Notes: This is pretty much a character study of Blaine based on my (highly unoriginal) perceptions of him in canon up until now, because the Blaine in my head would not stop babbling at me until I wrote it. :) It's also quite a departure from my usual style, considering fluffy dialogue is my favorite thing to write.

Blaine wasn't sure why he turned around on the staircase that day. He was already going to be late for the impromptu Warblers performance, which had been organized via word of mouth and some covert texting within the last class period, and Wes was going to kill him. It wasn't like the Warblers could start without him, but they never liked to keep an audience waiting. He should have ignored the "new kid" and let one of the dozens of other guys around answer him, but Blaine was too unfailingly polite to ignore someone saying "excuse me" directly at him.

Blaine would forever be grateful that he did turn around, not just knowing how much this moment would end up changing his life over the next few months – and hopefully years – but because he wouldn't have ever wanted to miss a chance to meet this boy, even if it were just for five minutes.

Maybe he turned around because of the unfamiliar voice. Blaine knew almost everyone at Dalton by now, and he would have recognized those high, breathy tones if he'd heard them before – a voice like that demanded attention. No, no one at Dalton sounded like Kurt did. But even that distinct voice didn't prepare him for the sight of the boy that went with it.

He was pretty sure his jaw dropped. Even if this guy hadn't been among hundreds of guys in red and navy uniforms, he would have stood out. He looked like an elf in designer clothes, porcelain skin and perfectly coiffed hair and that outfit that looked just enough like an imitation of a private school uniform to tip him off that "I'm new here" was a lie. He was the most perfect, ethereal person Blaine had ever seen, and he wasn't sure how he found the presence of mind to introduce himself and explain what was going on.

The fact that Kurt immediately knew the Warblers were the glee club hinted that this guy was here specifically to spy on them, and Blaine probably shouldn't have let him come watch, but something about this guy was different. Blaine half-expected him to be rude or arrogant, what with the flashy way he dressed, but instead there were nervous smiles and shy questions and yeah, maybe Blaine was getting a little cocky, describing the Warblers as "rock stars." Something about this Kurt just seemed too genuine to be part of some sinister spy mission.

Blaine didn't want to assume the boy was gay based on his clothes or his voice, but as he took his hand and lead him on a shortcut that probably wasn't actually the quickest way there, he was sure as hell hoping. And the way that Kurt looked at him when Blaine reached over to playfully adjust his lapel had him thinking that his assumptions were correct, that this bravado act was working, and why not play it up a little bit?

No one could possibly blame him for directing lines about skintight jeans and going all the way at this gorgeous boy right in his line of vision, even aiming the gratuitous pointing in the choreography straight at him. The students that had gathered there were really getting into the music, dancing along – Blaine even swore he saw a couple people fist-pumping – but Kurt just stood there transfixed. No one could deny that Blaine had a way of charming people with song, and from the look on Kurt's face and his enthusiastic applause, he certainly appreciated it.

That was not the case, however, for Wes and David. After the crowd had dissipated they asked him what he thought he was doing and who that guy was and ranted about taking spying from the competition seriously. Blaine tried to convince them that this guy was different, that he was alright, and they finally agreed to at least all have coffee with him and see what his story was. Wes wasn't happy about letting Blaine act like he was the one in charge, but Wes had a way of intimidating visitors, even ones that didn't look elfin and made out of spun glass like Kurt did, and Blaine didn't want to scare him off if he maybe had a shot with him. Not that he said that last part out loud.

But as he saw the look on Kurt's face when Wes and David talked about Dalton's zero-tolerance policy, as though a place where people like the two of them weren't treated like second-class citizens was some sort of utopia, it became clear that hitting on Kurt was the last thing Blaine ought to be doing. His resemblance to a porcelain figurine went beyond complexion – this boy was fragile. He'd been bullied and harassed and he wondered if the three of them were gay not because he wanted to get Blaine's number, but because it let him know that he wasn't alone.

Which was why Blaine felt no rush of happiness as Kurt confirmed that he was out of the closet, only a pull on his heartstrings. The instant the tears sprang to Kurt's eyes Blaine stopped thinking of him as the exquisite boy on the staircase who could maybe be the one (Blaine couldn't help it, he was a romantic), and started seeing him as himself two years ago, when the only thing Blaine had needed was a friend. Kurt didn't need some overconfident guy like Blaine singing about "the way you turn me on," he needed someone to listen and understand and… well, Blaine could do that too.

