This fic originally came about because of a simple prompt from singitfortheworld on Tumblr - it was a picture of a tattoo with the word "Courage" and she wanted a fic on it. Well, it spun into this!

I'll post the links to all reference art for the design on my profile under the heading of this title at the bottom! I hope you enjoy this.


Kurt has barely been in New York City for a week and still gets easily distracted when he needs to travel to get somewhere. Everywhere there is something new to see. Tall buildings that seemed to reach forever, towards the skies, all sorts of people that Kurt is sure can't truly exist, because they were so colorful and out there, people that would never have been in Lima, Ohio in a million years; and bright lights and rushing sounds everywhere. It was different than when he and his Glee club had come for Nationals, because this was his home now. A thought he couldn't even begin to get his mind around.

This amazing, fast paced, place was his home now. He would be here for school for at least the next four years and after that he would be damned if he wasn't going to stay here. Just being here for a week, moving into his dorm room and finding his way around the city a bit, had convinced him: Kurt Hummel belonged in this city.

That wasn't to say he didn't miss his family. His dad called him three times this week already, asking him if he was settling in alright, and Kurt could hear in his voice how much he missed him. Kurt missed his dad, too. But he felt better knowing that Carole would be able to keep him company. If his dad hadn't met Carole when he was in high school, and eventually married her, Kurt wasn't sure what this move to college would have done to his dad. He needed someone. Now he had Carole and his job in Congress, two things the Kurt knew made him so happy.

So Kurt worked by his slight homesickness and had thrown himself into New York and into school. He had been accepted to NYADA, one of the best performing arts schools in the country. How he had gotten in and Rachel Berry hadn't, Kurt wasn't sure. Kurt knew how talented Rachel was, and back when they were younger, he had resented that. It was something he came to love about her, of course, and he knew that she was better than him in so many things… but she had choked.

So Rachel had gotten in last minute to NYU and would be trying to transfer to NYADA in the coming year. She wasn't going to let her New York dreams end so easily, even though she had originally gotten the ridiculous notion to marry Finn, Kurt's step-brother, right out of high school. They were still together, for now, and only engaged.

Together, he and Rachel had moved into a small apartment about 20 minutes away from both of their schools. Her dads and Kurt's dad had pitched in some money until they both got jobs and would help pay for it. Kurt was thankful that he wouldn't have to deal with a dorm or a roommate - for one, he wouldn't be able to decorate his room as he wanted in a dorm, and he didn't want to share a room, plain and simple.

So Kurt decorated his room and the more common areas of the apartment with Rachel, trying to make it their new home. He also was preparing for school as best he could. This was different than anything he had ever done, because it was college. It was everything Kurt wanted to do with his life - sing and perform.

Kurt was nervous.

Obviously he put up a brave front for Rachel and his dad when he called, but he was so scared. He had killed with his audition, but what if he didn't have what it took? He had gotten the lead of Tony his senior year, only because he had been the only person to try out for the role, even though he wasn't what the directors thought Tony should be. He had showed them, though, when he'd played a great Tony.

Even though he could have gone without kissing Rachel Berry in his life.

Despite all these thoughts, Kurt was still absolutely terrified that he would fail. Fail at school. Fail at his dream.

These are the things that clouded his mind as he took the subway two stops from his apartment, then pushed his way out into the street to walk the rest of the way. He'd been too fidgety on the train, a death grip on the strap of his bag and toes of his boots tapping on the dirty floor. Now that he was out in the open air, he took a deep breath and pushed forward. He was on a more secluded street, and for a few horrible minutes, he was sure he had gotten lost. He knew he should have done a dry run of his way to school so he didn't get lost, but yesterday had been filled with last minute decorations in the apartment and time got away from him.

After a few minutes, though, and checking his phone for his location, he knows he's only five minutes away from campus and takes a deep breath. Kurt slows down and looks around. It's a pretty nice neighborhood, all things considered. There is a few walls with graffiti, but that's so common here that Kurt just takes it all in now.

There is one side of a building where the wall is a smooth white expanse, or at least, the parts that aren't covered in brilliant colors. It's not a wall as filled as others Kurt has seen. There is a flag painted high on the right corner, both gender signs painted in the center and frozen in a nonexistent wind that makes Kurt stop and smile. There are a few unreadable words near the bottom that Kurt's eyes ghost over.

Then he sees it.

It takes up a lot of the wall and is in the very center, a few feet down from the gender flag. It's very simple, for a piece of wall art, Kurt thinks at first. It's just a word.

But it's absolutely beautiful and makes Kurt completely pause for a few moments. He walks closer to the wall, blinking up at the word and reading it over and over again.


The word itself is written in an elegant script. Kurt doesn't even understand how someone could do something so beautiful on a huge canvas, probably in the middle of the night. What draws Kurt to the word, however, isn't how beautiful the handwriting is. It's the colors.

The "C" is a brilliant red. It twists and just as it comes up to start the "o" transitions into orange. The "o" in turn becomes a "u" and transitions to a bright yellow, then green, blue, indigo and finally ending with a violet "e." The colors blend so flawlessly together, flow and work together to create the next letter, making the full work.

A complete sentiment.

Kurt looks up at the word. He can't help but feel like the origins of the word, especially with the colors, are aimed to the LGBTQ community. If anything, it hits Kurt's heart swiftly and his eyes are tearing up before he can even fully recognize it.

The grip on Kurt's bag tightens even more as his eyes keep scanning the word, following the rise and fall of the letters like a lifeline. After a few moments, Kurt blinks, keeps his eyes shut.

This is what he needed. So long ago.

He needed this - he needed courage - when he was in the closest and terrified of coming out to his father and friends. He needed the push out back then, even though somehow, he had found that courage without the prompting.

He needed this when he was being pushed around by bullies, called names and physically abused everyday. He needed this every time a slushie was tossed into his face and the hot tears mixed with the cold ice dripping down his face.

Oh, how he needed this when David Karofsky kissed him in the locker room. When he threatened him and Kurt didn't have anyone to turn to. He had been so scared for that whole year, until finally, things had resolved themselves. Karofsky moved and Kurt never heard from him again, until later in his senior year, when he tried to kill himself after being outted. God, he needed courage then, too, because part of him had wanted to reach out to Karofsky, but he couldn't. All he could think of was the year before and the fear and couldn't bring himself to visit him in the hospital.

Kurt wonders what courage would have done for him, if he had this when he was high school.

His eyes open, looking up at the mural once more. He reaches up and wipes the tears from his cheeks as a small smile lifts the edges of his lips.

The point was that he had this now. Kurt knows that this is what he needed, especially today.

Kurt takes one more look at the word, then his watch, and realizes that he's going to be late. He rushes pass the word and makes it in time for his history of music class. He's anxious throughout the class, though not necessarily from nerves anymore. He finds his thoughts going back to the word on the wall. The class itself is interesting, and doesn't seem too difficult at first. The professor, too, is funny and engaging. Nothing like teachers at McKinley. Kurt leaves feeling more at ease about the actual education he's going to be getting into than ever before.

Kurt grabs a coffee from the school's café before going to his theatre 101 class, which is a two and a half hour work shop. That, too, is amazing, purely for the fact that the teacher gets them up and moving doing acting exercises. Kurt is laughing with other people in his class that he automatically clicks with. He hasn't done that with people since Glee club, and it feels like being home in the choir room again.

After class Kurt gets lunch with Amanda and Jimmy, two of the people from his class who he'd been partnered with. Amanda is from Texas and Jimmy from here in New York, and he likes to hear about their backgrounds before coming here to NYADA. Amanda, for instance, was in most all of her high school productions. Not all of them were starring roles, but she just liked to be involved in any way possible. Jimmy was in Glee club, like Kurt, and loved singing as much as he liked acting. Kurt couldn't believe how quickly they all fell into a comfortable conversation. Outside his Glee club, Kurt hadn't really been friends with anyone in high school.

The three of them parted after lunch and Kurt felt like he was floating as he made his way back home the same way he had come. As he neared the wall with the mural, he slowed.

Part of Kurt wondered if it had even been real. It seemed too good to really exist. But as he rounded the corner, there it was, as vibrant as ever. He looked up at it with a wide smile. He couldn't even describe the amazing feelings the word and vivid colors provoked.

Kurt pulled his phone from his pocket, raising and steadying it in his hands to snap a photo. Then, after taking one more look, turned to walk back to the subway.


At first, Kurt only sets the photo as his phone background. It's a comforting thing to see whenever he hangs up with his dad or closes out of a text with his friends back home. He keeps the sentiment of the mural in the forefront of his mind.

In some ways, Kurt thinks that it's almost easier to be courageous here. For once in his life, Kurt doesn't stand out. It's a curiously good feeling. There are other people who are gay in his classes. He's not the only one "out" and proud. He even gets flirted with by a guy in his musical theory class, something that blows Kurt away at first and leaves him a blushing mess for at least ten minutes.

Even though Kurt is still fabulous (how could he not be?) in the way he dresses, other people around him put just as much effort into their appearance as well. They even recognize the labels and work Kurt puts into his outfits and they spend hours talking about fashions with each other.

For once, Kurt isn't the only one, and so it's easier to put himself on the line to make friends or be great in his classes. Courage fell into his lap.

Kurt still looks at the mural everyday on his way to school. It's like greeting an old friend at this point. A reminder for what his day should be like.

The photo finds its way onto the wallpaper of his laptop, as well, because Kurt is frankly in love with it at this point. It's everything that Kurt strives to do in his day to day life at this point. It's obviously worked out. Rachel asks him about it at one point. Kurt blushes and looks away for a moment.

"It's on this wall on my way to school," he says when she asked. "It just - I really like it."

"It is rather beautiful," Rachel had said and they had moved on. Kurt was glad for this. For some reason, the word and mural had become something personal for him. His own mantra, only between him and whoever had put the word upon the wall who knows how long ago.

Two weeks after school begins, Kurt is at a coffee shop close to school finishing up on some homework and sipping on a cup of coffee when he hears his name. He lifts his head up, surprised to see a familiar face.

"Oh," he said, blinking up at the larger girl. "Lauren Zizes?"

"The one and only, elfin," she said, pulling out the chair across from him and sitting down. She puts her bag on the table, along with a camera case and a plate with a muffin.

"Wow," said Kurt, still a little surprised. He and Lauren hadn't ever been friends in high school, but he'd know her. He'd always admired (and feared) her for being the only girl on the wrestling team. Her parents had to sue the school, but hey, it had worked. "This is… strange. I didn't know you were going to New York after graduation."

"Of course not," she said. "And neither did I about you, because honestly, we didn't talk. I only joined the glee club that one time because Puckerman promised me seven minutes in heaven and Cadbury Eggs."

