine's ass is breathtaking, round and perfect, dusted with the lightest covering of downy hair. Kurt wraps his hands over each mound, squeezes and kneads lightly, working slowly inward, his thumbs dipping closer and closer to the shadowy slit down the center.

Blaine has started cursing into the pillow, begging Kurt for more and please, and Kurt's hungry for it, too. He massages his thumbs in small circles toward the bottom of Blaine's crack, pulling the cheeks a little further apart, slowly revealing the dusky pink star at the center.

It's gorgeous. Kurt's seen pictures of assholes in the black-and-white line drawings of some of his brochures, but they just looked like dull little asterisks, as if to say, "Go to the footnote, which will explain that cocks and balls are way hotter."

But Blaine's hole is … Kurt presses a finger against it. The skin is smooth – smoother than Blaine's lips or the skin of his cock or rose petals or marble or … anything, really, that Kurt has ever touched before. He strokes the tip of his finger against it, over and over again, absolutely mesmerized.

"Lube." Blaine's voice breaks Kurt out of his reverie. "Need you. Please."

Kurt leans forward and kisses the small of Blaine's back. "Of course. Lie down." 

Blaine does, spreading his legs wide, and there is something about that – about seeing Blaine open like that – that is both unbearably hot and terrifyingly moving.

The teasing, slow buildup, stroking in slow circles around Blaine's puckered hole and pressing the center periodically to see if it's started to relax, is entirely new to Kurt. He's entranced – by the way it quivers, contracting and expanding like a sea anemone; by the way Blaine's hips rock with each touch; by the soft breaths from Blaine's mouth that sound half like gasps and half like Kurt.

Kurt thinks he could do this forever, never want more than this, be satisfied with just this – until Blaine's breaths morph into please please please Kurt, need you Kurt, need you inside, and suddenly Kurt needs more, too. He presses a finger at the center of the anemone and watches his first knuckle get slowly swallowed, feels himself sink into Blaine's perfect, slick-velvet heat.

Blaine tightens around Kurt's finger, then loosens. "All the way in and then pull just a little way out – oh, yes, like that – oh, Kurt."

Kurt watches his finger slide in and out, watches Blaine's balls tighten and his cock grow harder. His mouth waters and he gives in, licking a line from Blaine's balls to his foreskin, does that thing with his lips that made Blaine babble last night.

It makes Blaine babble again now, babble fuck me fuck me yes harder oh god you feel so good why do you feel so good it's so – and Kurt presses his own pelvis into the mattress, rutting against the sheets to the rhythm of Blaine's moans.

Blaine starts to rock faster, with more abandon, his words becoming less and less coherent, just half-uttered syllables falling onto the pillows. Kurt's only seen Blaine come a few times now, but he thinks he's learned the warning signs already. He pulls his mouth away from Blaine's cock and replaces it with his hand, rests his chin on Blaine's thigh so he can see it all when Blaine comes – his hole and his cock and his face, all overwhelmed by pleasure.

Blaine doesn't warn him this time, not with words. He just comes, his ass squeezing around Kurt's finger, his cock pulsing, his face wide open and stunned. Kurt watches Blaine and rocks into the sheets and feels his own mouth fall open, his own cock pulse, and yet somehow the thing he is most aware of through his orgasm is Blaine's heat, clenching around Kurt's finger like a heartbeat.

* * *

Chapter Text

Dave manages to go a week without calling Blaine. He keeps telling himself he can do this year on his own, the way he's pretty much done every year of high school: no connections, no true friends, no one who knows who he really is.

Just nine more months in solitary – that's all he has to do, and every day brings him closer to his release date.

But today, he suddenly feels like he's starting to drown, and he’s going to go under forever if no one throws him a life preserver soon. He’s not sure what pushed him over the edge. There’ve been so many this week, but nothing more than usual: "fag" got thrown around the locker room a lot this afternoon; and there was way too much talk of wet pussy at lunch; and this weekend on his way to a game in Cleveland, a billboard blasted at him, "Homosexuality is sin . . . but Christ can set you free  – John 8:36.” (He surreptitiously looked the verse up on his phone and found it said nothing about homosexuality at all.)

It could be any of those things. Or it could have been the impromptu game of smear the queer at the end of football practice on Friday, which would have actually been fun if the game were called something else and the guys hadn't kept hollering "Ya goddamn queer!"  so cheerfully after anyone who had the ball.

It could be the way that Jürgen from German class smiles at him sometimes, how his eyes seem to flicker over Dave's chest and arms and knees when they're practicing conversation, and Dave can't tell if the guy just does it as a nervous tic when he's having trouble finding words or if he's checking Dave out – but it doesn’t even matter because there’s no way that Dave can ever ask because, shit, he just needs to get through one more year of high school without anyone figuring out that he’s queer as a football bat.

Whatever it is, when he gets home from school on Friday and his dad says, "How'd it go?" and Dave answers "Fine," he feels acutely not fine and immediately goes to his room, shutting the door behind him with the excuse that he has to study.

He plugs his mp3 player in and sets it to Philip Glass' Metamorphosis I-V, lies back on his bed, and tries to think of a place where life isn't a constant assault. The first thing that comes to mind is the freedom of the football field, where there are no thoughts but now and the next play, how everything falls quiet but the pounding in his ears and the planning in his head. He thinks of calculus and imaginary numbers, getting lost in a problem until he finds his way out. He thinks of Scandals, of anonymous camaraderie, of drinking beer and playing pool and not being afraid of anyone knowing that he's gay – especially because they don't know his last name. Hell, they don’t know anything about him at all.

Finally, he remembers Blaine hugging him a week ago with unbridled and frightening affection. And that turns out to be his lifeline. It gets him floating back on the surface, gives him air to breathe.

But that's all it gets him. He's still bobbing aimlessly on the water, wishing to be pulled to land so he can stand and run and laugh the way humans were meant to – not stuck there, kicking uselessly against the current.

So he texts Blaine. It's not about Kurt – it really isn't, even though he's been an undercurrent (and sometimes a tidal wave) in Dave's mind for so long. It's about needing a friend, or something close to it. It's about needing a life that's worth living, now.

Were you serious about needing a tutor? Because they don't give me enough math to do at school. He thumbs the message into his phone and hits send.

* * *

Blaine is following Kurt's instructions to chop, not crush, the garlic cloves for the puttanesca sauce, when his phone buzzes with the incoming text. He puts the knife down and checks his phone. "Oh, hey, it's Dave. I almost forgot I gave him my number."

"You weren't that drunk, were you?" Kurt doesn't look up from the stream of olive oil he's pouring into the pan.

"No, I guess not. It's just – with the play this week and with you," Blaine's voice drops meaningfully, eliciting a coy turn of the head and a bright blush from Kurt, "I wasn't thinking about it. I could have actually used his help studying for my geometry test today. I don't think I did that well on it."

"So what does he have to say?"

"That they don't give him enough math to do at school."

Kurt swirls the olive oil around the pan and chuckles to himself. "You know, I had no idea how much of a nerd he was until school was almost over last year. Sounds like you have a tutor."

Blaine starts on his final garlic clove. "Kurt – was that even okay that I gave Karofsky my phone number? I don't have to be friends with him."

Kurt turns from the stove to plant a kiss on Blaine's cheek. "Yes, you do," he says in a giddy sing-song. "You have to be friends with everybody."

Blaine isn't sure if the teasing is just fun, or if it's covering up something darker. He looks up from the cutting board. He needs to know for sure. "I'm serious, Kurt."

Kurt tones his smile down a notch, but it doesn't go completely away. He cups Blaine's jaw in his hand and looks into him. "I'm serious, too. It's absolutely fine."

"Are you sure? Because I like to like people – you know that – but if you want me to hate him, I can try." That was probably too earnest and possibly bordering on pathetic, but Blaine doesn't care. He would do anything for Kurt, because Kurt would never ask him to do anything that was wrong.

"Yes, I'm sure. And please, don't hate him."

Blaine presses his cheek into Kurt's palm and closes his eyes. "I used to be so angry at him for what he put you through. But at the same time it was all mixed up with feeling sorry for him. And the feeling sorry for him – I don’t know. I guess it usually wins out. I feel bad about that sometimes."

"Don't." Kurt leans back against the counter and reaches for Blaine’s hand. "It's how I've felt, too. But the bad stuff with Dave – it's in the past. And it's in the past because after I came back to McKinley, he honestly tried as hard as he could to leave it there. Maybe he didn't do everything I wanted, but I think it was more than he thought he could do, and not just the Bully Whips and the PFLAG meetings. I mean, I saw some of the shit he had to put up with after prom from his 'friends.'" Kurt puts airquotes around the word. "All he had to do to get their respect back was talk crap about me and ‘P-FAG,’ but he never did. He even tried dragging Azimio to a couple meetings. I mean – of course it didn't work, but he tried. I'm proud of him for that."

Kurt lets go of Blaine’s hand to bring the cutting board to the stove, tipping it over a pan and scraping the bits of garlic in. There's a light sizzle and hiss when the garlic hits the heated oil, and the heady scent of garlic quickly fills the room.

"God. You're just – " Blaine just stares at Kurt, even though he should probably be draining the can of tomatoes right now.

"What?" Kurt looks up, flushes a little at Blaine's gaze, then turns his face back toward the pan as he drops the anchovies into the oil.

"Your capacity for forgiveness astonishes me." Blaine wants so badly to kiss Kurt, but thinks better of touching his boyfriend just inches away from hot oil and an open flame. So he grabs the can of tomatoes instead, peeling it open and draining it over the sink. "Not just this. But Rachel, too. She ran against you for president and tried to steal your boyfriend – "

Kurt chuckles, looks up long enough to roll his flawless green eyes. (Well, they're green at the moment; later they'll be blue, or gray, or all three, the way the color of a pond changes with the sunlight.) "You weren't my boyfriend at the time."

Blaine puts the can down, turns to the island to measure out the capers and olives into a small bowl. "I should have been, though. I mean, when I kissed her, and you were right there, all I could smell was you. And you've forgiven me for that, too."

"I know I acted like it was a mortal sin, but there was never anything to forgive. That was just me being scared of losing you." Kurt sighs. "Anyway, in general, with Rachel and Dave – some people are worth forgiving. It's kind of selfish, actually."

"How so?"

"I get more out of being friends with them than being enemies." Kurt squeezes Blaine's hand. "I saw little glimpses of Dave last spring, what he might really be like under all the fear, and that person is … interesting and smart and kind of a big dork. Did you know that until he was in eighth grade, his idea of the perfect birthday party was to go with a couple of friends to the planetarium in Bowling Green?"

"That's adorable."

Kurt gestures to the tomatoes and capers and olives. "Would you mind pouring them in?"

"My pleasure." Blaine does, then just watches Kurt stir for a while, awed at the fluency of his movements, the confident way he slices the spoon through the sauce and stirs from the bottom to keep everything from burning. "It sounds like Dave could use real friends," Blaine says after a minute. "I could try to be that for him, if it's okay with you."

Kurt smiles in that way that makes Blaine's chest feel light and giddy and overwhelmed all at the same time. "You're wonderful, you know that?"

Blaine looks down and shakes his head.

"Hey." Kurt rubs his arm.

Blaine looks back up. Kurt's brows are furrowed in worry, but his face is patient – centering, calming. "No one ever told me that before you," Blaine says. "I mean, maybe they said I was a wonderful singer or dancer or student. But you're the first person who's ever said that I am."

"You are. That's why I love you." Kurt kisses Blaine's forehead. "So much."

Blaine kisses Kurt on the cheek, and he hopes that brief, flutter-soft joining of skin is enough to let Kurt know that he's starting to believe.

* * *

"Tell me about something you think is beautiful." Blaine drops his pencil to the counter and closes his geometry book with a decisive thud.

It's the second time Dave's been over to help Blaine with his geometry homework, and it's going okay, although Dave doesn't really know how to solve Blaine's fundamental problem, which is that he doesn't see how triangles and circles, squares and ellipses and numbers – they're all part of the same thing.

Dave spent the first part of the afternoon trying to get Blaine to make the connections. It was kind of like watching a very drunk person trying to touch their index fingers together and failing to, again and again.

So Dave stepped away from the bigger picture and honed in on the smaller details – the ones that would get Blaine from a to d in the proofs he's supposed to solve tonight – and let Blaine go at it while he turned to his German, which made about as little sense to Dave as geometry did to Blaine.

"Tell me something that you think is beautiful," Blaine repeats, hopping off his stool and heading toward the fridge. "I need a break. You look like you need a break, too."

"Is this some kind of get-to-know you question?"

Blaine rolls his eyes – he looks so much like Kurt when he does it, and it must be nice (better than nice, really) to be so close to Kurt that his gestures work their way into your body and become your own – and plunks a can of soda in front of Dave on the kitchen bar. "Mountain Dew, right?"

"Always," Dave nods. "How'd you know?"

"I didn't. But it's what you asked for last time you were over. I felt bad we didn't have any." Blaine pops the top off of his own can of Coke Zero and takes a sip. He doesn't sit down, just stands there with one hand on the counter. "So, tell me about something beautiful."

Dave rubs his eyes. "Not German. That's for sure."

"I don't know. I watched Summer Storm. I thought the way they talked was pretty sexy."

"Maybe." Dave opens his own can and takes a sip. "But you asked about something beautiful."

"Okay. So tell me about something beautiful."

‘Your boyfriend’ is probably not an appropriate answer. So Dave considers. Snow is nice. Snow on Kurt's eyelashes would be – No. Just no.

"It's not a test," Blaine says, leaning forward a little. "Just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind."

Dave glances down at the cover of Blaine's math book and it comes to him. "Euler's equation," he says.

"Euler's equation?"

"Yeah, Euler's equation. It's a theorem."

"Theorems can be beautiful?"

"If you don't believe that, you'll never get much better at geometry."

Blaine cocks his head. "Okay. Show me."

Dave pulls a piece of paper from his notebook and writes, with Blaine leaning over his shoulder:

            e+ 1 = 0

"Why is that beautiful?" Blaine says.

"First, because it's true," Dave says.

"That's a good reason." Blaine smiles brightly before a shadow crosses his face. "But not everything that’s true is beautiful. Like, it’s true that I saw a dead skunk by the side of the road today. And it’s dead because whoever hit it couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to what was on the road in front of them. That’s not beautiful."

Dave turns to face him. "I didn't think you were so dark."

Blaine shrugs. "I get down about things sometimes. People can be awful to each other."

Dave's about to say that skunks aren't people, but maybe to Blaine, they are. And he agrees that they shouldn't be run over and left on the side of the road like garbage.

Except that Dave used to throw people into the dumpster like garbage. Not as often as Puck, and never Kurt – but still. What does that say about him?

"It's a different kind of truth," Dave says, half to himself and half to Blaine. "Euler's equation, I mean. It's an eternal truth."

"Like 'God is love'?"

"Truer than that. Because it can be proven. And it explains the relationship between the imaginary number and the number one."

"I think you're getting a little ahead of me."

"Okay, skip that. There's other things that are beautiful about it. It's got the three basic operations of arithmetic. You have addition here –" (Dave points to the plus sign) "– and an exponent here –" (he points to the ) "– and also there's multiplication, where i gets multiplied by pi."

"What about subtraction?" Blaine says.

"Addition and subtraction are the same thing."

Blaine gives Dave what must be his ‘don't bullshit me’ look.

"No, really," Dave says. "Subtraction is just adding a negative number instead of a positive one."

"That sounds like semantics," Blaine says.

Dave doesn't know what semantics means, so he just shrugs.

"Okay, what else is beautiful about it?"

"Well, the most beautiful thing about it, besides what it does, is that all the numbers in it are beautiful."

Blaine lets out a laugh-sigh of confusion, or maybe surprise. "How can a number be beautiful? I mean, I've always kind of liked the way that seven looks, but – "

Dave smiles back. "It's not about how they look, it's about what they do. Pi is the key to understanding circles and spheres and the way the universe is expanding and the way that atomic particles interact. I mean, without it, we wouldn't be able to build cars or trains, which means we wouldn't have grocery stores, because how would the food get there, and your house would be a shed and we'd be crapping in holes in the ground. Every day would be a struggle to just survive."

"Huh." Blaine's eyes brighten. "I never really thought about numbers that way. I mean, as something that my life depends on."

Dave moves on to the one and zero in the equation, and how he loves these numbers because they can be combined with any other number without changing its fundamental nature. “Take a seven and add a zero to it or multiply it by one, and it's still seven.”

"Doesn't that mean they’re kind of ineffective?"

"No," Dave says. "Think of it more like they're letting the other numbers be themselves. They aren't trying to change them into something they’re not. Like a four: You add four to seven and you get 11, or you multiply them and they’re 28. You can't see seven anymore in there, and you can't see four. They just – disappear."

"So zero and one are like the friends who help you be yourself, instead of forcing you to be something you're not?"

Dave hears the words that Blaine doesn't say. Like Kurt, you mean? Not like all the assholes you've been wasting your life with because they make you feel like you have to be straight and a complete douchebag?

"I guess." Dave takes another sip of his Mountain Dew. "Except – well, you can only go so far. They're just numbers."

It's a lie. Numbers have never been just anything. They're one of the few things that help Dave make sense of the world.

Blaine rubs Dave's shoulder in a familiar way that unsettles Dave at the same time as it comforts him. Dave's not used to being touched with that kind of affection. "Nothing is just anything," Blaine says. "Especially not when you love it."

Dave gulps from his Mountain Dew can. He’s already said too much. Showing that you care about something is always a dangerous situation to get into. It makes him feel vulnerable and splayed open like the rat he and Azimio dissected last year in biology. Azimio kept laughing at the thing – from the expression on its face to the size of its testicles, and when they were done he switched a lung with the stomach and the heart with the bladder, chuckling through it all – and Dave just sat there with his tough-guy grimace, hoping no one could tell that he gave a shit. (The worst thing is that Azimio isn't evil. He loves his family, is wrapped around the pinky fingers of his little sisters, dotes on his dog like a favorite nephew. The worst thing is that Azimio is all those things, and he still thought it was funny to violate a dead rat.)

Dave sips on his can while trying to figure out how to not say anything else that will make him feel exposed.

"Okay, my turn to tell you what I think is beautiful." Blaine settles back down onto the stool next to Dave and points to Euler's equation. "I think that is beautiful."

"That's cheating. You'd never even seen it until I wrote it down a few minutes ago. And I still haven't explained what it means."

"But I don't think it's beautiful for the same reasons you do."

Oh, lord. Blaine's probably going to say he loves it for the squiggle at the top of pi and because e is the first letter of eternity. Ugh.

But that's not what Blaine says. "I think it's beautiful because, even though I don't understand it, I feel like it's helped me understand you better. You're a poetic soul under that pragmatic exterior, David."

Ha. The only reason Dave sounds poetic when he's talking about math is because math is beautiful, not because of any poetry written on the interior of his "soul" – if he even has one. But Dave doesn't say, If that's what you think, you don't understand me at all. Because, as barren as Dave's soul is, it still feels good that Blaine is trying.

So instead, Dave says, "Maybe."

Blaine pats his shoulder again. "You'll see it someday." He turns back to his geometry textbook and opens it to the proof that was giving him trouble. "Whenever I open this book from now on, I'm just going to call it 'working on poetry.'"

* * *

The day before Thanksgiving, Kurt and Blaine are sprawled on Kurt's bed in a state of post-orgasmic bliss.

They've been in this state a lot lately, because – well, Kurt's dad was definitely right – since they’ve started, they haven’t wanted to stop. It kind of makes Kurt glad they waited eight long and torturous months in which they learned to talk and kiss and talk and support each other and talk and just be in love – because learning to do all that at the exact same time that you're trying to get each other off at every conceivable moment – well, Kurt imagines that would have been difficult.

"You're the best." Blaine nuzzles his cheek and Kurt can feel the sweat at the tip of Blaine's nose, sexy and intimate.

"Huh." Kurt turns to look into Blaine's eyes, which have darkened from amber to maple syrup. "And I thought I was the only one who's ever done that to you. You really need to be more forthcoming about your outside sexual experiences, Blaine."

"I don't have to have been with anyone else to know that you're the best." He tweaks Kurt's nipple, which leads to a cackle of protest.

"Do that again and I'll get so hard we'll have to do it all over."

"That sounds more like a promise than a threat," Blaine says, but he kisses the tweaked nipple in penitence.

"Seriously, we should probably shower."

Blaine kisses Kurt's other nipple. "Or we could doze off, and then do it again."

"Or we could shower, and then do it again."

Blaine kisses Kurt's navel. "Or we could do it again in the shower."

"Oh, I like that idea. Especially since Finn might get home soon. It would, you know, white out some of the noise."

"I don't know. You kind of make some pretty loud noises."

Kurt pinches Blaine's shoulder. "It's kind of hard not to with what you do to me."

"So the feeling is mutual, huh?"

"Yes, Blaine. You're the best –" he smirks "– I've ever had."

If a person who was already lying down could be tackled, well, what Blaine does to Kurt after he says that is pretty much a tackle. At least, a love-tackle. "Take it back," he growls, biting Kurt's earlobe to show he means business.

Kurt melts into giggles. "You want me to take back that you're the best I've ever had? That only leaves my hands, Blaine."

"Well, your hands do pretty awesome things to me." He makes his face stern. "But you know what I meant. The qualifier. Take back the qualifier."

"Yes, Blaine." Kurt sighs like a chastened schoolboy before taking Blaine's face in his hands, aligning their eyes. Blaine's irises, Kurt thinks, are like brown glass shot through with sunlight.

No, that's not quite right. Brown glass shot through with sunlight is something like Blaine's eyes, but it's not as beautiful and it doesn't make him feel this way deep inside his chest, like everything is tightening and loosening at the same time.

"Yes, Blaine," Kurt says again, but this time it's heady and electric. "You are the best. For me. I can't imagine any better. Seriously, if you were any better, I don't know how my heart could take it."

Blaine pushes his face down past the light restraint of Kurt's hands to kiss him, long and hard and toothy-tongue desperate. Kurt's breath catches and his nipples tingle and his heart does a little pirouette that turns into a grand jeté.

Blaine kisses down his cheek to his ear as he rolls off of Kurt, wrapping himself around his side. "I love being in love with you," Blaine says. "And not just because it means I get to have the best sex in the world."

"Which you say from your vast reservoirs of experience."

"I may not know from experience, but I know for a fact. If it got any better than this, people's heads would explode from having sex. There would be a rash of head explosions and the CDC would have to investigate and either tell people to stop having sex altogether – "

"I had a sex ed class like that once."

" – or they'd have to pour billions of dollars into figuring out how to make sex with these sexual überperformers less pleasurable."

"Funded by the manufacturers of genital numbing cream, no doubt."

"Oh, my penis could be totally numb and I could still come from everything you do." The expression on Blaine's face is ridiculously earnest, as if he has given the scenario a lot of thought. It's ridiculous, yes; it's also so endearing that Kurt's heart does a saut de basque.

"Huh." Kurt looks at the ceiling, pretending to ponder. "Intriguing. But let's not try that just yet. We should get to our shower."

"Mmmmmm. Yes."

The shower in Kurt’s bathroom takes much longer than they intend. It's so easy to get lost in new things, in the look of each other's skin under different light, in the way the water alters the textures and tastes. They're surprised to find that the slipperiness of the water, while delightful in some ways – wow that really cuts down on friction – is frustrating in others – oh, it really cuts down on friction. They spend a lot of time learning to acclimate, to alter their plans and their methods, and it takes some creativity but they apply their smarts to it and, by George, they figure it out until soon everything is whisper-desperate oh, yes, god, please, yes, you make me so, oh god, make me, make me – ohfuckyesfuckyesfuckyesoh, you oh god you oh you

you

you

you.

You.

You.

under water that's dropped to a temperature that's somewhere between tepid and honestly cold.

They learn that the slow, soft, desperate kisses after they come don't taste salty in here, but are fresh and strange and a little metallic. They learn that keeping their mouths in a clinging state takes a lot more effort when there's water everywhere, trying to seduce their lips into a noncommittal glide. They need to be more conscientious about drinking each other in, pulling at lips and tongue with more forceful suction, clamping their teeth down on tender muscle just a bit harder.

By the time they're halfway through the actual cleaning part of the shower, the water is downright brisk. They rub each other's arms vigorously to stay warm, and for the first time since he began bathing himself, Kurt actually skips the conditioner.

They are shaking when they step out – two-thirds from exhaustion, a third from cold – and collapse onto the bath mat, wrapping themselves in a large towel and pulling it tightly in various arrangements until they are dry and their shaking has slowed to a tremble and they make the regrettable but necessary decision to don clothing. Kurt slips his clothing on more slowly than necessary, with a drawn-out drag over the biceps and ass, a seductive tug that accentuates the strength of his shoulder blades. He can feel Blaine watching him, and it makes every movement feel like foreplay for the next time.

Back in Kurt’s room, they start on their homework, going for a full 17 minutes before they get distracted by kissing.

Blaine's phone lets out a loud buzz from its perch on the nightstand. "I should probably check that,” he says, “It could be my mom."

"Ask her if you can stay for dinner?"

"Yeah, that should be okay. I think both my parents are working late tonight. They always do before holidays."

Kurt frowns, but Blaine's too busy looking at his screen to see it.

"Huh," Blaine says, sounding a little surprised. "It's actually from Dave. They're showing the Buckeyes versus University of Michigan at Scandals on Saturday. Ugh."

"What?" Kurt says.

"Well, I was kind of hoping to spend as much of my weekend as I could with you. But I also have this overwhelming desire to watch football in a gay bar. It would be so – I don’t know. Like a blending of all my worlds.” He looks at Kurt with his please-give-me-a-puppy-for-Christmas expression. “Especially if you were there with me.”

"I don't know. My dad probably wants you here on Saturday so he can drag you into watching the game with him and I can spend all day in the kitchen making you guys crudites." He smiles mischievously.

"Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?"

"Do you like spending time with him?"

"With Dave, you mean?” Blaine pauses and looks down at the screen thoughtfully. “Yeah, I think I do."

Kurt squeezes Blaine’s hand. "Okay, then. Let's go."

Chapter Text

“You know, I've been thinking about Dave," Kurt says to Blaine on Thanksgiving night as they lie intertwined on the couch in the Anderson TV room, exhausted after their second feast of the day. The only light is from a reading lamp in the corner; the TV is off. In the background, they can hear Blaine's parents laughing in the living room.

"What about?" Blaine says. Kurt's head is resting on his shoulder, his forehead tucked against his neck so that he can feel Blaine's throat vibrate with each word. "Do you not want to go to Scandals on Saturday?"

"That's not it. I've been thinking about prom, mostly," Kurt sighs.

"You should never think about prom. Unless it's about how good I looked. Or how awesomely gender-bending I was with my performance of 'I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You.' Or – " Blaine's voice breaks " – how proud I was of you."

"'The fires and hammers forge us, whether we ask them to or not,'" Kurt says. "'They still make us stronger for the fight.'"

"I hope so." Blaine gives Kurt's shoulder a squeeze. It's silent for a moment, the aching sound of breath. "So what were you thinking about Dave and prom?"

"How I betrayed him."

Silence for another few beats. It's pretty clear Blaine doesn't know what to say. Kurt just lets the moment be, comforted by the slow rise and fall of Blaine's chest. "Did you?" Blaine finally says.

"I think so."

"How?"

"Well, you know how I always go on about how everybody should be able to come out at their own pace and yada yada yada?"

"Well, you don't always go on about it, but I know it's your philosophy. And I agree with it."

"Well, I always went on about it with Dave. That he could trust me, that I wouldn't out him, that I wouldn't pressure him to come out and blah blah blah." Kurt lifts his hand from Blaine's chest and circles it the air to encompass all that the blah blah blah entails. "And I don't think I said it so much to be reassuring as I did to rub it in that I was a better person than he had been to me. Because I could have gotten my revenge, but I didn't."

"Hmmm," Blaine says. "Kind of like 'If your enemy's hungry, feed him; if he's thirsty, give him something to drink; and by doing this you will heap burning coals on his head'?"

"Exactly like that!" Kurt jolts up and looks excitedly into Blaine's face. "See? Every time I go wrong, it's because I'm doing something that the Bible approves of."

Blaine smiles and kisses Kurt's forehead. "Is that what you feel bad about? Feeling morally superior to Dave? Because, as I told your dad once, you are in fact morally superior to everyone I know."

Kurt raises an eyebrow. "You did not."

"Yes, I did."

"When?"

"Last March, when I went to the garage and told him he needed to talk to you about sex."

"Oh, yeah. That." Kurt rolls his eyes as he usually does when The Talk comes up, but he's smiling. "So what did my being morally superior have to do with anything?"

Blaine traces Kurt's hairline with his index finger. "I just wanted him to understand how wonderful you are and that you deserved to understand everything so that no one could take advantage of your not knowing – and that's what came out of my mouth."

"It's sweet that you see me as morally superior, but I don't know if it's true." Kurt sighs and puts his cheek back down on Blaine's chest. It's easier this way, sometimes, to talk without looking at Blaine's face, but still feeling the comfort of his voice and body.

Blaine wraps his arms tighter around Kurt. "I don't know. If the worst you can come up with is feeling a little superior to someone who used to bully you, you're doing pretty well."

"Well, I kind of do that with anyone who used to bully me, but – that's not it. I guess I could be doing better with that, but it's not the thing that's bothering me."

"What is, then?" Blaine nudges his toe between Kurt's socked feet.

"Well, I'd said this thing over and over again to Dave about not pressuring him, but I didn't really mean it. Because when push came to shove, I did. I pressured him."

"At prom?"

"Yeah. Right before we were supposed to do our dance, I told him it was his chance to come out. That he should make a difference."

"That's not exactly harassment, Kurt."

Kurt lifts his head again to look at Blaine. "Maybe. But it's not okay, given what I'd told him before, you know? That he should take his own time and I would support him in that. No one ever pressured me to make a big splash with my coming out. And I think – well, I definitely wasn't encouraging him to come out for his own sake. I wanted to draw the attention off of me."

"That was a really horrible night, Kurt. I think you did the best you could."

Kurt sighs. "I don't know. It wasn't completely a reaction to the moment. I'd been thinking about it for a while. I thought that maybe if he came out, he'd see how hard things had been for me and maybe … I don't know. Maybe it would make things equal between us."

"Like, 'Hey, Dave, payback's a bitch'?"

"Yeah, a little. Revenge and … I think maybe I thought it would be easier to see him as a person that way, if he went through some of the same things I had." Kurt sits up, pulling Blaine along with him, re-entangling their limbs at a new angle. There's a little less body contact in this position, but their heads are level and they can see each other more clearly. "I don't like that about myself. No one deserves that. Not even Dave."

"So what are you going to do?"

When Kurt breathes out, it feels like there's a long-carried weight shuddering off his chest. "Apologize. Maybe on Saturday? If I get a chance to talk to him alone."

Blaine squeezes Kurt's hand. "I'll give you that chance if you let me know when"

"Thanks. I will."

"Kurt?"

"Yeah?"

Blaine doesn't speak until Kurt's eyes are fully on his. "You've just proven again that you're the most moral and compassionate person I've ever met."

"Thank you, Blaine." Kurt kisses Blaine's cheek, pulls back, meets his eyes again. "But I think you might be delusional."

"I'm positive, Kurt." Blaine squeezes Kurt's hand again. "I'm not delusional about you."

*

It's a perfect Indian summer day, clear and bright and warm, so reminiscent of spring that Kurt and Blaine get a little crazy with it and make out just a tiny bit in the parking lot before heading into the bar at noon.

But when they walk into Scandals, Kurt can hardly see. Narrow slips of windows running beneath the ceiling let in only a modicum of daylight. Kurt briefly wonders if all bars are like this, all the windows up so high that no one can look out or in, or if it's just the gay ones. And does the privacy make it a refuge or a hiding place?

Without even being conscious of it, he scans the room for emergency exit signs – at the same time taking in the uniformity of the outfits, red and gray and denim. "Hmmm. There are a lot more lesbians here than there were the last time." He nods his head toward a group of about a dozen women clustered together by the pool tables, also in team colors – complete with red nail polish and lipstick on a few of the femmes.

"There are not." Blaine squeezes Kurt's hand. "You're only noticing them because they're all standing together."

"And apparently I'm a total stereotyping lesbophobe, because I would have thought that any lesbians here to watch a football game would look like I did in my John Mellencamp days."

"I'm still trying to picture you in oversized flannel. It seems kind of like sacrilege."

"Trust me, it was."

There are a lot of men there, too – many more than Kurt would have expected for the middle of the day. But everyone who loves football wants to watch football with friends – Kurt has observed this much – and maybe this is the only place they can be with their friends.

Kurt reminds himself to get the hell out of Lima as soon as he can.

"Hey, there's Karofsky," Blaine says. Kurt cringes a little at the name – he's called him Dave or David since this spring, trying to separate the new person from the old. He shrugs the feeling away.

There he is at the bar, his broad back facing them, cropped hair peeking from beneath his red baseball cap, combed smooth and straight like a piece of fine-wale corduroy.

Blaine steps forward and puts his hand on Dave's back and Dave spins around in his chair, beaming. "Blaine!" he says, and Blaine hugs him and Dave's all heart-loose and open in a way that Kurt has never seen before – never imagined was possible.

It's like a whole other face.

Kurt feels himself staring, but he can't get himself to stop.

He gives a small wave when they both turn to look at him.

"Hi, Kurt," Dave says, his smile going from broad to bashful.

Kurt is not about to hug Dave – not just because he's Dave, but because Kurt just doesn't like touching people who aren't Blaine-or-Dad-or-certain-girls as a general rule.

So he offers what he can. "It's good to see you, Dave," he says. Dave's smile goes back to broad and unrestrained and he flushes a little pink.

Dave asks them what they want to drink and orders three slices of pizza, too, apologizing afterward to Kurt for the lack of culinary choices at Scandals. "It's that or hot dogs, and I know you hate hot dogs." Dave takes a sip of his drink, and Kurt notices a smirk flicker across Blaine's lips. He knows there's a dirty joke brewing there that Blaine is just barely succeeding at holding back.

"Well, actually –" Blaine starts.

In private, Kurt would immediately slap Blaine on the ass and tell him to get his mind out of the gutter. And then it occurs to Kurt where they are, and that's it's almost as safe as being in private – so he slaps Blaine's ass and says, "Get your mind out of the gutter." Blaine turns delightfully red.

Dave looks like he's about to spit out his drink, but instead he concentrates very hard and swallows; and Kurt feels this warm rush because he just said and did that in public like straight people do all the time and suddenly he understands the appeal of gay bars, even when they're dark and small and practically windowless. He leans in and kisses Blaine's cheek. "Sorry, couldn't help myself."

"No need to apologize," Blaine says. "Except maybe to our friend here for unwanted exposure to PDA."

Dave shakes his head and holds up one hand in protest. "None needed. Ass-slapping is kind of expected at football games."

They move to a small round table in the middle of what was the dance floor the last time they were here. Dave and Blaine face the big projection screen that's been pulled down in front of the rainbow flag mural, and Kurt sits next to Blaine, half-facing the screen and half-facing Dave.

There's not much time for small talk before the game begins. Kurt reaches into his satchel and pulls out his notebook and starts doodling, paying attention to the game at intervals, mostly at the kicks – since he was a kicker briefly, he still appreciates what goes into it, and is a little amazed that anyone can do it successfully without dancing to Beyoncé.

He completely misses Ohio's first touchdown, just two minutes into the game, because he can't take his eyes off of Blaine – wide-eyed and breathless and tense with anticipation – and it reminds him a lot of how Blaine looks when they're about to have sex.

The doodling becomes a little more focused then, transforms into sketching, and Kurt looks up at Blaine and down at his notebook, and again up at Blaine to catch the emotions washing over his face, and down again to try to capture their movement on paper. Kurt's not very good at drawing faces – he knows that – but he likes to do it, anyway, especially with Blaine. He likes how it forces him to pay attention to the small details he might not otherwise notice and name – how the tip of Blaine's nose points just a little to the right when he laughs, how his ears are honestly shaped like pretzel halves, how his smile is sometimes a crescent moon and sometimes a heart and sometimes a slivered almond and sometimes almost – not quite, but almost – a narrow rectangle.

Of course, there's not much smiling for a while after that first touchdown. Michigan gets a touchdown, and then a safety (leading to an impassioned groan from Blaine – another way in which sex and football provoke similar responses in him), and then another touchdown.

To Kurt's surprise, Dave is actually a much calmer observer of football than Blaine is. His face is intense with concentration, but there's no yelling or muttered profanities or pumping of fists in the air – just the occasional high-fives with Blaine. During commercials or pauses between plays, he occasionally makes brief scribblings into a pocket-sized spiral notepad that he has propped on the table next to his drink. Half the time that Blaine moans loudly over something that a Wolverine did, Dave calmly remarks about the ingeniousness of the play – to which, at one point, Blaine responds only half-jokingly (at least, Kurt is pretty sure of that), "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

At halftime, the Buckeyes are only one point ahead and the air is giddy with tension. Blaine, however, has calmed down considerably and starts asking Dave questions about his notebook. By the time Kurt gets back from the bathroom, they're both hunched over a large paper napkin, Dave's pen moving quickly over it to jot down numbers and lines and shapes, and both boys have looks of intense scrutiny on their faces. If Kurt didn't know any better, he'd think that they were taking a break to work on geometry.

Kurt begins drawing them both now, focusing on the contrast between the ways their eyebrows knit in thought – Blaine's thick and dark and compact, like a pair of woolly bear caterpillars crawling up opposing blades of grass; Dave's like stretched tildes, the inside corners curling slightly upward. They remind Kurt of Satine's impossibly long eyebrows in Moulin Rouge.

After a while Blaine and Dave both look at him, realizing that they're being watched and recorded, but Kurt refuses to let them see his work. "It's just how I see the world," he says. "It's not how it actually looks."

For some reason, that earns him a sudden, sweet kiss from Blaine – the kind that Finn plants on Rachel all the time in the hallways and at the mall and the movies and before and after and even during glee club – but Blaine has never kissed Kurt in front of anyone except family before and Kurt is overwhelmed with emotion even though he barely even felt the kiss, because this is who Blaine is: spontaneous and loving and never holding anything back.

Except, out in the world, Blaine has to hold back.

Here, though, it's different.

Blaine blushes when he pulls away and Kurt feels his eyes start to water, so he closes them for a moment and breathes, and when he opens them he sees Dave smiling broadly, sharing in their happiness, and Kurt's heart does a little relevé. Or, maybe, he thinks, it would be more appropriate right now to compare it to a completed 21-yard field goal. Well, whatever.

Some of Dave's bar-buddies stop by the table to talk to Dave, and Blaine ingratiates himself to every single one of them. Blaine seems beside himself to be in a place where he can talk about the beauty of football players' strategies and their biceps in the same breath, and his excitement makes Kurt want to grab him and kiss him breathless – and Kurt loves that he could, but he also doesn't want to interrupt the conversation.

Most of them can't be that much older – some probably still in college, others not far out of it. Lima really needs a gay hangout where fake I.D.s aren't a requirement to get in.

When the game starts up again, Kurt shifts between watching it and watching Blaine and Dave. He sketches Blaine's concentrated frown after Michigan makes another touchdown. He notices that Dave's top teeth slope slightly inward toward his tongue, but he doesn't capture that quite right, so he focuses instead on the apples of Dave's cheeks, which he does better – catching the prominence of them around Dave's mouth and under his eyes when he smiles. Dave apparently didn't shave this morning, and there's the velvety shadow of a soul patch underneath his lower lip, and Kurt draws that, too.

Being watched doesn't seem to bother Dave like it does some people, who get all self-conscious and try to adjust their faces so that their perceived flaws don't show – jut out their chins to make their necks seem slimmer, purse their lips to make themselves seem deep in thought. Dave just keeps watching the game and talking to Blaine – occasionally glancing over at Kurt with a smile, but not for long.

* * *

For the first time in seven years, Ohio loses to Michigan.

Blaine shouts in frustration as the last seconds of the game tick away, and the mood in the bar goes from ebullient drunk to depressed drunk, conversations turning toward the wretchedness of the Wolverines, the general unfairness of life, the misgovernance of the NCAA, and how the Buckeyes would have undoubtedly won if Coach Tressel hadn't been ousted on trumped up corruption charges. Dave tries to convince Anders, a pool buddy who wanders over to their table after the game, that the NCAA was right to discipline Tressel, but gives up when it becomes clear that Anders is very drunk and his only response to anything Dave says is, "Traitor."

Dave doesn't usually drink during games, because he wants to be able to wrap his mind around every play and learn from it. Plus, today, there was the added necessity of not making a fool of himself in front of Kurt or Blaine. And the necessity of not making love-eyes at Kurt, which is hard enough sober.

When one of Dave's regular pool buddies comes over to propose a game, Blaine's eyes light up like he's a five-year-old and someone just offered to take him to Disney World. Kurt, on the other hand, considers the proposition coolly before saying, "Thank you for asking, but I think I'd like to finish up here first," and gesturing to his notebook. "You go ahead, Blaine. I'll be there in a minute."

Blaine frowns. "You'll be okay?"

"Dave will keep me company," Kurt says authoritatively. "Right, Dave?"

The authority in Kurt's voice gives Dave a small, inward thrill. "Yeah, that's fine," Dave says. "I want to finish up my notes anyway."

"Okay, see you in a few," Blaine says, all happiness and light once again. He kisses Kurt on the lips and, even though it doesn't last for more than a few seconds, Dave's pretty sure he sees Blaine slip a little tongue in just for good measure. Kurt's face goes red and flustered and love-stricken and positively radiant, and Dave wishes Blaine would kiss him more just so Kurt could look this happy all the time.

* * *

When he's sober, Blaine understands the allure of gay bars even better than he did when he was drunk.

Except for when he's alone with Kurt, Blaine has never found a place where he can be all the things he is at the same time. He's split his life into compartments. In the Hummel-Hudson living room, on the stadium bleachers or in his own family's den, he is Blaine the Football Lover. At the Hummel-Hudson dining table, he tries to be Blaine the Gentleman, even though it's difficult not to play footsie with Kurt under the table. At Dalton, he was Blaine the Entertainer and Blaine the Bromancer. At McKinley, he is Blaine the One Who Belongs to Kurt (which makes him happier than is probably reasonable), and Blaine the Leading Man, and Blaine the One That Girls Love and Will Never Get. At his paternal grandparents', he is Blaine the Attractive Not-White Grandchild Who Doesn't Talk About His Love Life, and at his maternal grandparents', he is Blaine the Rather White Grandchild Who Should Show Us More Pictures of Him With His Lovely Friend. At the country club, he is Blaine the Good Sport and Blaine the Team Player and Blaine the Sometimes Champion.

But here, Blaine thinks maybe he can be everything and anything at once. He can watch football while humming P!nk and showtunes, french Kurt during the commercial breaks, be polite and congenial to everyone he meets and yet still shout at the television as loudly as his lungs permit, and compliment the women without worrying that he's leading them on. He can be Kurt's boyfriend and still have other guys clamoring to hang out with him. He can play pool well or badly without it being a reflection on his masculinity.

And so, despite the fact that he should be devastated by the Buckeyes' humiliating defeat, he feels chipper and expansive. It's hard to say if he will become true friends with any of the people he meets today. But if he doesn't get any friends out of this deal, that's fine; he might still get a sense that there's a safe place for him and Kurt in this world.

* * *

Blaine has only been gone from the table for a minute or so when Kurt closes his notebook and puts it away in his satchel with an air of finality. He scoots his chair a little so he's facing Dave directly and puts his hand on Dave's notebook.

"When you're done with that, I'd like to talk," Kurt says.

Dave hasn't really been doing anything with his notebook, just flipping through it while waiting to find out why Kurt wanted to keep him there – if Kurt wanted particularly to keep him there, which maybe he didn't, which maybe he only came up with so that Blaine could play pool without worrying about Kurt being lonely.

Except that now Kurt wants to talk, and he's said so in that definitive way he has of saying things, the way that means he's been mulling something over and has come to a plan of action. Dave's not sure whether to react with joy or dread. But it doesn't matter what he feels, Dave supposes; whatever Kurt wants, Dave will oblige. It's not even a question.

So Dave puts down his pen and looks into Kurt's eyes (a little disconcerted by how filled with steely determination they are, but honestly, Dave is usually disconcerted by Kurt in general) and says, casually, "Sure. What about?" even though his heart is thumping like a jackhammer.

"I want to apologize to you, David."

Dave doesn't say anything for a while – just shifts his lower jaw slowly, like he's chewing on something. "For what, exactly?" he finally asks.

"Prom."

It's not the answer Dave expects. Of course, any answer Kurt could give him would surprise him, because Dave can't think of a single thing that Kurt has ever done that calls for an apology. He knows that Kurt's not a saint, but any cruelty he’s ever inflicted on Dave has been minor and fully deserved.

But prom, especially. Dave's the one who abandoned Kurt there and let the whole school mock him for being brave enough to be himself. Kurt faced them all down like a man should. Dave was just a coward.

"Kurt, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I think you will in a minute," Kurt says. He clears his throat and sits a little straighter in his chair, folding his hands over his crossed knee, the picture of composure. Except that his fingers are trembling.

"Kurt – "

Kurt shakes his head. "I need to say this. Please."

Dave is torn between the desire to grant Kurt whatever it is he says he needs, and to protect Kurt from any discomfort. But Dave really has no choice between the two. If Kurt says he needs something, Dave just has to go with that. “Okay,” he says.

Kurt inhales sharply. "I don't like to think about that night, but I do. A lot. More than I admit even to Blaine." Kurt glances over toward the pool table where Blaine is, his back turned to them as he leans across the table with his cue. Kurt continues to watch Blaine as he speaks, like Blaine is his grounding rod. "It just shows up – something will happen that reminds me of it, or nothing happens at all and I'm still reminded of it, and everything replays in my mind in a fucking endless loop."

Kurt looks back at Dave then, his voice controlled and even. "But there's always something off about it, like I'm not remembering it quite right. And since seeing you again a few weeks ago, I started to figure it out – what was missing. I realized that I always skipped the part right before you left. I skipped over what I said to you."

"Kurt – "

"And what I skipped over was that I told you it was your chance to come out, even though I’d promised you a dozen times I wasn’t going to pressure you." Kurt sighs. "I pressured you.”

"Kurt – " Dave doesn't at all like where this conversation is going. Because maybe what Kurt said wasn’t what Dave wanted to hear at the moment, but shit, Dave hardly ever wants to hear the truth, does he? And even if Dave did go home and cry and feel miserable, it was nothing compared to the whole expansive goddamn fucking craptastic clusterfuck of a night that the junior class put Kurt through, and Blaine through – the night that Dave still knows is his fault, because he didn't speak up sooner and louder. He never spoke up at all. “It doesn’t matter if you were trying to pressure me. You shouldn’t have had to go through that alone.”

"Please, Dave." Kurt lifts his still-trembling hands to the table, folding them neatly together, and Dave could easily lift one of his own hands to encircle them, if he thought it would be any comfort to Kurt. "It matters to me.”

Dave looks down at his glass of melting ice. "But why?"

Even though Dave doesn't look up, he can see Kurt lean forward. "Because I was just trying to drag you down into my own misery. And that’s not right. So I want to apologize for it."

Dave looks up, his vision getting blurry with the first hint of tears, and he would be ashamed except that it's Kurt, and Kurt has every right to see him break. "Seriously, Kurt. Nothing you could have said could have dragged me down any further than I already was. And if it would have helped you, I should have done it."

Kurt picks up Dave's glass of melting ice from the table and looks into it. There is something intimate about that gesture, as intimate as Dave can ever hope for from Kurt.

Kurt swings the glass in his hand, letting the water swirl in an even circle beneath the rim. His hand is no longer trembling. "I don't think it would have helped me," he finally says, setting the glass down and looking up again at Dave. "And even if it would have, it's not about what I want or don't want. It's about what you want – for yourself."

"Thanks, Kurt. But I – "

"Dave. Please accept my apology. I was in the wrong." And then, almost imperceptibly, a flash of mischievousness crosses Kurt's face. "Really. Me being wrong doesn't happen often. How many opportunities like this are you going to get?"

If Kurt were explicitly setting out to make Dave fall in love with him, he couldn't be doing a better job.

"Of course I’ll accept your apology. But you don't have anything to feel bad about."

Kurt smiles – disarmingly wide and open. "Oh, I don't. Not anymore," he says, vaguely, and Dave tries not to read into it too much, tries not to think that his forgiving Kurt – that anything he does for Kurt – can make any sort of difference in Kurt's life.

"Well, I guess it's time I learned how to play pool," Kurt says, pushing his chair back decisively. "Know any good teachers?"

Dave is about to answer, but then Kurt stands up – and with just that quick, graceful movement, everything rushes up in Dave, the craving and awe that he's been working all day not to feel or show. Kurt's shirt shifts over his muscles as he bends to pick up his bag and Dave pictures himself wrapped behind that body at the pool table, Kurt's back pressed against his chest, Dave's chin brushing Kurt's shoulder, their hands touching high on the cue as Dave shows Kurt how to align it with the ball, where and how to strike. Dave closes his eyes.

"You okay, David?" He hears Kurt's voice, a little closer now than it was before, and that's wow but it's not good at all because Kurt's crotch must be right in front of Dave's face and if he opens his eyes, the first thing he's going to see is the fly of Kurt's tight, tight jeans and there is no way he'll be able to hide a single one of his dirty, dirty thoughts. "Dave?"

Dave swings his face away from Kurt's voice and stands up, opening his eyes only when he's fully on his feet. "Yeah, fine," he says. "Just – I think one of my contacts slipped. I'll be right back."

"Okay," Kurt calls after him. "See you at the pool table."

It's seven minutes before Dave can safely leave the bathroom. When he gets to the pool table, Blaine is in the place that Dave had imagined himself to be – wrapped around Kurt, their cheeks touching as Blaine shows him how to sight the cue. Kurt blushes a little, but his apparent shyness belies the easy intimacy with which their bodies move together. It's gorgeous and hot, and Dave doesn't feel one bit guilty about enjoying it as long as it's Blaine who's touching Kurt, as long as Dave can just keep himself out of the picture.

He'll watch the hungry, unashamed glances that Blaine and Kurt give each other, and promise to himself that, one day, he'll be brave enough to love another man that way.

* * *

Kurt is practically bubbling as they drive back from Scandals. He's commandeered the iTunes to sing along with "Defying Gravity," giggling and bouncing in his seat every time he catches Blaine smiling at him.

"You're in an awfully good mood for having spent your afternoon watching football," Blaine says.

"I was only half-watching. Maybe that's why." Kurt smiles – or rather, continues smiling, but maybe just a little bigger than before. "And it probably helps that I'm not a fan, or I might be sobbing."

"I'm a fan and I'm not sobbing."

"You're very stoic." Kurt puts a hand on Blaine's knee. "Although the way you moaned was quite impressive." Kurt slides his hand slightly up Blaine’s thigh and gives a soft pinch.

"Why thank you." Blaine winks and settles his hand on top of Kurt's, lightly so that Kurt can snatch it back to the steering wheel without warning if he needs to. "But not caring whether a team wins or loses doesn't usually make someone as … ebullient as you are right now."

"'Ebullient'? I'm impressed."

"I went to Dalton, too, remember?" He winks again, but Kurt doesn't catch it because his eyes are on the road. "So, tell me what put you in such a good mood."

"I'm sure you could guess," Kurt says. "Good company," he squeezes Blaine's leg, "good kisses, I got to touch your ass, I learned a little pool. I really didn't think I'd come to like Scandals, but I think I'm starting to get it."

"It was nice hanging out with Dave, too."

"Yeah," Kurt says. "It was. And thanks for giving me time to talk to him. That was … a relief."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. He's apologized, I've apologized. I feel like – like I've stopped dangling anything over his head, you know? Like all last spring, I had this agenda. I was going to set up the circumstances so he'd be ready to come out and then I wouldn't be the only out gay kid in the school. But I think maybe it's good he didn't. I mean, it seems like a month doesn't pass where some kid who's out and dealing and has made a great 'It Gets Better' video goes and kills themselves. Being out isn't the solution to everything."

Blaine's heart stops. "Kurt, if you ever –"

They pull up to a stop sign and Kurt looks at Blaine straight in the eye. "Of course I'd come to you first. And dad – or maybe Carole. She might handle it better. But I don't think – I can't imagine I'd go anywhere near there again. But I promise, if I do –" He blinks and swallows. "You, too. If you –"

"I'll come to you first. And Miss Pillsbury, or – Carole is a good idea, actually. She's totally calm under fire."

Kurt smiles. "She is. I've got a talent for picking out awesome stepmothers."

The car behind them honks to get them moving through the intersection. Kurt mutters something insulting under his breath but puts both hands back on the wheel, checks for the all-clear and goes.

After a minute of silence, he speaks again. "Anyway, with Dave. I just – I didn't expect that apologizing to him today would make me feel so … liberated, I guess. Like we can just be … equals now."

"Friends?"

"Maybe. He's kind of, well, interesting. I've always wondered what things would have been like if the whole bullying thing hadn't been so complicated. If he'd just shoved me into lockers and thrown me in the dumpster like Puck –"

"Has Puck ever apologized for that?"

"Last year – right after I transferred to Dalton, actually –" he reaches over to squeeze Blaine's leg again "– the football team tipped him in a port-a-potty and he had this – well, he called it a 'spiritual awakening.' And afterward he comes into my room when he's over visiting Finn and he goes," (Kurt slackens his face into Puck's perpetual expression of nonchalance), "'Dude, on the off-chance that you're, like, partially Jewish somewhere on your family tree, I wanted to tell you I'm sorry that I used to throw you in dumpsters, and call the glee club 'gay,' and was a dick about Diana Ross and, you know, all that stuff. I'm not gonna be a douchebag to you anymore. Unless you do something douchey to me.'"

Blaine laughs. "Seriously? That's what he said?"

"Yeah. I have it on my phone somewhere. I pressed record because I thought he was going to say something insulting about me transferring to Dalton and I could use it to convince dad and Carole not to let him in the house anymore." Kurt's smile is so toothy it could light up an entire building. "Joke was on me, though."

"Is that why you guys are friends now?" Blaine says.

"I guess," Kurt says. "Though I'm not sure I think of him as a friend. Not like Rachel or Mercedes, but I trust him, mostly. I guess we're like – not brothers, exactly. Maybe he’s like the cousin you don’t talk to all the time, but you’re glad to sit next to at the annual Fourth of July family picnic."

"So maybe you'll be cousins with Dave one of these days?"

"Maybe. Or maybe we’ll be friends. I don't know. I mean, I guess it depends on what comes to the surface once he starts letting himself be himself more.” He sighs. "I just – I hope he's being more himself at his new school. I mean, obviously he's not with the gay stuff, but maybe with the other things. I mean, when he was at McKinley, he let half the football team think that the reason he wasn't in algebra with them was because he was in remedial."

Blaine frowns. "I'm glad he didn't try to hide it from me. I really need the help."

"It’s like magic when he talks about math, isn't it?"

"I told him 'poetry.'"

"That works, too." Kurt bounces in his seat. "So, are you guys going to keep doing the tutoring?"

"Yeah, Wednesday this week, since you'll be at the shop, but then we'll switch to Mondays and Thursdays."

"Good. He might just make you fall in love with geometry one of these days. He kind of gave me a crush on differential equations."

Blaine chuckles.

"You never know, Blaine. Love comes when you least expect it." They're pulling into Blaine's driveway now. Kurt cuts off the engine and turns to him, eyes alight. "It did to me."

"Kurt –"

Kurt unbuckles his belt and leans toward Blaine, kissing him softly at first. "I'm so happy to have you, Blaine." Another kiss. "I love watching you watch football, and I love watching you make friends, and I loved feeling you against me when you were teaching me how to hold the cue, and the way you moaned during the game was just like sex, and I love –"

Like so much of their kissing these days, everything soon becomes frantic, the push-pull of tongues and the pressing of bodies, the need for closer and together.

Blaine pulls away, breathless. "Come inside?"

"In more ways than one if you want." Kurt winks, but there's nothing coy about it. His face is flushed and his chest is heaving.

Blaine's heart stops for the second time this afternoon, but this time it's for entirely happy reasons. They haven't done this yet. At least, not the way that he thinks Kurt means. "Really? Like come come?"

"Yeah. I want – I want to. If you want me to."

It's difficult to pull away from Kurt, to climb out of the car and up the front steps, to have enough presence of mind to shout, "We're here!" and make sure there's no response (Blaine's parents are supposed to be out, but it's always good to check), to not strip off each piece of Kurt's clothing in the vestibule and rut up against him on the stairway.

But it's not difficult when they get to Blaine's room and close the door.

*

"You like that, don’t you?" says Kurt, a self-satisfied smile spreading across his face as he teases a slick fingertip over Blaine's hole.

"Don't tease me, Kurt. You know I like it."

Kurt leans over and sucks Blaine's neck. "Not trying to tease," he mutters. "Just like to hear you say it." He pushes then, sliding leisurely into Blaine, fucks his finger into Blaine the way Blaine likes it in the beginning, smooth and slow.

Kurt's fingers are long and perfect and so much better inside Blaine than his own. "Want you," Blaine mutters

Kurt kisses down Blaine's chest. "You already have me."

Kurt's licking into the dip of Blaine's navel when he slides a second finger in. Blaine's cock jerks against his stomach and Kurt seems to take that as a beckon. He moves down and starts to mouth at the shaft.

Blaine breathes slow and steady to keep himself from coming, gently steers Kurt's face away from his cock.

"You're so mean to me," Kurt smirks. "You know how much of every day I spend thinking about your cock in my mouth?"

"Here," Blaine gasps, touching his fingers over Kurt's lips. Kurt sinks his mouth over them and sucks, moaning and humming as he moves his own fingers in and out of Blaine's ass, twists them in the slick slide of lube.

"Oh, fuck, please Kurt."

Kurt slides his mouth off Blaine's fingers. "Hold on, I need to make sure you're ready." He drops his head down between Blaine's thighs. Blaine can feel Kurt's breath on his ass, looks down and sees Kurt biting his bottom lip as he stares at his fingers moving in and out.

"God, Blaine, you're so beautiful." Kurt drags his fingers almost all the way out and then – fuck – it's a lot more, so much more and so good that Blaine's really not sure he's going to be able to hold on.

"Shh," Kurt murmurs, and Blaine realizes that he just shouted. "Breathe. We'll get there soon."

Blaine breathes, feels his shoulders relax into the mattress, feels his ass become loose and pliant, his body take and take and take some more. In the back of his head, there's this nagging voice telling him he should be reaching for a condom now, he should be rolling it onto Kurt's cock and stroking Kurt wet with lube, but he's delirious, can't move except for the rock-rock-rock against Kurt's fingers.

Kurt crawls up over him, by some miracle keeping his perfect-awesome-love fingers inside for Blaine to rock against, and gropes with his free hand toward the nightstand drawer where the condoms are. He's smiling down toward Blaine with the radiance of a thousand suns – wait, no, that would be blinding and painful, this is just gorgeous and so warm that Blaine can feel it down to his bones – and hands the condom packet to Blaine.

"Here," Kurt says. "I think it'll be easier to open with two hands. But I can put it on myself." He blushes – well, his face has already been pink for a while, but the edges of his ears and the peaks of his collarbones burn almost red. "I've been practicing."

"Kiss me," Blaine says, and Kurt does, possessing Blaine's mouth just the way he likes it to be possessed. He wants to belong to Kurt forever.

Somewhere in that kiss, Blaine manages to unwrap the condom and hand it off to Kurt. Somewhere in that kiss, Kurt manages to roll it onto himself, to stroke his own cock wet with lube while Blaine grips at his shoulders and hips. Somewhere in that kiss, Kurt slides his fingers out of Blaine and presses the head of his cock against the wanting muscle. Blaine instinctively folds his thighs up to his chest, rocks gently onto Kurt’s cock – maybe too gently, afraid of accidentally pushing Kurt away. Kurt rocks back, a little more decisively, and oh god Blaine can feel Kurt start to push through, feels his muscle stretch and swallow and oh god the head of Kurt's cock is inside him. He shudders with the pleasure of having just that much, with the anticipation of having more. It's already better than Blaine ever imagined.

Kurt rocks, whispers I love you and you feel so good and I love you again as he sinks in incrementally. There's a drag over oh god and Kurt hums with satisfaction at the noise that Blaine makes and then it's deeper, deeper, so good until Kurt's pelvis is flush against his ass and fuck yes so good Kurt is all the way inside him, the way he's been inside Blaine all along.

They keep kissing as Kurt drags himself in and out, plays with that oh fuck yes spot that makes Blaine feel like they've become life itself – the blossoming of flowers and the unfurling of trees and the song of birds outside the window.

They break the kiss sometimes, to whisper I love you and amazing and so perfect to each other, to move and angle their bodies for pleasure – but they always come back to kissing, sooner or later, always come back to where they first began.

They kiss and Kurt's breath stutters in the way it does when he's close, and that oh fuck that brings Blaine right to the edge. He wraps his hands around the back of Kurt's neck, curling his fingers into the short hairs there, and pulls his face far enough away to see Kurt's eyes clearly. They're wide open, shocked, and Kurt's lips are trembling, and god he's the most beautiful thing Blaine has ever seen, ever will see.

"Come inside me, Kurt. Fuck me."

Kurt lets out a groan and digs his fingers into Blaine's hips, thrusting a little harder and yes, over and over, but somehow Blaine manages to keep his eyes open, keep them on Kurt, watch Kurt’s face in the process of unraveling. Kurt bites the fleshy mound of Blaine's palm as he comes, comes so hard that he collapses on Blaine without trying to catch himself, and that's the thing that does Blaine in – Kurt's cock quaking in Blaine's ass, Kurt's belly pressing down on Blaine's cock – Blaine spills onto both of them, spills like he might never stop.

He does stop, eventually, though. Kurt, too. Kurt pulls out slowly, reluctantly, and Blaine squeezes his ring of muscle, already wishing Kurt could be inside it again.

They don't clean up immediately. Kurt is fastidious about a lot of things, but not about come and sweat – not when it's a result of them being together, at least. Which is good, because Blaine's discovered he kind of has a thing for Kurt covered in come.

"I love you." Kurt kisses Blaine's forehead before wrapping his sweaty, come-soaked body around Blaine's side. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," Blaine says. "Thank you."

Kurt chuckles. "Thank you? I'm pretty sure the pleasure was all mine."

Blaine smiles. "Um, no. Definitely not all yours."

"You make me kind of curious. About how it feels. You make it look so –" Kurt makes a low hum, almost a purr, of pleasure.

"It is. With you. But I don't know. My fingers aren't as good as yours. I've compared. And my dick – well, I can't compare our dicks, but I'd bet a hundred dollars that yours works way better magic than mine."

"I guess we'll have to try it out sometime." Kurt trails his index finger over Blaine's chest. "Purely for comparative purposes, of course."

* * *

Dave stays at the bar after Kurt and Blaine leave, playing pool until the evening crowd starts to trickle in. His stomach growls, reminding him he hasn't eaten anything substantial since before the game. He walks up to the bar to order more pizza.

He's not there long before he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns to see Sebastian leaning close to him, swirling a glass of whiskey in his hand.  "Hey, bear cub," he smirks. "Want me to teach you how to growl?"

Dave sighs into his beer. He's not in the mood today. "Couldn't we just talk, instead?"

"About what?" Sebastian guffaws. "Eyebrow grooming techniques, Liberace?"

Dave hates it when Sebastian uses that nickname, for more reasons than Sebastian will ever know.

Sebastian slaps Dave on the shoulder. "We have nothing in common except that we're both young and we both want to get laid – even if you pretend not to."

I want more than that, Dave wants to say, but there's no point. Besides, he really doesn't deserve more than that. Dave takes a sip of his beer and shrugs. "Look, I'm gonna go play a round of pool. You can join me if you want, or don't if you don't."

Sebastian cocks his eyebrows. "I thought I already made it clear I'm not interested in getting to know you. I just want a warm body tonight."

Dave knows it's obnoxious, but it doesn't piss him off. He's not really worth being treated as more than a warm body, even if being around Kurt makes him wish it were so.

* * *

When Kurt gets home that night, he goes into the attic. There's a shopping bag that he shoved up there the morning after prom, after Blaine convinced him not to throw his crown and scepter into the river.

Kurt pulls the shopping bag out from a large open crate of odds and ends. He feels for the objects through the plastic of the bag before opening it – miraculously, they don't seem to be broken despite the fact that Kurt wedged the bag rather forcefully into the crate last spring, half-hoping to destroy its contents in the process.

He loops the bag handle around his belt and retreats down the ladder to his room. Once there, he stands in front of his bookshelf, scanning for the perfect spot. It doesn't take long to find.

He takes the scepter out first, laying it in front of Yorick, the glittery silver skull Kurt added to his curio collection after seeing Hamlet his sophomore year. That gaudy symbol of death had seemed, at the time, an appropriate way to mourn his crush on Finn without completely giving up on youthful hope.

He takes a deep breath before withdrawing the crown from the bag. It is a coronation, and deserves the gravity of one.

With two hands, he sets the crown on the skull.

"King Yorick, may they call you a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; and let your flashes of merriment once again set the table on a roar."

Chapter Text

What Dave is has been written in his muscles and his heart as long as he can remember; it’s been plastered all over his wet dreams since puberty began. Still, he never let his waking brain clearly picture himself with a guy until he finally hooked up with someone for the first time.

Before that, the images were vague and inexplicit when he jerked off. Sometimes, he thought of the strange, warm feeling of safety he’d have sitting at the foot of Azimio’s bed, flipping through Sports Illustrated and sharing a bowl of popcorn while watching whatever was on ESPN. When he felt more daring, he’d remember details of the casual football scrimmages he played with his friends after school: the grip of another player's hands on his hips as he was being tackled, the heft of torso and pelvis on the back of his thighs, the shock of hitting the turf all tangled up in someone else's body. The best times were when he’d replay and expand upon backyard wrestling matches that he’d lost, pinned down to the ground by the weight of another guy, helpless and immobile, caged between their legs and arms and at the absolute mercy of anything they decided to do to him.

Somewhere in his sophomore year, other images began to flit across the screen of his mind: A long, lithe boy in a red Cheerios uniform dancing out his "fuck you" to all of McKinley High, surrounded by cheerleaders who imitated his moves but couldn't match his fire. The shallow cleft in an upturned, superior chin. Liquid-blue eyes of scorn. Perfect pink mouth that could go from singing Madonna so beautifully you wanted to cry, to ripping you to so many shreds you weren't sure whether you wanted to disappear or fall to your knees and worship him. Elegant, masculine fingers rearranging their owner's chestnut hair, smoothing down the lapels of an already perfectly arranged jacket, twirling a pencil before aiming its sharp tip at paper – always controlling, always directing, always molding the world into what it should be.

Dave pushed those images away as soon as he was conscious of them, but he couldn't push away their effect: the heightened buzz in his skin, the falter in his breathing, the surge in his cock.

Still, he didn't let them unfold into fantasy. As long as he didn't undress anyone or kiss anyone or cling to anyone in his mind, he could tell himself that the thoughts were random, had nothing to do with sex.

Brittany showed him otherwise.

He was in the middle of slugging back his fourth or fifth Jell-O shot at one of Azimio’s parties when Brittany walked up to him and said, "I've been keeping track, and you're the only guy in the school that I haven't made out with. Unless you count Kurt, but he's capital-G gay, so I'm not sure I should count him. What do you think?"

She pushed him toward the empty couch and sat in his lap without any preamble and stared at him, waiting for an answer.

"I wouldn't count Hummel for anything," Dave said, forcing a snarl.

Brittany frowned. "Kurt counts for lots of things. He makes me cry sometimes when he sings, and he loves people even though he pretends not to, and when he swivels his hips I get confused about whether I want to dance with him or lick him. I think he would taste like roasted eggplant and cinnamon. I had something like that at a Moroccan restaurant once. It was really good."

Dave wrapped his hand around Brittany's because he couldn't apologize out loud for insulting Kurt, not with Azimio just five feet away.

"You look sad," Brittany said. "Why are you sad?"

"I'm not sad, Brittany. I'm just listening to you."

"That's nice," Brittany said, smiling. "Not many people do that."Shesighed and stroked Dave's hair, and it felt strange and foreign and absolutely wonderful. As far as he could remember, no one had touched him that way since he was a little boy. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it.

"Your eyes are so pretty, Dave," Brittany said. "They're like water. Can I kiss them?"

Dave knew he should be offended at Brittany's use of the word "pretty" to describe anything about him, but he wasn't. He wished he could tell her he loved her and mean it. "I'm not sure," he said. "I think that would hurt."

"Can I kiss your lips, then?" she said. "They look like strawberry ice cream."

"They taste like lime Jell-O and vodka." He wondered if he was trying to discourage her from kissing him, or just to keep her expectations from getting too high.

"I like those things, too," she said, trailing her finger along his jaw. "Hmmm. You're stubbly. Like Lord Tubbington's tongue. Can I lick you?"

Dave noticed how dry his mouth was, thought he felt the alcohol starting to seep out of his pores. He didn't really want her to touch him like that, but he didn't want to hurt her feelings, either, and maybe he could just finally get this over with.

"Sure," he said, and as soon as he did, she started flicking her tongue across his jaw in tiny strokes, and it wasn't horrible. It felt strangely non-sexual, and he didn't quite understand why, but when Brittany paused to say, "This is how Lord Tubbington greets me in the morning," he decided to attribute his lack of arousal to Brittany pretending to be a cat.

She moved to his mouth, and that was weird at first, because she kept licking in small, short strokes; but then she began to tug on his lips with hers, and he closed his eyes and just let himself feel the pull of skin on skin, the warmth and sweetness of it. Her lips were slick with gloss, and she tasted like kiwis and breath mints, but he tried not to be distracted by that, and just think how nice it should be that he was close to someone this way.

When the other guys started making lewd comments, Brittany ignored them, but Dave burned inside. He squeezed her hand and asked her if they could go somewhere else. "Sure," she said. "Hold on."

A minute later, she was back with Santana, who glared at him in a way that would have frightened him if he had actually wanted Brittany. "You do what she wants and nothing else," Santana said, adding a few choice threats involving his testicles, a melon-baller, and the family of raccoons that lived under Azimio’s porch.

Brittany picked the guest bedroom, thank god, because Dave didn't think he could ever look Azimio in the face again if it she'd picked his sister's bedroom or his parents' bedroom or, worst of all, Azimio's own bedroom.

She lay Dave out on the bed and hovered over him, kissing his face and telling him he was beautiful, that his skin was softer than she had expected, that his hair was as easy to touch as dandelion fluff. She kept asking why he looked so sad and he kept saying, "I'm not sad," until finally she said, "I understand. I forgive you."

"For what?" he said.

"For what you said about Kurt. I know you didn't mean it. You're afraid of him. Like all the boys are."

"I don't – I'm not –"

"Boys get scared because they want to lick Kurt, or they think they might want to lick Kurt, or that Kurt might want to lick them. Even though it should make them happy. Thinking about licking Kurt makes me happy."

"No, I wouldn't – " Dave started, but his throat closed on him.

"Maybe you should," Brittany said. "Maybe it would cheer you up."

"It would," he said, without meaning to.

"I thought so," Brittany said, kissing Dave behind the ear, and finally, finally, he felt something like what he should feel, a little shock of want and hope through his skin and down his spine. "So," she said, rolling onto her side and propping herself up with one elbow, "you think about Kurt, and I'll think about you."

She trailed her hand down to his jeans and loosened the buttons with easy expertise, and he wondered how many times she had done this. He was jealous of her, of all she had experienced and all that he had missed, but mostly of how straightforward this was for her. If she wanted it, she went for it, and didn't give a damn what anyone else thought.

"Huh, that's different," she said when she slipped her hand in his briefs and brushed his limp cock. "Usually it's hard by now."

"Sorry," he said.

"That's okay," she said. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No."

"Then start thinking about Kurt," she said. "Or someone else you think is pretty."

"Okay," he murmured, and closed his eyes and finally let himself see. He told himself it was only because she had told him to, that he was being a good lover – a gentleman – by following her directions.

It took absolutely no effort to see Kurt then, to recall every detail that Dave had tried so hard not to memorize. Everything about Kurt hurt – the way he walked down the hall like he owned it, the way his hips tilted forward when he leaned back against the lockers talking to one of his friends, the way his clothing snugged against his body and made Dave wonder about what was beneath.

Dave felt Brittany's lips on his neck, light kisses and gentle sucking, and her fingers brushing the underside of his cock. He pictured Kurt leading the Cheerios at the pep rally earlier in the week, prowling across the basketball court and squatting so low that Dave wondered how his thighs didn't just give out – and if they didn't give out on that, what else could they do? He heard the growl in Kurt's voice as he sang, and it sounded to Dave like commandment and desire, and oh he wanted that voice in his ears now, telling him what to do, who to be, how to let himself want.

"Take me," he said, forgetting where he was and who he was with until he heard her voice.

"How do you want it?" she said.

He pretended it wasn't her voice, that it was another voice, a voice that made him tremble inside. He told himself that it was okay what that voice did to him, because it wasn't really a man's voice – not exactly – but something in between male and female, or something encompassing them both, and it was probably the feminine aspect of that voice that made him want so badly.

"Whatever," Dave said. "Whatever you want." He was hard now, cock straining for something more than Brittany's gentle hand. He wanted rough possession, to feel he had no choice in the matter.

Her hand left him and he felt the mattress shift, but he didn't open his eyes – couldn't. He heard the tearing of foil and then felt her settling on his thighs, her ass resting just above his knees and her cheerleading skirt rustling against his jeans. Her hand was on him again, the strokes soothing now, reassuring – tethering him to reality when he felt on the edge of losing his sanity completely. He felt the cool, slippery unrolling of something over his cock, Brittany's deft fingers smoothing it down to the base, and he let himself think Oh, this is what a condom feels like but refused to think about what would happen next.

She trailed her fingers through the hair at the base of his cock, and they were Kurt's long, perfect, evil fingers and Dave gasped, "Fuck."

"You really want him, don’t you?" she said gently.

"Yes."

Dave felt Brittany's other hand on his forearm, petting him and making the hairs there stand on end. "You're trembling," she said. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No. Keep going." He dared to open his eyes then and looked at her. "Why are you doing this, though?"

Her laugh was light and knowing, and maybe there was a little pity in it. "Because it feels good," she said. "And I've already made out with all the other guys in the school except for Kurt and some of the ninth graders who look like fifth graders, and the hockey team is our best team next to the Cheerios and so it would just mean a lot to me to get to make out with all the hockey players, you know?"

"Kind of," he said.

She smiled that sweet smile that makes her look a little like one of those porcelain angel dolls his grandmother used to keep on the top of her piano. "Now close your eyes and think of him."

He did what she said. He felt Brittany's hands slide his t-shirt upward, the brush of air on his exposed chest, and thought of Kurt's face, his piercing eyes and his haughty smirk, his cruel eyebrows and his delicate nose. He thought of those glances of longing he had sometimes seen directed at Finn, and imagined them being directed at him.

Dave felt Brittany's lips on his stomach, his nipples, her hand still gripping his cock – except that it wasn't Brittany at all. It was Kurt's terrifying hand, and Dave thrust his hips forward, want and need winning over should and can.

The tongue on his cock was hot and slick and shocking. He hadn't been expecting it, was expecting something else entirely, but there it was, and also – all his friends who griped that they couldn't feel anything through a condom were full of shit.

Because Dave felt everything – more than everything: Kurt's wide, sweet lips, open and loose and wet and so-so-so much, and then tighter and sucking and curling and he thought he would die and he thought he would live forever and he forced himself to keep his hips still even though he was drowning in Kurt, Kurt's fingers on his nipples and his taint and oh and he saw Kurt's perfect hair mussed by desire and felt Kurt's hot breath against his stomach and heard Kurt's voice growling his name and he wanted to grab Kurt and hold on forever but he couldn't, so he grabbed the rails of the headboard and squeezed them so hard he could feel them pressing marks into his palms.

Dave's cock and his heart were throbbing and he let everything go, forgot everything and remembered himself and who he was and how he was meant to be. His cock became Kurt's cock and the mouth around it became his own, and it was more pleasure than he could stand and he felt the hot surge in his pelvis, familiar and yet so different from anything he'd felt before, and it vibrated down his thighs and made his knees quiver, and up into his nipples and his skull until he saw an explosion of colored dots dance across the inside of his closed eyelids and he gasped out Kurt's name.

Brittany was emitting soft moans that sounded like satisfaction, her mouth still around his cock, pulling him through it, but it was too much now and he lowered his hand to her jaw, pressing gently, thankfully, and she lifted off of him. He opened his eyes then, looked at her smiling up at him, her chin resting next to his slumping cock and her eyes alight, and he realized they were blue, kind of like Kurt's, but without the flecks of turquoise and emerald and aquamarine that set Dave's heart on fire.

He patted her hair, which was soft and reassuring, not sinister like Kurt's. "I – What do you want?" he said, afraid of the answer, but willing to try because it was the right thing to do, and might make him a little less whatever he was.

"I want to cuddle, and then I want Santana to fuck me," she said, resting her cheek on his stomach and sighing contentedly, and the relief was so terrifying, he almost cried. But he didn't. He held the tears back until his eyes felt like they were being clamped in a vise, and the only thing that relieved the pressure was when the tears started running out his nose, instead.

"Brittany? Please don't tell Santana what I said."

"You mean, that you told me you taste like Jell-O, even though you really taste like bubblegum and dip?"

"Um, no," he said. "About – who I was thinking about."

"Oh, I never tell her stuff like that," Brittany said. "She gets upset if someone isn't thinking about me, and I don't like to hurt her. Anyway, I mostly like to gossip about myself."

"Thanks," he said.

She petted the hair on his lower stomach absent-mindedly, like she was stroking a cat. "You should take the condom off before it falls off and spills all over the bed. There's a lot in there."

He felt his ears burn.

"Do you know how?" she said.

"Um," was all he could get out.

"Okay," she said cheerfully. "I'll do it for you. But watch. You need to learn. It's good condom etiquette. You put your friend's condom on for them, but you take your own condom off." Her voice was teacherly – not like his teachers at McKinley, but the ones he had in early elementary school who were gentle and kind and who he’d wished he could go home and live with.

Brittany rearranged his cock so the tip of the condom hung down, then slipped it off and tied it in a knot. "If you're at someone else's house," she continued in her sweet didacticism, "wad it in Kleenex before you throw it away. Most people don't like to see someone else's used condom in the trash. Weird, huh?" She stood up and grabbed a box of tissues and did as she had just instructed, then handed him the box so he could clean himself, and held the trashcan up to him so he wouldn't have to move.

"Why is that weird?" Dave said.

Brittany rolled her eyes and smiled in a way that almost seemed condescending – which surprised Dave, because he hadn't realized she might be capable of that. "Because every time someone comes without hurting anybody, an angel gets its wings."

Dave wasn't sure if she meant that as a metaphor or if she literally believed it. He hoped it wasn't the latter, because it would explain too much.

"I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen when I come," he said. He hadn't meant to say it out loud – but there it was.

"Of course it does," Brittany said, sliding back onto the bed and putting her head on his chest. "The angels need you, too. You have to be doing something very, very bad for your orgasms not to count." She sighed, nuzzling her cheek against his skin. "You're like a big teddy bear, but with a heart. I can hear it – kathunk, kathunk, kathunk."

It wasn't bad, lying there with her. It felt close, and warm, and oddly comfortable, and he could let himself hope that those feelings were attraction and maybe the first bloom of romance, that maybe his need for Kurt as she had sucked him off could morph into desire for her.

But the next morning, when he was alone in his room and he tried to think of her that way, nothing happened. His dick lay listless in his hand no matter how he teased and stroked it. So instead he pushed her aside and tried to remember instead the feeling of tongue on his cock, fingers on his nipples, how hard and hungry he had been and how – oh fuck, Kurt, no, he shouldn't think of Kurt, not when he was alone, when there was no girl there to make him okay. But he couldn't not think of Kurt, not when his hand was on his cock and he was finally, finally starting to get hard. Each shot of pleasure brought Kurt's face, his forearms, his sweet-supple ass, his fuck-syrup voice to mind, and every time he thought of Kurt he lost a little more control until Kurt was naked, Dave was naked, cocks rubbing together fiercely, Dave pinned down to the bed by Kurt's unforgiving hands and thighs and tongue – helpless, taken, wanted, fucked.

Dave came so hard his skull vibrated, but he kept stroking himself, imagining the come on his cock was Kurt's, marking and possessing him. "David Karofsky, you fucking fag," he murmured to himself, but he still didn't stop.

He fucked himself that way for the next few weeks – coming harder each time than the last as he allowed the fantasies to get more elaborate, let the Kurt of his imagination take him in every way possible.

And then things started to get ... complicated. He'd see Kurt in the hallway or a classroom or the gym and his cock would go almost immediately hard as images from the previous afternoon flooded his mind: Kurt dragging him into the teacher's bathroom and locking the door, pushing Dave to his knees and fucking his mouth so hard that Dave almost choked; the two of them in the locker room showers, soap-slippery and wet, their cocks sliding together, Kurt's hand over Dave's mouth to keep his cries from getting too loud; Kurt making Dave bend over the weight bench, ass exposed, sliding his long fingers in and out and telling Dave he was going to fuck him so hard that Dave would feel it all week.

Dave stared sometimes. He couldn’t stop himself. Thank god, Kurt was almost always standing next to some girl, so if anyone ever noticed him gawking, he could just pretend he was looking at her. That's how Azimio got to thinking that Dave had crushes on Mercedes Jones and that Tina girl, and started teasing him relentlessly about being into those fucking fag hags from the glee club – which was annoying, but so much better than Azimio knowing the truth.

But then things changed.

Because, one day, Kurt wasn’t standing next to a girl, and Dave still looked. Kurt was at the opposite end of the main corridor, leaning forward to read something on one of the bulletin boards, his hips swaying subtley as he shifted his weight from one leg to another. He had on a long blue scarf that, had he been standing straight, would have obscured his fly. But Kurt wasn’t standing straight, and his low-slung pants were tighter than leggings, and Dave could see the profile of his cock bulging against the front. Dave had the unexpected, overwhelming urge to spit-shine Kurt’s gleaming leather riding boots with his tongue.

Dave was jolted out of his reverie by Azimio’s elbow. “Jesus fuck, Dave! I know it’s hard to take your eyes off a car crash, but you keep looking at him that way and people are gonna start thinking it’s because you like what you see.”

Dave quiver started out naturally, born out of fear. But when he realized what his body was doing, he took control and turned it into a shudder of disgust.  “Shit, man, don’t be sick.” He shoved Azimio by the shoulder and then, for good measure, scrunched his face up sourly, smacking his tongue dryly against the roof of his mouth. “Damn, I’m thirsty. Sure could go for a slushie. Couldn’t you?”

Azimio chuckled, his face lighting up in that way that used to make something inside Dave’s chest feel like it was going all soft and warm. “That’s more like it, D.”

Dave suddenly felt like his internal organs had been replaced with a block of ice, but he chuckled with Azimio all the way to the slushie machine.

*

When the summer came, Dave breathed a sigh of relief. He had three months to forget Kurt Hummel.

Dave went on the internet. He read evangelical websites about recovering from porn addiction (even though he hadn't actually been looking at much porn). He read about “secular” reparative therapy, how you could force yourself to think about women while you masturbated and eventually, you'd come to love them. (He'd tried that a lot already, and it hadn't worked.) He read about not masturbating, about doing push-ups or going for a run every time you had a sexy thought. (It turned out that push-ups reminded him of fucking, and running made him feel alive, which made him feel sexy, which made him want to jerk off.)

So Dave started going to porn sites and finding videos of guys who looked nothing like Kurt and watched them do everything. He found his favorites and replaced Kurt with them in his fantasies. By the time summer was over, he was over Kurt. He was sure of it.

Until he saw Kurt in the hallway on the first day of school. Kurt was misting hairspray over his scalp as he looked into a small mirror on the inside of his locker door. He stood tall and proud and confident, and Dave’s heart almost rose out of his chest and the skin of his cheeks and fingers tingled, crying to be held by Kurt and kissed and made safe.

It wasn't even a sexual feeling – Dave didn't get hard, didn't feel blood rush into his pelvis, didn't think about fucking or being fucked.

It was a lot like what people talk about when they talk about falling in love.

No. David Karofsky might get off on watching videos of men fucking each other, but he was not that much of a faggot. He wasn't going to buy roses and go on dates to see sing-along Moulin Rouge and hold hands in the park and send love notes on Valentine's Day and start calling everyone sweetheart and eat breakfast in bed with his screw on the off-chance that he ever got laid.

Dave turned away from Kurt, closed his heart and vowed to never feel anything that horrible again.

He didn’t know then that what he would do over the following months would make him feel so much worse.

Chapter Text

Two visits to Scandals after the Michigan-Ohio State game, Kurt and Blaine walk in to find Dave sitting at a small round table next to Sebastian. There are three empty beer bottles on the table and a partially finished one in Dave’s hand – Kurt's not sure if that's enough to make Dave qualify as drunk if he's the one who drank them all, but it would certainly qualify Kurt as drunk if he had – and Sebastian is leaning into Dave, his hand on his thigh. Kurt's seen the panoply of Dave’s miserable expressions and a few of his happier ones, but he’s never seen this particular one: blushing and coy, resisting and not resisting at the same time.

"Oh, look," Kurt says, gripping Blaine's hand more tightly. "Sebastian, you've met our friend Dave."

Sebastian throws an arm around Dave's shoulder, and the look on Dave's face goes from flattered to confused. "Dave and I have a long and intimate acquaintance. You all know each other?"

"I went to McKinley with Kurt," Dave mumbles under his breath.

