A/N: *tiptoes in* *taps awkwardly on microphone* Uh, hi. *cricket noise*

Long story short, this chapter was just extremely hard to get right. Now that we're literally just one more chapter from the end, I'm feeling the pressure to do justice to how far the boys have come, as well as all the angst I've dragged you all through in the process. It's a lot of weight on my shoulders to make this ending as perfect and warranted and worthy as possible, and I'd rather have taken these past three months to post something good than to throw something together hastily and shove it down your throats. Struggling with the loss of Cory really put the brakes on my progress as well, which is why this chapter is only getting to you now in August, rather than July, as I'd planned.

Excuses aside, I know it's been a long time, but I'm really quite happy with how this chapter turned out, and I hope you'll also find it worth the wait. It's the longest one of the series, at 12,102 words (I don't expect Ch. 23 to be near that long, but we'll see). We've only got one more chapter to go now, and Lord, it's bittersweet for me to think about letting go, but all things must come to an end.

Thanks for sticking with me. Now enjoy the update! We return to Blaine and Kurt, post-coital, the morning after Christmas.

Under the blankets, Kurt stirred, groaning softly into the pillow as he stretched out his legs, toes curling against the mattress for a moment before he pulled his muscles back together and tucked himself into a ball to combat the morning chill. He turned his head with a slow blink of his eyes, lips curved into a calm smile while he moved to face Blaine's side of the bed. Well-rested and sated with sleep after a night with no terrifying dreams, he was more than ready to greet his Dom and kiss away some of the salt from long-dried sweat on his skin.

Blaine wasn't there.

Instead, resting on his pillow, was a handwritten note on the back of an old calculus assignment he must have pulled from the messy pile on his desk. It struck him as a bit cliché and made the sub want to roll his eyes at how clever and cool Blaine must have imagined himself as he slipped undetected from the bedroom, but Kurt wasn't going to complain about a gesture that fed so perfectly into a romantic fantasy. At least he hadn't gone over the top and sprayed the page of mathematic s with cologne.

Good morning, beautiful. Feel free to join me in the shower before we head downstairs for breakfast. It's very warm and I'm eagerly waiting to kiss you again. – B

Kurt smiled down at the slip of paper and rolled onto his back, sitting up slowly while he felt a few bones pop in quiet protest of his movement. He found his boxers on the floor, thrown in a heap with his and Blaine's discarded shirts from the night before. Tugging the elastic band up around his waist for the sake of modesty in case he ran into any of Blaine's family members on the way, Kurt detoured to the dresser to grab each of them some clean clothes and padded quietly out into the hall, following the faint sound of shower spray until he stepped into the bathroom. He paused for a moment inside to take in the sight of Blaine's compact silhouette through the blur of steamy condensation on the glass shower door. He was standing still under the spray, and Kurt knew he could tell his sub was already here.

"Did I wake you getting up?" he finally asked, voice muffled through the white noise of falling water around him. The Dom turned his head to glance at Kurt, wiping his hand over the surface of the door to clean away a patch of fog and see him more clearly. A strange but ever familiar prickle of affection seized his heart.

Kurt shook his head and slid the small deadbolt home before walking further onto the tile floor. "No—slept right through. The bed was just cold without you there." Blaine hummed out a wordless reply. Kurt continued, "Why the rush to shower?"

"I dunno," Blaine lied lightly, skirting back toward the truth a moment later, "Helps me think."

The sub gave him a confused look while he set the pile of jeans and sweaters on the sink counter, tilting his head so a few locks of bed-rumpled hair flopped down to hang near his eyes. He didn't comment for a moment, shrugging down the boxers around his waist and carefully stepping into the shower to join his Dom. Settling his chin on Blaine's shoulder, he ran a hand down his spine and finally asked, "What's there to think about?"

"You, mostly."

Kurt let out a sarcastic huff, but out of the corner of his eye, Blaine noticed the faint, flattered blush on his cheeks, even as he grumbled an amused, "Mhmm."

"Hey, I'm serious," Blaine refuted, mock offense in his tone. He planted a kiss near the side of Kurt's mouth, "You gave me a lot to think about yesterday."

The sub smiled faintly, turning his head with ease to press against Blaine's lips, one hand settling over the wet skin on Blaine's hipbone to tug him closer. "The feeling's mutual," he assured, wishing he could make a clearer statement of his feelings. Resigned with a soft sigh, Kurt pulled away and reached behind him to grab Blaine's shampoo bottle from the shelf. "I'm gonna borrow some," he said casually, "Less bottles to open."

"You'll smell like me," Blaine added with a grin.

Kurt shrugged innocently, pretending as though that hadn't been his plan, "Well, I am yours, you know."

"Mm, yes, I know." The Dom reached over to press his hand against the dip at the base of Kurt's throat, pushing in on the new leather band around his neck and admiring the way it seemed to glisten under the dozens of water droplets sliding down between his fingers. "I'm glad I went with black again. It's gorgeous on you." He let his arm slide back down to cup his hands together.

The sub showed off a bashful smile while he squeezed some of the soap into Blaine's waiting palms, squirting some into his own hands before setting the bottle back onto its shelf, "Thank you, Sir."

"Of course," Blaine dismissed. Without another word he flattened his hands against his hair, spreading the thick liquid through his curls while Kurt did the same beside him, both lathering up while the scent the sub associated with a clean, delicious Dom filled the steamy air. Blaine bit back a playful grin when he pulled one of his hands away from his own hair to scratch his fingernails lightly against Kurt's scalp. It wasn't long before Kurt followed suit, and not long after that when each of their hands had taken up residence on the other's head, making them both chuckle while they maneuvered around a tangle of naked limbs.

It quickly became a theme of their wash-up, cleansing one another's bodies, and they each worked in turn to scrub down the other with body wash, always using the same product despite their various options to pick from—a strange sense of solidarity coming with it. Blaine let his touches linger a bit longer than strictly necessary when he wiped down Kurt's body with the sponge, trailing his free hand aimlessly over wet skin and gently corralling his boy into the corner of the shower to capture his lips and press up against him.

"Love the way you mold to me, Kurt," he breathed into wet skin, "like your body was made for it."

The submissive took his Dom's words to heart, pushing himself further to bend with every curve of Blaine's surrounding muscle—his chest arching into him, hands spread flat against his back, fingers gracing just over the swell of his ass. Backed against the slick but sturdy wall covered in condensation, Kurt felt enveloped and secure, and though he could practically sense the lingering arousal in Blaine's veins, the Dom didn't push for anything more than their skin to skin contact. It made Kurt's heart expand with a feeling of safety and affection, solidifying Blaine's promises from the morning before that already seemed so long ago—Blaine would never harm him.

He let out a breathless sigh, eyes closing as he let his head tip back against the small white tiles. Blaine took notice of the meaningful relaxation, and Kurt could hear the fond smile in his voice when he spoke, softer than the thin hiss of spray hitting their feet, "What's on your mind?"

"You make me feel so safe, Blaine," Kurt said just as calmly, matter-of-fact even in his quiet tone, "Safer than I've felt in a long time. Like it used to be."

A pair of lips pressed against his exposed neck, fleeting. "I'm so happy to hear that, Kurt. I always want you to be safe—to feel safe—with me. If you don't, I'm not doing a very good job at caring for my beautiful submissive. And I know I've let you down a few times before."

"Shh," Kurt warned, shaking his head and patting gently on Blaine's chest, "No apologies, remember? You're doing a good job, Sir," he praised, opening his eyes to meet Blaine's while he teased, "You're a good boy, too."