"Well," said Kurt. "We did appreciate it. We were a person short after all. Uh, what brought you to the city, then?" It was strange, being in New York with someone from Lima that wasn't Rachel.

"I got into a film school," said Lauren, brushing a few stray crumbs from her shirt. "For a while I was thinking about going into wrestling or getting a scholarship, but the moment you get hurt, you're out of luck. I liked the AV club a lot and so went for that instead."

"That's - that's actually really cool, Lauren," said Kurt. He did vaguely remember her being in the AV club with Artie, but he'd honestly never paid that much attention. "I'm going to NYADA for musical theatre."

"Of course you did twinkle toes," said Lauren. She said it with almost a mocking tone, but she was giving Kurt a genuine smile. "I gotta say, being out of Ohio has its perks, but seeing a familiar face from home is good, too."

"I agree," said Kurt, nodding enthusiastically. "I mean, I do live with Rachel Berry, but seeing another person from home is nice. If strange."

"Oh god, Rachel Berry," groaned Lauren. "Sorry, but if you bring her around here, I reserve the right to tape her mouth shut." A laugh bubbled up before he could stop it. There had been times since moving in with Rachel that Kurt had thought the same thing, honestly.

Kurt didn't question that Lauren has basically said there would be more meetings between them, either. Because she was right: it was nice to see a friendly familiar face here in this city that sometimes Kurt felt lost in, though he loved being here.

The first day, conversation was stilled. They brought up the past more often than not, comparing what teachers they liked and hated in high school. Certain students that they both disliked. Moments they remembered from the four years they had been in school together without really speaking. But it was actually fun, in its own way. It was probably one of the first times Kurt looked back on his high school experience with nostalgia.

" - Puckerman ended up being a horrible kisser, though, so that was a bust," said Lauren, as they had gotten onto relationships in high school for some reason. "I wouldn't have minded having a boyfriend in high school, but Puck just wasn't the guy at all. But there is this guy in my film studies class that is a fox."

"Hmm," said Kurt, finishing his coffee. "I wish I could have had a boyfriend in high school," he said, voice dropping. "But…"

"We went to Homophobic High, you can say it," said Lauren, as blunt as always. "It sucked that you couldn't get ass back in Ohio, because frankly, I'd hit that harder than the might fist of God if you swung in my direction."

Kurt's faced burned at Lauren's words, sputtering and looking down at the table. "Wow."

"It's true," said Lauren with a shrug. "You are hot, Hummel. Any gay guy would be stupid not to see that. You can't tell me you haven't gotten some looks since coming here."

"Well," said Kurt. "I do get flirted with in one of my classes by this guy - but he hasn't tried to ask me out or anything. And there have been some appreciative glances to my jeans that have absolutely nothing to do with my jeans. But like I said, nobody has actually asked me out. That's what matters, right?"

"Just you wait," said Lauren, taking a sip of her tea. "You'll be beating off all the Ricky Martins in this city with a stick in no time."

From there, Kurt and Lauren actually become something like friends. They exchange numbers and meet up for coffee and lunches often. Lauren ends up roping him and a few of his friends from NYADA for a project she needs to film. Obviously they are all completely up for it, because it helps them with their acting and being around a camera. Rachel is skeptical when he mentions Lauren to her, but doesn't push to meet up with her, which he knows Lauren appreciates. Kurt doesn't ever want to know if she's serious or not about the duct tape thing. (She probably is). Which is why Kurt doesn't want to risk them being in a room together for long.

It's something that grounds Kurt more. Lauren becomes a part of his schedule quickly. This mostly involves school and very little outside partying, because honestly, Kurt is just not in to that sort of thing. He does enjoy going out on the town once and a while, mostly because it's Lauren that ends up demanding they go out. She gets them into bars with fake IDs, once even taking them to a gay bar where Kurt feels uncomfortable and on display. Lauren thinks it's a blast, though.

Besides Rachel and the word on the back of the building wall, Lauren is the most constant and comforting thing he's found in New York. It makes the transition into the life of the city that much easier.

Before Kurt realizes how much time has passed, he's been in school for a little over a month. The city is turning colder everyday, which Kurt loves, because it's an excuse to break out all his scarves and layers especially on cold mornings.

Kurt walks into the coffee shop that he and Lauren usually frequent one morning, unwrapping his scarf slightly. He spots Lauren and waves, grabbing his own coffee and sitting in front of her. Without preamble, Lauren proclaims, "I'm getting at tattoo."

Kurt almost chokes on his coffee.

"What?" he asked, still a little surprised.

"A tattoo, god, it's not the most shocking thing in the world," said Lauren.

"It's just - I never knew you wanted one."

"I've been thinking about it for a while now," said Lauren. She shrugged nonchalantly.

"What did you want to get?" asked Kurt. He'd never really thought about the concept of a tattoo that much before - he'd always thought that they would be tacky.

"You know the antique film count down?" asked Lauren. "That spins around and counts down from 10 or 5?"

"For old movies?" asked Kurt. "Yeah, I know it. You want that?"

"Yes," said Lauren. "Just the number '1', though. Right on my shoulder. I've wanted it for years, honestly. My parents were never really that thrilled on the idea, though, so I decided against it. But I was thinking the other day and thought, what the hell, I got some money saved up for it and I'm an adult. I can do what I want."

"I guess you're right," said Kurt. "I mean, if you're sure? They are pretty permanent after all."

"Really, I had no idea."

"You know what I mean," said Kurt.

Lauren sighed. "I'm sure. I want this. I'm going whether or not you want to come with."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

"Yeah. Moral support and all that," said Lauren. "And what if the tattoo guy is weird? I don't want to be stuck in an awkward silence the whole time."

"Of course I'll come with you," said Kurt. "When did you want to do it?"

"This weekend," said Lauren. "I was asking around and there was a guy in my class that has a lot of tattoos that recommended a place. They're super clean and reliable. He likes their artists, too."

"Well then," said Kurt. "I guess sooner is better than later."

A few days later, Kurt finds himself in the first tattoo parlor that he's ever been in. Since he's never really thought about a tattoo before, he'd never thought he'd find himself in one. When he'd mentioned to Rachel that he was going with Lauren to get a tattoo, she'd nearly fainted. Kurt had quickly explained that he was going for moral support.

"You nearly gave me a heart attack," said Rachel. "Good god, Kurt."

It wasn't everything that Kurt had expected. It was nicely lit and most of the walls were covered with tattoo designs and photos of what had to be previous customers. The tattoo artists weren't what Kurt had expected, either. The stereotype of big burly guys with tattoo sleeves were wrong, and Kurt should have none better since he was always the stereotype as well.

The person giving Lauren here tattoo was actually a woman. She had a few tattoos on her arm and legs, which Kurt had to admit were quite tasteful. She was friendly and introduced herself as Jean. After Lauren told Jean what she wanted, she did a quick sketch and Lauren said she loved it. They went back to get Lauren's shoulder cleaned off before she put gloves on and started.

Kurt stood next to Lauren for the first ten minutes. A bit of the pain showed itself in Lauren's face at first, but it seemed to fade after a while. Kurt started to drift away from Lauren after her insistence that he look around and not get too bored. Her tattoo wasn't too big and wouldn't take that long, but it would still be a while.

So Kurt looked around at all the photos for a while. There were the usual: roses and dragons, some "tramp stamps" and others that were actually quite unique. At some point, maybe thirty minutes into the tattoo, Kurt came across a part of a wall completely devoted to handwriting tattoos.

They were all so different. Some where of neat script, others of cursive, other still quite messy and looked like a child's handwriting. Those were mostly on mothers and fathers, by the looks of it. That tugged at Kurt's heart, especially.

He'd definitely been quick to judge that tattoos were all tacky.

Kurt really liked the handwriting tattoos. He read them all. Some were single words, others full sentences. Sentiments of love and dreaming, of believing and others of just names. They were all sorts of different colors. Some plain and others bright.

As he read the tattoos, something tugged at him for a while. They looked familiar, in a way. Not familiar, just similar.

Then Kurt realized that they reminded him of the "Courage" mural.

Kurt thought about the word he'd seen so much at this point, it was like an old friend. The handwriting Kurt liked most, even out of the dozens on the wall in front of him. It was neat, but pretty. Definitely readable. The colors, too, were nice. They weren't plain, but they also were too much. They would actually look really nice against pale skin…

Kurt pulled out his phone, opening his screen and looking at the close up of the mural. Then he looked up at a particular tattoo photo. This one was of a girl's wrist with the word "Dreamer" written in black ink. Kurt liked the placement a lot. It was a place that could be easily covered with a long sleeved shirt if needed. Kurt looked down at his own wrist, bare and creamy white.

In this moment, Kurt realized his heart was beating frantically and his stomach flipped with the realization.

He was actually thinking about getting a tattoo.

When it finally hit him, Kurt actually paused to think about it for a moment.

Did he actually want something permanently inked onto his body? Something that, if he wanted to remove, would be just as painful as when it was put on?

And the pain.

Lauren seemed to be handling it fine. She and Jean were even joking back and forth. But Lauren could probably handle pain more than Kurt.

But the word "courage" was much smaller than her tattoo. It wouldn't take as long, though the wrist was no doubt more painful than the shoulder.

In a way, maybe the pain would be worth it.

Kurt closed his eyes and thought back to all the times when he'd wished he'd had courage the face things. That had been painful, certainly. The pain of knowing that he wasn't doing something he should, or the pain of withstanding the bullying he'd faced. Even facing up to his bullies had been painful. Following through with courage, that was painful, too. It could hurt.

But it was worth it.

Kurt's wrist started to itch, the skin prickling. It hadn't done that in over a year. Not since his low points.

There had been times that Kurt had stared down at his wrists, the skin itching and prickling uncomfortably (just like now), and he'd thought: "Why didn't he just press something sharp against the skin there to stop the itch?"

Those were the lowest points. They'd fled quickly, because Kurt wasn't that big of a coward. He didn't want to be one of the gay teen statistics. He knew that other people felt pain like he did, and he didn't want to make their pain less, but that wasn't for him. He didn't want to cut himself. But the low points -

But a constant reminder on his skin to always have courage? To never sink that low or even consider that sort of action? The thought was just as comforting as the word, painted in such beautiful colors.

Which brought him to the subject of the potential tattoo. Did he want it on his skin forever?

Lauren's tattoo was a part of her life, like singing was to Kurt. So of course she wanted on her body forever. Did Kurt want this word, this art, on him?

The answer was yes, almost right away. The word itself Kurt identified. Paired with the rainbow coloring, it was all that Kurt was. He identified with gay, and he was so proud of that. He was planning on participating in Pride one day and yes, he would put together a fabulous outfit in all the colors of the rainbow when he did.

