A/N: Right, so first, apologies for the delay everyone. There was a little mi up between me and my beta on which chapter was this week, so yeah. The bad news is that you get this update a day late, but the good news is that next week's chapter has already been betaed and its just a matter of me going through it to look at changes and suggestions. So yeah, sorry about that!

Anyway, some more Kurt and Burt POV this time around. Now the real fun begins! Enjoy!

Too Late

Chapter 4: A Real Boy

Kurt winced loudly as he attempted to scramble over the lip of the dumpster. It was Friday morning , the end of his first week, and apparently the trash company's schedule had changed since last year. His usual tormentors had swung him over the top of the dumpster and Kurt hadn't thought too much of what was to come – until he kept falling and his ass slammed down against the bottom of the rusty metal hull. The impact had ricocheted around the dumpster like a pinball and echoed around the parking lot. For once his bullying had resulted in a hushed silence even though nobody had come to his aid. His body had reacted instinctively at first to the jarring jolt, going numb to ease the initial pain he was used to at the same time every morning, but after the jocks had run off, a painful heat started coursing along the back of his body until it was aching and throbbing angrily.

With another lunge, he managed to hoist himself over the top and out of the filthy innards onto the grassy curb beside the dumpster. There was no doubt in his mind that his backside was going to be a huge swollen bruise by lunch. Sitting in the desk chairs was going to be tear-inducing, and he'd be lucky if he only had to ice his ass for a few days afterwards. If he was lucky his body would be healed enough by Monday that he could sit without unbearable discomfort.

An empty dumpster was certainly a first for Kurt, even after three years of being tossed into them. Before now the trash company's assigned pick up had always been midday on Thursdays, and so the janitor's still had something to dump by the time they left for the day. The impacts had been less cushy, but nothing compared to thud he'd just endured. He'd have to start arriving earlier on Fridays to account for the change. Then he'd skip past the dumpster toss entirely if he was lucky.

Limping slightly from the tense soreness seeping into his body, Kurt hobbled across the lot with his bag as the homeroom tardy bell rang. He'd be fine skipping. Mr. McGrover didn't care to take attendance in his homerooms. It was unsurprisingly the best thing that had happened to Kurt this week and would probably be the only good thing for many months to come. At least he wouldn't end up in detention for being late to, or skipping, too many homerooms because he was tending to his wounds and changing out of his ruined clothes.

With an extra ten minutes to clean himself up, Kurt hurried into the right side of McKinley, bypassing the auditorium and the choir room as he rushed into the bathroom around the corner from his history class. There was usually nobody in this one early in the mornings. It was surrounded by the empty music hall, the vacant cafeteria, and then the gymnasium that had bathrooms in each of the locker rooms. The only people who might be around where the cafeteria workers, and since most of them were middle-aged females the boys' bathroom had a huge change of being empty and Kurt felt safest here.

Kurt gave the hallway one final sweep before he ducked inside. The morning announcements were just beginning, crackling over the sound system and starting with the "Pledge of Allegiance" which he ignored in favor of cleaning himself up. He was careful to catch the bathroom door as it started to swing closed, slowly easing it the last few inches back into its slot as he listened for the sounds of someone's breathing or the splash of urine hitting toilet water. Nothing.

Kurt crept around the bend, checking the empty sinks and urinal stalls. Across from the bathroom mirrors the toilet stall doors were all cracked open and looked empty. Good. He had the room to himself. Just seven hours of school and then he'd be free from bullies and bruises for an entire weekend. His father and Carole would probably try to lure him upstairs, especially tonight, and bombard him with the usual questions over their Family Dinner night, but Kurt knew how to get around those by now. It was easy to avoid his father's questions when they were always the same. He'd just given Burt a rundown of his classes and assignments as usual, instead of giving answers about his nonexistent social life that his father seemed to want to know about.

Kurt set his bag down under the first sink and began examining his face in the mirror, checking himself for bruises, scrapes, and cuts. His face was clear of blemishes, just two slightly pink cheeks, a light splattering of freckles from cheekbone to cheekbone, and two dull, blue eyes that had seen better days.

With a weak sigh, Kurt started looking over his forearms, and winced at the blood stain that stood out against the pale yellow fabric on his left sleeve. The pain hadn't registered compared to the throbbing sensation radiating all along the backside of his body, but now that he saw the ripped fabric he knew he'd cut himself on something sharp at the bottom of the dumpster.

