had it with being your kid sidekick (sotto_voice) wrote,

Fic: thousand ways to leave this place [1/2]

Title: thousand ways to leave this place
Fandom: Glee
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Kurt/Blaine, Mercedes, Tina, Quinn, Finn, Rachel, Burt, Carole, ensemble, EVERYONE EVER
Summary: Kurt has to figure out how life works now.
Count: ~18,000 words total; 11,104 in this part
Notes: SPOILERS. Not kidding. I took just about every spoiler that we know of for the next four or five episodes and ran like hell with it. Also, this is the fluffiest fucking thing in the entire world and it is going to get jossed into oblivion by 2x08 and everything that follows, and possibly even by 2x07 tonight. (Edit @ 9:01 P.M.: HAHAHAHA YEP, JOSSED.) Title is from "Hold Hands and Fight" by the Rosebuds. Extra notes on geography: Dalton Academy was stated as being in Westerville, Ohio, which is about two hours from Lima and 20 minutes from Columbus. Part 2 to follow within a day or two.

Dalton Academy looks and feels like something out of a Merchant Ivory movie, possibly circa 1995.

It's old and imposing and everything looks like it belongs in either a castle or an enormous mansion in the English countryside. It's utterly absurd, especially given that they're in Westerville, Ohio. Kurt would be laughing at how ridiculous this feels if he wasn't so nervous.

Standing at the foot of the front steps, a stream of boys in overcoats thrown over identical uniforms moving around him, Kurt stares up at the front entrance. DALTON ACADEMY is etched into stone over the big double doors. No one is giving him a second glance, probably because he looks like he fits in. He is wearing his favorite Canali wool coat; it's comfortingly heavy and familiar, given the rest of the ensemble. Gray trousers, a white button-up, a striped tie, and that navy blazer with the terrible red piping and obscenely large Dalton coat of arms -- all heavily starched and brand new. It's not the most stylish outfit he has ever worn, not by a long shot. The school even supplied matching pairs of black dress socks and a pair of dress shoes, which are pinching his feet, and Kurt again resolves to find out if he can at least wear his own black loafers.

Not for the first time in the last three days, he wonders if transferring was really the right thing to do.

Kurt takes a deep breath, clutches the strap of his bag (previously-owned leather Roberto Cavalli; it's the pride of his collection and has survived many a dumpster toss) like a lifeline, and with all the confidence and panache he can muster, he holds his head high and follows the outpouring of students up the steps and into the front hall. It's even more overwhelming inside. Kurt has been here more than once, spying or visiting Blaine or going through paperwork and signing up for classes with his dad, but this is the first time he's been alone, and the first time he has witnessed the early morning crush just before classes start. He pushes his way through to the staircase and climbs to the second story, trying not to stare at the glass rotunda ceiling. He gets a little jostled in the crowds, somebody brushing against his shoulder or whacking their leg against his bag, but here's the difference: the big guy whose haircut can't possibly meet the dress code, who smacks into Kurt while they're going in opposite directions on the stairs -- he says a genuine-sounding, "Hey, sorry, man" and he continues on his way.

Kurt stares after him for a second or two before remembering that he's still on the staircase and there are people behind him; he takes the last few steps and pauses before getting his bearings. His locker is down the hall to the right. He slips through the knot of guys who are hanging around a bulletin board, signing up for something; nobody drives an elbow into his kidneys or tries to trip him.

It takes two tries to get the combination; muscle memory takes over, the first time, and he thumbs in the numbers that he used at McKinley. When he gets it right and the door swings open, his locker is depressingly bare. Kurt ignores it and opens his bag, loading in textbooks and notebooks and binders and then hanging his coat. Finally, reluctant, he slowly pulls his sunglasses off his nose and folds them neatly, placing them on the top shelf. He's glad he hasn't put a mirror in this locker yet. He did his best with cover-up, but even the most adroitly applied foundation can't hide the way that his eye has swollen; all he managed to do was slightly dull the ugly black-purple-yellow color that surrounds it.

He doesn't need to check the schedule folded inside his inner coat pocket, close to his chest. He memorized it last night, after his dad helped him finish moving his stuff and reluctantly left him in the quiet dorm room. He doesn't have a roommate; since there aren't exactly a lot of guys transferring in the middle of a quarter -- Kurt got the definite impression that it's not normally allowed and that his situation allowed for a rare exception -- he wound up placed in an empty double. He'd done what he could with only a few hours and what was essentially a big white box, putting up art prints and scarves, but it had still taken several long seconds to remember where he was after waking up this morning.

It doesn't feel real; not yet. But he has chemistry first, so he keeps Advanced Chemistry: An Enquiry-Based Approach in his bag and he grabs a binder to go with it, he tucks his carefully sculpted hair back, and he shuts his locker. The guys clustered around the bulletin board have dispersed, so Kurt slows then stops to see what they were looking at. The board is plastered with advertisements for various clubs and extracurricular activities. It looks like they were signing up for basketball tryouts. There's a history club, Spanish club, French club, Mandarin club, yearbook committee, math competition team, something dedicated to volunteering, National Honor Society, and about 14 gazillion other options, including more sports than he had realized existed.

There doesn't seem to be an abstinence club, Kurt notes with some amusement. And some of these options actually sound interesting. No one has even defaced the sign-up sheet for the debate team or turned 'jazz band' into 'jizz band.'

Then he notices one more nondescript flyer. It's simply laid out, with no colorful borders or lines for students to sign their names. It just lists a classroom, a day (Wednesdays), and a time, and it says 'Gay-Straight Alliance. All are welcome.'

Kurt is definitely not in William McKinley High School anymore.

He is still staring at the board, stunned, when a voice from behind him says, "Hey." Kurt starts and spins around, binder clutched close to his chest and his free hand on his bag.

"Whoa," says Blaine, one hand raised, his palm to Kurt; he's smiling, broad and easy. "Sorry; I didn't m--" He stops short, a shadow crossing over his expression, and Kurt suddenly feels very self-conscious again. Blaine knows the details of what happened last Thursday and he helped move some of Kurt's things last night, but he hasn't actually seen Kurt in daylight since the incident at McKinley. Kurt tightens his hand on the strap of his bag.

"Is it that dramatic?" he asks, a tense joke.

Blaine's hand lifts like he's going to touch Kurt's face; Kurt's heart leaps in his chest -- and then Blaine lowers his arm again. "They really hit you," he says, and Kurt cannot handle that tone of voice.

"No," Kurt says with as much light sarcasm as he can, shifting his bag higher on his shoulder and determinedly not wincing at the bruise that that twinges. "I decided to uproot my entire life because Azimio gave me a light tap to say hello." He wills Blaine to remember that they've talked about this and Kurt has already told him that he is allowed to take none of the blame for this; that Azimio and Karofsky were bullies (and Karofsky was a pathetic closeted one at that) long before Blaine advised Kurt to stand up for himself. He cannot handle a conversation like that again. Not this morning, when his nerves are already on edge.