So this was it. Kurt was suddenly and completely convinced.

He walked back over to Lauren. He looked at her tattoo, which looked almost completed. He waited silently for Jean to finish up and put a bandage over it. Jean looked up at him, smiling. "What do you think? I'm sure she wants some feedback from her friend." His heart beat wildly.

"I love it," he said. "It's really amazing."

"Hell yeah it is," said Lauren. She winced slightly as she stood up, making an effort not to move her arm.

"Actually," said Kurt, pushing through and, not even the least bit ironically, summoning all the courage he had. "I wanted to get a tattoo as well."


Kurt looked at Lauren for a moment, a small smile on his face.

"Really now?" asked Jean.

"Yes," he said. He pulled his phone out again and handed it to her. "It's this design. I wanted it on my wrist, about an inch down?"

"Hmmm." Jean looked down at the photo. "The colors and all?"

"Especially the colors." Kurt let out a breath. "It's been an important part of my life lately - can you do it?"

"Actually, Manuel is the best at handwriting tattoos," said Jean. "He's in the back. I'll go get him for you, if that's okay?"

"Yeah, of course."

Jean disappeared in the back, leaving Kurt and Lauren by themselves.

"Okay, when did this happen?" asked Lauren. "When the hell did you decide you wanted a tattoo?"

"Uh, kind of ten minutes ago," said Kurt. "I mean, the design is something I've loved for a while, but it didn't occur to me until just now. I've never really had an opinion either way on tattoos, honestly. But this seems - it seems right."

"Let me see the design," said Lauren. Kurt handed the phone to her and she looked down, taking in the photo. A look of understanding dawned on her. She nodded and handed the phone back. "I can dig that."

"I've never done something like this before," Kurt admitted as he took back his phone and started to fiddle with it. "I mean, I usually plan things more - I'm not this, uh…"

"Spur of the moment?" suggested Lauren.

"Yes," said Kurt.

"I think a bit of spontaneity will be good for you, Hummel," said Lauren, patting him on the back with so much force that he stumbled. She didn't always know her own strength, or maybe knew and purposefully ignored that she knew. "You're an adult now, in New York City and living the life - you should do something crazy once and a while."

Lauren's words made Kurt's heart beat faster. There was no question - he was doing this.

Jean returned, a tall Latino man with her. He leaned over, introducing himself as Manuel. Kurt said his name with a nervous tone.

"First tattoo?" asked Manuel, the right side of his mouth raising up in a smile.

"Both of them," said Jean. "Lauren here just got hers, but like I told you, Kurt wants a handwriting tattoo on his wrist."

"Yes, let me see what you wanted - Jean said you had a photo," said Manuel. Kurt handed the phone over once more. Manuel stared at it for a long moment, nodding. "Let me just do my own sketch of this, Kurt," he said.

Kurt watched as Manuel drew out the mural, a complete replica of the one he passed everyday on his way to school. Then Manuel did another, this time with the colors. He asked if this was what Kurt wanted and he nodded.

"Why don't you sit down," said Manuel. "I'll get all the colors prepped."

Kurt sat and Lauren asked him if he wanted her close. "Maybe for a few minutes when it starts?" asked Kurt. "Like I did for you. Then you can walk around or just sit somewhere."

The preparation was similar to Lauren's. Kurt was nervous, because he knew it would hurt and he still couldn't believe he was doing this. "Which arm?" Manuel asked. Kurt thought about it for a few moments and held out his left. It would be more out of the way when it was healing, after all.

"You ready?" Manuel asked. Kurt nodded. Manuel's gloved hand came out, pressing a little amount of pressure to the sides of Kurt's wrist as he adjusted it out on the table in front of him. Kurt eyed the needle and the ink he'd set out, already curious as to how the red would look on his pale skin.

"Yes," said Kurt.

The first moment the needle touched his skin, Kurt winced. It felt what it was - a needle suddenly pricking out, but over and over again. It was uncomfortable, and a little painful. Mostly, Kurt began to get annoyed with it. Usually you could stop a painful thing from happening, but this was constant. It stung, but mostly, it wasn't absolutely horrible.

After five minutes, Lauren began to drift away from him. Kurt didn't mind. He liked to endure things in silence mostly.

"So, why this tattoo?" asked Manuel. It surprised Kurt that he'd started to talk. He was changing from red to orange now. Manuel smiled. "I like to hear the stories behind tattoos, especially handwriting. I have my own."

"What's yours?"

"Familia. It's on my back. Then I have the names of all my family members under that."

"That's sweet," said Kurt. "I….well, the photo is from this mural. I pass it everyday on my way to school. The first time I saw it, I cried, because - it was exactly what I needed." Kurt's voice had dropped slightly and he followed Manuel's actions as he continued with the tattoo. It didn't even look like he was listening, really, but Kurt was sure he was. He looked completely intent on his worked.

"I haven't been the most courageous person in my life, I don't think," said Kurt. "But with this - I started to feel like I could be, lately. And the fact that it was written in rainbow colors…"

"LGBTQ?" asked Manuel. He paused, looking up with a smile.

Kurt hesitated for a moment. The man was giving him a tattoo, after all, and what if he was just as insensitive as the people he'd grown up with? New York City might have been more accepting on a whole, but there was always the exception.

"Yes," Kurt finally decided. It was probably painfully obvious, after all.

Manuel nodded and leaned back down, continuing with his work. "I thought so. It's a beautiful design. I'm sure the artist would be infinitely proud that someone was putting it on their skin and that he touched you enough for that."

"I would hope so," said Kurt. "I mean, I don't know the artist, obviously. But sometimes - sometimes I feel like maybe I do. I feel so connect to this mural, and the things I feel when I look at it, sometimes I feel like we're the same person." Kurt chuckled, feeling self conscious. He'd never said these things out loud before.

"I understand," said Manuel. "You can become connected to things without any explainable reasoning. Me? I feel connected to someone whenever I give a new tattoo. A person is going to be carrying around what I just put on them for the rest of their life. That can be a heavy feeling, sometimes."

"I'm sure," said Kurt.

"It's just like any other art form," said Manuel. "Sometimes we're just transposing someone else's art, like in this case, other times it's our own unique design. We put our soul into it."

"I feel the same about singing," said Kurt. "It's the best feeling when I can put everything into a song or a performance, leave all other things behind and just get lost in music and words."

"You're a singer?"

"I am. I go to NYADA."

"That's a nice school," he remarked. "This your first year?"

"It is. I can't believe I'm finally in New York. It's where I've always wanted to be. I grew up in Ohio and well, that's why I needed courage in the first place." Kurt laughed with a bitter edge to it. "Being the only out guy in my school wasn't pretty. But being here? It's been so amazing."

"Obviously I've only known you for twenty minutes," said Manuel, a wide grin on his face. "But I think you have more courage than you say you do, Kurt."

Kurt couldn't really come up with a response to that. He wasn't so sure, but then, was getting a tattoo out of the blue courageous or just really stupid?

Manuel was only two letters from the end of the tattoo. The colors did look fantastic, though Kurt's skin was red and inflamed from the needle. He knew that would fade with time and heal, making the tattoo stand out more. Kurt especially liked the blue and the look on his skin.

With the conversation Manuel had provided, Kurt had forgotten about the pain for the most part. It was almost numb to him by now, a dull throbbing on his left arm, though a few times a sharp pain would interrupt and make him wince.

Finally, Manuel finished the 'e' and Kurt looked down in awe.

He had a tattoo.

It was beautiful, so much like the mural was. Each letter of the word twisted into each other, colors fading effortlessly into the next.

"Wow," breathed Kurt. "Thank you."

"It was my pleasure," said Manuel as he began to clean up. He bandaged Kurt's tattoo, but not without taking a quick photo for the wall.

Both Kurt and Lauren paid for their tattoos - Lauren's was a bit more than his, since it was bigger - and Kurt made sure to leave a good tip for Manuel. He was nice, and had done a great job of distracting Kurt from the pain.

He and Lauren walked out of the tiny shop into the brisk air and Kurt was positively vibrating with the adrenaline of what had just happened. His wrist throbbed still, but there was the promise of it being completely healed in two weeks, and the fact that he could carry the reminder of who he was and who he wanted to be around always.

"We need to celebrate," said Kurt. "Let's get something amazing for lunch."

"I hear you," said Lauren.

They celebrated their tattoos with lunch and then grabbed coffee to go, parting ways to go to their own apartments. Kurt walked into his front door, humming absently and taking the last sip to his non fat mocha.

"How did Lauren's tattoo go?" asked Rachel from her spot on the living room couch.

Kurt stopped in his tracks, a burst of fear running through his veins.

He hadn't even thought about Rachel.


"What? Did she chicken out?"

Kurt snorted. "It's Lauren."

"True," said Rachel, smiling up from her book. Kurt began to take his scarf and coat off, wondering how to tell Rachel that not only had Lauren gotten a tattoo, but so had he. Then Rachel's eyes dropped from his face to his left arm. Kurt looked down, realizing that the bandage was visible now that his coat wasn't on.

Damn quarter sleeved shirts.

At least he didn't have to tell her.

"Kurt Hummel, you did not."

"I just - I felt like - I really wanted -" Kurt couldn't even begin to verbalize what had happened today. How he knew that he wanted the tattoo in the first place. How he knew that it was what he needed.

"But your acting!" she screeched. "Sometimes tattoos make casting directors look the other direction! Kurt -"

"But it's small," said Kurt. "It can be covered so easily, by make up or a sleeve. It will be fine, Rachel."

"I can't believe," huffed Rachel. "That you got a tattoo and didn't even bring me for moral support."

Well, that was a sudden change of direction.

"Well," said Kurt. "I hadn't planned on it at all. I'm sorry."

Rachel sighed, still eyeing his wrist. "What did you get?"

Kurt wordlessly pulled out his phone and handed it to her. He had also taken a photo of his tattoo before the bandage had gone one. Rachel looked and in a moment the angry lines on her face disappeared, eyes softening. She looked up at her, a small smile forming.

"I think my dads would love to see this one day," she said, handing back the phone. A bigger smile came to Kurt's face. He was glad she approved, for whatever reason.

"I'll have to show it to them next time we're home," he said.

Rachel and Kurt smiled at each other for a long moment. Then Rachel blinked once, a strange expression coming over her face, then she laughed. Hard.

"What?" asked Kurt.

"I wonder what Burt will say," she said with a small giggle.

Kurt's heart jumped and he groaned.

He wasn't looking forward to that conversation in the least.


Kurt's tattoo healed and he ended up telling his father around the time he took the bandage off on their weekly phone calls. Burt, at first, thought he was kidding, but he quickly realized that he wasn't. After that, Burt was mostly confused.