Carefully, Kurt unbuttoned his sleeve and pushed it up and out of his way. The cut wasn't that deep, about two inches long and close to the crook of his elbow, which was damp with his blood. Kurt took his time washing it off, and was just getting ready to grab a handful of paper towels to dry it off, all the while silently debating about the pros and cons of seeing the nurse to disinfect it properly, when the door whooshed open.

He froze. His entire body tensed as he prepared for the worst, but there was no echo of loud voices or the rumble of one's deeper than his own. A sneaker squeaked against the tiles as Kurt watched the entry way from his mirror. A split second later, he was glad he'd been standing where he was because his knees almost gave out and without the sink for his hands to grab at he would have collapsed.

Blaine was standing in the bathroom's entrance.

He'd finally lost his mind then. All the bullying and social isolation and being closeted, but so obviously gay to his peers, had finally added up and he'd actual gone mad this time. Maybe he'd been mad all along.

Blaine had paused in the entry way, staring over at Kurt's rumpled hair and disheveled appearance. He was just as Kurt remembered him, and that more than anything made him sure that this was his imagination and had been last time as a child. His dark curls were cropped short and plastered down to his skull with gel like that had been eight years ago. It was just enough to keep it tamed and parted, but still left enough of his natural wave in to be nice. He was shorter than Kurt recalled, but Kurt dazedly reminded himself that he wasn't a scrawny eight year old anymore; he was actually of average height now. But his eyes were the thing that caught Kurt's attention and held it. They were the same shade of hazel, like honey and golden embers and a warm fire in the hearth that Kurt had never found a replacement for after his mother's death and Blaine had said goodbye. Now they weren't sparkling with kindness or amusement at whatever Kurt was saying, but unsure, concerned, yet without any hint of recognition.

That didn't make sense to Kurt. This boy was so clearly the Blaine he remembered, but eight years removed from his sight and years of idealization could have distorted that, right? Maybe this boy just looked how he still pictured Blaine, or his mind was molding Blaine's image into the one standing before him. Because if Blaine was a part of Kurt's imagination – his own creation – then Blaine must remember him. He couldn't exist outside of Kurt's consciousness and not

"Y- you– um, you're bleeding," Blaine –was he Blaine? – remarked, hesitantly pointing towards Kurt's arm. Sure enough the cut was oozing blood again, a thin trail of it running down Kurt's forearm to the edge of the sink and dripping onto the floor.

"I– "

Words failed Kurt. Blaine didn't seem to recognize him, maybe he wasn't even Blaine. How could he have possibly imagined and fantasized about a boy he would someday meet? That seemed just as improbable when this boy looked just like Blaine, talked in the same smooth tenor, and even walked with the same stride Kurt remembered.

Blaine approached slowly, pausing at the paper towel dispenser and yanking out a handful. Kurt watched it all as if through a telescope. Everything about Blaine felt too surreal to be so close and physically possible. He must have hit his head on the landing in the dumpster. Perhaps he was still lying at the bottom of the sticky, germ infested pit, half-conscious and imagining himself imagining Blaine into existence again. Surely if Blaine was this boy, he'd be an adult now and not just as Kurt remembered him.

The water of his sink was suddenly turned back on and Kurt jumped, eyes jerking over to Blaine who gave him a hesitant, close-lipped smile.

"It's okay," the boy said softly, and there was that tone that pulled at Kurt's memory like a fishhook in the side of his mouth. It filled Kurt's chest with warmth, security, and vanished any doubt of how painful life was. This was Blaine. He had to be. It wouldn't make sense for him to be anyone else when two soft, kind words could make Kurt's insides feel like a s'more. "I'm not gonna hurt you or anything. Just– you can wipe it if you don't want me to."

When Kurt didn't say anything or take the damp paper towels, Blaine's smile faltered a little. He was kidding himself completely. This boy didn't know him; that was clear just from the look in his eyes, no matter what his tone of voice said. Kurt's head was swimming with that implication because it didn't make any sense to him. Maybe he was projecting his memories – fantasies?– of Blaine on this boy who... looked exactly like him, down to the slightly off center nose and the bow tie twisted around his neck.

"I– I just wiped it up, but... "Kurt trailed off, not trusting himself to speak any further without blurting out questions or flinging himself into the other boy's arms when he clearly didn't know him. This was all he'd ever wanted, but it seemed as if fate was playing another cruel trick on him.

