A/N: This is for the Kurt-Blaine Reverse Bang of 2015. Many, many thanks to my artist riverance, who created the beautiful artwork to go with the story. Please visit her tumblr to like and reblog her fanart! Thanks also to riverance for her patience, as I was dealing with stressful circumstances in my personal life during the writing period and had to push back our posting date more than once. Idea-bouncing and cheerleading services by notthatbea, proof reading and beta on this chapter by neyronrose.

Was he being punked? He couldn't think of any other explanation. This dinky airport couldn't possibly be real. That puddle-hopper he took from Charlotte had landed here in the parking lot. There were two 'gates' here at New Bern, if you could even call them that. They were really just doors, but the lettering over them clearly said Gate One and Gate Two. Hold on, there was a third door off to one side. Three gates. Ten strides across a seating area had him through another doorway and he was in what looked like the meet-and-greet area of the airport.

Kurt stopped, taking it in as other passengers strolled by. What was it with this state and rocking chairs at their airports? The last one had had them too. But that one at least felt like an airport. This place felt like some giant child's toy, their version of those plastic Little People setups that had entire towns built around them.

He sighed, hiking his carry-on higher up on his shoulder. Not like he'd used anything in the bag anyway. He'd hoped to catch up on reading his fashion magazines on the flight, but found himself unable to focus. The pictures of the latest styles from the spring fashion shows had blurred on the page and the drone of the airplane lulled him into resting his head against the window till he dozed off.

"Kurt! Kurt!" A familiar voice called him from across the room. So no, he wasn't being punked. This joke of an airport was real and he had a ride waiting.

In spite of his reservations about the place, he couldn't help smiling at the man in his familiar ball cap, breaking into a jog to meet him. Boyfriends had come and gone over the years, but his dad remained the most important man in his life, his constant through everything.

They met in the middle, grabbing each other in what Carole called the 'Hummel Hold,' keeping their grip on each other for those few extra seconds. No awkward one-armed pat on the back for the Hummel men. When they hugged, they meant it. Kurt buried himself in his dad's shoulder—not flannel for once, but a short-sleeved T-shirt—and breathed him in unashamedly. He didn't care if he looked like a needy toddler being picked up at daycare. This was his dad who he hadn't seen for months and Kurt needed to confirm his presence with all his senses.

"So glad you're here, Kurt." With a clap on the back, his dad let him go, holding him back at arm's-length to get a look at him. "Damn, have you lost more weight? You're wasting away to nothing, kid."

"Eight shows a week, Dad." Kurt rolled his eyes. "Under bright stage lights, that are enough to make you sweat before you start singing and dancing."

"Well, don't worry. Carole will fatten you up this week. C'mon, we'll get your luggage." He slung an arm around his shoulders and walked past a tiny snack bar, around the corner to a single conveyer belt which was already moving, luggage starting to appear. "I'm glad that you got a couple days off work, finally. We've been trying to get you down for the past three summers."

"Hard to get time off when you work on Broadway, Dad." Kurt refrained from telling his dad that he didn't want to be fattened up, that would hardly help him at his job. He needed to stay lean, and sometimes even be mean, to stay ahead of the next generation of actors hungry for their big break.

"Don't you always tell me that's what understudies are for?"

"And worry about coming back to find I've been replaced? No thank you. There it is." He strode forward, sidestepping a woman in an unseasonably summer dress as she turned away from the belt, and reached in to grab his Diane von Furstenberg suitcase before it could pass by. Though from the looks of the tiny conveyer belt, it wouldn't take long for it to come back around again. He lifted it to the floor, pulled the handle up and dodged a small child yelling 'I see it! I get it!' as he darted past Kurt. A pair of harried parents with twins in a stroller followed the aspiring luggage porter.

"Just the one? You didn't bring your closet?" his dad asked.

"Ha…ha….ha," with a roll of the eyes.

"I know my kid, that's all."

"Let's go, Dad. I'm here, I might as well see this place you keep going on about. With the water and the sun and whatever else makes you love it so much." Kurt tipped his one—admittedly large, but just one—suitcase onto its wheels and strode for the nearest door. He didn't know his way around this miniscule terminal, but there only seemed to be two doors leading out and both of them were on the same side of the building, so he assumed they went to the parking lot.

He walked out of the recirculated air of the building and into the warmth outside, which he appreciated even as he squinted his eyes closed against the glare of the white sunlight and too-blue sky. He fumbled for his sunglasses.