"Interesting." A smirk spreads across Sebastian's face. "The closeted football player and the flamboyant femme. So how did that work? I take it you two weren't public about your friendship. Was it all secret locker room trysts?"

Dave goes pale and drops his bottle to the table with a loud thwup. It totters precariously, but Sebastian catches it before it spills over. He leans back in his chair with smug self-satisfaction. “So there were secret locker room rendezvous!”

"That's not at all –" Blaine starts, but he doesn't get anything else out because Kurt reaches across the table with his free hand, grabbing Dave's forearm and pulling him up out of the chair.

"Come on, Dave, we're gonna play pool," Kurt says with quiet authority. There is no resistance – it's like picking up a sleeping chihuahua.

Kurt hooks his wrist around Dave's elbow and doesn't let go of either Dave or Blaine  until they're on the opposite side of the pool table from where Sebastian still sits, eyebrow crooked in disbelief.

Kurt's hands start shaking. He stuffs them into his pockets.

"I didn't know you guys knew Sebastian," Dave says.

Kurt and Blaine speak at the same time. "He goes to Dalton," says Blaine.

"He's been stalking Blaine," says Kurt.

Blaine scratches the back of his neck. "I don't know if I'd call it stalking. I mean, he hasn't shown up at my house or anything."

"He makes you uncomfortable, Blaine." Kurt says, his throat tightening.

Blaine shrugs, picks up the 6-ball from the triangle in the center and rolls it across the table. "Well, yeah."

Kurt doesn't want to get into this in front of Dave. Or at all. "Why don't you guys go get us some drinks, and I'll set up the balls, okay?" They leave for the bar and Kurt bends over the table to get the game ready.

Not a minute passes before he feels a pinch on his ass and turns to find Sebastian leering at him.

"I thought I smelled a rat," Kurt says.

"I’d rather be a rodent than a fruit." Sebastian pulls the 2-ball out of the rack and starts tossing and catching it with one hand.

"Fruit tastes better." Kurt snatches the ball mid-air and replaces it in the rack.

“Eaten much rat?” Sebastian smirks and juts his hips forward. The implications aren’t very subtle.

Kurt lets out an unimpressed sigh. “Never have and never will.”

Sebastian leans in close enough that Kurt can smell his aftershave. “Never? Many cultures consider it quite the delicacy. Lean, tender, savory – everything you could want in a piece of meat.”

“Okay, I’m not sure if this is still an innuendo, or if you’re actually trying to sell me on the idea of eating rat meat.”

Sebastian doesn’t come back with a retort. He looks over toward the bar and fixes his gaze on Blaine and Dave. "I don't know why you picture yourself as such a playboy when you don't even look like a boy.”

“And yet again, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sebastian gives a mocking pout. “Trying to keep the hotties from me, Kurt – it’s not very benevolent. You can’t have them all to yourself."

"Hmmm," Kurt says, cocking his head and stretching his mouth into a wide, condescending smile. "And you can't have any of them."

"Play by the rules," Sebastian says. "Pool's a 2-player game."

"I assume you're trying to make another innuendo with that, but it's misplaced," Kurt says. "Not everything is about sex. Some people have this thing called friendship. You should try it sometime." He nods his head toward Dave and Blaine. “They’re not your jizz socks, you know.”

"Oh, but I’d like them to be," Sebastian says. "'Friendship' and 'romance' are just nice ways of saying 'inconvenient emotional entanglement.' I like to focus my energy on things like, oh, humiliating the competition at regionals. Well, on humiliating people in general."

Kurt looks away from Sebastian to focus on lining the rack up on the table. "If you show up to regionals with that hair, the only person you're going to humiliate is yourself."

Sebastian guffaws loudly behind him. "Really? That's the best you can come up with? I thought your repartee was a bit more refined than that."

Kurt looks at Sebastian with withering disdain. "It is, but I’m tired of wasting it on you. Now go find a manther and prey on each other. Oh look, there's one." Sebastian's head turns to where Kurt's pointing toward a tall, 40-ish man with toffee-colored skin and prematurely salt-and-pepper hair who makes Kurt think of a skinny version of The Rock.

"Not a bad pick," Sebastian says approvingly, straightening up and taking one step toward the man before stopping to glare back at Kurt. "But don't think I'm done with you and your pretties just because I'm easily distracted by biceps." He makes a beeline toward his new intended victim; Kurt has a slight pang of guilt before reminding himself that if a 40-year-old can't defend himself against Sebastian, he deserves what’s coming to him.

*

Dave returns to the pool table with a beer and a bottle of water that he sets down on the nearby tall table. He holds out something that looks like pink lemonade in a martini glass to Kurt.

Kurt lifts his hand to take it, but stops. "Virgin?"

Dave's face turns bright red. "Sorry?"

"The drink. Is it –?" Kurt can feel his own face starting to redden now.

"Oh, yeah. It's like, cranberry juice and Sprite. Blaine ordered it."

"Thanks." As Kurt reaches to take the glass from Dave by the stem, Dave's fingers crawl slowly up the flute away from Kurt's hand, like he's actively avoiding contact. "Where's Blaine, anyway?"

"Oh, he's talking to Tom." Kurt takes a swallow of his drink and follows Dave's gesture to see Blaine at the bar, talking to an older guy Kurt vaguely remembers meeting on game day. "Don't worry. He's harmless." Dave gestures to the dowdy, orange-mustached guy who has one hand on the small of Tom’s back. "That's his husband, and they're not into threesomes."

Kurt nearly spits his drink all over the pool table, but he catches it just in time, clamping down his lips and swallowing, a bit of the carbonation rising up into his nose. He lets out a tearful, choked cough.

"You okay?" Dave holds out a napkin.

Kurt takes it and wipes his mouth. "Just … went down the wrong way."

"Anyway, they got started talking about Real Housewives of New Jersey and I was a little lost, so I left them to it."

"You don't watch Real Housewives?"

Dave arches his eyebrows. "Do I look like I watch Real Housewives?"

"I thought you didn't like me making assumptions about you based on your looks. I've made mistakes that way before."

Dave looks down at the floor and shrugs. "Okay, no, I don't watch Real Housewives."

"You should give it a chance."

Dave grabs the bottle of water from the table and twists off the cap. "So I can be a better gay?"

Kurt blushes, because that was, in fact, what he was thinking. "Okay, maybe not. I just watch it to judge everybody on it, anyway."

They sip their drinks in slightly uncomfortable silence. So this is what it's like to be on equal footing with David Karofsky. Kurt gets to be called out on his shit.

Dave walks over to the wall and grabs two cues. He holds one out to Kurt. "I meant to say thank you for earlier," Dave says. "I don't really like Sebastian."

Kurt takes the cue. "Neither do I."

"But I get confused around him." Dave rubs the block of chalk against his cue tip.

"He seems to have that effect on people."

"I just – it's nice to get the attention. But I never feel good about it afterward."

"You're not – You two aren't … an item, are you?"

Dave snorts. "Sebastian's not an item with anybody."

"Yeah." Kurt takes the block of chalk from Dave. "You know what I mean, though. Not that it's any of my business."

"We're not – not really." Dave shrugs. "No."

Kurt could ask more questions, but he doesn't. It really isn't his business. So instead, he says, "You're worth more than that, you know."

The surprise on Dave's face is heart-twisting.

Dave shakes his head. "I don't think I'd go that far. You know, given my history with locker room rendez–” He blinks and swallows. “Locker room assaults. I’m not sure how doing that kind of thing puts me on the cosmic list of people who deserve happiness."

Kurt frowns. “It doesn’t,” he says. “But maybe some of the stuff you’ve done since then does.”

Dave looks down at his hands. “I don’t know. It seems to me that something that bad kind of cancels everything else out.”

“Look, I’m not gonna stand here and say that what you did doesn’t matter. But what matters more to me is what you do now.” Kurt grabs a pool cue from the wall, rolls it between his palms. “I mean – honestly? When it first happened, I thought about it a lot, and I hated you. But – I don’t know. It just got exhausting to hold onto that.”

“You don’t think about it anymore?”

“Not really,” Kurt says truthfully. “I kind of stopped thinking about any of it when I stopped being scared of you last spring.”

“It hasn’t disappeared for me. Everything I did to you still eats at me.”

Kurt lifts the triangle from the table. “I know, David. I wish it wouldn’t.” He sights his cue the way that Blaine showed him the last time they were here and hits the white cue ball into the center of the rack. He has no idea what he's doing, but the sound of the balls smashing apart helps his heart untwist just a little.

*

Once the pool game starts, the rest of the evening goes a lot better. Blaine rejoins them and teams up with Kurt against Dave (who still beats them). They explain to Dave the beauty of Real Housewives, and Dave explains to them the beauty of Breaking Bad. Kurt keeps an eye out for Sebastian, but within 15 minutes of the game starting, he leaves with the manther.

It's easier to laugh then, and to breathe, and to discuss the finer points of Pride and Prejudice, which Blaine recently read for English and Dave and Kurt read last year. Blaine thinks Mr. Darcy was quite dreamy in his mercurial, aloof moods, but that Wickham was a little more accessible with his flirtatious, easy demeanor, so he sympathized with Elizabeth Bennett's trouble choosing between the two.

"Even after you found out that Wickham is a player?" Dave says, pocketing the 9-ball.

"It took me a while to get over that. But I was glad that it meant that Elizabeth ended up with Mr. Darcy. I had a bigger crush on him than Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy is … noble." Blaine's eyes glaze a little on the last word, so it's no surprise that when he aims the white cue ball at the 6, it misses its object completely.

"I felt bad when Lydia married Wickham, though," Dave says. "Even if she was awful, she didn't deserve to have to spend the rest of her life with Wickham. He's going to cheat on her all the time." He sinks the 12.

"You're right, Dave," Kurt says as Blaine helps him line up. "Anyone deserves better than Wickham." Kurt gives Dave a meaningful look before taking his shot. Dave blushes and looks down at his hands.

"I think," Dave says after a moment, "this is the gayest conversation I've ever had."

*

"I love hanging out with Dave," Blaine says as they watch Dave drive away from the Scandals parking lot. He kicks his feet against the asphalt in a little tap dance.

"Me, too." Kurt offers Blaine his hand. "Care to join me for a promenade around the building?"

Blaine takes it. "It would be my pleasure, Mr. Darcy."

"I'm Mr. Darcy?"

"I'm young and reckless and foolish in the ways of love, and you’re older and noble and a patient teacher."

"I'm not sure whether to laugh or blush."

"Oh, you should blush. You're so handsome when you blush."

They start their stroll around the building. Kurt would like to walk farther – there's a park a few blocks away – but it's late at night and he wants to be able to hold Blaine's hand. So a walk around the gay bar it is.

"I'm sorry about getting testy with you earlier tonight," Kurt says.

"When?" Blaine says.

"About Sebastian."

Blaine shrugs. "He's not a good guy."

Kurt wants to agree. He wants to say he worries about Sebastian's influence on Blaine, that if Blaine hears often enough that he's just a sex object and a toy, he'll start to believe it, just like Blaine believes the things his parents say and don't say. But he doesn’t know how. So, instead, he says, "I guess you could call him a bit of a Wickham, maybe?"

"A bit sluttier than Wickham." Blaine looks at Kurt hesitantly. "Am I Elizabeth?"

"I don't know. Does Wickham charm you?"

"I – Mr. Wickham doesn't really care about anyone but himself. That makes some things a little easier for Elizabeth, I think."

Kurt nods for Blaine to continue.

"Mr. Wickham wants to play. But Mr. Darcy wants to love Elizabeth for who she is. I think Elizabeth knows that, even before he tells her. And I think – I think it frightens her, a little."

"Why?"

"Because – what if Mr. Darcy gets to know her better and finds out something he doesn't like? He might not love her anymore. There's not that risk with Wickham, since he never loved her in the first place."

Kurt’s heart rises into his throat and squeezes at his eyes. "But Mr. Darcy knows Elizabeth's character. He's never going to stop loving her. Even if there's little things he doesn't know about her yet – I don't think any of them could make him stop loving her."

"Well, I think that's what the story's about. Elizabeth coming to understand that."

Kurt stops and turns to Blaine. "Do you understand that, Blaine?"

"Most of the time," he says. "I just – I get scared sometimes. Nobody's ever loved me the way you do. And I know you meant it when you said you were never going to say goodbye to me, I know. But there's still this voice in my head sometimes that tells me you don't really know me yet, and it's all going to go away."

"Oh, sweetheart." Kurt’s eyes feel that squeeze again. He wants to ask whose voice it is – Blaine's mother's, or his father's, or Blaine's own. He doesn't. "I wish there was something I could do."

"You do everything already." Blaine kisses Kurt’s cheek. "Just … be patient with me?"

Kurt sniffles. "As long as I can keep defending your honor from that weaselly Mr. Wickham."

A small smile opens on Blaine's face. He squeezes Kurt's hand. "I rather like it when you do that, Mr. Darcy."

* * *

The next Thursday, when Dave comes over to Blaine's, the door opens before he even knocks. Kurt's looking at him, a conspiratorial look on his face, and Clementi's Sonatina in C Major, Op.36, No.3 is pouring out of the front room and onto the porch.

"Hey, Dave." Kurt waves him in, whispering. "I've been watching out the front window for you. Blaine's practicing piano in front of me for once. Be really, really quiet or he'll get up to say hi to you and I won't hear him play again for another couple weeks. Not the classical stuff, anyway."

Kurt and Clementi are both shocks, and it feels like a minute passes before Dave can speak, but Kurt doesn't give him any weird looks, so maybe it's not that long. "Hey," Dave says, finally, hanging his coat on a hook near the door. "I didn't know you'd be here."

Kurt shrugs. "My dad gave me the afternoon off from the shop.”

Dave follows Kurt to the entrance of the front room and tries to ignore the way his heart is going pitter-patter. They stand at opposite sides of the doorframe, listening to Blaine play. The song is almost over – Dave remembers from playing it back in middle school – but he closes his eyes and tries to get just as lost in it as if he had the full eight minutes of it to enjoy.

Blaine's not bad – a little bangy on some of the eighth notes and a little rushed on the sixteenths – but overall the song sounds clean and spritely, as it should. All Blaine really needs is a metronome and a lighter touch.

Kurt raises a finger to his lips when Blaine plays the closing notes, and Dave stands perfectly still, trying not to breathe. "I know you guys are standing there," Blaine says, not turning his head. "I heard Dave come in."

"Well, it was nice of you to keep playing." Kurt walks over to the piano bench and hugs Blaine from behind, laying a kiss at the back of his ear.

"But now I need to go find the music in Euclidian geometry." Blaine pulls the cover over the keys and stands to give Dave a greeting punch on the shoulder.

Dave nods at Blaine. "I didn't know you played. I thought the piano was just for decoration."

"Yeah." Blaine shrugs. "On and off since I was eight. I don't practice as much as I should – to be really good, I mean. Just enough to have fun with it, and for my piano teacher not to kill me. It annoys her that I want to play pop songs most of the time."

Dave thinks of telling Blaine that he used to play, too, but then they might ask him to play for them now. Even though it's a Steinway and tempting – it's complicated. He's not ready to touch a piano again yet, especially not when people are paying attention. He doesn't even know if his hands would be able to find the notes anymore.

*

In the kitchen, Kurt sits at the table mouthing his French homework silently to himself while Dave helps Blaine with his geometry at the bar. Blaine's doing a little better than he has been the past few times; he doesn't slam his book shut in frustration, and he even says, "Oh!" a couple times like a lightbulb has gone off in his head.

When Blaine becomes confident enough to work on his own, Dave goes to the refrigerator to get another Mountain Dew. Kurt catches his eye. (Well, okay, Kurt would catch his eye under pretty much any circumstance. Dave's felt Kurt there on the edge of his vision the whole time he's been working with Blaine, trying not to glance up every five seconds to catch that look of intense concentration that Kurt gets on his face when he's reading, because sometimes he sticks out his tongue just the slightest bit and – Yeah. It’s over-the-top sexy.)

But this time, Kurt is trying to catch his eye. He waggles a finger at Dave in a "come here" gesture, and when Dave walks over to the round table and pulls out a chair opposite Kurt, Kurt shakes his head and pats the chair next to him.

So Dave sits next to Kurt and gives a silent prayer of thanks that he thought to put deodorant on again after school today, because his apocrine glands have just churned into overdrive.

"He's right," Kurt says in a hushed undertone, nodding toward Blaine. "You do make math kind of poetic. I've just tried to help him memorize everything, but you make it make sense."

Dave shrugs and tries not to blush. Of course, he fails. He's a pink sweaty mess right now. He's hopeless. "No, it makes sense on its own. Teachers just don't explain it very well sometimes. But I think it's funny that when something makes sense, you guys call it poetic. Poetry doesn't usually make much sense to me."

"Jane Austen makes sense to you."

"Well, I watched the movie, too. That helped." Oh, god, he is making such a fool of himself.

"Looking at Matthew Macfadyen for two hours never hurt anyone." Kurt smiles, or smirks – Dave can't quite tell.  "But Blaine says the mini-series is better. I haven't seen it."

"Oh, you should. Colin Firth is …" Shit.

Kurt starts laughing – whether at Dave or with him, Dave's not sure. Still, Kurt's beautiful when he does it. His irises become the same piercing blue of the evening Arizona sky that Dave loved when he was little, and the corners of his eyes crinkle up in little ridges like the sand on the desert floor gathering and shifting in the wind.

"I read the book, too,” Dave says in meek defense. “The movies just … helped."

Kurt reaches across the space between them and lays his hand on the exposed skin of Dave's forearm. The hairs there stand on end. "I'm not laughing at you," Kurt says, and just as quickly the hand is gone, folded back in Kurt's lap. "I'm laughing at myself."

"What for?"

Kurt shrugs and shakes his head until his laughter subsides. "I just … I made a lot of wrong assumptions about you. That's all."

Dave looks down at his own hands. "I kind of wanted people to."

Kurt's smile grows smaller, his eyes dim. "That's okay," he says. "I don't let everyone know everything about me, either. Sometimes you have to hide a few things to stay safe. There's nothing wrong with that."

A pressure starts to build in Dave's eyebrows, the way it does when he wants to cry or smile or say something important, but can't. He clears his throat. "So, tell me a poem that makes sense," Dave says. "Other than Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss."

Kurt laughs again. Dave did something right. "Because the meaning of ham-ikka-schnim-ikka-schnam-ikka-schnopp is so self-evident," Kurt says.

Dave finds himself laughing, too. "There are pictures in Dr. Seuss. They make everything self-evident."

"Okay. Well here's one that you don't need pictures for." Kurt pulls himself up ramrod straight in his chair and tips his head to the side. "We never know how high we are/Till we are called to rise;/And then, if we are true to plan/Our statures touch the skies." Kurt smiles. "Emily Dickinson."

"I understood that."

"Of course you did. It's in plain English, unlike most of Shakespeare. Or Dr. Seuss."

Dave shakes his head in disbelief. "I like that."

"I thought you would." Kurt smiles earnestly. "Because you will, you know. Touch the skies." He lays his hands on the table almost as if he's about to reach for Dave's, but he doesn't – just lets them lay there, curled loosely next to each other.

* * *

None of the outfits that Kurt tries on Friday morning are working. He's aiming for something festive and Christmasy, but not too Christmasy, and nothing he chooses is working right. He wants to wear his green button down, but a red bow tie with it would just be obvious and tacky, and yellow isn’t right, and anyway, he doesn’t really want to wear a tie at all because he wants to have the shirt unbuttoned all the way to his navel during glee practice so that by the time they’re let out, Blaine will be so hungry for it he might let Kurt jerk him off in the car.

(The early nightfall this time of year has the distinct advantage of affording teenage lovers the cover of darkness well before dinnertime.)

Kurt opens his handkerchief drawer, hoping to find something there to complete his outfit. He smiles when he spots the plaid kerchief folded neatly there since May, when Dave returned the wedding cake topper. Kurt hasn’t worn it once – it’s poly-blend, after all – but he likes seeing it among his other kerchiefs, a mundane reminder that the world isn’t always as hopeless as it looks, and that people can change. That Dave has changed.

He thinks of the way that Dave is starting to smile at him more often now, looking less fearful, and Kurt finds himself smiling, too. He pulls the kerchief out of its spot in the back of the drawer. The feel of the fabric can hardly be called exquisite, and the drape definitely leaves something to be desired, but the overlapping weave of green and red interspersed with gold is perfect for the season. Kurt folds the kerchief so that the Boy Scouts emblem doesn’t show and sticks it into the back pocket of his jeans, turning his ass toward the mirror to see how it looks.

Pretty perfect, if he may say so himself.

*

Kurt and Blaine keep going back to Scandals to hang out with Dave.

Kurt likes that Blaine is comfortable dancing with him here, closer than he does at New Directions parties and much closer than he did at prom.

He likes that he can hold hands with Blaine and no one will blink an eye, except for the occasional queen or hag who leans in to coo, "Young love," before continuing on her way.

Kurt hopes that New York will be like this for them – most of it, anyway. (They'll pretend that the religious neighborhoods don't even exist, or maybe they'll bicycle through them provocatively on a rainbow-painted tandem in tight shorts and shoulder-revealing shirts.) He knows it won't be paradise, but it will be so much better than living in Lima, and so much better than being a kid who's just waiting to grow up.

To his own surprise, Kurt has also come to like PDA – at least when he and Blaine are the ones doing it. Kurt tries not to let it get too out of hand, but it’s nice when Blaine gets handsy and kiss-hungry the way he is right now, planting his lips up Kurt’s neck and behind his ear as Kurt grows hard under the table. Kurt would totally let himself get lost in it if it weren’t for Dave sitting across from them, very politely looking away and sipping his Mountain Dew with the concentration of a connoisseur.

Kurt pulls away from Blaine reluctantly. “We have company,” he whispers.

Blaine nuzzles Kurt’s ear. “Dave doesn’t mind. Do you, Dave?”

Dave looks at Blaine and looks at Kurt and blushes and shrugs. “It’s not as bad as the straight people I see making out in the hallway at school every day.”

Blaine laughs and pinches Kurt’s thigh. “See? We should make porn. Everyone would want to watch it.”

Kurt covers his face with one hand and pushes Blaine's half-empty beer bottle across the table toward Dave. “Okay, Blaine. I think you’ve had enough to drink for tonight.”

“Um, that's my first one, but if you say so.” He smiles and bats his eyes and kisses Kurt on the cheek. “I’ll go get myself something nonalcoholic to ingest. Either of you want anything?”

Kurt wants to say Just you, but instead he asks for a glass of water.

 

Kurt sips his virgin crantini slowly as Blaine walks away. The ice in his glass is cold, but his face just keeps getting hotter and hotter now that he’s alone with Dave and truly cognizant of the fact that he was just making out in front of him with Blaine. “Well, this is awkward,” he finally says as he drains the last of his glass.

“It’s okay,” Dave says. “It’s sweet, actually.”

Kurt dares a glance up. Dave is blushing a little, his eyelashes fluttering downward the way they always do when he gets bashful. “Sweet and embarrassing,” Kurt mumbles under his breath.

“You guys are cute together. It’s … nice.” Dave shifts in chair. “I like that you guys are comfortable around me."

Kurt's blush swells again. "Maybe a little too comfortable?"

Dave shakes his head, his eyelashes continuing to flutter. "You’re lucky, you know?”

Kurt looks at Dave sitting alone across the table – no one to hold hands with; no one to look at him with wonder and awe; no one to tell him that he’s perfect, and all they’ve ever wanted. He remembers what it was like, before he found Blaine – how sometimes he felt he had so much love to give that his heart would burst with it, but it didn’t matter, because there was no one who would accept it; and how the pain of holding it inside was worse than the ache that would eventually befall him when he tried to give it to the wrong people, to straight boys like Sam and Finn. “You’re right,” he says. “I am lucky.”

Dave takes a swig from Blaine's beer bottle. “Tell me what it’s like to be in love.”

Kurt grabs the bottle and pulls it back toward himself. “Maybe you’ve had a little too much to drink, too.”

Dave laughs. “That was my first sip all night! C'mon. Tell me. I want to know. I’ve never – Well. You know.”

“I don’t think it’s something I can tell you.”

“Fair enough.” Dave takes another sip of beer. “I just think … it must be nice to know somebody that well, and for them to know you.”

Kurt shrugs. There's so much he actually doesn't know about Blaine. Like the reason behind the ever-increasing amounts of hair gel, and the multitude of things Blaine won't talk about – like Sadie Hawkins and his brother. “I understand him some days better than others. It’s not why I love him. I mean, I think maybe it's because I love him that I understand as much as I do, if that makes sense."

Kurt’s heart is pounding just from talking about being in love. He feels strangely vulnerable. He’s never even talked to Rachel or Mercedes about the way he feels about Blaine – not this intimately, without giggles and jokes and stammering. Maybe he’d be willing to, but he can’t even imagine getting there. Within seconds of Blaine’s name coming up at any of their sleepovers, the girls always turn the conversation to “Blaine’s delectable little bubble-butt.”

But Dave doesn’t laugh. He just smiles earnestly, the blush starting to fade from his cheeks.

"I’m really glad you have that, Kurt," he says. “You deserve it after everything you’ve been through.”

Kurt tilts his head to the side and considers. “I don’t know that I deserve it. I mean, not that I don’t deserve it, either – but we don’t really earn love, do we?”

Dave laughs wryly. “I sure haven’t.”

Kurt feels a sudden flare of irritation in his chest. It’s the first time that Dave’s self-deprecation has ignited anything close to anger in Kurt, and it feels so sudden and overwhelming. “You need it as much as anybody, Dave,” he says, but the tone is dangerously close to insulting.

Dave looks down at his Mountain Dew for a moment. “I want it,” he finally says. “I really do.”

The annoyance flickers and fades as quickly as it came. It leaves Kurt empty and slightly ashamed. If it were Rachel he’d snapped at, he might reach across the table and touch her hand in apology. But it’s not Rachel. So instead he says, softly, “You’ll have it eventually. I know you will.”

*

Later that night, when Kurt and Blaine step out of the shower and Blaine reaches for his hair gel even though the next thing they're planning to do is sleep, Kurt feels bold. "Would you mind –" And then, suddenly, not so bold. He pulls his bottom lip into his mouth with his teeth.

Blaine leans against the sink. "Would I mind what?"

Kurt swallows. "Would you mind not putting anything in your hair?"

Blaine shrugs, flustered. "But that's what I always do."

Kurt steps closer, puts a hand on each of Blaine’s arms. "Blaine, I love that you’re my 1940s leading man. But sometimes I just – I want to see you."

Blaine rubs his hand over his hair. The water is still heavy on it, holding it tamely in place, except for those stubborn loose tendrils that always fight it at the base of his neck. "This is me."

"Not all of you."

Blaine looks down at the floor, shaking his head. “I feel naked without it. But … more than naked. It’s not – It’s hard to explain.”

"Hey. I wasn't trying to make you uncomfortable. I just wanted you to know –” Kurt rests a hand on Blaine's shoulder. “You've said you’re afraid that I won't love you anymore when I find out new things about you, but I want you to know that I still will." He tilts his head to the side and smiles. "I think you're pretty without any makeup on. I think you're funny when you get the punch line wrong. You know I'll stay here, when you let your walls come down."

 

Blaine leans into Kurt, burying his face into the side of Kurt's neck. "How do you know, though?"

"Know what?" Kurt murmurs against Blaine's scalp.

"That I'll be pretty without any makeup on?"

Kurt’s heart lunges into his throat. "Because I love you. Nothing you've ever done has ever made me love you less."

"Not even making out with Rachel?"

"Not even making out with Rachel."

"Not even the Gap Attack?"

"Nope."

"Not even when I got drunk that first time at Scandals and I … " Blaine doesn’t finish that one.

"No. Because it made me understand how scared you were of being seen, and being loved, and of mattering." Kurt sighs and kisses Blaine's temple. "And then I loved you even more. You're perfect to me, even when you don't feel like you're perfect."

Blaine blinks, brushing his eyelashes against Kurt's skin, then straightens up to look at him. "I don't think I'm ready yet," he says. "But I'll think about it."

Kurt smiles and squeezes Blaine's hand. "Do whatever you're comfortable with, okay? I wasn't trying to pressure you." And even though he could add the perfect quip – ‘But when it makes all your hair fall out by the time you’re 30, you’ll wish you had let up on it.’ – he doesn’t. Kurt smiles inwardly at his own restraint. Maybe he’s finally learning how to do this relationship thing.

Blaine kisses Kurt on the cheek. “You help me be braver, you know that?” He reaches for the hair gel and squeezes half as much as usual into the palm of his hand.

*

Blaine's hair, the next morning, is more like it was back when they were both at Dalton. It's fuller at the top, and almost loose enough that Kurt can imagine running his fingers through it without them getting caught in a web of dried gel. The tiniest ringlets are visible behind Blaine's ears when he shifts on the pillow.

Blaine's eyes open as Kurt slips back under the covers after a quick dash down to the Anderson kitchen to start the coffee. (A quick naked dash, since the parents are gone again – Kurt can’t even remember where this time.)

"Good morning, beautiful," Kurt scoots close to Blaine and runs his hand over the soft hairs that trail below Blaine’s belly. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Mmm, that's okay. I've been in and out. I got up earlier to pee." Blaine turns and presses his face against Kurt's neck, inhales deeply. "I love smelling you first thing in the morning."

Kurt smiles. "I feel like I should be self-conscious about that."

"You shouldn't. I love the way you smell."

"I love the way you everything."

"I love the way you fuck me." Blaine brushes his bare morning wood against Kurt's thigh.

"Didn't get enough of that last night, huh?"

"There's always room for more with you."

Kurt giggles and strokes Blaine's hair. It feels indulgent, reminding him of when he was little and would hide in his Aunt Mildred’s front closet just to have some uninterrupted time running his hands over her shearling coat. "While that's flattering, I was thinking –" He stops, suddenly aware of what he's doing with his hand, and removes it from Blaine's head. "Sorry. Is that okay that I'm touching your hair? I should have asked first, after last night."

"Actually, it's nice," Blaine says. "It feels good. But you know this isn't what my hair looks like naturally, right?"

"Yeah."

"Okay," Blaine says. "As long as we're clear. … So what were you about to say, before you interrupted yourself with my hair?"

Kurt blushes. "Oh. Um, I was thinking that maybe … I like being inside you, but I thought we could try something … different?"

Blaine raises an eyebrow. "Like … ?"

"Um, the opposite?"

"Oh." Blaine's eyes go as round as his perfect, pink mouth.

"If that's okay with you? I mean, not everything at once. We could try fingers first? Your fingers. If you want."

Blaine bites his bottom lip. "I'd like that, if you would."

"I would. I – I've tried it now. A few times. When I, um, think about fingering you."

Blaine rolls onto Kurt, bringing their erections together, and kisses him hard. They both smell like eight hours of sleep, but Kurt finds he likes it. There's something so elemental and Blaine about the taste flooding his mouth. He remembers the first time – the only time – he tried to initiate a kiss with Blaine in the morning, and how Blaine turned away in embarrassment, and the juxtaposition between that moment and this is enough to make his heart pound in his cock and for him to fall in love a little bit harder.

So he kisses Blaine back, kisses him needy and breathless, feels the heat thrum with increasing urgency at the base of his spine as the head of his cock drags against Blaine's foreskin. "Blaine." It's hard to get the syllable out; it's hardly a syllable, really, the way that Kurt pronounces it into Blaine's mouth – just a collision of consonants and vowels against Blaine's tongue.

Kurt wraps one leg around Blaine's thigh, teasing the back of Blaine's knee with his foot, then sliding it up, up, up to Blaine's ass, farther up to the small of his back. His other leg follows a mirrored path until both feet are resting lightly against Blaine's back, and then Kurt lets his thighs fall open a bit more, lays his hands on Blaine's hips and guides them so that Blaine's cock is nestled in the cleft of his ass, smooth skin against smooth skin.

Kurt gasps, closes his eyes and opens them again to see Blaine gazing wide-eyed at him. Kurt doesn't understand why this feels so good, why his hole flutters and clenches from the teasing touch of Blaine's cock the way his heart does from Blaine's soft, smitten look – but it does.

"Touch me," Kurt says.

Blaine rolls off of Kurt and reaches for the lube – still under the pillow where they left it last night – and Kurt's heart kathunks as he watches Blaine cover his fingers, rub them wet and slick and warm. "God, Kurt." Blaine's breathing is stilted, his voice rough with need. "You're so –"

Blaine's touch is light, barely there, just a hint of wet and want, but it's on Kurt's hole and it's everything, heat and desire, and it's sending sparks up Kurt's spine, wave after wave of electricity, and he tries to hold still but the current is too strong. It arches his back and flows from his mouth with a loud, shameless groan.

"Wow," Blaine whispers. He presses his fingertips more firmly to the edges of Kurt's pucker, glides them in small circles over it. "You're so beautiful, Kurt. It's pink like your lips, but the skin is even smoother – god, how can it be smoother? – and it's like an asterisk but … Oh my god, I'm babbling."

Kurt shakes his head as his brain grasps desperately for language. "No, it's not – it's not babbling. I like – love hearing you talk."

"You sure?"

Kurt inhales sharply as the need surges in his thighs. "Yeah. Tell me anything you want."

Blaine rubs a fingertip around Kurt's hole. The sparks skitter hot over Kurt’s skin and up through his throat, lighting a sigh of ecstasy.

Blaine kisses the inside of Kurt’s thigh. "I love the sounds you make. They’re so beautiful, and they make me so hard, and your skin's so soft and … and if it feels this good on the outside, I can hardly wait to see what it feels like on the inside."

Kurt sways his hips up and down, canting over the pads of Blaine's fingers again and again, letting the heat of Blaine's touch overtake his senses just a bit more with each glide, his hole becoming a little more lax with the rhythm. He hears himself begging, feels himself roll over onto his hands and knees, spreading his legs wider and pushing himself back as Blaine presses the tip of his finger into the gap, a sweet frictionless slide, does something that feels like the pleasant flicker of flame against Kurt's opening.

"Need you," Kurt murmurs, grabbing onto the headboard with his hands and then pushing back in one quick, desperate thrust over Blaine's finger until it's all the way in. He starts to rides it, smooth and perfect, as his muscle clenches deliriously. "Fuck."

Blaine drapes himself over Kurt's back, runs his free hand over the muscles of Kurt's chest and abdomen, rocks forward as Kurt rocks back. "Oh, god, you are –" Blaine bites the lobe of Kurt's ear. "So smooth. You feel like … like … fuck, I can't think of anything like this. You're amazing."

"More," Kurt sighs. "I want –" but he can't finish because Blaine is opening him wider, stretching him taut as he slides another finger inside with a slow, seductive drag.

"Fuck," Kurt barks out. He's uncouth and rough, feels almost animalistic in his pursuit of nothing but Blaine's touch and the spreading heat between his legs, his ego slowly being stripped away until all that's left of him is desire. "You feel so good, Blaine. So much better than – oh god – fuck – Blaine."

There's a burst of light behind Kurt's eyes. Not an orgasm, but something close –Kurt feels delirious, crazed, overwhelmed by the need to keep moving, keep squeezing, keep getting opened and fucked by Blaine's fingers, by Blaine.

 

Blaine is saying something, something beautiful and hot and inciting, and Kurt is panting, feels the sweat surfacing in the folds of his thighs and knees, under his arms and down his neck and the small of his back. He feels Blaine's tongue licking up his spine, Blaine's teeth biting down on the flesh just below his shoulder blade, Blaine's lips whispering fuck me against his skin.

So Kurt does. He fucks down on Blaine's fingers over and over, his own fingers digging into the headboard and his arms and thighs propelling him toward Blaine. Every muscle in his body sings for Blaine; every part of him is filled with Blaine and still wants more.

He must say more, or maybe Blaine just knows, because with the next slide there is a sudden, unmistakable, euphoric stretch and the light returns, white and blinding, and Kurt is shuddering, shaking, and it's definitely an orgasm this time, but different from any that Kurt has ever felt – a strange, ecstatic unfurling deep inside him.

And it doesn't stop. It doesn't stop as Blaine fucks his fingers deeper into Kurt, stretching him even wider, giving him more to clamp down on. It doesn't stop as Blaine reaches his other hand around Kurt and curls it around his cock, stroking it feather-light as Kurt begins to spill onto the sheets. It keeps going past the point that Kurt's balls are spent and his ass is sore from the clenching, Blaine carrying him through it, kissing and whispering against Kurt’s skin.

Kurt collapses onto the bed. Blaine's lips are on his arm, his neck, the back of his ear. He turns toward Blaine, kisses him with as much gratitude as his exhausted body can express.

"Jesus, that's the hottest thing I've ever seen," Blaine moans, working his cock against Kurt's hip.

"And you've watched a lot of porn, so that's saying something."

Blaine starts a laugh that ends as a moan. "Porn has nothing on you, Kurt. I am so –" Blaine slips his hand between them and wipes Kurt's come onto his own cock, shuddering as he presses it back against Kurt's hip. "So turned on by you."

A confession made evident in the next moment, when that look of pleasured struggle grips Blaine’s face and he comes hot against Kurt's stomach.

They're too wasted to do anything more than whisper soft praises into each other's ears and fall asleep for another hour.

Later, over toast with jam, and scrambled eggs with cheese, and refried beans from a can (they worked up an appetite, okay?), Blaine asks blushingly, "Was that as intense for you as I think it was?"

Kurt nods, stroking Blaine's ankle under the table with his foot. "The brochures my dad got for me didn't really explain how good it feels, or I would have tried it a lot sooner."

Blaine spits the piece of toast that was in his mouth across the table, and Kurt kisses him wetly on the cheek.

* * *

The next week, on a snow day that shuts down the school but doesn't keep the two boys apart, Kurt rides Blaine's cock for the first time. Blaine's not sure what gets him off more: the feel of Kurt around him, or the unrestrained joy on Kurt's face.

He thinks it's probably the latter.

* * *

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave bites his lower lip and sends a text.

* * *

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

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

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

Dave : I pulled over.

Kurt: What exactly does a gagging hyena sound like?

Dave: Bad.

Kurt: Is the engine smoking?

Dave: No.

Kurt: Smell anything funny?

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

Kurt: Where are you?

Dave: Three blocks from your house.

Kurt: Can you drive here?

Dave: Probably?

Kurt: I'll look at it.

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

* * *

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

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

Coming here was a very, very bad idea.

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you get your oil changed recently?"

Dave nods. "This weekend. Why?"

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

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

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

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

He is totally, totally fucked.

“Okay, I have a plan,” Kurt says.

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

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

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

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

"I usually have to make an appointment."

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

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

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

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

"That's how my dad likes it."

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

Dave nods.

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

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

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

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

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

Dave's cock deflates almost instantly.

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

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

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

"But Burt said –"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurt smirks. "That your clothes are baggy?"

"No. That I iron them."

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

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

"But you, on the other hand?"

Dave shrugs. "It's relaxing."

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

"Me, too."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I deserved shutting up."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurt’s smile lights the whole block.

* * *

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

"It smells like oatmeal cookies in here."

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

"No time," his dad sighs.

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's complicated."

"Try me."

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

"Like, no longer a homicidal maniac?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

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

"Yeah."

"How do you know?"

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

“Yeah.”

“And you refused to eat dinner with me?”

Kurt nods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s eating him up?”

Kurt nods against his dad’s shoulder.

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

Kurt nods again.

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

"What do you mean?"

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

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

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

“So he’s – what? He’s out now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurt nods. “Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So which is this?"

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

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

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

Kurt smiles bittersweetly. “I remember.”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Dave and Blaine both nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Text

Dave plans a four-pronged campaign to get over Kurt. The strategies are: watching online porn of hairy men fucking each other; masturbating a lot without thinking about Kurt or Kurt-and-Blaine; being more open to getting hit on by guys other than Sebastian at Scandals; and paying more attention to his everyday male surroundings.

The last strategy calls for a bit of elaboration, because it’s not like Dave doesn’t notice a hot guy when he sees one. He’s a horny teenage boy; of course he does. But whenever he’s in public or a place where it’s just not safe to feel things, he’s gotten pretty good at shutting off the sexual part of his brain if it starts to yammer too much.

It’s a skill that makes things like changing clothes in locker rooms full of sweaty, muscle-bound teenage boys a lot easier. But it also means that he’s probably missing out on a lot of beauty that he might be able to see if he weren’t so damn scared.

Dave officially launches the campaign the day after Kurt rescues his car (it just takes a quick Google search for “bear porn”), but it’s not until Monday that the fourth strategy kicks in. And, frankly, Dave’s kind of shocked to find out how many sexually attractive guys his age there are in Lima, and how many of them he likes to think about fucking.

It starts in the morning, when Dave stops with his dad at the drive-thru java place on the way to his dad’s work. Dave swears the dreadlocked barista winks at him when his dad is looking the other way – and even if he doesn’t, the guy is hot, with strikingly white teeth and broad hands that would look equally at home wrapped around a football or a cock.

And then there’s Ian, the guy who’s been sitting in front of Dave during physics since the teacher switched up their seating assignments last week. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s captivating to look at, with a perfect, long neck and these fine blonde hairs at the nape that glow in the afternoon sunlight. His skin is flawless, unblemished except for two tiny freckles about a finger’s width apart above the collar of his shirt, and if Dave leans forward in his chair just right, he can catch an intoxicating whiff of Ian’s musk-and-eucalyptus body wash.

Dave spends most of class thinking about what it would feel like to put his lips on Ian’s two freckles and his hands all over his body, and what Ian would sound like on the verge of coming.

In German class, there’s Jürgen. Jürgen’s not his real name – it’s Greg, but Dave has a hard time remembering that because they’re only allowed to use their German names in the classroom. They get paired up for conversation practice and Jürgen keeps glancing down at Dave’s chest when they talk, and honestly, Dave can’t tell if Jürgen’s checking him out or just socially awkward, but he lets himself wonder what it might be like if it were the former. Dave doesn’t particularly like Jürgen – he’s a little too quiet and not very assertive and he doesn’t even make an effort to pronounce “sp” or “ch” correctly – but he has long eyelashes and a nice ass when he bends over, and he’s exactly Dave’s height, which would be convenient for some things. So when they’re done with their conversation practice and go back to their own desks to work on the first subjunctive verb tense, Dave decides to fantasize a little about Jürgen having a completely different personality and a gorgeous hard-on.

On the way home from school, Dave goes by the Circle K for chewing gum and a 32-ounce Mountain Dew. He stops here a lot, a quick in-and-out, barely looking up as he thrusts money at the cashier and dashes. But today as he’s filling his drink at the fountain, he notices one of the clerks hauling a huge bag of coffee beans over his shoulder and emptying it into the grinder. Dave’s seen this guy at school, but he’s never really let himself acknowledge the slim hips and strong arms and cinnamon skin that probably tastes fresher than water.

Dave doesn’t say hi, and he doesn’t stare, and he doesn’t linger around the fountain longer than he normally would.

But when he gets home, he goes up to his room and shuts the door and strips off his clothes. He closes his eyes when he lays back on the bed and lets himself picture all the different bodies he’s noticed today, imagines the different textures of hair in his fingers, the feel of teeth and tongue around his nipples, the velvet-rough glide of skin against skin. He thinks about Ian’s freckles, and Jürgen’s ass, and the barista’s hands, and the skin and arms of the Circle K clerk.

He imagines sucking their cocks, cut and uncut, the blessed weight on his tongue, the press against the roof of his mouth, the delicious thrust against his throat. He groans and he imagines hearing them groan and he groans again, wishing he could taste them – their skin and their salt and their exquisite bitterness.

He imagines pressing his tongue into their holes, setting their nerves on fire, undoing them slowly but surely. He presses a finger inside himself and pretends it's inside them, unlocking them, and then another finger, and they’re begging him and thanking him Oh god yes Dave fuck me, you’re so good Dave, fuck me, I need it, I need you.

So he does. He sinks inside them, feels them slowly stretch and take him, and they’re so slick and tight and good, and they wrap their thighs around his waist to pull him closer, bring him in deeper until he’s in as far as he can go. He can see them so clearly: their eyes and their smiles and the sweat on their brows. Ian’s pale skin is ruddy from exertion; and the barista winks and laughs for how good it feels; and the Circle K clerk closes his eyes and sighs with satisfaction; and Jürgen stares at Dave’s chest and works his teeth over his bottom lip until Dave says, Go ahead, you can lick it. I know you want to.

He fucks them slow and sweet at first, kisses them on the mouths and cheeks, brushes their hair away when it falls into their eyes. They let out little moans of pleasure, stroke their hands down his back, rock their hips forward to meet each of his patient thrusts.

And then, slowly but surely, the tempo starts to change. Their rocking becomes incrementally faster, their bodies more demanding, and oh yes Dave, like that Dave, fuck me like that and so he does, working in and out of them, faster and faster as they urge him on, begging for more, oh so good Dave yes you’re so good and god he’s so close, but he holds back, can’t let himself come just yet, not when they’re so hungry and they need him.

So he holds back and ignores his body and fucks and fucks, his hips thrusting out a euphoric beat as they ride him fast and needy, crying out his name over and over, oh yes god Dave yes yes I’m gonna come, you’re making me come, Dave, except —

It’s not them anymore.

It’s Kurt, his neck and face flushed, his eyes wide and tender. He grabs a clutch of Dave’s hair and kisses him hard, and his ass clenches so tight that Dave thinks he might die – but he doesn’t, because Kurt is whispering I’ve got you, David, into his ear.

And with that, they both start to come.

Dave lies in bed for a long time afterward, on a ledge between ecstasy and heartbreak, not sure which way he's going to tip until he finally falls.

* * *

Dave rings the doorbell just as Blaine has a revelation about last week’s geometry quiz. He bounces all the way to the front door, swinging it open with an excited, “Remember that thing we were talking about with the triangles and the circles and the ratios and stuff? I think I finally get it! It’s like –” And then he looks at Dave’s face, and he falls quiet.

It’s not that Dave looks particularly bad. He often has an air of sadness about him, but today it’s more. His shoulders are slumped, and he’s pale, and his frown is more frowny than usual. “Hey,” he says gruffly.

“Um, are you okay?” Blaine waves him in.

Dave shrugs as he steps inside. “Tired, I guess.”

“Flu’s going around.”

Dave shakes his head. “No, it’s not the flu. I got the shot.” He drops his backpack despondently to the floor. “Hard couple days, is all.”

Blaine closes the door. “What happened?”

“Nothing, really.” Dave shrugs again and starts slipping his coat off. Blaine helps him with it. Dave kind of looks like he could use all the help he can get.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Blaine asks as he hangs up Dave’s coat.

Dave shakes his head. “Not really.”

Sometimes, when Kurt gets like this, he just wants to be left alone for a while. It’s not something that Blaine understands, but it’s an idea he’s gotten used to. So he asks, “Do you want to be alone? I was looking forward to hanging out with you this afternoon, but if that’s what you need –”

Dave shakes his head again. “No. I definitely want to be here. I’ll just stew if I go home. Maybe – maybe if I just have some caffeine and you tell me about your day – I think that’ll help.” He sighs. “Sorry for being such a downer.”

“Oh, buddy,” Blaine says, using the endearment that Cooper used to save for Blaine’s worst days. He rubs Dave’s arm paternally. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about. I just want to help if I can.”

Two Mountain Dews seem to help, as does Blaine telling Dave all about the synchronized swimming routine the glee club is practicing for Mr. Schuester’s proposal to Miss Pillsbury, and Dave is finally smiling the smallest bit.

“But I still don’t get how you guys are going to be able sing and swim at the same time,” Dave says, leaning against the kitchen counter.

“Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?” Blaine claps his hands together happily. He loves the complexity of the whole thing. When he proposes to Kurt one day, he wants it to be even more elaborate. Like, maybe a flash mob with 4,000 people in Time Square.

Dave’s smile grows bigger. “You’re funny.”

Blaine considers. “As in ‘ha-ha’ funny, or funny-looking?”

“As in … cute.” Dave blushes pleasantly; it’s nice to see some of the color coming back to his face. “Not hitting-on-you cute. But, like, puppy-dog cute.”

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment? I like puppy dogs.”

“It is.”

Settling down at the kitchen bar and starting on Blaine’s geometry seems to cheer Dave up a little further. Still, he’s not as energetic as he usually gets when he talks about foci and a2 and b2 and all that stuff. So Blaine pretends to understand it a little more than he actually does, in hopes that it will make Dave feel good.

It doesn’t work the way Blaine expects it to. “Okay, then,” Dave says with a smirk, pointing to an ellipse in Blaine’s textbook. “Since you got all that so easily, you should be able to show me where the foci are.”

Blaine stares at the ellipse for a moment, then starts scratching out figures in his notebook so it looks like he has some vague idea of what he’s supposed to be doing. He starts with a2 - b2  = c2, and he’s pretty sure it’s the right formula – only he has no idea what numbers to plug in.

He throws the pencil down in surrender, and Dave laughs.

“You’re laughing at my failure to do a math problem? What a tutor you are.”

“No,” Dave says. “I’m laughing because you were faking it. Why would you even do that?”

Blaine shrugs. “I don’t know. I just wanted to make your day easier.”

“Well, don’t. Or at least, not this way. One of the things I like about you is that I don’t have to pretend I’m somebody else with you. So maybe do the same for me?”

Blaine looks at Dave a moment, startled. “You like me?”

Dave laughs, flustered. “Well, not like that.”

“No, but as a friend. You like me as a friend?”

“Um, I’ve been coming to your house two times a week for the last couple months and hanging out with you at Scandals. I think if I didn’t like you I would, you know, stop.”

“Huh.”

“What do you mean, ‘huh’?”

“I don’t know. I guess maybe I thought that the only reason you hung out with me was because you don’t have a whole lot of gay teenagers to choose from. You know, like you keep making out with Sebastian because you think he’s the only guy who will –”

“Oh my god. Do not compare yourself to Sebastian. That’s just –” Dave shudders. “Gross. Also, I do not keep making out with him. I haven’t made out with him in, like, a month.”

Blaine raises his hands in surrender. “Okay. That’s not what he told me, but –”

“You asked him about that?”

“No! He called me the other day to talk about glee club stuff, you know, Warbler-to-Warbler, and it just … I don’t know. It came up somehow.”

Dave huffs. “Okay, well, first of all, the next time he accidentally-on-purpose tries to tell you anything about him and me, hang up on him. And second of all, why are you even taking his calls? You don’t like him, and Kurt sure doesn’t want you talking to him.”

“Kurt doesn’t want you making out with him, either, but you still do it.”

“It’s not any of Kurt’s business who I make out with.” The venom in Dave’s voice could kill a snake. Blaine hasn’t heard him that angry in almost a year – and maybe that should scare Blaine at least a little but, but it doesn’t. It just makes him incredibly sad.

“Um, are you mad at me?”

Dave shakes his head sullenly. “No,” he sighs, rubbing the heels of his hands against his forehead. “Or, well, yes.” He shakes his head. “But not really.” And finally, “Well, maybe a little. I’m just … I get lonely, okay? So I end up doing stupid things with Sebastian. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to talk about it with him like it’s this week’s episode of – I don’t know, some reality show that you and Kurt watch together.” He sinks his chin dejectedly against the palm of his hand.

“I’m sorry,” Blaine says. “You’re right. I should have told Sebastian to go stuff it.”

Dave smiles meekly. “That’s right. You knew how to stand up to me when I was being an asshole. You can stand up to him, too.”

Blaine smiles, because Dave’s smiling, and that’s all he really wants to see. “Okay. Let’s make a deal then. I stop taking Sebastian’s calls, and you stop making out with him.”

“How fair is that? You have, like, a hundred million people to talk to on the phone. I don’t exactly have a hundred million people to make out with.”

“Ha. I’ve seen plenty of guys checking you out at Scandals.”

“Really?” Dave blushes again. He really does look nice with a little color on his cheeks; Blaine should make him blush all the time at Scandals, and then even more guys will take notice.

Blaine nods. “Really.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Blaine shrugs. Sometimes he hasn’t said anything because the guy looks too old; and sometimes it’s because the guy gives off the wrong vibe, all entitled and predatory like Sebastian; and sometimes it’s because Blaine is having too much fun, and he doesn’t feel like losing his friend to the dance floor – which Blaine suddenly realizes is terribly selfish, and not the way a true bro should act. “I don’t know,” he says. “But I will from now on, okay? As long as it keeps you from messing around with Sebastian.”

“Okay,” Dave says. “As long as you stop talking to Sebastian.”

They shake on it.

Blaine gets up to grab Dave another Mountain Dew from the refrigerator. “I wish you didn’t feel lonely, though. I know it’s not the same as having someone to make out with, but as a friend? I want to be there when you need somebody to lean on.” As soon as he says it, the old Bill Withers tune starts running through his head. When Blaine first heard it at the age of seven, he immediately fell in love with it; it was the first time a grown-up song had described exactly the kind of friend he wanted to be. He winks. “Just call on me.”

“Like the song?”

Blaine smiles. “Like the song.”

Blaine tosses the soda can through the air and Dave catches it with impeccable form, setting it on the counter to let the carbonation settle. Dave gazes at it thoughtfully before speaking. “Okay. So – does this mean we’re friends?”

Blaine feels a warm buzz in his heart. “I’m pretty sure it does.”

Dave keeps staring at his soda can. “Because sometimes I feel like maybe you just have, like, temporary amnesia or something, and one day you’re going to wake up and remember that you used to hate me.”

Blaine walks around the counter to sit on the barstool next to Dave’s. “No. I remember everything. It’s just – even when I didn’t like you, even when I was angry at you, I didn’t hate you.” He remembers the first time he met Dave, and how upsetting it was – not so much from the way that Dave shoved him; even then Blaine felt physically safe, because he had learned how to throw punches since his last fight, and because Kurt was there and Dave seemed afraid of him in a way that he wasn’t of Blaine. No, the thing that really freaked Blaine out was that Dave was suffering so obviously, and Kurt was, too, and Blaine failed to do a damn thing about it.

“Why not?” says Dave. “I kind of hated you.”

It hurts to hear it, even though it was obvious from the beginning. So he asks a potentially dangerous question: “Why?”

Dave pops the can open; air hisses out angrily. “You were, like, so earnest. It just seemed too easy for you, to stand there and be like, ‘hey, I’m gay, let’s all be gay together,’ and I just – I couldn’t be. I didn’t know how. Like, for me to stand in front of a stranger and say that – it would be like committing harikari. And you just made it look so painless.

“Oh, Dave.” Blaine reaches out to touch Dave’s shoulder, because he doesn’t know what else to do.

Dave looks up. “I just wanted things to be as easy for me as they were for you.”

Blaine wonders, in the moment, if he should tell Dave exactly how not easy coming out was for him. But he’s never even told Kurt all of it, so all he says is, “They’re not, you know. Easy for me.”

Dave nods. “I figured that out eventually.”

“Yeah? How?”

“Um, right about the time you shoved me back.”

“Huh.” Blaine scratches the back of his neck. “Because I was angry? I mean, is that how you knew?”

Dave shrugs. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I was angry because just breathing sometimes felt hard, so maybe – I guess I figured that might be why you were angry, too. Because things weren’t as easy as you made them look.” He takes a sip of his soda. “I guess anger was the only language I really understood.”

Blaine knows a lot more about that language than most people could guess. He’s wondered, sometimes, if a few things in his life had been different – a twist this way, a turn that way – if he might have ended up a lot like David Karofsky.

Blaine gets up off his chair. “Can I hug you, Dave?”

Dave shrugs. “Um, yes?”

It’s a little awkward at first – not easy the way it is when Blaine’s all bubbly from the energy at Scandals. But after a few breaths, they both relax into it, and Blaine starts to feel the soft glow of Dave’s warmth in his chest and bones. It’s like some long-neglected wound deep inside him is starting to heal.

* * *

Kurt is loose and happy from laughter and the sugar in his mocktails until Sebastian pulls up a chair at their table uninvited, winks cursorily at Dave, leans into Blaine’s ear, and says loud enough for everyone to hear, "Is it hot in here or is it just you?"

Blaine’s a little tipsy, but even so he has the wherewithal to look over at Kurt with a Help me Mr. Darcy look.

So Kurt does. He stands up, grabs Sebastian’s hand, and drags him to the dance floor. He has no plan. He just needs to create some distance between Sebastian and the two most gullible gay guys this side of the Ohio River.

He spins around. Sebastian's eyes are wide, the smirk on his face shifting into … a smile? "You're kind of hot when you're possessive, you know that, Princess?" He puts a hand on Kurt's hip and starts to dance. Kurt goes with it. It will give him time to think. Sebastian leans into Kurt's ear and stage-whispers, "I don't usually approve of your effete sense of style, but your ass actually looks pretty delectable in those pants."

Kurt cocks his head in disdain.

"You know what else would look good on you?” Sebastian adds. “Me."

Kurt runs on instinct refined through years of battle. "Mmmm," he hums, lifting his eyebrow alluringly (he feels a bit bad about using a look he's not sure existed before he knew Blaine) and lowering his voice. Sebastian presses in – much too close, really; Kurt thinks he feels the shadow of Sebastian's cock against his hip. Kurt raises his index finger and drags it down Sebastian's chest. "I can think of something that would look good on you, too," he says, turning his voice into dark chocolate and silk.

"What's that?" Sebastian says, that cocky, overconfident smile spreading over his face like sure poison.

"A pound of honey." Kurt rocks his hips and lets Sebastian drag his hands down over his ass, enjoys the horny gloating on Sebastian's face.

Kurt leans slowly in, unfolds his breath seductively against Sebastian's ear as Sebastian pushes up the hem of Kurt's sweater and starts to fondle the plaid kerchief in his back pocket. He whispers, slow and sultry like molasses, "And a colony of fire ants.”

If it were anyone else, Kurt would be ashamed at the thrill Sebastian's injured look sends through him. As it is, Kurt just turns and struts away, back to Blaine and Dave – who, good boys, have already removed Sebastian's fourth chair from their table – and pulls his chair closer to his sweetheart.

And then the battle-induced rush of adrenaline stops, and Kurt's skin suddenly goes cold. How the hell is he going to explain that?

"What exactly was that?" Blaine says. It's hard to tell if Blaine's more confused or – something else.

"I was just trying to get him away from you," Kurt says sheepishly, "and then I realized he thought I was hitting on him, so I just – went with it. Decided to puff him up a bit before bringing him down. You know, so the fall would be that much harder."

Dave snorts a little beer out his nose.

"I'm sorry," Kurt whispers into Blaine's scalp. Dave apparently takes the lowered tone as a signal for privacy and excuses himself for a round of pool. "That really wasn't appropriate. Not the way Mr. Darcy would have handled things. You must have thought – "

Blaine puts his open palm against Kurt's chest. "Actually, I thought it was hot."

"Seriously?"

Blaine nods slowly. "Um, yeah." Blaine's voice is low and rattled, sending a shiver down Kurt's spine and into his – yeah.

Kurt nestles his lips against Blaine's cheek. "How hot?"

Blaine turns into Kurt's ear, his breath warm as a moan. "Hot enough that I want you to take me home right now and fuck me three different ways."

So that's what Kurt does. They say goodbye to Dave (and Kurt feels kind of bad about that because it’s been a week since he’s spent time with Dave, but at the same time he's horny as hell and he can't have everything at once, now, can he?) and they drive to Blaine's blessedly empty house while Blaine talks excitedly about Kurt fucking Sebastian up against the wall until Sebastian doesn't want anybody else, about Kurt and Taylor Lautner and how Taylor Lautner would look so happy choking on Kurt's dick, about Kurt laying out Chris Coy – no, Braxton Miller – or maybe Zachary Quinto – or wait, how about all three? – and showing them the meaning of sex.

He keeps talking up the stairs and into the bedroom – Leonardo DiCaprio! Donald Glover! Jed Lowrie! Alex Rios! – and Kurt lays him on the bed and fucks his mouth and his thighs and his ass until they both collapse, gulping down air that’s heavy with the sweet scent of sweat and come, and they really should stop now, catch their breath and sleep, but then Blaine starts talking about Kurt riding Matt Cassel (Kurt's not even sure who that is, but he gathers he's a football player, broad-shouldered and muscular and sweaty) and it's dirty – it's so, so dirty – Kurt should be thinking about monogamy and sweet tender lovemaking but there's this surge pressing against him, and he can't hold it back.

The dam bursts open. Kurt is alive and wanted and deliciously dirty, and if he weren't so delirious at the discovery, he'd be a little sad that he's spent so much – too much – of his life trying to be pure and chaste and irreproachable, to hide his desire, to not offend other boys with the impertinence of his looks or his touch.

So Kurt pushes. He opens Blaine's mouth with his lips, draws his tongue along Blaine's palate in a way that makes Blaine shiver and grow hard. Kurt tips Blaine back against the pillows, hovers over Blaine on all fours. "I want you to tell me. More. About what you want."

He kisses Blaine hungrily, his hands wrapped in Blaine's hair, and Blaine moans and he's hard again, just the way Kurt wants him.

"Oh, fuck, Blaine. Show me what you want him to do to me. Show me what you want to see."

Blaine goes at Kurt's body like it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. He flips Kurt onto his back, gazing at his nipples like they hold the secret of living, then sweeping his mouth everywhere – from chest to navel to the soft skin behind Kurt's knees. He licks Kurt's hole and his cock in quick pulses, in long, languid strokes, sucks on them and teases them with his fingers.

Kurt raises his thigh and Blaine rubs his cock against the back of it. "You feel so good, Kurt. Everything about you is so good. You could make the whole world come."

"Tell me," says Kurt.

"I want you to take him inside you and use him. Kurt, just to be used by you – anyone would be lucky. I'd watch and everything would feel so good and it wouldn't matter if I got to fuck you or be fucked by you or if I got to come. I just want to see you. Everything about you, Kurt, everything."

Kurt grabs Blaine's shoulders and pulls him down, lilting their lips and tongues together, canting his hips up so Blaine can slip his fingers inside, so Kurt can fuck them, make Blaine his. Hot, gorgeous, gentlemanly Blaine, who says such dirty things and makes them sound like sonnets, who takes Kurt’s lust and transforms it into something divine.

And then it's too much to keep kissing, Kurt needs something more, he needs to throw his head back and moan IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou over and over as Blaine sucks on his neck and teases another finger in and Kurt spreads himself impossibly wider and says, "Show me. Show me. Show me how you want me to fuck him."

Blaine hesitantly pulls his fingers out as he rolls onto his back. "Ride me," he whispers. "As slow or as fast as you want. Use me."

Kurt shuffles quickly for the condoms and lube and makes quick work of it before he is above Blaine, slowly lowering, pausing, lowering, pausing over Blaine's cock, incremental and prolonged pleasure.

"Oh, fuck, Blaine," Kurt says, and what he means is I love you.

Kurt can tell that Blaine is trying to hold back, to draw things out, to do everything and anything for him. But Kurt is already so close to the edge, Blaine's cock inside him as warm as a heartbeat, and he can't – he won't – stop himself from bucking and shuddering and chanting Blaine's name. His pale skin has turned pink all over, damp with the sweat of exhilaration, and then he is clenching, clenching so hard and demanding, "Come – come, Blaine," and that is the last straw.

They arch and still violently, all sound and air and sight dropping away, feeling nothing but the forcefulness of pouring themselves out to each other, the way their heads and hearts go weak with it.

Kurt curls around Blaine, avoiding the wet spot on his stomach. He breathes into Blaine's neck, rapid and deep, his chest heaving at first, then slowing to a gentle rise and ebb. "So much," Kurt mutters. "So much." He’s on the edge of sleep immediately. He’s wrung out, emptied of things he didn't even know were inside him. They should clean up. They really ought to clean up. But it's nicer just to lie there, weak and lightheaded.

Blaine turns to kiss Kurt's forehead, and Kurt stirs. "You make me so happy," Kurt mutters, though still not fully awake.

"I'm so glad," Blaine says. "I'm so glad."

* * *

At little after 5 a.m., Kurt wakes up with a start. Blaine has been watching him, blushing and chewing on his lip, going over the events of last night and wondering what he should say about them, how he should say it.

They obviously need to talk.

"Fuck!" Kurt says. "What's today?"

"Um, Saturday.

Kurt hops out of bed and scrambles for his clothes, which are – oops – wrinkled in a pile on the floor.

"Kurt, what's going on?"

"I wasn't –" Kurt starts putting on his shirt before he has his undershirt on. Blaine's never seen him in this much of a frenzy. "I wasn't supposed to fall asleep here last night. Carole's book group is coming over and I promised to make brunch."

Blaine chews his lip. "Okay, so … What, they're coming at 10?"

Kurt nods, peeling off his shirt to put his undershirt on. "10:30."

"So you have five hours. You can definitely make an impressive meal in under five hours, Kurt. I've seen you do it before."

Kurt drops onto the bed to pull his pants up. "But her book group includes campaign donors."

"Didn't your dad already win?"

"The campaign never ends."

Blaine throws back the covers and swings his legs over the side of the bed. "I'll come over and help you."

"No," Kurt says abruptly. "I mean – I'm kind of freaking out, and you know how I treat my kitchen helpers when I'm freaking out."

"Um, yeah. You kind of turn into Gordon Ramsay."

Kurt ties his scarf on over his undershirt and leans over to kiss Blaine on the forehead. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I really am. I meant to tell you last night, but I got a little … distracted."

"Yeah, about that." Blaine scratches the back of his neck. "Maybe we should talk."

"Sure," Kurt says, but he's turning away toward the door, a whirlwind of Kurtness, his shirt wadded up in his hand. "We'll talk about it later."

Blaine watches the door swing shut in Kurt's wake. "That would be great."

*

They don't end up talking about it – not exactly. Blaine tries to bring it up a few times when they're not in the middle of making out, but Kurt always manages to change the subject to something else.

It comes up a lot when they're messing around, though. "Tell me," Kurt says, and Blaine does – not everything, but some of it – the actors and the sports stars and the singers he wants to see Kurt fuck, wants to see fall and worship at Kurt's feet.

They come hard and fast and again and again, and it feels so good, disappearing into Kurt like that, imagining all the things that Kurt could do.

It feels good, but –

They should probably talk.

And Blaine’s sure they will one day, when Kurt stops being so distracting and Blaine can figure out the words to explain it.

* * *

The next time Dave goes to Scandals, it’s on a Wednesday night without Kurt and Blaine. His campaign to get over Kurt hasn’t had the best results so far, but he’s going to keep trying. In 1942 when the Philippines fell into the hands of the Japanese, General MacArthur could have given up all hope for the Pacific front. But he persisted and overcame.

(It will take Dave a couple of days to realize that World War II is a terrible, terrible metaphor for this, and replace it with the comeback that the Detroit Lions made from a 24-point deficit in last October’s game against the Cowboys.)

So he goes and plays pool with the guys he used to play with all the time, back when he first started coming to Scandals. Some guys that Dave doesn't recognize are at the next table, and they all start talking.

And pretty soon Dave is no longer playing pool. He's standing in the corner next to this sweet, bashful member of the Bluffton University football team; and, yes, Bluffton is only Division III – but its running back has a Division I body.

They talk excitedly about the NFL playoffs for a while, and Dave is thinking he could definitely make out and maybe more with this charming Jerry Friesen. But after Dave finishes listing all the statistical support for why he thinks the Ravens could beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, and Jerry finishes enthusiastically agreeing, an awkward lull strikes the conversation.

Dave's mind wanders and he fingers the cell phone in his pocket, itching to text Blaine and ask what he and Kurt are up to.

The lull only lasts a minute. Dave reminds himself that he came here to get a life beyond Kurt, so he asks Jerry about his school and his life and Dave has never asked anyone so many questions before, or acted so interested in the answers, and it's sort of exhausting; but every time he's ready to give up he just thinks "What would Blaine do?" and it makes it easier to be the kind of guy that guys like to talk to.

It works, too. Because by the end of the night, he's holding hands with this Jerry guy, and it's warm and solid if maybe a little sweaty, but it feels … good. Not heart-pounding, or even heart-fluttering. But it feels good.

When it's time to go, Jerry walks Dave to his car and kisses him hesitantly on the cheek and Dave turns for more because he wants to see if he can forget, but Jerry ducks his head and says, "It's not that I wouldn't like to, but I'm … old-fashioned, and we haven't really been on a date yet. But I – Maybe we could see each other again? I like you."

So they agree to meet again on Saturday at Scandals to watch the playoffs and Dave wonders if that's a date and – huh. Dave is maybe going on a date, and he should feel nervous and giddy, the way he feels when Kurt taps him on the shoulder to get his attention, or bumps Dave under the table when he crosses his legs, or brushes his fingers as one of them passes a drink to the other. But all he feels is the heavy weight of exhaustion, a lot like what happens when he plays a football game right after recovering from the flu.

Dave stops at a gas station for another Mountain Dew just to make it the 15 minutes home without falling asleep.

*

Apparently, it is a date, because after they watch the game and the Ravens lose, and they watch the other game and the Giants win, Jerry asks Dave to dance. They don’t really touch each other as they dance – it’s not like dancing with Sebastian, which is probably good, because that’s kind of dirty and creepy anyway even when it feels awesome. It’s more like dancing with your friends at one of the popular girls’ bat mitzvahs – it’s fun, but you also feel kind of awkward and hope no one’s looking at you.

After they dance Jerry asks Dave out for a stroll around the bar. It's dark, and small flakes of snow have begun to sporadically fall from the sky, but none of them stick to the ground. Jerry takes Dave's hand and they talk. Jerry talks about growing up in a huge family where faith is a thing that brings people together – and also a horrible, oppressive thing that alienates him from himself; and Dave talks about how the things he used to want from God, he mostly gets from math and football now. (He doesn’t mention friendship; it seems too fragile and intimate to mention.)

"But math is so cold," Jerry says, and Dave's heart drops to his stomach.

When Jerry leans in for a kiss, Dave accepts it. But his heart stays put, heavy and leaden, and when Jerry walks Dave to his car, Dave doesn't invite him in.

*

"How do you do it?" Dave asks, looking up from his linear algebra homework at Blaine, who is conjugating French verbs as they sit together at the kitchen bar.

Blaine leans in and takes a look at the figures Dave has scratched in his notebook. "I have no idea," he says. "You're my math tutor, remember?"

Dave closes his notebook. "Sorry, not that. I've just been … brooding."

"About what?"

"I had …" The words stick to Dave's tongue. He takes a sip of Mountain Dew to loosen them. "I had a date."

Blaine's jaw drops, and then he's jumping off of his stool and tackling Dave with the enthusiasm of a border collie. "Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod," Blaine chants, squeezing all the air out of Dave's lungs. "I can't believe you didn't tell me! How could you not tell me? Make up for it by telling me everything. Now."

If Blaine had a tail, Dave swears it would be wagging.

"Um, I wasn't sure it was a date. I mean, I thought it was, but we just agreed to meet at Scandals, so I thought maybe he'd bring his friends or … I don't know. But I guess it was a date."

"Who!?" Blaine sits back on his stool, but he's still holding onto Dave with one hand, squeezing his arm.

"Um, you haven't met him. He goes to Bluffton. He's on the football team."

"That Mennonite school? They let gay people go there?"

"I don't know. I don't think he's out to many people."

"Does he wear suspenders and that funny black hat?"

Dave rolls his eyes. "You wear suspenders."

"No funny hats, though." Blaine winks. "Just ones that make me look debonair."

"They're not that kind of Mennonite. He explained it to me. I guess there's a lot of kinds and most of them don't actually wear those clothes. They're more like … um, Methodists or something. Except, you know, different."

"Okay. So is he cute?"

Dave blushes. "Yeah."

"And charming?"

Dave shrugs. "He's a gentleman."

Blaine bounces in his seat. "Do you like him?"

"We have a lot in common, but – It's kind of exhausting, getting to know somebody from scratch."

Blaine frowns. "It is?"

Dave nods. "Yeah. I just – How do you act so interested in people all the time?"

"Me, personally?"

"Yeah."

"Um, because they're interesting? I mean, some people are more interesting than others. Like you. You're super-interesting."

Dave snorts.

"No, really," Blaine protests. “I mean, you like football and math and Jane Austen –”

“Oh my god, you and Kurt are never going to forget that, are you?”

Blaine swivels side to side on his stool. “Nope. It’s awesome, and you’re awesome, and that’s why we like you.”

Dave rolls his eyes. "Okay, whatever."

Blaine puts a tentative hand on Dave's wrist. "Maybe you're just an introvert."

"Is that like a pervert? Because you might be right about that."

Blaine scoffs. "No. It's just someone who likes spending time alone, or with one or two people that they feel close to. You know, like Kurt."

"And what are you?"

"I guess I'm an extrovert. I like to get to know lots of people. It's fun. It makes me feel vibrant."

Dave drops his head against the counter. "And how am I supposed to find the love of my life if I don't think that meeting new people is fun?"

Blaine slips his hand down toward Dave's fingers and wraps them in his, the way Dave's dad did when Dave was little and they were about to cross the street together. "Be patient, I guess?" Blaine puts on a disarming smile. "I mean, you hated meeting me, and now I'm one of your favorite people in the whole world."

Dave laughs. "You're so vain."

Blaine bats his eyes. "It's true. You love me."

Dave shakes his head and gives Blaine's hand a final squeeze before letting go. "Yes, it is," he mumbles as he lifts his can of Mountain Dew to his lips, not sure if he wants Blaine to hear.

*

Jerry sends text messages to Dave throughout the week – nice, bland questions about how Dave is doing; comments on the upcoming Super Bowl; and finally, on Friday, a text asking if Dave wants to meet up at Scandals again this Saturday.

Dave doesn’t answer Jerry immediately. First, he texts Blaine: What are you doing this weekend?

Blaine's answer comes immediately. Hanging out with you at S? Unless you have a DATE.

Dave smiles. No date yet. See you tomorrow?

Yes!

Dave thumbs out a text for Jerry. Sorry, have plans to meet friends there. You can join us if you want? They don't bite.

Jerry answers even faster than Blaine. That would be nice. :)

It's only when Dave wakes up the next morning that he realizes that asking a guy to meet your friends could be construed the same way as asking a guy to meet your parents.

Shit.

*

It's awkward. Really. Fucking. Awkward.

Maybe not for Kurt and Blaine and Jerry; but for Dave, it's kind of a living hell. Jerry keeps grabbing Dave's hand under the table, and Blaine keeps giving the two of them doe-eyes and asking Jerry questions and listening to his answers like Jerry is the most fascinating person on the earth. "Wait, so Mennonites are pacifists, but you can play football. Could I keep boxing if I became a Mennonite?" Blaine asks.

Kurt stirs his Shirley Temple. "I think the more fundamental question is whether you could keep being gay if you became a Mennonite, Blaine."

Blaine smiles. “That’s my next question.”

So Blaine and Jerry talk up a storm, and if Blaine likes Jerry, there must be good, redeeming things about him. But Dave can't bring himself to care (though he tries listing some of Jerry's finer points to himself in his head: He's hot. He's polite. He likes football. He's interested in me. He has soft lips. His eyelashes are pretty. He's not like Sebastian. He's not Kurt.)

Kurt looks … bored. Maybe as bored as Dave is. The talk between Blaine and Jerry turns to football, and Kurt rolls his eyes and pulls out his notebook and starts sketching things in it, and Dave raises an eyebrow to silently beg, Show me what you've got there, but Kurt just smiles and shakes his head and keeps moving his pencil along the page, taking a break every now and then to twirl the pencil in his hand. Kurt’s fingers look so agile when he does that, and Dave wonders if Kurt is double-jointed; he almost asks him, but then Jerry squeezes Dave’s hand and Dave remembers he's supposed to be giving a fuck about what his – not boyfriend; suitor, maybe? – is saying.

The worst part of the evening is probably when Blaine gets distracted by Kurt sipping at his Shirley Temple and his eyes go all puppy-doggish and he totally stops talking to Jerry for like twenty whole seconds. Which, fine, that's normal Blaine behavior. The disaster comes when Jerry takes the opportunity to look at Dave the same way and trace his finger along the inside of Dave's wrist and – Shit. Shit shit shit.

Dave stands up so abruptly that he knocks his chair back to the floor. "I'm gonna get some more, um – what do people want to drink?" He looks down at the table and notices that no one's glass is more than half empty. "Or eat? I thought I'd get some pretzels. Or popcorn? Or maybe pizza? I could get pizza."

Jerry gives Dave a confused look – and maybe it's even hurt, but Dave doesn't know him well enough to be sure. Kurt just looks amused, and knowing, and maybe – yes, definitely – sympathetic. "I'm starving," Kurt says. "A slice of cheese would be good if they have it. Pepperoni if they don't."

Dave nods. "Okay. Will do."

He comes back with an entire pizza, which is kind of expensive at bar prices. But the more there is to eat, the less talking or kissing he has to do. He is going to chew very, very slowly.

At the end of the night, Jerry wants to walk Dave to his car. As they all leave the bar, Blaine hugs Jerry and goes on and on about how great he is and how they totally have to meet again, all the while giving Dave a secret thumbs-up behind Jerry's back. Kurt rolls his eyes and shakes his head, silently mouthing, "Oh my god, I am so sorry," at Dave.

"Blaine really likes you," Dave says as they watch him drive off with Kurt. The cold of the night crawls down Dave’s spine. He shivers.

Jerry shrugs. "But you don't."

Fuck. "No, you're great. We have a lot in common – I mean, football and stuff and …" He racks his brain. "Pool. That's how we met. We were both playing pool."

Jerry frowns. "I don't actually like to play pool, though. Or – maybe I do. I don't really know. That night I met you, it was the first time I played it."

Dave drags the toe of his sneaker along the ground. "Maybe it's like that. I just … I just met you. Maybe I just need to get to know you better. Before I know."

Jerry looks down at his feet. "Maybe." He looks like he might cry, if he were the sort of guy to let himself cry. Dave guesses that he isn't.

They're at the car. Dave should say something conciliatory, or they're going to stand there all night. "You're great," he says. What did Blaine tell him? Oh yeah, something about patience. "I just think … we could still hang out? Try to be friends first, and then … see?"

Jerry sighs. "But I already know."

"You don't even know me."

"I know enough." Jerry looks up at Dave with heart eyes, and Dave's stomach turns.

"Actually, you don't," Dave says.

"Yes. I do."

"No." Dave shakes his head vehemently. "You're all, like, church and peace and kindness and I … haven't been. Ask Kurt. He'll be able to tell you plenty of stories about that."

“You seem plenty nice to me,” Jerry says.

Dave tries to stifle the bile rising in his throat. “Is it nice to go around throwing people against lockers just because they look at you the wrong way? Or don’t look at you at all?”

Even in the dark of the night, Dave can see the pallor overtake Jerry's face. "You hurt people? On purpose?"

"It used to be kind of a hobby of mine."

"Oh." Jerry swallows. "Well."

They're silent for a moment, and it's cold, and Dave feels like his fingertips are going to fall off even though they're stuffed deep into the pockets of his parka, and he just wants out of there, wants to erase the whole evening and replace it with time alone with Kurt and Blaine. That would have been hard, too, but it would have been worth it, and it wouldn’t have made him feel sick to his stomach. "I guess I should go," Dave says.

"Sure," Jerry says, and he doesn't lean in to kiss Dave's cheek when Dave opens the car door. He just waves and turns and walks away.

* * *

Blaine is pensive when he steps into Kurt's room from the en suite bathroom, toweling off his hair.

"What's bothering you?" Kurt says.

"I was just thinking," Blaine says, rubbing the towel behind his ears. "I want Dave to fall in love."

Blaine hears a sigh and pulls the towel away from his head. He sees Kurt, then, sitting against the headboard, wrapped in the satin smoking jacket that he made, with an open magazine on his lap. The smoking jacket emulates the shape of Kurt's torso, skirting Kurt's thighs in a wicked, teasing hide-and-seek. Blaine feels himself growing hard in his pajama pants, and it takes a moment to realize that Kurt is talking, and that Blaine started the conversation, and that he should really, really listen.

"I take it this is about Jerry Friesen?"

Blaine nods his head. "Sort of."

Kurt frowns and flips a page. "There doesn't seem to be much chemistry there. At least, not from Dave's side."

"Yeah, I don't understand it. Jerry is good-looking, right?" Blaine hangs the towel on a hook next to the vanity.

Kurt nods.

Blaine crawls onto the bed. "I mean, even Dave said so. And he's nice, and plays football, and it's kind of interesting that he's a pacifist. And he looks at Dave like – It's so cute, the way he looks at Dave. It reminds me of the way I look at you."

"You don't know what you look like when you look at me."

Blaine ducks down and kisses Kurt, sweet and lingering. "I know the way I feel, though." He kisses Kurt again. "Actually, come to think of it, Jerry is pretty hot. Did you see his forearms?"

"Hmmm," Kurt says. "You want to watch me fuck him? That might make things awkward with Dave, even if Dave's not interested in him."

Blaine blushes. "Not Jerry."

Kurt cocks his head. "Who, then?"

"Mmmm." Blaine traces his finger along the blanket. There is someone he's thinking of, but can't bring himself to say. "You could just fuck me tonight."

Kurt rubs Blaine's shoulder. "So vanilla."

"I could try being dirty if you want." Blaine uses that word even though thinking about Kurt with other guys doesn’t actually feel dirty to him. It feels erotic, and charged and – well, going to church and doing yoga never felt very transcendent to Blaine, but something about this does. He doesn’t know a word that summarizes all these things, though, and even if he did, he’d probably be afraid to use it – so instead he opts for dirty, because it’s a word that Kurt used once to refer to what they’ve started to do, and even if it’s not the right one, at least they both have an idea of what it means.

"No. I like vanilla, too." Kurt smiles.

Blaine squints his eyes. "Yeah?"

So they start together, just the two of them. This can be transcendent, too.

*

Afterward, Kurt sighs and buries his face into Blaine's neck. Blaine loves this feeling of being so close, not sure whether the hair tickling his neck is his or Kurt's. It’s not until Kurt brushes a hand over his now-dry hair and says, "Mmm, it's so much better than shearling," that Blaine realizes he never put gel in his hair after his shower. He waits for panic to creep into his stomach, but it doesn't. He's with Kurt, and he's safe.

Blaine's last thought as he falls asleep is Dave should feel this safe, too.

Chapter Text

At the end of January, Dave gets a call from Kurt.

Kurt's texted Dave before, but he's never called – even digitized, his voice makes Dave's heart beat faster.

"Kurt." Dave sits down on the edge of his bed.

"Hey. I just wanted to let you know – Blaine can't – no tutoring tomorrow." There's something wrong with Kurt's voice, not quite panicked but definitely edgy.

Dave tries to inhale, but his lungs only stretch so far before the knot in his stomach stops them. "Are you okay? Why didn't Blaine call me?"

"Um, he's asleep. On, um, opiates. His eye. Sebastian hurt Blaine's eye."

"Wait – wait. What?"

"Sebastian threw a slushie and Blaine's face caught it and I guess – the doctor said it scratched Blaine's cornea."

"But Sebastian doesn’t even go to McKinley." It’s a nonsensical response, Dave realizes after he’s said it. But slushie-throwing and McKinley are indelibly intertwined in Dave’s mind; the administration doesn’t tolerate it at his new school, or any of the other schools he know of.

Kurt doesn’t seem thrown off, though. "Has Blaine talked to you at all about our conflict with the Warblers over Regionals?"

"No."

"Okay. I guess the short version is that Sebastian found out our set list for Regionals so we had a dance-off today to get it back – I know it doesn't make any sense, but it seemed to at the time – and Sebastian brought a slushie and he threw it and I don't know, I guess there was a sharp piece of ice in it or something –"

"Slushies can hurt people?"

"It was news to me, too. I mean, I always knew the citric acid kind of stung, but – I don't know, I guess if the ice is sharp enough –" Kurt's voice fades, the high-strung energy that has powered his speech so far dissipating.

"Can he see? Is he going to be okay?"

"He can see with the other eye. The scratched one – the doctor used some kind of glue to close up the scratch and put a patch over it. She said they watch it for a day or two and if it doesn't start healing, they'll have to do surgery so he doesn't go blind. Or half-blind – well, she actually said 'to preserve his sight.' I guess she was trying to be gentle with us. Blaine's mom let me stay for the explanation."

"Jesus." Dave tries to think of every person he's ever slushied – Santana, Artie, Tina, Puck, Sam, Finn, Rachel, Mercedes, Mike, Kurt – perplexed that nothing worse came out of it but their humiliation and his bottomless guilt.

"Dave? Are you still there?" Kurt's voice is worried.

"Yeah, I just – I don't understand. I thought Sebastian was into Blaine."

Kurt doesn't say anything immediately. For a moment, Dave thinks they've lost their connection. "Dave, Sebastian's not into anyone but himself. You understand that, right?"

"I –"

"Sorry. I just don't want to see you getting hurt by him, too."

Dave swallows heavily. "Okay," he says. "Okay."

“Anyway, I’m pretty sure Sebastian meant it for me.”

To his own surprise, Dave doesn’t get any more freaked out by this news than he already was. He just stays at the exact same 10-alarm level he’s been at since the call began.

"Dave?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm – kind of stressed out."

"I can imagine."

"Blaine says it's like a fire burning a hole in his head.” There’s silence for a moment, and then the shuddery sound of Kurt’s breathing. “I just – I shouldn’t have antagonized Sebastian so much. I get carried away and –”

“Stop!” Dave almost shouts it, but it’s not anger. It’s panic. Kurt is not supposed to talk like this, or feel like this, ever. Not if Dave can help it. “It’s not your fault. Nothing that bastard does could possibly be your fault, Kurt. Nothing anyone does is your fault. Okay?”

Kurt’s heavy sniffle crackles over the phone line. “I know. But it doesn’t always feel that way. It doesn’t feel that way right now.”

“Well, it is that way.”

