Nine months ago Blaine Anderson meets a pretty boy on a staircase at an expensive prep school in Westerville Ohio.

Blaine doesn't know it then, but that was the moment everything changed forever.

Kurt gets a tattoo in a little tucked away shop right off the beach in Venice, California, during sunset in the last week of his and Blaine's summer trip to Los Angeles. They're seventeen and Kurt's not actually legally allowed to be getting a tattoo but the artist is a friend of Blaine's brother, Drew, so he looks the other way and pretends Kurt's ID says his birth date is a year older.

He gets guitar strings tattooed down his chest, long, thin lines against his lean torso. It hurts like hell and his skin, always sensitive, flames red across his chest.

Blaine, eyes wide and shocked, has his hand held tight close to his heart as he whispers soothing words into Kurt's sweaty neck.

Later, after Blaine spontaneously decides to get a tattoo of his own, six thin lines worn like a bracelet just under his elbow, Kurt does the same for him, kissing his tears away as they fall.

Six months ago Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson stood in the Lima Bean in Lima, Ohio and broke one another's hearts.

Kurt remembers that day so clearly, so briskly – as if it was yesterday. He'd been wearing his favorite coat and the scarf he'd bought the day before and he'd promised he wouldn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but he did. Blaine looked wonderful, even under the harsh fluorescent lights, skin flawless and lips perfectly moisturized despite the cold, bitter weather outside.

Kurt, he'd spent the night before, lying awake in his bed, running over what he'd say if given the opportunity to say anything at all – if he'd admit his embarrassing mistake, if he'd not say anything at all. He imagined what Blaine would say after Kurt admits he'd thought Blaine had wanted to sing to him (not this Jeremiah boy), he imagined all the good and all the bad and everything in between – everything from Blaine being disgusted (unlikely) to reciprocating his feelings (just as unlikely).

He indulges a little, because he doesn't really ever let himself do that, not anymore – but he indulges 0 he imagines Blaine's eyes lighting up, his pretty pretty smile stretching across his face, imagines Blaine reaching for his hand tentatively and professing he'd made a mistake with Jeremiah, yes he did.

He imagines his first kiss in the front seat of Blaine's car; their breath just shallow puffs of air in the freezing cold, imagines Blaine's touch and words warming him down to his toes.

The reality ends up being less pretty, even though not as painful as Kurt thought it'd be, not really. He's used to disappointment, being the last in line. He hadn't truly thought this would be any different, not really.

Nothing changes, (at least not right away). Kurt, though – he stops indulging.

Blaine spends all of a Saturday one weekend on his back as Drew spray paints him neon pink and then splashes black paint across his chest. Bagel takes photos of it for reference and it ends up in a Los Angeles Art blog.

Kurt sits on the stoop and talks to Rachel on the phone for hours.

By the end of the afternoon, Blaine's covered head to toe, only the whites of his eyes and the flash of his teeth recognizable under the mess. Kurt takes a picture of him with his phone and sends it to all of the New Directions' members and a couple of the Warblers and sits back, waiting for the responses to roll in.

Eight months ago, it's all still so new.

Kurt, he doesn't know what to do with Blaine Anderson – the boy with the wide smile and the penchant for singing too loud. He's suddenly just there, in Kurt's life, text messages in Kurt's inbox and voicemails left on his phone.

He learns Blaine quickly but knows Blaine takes much longer learning him because all Blaine does is give and give and give and Kurt lets only a little out at a time. Blaine – he's got this infectious grin and has thoughts about everything and anything and all things – movies, music, art, and dance. He's got an opinion, he's got an answer, usually a retort or comeback. He's nosey and pushes Kurt's barriers down without a blink of an eye, ignoring all of Kurt's standard 'back off' social cues to sit too close, talk too long and inquire about everything.

He buries himself deep into Kurt's life. He's the best infection Kurt could have ever gotten. He's thankful, even if very overwhelmed.

