Kurt doesn't realize Blaine is a patient at first. He's too clean, with his hair slick with gel, his blazer smooth and fitted. Kurt thinks he might be a visitor, the son of doctor perhaps, judging by the school uniform. The illusion, however, is shattered the moment he starts talking. The conversation is completely one-sided. Kurt's had such conversations before, at the McKinley clinic; you tell a patient one thing, and they hear something completely different.

"The Warblers are like rock stars," Blaine says.

Kurt has no idea what the Warblers are. He smiles and nods as Blaine says something about forgetting his jacket, looking around for another nurse or doctor to help him out. Then, Blaine takes his hand and Kurt freezes. It sends flashbacks reeling through his mind of McKinley patients who refused to keep their hands to themselves. Dalton is supposed to be different, strictly non-violent cases only. Kurt wants to pull away, but Blaine looks up at him with big puppy dog eyes and he realizes that there's probably nothing to worry about.

Blaine pulls him through the halls, laughing like a child all the way. They reach a common room, where patients and nurses sit, watching tv and playing board games. They ignore Blaine as he lets go of Kurt's hand and rushes to the middle of the room.

"Excuse me," Kurt says, approaching a nurse playing solitaire at a table. "Where can I find…"

She holds up a finger. "Give it a minute. I can't talk to you while he's singing."


The word is barely out of his mouth when Blaine begins his rendition of Teenage Dream. Kurt smiles, surprised. Blaine isn't a bad singer. In fact, he's actually pretty good. Everyone else, however, appears unimpressed, and it dawns on Kurt that Blaine probably does this all the time.

Kurt is late to his interview, but the supervising nurse is very understanding and it goes pretty well. He isn't hired on the spot, but he's confident that they'll give him a call. Blaine sits on a bench outside of the office, apparently waiting for Kurt to come out.

"You're a terrible spy!" he says as Kurt walks past him.

Kurt frowns, pausing to look back at the patient behind him. Blaine looks up at him knowingly, as if he discovered some grand secret. Kurt blinks, and keeps walking.

The first day on the job is always difficult, but Kurt has work in institutions like this before, so all he needs to do is learn the new routine. Another nurse gives him a tour, taking him to all the rooms and introducing him to various patients. They all have different problems and are at varying levels of stability, but no one has any violent tendencies. Blaine, however, is the one who really sticks out.

"He thinks he's a teenager attending a boarding school," the nurse explains. "The Warblers is the school singing group."

"Oh, like a glee club?" Kurt asks as they enter another common room.

The nurse shrugs. "Something like that."

The room is empty except for Blaine, who sits attentively on a leather sofa, listening to something that isn't there. He doesn't have that far-off look in his eye like some other patients. Instead, he cocks his head to the side, nodding as if someone made a point that he agreed with

"What is he doing?" asks Kurt, looking around the vacant room.

Blaine blinks and looks up at him, smiling. "The council is deciding our set list for the Sectionals competition."

"And what songs are thinking of?" Kurt turns to the nurse. "I was in my high school's glee club, so…"

"Oh, you were the spy!" Blaine says, standing up. "But you were pretty terrible."

The nurse raises an eyebrow. "And just what was he spying on?"

"He was a spy from a rival glee club," says Blaine. He looks Kurt up and down, grinning. "But now he's transferred to Dalton!"

"Ah, ok," the nurse says, taking Kurt by the arm and pulling him out of the room.

"Is he gonna be ok in there all by himself?" Kurt asks.

"He'll be fine," she says. "All he does is either sit quietly or sing. Occasionally he'll climb on the furniture, but he usually only does that when other people are around."

"The council has invited you to audition for a solo."

Kurt looks up at Blaine from his lunch. "Oh?"

"You know, for the Sectionals competition," Blaine says, a friendly smile spreading across his face.

Kurt glances around the lunchroom at the other nurses and patients. No one seems to notice or care that Blaine apparently thinks Kurt is part of his imaginary a cappella group. "Um, are you sure, Blaine?"

Blaine nods. "The audition is in the senior commons at three. You'd better bring it!"

With that he bounces off, doing a bit of a twirl as he pushes the door open and leaves. Kurt sighs and takes a sip of his water. He hasn't sung in far, far too long. He's always loved it, but so many things got in the way after high school. He honestly can't blame the guy for living in a fantasy world where the most important thing was who got a solo. Things were so simpler back then.