Silence, and then a breath, and then, “I just – I just wish it had been me."

"No, Kurt. It should have been me," Dave says. It wouldn't make up for the things he's done, and it would pale in comparison to the kind of punishment he really deserves, but it would be fairer than letting Blaine suffer. If anyone deserves that kind of pain, it's Dave.

*

 

Dave can’t sleep that night. He keeps replaying in his mind all the times he’s slushied people – and Kurt, especially. How he might still be doing it, if it hadn’t been for Santana and the disguised gift of her blackmail.

 

A light goes on in his brain. Everyone has something they’re hiding, and Sebastian is such a schemer he must be hiding more than most.

 

Dave gets out of bed. By the time he crawls back under the sheets at 3 a.m., he knows exactly how to keep Sebastian from bothering any of them ever again.

 

*

Dave visits Blaine the next day, despite Blaine telling him over the phone that he’s really boring when he’s strung out on painkillers and he couldn’t possibly try to do geometry because his depth perception is gone and he can’t tell a circle from a sphere.

“I just thought you could use some company,” Dave answers.

“That would be nice, but … I’m not a very good host right now. Like, I even had trouble opening the refrigerator door this morning. And Kurt says I kept falling asleep when he was reading me Us Weekly last night. I just – I don’t like not being a good host.”

“It’s really okay, Blaine. I can open the refrigerator myself if I need to get something. And if you fall asleep, I can just do some homework like I usually do.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Blaine. It’s fine. It would be nice to see you.”

“Really?” A smile is audible in Blaine’s voice.

“Yeah. We’re friends, remember?”

“Hee-hee,” Blaine squeaks out like a two-year-old. “I still haven’t gotten over how awesome that is.”

When Dave gets there, some girl Dave’s never seen before opens the door. She looks like maybe she’s in college, or a little bit older. She introduces herself as the home health aide.

“Is he that bad?” Dave says.

“He said I could tell you that he’s mostly fine,” she says. “He just needs someone to give him his medicine and bring stuff to him since he has trouble negotiating the stairs. His parents couldn’t stay home so they called the agency.”

“Huh.” Dave’s not sure if he should be jealous that Blaine’s parents can afford that, or weirded out, so he decides to forget about it in favor of not having any opinion at all.

As many times as he’s been to Blaine’s house, it’s his first time in Blaine’s room. Dave is surprised how alike Blaine’s room is to his own, in some ways: Dark walls, stripes and plaids, models from kits, and trophies galore. Of course, Blaine's trophies are for music and rich people's sports, not football and hockey, but they’re just as bright and flamboyant.

Blaine is in bed, sitting up against the headboard, in an odd ensemble of striped silk pajamas and a black eye patch. He starts bouncing lightly against the cushions when he sees Dave. "Hey! It’s my favorite-ever best friend in the whole world next to Kurt! Yay!” He claps his hands together and a sweet, childlike smile spreads across his face. Then he suddenly goes still, tipping his head in thought. “My best bro-friend. That’s what you are. Come here!” He starts bouncing again.

A laugh escapes from Dave's mouth before he can stop it.

Blaine smiles. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing. Just – glad to see you."

"I'm glad to see you, too. Come, sit closer." Blaine pats the empty space next to him on the bed and Dave is tempted, because maybe the smell of Kurt's shampoo is embedded in the pillows there, but instead he walks over to the dresser with the model cars, trying not to spend too much time lingering on the black-and-white picture of Kurt in a tuxedo behind them.

"Did you build these?" Dave points to the model cars.

"Yeah," Blaine nods, a fuzzy-brained smile on his face. "Did you ever make cars?"

"A couple," Dave says. "But then I was more into airplanes.”

"You can look at them if you want to," Blaine says. "I mean, touch them. I like popping the hoods."

Dave's pretty sure that's something that Sebastian could turn into a sexual innuendo – Sebastian. Dave feels a flare of anger at the thought, but he smothers it as well as he can. It won't do Blaine any good right now. He picks up the black convertible and lifts the hood to look at the tiny chrome-plated engine. Even the hood's underside has been painted a smooth black.

"It's a nice paint job," Dave says. "No runs."

"Thanks. I was kind of obsessed with making the perfect Corvette until my dad got a real one for us to fix up a few summers ago. Not so much anymore."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I guess I liked model cars because I – I had control of them. And I could forget everything when I worked on them."

Dave nods. "Like if you follow the directions, everything will turn out how it's supposed to?"

Blaine grins. "Exactly. But with the real car, it was more complicated to put all the pieces together. It didn't just have to look good, it had to run right. And also I didn't really want to be spending time with my dad because everything he said, it felt like he was telling me to be less gay."

"Was he?"

"I don't know. That's how it felt, though."

"Is it still that way? With your dad, I mean?"

"I don't know. He never actually says anything bad, you know? But he doesn’t really say anything good, either. Well, no, actually, he's said some nice things about Kurt. He likes that Kurt can cook. He says that every man should know how to cook."

I kind of know how to cook, Dave thinks, because apparently he's trying to impress some possibly homophobic WASP whom he's never even met. Dave puts the black car down and picks up the red one, admiring the little rust spots that Blaine painted on the undercarriage. "I worry about my dad. How he'll react."

"Everyone does," Blaine says. "But for me, at least, I think it's better that it's out in the open. And my mom's pretty cool about it. She's, like, in love with Kurt." Blaine draws "love" out so long that it takes up half the sentence. He's starting to sound a little loopy again.

"Isn't everybody?" Dave says before he can tell himself not to. He doesn't look up, just pretends to be fascinated with the door hinges and the sunroof that slides open.

"If they're not, they should be."

Dave looks up then. Blaine isn't looking back at him; he's staring at the picture of Kurt, his one eye glazed and dreamy.

"I love him," Blaine says to the picture. "I love him so much."

Dave has the overwhelming urge to hug Blaine. Instead, he puts the car down next to the picture of Kurt and sits down in the red chair at the side of Blaine's bed.

Blaine smiles at Dave. "You love him, too, don't you?"

Dave's heart stops. And starts. And stops again. And then it speeds up, the thumpkathunkkathunk almost constant, spinning blood and adrenaline out to every cell in his body. His eyes are blinking too fast and his hands are starting to shake and his body is awkward in this staid room. "I'm glad Kurt's my friend," he finally manages.

Blaine doesn't seem to have registered any of Dave's panic, just gazes at him with a sort of happy delirium. "I'm glad you're our friend," Blaine says airily. "You should have been here earlier when Kurt was here. We took a nap and it was so nice because he’s all warm and he smells so good, and you could have cuddled with us too and it would have been even warmer. Like a pile of puppies!”

Dave laughs, because it's the only thing he can do.

Blaine shifts toward the center of the bed, patting the spot next to him as he resettles. "Sit next to me so I can take a nap on your shoulder. I promise it's not sex. It's like brothers. Except you're nicer than my brother. My real brother hasn't even called."

There's so much packed into those words that Dave doesn't even know where to begin, so he stops thinking and does as he's told. He kicks off his shoes and settles onto the bed next to Blaine, rearranging the pillows – wow, they really do smell like Kurt – to prop up his back.

Blaine leans his head against Dave's shoulder and closes his eye – or maybe both eyes, Dave has no idea. "You are sooooo comfortable, oh my god it would have been the best puppy pile. I can't believe Kurt is missing this. Oh, we have to do this again so Kurt can use you as a pillow, too."

Dave humors Blaine by not pointing out that he's probably the last person next to Sebastian that Kurt would want to cuddle with. Instead, he breathes in the smell of Kurt mixed with the scent of Blaine's raspberry hair gel, intoxicating and soothing at the same time; and he closes his eyes and lets himself feel Blaine's warm weight against his arm, remembering that this is what it felt like when he used to fall asleep on the couch next to his mother, back before everything fell apart.

"Are you doing okay, Blaine?"

Blaine doesn’t say anything for a minute. When he does, his voice is still childlike, but it’s lost the happy exuberance. "I'm scared. I went back today and they said I have to go for surgery."

"Kurt told me you might."

"I like seeing. It's hard to walk with only one eye. I have to hold the railing to go down the stairs, and even then it’s weird and I feel like I’m going to fall. I don’t know – my parents found this surgeon in Cincinnati who’s supposed to be, like, perfect. But apparently you have to stay awake the whole time and you can see them poking you in the eye and that’s like my worst nightmare ever.” Blaine sighs. “Well, next to nobody liking me."

Dave pats Blaine's arm. He wants to tell him everything will be okay, but he doesn't really know that it will. "For what it's worth, Blaine, I’m here for you."

"Thank you," Blaine says. "It means a lot."

*

Dave goes to Scandals that night, even with the risk of running into Jerry – because there's someone else that Dave really, really needs to see.

Jerry’s not there, thankfully, so Dave plays pool with some of his pre-Blaine-and-Kurt buddies and waits. They talk about hockey and the Super Bowl and getting drunk and some movie Dave hasn't seen. It’s almost like old times, and he could almost pretend he was enjoying himself if it weren’t for the incessant buzzing of his nerves.

And then the one that Dave’s been waiting for strides through the entryway that same way he always does: like he owns the place and is entitled to everyone in it, grinning disingenuously like – what does Kurt call it? Oh, yeah. Like a meerkat.

Dave hands off his cue and walks over to grab Sebastian's hand. "Outside," he says.

Sebastian looks up and smiles. "Cool down, tiger. Let me get my beer first."

"Come on."

Sebastian raises his eyebrow. "Not that I wouldn’t like to fool around with you, but what about your boyfriend?" Dave assumes he's talking about Jerry and is prepared to ignore the diversion, but Sebastian continues. "With Blaine down for the count, I was sure you'd take advantage of the opportunity to be alone with her royal highness." Sebastian gives a lascivious wink.

Dave can't pick up Sebastian by the collar and throw him against the wall. Not inside. That would get him exiled from Scandals, for one; and possibly arrested, for two. Also, he has to exercise some control. He can't hurt Sebastian the way Sebastian hurt Blaine; Sebastian deserves it, but it would still be wrong. Or, at least, it wouldn't make Dave feel any better. He's learned that much by now.

Sebastian misreads the fire in Dave's eyes. "Oh, fine. Let's go, horndog" he says, and pulls Dave toward the exit.

*

"So do you want me to finally fuck you?" Sebastian starts as they round the corner of the building toward where his car must be. "Because you seem pretty wired. It might do you some – " His words are interrupted by Dave's hands on his collar and the wind being knocked out of him when his back hits the wall. His face twists up more than usual and he lets out a surprised, “Oof!”

"What I want is to never, ever see you here again," Dave says through clenched teeth.

“The easiest way to achieve that would be for you to never come here again.” Even with wracked breath, Sebastian manages to sound condescending.

“And stay away from them both.” Dave pulls Sebastian forward a couple inches and thrusts him back against the wall one-handed. Not hard enough to cause permanent damage, but definitely enough to cause pain. He wishes he could slam himself against the wall instead, but this will have to do.

“Shit, that actually kinda hurt.” Sebastian grimaces. "Don’t you think your strength would be better used for something a little more fun?” He starts to waggle his eyebrows, but abruptly stops when Dave slaps the wall so hard with his free hand that little specks of rotten brick skitter down to the ground.

“Come on, Dave. What’s the big deal? I hurt your competition. You should be thanking me.”

Dave reaches into his jacket and pulls out a pen, clutching it in his fist with the end pointed toward Sebastian’s face. “Or maybe I should try a little eye for an eye.” He gets the same stomach-sick feeling that used to seize him whenever he would to threaten Kurt, but tries to ignore it. Sebastian is no Kurt.

Sebastian scrunches his eyes shut. “You can’t be serious.”

Dave drags the pen against Sebastian’s cheekbone. “Only one way for you to find out.”

“My father is a state’s attorney.”

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned that before. Funny thing, though, is I looked it up. And it turns out that Ohio doesn’t have ‘state’s attorneys.’ We’ve got prosecutors and district attorneys.”

Sebastian doesn’t respond.

“So then I looked more stuff up.” Dave taps the side of the pen against his cheek. “Your dad is a pencil pusher in the Delaware County courthouse. Lima isn’t exactly under their jurisdiction, and I’m not exactly scared.”

“You’re smarter than I gave you credit for.”

Tap-tap-tap. “A lot of people make that mistake.”

“So,” Sebastian mutters petulantly, “are you planning to blind me with that pen?”

Dave stops tapping. He stares at the pen for a second before tossing it onto the ground. “No. I thought about it, but I decided I’m not as much of an asshole as you are.”

Sebastian squints his eyes open. “Ah. You’re going to do the noble thing and beat me into submission.”

Dave shakes his head. He lets go of Sebastian’s collar, giving him a final small shove toward the wall. “Nope.”

Sebastian grins. He really does look like something from Animal Planet. “So, remind me again why I’m supposed to be scared of you?”

“Because I’m going to tell all your little Dalton friends the truth about your parents.”

Sebastian gives Dave a wary look. “That doesn’t matter,” he says weakly. “Your princess isn’t exactly of high breeding, and got along fine at Dalton, I hear.”

Dave snorts. “Yeah, which was why he was so desperate to get back to McKinley.”

Sebastian shrugs.

“Anyway, there’s the other thing I could tell them, too.”

 

“What’s that? That I have poor taste in men?” Sebastian gestures grandly at Dave. “Exhibit A.”

It shouldn’t hurt; it does, anyway. But Dave is used to hurting. He plows on. “I found out where you were last year.”

 

Sebastian goes perfectly still, the way a rabbit does when it senses a predator approaching; it’s just for a moment, and then he’s moving again, tugging at the wrists of his sleeves and smiling haughtily – but it’s long enough that Dave knows he’s already won. “My rendezvous at le Château de Vaux-le-Vicomtewith select faculty of l’Université Paris-Sorbonne can hardly be called a scandal – except, perhaps, for them.”

 

Dave folds his arms across his chest. “The reason you weren’t at Dalton last year wasn’t because you were studying in Paris and drinking snooty French crap and fucking snooty Frenchmen by the Riviera. It’s because you were in juvie for credit card fraud and taking a joyride in your neighbor’s Lexus.”

Sebastian goes still again, and sickly pale. For a second, Dave thinks he might be in actual physical shock, but then he speaks. “How did you find out? Only the headmaster knows.”

Dave scoffs. “The headmaster might be the only one who knows at Dalton, but us public school kids have learned how to use a thing called the internet. And I don’t know much about private school, but I’m pretty fucking sure that the parents of the future aristocrats of America wouldn’t want someone like you in charge of their little doo-wop choir. Rich people prefer their criminals not to get caught.” Holy crap. Dave almost sounded as smart as Kurt for a second there. Not quite as sharp, but still – he gets distracted for a moment by the utterly foreign feeling of pride in himself.

Sebastian slides down the wall, plopping his skinny butt next to the building’s frozen foundation.

“Plus,” Dave says, “I assume you’re still on parole, which means if your parole officer finds out what you’ve been up to, you get a one-way ticket back to juvie.”

“First, you never put out. And then this.” Sebastian sinks his head into his hands. “I hate you.”

“Well, I kind of hate you, too. But I won’t tell anyone if you stay away from Blaine and Kurt forever.”

Sebastian peers up at Dave. “Like, forever-ever? They’re kind of fun to harass.”

Dave draws an infinity sign in the air with his pointer finger. “Forever-ever. If they show up at Scandals, you leave. Better yet, just don’t show up at Scandals. Or the Lima Bean, or McKinley, or those weird dance-offs that you glee clubbers do.” He feels like he’s forgetting something. “And don’t harass them from a distance, or harass other members of the glee club, or any group that Kurt or Blaine are a part of now or in the future. Which includes their families.”

“You might have to write that all down for me.”

Dave glances around his feet for the pen he dropped earlier. He picks it up and tosses it in Sebastian’s lap. “Take your own damn notes.”

“Fine. You win.” Sebastian pushes himself off the ground, raising his hands in placation as he walks backward toward his car. "I guess I underestimated you, Liberace."

“Don’t call me Liberace, either.”

Sebastian doesn’t answer, just gets into his car and drives away. The anxiety that Dave’s been ignoring this whole time hits his stomach like a wave, and soon he’s bent over in the shrubs next to the dumpster, vomiting the remainders of his rage into the dirt.

*

Dave’s parents are in bed when he gets home, but he’s too wired to fall asleep. So he lies in the dark, staring at the model airplanes that dangle from his ceiling and listening to Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7 (Op.83) on repeat. It’s not exactly the best music for winding down, but it suits his mood perfectly.

When it’s on the fourth repetition, his phone buzzes.

Blaine : You awake?

Dave:   Yeah.

Blaine : Thought I was the only one.

Dave: No. I went to Scandals. Now I can’t sleep.

Blaine: Oh! Any cities there?

Dave: Cities?

Blaine: Damn autocracy.
Blaine: Autocorrect
Blaine: CUTIES
Blaine: It’s hard to test with one eye.
Blaine: TEXT.

Dave hits the dial icon. “Thought it might be easier if you didn’t have to type,” he says when Blaine picks up.

“I didn’t want to wake you up. I mean, if you were asleep. That’s why I texted.” Blaine’s voice comes befuddled and affectionate over the phone line.

“I’m awake.”

“Kurt’s not. I already tried texting him,” Blaine says, and Dave swears he can hear him pouting. “I wish he could’ve slept over, but it’s a school night and anyway my parents are home and sometimes they’re weird about it when they’re home.” Blaine sighs loudly. “But I guess it’s just as well because I would have kept him up all night anyway.”

Dave gets an image in his mind that is both welcome and unwelcome. It distracts him from responding like an intelligent human being. All he can get out is, “Um.”

“Oh my god!” Blaine squeaks out. “That’s not what I meant, you dirty – you dirty –”

“Bastard?” Dave ventures.

“Hmm, I guess that’s the word that goes there. But it’s not very nice. Just because someone’s parents weren’t married when they were born doesn’t make them a bad person.”

“True,” Dave smiles. He really enjoys talking to Blaine when he’s high as a kite. Actually, he really enjoys talking to Blaine, period.

“Hey, you wanna know a secret?”

“That depends. Is it something you wouldn’t usually want me to know? I mean, ’cause you’re kind of high right now.”

Blaine lets out a loud huff that crackles in Dave’s ear. “I’m not high.”

“Um, okay. You just have impaired judgment.”

“No I don’t.” Blaine pauses. “What were we talking about anyway?” And then he giggles. “Oh my god, I’m so high.”

Dave doesn’t answer. He’s too busy laughing.

Blaine announces that listening to Jeremy Irons read Brideshead Revisited while high on painkillers and unable to sleep is the most depressing thing ever. Dave offers to bring by his Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter CDs tomorrow. Blaine squeals like a miniature piglet that’s just discovered mud.

“You’re the best, Dave. I miss you.”

“I saw you a few hours ago.”

“Yeah, but we didn’t do geometry.”

Dave laughs.

“Don’t laugh!” Blaine says, but Dave can hear that he’s still smiling. “I love doing geometry with you because you’re my best bro-friend ever! ”

Of course, Dave starts laughing even harder and feels his cheeks flush red with embarrassment. Still, he forces himself to say it back, because it’s true and because it’s so much better than everything else that’s happened tonight. “You’re my best bro-friend, too, Blaine.”

* * *

Kurt stands on stage with the rest of the Glee Club. It’s seven minutes past the time the Warblers are supposed to show. Of course, the entitled douchebags would make them wait, when the only thing that Kurt’s had to look forward to all day is shooting metaphorical daggers at Sebastian while singing ‘Don’t tell me you agree with me when I saw you kicking dirt in my eye.’

(Over the past few days, he’s fantasized repeatedly about throwing actual daggers at Sebastian, and once he got out his sai swords and contemplated them for longer than he would want to admit to anybody. But then he heard his own voice giving a lecture to Dave last spring about non-violence, and he put them back in their case and closed it.)

A door at the back of the auditorium creaks open, and the Warblers file in. He watches them enter, one by one, until they are all gathered at the foot of the stage.

Sebastian isn’t there.

The New Directions start murmuring, and Santana steps out to the front of the stage. “Where’s Whorish McWhoremouth?” The Warblers look at each other in confusion, and Santana immediately loses her patience, if she ever had any in the first place. “Se-bas-tian, you ingrates. Who the hell else would I be talking about?”

Warbler Trent steps forward. “He couldn’t come.”

Santana huffs and rolls her eyes. “Why? Did the hair start growing so fast between his eyebrows and his asscrack that he had to go in for an emergency wax?”

Trent moves his eyes nervously between Santana and Kurt and the auditorium floor. Finally, he clears his throat and lifts an envelope up toward Kurt. “Um, he said to give this to you, Kurt.”

He accepts the envelope warily. Trent’s always seemed like a good guy, but it’s hard to trust that belief, now that the Warblers are under Sebastian’s thrall. Inside is a cream-colored card embossed with the Dalton seal. It reads:

Princess,

I spoke with your bear cub last night and he made a very persuasive argument that avoiding Blaine and your highness would be best for all parties involved. His rhetoric stirred me to the core, and I pledged to abide by his request. While I am not a man of morals, I am a man of honor. You can expect never to see me again – with the exception of longing for me from a distance at Regionals, since I am also bound by honor to lead the Warblers to victory. Sadly, it won’t be much of a challenge.

Yours never,

M. Sebastian Smythe

P.S. That bear cub is much smarter than I thought. You would be wise to keep him by your side.

The rest of the New Directions are crowding around him, peering at the note. “Bear cub,” Puck mutters. “What the hell does that mean? Are you and Blaine into that plushie stuff?”

Kurt folds the card and stuffs it back into the envelope. “I guess it means that Sebastian will miss our lesson on the true meaning of Michael. But the rest of the Warblers are here. Shall we?”

*

Blaine is asleep when Kurt gets to his house. He sits in the armchair next to Blaine’s bed and just watches him for a while.

Then he texts Dave.

Kurt: What did you say to Sebastian?

* * *

Dave stares at the phone. He’s been wondering if Kurt and Blaine would find out eventually, and weighing in his mind how much to tell them. Yes, Dave had promised not to reveal Sebastian’s secret, but sharing it with Kurt and Blaine would hardly count as violating that confidence. They’ve proven already that they can keep things under wraps when he asks them to.

But he’s not sure he wants them to know. Blaine has hemmed and hawed over pressing charges out of misplaced concern over what it would do to Sebastian’s future, and Kurt kept talking in his texts earlier today about “taking the high road.” If they out that reporting Sebastian would be an automatic ticket back to juvie, Blaine’s definitely not going to press charges.

Dave: Oh. That.
Dave: Just that I know something about him that he doesn’t want other people to know.
Dave: Nothing that would surprise you. But I probably shouldn’t tell you what it is. That was kind of part of the deal.
Dave: Sorry.
Dave: Anyway, he shouldn’t be bothering you guys again.

* * *

Kurt stares at the screen a long time. He’s curious, but he understands the importance of keeping secrets. Anyway, it’s probably something boring and predictable, like inbreeding in Sebastian’s aristocratic ancestry.

More than curious, though, Kurt is relieved. Not as relieved as he’ll be when Blaine comes out the other side of this okay. But as relieved as he can be, all things considered.

Kurt: Thank you.

He puts the phone down on the bedside table and watches Blaine some more. The phone lights up again a few minutes later.

Dave: That’s what friends are for.

*

On the morning of the surgery, Blaine sends a group MMS to Dave and Kurt. It’s apparently supposed to be a reassuring, friendly “See you soon!” but Kurt can barely understand it for all the opiate-induced misspellings and smiley faces.

Kurt asks for a bathroom pass from his English teacher, goes to the janitor’s closet, and tries not to cry. He cries anyway.

If Blaine were here, he would tell Kurt that everything’s going to be okay. He’d say that even if the surgery doesn’t work out, it’ll still be okay – that having two working eyes had started to make Blaine feel profligate, and that having just one would be an adventure in moderation. Then he’d snap the elastic of his black eye patch and say in the worst pirate accent ever, “Ahoy, matey, shiver me timbers, ‘cause I’d sure like to walk your plank,” and they’d start kissing, Blaine coming up for air every few minutes to say something awful like, “Oh you scallywag, I love it when you pillage my booty.”

 

But Blaine’s not there, and Kurt can’t call him because he’s under the knife now. Or laser. Or whatever it is they use for eye surgery.

So Kurt just keeps crying, instead.

He’s been crying for four minutes when his phone buzzes.

Dave: Hey Kurt. I just wanted to see how you’re doing.

For the first time today, the barest of smiles breaks out on Kurt’s face.

Kurt: I'm freaking out.

Dave: Do you want me to say reassuring things, or just listen, or go away?

Kurt: Say something reassuring.

Dave: I looked up the clinic online. The surgeon there is supposed to be really good. Like, so good that when I was reading about all the groundbreaking techniques she uses, I couldn’t understand any of it.

Kurt makes a sound halfway between a sob and a snicker.

Dave: Also, she’s in Mensa, and she must have excellent fine motor skills because she makes these super detailed doll quilts in her spare time. One of them is 10 inches by 10 inches and has 1012 pieces of patchwork in it.

Kurt: You’re making that up.

Dave: No I’m not. Go look on the website.

Dave sends a link, and Kurt should probably be looking at all the information about the successful eye surgeries, but he goes straight for the quilts instead. He zooms in on the stitching: tiny, tight lines that are flawlessly straight.

For the first time since Sebastian threw the slushie in Blaine’s face, Kurt feels hope.

Kurt: Thank you. That actually made me feel better.

Dave: I’m glad I could help.

They keep texting on and off throughout the day. When it’s time for Blaine to come out of surgery, Kurt sends Dave a panicked, ‘Freaking out again.’ Dave responds with a link to another one of the quilts and then distracts Kurt with a play-by-play of a debate that’s going on in his government class about whether the First Amendment should be repealed. By the end of it, Kurt is smiling and his stomach no longer feels like it’s going to push its way up out of his throat.

Kurt finally gets a text from Blaine’s mom in the middle of glee practice. The news is good. Ignoring the twenty-third Finn-and-Rachel duet of the year at the front of the room, Kurt tips his screen to show the message to Santana, who’s sitting next to him. She smiles so big that he’s tempted to hug her.

He thinks better of it, though, and instead messages Dave with the news.

Dave:   :0<=   :D><  
Dave: That was me jumping for joy, in case you couldn’t tell.

Kurt giggles, and Puck nudges him from behind. “Dude, Blaine is totally sexting you right now, isn’t he?” He leans forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the screen over Kurt’s shoulder.

Kurt abruptly turns his phone off.

* * *

Chapter Text

By Monday morning, the scratch in Blaine's eye still hasn't closed. His mother cancels her appointments for the day, calls the specialist in Cincinnati, and loads Blaine in the car for the long drive. Surgery seems inevitable. He’ll stay with his relatives and, if all goes well, he’ll be back by Valentine's Day.

He sends all this information to Dave and Kurt via group MMS, peppered with plenty of opiate-induced misspellings and smiley faces

Kurt sends his first text to Dave during third period.

Kurt: I'm freaking out. (9:27 a.m.)

[[MORE]]Dave: The surgeon is supposed to be really good. (9:32 a.m.)
Dave: Have you heard from Blaine? (9:33 a.m.)

Kurt: Yeah. He said the same thing. But I know he's scared. I wanted to go with him, but for some reason my dad thinks I should go to school. (9:50 a.m.)

Dave: Well, if I disagreed with your dad, you'd come to his defense, and if I agreed with him, you'd ask whose side I was on, so I'm going to stay out of that mess. (10:13 a.m.)

Kurt: You know me quite well. (10:33 a.m.)

Dave: I looked it up. They say these operations are almost always successful. (11:01 a.m.)

Kurt: That's what they said about my mom, too. (11:08 a.m.)

Dave: Kurt. I'm sorry. (11:13 a.m.)

Kurt: No. I am. I'm going to stop being morose now, okay? (11:21 a.m.)
Kurt: I just really miss him. I hate that he's scared and hurting and I can't do anything about it. (11:23 a.m.)

Dave: Me too. (11: 27 a.m.)

Kurt: Is it weird that that makes me feel better? (11:37 a.m.)

Dave: I don't know. I don't think so. (11:41 a.m.)

Kurt: My dad says I should carry on like normal, but it's hard when nothing is. (12:03 p.m.)
Kurt: Plus, we're planning another dance-off with the Warblers. (12:07 p.m.)

Dave: Is that a good idea? (12:13 p.m.)

Kurt: Maybe not. But I have to do something. (1:18 p.m.)
Kurt: I miss seeing him in the hallways and at lunch and in glee. I miss talking to him when he's not strung out on painkillers. (1:19 p.m.)
Kurt: I miss studying with you guys, too. (1:20 p.m.)

Dave: Me too. (2:01 p.m.)

Kurt: Do you want to study together on Thursday? (2:01 p.m.)
Kurt: I know it's not the same. But maybe my dad's right about trying to keep some things normal? (2:03 p.m.)

Dave: Where? (2:07 p.m.)

Kurt: My house? (2:11 p.m.)

Dave: Is your dad in town and does he still want to beat me up? (2:13 p.m.)

Kurt: He can’t try to beat you up. It would be too much of a political scandal. Anyway if he did, I'd pull him off of you just like I did the last time. (2:15 p.m.)
Kurt: And I'd say nice things about you while I did it, instead of just invoking his heart condition like I did then. (2:16 p.m.)

Dave: That's nice to know. (2:21 p.m.)

Kurt: That was insensitive, wasn't it? I was trying for droll. (2:26 p.m.)
Kurt: That was terrible humor about a terrible situation that was probably terrifying for you. (2:27 p.m.)

Dave: No, it's okay. I actually don't remember much of it. I'm more scarred by what I did to get him to throw me against the wall. (2:30 p.m.)

Kurt: I know. (2:31 p.m.)
Kurt: Also, for what it’s worth: my dad is still not thrilled with you, but I think he’ll come around eventually. I mean, I think he’s slowly getting used to the idea of us hanging out. But if he makes you nervous, I totally get it and we should find somewhere else to study. (2:34 p.m.)
Kurt: Sorry for the bad attempt at humor on my part. (2:35 p.m.)

Dave: It wasn’t that bad.  ;)   (2:36 p.m.)
Dave: And I did actually laugh. I just forgot to show you. (2:38 p.m.)
Dave: :/ :) :D>< :0 <=             (2:40 p.m.)
Dave: See? That's what I looked like. (2:40 p.m.)

Kurt: OK, I get the faces, but what are the carets and stuff for? (2:58 p.m.)
Kurt: Brackets. I meant angle brackets. (3:01 p.m.)

Dave: Ha, I call them greater-thans and less-thans. (3:10 p.m.)
Dave: :D>< is flailing with laughter and :0<= is slapping my knees. (3:11 p.m.)

Kurt: OH MY GOD I SEE IT NOW. (3:14 p.m.)
Kurt: And snot just flew out of my nose. (3:14 p.m.)
Kurt: All the New Directions are looking at me. Should I forgive you for causing me to laugh in such an undignified manner? (3:15 p.m.)

Dave: Yes? (3:16 p.m.)

Kurt: Okay. You are forgiven. (3:17 p.m.)
Kurt: Leaving school now, let’s continue this conversation when I get home. (3:58 p.m.)
Kurt: So. Studying? (4:24 p.m.)

Dave: Not my place. My mom gets home early on Thursdays and doesn't like for me to have people over. (4:25 p.m.)

Kurt: Ever? (4:27 p.m.)

Dave: Um, okay, I’m kind of not telling the whole truth. Basically, she doesn’t like me to have guy friends that aren’t all-American jocks with really short hair. Bonus if they attend a megachurch. (4:41 p.m.)

Dave: Though I kind of think you’re all-American in your own way. (4:45 p.m.)
Dave: Which I mean as a compliment, but maybe it didn’t sound like one? Just that you’re very outspoken, and the First Amendment is very American. So ... (4:52 p.m.)
Dave: Anyway, she wants me to date girls who are white and blonde, preferably cheerleaders or on the dance squad. Definitely not lacrosse players. Track and field is okay if their hair is long. (4:56 p.m.)
Dave: She likes things to be a certain way. (4:58 p.m.)

Kurt: I’m *so sorry* I disappeared. Carole wanted help with some stuff. In summary: she’s short, I’m not, she finds this useful for household tasks when the giant is not at home. (5:06 p.m.)
Kurt: Your mom sounds like a challenge. (5:07 p.m.)

Dave: I guess. She basically doesn't like anything that stands out as different. (5:11 p.m.)
Dave: Like, I went through puberty early and that really freaked her out. She complained about it like I was doing it on purpose. (5:15 p.m.)

Kurt: I'm sorry. (5:16 p.m.)
Kurt: That must have been awful. (5:17 p.m.)

Dave: It was. (5:20 p.m.)
Dave: Oh. I think I just had a revelation. (5:23 p.m.)

Kurt: Yeah? (5:23 p.m.)

Dave: Where I got it from. (5:24 p.m.)
Dave: My fear of not being normal, I mean. (5:24 p.m.)
Dave: I was raised with it. (5:24 p.m.)
Dave: OK, now I feel stupid for not realizing this earlier. Wow. I should really start seeing a shrink. (5:25 p.m.)

Kurt: I saw one after my mom died. I don't remember much, except it was nice to have a grown-up to talk to because my dad was dealing with his own stuff. (5:27 p.m.)
Kurt: We drew and played with toys a lot.It's probably different for older kids. (5:28 p.m.)
Kurt: But maybe they'll let you if you ask nicely. I redecorated her Barbie Dream House. (5:28 p.m.)

Dave: I bet you did. (5:29 p.m.)

Kurt: I had no choice! The house was so gauche. I like purple sparkly things, but even I know a little goes a long way. (5:30 p.m.)
Kurt: I redid it as Danish modern meets French Gothic. (5:30 p.m.)
Kurt: Which is quite an achievement using construction paper and K'NEX. (5:31 p.m.)

Dave: I want pictures. (5:32 p.m.)

Kurt: Sorry, never thought to take pictures at my shrink's. (5:33 p.m.)

Dave: I don't know if my mom would let me go see one. A therapist, I mean. Because of the not-normal thing. (5:47 p.m.)

Kurt: Maybe your dad? (5:52 p.m.)

Dave: Maybe. (5:55 p.m.)
Dave: We haven't figured out a way to do this studying thing on Thursday, have we? Unless we break into Blaine's house. (7:11 p.m.)

Kurt: Actually … (7:11 p.m.)

Dave: I was kidding. (7:12 p.m.)

Kurt: Well, I have a key and I know the security code, so technically it wouldn't be "breaking in," but his parents don't know I have either, so. (7:14 p.m.)
Kurt:  Just talked to Blaine. He said we should totally do it. (8:07 p.m.)
Kurt: Just talked to Blaine again. Now he says that maybe we shouldn't. (9:31 p.m.)
Kurt: I guess we'll have to pass. (9:33 p.m.)
Kurt: Dave? (9:50 p.m.)

Dave: I've been passing way too long. (9: 51 p.m.)

Kurt: My pride in you for making a pun is tempered by sadness over what the pun is about. (9:53 p.m.)

Dave: Sorry. Ignore me. (9:54 p.m.)

Kurt: No, I don't think I will. Ignore you, that is. (9:55 p.m.)
Kurt: As someone who's never passed, I can certainly see the advantages. (9:58 p.m.)

Dave: I use it as a crutch. (10:00 p.m.)

Kurt: Crutches can be useful when you're not ready to walk. (10:02 p.m.)

Dave: I guess. I just get sick of hiding sometimes. But I'm afraid of not hiding, too. (10:04 p.m.)

Kurt: I know. (10:05 p.m.)
Kurt: You'll know when the time is right. (10:05 p.m.)

Dave: Are you sure the time hasn't already come, and I missed it? (10:06 p.m.)

Kurt: I don't know, Dave. But there's always another chance. (10:07 p.m.)

Chapter Text

Blaine’s been in Cincinnati for a few days, staying with his aunt after the surgery, when he receives a text from Puck.

Puck: You better come back soon. Mr. Schue brought in this guest teacher today to show us how to get our Latin spirit on, and your boy is totally eye-fucking him.
Puck: Which I have to admit, I would too if I was gay, because this guy is almost as hot as I am.

Before Blaine’s even done reading the second message, his phone buzzes with another incoming text.

Kurt: We have a special guest in glee today.

Blaine: Yes, Puck just told me. He said that he’s quite the looker.

Kurt: He did? Well, you be the judge.
Kurt:

Blaine: Holy crap.

Kurt: You think that’s something. Wait till you see him without his jacket.
Kurt:

Kurt: And then he did this.
Kurt:

Blaine: Oh my god I’d like to see him do that for you.

Kurt: Blaine! Are you sexting me?

Blaine: You bet I am.
Blaine: Call me when you get home and I’ll tell you what else I want him to do for you.

Kurt: I am scandalized.

Blaine: You are not.
Blaine: And you’re going to call me, right?

Kurt: God I miss you.
Kurt: By which I mean yes.

* * *

The upside of Blaine being away in Cincinnati is that they’ve now discovered phone sex. The downside is – well, pretty much everything else.

Valentine’s Day is in less than a week, and there are decorations all over McKinley, and the boosters club is selling carnations, and Kurt would buy a dozen for Blaine, but he doesn’t even know when his boyfriend is going to be back. He sent him roses in Cincinnati on the day of the surgery, and Blaine audibly squealed about them over the phone, but it’s still not the same as watching Blaine blush and lower his eyelashes as he bends his face into the bouquet and takes a long, delighted breath in.

“I miss you,” Kurt says petulantly on the phone that night as they finish their bedtime ablutions.

Blaine sighs. “I miss you, too, Kurt. You have no idea how much.”

“Oh, I have some idea.” Kurt pats the last of his moisturizer on. “So you definitely won’t be back this weekend?”

“No,” Blaine says. “I have another follow-up appointment and no one can drive me down to Lima and back before then. And I can’t drive myself.”

Kurt pulls off his hair band and flings it down on the vanity. “I’m never going to forgive Finn for trying to change the oil in the Navigator.”

“He really did a number on it, didn’t he?”

“Windshield washing fluid and engines don’t mix,” Kurt grumbles. “Dad thinks he can fix it, but he won’t be able to have a look at it until after he gets back from D.C. tomorrow – and I kind of doubt that’s how he wants to spend his Friday night.” Kurt scoots his chair back from the vanity and stands up. “I really wish there was a way I could see you this weekend.”

“Me, too,” Blaine says. “But we’ll talk on the phone, and maybe we can do a little more than talk –”

Kurt blushes. “I suppose it’s good practice for next year.”

“Being apart, or more-than-talking on the phone?” Blaine says coyly.

“Both.” Kurt flops onto his bed. “But I wish we didn’t have to practice.”

Blaine hums. “I like practicing with you. Well, the sexy kind, anyway.”

Kurt ignores him. Blaine is obviously trying to cheer him up, and Kurt doesn’t want to be cheered up right now. He wants to wallow.  “But Scandals is having sing-along Moulin Rouge! this weekend, and we were going to go, and now I’m going to have to sit at home on Saturday night fighting over the remote control with Finn.”

Blaine’s silent for a moment. “Why don’t you ask Dave if he wants to go?”

Kurt twists the hem of his pajama top around his index finger. “It wouldn’t be the same. Anyway, I doubt Moulin Rouge! is his kind of movie.”

“How do you know? Has he ever told you what his kind of movie is?”

Kurt wracks his brain, but the only titles he can come up with are Pride and Prejudice and Good Will Hunting. “Um, I guess I don’t. But I kind of always figured he’d go more for those blow-’em-up movies that Finn likes.”

“Well, maybe he goes for Moulin Rouge!, too. You could ask.”

“You don’t think that would be … weird?”

“What would be weird about it?”

Kurt hugs his knees to his chest. “Us going to Scandals without you. It might … feel weird.”

“Just because something feels weird doesn’t mean it’s bad. Personally, I think you should go. Santana texted me today that you’ve been moping around at school.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I think she’s developing a soft spot for you.”

Kurt chuckles. “She probably just wants to start a gay mafia.”

“Well, it made me sad, anyway, to think about you being sad. I want you to be happy, Kurt.”

Kurt sighs. “I know. I just … it’s hard, being away from you.”

“It’s hard being away from you, too. So how about we both do something to cheer ourselves up? You and Dave go to sing-along Moulin Rouge! on Saturday, and I’ll watch it here. It’ll be like we’re watching it together.”

“You won’t just get jealous that we’re at Scandals looking at Ewan McGregor, and you’re all by yourself?”

“No,” Blaine says quietly. “Because as soon as ‘Come What May’ starts, I’ll feel you right here with me.”

“You really are the most romantic boyfriend ever, sweetheart.”

“I’m your only boyfriend ever,” Blaine says, but Kurt can hear how pleased he is by the sing-song of his voice.

*

After getting off the phone with Blaine that night, Kurt enters a text to Dave, erases it, rewrites it, erases that one, and rewrites it again. The message that Kurt finally deems not-too-weird and worthy of sending is:

Kurt: Hey! Blaine thought you would want to go sing-along Moulin Rouge! at S on Saturday night.

Dave: Is he going to be back on Saturday? That’s awesome! Sure, I’d love to.
Dave: That’s a movie, right?

Kurt resists the temptation to ask Dave what rock he’s been living under his entire life.

Kurt: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cause confusion. Blaine won’t be back yet. And yes, it’s a movie. With Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman and dancing hos and tragedy and comedy and spectacular spectacular-ness.

Dave: That’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, right?

Kurt: Yes.

Dave: Oh. I like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Kurt: Like or *like*?

Dave: That’s between me and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Kurt: Be that way. I’m pretty sure I can guess.
Kurt: Anyway, think about it and let me know.

Dave: I thought I already said yes?

Kurt: Oh. Blaine not being there doesn’t change your mind?

Dave: No. You had me at Obi-Wan Kenobi.

* * *

Actually, Kurt had him at “hey,” but Dave’s not going to say that.

* * *

Friday’s a good day for Blaine. He gets to remove his eye-patch, and even though he has to put this antibiotic in his eye that’s as thick as Vaseline and makes him see everything blurry, it’s progress. He’s another step closer to going back home.

“I’m so glad you’re going to see Moulin Rouge! with Kurt tomorrow. You are going to have the most awesome time,” Blaine says on the phone that night to Dave. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed in the guestroom, and he bounces against the mattress a little with each word.

Dave chuckles. “I’m not exactly sure what you’re so excited about. You’re still stuck in Cincinnati.”

“I’m excited for you because you’ve never seen it before and it’s the best movie ever, and I’m excited for Kurt because he loves sing-along anything and if you weren’t going with him he would probably stay home and pout all evening, but now he gets to go and be happy. And that makes me happy.”

“You’re really something, you know that?”

Blaine squirms and blushes. “Something awesome?”

“Yes, something awesome.”

Blaine blushes some more. “Anyway, if I can’t be there, knowing that my two best friends are having a good time – I don’t know. It just gives me warm feelings.”

“Hey, now. I haven’t promised to have a good time. Watching skinny women doing the can-can for two hours doesn’t exactly sound like my idea of fun.”

Blaine clucks his tongue. “That’s not what Moulin Rouge! is about. Anyway, you’ll be with Kurt, so of course you’ll have a good time. His enthusiasm is contagious.”

“So I shouldn’t be terrified of the dancing hos?”

Blaine smiles. “Well, I didn’t say that. But Kurt will protect you from the most menacing ones.”

* * *

Dave spends Saturday morning wondering why the fuck he said yes and how he is possibly going to survive this evening without making an utter fool of himself.

He considers backing out, but then he thinks about Kurt pouting at home and Blaine’s sad puppy-dog face, and decides he’s just going to have to man up and go.

So he does his laundry and irons his t-shirts and jeans and tries on three different outfits before he makes himself stop because this is not a fucking date and Kurt has never cared or noticed how Dave looks, anyway. Still, he showers and shaves and makes himself decent and presentable, because you never know – maybe this is the night that the perfect man is going to walk in through the doors of Scandals and sweep him off his feet.

He just hopes he recognizes it if it happens.

* * *

Burt Hummel fixes the Navigator early on Saturday afternoon. “Don’t think this means you’re going to Cincinnati, kid,” he says as he hands Kurt the keys. “I did my best work, but I don’t trust that engine not to fall apart on the highway. You’re only gonna be driving in town for the next couple weeks.”

Kurt starts to open his mouth.

“And I’ll ground you for the next 20 years if you try anything funny.”

Kurt shuts his mouth, but only until his dad’s out of earshot. Then he calls up Blaine and starts to grouse.

“Kurt, your dad is right. I don’t want to be the cause of you getting into a wreck on I-75.”

Kurt huffs. “I knew you’d be on his side. You two are always teaming up against me.”

“Or maybe we both just love you a lot and want what’s best for you?”

Kurt flops belly-first onto his bed. “You would figure out a way to make it sound sweet, wouldn’t you?”

So Kurt spends the rest of the afternoon trying to narrow down his choices of outfits for tonight. He could go as Christian, the down-and-out poet in grey trousers, collarless white button-down, suspenders, pinstriped brown vest and felt hat; or as the penniless sitar player in cream satin brocade jacket and pants; or as Toulouse Lautrec in red button-down, high hat, and gold wire-rimmed spectacles. He tries them all on, sending a photo of each outfit to Blaine and receiving increasingly enthusiastic responses before he finally decides on an outfit inspired by the unconscious Argentinian: tight black pants that flare out below the knee, shiny black leather-soled shoes, a white long-sleeved Henley, red vest, and a black leather cuff around his left wrist.

Blaine: Oh my god the only way you could look better is if you had nothing on at all.

Kurt: Is it too much?

Blaine: No. You’d outshine everyone in that place no matter what you wore.

Kurt: Blushing.

Blaine: I’d like to make you blush even more.

Kurt: Really?

Blaine: Yeah.

Kurt: And pray tell, how?

Blaine: Call me and you’ll find out.

*

“Tell me something dirty,” Kurt says. He’s already naked in his bed, his eyes closed and his cock hard in his hand, stroking it just the way Blaine has told him to.

“Well, I could do that,” Blaine says coyly. He sounds so close when Kurt has his earbuds in; it’s almost like Kurt can feel Blaine’s breath in his ear. “But I think it’s your turn.”

Kurt’s mind goes blank. They’ve only had phone sex three times, but every time it’s been Blaine who’s done all the talking. He’s told Kurt about how he wants his mouth to be fucked, and his ass, and how he wants to see Señor Martinez bend Kurt over the piano in the music room and lick his hole until Kurt comes from just that. He’s talked about sucking Kurt’s cock while Señor Martinez fucks his ass, and about fucking Kurt’s ass while Kurt fucks Señor Martinez’s, and he’s talked about being stuck outside the music room and peering through the strip of glass in the door, and watching Kurt come all over Señor Martinez’s black leather jacket.

“What – What do you want me to tell you?” Kurt says.

“You know what turns me on.”

Kurt bites his lip. “Do you – Do you want me to fuck you, or do you want to watch me?”

“Watch you.”

Kurt feels himself grow harder. “Um, who with?”

“You pick.”

“T-Taylor Lautner?”

“Sure.”

“I still think about him sometimes, you know.”

Blaine groans.

“I think about – I think about him giving me a blowjob, and –”

“Is he good?”

“He begs for it, Blaine.”

“Of course he does, Kurt. Anyone would.”

Kurt keeps the strokes on his cock soft and whisper-light. He loves the way Blaine gets when they talk like this. “And you’re there, too, Blaine. You kiss me while he sucks me, and I tell you how good it feels, and I try not to be too rough but I, I can’t stop myself, and I grab his head and I fuck his mouth and he takes it and it feels so, so good.”

“Oh, fuck. Tell me more.”

“And then – and then, you’re still kissing me but you start fingering him, too, and he really likes that, Blaine. And the more I lose it, the better you fuck him with your fingers, and he loves it, and he sucks me even harder, and I can tell he’s about to come –”

“You’re making him come, Kurt. It’s you.”

“But I’m – I don’t want to come yet.”

“Wait – in real life, or the fantasy.”

Kurt takes a deep breath. “Um, both? I want – I want to know what you’re doing to yourself.”

Blaine hums. “Fingering myself.”

“Jesus.”

“You like that?”

“I love it.”

“I like fingering myself and thinking about your ass, Kurt.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. I like to think about licking it, and about watching it stretch around my fingers, and sometimes I like to think about other men’s fingers in there, too.”

“Like, at the same time as you, or, or –”

“I have one finger inside you, and he has one finger inside you, and we slide in opposite directions, and the backs of our hands keep rubbing together, and we’re both watching your face, you’re biting your lip and you’re so gorgeous, Kurt. Your cock is so hard and you feel so tight and warm but we each get another finger in you and you stretch and take it –”

“Oh, god.” That thought has never occurred to Kurt before, but he’s pretty sure it’s the hottest thing he’s ever heard, and he spreads some of the lube that’s on his dick onto his other hand, then lowers it to drag the pads of his fingers gently against his hole.

“Your turn, Kurt. Tell me more.”

"O-okay," Kurt stutters. "Are you tired of Señor Martinez yet?”

“God no.”

Kurt stills his hand because it’s kind of hard to speak with his fingers rubbing against his hole. “Um, after school in the Spanish classroom. I stay late for extra help, and he teaches me words that aren't in the Ohio Spanish curriculum requirements. But I pretend not to understand, and so he asks if I want him to show me what he means and, and he shows me and we lose track of time and you – you come by to pick me up and he’s still showing me and you just … stand there at the door and watch.”

“Fuck, Kurt.”

“And then –” Kurt tries to keep his hand still, but he can’t. He fucks the first wet finger inside himself.

“Kurt, I, I think I’m gonna come.”

“No,” Kurt says, spreading his legs wider so he can slide another finger in. “Not yet. I want –” His fingers move fast, almost of their own accord, and he spreads himself wide, and it feels so good, this low-burning fire that’s about to spark and explode.

Kurt can hear Blaine take a deep breath on the other end of the phone. “What do you want, Kurt? I’d do anything for you.”

“I want –“ Kurt gasps. “I want you to step closer. I want you to walk over and watch up close while I ride him. I want you to see my ass stretched around his dick, so you know what it looks like when it’s stretched around yours, so you can see how hungry I am for it, and how I want, and I –” Kurt stretches himself wider, presses a third finger against where he wants it, feels his muscle resist and resist and finally give way and “– oh fuck Blaine, that’s so good, it’s so, I Iove –”

“I have to come, Kurt, I can’t –” and Blaine makes a tight, struggling sound.

“You’re so good, Blaine.” Kurt fucks himself, fingers in and out and deeper, stretching, fast and more until starbursts jolt through his spine and eyelids. “I love you, I love you fucking me, I love –” His body shakes his back arching of the bed, and he comes white onto his stomach, warm pulses that feel like Blaine’s sweat and spit and come.

The only sound for a minute is the sound of their breathing, heavy at first, then slowing, riding out the blissful wave.

“I love you, Kurt. So, so much.”

Kurt feels suddenly shy again. “It – It wasn’t too much?”

"It was only too much if you didn’t want me to come all over the guest bed."

Kurt blushes. "Sorry."

Blaine laughs. "No apologies necessary. Anyway, I do my own laundry here.”

Kurt wishes he could kiss Blaine's forehead. Instead, he kisses the speaker on his phone. “I love you, sweetheart. And I –” He bites his lip and blushes brighter. “I’m glad I made you come. I like making you feel good.”

“You make me feel good in so many ways, Kurt. Not just when we mess around.”

Kurt hums. “You, too, sweetie. You do that to me, too.”

* * *

Dave’s parents have the car tonight, so Dave takes a cab. He’s stopped having the drivers drop him off at the McDonald’s three blocks away; each time, he gets out of the cab incrementally closer to his actual destination. Tonight, he asks to be dropped off at the fencing contractor that’s next door to Scandals; he can tell by the look on the cabbie’s face that his true destination is obvious, and he feels a little queasy for a moment, but then the cabbie makes a comment on his Giants cap and Dave’s nerves fade behind the easy, familiar curtain of Super Bowl patter.

He orders a Mountain Dew at the bar (taxi or not, he’s not stupid enough to think he can drink tonight) and goes over to the pool tables. It’s early, and they’re all empty, so he plays a game against himself until he feels a tap on his shoulder and turns around to see Kurt, who somehow manages to be even more breathtaking than usual as he says with a smile that reaches his eyes, “Get ready to be amazed, Dave.  Your life is going to change when you enter the Moulin Rouge.”

Somehow, Dave manages to keep his heart from climbing out of his throat.

* * *

Kurt goes to the bar to order himself a virgin something while Dave scopes out a table for them. But then he overhears the guy ahead of him – a handsome Toulouse Lautrec – ordering an iced tea, and decides to go for that instead. “I’ll have the same as he’s having,” he says to the bartender.

He feels very adult when Toulouse Lautrec turns and winks at him and says, “You have very good taste.”

“Yes, I do.” Kurt smiles, but doesn’t wink back.

Kurt starts sipping at his tea on the way to the table Dave found for them; it tastes a little odd at first, but it’s sweet and has a bright note of citrus, and on his third sip he decides it’s the best iced tea he’s ever had. He goes back to the bar and orders a second one so he won’t have to break away from the movie later.

The floor is set up the same way it was for the Michigan-Ohio State game in November, with tables and chairs on the dance floor and a large screen at the front. But the clothing people are wearing is much classier; there are quite a few Satines and Green Fairies, and several Christians, and a Nini and two Toulouse Lautrecs in addition to the one he ran into at the bar. There’s even a Duke, a Harold Zidler and a magical sitar. Kurt’s relieved to see he’s the only unconscious Argentinian.

“I feel a little underdressed,” Dave says as Kurt sits down.

“You’re fine,” Kurt says. “At least you ironed your shirt, which is more than I can say of some people around here.” He nods at a guy two tables away who is dressed as Christian in a disheveled button-down, and doesn’t mention that it’s part of the costume.

Dave lowers his eyelashes and pops another ice cube in his mouth, and Kurt thinks he sees the hint of a blush on Dave’s cheekbones, but the lights are dim so it’s hard to tell.

Kurt’s phone buzzes.

Blaine: I have the DVD player set up. Text me when the movie starts.

Kurt smiles and flashes the message to Dave before texting back.

Kurt: Only if you promise to sing along with me.

Blaine: Of course I will.

* * *

Moulin Rouge! is, it turns out, terrifying. At least for the first 15 minutes or so, when the camera darts around and lights flash and colors whirl and the music stomps out of the speakers like a herd of elephants high on meth. Dave has to close his eyes a few times to hold onto his bearings; it’s about the same level of disorienting as trying to juggle knives while riding a loop-de-loop rollercoaster through a house of horrors.

Kurt, on the other hand, is having the time of his life. Despite the fact that the music is a hyperactive mishmash of songs that sounds like it could really benefit from a dose of Ritalin, Kurt manages to sing right along with it, even as it jumps from Nirvana to mind-numbing house music to a very odd rap song.

Dave feels a nudge against his arm and opens his eyes. Kurt’s inches away from his face, looking at him with pale concern. “Are you okay? You look like you’re going to throw up.”

Dave takes a deep breath. “Fine. The movie –” he points weakly at the screen. “There’s a lot going on there.”

Kurt frowns. “I’m sorry. I forgot how overwhelming it is the first time you see it. I should have warned you.” He puts a hand on Dave’s forearm and gives a light squeeze. “But I promise it gets better soon. And if not – we don’t have to stay.”

Dave is not going to let a mere movie defeat him. “No, I’ll be okay. I’m sure it just takes some getting used to.”

“Ha ha,” Kurt says. “That’s like saying you can get used to being in love. No one ever gets used to the grandeur of Moulin Rouge! But one learns not to fear it.” And with that, Kurt whips his head back toward the screen and starts singing along with Nicole Kidman as she glides down from the ceiling on a trapeze.

Dave watches Kurt lose himself in the song, and the terrifying chaos of the movie slips away.

* * *

Kurt was telling the truth. The movie does get better. It’s a lot like learning to swim in Lake Michigan on a windy day: Yes, the waves can be huge and terrifying, and the current could pull you under; but if you stop fighting the water, you’re much less likely to drown.

Kurt gets increasingly elated as the movie goes along, and sings more loudly, hitting every note sung by man or woman perfectly so that people at the surrounding tables start turning to listen to him instead of the movie. Kurt doesn’t even notice; his eyes are on the screen, dancing with light as the songs move through him, and he’s so gorgeous and otherworldly that Dave can’t resist taking a picture of him to send to Blaine.

Kurt notices that, and raises an eyebrow at the phone’s camera in feigned irritation, but the smile doesn’t disappear from his face, and he doesn’t stop singing. He just turns to Dave and starts performing the song for him, and it’s both fabulous and uncomfortable because it’s an Elton John love song, and he’s going on about eyes that are green or blue and “the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen,” andits all very confusing until Kurt leans right into Dave’s face on the last “How wonderful life is while you're in the world,” and Dave catches the distinct whiff of alcohol on Kurt’s breath.

“Kurt, you’re drunk.”

Kurt laughs and slaps Dave’s shoulder. “Drunk on life and Moulin Rouge!”

“Um, no.” Dave grabs one of Kurt’s empty tumblers and sniffs at it. Even though it’s largely melted ice at this point, it reeks of booze. “You’re drunk on alcohol. What did you order, anyway?”

“It was just iced tea.” Kurt giggles and grabs the tumbler back. “It has a special name, something that has to do with New York.”

“Long Island iced tea?”

Kurt nods. “Yup, that’s it.”

“Kurt, that’s a mixed drink.”

Kurt raises an eyebrow at him. “Really?”

Dave nods.

“Huh. I guess you’ll have to drive me home then.” Kurt leans in too close and lowers his voice conspiratorially. “You’ll have to be careful, though. My dad just fixed it and the engine could go at any moment. Now shush and pay attention to the movie.”

* * *

At some point, Kurt starts to register that the hoots and catcalls at the end of every song are for him. So when Satine launches into “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” he stands up on the table to sing along with her. He gets a standing ovation. And then a six-foot-two Satine who usually comes to Scandals dressed as Cher leans over the table to flash her décolletage and propose a duet, and Kurt sees no reason not to oblige. He takes her hand and they go to the front of the room by the screen to sing along as Christian and Satine chase each other on top of the glittering elephant. But Drag Satine can’t really sing, so Kurt does both their lines while she lip syncs along, and by the end of the song the patrons are stomping and cheering and it’s for him. It’s for his voice.

“They love me,” Kurt can’t stop saying when he gets back to the table. He hugs Dave because he has to hug someone; because his heart is spinning out onto his surface, not tight and balled up deep inside like it is most of the time. Dave isn’t as soft as Kurt would have expected from the way that Blaine goes on about his teddy-bear-like qualities. He’s solid, like the ground. “I can’t believe they love me.”

“Of course they do,” Dave says, and for some inexplicable reason, those are the words that suddenly make everything seem real, and Kurt starts crying for the joy of it.

* * *

Dave: Your boyfriend has learned too late that Long Island iced tea is not actually iced tea. He appears to be pretty drunk. Advice?

Blaine: Really? OMG I want to see this. I’ve never seen Kurt drink. I could lord it over him for months. Oh wait. That’s not mature.
Blaine: So, is he an angry drunk or an adorable drunk?

Dave: Well, he did a duet with this drag queen and kind of stole the show.

Blaine: I can’t believe I’m missing it.

Dave: I’ll send you a picture. Didn’t want to without warning you he was drunk first.

Blaine: Aw, thanks!
Blaine: I’m so glad you’re there. Make sure he gets home okay?

Dave: I will.

* * *

Everyone really does love Kurt. Strangers come up to him and offer to buy him something. “I already have a boyfriend,” he says, “but if you’re not just trying to get into my pants –” He gets another Long Island iced tea and two Mountain Dews for Dave that way.

Being drunk is kind of awesome. Kurt’s not quite sure how he’s managed not to think about that fact ever since vomiting on Miss Pillsbury’s shoes, but he’s glad the truth has confronted him now.

Because Moulin Rouge! may be even better when you’re inebriated. Kurt laughs harder at the funny parts and cries harder at the sad parts, and when “Come What May” starts, Kurt texts Blaine with most of the lyrics – okay, all of them. He’s not sure he’d wear his heart so freely on his sleeve if he were sober.

And then when “Tango de Roxanne” starts and he wants to dance, he doesn’t just sit there on his hands like he would if he were just drinking a boring old Shirley Temple.

“We’re going to tango,” he announces to Dave, and pulls him out of his seat by both hands.

“But I don’t know how to tango,” Dave protests.

“That’s okay. I’ll lead and you follow. You’ll be fine.”

“But Blaine –”

“Oh my god. Blaine doesn’t care if we dance together.” Kurt has a mischievous thought. “In fact, I think he’d like it.”

But they don’t even make it as far onto the dance floor, because it suddenly starts moving under them like a sheet billowing in the wind. “Oh shit,” Kurt murmurs as he falls sideways into Dave’s shoulder. “I just remembered why I don’t drink.”

They make it to the bathroom before Kurt starts throwing up, but just barely.

*

“This is so embarrassing,” Kurt mutters at his reflection in the mirror. There are no signs of puke on his face or clothing. At least he’s got that going for him.

But Dave was crouching down next to him in the stall as he threw up, rubbing his back and talking him through it. It was comforting at the time, but now all Kurt can think is how wretched he must have looked.

Dave is leaning against the wall behind the row of sinks. “I’ve seen way worse. Azimio upchucked in my dad’s car, like, three times. And then passed out so I had to clean it up.”

“And you stayed friends with him?” Kurt leans over the sink to rinse his mouth and spit. “Now that’s true friendship.”

Dave shrugs. “I thought so.” Something about his tone makes Kurt’s heart ache. He suddenly feels very sober, although he knows that it doesn’t work that way – the alcohol that was in his blood ten minutes ago is still zooming around through his body and bathing his brain. Only the stuff that was in his stomach is gone.

Kurt splashes his face. “You guys don’t really talk anymore, do you?”

“Not since prom last year.” Dave grabs a paper towel from the dispenser and hands it to Kurt without making eye contact. “Not really.”

Kurt starts to pat his face dry. “I’m sorry,” he says, which he realizes doesn’t make any sense because Azimio and Dave together were just as bad as Dave alone used to be. So maybe Kurt’s not sorry for Dave losing Azimio, but he is sorry for the other thing that Dave lost at the same time, the thing that makes Dave look so pained to remember Azimio right now.

“Don’t be. We obviously weren’t the best influences on each other. And hanging out with him kind of made me hate myself. I mean, I don’t know how much of that was his fault and how much of it was mine, but –” Dave shrugs and looks down at the floor.

“You were in love with him, weren’t you?” Okay, Kurt is definitely drunk.

Dave leans against the wall and sighs. “I don’t know. Sometimes I thought I might be.”

Kurt steps toward Dave and gives him another hug because he’s drunk and nothing’s stopping him. “Oh, honey,” he says. “First loves are the worst.” Dave stands immobile as a mountain for a minute but Kurt refuses to let go, and finally Dave surrenders to it, resting his hands around Kurt’s back and his cheek against the top of Kurt’s head.

“Yeah, they are,” Dave says.

“I used to be in love with Finn,” Kurt mutters into Dave’s shoulder. “It sucked.”

“As in Finn Hudson? Your step-brother?”

“Yeah. It’s kind of how he ended up as my step-brother.” Kurt steps back from the hug and looks toward the restroom door. “Remind me to tell you that convoluted story of suckage sometime when I’m sober enough to get all the details right. In the meantime, shall we catch the end of Moulin Rouge?

“We shall,” Dave says. He doesn’t offer his elbow, but Kurt takes it anyway, because he’s not sure how he’s going to make it back to the table otherwise.

* * *

The movie ends in a way that Dave is not expecting at all. He would cry, except that he doesn’t know how to cry at movies. So instead, he gets a headache.

Kurt, on the other hand, is sobbing shamelessly into Dave’s shoulder and muttering, “I love you so much, Blaine,” over and over again into his iPhone.

Eventually, Kurt hands the phone to Dave. “Blaine wants to talk to you,” he says, and his breath is so close to Dave’s ear that the words feel solid, perching there like a bird on a windowsill.

He takes the phone and Kurt sinks his face back into his shoulder. “Hi, Blaine,” he says.

“Kurt is really, really drunk,” Blaine says on the other end of the line, his voice wobbly with either laughter or tears. Dave can’t figure out which.

“Are you okay?”

Blaine sniffs. “Oh, yeah. Just, crying over the movie and how much I miss you guys, and laughing because Kurt is, like, really plastered.”

“That is very true.”

“Has he thrown up yet?”

Dave looks at the head on his shoulder and wonders how much he should say within earshot of it without provoking its wrath. He decides a simple, “Yes,” is safe enough.

“But he’s okay now?”

“Yeah, I think so. No more Long Island ice teas for him tonight.”

Kurt’s groan vibrates all the way into Dave’s rib cage.

“Well,” says Blaine. “I’m glad you’re there to take care of him. Give him a hug for me, okay?”

Dave’s not sure what to say to that, so he says, “Okay.” He swallows. “Not sure how I’m going to get him through his front door without the whole family pointing shotguns at me, though.”

Kurt mumbles. “My dad doesn’t own a shotgun.”

“Metaphorical,” Dave mumbles back at him.

Kurt looks up with bright, devilish eyes and a coy grin. “Oooh, big word.”

Blaine jumps in. “Don’t worry about that. I’ve already texted Finn. I know he’s not generally the most trustworthy guy, but when it comes to covering up drunken escapades – he’s trustworthy. He’ll take care of Kurt when you drop him off.”

“Does he know I’m the one dropping him off? He wasn’t so thrilled to see me the last time we met. And Kurt’s not really in any position to defend me.”

Kurt pinches Dave’s cheek. “I’m always in a position to defend you, David.”

*

Kurt makes it to the car without falling down, but that could be because he clings to Dave’s side the whole way there. “You’re like a tree,” he says as Dave tries to untangle him and help him into the passenger seat of the Navigator.

“Um, thank you?”

Kurt turns and tries to grab his seatbelt from over by the open door, but it keeps slipping through his fingers and snapping back into the holder on the car frame. He sinks back into seat and huffs angrily. “Dave, why won’t my brain communicate with my hand?”

“Because you’re drunk, Kurt.”

“I don’t feel drunk. I can think perfectly clearly. It’s just the rest of me that’s all fuzzy.”

“Do you want help with your seatbelt?”

Kurt frowns. “Okay. I guess needing help with your seatbelt goes with the territory when you’re drunk, doesn’t it? I always have to help Blaine with his when he’s all, you know –” Kurt twirls his hand in the air “– woowoo.”

Dave tries not to lean in too close as he reaches across Kurt to snap the belt in place, but the effort turns out to be kind of fruitless, because as he straightens up Kurt’s eyes catch onto Dave’s forearm like it’s the most fascinating thing in the world and before Dave knows what’s happening, Kurt has both hands around it and is squeezing it through his coat. “Yup,” says Kurt. “Definitely a tree. I don’t know why they call you a teddy bear. You’re very solid, Dave.”

Dave pries his forearm loose from Kurt’s grip and backs all the way out of the car. “Watch your feet,” he says as he shuts the door. This is going to be the longest, weirdest night in history.

Kurt’s silent when Dave climbs into the driver’s seat and turns the motor on. He explains the plan that Blaine texted to him on their way out of the bar: Dave’s going to drive Kurt around for a while until Finn gets home. Finn is going to help him into the house and rehydrate him and help him to bed before their parents get home, and when Kurt wakes up hungover tomorrow morning, he should claim he’s coming down with the flu.

Kurt nods, but he doesn’t say anything, so Dave’s not sure if any of it registered and how much he’ll have to explain again later.

“Do you want music, Kurt?” Dave says as they pull out of the parking lot.

Kurt shakes his head and stares out the window. “No. I’m thinking.”

“What about?” Dave says, although as soon as he says it, it feels like the most dangerous question.

“Have you ever seen a giant redwood?”

“Just in pictures. Not in real life.”

“My dad and I drove to California a few summers ago, and he said he’d only take me to Hollywood if I agreed to stop and look at redwoods on the way back. Anyway, when you stand at the bottom of one, they’re – They’re really big, Dave. You look up and up and up and with some of them, you can’t even see the top. And I took all these pictures where I’d lie down at the bottom of the tree and point the camera up and try to fit the whole thing in the shot that way, but it never would fit, and at first I got really frustrated because I wanted to be able to see the whole tree at once.”

“Wait. You laid down on the ground? In the forest? Weren’t you worried about your clothes?”

That is not the point of the story, Dave. But I was wearing ugly clothes. My dad warned me they might get messy.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Anyway, when I stopped to look at the pictures that I had, I decided they were actually really nice. Because maybe I couldn’t see the whole thing, but what I could see was still … worth seeing. And after we left, I started paying attention to the smaller trees at the side of the road and I realized that even with them, I couldn’t see everything at once. I could just see one side or the other, and if I was on the ground and looked up, I would see all the branches but I couldn’t see the canopy, and if I was up in a building looking down on the canopy, I couldn’t see the branches or the trunk. So I can’t see everything about a tree all at once, but every time I change my angle, I see something new.”

Dave is looking out at the road ahead of them, but in the corner of his eye, he can see Kurt look away from the window and turn toward him. “That’s why you’re like a tree, Dave.”

“Oh.”

“You’re also like Satine.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, because your eyebrows. And also because you don’t think you’re worth being loved.”

Dave does not crash the car. “Kurt, you’re really drunk.” They come to a red light, but Dave doesn’t turn to look at him.

“I told you already, my brain’s not fuzzy. Just the rest of me.”

Dave can feel Kurt’s eyes boring into him. He wonders whether it was such a good idea, after all, to want friends who care so much that they try to see inside you.

“David, why didn’t things work out with you and –” Kurt scratches his head. “I forget his name. George? You know, that guy you went on a date with.”

Dave shrugs. “You met him. He wasn’t all that memorable.”

“He was okay.”

Dave rolls his eyes. “You were making faces behind his back the whole time.”

“Only because you were so obviously not into him.” Kurt sounds a little petulant. “Anyway, it’s not just him. I see all these other guys checking you out every time we’re at Scandals, and you hardly ever look back at them.”

“If anyone’s looking in my direction, it’s because you’re sitting next to me.”

Kurt giggles and punches Dave’s bicep. “Well, yes, I am quite the eye candy. But they’re not all looking at me. I caught two Christians and a Green Fairy and the Duke all checking you out tonight.”

“You’re full of it.”

Kurt wags his head and pinches Dave’s bicep. “Nah-uh. Everyone loves a beefy jock.”

Dave shrinks away and mumbles, “Not everyone.”

Kurt folds his arms across his chest. His coordination seems to be improving steadily. “Fine, be a crabby pants. But I speak the truth. Even me, you know – my first porn was a pile of –”

“I don’t think you want to tell me this, Kurt.”

“– vintage muscle magazines that April Rhodes gave me. They had so much … skin.” Kurt sighs dreamily.

“Wait, April Rhodes? You mean the woman they named the McKinley Auditorium after?”

“Yup.” Kurt leans in close to Dave’s shoulder like he’s about to divulge something even more private, if that were possible.

“Whatever you’re about to say, don’t say it,” Dave says.

“Sometimes,” Kurt whispers loudly, “Blaine and I look through them when we get tired of Vogue.”

Dave has no idea how to respond to that, so he flips on the radio without asking permission first and turns it up so loud he can’t think. He doesn’t recognize the song, but Kurt starts singing happily along with it and continues to the rest of the way home.

*

Dave has no idea what Blaine told him, but Finn acts so casual about the whole thing that it’s like they’ve all done this a hundred times before.

“You need a ride home, Karofsky?” he says after Dave gets out of the car. Kurt is hanging onto Finn’s arm, frowning up at him in the dim light of the driveway.

“You’re no tree, Finn Hudson,” Kurt mutters.

Finn looks down at him with a bright smile. “Wow, Kurt, you really are plastered, aren’t you? Never thought I’d see you like this. Don’t worry, though, I won’t tell your dad.”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “Of course you won’t, or I’ll show Rachel your browser history on Pornhub.com."

Finn laughs, but it’s obvious from the way his eyes are bulging out of their sockets that the threat holds some real weight. He looks up at Dave. “Anyway, if you wanna wait while I get Kurt inside, I can give you a ride home.”

Dave shakes his head. “Nah, it’s okay. I was going to get a cab, anyway.”

Kurt nods approvingly. “You’ve made the right choice, Dave. He’s a terrible driver.”

“That part’s actually true,” Finn says, grinning. He reaches out his hand to shake Dave’s. “Thanks for watching out for my little brother, man.”

Kurt rolls his eyes again. “Jesus fuck, I’m drunk, not incompetent. I can say my own thank you’s. And anyway, I’m older than you, Finn.” He pushes away from Finn and walks the two steps toward Dave unaided before wrapping him in his third hug of the night. “Don’t forget, Dave,” he murmurs into his shoulder. “You’re a tree.”

*

Dave decides to walk home instead of calling a taxi. His brain is spinning like he’s the drunk one; the cold air should do him some good.

A block away from Kurt’s house, he texts Blaine.

Dave: Got him home in one piece. Parents should be none the wiser.

Blaine: Thanks.
Blaine: I forgot to ask you how you liked the movie, anyway.

Dave: It was interesting.

Blaine: Interesting?

Dave: Overwhelming. Terrifying. Sad.
Dave: Why does it make you guys so happy?

It’s a few minutes before Blaine answers.

Blaine: It’s like riding a rollercoaster of love.

Blaine: And also - and I know you’re going to think this is cheesy when I say it, but it’s true. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Dave: Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have the chance to learn it.

Blaine: You already are loved, Dave.

Dave finally cries. He doesn’t know if it’s sadness or happiness. But he knows it’s something.

Chapter Text

Kurt wakes up to find a bottle of ibuprofen and a glass of water next to his bed, and three messages on his phone.

Blaine: Call me when you’re up to it.

Dave: I hope you’re feeling as good today as you did last night.
Dave: P.S. Blaine loved this picture so I thought I’d send it to you.

The photo is from Scandals. Kurt doesn’t often like to look at pictures of himself, but Blaine’s right: this one is good. His face is glowing with soft colored light of the movie screen, and somehow he has a smile on his face even as he sips his Long Island iced tea through a straw. He’s just noticed the camera and is looking at it sidelong in a way that looks like both invitation and challenge. He’s vivacious. He’s radiant.

Looking at the photo, Kurt feels a tenderness toward himself that he doesn’t often experience, like he’s getting a glimpse of himself through Blaine’s eyes. Although, of course, it’s Dave who took the picture.

Kurt doesn’t dwell on what that might mean.

He calls Blaine.

“Hi sweetie. Thanks for taking care of me last night.”

“Dave and Finn did most of the work,” Blaine answers. Kurt can picture him, scrunching his shoulders and looking down at his feet like he often does when Kurt compliments him, as if the joy of being praised were too overwhelming to bear. The image makes Kurt’s stomach flutter in delight.

“You helped,” Kurt says.

“As much as I could,” Blaine says. “How are you feeling?”

“A bit of a headache, but I just took an Advil.” Kurt scoots down to the foot of his bed to peer into his vanity mirror. “I’m a little dark under the eyes and my mouth feels like I was sucking on cotton batting all night, but otherwise … not bad. It’s not like the time I drank two bottles of Chablis and puked on Miss Pillsbury’s shoes. Still don’t think I’ll be making a regular habit of getting snockered, though.”

“No?”

“I kind of … lose my reserve.”

“You don’t think you would have dueted with the drag queen if you’d been sober?”

“Dave told you about that?”

Blaine hums happily. “ Yup. And he sent me pictures.”

“I can only assume I look stunning in them.”

“You do.”

Kurt blushes. He feels almost as giddy as he did last night. “No, I think I would have done that sober. At least, I hope so. But there are other things I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have if I’d, you know, had all my wits about me.” Kurt flops onto his stomach and grabs the corner of the top sheet to twist it around his index finger.

“Like what?”

Kurt bites his lip. “It’s really embarrassing.”

“It can’t be that bad, Kurt. I mean, you didn’t play spin-the-bottle with Rachel and accidentally start making out with her, did you?”

Kurt snorts. “No.”

“Although if you had, and you’d enjoyed it – I wouldn’t judge.”

Kurt covers his face with his hand. “Oh my god. Have you had fantasies about me and Rachel?”

“No-o,” Blaine says in a singsong. “I’ve never thought about you with a girl.” Blaine lowers his voice. “I mean, my fantasies, they’re about – I mean, I like watching you, but mostly they’re about you being turned on, and feeling good, and knowing how hot you are. So they wouldn’t really work with girls, since you’re not turned on by girls.” Blaine pauses. “Wait, are you turned on by girls? We’ve never actually talked about this. I didn’t mean to assume –”

Kurt shakes his head. He has the urge to bury his face in his pillow, but then Blaine wouldn’t be able to hear him. “No. I’m not turned on by girls. I mean, it was nice making out with Brittany that one time, but mostly because I was imagining that she was a boy.”

“Okay. Well, my point is – whatever you did that you think is embarrassing, it’s okay.”

“You don’t even know what I did yet.”

Blaine was silent for a moment. “But I know that I love you. So you don’t need to be afraid to tell me. But you also don’t have to tell me, if you’re not comfortable.”

Kurt bites his lower lip. “No, I want to tell you. I told Dave about –” He lowers his voice. “About my muscle magazines.”

“You did not!” Blaine says in the same tone of voice he had when Kurt told him he was a finalist for NYADA.

“I did. And I also told him –” Kurt closes his eyes. “OhmygodI’msoembarrassed.”

“Kurt, it’s okay.”

Kurt shakes his head. “No it’s not. Because I also told him that, um, that we look at them together sometimes. Which is – I’m sorry, Blaine, I know that’s private, you must think I’m –”

“Hot.”

“What?”

“You’re really hot.”

“Um, that wasn’t the answer I was expecting.”

“Well, it’s the one you get.”

It’s a good answer, but not one that Kurt knows how to respond to, so he abruptly changes the subject to whether he should make crepes or waffles for his family this morning.

Blaine votes for waffles with strawberry-cardamom conserve, then says, “So, does Dave want to borrow it?”

“What? The waffle iron?”

“No, honey. Your vintage muscle magazine collection.”

Kurt turns as red as a jar of strawberry conserve. “Oh my god, Blaine, I didn’t ask him that. He was very gentlemanly and changed the subject.”

Blaine sighs loudly. “That’s too bad.”

----

Kurt: Thank you for the photo. Blaine’s right, I look fabulous.

Dave: Hi.

Kurt: Hi.

Dave: How are you feeling?

Kurt: Surprisingly functional. Unlike last night. Sorry about that. You didn’t sign up to babysit.

Dave: It was fine. I had fun.

Kurt: I did, too, thanks to excellent company.
Kurt: Sorry I got kind of personal, though.
Kurt: I shouldn’t have pressured you about dating. It’s not any of my business.

Dave: It’s okay. I just think maybe I’m not ready to date right now.
Dave: I’m not even out.
Dave: I should probably wait until I have more to offer.

Kurt: You have plenty to offer. You’re a tree.
Kurt: But I get what you mean. Waiting can be a good thing.

* * *

Blaine: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dave: Did you mean to send that to Kurt?

Blaine: No. I’m allowed to wish my best friend a Happy Valentine’s Day, aren’t I?

Dave: I don’t know. Have you found me a hot boyfriend in Cincinnati?

Blaine: No. But I have news that’s almost as good!
Blaine: I’m coming back to Lima today! Shhh. I haven’t told Kurt.
Blaine: I’m going to surprise him at this Valentine’s party the New Directions are having at Breadstix.
Blaine: Want to come?

Dave: I’m not really popular among the New Directions.

Blaine: Well, it’s actually a party for all of McKinley.

Dave: Um, I think that’s even worse.

Blaine: We could do something after? I don’t want you to be all alone on Valentine’s Day. It’s my favorite holiday.

Dave: It’s okay. I’m not really into Valentine’s Day. Anyway, I have a big test tomorrow so I can’t go out tonight.
Dave: Glad you’re coming back though.
Dave: Does that mean we’re on for tutoring on Thursday?

Blaine: YES!!!

* * *

Dave might be into Valentine’s Day if he had someone to celebrate it with, but he doesn’t – and unlike Blaine, he doesn’t think best friends really count. It’s easy enough for Blaine to say because Blaine already has someone to dote on and kiss. If Blaine goes into the drugstore and sees a heart-shaped box of chocolates that he likes, he can buy it because he has someone to give it to.

Dave doesn’t.

And still, he can’t go to the fucking gas station after school without being bombarded by silver cupids, tiny stuffed animals holding red hearts, lilies and roses, mushy greeting cards and gigantic heart-shaped lollipops. He stops to the supermarket to see what they have in terms of “Welcome back and glad you have both eyes” balloons for Blaine, but of course the balloons are in the floral section, and Dave gets sidelined by the flowers. He stands in front of the tulips for way longer than a sane person should, considering the different colors – purple for royalty, yellow for hopeless love, variegated for enchanting eyes – and feels like the worst best bro-friend ever, because every single one of them reminds him of Kurt.

Dave buys a box of chocolates, goes home, and bites into each of them until he finds one with butterscotch filling. He throws the rest into the trash.

* * *

After “Love Shack,” Kurt steals Blaine’s hat and leads a chase through the restaurant and kitchen and parking lot, and it doesn’t end until Blaine’s lying down on the far back seat of the Navigator and Kurt’s kneeling on the floor next to him, pressing kisses to his belly through the white fabric of his shirt.

“Kurt, it’s kind of cold in here,” Blaine says, but it’s a weak protest because he’s also lifting his hips off the seat to make it easier for Kurt to pull his pants down.

“Won’t be for long,” Kurt says, tugging the waist of Blaine’s briefs down beneath his balls. “God, you’re gorgeous. It’s been way too long since I’ve had you in my mouth.”

Blaine starts to let out a scandalized, “Kur–” but it’s interrupted by the overwhelming sensation of Kurt’s tongue teasing at the tip of his cock. Yes, it’s been way too long. Kurt is absolutely right, and his judgment should never be questioned.

And it’s only fair that, after he comes, Blaine evens the score by taking Kurt’s cock into his own mouth. He’s missed this: Kurt filling him, making every nerve in his tongue and cheeks and the roof of his mouth sing at the contact. He opens his throat and sinks further over Kurt until the finely trimmed thatch of hair around Kurt’s cock kisses the tip of his nose. It's incomprehensible, how good this feels.

Kurt’s so close already. He murmurs Blaine’s name over and over, cants his hips and holds onto the back of Blaine’s head and fucks fast and needy into Blaine's mouth and Blaine takes it and tries to take more and keeps taking until Kurt pulses hot into his throat with a stifled cry.

“Oh my god, Blaine,” Kurt mutters when he catches his breath.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, dear,” Blaine says, curling his head in Kurt’s lap.

Kurt strokes Blaine’s hair, smoothing the misplaced strands back into place. “You can say that again.”

Blaine smiles. “Happy Valentine’s Day, dear.”

“Oh my god, you’re such a dork.” Kurt slides down from the seat to squeeze himself next to Blaine on the Navigator’s floor. He kisses Blaine’s cheek. “And I love you so much.”

Blaine rests his head on Kurt’s shoulder and laces their fingers together. “The feeling is mutual.”

“I’m glad.”

“Me, too.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.” Kurt kisses the top of Blaine’s head. “Our first of many.”

* * *

The morning after Blaine gets back, he sees Señor Martinez in the flesh for the first time. It’s just a glance in the hallway as Señor Martinez disappears into the faculty break room, but he recognizes him instantly. The sight of him in his ass-hugging dark blue jeans and burgundy v-neck makes Blaine want to pull Kurt into the janitor’s closet and give him his second blowjob in 12 hours.

Blaine runs to Kurt’s locker, even though it means he won’t have time to drop off his heavy-as-a-backpack-full-of-bricks geometry book before his next class. The sacrifice is worth it, though, because Kurt is there, looking into the mirror on his door and giving his coiffure a quick mist of hairspray.

Kurt’s cheeks turn a little pinker as soon as he sees Blaine, and he smiles coyly. “It’s nice to see you here, stranger.”

Blaine steps as close as Kurt will normally allow in public and takes his hand. “It’s nice to be back.” He leans in closer and whispers into Kurt’s ear, “I just saw Señor Martinez.”

Kurt turns to face Blaine and bats his eyelashes becomingly. “Yes?” he says in a hushed voice. “And what did you think?”

Blaine whispers again into Kurt’s ear, this time so quietly he can barely hear the words himself. “Everything we talked about? I want it twice as much now.”

Kurt squeezes Blaine’s hand as hard as he does sometimes when he’s on the verge of orgasm. “Yeah, but it would get him fired. And I think he might be straight, anyway.”

Blaine shrugs. “A guy can dream. Anyway, it’s fun to think about, even if it could never happen.”

Kurt sucks his lower lip into his mouth. “It certainly is.”

* * *

After glee rehearsal, they go to Blaine’s house. His parents won’t be home for a couple of hours; unlike last night, when the only private space they had was Kurt’s car, they can do anything they want to each other now.

To both their surprise, they don’t say much. They talked about Señor Martinez the whole way over here, but now they’re mostly silent. Kurt peels off Blaine's shirt and pants, then strips off his clothes, eyes locked on Blaine's. They’re both trembling with want; it feels like years since they’ve been completely naked together.

Kurt looks up and down Blaine’s body – at his peaked nipples and the indent of his navel and his proud, flushed cock. The gorgeous reality of Blaine’s body hits him like a shock.

"You're so – " he starts, but the words don't come, so instead he leads Blaine to the bed and begins to cover his body with small, slow kisses. Blaine shivers when Kurt runs the flat of his tongue along the crease of his hip, so he does it again and again until Blaine's gasps crescendo into moans.

"Oh, Kurt, I missed you so much."