Blaine, thankfully, straightens his shoulders and clears his throat; he's still looking at Kurt with concern, but he seems less taken aback by the sight of him. It's a start. "It's barely noticeable," he says, which is enough to make Kurt glance down and laugh, at least. "Now, come on." When Kurt looks up again, Blaine is smiling at him. "What're your classes?"

Kurt reaches inside his blazer. "I'm supposed to be going to chemistry, with a Mr. Rookwood," he says, pulling out the folded sheet of paper and passing it to Blaine.

"Right, right," Blaine says absently, glancing over the list of classes. "He's a pretty okay guy." He glances up at Kurt and smiles again, wry. "You know, for a teacher." He offers the schedule to Kurt, who tucks it back inside his blazer. "I'm headed to the science wing, too; I'll walk you down there."

Kurt came to Dalton determined to make it on his own, without putting his entire fate in the hands of his entirely unexpected friendship with a boy who -- he has discovered on earlier visits -- seems to be one of the most popular guys in the school, but the rush of gratitude and relief that he feels at the offer is overwhelming. He decides that he can still be self-reliant and have his own life if Blaine shows him where the classroom is. "Okay," he says, and he falls into step alongside Blaine.

"I can give you the full guided tour later, if you want," Blaine says conversationally, grinning and nodding to a guy who calls his name as they pass. "Not that there's that much to see; Dalton's pretty small compared to McKinley."

"A tour would be nice," Kurt says, glancing over at him. Blaine is leading him down the most crowded hall yet, though students are ducking into each of the classroom doors that they pass. "It seems to have a disproportionate number of confusingly twisted hallways. I'm half expecting secret passages."

Blaine laughs, and something in Kurt's chest warms. "You'll have to go to the library and tilt the right book to find those."

"You are joking, right?" Kurt asks warily, and Blaine only grins and shrugs; wouldn't you like to know? says his expression. Watching Blaine means that Kurt isn't entirely watching where he's going; Blaine suddenly grabs Kurt's nearer elbow to steer him around someone who has bent down to tie his shoe, and then he just ... doesn't move away again. They're walking down the hall with Blaine's hand warm on Kurt's arm and nobody is giving them even a second look.

Kurt wonders, not for the first time, if he's dreaming.

Blaine drops him off outside room 201 with a promise that he'll see him at lunch, and then he's gone, waving with one hand and flipping open his cell phone with the other. Kurt watches him go for several seconds, and then he turns, squares his shoulders, and walks into the classroom. He introduces himself as a transfer student to the teacher who seems to be taking a last look at the lesson plan on the computer; Mr. Rookwood has a seriously impressive head of Einstein hair. He takes Kurt's introduction and appearance in stride, barely even glancing at him, and tells him to take a seat and that they can discuss catching him up to the curriculum after class. When Kurt glances at the rest of the classroom, he finds that it's full of boys in uniform, several of whom are eyeing him with varying levels of interest and confusion. Most of them, though, are sitting on desks or standing around and laughing and talking or throwing wadded up paper balls at each other.

"Kurt!" somebody calls, and Kurt starts. "Hey, Kurt!" Wes from the Warblers is flagging him down from the back row, beckoning him in and pointing to the empty desk in front of his. Kurt slowly walks over, and Wes tells him, "We saved you a seat."

"How did you--?" he asks, setting his binder down on the desk, and staring at Wes and the vaguely familiar boy sitting beside him.

"Blaine just texted and said you'd be in here," Wes explains. "You met Jonathan, right? He's one of our tenors. He's Blaine's roommate."

"Hey," says the guy sitting beside him, as the bell rings to signal the start of class. "Quality shiner."

Startled, Kurt snorts.

Over the course of the day, he finds a previously-warned-of-Kurt's-arrival Warbler or friend of Blaine's in several more of his classes.

"What's it like?" Mercedes asks that night on Skype, with Tina hanging over her shoulder.

The corners of Kurt's mouth rise, just a little. "It's -- different," he decides.

Mercedes shoots him a tremendously unimpressed look. "What," she asks, "is that supposed to mean?"

It means that no one shoved him and he knew at least one person in half of his classes and strangers kept introducing themselves, even independent of Blaine's machinations, and Kurt shared his book with a guy in his French class who has already asked for help with verb conjugations, and he ate lunch at a full table and people did stare at him in the halls but only because he's the new kid with an eye that looks like a tie-dyed baseball.

"The uniform is a definite negative, but otherwise, I think I like it." At that response, Mercedes looks like she is ruthlessly forcing herself to be happy for him; Tina does a worse job of hiding her mixed emotions and not looking miserable. Kurt's chest tightens up. He adds, "So far. I reserve the right to change my mind."

There's the creak and bang of a door opening and closing on Mercedes and Tina's end of the connection, and then Quinn swings into view, still wearing her hideous polyester blend of a Cheerios uniform. "Is that Kurt?" she asks, and then she glances at the screen and sees that it is, in fact, Kurt. He knows that Quinn still sometimes goes over to Mercedes's house, despite the fact that the friendship isn't exactly a boost to her social position; the Joneses regard her and Kurt as fifth and sixth members of the family. But it's still a surprise to see her.

"Hi Hummel," Quinn says. "How're all the boys?"

"Cute and surprisingly respectful," he says, which gets the reaction he wants: Mercedes groans and Quinn laughs.

"Clearly, the three of us are at the wrong school," says Quinn, leaning comfortably on Mercedes's desk.

Kurt debates it for a couple of seconds, and then he asks, "How's Sam's eye?" Someone being hurt because he stood up for Kurt had been one of the worst-feeling parts of the entire mess that had sent Kurt over the edge and into the guidance office at Dalton.

The set of Quinn's bare shoulders tenses and her mouth sets into a firm line. "Healing," she says stiffly. "From the looks of it in glee rehearsals." AKA she isn't seeing him outside of glee rehearsals.

"Well," says Kurt, "my interest is officially piqued," and Quinn rolls her eyes and mutters something about him being a gossipy bitch.

"You're missing some pretty impressive relationship drama here," Tina tells him.

Quinn sniffs, and in the haughty way, not the going-to-cry way. "I don't," she says delicately, "want to talk about it."

Behind Quinn's back, Tina mimes that she will tell Kurt all about it later. At least, that's what he thinks she's doing. Someone shouts something indistinct, and the three girls glance at each other. "Coming!" Mercedes hollers back. She says to Tina and Quinn: "You guys go ahead; I'll be down in a sec."

"Dinner," Tina tells Kurt as she stands up, answering his eyebrows-furrowed expression. "Talk to you later, Kurt."

"Bye, Kurt," says Quinn. "Enjoy all those cute boys."

He snorts softly and tells them goodbye, and then they have shut the door and it is just him and Mercedes. They regard each other, and she finally asks him, "You really like it there? For real?"

He considers it for several long seconds, then nods. "It's ... easier," he admits. "I can focus on school and my own life, instead of what some cretin with a negative-4.0 GPA might do."

"Good," says Mercedes fiercely.

