Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.

5: Find somebody to love.

Kurt frowned at the checklist tacked up on his vanity mirror. He'd started his list the day that summer started, going through version after version until he'd perfected the ideal list of summer goals.

1: Lose the rest of the baby fat

He'd managed that one, thank goodness, between shooting up four inches and sticking with a routine of yoga and pilates. His clothes had never fit better, and Mercedes had finally stopped smooshing his cheeks together and cooing about his baby face.

2: Develop your range

That had taken a lot of time, a lot of singing in the shower, and a lot of battles with his dad over the volume level on his stereo. He'd given up on his voice ever changing like a sensible person's, so he might as well just learn to rock what he had. And rock it he could. His tone had never been richer.

3: Reorganize wardrobe

It had taken hours for that, but his wardrobe was properly sorted, altered, stored, and sorted into a series of elaborate spreadsheets on his computer. Sadly, he'd outgrown some of his favorite pieces, but at least the profits on eBay brought in plenty of new, exciting babies for his collection.

4: Help Dad

That started one night the previous spring, when he was washing dishes and turned to say something to his dad and had to abruptly close his mouth because, for the first time, he realized his father looked old.

He'd spent his childhood helping his father in the garage- handing him tools, filling out paperwork, fiddling under hoods- but usually it was under duress, and he complained all the way through it. But this summer, he'd spent a lot of his free time helping out at the old family mechanic shop, and to his surprise, not only did it seem to actually take some of the stress off his dad, but he actually sort of enjoyed it.

And then…there was number five.

5: Find somebody to love

Kurt's frown deepened as he stared at the note, scrawled in his untidy cursive. Each line was marked out merrily in teal sharpie. All except the last one.

Why does this have to be hard? he thought unhappily.

Of course it was going to be hard. He had expected that. There weren't exactly swarms of handsome young men pouring out of Ohio onto his doorstep.

But did it have to be this hard?

Nothing had panned out. Not awkward flirtations at the coffee shop, not scribbled down numbers passed on the fly during shopping trips with Mercedes, not desperate batting of eyelashes at the movie theater. Not even a few ill-advised bashful ventures onto social networking sites.

Kurt looked at his reflection in the mirror- sharply dressed, pale-skinned, curiously cynical gaze. "Sweet sixteen and never been kissed," he said glumly. "Fantastic."

"Kurt? Kiddo? You ready?"

He straightened, blinking, and ripped the taped-up note from his mirror. "Coming, Dad," he called.

"Well, hurry, or you're gonna be late for school."

He hastily crumpled up the note and tossed it in the trash can beside his desk, then picked up his bag and headed up the stairs. His dad was waiting by the kitchen table, grinning broadly from ear to ear. "There's my kid," Burt said proudly. "Look at you. God, you're so tall."

Kurt rolled his eyes, smiling despite himself. "Dad, you've been saying that since I started kindergarten," he said.

"Yeah, well, it's been true every year," Burt said. He waved Kurt over, the ancient family camera in his hand. "Ready for your picture?" He tilted the camera back and forth. "You know it's tradition."

Kurt sighed, hoisting his messenger bag in his hand. "I know, I know," he said, taking his customary place by the fireplace and plastering a wide smile across his face.

His parents had taken his first day of school picture ever since he started preschool. That first photo still stood somewhere in the cluttered maze of frames on his father's bureau- his mother wrapping her arms around his waist and laughing at the camera as he attempted to hide his face in the crook of her neck while still displaying his new baby blue backpack. And there was a photo for every school year- his cheeks less chubby, his smile a little less wide, a new backpack slung over his shoulder.

Burt snapped the picture, fumbling with the battery flap that never managed to stay closed. "There we go, sophomore year," he said. He glanced at the display at the top. "Great, now we only need to take fourteen more pictures before we can get this roll developed." "You know, Dad, you can just get a digital camera and avoid all this," Kurt pointed out.

"Yeah, well, I'm an old man, I'm set in my ways," Burt grinned.

Kurt paused. "You're not that old, Dad," he said.

Burt shrugged. "I look at you, kid, and you make me feel old," he said. He squeezed Kurt's shoulders. "Come on, get a move on. You'll be late. And I've gotta go pick up Carole for work."