So Blaine forgot about his momentary infatuation, and opened up to Kurt in a way that he never really had to anyone here, in a way that he never would have if he were still trying to impress Kurt so that he'd go out with him. He did his best to give advice, which ended up being possibly the worst advice he could have given, but he tried – did his best to be a role model and conceal the fact that not-so-deep-down he was still insecure and screwed up a lot. Was he just vicariously getting a second chance at things? Maybe, but there was also the fact that he could never deny an opportunity to help somebody else out. It was part of what had made him so well-liked once he'd arrived at Dalton.

He did end up getting Kurt's number, but used it to text him platitudes of "courage" rather than to ask him out. And when the first time Kurt called him ended up being to tell him that that Neanderthal had kissed him, Blaine didn't even question his decision to drop everything and go to Lima. He could have played the white knight and stepped in and let himself be Kurt's first real kiss, but he forced himself to ignore the way Kurt looked in that blue coat, the way his hair glinted in the sunlight, and bought him lunch instead.

Blaine spent a lot of time with Kurt over the next couple of weeks. He could see the look on his dad's face as Blaine left the house each night to go hang out with the same boy, but he didn't even dignify it with a response. Blaine's dad didn't know how things were for Kurt, but Blaine did.

There was an unspoken boundary between the two boys, because Blaine knew that trying to date someone when he was going through so much that didn't involve him would be completely inappropriate. Kurt didn't need something else to worry about. Kurt had never met another openly gay guy, and he probably didn't even like Blaine in that way. He just needed a friend right now, and Blaine was more than happy to indulge him on their weird non-dates.

They talked about everything – nothing too personal; Blaine tried to keep it light because every time Kurt mentioned McKinley a dark, sad look would cross his face, but they talked about movies, and music, and favorite celebrities. Kurt would talk about fashion and Blaine would smile and nod even though he knew absolutely nothing about it, and Blaine would talk about sports and Kurt would pretend like he cared – Blaine could tell that he didn't and was just trying not to disappoint him.

They talked about gay rights a lot, and Blaine knew that Kurt didn't have anyone else to talk to about this stuff, so he let him rant animatedly about Prop 8 and Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Blaine would occasionally chime in and pretend like he hadn't already rehashed these arguments a dozen times with a couple of the Warbler guys. It was kind of fun, though, discussing this with Kurt – it was yet another thing Kurt was passionate about, and he got it in a way that the guys at Dalton who were straight and just really opinionated didn't. Being gay wasn't the entirety of who Blaine and Kurt were, but it was their initial common ground, and in a town like this that probably meant they would stick together even if they hated each other – which wasn't the case at all.

Blaine had shoved aside his initial attraction to Kurt, true, but there were still moments when he'd glance over at Kurt in the middle of laughing about their waitress's terrible haircut and there would be a glimmer of… something. Blaine admired Kurt. He had this fierce nature about him, in everything he did – in the way that he told Blaine he'd fought to sing Defying Gravity last year in glee club, in the cutting, witty remarks he would make, in the way he'd looked when he shoved Karofsky off of him that day at McKinley.

Blaine felt free when talking to Kurt. He almost hadn't realized how much he'd been restraining some of his uncontrollable enthusiasm since coming to Dalton. He loved the Warblers, but there was no denying that they could be close-minded and traditionalist. Kurt was funny, and smart, and opinionated, and Blaine felt like he could talk to him about anything. So yeah, he really liked Kurt, but as nothing more than a friend – that was all that Kurt needed right now. And if he happened to reach over and gently squeeze Kurt's hand when they were both teary-eyed over Angel's death in Rent, well, that was just a friend comforting a friend.

So because these weren't dates Blaine was pleased when Kurt invited Mercedes to dinner at Breadstix with them – pleased that Kurt considered him important enough to meet his best friend, and that he hadn't gotten the wrong idea about what all this time together meant. That changed, though, when Kurt spent most of dinner ignoring Mercedes entirely in favor of gushing to him over Marion Cotillard and Patti LuPone.

He thought about saying something to Kurt after the fact about how he shouldn't ignore all his other friends just so he could hang out with him, but then a few days later he found out Kurt's dad was getting married, and Kurt barely talked to him for an entire week. That reassured Blaine that Kurt knew how things were between them, because he wasn't inviting him to come as his date to the wedding, or making suggestive comments about weddings that hinted at the possibility of their wedding.

But then Blaine got the call that Kurt was transferring to Dalton. Kurt told him through tears about death threats and his father getting involved and the school board reversing Karofsky's expulsion, and Blaine knew that Kurt would need him to be there for him now more than ever.

Blaine secured Kurt a spot in the Warblers without an audition – the council was practically salivating at the mere thought of having a countertenor to add to their harmonies – and was even able to pull a few strings to get him a solo audition for Sectionals. It wasn't likely that Kurt would have a real shot at the solo – the auditions were more of a formality anymore, given how enamored the council was with Blaine on lead – but Blaine knew it would mean a lot to Kurt if he got that kind of opportunity at Dalton. And when David asked if he was pulling all these favors for Kurt because he liked him, Blaine was able to laugh it off and say, "No, he's just a friend."

