Helen sighed, watching the two boys at the other side of the room. She'd hoped that Kurt would warm up to Blaine when she'd hired him, but she'd underestimated both Blaine's hesitance and Kurt's fragility when it came to relationships. She watched as Blaine laughed at something Kurt had written and smiled. She was glad that they were getting close now. Blaine was good for her nephew. She hadn't seen Kurt so relaxed since—

Helen's lips thinned.

Since Burt had—

She shook her head and turned away. Inadvertently, her eyes landed on two of Kurt's old friends, the ones from his glee club. Santana, she thought the Latina girl's name was, and the other blonde one was Brittany. They'd been coming around more often since the day they'd all decided to sing to Kurt. Kurt had rarely spoken of his friends, but it wasn't hard to see that those girls were in love with each other. Helen could read the signs. She watched as Santana smiled at Brittany's bowed head - she was reading some book or another. Probably one on smoking, Helen thought, as she seemed particularly concerned with the habit although, although she'd confessed to Helen she didn't smoke herself.

Helen watched them for a long time. They're so young, she thought, chest tightening. Young and in love and so, so foolish.

Helen had always hated Lima. There was a reason she'd left as soon as she could and had never came back except for the occasional visit to Burt. Burt, he'd been another story. He liked Lima, liked the smallness and security of it. He'd met Katherine in Lima, and they'd taken over Burt and Helen's father's business, the tire shop. Of course, it had been failing by then, but Burt had built it back up to a new glory. Helen had always envied his capability to do things, to make things happen, his dependability. She'd never been reliable. She'd flitted from one job to the next until she'd earned enough money to open her shop. She was proud of Secondhand Storytelling - she often felt that it was a symbol that she wasn't a failure after all.

Her father had always told her that. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" he'd complain when she came through the door, sullen after another afternoon in the principal's office for bad behavior. Burt never got in trouble - he was the golden boy of Lima. Everyone loved him. Helen had been the weird little sister, the geek who loved books and music and theatre. She was the trouble child who punched people in the face when they gave her a weird look. Her parents had loved her, Helen was pretty sure about that, but they had never approved of her like they had of Burt.

She couldn't think they'd approve of her if she'd ever told them her secret. She'd loved them, and they were good people, but anything different from their way of life shocked them or disgusted them.

She felt ashamed now, looking at Kurt, that she'd had the idea, half-buried in her mind, that Burt would be the same. After all, he'd always been the apple of their parents' eyes. He'd been on the football team, he'd married the head cheerleader and stayed in Lima. He was the paragon of a small town life. She hadn't thought the worse of him for it, but she had always assumed that Burt would carry the same casual, my life is right and yours is wrong if it's not like mine attitude. She regretted thinking that now.

She remembered the first time she'd visited after Kurt was born. Kurt had been about four at the time, maybe five, and the first time Helen had seen him, he'd been wobbling around in Katherine's heels, wearing a cape, lipstick smeared around his mouth and a tiara on his head. Katherine had been with him, laughing as he attempted to take another step and nearly fell. Helen had felt a stab of regret. Kurt was so different from other little boys she knew - they would disdain wearing make-up even at four, and would rather get dirty than try on their mother's heels and a tiara. She had wondered at the time, how Burt would raise Kurt, if it turned out it wasn't some childish phase and that Kurt really did like women's clothes better than men's. She felt ashamed remembering the fierce hope she'd had that Katherine would balance out whatever Burt did, that Kurt wouldn't feel ashamed because his father didn't like his way of life.

So many things I underestimated about you, brother, she thought, still staring at the teenaged girls.

She hadn't thought that Burt would accept his son for who he was. It wasn't because she didn't love him or admire him—it wasn't that at all. But the things she admired about Burt didn't include kindness or tolerance or acceptance. She admired and loved him for his capability, his dependability, the fact that he was her older brother who had never done anything wrong. She loved him knowing - or thinking that she knew - that his tolerance was limited.

Helen had underestimated Burt's capacity for acceptance, his kindness. It shamed her now, because in it, she saw the sort of snobby thought that said - we were raised the same way, but I can go beyond that because I'm the better person, whereas you cannot. She should never have thought it. She should never have pinned her father and mother's beliefs on Burt, because he obviously didn't share them. She should never have thought that he wouldn't be able to raise his son without condemning him and making him feel ashamed.

Helen sighed, finally looking away from Santana and Brittany. She locked away the longing she felt, determined to keep it caged. She'd kept it secret for so long that it was difficult to even think about speaking of it, to actually say the words aloud. The thought terrified her, made her skin crawl. She couldn't do it, not even to the nephew that she was coming to love as her own son.

Helen watched Kurt smile at Blaine for a moment longer, then turned back to her work, ignoring the ache in her chest with an ease that spoke of long practice.

"And then, oh man, he just got up in front of us and told us all how to do the Single Ladies dance," Puck said, laughing. "You should have heard him. And slap the butt!" he said, adopting a higher pitched voice.

Blaine couldn't help laughing. Kurt, when he looked over, was hiding his red face in his hands.

"So what happened after that?" Blaine said, grinning still. "Did you guys actually do it at the game?"

"Well we weren't going to, but Hudson forced us," Puck said. "Turns out it was the best damn thing we'd ever done, because we got a touchdown which tied us and Hummel there managed to get the ball between the goal posts."

"Really?" Blaine asked Kurt, who was burying his face further in his hands. "That's awesome, Kurt! Man, I would never have guessed you were on the football team. You don't seem like the type."

"He was only involved for a few weeks," Rachel butted in. "Then he quit. But it was certainly one of the more memorable football games."

"I keep telling Kurt he should re-join," Tina added. "He looked good in the shoulder pads."

Mike regarded her with pathetic puppy eyes. Tina made a face and kissed his cheek, then hurriedly reassured him that no, she wasn't leaving him for a gay boy.

"Or Cheerios again," Quinn said, smirking. "You know Coach would love to have you back, Kurt."

Kurt looked up, blush clearing away, and scoffed.

Quinn raised an eyebrow. She definitely had the look of icy disdain down, Blaine thought.

"Oh, don't be obtuse," she said. Blaine caught Finn staring at her, eyebrows furrowed, and wondered if Finn knew what obtuse meant. He hurriedly shoved that thought away - that was unkind. "You know Coach has a soft spot for you. You're the only one besides me who can keep up with her."

"Hey!" Santana said.

Quinn didn't even looked at her. "Santana, you actually listened when she told you to be at the bottom of the pyramid."

Santana glared at the back of Quinn's head. Blaine was surprised Quinn didn't burst into flames.

"Cheerios?" he asked, drawing Quinn's attention.

"McKinley's cheerleaders," she explained. Blaine blinked.

"You were a cheerleader?" he asked Kurt, suddenly assaulted by mental images. He shifted. Quinn smirked at him as if she knew what he was thinking about.

Kurt shrugged, then scribbled something down on a napkin, handing it to Blaine.

It was a phase.

"She'd love to have you back," Quinn said again. "Last year she was always complaining about how the boys weren't flexible enough."

Blaine had the sudden urge to glare at her. He didn't need those mental images, damn it. Kurt shook his head, smiling a little. Quinn sighed heavily.

Blaine looked at his watch, then jumped up. "I'd better get back," he said apologetically. "Lunch break's almost over."

Kurt almost looked like he wanted to join him, but Blaine knew he had at least ten more minutes and fixed Kurt with what he hoped was a stern glare. Kurt's amused look told him that he hadn't done as good of a job as he'd hoped. Still, he sat back in his chair and turned to Artie, who had started a story about his summer break.

Blaine hurried away from their lunch spot and checked back in. Helen was up front, dealing with the register for Kurt's break, so Blaine just went back to his spot up front. They were having a bit of a rush and Helen was giving him looks, so Blaine started tuning up his guitar, searching his brain for a song to sing. He caught sight of Kurt out of the corner of his eye, laughing soundlessly at something Mercedes had said. Mercedes looked more pleased with herself than the situation truly warranted, but Blaine couldn't blame her - he was always proud when he managed to get Kurt to smile or laugh. Warmth blossomed in his chest at the sight of a happy Kurt and he softly started to play . . . .

"When I see your smile

Tears roll down my face, I can't replace

And now that I'm strong I have figured out

How this world turns cold and it breaks through my soul

And I know I'll find deep inside me I can be the one . . . ."

Kurt had looked over the moment Blaine had started to sing and Blaine hadn't looked away from him. They held eye contact as Blaine continued.

"I will never let you fall

I'll stand up with you forever

I'll be there for you through it all

Even if saving you sends me to heaven."

Kurt's eyes were wide with surprise and Blaine realized that he was, perhaps, being clearer with his feelings than he really should be. But he couldn't bring himself to stop, or to look away. He wanted Kurt to know that he was there for him, that he wanted to help, that he'd give anything for Kurt to keep smiling the way he had been for the past few days. And he needed it to be just from him, not just from part of the group that was currently staring at Blaine too, wide-eyed as Kurt.

"It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.

Seasons are changing

And waves are crashing

And stars are falling all for us

Days grow longer and nights grow shorter

I can show you I'll be the one.

I will never let you fall

I'll stand up with you forever

I'll be there for you through it all

Even if saving you sends me to heaven.

'Cause you're my, you're my, my,

My true love, my whole heart

Please don't throw that away."

Kurt's blush was practically tomato red and Blaine could feel a similar blush creeping up the back of his neck. He could see Kurt's friends staring at him or whispering amongst themselves out of the corner of his eye and winced a little bit.

"'Cause I'm here for you

Please don't walk away and

Please tell me you'll stay woah, stay woah

Use me as you will

Pull my strings just for a thrill

And I know I'll be okay

Though my skies are turning gray

I will never let you fall

I'll stand up with you forever

I'll be there for you through it all

Even if saving you sends me to heaven . . . ."

Kurt's friends exploded into applause. Blaine, however, only had eyes for Kurt, who was watching him, wide-eyed still with something between surprise and curiosity. Blaine busied himself by tuning his guitar, looking anywhere other than Kurt. The tips of his ears were burning. Blaine liked singing to people, especially his crushes, but he often dealt with a sort crushing embarrassment afterwards, an endless spiral of self-doubt. What if they didn't like it? What if I chose the wrong song? Was it too much? It was too much.

He looked up when he heard footsteps and gulped when he saw Kurt standing in front of him. He relaxed a little when he saw that Kurt was smiling and didn't look ready to punch him. Before that morning, Blaine wouldn't have been sure Kurt really could punch him, but after hearing that he'd been a kicker and a Cheerio, it was hard to believe that Kurt couldn't do anything he set his mind too.

Kurt handed Blaine a napkin.

That was lovely, he'd written. Blaine blushed.

"Thanks," he said. Then, quietly, he added, "I meant every word of it."

