Hello everyone! Thank you very much for checking this out :)

So I come to you with a two-shot, with a plot is so cliché I seriously hesitated on whether I could really publish it. All my thanks go to Aidan (whose wonderful Tumblr can be found at what-wouldblairdo . tumblr . com/) for the lovely encouragement, it meant a lot.

This fic is heavily Sam/Kurt centric and will become Sam/Kurt slash next chapter, and even though I've tried with all my strength to avoid any character bashing the POV I chose doesn't allow for much impartiality so any Blaine lover might want to push the back button now.

I don't know when the next chapter will be out but I promise I'll try to post it as soon as possible.

I hope you'll enjoy!

The Fine Line between Success and Failure

Chapter 1: Failing and Falling

"Is Kurt at Mercedes's or something?" Sam asked, intrigued, when the brunet didn't show up within twenty minutes of their arrival in the Hudson-Hummel home. Kurt didn't regularly join them when they played video games, though it was cool when he did because most games were funnier to play with an even number of people, but he almost always took the time to greet them and to offer them something to drink, more often than not sparking an argument with Finn on "how one was supposed to treat guests" in the process.

Finn let out a small sigh and actually paused the game, ignoring Puck's protests.

"Nah, he's in his room. He's been pretty upset and stuff this week, but he won't tell me why. I even tried to bring him some warm milk last night, but then I went to finish killing the boss while it heated and it turns out milk isn't like water, it can actually burn, so…Kurt was a bit too busy yelling at me and trying to save his favourite saucepan to talk to me I guess."

"Don't you think we should invite him? If he's been unhappy lately?" Sam asked. Puck frowned, but that was probably because Kurt had kicked his ass last time they'd all played together.

"Not sure joining us will make him feel better, but, well, sure." Finn answered, shrugging, making no move to get up. At Sam's raised eyebrow, he added: "Oh, I'm not doing it! You're a guest, I'm pretty sure he can't yell at you, it's part of his honour code or something. Plus it's your idea. You can go." And to make sure everyone understood just how much he wasn't braving the diva in his lair, he restarted the game and shot twice in Puck's character's direction, who had to throw himself on the ground to avoid getting killed.

"Dude, we're on the same team!"

That didn't mean much; for some reason, most games where they were supposed to play together to advance ended up with them trying to kill each other anyway, which meant they stayed in the same room for hours because every time one of their characters died they all had to redo the level. It probably said something not-so-positive about them, Sam reflected even as he climbed the steps to Kurt's room, but it was fun nonetheless.

One of the doors was ajar, letting him see it was clearly the parental bedroom, while another held a small wooden sign proudly claiming "FINN" in the large, blocky letters children used when they didn't quite know how to write yet, so at least Sam didn't have to ponder for too long which door he should knock at.

"Finn, if you have even the slightest amount of regard for your PS3 you will stop badgering me this instant, because I swear that the next time I hear you ask something even remotely approaching the words "is everything okay, dude?" I'll introduce it to the delights of flying without a parachute. Don't think I don't mean it."

Sam blinked at the still-closed door, a bit startled and a lot amused, then decided Kurt hadn't exactly said he couldn't come in, so he turned the handle.

"You know, I'm sure he means well."

Kurt startled a little, turning on his wheeling desk chair to face him.

"Good intentions won't bring my casserole back. It was an authentic Lagostina, you know."

"I really don't. But, uh, Finn feels terrible."

"I'm sure," Kurt said, finally smiling at him. "You here for the new game he has been raving about for the last three days?"

"Yeah, it's pretty great. Well, we haven't gone far yet, but it seems fun. And I was wondering if you wanted to come down and play it with us?"

Kurt pursed his lips, which was the code for no.

"Sorry, Sam, I don't really feel like playing right now."

Then he crossed his arms, which meant he was going to try and put a term to the conversation.

"I actually have this load of French homework I've been battling with for the past hour to finish for Monday, so I'd better get back to it. I'll eat with you if you stay till dinner, though, as long as you don't order pizza."

And then he bit his lower lip and looked away, which meant Finn hadn't been exaggerating, there was a problem.

"Sure. But if you want to talk, I've been told I'm a good listener. Well, Stacy told me, but I figure it still counts, right?"

"Oh, I wouldn't dare to question Stacy's judgment. But I don't want to bother you – it's nothing really, just boy troubles, you know."

Kurt said boy troubles like it was a magical formula going to make Sam look away, stammer embarrassingly about how it was going to get better and leave quickly.

"And what exactly do you think Stacy talks to me about? I know, I know, she's only nine, but with kids those days that really doesn't mean much."

Kurt laughed a little at his best impression of their grouchy History teacher, finally bringing his arms down from where they'd stayed protectively crossed on his chest. Sam, seemingly nonchalantly, leant on the still open door and closed it with his weight, trying to make it apparent he wasn't leaving anytime soon.

"So what's happening with Blaine?"

Kurt's reaction was startling to say the least – his small smile got dropped immediately, and his eyes even started glistening a little.

"Whoa, whoa, what's the matter? Is he moving to Europe or something?" Pretty dramatic as far as hypotheses went, but it took a lot to make Kurt even envisage crying, so it wasn't out of the range of possibility. It also had the merit to surprise the brunet enough to make him blurt out the truth.

"What? No, no, nothing like that. He's just- we just decided to take a break."

This…was potentially more surprising than the ex-Warbler packing and leaving for Hungary.

"Seriously? Er, sorry man. It's just you two usually look- I mean, what happened?" He crossed the room to sit on the bed, and surely enough Kurt sat down too.

"I-I'm not sure. I mean, it's true we had a row last week, but nothing major, you know? I had almost forgotten about it to be honest, but then on Monday he said something about not being sure this was working anymore, and, well-"

Sam winced a little. Monday had been four days ago, which meant he should have noticed. Blaine and Kurt, though they could be disgustingly adorable when they wanted to, weren't a clingy couple, so he hadn't blinked an eye when Blaine hat sat next to Rachel and Kurt with his other friends in Glee club, but in retrospect he should have – four days spent at different ends of the room generally didn't mean anything good when it came to relationships.

"But you're- well, you said you were on a break, so what-"

"It's the gay-in-Lima equivalent of maybe we should see other people, because there are no other people to be seen." Kurt's voice was bitter. "Not that I want to see other people, but his prevarications are still annoying."

Kurt now seemed angry rather than depressed, which was an improvement as far as Sam was concerned.

"Well perhaps he will, um, reconsider?"

"Yeah. I think I'll just let him alone for a few weeks and he'll realise what a catch he lost and come beg for forgiveness on his knees." Considering Kurt's self-deprecating smile and his light tone it was obviously meant to be a joke, but Sam thought the scenario was pretty likely so he just nodded with conviction. Kurt's smile became a little more sincere.

"Come on then. Puck must be getting overconfident just facing Finn, it's time to put him back in his place."

