[personal profile] wowbright

Summary: Kurt makes a new friend (kind of), Blaine is acting weird, and Dave just wants everyone to be happy.
Chapter notes: This chapter and the next parallel 3.17 “Dance With Somebody,” but you don’t have to have seen the episode to follow what’s going on here. (Needless to say, this is an AU and events pan out differently.) Title of this chapter is a Joseph Campbell quote from a bumper sticker displayed at Between the Sheets in 3.17. All the songs mentioned in this and the next chapter are on this YouTube playlist in order of their appearance.
Housekeeping: I’ve been having some health issues lately. I hope not to have as big a posting gap in the future and still want to finish posting before the end of hiatus if for no other reason than my own sanity. However, I can’t guarantee my good health; stuff happens.
Warnings: sensory descriptions of eating, sp0ilers for Yentl if you watch the playlist
Rating for this chapter: NC-17
Pairings this chapter: Kurt/Blaine, Dave/Kurt crush, Chandler/flirting

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Note: Chapters on AO3 are numbered differently due to factors beyond my control.

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Chapter 17: Love Is a Friendship Set to Music

As soon as Mr. Schue declares Whitney week, Kurt knows exactly what song he wants to sing – until a different Whitney song pops into his head and that becomes the perfect one. By the time rehearsal is over, Kurt has a shortlist of more than a dozen Whitney Houston songs, all of which are absolutely sublime.

Rachel detains him for a few minutes after glee club to talk about their upcoming NYADA audition: “Will the dean find my interpretation of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to be brilliant and genre-transforming, or simply inspired?” By the time they’re done talking, the rest of the New Directions have cleared the room.

Kurt goes off to find Blaine, bopping down the hallway to the mash-up of “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “I Will Always Love You” that he’s started to compose in his head.

He can’t help but get an extra little bounce in his toes when he sees Blaine at his locker, all cute and manly and dapper in his mustard cardigan and butt-snugging black pants. He looks a little fatigued, but that makes Kurt love him all the more. He simultaneously wants to grab that lovely ass while whispering dirty, amorous things into Blaine’s ear and tuck him into bed for a well-deserved nap.

Kurt can do neither of these things just now, but he hopes he can make his own energy contagious. “How thrilled am I for this week’s assignment?” he says as he leans against the locker next to Blaine’s, clasping his hands together to keep from reaching out for his boyfriend’s. “I’m going to Between the Sheets to find music. I’m trying to decide between ‘So Emotional,’ which was obviously written for me –”

“Because it’s about having a fun and confusing crush when you’re already in love with someone else?” Blaine waggles his eyebrows and grins lasciviously.

Kurt bites his bottom lip. “Or I was thinking of a mash-up of ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ and ‘I Will Always Love You,’ except I’d throw away the one-night-stand references from ‘I’m Your Baby’ and all the break-up lyrics from ‘I Will Always Love You’ so that they become a supercharged anthem to lasting love, and then –” he takes a small risk and brushes the back of his hand against Blaine’s wrist “– if you like it we could add it to the list of songs to sing at our wedding.”

Blaine tilts his head coyly. “Would you sing it in that smoky jazz-cabaret style you sometimes use?”

“That could be arranged.”

“I don’t know,” Blaine responds in his bedroom voice. “If that’s the case, maybe it would best be reserved for a private audience.”

“Well, there’s also ‘One Moment in Time,’ which was also obviously written for me. But I was thinking of saving that for my NYADA audition.”

Something like a small gray cloud passes over Blaine’s eyes. They’re suddenly much less bright.

“What? Is that song a bad choice?” Kurt says.

Blaine shakes his head. “N-no. You’d be … you’d be amazing, Kurt.” But he sounds almost despondent as he says it.

“You don’t sound so convinced.”

“No, I am. I guess I’m just … tired? It’s been a long day.”

“Maybe an afternoon excursion to Between the Sheets with me would perk you up?”