Blaine let out a tiny huff of surprised laughter, eyebrows furrowing playfully while he let his fingers curl on Kurt's back, lightly scraping over the knobs of his spine with his nails, a loose and just as teasing reminder of his control. "Praise doesn't do quite the same thing for me as it does for you, sweetheart. I think you know that. You're a silly, silly boy."

"I'm your silly boy," Kurt insisted, swaying his hips just enough against Blaine's body to make his Dom's eyes darken with a flicker of desire.

"Whose?" the Dom asked again for clarification, smile never fading while he raised a questioning eyebrow, waiting for the answer Kurt knew he wanted. His submissive didn't fail to deliver.

"I belong to Blaine Anderson."

"That's right," Blaine purred, lifting a hand from Kurt's back to thread into the hair at the nape of his neck, bringing their foreheads together, "My beautiful."

He'd heard the word so many times since their first night together that Kurt had all but adopted it in his own mind as a second name. It wasn't just an adjective anymore. There was nothing demeaning in it. Blaine made every syllable sound like a prayer every time he uttered it, and Kurt felt beautiful with him—unashamedly attractive, desirable, cared for and wanted in all the ways that he'd ever allowed himself to dream of becoming when he'd been alone and afraid, worried of his future and terrified without cause that no Dom would ever choose him. Blaine hadn't chose him; that was true. But one would never know from looking at the way they'd grown to fit so perfectly together.

Kurt broke their sweet silence when he took the sponge from Blaine and kneeled down to better reach his Dom's lower body, knowing he would appreciate the view as well. "Thank you, Sir—for last night, I mean." Kurt spread the white lather around Blaine's kneecaps, up the inside of his thighs, and back down the length of his calves. "It was perfect."

"I thought so too," Blaine said in return, combing through Kurt's wet hair with a few lazy fingers, "Thank you." The sub smiled up at him, grabbing onto Blaine's hips to pull himself back onto his feet, walking Blaine back under the shower spray and setting the soapy sponge aside. They rinsed off and kissed for a while longer, both perfectly content to let the morning continue to get away from them—but the hot water was slowly starting to lose its high temperature, and as soon as he felt Kurt's first shiver against his chest, Blaine was reaching to the turn back the handle and cut it off.

Fluffy towels awaited them, and Blaine allowed Kurt to dry him off when he shyly requested, knowing his submissive was probably feeling a pretty heavy need to serve after how intensely they had jumped back into their roles the day and night before, with a renewed collaring ceremony, sex, and a return to subspace. It had been a massive, sudden change from the weeks they'd gone without any real domination or servitude, and Blaine figured Kurt's urge to do anything he could for his Dom was something to be expected and encouraged, not dismissed. Kurt would tell him if things went too far.

They pulled on the dry, warm clothes Kurt had brought in and headed downstairs, hand-in-hand toward the kitchen where the rest of the Andersons were already seated, working on their food. After eating such hearty, filling meals the day before, Kurt wasn't too eager to chow down on anything too heavy for breakfast. Instead he settled on pulling out a box of cereal that teetered on the verge of being something healthy if wasn't so sugary sweet for the sake of taste. Blaine considered his own options before deciding to play copycat, heading toward their side of the table while he called out a quiet, "Could you grab me a bowl too, beautiful?"

Not a single member of the family batted an eyelash at the sweet endearment, the obvious signs that the two boys had just spent half an hour doting over one another in the bathroom together, nor the fact that they'd all overheard Blaine and Kurt's previous night's activities when things had gotten a bit loud on the second floor. It was all just as weirdly normal as Kurt sliding into his chair next to Blaine with two bowls full of cereal swimming in milk and two spoons balanced in his hands. They were reconnecting; they were healing. Though there had been signs of it all previously, it was undeniable now, and none of the Andersons could quite avoid feeling the distinct release of tension in the air.

Blaine's mother smiled down at her own food, discreetly savoring the relief and pride she felt for her son, and for Kurt, that she'd been anticipating for weeks. Elise reached beneath the table, so strongly affected by the younger pair's dynamic shift that she had to take Cooper's hand, receiving a gentle, content squeeze from him that silently assured her he could feel the effects too. The atmosphere in the kitchen was light and familial, like clouds breaking to let in the sun after a long-winded storm. The worst was behind them all now.

The two teenagers were oblivious to the rest of the family's reactions, both too caught up in their food and in each other to notice much else. Kurt's chair was positioned a mere inch or two from Blaine's despite the two feet of free space he had to spread out. Beneath the table, Blaine had hooked their ankles together, pulling his sub's close and pinning it against the wooden leg of his own seat, the gesture equally flirtatious and controlling. Kurt wondered how much more dominance Blaine would show if they were eating breakfast alone; the thought led too quickly to visions of him being bent over the table, and Kurt had to reroute the path of his consciousness onto something less steamy in order to stave the sudden shiver of arousal that made his skin prickle.

Aside from the scraping of silverware on plates, everyone ate in relative silence. It was hard to summon the courage to break it, but Blaine knew he had to. He'd been suppressing all thoughts of it as much as he could since he'd awoken, but he knew if he didn't get the ball rolling now, he might never have the guts to honestly face the words he'd whispered to his unaware submissive the night before.

"Cooper?" he asked between bites a few minutes later, desperately going for a casual tone, "Can I steal a few minutes of your time after breakfast? I've gotta talk to you for just a bit."

No one seemed surprised or overly curious of his motives, much to Blaine's relief. Coop nodded with a shrug of one shoulder, biting into what had to be nearing his fifteenth slice of bacon. It crunched between his teeth while he mumbled out an affirmative reply, "Sure, little bro."

"Cool. Thanks."

With his plan in place, Blaine tried to sit still and calm for the remainder of the morning meal. Even so, he couldn't help a few fidgeting movements from time to time, and Kurt shot him a few uncertain glances which Blaine quickly shot down with a reassuring smile and a small shake of his head, keeping his boy from voicing any questions that might make the rest of his family begin to take notice.

The nerves failed to fully dissipate. Instead they only seemed to grow stronger, culminating at a peak when Blaine finally sat down on the edge of his bed with Cooper cross-legged on the center of the mattress twenty minutes later. Kurt and Elise had remained downstairs after Cooper's sub had posed to Kurt some curious questions about his new autographed book, causing him to enthusiastically launch into a spiel of detailed trivia.

"Alright, squirt," Cooper drew Blaine's attention back to the present. He kept the sound of accusations out of his tone, not wanting to make Blaine change his mind and abort the conversation, "What's going on?"

"What makes you think anything's going on?" Blaine returned immediately, becoming defensive without any real cause. Cooper let out a small sigh, lowering his voice even further.

"Well, for one, you almost never talk to me alone unless it's something big... And you've been squirming like an ant under a magnifying glass all morning."

"That obvious, huh?"

"I've been your brother for almost two decades, Blaine," Cooper said with a fond smile, "I know when something's bothering you. And clearly you want to talk about it with me—so spill."

"Okay," Blaine murmured under his breath. He twiddled his thumbs in his lap, letting out a slow breath, clearly still hesitating. It was all Cooper needed to speak up again, trying to coax the words from his little brother out into the open by beginning the dialogue himself—breaking the ice.

"Is Kurt okay?" he asked. The plan succeeded. At the sound of his submissive's name, the younger Dom seemed to rouse to a fuller attention, the prod of his responsibility and instinct to gain whatever knowledge he needed to best care for his boy overriding the mental block of nerves.