Once Kurt was at Dalton, Blaine didn't spend as much time with him over the next few weeks. Even aside from being distracted with preparing for Sectionals, and then studying for finals, there was simply less obligation to schedule time together when they saw each other every day during Warblers practice, and at lunch, and in the hallways. It made sense to think of things to do with Kurt when there was the drive between Westerville and Lima that they had to make worth their while, but now none of that obligation to work to sustain their friendship was there.

This wasn't to say, however, that they grew apart once they were at the same school. If anything, they grew closer as their time together became more casual. Blaine got to introduce Kurt to all of his friends in the Warblers, who were, from what he could tell, just as insane as New Directions in their own, uptight way. He felt terrible when his plan to improve Kurt's confidence with a solo audition backfired, but he helped Kurt to see that he didn't need that innate ferocity just to be noticed here like he had at McKinley. It was strange meshing the sphere of Dalton with the sphere of his friendship with Kurt, but strange in a good way.

Blaine and Kurt would make up excuses to hang out, just the two of them – Blaine would say "let's study trig together," and that would turn into studying the latest issue of Vogue, or Kurt would say he had some song ideas for the Warblers, which would turn into watching random music videos and wondering why Katy Perry thought fireworks coming out of her boobs were inspirational.

But things weren't all superficiality between them – they never had been, not since both of them had confessed their deepest fears and insecurities the first day they met. Kurt would talk about his friends at McKinley – he hated to sound ungrateful about being at Dalton, but every once in a while he'd say something wistful about Mercedes, or wonder sardonically what maniacal scheme Rachel Berry was up to that week, but in a way that sounded less like a jab and more like he missed her. They'd talk about how Pavarotti was doing in a way that made Blaine wonder if they were really talking about Pavarotti.

One afternoon Kurt even opened up to him about his mother. He and his dad missed her terribly, of course, but Mr. Hummel was happy with Carole, and Kurt was… Kurt was doing fine, all things considered. He said he wished that she could have seen him in glee club – she could have seen him with real friends, both in New Directions and the Warblers. Kurt even said, very quietly, that he wished Blaine could have met her – that she would have liked him. That made Blaine a little uncomfortable, but mostly very touched.

So they still hung out, in this awkward limbo between best friends and people who had really only known each other for a month, making up excuses and reasons because they were both too proud to admit that they just really wanted to spend time together. However, Blaine wasn't lying when he asked Kurt to help him practice for the King's Island Christmas Spectacular.

His duet partner for the show was some awkward blonde girl a year younger than him, and he wanted to be able to practice with someone who wouldn't giggle when he sang "gosh, your lips look delicious." Any of the Warblers probably would have helped him out, not even minding the flirty lyrics – they'd all sung about wearing skintight jeans, for heaven's sake – and yeah, if Blaine was being honest he probably only picked Kurt because he could hit the same notes as that girl.

But as he sang with Kurt, it somehow became less about practicing for King's Island and more about singing with Kurt. He knew that Kurt had an amazing voice, but he never would have guessed that they'd sound this good together. And they sounded really good together. He kept adding in random bits of choreography that weren't in the show, because he was able to play off of Kurt in a way that he wasn't with that girl, whatever her name was – Lacey or Laurie or something like that. He wasn't even singing it the same way that he did with her – by the end of the song he ended up harmonizing above Kurt.

So as they sat next to each other on the couch afterwards, the tinny accompaniment from the boom box fading away, there was a bit of an awkward realization that I just flirted with my best friend in song, but Blaine was able to brush it off with a playful remark about Kurt being better than that girl, because it was simply that Kurt was better at playing up the flirtation than Lucy – was that her name? – would ever be. It was only natural that he'd find it easier to flirt with Kurt than that awkward girl, bless her heart, because he was gay, after all. He was just glad that Kurt understood the importance of acting on a performance, even when it was simply a rehearsal.

So Blaine left the room feeling considerably more confidant about the Christmas Spectacular – honestly, he hadn't needed that much practice on the vocals anyway, and now he could draw upon the memory of Kurt's energy to make flirting with that girl just as convincing.

If Blaine had stuck around he might have heard Kurt say to his old glee club director that he was in love with Blaine, and Blaine might have gotten his act together with Kurt a few months earlier and spared them both a lot of the drama to come. But instead he headed towards the practice room to gather up his things, never looking back.

Blaine Anderson apparently was not meant to fall for Kurt Hummel that simply. And looking back later on, Blaine would say that he preferred it that way. Because Kurt deserved better than a guy who fell for him just because he flirted well on a song about date rape.