Blaine frowns. “Not today. I’m worried … about tomorrow’s chem test. I think I’ll just go home and study, maybe take a nap.”

“Okay,” Kurt sighs. And then he pouts, because that often helps him get his way with Blaine.

It has no effect this time. “Sorry,” Blaine says. “Text me when you’re done?” He closes his locker and gives Kurt a little goodbye nudge on the elbow before starting to walk away .

Kurt watches his knight in a yellow cardigan make his way through the sea of other students. “Will do,” he says, though Blaine is much too far away to hear him now.

*

It’s happened a few times in the past week or so – Blaine becoming vaguely distant in the middle of one of their conversations, his whole posture suddenly deflating. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it; the first time it happened was when they were talking about the color scheme for their first apartment together and Kurt started sketching out ideas for the common areas of the affordable two-bedroom that he and Rachel are hoping to find when they attend NYADA next year. Kurt pulled out an idea board that he and Rachel had started to work on and Blaine just sat there, frowning at it.

“What?” Kurt said. “Not enough green?”

Blaine shook his head. “It’s not that.”

“Too many stars? I was trying to make that a subtle theme, but Rachel wanted them on every surface.”

“No,” Blaine said. “I think you’ve worked them in well.”

“So, what is it?” Kurt said. He set the idea board against the mirror of his vanity and went to sit next to Blaine on the bed, covering Blaine’s knee with his hand.

Blaine shrugged. “Nothing. I’m just –” He swallowed hard. “I guess I’m stressed out about my history assignment. Maybe we should get back to our homework?”

“Okay,” Kurt said. He got up and put the board away.

Blaine was unusually quiet for the rest of the afternoon, but Kurt chalked it up to Blaine’s remarkable ability to concentrate on schoolwork even when there were much more interesting things to think about, a talent no doubt attributable to the fact that Blaine had spent more time at Dalton than he had.

The next time it happened was on their Friday night date. Blaine had come over early to help eat the paella that Kurt had started making for Friday family dinner before Burt texted from D.C. to say he wouldn’t be making it home until late. They ate with Carole and Sam (Finn took the opportunity to go out with Rachel) and afterward Blaine helped with the dishes, just the two of them in the low light of the kitchen with Billie Holiday playing softly in the background. Kurt imagined that this was their kitchen in their own house, many years from now, and maybe they’d just put the kids or the bichon frise to bed and now it was their time to be together, to return to each other from the disparate places of the day.

When they put the last of the dishes in the drying rack, Kurt took off his gloves and reached for Blaine’s hand. “Care to dance?”

Blaine’s eyes lit up. He stepped forward into Kurt’s arms, leaning his chin against his shoulder, and they swayed slowly to Billie’s inimitable voice:

The mere idea of you, the longing here for you

You'll never know how slow the moments go till I'm near to you

I see your face in every flower

Your eyes in stars above

It's just the thought of you

The very thought of you, my love

It was perfect, and Kurt felt this lovely buzz in his chest that didn’t leave even after the song had ended and they let go of each other so Kurt could make the popcorn for their movie.

He was still riding high on it later as they settled down on the couch and flipped through their watchlist on Amazon Instant Video. “Oooh, ooh!” Kurt started bouncing on the couch when On the Town flip across the screen. “Let’s watch this. New York, New York, a wonderful town! The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground –’”

Blaine slumped back into the couch, frowning. “Mmmm, not in the mood for that today.”

Kurt continued bouncing. “But it’s so good. All that Manhattan history, and Gene Kelly in white sailor pants – although they would look even nicer on you.”

Blaine barely smiled. “Let’s watch Yentl instead? It’s been a while.”

Kurt sighed, but nodded agreement. He wasn’t going to complain about an opportunity to listen to Barbra Streisand, even if it hadn’t been his first choice.