Blaine took his wrist gently and started cleaning the blood off and then putting pressure on the wound. The touch was so incredibly gentle, Blaine's skin warm and soft against his and soothing in way that made his throat tight and his eyes hot. Nobody had cared for him like this in a long time.

"You should probably see the nurse," Blaine decided, slowly easing Kurt's forearm up until the paper towels were squished and held in place. "It looks kinda bad."

But Kurt hesitated. She always asked questions. She might even think he'd put the cut there, given its location. He didn't want his father called out from work just to come here and have to worry about him further.

"I dunno," Kurt muttered dejectedly.

"Um, well, think about it for a minute?" Blaine offered, shifting from foot to foot. "I've really gotta pee so– "

He darted around Kurt, who was blushing at this point, and planted himself in front of one of the urinals. Kurt did his best to just listen and focus on his own breathing as he scooped up his bag. None of the boys at McKinley ever dared to pee if he was in the room, not even in a locked stall. A few minutes later, the urinal was flushed and Blaine rejoined him, washing his hands quickly as Kurt bit his lip. He didn't understand how this boy could be so comfortable around him immediately. It was as if who he was and what he was had no bearings on what this boy thought of him.

"So, do you wanna do see the nurse?" Blaine asked again as he tossed his used paper toilets into the trash bin. "I'm sure she won't ask too many questions."

Kurt still wasn't sure, but Blaine's – was that even this boy's name – eyes were bright and reassuring. They made Kurt feel safe and as if Blaine understood how he was feeling right now, like he'd been there before. Maybe he had.

"Come on," Blaine urged, sliding his hand into Kurt's right and awkwardly pulling him away from the sinks. "She'll patch you up in a heartbeat. I promise."

Kurt didn't even think as he let Blaine pull him out of the bathroom and into the hallway. His skin was tingling pleasantly, so strange after all the pain and discomfort it normally radiated. His brain was full of foggy memories and spiraling questions that were twirling out of his reach every time he opened his mouth to say something. He wondered vaguely if the nurse would have something that could make his heart stop pounding so fast. Whether this boy was his Blaine or not, he'd taken Kurt's hand. Nobody had done that in years. Nobody wanted to even touch him these days, not even his father.

Within minutes they were in the nurse's office. Kurt stood awkwardly behind Blaine as he explained the situation to the nurse, who glanced suspiciously at Kurt, then asked for them to follow her back into a curtained off little room. She directed him to one of the empty beds and then left to get a first-aid kit. Kurt settled down on the cot, eyes still focused on the other boy and hoping more than anything that he was Blaine, because he didn't think he could bare the disappointment of him not being his Blaine. He didn't even want to begin to understand how he could or couldn't be.

Blaine gave him a cheerful smile and plopped down on the cot next to his, facing him, and so close that if Kurt moved his leg their knees would have brushed. But he couldn't bring himself to do it. As soon as he made the first move in touching Blaine he'd poof out of existence again, just a mirage manifested by his own desperate desires.

"My name's Blaine, by the way," and Kurt's heart twanged so hard he thought his chest was going to split in half.

His eyes darted up to meet Blaine's gaze and take in the hand offered to him again. There was so much and still nothing familiar in Blaine's eyes, but this was him. Nothing else made sense. He was real, even the nurse had talked to him. How in the world was any of this even possible?

"Kurt," he finally offered, and he carefully reached out and took Blaine's hand, not daring to grip too tightly or squeeze in case the pressure made Blaine burst like a balloon and then promptly whiz right back out of him life. Blaine's hand was solid, real, fit so easily into his own that Kurt startled and withdrew quickly.

A slightly confused look was directed at his abrupt movement, but before Blaine could say anything the nurse returned and started cleaning up his arm. The two of them were silent as the nurse cleaned his cut up and asked a few questions about how it had a occurred. Kurt lied his way through them on instinct. Blaine was still smiling hopefully at him, but Kurt had no idea what it meant. Blaine had no idea what this moment and meeting meant to him because he didn't seem to remember it, and maybe he shouldn't be able to remember it because it hadn't been him. Had he met a remarkably similar father or uncle of Blaine's? An older brother who was just as friendly and nice with the same warm eyes and gentle personality?

The nurse wrote them excuses for class and, with Blaine's guiding hand, he found himself back out in the hallway and headed in the direction they'd left.

