FIFTY

Over the next week and a half, Blaine settled into his new life with much help from Kurt.

He had to begin physical therapy again, and Briony came through once more by speaking to Blaine's new doctor on the phone and smoothing over the ruffled feathers that accompanied not having a full medical history for his new patient. Kurt took him shopping for the essentials of teenage life on this side of the barrier and taught him how to use the new gadgets. George started driving lessons in the family station wagon with the promise of buying Blaine a car just as soon as he stopped jumping curbs.

The biggest challenge, however, came fifteen days after he returned home: Blaine's first day at William McKinley High School.

His lack of school transcripts had sent Principal Figgins into a dither, but Mary calmly suggested just giving Blaine placement tests until she could get his home school records in order, which meant forging them. As an attorney, Mary knew a thing or two about official documents. His scores were off the charts, but Mary enrolled him as a junior anyway for "socialization" purposes.

Because he didn't have his driver's license yet, Kurt picked Blaine up before school on Monday morning. Blaine was still having a love affair with the plentiful supply of hair gel this side of the barrier, but Kurt thought it was cute how attached his boyfriend was to hair products. He had also recently been to the optometrist and put in his first pair of contact lenses in four years.

"You look nervous. Don't be. The FBI scared my bullies into submission. You're still going to be bottom of the social ladder because you're in glee club, but even the cheerleaders and football players get the occasional Slushie facial," Kurt said.

"Is that supposed to be reassuring?"

A party waited at Blaine's new locker when they arrived at school. Tina greeted Blaine with a fierce hug, and Mike waited to shake his hand and welcome him to McKinley in a more sedate way. Brittany had made a construction paper welcome card with a rainbow-colored unicorn on the cover. Artie came over to introduce himself too when he saw Blaine.

"Thank you guys so much for welcoming me so warmly. I really miss my friends every day, but knowing I have new friends here means so much to me. I just know we're going to have a great year together."

Brittany gave Blaine another hug. "I have to go meet Santana, but I'll see you in glee."

Blaine hardly felt like a new student at all, aside from getting up in front of the class to introduce himself every hour. He had at least one junior glee club member in every class, which made passing periods less lonely.

"So you're auditioning for glee?" Artie wanted to know.

They were on their way from second hour History to third hour Literature. Blaine had only caught a glimpse of Kurt as he hurried from French to the Home Economics classroom in the back of the school.

"Yeah. I've set it up with Mr. Schuester for tomorrow. I have practice tonight with the band in the choir room. I'm really nervous. You guys went to Nationals."

"Haven't you been in like a dozen musicals and a show choir?"

"Oh. I didn't know you knew about that."

"Rachel, Tina, and Brittany all told me. I'll admit that at first I had a hard time believing there was a fantastical world where lost people go to find themselves, but I've been convinced by your unexpected, but not unwelcomed, arrival. Not to mention that the only crazy thing about Kurt is his wardrobe, and you seem pretty sane too."

"Wow." Blaine flashed a smile at the other boy. "That's really great to hear, Artie. I'm glad Kurt and I can share the truth with more people. It's hard keeping something like that quiet, especially when there are still people back there we love and miss every day."

"So you do have professional experience in a musical?"

"More like drama school experience."

"Excellent." Artie beamed up at Blaine and rolled to a stop in front of his locker. "I don't know if you've been told, but McKinley High is doing West Side Story this year, and I am the student director." He paused to bask in the glory of his title. "Since Kurt refuses to even audition for Tony, and Finn is busy working at Burt's tire shop, we're woefully thin on acceptable candidates for the role. Everyone we've seen so far is only adequate, if that."

"Artie, are you asking me to audition?"

"I would get down on my knees and beg if my legs worked."

"Flattering, but unnecessary. I'll audition."

Artie shared the exciting news that they might actually have a viable Tony actor during fourth hour, which meant Kurt came into the cafeteria fully briefed on the possibility of his boyfriend joining the school musical in his first week at McKinley.

"You're certainly integrating yourself faster than I managed."