Although as the movie progressed, Kurt wondered if he should have been more hesitant to agree. He’d forgotten how sad the movie was in parts, and Blaine cried more than Kurt had seen him cry at any movie in a long time. When Kurt tried to reassure him with the squeeze of a hand, Blaine wouldn’t squeeze back – he’d just sit there, limply, as if he couldn’t even feel Kurt’s hand on his. After the movie was over, Kurt invited Blaine up to his room – he wasn’t feeling particularly sexy at the moment but he hoped that there, in the safety of his bed, Blaine might tell him what was wrong. But Blaine mumbled something about having to get up early the next morning for racquetball and was out the door without so much as a kiss.

Kurt hasn’t been able to make any rhyme or reason of Blaine’s sudden, erratic distance. The most obvious hypothesis – that Blaine is secretly jealous of Kurt’s crush on Dave – hasn’t held up in experiments. Because every time Kurt mentions Dave, Blaine lights up the way he always has, his voice going rich and sweet like hot cocoa and his eyelashes fluttering like happy little butterflies.

*

If Kurt thought that deciding on a Whitney song was hard before, it’s even more difficult now that he’s standing in the middle of Between the Sheets with  her entire catalog right in front of him. He can’t believe he’d forgotten about “You Give Good Love” and “Step by Step” and  “Run to You,” which is perhaps the best unrequited love song of all time.

He tries to keep himself from getting too overwhelmed by limiting his browsing to just one songbook at a time. He’s in the middle of reading through “The Greatest Love of All,”  trying to decide if it’s too schmaltzy, when he hears an “Excuse me” that’s so loud he can’t help looking up even though it’s probably not for him.

But it turns out it is for him. There’s a boy about his age looking at him from the other side of the display, and he’s yammering away about Kurt’s awesome hippo pin, which – well, yes, it is awesome, he’s not going to argue with that – and then about how Kurt must get compliments all the time because his entire outfit is so amazing, and it’s … Well, it’s a little out-of-nowhere and a lot overwhelming, although  mostly in a nice way.

Kurt eyes the boy’s outfit. It’s a sailorish sort of get-up, centered on a blue double-breasted suit jacket with white buttons that smartly echo the white polka dots on the blue button-down shirt beneath. But the ensemble is ruined by a blue knit cap that must be the boy’s idea of a fisherman’s hat. It’s placed loosely on the top of his head, the top full of airspace like the tip of a condom, and it’s doing absolutely no favors to his hair. Plus, the boy’s horn-rimmed glasses – are they hipster horn-rimmed or nerd horn-rimmed? Kurt can’t tell, and if he can’t tell, they need to go.

Still … the jacket and shirt are smart. The boy clearly knows something about fashion (although not nearly enough); Kurt decides to take the compliment as it was intended and not shrug it off just because it came from someone who takes the wrong risks with his accessories.

He finds himself smiling. It feels good and warm up to his crown and down to his chest. He closes the songbook and reaches out to shake the boy’s hand. “Kurt Hummel,” he says.

“Chandler Kiehl, I go to North Lima High I’ve got an audition next week and I’m dying to do ‘Rainbow High’ from Evita but the guy just said they’re sold out which is a preposterous lie,” the boy says animatedly without taking a breath, and if his voice matches the strength of his lungs he’s already got an incredible advantage (although ‘Rainbow High’ does seem like an odd choice for an audition, considering how heavily it relies on a chorus for Evita to interact with, but Kurt’s not going to say anything, partly because this guy doesn’t pause long enough to allow a response and partly because when Kurt gets like this himself, he’s not very good at listening to criticism).

It turns out that Chandler is trying out for the musical theater program at NYU and he gets all excited when Kurt says he’s trying out for NYADA, and Chandler gets even more excited when Kurt mentions Whitney Houston, shouting “Oh my god!” so loudly that Kurt almost jumps out of his skin and wonders if they’ll get kicked out of the store.