And so they went downstairs, where Sam tried to ignore Finn's wide-eyed look of sincere admiration and Puck's reproachful glare as Kurt sat down on the couch. It turned out Puck hadn't needed to worry: apparently their fourth player took the game's storyline very seriously and decided they actually needed to advance to see what happened to the main character and his plucky girlfriend, even though he did rant a little about machismo in video games in the process.

Kurt also decided he was going to take care of dinner, which was a very good thing, and then Finn decided that in spite of his step-brother's protests they were all going to help, which wasn't such great news for the food but was a lot of fun. As it turned out, Kurt and Sam ended up preparing most of the meal while Puck surreptitiously tried to steal bits of uncooked food and Finn worked hard to convince them cheap cheddar and bacon made everything better, even prawn soufflés.

And when it was time for the two invited teens to leave, Kurt caught him by the sleeve and thanked him, his eyes sincere, and he found himself smiling even as Puck dropped him three blocks away from the place his family had moved in a month ago because "it would force him to make too much of a detour".

"Hey Sam, wait up." Sam, who'd been debating the merits of following Kurt after the countertenor had left the choir room in a hurry, turned at the sound of Mercedes's voice.


"He told you what happened last week." She didn't have to precise what she was talking about, nor did he ask how she knew – he was very aware of just how perceptive Mercedes could be, especially in matters relating to her favourite boy. The way he had kept a seat for Kurt and then tried to distract him every time Blaine opened his mouth during Glee club must have been more than enough clues for her to guess.

"We have to do something." Her voice was filled with her customary determination, which made Sam smile fondly.

"Count me in. Have you heard anything from Blaine? Has Rachel talked to him?"

"I don't think Rachel knows, and I've been expressively forbidden by Kurt to even approach gelled hair boy – I think he's afraid I'm going to castrate him."

"So what? Do you want me to talk to him, figure out what's going on?"

"What's going on is that Blaine is a jerk." Sam raised surprised eyes to look at Mercedes at this, because the flat, cold tone she had adopted was quite uncharacteristic of her. "But for some reason Kurt is slowly destroying himself over the hobbit, so I'm going to step in."

"I take it you already have a plan?"

"Actually, two hours ago I didn't. But then you did your little protective act in Glee club, and I know you were concentrating on Kurt so you couldn't have seen it but it had some very interesting effects on Mr let's-take-a-break…"

"Let me recapitulate. You think the best way for me to convince Blaine we're meant to be together is to spend more time with you. Ideally we'd pretend to date, but since we're in Lima, Ohio, and this could be literally hurtful to you, we're staying this step short of a Harlequin novel and just making it look like we're the best friends ever. With plenty of friendly-only touching thrown it."

Sam nodded enthusiastically.

"And all this is because Mercedes saw Blaine looking "longingly" at us when you spent your time whispering sarcastic comments about Mr Schue's lesson plans to me during Glee club."

"Pretty much."

"This is ridiculous."

"Quite possibly."

Kurt paused in his back-and-forth stalking of the room and threw him a side glance.

"What's in it for you?"

This is tearing you apart, and I hate to see you unhappy, Sam could have said. Or perhaps I haven't forgotten just how much you helped me last year, and I'm fucking ecstatic to have the chance to repay you, even a little. Both answers would have been true, and both answers would have made Kurt uncomfortable.

"Mercedes is blackmailing me."

Kurt was surprised into laughing.

"Seriously. She's got some severe dirt on me, man, and if I don't do this it's going straight to her Facebook. Or her Twitter, or Tumblr, or whatever latest inanity is all the rage for you young people."

"Must you quote Mr Ferrorer to me every time we talk? I'm getting my bi-weekly dose of his irritability in History class, just like you do, and it's already more than enough to crush my soul."

"Not my fault the man makes so much sense."

Kurt just rolled his eyes at him, in the understated way he had that meant you knew he had just rolled his eyes at you even though they hadn't actually moved.

"So what do you say? Are you in?"

Kurt sighed.

"Very well, Sam Evans; I officially agree to non-date you and partake into a lot of platonic touching with you as a way to make my possibly ex-boyfriend crazily jealous." He finally let a small smile escape. "And thank you, Sam. If nothing else, it will be nice to take my mind off the situation."

Sam just grinned at him.

"So what you're saying is that being best friends with you supposes having seen Avatar."

"Precisely. It's an essential pre-requirement. It's also better if you've seen Kick-Ass and Quantum of Solace, and at least tried the first season of Star Trek."

"I guess it can't be worse than my latest try at brotherly bonding; I swear, sitting through 90 minutes of a game whose rules you don't understand with a fan raving about his favourite team's every move when you haven't even identified which team he's talking about should be considered a cruel and unusual punishment."

"Are you still going on about that? I didn't exactly sit on you and made you watch, you know!"

Kurt turned an unrepentant grin in his step-brother's direction as the tall teen entered the living-room.

"And I'm thankful, as it would probably have resulted in my immediate and painful death. Do you want to watch the blue version of Pocahontas with us?"

Finn blinked in Sam's direction, who obligingly translated. "Avatar."

"Oh, sure dude. I've been meaning to watch it for a while now. What's the occasion?"

Sam just shrugged, and Kurt obstinately kept his eyes on the TV unlit screen, not giving any sign he had heard the question. Finn glanced at them both in turn a few times before visibly letting it go, dropping himself on the couch.

"Well, I'm in. Can we get some pop-corn or something?"

Sam's answer of "not right before dinner for me, thanks" was much more moderate than Kurt's wry "right, because the amount of activity we're going to partake in during those two hours spent on a couch should clearly encourage us to indulge in buttery snacks", but Finn seemed to despair of them equally.

"That's just great, mate, way to back me up. And here I was hoping I'd get some support against Kurt's crazy non-eating habits. Is this one of those times you're going to hate yourself because you stopped eating like a rabbit for once?"

Sam winced a little, because he had been just on this side of too-truthful with Finn when trying to comfort him about doing the Glee Horror Picture Show in his underwear, and he had kind of hoped the taller teen would forget the comments he had made about his own body. The startled look Kurt sent him indicated he hadn't missed the implications of what had just been revealed, even if Finn had, so Sam rolled his eyes, trying to make it seem like Finn had taken something meant to be in jest too seriously. He was relieved when the movie started and Kurt turned to face the screen, apparently willing to drop it; but later that evening, at the dinner table where he'd been invited once again, he felt watchful eyes surveying how much food he put in his plate in a way that was probably meant to be discreet.

He found he didn't really mind.

He didn't share any of his classes with Kurt, but lunch break this Wednesday found Sam waiting for him in front of the junior's Spanish class.

"Hey Sam Evans, what's with the Labrador impression?"

"That's kind of harsh, man; I just thought we could eat together with Mercedes or something."

