Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters; Ryan Murphy and Co. hold that honor. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

In. Out.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine." The reflexive response was out of his mouth before he could begin to calm his pounding heart. He knew what was happening – God knew neither Blaine nor Burt approached anything near subtle when it came to grand gestures of affection – yet he still failed to wrap his mind around it.

Blaine wants to marry me.

Having a boyfriend had been a foreign concept to him, two years ago. In fact, being wanted by anyone outside his immediate, ever-dwindling family appeared a social impossibility until, suddenly, Blaine was there. He went to Dalton that day to spite Puck, to sneer upon the boys' decision to completely ignore his expertise and blunder on instead blindly, hoping to snag a victory. No, he was too feminine for them, too liable to break out a dress and a boa and make them all emasculate themselves for a trophy, and he was sick of the stereotyping. Visiting an all-boys private school had an air of rebelliousnessto it that lended itself well to Kurt's means, his ideas.

All he'd wanted was to prove that the Dalton Academy Warblers were not as sneeringly homosexual as the Glee club claimed. (Wait, hold up, like a million awesome gay jokes just popped into my head.)

That's right, Santana, he'd thought, unflaggingly unimpressed. Talk us down all you want. I'm not biting.

He hadn't known what to expect, really; Lima just didn't have private schools. The public schools were laughably inept, and few would mistake the two for one another. The entire atmosphere was different at Dalton. Rather than being overwhelmed by a swarm of people as soon as he entered the building, he found himself meandering the grounds, exploring an outdoor garden and a patio with tables for studying. As though the exterior had not already captured his attention, the inside of the building proved all the more overwhelming: arching, high towers and breathtaking vistas of the academy as a whole. It had been an amazing experience, an insight into anotherworld.

He had tred lightly, that first time, not wanting to stir any ripples, painfully aware that he had not factored in the school uniform into his infiltration scheme. No seemed particularly plussed at his misplacement; if anything, they eyed him with vague amusement, not quite sure what to make of the shy new guy with a satchel over one shoulder and a tenuous half-smile on his lips.

Making his way down the stairwell, he had almost given up hope of finding the Warblers – he had not even considered how difficult it would be to actually watch them perform – when a flash of movement caught his attention.

It shouldn't have. By all means, it should have stirred nothing within him, no innate desire to turn and request, selfishly, "Hi, um, excuse me? Can I ask you a question? I'm new here."

Almond. Bright, warm almond, a sort of soft, welcoming familiarity that made Kurt's breath catch in his chest as the Dalton boy turned to face him, a smile already etched onto his face, jaw dropping open in momentary surprise. He recovered quickly – far more quickly than Kurt did, his heart pounding and his mouth dry – as he extended a hand and replied, "My name's Blaine."

A soft breath of a laugh escaped Kurt as he clasped hands and echoed, "Kurt." Then, bewildered and a little entranced, he asked, "What's going on?"

"The Warblers." Blaine's eyes lit up even more, if possible, as he turned to look at the crowd pouring out into the atrium, teeth showing as he added, "They're putting on a rehearsal. Tends to shut the school down for a while." He winked, letting Kurt in on a joke, a story that he could not understand yet, a sudden, unrelenting desire to know flooding him.

"So, wait, the Glee club here is . . . sort of cool?"

"The Warblers are like . . . rockstars," Blaine said, absolutely serious, and one of Kurt's eyebrows ticked upward in surprise. "C'mon. I'll show you," Blaine insisted, taking his hand again and giving it a light tug. Before Kurt could somuch as utter a protest, he was being gently led through the crowd and past the swelling sea of students, emerging instead into an empty hallway.

"Wow," he breathed, unable to help himself, beholding Dalton for the first time.

"Yeah. It's pretty amazing, isn't it?" Blaine replied, smiling, before tugging him along.

For Kurt, the corridor seemed unending in those moments, stumbling along as Blaine set a brisk pace, almost jogging. He clearly wanted to see the performance almost as much as Kurt had wanted to spy on them, but every former thought of Warblers and show choir had vanished from Kurt's mind as he dazzled at the hand in his, warm, soft, firm.

Don't let go, it warned, a playful promise with untold fortune at the end, and Kurt held on as if his life depended on it, knowing with unwavering clarity that he wanted Blaine.

In what capacity, he could not have defined at the time – nor could he have been expected to; his previous experiences with Brittany and Karofsky hadn't exactly attuned him to it – but he knew that Blaine was special.