Kurt squeezed in tightly for a brief hug. "Love you, Dad," he said.

"Love you too, kiddo," Burt said. "Drive safe. Study hard. All that stuff." His eyes narrowed. "And if you have any sort of problems, you call me, okay?"

"Okay," Kurt said, dipping his car keys out of the clear glass bowl on the console. "I'll see you after school."

Burt offered a wave, and Kurt headed out the front door, squaring his shoulders as he faced the first day of his sophomore year.

He always began the school year secretly hoping that he would walk in the doors to find everything suddenly better. Cleaner bathrooms. Nicer lockers. Air that didn't smell like a lifetime's worth of meatloaf mixed with a decade of sweat. Fewer jocks crowding the hallways.

Alas, he was always disappointed.

He pushed the doors to the school open wide and strolled inside, adjusting the strap of his messenger bag across his shoulder. His latest text from Mercedes said she'd meet him in the choir room, but he'd only turned the first corner before an obnoxious voice started calling his name.

"Kurt! Kurt Hummel!"

He glanced over his shoulder and rolled his eyes as Jacob Ben Israel ran after him with a microphone, his pudgy friend trotting at his heels with a video camera in hand. "Hello, Jacob," he tossed back.

"When will you glee clubbers accept the fact that everyone hates you?" Jacob asked, thrusting the microphone in his face.

"I'm busy, Jacob," Kurt retorted, picking up his pace. Jacob and the cameraman followed him, unperturbed. Kurt veered towards the nearest bathroom. "Go away. Shoo."

"They think you're nothing but a glorified karaoke club, designed to make the makers of autotune million of dollars!" Jacob shrieked.

Kurt pushed the door open and stood there for a second, breathing deeply and closing his eyes, then turned and pushed the door back open. Jacob was waiting for him, his eyes looking buggy behind his glasses. "You know what, Jacob?" he said sweetly. "It doesn't take much courage for people to park their cottage cheese behinds in their Barcaloungers and log onto to the internet and start tearing people down, does it? But do you know what does take some courage? Standing up and singing about something."

He turned to face the camera. "So here's a message for everyone who reads your blog," he said. "Next time, instead of posting an anonymous comment online, say what you have to say to my face."

His glorious moment of assertiveness shone for a brief moment before he was abruptly doused with a sudden deluge of bright red slushie. He sucked in his breath as one smacked him against the side of his head and the other slapped him across the face.

"Welcome back, lady," Azimio taunted, and he heard Karofsky snicker.

Kurt brushed the slushie out of his eyes and spit some of it out of his mouth. He squinted through the stinging haze at Jacob, who was still staring at him, and took a deep breath. "I don't suppose there's any way you could cut out that last part?" he asked.

Jacob shook his head, mouth agape. Kurt rubbed at his eyes. Jacob reached out and plucked a chunk of slushie off the collar of his coat, then stuck it in his mouth. Kurt stared at him in disgust, started to say something, decided against it, and stumbled half-blind down the hallway, away from the camera.

"Kurt? Baby, what happened to you?"

He reached out and grabbed at Mercedes with one sticky hand, making her shriek. "Oh, god, Mercedes, this is not how I wanted this school year to start," he gasped.

She linked her fingers through his. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up," she sighed. "Too bad. This outfit would have been awesome."

"I know," he sighed. She dragged him into the girl's bathroom, flipped on a faucet, and dampened a paper towel. He dabbed at his stinging eyes gratefully. "This is going to be a terrible year, isn't it?"

She gently scrubbed at his sticky face. "Oh, I don't know," she said. "We haven't even had homeroom yet."

He shrugged carefully out of his jacket. "Yes, but I haven't been on campus for five minutes and I got a double slushie," he said.

Mercedes took a comb out of her purse, ran it under the faucet, and slid it through his hair. "You never know," she said. "Maybe this'll turn out to be the best year yet." She stepped back and eyed him critically. "You know, the slushie didn't do too much damage to your shirt."

"That's why I brought a spare jacket," Kurt said, pulling the folded garment out of his bag and shaking it out. He looked down sadly at his slushied coat. "It's still so sad, though."

The first warning bell rang. "We don't have any classes together, do we?" Mercedes said.