"Sorry, sorry. The bully whips meant well, I'm sure, but they made me kind of nervous about anyone waiting in front of my class – it was generally followed by a very loud conversation on the absence of any threats in the corridor, or the announcement that "team gay" could now proceed to the next check-point. I was rather relieved when Santana decided after junior Prom last year that they didn't need to protect me anymore."

"Or perhaps they just saw they couldn't."

Kurt abruptly stopped in the corridor to just stare at him, making the girl who'd been walking behind them shove her way past them with an annoyed sigh. Sam stopped walking as well, hesitating a little in the wake of this sudden attention, but finished his thoughts anyway.

"I mean, once Karofsky made it clear through his startling personality change that he wasn't going to accept open bullying, the hate hid itself, and so it was still there but it was actually harder to see and denounce. Don't you think so?"

"So you don't think I'm being paranoid, or reading too much into stupid jokes? I mean, there are whispers rather than shouts and P-Prom Queen nominations instead of pee balloons, but the latent homophobia is still the same, right?"

Pee balloons? Sam was a bit curious and a lot grossed-out, but more importantly he was wondering why the other teen would feel like he was exaggerating when he was simply acknowledging the persecution he'd been under his whole life. Kurt seemed strangely hesitant, his eyes not quite meeting Sam's, and he had the feeling the explanation for this uncharacteristic lack of confidence started with a B and ended with courage, which made him press his lips together in annoyance.

"Um, well, I don't think you're being paranoid in any way – sorry. Societal changes are rather slow to come, especially in small towns like these."

He felt a bit like he was quoting a badly-written social studies manual, but judging from the small smile Kurt wasn't quick enough to hide, the other teen didn't mind. This smile also made Sam feel weirdly proud, enough to actually allow himself to eat dessert at lunch without feeling guilty afterwards.

The next day their plan had still brought no apparent results and Kurt had come to school with his eyes circled by dark rings even his best make-up couldn't conceal, so Sam decided to step up his game a little. He waited for the countertenor in front of his last class before Glee club, greeting him with his sunniest smile and immediately looping an arm around the slightly smaller boy's shoulders. It was nothing more than what he had seen Puck do to Finn a thousand times but still Kurt tensed a little, shooting a few nervous looks around. Sam remembered the confident way Kurt had offered him his hand to shake, about a year ago now, and suddenly felt a little like punching the face off every single homophobic jock that had made it so difficult for Kurt to accept even the smallest proof of affection from a male friend. He valiantly refrained from his violent impulses but firmly kept his arm where it was, and slowly Kurt relaxed under his hold.

They fit together well, Sam noted absently; Kurt was just the right size under his arm. It was more than that, though: it felt right to be near Kurt this way, to show everyone that anyone wanting to mess with the countertenor would have to deal with him first. He had had a lot of time to reflect on his attitude towards the other teen last year, comparing it with everything Kurt had unhesitatingly done for him when things had gotten rough for his family, and though he had eventually tried to help it still made him wince to realise how long he had left Kurt to face the bullies alone – just to protect his reputation, when Kurt had been ready to risk his honour and his relationship to keep his secret. Never again, he promised himself, tightening his hold on the smaller teen a little.

And so they walked to the choir room in a comfortable silence, receiving nothing more than a few raised eyebrows and a discreet thumbs-up from Mercedes on the way.

On Friday, two events Sam had been waiting for finally happened: Blaine approached Kurt, and Sam received his first slushie in five months, courtesy of Azimio. Unluckily for their plan's success both events happened almost simultaneously, which meant Sam barely had the time to see Blaine was meeting Kurt in front of his locker before the grape-flavoured delicacy exploded on his face and forced him to tightly shut his eyes.

There was a hand on his wrist then, slender yet imperious, and he allowed it to lead him towards what he identified as the boys' bathroom by smell alone. He obediently ducked his face when the same hand left his arm to press gently on his neck, unsurprised but pleased to feel fresh water running on his face. He had the feeling he knew precisely who the hand belonged to, and surely enough, when the water had sufficiently washed the slushie away, he opened his eyes to meet Kurt's worried ones.

"Blaine!" the blond exclaimed as soon as he could talk, receiving an unimpressed look from his interlocutor.

"No, my name is Kurt, and you're Sam. Did the slushie permanently freeze your brain?" Before Sam could clarify his thoughts or even roll his eyes a little at the sarcastic retort, Kurt started talking once more, handing him a few wet paper towels. "Your self-preservation instincts are kind of low. I'm almost positive you're supposed to be worrying about yourself –and especially about how you're going to deal with grape-soaked trousers when those are probably the only pair you have at school – rather than about what Blaine may have been doing when you received a slushie."

"I have some extra clothes in my locker for after football practice, I'll just go and get them. And of course I worry, this was the first time we saw our plan was working and you just left him standing there!"

Kurt then stopped his attempts at making Sam's hair go back to its natural dark blond colour and just stood completely motionless in the dirty bathroom. Sam had never learnt how to read lips, but it was easy to see Kurt was mouthing our plan to himself. And since he was paying close attention to the other teen, he also finally realised his hand was shaking a little, and had probably been all along.

"Hey dude, is everything okay?"

"Sam, I'm so sorry." Kurt was frowning, almost wincing really, and Sam was feeling pretty confused. "I convinced myself- I mean, since Karofsky stopped his bullying things have been much better around here, at least in appearance, so I allowed myself to think nothing would come of us hanging around more, but obviously I was completely delusional. I let you convince me of your plan because it seemed fun and a good way to get to know you better, but I should have known it would end up like this. We should stop before this gets worse. Thanks for your help, though, it was really appreciable; you've been great as always."

It occurred to Sam, who'd been listening to Kurt's monologue with a bemused expression, that they had been in this position before. They'd been standing in the showers, rather than the toilets, when Kurt had told him that he was setting him free, that Sam had been honourable. He hadn't dared protesting, then, and if he was totally honest with himself he hadn't really wanted to; it was so much easier to let Kurt be the one to call it off and to go sing a duet with pretty cheerleader Quinn, his conscience undisturbed. So much safer.

He found now that he didn't want to play it safe anymore; that perhaps he hadn't wished to for a while.

"I should have sung this duet with you."

Kurt stopped abruptly in his listing of all the reasons why they should stop non-dating each other, obviously taken aback.

"…I'm sorry?"

"Last year. I never should have let your arguments convince me, especially when it was obvious you were just reacting to Finn's pressure. I wanted to sing this duet with you, and I should have made sure I would, and to hell with the slushies."

Kurt was barely breathing, staring at him with widened blue-green eyes, and Sam realised that this wonderful, talented boy had perhaps never had a friend declare he was worth much more than being popular did before. It felt so incredibly good to be able to give him this; it was like a dam had broken.