It was over winter break that Blaine met Jeremiah. He was at the mall trying to return a sweater he'd gotten for Christmas that was too big, when he saw Jeremiah behind the registers. With his kind eyes and his crooked smile and his floppy hair, Blaine was immediately smitten. He went over to Jeremiah's register, and they talked and flirted, and Blaine just knew that there was a connection there.

So over the next few weeks there were a lot of pointless visits to the Gap as Blaine tried to figure out when Jeremiah was working, but then he got up the nerve to talk to him again, and there was more talking, and more flirting, and getting coffee a couple of times after Jeremiah's shift was over. Blaine knew they weren't really dating, but that didn't stop him from hoping that any day now, Jeremiah was going to ask him to be his boyfriend.

Jeremiah was intriguing – he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve, he was mysterious, and he was older. Blaine had never thought of himself as the type to go for an older guy, but age was just a number, right? There was something about meeting someone who was gay outside of the comfortable confines of Dalton Academy, away from stereotypes about private schoolboys and show choir, that made the world feel a little less small, a little less lonely. Jeremiah talked about adult things like buying an apartment and going back to school and someday getting out of Ohio in a way that, yeah, made Blaine dream of one day driving off together to a state that was a little less backward and getting married – "Let's run away and don't ever look back."

Jeremiah was perhaps even less self-confident than Blaine was, but at the same time it was nice to be able to talk to someone without having to act older and wiser, like he had it all together. He loved his friendship with Kurt, true, but sometimes it was exhausting to pretend like he had all the answers and knew what he was doing.

Blaine was happy with his life, but he was a romantic, and deep down he wanted nothing more than to be in love, for someone to love him and accept him, faults and all. The only problem was that he had no idea how to express himself when it wasn't through song. He could sing "I finally found you, my missing puzzle piece" and "I want the world to see you'll be with me," but when it came to putting his feelings into his own words he always ended up humiliating himself.

So that was how he came up with the brilliant plan to tell Jeremiah how he felt about him by serenading him on Valentine's Day. He ran the idea by Kurt, because Kurt was his best friend and he trusted his opinion on these matters, and when even he, cynic that he was, seemed to think it was a good idea, Blaine knew that from there it was just a matter of convincing the rest of the Warblers to agree to it. Luckily, Kurt backed him up on that one, which was how the Warblers Gap Attack ended up taking place.

Blaine cringed every time he thought back on it. Everyone knew that you didn't make a huge public display like that unless you knew that it wouldn't be rejected – everyone but Blaine, apparently. And this went beyond a simple serenade – he'd jumped on tables and followed Jeremiah around the store and slid on his knees and made an utter fool of himself, and all so he could inadvertently out Jeremiah and get him fired. And if that wasn't bad enough, Jeremiah didn't even think of him in that way. He was just some stupid high school kid who had read too much into things.

Most of the other guys joked about it for the next few days, or avoided his eyes and pointedly made no mention of the incident, so Blaine was impressed when Kurt, who usually never resisted an opportunity to mock somebody, didn't give him a hard time about it. Granted, that may have been because he saw the dark look on Blaine's face and knew that this wasn't a joking matter, but he listened to Blaine rant about Valentine's Day without a single "I told you so," and even told Blaine about how last year he'd had a huge crush on the guy who was now his step-brother. That made Blaine feel a little better, but mostly it just made his heart go out yet again to this boy who deserved happiness probably more than anybody else he knew, but never seemed to get it.

Which is why Blaine felt like even more of an ass when he realized that Kurt had thought the serenade was going to be for him. And this wasn't Kurt making things up in his head, this wasn't him reading too much into things, this was Blaine downright leading Kurt on and never even realizing it because he was such an idiot. Yeah, he knew Kurt's coffee order, but that was because they'd been going for coffee after every Warblers practice this semester, and Blaine had a good memory. When they sang "Baby It's Cold Outside" Blaine had thought that Kurt was just playing the part to help him out. But he should have known that Kurt would assume it all meant something, given how he was used to being treated like a pariah by the guys at McKinley.

No, Kurt wasn't stupid. Because Blaine had been attracted to Kurt, but he'd forced himself to forget about it because that was what he'd thought was in Kurt's best interest. He'd convinced himself that he'd moved on. And he wished that he could tell Kurt that he did feel that way about him, that he could go back to square one and reawaken those old feelings and they would both live happily ever after. But it wasn't that easy. He couldn't merge the sight of that gorgeous boy on the staircase with his new picture of the fragile, cynical, slightly damaged boy that he'd gotten to know over the past three months that quickly.