"Not this year," Kurt said, sliding the clean jacket on. "Not since I transferred out of Spanish and back into French." He leaned in close. "Truthfully, I only took Spanish last year so I could be in a class with Finn."

Mercedes smirked. "Oh, yeah, we all knew that," she said.

He paused. "Really?" he said.

"Definitely," she said. "Now hurry up. Go make this the best first day of school ever. Even with a double slush."

Despite Mercedes' optimism, it was not, in fact, the best first day of school ever. In fact, Kurt was fairly certain that it was the worst. And that counted fourth grade.

His home ec class was boring as dirt. He was assigned to sit next to Azimio in French. Somehow he'd been placed in calculus II, even though he hadn't taken calculus I yet. He had third lunch, which meant he had to wait forever to eat. And Finn was in his history class.

It wasn't that he hated Finn or anything. It was just that…things weren't quite…okay yet.

They hadn't talked much since Fag Gate 2010. Kurt had fled to Mercedes' house while Finn and Carole left, and when he came home the next day, his dad didn't bring the subject up. He knew his father and Carole were still dating, but she didn't come over and Burt never mentioned Finn.

It wasn't until the annual Hummel family July 4th cookout that it really came back into play. They'd always hosted a summer barbecue for their neighbors and friends and garage employees; some of Kurt's earliest memories involved eating too many bomb pops and falling asleep in his mother's lap while fireworks cracked overhead. His dad had asked him, gruff and awkward, if it would be okay if Finn and Carole came over. And Kurt had smiled and said it was fine.

Truthfully, it hadn't been that bad. There was enough going on that he and Finn didn't have to spend much time together, other than casual (and awkward) pleasantries. They weren't rude, but they weren't much more than polite and cordial to each other.

And most interesting of all, his crush had vanished.

Kurt had tested it when he saw Finn walking out of his mom's station wagon towards the house. He'd locked his gaze on the lanky football player and waited for the butterflies in his stomach to start flipflopping.


He'd had his suspicions that his crush was gone in the last few weeks of school after the Hudsons had moved back out, but now he knew for sure that his love for Finn- or whatever it had been- was long gone. He didn't feel anything for him anymore.

Which made the elusive fifth point on his summer goals checklist that much harder to achieve.

Kurt spent his passing periods and a good part of lunchtime surveying the crowds of students around him, looking for new faces. Particularly boys. Boys of the cute variety. Cute boys who might possibly be interested in him.

Either my gaydar is broken, or I'm still the only gay person in Ohio, he thought bitterly.

But he managed to push the thoughts away and focus on his new classes, and at least he finished out the school day without another slushying incident. And when three o'clock hit, he made a beeline for the choir room.

All he had to do was walk in the door and it felt like his world flipped right side up again. Rachel was coaching Finn at the piano, Mike was improvising a new dance routine, Mercedes and Santana were gossiping. He smiled in contentment.

"Hey, guys, welcome back to another year of glee," Mr. Schue said, walking out of his office with a stack of paper in his hand. He didn't seem all that happy, despite his cheerful words.

"What's going your panties in a twist, Mr. Schue?" Santana inquired.

Kurt sat down beside Mercedes, dropping his messenger bag at his feet. "I was hoping we could start the school year with the glee club back on top like it was in my day, but apparently that's not happening," Mr. Schue said. "These are comments from Jacob Ben Israel's latest glee club blog." He sighed. "Glee is a giant ball of suck…"

"We get it, Mr. Schue, everyone still hates us," Kurt said, unwilling to start the best part of his entire school day on a sour note. "So what? So we're plankton on the high school food chain. The only difference is that now none of us really care."

"Kurt's right, we're a family," Mercedes agreed. "They can bring it all they want, none of it is going to break us."

Mr. Schue set the papers down on the piano. "I'm really happy you guys have all bonded. The problem is that all of this negative stuff is keeping other students from auditioning."

"Good," Tina shrugged. "Why do we need new members?"

"Well, since Matt transferred, we only have eleven members," Mr. Schue explained. "And if we want to go to Nationals- if we want to beat Vocal Adrenaline- we have to go from a small rebel force to a giant wall of sound."

