I wasn't going to post the first chapter of this story until I finished Dearly Beloved, but that didn't happen. I started writing this, got excited, finished Chapter 1, and knew I had to post it.

This is a future fic, slightly AU because Kurt stayed at McKinley and never went to Dalton at all. Also, I know some people will probably get turned off by the Karofsky-ness, but Blaine is in this first chapter, too. Klaine friendship is going to be very prevalent throughout the beginning of this story.

Everything I wish I would have done with Offensive Innocence (which is still in progress, btw) I'm doing with this story. Example: building background before getting straight to the tension, and making chapters longer than 2,000 words.

Also, I'm going to try not to include huge long rambling ANs, and just let this story speak for itself.


LESSONS IN BEING A MAN

Chapter 1

It was warm, almost unseasonably so for Ohio in the beginning of February. Kurt Hummel smiled to himself as he stepped out the front doors of Lincoln Elementary into the bright sunshine, which had already started to turn the blanket of snow into mounds of gray mush that were accumulated at the ends of the little tree islands in the parking lot. As disgusting as they looked, they were a beautiful sight to Kurt, who couldn't stand snow. Granted, it was Ohio, so it would probably end up snowing again before winter was officially over, but he didn't care about that right now. The weather was beautiful, and he'd had an excellent day at his job teaching music to the sweetest kids on the planet.

Yes, Kurt was feeling on top of the world. He smiled to himself as he made his way to the playground to pick up his daughter, who was six years old and in kindergarten here at Lincoln. After school every day, Ellie (whose given name was Elizabeth, after Kurt's late mother) would come out and play with the kids in the after-school daycare group while Kurt finished things up in his classroom and got everything ready for the next day.

He could see her now. Ellie was on the swings with her best friends, two little girls named Lauren and Claire who Kurt had in one of his music classes. The three of them were giggling with delight as they swung back in forth in unison, and Ellie looked so happy that the last thing Kurt wanted to do was interrupt her. But he had to get home and start dinner before his partner of eight years, one Dave Karofsky, arrived from work. Kurt, being the more culinarily inclined of the two, had always done all the cooking, and Dave took it upon himself to take care of cleaning house. The unlikely pair led a peaceful home life with their daughter, which surprised even Kurt when he thought about everything that had happened between them in high school.

He shook the less-than-pleasant memories of his first few encounters with Dave out of his head. "Ellie!" he called towards the swings, and his daughter immediately glanced up at the sound of her name. "C'mon, it's time to go."

"Mr. Hummel!" As was the custom whenever Kurt came to pick up Ellie from the playground, he was attacked by a swarm of adoring students who attacked him with hugs and tugged on every reachable inch of his clothes, each individual child trying to direct Kurt's attention towards them. It was no secret that the students of Lincoln Elementary loved their music teacher, and Kurt loved those kids just as much.

"Hey, guys!" Kurt tried to pay attention to all of them at once, which was hard to do considering the fact that the entire group of kids was crowding around him and babbling different, excited things all at the same time. And of course, Ellie was still on the swings, but at least she'd started making an effort to slow down by dragging her feet on the ground.

In the next few seconds, she was running across the playground with the elated smile that always spread across her face when she saw Kurt.

"Daddy!"

Another daily playground ritual. Even though Kurt came to pick her up like this every day, Ellie never ceased to look anything less than happy when she saw her father. And today, just like every other day, she made her way through the throng of kids gathered around him so she could give him a big hug.

Kurt called goodbye to the kids on the playground as he took his daughter's hand and the two began making their way to the shiny red Corvette he'd just bought a few months ago - the first and only time Kurt had ever splurged on a brand-new car for himself. Ellie climbed into the backseat and clicked her seatbelt into place as Kurt twisted the key in the ignition and stepped on the brake to shift into drive. Through the rearview mirror, he stole a glance at his daughter, who was babbling excitedly about some game her class had played today.

