It's like watching his past on replay.

Blaine remains silent as Kurt, filled with the sheer nervousness and excitement that only a transfer student can possess, offers up his idea of 'Rio' for Sectionals. He refrains from any outward reaction as Wes quietly and gently negates the suggestion as Blaine knew he would, and he tries to ignore the expression of disappointment on Kurt's face.

He knew this would be difficult. It had not been easy for him.

And maybe that is why, after the meeting ends, Blaine stands before the Council and begs on Kurt's behalf to give him something, anything to keep from destroying the simple hope that so obviously lives in Kurt.

"Seriously, guys, that," he points toward the closed doors, "was me two years ago. You know it was. I was just as full of big ideas and flashy showmanship, and if the Council then hadn't given me a chance, I probably wouldn't be a Warbler." He shakes his head. "Without the Warblers, I might have left Dalton."

Wes glances at the others; David is twirling a pencil through his fingers, brow furrowed, looking deep in thought. Turning back to Blaine, Wes asks, "What do you suggest? You don't really think we should do 'Rio', do you?"

Blaine kind of loves the idea of belting out some Duran Duran, though personally he's partial to The Wedding Album. "No, but… what about letting him audition for a solo?"

"He just got here," David points out matter-of-factly. "Sorry to say it, Blaine, but we all know who the favorite among the Warblers is—that would look a little biased, wouldn't it?"

"Look, I'm not trying to supersede you guys or anything," Blaine quickly assures them with a smile. "Just an audition, and then? It's up to you. Okay?"

The audition is painful for Blaine to sit through.

Kurt's voice is… magical. It's more than just talent; it's emotion, pure and raw. Five different times Blaine feels his throat constrict, his eyes well up, and he fights it all back, allowing no more than an interested smile. Only once does he feel the need to coach Kurt—"Tone it down" he tries to say, and Kurt catches it, but not in time.

Blaine knows what the Council will say.

Hell, he should have allowed himself to jump up and applaud the way he'd wanted at the end. It won't make a difference.

"He's got a bit of a diva in him," David says to him quietly in the commons later. "Reminds me of someone else I know."

Blaine doesn't feel like listening to excuses. The second look of disappointment on Kurt's face that week had knifed through him. "Except that he's far more talented." He stands up and looks down at his friend before walking away.

"Some people don't belong in the back."

Blaine is not blind to his own faults. He'd clung to his own diva when he had arrived at Dalton; no longer fearing harm for being who he was, he had flounced in much like Kurt had, expecting everyone to acknowledge and admire how fabulous he was. Luckily for him, there had been two seniors at the time, both on the Council, who had taken him firmly under their wings and taught him that it wasn't always necessary to be noticed.

Sometimes, a machine worked best when all of the separate parts were just as shiny.

And that's why it hurts so much to watch Kurt following each and every step he'd gone through in his own first few weeks at Dalton, because sometimes—too often to count, actually—Blaine's need and want to be noticed still surface. It's why he understands Kurt in ways no one else there ever will. He's paid his dues and he's earned the admiration of the Warblers, and they let him sing and dance and take center stage more often than not.

Unfortunately, he knows it's on their terms, and not his.

Otherwise, he'd be singing Duran Duran.

On the bus back from Sectionals, the talk is of nothing but the tie. Some of the Warblers feel they should have won; others wonder why they didn't lose. Kurt is quiet beside Blaine, staring out the window, likely listening to the conversations around them. Sometimes their knees brush together and Kurt looks at him, and he looks back, and a smile passes between them, but little else. There is lot that Blaine wants to say, and too much that he knows he cannot. Kurt's sadness is a palpable thing, and Blaine is terrified that he might not know how to fix that. Seeing New Directions up there on stage, seeing what Kurt was used to, where he could shine… He is truly beginning to realize how much Kurt has been forced to give up, in order to be safe.

When they arrive at Dalton, disembarking from the bus, Blaine stops Kurt with a slight tug on his sleeve. "They were really amazing, Kurt. You should be proud to have been a part of something like that."

Kurt smiles one of those dazzling smiles at him that sends Blaine's heart racing every time. "I am. And, thank you."

Blaine returns the smile, and they stand there for a moment, an awkward silence building when Blaine realizes he has not released Kurt's sleeve. He lets go, and they both kind of watch as their hands fall back to their respective sides.

"Well, I'd… better get back to my room," Kurt says. "I need to check on Pavarroti."

Wondering when he should tell Kurt that Pavarotti was really just a parakeet they picked up from a local pet store, Blaine nods and sends him on his way.

It's later that night, long after curfew when Blaine sneaks out of his room, making his way quietly through the halls to Kurt's wing of the dormitory. He knocks twice, fidgeting as he waits because his attempt to make things better for Kurt could honestly be the dumbest idea ever.

Things seemed so different before Kurt came to Dalton; there hadn't been any pressure then. They'd simply been friends. But now… now Blaine feels this overwhelming need to make Kurt happy, to make him feel safe, to assure that he's always smiling and never loses sight of the person he is inside, uniform or no.

"Blaine." Kurt looks confused, standing there in an amazing set of cream-colored silk pajamas. "What are you doing here?"

Feeling slightly underdressed in sweats and a t-shirt, Blaine invites himself in, brandishing a CD case as he closes the door behind him. "Well, I thought, since you had a perfectly valid suggestion for Sectionals that you and I might just give it a try. Since apparently no one else here gets just how amazing Duran Duran truly is and always has been."

Kurt snatches the 'Rio' album from Blaine's hand, laughing as he flips the case open. "Are you serious?"

Without answering, Blaine breaks into song as he sweeps across the room to Pavarotti's cage. "Moving on the floor now, babe, you're a bird of paradise." He turns back to Kurt, flashing his best and most charming smile. "Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it's very nice."

Grinning, Kurt slips the CD into the player. His voice picks up with the music as he takes a step toward Blaine. "With a step to the left, and a flick to the right, you catch that mirror way out West."

"You know you're something special," Blaine sings, "And you look like you're the best."

As the chorus begins, Kurt is shaking his head. "What does this song even mean?"

Blaine laughs. "I haven't a clue!"

They spend the next two hours choreographing an entire dance to the song, leaving it on repeat until they are so sick of it they make an agreement to never, ever ask to perform it again under penalty of death.

Lying on Kurt's bed, staring up at the ceiling as they finally let the CD play on, the chords to 'Save a Prayer' begin as Kurt reaches out and lays his hand over Blaine's. "Thank you."

Blaine turns his head to the side to look at him. Kurt's eyes are shining brightly in the low light. "For what? For making you sick of 'Rio'?"

"Oh, I'm not even certain I want to hear that name ever again!" He smiles. "No. Thank you for understanding. For not pushing. For your guidance. I know I don't get how everything works yet around here, and I know I say and do things that maybe aren't right. But just knowing that you're there, supporting me even when I stumble… it means a lot to me, Blaine."

"I'll always be here, Kurt." When Kurt turns his head to meet Blaine's gaze, Blaine turns his hand palm up, and threads their fingers together. "And maybe, sometime soon, when you feel like you've found your place here, you can teach the rest of us how to be a little more like you."

Kurt's smile is immediate and beautiful, and Blaine silently promises himself to make certain that it is never, ever diminished.