"I never knew you wanted one, kiddo," he said.

"I didn't," said Kurt. "Until I found exactly the thing I wanted." Kurt had described the tattoo to Burt and promised to send a picture of it to Finn's phone so he could in turn show it to Burt (since he had the simplest phone on the market and so no picture messaging). After Kurt had told him about why he wanted it, and what it meant to him, Burt seemed pacified.

"Well," Burt said slowly. "If it's what you wanted - just promise me you won't go out and cover your body in 'em, okay?"

Kurt laughed. "Oh, believe me," said Kurt. "I think this is all I ever want."

So time moved on. Kurt was still learning so much more at NYADA and making more friends. A few ended up coming to lunch and coffee with Lauren a couple times. Rachel, too, seemed to be adjusting to the city with flying colors.

After Kurt's tattoo healed completely, he loved looking down at it. It would catch his eye as he worked, still foreign looking n his body, and he would pause and smile. It was like when he saw the mural day after day on his way to school - it served as a reminder. It was beautiful, and Kurt didn't regret getting it in the least, as he thought he might with such a rash decision.

Kurt only wished that it wasn't the dead of winter in New York. He had to keep it covered at most times with a coat or long sleeved shirt. Kurt had always loved this season the most, because his usual layered look was actually quite functional, but now he just wanted to show off his tattoo. He was able to in classes some times, when his coat was off and he pushed up his sleeves for whatever reason, but this was the extent.

It wouldn't be long, however, until he was able to show it off. Wear quarter or short sleeved shirts and wear the tattoo with pride, like he wanted to.

It was the second week of November that Kurt trudged into his and Lauren's usual coffee shop, coat wrapped around himself. He looked around the shop, frowning when he didn't see Lauren. Her class got out ten minutes before his own and she was always here before him.

Kurt texted her as he got into line, asking where she was. He got the answer a few seconds later.

Sorry bro - I have to stay late to edit. See you tomorrow.

Kurt frowned at his phone and sighed, pocketing it after a moment. He'd wanted to tell Lauren what had happened in his class today. Well, he'd just get his coffee, warm up a bit, and continue home early.

After a few moments, Kurt stepped up to order. "A granda non fat mocha?" he said, digging into his jeans for his wallet.

"Don't bother," said the barista. "The guy in front of you said he would cover your drink." She was smiling at him, eyes sparkling.

"Wait - what?"

"He's right over there," she said, pointing to a table a few feet away. Kurt looked over, still a little surprised. He followed her gaze, eyes falling on a boy around his age. He had dark hair that was styled with gel, a red cardigan on with checkered shirt under it, and a bowtie. He glanced up as Kurt looked over to him and smiled, raising his glass in Kurt's direction. Kurt blushed and turned back to the barista, who had his coffee ready.

"Thank you," he said. She giggled and nodded.

Kurt stepped out of line, not sure what to do. Should he leave? Go over and say thank you? Sit down with the boy?

Finally, Kurt pushed himself to go over to the boy - he was cute. And damn if he didn't have the courage to flirt with a boy who had just bought him coffee for at least a few minutes.

"Hi," said Kurt as he stepped up to the table. He noticed that the boy had a sketch book on the table in front of him, along with a row of pens and pencils. His coffee was steaming next to a plate of biscotti and one of the big cookies that looked like a Thanksgiving Turkey.

He looked up, a goofy grin on his face. "Hi."

"I just - I wanted to say thanks." Kurt awkwardly lifted his cup for a moment. "I don't know why you did it, though. Buy my coffee."

"I heard you sigh behind me," said the boy. "And looked to see you staring at your phone like it personally offended you. You looked sad. I wanted to make your day better." He shrugged.

"Oh," said Kurt, blinking at him. "I - thank you. Again. My friend sort of bailed on me."

"Would you like to sit with me?" asked the boy after a moment of hesitation. He looked nervous for the first moment since the beginning of their conversation.

"I don't want to interrupt -"

"It's not interrupting," said the boy. "I can't draw until I've finished my food, after all, so I'd love to chat for a while." He smiled. "I'm having a bit of artist block anyway."

"Oh." Kurt paused for a moment, then he pulled the chair out across from the boy.

"I'm Blaine, by the way," he said, holding out his hand for Kurt.

Kurt wanted to laugh, because really, who their age held out a hand to shake when they first met? Instead he smiled and held out his own hand. Blaine's hand was rough and still a little cold from outside. "Kurt."

"It's nice to meet you," said Blaine. He reached for his biscotti, dipping it in his coffee before taking a small bite. "Did your friend give a reason for bailing?" he asked, mouth a little full.

Kurt sighed. "She's a film student. Had to do some editing for something. Probably the project she's been talking about non-stop. It's okay. I was just going to go home and maybe get some work done."

Blaine smiled. "I should get work done, too. But like I said - block."

"I didn't know that you could get, uh, drawing block. I've heard of writer's block."

"Oh yes," said Blaine. "It's a sickness."

Kurt laughed, then looked down at his coffee.

"Would you like to split my cookie?"

"What?" he asked, looking up. Blaine had pushed the plate toward him.

"Well, the biscotti is what I always get, but then the cookie looked so good," said Blaine. "But then I sat down and realized that I ordered way too much. And dinner is in just a few hours." He laughed.

"I - I don't want to -"

"Kurt," said Blaine, tone serious. "Really. It's fine."

"I guess," said Kurt finally. "If it's just going to go to waste if I don't." The smile on Blaine's face shouldn't have pleased Kurt as much as it did in that moment.

They sat for a few silent moments as Kurt broke off a piece of the cookie and began to eat. His eyes drifted down Blaine's form, studying him. Then Blaine's eyes came up from his plate, meeting Kurt's, and he blushed.

"So," said Kurt in a rush. "You're an artist? Are you any good?"

Kurt wanted to face palm. God, that was so stupid.

"I mean - I'm sure you are - I just mean - uh -"

Blaine was laughing. "Kurt, it's okay." Then he shrugged. "I don't know. I'm in art school right now. So I guess I'm okay, then?"

"Well," said Kurt. "I'm sure you're great. I would ask to see your stuff, but I did just meet you and don't want to seem rude."

Blaine was still smiling, looking at him with an almost fond expression. His eyes sparkled with mirth and again, Kurt didn't know why he liked that he'd caused this reaction.

"I usually don't show my art readily," said Blaine with a nod. "I'm a little shy with some stuff. I'm trying to get better at it, honest." He laughed, looking down at his coffee as he stirred in another biscotti. He shrugged again - it must be a nervous habit - and looked up. "Maybe after we've known each other longer."

"Oh, 'known each other longer', then," said Kurt with a mischievous tone. "There will be more of these interactions, then?"

Blaine's eyes widened and his expression fell. "I just - oh god, I didn't mean to like, insinuate that - I just -"

"I'm sorry," said Kurt. "I didn't mean to freak you out. I just -" Kurt paused, trying to search for the right words. "I don't usually do this."

"Do what?" asked Blaine.

"Chat up guys in a coffee shop," said Kurt, embarrassed. "Or get coffee bought for. Or strike up conversations with complete strangers that make me want to have more with them."

The right edge of Blaine's mouth started to rise. "So you do want to have more?"

"Yes," said Kurt. Then he paused, taking in Blaine's full grin. "Wait - you tricked me."

"I did." Blaine looked pleased with himself. He chuckled and then brought his arm up to rest his chin on his hand. "Look, Kurt, I have known you for all of five minutes and I really like you. I mean, anyone who dresses like you can only be an interesting person to be around."

Kurt was glad he had slipped on his purple and black striped trench coat with the metal straps on it this morning.

"Well," said Kurt, basking in the praise. "Thank you. You seem like a very nice guy as well."

"Since we're in agreement," said Blaine with mirth. "Then why don't wet get to know each other a bit more? You know I got to art school, what about you?"

"I go to NYADA," said Kurt. The usual gushing tone he always seemed to get when talking about NYADA and school seeped into his voice. "It's amazing."

"So you're a singer?" asked Blaine. He looked even more interested, if possible. "I am too - though I ended up choosing art more than anything. I still am part of my choir at school, though."

"I am," said Kurt. "It's - it's all I ever wanted to be." He paused. "Well, except maybe taking a break after I win a few Tony Awards to start designing for Lady Gaga and the next Broadway revival of The Sound of Music." Blaine laughed. "I just really love to get on stage and sing my heart out," admitted Kurt. "And now that I'm finally in New York City, living out my dreams? It's amazing. I'm just really, honestly happy to be out of my home town. Though I miss my family."

Blaine was nodded as he spoke. "I understand. I just moved here a few months ago for school as well. It was amazing to get out of Ohio - it was so stifling, I felt like I couldn't breathe sometimes."

"Wait - Ohio?"


"I'm from Ohio."

Blaine blinked at him in shock for a long moment. "Wait - what?"

Kurt laughed. "Are you saying that both of us came from Ohio, wanting to come out to New York to fulfill our dreams?" Kurt rolled his eyes. "Here I thought I was unique."

"Hey now," said Blaine. "But yeah - I really am from Ohio. Wow. What part?"

"Lima," said Kurt.

"Westerville," said Blaine. "Oh wow - that's two hours away, isn't it?"

"It is," said Kurt, voice tinged with awe. "Wow. And we met in New York City of all places?"

"Must be fate," said Blaine cheekily. Kurt rolled his eyes.

"But we never crossed paths," said Kurt. "Strange."

"So," said Blaine. "You said you love it in New York already - now that I know you're from Ohio, I can definitely say I agree." He laughed.

"And what you said about Ohio being stifling - so true," said Kurt. "I mean, I couldn't truly be myself in high school. People hated me."

Blaine nodded, a sad expression on his face. "I can understand that. I ended up going to a private school, but I did start out in a public school and - well, kids can be cruel, especially when their ignorant parents are the ones that shape their thoughts."

Kurt nodded, giving Blaine another once over. "If you don't mind me asking," he said after a moment of deliberation. "Are you…gay?"

Blaine chuckled and for a moment, Kurt thought maybe he had gotten it wrong. "I am," he finally said, letting Kurt breathe again. "That's why - well, that's why New York has been pretty amazing so far. A lot more people willing to accept all sorts of people."

"I completely understand," said Kurt.

"So," said Blaine. "Tell me more about NYADA."

So they talked. About NYADA, about the art program Blaine was enrolled in. Kurt told him about his favorite classes, and favorite songs, and Blaine said he loved to paint the most, but that he really loved to sketch if nothing else. They realized they had a lot of the same tastes in music, gushing over this musical or that.

