By the poolside is a slate wall that catches ephemeral bands of light reflected off the water, and sometimes through the brown tint of his sunglasses the sight reminds Kurt of old sheet music, of yellow paper and staves bleached impossibly white in the sun. When he was younger he would perch in the branches of a gnarled boxelder (long since uprooted) and pretend he was a bird reading his song from the wall, one imagined note at a time. He had supposed, at that age, that all birds read their songs in the light around them—how else could whole flocks recite the same darling melodies with such exactitude, such unerring fidelity to their mother tongue?

His head tips back, bouncing lightly on the rubber straps of his beach chair, and he scans the sky—for birds, at first, and then for nothing in particular. Thin clouds make nests in the robin's egg blue. A summer breeze teases his arms and legs. He closes his eyes.

Over the sharp sounds of children splashing one another and the dull rustle of conversation, he hears for a brief instant some nameless bird's bright chirp, and his mind wanders inevitably to Pavarotti, to a sparkling box buried in the shade. Pavarotti. His canary-in-a-coal-mine. Dalton may not have suffocated the poor bird, but it had suffocated Kurt, and the canary's death had been the first of many steps leading him out of those stuffy halls: antique-chic, sure, but his appreciation for a good Jane Austin novel aside, he has no desire to live in the 1800s.

Blaine has told him before that he reads too much into Pavarotti's death—Blaine insists that even if Kurt had never eulogized the canary's passing with "Blackbird," he would not have been waiting long for their moment to arise—and maybe he's right. But as a child Kurt had searched for years for a meaning to give his mother's death, and found nothing, so he clings to the comforting thought that perhaps Pavarotti's end served a purpose, selfish though the thought sometimes sounds in his own head.

His shirt and swimsuit feel clean and hot, his bare feet hot and dry. Somewhere nearby, Artie, also poolside (though not, as in Kurt's case, by choice), begins to sing: "Under the sea, under the sea..." Kurt hears Rachel's high-pitched laugh and sighs to himself.

Blaine's Six Flags set is three-fifths Disney (less than two-thirds but more than half, at any rate), and in his mind he can hear his boyfriend croon "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and belt breathily the chorus of "Colors of the Wind." He sighs again, and unprompted his memory begins to tease him with sensations, echoes of the morning of Blaine's departure: the touch of soft fingers against the smooth arc of his cheek, gentle like bird feathers even as their mouths burned together. The shake of his skin and gong of his heart as Blaine's hand wandered slowly down the fabric of his shirt, settling finally at his stomach, a single fingertip extended beneath the beak of his jeans. The silent contortions of his throat, Blaine's dark pupils wide, the groan of a zipper, each tooth undone a needle of nerves, his mouth hanging open, just slightly, in white panic. A feeling like breaking glass. Blaine's cold hand. "Do you want me to stop?" No. He can't say it aloud but it doesn't matter. His knees feel hollow. A feeling like glass breaking. Like breaking glass, like a wall falling, a door being unlocked.

Kurt feels himself reddening, and not from the sun. He sits up and brings his knees to his chest. Blaine had washed his hands, kissed Kurt goodbye, and left for the summer, but Kurt feels frozen in time, trapped in that moment of... ecstasy feels too temporary, too focused on the idea of physical pleasure. It is more than that. It is... emancipation.

Yes.

He breathes deeply. He has never been a stranger, of course, to the magmatic rush of lust, but his embarrassed and somewhat overstated reaction to Blaine's suggestion some months earlier that he familiarize himself with the basics of sex had been, for the most part, quite honest. He had never before understood the male fascination with carnality, and though in one sense he had often felt himself superior for his lack, civilized and romantic, in another he had sometimes felt a sliver of shame—the sense of segregation from his own sex needed no exacerbation. Even his fantasies had been practical; pleasuring himself to thoughts of Finn (a thought that now makes him gag), or Sam, or even Blaine had been a chore—something that had to be done, for the sake of his own sanity—enjoyable in a shallow way but sullying, and ultimately unfulfilling, as though a thin layer of oil kept him floating over the blue depths of real satisfaction.

He understands now.

He feels desire's aura like the heatless glaze of moonlight, a raw pallor that haunts and charges his every interaction. Its alien glow colors the corners of his daydreams. It is as though a switch has been flipped and a new electricity surges through the conduit of his heart—a window unbroken by hard swings has shattered at a faint touch—a hard oaken door has been unlocked.