Obviously he couldn't actually go, that would be enabling Blaine's delusion. But he couldn't just act like it didn't happen, that could result in some kind of backlash or Blaine acting out. Kurt finishes off the last bits of his salad and resolves to go see the supervising nurse about it. Blaine has probably asked people to audition for him before, so chances are they have some kind of protocol for it. Except that the supervising nurse isn't here today, she's left early. Well, maybe one of the other nurses could tell him what to do.

…Or he could just play along. Kurt chokes on his water, a bit shocked with himself at the thought. He could indulge Blaine just this once and no one would ever know. He could pretend with him for a few minutes, go back to those days where all he wanted was to be on stage. It would just be one song, no big deal.

The "senior commons" is just the less-used common room in the west wing of the institution. In Blaine's mind, it's a special place for the senior students of Dalton Academy, and also where Warbler rehearsal is held. It's completely empty when Kurt gets there, and he stands awkwardly in the middle of the room, picking at the hem of his scrubs as he waits.

"Ah, there you are!" says a voice behind him.

He turns around to see Blaine, giving him that big, bright smile he always has on. Kurt has to admit that he prefers patients who smile all the time. Some are in constant tears, and it's unbearable to think about what could be going on inside their heads. Patients like Blaine are so much easier to handle. Blaine comes up to him and gestures to an empty space at the front of the room.

"Council," he says. "I would like to present our newest member…"

"Kurt Hummel." Kurt feels incredibly silly introducing himself to absolutely no one, but he tries to push the feeling away.

Blaine looks at him and smiles again. "Kurt Hummel. He will be auditioning for the solo. What song are you gonna sing, Kurt?"

Kurt clears his throat as Blaine scurries off and sits down on the sofa, watching him eagerly. "Don't Cry for me Argentina."

Kurt doesn't get the solo. He doesn't know why he's miffed at that, as there wasn't really any solo to begin with, as the whole thing was dreamed up by a mentally unstable man who runs around in a school boy uniform despite being well into his twenties. He cringes as Blaine tells "Jeff" and "Nick" that they can move on, wondering what performances they must have given.

"Any sage advice?" Kurt asks, even though he knows nothing Blaine could say would make any sense.

Blaine sighs and sits down on the hallway bench next to him. "Don't try so hard next time."

"Oh?" Kurt cocks an eyebrow.

"I don't know how it worked at your old school," Blaine says, "but did you notice that we all wear uniforms around here? It's all about being a part of the team."

"Blaine, you're the only one wearing a uniform," Kurt whispers. "I mean, I'm wearing a uniform, but that's because I'm a nurse. You're not a student, and this isn't a school."

He doesn't expect that to affect Blaine at all. Blaine doesn't even seem to hear it. Instead he shakes his head and sighs again. "You're not going to make it as a Warbler if all you care about is being noticed."

Kurt squints at him. "I don't. I don't care about being noticed anymore."

"I know," says Blaine, and for a moment Kurt thinks they might be on the same page, but then he reaches out and takes Kurt's hand again. "It's going to take some time getting used to, but you'll fit in soon enough, I promise."

Kurt smiles, because Blaine is right. This stupid, disappointing life is something to get used to, and he still doesn't feel like he really fits into it, but it just needs time. He squeezes Blaine's hand.

"I'll… do better next time," he says.

Blaine's eyes light up, and Kurt wonders why he can't just retreat into his mind with him.

Blaine becomes Kurt's best friend. Or, at least to Blaine he does. He tells Kurt about the adventures they have, even though Kurt didn't actually take part in anything. They had their Sectionals competition, apparently, and they sang Hey, Soul Sister, making them tied with the other school that also competed. It takes a minute to realize that this other school is supposed to be the school that Kurt transferred to Dalton from.

"Things are getting better for you at Dalton," Blaine explains as he puts fresh seeds into the feeder for his canary. "But you still miss your friends at McKinley."

"I see," says Kurt. "They let you have a bird?"

"Pavarotti is part of an unbroken line of canaries who have been at Dalton since 1891." Blaine says.

Kurt glances around the tiny room that Blaine lives in. Most patients have roommates, but no one could stand living with Blaine because he sang all the time. It's just a clean, white room, with nothing to decorate it but the cage that held Pavarotti. A small ironing board sits in the corner with a blazer draped over it. Kurt figures that Blaine must be very well behaved to be allowed to have both a pet and an iron.