He knew, with every fiber of his being, that Blaine was someone that he should hang on to.

"You're being awfully quiet," Burt pointed out, neither angry nor judgmental as he paused at a stop sign.

"Just thinking," Kurt sighed, staring out the window.

"Wanna talk about it?" Burt prompted, glancing over at him briefly before adding, "We've got a bit of a drive."

"It isn't that far to Dalton," Kurt blurted out unthinkingly.

Burt looked, unsurprisingly, startled. "How'd you know I was taking you there?" he asked.

Kurt leveled him with a gently remonstrative look and reminded, "Dad. This is Blaine."

"I could be taking you out fishing," Burt insisted stubbornly, hands gripping either side of the steering wheel as he drove. They were not tense and Kurt could tell that he remained neutral, borderline dispassionate about the entire affair. For all he appeared, Burt might have been taking them for a stroll through the park, or out for some recreational fishing.

"We haven't been fishing since I was five, and that was a disaster," Kurt pointed out.

Burt grunted. "It had potential."

Kurt leveled another look at him. Burt said nothing.

Letting his thoughts drift with the landscape, Kurt flash-forwarded through that first meeting, remembering snippets of conversation – "Would you guys excuse us for a moment?" – while anxiety threatened to overwhelm him.

He'd known, then, in some heart-of-hearts, that he'd been caught, well and truly, by the one person that he could not bear to incriminate himself in front of. He wanted Blaine to see him as him, not a spy from McKinley looking for a leg up in a show choir competition. Even before Wes and David had departed – their words muffled to his mind, borderline unintelligible in his memory – Kurt had remembered the liquid almond of Blaine's eyes, soft, uncriticizing.

Unafraid.

"I take it you're having trouble at school," he began, quiet, sympathetic, for Kurt's ears alone.

There was something lulling and immeasurably soothing about it, a compassion Kurt hadn't known he'd been starving for. His response came with difficulty, through, every instinct screaming at him not to ruin it, not to touch his relationship with Blaine, this pure, simple novelty that had entered his life.

He spoke without meaning to. He spoke with bitterness.

"I'm the – only openly gay guy at my school," he admitted, husky, hoarse, leaning in to soak in Blaine's receptiveness, the unspoken I'm here I'm here I'm here reverberating through him with quiet urgency, nudging him to un-bottle, to let it go. "And there's this – neanderthal who's made it his mission to make my life a living hell."

His voice dropped, and he almost choked on the sob that threatened to slip past his throat as a hundred memories of Karofsky surged to the forefront of his mind. He tried to contain it – tried to remove himself as he had done so often at McKinley, ignored the problem, pretend it had never been and never would be – but he couldn't. He couldn't ignore the reality, the sharp, painful truth underlying it all.

I can't keep living this way.

"I know how you feel," Blaine said, and it was as if someone had offered him an arm to crawl under, a shoulder to lean against. He remembered staring at Blaine with utter transfixion, surprise, relief. Blaine hadn't merely said it to make him feel better – and, Kurt knew, he never would; Blaine would never lie to appease him – but to make sure Kurt knew that he was there.

A living, breathing presence that understood how he felt. Somehow. Some way.

It would take months before they would quietly unlock the Pandora's box that was Blaine's past, sitting on Blaine's bed, cross-legged and at ease as light streamed in through the windows. "When I first came out to my parents," Blaine began, "they didn't know what to say. I guess 'surprised' covered it pretty well. They weren't . . . they didn't know how things changed. What needed to change, and what didn't." Smiling ruefully, Blaine shook his head, leaning forward a little, scuffing a fingertip against his knee.

Kurt remembered the dark red polo that he had been wearing then well, coupled with a pair of black pants that made Kurt think back to Dalton, suddenly, a stripped down, honest, open version of the same perfect boy he had met on the staircase mere months prior. The bed was soft beneath his calves, the pillows even softer at his back as he lounged, rumpling one of his favorite light-blue button-ups, a jean-clad leg tossed jauntily over the other as he listened.

"They tried to accommodate me by embracing what they already knew: that I liked sports and cardigans and show choir. I got a scholarship to Dalton my sophomore year when I applied for it thanks to the Warblers, and they liked that." He shrugged, displacing a thread on the mattress with gentle fingers, not meeting Kurt's gaze. Kurt couldn't take his eyes off him, always fascinated, always wondering about the porcelain past Blaine tucked gently under his blazer, refusing to let the light touch.