"You all right, Kurt?" Blaine asked, watching him closely and taking in his tense posture and distractedness. "I– " he bit his lip as they paused in the hallway. "You didn't tell her the truth, did you? I mean... I know what it's like getting bullied a lot, so... "

Kurt said nothing in response despite wanting to spill everything to the face that comforted him in his dreams. This boy didn't know anything about them or who he looked like. He wasn't Kurt's Blaine even if he was incredibly nice.

"I have to get to history," Kurt said simply, and he found Blaine trotting along beside himself comfortably, completely at ease with the brush off.

"I have history first, too," Blaine said in answer to Kurt's questioning look. He yanked a slip of paper out of his back pocket. "With Mrs. Wallace? Sorry, it's my first day, so I don't really know where anything is."

Kurt paused this time, and Blaine pulled to a stop next to him. He couldn't help but be suspicious of the eager, hopeful smile that graced that face. He was also rather illogically hurt that Blaine didn't recognize him, but then he reminded himself that this Blaine couldn't possibly be his Blaine. But still, why would any new kid in their right mind want to be friends with him? He was the school outcast for any number of reasons, and the prospect of being his friend was equivalent to social suicide.

The word "no" almost formed on his lips as he watched Blaine, a slight bounce to his step and a bright, charming smile directed at him. What if those fantasies, hallucinations, or whatever they'd been eight years ago had been a weird sign for this moment in his life? He didn't know what to make of any of it, but the one person he'd wanted in his life more than anything was the boy who had helped him so long ago.

Even if this Blaine wasn't his Blaine, he was close. Close enough that Kurt thought he would make a fantastic friend to sooth the loneliness that dominated his life.

"She's pretty nice," Kurt settled on. "A bit hard of hearing, but she grades fair."

"We have the same class then?" Blaine asked, adjusting the strap on his bag as Kurt started tentatively walking down the hall again.

Blaine kept pace with him, eyes bright.

"Yeah, I'll show you where it is."

"Great!"

But as Kurt led him down the hallway he realized that Blaine had directed him to the nurse's room twenty minutes ago without the slightest need for directions or any confusion whatsoever. Yet the same boy had no idea where their history classroom was and had just said he didn't know where anything was. Still unbearably suspicious, Kurt directed Blaine into their first block class and approached Mrs. Wallace first.

"Ah, Kurt, I was wondering where you'd been," she greeted, accepting his excuse note and waving him towards his seat. "We're reading the end of the second chapter and then going to do an assignment in pairs."

Kurt nodded and stepped aside so that she could see Blaine, waiting patiently to give her his note and introduce himself.

"Hi, Mrs. Wallace. I'm new. My name's Blaine Anderson. I don't know if they told you– "

Kurt froze at Blaine's surname. Even that was the same and it blew his mind to pieces. There was no way he wasn't his Blaine, but there was no logical way that he was, either.

"Oh, of course, Emma sent me an email to let me know you'd be joining us," she replied kindly. "I'll have a packet of what you've missed ready by the end of the day if you could just stop by before you leave?"

"Sure, great! Thank you so much– "

"Just take an empty chair and that'll be your spot," she finished. "Kurt, dear? Do you need to go back to the nurse?"

He jerked his gaze around, realizing he'd paused halfway down the row to his seat at the back. The entire class was casting him looks, mostly sneers and curious glances from the ones who ignored him. Blaine was still smiling, but biting his lip and adorably attempting to hide his grin.

"N- no, I'm– I'll sit," he decided softly, flinching as one of the jocks hit him with a wad of paper. Mrs. Wallace, who was climbing to her feet, didn't notice.

As she introduced Blaine to the class, Kurt took his seat, and waited to see what Blaine would do. There were three open spots: one by the trio of jocks that were snickering and still chucking things at Kurt, a second by a Cheerio girl who was batting her eyes flirtatiously at Blaine, and a third in the back by Kurt.

Immediately, Kurt knew what would happen. Blaine would take the spot by the beautiful Cheerio, just as any other heterosexual boy in his right mind would. He'd forget all about Kurt. The little shred of hope that had been unfurling in Kurt's chest since he'd seen Blaine's face reflected back at him in the bathroom mirror would smolder and die, completely unnoticed. Blaine was a handsome boy. Before long he'd be sucked in and socialized with the popular crowd and Kurt wouldn't even be a blip in his memories.