He wiggles his fingers at the camera; she brightens and does the same on her end, and then, in unison, they sweep their bangs back. "Tell your mom I said hi," Kurt says.

"I will," Mercedes promises, pushing her chair back from her desk. "Miss you, white boy."

Kurt smiles to cover the fact that his eyes are suddenly prickling. "I miss you, too," he says, and he shuts the laptop after Mercedes's screen goes black.

Which is precisely when somebody lightly raps on his door. Kurt whirls around and can see half a broad shoulder through the gap of several inches that he left the door open. When he crosses to it and opens all the way, he finds a tall redhaired boy who's still wearing half his uniform -- tie untied, sleeves rolled up, and jacket missing -- standing in the hallway.

"Sorry," says the guy, awkward, and even more so after he obviously notices the fact that Kurt's eyes are red; "I didn't mean to eavesdrop or anything, it's just you were just finishing when I came to the door."

"No," says Kurt, a little breathlessly. "It's okay."

"Damian," says the stranger, offering his hand. "I live in 13B, down the hall," he gestures vaguely over his shoulder; "you'll be able to recognize it by the smell of the dirty socks my roommate leaves all over the place."

Kurt smiles faintly and shakes his hand. "I'm Kurt," he says, "I just transferred here, and my socks are generally clean."

"Cool," says Damian, half-grinning at Kurt's response. "Listen, I heard you singing earlier and I just wanted to let you know; some of us watch American Idol in the lounge on Tuesday nights, so if you want to c--"

"Yes," says Kurt fervently.

On Wednesday, Kurt finds himself swaying in the front row between a stranger and one of the Warblers whose name he can't recall, and singing a chorale in Italian. Chorus is an elective class at Dalton, and the teacher had been thrilled to hear that he was getting a countertenor with a range that went up to a high F. Most of the Warblers are scattered throughout the risers, including Blaine, but there are 30 or 40 other boys as well. Kurt has never had his voice contribute to such a big, unified sound. It's a strangely humbling feeling; less so when the teacher asks to hear the tenors sing their part alone and most of the other guys are tripping over the Italian, so Kurt's voice soars above the jumbled mess.

Mr. Clifton pulls him aside after the bell rings and asks if he has any performance experience, and he looks like he is on the verge of rubbing his hands together with excitement when Kurt admits that he was an anchor member of the glee club at his old school. It turns out that Mr. Clifton is the adviser to the Warblers, and he wants Kurt to come in for an audition with the group.

Kurt says that he'll think about it.

library? asks Blaine's latest text that afternoon, and Kurt smiles at it for several seconds before putting his fingers to iPhone touchpad.

can't, somewhere to be, he texts back.

Blaine's response is almost immediate, as Kurt pauses outside the classroom door. mysterious! call if you want to hang out after you're not somewhere anymore.

He laughs a little bit, just to himself, and he texts back one letter (k) and tucks his phone into his blazer pocket. He stares at the sign for room 188 for about 30 seconds before he finally opens the door in one quick movement, so he can't change his mind.

Kurt has been at Dalton for three days, but like Blaine said, it's not that big of a school; some of the faces that turn toward him as he closes the door behind him already look familiar. They've scattered throughout the classroom; quite a few have already taken off their jackets or are breaking the dress code in various ways. One guy has his legs up on the desk that he's sitting at. There's a plate of cookies on the teacher's desk at the front.

The woman behind that desk is actually Kurt's English teacher; the one who reminded him a little bit of Ms. Pillsbury, mostly because she speaks in a soft voice and has very large eyes. She seemed nice yesterday, even if she dressed like she did all her shopping at a Filene's Basement going out of business sale. "Kurt, hi," she says.

"Hi," Kurt says, holding his bag's strap tightly. "Is -- this the GSA?"

"Yes, it is," says Mrs. Haggerty. "Come on in; take a seat." She turns her attention to the classroom full of boys, who look like as big of a representative sample of the population as Dalton's student body does in general. A couple of them in particular -- faux-hawk, he's looking at you -- set his gaydar off immediately, but this is a gay-straight alliance, and Kurt's gaydar has been known to be tragically inaccurate before. "Guys, this is Kurt; he just transferred here from Lima. Can somebody catch him up on what we're working on?"

He sits down beside a guy who he recognizes from his math class. In the front of the room, there's somebody writing down ideas on the whiteboard as people call them out; the boy from Kurt's math class (the cute boy from Kurt's math class) leans over and starts explaining the different events that they're organizing for Pride Week in January.

Looking around the room, Kurt feels like he has somehow moved to the moon.

"I've never been in a room with that many potentially-gay guys before," says Kurt, plastic container of salad lying forgotten in his lap. He's sitting cross-legged on Blaine's lofted bed, which is in Blaine's room, which, Kurt has learned very quickly, generally looks like a war zone. Blaine and his roommate Jonathan are perfectly clean in their personal hygiene, but that care does not extend to their room. Kurt's fingers are itching to pick up the jacket, textbooks, and sheet music that he can see on the floor. "Excluding the time that Mercedes and I went to a revival of La Cage aux Folles in Columbus."

Blaine laughs, perched in his computer chair with his feet propped up on the desk. He has a slice of pizza in one hand and a paper plate in the other. "I know. It blows your mind a little, right?"

Kurt nods emphatically.

"For what it's worth, it gets less weird." Blaine and Jonathan have a set of seriously impressive speakers (almost, but not quite, as nice as the ones that Kurt left in his basement), and as Blaine finishes his sentence, the music shifts over to some Marvin Gaye. Appropriately enough. "I did some stuff with the GSA when I first transferred here, and I did eventually get used to the fact that I wasn't the only openly gay guy in the room."

"So -- there are--?" Kurt asks.

He covers his mouth with his fist to respond; probably because he still has a mouth full of pizza. "Well, yeah," he says, like it's obvious. Which, to be fair, it is. "I mean, some straight guys go as allies, but we've definitely got representation up in there."

Kurt nods, absently; the movement sets his head to pounding. Headaches are apparently one of the many joys of being punched in the face, but they've been lessening in severity over the last few days. So, thankfully, have the worst of his bruises. Thinking about what Blaine said -- and mostly trying to figure out which of the guys he met were there as allies and which were not -- he stabs several pieces of lettuce with his spork.

Blaine sets down pizza and plate on his desk and rolls across the floor in his chair. He ducks just beneath Kurt, who can hear the minifridge door open and close under the bed. He comes up with a can of soda, which he is now holding out to Kurt.

"... I'm not thirsty," Kurt says, staring at him, and Blaine doesn't lower the can.

"It's for your eye," he says, patient. Either Kurt's poker face has significantly deteriorated, or Blaine is already cultivating an uncanny talent for reading Kurt's expressions.

Unnerved, Kurt reaches out and takes the soda. Their fingers brush; it makes Kurt feel like someone has electrocuted him through his hand, which is much more pleasant than he would have expected. "Thank you," he says, quietly.

Blaine doesn't wheel back to his pizza. Instead, he leans forward in his chair with his hands on his knees. "Is it still hurting?" he asks.