" - I don't care what you say, Katy Perry is not that much of a visionary."

"But Kurt - she is -"

"Hold that thought."

Kurt's phone was vibrating across the table and he picked it up, noting that Rachel was calling him.

"Hello?" he said.

"Where are you?"

"At the coffee shop," said Kurt, as if it was obvious. He almost always came here after classes to talk to Lauren.

"It's almost dinner, Kurt!"

"Oh my god - what?" Kurt pulled the phone away for a moment, looking down at the time. He and Blaine had been talking for almost an hour. He put the phone back up to his ear, a little surprised. "I'm so sorry, Rachel. I just - I got caught up and lost track of time. I'll be back soon. I can even pick up something. Your favorite Italian place, maybe?"

Rachel seemed mollified by the lure of that, and forgave him. He hung up and shook his head. "We've been talking for an hour," he said. "I should have left a while ago."

"Oh wow," said Blaine. "I'm sorry for keeping you like that."

"No, it was great, really," said Kurt, hoping to let his sincerity get across. "I really, really liked talking to you."

"Me, too," said Blaine with a soft grin. "Can I - can I have your number? Maybe we can meet up again. Chat more. Continue the Lady Gaga verus Katy Perry debate?"

"Like there is any real competition," said Kurt automatically, but he handed over his phone and accepted Blaine's. After he ended his phone number the switched back again and he rose from his chair, fixing his bag on his shoulder. "I guess - I guess I'll see you around," he said. He didn't want to leave, he realized.

"Yes," said Blaine. "Completely."

Kurt left the coffee shop, suddenly feeling lighter. He couldn't explain why, really, but talking to Blaine was the high light of his week.


After that day, Kurt ended up texting Blaine, after a lot of debate. It ended up that Blaine was the first to text Kurt, just after he'd gotten back home with Italian.

I hope I didn't get you in too much trouble.

Kurt smiled and texted him back.

Of course not. I bribed my roommate with vegan friendly Italian and she's forgotten it already. ;)

Well I'm glad. Talk to you later, Kurt!

Lauren began to have to stay after for her classes to get this short movie done, so it created more opportunities to talk to Blaine. Kurt found him there the next day after his class, bent low over his sketch pad and scribbling away fiercely. Kurt got his coffee and approached him.

"Looks like that artist block is gone," said Kurt.

Blaine looked up, a little startled, then smiled at Kurt. "Yeah," he said with a laugh. "A rush of inspiration hit me earlier today. I've gone through a few pages already."

"I'm guessing I still can't see it yet," teased Kurt.

"It's a work in progress - of course not!"

Kurt laughed and sat down, smiling over at him. "I'm glad you have your uh, drawing mojo back then."

"Thank you, Kurt," said Blaine sincerely.

The easy conversation they had found yesterday was just as easy to slip into today. Kurt found that he was able to talk to Blaine just as much as he would Rachel, or even Lauren.

" - and today in my class, I swear, my professor was about to kill this one girl," said Kurt. "She is this huge diva, and since most of the people at NYADA are all divas, that's really saying something, you know? God, it made me feel like I had gone back in time to when I was in the early days of Glee club."

Blaine's eyebrows rose. "You were in Glee club?" he asked. "So was I!"

"No way," laughed Kurt. "We were the New Directions."

"Oh - oh!" Blaine laughed after a look of recognition came over his face. "Weren't you that glee club whose leads kissed on stage during Nationals two years ago? Like - for an uncomfortable amount of time?"

Kurt rolled his eyes. "Yes. That was my step brother and my roommate Rachel. Seriously - they deserved all those hate comments on the YouTube video."

"Wow," laughed Blaine shaking his head. "I have to say - I'm glad the Warblers never had to face off against you guys. You really were talented."

"I wonder why we didn't," said Kurt. "Being two hours away?"

"Well the competitions for Sectionals are just luck of the draw selections," shrugged Blaine. "We were up against Vocal Adrenaline most every year, sadly, except for my senior year. That year we were able to get passed Sectionals, but didn't win our Regionals."

"Vocal Adrenaline sucks," said Kurt.

Blaine lifted his coffee. "Here here!" Kurt laughed, raising his glass and toasting to this.

They talked more, burning through topics, though this time Kurt kept an eye on the clock. He left in time to get home for dinner, where he told Rachel he'd cook, because it was his turn last night. He hummed as he cooked, dancing over to the refrigerator to get more supplies.

"You seem happy," said Rachel when she walked into the kitchen. She danced over to him and he reached out to spin her. She giggled.

"I am," he chirped.

"You met a boy!"

Kurt stumbled, almost dropping the butter in his hand.


"You met a boy - that's why you're so happy!" She was jumping up and down, her smile taking up most of her face. "Spill!"

"I didn't - I mean, yes I did meet a boy but -"

"I knew it! What's his name? Is he cute?"

" - but he's just a friend," said Kurt. "I met him at the coffee shop yesterday and we talked. He's really nice. And yes, he is cute. But we're just - I only just met him, Rachel."

"But he's gay, isn't he?" Rachel wasn't giving up on this.

"Yes, he is."

"Well then," said Rachel, her smile still in full effect. "There is still hope for when you two haven't just met, isn't there?" She winked at him and Kurt moved his hips to bump her so she stumbled a bit, still giggling.


" - so do you think I should go with 'Popular' from Wicked, or maybe something more show stopping, like a Whitney song? Or I know - Mariah!"

"Well if you want something that's more on the showy side, definitely go with 'Popular', but Whitney definitely has her appeal," said Blaine after a moment of thoughtfulness. "Can you really pull of those notes, though?"

"Of course I can," said Kurt proudly. "Really, I was born to sing female songs. It's sort of my thing." Blaine laughed and nodded.

Kurt reached out and picked up his coffee and took a thoughtful sip as he looked over to study Blaine. He was leaning back in the cushy chair - they had moved over away from the formal tables today in the coffee shop in favor of the chairs and couches - his leg cross and sketch pad balanced on his knee and thigh. Every so often in their conversation he would lean down and Kurt could hear his pencil scratching against the rough paper. Then he would stop, looking back up at Kurt with a smile.

"You know," said Kurt and Blaine looked up again, pencil still poised. "I still haven't seen any of your drawings, mister. I'm starting to think you just use this artist thing as rouse. After all, you don't exactly have the artist image."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Blaine, his nose crinkling in an adorable way that Kurt tried not to notice. He had accepted that, despite what he had thought were flirty beginnings, they were friends. After nearly three weeks of this friendship, it was obvious that was what it was going to stay.

"Well you wear cardigans and bowties and sweater vests," said Kurt. "And you gel your hair, and wear loafers, Blaine. And those boat shoes. When someone thinks of an art student, they think of - I don't know - dreadlocks, ripped jeans and converse."

"I resent that generalization," said Blaine, though he didn't seem too offended. He still had the carefree smile on his face, if that was any indication. "You should know better, Mr. Hummel."

Kurt rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I'm just teasing. But really - I still haven't seen your art, thank you for your stalling techniques."

"Oh wow, it's that obvious, isn't it?" joked Blaine. He shrugged. "You know, I haven't heard you sing, either. For all I know, we're both lying about our artistic fortes."

"Well I can't exactly burst out into song in this café without becoming a bad high school musical scene," Kurt pointed out. "You, on the other hand, only need to turn that sketch pad around. And for further reference - you can come to my winter recital and you can hear me sing. Everyone actually gets either a whole solo, duet, or a part in the group number. Coming from the New Directions, I was shocked that someone wasn't going to hog all of the spotlight."

"What are you going to be singing?" asked Blaine.

"Not sure as of yet," said Kurt with a shrug. "I audition tomorrow. Though I'm aiming for at least a duet, if not a solo. There are only two, and I want one."

"I'm sure you'll be brilliant."

"You haven't heard me sing, as you said, so you have no idea how amazing I am - though I assure you, I am - so it is quite hard to believe your opinion on the matter."

This time Blaine rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I'm positive you have talent coming off you in waves, Kurt. I just am."

Kurt looked down, a little taken back by the sudden and intense praise. Especially because he hadn't actually done anything to earn it just yet. "Thank you. And that's the same way I know you must be a talented artist."

Blaine's eyes softened and he ducked his head. "That's sweet of you," he said, voice quiet. He paused for a moment, eyes drifting down to his sketch book. He sighed heavily and sat his pencil down on the bag next to him, scooting up in his chair and clutching at his sketch book. "Since I'll be seeing you sing in a few weeks, I guess it only is fair that I show you something, too. But to be completely fair, I only just started it when we sat down like, thirty minutes ago, so it's not perfect."

"Wait, are you really going to show me?" asked Kurt, sitting up straighter in his chair. His heart started to beat faster, for some reason.

"Yeah," said Blaine, a nervous laugh bubbling up. This touched Kurt more than he thought - because Blaine was still nervous, and yet willing to show him his art.

"Should you, uh, sit next to me?" asked Kurt. He patted the couch, suddenly feeling like an idiot as he did.

Blaine blinked, then nodded. "Yeah. That - that sounds like a good idea." He rose to his feet and walked over, sitting next to Kurt. The sketch pad was still turned away from Kurt. He looked over. "If you hate it, I swear to never draw anything like this again. I swear."

"I'm sure it's lovely," said Kurt.

Blaine smiled weakly and finally turned the sketch book over to Kurt.

Kurt's breath caught.

It was him.

It was like seeing himself from Blaine's perspective, sitting across from him as he had been up until moments ago. He was sitting on the couch, part of it still unfinished, his coffee in one hand and a look of enthusiasm that had been captured on the paper. Though Blaine said he had only started it as long as they had been sitting there, there was so much detail. Kurt's eyes had depth, even on the paper, and there were laugh lines around his eyes - everything but his outfit was really flushed out with details, really.

"Oh god, is it horrible?"

Kurt was startled by Blaine's voice. He looked over to him, blinking for the first time. Blaine looked anxious.

"I really don't like showing people the drawings I've done of them," said Blaine. "Usually you don't have to with the models in class, so it's all good - but you did insist, so - I just -"

"Blaine, stop," said Kurt. He reached out and put his hand on Blaine's before he had really thought through the action. It seemed natural, though, once their skin was resting up against each other's. "Really - I can't - this is beautiful."

That made Blaine stop in his worrying, eyebrows raised in surprised and his mouth slightly open. "Oh. Wait - really?"

Kurt laughed. "Of course. I can't believe - look at me. I mean, it's amazing how much you've captured. I've never looked so good," he joked, nudging Blaine's shoulder. Blaine laughed. Kurt grew a bit serious. "Really, Blaine. You're really talented. I didn't even expect this."

A blush was rising on Blaine's cheeks. "Well, thank you. Live drawing is one of my favorite things."