He is smiling, but the scent of sunscreen fills his nostrils and reminds him to frown. The adverse affects of the lotion on his complexion are moderately better than the alternative—he burns like a vampire, and not the gauche Twilight variety (he's as big a fan of sparkle as there ever was, but no amount of Robert Pattinson can make that sort of glitter look good). Still, if his father would just let him invest in a more expensive variety—he has a list of potential options—his summer night cleansing ritual could be greatly simplified, which would mean more time to Skype with Blaine.

Ah well. He has advocated as such to his father on several occasions, but Burt Hummel is not above guilt tripping when it suits his needs. "We spent your moisturizing budget sending you to Dalton" had been his wry reply.

Kurt supposes he shouldn't complain. There are those who can afford less, after all.

He waits for Sam Evens to enter his line of vision as if on cue, but the faux-blond is busy catering to his siblings elsewhere (he can hear the younger Evans' chatter, though even listening carefully he can't distinguish which voice belongs to Stevie and which to Stacie), so he settles for closing his eyes and imagining Blaine at his side, holding his hand, the warm wind his breath, and goosebumps rise in a curving trail up his arm and down his side, snaking brashly beneath his swimsuit, as he lets foul thoughts stir him, feels powerful in his fresh desire, opens himself to—

"No no no no Stevie don't no stay away from don't it's—"

When the sensation first hits him his body rudely translates his hormones all to adrenaline, and so his first reaction is one of hysterics: He recoils and leaps up as though whipped, ready to flee; then his nerves deign to inform him that he is unhurt, and suddenly cold, so he opens his mouth, ready to berate; and then finally the rest of his indolent senses are roused, and show him Stevie, oblivious, and Sam, horrified, both carrying eye-blisteringly colored squirt guns, so he closes and his mouth and narrows his eyes, ready to seethe.

He does so.

"God Kurt, uh," Sam begins, infuriatingly bashful, "we're so sorry—aren't we Stevie?" he says, momentarily stern, "and it's just we didn't see you until—" He addresses Stevie: "I told you not to go near the pool chairs!" Stevie has the sense to look bashful, too (must have learned from his damn brother), and then mumbles a quick "sorry" before ungracefully removing himself from the situation by trotting quickly toward the pool. Sam glances after him and scratches the back of his head. "Um—yeah. Sorry."

"You're late," Kurt snaps, ringing water from the tail of his shirt, and when Sam looks at him blankly he adds, "You missed your cue." He feels a hint of petty triumph. Let Sam be confused—serves him right.

Sam looks around as though expecting an explanation to be posted nearby. "—Oh," he says, without confidence. A moment passes. "—What?"

The shock of the water has left Kurt's system, and now that he has relaxed slightly being sour longer amuses him. He shakes his head and straightens his neck. "Never mind. It's fine." He gently pats his scalp to ensure that his hair is in place. Sam doesn't look fully mollified, and Kurt feels a little guilty, which, he is quick to remind himself, makes no sense. Still: "Actually," Kurt admits, "it felt good." There is another awkward pause, and Kurt shuffles his feet. "It's hot," Kurt clarifies, and immediately flushes. Captain obvious much?

Sam looks at him quizzically, but then just nods. "Yep," he confirms. "—so... why aren't you swimming, then?"

He opens his mouth to issue a deflective answer, but stops himself. It is a fair question, he realizes.