"Oh my God….is it always this bright here?"

"You don't have sunshine in the big city?"

"Not like this….the buildings are too tall to let this much sunlight in. Besides, it's still winter there." Sunglasses on, he cautiously opened his eyes again and after a moment, adjusted to the glare. "All right, let's go."

Suitcase loaded in the back of his dad's old familiar pickup truck, they stopped to pay the parking attendant ("Fifty cents? Really? How can they even make enough to justify a parking attendant?") and soon found themselves on Highway 70 East, heading toward somewhere called Havelock according to the signs.

"Is that where we're going, Dad?"

"Nope, Havelock is a military town. Cherry Point is there, it's a Marine base. We're going through Havelock and through part of Morehead City, to get to Atlantic Beach. That's where our rental is."

"Is the house right on the beach?" Kurt knew it was. This was Dad and Carole's third year vacationing in this area, and the first two summers they'd been several blocks away from the beach. This year, by coming before the summer rush and reserving months in advance, they'd managed to get a rental on the oceanfront. He'd heard about it on the next phone call.

"It's a pretty laid-back place, a lot of people rent vacation houses there for a week like we're doing. Or they live in Raleigh, that's about three hours away, and own a second home here, they come down every weekend and enjoy the sun and sea. Not many people live at the beach year-round, but the ones who visit and keep coming back, they're all pretty friendly."

"Hmm." Kurt hummed. He didn't plan to be here long enough to get friendly with the vacationing population. He was here to see his dad and Carole, and then jet back to his home in New York. "So what is there to do?"

"Mostly?" Burt Hummel shrugged his shoulders back against the seat, loose and easy with one hand on the wheel. "Relax. That's what you do."

"In other words, nothing. You're telling me there's absolutely nothing to do." Kurt let himself slump into his seat and closed his eyes, silently contemplating a week of nothingness in a small Southern town. What was he to do here?

"Well, I'm here," his dad's voice broke in to his mental whining. "Carole's here. Spending time with us isn't something?"

He rolled his head, opened his eyes to look at him behind the wheel. His dad's eyes were fixed on the road, and he'd straightened his posture in an unhappy way. Kurt sat up, trying to summon a smile.

"Sorry, Dad. Of course I'm happy to spend time with you and Carole. I've just gotten used to a faster-paced lifestyle, these last ten or so years. And I'm tired. I was up early to catch my flight." He yawned in emphasis.

"You do look tired," his dad cut his eyes across at him as he came to a stop light. "And I'm thinking from more than just one early morning. You've looked tired for months, Kurt. You kept trying to tell me it was just a blurry Skype image, or you were rehearsing extra hard for a new show, but I wasn't buying it. You're worn down, and a week of doing nothing is probably just what you need. Why do you think I campaigned so hard to get you to join us down here?" The light turned green again and he refocused on driving.

"Alright, Dad. You caught me. I'm tired. Eight shows a week on Broadway will do that to you."

And the endless rehearsals, the dance classes and vocal coaching, the never-ending auditions to find that next elusive job that would keep him from having to file unemployment. Not to mention trying to have a social life outside of work, though he'd had limited success with that. The New York dating scene was and was not everything he'd hoped for when he'd arrived there straight out of high school with his best friend Rachel. It was so much easier to be out and proud there, and there was no shortage of men ready and willing to date him, have sex with him….but the novelty of all that had worn off long ago. But he didn't mention any of that to his dad. New York had been his dream before he moved there, and he still loved it….but damn the city could wear a person down.

"Put your head back and rest, buddy." His dad was looking at him again like he knew what Kurt had been thinking about. "I'll wake you when we get there."

The too-bright sun shone down on him, even through the window and his sunglasses, when he put his head back and closed his eyes, giving him a pink view of the inside of his eyelids. He only had time to wonder if that would bother him, and then wondered nothing else.

"Kurt? What are you doing up so early?"

He turned from the view of the beach through the sliding glass doors and summoned up a sleepy smile for his step-mom.

"Morning, Carole. I couldn't sleep. I think it's too quiet here. I can't sleep past 5:00 am unless I'm blocking out the sound of trash trucks and police sirens. And even in the city I'm usually up by seven."

She went over to the coffee pot to pour herself a cup from what he'd already brewed. "I'd think you'd be used to sleeping late, with your late hours at the theatre."