"A little," Kurt admits, pressing the cold can to his face. "Not as much anymore. Can we talk about something else?" Talking about it makes him think about it, which makes him think about the weight of Azimio's knee in the small of his back again, which makes his leftover bruises throb in sympathetic protest.

"Sure," says Blaine, and out of nowhere, he says: "So Mr. Clifton told me he was trying to recruit a new student into the Warblers."

Kurt has just taken a bite of salad, and he almost snaps a spork prong between his teeth.

"He didn't name any names, but apparently, the guy seemed kind of reluctant."

From the steady way that Blaine is looking up at him, it's pretty clear that he knows the mystery student's identity. Kurt chews rapidly and swallows, and he says, "It's not that I don't want to sing with the Warblers; I do, I just--" and he stops, his face twisting; Blaine waits patiently, because he is bizarrely, terrifyingly perfect. "It feels like a betrayal," Kurt finishes, finally.

"Well," Blaine says, slowly, "pretty much anything I could say here would be really self-serving," (Kurt smiles faintly), "so ... why don't you talk to your friends about it? See what Mercedes thinks." Blaine hasn't met anyone from Lima except Kurt's dad (and, stupidly enough, Karofsky), but he knows all about them by now; especially Mercedes.

Kurt already thought of that option, and he's been avoiding it. He didn't catch half the flak he had expected when he'd gone to glee rehearsal last Friday and flatly told the room that he was transferring, but it would have been pretty tough for anyone to give him a hard time when he was standing there with a bruised face and a quaver in his voice. Half the club had witnessed some form of the escalated abuse he had been taking. In the end, they'd gathered around him and mostly hugged him and cried or awkwardly patted him on the back. Nobody had said a word about defection or fraternizing with the enemy or Jesse St. James or any of the other baseless things that had been brought up when Rachel had first started asking questions about the picture in Kurt's locker. And Kurt appreciated (and still appreciates) that, but he can't help but think that it's going to be an entirely different story if he calls and says that he wants to join up with a rival glee club.

"Maybe," Kurt says reluctantly.

"You are being ridiculous right now," Mercedes says, rolling her eyes.

"Well--" Kurt starts, gesturing with his spork, but Mercedes's tinny voice steamrolls right over him.

"Like we'd want you not to sing!" She pulls her chair in closer to her desk and leans in toward her webcam. Kurt notices with a pang that she's wearing a pageboy hat and BUSOG T-shirt that they'd picked out together during a marathon online shopping session. "Kurt, all anybody here wants is for you to be happy." Beat. "Except maybe Rachel, but Rachel's kinda nuts." Kurt stifles a snorted, slightly watery laugh in his sweater's sleeve. He has cried more in the last three months than he has in the rest of his life combined. It should be embarrassing, but he has his back to Blaine -- who has sprawled across his bed with a book and a pair of headphones and is politely pretending he can't hear anything -- and Kurt isn't ashamed to let Mercedes see that his eyes are red. "And I think even she gets that this is what you've gotta do," Mercedes finishes.

"She was surprisingly understanding," Kurt says half-heartedly, still into his sleeve. Their Rachel-mocking has become pretty tame, after she reached out to sing that Judy/Barbra duet with Kurt, and especially after she made herself into a target by snapping at Azimio and Karofsky to leave Kurt alone in the cafeteria.

"Everybody's gonna get it," Mercedes promises him. "Nobody is going to think you're betraying us by wanting to sing at your new school, and if anybody does--" Her eyes gleam. "I'll straighten them out. You go to that audition, you get your Perón on, and you knock their damn socks off."

He smiles, slow and quiet and very genuine, and, not for the first time in the last week, is incredibly thankful that his bff is back; that she isn't being the well-meaning pod person who'd done nothing but try to get him to come to Jesus after his dad had his heart attack. "Okay," he says softly.

"Now, more importantly. Who the hell's room are you in?" Mercedes asks (it's really more of a demand than a question). "I know you do not have a poster of Jessica Alba in a bikini up on your wall."

Kurt quirks a quick smile. He doesn't have to look to know what she's talking about; the Maxim poster in question is hanging over Blaine's bed. "It's Blaine's roommate's," he says. "There's a shirtless Matt Bomer up over the other bed; they apparently decided on equal representation." Dismissive: "I think it's some weird boy joke." There is a very quiet sound from behind Kurt, like somebody has stifled a huff of laughter. Kurt determinedly doesn't turn around.

Mercedes apparently misses that; she lowers her head and raises her eyebrows, peering at Kurt from under the brim of her cap. "What," she asks, "are you doing in Blaine's room?"

"I was here talking to him and he said it was stupid for me to go back to my hall when I could just use his computer to call you," Kurt recites, pulling a wry face. His Blaine impression is getting pretty good.

"What'd he say about the whole Warblers thing?" she asks.

"That I should solicit your opinion."

"Hm," says Mercedes. She looks and sounds satisfied with that advice. "I like him."

"Of course you're saying that," he replies tartly. "He told me to call you and do whatever you say."

"Oh, what, and you don't like him?" Mercedes retorts, laughing. "C'mon, Kurt; I hear more about this guy than I do about Lady Gaga."

"Mercedes!" Kurt remonstrates under his breath. Thanks to the small box in the righthand corner of the screen, he can actually watch his face turn the color of an overripe tomato.

"What?" she asks. "You are not subtle, boy--" and then she registers that he is violently shaking his head despite the pain it causes, his eyes the size of dinner plates, and her eyebrows rise. She lowers her voice. "Is he right--?"

"What did you think was behind me, a scarecrow in jeans?!" Kurt hisses.

"He wasn't moving; I thought it was a pile of clothes!" Mercedes hisses back. "Can he hear us?"

He stares at the computer for several long seconds, and then he slowly, carefully peers over his shoulder. Blaine is lying on his stomach, facing away from Kurt; he's bobbing his head to the beat of whatever he's listening to, reading the textbook spread out in front of him, and he has his elbow on the bed and his chin in his hand, fingers covering his mouth.

Kurt shoots Mercedes an unimpressed look and he clicks into the chat window. 'he's wearing headphones,' he types, then he shrugs at her to say he doesn't know.

She sighs, exasperated. "Well, how was I sup--" Kurt points fiercely downward, at the keyboard, and Mercedes huffs again and glances down; he can hear keys clicking. 'how was i supposed to know he was there? you could have warned me!!'

'it never came up!' Kurt retorts.

Mercedes rolls her eyes at him and types, 'well since he's there + everything....' Then she says out loud (very loud), "I'd kinda like to meet some part of Blaine that isn't his legs."

He pulls his very bitchiest don't you dare embarrass me face at her. Mercedes stares back, unimpressed. Kurt exhales sharply, turns around, and says, "Blaine?" Blaine's shoulders twitch faintly, but he doesn't stop nodding to whatever he's listening to. Kurt raises his voice. "Blaine."

Blaine lifts his headphones off one ear and rises up on his elbow, glancing back at Kurt over his shoulder. "What's up?" he asks genially. He doesn't seem to have been listening to their conversation.