Rachel nodded vigorously, her lips set. "Mr. Schuester's right, you guys," she said, jumping up from her seat to stand beside the teacher. "You didn't see Vocal Adrenaline at regionals, they were epic. We're going to need more voices in order to beat them."

"Yeah, I'm with Rachel on this one," Finn said.

Brittany wrinkled her nose as Finn got up from his seat. "Gross," she murmured.

"You're going to have to trust me on this, you guys," Mr. Schue said. He grinned. "Now, here's the plan. Nationals are in New York this year, and we are going."

Kurt squirmed in excitement. Even just the words made a thrilled tingle run up and down his spine. Mercedes laughed and pretended to fan him.

"Now let's go out there and show the school how cool this is going to be, how cool we can be," Mr. Schue said. "If they're not going to come to us, let's go to them. They say we only sing showtunes and eighties pop, let's show them how down we are. Let's give them the song of the year…New Directions style."

The class erupted in laughter and applause. Kurt felt another excited thrill shoot up his spine.

This is going to be my year, he thought. This will be the year that everything goes right.

Mercedes doubled over laughing. He pouted. "This isn't funny, Mercedes," he said.

"Oh, it's not funny, white boy, it's hilarious," she howled, struggling to catch her breath. "You are so not meant to be gangsta."

He scowled at his reflection. "I think I look pretty good," he objected.

"You are as gangsta as a kitten," she said. She swatted playfully at his butt. "Now hurry up. We don't want to miss the flash mob."

She sashayed out of the bathroom. Kurt lingered to peer at himself in the mirror- pale skin with remnants of summer freckles, unusually spiked hair, unfamiliar plain screen-printed tee shirt- and slid on his sunglasses before leaving to join her in the hallway outside the school courtyard.

"All right, all right, places, everyone," Rachel said, clapping her hands.

Mercedes looked her up and down, hands on her hips. "Again, gangsta as a kitten," she sighed. "Maybe we should have picked a different song."

Puck slung an arm around her shoulders. "Aw, come on, it's gonna be awesome," he said.

"Seriously, everyone, places," Rachel said sharply. "Mike, you will carry in the stereo. I'll press play." She pointed at the assembled members of New Directions, glaring at them. "If you are not in your place, that is your own fault."

"All right, big mouth, can we just get on it with?" Santana said irritably. Rachel turned on her toes and marched towards the courtyard, gesturing for them to follow.

Kurt squared his shoulders and sauntered at the end of the pack. Swagger, he told himself sternly. Swagger, Kurt Hummel. You can have swagger.

He sat down on a table, crossing one long leg gracefully over the other. No! Not graceful. Swagger. You need to have swagger.

Rachel surveyed the busy courtyard like a lion at a watering hole, then jammed down on the play button, turning on the background track. Swagger swagger swagger, he thought.

He did his best- shimmying his shoulders, bouncing his hips as he walked, popping his movements when he danced. Everyone seemed to be having a great time performing, even with Finn's terrible attempt at rapping.

They ended the song with a flourish…only to find the rest of the school still completely ignoring them.

"Wait…that's it?" Tina said in disbelief.

"Surely someone had to notice us," Quinn said. "There's a bunch of dancing freaks in the courtyard, didn't they see it?"

Rachel's face fell, but she straightened and plastered a bright smile across her face. "Well, I saw some receptive people in the audience," she said. "Maybe we just have to wait." She sat down on a step and crossed her arms. "And I, for one, am willing to wait as long as we need to."

Finn glanced around and slowly sank to sit next to Rachel, but the bell rang. Kurt peeled his gloves off his hands and sighed. "I suppose we can wait while we're in class," he said.

"That did not go like I thought it would," Artie said, and the rest of the glee club could only nod in disappointment.

The first full week of school passed in a blur; by the time the next Monday rolled around, Kurt was already bored. He had hoped so fervently that this year would be different, but it wasn't- same shoves into lockers, same slushies in his face, same boring classes. Same old singleness.

He tried not to think about it, but when all of the other members of the glee club paired off at lunchtime to smooch over their Oreos it was a little difficult. Finally he stood up and held his hand out to Mercedes. "Let's leave the lovebirds alone," he said, rolling his eyes pointedly at Mike and Tina. "I feel like borrowing the choir room piano. Want to come with?"

