(Author's note: I was inspired this summer to plot a Glee story paralleling the musical Grease. This was long before Glease had been forecast. Once I discovered that was coming, I decided I'd better start writing it. It turned into something much bigger and more complex than a simple Grease story. My objective was to see if I could write a Puckurt love story, encompassing the entire storyline of Kurt's experience at McKinley, without interfering with existing events on the show. It's been interesting to write another parallel story while trying not to trample on the territory already covered by the Donutverse (which is still on hold, so thank you for your patience).

The story is nowhere near complete, but I'm nearly done with season 1 and it's already approaching 60k. So far, it's only rated T, for discussion of masturbation, but it might venture into M territory at some point, so the rating may change. (Remember, Kurt doesn't get his first kiss until season 2!) I'll put it up in chapters. I anticipate completing it in the next few weeks.

As always, music is a big part of my inspiration. I'll post links to songs that occur in the story, but you might enjoy listening to the entire soundtrack here: www. youtube playlist?list=PLc72s_nGT2yTbOVLDEL6xZzHeGaZyxzXQ

I hope you enjoy this sweet story of friendship and love between Kurt and Noah. -amy)

Summer 2008

Kurt appreciated that his neighbor Andrea was still nice to him even though he was in eighth grade and she was a junior. He knew it wasn't because he was all that awesome, but simply because they'd known one another since they'd been kids. She'd moved into the neighborhood when Kurt was six. She was ten when her parents bought the house across the street, and small and quiet like Kurt. They'd bonded over tea parties and Powerpuff Girls, and she'd taught Kurt how to do an adequate time step, and he'd shown her how to twirl a baton. She'd been an enormous support to him when his mother had died.

Even though they seldom played together anymore, at least when she talked to him he could trust that action not to contain any malicious intent. She approached him after school one day, smiling. He was startled to realize he was taller than she was.

"What's your plan for the summer?" she asked.

"Trying to avoid being roped into changing oil at the garage." Kurt shrugged. "Staying up too late watching Project Runway reruns. You know, the usual."

Her smile was personal and held the promise of excitement, and he couldn't help smiling back, even though he had no idea why. "What would you think about getting on the stage?"

"You mean an actual stage?" He felt his smile disappear. "Sounds like a clear route to harassment."

"It's summer theater, Kurt. People are different over the summer. They don't treat each other the same way that they do at school. It's like it is in the neighborhood." Andrea cocked her head, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder. "Think about it, okay? Auditions are next week. You'd have a great time."

Kurt supposed he would. The idea of being on stage wasn't the scary part. He could get up in front of a bunch of people and make a fool of himself with aplomb. It was the backstage stuff, the cliques and catty conversations and the effort it would take to make a place for himself in a new social group. All of those things always ended up being way more work than they were worth. It was better just to stick with his few friends than to bother trying to put himself out there and risk getting targeted.

But all the next day - in the middle of his history test, and as he was listening to students in science present about noble gases, and while waiting in line for lunch - Kurt imagined what it might be like to go into high school already being part of something bigger. It wasn't going to be organized sports, and there was no way he had enough social capitol to join the cheerleading squad. Maybe... maybe this could be good, he thought. Maybe it could mean something.

He went over to Andrea's house when he got home that day. She was sitting in the gazebo in her backyard, reading a book. He knocked, and she looked up.

"Okay," he said through the screen door, taking a deep breath. "I'll do it."

"Awesome," she said, grinning. "You won't regret it."

Famous last words, he thought, but he grinned back, and when he walked into his house, the first thing he did was write auditions for Grease on the calendar for next Thursday.

"What's this, Kurt?" his dad asked at dinner, while getting the milk out of the fridge. "An audition?"

Kurt waved a dismissive hand. "Andrea convinced me I should do this community theater thing with her this summer. I don't know... it could be awful. It's worth a shot, anyway."

"That's at the Encore, right? You think you can get a ride there with Andrea?"

"Or I could take my bike. It's only about a fifteen minute ride." He shrugged, pouring himself a glass of milk. "I probably won't get in, anyway."

"Hey, of course you will." His dad put a hand on Kurt's arm. "I can't think of anybody more deserving of a part than you. You know if we had the money for music lessons, I'd give it to you."

"Don't worry about it, Dad. I don't need anybody to teach me how to sing. I just need a chance to be part of something." He smiled, trying to project the confidence he didn't feel inside. "It'll be great, I know it."

It wasn't anything close to great. It was, in fact, a complete nightmare.

"All of these kids hate me," he hissed at Andrea as they edged their way through the door, past a mob of squealing, laughing high school students. "I'm like the bubblegum under the desk. They're just going to scrape me off and make faces when I stick to their nails."

"One step at at a time, Kurt." She grabbed two audition forms from the table and handed one to Kurt. "Don't forget to write what part you sing."

Like that's not going to make me feel nervous. He scribbled treble, C4-A5. "How many other boys' voices haven't changed by freshman year?"

"Not the point. Mrs. Wright will be intrigued. She'll want to hear you, and that'll get you in the door. And you're adorable."

Kurt made a face. He didn't want to be adorable. He knew he still had plenty of baby fat left and a stupid set of dimples and wimpy, flabby arms. He also knew embarrassingly well how the other boys' bodies had changed, and how little his own body measured up to other incoming freshmen.

Case in point: Noah Puckerman, slouching against the wall by the audition table, muscular arms crossed and face scowling. Kurt would have categorized him in the stoner group in eighth grade, but he'd already been approached for junior varsity football next year. That would mean he would cross over into the jock group, making him even more dangerous and unpredictable. Mostly Kurt had managed to stay under Noah's radar by taking honors and fine arts classes, but he knew he was a prime target to be bullied by this boy.

"What's he doing here?" he whispered, eyeing Noah. Andrea barely gave him a glance.

"I don't know. I'm surprised to see him, actually. He's been gone the last two summers. You want to run through the song with me?"

It was just "We Go Together," which Kurt could sing in his sleep, but they worked up some basic choreography to make it fun. It drew a little more attention than Kurt had anticipated, and by the time they were done, laughing and breathless, they had three high school girls standing next to them.

"That was good," said the one with braids. "Can you show us how to do it?"