"I should have stood with you against the bullies, and done more than just fighting Karofsky once. I should have supported you when you were explaining to us what you intended to do for the boys/girls competition…or at least ensured your ideas were heard and valued, considering I really wasn't down with the feathered boa. I should have made sure you didn't need to go to Dalton to meet someone you could talk to. I should have at least stepped forward and offered to dance with you at Prom, so you'd know you had this possibility, even if you ended up dancing with Blaine."

He waited for the other boy to answer, but apparently he had done the impossible and rendered Kurt Hummel speechless.

"So, Kurt, no matter what you say, I'm not bailing out for some corn syrup in my eyes. Because I don't want any more "should haves" to add to this list."

Kurt was still staring at him, apparently shell-shocked, and it was the easiest thing in the world to tug the smaller boy in his arms and to draw him in a tight hug. The last time they'd hugged had been a few months back; he had just told Kurt about his new living conditions, his eyes dry but his voice cracking every few words, and the countertenor had hugged him a bit hesitantly, like he expected to be told off. Kurt's hug had been protective and reassuring and had felt fantastic; and now it was his turn to be the one to offer comfort, he found it didn't feel any less enjoyable than their last embrace had.

The two teens let go after a while, seemingly simultaneously realising they were standing in McKinley's bathroom, they were now both covered in purple syrup and the bell had rang a good ten minutes ago.

"I'm so fucking late for my Maths class," Sam sighed, and Kurt winced in empathy because Mrs Frele was some kind of dragon when it came to lateness.

"Which means you have a 50/50 chance not to be allowed in class anyway. I'm supposed to be in Spanish right now, but we've been learning to conjugate verbs in imperative form for the past few weeks and I'm about to find out whether you can actually die from boredom, so... What do you think, are you up for some time illegally spent in the choir room until second period? After we change, of course."

It made Sam blink in surprise, because he had never seen his friend play hooky before, but he was definitively interested. It probably wouldn't have been such a good idea for his math grade, which was already rather low, but as it turned out Kurt had already studied trigonometry in Dalton last year and he insisted on making sure Sam understood the lesson he was missing.

And so they spent an hour talking, and joking, and pretending to work, and Sam completely forgot Kurt was ever meant to talk to Blaine.

As it turned out, that was a mistake.

"D'you want to, um, talk about it?"

Kurt shook his head silently, still walking pretty quickly towards his Navigator. As far as Sam could tell from the few clues he'd had, Blaine had finally managed to talk to Kurt in their free period before Glee club – but it hadn't gone well.

"I don't even want to think about it right now. Do you have the time to come hang out? I'll even watch another one of those ridiculous excuses for a movie."

"Sorry dude, my parents are both working late and I'm supposed to go and get Stacy and Stevie." Kurt seemed sincerely disappointed and Sam found himself speaking again before he even knew he had his mouth open. "The kids would be delighted to see you, though, if you want to join me."

Sam had barely had the time to feel embarrassed at the way he had basically offered the other teen to babysit for free before Kurt answered.

"I'd love to! I've missed them this summer, it would be great to see them again."

And so they were off in the orgasmic Navigator, Kurt throwing him amused glances as he reverently brushed his fingertips on every button the dashboard held.

"I take it you like nice cars?"

Sam nodded with enthusiasm.

"My aunt owns a garage, and back when we all still lived in Tennessee I used to help around there every summer for a few weeks. At first it was mainly for the pocket money, but then I really got into it. It's so much better than class, you know? It makes more sense to me, and it turns out I'm better at flushing radiators than I am at remembering the dates of the Civil War."

Kurt looked pretty pensive at that and Sam stopped talking, wondering if he had made the boy think about Blaine in some way.

"I'll have to talk with my dad then, I think he said something about needing an extra hand on the weekends. The other guys are great but it would be cool working alongside someone my age for once. If you're interested, of course."

Sam just stared at Kurt, because even though he technically knew Mr Hummel owned a tire store he had somehow never connected this knowledge with the image of Kurt wearing dark blue overalls and working on an engine, although he probably should have.

"That'd be awesome." He blurted out even as they got out of the car, rewarded by Kurt's bright smile.

"Sammy! And Kurt, you're here too!"

"Hey Stace! You're supposed to wait for me inside the school, you know that. Come on, let's go get Stevie."

Stacy was much too busy hugging Kurt to listen to him so he just went to get his baby brother by himself, laughing when Stevie also threw himself at Kurt on seeing him. The countertenor looked happy but uncertain as to what to do with this sudden popularity so Sam came to the rescue, attempting to distract his siblings with snacks and then promising them Kurt was staying for a while when it seemed they wouldn't even let go of the slender teen for peanut butter cookies.

The kids were of course ecstatic at the news, bouncing around on the car's back seat and telling Kurt everything they wanted to do this afternoon, pointing out they had all weekend to do their homework when Sam teased them about it. Stevie's wish to have Kurt read to them and Stacy's insistence that they play a board game together somehow ended with them all snuggling on the Evans' tiny sofa, watching the Lion King, which meant his siblings begged Sam for his Zazu impressions afterwards, which, like such things are wont to do, soon evolved in a game of mime.

It was all very childish and probably not the type of fun you were supposed to have on Friday nights when you were a teenager, and it was true Sam had found himself fighting resentment more than a few times over the past month when he had had to refuse invitations to go out because he couldn't leave his siblings on their own, but this particular evening time went by in a flash. Kurt gracefully accepted their invitation to stay for dinner and didn't say anything when Stacy reminded Sam he had promised them Mac and Cheese for their parentless evening, though he seemed relieved when Sam whispered to him he'd prepare a salad on the side. The four of them ended up preparing the food together in the small kitchen, bumping into each other every time they moved and being about a thousand times less efficient than if Sam had just done it by himself, and it was all rather perfect.

Later, when the kids were bathing and Sam was unsuccessfully trying to convince Kurt he shouldn't be helping with the washing-up, the countertenor finally found his words.

"He told me he wanted to talk. I was pretty happy, as you can imagine, hm, rather annoyingly happy actually-" Kurt let out a chuckle that sounded like it hurt his throat going out. "And I started to, well, babble a little, I guess you could say. Said something among the lines of, yeah, of course, would you prefer to talk here, or should we meet later, there's this nice coffee shop around the corner, it seems cool, not as great as the one we usually go to but-" He sighed a little. "I think I talked about their cookies, of all things. Ridiculous, right? And Blaine, he'd usually watch me with a smile when I ramble like this, but he wasn't smiling then, he seemed…so angry."

Kurt sounded a bit hurt, but mostly bewildered, one hand reaching up to grasp at his perfectly-done hair. "Why should this be about you? He asked. You seem so glad, like I've already said I wanted you back, what if I wanted to talk about myself? You're trying to take control of the situation, like you always do, what if I had wished to decide where we should go?"

Sam just stared at Kurt, because what could he say to this?