"Oh hell yes," Mercedes said gratefully, grabbing his hand and sliding off the bench. "God, I swear it's like everybody got into some kind of relationship this summer." She sighed deeply. "Except us."

He linked arms with her. "Our time will come," he said, more for his own reassurance than hers. "Eventually."

She sighed, dropping her head against his shoulder. "I'm tired of waiting for eventually," she whined. "Kurt, I am in exactly the same place I was last year. Do you know how frustrating that is?"

"I have some idea, yes," he said. He pushed the door to the choir room open and ushered her inside. "Let's not think about that last night. Let's think about rehearsing." He squeezed her playfully. "I'm sure Rachel will start some new battle over solos soon. We need to be prepared."

The two of them sat down at the piano bench and bantered back and forth as he played through scales and melodies, the two of them coaching and critiquing one another. Kurt smiled as he tripped his fingers down the keys and looked up to see Mercedes frowning at him.

"So…is that a man's sweater?" she inquired.

He glanced down at his light brown sweater, illustrated with a stylized girl's face and bedecked with a bow. "Fashion has no gender," he informed Mercedes.

Their pleasant lunchbreak was suddenly interrupted by Hurricane Berry storming into the choir and dropping the piano lid down with a clang; Kurt barely pulled his fingers away in time. "Ladies, we have a problem," Rachel announced. Kurt and Mercedes exchanged a look. "There's a new student at this school named Sunshine, who is a Filipino and is shorter than me, which I didn't think was possible. It was very unnerving."

"Okay, so I'm going to go now," Mercedes said, sliding off the piano bench.

"And," Rachel said, holding up her hand. Mercedes paused and turned back around. "And she has a remarkable voice." Kurt squinted at her. Rachel took a deep breath. "I'm just…I'm very worried. Not for myself, but for the lesser glee clubbers who don't get as many solos as I do."

Kurt rolled his eyes. "So," Rachel continued. "I paid a hundred dollars for Azimio and Karofsky to brutally slushy us in front of Sunshine's locker, terrifying her and insuring she doesn't sign up."

Kurt and Mercedes stared at her. His lips quirked like he was about to say something, but he couldn't find the words.

"Okay, so this is the part where you're supposed to be hugging me and thanking me-" Rachel started to say.

"That's awful," Mercedes said flatly. "You're awful."

"But solos!" Rachel protested.

"Look, Rachel, Mercedes and I are about as self-involved as they come," Kurt interrupted, getting up from the piano and walking over to join Mercedes. "And more than anything, we want to beat Vocal Adrenaline. And if there's someone in the school who can help us do that, they're in."

Rachel smiled at them, a disturbingly sweet smile. Kurt blinked. "You know what?" she said, still smiling. "You're right." She walked around to slide between them, wrapping her arms around their shoulders. Kurt pulled back a little. "It's just so like me to be just totally blinded by my concern for the two of you. I'll go and talk to Sunshine now, just let her know how welcome she truly is." She flashed one last saccharine smile at them before flouncing away.

Kurt just stared at Mercedes and mouthed a skeptical what? She shrugged. The choir room doors clanged shut behind Rachel.

"I don't know what we're supposed to do with that girl, but if we don't get some new people in here soon, she won't have a glee club to harass anymore," Mercedes quipped.

"All right, you guys, settle down," Mr. Schue called. "We have until five o'clock at the latest to wait for new members. Let's try out some new music in the meantime, okay?"

Despite Mr. Schue's cheery words, no one could concentrate, not even Rachel. Before long, their weak attempts at rehearsing dissolved into anxiously staring at the door in mostly awkward silence. By the time the clock reached five till five, the tension could be cut with a knife. Kurt wrapped his arms around the back of the chair and stared at the clock above the door.

Suddenly Rachel popped up from her seat. "Well, I hate to break it to you, but I don't think anyone's going to be joining us, so I think we can go ahead and call it a day," she said cheerily.

"We said three to five, it's only 4:58," Mr. Schue objected.

Brittany and Santana slung their backpacks over their shoulders; Tina got up from her chair and stepped down the platforms. Kurt sighed heavily and followed, picking up his messenger bag "Just wait, my buddy Sam's gonna try out, and he totally idolizes me," Finn protested.