Kurt has always been shy about his body. He has not swam in earnest since reaching an age at which wearing a shirt in the pool became the subject for inquiry or ridicule. Normally, he avoids even exposing his legs; that shorts are rarely components of the sort of fashion at which he excels is a fine excuse for never wearing them, but in truth his insecurities are more to blame. He does not have—just to pick an apropos example—Sam's torso, or his tan, for that matter, which, Kurt is thankful to note, looks genuine. And comprehensive. Kurt clears his throat. His haze of lust has not been fully dissuaded by the chill of the water, and his eyes take in details of Sam's body that he has never before permitted them to observe. He does not feel guilty about it. Feeling guilty, he reasons, would be evidence that he is doing something worth feeling guilty about. For instance: There is nothing wrong in noting that Sam's calves are surprisingly slender—nowhere near stick-like, but not the bulging appendages he might have suspected, given Sam's (he clears his throat again) physique. Likewise: It is perfectly natural to note that Sam's smile, forming no doubt in response to Kurt's extended hesitation, blooms at his temples, the slightest flicker of skin, and then moves in two directions simultaneously, at once slipping to nestle in one of the deep corners of his mouth and rising to weigh down his eyebrows, so that the whole event seems expertly choreographed, down to the slight upward tilt of his chin that draws Kurt's eyes down the slide of his neck to his collar bone, and the faint rise and fall of his chest, where muscles that Kurt never knew existed are subtly hinted at; and with Sam's inhale he follows the air down his arteries and over the hills covering his stomach to the band of his swimsuit, and though at the last minute he tries to convince himself that he is evaluating the garment's sartorial appeal, the first whine of guilt stirs his brain and he snaps (too conspicuously, he is sure) his eyes back to Sam's and tries to remember what it is he is supposed to be saying.

"Hi?" Sam asks through his smile.

"Hi," Kurt responds dumbly. Sam does this to him, or perhaps he does this to Sam: They become awkward together. Not uncomfortable, per se; neither avoids interacting with the other, to Kurt's knowledge, and it is a friendly sort of awkwardness, but Kurt has never been able to pinpoint exactly why it arises.

But as to Sam's question. He wants to swim, he is surprised to discover, not only in fact to swim but to risk drawing glances for something other than his wardrobe, for, he dares to hope, a more intrinsic physical appeal. It is not exactly that his new desire has given him greater confidence; it has rather enabled within him recklessness, a subtle longing for a sharp thrill. He knows that it is somewhat pathetic to consider this little act reckless but does not care. "You're right, I should. Swim, I mean."

"Mhm." Sam glances down at his squirt gun quickly, still smiling, and Kurt wonders if he should revert to acting affronted in preemptive self-defense. "What?" Sam asks, in response to some face Kurt doesn't realize he's making. There is mischief in his voice.

"Don't even think about it, Evans," Kurt says, taking a step back.

"Think about what?"

"Think about what you're thinking about."

"I'm just thinking about the weather," Sam assures innocently, glancing upwards. "Looks like it might rain, don't you think?"

Kurt almost looks up but remembers from his earlier gazing that only timid clouds streak the sky. "No," he says firmly, though for some reason he feels on the verge of laughter. He feels tense and bubbly. Playful. Blaine's friendshipmore than anything unlocked his sense of playfulness months before they were even dating, but recently in Blaine's presence he has found that playfulness hard to exercise, over-wary of the fragility of new romances. "No," Kurt repeats, gazing over the rim of his sunglasses. "It looks like it will be blissfully precipitation-free until I get to the pool."

Sam's smile flickers to a pout and back in an instant, and Kurt makes the mistake of smiling back after the brief glimmer of adorably petulant disappointment. "I'll kill you, Sam," he warns, but as he says it his smile grows, and he leans on his back leg, ready to flee.

"Don't know what you're talking about—" Sam lunges forward and fires but Kurt dodges with a little shriek and takes off across the small public lawn adjoining the community center. Though he grapples to contain it, laughter slips from his throat as he dashes.

He doesn't need to look back to know that Sam is on his trail, and he feels a dusting of spray graze his arm. "So unfair!" he shouts over his shoulder. "Unarmed civilian! Unarmed civilian!"

He hears Sam's laugh and it's closer than he anticipates. He ducks to one side and quickly scans the pool area—he notes that Stevie has left his own weapon rather dangerously at the edge of the pool, and though he makes for it quickly his hesitation costs him a dry shoulder. When he nearly leaps onto an oblivious sunbathing Santana the lifeguard on duty squawks at him to Stop Running, but with a belted apology he ignores her, crouching low to grab the squirt gun, flinging his sunglasses at his chair and fleeing the crowded area as Finn and Artie cheer the chase, dismissing the obvious euphemisms that tempt his tongue as he pumps pressure into the chamber so that when he again reaches the grass he is ready to turn, and he does, panting, and pulls the trigger with a surge of victory, watches a startled but grinning Sam recoil in anticipation, only to hear the sputtering hiss of air issue from the nozzle—it's only now that he registers the weight of the gun—far too light to be holding enough water—and he yelps as Sam recovers, dropping the weapon and sprinting—and it occurs to him in a melancholic flash that he is running from someone of whom he is not terrified for the first time in years.

