Staying at the Hummel-Hudson house was...interesting, to say the least. Not exactly unpleasant, especially when I was able to just sit in the background and listen to them. There was a kind of family dynamic that I had almost forgotten, or that I had only seen poorly fabricated in movies, full of teasing, affectionate eye-rolling, pats on the back and kisses on the forehead (mostly from Carole).

One night Finn and Kurt got in a fight over what to watch after dinner, and I sank back into the couch, images flashing through my mind - Finn shoving Kurt to the ground, yanking the remote from his hand while Kurt tried to punch him in the face, having to be broken up by a yelling Burt that had to pin one of them to the wall to get them to stop trying to hurt each other - but nothing happened. Kurt gave up with a resigned sigh at the reminder that he had picked to movie last time, reluctantly handing over the remote to a smug Finn.

There was no yelling, no hitting, not even someone angrily stomping away, and it shocked me. It took me a few minutes to realize that Kurt and Finn's relationship was normal, and I shouldn't have been so surprised by it. That was the day I realized how fucked up my life was before Kurt.

The only time things got uncomfortable was when someone (usually Burt) tried to drag me out of my metaphorical shadow in the corner, to put me in the foreground and god forbid make me interact. I could feel my hands shake and Kurt's exasperation every time it happened, and it was hard to tell if he was exasperated with his father for trying to crack my shell or with me for not cooperating. I had a feeling it was the latter, and I tried to be more expressive for him, I really did, but it was hard to make words come out that actually made sense and sounded polite when I was put on the spot. Usually no one cared enough to try, or it was a teacher trying to embarrass me that I didn't mind being an asshole to, because rude remarks certainly came easily enough to my mind. When Kurt had tried it had been simple, natural, but not with his family.

Things fell into a routine. In the mornings Kurt and I would perform an almost choreographed morning regime, taking turns in the shower and bathroom, and Kurt and Finn would take turns driving us all to school (I had never learned how drive, and I doubted Kurt would trust me with his baby anyway). Kurt and I still sat together at lunch like normal, except with more odd looks because people had begun to notice we were arriving in the same car every day. At the end of the day I would usually go workout in the school gym while I waited for Glee Club to get out and go home. Then homework, dinner, sometimes a movie, and going to sleep. We hadn't shared a bed since my first night, even though I admittedly wanted to, but I didn't dare ask. If Burt caught us sharing a bed he would probably pull a knife on me too.

I was admittedly scared of Kurt's father, and I was pretty sure they both knew it. It wasn't like he had been particularly mean to me - quite the opposite - but he was very intimidating, and it wasn't like I didn't have reason to be afraid of my soul mate's father.

One night after all of us watched a movie together, Kurt and I were told by Burt to hang back for a minute, and my heart jumped to my throat. Kurt sat next to me on the couch, both of us facing his dad. Maybe this was him telling me I had to leave now, and I would have to go back out onto the streets, with Kurt slamming the door behind me, glad to be rid of the burden.

"I wanted to talk to you," Burt began seriously, leaning in closer. I gulped quietly. "Blaine, if you'd like, I wanna permanently welcome you into our house."

I felt Kurt's reaction before my own, his happiness jolting through our Connection while I sat motionless, blinking stupidly.

"R-really?" I affirmed, my voice toneless. Burt nodded, and I floundered at the idea of having a place to stay, a nice place, with Kurt and delicious meals and soft beds and peacefulness.

"You're a good kid, Blaine, and it took me awhile to see that, but I do now," he said almost warmly. I felt myself relax. "You've been good to Kurt, and I wanna return the favor.

"Now, about your father," he said, making me tense again. "We're gonna go pick up your stuff tomorrow; me, you, and Kurt. I'm gonna talk to your dad and see if he'll let us take you. If he doesn't, we'll take him to court. It'll be an easy victory for us, but I don't wanna go down that road." His intense gaze told me he was doing this for me, so I wouldn't have to testify against my dad. I smiled a bit and nodded. "But I have to ask you something, and I need you to be completely honest with me here: is your father a danger to anyone but you?"

"No," I said without hesitation, recalling his supposed "friends" telling me what a pussy my dad was. "The only way he would be a hazard is if he got hold of a gun, and he would get caught if he tried to steal one. Believe me, if he could get his hands on a gun, I'd be dead by now."