"Yeah, you'd think….but I usually have a dance class, or our stage manager calls an extra rehearsal, or…." Kurt trailed off and sighed. "It's a tough career, if I don't keep working to continually improve, this year's NYADA grads will be happy to take my spot."

She regarded him over her cup as she took a sip of the steaming liquid. "Well, this is a good place to take a breather for a few days. There are worse places to be early in the morning than looking out on this beach. The view's nice. Some mornings, nicer than others." She gave him a wink that his brain was still too preoccupied to figure out. "I'm taking a cup to your dad, be right back. Enjoy the view."

The view was admittedly pretty, but not that spectacular….just tall grass between here and the beach, made tough by the exposure to salt and ocean breezes, then sand and water and sky. A lot of sand and water and sky. Kurt sighed, missing his city so much he could almost feel it like hunger pangs in his stomach. His city, where every square inch of it was filled with so much hustle and bustle, so many people, air filled with car horns honking, three languages being spoken at any given time, the rumble of the subway train, the rattle of the taxis….great, now he was going to have "42nd Street" stuck in his head all day.

He scanned his gaze up and down the view afforded him from his vantage point, looking for something to break up the monotony. What was he to do with all this open space? All this emptiness to fill?

Well, not quite empty. A jogger appeared at one end of the beach, eating up the sand with steady strides. A dog appeared right after him, bounding ahead of its owner and into the surf, then jumping back out and running in joyful circles around him before pouncing into the surf again. The man kept his course through all this, apparently accustomed to his dog's antics.

With precious little else to do, Kurt sipped his coffee and watched the lone jogger's progress. A few minutes later, when he'd drawn level with the beach house where Kurt stood, the man stopped and bent over. Hmmm. Kurt was developing a greater appreciation for this beach with every inch that Jogging Man's shorts rode up. He watched as he threw a large stick out into the surf, which the dog jumped after. Kurt blinked, suddenly feeling more awake, when Jogging Man pulled his shirt over his head.

The nice body which had been hinted out under the baggy shirt was now on full view, with only a small pair of clinging red shorts leaving the final details to the imagination. Kurt slid open the glass door and walked out on the deck, getting himself just a few feet closer to the eye candy. He was still plenty far enough away that he had no fear of the man noticing him as he ogled the display, and the crashing of the waves on the beach would easily mask the low swish of the door.

The dog bounded out of the white-capped waves. Kurt had forgotten about it entirely, it must have disappeared into the watery abyss. But it had captured its quarry—the stick was clamped firmly between its jaws. Droplets flied everywhere, visible even at this distance, as the dog shook the water off, causing Jogging Man to turn his head but give no other apparent protest. Kurt was already imagining those droplets running down mystery man's chest, which he dearly wanted a closer view of.

"I see this is one of the 'nicer-view' mornings," Carole said behind him, causing him to jump and nearly drop his coffee. He steadied it and turned to glare at her.

"You scared the daylights out of me!"

"Scared you? Or embarrassed you?" she smirked back. "Nothing wrong with looking, and that's all you're doing. Right?"

"Yeah," he muttered, turning back to the house to go inside. He could feel how his face was flaming. What was it about parents that upped the embarrassment factor of any situation by a factor of ten?

Carole stood in the doorway, blocking his path and not moving even when he raised his eyebrows in an obvious request.

"In case you'd like to do more than look, his name's Blaine, he's a local schoolteacher. He's gay, and out, and not currently dating anyone. And he jogs by here about this time most mornings. Worth getting up early for, don't you think?" While he stood there, gaping at her, she turned back into the house. "Don't leave that door open, Kurt. Bugs will get in."

If he had to be up early for the second morning in a row, then a little yoga on the beach would be a good way to spend his time, right? He hadn't done yoga in ages, he didn't want to get stiff while away from dance class and performances.

Actually, he'd never done yoga on a beach. But the beach seemed to be where the action was, so. He found a relatively flat section of sand and kicked off his sandals, wincing at the crunch of damp sand and bits of shell under his feet. He was willing to bet he'd still have beach sand between his toes even after a shower, and Kurt Hummel did not like being dirty. There weren't many incentives strong enough to justify getting covered in salt water spray and beach sand. He glanced up the beach in the direction mystery man—Blaine, Carole said his name was—had appeared from yesterday. He squinted into the rising sun, but there was nothing but sand, water, and sky. And a few birds gathered on the beach, pecking at the ground. Did worms live in beach sand?

