Hi everyone!

Thank you very much for checking this out. So basically this fic is self-indulgence at its finest ;) I wanted more Sam/Kurt interaction in Season 2, so I rewrote the episodes from Duets to Rumours with more Sam/Kurt interaction. It ended up being slightly AU and pre-slash rather than slash, though a sequel with actual Sam/Kurt romance is in the works.

I dearly hope you'll like it, though I'd be equally delighted to receive some criticism, either concerning the characterisation (this is my first venture in the Glee fandom) or the writing in itself.


Part One: Full Circle

When Sam first officially met Kurt Hummel – they'd sat two seats away from each other in Glee club but Sam figured it didn't really count when they hadn't even made eye-contact – his very first thought was to wonder if he was another of those rich spoilt brats he had come to know far too well in his previous school.

In retrospect the assumption seems quite ridiculous, but then Sam had no way of knowing Kurt had paid for most of his elegant and clearly expensive wardrobe himself by working in his father's garage the previous summer. He just saw the impeccable hair, the perfect posture and what seemed to be a fox tail hanging from his messenger bag – and if that was a real tail it seemed pretty unsanitary to Sam, but then what did he know about fashion? – and tensed a little, wondering if the other boy would rather criticise his clothes, or his weight, or perhaps his accent first. He instead found himself offered a hand to shake.

As it turned out, and even though he did have something of a posh accent and a clear affection for words over three syllables, Kurt was pretty friendly, immediately introducing himself and welcoming him to the Glee club, which was appreciated because Sam, football and all, still had trouble convincing himself and others he belonged anywhere right now.

Kurt was also pretty freaky, something that became clear when he started rambling about gifts and bottles in a way that made Sam need a second to realize it meant Kurt knew about his hair. Denying didn't change anything but mentioning he'd be leaving now did, and then friendly-Kurt was back. Being offered to be part of a duet made him feel good, he had to admit, though he was a bit confused by the guy-singing-with-guy thing. He smiled apologetically at Kurt's tries to make him see the light using rather obscure references, glad he hadn't even been the first one to quote a movie in their discussion.

The other boy then told him to check out Breadstix's menu as he left, making Sam smile again at the way Kurt just assumed that he was going to agree to do the duet with him and that they were going to win, Kurt's confidence somehow encouraging rather than obnoxious. Clutching his books to his chest, Sam continued on his way to his Math class, not even losing his smile when he remembered half-way there that they were doing some weird things with functions he didn't really understand, feeling for the very first time pretty certain that his time at McKinley would turn out alright.


A few hours later, back at home, Sam admitted Kurt had reasons to be confident. The countertenor had apparently used his mad detective skills to get his email address (or perhaps he had just checked his Facebook) and sent him around 60 records of him singing. He'd clicked on them more out of curiosity than anything else, considering he had apparently pretty much agreed to sing with Kurt already, and damn but the boy was good. And not just good like Sam was, in a "I like to listen to music and to sing a little to try and impress girls" way – in a "could very well be found on Broadway" way. Not that Sam listened to many Broadway musicals, but he imagined that if he did, he'd hear lots of people singing like Kurt was doing.

It was also very possible that Kurt's voice had some magical properties, Sam decided later, because when Stevie had entered their shared room to go to sleep, he hadn't asked Sam to stop the music like he usually would have done, stomping his foot if he had to. Instead he asked his brother who was singing, nodding oddly thoughtfully when Sam hesitated a little before clearing his throat and answering "a new friend", went to bed and fell asleep in less than ten minutes, in spite of the desk lamp Sam still had on. In the world of room-sharing with Stevie, this was nothing short of a miracle.

And if, three hours later, after painfully working on his Maths for a while and spending some time tossing back and forth on his narrow bed, Sam found himself blearily blinking at his computer's screen as he uploaded some of the songs on his MP3 player before taking it to bed with him, if Kurt's soothing tones whispering in his ear helped him find his own way to Morpheus' arms, well no one needed to know.


In Sam's mind, him singing the duet with Kurt was kind of a done deal – which made it all the more surprising when Finn approached him with warnings and confusing metaphors about highways.

Admittedly it took him a while to get Finn's drift, if only because yesterday the tall boy had promised him Glee club would make him a god. The advice to "lay low", though, made it pretty clear, and okay, perhaps all the talk about his hair and guys singing in the rain should have made him realize which team Kurt went for. He briefly thought of his favourite cousin, who also was – well, who refused labels really, but who had been dating another girl for almost two years now, and decided he could do worst things than confront Finn about his latent homophobia.

"I didn't realize you had a problem with gay dudes." And really, he hadn't, and he wouldn't have thought so if it hadn't been for this enlightening discussion, because who expected the Glee club's leader – though Sam still had to determine whether it was a self-appointed title – and the guy dating Rachel rather than Quinn to be prejudiced?

Finn then made a lame excuse about them living in "their" world, which sounded somehow strange in the mouth of someone who'd been the star quarterback last year, and even though Sam understood Finn was trying to look out for him, the whole it's-not-me-it's-them attitude made sure he was definitively pissed off. Considering Finn had been one of the only three really friendly people he'd met in the last month he didn't burn any bridges, but he did find himself shutting his locker with a bit more force than was necessary, pointedly explaining that he had given Kurt his word – not exactly true, but close enough – and that in his world, that was it.


A double slushie-facial and his first conversation with Quinn later, Sam had to admit he was perhaps regretting the definite nature of his words to Finn. The blond cheerleader was even prettier than she seemed and she sounded surprisingly kind too, and cherry slushie burnt like hell when you got it into your eyes.

This evening, though, Stevie asked him if they could listen to "the pretty music from yesterday" and then actually beamed at him when he accepted, looking more joyful than he had in a while – at least since they had moved, and probably since even before that. More amazingly still, Stacy actually left her room and her thick books to peak her head through the door. Sam carefully didn't look up from his computer screen, almost holding his breath as she stayed in the doorway for a while, releasing it in a shaky and somewhat disbelieving sigh as she went to get her latest tome and settled down on his unoccupied bed. He realised of course that he was acting against all clichés concerning teenage boys and their little sisters by being so happy she'd spend some time with them, but Stacy's introvert nature had stopped being convenient and started making him actively worry almost two years ago.

And so it was that Sam Evans found himself silently thanking Kurt Hummel for his voice for the second evening in a row.


It was a bit strange to actually hear the voice you had listened to on repeat come from a classmate's mouth; even though it had only been 48 hours since they had last talked, Sam had half-convinced himself this couldn't be Kurt's voice, that the boy had somehow cheated.

Of course, what was even stranger was that the other boy was talking to him in the shower. Freaky-Kurt had also done it again with the obscure references – Sam had no idea who or what a Shawshank was, though he could guess what he meant – and the blond found himself thinking that Kurt probably wouldn't look at him strangely if he tried speaking Na'vi to him.

He was wondering if he remembered how to say "your voice is cool" in the Avatar language when what Kurt was saying registered with him. And though he had spent the whole period in Glee club (where two girls had sung a romantic song together without causing any trouble, go figure) being charmed by Quinn's subtle perfume and overwhelmed by every accidental touch of her arm against his, he found himself disappointed. Because, well, the only thing he had had up to now which vaguely resembled a passion was his love for comic books, which didn't count because he wasn't a nerd, really, and he could play football but he didn't truly love it and Glee club looked like a place he could learn to be passionate about. Passionate like Finn who obviously wasn't above a little creativity to make sure they had enough members in the club, like Quinn who used her popularity to do what she wanted to, which apparently meant singing, like Kurt who had recorded at least 60 MP3 of his singing and had a magical voice which calmed overexcited six-year-olds and drew awkward pre-teen girls out of their shells.

"Did I do anything wrong?" he asked Kurt, if only to assure him that he was still on with the plan, no matter what Finn had told him or the way he had flinched every time he had seen someone carrying a slushie today. Judging from the boy's sad but real smile as he assured Sam that he had been honourable, that it wasn't him, it was Kurt, it was appreciated.

In the following week Sam found himself feeling rather happy, repeating their duet with Quinn, her hand soft on his arm and her face frowning in adorable concentration as she pinched the right chords on his guitar while he played. Still at home the requests for more "Kurt-music" – he had eventually given his siblings the countertenor's name – continued, making him feel something very akin to shame every time. He eventually found himself avoiding Kurt's eyes as the brunet explained to the Glee club how his duet arrangement had fell through and he had decided to sing alone. Which did explain which member of the Glee club Kurt though had as much passion and talent as himself.

And when Kurt ended his rather amazing performance, successfully proving to them it was possible for someone to sing a duet alone, he rose to applaud with the others, surreptitiously ending the recording function on his cell phone and sliding it in his pocket, simultaneously burying any trace of regret at the idea he had had the opportunity to know what it was like to sing along with this voice.


For a while after that it seemed as if things would perhaps start going his way for once. Quinn had eventually re-accepted to sing the duet with him, and they had won, even though if it hadn't been for the prize he might have voted for Kurt or for Tina and Mike's amusing song choice and he kind of wished Mr Schue had forbidden them to vote for themselves so they had real results.

And then Quinn had made her "gentleman always pays on the first date" comment in Breadstix, which had filled him with joy but also made him declare he had no room for desert and almost cry in relief when she declared she didn't want one either because he was pretty sure he wouldn't have had enough money for two menus. He found himself thinking it might be a good idea to look into possible jobs, considering – not too surprisingly – that Quinn looked like a high-maintenance girlfriend and he certainly couldn't ask his parents for some pocket-money. He also resigned himself to integrate a few more laps to his training regiment because, French beans as a side order or not, it was quickly becoming obvious all those restaurant dates wouldn't help him maintaining his weight.

It seemed like even at home things were simpler lately. More often than not, most problems his siblings faced seemed to become much more manageable after a dose of Kurt-music (and yes, he had kind of adopted the name); Le Jazz Hot was an all-around favourite and he had congratulated himself more than once for his rapid thinking that day.

Comparatively, Kurt seemed to be going from bad to worse. Even though he hadn't been the one to officially break their arrangement, Sam still felt a little ashamed – he cringed internally every time he remembered how he had told the club he couldn't have wished for a better duet partner before singing with Quinn – so he hadn't really talked with him since the competition. Still, the way Kurt had refused the role of the transvestite in their unsuccessful attempt to mount the Rocky Horror Picture Show or the way he had accepted being pushed aside by Artie when it came to the "boys versus girls" competition seemed pretty uncharacteristic of him to Sam.

He was also peripherally aware, even as he tried to convince Quinn to officially date him, that the bullying was taking some pretty dangerous proportions. He wasn't sure how to react; he didn't know how the others in Glee club could so easily let Kurt face Karofsky alone and then look him in the eyes because personally it had been a while since he had felt like he could sustain any glance from those blue-green shards of pure hurt – and he barely knew the guy.

And yes, Kurt clearly wasn't blaming anyone for the situation, except maybe their "heteronormative culture" (something he had heard Kurt rage about once and then looked up on the internet) or the ignorant teachers, and he never sent anyone in the club the slightest look of reproach. All the same, his thinning cheekbones, the circles around his eyes he couldn't hide under make-up anymore and the way he had suddenly turned so quiet told their own story of what was happening: Kurt was breaking apart.