I should have expected it, but I felt Kurt's protective instincts flare up second-handedly, and I automatically gravitated toward him a bit.

"Okay," Burt continued, pretending not to notice the moment. "I'll trust your judgement and respect your wish not to turn him in to the cops, but if he tries to find you, I will call the police."

"Thank you," I said softly.

"Don't thank me. Any decent person would have done it. You boys get some sleep, we've got a big day tomorrow."

I stood and headed for the basement door, a bit slower than I normally would have - Burt didn't seem as threatening to me anymore, and I didn't want to seem ungrateful by hurrying away. Kurt hung back for a minute and I gave them some time alone.

I started getting ready for bed, my thoughts wandering to what could possibly happen tomorrow. I would have to go back to my old apartment, which I was not looking forward to, and I was honestly terrified of what my dad might do to Kurt. His own father would protect him, I tried to remind myself, and of course I would too, but I didn't know how well I would be able to do that. Besides, worrying about him getting hurt would not help my attempts to keep a clear head while confronting the man who tried to kill me. Then again, could I even stomach going near that place if I didn't have Kurt there with me?

The thoughts festered as I lay in bed, waiting for Kurt to be done with his incredibly long nightly routine (did normal people do so much before they went to sleep? I had a feeling it was just a Kurt thing). Before too long the lights were off and both of us settled in bed, Kurt still on the air mattress, out of sight on the floor by my feet.

"I don't want you to go," I couldn't seem to stop myself from saying, half-hoping Kurt wouldn't hear.

"Hmm?"

"To my dad's apartment. I don't want you to go, but at the same...I don't think I can go without you."

I felt his sympathy and simultaneously flinched at it and soaked up as much as I could.

"Why?" he asked simply, no judgement in his voice. I sighed, thinking of how to answer without sounding like a total wimp, and I heard him shift on the bed.

"I know what it feels like to be threatened by him, and I don't want you to feel that way because of me," I answered carefully. "And I don't wanna put you in any kind of danger."

"I know what it feels like too," he reminded me, making me think of all the times he had comforted me after one of my dad's attacks.

"It's nothing I can't handle, and it won't be as bad if we're together."

"It might be worse, actually," I countered. I moved down the bed so I was on my stomach, the faceless conversation too awkward for me to take anymore. I rested my head on my arms so I was looking over the foot of the mattress, down at his dimly-lit face. "He'll get angrier if he sees me with another guy, I know it, and I'll be worried about him hurting you and you'll be worried about him hurting me which will make me even more worried-"

"Hey," Kurt said softly, effectively cutting off my rambling. His eyes locked with mine, certain and strong in a way I could never see myself being. "It's going to be okay. My dad will be there; it'll be three against one. None of us are gonna let him hurt you or me. We'll get your stuff and then you'll never have to go back there or see him again."

I considered him for a long moment, feeling his sincerity, and eventually nodded with a meek, "Okay." I knew I had to trust him, or I would be alone.

"Do you want me to sleep up there with you?" he asked, just a bit of pity leaking into his words, and it made me close off a bit.

"No, I'm alright," I said a little grudgingly, reorienting myself on the bed so my head was back on the pillow.

"Goodnight, Blaine."

"Night, Kurt."

~.~.~.~

The morning was painfully normal. Finn and Carole come over for breakfast, and I wondered why they didn't just move in, they were here so much. Carole was overly-cheerful as always, in a kind of infectious way, and I noticed that she was the only one who instantly, unquestionably, and even enthusiastically accepted my residence in the Hummel house.

"I wanna come to Blaine's dad's house," Finn declared uncertainly over breakfast, breaking the illusion of normalcy. I barely resisted the urge to snort doubtfully.

"Absolutely not," was Burt and Carole's simultaneous response.

"Honey, this man is extremely dangerous," Carole said to him, a hand on his shoulder. She had to reach up quite a bit because he was so tall.

"How come Kurt's going, then?" he protested.

"Because we think it's best if he's there for Blaine, you know, for moral support," Burt answered.

"I can be morally supportive!"

"It's different with soul mates, sweetheart," Carole explained, going back to her pancakes. Finn looked shocked.

"Wait a minute - they're Connected?" he asked incredulously after a moment of silence.

"Are you seriously that dim?" Kurt asked tonelessly. He had been acting a bit off since this morning. "And here I thought you were smart enough to eavesdrop when I told Dad and Carole." He rolled his eyes at his brother's obliviousness, only apologizing with prompting from his father.