"Then things changed," he admitted softly. "Cooper got a job in San Francisco, and my parents wanted me to take a more serious look at my future. While I loved show choir, I didn't really – have a strong interest in anything else. I mean, I was good at other subjects – math, science, what have you – but I didn't love them like I loved performing. Like I loved singing."

Kurt knew the feeling exactly; he could remember almost verbatim a painful conversation Burt and he had had almost two years prior about how 'important' football was to 'shaping a man' and how it really built those vital masculine qualities every boy needed. "You can't be someone in this world if you don't have character," he'd said, completely serious, as he'd grinded away at an engine with a wrench while Kurt watched, frozen and unspeaking. "Football builds character. Ever consider trying it?"

He'd turned it down, then, only to take it up months later when he realized that aside from those wistful notions at a commonality, Burt and he had little to nothing in common.

Looking at Blaine's face, then, his hair toused up in hair gel, not as severely as it would become but a little more rigid, perhaps, than that first day, Kurt waited.

"I started looking into other things once it became clear that . . . I needed to consider my future. Once I did that, it just . . . it sort of spiraled. My dad always wanted me to go into pre-law like he did, and I had always been comfortable around debates. So I agreed to take some courses in it, start to understand the basics. It was around that time that I dropped out of polo; I couldn't afford it with Glee club rehearsals and school."

His expression darkened, then, a shadow of something unreadable passing across it as he admitted slowly, "Up until that point, I'd been naïve enough to think that . . . maybe they really knew what they were getting into. Maybe they accepted having a gay son. It wasn't until that summer – sophomore year – that my dad invited me to work with him on a new project he had." He looked down at his hands, folded on his knees, and Kurt waited, patient, unmoving, present. Blaine's lips folded into a halfhearted smile, neither approving nor disapproving as he finally stated, "We built a car together. Chevy, '59. It was work, but it was . . . fulfilling. We got to spend more time together, talk about life and future plans and just enjoy being around one another, and then. . . ." He shook his head.

Kurt waited for him to regain his composure, at last prodding gently, "And then?"

Blaine smiled, the first glimpse of bitterness Kurt had ever seen on his face, and admitted, "I found out that he did it because he thought . . . maybe getting my hands dirty 'might make me straight.'"

Kurt flinched. Blaine cleared his throat, redirecting his attention. "We struggled, after that. When I – uh – " he'd had to clear his throat, then, ears turning red with embarrassment as he added, "when I went to visit your dad at his workshop, talk to him about you and . . . intimacy."

Kurt hummed. Blaine winced. "Which I am sorryabout," he hastened to assure, holding his hands up in a pleading manner.

Kurt had already milked the apology for what it was worth: back rubs and shopping trips and even late-night coffee visits. Blaine's dedication had gone so far as falling asleep over his textbook during the middle of one of their joint study sessions; between both his own and his 'I'm sorry for overstepping' sessions with Kurt, he'd been pushing himself twice as hard to keep up.

"Blaine, it's fine," he assured, because having sex with one's significant lover changed things, and petty grudges over ill-placed comments and conversations was one of them. "Go on."

"Our relationship had broken down almost completely at that point," Blaine said, almost tripping over his own words. "We weren't speaking to each other, he was frustrated that his bonding attempt had backfired, I was upset that he didn't get it, that it isn't a choice."

Blaine had to compose himself for a moment, then, and for a moment, Kurt had wondered if, perhaps, he'd felt that same trapped, suspended feeling as well at times, where no matter which direction he went people would judge him and see him as misplaced. Even when he had dated Brittany, no one had honestly believed it; they'd known that he was hiding who he was to avoid a less comfortable alternative. It made his stomach twist to think of Blaine doing the same to appease his dad; he'd hoped that he was the only one.

"And we just . . . didn't talk much after that," he concluded softly. Shaking his head, a rueful smile crossing his lips, he added, "Of course, it couldn't last forever. We made up, eventually; I don't even know exactly when I started trusting him again but I did, and he was . . . he trusted me, too. To make the right decisions, to know my limits, to respect myself and who I wanted to be. Not to settle because I felt like my options were limited, even." He smiled dazzingly at Kurt, adding honestly, "I don't think he ever expected me to run into someone like you."