"I think he felt how taken aback I was, and perhaps he would have apologised, I don't know, but the bell rang and it was time for Glee club. I really didn't want to talk to him afterwards so I left as quickly as possible, and…well, there we are. Thanks, by the way, for tonight. It was really great, I…I had a lot of fun."

Sam wished he knew what to do. He wanted to comfort Kurt, but the other teen had never seemed so unapproachable than he did then, standing ramrod straight in the middle of Sam's kitchen, arms crossed against his chest and dry eyes staring at the clock on the wall. He had finally decided on taking a chance and putting a hand on Kurt's shoulder anyway when Stacy came bouncing into the room, her wet hair falling in disorderly tresses around her head.

The countertenor immediately regained his customary poise, shooting Sam a smile even as he took Stacy's hand and exclaimed over everything they had to do to make her hair perfect. Of course Stevie wasn't far behind, and even though he hated hair-dressers with a passion it seemed he hated the idea of Stacy having fun without him even more because he demanded Kurt take care of his hair too.

After that, getting the elegantly-coiffed but overexcited kids to go to bed proved next to impossible; Sam ended up agreeing to a game of go fish just to make them sit down on the couch, deciding sitting was closer to being asleep than bouncing against the walls could ever hope to be. Kurt seemed to accept his reasoning, agreeably taking his place on the floor around the low table while distractedly humming a song Sam didn't recognise under his breath. After a few minutes of them playing and Kurt humming, Stevie suddenly dropped his cards and stared at the countertenor:

"Can you sing to us? Please?" He added quickly as Sam shot him a look. Kurt appeared a bit confused but nodded quickly enough.

"Sure. Do you have something in particular you want to listen to?"

Stevie just shook his head, cuddling against the couch cushion and staring at Kurt with wide eyes as the teenager self-consciously cleared his throat and started singing, a strange medley of show tunes mixed with classic rock ballads and some more recent songs. Sam identified perhaps a third of them, but they all had one thing in common; they were calm songs, songs that could pass for lullabies when Kurt's soft voice was the one interpreting them.

Sam had, as far as he could remember, always admired the countertenor's voice, ever since Kurt had somehow figured his email address and sent him some 60 MP3 files of his singing, more than a year ago; this night he also found reason to be thankful for it, because not ten minutes after Stevie's request both kids were sleeping soundly. Kurt couldn't have known how unusual it was but Sam found itself staring at the picture his siblings made for a good two minutes before he could make himself accept it, at which point he got his phone out to take a photo because this asked for physical evidence if he wanted his parents to ever believe him.

"Okay, Kurt, so here's what we're going to do." He began in a stage whisper. "You take Stevie, I take Stacy, we put them to bed. Then we come back here, you start singing again and I record everything that comes out of your mouth because obviously you have some sort of magical power and I'll need it the next time my parents leave me alone with them."

Kurt let a small laugh escape, immediately throwing a guilty look at the kids' prone forms thereafter, even though Sam could have told him not to worry – they had difficulty falling asleep, but they both slept like the dead.

"Seriously, I can't even remember the last time they fell asleep so easily before 10 PM. It must have been a few months ago at least; before the motel and everything." Kurt made a little noise of comprehension then, and Sam looked away, a bit embarrassed at the information he had let escape. "It's okay. They've been – we've all been – a bit stressed out, but it's better now. My parents have their new jobs, even if they're nothing spectacular, and then the house…yeah, it's better."

"I'm glad." Kurt said simply, keeping his tone neutral and not trying to meet his eyes, concentrating instead on getting Stevie comfortable in his arms. He lifted him easily, and Sam was reminded that in spite of his slender looks Kurt had been part of both the Cheerios and the football team.

They didn't speak much as they put the kids to bed, but the silence wasn't heavy or uncomfortable. Kurt's belongings had inexplicably spread themselves in the living-room during the afternoon so Sam helped gathering them, and then it was time for Kurt to go. The brunet hesitated a little at the door, clutching and releasing the strap of his messenger bag a few times, and then seemingly came to a decision and reached up to hug Sam, briefly but tightly. Sam was a bit surprised but mainly pleased, hugging the smaller teen in return and smiling as they separated.

As it turned out, he didn't have any problems going to sleep this night either.

The weekend went by quickly; Kurt had gotten his cell phone number somewhere, probably asking Finn for it, and he texted Sam on Saturday to say his father wanted him to do a trial run in the garage. He was a bit nervous but Kurt had obviously told his father Sam didn't have that much experience and Mr Hummel guided him every step of the way, watching him with a critical eye and eventually declaring it was "okay work" – high praise, if Kurt was to be believed.

He worked there on both afternoons this weekend, falling back in the demanding and yet simple rhythm of a successful tire shop, trying not to be too impressed by Kurt's efficiency and failing spectacularly. The other teen non-rolled his eyes when he told him just how amazed he was but Sam was pretty sure the way Kurt ducked his head was meant to hide a smile, or even a pleased blush, so his mission here was done. He did wonder then when exactly it had become his mission to bolster Kurt's self-esteem, but he eventually shrugged it off as unimportant.

He hadn't dared asking about Blaine as they worked, so he couldn't be sure the ex-Warbler hadn't tried to contact Kurt again, but he doubted he had; Kurt didn't seem happy enough, or perhaps angry enough, for it to be the case. He spent Monday surreptitiously watching to see whether Blaine would come up and talk to the countertenor, not daring to spend too much time with Kurt in case their ploy turned counter-productive and Blaine didn't dare approach him when Sam was nearby. It turned out to be in vain, however, and by the end of the day Kurt seemed more exhausted than ever and Mercedes was glaring at him a little, so he sat next to the countertenor in Glee club, keeping the boy sitting there with a hand on his elbow when it was time for the club to leave the choir room.

"Hey Kurt, do you want to try that coffee shop you were mentioning on Friday? My treat – your father agreed to pay me at the end of every weekend and I have to thank you for getting me a job I actually enjoy."

Mentioning the coffee shop was a bit risky, but it seemed luck was on his side because Kurt just smiled a little, for the first time Sam had seen that day.

"I'd be glad to come, though you don't need to treat me. Perhaps we can try those cookies."

It turned out the cookies bore more than a passing resemblance to sugary death traps so they both renounced, deciding on an organic fruit salad they could share instead. Sam insisted on being the one paying for it, since Kurt still refused to let him buy his coffee, and the countertenor seemed to feel it was important to him because he didn't argue, thanking him graciously instead.

"So did Mrs Frele acknowledge your absence on Friday in any way?" Kurt asked as they sat down.

Sam grimaced.

"Yeah, she interrogated me on the exercises for today; luckily I had done them. Thanks, by the way, for explaining the lesson to me on Friday, it really helped."

"No problem. Math isn't exactly my strong suit, but if you ever get stuck on a lesson feel free to ask, I'll help you if I can."