When he dared to look up, Kurt was staring at him, his smile thoughtful instead of pleased. Blaine didn't know if that was a good thing or not. Kurt took the napkin back and scribbled on it with a pen.

Thank you, it said. I was, something scribbled out, touched by it. It meant a lot. Something scribbled out at the end.

Blaine grinned. "No problem," he said proudly. Kurt hadn't thought it was too much! He wasn't running away in fear!

Kurt smiled at him, then waved goodbye, returning to his friends. Blaine returned to his work with gusto, full of enthusiasm. Kurt hadn't been concerned of weirded out by his song - he'd said it was lovely! It had touched him! Blaine felt like he was flying.

Blaine sighed, shifting through a stack of books. Helen had asked him to stay on for a little while to help put things away—apparently one of her regulars had had a doctor's appointment that they hadn't known about (Blaine thought it was more likely that they didn't want to work and had called in with that excuse) and she was one hand short for closing time. Blaine didn't really mind - it wasn't like putting books away was such a hardship, and they usually died pretty quickly once closing time came around.

He shifted the empty box onto his hip as he put a few books in their rightful places. He had one more box to go through before he could go home for the night, and he frowned when he realized he'd left it up by the register. Sighing, he put his empty box in their recycling bin to be brought out to the trash tomorrow and returned to the front of the store. When he finally worked his way through the bookcases, he stopped when he saw the register.

Kurt was sleeping at his counter.

Blaine approached cautiously, and yes, he wasn't just imagining things. Kurt really was asleep at his counter, dark head against the wood, his eyes closed. A book was open in his hand. Blaine, almost despite himself, smiled a little at the picture he made. He looked younger in his sleep, probably because his eyes—the part of him that Blaine always thought made him look older than he really was—were closed.

Blaine spotted his box. He almost didn't want to leave—Kurt seemed very vulnerable, asleep at the counter—but he did have work to finish. As he bent to retrieve his box, he had a sudden thought and stopped short. It's cold in here, he thought. Usually Ohio summer nights were warm, but they'd had a recent cold front come through. Kurt's only in his work shirt, he thought, staring down at the short sleeves. Blaine sighed.

Carefully and quietly, so as not to wake Kurt, he made his way behind the counter and into the back room. He thought he'd seen Helen stash a few blankets back there, but he wasn't for sure. He smiled when he caught sight of a bright pattern and pulled out a throw. Still being as quiet as possible, he snuck back out front and carefully draped it over Kurt's shoulders.

Kurt shifted, muttering in his sleep. Blaine froze, his hands covering Kurt's shoulders as he kept the blanket in place. One of Kurt's eyes cracked open, and he stared up at Blaine through his lashes. Then, apparently deciding sleep was more important, he closed it again and settled. Blaine sighed with relief and secured the blanket around Kurt's shoulders. When he was sure it wouldn't fall, he made his way back to his abandoned box.

He couldn't stop from smiling as he carried the last of the books through the store. Blaine refused to acknowledge the reason why.

"Alright," Blaine said, biting the end of a pen. "15 letter word. Adaptation to a new climate."

"Blaine, honey, give me a challenge," Helen said, grinning in a particualrly shark-like manner. "Acclimatization. Next."

Blaine scowled as he scribbled the word into the daily crossword puzzle. Helen was amazing at them, while Blaine, though not from lack of practice, was decidedly not. Kurt was better at them than he was too, which was disgruntling and secretly a little hot.

Blaine searched through his clues. "Ha!" he said, spotting one that had been giving him trouble for the past hour. "Five letter world, the third letter is a. The color of a bird with broken wings." He threw down the paper in challenge, raising an eyebrow. "There's no way you can get that one."

Helen, for the first time that morning, looked stumped. Her eyebrows were drawn together and she murmured the clue under her breath once more, as if racking her brains for the answer.

Kurt emerged from the back, and Helen immediately waved him over. With a raised eyebrow, he approached.

"Help me out, nephew of mine," Helen said. "Five letters, color of a bird with broken wings."

Kurt stared at her and then, with the help of a very arched eyebrow, gave her a look of such impressive disdain that Blaine felt tempted to applaud. He turned the newspaper towards him, then scrawled out something in the appointed boxes with his pen. He turned it back towards Blaine pointedly.

Blaine looked down. Black,said the box. It suddenly clicked in his mind.

"Blackbird!" he said aloud. Helen stared at him. Blaine understood Kurt's disbelief now. Had Helen never listened to the Beatles? "Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly," he sang softly.

"Oh!" Helen said, a lightbulb flashing. "Of course. Damnit, how could I forget that." She looked over at Kurt and shook her head. "No wonder you remembered. Katherine practically raised you on the Beatles. She was their number one fan."

Kurt tensed. Blaine watched him carefully. Kurt rarely talked about his dead parents, although he had let a few tidbits about his mom slip once or twice. They were a touchy subject for him, not that Blaine could blame him.

"My dad likes the Beatles," Blaine offered up. "It was the only thing we agreed on for a while, actually."

Kurt relaxed a little bit and turned towards Blaine, his eyes interested and still a little wary.

Aware of Helen watching them, Blaine chose his words more carefully. "My mom doesn't like music much. Neither does my dad, really, except for the Beatles. They were baffled when I asked for private music lessons as a kid." He smiled a little bitterly. "My dad thought it would turn me into a nancy boy."

He heard Helen mutter an expletive under her breath and his smile turned genuine.

"Never mind, it's not that big of a deal," Blaine said, faux-casual. "Parents being parents, you know?"

He turned to go - his crossword was nearly finished, though he didn't have much heart to do it anymore - and Helen caught his arm. He didn't look at her.

"Blaine, you know that if you're in any trouble - any at all - you can come to us, right? We care about you."

Blaine bit his lip. "Thanks, Helen," he said, keeping his tone light.

He didn't want her to know how much it meant to him, hearing those words. None of his teachers had ever said that - first because they didn't want to, and at Dalton because it was expected he would be a-okay now that he was out of that nasty public school business. His own parents had never—

It meant more than Helen knew, to hear those words.

"Mind if I take my ten?" he asked. He didn't stop to hear Helen say yes - instead he hurriedly left the shop.

He half-ran to the back alleyway. Blaine stopped, breathing hard as if he'd just run a mile, and leaned against the back of the shop, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He'd thought he'd worked past this. He was used to his parents, their indifference and intolerance of his life. Blaine had accepted that his parents would never understand him a long time ago. But every once in a while when he stared the issue in the face, it stung as much as the first time he'd really sat down and thought about it.

He loved his parents. He did. But there was so much about their relationship to him that he wanted to change. Blaine just wished that he could do it - that he could be—

Enough, Blaine thought, opening his eyes. I just want to be enough for them. But I never will be. He slid down the wall until he was sitting up against the wall, knees drawn to his chest. He buried his face in his knees.

Blaine envied Kurt sometimes. He'd lost his parents, but Kurt never doubted the love they'd had for him as far as Blaine could tell. Kurt was secure in the knowledge that he'd been—enough for his mom and dad, and that he was enough for Helen. He didn't feel his father's disappointment weighing on his shoulders, or his mother's disapproval. He didn't wonder what would happen the first time he brought a boy home, how his parents would react.

Because he doesn't have parents anymore, Blaine, Blaine thought, ashamed of his envy. Kurt was an orphan who had willingly turned mute to express his grief, and all Blaine could think was how much he would give to have even a tenth of the relationship Kurt must've had with his dad, with his mom. It was horrible. But it didn't stop the feeling, deep down in his gut, from blooming.

A hand landed on his shoulder. Blaine jerked away.

Kurt looked down at him, as if Blaine's thoughts had summoned him, full of concern. Kurt crouched down and reached out a hand before pulling it back uncertainly. Are you alright? He asked with his hands. Blaine had managed to learn a little sign language with Helen and Kurt's help, though he was still hopeless with anything beyond basic questions and spelling out names.

"I'm . . . ." Blaine searched for a word, then sighed. "No," he said. "I'm not."

If it had been anyone else, he would've said he was. But with Kurt, he tried not to pretend anymore. It made things between them hard, at least on Blaine's side. But it made them so much more interesting that Blaine couldn't regret it.

Kurt's worry deepened. What is it? He asked, remembering to stick to basic questions.

Blaine bit his lip. "I wish I had parents like you had," he blurted out finally. Kurt tense and his lips thinned. Blaine winced. "Not—no, it's not that—Shit." Kurt's look softened a little, which gave Blaine the courage to say, "I just—My dad thinks I'm some nancy little boy who needs to man up, and my mom tries to keep setting me up with girls and is always saying how the music and the "little problem" of being gay are just phases—"

Kurt made the little huffing sound that Blaine had come to realize signified anger. He looked up. Kurt was glaring at a point past his shoulder. Kurt snapped his eyes to Blaine's after a moment, and Blaine was shocked by the—the anger in Kurt's face, the anger that wasn't at him, but for him, and a blaze of warmth erupted in his stomach until he felt, for some inexplicable reason, that he wanted to smile—

He reached out and grabbed Kurt's hand tightly. Kurt jumped, startled, then relaxed. The anger in his face bled away and he curled his fingers around Blaine's trustingly. Blaine's throat went dry.

"Thank you," he said quietly.

Years of people disappointed in him, people angry at him, people never helping him passed before his eyes. He'd always been forced to do it on his own, find his own way, fix his own problems. He'd never had anyone offer to lend a hand or a shoulder to carry the burden. Never. And now, in one day, he had two.

Kurt's face softened. Blaine wondered how much he'd seen in Blaine's face, which he'd always been told was so readable, and how much he'd managed to figure out on his own. Kurt was smart - he could put things together.

"You and Helen are really great people," Blaine continued earnestly. To Blaine's amusement, Kurt began to flush. "I'm really lucky to be working here. And it means a lot, how much you guys care."

Kurt waved his free hand in the universal gesture of no problem. He was smiling. Blaine, to his surprise, found that he was too.

Blaine hummed absently as he moved boxes around. Helen had requested that he help put new merchandise on the shelves since they were short a hand that day, and Blaine had been more than happy to help since Helen had assigned Kurt the same job. They'd spent the morning re-stocking the shelves, Blaine talking quietly and Kurt texting his responses. Kurt had been more relaxed with him for the past few days. Blaine liked that - a relaxed Kurt joked more, showed more of the person hiding underneath the ice. Blaine had seen the facade Kurt had been wearing since his first day slowly fading away. Kurt smiled more, laughed more. Blaine was delighted by it.

The bell rang and Blaine instinctively looked at the door. His heart froze.

"Well, this looks quaint," Edmund Anderson announced in his booming voice, looking around critically. "I actually quite like it. Although there's not much business, is there?" Blaine cringed in embarrassment when he saw Helen turn her head, frowning.

"Dad!" he said loudly, hurrying forward. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kurt's head snap to the side, fixing on his father. He ignored it. "What're you doing here?"