Then something surprising happened that made several people gasp and the jocks crack their knuckles: Blaine headed straight to the back, past the flirty Cheerio's stunned face, and slid into the chair beside Kurt. It was unheard of for anyone to willingly sit by Kurt, and the class, especially those with the ability to make Blaine's life a miserable hell, had taken note.

As Mrs. Wallace told everyone to continue the assigned reading until eight o'clock, Kurt leaned over and hissed at Blaine. "Are you insane?"

But Blaine just grinned and shrugged. "If by insane you're implying that I just sat down next to my first friend at McKinley, then yes, I certainly am," Blaine whispered in response.

Stunned that Blaine had just called him something nobody had since elementary school, Kurt said nothing and turned to his textbook while Blaine did the same.

He found it difficult to focus while he read, and when they all paired off for assignments Blaine immediately asked him. Kurt, who usually ended up being the third wheel in another group, allowed Blaine to push their desks together and dictate the questions they had to answer. His next class was the same. Blaine spent the walk upstairs to their shared Chemistry class comparing their schedules and was quite glad to see they had a few classes together the following day. Kurt was silently pleased as well, but every moment with Blaine made just reminded Kurt of how confused his mind was. He couldn't figure out how to let it go or why it bugged him so much. But it did because he couldn't puzzle out any logical answer.

When the final bell rang, Kurt hurried from his Home Economics class and downstairs to his locker. With any luck he'd make it out to his Navigator before any of the jocks searched him out for a final round of tormenting. He was just spinning in the last number on his lock when a familiar voice greeted him.

"Hey, stranger. You look like you're in a rush," Blaine remarked teasingly.

"J- just anxious to get home," Kurt lied, glancing over at Blaine with a small smile and then past him to Karofsky, Azimio, and Rick "The Stick" Neilson who were headed their way and armed with slushies. Kurt's stomach dropped at the sight.

"Oh, yeah, the weekend," Blaine recalled, like he'd somehow managed to forget such a thing existed. Maybe he had. He'd potentially forgotten a lot else. "Are you doing anything exciting? I'm just unpacking."

"No," Kurt answered, stuffed his last notebook into his bag and closing his locker sharply. "I have to go, but I'll see you– "

"You'd see him tied down so you could have your faggot way with him," Azimio snarled from behind Blaine.

Kurt flushed as Blaine turned to look at the jocks, taking two steps back towards Kurt at the sight of the towering boys. This would be the end of their short-lived friendship. If Blaine hadn't clued in by now he would after that line or a slushy to the face.

"Oh, guys, come on. Kurt's nice– "

"You a homo, too?" Karofsky barked, the hand clutching his slushy raising up menacingly. "You want him up your butt– "

"There's nothing wrong with being gay," Blaine stated flatly and the strength and conviction in his voice startled Kurt and the three jocks. Nobody had ever stood up for Kurt before. Even Kurt couldn't bring himself to stand up for his sexuality. "I bet you all like Queen's music and Freddie Mercury was bisexual."

"We should have known he was queer," Rick muttered furiously. "Look at that stupid tie."

"It's a very nice bow tie," Kurt said shakily. "Much better than being a jersey repeater."

The jocks chuckled and closed in on them, but Blaine, much to Kurt's surprise kept himself planting firmly between him and the other boys. Blaine was obviously shaking, but he stood strong as the cups were raised and dumped on his head.

"That's what you get for hanging with the school fag, Anderson! Welcome to McKinley!"

As Blaine spluttered and wiped furiously at his eyes, the jocks laughed and walked off. The other students around them had paused to watch, some looking surprised by the strange turn of events and others snickering behind their hands. Santana Lopez, one of the members of the Glee Club, but also a ruthless Cheerio, passed by, hand in hand with Brittany Pierce, and grinned maliciously at them.

"At least he's got a cute ass, Hummel. Too bad you'll never fuck it," Santana said happily before the two girls bounced away.

Kurt turned to Blaine, who was wincing and rubbing at his eyes and face.

"God, Blaine, I– that was– I should have warned you. I'm sorry– "

"Well, that's certainly a new one," Blaine offered weakly. "D- do you have a towel or something?"