He sits on an old, dusty armchair next to a stack of music books and old issues of Vogue. Kurt stretches his legs out, trying to relax. It's Christmas Eve, and most of the nurses are gone. People celebrate Christmas mainly for two reasons: religion and family. Having neither, Kurt volunteered to take over a few other nurse's shifts. After tucking the rest of the patients in that night, Kurt made his way to the tiny room on the top floor, where he now sits, hoping no one will notice he's gone.

"What about you?" Kurt asks. "How are you adjusting to my transfer?"

Blaine closes the feeder door, turns to him and smiles. "I'm actually Marley's ghost, and I am here to tell you to stop studying so hard."

"Oh." Sometimes Blaine says things like that, as if there's this completely separate conversation happening between them inside his head. Kurt's used to it, as he gets the same treatment from several other patients, but for some reason it's different with Blaine. It hurts.

"I need you to sing with me," He says. Reaching down, Blaine pulls an ancient boom box out from underneath the bed. "I got a gig singing Baby, It's Cold Outside in the King's Island Christmas Spectacular."

Kurt smiles. "A personal favorite."

Blaine smiles back, tilting his head to the side. "You think it's too bad that they'd never let us sing it together."

"What?" Kurt asks. The only thing weirder than Blaine's one-sided conversations is when he says what he believes Kurt is thinking.

"As artists," Blaine adds, nodding. "So, will you sing with me?"

He doesn't wait for Kurt to answer, just presses a button on the box to start the music. He stands up from the bed and does another one of his little twirls. Gesturing to Kurt to begin, he flashes a smile that isn't quite like his usual vacant ones. There's charm and recognition to it, and for moment Kurt thinks he can see whoever Blaine was before he got sick.

Kurt clears his throat. "I really can't stay."

"But, baby it's cold outside."

"I've got to go away." At first Kurt just figured he's humor him again, but this is fun. He can't remember the last time he really sung with someone.

Blaine takes him by the hand and Kurt rises up from the armchair. He lets Blaine pull him into a dance, spinning him around as they sing. He's heard Blaine sing several times now, but it still has strange effect on him. He's giggly and nerves are all tight, but at the same time he's relaxed, and calm.

"I'll hold you hands," Blaine sings, lacing their fingers together, "They're just like ice."

Kurt laughs, but it catches in his throat as he sings the next line. "My mother will start to worry. My father will be pacing the floor."

He pulls away just as Blaine tells him to listen to the fireplace roar. Blaine stands there, for a moment, waiting for Kurt to continue. When he doesn't, Blaine frowns, but carries on.

"Beautiful, please don't hurry…"

"I don't want to sing anymore, Blaine." Kurt says, running his fingers through his hair.

Blaine squints at him. "Put some records on while I pour…"

"Turn the music off," Kurt says, firmly. He's used this tone on patients a hundred times.

"Baby, it's bad out there."

"I said turn it off."

That shuts him up. Blaine blinks rabidly, rubbing his mouth as if to get something off. He turns off the boom box and crawls onto his bed, hugging his knees to his chest.

Kurt sighs, and sits down next to him. "Blaine, I'm sorry. I just wasn't in the mood…"

"You have to go," Blaine says. "You have to go help your old choir teacher buy a fur-trimmed tracksuit."

If it weren't for how sad Blaine sounded, Kurt would have laughed. But Blaine's big Disney eyes are welling up, and Kurt feels awful. He gives Blaine a pat on the knee. "Did you take your meds?"

Blaine closes his eyes and nods.

"Ok," Kurt says, pushing himself up off the bed. When he reaches the door, he turns around to say goodnight.

"You're much better then that girl's gonna be," Blaine says quietly.

"Thank you," Kurt whispers, watching him huddle against the wall as he closes the door.

Blaine likes to tell him about the things Kurt's "old" glee club is up to. Last week, the whole football team quit, but then there was something about dancing zombies and everything turned out ok. This week, there is apparently a lot of love drama.