"Face it, Finn," Kurt said, brushing past the football player. He turned around to face Finn. "You're no longer the quarterback. You're not the Pied Piper anymore. Nobody's going to follow you around thinking everything you do is cool."

The stunned look of confusion plastered across Finn's face was incredibly gratifying. He sashayed out of the choir room and down the hallway, smirking happily to himself.

"Well, well, well, somebody's over their little crush," Santana said, linking an arm through his.

Kurt blinked. "I don't know what you mean," he said.

Brittany sidled up to his other side and tucked her hand around his. "I missed you this summer," she said. "I could have used your help when I was lost in the sewers. Your sense of direction is better than mine."

Kurt opened his mouth to argue, but Santana cut him off. "This time last year, you would be practically sitting on Hudson's lap, trying to get his attention," she said. "Now you're snarking off and…" She snapped the strap of his shoulder harness. "Dressing in bondage gear."

"All right, first of all, I never had a crush on Finn," Kurt lied.

"Oh, come off it, Hummel, you were totally dying to get your boy-love on with Hudson," Santana said.

"Yeah, you totally wanted his sweet boy kisses," Brittany chimed in.

Kurt flushed red from his neck to his ears. "I am not in love with Finn Hudson," he said. "And I am not wearing bondage gear."

Santana smirked. "Oh, you sweet, sweet child," she said. "You make such perfect jailbait."

"And you, my dear, can now make a perfect flotation device," Kurt countered, glancing pointedly down at her newly expanded chest. Santana scoffed, grabbed Brittany by the hand, and dragged her down the hall. Brittany offered a cheerful wave goodbye.

Kurt sighed. Am I really completely over Finn? he thought, digging in his messenger bag for his car keys. And am I really wearing bondage gear?

He shook his head. No. There's no way.

"Kurt! Kurt, wait!"

He glanced over his shoulder to see Rachel jogging down the hall towards him. "Hello, Rachel," he said coolly. "Are you going to send me to a meth lab?"

She paused to catch her breath, lips tugging down in disappointment. "So you heard about-"

"About a sweet, vocally talented Filipina who was scarred for life after getting sent to a crack house? Mm-hm," he said.

"Well, I'm trying to make amends," Rachel said, taking two steps to each of his in order to keep up. "I've invited her to come sing for us in the auditorium after school. Will you come?"

"You're not really giving me a choice," he said. He sighed. "Fine. I'll be there. But for her sake, not yours."

Rachel beamed happily at him. "I'll see you then," she said.

Kurt shouldered his bag and headed back down the hall. Time for chemistry, all the way on the opposite end of the school. He hated that class.

"Hey, fancy boy."

He glanced up, his sharp retort dying on his lips as a huge hand grabbed him by the collar and a slushie splashed down the inside of his shirt. Kurt let out a startled shriek, and Azimio laughed in his face. "Enjoy that?" he jeered, tossing the empty cup at Kurt's feet and strolling back down the hall.

Kurt slumped back against the wall, gasping, his chest stinging from the cold. Slick, sticky slush dripped down to the waistband of his pants. He stumbled back down the hallway towards his locker, digging frantically at the globs of ice plastered to his skin.

Dammit, dammit, dammit, he thought frantically, frustrated tears stinging at his eyes. He fumbled at his locker combination, twirling carelessly until the door somehow swung open. Somewhere in the back he had a spare sweater; he dug around until his fingers touched soft fabric.

The late bell rang as he ran into the nearest bathroom. He peeled his damp sticky shirt off his body, dumping it in the sink and turning the cold water on full blast, rinsing away the fake blue raspberry food coloring.

He cleaned up as best he could with damp paper towels, digging his teeth into his lower lip, and finally pulled his striped sweater over his head. The fabric felt soft and soothing against his skin, and he took a deep breath, some of the tension draining from his shoulders. He shouldered his bag and headed back towards his class.

His chemistry teacher was already well into the lecture by the time he made it to his seat. "Mr. Hummel, thanks for joining us," Mr. Bowers said.

"I'm sorry, I was just…" Kurt started to say. He glanced across the room to see Azimio smirking at him, one of his football friends hiding a laugh behind his hand. "I'm sorry."