"Are you upset I'm auditioning?" Blaine worried. "Artie said you refused to try for Tony, which I thought was because you wanted a different role, but now I'm thinking it's something else and I've made a huge mistake even agreeing – "

"Stop!" Kurt raised his palms. "You are allowed to audition for any part in any play or musical you want. I'm wrong for Tony."

Blaine scoffed. "You would be the perfect Tony."

"Says the guy who also thought I would be the perfect Danny Zuko."

Tina and Mike joined their lunch table with trays of food, and Artie wheeled up at the end.

"I still think it's wrong that we're not doing your play, Kurt. I really liked the story, and I wanted to play Dora. Although Rachel probably would have demanded that part anyway, just like she's demanding to be Maria."

"Wait. Kurt, you didn't tell me about this. So you were going to produce your play?" Kurt nodded. "How does one person keep that from happening?"

"You've obviously never met Rachel Berry," Artie answered.

The conversation went back to West Side Story, and the fact that Tina wasn't even going to bother auditioning for Maria since she didn't want to make the situation between Rachel and Mercedes even worse than it already was, but she was thinking about trying for Anita. Mike, apparently, wasn't a singer but he was teaching ballet classes to the glee club members who needed help with their dancing after school every day.

Blaine wisely said nothing about the terrible way the glee club were treating each other. In four years, The Wonderland Company had never seen anything like this, but it wasn't his place to point out the dysfunction before he'd even joined. He tried instead to offer a more positive spin on the situation.

"Why don't we produce our musical independently?" Kurt did a double take. "We did it all the time in Here during the off season, and the entire month of December is independent shows. Our set at the Winter Market was amazing."

"It's a little different here, Blaine. We don't have the resources of a theater company to help us, and things here actually cost real money."

"So we'll fundraise or sell ads in the program. We'll find a way to make it happen. Kurt, we came back for a reason. Writing musicals together is what we're supposed to do. Why wait until we get to college or afterwards? We have a libretto and a score. Granted, the music needs a lot of work, but even if it takes us a year, won't it be worth it to make our own work come to life on stage?"

"If you're serious about this, I'd offer my assistance," Artie said. "I really like directing, and West Side Story will give me experience that we can use when adults aren't around to supervise and keep us on track."

"You'd probably need a choreographer for a decent musical," Mike chimed in.

"And some female talent," Tina added.

Kurt stared around the table at his friends. They all smiled back hopefully, waiting for his answer. He let out a chuckle.

"We're really doing this? We're starting a theater company, aren't we?"

Excited chatter filled their lunch table for the next twenty-five minutes before the bell rang. Before the end of lunch, a new Wonderland Company had been born with five founding members.

o o o

"What is this I hear about you staging a mutiny?" Rachel demanded.

She slammed Kurt's locker door closed, and the boy had just enough time to pull his fingers out of the line of fire. With her hands on her hips and glare directed solidly at Kurt, she missed the dark-haired stranger leaning against the bank of lockers just behind her.

"It's not really a mutiny if we're not encouraging anyone to quit West Side Story," Blaine stated.

Rachel sucked in a deep breath and whipped around to shout at whoever dared interrupt her conversation with Kurt. Shock replaced her outrage.

"Blaine? Blaine Anderson?" She looked between Blaine and Kurt three times. "Kurt, how could you not tell me about this? Your boyfriend comes home across a magical barrier separating two worlds, and you don't even mention it?"

"I've told a lot of people. Also, today is Blaine's second day at school. If we were actually friends you would already know that though."

"That's not fair, Kurt! I was considering my future, which you obviously are too since you're in so many dancing and singing and acting classes after school that Finn said he hardly sees you before ten o'clock, and then you lock yourself in your room to do homework or practice more."

"Would you like to be introduced to my boyfriend? Or would you like to try justifying your selfishness a little more?" he asked coldly.

Hurt flashed across Rachel's face. She put on a brave face and held her hand out to Blaine. "Rachel Berry. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Blaine. I just want to say welcome home, and I hope we can be friends one day. I hope we can all be friends."