"Thought I should see the place you're spending so much time in, make sure it's appropriate," his dad said, completely oblivious to his rudeness. As usual, Blaine thought bitterly.

"Dad," his hissed under his breath.

"What?" his dad said, adopting the tone that meant he thought Blaine was being unreasonable. "Only the best for my son, Blaine."

"Dad, that's Helen, the owner," Blaine said quietly.

Edmund started over to her. Blaine wished he could grab him back, but then his dad would just make a bigger scene and it would turn out worse.

"Helen, is it?" Edmund boomed, holding out his hand to her. Helen looked startled. Blaine didn't blame her - his dad was a force to be reckoned with. "Edmund Anderson, Blaine's father."

"Oh!" Helen said, taking his hand. Her shocked expression hadn't faded into warmth, as it usually did upon meeting new people - instead she looked almost icy. "I see. Well, it's been a pleasure having Blaine work for me." She glanced over at Blaine, and her expression melted a little bit. "He's a wonderful boy."

Edmund laughed. Blaine cringed. He knew that laugh.

"Well," Edmund said, "wonderful is a bit of an overstatement, isn't it? I mean, I love him, but he can be a bit of a pansy at times. Gets it from toddling after his mom for a good three years longer than he needed to. Spoiled him. Made him soft. I've tried to straighten him out since, but nothing helps. Did he tell you about his singing and dancing nonsense?" Edmund snorted, oblivious or ignoring the cold stare Helen was giving him and the way Blaine was cringing away from him. "Very homo, if you ask me. Of course, that's right up Blaine's alley. Likes all that gay shit—"

"Sir," Helen said, cutting him off. Her voice was like ice. "I believe you've said your piece. Now, if you could please move on? I have customers to ring through."

Edmund looked surprised. "Very well," he said, seeming to slowly realize that he wouldn't find a friend or ally in Helen when it came to Blaine. Or anything else, for that matter. "I'll just leave you to it, then."

He turned back to Blaine. "Don't come back late today, Blaine," he said sternly. "Can't let you roam around free all the time, you know."

He turned to leave and caught sight of Kurt. Blaine saw him pause, saw how his head tilted. Blaine's pulse quickened. Kurt, whatever else he might be, looked delicate, almost feminine, and definitely quite gay. Of course, there were plenty of straight boys who looked like that, but his dad never seemed to realize that and, in this one case, he was correct. Kurt had been standing off to the side, his eyes already on Blaine's father, and Blaine realized with a sinking sensation that Kurt had heard everything Edmund had said.

Kurt and Blaine's dad engaged in a staring contest for a long moment. The longer it went on, the more Blaine wanted to intervene, the more anger he felt rising up in him. Not so much anger at Kurt, because he was - and this caused a burst of happiness in Blaine's stomach - angry on Blaine's behalf, but furious at his father. What right did he have to look at Kurt and judge him? What right did Edmund Anderson have to judge anyone? Was Edmund Anderson the pinnacle of perfection in the world, that he could sit back and sneer at other's faults and imperfections and indignities?

Blaine realized he was shaking. He wanted to step forward and block his father's gaze from the one person who had managed to make him feel worthwhile. He didn't want his father looking at Kurt, who had lost so much and was recovering, at Kurt who was worth ten of him.

"That one looks like a homo," Blaine's dad muttered as he started for the door.

Blaine watched him leave. He had, he realized with a distant sort of shock, never wanted to punch his father in the face so badly.

A hand landed on his shoulder. "That was your father, huh?" Helen said, her voice tight and angry.

Blaine shrugged her hand off. "Ignore him," he said quietly. "That's what I do. He just does as he likes even if you try and talk back to him."

"Spoken from experience?" Helen asked him sharply. She shook her head. "That man-When he said those things about you, I was so close to slapping him in the face, customers be damned. What kind of father says those things about his kid when his kid's standing right there?"

"Helen, please-" Blaine half-whispered, almost embarrassed by her passionate defense of him.

"No, Blaine," Helen snapped. "That man doesn't deserve to call himself your father. What a loathsome evil little cockroach. Talking about your talent like it's something to be ashamed of, when I'd give my left arm to play the piano like you do, or the guitar-"

"Helen!" Blaine said. Helen shook herself and looked at him, anger fading a bit at the look on his face. "Please, just leave it alone. He's been saying that stuff since I came out to him." And before that too, Blaine thought, though he didn't tell Helen that.

Blaine caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see Kurt coming close. Blaine tensed. Kurt had heard everything - or the important bits at least, judging from his face - and Blaine didn't want-Well. He didn't want Kurt to think differently of him, now that he knew about Blaine's father. Blaine liked being the strong one in their relationship, the one that Kurt could come to for help or advice even. He felt very vulnerable now. Kurt was aware that Blaine's life wasn't all peachy-keen - Blaine had told Kurt himself, even - but now he had a first-hand account of that, and that scared Blaine to death-

Kurt's hand slipped into his, clasping his fingers firmly. Blaine's breath caught. With his free hand, Kurt signed something to Helen.

Helen squinted. "Kurt, some of those need two hands-Oh wait, no, I think I have it." Helen shook her head. "He wants you to know that your father is an asshole who doesn't deserve you and Kurt wanted to kick him in a very painful place after what he said about you. Also, that your talent is amazing and that everything your dad says is a lie. And that he's sorry."

Blaine tightened his hand around Kurt's. It meant more than he could say, that Kurt - and Helen, for that matter- didn't seem to think any differently of him after seeing all of-that. They still liked him, they felt protective of him even, and they didn't pity him.

"Thank you," he said to both of them, meaning it from the bottom of his heart.

Helen grinned at him. Her anger had faded almost completely.

"No problem, kiddo," she said, ruffling Blaine's hair. Blaine wanted to protest - his hair was wild enough when it wasn't ruffled - but the action carried so much fondness in it that he lost any motivation he had to tell her to stop. "Now, you kid's get back to work. Those books won't put themselves on the shelves."

Kurt tugged Blaine back to the bookshelves by their joined hands.

"So, hobbit," Blaine looked up, unsurprised to see Santana staring down at him. No one else in Kurt's group of friends called him hobbit. "What's with the pussy-footing around, hm?"

Blaine raised an eyebrow. "Pussy-footing?" he asked, a little amused at her candor. Santana, he had learned from their short acquaintance, got right to the point whenever she could.

Santana snorted. "You know what I mean. Everyone with two eyes and a brain cell can tell that you're hot for Hummel." Blaine stared at her, but Santana didn't seem to notice. "Well, I'm sick of your lovelorn sighs and cow eyes across the room - just get to it already!"

Blaine's shock faded a little bit and he frowned at her. "Pot calling the kettle black," he said mildly, glancing over where Brittany stood, browsing through books.

Santana followed his gaze, then snapped her eyes back. Blaine almost thought she was blushing. "What're you talking about, short stuff?" she snarled.

Blaine shrugged. "Just that it's obvious you like her, and that either she doesn't know or she doesn't feel the same way."

Santana was tense and she was glaring at Blaine like he'd just called her a particularly bad name. Blaine sighed. Touchy subject, obviously, he thought.

"Look, Santana, I don't care if you like Brittany or not," he said tiredly. "She seems nice and you seem nice, and I'm sure you deserve each other. I just—I appreciate that you're concerned for Kurt, but it's difficult for me to take your threats seriously when I know that you're in the same boat I am, and you're dealing with it in a very similar way."

Santana had relaxed a little bit. She still looked wary, but the death threat in her eyes was gone. "Look, shortie," she said. "I—" she shook her head. "I like Brittany. But she's with Artie and she won't leave him for me. Even though she apparently loves me." She sounded bitter. Blaine couldn't blame her.

"That's horrible," he said. He meant it.

Blaine looked over at Brittany. She'd seemed sweet, if a bit dense, the few times that he'd talked to her. He could see why Santana would love her. And Blaine couldn't help but admire that she didn't want to hurt Artie's feelings by breaking up with him for Santana, even if he didn't particularly agree with it. Blaine wondered how Artie felt about it all, if he even knew. He looked back over at Santana.

"You've told her how you feel?" he asked.

Santana pursed her lips. "Yes," she said. "But she doesn't want to be with me."

Blaine shook his head. "Maybe she does. Maybe you have to show her why she should want to be with you."

Santana was staring at him. "What're you saying exactly, hobbit?" She poked him in the shoulder. "We're not doing that stupid faux-dating thing to make her jealous. I don't date short boys with bushy eyebrows, got it?"

Blaine very consciously did not reach up to touch his eyebrows. "That you need to convince her," he said evenly. "You need to show her how much you want her. And maybe she'll realize that she wants you more than she wants Artie."

Santana's eyes were still narrow, but she looked more thoughtful than angry now. Then, slowly, she smiled. "I will if you will, short stuff."

Blaine huffed. "I'm not telling Kurt how I feel about him," he said. "He's been through too much already, alright, and I don't want to—" approach him when he's vulnerable. Hurt him. Scare him away. Lose his friendship.

Santana's face softened, just a bit. "Look, shortie, I get that Kurt's—hurt, or whatever, right now. But Kurt likes all that romantic shit, and Berry was right about one thing—having a boyfriend will probably cheer him up more than all of us hovering over him like mother hens."

Blaine opened his mouth, the closed it. "What?" he asked, completely nonplussed.

Santana rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "Tell him. Do it in a song, or whatever, like you like to do so much."

Blaine looked over at Kurt, who was stacking new books on the shelves. He watched the arc of Kurt's hand, the way he bent his head dutifully over his boxes, the edge of his mouth as it curved into a smile. Blaine, with a sudden, aching desire, wanted to kiss that corner of mouth. He wanted to drag Kurt behind the shelves and tell him over and over that he wanted him, liked him, was maybe even falling in love with him. But words were—scary things. Blaine wasn't any good with them. He was much better with—

Singing, he thought. Slowly, he smiled. He even had the perfect song to sing.

He looked back at Santana. "If I do this, you're doing it with me," he said, determined. Santana blinked at him, but Blaine was already moving to pick up his guitar. "You know "One and Only," by Adele?" he asked, not looking at her.

Santana was silent for a long moment before she snorted. "Of course, short stuff," she said. "Adele is flawless."

She came up to stand by Blaine's side. Blaine glanced over at her. Her hands were shaking. He almost asked her if she wanted to back off and not do it, but he took one look at the determined expression on her face, the way her eyes were focused on Brittany, and decided against it. She wanted to do this. She just needed to summon her courage, that was all.

Blaine touched her hand. "Courage," he murmured to her.

Santana laughed. It was a little shaky, but it was full of amusement. "I get it," she said.

"You want the first verse, or should I?" he asked her, tuning up. He saw Kurt's head turning.

Santana smiled. "You go first, I'll do the second verse. We each get a chorus and then we end together, hm?" she asked.

Blaine smiled and started the opening chords. "Sounds good to me," he muttered. "Good luck."

