Carole enjoyed the two hours Kurt spent with her and Finn after dinner, though she had spent the majority of that time watching the two boys interact with each other.

Kurt was mostly shy and awkward around Finn, likely due to the fact that Finn was now aware of Kurt's feelings, but he became articulate and verbose about issues on which he had strident opinions.

Kurt Hummel had a lot of opinions.

For the most part, Carole agreed with those opinions, which only made her like him more. She was also pleased to note that when Finn disagreed with Kurt, Kurt listened patiently to Finn's point of view and then they would discuss their differences. Finn had always been so hesitant in expressing his opinions to Quinn, for when he did, she'd run roughshod over them, either dismissing them or huffing that Finn didn't have the right to make up his own mind.

Kurt didn't do that. If Finn disagreed with him, Kurt accepted it, they clarified certain points, and then moved on. Carole couldn't help but wonder if this was truly Kurt's character, or if he was merely curbing himself while in her son's company.

She liked Kurt, she liked him a great deal, but she didn't know him. He was sweet and kind and bluntly honest, but she couldn't get a handle on him. She couldn't easily determine how much of his behavior was real and how much was artifice created to impress Finn and herself. She hesitated to believe that a teenager could be so diabolical, but she knew Quinn Fabray and Santana Lopez. She'd known Noah Puckerman since the boy had been in Pull-Ups. She knew how manipulative her own son could be.

Once thing she knew for certain was that she wouldn't be underestimating Kurt Hummel anytime soon.

She was also concerned by how eager Finn was to get close to Kurt; physically close, to be exact. When they sat down to watch television, Finn maneuvered them so that he was between her and Kurt, ostensibly to make it more difficult for she and Kurt to speak to each other, thus diverting their attentions from Finn. She also noticed that, as time progressed, Finn would inch closer and closer to Kurt, until their shoulders, and finally their hips and legs, were pressed against each other.

She didn't interfere because she wanted to see what would happen, how Kurt would respond to Finn's solicitousness. She had no ready answer. Kurt would blush and avert his eyes, as though flattered, but he was also plainly wary and more than a little nervous, perhaps even scared. Still, he didn't object.

Given that Finn had been bullying Kurt, she could understand that reaction. She was also unnerved that Finn seemed oblivious to Kurt's discomfiture. What worried her more was the possibility that Finn had clued in to it, but was ignoring it. The very idea made her irrationally angry at Finn and protective of Kurt.

When Kurt finally announced that it was time for him to go home, Carole was relieved. She had enjoyed his company, but Finn was acting like a lovesick fool and she wanted to have words with him.

As Kurt walked toward the front door, Finn donned his trademarked Hurt Look and trailed after him like a lost puppy. Carole gave them their privacy but made sure that her presence had not gone unnoticed.

After Kurt escaped and Finn returned to the living room, Carole pounced.

"What was that?" she demanded.

"That was Kurt," Finn said dreamily, a dopey grin on his face.

Carole narrowed her eyes. "I'm aware," she said slowly. "Are you aware you were making him uncomfortable?"

Finn appeared floored. "No, I wasn't!" he protested.

"You were," she said firmly, "and I think you know it."

A look of guilt flashed in his eyes. "He's scared of me," Finn said quietly. He shook his head. "I don't want him to be. I have to get him used to being around me. hurt that he flinched every time I touched him."

She raised a brow. "Do you understand why he did?"

Finn hung his head, ashamed. "Yeah," he whispered.

"Do you like Kurt?" she asked. "Do you like him as more than just a friend?"

"Yeah, I think so," Finn said, raising his head to gaze at her defiantly.

She sighed. "You're moving too quickly. Didn't Kurt warn you about that?"

"Well, yeah," Finn admitted, "but he wasn't talking about himself!"

Carole glared. "Finn, you need to dial it back a little. You can't force him to feel something he doesn't."

"But he likes me!" Finn insisted. "I know he does because he told me!"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, but he doesn't think you like him back. More importantly, he doesn't believe that you ever could. As far as Kurt knows, you love Quinn and have feelings for this Rachel person. How do you think it made him feel that you were obviously flirting with him when he believes you're straight and involved with two girls?"

Finn blanched. "I didn't think about it like that," he whispered.

"I can assure you that Kurt did," she shot back. "He was probably wondering if you were setting him up for a prank or if you were going to add him to your harem."

Finn frowned. "What's a harem?"

She groaned and rubbed her temples. "You need to slow down," she said. "It's obvious that, though he likes you..."

"He loves me," Finn said, a note of triumph in his voice.