Most importantly, he couldn't do that to Kurt – he couldn't just say "yeah, actually I do kind of like you" and agree to be boyfriends and wait for his feelings to catch up with Kurt's. He couldn't risk screwing things up with Kurt, too, because Kurt wasn't just some guy at the Gap; he was his best friend that he saw every day, and Blaine couldn't handle losing that if he broke Kurt's heart. So Blaine tried to let him down as gently as possible – letting him know that he really cared about him, that he was too important to rush into something with, that he wasn't saying "no, never, I only think of you as a friend," he was just saying "not now." And he'd have to go home and re-watch When Harry Met Sally, but he was pretty sure Kurt got it.

So he let Kurt buy him coffee and talk to him about his idea for the Lonely Hearts Club dinner. And as they sang with the Warblers on Valentine's evening, as Blaine sang "I only know that when I'm in it… love isn't silly at all," he knew that maybe someday that was how things would be with Kurt. There would be no inappropriately sexual songs, or lyrics that said more than Blaine really meant, or reliance on reading into little gestures – instead, there would be classic romance, and songs by Paul McCartney, and words whose meaning would be unmistakably clear.

Blaine's decision to hold off on dating Kurt for fear of screwing things up was only validated after what happened at Rachel's party. Namely, Blaine getting stupid-drunk and making out with Rachel Berry with Kurt sitting only inches away. He'd only gotten so drunk in the first place because he hadn't wanted to look like some stuffy private school nerd in front of Kurt's friends, although from the way Kurt later described his drunk-dancing he still hadn't made a very cool first impression. And then he'd let himself get talked into playing spin-the-bottle, and gotten way too into kissing Rachel, and ended up waking up in Kurt's bed, with his father right there. Awkward.

And things only went from bad to worse when Blaine later agreed, in what must have been a fit of post-hangover madness, to go on a date with Rachel. Rachel was a nice girl – high-strung and a little needy, true, but a nice girl – so the date itself wasn't that bad. It was kind of fun, actually, and even after the whole fiasco was over he wouldn't have minded hanging out with her some more. However, he should have realized that going out with one of Kurt's friends, knowing how Kurt felt about him, was Grade A Asshole behavior.

Granted, Kurt wasn't entirely free of blame either. Yes, it was incredibly naïve of Blaine to assume that just because he'd had one good kiss with a girl while drunk that he might be bi – once plied with alcohol, making out with anybody was fun. And he'd always thought that the argument of "How can you know you're gay when you've never even kissed anyone?" was incredibly weak. But having the parents that Blaine did, could you really blame him for hoping that maybe he actually was into girls?

His parents had never actively disapproved of him being gay, but Blaine could tell that it was a case of "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed." So when the hope presented itself that maybe he'd be able to date Rachel, he couldn't help hoping that this would mean his dad wouldn't keep trying to engage him in acceptably "manly" hobbies, that his mom would stop remarking sadly that she'd never get to bond with a nice girl that her son brought home, that his parents would finally come see one of his Warblers performances, because now they wouldn't have to be reminded of why they were paying thousands of dollars a year for him to go to this school.

So it would have been so much easier if Blaine could have said "woops, never mind, not actually gay after all," and he hated that Kurt would never understand that, that he took for granted that his dad and step-mom were so openly accepting. Yes, Kurt had been bullied and harassed for being who he was, but he'd never been made to question himself by anyone he loved or trusted.

Most of all Blaine hated that if he had turned out to be bi, it might have meant losing his friendship with Kurt. That Kurt would have turned his nose up at him and told him it was just a phase, that Kurt was only friends with him because he was some living embodiment of "It Gets Better," and as soon as he showed some sign of doubt or weakness or imperfection that meant that he didn't mean anything to Kurt anymore. Kurt was the one person that Blaine felt completely comfortable around, felt like he didn't have to hide or filter anything in front of, so seeing Kurt looking at him in that judgmental way that he usually reserved for a particularly hideous outfit hurt.

So both of them said some things that they didn't mean, and Blaine didn't speak to Kurt for a few days, so when Rachel accosted him with another kiss and there was no spark or emotion there, Blaine had a momentary panic attack in the restroom of the Lima Bean that this meant he'd now lost Rachel and Kurt, and he was completely alone again. He came back out expecting "I told you so"s and sarcastic comments from Kurt, or worse, more icy glares, but instead Kurt was waiting for him with a medium drip, a plate of biscotti, and gossip about who he hoped would be cast in the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars.