They talk for hours. Kurt cries, sometimes, and Blaine just listens, not offering anything, not even the typical sympathetic noises because in less than three weeks, he knows Kurt. He knows Kurt doesn't need the pity party or the standard replies.

Kurt – he remembers their first hug almost more clearly than their first kiss. He remembers Blaine's warm touch, how Blaine's hand fisted a little in the back of his shirt, how his breath felt against Kurt's neck. He remembers Blaine smelled of prep school and spicy body wash and boy – clean boy that wasn't afraid to get his gay cooties on him, wasn't afraid to hold him tight.

Blaine was solid and warm and fit so perfectly in his arms. As they embrace, Kurt tries to remember the last time he'd gotten a hug that wasn't from his Dad.

He can't.

There are a lot of talks, in their little back room on the mattress on the floor – talks about the past, a lot of the present, mostly the future.

If anyone had asked Kurt Hummel two years ago if he'd would've ever thought he'd be sitting in a bungalow in Los Angeles with his boyfriend (boyfriend!), staying up all night, ignoring moisturizing routines for real-life experiences, he would've called that person utterly and ridiculously crazy.

Certifiably insane.

It's real, though, it's real life and he wakes up pressed against Blaine nearly every morning, sticky with sweat and drool on his shoulder. Blaine's a starfish when he sleeps, all akimbo limbs and grabby hands. He snores, just a little, mainly when he's overtired, and he likes to curl into Kurt like a cat, sometimes, head tucked under Kurt's chin and legs tucked snuggled right between Kurt's.

While Bagel and Drew make a non-breakfast of cigarettes, coffee, toast and the occasional joint, Blaine talks in his sleep, mumbling on about non-sensical Warblers' performances or bizarre self-confidence issues or the way Kurt smells.

Later, when he finally wakes when Kurt can't stop himself from laughing, he listens with sleep-crusted blurry eyes as Kurt tells him what he'd said in his sleep, flushing when it's even more embarrassing than the night before.

Even later than that – later and later, they talk about their day ahead, about their week ahead. When these talks come closer and closer to the end of the summer and Lima, Ohio starts to loom over their sunny California days, their talks turn to school, to life after high school – life after Lima.

Kurt – he's always had New York in his eyes. These days, with California on his mind, he's not so sure.

Kurt remembers the days before Blaine despite the fact that he wishes they'd get lost in a dark vacuum, sucked into nothingness. His life wasn't all bad, he knows this – he had laughs and smiles and moments of happiness – it's just that the weight of the worse just sat there, heavy on his shoulders, clutching at his throat.

He knew it was bad when he'd cry himself to sleep, wishing he wouldn't have to get up and go to that school all over again – images of being pushed into lockers and bruises on his torso tender to the touch. The words were the worst, really, the harsh slurs thrown around like casual conversation. The utter disdain in Dave Karofsky's eyes was only second to that; the way he stared Kurt down like he belonged nowhere beyond six feet under.

Kurt – he's always known he's bigger, better than these bullies with their false bravado and attempts to cut people down – but it's hard not to believe them, after awhile, it's hard to find your own worth when everyone barely registers your existence.

He still remembers standing in the senior commons at Dalton that very first day, (where later he'd sit shoulder to shoulder with Blaine studying just not to be alone), feeling so light and yet so dark at the same time. Blaine sang with spirit and love and the boys around them were having the time of their lives. Kurt felt lifted by their spirits, by the music. He felt like he was being pushed down, however, by the reality that this wasn't his life, not really. He was living in the poor disguise of one of these boys.

He didn't belong there, and he wouldn't ever.

He'll spend the afternoon after seeing the Warblers sitting in his car trying not to cry, only retreating back into his house when he realizes how late it's gotten.

Later, he'll get a message and a friend request on Facebook from the lead singer of the Warblers, the boy with the brilliant smile.

You ran away so quickly, I didn't get to chat with you after the performance. It reads, Come back tomorrow at 3 for coffee with me and some of the guys – and bring that smile of yours !