Carole threw her hands up. "Fine! He loves you, then. That doesn't mean, however, that he's ready for a relationship with you. Just yesterday, you sat on that couch and told me that you weren't ready for a relationship with Rachel because of your feelings for Quinn. You said that you could no longer be with Quinn because she had betrayed and lied to you. You said that you should take some time and be alone so that you could figure out what you wanted."

"I did that last night and today!" Finn said. "And I decided that I want Kurt."

"You're acting like a spoiled child," she admonished. "Two days ago you thought you were having a baby with one girl while you were chasing after another. Now, you've decided that you're bisexual and want to be with the boy you used to bully for being gay."

"But I really like him, Mom," Finn whined, "and I researched gay sex and everything!"

Carole's eyes widened. "Sex? You researched gay sex? What in the world does that even have to do with anything? It's apparent that you're not ready for any kind of sex, and I sincerely doubt that Kurt is either." She scowled. "If I get even an inkling that you're pressuring Kurt for..."

"I would never do that!" Finn roared, shooting to his feet.

"Sit down!" she barked. When he did, she took a cleansing breath. "I'm sure you wouldn't," she continued, "at least not intentionally, but you need to think things through more carefully. You've never dated a boy, Finn. You and Kurt, despite what you both feel, don't know each other very well."

"I know I need everything I need to know," Finn said, "and Kurt's wonderful."

She conceded his point with a nod. "Has he ever had a boyfriend before?"

"No," Finn said slowly.

"Even if you weren't pressuring him, would Kurt feel as though he had to have sex in order to keep you as his boyfriend?"

Finn was horrified. "I wouldn't do that to him," he mumbled, stung.

"I'm not saying you would, honey," she said gently, "but what if Kurt believed that was part of the deal? You have to understand that tonight might have been the first time a boy touched him in a manner that wasn't violent."

Understanding and anger, most of it self-directed, dawned in his eyes. "That's not right," he whispered, shaking his head. He closed his eyes. "And I did that to him."

Now Carole began experiencing guilt, wishing that she hadn't been so heavy-handed in her approach. "You need to give both Kurt and yourself some time, sweetheart. If you want to be with him, then first you need to end thing with Quinn and Rachel, and you need to do it in such a way that they don't blame Kurt."

Finn nodded.

"You also need to tell Kurt that you have feelings for him, genuine romantic feelings, and that they're not a joke. You need to be able to look at him and convince him that you want to be with him not because you're lonely, and not because he's available, but because you honestly like him."

She paused. "I don't believe it will be as easy as you think. It's going to take time and a lot of effort. Even though Kurt admitted he loves you, he doesn't believe you could love him back. He's forced himself to accept that reality, even though he's mistaken. It won't happen overnight. You're going to need to be patient and reassuring, and I know that can be hard for you."

Finn sighed glumly, but nodded to indicate he had heard her words.

"Please don't get angry," she said warily, "but I noticed that Kurt is very bossy, and he bosses you around in particular. Wasn't that a problem for you and Quinn?"

He nodded. "Sure, and for me and Rachel, too, but it's different with Kurt. Quinn and Rachel boss me around to change me, to make me behave like they want." He shrugged. "Kurt's not like that. He bosses me around so that I'll be better, but still be me, like with grades and stuff. He knows I can do better and gets frustrated when I don't, and frustrated Kurt is all kinds of adorable."

Carole gave an exaggerated blink.

"Kurt doesn't boss me around because he thinks I'm stupid," Finn said slowly. "He bosses me around because he's trying to motivate me. He knows I'm lazy and put stuff off. When he bosses me around, though, he doesn't do it in a mean way, like Quinn does, or to manipulate me, like Rachel does. It's like when I tease him for being prissy and huffy. He gets that I'm not angry or making fun of him; it's just teasing."

She nodded and decided to let it go, knowing she needed to approach this next part carefully. "You also need to think about what the reaction will be if you two begin dating, because we both know what people will say."

"I don't care about them," Finn said. "They don't care about my feelings."

"All right," she said. "I can understand and even appreciate that, but you need to consider Kurt's feelings on the matter. He's been bullied for being who he is, Finn, and, if you get together, that will only increase."

"I won't let anyone hurt him!" he staunchly declared.

"You can't be with him every minute of the day," she said reasonably. "You told me about the phone calls he receives. You told me that people have defaced his property outside of school. That's not going to stop just because you're dating. It might even get worse, and those horrible people will target Kurt because they think he's weaker than you."

Finn blinked. "He's not, you know. He's much stronger than me."