Santana grinned at him. Blaine saw Kurt staring at them with narrowed eyes and, with a deep breath, turned to face him, meeting his gaze. Out of the corner of his eye, Blaine saw Brittany turning around to face them as well.

"You've been on my mind

I grow fonder every day,

Lose myself in time just thinking of your face

God only knows why it's taking me so long

To let my doubts go

You're the only one that I want

I don't know why I'm scared, I've been here before

Every feeling, every word, I've imagined it all,

You never know if you never try to forget your past

And simply be mine."

Kurt's eyes were wide and shocked, and Blaine wondered what was running through his mind. He kept singing though. He'd come too far to stop now, and, he reminded himself, Santana needed him to keep going.

"I dare you to let me be your, your one and only

Promise I'm worth it to hold in your arms

So come on and give me the chance

To prove that I'm the one who can

Walk that mile

Until the end starts."

Blaine turned a little bit and nodded and Santana stepped forward. Blaine drifted backwards, letting Santana take the spotlight. He watched as she moved forward until she was right in front of Brittany, who was staring at her, wide-eyed. Blaine smiled a little bit.

"Have I been on your mind?

You hang on every word I say, lose yourself in time

At the mention of my name, will I ever know

How it feels to hold you close

And have you tell me which ever road I chose you'll go

I don't know why I'm scared, I've been here before

Every feeling every word, I've imagined it all,

You never know if you never tried to forgive your past

And simply be mine."

With every word she sang, Santana's confidence seemed to grow. She was smiling now, and she held out her hands for Brittany to take, which Brittany did without hesitation. Brittany looked overjoyed. Her smile was as wide and bright as Santana's. Blaine couldn't help grinning at their happiness.

"I dare you to let me be your, your one and only

I promise I'm worthy to hold in your arms

So come on and give me the chance

To prove that I'm the one who can

Walk that mile

Until the end starts."

Santana turned her head towards Blaine. She tilted her heads towards Kurt. Go sing to him, she was telling him silently. Blaine hesitated for a moment, the moved forward until he was right in front of Kurt. Kurt's hands were curled around the book he'd been about to put away, the knuckles white. His eyes were huge and shocked. Blaine smiled at him gently.

"I know it ain't easy

Giving up your heart

I know it ain't easy

Giving up your heart."

Santana joined in with him, and Blaine immediately switched the harmony, letting her take reign on the melody.

"I know it ain't easy, giving up your heart

I know it ain't easy, giving up your heart

I know it ain't easy

Giving up your heart."

Blaine caught Santana's eye and smiled at her. From her place across the store, her hand safely tucked into Brittany's, she grinned back.

"I dare you to let me be your, your one and only

I promise I'm worth it to hold in your arms

So come on and give me the chance

To prove I'm the one who can

Walk that mile until the end starts

Come and give me the chance

To prove that I'm the one who can

Walk that mile until the end starts."

Blaine and Santana drifted off together. Blaine could hear clapping from some of the other customers, as well as whispers, but he ignored them. He kept his eyes on Kurt, whose shocked look had faded into hesitation.

"Kurt," he said quietly. "I know that this is a bad time for you, but I thought you should know that I like you. As more than a friend."

Kurt's mouth dropped open again. Blaine smiled a little.

"There's a time in your life when you look at a person and think, 'oh, there you are, I've been looking for you forever.' You are that person for me. You move me, Kurt. And I want nothing more than to spend more time with you, if you'd let me."

Kurt was still gaping at him. Blaine wanted very badly to kiss him, but he was very conscious of the customers still around them, and Helen, who was at the register, watching them. Instead he reached out and took Kurt's hand in his. Kurt's fingers curled around his. Blaine took that as a good sign.

"You can have all the time you need to answer if you'd like to be with me," he said, although he was hoping rather desperately that Kurt wouldn't take very long at all. "I just—I wanted you to know."

Kurt's shocked look had softened. He looked down at their clasped hands and bit his lip uncertainly. He pulled his hand away from Blaine's and held up a finger. Wait a moment, he was saying, He pulled out his phone and quickly sent something to Blaine.

Blaine's heart was beating fast as he opened the text.

Blaine, I need some time. I think I like you, but I need time to think. Is that alright?

Blaine's heart lept. He thinks he likes me, he thought dazedly. He's not rejecting me! He just needs time! He grinned.

"Of course that's alright!" he cried. "Of course, Kurt. Just—let me know when you want to tell me. And . . . No matter what, we're still friends, alright?"

Kurt nodded, smiling hesitantly. He gestured to the stacks of books by his side. Back to work, he was saying. Blaine nodded and walked away, still smiling.

He noticed Santana and Brittany in a corner, talking quietly. Their heads were bent close together and they were smiling. Blaine's heart warmed even further. It looked like things had gone fairly well there. He was glad. Santana was nice, in her own special way, and she deserved to be happy. Blaine felt a moment's pity for Artie, who would undoubtedly be the hurt party in the triangle, but he hoped Artie could find someone else to be happy with. It wasn't that he didn't want Artie to be happy, it was that he'd seen Santana's face while she was looking at Brittany, and Blaine doubted that Artie could measure up to that depth of affection and love.

Santana caught his eye and pulled away from Brittany for a moment, sending a smirk his way. Blaine inclined his head and her smirk widened. She whispered something to Brittany, who then jumped up and down excitedly.

Blaine smiled and headed back to the music corner, his heart lighter than it had been in ages.

"Kurt" Blaine said, hurrying forward when he saw Kurt leaving the shop. Kurt jumped a little, turning towards him with a raised eyebrow. "Do you want a ride home? Helen told me that your car is having problems—"

Kurt tensed. He stared at Blaine for a long time, then shrugged and nodded. Blaine relaxed a little. He'd also heard from Helen that Kurt's car had been a present from Kurt's dad before he died. He'd thought Kurt might be touchy about Blaine bringing up how it apparently was in desperate need of repair. He was glad that Kurt was still comfortable driving with him after yesterday as well - a sign that Kurt still considered him a friend, even if he wasn't sure how deep his feelings ran. Blaine couldn't help the small hopefulness that rose as Kurt moved over to his car - maybe Kurt would take the drive as an opportunity to confess his feelings.

Blaine's car was small but neat - a gift from his father was he passed his driving test. Blaine slid into the driver's seat while Kurt carefully climbed in next to him. It was weird seeing Kurt in his car - it was like they didn't mix, somehow.

He started the car and winced as his CD player starting blaring loudly. "-and remembered our own land, and what we lived for." Blaine turned it down.

"Mumford and Sons," he told Kurt, who was looking at the CD player with interest. "A friend of mine introduced them to me." Thad, actually, had shoved Sigh No More into Blaine's hands before summer and told him that he was going to be singing at least one of their songs for Sectionals when he came back. Blaine had been a little unnerved by the intent gleam in Thad's eyes, but he'd gone along with it.

"And there will come a time, you see, with no more tears

And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.

Get over your hill and see what you find there.

With grace in your heart, and flowers in your hair."

Kurt was listening intently. Blaine watched him from the corner of his eye, amused by the way Kurt's head bobbed slightly in time with the music, and the way his brow furrowed at a certain melody. He wondered what Kurt would make of the rest of his music collection. He wanted to introduce Kurt to a new artist or song just to see the way he bit his lip thoughtfully.

"Do you like it?" Blaine asked, as the music softened a little. Kurt nodded sharply, his expression still focused. "You're welcome to borrow it, if you like."

Kurt smiled at him. Blaine had come to realize that Kurt had a few different smiles - the confident fake ones he gave customers or people he didn't like, the huge grin when he wore when he was actually amused or laughing and the small, shy ones that he seemed to only give to Blaine. Blaine was coming to realize that there was very little that he wouldn't do to win those smiles out of Kurt.

The song changed. Blaine returned his attention to the road, though he kept looking at Kurt from the corner of his eye. Kurt had tilted his head back so it was resting against the headrest and his eyes were closed. The only sign that he was still listening closely was the way his head moved in time to the music. Blaine couldn't help smiling. Kurt looked relaxed and happy. It made Blaine's heart warm.

A screech to his left caught Blaine's attention and he turned just in time to see a huge truck hurtling spinning towards them. For a moment, Blaine could only stare. Then the car was upon them, and Blaine turned to see Kurt staring at it, his eyes wide and terrified, his hand grappling around the seat, searching, Blaine realized, for Blaine's hand, and Blaine reached out to grasp it in his own as—


Blaine felt metal folding around his body, heard air bags popping out, and felt pain. Then he knew no more.

Kurt woke to beeping and pain. He could hear voices above him, shouting something in a language he couldn't understand. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Colors blurred in front of him, making shapes seem hazy and out-of-focus. He tried to take a breath and coughed heavily. Pain erupted in his chest.

One of the blobs hovering above him leaned over him. Kurt knew they were saying something to him, but their words weren't understandable with the blood rushing in his ears and the pounding headache in his temple. He tried to gasp out a word, anything, but something stopped him. No talking, he thought, though he couldn't remember why.

Slowly, the rushing in his ears dissipated. He could start to make out words.

"Keep him down!" one of the blobs was saying. "He can't aggravate his injuries—"

"What about the other one? He's not responding—"

The other one? Kurt thought, his brain moving too sluggishly to make a connection. Then, suddenly— Blaine! He struggled to sit up. Blaine had been sitting closer to where the truck hit them, he wasn't responding, what had happened to him—

"Keep him down!"

No! Kurt thought, pushing their hands away. No, I need to see if he's alright! Blaine!

"No, Mr. Hummel, listen to me, you can't sit up! I understand you're worried about your friend—"

Kurt didn't listen to the person talking to him. They were trying to sound soothing, but failing miserably. Pain was exploding up his side, but he ignored it and managed to swing himself up into a sitting position. Stars were bursting behind his eyes and colors and shapes still blurred, but he could see well enough that he could make out the person lying opposite of him. Blaine, he thought, panic rising in his throat. Blaine was covered in blood and he wasn't moving. No.

He pushed off the hands pushing him back down and stood. He regretted it a moment later as his knees buckled and he fell to the floor. Hands grabbed him, forcing him back into an upright position and trying to lead him back, away from Blaine. Kurt pulled forward, trying to resist. He was too weak.

"For fuck's sake, let him make sure his friend's alright," said one of the people, a woman. "He's not in critical condition, he can handle standing for a short period of time. Just make sure he stays upright."


"He's not going to go easily until you do," said the woman. "Just do it."

Kurt pulled forward eagerly and met no resistance. Hands helped him to Blaine's side. He stared down at Blaine's face, covered in bloods and cuts, his eyes closed, his face lifeless. He could feel tears gathering in the back of his eyes. Blaine wasn't allowed to die. Blaine had to stay alive, stay with Kurt, not leave him like every person Kurt had loved. He wasn't allowed to die.