"Mercedes wants to 'meet' you," Kurt says, with sarcastic finger-quote emphasis on 'meet.'

"Shut up," says Mercedes, laughing.

Blaine's smile starts slow but spreads all the way across his face. "The famous Mercedes? I'm there." He pulls his headphones all the way off and leaves them on the pillow, and then he sits up and hops down off the bed. "Hi Mercedes," he says, coming up behind Kurt. He rests a steadying hand on Kurt's shoulder as he leans in over the desk -- like it's nothing; no big deal to just reach out and casually touch someone -- and he and Mercedes grin at each other as she says hi.

Kurt decides that he is allowed to bask in this moment.

"Rock, rock, step ball change, step ball change," calls out Shawn, standing at the front of the room and thumping the piano with his hand to keep the beat when there's no music. There is a conspicuous open space in the group lined up on the risers; one that Shawn is going to have to fill once he has finished drilling them over and over again on the choreography.

Shawn, Kurt reflects as he steps-steps then spins under the shouted directions in a tight formation with the rest of the Warblers, is an impressive taskmaster. He's not quite to Rachel Berry standards of fanaticism (thankfully, no one is), but he takes admirable amounts of pride in coming up with and then teaching dance steps to the club. Though, unlike Rachel, 1) Shawn's fellow students have actually given him influence over them, both by affording him a co-captainship and by making him their choreographer; 2) he doesn't seem to have gone mad with power; and 3) Shawn both notices and cares when everyone is ready to drop dead.

Kurt wonders if this is what it would have been like if the New Directions had allowed Mike to choreograph numbers for them, instead of having Mr. Schue come up with all the dance moves.

"Better," says Shawn, finally laying off on the piano. He runs a hand over his head; Kurt is pretty sure he remembers him singing and dancing directly to Blaine's right when Kurt had first seen the Warblers perform "Teenage Dream." He's also pretty sure he has memorized those two minutes of his life and saved them forever.

"Water break, okay? Be back in ten," says Shawn. A bunch of the guys just slump down where they were standing, sprawling across the risers. David takes off like a shot; from the catcalls of the bass section, he's probably been bitching to them all morning about his girlfriend being in town while he's stuck at a Saturday dance rehearsal. "Ten minutes!" Shawn bellows after him.

Everyone has dressed down for four hours of dancing, mostly in workout clothes. There are many, many pairs of tragic shapeless knee-length basketball shorts in attendance, but no one so much as blinked when Kurt walked in wearing designer sweats and a sweatshirt with the neck cut out. Still standing now, he reaches up and adjusts the headband holding his hair back.

"Kurt, are you not even tired?" Jonathan asks pathetically, from the floor.

Enrique is perched beside him, checking something on his phone. Without even glancing up, he says, "He's like the Energizer Bunny; it's terrifying."

"Thank you," Kurt says, sitting down with them and neatly folding his legs. "I think. But pink fur isn't my color: tacky." Someone sitting nearby snorts; still not looking away from his phone, Enrique offers a hand, palm up. Kurt stares at it for several seconds before realizing that he is being offered a high five, and he finally tentatively slaps it.

"Seriously," Jonathan groans, and Kurt shoots him a pitying look. His normally perfectly-styled shock of black emo hair (and that's exactly what it is, no matter what Jonathan insists) is drooping with sweat and effort. "How are you always ready to just--" He gestures vaguely with a hand above himself, "keep going?"

"I appreciate being challenged," Kurt says, and half the guys flopped down near them groan. "Really!" he insists. "We didn't take on choreography half this complex at--" Which is when he realizes that he has broken his cardinal rule of not talking about what the New Directions are potentially doing for Sectionals, and that everyone around him is listening with undisguised interest. The Warblers aren't cheaters and they would never behave like Vocal Adrenaline, but that doesn't mean that they don't want to know what McKinley's glee club is like. "--My old school," he finishes lamely, but they all know that he's talking about the competition.

"Hey, Kurt," says Shawn from the front of the room, and Kurt turns to glance that way. "Think you can give Jonathan a hand with that last turn? He's still not getting it." Kurt half smiles, startled.

Jonathan makes a noise like a disgruntled sea lion. "Up," Shawn says. "Up, up. If you'd wake your ass up in the mornings instead of coming here and dancing like you're still asleep, I'd let you take breaks."

As Jonathan drags himself up off the risers and comes down to the front of the room, Kurt shoots Shawn a grateful look, which Shawn graciously ignores.

"It's easy," Kurt tells Jonathan. "You just need to set your feet like this, then shift your weight all at once..."

" 'Appreciate the challenge' my ass!" bellows Jonathan, skidding into the chorus room with a tiny netbook cradled against his chest.

Kurt stares at him, one eyebrow cocked, then glances from side to side. Thankfully, the rest of the Warblers, mostly sitting down and waiting for Mr. Clifton to arrive so Wednesday rehearsal can begin, are looking just as confused as he is.

"Did you drink three of those 5-Hour Energy things again?" Blaine asks from the back row. "Because that was a really bad idea last time." From the general undercurrent of low laughter, whatever happened had been a very public really bad idea.

"No!" Jonathan says, pointing at Blaine, then shifting his finger to Kurt, who frowns at the sudden, unexpected scrutiny. "I figured out why Kurt picks up dance moves so fast and never gets tired."

"...I have no idea what he's talking about," Kurt says, in response to the quizzical looks that he can feel the back of his head receiving. He really doesn't.

Jonathan says, "AHA!" (Kurt is beginning to think that Blaine's 5-Hour Energy theory is a sound one; Jonathan has been known to pull all-nighters and then be loopy for days afterward) and then spins the laptop around and hits play on a YouTube video.

Kurt has about a half a second to recognize a sea of red and white uniforms and for his eyes to begin to widen, before the sound kicks in and he hears the opening notes of "J'Irai Ou Tu Iras" that haunted his dreams for four months last spring.

On the tiny screen, four Cheerios are thrown 15 feet into the air in perfect unison.

"Not," says Enrique, his eyes glued to the screen (and, Kurt suspects, the Cheerios' tiny skirts), "that I'm complaining -- but what the hell am I watching and why?"

"Wait for it," says Jonathan, which is precisely when the announcer says, "Nnnnnext up, ladies and gentlemen, competing for the national title here in sunny Atlanta, please welcome your reigning national champions: the William McKinley High School Cheerios from Lima, Ohiooooo!"

The confetti cannons go off over the sounds of cheering, the full squad launches into the routine, and Kurt watches a lone figure shimmy up through the perfect red-and-white rows to dance right in the front, at the dead center of the formation. Kurt takes a glance to the side, and finds that one of the Warblers sitting next to him is squinting at the tiny figure on the screen; no one else seems to have gotten it yet.

Then the confident figure at the front opens his mouth and belts, "Chez moi les forets se balancent" in an utterly unmistakable voice, and half the Warblers lunge forward in their chairs all at once.