Kurt watched him continue to brush the melting ice off of himself as his eyes turned red and he blinked repeatedly. He knew Blaine's eyes had to be burning right now, especially since it was presumably the first time he'd ever experienced this, but the other boy was taking it remarkably well. He had no towel to offer though, and as he looked down at Blaine's polo he realized it would be ruined if he didn't get it in a washer soon.

"No, but– come on," he decided quickly. "We'll go to my house and get you cleaned up, okay?"

Blaine nodded mutely and allowed Kurt to guide him to the parking lot since he could barely see or keep his eyes open.


Burt yawned loudly as he settled down on the couch in the living room. It was unusual that he had a Friday off, but one of his mechanic's had needed to switch so he could attend his daughter's first soccer game of the school year. As a father himself, Burt always did his best to accommodate his guys when they wanted to switch to do things involving their kids. He never really had much to attend with Kurt since his son's Glee Club had yet to make it beyond Regionals, but he always hoped one day Kurt would suddenly take up another activity and make a friend of two.

He dug the remote out of the cushions as he slumped down and propped his feet up on the coffee table. It was early afternoon, and for once he'd allowed himself to stay in bed until noon and relax while trying not to think about how miserable his only son was. A full day of relaxation wasn't a luxury he usually allowed himself, but right now he needed it. There was so much for Burt to think over and decide on when it came to Kurt. Carole kept nudging him to at least start dropping hints to his boy about how supportive he was of Kurt's sexuality, but he still hesitated. To him, Kurt coming out wasn't something that could be forced and he didn't want to smother him when Kurt never seemed to want that sort of affection. It was so confusing to figure out the best course of action, but Burt hated the idea of never having that huge moment with Kurt. In another two years Kurt would be off to college, finally stretching his wings and discovering his first love where it was safe and possible to do so.

The thought that Kurt might keep it from him even then nagged at him constantly. He didn't want Kurt to think their relationship was closed off and that Burt would disapprove and cut him from his life for something like that, but he didn't want to force his son out either. Somehow he had to find a middle ground that got his love and acceptance across to Kurt without scaring him.

As Burt mindlessly flipped through the channels for something of interest the front door creaked open. The usual click of Kurt's fancy dress shoes echoed over to Burt a second later as the door was closed.

"Hey, Kurt!" he hollered, clearing his throat at how hoarse he sounded. Thoughts of his son and the roadblock in their relationship always got to him in ways nothing else could. That feeling, more than anything else, told him he had to say something soon before this disconnection ruined them.

Kurt's footsteps paused and then, much to Burt's surprise, he heard his son whispering. Confused, Burt sat up a little straighter and waited to see if Kurt would come to him or if he'd head down to his room without a hello. It wouldn't be the first time it had happened, but the whispers made him suspect something was up and that he'd have to follow Kurt downstairs if he wasn't given an answer.

The click of Kurt's shoes started up again, growing closer and with a strange echoing noise to them as though someone else was walking with him, slightly off-step. More than curious at this point, Burt turned the volume down as Kurt appeared in the archway that separated the hall from the living room.

"Hi, Dad," he said softly, nervously.

A second later, Burt understood why. Another boy appeared behind him, slightly shorter with... blue tinted skin? McKinley's latest slushy victim, by the looks of him. One Kurt had surprisingly taken an interest in. Burt knew the other members of the Glee Club had had their fair share of frozen drinks tossed in their faces, but Kurt had never brought one home before. Burt tried his best not to stare or look overly curious, but his heart hammered at the sight. This boy... did his son finally have a friend?

"Hey, bud," Burt replied gently, still eyeing the boy lingering behind his son. He couldn't make out much about him since Kurt had him tucked behind his body. "You gonna introduce me to your blue friend?"

"Wh– oh, this um," Kurt paused and glanced over his shoulder and the enormous smile that took over his features made the inside of Burt's eyelids burn.

He'd waited eight years to see that smile return and brush the dust off the corners of Kurt's lips that hung lower everyday with the weight of his solitude. It was more beautiful and full than Burt remembered it being when he'd come home to find Kurt and Elizabeth snuggled up on the couch and giggling as they painted each other's nails or looked through a much of fashion magazines. No expression was quite like the one on Kurt's face right now, and while it was like that old smile, it was also something newly discovered and different after years of hibernation.