"Finn dated Quinn, but she cheated with Puck, so then Finn started to date Rachel but then they broke up because of Brittany and Santana but then he wanted Rachel back but by that time she was with Jesse." Blaine takes his pill out of the little plastic cup and puts it in his mouth. "So Quinn dated Puck for a while, and then Puck dated Mercedes and then Jesse egged Rachel in the parking lot and she started to date Finn again and then Rachel found out that Finn slept with Santana so she made out with Puck."

"Wait," Kurt says as he hands Blaine a bottle of water. "What happened to Puck and Mercedes?"

Blaine blinks at him. "Well, Mercedes quit the cheerleading team, and Puck was only dating her because being with a cheerleader would make him popular, but that's not important."

Kurt glances around the rest of the passengers on the Dalton Institution bus. Every few weeks, if the patients are particularly well behaved, the supervising nurse will schedule an outing. Today they are headed to the mall, and Blaine has insisted that he sit next to Kurt.

"Anyway, Quinn started dating Sam, and then Quinn kissed Finn." Blaine finally drinks his water and hands the bottle back to Kurt.

"Oh, no," Kurt says as he puts the bottle back onto his bag. "Whatever will Sam do?"

"Sam will get with…" Blaine pauses, thinking. "Santana. But they won't last, because Santana's a lesbian."

"Fascinating," says Kurt. He looks out the window and rolls his eyes at all the pink and red decorations donning the shops and restaurants throughout the streets. "I hate Valentine's."

"It's my favorite holiday," Blaine says, leaning over to look out the window as well.

Kurt sighs. "And why is that?"

"I think there's something really great about a day where you're encouraged to just lay it all out on the line and say to somebody I'm in love with you." Blaine smiles at him, another flash of someone Kurt doesn't know, someone healthy and articulate, who comprehends the world around him reels through Kurt's mind.

Shifting in his seat, Kurt stares down at his hands in his lap. It isn't fair. It isn't fair that someone as sweet and joyful as Blaine has to live life in a complete fantasy. Then again, maybe that's why he's so sweet in the first place.

"Do you think it's too much to sing to somebody on Valentine's Day?" Blaine asks.

Kurt sits up and blinks at him. The look on Blaine's face is so intent and earnest that Kurt can't help but read into it. It made sense, really. Blaine followed him around the institution like puppy dog, and Kurt didn't exactly discourage it either. Patients developing feelings for or becoming overly attached to certain caretakers is nothing new, and it's happened to Kurt before. All he has to do is discuss it with Blaine and his superior to help set some boundaries. He takes a deep breath and gazes out the window again.

"Will you actually listen to me if I say no?"

Blaine rests his head on Kurt's shoulder. "Not at all."

Kurt does not expect Blaine to burst into song in the middle of the Gap. He does not expect the song he bursts into to contain lyrics alluding to sex toys. The one thing he really doesn't expect, however, is that the song is in now way directed at him. Blaine sings the song for a junior manager, scaring the shit out of him, but amusing the other customers. Kurt has to drag him out of the store, force him back onto the bus and sit with him until everyone else returns.

Blaine slumps in his seat, obviously heartbroken and disappointed that singing at a random stranger did not win him love. He shrugs off his blazer and loosens his tie, making him look more disheveled than Kurt has ever seen him. He reaches out and takes Blaine's hand.

"I could see the appeal," he says. "It was quite the head of hair."

"If Jeremiah and I got married, the Gap would give me a fifty percent discount." Blaine says dreamily.

"That guy's name wasn't even Jeremiah," says Kurt, laughing. "It was like, Neal."

"He… he's not out at work," Blaine explains, bringing his feet up onto the seat to sit cross-legged. "And we only got coffee twice. We're not dating, and if we were, he would get arrested because I'm underage."

"I actually think Neal is younger than you," Kurt scratches the back of his head. "God, I would have loved you."

Blaine frowns at him, but doesn't say anything.

"I mean, if it were real," Kurt says. "If you were really this teenage singing dreamboat who recruited me to his glee club, I… I would have just loved you. You would have driven me crazy. But it's not real. It's all just something you made up in your head."

"You think the person I wanted to sing to today was you." Blaine says. "We hang out, we sing flirty duets, are you just supposed to think that's nothing."

Kurt squeezes his hand. "Oh, Blaine, no…"

"I'm clueless," he says, looking away from Kurt. "I don't know what I'm doing. I've never been anyone's boyfriend."