It was moments like this when Kurt, although he'd never admit it to Dave, was proud that Ellie had ended up being his. When they'd decided to have a child together via surrogate, both had donated, so for a while it was undetermined which one of them was Elizabeth Anne Hummel-Karofsky's real father. But when she was a few months old and they'd finally decided to have a paternity test done, it was revealed that she was, in fact, Kurt's. Now, as Kurt looked at her sitting in the backseat, her eyes the same exact shade as his and her smile a missing-toothed version of Kurt's own, he couldn't help but smile to himself as well. His daughter was beautiful. He wouldn't have wanted her any other way.

"What's for dinner tonight?" Ellie asked she and Kurt stepped into the lobby of their apartment building about five minutes later.

Good question. Kurt wasn't really too sure about that yet. "What would you like?"

Ellie's face brightened as they reached the door to their first-floor apartment. "Spaghetti?"

"Sure." Kurt returned her smile, but Ellie was no longer paying attention, having run into the apartment probably wanting to catch whatever was on Disney Channel at the moment.

He was in a good mood, so he decided to go all out with dinner tonight. Homemade sauce, salad, breadsticks, the whole shebang. It was earlier than he'd thought, and he still had about two more hours before Dave came home from the office where he worked as an accountant - a career choice that had surprised Kurt, who had always pictured Dave more as the blue-collar type. Then again, a lot of things about Dave had surprised Kurt.

As he lazily stirred the sauce, Kurt let his mind wander back to the halls of McKinley High, to the days when his partner had been his tormentor. He remembered how, on multiple occasions, he'd been thiiiisclose to transferring to Dalton Academy. But before he could do that, Dave came out and confessed his love to Kurt, along with pouring out numerous heartfelt apologies. I only hurt you because I was jealous, he'd said. You had the balls to be out and proud, and I didn't. It killed me. I feel so horrible, Kurt. I'm so sorry, and I'll never hurt you again. I promise.

Naturally, it had taken Kurt a long time to forgive Dave. But after he did so, he'd come to realize that deep down inside, the seemingly ignorant jock was really just a sensitive boy trying to figure out who he was. And that was actually kind of sweet. That, more than anything else, was what attracted Kurt to Dave. Kurt himself had been down that road before. He hadn't taken the same approach to figuring himself out as Dave - shoving people against lockers and whatnot - but he could still empathize. Their relationship had only grown positively stronger from there.

They had made it official by the end of senior year and had been together ever since. And Kurt was honestly happy. So maybe he never would have imagined himself ending up with Dave. In fact, he'd always pictured himself spending his life with someone like Blaine Anderson, his best friend who had graduated from Dalton, with whom things had never moved beyond platonic friendship.

Still stirring the spaghetti sauce, Kurt let out a wistful sigh as he thought of Blaine. The two still kept in touch, even though Blaine had just moved out to Chicago a few months ago after getting a job at some huge law firm there. And according to Facebook, he was in a relationship with some guy named Derek. Not that Kurt checked Blaine's profile page very often or anything.

So maybe he still had some leftover teenage feelings for Blaine. After all, the short, dark-haired boy had been Kurt's first crush who was actually gay. No matter. Blaine was with Derek (Kurt tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach when he thought about that), and Kurt was with Dave. Kurt was happy with Dave. Really. They both cared about each other a lot, and they had a child, for crying out loud. And in all honesty, their little family was more perfect that Kurt, as a teenager, could have ever imagined his future family to be.

"Hello there."

Kurt's train of thought was interrupted by the sudden voice and the strong arms that accompanied it wrapping around his waist. He squealed a little bit and set the wooden spoon into the pot as Dave pulled him back from the stove a little bit and kissed his cheek.

"You're home early," Kurt noticed with a giggle.

"No, this is the same time I normally get home, isn't it?" Dave pulled back slightly to glance at the clock. "Yup. It's six."

"Oh." Kurt squinted in confusion as he gently slipped away from his partner's embrace and stepped closer to the stove to add a pinch of oregano to the sauce. "Dinner's not ready yet, I'm sorry...I forgot how long it takes to make this sauce."

"Oh, I'm not having dinner here tonight."

Kurt, taken aback, slowly turned to look at Dave over his shoulder. "You love my spaghetti. Why not?"

"Some of the guys from the office and I are gonna go out."

Kurt raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. "Who 'goes out' on Thursday nights?"