Burt might not even know this boy's name but he liked him already if he could get that reaction out of Kurt without any effort. The other boy stepped carefully around Kurt and Burt was immediately struck with a sense of familiarity. Something about this kid plucked at his memories; the neatly (now very wet) styled hair, the easy, charming smile, and the bright eyes. He took in the boy's clothes: a pair of dark jeans and a tucked in polo shirt that ended with a neat little bow tie around the collar. He'd definitely been "slushied" like Kurt had a number of times before – his clothes were stained, soaked, and undoubtedly ruined. He kept rubbing at his red eyes and wincing under his breath, despite the impressively honest smile gracing his lips. It wasn't until the boy introduced himself that the reality of what Burt was seeing hit him.

"I'm Blaine, sir, Blaine Anderson," the boy offered, holding his wet, blue-tinted hand out and Burt knew his eyes had just burst out of their sockets.

That was the same name Kurt had prattled on about for months as a child. He remembered the vivid descriptions Kurt had once given him and his various therapists. A slightly off-center nose, curls gelled and parted to one side, and a smile that lit up the whole room. It was no wonder that Kurt was beaming right now, because somehow, miraculously, this boy was just like the one he'd imagined as a child.

"Burt Hummel," Burt finally greeted cautiously, shaking Blaine's hand and trying to stop himself from flinching at how surreal it was to touch this kid. It must just be a coincidence. It wasn't possible for his son to see into the future to this bright, smiling boy who was still dripping from a slushy dumped over his head. It also wasn't possible for Kurt's imagination to manifest this boy into existence and yet...

Kurt kept smiling widely as they shook hands and then he scooped Blaine's arm up between his and led him into the kitchen. The gesture startled Burt more than Blaine introducing himself – Kurt never made a move to touch someone else first. More often than not he avoided contact with other people at all costs.

"I'm going help him clean up," Kurt told him as they passed back behind the couch to the kitchen. "He um, this was his first slushy and a lot of it got in his eyes."

Blaine gave a helpful wince to prove Kurt's point and then the two disappeared into the connecting kitchen behind Burt. Still reeling, Burt turned the volume up to its normal level, but he didn't focus on the television. This was weird, almost alarmingly so. What were the odds of this kid having the exact same name as that boy from so long ago?

Burt ran through a number of possibilities in his head. Kurt might have pretended Blaine, an actual kid at his school who he'd liked at the time, was an older, intelligent, and kind boy to help him with his grief. It wasn't improbable that he would project something like that after Elizabeth's death, but it didn't account for why Kurt had never tried to befriend him before or why this was Blaine's first slushy. Burt remembered exactly how adamant Kurt had been about every little detail of Blaine. From his age to his height, to the features of his face and the quality of his voice, Kurt always had a long-winded answer for it all. It was hard to forget something his young son had clung so desperately to and then something that had begun to frighten Burt since the older boy didn't seem to exist.

From the kitchen he heard the splash of water in the sink and Blaine's voice, magnified and echoing from having his head in the sink, asking Kurt to be careful because that eye was sore. Bemused, Burt tried to catch snippets of their conversation, but with the television going it was impossible. Something felt... odd about all of this; suspicious, but in a non-threatening way that didn't make sense to Burt. He couldn't place what the meaning was with this or how any of it was possible. It had to be a coincidence. It just had to be.

A few minutes later, the water shut off and he heard Kurt's footsteps heading back his way. His son passed by the couch and tossed over his shoulder, "I'll go see if I have anything for you to change into so we can wash those, okay? You'll be okay watching – " he glanced at the television " the football game with my Dad for a bit, right?"

Behind Burt, Blaine's voice, bright and slightly amused at Kurt's obvious worry, was assuring. "Don't worry. I love the Buckeyes. They've been my favorite team for a long time."

"Okay," Kurt beamed, "just– I'll be back in a minute."

"Sure."

Kurt dashed from the room, his bedroom door opening a second later, followed by the loud clomping of his feet going down the wooden stair case. Burt finally looked up when he caught Blaine moving towards the side of the couch. His face and hair was damp, and the dish towel that usually hung from the oven was draped around his neck. He looked a lot younger without the product; his dark curls were free and slowly springing into spirals. The smile from earlier was still on Blaine's lips, but it was dimmer, less sure now that Kurt had disappeared. A small trickle of pride at the fear there ran through Burt for a second before he motioned for Blaine to join him. At least the kid wasn't daft enough to try to play buddy-buddy with him right away.

"This your first slushy, huh?" Burt asked gruffly as Blaine sat down carefully on the other end of the couch.