It wasn't that they were purposely ignoring the issue, but there was an unspoken understanding that both of them had said some harsh words and let things get unnecessarily personal for reasons that didn't have much to do specifically with whether or not Blaine liked girls. Given everything that Kurt had confessed last week, of course he would rationalize Blaine wanting to date Rachel as a misguided decision based on alcohol-fogged memories, and maybe Blaine had been expecting too much, hoping that Kurt would be selflessly supportive. That's what made it so difficult, relying on just one person for emotional support, because sometimes the situation affected them too, and there was a conflict of interest and things got messy. This wasn't quite a return to the status quo, but an understanding that they could both screw up and make mistakes, and at the end of the day they wouldn't think any less of each other for it.

So things were okay between the two of them after that. Until two weeks later, when Blaine managed to screw up spectacularly yet again – this was turning into a record-setting month of stupidity for him. Because yeah, Kurt's attempts at sexy faces during their performance of "Animal" – mostly snarls and hand gestures straight out of a Gaga video – were pretty ridiculous. But concern about how the number would go over at Regionals (which the council ended up scrapping once the judging panel was announced, and they realized that the homoerotic undertones of the foam machine would only guarantee them a loss so embarrassing that they could never show their faces in public again) was no excuse for telling Kurt that he looked like he had gas pains, God.

Sometimes Blaine just got so caught up in the details of a performance, in having the perfect facial expressions that could take a song from okay to great, that he said insensitive things and ended up hitting on deep-seated issues like Kurt's hang-ups with sexuality. Sometimes he forgot that not everyone was as open-minded and progressive about these things as he was. For the past year and a half Kurt had been treated like he was something toxic just for expressing interest in other guys, and his only kiss from a guy had been forced upon him. It wasn't surprising that Kurt would be uncomfortable getting in touch with that side of himself in front of an audience, but yeah, Blaine had some genuine concerns that Kurt apparently wasn't comfortable getting in touch with that at all. It was fine – perfectly understandable, even – that Kurt found a brush of fingertips more romantic and desirable than a porno, but there was a fine line between being a romantic and being downright naïve.

Which is what lead Blaine to doing something that was probably colossally stupid, considering his previous interactions with Burt Hummel, and going to Kurt's dad about his issues. Maybe it wasn't his place, maybe he should have just understood that of course Kurt didn't want to talk about sex with the guy he had feelings for, but this was the genuine concern of a friend that one day Kurt would find himself in a compromising situation, and some guy would use Kurt's naiveté to take advantage of him. It didn't even have to come to the point of date rape – even a line like "no, baby, we don't need a condom" or "come on, everyone's doing it" could be incredibly dangerous, and Blaine didn't want that to happen. Kurt was special, and he deserved his first time to be special. And if Kurt refused to listen to him, he had to do what he could or he'd end up kicking himself someday – if he couldn't be Kurt's knight in shining armor, this was the least he could do. Kurt deserved to have at least one person looking out for him after everything the universe had handed him over the past couple years.

Blaine would never know what Burt ended up saying to Kurt, but Kurt looked a little less miserable at school over the rest of the week, so Blaine was able to pat himself on the back and assume that his intervention had been a success. It wasn't until two weeks later that Blaine had a very uncomfortable conversation with Mr. Hummel about whether that talk in the garage had been a very slick way of trying to get in his son's pants, and it wasn't until six months later that Blaine realized that he maybe should have clarified to Kurt that he just wasn't sexy when he was trying to be.

But over the next few days, Blaine's only concern was whether Kurt was disappointed that their talk before Valentine's Day hadn't lead to Blaine falling for him over the past few weeks. Blaine wondered if the fact that he hadn't meant that the attraction just wasn't there anymore. He didn't want to force the issue. If this did become something more between him and Kurt, he wanted it to be because he wanted it, not because Kurt wanted it and he wanted to make Kurt happy. Blaine was honestly getting a little frustrated with himself that he apparently couldn't let this just be simple. He wondered why he couldn't have just found Kurt's sexy faces attractive, why he couldn't have kissed Kurt at that party instead of Rachel. Little did he know that the best was yet to come.

If Blaine were perfectly honest, he was floored when Kurt admitted that he was jealous of Blaine getting all the solos in the Warblers. He definitely knew that Kurt was competitive and loved the spotlight, but he'd never realized that he of all people had been preventing Kurt from achieving that. He wasn't too proud to admit that Kurt's opinion was important to him, and it was like ever since the events of Rachel's party Kurt had stopped trying to actively impress Blaine, had stopped going along with whatever he said. The claws had come out, and Blaine wasn't sure what to think of this brutal honesty.

It gave him something to think about over the next couple of days, that was for sure. Maybe Blaine was just much less in tune with what others though of him than he'd previously thought, because he'd never thought of himself as a diva or a spotlight hog. He didn't demand solos as if they were his due like he'd heard that people did in New Directions. The council decided who got them – there were votes and formal auditions and meeting minutes and Robert's Rules of Order. But just because something was the way things were done didn't make it right. He'd been becoming a little discontented with the way the Warblers ran things for a while now, and this only confirmed to him that maybe they needed to shake things up a bit if they expected to win Regionals.