"That's a demerit, Mr. Hummel," Mr. Bowers said. "I'll see you after class. Now take your seat."

Kurt obeyed hastily, sitting in the desk closest to the teacher. He spent the rest of the class taking notes carefully, trying his best to ignore the stares boring into the back of his neck.

The second the bell rang at three o'clock he bolted from the classroom, speed walking down the hallway to avoid the football goons. He could hear them approaching, and he picked up his pace.

"Hey, Kurt, you headed to the auditorium?"

He jumped, then sagged in relief. "Mr. Schue, yes, yes, I am," he blurted out. "Mind if I walk with you?"

Mr. Schue gave him a strange look. "Sure," he said.

Kurt fell into step beside him. It didn't matter if Mr. Schue gave him weird looks. All that mattered was that the jocks were a lot less likely to come after him if he was right next to a teacher.

He followed Mr. Schue into the auditorium and sat down right beside him. Most likely the football guys wouldn't follow him in there, but still. Rather to be safe than sorry.

He huddled in his seat by himself as the other glee clubbers filed into the auditorium in twos and threes. Sunshine Corazon walked in flanked by Finn on one side and Rachel on the other, like a bizarre security detail. "Go on up and sing," Rachel said, giving the petite girl a push towards the stage.

Sunshine tentatively took the stage and tilted the microphone towards her. "Hi, my name is Sunshine Corazon, and I'll be singing 'Listen' from the movie Dreamgirls," she said shyly.

Rachel twisted around in her seat. "Broadway show first," she reminded them. The other glee clubbers shushed her quickly.

Kurt relaxed as Sunshine started to sing. Her voice really was amazing, and her stage presence was astounding for someone so tiny. She could really be an asset, he marveled. No wonder Rachel wants her gone.

He clapped along with everyone else when she finished singing, still caught in his trance. She was a stunning performer.

"Wow," Mr. Schue said, climbing out of his chair. He stretched his arms out wide. "Welcome to glee club!"

The club members erupted in cheers; Sunshine beamed shyly at them and hopped off the edge of the stage. They pulled Sunshine into the midst of the group, all of them talking at once- even Rachel, who was trying in vain to hide her sulking.

Kurt slipped into the edge of the group, trying to find a way in. But they were all talking about things that he didn't know how to join. He edged closer to Mercedes in attempt to get a word in edgewise. "Oh my god, Mercedes, the jocks have found a new method of slushying," he said.

But Mercedes had her back to him; she threw her head back and laughed at something Puck said to Santana. He took a step back, his stomach tightening in a strange, uncomfortable way.

All I want is someone to notice me, he thought. Why won't they notice me?

His heart sank.

This year is going to be terrible, isn't it?

Author's Notes:

Hi everybody! If you're reading this and there's a nice little "complete" marker in the summary, then congratulations! Read right on through. I hope you enjoy.

But if you're not, and you're like "oh hell no, there were like eighteen chapters and she was partway through the Blame It On the Alcohol episode, what is this nonsense?" then let me explain.

When I first started writing this, I had no idea how bad the gaps would turn out to be. What started out as a cute little "la la la, I want to write more Klaine while I wait for them to get together!" sort of story turned into a massive project. Originally I picked up in the middle of "Never Been Kissed," and the episodes were very hit or miss until I got to Special Education and had to write it in five parts in order to properly fill in the missing details.

I also didn't realize how much I hated writing this story. Seriously. You have no idea. It was so much pressure trying to crank out ten to fifty (yes, fifty!) pages per episode in the span of a week, before the next episode came out.

As a result, not only was I miserable writing it, but it showed. I was so dissatisfied with the story it was ridiculous. Stupid grammar and formatting errors, poor characterization, rushed narration. I was really frustrated.

So I made the decision to go back to the beginning and rewrite everything. Everything. Starting with the first episode of season two. It gives me a chance to not only develop this story fully, but also go back and clean up and edit all of the poorly-written earlier chapters.

So yes!

Now we have Kurt in the beginning of the angst. Poor precious boy. And the next chapter is Brittany/Britney, and I already know how I'm going to start pulling in the Karofsky plotline. I'm going to cry.

So I hope you enjoy this, and you keep reading, and reviewing, and stuff! And yeah! Be on the lookout for more!