Kurt gulped back his fear and taught her the hand jive, then Andrea walked them through the steps. They seemed nice enough, not interested in making fun of Kurt or making jokes about him being Andrea's boyfriend. By the time Mrs. Wright summoned them to stand in line for the auditions, he'd learned their names (Shondelle, Veronica and Harriet) and they knew his, and he thought maybe he would survive the summer.

"We're going to get started," called Mrs. Wright, raising her hand for quiet. Her smile was enthusiastic, but firm, and she quelled a few of the more raucous noisemakers with a stern look. "My name's Mrs. Wright. No, you may not call me Barbara. I've got all your names somewhere in the back of my head, but don't freak out if I accidentally call you by your big brother or sister's name. I've been doing this for way too long and sometimes I get a little senile."

The kids giggled. Mrs. Wright couldn't be a lot older than forty, so Kurt was sure her longevity in community theater had to be an exaggeration.

"I've done Grease before with this group, back in the stone ages, and we had a blast, but it's a challenging show in a lot of ways. I'm looking for some dynamic dancers, some loud, enthusiastic singers and some over-the-top comedians. You know who you are."

There were a few not-so-subtle catcalls from the back where the upperclassmen were gathered.

"You're going to come up in groups of four and sing the song. I'll call the groups, so don't bother to try making your own." Then she turned to Noah, who was slumped on the floor against the wall, rhythmically throwing a ball against the corner and catching it on the bounceback. "Did you decide if you're participating or not, Noah?"

"Nope," he said, not looking up from the ball.

"Fine. Your fate grows worse with every moment you resist. First group of four, front and center? Veronica, Kurt, Marcy and Michael."

Kurt glanced at Andrea in panic, but she just shoved him forward, whispering, "You're awesome. Go show her."

Veronica gave him an encouraging smile, but it was Andrea's words he hung onto. Kurt imagined himself standing before a famous director on the Broadway stage, and took a deep breath before putting on his show face.

We go together like
rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong
remembered for ever like
shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yipitty boom de boom...

There was a halfhearted round of applause when they were done. Noah was still sitting on the floor staring at the corner.

"Nice job," Mrs. Wright called. "Next four."

Kurt watched everyone else sing and dance with a sense of unreality. Most of them were pretty okay, with a few stand-outs in either direction. Andrea was better than average, he was glad to see, and Kurt thought maybe he might be, too.

"What do you think?" Shondelle whispered to Harriet. "I think Michael would be a great Danny."

"Michael's a douche," Noah said, loud enough for Mrs. Wright to give them an annoyed look. He still didn't look up from the path of the ball as it traveled from his hand to the wall. "Wright would never cast him. She's all about the teamwork and shit. Plus he can't hit the high A in Summer Nights. It'll be Henry. Michael will get Kenickie, and he'll complain about it for the whole fucking summer."

"Language, Noah," called Mrs. Wright, her own eyes steady on the current group of four.

Kurt stared at Noah until he whipped around to stare back, furious and hateful. "What?" he snapped, and Kurt looked away in a hurry.

When the cast list went up, Kurt eventually noticed his own name under Chorus, and he hugged Andrea for getting the part of Jan. But the first thing he saw was Henry's name beside Danny Zukko, and Michael's next to Kenickie, and he found himself wondering about Noah Puckerman. Noah's name was listed under the word Set Design.

Kurt didn't see Noah for the rest of the afternoon, until just before they wrapped it up for the day. Mrs. Wright was discussing the format of rehearsals when there was a scuffling and shouting by the door. Kurt heard Noah's voice emerge, raised in conflict with one of the juniors. It escalated to a screaming match. Finally he grabbed a chair, threw it against the wall and stormed out the back door in a blaze of epithets.

"I'd be suspended for six weeks for talking like that at school," Harriet said, glancing nervously at Andrea.

"I think this is his suspension," Andrea said. "This is his summer death sentence. And he picked set design over a part in the musical."

"What a waste," Kurt murmured.

Andrea looked at him. "What was that?"

"Nothing," he said.

As they were getting into Andrea's car to drive home, Kurt caught sight of Noah sitting on the roof. He didn't think that was the safest thing for Noah to be doing, but then, throwing chairs wasn't high on the list either.

"I wonder what he did," Andrea said. Kurt saw her gazing up at the roof, too. "I doubt he'd tell anybody, but I can probably find out."

Kurt decided he'd rather wait until Noah was ready to say it out loud to him directly. Somebody who got that angry wasn't worth pissing off.

"Kurt," said Mrs. Wright the next day. He looked up from his script.


"I mostly wanted to say welcome to the cast," she said. "It's your first summer, and I'm always glad to see new performers. You've got a lot of potential."

"Thank you," he said, feeling the thrill of being noticed. "I'm glad Andrea talked me into it. I mean, not that I wouldn't have done it on my - um. Thanks."

"In addition, I was hoping we could talk to your father about getting a prop for Greased Lightnin'. We need a car."

"A car," he repeated.

"Yes, or the body of one. Something with actual wheels would be best, but anything that could be made to look shiny and chrome-covered." She gazed at him expectantly. "You think your dad could come up with something like that?"

"I'll - talk to him," he managed.

"Great." She gave him a nod and wandered away, probably to ask insane questions of another freshman. He sighed, rubbing his forehead. When he looked up, Noah was smirking at him.

"What do you want?" Kurt demanded.

"She's using you for your auto shop connection," he said.

Kurt drew himself up. "Maybe I actually deserve to be on the stage."

Noah shrugged, looking away. "Sure you do. Doesn't mean she's not using you."

"Yeah, well, who are you to talk?" Kurt shot out, stung. "You're too chicken to get up on the stage at all. That's why you're hiding behind that oh-so masculine hammer and nails. Don't think I don't hear you singing along when we're rehearsing."

"You don't know jack about me," Noah spat at him.

"I know you're scared of something." Kurt sniffed. "Boys always are. Maybe you're afraid you can't cut it. Maybe you're failing geometry. Whatever."

Noah stared at him. Then he looked away, directing his gaze at the floor.

"Lit & Comp," he said.

"What?" said Kurt.

"I failed. Eighth grade literature and composition. The class." He cracked his neck. "Fucking cocksuckers. I have to retake the class this summer in independent study with Mrs. Wright, which apparently means I have to build her fucking sets for her, or I don't go to high school."