Kurt smiled back, unable to help himself, and added lightly, "Well, much as my dad was expecting me to bring home a buff, beefy football player –"

"Sorry to disappoint," Blaine cut him off gently, closing the final centimeters – because Kurt had seen him, then, edging ever so closer until Kurt could feel his breath on his lips, an impossible sensation to ignore – before kissing him.

"You're thinking about him, aren't you?" Burt asked, a trace of amusement lacing his tone as he turned onto a back road.

Kurt blinked, momentarily unseated at his current position, blinking rapidly. "Thinking about what?" he echoed stupidly.

"Blaine."

Kurt sighed, coming down from the whisper of a kiss, bliss evaporating in the daylight. "And how would you know that?" he asked quietly.

"Because you're my son, and I know that smile, and I know that there's only one kid who can make you smile like that."

"We're not kids anymore, Dad."

Burt held up a hand, conceding the point, eyes on the road. "Fair enough, but you're always gonna be my son. Don't think I don't know these things."

There was a lot Burt didn't know about Blaine and him – a lot that Burt didn't know about Blaine and him – but that was better for all three of them.

As it was, their first meeting was almost entirely out of Kurt's control. They'd gone to Rachel's party because Kurt was bored and lonely and tired of being excluded. Even if it was Rachel and there was likely to be no purpose whatsoever to her so-called 'festivities,' the rest of the Glee club had vowed to make appearances, on penalty of being looked down upon by those that suffered through it. Besides, the rumors that Puck was going to be supplying alcohol (where, Kurt didn't know; how, he didn't care to find out), which sent an almost electric thrill down his spine, making him crave the experience.

Alcohol to the uninitiated was an elusive prize, a temptress of magnificent proportions. It defined social status, and Kurt knew that to be part of the Glee club, he needed to be part of the Glee club.

What better way to do that then to go to a party and, in the safety and privacy of Rachel's basement, get drunk?

Of course, none of it went according to plan, because before he'd had more than a handful of sips of alcohol – which already left his head buzzing pleasantly, the room almost whirling around him – Blaine almost crashed into him, apologizing and laughing in equal turns, already thoroughly debached. His cardigan was halfway off his chest, hair akimbo and eyes glazed as he beamed, wildly pleased with himself.

Kurt's first reaction was to join him, but he was able to reign the impulse under control when Blaine tripped over his own feet and tumbled backwards off the small stage that the Berrys had installed. Hastening to his rescue, Kurt propped him back up, doing his best to suppress the shiver that wanted to race down his spine at the overwhelming feel of Blaine Blaine everywhere.

It was the closest he had ever been to another boy in his life, and it was exhilarating, and with Blaine's breath hot and needy against his neck, his chest, arm draped over his shoulders as he explained in extensive detail exactly why platypuses should be called platypii, Kurt couldn't complain. Blaine's malleable conversationality was infectious; Kurt was grateful that he ended up consuming almost five shots' worth of alcohol, obliterating any recollection of the strange talks they had, about girls and boys and Dalton and McKinley and everything and everyone in between.

It didn't end as romantically as he'd thought it might, but there was certainly a spark in the air that Kurt couldn't deny. It embittered him to a degree that almost ashamed him, how jealous and disappointed he had been when he'd seen Rachel and Blaine prancing around each other. It was more than a duet; it was a kiss, Blaine's first kiss in Kurt's presence, and until that moment he had not realized precisely how much he had wanted to kiss him until someone had taken the opportunity from him.

He's mine, he wanted to snap. Don't touch him.

He couldn't, though, only watching helplessly as Don't You Want Me Baby blared from the speakers. He felt more lonely and awkward than ever, then, as he stood on the fringes of the party, too frustrated to partake in the puppy-like cuddling that had ensued as the others slowly drifted towards full intoxication.

The duet ended and, before Blaine could get any more bright ideas about Rachel and women in general, Kurt had ushered him along, insisting that they should get back before it was late.

That was a lie, of course; it was already late, past two in the morning, most of the New Directions curled up in various states of consciousness and undress around Rachel's basement. She tried to fold herself into Finn's side and failed as he gently but firmly led her away and sat her down on the couch, explaining that he needed to take his little brother and Blaine home for the night.

"Blaine can – Blaine can stay," she'd hiccuped, arms pawing after him.

"No, really, we ought to be going," Kurt insisted, falsely bright as he steered Blaine forcibly up the stairs before he could formulate more than a garbling whine of protest to the manhandling.