It was probably for those cheekbones, rather than to show up Finn – who admittedly was annoying him more and more lately – that he found himself grappling with a jock who weighted twice as much as he did and whose support was essential if he ever wanted to play as the quarterback again. And it felt good to finally meet Kurt's eyes after the fight, even though one of his own had been blackened by Karofsky's fist, it felt great to be able to declare to Mr Schue that maybe the jock would think twice before harassing the other teen, it felt wonderful to hear him say especially Sam even though they hadn't talked once in the two weeks before that. All of this felt better than Mike's declaration that he was the epitome of a leader, even though it was the first time he felt he was really part of the close-knit group, or than Quinn's elegant hand holding ice on his face as she whispered how brave he had been and how hot he was.

He found himself hoping that Kurt and him might start talking a bit more regularly, might even become good friends – something he hadn't really found in McKinley yet. Perhaps he could ask Kurt for more music for his siblings, they had been harping on him for a new song and Kurt hadn't sung a single solo he could have recorded since the duet competition.

His hopes were rather heightened by the way Kurt impossibly, generously forgave Finn everything he had done in the past few months (and prior, if Tina's and Mercedes' tales of their first year in Glee club were to be believed) for a song and a speech, though admittedly it was a nice speech. Sam was personally wondering if the tall boy wasn't actually bipolar, considering his contradictory actions until now. It was hard to believe the loving brother telling Kurt he was perfect just the way he was had been the one to warn Sam not to sing with him, and such a personality change couldn't be healthy for either of them.

And then Kurt announced his transfer to Dalton Academy.

Sam felt strangely, unjustifiably betrayed by the news, blurting out before he could even think about it that they could protect the smaller boy, surprised to discover how much he meant it, how somewhere along the line making sure Kurt's voice didn't tremble every time he spoke had become much more important than becoming popular in his new school. Looking around him and meeting only devastated faces he concluded he wasn't the only one to feel that way, but of course Kurt had no reason to believe them. They had let him down too many times, it was too little too late. Even Quinn's hand in his, her promise ring a cold soft touch against his skin couldn't console him, no matter how ecstatic he had been when she had finally accepted the gift he had sold his entire Warrior Angel collection to afford.


In the four months Kurt spent in Dalton, he didn't completely disappear from McKinley. Even after the "missing twelfth person to participate to the competitions" problem was resolved, curiously enough by Puck, he just seemed to make himself remembered. It could be conventional enough, Mercedes or occasionally Finn giving them some news, Kurt himself showing up to ask Rachel for some help with a solo, even though Sam could have sworn they couldn't stand each other. Or it could be a bit more unexpected, like when Puck remarked with gritted teeth that it would be much easier to actually be competition for the other team if Kurt was still here when they had to play half a football match with nine players, including four girls. Sam had thought it a joke and the members of Glee club had taken great delight in making sure he knew everything about Kurt Hummel, kicker extraordinary, the only player who had allowed them to win a game before Coach Beiste showed up.

Made curious by this unexpected facet of the boy, he asked Tina and Mercedes to tell him more about Kurt, the girls only too happy to talk to him about their beloved missing friend. He learnt Kurt had also been a Cheerio at the Nationals last year, which made him seriously wonder how anyone could still consider him a loser – from what he had seen, being a jock kept Finn protected from most of the slushies, but not being both the star player of the football team and a soloist Cheerio for the scary Coach Sylvester?

Another time still, he was pointed to the Hummel's garage when he asked around for a holiday job to pay for his Christmas presents, and after enquiry confirmed that this was Kurt's dad's business, which was pretty cool. He even showed up once, even though he didn't know the first thing about cars, having heard from Finn that Kurt often helped his dad when he had some free time and kind of wanting to see it, disappointed when he didn't meet the other boy there.

So yeah, Sam learnt more about Kurt in those months he spent away than he had being in Glee club everyday with him for two months, and he deliberately refused to consider he might be so interested in the enigma Kurt represented because Quinn seemed to become more and more distant lately. He went on a diet again, thinking it might help, and used the money he saved on lunches not eaten to pay for a Color Me Mine date, even if it was a bit lame, because he knew perfectly well that in her world, he hadn't gifted her anything in a while.

In hindsight, he should have saved his money. She had kissed Finn, and though it seemed like his Bieber covers managed to sway her over to his side once again, he realised he was angry, and hurt, and that he didn't actually want to compete with Finn over her. It helped that Santana was by his side, whispering encouragement, telling him she wanted him, and really it was such a contrast with the way Quinn seemed to refuse to see or touch most parts of his body, like it was something revolting she couldn't bear to look at, he could have cried.

The rumour mill apparently went both ways between Dalton and McKinley, because even as Sam learnt from Mercedes Kurt might have a boyfriend he received an email from the transferred boy, telling him he was sorry about him and Quinn and wishing him good luck with Santana. It was rather impersonal but it still made him smile, especially when he saw Kurt had attached several MP3-files to his email. Sam wasn't sure at first how Kurt's cover of the entire RENT soundtrack was supposed to cheer him up but he had clearly forgotten just how magic the countertenor's voice was. Stevie and Stacy were overjoyed to get more Kurt-music and he quickly found himself dancing in a truly ridiculous fashion with his little brother while Stacy laughed at them from the floor. He sent a warm, thankful message in response later that night, before he could lose his nerve. He didn't get an answer, but then it was true he hadn't asked any questions.


Being with Santana was certainly different. She laughed at his tries at making their relationship a romance, refusing any of this "label nonsense". Yet he was fairly certain they were exclusive – she certainly could be very possessive, as she demonstrated during the party they all had together. She also clearly wanted him, in spite of all the mouth jokes, or rather his body, since she had made it very clear his imitations weren't attractive at all (and he thought of Quinn then, briefly, saying I think it's cute and it rather felt like a hand tearing his insides apart).

So yes, she wanted him, but in an aggressive way that disconcerted Sam. It felt like she was trying to prove something to someone, but he had no idea what it might be, or to whom she wanted to make a point. They went further than kisses and light petting three times, and even though it was the farthest Sam had ever went and she clearly knew what she was doing and he was pretty sure he was supposed to feel good and lucky, he found himself curiously empty afterwards, even vomiting his breakfast once.

Still, Santana was nothing if not distracting, and he needed the distraction badly right then. Everything at home just seemed to get worse; the bills piled up and so did the empty beer bottles to throw away every morning, the rows between his parents multiplied, Stacy was back to her books even during dinner and Stevie was spending more time out playing with his friends or having sleepovers than at home. Sam firmly told himself he was only staying to make sure his little sis' was okay and not because he didn't have good friends to call like the ones his six-year-old brother had.

Then there was the trouty mouth debacle and it was just a bit much, the way his month-old girlfriend found nothing else to sing about than his too-big mouth when she thought about him, the way it seemed to him the entire club was trying not to laugh, the way that every time he tried to write song lyrics he found himself spewing clichés about broken homes and broken empty bottles and then erasing them quickly, horrified. He was pretty sure it was over with Santana and he couldn't find it in himself to care enough to apologize right now, though he was sure he was going to regret it later.

He skipped football practice that day, went home and almost ran to his room. He was hoping to shut the door and put some loud music and play some stupid, repetitive games on the internet but of course Stevie had to be here today. He looked at his little brother's far too-old eyes, then, and for a second he wanted to scream and shout and shake him and Stacy and his goddamn parents, shake them all until they found a way to function again as a fucking family. And then his brother pressed play on his computer and Kurt's voice seemed to resonate in the small room, and he went in Stacy's room where she was reading yet another huge book, the kind he never felt like starting because of his dyslexia but that she sometimes read to him, with dragons and princes and happy-endings, and he lifted her, her and her book, smiling a bit when she squeaked, and he brought her to their room and closed and locked the door, and they did a fort with the blankets and Stacy read to them from her fantasy novel even as Kurt kept singing about defying gravity from the computer and they missed dinner and for an evening, Sam felt human again.


If every cloud had a silver lining, this huge Karofsky-shaped cumulonimbus's lining was Kurt – but even his return and everyone's clear joy didn't manage to erase the picture Santana had made, in her short pink dress, clasping the brute's hand in hers and declaring they had found love. It was ridiculous and no one in the Glee club actually believed her and anyway he was almost positive he had never been in love with her but it still kept replaying in his head, over and over again.

His body had gotten used to moving by itself by now and he found himself automatically clapping as Kurt ran down the stairs, but he found out it was indeed good to see him. While Kurt hugged Mercedes and Tina and Brittany, Sam entertained the fanciful notion that Kurt's jacket was white enough to illuminate even the school's eeriest shadows before shaking his head lightly, trying to concentrate on the moment. Kurt's boyfriend has apparently decided to come and say goodbye to him – why at school, Sam had no idea, but he had to admit it was rather sweet. He found himself a bit relieved, even though it really wasn't his place to be, because last time he had seen Kurt's love interest he had been in a lip-lock with Rachel Berry while the brunet sat beside them and had a slightly desperate look he was trying to pass as laughter on his face. It was good to see Kurt happy this way, to see him being cherished, to hear his voice screaming and laughing again, rather than being the pale, timid version it had threatened to become before his transfer. Bipolar-Finn apparently agreed with Sam and was in a brother-mood rather than a slightly-homophobic-jock-it's-not-me-it's-them-mood because he engulfed Kurt in a bear hug that made the smaller boy's eyes glisten.

Kurt was also allowed an extra-long solo by Mr Schue in honour of his return; Sam almost forgot to get his phone out to record the performance and was then extremely glad he hadn't, because hearing it gave him chills every time he replayed it later (an embarrassing number of times) and he was pretty sure the other club members would agree on the fact that what they were hearing was pure talent and pure emotion. There was no disturbance on the club benches for once, no one chatting, clapping or cat-calling – everyone was silent and transfixed as Kurt sang his joy to be back and his impatience for everything life still held for him, and it was so far from what Sam was feeling lately that he found himself leaning a little towards the countertenor, like he could somehow absorb his new-found enthusiasm and appetite for life.


It was a bit ridiculous to note just how much a person's presence could affect the whole club. Sam found himself wondering if it was because it was Kurt or if all the members of New Directions constituted a delicate mechanism needing all its pieces to function correctly. Certainly he didn't feel indispensable to the group from where he sat alone in the back of the choir room.

Kurt, though, slid gracefully into place in an empty slot they had never managed or even wanted to fill in the past few months, hanging out with Mercedes and Tina and Mike, actually joking with Santana and Brittany (and Artie, who stayed with his girlfriend most of the time, glancing cautiously between the two ex-Cheerios for some reason), refusing to pick sides between Finn or Rachel or Quinn, organising a Barbravention for Rachel, whatever that meant, with Puck, even tentatively chatting with Lauren, who had still showed no intention of leaving in spite of all her previous declarations about how Glee clubs sucked and she only stayed for the free candy – no one had ever decided if she meant the eye-candy or actual Cadbury eggs.

And, well, he supposed it was only a matter of time before Kurt decided to address him too. It was a bit disconcerting actually, to be under scrutiny again: after only seven months in McKinley, it appeared he had managed to become thoroughly invisible even to the persons who didn't consciously ignore him. Kurt saw him though, and he could have pretended he was taken aback because he had forgotten just how intense the other boy could be, but it would actually be more exact to say he had never known this Kurt, the pre-bullying Kurt, or perhaps the post-Dalton Kurt, who was more self-confident and yet less self-centred.

And so it happened that he was in the choir room early, like every Tuesday, and he was trying to finish his Math homework before Glee club started, mostly because it was becoming more and more difficult to work at home, and really not getting any of it and starting to press his pencil to the page hard enough that the lead stuttered and broke, leaving behind a dark trace he didn't feel like erasing and a pitiful-looking pencil he didn't feel like sharpening. He had leant his head against the wall behind him and closed his eyes, trying to forget just about everything that had happened lately, and thus hadn't seen Kurt as he sat besides him.