"You could have just auditioned," Kurt said. Noah scowled.

"What fates impose, that men must needs abide;
It boots not to resist both wind and tide," he muttered, and stalked away.

Kurt looked the lines up later at lunch, and read the rest of act 4, scene 3 of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3 while eating his celery sticks. Andrea peered over his shoulder. "What's that?"

"Why would Noah Puckerman know Shakespeare?" he mused. Andrea grinned, unwrapping her egg-salad sandwich.

"That's easy. His mother sent him to theater camp last two summers. I hear he was getting into too much trouble at soccer camp." She took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. "He's good, but he'd still rather pitch a fit than play by the rules."

"Doesn't play well with others, huh?" Kurt watched Noah across the room, reaching to prop up a board with one slim, tanned arm while he nailed it in place with precise hammer strokes.

"Pretty, though," she said, and her grin broadened to a laugh as he turned horrified eyes on her. "Relax. I won't say anything."

Kurt wasn't surprised Andrea had figured it out. It was a little terrifying, but he trusted Andrea not to talk. But Noah Puckerman? Apparently his own taste was significantly in question. He frowned all afternoon at the very idea, and when Noah took off his shirt later that day to work only in his tank top, Kurt refused to take even the tiniest peek.

As the summer went on, Kurt began to understand the pecking order among the Encore theater group. Andrea had been correct; it wasn't anything like it was at school. In the top tier were the kids who'd been participating since they were in middle school. Some of them were good and others were only mediocre, but they all had egos the size of small cities and stuck with their clique. Underneath them were the actual thespians, most of whom were loners, like Andrea. They were all pretty nice to Kurt, and to each other, but he wasn't getting warm and fuzzy BFF feelings from any of them. They were actually here to perform, not to have a good time. The next tier was a bunch of students, mostly guys, who apparently were only there to get in the pants of one or more of the other performers. At the bottom were the newcomers, like Kurt.

And then there was Noah. He seemed determined to elude categorization, maybe because one of the top tier sophomores would come backstage every couple hours and make out with him against the speaker stacks. The first time Kurt walked in on them, he stammered an apology and backed away, fleeing with a red face. When Andrea asked him what he'd seen, he wasn't even sure what to say, stammering out a few words including Noah and Kim and kissing.

"It's theater, Kurt," she said, shaking her head. "Everybody fools around with everybody else. You're going to have to get over yourself. You're in high school now."

After that, Kurt tried not to make a big deal about it, but it was still embarrassing. Andrea did seem to be right. Every time he caught a glimpse of a guy with his hand on a girl's thigh, or a girl leaning over to give a guy a look down her shirt, he wondered if he would ever get a chance to be part of that world. Not that he wanted to get a glimpse down anybody's shirt, but...

Everybody fools around with everybody else, he thought. Even the guys he would have sworn up and down and sideways were gay and closeted were still groping and laughing with girls. This made zero sense to Kurt. He felt uneasy, and he wasn't sure how to handle it. Sometimes it was easier just to laugh and go along with it, but most of the time he just couldn't deal with the way everybody was so comfortable touching each other.

Kurt found himself hiding out under the stairwell behind the stage door one afternoon, singing the chorus part to Summer Nights under his breath, when he heard the strum of a quiet guitar. It was an electric guitar and it hadn't been plugged in, so the tune was tinny and muffled, but he could hear it clearly enough in the quiet hallway. It took him a few minutes of listening before he recognized the tune. It certainly wasn't from Grease. Before he thought about it, he began to sing along:

www. youtube watch?v=PYBqv3NIqho

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more...

The guitarist faltered, paused, then continued, and Kurt emerged from his hiding place to find out who was playing.

The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
And the waiter brought a tray

Kurt stopped ten feet away from Noah, who was picking out the melody on the strings, and waited to see what he would do. Noah didn't stop playing again, and he met Kurt's eyes momentarily as he began singing the chorus.

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

Noah had a nice voice, not distinguished, but competent and pleasant to hear, and he sang tunefully and with an apparent wide range. Kurt found himself grudgingly impressed.

"How do you know that song?" he asked.

"My dad," Noah said. "He inflicted plenty of seventies ballads on me when I was growing up. How about you?"

"My dad's favorite movie is The Big Chill," said Kurt. He sat tentatively on the floor across from Noah, watching how his hands never ceased playing, even as they were having what felt like an ordinary conversation. "How do you talk and play the guitar at the same time?"

"Dunno. It's not hard." Noah didn't say this like he was bragging, just like it was true.

"My dad says the meaning behind the lyrics are a matter of great speculation."

"There's this one verse, Procul Harum sings it on this concert recording we have." Noah leaned a little further forward, concentrating on the words, and Kurt found himself leaning toward him, too, a convergence of minds:

If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed

"Weird," Kurt said. "I mean, kind of random Shakespeare line."

"I know, right? Like, what's Twelfth Night doing in a song that's totally about Chaucer..." Noah seemed to see Kurt staring at him, and he closed his mouth with an almost audible snap. His face was red, and he wouldn't make eye contact with him.

Kurt's mind was racing. "You said you flunked literature and composition."

"Yeah, so what? Fuck you."

"No, I mean - you seem to know a lot about Shakespeare, and The Canterbury Tales..."

Noah scowled at the tile in front of him. "I guess."

"So I'm just wondering why you failed, if you -"

"Fuck this shit, Hummel." Noah scrambled to his feet, holding his guitar aloft, and strode away down the hall, storming past Andrea. She stood there watching him go, looking more amused than anything else, then came over to hold a hand out to Kurt.

"Come on, Wright is looking for all of us for the dance at the end of act one. You okay?"

Kurt realized, in all that bizarre interaction, he hadn't realized Noah knew his name until just that moment. It made him feel a little lightheaded. "I think so," he said. "Talking to Noah. He's really talented, but kind of crude. It just... it got to me, I guess."

He caught Noah later, sullen-faced and refusing to answer a patient Mrs. Wright, who was pushing a notebook into his hand. "Whatever you want to write about," she was insisting. "That's what a journal is for."