Well, best get to it. A sun salutation seemed an appropriate way to start, with the sun barely over the horizon. Palms together at chest level, he breathed deeply. The air smelled thick with a collection of unfamiliar smells, salt water he supposed. He arched back, feeling his vertebrae settle into the new position. Deep breath while he held the pose, another deep breath and he bent down into a forward fold. Breathe in, breathe out. Lunge position, head up toward the endless ocean just a few feet away. The lapping of the waves, just big enough to crest white before settling again, created a lulling effect that wasn't a bad background for yoga practice. Breathe in. Settle into plank, both hands now flat on the sand, and Kurt was already focused enough on his breathing and positions to almost not feel the grittiness beneath his palms. Almost. He ignored it. Breathe out. Lower into….oh hell no.

He came out of his trance as he realized that the next move in the sequence would mean lowering his face and chest into the sand. No. His feet and hands were one thing, but he drew the line at putting his face in it. He modified, going directly from his plank position into a downward dog. Wow, he could really feel it in his lower back and hamstrings. How had he gotten so stiff? He danced several days a week, a very strenuous workout that required cardio endurance, and strength, and flexibility….when had his back locked up like this?

He kept breathing, eyes closed and trying to focus on his body, on where he felt tightest and when the position had limbered him up enough to allow him to stretch just that little bit further. Breathe in, breathe out. Head down and loose. He pedaled his feet back and forth, realized they were just a bit too close and inched them apart to widen his stance. Lean back into the hips just a little more…..something poked him between the legs.

"ARRRGH!" Kurt fell face-first into the sand, scrambling up as quickly as he could, heedless of sand flying everywhere as he clawed for purchase and looking for his assailant. A dog—at least he thought it was a dog, the monster was huge—stood before him, panting and looking entirely too pleased with itself. Its tail wagged and the head cocked to the side, as if asking a question. A long pink tongue lolled out as the dog panted.

All pretense of tranquility gone, heart racing after that unexpected nudge in a place that he didn't invite just anyone to touch, and even then he always knew it was coming….Kurt tried to slow his breathing back to normal. The dog didn't seem to be aggressive, it had just been a bit inappropriate with its greeting.

"Who-" he started, and realized he had sand in his mouth. Gross. He tried to spit it out, ended up swallowing some, and used the sleeve of his workout shirt to wipe his mouth before trying again. "Who do you belong to, huh? You shouldn't be out here by yourself." He tried to speak in a soothing tone, which he thought was right for dogs. He'd never had one growing up, and in the city, all dogs were kept on leashes. And none of the city dogs were this big. He was accustomed to dainty poodles with their fur dyed outrageous colors, little booties on their feet to protect them from the pavement. This dog, though….its back was nearly level with Kurt's waist. From a few feet away, it looked like the top of its head came up to his armpit. He could only hope it was friendly, as he watched it closely for any sudden moves.

"Reba! Get back here!" A voice called from down the beach.

Kurt risked looking for the source of the call, and oh dear God. It was the jogger from yesterday. This was his dog. He hadn't recognized it, but then he'd been more concerned with ogling the shirtless man yesterday, than looking at the dog. The man was flat-out running to reach them, unlike his steady pace of yesterday, and called the dog again.

Reba—what kind of name was Reba for a dog?—put its tongue back in its mouth and trotted to meet its master. He came to a halt, panting himself, and pointed at the ground. "Sit," he said sternly, and the animal dropped obediently to its haunches. The man produced a thin leash from his pocket and secured it to the dog's collar before looking up at Kurt from under thick lashes.

"I'm so sorry, did she scare you? She didn't jump on you, did she?" He wrapped the leash around his hand and stepped closer, keeping the dog by his side. Now that he was only a couple feet away, Kurt realized he was slightly shorter than himself. He was still wearing his shirt, unfortunately. Or maybe it was a good thing. Probably wouldn't make the best first impression if Kurt started drooling during their first meeting. He'd leave that to the dog. He realized the other man was still waiting for an answer, starting to look concerned.

"No," he said finally. "She didn't jump on me really, just, umm…." How to phrase this delicately? "Poked her nose somewhere I wish she hadn't."

Blaine closed his eyes in mortification.

"I'm so sorry. I will give her a stern talking-to when we get home. Again." He jiggled the leash in his hand, and the dog looked up, happy to be the center of attention. "What have I said about appropriate ways to greet people, huh?" he said to the dog, who didn't look chastised in the least. "But she didn't hurt you?" he asked Kurt.