"C'mon, c'mon, I wanna party," he wheedled, leaning on Kurt's shoulder as though gravity might force them back through the floor to the basement where, evidently, the party had ended. "Let's party, Kurt."

It made Kurt's heart leap to his throat every time he said it, his name somehow both invaluable and utterly comfortable on Blaine's lips.

"Let's go home," he urged instead, a gently lilting tone to his voice making it a game, to which Blaine readily agreed.

The car ride was quiet – much as this one was, Kurt reflected ruefully – until they reached the Hummels' house. Then the snoring from the backseat became obvious, and Kurt had to close his eyes for a moment and remember to breathe slowly and deeply before he could unbuckle himself and step out of the car.

Rousing Blaine took more than a little effort – snapping fingers and shaking only roused him to a dull sense of consciousness that was less than useless – but at last Kurt coaxed him out of the car. He would never remember how he got Blaine upstairs, never mind with Finn trodding along loudly after them, protesting in a noisy whisper that Burt would care while Kurt hushed him sharply, steering Blaine along before he could drift off again.

Overcome by a near-violent urge to pee, he hurriedly deposited Blaine on the bed and tucked himself into his bathroom, emerging to the same snores as before, Blaine's face partially squashed against the blankets. He was curled in on himself and shivering faintly – it was freezing outside, and with his clothes still rumpled with cold and the blankets underneath him, he wasn't generating much warmth himself – and Kurt took pity on him, tugging off his shoes before dragging some of the blankets over him, draping the floor rug over the bed at last to still the shuddering.

Although tempted, he resisted the urge to fall into the space beside him and go to sleep. It would be immoral and unethical: Blaine was a friend and couldn't chose to sleep with him, however innocuous it might be. Scarcely an hour passed before Kurt surrendered to the urge and shuffled underneath the covers instead, a veritable furnace of warmth surging over him. It was so deliciously comfortable that it was everything he could do not to simply sink into it and never leave.

And if Blaine snuggled up to him, draping an arm around his waist and tucking his cheek against the back of Kurt's shoulder – then Kurt was too tired to care, drifting off without a second thought.

That morning, however, he'd awoken mere hours later to his alarm, jerking upright and lunging to turn it off. His head was throbbing slightly, an unpleasant reminder that indulgence, however small, had consequences. Blaine hadn't even twitched, merely flopping face-first onto the bed to accommodate the movement and resuming snoring. "Kurt?"

Burt's voice came from below, clearly not the first time around. Kurt winced, hesitating before calling back, "Just a minute!"

"What's the difference between a shirred egg? Is that like a scrambled egg or something?"

Kurt skittered over to his vanity, almost overturning it in his haste to settle down, calling out thinly, "I'll be down in a sec –"

The door opened. Burt froze.

Kurt remembered closing his eyes and praying for mercy to a God he didn't believe in.

"Where am I?" Blaine gasped, eyes squinted shut and head clearly throbbing abominably as he gave the room a brief, cursory exam before giving up and flopping back with a groan.

"Oh. My bad." Burt backed away slightly, staring at Kurt in something akin to bewilderment. "I'll leave you two alone."

Blaine seemed to think it was a splendid idea, groaning underneath the pillows – Kurt couldn't tell what he was saying, exactly, but it seemed emphatic – and turning onto his side, curling up into the fetal position. Although tempted to join him and never move again, Kurt sighed, focused whole-heartedly upon his morning routine, drawing it out as much as possible. He showered, shaved, moisturized, and meticulously went through each of the steps towards a perfect outfit, at last realizing that there was nothing else he could do a mere hour and a half later.

With a sigh, he'd approached the bed, giving Blaine a gentle shake by the shoulder. "Blaine," he called. "Wake up."

"Was that your dad?" Blaine asked, muffled by blankets and pillows, exhaustion and embarrassment and intrigue clearly piqued.

Kurt nodded, knowing that he couldn't see it. "I'll get you some Tylenol," was all he said.

True love, they say, is seeming someone at their worst and still only thinking the best of them. That was precisely how Kurt felt as he helped his would-be boyfriend recover from their first joint alcoholic adventure. The second was hardly better – Kurt winced to think about it, how terribly the whole night had gone how silly it had been to give into the petty urge to challenge Sebastian of all people.

And then Sebastian had almost blinded Blaine, and suddenly things were a lot more personal.