Blaine glanced over at Kurt, who continued to glare at Rachel. A smile tugged at Blaine's lips. Kurt only wore that look when he'd already decided to do something, but didn't want to admit he'd changed his mind. He'd already forgiven Rachel, even if he wouldn't admit it for a while.

"It's nice to meet you too, Rachel. I'm positive we'll all be great friends." Kurt rolled his eyes and huffed. "I meant what I said, Rachel. We're not staging a mutiny or a boycott of your musical. In fact, I'm auditioning on Friday. We might even be Tony and Maria by the end of next week. We've started a theater company, and from what I hear about your talent, we'd be lucky if you auditioned for a role."

Rachel was thoroughly charmed, and despite the brooding presence of Kurt, she beamed at Blaine.

"Good luck with your glee audition this afternoon. I'll be cheering for you."

After Rachel had gone to class, Blaine leaned against the lockers and grinned knowingly at Kurt. The countertenor stared resolutely forward and twirled his combination for a full minute before he couldn't stand the scrutiny.

"Okay! Yes, I've forgiven Rachel. There's really no point holding a grudge when we're starting our own theater company and producing original musicals. But she is not becoming a principle, Blaine. That gives her way too much power, and I still believe what I said was right. She has to learn to work with a cast before I ever allow her to be in one of our musicals."

"Fair enough."

The easy acquiescence deflated Kurt's rant. "I really hate it when you do that."

"I know you do."

Kurt rolled his eyes. "We're going to be late to class. I'll see you in glee."

o o o

Blaine had twenty minutes between the last hour of the day and his audition for glee club. He spent those twenty minutes in the choir room going through the full warm up routine Cillian ingrained in all The Carrollers their first week.

As he played and sang the scales, Blaine's mind drifted back through the last four years. All the people he had met and memories he had made in Here had changed him, but none more so than Kurt. He had gone to Here a scared, hurt little boy and had come home a man. He missed Cillian, Ciara, Soren, Dagny, Nick, and Hana so badly every day, and he would always miss them no matter how many years passed.

Kurt came into the choir room a few minutes early. He kissed Blaine tenderly and wished him luck. Blaine's eyes followed as Kurt made his way to a seat in the front row. The rest of the glee club trickled in during the next five minutes.

This was where he was meant to be, and this was how life was meant to be lived. Sadness was always a part of life, and everyone had to sacrifice to get what they wanted. No one ever achieved happiness by refusing to let go of the past. Blaine had sloughed off his burden, and for the pain of it, he had happiness. He had music; he had family and friends; and he had Kurt.

"All right, everyone," Mr. Schuester said. "We have another audition today. I think some of you know Blaine Anderson? Whenever you're ready, Blaine."

The band already had the music, and Blaine nodded to the drummer when Mr. Schuester had taken a seat among his students. Butterflies erupted in his stomach as they always did just before he began singing, but his eyes locked onto Kurt's before his cue. He saw wonder and love and a faint blush on Kurt's face.

Blaine never turned away from Kurt as he sang from his heart about living a teenage dream.

THE END


Author's Note: I don't quite know what to say in this final author's note to you. "Thank you for reading" doesn't begin to cover everything I'm feeling. I've written several drafts of this final note over the past few days, but it's only now just before I post that it's really hit me we've come to the end.

I have never written a story this long or spent so much time with one group of readers, and you are such an incredible group. I am immensely grateful for every alert, favorite, review, message, and recommendation I have gotten from you. Every day, you made me feel incredibly privileged to have such generous and responsive readers. I was proud of this story before I posted it, but your reactions have made sharing it such a wonderful experience.

I am going to miss you all so very much. But ... I will never say good-bye to you!

There will always be more stories in the future, and I would be incredibly honored if you chose to read those as well. An author alert or a follow on Tumblr or Twitter will give you those notices when I'm about to begin posting a new story. And in the mean time, I sincerely hope you take me up on my offer to message me here on the site or Tumblr. Nothing has made me happier than getting to know my readers. You are truly an amazing and unique group.

Until next time,
Heather