They don’t, though. The clerk gives them a dirty look, but that’s it, and Kurt doesn’t care, because Chandler is effusing about Whitney, and naming all her best work, and gushing about Kurt being the right person to do justice to Whitney’s oeuvre, and being a big loud siren of gayness in quiet little Lima. Just to make sure he’s not reading Chandler wrong, Kurt asks him what he would think of him singing “All the Man That I Need,” and the way that Chandler shouts “You must do it!” while grabbing both of Kurt’s forearms – yeah, the boy is definitely gay.

It’s odd and thrilling and it makes Kurt giggle like a schoolgirl. Kurt feels a little like he’s found his long-lost identical twin – if any twin of Kurt’s could have flawed skin, absolutely no volume control, and a misguided sense of fashion.

Once he’s given Chandler a makeover, the two of them can take New York by storm, with Rachel as their mutual hag.

So when Chandler asks for Kurt’s number, of course Kurt gives it to him.

“I’m headed to the Lima Bean. Wanna come with?” Chandler says after they beam their phone numbers to each other. He raises his voice and glares over at the clerk. “I could use your help hatching out a new audition plan since someone is stonewalling ‘Rainbow High.’”

The clerk rolls his eyes. “It’s. Not. In. Stock. And anyway, bombastic isn’t enough to get you into one of these programs. That’s what every kid does in their audition and, trust me, the admissions committees get sick of it. If you want something from Evita, do ‘You Must Love Me.’ It’s got a much better emotional range, and it’s not as overdone as ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.’”

“That’s an interesting point –” Kurt starts to say, but Chandler doesn’t hear. He’s turning around and walking toward the counter, irately going on about how ‘You Must Love Me’ wasn’t even in the original score, and it quickly devolves into a lengthy argument over the relative merits of Elena Roger, Patti Lupone and Madonna and whether Andrew Lloyd Webber can reasonably be called an artist. Kurt turns back to studying his Whitney Houston songbook, trying to ignore the verbal chaos in the background and wondering if Chandler’s already forgotten about the coffee invitation.

“Kurt?”

His heart thumps against his ribcage when he hears the voice; Kurt takes a deep breath and closes the book before turning around to face it. “Hi, Dave.”

“I didn’t expect to see you here.” Dave’s wearing a flannel shirt over his t-shirt, the sleeves rolled up to reveal his forearms. They’re nice forearms, the hair a lovely swirl of – Kurt looks away, focusing instead on the back of the sheet music Dave is holding.

“I didn’t expect to see you here either,” Kurt says. “But here we both are.” He immediately feels like an idiot.

“What you got there?”

“Oh,” Kurt says, remembering the Whitney Houston songbook in his hands. He holds it up so Dave can see the cover. “She’s our assignment for glee club. And I was also thinking of maybe doing one of her songs for my NYADA audition.”

Dave gets one of those soft, slow smiles that look like he’s trying to hide his happiness. “That’s awesome.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I love Whitney Houston. And you’d be great singing her. You have the right range.”

Kurt looks down at his feet. “Thanks. I didn’t know you were a Whitney fan.”

Dave snorts. “Um, is there anybody who’s not a Whitney Houston fan?”

“You make a good point.” Kurt looks back up at Dave and smiles. He nods to the sheet music Dave’s carrying. “And what do you have?”

Ástor Piazzolla? You probably haven’t heard of him.” Dave blushes and Kurt’s heart jolts against his lungs.

“No, I haven’t. Is he Italian?”

Dave bites his lower lip. “No, Argentinian. He wrote a lot of, um, tangos.”

“Oh, neat.” Kurt finds himself blushing, as well, with the sudden sense memory of grabbing Dave’s hands during ‘Tango de Roxanne’ at Sing-Along Moulin Rouge!, how the skin felt a little rougher than Blaine’s but the muscle underneath was warm and strong, how the curves of their palms fit together like tongue and groove. (He’s blushing, too, because sometimes he lies awake and wonders what would have happened if he hadn’t been too drunk to dance, and what else might have happened if he’d succeeded at that.)