Sam smiled at him, grateful for the offer, and suddenly it hit him that this was different, somehow, from all the time they'd spent together this past week. Perhaps it was because they were alone, with no Finn or Mercedes or siblings. Perhaps it was the setting, away from school and homes and everything they knew – okay, not so far away, McKinley was just around the corner, but still. Perhaps it was the booth they had instinctively chosen, in a corner of the coffee shop, a bit sheltered from the looks of casual onlookers, or perhaps even the salad they were still sharing, each of them careful not to eat all the pineapple because it was by far the better fruit of the bunch. Whatever it was, it made Sam feel nervous, a little like he had eaten something that didn't agree with him, which made no sense because last time he'd felt this way around Kurt the other teen had just come up to talk to him while he was in the shower. This time around there was no unnecessary nudity and no cute black hats around so there was really no reason to feel like this.

Kurt seemed to take no notice of his uneasiness, taking Sam's sudden taciturnity in stride and easily filling the silence by babbling a little about his classes. It probably should have been annoying, but Sam found he was grateful. There was a strange generosity in Kurt's apparent self-centredness, an offer to let him be and not to ask for anything he didn't wish to give. There was none of the solicitation usually weighting on him when he interacted with other people, with his siblings who wished for his attention, his parents who expected it or his teachers who demanded it. He didn't have to enthusiastically agree, to nod thoughtfully or to answer pointed questions – he just sat, letting the sound of Kurt's voice wash over him, and he found some five minutes later that though he didn't have the faintest idea what the countertenor had just told him, he felt strangely lighter all the same. Kurt had fallen silent, smiling at him from across the table, and the naked affection in the other boy's gaze made him catch his breath a little.

"Shall we go? I promised Mercedes and Tina I would help them shop for a decent Halloween outfit – believe me, it's going to be fabulous."

Sam blinked, because, well, Halloween was still three weeks away on the calendar and it had easily been six years since he had last celebrated it, but he just shrugged, guessing the three fashionistas just didn't want to miss an occasion to dress up.

"I'll have to start looking for some stuff for Stevie and Stacy soon I guess; they're crazy about Halloween."

"Who isn't?" Kurt asked with a delighted lilt to his voice as they got up. "Oh, are you making the costumes yourself? You've got to let me help!"

"Um, sure, I think the kids would love that," Sam agreed, though his plans had until now mainly consisted of getting one of his siblings fake vampire teeth and the other a funny hat and making them wear black.

"Fantastic!" Kurt actually clapped a little. "I have this wonderful fabric I've been meaning to use for the longest time, but I didn't have enough for an outfit my size, and it just would be wonderful for- Oh, and I have the cutest patron for a witch dress, too!"

Stacy wasn't much for dresses but Sam didn't interrupt, knowing Kurt was gone in fashion-land and it would probably be in vain – plus there was a decent chance Stacy would wear whatever Kurt made her, so perhaps it wouldn't matter anyway. He contented himself with steering the countertenor by the elbow when it seemed to him Kurt was two seconds away from borrowing a cardboard sign from the counter of the coffee shop to scribble his ideas on. It got him a bit of a dirty look from the other boy he just grinned and shook his head, because this happy, animated Kurt was miles away from the miserable version that had entered the store some twenty-five minutes ago and it felt pretty wonderful to think he'd had a hand in that.

"Hey man, you've been kind of neglectful lately. Becoming too cool for us?"

The voice calling out to him was playful, and Sam was already smiling as he turned to face Mike.

"My dentist told me there was no way I'd normally have cavities with my current diet, so I decided your Asian kisses were to blame. I was just protecting my teeth, honest."

Mike made a half-hearted face at him.

"What do you think, game night tonight? I'll need it after my double period of History, and Tina bought Left 4 Dead 3 yesterday."

"Sweet! I thought she didn't like shooting games?"

"She made an exception because all the main characters are women; apparently it tickled her developing feminism or something. So what do you think?"

"Prepare to get your ass kicked. Can I invite Kurt too?"

Mike barely blinked before nodding, not acknowledging the unusual character of the request in the slightest – one of the reasons Sam enjoyed hanging around the laid-back teen.

"Yeah, the more the merrier. And this way you'll have an ally when it comes to deciding what we should order for dinner. Seven okay with you?"

Sam confirmed it was perfect, vaguely waving at Mike as the tall teen disappeared in his classroom, already fishing his cell phone out of his pocket with the other hand.

Game nite w/ Mike nd Tina, 7 PM. You in? :)

The answer was quick to come.

Sure, thanks for the invite. I'll see you there.

Sam smiled all the way to his Spanish class.

Wednesday afternoon found them watching The Parent Trap in the Hudson-Hummel household, alone this time: Finn had declined the invitation to watch along, throwing Sam an unreadable look as he climbed the stairs to his room.

The next day the blond dragged his friend to his favourite comic book shop in what he declared was retaliation for the two hours spent watching a twelve-year-old Lindsay Lohan, even though Kurt protested the movie was already his revenge for Avatar and Sam had actually enjoyed himself. Kurt seemed reluctantly interested in the more intricate figurines there, staring at the dragons with a weirdly intense look while Sam glanced through the latest issues of his favourite comics. He didn't buy anything and neither did Kurt, although the brunet seemed to sincerely hesitate over a small metal statue of a fierce-looking dragon, only putting it back after he'd glanced at the price tag.

"So, what did you think?" Sam was strangely anxious, and though they'd been throwing good-natured barbs at each other the whole time about their respective passions he was kind of hoping Kurt would answer seriously.

"You know, one of my favourite things about Broadway musicals is the way they create a brand new world for anyone who's interested enough to go and look for it. There's this whole universe that is so easy to fall into and yet could be explored for a lifetime and not share all its depths, a place that'll make you go to the same matinee three times in a week and yet not be bored one second, make your heart beat out of your chest just because you heard your favourite actress was going to perform your favourite musical, or even make you connect with someone who'll suddenly quote Wicked at you." Kurt took a breath and Sam stayed silent, interested even though he wasn't quite sure why the other teen had suddenly decided to share his thoughts with him. "And perhaps it's the same with comics. Right? With old heroes being rewritten by young authors, comics giving way to cards and games being declined in small statues. It's an entire new world."

"But not as noisy and showy as the Broadway universe."

"But a much more boring and nerd-filled world, obviously."

They had spoken almost simultaneously, and Sam saw Kurt fight a smile even as the other teen elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

Kurt was fidgeting a little next to him, readjusting his sleeves, tucking an inexistent strand of hair behind his ear, rubbing his knees. Sam watched the ballet of his hands for a while before intervening.

"What has you so nervous? I won't believe you if you answer performing for us. This isn't a diva-off – we're not even in the auditorium."

"And yet that's precisely it," breathed Kurt. "Or rather, performing for him. This is it. My very last try."