Kurt takes Blaine's cock between his lips, sucks slow and lazy for a while before moving down to Blaine's balls, pulling them one at a time into his mouth with a gentle swirl of his tongue. They feel wonderful in his mouth, and like a gift, for Blaine to be trusting him with this most tender part of himself.

Blaine starts to babble, and Kurt would, too, if his mouth weren’t full; Blaine is so hot and lovely like this. Kurt licks and hums as he coaxes Blaine’s legs apart with his hands, dragging his lips down the sultry interior of Blaine thighs toward his tawny pink hole and begins to kiss it – first gently with his lips, then hungrily lapping at the smooth skin with the flat of his tongue, and Blaine rocks against Kurt's mouth and begs for more. So Kurt keeps giving to him: soft dry kisses and slobbery wet licks and everything in between; and Kurt's nose rocks against the soft skin beneath Blaine's balls, rich with the smell of soap and sweat and the faint scent of musk, and when Kurt's eyes open all he sees are Blaine's skin and hair and the bounce of his heavy cock against his stomach.

Kurt sucks on one finger and then slides it into Blaine, quivers himself at the fierceness with which Blaine grasps him.

“Oh, god. Please fuck me, Kurt. I – I need you.” So Kurt does.

It's sweet and hungry and overwhelming, to sink into Blaine like this, to watch Blaine’s eyes go wide with surprised pleasure. “Oh my god, Kurt. I wish – I wish I could tell you how good it feels when you’re – when you’re inside me.”

Kurt kisses Blaine’s plump lips. “That’s okay. You always show me.”

Blaine pulls Kurt's tongue into his mouth and Kurt drags his fingers along Blaine’s cock, and it's like a circuit has closed and the charge is cycling through them, from Kurt's cock through Blaine's hips and up his spine to his mouth and into Kurt, down Kurt's arm and hand and spine and cock and back into Blaine, an infinite circle of yes.

Kurt rocks his hips minutely, a slow sweet dance as he watches Blaine unwind. Blaine’s mouth is hanging open and his eyelashes are fluttering and he makes these sweet, gasping breaths with each of Kurt’s movements, and his cock is almost as satiny smooth against Kurt’s fingers as the inside of him is against Kurt’s sheathed cock.

Blaine angles his hips up, wraps his legs high around Kurt’s back, and pulls him in closer, tighter, and it’s so good and so hot and Kurt feels like he’s going to die a very happy death but instead he moans, desperate and hungry, and starts thrusting hard, and Blaine starts thrusting back and making the sweetest, most wanton sounds.

Kurt can’t stop moving. He wants to feel Blaine come around him and on him, wants Blaine to make that sound he makes when he comes. Blaine is quaking, gasping, his back arching, his moans so shaky they sound close to sobs, and that's the final straw for Kurt, the thing that makes him thrust deeper than he thought possible into Blaine's ass, the thing that makes him come so hard he can no longer see Blaine's face, just a pure shock of white against his eyelids.

Blaine bites into Kurt's shoulder to muffle his gasp. He comes hard around Kurt's cock and spills out over Kurt's hand, and Kurt uses the wetness to stroke Blaine through it, all the while muttering Blaine's name over and over like an invocation.

Kurt feels lost inside Blaine, and it’s the sweetest, sweetest thing.

* * *

It’s not Blaine’s fault that Dave sat alone at home on Valentine’s evening watching The Walking Dead, but Dave is nonetheless annoyed at him. Every text message he sends is just so … happy. Dave imagines it’s because Blaine has been holed up in Kurt’s bedroom ever since he got back from Cincinnati, looking at muscle magazines and doing … well, other stuff.

And maybe Dave’s a little annoyed at Kurt, too, for crossing so many lines he didn’t even mean to cross. He knows it’s not fair to be annoyed with him, that Kurt has no idea how Dave feels; and that Kurt was supremely drunk; and that Kurt apologized; and that, even sober, Kurt thinks he’s a tree– actually, maybe that’s the worst part of all of it. Because, for a moment, Dave felt absolutely loved; but he can never be loved in the way he wants to be.

Still, it’s not the fault of Kurt or Blaine that Dave is ticked off with them both right now. So he tries to do what a friend would do. On the way to Blaine’s house on Thursday, he stops at the supermarket for Blaine’s balloons and a clearance bag of Sweethearts candy.

Dave is going to be an awesome bro-friend if it kills him.

Blaine throws himself around Dave as soon as Dave walks in the door. "Balloons! For me? You’re so sweet. And I missed you so much.”

Dave grudge immediately starts to melt. “I missed you, too, bro.” He pats Blaine softly on the back.

Blaine gives Dave a hearty squeeze before he lets go, stepping back to admire the balloons. “Oh my gosh! You even found one with a math joke on it!” He squeezes Dave’s arm. “I can't believe how much I missed talking with you about geometry. It's pathetic."

"No,” Dave smiles. “You’re finally getting that geometry is awesome.”

To his surprise, Kurt steps out of the kitchen. He hadn’t realized Kurt would be here. “Look, I’m sober!” Kurt says with a flourish and a half curtsy, half bow. He’s as radiant as always, in tight jeans and a gray gingham shirt and the red vest he wore on Saturday. “I can even fasten my own seatbelt if I want to. It’s like a whole new world.” His eyes sparkle as they did on Saturday night.

Dave stares at him. He knows he should say something. So he stammers, “I’m glad to hear that,” and looks down at his feet. Then he remembers he’s still holding the balloons and hands them to Blaine.

Blaine beams. “These are so great. They’re like Aladdin’s magic carpet,” he says, and at first Dave wonders where that came from, but then Blaine starts singing “A whole new world – a dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here, it's crystal clear” from Aladdin and lets the balloons go. They float up to the ceiling, spreading out from the center of the bouquet with light bounces.

“I always thought it would be cool to have a magic carpet,” Dave says.

Kurt looks at the two of them with fondness. Well, no: he looks at Blaine that way, but it lingers long enough when he switches back to Dave that it feels like a little of it is directed at him. Dave starts to blush.

Kurt leads the way into the kitchen; Dave sets the bag of candy hearts next to it. “They were on clearance,” he says, and tries to sound cool about it.

“I love Sweethearts,” says Blaine, diving toward the bag. “They’re like eating clumps of pure sugar.”

Kurt grabs a handful as soon as it’s open. “Sugar is the food of the gods," he says, reading the message on one before popping it into his mouth. He scrunches his eyebrows as he chews. “Or is it cheesecake?”

Blaine grabs a bowl and pours the rest of the Sweethearts into it. “Well, cheesecake couldn’t exist without sugar, so –”

“Sugar wins!” Kurt says. He grabs another heart from the pile in his left hand and reads it, smiling. He looks up at Dave and hands it to him. “This one’s perfect for you, monsieur.”

It says YOU ROCK.

* * *

“Dave seemed pretty happy today,” Blaine says after their friend heads home for the evening. Kurt is still there, helping gather ingredients for dinner.

Kurt kisses Blaine’s cheek. “Of course he was. He was glad to see you.”

“I think he was glad to see you, too.”

Kurt looks studiously at the head of romaine he’s disassembling. “Anyone worth his salt is always happy to see me.”

“That’s true,” Blaine says. “Or maybe he was hoping that you’d brought your collection of vintage muscle mags.”

Kurt swats Blaine’s arm with a lettuce leaf. “I’m pretty sure he wants to forget all about my collection of vintage muscle mags.”

“I hope not.” Blaine smiles. “The world would be such a sad place without them.”

Kurt doesn’t respond, just rolls his eyes.

Blaine sets down the block of parmesan he’s been grating and sidles up to Kurt, wrapping his arms around his waist. “Sometimes I think about you looking at them by yourself when you first got them.”

The rim of Kurt’s ear turns bright red; Blaine nibbles at it. “Do you, now?”

“Uh huh. I think about you staring at all those bodies and all those bulges, and I think about how you probably licked your lips the way you sometimes do when you get turned on, and you wondered what it would feel like to touch all that skin.”

Kurt sets the rest of the lettuce on the counter and wraps his hands around Blaine’s forearms. “Um, that’s pretty accurate,” he says, pressing closer to Blaine and blinking slowly.

“And then you wondered what it would feel like if they touched you.” Blaine kisses Kurt’s neck, runs a hand from Kurt’s belly down over his bulge, strokes it teasingly through the fabric. It’s at that lovely stage between soft and hard; with each stroke Blaine can feel it grow a little fuller.

Kurt slumps his head against Blaine’s as he presses himself into Blaine’s hand. “Also pretty accurate.”

“And then I think you turned off the lights and stripped off your clothes and touched yourself,” Blaine whispers.

Kurt inhales sharply.

“I think you imagined your hands were his hands. I think you did this first –” Blaine strokes his hands over Kurt’s chest, broadly at first, then focusing on Kurt’s nipples, teasing them into hard, tight peaks through the fabric of his shirt. He kisses Kurt’s neck, whispers into his ear, “And then, when you couldn’t stand it, you did this.” Blaine unbuttons Kurt’s fly and reaches into his briefs, circling his upright cock with his hand.

Kurt closes his eyes and shifts his hips slowly, urging his cock through the ring of Blaine’s hand. “That’s … that’s all amazingly accurate considering that you’ve never actually seen me masturbate.”

Blaine kisses the edge of Kurt’s ear. “I’d like to, though.”

Kurt spins around and kisses Blaine hard. “We have at least 20 minutes before either of your parents get home, right?”

Blaine nods.

Kurt grabs Blaine’s hand and drags him toward the stairs. “Good.”

They don’t bother with their shirts when they get to Blaine’s room, just their pants. Kurt presses Blaine up against the closed door and owns his mouth with his tongue, strokes Blaine’s satin-smooth cock as fast Blaine is stroking his. The desire runs through them like a wayward current, and they don’t try to hold it back; it runs through their mouths and their hearts and their hips and soon there is a moan and that sweet swelling pulse and one hand goes slick with come, and then another, and they watch each other’s faces as they work each other through it.

They slump to the floor, Kurt resting his head on Blaine’s shoulder. “I had no idea,” he says with a satisfied sigh.

Blaine nuzzles against the top of Kurt’s head. “No idea what?”

“How much of a voyeur you are.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?”

Kurt turns his head and bites Blaine playfully on the shoulder. “And I –” he says, then hesitates, burying his face into Blaine’s shoulder. “I had no idea how much that would turn me on.” He looks up and kisses Blaine’s cheek, blinks at him bashfully. “I – I really like it.”

Blaine smiles and squeezes Kurt’s hand (the one that’s not covered in come). “I’m glad. It turns me on to see you turned on.”

“I kind of gathered.” Kurt looks down at their joined hands. "Blaine, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

Kurt looks into Blaine’s eyes. "Are the fantasies about watching me – is any of it about you not being good enough for me? Because you are. You're so much more than I could ever have hoped for."

Blaine shakes his head. "No. I know there are a lot of things where I worry about not being good enough, but this isn't one of them. When I think about you touching yourself or being with another guy, I just feel happy. Because you're happy and because I get to see your body in a different way than when it's us together.” He squeezes Kurt’s hand. “And it’s just … I don’t know. It’s hot and I get to love you without it being about me."

Kurt kisses Blaine’s forehead. "Because I need you to know that you're so much better than enough."

"You are, too, Kurt."

"I want you to always remember that you matter. You matter so much, Blaine."

Blaine nods. “I know. I always remember that when I’m with you.”

They look at each other for a moment, seeing without needing to say anything. They feel safe, and content.

Then Kurt starts to squirm against the floor. “You really need a more comfortable carpet. It feels awful against my ass and it’s really distracting me from staring at you for the rest of the day.”

Blaine hums. “I suppose we should put our pants back on, anyway. You know – parents.”

Kurt pushes himself up from the floor and pulls Blaine up. “Probably should wash the come off our hands, too.”

Blaine smirks. “It’s such a shame. It would be a lovely souvenir.”

Kurt bursts out laughing.

* * *

Kurt goes to Blaine’s on Saturday afternoon before they head to Scandals. The ostensible reason for the visit is so that Kurt can teach Blaine how to make bowties, but they only get as far as selecting fabric from Mrs. Anderson’s scrap pile before both parents leave for a squash game at the club. (Kurt becomes attached to a green silk herringbone, and Blaine finds a light cotton fabric with tiny kittens the size of polka dots; Kurt almost rejects it out of hand as something Rachel would wear, but then he looks at the way Blaine’s face is lit up and remembers the picture of the old family cat above Blaine’s desk – the one that died the summer before they met – and he kisses Blaine on the cheek and tells him it's perfect.)

As soon as the front door closes, Kurt abandons the kitten fabric on the cutting table. "So," he says. "What you said on Thursday – I keep thinking about it."

Blaine furrows his eyebrows. “What did I say?”

"Um, it was about –" Kurt stops. This is harder to say than he expected. "About, um – About watching me? When I’m by myself."

Blaine smiles meekly. “I remember.”

“And I guess, I was thinking –” He bites his lower lip. “It doesn’t have to be just a fantasy, like the other thing is.

“Oh.” Blaine’s eyes are wide and seem to be changing color by the second, lighter and then darker, gold and then chocolate. His lips are trembling, and there's a fine tremble in his arms, too.

It makes Kurt feel weak and strong at the same time. It makes him want to give everything to Blaine. “I could – I could do that for you.”

Blaine’s silent for a moment. "I don't want you to do this for me."

Kurt looks down at the cutting table. There’s the slightest hint of a blush on his cheeks. “Oh,” he says. “Just fantasy, then?”

Blaine shakes his head. "No, I – I’d love to watch you.”

Kurt looks up, eyes sparkling with hope, but eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“I mean, what I want, when I think about it – I want you to be doing it for you. Not for me. Because it feels so good that you can't stop yourself. I want to watch you when you're not thinking about making me feel – things.”

“Oh,” Kurt says inaudibly, tugging unconsciously at his collar. "But – you're not a distraction, Blaine."

"That’s not what I mean. Just – the idea of watching you come at your own pace and with your own hands – it would be a different way of seeing you. Without getting so lost in myself. I would see things about you I haven't before, and I think that would be another way to feel closer to you. And –"

"What?"

"In my other fantasy, I think about that, too. I wonder what it would be like to see your whole body when you come, like if it starts in your cock and moves outward or if it moves from your head to your toes or if it waves up and down your body like –"

"Blaine?"

“Yeah?”

Kurt reaches out his hand to take Blaine's trembling fingers. "Let's go upstairs."

*

"I never used to do this, you know, before you."

Blaine knows, of course. Kurt's told him before, more than a few times, mostly because Blaine likes to hear about it. Because he is the man who turned Kurt Hummel into an anally fixated monster, and he doesn't mind having that designation bestowed on him one bit.

But this is different. Kurt's never shown him before.

Kurt's wet fingers are teasing over the perfect pink lines that radiate out from his hole like the points of a star. Blaine is squatting at the foot of the bed, breathing deep, watching the star quiver under Kurt's touch. He feels that quiver through his body and brain more strongly than if Kurt's fingers were on him.

Kurt's voice is quivering, too, breaking with want. "But you made me curious, the way you lost it when I touched you." He lets out a rough moan, pulls his thighs closer to his chest to spread himself wider.

"It feels so good, Kurt," Blaine says, and he's not sure if he's talking about what it feels like when Kurt's fingers are inside him, or if he's talking about this moment, right now, the way that Kurt's words and body, unfolding before him, make Blaine feel more naked than he's ever felt before.

Kurt wends his index finger in a slow spiral around the star, letting the fingers of the other hand caress his balls and thighs and the base of his cock. "The first time we did it, afterward, I couldn't stop thinking about the noises you made, and how you felt around my fingers. You were hungry for me."

"It's always for you, Kurt."

"And I wanted you to take me inside you again. I wanted to feel you around my fingers. So I – " Kurt bites his lower lip as he presses the tip of his middle finger into the center and Blaine watches it sink, the tip swallowed slowly by that shining star. "I did the next best thing. And it felt – Like you were there around my fingers, but also – I got an idea of what it felt like for you, and why you made those noises, and why you wanted it so much."

Kurt lets out a moan and arches, lifting the small of his back off the bed just for a moment before thrusting his hips up and his finger is swallowed just a little more, until it's halfway there.

"I want you so much, Blaine. Always."

Blaine looks up through Kurt's open thighs at his face, strokes his ankle in reassurance. "I'm right here."

Kurt's eyes are relaxed bright like today's cloudless sky. "I know."

Kurt closes his eyes then, lets out a little gasp and Blaine looks back down at Kurt's hand, his perfect pink ass and oh the finger is all gone now, all inside, wrapped in Kurt's velvet heat and Kurt groans again.

"Fuck, Blaine. I want so much."

"What do you want?" He watches Kurt slide the finger incrementally in and out, watches the star flicker around it.

"I want to feel this forever. This – it feels so good. Inside me. And you." Blaine feels Kurt's eyes on him again and he looks up. "You here. With me. It feels so good, Blaine."

Kurt slides his finger out and then there are two silicone-slick fingers teasing at his hole, two fingers being taken and swallowed, and a sweet glow of perspiration breaks out at the crease of Kurt's hips and on his collarbone. Blaine's cock is tingling and hard but he hardly notices, his body more aware of Kurt's every move and breath than of his own.

The noises out of Kurt's throat are purer than music. Blaine's not sure he'll ever tell Kurt this, but the sounds he makes when he's like this break Blaine's heart open even more than his singing.

The first time he heard Kurt sing "Blackbird," it shattered the locks on Blaine's heart and it opened, crying for Kurt to come inside.

It's like that every time Blaine hears Kurt's intimate cries, but a hundred times more.

Blaine watches Kurt's hand twist and – "Oh, there, right there," Kurt murmurs. Kurt rings his other hand around his cock and begins to stroke slowly, lightly, but soon it's a firm grip and a tugging and Kurt has three fingers inside himself now, not all the way but still stretching him so beautifully, his ass clamped down tight on them as they try to move in and out, but Kurt's not quite letting them go. "Oh, fuck, Blaine, I don't know what to do. It feels so good. I want more and I want to come and I want more and I want – Oh, god, Blaine. Oh god."

Kurt's hips lift off the bed and his eyes shock wide and his mouth twists with the throes of pleasure and his rim quakes and his cock churns and pushes and the come flows warm and thick and unstoppable over his fingers. Blaine looks at Kurt's feet, toes curling and flexing, and everything about Kurt is so gorgeous and strong that Blaine's vision becomes blurry. He can still see the outline of Kurt, though, can touch his hand to Kurt's calf and feel it pulse with the shocks of orgasm. He can kiss the hinge of Kurt's knee, the sweet knuckle of bone at the side.

"You're so beautiful, Kurt," he says, and Kurt continues to pulse and quake, his body wringing every last delight out of the orgasm.

"You – " Kurt starts, and then stops, the word turning into a gasp and then a moan. Blaine brushes his fingers everywhere he can reach – the arches of Kurt's feet, the Achilles' tendons, the full circumference of calves and knees and thighs, the appealing jut of hips, the outside ridges of ribs. Blaine feels the muscles wobble and stiffen and relax and seize up again, amazed that a body can stand all this upheaval.

Finally, finally, Kurt comes down, his muscles watery and weightless, words ready to wash ashore. "You make me feel beautiful, Blaine. It's so beautiful."

Blaine lowers himself next to Kurt then, wraps an arm and a leg over him, kisses his temple and his lips and thinks he will never let go, he can't let go, because his heart has broken open and Kurt has stepped inside, and he'll be inside there always – the electrical pulse that makes Blaine's heart beat.

"Come inside me, Blaine."

"You look exhausted, Kurt.

"I'm not exhausted. Just – content."

Blaine is overflowing with Kurt, waves of joy radiating through his flesh. Maybe later, when Kurt's gone and the magnitude of what has happened strikes him, he'll need to jerk off, need to feel Kurt's pleasure beating out its song through his own body. But right now, he's satisfied. He doesn't need any more. "I'm fine. It's enough to watch you. And lie here with you. Really it is."

"I'm not asking just for you, Blaine. I'm asking for me."

Just those four words, and simply being together is no longer enough for Blaine. Because it's not enough for Kurt.

Blaine is suddenly hyperaware of his own hardness, of Kurt's cock still wet and half-hard against his thigh. He kisses Kurt, at first soft and sweet, like waves lapping the shore. But soon they grow into tidal waves, full of salt and turbulence, surging into Kurt.

Blaine moves his lips to Kurt's neck and he drags his fingers across Kurt's stomach and cock, stroking through the come that still lingers there. Kurt looks down, watching Blaine's hand gather it up and spread it from Kurt's cock to his own, rubbing it up and down his shaft, a delighted choking sound gurgling from his throat. "Oh, Kurt. Fuck, Kurt. You feel so – "

"Now," Kurt says breathily, pulling Blaine on top of him, guiding Blaine's cock toward the place it has to go.

"I – let me get a condom. I – " Blaine says, but he doesn't move.

Kurt looks into Blaine's eyes steadily, pure blue Pacific. "If you want."

Blaine thinks he might drown in those eyes, or – no, not drown, but become a thing of the sea, not content to walk on land anymore, but to swim and breathe the cool water and live. "No, I don't want. I want – I want you to feel me when I come. I want you to know what you do to me, Kurt."

"I already know that, Blaine." He pulls Blaine down for a soft, lingering kiss. "But I want – I want that, too."

Blaine kisses Kurt again, longer and harder and full of want, his muscles trembling so hard he wonders if they might give out. He feels so weak sometimes in Kurt's presence, but in a marvelous, contradictory way that makes him feel stronger than he ever feels anywhere else.

Kurt murmurs sweetness to him, like the soft lull of waves. The release and clench of his muscles pulls Blaine in, a tidal wave churning.

Inside, Kurt is like a mullein leaf after rain, sensuous and pliant. Blaine breathes, tries to memorize the perfection of it, tries not to get lost in the way his own body feels.

Kurt's eyes are blue and gray and fluttering like two bluejays. He reaches up and cups his hand behind the curve of Blaine's skull, pulls him down and their mouths tug back and forth, mingling like the ocean and the river at tide.

"Oh god Blaine, everything you do. Everything. You make me feel how much you love me."

Blaine's eyes go blurry again but he can hear Kurt's sighs and crescendoing moans, can feel Kurt's breath against his ear and the sinews of his neck against his lips, can grasp Kurt's cock in his hand and feel it swell and grow harder. He can feel the slick grasping warmth of Kurt's perfect ass around him, feel the joy throbbing through it, feel Kurt pull him in, push him out, pull him in again and thrust and twist and shout Blaine's name so loud that Blaine's skull rings – but that's fine, that's fine if Blaine goes deaf now because he'll have that, the memory of his name on Kurt's lips – but, wait, Blaine can still hear, and Kurt is still calling, calling, calling his name over and over, making it sacred.

Blaine moves and stills in response to Kurt's cries, focuses on Kurt's every motion and need and ignores the longing in his balls, and it's so easy, so easy to ignore because of the way that Kurt is unraveling, opening up for Blaine all over again. Until –

"Come for me, Blaine. I need to feel you come inside me."

The tide rumbles between Blaine's ears and Kurt's thighs, a glorious churn of water and silt and sea, and Kurt roars out Blaine's name with the force of the ocean and Blaine spills into him, waves onto the shore.

* * *

When they get to Scandals, Kurt opts for a Long Island iced tea. “They taste really good,” he says when Blaine raises an eyebrow. “Anyway, I’m just going to have the one this time, now that I know what it is.”

Blaine orders a Fanta and they go to their favorite table to wait for Dave.

Kurt looks around for Cher/Satine so he can introduce her to Blaine, but she’s not around tonight. The Duke is, though, and one of the other guys who was checking out Dave last week, so Kurt points them out.

“That one’s too old,” Blaine says, looking at the Duke. “The other guy might be in the ballpark, though.”

Kurt shrugs. “Dave says he’s not interested in dating, anyway.”

“Oh?”

“I think he wants to wait until he’s more comfortable with himself.” Kurt takes the first sip of his tea.

“Too bad,” says Blaine. “He’s got a really nice ass. Someone should tap that.”

Kurt’s jaw drops. “Oh my god. I can’t believe you.”

“What? He does. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

Kurt smirks and does that thing with his eyebrows that makes Blaine melt. “So are you telling me you have a thing for your best bro-friend?” He lowers his voice and leans into Blaine’s ear. “Should I start talking about watching you in the bedroom?”

Blaine laughs. “No, it’s not like that. I mean, yes, he has a nice ass, but I don’t personally want to tap it. I mean, all football players have nice asses. It kind of goes with the territory.”

“Ah.” Kurt winks and stirs his drink with his straw. “So that’s why you’ve always been such an enthusiastic athletic supporter.”

Blaine smiles at the Grease reference. “Only part of it. The games are interesting, too.”

They sit in comfortable mostly-silence for a while, watching the other bar patrons. Kurt is three-quarters of the way through his tea when he says, “Blaine?”

“Yes?”

“Do you ever –” Kurt stops to look over his shoulders, as if someone might be listening in. He scoots closer to Blaine and whispers. “Do you ever think about me with real people? I mean –” He darts his eyes down toward the table. “People that we know. Other than Señor Martinez.”

This isn’t the best place to be talking about this, but Blaine’s not going to throw away this opportunity. “It started out with Nick," Blaine whispers back.

"Nick?"  Kurt raises his eyebrows. It’s surprise, of course, but there’s also something satisfied about it, or even pleased. "Warbler Nick? Really?"

Blaine strums his fingers nervously on the side of his tumbler. "Yeah. I'd have these dreams about walking in on you and Nick making out in the practice room – sometimes it was Jeff – "

"Jeff?"

"Yeah?"

Kurt shakes his head. "Wow. That's really kind of hot even though I would never do Jeff."

"No?"

Kurt wrinkles his nose. "No. I mean, he got the first solo I tried out for, even though I was much better than he was. Also, he needs to work on his hair. Well, and the Warblers in general seem to have gone to the dark side."

“Yeah, well this fantasy started a long time before that happened.”

“Really? How long?”

“Um,” Blaine can feel his face warming. “Before we started dating.”

“But – But I thought you thought I was a baby penguin.”

“I never said that. You did.”

Kurt furrows his eyebrows. “But you didn’t think my sexy faces were convincing, either.”

Blaine shrugs. “They weren’t when you were trying. But you were sexy other times.”

Kurt takes another sip of his tea. “I can’t believe you’ve never told me this.”

“Sorry?”

Kurt puts his hand on Blaine’s. “No, it’s okay. I just – I’ve been learning a lot about you lately. It’s nice.”

Blaine can’t help but kiss Kurt’s cheek.

“So,” Kurt says coyly, “tell me a little more about these dreams you had about me.”

Blaine looks down at their joined hands. "Well, it started out with dreams about you and Nick, and I couldn't tell at first if maybe they upset me, but then I started to really enjoy them – like, really – and when I woke up I would, um, let my mind supply more details."

"For example?" Kurt says. His voice is low and sweet like maple syrup.

"Um, well, you would tell him what to do and then he'd do it, and he'd be – he'd be so eager to do it, whatever it was. And you would – if I was there, in the fantasy – you'd tell us both how it felt, and how well he was doing, and sometimes you'd ask me to come closer so you could squeeze my hand as you came."

Kurt's cheeks and ears and neck are the most delicious shade of pink. His breath is shallow and he's blinking and licking his lips and rubbing his foot against Blaine’s ankle ever-so-gently.

“And I think it’s part of why I was confused about my feelings about you for a while. Because I really liked it, and I thought that if I was in love with you, I should feel jealous.” Blaine shrugs. “I mean, that’s what I’d always believed: that when you fall in love, you want the person all to yourself. So I thought – I thought that I loved you as a friend, and that I thought you were sexy, but that I couldn’t be in love with you because thinking about you with someone else should tear me apart. You know, like in Moulin Rouge.”

“Sweetie –”

“But then you sang ‘Blackbird’ and when you got to the part where it says ‘take these sunken eyes and learn to see,’ it hit me. My love for you didn’t look exactly the way I thought it should, but I was so in love with you, Kurt. And I could see it clearly for the first time.”

Kurt doesn’t answer with words. He just Blaine’s jaw in his hands and looks at him steadily. His eyes are shining and his smile is broad. “I’m so lucky to be loved by you,” he says, and kisses Blaine.

* * *

Dave arrives at Scandals late, and Blaine and Kurt are already there, sitting in their usual place – a small table in the corner that’s meant for two, but where the three of them fit comfortably as long as no one hogs the leg space beneath.

They don’t see him when he walks in. They’re huddled close together, shoulders touching, Blaine whispering something in Kurt’s ear and Kurt smiling – that awesome smile where Kurt’s face scrunches up so brightly that it could light up every major metropolitan area in Ohio. Kurt turns and pecks Blaine on the cheek, and Blaine’s cheeks turn pink and his eyelashes blink slow and dark and sultry, and Kurt kisses him again, but on the lips this time, and it’s … breathtaking. Literally. Dave stops breathing, and the noise of the bar seems to fade into the background, and in that incredible stillness Dave imagines he can hear the sigh that Kurt makes when Blaine raises his fingers to Kurt’s jaw and traces it softly. They smile with each press of their lips together, and sometimes their eyes are closed and sometimes they squint joyfully and sometimes they’re wide, studying the close contours of each other’s faces.

Dave feels a twinge in his heart and pelvis as Blaine’s arm shifts and he rubs his hand slowly up Kurt’s thigh, creeping closer and closer to the jackpot, and Kurt gets more and more lost in the kissing with each inch, his eyes closing and his mouth moving a little more desperately. When Blaine is just about there – Dave can’t actually see Blaine’s hand now, but he can tell by the position of their bodies and their near-franticness that he is so, so close – Kurt bursts out giggling, pushing Blaine’s hand back to his knee and giving Blaine a playful bite on the chin.

They are wrapped in their own cocoon, haunting and lovely and private and safe, and – no, he won’t disturb them. So he walks over to the bar without saying hello first. There will be plenty of time for that when they emerge.

Dave orders his beer, and as he waits, a man he’s seen plenty of times before but never talked to squeezes in next to him and waves to get the bartender’s attention. A beautiful man, tall and older – thirty, maybe – with a chiseled jaw that’s shaved so smooth it’s like marble, and hair that’s chestnut brown like Kurt’s, and fingers that are long like Kurt’s, and eyes and a nose that look nothing like Kurt’s and maybe – maybe they’re just different enough.

Dave leans forward to settle his elbows on the bar, brushing against the beautiful man’s arm as goes.

The man turns. “Hi,” he says. His teeth flash white – brighter than Kurt’s, and squarer, and big and straight like that guy from the vampire movies, but without the fangs.

“Hi,” says Dave.

“Gavin,” the man says, holding out his hand, and Dave takes it. It’s cool and dry and well-manicured, and there’s a platinum ring on his index finger. There are more words after that, although Dave’s not sure how that happens. Words about nothing, really: the weather, and the music pounding from the speakers above them, and what they like to drink. But Gavin is pleasant, not skanky like Sebastian or needy like Jerry; he drops a ten-dollar bill in front of the bartender when she brings Dave his beer, and puts up a hand and shakes his head when Dave tries to say, “Thanks.”

He asks if Dave came with anyone.

“Just some …” Dave starts, searching for the right words. “Some friends, I guess.” His heart squeezes painfully against his ribcage.

They talk some more, with hints and gestures that Dave can only half-comprehend. But he understands enough to know what Gavin is offering, and that it’s something the person he longs for would never offer.

Dave heads to the bathroom first. He waits at the sink, rubbing his hands together under the water – waiting, breathing, counting the seconds and listening for footsteps. His pants get tighter and tighter around his cock, and the water gets so hot it’s almost scalding, but Dave keeps his hands under the stream.

And then Gavin is there, leading him into one of the stalls, pressing him against the sign on the stall divider that says "No Sex In Bathroom." The light directly over the stall is burned out, making it grey and dusky inside, and Dave closes his eyes.

Gavin’s lips are on Dave's lips, his tongue on his tongue, his cock grinding into Dave’s cock through the fabric of their jeans. It’s not electric, and it’s not heaven – but Dave’s body cries out for it, anyway. "What do you want?" Gavin whispers, and Dave answers, "Your hand, just your hand. Please." It comes out, embarrassingly, as a whimper and a plea.

"Shhh, it's okay," Gavin whispers. "Let me take care of you, baby." It’s not Dave's favorite term of endearment, but he can ignore it if he concentrates on the lips against his neck and the hand against his fly; on the unzipping and the oh god of this stranger’s hand squeezing him, pulling him, coaxing sounds out of him that Dave didn't know he could make.

Gavin’s hand is too dry and too rough in its movements, but it doesn’t matter – Dave can’t stop himself from thrusting into it again and again, can’t stop himself from making small choked-off noises of need. Gavin licks too deeply into Dave’s ear and talks way too much – “You’re so good. You’re so hot. Fuck my hand, baby.” – but if Dave shuts those things out and concentrates on the shape of Gavin’s fingers moving on him, it’s suddenly good, and better than good, and then even better than that.

"Oh god,” Dave mutters. “I don't know if I'm going to last."

"Come for me, baby," Gavin says and – okay, Dave could ignore the first few babys, but suddenly he can’t. The only person in his real life who calls him that is his maternal grandmother, and all he can think of now is her, plopped in front of the TV with an ashtray in her lap, trying to smoke herself to death because she gave up on enjoying life years ago.

The main door to the men’s bathroom squeals open, letting the noise of the bar pour in. Gavin’s hand goes still, and Dave holds his breath.

“He must be around here somewhere.” It’s Blaine’s voice, concerned and confused, and Dave hears another set of footsteps follow, unmistakably Kurt’s.

“Are you sure you saw him?” Kurt says, the door shuddering shut behind him and fading the music down to a dull roar.

“Yeah. When we were, you know, making out.” Blaine lowers his voice on the last two words. “I looked at the bar for a second and I saw him there and I thought I should go say ‘hi’ to him but then I figured he’d come over to our table and I like kissing you so … I decided to keep kissing you.”

Dave hears pee splashing against a urinal. “Maybe we should text him.”

There’s some kind of movement – a soft sort of ruffling sound – and then Kurt’s voice again: “Why not?”

Blaine whispers, but Dave can hear every word: “I think he’s in here. The guy he was at the bar with – I think I recognize him from the marriage equality protests at the mayor's office, and not from our side. He comes in here all the time. With other guys. And I’m pretty sure it’s not just to pee." There's a pause. "Or share his tracts."

Silence for a moment, followed by Kurt’s familiar incredulity. “I don’t hear anything, Blaine. I think if he were in here doing that, we’d hear him.” Someone turns a tap on, and the water drowns out the next thing that Blaine says. But it becomes obvious from Kurt’s next words: “Oh my god, Blaine, he did not come in here with somebody. Dave is not that kind of guy.”

Shit.

Blaine’s voice is almost panicky. “But he doesn’t know he matters, like I didn’t know I mattered before I had you, and his first time shouldn't be with some self-hating bigot and – Oh my god, what if they’re not using protection?”

“Dave is not in here losing his virginity. Look, I’ll prove it to you.” Kurt’s footsteps march toward the stalls. And then, right in front of his, come to a sudden, deafening halt.

“Holy shit. Dave?” Dave doesn’t think he’s ever heard Kurt so hesitant. The little bit of blood that was left in Dave’s cock quickly rushes back to his heart. “Dave. Is that really you?”

All this while, Dave and Gavin have been still as statues. But suddenly Gavin lets go of Dave’s soft cock and sighs loudly. "Your friends sure know how to interrupt a good time." He doesn’t even try to whisper. He tucks Dave back into his jeans, zips up his fly, and turns toward the stall door.

To open it.

Fuckfuckfuck. Dave turns his face away from the light.

"Hey, I'm being good to your friend," Dave hears Gavin say. "But if you want to make sure, you're welcome to join us." Dave starts to laugh – he's not sure if it's from amusement or hysteria.

"No, thank you," Blaine says, with the same polite and earnest tone he used on Dave the first time they met and Blaine tried to convince him to come out of the closet. Dave hears him shuffle closer. "But thanks for the offer."

Dave looks. There’s no point in pretending he’s not hear anymore. Blaine's face is as earnest as his voice, which is no big surprise. But Kurt – Kurt is a surprise. His face is as white as a sheet.

"I'm Blaine Anderson. Nice to meet you." Blaine holds his hand out.

"I really don't think you want to shake my hand right now," Gavin nods and puts both hands in his pockets. "But nice to meet you, too. I’m Patrick."

Dave shakes his head with the vigor of a dog shaking water from its ears. “Wait,” he snaps.

All three of them look at Dave, while Dave looks at the guy whose hand was just on his dick. “You told me your name is Gavin.”

Gavin-Patrick shrugs his shoulders. “Did I?”

“Yes.”

Gavin-Patrick saunters out of the stall and over to the sink. “Well, it’s not like it matters, does it?” The three boys stare at him as he washes his hands, dries them, and switches the platinum ring from his right index finger to the ring finger of his left hand.

Blaine gasps. “That’s – that’s a wedding ring.”

“No shit, Sherlock."

"It's not right to hide that from people." Blaine's voice is shaking like a pot of water about to boil. "Does your spouse at least know?"

"Right, of course. I tell her everything." The guy laughs nervously. "Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been lovely getting to know you boys, and thank you for ruining my evening.” The door swings shut behind him and Dave sinks to the floor.

“Holy screaming fuck,” are the only words Dave can come up with.

*

Dave realizes he's been leading Blaine and Kurt in laps around the parking lot for a while, and no one has said a word.

Dave finally breaks the silence. "Sorry," he says. "I'm a little confused right now. I guess I just need my head to clear." He turns to face both of them. Kurt looks fretful and Blaine has that familiar expression of open concern. Dave focuses on Blaine, because it’s easier. "You were right. My first time with a guy shouldn't be like that."

Blaine nods and swallows hard. "No, it shouldn't. That guy was a total asshole.” Blaine scrunches his eyebrows together. “No, wait. Assholes are awesome. That guy is a douchebag.”

“You can say that again,” Kurt mumbles under his breath, but he studiously avoids looking at either of them. His hands are in his pockets, his eyes fixed on the black asphalt beneath them.

Dave scratches the back of his head. “I – I think I should go home now. I’m kind of overwhelmed.”

“Can I give you a hug first?” Blaine says.

“Sure,” Dave says.

Blaine wraps his arms around Dave, squeezing tight. "You deserve better,” Blaine whispers, but Dave hardly hears it because he’s watching Kurt, who’s staring off into the night. He has a look on his face that Dave hasn’t seen in a long time: shocked and simmering with anger.

Dave can only assume it’s over his own whorish behavior. It’s the kind of thing that Kurt would get judgmental about. But he doesn’t need Kurt’s anger right now. He’s annoyed with himself enough as it is already.

* * *

"Are you okay?" Blaine says when they’re almost at the Hummel’s house. Kurt’s been silent for the whole drive, staring out the windshield and moving his lower jaw like he’s chewing something, even though there’s nothing in his mouth.

Kurt startles. "Wh – What?"

“Are you okay? You seem upset.”

Kurt leans his head against the passenger window. “I think I’m just tired. Maybe that Long Island iced tea was a mistake.”

Blaine hesitates. “You’re not upset about Dave?”

“Why would I be upset about that?” Kurt says snippishly.

Blaine drops it. He knows better than to push Kurt when he doesn’t want to talk about something. Sometimes he just needs to let things simmer for a while.

Kurt’s not completely distant, though. When Blaine walks him to his door, Kurt takes his hand and squeezes it reassuringly. “I love you, you know.”

Blaine looks around to see if anyone is near. The street is empty. He kisses Kurt’s cheek. “I know.”

“I think I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

“It’s okay if you don’t,” Blaine says. “I’ll love you no matter what.”

Kurt drops Blaine’s hand and throws his arms around him in a tight, clinging hug. He kisses Blaine’s ear. “That’s what I needed to hear." 

Chapter Text

The shop is closed on Monday for President's Day, so Kurt decides to join Blaine and Dave for one of their Monday-afternoon study sessions.

Except that school is also closed on Monday, which somehow translates into Dave having an all-day football thing that makes no sense to Kurt, so the study session is cancelled. Was cancelled ages ago, in fact, but no one bothered to mention it to Kurt until Sunday.

("Didn't football season end already?" Kurt said irritably when Blaine broke the news to him. He was ashamed for snapping at Blaine, but Blaine took it in stride, which was good, because if Blaine had asked him what he was irritable about, he wouldn't have had an answer.)

So they don't see Dave on Monday, but Kurt and Blaine sit at the kitchen bar and study anyway because they've been putting it off all weekend, and it's nice, the way their legs brush against each other as they work. Kurt tries not to think that it would be even nicer if Dave were there, sitting on the other side of Blaine, how it would be a little easier to concentrate because Kurt would know for sure that everything was normal between them, and not weird and awkward because of what happened Saturday night.

*

On Tuesday, when Kurt is out in the hallway, waiting for Blaine to finish up talking with Rachel in the choir room – (she's been going on about the wedding, and even though Kurt wants to be her friend in every way, he just can't when it comes to her relationship with Finn) – a text comes in from Dave.

Dave: Hey. Not going to S this weekend.

Kurt’s heart either stops or sinks – he's not sure which, because he also goes a little numb. Oh? Kurt texts back.

Dave: Maybe I should spend less time there.

Kurt: But there’s great company there.
Kurt: Oh. And maybe not-so-great company.
Kurt: A growing collection of not-so-great companions.

Dave: I should probably try something else?

Kurt: Like what?

Dave: I don't know. But maybe you and Blaine can come along.

Kurt isn't aware of how tense his body has been until this moment, when it loosens so fast that he knocks his spine against the latch of a locker as he slumps against it.

Kurt: I'm sure we can arrange that.

*

They settle on broadening their horizons to a state park more than an hour away, far enough from Lima that they probably won't run into anyone they know.

Despite the unseasonable warmth, there aren't that many people out on the trails. Kurt's not exactly an outdoorsy type, but contrary to what people might think by looking at his angelic face or his pristine clothes, he doesn't object to being out in nature once in a while. He does, after all – and unlike many people he knows – acknowledge that to be human means to have come from all this, to have been born out of the elements and to be related to the creatures that populate these woods.

He can feel his evolutionary history in the way his eyes are drawn to the flash of red when a cardinal flies out of the undergrowth, and his ears prick up at the sound of a tree creaking on the other side of the hillock, and his nose picks up everything: the moisture in the air; the sweet decay of rotting bark; the slightest hint of green preparing to poke through the soil; Blaine's raspberry hair gel and Dave's aftershave piercing through the natural scents and yet somehow seeming to belong.

He remembers what Mercedes said more than a year ago, when his father was in a coma and the only way she knew how to help was to invoke God. You've got to believe in something, something more than you can touch, taste or see. Mercedes was so wrong, in so many ways. He doesn't need anything more than reality and to be part of it. It doesn't always feel good, but it always feels true.

He takes Blaine's hand because it grounds him further in the world, and also because he can, because there's no one around to judge, and even if there were, they'd think twice about saying anything because Dave is there with them and he's a behemoth.

They talk about this and that as they hike the trails, Kurt on one side of Blaine and Dave on the other – small talk, mostly, and Blaine impressively steers away from asking Dave prying questions about exactly what happened in that bathroom last week at Scandals.

He doesn’t steer away from giving Dave a long lecture on safer sex, though. Dave turns pink and nods and gives short answers and asks short questions as Blaine espouses the need for condoms for anal and oral and asks, "Have you had the HPV vaccine yet? It's really important. Because even if you're just doing frottage – "

"What's frottage?" Dave says.

"Rubbing cocks." Blaine says it with the same polite matter-of-factness that he says Medium coffee, please, when ordering at the Lima Bean.

Dave half-laughs. "Where the hell did it get the name frottage from?"

"I don't know."

Kurt interrupts, his interest in Romance languages overriding his need to run and hide from this conversation. "It's French. For 'friction.'" He's pretty sure he’s blushing as red as his old Cheerios uniform.

Dave mulls this over. "'Friction' sounds sexier than 'frottage.'"

"Anyway," says Blaine, "even with frottage – friction – you can transmit HPV. And it can be passed with a condom on, because it lives in the skin so it can be in the bal –"

"I think he gets the idea, Blaine." Kurt pokes Blaine's arm. "I can give him my brochures later."

"Um, sure, I'll look at brochures," Dave says, eyes on the trail beneath them. "But I think I got that HPV vaccine. It's, like, three shots, right?"

Blaine nods.

"Yeah, my mom didn't think I should get it because I'm never supposed to have sex until I'm married to a virgin. But my dad won."

Blaine seems satisfied by that and the sex talk shifts into a friendly argument about whether the squirrels look different here than in Lima, and then into comfortable silence.

Well, it's not silence, exactly. They aren't talking, but their presence in the woods is surprisingly loud – the weight of their footsteps against the ground, their conspicuous but unlabored breathing. A couple times during these pauses, Dave starts to whistle unconsciously, and Kurt thinks he recognizes the tune but he's not sure where he's heard it before, until Blaine says, "Is that Beethoven's third piano concerto?"

"Oh," says Dave, looking down at Blaine. "Was I – I didn't realize I was doing that out loud. Sorry."

"For what?" Blaine says.

"Whistling?" Dave gives Blaine a look somewhere between Duh, obviously and complete incomprehension.

"Why would you apologize for whistling? You're good at it." Blaine slows his stride; Kurt and Dave automatically shrink their gaits to match the new pace.

"Because it's annoying?" Dave says.

Blaine screws up his eyebrows. "Who told you that?"

Dave looks overhead, his eyes skimming through the canopy of branches. "My parents, Coach Tanaka, Coach Beiste, Coach Alvarado, Azimio, Finn, Puck – "

"Okay, I get the idea," Blaine interrupts. "But I don't think it's annoying."

Dave glances across Blaine at Kurt. "Don't look to me for disapproval," Kurt says. "I was enjoying it. How does the rest go?"

Dave smiles. "It's like, half an hour long. I'd have to be thinking too hard to do the whole thing."

"Are all concertos that long?" Kurt says.

"Something like that," Dave says.

"I don't know anything about classical music," Kurt says. "Blaine gets insulted when I compliment his playing because I know not of what I speak."

Blaine smiles sheepishly. "I do not get insulted."

"Well, you don't take my praise to heart. You're always, 'No, if you knew how this was really supposed to be played, you'd hear all the things I do wrong.'" Under their footsteps, Kurt hears the unmistakable sound of water stirring over rocks, of half-thawed sheets of ice breaking against one another.

Kurt turns toward the sounds and sees the creek now to their left, visible maybe 10 yards away through the underbrush. The water is running high against the banks, and ice floes have piled up against a line of stepping stones crossing the creek. The water coursing around them makes its own music, one that hints of revival and the yet-distant spring.

Kurt looks at Dave again. "Do you play, Dave? Is that why you know – sorry, I forgot the number of the piano concerto already."

"I used to. Before I broke my fingers playing hockey."

Blaine interrupts. "You play hockey?"

"He used to be on McKinley's ice hockey team," Kurt says, and maybe he's gloating just a bit, because lately he's begun to feel that Blaine is getting to know Dave a lot better than Kurt ever has.

Dave looks at Blaine. "Yeah. So I broke my fingers and I couldn't play piano for a while, and then when my fingers got mostly better, I couldn't play as well as I had before, and it hurt, and I got frustrated, so I quit." A cloud falls over Dave's eyes, and he opens his mouth like he's about to say something more, but instead he just sighs.

Kurt resists the urge to prod.

"That sucks," Blaine says. "I mean, if you enjoyed it."

"I enjoyed it when it was easy and I was good at it. I didn't like it so much when it was painful and I was just so-so at it. I guess, you know, diminishing returns on the investment." It still sounds like there is something more under there, and Kurt wants to peel back the layers to find it. He squeezes Blaine's hand instead.

They come to a footbridge and stop, Kurt and Blaine on the downstream side and Dave on the upstream side, to gaze over its railings at the water churning forward. The ice and detritus from last fall ride its current toward the lake, which they can't see yet but know to be there, somewhere past the tangle of tree trunks and hillocks.

Dave leans down to pick up a fallen stick from the planks of the bridge and moves to stand next to Kurt. He drops the stick into the water below, watching it float for 20 feet before it hits a rock, bobbing stagnantly for a moment before the current subsumes it. "Sometimes I feel like a lost cause. I give up so easily."

“That,” Kurt says laconically, dropping a small stone into the creek below, “is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You’re one of the most doggedly persistent people I know. And I mean that in the best possible way.”

Dave turns to look at him, eyes startled. “Really?”

Kurt can’t help but laugh. “You don’t see it?”

Dave shakes his head.

“Well, I’m not sure how to explain it,” says Kurt. “I guess what I see is that you haven’t given up on yourself, even though a lot of times it feels like it would be easier to. I think that takes a lot of courage.” He looks at Dave even though Dave's not looking at him, but is watching the water below.

“It’s hard,” Dave says.

“I know.” Through the layers of wool and cotton, Kurt feels Blaine's hand on the small of his back. He feels Blaine's equanimity enter him, curl around his spine and into his heart, cool and calming like the water-brisk air. If he were Blaine, he would take his gloved hand and wrap it around the back of Dave's and let the connection take care of it all. But he's not Blaine. He keeps his hands where they are, fisted into his pockets. “You’re one of the bravest people I know.”

Dave looks up, his eyes shifting color from bark to moss to earth in the shallow winter sun. "I don’t – I don’t feel brave.”

“You are, though.” Kurt keeps looking into Dave's eyes even after he’s spoken, though doing so makes him feel naked.

Dave doesn't say anything, just squints his eyes and nods his head and swallows hard. Kurt feels Blaine's hand on his and somehow it gives Kurt the courage to do what he needs to do – to rub the back of Dave's shoulder, just a momentary touch, as Dave slumps over the railing to watch the water below.

*

When they step out of the woods, Dave and Blaine bound toward the frozen water. They want to test the ice at the lake's edge. Kurt calls after them, telling them they're idiots and there's no way in hell or heaven or any other imaginary world that he's going to join them, but for reason’s sake, at least stay away from the mouth of the creek, where the ice is the thinnest.

Dave hollers back that it may be warm outside today, but the lake has been frozen solid for almost six weeks now and there should be a good four inches of it in most places, and anyway he learned how to ice fish in Scouts so he knows what he's doing.

"Fine," Kurt says petulantly when he catches up with them. "At least have the decency to lie down and spread your weight if it starts to crack beneath you, because I really don't want to have to drag the both of you out."

Kurt sits on a picnic bench and watches them, his idiot teenage boys, step out onto the lake. Except maybe they're not such idiots after all, because they walk slowly, looking at the ice beneath and in front of them, and Dave tilts his head like he's listening for clues. After they're out several yards, he draws something out from the inside of his coat, lowers himself to his stomach, and starts whacking at the ice, and Kurt has to admit that maybe Dave does know what he's doing because he brought a fucking ice hatchet.

Then Blaine lies down on his stomach and takes a turn, whack whack whack, and Kurt starts to laugh.

After a while, Blaine starts talking excitedly. Kurt can't hear what he's saying, but he's guessing it means they've hit water. Dave takes the hatchet and sticks the handle in the hole they've made and says something to Blaine, and Blaine stands up and hops a little and yells, "Six inches! Ha ha!" at Kurt.

Kurt thinks of a sexual innuendo, but holds his tongue as he rises from the bench and walks to the shore, gravitating toward a large flat rock that seems to have been put there just for the purpose of him sitting on it, bringing himself as close to his two idiot boys as he can without becoming an idiot himself and joining them on the ice.

"Come on! Join us!" Dave calls, but Kurt just shakes his head.

"Nah-uh. You two have your fun." Kurt reaches into his satchel and pulls out his notebook, holding it up to the sun. "I'll just sit here and sketch. If you fall through the ice, I'll have your last moments recorded to show your families."

The boys on the lake grumble their protest, but Kurt will not be moved. They eventually shrug at each other and turn away, though Blaine looks back over his shoulder at Kurt and gives a little wink and wave. It almost makes Kurt want to join them.

Kurt stuffs warming packs into each of his boots and holds one in his left hand. With the other gloved hand, he draws. It's not as difficult as it might be, since he wore his leather driving gloves today with the thought that he might want to scribble, and they are as close a thing as one can get to a second skin.

Blaine and Dave are moving too quickly to catch, so he sketches the background first. It's a new experience for him, because he hardly ever draws on a grand scale. He usually focuses on what's close at hand – the minute details of the way people carry themselves and the fabric shifts over their bodies; the way the opening of a collar or cuff highlights the sinews of wrist and neck; the way that clothing praises or insults the human form.

So he thinks about the lake as another body, the shore and the tree line the fabric that encircle it, and it's easier to see the shapes then, the exact way in which nature curves and bends.

He's not sure when he started, but at some point he realizes that he's singing to himself:

The long and winding road that leads to your door will never disappear.
I've seen that road before. It always leads me here.

It's a song he's known since childhood, from one of his mother's Beatles albums. He's had it memorized for years and he still hasn't decided exactly what it's about – sometimes it's about heartbreak, and sometimes it's about overcoming, and sometimes it's about reconciliation, or hope – but he knows that it reaches into his heart and twists it a different way each time.

His father played it on infinite repeat in the months after his mother's funeral. Kurt wasn't supposed to hear it – his father always saved the ritual for when Kurt was outside playing (sometimes with the neighbor's girl, sometimes with the neighbor's dog, as often as not by himself), and Burt usually closed the windows to muffle the music and the tears.

But Kurt heard it. He could hear that song through any wall or shut door, because it was like his mother's voice calling to him, and maybe he should have been sad, but he felt oddly warm. It still makes him feel that way.

He only hears his mother's voice sometimes when he sings it now. It has become more than a memory of her; it's grown into him like the vines that twist through the forest canopy here in summer, until it's become as much a part of him as it ever was of her.

He sketches and sings and watches the boys as they recede further onto the lake, their bodies becoming smaller, the colors of their clothes less distinct – mostly just a mass of darkness against the white of the ice – and his heart overflows.

* * *

Kurt's voice carries over the lake, clearer than the winter air or the crystalline thickness of ice that covers the center of the lake. There are patches of frost here and there that provide some traction, but mostly Blaine and Dave just propel themselves forward by skating on their shoes.

"You know, I fell in love with him while he was singing." Blaine's hands are folded behind his back like a speed skater's, but his chest is tilted only slightly forward as he moves.

Dave almost says, I know what you mean, but thinks better of it. Instead he just nods and says, "It doesn't surprise me."

Blaine does a one-eighty, gazing toward the barely discernible figure of Kurt on the shore. "Well, that's not quite right. It's more like, I finally stopped fighting being in love with him and just surrendered to it. I don't know why I fought it for so long. Well, I do. But in retrospect, it seems so stupid."

Dave starts to nod, but stops himself. "Well, at least you didn't fuck everything up beyond repair in the meantime."

Blaine sighs. "Honestly, I don't understand how the whole world isn't in love with him. I mean, just look at him."

Dave does look, even though they're far enough away that it's hard to distinguish Kurt's face from the rest of his figure. It's still clearly Kurt, though – not just because of his voice. Dave could recognize Kurt from a mile away just by how he holds himself.

I don't understand, either, are the words that come to Dave's mind. But instead he says, "The world is full of fools," because that's what a supportive friend would say.

Blaine puts his hand on Dave's back – a little too long to be called a slap, but too brief to be called anything else. He looks toward the shore, his face radiant with devotion. "At least we're not among them," he says.

* * *

When Blaine and Dave arrive safely back at shore, Kurt pretends to be disappointed that they didn't fall through the ice. "You'll never learn your lesson now," he says as they climb the beach toward him. He stays poised on his rock like it's his throne and he's about to hold court. "And it's too bad, really. I already recorded the image of your demise." He raises his notebook up to show his courtiers a quickly sketched cartoon of two stick figures falling through a break in the ice.

Dave snorts and Blaine beams, leaning down to kiss Kurt chastely but vigorously on the forehead and the cheek and the lips.

Kurt doesn't show them the other sketches he drew, the ones where they were distant and beautiful, like two sandhill cranes lazing about on a newly mown cornfield.

Kurt gives Blaine his hand and the three of them walk back, laughing and joking as the shadows lengthen across the forest floor. The sun is too low to be seen by the time they get back to their cars and say their goodbyes. Kurt wishes they’d driven together. He's not ready for this day to end.

He and Blaine watch Dave drive off before they climb into the Navigator. Blaine grabs Kurt's hand as he moves to put the key in the ignition and lifts it to his lips, gently kissing the gloved fingers, his eyes rapt on Kurt's face.

The last of the weight that Kurt’s been carrying lifts from his shoulders.

Blaine moves to Kurt's lips, pressing into them with slow patience. Blaine is delicious – warm and fleshy with a faded glow of cinnamon Altoids. When he finally pulls back, he doesn't go far – just enough so his eyes can focus on Kurt's face.

Kurt breaks into a shy smile. "What was that for?"

"This is the best day of my life," Blaine answers calmly.

Kurt blinks. "The best?"

"Okay. Maybe I have multiple bests. Like the first time I saw you, and the first time I heard you sing, and the day we first kissed, and when I told you I loved you, and the first time you fingered me – "

Kurt blushes. "And they all involve me?"

"Yeah. They do."

It's not often that Kurt is speechless; the feeling is so strange and unfamiliar that he tries to speak anyway. "I – " he starts. "You – " he tries again.

It's hopeless. So he pulls Blaine close, presses his nose against Blaine's hair, inhaling the woods and the vague scent of raspberries, feeling the solidity of his lover in his arms. "So much," Kurt says.

They drive home, alternating between talking and quiet. When Blaine starts humming "The Long and Winding Road, " Kurt decides to show him the other sketches he drew today, after all.

 

Chapter Text

The spring of Dave's sophomore year at McKinley, on the day that his finger splints were removed, he sat down at the piano and tried to play. But every stroke against the keys made him flinch.

The pain brought him back to the moment when Scott Cooper broke his fingers and then tugged him up off the ice with a "Stop moaning, you goddamn Liberace."

The whole thing was probably an accident. Dave kept repeating that reassurance to himself in his head – if he hadn't, he never would have been able to make it through the rest of the season and another one with the hockey team, or to face Scott at each practice and laugh at his awful, unfunny jokes at the lunch table.

It was probably an accident, even though Scott had been upping the ante against Dave for weeks, ever since Dave had performed Chopin's Waltz in A Minor flawlessly at a group piano recital.

Scott had been in the audience, fidgeting and checking messages on his phone despite his mother's stern looks, trying not to think about the fact that he was going to have to hear his sister play Für Elise yet again – and in a theater, this time, where he couldn't stick his iPod in his ears and tune it out – when he looked up and realized that the kid playing the melancholy tune that sounded like spring and storm clouds was none other than his hockey teammate Dave Karofsky.

Dave looked calm, and ecstatic, and maybe a little in love.

It's one thing to play the piano because your parents force you to. Scott had, himself, up through the eighth grade. But to play like you cared about it – well, that was another thing entirely.

Fuck, you'll never believe who's a piano-loving pansy, Scott texted to their teammate Rick Nelson.

Besides your sister? replied Rick.

Don't be an idiot, girls can't be pansies. No, Dave Karofsky. He's making sweet love to the keyboard right now. What a fag.

Whether Dave was, in fact, a fag or not was irrelevant. Scott didn't give it much thought. What was important was that Dave was acting like one, and that had to stop.

So he decided to toughen Dave up. He started by nicknaming Dave Liberace at their next practice, and Rick followed suit, even though he didn't know who Liberace was. Scott checked Dave against the boards every chance he got, elbowed him as often as possible, and "accidentally" whacked him with his hockey stick with increasing frequency.

(It made things a little more complicated that Dave's first wet dream, back when Dave's premature puberty upturned his life like a freak tornado, had been of wrestling Scott in his living room -- being thrown by him and pinned down and forced to beg for freedom.)

Dave refused to break. He ignored Scott He pretended that he didn't hear the name-calling; wasn't bothered by the growing number of bruises he went home with each day; didn't wish that the coach would look over, just once, and send Scott to the penalty box.

The checking and elbowing and whacking weren't accidents, but when Scott flipped Dave over on the ice and almost went down with him before regaining his balance – stepping on Dave's bent fingers with his blade in the process – well, Dave doesn't think the last part was intentional.

Still, Scott never apologized for breaking his fingers – why would he apologize for an accident? – and kept calling Dave Liberace. "What're you gonna do now, Liberace? Play your 'piano' single-handed?" Scott said, making jerking-off motions in the air, when Dave sat down to lunch the next day, his injured fingers splinted together.

The next day: "Hey, Liberace, don't you think that splint would look a little better covered in glitter?"

And a few weeks later: "Really? Coach is gonna put Liberace back into play? What, in a fucking sequined jersey?"

That was the last time Scott used the nickname. With a quick twist of his foot, Dave sent Scott sprawling onto the floor of the McKinley hallway. "Drop the 'Liberace,'" Dave said when he bent down to pick Scott up. "Just because my parents force me to play the piano doesn't mean I enjoy it."

"Jesus, fine," grumbled Scott. "You know I was only trying to make sure you weren't going to queer up the whole team. Teammates gotta keep each other in line. We're cool?"

"Fine, yeah, we're cool," said Dave, even though he felt like his guts were being sliced down the middle.

"Good." Scott slapped him on the shoulder. "It'll be good to have you back. But seriously, you've got to get your parents to drop the lessons."

"I've got the perfect excuse, thanks to you," Dave said, waving his splinted fingers in the air. He chuckled instead of wept, because that's what tough guys do when their dreams burn into ash.

"Awesome, great." Scott smiled in a way that looked almost genuine. "Glad I could be of help, Karofsky."

It was the first time in ages Scott had called him by his actual name.

Dave tried not to break. He really did try. But whenever he sat down to reacquaint his healing fingers with Chopin and Mozart, whenever he started to let go the slightest bit, to lose himself in the music and feel comforted by something for once, he'd hear Scott's voice – Liberace, Liberace, Liberace – and the pain in his hand turned to stabbing.

It wasn't worth it.

He broke.

* * *

The Monday after their walk through the woods and over the ice, Dave finds himself asking Blaine if he can play the Steinway.

Blaine looks up. HIs smile lights up his whole face. "Sure. I'd love to hear you."

"Well, I doubt it will be very good." Dave shrugs. "It's been a while."

Dave walks into the front room and folds back the keyboard cover. He doesn't press any of the keys down at first, just lets his fingers run patterns over them. Scales, mostly. The opening bars of Für Elise. He does this until he's convinced he hasn't completely forgotten. And then he presses the keys.

His hands are tight and he flubs some of the notes even though he's had the songs memorized for years. Für Elise and Ronda alla Turca should not be that goddamned hard.

But Dave keeps going at them anyway – that afternoon and on the afternoons that follow – and every time he sits down again, his fingers feel a little more flexible and the notes come a little easier, and soon he's whipping his way through them as easily as he did before he quit.

He should focus a bit more on mood and technique, not just speed through the music like his hands are running on caffeine and Ritalin. But once a dam breaks, it's easier to let the water rush out than to hold it back.

He thinks, occasionally, about opening up one of the music books on the shelf near the Anderson's piano, looking for something new to play. His fingers itch with desire. But he resists. He's gotten so good at resisting.

Instead, he goes deeper into his mind, to some of the slower songs, the dangerous ones that make him feel like his heart is opening. He plays the slow, longing strains of Chopin's Waltz in A Minor and lets it say everything he’s been afraid to say for so long.

 

Chapter Text

Blaine and Dave get in the habit of racing through their homework so that Dave can either play the piano or they both can go upstairs to Blaine's room to sit around and do absolutely nothing useful, like play computer games or flip through magazines like they’re doing this afternoon.

Okay, Blaine is flipping through magazines from his perch on the bed. Dave is in the red chair reading those embarrassing sex ed brochures that Kurt's dad gave him, and that Kurt, in turn, handed to Dave a few days ago without looking him in the eye. "If you care about me, you will put those in your backpack immediately and direct any questions you have about them to Blaine," Kurt said before breaking a cheesecake out of the refrigerator and acting like nothing had happened at all.[[MORE]]

Dave is halfway through a brochure on condoms when he raises his head and blurts out, "So I've always wondered what happens if you go to have sex with a guy and it turns out you don't want to do the same thing? Or, like, you want to do, um, exactly the same thing and that's … that’s kind of a problem, isn't it?"

Blaine leans back against the headboard and tosses his Us Weekly into the magazine pile next to him. He studies Dave’s face. "I'm not sure what you mean."

Dave looks down at the surprisingly unsexy line-drawing of an erect cock in his still-open brochure and scratches the back of his ear. "Never mind," he mumbles. He suddenly feels much too large for his chair.

"No," Blaine says calmly, raising himself up from his spot and crawling over the pile of magazines and sitting on the edge the mattress, knee-to-knee with Dave. "This is obviously something that's been worrying you. We should talk about it." He’s looking at Dave with those sincere Blaine eyes; there's clearly no way of escaping this.

"Fine." Dave closes the brochure but keeps it on his lap so he can fidget with its corners. "I just – How do you know who wants to do what in bed? And what if it doesn't – you know." Dave lets go of the brochure and links the fingers of both hands together to illustrate. "Mesh?"

Blaine looks blankly at Dave for a moment before a flicker of recognition darts across his eyes. "Oh," he finally says. "Are you talking about giving and receiving?"

It's Dave's turn to stare blankly.

Blaine tries again. "Anal sex? Topping and bottoming?"

Dave’s cheeks burn. He wants to hide his face, but his only real options are to cover it with his hands or the brochure, and both options are pretty childish. So he looks Blaine straight in the eye and says, "Yes."

"Oh, okay." Blaine's face relaxes into a smile. It's a gentle one, and teacherly – it reminds Dave of Brittany when she tried to teach Dave condom etiquette. "Well, I can't really talk a lot from personal experience here, because Kurt and I like to do both, but …"

Dave doesn't process the rest of Blaine's sentence. He's distracted by a quick succession of very explicit images flashing through his mind.

Dave regains control of his brain somewhere in the middle of Blaine saying, "Maybe if you really like the person, you'll find out you like some things that you didn't think you'd like before. Like, I really like it when Kurt –" Blaine blushes and shakes his head. "Um, I probably shouldn't tell you that. The point is, you can learn a lot of new things about your body when you're in love."

"Okay," Dave says, surprised and a little impressed at the ability of his mouth to form words. "But what if you're not in love?"

Blaine frowns.  Dave can tell that he’s trying not to – Blaine's eyebrows begin to twitch as he attempts to force them into something other than a deep furrow. "I guess people have sex when they're not in love, and it works for some people," he says finally, his voice just the slightest bit shaky. "Is that what you want?”

Dave looks down at his lap. “I don’t – I don’t know. It’s frustrating to wait. And it’s kind of hard to imagine …” His voice trails off.

“Imagine what?”

Dave feels like he’s about to choke, but he forces the words out. “It’s hard to imagine anyone ever feeling that way about me.”

“Oh, Dave.” Blaine reaches out and gently rubs Dave’s knee. “I can’t imagine guys not falling in love with you. You’re incredible.”

But you’re not in love with me, Dave wants to say. Kurt’s not in love with me. So instead he says, “Maybe.”

“You’ll find someone you care about, and who cares about you. I know you will." Blaine swallows hard. "And if that’s what you want for yourself, I think you should wait for it. You deserve that much, Dave, even if you don't believe that about yourself."

Blaine doesn't look away. The least Dave can do is try to be as brave as Blaine is being, to not blink or stare down at his lap or turn his head and gaze out the window, even if the sun is slanting in warmly through a cloud break for the first time today.

So Dave looks back at Blaine's eyes, and notices things he hasn't before – the way the pink triangles on the inside corners curve down slightly like bird beaks, and the irises aren't just honey and gold, but have flecks of emerald dust in them, too. Every time Blaine blinks, Dave is tempted to count the impossibly long lashes of his upper lid. He pictures Kurt trying to count them, lying in bed next to Blaine as Blaine sleeps, the covers pulled loosely around their waists, Kurt's hand resting on Blaine's bare chest, milk-and-sugar skin contrasting with Blaine's butterscotch warmth.

Dave's heart clenches in his chest. He will never deserve anything as intimate as that.

But maybe –maybe – Dave can wait until he finds someone who looks at him with a tenth of the affection that shows on Kurt's face every time he looks at Blaine.

If Dave got that, it would be more than he'd ever expected.

"Okay," Dave finally says. "I'm not sure I believe it. But I'll try to."

Blaine leans forward and squeezes Dave's knee. His smile is slight, but it's real.

*

Half an hour later, the conversation is close to forgotten and things are back to normal. Blaine's been studying a spread of stills from the new John Carter movie and making innuendos about John Carter teaching the four-armed Martians peaceful ways to use their extra hands, and Dave's stomach is sore from laughing. He guesses that Blaine's is, too, the way he's clutching at his stomach and forcing himself to breathe deeply through his nose.

"So which do you think you'd want to do, anyway?" Blaine says as his breath calms.

"With Tars Tarkas' hands?" Dave snorts. "I don't know. I'd be a little afraid of him getting overexcited and something bad happening with those tusks."

Blaine winces and crosses his legs, but laughs all the same. "No, I mean what you brought up earlier. About having a preference, and being … compatible."

"Oh." Even though Dave's breath catches at the question, his tongue is already limber from talking about sex with four-armed, two-torsoed aliens, so it just keeps moving without his consent. "Um, well what I think about usually – I mean besides blow jobs and rolling around and stuff – is, um, topping?" It’s kind of true, even though lately his sex dreams involve Kurt’s dick in his ass more often than not. When he’s thinking about sex in general – when he’s fantasizing about random guys – it’s always the other way around. "I mean, not always from the top, but –"

Blaine's eyes don't exactly bug out of his head. It's more like they lose focus, even though they appear to be on Dave. "That is," he says, sighing heavily, "a pretty nice position to be in."

Dave huffs and rolls one of the magazines from the pile into a tube. He strums slowly against the top of his thigh, the pain of each strike keeping him from picturing in too much detail what he's certain Blaine is picturing: Kurt, hovering above, his face weak with pleasure, his lower lip swollen from chewing it every time he cants his hips downward, his ass clenching warmly with each thrust.

Dave shuts his eyes to block the image out, but it only makes it stronger. He reopens them.

Blaine is looking at him apologetically. "Sorry," Blaine says. "Maybe that was too much information."

Dave thumps the magazine against his thigh again. "Well, it doesn't really inspire me not to try and go get laid by the nearest willing stranger."

Blaine looks down at his lap and scratches the back of his head – either embarrassed or thinking. Dave's not sure which, so he doesn't say anything.

"Well, I'm not sure if I really answered your question the first time, and I still think you should wait for the right person, because then any sex you have will be great whether or not it matches up with what you fantasized about, but –" Blaine swallows heavily and looks up. "There are scarves."

"Scarves?"

"Handkerchiefs."

"Handkerchiefs. … Sorry, I'm a little lost."

Blaine sighs. "No, my fault. I mean, some guys wear handkerchiefs. To show what they're interested in. I mean, I haven't seen it much around here – well, anywhere, really – except on Kurt."

"Wait. Handkerchiefs? I don't get –" Dave would get further than that, but he's distracted by a memory of Kurt sitting on the kitchen barstool, a white bandana dangling from his back pocket, and the way that Blaine would blush every time he looked at it. Dave had thought Blaine was just blushing because, well, Kurt's ass. But maybe it was the handkerchief making Blaine blush. He ventures a guess. "So you wear a handkerchief when you want sex?"

"It's more complicated than that. Like, different colors mean different kinds of sex, and if you wear it on the left it means you want to be the giver – or the 'top.'" Blaine uses air quotes. "And if you put it on the right it means you want to receive. But like I said, the only person I've ever seen wearing them is Kurt. Still, if you wear a royal blue bandana on your left side, someone might know that you're interested in being the giver in anal sex. So it would help with the conversation when it's time for that."

Dave stares at the magazine pile and tries not to remember every pocket handkerchief he’s ever seen Kurt wear. He looks at Blaine. "Thanks for talking with me about this stuff. You know I've never had anyone who would. It means a lot to me."

Blaine shrugs. "I'm sure Kurt would be willing to talk with you, too, if you wanted."

Dave folds his brochure in half. "Yeah, I don't know. I think that might be a little … awkward."

"I know he can come off as a kind of a prude, but he really isn't. He's just … private. He wouldn't judge you or anything, if that's what you're worried about."

The last thing Dave needs to be thinking about right now is Kurt Hummel not being a prude. "No," Dave finally says. "I'm not worried about that. I'm just more comfortable talking with you, if that's okay."

"Yeah, sure." Blaine's smile is bigger now – less like a teacher's and more like a friend's. "It means a lot to me to talk about this stuff with you, too."

*

The first thing that Dave does when he gets home, after taking out the trash and putting a frozen casserole in the oven, is go up to his room and Google "gay handkerchiefs." The Wikipedia page doesn't list what white means, so he keeps looking until he finds one that explains it as "mutual masturbation."

It's really, really difficult not to picture Kurt's and Blaine's hands on each other's cocks as Dave strokes his own.

 

Chapter Text


A high school all-star football game is, perhaps, one of the most ill-conceived ideas Kurt has ever heard of. As if most of the jocks didn't already think highly enough of themselves. As if the schools didn't already make it clear that athletics were more important than academics (because Kurt has yet to hear of an all-star valedictorian poetry-and-math slam), or that brute force is more important than character.

“I still don’t understand why they’re having a football game in March,” Kurt mutters to Finn and Blaine as they get out of the car. Kurt tightens his grey pashmina scarf against the brisk breeze. “I mean, the season ended a couple months ago, didn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Blaine says, sidling up shoulder to shoulder with Kurt as they walk toward the stadium. “But this is an exhibition game. It’s just to show off the players from the area who got football scholarships. So it doesn’t have to be played in the season. It’s like the New Directions singing at a school assembly versus singing at regionals. Except that all the players are from different schools, so maybe that’s not the best comparison.”

Kurt agreed to go to the game because it was a good excuse to show off his new scarf. Also, Dave will be playing, and they haven’t seen him for more than a week because of Cooper’s visit. It will be nice to see him again.

Finn and Blaine insisted on showing up early, so they get good seats just a few bleachers up from the 50-yard line. They're on the cusp of spring, which means it's still freezing (okay, technically a little above freezing), so Kurt distributes the hand and sock warmers to Finn on his left and Blaine on his right and starts spreading out the first of the blankets across their laps. Blaine smiles sheepishly as Kurt tucks the edge of the blanket under his knee, and it makes Kurt want to suggest that they go find a place to, ahem, warm themselves up a little. Instead, Kurt slips his hands under the blanket as if he's going to fold them in his lap, and Blaine echoes his movement, and as surreptitiously as he can, Kurt inches his gloved hand toward Blaine's until they are clasping in the private safety that the blanket affords them.

Frankly, that Finn wanted to go surprised Kurt – he's been bitter about football ever since he wasn't recruited – but Shane Tinsley was in the game, and even though Finn doesn't particularly like him, he said he should show support for his teammates. (Which didn't make sense to Kurt, since football season is over and they're not technically teammates anymore. But hey, if Finn's got a bigger heart than Kurt does – well, good for him. Maybe Kurt could learn from that.)

As soon as the players run out, Kurt realizes that he has no idea who anyone on the field is – he can't even single out Shane from all the preternaturally huge players on the field. Not until the players are lined up for the kick-off does Blaine lean in and point to number 23 on the blue-shirted team and whisper, "That's Dave."

"Thanks." Kurt squeezes Blaine's hand. "Wait. How do you know?"

Blaine raises his eyebrows at Kurt, leans in and whispers directly into his ear, hot damp breath that makes Kurt shiver, "Because I would know his ass anywhere."

And then Kurt is laughing through his nose, doubled over with his face in his lap to bury the world's most embarrassing, braying guffaw.

"Hey!" says Finn. "I want in on the joke. Or – wait. Do I?"

"No," says Blaine nonchalantly. "You really don't."

Kurt breathes into the blanket, gripping Blaine's hand both as a tether and in revenge, and by the time he's recovered and sitting back up, the game has already started.

Kurt leans his shoulder into Blaine's and whispers, "I thought all football players’ asses looked the same."

Blaine shakes his head. "Oh, no. They come in an infinite variety of wondrous forms."

Kurt wishes he could kiss Blaine right now, and he can tell Blaine is thinking the same thing, too, the way Blaine's eyes hover on his lips. It's a look that's a lot like contact – Kurt's lips tingle as thoroughly as if they'd been touched. He sighs and squeezes Blaine's hand.

Blaine responds with a conspiratorial look before loosening his hand from Kurt's, and Kurt can see that Blaine's hands are fumbling under the blanket although he's not exactly sure why until he feels movement under the cuff of his coat sleeve and – oh – the shock of bare fingers against his wrist. Blaine peels back Kurt's glove – a tortuously, deliciously slow undressing – and wraps their naked hands together under the blanket. The lazy rub of Blaine's thumb against the knuckles of Kurt's fingers feels like the most erotic thing since – well, ever.

"Also," says Blaine, "Dave always plays right guard, and he said he was going to be on the blue team, so that was a clue, too, in addition to his fine, fine ass."

Kurt wants to slap Blaine on his fine, fine ass, but instead settles for pinching Blaine's thigh with his free hand.

Kurt decides that this – the teasing and the flirting and the naked handholding – will probably be the longest foreplay they've had since they first undressed each other. He'll watch the game while Blaine strokes his skin, and he'll occasionally let his mind wander to them stroking other places, and then after the game they'll drive to one of their houses and tear each others' clothes off and fuck like the world is about to end.

Right now, though, Kurt will try to follow the game.

Dave's job, Kurt knows, is to keep the other team away from the guy with the ball, and he's surprised how effortless he makes it look as he clears the way. His body, which Kurt has always thought of as a bit luggish and clunky – first in an off-putting way, then in an endearing one – becomes a thing of grace. When he blocks other players, it's not with the brute force that Kurt expects; it's with the agility of a dancer. Kurt suddenly sees a certain beauty in this game that he never saw when he was actually on the team.

Also, Blaine's right. His ass really does look nice in those pants.

Kurt squeezes Blaine's hand.

Kurt doesn't spend all of the time watching Dave, but he spends a lot of it that way, in between ignoring Finn's incoherent shouts and listening to Blaine's patient explanation of strategy. Blaine's voice is whisper-quiet, reassuring, and he might as well be talking dirty for the way Kurt's heart quivers.

It would all be awesome and perfect if the entire McKinley hockey team weren't seated on the bleachers in front of them. They've got earmuffs on instead of hats, right down to the last team member, presumably to show off the glory of their Samsonesque mullets, and they spend most of the game heckling members of both teams with Check 'im!, Into the boards! and Your mom wears double-runners! and other exclamations that even Kurt can tell make no sense at a football game.

"Seriously, are they complete idiots?" Kurt asks. "How was I only 17 points ahead of one of their ilk in the election? It's humiliating."

"Shouldn't they be at one of their own games, anyway? I thought hockey season never ends," Blaine says.

"You didn't hear?" says Finn. "The entire team got suspended from play for two games for checking a referee."

Blaine's jaw drops. "They didn't."

"They did," says Finn.

"Checking is that body slam thing, right?" says Kurt.

"Yeah," Blaine says, smiling at Kurt like he just fell down from heaven.

Kurt has to look away so his brother doesn't turn into the third wheel on an eye-fucking date. "So they all body-slammed the referee?" he says to Finn.

"That's what I heard."

"And they only got suspended for two games?" Disbelief drips from Blaine's voice.

"Yup," says Finn.

"It's McKinley. What do you expect?" Kurt says.

"Hey, Karofsky!" The shout below them interrupts their conversation. It's Rick Nelson, Kurt's presidential loser-in-arms, and he's leaning over the front of the stands. The players are in formation about 10 yards down the field, and Dave either can't hear or is pretending not to. "Why'd you leave hockey for this pansy sport? Anything you want to tell us?"

"Jesus fucking – " Kurt hears the words exit his mouth, but has no recollection of how they got there.

"Hey," says one of the hockey players, turning around. His wavy brown hair makes him look exactly like Richard Marx circa 1989 (which Kurt only knows because "Right Here Waiting" was one of his parents' songs and he sings it to himself sometimes when he's sad about Blaine staying in Ohio next year). "Did you just take the Lord's name in vain?"

Kurt can feel Finn and Blaine tense up on either side of him. "Well," he says, "he's not my lord, so the answer to that question is, 'No.'"

"Oh," says Richard Marx, looking a little confused, then smiling. "Huh. Okay, then," and he turns back around.

Rick Nelson has sunk back into the bleachers by now, apparently having lost his steam, and is just mumbling to the mullet next to him – Scott something-or-other, if Kurt's remembering right. Which is good, because if he kept going, Kurt knows he wouldn't be able to keep his own mouth shut, and he doubts that Dave wants him coming to his defense.

But Rick is back at it by the end of the game. The blue defense is on for the final play, but blue has pretty much already demolished white – Kurt decides proprietarily it's thanks to Dave more than anybody else – and the audience members (spectators, Kurt reminds himself) seem bored by the foregone conclusion. Especially the hockey players.

"Karofsky!" the guy-probably-named-Scott yells, and the volume with which he does is totally unnecessary because Dave is at the team station at the edge of the field, just 10 feet in front of the bleachers.

Dave looks up, his helmet off, and Kurt's pretty sure that's trepidation that he sees flashing across Dave's face. But it's just a moment, and then it's gone, replaced by the steel "fuck you" mask that Dave wears so well. "Yeah?"

"You played really well today."

Dave nods his head. "Thanks."

"For a faggot."

Kurt shoots up out of his seat, trembling and swaying, his blood pounding hard against his skull. He feels a hand on each wrist, holding him back, but they can't hold back the words that start forming in his mind, can't keep him from planning all the ways he can tear the guy-probably-named-Scott apart, leave him in a dusty pile like paper that's been through the shredder.

But Kurt's planning turns out to be completely unnecessary.

"You say that like it's something to be ashamed of." Dave’s words are so loud that they bounce off the stadium walls. "If there's anything to be ashamed of around here, it's your mullet. I mean, you chose that."

There's a cackle from Scott (yes, it's definitely Scott, just like the toilet paper), followed by a guffaw from Rick. "You're not denying it. Faggot."

Dave is flexing the fist he used to call the Fury. "Because I gave up lying for 2012, you little shit."

The entire hockey team inhales sharply at once. The blue offense has started to notice, too, bodies slowly turning toward the escalation, but none stepping toward it. There's an invisible moat between Dave and the rest of the team, and Kurt's pretty sure none of them are going to try to cross it.

"Oh my god!" Scott tosses his head, the long hair in back waving like a taunt, and points – fucking points – at Dave. "You're queer! You really are queer. I should have known it, Liberace!"

The deep breath that Dave takes must be visible from a mile away. The high padding on his shoulders heaves with it. His teeth are clenched, but the words come out perfectly clear. "I prefer the term cocksucker myself."

A loud ooooooooooooh runs through the hockey team, except for Scott and Rick, who just stare at Dave, slack-jawed. "So, is that what you like to do with your Prom Queen Kurt Hummel?" Scott says, and Kurt's not the only one standing now. He's flanked by Blaine and Finn, who tighten their grip on his wrists – but they're no longer holding him back. It's more like they're hoping he'll keep them grounded. Both are folding their free hands into fists, and Blaine is mumbling under his breath, like a mantra, self-defense, defense of self and family, self-defense, defense of self and family.

And somehow, Dave has suddenly catapulted himself over the wall and has the front of Scott's coat in his fists and is pulling him up off his feet. Rick jumps up like he's going to intervene, but Dave glares at him and he sits back down.

Dave's face is tight with an anger that used to frighten Kurt, but now makes him feel intensely safe. "Don't bring Kurt Hummel into this. I'm not good enough for him and you're not good enough to say his name, you insignificant little prick."

Dave drops Scott back onto the bleacher bench with a thunk, then turns to the stairs and walks upward in the stands – just walks, not marches or storms – nodding at Finn and Kurt and Blaine but not quite looking at them when he passes, the whole hockey team and all of the blue offense and pretty much everyone within eye- and earshot of the argument staring at him in various states of wonder, even though the game is still going and –

           "Where the hell are the teachers?" says Blaine.

           "What just happened?" says Finn.

           "Fuck," says Kurt.

– all at once.

"Queer faggot!" Rick yells weakly in one last, desperate attempt to gain the high ground for himself and Scott, who's sitting on the bleacher, immobile with shock.

Dave turns around and spits, “That’s Queerofsy to you! Don't forget it." He spins back around, gliding up the stands, and there is something different about the way he holds himself, his shoulders looser, his head tilted up, and then he's at the exit and he's gone.

Rick's eyes fall on Kurt then and – oh, here it comes.

But he just says, "Oh, hey, Hummel. Didn't see you there. Nothing personal. We have to be assholes to anyone who leaves the hockey team. We're like the mafia. It's nothing personal."

Kurt can already feel his heart beating faster, the adrenaline bathing his brain. All those glorious, surgical-strike insults that he's been assembling are right on the tip of his tongue, ready to fly.

Except what Dave said to Scott keeps running through his brain – you're not good enough to say his name – and what comes out instead is, "You're not even worth it, Rick. You're just not worth it."

*

They stay for the rest of the game – all two minutes of it – but if anyone asked them what had gone on in those two minutes, none of them would have been able to answer.

Finn's face is the most readable – any passerby can look into his eyes and see the gears turning in his brain – and as the gears turn he mutters questions that Kurt and Blaine treat as rhetorical, like "What the – ?" and "Wait, is Karofsky gay? Is that why you guys are friends now?"

"We should find him," Blaine says quietly to Kurt.

"No, I don't – yeah. Maybe." Kurt stares vacantly at the field as the blue team rushes together, high-fiving and hugging and ass-slapping because, of course, they must have just won. He rubs his hand against his chest like he's trying to hold his heart in. "You're probably right."