"Hello, Sam Evans. Is everything alright?"

He swore a little as he violently startled and his notebook threatened to slide from his knees. He managed to catch it and then turned to address Kurt, trying on a smile that felt more like a grimace.

"Yeah, just the differential equations beating my ass. I'm pretty sure we're not even supposed to study this yet, but the teacher loves them."

"Oh, I remember those. Quite a nightmare. Pass me your notes, I need to review them quickly if I want to try and help."

Sam wordlessly passed his notes, wondering if Kurt could even read his chicken scratch – the junior had the round, regular penmanship you'd expect from him, and Sam knew it was easier to decipher bad handwritings when you had one yourself. It turned out Kurt could, though he squinted a few times, and so it was that for just under half an hour, Kurt helped Sam with his Maths, no more questions asked. Artie had tried to help too, once, when they had spent some time together because Santana and Brittany wanted to spend time together, but it hadn't been the same. Artie was a Math genius, and it all came naturally to him, which made it difficult for him to explain why a problem had to be resolved in a certain way. Artie had shown no hint of impatience as he tried to find a way to clarify, but then Sam hadn't shown any sign of understanding either, and so they had agreed to drop it.

Sam knew Kurt was on the honour roll but it wasn't the same; he had obviously been there, trying to understand just what business all those Xs and Ys had together, and it showed in the way he took Sam to the solution, step by step, sometimes fumbling a little because, as he explained, it has been a while, and really no other teacher than Mrs Parker has such an obsession with them so I wonder why no one has complained about having to learn all about them when you're not going to use it except if you go in advanced Maths or study Maths in college.

Sam just listened to Kurt's continuous murmur besides him, paying extra attention when Kurt figured the next step out and explained how to do it but mainly just passively listening, and he found himself unaccountably relaxing even though they were doing Maths because Kurt was just talking and talking and it sounded a bit like Kurt-music and like this evening spent in a blanket fort far away from everything. And suddenly he felt really, really tired about everything, and he didn't know what expression his face showed but it must have looked as scary as it felt because Kurt suddenly stopped. Stopped everything, talking, moving, reading, perhaps even breathing. But of course it didn't last.

"Sam, are you sure everything is all right?"

Kurt's tone was sympathetic, not cloyingly so, just enough, and suddenly Sam wanted nothing more than to explode, to let all this word-vomit go and to let someone else shoulder his burdens for once because he felt like he had been carrying fucking rocks for a long time now and he had a fucking backache. But then as he opened his mouth he kind of saw himself, like he often did when in public, saw this blond with slightly too-long hair and the same tee-shirt he had worn yesterday because he couldn't be bothered to change it, a pretty big guy wearing a letterman jacket and sitting next to a terribly well-dressed slender creature with big blue-green eyes, and he was also conscious of Tina and Mike who had arrived as they were working and who were whispering among themselves and of the people walking down the corridor past the always-open doors and he knew the others would be there soon and suddenly the very idea of exposing himself in such an hostile environment became laughable. So he pasted a small smile on his face and answered.

"Yeah, just a bit tired. Maths isn't the only thing torturing me lately and I'm getting kind of worried about my grades."

It wasn't untrue, although it was so far from the whole truth it was pretty ridiculous. He couldn't see if he had convinced Kurt, though, he was busy putting his notebook back in his bag and having some difficulties because for some reason his bag was always the exact right dimension for what it already carried, there never was any extra space, no matter if he had one or ten books in it.

"Well I'm still ahead in almost all my classes, thanks to my time in Dalton, so I have a lot of free time. If you want we could organise a few hours in the week where I can try and help you?"

Sam should probably have taken the time to think about it first but he found himself nodding before he had considered it even a little, before Kurt was even finished talking, which made the other teen laugh a little. It's just– there was something crazily attractive about this idea, about spending some time with someone who didn't want anything from you, who just wanted to help, who would speak to you continuously with their Kurt-voice even as they helped you with your homework. Studying had never seemed such a good idea before.

"Great then. You must have football practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, like Finn, so we can meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays after Glee club if that suits you." Another nod. Seemed like his voice was gone. "Do you want to meet later today, or should we start next week?"

Damn those multiple-choice questions. He couldn't really well answer with a nod now, could he? He cleared his throat a little.

"Today would be great, if you have some time."

"I certainly do – I offered, didn't I? I'll just have to remember telling Finn he's going back alone."

Sam wondered if they had come in together now that they live in the same house and if it meant one of them would have to catch a ride to go back, but Mr Schue came in before he could ask.

As always before a competition, Mr Schuester took some time to explain just how important it was that they got ready for the contest before completely disregarding his own words and giving them an assignment for the week that would make them rehearse a lot of songs they certainly wouldn't be using for Nationals. Rachel raised her hand almost immediately, she must have had an idea for a solo, and Sam didn't pay too much attention, absently colouring his left hand with a blue pen he found in his bag and wondering if it would make it easier for him to speak Na'vi – his language skills were getting a little rusty. He figured someone would tell him if they needed to form groups and if not, well they never had the time to make everyone sing a solo anyway and there were lots of people much more enthusiastic about singing one than he was, so he should be safe. He hadn't sung a solo in a while, actually. He had found he didn't have that much he wanted to express those days.


In the next three weeks, Santana stubbornly kept dating Karofsky and actually declared herself a contestant for Prom Queen (which only encouraged the drama around the title), Quinn and Finn were inseparable, Stevie slept at home a grand total of three times and Sam actually received a concerned call from Tom's mother, saying Steve was a delightful child to have around, but was there perhaps reasons to be concerned? He mumbled something about his parents' late hours, hoping she didn't know their mom was currently unemployed, and his own club activities. He hung up feeling like the worst brother in the world, something not helped by the fact that according to his calculations Stacy had managed to read over 1100 pages in less than a week, which made him wonder if she ever slept or stopped reading in class.

Sam also met with Kurt six times, and it sounded a bit melodramatic even in his mind but those meetings were the main things keeping him going at times. Kurt had explained that the timing was perfect, because as long as he kept the week-ends for Blaine and at least two evenings a week for Mercedes his schedule was free, and so they found themselves staying longer and longer in the empty choir room. Kurt had somehow convinced Mr Schue to give him the room's key on those evenings, which made Sam believe the teacher probably felt some pent-up guilt about the way the Karofsky situation had evolved.

Sam didn't know why Kurt hadn't wanted to work in the library, but he certainly wasn't going to complain. He found he got on extremely well with Kurt, time flying by as they talked in between equations, joking about how Mr Ferrover was still wearing the same jacket he had worn every day when Kurt had him as a teacher last year, Sam teaching Kurt a little Na'vi in exchange for the Spanish lessons (and he thought Kurt was learning French anyway, so what was he doing having a perfect Spanish accent?).

All in all, it was probably lucky they stayed up to five hours after class for those tutoring sessions, considering only half of their time, if that, could be called productive studying. His grades were getting better all the same and he found himself pretty desperate to show his appreciation to Kurt, and yet reluctant to make the other boy realise that he wasn't getting anything out of their arrangement.

This way of thinking was probably the reason he jumped at the opportunity to assure Kurt it was absolutely no problem when the junior regretfully told him he couldn't stay that night because his father needed him in the garage. And then he heard himself ask if he could perhaps come and help, even though he certainly hadn't learnt anything new about cars since Christmas.

"Oh, that'd be great; for all his apparent love of beautiful cars, Finn doesn't seem too interested in learning how they work, whereas Blaine doesn't have the best experiences with them, so it'd be interesting to work with someone my age for once."

Kurt then proceeded to negligently wave his hand when Sam warned him he'd probably be more of a hindrance than a help, assuring him he could show him a few simple tricks.

In the end Sam was pretty convinced he was right and that he hadn't actually helped, but he couldn't deny he had spent an excellent evening, even though he wasn't sure he was ever going to make this black trace on his forearm disappear – which did beg the question of how Kurt bore with it on a regular basis, considering his obsession with his skin. Just seeing Kurt in dark blue overalls and a black cap would have been worth it, but working alongside him and his dad had been really great. He even had accepted their invitation to dinner and had cooked with Kurt, elated to discover they both believed in organic produces and healthy food. Mr Hummel didn't seem too happy with their creation, though Mrs Hummel (or was she still Mrs Hudson?) thought it was delicious. Finn was nowhere in sight and that was a relief, since Sam still wasn't sure how to act around him lately.

When it was time to leave Kurt didn't even let him offer to find a way to make it home by himself, ushering him in the car instead. He even let Sam pick the music, which didn't mean much considering all Kurt had was a pile of unmarked CDs he had no way of identifying. He eventually chose one at random, surprised to realize he knew the song before recognizing it as the original version of one Kurt had sent him six months ago. The countertenor predictably started absently mumbling along and Sam found himself smiling at the rather gloomy landscapes along which they were driving, briefly considering surprising the other boy by joining in before rejecting the idea.

Finally they were there, in front of Sam's rather unimpressive home, and he found himself absurdly wishing he had tidied the lawn a little before leaving for school. Kurt's eyes surveyed it pensively and then turned to him. Sam knew him enough by now that he didn't feel like he was being judged and found lacking, no matter how intense the brunet's scrutiny was. He apparently didn't know him enough, however, to anticipate the brief hug Kurt pulled him in, but it was just as well – if he had had the presence of mind to foresee it and to hug the slender boy in return, he feared he might never have let go. As it was he found himself clearing his throat once or twice before he managed to speak:

"So, um, thanks for everything. Thank your father for me too, and, er, Finn's mom. It was great."

"No, thanks to you for your help with the cars – and then with dinner. I'll see you tomorrow in Glee club, Sam, have a nice evening."

Sam climbed out of the car, letting a surprised breath out when he felt just how cold the air had become, even though it was already April. He almost ran to his door, turning once to see Kurt was still parked there, obviously checking he was making it home safely, which made him laugh even as he raised his left arm in a small clumsy wave.

His good mood lasted even as he saw the empty bottles on the kitchen table and heard his parents screaming at each other from their bedroom, even as Stacy didn't raise her head from her book when he ruffled her hair on his way to his bedroom, even when he found it empty, Stevie obviously at Tom's or perhaps at Jeremy's again. And he fell asleep listening to Kurt.


This Thursday they went back to what was quickly becoming their routine, mostly focusing on the history test Sam had on Monday, which meant Kurt talked at length about the Civil War and Sam just listened, which was really no hardship. At the end, though, Kurt departed once again from their routine to ask him if he wanted to meet Tina, Mike, Mercedes and Kurt the next day for a movie at the Hudson-Hummels, and of course Sam said yes.

It was a pleasant evening once again; Sam had feared they would have to watch a musical, and as much as he enjoyed Kurt's cover of their songs he didn't feel like listening to one, but apparently Tina and Mike weren't fans either and so they settled on Die Hard, which Kurt allowed because Alan Rickman's voice was just dreamy. There was popcorn and cola but also organic crackers and apple juice – no alcohol, Sam was pretty sure the entire Glee club had had enough of that for a while – and no one was really concentrating on the movie, chatting and laughing instead.

It was still a bit early when they finished the movie but Mercedes had to leave and he accepted her kind offer to take him home, though he made her drop him a block away from his house, thanking her and assuring her the confusing circulation signs would keep her trapped for an hour if she entered his neighbourhood; she laughed good naturedly and just wished him a good night.

As it turned out, he wouldn't be having a good night.