"Yeah, yeah, he's fine. We—We had sex last night, actually," Blaine finally told him, clipped, "for the first time since…"

"Since Sebastian," Cooper supplied when Blaine's voice failed.


There wasn't enough left in Blaine for him to sound ashamed or embarrassed talking about sex and the horrible event that occurred months before; he was focused. Cooper, on the other hand, had suddenly slipped a bit from his collected peak, jumping to a conclusion in a worried voice, imagining the worst, "God, he didn't panic on you, did he?"

"No! No, no, no," Blaine stammered, "No, it was… perfect, really. He even got to subspace again."

"Oh," Cooper breathed, "That's good, then. That's wonderful… I'm happy for you, brother." He tried for a smile. Blaine didn't return it, still looking troubled behind the gleam in his eyes. "There's something else, isn't there?" Blaine nodded, biting his lip. "What happened?"

"I told him I loved him."

Cooper's mouth opened, closed, opened again, like a gaping fish. It would have been comical had the situation not been so serious. "You what?"

Blaine spoke in a thin voice, like he was reading off a list of bullet points, "When he slipped off into subspace, I kissed him, then I said 'I love you.'"

"He didn't hear you," Cooper understood then.

"No, he didn't."

There was a momentary pause. Blaine stared down at the bed. Cooper watched his brother's face. "What are you going to do?" he finally asked.

"I dunno," Blaine murmured shyly, sounding more like an insecure teenager and less like a calm, in-charge Dominant, "I was kind of hoping you'd have some advice, actually. Since you have experience in this area and all that."

"Well," Cooper began, "I mean, there are all kinds of different loves, Blaine. You telling Kurt that you love him doesn't necessarily mean you love him that way. Remember that's what you told me when I jumped that question on you a few months ago?"

Blaine nodded, "Yeah. Yeah, I remember. I said I really cared about him, but it wasn't love."

"Do things feel different now?"

"Obviously things feel different, Coop," Blaine shrugged, "A few months ago Kurt had never even been introduced to Sebastian. A few months ago he'd never been discriminated against at Dalton. We'd only ever been with one another. He hadn't been taken from me and hurt by someone I trusted."

"Hey, hey, it's alright," Cooper said carefully, instantly picking up on Blaine's rising tone and trying to lower it back to a conversational volume. "I meant how you feel about him. Does that feel different now?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, I couldn't have gone through all of that without coming out at the end with a stronger need to… give him everything, you know?"

"It makes perfect sense."

"Does that mean I love him?" Blaine asked, eyes wide and deeply curious with the wonder of new feelings he couldn't explain or properly articulate.

"I can't answer that one for you, squirt. That's only something you can figure out. But one word of advice?" Cooper offered, "Don't tell him anything until you're sure. You two are bonded for life, whether or not love comes into the equation or not. You can't just break up with him if you get tired of trying to be in love before you're ready. Make sense?"

"Mhmm." Blaine was so overwhelmed by the weight and responsibility of the task that he didn't even think to call his brother out on the use of his least-favorite nickname. "This is going to be really hard, isn't it?" he guessed.

"Love's never easy, baby brother. That's one thing you can be certain of."

For once in his life Blaine accepted that his brother was more knowledgeable on a given subject—love, in this case—and decided to take Cooper's advice, to simply wait and see how things continued to develop. Rushing into anything based on a single surge of emotion, especially one that had occurred post-orgasm after starving for sex for a long period of time, would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.

Instead he kept quiet, never letting on to the swirling confusion and internal questioning that slowly started taking up a majority of his time and mental capacity. Thankfully he could afford to be lost in thought more often than not, as the downhill slope of the holiday was mainly filled with relaxing and enjoying a lack of obligations. The Andersons spent the rest of Blaine's Christmas break from Dalton as a family, and Kurt and Blaine continued to grow closer with each passing day. The Dom became adept and skilled at watching his unaware submissive with a fond look in his eyes, and whenever Kurt caught him staring and returned the expression with a curious, smiling face of his own, and an inquiring, "What?" Blaine was always able to shrug it off and pull him close, contenting his boy with a simple, "I'm happy you're mine," to which Kurt would easily respond, "Me too."

Unfortunately their break couldn't last forever. The days marked off the calendar grew closer and closer to Blaine's first day back at school. Cooper and Elise caught their flight back to California the weekend before Dalton's spring semester began, and everyone took part in a drawn out farewell on the front lawn, not complete without Cooper pulling his brother off to the side to say, "Give me a call whenever you need to, if you want to talk, or if your young and inexperienced mind is desperate for more sage advice."

Blaine rolled his eyes and gave his brother's shoulder a hearty punch at the thinly veiled, teasing insult, "Sure thing, you wise old owl."

"And take good care of Kurt, okay? It'd be a shame to see you two walking on thin ice around each other again."

Blaine shook his head, "Don't worry, Coop. I'd turn into a vampire before I ever let myself hurt him like that a second time."

"Then you better start keeping a lot of garlic on you, just in case. Silver bullets, too."

"Those are for werewolves, idiot."

"Oh," Cooper shrugged, "Well, I don't want you turning into a furry beast or a bloodsucking one. Just look after yourself, squirt." He gave Blaine a knowing smirk and waited to be rebuked, but his little brother only sighed and shook his head again, a content grin on his features despite the nickname.

"Hurry up and hug me before I punch you in the face," he said.

Cooper laughed and pulled Blaine into a tight embrace. "I'm proud of you," he whispered down into Blaine's ear, "by the way." For what, he didn't say, but Blaine imagined that it was for an array of reasons, not just a single thing. It made his heart swell up all the same, feeling blessed that he had such a great relationship with his only sibling, despite the years between them and their many differences. They loved each other in their own ways, and earning Cooper's respect as a fellow Dominant seemed like a rite of passage of sorts—a badge he could pin to his chest.

"Thank you." Blaine gave his brother a pat on the back and slipped out of his arms, glancing over to see Kurt happily receive a kiss on the cheek from Elise before the sub began to wander back over, reaching for Blaine's already extended hand.

"Bye Cooper," Kurt said with a smile.

"See you around, Kurt. You let me know if this lughead does anything stupid, okay? I've always told him all the excessive gel use messes with his brain," he added with a laugh, ruffling Blaine's curls.

His Dom playfully glowered while Kurt leaned into his side, assuring Cooper with a giggle, "You'll be the first one I call."

"Seriously, though," Cooper said then, voice warm as he clapped the sub gently on the shoulder, "Take care, alright?"

"I will," Kurt promised, "And I've got Blaine. I'll be fine."

Cooper smiled. "I know you will. See you guys at graduation." With a wave, Cooper headed toward the rental car parked along the curb, turning back to call, "Study hard, squirt!" as soon as he was at a safe distance from his brother's ability to throw a punch, though Blaine did make a rude gesture with his hand that his mother scolded him for afterward.

Blaine had decided earlier in the fall semester to defer his higher education until the following year. It's what his mother had done, and even Cooper had taken a semester off to think about his path before hurtling into a degree that would help his writing career, even if it wouldn't necessarily lead to a very lucrative job. Blaine thought a good year of soul searching (and money saving) would do him well, and he could take the time to seek out the best university options for himself without having the pressure of a senior year of high school buried on top.