It wasn't normal for Kurt to be so bluntly rude - usually he did it with more class - and I realized it was because he was nervous. I had thought the nerves buzzing in our Connection had been all my own, but I supposed not. I was basically on autopilot, like I was almost constantly before I met Kurt, trying to shut everything out and just get through the stuff I couldn't. Evidently I was a bit rusty, because Kurt noticed my worry when we were getting ready to leave, the two of us side-by-side at the bathroom sink.

"Are you gonna be okay?" he asked me softly, taking my hands in both of his to stop them from shaking. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to slow my breathing, which had been slowly accelerating to almost hyperventilation, and nodded.

"I just don't know what to expect," I said honestly, feeling his eyes on me. "Whether he's gonna let me go or not…"

"We won't let him take you back," he told me firmly.

"I know." I opened my eyes and tried to smile, squeezing his hands before letting go completely.

The drive from Kurt's house to my dad's was slow and tense, with only Kurt giving his dad occasional directions as we went. I tried to calm down as much as I could, glad that at least Burt wasn't affected by my own nerves.

"Okay, guys, here's the gameplan," Burt said like a quarterback to his team as we drew closer. "Let me do the talking, and try not to upset him. We want this to be nice and diplomatic. If he doesn't let us take guardianship of Blaine, I want you guys to immediately get back in the car and we'll head straight to the police station, got it?" Kurt and I nodded.

"It'll be over soon," Kurt's voice said in my direction, and I saw him turned around in the passenger seat, watching me carefully. I nodded, trying to smile as my heart thudded in my throat.

I got flashbacks of running away when we pulled into the parking lot, my eyes lingering on the familiar crumbling stoops, puke-stained sidewalks, and duct-taped windows. Burt parked in front of the building Kurt indicated, then turned to me with a serious expression.

"What's your father's name, Blaine?" he asked.

"Rick."

He nodded, jaw clenched as he got out of the car, and Kurt and I followed. I automatically gravitated toward him, our shoulders and the backs of our hands brushing - it was the only way I knew where I was going, because I felt too sick to even look up from the uneven sidewalk. Robotically, I buzzed my apartment number on the wall outside the door.

"What do you want?" my father asked tonelessly through the crappy speaker after a few moments, making me jolt. He sounded like he'd just been woken up.

"We'd like to speak with you," Burt told him calmly. "Please come down to the parking lot."

"Who is this?" he asked before the other man had even finished speaking.

"My name is Burt Hummel, I need to talk to you about your son Blaine."

My dad grumbled for a moment before the line went dead, and I realized he might not even care enough about me to come downstairs. I kept my eyes down, staring intently at my Converse and feeling Kurt almost thrumming with rage. In a way it felt good, because it meant he cared about me, and I felt a bit safer.

About a minute later the glass door to the building was wrenched open, the glass trembling as it was slammed against the wall. I still didn't look up, but I knew it was my dad by the way Kurt recoiled slightly - he wasn't exactly a pleasant sight, and I hated that Kurt now saw what his soul mate was related to, as if he didn't have a bad enough impression of me already.

"What the hell are you doing here?" my dad directed at me. He was already a bit drunk, or maybe it was just left over from the night before.

"That's what we wanted to discuss with you," Burt said firmly.

"I thought you ran away," my father leered, and I could feel his eyes only on me, ignoring Burt. "What're you doin' back here with your little faggot friend?"

It wasn't like I had expected it to take him very long before he picked on Kurt, but it ignited a rage in me like I had never felt for him before. Still looking down, I clenched my jaw, this time restraining myself from hitting him, and I could tell Kurt was too.

"Excuse me," Burt snapped authoritatively, obviously affected by his jab too. "We're here to ask you if you'll let your son come live with us."

"What d'you want with a queer like him?" the drunk man laughed coldly, paying attention to Kurt's dad for the first time.

Next to me, I could physically feel Kurt's resolve snap.

"The technical meaning of the word 'queer' is 'different'," he recited with an air of superiority, holding himself high. "And yes, Blaine is different. He's different from the heartless bastard he's got for a father."