Dave sighed. "It's just a couple of us guys going out for a few drinks. No big deal."

Kurt couldn't help but cringe as his mind wandered back to a memory he'd been trying to forget.

"No big deal?" He let the spoon fall into the pot with a quiet bang against the metal edge as he turned around. "No, Dave. Absolutely not. I do not want a repeat of what happened last time you had 'a few drinks with the guys.'"

"Kurt." Dave stepped forward to take the smaller man in his arms. Kurt let Dave wrap his arms around his lithe frame, but kept his own arms pinned to his sides.

"It won't happen again," Dave murmured reassuringly. "I had just a little too much last time. I'll be more careful."

"Promise me," Kurt whispered, his voice broken as the memory kept pounding into his brain and refusing to leave.

"I promise." Dave pulled back slightly so he could press a tender kiss to Kurt's forehead. "I love you."

"Love you too," Kurt mumbled as Dave let him go and went out to the living room to say hi to Ellie.

Since Dave obviously wasn't staying for the lovely dinner Kurt had prepared, he only had to get out two plates, two forks, two salad bowls. He scooped some noodles onto each plate and covered it with the finished sauce, but the task kept only his hands busy. Now that Dave had brought up the fact that he would be out drinking again, Kurt's mind was racing with a million different fearful thoughts at once.

He must have called out to Ellie that it was time for dinner, even though he had no conscious memory of doing so, because a few seconds later, she came skipping out into the kitchen and took her usual seat at the table. Kurt, not in the mood to go all out with dinner tonight anymore, forewent the silverware wrapped in cloth napkins he'd been planning on using and placed a few forks and paper napkins on the table instead.

Dave came out into the kitchen after Kurt and Ellie were seated at the table, now dressed in a more casual polo and jeans instead of the button-down and dress slacks he usually wore to work.

"I'll be back by midnight," he promised, pressing a quick kiss to the top of Kurt's head and doing the same to Ellie.

"Midnight," Kurt repeated for emphasis, looking Dave straight in the eyes so he knew he was serious. "No later. I mean it, David Paul Karofsky."

Ellie giggled. "Daddy said Papa's full name!"

"Only when he's bad." Kurt slapped Dave's hand away as it was in the process of playfully messing up his perfectly coiffed hair. "Don't touch my hair, I worked hard on it this morning."

"Sorry." Dave's eyes widened as he withdrew his hand. "I'll see you guys later."

"Midnight!" Kurt called after Dave as he was on his way out, but the slam of the door interrupted him before he could get the entire word out of his mouth.

As soon as Dave was out the door, Ellie looked at Kurt with a mixture of emotions in her young eyes. "Daddy, is Papa going to come home scary like he did last time he went to the bar?"

Hearing those words come from his daughter's naive mouth made every muscle in Kurt's body tense up. He sucked in a breath through his teeth. "I don't know. I told him not to drink so much this time, and he promised me he wouldn't. We'll just have to see if he keeps his promise."

Ellie twirled a strand of spaghetti around her fork. "He scared me last time." Her voice was small.

"I know," Kurt told her quietly, poking at the salad that no longer looked appetizing. "He scared me, too."

The elephant regarding what they would do if Dave acted that way again was still in the room, but neither father nor daughter felt comfortable bringing it up. They ate in silence - Ellie quickly, Kurt slowly - both of them trying to think about anything else except the possibility of Dave returning home drunk again.

After a few minutes of marinating on this, Kurt pushed the thought from his mind. It was silly, he decided. Dave hadn't had that much to drink in years. Maybe he'd forgotten his own alcohol tolerance. That was it. Kurt was sure Dave hadn't meant to push him with so much force. He was sure Dave hadn't meant to shout slurred insults at him. All that had just been the booze talking.

"I'm done!" Ellie announced, snapping Kurt out of his unpleasant reverie as she jumped up from the table.

"Put your dishes in the sink, I'll rinse them off in just a second," Kurt heard himself say. Ellie did so and within seconds, was twirling back out into the living room. Kurt heard the muffled sounds of the latest Disney tween show's theme song drifting from the television.