"Perhaps in some things," she allowed, "but he's physically weaker than you, Finn. He's almost a foot shorter than you are, and probably sixty pounds lighter. I'm sure he'll have a growth spurt, much like the one you had when you were a freshman, but Kurt's an easy target, and you need to think about that."

Finn anxiously bit his lip.

"You need to think about the fact that the football team won't like this. They might decide they don't want you on the team."

"I don't care," he said, waving a dismissive hand. "Football's okay, but I'm not in love with it, and the team sucks."

Carole make an impatient noise in her throat. "And Noah? How do you think he's going to react to this?"

"He can't have Kurt!" Finn bellowed, once again rising to his feet.

She stared at him, utterly flabbergasted. "Why on earth were those the first words out of your mouth? Why would you think Noah would even want Kurt?"

"Puck wants everything I have," Finn said. "He's like...he's like Ron Weasley, or even Draco Malfoy."

She understood enough to recognize the Harry Potter references, but was confused by them.

"Puck had to have Quinn because I did," Finn continued, "and I've seen him checking out Rachel, too. If I was with Kurt, Puck would try something with him."

"Just to take Kurt away from you?" asked a skeptical Carole.

Finn's eyes lighted with knowledge. "Yeah, but also because he was the one who was leading all the bullying. He was the one who targeted Kurt. He was the one who led the charge to the dumpster every morning. I was there, and I didn't stop it, but I mostly held Kurt's bag and jacket.

"Puck was the one always putting his hands on Kurt, and he was real careful not to hurt Kurt physically. Now that I stop and think about it, it was all about him getting to touch Kurt. He'd let others help, but only to grab Kurt's feet or something. He didn't let anyone else put their hands on him."

Carole's brows gathered. She couldn't dismiss his arguments; they had merit. Noah had always been a jealous person, and as Finn had been his best friend, a lot of that jealousy had been aimed in Finn's direction. She hadn't been too surprised upon discovering Noah had slept with Quinn, nor was it out of the realm of possibility that he had seen Finn and Rachel together and decided to stir up trouble there, as well. She could understand Finn's worry.

She then thought about Noah's hypersexuality, which frankly concerned her. She'd heard the rumors of him sleeping with friends of hers, the mothers of his own friends. He'd flirted heavily with her in the past, until she had put a stop to it by threatening him with a frying pan. She also knew that Noah was very aggressive and had violent tendencies. Now, she couldn't help but wonder if there was a reason for them she hadn't previously considered. The more she thought about her son's words, the more she conceded they were probably true.

"All of that aside," she said cautiously, not wanting to stoke his ire further, "I think it's a fair possibility that, were you and Kurt to date, Noah would try to make things difficult for both of you, but mostly Kurt."

Finn nodded. "That's why I need to get someone else to control him."

She raised an impressed brow, surprised he had given this any thought at all. "And who would that be? Quinn?"

"Maybe," Finn said, "but I was thinking about Santana."

Carole's eyes bulged.

"See, I think Puck might actually really like Quinn," he added, "so she has some sway over him, but not enough where Kurt is concerned. Plus, she doesn't like Kurt, even though he's been supportive of her, more than almost anyone else. So the first thing I need to do is put Quinn on a guilt trip. She's super Christian, so I think it will work." He shrugged. "Besides, she put me on one for months. I kind of owe her."

She stared.

"Santana will be a harder sell," he acknowledged, "but my secret weapon there is Brittany. You know they're dating, right? It's, like, the worst-kept secret of all time, and it's totally unfair that people are fine with Santana and Brittany, but would have a cow over me and Kurt."

"So you think that because Santana is dating a girl, she'd be sympathetic?"

Finn snorted. "She has no sympathy for anyone. The point is that Brittany and Kurt are friends. She really likes him. A lot. You know, that way. And she's upset that he can't like her back, but she accepts it because he treats her really well. She just wants him to be happy. So all I need to do is get Brittany on my side, and she'll turn Santana. Santana will protect Kurt because it will make Brittany happy, and Brittany being happy is the only thing that makes Santana happy."

Carole's migraine from the previous night was returning in full force. Still, despite the convoluted logic, she could see the brilliance of her son's plan.

"With Santana, Quinn, and Brittany all in Kurt's corner," he continued, "that will make the Cheerios side with him, too, and since they run the school, Kurt will be untouchable."

He beamed smugly.

Carole decided she needed a strong drink. She'd forgotten how Hunger Games high school could be.

Not that she'd read those books, of course. Or Twilight.