"Wha--" says a voice from somewhere behind Kurt, and then the ESPN camera crew zooms in for a shot of the singer's face.

Pandemonium breaks out in the chorus room; Jonathan actually has to pause the video due to noise levels.

"Okay," says David, "I think I speak for all of us when I say: what??"

"I was the featured vocal soloist for the McKinley Cheerios last year," Kurt says with great dignity, his arms folded over his chest. "I performed a fourteen-and-a-half-minute medley of Céline Dion's greatest French-language hits."

"You were a cheerleader?" asks Blaine's voice, and Kurt actually turns around to answer that particular question. There's a furrow between Blaine's eyebrows; not a bad one, just one that seems to imply that he's surprised by, and taking in, this new information about Kurt.

"For four misguided months of my life, yes," Kurt says. "I quit when I decided I valued my sanity more than winning Nationals."

"You won Nationals?" asks Wes.

Kurt imperiously flicks his fingers at Jonathan's computer. "This is the ESPN coverage of the winning performance."

"This is blowing my mind right now," says one of the freshman baritones whose name Kurt hasn't learned yet.

"Uhh, can we please quit talking and watch the rest?" says David, and, clearly not needing further prompting, Jonathan hits play again.

"Isn't this song a duet?" Blaine asks after two more bars, and half the room -- including Kurt -- turns around and stares at him.

"... My mom listens to her CDs," Blaine says.

"Coach Sylvester said that a true star could sing harmonies with himself," Kurt explains.

Blaine is looking at him funny across two rows of people.

"She was cray-cray," Kurt clarifies.

They're all still looking at him.

"She would shoot bean bags at your feet if she decided that you weren't lifting them high enough," Kurt says. "In comparison, Shawn is a kitten rolling in rainbows."

"I'm gonna go ahead and take that as a compliment," Shawn says, not looking away from the screen. "Everybody shut up."

They watch the whole thing, and by about halfway through, Kurt's stomach has stopped defensively knotting up because he begins to realize that yeah, the guys do think it's kind of funny but they also think it's impressive. They grin at the shoulder-carry from two male Cheerios, and they clap his shoulders when Kurt-from-five-months-ago hits the high notes and somebody mutters "Holy shit" when he goes for the lowest note in "Regarde-Moi" and they chorus "Ohhhhhhhh!" when he sweeps his leg into a kick high enough that he could almost touch his shin to his face.

Mr. Clifton comes in within the last few seconds of the video and looks totally confused as to why his students are applauding.

It's actually nice.

After rehearsal, there's the sound of jogging footsteps from behind Kurt and Blaine catches up to him as he ducks out into the hallway. "Hey, Kurt, wait up," he says, pretty unnecessarily given that he's only a step behind, but Kurt pauses to wait. "So I guess now we know how you pick up footwork and teach it to Jonathan so easily," he says, grinning.

"Actually, my teaching experience comes from a brief role on the football team," Kurt responds. At Blaine's blank look, he adds, "I was the kicker."

"You ... taught the football team to dance?" Blaine asks blankly.

"We did the routine for 'Single Ladies.' " Kurt holds up his hand, palm out, and gives it a couple of illustrative flips. "It helped loosen them up; they actually won a game or two."

When he looks sideways, he finds Blaine staring at him. Again, it doesn't seem negative, just -- startled, like he's filtering this new information. The stare is intent enough that Kurt glances away to keep from turning colors under it.

"Wow," Blaine says. "That school should be really, really sorry it didn't fight harder to keep you, Kurt."

Kurt holds the strap of his bag tightly, and he doesn't know what to say, so he says dully, “Yes, well,” and then adds: “You're just trying to change the subject away from the fact that you're a closeted fan of Miss Céline Marie Claudette Dion Angélil. It's very sad; worshipping at the feet of pure French-Canadian diva genius is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“It's my mom!” Blaine protests.

“Unacceptable,” Kurt proclaims after a single glance, sprawled across his bed with his chin in his hand.

“Seriously?” Bernard complains, still standing there with his arms spread open.

“You're taking the girl to a French restaurant in Columbus, not a barn-raising,” Kurt says tartly, and Damian and Paul – who, along with a third hallmate who doesn't glance up from the paper he's writing on his laptop, have taken over the extra bed that Kurt uses as a couch – start laughing.

Burn!” says Paul, who has been streaming an unhealthy number of old That 70s Show episodes lately.

Kurt has the only single on the hall, and his room is big and always clean and looks less like a high school or college dorm room than anyone else's, and somehow, that has lead to his space becoming the designated hang-out area whenever the lounge is being used. He keeps discovering Cheetos in the throw pillows and he sometimes has to get bitchy to throw people out when he decides that he needs some alone time (several hallmates are entirely incapable of taking a hint), but he finds himself appreciating the company much more than he ever would have expected.

Bernard frowns down at his jeans and red and white checkered button-up shirt.

Kurt sighs sharply and closes his laptop. “Come on,” he says, rolling off his bed. Bernard stares at him blankly. Kurt shooes him none-too-patiently. “Move.”

“Where are we going?”

“Through your closet,” Kurt tells him, and Damian and Paul scramble to follow.

Bernard whines the whole way through as Kurt proclaims most of his wardrobe unwearable (to the delight of the peanut gallery, which grows exponentially over the course of about 15 minutes), but he goes off to pick up his date wearing a sport coat and an entirely different outfit, and his roommates have to cover for him when he doesn't make it back before curfew. He apparently sneaks in after midnight and, in the morning, tells Kurt and whoever else will listen how appreciative his date was of the way that his blue dress shirt complemented his eyes (like Kurt said it would). Kurt is pleased by the date's good taste, though less pleased by being subjected to explicit tales of what else was good about her.

So Kurt somehow becomes the queer eye for 20 straight guys, which has the potential of being exploitative or weird, except that the hallmates who ask for his help generally appreciate it and quite frankly, this is like catnip to Kurt. Going through terrible teenage wardrobes is his stress relief; it's better than hours spent watching Rachel Zoe proclaim things to be bananas or staring at YouTube videos of puppies play-fighting.

Like he has always said: makeovers are like crack. Just without the potential cardiovascular and brain damage.

Kurt talks to his dad several times a week. He actually e-mails with Carole more often; he'll check his inbox between classes and find that she has sent him a link to a story on a production of The Sound of Music in Columbus, or a picture gallery of Christian Siriano's collection at New York Fashion Week six months ago. His dad, though, is more of a phone guy, so while Carole will sometimes hop on to assure Kurt that she is keeping his dad to the prescribed diet and once in a while Finn will awkwardly say hi and tell Kurt about Glee Club stuff that Kurt already knows through Mercedes and Tina, Kurt mostly talks to his dad.

Kurt makes his dad tell him about the outcomes of doctors' appointments (prognosis: good) and relate stories from days at the garage, but primarily, Burt asks questions and Kurt tells him about homework and Warblers rehearsals and American Idol nights and French Club meetings and a little about GSA event organization. It's kind of awkward sometimes, but they're both trying and his dad is determined to know about what's going on in Kurt's life, good and bad; Kurt thinks he hasn't entirely forgiven himself for not knowing how bad things were at McKinley until he got called into the principal's office because Kurt had been jumped in a hallway.