And then "Blackbird" happened. Truthfully, none of the other guys were that broken up about Pavarotti's death. He was their mascot, and he helped make the newest Warbler feel included, but canaries didn't live that long, and yeah, their claims of him being from a long lineage were probably exaggerated. Which is why it was especially striking to see this kind of raw, open, honest emotion from Kurt as he sang a eulogy to a dead bird. Blaine couldn't help but be inspired to start singing backup himself.

Of course Kurt had a beautiful voice, but now Blaine was hearing it as though it were for the first time. This was different from when he'd sung "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" for his solo audition – much like how Kurt couldn't be sexy when he was trying, the emotion in his voice came across as so much more genuine when he actually meant the words of the song, when he was actually feeling it. And there was nothing affected about this performance. It wasn't a sly attempt at convincing them to give him a solo; Kurt was actually upset about the death of this bird, this bird that wasn't even really his, but that they'd made him take care of. The fact that this boy who had been through so much himself could feel this much over a tiny little creature was… it was moving.

And that was when Blaine looked up at Kurt, and it was like his world shifted a little bit – not like he had been blind before, but like he just hadn't been seeing things in the proper light. It was like that moment at the eye doctor when he shifted from the plain glass to your proper prescription, and Blaine could suddenly see that "oh, that's what those letters were." It was like he just hadn't put everything together until that moment.

Kurt was a little bit damaged, true. The universe had given him every reason to be cynical, and he used his sarcasm and humor and prickly exterior as a defense mechanism. But he could also be selfless, and kind, and he was the best friend that Blaine had ever known. He could verbally smack Blaine upside the head when he did something stupid – which had been happening a lot lately – but he had also made it perfectly clear that he'd seen all of Blaine's insecurities and flaws and rough edges, but that he wasn't going anywhere.

Seeing Kurt now, vulnerable and completely himself (and looking fabulous in this all-black ensemble, Blaine might add), was like turning around on the staircase. But it was different now, because Kurt wasn't the shy, scared boy who had visited Dalton four months ago. Blaine had pushed back his feelings for Kurt because he'd needed to be a friend to him, a mentor, but since then the two of them had seen each other at some of their lowest of lows and come out with their friendship even stronger for it – they were equals now. Since being at Dalton Kurt had grown strong again, come back into himself, and he didn't need Blaine anymore. Rather, Blaine was just now realizing that he needed Kurt. Kurt deserved someone who could make him happy, and maybe, if Kurt would let him, Blaine could be that person. "All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise."

Blaine had to tell Kurt, and soon. After the meeting he left awkwardly, only offering Kurt some cursory condolences, and then went home as quickly as possible, because he had an idea. He didn't want to screw up again by saying the wrong thing, so he would sing to Kurt at Regionals – and not just to him, with him – he would make it a duet, both giving Kurt his chance to shine and showing Kurt how much he meant to him, and rehearsing it together would give him time alone with Kurt to figure out where he wanted to go from there. It was the perfect plan. Now Blaine just had to choose the perfect song.

That proved easier said than done. He needed this to be something genuine, something without sexual innuendos, or over-the-top declarations of love, or lyrics that could be misinterpreted as just another performance. He scrolled through every duet and every love song in his iTunes library, and still nothing was just right. This shouldn't be this difficult – he'd chosen "When I Get You Alone" for Jeremiah in about five minutes. Granted, he hadn't listened to the entire song and had been thoroughly embarrassed when he remembered that it included a line about sex toys, but didn't want to say something about it in front of the Warblers. No, this time he had to get it right.

Because, oh God, what if it were too late? What if the reason Kurt had been acting so bitchy around him lately was because his feelings had changed? And what even were Kurt's feelings in the first place? Because looking back on it, yeah, Kurt had never really said that he liked Blaine, only that he'd thought that he'd wanted to ask him out for Valentine's Day, and that he'd read something into their flirty dynamic. What if he'd just assumed that Blaine was going to sing to him because he was an oblivious raging flirt, and then only been mildly disappointed when that wasn't the case? True, Kurt didn't seem the type to get too fussed just over not having a date for Valentine's Day, but oh hell, what if Kurt had never even liked him that way and Blaine was just making egotistical assumptions like the diva he apparently was?

Blaine gave up on iTunes and pulled up Pandora. He switched over to his Paramore station, needing some moody female alt-pop-rockers to sympathize with him right now, and flopped his head down on his desk. The first song that came up was by Flyleaf, and he kind of liked it, but once it got to a line about "my tongue dances behind my lips for you" Blaine popped his head back up in disgust and skipped the song. The next one was one by a band he didn't recognize called Hey Monday, but the melody was vaguely familiar, like he might have heard it once but not paid much attention to it, and it made him stop and listen. "The power lines went out and I am all alone, but I don't really care at all, not answering my phone."