The very first thing that crossed his mind when he entered the living-room was I'm still not done reviewing the material for Monday's history test and probably deserved the award of the most irrelevant and ridiculous thought he could have had. Because even though it was almost 10 PM and he was supposed to be in bed Stevie was there, and he was crying, sobbing really, like he hadn't done in a while, and there was a horrifying bruise blossoming on his right cheek; their mother, biting her lower lip, stood nearby, obviously at a loss. Sam didn't have the time to really register the scene, though: as soon as he came in, Stevie ran into his stomach, grabbing his T-shirt and Sam's heart with it.

"Hey buddy, shh, I'm here, shh. It's okay, everything's okay, Stevie." His reassurances were automatic, and they weren't even true: Sam was very aware that nothing about this situation was okay. He tried to convey as much in a glare to his mother, who was by now wringing her hands but still making no gesture to come and reassure her youngest son.

"What's happening? Where's Stacy?" He bit out, shock making way to anger. His mother turned in his general direction, though she didn't exactly meet his eyes.

"How should I know? Probably in her room, reading a book. You know how she is." Again, that tone of reproach. It was always someone's fault, though never hers. And it drove him absolutely bat-shit crazy.

"What. Happened. Here."

Her mouth contorted a little.

"Your father got fired. And then he got drunk, you know how it is." I do, and I'm surprised you're still sober enough to have this conversation, he thought. "And then the kid got home late and Rick was angry and- oh Sam, I'm sure he didn't mean to do it!"

His breath was coming in a little rapidly and he could only imagine what his face looked like to make her backpedal in that way, because this was worse than what he could ever have imagined. It wasn't just that the idea of his drunken father near Stevie made him want to be violently sick, though there was that too; it was the way that his mother, who couldn't agree with his father on anything, anything, not even what they should have for dinner, who had had a row with him for half an hour about the colour the fucking curtains should be, was defending him in this. The first time in years that they acted like a parental unit and it was to justify putting a bruise on his little brother's face.

He actually was sick then, vomiting half-digested organic crackers all over the living-room floor, clutching Stevie to him so as not to get any on him, and there was only one thought going through his mind; let's get out of here, quickly. He ignored his mother's gasp of disgust and surprise as he stalked to their room, still holding Stevie, his mind furiously active. He dropped his silent brother on the bed and went to his emergency cash stash, the one he'd never ever touched, even when he had felt he was losing Quinn, and it was a grand total of 187 dollars and it had seemed huge when he didn't have to spend it but now it kind of made him want to scream or laugh. He didn't do either, instead putting the money in his rundown wallet and carefully stashing it in his school bag.

Bus times, he had to check bus times; he knew he had them somewhere and it was lucky it was Friday night because the traffic was much more regular than during the week. Clothes, for him, for Stevie, his brother's game boy, some arnica for the bruise, and actually all the medicine they had went in a bag. He looked at his computer longingly, wishing more than ever it was a laptop, and then grabbed his MP3 player.

As he entered Stacy's room and just announced they were leaving he wondered if he would actually have to explain, have to think about what had happened again, but then she looked behind him and saw Stevie who'd been following him around the whole time and just nodded. Luckily she didn't have that many books that were hers, she mainly got them one by one in the public library, so she just packed her two latest ones and her three favourites before going to her closet for her clothes. He was still trying to think but it was becoming more and more difficult, he felt a little like he was hyperventilating, so he just looked at Stacy hopelessly as she calmly did her bag.

"Food?" she offered him, her brown eyes full of trust under her dirty blond bags, and he just nodded, because, food, of course. Stevie trailed him to the kitchen and watched as he opened a bag and put everything they didn't have to cook in it, which mainly meant lots of cheap biscuits.

"Are we really going to only eat cookies? That's so cool!" His little brother's voice was pretty calm, too, just like Stacy's had been, and Sam suddenly felt a wave of love so strong for both of them it almost brought him to his knees.

"That's just for now, kiddo, don't start hoping too much. And there are some bananas in there too. Come on, let's get the bags and Stacy and then we can go."

In total there were three big bags on the bed so he handed the lighter one to Stacy, telling her to tell him if she got tired, they all took their school bags and he hefted the two bags left-over on his shoulders, seizing his guitar in one hand because he couldn't bear to leave her behind, never more thankful for football practice because they were pretty heavy.

His mother was nowhere in sight when they came into the living-room but it turned out the relief he had felt had been premature: suddenly she was there, exiting the tiny kitchen, truly and well smashed this time. They all froze in what could have been a comical fashion if everything about that night hadn't been so fucking tragic and she just looked at them, a bit dumbly.

"Whash-Where are you goingsh?" She was already slurring her words, which made Sam grimace.

"We're leaving, Mom." The word was bitter on his tongue.

"Oh." She blinked a little. "Because of-?" She made a vague little gesture with her arm that was probably supposed to represent the slow destruction of their family those last two years, the way Stacy had retreated in her books and their parents in their alcohol and the way Stevie practically lived with his friends and the vibrant blue colour on the cheek of a six-year-old.

"Yeah, because of-, well, yeah. I think it's for the best, don't you?" She wasn't too difficult to manage when she was this way, drunk yes but mainly quiet and a bit sad.

"Per- Perha- hmm, yes. But you will be back shoon, right?"

He shook his head a little in a non-committal way and didn't answer, pushing the kids towards the door.

And then they were leaving, they had left, shutting the door behind them in a definite, forlorn sound that made Sam realise anew what exactly their situation was.

Not leaving himself the time to really assess just how desperate it was he herded the kids to the bus station and they arrived with three minutes to spare. He had already decided on going to the half-decent motel he had seen on the very day of their arrival, when they had gotten lost in the neighbourhood looking for the right address, mainly because it was in the opposite direction from school and he was pretty sure their parents would expect him to go the other way.

The bus driver shot them all a weird look when they entered the bus, which made Sam aware that they were looking rather suspicious. He spent the rest of the travel trying to devise a strategy for getting a room at the motel even as his siblings squabbled near him, apparently too excited – or frightened, he thought, his throat tightening, already having misgivings about his decision – to be lulled to sleep.


By the time the bus came to their stop he had imagined about ten possible explanations for why a teenager was asking for a room alone, each more ridiculous than the other, but as it turned out it really wasn't necessary to explain anything. He just left the kids sitting on the couches, went to talk to the bored manager, a girl not much older than Sam himself who clearly needed some cash money but regretted it meant she had to sacrifice her Friday evenings, and got the key as soon as he handed the money, with nothing more in return than a small smirk from her – obviously she hadn't seen his siblings and thought he was here for a much more pleasant reason than he actually was. It was off-season, so one room was 22$ a night – it made him cringe a little, but he couldn't see any other choice. She vaguely explained how to get to the building their room was in and he thanked her, trying his best to be nonchalant and generally non-noticeable.

By then the kids' bodies had started to shut down, realising it was late, so he had to do two trips to the room, carrying Stevie and holding Stacy's hand on the first and lugging all of their bags on the second. He prodded his siblings a little to make them change in their pyjamas, forwent the teeth-brushing and let them crash on the two beds available, taking a note to ask for a folding bed the next day but feeling much too anxious to go to sleep himself.

Now that everything was quiet around him he was realising anew just how stupid this all was. No teenager ran away from home with their little siblings; or at least not without a plan slightly more sustainable than "staying in a nearby motel until something else happens". He wasn't even sure what he was hoping would happen, he just knew he couldn't have stayed there a second longer, in this poisoned atmosphere, not now that the step had been taken and Stevie had the fucking bruise to prove it.

The worst thing was somewhere he had known this was going to happen; known that one day his parents would stop just picking on him and would turn their venom on his kid brother and sister. He'd known what would happen if something made them angry and he wasn't there for some reason and oh god, when this was going on he had been watching a movie and laughing with his friends and he really hated himself right now. He'd known, but he had ignored it because what kids would want to face the idea that the persons supposed to love them above all else could become a danger to them?


Sam did end up falling asleep that night, questions and stupid plans still rolling around in his head. He didn't feel much more optimistic when he woke up, and he was soon proved right: the entire weekend was hellish. He flinched at every sound made near the door and at every car on the street, sure the Police would be there soon, not certain what it meant that they weren't – was the Lima Police Department that pathetic or had his parents not realised that they were gone? Or perhaps they had gone to report their children's absence but weren't allowed in because they still smelt too much like booze. He wasn't even sure where his father had been the other night, didn't know where inebriated men went when they had just hit their six-year-old sons. Probably off to sell their last pieces of good china to get more alcohol. He also wondered what would happen now that dad had lost his job – would his parents lose the house too?

After a while he had more or less successfully managed to stop thinking about it and started concentrating on getting the kids through the weekend. There was a surprising lot to think about, the showers, the meals, the homework...It turned out biscuits, bananas and lots of television weren't the best way to make sure Stevie and Stacy didn't bounce off the walls, not to mention that the nutritional value of their meals was tending towards the negative, but he wasn't willing yet to leave the safe haven of their room to do more than use the bathrooms and go pay for four more nights in the room – which had coincidentally brought their finances to a pretty low level.

His siblings seemed to consider the room a prison more than a sanctuary, especially Stevie, so he ended up giving them his MP3 player to listen to some Kurt-music while he called every single one of the job offers on the paper and tried to find a place with a rather flexible schedule. Rather unsurprisingly, he didn't find anything allowing him to work between the end of his classes and the moment when he had to get the kids, though the pizza place let him know they were looking for deliverers on the weekends. The thought of leaving the kids alone didn't sit well with him so he politely refused the offer, though he knew he might eventually not have a choice. As it was, he didn't know what they were going to do once his meagre reserve of cash had run out, which by his calculations would happen on Friday at the latest if they wanted to eat.

He tried to explain a little to Steve and Stacy what the week would be like – he was used to bringing them to school before going to McKinley so that wouldn't change, but they'd sometimes have to stay a bit longer at the school or go with some friends or to the library before he could go and get them; he was already planning on quitting the football team so that took care of Mondays and Wednesdays, but perhaps he'd have to stop going to Glee club too, even though it made his throat close a little to think about it.


Monday finally came, and with it the moment of truth; by some miracle they managed to get clean, dressed and fed (and Sam was really getting sick of biscuits so some grocery-shopping seemed pretty urgent) in time to get the bus that would bring them to school. Sam brought them to the school's doors, sure that at any moment a voice would call out and exclaim that their parents had made them aware of the situation – but nothing came. There were a certain number of possible explanations but the most likely was that their parents hadn't even made the effort to call the school; and even though he didn't want to ever see them again, this knowledge felt like a stone in his stomach.

The day went by in a bit of a blur. He discovered as he entered his history class that he hadn't reviewed the material for the test, except a little with Kurt last Thursday, but it mainly made him realise just how much everything had changed, considering he couldn't imagine getting worried about this kind of stuff again. In Glee club he headed directly to the back of the room, and though Kurt and him didn't usually sit together when they didn't have tutoring sessions afterwards the other teen still raised an eyebrow in his direction, clearly feeling something wasn't right – how was up to anyone's guess, Sam suspected his freaky detective powers.

He went to tell Coach Beiste he was quitting but it was difficult to announce to this woman he'd come to respect immensely, even though he had never felt real passion towards football, so he just asked if he could miss practice for a week or two for "personal reasons". Coach Beiste's eyebrows did a weird twitchy thing but the championship was over and he had never missed before, back when he was still trying desperately to become the quarterback again, so she grudgingly accepted. Sam knew he didn't have long before she became suspicious but right then he was just thankful for the reprieve.