"No. Just interrupted me in the middle of a downward dog." Blaine's eyes widened, and Kurt realized what he'd said. They stared at each other for a long second, before the mirth burst out and they both laughed openly.

"Umm…" Kurt wiped under his eyes, trying to gather himself. He held out a hand. "I'm Kurt."

"Blaine." The return grip was strong, made gritty by the sand still clinging to Kurt's hand, and lingered just a moment longer than strict politeness demanded. His eyes, a light hazel that stopped just short of being gold, still twinkled as he released.

Kurt looked down to stop himself from staring, and found himself being stared at instead.

"And this is….Reba?" he asked. After Reba McIntyre, maybe? Country music was big in the South, right?

Blaine chuckled. "Mer-ee-da," he corrected, exaggerating the syllables.

"Merida? You must have kids," Kurt said, disappointed. Carole had said Blaine was unattached, but then again, how could she know the life story of the man who happened to jog by on the beach every morning?

"No, what makes you say that? Do you have kids?" The dog, hearing her name, had stuck her nose in Blaine's hand and he stroked her absentmindedly, his eyes on Kurt.

"No, but…" He quirked a brow back at him. "What kind of man without kids, names his dog after a Disney princess?"

"What kind of man without kids knows that Merida is a Disney princess?" Blaine shot back.

Kurt struggled to find a suitable comeback, but settled for, "Okay, fair enough. So why'd you name her that?"

"I didn't, actually. My younger cousin Stacy did. But she was hard to say no to and I liked the name, so why not keep it?"

"Hmm." Kurt chose not to comment further on the name choice. He tried to think of something else to say, something that would keep Blaine here talking for a while longer, but he was drawing a blank. What he was really thinking (OMG you're gorgeous and I saw you take your shirt off yesterday and I just arrived here and there doesn't seem to be anything to do and I'd like to take you out but I don't even know for sure if you're available and I wouldn't know where to take you anyway because I just arrived yesterday) didn't seem like appropriate conversational topics for someone he'd known all of five minutes. Instead he said lamely, "Well, I'll let you get back to your run. It was nice meeting you."

Blaine glanced at his dog, then down the long stretch of beach.

"Would you maybe want to join me? Just for a walk I mean. We can talk more and I promise I'll keep this monster under control." He hesitated, glancing down and back up again. "Unless you want to get back to your yoga."

"Well….I guess a walk down the beach burns calories too, right?" Kurt answered, not trying to dim his smile. He looked around for his sandals, finding them several feet away and closer to the water than he remembered dropping them. He slipped his feet in and turned back to the gorgeous man waiting for him. "Shall we?"

They turned together and continued in the direction Blaine had been jogging. The sand took some getting used to…his feet kept sinking down and then sliding one way or another, forcing him to pull his feet out with each step. Looking ahead, Kurt could see a long pier that started on the beach and extended several hundred feet out into the water. There were people on the pier, who at this distance were little more than specks.

"Most of them are probably fishing," Blaine said, just loudly enough to carry over the waves. "The fishing enthusiasts get started early."

"So do you, apparently." Kurt glanced sideways at him. Blaine's hair curled wildly, tousled even more each time the wind gusted. "The sun's barely up and you're already out on the beach jogging."

"Well, this one," he patted Merida's side, "needs a good run once a day or she's impossible. So it works better for everyone if we both get up and out early, get our exercise out of the way. Besides, I'm used to getting up early for work, nine months of the year."

"What do you do?" Kurt asked, though of course Carole had already told him.

"I'm a teacher."

"Oh, what do you teach? What ages?" He tried to sound enthusiastic, though the thought of teaching a room full of unruly children didn't appeal to him in the least. There was a reason he hadn't gone to traditional college to get a Bachelor's degree.

"Music. Kindergarten through eighth." A wide smile brightened Blaine's face.

"You must like it," Kurt commented.

"I love it, though I have to admit that I'm very glad to have this week off. I need this spring break, believe me. More than I ever have in nine years of teaching." Kurt started to ask what had been different this year, but before he could Blaine asked, "So what do you do?"

"I'm an actor in New York."

Blaine stopped, his arm jerked forward as Merida continued on her way, before she realized that she needed to stop as well.

"In New York City? Like, Broadway? Musicals?" Blaine stared at him.

"Yeah," Kurt answered, feeling his smile widening.