Come back to me, Kurt begged inside of his head. Please don't leave me. Please. Blaine didn't respond. Kurt stared at his bloodied face. I can't let him go without letting him hear my voice, at least once, he told himself. And maybe, just maybe-

Kurt wet his lips. Then, carefully, he said, "Blaine." His voice was croaky and thin from under-use. Kurt shoved his panic down, the little voice in the back of his head that said, why are you talking, you're not supposed to talk, you're not worthy— "Blaine, please," he whispered. His voice cracked. "You can't leave me." Blaine didn't open his eyes. Kurt reached out and grasped his hand. His fingers slipped in the blood running down Blaine's wrist. "You can't leave me," Kurt said fiercely, the words running out more easily now that the dam had been opened. "Did you hear me, Blaine Anderson? You aren't allowed to die."

For one long moment, Blaine was still. Kurt's heart dropped. Why didn't it work? He thought. It's supposed to work. It hadn't worked on his dad either, and his dad had—had left, and Blaine wasn't supposed to do that—

"Pull him back," said one of the people behind him, holding him up. Kurt struggled against their hands as they tried to pull him away.

"No!" he cried. "No, he can't leave me, he can't, he can't, Blaine—"

"Calm down!" said the authoritative female voice from before. A cool hand rested on his shoulder, shoving him down onto a bed. "He's fine! Your friend is fine! Getting yourself into a tizzy isn't going to help him, and it's certainly not going to help you! Lay down!"

Kurt wanted to protest, to tell the strange woman that the best thing that had ever happened to him was lying opposite of him, covered in blood and possibly dying. He wanted to tell her that if Blaine died, he didn't know what he would do with himself, and that it would make his grief for his father look like child's play in comparison. But the words were disappearing as quickly as they'd come, and the headache from earlier was throbbing at his temples, making it hard to think.

"Just lay down, Kurt, we'll be at the hospital soon enough. Your friend will be fine."

"Blaine," Kurt said as his vision started to turn black at the edges. "His name's Blaine."

He thought he felt her hand on his head, stroking his head, as he passed out.

"Kurt, honey, I don't know if you can hear me or not, but please, please wake up." Kurt could hear the person - a woman, he thought he knew her - talking to him. Her voice sounded distant, as if he was underwater. He could open his eyes and see who she was, Kurt thought, but that sounded too difficult. It was easier to just lay there, drifting in the darkness.

"Kurt, kid, you have to have the worse luck on the entire planet. Of course you would get into one of the largest car pile-ups of the summer. What's next? Drowned? Buried in an avalanche in the middle of summer? Struck by lightning?" She laughed. It sounded more like a sob. "I had no idea that taking you in would mean I'd go gray before I turned forty."

Kurt felt a warm hand curl around his own. For a moment, he considered curling his fingers around the woman's, if only to show how sorry he was for the trouble he'd caused. He absently wondered what he had done that was so troublesome besides, apparently, being involved in a car accident.

"The doctors have told me you'll be fine, but that doesn't stop me from worrying," she said. "I mean, look what happened to your dad. And what that vile doctor did to you afterwards—I don't trust doctors much anymore, kiddo. I just hope they're right in your case. And in Blaine's."

Blaine, Kurt thought dreamily. Who was Blaine? Images started drifting back to him. Warm dark eyes, a smile with hints of teeth, the angle of a sharp jawline, friendship, warmth—



Kurt shot up, shaken out of his dream-like state as swiftly as if someone had poured ice-cold water over his head. Blaine, how could he have forgotten Blaine? Blaine, who had been—covered in blood the last time Kurt had seen him, and what if, what if-

"How is he?" Kurt asked Helen, who was sitting by his bedside, staring at him in shock. "Is he alright? Have they fixed him? Has he woken up yet? Helen? Answer me, goddamnit, he's still—" alive, isn't he? Kurt couldn't bare to say it aloud.

"You're talking," Helen whispered, staring at him as if she was seeing a ghost. "You're—Kurt, you're talking!"

Kurt lifted a hand to his mouth. In his anxiety, he hadn't even realized that the words had been coming out of his mouth instead of being written down on paper. He stared at Helen. He remembered, with sudden clarity, seeing Blaine covered in blood in what must have been an ambulance. Blaine had—He'd drawn the words out of him.

"I'm talking," Kurt whispered.

He'd lived so long without words that the shape of them on his mouth felt strange, otherwordly. His throat was aching.

"Where's Blaine?" he asked.

"Kurt, you're talking," Helen said, still amazed. "I can't—how did—"

"Helen," Kurt said, his voice cracking with stress. "Where's Blaine?"

Helen blinked, then straightened, surprise melting away in the face of Kurt's urgency. "Kurt, he just got out of surgery—"

Kurt struggled to get his feet off the side of the bed. Pain erupted down his side. Helen took him by the shoulders and forced him back into bed, glaring all the while.

"And so have you! Just calm down! Blaine's fine, he's going to be fine. There were some internal injuries they had to sort out, but he came out of it okay. And trying to go see him now will just make you worse and make him feel horrible about it, alright?"

Kurt bit his lip. The desire to see Blaine was like a physical ache, but Helen was making sense. Reluctantly, he settled back into the pillows.

"What happened?" he asked, his voice little more than a croak.

"A truck driver lost control of his vehicle and spun," Helen told him, her face darkening. "He hit you first, and then Blaine's car crashed into the one behind it, which crashed into the one behind it, and so on. It turned into a good seven car pile-up by the end of it. You boys got very lucky - one of the people involved died on impact and the rest are all in the hospital with you. I've heard that some of them are still in surgery and the doctors don't know if they'll survive."

Kurt realized suddenly just how close he'd come to death - and not only him, but Blaine. It made him antsy, and the itch to go see Blaine increased.

"Can't I see him?" Kurt asked before he could stop himself.

Helen's eyes softened and she took his head. "Kurt, I know you're practically in love with that boy," Kurt's face flamed, "but I really think you should wait." She looked at Kurt's face. "If you want, I could ask the doctors if they could put you in the same room? They said they've got some space in here . . . ."

Kurt relaxed a little bit. "You would?" he asked.

Helen stroked his hand comfortingly. "Of course, sweetheart. Let me just go see if the doctor's nearby and I'll ask them now." She stood without releasing Kurt's hand, paused for a moment, then slowly lowered it to the bed covers as if she didn't want to let it go. "I'll be right back," she reminded him, before reluctantly leaving the room.

Kurt sat there for a long moment, staring at the walls. Whenever he tried to close his eyes, Blaine's bloodied face in front of his eyes and his heart jumped in his throat. Blaine had been hurt, so hurt, and Kurt couldn't stand it—

Helen re-entered the room. A doctor followed her. Kurt tensed at the sight of the long white coat, memories returning to him in a flash of screaming, needles, slowly fading into unconsciousness— He curled in on himself and tried to breathe evenly. He kept as much of his skin underneath his blanket as he could, and watched the doctor suspiciously as she crossed the floor. Kurt didn't like or trust doctors much anymore either.

"This is Doctor Shang," Helen said, eyeing his tense form. She knew that he didn't like doctors. "She came with in the ambulance with you."

Kurt suddenly remembered a female voice ordering him to sit down, to let the other nurses let him go to Blaine, to calm down. He relaxed a little, meeting her stern brown eyes. She'd let him go to Blaine when the others hadn't wanted him to - that alone made him trust her more than he trusted any other doctor. And she looked kind - there were laugh lines around her generous mouth, and she had warm eyes. She reminded him of Helen a little and he glanced over at her. Kurt frowned when he saw Helen watching the doctor closely. It wasn't a look of distrust necessarily—

"Kurt," the doctor said, breaking his train of thought. Kurt looked away from Helen and meet Doctor Shang's eyes. "I'd be more than happy to move Blaine into your room. It may not be for a few hours or so - he's currently in intensive care and we don't want to upset him. By the end of the day, he should be fine to be moved, so we'll place him in your room. That sound alright to you?"

Kurt relaxed further. "Thank you," he said evenly. "It means a lot to me." More than you know probably, he thought.

Doctor Shang smiled at him. She suddenly looked twenty years younger. "It's no problem at all, Kurt," she said warmly. "And anyways, if what your aunt is saying is true, we wouldn't have been able to keep you two apart for long anyways." Her smile faded a little. "Listen, Kurt, I understand your anxiety, but you absolutely must not go try standing until tomorrow, alright? When we were in the ambulance, you were able to, but after the surgery you're at a delicate stage, and you could easily make things worse by rushing the process. Blaine will be in by tonight at the very latest, I promise. Alright?" She waited until Kurt nodded and turned to Helen. Kurt watched as Helen, of all things, blushed. What? He thought. "If that's all?" Helen nodded. "Alright. I'll see you two later."

She swept out of the room. Helen watched her go and Kurt watched Helen.

"Helen?" Kurt asked, when Helen kept staring at the door. Helen jumped and turned to him. "Are you alright?"

"Fine," Helen muttered hurriedly. "Just a bit off. That can happen when your nephew nearly gets himself killed," she added, trying for funny, but falling a bit flat.

"Helen?" Kurt said, reaching for her hand. She immediately clasped it in her own, her eyes troubled. "You're sure you're alright?"

She nodded and tried a smile. "Just tired," she said quietly, her hand tightening around his. "Why don't you get some rest, Kurt? Doctor Shang recommended it."

Kurt watched her for a long moment, then sighed, settling back into his pillows until he was lying down. "Alright," he murmured, already feeling his eyelids droop. "Wake me up when Blaine gets here?" he muttered, his eyes falling close.

"Of course," he heard Helen say as he slowly drifted off. Then he knew no more.

When Kurt woke up again, Blaine was sleeping in the bed next to his.

Kurt stared at Blaine's peaceful face for a long time. He kept seeing blood on it, even though it was clean now, and it made his stomach tight with anxiety. He never wanted to see Blaine that way again, he realized. He never wanted to worry if Blaine was going to make it out alive, or if Blaine was still going to be in his life anymore. Kurt didn't want Blaine to leave him.

Kurt thought about it. Blaine's voice was amazing - Kurt admired his ability to throw himself into music, the way he could twist music to his own voice and style without breaking a sweat. He liked Blaine's laugh and his sense of humor, and how he was so bad at crossword puzzles and talking about his feelings, even though his face was an open book. He liked that Blaine was nice to the cats and held doors open for women and the elderly and people with babies. He hated how Blaine's father casually mistreated him, how Blaine didn't seem to have a lot of self-confidence because he'd never been given reason to develop it. He never wanted Blaine to be hurt by his father, or by an accident, or by anyone—

He was in love with Blaine.

Kurt sat on that thought for a while. Being in love was so messy and complicated and difficult. Did he want to dive into that with Blaine? They were from different schools and different worlds, and at the end of the summer they'd be going back to those worlds. They were, Kurt realized with a bit of a smile, from rival glee clubs - that was, of course, only true if Kurt decided to re-join New Directions in the fall. If they started a relationship, could it withstand that?