As soon as the words left Kurt's mouth I anticipated my father's reaction, which was to blunder forward like a barbarian and try to clobber him. I moved in front of Kurt at the same time Burt roughly grabbed the other man, holding him back with little effort - my father was pretty scrawny and his reflexes were dulled by the booze. Kurt and I were on the same wavelength, identical furies pulsing in our Connection.

Once my father realized he was outmatched, he stumbled back and glared at me.

"You, I don't ever wanna see your cocksucking little face again, d'you hear?" he literally spat.

I still couldn't quite place why that hurt so much, but it felt like a punch to the gut. I knew he was homophobic, and I knew he didn't like me, but this was like...the final word. It broke that small, naive part inside of me that still believed he loved me on some level, simply because he was my dad and dads were supposed to love their kids. It was childish, but I had hoped he would at least recognize that he needed me.

"Can he go up and get his things?" Burt asked for me, because I was in no state to talk, gaping at my dad like a toddler who had been told Santa wasn't real. I could feel Kurt's eyes on me.

"Yeah, but make it quick," my father said grudgingly, stepping out of the way and jerking his head towards the stairs. I took them two at a time, eager to get out of there, Kurt hurrying close behind me. "Don't you dare steal any of my stuff, boy!" he hollered up at us.

For the last time, I opened the door to the grimy apartment, stepping inside. Almost instantly I heard a quiet gag from Kurt, and I realized this was the first time he was seeing - or rather, smelling - what I had been living in. I turned to see him looking at me apologetically, but I didn't blame him. Even after being accustomed to the smell of beer, smoke, and puke for years, it felt even more overpowering today from how much time I'd spent away from the place.

Trying to think of Kurt's clean house and the crisp smell of home-cooked meals, I quickly gathered my things. First the Converse shoe box under the couch, then the small amount of clothes from the dresser in my dad's room. I tried to hurry, knowing Kurt was suffering from the smell (he had his scarf pulled up over his mouth and nose by the time we left the small bedroom) and wanting to escape the flashbacks. I could still see stains from my blood on the dining room wall and carpet.

"Is that all you have?" Kurt affirmed as I started heading out, him in tow. I nodded, heading down the stairs. "Want me to carry anything?"

"I've got it," I muttered, because it really wasn't much, and I felt like I'd asked far too much of him already.

As was typical, my father was smoking when we got downstairs, Burt watching him with disgust but not wavering his stance.

"Don't you dare bring him back here again," my dad said gruffly as Kurt and I went out the door, and I flinched at how resolute he sounded. He didn't even look at me as he spat on the sidewalk and went back inside, out of sight.

Caught in a daze, I didn't even notice that the other two were headed back to the car, leaving me staring at the decrepit apartment building. I would never have to go back, on one hand, but I also wasn't wanted back. It was an odd feeling, and it made me realize how incredibly stupid I was for thinking my father would fight for custody over me. He hadn't loved me for years.

I felt a steady warmth around my hand and looked down to see Kurt's fingers entwined with mine. He was patiently waiting for me to follow him to the car, a small, sad smile on his lips. Once my muscles started responding again, I curled my hand around his. This was real affection, I thought. This was a person who actually cared about me, and I was still standing here staring after someone who hadn't for a very long time.

I followed Kurt back into the car, grateful that he climbed into the backseat with me.

Burt was once again pretending not to notice us, and I couldn't tell if it was out of courtesy or because he didn't like seeing his son with someone. Probably both.

I managed to keep my neutral mask on until we got out of the complex - truly free - and then it was like a dam broke inside me.

I heard a strangled gasp from Kurt beside me at the same time I started crying. He was feeling all of my emotions, my pain crashing down on him, and I wished desperately that I had the strength to close our Connection so he wouldn't have to endure it, but I needed him too badly. He was my only lifeline, the only reason I was still alive.

"Blaine," Kurt whimpered, his voice agonized. I heard the clack of a seatbelt and then I was being pulled into his strong arms, surrounded by his warm smell. As if to hide myself, I shrank against him, curling into his embrace and pressing my face to his chest. I noticed that there wasn't the usual, sedating calmness that fogged my mind when he tried to calm me down through our Connection - he was giving me a chance to get everything out, instead of pushing past it. More so, he was willing to endure my pain longer to help me recover.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, my voice quivering as quiet sobs wracked my body. I was shaking terribly, feeling like I was falling apart and being held together only by Kurt's arms.

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Kurt murmured, but I didn't believe him for a second.