Going to school and seeing their friends had obviously done Stacy and Stevie a world of good; they practically ran out of the school and threw themselves in his arms, laughing, when they saw him at the doors. Tom's mother was looking at them with thinly-veiled approval and he smiled a little at her because suddenly things didn't seem so gloomy. She clearly interpreted this as a permission to come and talk to him and he cringed a little internally but it wasn't so bad, really. She mainly spoke about what a lovely boy Steve was, Sam dutifully making a quip about the boy not being the same Stevie he knew and getting a punch in the ribs for his trouble. She also invited his little brother for a sleepover the next day on Tom's behalf. Considering how many times it had happened recently he didn't say no immediately so as not to make her suspicious, answering instead that Stevie would give his reply to Tom tomorrow, if that was okay with her of course.

All three of them then went to a nearby park together, eating the baguette he had bought before coming to get them. It felt like paradise to him after all those biscuits and his siblings must have agreed because they didn't even mention there was no peanut butter or jam. He sat on a bench once there, sending them out to play – Stacy seemed a bit reluctant at first but she ended up on the swings next to a girl he could vaguely remember as being in her class and she was smiling a lot at the end, so surely all was right in the world.

With nothing else to do he pulled out his Maths notebook, suddenly realising as he tried to do the first exercise that he wouldn't have time for his sessions with Kurt anymore. He had already determined that his grades were the last thing on his mind, but it still made him feel a lot worse suddenly.

He was just thinking they had better go back to the motel – the kids had to have homework and it was getting a bit chilly – when Stacy came running towards him, a big smile on her face, for once looking not a day older than her nine years.

"Sammy, Jessica invited me! Like Steve is always invited! She said we could have a sleepover tomorrow and her mom would bring us to school the next day and you could just come and get me in the afternoon at the end of class! Can I go, please?"

Sam was torn; on the one hand, he felt a little like not letting his siblings out of his sight right now, but on the other it was the first such invitation Stacy had received since they had moved here. He ended up telling her he had to discuss it with Jessica's mom first, since he had never met her; Mrs Salaun ("oh, please call me Chloe!") was a small round woman who smiled a lot and seemed to think this sleepover was a fantastic idea ("my Jess is a bit of a loner, you know, and she seems to be getting along so well with Stacy!") and immediately started quizzing him on Stacy's favourite dishes. Mike would probably have said she was the epitome of a mother – he had looked the term up after the dancer had used it once – and he found it hard to tell her no, or really to do anything else than nod dumbly at various points during her enthusiastic diatribe. It was settled, then; he would make sure Stacy had a change of clothes in her bag and Chloe would bring both kids to her house tomorrow and back to school on Wednesday morning. They exchanged phone numbers, Sam almost giving her the number to their landline before catching himself and rattling off his mobile phone's number instead.


As it turned out, saying yes to Stacy meant he had to say yes to Stevie, which meant in turn that after sending the kids to school with their toothbrushes in their schoolbags' pocket he was on his own for more than a day. It also meant he had no reason to skip his tutorial session, which made him feel both glad and a bit scared Kurt would take a close look at his face and declare he knew everything that had transpired in the last few days.

"So, how did it go yesterday? You gave no sign of life this weekend; I hope you didn't spend it worrying by yourself." For a few seconds Sam just stared at the countertenor, because jokes aside there was no way he was that transparent. And then he realised that of course Kurt was talking about his bloody history test and he let a slightly nervous laugh escape.

"Oh, er, it wasn't brilliant. I, mh, I'm sorry, you really helped but I had some trouble remembering all the dates and stuff. Perhaps because of, you know, my dyslexia."

Kurt shot him a surprised look; it was true he didn't usually mention his dyslexia, because in spite of everything he had ever been told he still felt unaccountably ashamed of his inability to read as well as his little sister. Still it was better than telling the truth, and Sam had seen enough episodes of Lie to me to know the explanation you gave in place of the facts had to be detailed enough to feel real.

"Well from what I've seen you have more of an audio memory, so next time you have troubles with something just call, I can send you some MP3 of me reading the lesson aloud or something."

Kurt was grinning and it was obviously meant to be a joke, though the idea seemed pretty good to Sam, so he smiled a little in return. He was surprised, though, to hear Kurt crack up afterwards.

"Sorry, sorry – I was just remembering the way I sent you like a thousand files of me singing at the beginning of the year, before the duet competition. It's pretty embarrassing in retrospect; it was generous of you not to make fun of me."

There wasn't a thousand files, only sixty, though you sent me twelve more in February when I broke up with Quinn, Sam could have answered. Or perhaps you think it's embarrassing but your voice is magic and it has saved me and the kids quite a few times so you really shouldn't. But that was embarrassing and probably a bit dorky, so he just smiled a little more.

"I think I remember comparing you to Faith Hill to Finn, actually."

Kurt was surprised into laughing a little.

"I'm flattered, Sam Evans – and a bit impressed. I wouldn't have taken you for a country fan."

"Actually I think I first saw her on NBC Sunday Night Football," Sam confessed, pretending to be discomfited.

"Really? I wouldn't have pegged you for a football fan." Sam just raised an eyebrow at him. "I mean, I know you were the quarterback for the team, I swear I'm not questioning your abilities to play. I've just always thought for some reason that you weren't really into the sport itself."

"You're not wrong. I mean, I like playing and running and actually being encouraged to tackle people but I'm not passionate about the sport itself. It was more a means to an end sort of thing, you know? I just wanted to fit in."

"Right," Kurt nodded, but he didn't seem too convinced. Sam remembered then that no matter what Kurt did or the talent he did it with, he was always considered a loser anyway, and it struck him that maybe there were some things worse than being an outcast in a school that couldn't see Kurt Hummel as anything but a pariah. It seemed like an important thought he should perhaps share, but he didn't know how to express what he felt, so they just fell back in a pretty comfortable silence.

"And Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Anytime you need to talk, I'm there. I feel like you haven't really smiled in a while and, well- I'm here. I mean it. If you need anything."

Sam just nodded, his throat tight again. The offer to share his burden with someone was desperately attractive, but merely thinking about putting words on his situation made him want to close his eyes and shake his head a little as if to clear it. Drunken parents who had turned abusive, him running away from home without a plan, forcing his kid siblings in a miserable life, not knowing what was going to happen on the next day – all those words drew far too ugly pictures to be spoken aloud.

Kurt thankfully knew not to push and their study session went well, as usual continuing way into the evening. Afterwards Sam went to the motel room alone, stared at the walls for a while and then brusquely seized his guitar from the wall it was resting on and left again. When he came back his wallet was fuller and his insides resonated with an emptiness that had nothing to do with hunger.


The kids both seemed to have had a nice time when he went to get them on Wednesday and they went to the park for a little while once again. On Thursday, however, once he had given Kurt a half-truth about having to take care of his brother and sister so he could leave just after Glee club, he found a silent Stacy and a grumpy Stevie waiting for him, and even the treat of an ice-cream didn't manage to make them smile. They stayed mostly silent until they were back in the motel and then Stevie suddenly started crying, Stacy promptly following suit. Sam should probably have expected it – in retrospect he was only surprised they had hold up this long. Life with their parents hadn't exactly made them feel safe, or at least it hadn't in a while, but it was familiar and routine and those past few days were simply too much change, not to mention all the drawbacks of having to live together in one room without a kitchenette.

He did his best to comfort them, reclining on the main bed's cushions and holding them close, singing gently until they fell asleep, all cried out. He didn't have this luck, though, and tossed and turned in his folding bed until the sun rose.


The next day marked the end of the first week spent in the motel, and the weekend that followed went both better and worse than the last. He wasn't afraid to leave the room anymore so they weren't cooped in this time around, but even after just seven days there was a sense of permanency – or should it be perpetuity? – to these four walls that was threatening to bring him down for good.

They went to the park again on Saturday, mainly to get away, but Stacy's and Stevie's friends weren't there and the kids were clearly getting bored, so they crossed the street to the public library. Reading was definitively not Sam's favourite activity and Stevie was still learning how to, but their sister was clearly delighted to show them around so Sam deemed it a good stop anyway. They even found some comics both simple and interesting enough Sam thought he could read them out to Stevie without getting too bored.

On Sunday they went to church because they hadn't been in a while and there they met Quinn, which reminded Sam of why exactly he hadn't wanted to go in a while. He intended to just nod at her and go sit down but she put a hand on his arm and he just froze because apart from Kurt's hug last week it had been a while since he'd last felt a friendly touch.

"Sam, is everything alright? You've been kind of down those last two weeks and, well, I know things haven't really ended up well between us but I'm still concerned." She sounded so kind, just like she had the very first time they had spoken, when she had helped him after he'd received his first slushie; he didn't know how to react.

"Hi Quinn!"

"Oh, hi Stacy, hi Steve, how are you guys? I've missed you!" Quinn was great with kids, and especially good at getting Stacy out of her shell. Back when they were dating it had made him love her even more and convinced him they were made for each other, but now it almost annoyed him, as if the way his siblings and her being so happy to see each other was some kind of betrayal.

"We're good! We went to the library yesterday and I started a new fantasy collection, wanna see?" Stacy was holding out the bag in which was the book she had insisted on taking, even though he had told her more than once she wasn't allowed to read in church.

"Yeah and we have a new house, do you wanna come and see it too?" Stevie piped in, making him freeze in horror. Quinn was looking at him, clearly surprised, and he grimaced a little.

"I'll explain later, okay? The sermon is about to start."

Sam had to admit he wasn't an avid church-goer and he often found the Sunday Mass a bit long but this one went by in a flash as he tried to figure out what to do. He finally settled on a trusted and true method, avoidance, sitting in the back when Quinn went to the front to sit with her mother and leaving as soon as they politely could, ignoring Stacy's protests about wanting to talk to Quinn some more.

He was nervous the entire day on Monday, ready for the blond girl to appear and start interrogating him at any time, but apparently Finn was feeling a bit under the weather and her curiosity about Sam wasn't strong enough to beat her concern for her boyfriend, which made him feel a weird mixture of bitterness and relief. He still left the choir room as soon as the bell rang, knowing that if she intended to talk to him now was a good time, and realised as he got outside that he had forgotten his jacket. He swore a little but didn't go in to get it, afraid he'd meet her on the way – the sun was shining so he didn't need it anyway and he could just get it the next day.


Tuesday afternoon thus found him entering the choir room half-an-hour early, intent on finding his jacket. It was there as expected, though on the piano rather than on his seat in the last row; more surprisingly, Kurt was there at well, staring at the jacket and wringing his hands a little. Sam opened his mouth to speak, intent on greeting the smaller teen and on asking him what was wrong, but the words got stuck in his throat when Kurt let out a small cry on seeing him and crossed the room to hug him tightly. Sam automatically hugged him back, more confused and worried than ever.

"What is it, Kurt? Is Finn alright? Or is it your dad?"

Kurt shook his head and loosened his embrace a little, though he didn't let go.

"No, no, everyone is alright. I'm sorry, I just, it's just, you were-"

The uncharacteristic rambling from the usually-eloquent boy did nothing to reassure him and he tried to get them both to the chairs on the front row, an arm still on Kurt's shoulders, figuring they'd feel better sitting. It seemed to work for Kurt, though perhaps he was just regaining his normal composure.

"I'm very sorry about that. It's just that I haven't seen you the whole day and though it's not that unusual because we don't share classes and don't eat together I just kept imagining the worst and it was driving me absolutely crazy so when I saw you I just felt so relieved I couldn't help, um, hugging you. My apologies, really."

This…made no sense at all. Since when did not seeing Sam around school for a day make Kurt feel anxious?

"No need to apologize, but I must say you're kind of confusing my head. Why were you so worried in the first place?"

The silence then felt kind of heavy, and Sam had the distinct impression he wasn't going to like the explanation that'd follow.