And yet—it's not fear that tremors his bones, certainly, but some cousin of anxiety lodges in his ribcage, a feeling like sea sickness or vertigo. Later, when he is more familiar with the feeling, he will think of it as a fume, a sulfurous scent rising from the flames within him lighted by the sparks in Sam's eyes he does not yet know he is recognizing.

He doubles back and by instinct is drawn to the slate wall he has contemplated so many times before, still dappled with evolving notes of light. It belongs to a room no longer standing, the sole remnant of some private chamber torn mostly apart during the process of adapting the old building for its current use. There is no logical reason for its presence. It adjoins one blank face of the community center and runs parallel to a wire fence bolstered by thick and poorly-kempt shrubbery, so that it forms a three-sided nook well-suited to games of hide-and-seek but little else.

He knows he is dooming himself to a dead end but as he nears the wall's alcove he runs faster. He feels giddy at the thought of rendering his fate inevitable, of defining, for once, where a chase will end. He lets his feet come to rest in the grass and turns.

Sam's blast hits him square in the chest and the cold invigorates him, ripples down his limbs. He gasps and to his surprise feels a strange grin poised at his lips. He tries and fails to shape it into a death glare.

Sam, smiling through heavy breaths, keeps the gun aimed at him. "I know what you're thinking," he quotes, a passable Clint Eastwood, "did he fire six cups, or only five?" Kurt giggles nervously, pressing his palms over his wet shirt, waiting for Sam's shyness to descend as it always does, or for his own sense of propriety to knock the sense of joy out of the situation. Neither occurs. "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?" Sam continues, taking a few steps forward. "Well, do ya, punk?"

Kurt feels the danger of the situation, feels as though he is perched at the edge of a cliff, and that if Sam takes another step toward him he will surely fall. That all hard evidence points to the fact that Sam is straight is irrelevant; he feels reckless, titillated, blissfully stupid. "Yes," he answers coyly, still playing with his shirt. He thinks his hands might be shaking.

He is not imagining it: There is a foreign energy between them, a vivid, clouded energy, and Sam feels it, too. There is doubt and intensity in his eyes. "Got you pretty good," he says, voice not entirely steady.

"I guess so," Kurt says. There is a short pause.

"You're wet," Sam says.

"Mhm," Kurt says.

The tip of Sam's tongue draws a slow arc along one side (Kurt is too distracted to register which) of his upper lip, and as he speaks his face darkens to red. "You should, uh." He hesitates, and pulses the tips of his free fingers up twice. "For comfort."

"Should what?" His words quiver.

"You know." Sam is probably less readable than he seems—the nameless tangle of sensations Kurt sees tied round his every breath are probably half-projected, his own illusory knots manifest. But half-projected means half-real, at least, and Kurt is nearly sure he is not inventing tension from nowhere.

"Should what?" Kurt repeats more firmly.

"Should—" Sam starts, and takes the last step forward. His voice goes quiet, strained. "Should take it off." Kurt shudders; Sam drops the water gun and lifts one of his hands quickly, clumsily, to the rim of Kurt's shirt. His thoughts recede until they are barely ghosts haunting the valley of his mind.

"Yes," Kurt manages to agree, the noise barely an exhale. Sam is still, so he nods once, in case he has not been heard.

Kurt doesn't move; he wants Sam to move. And finally Sam does move, slowly. He watches Kurt's eyes constantly, his own eyes desperate not to be recognized-Kurt senses that he will recoil at the slightest noise and so holds his breath. He feels two things in the unsure motion of Sam's slowly rising hands, beyond the expanding cool touch of raw shade against his damp skin: First that he is tremendously concerned at making Kurt uncomfortable, and second that he is frantically clinging to the idea that Kurt does not realize this gesture is more than friendly. A blind man, of course, could see otherwise, but Kurt plays along by doing nothing, by merely holding Sam's deer-in-the-headlights gaze, that falters only once, to glance down in a stunned way at his hand.

And then with a fierce pull Kurt is lost in wet fabric, accosted by the acid scent of chlorine, and he brings high his hands to help remove his shirt. He has an instant of freedom before his world reduces to two eyes and he feels wide lips pressing against his own.