Dave shrugs. “It’s probably way above my level, but I’ve always loved him, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“Good for you,” Kurt says, and then immediately feels stupid, because even though he actually means it in this case, it’s the kind of thing that people say when they mean the exact opposite.

Dave looks down at the sheet music, back at Kurt. “Well, I guess I better pay for this. See you later?”

“Sure,” Kurt says.

“Okay.” Dave makes a little wave and turns toward the checkout counter, where Chandler is still arguing with the clerk. Kurt stares at Dave’s back and it’s a nice back but it’s not what he wants to be looking at, it’s too soon for him to be walking away when he could see his face a little longer and maybe they could talk and –

“Wait,” Kurt says, reaching out to touch Dave’s elbow.

Dave turns around. He still has a trace of that handsome blush he gets for absolutely no reason sometimes.

“You want to get coffee?”

Dave hesitates. “I don’t actually like coffee.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” Kurt says. He wants to add, ‘Don’t make this so hard on me,’ but doesn’t.

“Oh, yeah. Well, I am kind of hungry. There’s a donut shop around the corner. They make the best bear claws and people tell me the coffee there is pretty good, too.”

“Okay,” Kurt says. “Let’s go.”

It’s a little difficult getting the clerk’s attention, but Kurt finally manages by saying loudly, “I don’t know what you guys are getting so hung up about. Evita is just Andrew Lloyd Webber’s disguised temper tantrum over the Falklands War, anyway.” He says it because if anyone said the same to him, he would immediately drop whatever he was doing to come to the composer’s defense.

Chandler and the clerk both look at him in horror.

“The Falklands War happened six years after he wrote Evita,” Chandler says. “A temper tantrum? Evita is the highest kind of art.”

“Sorry,” Kurt says. “That was my idea of a joke. A terrible, terrible joke.”

Chandler and the clerk both look at Kurt, then at each other, and Chandler bursts out laughing. “No, it’s an awesome one. You really had us both,” Chandler says, touching Kurt’s elbow. “So, about that coffee –”

Kurt steps a few inches back so he’s just out of Chandler’s reach, brushing against Dave’s arm as he does so. “Sorry, maybe some other time? We have plans.” He gestures to Dave. “Chandler Kiehl, this is Dave Karofsky. Dave Karofsky, this is Chandler Kiehl.”

Chandler reaches out and shakes his hand vigorously.  “Oooh, nice grip,” Chandler says. “I like that in a man! Are you Kurt’s boyfriend?”

Dave chuckles. “Um, no.”

“Well, I hope you’re someone’s boyfriend.” Chandler winks. “It would be a shame to let such strong hands go to waste.”

Kurt wills himself not to turn as red as a beet. He’s pretty sure he fails. But Dave is too busy blushing himself to notice anything else, most likely.

“Chandler, you gonna let me check these guys out?” the clerk says.

Chandler winks and reaches across the counter to pinch the clerk’s arm.  “Well, of course, Ivan. But I’d always thought you were straight! I mean, what would your wife say?”

The clerk shakes his head. “You’re insufferable.”

Chandler manages to stay quiet long enough for Kurt and Dave pay for their music. As they turn to leave, he reaches out for Kurt’s hand and Kurt takes it, expecting to return another handshake.

But Chandler doesn’t shake Kurt’s hand. He clasps it in both of his, stroking his fingertips over the inside of Kurt’s wrist. “It was lovely meeting you, Kurt Hummel. I hope we can do a raincheck on that coffee.” Kurt feels a tiny knot form in his stomach.

“Sure,” he says. He can’t decide if he means it, though.

*

“Really? A plain donut? That’s not very –” Dave waves his hand around like he’s hoping it will catch the word he’s looking for out of the air.