"I don't care. I'm not doing a stupid journal." He crossed his arms and refused to take the notebook. "You can make me take your stupid class as many times as you want. I'll build your goddamn sets, but you can't make me write a word."

Mrs. Wright looked understandably annoyed by this altercation, and she was the one to walk away from Noah. She sighed when she saw Kurt.

"How does one have a literature and composition class without writing, Kurt?" she asked.

He was startled into a response. "When one composes music, perhaps?"

"Oh." She paused, thinking, but shook her head. "Creative, but... sadly, I can't do it. He needs to prove competency for the standardized test." She considered him. "You took it last year. How did you do?"

"I got an A," he said, not bothering to sound modest. "Mr. Harding liked my written test. Said it showed depth of understanding."

"Well, you and Noah seemed to get along. How'd you like to tutor him?"

Kurt stared at her. "You want me to tutor Noah Puckerman?" He wondered in what universe Noah would he allow this to happen.

But she was nodding. "Yes, absolutely. Noah's not responding to a teacher's intervention. Maybe he'd listen to a student. He's bright and bored and you'd be doing me a favor." Her own sudden smile lit up her face. "And I noticed you enjoy the choreography. I could use a student co-director for some of the ensemble dance scenes."

He was momentarily speechless before blurting, "Of course, yes, I'd be happy to." Then he wanted to kick himself, because what the hell was he thinking, volunteering to help Noah with something he clearly hated.

He said as much to Andrea, later, but she just shook her head. "You don't have to make him like it," she said. "You just have to help him pass. And Kurt, student co-director?"

Kurt had to admit that sounded like an amazing opportunity, but he was suspicious. "Noah said Wright was using me for my auto shop connection. Do you think she's just using me here for my A in Lit/Comp?"

"Maybe." She shrugged. "So what? The fact is, you're still talented enough to do this. Who cares how you got there?"

Kurt realized Noah had told him nearly the same thing. He felt a shivering tingle at the idea that Noah thought he deserved to be on the stage. He hadn't laughed at Kurt's attempt to sing Procul Harum, either. "I guess," he agreed.

He couldn't bring himself to talk to Noah about it in person, though, and found himself sitting after dinner that night at home, staring at the phone number Mrs. Wright had given him. It took him three tries to punch in the number without disconnecting the call. When he finally let it connect, he thought for a moment he'd gotten the wrong number, because the voice on the other end was definitely not Noah.


Kurt lost his nervousness upon hearing the child's voice. "Hi, my name's Kurt. I'm calling for Noah. Is he there?"

"Are you gonna ask him on a date?" The question was completely matter-of-fact, and it made Kurt laugh.

"I - no. I don't plan on doing that." Considering right after I died of embarrassment, he would kick my ass. "We're in theatre club together."

"Kurt is a funny name for a girl," said the child.

Kurt felt the clenching shame in his gut. She thinks I'm a girl. "Um..."

"There's a boy in my Hebrew class named Kurt. Do you want to talk to Noah now?" Kurt heard Noah's exasperated voice say, "Dude, Sarah, who are you talking to?"

"Yes, please," Kurt croaked, but Sarah had already passed the phone.

"Who's this?" Noah asked Sarah, still muffled.

"It's Kurt," she piped up. There was a pause. Then Kurt heard Noah's breathing on the other end.


He sounded surprised, but not upset, and Kurt made himself relax his shoulders. "Hi. Noah. It's... yes, Kurt. From Grease."

"I know which Kurt. Hey." He coughed. "Sorry about my spaz of a little sister."

"Oh - no, she was nice. How old is she? Six?"

"Almost. She's fucking hilarious, I know, everybody says. So what's up?"

Kurt smoothed the front of his own shirt, trying not to hyperventilate. "Mrs. Wright mentioned to me that you might... well, that I might be able to... last year, I did well in eighth grade Lit & Comp, and -"

"Yeah. Thanks." Noah's voice was flat. "I don't need any fucking charity."

Kurt attempted to sound offended. "Hey, it wouldn't be for you. She said I could work with her on choreography if I helped you pass. But if you don't want to..."

"I don't want to." He sounded more uncertain this time. "It's... nobody can help me, okay? It's not your fault."

"What, are you afraid to try?"

There was a pause. "I'm not afraid." That was definitely bravado, and Kurt found himself smiling. Noah sounded about as mature as his little sister did.

"All right, then," said Kurt. "You let me help you pass, and I'll get to do the choreography. Win-win."

"Fuck," Noah muttered. "Yeah. Okay, whatever, Hummel. You get this out of your system. Just don't blame me when you can't fix me."

"As far as I can see, you don't need any fixing. I mean, you look just fine to me." Kurt realized just how that sounded, seconds too late to stop himself. Anything he tried to say to repair it would just make it worse, though, so Kurt held his breath and waited it out, mentally knocking his head against the wall. Stupid... stupid... stupid.

"Whatever. If Wright's gonna make you do this, I'll go along with it." He sounded resigned. "I'm watching my sister until four, and then I'm free. Where do you live?"

Kurt gave Noah his address in a daze, and hung up, staring at his phone. He looked at the clock. 2:31. Then he looked around himself, noticing everything that was wrong with his house, everything that was shoddy or out of place or the slightest bit messy, and he got to work cleaning up.

By the time Noah arrived, twelve minutes after four, Kurt had a plate of snacks out on the freshly-cleared table, and some sharpened #2s next to a pad of paper. He was really hoping his dad wouldn't come home early.

Noah dumped his bag on one of the dining room chairs. "'Sup," he said. Kurt offered him a chair, and Noah sat down next to Kurt, looking ornery.

"I'm not much of a teacher," said Kurt, "but I thought maybe you could start by telling me what was most challenging about Lit & Comp, and we can tackle things one at a time."

"Everything." Noah stared at him. Kurt waited, trying not to look away. It was like being examined by a pacing wolf at the zoo. He couldn't appear weak, but he didn't want to get too aggressive either. Finally Noah rolled his eyes, sighing. "Okay. I hate reading. I got away with watching the movie whenever I could, but the books, I could barely get through the prologue of most of them. What the fuck, I can fake my way through an essay question, right? Except I couldn't. So I just refused to do any of the writing, and I told her I'm not gonna."