Blaine pulls out his phone and starts texting, but who knows if Dave even has his phone, or if he ever went back to the locker room. No, he probably did; football uniforms aren't that comfortable and you wouldn't exactly want to hitchhike home in one. But that doesn't mean he'll answer.

When they walk out of the stadium, Blaine's phone hasn't buzzed yet, and Finn is still muttering about whether Karofsky is gay, and Kurt feels like something inside of him is cracking.

"Finn, can you go see if Dave is in the locker room?" Kurt says.

"Dave?"

"Karofsky."

"Yeah, right." Finn starts to move, then hesitates. "And then what?"

"If he's not there, maybe the parking lot?" Blaine shrugs. "You know what his car looks like, right?"

Finn nods. "Yeah, yeah. But I mean, what should I say?"

Kurt grabs Blaine's hand. "Tell him that the gay welcoming committee is here whenever he needs it."

* * *

Kurt collapses on a bench and Blaine sinks down next to him.

"Well, I guess he came out," Blaine sighs.

"My brain isn't even working." Kurt rubs his forehead along the brim of his hat. "I don't – I don't understand why he did that. He didn't have to do that."

"Maybe he wanted to." Blaine loosens Kurt's scarf and slips his hand under the collar of his coat to work at the knots in the back of his neck. Passersby be damned.

"I guess – I guess I never had much of a choice. It's hard for me to understand. Having to make that decision."

"He certainly has a way with words, though. Your influence must be rubbing off on him."

"Queerofsky." Kurt starts to laugh – just a gasp, at first. It's like the flap of a butterfly wing. Which, Blaine has read, can cause a hurricane under the right conditions.

Apparently, the conditions are right in Kurt, because the gasp turns into a snicker turns into a chortle turns into a bellow turns into an out-and-out roar and then he's hyperventilating, pressing his face into Blaine's shoulder, manic tears drenching his coat.

Blaine holds onto him, tries to contain the storm as best he can, keep it from tearing Kurt apart. But it's twisting into his own body, too, making him weak with fury. It's so wrong. It's all so wrong. Nothing is ever supposed to be like this. Nothing should ever hurt this badly. Why would Scott and Rick – why would anyone – purposely cause so much pain over something as decent as love?

It makes no sense. It makes no sense at all. And yet they do, again and again, miraculously wringing pain out of something that is pure beauty.

"I couldn't find him,” Finn's voice is above them, and Blaine looks up. “But I asked around and Brittany said Santana gave him a ride home. I guess she wanted to be the gay welcoming committee." Finn furrows his eyebrows. "Is everything okay?"

Kurt lifts his face from Blaine's shoulder and squeaks out, "I'll be fine, Finn. Just – gay stuff."

"Oh." Finn is squatting now, looking up at his brother with abject concern, and Blaine feels a sudden, intense affection for him. "Do you want me to leave you alone?"

"Yeah," Kurt sniffles. "Nothing personal."

"Nah, I know." Finn rubs his hand over Kurt's knee. "I'll get a ride with Puck or something – go to the shop, maybe. Hell, maybe I'll even go the library. You and Blaine go home."

So they do. They go to the empty house and cocoon in Kurt's room. Kurt falls asleep wrapped in Blaine and Blaine breathes him in for a long time before pulling his phone out of his pocket and texting Dave again, to no avail. He drops the phone onto the bedside table and curls into Kurt, and when they wake up they are both hard and hungry (no, Kurt is famished) and it's almost violent, the way Kurt takes him – almost, but not quite. It's on the sublime edge between assertiveness and dominance. Everything is rough and fast and before Blaine knows it they’re soaked with lube and Kurt is groaning and settling onto Blaine’s cock, his whole body quaking. Blaine needs this as much as Kurt right now -- the force and the ferocity, the alchemical change of anger and helplessness into rapturous lust.

"I need you, Blaine," Kurt cries as he rocks all the way down, his transcendent, perfect tightness almost more than Blaine can bear. "I need you so much. I need your cock, I need – " Small, desperate, aching thrusts. "Everything." The thrusts turn into sweet bucking and Kurt leans forward, biting into Blaine's shoulder to stifle his own cries.

"You can have it," says Blaine, holding his hips still and letting himself be fucked, letting Kurt take whatever he wants because he deserves all of it, and damn the world that won't give it to him.

Kurt is flushed and panting, merciless in the pleasure he gives, ethereal and solid, more real and harder to grasp than anything Blaine has ever known. He wraps his hands in Blaine's hair, murmurs into Blaine's mouth, "I don't want to be alone like that, ever again."

Blaine sees Dave on the sideline, looking up at Scott, face twisted with rage and despair, the closest teammate ten feet away. He sees Kurt seated at that round table in Dalton on the first day they met, eyes pale with hopelessness and hand gripping his coffee like it was his only friend in the world. "No, you won't be. I promise," Blaine whispers, grabbing Kurt's face and pulling him back to his lips.

Kurt rocks and rocks, takes and takes, gives and gives until Blaine's not sure he can handle any more, his nerves peeled back and raw and screaming for relief. Kurt drags his nose along the edge of Blaine's ear, breathes hot and heavy into his skull. "Blaine – Never leave me, Blaine." Kurt rolls his hips again in a slow, long, torturous wringing.

"I won't, I couldn't, oh, Kurt – " Blaine buries his face into Kurt's neck, breathes in the scent of grief and longing.

"We can't ever let him be alone like that again."

"We won't. We won't. Ever."

Kurt thrusts, slides, thrusts. "Come, Blaine."

"Kurt – "

"I'm already there." Kurt's spine arches, his head jerks back – sweet, violent ecstasy – and they both are there, floating in that space where there is no pain or fear.

* * *

The shower is hot on his face. It's the closest thing Dave could think of to burying himself. Which he had the urge to do not because he wanted to disappear or die, but because his body is aching for pressure – a force to hold him in, keep his insides from unraveling.

In fact, dying is the last thing he wants to do right now. For the first time in a long time, he feels like he's actually living. His whole body is telling him that, buzzing and acute with awareness. The bruises from the game are slowly blooming on his body like the Lenten roses in the backyard.

It's hard not to run to Kurt and Blaine. But just for a few hours, he wants to continue feeling the unencumbered warmth inside his chest and know that it's not coming from being near them.

He needs to hold onto this feeling and the knowledge that it came from inside of him – that it's all his own.

He'll have to come down from this too soon as it is. He'll have to tell his parents – hopefully before they hear it from some random dickweed who was at the game. And he's going to have to plan for alternatives to punching anyone who gives him shit at school on Monday. Maybe he'll sit down and write down all those comebacks that Kurt used to use against him. That would help.

But for now, he stands in the shower, rubbing soap into his skin until, suddenly, he's overcome by the perfection of his own body. He's never really thought about it before, how it serves him so well – the strength of his arms and thighs and skull, the efficiency of his heart and lungs and liver, the brows and lashes that keep sweat from dripping into his eyes, the hands that create and carry, the senses that connect him to the world.

Dave Karofsky is as he was meant to be. And fuck anyone who tries to tell him different.

* * *

Blaine is in the shower when his phone and Kurt’s buzz simultaneously.  It's the same message.

Dave: I'm okay.

Kurt: Blaine's indisposed. I'm glad you're okay.

Kurt: Are you really?

Dave: Yeah. I need to take a shower. I kind of left without one.

Dave: I drove around for a while.

Dave: But yeah, I'm okay.

Kurt: Can we see you?

Dave: I think I kind of need to be alone.

Kurt: Need to be, or are used to being?

Dave: Maybe both? I need to figure out what to say to my parents when they get home.

Kurt: They weren't at the game?

Dave: No, my mom – nevermind, long story. But I'm glad now they weren't.

Kurt: Are you sure? About being alone?

Dave: Yeah.

Kurt: Promise to let me know if you change your mind.

Dave: I promise.

Kurt: Dave?

Dave: Yeah?

Kurt: I'm proud of you.

Dave: Thanks.

Kurt: I have been for a while.

* * *

There is a look of defeat in his mother's eyes, and Dave sees his dad cry for the first time since his uncle died. "I'm so sorry, David. I'm so sorry I didn't see it sooner."

Dave has been dreading this moment, played out a thousand scenarios of what might happen, all of them equally plausible in his mind: therapy, military school, brusque dismissal and – he's only allowed himself to imagine this once – reluctant acceptance.

It's nothing his parents have ever explicitly said. It's just everything they haven't said. When gay stuff comes on the news, they don't react – they don't react to much of anything in the news, really, except for the weather report and, in his mother's case, car crashes and homicides. Even in January, when the newscasts wouldn't shut up about the mayor's support of gay marriage, his parents were mute on the subject. The closest thing to commentary from his dad was, "Again? I just want to know if it's going to snow tomorrow."

But his mother goes to this awful megachurch full of placid white suburbanites who nod eagerly at every stupid thing their pastors say, and she hated the couple guy-friends he’s brought home who didn’t have super-short hair, and she’s always nagging him to ask out the blonde cheerleader daughters of her megachurch friends. He thought she’d be happy when he dated Santana, but she wasn’t: “Now I’ve never had a problem with you being friends with Azimio,” she said, “but dating is different. But I really think it’s hard for a man and woman to be compatible across those kinds of cultural lines.”

And when Dave got expelled for harassing Kurt, his mom's only comment was about Dave damaging his prospects for the future.

His dad was only a little better. "That's not how you deal with someone you have a problem with. You accept them or ignore them, but you don't attack them, Dave. I thought I'd taught you at least that much."

Ever since, he's been wondering whether his dad will opt for "accept" or "ignore" when he finds out Dave is gay.

"I failed you, Dave," his father says. His mother won't look at either of them. She's staring at the silk flowers on the coffee table. They're starting to gather dust.

Dave wants to get up now, walk out the door and never come back, never have to hear the next words that will come out of his parents' mouths. But he stays. They listened to him – they gave him at least that. It's his turn to listen now.

So he sits there across from his parents on the couch, watches his mother cling to his father's hand. She never reaches out to Dave that way.

His dad looks at him fixedly. "Is that what this was all about with the Hummel kid? Did he reject you or something?"

"No, not –" He's only told his parents the truth so far tonight. He might as well keep doing it. "I don't think so. I mean, it's not like I ever asked him out or anything, but I mean it was pretty obvious he didn't like me. Which was pretty much all my fault. I mean, I never did anything very likeable around him. It goes without saying that he would have rejected me if I'd –"

He definitely doesn't count the locker room kiss as a romantic overture toward Kurt, but it occurs to him that Kurt didn't reject him then. No, he didn't fling himself into Dave's arms (and thank god because that would have been incredibly sick and disturbing), but he didn't tell him he was a horrible, evil, hopeless person who should just get it over with and kill himself.

Dave probably would have, too.

No, even then, Kurt saw a person underneath all the sickness and tried, with Blaine's help, to help Dave see that person.

They were so earnest in that stairwell, and so brave.

It was Dave who rejected them.

Dave shuffles his feet, rubs at his arm, shifts in his chair. He looks his father in the eyes. "I mean, I don't really understand why I did it. I guess I was afraid of him and jealous of him. I mean, just by him existing and being out and brave and …" He almost says beautiful. He almost says perfect. He bites his tongue. "He reminded me of it all the time. Of me being gay, I mean. And a coward."

His dad sighs, leans back into the couch like he's lost all the will to hold himself up. "Why didn't you just tell us? I've been racking my brain forever trying to figure out what's going on with you. We thought maybe it was drugs, but your mom kept looking through your room when you were at school and she couldn't find anything. And you've been going out so much lately. At first I thought, 'Great, he's making friends at his new school,' but then we'd ask you to bring your friends home and you never do and I'd wonder if you were getting into trouble again, who these friends could be that you didn't want us to meet. Is it – do you have a boyfriend?"

Dave laughs. "No, it's not like that. It's – I have gay friends, now."

"People your own age?" Dave tenses up at that question because he really, really doesn't want his dad to know about Scandals. But it's probably a good sign that his dad seems more concerned right now about the ages of the people hangs out with than the fact that he's a big flaming queer.

So Dave answers truthfully, if only partially. "I was hanging out with older guys at first," he starts, and his mom's eyes go wide, and Dave feels his heart rate go up by what must be twenty beats a second.

"No, not like that, I swear," he says. "I just needed to be around other gay people because I hated myself so much and I really needed to meet people who were gay and didn't hate themselves. And there really aren't a lot of teenagers in this town who are out, and I'd kind of burned my bridges with Kurt. But then I met this other kid and – well, he actually turned out to be kind of an idiot – but after that I ran into –"

He pauses. He'd been about to tell his parents about Kurt and Blaine, but fuck is that complicated. He thinks about the difference between not lying and complete honesty, and opts for the former.

"I ran into some other kids – really great kids, good students and pretty straitlaced. I'm sorry I've been hiding it from you. I'm sorry I've been hiding everything, really, for so long. It was wrong of me."

Dave's mom finally pipes up. "Well, I wouldn't go that far."

Dave's heart pounds in his chest, his legs, his skull. It takes everything in him to stay seated, although all he wants to do is flip the coffee table over, run the entire distance to the Short North in Columbus, or collapse into tears. Any of those would do.

But instead he breathes, stares at his parents' clasped hands, notices his father shift uncomfortably on the couch.

Dave's dad speaks first. "What do you mean by that?" It's patient, curious, doesn't judge. His father has always been the consummate peacemaker. Or he's always tried.

"Just – it's not wrong to hide," she says. "The world works a certain way. Sometimes you have to hide things or give up things or change things so you can fit in."

Dave thinks his heart might literally be breaking. Or maybe it's just being torn in two, judging from the searing pain that runs down the center of his chest.

He reminds himself to breathe.

"It's not always okay to hide, Mom," Dave says. "I hurt people so that no one would find out who I am. Really hurt people. Hurt one of the most amazing people I've ever met, and if I'm a saint for the rest of my life, it will never make up for what I did to him. And I hurt you and dad, pushed you away and made you worry about me, and I was – "

He was about to say an asshole, but he wasn't raised to speak that way. His foul mouth didn't develop until he abandoned Scouts for hockey to prove himself a man.

He sighs. "I was awful to most of the kids at school, even if I wasn't beating them all up."

His dad leans forward toward Dave. It reassures Dave and it scares him, because he doesn't know if he wants anyone to be close to him right now when he's so painfully vulnerable. "Son, I wish I would have known."

"I don't know how you could have. I couldn't even admit it to myself. For a long time, anyway. And then I just didn't know what you would think." The tears push against Dave's eyes so hard that his eyeballs ache, but he blinks them back. "You've always told me that a real man treats his wife and children with respect, but I'm not even gonna have a wife, and I don't know if I'm gonna have kids, and if I do they might not even look like me and –"

His dad reaches across and touches him on the knee – briefly, as if he's read Dave's fear of getting close and his need for reassurance and is trying to find the perfect gesture to address them both. "Dave, I need to be honest with you. I don't know what I think. I just always assumed you were straight. I just – I know it's not true, but I grew up believing that gay guys were all like that kid Kurt. Nothing wrong with him, but you can spot it from a million miles away. So I'm a little in shock. But I swear, if I had known – I wouldn't have put it that way."

In the standoff between Dave's tears and the eyelids trying to hold them back, his tears finally win out.

* * *

Kurt and Blaine have returned to the world by the time Blaine's phone buzzes. They're in the kitchen, wrapping some large salmon fillets with lemon slices and asparagus spears in parchment paper.

Blaine quickly rinses his hands before picking up his phone.

Dave: I talked to my parents. I think we’re okay.

Blaine: Like, a little okay or a lot okay?

Dave: Not kicked out or anything. No military school. No ex-gay camp.
Dave: Nothing like that.

Blaine: Is that good?

Dave: Yes. Is Kurt there?

Blaine: Yeah.

Dave: Tell him.

Blaine: Um, he's kind of standing over my shoulder flailing.

Dave: Hi Kurt.

Blaine: Hi, Dave! (This is Kurt.)
Blaine: Wait, should we get on the phone? (I'm still Kurt.)

Dave: No.

Blaine: No?
Blaine: This is Kurt. Are you really okay?

Dave: Yes.

Blaine: This is Blaine again. Where are you?

Dave: My room.

Blaine: Are you grounded? Are you not allowed to make calls? I'm going to call you.

Dave: No and no and don't because I won't answer. Can't talk.

Blaine: ??

Dave: You're going to make me say it, aren't you?

Blaine: ??

Dave: I've been crying for a half hour and I think it's over and then I start up again and if I talk to you guys I'll start up again.
Dave: And I have hiccups. There are you happy?

Blaine: Only if they're happy tears.

Dave: I think so. It went a lot better than I thought.
Dave: Dad was good. I could have told him a long time ago.

Blaine: I'm glad. Your mom?

Dave: Good enough. But I ignore her as much as I can already anyway.

Blaine: I really want to see you. We both want to see you. Now?

Dave: Um, still crying. Also, I think I should talk to my dad some more when I calm down.

Blaine: OK. But you'll still be here tomorrow like usual?
Blaine: Please?
Blaine: I want to give you a hug.
Blaine: But I won't if you don't want me to.
Blaine: And Kurt will be here. He says "Screw work."

Dave: He's usually more eloquent than that.

Blaine: That's exactly what he said. He gets a little less articulate sometimes when he's happy.

Blaine: Also, "eloquent" is quite the $10 word.

Dave: I've picked up a few from Kurt.

Blaine: So you're coming over on Monday. Right?

Dave: Yes.

Blaine: Thank you.

Dave: Thank you? You're the one having me over. Also, it's kind of our routine.

Blaine: Kurt's worried about you running away.

Dave: What? From my parents?

Blaine: Well, maybe. I meant holing up and being a loner, though. Don't tell him I said that, BTW. He doesn't like people to know he worries about them.
Blaine: God, I'm a terrible boyfriend. I shouldn't have said anything.
Blaine: No, I'll tell him I told you and bear his wrath.
Blaine: I mean, it's obvious he would worry about you. He cares about you.
Blaine: Because you guys are friends and all.
Blaine: Are you still there?

Dave: Yes.

Dave: Thank you. And thank Kurt, too.

Blaine: For what? Me babbling incoherently and Kurt being generally awesome?

Dave: For everything. For being there. For making me less scared.

Blaine: I love you, Dave. We both do.

Dave: I love you, too.

 

Chapter Text

Dave's Monday is surprisingly uneventful – anticlimactic, really, after years of fearing the worst.

Maybe his new school is better than McKinley. Or maybe Burt Hummel was right. Maybe the only reason McKinley was so bad was because Dave made it that way.

There are stares, but he's gotten stares before. Most of the classmates who spoke to him before are still speaking to him as if nothing's changed – and maybe some of them don't know, but a lot of them must.

He returns to his locker from government class to find a folded piece of paper that has been slipped through the vents in the door. It's a picture of Esera Tuaolo, the only gay NFL player Dave's ever heard of, printed off in black and white with a note that reads: "See? You're not the only one."

Definitely not what Dave has been expecting.

The note he gets after math class is more along the lines of what Dave has feared. "Hey gayboy, want to lick my balls? Meet me under the bleachers after school."

Dave's pretty sure that's not a come-on, but the fact that he can't be entirely sure makes him laugh as he crumples up the paper and tosses it into the recycling bin.

At lunch, he hears a couple mutterings of fag and either buttboy or buckboy – they're too mumbled for him to tell. He wishes that they were louder, sharper, pointed enough to scratch into his skin and make him bleed, give him the scars he deserves for using those same words against people.

But they slip off him like drops of water, and although they may leave a residue of hurt for a few minutes, it quickly evaporates.

He eats with some girls from his math class, which feels stereotypically gay and a little weird because he's not really used to hanging out with girls much. But they invited him, and he doesn't want to risk sitting with any of the usual jocks. The varsity quarterback, whose ass Dave saved so many times last fall, pointedly looked away from him every time they neared each other in the halls this morning – which was between every class, since their lockers are only five apart from each other. And the linebackers, who were hanging out near the soda machine between second and third period, turned away from him when they saw him get in line for his Mountain Dew.

It turns out the girls aren't all bad. They don't spend the entire time talking about clothes and dieting and their periods like he thought they would; most of the conversation is taken up by one of the girls explaining a computer program she's designing. Dave doesn't understand half of it, but the half he does understand makes him wish he understood more.

After English, the hockey captain high-fives Dave in the hall for "telling off those pricks from McKinley" and adds, "You should have been on our team." Which is nice, even if neither of them refer to the content of the telling off.

In physics, a girl whose name he can never remember – it's either Catherine or Elizabeth, he's not sure – comes up to him before the bell rings and hugs him. "My brother is, too," she whispers into his ear. "College is so much better."

He thinks he should finally learn her name.

All in all, it's bearable – maybe better than bearable – and if it continues this way until the end of the school year, he'll easily survive it.

All in all, he deserves a lot worse.

*

When Dave gets to Blaine's house that afternoon, Blaine gives him the tightest, longest hug he's gotten since he was seven years old.

Instead of feeling constricted, Dave feels looser and freer than he did after the game on Saturday. He wonders if this is what life will be like now, the bands around him being slowly unbound, until one day they're gone altogether.

Kurt stands back while they hug, smiling fondly, and Dave has to remind himself not to reach out to him as soon as Blaine lets go. Kurt doesn't hug people other than Blaine and girls unless he’s drunk. Dave’s coming out doesn't change that.

What Dave gets from Kurt is so much better than a hug, anyway. There's a light of pride in Kurt's eyes, shining so bright that it makes Dave want to lie down and bask in it. He thinks he might understand a little of the feeling that Moses had when he prostrated himself before God on Mt. Sinai.

"You look amazing, Dave," Blaine says, slapping him on the shoulder as they walk toward the kitchen. "You look fifty years younger. Okay, that doesn't make any sense, but – less weather-beaten? Which sounds like a backhanded compliment. I just mean – "

"He just means that it's good to see you, Dave," Kurt says, settling on a barstool, and that smile is still there, and that light in his eyes – twinkling and sparkling and goddamn gleaming at Dave. "And you look happy."

"I am," Dave says, almost inaudibly. But he can tell Kurt caught it by the way his smile grows even more content.

"Exactly," says Blaine, disappearing behind the refrigerator door. "That was exactly what I wanted to say." He reappears with two cans of soda and a juice box and sets them on the bar.  "The usual, I presume?"

Dave takes his Mountain Dew and Kurt takes his Coke Zero and the three of them settle down to start their homework. They don't talk about the weekend; Dave said all he needed to say last night when they texted.

So the afternoon isn't much different than usual for the first couple hours – Dave even finds himself unable to break his new habit of sneakily glancing at Kurt's ass to look for a handkerchief (today, there's the tiniest sliver of what might be plaid sticking out of Kurt's right back pocket, but Dave's pretty sure that doesn't mean anything in the hanky code), until Blaine turns his laptop in Dave's direction and tells him to sign into his Facebook account.

"I've kind of been avoiding Facebook," Dave says.

"No, not for you to look at. For me to."

Dave raises an eyebrow at Blaine.

"My brother did this for me when I came out. He'd go through my Facebook wall for me and delete anything that I didn't need to see, and block the people who posted it. Well, after taking screenshots of whatever they'd put there in case we ever needed it as evidence."

Kurt stares at Blaine, slack-jawed. "Cooper did that? That doesn't sound very … Cooper-esque."

Blaine shrugs. "He pulls through when I least expect it."

Dave jumps in. "So how many friends did you lose?"  It's been nagging him, even though he knows he shouldn't care.

"Well, any that he had to get rid of were never really my friends in the first place, so ... none, actually," Blaine says a little too casually. "But if you mean my friends list, then I'm not sure, because I made other friends at the same time. Every gray cloud has a silver lining."

"And every silver lining has a gray cloud," Kurt murmurs.

Dave types his email address and password into Facebook, but he doesn't click the login button. "Here you go," he says, handing the computer back to Blaine. "But maybe sit at the kitchen table or something so I don't try to read over your shoulder."

* * *

"It's not all bad, actually," Blaine says after a couple of minutes. "It looks like Santana's on a mission to plaster your wall with kindness."

Dave smirks. "Not what I would have expected."

"Yeah," sighs Kurt. "She's nice sometimes now. It's weird."

"And Lord Tubbington is apparently a big fan of your performance at Saturday's game." Blaine smiles. "But knowing Lord Tubbington, he's probably talking about your tackles."

Dave laughs through his nose, and Kurt throws a pencil in Blaine's general direction, letting out a satisfied cluck when it hits the wall behind him rather than Blaine himself. "Have you been drinking Brittany's Kool-Aid?"

"Brittany makes the best Kool-Aid. She uses a secret recipe that's been handed down in Lord Tubbington's family for generations." Blaine looks back at the computer. "Also, you're a terrible shot."

"I wasn't trying to hit you. That pencil went exactly where I wanted it to go."

Kurt and Blaine continue their banter while Blaine works at the computer. It's a performance for Dave – laughing and joking to keep his mind off things that aren't funny at all.

Kurt can see from the lines in Blaine's forehead that not all the messages are kind – probably not even half of them – but Blaine keeps smiling as if the silver linings are the only thing visible to him. Kurt knows that Blaine will spend more time than usual in the weight room, pummeling the heavy bag until his arms are so tired he can barely raise them. He'll cry about them, too, and if Kurt's lucky, he'll get to hold Blaine through the tears. Blaine will refuse to tell him what most of the messages said, though, trying to protect Kurt from sharing in the heartache.

Of course it won't work. Blaine's heartache is always his own.

But for now, Kurt tries to believe the silver linings will suffice. Maybe Dave can believe it then, too.

* * *

Blaine shuts the laptop with an air of finality. "Okay. Done for now." He points to a piece of paper next to him. "I switched your page to private and made it so only friends can send you messages, and I wrote two lists. People who are safe, and people I blocked. Do you want them?"

"Maybe the good list," Dave says.

Blaine tears the piece of paper down the middle and brings the right half over to Dave, who folds it up and slips it into his pocket without looking at it. "Thanks," he says.

"You're not going to read it?" Blaine says.

Dave nods. "I will before school tomorrow. So I know who's safe. And maybe – " He stops, fiddles with his empty Mountain Dew can, feels the other boys’ eyes on him, waiting. "Maybe I could add my real friends to Facebook." He pulls the tab off and drops it into the can, swirls it around and listens to the scrape and slide of aluminum against aluminum. "I mean – "

He puts the can down, faces them but doesn't quite look in either pair of eyes. He's not sure why this is so hard, why it's like asking a guy to prom or letting a lover take all your clothes off or a hundred other things he's never experienced because they're just too difficult. "Maybe we can be Facebook friends now? You guys are important to me, and I don't want to hide you anymore. If that's – if that's okay."

Dave feels the breath squeeze out of him before he realizes he's being tackled by Blaine – well, not tackled, really. Dave supposes it's a hug, but it's even tighter than the one Blaine gave him when he first walked through the door.

"That would be awesome, Dave," Blaine effuses. "I'm so proud to call you my friend."

Dave looks over the top of Blaine's head at Kurt, whose grin is so big that Dave swears he can see every one of his teeth but his molars. They're a little rounded at the corners, not straight and sharp like Dave's, or rigidly aligned from years of braces. Dave thought he had memorized everything about Kurt that was possible to memorize – but he didn't even know that Kurt could smile like this, hadn't realized the perfect imperfection of Kurt's teeth.

Kurt reaches a hand toward them and tugs on Blaine's shoulder. "I think you need to let Dave breathe, dear."

*

On Thursday, Blaine quietly purges Dave's Facebook wall again while Kurt and Dave huddle over a physics problem at the kitchen bar. Up until the end of the afternoon, it's the only thing that veers from their normal routine, and Blaine does it so inconspicuously that they can almost pretend it's not happening at all.

When Dave is done studying, he walks over to the Steinway, stopping at the bookshelf first to tug out a book that's calling his name.

He flips through the pages, opening it to a piece he's always loved but never tried to play, and lets his eyes wander over the notes. Yes, he thinks, he should be able to do this, though it may take a little effort.

He rests the book against the music stand, settles himself on the bench and begins to play, methodically crawling over the keys with the speed of a pale-throated sloth. But he hits the right notes, and it doesn't sounds like random noise. It sounds like music.

He doesn't see Kurt standing in the entrance of the kitchen and watching him, smiling so wide that his eyes are half-closed with delight.

Chapter Text

Ever since Kurt got to feel Blaine's bare cock in his ass, Blaine has wanted to feel Kurt's, too.

But he keeps getting distracted. Like right now, on this Saturday afternoon when the Hummel-Hudson house is empty, with Burt and Carole in D.C. and Finn – oh, who cares where Finn and Sam are, as long as it's not here.

Blaine is on his back, his calves crossed against Kurt's shoulder as Kurt stands next to the bed and slides his lubed cock between Blaine's tightly clenched thighs, nudging Blaine's balls and the base of his dick with each thrust. Blaine's not sure what about doing this makes him come apart – the tease of Kurt's cock against his own; the feel of Kurt growing harder between his thighs; the hope that they'll finish at the same moment, their come mingling on his stomach, indistinguishable – but it does, every time. Blaine is gripping so hard at the sheet beneath him that he's pulled the corner loose, exposing the mattress beneath.

Kurt reaches down and takes Blaine's cock into his hand and strokes it so exquisitely, doing just the right things to make Blaine unravel a little more, and then a little more, and then some more. Fuck, Kurt is better at doing this to Blaine than Blaine is at doing it to himself. It's like Kurt owns it, like it belongs to him, like it's always belonged to him and – oh yes – it does.

"Oh fuck I'm yours, Kurt. Fuck."

Kurt is unwinding, too, his thrusts becoming more erratic. Kurt leans his face into Blaine's calf and sucks on it, light and sloppy at first, but then there are teeth and oh that is so good mark me, yes, harder, bite harder.

There's a sharp pinch as the flesh of Blaine's calf compresses between Kurt's teeth and Kurt sucks the little mound hard into his mouth fucking god I love you and every bit of blood that's not feeding Blaine's dick must be in that spot on his calf, seeping through the capillaries and into the muscle just beneath his skin. It will be a beautiful flower of blue and purple when this is all done. And it is so close too close to being done and yet this is exactly what needs to happen now now now Kurt please.

Kurt is still biting and thrusting don't ever let me go and then with one last slam so hard the back of Blaine's thighs might very well be bruised tomorrow, he comes on Blaine, and Blaine feels the churn in his own balls making him dizzy and his heart pulses hard, pushing his orgasm out and then again, more, with every beat.

Kurt's lips are on his face within seconds, kissing him and loving him and owning him, whispering sweetness into his ear. "You're so much, Blaine, so much."

Kurt doesn't go for the tissues right away. He leaves the pool on Blaine's stomach for Blaine to stare at and drag his finger through. When Blaine gets the tip of his finger wet, Kurt grabs his wrist before it's even halfway to his mouth.

"Kurt – " It's choked off, almost desperate. Blaine's so hungry for it, the taste of them together.

Kurt just nods knowingly before lifting Blaine's hand to his mouth and darting his tongue over the wet finger, a transcendentally vulgar sound of satisfaction rising from his throat.

"Oh, fuck, Kurt."

Kurt lowers his own hand through the wetness on Blaine's stomach. Blaine's mouth waters, falls open at the sight, and Kurt obliges, gliding his fingers over Blaine's lips and tongue. Blaine can feel the blood rushing back to his cock already.

"I love you, Kurt."

"I love you, too, Blaine." He can see in Kurt's focused, reverent eyes, in the gentleness of his fingers, that it's true.

"I want – "

"What do you want, Blaine?"

"I want you to fuck me with our come. Without a condom. I want to know what it's like."

A satisfied smile spreads across Kurt's face. "I'd like that, too," he purrs, and Blaine has to close his eyes to keep from fainting, even though he's already lying down.

And then in a slightly more business-like tone, Kurt adds, "But I'll have to use lube, too. There was already lube in my ass when you did that to me." The memory of Kurt's ass around his cock, the perfect ring sliding up and down from base to head and back, makes Blaine weaker and stronger.

"And we should probably talk more about this eventually," Kurt says, nipping at Blaine's earlobe. "If we – with your fantasy about – If we want to make it real. We'll have to talk about safety." Blaine opens his eyes and Kurt is looking steadily at him, a flush on his neck and cheeks.

"Oh, god, Kurt. You're so hot." Blaine sometimes wishes he could be a little more coherent at moments like these, wishes he could at least recite John Donne or Shakespeare if he can't come up with the right romantic words himself, but Kurt must still get the point, because their mouths are together and it's not that slow, satisfied post-orgasmic kind of kiss. It's the kind of kiss where they're trying to burrow themselves into each other.

Blaine opens up easily, his ring of muscle relaxed from the orgasm. Kurt's fingers tease any residual resistance from it. Blaine's not sure if it's the come mixed into the lube that makes Kurt's touch feel warmer, the slide smoother, or if it's just the idea of it that makes him cry a bit louder than usual, push a little more desperately around Kurt's fingers.

When it's time, Kurt kneels at Blaine's side, leans into his ear, and whispers, "Cover me with you," and Blaine groans. He props himself up on his elbow and slicks Kurt's cock first with his tongue, then with the mingled come from his stomach.

Blaine rolls onto his back, hooks his ankle around Kurt's waist and pulls him closer. Blaine loves it like this best of all. He loves it when Kurt's hovering over him, holding himself up with his hands curled on the bed or around Blaine's hips  or pressing against the back of Blaine’s thighs as he works into him, loves watching the muscles of Kurt's arms shifting, watching his body thrust and arch and press, his collarbone and face redden with yearning. He loves the way Kurt's sweat rains down on him, loves how Kurt fucks him – unhurried, controlled, pleasing, slowly massaging Blaine into greater pliancy until he can take more, give more, pull Kurt all the way into him until they both see light.

He loves when Kurt covers him with his body, when their torsos touch and glide, when they kiss frantically and longingly or patiently and chastely, when Kurt sucks on his earlobe tenderly or sloppily, when Kurt bites on his chest or shoulder, when Kurt whimpers at the feeling of Blaine's lips on his neck.

He loves Kurt so much it hurts sometimes – mostly when he can't show it, because of the world or his clumsy words or his haplessness at romance. But he's showing it now, with every bit of his body and heart, with the dirty, uncontrolled expletives that are rolling off his tongue and into Kurt's ears. And the amazing thing is that Kurt loves him, too, just as much, with fierce and terrifying loyalty that Blaine never dared imagine he deserved. But Kurt makes him feel like he deserves it, every moment and piece and swelling of it, makes him feel it in his ass and his cock and his bones, like he was made for this purpose and suits it perfectly.

Blaine forgets to strive for anything, just lets Kurt take care of him. When he comes again, it's like an afterthought.

"I love you so much, Kurt," Blaine says as he watches Kurt's eyes go wide and desperate, his jaw contort with delirious pleasure.

"I love you," he says as he feels Kurt pulse into him.

"I love you," he says when Kurt pulls out and Blaine can still feel Kurt's wetness inside of him, warm and languid, and wishes he could always feel this reminder of Kurt even when they're apart.

"I love you," Blaine says as Kurt peppers his face with kisses.

"I know," Kurt says, and those are exactly the words Blaine wanted to hear. Kurt laces their fingers together, looks into Blaine's eyes. "You show me in a million ways."

* * *

The aftereffects are a little messier than Blaine anticipated. They each go to separate showers, but Blaine takes a lot longer than usual to clean up. Still, it was worth it – at least this once.

He's too tired to bother with his hair or clothes when he's finally done. He steps out of the en suite, watching Kurt smooth the new top sheet in place. Kurt's wearing a snug white undershirt and the heather-grey boxer-briefs that Blaine likes to pull off with his teeth.

They both crawl into the bed when Kurt’s done making it. Blaine lies on his back and Kurt lies on his side, stretching an arm and a leg over Blaine’s body, his torso warm against the side of Blaine's ribs. "So, are you sexed up enough for the time-being?" Kurt says.

"Why? Do you want to have another go-round?" Blaine winks. "You're voracious."

"No, I want to talk about something. And I think if either of us have any remaining vestiges of horniness, the conversation's not going to go very far."

"And why's that?"

"Because I want to talk about sex."

Blaine swallows. "I think I'll do okay. If I get turned on, you can just tie me down to the bed."

"Hmmm." Kurt chuckles and kisses Blaine's chin lightly. "If I think about that image too much, I might get aroused."

There's a pleasant buzz in Blaine's sternum. "I think I like that."

"Well, before the conversation gets derailed any further, I wanted to talk about – your fantasy. I – I've been thinking about it."

"Yeah?" Blaine says weakly. "What were you thinking?"

"Well, first, I was wondering if this is the kind of fantasy you have that you never really want to act on – like mine about making love in a bathtub full of whipped cream – "

Blaine scoots his head back in surprise. "You never told me about that one."

"Well, because I never want to act on it. It would be such a logistical nightmare, and I think we'd sink right to the bottom of the tub, rather than floating like in my fantasy."

"Okay. Those are valid points."

"And the one with lilacs – I mean, it would smell nice, but they're shrubby and there would probably be little lilac twigs all over the ground and we'd end up with scratches all over our backs."

Blaine hums. "For you, it would be worth it."

Kurt smirks. "Well, I wanted to know if it's that kind of fantasy, or if it's the kind you actually want to try, like mine about licking whipped cream off your cock."

"You never told me about that one, either."

Kurt's face is bright red. It's endearing. "Well, I am now. Preferably while sixty-nining. But we can discuss that later. We're discussing yours, right now." Kurt's voice drops from teasing to serious. "I mean, if you don't mind."

Blaine swallows hard. "I think – I think it might be like whipped cream on my cock."

Kurt doesn't show a reaction. He just sits up and reaches into one of the shelves that are recessed into the wall next to the bed, pulling out a book and handing it to Blaine. "I got this."

"The Ethical Slut?" Blaine says, propping himself up against the headboard so he can look through it more easily. The subtitle is A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures. He's seen this book referenced on the internet before when he was trying to figure out if he was crazy for maybe-wanting to see Kurt fuck any and every hot man this side of the Mississippi, but he's never actually held a copy. The "slut" in the title always kind of turned him off. It doesn't fit the idea of what he wants for himself or for Kurt. Except maybe in the sense of being a cockslut for Kurt. He wishes Kurt would call him his cockslut occasionally. He might have to ask for that, too, someday.

"How long have you had this?" Blaine says.

Kurt settles back down next to Blaine. "For a while. I –” Kurt blushes. “I looked some stuff up on the internet after you told me about the Nick and Jeff stuff.”

Blaine blinks. “Wow. That’s … hot.”

Kurt smirks. “Well, it’s not exactly porn. It's just about being in a relationship where you involve other people. They have questions and stuff that we could talk about together." He squeezes Blaine's hand. "Because I plan on being with you for a long time, so even if you don't want it now, if you think you might want it later – well, we can prepare."

Blaine stops flipping through the pages. "I just – you're – wow."

"It turns me on, too, you know. And I –" Kurt blushes and bites his bottom lip.

"What?"

Kurt sighs. "I think if we ever do this – I think it would have to be someone I cared about. I don't think I'd be able to do it any other way."

"I know," Blaine says, kissing Kurt on the cheek. "That's one of the things I love about you."

Kurt tilts his head to the side and makes a grin of self-mockery. "I guess I'm just a romantic at heart."

Blaine grabs Kurt's hand and rubs the fleshy web of it with his thumb. "I never want you to stop being that way. Kurt to be Kurt-like. That's what I want."

Kurt's face scrunches up in the delighted way of a two-year-old who is just learning to dance and kisses Blaine on the forehead. "Have you – Have you thought about me and – specific guys we know? Other than Nick and Jeff?"

Blaine gulps. "Yeah. I kind of feel bad about that. Like I should have asked you."

Kurt pulls Blaine into his arms. "As long as I was having a good time in your fantasies, it's all good. So, like who?"

Blaine clears his throat. "Promise not to laugh?"

"I don't see why I would, unless it's Homer Simpson. Or Krusty the Clown. Or – oh, for the love of all that is good and godless, please don't tell me Rick Santorum."

Blaine snorts so hard his sinuses sting. "We haven't actually met any of those people, Kurt. But I've had plenty of santorum for today in any case."

Something sprays out of Kurt's nose or mouth – snot or saliva, Blaine's not sure and he doesn't care, because he got Kurt to laugh that hard – leaving a sprinkling of fine damp dots at the top of the blanket. They remind Blaine of those spatter paintings he used to make with a toothbrush in early elementary school – which he says out loud, and then Kurt laughs harder, which makes Blaine completely lose it. They collapse into a wobbly heap of giggling, hyperventilating boys.

After a few minutes and many false stops and rapid restarts, they somehow manage to calm down.

"Okay," says Kurt, pulling Blaine snugly against his side. "So tell me. Please." He draws the please out into a teasing whine.

"Wait, I have a question first. Do you think Nick's hot? You always did in my dreams, but – "

"Nick's okay. Of the Warblers, though, I liked Thad better. You know, curly locks." Kurt runs his fingers through Blaine's hair, the soft pads of his fingers sending shocks of pleasure through Blaine's scalp. Blaine's glad he's started to let his hair loose more often.

Kurt sighs. "But that was then. I have a hard time liking any of them anymore."

They both glower at the sheets for a minute before Blaine shakes his head to clear it of his anger, or at least let the anger shift and fall to somewhere hidden, where it can be opened up and dealt with later. This afternoon has been pretty close to perfect – he's not going to let the Warblers ruin that, too.

So Blaine clears his throat and looks up at Kurt. "What about Sam? You'd be really hot with Sam."

"Not sure he swings that way. Anyway, it would break Mercedes' heart. And he lives with us. So – awkward."

"So, I take your avoidance of the question to mean that you have thought about him." Blaine's tries to suppress his smile, but he's not sure how good a job of it he's doing.

Kurt's hands fly up in surrender. "Well, yeah, of course I've thought about him. He used to walk around the house with no shirt on until Dad – my hero – put a stop to it. And when I thought he was going to teach you how to do hip rolls – " Kurt leans his head back makes a groan of pure pleasure.

"Should I ask him to revisit that lesson?"

"You don't have to, as long as you keep practicing your 'hip rolls' with me," Kurt says with air quotes. "I really do think he's straight, anyway, and even if he's not, he doesn't quite have that je ne c'est quoi. Unless – " He pauses. "Do you want to practice your hip rolls with Sam?"

"Not particularly," Blaine says. "He's cute, but – I don't think I want to have sex with anyone other than you. I mean, not in real life, unless it's –" His face heats up. "Unless-it's-like-maybe-I'm-just-helping-out-with-you-and-whoever," then hides his face in the pillow.

Kurt strokes the back of Blaine's head. "I've thought about that, too," he says quietly. "I mean, not sex, just ... kissing."

Blaine turns his head slightly to peek with one eye at Kurt. "Really? With who?"

Kurt chews his lip. "So you don't want to be with other people yourself?"

Okay, so if that wasn't the most obvious diversion ever, Blaine doesn't know what is. But he lets Kurt have it. "Not in real life," Blaine says. "Is that – is that weird? I mean, like, a double-standard?"

Kurt laughs. "Never in my life did I expect my boyfriend to ask me if I mind that he doesn'twant to have sex with anyone else." He laces his fingers with Blaine's. "But, no, I don't mind."

"Well, I might still occasionally think dirty thoughts about other guys."

"Like Anderson Cooper?" Kurt says. "Which I still think is hilarious since he has your brother's name in reverse."

"It's not his fault. Anyway, Señor Martinez is hot, too, and he doesn't share my brother's name."

"You have a thing for older guys, don't you?" Kurt rumples Blaine's hair, and yeah – Blaine should always have his hair loose when he's alone with Kurt.

Blaine kisses Kurt's shoulder and then he's silent for a moment. He’s not sure how to say the next thing he wants to say. He’s been not asking for so long that it feels weird to even be considering the words.

“What are you thinking about?” Kurt says.

Blaine swallows heavily. "Your feelings about Dave."

For the first time in this conversation, Kurt turns away from Blaine, his posture stiffening, his jaw tensing. He looks down at the sheets with wide, focused eyes as if he's never noticed the warp and weft of the fabric before and must now memorize it.

"I'm sorry, Kurt, I just – I look at him and he's obviously attracted to you. And you, you’re kind of … protective of him, and, and … territorial –" Blaine should take it back. Wait, he can't take it back. Oh, shit, he's stepped into a landmine. Or thrown Kurt into one. He's not sure which.

Kurt looks back at Blaine, the expression on his face unfamiliar. His lips turned down, his eyes weary – there's something of insecurity in it. Blaine wants to hold him and make him safe. Well, he can do the first part of that, at least. So he does.

He slips one arm behind Kurt's waist, the other in front of it, joining them over the knob of Kurt's hip. It takes what seems like forever, but is probably only half a minute at most, for Kurt to relax into the touch.

"Dave," Kurt says, resting his cheek to Blaine's shoulder, "is confusing."

"I'm sorry, Kurt. I – "

"I really care about him. More than I want to." He lets his head sink more heavily against Blaine's.

"Isn't that true of most people you care about, though? That you care about them more than you want to?"

"Well, yeah. Except for you and Dad. But, with him – I care in a way that's overwhelming sometimes." Kurt shifts, letting more of his weight settle against Blaine's body. Letting Blaine carry it. "It's not like with you. It's just, I really like him and I want what's best for him more than I want it for most people, and I'm proud of him in a way that makes my heart feel like bursting, and his eyebrows – "

"His eyebrows?"

"He has really nice eyebrows, Blaine." There's a reverence in Kurt's voice that makes Blaine want to kiss him. "They're like Nicole Kidman's in Moulin Rouge, but better, because he doesn't pencil them in."

Blaine smiles and leans his forehead against Kurt's. "I haven't really noticed anything beyond his ass."

Kurt scowls. "Are you trying to make me laugh?"

"Maybe a little. But it's true. You know I've noticed his ass."

Kurt sags wearily back into Blaine's shoulder. "You're unbearable sometimes. I show you the dark recesses of my heart, and you talk about butts."

"Your heart’s not dark." Blaine's voice breaks. "It’s filled with light."

Kurt doesn't respond immediately. "You're supposed to be mad at me," he finally says.

"For what?"

"For ... feelings. You said you wanted to watch me have sex with another guy, Blaine, and this isn’t sex, this is – Fuck. I think I have a crush on him.”

Blaine brushes Kurt's cheek with his hand. The love he has for Kurt feels like a palpable, warm weight in his chest. “Yeah. I kind of thought you might.”

“How the hell did that happen? I hated him a year ago.”

Blaine shrugs. “He’s changed a lot.”

“Yeah, he has.”

“Maybe we’ve all changed.”

Kurt lets out a long sigh. "This is the weirdest conversation ever."

"Bad weird?"

Kurt squeezes Blaine’s hand. "No. Just weird.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes, safe in the warmth of each other’s bodies and breath. Kurt’s the first to speak. “I have this dream sometimes that I'm signed up for an exchange trip to Japan, and just as I'm about to get on the plane, I realize that I haven't studied Japanese and I forgot to download a translation app onto my iPhone." Kurt curls his face into Blaine's neck. "It's kind of like that. Like I'm headed someplace where I don't know the language."

"There's no hurry, Kurt. We can take all the time we need to learn the language. Or we can decide not to go to Japan at all."

"We're still speaking in metaphors, right?"

"Yes."

"Just making sure. Because Japan actually is on my bucket list. Kyoto, especially. I can show you." He reaches across Blaine toward the bottom cubby, where his phone is stowed, but Blaine intercepts him before he gets there, pulling him in for a tight hug. Kurt giggles into Blaine's shoulder. "What's that for?"

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Blaine. So much." Kurt looks up, and Blaine catches himself in his eyes. They are lodestones, always tugging at Blaine's heart, helping it find its way home.

Chapter Text

It's much too early in the year, but the world is starting to bloom, anyway. Crocuses dot the lawns, and the cherry trees have formed tight buds, tantalizing passersby with the promise of what's to come.

Kurt has cracked the window open. He and Blaine are making out on his bed – really just making out, because it's been so long since they've done that and they miss the slow burn of it, and also because Sam got home early from synchronized swimming practice and keeps darting back and forth between Finn's room and every other place in the house, and it brings his footsteps near the threshold of Kurt's door at least once every four-and-a-half minutes, if the songs that are playing softly out of Kurt's docked iPhone can serve as an accurate keeper of time.

Blaine is the best kisser in the world.

Okay, so it's not like Kurt actually has a lot of experience with anyone else, but he knows it's true because everything that Blaine does with his mouth is exactly what Kurt wants, even when he didn't know he wanted it. And Blaine's lips, always so full and begging Kurt to kiss them, grow even fuller and more pleading with every kiss Kurt gives. They're like the plump petals of snapdragons. Yes, that's it! – when the snapdragons start blooming in late May, Kurt's going to bring bouquets and bouquets of them to Blaine. Kurt will tell him that his lips are softer and more beautiful than their petals, and that he is Kurt's spring and summer.

It's sappy, but he'll do it. Blaine likes sappy.

No, Blaine loves sappy.

If there's a flower that Kurt feels like right now, it's Jack-in-the-Pulpit – phallic but not blatantly so, the erection at its center obscured by petals. Kurt's getting hard, but he's ignoring it, refusing to press against Blaine's thigh. He doesn't want what they're doing right now to turn into more than making out. He wants to reacquaint his lips with the numb buzz that blooms in them when he kisses Blaine for an hour straight.

They don't quite get to an hour. Kurt hears Sam's footsteps in the hallway for the umpteenth time this afternoon when they stop right in front of his door. There's a pause of two beats before the knock.

"Kurt?" Sam calls through the closed door.

Kurt sighs as he pulls away from Blaine's lips, looks at Blaine apologetically before clearing his throat and calling back, "Yeah?"

"Sorry to bother you, but, um, I'm trying to finish my laundry and you left your stuff in the dryer, and I wasn't sure if I could put it in a basket because I know you're kind of specific about how you want your clothes handled. But also your cycle ended 20 minutes ago and if it sits in there much longer, everything's going to get wrinkled, so – yeah."

Blaine looks like he's attempting a smirk at Kurt, but his eyes are too love-addled for it to really work. "You'd better go get your laundry," he whispers.

"I don't know." Kurt kisses the lovely spot at the juxtaposition of Blaine's throat and jaw. "I kind of like what I'm doing right now." He kisses it again. "Maybe I could let someone else touch my clothes for once. Just – he could just throw them in the basket. That wouldn't kill me." Kurt speaks in the hushed tone he usually reserves for sweet nothings. "Or would it?"

"I think it might, and I don't want to risk it – "

Sam's voice again: "Kurt?"

Kurt rolls away from Blaine, still latching on to his hand so that their connection won't be completely severed. He's not ready for that yet. "I'll be there in a couple minutes."

"Thanks," Sam says and bounds away.

Blaine runs his fingers along Kurt's palm. "I would hate for you to die just because someone else touched your laundry. It would be such a pointless way to go."

"You're right," Kurt sighs, turning his head to face Blaine. "And if I stop kissing you now, it means I'll survive long enough to kiss you again." He kisses Blaine's cheek. "And again." Kiss. "And again."

Blaine's mouth twitches into a grin. "I will let you spend the rest of your life kissing me, as long as you promise to take breaks for clothes-handling. We need to prevent your early demise."

Kurt leans in and nips Blaine on his clothed shoulder. "I promise."

A few minutes later, Kurt is back with his basket of laundry and Blaine looks slightly less disheveled, a fact that makes Kurt's heart sink a little. He must have combed a little more gel through his hair in Kurt's absence. Maybe Kurt should hide the gel or throw it out; but no, not having gel at Kurt's house for post-intimacy touch-ups would probably do the same thing to Blaine that Sam touching the laundry would do to Kurt.

Anyway, it's probably for the best that Blaine is looking a bit more put together. Kurt's not sure he could get the laundry put away promptly if he looked as unraveled as he did before Kurt left the room.

Although it's not quite true that Kurt would die if anyone other than himself touched his laundry. Blaine's allowed to, because he's watched Kurt enough times to know what to do. And this load isn't highly technical, anyway – mostly jeans and briefs and undershirts.

Blaine folds the undershirts along the same invisible lines that Kurt would, turning them into tight, flat rectangles as Kurt walks the jeans to the closet to hang them up. The song on iTunes is The Beatles' "Drive My Car," and Blaine is beep-beep mmm-beep-beep yeah-ing along with it when he interrupts himself. "Why do you have a Webelos scarf?"

Kurt finishes hooking the hanger over the rod before turning around.

Blaine is standing next to the bed, holding Dave's plaid kerchief in the air. "Is it Finn's?"

"No. It's –" Kurt swallows hard.  “Isn't it a Cub Scout thing? I thought it was Cub Scouts. There's the little crest in the corner." He walks toward Blaine and takes the kerchief, turning it to show Blaine the yellow-and-blue fleur-de-lis.

"Webelos is Cub Scouts. It's the highest level before Boy Scouts."

"Wait? Aren't Cub Scouts the same as Boy Scouts?"

"Um, kind of. Not exactly. They're more like junior Boy Scouts. You can't really be a Boy Scout until you're in middle school. But – wow. I really know too much about a group that wouldn't let either of us in."

They stand there, both looking at the scarf as Kurt starts to fold it. He hides the crest on the second fold. "I – it's Dave's."

Kurt feels Blaine's eyes on him, but he can't look up. He keeps working at the scarf, doubling it into ever-smaller triangles, unfolding it when the edges don't match up quite right. "Last year, when he gave me back the cake topper – you know, the one that he stole from me before the wedding –" He sees Blaine nod out of the corner of his eye. "It was wrapped in this, and I figured I was never going to see him again so I just –" He bites his lip. "Kept it."

He sinks down onto the edge of the bed and makes no pretense at folding anymore, just works the cloth in his hands. He closes his eyes. The mattress dips as Blaine settles next to him.

"I don't even know why I kept it. I guess it felt like proof that people can change for the better. … That he could.” Kurt feels Blaine's hand on the small of his back, the warmth anchoring him. "So I put it in the back of my handkerchief drawer and I was just going to keep it there, you know, as a random reminder when I'd be looking through it, but then – "

Kurt sees the exact moment now, when the kerchief reminded him of Dave's smile and he tucked it into his pocket, declaring it the perfect accoutrement for the Christmas season. Except that he kept wearing it on and off after Christmas, especially around Dave – hiding it in his back pants pocket under long sweaters or jackets, half wanting Dave to get a peek of it and half wanting him to never, ever know.

"Oh god, Blaine. It's worse than I thought."

Blaine's hand is full-on rubbing Kurt's back now, long strokes up and down his spine. "Worse? I don't – What's bad?"

Kurt opens his eyes to look at Blaine. "I've been hiding this for longer than I thought."

"Hiding what?"

"I started wearing it. In my back pocket, Blaine. Not because of this general idea of people changing, and not because it goes well with some of my outfits because even if it does, it's polyester blend. I mean, if I like plaid this much I could go find something that’s not so synthetic.” Kurt's rushing his words and his voice becomes shriller the faster he talks. “And last week on Ebay I saw an out-of-production Hermes scarf that had the most sublime take on plaid – the colors were intoxicating – and I almost put a bid on it but then I didn’t because – because I like this scarf better, Blaine. This hideous polyester abomination. Because it’s, because it’s –" Kurt squeaks on the syllable. It's not his proudest moment.

"It’s okay,” Blaine whispers, rubbing the tense muscles between Kurt's shoulder blade and spine.

Kurt looks down at his hands, the knuckles of his left fist white from how tightly he's wound the kerchief around it. "I wear it because it’s him."

"Kurt – "

And then Blaine's sweet, snapdragon lips against his cheek.

"You haven't been hiding anything from me, Kurt."

Kurt looks into Blaine's eyes and there they are, that brown so natural and earthy they're bordering on green, like the bare dirt outside that's coming to life as the first perennials push through. “No?”

Blaine shakes his head. “I already told you I've known for a while."

"How?"

"Well, mostly the way you're possessive with him. Which obviously isn’t a requirement when someone feels affection for another person – but for you, it tends to be a side effect. And, also, you get pretty smiley around him."

Kurt blushes. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It was never a problem. If it had been, I would have said something –"

Kurt gives Blaine a look.

"Or, okay, maybe not, but I would have destroyed the punching bag in the weight room, right? Or grumbled a lot when we were all together. Or sung an inappropriate solo in glee club to air out our dirty laundry."

Kurt fights a smile. "Stop trying to make me laugh."

"I'm not. But I wouldn't mind if you did laugh, because this is happy stuff and I want you to be happy about it."

"Happy stuff?"

Blaine grabs Kurt's hand. "Dave makes you happy, Kurt. Dave makes me happy. Seeing you happy with Dave makes me happy. Your heart, and how big it is – it makes me happy. It's all happy."

"But I don't – I don't even know if I want something to happen." Kurt leans his forehead against Blaine's. "It's just – it's a little more intense than I know what to do with."

"It's okay if you don't want anything to happen. You can still have feelings." Blaine kisses Kurt briefly before backing up slightly and taking his other hand – the one clutching the kerchief. "Kurt, I know that when you care about anybody, it's going to be intense. The way you love is so fierce and so loyal. It's one of the things that made me fall in love with you."

Kurt feels dizzy. "I don't know that I would call it that. It's – I mean, it's definitely a crush, but I don't know – "

"You mean 'love'?"

Kurt swallows hard. "Yeah."

"You love Rachel, right?"

"Yeah."

"You love your dad?"

"Yeah."

"You love Finn?"

"Of course."

"And you love me."

"Yes." Kurt smiles for the first time in this conversation. He's back on terra firma, on one of the few things he's always certain of. "I do. I love you."

"Do you love any of us in exactly the same way?"

Kurt shakes his head.

"So that's what I meant. I don't know exactly how you love Dave, but I know you love him. I love him, too."

"Yeah," Kurt says. "But not in the developing-a-weird-secretive-relationship-with-his-neckerchief way." Kurt rests his head on Blaine's shoulder and they sit quietly for a bit, holding hands, the scarf now lying loosely on Kurt's lap.

“Well, I sort of have a secret, too,” Blaine says.

Kurt looks up. Blaine is blinking the way he sometimes does when he gets nervous, and he parts his lips like he’s about to speak but then closes them again and says nothing. From the shoulders downward, he’s almost statue-still; Kurt realizes it’s because Blaine is holding his breath. Kurt tries to reassure him with a gentle squeeze of his hand. “Do you?”

Blaine exhales, looks down at their joined hands. “I’ve, um … thought about you two together.” He rubs his free hand over the back of his neck. “I mean, um, well.” He lowers his voice until it’s almost a whisper. “Fantasized.”

Kurt’s cheeks burn so hot they feel like they might evaporate off his face. He takes a deep breath and leans the side of his body into Blaine’s, nudges his nose against Blaine’s cheekbone before letting his eyelashes flutter against the skin there. “Well,” he says. “That’s not too much of a surprise. I mean, is there anyone you haven’t fantasized about me with?”

Blaine lets out a surprised laugh and shakes his head, beautiful and flustered and making Kurt’s heart melt. “Um, Mr. Schue?” He glances into Kurt’s eyes, and then back at their hands and the scarf in Kurt’s lap. “Or anyone we’re related to except, um, oh-my-god-don’t-hate-me Finn.”

Kurt kisses Blaine’s cheek. “Well, I might have entertained a momentary fantasy about your brother, so I guess we’re even.”

Blaine breathes again. “And girls. I haven’t thought about you with any girls.”

Kurt pushes Blaine back onto the bed, giving the laundry basket a little jounce from their sudden weight against the mattress, and kisses him in earnest. As Kurt shifts over Blaine, the kerchief falls from his lap onto Blaine’s hip. Blaine clutches at it with each hungry kiss.

“So what do we do now?” Kurt says, rolling off to his side to catch his breath. He props himself up with one elbow.

“I think it would behoove us both to keep kissing.” Blaine is still on his back, looking coyly up at Kurt from under those lush-velvet eyelashes.

Kurt feels his cock stirring, but he will not let it divert him from his course. He ignores it and pokes Blaine lightly in the ribs. “You know that’s not what I meant.”

Blaine blinks again, the little vixen. “Do I?”

“I didn’t mean what to do right now. I meant –” Kurt lowers his voice. “I meant about Dave.”

Blaine rolls onto his side to face Kurt, drapes his arm across Kurt’s hip. The kerchief is still clutched in his hand. “Whatever you want,” he says.

Kurt forces himself not to roll his eyes. He puts his hand over Blaine’s sternum to ground himself in the warmth there. “That leaves an awful lot of latitude.”

“Yes, it does.”

“I think,” Kurt says, “I think I don’t want to change anything.”

“Okay,” Blaine says.

“Do you mean that? You’re awfully easy-going about the whole thing. And sometimes –” Kurt bites his lower lip, “Sometimes you pretend to be easy-going about things you don’t actually feel very easy about.”

Kurt feels Blaine’s heart hammer against his fingertips. Blaine looks away, takes a deep breath, then looks back. His eyes are soft and vulnerable. “You’re right,” he says. “I do that sometimes. But I think, here – I just really want you to do whatever you’re comfortable with. I don’t want to push you into something you don’t actually want, because that’s not –” He shakes his head. “That’s not what we’re about. That’s not what love is about.” Blaine puts his hand over the Kurt’s. “So, if what you really want is for nothing to change, then that’s what I want. But if you’re just saying that because you don’t know what you want yet, or because you’re scared of what you want – then I think I want you to take the time to figure it out.”

Kurt’s heart presses against his ribcage. “And in the meantime?”

“Play it by ear, I guess,” Blaine says, then smiles impishly. “And maybe kiss me for the rest of the afternoon?”

Kurt smirks. “Well, maybe not the whole afternoon. I’m not done putting my laundry away yet. And didn’t you say something earlier about homework?”

Blaine shrugs. “Homework, shmomework. I have spring fever and you’re the only cure.”

Kurt chuckles. “That was a terrible pick-up line, sweetie.”

“That wasn’t a pick-up line. That was god’s honest truth.”

“There is no god, and it was terrible,” Kurt says, but he kisses Blaine anyway, because his lips are pink and parted and delicious and his tongue is soft-smooth perfection, and because it is spring outdoors and also in Kurt’s heart.

Later, when they hear Carole come in through the front door, they reluctantly separate their lips and bodies, roll onto their backs so their heartbeats can slow. Blaine looks down at the wadded up kerchief in his hand and smiles. "You’re totally going to have to iron this now, aren’t you?”

"That is the one advantage of cotton-poly blends." Kurt pulls himself up to his knees, takes the kerchief and smoothes it out over Blaine’s chest. "The wrinkles always work themselves right out."

Blaine sits up and pecks Kurt on the cheek. "Yes, they do."

* * *

The next time Dave comes over to Blaine's house, Kurt's the one to greet him at the door.

Before Dave's even taken off his jacket, Kurt's arms are around him. It's not anything, really. Not clingy or longing or laden with meaning. It's just a hug, the kind you give a friend you haven't seen in forever.

It's brief, but it's long enough for Kurt to get a hint of the smooth expanse of Dave's back, to smell his unimpressively generic and yet charmingly teenage-boyish shampoo (if it's Axe, Kurt would rather not know, because he's starting to like it), to feel Dave's breath parting the hair behind his ear, to feel the brief security of Dave's broad hands against his shoulder blades, the warmth of their chests and shoulders touching.

"What – what was that for?" stutters Dave when Kurt pulls back, letting his hands linger on Dave's shoulders for just a moment before removing them completely.

"I – " Kurt starts, and he feels himself blushing, but he plows through. "It's overdue. I just usually let Blaine show all the affection for both of us. When I’m not drunk." Kurt looks at the door on the coat closet for a moment like it's the most fascinating thing in the world – and to be fair, it's a nice cherry door, with undulating patterns of red and brown swirling together in a way that Kurt could study for a good twenty minutes if he were in the right mindset.

He forces himself to look back at Dave, who looks a little shell-shocked, if shell-shock can come with a slight, shy smile. "Well," Kurt says, "what shall it be first? Homework or Chopin?"

"Homework first. And then – I'm not sure I'm in the mood for Chopin today. I dug out some Bartok that I started on before my fingers – before I quit. I was thinking of going back to that."

"Well," says Kurt flippantly, "I have no idea who that is, but I guess I'll learn, won't I?" and leads Dave to where Blaine is waiting for them in the kitchen.

And even though he doesn't touch Dave, doesn't take his hand or graze his elbow, Kurt is carrying him the whole way there.

* * *

Later that afternoon, when Dave has played through his Bartok a couple of times, Blaine sits down next to him on the bench and flops a folio open on the stand.

"I want to learn this," he says, pointing to the sheet music. It's Poulenc's Sonata For Four Hands. "And my piano teacher said I'm ready to work on it. But I thought it would be more fun to learn if I had someone to play it with besides her once a week. What do you say?"

Dave raises an eyebrow at Blaine. "Is that a proposal?"

"I believe it is." Blaine nudges Dave's elbow. "Did you want me to get down on my knees?"

Kurt's voice comes sing-songy from the kitchen. "I hear you two flirting out there."

"Did you want us to stop?" Dave calls back. He hopes Kurt's a little jealous. Of both of them.

"Not on my account," Kurt singsongs back. "It's kind of endearing."

"Because I'm so bad at it?" Dave calls. Holy shit, what has gotten into him?

"I didn't say that."

Blaine interrupts. "Who's flirting now?" He's facing the kitchen, not Dave. It's loud enough for Kurt to hear.

"I can't let you have all the fun," is Kurt's retort. Dave feels the edges of his ears turn red, but Blaine's eyes are so squinty from the smile on his face that he doesn't seem to notice.

"So, do you want to learn it?" Blaine's voice is bubbling.

"Sure," Dave says, flipping through the pages. "I've always liked this one, and I should have learned it by now. My teacher was kind of obsessed with Dvorak's Slavonic dances as far as duets went, so I never studied this."

"I'm going to take that as an enthusiastic 'yes,'" Blaine says, slapping Dave on the back of the shoulder.

"It is," says Dave. "I'm just kind of reserved."

"One of your many winning qualities," Blaine says, slapping Dave on the back again.

Dave is tempted to ask Blaine to list those winning qualities, but instead he picks the sheet music from the stand for a closer read.

*

Dave’s dad can play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #3.

Not brilliantly, but with a technical proficiency that Dave hopes he'll reach and surpass someday. The story Paul Karofsky tells is that he hadn't played in a while when he learned it – he couldn't afford the time or money for lessons after he graduated from college and started working – but it occurred to him one day that if he quit smoking, he could save up enough money for lessons.

So he quit, cold turkey, and every time he had the compulsion to handle a cigarette, he'd go over to his keyboard and work on the concerto until the urge passed.  The practice quickly added up to an hour or two each day, week after week.

(Years later, when Dave learned to toddle around and was barely eye-level with the keys when he stood next to the piano, the urge still came often enough that his dad still had to play it at least once a week. Now, Dave hears it once every few months – although he heard it almost daily when he was expelled from McKinley, and twice the week after he came out.)

Dave decides to take a similar approach with the Poulenc he's learning with Blaine. Every time he thinks of Kurt when he's at home, he goes to the piano and plays until he's immersed in the music. Unlike his father, though, Dave's not exactly trying to break himself of his habit. He's not sure what he'd do without it. It's more that he's using the habit to make himself become who he wants to be.

If he left it up to chance or discipline, Dave knows he wouldn't spend even five minutes at the piano each day. For one, he's lost his confidence in his playing, and his belief that he might ever get better. There's a nagging voice inside telling him that he'll never be Vladimir Horowitz, so why even bother? For another, the piano at home hasn't been tuned regularly for the past few years, so his playing sounds even crappier than it should. And finally, there's his mother, who nags at him to stop whenever he starts because "I don't need that racket right now." When his father's home, he tells her to let Dave be; but when he's not, Dave knows he would crumple under her iron glare if he didn't have the thought, I have to keep going; I'm still thinking of Kurt, to hold onto.

So he practices. And practices. And practices. He forgets Kurt for a few moments here and there, and when he remembers him again he regrets the forgetting. He replays the hug in the foyer, the occasional tap on the shoulder in the kitchen, the hand around his forearm last Thursday as Kurt dragged him to the window to look at the first of yet another kind of warbler to appear this spring.

"How many kinds of warblers are there?" Dave asked the third time Kurt pulled him to the window. It was the first time Dave had seen a yellow-throated warbler. The black-and-white stripes on its wings reminded him of Oreo cookies.

"A lot,” Kurt said. “I tried to learn all the ones that go through northwest Ohio when I was at Dalton, and match each one up to the personality of a different member of the Warblers. It gave me something to do while Blaine was hogging all the solos." He turned to his boyfriend, who sat at the kitchen bar poring over his homework, and winked.

Blaine waggled his eyebrows. "If I hadn't hogged all the solos, you wouldn't have been able to tell me off, and then I might not have fallen in love with you as hard as I did."

"Oh, you would have eventually," Kurt teased, and Blaine’s hearteyes proved the statement to be true.

Love. Dave has spent a lot of time looking at the dictionary and thesaurus on his computer, trying to figure out what he really feels for Kurt. He doesn't think he's in love because it's not the marrying type, because it can't be, because of Blaine. So what is it? Affection, fondness, tenderness, devotion, lust, yearning?

One thesaurus gives him the word besottedness, which also has something to do with being dizzy and drunk. It might be that.

Dave's new therapist – not one of the ex-gay quacks that his mom wanted him to see, but the good kind of therapist, the kind that he asked his dad if he could see because life is confusing and so is Dave’s heartsays that the reason he's so enamored with Kurt is that Kurt is unattainable, and Dave doesn't think himself worthy of attaining love.

"Well, duh," was Dave's response to the proposition, which made Dr. Hoskins laugh.

What Dave didn't say was that Dr. Hoskins had only identified half of the equation. The other half is that if Kurt can love Dave, even if only in the smallest way (would that be fondness or attachment?), Dave will know that he deserves love in general. Kurt doesn't give his affection freely; he can be cold and distant even with his own brother, judging by the way he sometimes talks to him on the phone. But Kurt hasn't been cold with Dave for almost a year. It makes Dave feel like he's doing something right. He's getting that much closer to believing he's worthy of love.

Chapter Text

On an overcast Saturday afternoon in early April, Dave drives his father's car to Hummel Tires & Lube and asks for an oil change.

The guy who waves him into the garage is not Burt Hummel. Neither is the guy who's working on a tiny Volkswagon on the next lift over. But when Dave steps out of the car and hands his keys over, he spots Mr. Hummel standing in the doorway of the front office, studying a stack of papers in one hand and scratching under the bill of his cap with the other.

It's the first time Dave has seen him in person since making his insufficient apology in Principal Figgins' office a year ago. But he couldn't have forgotten what he looked like, even if it hadn't been for all the campaign ads and interviews and photos that, for a while, popped up on Dave's homepage a dozen times a day along with the oft-repeated phrase The arts were my son's refuge.

Burt Hummel never specified who Kurt needed refuge from. Dave didn’t need him to. He already knew.

"Mr. Hummel?"

"Yeah? What can I do for –" Kurt's dad starts talking before he looks up. When he sees Dave's face, the words stop, and his mouth is left dangling open in a silent, sideways "0."

"I brought my dad's car in for an oil change," Dave says.

Mr. Hummel studies his face for several long seconds.

It might be more terrifying than being looked at by Kurt.

"He hasn't brought his car here before." There is no inflection in Mr. Hummel's voice.

"No, sir."

Mr. Hummel shrugs, shuffles the papers in his hands, and doesn't take his eyes off Dave for a fraction of an instant. "Nothing wrong in that. There's other good shops in town."

"I wouldn't know about that, sir. Kurt tells me it's not really worth $40 to have your tires filled with nitrogen."

Dave thinks he sees a hint of a smile curl the edges of Mr. Hummel's lips. "Well, Kurt's a smart young man."

"Yes, he is, sir." Just as Dave feels a smile start to spread on his own face, Mr. Hummel 's returns to a frown.

There is no way that Dave is going to be able to ease into this. He looks down at his feet, notices that his laces are starting to come undone. But his sneakers are clean and white, a stark contrast to the worn concrete floor and the grease-stained brown leather of Burt Hummel's work shoes.

"I wanted to talk to you about him. Well, sort of about him," Dave says, looking back up.

Mr. Hummel is still looking at him. His eyes are greener than Kurt's, but they're just as inscrutable. "You don't have to buy an oil change to talk to me."

Dave shakes his head. "The car's due for one. And our old mechanic was a shyster."

Kurt's dad rolls the papers in his hands and waves Dave to follow him into the office. The battered chair behind the desk lets out a creak when Mr. Hummel settles into it. Dave stands there, not sure where to look or what to do. The office is organized chaos – neatly stacked piles of paper everywhere, some with post-it notes labeling what they are (1935 Buick Cabriolet; Arts Funding; Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education; Delphi order), others serving as perches for framed photographs (Mr. Hummel and his wife cutting their wedding cake, the topper on which is a lot nicer than the one that Dave stole; a toddler whose upturned nose and smile-crinkled, ambiguously blue-green eyes unmistakably identify it as a very young Kurt Hummel; Kurt and Finn hovering in front of a mirror in formal wear, Kurt looking at Finn gently but authoritatively and Finn one step behind Kurt in tying his bowtie).

"Have a seat," Mr. Hummel says, gesturing to a metal chair at the side of the desk.

"Yes, sir." When he moves to sit there, Dave catches sight of the desktop of Mr. Hummel's computer screen – a picture of Kurt hanging upside-down on a scaffold while twirling knives in his black-gloved hands (and Dave never knew before that fingerless leather gloves were a thing for him but, apparently, now they are), his biceps bulging out of short white sleeves and the tails of a short scarf brushing against the ear that Dave has surreptitiously studied for an accumulation of hours when he was supposed to be doing homework at Blaine's house.

Dave scoots the chair to a safer spot, angling it so he's directly across from Mr. Hummel and can't see an inch of the distracting computer screen.

"What do you want to talk about?"

Dave has the outline of a speech planned. It's supposed to start with an apology. Instead, what comes out of his mouth is, "I started seeing a therapist."

Mr. Hummel nods. "Couldn't hurt."

"Right, sir. It helps a lot, actually."

"You didn’t used to call me 'sir.'"

"No, sir. I didn't."

Mr. Hummel picks a pen up off his desk and grips it in his fist. He looks like he's about to start tapping the end of it against the desktop, but he stops before it makes contact with the surface. "So there's something you wanted to tell me?"

"Yes," Dave says, and he realizes – he supposes he realized it before, but not with the full body knowledge he has right now, with his stomach seizing and his lungs refusing to expand and his tongue firmly stuck to the roof of his mouth – how stilted and laborious this whole conversation is going to be. He wishes he'd drunk an extra Mountain Dew before coming over here. Sometimes it helps loosen his tongue.

Dave takes as deep a breath as his shy lungs will allow. "I'm not here to ask for your forgiveness. I know I don't deserve it."

Mr. Hummel tilts his head to the side. "My son has apparently forgiven you."

Dave nods. "I don't really understand why."

Mr. Hummel takes off his cap and rubs his thin hair. "Honestly, I don't either. It's a trait he gets from his mother."

Dave looks down at his hands. "So anyway, I'm seeing a therapist, and we've been talking about this. About why I still feel bad when Kurt doesn't feel bad about it anymore, and I've come out, and –"

"Kids at school treating you okay?"

Dave looks up and nods. "Better than I treated Kurt."

"Okay. I wondered about that, after I heard what happened at the football game. You tell me if it changes."

Dave risks cracking a joke. "I thought you said that Kurt gets his forgiving nature from his mother."

"A safe and decent public education for every student is a big part of my platform."

Dave nods. "I remember."

"Anyway, I think I got us a bit off the subject."

Dave shifts in his chair. "Sure. Um … Me and my therapist – we've been talking about apologies, and why they're not enough."

Mr. Hummel sighs and puts his elbows on his desk, leaning forward. It closes off the gap between them a little. "Look. I know I didn't really believe your apology last year in Principal Figgins' office, but you did the PFLAG thing like Kurt wanted and I know that if Kurt was willing to forgive you, it must be because you started doing something different. And I think I've come to understand that you hated yourself more than you were trying to hurt Kurt. It doesn't make it okay, but it explains a few things."

"I'm not asking you to believe my apology. Or forgive me. I know I can't earn that."

Burt Hummel doesn't say anything, but there's a spark in his eyes that says he agrees. He nods for Dave to continue.

"Someone I care about got hurt a while back. And it was one of the scariest things I've been through in my life. It freaked me out more than any of the times I almost got outed at McKinley, and it hurt more than when I broke my fingers playing hockey – which really, really hurt."

"Is he okay?"

"Yeah." Dave nods. "He is now. But it got me thinking about you, and what it must have been like for you to be scared for Kurt, and the things you did to protect him."

"Like trying to get you kicked out of McKinley?"

Dave shakes his head. "Yeah. And after that, too. Finn told me about your honeymoon. That you cancelled it so that Kurt could go to Dalton. But I know you must have given up more than that, because I looked up the tuition for Dalton and it's a lot pricier than the typical Waikiki honeymoon package."

"He's my son." Mr. Hummel's face is still, but there's a shift in his eyes – something sad and full of compassion. It's a look Dave's seen on Kurt's face countless times. "Parents are supposed to make sacrifices for their kids. You know that, right?"

Dave swallows hard to staunch the tears that suddenly threaten. He's not going to cry in front of Burt Hummel. He didn't come here for sympathy. He came here to try to return some of what he stole. So he plows ahead. "You wouldn't have had to make that sacrifice if it wasn't for me. I'm the reason Kurt went to Dalton. So I should pay you back for Kurt's tuition. It's my responsibility."

Burt Hummel swings in his chair so suddenly that it almost tips over. "Come again?"

"I want to pay you back for Kurt's Dalton tuition. I can't make up for the hurt I caused your family, but at least you could have your honeymoon."

Mr. Hummel opens his mouth like he's going to say something, closes it, chews on nothing, then opens it again. "Did you talk about this with your therapist?"

"Yeah. When I realized it was what I wanted to do."

"And what did your therapist say?"

"That I should come talk to you, as long as I didn't think you'd, you know, beat the crap out of me as soon as you laid eyes on me."

"And your parents? Did you talk to them about this?"

"No. I wanted to talk to you first."

"And you're planning to get the money where?"

"I inherited some money from my great aunt. It's not enough, especially if you factor in all the gas money from Kurt having to drive back and forth between Lima and Westerville, but I've been saving money from odd jobs every summer, too –"

"Saving it for college?"

"Well, yeah."

"I'm not gonna take your college money, kid."

"I got a partial scholarship. And I can work while I'm in school for the rest of it, take out loans if I need to." Dave reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wadded-up piece of graph paper. He unfolds it and places it in front of Mr. Hummel. "I figured out some of the numbers – what I can pay you now and what I can pay you later, and when. It'll take a couple years to get it all done, but the first part should be enough to cover your honeymoon as soon as you want to go."

"You know I can't take this, right? I mean, yeah, so my wife and I gave up our honeymoon in Waikiki so Kurt could go to Dalton.” Mr. Hummel slides the paper back toward Dave. “You pay for it and you're sacrificing your life."

"Not my life, sir."

Mr. Hummel leans over the desk as far as he can without getting up from his chair. "Maybe not literally, but you're young. This money can mean a lot to you now. What's your scholarship for?"

"Football."

"And what if you get injured next year and can't play anymore? What if you decide you just don't want to play anymore? Principal Figgins told me you were one of McKinley's brightest math students What if you realize you're at the wrong school and you want to transfer to, I don’t know, MIT? You'll need money then, and I hope your parents will help if they can, because that's what parents do, and then I'llbe indebted to them."

"I'll apply for loans."

"You know the kind of debt that can rack up? The only debt I have is my mortgage."

"Finn said you borrowed against your mortgage to pay for Kurt's tuition."

"Apparently I need to talk to Finn about eavesdropping on private conversations between his mother and me." Mr. Hummel sinks back into his chair, curling his hands around the armrests on both sides. "Look, kid. All I ever wanted out of this was for Kurt not to fear for his life every time he went to school. And I thought it might be a nice bonus if you stopped being a psychopath. Apparently, I got both those things. Win-win."

Dave clears his throat, even though it's tight as a vise. "It doesn't seem like enough."

Mr. Hummel stands up, pulling his wheeled chair behind him until he's on Dave's side of the desk. He sits down so that he's almost knee-to-knee with Dave. "I'll let you in on a little secret, kid. Nothing is ever enough. We go through our lives and we make mistakes and we hurt people. Sometimes we hurt ourselves. If we're lucky, we don't hurt anyone beyond repair. You didn't hurt Kurt beyond repair, and you didn't hurt me beyond repair. And Dalton – yeah, you were what made it happen, but you weren't the only reason that Kurt was having a hard time at McKinley. Whether you'd been in the picture or not, I think it was good for him to go there."

Mr. Hummel takes off his cap and twists it in his hands, but he doesn't take his eyes off of Dave's. It almost hurts, to be looked at so closely. "It doesn't justify what you did, David. Nothing can. And nothing can make it go away. But it doesn’t have to define you. You don't have to look in the mirror every day and beat yourself up over it. Just don't do it again."

This is not the time or the place to cry, no matter how much Dave's eyes ache with the need for it. "But I do," he says. "I see myself when I look in the mirror, and I … It’s not always the best thing to see first thing in the morning, you know?"

Mr. Hummel sighs. "You know what I see? I see someone who's made some really awful mistakes but has learned from them. I see someone who's been as screwed over by Lima as much as my son's been and who needs to get out just as bad." He leans forward. "You know, the difference between people who seem good and people who seem evil is that the good people have done some bad things and regretted it, and they try to outweigh them by doing good. The people who seem evil – they did bad things and decided those things defined who they were, so they kept doing more of them."

A tear almost leaks out of Dave's eye. He blinks it back. "I wanted … I knew I couldn't make it right. But it still feel like I stole something from you, and I just wanted … I really want to return it."

Mr. Hummel reaches forward and tentatively grips Dave's shoulder. "No worries, kid. I got it back a while ago."

The compassion in Burt Hummel’s eyes is too hard to bear. So Dave looks down as he scoots up from his chair. "After I finish school, if you still haven't gone on your honeymoon, I’ll be here again with the same offer."

Mr. Hummel nods. "You’re welcome back anytime, David."

"Thank you, sir." Dave makes his way to the office door. "And sir? I'd appreciate it if you didn't share any of this with Kurt. I mean, I don't care if you mention the oil change, but the rest of it – whether I pay you back or not – it's just something I wanted to make right between you and me."

"Sure." Mr. Hummel stands and holds out his hand to Dave. "It's between us."

"Thanks, sir." It's a solid grip, but not too tight. The calluses on Mr. Hummel's palms are reassuring.

"And quit with the 'sir,' kid. 'Mr. Hummel' will do."

"Sure, Mr. Hummel."

When he gets home, Dave steps into the shower and finally lets himself cry. It feels like rain after a long drought.

* * *

Chapter Text

As soon as Mr. Schue declares Whitney week, Kurt knows exactly what song he wants to sing – until a different Whitney song pops into his head and that becomes the perfect one. By the time rehearsal is over, Kurt has a shortlist of more than a dozen Whitney Houston songs, all of which are absolutely sublime.

Rachel detains him for a few minutes after glee club to talk about their upcoming NYADA audition: “Will the dean find my interpretation of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to be brilliant and genre-transforming, or simply inspired?” By the time they’re done talking, the rest of the New Directions have cleared the room.

Kurt goes off to find Blaine, bopping down the hallway to the mash-up of “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “I Will Always Love You” that he’s started to compose in his head.

He can’t help but get an extra little bounce in his toes when he sees Blaine at his locker, all cute and manly and dapper in his mustard cardigan and butt-snugging black pants. He looks a little fatigued, but that makes Kurt love him all the more. He simultaneously wants to grab that lovely ass while whispering dirty, amorous things into Blaine’s ear and tuck him into bed for a well-deserved nap.

Kurt can do neither of these things just now, but he hopes he can make his own energy contagious. “How thrilled am I for this week’s assignment?” he says as he leans against the locker next to Blaine’s, clasping his hands together to keep from reaching out for his boyfriend’s. “I’m going to Between the Sheets to find music. I’m trying to decide between ‘So Emotional,’ which was obviously written for me –”

“Because it’s about having a fun and confusing crush when you’re already in love with someone else?” Blaine waggles his eyebrows and grins lasciviously.

Kurt bites his bottom lip. “Or I was thinking of a mash-up of ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ and ‘I Will Always Love You,’ except I’d throw away the one-night-stand references from ‘I’m Your Baby’ and all the break-up lyrics from ‘I Will Always Love You’ so that they become a supercharged anthem to lasting love, and then –” he takes a small risk and brushes the back of his hand against Blaine’s wrist “– if you like it we could add it to the list of songs to sing at our wedding.”

Blaine tilts his head coyly. “Would you sing it in that smoky jazz-cabaret style you sometimes use?”

“That could be arranged.”

“I don’t know,” Blaine responds in his bedroom voice. “If that’s the case, maybe it would best be reserved for a private audience.”

“Well, there’s also ‘One Moment in Time,’ which was also obviously written for me. But I was thinking of saving that for my NYADA audition.”

Something like a small gray cloud passes over Blaine’s eyes. They’re suddenly much less bright.

“What? Is that song a bad choice?” Kurt says.

Blaine shakes his head. “N-no. You’d be … you’d be amazing, Kurt.” But he sounds almost despondent as he says it.

“You don’t sound so convinced.”

“No, I am. I guess I’m just … tired? It’s been a long day.”

“Maybe an afternoon excursion to Between the Sheets with me would perk you up?”

Blaine frowns. “Not today. I’m worried … about tomorrow’s chem test. I think I’ll just go home and study, maybe take a nap.”

“Okay,” Kurt sighs. And then he pouts, because that often helps him get his way with Blaine.