“Not very what?” Kurt says. They’re sitting at a small table at the back of the bakery, furthest from the counter and the other customers, who have clustered at the sun-drenched tables next to the front window. Dave has a bear claw; Kurt ordered hot chocolate mounded with fresh whipped cream and a plain cake donut, both of which are absolutely divine.

“Fancy?” Dave shrugs.

Kurt laughs. “Sometimes simplicity is the highest form of elegance.”

“That’s true in math. I’m not sure I’m ready to apply that principle to donuts, though.”

“You should try it sometime. Plain donuts make an excellent counterpoint to hot cocoa,” Kurt says. The powdered donuts that Kurt had eyed in the case would have been just as good, but he opted against those because he didn’t want to end up looking like a graceless boor with powdered sugar all over his face.

“Maybe I will.” Dave picks a raisin from the edge of his bear claw and pops it into his mouth. “So who was that guy at Between the Sheets?”

Kurt pokes the tip of his finger into the whipped cream and licks it absent-mindedly. “His name is Chandler Kiehl.”

“Well, yeah,” Dave says. “That’s how you introduced him. Does he go to McKinley?”

“No, I met him just now at Between the Sheets. He complimented my hippopotamus.” Kurt points to his brooch, and Dave looks at it and nods, but he doesn’t compliment Kurt on it. Not that Kurt expected Dave to. He isn’t the kind of guy who would pay attention to the way someone like Kurt dresses. “Why are you so curious?,” Kurt says. “Are you harboring a newfound crush on him?”

“No-o.” The blush that blooms across Dave’s face is quite becoming, and the way he looks shyly down at his hands before peering up at Kurt through delicate lashes is just –

Under the table, Kurt pokes Dave’s calf with the toe of his shoe. “Just seeing if I could get a rise out of you,” he says, smirking.

“If anyone has a crush, I think Chandler has a crush on you.”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “He does not.”

Dave shrugs. “He was totally flirting with you.”

“Oh my god, he was not,” Kurt says, not sure why he’s entering an argument that he knows he’s going to lose.

It’s Dave’s turn to roll his eyes. “He kept touching you. He held your hand. Also, he laughed at your jokes even when he didn’t get them. That’s a sure sign of flirting.” He picks another raisin from his bear claw and pops it into his mouth. “I read it in Cosmo.”

Kurt almost chokes on his donut. “You read Cosmo?”

“My cousin subscribes to it. It’s the only thing to read in the bathroom when I visit their house.” Dave shrugs. “Well, it’s that or Guideposts. I’d rather read Cosmo.”

Kurt snorts. “Understandable.”

“I’m glad you approve.”

Kurt takes another bite of the donut, letting the crisp outer surface soften against his tongue before he chews the cake into tiny succulent crumbs, then takes a sip of cocoa to wash everything down. He feels the shadows of a whipped cream mustache on his upper lip and darts out his tongue to lick it off. Dave looks away, studiously pulling the remaining toes from his bear claw.

Kurt toes Dave under the table to get him to look up. “About this Chandler-flirting: If I recall correctly, it was your grip that he was going on about.” Kurt immediately curses himself for saying it. His face heats up; he grabs his cocoa and takes a long drag to provide an excuse for the warmth prickling through his skin.

“Yeah, but that was just … flirting for flirting’s sake,” Dave says. “You know, the way he was flirting with the clerk. Or the way that guys at Scandals do sometimes. I think he was actually interested in you.”

“Whatever. If you say so.”

“Did you tell him you have a boyfriend?”

“Wait.” Kurt set his cocoa down a little too firmly; it sloshes over the rim of the cup and onto his saucer. “Are you judging me? I wasn’t even flirting back.”

“No.” Dave slumps a little. “You just looked … a little uncomfortable when he was all, you know, flirty. It would be a way to give him a hint.”

Kurt takes a napkin from the dispenser and wipes up the pool of hot chocolate from his saucer. “I think mostly I was uncomfortable because he was so … enthusiastic about me, and all he knows about me is my hippo brooch and this magnificent camouflage blazer.”