Kurt slid the plate of snacks across to him. Noah took a toast point and chewed it. "You didn't read any of the books? What were you supposed to read?"

Noah pulled out some battered copies of Fallen Angels, Where the Red Fern Grows and Ender's Game. "I picked these, but there's a big list..." He looked uncertain. Kurt nodded, thumbing through each one. There was no highlighting, no notes.

"Is it because they're boring, or because they're too hard to read?" He tried to make the question as matter-of-fact as he could, but Noah still bristled.

"I can read them," he said. "I just didn't want to. They're totally lame."

Kurt picked up Ender's Game. "This is actually one of my favorite books. I bet the library has the audiobook if you wanted to hear it instead of reading it. Some people like that better."

He shrugged. "I guess."

"I mean, you've done theater, so you know how performing a story can make it special. Don't you think so?"

"That's completely different. Like, we went to see Twelve Angry Men last year. That's a kick-ass play, you know? Just a bunch of guys sitting around talking, it should be totally boring, right? Only it's not." Noah's eyes glittered. "Reading a book, it's not the same thing at all."

"It could be," Kurt insisted. "Some audiobooks, they're like theater performances." He could see by the set of his jaw that Noah wasn't going to give in. "Well, I guess you'll just have to let me read you the books. Which one are we going to start with?"

Now Noah looked panicky. "What? You're not going to do that."

"I'm totally going to do that," said Kurt. "Are you going to pick, or am I?"

"Kurt," Noah protested, but Kurt was already checking the number of pages in Fallen Angels. "You're not going to read to me."

"I like reading aloud. It's almost as good as getting on the stage." Kurt watched Noah's expression waver, and he softened his voice. "I promise, I won't tell anybody."

"Don't do me any favors," Noah snapped, but Kurt could tell he wasn't going to argue anymore.

"I'll start with Ender's Game, if you don't mind. It's long, but I've been wanting to read it again." Kurt gave Noah a smile, and Kurt thought Noah almost smiled back. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Maybe," said Noah. He followed Kurt into the kitchen. "You got any more of those cheese crackers?"

By the time his dad came home at 5:30, Noah and Kurt were well into chapter two. Kurt didn't stop reading when Burt trudged up the basement stairs from the garage, but he did shoot him a don't ask look that his dad seemed to pick up on. Burt left them alone, quietly opening the fridge and setting the chicken on the stove. Noah seemed to be listening, paying attention, and when Kurt got to the end of the chapter, he gave a little thoughtful sigh.

"It's good," he agreed, and Kurt nodded in surprise. "I guess I didn't give it a chance."

Kurt thought that was big of Noah to admit, in front of his dad and everything, but he just nodded again.

"Dad, this is Noah. I'm tutoring him in Lit & Comp."

Burt offered his hand to shake. "Nice to meet you, Noah."

"He's - we're in Grease together," Kurt added, and Noah looked at Kurt in surprise.

"That's cool," Burt said. "Wrap it up, now, Kurt, I'll have dinner ready in a half hour."

Kurt followed Noah out to the front hall. He gave Kurt an oblique look. "I'm not in the show with you."

"You could have been, though," Kurt said. "I know you could have. Just because you didn't choose to doesn't mean anything. And set design, that's kind of in the show."

"That's slave labor," said Noah, and Kurt laughed. Noah gave him a big grin. "Yeah, I'll tell you a secret. I wish I had tried out. Those turkeys on the stage can't act worth shit. But Grease, really? Fucking stupid. At my theater camp last summer, we did Hamlet and Our Town."

"Wow," Kurt said, duly impressed. "And now you're doing this instead of that, this year. We'll get through the books, Noah. It'll be fine."

"Yeah. I owe you one. See you tomorrow at rehearsal?"

Kurt actually waved as Noah headed down the sidewalk and turned the corner. He had to put a hand over his chest to make sure his heart wasn't going to beat right out of it onto the table.

Don't fall in love with him, Kurt, he told himself. Don't fall in love with the straight boy. Don't do it.

"You boys want some dinner?" called Burt, and looked around the corner, surprised. "Oh - did he leave already? What was his name again?"

Kurt leaned his head back against the wall. "Noah," he murmured. "He's Noah Puckerman."

The routine was an easy one. They had rehearsals in the morning, after which Noah would come back to Kurt's house with him, where they'd eat and Kurt would read a couple chapters aloud. Kurt called over to Noah's house all the time, but he never managed to talk to anyone except Noah's sister Sarah. She still thought Kurt was a girl, and since Kurt hadn't actually been over to Noah's house, there was no reason for him to make an effort to convince her otherwise.

Kurt hadn't figured out the composition part of Lit & Comp yet, but he remembered the kinds of prompts they'd had in class. He tried talking Noah through a few of them. Noah seemed to understand the stories just fine, and he could kind of compose out loud with Kurt's help, but when it came to actually writing any of it down, he still refused. Kurt didn't push him, not wanting to lose any of the ground they'd gained in comprehension. Plus, Noah was loving the story, and Kurt wasn't going to stop reading until Noah told him to.

Noah stopped him in the middle of a chapter one day, looking almost angry. "You really don't mind this?" he demanded.

"Noah," Kurt said, grinning. "Who else lets me read out loud to them? Humor me, okay? Or else I'm going to show up at your house and read to Sarah instead."

Noah snickered. "I like that girl Kurt," he mimicked. "You should take her out on a date."

Kurt felt his throat close up at the suggestion. "If only she knew."

"I don't think she'd believe me at this point if I tried to tell her you're a guy." He was still laughing. "You could probably fake her out by putting on a dress, though."

"Well, she's only five." Kurt wasn't laughing anymore, though. "I should... keep going in the chapter."

But Kurt's heart wasn't in it, and Noah could tell. He stopped him after a few more paragraphs, frowning.

"That was kind of a shitty thing to say, wasn't it. Fuck. I'm sorry, Kurt."

He was so sincere, so nice, that it was easy for Kurt to shrug it off. "I've always had a high voice. Maybe it'll change. I'm still waiting. I can't really do much about it in the meantime."

"Yeah, but you don't really sound like a girl. When you sing, I mean." Noah watched Kurt shift in his chair. "Not like those boychoir fags."

"Can we talk about something else?" Kurt said sharply. "Actually... I think maybe you should go."