Kurt remembered Blaine's earnest expression as he told Kurt he liked him, the warmth in his eyes as he sang to him. He wanted that, more than anything. He hadn't wanted that since—

Kurt turned his eyes away from Blaine's face. Sine his dad had—

Just say it, he thought sternly. His chest was tight, either with panic or misery, and Kurt bit his lip.

"Since dad died," he whispered aloud. "Burt Hummel, my father—he's dead."

Kurt curled in on himself, burying his face in his pillow. It wasn't that he hadn't known or realized his father was gone - it was that he'd buried the feelings so deeply for so long that looking at them again now hurt more than it had the first time. It was like he was losing his dad all over again, only this time it was ten times worse. Kurt could feel the tears falling, the pillow absorbing them and growing damp. He was so absorbed in his grief, that he didn't even notice that Helen had entered the room until he felt her hand on his head, her voice muttering comforts in his ear. Kurt turned immediately turned and fell into her arms.

"Oh, Kurt," she murmured into his ear. "Kurt, honey, what is it, what's happened—"

Kurt didn't say anything, just burrowed his head into her shoulder. She smelled warm and like home and that alone made Kurt calm down a little. His tears started to abate, and he pulled away from Helen, a little ashamed at the intensity of his reaction.

"Sorry," he muttered, rubbing at his eyes.

Helen watched him worriedly. "What brought that on?" she asked, taking Kurt's hand in her own.

Kurt shook his head, trying to smile. From the way Helen's worried frown deepened, he gathered that he hadn't been very successful. "It just all hit me at once, I guess," he said quietly.

"The accident?" Helen asked. She stole a look at the other bed. "Blaine?"

"And dad," Kurt told her. Helen's compassionate expression deepened. "I guess it just brought all of that back to mind, being back in the hospital."

Helen hesitated, then asked, "Kurt, why are you talking again? Is it because of the accident?"

Kurt smiled a little. He felt better after the tears, as if they'd somehow washed away his bad feelings and bad memories.

"I like Blaine," he told Helen calmly, "as more than a friend."

Helen smiled. "I thought you might," she told him quietly. "I've known about him for weeks, but you're harder to read Kurt."

Kurt thought about Finn and how obvious he'd been. He supposed that the events of the past year had caused him to be closed off, to reveal less of himself than he usually did.

"I woke up in the ambulance," he continued, "and I saw Blaine across from me. He looked—horrible. He was covered in blood, cuts and bruises everywhere . . . I thought he was going to die. And I couldn't let him do that without trying to call him back at least once. So I said his name. And I realized that talking was only hard because I let it be."

Helen's eyes were a bit glassy as she gripped Kurt's hand tightly. "I'm so proud of you, Kurt," she said fiercely. "I know how hard this time has been for you, and for you to pull yourself out of that—"

Kurt shook his head. "Blaine helped," he said. He looked over at Blaine's sleeping face with a fond smile. "Probably more than he thinks he did."

Helen smile dimmed a little. "His father's been trying to see him," she told Kurt quietly. Kurt tensed. "He wasn't happy about Blaine being put in here. He doesn't seem to want Blaine around you."

Kurt's eyes narrowed. "Well, Blaine's father doesn't seem to understand his son in the slightest, so I don't really give a damn what he wants or doesn't want," he said, quiet but intense.

He thought Helen was going to scold him, but to his surprise, she grinned. "Thatta boy," she said. "That man needs a wake-up call, and I can't think of anyone better to give it to him than you."

Kurt smiled back at her. "Is he outside?" he asked.

Helen nodded. "Doctor Shang didn't let him visit after he yelled at one of the nurses when Blaine was moved into your room."

"Tell him he can come in," Kurt told her. "We need to have a talk."

Helen nodded. "If you're sure you want to do it now, kiddo."

"Might as well get this over with," Kurt said grimly.

Helen rose and patted his head. "I'll be right back," she promised, then left.

Kurt took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself. It'd been a long time since he'd defended himself - or, in this case, someone he cared about - with the strength of his words alone. And from what he'd seen of Blaine's father, he was quite pig-headed. He would need all the strength he could get for this confrontation.

Blaine's father strode into the room with a bang, Helen following after him quickly.

"It's about time," he snarled at Kurt, going to Blaine's side. "My kid gets in a car crash and I'm not allowed to see him? What kind of messed-up bullshit is that?"

"Maybe if you hadn't shouted at one of the nurses, the doctor would have trusted your temper around your son," Helen said sharply, looking annoyed.

Blaine's father glared at her. "I was protesting that they had moved my son for no better reason that his little homo friend wanted someone to hold his hand!" he half-yelled. "Any father would—"

"Get over themselves and realize that they're doing a pretty horrible parenting job," Kurt interrupted calmly.

Blaine's father froze. Then, slowly, he turned to Kurt. "What did you just say?" he asked, almost dangerously soft.

Kurt glared at him. "I said, Blaine deserves a better father than you."

"You can't talk to me like that, boy," Blaine's father said. "Not only am I Blaine's father, I'm Edmund Anderson. I have more money or power than you could dream of—"

"And yet, you can't even raise a child," Kurt said chidingly. "How depressing for you." Edmund stared at him, apparently too angry to even speak. "Listen to me, Edmund Anderson," he said the name as mockingly as he could. "See that boy on the bed? That's your son. Your gay, singing, musically-driven son. What you can't seem to quite grasp is that it shouldn't matter to you that he's gay or that he likes singing and dancing or that he's not as invested in sports or politics as you are—the only thing that should matter is that he's your son. He should get every inch of your love just for that fact alone - but you've been withholding because of all those unimportant details."

"Unimportant?" Edmund sputtered. "He's—"

"Amazing," Kurt finished for him. "He's kind, he's talented, he's smart, and he's funny. Blaine is an amazing person. I'd give you some credit, but I know you don't deserve any. Despite your shame of him, despite the way you slander him and rag on him, he's turned out to be a wonderful human being, a person any parent should be proud of calling son. What I don't understand is why you refuse to see that."

Edmund stared at him for a long time. "What are you to my son?" he asked finally, suspiciously.

Kurt held his chin up. "I love him," he said, then sneered, putting as much mockery into as he could. "Even if you obviously don't."

"How dare you!" Edmund screamed. Kurt jerked back, stunned by the intensity of the reaction. "Of course I love my son! But do you know—" He cut himself off, turning his head.

Kurt leaned forward curiously. "Do I know what?" he asked.

Edmund shook his head. "All of his damn quirks will get him killed one day," he said, calmer now. The redness in his face was fading. "The singing, the dancing, liking boys—you think I don't know what people think of men who do those things? I know better than most. That's why I sent him to Dalton." He turned to face Kurt. Kurt was stunned to see tears in his eyes. "My son is going to have a tormented life because of all this. How on earth can I be happy about that? How can I condone that? I had hoped that if I spoke out against it, if I stopped him from doing it—But he just ignores me! He keeps on throwing his peculiarities in other people's faces and it's going to get him hurt one day—"

Ah, Kurt thought, finally understanding. Edmund Anderson was very much like Finn. He thought that since they lived in the straight man's world, they had to play by the straight man's rules. They thought that gays brought too much attention to themselves. They had gay friends, gay sons, gay almost-brothers, and they loved and cared for them, sure, but that love and care backfired, because it meant that they thought they had to protect them by stopping their friends and sons and almost-brothers from being gay. They thought that it would get them hurt, and that it would somehow be easier for them to abandon who they were, to lie to themselves, to turn straight and take the easy path. People like Finn and Edmund had their heart in the right place, but they went about showing their protectiveness in the completely wrong way.

"You're stupid," Kurt told Edmund. Edmund jerked, staring at him. "Your son needs you to be there for him, to help him." His own father's face flashed before his eyes, the look of resigned affection in his eyes as he'd said, I know, and had to bit back tears. What would Burt do? "He doesn't need you to make him stuff his sexuality back into a box, as if he could. He needs you to look out for him when people bully him, to be there for him when he needs someone to talk to. He just wants you to love him, Mr. Anderson. I'm sorry that you can't see that."

Edmund glared at him. "You don't know what you're talking about," he spat defensively. "You're just some boy with delusions of a romance with my son—"

"He's right, dad."

Kurt's heart leapt into his throat. He hadn't noticed that Blaine had woken up. Hesitantly, he met Blaine's eyes. They were very warm, though a little scared. Kurt wondered how much Blaine had heard, and felt the tips of his ears flush. He didn't mind Blaine knowing that he'd defended him, but he remembered all the things he'd said—I love him—and the flush deepened. We'll talk about it after this, Kurt promised silently, leaning back into his pillows.

"Blaine?" Edmund said, reaching to take his son's hand. Blaine drew away from him. "Are you alright? Do you need me to call the doctor?"

"Dad, I want you to listen to me," Blaine said. His voice was thin but steady. Kurt could see that his hands were shaking. He longed to go over to him, but one look at Blaine's face told Kurt that he needed to face this dragon on his own. And besides, Kurt thought with a wry smile, he didn't think he was supposed to walk yet, and the last thing he wanted to do was get on the bad side of Doctor Shang, who was a bit intimidating despite her kind eyes. He glanced over at Helen, who was watching the proceedings from the corner of the room. Her eyes were narrow and intense on the back of Edmund's head, and Kurt was content to know that she'd intervene if it looked like it was going to get ugly.

"What, Blaine?" Edmund said, sounding more irritated with his injured son than he needed to be. "I was just trying to—"

"Dad, I appreciate what you're trying to do for me," Blaine continued, as if he hadn't heard Edmund speaking. Kurt approved of the tactic. "But Kurt's right. It's not what I need from you." Blaine's voice shook slightly.

"Blaine, you don't know what you're saying—" Edmund tried.

"Yes, I do!" Blaine cried, sitting up a little. Kurt saw how he winced at the motion and bit his lip. He almost wished Blaine hadn't woken up - undoubtedly this was the last thing he needed right after surgery. "I know what I'm saying, and I know what I want!" He sighed. "Dad, I knew when I realized my sexuality that my life was going to be hard. But I think I'm strong enough to handle it. And I don't want to lie about who I am or what I like. I can't do that."

"But your life could be so much easier, Blaine," Edmund said. Kurt eyed him. His anger had faded into a form of desperation. Kurt almost felt sorry for him.

Blaine shook his head. "I know it won't be easy," he said quietly. "But I'd rather be true to myself than take the easy road." Kurt had never felt prouder of him. Blaine bit his lip. "And," he said hesitantly, "I would appreciate it if you could take that hard road with me, instead of trying to put me back on the easy one."

Edmund stared at his son, apparently at a loss. Kurt wondered if this would be a turning point for him, or if he'd assume that Blaine had been addled by the accident and hadn't known what he was talking about. He hoped, for Blaine's sake, that it was the former.