His hands wouldn't stop shaking, then, as he sat in his dad's car, driving home in the dark this time. They wouldn't let him stay overnight and neither would Burt: Blaine was out cold from a mild sedative they'd used to help them irrigate his eyes, and the hospital staff wouldn't budge on their visitation policy for an under-eighteener.

It had been along drive home, thinking, worrying about Blaine, wondering what would happen if he woke up in the middle of the night and Kurt wasn't there, if he woke up scared or in pain and Kurt wasn't there, and Kurt didn't sleep at all that night, staring at his phone and willing it not to buzz, not daring sleep in case it did.

The next morning was hard – easier than the previous night but hard, nonetheless – and Kurt had almost wanted to skip school entirely. His dad had insisted, though, pointing out that Blaine was too drowsy to be much conversation until later, anyway. He'd regained consciousness just long enough to eat and satisfy the doctor's requirements before release; promises for follow-through were a given.

Attempting to focus on Glee – on school at all – in the aftermath of such a betrayal was almost impossible, but Kurt managed. As soon as the words, "How is he, is he okay?" were out of Rachel's mouth, he couldn't ignore the reality, couldn't pretend it hadn't happened.

Still, he maintained his composure enough to answer: "It's his . . . right eye. The doctor says his cornea is . . . deeply scratched and they have to do surgery."

Kurt's stomach had plummeted the previous night as he'd held Blaine's hand through the grueling ordeal, listening to his soft, steady, relentless whine of pain. It never rose nor fell, a constant, and without it, Kurt felt anchorless, now, knowing that he was in pain and also knowing he couldn't be there.

It was infuriating. It was terrifying. As soon as the final bell rang, Kurt was out of his seat and out the door before most of the other students had even comprehended that class was over. It took the better part of an hour to reach Blaine's house, mid-way between Westerville and Lima, but it was worth it to see him, worth it to be there when he drowsily smiled, the stark relief in his eyes – eye – weakening Kurt's knees.

"Hi," he chirped, too bright, too light, but Blaine didn't seem to mind at all, struggling to sit up, still off-center with pain meds and sleep meds and far too many complications in between.

Overall, though, nothing had changed; he was still Blaine when he rumbled in a soft, sleepy voice, "Hi," holding out an arm invitingly. "Can I have a hug?"

Kurt obliged without a second's hesitation, relief and grief and joy mingling in equal parts as he held him, needing to be held.

There was a time when Blaine knew exactly what he needed without words – many times, Kurt knew, but among them, the student class president election stood out. He'd spent hours trying to calculate how he could win, what he could possibly due to sway a student body that hated him, but nothing had occurred to him until at last the elections had taken place.

When Principal Figgins had summoned him to his office, Kurt thought he was receiving a congratulatory notice. The last thing he had anticipated was the accusation – the conviction – that he had cheated, skewed the polls in his favor in a desperate bid to win.

I – I wanted to, but I didn't

You wanted to?

Kurt didn't think he could easily forget the look in Burt's eyes, then, mingled disapproval and sadness at the thought that his son – his infallible son – could consider cheating.

I'm sorry, he 'd wanted to say, even though it wasn't his fault, he hadn't done anything wrong, but there hadn't been anything to say.

Instead, he'd left the office, feeling strangely numb to it all. He'd tried and failed. He'd been suspended from Glee club, cut off from the one resource he'd always believed he could depend upon.

When Rachel and Finn met him in the hallway, he'd held himself together – barely. Once the tide of emotions became too strong – cheater, cheater, cheater – he'd had no choice.

"I have to find Blaine," he'd whispered, throaty, choked up, and taken off.

Blaine, surprisingly, wasn't hard to find. Startled, perhaps, at Kurt's obvious distress, but not difficult to find. He looked up from his locker and opened his arms when he saw him, letting Kurt all but crash into him and just holding him back tightly, guiding him into an empty classroom.

"It's okay," he'd hushed, justsoft, soothing, repetitive sounds that anchored Kurt in a world that felt utterly unbalanced. "It's okay. I've got you."

He'd held him when he'd needed to be held.

"You okay, kiddo?" Burt asked, and it didn't take long for Kurt to realize that his eyes were moist, cheeks dry.

"I'm fine," he assured, knowing that it sounded weak to his own ears as he scrubbed at his eyes futilely. "And you can stop pretending that I don't know."

