Chapter One

Tap, tap, tap…

The sound reverberated off of empty walls and high ceilings. There were a good eleven stalls, each of them vacant. Besides the sound of frantic footsteps, the bathroom was silent, despite the occasional rustle of pressed uniform trousers or quietly murmured, unfinished and broken by nerves. This was stupid. This was terribly stupid and desperate and a little bit pathetic.

Blaine couldn't help it. He was in love.

He should have just let it go the moment he understood. Instead of toying with the idea fondly, instead of taking interest in and wondering countless "what ifs", he should have terminated the problem before it reached this level—this level, the one that had him pacing in the boys' bathroom at school, nervous and unable to so much as think straight because this was wrong—so very, very wrong and he knew it would never work.

This wasn't just a boy after all, some guy Blaine went to school with. This was his teacher.

Blaine was suddenly and extremely grateful that his music theory class took place right before his lunch period, otherwise he would have all of six minutes to think this through, and it would be haphazard and half-baked. Instead, he had a good forty-five minutes to carefully and thoroughly think about what he wanted to do (he was often told that he didn't put enough thought into his actions; that he was an "act now, think later" kind of person and that it was bound to get him into trouble if he didn't start thinking things through).

God, it was hot in here though. Blaine tugged furiously at his tie, hands trembling as he loosened the knot and pulled it loose.

The seventeen year old had two choices here: he could either forget about it now, ignore the way his heart pounded in his chest whenever Mr. Hummel looked his way, the way it swelled in his chest whenever Mr. Hummel praised him for answering a question right or doing particularly well on an essay. Or he could do something about it. He could gather up his courage and march back to what would now be an empty classroom (thank God his music theory period was right before lunch) and tell Mr. Hummel exactly how he felt—that's what the magazines said he should do, anyway, and that it would help him overcome this obscenely unrealistic crush.

That was a lot easier said than done, though.

The idea had been slowly eating away at him since this morning. He'd spent all of last Friday zoning off in the middle of class, staring blankly at the whiteboard while his mind wandered in less-than-innocent directions as he lightly traced the contour of his ear (he'd always had a thing for ears—that and having his hair played with). If it wasn't for a classmate of his leaning over to ask if he was okay, Blaine never would have caught himself before he had a situation to take care of and that was possibly the most embarrassing thing to sit through in the middle of class. It wasn't just the zoning off in class and day dreaming that was getting to him, though; more than once he'd caught himself thinking of his music theory teacher in his more…personal moments and it was a reaching a level so inappropriate that Blaine couldn't stand to keep quiet about it anymore.

Of course he expected nothing to come of his confession, but that was what made it all the scarier. The idea of being shot down, even when he knew he had no shot, was still an unpleasant one. Mr. Hummel was his teacher—he would never, ever in a million years, if the world was ending tomorrow, if Blaine was the last man on earth, give Blaine a chance, and yet it was still going to crush whatever remaining self-esteem he had in him. It would not be the first time he'd been shot down, nor would it be the first time he'd be shot down by an older man, and probably not the last. In his freshman year of high school, he asked one of his friends to go to a school dance with him and apparently their age difference had been too much for him because he completely misunderstood the question and they ended up going as friends. When he transferred to his current school, there was another senior that he had a crush on, but freshman and seniors rarely, if ever, had lasting relationships.

It didn't end there, of course. Blaine was sort of a hopeless romantic and when he fell for someone, he fell hard. There were some cute boys around school, of course, but it was difficult to actually be attracted to them when they acted like just that—boys. They were loud, they were rough, they were careless, they were immature, and all they could think about was sex. Blaine was no saint by any means, but if was he was going to be in a relationship with any of these people, he wanted something meaningful, something emotional, and none of these boys were mature enough, mentally or emotionally, to give him that. His most recent failed endeavor included a young man, a mere nineteen years old (only two years older than himself), who worked as an assistant manager at the Gap and Blaine had really, really thought they had something between them. They talked on a fairly frequent basis, enough that they knew one another's sexual orientation, they went out for coffee, they confided in one another. Blaine swore he was in love and that he and Jeremiah would get married and everything would be perfect and they would love each other forever.

Rejection tore his hopes to shreds and that was the day Blaine realized that he wasn't much more than just a boy himself.