Without the impending weight of college on his shoulders like most of his fellow classmates, Blaine had more time to commit to his highest priorities like keeping his grades up and, most importantly, continuing to care for his submissive and doing whatever he could to ensure that Kurt didn't regress back into his fragile state after he and everyone supporting him had fought so hard to climb to the summit of his recovery.

Blaine made a point to spend time with Kurt whenever he could. Their schedules returned to a bit of normalcy along with the return of Blaine's schooling. They woke up together each day, bright and early, and Kurt happily shadowed Blaine through his morning routine, providing company while the Dom got ready for his commute to Dalton.

"You've got two sleepy blues this morning," Blaine said, meeting Kurt's gaze through the mirror while he worked too much gel into his curls, "Did you get enough rest last night? I didn't notice any nightmares…"

"No nightmares; everything was fine." Kurt batted his tired eyes at his Dom with an equally tired smile, saying, "It's just a good day to stay in bed and read and nap until my Dom comes home from school. My body doesn't want to wake up all the way since it's getting ready to relax for eight more hours."

"That sounds like a wonderful plan," Blaine laughed, admitting, "I'm jealous; I wish I could join you. But calculus and English and the Warblers call."

On his first day back in class, the Dom received the same question again and again, each time he ran into one of the members of his choir, but Blaine never grew weary of answering it—not even by the end of the day when Wes was certainly the sixteenth person to bring it up as he jogged to catch Blaine on his way out to the parking lot, "Hey, how's Kurt doing?"

"He's great, actually," Blaine replied with a genuine smile, "We got him a therapist and she did wonders. And he worked so hard on his own to put himself back together; I'm so proud of him, Wes. He's done so well."

"And you two? You're cool?" the head of the Council pressed nervously.

Blaine nodded once, resolute and confident. "We've never been better."

"I'm glad," Wes told him, patting Blaine on the shoulder, "Really, Blaine. You're good to him, and he's obviously good for you to have around. You both deserve to be on the best terms you can be."

"Thanks, man."

"Rehearsal tomorrow," the other boy finally reminded, unable to stray from the topic of show choir for very long in any given time period, "You've got two solos for Regionals. Train and Katy Perry. Think you can handle it?" Wes asked with a knowing smile.

Blaine beamed, "Can't wait. See you tomorrow, Wes."

"Have a good drive!" his friend replied with another wave, turning back toward campus.

Though he was usually incredibly responsible and law-abiding behind the wheel, Blaine might have sloughed off and pushed the gas pedal a little more than usual on his way home that day. He hadn't seen Kurt in over eight hours—the longest he'd been apart from him since Kurt had moved back in with the Andersons over break. Setting the cruise control a few miles per hour above the speed limit wasn't too much of a sin, and every potential drop of regret faded instantly when he was able to pull up at his house ten minutes earlier than he'd planned, instantly heading up to his room where Kurt was laying on his stomach, reading from a book propped open on the pillow in front of him.

The submissive turned his head at the sound of Blaine's entrance, and a bright smile lit up his face as he quickly stuffed in a bookmark to hold his place and sat up, giving his Dom his full attention while Blaine dropped his bookbag on a chair and walked over. "Hi, Blaine!" The chipper greeting was infectious, causing an equally light grin to soften the Dom's school-haggard expression.

"Hey there, beautiful," he murmured, leaning over to drop a kiss to Kurt's cheek, "Good, relaxing day, just as planned?"

Kurt nodded, "Very good day. A little lonely, but good."

"Mmm. Well, your loneliness can be set aside now," he said, "You've got me for the rest of the night."

"And your day was good too, Sir?" Kurt hoped.

"A little lonely," the Dom echoed back Kurt's words with a fond smile, "but yes, it was good, as far as school goes. The guys are all happy to hear you're doing so well, by the way. Several even told me they want to see you in the audience at Regionals, if you feel up to it when the time comes."

Kurt raised his eyebrows, surprised that his Dom's friends would be eager to have him around. "Really? …I didn't think they cared that much about me."

"Hm," Blaine sat down on the edge of the bed, reaching over to stroke down Kurt's thigh as he worked to find the best words to explain the slightly difficult concept. "Well, I am pretty sure they've all figured out how important you are to me by now. Even the guys who aren't quite as… um—progressive, as others, still realize you're the best thing that's ever happened to me."

Kurt shook his head bashfully, "Aw."

"It's true," Blaine smiled, "And if I'm correct, I also think they're all a little protective after what happened with Seb—in a we-look-out-for-our-own kind of way. Like, I care deeply for you, and I'm also their brother, so it's a bit of an obligatory thing, for them to echo my feelings toward you. If that makes sense at all."

Kurt pondered for a moment in reflective silence. Truthfully, it was difficult to reconcile the pack of alcohol-laden boys who'd encircled him at the party last August with a group of young men who took stock in his well-being. It was hard for him to connect the invasive comments he'd first received and translate them into any form of genuine kindness or care. "Guess it makes sense," he finally said, "but it's still sort of confusing. I thought Nick was the only one who bothered to see me as more than your lapdog."

"We've all grown up a bit over the last few months," Blaine said quietly.

"You included," Kurt smiled.

"Yes," the Dom chuckled, "Myself included."

"Your mom and dad'll be going to Regionals, right?" Kurt asked then, backtracking on their conversation, "I'd be able to sit with them?"

"Absolutely. You'd be safe. Promise."

"I think I'll go," he decided, "Maybe I'll be your good luck charm."

Blaine slid backward on the mattress and turned to flop down at Kurt's side, wrapping his arms around the boy's stomach and pulling him in close. "We'll win for sure with you rooting for us," he said with a kiss to the back of Kurt's neck, "but no pressure, beautiful. You can change your mind later if you need to; I'm not gonna force you to go."

Kurt didn't change his mind, however. And as the weeks passed, he did whatever he could to help Blaine out as the competition loomed closer. His soft hands found themselves on his Dom's bare back and shoulders almost every night when they went to bed, expertly seeking out the knots and tense muscles there and working them out with long massages and plenty of kisses to soothe him over.

With Kurt still a little anxious on the matter, penetrative sex remained a bit of a rarity after the consummation of their second collaring ceremony, but they always made arrangements to keep one another sexually sated in other ways. There was no such thing as showering alone anymore for the two teens. They either bathed together or they would wait until the other was available to join in. With nudity necessary for the shower itself, Kurt didn't feel any undue pressure or anxiety at being exposed in a more focused, intentionally erotic situation.

Maybe it wasn't his most ideal or favorite form of sex, but handjobs and occasional blowjobs in the shower were more than enough for Blaine. As long as Kurt was comfortable, the Dom was content, and he always made sure to worship his submissive's body in return, never wanting to leave him desperate or aching again like the way he'd done when Sebastian had been around. That didn't entirely shield Kurt from his own insecurities, unfortunately.

"I'm sorry," he said one night, voice almost too quiet to hear over the shower spray.

Blaine gave him a quizzical look, brushing a strand of wet hair off his forehead. "What for?"

"I feel like I don't give you enough," the sub replied. His lips were red and a bit swollen, just having come up from his knees a few minutes ago, sucking his Dom off with slow, truly succulent movements.

"Is this about sex?" Blaine's voice was calm but edged with a hint of concern. He didn't his boy worrying about things like this. Kurt's brief nod confirmed his fears, however, and Blaine sighed, threading his hands the rest of the way into the brunet locks, turned dark with water, pulling Kurt into a soft, reassuring kiss. "Shh," he murmured as he pulled away, "Have I complained once about needing more from you?"