"Neither have I." Kurt hates how much his eyes sting as he brushes a hand down Blaine's cheek. He takes a deep, shaky breath. "I… I really care about you, Blaine, but…"

"You think it's just like When Harry Met Sally." Blaine says, turn back to him with bright eyes. "You get to play Meg Ryan."

"Um, don't they get together in the end?" Kurt asks.

Blaine ignores him, and instead scoots closer to once again rest his head on his shoulder. "You know my coffee order."

"You know, Blaine?" Kurt drapes his arm around the patient leaning against him. "I honestly wish I did."

For some reason, Blaine is mad at him. Kurt isn't sure if he actually did something offensive or if it's just another delusion, but there doesn't seem to be anything he can do to make it better. Blaine will sit around the common room, looking miserable until Kurt tries to talk to him, and then leave in a huff, usually returning to his room and locking himself in there for the rest of the day.

Blaine currently sits in an armchair, watching tv with some other patients. He lets out a dramatic sigh, glancing over to Kurt to see if it got his attention. Kurt avoids looking at him, focusing on passing out medications to the various patients. He knows Blaine wants him to go over there and ask what's wrong, but he also knows that the moment he does, Blaine will roll his eyes and leave.

Kurt squints at the tray of pills in his hand. If he just approaches Blaine to give him his meds, then maybe he won't run off. The nurses have direct orders from his doctor to keep him around other people. Letting him spend too much time alone makes allows him to retreat further into his head. Kurt isn't sure how much further the guy could possibly go, but he doesn't know the details behind whatever is wrong with Blaine, so he doesn't question it.

The little round pills rest in a tiny plastic cup labeled B. Anderson. Kurt picks it up and brings it to Blaine, holding it out to him and smiling. Blaine eyes it, giving it the look most patients give when they don't want to take their meds.

"Come on," Kurt says, shaking the cup up a bit to make the pills rattle.

Blaine frowns and turns away.

"Don't do this to me," says Kurt. "You're better than that."

This gets Blaine's attention. His expression softens, looking up at Kurt with his big, sad eyes. He takes the cup, tosses the pills into his mouth and swallows them dry.

"Good boy." Kurt nods at him and takes back the cup, placing it with the other empty cups on his tray. He turns around to continue passing them out when he hears the chair squeak and Blaine stand up.

"I'd say bye, but I wouldn't want to make you angry." Blaine says, pushing past Kurt and running out of the room.

Kurt stands there, frowning. He knows not to get too aggravated when patients start acting up, but this is different. Regaining his composure, he finishes his task, trying to look as calm and indifferent as possible. Kurt tucks the tray and all its empty cups into a storage room and quietly heads upstairs.

The door to Blaine's room is locked, but that's not actually a problem. Most of the doors can be locked from the inside to give the patients a sense of privacy, but all the nurses have keys, just in case. Kurt decides against just barging in, as he doesn't want to startle Blaine. Instead, he knocks, and waits. Leaning forward, he listens carefully for any sign of Blaine coming to the door. He can hear something, but it's faint. Kurt takes a deep breath and presses his ear against the door. Blaine is crying.

Kurt knocks again. "Blaine? Are you alright?"

He can only hear sobs as a response. Taking out his keys, he unlocks the door and peaks inside. Blaine sits on his bed, cradling his birdcage in his arms. Opening the door a little wider, Kurt clears his throat to get Blaine's attention.

Blaine looks up, gulping. "Pavarotti is dead."

"Oh, Blaine, I'm so sorry," Kurt says, entering the room and closing the door behind him.

Blaine just sniffles and presses his forehead against the cage. Sitting down next to him, Kurt can now see the little yellow bird lying stiffly at the bottom. He wraps his arm around Blaine's shoulder and rocks him gently.

"You suspect a stroke," Blaine says. "It... it's stupid to be upset about a bird."

"No, it's not," says Kurt. "Loved him. He was your friend."

Blaine sighs, and turns away from the cage to bury his face in Kurt's neck. Kurt pries the cage out of Blaine's hands, placing it on the floor so he can get a better grip onto Blaine, who wraps his arms around his waist and squeezes him. Patting his gelled hair, Kurt does the only thing he knows Blaine will respond to. He starts to sing.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise."