Today his expectations were low. He wanted to better himself and he had to start here, before these thoughts of running off with his high school teacher turned obsessive, before he got lost in a fantasy and did something embarrassing. The circumstances weren't the same as with Jeremiah—the feelings were worse, were more, and he couldn't stop seeing his teacher if he did something mortifying like attempt to serenade him over the intercom. It was in his best interest to just get it out of the way while he was still thinking clearly and then take a deep breath, listen to and accept his rejection, and move on with life. He couldn't keep trying to force his feelings on people, especially when they resulted-or could result-in getting said person fired. And Blaine knew himself well enough to understand that if he didn't say something—like, today—he was bound to let something slip in the middle of class and get Mr. Hummel into trouble. The idea made his heart drop, fear shooting through his very veins that the rumors would start and Mr. Hummel would be forced to leave the school and hate him as a result.

That decided it then, didn't it?

Blaine stopped pacing, swiveling his hips to look into the mirror and it was a horrible idea. Seeing himself so undone and nervous and scared only increased everything he was feeling. His hands were already shaking and clammy; his hair was unruly and sticking up at odd angles from the number of times he'd ran his hands through it and pulled at the roots. His eyes were wide and terrified, flicking nervously, and it wasn't helping matters that he was really struggling to come off as adult and grown-up in this endeavor and yet looked so…childish, so much like a child who just wanted his mother to take care of his troubles that it was embarrassing. Blaine stepped towards the sink, running his hands under cool water and trying desperately to get some of his unruly curls to lie back down (all that managed to do, however, was loosen up even more of his hair from the restraints of gel). He looked sick with nerves and the knowledge made his stomach drop even further.

"This is a horrible idea," he hissed to himself, wrenching his tie away from his neck and hastily retying it, shaking his head in disbelief. Having such a limited number of friends (none of whom were actually good or supporting enough to confide in about something like this) had made this—talking to himself, trying to dissuade himself from doing stupid things such as this—a fairly common habit. "Stupid," he muttered, straightening up and flattening the lapels of his blazer before giving himself an unimpressed once-over. The seventeen year old shook his head and released sigh, hoisting his book bag over his shoulder as he left the bathroom and started back down the same path, away from the lunchroom, back towards class. With every step he took, his thoughts grew more and more frantic, his legs more and more like lead.

This was stupid. What was he thinking? He was going to regret this tomorrow. Why did he insist on doing these things to himself? Fifteen minutes from now, he would be the epitome of self-loathing. When was he going to learn to just let things go?

Maybe the door would be closed. Locked. Lights off. Maybe Mr. Hummel would have left the room already for lunch, disappeared to a teachers' lounge or his office or something. Teachers had to eat, too, after all.

Oh.

The door was open.

How had Blaine gotten here so fast? Mr. Hummel was right there, at his desk; it looked like he was reading something, though what it was, Blaine couldn't tell. It seemed awful to interrupt him…

No, he shouldn't be here. This was a truly horrible idea. He should be back in the lunchroom right now with his classmates. He should be picking through a plate of nachos right now, contemplating the idea that just maybe the chicken burger would be enough to end his life if he was a suicidal person. This was the last place Blaine should be, in his teacher's doorway, actually considering the idea of spilling his feelings for a man seven years older than him.

Oh, God, he had to get out of here.

"Oh, Mr. Anderson!"

Crap.

Blaine's mind raced for excuses, anything from forgetting one of his school supplies to asking Mr. Hummel how he handled growing up a gay teen in this day and age (although, it was right to assume something like that, and Blaine couldn't recall Mr. Hummel ever exclusively stating his sexual orientation). But when his eyes and attention focused on Mr. Hummel, Blaine saw his teacher smiling brightly at him and every excuse fled his mind.

"How's my favorite student?" he asked, his voice bright and cheerful, like Christmas bells.

And then his words sank in.

Blaine blinked once, his heart throbbing in his chest. He could practically hear the blood rushing through his veins, heating his body up and making his hands clammy. "…Y-You're not just saying that, are you?" he asked, uncertainty sprinkled into the words.

An almost impish laugh escaped Mr. Hummel's lips, a smile that reached his eyes gracing his face and Blaine would swear he was looking an angel. His eyes glittered like a sun-kissed sea and Blaine stopped breathing. "Of course not! Clearly your schoolwork is important to you; if everyone put half as much effort into their work as you do,

"Oh…" Blaine said lamely, his voice a lot lighter and more airy than he remembered it.

"So, what can I do for you today, Blaine? I hope you're not in here to bargain about your last grade. Look, Mr. Anderson, I believe an A- is more than fair." And then he winked.

Was he…was Mr. Hummel—his teacher…was his teacher flirting with him? …No. No, he was just being nice. Mr. Hummel was always like this. He was always nice, everyone's favorite teacher. Still, Blaine felt hot and flustered and this was no longer some silly teenage fantasy—he needed to tell Mr. Hummel now, if not just to get it out of the way, than so that maybe he would stop doing things like this. Like winking and calling Blaine his "favorite student", because really all it did was encourage him and the last thing Blaine needed, he would admit, was encouragement.