He hadn't expected to find a good duet song in the midst of his angsty wallowing, but this… this might work. He could already hear Kurt's high, pure voice on it. As the song went on Blaine came to realize that it was a break-up song, and a little bit sad, but strangely, it was fitting. There was that note of regret, of loneliness, of not having realized what you had until it might be too late. "Lost sight, couldn't see when it was you and me. Blow the candles out, looks like a solo tonight. I'm beginning to see the light." Yes, this was it. It didn't say quite what Blaine had been planning on, but it was emotional, and if he played his cards right, he could make Kurt see the emotion that he was feeling, not some performance or something brought about by tritely romantic lyrics. As the song reached the bridge – "Someday you will get back everything you gave back" – Blaine rested his chin in his hand and smiled, already mentally planning out harmonies and how to divide the lines between them.

Now the only obstacle was getting the rest of the Warblers to agree to the duet. This was important to Blaine, but if his scheming caused them to give an inferior performance and lose Regionals he'd never forgive himself. Luckily, however, once he'd explained it as giving other voices in the group a chance to shine, they came around and ended up unanimously approving Kurt as his duet partner.

Blaine hadn't planned on saying anything to Kurt about his change of heart when he went to talk to him about the song that afternoon. He'd planned on just letting the song and the performance speak for itself, and maybe saying something to Kurt after Regionals. That afternoon his only apprehension was that Kurt wouldn't approve of his song selection – Kurt tended to gravitate towards show tunes, or classic standards, or female divas, but instead Kurt was impressed that he'd gone a little more alternative than Katy Perry or Maroon 5, and Blaine admitted that he'd wanted something more emotional.

And then Kurt was looking at him with those beautiful blue-grey eyes that he sometimes swore could see right through him lately, and asking, "Why did you pick me to sing that song with?" And Blaine couldn't lie. He couldn't BS something about their voices going well together or their good performance dynamic… it had taken him long enough to get his act together, and he couldn't go any longer without saying anything, without knowing if Kurt felt the same way about him.

So he said what he felt. It wasn't planned, or rehearsed, or choreographed, it was a bunch of cheesy, romantic crap that probably didn't make any sense, but it was what he felt. About "Blackbird," about that cheesy moment he'd been dreaming about for his entire life when your eyes lock across the room with that person and you just know, only instead of the first time he met someone it had happened with his best friend whom he'd known for months. Except Blaine kept it short and sweet and to the point, not giving himself any room to screw this up.

He covered Kurt's hand with his, wishing that Kurt would smile, or say something, or give some indication as to what was going through his head. And then as he finally admitted that the duet would just be an excuse to spend more time together, there it was, a slight smile, and a long, silent moment of anticipation that stretched between them, that gave Blaine the courage to stand and lean over and then he was kissing Kurt.

The first thing that came to mind was probably something completely ridiculous like "yup, definitely 100% gay," because this didn't just feel good like kissing Rachel had, this felt like something real and right that had been a long time coming, and kissing her hadn't made this knot of pure want twist up in his stomach. His next thought was "oh my God, why isn't Kurt kissing back?" But then there was a sharp intake of breath and a hand on his face that pulled him closer, and soft, perfect lips moving against his, and then it was over as soon as it had begun.

Blaine sat back down and was utterly speechless. He hadn't been lying about being bad at romance, and the past couple minutes had used up his supply of everything perfect and romantic that he had to say, and he was stuttering something about how they should practice while his brain (and, well, his libido) was screaming "no! Are you insane? More kissing!" But then Kurt was smiling like he'd been given a pony for his birthday and saying some weird line about how he'd thought they were practicing that probably didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it meant they were kissing again, and this time Kurt met Blaine halfway, so he wasn't complaining.

Some people might think it was a little sad, or a little frustrating that it had taken Blaine this long to figure out how he felt about Kurt. But Blaine certainly didn't, and he hoped Kurt didn't either. That first day they'd met he'd thought Kurt was completely gorgeous, and he still did, but he was glad that he hadn't asked Kurt out that day. He was glad that now their relationship was founded on this wonderful friendship, that they'd gotten to know each other and gone through all this crap together and then finally, finally it had all paid off. It made every moment together after that just a little bit sweeter, knowing that it had been earned. So as they held hands and walked away from the tree under which they'd buried Pavarotti, Blaine honestly didn't care that they'd lost to New Directions, because, whether it was for the next fifty years or the next five minutes, he had Kurt by his side. "I think I'll be alright."