Blaine's got these admirers on the Promenade, this handful of fourteen/fifteen year old girls who come to see him play every weekend, giggles hidden behind cupped hands and fan notes in their pockets. Kurt watches them, sometimes, with a smile, forgetting he's only two years older than them, forgetting that back in Ohio girls just like them share a classroom with him.

Maybe it's the scruff on Blaine's chin or the freedom they have under Bagel and Drew's watch- whatever it is – Kurt doesn't feel like a teenager, not anymore. He hasn't for a long time, not really – when the adults in your life fail to protect you, you start to harden and grow faster than your peers – but something's happened lately makes him feel even older.

Bagel's next to him on their favorite bench, sipping lemonade and singing along with the plunky 60's song Blaine's jamming on his guitar a few feet away.

Sick of sitting, Kurt stands and offers a hand to her in an exaggerated bow.

"May I have this dance m'lady?" He asks, and she tips her fedora back at him.

"Absolutely, good sir!"

He leads her in wide, obtrusive circles around the gathering crowd in a mock – waltz, his back arched and head tilt exaggerated for effect. They're garnering stares, he knows, and Blaine's fan club seem to be tittering with annoyance, but Kurt can clearly hear Blaine trying not to laugh through the lyrics so he continues, dancing with Bagel through the people – young and old, tourists and residents – to Blaine's rousing rendition of "Free Fallin'" and John Mayer's 'In Your Atmosphere' until he drops her into a deep dip.

Later, Blaine goes through his tips and finds two phone numbers and a heartfelt letter from one of the girls, the little redhead named Alyssa, who tells Blaine in loopy cursive that he reminds her of her older brother – her older brother who died two years ago in a car accident. She talks about how seeing Blaine makes her happy, and sad, and everything all at once, because Greg – he'd sing with just as much joy as Blaine had, he'd even had the curls and the smile and the talent. She goes with her friends every week and pretends to coo over how cute Blaine is, but it's all an act, really, to see a boy that reminds her of one she misses so much.

Blaine cries, unabashedly weeps, tears running because of Alyssa's words. Kurt sits with him out under the stars and cries, too. Blaine forgets, sometimes, the joy he brings into other people's lives. An absent family and a dark history will do that, really, and it hits Blaine hard when he's reminded that he matters.

Blaine cries for Alyssa and her brother, Greg. Kurt – he cries for Blaine.

The next week, they're both afraid poor Alyssa will be too embarrassed to show up. She's not there with her usual little crew at the start of the set, but by the end, she is, standing a bit away from them and looking sheepish.

At the end of his set, Blaine passes his guitar off to Kurt and walks straight over to her. Kurt smiles a little at her friends' wide eyes and then smiles brighter when Blaine just hugs her, right there, in the middle of the Third Street Promenade. He kisses her on the cheek and she's just red all over, her cheeks and the tips of her ears.

Her friends are tittering with jealousy, Kurt can tell. By the time Blaine's whispered 'thank you' in her ear and retreated back to Kurt, they've descended on her, eyes wide in awe.


Kurt going back to McKinley is an exercise in patience for both of them because their schedules stop lining up, the distance between them gets wider, and it's hard to exist in a space where you're used to having another person. Blaine's been a comfortable addition to every room since Kurt's transferred to Dalton – sitting next to him, across from him, only a few feet away. He misses the press of Blaine's shoulder against his, the sound of his laugh in his ear, Blaine's random observations.

Technology is really fantastic, of course, and Kurt's thankful for skype, texting and cell phones, but there's nothing quite like being physically in the presence of someone – of being in the physical presence of Blaine.

When Blaine's not in the room, if they're chatting on the phone or even Skype, Kurt can't get a read on Blaine as easily as he would if he was sitting in front of him. Blaine can tweak the nuances of his voice to hide things rather well but his eyes always, without a doubt, give him away. Even through video chat it's harder – something about the grainy quality of the image and the lag-effect completely dulls every expression or lull in Blaine's voice. He always feels like he's looking at Blaine through a fish tank when they talk like this, even though it's ultimately better than nothing.