It has no effect this time. “Sorry,” Blaine says. “Text me when you’re done?” He closes his locker and gives Kurt a little goodbye nudge on the elbow before starting to walk away .

Kurt watches his knight in a yellow cardigan make his way through the sea of other students. “Will do,” he says, though Blaine is much too far away to hear him now.

*

It’s happened a few times in the past week or so – Blaine becoming vaguely distant in the middle of one of their conversations, his whole posture suddenly deflating. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it; the first time it happened was when they were talking about the color scheme for their first apartment together and Kurt started sketching out ideas for the common areas of the affordable two-bedroom that he and Rachel are hoping to find when they attend NYADA next year. Kurt pulled out an idea board that he and Rachel had started to work on and Blaine just sat there, frowning at it.

“What?” Kurt said. “Not enough green?”

Blaine shook his head. “It’s not that.”

“Too many stars? I was trying to make that a subtle theme, but Rachel wanted them on every surface.”

“No,” Blaine said. “I think you’ve worked them in well.”

“So, what is it?” Kurt said. He set the idea board against the mirror of his vanity and went to sit next to Blaine on the bed, covering Blaine’s knee with his hand.

Blaine shrugged. “Nothing. I’m just –” He swallowed hard. “I guess I’m stressed out about my history assignment. Maybe we should get back to our homework?”

“Okay,” Kurt said. He got up and put the board away.

Blaine was unusually quiet for the rest of the afternoon, but Kurt chalked it up to Blaine’s remarkable ability to concentrate on schoolwork even when there were much more interesting things to think about, a talent no doubt attributable to the fact that Blaine had spent more time at Dalton than he had.

The next time it happened was on their Friday night date. Blaine had come over early to help eat the paella that Kurt had started making for Friday family dinner before Burt texted from D.C. to say he wouldn’t be making it home until late. They ate with Carole and Sam (Finn took the opportunity to go out with Rachel) and afterward Blaine helped with the dishes, just the two of them in the low light of the kitchen with Billie Holiday playing softly in the background. Kurt imagined that this was their kitchen in their own house, many years from now, and maybe they’d just put the kids or the bichon frise to bed and now it was their time to be together, to return to each other from the disparate places of the day.

When they put the last of the dishes in the drying rack, Kurt took off his gloves and reached for Blaine’s hand. “Care to dance?”

Blaine’s eyes lit up. He stepped forward into Kurt’s arms, leaning his chin against his shoulder, and they swayed slowly to Billie’s inimitable voice:

     The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
     You'll never know how slow the moments go till I'm near to you
     I see your face in every flower
     Your eyes in stars above
     It's just the thought of you
    The very thought of you, my love

It was perfect, and Kurt felt this lovely buzz in his chest that didn’t leave even after the song had ended and they let go of each other so Kurt could make the popcorn for their movie.

He was still riding high on it later as they settled down on the couch and flipped through their watchlist on Amazon Instant Video. “Oooh, ooh!” Kurt started bouncing on the couch when On the Town flip across the screen. “Let’s watch this. New York, New York, a wonderful town! The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground –’”

Blaine slumped back into the couch, frowning. “Mmmm, not in the mood for that today.”

Kurt continued bouncing. “But it’s so good. All that Manhattan history, and Gene Kelly in white sailor pants – although they would look even nicer on you.”

Blaine barely smiled. “Let’s watch Yentl instead? It’s been a while.”

Kurt sighed, but nodded agreement. He wasn’t going to complain about an opportunity to listen to Barbra Streisand, even if it hadn’t been his first choice.

Although as the movie progressed, Kurt wondered if he should have been more hesitant to agree. He’d forgotten how sad the movie was in parts, and Blaine cried more than Kurt had seen him cry at any movie in a long time. When Kurt tried to reassure him with the squeeze of a hand, Blaine wouldn’t squeeze back – he’d just sit there, limply, as if he couldn’t even feel Kurt’s hand on his. After the movie was over, Kurt invited Blaine up to his room – he wasn’t feeling particularly sexy at the moment but he hoped that there, in the safety of his bed, Blaine might tell him what was wrong. But Blaine mumbled something about having to get up early the next morning for racquetball and was out the door without so much as a kiss.

Kurt hasn’t been able to make any rhyme or reason of Blaine’s sudden, erratic distance. The most obvious hypothesis – that Blaine is secretly jealous of Kurt’s crush on Dave – hasn’t held up in experiments. Because every time Kurt mentions Dave, Blaine lights up the way he always has, his voice going rich and sweet like hot cocoa and his eyelashes fluttering like happy little butterflies.

*

If Kurt thought that deciding on a Whitney song was hard before, it’s even more difficult now that he’s standing in the middle of Between the Sheets with  her entire catalog right in front of him. He can’t believe he’d forgotten about “You Give Good Love” and “Step by Step” and  “Run to You,” which is perhaps the best unrequited love song of all time.

He tries to keep himself from getting too overwhelmed by limiting his browsing to just one songbook at a time. He’s in the middle of reading through “The Greatest Love of All,”  trying to decide if it’s too schmaltzy, when he hears an “Excuse me” that’s so loud he can’t help looking up even though it’s probably not for him.

But it turns out it is for him. There’s a boy about his age looking at him from the other side of the display, and he’s yammering away about Kurt’s awesome hippo pin, which – well, yes, it is awesome, he’s not going to argue with that – and then about how Kurt must get compliments all the time because his entire outfit is so amazing, and it’s … Well, it’s a little out-of-nowhere and a lot overwhelming, although  mostly in a nice way.

Kurt eyes the boy’s outfit. It’s a sailorish sort of get-up, centered on a blue double-breasted suit jacket with white buttons that smartly echo the white polka dots on the blue button-down shirt beneath. But the ensemble is ruined by a blue knit cap that must be the boy’s idea of a fisherman’s hat. It’s placed loosely on the top of his head, the top full of airspace like the tip of a condom, and it’s doing absolutely no favors to his hair. Plus, the boy’s horn-rimmed glasses – are they hipster horn-rimmed or nerd horn-rimmed? Kurt can’t tell, and if he can’t tell, they need to go.

Still … the jacket and shirt are smart. The boy clearly knows something about fashion (although not nearly enough); Kurt decides to take the compliment as it was intended and not shrug it off just because it came from someone who takes the wrong risks with his accessories.

He finds himself smiling. It feels good and warm up to his crown and down to his chest. He closes the songbook and reaches out to shake the boy’s hand. “Kurt Hummel,” he says.

“Chandler Kiehl, I go to North Lima High I’ve got an audition next week and I’m dying to do ‘Rainbow High’ from Evita but the guy just said they’re sold out which is a preposterous lie,” the boy says animatedly without taking a breath, and if his voice matches the strength of his lungs he’s already got an incredible advantage (although ‘Rainbow High’ does seem like an odd choice for an audition, considering how heavily it relies on a chorus for Evita to interact with, but Kurt’s not going to say anything, partly because this guy doesn’t pause long enough to allow a response and partly because when Kurt gets like this himself, he’s not very good at listening to criticism).

It turns out that Chandler is trying out for the musical theater program at NYU and he gets all excited when Kurt says he’s trying out for NYADA, and Chandler gets even more excited when Kurt mentions Whitney Houston, shouting “Oh my god!” so loudly that Kurt almost jumps out of his skin and wonders if they’ll get kicked out of the store.

They don’t, though. The clerk gives them a dirty look, but that’s it, and Kurt doesn’t care, because Chandler is effusing about Whitney, and naming all her best work, and gushing about Kurt being the right person to do justice to Whitney’s oeuvre, and being a big loud siren of gayness in quiet little Lima. Just to make sure he’s not reading Chandler wrong, Kurt asks him what he would think of him singing “All the Man That I Need,” and the way that Chandler shouts “You must do it!” while grabbing both of Kurt’s forearms – yeah, the boy is definitely gay.

It’s odd and thrilling and it makes Kurt giggle like a schoolgirl. Kurt feels a little like he’s found his long-lost identical twin – if any twin of Kurt’s could have flawed skin, absolutely no volume control, and a misguided sense of fashion.

Once he’s given Chandler a makeover, the two of them can take New York by storm, with Rachel as their mutual hag.

So when Chandler asks for Kurt’s number, of course Kurt gives it to him.

“I’m headed to the Lima Bean. Wanna come with?” Chandler says after they beam their phone numbers to each other. He raises his voice and glares over at the clerk. “I could use your help hatching out a new audition plan since someone is stonewalling ‘Rainbow High.’”

The clerk rolls his eyes. “It’s. Not. In. Stock. And anyway, bombastic isn’t enough to get you into one of these programs. That’s what every kid does in their audition and, trust me, the admissions committees get sick of it. If you want something from Evita, do ‘You Must Love Me.’ It’s got a much better emotional range, and it’s not as overdone as ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.’”

“That’s an interesting point –” Kurt starts to say, but Chandler doesn’t hear. He’s turning around and walking toward the counter, irately going on about how ‘You Must Love Me’ wasn’t even in the original score, and it quickly devolves into a lengthy argument over the relative merits of Elena Roger, Patti Lupone and Madonna and whether Andrew Lloyd Webber can reasonably be called an artist. Kurt turns back to studying his Whitney Houston songbook, trying to ignore the verbal chaos in the background and wondering if Chandler’s already forgotten about the coffee invitation.

“Kurt?”

His heart thumps against his ribcage when he hears the voice; Kurt takes a deep breath and closes the book before turning around to face it. “Hi, Dave.”

“I didn’t expect to see you here.” Dave’s wearing a flannel shirt over his t-shirt, the sleeves rolled up to reveal his forearms. They’re nice forearms, the hair a lovely swirl of – Kurt looks away, focusing instead on the back of the sheet music Dave is holding.

“I didn’t expect to see you here either,” Kurt says. “But here we both are.” He immediately feels like an idiot.

“What you got there?”

“Oh,” Kurt says, remembering the Whitney Houston songbook in his hands. He holds it up so Dave can see the cover. “She’s our assignment for glee club. And I was also thinking of maybe doing one of her songs for my NYADA audition.”

Dave gets one of those soft, slow smiles that look like he’s trying to hide his happiness. “That’s awesome.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I love Whitney Houston. And you’d be great singing her. You have the right range.”

Kurt looks down at his feet. “Thanks. I didn’t know you were a Whitney fan.”

Dave snorts. “Um, is there anybody who’s not a Whitney Houston fan?”

“You make a good point.” Kurt looks back up at Dave and smiles. He nods to the sheet music Dave’s carrying. “And what do you have?”

Ástor Piazzolla? You probably haven’t heard of him.” Dave blushes and Kurt’s heart jolts against his lungs.

“No, I haven’t. Is he Italian?”

Dave bites his lower lip. “No, Argentinian. He wrote a lot of, um, tangos.”

“Oh, neat.” Kurt finds himself blushing, as well, with the sudden sense memory of grabbing Dave’s hands during ‘Tango de Roxanne’ at Sing-Along Moulin Rouge!, how the skin felt a little rougher than Blaine’s but the muscle underneath was warm and strong, how the curves of their palms fit together like tongue and groove. (He’s blushing, too, because sometimes he lies awake and wonders what would have happened if he hadn’t been too drunk to dance, and what else might have happened if he’d succeeded at that.)

Dave shrugs. “It’s probably way above my level, but I’ve always loved him, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“Good for you,” Kurt says, and then immediately feels stupid, because even though he actually means it in this case, it’s the kind of thing that people say when they mean the exact opposite.

Dave looks down at the sheet music, back at Kurt. “Well, I guess I better pay for this. See you later?”

“Sure,” Kurt says.

“Okay.” Dave makes a little wave and turns toward the checkout counter, where Chandler is still arguing with the clerk. Kurt stares at Dave’s back and it’s a nice back but it’s not what he wants to be looking at, it’s too soon for him to be walking away when he could see his face a little longer and maybe they could talk and –

“Wait,” Kurt says, reaching out to touch Dave’s elbow.

Dave turns around. He still has a trace of that handsome blush he gets for absolutely no reason sometimes.

“You want to get coffee?”

Dave hesitates. “I don’t actually like coffee.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” Kurt says. He wants to add, ‘Don’t make this so hard on me,’ but doesn’t.

“Oh, yeah. Well, I am kind of hungry. There’s a donut shop around the corner. They make the best bear claws and people tell me the coffee there is pretty good, too.”

“Okay,” Kurt says. “Let’s go.”

It’s a little difficult getting the clerk’s attention, but Kurt finally manages by saying loudly, “I don’t know what you guys are getting so hung up about. Evita is just Andrew Lloyd Webber’s disguised temper tantrum over the Falklands War, anyway.” He says it because if anyone said the same to him, he would immediately drop whatever he was doing to come to the composer’s defense.

Chandler and the clerk both look at him in horror.

“The Falklands War happened six years after he wrote Evita,” Chandler says. “A temper tantrum? Evita is the highest kind of art.”

“Sorry,” Kurt says. “That was my idea of a joke. A terrible, terrible joke.”

Chandler and the clerk both look at Kurt, then at each other, and Chandler bursts out laughing. “No, it’s an awesome one. You really had us both,” Chandler says, touching Kurt’s elbow. “So, about that coffee –”

Kurt steps a few inches back so he’s just out of Chandler’s reach, brushing against Dave’s arm as he does so. “Sorry, maybe some other time? We have plans.” He gestures to Dave. “Chandler Kiehl, this is Dave Karofsky. Dave Karofsky, this is Chandler Kiehl.”

Chandler reaches out and shakes his hand vigorously.  “Oooh, nice grip,” Chandler says. “I like that in a man! Are you Kurt’s boyfriend?”

Dave chuckles. “Um, no.”

“Well, I hope you’re someone’s boyfriend.” Chandler winks. “It would be a shame to let such strong hands go to waste.”

Kurt wills himself not to turn as red as a beet. He’s pretty sure he fails. But Dave is too busy blushing himself to notice anything else, most likely.

“Chandler, you gonna let me check these guys out?” the clerk says.

Chandler winks and reaches across the counter to pinch the clerk’s arm.  “Well, of course, Ivan. But I’d always thought you were straight! I mean, what would your wife say?”

The clerk shakes his head. “You’re insufferable.”

Chandler manages to stay quiet long enough for Kurt and Dave pay for their music. As they turn to leave, he reaches out for Kurt’s hand and Kurt takes it, expecting to return another handshake.

But Chandler doesn’t shake Kurt’s hand. He clasps it in both of his, stroking his fingertips over the inside of Kurt’s wrist. “It was lovely meeting you, Kurt Hummel. I hope we can do a raincheck on that coffee.” Kurt feels a tiny knot form in his stomach.

“Sure,” he says. He can’t decide if he means it, though.

*

“Really? A plain donut? That’s not very –” Dave waves his hand around like he’s hoping it will catch the word he’s looking for out of the air.

“Not very what?” Kurt says. They’re sitting at a small table at the back of the bakery, furthest from the counter and the other customers, who have clustered at the sun-drenched tables next to the front window. Dave has a bear claw; Kurt ordered hot chocolate mounded with fresh whipped cream and a plain cake donut, both of which are absolutely divine.

“Fancy?” Dave shrugs.

Kurt laughs. “Sometimes simplicity is the highest form of elegance.”

“That’s true in math. I’m not sure I’m ready to apply that principle to donuts, though.”

“You should try it sometime. Plain donuts make an excellent counterpoint to hot cocoa,” Kurt says. The powdered donuts that Kurt had eyed in the case would have been just as good, but he opted against those because he didn’t want to end up looking like a graceless boor with powdered sugar all over his face.

“Maybe I will.” Dave picks a raisin from the edge of his bear claw and pops it into his mouth. “So who was that guy at Between the Sheets?”

Kurt pokes the tip of his finger into the whipped cream and licks it absent-mindedly. “His name is Chandler Kiehl.”

“Well, yeah,” Dave says. “That’s how you introduced him. Does he go to McKinley?”

“No, I met him just now at Between the Sheets. He complimented my hippopotamus.” Kurt points to his brooch, and Dave looks at it and nods, but he doesn’t compliment Kurt on it. Not that Kurt expected Dave to. He isn’t the kind of guy who would pay attention to the way someone like Kurt dresses. “Why are you so curious?,” Kurt says. “Are you harboring a newfound crush on him?”

“No-o.” The blush that blooms across Dave’s face is quite becoming, and the way he looks shyly down at his hands before peering up at Kurt through delicate lashes is just –

Under the table, Kurt pokes Dave’s calf with the toe of his shoe. “Just seeing if I could get a rise out of you,” he says, smirking.

“If anyone has a crush, I think Chandler has a crush on you.”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “He does not.”

Dave shrugs. “He was totally flirting with you.”

“Oh my god, he was not,” Kurt says, not sure why he’s entering an argument that he knows he’s going to lose.

It’s Dave’s turn to roll his eyes. “He kept touching you. He held your hand. Also, he laughed at your jokes even when he didn’t get them. That’s a sure sign of flirting.” He picks another raisin from his bear claw and pops it into his mouth. “I read it in Cosmo.”

Kurt almost chokes on his donut. “You read Cosmo?”

“My cousin subscribes to it. It’s the only thing to read in the bathroom when I visit their house.” Dave shrugs. “Well, it’s that or Guideposts. I’d rather read Cosmo.”

Kurt snorts. “Understandable.”

“I’m glad you approve.”

Kurt takes another bite of the donut, letting the crisp outer surface soften against his tongue before he chews the cake into tiny succulent crumbs, then takes a sip of cocoa to wash everything down. He feels the shadows of a whipped cream mustache on his upper lip and darts out his tongue to lick it off. Dave looks away, studiously pulling the remaining toes from his bear claw.

Kurt toes Dave under the table to get him to look up. “About this Chandler-flirting: If I recall correctly, it was your grip that he was going on about.” Kurt immediately curses himself for saying it. His face heats up; he grabs his cocoa and takes a long drag to provide an excuse for the warmth prickling through his skin.

“Yeah, but that was just … flirting for flirting’s sake,” Dave says. “You know, the way he was flirting with the clerk. Or the way that guys at Scandals do sometimes. I think he was actually interested in you.”

“Whatever. If you say so.”

“Did you tell him you have a boyfriend?”

“Wait.” Kurt set his cocoa down a little too firmly; it sloshes over the rim of the cup and onto his saucer. “Are you judging me? I wasn’t even flirting back.”

“No.” Dave slumps a little. “You just looked … a little uncomfortable when he was all, you know, flirty. It would be a way to give him a hint.”

Kurt takes a napkin from the dispenser and wipes up the pool of hot chocolate from his saucer. “I think mostly I was uncomfortable because he was so … enthusiastic about me, and all he knows about me is my hippo brooch and this magnificent camouflage blazer.”

Dave smiles a relieved smile. “That blazer is pretty magnificent.”

“Really?” The warmth crawls up the back of Kurt’s neck. “I didn’t think you noticed clothes.”

Dave shrugs. “I notice. I just don’t have all the words to talk about them like you do.” He takes a bite of his bear claw, chews thoughtfully. “But I think I know what you mean, about feeling weird when people like you even though they don’t really know you. That’s how I felt about Jerry.”

“Who?” Kurt tears the remains of his donut into bite-size chunks.

“Um, Jerry Friesen? That guy I sort of dated?”

“Oh, yes,” Kurt pops a piece of donut  into his mouth and chews mock-thoughtfully. “I’d forgotten all about him. He was so … forgettable.”

Dave chuckles. “You’re horrible.”

Kurt nudges Dave with his toe again, sending a pleasant buzz up through his own leg. “Oh, come on. You thought so, too.”

“Maybe.”

“I didn’t like him.” Kurt feels a little like he did that night of Moulin Rouge: hopeful, carefree, the slightest bit drunk, and a touch too bold for anyone’s good. His heart has turned into a helium balloon and is about to float right out of him.

“I never would have guessed,” Dave says, his eyelashes flickering with unconscious ease.

“He wasn’t right for you.”

“No?” Dave raises an eyebrow. “Then who is?”

Yes, definitely too bold for anyone’s good. Kurt shoves another piece of the donut in his mouth and takes another napkin from the dispenser to fold as he chews, trying to remember the way to make a paper boat the way his mother showed him so many years ago. He can’t, though. He wads it up. “I don’t know. But probably not Chandler. He’d drown you in verbiage before you were five minutes into your first date. And that, David, would be a terrible way to go. I wouldn’t wish such an agonizing death on anybody.”

“He’s not that bad.”

“True. He can spot good couture, even if his own attire left something to be desired. I mean, that hat. It made him look like a fisherman right off the wharf, and not in a good way. I was afraid herring were going to spill out of his pockets at any moment.”

Dave snickers and shakes his head. “Oh, man. I don’t want to know what you say about me when I’m not around.”

The helium balloon in Kurt’s chest deflates; a leaden weight takes its place. “I would never make fun of you.”

Dave looks directly into Kurt’s eyes, although there’s something of shyness in it. “No?”

“No.” Kurt doesn’t look away. “Although I reserve the right to tease you mercilessly about your character flaws if the situation calls for it. But that’s for your own good. It’s different than making fun. And I would only do it to your face.”

“Well, that’s only fair. I’d feel kind of left out if I didn’t get that from you at least once in a while.”

They sit in silence for a bit. Kurt’s not sure if it’s a comfortable silence or an awkward one. He thinks it might be a little of both. It’s an odd feeling, one he hasn’t had since the early days of getting to know Blaine.

He has a sudden pang of homesickness for Blaine, even though he saw him less than two hours ago. It feels, though, like it’s been longer – or rather, that Kurt’s not sure he’ll ever see him again. Which of course is ridiculous, and yet – the Blaine he’s become used to, so easy to be with and so free with his love – in those moments that he goes suddenly sullen and withdrawn, it feels like he’s slipping away.

Kurt sips the thick dregs of melted chocolate from the bottom of his mug. He takes a pocket mirror out of his satchel to check that his face isn’t marred by a chocolate mustache, then looks across the table at Dave, who is licking the sugar from his bear claw off his fingers.

“Dave?”

“Yeah?” Dave looks flustered, like he’s been caught in the act. He picks his napkin up from his lap and wipes his fingers against it.

“Have you noticed anything weird about Blaine lately?”

Dave dips the tips of his napkin in his glass of water and resumes wiping his hands. “What do you mean?”

Kurt shrugs. “I don’t know. He’s seemed … gloomy? Not all the time. And maybe that’s what’s weird about it. Because when it happens, it just seems to come out of nowhere.”

“I haven’t noticed anything. I mean, he seemed a little tired when I was over at his house yesterday. Maybe he’s coming down with something?”

“Maybe,” Kurt says.

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“Not really. I mean – no, not really.”

Dave shrugs. “Maybe you could?”

“Wow.”

“Wow?”

“That’s … that’s probably exactly what I should do. You’re a very wise man, David Karofsky.”

Dave’s eyelashes flutter. “I’m just telling you what my shrink would say if I asked him. It’s not like I actually know anything.”

“Ha,” Kurt says. He wishes he could reach across the table and squeeze Dave’s sugar-sticky hand. “You know a lot more than you give yourself credit for.”

*

Kurt: Hi, honey, I’m home!

Blaine: Hi. I am too.

Blaine: Wish it was the same one.

Blaine: Find anything at Between the Sheets?

Kurt: I think so. Are you still studying?

Blaine: Yes.

Kurt: OK. Then I’ll tell you about it tonight? We on for skin-sloughing? Or do you need to go to sleep early?

Blaine: I’m feeling a little better. Anyway, it’s hard to resist skin-sloughing with you.  ;)

*

Even though he knows Dave is right about needing to talk, Kurt doesn’t ask Blaine about the elephant in the room on the phone that night. Blaine seems to have returned to his sweet old self, and Kurt doesn’t want to fracture the mood.

“You and Dave, Between the Sheets,” Blaine says when Kurt tells him about that part of the afternoon. “I like that image.”

“Oh my god,” Kurt groans. “My boyfriend is such a perv.”

“You like it.”

Kurt heart goes squishy-soft. “I do,” he says quietly, smoothing alpha-hydroxy peel onto his throat and wishing his fingers were Blaine’s.

Kurt tells Blaine about Chandler, too, and how he has lots of potential and would no longer be squandering it if Kurt could give him a makeover, but he’s not sure Chandler would pause in his talking long enough to let him get a word in edgewise. On the other hand, Kurt is used to dealing with Rachel, so he could probably learn to hold his own. “In any case, it’s kind of nice to meet someone who’s gay outside of Scandals.”

“How do you know he’s gay?” Blaine says.

“Besides that he’s obsessed with Evita?” Kurt takes two bags of rose-hip tea out of a small glass of ice water on the vanity table and wrings the excess water out. “He flirted with every guy in sight.”

“Mmm … So he flirted with you?” Blaine drops his voice, and Kurt can picture him at the other end of the line with the sweet seductive smirk that goes all the way up to his eyes.

“Well, Dave says Chandler was flirting with me. I mean, he asked for my number.”

“Did you give it to him?”

“Um,” Kurt bites his bottom lip. “I did. Is that okay? I don’t think – I’m not interested in him, but he’s nice, and I really would like to give him that makeover.” He walks over to his bed and lies down, closing his eyes and setting the tea bags over his eyelids.

“Yeah, it’s okay. He has good taste in men, so he can’t be all bad.”

“That’s true. He hit on Dave, too.”

“Did he, now?”

“Yeah. They shook hands and Chandler kept going on about strong Dave’s were, and how he hopes Dave gets a boyfriend so he can put them to good use.” Kurt tries to stifle his giggle, but doesn’t manage it.

“I’m liking this Chandler more and more. It sounds like he and I agree on some very important issues.”

“Oh my god, Blaine, you’re incorrigible.”

“But hopefully in a good way?”

“Yes, sweetheart. In a very good way.” Kurt takes a deep breath. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Kurt. Always.”

*

The first text from Chandler comes the next morning during first period physics.

Chandler: Are you a mascara wand? Because you really opened my eyes.

Kurt tries not to laugh, but a snort escapes through his nose, anyway. He covers his face with his hands and lets out a violent fake cough.

Mr. Melken turns around from the board and glares at him. “Cough into your sleeves, people. We don’t need another outbreak of pertussis this year.” He grabs the bathroom pass from his desk and holds it out in Kurt’s direction even though Kurt is ten feet away from him. “Mr. Hummel, go wash your hands.”

It’s humiliating, especially since Kurt is usually the most conscientious person in the school about coughing and sneezing etiquette. But it’s better than getting his phone taken away.

By English, Kurt knows to prepare himself before looking when his phone light signals a new text.

Chandler: You remind me of Coca Cola Classic, because you’re the real thing.   :)

Kurt: Did you come up with that yourself?

Chandler: Yes.

Kurt: It’s quite creative.

When Kurt’s at his locker getting his books for his next class, the phone lights up again:

Chandler: I f you were a sandwich at McDonalds, they'd call you the McGorgeous!

By the time lunch rolls around and Kurt is sitting alone with Blaine at their favorite courtyard table, Kurt’s so distracted by the morning’s messages that he forgets his plan for this time together was to ask what’s been bothering Blaine these past two weeks. Instead, he shows him the messages that Chandler’s been sending.

“Those are so terrible they’re awesome,” Blaine says, chuckling and ducking his head the way he does when he’s both slightly embarrassed and tickled pink.

Kurt touches his knee against Blaine’s under the table. “I know, right? I don’t know how he does it.”

“But they’re true, too.” Blaine looks around before giving Kurt’s thigh a squeeze. “You are the real thing, McGorgeous.”

Kurt blushes. “I think I should tell him I’m taken.”

Blaine beams. “You’re taken, but I’m willing to share.”

“I’m not so sure I’m willing to be shared with him, though.”

“Fair enough.”

So that afternoon, when Chandler sends “I feel like I just walked into a jewelry shop, because you’re a real diamond!”  Kurt responds,

Kurt: My boyfriend thinks so, too.

Chandler: I bet he does!

Kurt: Okay. So I’ve made it clear I have a boyfriend?

Chandler: You just did.
Chandler: Does that mean I have to stop texting you?

Kurt chews on his lower lip. It feels odd that the correct answer is “no.” But it is, technically. So that’s what he tells Chandler.

Chandler sends him two more texts that day.

Chandler: Did the sun come out, or did you just smile?

Chandler: You are so sweet you could put Hershey’s out of business.

It’s a lot like being hit on by a first-grader with an above-average aptitude for puns.

*

Kurt doesn’t see Blaine that day after school; Blaine says he has too much homework and Kurt really ought to put some hours in at the shop, anyway, because it looks like he might get the winning bid on an Alexander McQueen sweater on eBay. After dinner, Kurt thinks about asking Blaine to meet up for a walk, but decides against it; Blaine will probably say he’s still not done with his homework and besides, Kurt’s not sure there’s anything to talk about. Blaine might have been a little distant this morning when he said he couldn’t get together after school to help look at outfits for Kurt’s NYADA audition, but by the time glee club rolled around he was his usual self, with a smile that shined like the top of the Chrysler Building as he bopped around to Brittany’s surprisingly worthy rendition of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

*

Chandler: Are you defibrillator? Because you really start my heart up!

Kurt: Ooh, a medical pun!

*

Chandler: You can never take a trip to antarctica, because you’re so hot you’d melt all the ice.

Kurt: I can’t argue with that.

*

Chandler: If I could rearrange the alphabet I would put U and I together.

Even as he laughs, Kurt’s stomach flips unpleasantly.

Kurt: You know this is just flirting, right, and nothing else?

Kurt doesn’t hear back from Chandler until glee club. He’s sitting next to Blaine in the back row of the choir room, trying not to listen to Rachel and Santana butcher “So Emotional,” when his phone buzzes. If the text had come any earlier, he would have been hesitant to look at it, but right now he’s glad for the distraction.

Chandler: I am pretty sure you were cleopatra in another life. You’ve got a great asp!

Kurtsnickers and tilts the screen toward Blaine, who laughs before looking up with a wink and a silently mouthed, “You do,” before reaching into his pocket for his own phone, hiding the screen with one hand, and moving his other thumb across the glass.

Kurt’s phone buzzes again.

Blaine: Show it to me after glee club?

Kurt: Am I invited to your house?

Blaine: Yes.

Kurt: I’d love to.

*

Blaine drops to his knees as soon as the front door is closed, pushes up the tail of Kurt’s blazer, and starts trailing soft, restrained bites down from Kurt’s waistband and over the curve of his ass.

Kurt chuckles. “Twill can’t taste that good.”

“I don’t care what it tastes like,” Blaine mumbles against Kurt’s back pocket. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the things I want to do your asp since the beginning of glee practice.”

Kurt leans forward against the door so he can press more solidly up against Blaine’s mouth. “And what’s that?”

Blaine nudges his nose against the center seam. “Let me show you.” He reaches his hands around Kurt’s waist and tries, failingly, to undo Kurt’s belt.

“Um, isn’t Dave supposed to be here soon? I thought we were gonna fool around after you guys finish studying.”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you? He texted me this morning that he’s going to be an hour late.” Blaine gives up on the belt and rubs his palm over Kurt’s fly. Desire skitters through Kurt’s hips, erratic and crazed, and he pushes forward and then back and wishes he could push both ways at the same time, into Blaine’s sweet-filthy mouth and into the perfection of his hands.

“Never thought I’d be so happy to hear those words.” Kurt spins around and yanks Blaine up from the floor, crashing their mouths together so fast that their noses crash, too, and they end up giggling into each other’s shoulders.

“Oh my god, I’m so bad at sex,” Kurt snorts.

“No. You’re awesome at it.” Blaine says, still chuckling. He presses his hard-on against Kurt’s thigh. “See? You’re so good at it you have me completely hard even after you broke my nose.”

Kurt kisses the tip of Blaine’s nose. “It’s not broken, sweetheart. Maybe temporarily disfigured – but we suffer that fate together for the greater cause of love.”

Blaine tilts his head up, eyes dancing charmed sparkles of honey, and kisses Kurt firmly. There’s a sweet dance of tongues and lips, warm and sliding contact. Kurt loves kissing Blaine this way, delving into him, letting Blaine inside the same way.

Blaine pulls back. “Let me lick you?”

Kurt smirks. “I thought you just were.”

Blaine pinches Kurt’s ass. “You know what I mean.” He soothes his fingers down Kurt’s backside, teasing the crease between ass and thigh.

Kurt ducks his head and blushes. “Give me a minute to wash up?”

“Didn’t you just wash up after gym class?”

Kurt bats his eyelashes. “I’m fastidious.”

Kurt’s not sure why, but that earns him Blaine’s tongue back in his mouth for several more breaths. Maybe he should point out his own character flaws a little more often.

“God, I love everything about you,” Blaine sighs when he pulls away.

“Mmm,” Kurt hums. “I love even more about you.”

*

Truth be told, Kurt didn’t really need to clean up. But he likes to. He likes the idea of smelling like rain, likes the kiss of the shower stream against his skin, the shush-shush of water from the adjustable shower head licking against his hole.  He likes the idea that the only sweat Blaine will be able to taste is the sweat that he pulls out of Kurt himself with his tongue and his touch and the push and pull of their bodies together.

He doesn’t take long, and puts nothing but his button-down shirt on before leaving the bathroom and walking across the hall to Blaine’s room with the remainder of his neatly folded clothing bundled in his hands. Blaine is lying on the bed, naked and placidly waiting, his swollen pink cock lying against his belly in the same aspect of patient repose.

It really does seem, when he looks at Kurt sometimes, that Blaine’s eyes are their own source of light. Now is one of those moments, and it forces a deep intake of breath into Kurt lungs. “Blaine –” he says, and then loses his words, so he sets his pile of clothes on top of Blaine’s dresser and takes off his button-down and slides onto the bed next to him.

Blaine smiles and kisses Kurt’s lips, then his neck, then down the v of his collarbone toward his sternum, segueing to the side to lick Kurt’s nipples into tight, hard peaks. Kurt holds Blaine to him, by the back first and then by the shoulders and finally by the head as Blaine licks down Kurt’s belly and past his balls, coaxing Kurt’s legs open with soft, dry kisses and then with harder, wet ones, moving closer and closer until Blaine finally presses his lips against the tender, aching spot in a way that makes Kurt feel vulnerable and invincible all at once.

Kurt lets out a small, helpless cry. It feels like a kiss – Blaine kissing him, yes, but also the soft pink skin of his hole is kissing Blaine back, beckoning him, seducing him in. It twitches against Blaine’s lips, and Kurt can feel Blaine smile before darting his tongue experimentally against the rim.

Kurt's earliest, embarrassed sexual fantasies were about tongues and fingers in his mouth and on his cock and tugging gently at his balls, but he’d never imagined the searing intimacy of a tongue between his legs, how it would set all his nerves alight and make him unfurl, make him whimper and beg and open himself wider, shameless in the need for more contact.

“Oh god,” Kurt chokes out.

Blaine raises his head over the horizon of Kurt’s thighs. “Too much?”

Kurt shakes his head against the pillow. “No. Just right.” He pulls his knees toward his shoulders, feeling gorgeously whorish and open and not caring at all how desperate he must look, as long as Blaine puts his tongue back where it was.

Blaine does. He licks slowly – light teases and then slow, exploratory caresses and long, firm strokes that linger over Kurt’s opening. He can feel his muscle unclench, relax, beg – and can hear his voice beg, too, with soft wordless cries and chants of more and Blaine and god and you.

Blaine moves his kisses to the inside of Kurt’s thigh and presses the pad of his finger against Kurt’s muscle. “Want me to finger you or keep licking you?” he says.

“Everything.”

Blaine smiles, blushing from arousal and exertion and what appears to be sheer joy. “I’ll give it a shot.” He crawls over Kurt to his side table, pulling a bottle of water-based lube out of the drawer and coating his fingers with it. “Good thing this stuff is edible.”

Kurt slaps him on the ass without thinking about it. Only when a blush as bright as the one on Blaine’s face begins to bloom there does Kurt realize what he’s done. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, that was –”

“Something I’ve been meaning to ask you to do,” Blaine whispers. He leans down and kisses Kurt deep and not-dirty, tasting like rain and Kurt’s sweat and his own perfect warmth.

“You want more right now?” Kurt says curiously when Blaine pulls away.

Blaine shakes his head. “No. Right now I want to make out with your asshole.”

“Oh my god you dork –” Kurt starts to say, but the touch of Blaine’s tongue to his muscle makes him forget how to speak, and the delicate probing slide of Blaine’s fingertip makes him stop caring about speech, and then as Blaine slips his finger past the outer and then the inner ring Kurt stops caring about language altogether. Blaine moves his finger with a fast, frictionless glide, deeper and then back, and his tongue is lapping at the rim of Kurt’s hole and against his perineum, and everything is heat and warmth.

Kurt moans a lot and cries a little, soft dry sobs of pleasure, and he urges Blaine on with his sounds and his hips, rocking in their own rhythm to drive Blaine deeper in and then drag him toward the surface again, feels indulgent and indulged and crazed with his own desire.

“You’re so hot like this,” Blaine murmurs against the back of Kurt’s thigh. “So gorgeous and – god, the only drawback is I don’t get to watch your face the whole time.” Blaine ducks down and gives a hot, wet kiss to the skin just beneath Kurt’s balls, then curls his hand loosely around Kurt’s cock, sliding down toward the base as he fucks his finger deeper into Kurt, then to the tip as he glides back. “I’ve thought about watching your face as you were being rimmed.”

Kurt lets out a garbled whimper.

“I’ve gotten off to thinking about watching you come with Dave’s face buried in your ass.”

The brilliant, blinding tension that takes hold of Kurt’s hips just before orgasm enters him now with furious speed.

Blaine licks the swollen skin where his finger is moving in and out of Kurt’s body, and Kurt fucks himself toward the gorgeous warmth of Blaine’s mouth and of Blaine’s finger opening him and of Blaine’s hand stroking him and the heat snaps wildly through his body, fast and hard and he comes in a sharp, delirious burst, his ass gripping Blaine’s finger and his cock spurting semen onto his stomach and hand; Blaine keeps licking him through it, lapping at him greedily and moaning hard and bucking his hips into the sheets. As the orgasm dissipates from Kurt’s body it flows into Blaine’s, and he comes, shaking the bed with a loud groan.

*

“Fuck,” Kurt says after they disentangle themselves. Blaine has turned on the ceiling fan, and they’re both sprawled on their backs, trying to cool down from the near-unbearable heat they’ve created in their bodies.

“Good ‘fuck,’ or ‘bad’ fuck?” Blaine says.

“Definitely good.” Kurt reaches out to touch his fingertips to Blaine’s. “Although I’m not sure how I’m ever going to be able to look Dave in the eye again.”

“Oh, um, yeah. Sorry about that?”

“I’ll try to be stoic. But if I fail and end up running out the door when he gets here, you know why.”

Blaine nudges Kurt’s arm. “You can do it. I have faith in you.”

“Thanks.”

“Anyway, I’ve pictured him in more than one compromising position and I can still look at him. Most of the time.”

Kurt rolls onto his side and gives Blaine a loud smacking kiss on the cheek. “Okay. If you’re brave enough to do it, I’ll try to be, too.”

* * *

Dave may be a virgin, but he’s not an idiot. Blaine’s hair is slightly damp when he answers the door, and when Dave asks him how he’s doing, he breaks out into a sheepish grin and blushes before answering, “Good. How are you?”

There are other clues, too. Kurt is sitting at his usual spot at the kitchen window, textbooks sprawled out so haphazardly across the table that it would have driven him to distraction by now if he’d actually been trying to study. Also, when Dave brings him a soda from the fridge, he gets a whiff of Blaine’s shampoo. And when Kurt looks up to say, “Thanks,” he kind of chokes on the syllable and he doesn’t make eye contact. He just glances at Dave’s chin before burying his face back in his Shakespeare.

Yup, they totally just got mutually laid.

Dave fights off the urge to imagine it in every sordid detail. But when he sits down next to Blaine and starts his linear algebra, he’s too busy thinking to fight it, and images of skin and lips and hands flash across the screen of his closed lids every time he blinks.

It’s silly, really. He has no idea what they like or what they do, other than kiss and kiss and kiss because that’s what they end up doing at Scandals whenever they think he’s not paying attention and sometimes when he is. He bets they kiss through everything, kiss each other’s mouths and bodies and cocks and – oh, right, he should not be imagining their cocks.

Blaine is humming a song to himself as he works, tapping out the rhythm on the edge of the counter with his pencil, and Kurt starts humming along, too. It takes several bars before Dave recognizes it as “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston.

“It’s too bad that Rachel and Santana sang that today,” Blaine says, looking at Kurt. “I mean, they were great, but that song really was made for you.” And then he winks.

“Maybe I’ll sing it for you some other time,” Kurt says, blushing and looking back down at his book.

“Sing it for us both?” Blaine says.

Kurt rolls his eyes without looking up. His blush grows brighter.

If they were the stars of some romantic movie, Dave would probably think they were overplaying their parts and being really sickening. But they’re real and they’re them, so instead he just finds them really fucking adorable.

* * *

It’s a little overwhelming being in the same room as Dave at first, but Kurt gets used to it after a while – or at least he doesn’t freak out as much as he expected to, and is able to concentrate enough on his homework that he gets both his French and English readings done, even when Blaine tries to derail him with “So Emotional.”

Kurt tries not to revisit the image that flashed in his mind just before he came and, for the most part, he succeeds – mostly by avoiding looking at Dave as much as possible. It’s only when he’s taking a break from his physics to gaze out the window at some cardinals in the underbrush that it strikes him how unfair his behavior is toward Dave, who must think that Kurt is giving him the silent treatment over some perceived slight at the donut shop the other day.

So Kurt decides to get over himself.

He slams his physics book shut, stands up, and walks over to the counter where Dave and Blaine are working.

“Do you guys want to go for a walk?”

Dave’s and Blaine’s eyebrows shoot up in symmetrical surprise.

“Um –” Dave looks at Blaine.

Blaine looks a little sheepish. “Well, actually, I was kind of on a roll here.”

Dave shrugs. “I should probably stay here in case Blaine has any questions. Technically, I’m his tutor.”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud. Blaine, you’ll be okay for a little while, won’t you?”

Blaine looks like he’s struggling mightily to suppress a smile. “Of course. If I get stuck, I’ll just move on to the next problem until you guys get back.”

Dave still looks hesitant.

“C’mon. We can go down to the stream and if we’re lucky we might spot a Louisiana waterthrush,” Kurt prods, going for a tone of enticement sans seduction. “Or a Nashville warbler. They’re yellow.”

Dave looks at Blaine. “I do like yellow birds. They’re like … happiness on wings.”

Blaine nudges Dave with his toe. “You should go. It’s a beautiful day.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah,” Blaine says, not suppressing his smile this time. “Positive.”

*

“What’s a Louisiana waterthrush, anyway?” Dave asks as they enter the woods next to Blaine’s house.

“It’s a kind of warbler,” Kurt says. “It looks like a sparrow with long legs.”

“If it’s a warbler, why is it called a thrush?”

Kurt shrugs. “That’s one of the great mysteries of ornithology.”

It’s not as awkward walking with Dave as Kurt expected. There’s the distraction of looking for birds in the treetops, and the sound of their feet crunching against the dead leaves from last autumn makes the pauses in their conversation feel natural and necessary.

“Blaine seems good today,” Dave says when they reach the stream. It’s high from recent rain, and so loud that it’s hard to listen for the sound of birds above it – not that Kurt ever learned to recognize them by their sound.

“Yeah,” says Kurt distractedly. He’s looking through the pair of binoculars he brought along, trying to hone in on something he saw moving in the dogwood on the opposite streambank. It turns out to be just a sparrow, though.

“Are you still worried about him?”

“I – I don’t know,” Kurt says, holding the binoculars to his chest. “I kind of haven’t seen him enough this week to be able to judge. He seems happy today, though.”

“So you haven’t talked to him?”

“What are you, my dad?” He means it to tease, but Dave frowns down at the ground, his toe tracing patterns in the decaying leaves.

“Sorry,” Dave says. “I wasn’t trying to nag.”

Kurt’s heart sinks into his stomach. It’s so easy to break things, and so hard to mend them. But he can try. He hooks his hand around Dave’s elbow. “No, I’m sorry. I’m the one who’s done nothing with your very good advice.”

Dave looks at him with surprise – whether from the apology or the touch or both, Kurt can’t say. But he doesn’t move away. “I just –” Dave starts, then looks back down at the ground. “I just … love you guys. I want you both to be happy.”

Kurt’s blood is pounding so hard that Dave must feel it through their coats where their arms are touching. But Kurt doesn’t let go. “That means a lot to me,” he says.

They don’t see any warblers on their way back, but they do see two goldfinches flitting around a feeder at the edge of the woods. That puts a smile on Dave’s face, which puts a smile on Kurt’s, and both those smiles put a smile on Blaine’s when they walk back into the house.

Chapter Text

On Friday morning, Kurt’s dad texts that he’s going to be stuck in Washington yet again tonight, so Kurt invites Blaine over for a private dinner and movie.

Kurt doesn’t want a repeat of last Friday’s Yentl debacle, so he makes sure they agree on something not-depressing to watch over lunch. After school he goes to the grocery store to pick up necessities for the after-dinner cheese plate: Blaine’s favorite unaged Gouda, a 7-year sharp cheddar from an artisanal Wisconsin cheesemaker, and an apricot-studded White Stilton to balance out the flavors. He spots a jar of orange-blossom honey and grabs that, too, along with red grapes, two Bosc pears, a bar of Green & Black’s 85-percent dark chocolate, and a bottle cardamom pods to serve as palate cleansers.

He doesn’t need crackers; he had a nightmare about his NYADA audition that woke him up at 4 a.m. this morning, and ended up trying to make the best of it by going down to the kitchen and experimenting with some crisp flatbread recipes he’d saved to his phone. Despite his lack of sleep and the vivid memory of the NYADA audition committee laughing at his Romeo, the flatbread turned out better than satisfactorily.

Carole has already left to go see a movie with a girlfriend from work by the time Blaine arrives, and Finn is just about to leave for dinner at the Berrys; Sam is upstairs playing video games with Rory, and Kurt has plied them with his personal-recipe chocolate-chip cookies to keep them from trying to budge in on dinner.

Blaine is quiet through much of the meal, but that’s not so unusual; Blaine is a slow, purposeful chewer in general and he’s shows even more diligence when Kurt cooks, not wanting to miss any of the subtleties of Kurt’s culinary artistry. He’s also uncomfortable talking with food in his mouth. So Kurt fills most of the silence.

“I’ve been looking over that Whitney Houston songbook and there are way too many good choices. I don’t know how I’m going to narrow it down to one – or even two, if I do decide to go with ‘One Moment in Time’ for my NYADA audition.”

Blaine nods and slips another bite of tortilla española into his mouth; Kurt takes a sip of water and swallows the piece he’s been pocketing in his cheek while talking.

“I don’t know, though, maybe everyone’s paying homage to Whitney Houston right now and the dean will have already heard a hundred different versions by the time my audition rolls around.” He stabs his fork into his arugula-and-orange salad. “Maybe I need to be more daring. Do you think ‘Not the Boy Next Door’ would be daring?”

Blaine chews and nods.

“Or I could try for something old that no one sings anymore, like from the 1950s? Maybe Frankie Lymon?” Kurt slaps his hand against the edge of the table and starts bouncing. “Oh, yes, yes, and then I would have an excuse to wear those vintage peach-and-white oxfords I’ve been watching on eBay, and you would totally be able to help me pick out the rest of my outfit, you dapper 1950s leading man, you!” Kurt keeps bouncing, silently waiting so that Blaine can answer with words this time.

It takes a long while.

Blaine finally swallows and sets down his fork. “I don’t know. Did Frankie Lymon sing anything other than ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’ Because I really don’t think that song has enough, well, depth.” Blaine shrugs and looks down at the pepper grinder in the center of the table. “I mean, I’m sure you could give it depth, maybe slow it down and turn it  into more of a ballad? But you have like, what, a four-octave range? That song’s not going to show it off.”

“Well, what about The Platters? Or Buddy Holly?”

“You really want those saddle shoes, don’t you?”

Kurt nods his head vigorously.

“Maybe find another reason to get the saddle shoes?”

Kurt frowns and nudges Blaine under the table. “I was also really looking forward to you helping me pick an outfit for my audition.”

“You’ve never had any problem coming up with brilliant outfits on your own,” Blaine says, punctuating his sentence by shoving an unusually large forkful of arugula into his mouth and chomping on it loudly.

Kurt has never before seen Blaine shove food into his mouth – not in all their hours of lunching together at Dalton and McKinley, or splitting cookies and scones at the Lima Bean, or dining out at Breadstix, or here eating together in his kitchen. He’s never heard him chomp.

But Kurt doesn’t say anything. Not about that, at least. “Well, ‘A Piece of Skyhas been going through my head since we watched Yentl last week. That’s got a better range, and emotional depth, although Barbra – I love her, but the dean will definitely have heard a lot of her, too.”

Blaine nods in agreement.

“Such a good song, though,” Kurt sighs. He’s nowhere closer to finding an audition piece than he was at the beginning of the meal.

Blaine swallows and stabs his fork into the salad again, although a little more gently this time. “Sorry to change the subject, but this salad dressing is really good. Did you put cloves in it?”

“Cloves? No. A little nutmeg, though.”

Blaine hums approvingly. “That’s ingenius.”

“Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far.”

“No, seriously. This is the best salad dressing I’ve ever had.” He looks up at Kurt with a smile – the first smile Kurt’s seen on his face all night, come to think of it. It makes Kurt’s heart both light and heavy at the same time.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s not the best,” Kurt says. “It’s just that it makes a good complement to the arugula.”

“You’re too modest,” Blaine says, winking. “I’m pretty sure it’s the absolute best, unless we count some of the other salad dressings you’ve made, and then maybe it can tie for first place.”

The heavy feeling in Kurt’s heart starts to lose its grip. “That’s very sweet of you.”

“So what else is in here? Olive oil, of course, but what’s the acid? I can’t figure out if it’s orange juice or –”

Kurt leans forward across the table excitedly and squeezes Blaine’s wrist. “You’ll never guess!”

“Well, don’t be a tease. Tell me!”

So Kurt starts explaining how he decided last fall to try aging vinegar from raw cider, and once it was the right acidity he infused some of it with orange zest and kaffir lime leaves, which he had to order online because he couldn’t find them anywhere in Lima. Of course, that was just the base; for this particular salad dressing, he added in a few drops of curaçao left over from his dad’s and Carole’s wedding reception, and also the nutmeg, and …

By the time Kurt’s done with his story and all the side branches it’s sprouted, they’ve finished eating, the table is clear, and the dishwasher loaded. Blaine seems much lighter now than he was earlier; maybe he just needed food in him.

“Why don’t you go set up my computer and pick out which episodes of Being Bobby Brown you want to start with, and I’ll get our dessert ready?” Kurt says with a peck to Blaine’s cheek.

“You don’t need any more help?”

“I have everything under control,” Kurt says only a bit haughtily.

It’s not until he carries the cheese tray into his bedroom that Kurt finds out how far his words are from the truth.

*

“Hey, I got the cheese plate. Our Being Bobby Brown marathoncan officially begin.” Kurt is so distracted admiring the jaunty but civilized way he’s fanned out the flatbread between the cheddar and the grapes that he doesn’t really look at Blaine when he first enters the room. It’s not until he sets the tray safely atop his brocade bedspread (wait, it’s April, should he have already switched to something lighter and more springlike?) that he notices Blaine’s face.

Blaine looks like someone punched him in the gut.

No, it’s worse than that. He looks hopeless and lost, the way he used to in those few moments of lucidity he’d have the days following Sebastian’s attack in the garage. He’s perched on the edge of the bed, Kurt’s phone in his hand, eyes welling up as he stares at it, unable to look up.

“Blaine?” Kurt reaches out to touch Blaine’s shoulder. Blaine flinches -- a knife between Kurt’s ribs. “Blaine, honey, what’s going on?”

“Chandler’s going to be in New York with you.”

“Um, maybe? He’s auditioning for the musical theater program at NYU, but if he insists on ‘Rainbow High’ as his audition piece, I really don’t see how he’s going to get in, so –”

Blaine looks up then, and Kurt almost wishes he hadn’t – those eyes, wet and betrayed. The knife twists. But the words Blaine speaks are even worse: “You’re leaving me.”

Kurt sits on the bed next to Blaine and tries to remember how to breathe as he reaches for the phone. “Give it to me.”

Blaine resists. Kurt tugs the phone from his fingers anyway.

Chandler: When we go to new york, let’s go to the front of the plaza and reenact the end of the way we were.

Kurt reads the message over and over, trying to make the connection between the words and Blaine’s reaction. He can’t. This is probably the tamest message Chandler’s sent him yet. The final scene of The Way We Were isn’t even very romantic; Barbra’s clearly built the life she wants without Robert Redford to hold her back.

Kurt scrolls up to see if there have been any other new texts since the ones he showed Blaine this afternoon. The only other one is:

Chandler: Can you sing into my voicemail? I want to make your voice my ringtone.

Kurt shakes his head. “I don’t – I don’t understand. I thought you were all for this.”

Blaine’s staring down at his hands again, refusing to make eye contact with Kurt no matter how far Kurt ducks his head to try to catch his gaze. Blaine turns the back of his head to Kurt before finally speaking. “No,” is all he says. Blaine is shaking his head, too, and his shoulders are trembling the way they do when Blaine tries not to cry, and it makes Kurt want to hurt somebody as much as he wanted to hurt Sebastian when he made Blaine cry.

But Kurt doesn’t know who to hurt, so he throws the phone against the bed instead. “What is wrong with you, Blaine?  I’m not even sure I like Chandler, but I like his text messages because sometimes they’re hilarious and sometimes they turn you on but sometimes they’re just weird, like why does he want my voice on his phone when he’s never even heard me sing, is he just pulling compliments out of his ass because empty flattery does not impress me and Jesus fuck why on earth would I leave you for him or for anyone, and why would you think that when you’re the one who always talks about wanting me to fuck other guys while you watch and it never even occurred to me before you mentioned it and yes it does turn me on but not because I’m planning to leave you, you’re always there, and what even goes on in your brain? I feel like I’ve taken crazy pills.”

Kurt collapses onto the bed. The cheese tray totters, but doesn’t fall. He has nothing left, and Blaine is still perched primly at the edge of the mattress, and his face is covered with tears, and he just keeps shaking his head and Kurt is the world’s biggest asshole but he’s also not because Blaine makes no sense.

Still, even if Blaine makes no sense, Kurt hates seeing him cry. He grabs one of the purple napkins from the cheese tray – oh god, what was he thinking when he chose those napkins, purple means power and creativity but it’s also a démodé color of mourning – and hands it to Blaine.

Blaine takes it, and Kurt thanks the stars for that. He watches Blaine dab at his eyes and listens to him try to take a deep breath and fail.

Sometimes Kurt hates himself for the power he has to break this precious boy even more than he’s been broken by everyone else.

Kurt reaches for Blaine’s knee, then stops himself, crossing his arms across his chest. “I’m sorry, Blaine, I’m just trying to understand but I don’t and you’ve been so on-and-off these past couple weeks, it started before Chandler and at first I thought it might be Dave but you’re always happy to see him and I keep trying to figure it out but it’s just so frustrating and –”

Blaine looks up at him, opens his mouth slightly like he might be ready to speak. Nothing comes out though, and then there is the shaky inhalation of breath.

“Do you want some water?” Kurt says.

Blaine shakes his head. “It’s not –” He chokes on a sniffle, blots his cheek, tries again. “It’s not Chandler. It’s – it’s New York.”

“New York?”

“I don’t want you to go, Kurt.”

“NYADA doesn’t start until September – if I get in.”

Blaine breathes out a bitter laugh. “Of course you’ll get in.”

“You make that sound like a bad thing.”

Blaine shrugs. “It feels like it is.” He reaches for Kurt, hesitates, then retracts his hands into his lap. He folds them together, the purple napkin tight between them.

Kurt’s head throbs and his heart aches and his whole body feels ready to collapse. “I don’t – I don’t understand. I thought you wanted this for me.”

Blaine blinks like the weight of the tears in his eyelashes has made it impossible to keep his eyes completely open. “I did. And I do. But I’m pissed off that I’m going to have to spend the next year learning what it’s like to be without you, and every time you talk about what song you’re going to sing or what outfit you’re going to wear to your callback, and how amazing New York is, and how you can’t wait to get out of here and, and – all I can think about is how in a few months, you’re going to be gone and I’m going to be stuck here in Lima, missing you. And you know how hard long-distance relationships can be. We both saw The Notebook.

Kurt reaches for Blaine’s hands. They relax under his touch, unclasping slowly, the crumpled napkin rolling out of them and down Blaine’s lap onto the floor. “It won’t be a whole year, though. The school year’s really only nine months, and I get three long breaks in there, and we can do some weekends, and we can Skype every day.”

“But even now, when we can’t see each other for a few days, I just – I miss you so much. I miss touching you and I miss seeing you laugh and I miss sitting around doing nothing with you and looking up from my magazine and seeing your face and suddenly not being able to breathe because you’re the most stunning man I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”

Kurt wipes his own eyes with the end of his sleeve. “When you were in Columbus for your surgery, I was absolutely pathetic.”

“Yeah, I know. Puck kept texting me about it. I think knowing that hurt me more than missing you did.” He leans his cheek against Kurt’s shoulder. “Because even though I get resentful sometimes when you talk about all the awesome stuff you’ll do in New York, I really do want you to be happy there. I just wish I could be there with you for all of it.”

“And I don’t want to go anywhere you’re not going to join me.” Kurt kisses the top of Blaine’s head. “You are still planning to join me, right? Because that’s part of why I get so excited about New York, Blaine – because we can build a life together there that would be so hard to have in Lima.”

“I know.” Blaine sniffles. “And I know we’ll be together again, but it still hurts that you’ll be gone for so long.”

Kurt gives Blaine a squeeze. “Well, maybe that’s something we need to think about – how to be happy when we’re not in the same place together. Because with any luck, we’re going to have a long life, and sometimes we’re going to be apart. Now it’s college, and when we both have jobs it might be business trips –”

Blaine shakes his head and smirks, mischief shining through the red rims of his eyes. “No. You’re going to be rich and famous and I’m going to be the happy house-husband who follows you wherever you go.”

Kurt snickers. “Oh, is that so? I hope you have a nice endowment to support us until we’re 40 then.”

“I’m very nicely endowed. You can ask my boyfriend.”

Kurt kisses Blaine’s forehead, then his damp cheek. “Only you could inject ribaldry into this conversation.”

Blaine winks. “I’m sure you could, too, if you set your mind to it.”

“Maybe later,” Kurt says. “Right now, I just want to make sure – You remember I’m never saying goodbye to you, right?

“Yeah, I know. But sometimes it feels like goodbye, anyway. I mean --” Blaine looks down at his lap and swallows. “I know you’re not Cooper, but it’s just -- Every time Cooper leaves, he tells me how he’s going to keep in touch with me and he’s going to visit more often and he wants me to come out and visit him and then … then it’s back to the way it was before. I know he loves me, but it’s hard to feel that when something’s going on in my life and he takes a week to answer my calls. I mean, I’ve only talked to him once since he visited in March.” Blaine shrugs. “He’s kind of the only long-distance relationship I’ve ever had, and it hasn’t worked out too well.”

“I didn’t realize the thing with Cooper was still bothering you.” Kurt looks down at their intertwined hands. “I’ve been pretty self-absorbed lately, haven’t I?”

“Kind of. But I haven’t really been speaking up, either.”

“Okay, well those are things we need to work on with this whole long-distance thing.”

Blaine looks up at Kurt, slow soft blinking and his eyes full of a love that makes Kurt feel like he’s floating on air.  “I’m gonna miss you a lot.”  

He wraps his arms around Kurt and pulls him close. Blaine is warm and solid and their chests rise and fall against each other, their breaths breezing past each other’s ears, and Kurt can feel Blaine’s heart beat against his, and also in the arms that are wrapped around his shoulders and back.

“I’m gonna miss you too,” Kurt says, and even though the words terrify him, he suddenly feels two distinct, wonderful things: like he’s on solid ground for the first time this week, and like he’s a young robin who’s just been pushed out of the nest and learned, with fearful exhilaration, what it feels like to fly.

* * *

An hour or so later, Kurt and Blaine are reclined on the bed, so stuffed with cheese and fruit and chocolate that they have both sworn off ever eating again. Or at least ever eating again for another few hours. They haven’t watched any of Being Bobby Brown, just talked and eaten and held each other. They both have become progressively more lax since the crying stopped; the absence of tension in their muscles makes it feel, at each place where they touch, like their bodies are waves flowing into each other.  

“Sweetheart?” Kurt says.

“Yeah?” Blaine nuzzles his cheek against Kurt’s chest. Kurt’s heartbeat sounds like the rhythm of the ocean.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Earlier, when you said you weren’t upset about Chandler, only about New York –” Kurt falters. The muscles of his chest tighten beneath Blaine’s ear.

“Yes?” Blaine curls his hand around Kurt’s bicep to anchor him.

“I think I have a hard time understanding what you get jealous about, and why,” Kurt says. “Because if I were in your shoes, I don’t know if I would be as upset about New York as I would about Chandler.”

Blaine doesn’t say anything for a few long moments. “Before we started dating,” Blaine says quietly, looking up at Kurt’s face,“I used to watch guys flirt with you –”

“Pfft,” Kurt says, crooking his eyebrows in loving indignation. “Who flirted with me?”

“Well, Trent, obviously, and –”

“Wait – Trent?” Kurt looks honestly confused.

“Yeah, when you guys used to practice French together.”

“We were usually discussing Napoleon. I’d hardly call that flirting.”

“Well, and whenever you walked into the room he’d smile at you like you were his own personal ray of sunshine,” Blaine says. It’s bizarre how oblivious Kurt can be to the admiration of other men. Blaine wishes, sometimes, that Kurt could take a turn watching the world through Blaine’s eyes, just so he could see how much he’s loved.

“No no no. Did you seriously never notice how he used to look at you? Like, every time you opened your mouth in Warblers’ practice, he looked as impressed as if you’d just shit a gold brick.”

“Just because he admired me doesn’t mean he can’t also admire you.”

“Hmmm. You have a point.”

“Yes, I do.” Blaine kisses Kurt’s chin; a smile spreads slowly across his face the way light spreads across the sky at sunrise. “But back to your question, every time I saw a guy flirting with you – I guess I had mixed feelings about it.”

“How so?”

“Well, on one hand, it felt good because I liked you and I thought everyone should like you as much as I did, and they should appreciate your smarts and your sass and how singularly gorgeous you are –”

“If you’re trying to butter me up with flattery, it’s working.”

“Not trying to butter you up. Just trying to speak the truth.” Blaine presses his cheek back against the safe warmth of Kurt’s chest. “So anyway – on one hand, it felt good when other guys paid attention to you, and on the other hand, it made me sort of … uneasy, I guess? I worried sometimes that one of them might become more important to you than I was. Which I guess is selfish, but –”

“It’s okay. I’m thoroughly familiar with the feeling – Jeremiah, Gap Attack of 2012.”

Blaine’s ears burn. “Yeah, right. And then when we started dating, I didn’t think about other guys much because everything was so new, but when I did – well, usually it was nice, but sometimes I’d have these nightmares that you’d fallen in love with someone else more than you were in love with me, and you didn’t want to be with me anymore. Or –” He pauses. “It wasn’t so much that you loved them more, but that you started to love me less.

Kurt wraps his arm a little more tightly around Blaine. “I can’t imagine that happening.”

Blaine shrugs. “Well, after we’d been dating a while I stopped having the dreams. And I think it was because I started to trust you in a deeper way.”

So many moments flash before Blaine’s eyes: Kurt giving him roses on the McKinley stairwell after the West Side Story casting debacle and looking at him with as much love – and maybe more – than he ever had before; of being naked together for the first time and the way Kurt touched him like he was a precious, sacred thing; how every time Kurt made him fall apart, he felt like he was being put back together, too; of the first time Blaine hinted about his fantasies and the way that Kurt responded, loving him and fucking him harder than Blaine thought possible this side of heaven; how when his eye got injured, Kurt held him in the car the whole way to the ER and kept holding him until he had to let him go for his exam, and still he stayed by Blaine’s side, holding his hand as the doctor examined him and telling him over and over that it was going to be okay because that’s what Blaine needed to hear.

“I trusted your love for me,” Blaine says. “I trusted our love for each other. That it was real, and it was important to both of us, and neither of us had any plans of just walking away. And I knew for sure if you found someone else to be with – whether it was just for fooling around or if it was something more – that it wouldn’t have any effect on how you felt for me. We don’t love each other because we haven’t found anyone else to love. We love each other because we love each other.”

Kurt tips his head to see Blaine’s face. “I do. I love you because you’re you. That’s why I’ll always love you.”

Blaine feels something in his body loosen – something hard and sharp and impervious become pliable and moving. He moves then, rolling over and lifting himself up until he’s hovering over Kurt. His face is so close, their noses almost touching, but Blaine doesn’t kiss him. They just gaze at each other, and Blaine thinks it’s a miracle to be able to look so closely like this at someone’s eyes. There are as many shades of color in Kurt’s irises as there are stars in the sky. Blaine is sure of it.

He moves a little closer to Kurt’s face. “Make love to me.”

Kurt speaks, his cardamom-tinged breath skirting along Blaine’s lips. “What if Carole comes home?”

“We’ll be quiet and pretend we’re not here.”

Kurt smirks. “We should be quiet anyway unless you want to give Sam and Rory a show.”

“Well –” Blaine blushes, ducking his head.

Kurt laughs and pinches his arm. “Don’t you even think about it.”

Blaine kisses Kurt. He loves how their mouths shape to one another’s, how lips curve and bend together. He pulls away just long enough to whisper, “Okay, fine, I’ll be quiet. But with the way you make me feel, it’ll be tough.”

* * *

The undressing is slow and careful, but not solemn. Each piece of clothing removed feels like one less piece of armor.

Kurt kisses down Blaine’s body slowly, delighting in how the fuzz of his chest turns to coarser, dark curls around his areolas and below his navel. He mouths at each of Blaine’s testicles, letting them roll softly against his tongue, his heart hammering because of the intimacy of it and because Blaine trusts him with this, and also from the way Blaine’s body responds, his cock swelling with each gentle suck, his back arching, his hands clenching and unclenching against the sheets.

Blaine’s head is propped on a pillow and Kurt can see his face over the landscape of his torso, can see his mouth fall open in silent pleasure when Kurt curls his tongue around and under each testicle. They grow firmer, drawing tighter against his body and closer to the base of his cock, less pliant and more difficult to move in Kurt’s mouth. Kurt flicks his tongue lower at the satin-smooth skin of Blaine’s perineum, and Blaine responds with an instinctive push against Kurt’s lips and a restrained gasp.

Kurt licks at the skin softly at first, mouth watering as Blaine churns toward his tongue, everything becoming slippery-rough and urgent. Kurt drags his fingers through the saliva and spreads it downward, just a teasing tickle over Blaine’s opening, that irresistible pucker of silken muscle winking against Kurt’s fingertip. Kurt strokes it with his finger until he can’t resist its pull any longer, needs to kiss it, needs to feel that tender, open part of Blaine moving against his tongue, becoming malleable and pliant as Blaine himself.

Blaine is delicious down here, all sweat and masculinity, and the way Blaine responds is delicious, too: his legs falling further and further open, exposing the hidden recesses of his body, the way his ass tenses with excitement and relaxes with pleasure, the way he moves toward and with each stroke of Kurt’s tongue.

The furrows of Blaine’s pucker start to smooth out a little, the hole a little more open each time it unclenches. Kurt slips the first finger in almost effortlessly, just the slightest resistance as he moves in a little more deeply and Blaine’s body gives in with a shuddering sigh.

He’s so warm inside, the skin more supple than water. Kurt is drowning in love.

He sucks one of Blaine’s balls back into his mouth, looks up at Blaine looking down at him with eyes full of wonder and urgency, and twists his finger around, curling it come-hither against the firm spot inside Blaine.

Blaine’s eyes go wide and he starts to cry out but cuts himself off in a desperate choking sound. He arches his back, his cock twitching in time with the strokes that Kurt makes inside him.

“Oh god please, please Kurt, fuck me.”

“Need to open you first,” Kurt says, his lips never completely losing contact with Blaine’s skin.

“We’ll go slow. Please.”

Blaine is so hard to resist. So Kurt doesn’t. He lets Blaine fumble for a condom packet from the box on the bedside shelf while he continues to lick and finger him, then moves up to shower Blaine’s face with kisses while Blaine rolls the condom onto him and slicks him with lube, each stroke of his hand another seduction.

There isn’t as much resistance as Kurt expects when Blaine falls back against the mattress and Kurt pushes against his opening. Blaine is eager beneath him, and his body gives in easily at first, taking in the head of Kurt’s cock almost at once, a little more snugly than usual but god it feels good to be held like that, tight and needful. Kurt doesn’t push any farther; he stills his hips and lets the drag of gravity and the slow give of Blaine’s body slide him incrementally in.

They watch each other. Blaine’s eyes are heavy with something that looks like awe and he’s breathing slow, deep-heavy breaths that are sweeter than music, and Kurt is hardly breathing at all, overwhelmed as he is by the feeling of Blaine enveloping him.

“Oh god Blaine.”

“Yeah.” Blaine nods and tilts his hips to take more of Kurt in. “You feel … incredible.” Blaine wraps his legs high around Kurt’s back, resting his calves in the crook beneath Kurt’s shoulder blades, and Kurt sinks in a little more, and then more as Blaine starts to rock their bodies together. It is so good and so overwhelming, like being a feather tossed on the breeze.

And then Kurt is all the way in and Blaine bites his bottom lip to keep from moaning and Kurt kisses him, kisses the sweet abused lip and the wanton tongue and swallows each of Blaine’s delighted purrs of pleasure.

“Just stay still like that for a minute,” Blaine says. “Feels so good to have all of you in me.”

“Yes,” and Kurt kisses him again, and kisses him some more, loves himself surrounded by Blaine – Blaine’s skin and legs and arms and mouth and the sweet warmth of his ass. It’s like being subsumed without disappearing, like falling without hitting the ground.

Blaine is the one who starts them moving, rocking like a boat on a gentle wave. Everything is restrained and incremental, and each firing of Kurt’s nerves is distinct pleasure, until slowly the waves grow bigger, cresting higher, and they move faster, new sparks of pleasure bursting into light before the previous ones have faded.

“Oh,” says Blaine, and it’s that choked off sound again, and he cants his hips at a new angle and oh a little louder this time, and another stroke and oh again and again and his eyes are so wide and Kurt wants to kiss him but he can’t because his jaw is too tense with the need to cry out. So he ducks his head down and sucks on the spot where Blaine’s neck meets his shoulder, and Blaine shouts out another accidental oh.

Kurt presses a warning finger against Blaine’s lips and Blaine pulls it into his mouth, a forceful suck that almost hurts but doesn’t because every sensation right now is pleasure. Blaine draws another finger into his mouth, and then another, swallowing quiet, stifled moans around them as Kurt fucks into him, so easy now, such a smooth and delirious slide, and Blaine starts shaking, rocking and shaking and digging half moons into Kurt’s shoulders and sucking bruises into Kurt’s fingers and he reaches down between their sweat-drenched bodies and strokes his cock and fucks up forcefully onto Kurt’s dick, engulfing him again and again with fast, desperate thrusts that fire pleasure up Kurt’s spine and down to his toes, make Kurt’s hips tremble and his knees weak, make him suck bruisingly onto Blaine’s neck because if doesn’t he’s going to absolutely explode but it’s a lost battle, so lost, Kurt is losing and he wants to, wants to lose everything to Blaine, wants to give himself over and over again and never stop.

Blaine bites down onto Kurt’s fingers and clenches around his cock and spurts warmly onto his chest and Kurt loses everything then, happily.  

Kurt keeps moving through both their orgasms, losing himself in the twitch and swallow of Blaine’s ass. The pleasure hits Kurt in waves, subsiding and then rising again as Blaine falls apart beneath him, as he watches Blaine’s stunned eyes and his sex-flushed cheeks, as he feels Blaine’s tongue curl tighter around his fingers, as he feels Blaine’s muscle flutter deliriously around his cock.

They fuck each other through it, fuck until every muscle gives way and they collapse across the bed like two shipwrecked sailors washed ashore.

“Love you forever,” Kurt whispers, curling his fingers into the damp hairs of Blaine’s chest.

Blaine’s eyes give off their own light. “But if you’re an atheist, doesn’t that mean that forever doesn’t exist for our mortal souls?” How Blaine can manage to string so many words together after sex is bewildering and irritating and oh Kurt is so in love with him.  

Kurt uses what little strength he has left to press his lips against Blaine’s cheek. “Still love you forever. Always will.”

*

When Kurt wakes up the next morning, he knows exactly which song to sing for the Whitney Houston assignment. It’s never been one of his favorites because it’s steeped in religious metaphors, coming as it does from the soundtrack of The Preacher’s Wife. But when it starts going through his head during his morning shower, the words click in his heart.

     And I believe in dreams again,
     I believe that love will never end.
     And like the river finds the sea
     I was lost, now I'm free --
     ‘Cause I believe In you and me.    

Like everything that excites him, it’s hard to keep quiet about it. And he’ll have to do that for days, because his turn to solo doesn’t come until Wednesday. He gets his first practice at not mentioning it to Blaine when they talk on the phone Saturday afternoon, asking instead what Blaine’s planning for his solo. (It occurs to him that he hasn’t asked all week; no wonder Blaine feels unheard sometimes.)

“It’s a surprise,” Blaine says.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. But I think you’ll like it.”

*

At Scandals that night, when Blaine goes to the bar to order another round of soda for the table, Kurt turns to Dave and says, “Thanks.”

Dave furrows his eyebrows. “For what?”

“For listening to me the other day,” he says. “For helping me figure things out.”

“What did I help you figure out?”

“How to be a good boyfriend.”

Dave chuckles and looks down at his hands. “I’m pretty sure I did no such thing. I don’t know the first thing about being anyone’s boyfriend.”

Kurt’s heart clutches in his chest. He wants to reach across the few inches between them so badly, to feel the warmth of Dave’s hand, to pay attention to the skin and find out if his fingertips have grown callused from all the piano playing. He doesn’t, of course. It’s too much to ask.

“You know how to be a good friend. That’s the first step.” Kurt blushes, but doesn’t turn away.

Dave doesn’t turn away, either. “I want to be. For both of you.”

*

Blaine squeezes Kurt’s hand before going up to the front of the room for his solo on Monday. Brad, the piano player, rolls his eyes when Blaine hands him the sheet music, but the bass player and the drummer look like they just won the lottery. Kurt feels a little swell of pride.

Blaine turns around, his eyes flickering across the seats in search of Kurt. When he finds him, he smiles and his body takes on that sudden centeredness that performers get when they’ve found the perfect spot inside themselves from where to begin. “This song,” Blaine says, “is for the love of my life.”

Kurt can feel his cheeks and ears flush red, but for one of a few times in his life, he absolutely doesn’t care what he looks like. He and Blaine are the only two people in the room as far as they’re concerned, and when Blaine starts singing, the words are for Kurt only.

     If tomorrow is Judgement Day
     And I'm standing on the front line
     And the Lord asks me what I did with my life
     I will say I spent it with you.

     If I wake up in World War III,
     I see destruction and poverty
     And I feel like I want to go home
     It's okay if you’re coming with me.

     ‘Cause your love is my love
     And my love is your love.
     It would take an eternity to break us
     And the chains of Amistad couldn't hold us.

Kurt is vaguely aware of Artie and Mercedes joining in with harmonies, of Brittany’s ponytail bobbing to the beat, of Puck crying and Santana pretending to vomit in her backpack, but it’s hard to pay attention to any of that when Blaine is still looking at him like he’s the sun and moon and stars – when Blaine’s love makes him feel like he is all those things, and more.

*

Kurt starts out his solo as he starts all of them: feeling terrified and alone at the front of the room, scared of baring his heart and his voice in front of people who already know too much about him, and nonetheless needing to.

He closes his eyes and breathes as the first strains of music begin. He gave the sheet music to the accompanists first chance he got on Monday morning; he knows how much the violinists hate to sightread, how much they demand perfection from each note the way he demands it of himself.

He remembers why he’s here, and who the song is for, and why he has to sing it. He opens his eyes and Blaine is watching him, and Kurt is safe. He sings his first note and the fear disappears. Or maybe it’s still there, but love overwhelms it.

Chapter Text

Blaine spends an afternoon with Kurt looking up long-distance relationship survival tips on the web and jotting down the ideas they like: Text twice a day. Have a scheduled phone call or Skype session each evening. Send each other care packages. Sing karaoke online. Support each other’s friendships. Send love letters and Instagrams. Share their lives with each other.

“We should definitely have a long-distance date night at least once a week,” Kurt says, glancing up from the browser on his iPhone.

Blaine smiles, typing the suggestion into his laptop. “You mean phone sex?”

“Um, actually I meant watching a movie together.”

Blaine blushes. “Oh, yeah, of course.”

Kurt nudges Blaine’s foot. “I was hoping we’d have phone sex more often than that.”

* * *

It’s easier to listen to Kurt talk about NYADA and New York now that they’re actually dealing with the nuances of the separation. Still, Blaine’s not sure he’s the best test audience for Kurt’s potential audition songs. No matter what Kurt sings, Blaine feels like his heart is going to burst. Also, each time they get together at one of their houses to run through the options, the rehearsal usually gets derailed by Blaine’s overwhelming need to suck Kurt off.

Blaine can’t help it. Kurt is just really fucking hot when he sings.

“I think,” Kurt says, sinking onto the bed after a blowjob that Blaine is particularly proud of – Kurt came with his cock deep in Blaine’s throat, gripping his hair so hard that his hair gel crackled and Blaine came in his pants – and zipping his gorgeously tight jeans over his still half-hard cock, “that you’re not the most objective critic.”

Blaine shucks his pants and underwear off before joining Kurt on the bed. “Just because I’m not objective doesn’t mean that my judgment is off-base.”

Kurt rolls onto his side and kisses Blaine’s cheek. “True. But you like every song as much as the next. It’s not really helping me narrow down my choices.”

“Yeah. I wondered if that might be less than helpful.”

Kurt presses his chest against Blaine’s back and wraps his arms around his body. “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s not helpful. it’s quite confidence-building.”

Blaine smiles. “Maybe you could ask Tina? She has an opinion about everything. Artie, too.”

“True.”

“And what about Chandler? He’s never heard you sing before, so that would be a fresh perspective.”

“I hadn’t thought of that. He certainly is opinionated. I wonder if he could stop flirting long enough to be useful.”

Blaine shrugs. “Well, even if he’s not, it would be a way to get to know him better and figure out if you like him enough to hang out with him next year.”

“Also true.” Kurt hums a kiss into the back of Blaine’s neck. “You are very wise. I need to listen to you more often.”

Blaine turns around to face Kurt. “You’re pretty sweet, you know that?”

The sex-flush on Kurt’s cheeks turns a deeper shade of red. “I’m just trying to learn from my past mistakes.”

Blaine gives Kurt a peck on the tip of his delightfully upturned nose. “Me, too. I like that we get to learn these things together.”

* * *

Kurt: I could use someone to bounce around audition song ideas with. Do you want to get together for that coffee you proposed? It wouldn’t be a date, but if we see any cute available boys, I could try reeling one in for you. Not that you aren’t capable of that yourself, of course.

Chandler: I would be delighted! Honestly not sure I want to reel any cuties in. The best part of fishing is sitting on the dock watching the water go by. Gutting and cooking the fish is something I’d rather leave to others.

Kurt: Did you just compare having a relationship to gutting a fish?

Chandler: Ha! I guess I did.

* * *

Kurt meets up with Chandler at a Starbucks near Between the Sheets. They’ve already listened to a few of each other’s possible audition pieces online via an online karaoke website. It turns out that Chandler has a good voice, a strong tenor that reminds Kurt of a roasted red pepper – sweet, piquant and robust. His version of “Rainbow High” is transposed to his register. It’s better than Kurt expected, although it’s still a little weird without the chorus.

Kurt spots Chandler at a little table by the window. He has to look twice before he recognizes him; for some reason he expected Chandler to be wearing the same outfit as the day they met at Between the Sheets.

Chandler’s dressed in a burgundy velvet blazer over a satin grey button-down shirt and black pants with vertical white pinstripes. He’s not wearing the awful fisherman’s hat this time; his hair is straight and swept forward to frame his face, with little streaks of platinum highlights here and there. He’s still got the terrible glasses, but they don’t look quite as terrible now that the hat is gone.

Kurt frowns; he’s not sure Chandler is in dire need of a makeover, after all.

“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!” Chandler says when Kurt sits down across from him.

“If your eyes are sore in the first place, you might need to think about getting new glasses,” Kurt says, hooking his bag on the back of the chair and pulling out his phone so he can take notes.

Chandler leans across the table conspiratorially. “Well, I have been thinking about new frames. These ones have a certain antiquated charm, but I’m afraid they’re a bit passé on the whole.”

“I suppose,” Kurt says, trying not to gloat.

The talk isn’t as overwhelming as during their first meeting at Between the Sheets. Unlike last time, Chandler pauses long enough for Kurt to respond in complete sentences, and the flirting is a little more toned down than it was before. Chandler does gush a little about the recording of “One Moment in Time” that Kurt sent him – “You sang it in the original key! And I swear, there were moments in there where I liked your interpretation even better than Whitney’s 1987 Grammy performance. Is that blasphemy?” – but he also offers some critiques of Kurt’s phrasing and tone that are much more specific than anything Rachel or Mr. Schuester have ever given him.

“Also,” Chandler adds, waving his biscotti in the air like a conductor’s baton, “there’s an underlying melancholy in the song that you’re not really expressing. You make the whole thing sound victorious, where really that’s only part of the story. The victory only comes after a long struggle. I kind of felt like I wasn’t hearing enough of that struggle.”

Kurt cocks his head to the side. “Huh.”

“Am I not making sense?”

“No, you’re making sense. It’s just that –” Kurt pauses. “People aren’t usually very interested in hearing about my struggles.”

Chandler frowns. “That’s because you live in Lima, dear. They don’t want to hear about it because it reminds them that your struggles are mostly their fault. But the New York arts scene is made up of rejects like us. They know what it’s like to struggle, and they want to know that you do, too.”

Chandler has a lot of other thoughts about the audition that Kurt has never even considered: What songs did you submit with your application, and how would the new audition pieces you’re considering reveal additional strengths that you have as a performer? Which dean will be listening to your audition and who are his or her favorite performers and styles? How many audition tapes of admitted NYADA students have you watched, and what did they have in common? What made each student stand out? How have their styles changed since studying at NYADA?

The overwhelmed feeling that Kurt got the first time he met Chandler starts to return, although for completely different reasons. He hasn’t thought about any of these things, and he finally says as much.

“Wait – your vocal coach hasn’t talked to you about this stuff? Or your guidance counselor?” Chandler’s mouth hangs open in disbelief.

Kurt shakes his head. “No.”

“Oh, honey,” Chandler says, reaching across the table and patting Kurt on the wrist. “And I thought my high school sucked.”

*

Blaine and Dave’s next tutoring session turns into a session of let’s-help-Kurt-find-out-every-possible-thing-for-his-NYADA-audition, which is fine with both of them because they both like being useful to him. Kurt abandons his usual place at the kitchen table to join them at the bar. Dave is kind of a wiz at finding virus-free internet porn in the most reclusive places, and it turns out that this is a transferable skill for finding other things on the internet, because it only takes him a couple minutes on Blaine’s laptop before he announces, “It looks like the person who’s listening to the vocal auditions is named Carmen –” His brow furrows. “Sorry, I don’t know how to pronounce her last name. Tibi-somethng.”

Kurt jumps up so fast that his stool falls backward and clanks to the floor. “Carmen Tibideaux?” he blurts out, high-pitched and breathless.

Dave looks back down at the name, then up at Kurt, and nods.

“She’s performed the most demanding roles in the greatest opera houses in the world.” His cheeks turn pink and he leans against the counter. “I think I’m gonna throw up.”

Blaine reaches for Kurt’s hand. “You’ll be okay. This is why we’re looking this stuff up, so you’ll be prepared. Imagine how much worse it would be if you didn’t find out until the day of the audition.”

“Oh god, I’d die.” Kurt’s face goes from pink to pale.

Dave gets up to pick Kurt’s chair off the floor and hold it behind him. “On the bright side, it can’t be any worse than last year’s prom, right?”

Kurt settles into the chair. “I don’t know. I don’t respect most of the kids at McKinley anyway, so who cares what they think about me? Carmen Tibideaux, on the other hand … If she doesn’t like me, I’ll feel worthless.”

“Anyone worth their salt would love you, Kurt.” The words leave Dave’s mouth before he realizes what he’s saying. He turns away toward the refrigerator before Kurt or Blaine can see the look on his face. “I’ll get you some water.”

They spend the rest of the afternoon finding out as much about Madam Tibideaux’s tastes as they possibly can. They divvy up the tasks of lurking in the NYADA chat rooms, looking up old audition videos on YouTube, finding past syllabuses and evaluations from her voice classes, and discovering her most-listened to songs on Spotify.

“Don’t you guys have homework you need to do?” Kurt says when five o’clock rolls around.

Blaine and Dave both shake their heads. “Not when your future hangs in the balance,” Blaine says.

“What he said,” Dave echoes.

Kurt reaches across the counter and squeezes both their hands. “Thanks, guys. If it weren’t for you, I totally would have thrown up by now.”

Dave tries not to smile, but he can’t help himself.

* * *

Kurt and Blaine go to Dave's house for the first time. They’ve made plans to drive into Columbus today and meet up with Chandler so Kurt can help him look for glasses frames at a posh little spectacles store near the gay district.