Noah looked positively hurt. "I didn't mean you, Kurt. You're not - I mean, you don't..." He stopped, lingering on the unspoken question.

What was he going to say? He laughed, high and fake. "No," he said. "Of course not."

Noah pushed his chair out and stood, hesitating only a moment before muttering, "I'll see you tomorrow."

Kurt watched him leave. He didn't have to walk him to the door anymore, although he usually did. Not today, though. Today he could barely keep his hands from shaking. All he could think was, he knows. And tomorrow at rehearsal is going to be the worst day of my life.

Noah surprised him, though, by calling him after dinner. Kurt picked up, his heart thundering in his chest. "Yeah, it's that girl Kurt," he heard Noah say on the other end. "Can you leave me alone a sec, Sarah?"

"Noah?" he said.

"Hey," Noah said. He didn't sound angry. "Um... what you said today. About being... like one of those choir boys."

"I didn't," Kurt replied. "I didn't say that. You did."

"Yeah, but... I don't know. I wanted you to know it was okay with me. I mean, if you were. You're cool. I don't care who you want to fuck."

I don't want to fuck anyone, Kurt could have said a couple weeks ago. But that wasn't quite true anymore, at least not according to his highly erotic and personalized dreams. He let out a shaky breath. "You're not going to... tell anybody."

"No, man. You're not talking to the whole world about my reading problem, are you? It's not anything to worry about. I'm not going to let anybody say bad things about you. I got your back."

"Oh," Kurt whispered. "I... uh. Thank you."

"No problem," Noah said easily. "See you tomorrow, Kurt."

"Okay. Bye."

Kurt let the phone slip from his fingers. Then he pressed them to his mouth, holding in the sob. He couldn't even tell his dad what was going on. He just sat there, keeping it inside, knowing that tomorrow wouldn't be any better.

"Dad," he said, as evenly as he could manage, "I'm going across the street to talk to Andrea about something. Be back in a minute."

He didn't wait for a reply, letting the screen door slam behind him. The tears dried on his cheeks as he ran. Nobody was around to see him cry, but he waited until he was safely in Andrea's backyard in the gazebo before he let go.

He heard the screen door slide open, then closed, and the sound of feet in the grass. "Kurt?"

"I came out to Noah Puckerman," he said, raising his eyes to her worried face. "He was really nice about it. He said... he won't let anybody say anything b-bad about me."

"Oh, Kurt," she said quietly, and held him while he sobbed. "I'm so sorry."

Kurt wiped his eyes carefully on his sleeves, for once not caring how he looked or what he was doing to the fabric. "I don't know why I'm so upset."

"You don't?" Andrea raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"No! I knew it wasn't going to be anything more than that. I knew. He's not going to... want anything else with me. I'm just going to have to be okay with that."

"You will be." She let him rest his head on her shoulder. "You just don't have to be okay with it right away. Give yourself a little time."

"You're really being good to me." He closed his eyes, feeling the comfort of her arms. "I... can't tell my dad."

"Yeah, you could. He'd get over it."

"Yeah," Kurt said miserably, but he thought she understood what was going unsaid. Just one more way I'm going to fail him.

Kurt brought Ender's Game with him to rehearsal the next day. Their bookmark was located about halfway through the book. He caught Noah in the hallway alone, and flashed him the cover. Noah's brows went down.

"What's that here for?"

"I thought, if you wanted to, you could just take it home," Kurt said. "You could find somebody else to read to you. I'm sure you -"

"No!" Noah put an arm around Kurt, pulling him abruptly close enough for Kurt to feel Noah's breath on his cheek. He tried not to flinch away. "I didn't say I wanted you to stop, did I?"

"No," Kurt whispered. "I just thought -"

"Yeah. Why don't you let me be the one to tell you when I want you to stop?"

Kurt turned to see Noah's eyes, dark and intense, inches from his own. He could barely feel his fingers. He thought he might pass out if Noah did anything at all. "O-okay," he said.

"Good." His eyes flickered down Kurt's face, to his lips, and back up. "So we're cool?"

"Cool," Kurt agreed. He took one slow step back, and let his breath out. "Yes."

That night, he dreamed of Noah. It wasn't the first time, nor, he suspected, would it be the last. He was shirtless, kneeling between Kurt's legs, stroking him slowly, and the words why don't you let me be the one to tell you when I want you to stop were on his lips.

Kurt woke, gasping Noah's name, but the only hands on his body were his own. This was more depressing than he wanted to admit, and he found himself crying in the midst of laundering his sheets and pajamas.

Lovesick, he thought, just like in the movies. Only it didn't feel pleasant at all. It was just sad and lonely and heartbreaking, and it was all he could imagine for himself for the rest of the summer.

He barely saw Noah during the last week of rehearsal. The set had magically taken shape around them, and he had to admit it looked great. Kurt didn't know how much input Noah had had into the design, but it was creative enough to think maybe he'd had some.

Rehearsals went long, and they couldn't meet to read for the last five days before the show. Kurt found himself missing that more than he would have admitted to anyone. It wasn't until the day before opening night, as he lay awake in bed, staring up at the ceiling, that he reached for his phone.

"Kurt?" said Noah's voice.

"I hope you weren't asleep," he said - which was completely stupid, because obviously Noah was at a party, judging by the noise in the background.

"Hey, no... hang on a sec." The sound abruptly decreased. "I'm on the back deck now. What's going on? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah." Kurt felt completely embarrassed now, about what he'd been thinking. But here he was. He either had to make up some excuse for calling, or tell the truth. He took a breath and let it out. "I've missed reading to you."

"Oh." Noah sounded surprised, like that wasn't what he'd expected Kurt to say, but like maybe it was a good surprise. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Kind of dumb."

"No," Noah said. "Not dumb. And, uh, I missed it too. We left off at a good part. I thought about getting the audiobook, but I wouldn't know where to start it."

"You can do that, if you'd rather."

"No. I want you to keep reading it."

"Okay," he agreed. "I can start again any time."

"Oh." Noah laughed. "Kurt - you wanted to read to me right now?"

Kurt moaned. "Forget it. I didn't know you were going to be at a party, but - I mean, of course you would be..."

"Kind of. It's my cousin Josh's bar mitzvah. These guys know how to get down, I'm telling you."