So they savor their time together, whether it be sitting across from one another in the Lima Bean or making out in the rare empty house. They need to, really, if they want to keep a hold on one another.

Bagel likes to sketch in marble notebooks with no lines in them but she rarely keeps track of them so she has about a dozen half-finished ones that Kurt finds tucked in different places all over the bungalow. One night when Blaine's out with Drew she curls up with Kurt on he and Blaine's makeshift bed on the patio and he only puts up a ten minute fight when she tries to convince him to let her draw on his arm.

He's not very happy about it, not really, but he finds himself having a hard time denying Bagel anything. She's just happy, all the time, radiating joy and having insane ideas and wanting everyone ever to be included in on them.

"How do you do it?" He asks, as she tells him a story about how Drew had gotten caught once, painting a mural on the side of an abandoned building in Los Feliz, and had been arrested for vandalization. It's the happiest most silly story of being arrested Kurt's ever heard because she's laughed through the whole thing, even the part where Drew was stuck in jail for three days while Bagel rounded up their friends to get donations for bail.

"What?" She replies, biting her lip as she traces a wide blue swirl up his forearm. The marker is cold against his skin and he's worried it's going smudge against the only thing of value on this sad excuse for a bed – the 500 count thread sheets Kurt indulged in at the start of their trip.

"How do you stay so positive?" He continues, bringing his other arm up to prop himself up as she draws, lying on the bed next to him. Even with Blaine there are times when Kurt gets bogged down with the unfairness of the universe, gets angry with the intolerance and hate. She grins without looking at him.

"Listen, life isn't that bad, if you think about it." She shrugs a little, and caps her blue marker, reaching for a red one, "I mean, yes, it's bad, sometimes, and it's good to be concerned about the plight of the world, but if you just think about it all the time you'll go crazy."

The tip of the marker climbs down to his wrist and over the curve of his thumb and her small hand reaches out to steady his own, "We all have our outlets. You know mine's art. So's Drew's. What's yours?"

A few months ago, Kurt might have said acting or singing or fashion, really, because they were the things that took his mind off of the bad. They still do, definitely, but there's something hollow in his chest when he thinks about it now – singing is his skill, his art. He doesn't want it to be tainted with anger, not really. He knows if Blaine was asked this question he'd reply with music – because it's not singing that Blaine's passionate about, it's the art of the music notes, the ability to create sounds that evoke emotion.

"I don't know," He replies honestly, and Bagel's hand stills on his for a moment, then keeps on going, trailing back up his arm towards his elbow.

"You'll figure it out." She says, leaning over and kissing his temple, "I forget that you and Blaine are such babies, sometimes."

Kurt rolls his eyes, acting his age, and she giggles. Blaine and Drew will come home to the two fast asleep on the bed; Kurt's arm a mural of beautiful swirls and colors. Drew will carry Bagel back to their bedroom and Kurt will wake up the next morning to Blaine's fingers tracing the design, his lips soon following.

Later, when he sits with Bagel on the stoop as Drew and Blaine roll up a sheet of silkscreen, he looks over at her, squinting through the sun.

"It's Blaine," He finally says, and when she looks back over at him, he doesn't need to explain because she knows.

Blaine tells Kurt Drew has offered for the two of them to come stay for the summer a month before the end of the school year. He looks so bright-eyed, excited, that Kurt's heart starts pounding and for the first time he allows himself the brief indulgence of what it'd be like to be spending two months in Los Angeles with Blaine's oddly bohemian/hipster brother and his girlfriend (who's named Bagel, come on now). He imagines perfect weather and celebrities and walks on the boardwalk.

Then reality shuts it all down.

He isn't delusional – he doesn't even blame his father for the resounding 'no' he gets when he finally asks. Kurt's not sure he would allow his own seventeen year old to spend the summer with two street-artist twenty-somethings he's never met. He's not even sure why Blaine's parents, would either, to be honest- and Drew's their son, so, he's not surprised when his father says no, not at all.