Shifting, Blaine quietly hums along with him, harmonizing as they sing. Kurt holds him tight, rocking him and rubbing his back. He knows what it's like to lose someone you care about. One could argue that losing your mother at eight and your father at sixteen to a heart attack is worse, but Kurt is pretty sure that the bird was probably the closest thing Blaine had to family.

"Blackbird fly, fly..."

Blaine reminds Kurt of himself in those days, desperate to regain what has been lost. Kurt still feels that way sometimes, but he's learned to ignore it.

"Blackbird fly, into the light of the dark black night..."

With another sigh, Blaine snuggles up to Kurt, pulling him in closer. They sit there for a few moments, enjoying each other's company. Kurt sends as many good vibes toward Blaine as possible, wanting him to be happy, and ultimately, to get better. That's the ultimate goal of the institution, after all, to make these sick people better. Kurt isn't sure what the success rate is, but for Blaine, at least, he hopes it's high.

A little part of him, however, thinks Blaine can be perfectly happy the way he is. Why shouldn't he have his song-filled dreamworld? Why should he have to live in this dull, agonizing reality? All it'll do is hurt him. He pulls away, reminding himself that he's enabled Blaine's delusion too much for too long already. Blaine looks up at him, his eyes still red.

"Oh, there you are," Blaine says, as if he's seeing Kurt for the first time. "I've been looking for you forever."

Kurt once again has no idea what he's talking about, but he doesn't really care. He reaches out for the cage. "Why don't I take this and find a nice box to bury Pavarotti in, ok?"

Blaine nods and hands him the cage. Kurt can feel Blaine's eyes on him as he walks across the room, giving him a strange feeling the pit of his stomach. When he reaches the door, he gives Blaine a small before he leaves. Kurt clutches the cage to his chest as he makes his way through the halls of the institution, wondering why he feels this way. It's like his triggered something awful and he doesn't understand what.

There are some empty boxes in a storage room. He picks out a relatively small one and places the bird inside. He stares down at it for a moment before placing the lid over it. Wiping his eyes, Kurt curses himself for being choked up over a bird. Yes, he just told Blaine it was fine for him to mourn, but it was Blaine's pet, not his. But that's the thing; other people are allowed to be sad, not him. He has more important things to worry about.

Kurt tells himself this over and over again, but still his eyes well up. He leans forward and presses his forehead against the wall, trying to compose himself. As sad and as crazy as it sounds, Kurt wishes he could be like Blaine. He wishes that all of his problems, all of his bottled up pain could be washed away with a song. He wishes he could live in that world with Blaine, that world of school uniforms and show choir competitions, where the worst loss anyone could ever have is the death of an easily replaceable bird. The storage room door creaks and Kurt looks up. Blaine stands there, resting against the door frame.

"Hey," Kurt says, trying to sound calm and not like he is two seconds away from sobbing. "I found Pavarotti a nice casket."

Blaine comes in, licking his lips nervously. "Candles, by Hey Monday."

"I don't think I know that song," says Kurt. "You're usually so top forty."

Kurt squints as Blaine approaches him, that strange, ominous feeling once again building up in his chest. He places his hand over Kurt's on the box holding the bird.

"You move me, Kurt." Blaine says. Swallowing, Kurt wills himself to back away, but he's paralyzed. "This duet would only be an excuse to spend more time with you."

"What duet?" Kurt asks.

He doesn't get an answer. Blaine cups Kurt's cheek with his other hand and kisses him. His mouth closes over Kurt's and suddenly Kurt is sixteen, being kissed by a friend he loves, who he's going to sing a duet with, who is gorgeous and kind and loves him back. Kurt brings his hand up to Blaine's jaw and kisses back, letting the fantasy take over him for just this moment, just this perfect moment in time where nothing else matters.

The kiss breaks. Blaine blushes and says something about practicing, but Kurt doesn't listen. The spell is broken, and now Kurt knows that there is only one thing he can do. He watches Blaine rub his forehead and smile at him while the feeling in his chest turns into a heavy, agonizing lump. Kurt takes a deep breath and grabs Blaine by the shoulders, kissing him again.

He puts it all into the kiss; all of his wanting, all of his love. Kurt pours as much of himself into it because he knows that this has to be the last time. After this, he will help Blaine bury is bird, say goodbye and go. He has to leave Dalton forever. Kurt let himself get to involved, enabled a delusion far too much. Blaine wraps his arms around Kurt's waist, and Kurt hopes that Blaine can feel it. He hopes that Blaine can feel how much he loves him and how much he cares. Most of all, he hopes Blaine will understand when Kurt doesn't come into work tomorrow.