He laughed, covering his mouth. "I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at you."

"No, forget it." He heard Noah's chuckle, and it was way too sexy. Kurt tried not to hear it that way, but once he did, there was no way he could not. "To tell you the truth, all I want to do right now is find a place to hide and have you read to me for a while. You think you could do that?"

"I - I could," said Kurt. He reached out and switched on his light, fumbling on his desk for the book. "Hang on."

"Are you in bed?"

The question was innocent enough, but Kurt was already compromised, thinking of Noah's sexy chuckle, and he barely managed to squeak out a yes.

"You don't mind losing a little sleep to keep me company?"

"Not at all," Kurt assured him. He stretched out on his stomach, the book on his pillow and the phone propped up at his ear. "Are you in a good place to listen?"

"Yeah. I think I can get away with this for a while before my aunt Ronnie catches me. They've all had too much Manischewitz to care about me anyway. Go ahead."

Kurt read from the point where they'd left off, just before the part when Ender was promoted to commander, years ahead of schedule. He read how Ender began leading a series of staged battles in the simulator. Noah was completely fascinated.

"They all totally hate him," he said. "That must really suck."

"You don't become a commander to be liked," Kurt pointed out. "He's trying to win, at any cost."

"Didn't they make a movie of this, a long time ago? A kid is trained to fight battles on a video game, then he's taken into battle, real battle?"

"I don't think there's a movie," Kurt said, thinking.

"No, I'm pretty sure I saw it. Only... no, it wasn't Ender. The guy was grown up. Maybe it was a different story. Anyway. Go on, I want to hear how this part ends."

Kurt had to admit he was a little emotionally invested in the story of younger, smaller Ender, ganged up on by older kids in an unfair fight. He loaded the arguments with plenty of passion as he read them aloud. When he turned around and saw his dad standing in the doorway to his room, listening, he stopped mid-sentence, mortified.

"Kurt?" said Noah.

"Uh..." Kurt looked at the clock. It was after 12:30. "I think I'd better go."

"Okay. This was awesome. I bet I'll dream about battle school tonight."

"Yeah," Kurt agreed, though he was guessing he'd be dreaming about other things instead. "Enjoy the rest of the bar mitzvah."

His dad peered at the book. "What were you reading?" he asked.

Kurt held up the cover. "I read it last year in Lit & Comp."

"You're reading to that Puckerman kid?"

"Yeah," he admitted. "He has some kind of learning disability, and he refuses to admit it. I'm trying to work around it."

"Hmmm." Burt contemplated Kurt, but he only said, "You're a great reader. That was some pretty exciting stuff."

"You should read it when we're done," Kurt offered, and heard Burt's snort that meant Yeah, right. He paused in the midst of turning out the light, having a sudden thought. "Dad, did you have trouble reading in school?"

"I was a crummy reader, for years," Burt said. "Didn't realize until college that I liked murder mysteries. Then I couldn't get enough of them. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you really like."

Kurt sighed. "I've always known what I like."

"Yeah." Burt bent over in the dark and kissed his son's forehead. "I always knew what you liked, too. Go to sleep, kiddo. Big day tomorrow, right?"

Opening night wasn't perfect, but it was just as fantastic as Kurt could have expected his first opening night to be. There wasn't anything that went horribly wrong, the energy was high, and they got plenty of laughs and applause.

The biggest surprise was looking out into the audience from the stage and not being able to see anybody because the lights were too bright. Kurt had to admit it was easier that way, not to be distracted by people's faces. But that meant that he went blithely through the whole show, every dance number, until the very last curtain when the house lights went up, before realizing Noah was sitting right there in the front row. Sarah was next to him on one side, and his friend Finn was on the other. Kurt didn't do anything stupid like wave at him, but he thought back over the show, all the things he'd done on the stage, and he felt suddenly sick.

"Andrea," he said, clutching at her hands. "Is there such a thing as reverse stage fright?"

"You did great," she said, hugging him. "Come on, all we have to do now is take off our makeup and go to the cast party."

All the high school girls he'd been afraid of at the beginning of the summer were now his friends, or at least a large enough proportion of them that he felt fortified against further attack from the popular kids. Some of the other incoming freshmen, like Tina and Mercedes, had become casual friends, too. The guys still mostly avoided him, but a couple of them gave him high-fives and pats on the back as they made their way through the crowd.

Kurt's dad had promised not to get him flowers or anything, but he was there, too, grinning at him.

"You were great, kiddo," he said, hugging him carefully to avoid getting covered with stage makeup. "The car mock-up looked pretty sharp. And Andrea, wow, I could hardly believe it was you up there. You're all grown up."

"Yeah," she said, smiling. "One more year. It'll be good to finally be in school with Kurt next year."

Kurt realized school was only a few weeks away. He waited until he'd taken off his costume and cleaned off the makeup before hugging Andrea himself. She beamed at him.

"Wasn't it fantastic?" she demanded. "And won't you do it every summer?"

"Yes," he agreed. "And yes. You were completely right. I'll never be able to thank you enough, oh wise one."

There wasn't any way he could thank Andrea for the rest of it, for the support she'd given him, the way she'd accepted him without question. He hadn't even needed to say anything to her, and she'd just known. Just as he suspected she knew, now, how he felt.

The evening was cool enough that he was able to wear something other than shorts and a t-shirt to the cast party, which was something of a fashion relief. He got compliments from several girls on their way from Andrea's car to Henry's house. Henry met them at the door, accompanied by his parents.

"Andrea, hello," they gushed, smiling at Kurt. "Is this your boyfriend?"

"Uh -" Kurt said, startled into silence. She just smiled, shaking her head.

"No, Mr. and Mrs. Forrest, I'm gay."

"Oh," they both said, their smiles disappearing.

Andrea took Kurt's stunned hand and towed him past them into the party.

"You are?" he said. She grinned.

"No, I just made it up so they wouldn't suspect you. Yes, Kurt. I'm gay."

His head was whirling. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Why didn't you?" she countered. She took his hand, leading him into the relative quiet of the kitchen. "You've never said the words out loud, have you? To anyone?"

He shook his head, still in a daze. Andrea looked around, over the heads of other partygoers, until she saw the person she was looking for. "Hey - Noah. Come here."