"I can't believe I ran into a Broadway actor on the beach." Blaine shook his head in wonder, and Kurt realized that a decade ago he'd have been even more star-stuck to meet someone who worked on Broadway. He'd been so eager then, fixated on the bright lights of the Great White Way. When had it become a job? "What shows have you been in, what roles have you played?" Blaine's question brought him back from his musings.

"Shall we keep walking?" Kurt asked, gesturing at the beach to give himself a moment to focus on the conversation.

"Oh, yeah. Hey, do you mind if I let her off the leash? She's used to being able to run out here."

"That's okay."

He released the dog, who immediately ran at the flock of gulls just ahead of them, causing them to take flight with a cacophony of indignant screeching.

"So…which shows have you been in? What characters have you played?" Blaine asked, ignoring the birds and his dog now barking at the waves.

"Well, most of my jobs have been in the ensemble, so my characters don't really have names." Kurt wondered if Blaine would be disappointed, but the other man's smile never dimmed.

"How long have you been working on Broadway?" he jumped in with another question.

"I guess it's….been ten years now? Ever since I graduated from NYADA." Kurt's steps slowed, looking at the wet sand as he realized what he'd just said. Ten years….wow. He hadn't really stopped to think about it, but it really had been a full decade of auditions, and rejections, and ensemble jobs and bit parts. Ten years of curtain calls, and endless rehearsals, and the amazing friends he'd made in the theatre world.

"Hey, where'd you go?" Blaine asked.

Kurt looked up at him. "Sorry, I was just thinking. I hadn't realized it'd been that long. But it really has."

"Ten years of good experiences, I hope?" Blaine asked.

"Hmm…mostly. Can you honestly say that all your experiences as a teacher have been good?"

"Well, no."

Their eyes met and held for a moment, before Blaine looked away with a slide of his golden eyes. Kurt had been wrong to think they were 'almost' gold. Here in the bright sunlight, they were amber gemstones, a hue he'd never seen in human eyes.

"Merida! Get away from that!" Blaine bellowed suddenly, startling Kurt out of his silent admiration. "Come here, now!"

The dog stood over a mass of feathers on the ground, wagging her tail. Oh God….was that a dead bird? Had the monster dog killed a bird while he and Blaine made googly eyes at each other?

"I mean it, Merida! Get back here! Heel!" The dog whined, but trotted back to them. "It's back on the leash for you," Blaine grumbled, clipping it on to her collar. "Sorry to cut this short, but I have a feeling she was rolling in that while I wasn't looking-" He lifted his fingers to his nose, and made a face. "Yep, she was, so I have to get her home and give her a bath."

"Eww," Kurt said.

"Yeah." Blaine grimaced. "Downside of owning a dog. Should we head back?"

He was loathe to let his time with a cute guy end, but when a gust of wind blew rancid dog his way, he nodded. They turned back, heading into the sun now, and Kurt suddenly realized how much higher the sun was than when he'd walked out on the beach. He hadn't planned to stay out this long, and he was actually getting a little warm in his yoga pants and long sleeved shirt. He pushed the sleeves up and fanned his face.

"I can't believe it's this warm here. When I left New York, there were still huge mounds of snow piled up on the sidewalks, and people were bundled up on heavy coats with gloves and scarves."

"Oh yeah, we saw the snowstorms on the news," Blaine said. "One of the times when I'm very grateful to live here. Looks like you got mommicked with winter up north."

"We got what?" Kurt couldn't help but ask, after replaying Blaine's last sentence in his head and still tripping over the mystery word.

"Oh, mommicked," he repeated, laughing a little. "Sorry, it's local slang from Down East. It means…well, aggravated if you want a simple translation. But it's more than that, when a person says they're mommicked they've been annoyed and aggravated to the nth degree. Have you ever had one of those days when you're so annoyed with life and the human race, that you're an inch away from murdering the next person who looks at you wrong?"

"I live in one of the most congested, and some say the rudest, cities in the country. Of course I've had those days." Kurt gave an eye roll.

"Okay, so on those days you were mommicked."

"Or on the days I go to an early rehearsal, then a dance class, then an audition that I don't get a callback for, and then still have to be at the theatre by 6:00 for a performance and don't get home till after midnight, on those days I've been mommicked." Kurt tried the unfamiliar word out on his tongue.

"Exactly! You get a sticker for learning a new vocabulary word!" Blaine beamed, and Kurt could just picture him at the front of a classroom with that same proud look. "So who are you playing now?"