Kurt's apartment is quiet. It remains quiet for a long time, with not even the sounds of the tv or stereo penetrating the silence in any satisfactory way. Eventually Kurt convinces himself that he is used to the thick, heavy quiet that fills every corner of his living space, but that's not really true. He's constantly aware of it, thudding against his mind. Sometimes, when he can't stand it, he sings. Careful not to sing anything that might remind him of Blaine, Kurt will walk around his living room, belting out whatever will make him feel not alone.

He finds work in a hospital. The thing about hospitals is that the patients don't stay for very long. They come and go, and soon they call start to blend together. No one sticks out. No one makes him want. He likes the hospital for that very reason, as this way he never has the chance to be weak, he never has the chance to connect with someone he can't ever have. Occasionally he'll take a liking toward a handsome doctor, but he never acts on it. Acting on it would mean opening himself up, being vulnerable and raw. Kurt can't do that.

Instead he'll go to a bar a few blocks away. It's not technically a gay bar, but Kurt manages to find comfort there anyway. It's quiet, usually with just a jazz singer or a piano player as entertainment. Kurt likes to go there and sit at the end of the bar, away from everyone else, so that he can get the experience of going out without having to actually interact with anyone. Every once in a while, a man will ask Kurt to go home with him. Kurt tells himself that next time, he will. Next time he'll smile and say yes. Even if they never see one another again, they will at least connect for a few moments. Kurt always turns them down.

Tonight is slow, with only a handful of people at the bar or sitting in the booths. Kurt nurses his drink, staring at his reflection in the glass. He lost a patient today to a heart attack, a man in his late forties. Kurt was in the hallway when the doctor told the man's family, and he had to leave. He hid in the break room for an hour, his head in his hands. Taking a sip of his drink, Kurt reminds himself that these things happen and that he should be stronger. He isn't, though, and he hates himself for it.

"I walked across an empty land," the piano player sings. "I knew the pathway like the back of my hand./i"

Kurt doesn't turn around immediately. This has happened before. He'll hear a voice and his heart will clench, then he'll desperately seek it out only to be disappointed. Kurt stiffens and rubs his finger along the ridge of his glass. He doesn't care how long it's been; there is no possible way that it's him.

"I felt the earth beneath my feet. Sat by the river and it made me complete."

He chokes out a sigh because this one sounds so right. Holding tightly onto his drink, Kurt forces himself to look, if only for the relief he'll feel when he sees the singer. He'll see that it's someone else, and Kurt can go back home, because this night is starting to become too much.

Kurt doesn't recognize him at first. His hair is longer, a tangled mop of curls that hang over his eyes. Stubble lines his jaw. He looks tired, and thin. His mouth falling open and his heart pounding, Kurt watches him as he sings.

"Oh simple thing, where have you gone? I'm getting old and I need something to rely on. So tell me when you're gonna let me in. I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin."

Turning away, Kurt covers his mouth to hold back whatever his heart and stomach want him to scream. He should go. He should go home and leave this poor man alone, because he has obviously come so far and does not need to relapse. Kurt owes him that.

The bartender refills his drink and Kurt realizes that he is glued to his chair. He decides to wait until Blaine's set is finished. If Blaine notices him, and comes up to him, then they can talk. If Blaine leaves, then Kurt can leave too. He can go home knowing that whatever happened all those years ago, at least Blaine got better.

It's almost closing time when Blaine gets off the stage. Kurt watches him out of the corner of his eye as he enters the back room, presumably to e paid. When he comes back out, Kurt holds his breath and stares into his empty glass. Blaine comes up to the bar.

"Can I get some water?" he asks, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out an orange pill bottle, just like the ones at Dalton Institute.

The bartender nods and gives him a glass. Kurt breaths deeply, trying to appear calm and uninterested while Blaine takes his medicine. Blaine stands there for a minute, and Kurt can feel his eyes on him. He licks his lips and keeps his head down, waiting for Blaine to make the first move. Clearing his throat, Blaine shuffles his feet. Kurt is unsure if this is Blaine trying to get his attention or just coughing, so he glances up, briefly catching his eye. Blaine stares at him.