He got up to rinse off her dishes and put them in the dishwasher before sitting back down to eat the rest of his own meal. Now that his single dining companion was gone, Kurt decided there was no need for his usual table manners. In need of a distraction, he pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and logged into the Facebook app.

His newsfeed contained nothing but the usual boring pieces of his friends' Thursday-night lives. He noticed a few new pictures of Finn and Quinn's two-month-old son - Kurt smiled as he thumbed through those. He was so happy his brother had been able to work things out with his then-girlfriend, now-wife. They really were adorable together, and Kurt had to admit, they sure made one heck of a pretty baby.

He scrolled back to the top of his newsfeed after looking at the pictures Finn had posted. Lots of posts from Wes, of course - he was one of those annoying Facebook game junkies. Kurt had received many an invitation to join Wes's mafia or take care of Wes's farm, all of which he denied. But there was one post from his friend that stood out to Kurt.

Wesley Patterson and David Evans wrote on Blaine D. Anderson's wall for his birthday.

Kurt froze for a second before checking the calender display. Yup, today was February 5. It was Blaine's birthday.

Oh god. Kurt couldn't believe himself. He'd forgotten. He was suddenly extremely thankful that even though he'd stayed at McKinley for the duration of his high school career, he'd still remained good friends with Wes and David despite the fact that they'd been at Dalton. If he hadn't seen their posts, Kurt probably never would have remembered. He was horrible with remembering dates.

He quickly ate the rest of his dinner and set his dishes by the sink be be rinsed off later. He had some birthday wishes to send.

"Blaaaaaaine!"

Blaine Anderson quickly slammed his laptop shut the second he heard his boyfriend's voice echo through the apartment. He'd only been dating Derek for about three months, but last week Blaine had given him a spare key to his apartment, just in case. It was by the use of this key that Derek had let himself in and was currently waiting out in the small front hallway for Blaine.

"Coming!" Blaine called in response, warily opening the laptop again and quickly closing out of Kurt Hummel's Facebook profile page. So maybe his friend occasionally crossed his mind and Blaine visited his page to see what he'd been up to. That was all.

Plus, the fact that Kurt had yet to write a birthday message on Blaine's wall bothered him, for some reason. Had Kurt forgotten? Because it sure seemed like it. Blaine really, really hoped Kurt hadn't forgotten.

"I need to be at the airport by six!" Derek's booming voice reminded Blaine.

Blaine rolled his eyes. "I'm coming!" he called again.

He shut down his computer and quickly slipped his feet into his oldest, crappiest pair of tennis shoes as he rushed out towards the main door of his apartment. Sure enough, Derek was there waiting for him, tall and blond and handsome and smiling as he stepped forward to give Blaine a hug.

"Happy birthday," he murmured into Blaine's curly hair before tilting the smaller man's face up to his own for a kiss.

"Thank you." Blaine smiled as he broke his lips away from his boyfriend's.

"Twenty-seven, huh?" Derek teased as they stepped out of the apartment and began making their way down the hall towards the elevator. "You don't look a day over twenty." He pulled Blaine close to him and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. Blaine couldn't help but smile - it was moments like this when he remembered why he liked Derek so much.

"I'm really sorry about this. I wish I could have stayed here to celebrate with you," Derek was saying as he pressed the button for the elevator.

"It's okay." Blaine managed a smile as the doors slid open and they stepped on board. He was used to it, really - Derek was in international business and his job often required him to fly all over the globe. Tonight he was catching a red-eye to London, so as usual it was Blaine's job to drive him to O'Hare.

But still. It was Blaine's birthday. He had been looking forward to celebrating with Derek, before his boyfriend had sprung the news of this trip on him just two weeks ago. Instead, it looked like Blaine would be celebrating in his apartment by himself, accompanied by his full collection of Harry Potter DVDs (his guilty pleasure) and a glass of wine.

At least this weekend would be fun. Since Derek would be gone, Blaine was going to take advantage of his alone time and drive down to Columbus to visit his parents. And maybe he could stop by and visit Kurt, too. Because Kurt totally hadn't been Blaine's reason for wanting to come home for the weekend. Not at all. Blaine just wanted to visit his folks, okay? Seeing Kurt was just an added bonus.