"No, Sir, but—"

"No buts, beautiful," Blaine interrupted, "You know I'll always tell you if I need you to do something for me."

"Yes, Sir…" he paused, "But I also know that you're trying not to push me too hard after everything that's happened."

"That is true," the Dom confirmed.

Kurt furrowed his eyebrows delicately, giving Blaine a worried look, "And I don't want you being so cautious with me that you're not letting me please you like you need, Sir. It's my job to make you happy," he tried to reason.

"And it's my job to make you safe and comfortable." Kurt didn't look too enthralled. "I promise, sweetheart, being touched by your amazing hands and perfect mouth is just as nice as having you around me." Blaine slotted their fingers together to emphasize his words, pressing a few kisses to his boy's knuckles, "Don't worry. Okay?"

Kurt nodded, but there was no content smile or sparkle in his eyes. He looked just as distraught as he had a few seconds earlier, and Blaine leaned in to kiss him again, slipping his hands from Kurt's grasp to journey down the slippery expanse of his back and pausing just above his tailbone, gently pressing their bodies together and bringing him close so their foreheads met.

"Listen to me, beautiful," Blaine whispered into his skin, an order in his gentle tone, "You're everything I want. Just like this. You don't need to change for me or go any further than what you're comfortable with just because you think my dick will appreciate it more."

Kurt couldn't help but crack a smile at that, and Blaine beamed at the breathy giggle that came from his parted lips, kissing them again before continuing, "You're mine, and you're such a good boy, and I need you to remember that, alright? I'm so proud of you, and I'm so proud to be your Dom. Don't worry about not doing enough to make me happy. You make me happy just by being my beautiful Kurt." The submissive gave Blaine a bashful grin, and the Dom brushed over his lower lip with the pad of his thumb, smiling back. "See? There we go. It's really simple when you get down to basics, hm?"

"Yes, Sir," Kurt nodded once more, his blue eyes wide with a dreamy, grateful expression, affected by the tender dominance just as Blaine had planned.

"Good boy," he continued to whisper, smiling as he leaned close for a kiss. His hand slipped down to wrap around Kurt's length, hearing the sub's breath catch in his throat. "Don't worry, sweet thing."

After months and weeks of preparation, the journey to Regionals itself was rather anticlimactic: a long day in the backseat of Mrs. Anderson's minivan. Thankfully the Warblers Council had made an exception for Blaine regarding travel to and from the competition, letting him forsake riding on the bus with the rest of his choirmates so he could stay with Kurt. The Dom was quiet for most of the ride, resting his voice in preparation. His sub emulated his actions and easily fell into an equally quiet state, leaning into Blaine's shoulder while the seatbelt strap gradually worked a red mark onto the skin of Kurt's upper arm.

They arrived precisely on schedule, giving Blaine a few minutes to speak with Kurt and his parents before the rest of the Warblers began piling into the building from the parking lot, all bright-eyed and eager for the upcoming performance as they were allowed through the side door that led backstage. "I've gotta get going," Blaine apologized, "Can't be anything but punctual on competition day. I wouldn't put it past the Council to take my solos away, even now," he joked with a laugh.

"Then you definitely don't want to be late," Kurt agreed, hugging him tight, "Good luck."

"Thank you, sweetheart," Blaine pressed a harried kiss to his temple, jittery with nerves.

"And," the sub bit on his lower lip for a brief second, seeming to consider his words before speaking, "tell the rest of the guys good luck from me, too?"

Blaine shot his boy a proud smile and nodded, "I will. I'm sure they'll be glad to know you're rooting for all of us. You be good," he added with a playful raise of his eyebrow, already stepping away toward the door.

"Yes, Sir," Kurt giggled, "See you later."

He joined back up with Mr. and Mrs. Anderson in the auditorium and the trio headed together toward their seats, about six rows back, near the center. They had a great, close view of the stage, and Kurt busied himself waiting for the competition to begin by flipping through the pages of the program, reading lists and lists of unknown names of performers, smiling far too wide when he reached the Warblers' roster and saw Blaine's name printed at the top of the alphabetical list.

The Warblers performed last, so Kurt had plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the groups' performances once the competition was underway. Meanwhile Blaine was somewhere backstage working through vocal warm ups, circling up with the rest of the choir for harmony practice, and reviewing a few of their more complicated dance steps.

When it was finally time for the Dalton choir to take the stage, Kurt had to sit on his own hands to keep himself still, grinning from ear to ear as Blaine began with a solo, bopping his way across the stage with all the charisma and energy of a firecracker. Between the traditional side-steps, the Warblers threw in plenty of flare and showmanship, including a few flips from their more athletic members to wow the judges. The second song featured three soloists in turn, leaving Blaine back with the chorus to harmonize and rest up for his final number, capping off the set with a Katy Perry hit that had the whole room buzzing with energy—or maybe it was just Kurt feeding off of his Dom's infectious smiles and eager passion.

As the boys all struck their final pose, heads held high in a perfectly structured lineup, the crowd roared, and Kurt was certain they had it all wrapped up. Blaine's impossibly wide grin echoed the same thoughts. His eyes were carefully sweeping the room, searching the audience meticulously, and the sub had to resist the urge to call out to him and make a scene, simply continuing to applaud on his feet until their gazes finally met. It was just for a brief moment. The Warblers exited as the cheers began to die down, and the auditorium returned to a hum of conversations after the announcement that the judges would begin deliberating.

Kurt was confident. The other choirs had been good, of course. One rather petite brunette and a tall, seemingly awkward boy had performed a duet that had even pulled on his heartstrings, stirring up feelings of his own unrequited affections that he'd worked so hard to repress… but the Warblers had given an incredible performance, and Blaine—Blaine Anderson, his amazing, talented, wonderful Dom—had done so well. How could the judges choose anyone else?

The results came after only about twenty minutes. The three finalist teams returned to the stage, lining up in performance order from right to left. The runner-up was announced, leaving Dalton's boys with the team from a Lima public school crowded around their director. In anticipation, the petite brunette girl was clutching so hard to the tall boy's arm that Kurt could practically feel his own circulation cutting off in sympathy. The Warblers were standing stoically, never letting their refined appearance slip, even in the face of the results envelope being opened, its breaking seal producing audible feedback near the microphone.

There was a beat of silence—a purposefully dramatic pause.

"The New Directions, you're going to Nationals in New York!"


Just like that, the competition was over.

Dalton Academy's most prestigious and well-known organization had been defeated. The shock of it hit Kurt like a punch to the gut, as if Sebastian had knocked the breath out of him all over again. He shuddered at the mere thought, pressing back into his seat, and Mr. Anderson shot him a concerned glance, reaching up to squeeze at Kurt's shoulder. If he said anything, Kurt didn't hear it over the noise.

The crowd around them was cheering, applauding the winners on their victory. In Kurt's stunned state, it all seemed a bit manic. Members of the first place choir were jumping up and down on stage, barreling into each other with hugs and hefting the massive trophy up over their heads, but Kurt couldn't tear his eyes away from the Warblers to notice them. His eyes were fixed resolutely on Blaine, a shocked hand having risen up to cover his mouth from where he sat between the Andersons. He watched as Wes stepped up to accept the pitifully small trophy they were offered, more of a consolation prize than anything.

The celebration continued on stage while the Warblers filed off behind the curtains on the side, putting Blaine and his slumped, defeated shoulders out of sight. Kurt was on his feet before he'd realized it, offering a brief and troubled, "I have to find Blaine," to Mrs. Anderson when she worriedly called his name.