"Can - can I see more?"

It seemed that the wall had broken down, because Blaine seemed excited as he flipped through his sketch book, settling on a page filled with a few drawings of different times of dogs. "There was this dog walker," he explained in an excited rush. "And she had eight dogs pulling her along and she seemed completely in control. Not like in the movies or something. They were amazing and I sort of took a mental picture until I could sit down and draw a few. I sort of named them," he said, embarrassed. He pointed to each and the names were written just next to them.

"That's amazing," Kurt breathed.

"And besides life drawing," said Blaine, still breathless from excitement. "I like word design." He flipped to a page with the word "love" drawn in an intricate design. The lines swirled and connected to each other so many times, Kurt could barely keep track.

"Oh my god," said Kurt. "How do you do that?"

"A lot of practice doodling all over my page in math class," laughed Blaine. "I would just pick a random word and start making different designs for it - backwards, forwards, sideways - whatever. It's fun."

"It's amazing," said Kurt, feeling like he was being redundant, but not knowing what else to say. "More?"

Blaine laughed and nodded. He began to turn the page, to what looked like a lesbian couple sitting in Central Park, their heads leaning against each other, when he paused. He looked over to Kurt and they locked eyes. "I'm - I'm glad you like it, Kurt," he said, voice low. His eyes open so Kurt felt like he could feel everything Blaine was.

"I do," he said, his voice full of sincerity.

Blaine's smile was practically blinding and he turned back to his sketch, describing how he had been walking through the park last weekend when he'd seen Diane and Ronnie and asked them if they would mind being his model for a bit. "They were so nice," gushed Blaine. "They've been together for five years and they are the most adorable things in the world. I was embarrassed when I showed them the drawing, but they liked it and I was so glad. You should have seen the light coming off of them when I was sketching - it was the perfect atmosphere to draw."

Kurt nodded and listened, finding it adorable that Blaine talked about his art how Kurt talked about his singing. It was a passion. It was something Kurt had noticed before, whenever he talked about a painting class or something when they met, but now that he saw the result of that passion - it was beautiful.

Blaine flipped through more pages. This sketch book was only from as far back as two weeks ago, since Blaine admitted he went through a lot. There were more of people, mostly the models that came into his drawing class. A few were of nude women, when Blaine tinged pink at. "It's actually funny," he said nervously. "When they come in, most everyone is pretty professional about it, but I notice that some of the guys get distracted. I don't have that problem, which is good." Kurt rolled his eyes. Others were pages filled with words and lyrics that Blaine liked, designed all sorts of different ways. A few of those actually looked vaguely familiar to Kurt. Blaine's handwriting - though Kurt noticed it changed often to whatever he was designing - and his true handwriting was a cross between cursive and print that was his signature at the bottom of the pages, must have been similar to someone else that Kurt knew, because it tugged at his memory.

"You're amazing, Blaine," Kurt said when they were finally done. Blaine tried to reply with something humble, but Kurt wouldn't hear it. "Really. It's so fantastic. I can see how much you love you art, Blaine, and I'm sure with your talent you can do so much."

"Thank you," said Blaine, still a bit awed by the whole thing. "And I'm looking forward to your end of this exchange - I can't wait for your Winter recital."

"I'll make sure to do well in my audition so you actually have something exciting to see," said Kurt.

"I'd be happy just to see you sing one line," said Blaine. His words make Kurt's stomach jump and he realized just how close they were at the moment. He cleared his throat, pulling back and reaching for his coffee - deflecting.

"I better get home and get it all in order, then," he said, voice high. He took a moment to look over to Blaine again, still sitting. "Thank you, again, for sharing your art with me."

Blaine smiled. "It was my pleasure."


Despite it all, Kurt is nervous for his audition. He felt the same way he did when auditioned for NYADA in the first place. But then, he'd nailed that, after getting off on the wrong foot and changed his song at the last minute to the more controversial number he had up his sleeves that Rachel had warned him against.

Kurt remembered this and tried to keep his nerves at bay - but in the end, he walked on stage still slightly nervous.

He does what he thinks is an amazing rendition of the Christmas song he'd finally selected for the audition, "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" and walks off, hoping for the best.

The next day the list of all their parts are handed out in voice class. Because he'd been so used to it in previous years, his eyes go to the group numbers to find his name, but he finds nothing. Daring to hope, his eyes move up to the duets, and still nothing. Giddily, he moves up to the two solo spots and there is his name.

White Christmas by Kurt Hummel

He's just after Michelle, a tall girl with honey colored skin, who will be singing "All I Want for Christmas is You" and she smiles at him from across the room. He can't help but think about when Mercedes sang it during their senior year and thinks she might have a lot to live up to, but then, her voice is stellar.

He can't really help it. He ends up punching the air silently - his friends around him giggle at him - and he blushes. They congratulate him, though.

Their professor explains that he will work with the soloists and the four people doing duets separately, and that they are only going to be working on the two group numbers - one at the beginning of the concert and the other at the end - in class. He gets them working on the first, "Deck The Rooftops", right away.

After the class period the have the number near perfect they are dismissed and Kurt curses the fact that he's going to have Christmas music stuck in his head already.

He hurries to the coffee shop, though he's meeting Lauren and not Blaine today, since Blaine has a class late on Tuesdays. He bursts out with his news the moment he sees her.

"I got the solo!"

"Good for you, twinkle toes," said Lauren with a nod and he accepts this as the biggest compliment. He quickly learned that Lauren's nicknames come from a place of endearment, almost similar to Sue's nickname for him.

"I can't believe it," he gushed.

"I can. You're probably the most talented guy in that place," said Lauren. "They'd be crazy not to give you a solo."

"I'm just not used to it," Kurt admitted. "I'm always getting passed over for solos, given my voice."

"Well welcome to New York City, where they don't care," said Lauren, holding up her cup for a toast. Kurt laughed and raised his own to meet hers.

Later on when Kurt is home, he tells Rachel about his solo and she screams. She's already giving him pointers as she insists they go out to dinner to celebrate. When she's getting ready he texts Blaine, telling him about the solo. He gets a reply just as they're slipping into the taxi.

I knew it! I can't wait to see how amazing you are.

Somehow, this only makes Kurt's mood better.


Over the next week and a half Kurt has more practices scheduled both privately with his voice professor, and with Michelle, the other soloist. They take turns rehearsing their solos, with their teacher giving pointers and giving each other someone else to be in front of for nerves. Kurt is feeling increasingly more confident in his song, though every time Blaine mentions he is going to be there that night, he grows a little bit more nervous.

Kurt doesn't know why. He's never been this nervous for anything, bar his NYADA audition and tanking on his "Defying Gravity" note. He loves the stage and having an audience. He welcomes strangers to see him sing and perform. Why is one boy making his stomach fill with butterflies whenever he thinks about him finally hearing him sing for the first time?

He wonders if this was how Blaine felt when showing Kurt his drawings. He'd certainly seemed nervous at the time. Though really, Blaine mentioned that was a usual thing for him and his art. He'd explained it, once.

"I'm not nervous when I sing at all," Blaine had said. "I had a job at Six Flags for two summers and I was performing in front of crowd after crowd. But singing, it's not personal to me, I guess. My art is. My art is like - it's a part of me and my soul and my heart. It's my innermost thoughts and feelings. It took me a long time to show it to anyone." Blaine shook his head. "But after a while, I realized that this, more than singing, was what I wanted to share with the world. So I needed to get over the fear. My teachers this year have really helped me, especially this one that assigned this huge project the first week of classes, that was about laying your work out for everyone to see. I did it, and since then, I have gotten better. But showing my art to others is still like showing them my soul and suddenly I feel naked and vulnerable. It's silly."

Kurt had told him it wasn't silly. It was natural.

Maybe this was natural, then. Showing someone close to you something that was so close to you, in Kurt's case his singing, was big.

So that's what it was for Kurt. Necessary nerves that he couldn't get over. They lasted up until the day that his Winter Concert was and he was backstage, nervously wringing his fingers. Rachel had texted him thirty minutes ago, telling him that she and Lauren had (grudgingly) met up and gotten seats together. They were also to look out for Blaine. Blaine had met Lauren before, so if he spotted her, they should be able to sit together, but Kurt had buried his phone in his bag before she'd been able to get back to him if he'd shown up already.

After a quick show circle, it was all out of his hands. He pulled at his sweater as they all filtered on stage for their first group number. After that, Kurt's blood was pounding in his ears and he was beyond excited for his solo. It all reminded him so much of his competitions with New Directions - just a group of singers doing something they all loved and having fun.

Michelle was the first duet, and she really did kill it. He could hear the screams for her as she skipped off stage, shaking slightly. Then the first duet couple went on, singing a cute "Let it Snow" rendition.

Then it was Kurt's turn.

He walked on stage, the slow instrumentals building as he made it to center stage and began to sing. He loved the arrangement his professor had made for him, because it was able to dip into both some low registers and hit a few high notes.

After he finished, Kurt was blown back by the thundering applause that seemed to echo in his bones. He grinned out at the audience he couldn't see and bowed low before going off stage as the next duet pair walked on. He felt like he was floating as he went off stage and honestly didn't even recall the duet at all. He only became more aware of what was going on around him as he went onstage once more with everyone for their closing number. Then there were bows, one separate for him due to his solo, and the curtains closed.

Everyone congratulated each other on a job well done. From here on, it was a cake walk to Winter Break, seeing as they only had two more days and most midterms and finals were through with.

He went to the dressing rooms, changing out of his costume and into real clothes. Kurt pulled his phone out of his bag, noticing that he had many texts from Rachel. He began to read them as he went out to the front, where they should be waiting for him.

One was saying that Blaine had made it, and that she "highly approved of him since he was so handsome and seemed to have an adequate knowledge of Broadway". Another was telling him that he did amazingly, with lots of caps and exclamation points. One after that, only a few minutes ago, was saying that they were waiting for him in the lobby of the theatre.

He fought through the crowd of other students greeting friends and family, finally spotting Lauren. He did hope that she hadn't killed Rachel yet, and that Blaine had enough sense to sit between them.

"Kurt!" squealed Rachel when she spotted him. In just a moment, he had an arm full of Rachel, squeezing him tightly and telling him how fantastic he was.

"Thank you, Rachel!" he said, feeling like his face could split open, he was smiling so much.

"You did good, killer," said Lauren behind him, though she stayed further back. She wasn't one to do hugs.

Then Kurt's eyes fell on Blaine.

He was smiling, eyes big and full of pride.