He's sitting at his desk with his phone tucked between his shoulder and his ear, explaining the assignment he's working on as he Googles Filippo Brunelleschi in the search for more sources, when somebody knocks at his open door and then walks right in. From that, Kurt knows that it has to be one of only a handful of people; he glances over and finds that it's Blaine, looking ragged and uncharacteristically unkempt, with a textbook tucked under his arm. He stops short on seeing the cell phone pressed to Kurt's ear and he takes a half a step back, miming walking out again; Kurt shakes his head and points at the spare bed that he has lowered and uses like a couch. Blaine throws himself down face first on the couch-bed and lies there like that for a minute before lifting his head, opening his French book, and starting to read. Kurt furrows his eyebrows at him, thinking that the noise level in Blaine's room must be finally getting to him, and then realizes that his dad is asking him something.

"--What?" he says, looking back at his computer screen, like that's going to help him figure out what he missed.

"I hear the glee club competition thing is in Lima this year," his dad says.

"Sectionals, Dad," Kurt reminds him for the umpteenth time. "McKinley's name was picked during the random draw, yes."

"Okay," says his dad. "Are you gonna be able to get away afterward?"

He -- hadn't actually thought of that. "I have a midterm the next day," Kurt says, hesitant.

"Oh." His dad is quiet for a couple seconds, then he says, "Well, hey, that's--"

"But I'm sure Mr. Clifton would be okay with me leaving for dinner," Kurt interrupts. He hopes Mr. Clifton will be okay with him leaving for dinner. "You'll have to drive me back to school, though."

"Hell, Kurt, that's not a problem," his dad says firmly, and Kurt smiles. "So are we gonna see this guy you're always talking about or what?"

Kurt sputters; he asks feebly, "Which guy; there are a lot of guys here," but he knows exactly who his dad is talking about.

"C'mon, Kurt; don't play dumb with me," says Dad. "You went to the library with Blaine, you rehearsed harmonies with Blaine, you went to the movies with Blaine and the guys, Blaine says the best elective to take second semester is fencing, he shows up the night you move in to help carry your stuff--"

Pretty much what Kurt takes from this recitation is that his dad really listens to him during their conversations; more than he'd even realized.

"Can you blame us if I want to talk to the kid again and Carole wants to meet him?"

Kurt laughs. It comes out much more nervous and high-pitched than he'd intended. "You're making this sound like Meet the Parents."

"Is it? You tell me."

"Dad," Kurt hisses in protest, which is when he glances over at the bed-couch, which is when he figures out that Blaine has gone face-down into his book and is breathing slow and even. "--Hold on," he says into the phone, dropping his voice.

"What?" he hears his dad ask, and then he gets up and slips out of his room, quietly pulling the door shut behind himself until it's only open a crack. The hall is empty at this time of night; most of the guys who live on it are at dinner. Kurt sits down on the floor, back pressed against the wall, and then he lifts his iPhone to his ear again.

"--lo?" his dad is asking.

"Sorry; I'm back," he says, still keeping his voice low so it doesn't echo through the empty hall.

Dad sounds exasperated. "What was that?"

Kurt sighs sharply. "I didn't want to talk about this while he was in the room, and then I turned around and he was asleep, so I had to move."

"He was asleep," his dad repeats. "Blaine. He was in the room the whole time?" Beat, and then he says: "He's asleep in your room?"

He sighs again, and he silently asks the ceiling for strength. "He came in while you and I were talking; his hallmates have been having a Left 4 Dead tournament while he tries to cram for an important test, so he came here, because my room is quiet, and then I guess he was tired because he fell asleep on the extra bed." His dad doesn't say anything, so Kurt adds, "The bed that I don't sleep in," and he rolls his eyes. It's all a guess, given that he didn't actually exchange words with Blaine when he came in, but Kurt thinks it's a pretty good guess, given the state of Blaine's hall the last time he'd been on it earlier this afternoon.

"Okay." Dad sounds gruff, but mollified. Kurt is torn between telling him the truth (that they're just friends) and informing him that he can't be against a boy sleeping in his room forever.

Neither of them is in any way ready for that second conversation. Kurt goes with the first option. "We're friends, Dad."

"But he is gay," his dad says, like he's trying to get this -- no pun intended -- straight.

"Yes," says Kurt, pressing a hand to his face. "But just because we're both gay and we get along -- it doesn't automatically mean that we're going to date. I have gay friends now." He stresses: "Friends."

There's a moment as his dad presumably takes this in, and then he says. "Okay. Carole still wants to meet him."

"Okay," Kurt acquiesces. "Fine. If you promise you won't scare him."

"Me?" asks Dad. "I'm not a scary guy."

He snorts. "Good night, Dad."

"Okay, okay," says his dad, sounding amused. His voice is warm. "Night."

When Kurt steps back into his room, he finds that Blaine hasn't moved an inch. Kurt regards him for several seconds, frowning, then decides that he has to move the textbook. It can't be comfortable, and Blaine won't be happy if he wakes up and finds his book drooly. Not that Blaine would actually drool in his sleep. Kurt can't picture that.

He does the easy part first, lifting a chenille throw and a pillow off his bed and carefully covering Blaine with the blanket, shoulders to feet. Then the hard part. He stands over Blaine for several seconds, strategizing, and then he finally just reaches down, slips his hand under Blaine's head -- he must have recently showered and not bothered to slick back his hair, because it's all damp soft curls under Kurt's fingers -- and lifts his head as gently as he can as he tugs the book out from underneath and replaces it with a pillow.

"Kurt?" Blaine asks dimly, his voice rough with sleep and confusion, and something catches in Kurt's chest.

"Go back to sleep," he says, sitting down in his chair and wheeling back to his computer. "I'll wake you up in two hours."

Blaine must be exhausted, because he doesn't say anything else.

Finn calls on the Tuesday night before Sectionals.

Kurt answers the phone with, "What's wrong?" His heart is racing and he thinks he might be sick; he's unable to think about anything but sitting in the ER waiting room in September.

"What?" says Finn's voice, and then he realizes. "Oh, no, dude -- your dad's fine. Everybody's fine." Beat. "Sorry."

He exhales, long and slow. "It's fine," he says, both to Finn and to Damian, Bernard, and Omid, who are sitting closest to him and are shooting him several variations on a concerned or weirded-out look. He gets up off the couch and he steps out of the lounge as the favorite contestant comes onstage and one of the guys wolf-whistles at her skintight outfit while the rest of the crew applauds. Kurt rolls his eyes and closes the door behind himself. "What's going on?"

"Does something really have to be going on for me to call you?" Finn asks, and it actually sounds like a genuine question; like it hasn't occurred to him that Rachel calls Kurt more often than Finn does.