Derek would have to get the seven o'clock flight, Blaine thought with annoyance when they finally got on the road. He had hit Chicago rush-hour traffic at its finest. Blaine sighed and turned on the car stereo to blast the new Katy Perry: Greatest Hits CD that one of his coworkers had given him earlier today.

"I can't believe you still like her," Derek mumbled under his breath as the opening beat of I Kissed a Girl filled the car.

"Her music's catchy," Blaine countered weakly, not wanting to get into another debate with Derek over their different-as-night-and-day musical tastes. Blaine had an extremely diverse music collection and would gladly listen to anything, save for country - which just happened to be the only genre Derek listened to. Blaine never thought he would date a guy who was into country music, but there was just something about Derek...

"So is Lady Antebellum," Derek muttered defensively.

Blaine shuddered. "God, no." He glanced at the back of the CD case and flipped through the tracks on the disc, skipping everything until he found the song he wanted. A few seconds later, he was tapping the steering wheel along with the beat of Teenage Dream.

Derek smiled. "Y'know, you're cute when you get all defensive about music." He leaned over to give Blaine a quick kiss on the cheek, knowing he could do so safely since Blaine had been parked in this traffic for almost ten minutes now.

"I don't know if country even qualifies as music." Blaine was surprised he was even able to get the words out, because his mind was ten years away, back in the past. Derek said something in response, but Blaine was no longer paying attention.

This was the song he'd sung with the Warblers on that lovely day Kurt had come to visit from McKinley, where he ultimately stayed. Blaine knew he should have done more to try and convince Kurt to transfer to Dalton. But he hadn't, and Kurt had stayed with the New Directions and had eventually ended up with that, as Kurt himself had described him to Blaine on the day they'd met, that Neanderthal, Dave Karofsky. Blaine had never been too fond of Dave Karofsky.

Blaine was happy for Kurt. He really was. He knew he'd had his chance to win Kurt's heart but had been too afraid to take advantage of it, for fear of rejection. Consequently, Kurt had remained just a friend. And when, six years ago, Kurt had broken the news to Blaine that he and Dave were moving in together, Blaine had nodded stupidly with a smile on his face and congratulated his friend, trying to hide his unmistakable jealousy.

Seriously, though. Blaine was totally happy for Kurt. He had let Kurt get away, and Kurt had gone and started a loving family with his former tormentor. Blaine had mixed feelings about this. He thought the fact that Kurt had a kid was absolutely endearing. The fact that Kurt had a kid with someone else made his heart hurt a little bit. Okay, a lot.

The pain of unrequited love had eased up a bit six months ago, when Blaine had gotten a job at the most powerful law firm in Chicago and thus had to move four hundred miles away from home. He knew it would be hard, leaving his family - and Kurt - but in a way, it was completely worth it. Blaine was the youngest lawyer at this new firm, but he made good money and he loved his job. This was the reason he'd spent so much time toiling away in law school and studying his ass off for the damn bar exam. Things had finally started to look up.

Then, three months ago, he'd met Derek, and the two had hit it off right away. And Derek was such an amazing guy, he really was, but he was no Kurt.

Traffic had started to move, slowly but surely, in the time during which Blaine was pondering all these things. Teenage Dream had just finished and Firework was now playing. Blaine snapped completely out of his trip down memory lane when he realized that Derek was singing along.

"I kind of like this song," Derek admitted when he felt Blaine's scrutinizing gaze.

Blaine just smiled and shook his head as finally, finally, finally the traffic let up enough for him to move his car a considerable distance forward.

During his drive back from the airport, Blaine had Katy Perry's catchy tunes to accompany him. When he got back into his silent apartment, however, that's when the feeling of loneliness really started to kick in.

He tried humming the Happy Birthday song to himself as he went into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of red wine, and even started singing it under his breath as he popped the first Harry Potter disc into the DVD player. Still, it wasn't the same. He'd never actually been alone on his birthday.

It wasn't Derek's fault, and Blaine knew that. Derek hadn't asked to be flown out to London on this particular day, because Derek didn't really ever have much say in deciding where he went and when. Blaine knew he would have stayed here if he could.