"You were just spectacular, Kurt," he said once Rachel had released Kurt. He walked up, pulling Kurt into a hug he didn't quite expect. It wasn't as tight as Rachel's had been, for that Kurt was almost thankful, but it wasn't what Kurt would imagine a friend would give a friend (though that was probably wishful thinking on his part). No matter what kind of hug, it filled Kurt with a pleasantly warm feeling that made his toes tingle. All too soon, Blaine pulled back, his hands still on Kurt's shoulders.

"I am just so blown away," he continued. "I knew you were good, of course, but that was just - wow."

"Thank you," Kurt said softly. "Thank you for coming."

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said.

"Come on," said Lauren. "Let's get out of here and get some food."

"To celebrate!" exclaimed Rachel.


Three days later, Kurt was packed up and ready to go to JFK to fly back home with Rachel. He could barely believe that he had only been in New York for a handful of months, that he had survived his first semester in college - and got a tattoo of all things. Really, it feels like a lifetime since Kurt had first come to New York to start the new chapter of his life.

Now, though, there was Christmas with his family to look forward to. He hadn't went home for Thanksgiving, since they couldn't find the sense in spending so much money to come home for a few days to only come back for Christmas break a few weeks later. He missed them, despite how much he loved being in the city and living on his own, after getting used to it.

Not only was Kurt looking forward to spending time with a few of his friends still in Lima, or coming back for the holiday, and seeing his family, but Blaine was also going back home for the break. That meant he would still be close. In the most bizarre way, Kurt was dreading not being able to see him everyday. They still probably wouldn't, but he was coming over for dinner a few days before Christmas at his family's house.

That would certainly be interesting.

He and Rachel had a late flight that night and when they finally had gotten though security and the way in their terminal and were on the plane at last, Rachel quickly curled up (damn her and her short stature) and rested her head against his shoulder to sleep. Kurt tried sleep, too, but he mostly just closed his eyes and listened to his music on his iPhone.

Later, he and Rachel made it off the plane, sleepy as they walked to baggage claim to meet their families. Burt was the first to make it to Kurt, hugging him tightly. Rachel's dads were there as well, twirling her around as soon as they could. Carole and Finn weren't there, since Carole had work in the morning and Finn was more than likely dead to the world in his comfy bed.

Kurt and Rachel parted, both secretly happy to get a few days away from each other, since living together at all times of the day could get a bit strained. Kurt let his dad handle one of his bags on the way up to his room, then quickly changed after he left and fell into his old bed, noting how strange it felt now to be back before sleep claimed him.


The next morning at breakfast, the first thing Finn asked him - no greeting whatsoever - was to see his tattoo in the flesh "just to make sure you weren't just pulling our leg." Kurt groans and thrusts his hand toward Finn. He looks down, eyes widening. Even his father, sitting next to Finn, glances over.

"I can't believe you actually got a tattoo, man," said Finn, voice awed. "Did it hurt a lot?"

Kurt shrugged and began to look through the cabinets for oatmeal and brown sugar. "It did a little. The person giving it distracted me by talking, though. It wasn't so bad."

It seems like everyone who he hasn't seen since leaving for college wants to see his tattoo. Mercedes, who comes to town the next day for the holidays, can't get over it at all. When he hangs out with Tina, Artie and Brittany, who are all still going to McKinley this year, are also intrigued by it. Although Brittany thinks he wrote on his skin in crayon. Puck says he's a badass for getting one, when he's over at his house one day hanging out with Finn, and Joe, the new boy from last year, gives him a look of approval, seeing as he has tattoos himself. They even go ahead and compare stories about getting the tattoos and the stories behind them - though all of Joe's are Bible quotes and Kurt feigns interest.

By the fifth day in town, he's sick of it. Showing off his tattoo to people he didn't know before he didn't have one will probably be great, but right now, he's annoyed at having to roll up his sleeve so often to show his gawking friends.

The days on break pass by quickly and the excitement of Christmas grows. He's also getting more and more excited about Blaine coming over to his house for dinner.

They had been texting ever since Kurt left New York. Blaine followed the next day to come home himself, and even though they both wanted to get together since, neither have been able to pull away from their families. Finally, though, it's just three days before Christmas and Blaine is coming over.

"So, is this like, your boyfriend?" asked Finn as he hung around the kitchen watching Kurt prepare the salad and Carole pulling food out of the oven.

Kurt sighed and shook his head. He saw Burt look up, eyes narrowing, out of the corner of his eyes. Honestly. "No, Finn, he is a friend who is gay. He and I spend a lot of time together in New York. And don't you dare say anything embarrassing. In fact - it would be safe of you to say nothing at all." Finn grumbles.

Rachel gets there first, at least thirty minutes before they eat, so she can cuddle with Finn on the couch. Then five minutes before 6:30 the doorbell rings and Kurt lets in Blaine, who looks relaxed and quite festive in his red sweater vest and bowtie with what looks like Christmas trees on it.

"Kurt!" he said as soon as Kurt opened the door. He steps forward, pulling Kurt into a hug and it's all Kurt can do to keep himself together. They're laughing and catching up, though they'd just talked to each other an hour or so ago at the most. Kurt introduces Blaine to everyone, his nerves and excitement mixing.

"You have a lovely home," he said, sounding every bit like that date you wish to bring home to your parents.

"Thanks, kid," said Burt as they sit down to eat. Finn is already loading up his plate to the max, as Rachel takes the vegan friendly platters she had brought over herself.

The conversation seems to flow easily. Rachel asks Blaine about his high school life, since they hadn't gotten to talk that much at Kurt's concert. Once he mentions being in Glee club, it's all over. She takes up most of conversation after that, until she finally takes a bit of her salad and Kurt steers the topics in other places, like Blaine's artwork.

"I love it so much," said Blaine, after Kurt begins the topic.

"What do you do? Sculpture? Drawing?" asked Carole.

"Drawing and design," said Blaine. "I'm already preparing for a gallery that the school has at the end of the school year, where everyone has a bit of wall space to show off their work. I can't decide what I'll even begin to put up that is good enough."

"You'll find something," said Kurt.

After that, Burt begins rapid fire questions that sound too much like an interrogation to Kurt, but are probably polite to people who don't know him as much as Kurt does. Burt asks about his family, why it choose New York for school, friends - stuff like that. Then -

"So, kid, you have any tattoos?"


"I don't, sir," said Blaine. He's smiling with amusement over his plate. He probably thought that Burt was asking the question to see if he was some kind of delinquent. "I guess I'm a little too chicken."

"If Kurt can get one, you could I'm sure," said Finn.

"Ignoring that rude comment now," Kurt snapped. "And moving on -"

"You have a tattoo?" said Blaine, voice full of surprise as he looked over to Kurt. "Wow - can I see?"

"No. We are moving on. Dad, please, bore us to death with football or something."

Burt chuckles, but brings up a game that both Finn and Blaine had interest in and that moves the conversation away from Kurt's tattoo. Really, he's tired of showing it to nosy people.

After dinner and spending some time in the living room together, Finn, Rachel, Blaine and Kurt all decide to go out and get some ice cream - though it's winter and freezing. They goof off at "A Scoop Above" for at least an hour before Blaine admits he needs to head back home.

"I'll see you back in New York, if we can't get back together until then," said Blaine as they all stand. He hugs Rachel, "bro fists" with Finn, then hugs Kurt. "Bye!"

Rachel looks after Blaine with a thoughtful expression before turning back to Kurt. "He's cute, charming, talented and gay - Kurt, really, if you don't start dating him, he's going to get taken."

Kurt doesn't respond. He looks down at his empty bowl of ice cream, frowning.

Because she's right.


"I missed the city so much," sighed Kurt when he sits down in front of Lauren, handing her a cup of coffee and sipping his own. He moans. "Even the coffee is better here."

"That's why I didn't leave," said Lauren.

"That and you have a job and couldn't get off," said Kurt. "And your parents decided that Paris is lovely this time of year and took off."

"That too."

Kurt laughs and shakes his head. "I missed you, actually. It would have been great to hang out in Lima."

"Eh, Lima is snoresville - hanging out with me in New York is by far superior." She takes another sip of her coffee. "So did you and lover boy meet up?"

"His name is Blaine and yes, he came over to dinner."

"You guys make out yet?" asked Lauren. "Because not gonna lie, I want to see you guys get your mack on. It would be totally hot."

"Lauren!" Kurt feels his face grow hot.

"But the blush, I'm gonna guess that's a no." She sighed and shook her head. "Disappointed."

Kurt glares at her, but then hears Blaine call out his name behind him and instantly smiles. He hears Lauren mutter something under her breath - he only catches "sickening" - before Blaine finally comes over and sits down, greeting Lauren as well.

"Isn't it great to be back?" he asked. "There is so much more to draw here - well - things that are more interesting, at least." He laughs.

"I was just telling Lauren. It feels like coming home," he said.

"Too true." Blaine sets his sketchbook down on the table before searching his pockets for his wallet.

It all happens in slow motion.

Lauren grabs Blaine's sketchbook and for a moment, he's too shocked to grab for it. When he does, she easily moves it out of the way.

"Hey -!"

"Oh man, just as I suspected," said Lauren as she begins to flip through the pages.

"Lauren, give Blaine his sketchbook back," said Kurt firmly. He knows Blaine doesn't like sharing work with just anyone and Lauren has already looked through half of it as she flips through the pages.

"Oh man, you don't even know how bad you got it - ether of you." Lauren laughs and finally throws the sketch book on the table, open to a page that actually has a sketch of Kurt on it, his chin leaning up against his hand. "That has like, pages of Kurt in it. Man, you got it bad, art boy."

Kurt looks over to Blaine, who is blushing and scrambling for his sketchbook. He glances up to Kurt, only to look away, cheeks red.

"Look," said Lauren, reaching down to the ground to grab her bag. "It's obvious that you're both lusting after each other and are like, this close to throwing yourselves at the other." She stands and hoists the bag to her shoulder, looking down at Kurt and Blaine, both avoiding each other's eyes and red. "You should really just get on with it and save yourselves so much sexual frustration. Until then - I'm out." She salutes them, grabs her coffee, and turns to leave the coffee shop.

Kurt and Blaine sit in the awkward silence for at least a full minute before finally turning to each other. "She uh, really has some strong ideas about us, doesn't she?" asked Kurt, his hand coming up to trace on the dark wood of the table. He hopes he sounds casual enough.

"Yeah," said Blaine. He is looking down at his sketchbook. He finally looks back up to look at Kurt, expression quizzical. "Look, Kurt, I'm not brave like you. I wish I was, and sometimes I can fake it pretty well, but I'm not."

"I'm not that brave," said Kurt, voice quiet.