"Don't know what?" Burt asked, feigning innocence as he made a left turn into a neighborhood, the first in nearly an hour.

"That you're taking me to my proposal."

A soft mm-hmm sound escaped Burt as he said, "So you do know."

Kurt nodded, not deigning to respond more thoroughly. The whole idea was overwhelming, in light of everything – after – after everything, it seemed like even seeing Blaine would never be the same, yet being in his arms, warm and loved and cared for, tender kisses pressed to closed eyelids, cheeks, the tip of his nose –

"We can't stay here," he whispered, but he didn't wanted to move because he'd never been more comfortable. Blaine had no qualms disagreeing with him, continuing to press a light patch of kisses to his throat, nuzzling against his shoulder. Blaine was always quiet, after, social and affable in every setting but this.

Tenderness won over, here, that wordless, needy affection that craved and gave as much as it needed. There was no definition for the love exuding from his fingertips, gently capturing Kurt in a hold that a light breeze could break. It held Kurt captive, though, utterly entranced, and he struggled to remember that there was a world outside this, a history beyond this.

Blaine shared himself with someone else like this, an insidious little voice whispered, and he withdrew, but only just, fully aware that Blaine couldn't share this with someone else.

This was for him. The love, the affection, the tenderness he poured out – that was for Kurt, and Kurt alone.

It dazzled him, to be the focus of so much attention, and at last it enabled him to slip out of his embrace, ready for the rebound even as every fiber of his being craved returning to that warm, unbroken cocoon, a safe space where he didn't have to be sad and lonely and unhappy, where he could be warm and content and real again.

Blaine talked to him, and Kurt knew that he wasn't dissuaded when he put it off as fun, as though intimacy between them was nothing more than a way to pass time. It never was and never had been; not since that first night when everything changed, Kurt's entire perspective about Blaine turning on its head.

He knew how playful and earnest and honest and compassionate he could be.

He did not know how gentle he was until then, though. He could not have known how loving he was, giving everything that he possessed, every inch of his self to Kurt.

It was a privilege uncompared. And something that Kurt could not forget.

"We're almost there," Burt interrupted lightly, drawing him from his reverie as Kurt tightened his grip around the arm of the car door. "You nervous?"

"I'm fine," Kurt bit out, automatically on the defense, heart rate escalating once more.

He'd failed to prepare for this moment, failed to consider how he would respond even under normal circumstances, assuming Blaine and he had always been together, that Blaine had never cheated and everything would have been fine.

You wouldn't have gotten to know Blaine, something within him reminded, and for all the grief and resentment and anger still clustered in his heart over Blaine's infidelity, there was an overwhelming sense of love, of need, a primary, insurmountable urge.

I need you.

"What's wrong, Kurt? You look like you're going to your execution."

Kurt couldn't deny the allegory: he stood on the edge, on the cusp of two – of many – things. If he chose Blaine, then he would be opening his heart to betrayal and disappointment and heartbreak once more. He knew that he would face adversity and challenge with Blaine,both alongside and against him at times, and he knew that it would not always be easy to repair. Yet if he denied Blaine now, what was left for him?

He's your first love. You'll find another.

It didn't feel that way, though, and Kurt knew it. He knew it whenever he looked over and saw Blaine smiling at him, a simple gesture of acknowlegment that never failed to warm Kurt's heart. There were soft kisses and coffee dates, Christmas duets and magical moments spent ineach other's company that could only be expressed, simply, through the indescribable pleasure of the touch of two fingertips.

"I just don't know what to say," Kurt admitted, honest, open. If Blaine was willing to put his heart on the line for this – to offer everything to Kurt, heart, mind, and soul, in a way that wouldn't merely be for now, for tomorrow, but forever – then Kurt needed to choose. For both of them. He knew that they were boyfriends again – and even that exhilarated and dizzied and took his breath away – but it failed to encapsulate the greater picture.

Best friends, boyfriends, lovers, soul mates.

The last captured his attention, held it, and refused to let go.

"It's not an easy decision," Burt was saying, and Kurt was vaguely aware of him over the thudding of his own heart, dread mixing with anticipation as they neared Dalton. "But if it's the right one, you'll know, in your heart, that it's the best thing you'll ever choose."

Kurt was silent, letting him ramble, listening to him talk about his wife, Kurt's mother, in a way that Kurt had never heard him talk about her before. There had always been a bit of distance between them, a mutual, unspoken agreement not to mention her to avoid the pain of her passing. Yet Burt spoke of her life, now, and Kurt found himself listening even as he cringed a little at "We had sex. Lots of sex."