Without stopping to let himself think, Kurt hurried down the aisle, excusing himself again and again with so many apologetic dips of his head as he slipped past other audience members along the way, navigating toward the door that led backstage where he knew Blaine would be. He grabbed the handle and gave it a tug, managing to crack the door open before he was held back by the weight of a hand on his shoulder. The submissive froze, looking up at the man who had approached to intercept him. He wore a bright yellow t-shirt with 'EVENT STAFF' plastered across his chest in bold, black lettering.

"Where do you think you're going?" he asked, eyes wandering skeptically to the collar around Kurt's neck. Kurt's voice failed him while he wracked his brain to find a reply, and the submissive self-consciously pulled at the sleeves of the blue hoodie tucked around him, emblazoned across the front with the Dalton Academy logo, wishing he could sink into its warmth and the faint smell of Blaine that clung to the fabric.

When there came no answer, the man spoke again, "Can't you read the sign?" Kurt was directed to the gold-colored plaque on the door proclaiming 'Performers Only,' and he nodded, too caught off guard by the entire situation to be irritated at the man's presumption that he had low intelligence.

"Y-Yes, Sir," he finally stammered, "I can, but—"

"You're not supposed to alone, either, I don't think." The man wasn't giving up.

"No, Sir, but my Dom—" Kurt reached into the hoodie's wide pocket for his folded up program, ready to point out the Warblers' page and explain, "He's a perfor-"

"Kurt?" The incredulous voice was muffled through the crowd noise and the partially-closed door between them, but it rang out as clearly to Kurt as though he were standing a single step away in an otherwise empty room.


Tugging his shoulder from the grip of the staff member's hand, Kurt pushed the rest of the way through the door, rushing straight to Blaine's side and wrapping his arms around the shapeless form of his blazer-clad torso, relief blossoming in his chest when his Dom's hands automatically moved to his back, holding him close and instinctively shielding him from any further harm.

"Yours?" the man asked behind him, still in the doorway where he'd halted the sub a moment ago. Kurt felt Blaine's neck muscles flex against his forehead as he nodded, and a few seconds later the door shut with a click as the impending conflict dissipated.

"Beautiful, what are you doing back here? Where's Mom and Dad?"

"Still in their seats last time I saw them," Kurt told him, explaining into the Dom's shoulder, "I needed to see you."

Blaine pulled him back a little to gain eye contact, and Kurt was a little surprised to see that there was more than concern on his face. His expression also betrayed pride, unable to avoid being impressed that the sub had been brave enough to wander through the crowd on his own. It didn't stop him from his responsibilities, however, gently chastising, "You're gonna have them worried, sweetheart," and reaching into Kurt's pocket to grab the boy's phone. He sent his mother a quick text: 'Kurt's w/me backstage. He's fine. Meet you in the lobby in 10. -B.'

"I didn't mean to worry anyone, Sir," Kurt insisted, voice a bit subdued with guilt, "I just wanted to be here with you—be here for you."

"And you couldn't wait five minutes to do that," Blaine concluded with a fond smile.

The submissive grinned back, "No, Sir. I had to make sure you were okay."

Blaine opened his mouth to speak again, but the pair was suddenly interrupted by a few other boys in navy and red. Nick was among the group, and he was the first to acknowledge Kurt's presence, waving at him with a friendly, open expression on his face as he walked over.

"Kurt," he greeted, "Doing good?"

"Hi, Nick," Kurt replied, staying put in Blaine's arms but turning his attention to the other teen, "Yeah, I'm alright. You?"

The Warbler shrugged, "Ah, well… As good as I can be."

Kurt agreed with a nod of understanding, "I wanted you guys to win so badly."

"Me too. Thanks for coming to cheer us on, though," Nick steered the conversation away from their choir's loss, giving Kurt a quick, gentle pat on the back, "It was good to see you again. Nice hoodie."

"Thanks," Kurt replied kindly, "Nice seeing you, too, Nick."

When Wes called the guys into a circle for a brief post-competition talk, Kurt found himself on the outskirts of the group, slotted close behind Blaine with his chin resting on his Dom's shoulder, listening in. The low mood was palpable and clearly written on the faces of the teenagers, most noticeably on those of the graduating seniors, Blaine among them.

The head of the Council reiterated that they'd all put in such great work over the past year—that they'd done impressive things while collectively and individually making great personal improvements and progress that would help them not just in high school, but out in life as well. It was an encouraging speech, trying to lessen the weight of defeat, but Kurt wasn't too sure if it succeeded in doing so. Wes thanked his fellow senior members for their years of honorable contributions and encouraged the underclassman and juniors to step up next fall.

"There's no reason the Warblers can't take Nationals again next year," he said, "Remember that this defeat is not an excuse to fail. It should be treated as motivation to be better than before. Several of us have reached the end of our last competition with you gentlemen—myself included—and it's your turn to take the lead. Work together, work hard, work consistently, and you'll bring that Nationals trophy back home to Dalton."

There were subdued cheers, a smattering of applause, and a cacophony of hugs and slaps on the back all around, and Kurt took a few steps to the side to let the moment of explosive camaraderie blow over. Blaine said a few parting words to his friends—promises to meet up for lunch at school on Monday—and took Kurt's hand in his own as they quietly slipped back out the door and headed for the lobby of the building to meet up with Blaine's parents once more.

"Who cares what a few stupid judges think?" Kurt argued softly when they were back in the relative privacy of Mrs. Anderson's minivan, "You guys were amazing."

"My senior year, Kurt," Blaine said, "My last chance to do this. And we lost." Blaine's voice cracked over his last statement, and he pressed his lips together in a thin line, but Kurt could see them trembling. It wasn't like his Dom to get emotional in front of Kurt. He always worked hard to keep himself calm and level, understanding his responsibility to watch out for Kurt's own emotional state, especially because his boy had such a powerful knack for empathy—adopting the stronger emotions of those around him without much difficulty.

"Blaine," he cooed, reaching a hand out to brush down his Dom's cheek, pretending not to notice the tear that slipped from one of his eyes and met the skin of his thumb on its way down, "It's okay. It'll be okay." Blaine let his face be caressed, but he stared out the window stubbornly, caught between a rock of repression and an emotional place.

"No it won't." The change in his voice, now thick with grief, was obvious despite his best efforts to convince Kurt differently, "I was supposed to carry my whole team with my solos, and we didn't even place."

"You're just one person, Blaine. You can't do everything," Kurt told him, "No one expects you to be perfect."

"I just really wanted to win… I wanted to take you to Nationals with me."

Kurt shook his head, "We'll visit New York some other time."

Blaine tried to speak. His mouth opened to form a new sentence, but the words were lost on their way to creation as the teenager finally crumbled. Kurt was there to catch him, bringing his Dom into his arms and holding him tight, doing what he could to provide support even though his heart was aching in sympathy. "I'm still proud of you, Blaine. If it counts for anything, you won in my book."

In the front seat, Blaine's parents stayed quiet, giving the boys their privacy, though Kurt did catch Mr. Anderson's eyes in the rear view mirror once when Blaine took a shuddering sob of a breath against Kurt's chest. He gave his Dom's father a tiny nod, unnoticed by Blaine, doing his best to silently communicate 'I'll take care of him.'