"Yes, sir, Dalton never had slushies," he explained. "They didn't tolerate bullying. That's why my parents sent me there."

Burt ran the name through his mind, trying to place it. It sounded familiar, though after living in the same region of Ohio for his entire life Burt knew the public high schools and their names quite well. It must be a private or Catholic school somewhere that he wasn't familiar with, but it could just as easily be out-of-state or on the other side of Columbus. Blaine seemed like he would have fit in at a place of that sort, but that didn't explain why in the world he would transfer from somewhere prestigious to McKinley. Most private high schools tended to having boarding options around here since it was the middle of nowhere.

"So you're new around here? Where'd you move from? Out of state?" Burt persisted, firing his questions off in rapid succession and hoping that the faster they rolled out the more likely it would be that Blaine would give him the truth since he'd have less time to think. He wasn't entirely sure what he hoped to gain from the boy beyond a background, but that sense of familiarity wouldn't quit. Every little nuance about Blaine, from his easy posture to the curve of his jaw kept bringing back old phrases of memory that his son had once spoken.

"And he's got the best, biggest eyes and eyelashes that are longer than my fingers... "

"His eyebrows look like triangles and I told him so and he got mad, but he wasn't really mad, Daddy, so don't worry."

"– Mr. Hummel? Sir?"

Burt shook himself and looked over at Blaine. The boy looked concerned and a little frightened by Burt drifting off into his thoughts. He tried to recall what Blaine had just been saying, but his mind immediately filled up with his little boy's eight year old voice telling him all of the things about the boy sitting beside him.

"Sorry, got distracted by the game," Burt lied, shifting his gaze to the television and trying to look interested. For the first time in a long time the prospect of a football game did little for him. "So are you from out of state, then? I've never heard of Dalton."

"It's in Westerville," Blaine explained. "And it's a small private school. Me and my brother just moved out here last week. Today was my first day at McKinley and well... " He gestured to his stained clothes and wet hair. "Not the best impression, I guess."

"Of McKinley or you?" Burt wondered out loud before he could stop himself. He found it a little odd that Blaine had specifically said he and his brother had moved out here without a mention of their parents, but he didn't ask. Some things, especially if that meant what he thought it might, were too personal when two people were just getting to know each other.

Blaine laughed. "Both by the looks of it. They didn't like... well, they didn't think I should be hanging out with Kurt and," he paused and shrugged, "they didn't like it when I defended him."

Burt tilted his chin up at Blaine's words, eyeing the boy appraisingly. He'd stood up for Kurt, maybe even taken the slushies for him. It made perfect sense that Kurt had brought him home after that, even disregarding the name and similarities to his imaginary childhood friend. Nobody ever seemed to choose Kurt, regardless of what the other option was.

"Thank you," he finally said. It was simple and soft, his voice losing its usual gruffness as he nodded towards Blaine and then shifted his eyes back towards the television.

Blaine nodded slowly, and out of the corner of his eye Burt could see the boy watching him with interest as Kurt's shoes clip-clopped loudly up the stairs. A moment later he was skidding into the room, a startling sight for Burt to behold since Kurt was always so stoic and dreary. This new, chipper, beaming boy was something remarkable and breath-taking.

"I've got so many outfit ideas for you," Kurt gushed, grappling for Blaine's hand to yank him up off the couch. "Do you prefer red or green? I couldn't decide, honestly I think most colors would work with your skin tone, Blaine, but I've got a bunch laid out downstairs and– "

With a grin and a laugh, Blaine let himself be led from the living room, offering Burt a small wave as Kurt kept prattling on excitedly. It took Burt several minutes after they disappeared downstairs to realize there were tears running down his cheeks and salting up his lips. That smile that had graced Kurt's face just now was all he'd wanted and been hoping for since Kurt started middle school. It was wide and full and the brightest, most relaxed Kurt had looked since he'd stopped talking about Blaine as a young boy – since his mother had died, if he was perfectly honest with himself.

Burt didn't understand how anything with this new Blaine and the made up Blaine added up, but he was incredibly grateful for this new young man nonetheless. His son had his first real friend, someone who had stuck up for him, and seemed to indulge his fashion interests and the various other parts of him Burt didn't understand or know about. That was all Burt wanted for him, and if he could have that instead of Kurt's deepest trust right now, then he'd take it. He'd accept anything that made his son happy again.