"You can do the thing you love without any fear," said Blaine desperately. "You get up on stage with no problem. I'm still terrified of letting people see my art on a constant basis. And you - you could probably talk to the boy you liked and wouldn't hide behind sketchbooks drawing his face instead of actually talking to him about it." Blaine closes his eyes, looking modified at his own words. His jaw clenches and Kurt watches as his grip tightens on his sketchbook.

For a long moment, Kurt tries to get his mind around Blaine's words. That they mean - Blaine likes him. Kurt lets out a shaky breath and stands. Blaine opens his eyes at the sound of the chair scratching on the tile and looks heartbroken.

"No - I'm not leaving," said Kurt in a rush. "I just - I need to show you something. Come with me." He wraps his scarf around his neck one more time.

Blaine nods slowly and stands, grabbing his bag and holding the sketchbook to his chest as he follows Kurt out of the coffee shop. Kurt takes the route that leads to his school and in no time they are at the wall with the mural on it. It's faded since Kurt had first seen it months ago, and more things have been added around it, but it still remains - something that Kurt is thankful for everyday when he passes it.

He turns to face Blaine, who stops suddenly. He's looking down at his feet, away from Kurt, and probably has been most of the walk. Kurt sighs, stepping closer to Blaine and putting his gloved hand on his forearm. He finally looked up at him and away from his feet.

"I wasn't always brave. Like, at all. I felt pretty damn cowardly for most of my life," said Kurt, his throat growing tight. "And the first few days here in New York, I felt the same way. I loved the city, but I was so, so lost." Blaine was staring up at him, eyes wide. "And then I was walking to school for the first day and I took this short cut. I looked up and saw that mural over there, and it hit me." Kurt turned and pointed at the work and Blaine's eyes followed. His eyes widened and his mouth fell open slightly. Kurt knew he had probably had a similar reaction.

"I saw that word, 'Courage', and the rainbow lettering and it was like it was written just for me," said Kurt. "Like someone was grabbing me by the shoulders and telling me that it was going to get better as long as I had the courage to make it that way." Kurt tightened his grip on Blaine's arm. "So all this bravery you think I have - it's not like I'm that kind of person naturally. It takes practice and you, Blaine Anderson, are one of the most amazing people I know. I know you're brave. I know you have courage. I know you could show your art to a million people one day and not bat an eye lid if you just tried."

Blaine was still staring at the mural with wide eyes as Kurt spoke. Kurt took a shaky breath and smiled weakly at him. "And as for having the guts to talk to a guy I like - well, I obviously am not that brave yet." This seems to wake Blaine from his trance. He looks over to Kurt slowly, eyes lost. "I couldn't tell you," added Kurt, his voice so quiet that Kurt isn't sure Blaine will hear. But he does.

"You - you like me?" asked Blaine, voice hoarse.

"Yes," said Kurt in one heavy breath. "But I didn't think you - but I guess you do."

"I do," said Blaine, voice quiet, his expression still one of disbelief. "But Kurt - I - that mural up there?" Blaine turns his eyes toward the word again and Kurt follows him.

"I drew that my first week here." He says it with so much awe and wonder that Kurt does a double take between Blaine and the wall.

"You - what?"

Kurt feels dizzy almost at the admission. He looks at Blaine like it's the first time he's ever seen him and all the air suddenly exhales from his lungs.

"I designed it," said Blaine. He's suddenly fiddling with his pockets, frustrated by the little grip the gloves give as he finally extracts his phone. He starts flipping through photos until he lets out a triumphant sound and hands it over to Kurt. Kurt looks down with wide eyes. On the screen is Blaine, who looks like he had held out his phone as far as it could reach. It's not very bright outside at all, probably the wee hours of the morning by the looks of it. He's here, in this alley, back facing the wall that the mural rests on. Most of Blaine's face is in the photo, smile wide, and the 'Courage' design is above him. He's pointing upwards with the hand not holding the camera, straight to the word and the look of complete happiness on his face is something that also takes Kurt's breath away.

Kurt looks up from the photo, looking at Blaine with a wide eyed expression. His left arm is tingling, just where his tattoo rests.

"You drew it," said Kurt, voice still filled with awe.

"It was the assignment I mentioned once, I think," said Blaine breathlessly. "My teacher's first assignment was for us to, and I quote, 'let your soul be bared for everyone to see using art' - and it was completely open for interpretation. I came up with the word that night, because I have always, always wanted to be that brave, and the colors because how much more of my soul could I show a person? Being gay is who I am, so it only seemed natural. And as for baring it for everyone to see - what better than a building?" He explained. "It took me a while to work up the nerve to come out here and paint it on the wall, but finally I realized that no one would ever know it was me who did it. People could see it, but I wouldn't have to see them see it. It was perfect. I was - I was so happy."

"I can see from the picture," said Kurt. He had reached out at some point to hold Blaine's hands tightly. His mind was still spinning with what this meant - what Blaine being the artist meant. "And you should be, Blaine. This mural - I was telling you how much it meant to me. How much it gave me courage."

"Which I can't even begin to believe," laughed Blaine. There were tears in his eyes, he looked so happy. "I can't believe that something I did - something I made - inspired you. You - you saw something I drew before I ever met you. By months." He laughed again and shook his head.

Blaine paused, still smiling, and looked up at Kurt with eyes shining. He reached up with one hand slowly, resting it on Kurt's cheek. His gloved thumb was rubbing a small circle on his skin, making him shiver. Then Blaine leaned forward and Kurt began to as well to meet in a kiss. Their lips were dry and too cold, after standing in the cold weather of January in New York, but it made Kurt's body grow pleasantly warm. The kiss was everything Kurt had ever imagined and dreamed a real first kiss would be like - with a boy he liked and absolutely perfect for the moment. He didn't want it to end, though it took his breath away.

They parted, breathing heavily and visible in front of their faces. They giggled nervously.

"I can't believe I did that," said Blaine, still breathless from the excitement and the kiss.

"Neither can I," said Kurt. "It was - it was amazing."

"It was."

Blaine was looking at his lips again and was starting to lean in again, but Kurt stopped it.

"Wait - just a moment," said Kurt, tone slow. "I - I have something else to tell you."

Blaine blinked at him, bringing his eyes away from his lips. He nodded. Kurt took a deep breath and took one step away from Blaine so he could think more clearly.

"I loved what this mural made me feel," said Kurt and Blaine smiled at the compliment. "I took a photo of it with my phone and it ended up on the desktop of my computer and phone. It was a constant reminder to be proud of who I am and to always try my best to be brave." He took another deep breath, nervous at what he was about to say. Would Blaine think it was weird, his tattoo? It was certainly strange. "You know how my dad mentioned I had a tattoo?" he asked in a rush.

"Uh, yeah?" said Blaine, confused by the sudden change in conversation. He wasn't thinking clearly, obviously, and wasn't putting the pieces together.

"I was - I was inspired, when I went with Lauren to get her first tattoo," said Kurt as he began to slip off his left glove, wincing at the cold. He began to roll up his thick jacket and long sleeved shirt under it until he was just above the tattoo. "And well - here."

Kurt thrust his arm to Blaine, who reached out and held it delicately with his hands, the fabric of his gloves scratching his skin just like it had his cheek. Blaine looked down at the tattoo, a moment before the fact sunk in - then his eyes widened and the grip tightened slightly.

"That's - that's my -" he said. "Oh my god."

"I ended up getting the mural as my tattoo," Kurt said, though it didn't need to be. Blaine had reached out one hand to trace along the word and Kurt shivered, though not strictly from the cold. "I wanted the constant reminder. And I think - somehow I knew how important it was. Somehow I knew that I was supposed to be drawn to this artwork, because I was always supposed to be drawn to you." Blaine tore his eyes away from the tattoo to look at Kurt, eyes wide and moist. "You don't think it's weird, right?"

"It's not weird," he said, voice thick with the sound of tears. "I just -"

Then Blaine surged forward, kissing Kurt again so hard that Kurt's toes curled. He reached up to grip Blaine's arms, pulling his warm body closer to him. They were even more breathless when they finally tore away.

"I think it looks better on you than it ever has," said Blaine against his lips. "I just can't believe - I can't believe how perfect this all was." He pulled away slightly so he could look into Kurt's eyes. "I - I love you, Kurt."

Kurt knew that it should be too soon. They had only been friends for a few months, and this new part of their relationship was only five minutes old. Those words should be reserved for after more time together. But it felt like a life time to Kurt. He had Blaine's art painted on his skin forever - his feelings toward Blaine with it.

"I love you, too," he said without hesitation.

They pulled each other close again, lips searching for each other.


Five Months Later

Kurt and Blaine stood in front of the wall, filled with Blaine's drawings, arms around each other's waists. Blaine's head was leaning on Kurt's, eyes taking in the different pieces that he had been slaving over for months now.

There was the painting, much bigger than the original sketch, of Diane and Ronnie, the lesbian couple from Central Park that Blaine had met. The colors of the background were just as beautiful as the look on each woman's face as they looked at the person the loved.

There was one particular drawing of Kurt, Blaine's favorite, of him looking straight ahead. The detail of Kurt's eyes was quite impressive, it was true, though Kurt tended to shy away from selecting drawings of himself as his favorite.

Another drawing two hands joined, wedding rings visible, done in black and white. It was a simple statement of love that Blaine had done over and over again so he could get it right. Kurt had been the one to tell him that he needed to stop stressing and that he was doing it all perfectly - finally giving him the push he need.

There were a few others, but the centerpiece of the small exhibit was a photograph.

Blaine only dabbled in photography. He much preferred getting his hands covered in paint or graphite than standing in a dark room developing film, but in this case, he had made an exception.

It was a large photograph, a split screen. The top photo was of the mural Blaine had painted his first week in school, the 'Courage' drawing centered. The coloring was vibrant and bright, being such a nice day when the photo was taken. The other photo was of Kurt's own wrist, the same drawing tattooed on his skin.

This center photo proclaimed the whole theme of Blaine's exhibit of his work throughout his first year at art school - courage and the courage to love whoever it was you loved.

The art show had begun almost an hour ago. Each student stood by their own work to answer questions by those who had come out to see it. Some were teachers at the school, others people coming in front the public, and other still art critics. Blaine had received his fair share of compliments and teary eyed "thank you's".

Most of all, Blaine was thrilled with the final product of his work. It had all come together in the end, with a lot of encouragement from Kurt.

"I think it's beautiful," said Kurt, breaking the silence that had settled. He leaned down to press a kiss to Blaine's cheek.

"I think so, too," said Blaine. He dropped the arm he had around Kurt's waist, coming down to hold his hand. As he did his fingers graced down the skin of his arm, pausing a moment where he knew the tattoo was. The place of Kurt's body that his hands and lips always found a way back to. He traced Kurt's skin there, almost absently. "Beautiful."