"Andrea," Kurt hissed, but she wasn't listening. She drew Noah over to stand in front of them. He was wearing the same t-shirt and cutoffs he'd worn at rehearsals all summer, and he looked completely fantastic.

"Yeah?" said Noah, looking back and forth between Kurt and Andrea. "What's this about?"

"Kurt's never told anybody he was gay."

Noah stared at him. "Uh... pretty sure he told me."

"No, I mean he's never said it out loud to anybody. You're the only other person who knows. He's going to say it to you, right now." She turned to Kurt, gesturing. "Go on."

"Andrea," Kurt said again, weakly.

"You have to start saying it out loud some time. Come on, just say it. I did. I'm gay."

"Dude, you are?" Noah grinned at her. "Cool."

She squeezed his hand. "Just say it, Kurt, and then we can go have a cast party. Trust me, you're not the only person in this room who's afraid to say it out loud. Start now. It gets easier every time."

Kurt caught his breath, seeing Noah's expectant face. "I -"

"It's okay, man," Noah said softly.

Faced with his warm hazel eyes and kind smile, Kurt almost blurted I love you, but he managed to reign it in, and stammered, "I'm - I'm gay."

"That's it," Andrea crowed, holding up a hand for him to high five. He did, feeling unaccountably flushed. "Way to go. First time's the hardest."

"That's what she said," Noah snickered. "Hey, I bet I can get you drunk enough that guys look good to you again."

"I don't think such a quantity of alcohol exists, Puckerman," she told him. "But you can give it a shot."

Kurt successfully avoided the spiked punch, the jello shots and the suspicious brownies for the rest of the night. He danced the Macarena, the Hustle and the Electric Slide, and at midnight they all did the Time Warp. It was definitely the best party he'd ever been to, not that he'd been to that many, but by the time Henry's parents came out to tell them it was time to go home, he was ready to call it a night.

Andrea, while she hadn't apparently had enough alcohol to turn Noah into an attractive prospect, had had way too much to drive him or anybody else home. She put her keys in Kurt's hands and closed his fingers around them.

"It's just down the block," she said. "And it's an automatic."

He gasped. "You can't be serious. I'm fourteen."

Her eyes were almost closed. "I trust you. Just get me home, would you?"

The lawn was littered with Grease programs and paper cups. Kurt got Andrea sitting and buckled in the passenger seat before he walked around to the driver's side, and found Noah sitting on the grass, elbows resting on his knees. He looked very calm.

"Hey, Kurt," he said.

"Noah." Kurt slowed, stopped. He contemplated Noah. "Did you... eat some of those brownies?"

"A couple," he said. "Why?"

"I think I'd better drive you home, too." He reached down and got Noah to take his hand, coaxing him off the grass. "Come on. There you go - into the back."

With only a few false starts, Kurt figured out the go pedal and the stop pedal, and they lurched their way down the street toward Andrea's house. Luckily, they didn't need to go out of the subdivision to get there, and they met no one on the road in the middle of the night in Lima.

"I'll drop you off and then take Noah home," said Kurt, but Noah was already climbing out of the car. Andrea stumbled into her house, leaving Kurt standing in the driveway, holding her keys.

"S'okay, Kurt," he said, crossing the street. "I can walk from here."

"Noah, it's one-thirty in the morning," he said. "You aren't going to walk home."

"Dude, I walk there every day from your house. It's not a big deal."

"Forget it! Get back in the car."

Noah just looked at Kurt. He threw up his hands. "Fine. Then I forget where I live."

"You - what? Noah."

"I'm that drunk," he affirmed. "Seriously impaired, and a little high. No clue. You'll have to leave me here."

Kurt took him by the hand and dragged him, protesting, toward his house. "Then you're spending the night on my couch."

"Kurt, I'm fine. Can't you just let me walk home?"

"Why won't you tell me where you live?"

"Because I'm ashamed, okay?" he shouted. He glared at Kurt. "Why do you think we've been studying at your house all this time?"

Kurt's voice got very small. "Because... we have good snacks?"

Noah sighed. "Okay, I'll give you that. But, dude, even I'm not that selfish. I can return a favor. I just... I don't want you to see where I live."

He sank down onto Kurt's front step and rested his head in his hands. Kurt knelt beside him on the sidewalk, feeling completely and utterly clueless.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I had no idea. But, Noah, it can't be that bad."

"No," said Noah. "It's worse. Trust me. I've seen your house. You don't want to see mine."

Kurt nodded in silence. He reached out for Noah's hand again. "Then... we've got a very comfy couch."

Noah looked at Kurt's hand, then at his resolute face. He sighed. Then he took the hand, letting Kurt lead him inside. He waited while Kurt got sheets and a quilt from the linen closet and made up a bed for him on the couch. Kurt turned away when Noah started to take off his shorts.

"Do... you want to borrow some pajamas?" he offered, his voice only a little strangled.

Noah chuckled again, prompting a shiver down Kurt's spine. "I'm okay wearing what I got on, Kurt. And thanks."

"I'll be... downstairs. If you need anything." Then Kurt fled before he could say anything more ridiculous or damaging.

His dreams that night involved Noah appearing at the door to his bedroom, wearing nothing but a pair of briefs, saying I need something, Kurt. Luckily, he managed to keep his sheets reasonably clean, though he had to get up and change his pajamas after the conclusion of the dream. It was somehow comforting to know that, even in a dream, Noah was thoughtful enough to get him off first.

www. youtube watch?v=dzyixV-eGRI

You're like a party somebody threw me
You taste like birthday
You look like New Years
You're like a big parade through town
You leave such a mess but you're so fun

Tell all the neighbors to start knocking down walls
To grab their guitars and run out to the hall
And we're coming out right along to sing them my new song

For every place there is a bus
That'll take you where you must
Start counting all your money and friends before you come back again

For every road we can retrace
For every memory we can't face
For every name that's been erased
Let's have another round
May I propose a little toast?
For all the ones who hurt the most
For all the friends that we have lost

Let's give them one more round of applause
But you're like a party somebody threw me
You taste like birthday
You look like New Year
You're like a big parade through town
That leaves such a mess but you're so fun

- "The Party," Regina Spektor