"Your jacket."

Sam frowned in confusion, what about his jacket?

"You forgot it. Yesterday, after Glee club. And so I thought I'd bring it to you in football practice, since I needed to talk to Finn about something on the way there anyway, but then he told me you hadn't come to practice in a week. By then Mr Schuester had already closed the door of the choir room and I didn't have anything to do so I thought I'd bring it to your home so you wouldn't worry – I know I'd hate to forget my jacket at school." Kurt was clearly himself again but Sam couldn't smile like he'd usually would at his slightly disdainful tone, because he was starting to see what might have happened and it wasn't a nice picture.

"There I met your father, and he was, well he was, um, not quite himself-" roaring drunk at four in the afternoon, Sam translated, unconsciously squeezing Kurt's shoulders a little, "but I did understand you hadn't come home and he didn't expect you to do so anytime soon, and so I thought that I'd see you today at school but then I didn't and my imagination got away from me and, well, here we are." Kurt waved a self-depreciating hand to indicate them sitting there like this but didn't shrug Sam's arm from his shoulders, which he was grateful for because he felt like he had to hold onto something right then.

"Sam?" He raised his head a little but still didn't look at Kurt in the eyes. "Could you please tell me what happened?"

It was the please that did him in, the way Kurt, far from running away from the ugliness he had already seen and met, genuinely sounded like he wanted to know more, and not out of morbid curiosity either. And so, for the first time since that fateful evening, sitting in the choir room with twenty minutes to spare before the others arrived for Glee club, Sam tried to articulate just what his life had become.

"Two years ago, my mom lost her job. We could still get by on my dad's salary and her unemployment compensation but, well, it wasn't the same. She wasn't made to be a stay-at-home parent and the more she looked for work without finding anything the more she felt frustrated and the more she…" he made a vague gesture that couldn't mean drank by any stretch of the imagination but that Kurt would probably understand anyway, considering he had seen his dad yesterday.

"My parents started fighting more and more, about money or t-the booze or about really stupid things, and then around the time the benefits stopped coming my dad got offered a job here. It paid a little more and life was cheaper here so we moved, but it didn't change anything. My father started to drink too and it just got worst because my mom mainly yells and stuff when she's drunk but he's more of a physical type of guy but I-I felt like I couldn't do anything, I didn't know what to do, and last week he- he hurt Stevie Kurt, it was horrible, we had to leave, we just had to."

Sam's face was dry but he could feel himself starting to breathe a bit rapidly and it was Kurt's turn to squeeze his shoulder gently and to try and soothe him.

"Of course you had to. Stevie is your little brother? I can't imagine how terrible it must have been – you have been great and very brave all along, Sam."

He probably should have felt like telling Kurt not to infantilize him, but the truth was that it felt bloody good to hear those words from someone, to know someone else knew and didn't think he'd been a total idiot who would just ruin his baby brother's and sister's lives. He drew a shaky breath to answer but then Puck and Lauren entered the room, luckily too absorbed by each other to notice the two boys sitting close on the front row. Kurt immediately leaned away from him, in a smooth, practised motion that made him a little angry at this whole fucking homophobic town, but continued to address him.

"You're going to get your brother after Glee club?"

"Him and Stacy, my little sister, yeah. On Tuesdays I arrive as their school's doors open if I hurry."

"Do you mind if I come with you? I can drive you there. Finn thought we'd stay here like usual so he doesn't need a ride."

Sam just nodded, feeling pretty talked-out but knowing they had lots more to discuss, and to be honest rather grateful at the idea of going to the kids' school in Kurt's amazing Navigator rather than by bus.


Kurt didn't push for more details as they drove, but Sam found himself haltingly sharing more of his week anyway. He mainly talked about little things, like how their Spanish neighbour got easily annoyed when they listened to the TV against the wall but had still come over one day to invite them for dinner, or how Stacy had finally found a good friend in Jessica, or how unexpectedly difficult it had been not to tell Quinn everything on Sunday. He mentioned his (rather pitiful) projects for the near future, like his intention to either buy a small kitchen appliance or upgrade to a room with a kitchenette if he ever managed to get a job. He didn't say any more about his parents, nor did he ever evoke his overwhelming fear of the future, but it was implied in every breath he took in slowly, in the way he almost convulsively tightened his hands on the schoolbag on his lap.

Through all this Kurt was a calm presence by his side, completely silent, seemingly only paying attention to the road as he drove them to the school with just the occasional direction from Sam. They arrived ten minutes early and their eyes met for the first time in what felt like a long while after Kurt had parked.

"I will talk to my dad and to Carole, Sam. I'm sure he will agree you can move in with us."

Sam was already shaking his head, though. He knew the newly-formed family had moved to a three-bedroom house just to make sure Finn and Kurt had their own space and he couldn't imagine how uncomfortable it would be for them to try and welcome not one but three kids, including two beneath the age of ten.

"Thanks Kurt, but I really don't think it's going to work. The last thing I'd want is to cause trouble for your family."

Kurt frowned in the way that meant he was going to protest but then seemed to think better of it, though Sam was almost certain this discussion wasn't over by any means.

"Let me help, though. I want to, okay?"

Sam just nodded, smiling feebly, and Kurt squeezed his shoulder briefly.

"I don't think you need to hear this as much as I did then, Sam, because you've already showed so much strength, but…have courage. Things will get better, if I have anything to say about it."

And it turned out Kurt did have something to say about it. He was there this week, there for Sam like no one had ever been before, not his childhood friends back home, not his parents, not Quinn and certainly not Santana. He drove Sam to the primary school and brought the three blonds to the motel afterwards every day, chatting comfortably with Stacy and Stevie on the way. He brought food twice, delicious salads they didn't need to cook and which even the kids couldn't get enough of. He convinced Sam that if he felt like he wanted to tell her he could trust Quinn with this, reminding him she had been thrown out of her home herself last year. He made Sam accept the job at the pizzeria, offering to babysit the kids on the weekends, assuring him it was a pleasure for him to stay with such delightful children.

And on Wednesday night, he was there as Sam finally let himself fall apart.

It was pretty late and the kids were already sleeping; Sam and Kurt were talking in low tones, sitting on the floor next to the beds. Kurt suddenly exclaimed he had just remembered something and took a small wade of money outside of his pocket. Sam winced a little, because as helpful as Kurt was and as thankful as he felt it seemed different and wrong to accept money from him.

"No, no, it's not mine. I had completely forgotten, but on the day before yesterday, when I went to see your parents, your mom stopped me before I could go, and she gave me this for you. Sorry I didn't think about it before today."

Sam wordlessly shook his head at the apology, reaching for the money with a hand that trembled a little. He wondered where she had got the money – there had to be at least three hundred dollars there, perhaps she had sold some jewellery. His very first thought was that this was enough to get his guitar back, before he dismissed the thought as unbearably selfish; it really should have been the last of his concerns. He could probably get them some cheap hot plaques for this price, which meant this was the end of their difficulties to get balanced meals in the evenings.

"What di-, did she, uh, say anything?" He asked Kurt, barely recognising his own voice.

"She said-" the smaller boy hesitated, obviously a bit reluctant. "She said she understood, and that maybe it was for the best. She said you'd know what she meant, but-"

"Right. Well of course I understand. Life must be plenty easier without three brats to care about, much cheaper too." He was speaking on this side of too loud by now but Kurt didn't shush him, just looked at him with solemn eyes. "I mean, I can't believe I was surprised when no one gave us trouble at school or the police didn't come to look for us. It's fucking simpler this way, isn't it? This is everything what they have ever wished for, a way to get rid of us, that's why they didn't- they didn't even try-"

He was surprised to discover he had a tear on his cheek and started to duck his head, embarrassed, but Kurt drew him in a fierce side-hug and he found his face buried in soft brown hair instead. He felt safe there, hidden, and he finally let himself crack, heaving great sobs in Kurt's shoulder even as the teen's slender hand comfortingly rubbed his back.

He was finally calming down, already trying to figure out a way to apologise for the ungainly display of emotion, when he realised Kurt was singing and had probably been for a little while. It would probably have heightened his embarrassment if the countertenor had sang him something obviously meant to calm him down, like a lullaby or a ballad, but luckily Kurt seemed to know it wouldn't have been a good idea. He had chosen instead a rather upbeat song, his voice still lowered in deference to the kids, something Sam didn't recognise and probably wouldn't have wanted to listen to if it had been sung by anyone else, and which as far as Sam could tell was about someone wanting to help someone else become popular.

Kurt let out a dramatic sigh as Sam confessed to having no idea as to where the song came from, telling him there was such a thing as unacceptable ignorance when it came to Broadway musicals and they would have to remedy to his lack of knowledge quickly enough. Sam quipped that it was fine with him as long as Kurt didn't hire Rachel to help, which surprised a laugh out of the brunet before he rallied and exclaimed on what a great idea that was. They kept talking and joking for half-an-hour longer and were careful to avoid any emotionally-loaded topic, but Kurt hugged him again as he left, briefly, rather than pressing his shoulder like he usually did. They never spoke about it again, but Sam fell asleep more easily than he had in weeks.


Mathematically speaking, it was all very simple. Quinn knew something was up – she had taken to throwing him suspicious looks during Glee club – and Kurt thought she could be trusted with the truth: ergo he should tell her what had happened. In reality, though, it wasn't quite so easy, because there was still this part of him saying he had to be strong for her, even though they weren't dating anymore.

He had tried to explain it a little to Kurt, who had raised an eyebrow and commented that this wasn't the basis of a stable relationship anyway, that there wasn't a strong and a weak person in a couple but two equal individuals trusting one another and leaning on one another in times of need. He had also added that nothing bonded you to someone else as quickly as opening yourself did, so if he wanted to get Quinn back this was definitively a good move. Sam had opened and closed his mouth without answering, because to tell the truth he had never really envisaged getting back with her as an actual possibility. Even though the chapter of their relationship had ended rather quickly and messily he had considered it closed for good, though he couldn't deny part of him was still fascinated by her.

The blond girl's throat-clearing brought him back to earth. Right. He had asked to speak with Quinn in private and brought her to the choir room before falling silent as he pondered whether telling her was the right thing to do, so she had to be wondering by now if he was ever going to speak.

"Yeah, er, sorry. I just wanted to, well I thought maybe I should explain what had happened and, um, Stevie's comment about us moving? I mean, I'm not even sure you remember, but I thought you might want to know, and then Kurt thought I could tell you, he said-"

Quinn's eyes widened a little.

"What does Kurt have to do with any of this? Oh my God, don't tell me you got thrown out because you're with Kurt and your parents couldn't accept it?"

Sam just stared a little, because really, what exactly had he said that had led her to this conclusion? Still, her ridiculous hypothesis actually helped him get the next words out, because he had to fix this before she started saying to everyone Kurt was cheating on his boyfriend and Kurt decided to hate him forever.

"I'm not dating Kurt. And actually, I was the one who left home. Because our parents are, um, neglectful and a-abusive." He had stumbled a little on the last adjective, because it seemed too final a word, but he had said it. Quinn's face showed much less surprise than it had when she thought he'd been dating Kurt on the sly, so that she mainly looked sad.

"I'm so sorry Sam. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Ah, well, nobody knows, and I'd like to keep it that way. I really don't want my life to become the latest hot topic of the school gossip, and, er, considering Stacy and Stevie are staying with me I'm pretty sure there could be some legal issues if everyone knew, especially the adults."

"Well for some reason it seems it's extremely difficult to keep a secret in our Glee club, but of course I won't tell anyone. I was really offering my help in some more concrete ways, though."