"Actually, Mr. Hummel," Blaine started, his voice quavering slightly with nerves, "if it's okay, I just…wanted to talk to you." His short fingernails dug into the strap of his bag, giving him something to hold on to so that—hopefully—his nerves weren't quite so obvious. That still left the matter of his right hand, which fiddled and toyed anxiously with the hem of his blazer. Blaine swallowed hard, glancing to the window and the whiteboard, staring blankly as he tried to gather his thoughts.

Blaine could practically feel the atmosphere shift and when he looked back at Mr. Hummel, hanging his head slightly, his features were washed over with concern. "Blaine, is everything okay?" he asked cautiously, appearing almost alarmed by Blaine's behavior.

Blaine had no choice. He couldn't turn back now, and besides, he'd go crazy by next week if he didn't say something now. He'd regret not saying something the minute he got home. It was best to just do it now. So Blaine took a deep breath and raised his head, nodding his head and trying to smile. "Yeah, everything's fine," he assured, urging his legs to move forward, to at least walk in from the doorway so he maybe he wouldn't look so awfully timid. Blaine drew to a stop at the edge of Mr. Hummel's desk, willing himself to hold eye contact, especially considering Mr. Hummel had taken the trouble of putting his pen down and the stack of papers he appeared to be grading, and even bothered to angle his chair toward Blaine. "Um…" the senior continued, biting his tongue a moment later and silently cursing himself for starting that way. "I mean, if you could, just let me talk…just listen…until I'm finished, at least, because I just really, really need to get this off my chest."

"Okay," Mr. Hummel stated simply, folding his hands neatly atop his desk.

Blaine's heart fluttered. Mr. Hummel just looked so absolutely attentive, as if Blaine was the only person in the universe, and Blaine couldn't remember the last time someone paid that much attention to him, the last time someone cared that much about anything he had to say. Blaine shifted his weight and let his eyes settle firmly on Mr. Hummel's, grateful for the patience because it was really taking him too long to get the words out. "This is going to sound really stupid—and it is stupid, but I need you to just hear me out." Blaine watched Mr. Hummel nod silently, allowing him to continue, so he took a final, shaky breath, and talked. "I like you. Not just in the favorite-teacher, 'I really look up to you as a mentor' kind of way. I'm attracted to you, and I know I'm young and it's wrong—normal, in many cases, but still wrong—but it's reached a point where I don't feel like I'm just going to get over it any time soon, and I know you can't do anything about it or…reciprocate in any way, but I've been reading self-help kinds of books, and websites offering help to teenagers and…every single one says that the best way to at least alleviate these feelings is to inform the subject, and it also gives each party a chance. On the one hand, it gives me a chance to get over my feelings, or it gives you do like me back, it gives you a chance to let me know—er," Blaine stuttered, finally realizing his mistake in making this too personal. "I mean, not that you…you can't, I know, but it's just the principle. The point I'm trying to make is that I just really needed a chance to tell you about my feelings so that I at least have a chance of getting over them."

Silence.

Dead silence.

Blaine wasn't sure what he expected, certainly not this intense silence, though. Mr. Hummel was staring at his desk now, his expression unreadable. He didn't appear angry or shocked or disgusted or…anything. If nothing else, he looked pensive, maybe, contemplative, as if he was actually considering Blaine's words. Blaine watched him with baited breath, hazel eyes wide and fearful. Maybe this was too far. Maybe he'd gone too far this time. He did have a habit of not thinking things all the way through—in this instance, he'd only thought up to this point, the confession. He didn't consider the consequences, how Mr. Hummel might feel, what he might have to say, how weird this might make things in their next class.

Things happened so fast. Blaine blinked and Mr. Hummel was out of seat, striding across the classroom to the door. "M-Mr. Hummel?" Blaine asked warily, turning on his heel to watch as he shut the door lightly, hardly making a noise in doing so. "I-I'm sorry—that was stupid of me, but I was just out there and no one's there, but I-I should have closed the door—"

And then there was Mr. Hummel, standing right in front of him, less than a foot in front of him, staring down at him sternly. "Are you quite finished?" he asked, impatience tainting his usually tranquil tone.

Certain that he had upset Mr. Hummel, Blaine took half a step back, looking down at his feet. "I…yes. I'm sorry…I didn't mean to—"

And before Blaine could fully grasp what was happening, Mr. Hummel's hands were against his face, cool and soft but firm with what felt like very little chance of letting go, and in a tidal wave of feeling and emotion, their lips crashed together.