"Oh, umm." Kurt was still trying to stifle a laugh, because he didn't want to mock Blaine. "David in the If/Then revival. My best friend Rachel is playing the lead, so we get to work together which is fun."

"Oh, I love that show."

"You've seen it?" Kurt asked, surprised. "You didn't mention you've been to New York."

"Well…I did go to New York once but it was on a school trip and If/Then isn't really the kind of show that our chaperones would take us to see, y'know?"

Kurt laughed. "Right. Not the most family-friendly show."

"But I listened to the cast recording over and over, and watched, umm…bootlegs?" he admitted, clearly unsure about Kurt's reaction.

He laughed. "I'm not going to call the copyright police on you, Blaine. Before I moved to the city, I watched more than a few bootlegs myself. In fact, I still occasionally search for bootlegs of the shows I'm currently in. I consider them to be a barometer of how popular the show is," he winked, and Blaine laughed, obviously relieved.

They kept talking all the way back, till they came to end of the boardwalk leading to the house Kurt's parents had rented for their vacation and he regretfully told Blaine they'd arrived at his stop.

"You're staying here? This is one of the vacation rentals, right?" Blaine asked, looking up at the beach cottage on its stilts.

"Yeah, apparently. I didn't rent it, my dad and step-mom did."

"For how long?" Blaine asked.

"I think they rented it for a full two weeks, they've vacationed here before and really like it. But I'm only here for a few days. They finally twisted my arm into joining them."

"Twisted your arm? Is it so awful here?" Blaine raised his eyebrows.

"Well, today's my first full day, and so far it's pretty good," Kurt grinned.

"So why didn't you want to come?" Merida whined and Blaine reached down to pat her quiet.

"Well, it meant taking time off work, which is hard to do when you work on Broadway, and it meant leaving New York. Even if the city wears me down sometimes, I fought like hell to make New York my home, and it finally is. The idea of leaving it to spend time in a-" Kurt cut himself off, embarrassed by what he'd been about to say.

"In a backwards, redneck Southern town?" Blaine guessed.

Kurt grimaced. He knew he could be arrogant and judgmental sometimes, but he did try to not let that side out within an hour of meeting an attractive man.

Blaine sighed, leaning back against the boardwalk's handrail. Merida flopped down next to him, panting. "Look, few people know better than an out gay man that there's still some truth to the stereotype, but the South is changing. Slowly, but it's changing. NC achieved marriage equality in 2014, a year before the SCOTUS decision that made it nation-wide. And over the past sixteen years that I've lived here, I've seen it change a lot." A wide grin spread across his face. "One of my eighth-grade students came out last week, just before the break, and most of his classmates hardly blinked. The few who did mind, know better than to cause any trouble, because there are strict anti-bullying rules. I call that progress." His expression darkened. "Much better result than when I came out."

Kurt waited, while those obnoxious birds chattered next to the water and he could feel the rising sun heating the back of his neck.

"What happened?" he asked softly.

Blaine hesitated. "You know what, I don't mind telling you but it's a long story. Would you like to meet later, and we can talk some more?" he asked hopefully. "I'd love to say we can just go now, but…" He looked down at his furry companion. "I need to get this one bathed, and get cleaned up myself. If you don't mind meeting me somewhere in a couple hours, we could have an early lunch together."

"I'd like that," Kurt smiled. This trip was looking more positive all the time. "Meet where?"

"It's shaping up to be a pretty day," Blaine smiled. "How do you feel about picnics?"

A picnic. Wow, he hadn't been on a picnic since…well, there was the one date with that guy who brought a picnic to Central Park, but that was years ago. Kurt was usually too worried about grass stains on his jeans to enjoy sitting on the ground, but maybe he could make the sacrifice for a cute guy. He tried to summon up some enthusiasm when he answered, "If you're the one asking me to the box social, my answer is yes."

"Don't worry, you won't have to bid on lunch. Just meet me at Fort Macon at noon, and I'll bring everything."

With a final smile and a wave, Blaine shook the leash to wake Merida and jogged back the way he'd come.

A/N: I'm late getting this posted here, so the second chapter is already up on Tumblr and AO3. Visit my account on either of those sites if you want to read chapter two today. I have the same username on all fandom accounts. You can also see the fanart if you look at chapter one on Tumblr or AO3. Or you can read chapter two when I post it here tomorrow. I hope to have chapter three up this weekend.