Kurt was surprised but pleased that Dave wanted to come at all. “I need to get used to being gay in places other than Scandals,” Dave gave as his reason.

“Dave, you’re pretty gay no matter where you go,” Kurt answered, resisting the urge to pinch Dave’s ass as he said it.

Paul Karofsky answers the door. "We're here to see Dave?" Blaine says. He's looking very proper in a snug short-sleeved button-down, his hair slicked back even flatter than usual and his checkered bow tie aligned just so, with suspenders that match its dark green squares.

"Yes," says Mr. Karofsky, waving them in. "He told me you were coming. You're a little early. He's working in the backyard. I'll tell him you're here … or you can go join him." He eyes their outfits hesitantly. "I've got extra work clothes if you three decide to make a party of it. They'd probably be a little big on you, though."

"Thank you," says Blaine, reaching out his hand. "Blaine Anderson, by the way."

Mr. Karofsky's eyebrows shoot up, but he takes the offered hand and shakes it. "None of Dave's other friends have manners like that." He smiles. "You can call me Paul, if you're comfortable with that."

"Thank you, sir," Blaine says. "Paul."

Paul turns to Kurt. "And how are you, Kurt?"

Kurt nods. "Good, thanks." He's torn between addressing the awkwardness and trying to ignore it. Paul makes the decision for him.

"Last time I saw you, it was under very different circumstances."

"Well, a lot has changed since then." Kurt reaches for Blaine's hand instinctively – the need for comfort overriding the compulsion for discretion – and laces their fingers together. "Dave has changed a lot since then. I mean – for the better. You should be proud of him."

"I am." Paul's eyes soften, his smile small but sure. It’s a look that’s familiar to Kurt from seeing it on Dave’s face. Coming from Paul, it doesn’t have quite the same effect on Kurt’s heartbeat.

They walk toward the back of the house to the mudroom. "That's the backyard," Paul says, handing them three bottles of water from a case by the back door. "Make yourselves at home. And maybe make David take a break. He's been at it all morning."

Dave is in the back corner of the yard by the shed, turning forkfuls of sweetly pungent compost from one bin to the next. It can't be more than 50 degrees today, but his neck is pink with exertion, and the sweat is dripping down his back in a dark V. Flecks of dirt are coloring his forearms and his hair – the hair on his head, the hair on his body – lies flat and damp against his skin.

Kurt feels the urge to walk right up to him and sniff him. Instead, he gives the two water bottles in his hands a hard squeeze.

Dave starts talking when he hears them. "Hey, Dad, looks like the compost has been cooking pretty well –" He stops when he looks up and sees that they're not Paul Karofksy, and his skin flushes redder than it already was. "Oh, hey." He glances down at the compost, back up at Kurt, back down at the compost pile. "I thought – what time is it?"

"We're a few minutes early," Blaine says.

Dave bashfully inspects his own shirt. "God, I need a shower."

Kurt bites his bottom lip. "No," he says way more breathily than he intended. He clears his throat. "You're fine." He feels Blaine's smirk and elbows him as subtly as he can.

Dave laughs. "You're very polite, but – I can take a navy shower. I won't be more than five minutes. You guys can hang out here or – in my room?"

"We'll give ourselves a self-guided tour of the grounds," Kurt says, stepping closer to Dave and offering him the bottle of water. Their hands don't brush when Dave takes it, and Kurt bites his lip again to keep himself from forcing contact. He turns to Blaine. "If that's alright with you?"

"Sounds like a splendid idea." Blaine is still smirking, but it's subtle enough that Dave might mistake it for a smile.

Dave excuses himself inside and Kurt and Blaine put their bottles of water down on a stepping stone before strolling the small yard, admiring the leaves of bloodroot that are beginning to unfurl, the small clusters of primrose blossoms low to the ground, the tulips that are almost done blooming.

"It's too early in the year for the tulips to be so close to done," Kurt sighs. "Such a strange spring."

"Strange but wonderful," Blaine says not-so-cryptically, linking his arm through Kurt's. He leans in close to whisper, "I don't think I ever realized what a thing you have for sweat. I thought you just liked it when it was a side effect of – you know."

Kurt hides his face against Blaine's shoulder. "Oh my god, was I that obvious?"

"Obvious to me. I don't think it was obvious to him. I think he's a little oblivious when you go gaga over him. Like I used to be when you'd give me those eyes. Because it's just too good to be true."

Kurt squeezes Blaine's arm with his free hand. "That's not why you were oblivious. Your history is revisionist."

"Just because I didn't understand that I was falling in love with you at the time doesn't mean I wasn't." Blaine stops walking, forcing them both to a standstill, and looks straight at Kurt. "I'm still falling in love with you, you know. A little deeper each minute."

Kurt's heart swoops. "You never stop amazing me."

They hear the storm door swing open and turn to face it. Dave steps out onto the deck, hair damp from the shower but the rest of him dry in jeans, a long-sleeved thermal shirt (sigh, no forearms) and a short-sleeved plaid overshirt buttoned all the way up except for the collar.

Blaine leans into Kurt's ear. "Sorry he's not sweaty anymore. But we could work on that."

"We'll do no such thing,” Kurt whispers back with a pinch to Blaine’s hip.

Dave calls out to them. "Do you guys want to come in? I could show you my room."

"See, he's practically begging us to," Blaine whispers, his lips barely moving.

Kurt folds his arms together and walks toward Dave. "That would be great."

They have to go through the living room to get to the staircase. Dave's mom is sitting on the couch flipping through a copy of Martha Stewart and Blaine, perfect precious gentleman cupcake that he is, makes a beeline toward her with his hand outstretched. "Mrs. Karofsky, I'm Blaine Anderson. It's lovely to finally meet you."

She looks up from her magazine a little stunned, but accepts the offered hand. She says nothing. There’s something about her demeanor that reminds him of Mr. Schuester’s ex-wife. She has this wide-eyed look like she’s trying to figure out what box to shove Blaine into, but can’t quite figure it out. Kurt starts to understand why Dave hardly ever talks about her.

Still, civilities can’t be avoided. He walks over with a brisk “Kurt Hummel”; her handshake is limp and utterly lacks conviction.  For Dave’s sake, Kurt tries to make the best of it. He glances down at the open page of her magazine. "Isn't that flower-arranging article superb? I'll have to wait to recreate the dogwood arrangement until they bloom next week, but I did something similar with cherry branches and it made the whole living room come alive."

She stares at him like he's speaking Parseltongue , but she must understand him because eventually she says, "Unfortunately, we don't have any dogwoods," smiles, stands up, and excuses herself to the kitchen.

Dave is standing next to Kurt, rubbing his hands over his face. "Sorry about that, she's –"

"Just because you're related to her doesn't mean you have to make excuses for her," Kurt says quietly.

"Good," Dave sighs. "Thanks."

It's a long hike up to Dave's room, which is in the converted attic. The spirit of it reminds Kurt of his old basement room – a private hovel where he could hide away from the world – even though it looks nothing like it. It's dark and boyish and smells like Dave's soap-that-Kurt-loves-and-is-just-going-to-pretend-isn't-Axe and his aftershave and deodorant and lemon-lime breath. Kurt wouldn't mind spending the afternoon rolling around in it.

Instead, he sits down in the armchair next to Dave's bed, legs crossed and hands folded neatly across his knees.

Dave settles down on the step stool 10 feet away in the nearest corner of the room. Sit closer, Kurt wants to say, but he doesn't. Blaine flops unceremoniously onto the bed, his head directly under three model airplanes that hang from the ceiling, and watches them like an infant watches a mobile. Kurt wishes he was brave enough to lie there, too, smell Dave in the sheets and Blaine beside him.

Kurt studies the model airplanes for a few silent moments. One of them has a tiger shark paint job that Kurt recognizes from his history books. "Why World War II?" he says.

Dave looks at the planes. "My great-grandfather was in the Flying Tigers – the group that flew the shark airplanes. And my great-grandmother was a mechanic on that one –” He points to one with blue on the nose “– and my great-great uncle flew the other one. But I've done a lot of historical models. Those are just my favorites."

"Do they fly? The models, I mean." Kurt realizes it’s a stupid question as soon as it leaves his mouth, but to his credit, Dave doesn't laugh. His smile just grows bigger, and Kurt’s heart goes mushy, and if that’s what he gets for being stupid, he should be stupid more often.

"No," Dave says. "I used to have one that flew, but it’s been a while." Dave looks down at his hands. "My great aunt was an aeronautical engineer. I’d go to her house after school when we lived in Arizona and she’d let me go through her old blueprints. Sometimes I’d draw up ideas for radio-controlled airplanes and she’d fix them, but we never actually got around to building any before we moved away."

Blaine sits up suddenly. “So you and Kurt are both designers!” A satisfied smile spreads across his face, like the solution to some long mystery has finally clicked in his brain.

“Um, well, I never designed anything that became real,” Dave says.

Kurt rolls his eyes. “I'm pretty sure aeronautics is a bit more involved than haute couture."

"I wouldn't know about that. I never got past mending."

Kurt's jaw drops. "You can sew?"

"Well, mend. I learned it for one of my badges in Cub Scouts. They're not as, you know, heteronormative as you might think." Dave winks at him and Kurt feels the smile spreading wide across his face, pushing up at his eyes and back against his ears, and for some reason doesn't feel compelled to hide it.

"Kurt could teach you more, if you wanted to learn." Blaine falls back to the bed to gaze again at the model airplanes above him. "He's been teaching me to make bow ties. And he's good. I tried to get my mom to teach me to sew when I was little, but Kurt's more patient."

"Are things … bad with your mom?" Dave asks.

Blaine props himself up on his elbows to look at Dave. "I don’t think so. Just, there aren't many 'things' at all with either of my parents."

Dave stares at Blaine. "Sometimes I wish my parents would get a divorce so I could just live with my dad. But I guess I'm moving out soon, so –" He stops. "Sorry, that's awful. I shouldn't have said that."

"It's okay to have feelings," Blaine says. Then he pats the spot on the bed next to him. "Come here."

Dave raises his eyebrow suspiciously. "Why?"

"Do you trust me?" Blaine raises an eyebrow back.

"Usually."

"Then come here."

Dave obliges, sitting on the bed next to Blaine slowly, cautiously, like the bed is made of eggshells and one wrong move will make them all crack.

Blaine doesn't say anything, just lays his ear against Dave's shoulder and reaches both arms around him. Dave stays rigid at first, but relaxes into it after a minute or so, wrapping his hands around Blaine's back. After another minute, the tension leaves his face. He breathes slowly, and his eyes close of their own accord.

Kurt's heart is going to burst.

"C'mon, Kurt," Blaine says after a few minutes, not moving his head or hands. "Dave needs more love than I can give him."

So Kurt gets up from his armchair and sits on Dave's opposite side, snugs his cheek and chest to Dave's back, his arms around Dave's waist, and breathes him in, feels Dave breathe with them both.

Kurt probably shouldn’t let himself disappear into the feeling, but he does. Everything feels warm and safe and right. Blaine slides his arms so that he’s holding onto Dave and Kurt both, and Kurt can smell each of them together – that odd, delightful mix of Axe and raspberries and beautiful teenage boy – and hear their breaths, syncopated like birdsong. He leans his forehead against the back of Dave’s hair, and it’s so unbelievably soft, he never thought a silly football-playing boy’s hair could feel that way, luxurious and indulgent like rabbit’s fur, and closes his eyes and feels.

They sit like that for several minutes before Blaine starts complaining about a crick in his neck and they all three flop back on the bed. "So this is what the world looks like to Dave Karofsky before he falls asleep," Kurt says, at the airplanes above.

"Actually," Dave says, "I usually sleep on my side."

"Way to kill the romance." Kurt squeezes Dave's hand before he can stop himself.

He doesn't turn to Dave to see his reaction. He just lets go.

*

"He needs to have friends like his old ones, not these boys who are so – obvious." Mrs. Karofsky’s voice carries from the kitchen as the three boys make their way down the stairs toward the front door. She’s not even trying to whisper.

"His old friends were not his friends." Paul's voice is calm but stern.

"So these are the only two guys who've come around since – you know – and the only people from school he talks about are those girls from his math class that he's apparently eating with every day. He doesn't even look gay and for some reason he wants to make his life harder anyway by acting like a big stereotype and hanging out with girls and flamers."

Kurt should be used to it by now, but his ears burn, anyway.

"Since when do you use that kind of language?" Paul's voice is a study in restraint.

"Since they come to our house and throw it in our faces."

"I’m so sorry," Dave mutters, covering his face again.

"I’m sorry you have to live with her." He hooks the hand that’s not in Blaine’s around Dave’s elbow. “I’d offer to verbally eviscerate her, but you probably don’t need any more trouble on your hands.”

Dave uncovers his face. “You’d really do that for me?”

“Of course I would.”

Blaine kisses Kurt on the cheek, then glances over his head at Dave. “Kurt is a true knight in shining armor, isn’t he?”

“Oh my god Blaine,” Kurt mutters, but Dave and Blaine just giggle.

*

They get to Columbus early, so they walk around Short North a while to pass the time. The first noticeably gay thing they walk past this place called Deep Wood. Kurt’s face turns bright red – it must be the seediest of seedy gay bars – and looks down to study the cracks in the pavement because he can’t look at it and he can’t look at Blaine and he definitely can’t look at Dave.

But Blaine – oh, Blaine. He squeezes Kurt’s hand and says giddily, "Oh my god, Kurt, we should totally come to Deep Wood for our anniversary," because he obviously loves scandalizing Kurt in front of Dave.

"Blaine," Kurt warns.

But Blaine just keeps going. "I’ve wanted to come here forever. It would be so romantic.”

Kurt’s ears go so hot they could melt iron, and still Blaine continues: “My parents love this place. It's like one of the top 10 restaurants in Columbus and they have white tablecloth service, and –"

“Wait, what?” Kurt turns abruptly. Past the windows, inside what Kurt had imagined to be a den of sexual infamy, are well-dressed wait staff snapping white cloths over polished wood tables. "Oh," he says. "I thought it was … The name. I thought –"

Dave almost squeals. "Ha! Me too! I totally thought it was a gay bar. Like, a really trashy one."

Blaine looks at the pair of them, slack-jawed. "You guys are perverts."

Dave raises his hand in the air for Kurt to slap. "Great minds think alike, huh?"

Kurt is absolutely certain that his ears are going to burn right off of his head, but he smiles anyway as he gives Dave a high five.

They keep walking, waiting to encounter something amazingly and life-alteringly gay. The first actually gay thing they find is a men's underwear store, and while the samples in the window are alluring, Kurt is totally not going to go sexy underwear shopping with Dave. Ever. No matter how long Blaine stares in the window and repeats, "Oh my god. We totally have to go in there. You’d look so nice in –"

Kurt digs his fingernails into Blaine’s palm. "I'm sure they have mail order, sweetheart." Dave snickers quietly behind them.

They do finally hit a few blocks where gay bars and rainbow flags dot the street, but by then it’s time for Kurt to meet up with Chandler.

It’s Blaine’s first time meeting Chandler, and it’s not as weird as Kurt expects. “Oooh la la!” Chandler says when the three of them walk into the shop, and immediately reaches out to squeeze the exposed part of Blaine’s bicep. “I’ve heard so much about you, Blaine Anderson, but Kurt neglected to mention that you work out.”

Blaine smiles and ducks his head. “I box a little.”

Chandler hooks his arm into Kurt’s elbow and leads him around the shop, pointing out the styles he’s already tried on. Kurt dismisses them all and selects several new pairs, and Chandler tries each of them on, blinking coquettishly – sometimes at Kurt, sometimes at Blaine, and sometimes at Dave in a way that makes Dave blush and look down at his feet.

“Oh, the bashful ones are the cutest,” Chandler whispers into Kurt’s ear, and heat flares in Kurt’s chest.

*

After they finally find the perfect pair of frames for Chandler’s face, personality and budget, they head out for a late lunch at a gay café. Chandler sits next to Dave and Kurt sits next to Blaine, and even though the food is delicious and he tries to keep focused on happy thoughts by taking copious notes in his phone’s recipe inspirations file, Kurt spends the bulk of his mental energy watching Chandler’s hands and wondering, every time the one nearest Dave disappears under the table, what exactly it is doing.

Which is dumb. Kurt knows he’s being ridiculous and dumb because Chandler has made it clear that he’s not interested in actually dating anyone. So what if he flirts with Dave and pats his leg and maybe even gets a few squeezes in? It’s not like Chandler and Dave are gonna go off into the sunset together. And even if they did, why would Kurt care? He doesn’t own Dave – even though he kind of acts like he wants to every time Dave ever gets any kind of chance with anyone.

“You okay, Kurt?” Dave says after Chandler gets up from the table to flirt with a pair of teenage boys at a table across the room. “You’re kind of quiet.”

Blaine turns to look at Kurt, too. “Yeah, have we been hogging the conversation?”

Kurt shakes his head, not looking at either of them. He stares at his plate, dragging a french fry through the pool of malt vinegar at its edge before popping it in his mouth. “Just enjoying the food. And maybe I’m a little … distracted. You know, because I haven’t had my afternoon coffee yet. Makes it hard to focus.”

Kurt can feel them both looking at him like they don’t quite believe him, but they don’t press the issue. He kind of hates them for being so nice to him, because it makes him want to kiss them both.

* * *

Chapter Text

Kurt kicks ass at his NYADA audition the next week and Blaine and Dave take him to Scandals to celebrate. Everything is good and sweet and laughter and the dull heartache that has been an undercurrent to Dave’s life as long as he can remember seems to have vanished. Dave is no longer the guy in the Greek myth who was condemned to stand hungry under a grape arbor for eternity, the fruit always out of reach.

Kurt is more radiant than ever tonight. He's wearing an outfit that Dave has seen once or twice before – a snug white Henley with a fitted navy vest and tight jeans and no handkerchiefs in his back pockets – but somehow he looks different. His muscles seem even fuller against the fabric of his shirt; the lapels of the vest grace his chest with more reverence. Kurt smiles and peppers Blaine with indulgent kisses and sometimes he touches Dave on the back of the hand for no particular reason, which at first made Dave wonder out loud if there was vodka in Kurt's Coke, but Kurt just blushed and said, "No, I'm the designated driver, remember?"

It doesn't keep Kurt from touching him again, and every time he does, Dave's heart beats faster.

Still, there's no ache in his chest.

Desire is supposed to be riddled through with pain. But tonight it's lovely and warm. Tonight it's delightful.

Dave might be a little drunk, but that's not what's making him feel this way. Being drunk never made life this simple.

Kurt is uncharacteristically ebullient even after some guy obsessed with country takes over the jukebox, and when Blaine says it's time to teach Dave swing dancing, Kurt leaps out of his chair and grabs them both by the hands and drags them to the dance floor.

Dave says, "No no no," because he's awkward and a lug and they are smooth and unselfconscious and he's happy to just watch them.

But Kurt says, "Yes yes yes," and it's too charming not to acquiesce.

There's hardly anyone out on the floor. Kurt and Blaine stand on either side of Dave and show him the rock step and the single step, and they walk through it again and again until it's natural and they graduate him to the triple step, which is hard at first with the right-left-right and the left-right-left, but as soon as Dave stops thinking the words and just feels the music, it becomes easy. And then Blaine takes Dave's hands and whisks him across the floor and spins them both until Dave is too dizzy to continue, so Blaine grabs Kurt and they flip over each other's backs so many times that the guys at the bar put down their drinks and start whistling through their fingers and Dave does, too. They go for the whole song like that until Blaine is drenched with sweat and giggling.  He walks to the bar for a glass of water, and Kurt turns around and takes Dave's hands and bellows, "Your turn!"

And it's so easy – easy to hold Kurt's hands and easy to look into his eyes and easy to laugh with him and easy to find the same rhythm. It's easy to let Kurt roll over his back, to feel their weight shifting, their muscles rolling together and apart and back together again. It's easy to hold Kurt and not let him fall.

They dance and dance and dance and Blaine comes back with, like, five dudes from the bar and gets them all lined up and he's standing in front of them, demonstrating the steps, and pretty soon the dance floor is filled with people and Blaine takes turns dancing with every one of them and Kurt just keeps dancing with Dave.

Dave does not object.

All three of them dance until they're sweaty and breathless, a bit dehydrated and a lot starving.

The food is crap at this bar. They go to IHOP.

They eat omelets and Nutella crepes and buttermilk pancakes and drink lots of water and more coffee than one should at 10 p.m. because, every time they empty their carafe, the waitress just brings a new one. They laugh at jokes that really aren't that creative, and Blaine makes a portrait of Mr. Schue from a pancake, bits of egg, a pat of butter, some blueberries, and a generous sprinkling of Splenda. The resemblance is actually quite startling.

Kurt isn't sure if Blaine is giddier from the beer or the coffee. Blaine starts singing wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh and gets sweetly petulant when Kurt refuses to join in with In the jungle, the quiet jungle, even though the waitress says she accepts serenades. Kurt wants to sing – his heart is bursting with it – but not for a restaurant of people who may not understand. So they pay the bill and Kurt takes Blaine's hand and Dave follows them and the waitress says, "Come back again," with a delighted smile. The busboy doesn't look as charmed, but they don't concern themselves with him.

Kurt drives them down to the river and Blaine gets his "Lion Sleeps Tonight." Dave joins in on the wimoweh, voice smooth and rich like a just-ripe avocado, becoming louder and more confident with each refrain. Neither of them have ever heard Dave sing before and this is – wholly unexpected. How much has he been hiding?

The image that comes to Blaine's mind is one he's never actually seen, but imagined dozens, maybe hundreds of times during Sunday school lessons: an oil lamp burning brightly until a pair of hands lowers an inverted bushel basket over it. And then, just before the flame suffocates from lack of oxygen, another pair of hands coming along and removing the basket. The weakened flame flickering, wavering, then bursting back into full light.

It's clear that Dave can more than handle the wimowehs. They resonate in Blaine's chest almost more than his own voice. So as Kurt starts the solo, Blaine wanders off to weave trills and owehoheh, wehohumbawehs through the other two voices. He goes wherever the music leads.

They sing and sing and sing, and soon they are tossing parts around like beanbags, and as they get out of the car at the edge of the river, Dave and Blaine agree that the talent is stacked in Kurt's favor, because not only is he the best of the three at the high notes – no surprise there, even Kurt concedes that – but also the trills and the owehohehs and – "Oh my god, Kurt, do that sound again!"

"Yes, yes! The one with your tongue! What's it called again? Ululating?" Blaine bounces on the balls of his feet.

Kurt's blush is invisible in the moonlight. He rolls his eyes, inhales deeply, and thrusts his tongue out between his lips, waggling it rapidly as he lets out a high-pitched shrill. His tongue starts to tingle within five seconds.

The other two boys watch him studiously before sticking out their tongues in an effort to recreate the noise. They fail spectacularly.

"No, not lalalalalala. It's more like – " He tries to think of a metaphor that they will both understand. "What's that punching bag called, that small one that you hang up above your head and it bounces back at you when you hit it?"

"A speed bag?" Dave says.

Kurt looks at Blaine, who nods. "Yeah. Well, it's like that. Your tongue's like the speed bag."

Blaine and Dave try again, and do not fail quite so spectacularly this time.

Kurt drags a blanket out of the back of the car and spreads it on a patch of scraggly grass on the bank as Blaine and Dave keep trying to ululate. They would probably improve a lot more quickly if they didn't keep looking at themselves in the car’s sideview mirrors and laughing.

"Why do we look like dorks when we're doing this?" Blaine protests, throwing his arm around Dave's shoulders and pulling him toward the blanket. "Kurt does it and it's so hot."

"Because Kurt is magic and we, apparently, are not," Dave grunts between guffaws.

"I refuse to believe I can't be magic." Blaine lets go of Dave's shoulder and crumples down onto the blanket, settling his head in Kurt's lap. Dave remains standing.

"You're each magic in your own way," Kurt says, tracing his fingers around Blaine's hairline and making eye contact with Dave.

Dave smiles and looks away.

He wanders off – not far, but too far (anything further than the blanket's edge seems too far to Kurt) — and squats down occasionally to pick a stone from the ground and skip it across the water. Well, it sounds like they might be skipping; Kurt can't really see how far they get in the dark.

Kurt listens to Blaine's breath slowing from his laughter, to the whirring and moaning of the narrow passage of water below. The river – really more the size of a creek, but everyone calls it a river these days because back when they called it a creek, people thought that meant it was okay to use it as a sewage dump – is always better in the dark. Tonight, the nearly full moon makes it pale and luminous. One can't see how brown and muddy the waters really are; it's easier now to think of them as the metaphor for renewal that water is supposed to be.

"Oh, no," Blaine mutters.

"What, dearest?" Kurt looks down at Blaine's face, chiaroscuro in the moonlight.

"I'm so conflicted," Blaine says, but he doesn't really sound all that troubled. "I could stay in your lap, or I could skip stones with Dave. I love it when you hold me, and I love to skip stones."

"You don't go to the river every day, but you see me every day."

"I never see you nearly enough."

Kurt bends down to kiss Blaine, their noses brushing against each other's chins. Kurt is surprised by how different it feels from how they usually kiss – Blaine's stubble scratching at the tip of his nose – and how familiar.

He pulls away, just enough to hover his eyes above Blaine's. "We probably shouldn't start making out in front of Dave," he murmurs, placing a kiss to Blaine's temple.

"Oh, I bet Dave would love it," Blaine whispers with a conspiratorial wink. "I bet we could get him to join in."

The familiar heat spreads from Kurt's cheeks to the edges of his ears. He pushes Blaine gently up from his lap, pretending to be annoyed, before Blaine can feel the bulge growing there. "Go throw stones."

"Skip stones," Blaine says. "I'm a master of all kinds of skipping." And to illustrate his point, he skips over to the parking lot to gather his own cache of rocks, skips about as he scoops them into his hands and pockets, and skips back to the bank to join Dave.

They throw in silence at first, all their concentration focused on the release of rocks from their hands, on the slight changes in their posture and the alignment of their arm muscles that affect how far, how smoothly they can throw. Of course, they can only see where the stones skip or sink about a third of the time, given the large swaths of shadow that the trees cast on the water's surface. It doesn't seem to affect the earnestness of their efforts.

"Good one!" Blaine calls out when one of Dave's stones makes it almost to the other bank before sinking in a soft patch of moonlight near the shore.

"Are you sure that wasn't yours?" Dave says. "I can't really track them through all these shadows."

"No, I didn't throw anything just now." Blaine tosses one of his own stones then, but he messes up the spin and it goes hurtling down, splashing with a loud plunk into the river.

Dave flings another across the water. "I don't know. I think that one you threw earlier went a lot farther."

Blaine shakes his head. "No, that was just a trick of the light."

Kurt shifts on the blanket, curling his legs underneath him and tilting forward toward the boys. "What is it with you two? Neither of you can take a compliment."

They both turn to him, shaking the pebbles absentmindedly back and forth in their hands. Their faces are illuminated by the moonlight and he almost laughs when he sees how both of them have their eyebrows furrowed in stunned curiosity. They're like identical twins who look absolutely nothing alike.

"That's not true," says Blaine. "When Mr. Schue tells me I've done a good job, I thank him."

"That's because you're being polite, not because you believe him," Kurt retorts.

Blaine shrugs. "Well, yeah, but – well, his opinion isn't exactly the most important. I mean, he hardly ever gives you a solo, and you're so much better than me."

Kurt hops up, smiling, and steps toward Blaine. "I think you just illustrated my point exactly."

"But it's true. You are." Blaine glances down at Kurt's feet.

Kurt wraps an arm around Blaine's waist and pulls him to his side. "We are both equally awesome, in different ways," he says, and lays a brief kiss to Blaine's cheek.

"If you say so," Blaine mumbles sheepishly, but Kurt hears a smile in his voice.

"And you – " Kurt says, letting go of Blaine and turning toward Dave.

Dave looks over his shoulder like he's hoping Kurt is talking to someone else.

"I have never heard you accept a compliment from anyone," Kurt says.

Dave shrugs it off. "You've never heard anyone compliment me."

"You're so full of it. Chandler was trying to talk his way into your pants last weekend.” Kurt realizes that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Chandler did pile flattering words on Dave, and Dave didn’t respond to a single one. “And those guys that fawn over you at Scandals —"

"They're not fawning. They're just – "

Blaine interrupts. "Oh, that football player from Bluffton was totally fawning. He'd, like, marry you."

Dave shuffles his feet and looks down. "Well, I'm not exactly ready to get married. And I still don't think that's legal in Ohio. And I don't – I don't really know anything about love, anyway."

Kurt crosses his arms. "So are you telling me you can take a compliment if it's not from some Mennonite football player who wants to marry you?"

Dave looks up at Kurt and smirks. It's almost flirtatious. It may be a challenge. "I might," Dave says.

Kurt starts pacing back and forth in front of Dave, as if he's a prosecutor and Dave is the accused on the witness stand. "Fine, then," Kurt says, turning on his heels and stepping toward Dave, stopping two feet in front of him. Kurt looks him in the eye and why, when Kurt does that, does Dave always feel like he's looking up at Kurt, even though he's looking down?

"You, David Karofsky," Kurt starts, "have one of the most beautifully expressive pairs of eyebrows this side of the Mississippi."

Dave’s heart starts to crack. "No, I don't," he says. "They make me look like Liberace."

"Strike one!" Blaine shouts gleefully from behind Kurt.

Kurt rolls his eyes. "Blaine, you're not supposed to be happy when he fails to take a compliment."

"But it makes me feel better. 'Cause I'm not the only one." He steps toward Dave with his fist stretched out. "Give me a fist-bump, bro."

Dave complies.

Blaine bounces on his toes like a kindergartener waiting to sit on Santa's lap. "Okay, my turn," he says.  "Dave, you have a great ass."

"Oh, Jesus," Dave groans. "Now you're just making fun of me."

Blaine is stricken. "No. I'm completely serious. It's round but it's firm and muscley, and when you wear your football uniform, it's just – "

"Okay, you can stop now," Dave says.

"He's completely sincere," Kurt says. "He's mentioned it to me more than once." It's hard to tell in the waxen blue of the moonlight, but Kurt's pretty sure he sees Dave blushing.

"You two are trying to kill me, aren't you?" Dave turns, tossing the few pebbles in his hand out like confetti over the water.

"No," Kurt says, shaking his head slowly. "It's just that a lot of people have told you you're not … beautiful. And amazing. And they'll keep telling you you're not. And …"

"They're liars," Blaine says.

"Every single one of them," Kurt says, taking Blaine's hand and stepping in closer, resting his free hand right above Dave's heart. "You're one of the strongest people I know."

Dave has to look away. His body will unravel if he doesn't. He looks toward the river that's not even a river, just a rust-colored creek that people call a river because they want it to be something more than it is. "Don't – " he murmurs.

He feels a hand on his, and he immediately knows it's Blaine's.

"It's true," Blaine says. Dave looks at him. "You could have kept running away from yourself, running away from everybody. But you stopped running."

Dave smirks, steps back from Kurt's touch, from Blaine's hand. "Which brings us right back to me running away from friendly guys who flirt with me."

Kurt wraps his hand around Dave's forearm and pulls him to the blanket, Blaine at their side. "So I guess I was right that you can't take a compliment," Kurt says. "Somehow it feels like a hollow victory."

The three of them settle down, Blaine offering Kurt his lap as a pillow. Kurt lies down on his side, his cheek warm against Blaine's thigh. He's facing Dave, who's cross-legged, and begins to fiddle with Dave's shoelaces.

"I don't know." Dave looks away, toward the river. The light of the moon catches in his hair, making it glow soft and blue. "I think there might be hope for me."

Kurt's heart catches. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." Dave looks down at Kurt. "When I'm with you guys, I feel like – like there's still a chance for me to become a real person."

Kurt sits up and takes Dave's hand. (They're all connected, now, with Kurt's hand around Dave's and Blaine's hand moving down Kurt's back in soothing arcs.) "I'm glad, Dave." He smiles – a smile so wide and tinged with so much sadness that it breaks Dave's heart. "But I think – I think you already are."

"Why are you sad, then?" Dave says, without really thinking, because it's so hard to think when Kurt looks at him that way.

Kurt swallows hard, his Adam's apple bobbing in the moonlight. "Because you don't know it."

"I'll try to know it, then." Dave wonders if that's too much like a confession. But it's too late. He's said it.

And Kurt – he doesn't cower away. He rubs lazy circles on Dave's hand and the darkness disappears from his smile. It's all silver lining now.

They gaze at each other for a lingering moment and Dave doesn't know what it means, but that doesn't worry him. He's happy and Kurt looks happy and Blaine looks happy, kissing Kurt gently on the neck and whispering something that makes Kurt blush – yes, even in the darkness, Dave is sure that was a blush – and smile even more broadly, and then Blaine is over next to Dave, wrapping his arm around Dave's back and leaning his head against his shoulder. "You two are the best," Blaine says. "I love you both so much."

* * *

The drive home is quiet – no singing, this time, just the hum of the engine and whistling of the wind against the windows. Blaine insisted that Dave take the front seat – "You have longer legs than I do, anyway, I don't know what I was thinking before, sitting up there" – which seemed like a ridiculous reason to Dave, given that they're riding in an SUV. Every time Dave looks in the rearview mirror, he sees Blaine's contented smile.

Mostly, Dave looks out at the road ahead of them or, sometimes, when he's feeling as brave as his two friends think he is, he looks at Kurt, at the shadow and light playing over his face and chest and arms. At the first stoplight, Kurt looks in the rearview mirror and smiles at Blaine, then turns and smiles at Dave in a way so open and genuine it makes Dave want to kiss the tops of Kurt's feet. He wonders what Kurt sees in him that he could smile at him like this. But there it is, on Kurt's face.

When the light turns green and Kurt starts the car up again, Dave turns around.

Blaine looks a lot like he does when he's drunk – ebullient and buzzing – but more so, even though he can't still be drunk by now. Dave only saw him have a few drinks at Scandals, and the last one must have been three hours ago.

Blaine keeps his smile-squinted eyes on Dave's, and Dave thinks those eyes are trying to tell him something, but he doesn't quite catch their meaning.

Kurt drops Blaine off first, because Dave lives closer to Kurt and because Blaine asked him to. When Kurt pulls into the driveway, Blaine unbuckles his belt and leans forward toward Dave, squeezing his shoulder. "You're awesome," Blaine says. "I'm so glad we all became friends."

Kurt steps out of the car with Blaine and they walk to the front door, hands clasped and swinging between them. They linger under the porchlight, leaning close so that their foreheads almost touch, something shy and conspiratorial in the hunch of their shoulders and the broadness of their smiles.

They finally kiss. It's not the deepest or the longest kiss Dave has seen between them, but there's still something electric about it, the way they seem to meld into each other, giving and expecting nothing in return.

Blaine opens the door and enters the house backward, facing Kurt for as long as he can and still talking. Whatever he says elicits a love-punch to the upper arm from Kurt. Blaine feigns wounding, but Kurt just grabs him by the lapels and gives him a quick peck on the cheek or lips – Dave can't tell because the back of Kurt's head blocks the view – and then turns back to the car, calling goodbye after him.

"I'll call you when I get home," Kurt hollers as he swings the driver-side door open.

"I'll wait up as long as it takes," Blaine calls back, and Dave thinks he sees Kurt shoot a glare at Blaine, but he blinks and it's gone.

"Sorry for the wait," Kurt says when he steps back into the driver's seat.

"No," Dave says. "That was hardly a wait."

Kurt turns on the ignition.

"Anyway, I figure it must be hard to say goodbye to him at all."

Kurt looks at Dave, his brow lifted in surprise. "It is." A teasing smile spreads across his face. "And you say you don't know anything about love."

Dave looks away as the car backs out, pretending that the budding bushes that line the Anderson driveway are the most interesting thing he's ever seen, even though they're the exact same kind that skirt the periphery of his backyard. "I know a little, I guess," he says.

"Like what?" Kurt says. It's just above a whisper.

"That I'd be lucky someday to have even half of what you guys have," Dave says.

Kurt pats Dave's knee. "You will," he says. "You'll have more than that. I know you will."

They drive the rest of the way to Dave's house in the same comfortable silence that suffused the car before Blaine got out. Well, not quite the same. There's something heavier permeating it, something asking to be spoken. But Dave can't speak it, because he's not even sure that the words for what it is exist.

"11:47," Kurt says when he pulls up in front of Dave's house. "Thirteen minutes before this coach turns into a pumpkin."

"I won't keep you then." Dave unbuckles his seatbelt and turns toward the door.

Kurt touches his arm. "It's only five minutes to my house from here. You can keep me for a little while. If you want."

Dave stops, stares at his own fingers curling around the door handle. He's pretty sure his heart has stopped, too – except then, he's sure it hasn't, because it's pounding against his sternum.

He turns to Kurt, who's looking at him in a way he can't quite decipher. Dave wants to say I do want to keep you, but he can't figure out how that fits with I want Blaine to keep you forever, for you to keep each other forever.

"I – " Dave starts. "Thank you for tonight. For dancing with me tonight. I haven't let myself dance in a long time."

"You're a natural." Kurt smiles, He's still holding on to Dave's arm, his thumb rubbing lightly against the sleeve of Dave's shirt. When Kurt's hand stills, Dave wonders if Kurt can feel the blood and adrenaline pounding through the muscles there. "And Dave – "

But Kurt stops right there, watching Dave's face as is asking for permission to continue.

Of course he has permission. He has Dave's permission to do anything he wants.

"What?" Dave says, finally.

"You've spent a long time not letting yourself do the things you want. You can, now."

"I – " Dave's about to say I know, except that he doesn't know. So instead, Dave says, "Okay."

"Okay," Kurt echoes. His hand is still on Dave's arm, resting there like it's found its niche. There is something flickering through the muscles of Kurt's face, making his eyes blink. Kurt's eyes wander Dave's face and Dave feels – He doesn't know what he feels.

Kurt doesn't look away, and a minute, two minutes must pass that way, just looking at each other – mostly at each other's eyes, though sometimes Kurt's flicker to Dave's forehead, or his chin. Dave thinks he should feel self-conscious, but instead he feels seen.

Like Kurt knows who Dave is, and is expecting something because of that, but won't demand it. That he'll wait for it, patiently, for as long as it takes.

Dave wishes he knew what it was. The thing Dave wants it to be – he knows it's not possible. Not when Dave is Dave, and Kurt is so well-loved by Blaine.

"I guess I should – " Dave starts, and it's like a blast in the silence. "I guess I should let you go."

Kurt's hand falls away. "For now. But – " Kurt bites his lower lip. "We'll see each other soon."

Dave tries to find the door handle without looking away from Kurt's eyes, but he can't. So he turns away, unlatches the door and steps out.

"And Dave – "

Dave turns to look at him. The cabin light has turned on – of course it's turned on, Dave just opened the door. So why does it catch him by surprise to see Kurt in the full light, make his breath catch in his throat to see the rosy flush across Kurt's lips and cheeks? It's probably been there the whole time, at least since Kurt came back into the car at Blaine's house – a residue of that amorous goodbye.

Dave tries to say Yeah?, but it comes out more as a gasp.

"Thank you," Kurt says.

Dave's still not sure he can speak, so he raises his eyebrows.

"For tonight. And for everything. And –" Dave thinks Kurt's face gets a little pinker "– I meant every word I said at the river. I want you to know that."

The only word Dave can squeak out of his mouth is, "Oh," which probably sounds stupider than saying nothing at all. He's pretty sure his own face is bright red by now; a feverish burn flares across his cheekbones and spreads over his ears.

"Goodnight," Kurt says, his smile reaching his eyes. "Don't be a stranger."

"I won't, Kurt. I won't." Dave lets himself stare just a bit longer, try to memorize this moment – its weight and tenor and the way his heart clutches in his chest. "Goodnight."

He forces himself to turn then, to walk up the garden path to his front door. His hands are shaking and he fumbles with the key, but he manages to get it into the lock on the third try, waving over his shoulder at Kurt as he turns the handle.

He doesn't dare turn around, in case Kurt's not watching him.

He lets the weight of his body sink against the door as he closes it behind him. The dark of the sleeping house cradles him.

Dave tells himself that the loss he's feeling right now isn't a tenth as bad as what Kurt and Blaine must feel every time they say goodbye. He has no idea how he would ever survive it.

* * *

Kurt starts dialing Blaine's number as soon as he's in his room. He doesn't even turn the light on first. "I wish you were here," he says as soon as he hears Blaine's voice, before he even starts unlacing his boots.

"I take it you're not making out with Dave right now?"

"You're so crass." Kurt rolls his eyes, forgetting Blaine can't see him. "I didn't try anything with Dave."

"But you wanted to."

Kurt undoes the knot at the top of his left boot with a practiced tug. "Yes," he says. He holds the phone up to his ear with his shoulder so he can loosen the lace from the eyelets with both hands.

"So why didn't you?" Blaine says.

Kurt slips the boot from his foot. "You’re his best friend, Blaine. I don't want him to think that I'm trying to cheat on you or something."

"You could never cheat on me with him, Kurt. It wouldn't be cheating at all."

"Well, he hasn't been privy to any of our conversations on the topic." Kurt works thoughtfully at the laces of his second boot. "If you’re serious about this, we should look at that book again. I mean, to figure out what to do next. I don't want to put him in an awkward position."

"Really? I’d like to see you put him in a lot of awkward positions. I think he'd enjoy it. I certainly would."

"Blaine." Kurt tries to sound stern, but it's difficult when he's stifling a giggle. He gives in. "Which awkward positions?"

"All of them." Blaine's breath is jagged on the other end of the phone line, and Kurt wonders if he's already started to touch himself.

"Is that so?" Kurt tugs off his second boot and sets it on the floor.

"I – You haven't even kissed him, Kurt. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself to think about that."

"Oh, come on." Kurt undoes the top buttons of his vest. "I thought about lots of things with you before we'd even kissed."

"Like what?"

"Hands, mostly." Kurt shirks his vest off and hangs it over his desk chair.

"Kurt." Blaine sighs heavily.

"Blaine, take your hands off your cock. I'm not even undressed yet."

"My hands weren't on my cock."

Kurt sinks to his bed, lightheaded from the image that appears before his eyes.

"And," Blaine continues, "I still have my briefs on, so I'm not entirely jumping the gun."

"They must barely be on if you can reach that far." Kurt tugs his socks off with his toes.

"They're still on, though."

"Which ones are you wearing?"

"The blue ones with the diagonal stripes."

"That meet in a ‘v’ in the front?”

”Yes.”

”Those are hot.”

”Why thank you.”

”Take them off."

"Yes, sir."

Kurt pulls his Henley over his head in one swift motion and drops it to the floor. He lies back on the bed – the pillows still smell of Blaine from where he napped here this afternoon – one hand holding his phone to his ear, the other undoing his belt and pants in quick succession.

"Kurt?"

"Yes?"

"Have you made any progress in getting your clothes off?"

"Almost done. Jeans are coming off right ... now."

"Kurt?"

"Yeah?"

"What about your briefs?"

Kurt blushes. It always flummoxes him that he'll blush when Blaine can't even see him. "I didn't wear any tonight."

"God, Kurt," Blaine groans. "Let me touch myself again."

"You have my permission." Kurt relaxes into the bed and grabs a hold of his cock, and it's Blaine stroking him. "But it actually turned out to be a tad shortsighted. I leaked a little precome on them thanks to all your dirty-talking. Those are expensive jeans, Blaine."

"I'll get you a new pair, Kurt. And the ones you had on tonight – never wash them. Just give them to me and I'll – " Blaine gasps.

"And you'll what?"

"I don't know. Keep them in my bed next to me. Smell them. Put them on an altar and pray to them."

"Your mom would love that."

"They're a relic. It's totally orthodox to venerate relics of the saints."

Kurt lets out a guffaw that turns into a delighted chuckle on the upstroke.

"I wish you were here," Blaine says.

Heat surges in Kurt’s lower belly. "Blaine?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell me what you're doing."

"Mmmm … My legs are open for you and I – I'm teasing my hole the way you do with your tongue. It's – It's delicious, Kurt."

"Wait, how are you –? You don't have me on speakerphone, do you?" Kurt feels the redness return to his face.

"No, I have my earbuds in."

"Oh, good idea." Kurt sits up and rifles through the nook in the wall that serves as his nightstand. "I must have left mine downstairs. Guess I'll have to go one-handed. Which is –" He settles back against the pillows and lets himself feel, thinks of Blaine's hands and what they're doing right now, what they do to Kurt when they're together. "Which is pretty awesome, actually."

"Kurt – tell me. Were you hard before you called me?"

"Yeah."

"For how long?"

"On and off all night. When I was kissing you at the bar, and when you were teasing me at the river, and when –” The heat rises in Kurt’s face again. “When we were in the car and Dave was looking at me and you were looking at him –"

"Oh, that was hot. It was so raw and –” Blaine lets out a tense, breathy moan. “I love to watch him look at you."

"Fuck, Blaine." Kurt's hand twists on his cock just the way Blaine likes to do.

"And he hasn't even seen you naked yet. He hasn't seen your cock and – Kurt – have I told you lately how much I love your cock? And the skin right near the tip? Touch it for me."

Kurt does.

"He would be such a good lover to you, Kurt."

"I’m – oh," Kurt says breathily.

"Tell me what you wanted to do to him tonight."

"I wanted to – I wanted to kiss him. Maybe just on the cheek at first."

"I wish you had."

"Why?" Kurt traces his fingers lower, whispering them against his balls, pretending they're Blaine's tongue.

"You know why, Kurt."

"I – I’m not sure I do."

"Because I love you both and I know you care about him, and I know you would like it. He would be so, so good to you. You would feel how much he needs you and … and how much I love you, and I would – oh god. You guys make me feel things." Blaine moans quietly, the shape of the sound not unlike when they're together and Kurt's shoulder is too far away to bite, so Blaine clamps his teeth down on his own lower lip, instead. "Tell me. How hard was it not to kiss him tonight? After you dropped me off?"

Kurt draws his finger over his slit, picking up the drop of wetness there, pictures Blaine lapping at it with the tip of his tongue. His hips rise off the bed of their own accord. "He kept – he kept blushing, Blaine, and it made his skin so – alive. It was – It was hard not to touch him."

"So did you touch him?" Blaine's voice is ragged.

"His arm. His knee. And I – I looked at him. We looked at each other for … a while. It was – " Kurt sees Dave's eyes, feels Blaine's hand on his cock, gripping more mercilessly, willing him toward ecstasy. "He wants me."

"Of course he does, Kurt. He'd be crazy – oh fuck me – he'd be crazy not to."

"Tell me what you're doing."

"Your finger's inside me, Kurt. It feels really – fuck. I love thinking about you two together."

Kurt shudders. "Touch your cock and tell me – tell me everything."

"I think he wants – god, Kurt – I think he wants you to teach him what sex is."

"Oh fuck.”

”And I want you to teach him. I want you to fuck his mouth and his cock and – and I want him to feel you and I want to watch your face, and I want – I want to watch you make him fall apart. Do you – do you want that?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me, Kurt. Tell me what you want.”

”I want – I want you to show him how you touch me and then to, I want – oh fuck – I want to fuck his cock and see what he looks like when he's about to come. I want to be the one doing that to him. I – "

"Kurt, I'm gonna – "

"I want it so bad. I want you so bad. I want – "

"I'm yours, Kurt, I'm – "

Kurt hears the teeth-clenched groan, sees Blaine's face, the beads of sweat that always break from his brow when he comes. When Kurt spills over his own hand, he feels it as Blaine on him.

They don't say anything at first. But they can hear each other through their phones, the soft laughter and the slowing of breath.

"Kurt, that was – " Blaine starts after a minute. "That was … amazing."

Kurt’s heart feels big enough to hold him and Blaine both inside. "You're amazing, Blaine."

"Mmmm, no. You are."

"We all are."

Chapter Text

Dave's been more distant the last few times Blaine’s talked to him. It's not really what he says or doesn't say; he'll still talk at length with Blaine about baseball, about players' stats, about why he likes (of all things) the Chicago Cubs. He'll complain about how much extra studying he needs to cram in before the AP American Government exam or laugh about something one of the math girls said at lunch.

But it's also different. There's this hesitation before he speaks – a quarter beat or a half beat – like he's mulling over whether he's about to say the wrong thing.

Blaine thought maybe he was reading distance into their conversations just because they’ve spent more time talking on the phone than in person this past week, what with New Directions going to Nationals and Dave having to skip one of their study sessions for an AP exam. But even when they’ve been together in person, the hesitation has been there. On Thursday, when Kurt pulled Dave to the window to show him another type of warbler, a full minute must have passed before the first word came out of his mouth.

"So," Dave finally said. He and Kurt were silhouetted against the picture window, their backs to Blaine, and Kurt still hadn't let go of Dave's wrist. Blaine's heart fluttered.

Dave handed the binoculars back to Kurt. "What is it called again?"

"A prothonotary warbler," Kurt said, raising the binoculars to his eyes one-handed, still not letting go of Dave's wrist.

It looked a little awkward. It probably would have been more comfortable to hold hands. Blaine bit his tongue to keep from suggesting it.

"I like the sound of that." Dave wasn't looking out the window now. He was watching Kurt. "But I probably won't remember it. Can I just call it a mango warbler? Because that's what it looks like. A peeled mango with wings."

"It does," Kurt said, lowering the binoculars from his eyes and holding them out to Dave. "Do you want them again? It hasn't flown off yet."

"Sure." Dave didn't take his eyes off of Kurt's until the binoculars were firmly in his hand.

Kurt let go of Dave's wrist, but he made up for the loss of contact by leaning his shoulder against Dave's upper arm. He turned his head toward Dave and started to chew his lower lip the way he does when he wants to be kissed but doesn't want to make the first move.

But Dave didn't see. He was looking out through the window with his binoculars.

After Dave left that afternoon and they were up in Blaine's bedroom, naked and sweating, fucking and being fucked, Blaine watched Kurt's face and thought about what it would be like to be Dave, seeing Kurt this way for the first time.

Blaine came before he could stop himself.

*

As soon as Dave walks through the front door on Monday and takes off his jacket – after he's said Hello but before he's brought his backpack into the kitchen – Blaine blurts out, "Are you in love with Kurt?"

"Do you want me to leave?" Dave says, his face shutting down into that old mask that Blaine has only seen a few times.

They're standing in the vestibule next to the front room, the Steinway in clear view, and no, Blaine doesn't want Dave to leave. He wants to take back what he just said and start over. He wants Dave to put his backpack in the kitchen and then play on the Steinway for a while as Blaine spreads his homework out on the counter. He wants to hear one of Schubert's waltzes, the lightness of the music lifting the heavy feeling from his stomach.

"No." Blaine shakes his head. "That was a really stupid thing for me to say. I was just – curious. It doesn't matter one way or the other, really." Which may be the biggest lie that he’s ever told. He shifts his feet, torn between fleeing to the kitchen or out the front door. But this is his house, and Dave is his guest, and no matter how embarrassed Blaine is at himself, making this okay is more important. "I'm sorry. I sometimes talk without thinking."

Dave's shoulders relax slightly. "I've noticed," he says, huffing a little so that it's almost a laugh. "That's not always a bad thing."

"Do you want to just step outside and I'll close the door and then I'll reopen it and we can start over?"

"No," Dave says. "I want a Mountain Dew."

* * *

It is kind of like starting over, though. When they get to the kitchen, Dave settles down at the counter to crack his books open. He doesn't say a word about what Blaine just said, and neither does Blaine. Blaine tosses him a Mountain Dew from the fridge, which Dave both loves and hates – he hates it because it shakes up the can and means he has to wait that much longer to open it; but he loves it because no matter how many times he's told Blaine to Just hand it to me, dude, Blaine forgets as often as he remembers. And there’s something endearing about that.

It's weird when the things that annoy you about someone become another of their charms.

Blaine settles in next to him and they both start their work. Dave studies silently, hoping the memory of Blaine's question will disappear from both their minds just as easily as Dave's memory of whether he put on striped or white athletic socks this morning has slipped from his. (He peers down at his ankle and tugs up his jeans leg until he spots the red and black stripes at his sock cuff. Striped. Okay.)

Blaine does not study silently. He's quiet when he's reading, but when he switches to French grammar and vocab, he makes up a little song as he goes:

     Il se spécialise en boire Mountain Dew.
    Je voudrais travailler pour un petit chouchou.
    Elle se spécialise en caresse le chat.
    Je me spécialise en être le célibat.
    Je me spécialise en français à contrecœur.
    Sébastian se spécialise en être un branleur.

Kurt sometimes puts earplugs in when he's reading and Blaine gets like this, but Dave likes to listen. His family is so quiet. It's a nice change of pace to have someone yammering away in the background. And since Dave doesn't understand French, he doesn't get distracted by the words. It's pleasant noise, and it helps drown out the incessant Are you in love with Kurt? that’s repeating in his head.

They work for an hour or so, occasionally punctuating the session with outbursts like, "It's so weird that presidents didn't used to have bodyguards," and, "Do people think Faulkner's a good writer just because he's confusing?"

When he gets the urge to throw As I Lay Dying at the refrigerator, Dave decides it's time for a break. He looks at Blaine. "Do you want to try playing that Poulenc duet? I’ve been practicing."

"Duet!" Blaine jumps to his feet. "That is the best idea I've ever heard! I've gotten pretty good at my part, I think."

It's a little awkward, at first. They're pressed against each other on the bench and almost as soon as the song begins, Blaine has to reach his left hand over Dave's right, and his arm stays stretched out in front of Dave's chest for a full page. It catches Dave by surprise – not the action; he's read the score and knew this was coming – but the strange feeling of intimacy that comes over him. It reminds Dave of the campouts he used to have every summer at the farm when he was little, all the prepubescent boys and girls piled into one family tent and waking up warm against each other in the chill of the morning.

They flub a lot. At first, Dave gets confused by the sound of so many notes together; later, as they fall into it, he gets so distracted by how good it sounds that sometimes he stops following the sheet music and loses his place.

They play the Prelude three times, and it's pretty clean the last time through – not art, but decent – before resetting the metronome and moving on to the Rustique, which is so much easier that Dave almost laughs with relief. Unlike Dave, who plays with his back ramrod straight because his teacher scolded him for anything else, Blaine puts his body into it, swaying a little as the melody passes back and forth between their hands. But the Finale is the best part by far. By now, they have a sense of each other, and they play the the parallel harmonies in such perfect time that Dave feels like his heart is going to burst.

The final notes are still vibrating in the air when Blaine pulls Dave in for a hug. "Kurt is going to faint when we play this for him."

All the joy of the music disappears at the sound of Kurt's name, replaced by a lead weight on Dave's chest. "Well, maybe we should practice a little more first," he says as Blaine pulls away.

"I won't object to playing this as many times as you want," Blaine says. "But we don't have to wait until we're perfect. Kurt likes seeing people get better at things."

The weight becomes heavier, pressing the air out of Dave's lungs. Words squeeze out that Dave doesn't intend to say. "About Kurt." He looks at his lap. "I – I don't know."

Dave feels Blaine’s hand on his shoulder, but he doesn't look up.

"I'm not sure what love is. But if I was in love, I think … I would know what it is." Dave ghosts his fingers over the keyboard, pressing the ivories so slowly that no sound comes out. "So I don't think I'm in love with Kurt."

"It's fine if you are. I mean, I would definitely understand."

The weight lifts a little; Dave can get a tiny bit more air in with each breath. "At first, I thought it was because he was the only out gay kid I knew."

Blaine makes no signs of surprise that Dave’s crush goes so far back. He just nods sympathetically and waits for Dave to continue.

"I thought if I met other gay guys, it would go away. When I started going to Scandals … it seemed to help. It helped me hate myself less. But when I ran into you guys last fall, it –” In his mind’s eye, Dave can see it perfectly: Kurt and Blaine walking into Scandals together, the way Kurt’s hips were tilted confidently, everything about him so perfectly self-possessed in a way that Dave has never learned to be. “It all came back. But I – I wasn’t even going to say hi, because he was comfortable around you in a way I'd never seen before. And I just – I really respect you for that. I really respect what you guys have. I wouldn't –"

Blaine squeezes Dave's shoulder. "I know."

"I see you guys and it makes me think maybe one day I can have something like that. And I couldn't have that with Kurt, I don't want to have that with Kurt, because I want you guys to be together. I mean, I still think he's stunning, and I love him in a way, and I think about him – Okay, I'm going to stop."

"I didn't mean to put you on the spot earlier. I've been watching you guys pussyfoot around each other for a while now and it just seems kind of – " Blaine sighs. "Frustrating."

Dave picks at the hole in the knee of his jeans. "I really like you guys. I mean, I'd thought I had friends before, but – I don't want to mess this up, but I'm messing it up, because I can't stop feeling this way about him. I should probably – " His throat constricts. "I should stop coming around."

Blaine puts his hand on top of Dave's, and Dave stills. "No."

Dave looks up at Blaine and he's never seen him look so – no, not angry. Not stern, exactly. Authoritative. Yes, that's it. He's never seen Blaine look so authoritative. There's this blaze in his eyes and this tension in the muscles of his face, but at the same time he’s exuding a strange sort of calm.

He looks a lot like Kurt at this moment, actually.

"No," Blaine repeats. "You're really important to us, Dave. I'd be really sad to lose you."

"But Kurt," Dave protests. "After everything I've put him through, it's such a –" Dave frees his hand from Blaine's and pulls it roughly through his own hair. "Violation."

He covers his face with shaking hands. He's so close to losing it, so he really should just shut the hell up now, but he can't seem to stop the words. "I never should have done this. When I saw you guys at Scandals that time, I should have stayed away. I tricked myself into thinking I could make up for some of it, but I was just being selfish and stupid."

The tears start with a sob – a big, stupid, desperate sob that's so loud he wouldn't be surprised to find he'd just sucked all the oxygen out of the room and Blaine asphyxiated right there, and then Dave would have taken yet another thing away from Kurt, made his life even more barren of hope than it was a year-and-a-half ago.

"So stupid." He blubbers, because that's what he is – a big, blubbering idiot.

He feels Blaine's hand rubbing up and down on his back, soft soothing strokes like the ones his father used to give him when he'd get a particularly stinging knee scrape.

"No, no," Blaine says, in a voice that's like shush and it'll all be better soon. Dave feels Blaine's forehead press into his shoulder. "I'm so glad we saw you there that night. You're my best friend. I care about you so much."

"But what about Kurt? This is about Kurt."

"I – I didn't tell Kurt I was going to talk to you about this. But I think it's okay if I say that ... I’m sure he suspects you're attracted to him."

The world is closing in on Dave Karofsky. Oxygen is disappearing; the edges of his vision go black. But somehow he still manages to bolt toward the front door and grab his jean jacket off its hook. His keys are in the pocket. He can come back for his books later. Or never. Whatever. He just needs to leave.

"Dave, wait!"

Dave puts his arm through the wrong sleeve because he's a freaking idiot and he takes it off and fumbles around for the right way but then he puts his other arm through the other wrong sleeve and fuck he is so fucking stupid and he doesn't need this jacket anyway, all he needs are the keys so –

"Don’t break his heart. I'll be the one who has to pick up the pieces."

Dave stops. The jacket is bunched up in his two fists, but suddenly the muscles in his hands don't feel like clenching anymore.

The jacket drops to the floor.

"Please." Blaine sounds like he's the one crying now.

Dave turns around. "I don’t understand."

"He's head over heels, Dave. Don't you see the way he looks at you?"

And now Dave's head is spinning, swimming with Kurt Kurt Kurt and his clear, expectant eyes – but that can't be what Kurt's expecting. It can't.

Blaine steps toward Dave, reaching for Dave's elbow – and when Dave doesn't flinch, he takes it. "Look, can we go to the kitchen? Please?"

*

Dave is through half of his Mountain Dew before he says anything. It's cold and the bubbles are sharp against the back of his tongue, like tiny needles stabs.

He's never had that feeling in a dream, and he doesn't remember tasting things in dreams, either. Maybe, occasionally, he'll smell something – a waft of autumn air or chicken roasting in the oven – but taste, no. And right now, he can taste that too-sweet lemon tang, feel the sugar coating his teeth. He knows if he doesn't brush them soon, his gums will start itching.

So this is real. All of this is real.

Blaine is standing across the counter from him, sipping a Coke Zero and tapping out a complex pattern against the counter with his free hand. It takes a minute for Dave to realize that he's repeating his fingerings for the Poulenc piece.

Hmm. Maybe this is a dream. He shouldn't know Blaine's fingerings like that, not already, when they've only played through it a few times.

Dave sets his can on the counter and swallows his burp.

Huh. Dave doesn't need to burp in dreams. This is definitely real.

Dave sighs. (The sinking of his chest feels real, too.) "Can you just start from somewhere, and keep talking? I feel like I'm … missing something."

Blaine's hand stills. "Like what?"

"Like, I'm not sure I understand what you've been trying to tell me. It sounds like you're saying that – " No, Dave has no clue what Blaine is saying. He might think he does, but no. "I can't even begin to try to say what I think you're saying."

"I wasn't planning to have this conversation today." Blaine sets his Coke down. "But I kind of put you on the spot and I don't really know what I thought was going to come out of it, so – "

Dave wants to tell Blaine to get to the point. He doesn't.

"Look." Blaine grabs the edge of the counter in both hands and leans forward. "I need to be clear about this. I love Kurt more than I ever imagined it was possible to love anyone. And just when I think I can't love him any more than I already do – well, I do."

Blaine looks at Dave like he's expecting him to say something. An acknowledgement, maybe. So Dave says, "I know."

"Okay. And you’re my best friend, and I care about you a lot. So I care about you both, but sometimes?” The muscles in Blaine’s forearms tense as he grips the counter's edge. “You two drive me crazy. You're so obviously into each other – I mean, the eyes. The smiles. The – just, everything."

"I'm sorry, I –"

"No." Blaine holds up his hand. "Not like that. Let me finish. It drives me crazy because it must be driving you both crazy. Like, seriously, last week with the prontothicating – the mango warbler. Kurt was holding onto your wrist for – what, like five minutes? Geez, hold each other's hands. Or make out. Or something. It's not a crime."

All the blood in Dave's veins is preparing to boil out of his ears. If Blaine ever, ever thought Dave would do that, that Kurt would do that –

Dave forces himself to remain calm, or at least give as much the appearance of it as he can through clenched teeth. "I'm not trying to take Kurt from you. And even if I wanted to, I'd totally fail. He's in love with you and maybe I haven't made it clear that it's not only how things are, but how I want them to be."

"I'm not making myself clear at all," Blaine says, staring down at the counter, and suddenly his hands sink to his sides, his body contracts, and the breath wooshes out of him like he's a leaking balloon. "I really suck at this." He takes a deep breath and looks up at Dave. "I'm not talking about cheating. I'm not talking about Kurt leaving me for you. Look. You and I both adore Kurt. And we both want him to be happy. And anything that makes Kurt happy makes me happy. And I kind of suspect it's the same for you."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you. That's why – "

Blaine puts up his hand to stop Dave. "So, if you want something with Kurt, and he wants it – which, duh, you both do – and you're comfortable with me still being in the picture because, frankly, I want to spend the rest of my life with him and get married and the whole nine yards, then – seriously. You have my blessing. You have more than that."

"Oh." It's all Dave can say. He thinks. He tries to come up with something. There must be words that exist for these kinds of situations. He doesn't know what they are.

So he looks at Blaine, and Blaine looks at him. If Dave looks half as exhausted as Blaine looks right now, he must look like shit.

The sound of the front door opening jars them from their trance.

"Hello!" Mrs. Anderson's voice calls from the front door. There's the shuffle of feet and fabric.

Blaine takes a sip from his Coke and mutters "Of all nights for her to come home early" under his breath before composing his face and calling back, "Hi, Mom! I was just finishing up studying with Dave."

"Does he want to stay for dinner? I can order pizza." She's taking her own pretty time doing whatever she's doing in the foyer. Thank god.

Dave nods at Blaine and heads toward the bathroom at the back of the kitchen. He should at least wash his face before she sees him – although hopefully he can get out of the house without her seeing him at all. "No, I should head home soon," he says, closing the door behind him.

Blaine, apparently, is planning his own escape. "Mom, I'm going upstairs for a second. I'll be back in a minute."

Dave hears Blaine's footsteps go out the back kitchen entrance and up the stairs.

"So which is it? A minute or a second?" she teases.

Dave turns on the tap and splashes cold water on his face. Parents think they're so fucking amusing. If they had any idea how complicated life is – But he's kind of glad they don't.

*

Dave leaves without saying goodbye to Blaine. He hears Mrs. Anderson walk down the basement stairs while he's still in the bathroom and he figures that's his chance to get out without her seeing that he's been crying.

As soon as he gets in the car, he sends Blaine a text.

Dave: I didn't storm out. I just didn't want your mom to see me like this.

At the traffic light, he hears his phone beep. He knows he shouldn't look, especially after what happened to Quinn, but he does.

Blaine: I'm sorry I'm so bad at this. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. Or potentially ruin our friendship.

Dave turns off his phone so he's not tempted to text back, but he turns it back on as soon as he's parked in front of his house.

Dave: You didn't ruin our friendship.

Blaine: We can pretend this never happened. We can go back to how things were.
Blaine: I can live with you and Kurt never acting on your unresolved romantic tension if that's what it takes for us to be friends. :)

Dave: I'm not at tragedy + time = comedy yet.
Dave: Maybe by tomorrow.

Blaine: So we can talk tomorrow?

Dave: Yes, tomorrow.

Blaine: I love you.

Dave: I love you too.

* * *

Blaine begs for forgiveness for two whole minutes before Kurt even has a clue what he's talking about.

"You're done with dinner, right? Good, you should be alone for this, because I really, really messed up. No, really. I'm so sorry Kurt, I wasn't thinking – I mean, I thought I was thinking but I wasn't thinking at all, and this is not how the book said to do things, and I should have talked to you first. I mean, I know we've been talking but I mean it's only been talking and we hadn't really talked about if we were actually going to do anything about it and we haven't talked about talking with him yet and I –"

"W-wait, Blaine." Before Blaine called, Kurt was absently filing his nails and watching Jersey Shore. Now he's pacing back and forth between his bed and his vanity. "Him. You said 'him.' You mean –"

"Dave." A guttural groan from Blaine's end of the line. "Just break up with me now. I'm the worst boyfriend ever."

"Yeah, no. I don't think so." He's about to try for humor – Best one I've ever had, at least – but decides that now is not the moment. He tries for calmly authoritative, instead. That usually works with Blaine.

"Blaine," Kurt says. "Can you take a deep breath and start over again? Just breathe and then tell me what happened. Okay?"

"I'll try."

"I'm right here. I want to hear you breathe –" (Kurt picks a random number out of the air) "– five times, and then I want you to start from the beginning."

Blaine doesn't say anything. He inhales loudly, then exhales loudly. He sounds like a woman in a childbirth class. (Okay, so Kurt's never been in a childbirth class, but he's seen them on sit-coms.)

"One," Kurt says. He tries to make his voice hushed, to pack as much lull into that brief syllable as he can.

Blaine inhales, exhales again.

"Two." Kurt feels kind of silly counting out loud, but numbers tend to have a calming effect on Blaine. When he can't sleep, he counts sheep – literal, actual sheep, like in Brokeback Mountain, he explained to Kurt the first time it came up – walking through a gate. It usually works before he gets to 73 ("Seventy-three?" Kurt had asked – it seemed like such a random number).

By the time Kurt counts "five," Blaine's exhalations are less explosive. Kurt takes that as a sign that he's calming down.

"Okay. Are you ready to start from the beginning, Blaine?"

"Let's make it seven. Then I will."

They go to seven. It must be having a relaxing effect on Kurt, too, because by now he's no longer pacing the room. He's stopped next to his vanity chair, his hand clenching its back. "Okay. I'm ready whenever you are."

Blaine doesn't say anything at first. That's okay, Kurt reminds himself. It's better than the word-vomit he was spewing at the beginning of their conversation. The only problem, if it is a problem, is that it gives Kurt a chance to replay some of that word-vomit in his head, try to ascribe meaning to it, wonder exactly how Blaine fucked up (or thought he fucked up), and if the book he was talking about was that book, the book that Kurt had ordered from Amazon and lent to Blaine and that they had read through three times together since and what Blaine said to Dave and –

Stop it. Stop. It.

Kurt turns the chair so it's not facing the mirror and sits down, facing the white shelves at the end of his room. "I'm ready, Blaine. Please."

"I asked Dave how he felt about you."

"Oh," Kurt says. His stomach twists the way it did when his dad walked into Mr. Schuester’s class that day in February and Kurt thought that Blaine’s eye surgery had gone drastically wrong.

"I thought I could just ask him as his friend – be supportive, you know? And it was okay, at first, kind of. But then he thought I was trying to accuse him of something, and I tried to explain that I wasn't, and then – " Kurt hears a ragged breath. "And I probably explained more than I should have without talking to you first. Without you there."

Kurt is not going to let his mind play that scenario out in all its thousand possible permutations. "That's okay, Blaine." Kurt says it out of habit, but once he hears the words, he hopes there's a chance that they're true. "What exactly did you explain?"

"I didn't tell him anything we've talked about."

"Okay," Kurt says.

"He thought I was angry at him for having feelings about you – "

"Wait. So he does?" Kurt bites his lip. He didn't realize how tightly his shoulders were wound until just now, when they've begun to unwind.

"Of course he does, Kurt," Blaine says. "I mean, maybe I shouldn't be telling you that he said so, maybe that's his job. Ugh, I should really pay more attention to what the book says, I've only read it, like, four times."

"It's okay. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. Go on."

"He thought I was angry at him for having feelings about you."

"Oh."

"And he started to leave and I stopped him. I said – " Blaine pauses. "I'm sorry, we haven't talked about this and I know you're not really sure how you feel, but I just said what I thought was true."

"Which was?"

"That you’re smitten with him."

"Oh." Kurt slumps back in his chair and his eyes fall on the silver ampersand sculpture on his shelf. He found it while shopping at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store with Mercedes back before he even came out. He's always liked the structure and shape of the ampersand, but something more struck him when he found it crowded among the dull green-glass vases and artificial flower arrangements at the back of the store.

He'd woken up that morning, like he did most mornings at that point in time, with the sure knowledge that his life was at a dead end. That he had nothing to look forward to, that he was just repeating the same old comforts to distract himself from how meaningless everything had become. The day before had been another glee club practice where he’d been forced to sit and listen to Rachel sing something that he could do much better. This day would be another thrift store shopping trip where he'd madly search for treasure and find nothing, because no one in Lima would ever donate a McQueen jacket to St. Vinny's, because none of them had enough taste to buy one in the first place.

But he'd been wrong. He found a treasure. Not a McQueen, but something lovely just the same. Mercedes teased him as they walked out of the store and he reached into his bag, not being able to wait until they were back at his house to turn the ampersand in his fingers, feel its curves and its hard edges and its promise.

Yes. That's what it was. A promise. He couldn't explain it to Mercedes – he didn't even have the words for it himself – but the ampersand was promising him something. It was telling him that "and" was a tangible reality; that there was more yet to come. His life would come, if he worked and waited for it.

And life came to him, and keeps coming to him, in so many beautiful and unexpected ways. He came out to his dad, and Rachel admitted he was as good as her and maybe even better, and he found Blaine. (Or did Blaine find him? He's never sure which it is.) He planned a wedding and he got a brother and his father got a wife. He loved and lost a canary, but Blaine filled the empty space in his heart.

And then there was Dave, his transformation, his becoming – and somehow Kurt's heart grew a new empty space to be filled.

"Kurt?" Blaine's voice reaches through Kurt's thoughts.

"It's okay," Kurt says. "What you said was … true."

Blaine sighs. "He knows that I'm fine with wherever things go. I mean, we didn't really talk about it much, but he knows."

"I – " Kurt pauses. "I think I'd like to call him tonight. Just to – to say my part, I guess. Do you think that's a bad idea?"

"I think that's a great idea, Kurt. I think he could really stand to hear your voice right now."

*

Dave shouts a cursory "I'm home" when he walks in the front door and immediately heads for the first-floor bathroom to splash his face again with the coldest water he can stand. It doesn't help. He’s still red-eyed and worn.

He can hear his mother walking around upstairs, and smell garlic and tomato – probably lasagna – wafting from the kitchen. Dinner is going to be awkward if he still looks like this in half an hour.

He needs to think of what Kurt would do. Kurt drops beauty tips into conversation like other guys drop sports metaphors, and Dave tends to remember them all – not because he plans to use them, but because it startles him every time, how Kurt can know so much about things that Dave has hardly thought about before: skin care and bird species and ululating and removing grape juice stains from a white shirt. Kurt used to tell him, last spring when they had just started the PFLAG group and Dave was at his most hopeless, that there was a whole world out there that Dave hadn't even imagined, that was so different from what he'd known all his life, and so much better. And when Kurt talks about these things that Dave's never heard of – last Thursday it was sergers and batiste and jacquard and a bunch of other words that Dave jotted down in the margins of his physics notebook to look up later, and most of which he spelled wrong – he feels like he's getting a glimpse of the world that's going to be his home one day.

Dave fishes out a couple of teabags from the kitchen pantry and drops them in a small glass of ice water before bringing them up to his room. He sets the glass on the floor and turns his mp3 player to John Cage's "Dream," wrings the teabags, sinks back against his pillow, and presses them over his closed eyes.

He massages his temple and jaw line the way he heard Kurt explain to Rachel once over the phone. It feels good, surprisingly so, almost as if they were someone else's fingers against his skin.

Dave hears the front door open and his father hollers that he's home. Two cycles of "Dream" later, his mother is calling for him to wash his hands. He takes the teabags off his eyes and crosses the room to look in the mirror. He doesn't look fresh as the morning dew, but he doesn't look much more worn than he usually does after a long day at school.

He almost texts Kurt to thank him for the beauty tip, but he stops himself. He should probably say something else, too, but he doesn’t know what.

At dinner, his dad comments that Dave seems a little distracted and asks if everything is okay at school. When Dave responds with an automatic "Yes, fine," his dad asks again and Dave goes into longer detail with, "No one cares anymore as long as they don't have to dress next to me in the locker room," and his mother gasps "David!" as if he said he's been giving one-dollar blowjobs to every member of the baseball team.

But Paul Karofsky is satisfied with the answer, and as far as Dave is concerned, that's all that counts anymore.

* * *

Over the past few weeks, Kurt has started a dozen random text messages to send to Dave. (Blaine helped me make a YouTube playlist of the piano songs you play at his house.—My dad came home in a blue baseball cap today. Did he steal it from you? I feel like my worlds are colliding.—So you know about WWII fighter planes, but do you know anything about early passenger planes? I have this brooch, and I'm not sure it's historically accurate.) But his thumb always hits "delete" instead of "send."

Last week, he accidentally hit “send” before he could delete what he'd written (Blaine and I have been singing "Fidelity" all afternoon but it's missing something, and I just realized it's your voice), and he was so freaked out that he almost took his seam ripper to the vest he’d been altering for non-prom. But somehow Blaine managed to channel Kurt’s energy into desperate making-out by the time that Dave buzzed back with Regina Spektor? I love that song. She makes me want to learn how to play pop on the piano. And then the desperate making-out turned sweet and hungrily tender, and Kurt came with barely a touch.

Kurt turns on his phone and selects Dave's name from the menu before hitting send. It's a good thing that Kurt only needs his thumb for this, because his hand is trembling so hard he can't even keep the phone still.

Dave answers on the second ring. "Kurt?"

"Dave." Kurt hadn't planned what to say because, if there's one thing he's good at, it's thinking on his feet.

Except that, right now, he has no idea what to say.

"Kurt? You there?"

Kurt opens his mouth, hoping that will coax something to come out. It works. A little. "Yeah. I –"

Another silence. Maybe Kurt can just pretend the phone reception went dead.

"I'm glad you called," Dave says. "I was ... thinking about you."

"Good thoughts?" Kurt means it to sound flirty and confident, but instead it sounds kind of weak and afraid-of-having-one's-dreams-shattered.

"Well, I – You've talked to Blaine?"

"Yeah. He didn't tell me much, though. Just that – I guess he let slip that I'm, um –” Kurt sucks in a breath. “Crazy about you?"

Dave's silent for a second. "Yeah, well, Blaine's kind of – he sees things that aren't there sometimes."

"No," Kurt says. "I mean, yes. Sometimes. But –" Kurt darts his tongue nervously across his lips. It's like sandpaper against his skin. "He's not seeing things this time. Everything he sees is real. It's there."

Another pause. "Kurt – this has been a crazy day. I don't think – maybe we should talk later."

"Nonono." The floodgates suddenly open, the words rushing out of Kurt's mouth. "I – I need you to know. Please. I need to talk about this. It's been building up and building and every time I look at you it's just – so much."

Silence on the other end. Maybe Dave's hung up. Kurt keeps going, anyway. "I didn't know things could be like this. I'm in love with Blaine and I can't stop thinking about you, but that doesn't mean I want to stop being with Blaine – I don't think I could ever stop being with Blaine – I love Blaine and it's not fair to you because I keep touching you because I can't not touch you but it's not fair, you don't need that, you deserve to have someone of your own, you've never even really had a boyfriend unless you count that boring Mennonite and –"

"Kurt." Dave is still there. He hasn't hung up. "I don't want someone of my own. I've tried, but none of them are you."

Oh fuck. Here they are. Tears. Kurt gets off the bed and flicks the lights off so he won't accidentally catch his reflection in the vanity mirror.

"But I don't deserve you, Kurt. I don't even deserve to be your friend. This whole time we've been hanging out, I've been waiting for you to see that."

Kurt interrupts. "We've talked about that, Dave. The past is past."

"No. We haven't. I mean, yes, the past. But not – even without the past, I'm still me. I'm still – I guess I'm good at some things, but I'm not whip-smart like you – like, I'm not funny and I would flunk out of most of my classes if spell-check didn't exist and it takes me years to figure out obvious things like I'm gay. And I'm overweight and –"

"Waitwaitwait. Stop. First off, I'm not funny, I'm sarcastic, and I couldn't stand to hang out with anyone who was as cutting as me because of the competition. Second, I don't care how well you spell, even though I honestly haven't noticed it being a problem. Third, of course it took you years to figure out you were gay because pretty much everyone in this society is raised to think that they're straight until proven otherwise. I mean, it took me a while to figure out even though I drew hearts all over Marcus Kramer's yearbook pictures in first grade. And lastly – you're beautiful, Dave."

"Kurt –"

"Look, I could go into all the objective things like you're supposed to be that big for football and most of your extra weight is muscle mass and that you shouldn't insult a body that does so well for you – but fuck it. Because that would just be hiding what I really think, which is that you're beautiful and I get overwhelmed when I look at you. I mean, you already know how I feel about your eyebrows, but your face, Dave, and when you smile I can barely breathe sometimes it makes me so happy, and from a purely objective standpoint your teeth, and the hair on your forearms is just – I can't even –"

"Kurt –"

"Dave. You're the bravest person I know, and I know you want to protest and say no, you hid in the closet and you used to throw me into lockers and torment the whole glee club. But to me, you're brave because you had the courage to stop doing those things, and to change even when you still hated yourself, even when you were terrified of what other people would think."

"When I look in the mirror, I just see someone who has no idea what he's doing."

"No one does. No one. But you try to do the right thing anyway. You're kind and you're gentle and your heart is huge and you're a goddamn math genius, and when you play piano it's like singing, and you're honest and brave and you're Blaine's closest friend. And that takes something, because as friendly as he is he usually doesn't let people in past a certain point. And he's let you in. He trusts you, and he's comfortable with you, and there are so few people in the world I can say that about. And I do, too. I trust you, Dave. As much as I trust Blaine."

"Kurt –"

"No, I need to keep going. I've been avoiding this for too long. Just let me keep going, okay?"

"Okay."

"I want you. I want you in my life and I don't even know how to ask for that because I'm already in love with someone else and I have no plans to leave him and you and I are both leaving for college in the fall and I've been carrying your Webelos scarf around with me since December – "

"Wait. My Webelos scarf?"

"You wrapped the cake topper in it when you gave it back to me last year."

"No, I remember. I just thought – I assumed you would just throw it away."

"No. I remembered when we met in Figgins' office and your dad mentioned how you'd been a Cub Scout and he looked so proud of you and you looked almost like you were going to cry from that pride. I couldn't have thrown it away."

Kurt thinks he hears Dave crying on the other end of the phone. He wants to wrap his arms around him and pull his face to his shoulder and let the tears soak into his dry-clean-only shirt. But he can't, so he just keeps talking.

"I don't know how it happened, but I want you and Blaine both in my life, and Blaine wants it to. And I know it's more than any reasonable person would ever ask and so I can't even ask it of you. I just needed to tell you. And I hope we can still be friends. Because I need that more than anything. And I'll start keeping my hands to myself. I haven't been practicing a lot of self-control in that area lately. I'm sorry."

"No. Don't – don't do that. I like it when – I like your hands."

Kurt looks down at his free hand and curls his fingers into his palm. He touches the tips of his index finger and thumb together into a circle, extending the rest of his fingers into a sign language "f." He opens his palm and studies the lines and divots there. He wonders which one is his love line, and how many people appear on it.

"Dave, I'm sorry if I've said too much. It's – you know me, once I get going I can't keep my mouth shut."

"I'm kind of ... overwhelmed."

"Yeah." Kurt sighs. "We don't – we don't have to do anything. You don't have to reciprocate."

Whatever Kurt's expecting, it's not the chortle he gets from the other end of the line. "Um, I was reciprocating even before you were, I'm pretty sure."

With anyone else, Kurt would correct the misuse of “reciprocating.”

Dave is not anyone else.

"God, I want to kiss you senseless." Did that really just come out of Kurt's mouth? Apparently, it did.

"Kurt, this isn't – no one ever told me things could be this way."

Kurt rests his palm against his jeans, smoothing the fabric against his thigh in small strokes. "Yeah. The natives have deceived us."

"Kurt – I think I need to think for a few days."

"Yeah, okay."

"We can still talk, I just –"

"I understand. It's okay."

"Kurt, I need to tell you something."

"Yeah," Kurt says. "I haven't really given you a word in edgewise. What is it?"

"That Saturday, when we were driving back from the river, I was so – I think it was the happiest I've been in a long time. And I couldn't figure it out. Because a lot of what was making me happy was watching you and Blaine together all evening. Because you’re my best friends and it feels good to see two people that I love in love with each other. It makes me feel safe."

Kurt starts to cry again. Damn his overproductive lacrimal glands. He'll never be able to leave his room again tonight unless he wants Finn asking a million questions. (Which he does not, duh.)

"And the other part that was making me happy was being with you," Dave says, and fuck, more tears. "It just felt right dancing with you, and being by the river, and sitting in the car next to you. It felt that way when Blaine was there and when Blaine wasn't. And I couldn't figure out how, on one hand, I could know that Blaine is perfect for you and enough for you, and on the other hand, I wanted to belong to you, too."

Kurt completely loses it at that. The tears run down his face faster than his fingers can catch them, curling over his jaw and down his neck into the collar of his shirt.

"Kurt, are you okay? I didn't mean – I'm sorry if that was too much."

Kurt sniffles, the tears thick and burning at the back of his throat. "No, Dave, it's not too much. It's perfect."

***

Dave hardly sleeps that night, and he walks around school in a daze on Tuesday. Nobody really seems to notice except for the girls at lunch, because nobody really notices Dave in general. That's how he likes it.

He drinks twice as much Mountain Dew as usual, which helps him stay awake through classes, but he skips intramural baseball after school and goes straight home to bed, where he sleeps for three hours.

When he awakes, he's surprised to find that Kurt isn't on the bed next to him. He was lying there in Dave's dreams all afternoon, his head against Dave's heart and his hair catching the sun in red sparks. Kurt's hair smelled of lemon and sage, and his breath was warm through the thin cotton of Dave's t-shirt. Dave had one arm wrapped around Kurt's back and Blaine had an arm draped across Kurt's waist, the backs of his fingers grazing Dave's stomach.

*

Chapter Text

Maybe this whole situation is like learning about imaginary numbers.

The first time Dave heard of them, he thought they were his teacher's idea of an April Fool's joke.

"Let's figure out the square root of negative twenty-five." Mrs. Buchanan wrote the figure on the whiteboard, but Dave didn’t copy it down. It was obviously a trick to see if anyone in the class was paying attention. Everything he had learned so far had proven that a negative number can't have a square root. Because whether you multiply a positive number by itself or a negative number by itself, the answer will always come out positive.

Except she kept going, parsing out the figure until she came to an answer: 5i.

Which was clearly something she’d just made up.

This,” she said, pointing to the i, “is the square root of negative one, and even though it's called the imaginary unit, it's real. It's as real as a positive number or a negative number.”

Dave highly doubted that, but he listened anyway. It’s not like he could text Azimio about this bullshit; Azimio didn’t know that Dave had ever made it past Algebra 1.

"Now, a lot of you probably thought that negative numbers weren't real when you first learned about them, since we can't count them on our fingers or with matchsticks. But now you use them all the time without questioning it. Math doesn’t make sense without them. Well, that’s how it is with imaginary numbers." Mrs. Buchanan drew a horizontal line on the board, jotting down zero in the middle and writing "1, 2, 3, 4 …" to the right of it and "-1, -2, -3, -4 …" to its left.

"I think about it this way," she said. "I picture positive and negative numbers on a one-dimensional line. But we all know that space has more than one dimension, right?" She drew a vertical line through the zero mark. "I think of imaginary numbers as being on this vertical line. They take our one-dimensional view of numbers and make it two-dimensional."

Dave shook his head in disbelief, but when she assigned their homework, he did the problems as instructed instead of writing, "This makes no fucking sense," all over his assignment, even though he was tempted to.