But it still would have been nice to celebrate your birthday with the guy you really like, the little voice in the back of Blaine's head reminded him. Blaine was in the process of attempting to silence said little voice when his phone buzzed in his pocket.

He pulled out his vibrating phone and glanced at the screen. He couldn't believe it.

Kurt was calling him.

Blaine slid his thumb across the screen to answer the call and answered with a breathless, "Hello?" that sounded just a little too eager.

"Happy birthday to you...," Kurt sang.

Blaine giggled. "Oh my god, Kurt."

"Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Blaine, happy birthday to you!" Kurt's smooth countertenor voice sounded as perfect as ever.

Blaine knew Kurt would be able to hear the smile in his voice even from four hundred miles away. "Thank you, Kurt. That was beautiful."

"I try," Kurt cracked. "I'm a music teacher, after all, I kind of have to be a good singer." He laughed. "Anyway. I feel so bad because I almost forgot, but then Facebook kind of reminded me."

A flood of relief rushed through Blaine. Kurt hadn't completely forgotten, after all. "That's completely fine, don't worry about it." He took a swig from his glass of wine.

"If you say so," Kurt giggled. "So how are you celebrating the first day of your twenty-seventh year?"

"Um...," Blaine grabbed the remote and paused the movie that he hadn't even realized was still playing. Should he lie and say he was out having a grand ol' time? No. No, he should not. He could never lie to Kurt.

"Actually, the most exciting part of my day was driving Derek to O'Hare, since he has to catch a flight out to London tonight." Kurt knew all about Blaine's boyfriend and his frequent business travels. "Right now I'm just kinda in my apartment by myself, drinking wine and watching Harry Potter. Fun birthday, I know."

"Awww." Kurt legitimately sounded sad for him. "That's too bad. I wish I could drive up there and celebrate with you, but by the time I got there, it would be around two in the morning and I have to go to work tomorrow."

Blaine's train of thought crashed and burned while he considered a few of the ways he would have liked to "celebrate" with Kurt, then forced himself to snap back into reality. "Nah, that's okay. Thanks, though. I'm actually going to be in town this weekend, I wanted to spend some time with my parents. Maybe you and I could meet up for coffee or something?"

He wasn't sure how Kurt would react to this proposition, but thankfully it was with enthusiasm.

"Oh my god, we should go to the Lima Bean." Kurt was referring to the little coffee joint where the two frequently had met for coffee during their high school days, to eat biscotti and swap stories about their different glee clubs.

Blaine smiled. "That's exactly what I was thinking, actually. I miss you."

The words came out naturally, before Blaine even realized he was saying them.

"I miss you, too," Kurt said, and Blaine tried not to make his relieved sigh audible through the phone. "So does Ellie, actually. She's been wanting to see you again. I'll get Dave to stay home with her that afternoon while we get coffee, then maybe you could come back to the apartment or something." Blaine had met Kurt's daughter quite a few times before he'd moved away. She was beautiful, just like her father.

"Sure." Blaine attempted to bring his smile back after it had faded upon hearing Kurt mention Dave. "I'd like that."

"Okay!" Kurt sounded excited. That was a good sign. "Hey, speaking of my little monster-," he used the term affectionately, and Blaine suspected it had come from Lady Gaga's nickname for her fans, "I need to get her ready for bed. Just wanted to call and say hi, and happy birthday."

"Thanks for calling." Blaine was smiling a genuine smile again. "It was great to hear from you...I'll text you when I get into town on Saturday and we can make some plans to meet up. See you then?"

Through the other end of the line, it sounded like Kurt was smiling as well. "It's a date."

The two said goodbye and Blaine reluctantly hung up. Had Kurt - Unavailable Daddy Kurt - really just used the word "date" to describe their little reunion? Blaine thought about this for a second before deciding that yes, Kurt had indeed described it as a date. Unavailable Lawyer Blaine had a date with his best friend, Unavailable Daddy Kurt, for this weekend.

The thought of that made Blaine's head spin, but in a good way. He stood up off the couch and went back out to the kitchen to pour himself another glass of wine.


Reviews are greatly appreciated. I love getting feedback and knowing what people think. :)
Chapter 2 coming soon.