He must look devastated, though, because Burt's looking at him like it physically hurts to.

"Kurt," His father says, "Don't look at me like that."

Kurt's not looking at Burt like anything – in fact, he's trying to find the best way to exit the conversation so he can cry a little before he goes to tell Blaine. Blaine's promised to stay if Kurt can't go even though Kurt thinks he should go, so selfishly he's not completely devastated – it's just the daydreams of living somewhere that's anywhere but Lima, Ohio, even for a little while, seemed just so perfect.

He turns to leave when his father speaks up.


Kurt stops in his tracks.

"You know I trust you right?" Burt's doing that sighing thing, that gruff sighing he does when he's about to give permission for something he's not really excited about. Kurt tries not to get his hopes up.

He turns on his heel, keeping his expression neutral as he looks over at his father.

"Listen – I want to talk to Blaine's brother, and his girlfriend, before any plans are set in stone, okay?"

Burt can barely breathe with how tightly Kurt's hugging him.

After Kurt and Blaine start having sex that weekend Bagel and Drew go to San Diego, they can't keep their hands off one another.

Kurt hadn't been lying those months ago when he said sex sort of frightened him – it seemed so damp and messy and almost particularly violent from the few things he'd watched. He's not stupid, though – he knows it's not always that way, not really. He doesn't even know much about his own sexuality to say what'd he'd like, either.

He finds the perfect experimenting partner in Blaine.

They do a lot more than kiss and touch; they devour and grasp, drowning in the taste of one another's skin and come and tongues, mapping one another's bodies with tentative – and then not-so tentative- fingers. Getting off with someone else is the best thing ever, he learns, and it's even better when it's Blaine, who looks at him like he's lighting up his world.

He likes knowing that he can reduce Blaine to nonsensical babble, that he knows Blaine's weak spots and how he's ticklish just under his ribs and how a kiss to his hipbone will make him moan like a whore.

These are all things no one knows about Blaine, and if Kurt has it his way, no one else will ever know about Blaine.

(He may be a naïve teenager to think that way, and perhaps he is, but cut him some slack. He's been through a lot of stuff and if he says he can honestly say he sees forever in Blaine's eyes, he truly believes it.)

They spend all of that first day alternating with overpriced coffee beverages from Intelligentsia and fucking in their patio-turned-bedroom, clothes optional the rest of the weekend. Kurt doesn't think he's ever been so relaxed before. Blaine looks deliciously debauched, sweaty and kiss-stained on his throat and thighs. It makes Kurt want to ravish him all over again – makes him want to push him back into the pile of blankets and finger him until he's gasping, swallowing his moans and giving as much as he takes.

By the time Drew and Bagel return from their weekend away they've washed the sheets and taken a leisurely shower together in attempts to look composed and respectable. In the end, though, they walk in on them well on their way to getting naked again and Bagel can't stop giggling at their flushed, embarrassed faces for the rest of the night.

Later than that, though, they learn the art and the thrill of trying to stay quiet. Kurt especially likes this game when he's sucking Blaine's cock and it's not really him who has to try to keep the noise to a minimum.

They spend the first two weeks getting lost a lot. Kurt drives because Drew's car is a manual and he's the only one of the two of them that knows how to drive a stick shift. They have a cheap roadmap and Blaine's anal about reading signs but they find themselves in the valley when they're not supposed to be more than once.

During one such error they give up, pulling off the freeway in Sherman Oaks and having brunch at this cute little café that serves nothing but delicious crepes and an array of different flavored pancakes.

They never make it to their original destination, but in the end it's all worth it for the strawberry flavored kisses he gets from Blaine, his hand warm on his thigh, as Kurt shifts gears so they can take the canyon back over to their side of the hill.