"Oh, um, I'd perhaps really appreciate it if you could chat with the little guys from time to time? We've slowly been driving each other crazy living in the same room this past week, and you've always been great with them. They really miss you, you must have realised that on Sunday."

Her mouth softened into a smile at that and Sam's heart tightened a little, in regret for the what-could-have-been more than anything else.

"Of course, I'd love to spend some time with them. I've always been a bit jealous of your bond, you know. I mean, I adore my sister, but she's twelve years older than I am and she moved when she was seventeen, so it's not the same." Quinn's voice was a bit quiet and Sam wondered, then, if this really was only about siblings and not about a baby girl named Beth, but he stayed silent.

"So anyway just call when you need a babysitter, all right? As long as I don't have anything planned I'll come right over."

She leaned in and gave him a hug before leaving and he froze a little because the only human contact he had had in the past month had been with his siblings or with Kurt, but it still felt pretty great.


Encouraged by Kurt's assertion that he would help take care of things, Sam called the pizza place and told them he was ready to work on weekends if the position was still open. It turned out they needed someone on Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday early evenings, which worked out pretty well. Kurt told his father he was going to a sleepover at Mercedes' on Friday, told Mercedes he had a date with Blaine and arrived at the motel early enough to watch a rerun of an episode of The Middle with them before Sam had to go to work. He came over on Saturday as well, though Sam felt guilty infringing on Kurt's limited time with his boyfriend. Kurt was apparently asked by Stacy and Stevie to sing them some of their favourite songs from him, which led to a discussion on Kurt-music when Sam came back that was truly embarrassing and whose only redeeming value was the flattered and perhaps even flustered look it brought to Kurt's face.

Quinn then came on Sunday, to Stacy's great joy, and the combination of his siblings' obvious happiness at the time spent with his two friends and the feeling of purpose he felt as he worked, even though the work uniform was truly ridiculous and made Kurt pretend he had just been blinded every time he saw it, made the weekend much more pleasant than the previous ones had been.

The following week was better as well. Kurt rolled his eyes when Sam insisted that he shouldn't feel like he had to come pick the kids with him every day, assuring him his other friends wouldn't feel neglected, but finally agreed to come on Monday and Friday. Stacy and Stevie had been invited once again by their respective friends on Tuesday evening so he spent it in the Hudson-Hummel home beating Mike in Super Smash Brow Brawl duels and being repetitively pummelled into the ground by Tina as he sent character after character fight against an expertly-managed Kirby, Kurt and Mercedes chatting next to them and occasionally yelling advice. Quinn came again on Wednesday, though not for long, bringing with her a book she had apparently recommended Stacy on the weekend and, astutely, a colouring book for Stevie so he didn't feel left out.

Thursday was a bit surreal because Rachel Berry actually came up to him, declared his lips looked cute and asked him to go to Prom with her. He thought about the way she'd been so obviously pining for Finn ever since their break-up and how he couldn't remember if they had ever spoken together before today and concluded this had to be an alternative reality, so he answered No a bit cautiously in case this Rachel was even crazier than the one in his universe. It turned out she was serious, though, so he settled on a half-truth as an explanation, explaining she wasn't his type and ignoring the part where Prom was expensive, renting a Tux even more so and he'd have no one he trusted who could babysit his siblings who wouldn't already be at the dance.

His evening was luckily much more normal; he spent it trying to help Stacy with her geometry test for the next week and playing go fish with the kids until it was time for bed. He fell asleep easily, exhausted and honestly feeling he might just be okay, missed Prom or not, if things would just continue this way a little while.

And then, on Friday, the first issue of the Muckracker came out.


Finn was yelling at him and he was yelling back, with a little help from Quinn, Santana was yelling at Brittany and the other Glee kids seemed much too interested in what was going on to try and break the fights. Sam felt truly enraged at Finn's accusation, because if someone here was encouraging girls to cheat on their boyfriends it certainly wasn't him, and really why did he even want to date Quinn if he couldn't trust her?

Mr Schuester finally managed to get everyone to stop actively fighting but Finn stormed out and the ambiance was strained for the whole rehearsal, so much so Sam was uncharacteristically relieved to see it come to an end. He was leaving with Kurt today so he headed for the other teen's car, wondering once again why they met there rather than walking together and figuring Kurt had to talk with Mercedes or something. Maybe he was asking her to cover for him if his dad called while he was staying with Stacy and Stevie, though he had told Sam last week there was no need for any such stratagem because Burt trusted his son implicitly – the precise reason why the fact that Kurt was lying to his dad to help him was pretty awful to consider.

Lately, they more often than not made their way to the kids' school in music, only speaking occasionally, but Kurt didn't reach for the radio this time.

"I think Coach Sylvester is behind this. The rag this morning had her signature written all over it."

"Wouldn't surprise me. I'm not sure why she hates Mr Schuester so much, but she sure has a lot of time to waste when it comes to causing him trouble."

Kurt laughed a little in agreement before growing serious again.

"You're right, but she's as persistent as she's annoying, and I don't think this will stop anytime soon. I don't want to be defeatist, Sam, but I'm afraid the guys in the Glee club won't stop being curious before they know more."

"They- I'm not sure I can handle them knowing the truth, Kurt."

"Right. My first thought was to throw them another bone, but it will be difficult to imagine any gossip as juicy as the thought of you and Quinn meeting for a sordid tryst in a motel – though if Brittany was saying the truth, Santana coming out of the closet probably wouls do the trick. So perhaps you should consider preparing a version of the truth – one that'd explain your change of location if it ever comes to that and which would make them ashamed enough to have pried that they'd leave alone any inconsistency."

Sam nodded and didn't answer. He was aware that he was avoiding the issue and therefore proving just how non-brave he really was, but truly he just wanted to forget about the whole situation. Kurt didn't insist, reaching for one of his unmarked CDs as a clear sign he was willing to let Sam off the hook, which made him feel a by-now-familiar wave of gratitude.


The week-end went by without a hitch, Kurt coming over on Saturday and Quinn on Sunday, and as the week started they had an unexpected guest in the Glee club. The attractive woman was obviously known from his fellow club members but he personally had no idea what she was doing there, though it didn't keep him from enjoying the rendition of the Fleetwood Mac song she did with their teacher.

Kurt assured him he'd explain all about her on his way to his siblings' school, which meant Sam soon found himself roaring with laughter as Kurt told him, with the help of many self-deprecating grimaces, all about his early descent in alcoholism and the way he had reportedly babbled on about Bambi before vomiting all over poor Ms Pillsbury's shoes. He tried to calm his hilarity as they came to a stop near the school so as not to vex the other teen, but in truth Kurt looked more proud of himself than embarrassed. Sam had to wonder if amusing him hadn't precisely been the boy's goal all along, and found himself smiling at the thought: it was true laughing had almost felt like an unfamiliar motion. The same thankfulness he had for Kurt's presence this past month resurfaced again, which probably explained why he let the diva bully him into watching Wicked on Kurt's laptop this evening.

In the end he had to admit it wasn't too bad, which was good news considering that even though he had been a bit worried about the age-appropriateness of the show Stevie and Stacy had both loved it, making Kurt look very smug indeed. Clearly his siblings were going to gang up against him next time Kurt brought another DVD, but he couldn't bring himself to mind.

Kurt had also brought them clothes, saying it hurt his heart to even think about having to choose between less than seven outfits to get dressed. Sam was a bit sceptical but mainly moved and he hugged the other teen briefly as a thank you. As it turned out Kurt had been pretty astute when selecting clothes, managing to find some stuff Sam could see himself wearing in spite of their differences in height and style, but also bringing some of his old stuff for the kids. Steve was delighted to discover a small bowtie in the bag, exclaiming over how he could look like the Doctor now, while Stacy let out a small cry of appreciation as she found a finely-wrought tiara that apparently came from Kurt's hope chest. He smiled at that and went with Kurt to the door, pressing the other boy's arm in their customary good-bye.


The next morning was a bit complicated, because Stevie and Stacy wanted to wear their bowtie and tiara to school, respectively, but he wasn't so sure it was a good idea, fearing the items would get lost or damaged and the kids would be inconsolable. His siblings finally argued that he was wearing Kurt's gift, so why couldn't they, and it was a valid point in kid-logic, so eventually he let them bring the items in their schoolbags, making them promise only to put them on to impress their friends during their weekly sleepovers.

He had no such problem with the beige jacket with blue printings Kurt had lent him, though it sadly didn't flatter him as much as it probably had the slender boy. To tell the truth it felt good to wear this proof of his friend's regard – he was pretty sure Kurt didn't lent his clothes to just anyone – and he felt safer than he had in a long while as he walked down the corridors of McKinley high, like he'd brought a small part of their evening together at school. He even found himself smiling at Rachel, not really caring about the way she was staring incredulously at him.

His relaxed attitude turned out to be a mistake; when he met Kurt for a tutoring session after the Glee club, the other teen explained Rachel had somehow recognised the jacket (not a mean feat, considering as far as Sam could tell Kurt almost had a different outfit per day) and thought Kurt was cheating on Blaine. Kurt seemed more amused than alarmed by the assumption, promising Sam that Blaine knew they were friends and wasn't the type to get jealous for no reason, but Sam still felt pretty terrible.

The next day felt like the calm before the storm; no other row exploded in the choir room but there weren't many friendly conversations either, everyone a bit wary of everyone else in a way that made Sam want to despair of them all. What did it say about them that a few rumours threatened to break them apart in less than a week? He was glad to leave after rehearsal, and if he judged by the speed at which the room emptied itself he wasn't the only one.

Quinn came over later, apparently furious with Finn, and Sam found himself patiently nodding as she raged to him about her boyfriend. It did seem a bit insensitive of her, or at least extremely self-centred, but she had brought Chinese take-away for everyone and even remembered to take a tofu salad for Sam so he felt he could let her rant a little. Once she'd spent her rage she sang to the kids for a while, who informed her they loved her voice too, though "not as much as Kurt-music". Sam closed in eyes in mortification but she didn't seem to take it badly, smiling a little as she agreed the countertenor was extremely talented. The only dark spot in an otherwise perfectly pleasant evening came when she asked him to accompany her with his guitar and he had to admit he didn't have it anymore, turning away from her sympathetic look.

She gracefully let the subject drop but drew him into a tight hug at the door; Sam was surprised by the strength emanating from her embrace, though he shouldn't have been, and he found himself pondering Kurt's words about relationships and mutual support as he entered their motel room again. He had asked around about Quinn before their first date on Breadstix, learnt about all she had went through the previous year and concentrated on the need she probably had for a sympathetic ear, ignoring just how much courage it must have taken to go through this mostly on her own. It was a shocking moment of insight on their past relationship, a new prism through which he could see the way it had all fallen apart differently than "she was still in love with Finn and so she cheated on me to get back with him". He couldn't decide if it ought to make him feel better or worse right then, so he just pushed it to the back of his mind to think about later and went to sleep.


He found himself chatting with Artie on their way to the Glee club the next day, if only because he was a bit curious about the whole Santana/Brittany situation.

"Oh, I always forget you weren't there last year. Yeah, Brittany had already told us that they slept together sometimes, but no one thought it was more serious than that before those last few months. I really think Santana loves Brittany, or at least as much as a viper can love anyone." Artie sounded uncharacteristically bitter, and Sam remembered that Brittany and he had broken up only two days ago.

"I'm sorry man, that really sucks. But what about Karofsky? Isn't Santana still dating him?"

Artie sighed, waving at one of the Vote Santofsky! posters they were passing down the halls.