Over the weeks, though, as he worked with the numbers, they did start to make sense. Mrs. Buchanan would show them little tricks for using i to do trigonometry problems more quickly and still come to the same solutions. The imaginary unit was elegant and practical and – it seems strange to use the word truthful to describe a number, but that's what it was. It led to the right answers.

He was hooked.

*

On Thursday, when Dave arrives at Blaine's, it's Kurt who answers the door. He reaches for Dave's hand as soon as he crosses the threshold. Dave just stands there, staring at their interlaced hands, a weird amalgam of panic and joy flowing through him.

"Sorry," Kurt mumbles, pulling his hand away.

"No, I didn't mean –" Dave reaches to take Kurt's hand back, stopping just before he makes contact. The air between his fingertips and Kurt's skin is electric.

Dave's never initiated a touch with Kurt before – not this way, not in friendliness. He's always been so aware that he has no right. "Just," Dave says, but he doesn't know how to explain. His eyes flicker between Kurt's face and where their fingertips are almost touching. "Please."

Kurt closes the gap between them, wrapping his palm with Dave's and staring at where their fingers touch. “Thank you,” Kurt says with a satisfied grin.

Dave takes a deep breath as Kurt leads him to the kitchen. Blaine looks up at them from his homework, eyes stopping on their interlinked hands, and smiles with all the brightness of the afternoon sun.

*

Kurt holds Dave's hand again when they stand at the picture window looking for warblers, passing the binoculars back and forth. Dave's hand sweats a little less than it did the first two times Kurt took it this afternoon. He's able to focus more on the texture of Kurt's skin, the solid reality of Kurt's fingers.

Blaine gets up from the counter and plants a kiss to the back of Kurt's head. "Back in a minute.” Kurt keeps holding on to Dave's hand as Blaine turns out of the room, and the next time he passes the binoculars back to Dave he looks up at him like … well, it's something like the way Kurt looks at Blaine sometimes.

Dave forgets how to swallow. Forgets how to breathe. But his heart doesn't forget to beat. It's thumping harder than he remembers it ever doing on the football field.

Kurt squeezes Dave's hand and lets go, smiling shyly. "I guess we should study."

Or we could look at each other the rest of the afternoon. Dave doesn't say it, though. Everything's incredible enough as it is.

Dave is barely a sentence into his English homework when Blaine returns, ceremoniously slapping a book onto the counter in front of him. "Required reading," Blaine says.

Dave reads the title out loud. "The Ethical Slut?"

Kurt rolls his eyes. "Sweetheart, I wouldn't call it required reading. It's not like it’s Patti Lupone’s memoir."

“Well, that was phenomenal, but –” Blaine beams at Dave as if he's just transformed a pepper shaker into a real, live kitten. "This book is much more practical. It’s about, well some of it's about, um –" Blaine points at Dave and Kurt, then himself. "This?"

Kurt puts a hand on the cover and says coolly, "It's not only about being a slut," but his bright blush belies his tone.

Dave blushes, too. The world is not at all what he's believed.

* * * 

Chapter Text

Kurt holds Dave's hand almost constantly when they're all at Blaine's house, plays with his hair, gives him lingering hugs for hello and goodbye.

He wears Dave's kerchief blatantly – in his right and his left pockets, cuffed around his wrist, billowing out from the front pocket of his blazer.

But he doesn’t kiss Dave. Kurt’s body wants and his heart wants, but his mind keeps telling him he’s asking too much.  What comes next is Dave's decision now.

In the meantime, Kurt has to be patient.

Kurt is anything but patient.

Kurt bows out of his Monday shift at the tire shop with the excuse of finals arriving and instead spends the time at Blaine's. The three of them study together on Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday, too – Dave's intramural baseball season is over and glee rehearsals are scarce now that Nationals have been won.

Kurt wants to kiss Dave when he smiles and when he laughs and when he snorts Mountain Dew from his nose. He wants to kiss him when he’s reading his textbooks and his brows get that characteristic furrow of concentration. He wants to kiss him when he’s at the piano working out the knots in a new piece of music – he wants to kiss Dave’s lips and his face and his hands and each callused fingertip. He wants to coax a melody from Dave’s body.

By the time Dave leaves, it takes no wheedling on Blaine's part to get Kurt up to his bedroom and naked in a flash. Their sex life has never been better than now.

For the first time, they try it with Kurt on all fours, Blaine behind him on the bed, their hips both rocking as Kurt slides back and forth on Blaine's shaft. They can see their faces in Blaine's mirror, watch the twists of pleasure that possess them, look into each other's eyes in the reflection. Blaine can't stop running a hand through Kurt's hair, pulling  soft moans from Kurt with every gentle tug at the roots.

"You know what I would love?" Blaine says.

Kurt is, at this point, unable to string a sentence together. "Fuck," is all he says.

"Yes," Blaine says. "I love fucking you. I love feeling how warm you are inside. I love how you hold onto me."

Kurt says nothing, just turns his head and bites the hand that's been running through his hair, pulls the fingers into his mouth and sucks.

"But I'd also love if – if Dave was here, under you, and you kissed him and rubbed your cock against his while I fucked you. God, I would love that."

Kurt's ass clamps down on Blaine's cock, fucking it rhythmically as he spills onto the sheets.

Another afternoon, they sixty-nine on Blaine's bed, Kurt sucking hungrily, trying to take all of Blaine in, while Blaine intersperses lazy licks with whispers against Kurt's cock: "I want you to be alone one afternoon when Dave comes over. I – I'd go to the library and you would, you would answer the door and he'd ask where I was and you – fuck, Kurt, that feels good – you'd grab him and press him against the door and kiss him and you wouldn't be able to stop and – oh, Kurt – you'd take him up to my room and you, you'd do everything, you'd both come all over my sheets and you'd start all over again and I’d come home and hear you guys going at it in my room, I would hear the sounds you make him make, Kurt, I would hear you, I would –"

Blaine comes warm and bitter into Kurt's throat and Kurt comes all over Blaine's face and hair.

Blaine looks remarkably pleased with himself.

*

On Sunday evening, Kurt is over at Blaine's empty house, polishing Blaine's toenails deep red to match his polo shirt. Blaine reads Vogue while his nails dry and Kurt picks up his phone to call Dave, like he does every night now.

They don't say anything monumental. But every word feels weighted and significant, even when Dave's just telling him about the stuff he's reviewing for his AP Physics exam tomorrow. He mentions Heisenberg's uncertainty principle – you can't measure where a particle is and how fast it's moving at the same time – and Kurt wonders if maybe this is a metaphor for his own life, or for himself and Blaine and Dave, but he can't put his finger on how.

Except that Kurt wants to be moving faster.

It's getting ridiculous. His heart flutters when Dave talks about science and math; he gets hard when he sees Dave's fingers on the piano. Dave starts talking about a piece he's working on and that's all Kurt can picture – those broad hands moving over the keys, seducing a tune out of previously lifeless wood and ivory – and he is absolutely, completely gone.

When he and Dave hang up, Blaine looks up at Kurt from his magazine, his eyes falling on the hard outline of Kurt's cock against his pants. He rubs a thumb across his toenails to check that they're dry before moving to the bed.

They quickly discover that they both want to be fucked tonight. So Blaine opens his bedside drawer and takes out the dildo that Cooper sent as an embarrassingly inappropriate, but frequently useful, seventeenth birthday present. They finger each other open and he slides it gradually into Kurt's ass, waiting for Kurt to beg before moving it forward each time.

When it's all the way in, Blaine climbs on top of Kurt and sinks down onto his dick. Kurt's eyes go wider than Blaine has ever seen them before.

"You like this?" Blaine says.

Kurt nods a wordless yes.

"It'll be even better when we're like this but it's Dave's cock inside you." Blaine shifts his hips and leans forward to suck on Kurt's collarbone, his jaw, his lips.

Kurt fucks the dildo in and out of himself while Blaine slides up and down his cock. He can't hold the toy as steadily as he'd like or keep the rhythm right, but it's so, so good and he can almost feel the warmth of Dave's hands against his ass, spreading him open as he fucks lovingly into him, as Blaine squeezes his cock with the same sweet attention.

Kurt cries out his orgasm before he knows it's there.

* * *

Dave's pretty sure he's going to die if Kurt doesn't kiss him soon.

But it doesn't matter. He'll wait as long as it takes. He doesn’t deserve anything from Kurt. He's only willing to take what Kurt wants to freely give. The book that Blaine gave Dave talks a lot about sex, but Kurt hasn't mentioned sex and Blaine hasn't mentioned sex and, even though Kurt did mention kissing that one time on the phone, Dave feels most of the time like he must have hallucinated that part of the conversation.

It’s okay, though. The friendship and the hugs and the hand-holding and the lingering glances are more happiness than Dave ever planned for in his lifetime.

Kurt holds his hand so much now that Dave has begun to notice the subtle changes in Kurt's skin from day to day. On a breezy afternoon when Kurt and Dave tread through the woods next to Blaine's house looking for warblers, Kurt's hands are dry and a little rough, their usual softness sucked out by the wind.

On a humid afternoon as they sit in the kitchen studying together, Kurt's hands glow with a fine mist of perspiration, heady and warm. (It’s good that Dave’s calculus homework is mostly mindless calculations, because all he can think about is kissing the sweat off the palm of Kurt's hand.)

When Kurt hugs him goodbye, Dave resists the urge to hold Kurt flush against his body. He leans into it, shoulders first, so Kurt won't feel his hard-on. Kurt can keep poking fun at his baggy clothes; Dave is thankful to have attire that hides the more embarrassing truths about his body.

Dave's not really sure about the etiquette of masturbating while thinking about a boyfriend you haven't even kissed. He's not even sure if Kurt's his boyfriend. No matter. He can't stop. After getting home from Blaine's, he goes to his room or the shower because his eyes see nothing but Kurt's face and his hands feel nothing but Kurt's skin and his ears hear only Kurt's voice. He imagines, sometimes, being fucked by Kurt – as the getter or the giver, he doesn't really care, just as long as Kurt takes everything he can.

It's jerking off, of course, but it doesn't feel like it. He feels Kurt's voice humming through his skin and his affection thrumming through his veins and his eyes breaking his heart open.

Doing this has never made Dave feel so plainly happy before.

It's enough.

* * *

And still, Kurt waits.

Or mostly waits. On Monday afternoon, when Dave says he thinks he did well on the physics exam, Kurt hugs him and kisses his shoulder – so brief and light that he's not even sure Dave notices. If Dave does, he doesn't say anything, doesn’t take the gesture as a signal to kiss Kurt senseless now.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dave leaves without trying anything again. Kurt wants to punch him, but instead he leans forward to plant a kiss on Dave's cheek as he's about to head out the door. He doesn't hit the apple of Dave's cheek like he was hoping. Instead, he hits the part of Dave's cheek right above his lower jaw, where the shadow flushes out every afternoon around 4 p.m. The stubble feels different from Blaine's, though Kurt can't quite explain how. It makes him think of the bristly hairs on poppy leaves.

Dave lets out a little breath of surprise when Kurt pulls away, the apples of his cheeks so red that Kurt can barely resist trying for them again. "What – what was that for?"

Kurt lifts their joined hands to his lips and kisses Dave's knuckles, never breaking eye contact. "For you."

Kurt watches Dave step out to his car, watches him back out of the driveway, watches his rear bumper disappear behind the hedge on the corner. All the while, Kurt’s clenching and unclenching his hand in a tiny wave because, even though it's totally dorky, he can't seem to stop himself.

He feels Blaine approaching before he realizes that he hears him – feels the way the air stirs behind his back as Blaine steps closer, and the familiar warmth of Blaine's body before they're even touching. Blaine wraps his arms around Kurt's waist and kisses his neck in a way that Kurt thinks is supposed to be chaste, but sends a wave of lust right down his spine and into his hips.

Kurt turns around in Blaine's arms and kicks the door closed behind him. "He's never going to kiss me. Ever. He doesn't want this." He leans his head against Blaine's shoulder, half because he's exhausted and half to hide his pout.

Blaine kisses the top of his head. "Maybe he's waiting for you."

"I don't want him to wait for me. I'm afraid I'm going to do everything wrong."

"Why?"

Kurt vents his lungs loudly. It's not quite a groan or a moan – just frustration, pure and unfiltered. "I didn't have to read a book before we became us, Blaine. I knew how to do it without reading a book first. The fact that I had to read a book makes me feel like I'll never know what I'm doing."

"Kurt." Blaine puts a finger to Kurt's chin to tip his head up until their eyes meet. "Um, I definitely didn't know what I was doing when I fell in love with you. I mean, it took me months to even realize that I was. I just thought I knew stuff because I'd watched Love Story too many times. And because couples are everywhere around us – and a lot of them show us good ways to love each other, like your dad and Carole, and a lot of them show us bad ways to do it –"

"Like everyone in New Directions."

"But we don't have role models for this. So we read a book and try to do things right."

Kurt bites his lip – not in his come-hither way, but in his too-conflicted-to-do-anything else way.

"Are you afraid of hurting me?" Blaine says. "Because that's really not something you should be worried about. I love you both."

"I know. Or I think I know. But I'm –" Kurt leans the back of his head against the door and sighs. "I also keep thinking how Dave has never had a boyfriend he can call his own. And I can't give him that."

"Oh, Kurt." They're already close, but Blaine pulls Kurt in closer, presses their chests together until their breath rises and falls in the same rhythm. "You already have."

A tension that Kurt didn't even realize was in his forehead begins to release. "And I don't want him to feel like I'm ashamed of him just because I don't know how to explain this to my family. To anyone."

"I could help. I mean, not by blurting it out at an inopportune moment like I do everything else." He pauses as Kurt chuckles quietly. "But if you want to tell them. We don't have to explain ourselves to anybody, though, if we don't want to."

Kurt kisses Blaine softly.

"Can I tell you what I think is going on, with both of you?" Blaine says.

"Please."

"I think," Blaine says, "because of your past with Dave, you're stuck with this idea that he wants his life to be normal – that that's more important to him that anything else. And I think you're wrong about that. I think you're more important to him than anything else. And I also think that, because of his past with you, Dave is afraid to make the first move. Because he still remembers the last time he kissed you."

Kurt looks at Blaine, pleading, his fingers gripping Blaine shoulders. "But he knows that wasn't – It doesn't hurt me anymore. He's a different person. He's – him."

"Kurt." Blaine strokes softly at knob of Kurt's hip. "He's not that person anymore. But he still remembers who he was and what he did, and he carries that around with him everywhere, even if you don't want him to. Even if you've forgiven him. Even if he's forgiven himself."

Kurt reminds himself to breathe. "Has he?"

"I don't know, Kurt." Blaine's voice is soothing and hushed and too much. Kurt starts kissing him without volition, parting Blaine's lips with his tongue because he needs inside, and he needs Blaine inside him.

Blaine pulls away with a moan and a smile. "Is that how you want to kiss Dave?"

"Maybe," Kurt says, his chest heaving. "But right now I want to kiss you."

Blaine kisses Kurt back, pressing him into the door, and his tongue and lips do the work on Kurt's heart that a million locksmiths never could.

"Please," Kurt whispers when Blaine lowers his mouth to the nook just under Kurt's jaw. "Take care of me. I need you to take care of me."

The request unleashes something akin to a growl from deep inside Blaine. It's not a request that Kurt often makes. He likes to be in control – well, likes may not be the right word. He just tends to forget that there's any other way to be.

Before Kurt knows what's happening, he's in the air, one of Blaine's arms under his back and the other under his knees. He squeals in surprise, throwing his arms around Blaine's neck and letting himself be carried up the stairs. It doesn't matter that he's always pictured carrying Blaine this way on their wedding night, because this is perfect. It's just what he needs.

Blaine lays Kurt down on the bed and begins undressing him slowly, kissing the exposed skin as he undoes a button or pulls back a hem. Kurt feels like a drunken, blissed-out rag doll.

When every last bit of clothing has been stripped from Kurt, Blaine stands up and removes his own clothes unhurriedly. Kurt can't take his eyes off of Blaine: the light trail of hair dusting down his spine, the perfect curve of his ass (so much better than anything Michelangelo ever carved from a block of marble), the striated muscles of his thighs.

Blaine leans over the bed and kisses Kurt. "What do you want?"

"I want you to take care of me."

"I will. I promise. But how?"

Kurt turns his face toward the pillow. The down is soft and cool against his cheek. "I don't know." He faces Blaine again. "Trust yourself. I don't know what I need right now. But you do. You'll listen, and you'll know. I trust you."

Blaine's hand is trembling. He rests it against Kurt's hip, sending minute vibrations through Kurt's skin and into his muscles and bone. Blaine's lips are on his again, delicious and in control.

Kurt feels himself falling apart with just the kiss. He doesn't know how he's going to last through this, but he doesn't have to know.

He lets Blaine love him. Blaine kisses him and kisses him, with as much patience and longing as he did that first time in the Dalton common room, kisses him like that's all he needs and all they're going to do and Kurt gets lost in it, forgets he's ever wanted more, forgets the ache in his balls and just lets himself kiss and be kissed.

He doesn't register when the kisses shift from his mouth to his chin to his neck – the light keeps pulsing through his body all the same. It's Blaine's lips, everywhere; Blaine's skin and hair dancing against Kurt's body; Blaine's tongue relishing places that Kurt never understood could be beautiful.

Blaine kisses Kurt's armpits, murmurs endearments to the hair there, chides Kurt for trimming it again. Kurt would laugh if the feeling of Blaine's nose on the tender skin there wasn't so utterly, bewilderingly hot.

Kurt tries to keep track of everywhere that Blaine's mouth goes, but he loses count somewhere between the inside of his elbow and the jut of his ankle. Kurt's body, apparently, has an infinite number of locations to be kissed. Each one Blaine kisses becomes Kurt's favorite, until Blaine kisses the next one, and the next, finally reaching the one that Kurt needs touched the most but doesn't even realize he does until Blaine's tongue is there, in that dark, intimate place that Kurt had never given much thought to before Blaine showed him that he should.

Blaine's nose nudges sweetly against Kurt's balls as he licks and sucks, his moans competing with Kurt's for loudness. The hum vibrates down into the ring of muscle, loosening it and making Kurt moan even more, launching a cycle of hums and loosening and moans and more moans until Kurt feels Blaine's tongue enter the ring.

If pleasure could kill, Kurt would die on the spot.

Kurt takes everything Blaine gives him, doesn't press into Blaine's mouth no matter how much he wants, because Blaine is giving it to him now and will keep giving it to him without his prompting.

Kurt doesn't whine or whimper when Blaine pulls his mouth away, gradually licks back up to Kurt's lips via balls and shaft and navel, sternum and nipple and collarbone. He relishes in Blaine covering his body, in the sharp suction of Blaine's mouth on his neck. He's so lost in it that when he feels Blaine's wet finger slip inside of him, he's not even sure how it got that way.

"How'd you do that?" he gasps, clenching around Blaine's finger.

Blaine stops sucking on Kurt's neck, but keeps his lips there. "I might" kiss "have started moving the lube" kiss "to under the pillows" kiss "on days that you come over."

"Mmm." Kurt closes his eyes and turns his head further into the pillow to give Blaine's mouth even better access to his neck. "I – mmm – love you."

That earns Kurt a second finger in his ass and oh it takes everything in him not to ride them. Blaine is giving it to him slow and sweet and that's how he wants it, despite the ingrained habits of his body.

Blaine slides his fingers in and out, twisting and stretching, and it keeps feeling incredible, like Kurt's world is going to fall apart and then rush back together, the pieces of it rejoining into something more beautiful than what came before.

Kurt feels another slide and press and it must be a third finger now, but he doesn't ask because he doesn't need to know. Blaine's kissed back down to Kurt's belly by now to give his hand better leverage, and he's licking little circles around and into Kurt's navel and that drives Kurt crazy, too, for no good reason at all. Blaine's chin brushes against the head of Kurt's cock and his neck against theshaft and Kurt feels himself spinning, spinning, as fast as the world.

And now their faces are close, Blaine's hovering over Kurt's, sweat breaking out over Blaine's brow, eyes soft and cradling. He slides into Kurt slowly. It doesn't feel like caution, or even patience. It feels the way that love does, starting right at the bottom of your heart and then growing, pushing gently at its boundaries and filling it, then pushing further so it stretches and accommodates even more, and every time you think your heart has reached its limit, suddenly there's even more love and your heart grows bigger to hold that, too.

They haven't done it like this much lately. Except for their one successful experiment with Blaine fucking him from behind, Kurt usually rides Blaine because it turns Blaine on and it keeps Kurt in control. But something clicks in Kurt's brain as he looks up at Blaine. He understands why this is the way that Blaine loves to be fucked. To have someone look at you that way, with wonder and concern, to have someone know that your pleasure is under their control and that you have entrusted them with it – it's heady and humbling and breathtaking.

Maybe there are some things that Kurt's better off not controlling. Back in the twilight of his discontent with Blaine, when the boy was embarrassing himself in front of Gap employees and making out with Rachel in front of the entire glee club, Kurt thought it would be easier if he could somehow make Blaine see the light, if he could force him into loving Kurt now and truly and exactly the way Kurt wanted.

He's so glad he failed to make Blaine love him the way he wanted. The way that Blaine loves him, from his own heart, is so much better than anything Kurt could have come up with.

Kurt can't control the way that Dave sees himself, can't make him forget a past that never should have existed in the first place. But maybe that's okay. Maybe there's something in Dave that needs to remember. Maybe that memory is what spurned him to become the person he is now, generous and kind and heart-achingly beautiful and impossible to get out of Kurt's head.

Someone who's helped make Kurt more fearless than he’s ever been.

Kurt wants to kiss Blaine and apparently Blaine can see that because he piles pillows under Kurt's neck until their faces are flush. Their mouths are joined and they are joined and Blaine is moving so sweetly in him, hitting him at the perfect-yes-just-right angle. “Oh,” Kurt cries into Blaine's mouth. “You’re so good.”

Blaine keeps moving in the way that destroys and rebuilds worlds, strokes Kurt’s cock softly and then firmly as it swells and stiffens and starts to pulse. "I love doing this for you. Dave wants to do this for you," Blaine says, and Kurt bites down on his shoulder and comes with a million pinpricks of light.

*

"Maybe you guys should go on a date." Blaine is draped across Kurt's stomach, having licked it clean as soon as he pulled out of Kurt.

"What?"

"Maybe you guys should go on a date."

"No, I heard you the first time. I just –" Kurt tilts his head. "Given my only other boyfriend experience, I kind of expect the kissing to start before the dating." He pulls Blaine to him so that they can revisit their first kiss and all the ones that have happened since.

"I guess," says Blaine when he comes up for air, "I was just thinking that you guys probably need to talk about your expectations. Because you're waiting for him to kiss you, and he's waiting for you to kiss him –"

"You don't think I'm being a gentleman by waiting for him to kiss me first? Because if I kiss him first," a smirk inches across Kurt's face, "well, he'll never be able to resist me, even if he's not sure it's what he really wants."

Blaine smiles. "I'm pretty sure it's what he wants."

"You're biased."

"He looks at your lips constantly."

"Not constantly." Kurt chews on his lower lip.

"He just – he clearly wants you, Kurt, like you want him, and you guys are both waiting for the other to take the first step. I think you should talk about what's holding you back. So whether that's a date, or whether I shut you two together in my bedroom tomorrow when he comes over –"

"Oh, you'd like that."

"Yes, I would, but I wouldn't be doing it for my own sake."

"Maybe. But you'd still listen in at the door and hope for some good stuff."

Blaine starts licking Kurt's nipple mercilessly. "Mmmm. That really wasn't my motive, but I wouldn't mind."

*

Chapter Text

It's ridiculously warm the next afternoon – so much so that Blaine threatens to turn on the air conditioner. Kurt objects in an outward bid to protect the environment, but his ulterior motive has to do with watching Blaine and Dave sweat. He convinces them to move out to the screened-in gazebo and let the ceiling fan and their glasses of iced soda cool them down. They sit in a T, Kurt taking the chaise longue, the other two on the loveseat at his feet. Blaine props his feet near Kurt's on the end of the chaise longue; Dave's are on the floor.

For Kurt, it's that sweet spot of weather that's warm enough for baring arms, but not so warm that he's constantly breaking out in a sweat. It's not that sweet spot for Blaine, though, much to Kurt's delight. Spots of perspiration bloom on the front Blaine's t-shirt and under his arms. Kurt's too far away to catch Blaine's intoxicating blend of deodorant and apocrine sweat, but he knows it's there, and that turns him on almost as much.

Kurt's surprised at how not sweaty Dave is. So far this afternoon, there's just been a disappointing glow of dampness across his forehead and, if Kurt looks very closely, the barest hint of perspiration around his collar.

The last time Kurt saw Dave really sweat was the night they danced at Scandals. He felt the press of it through his shirt when he rolled over Dave's back. It was delicious.

He wants to feel it again.

Kurt tries to concentrate on his homework. Kind of. Between surreptitious glances at Blaine and Dave both, between thoughts of tackling Dave to the loveseat and owning his mouth, of Blaine riding him the way he did yesterday afternoon, of being pressed between Blaine and Dave’s bodies and sucking purple marks on Dave's neck – Kurt doesn't get much done.

It's a good thing Kurt is on the chaise longue. The way he's sitting, it should be difficult for either Blaine or Dave to see how hard he is unless they push his knees down and stare.

He wishes they would stare.

He could distract himself if he had to answer questions or write out Spanish verb conjugations – no, nix that, that would get him thinking about Señor Martinez and whether he sweats in this weather – or solve some math problems. But all he has is his English assignment to read and, as it is, he's pretty sure he's scanned the last paragraph of Catch-22, well, twenty-two times.

"I can't concentrate." It's not Kurt who says it. It's Dave, plopping his linear algebra book down on the floor next to the loveseat. "It's too nice out here."

That's one way to put it, Kurt thinks.

"I'm gonna go practice some." Dave turns to Blaine. "Do you want to work on Poulenc?"

"Mmm." Blaine barely looks up from his history book. "No, I'm kind of in a groove right now. Maybe later."

Dave turns to Kurt. "Do you want anything when I come back?"

You, Kurt thinks, but instead he says, "No, thank you. I might get something later. I should probably stretch my legs soon, anyway."

Dave disappears into the house. The sound of the screen door sliding shut is apparently the right piece of magic to wake Blaine out of his trance. He sets his open book on his lap. "Why aren't you inside?"

"I was the one who wanted to study in the gazebo, remember?"

Blaine smirks. "I haven't noticed you doing much studying. Have you even turned a page of that book since you started reading?"

Kurt opens his mouth, but then he realizes that something ridiculous like I never is about to come out of it. He shuts it and the paperback, which he throws in Blaine's general direction, intentionally missing him. Blaine ducks and giggles.

Kurt harumphs. "Well, Mr. Know-It-All, I don't suppose you've gotten much work done either if you've been able to keep track of my page turns."

"Actually, I was reading. The page-turning thing was a guess based on evidence."

"What evidence?"

"You're tense. Which either means that book you're reading is so difficult that it's making you stress out, which – no, it's not, it's Catch-22.  Or you're thinking about sexy things and trying not to. And when that happens, you're very bad at reading."

Kurt sinks back into the chaise longue and lets his legs go limp. He doesn't care if Blaine sees his hard-on. Or maybe he wants him to. "It's kind of difficult not to have sexy thoughts around you two."

"Well," Blaine says, leaning forward in his chair to tease Kurt's ankle with his finger, "I'd offer to help you with that, but I really am kind of on a roll with this reading."

Kurt kicks his hand away and crosses his arms. "You are evil. You know that?"

"Guess you have no choice but to go inside and talk to him about who's going to kiss who first," Blaine says as the first faint strains of the piano drift out the screen door and across the yard.

"'Who's going to kiss whom,' Blaine. What did they teach you at Dalton?"

Blaine doesn't blink. "Stop trying to change the subject."

"Truly, truly evil."

Blaine smirks. "Get in there, tiger. You know you want to."

"You think you know everything," Kurt grumbles, but he stands up anyway.

"Don't go in there with that attitude."

Kurt steps closer to Blaine and bends over to kiss his brow. "I love you. And you annoy me." He straightens. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."

Blaine kisses his hand. Kurt bends back down to give Blaine a peck on the lips before turning to leave.

"And Kurt," Blaine says as Kurt swings the gazebo door open. "I want a full report after Dave leaves, and if one of you hasn't kissed the other, you're not getting laid tonight."

"Fuck you," Kurt says, but he's beaming. He swings his hips with every step back to the house.

*

Dave is running scales when Kurt enters through the screen door into the living room at the back of the house. Kurt doesn't go to the front room at first because, hello – hard-on. He walks as far as the couch and sinks down into it, letting the cushions cradle his body. He closes his eyes and pretends that the couch is water and he's floating on it. He lets his body become loose and soft like water, too. It works if he just focuses on the music coming from Dave's hands and the sensation of being held up.

The scales come to an end, and Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca begins. Kurt's more than a little proud to actually know the name of it, although he really should by now – Dave plays it as a warm-up almost every day.

It's good to have distance when listening to it. It makes Kurt a little dizzy when he's in the front room, watching Dave's fingers rush over the keys, coaxing the music out of them with seemingly effortless speed. Even without the benefit of seeing Dave's hands, the music makes Kurt feel a lot like he's riding a whirligig.

Before the dizziness can get too much, the song sounds out its final trills and slams on the brakes with solid, straightforward chords. It heaves Kurt's heart forward and then back. He squeezes his eyes and reminds himself: Float. Float.

The house is devoid of music for a minute. There's just the breeze shush-shushing through the azalea bushes outside the screen door, and the quieter sounds that Kurt hears even more clearly – the rustling of pages atop the music stand, the muted cough that Dave makes when he's thinking.

The notes begin again – just the bass line at first, so low and staid that Kurt can barely hear it at first, and then come the first treble notes: high E, E-sharp, E-sharp, E-sharp, F-sharp. Kurt doesn't have perfect pitch, but he can recognize these notes from a mile away, feels them vibrate in his throat and cheeks when he hears them because he's fought to keep them part of his own voice for so long.

Dave has played this one before. It's Chopin and a nocturne, but Kurt doesn't remember its number, and he’s not sure why it's a nocturne either if nocturnes are supposed to suggest the night. To Kurt, the music is like waking up early in the morning, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon, and watching the sky become steadily brighter until suddenly you realize that your room is flooded with diffuse light. And then clouds blow in, sudden and fast, and the sky turns that sickly shade of green that warns of tornados, and the wind picks up and you should get away from the window but you can’t because you’ve never seen leaves tear off of the trees like that.

And then the storm stops, and the house is still standing and you are too, and the sun slices cleanly through a break in the clouds and everything feels heady and new.

It makes Kurt feel like he's falling in love. Everything, lately, makes him feel like he's falling, one way or the other.

Like all things, the music ends. It ends even though it shouldn't, even though Kurt could lie there all afternoon with the notes falling over his skin like warm summer rain. It ends and there is no new song to replace it, to fill the space in Kurt's heart that apparently has grown just for this song as sung by Dave Karofsky's hands.

The piano bench squeaks against the floor. A pair of feet moves. The refrigerator opens and closes, and ice cubes clink in a glass. The tab on a soda can pops open, letting out a gasp of air.

Soda rushes over ice, and the ice cracks under its touch.

The steps begin again, over tiles and wood. The tension winds through Kurt's muscles, ordering him to sit, to stand, to run – to something – but he stays lying there, his eyes closed, until he hears Dave’s voice: "Oh, hi, Kurt."

And suddenly Kurt knows what to do.

First, he opens his eyes. Dave is at the entrance to the living room, glass in one hand, one foot in front of the other as if he's frozen in mid-step. "I didn't know you came in," Dave says.

Kurt doesn't answer, just looks right at Dave and the eyes below those incorruptible eyebrows. He goes from lying to standing in one motion, steps forward and forward again, and another step forward, until Dave is within arms' reach.

The ice trembles against the sides of the glass. Dave's hands, too, are trembling. Kurt looks at Dave, looks at the glass, unwraps Dave's fingers from it and sets it on the side table.

"Dave," he says.

"Kurt," Dave says.

Dave's eyes are brown, but they're different from Blaine's. More like Darjeeling tea, Kurt thinks.

And his lips. His upper lip is just like the top of a heart, smooth unbroken curves dipping down at the center. Kurt traces the line with two fingers, feels Dave's breath – warm as this day – against them.

Dave kisses those fingertips tentatively, breath fluttering and unsure.

"I wish I could be more for you," Kurt says. He strokes the back of his fingers slowly up Dave's jaw. The fine stubble there offers hardly any resistance.

"Kurt." Dave sounds a little like he's choking. "You're everything."

"But I'm not enough. I'm not – I belong to Blaine, too. You deserve –"

"It’s not about deserving." Dave reaches up and wraps his hand around Kurt's, and it's – it's the first time that Dave has ever initiated a touch like this, and it's ... not electric, no, but it fills an empty space in Kurt and leaves it on the verge of overflowing. "I want you. You're the only person I've ever really wanted. I swear, Kurt – you're so much more than enough."

And that's how Kurt knows it's time.

He leans closer, and a little closer, hears and feels Dave's breath catch against his upper lip. He watches the patch of skin between Dave's two perfect eyebrows furrow and relax.

He wants to kiss that first.

He lifts his hands to circle the curve of Dave's skull and guide his face down. Kurt kisses the patch of skin, slowly traces the arch of each eyebrow with his lips. He kisses to the top of Dave's forehead and down over Dave's closed eyelids, lingering on the apples of Dave's cheeks – and Kurt wonders suddenly why they're called apples at all, because they might be round and sometimes red, but they've got none of the hardness of apples. They're soft like cherry blossoms, pliant like an overripe peach. Kurt kisses them and kisses them until Dave's breath turns into a quiver, and the sound makes Kurt aware of how much he needs that breath to enter his body.

So he kisses Dave. He kisses Dave like he's underwater and Dave is his only source of oxygen. He kisses him and kisses him and kisses him because Dave kisses him the same way, because Dave makes these little moans like he's gotten a glimpse of heaven, because Dave tastes like Mountain Dew and ginger and skin and flesh and a multitude of things that Kurt has never tasted, but apparently has always loved. He can't think of words for them.

Except – cardamom?

No, Dave does not taste like cardamom, and yet his taste is like cardamom.

It's an analogy that makes sense if you live inside of Kurt Hummel's head.

See, Kurt spent years perfecting his oatmeal cookie recipe and finally thought he had it down when he settled on grade A Korintje cinnamon and chopped bittersweet chocolate with 81% cocoa content as the central flavorings.

That was before he met Blaine. They were in the Hummel kitchen one afternoon early in their friendship, and Kurt decided to gift Blaine with the privilege of learning his secret recipe. Kurt called for the cinnamon, and Blaine brought the cardamom too. "I bet this would be good in it," he said.

Kurt looked at him askance.

"Really," Blaine said. "Have you ever had cardamom buns? They’re like cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon. I've always wondered, what if you put the cinnamon and the cardamom into the same thing?"

 Kurt gave Blaine a withering look, but then he felt bad about it. So he added the cardamom to the batter.

And holy spaghetti monster, the resulting cookies were the best thing Kurt had ever tasted in his life.

A few months later, when he and Blaine started making out in the middle of mixing the dry ingredients together, they added the cardamom but forgot the cinnamon.

The resulting cookies were pretty good, but you could definitely tell there was something missing.

So, in Kurt Hummel's head, it makes sense to compare Dave to cardamom, even if he doesn't actually taste like it. Kurt's the bittersweet chocolate – of course – and Blaine is so cinnamony and Dave is cardamom.

And that's why Kurt has Dave on the couch now, why he's straddling Dave's lap and kissing him like he was born for this.

* * *

One half of Dave's brain has completely emptied of thought.

The other half is screaming, Holy fuck, I'm kissing Kurt Hummel.

The screaming half of the brain then corrects itself: No, no, Kurt Hummel is kissing me!

Yes, Dave is kissing back – how could he not? – but he wouldn't be doing any kissing at all if Kurt hadn't started it. It would have been another afternoon of uncomfortable longing, a feeling that Dave's become so accustomed to that it's actually become comfortable.

Dave wants to get accustomed to this feeling, too.

The flavors of Kurt's mouth – cola and Juicy Fruit and flesh – are notes that come together to form a major chord. The textures – slippery and dry, pliant and hard, smooth and ridged – are melody and countermelody. Dave opens his eyes and he sees Kurt's, so close to his own, eyelashes fluttering like a trill.

Kissing Kurt is like touching music with your hands.

It's not like kissing Brittany – sweet and tender and safe, but missing something. It's not like kissing Gavin-Patrick – sloppy and wanton, with the parts not fitting quite right. It's not like kissing Sebastian – hot and indulgent, but nonetheless leaving you with the sense that you're a car that's being driven on cruise control.

It's definitely, absolutely, positively nothing like kissing Jerry.

Kissing Kurt is everything good – hot and sweet and tender and indulgent and wanton and safe – without the bad parts. It might be perfect.

Of course, Dave has always known that Kurt is perfect and anything he chooses to do, he will do perfectly.

Oh my god. Kurt has chosen to.

Kurt has chosen this and he's kissing Dave like he owns him, like he's always owned him.

It's very, very difficult not to come on the spot.

The screaming part of Dave's brain is fishing around for some distraction. Finn said something once about his trick for not coming in the middle of a makeout session. It had something to do with a mailman.

No, that won't work. Dave's mailman is hot.

Dave tries to spit out, "Hold on." The syllables actually leave his throat. But with Kurt's tongue in his mouth, he can't really form any of the consonants and it just sounds like he's moaning.

Kurt moans back.

Dave moans for real this time, loses himself in Kurt's mouth again, so so so so lost. Dave never knew that being lost could be such a wonderful thing. He's hyperaware of Kurt's lips against his, his tongue subjugating the inside of Dave's mouth, one hand kneading the muscles of Dave's chest and the other tugging gently at Dave's hair.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

Somehow, Dave manages to grab Kurt's shoulders – wait, that's not the difficult part. The difficult part, the part he should win a goddamn trophy for, is when he manages to nudge Kurt just enough so that he has to pull those (amazing, better even than they looked, taste-like-cloudless-skies-and-awesome) lips away from Dave’s.

"Oh," Kurt says in a voice that Dave has never heard but quickly deduces is Kurt's bedroom voice. That doesn't help Dave's hard-on at all. Nor does the fact that Kurt is looking at him with wide cerulean-warbler eyes, because – well, Dave has read in porn that people's pupils get bigger when they're turned on, but he always figured it was just some kind of trope and never really happened in real life.

But Kurt's pupils are fucking huge.

"Sorry," Kurt says, not breaking eye contact unless you count the rapid blinking, which Dave has also read in porn is a sign of arousal. "Was that – that was too much, wasn't it? I should've – I'm sorry, I probably should have asked or –"

"No," Dave says, "not too much," and yes, the lack of nouns and verbs in that utterance probably makes him sound like the Neanderthal that Kurt used to think he was and that he may, in fact, have been – but he's never seen Kurt flustered before and even if it's flattering, it's a little disconcerting, too – so grammar's a bit beyond him right now. "Just need a break."

Kurt's chest is heaving the same way it used to after a Cheerios number, when Dave would stay in the bleachers with a backpack in his lap so no one would notice how Kurt's breathing made him feel. What Dave never saw after those Cheerios routines, because he was too far away – or maybe it wasn't there to see, maybe this only happens when Kurt's just had his tongue down someone's throat – is the bright flush across Kurt’s cheekbones and down his neck.

"Okay," Kurt says, and it's both torture and a relief when he stands up, makes a half-turn, and sits back down with his ass on the couch, his back against its arm, and his legs draped across Dave's lap.  The shyness from earlier in the afternoon returns to Kurt's face as he plays with the opening of Dave's t-shirt sleeve. "Everything good?"

"Better than good."

Kurt leans closer and kisses Dave's shoulder, looks up at him from under fluttering lashes. "I want you to be comfortable. Sorry if I got a little – pushy."

"Um, I like pushy."

 

Kurt laughs. It's waterfalls and warblers and the wind rushing through open car windows.

“Thank you,” Dave says without thinking.

“For what?”

“I – I don’t know.”

Kurt closes his mouth, turns his smile into something contained and serious. "I need you to let me know when you're not okay with something. I tend to get – well, like I said, I can be pushy. But I don't want to be pushier than you're comfortable with."

Dave looks down to where his hand is stroking Kurt's knee. My hand is stroking Kurt Hummel's knee! "Your pushiness is one of the things I love about you."

Kurt smiles and arches his eyebrow in his knowing way. "Of course it is," he says, leaning in closer to wrap his arms around Dave's neck and nuzzle his ear. Dave takes that as the hint it is and turns so that Kurt can kiss him again, a little more gently this time, but owning Dave all the same.

"I can't think of anything you could push me to do that I wouldn't want," Dave whispers against his lips, and for once he doesn't worry that he's said too much.

Being owned by Kurt is the safest feeling in the world.

* * *

"It's okay, though?" Kurt says a few minutes later when they break apart again. There's no urgency in separating this time. They just do it so they can look at each other for a while from this new perspective, faces so close together that they could start counting each other's eyelashes if they wanted to.

"Okay?" Dave says. "It's a lot better than okay."

Kurt traces his finger around the rim of Dave's ear and lands on the lobe, rubs it softly between his index finger and thumb. "No, I mean –" He smiles. "I mean, I was going to wait for you to kiss me, because I want this –" Kurt waves his free hand between the two of them, then gestures toward the screen door to indicate Blaine in the gazebo beyond. "– to be okay for you."

"That's better than okay, too," Dave says, ducking his head to give Kurt a quick kiss on his lips. The second time Dave has initiated all afternoon. All month. All year. Kurt feels all the air leave his lungs in one lovely swoop. "Haven't I said that, like, a million times already?"

Kurt sighs dreamily. "It's just a little hard to believe that I can have my cake and eat it, too." His finger and thumb are still rubbing at Dave's earlobe obsessively, which Dave seems to enjoy, the way he's leaning into it. "I mean, I feel like I'm getting the better end of the deal here. What do you get?"

Dave swallows and rubs his thumb along the nape of Kurt's neck. "I get exactly what I need."

* * *

"I need to tell you something." Kurt's straddling Dave's lap again, but he's being careful not to do it in the hot and heavy way. He's cradling Dave's face in his hands, and it's only Kurt Hummel who can make Dave feels like this, like he's actually being seen – all of him, his skin and his flesh and the soul inside. It's terrifying.

"What?" Dave says.

Kurt traces the s-curve on the inside of Dave's eyebrow with his finger. "When we went to Moulin Rouge, I wanted to kiss your eyebrows."

Dave lets out a stunned laugh.

Kurt smiles. "I think the first time I noticed them was that first time at Scandals. They were kind of hidden beneath your baseball hat, except I could see them when you looked up, and maybe that's why I noticed them – because they were hard to see. And when I would think about you later, I would remember them and think how beautiful they were and wonder why hadn't I noticed them before. I think I it was mostly an aesthetic appreciation at first, but then – I don’t know. It was hard to figure out because I couldn't understand how I could think about you when all I wanted was to … make out with Blaine all the time." Kurt pauses, something flicking across his eyes. "I'm sorry, is that too much?"

"No," says Dave. "I’ve noticed that you guys make out sometimes."

Kurt smacks Dave on the upper arm. Dave doesn't even pretend to flinch. He just grins goofily because Kurt is grinning goofily and laughing. It feels … nice, playing like this.

Until it's not playing. Until the laughter subsides and Kurt's smile goes from goofy to enchanted and he looks at Dave's lips like they're cheesecake.

Dave clears his throat. "Kurt, you know I like seeing you in love. And, you and Blaine, I like – " He stops himself, even though he's not sure he has to, even though it might be perfectly fine to say, I like to think about you fucking each other until you're weak and shaken and then about you fucking each other all over again. "I don't want it any other way."

"You're really amazing, you know that?"

Dave shakes his head. "No, I'm just –"

Kurt puts a finger to Dave's lips, keeps looking right at him, into him, protectiveness flashing across the blue. "You are."

Dave keeps shaking his head, feels his eyebrows and cheekbones ache with pressure.

"And you're beautiful, too." Kurt is still holding Dave's face in his hands, still carrying him. "You always have been. We just couldn't see it." Kurt traces the line of Dave's eyebrows again and it releases some of the pressure. The tears start to squeeze out.

Dave cries silently into Kurt's chest and Kurt holds him through it, the way Dave has wanted someone to do for so long, but never dared to hope anyone would.

* * *

You would think it would be difficult to concentrate on the minutiae of the Treaty of Versailles while your boyfriend is potentially making out with your best friend in your living room, or maybe your kitchen, or possibly right on the piano bench.

Blaine very much doubts the piano bench, though. That would get uncomfortable fast.

You would think so. Blaine would think so. He's spent hours imagining this scenario and was pretty sure he'd spend the whole time hot and bothered and squirming in his jeans, palming his cock and trying not to come so he could be of service to Kurt as soon as he might be needed.

But it's not difficult at all. In fact, he can't remember ever being more focused, the phrases and facts etching themselves into his brain more quickly. Everything he reads makes him think of its cause and effect. He sees how events are not isolated, but flow into one another as an organic whole.

Blaine could sit in the gazebo until sunset, reading about Versailles and whether it was cruel to Germany or actually strengthened it, contrasting the treaty with Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and picturing how the future might have been different if those had been agreed upon, instead – or how it might not have made any difference at all in the larger scheme of things.

He's so lost in it that he doesn't even hear Kurt coming back until the gazebo door opens.

Kurt is radiant. It's not just the way that the afternoon sun slants into the gazebo and makes Kurt's hair and eyelashes glow like embers. It's not just that his lips are pink like cotton candy, ripe like June strawberries, plump like August peaches. It's not just the way he smiles.

It's everything – in his body, the way his shoulders swing loose and unwound like they haven't in weeks, in his breath and his posture and his eyebrows and his smile.

Blaine smiles. "Something happened." He closes his book, not taking his eyes off of Kurt. Understanding the widespread ramifications of tariffs on the German interwar economy can wait.

Kurt sits down on the loveseat next to Blaine in the spot that Dave occupied earlier this afternoon. The expression on his face is a cross between dazed and touched by God, if there is a god. Blaine's jury is still out on that one.

"Yes," Kurt says, taking Blaine's hand. "I love you so much."

Blaine kisses Kurt, and he's not sure he actually tastes Mountain Dew on Kurt's lips, but the thought that he might makes his heart beat a little more strongly.

* * *

Maybe things should be awkward when they walk back into the house to find Dave at the piano, playing something that Kurt doesn't recognize but likes, and something that makes Blaine bounce up and down on his toes going, "I can't believe you can play this! I tore up the sheet music I had for this because it got me so angry."

Perhaps they should worry that Dave will be uncomfortable if they start to two-step around the piano, and maybe Kurt worries slightly, but the feeling goes away when he sees Dave look up from the keyboard with a smile and nod and a dare curved in his eyebrow. Kurt lets Blaine whisk him around the room and Dave's playing becomes livelier and more joyful with each step.

When Dave strikes the final chords and Kurt wants to fling his arms around Dave and tell him that he's amazing, one might expect him to feel a moment's hesitation about doing that in front of Blaine. But he doesn't, and he adds a kiss on the cheek to sweeten the compliment.

No one would be surprised if Dave, who for his whole life has resisted whatever his heart told him to do, were to hesitate before turning his face to Kurt and kissing him on those sweet-perfect-never-ever-want-to-stop-kissing-them lips. But he doesn't.

And one might expect that when Blaine sees that, he would have at least a moment of doubt, the slightest churning of his stomach, a squelched flare of jealousy. One might expect Blaine to experience the bitter realization that the best fantasy often makes for the worst reality.

But one would be wrong. Blaine's heart wells up with so much joy that he can't help but continue two-stepping around the room, even though the music has stopped and his partner is in the lap of the piano player.

* * *

Kurt and Dave can't stop kissing once it's time to say goodbye. They stand in the vestibule, Blaine watching them from the entry of the front room, and they try halfheartedly to pull apart from each other every minute or so. They are giddy and giggling and their cheeks are flushed. It could be from the heat of the afternoon, but Blaine thinks it's mostly from each other.

"I really should … get going, I … promised my dad … I'd make … dinner tonight." Dave's sentence is interrupted by Kurt's insistent kisses, some quick and some lingering.

"Okay," Kurt's voice sounds disheveled. Blaine leans against the wall and hugs himself, curling his fingers into his arms until his nails press half moons into his skin. He wonders if one can explode from lustful joy.

Kurt kisses Dave again, prying his mouth open and god please yes, Dave really needs to not ever leave the house.

Kurt pulls away. "Okay." He's breathy, but there's a little more conviction in his voice this time. "I'm going to control myself and you're going to go home and we'll talk on the phone later. Okay?"

Dave nods obediently. "Okay."

"Now get out of here before your dad sends out a search party that finds you in my mouth." Kurt smacks Dave on the ass and Dave blushes brightly. Blaine has never seen Dave smile so hard.

And then the smile is turned toward Blaine. "See you later, Blaine," Dave says.

Blaine has never really thought of Dave's face as beautiful, even after listening to Kurt wax poetic about his eyebrows. Handsome, maybe, thanks to those eyebrows and the Roman nose and shy smile. And cute, when he gets flustered or, alternately, when he gets excited about numbers and birds and football and Kurt ululating.

But Dave's face is beautiful now. Blaine doesn't know if it's because his eyes are dancing with light, or his skin is shimmering from the humidity and his closeness with Kurt, or his lips are red and lush from Kurt's kisses. It's probably all that and then some.

It's probably because he's seeing Dave – all of Dave, fearless and unmasked – for the very first time.

Blaine doesn't try to contain his smile, even though it stretches so wide that the muscles behind his ears start to ache. "See you tomorrow," he answers.

Dave's step, as he walks out to the car, is as light as Blaine has ever seen. It reminds Blaine of the way Dave carries himself on the football field, making movement look effortless, like there's no resistance from the ground or the air and gravity's not a law that governs him, but a tool that he uses to his own advantage.

They stand in the open doorway and watch as he disappears down the road, then stare dazedly at the empty space it leaves behind.

"This has been quite the afternoon," Kurt finally says, breaking the silence.

"Yes," Blaine says.

Kurt squeezes Blaine's hand. "I love you."

Blaine studies the pink of Kurt's cheeks and lips, the sweet upturn of his nose, the depth of his eyes. "I want to make you come," he says.

Kurt just smiles.

Blaine means to bring Kurt upstairs, but as soon as they close the door he's throwing his arms around Kurt's hips, pressing him against the wall and licking long strokes up from his collarbone to his ear.

"Blaine," Kurt gasps.

Blaine becomes acutely aware of his own cock, hard and yearning. He has a vague idea that it's been like this for a while, but he honestly can't say when it began. He was so lost in watching Kurt and Dave that he forgot to think about his own body.

He presses his hardness against Kurt's thigh, hoping it will say everything he doesn't have the words for yet – how beautiful it is to watch Kurt with Dave, how hot and heart-filling.

"Blaine," Kurt says again, angling his hips to meet Blaine's and ducking his head to kiss him.

It's so many sensations at once – Kurt's cock against Blaine's, Kurt's lips against Blaine's, that cock made flush by Dave and those lips redolent of Dave. Blaine licks into Kurt's mouth, tries to distinguish between the taste of Kurt and the tastes that Dave left behind, but he can't.

Blaine grows even harder.

They rock together, the outlines of their cocks brushing together, against their thighs and hips, awkward and erratic pressure that is somehow perfect. They can't stop kissing, can't stop running their hands over each other's bodies, can't stop circling back to each other's hips and asses, can't stop themselves from pressing their fingers into each other's muscles as they thrust together. They pull at each other, closer and closer until they forget they have their clothes on, everything is just their bodies and that sweet, terrifying sensation of losing yourself and trusting your lover to find you.

"Oh, Blaine. Blaine. I can't wait. I'm gonna – oh, I'm gonna –"

"I'm here." It's been so long since they've come like this, desperate and hurried and fully clothed. But he still feels Kurt inside him. Kurt is the heat that erupts low in Blaine's belly, magma pushing toward the surface of a shaking earth.

Kurt bites down on Blaine's shoulder, digs his fingers hard into Blaine's hips, beautiful sharp stabs of pain that turn into ecstasy under these conditions. The heat in Blaine's belly rumbles into his balls, and he's so close, so close, but he wants Kurt to –

Kurt's head flings back, his eyes wide and on Blaine's, shocked and elated, the blue flashing like an electrical storm. His jaw is slack and trembling, the edges of his bottom teeth visible behind a quivering lip.

Blaine would tell Kurt that he's beautiful, that watching him come is the most wonderful privilege he's ever experienced, that he wants to share that with Dave, that he wants everything between them, but the heat overwhelms him before he can start the words, fills his body and his cock and flows in every direction – to the lips that kiss Kurt and the ears that hear Kurt and the eyes that adore him and the hands that love him and the feet that follow him and the cock that comes and comes and comes – is coming, right this moment – for him.

They slide down to the floor in a sweaty, breathless heap – ignoring, for the moment, the slick slide of their underpants against their dicks.

"Oh my god," says Kurt.

"Yes," says Blaine.

Kurt pulls Blaine toward him and kisses his hair, growing wild with the humidity. "I love you so much."

"I wish I could tell you how much I love you."

They link their hands, even though their palms are damp with sweat.

"Don't worry." Kurt kisses Blaine's scalp again. "I already know."

* * *

Dave's mom is out with her book group. He was just going to throw a frozen lasagna into the oven for himself and his dad, but when he got home, his hands were itching with the emptiness of not holding Kurt, so he pulled all the vegetables out of the refrigerator for a stir-fry. He needed something for his hands to do, a focus for his jittery energy, but it's oddly sensual. His fingers have never felt so alive, so aware of the textures they encounter, the satisfying smoothness of eggplant and the ticklish tease of broccoli. He compares it all to Kurt, and it is all vastly inferior, but it is still wonderful.

"You look happy," his dad says when he gets home from work and strides into the kitchen to find Dave whisking the vegetables up the sides of the wok.

"I am," Dave says.

"Anything in particular, or just looking forward to graduation?"

Dave shrugs and smiles. "I feel like my life is finally beginning."

* * *

Chapter Text

Dave: I was thinking about bringing Kurt flowers.

Blaine: Just when I think you can't be any more perfect, you go and say something like that.

Dave: I wanted to make sure it would be okay with you.

Blaine: Of course it's okay with me. Kurt will love it.
Blaine: No lilies, though. They remind him of his mom's funeral.

Dave: No. I was thinking of something else.

Blaine: OK, just don't tell me what kind. He should be the first to know.
Blaine: Although, as a general rule, I like the idea of secretly plotting Kurt's happiness with you.

Dave: You're kind of amazing.

Blaine: I was about to say the same about you. He's pretty smitten with you, you know.
Blaine: If I didn't already know you were awesome, just that fact would make me realize it.

Dave: Um OK.

Blaine: Be that way. So I was thinking. You and I have spent a lot of time together without Kurt, but you and Kurt haven't spent much time together without me.
Blaine: That doesn't seem right.

Dave:  He's your boyfriend.

Blaine: He's yours, too.
Blaine: Hello?

Dave: Processing.

Blaine: It's nice being in love, isn't it?
Blaine: Fine, I won't make you answer that. Anyway, you can think about it.

Dave: Okay.

Blaine: I’m so excited about the flowers!

Dave: Me too.

Blaine:   :D  :D  !!!

* * *

"Remember how I said maybe you and Dave should go on a date?" Blaine and Kurt are eating lunch outside on McKinley's lawn, sitting on the blanket that Kurt keeps in his car. It still has grass stains and traces of clay on its underside from the Saturday night they spent at the river with Dave.

"Yeah." Kurt pops a jicama stick into his mouth, chewing with his mouth half-open. As much as Blaine loves Kurt's cultivated elegance, he also loves the moments when he forgets himself and reverts to being as unselfconsciously ill-mannered as the rest of the kids at McKinley.

"Well, it's more that I think you guys should have the opportunity to spend some time together, without me around."

Kurt tips back his head so he can look down his nose at Blaine. "I am suspicious of your motives."

Blaine blushes and looks down at the picnic blanket, tracing the edges of its quilted squares with his finger. "Not like that. I just – we get to spend a lot of time together on our own, and Dave and I have spent a lot of time together on our own. But you guys haven't. And I thought you guys might have things you want to talk about or, you know, to get to know each other better."

Kurt still hasn't removed the haughty look from his face, but a sparkle begins to light the edge of his eyes. "Get to know each other better?"

"Not like that." Blaine smiles bashfully. "I mean, unless you're both ready."

Kurt takes another bite of jicama before responding. "I kind of doubt that. I mean, there are probably things we should talk about first."

Blaine nods. "So, Sam and Rory asked me if I want to watch a geeky comic nerd movie that would totally bore you after school today. And I thought, if you guys want, I could do that and you guys could have a couple hours together. If you want privacy, you could have my house. I mean, I know it isn't a hot place for a date or anything –"

"Speak for yourself. I've had some seriously hot dates there."

Blaine blushes again, but doesn't look away from Kurt. "Well, if my house is too hot for you, you could always go somewhere else."

Kurt reaches for Blaine's hand. "No. It's kind of become home for me. If it's okay with Dave, then sure. I think – I'd like that, Blaine."

Kurt continues munching on jicama while Blaine unwraps his sandwich and starts eating it in small, delicate bites. They eat in silence, alternating between beaming at each other and watching a group of sophomores about 20 yards away play a game of ultimate frisbee.

"You know," Kurt says, "before I met you, I had this picture in my mind of what the perfect boyfriend would be like."

Blaine swallows his bite of sandwich. "Yeah? Tell me about him."

"It's kind of irrelevant," Kurt answers, his eyes darting to Blaine's lips, then back to his eyes. There's an earnestness in Kurt's face that makes Blaine's heart skip. "You're so much better than anything I dreamed about."

* * *

Blaine: Have you had enough time to think about a date? Because Sam and Rory invited me to watch the Comic-Con movie with them this afternoon.

Dave: The what?

Blaine: Um, it’s a movie? About comic geeks?

Dave: You’d really rather do that than hang out with me?  ;)

Blaine: Just this once.

Dave: Well, if spending time with me is such a hardship …

Blaine: Don’t be ridiculous. :D

Dave: So what’s the idea? I'll hang out at your house with Kurt?

Blaine: That's an excellent plan!

Dave: I won't try anything.

Blaine: That's sure to disappoint Kurt, but fine.
Blaine: Seriously, though, whatever you two do or don't do is okay with me a long you're both okay with it.
Blaine: And I guess this is a weird conversation to be having over text.

Dave: Every conversation I have with you is a little weird. I'm getting used to it.

Dave: If they start being normal, I might worry.

* * *

They exhale their greetings with breathy shyness. Kurt closes the door behind Dave; the house is empty of life except here in the vestibule, where their hearts beat.

Dave has a plastic soda cup from the Circle K. He passes it nervously back and forth between his hands. His backpack, slung loose over his right shoulder, begins slipping down his arm from the motion. "Hi," he says again.

"Hello." Kurt reaches for Dave's backpack strap, and Dave moves the cup into his left hand. "Kitchen?"

"Sure. Okay.”

Kurt slides Dave’s backpack off his shoulder and onto the floor, takes the cup from Dave's hand and places it on the entry table. "Or –"

The look in Kurt’s eyes is something like the way he looked at Dave in the car that night after the river. He's blinking a little, and pulling his bottom lip into his mouth with his teeth, and his terrifyingly everything eyes are steady on Dave's – steady except for one not-very-surreptitious glance at Dave's lips.

Kurt puts his hands on Dave's chest, slides them up to his shoulders. "I missed you," he says. He's not looking at Dave's eyes at all now, just staring at his mouth.

"Me, too." Dave's knees give and he leans back against the wall. "All the time. So much."

Dave's not sure when the kiss begins. All he knows is that Kurt is there, and here, and everywhere, the feel and the taste and the scent of him, the pale of his skin and the flashing silver-green of his eyes, like cottonwood leaves and tornado skies.

Dave tries to pay attention to all of it, but there's too much for his brain to process, everything so new and strange. Kurt sucks on Dave’s bottom lip and Dave hears himself whimper, weak and needy, the kind of sound that could get you mocked for months if you made it on the field. But here, there's no shame in anything.

Kurt pulls back, the smile crinkling the corner of his eyes. He traces the fingers of one hand over Dave's eyebrows, the bridge of his nose, the bow of his lips. "I can't decide," he says, "whether to kiss you all afternoon, or stare at you all afternoon."

"Anything," Dave says, because it's all he can muster for an answer.

"Not yet," Kurt says, taking Dave’s hand. "Soon, I hope." It's not until Kurt's face flushes bright red that Dave registers what Kurt means by that. He feels every string of muscle in his body tremble, piano strings struck and humming.

Kurt picks Dave's backpack from the floor and tugs on Dave's hand. "C'mon, beautiful."

Dave picks his drink cup off of the entry table and follows.

In the kitchen, Kurt grabs a can of Mountain Dew and a can of raspberry Klarbrunn from the fridge and sets them on the counter. "Oh, duh.” He glances at the soda cup still in Dave's hand and blushes. “You already have a drink. I guess I’m a little distracted.”

Dave blushes. "Actually, it's not a drink." He stands next to the counter where he usually does his homework and fiddles with the lid of the cup, trying to gather the will to pry it off. It was a stupid idea.

Kurt raises an eyebrow. "It's not confetti in there, is it?"

"No."

"A glitter bomb?"

Dave chuckles. "No."

"Good, because as much as I love a good glitter bomb, that stuff gets all over the place and Blaine's parents would not be excited about finding sparkles in the grout." Kurt tilts his head contemplatively at Dave. "You'd look nice, though, with a bit of glitter right –" Kurt steps closer, brushes his index finger across Dave's cheekbone. "– there." His breath is warmth and strawberries.

"It's –" Dave starts. He keeps fiddling with the lid.

Kurt waits, eyelashes fanning with every blink.He’s the most beautiful thing Dave has ever seen. And he was yesterday, and the day before. How does he keep doing that, just getting more and more radiant with every breath?

"You're being rather mysterious," Kurt says.

"Sorry," Dave says. "I'm not trying to be. I'm just … nervous. Because it's – it's for you." Kurt's lips turn up into a small smile, but Dave has to look away before he starts thinking about what Kurt's face will look like when he sees his very weird gift. Dave pries the lid off the cup and reaches in, carefully lifting it from the crumpled paper that holds it in place.

It's a small cylinder of a vase – a bit narrower and taller than a shot glass – with a tiny fern leaf and small cluster of exotic short-stemmed flowers that, four weeks ago, Dave wouldn't have been able to name if his life had depended on it. The flowers are tiny, their bases shaped like wine glasses but small enough to fit into a thimble. The triangular petals are the dusky pink of well-loved lips.

Dave doesn’t look up at Kurt’s face at first. If Blaine were here, he’d look at him for clues. Blaine's eyes would tell him if Kurt was happy.

Kurt's fingers wrap around the glass. "What are they?" His voice is light and reverent, like a Chopin nocturne.

Dave looks up. Kurt is beaming.

"Wild ginger," Dave says. "From our garden. They're not the prettiest, but –"

"No." Kurt shakes his head. "They're beautiful. I've never seen anything like them."

"Well, I hadn't either until last week. Even though we've had wild ginger in our yard as long as I can remember."

"I thought ginger grew in the tropics,” Kurt says with a raised eyebrow. (Does he have any idea how hot that is? It takes a significant amount of willpower for Dave not to derail the conversation with kisses.)

"It does. This is a different plant. It grows in some of the woods around here. You might have seen it before and just not noticed, because it looks kind of like violets – I mean, not the flower, obviously, but the leaves. Heart-shaped."

Kurt bites his lip. "Heart-shaped? You'll have to bring me one of the leaves, too."

Dave's face heats up. He glances at Kurt's lips, at the flowers in his hands. "I will," he says. It's barely above a whisper, but still it has Kurt bouncing on his toes and leaning forward to kiss Dave's cheek.

"Can I –?" Dave starts, gesturing toward the vase in Kurt's hand. "Can I hold your hands? I want to tell you something."

Kurt nods, swallowing slowly, the line of his Adam's apple bobbing against his neck. Dave wants to kiss it. He wants to kiss every spot on Kurt, really – his eyelids and the boney ridges behind his ears and the insides of his wrists. He wants to slip past the open button at the top of Kurt's orange oxford and map out his collarbone – it must be so perfect, prominent and ethereal, like the curve of a warbler's wing.

Dave closes his eyes and inhales. He wants to kiss everything, but he has to tell Kurt this thing first.

Kurt puts the glass on the counter, running a finger lightly over the opening of one of the flowers before turning back and giving his hands to Dave. "Okay." Kurt breathes. "Tell me."

Dave sees, in Kurt's pupils, his own face reflected back at him. It gives him the courage to speak. "So we've had this wild ginger in our garden for years. Do you remember the birch trees back by the garage?"

Kurt nods.

"Well, it's all over the place there. Anyway, I was back there last week digging up a buckthorn, and I kneeled down to push the ginger aside and I saw these flowers hidden under the leaves. So I started, um –" Dave exhales a laugh. "Basically, I ended up crawling through the whole patch and turning over every leaf to see if there was a flower under it. The neighbors must have thought it was pretty amusing."

Kurt opens his mouth like he's about to say something, but he doesn't – just smiles so wide his eyes crinkle. The beauty of it makes it both easier and harder for Dave to keep talking.

"I don't even know how long I was out there, but they were all over the place – like, a flower under every single plant. And I just kept thinking how you can think you know something and then you find out you didn't know it at all, that you just saw what was most obvious or easy to see, and –"

Dave stops then, glances down to where their hands are wrapped together, feels the warmth of Kurt's skin against his. Sometimes, when he's near Kurt, he feels like the whole world is about to drop out from under him. A couple years ago, when it first started happening, he thought it meant that the world would disappear. Now, he knows what it really means: He's learning to fly above it.

"But you don't do that. You see everything. At least with me. You see things I don't even know about myself until you show them to me. You show me that I'm a nerd and that it's good to be a nerd, and that I love tiny birds with names I can’t even pronounce, and that I don’t have to give up on my dreams when people try to break me, and that I can be brave, and that I am so, so, so incredibly gay."

Kurt's eyes are welling up with tears. He squeezes Dave's hands and laughs. "I think you knew you were gay before I did."

Dave shakes his head. "No. Not really. I mean, I knew I was attracted to guys and I wasn't into girls, but I just thought that meant I was fucked up, not that I was gay. Like I was created to be straight, but my body didn’t get the memo, you know?"

Kurt sniffles and nods. "Yeah, I do."

"And even though you had no reason in the world to be nice to me, you sat with me in those PFLAG meetings and just waited for my eyes to open. Even though they never really did."

"I had a reason, Dave." Kurt cups Dave's jaw in his hand.  "I wanted you to be happy."

"Why?"

Kurt lowers his eyes, blushing. "Well, at first – so you'd stop acting like such a jerk."

Dave turns his head slightly and kisses Kurt's palm. "I was a jerk," he whispers.

"And then because you weren't a jerk anymore."

"You made me believe I could change."

Kurt wraps his arms around Dave's shoulders, pulls him down against his chest, Dave's forehead resting in the curve of Kurt's neck, his cheek against the wing of Kurt’s collarbone. "And then because you were pretty awesome, and the idea of you being happy made me happy in a way I couldn't explain to anyone, not even myself."

Dave kisses at Kurt’s tears, follows the trail up Kurt's neck and jaw to his cheeks. "I didn't mean to make you cry."

"I always cry when things are too wonderful to fathom."

*

They end up on the couch again, almost lying down, Kurt pressing Dave into the pillows but keeping his hips maddeningly tilted away from Dave’s own.

“I could kiss you forever.” Kurt’s lips are still touching Dave’s when he says it.

“Liar,” Dave whispers, then flicks his tongue into Kurt’s mouth as a sweet tease before adding, “You need to eat. And you’d miss kissing Blaine.”

Kurt tilts his hips a little closer to Dave’s, but not close enough. “I wish I could kiss you both at the same time.”

The sound that erupts from Dave’s chest is one he didn’t even know he could make. He’s heard it on porn videos, usually by a guy whose ass is being perfectly, sweetly fucked. His cock swells, pressing uncomfortably against his zipper; without thinking about it, he reaches down to adjust himself through the front of his jeans. When his fingers make contact, another indecent sound rumbles from his chest.

Kurt stops him with a hand on his wrist. “Let me.”

“Oh god yes,” Dave groans before his brain catches up. “Or – no, I mean, wait, I mean –” Dave startles upright, sliding Kurt off his body.

Kurt straightens his alluringly disheveled oxford shirt. “Sorry, I, um – maybe we should stay off of this couch for a while? I think it’s drenched in pheremones.”

“I think we’re drenched in pheremones.”

Kurt smiles sheepishly. “You may have a point there.”

“Maybe this sounds weird, but ... I’d feel better if Blaine was here.”

Kurt raises one eyebrow. “You mean –?”

“Yeah. I mean, to do that.” Dave’s stares down at his own twiddling thumbs. He clears his throat. “With you.”

Kurt puts a hand on Dave’s, putting an abrupt end to the thumb-twiddling. “Okay.”

Dave looks up. Kurt’s face is pink and glowing and should be memorialized on the ceiling of every Italian cathedral.

“Okay?” Dave says.

Kurt lets out a long breath. “Better than okay.”

"You think it would be okay with Blaine?"

Kurt's face turns even pinker. It's starting to clash with his shirt. "Way better than okay."

“Okay.” They might sound a bit like a skipping CD.

“Maybe we should take a little break from kissing right now. You kind of … do things to me. When we kiss.”

Dave opens his mouth, but it’s a minute before any words come out. “We could look for warblers.”

Kurt pecks Dave’s cheek. “Excellent idea.”

*

They wander in the wooded area next to Blaine’s house, faces tilted up toward the treetops.

“I’m not sure I would see a warbler right now if it perched on my nose.” Kurt hands Dave the binoculars.

“No?”

“No. I’m still thinking about what a wonderful kisser you are.” Kurt winks. “Seriously, where did you learn?"

"I really don't have that much experience. But if you insist on knowing –"

"I do." Kurt smiles smugly, giving an encouraging squeeze to Dave’s arm.

Dave starts with the ones that Kurt already knows about: Jerry (which was barely a kiss at all) and Gavin-Patrick. "Good," Kurt says of Gavin-Patrick. "I'm glad he at least kissed you before putting his hands in your pants."

“Fortunately we got interrupted before his hands were in my pants for long.”

Kurt hides his face against Dave’s shoulder. “Don’t remind me. I was such an ass that night.”

“You were? I thought that prize went to me.”

“Are you serious?” Kurt looks up with an expression of genuine surprise.

Dave shrugs. “Well, I was the one who was fooling around with a stranger in the bathroom.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like that’s unheard of in a gay bar. Or that it’s illegal, or unethical, and as long as everyone’s safe –”

Dave comes to a halt. “Really? I thought you thought –” I was a slut, he’s about to say, but then he thinks about the title of the book Blaine lent him and how that word has so many meanings he’s not even sure how to use it anymore.

“Making out with randoms isn’t for me, but as long as you’re not hurting anyone … I don’t know. I think Chandler probably does it, and he’s okay. And Brittany used to, and she taught me how to kiss, so it would be kind of hypocritical of me to judge her for her experience.”

“But –” Dave stops himself before he says something stupid.

“What? Sebastian? I hate Sebastian because he’s evil, not because he gets around.”

“Yeah, Sebastian, but also –” Ugh. Why does he keep opening his mouth? “Forget about it.”

Kurt lets go of Dave’s arm and moves so that they’re standing face-to-face. “I know that look and it’s not one you get when something’s easy to forget. Tell me.”

Dave’s tempted to look away, but he doesn’t. “That night. With Gavin or Patrick or whatever his name was. You were mad at me.”

Kurt’s mouth drops open. No sound comes out.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

Kurt shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. I just – I thought you knew.”

“Knew what?”

“I wasn’t mad. I was upset. Because I, I was –” Kurt looks down at his hands, then back up at Dave. “I was jealous. Of him.”

The muscles in the back of Dave’s knees go wobbly like Jell-o. He leans against the nearest tree trunk. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Kurt shrugs. “I’d kind of known before that I was attracted to you, but seeing you in there with him – I couldn’t really ignore it.”

Dave replays that night in his head – how pale Kurt was, and quiet, and how he kept looking away every time Dave looked in his direction. He understands, for the first time, why Kurt kept looking away from Blaine too.

“I’m so sorry,” Dave says.

Kurt smiles and reaches for Dave’s hand. “Oh, silly,” he says, and out of his mouth the word sounds as precious as sweetheart or dear. “That’s nothing to be sorry for.”

*

When they reach the creek, Dave moves on to the next easiest one to tell: the one that Kurt also kissed in his misspent youth.

"Brittany?" Kurt dissolves into giggles. "I should have known that. She told me she'd made out with every guy in the school but I didn't –" Kurt leans his cheek against Dave’s shoulder. "One degree of separation."

Kurt seems so charmed that Dave decides to wait until later to tell him the other thing that happened with Brittany. Instead he says, "I kissed Sebastian, too.”

"I know," Kurt sighs. "He told me.”

"When?" Dave supposes he shouldn't be surprised. Sebastian isn't exactly a no-kissing-and-telling kind of guy.

"In January," Kurt says. “But I didn't want to believe it."

"But why would you care?"

Kurt rolls his eyes. It sends a tingle right all the way to Dave’s toes. "You know why. Because you deserve better than what he was giving you." Kurt looks down at the bubbling creek. "And because –” The color on his cheeks is high and bright when he turns to look Dave in the eye. “I’m not as good as you and Blaine at not being jealous when people touch things I like."

* * *

It's not until later, shortly before Blaine’s due home, that Dave tells Kurt that a lot more than kissing happened with Brittany.

"Oh." Kurt feels the dam behind his eyes start to leak, and why? Why is he being so selfish about this?

"Kurt?" They're sitting next to each other on the loveseat in the gazebo. Dave reaches for Kurt's hand, and Kurt has to resist the urge to pull it away, pull himself away, to run back into the house and grab his keys and drive home because he's being so selfish, so selfish to react this way.

Dave and Blaine don't get possessive like this. Why does he?

"I'm sorry." Kurt wipes his cheek with the back of his hand. "I wasn't expecting that. I don't know why I'm –" He feels more tears threatening so he leans back against the cushions, closes his eyes and inhales deeply. He holds his breath for a count of three, exhales, does it again.

He looks at Dave. "No, that's not right. I do know why I'm reacting this way."

"Do you want to tell me?"

"Well, I'm sad that your first time was with a girl –"

"It's okay. She pretty much helped me figure out I was gay. Actually, I think she told me I was. She seemed to think that it was ... hot."

"Brittany's much smarter than people give her credit for."

"So as first times go with someone of the wrong gender," Dave says, "it was actually perfect."

Kurt smiles. "That's not the only reason I'm upset."

"No?"

Kurt swallows. This should be easy to talk about – he's had so much practice with Blaine – but it's not. "I'd assumed – I'd hoped –” He didn’t think his face could possibly go any hotter than the tears have already made it, but it does. “I wanted your first time to be with me."

Dave’s eyes are calm and brown like the acorns that are strewn across McKinley’s lawn each fall. He squeezes Kurt’s hand. "It can be."

*

After Blaine comes home, after he and Dave practice their duet and Kurt bounces on his toes from watching the way their hands work so effortlessly together, after Dave leaves with long lingering kisses from Kurt and hugs from both of them, Kurt goes up with Blaine to his room – even though no one else is home and no one else will be, not for hours.

They lie down on the bed, one of Blaine’s arms wrapped around the back of Kurt’s shoulders, the other draped across his chest. Here in Blaine’s compact little room, in the snug fold of Blaine’s arms, Kurt’s safe.

“You’re beautiful,” Blaine whispers.

Kurt rolls his eyes.

Blaine nudges his nose against Kurt’s cheek. “You are. I could stare at you for hours. It’s good we don’t share any classes. I’d never get any work done.”

“You have no problem studying around me. Geometry homework, to wit.”

“Only because you won’t respect me anymore if I fail all my classes.”

Kurt frowns. “Don’t joke about that. I love you. It’s not contingent on you being perfect.”

“I know.” Blaine kisses Kurt’s temple. “I hope I didn’t sour your mood.”

“No,” Kurt sighs. “I guess I’m just feeling a little … contemplative.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Kurt turns in Blaine’s arms so that they’re facing each other, each with a cheek pressed against the pillow. “Dave and I talked today.”

“About …?”

“Sex.”

“Oh.” Blaine’s cheeks go a little pink, and the corners of his lips twitch upward, but he stops them before they turn into a smile. “Is it – Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. I mean, I almost got carried away, but he stopped me, and –”

“W-wait,” Blaine beams. “What do you mean by ‘almost’? I want details.”

Kurt laughs. “In a minute. I need to tell you what we talked about first.”

Blaine blinks sheepishly. “Okay. Sorry.”

Kurt holds onto Blaine’s hand. “You never need to apologize for your interest in my sex life.”

Blaine laughs, little crows feet forming at the corners of his eyes. (He’s going to be so beautiful when we’re old,Kurt thinks.)

“Anyway we both, when it happens –” Kurt bites his lower lip to keep from smiling too big. “Dave said he wants you to be there.”

Blaine’s eyes go wider than Kurt has seen in – well, actually, he saw them go that wide just the other day when Blaine was about to orgasm.

Blaine coughs. “Did you – Was he just agreeing with you, or –?”

“No, he’s the one who brought it up.”

“That’s –" Blaine thinks for a moment, as if searching for the perfect word. “That’s hot.”

“You’re well-spoken.”

“You can’t expect me to spout poetry when I’m thinking about you two. My brain short-circuits.”

Kurt sinks his head a little further into the pillow. “Well, there’s something else, too. Can you un-short-circuit your brain long enough to talk me through it?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve your penis and Dave’s penis doing things to each other.”

Kurt barks out a laugh. “Um, no. It doesn’t involve my penis.”

“But it involves Dave’s?”

Kurt’s not laughing anymore. “Um, yeah. I guess you could put it that way.”

Blaine looks at Kurt quizzically.

"Did you know –" Kurt starts, fishing for the words. "Did you know he's had sex with a girl?"

“Wait. You mean –?”

“Brittany. Two years ago. She gave him a blowjob.”

Blaine’s eyes are wide again. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Huh." Blaine rubs his palm comfortingly along Kurt’s bicep. “Well, Brittany once told me that I was the only upperclassman at McKinley she hadn't made out with. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.”

“I know, right? But I’m just – I'm torn up, Blaine."

"Oh, Kurt." There's such tenderness in Blaine's voice that Kurt wants to be happy for his boyfriend's sake. It's the same tone Kurt's mom used with him when she had no easy grown-up answers for the problems he was facing, like the afternoon in preschool when Max Breckenridge made him cry by announcing that he was no longer going to marry Kurt, but was instead going to marry show-offy Mandy Feldman when he grew up.

“It's just – I feel awfully selfish right now.”

“Because –?”

"When he told me, I got – I got jealous. Not angry-how-dare-you kind of jealous. Just – more like devastated."

"Oh, honey." Blaine wraps his arm around Kurt's shoulder.

"I know I’m being ridiculous, but I wanted to be his first. I wanted us to be the ones to – to show him what sex can be." Kurt sighs. “I want him to know that he matters.”

Blaine brushes Kurt’s hair back from his ear. “You can still show him that, Kurt.”

“But I wanted – I feel like Brittany's stolen something from me, and that’s so stupid. Dave doesn’t belong to me.”

“He kind of does,” Blaine says, but Kurt ignores him.

“And you guys – you’re not like that. You guys don’t get jealous of each other over me, and I should – I feel like I should be like that, too. I want to be as good as you.”

Blaine sighs. “It’s different, Kurt.”

"It's different, alright. I'm a self-absorbed bastard and you aren't."

There's a flash of anger in Blaine's eyes. At least it looks like anger to Kurt. Anger or deep-seated disappointment. He's seen the fire before – last fall when Blaine would talk to or about Finn, this spring whenever someone mentioned Sebastian. But Kurt's always seen it from the periphery. Now, it’s looking straight at him.

"You're not, Kurt." Blaine is barely controlling the register of his voice. It's raspy and near-breaking. "Please tell me you don't really believe that."

"I – I don't know what to believe, Blaine." Kurt pulls Blaine's arm tighter around him. The tension in Blaine’s body starts to disperse.

"You're not selfish or self-absorbed, Kurt. You just want to protect people. You don't want him to get hurt."  

"But the book says I should share, and I don't want to share you with anyone, except maybe Dave when we're all in the same room, and I don't want to share Dave with anyone, except maybe you when we're all in the same room –"

“Look, I know I've been really into the book, but I'm starting to think it's not the last word on everything. What we have is fine. We're each getting what we want."

Kurt is about to protest, but something stops him. "That's the same thing Dave said the other day."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Basically."

"Well, if we both said it, it must be true." Blaine grins. "You're outvoted. You're going to have to stop feeling guilty."

"Are you guys always going to gang up on me this way?"

"Only when it's for your own good." Blaine kisses Kurt firmly on the lips. "I promise."

Chapter Text

Kurt is at the shop, and Dave and Blaine are studying – or rather, they’re supposed to be studying. But Dave’s already done with most of his exams and he’s still going to graduate and go to college even if he gets a C on the only one he has left, so he’s not concentrating that hard. His mind keeps wandering, and his eyes, too – over to the spot at the kitchen table where Kurt likes to sit, over to the picture window where Dave first learned about warblers. He ignores his history book and stares out that window, sipping his Mountain Dew and thinking about the pictures of cerulean warblers he saw last night in the Audubon guide and how much their blue-gray-greens are like the colors of Kurt’s eyes.

“We should probably talk about sex,” Blaine says.

Dave almost chokes, but with a quick closed-mouth cough, he manages to make his Mountain Dew go down the right tube. “You could’ve warned me you were about to say that,” he says when he’s regained his breath and the inside of his nose no longer feels like a jellyfish has taken residence there.

Blaine smiles sheepishly, tapping the eraser end of his pencil against the open pages of his geometry book. “Sorry. In my mind, it didn’t need an introduction. I’ve been thinking about it since you got here.”

Dave coughs again.

Blaine covers his mouth as his cheeks turn bright red. “Oh my god, I didn’t mean it that way. I just – I just meant I’ve been thinking that we should talk about it.”

Dave snickers, and Blaine laughs, and soon it turns into a round of cackles and snorting that neither of them can stop until they’re collapsed forward on the kitchen counter, their stomachs sore and their ribcages heaving with each breath.

“I guess I’m a little nervous,” Blaine says between sharp inhalations. He pushes against the counter until he’s sitting up straight.

“Well, we could just not talk about it.” Dave stays where he is, arms folded on the counter, ear pressed against his bicep.

Blaine gives Dave a skeptical look. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

“Probably not.”

“OK.” Blaine smiles and nods, closing his geometry book and pushing it toward the end of the counter. “So do you want to have sex with Kurt?”

“Blaine –” Dave’s face is on fire. He buries it in his arms, and it gets even hotter.

“Sorry. I just –” Blaine puts his hand on Dave’s shoulder. “I’m not sure how to make this conversation not awkward.”

Dave turns his head until one eye peeks out above his arm. “Alcohol would probably help.”

Blaine tilts his head in thought, like he’s considering it as a reasonable option.

“I’m not actually serious,” Dave grumbles, straightening up in his chair.

Blaine’s smile is relieved. “Oh, good.”

“But I don’t know, maybe we could go for a walk or something? I might feel less nervous and freaked out if I was moving around.”

*

They end up walking to the public playground a couple blocks away from Blaine’s house. Hardly anyone is ever there, because most of the kids in the neighborhood have grown out of it, and the ones that are young enough have their own newer, shinier playsets in their backyards.

They find it completely barren of children or any other human inhabitants. There’s a squirrel sitting at the top of the slide like it owns the damn thing, eyeing Dave and Blaine suspiciously, clutching at the apple core in its paws and going statue-still as they step nearer. When they hook a left and settle down in two neighboring swings, the squirrel relaxes its tail and resumes nibbling at the apple core.

Dave sets both feet against the ground and begins swinging his hips so that he’s twisting side to side, facing Blaine and then away from Blaine. He doesn’t understand why he’s so embarrassed, or why this is so difficult; they’ve talked about sex before, but of course then it was all in vague generalities, and most of it was Blaine trying to make sure that Dave knew never, never, ever engage in butt sex without a latex condom and water- or silicone-based lubricant unless he was in a long-term, committed relationship where all partners tested negative for STDs and didn’t have risky activities outside of the relationship.

All partners. Not both partners. All of them. That’s actually what Blaine said, isn’t it? Back in – when was it? February? March?

Dave looks up. “How long have you had that book?”

Blaine looks at him. They’ve been silent almost the whole way to the playground; Dave can tell Blaine has no idea what he’s talking about. “What book?”

Dave shifts his feet so that he can keep twisting without looking away from Blaine. “The slut book. How long have you had it?”

“Since March, maybe?” Blaine shrugs. “Yeah, I think March.”

“Why did you get it?”

Blaine hunches over, his hands in his lap. His swing is barely moving. “Kurt got it, actually.”

Dave’s surprised; he’d assumed that Blaine had bought it to understand Kurt better, to decide if he could do this thing. He’d imagined Blaine buying it in a bookstore in Columbus and going home to read it under his covers with a flashlight when his parents thought he was asleep and then, after starring and underlining the parts that comforted and worried him the most, handing it to Kurt and saying, “I can do this.”

Kurt buying the book – well, for one thing, it’s hard to imagine. How on earth did Kurt get through reading all of those reclamations of the word “slut” without rolling his eyes? Wasn’t he tempted to rip out the section on cruising and use it for papier maché?

But maybe more importantly, it puts a whole different spin on things. It means that