The tattoo is not very Kurt – well, not very Kurt of yesteryear, at least. He doesn't really consider himself a tattoo person. There's one too many heinous examples of tattoos gone wrong. Even Bagel has a tattoo she chagrins at, pointing to it with a frowny face. She admits it's a part of her past so she doesn't regret it, but she's not 100% into it, anymore, either. Kurt doesn't think he'd ever consider getting a tattoo of the words "art and peace" in Elvish, but it does kind of make Kurt want to meet a seven years younger Bagel because she's certainly not the girl he knows now.

It's an idea that stems from Bagel's arm-drawing obsession, something that starts with Kurt and then spreads like wildfire through the bungalow and Bagel and Andrew's friends (literally). By the end of the summer Kurt's had a bizarre lion-like creature drawn on his chest and Blaine's had Bagel write "Kurt's property" on the small of his back with an arrow pointing downward so many times Kurt doesn't know if he should be turned on like he is or annoyed. They also spend an afternoon doodling on one another, poorly drawn cartoons and hearts and stars, ruining the shit out of Bagel's markers. They'll have to go down to the stupidly expensive art store she prefers later that evening but as long as they replace them she doesn't care what they use.

It's there that Kurt contemplates aloud the idea for a tattoo- a real one, and it's there that he sees Blaine properly shocked for the first time.

"Really? A tattoo? You?" His eyebrows are up past his hairline, messy curls almost long enough to be in line with his sight. Kurt colors immediately, flushed red.

"Yeah, me," Kurt replies, rolling away from Blaine and capping his marker. Blaine's arms are quick to snatch him back, and he knows Blaine's fingers are definitely smudging the ink on his chest.

"No, no – do whatever you want to, babe." Blaine replies, sliding his hand down Kurt's chest to settle just beneath the waistband of his boxer briefs. Kurt sighs in content and relaxes against Blaine.

"I don't know," He admits, "I just think I need something for me."

Blaine rolls him over so they are nose-to-nose on the pillow, his ridiculously long eyelashes practically sweeping Kurt's face as he blinks. Kurt slides a leg over Blaine's, fitting their hips together so they're flush against one another. Blaine's hand traces down his side, stops at his waist.

"Where would you get it? What would you get?"

Kurt really doesn't have any answers to these questions, but he'll talk to Bagel and Drew the next day and they'll help him come up with ideas (after making sure he was very very sure of this, of course). In the end he doesn't tell Blaine what he's getting but lets him come along and hold his hand as he cringes his way through it.

Their second week is they truly get a moment to sit, just sit, with Bagel and Drew in the bungalow's little backyard, which is woefully overgrown with weeds except for the small brick patio. Drew fires up the barbecue and cracks two different bottles of Two-Buck Chuck (one white, one red) and doles out healthy glasses. They drink and they eat and they talk and Kurt gets to know these two Anderson boys as brothers instead of just two guys who look related. He learned about what it's like to grow up in the shadows of New York City, left to fend for themselves because of absent parents who fed their boys with money instead of love. Neither Blaine nor Drew had contempt for either mother or father, but there was something wistful about the way Blaine talked about how his parents never made it to a recital or performance. Drew was the more icy of the two, falling into the reassurance role as he must've when Blaine was growing up, quick to assure Blaine that it was their parent's loss for missing out on their childhoods.

It strikes Kurt then, as he sips cheap white wine in the cool Los Angeles summer evening, that these two boys essentially raised themselves. While their parents kept them healthy in pocket money and schooling, their support reined from one another – two boys who were different in ways that Kurt couldn't even begin to count.

He knows that they could have turned out completely and utterly different. They could be troublemakers and cold, mean-spirited individuals – and they're not. Even though Drew's choice of making a living (technically illegal) is arguably unconventional – in his effort to be inflammatory and subversive he ends up making the front page of art blogs and in the pages of the New York Times. Blaine's a musician of the most literal sense – he plays guitar and piano and violin and Kurt once watched him pick up a flute and learn it on the spot. He gets good grades and his biggest crime is loving another boy.