"Oh my god," he breaths.

Kurt looks up again. "Excuse me?"

"I, um, I'm sorry." Blaine says, pushing the hair out of his eyes. "I just..."

"It's ok," says Kurt.

Blaine bites his lip, looking at Kurt with those big puppy dog eyes that he missed so much. "Uh, hi. How are you?"

"I'm, um, I'm alright." Kurt says. "You?"

"Better," Blaine says. "Are you, um, are you still a nurse?"

Kurt nods. "Yes. I work at the hospital a few blocks from here."

"That's great," Blaine says. He glances around the bar for a moment before turning back to Kurt. "Listen, can we talk? I mean, I know the bar is closing, but..."

"I'd love to," says Kurt, sliding off of the stool. "You know, if you want to."

"I do," says Blaine. "I really do."

They walk in silence to a 24 hour diner down the street, where they huddle into a booth in the corner and order coffee. Kurt's mind is reeling. He never thought this moment would come, and now it's here. Blaine is here. He watches Blaine fiddle with a sugar packet for a while before he musters the courage to speak.

"I want to apologize," Blaine says, tearing the packet open and stirring it into his coffee, "for what I did to you."

Kurt holds his own cup of coffee in his hands, reveling in the warmth. "Oh."

Blaine takes a sip. "The thing is, I don't really know what I did. I don't remember much of anything from that time. All I know is that recognizing that you were a nurse and not a student was a huge breakthrough for me."

"That, um, that's nice." Kurt says.

"It, well, it lead to me coming to terms with the fact that I wasn't a student either, and that Dalton wasn't a school and there were no Warblers." Blaine says. This sounds rehearsed, as if he has been planning on what he would say to Kurt for a long time.

Kurt looks out the window to the night sky outside. "What do you remember?"

Sighing, Blaine shrugs. "Random things, but I don't know if they were real or not. I remember you getting mad at me for kissing a girl."

"If you kissed a girl, I knew nothing of it." Kurt says, eyeing him.

"And then I remember, um, telling your dad to give you a sex talk." Blaine says. He smiles and covers his eyes in embarrassment.

Kurt arches an eyebrow. "My dad died when I was sixteen, so I'm pretty sure that didn't happen."

Blaine laughs for a second before coughing into his fist. "I'm sorry, I didn't..."

"It's ok," Kurt says. "What else?"

"I remember my bird dying," Blaine says, quietly.

Kurt smiles. "Pavarotti."

"So that was real?" Blaine asks.


Blaine takes a deep breath and stares down at his drink. "And, um, and what happened after that? Was that real?"

Kurt gulps. "Yes."

"Oh god, I'm so sorry." Blaine says, burying his face in his hands. "I'm so, so, sorry. Kurt, ever since I got better, I never thought that part could be real. I never once thought I actually kissed you."

"If it's any consolation, I kissed you back." Kurt says. Sniffling, Blaine looks up at him with wet eyes. "I'm not saying I should have, but I did."

"Is, is that why you left?" Blaine asks.

Nodding, Kurt shifts in his seat. "I kept, I kept thinking about what it would've been like if you got better, or maybe if I lost it and went to live with you in your fantasy world."

"I first really started to make progress," Blaine says, swallowing. "When I decided that if I got better, I could get you back. But then I actually did get better, and I realized that the person I knew wasn't actually you. That was a person I made up in my head."

"You didn't really know me at all," says Kurt. "Did you?"

Blaine shakes his head. "I'm sorry."

"It, um, it's good that you realize that." Kurt says.

"But, but maybe I could know you," Blaine says, sitting up and reaching out for Kurt's hand. "It's important for me to distinguish between reality and delusion, and it would be really helpful if I knew the real you, instead of my idea of you."

Kurt looks at Blaine's hand resting above his own and his heart begins to pound in his ears.

"I don't know," he whispers. "What if I don't live up to your idea?"

Blaine rubs his thumb across Kurt's wrist. "What if I don't live up to yours? I mean, you don't really know me either."

"So let's start from scratch." Kurt says. "Two strangers getting to know one another."

Smiling, Blaine nods. "That could work."

Kurt pulls his hand out from Blaine's and holds it out to him. "Hi. I'm Kurt."

"Hello, Kurt." Blaine says, shaking his hand. "I'm Blaine."


Thank you for reading!