"I think you'd better go, Mr. Anderson," Helen said, stepping forward to take control of the situation. "Your wife will be wondering how Blaine's doing."

There was a note of derision in her voice - Kurt suddenly realized that Blaine's mother had been absent for the entire scene. He wondered where she was, if she even cared. Her indifference almost angered him more than Edmund's vehemence. At least Edmund kept up the pretense that he cared about Blaine. His mother didn't even try.

Edmund stood. He took another look at Blaine and opened his mouth. Without saying anything, he closed it again and turned away, leaving. The moment he was out of the room, Blaine relaxed and turned to Kurt. The tense expression on his face faded into a smile.

"You're talking," he said wonderingly.

Kurt smiled back at him. "You gave me a reason to," he said.

The awed look Blaine gave him was worth any obstacles they had to put up with.

Blaine woke slowly. He blinked up at the white curtains above his head, still groggy from sleep. His ceiling wasn't white, this wasn't his bed, where—

The hospital!

Blaine sat up. He groaned as his stomach and head protested the move.

"Slow down, Blaine," Kurt scolded from the bed next to his. "Doctor Shang said your stomach is still delicate."

It was, Blaine thought as the pounding in his head abated slightly, still so strange to hear Kurt talk. He'd gotten used to reading Kurt's facial expressions, his gestures, his notes. He'd gotten used to having Kurt be voiceless. And he sounded as Blaine had imagined he would - he had a high, clear, elegant voice. He was made for singing tenor. Blaine had almost wanted to ask him to sing yesterday, but it had felt like a bit much after—

After the confrontation with his father. Blaine took a deep breath.

"How are you?" Kurt asked, his eyes bright with concern. "Doctor Shang said you should have recovered, but—"

"I'm fine, Kurt," Blaine said, interrupting him, smiling a bit. "Just a bit sore."

Kurt leaned back into his pillows, obviously relieved. "Good," he said.

Blaine eyed him. Kurt had some stitches on his forehead, but otherwise he looked fine - he'd recovered some of the color in his face that had been missing yesterday. Blaine relaxed a little. The thought of Kurt getting seriously hurt, especially in a car accident where Blaine had been driving—

That thought hurt too much. Blaine pushed it away.

"Kurt, we need to talk," Blaine said quietly.

They hadn't really had much of a chance to yesterday. Helen had urged Kurt to fall back asleep soon after Blaine's father had left, and Blaine had followed suit not long after. But Blaine was determined that they would discuss what they needed to today. He had too many questions to be answered after overhearing yesterday's confrontation.

Kurt sighed. "I thought you might say that," he murmured. He straightened up a little. "Blaine, I love you," he said clearly, his voice ringing in the empty room like a bell.

Blaine's world tilted. Kurt had said it yesterday, but Blaine hadn't thought—He hadn't- Kurt—He loved Blaine? It was too much like a dream come true that Blaine discretely pinched his arm under his blanket. He winced at the pain and looked up to see Kurt staring at him expectantly. Nope. Not a dream then.

"You're sure?" Blaine asked hesitantly.

Kurt relaxed a little and smiled at him. "I was going to tell you that I was willing to try a relationship during the car ride," he said. "So the life and death situation has just . . . Moved the proceedings along a little bit."

Blaine tensed. "This isn't only because of the—"

"Car crash?" Kurt finished for him. "No, it's not. But it did help me along a bit." Kurt shrugged. "It may have taken me longer to realize if it hadn't been for the crash. But my feelings are true, Blaine. I promise."

Blaine relaxed a little bit. He could take Kurt at his word. And besides, he wanted very desperately to believe it. "So what do we do now?" he asked tentatively.

Kurt smiled at him. "Blaine Anderson, would you do me the honor of being my boyfriend?"

Blaine blinked at him, open-mouthed. Then, slowly, his mouth curled into a smile. "I think I could do that," he said.

Kurt snuck a glance at the door then put his feet over the edge of the bed.

"Kurt!" Blaine cried as Kurt hesitantly stood and took a step forward. "You're not supposed to—"

"Hush," Kurt said absently, moving forward slowly.

"Kurt—" Blaine said, craning his neck up as Kurt approached the bed. "You need to—"

"Blaine," Kurt said, leaning over him with a smile. Blaine's breath caught. "Just shut up."

Kurt leaned down and kissed him. Blaine's eyes slipped closed. Kurt's lips were dry and chapped and very, very warm. A hand curled around the back of Blaine's head, fingers curling in his hair, and Blaine reached up to slide his own hands around Kurt's neck.


Kurt broke away from Blaine, flushing deeply. Blaine glared at Helen, who gave him a stern stare.

"You know you're not supposed to be out of bed Kurt, even if you do want to kiss someone," she said sternly. Kurt flushed deeper. Helen's sternness suddenly melted into a smile. "But congratulations you two! It's about time!"

Blaine snuck a glance over at Kurt and saw the way he was gaping at his aunt, face a tomato red. Blaine felt like his smile would break his face - he had never been happier.

"You know, you should tell him."

Helen started and turned. Doctor Elizabeth Shang regarded her closely with her intense hazel eyes. Helen flushed a little, flustered for reasons she couldn't name.

"Tell him what?" she said, stepping away from the window that allowed her to look in and watch Kurt laughing and talking with Blaine. Seeing Kurt happy, eyes shining with love, talking—it almost made her want to cry.

Doctor Shang rolled her eyes. "You know what," she said scoldingly.

Helen's heart leapt into her throat. Did she—did she know? How could she? Unless—

"You too?" she asked before she could stop herself.

Doctor Shang grinned at her. "Yes, me too," she said.

Helen shook her head, turning away from Doctor Shang. "I—don't know what you're talking about," she said hesitantly.

Doctor Shang snorted. "Yes, you do," she said. "Look, Ms. Hummel, I don't know why you're hiding it, especially at your age, but that boy in there is obviously quite in love with another boy, and he won't judge you—"

"Shut up!" Helen said sharply. "I get that you want to—help, or whatever it is, but I don't—I can't—"

Doctor Shang sighed. "Helen, I've felt you watching me," she said quietly. Helen cringed into herself. "I wanted to let you know that I return your interest. But I won't date anyone who isn't true to themselves. And, to be honest, I think it's beyond time you tell the truth - both to yourself, and to your nephew."

Helen bit her lip. "Doctor Shang - Elizabeth. I don't think I can."

Helen could hear the smile in Elizabeth's voice. "I think you underestimate yourself. You're a strong woman, to carry Kurt through what's happened to him." Helen tensed. "Gossip spreads amongst doctors, Helen. Doctor Oliver's act of insanity was a good story in this hospital for a long time."

Helen glared at the door. "The imbecile deserved everything he got," she spat.

A hand on her shoulder. Helen didn't look away from the door. "I happen to agree," Elizabeth said mildly.

"I don't think I can tell him," Helen said quietly.

It wasn't that she was afraid Kurt would somehow reject her. It was that telling Kurt meant that it could never be buried again - Kurt would never let her bury it. When she admitted it to herself, she could allow herself to shove it deep down again until she could forget about it.

Elizabeth pushed at her shoulder. "Helen, I would very badly like to take you out on a date," she said baldly. Helen's heart lept into her throat. "But if you want to do that, you need to tell Kurt first. He deserves to know. And I hope, when we come to know each other better, you'll also tell me why you hid it so long." With a final look, Elizabeth turned on her heel and left.

Helen looked from where she'd stood to the door. She wanted what Elizabeth offered - she had since she'd first seen her, attending Kurt when he'd come in. But she still froze in terror at the thought of admitting who she was to Kurt, even knowing that his response would be warm and welcoming.

Helen stared at the door for a long time, torn. She caught sight of Kurt's happy smile as Blaine told him about something, waving his arms rather more wildly than Helen was used to seeing from him, probably exaggerating for Kurt's benefit. They looked so happy. Helen realized with an ache that she wanted that so very badly. And she would never get it if she kept burying herself in lies.

She opened the door.

"Helen!" Kurt said, looking pleased to see her. It still bowled Helen over to hear Kurt talking again. He had quickly lost the rasp he'd gained from his long silence, and his voice was as high and pure as it had ever been.

"Kurt, Blaine," Helen said, settling in at Kurt's side. Her hands started twining nervously in her lap.

Kurt immediately picked up on her mood. His eyes narrowed.

"Helen?" he asked hesitantly. "What is it? Is something wrong?"

Helen laughed. "Not wrong, no," she said. She glanced over at Blaine, who looked just as worried as Kurt. "I just need to tell you something. And it's going to be hard, because I've kept it to myself for so long. Too long, probably."

Helen took a deep breath. Better to start at the beginning.

"Our parents were never like your dad, Kurt," she said quietly. "If anything, they were quite a bit like Blaine's father." She saw Blaine flinch from the corner of her eye and sighed. Edmund Anderson hadn't come to see his son again after that confrontation. She very much doubted he would, even if she wished the opposite for Blaine's sake. "So I grew up in a . . . Stifled environment. I learned to keep anything about me that was out of the norm to myself, lest my father or mother catch wind of it somehow."

Helen watched Kurt's face, saw the light starting to dawn. She continued talking, however. She needed to say it out loud.

"To my regret, I assumed that Burt, who was the apple of our parents eyes, had adopted their beliefs. So I kept my . . . quirks hidden from him as well, although I now see that he would have accepted me whole-heartedly had I had the courage to confess to him. I regret so much that he died before he had the chance to know me truly."

"Helen—" Kurt tried to say, his eyes wide and sympathetic.

"Kurt, I'm a lesbian," Helen cut him off. Her voice was surprisingly steady. "I've known since I was thirteen years old and I've never told anyone besides you." Helen snorted. "I've never been in a relationship before. I've never tried to date a woman before." She shook her head. "I was scared. Of letting anyone know me like that, I guess." She met Kurt's eyes. "But you've been—so brave, Kurt. And I can't keep hiding anymore."

Kurt smiled at her and took her hand. "Thank you for telling me," he said quietly. His eyebrow rose. "So, Doctor Shang . . . .?"

Helen blushed before she could stop herself. Kurt's cat-like grin told her that he'd caught it.

"Elizabeth would like to date me," she admitted. Kurt's grin widened into a geniune smile. "And I want to date her as well."

"That's great!" Blaine said from his bed. Helen looked over to see him beaming at her. "She seemed so nice when she came to visit. You deserve someone like that, Helen." Blaine suddenly looked away from her. "Especially after everything you've done for me and Kurt."

Helen smiled at him. "Thank you, Blaine," she said.

Kurt's hand tightened in hers, and Helen breathed out slowly. That hadn't been so bad. She knew that other people would react differently, but it warmed her to know that these two boys that she considered pseudo-sons accepted her whole-heartedly and, indeed, were happy for her.