As the sun sets and the moon rises Kurt listens about Drew and Blaine and their adventures in the streets of New York City, paint cans stuffed in backpacks and hands sticky with glue. He listens to the story of how Bagel and Drew met, nearly three years ago ("And it took him longer to get it together than it did Blaine with you, Kurt," She teases, and then squawks indignantly when Drew reaches over to poke her in the side), and how they ended up settling here in Silver Lake for the time being, although they have plans for month long trips to Germany and France at the end of the year.

By the time the night's over, Blaine's sloppy enough that he can't stop giggling, and Kurt, just as drunk and consumed with knowledge and admiration and even more love for his boyfriend, curls himself tight against Blaine as they eventually fall asleep.

This night will end up setting the precedent for the rest of the summer, Kurt knows, and he will ultimately cite it for the reason why he goes ahead with the tattoo.

He wants something to remember Los Angeles by, the Andersons by, Bagel by, Blaine by – and why not guitar strings? He may naïve to think he and Blaine are meant to be together forever, but he also knows he'd never regret Blaine – he'd never regret these experiences.

There are a lot of other things that happen that summer – the photography and the murals and riding the Jeep over the canyons and Bagel and Drew's wedding and the handful of New Directions' coming to visit. There's kissing and fucking and trying out for American Idol and a handful of performances of Spring Awakening and busking in Santa Monica and getting tattoos in Venice.

In October, when the chill of the typical Ohio fall descends on them, Kurt and Blaine close the windows tight, lock Kurt's bedroom (thankful for a rare afternoon alone in the house) and fuck in celebration for finishing up and submitting all of their college applications.

Afterwards, Blaine curls his arm around Kurt's waist and gently strokes his fingers over the inked strings on his chest. They're stunning, and Kurt loves them – six long strings, stretched from just under his clavicle (so it won't show unless he's wearing a very open shirt – which is usually not his style) and fade under his bellybutton. He has two music notes on his sternum over his lines, a B and an A, right over his heart and Blaine's favorite thing to do is line up the lines encircling his forearm to Kurt's strings.

Some people (most people) will see Kurt and Blaine and see the same boys they were last year - despite their low-maintenance summer Kurt's still in love with his McQueen sweaters (although he's more partial to vintage designs these days) and Blaine is still self-conscious of his hair so he wears it parted and brushed back (although not nearly as coiffed as he did when he was attending Dalton). What no one sees, not really, is their differences inside, of the realizations they'd gained upon their trip, of the growing up they did.

They'll have people who criticize their tattoos (although it's not something they show often; Kurt's fairly modest and Blaine's is so non-descript that sometimes people don't even notice it, even when he's wearing short sleeves), their choice to follow one another to New York for college, to wear plain white gold bands on their left ring fingers straight out of high school. They get a lot of side-eyes and discouragement and older people telling them that they're too young to think about forever.

Kurt thinks about that conversation, sometimes, the one he'd had with Bagel as she'd stained his skin red and purple that day. He thinks of how he looks to Blaine to be his light, just as Blaine looks to him, and he knows. They know.

They move back to Los Angeles after spending four years in New York because Bagel and Drew are family, some of the only family they've got.

They're twenty-six and they still go to Intelligentsia on Sunday mornings, craving overpriced coffee and feeling comfortable with the hipster clientele. Blaine – sometimes he'll step up behind Kurt while they wait on line and wrap his arms around him, his six-line tattoo lining up with Kurt's where it's unseen under his shirt.

One day, Blaine will tattoo a 'K' in delicate script (Kurt's own handwriting) on his lines. Even later, he'll add a 'G' for their son, Gray.

For now, they'll get re-dressed and curl up together on Kurt's bed in his childhood home in Lima Ohio, making the best of the last hour or so they have to themselves before the house comes alive with parents and a noisy step-sibling.

Kurt will press his lips to Blaine's inked skin and hold him tight as he drifts off to nap, prepared to wake him up with laughter when Blaine undoubtedly starts talking in his sleep, once again.