The rest of the drive home was somber. Blaine fell silent after a short time crying and didn't say another word, and Kurt stayed quiet along with him, forsaking the proper use of his seatbelt to recline and lay his head on the Dom's lap. It kept Blaine's hands busy, helping to distract his mind as he spent the following hour and a half stroking through Kurt's hair and meticulously tracing the outlines of his facial features with the tips of his fingers. The sub's muscles went limp with the resulting relaxation, and he teetered on the edge of unconsciousness while the car bumped gently along the highway. It left him with a pleasant buzz reminiscent of subspace, feeling both soothed by Blaine's touch and satisfied to know he was helping to soothe Blaine in return.

Looking down on Kurt's face, with closed eyes and parted lips betraying his departure from reality, Blaine couldn't help but mentally pat himself on the back for making 'beautiful' his adjective of choice on that first night nearly a year earlier.

The anniversary of that life-changing evening was fast approaching, and despite all the other important dates and deadlines that were slathered in color-coded ink all over Blaine's planner—including Kurt's birthday, which the submissive planned to spend with his father—the last day of May seemed like the most important of them all. He'd already been forming tentative plans in his head, often finding himself focusing more on the best way to celebrate the special day with his boy rather than whatever work he was doing at the time, like addressing envelopes for graduation announcements and making sure he'd slipped in a copy of the glossy photo of him in his navy-colored cap and gown.

Their special milestone fell on a Friday, but because Blaine had already completed his final exams a week earlier (and passed them all with flying colors, his parents were pleased to learn), he had no high school obligations left but an impending graduation ceremony in a few days and therefore wasn't required to make the morning commute to the Dalton campus. Instead of rising for an early alarm, the pair slept in as if it was a weekend, and Blaine woke to find a sleeping Kurt still tucked securely in his arms, where he'd taken comfort several hours earlier after an unsettling dream had disturbed their peaceful night.

Kurt roused shortly after Blaine, his eyes blinking open as he yawned, pressing his forehead against the Dom's bare chest. The touch of Blaine's hand brushing through his hair informed him that he was also awake, and Kurt hummed out a weary, "Morning."

"Hey there," Blaine whispered back, "Feeling alright?"

Kurt nodded and licked his dry lips, yawning again, into the pillow this time. "Mhmm, yes'ir." The Dom chuckled at the slur of his words, dropping his head down on the same pillow to find Kurt's eyes, watching them flutter open and closed with a calm, thoughtful expression.

"You know what today is?" he asked.

"Mhm." Kurt grinned wide enough that Blaine caught sight of his teeth, and he felt his stomach swoop as the boy inched his face closer to kiss him, fearless and sure. "It's Friday. Best day of the week."

"What's special about this particular Friday?" Blaine pressed on.

"You're not at school, so you get to spend the whole day with me," Kurt told him. The smirk on his face was a tell-tale sign of his teasing, and Blaine's eyebrows furrowed in a playful glare. He pulled up on the edges of the covers, rolling off of his side to straddle Kurt's hips and gently pin the submissive down on his back.

Blaine ran a hand down Kurt's chest, stroking the smooth skin with a smile. "You're being a silly boy," he said, "Aren't you?"

"I've been your silly boy for a whole year, Blaine Anderson," Kurt pointed out in a light tone, still smirking, "You'd think you would get used to it after a while."

"You would think," Blaine agreed with a laugh, "You're just too much for me to process, beautiful. I've been trying for 365 days, you know."

Kurt brought his hands to Blaine's shoulders, pulling softly until the Dom complied, carefully settling his weight down onto the sub's body. He felt Kurt twist their ankles together beneath the sheets, and Blaine pressed a firm kiss to his cheek, trailing down with his lips to reverently kiss Kurt's collar. It wasn't the same one he'd worn a year earlier, but the deep significance hadn't changed with a new band of leather.

"Happy anniversary, sweetheart."

A flock of energetic butterflies blossomed up in Kurt's chest. The sensation was so strong, he almost had to laugh at the tickling elation. His arms moved to wrap tight around Blaine's back, and he hugged his Dom close, not sure how to articulate the way three simple words could make him feel. "I'm glad it's with you," he finally said, letting out a sigh somewhere between relief and contentment. "I'm just really happy, Blaine."

"You deserve to be. All the happiness in the world, Kurt… That's what you deserve."

"And you'll give it to me?" Kurt assumed.

Blaine settled his hand against his sub's face, brushing his thumb over the ridge of his high cheekbone and chuckling softly at the feeling of Kurt's muscles bunching up against his palm when he smiled. "As much as I can, beautiful." — a promise he sealed with a kiss.

By the time they finally rolled out of bed, it was far past an ordinary breakfast time, but that didn't stop Kurt from getting his Dom down to the kitchen with the lure of his homemade omelets. Their late-morning brunch led seamlessly to an afternoon spent basking in one another's company. It wasn't really much more festive than an average weekend, despite the occasion, but Kurt enjoyed it that way, perfectly content to curl up against Blaine's side while they settled in for The Sound of Music.

The day proceeded so normally that it completely took Kurt by surprise when his Dom urged him to follow up the staircase to their bedroom around 5:30 PM. Blaine bounded over to their closet and pulled out two outfits that had clearly been set aside in preparation—dress pants and perfectly ironed, button-down shirts with matching skinny ties.

"Blaine, what—?"

"We have dinner reservations," he explained with a wide grin, "You didn't think we weren't gonna do anything special to celebrate, did you?"

Kurt shrugged, "This is all special enough for me already," he insisted.

"Well, I wanna take you out tonight—show the world my beautiful boy," Blaine said as he literally skipped across the room, pushing Kurt's outfit into the sub's hands and darting in to kiss his cheek, "C'mon, get dressed!"

Kurt laughed and rolled his eyes at the overzealous and eager display, but he moved to comply as he did so, watching while Blaine pulled his own shirt up over his head. No one could blame him for staring at such an attractive sight, and he took a few seconds to do just that before he shed his own layers.

Something about the clean, tidy fit of the shirt and pants brought out a flicker of confidence in him, and Blaine dutifully worked to stroke his submissive's humble ego, smiling warmly while he helped to fasten the tie into place around the difficulty posed by Kurt's collar pushing out against the fabric. "You look amazing. Ready to take on the world," he complimented freely, "My boy's come so far from that first night we met."

"I was so nervous," Kurt breathed, smirking at the memory.

Blaine pinched his cheek teasingly, "You were the most adorable thing I'd ever seen."

Kurt tugged his face to the side, out of Blaine's grip, giving his Dom a playful shove, "Yeah, yeah. And you were like some god walking into my house."

"Oh? Tell me more," Blaine purred, suggestive.

"I could feel your energy all the way across the room," Kurt said, "And I thought, 'Wow. That's what a Dom's really like.'"


"No," Kurt giggled. Blaine grumbled with mock offense. "I was too overwhelmed to really think about anything, Sir, to be honest."

"Understandable. I was pretty overwhelmed, too, believe it or not."

Kurt grinned, seemingly surprised, "You were?"

"Mhmm. I never told you, but I spent the last few hours before going over to your house pacing back and forth and peeking in at your collar in the box... And then when I arrived. Wow," he paused to reflect, "It's an overwhelming thing, seeing such a gorgeous person waiting for you—knowing they're gonna be with you for years to come."

"Years and years," Kurt agreed.

Blaine gave Kurt's hips a gentle squeeze before reaching for his hand. "Let's go. Don't wanna be late."