Kurt stared at the headstone. Burt Hummel, it read. Loving husband, brother, father. He will be sorely missed. He remembered that Helen had picked it out last year. He almost wished he would've said something, taken the headstone engraving on his own shoulders. But what could he have said? Burt Hummel, the strongest, most loving man I ever knew. The world is a darker place now that he's left it. Something along those lines, probably.

"Hi, Dad," he said quietly, tucking his legs under his chin. He could still a slight twinge in his stomach - he'd been released from the hospital two days ago, but his wounds hadn't fully healed yet. "It's been a long time."

I'm disappointed in you, Kurt. Kurt winced from the memory of his dad's sad, hurt face.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I should've done family night that night. I wish I had. Then my last conversation with you wouldn't be full of disappointment. Then I wouldn't regret that you died before I got to tell you how much you meant to me."

Kurt sighed heavily.

"You were a great person, dad. You accepted me for who I was, no questions asked, and you did your best to protect me." Kurt felt silent, thinking of Edmund Anderson. "I was so lucky to have you. I never really knew how lucky until recently, actually." He smiled a bit. "I've met a boy, dad. His name's Blaine. I think you'd like him - he likes football too. And he makes me happy."

Kurt stared at the headstone. "You know, dad, I've been hanging on to you for so long. I don't think I meant to do it—it's just, it was so hard to let you go. To accept that you were gone and that you weren't coming back. I always expected you to be there, you know? After mom died, you were my rock. Losing you set me adrift and I didn't know how to swim and I ignored everyone who was throwing me a rope—" Kurt shook his head, smiling a bit. "Sorry. Got a bit lost in my analogy there."

He placed a hand over his dad's name. "I wish you were here again," he murmured.

An idea struck him. He hadn't sang since he'd rediscovered his voice. Kurt licked his lips nervously, glancing around the graveyard. It was empty besides him. And he did have the perfect song in mind . . . .

Kurt stood up. He placed a hand on his father's grave and took a deep breath.

"You were once my one companion

You were all that mattered

You were once a friend and father

Then my world was shattered."

Kurt's hand curled into a fist and he turned away from his dad's headstone, turning instead to face the graveyard at large. He could see memories of his dad—his dad smiling, teaching him to ride a bike, showing him around the shop, giving Kurt his first car, the look on his face when Kurt had come out to him, his speech after Rose's Turn, the way his eyes had turned sad and disappointed the day he'd died, the last time Kurt had spoken to him—

"Wishing you were somehow here again

Wishing you were somehow near

Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed

Somehow you would be here.

Wishing I could here your voice again

Knowing that I never would

Dreaming of you helped me to do

All that you dreamed I could."

His dad had always believed in him. Kurt could never remember a moment where Burt hadn't supported him as much as he could, given him every ounce of his belief and faith. Kurt remembered overhearing Burt boasting about him to one of his fishing buddies - how his kid got the best grades in class, how he sang better than Mariah Carey, or whatever her name was, how he was the best damn kid a father could ask for. Kurt had held that memory close when he'd seen Burt getting close to Finn, although it hadn't been enough to stop him from feeling envious of their connection. Looking back, he wished he'd never doubted his father. Burt had loved him. Kurt could never doubt that.

He walked past Burt's grave, moving among the headstones. So many names, most of them ones that Kurt didn't recognize.

"Passing bells and sculpted angels, cold and monumental

Seem for you the wrong companion, you were warm and gentle."

Kurt wandered back to his dad's headstone, staring at the engraved letters. He could feel tears building up behind his eyes, brought on by his own memories and emotions and by the passion he knew the song was building up to.

"Too many years

Fighting back tears

Why can't the past just die!

Wishing you were here again

Knowing we must say goodbye

Try to forgive

Teach me to live

Give me the strength to try!

No more memories

No more silent tears

No more gazing across the wasted years

Help me say goodbye

Help me say goodbye!"

Kurt's voice trailed off. The tears were falling freely now, but Kurt was smiling too. It was different, singing his feelings. It had been so long since he'd done it that letting all those emotions free, letting them soar with melody and lyrics—it felt like catharsis. He was letting the emotions that had tied him down and ruined him for so long take flight in song, and it felt amazing. How could I ever let this go? Kurt wondered. Never again. Music was a part of who he was—never again could he lock it away in a box and not look at it again. It had been hard enough the first time.

Kurt bent his head towards Burt's grave. He kissed the top of it.

"I love you, dad," he said quietly.

Then he turned and left, feeling lighter than he had in months.

Outside of the graveyard, Blaine was waiting. He had bandages on his face, but he could walk easily enough again and the doctors had released him a day after Kurt was let go.

"How'd it go?" Blaine asked anxiously, reaching for Kurt's hand. Kurt took it in his own, holding it tightly.

"Fine," Kurt murmured. "It went fine."

Blaine was still all anxiety, staring at Kurt with big, worried brown eyes. Kurt laughed a little and the nervous energy in Blaine abated slightly.

"Blaine," Kurt said, still smiling, "I think it's time I told you about my dad." Blaine's eyes widened. "Burt Hummel," Kurt started, pulling Blaine down the road, "was the bravest, kindest man I ever knew. He loved me more than anyone else in the world . . . ."

Blaine listened closely as Kurt told him everything he could think of about Burt - all of his childhood memories, including his seventh birthday, the way he'd reacted when Kurt had come out, the way he'd supported Kurt his entire life-everything about him. And when Kurt ran out of words, unsure of what to say next, Blaine squeezed his hand.

"I wish I could have known him," he said softly.

Kurt smiled. "He would've liked you," he said confidently.

For a moment, he imagined a world where he and Blaine had met some other way-perhaps at Sectionals, since Blaine was in the Warblers. A world where Burt was alive and Kurt had never moved in with Helen. A world where he could have both the boy of his dreams and the father he loved.

That world was so beautiful. Kurt was so sorry that it could never come to be. But, at the same time, he was happy with the way things had turned out. For better or for worse, he'd come out alright. And that, in the end, was all that mattered.

Kurt watched as his friends slowly started to trickle into the bookshop, in groups of two or three. He bit his lips and twined his hands together nervously. He half-wished that he hadn't let Blaine talk him into this.

A hand landed on his shoulder, and, as if Kurt's thoughts had summoned him, Blaine muttered, "You alright?"

Kurt snorted. "Not particularly," he said quietly. No one in New Directions knew that he was talking again yet. Not only was this meant to be a sort of coming out for his and Blaine's relationship, but it was also a way to show them that he was speaking and singing again.

He tensed a little bit when he saw Mr. Schuester walk in, followed closely by Coach Sylvester. Kurt snuck a look at Blaine, who looked suspiciously innocent, then snorted. He wasn't surprised really that Mr. Schue had shown up, but Coach Sylvester was a bit of a head-turn. He met her eyes as she strode across the room and she, to Kurt's shock, smiled a little and tipped her head in greeting.

Maybe I will re-join the Cheerios, Kurt thought, staring at her. He had never really believed Quinn when she insisted Coach Sylvester liked him, not even the events of last year. But apparently she liked him enough to greet him with what passed for warmth from Sue Sylvester. How strange, Kurt thought.

The group gathered loosely in front of Blaine's usual spot, talking amongst themselves.

"Are you ready for this?" Blaine asked Kurt quietly, eyeing his friends.

Kurt took a deep breath and nodded. He looked over at Helen, who was at the register and watching him, and nodded towards her as well. She gave him a thumbs up. Kurt stepped forward. It took a moment for his friends to notice that he was waiting for their attention, but they all eventually stopped talking and turned to look at him. Kurt didn't look behind him as Blaine started the recorded track they'd agreed to. Kurt could see his friends' surprise, and their growing suspense as the music continued, until—

Kurt sang.

"Live in my house,

I'll be your shelter,

Just pay me back

WIth one thousand kisses

Be my lover, and I'll cover you."

They were all staring at him, all except Coach Sylvester, who was watching him with a satisfied smirk. Kurt smiled a little bit. It got easier as he kept singing. He turned towards Blaine, who had come up on his side, and started singing to him, relaxing more when he saw the warmth in Blaine's brown eyes.

"Open your door,

I'll be your tenant

Don't got much baggage to lay at your feet

But sweet kisses I've got to spare

I'll be there and I'll cover you."

Blaine joined in with him, taking a harmony to Kurt's melody. They joined hands. Kurt heard more gasps of surprise from in front of them, but he kept his eyes focused on Blaine.

"I think they meant it when they said you can't buy love

Now I know you can rent it

A new lease you are my love, on life

Be my life

Just slip me on,

I'll be your blanket

Wherever,whatever, I'll be your coat."

Kurt smiled, drawing Blaine in close, singing to him, "You'll be my King, and I'll be your castle."

Blaine shook his head, looking amused, "No, you'll be my Queen, and I'll be your moat."

They joined together again:

"I think they meant it when they said you can't buy love

Now I know you can rent it

A new lease you are my love, on life

All my life

I've longed to discover

Something as true as this is."

The warmth in Blaine's face seemed to deepen as he twined his fingers with Kurt's and sang:

"So with a thousand sweet kisses,I'll cover you

With a thousand sweet kisses,I'll cover you,

When you're worn out and tired,

When your heart has expired."

Kurt joined in with Blaine then, taking a harmony, singing high and sweet as he so liked to do, feeling light as air-

"If you're cold and you're lonely

You've got one nickel only

With a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you,

With a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you

Oh, lover,

I'll cover you,


Oh, lover,

I'll cover you . . ."

There was a long stunned silence. Then everyone started talking at once, converging upon Kurt and Blaine as a massive crowd. Kurt could barely hear Rachel proclaiming how she'd known it all along and how it was lovely Kurt could sing again and would he like to do a duet over Mercedes and Tina and Quinn demanding details at the same time as Finn professed his confusion and as Puck congratulated Blaine on being such a stud.

Kurt laughingly tried to answer their questions at the same time, keeping his hand firmly entwined with Blaine's. Over his friends' heads, he met Coach Sylvester's eyes. She raised an eyebrow. Kurt, knowledgeable about body language after using it for so long, read it as, Are you happy now?

Kurt remembered how he'd been when he'd last seen Coach Sylvester. He'd been cold and numb and so, so lonely. And now, surrounded by his loving friends, his hand enclasped with someone who he loved quite dearly, looked on by adults who cared about him and what he did and how he was feeling—

He slowly nodded. Coach Sylvester smiled then. Kurt, bubbling with happiness, smiled back at her, then turned back to his friends, tightening his hand around Blaine's. He felt happier than he had in a long time.

Songs: "Guardian Angel," by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, "One and Only," by Adele, mentioned "Blackbird," by the Beatles and "After the Storm," by Mumford & Sons, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," from Phantom of the Opera and "I'll Cover You," from RENT.

Note: Thanks for the read! Reviews are welcome!