The transition is so sudden and so absurd and so wonderful that for a moment Kurt is convinced that he has wandered into one of his own fantasies, and he will claim to himself later that this is why he reacts the way he does with no thought whatsoever of his boyfriend: He kisses back.

He lets his hands ride Sam's spine up to his shoulders, lets them grip hard and test the skin and muscle of his back—lets, because he is no longer in control of his body beyond Yes or No. Sam's mouth is open and their tongues like mating dragonflies dive and cling together, their chests press like tectonic plates and send quakes through Kurt's soles. Almost before his skin discloses the touch of Sam's hands on his sternum, interlacing in his hair, pressing stars into his sides, he is against the wall, legs raised slightly, so that he feels Sam just beneath him.

And with his bare back against the slate he feels as though he is a part of the wall's music, allegro, dissonant, every muted moan sharp and muffled grunt flat, his skin creased by the rock into measures as his heart beats sixteenths and his mind holds a hollow rest.

He can breathe, suddenly, and feels Sam drill bruises into his neck, and without looking he knows that Sam's fingers have locked a dire trajectory, one that demands more than anything he issue a No order to his wild impulses, that every ounce of sanity left in him scolds. But his raging lungs are bellows and cinders of lust smoke out his conscience, and he waits for the touch, waits and waits and waits and—

"Sammy!"

It goes without saying that Kurt would never harm a child, but sin breeds sin, after all, and his first urges flirt with the tenements of wrath. Sam bounces away from him, and even the summer air feels cold. Sam is sunset red and looks bewildered and ecstatic, charged, disheveled. Young.

Stacie approaches, glowering, and as Kurt's libido begins to settle it occurs to him to feel gripping, white-hot fear. They are in public. They are very in public. If Stacie has seen anything she will not shut up. He knows how kids are, or imagines he does.

Forget the potential beatings that might follow for the both of them should some of his classmates hear about this. The thought that truly terrifies him is that his friends are notorious gossips.

Blaine will find out.

His brain shreds to static.

"What's up Stace?" Sam asks, infinitely calmer, and Kurt wants to hurt him. It is a simple impulse. How—why did he—a rage at Sam's recklessness, his indifference, boils in him. This risk has not been shared equally. This is—

"Quinn said to check on you to make sure you weren't assaulting Kurt with Aquaman references or something," Stacie says, audibly annoyed at having been made to drag herself from her pooltime activities. "Also Stevie won't leave me alone, play super soldiers with him again." She leaves, looking bored.

Relief spills over Kurt, as though, expecting a tsunami, he has been lapped at by a gentle cresting swell. He will never make this mistake again. He feels like cheering. He is about to skip—actually skip—from the alcove when Sam interrupts: "Uh, Kurt, you uh." He is still red, but no longer sunset. His skin looks the pale crimson of Eve's apple.

And Kurt hates that his blood still rushes at the sight.

Sam is pointing timidly to his own neck, and Kurt knows he is reddening, now, too, in realization. He covers his throat automatically and retrieves his shirt, pulling it on despite the swampy smell of earth and pool water it has gathered.

"Hey uh," Sam stammers, and Kurt is appalled that he found the sloppy speech cute only moments before. "D'you wanna, you know, maybe go somewhere and talk? I have a gift card for the Lima Bean that somebody tipped—"

"Don't," Kurt says, and lowers his head, ready to bee-line for his beach chair to recover his sandals and shades, ready to dig his phone from his vehicle's cup holder and purge himself through Blaine's voice. He will tell him everything. He must tell him everything.

"—bu—what do you mean don't?" Sam sounds genuinely confused. "Don't what?"

Kurt cannot keep viciousness from his tone. "I mean don't. Nothing—nothing happened and I swear if you ever tell anyone that—"

"I-I won't," Sam says, but too much is happening in Kurt's head for him to really listen; his relief has faded to a semi-panicked nausea. He will tell Blaine everything, and Blaine will be mad but will understand, because he is Blaine, and no one else will ever know, and today will never have happened.

"—that this happened I will—I will—" His head is still lowered and he won't look up. "I don't know," he says. It is perhaps the most threatening sound he has ever heard himself make. He feels like crying. He supposes that Sam has been stunned into silence, and in a few minutes he is sitting in his car and after Blaine tells him how the park attendant let him ride the Avalanche coaster six times in a row he asks Kurt how his day was and Kurt tells him it was fine, and nothing else.