Their destination was in Westerville, a bit of a drive, but not nearly as far away as Cleveland where Blaine had also considered when seeking out the perfect place to spend their evening. The Dom didn't drop any hints about the restaurant on the way, but as soon as they arrived, it quickly became clear why Blaine had had to make reservations in advance. This was not a cheap, walk-in, grab food and leave restaurant. The place was pretty upscale, by far the nicest eating establishment Kurt had ever been to. The most surprising attribute wasn't the décor or dress code, however. What really stood out was the genial atmosphere of the place.

Kurt noticed it immediately. Being a submissive, even on a Dom's arm instead of the end of a leash, he still expected a few discontent glances sent his way when he stepped through the door of a place that some would think him 'unworthy' of entering. But no one batted an eyelash. Blaine confidently escorted him through the door, gave his name to the receptionist, and they were led together by a waitress to a booth that afforded them some privacy, as per Blaine's request.

Casting a curious gaze over the rest of the room, Kurt distinctly noticed that there were no obvious signs of rank here. No one was kneeling. Everyone was fully (and handsomely) clothed. Only the small, personal hints gave away any glimpse into an individual's status—a collar here, a leather cuff there, attentive eyes trained on a Dom seated nearby, or a gently possessive hand resting somewhere against a submissive's body. It was all subtle, undeniably strange, and somehow one of the most profoundly beautiful sights Kurt had ever been exposed to.

His awed, almost reverent silence didn't go unnoticed. Blaine reached across the table for his hand, giving his knuckles a soft brush with his thumb. It was a curious touch—a silent request to gain insight what Kurt was thinking—but it was not at all demanding.

"Wow," the boy finally managed to say.

"You like it?" Blaine hoped he was interpreting the ambiguous word correctly, "I made a good choice?"

"I love it… but. But why'd you go to all this trouble?" He sounded genuinely confused, and the sweet flicker of his old innocence made a tender smile form on Blaine's face.

It was a simple answer. "Because you deserve it. And because I want to celebrate a year spent with the wonderful person named Kurt Hummel, not just my submissive. I didn't want any drama tonight, so I made sure to find somewhere we could go and feel secure."

Kurt was touched. "You really are the greatest Dom, Blaine," he told him.

"Only because I've got you."

They browsed their menus for several minutes before the waitress returned to take their orders. Blaine quickly relayed his decision to her while Kurt still battled with a bit of indecision between two different entrees. The waitress made a note of Blaine's selection before looking over to Kurt with a smile, "And for you? What can I get you, Sir?"

The sub froze for a moment in shock at being addressed just like his Dom. He glanced at Blaine and back to the young woman, expression clear with the question, 'Who, me?' The waitress only continued to smile, and Blaine noticed it morph momentarily from the professional, paste-on grin into a genuine one. Clearly she found Kurt's reaction just as adorable as he did; he made a mental note to be extra generous with the tip as Kurt finally found his voice again.

"Um. I'll just have what he's having." He spoke shyly, still blushing as he nodded toward Blaine, quickly putting the ball back in his Dom's court.

"No problem," the waitress said kindly, giving him another reassuring smile, "I'll have it right out for you two."

Not a moment passed once the waitress was out of earshot before Kurt was speaking. "She called me Sir."

"Too weird for you?" Blaine wondered.

"Just very different. I like you being the Sir better, Sir," he said truthfully, "but it's okay for one night."

The food, when it arrived, was delicious. The service continued to be perfectly polite and entirely non-discriminatory. Kurt was treated like the gentleman Blaine knew him to be, and it warmed his heart to see his submissive get a little flustered each time he was spoken to with respect from a complete stranger, offering him a refill or inquiring on their satisfaction of the meal.

Their evening out was the perfect precursor to the rest of the night that Blaine had planned, but by the time they arrived back home, his nerves were beginning to settle in with ferocity, and the Dom wasn't sure he'd be able to do what he needed to. Thankfully Kurt was unknowingly one step ahead.

"Let's go upstairs, Sir," he suggested in a whisper, gently patting his hands against Blaine's chest before reaching to loosen the Dom's tie. It was a clear invitation for intimacy, and Blaine accepted without hesitation, following Kurt all the way onto their bed where he easily straddled the sub's hips and pressed their bodies together. Still clothed, they shared lazy kisses, socks rubbing together at the edge of the mattress as their toes played games with one another.

A few minutes of gradual making out was all it took to loosen Blaine up again. The touch of Kurt's soft skin—his fingertips caressing the Dom's face with confidence he hadn't possessed a year earlier—soothing him with certainty. His heart felt like it was pulling away from where it sat in his ribcage, trying to push its way through, closer to Kurt. Blaine kissed him with a bit more passion before he pulled away, catching his breath.

The submissive protested when Blaine rolled off of him, batting impatiently at the Dom's side and quietly urging him, "Come back."

"One minute, beautiful," Blaine requested, "Just— h-hang on a minute."

The catch in Blaine's voice immediately captured Kurt's attention. He sat up, brushing a hand down Blaine's back. "Sir?"

"It's fine," he said, "I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Kurt spoke slowly. His confusion and slight concern was obvious, and Blaine immediately felt a spring of guilt at making his boy anxious. He needed to get it together.

Nodding, Blaine tried again, offering him a smile this time. "Yes. I promise, everything's fine. Everything's wonderful, actually… I just—I need to talk to you, and I feel like I'll never get this out if I don't just say it."

The sub blinked in surprise at the rush of urgent words, settling gingerly on his knees while he fixed Blaine with a thoughtful, hard-to-read expression. There was a bit of caution in his eyes, but Blaine also saw that open trust he valued so much, and the Dom clung to it while Kurt waited for him to continue.

"Okay," he began, "Okay. Kurt, I… I've known you for a year now." If he'd practiced this speech in his head a few hundred times over the past few days, Kurt didn't need to know. "An entire year of 365 days. And I've made plenty of stupid decisions along the way-"

"I forgive you," Kurt interrupted immediately. He was adamant.

Blaine gave him a fond smile. "I know, and I'm so thankful. But that doesn't erase the mistakes I made, and nothing I do will ever make them go away completely. I've been stupid, and wrong, and- and occasionally neglectful of you and my responsibilities… But every time I've screwed up, you've been so brave and honest, and more forgiving than I deserve."

"You know," Blaine laughed quietly, reaching out to cradle Kurt's hands between his palms, "people usually think Doms are the ones who teach their subs things and guide them along the way. I thought that's what I was getting into a year ago, but god, was I ever wrong… You've taught me, beautiful. Every day, you've taught me how to be more responsible, and open, and true. You've made me better."

Kurt bit his lip, pulling it in between his teeth to stifle the sudden stir of emotions he could feel pricking at his eyes. Blaine lifted Kurt's hands up to his mouth and pressed a trio of sweet kisses there, ignoring the way his own hands had begun to shake with anticipation—with 365 days building up to this moment like water beating against a dam, splintering the barrier as it fought to break through. "Kurt, I've been trying to figure something out for a few months now, and god, I know it's cliché," he breathed unsteadily, "but it also seems appropriate that I'd finally be certain enough to tell you on our anniversary."

"Blaine?" Kurt asked after a moment, his eyebrows knit together, "What are you trying to say?"

There was a pause, long enough for Blaine consider his two options: continue forward or retreat. If he'd been panicking, the Dom was sure he would've chosen the latter option, made something up on the spot, and tried to move on from the hasty evasion of the truth. But his brief foray into panicked nervousness was long gone and far away. He was certain. He was finally certain enough to acknowledge what was truly in front of him— what had been there all along, that his eyes had simply refused to see.

"I love you."

*collective sigh of relief*