"But whatever you choose," Burt insisted, as they finally pulled into the Dalton Academy parking lot and came to a halt, turning in his seat so he could look at Kurt, "you will always be my son, and I will always love you, okay?"

Kurt tried to respond to that, failed in the wake of the unconditional compassion, and said at last softly, "I love you, too, Dad."

Tempted though he was, he resisted the urge to hug him, proceeding alone to the front of the building. He knew that he if allowed even the slightest breach in his control to take place he would lose the tenuous hold he had on his emotions. He couldn't do that – not to himself, not to his dad – and so he walked alone, staring up at Dalton's walls, amazed.

When he saw him, standing clearly at the forefront, the rest of the world seemed to dissolve – dilute, perhaps, a presence that seemed utterly unimportant against Blaine's reality. Blaine smiled at him, warm and open, almond eyes dancing as he approached, leading him into Dalton as he couldn't, the first time, wandering alone. He led Kurt through the hallway with nothing but his voice, the rest – the dancers, the performers, a dazzling around demonstrating the depth of Blaine's connections – oddly irrelevant.

It was not that the performance did not matter, but Kurt was only aware of the aching need within himself to reach out and take Blaine's hand and pull him down the corridor they both knew so well, to draw him back to a time when things were beautiful and uncomplicated and real. Everything else felt surreal without Blaine's hand grounding his, guiding him, and yet Kurt knew that it was intentional. He was meant to choose, now, and for the first time, he saw in Blaine's eyes an equal desire, an equal passion to take his hand and take him back to that moment, remembered with equal fondness.

Kurt stared at the scenery, absorbing it all, the beauty of it, the familiarity, his friends as they hugged him and he, dazedly, returned their embraces. Everything appeared diminished against the bright, illustrious yellow of Blaine's suit, yet it wasn't his outfit that held and captivated his attention.

No, he knew what Blaine had in mind, and yet, even as he was drawn to the staircase where they had first met and even, extraordinarily, pulled back to that first moment, the same step when he turned and locked eyes with Blaine, he could not deny the wonderand awe that overwhelmed him. That someone could love him as much as Blaine did, could look at him with unrestricted joy, made Kurt's heart thunder in his chest.

As the music finally dwindled out, leaving only laughter and love in its place, Kurt was very conscious of Blaine and Blaine alone.

You think I'm pretty, without any makeup on; you think I'm funny, when I tell the punchline wrong; I knew you get me, so I let my walls come down. Down.

It was in those moments that Kurt realized that, somehow, he wasn't the only one.

Blaine understood him. Blaine desired him in the same way that he desired Blaine, an unrelenting need to be with him.

And at last, when Blaine proposed to him, he could not remember the exact words. He could barely decipher them, a dream-like quality cast over everything and somehow, inexplicably, hyper-aware.

Blaine looked up at him, and, amid other words, beautiful, needless words, he asked, "Would you marry me?"

Let's go all . . . the way tonight. No regrets. Just love. We can dance . . . until we die. You and I.

We'll be young forever.

Hopeful, shining, expectant eyes turned to him, and in that moment, Kurt knew.

Yes.

He was barely conscious of saying it aloud, only aware of Blaine surging forward a moment later as he stammered it out a second time, applause and cheers already erupting around them. He was sobbing into the kiss and he knew it, yet he only clung tighter to Blaine and felt Blaine do the same in return, a surge of relief, of joy, of indescribable love coursing through him.

"I love you," Blaine promised, a whisper meant for his ears alone as Kurt closed his eyes, listening to the cheers and hearing only Blaine's voice amid it all.

"I love you, too," he echoed softly, and he reached down and squeezed Blaine's hand.

Blaine smiled, kissing him against and intertwining their fingers, promising without words what Kurt already knew.

I'm here and I love you. And I won't let go.

What happened next was a riot of congratulatory festivities.

Yet all that Kurt was aware of in that moment was Blaine, Blaine everywhere, past, present, and future, and a wash of peace swept over him, settling his fears to rest at last.

You make me

Feel like I'm living a

Teenage dream

The way you turn me on

I can't sleep

Let's run away and

Don't ever look back

Don't ever look back.


Author's Notes: Incoherent sobbing because Klaine.

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