"Yes," Kurt says succinctly. Down the hall, Erik and Paul are apparently having a war; there is a ball of some sort hurtling back and forth between their open doors, objects clattering and voices laughing. "You never call me. I repeat: what's going on?" Finn hems and haws, and Kurt sighs sharply. "Finn, out with it. I'm missing an astoundingly skanky performance on American Idol for this."

"Rachel broke up with me," Finn says, all at once, and Kurt narrowly avoids saying, Oh, God out loud. Instead, he walks down the hall and pushes the door open, and he sits down on the steps that lead up to the third floor of the dorm.

"When?" he asks.

"This afternoon." Finn actually sounds morose. "She's really, really mad."

There was a time when this entire conversation would have filled Kurt with glee, for multiple reasons, none of which were terribly flattering to his character. Now, it mostly makes him feel tired. "What happened?"

"Uhhhhh," says Finn.

Kurt waits.

"I kind of ... slept with Santana last year, but told Rachel I was a virgin."

Well, that actually manages to shock him. "Oh my God," Kurt says, enunciating each and every word. "I hope you've been tested."

"What?" says Finn's voice. "Oh. I'm not stupid. We used a condom."

That doesn't actually make Kurt feel much better about this entire conversation. "Why would you tell Rachel you were a virgin?" he demands, which is, of course, when two Warblers come up the stairs. They have twin looks of amusement and confusion.

"I don't know!" Finn says, anguished, as Kurt waves a get out, get out hand at David and Enrique, who are unsubtly trying to listen to his conversation. "It was so stupid; I just -- I totally panicked! But Santana got super pissed this afternoon when Rachel was being ... Rachel, and she told her, and Rachel says she's never going to speak to me again."

"She has to speak to you," Kurt says, and he mouths stepbrother in response to David's terrible pantomime of who the hell are you talking to? He turns away from the two of them. "You're performing together at Sectionals."

"She says she won't sing with me!"

Kurt stops in his tracks, as the two Warblers round the landing and keep going upstairs. "Wow," Kurt says. "This is serious."

"I know!" Finn insists. "I don't know what to do."

"So ... you called me," Kurt says, both wary and a little touched. "Despite how potentially bizarre this conversation would be."

"I knew it wouldn't be weird; we're totally cool now," Finn says dismissively, like it's nothing, and Kurt gives a startled half smile despite himself. "And I kind of figured -- well, you and Rachel like a lot of the same stuff--"

"Don't tell her you said that, if you're trying to apologize," Kurt advises. "I'm only letting it pass because you're emotionally distraught."

Finn ignores him. "And I thought you might, like, have an idea or something."

Kurt leans forward in his perch on the stair, one leg neatly crossed over the other. "You do realize that you're talking to the one member of the New Directions -- past or present -- who has never so much as been on a date," he points out.

"There's that guy--"

Kurt grits, "I'm not dating Blaine."

"I don't care if you haven't been on a date or whatever," Finn says. "I just need some help here, Kurt, and--" His voice lowers, "I can't exactly take this to your dad or Mr. Schue." Kurt is silent for several long seconds, delicately pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers. Finn's voice finally says, "I mean, if you don't w--"

"I realize that I gave you this advice once before and it worked out fairly disastrously for everyone involved, but you should sing to her," Kurt says, lifting his head out of his hand. "Find something heartfelt about how much she means to you and/or how sorry you are, work out an arrangement, and sing it to her in private. It's exactly the kind of thing Rachel would go crazy for."

"Like ... what song?" asks Finn, but he sounds thoughtful.

"I would suggest something that's more to her taste than yours," Kurt says. "Something that shows that you've been paying attention to what she likes and that you went to a great deal of effort." He cannot believe he is saying this, given Finn's general taste in music and Finn's limited vocal capabilities, but he finishes: "Try Broadway."

The next afternoon, Kurt finds himself saying, "Finn, you sang her a song about the baby that you conceived with a hooker and left behind in Vietnam."

Beside him, Blaine actually doubles over in silent laughter, his hand over his mouth, and Kurt keeps walking without him. It's too cold out today to stop moving, he has decided, and if that means he leaves a man behind, so be it.

He has been in the room during way, way too many melodramatic terrible war movie marathons, lately.

As soon as Kurt puts some distance between them, Blaine is loudly cracking up behind him.

"Are you serious?" Finn asks; Blaine scrambles after him, laughter stifled but still grinning hugely, and falls into step with Kurt again, leaning in closer. Kurt tries to swat him away but he won't move, so he finally sighs and tips his phone outward so that Blaine can hear. They walk close together, almost temple to temple. Kurt tries not to focus on it.

"Oh my God," Finn moans, and Blaine spins away, muffling laughter again.

Kurt doesn't find this particularly funny. Finn just mangled a Broadway classic; not only is that a crime on its own merits, but it will be very difficult to win Rachel Berry's affections back after that. "Okay," he says. "The Broadway strategy was a failure, and possibly not ever a good idea if you were selecting your own music; I should have considered that. So--" he gestures, tight and contained, with one gloved hand, "pick something you'd actually want to sing."

Finn sounds like he thinks this is a trap. "Really?"

"Really. Do you not have any songs that you associate with Rachel?"

"Well," Finn says, slowly, "I guess 'Don't Stop Believin' '--"

"Not ones that you've performed with glee or sung to her already," Kurt interrupts, as he hears Blaine's quick footsteps crunching on the ice behind him. "Songs that come up on shuffle and make you pull that ridiculous face that you make at Rachel when she does something absurd."

"I pull ridiculous faces?" Finn asks, confused, as Blaine comes up beside Kurt and leans in to listen.

"Never mind," says Kurt. "Just -- something that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about Rachel. Anything. The first thing that comes to mind. Right now." If he were in person, he would probably be snapping his fingers in Finn's face.

Finn says, immediately, " 'Just the Way You Are.' "

Kurt stops walking. Blaine stops too, having gone several steps ahead when Kurt halted, and he swings back to face Kurt and give two approving thumbs up. "It's not an apology, but otherwise, that's pretty perfect," Kurt says, after having done a lightning-fast run through the lyrics in his head.

"Yeah?" says Finn hesitantly, and then, more confident: "Yeah. Thanks, Kurt."

"Don't mention it," Kurt says, his eyes on Blaine, who's waiting with his hands in his coat pockets and looks like he might bust out laughing again. "Seriously, don't tell Rachel you called me about this."

"Okay." Finn sounds distracted; there is a thud on the other end and he mutters something to himself about back-up harmonies, and Kurt guesses that he's gathering up his stuff or grabbing a computer to look up Bruno Mars's lyrics. "Hey," he says, more clearly. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"

"Right," Kurt says, after several seconds, realizing why Finn will see him tomorrow: Sectionals. "Tomorrow."

"Okay. Bye!" And before Kurt has a chance to say another word, Finn hangs up. Kurt slowly lowers his phone, ending the call, and slips it back into his pocket. He glances at Blaine.

"I am so excited to meet this guy," says Blaine, grinning.

Tomorrow, Kurt thinks again, and he flashes Blaine a tight-lipped, tense smile.

Go to part 2
Tags: fic, glee
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