There was a strange weariness in his tone that made Sam wonder how many times Kurt had had to go after Blaine this way, before or during their relationship.

"Hey guys! Glad to see you recovered from that cold, Artie. Let's get down to business – Kurt, I believe it's your turn." Mr Schuester smiled.

"Thank you, sir. So, as you know, we were supposed this week to both make sure we left the US and to try and sing a song in a style we're not the most comfortable with." No one, looking at Kurt's carefully neutral face, could have guessed this was the same person who had subjected Sam to a ten-minutes-long diatribe on the stupidity of this week's assignment. "I'm sure my song choice will answer those concerns, but I also invite you to pay close attention to the lyrics. Hit it!"

Sam didn't recognise the music that started playing, but Kurt's words about a last try quickly became clear.

"I can feel the colour running

As it's fading from my face

Try to speak but nothing's coming

Nothing I could say to make you stay."

Kurt was defiantly singing to Blaine, who looked quite uncomfortable. Good, Sam thought, before blinking in surprise at the viciousness of his own thoughts.

"Just a cigarette gone

No you couldn't be that far,

I'm driving my car to where I hope you are.

Maybe I can talk you down,

Maybe I can talk you down."

The music started accelerating and Sam unconsciously held his breath, the way he always ended up doing when Kurt let loose as he sang.

"We're standing on a tiny ledge,

Before this goes over the edge,

Gonna use my heart and not my head

And try to open up your eyes -

This is relationship suicide."

The words ended on a high note whose existence in the original song Sam found himself doubting, if only because it seemed to have been made for Kurt.

"'Cause if you go, I go.

'Cause if you go, I go.

'Cause if you go, I go."

Kurt repeated the song's last lyrics several times as the music slowed to a stop, his voice hesitant for the first time Sam could remember. The countertenor made a heart-wrenching figure standing there, not hearing the enthusiastic applause of his fellow club members, his whole being seemingly attuned to the black-haired boy in the second row, waiting for- Sam didn't know what he was waiting for. Anything, probably, any sign that his message had been received, that his voice had been heard.

Blaine just stared at his knees, refusing to look up even as Rachel elbowed him. As the clapping ceased and the silence grew, Kurt's whole being seemed to shrink a little, leaving him looking much more vulnerable than his walls would normally allow; and surely enough, the slender teen soon turned to Mr Schue and mumbled something about needing to step outside for a moment before quickly leaving the choir room.

"I should go and-" Mercedes's hand was on Finn's arm before the tall boy had stopped talking.

"It's okay, Sam can do it; right Sam?"

Sam just nodded at her as he made his way from the top row, jostling Blaine in a way that could have been accidental as he almost ran to the door. To tell the truth he wasn't so sure the other teen desired his presence, but he had to at least try.

Kurt wasn't hard to find; he hadn't ducked in one of the empty classrooms around, he was just walking along the lockers in the corridor near the choir room. He turned his head as Sam approached and the blond half-expected his face to fall when he saw it wasn't Blaine there, but it didn't – Kurt even attempted a poor attempt at a smile.

"Hey Sam. I'd say that was rather unsuccessful, huh. I guess my voice-" Kurt cleared his throat, but his next words were still almost inaudible. "I guess my voice isn't so magical after all."

And then Kurt's brave face, with which Sam had become increasingly familiar in the last two weeks, finally crumbled under the weight of this latest disappointment. There were still no tears in the blue-green eyes, though, and Sam knew there'd be none if Kurt felt even the slightest bit on display, so he drew the smaller teen in a tight, protective hug, easily hiding him from the rest of the world. Sam strengthened his hold as Kurt finally let himself go and he heard a small sob, just one, coming from where his head was tucked into his neck, suddenly feeling fiercely protective of his friend.

Sam didn't try and mutter reassurances in the soft hair caressing his face; words weren't his forte and he wouldn't have known what to say. He just stood there instead, his hands rubbing slow circles on Kurt's back as he breathed in the brunet's smell of fresh cinnamon, and they still remained silent as they separated, Sam looking politely away as Kurt impatiently brushed a stray tear off his face.

They didn't go back to the choir room: Kurt had taken his bag with him and Sam's didn't hold anything important, plus Mercedes would probably take it with her. They made their way to the Navigator instead and Kurt immediately started driving towards Stacy's and Stevie's primary school, no questions asked, cranking up the volume of the radio until it drowned out any thoughts Sam might have had.

R u awake? I need 2 get my schoolbag.

Mercedes's answer was swift as always.

Knew i should have just left it in the choir room…sure, come over

"So what's so important about that bag that couldn't wait 'til after 9 AM on a Saturday morning?"

Sam directed his most innocent smile at Mercedes, knowing there was a fifty-percent chance she had already glanced through the bag and seen there was strictly nothing essential in there. Surely enough, she didn't even try to hand it to him, instead sighing and stepping aside to let him come in.

"I take it you needed to talk, and for some reason it had to be at dawn on a weekend."

"Yeah, sorry about that, but I have work in two hours so…" Sam trailed off, entering the warmly-decorated foyer he remembered from Prom night a few months ago and shrugging off his jacket.

"It's okay," Mercedes said, waving his apology away as she led him into the empty kitchen and made him sit. "I have the feeling this will be more interesting than anything the Internet has to offer me this morning."

"Thanks." Sam said wryly.

"So what's the matter? Tell Auntie Mercedes everything."

"That's a bit disturbing, actually." Mercedes impatiently rolled her eyes at him, wordlessly asking him to get on with it already. "It's just- Kurt, this song yesterday…he was singing for Blaine."

He half-expected a sarcastic answer, but Mercedes just nodded.

"And he told me that this was his last try, and he sounded…well. I started asking myself if we had ever been right to want them to get back together. I mean, obviously I want Kurt to be happy, but…I'm wondering if Blaine was ever the best candidate for that." He threw a side-glance at Mercedes, who seemed to be beaming for some reason. "So what do you think I should do?"

"Well, let's see. My boy is a bit of a romantic so I wouldn't try coming on too strong, but your body is definitively an asset – the hobbit aside, Kurt has a history of liking jocks. So you should be subtle, but wear some tighter-fitting clothing – I tend to forget you even have abs, use them a little! For the rest, well you know what he likes as well as I do, but-"

"Mercedes," Sam finally cut in her enthusiastic rambling, more than a little bewildered. "What could you possibly be talking about?"

She frowned at him.

"I thought you wanted some advice?"

"Yeah, I do want some advice. I'd love to know if you think I should continue with our plan or if you agree Blaine isn't right for Kurt, but why are you-" He stopped to try and find a way to phrase this that wasn't too awkward, then renounced. "Apparently teaching me how to seduce Kurt?"

"Ooooo-kay. I thought you had gotten tired of paddling in the water, but apparently you're still comfortable in your river in Egypt."

Sam was definitively lost, and it must have shown on his face because Mercedes's frown finally softened.