"There's your explanation for you. She wants to be popular, and she's probably reluctant to admit she'd rather be with Brittany than with any other boy. Karofsky is just her latest try in a long string of boyfriends to make her conform to the high school social ladder's expectations – no offence."

It was apparently a time for epiphanies about ex-girlfriends, because this made a lot of sense when Sam thought back about Santana's attitude.

"Oh well. At least it's pretty hot, isn't it? Thinking about the two of them together?" He joked carefully as they entered the choir room, wondering if it was too soon and Artie would try to roll on his foot or something. He surprised a laugh out of the other boy instead.

"You've got a point there, Sammy Evans. Give me five, dawg, for we dated the two hottest chicks in this school and perhaps managed to put them off boys altogether." It was Sam's turn to laugh as they high-fived.

It turned out that Quinn's and Finn's issues hadn't been resolved since he had last talked to her, or at least that's what Sam got from their angry solo. And then Rachel, with her habitual subtlety, tried to make sure she'd be the one to sing a duet with Finn at Nationals, Mr Schue tried to remind them he was the one who chose the songs and Quinn issued an ultimatum to her boyfriend before storming out of the choir room, furious. Sam would probably have appreciated the show more if it hadn't felt like he could be dragged back into it at any moment.


The soap opera their rehearsals had become continued the next day, when Rachel sang her version of Go your own way ostensibly to Finn. Quinn naturally took offense and suddenly everyone was yelling and yep, Sam was in the middle of it once again. Santana's declaration that she blamed him for everything made him grind his teeth, but Puck's and Mike's interventions were really too much and he found himself exploding.

"Shut up! Look, I'm not messing around with Quinn or Kurt or any one of those guys. They're just helping me."

Mercedes's snide comment about the kind of help they were talking about was even worse, because even if she didn't believe him she should at least have known Kurt wouldn't ever do this to Blaine. Knowing how much the other boy had helped him – and was actually still helping him, keeping silent in spite of the aspersions thrown on his character by his best friend – made him realise he had to say something, to defend Kurt's honour if not his own.

And that's how he found himself spilling some of the truth to the Glee club, and though he had always been a terrible liar it was easy to project anger and defeat as he spun them a story about them losing the house because he fucking wished it had been true. He would have been fucking ecstatic to live with four other people in a small motel room rather than just two if it meant his family had managed to stay together through those rough times. And it was this regret that made his voice roughen and break as he proclaimed that the truth was finally out. He had to leave, then, meeting Quinn's and Kurt's eyes as he went, receiving unnecessary confirmation that they wouldn't tell anyone what they knew in their twin looks of compassion.


He had been expecting the knock on their room's door later this afternoon but he had thought Kurt would be the one behind the door, not his step-brother and said boy's girlfriend, though really he should have known they would want to see it for themselves. He panicked a little and tried to keep them from coming in by pretending Stacy was trying to take a nap (something she actually hadn't done since she was three), knowing the few belongings in their room were far too sparse for a family of five, no matter how poor, and wondering how to explain his parents' absence. Stacy blew this excuse by coming to the door herself, obviously perfectly awake, so he reluctantly let them in.

It turned out Kurt had been right – Finn and Rachel were obviously far too embarrassed by their behaviour this week to question any of his statements as he explained just how they'd supposedly lost the house (and it had certainly happened to enough people lately that it was painfully believable), how the rest of their belongings had been sold or was in the car's truck and how his parents were out job-hunting all day long. He also fed them the lie Kurt and he had decided on on Tuesday to explain why Kurt'd known, and even though he had never seen the slim boy do as much as touch a pizza slice they didn't question him about it either.

In fact, the only thing they protested was the announcement that he might be leaving Glee club soon. It had nothing to do with money or time constraints; he just couldn't stand the way he knew they'd all look at him now, even though they weren't aware of the whole truth. He told Rachel and Finn they didn't understand when they said he couldn't quit, but as it turned out they understood far more than what they had any right to, because Finn was suddenly handing him a case holding a guitar he could have recognised by touch alone.

"Did you guys buy this back for me?" He asked, feeling a lump forming in his throat as they answered that the whole club had and that they'd do anything to help. To his deep embarrassment he felt his eyes burning a little, choking out that it was the first time he'd cried. He realised even as he said it that it wasn't true, his mind going back to Kurt's arms around him as he let two years of frustration and fear go, but he didn't take the words back because he had no desire to share this memory with anyone. He was reminded as Stacy hugged his back that it was, however, the first time his siblings had seen him cry about their situation, and he fought to stay calm and in control because he really didn't want them to see him lose it.


The weekend, after that, went by in a flash. Finn and Rachel had both offered to babysit on Friday, and though he'd been reluctant at first because he didn't want them to stay until late and yet not see their parents come back, it turned out he hadn't needed to worry. Apparently the Hudson-Hummel parents and Rachel's dads all insisted on the sanctity of Friday dinners together (which made him glad Kurt hadn't ever needed to come babysit before 9 PM on Fridays because he was pretty sure the other teen wouldn't have told him about it) so Finn ended up bringing the kids back with him as he went home, telling Sam it was simpler for all of them to have a sleepover at his and Kurt's place. Rachel pouted a little, exclaiming on how Finn knew how much she had always dreamt to have a sibling, but Sam felt better knowing Kurt would be here if the kids got anxious in the new environment.

Mr Hummel and Mrs Hudson had already gone to bed when he ended his deliveries, which he regretted since he'd have liked to thank them and apologise for the inconvenience, but Kurt was still up, waiting for him on the living-room's couch.

"Hey Sam, job went okay? How many people did you blind with your uniform? Do you think the design was intended to encourage tips, in a "take my money and quickly go away, please!" kind of reasoning?"

Sam smiled as Kurt clearly indicated he didn't have to talk about what had happened today if he didn't want to, but that he was there to listen if he did. Sam didn't answer the other boy's goading comments on his unfortunate wardrobe, though, changing the subject to something he'd been worrying about instead.

"How are things with you and Blaine?"

Kurt merely blinked at the lack of segue in the conversation, used to it by now.

"Really great, thanks. We went shopping for a proper Prom outfit for him today, and though it lacks a little in fantasy he looks gorgeous in it. Why the relieved air, though?"

"I know you told me he probably wouldn't even hear about it but I was still worried about what would happen if Rachel called him to explain you were seen in a motel with me."

"Definitively not out of the realm of possibility, knowing her, but luckily my boyfriend knows me better than she does, so I'm sure it would have been okay anyway." Kurt rolled his eyes with a bit of exasperated affection as he mentioned Rachel, but then his face softened. "Thanks for your concern all the same. You have a good heart, Sam Evans. But we should get to bed, we all have a busy day ahead."

Mr Schuester had indeed pencilled in an extra rehearsal this Saturday after Sam had left the choir room – Sam wondered if he was trying to make up for lost time, considering how inefficient the club as a whole had been this week, or if he just wished to make sure everyone was alright after today's revelations.

The next morning was rather awesome; apparently Stacy and Stevie had slept in Kurt's room while Kurt bunked with his step-brother and Sam took the couch, but for some reason they all woke up around the same time and met in the kitchen. Kurt decided they should prepare breakfast before the adults woke up, which meant he started to cook a calorie-free collation Finn declared unable to feed a bird as he started frying bacon next to him. Sam, though his tastes were in this clearly aligned with Kurt's, stayed way out of the following argument, smiling a little to see them interact so easily (apparently Bipolar-Finn was firmly set in brotherly mode, which was good news), while Stacy and Stevie insisted on helping and mainly just ran everywhere and made a mess. Nonetheless, half-an-hour later both versions of breakfast were on the table, making the grown-ups exclaim in delight at the spread of food as they entered the room. His apology and thanks were quickly waved aside by Mr Hummel, who put a hand on his shoulder and gruffly told him they were always welcome here, before he started to bicker with Kurt on how many bits of bacon he should be able to eat today.

They then drove to school together, arriving a bit early and separating there because Stacy and Stevie wanted to see his locker and his favourite classroom and the gym and even the toilets for some reason, which meant the three blonds were actually the last ones to arrive in the choir room. He explained to Mr Schue he had wanted the kids to get out of the motel a little, not wanting to admit there was no one there to keep an eye on them, and then asked him if he could sing his song for the week's assignment.

It was the most fun he had had in a while: there wasn't any prepared choreography, they had never rehearsed the song, they were just running everywhere and singing at the top off their voices and it felt wonderful. It was also an opportunity for him to play his guitar a little, and it was lucky Kurt was the one to take it from him when Mike and Puck decided to lift him on their shoulders because he probably wouldn't have let anyone else hold it, not so soon after getting it back.

Finn hugged him at the end of the song, a warm, brotherly hug that made him understand why Kurt found it so easy to forgive the tall boy anything, and he laughed a little because it was better than crying again. He felt freer, life felt simpler, and he found that for the first time in a long while it wasn't at all difficult to paste and hold a large genuine smile on his face.


Now that his life had settled a little, Sam had a project he wanted to devote some time to. This project meant he spent all the free time he had at school on Monday and Tuesday, which admittedly wasn't a lot, doing some research on the library's computers, and the two days after that practising on his guitar.

The final step was getting Mr Schue to accept him doing a song that had nothing to do with the week's theme ("Celebrations", probably to prepare them for the Prom next week), which really wasn't complicated as their teacher still seemed determined to do everything in his power to make sure Sam was as happy as possible in the club.

And so there he was, Friday afternoon, his guitar hanging around his neck, facing surprised looks – probably because, well, the last time he'd ever done this kind of announcement was the moment he'd introduced himself.

"So, um, I just wanted to take the chance to thank you all for your support this past week, you've all been really cool, and, well, I really appreciate it." There was a chorus of cat-calls, scattered applause and Rachel telling him that no thanks were necessary with the hugest smile on her face. "But there's someone who's been going beyond and above anything I could have expected, or deserved really, and he's the one I especially wanted to thank. So, Kurt, um, I talked with Mr Schue, and he agreed that we had a duet to sing that was long overdue."

The boy had been very still while he talked, as if he wasn't sure Sam was addressing him and not another Kurt in Glee club, but at that he reacted, leaning forward from his place in the front row and hissing that he hadn't practised and that Sam couldn't even be sure he knew the song!

Sam just smiled at Kurt, leaning towards him as he seized his hand.

"Don't worry," he whispered, "you know it. I got it from my repertoire of Kurt-music." The way he phrased it clearly put Kurt off-balance, which had the advantage of leaving him standing silent in the middle of the room where Sam had dragged him, blinking and unable to protest. Sam then signalled the musicians to start playing, certain the music would be enough for Kurt to get his bearings (and his diva-attitude) back. Surely enough, Kurt couldn't help the smile growing on his face as he recognised the music instantly, adapted as it had been. Sam strummed a few notes on his guitar, concentrating as he started singing.

"I'm limited
Just look at me – I'm limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn't do, Kurt
So now it's up to you
For both of us - now it's up to you..."

As he had knew he would, Kurt smoothly answered, his voice falling in step with Sam's without a misstep.

"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason,
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you..."

They sang the chorus together, two voices settling in a startlingly perfect harmony, and Sam knew a moment of regret that he could have had this seven months ago before he let it go and let himself appreciate the moment.

"Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good."

They finished the song to a thunderous ovation, Finn the first one standing to applaud, being soon followed by every single member of the Glee club, including Santana. Kurt's smile was impossibly big and Sam grinned at him in return.

This year had been difficult and long and stressful; and yet, as he looked at his best friend's overjoyed face, he found he couldn't imagine not standing here at this point of time, nor could he bring himself to regret any step of the way that had brought them here.