"It's okay sweetie, you'll probably get it soon. To answer your question, I think you're right – Blaine was trying to suppress my boy's individuality, and I can't tolerate that. So just give up the plan, okay? But don't tell Kurt you have yet."

As he left Mercedes's home, Sam decided to put the whole confusing conversation out of his head, determined to just forget about it.

Of course, it was all in vain; he couldn't stop himself from remembering how Mercedes had so easily thought he was announcing he believed he was the right person for Kurt anymore than he could stay away from the countertenor for the time it took him to sort his thoughts out, even though it would have been the easiest option.

And so for the next two weeks Kurt and Sam continued to hang out together almost everyday, sometimes with Finn or Mercedes or Mike and Tina or even Santana and Brittany, sometimes by themselves, squabbling over whose turn it was to pick the movie, forcing the other to listen to their favourite music (and it was becoming harder by the day to remember a time when Sam hadn't even heard of Singing in the Rain), scheming to make both Burt Hummel and Stacy Evans ate more vegetables, working on Sam's frustration with their English assignments or reading comic books Kurt pretended to only enjoy because of all the spandex. And it was fun, like it had been from day one, genuine fun and warmth and friendship and all those things they made Disney movies out of – but sometimes it was just a bit more.

Just a bit more, because Sam found himself noticing the strangest things about his best friend, like the way his nose crinkled in concentration when he read something written in a foreign language, the way nothing calmed Kurt faster than choosing a random song and planning a dance routine for Tina, Brittany and him, the way he looked when he stubbornly refused to cry at Grey's Anatomy sappiest and most tragic developments, the way the smiles he gave Finn and the ones he gave Sam were somehow completely different.

Still Sam's strategic denial was working, and everything was going along pretty great, when Kurt decided he needed to talk to him.

"Hey Sam." They were in front of the blond's locker, which should have been told him something serious was coming – apparently, it was a McKinley High tradition to have every soul-searching discussion in front of the school lockers.

"Hey Kurt, so how did your French exam go?"

"Très bien, merci - c'était terriblement facile à vrai dire, comme toujours." Sam didn't understand a word of that, but he could get it had gone well. "But that's actually not what I wanted to talk to you about."

Kurt then proceeded to hesitate a little, which was sufficiently unlike the other teen that Sam stopped foraging through his locker for his elusive History book and gave him his full attention. "You know, Finn of all people told me yesterday he hadn't seen me this happy in a while."

"Yeah, he was really worried about you when- well, a few weeks ago." Sam offered, careful not to directly refer to Blaine. "He's a good brother, even if he was a bit of a jerk last year."

But Kurt just shook his head.

"No, that's not what he meant. He said he hadn't seen me be myself in this way in what felt like months. Since before Prom, or before Dalton, or perhaps before the whole Karofsky situation. He seemed weirdly happy about it, considering he hasn't always had reasons to enjoy all aspects of my personality." Kurt made a half-sheepish, half-amused face at this, but Sam didn't chuckle in response like he normally would have, too busy staring at his friend and wondering where this was going.

"You know, with everything that happened with- with Blaine, this could have been one of the worst months of my high school life – but… but it really wasn't. It was one of the best, actually. And, well, it doesn't take a genius to know this is mainly thanks to you. So…thank you, Sam Evans, for everything, and especially for allowing me to find myself again."

For all it hesitancies, it was a beautiful and heartfelt speech; Kurt was visibly a bit embarrassed, though he still looked at him in the eyes, and Sam would have loved to answer in a similarly eloquent and thoughtful way. It turned out that he really couldn't, though, because even as the brunet expanded on how thankful he was to Sam for being his friend the blond found he wanted nothing more than to hug the smaller teen close, to whisper answering words of devotion in his ears, perhaps even to ki-

Oh shit.

It was his turn to speak so Sam garbled something about it being his pleasure, not really sure which words were tumbling out of his mouth. Kurt said something about needing to go to class, throwing him a large smile as he went, and Sam was left standing stock-still near his locker, blood rushing through his veins and feeling more than a little desperate because, because…

He was so fucked.

Sam pressed the phone tighter to his ear as it rang and rang, willing Mercedes to answer already.

"What is it with you and early-morning conversations, blondie? Some of us need a little time to prepare if they want to look properly fabulous, you know."

Sam hadn't slept much, and he actually thought she should be thankful he had waited until this late to call.

"You were right. Mercedes, you were so bloody right."

"Well of course I was white boy. Next time you'll realise it a bit sooner and spare me the headache of your confused puppy looks being combined with your barely-restrained swooning at Kurt's feet every time he opens up his mouth."

"I don't- Oh God, do I really?"

"I'd say not to worry and that it's only obvious to me because I know you both so well, but considering Puck has started to give you strange looks I think it's a lost cause. The only one who doesn't suspect is Kurt, and that's because he has serious self-esteem issues when it comes to boys – I blame the hobbit."

"What should I do?" Sam whispered, barely recognising his own voice, and for the first time Mercedes didn't answer him straight away.

"Sam. Do you know why I convinced you to hang around with Kurt?"

Sam was more than a little confused, but he answered all the same.

"Because Blaine looked jealous when I sat next to Kurt."

"But that's just the thing: he didn't. He didn't look jealous, and I didn't think this would make him go back to Kurt. I didn't want it to make him take Kurt back, even before you talked to me, because if he let go so easily in the first place he certainly didn't deserve my boy."

Sam tried to answer and failed; clearing his throat, he finally croaked out a sound that might or might not have been a why. Mercedes sighed.

"You thought Kurt was interesting. In those two weeks of our pathetic try at dating this summer, your favourite moments were when I invited him along – not that I blame you, they were mine too. You were looking for an excuse to spend more time with him. I was glad to provide you one."

"So you knew I would-" Sam hesitated, "end up feeling this way?"

Mercedes started laughing.

"Not at first – Kurt could tell you my gaydar isn't the best. I just wanted to distract him, and I thought it'd do both of you some good to be closer friends. But then I saw the way you interacted with him, so I started hoping, and then there was your little speech about Blaine not being good for him, which as you know pretty much convinced me I was right."

"What about Kurt? Does he- do you think he also…?"

"Honestly I can't tell. He was immediately interested last year, when you transferred, but I think right now he simply doesn't see you as a possibility anymore. That can change, but it's your call now, Evans."

Sam reluctantly smiled into the phone.

"Right. Thanks, 'Cedes…for everything. I have some thinking to do, I guess."

"That you have. See you at school on Monday – and don't forget, the first step of the plan is some tighter-fitting clothes."

Sam let out a sound that was half-groan and half-laugh as he hung up and flopped down on his bed, but admitted to himself Mercedes was at least partly right – he had some serious planning to do.

Hope you enjoyed! :) See you (hopefully) soon for chapter 2: Wooing Kurt Hummel.