Dave smiles a relieved smile. “That blazer is pretty magnificent.”

“Really?” The warmth crawls up the back of Kurt’s neck. “I didn’t think you noticed clothes.”

Dave shrugs. “I notice. I just don’t have all the words to talk about them like you do.” He takes a bite of his bear claw, chews thoughtfully. “But I think I know what you mean, about feeling weird when people like you even though they don’t really know you. That’s how I felt about Jerry.”

“Who?” Kurt tears the remains of his donut into bite-size chunks.

“Um, Jerry Friesen? That guy I sort of dated?”

“Oh, yes,” Kurt pops a piece of donut  into his mouth and chews mock-thoughtfully. “I’d forgotten all about him. He was so … forgettable.”

Dave chuckles. “You’re horrible.”

Kurt nudges Dave with his toe again, sending a pleasant buzz up through his own leg. “Oh, come on. You thought so, too.”

“Maybe.”

“I didn’t like him.” Kurt feels a little like he did that night of Moulin Rouge: hopeful, carefree, the slightest bit drunk, and a touch too bold for anyone’s good. His heart has turned into a helium balloon and is about to float right out of him.

“I never would have guessed,” Dave says, his eyelashes flickering with unconscious ease.

“He wasn’t right for you.”

“No?” Dave raises an eyebrow. “Then who is?”

Yes, definitely too bold for anyone’s good. Kurt shoves another piece of the donut in his mouth and takes another napkin from the dispenser to fold as he chews, trying to remember the way to make a paper boat the way his mother showed him so many years ago. He can’t, though. He wads it up. “I don’t know. But probably not Chandler. He’d drown you in verbiage before you were five minutes into your first date. And that, David, would be a terrible way to go. I wouldn’t wish such an agonizing death on anybody.”

“He’s not that bad.”

“True. He can spot good couture, even if his own attire left something to be desired. I mean, that hat. It made him look like a fisherman right off the wharf, and not in a good way. I was afraid herring were going to spill out of his pockets at any moment.”

Dave snickers and shakes his head. “Oh, man. I don’t want to know what you say about me when I’m not around.”

The helium balloon in Kurt’s chest deflates; a leaden weight takes its place. “I would never make fun of you.”

Dave looks directly into Kurt’s eyes, although there’s something of shyness in it. “No?”

“No.” Kurt doesn’t look away. “Although I reserve the right to tease you mercilessly about your character flaws if the situation calls for it. But that’s for your own good. It’s different than making fun. And I would only do it to your face.”

“Well, that’s only fair. I’d feel kind of left out if I didn’t get that from you at least once in a while.”

They sit in silence for a bit. Kurt’s not sure if it’s a comfortable silence or an awkward one. He thinks it might be a little of both. It’s an odd feeling, one he hasn’t had since the early days of getting to know Blaine.

He has a sudden pang of homesickness for Blaine, even though he saw him less than two hours ago. It feels, though, like it’s been longer – or rather, that Kurt’s not sure he’ll ever see him again. Which of course is ridiculous, and yet – the Blaine he’s become used to, so easy to be with and so free with his love – in those moments that he goes suddenly sullen and withdrawn, it feels like he’s slipping away.

Kurt sips the thick dregs of melted chocolate from the bottom of his mug. He takes a pocket mirror out of his satchel to check that his face isn’t marred by a chocolate mustache, then looks across the table at Dave, who is licking the sugar from his bear claw off his fingers.

“Dave?”

“Yeah?” Dave looks flustered, like he’s been caught in the act. He picks his napkin up from his lap and wipes his fingers against it.

“Have you noticed anything weird about Blaine lately?”

Dave dips the tips of his napkin in his glass of water and resumes wiping his hands. “What do you mean?”

Kurt shrugs. “I don’t know. He’s seemed … gloomy? Not all the time. And maybe that’s what’s weird about it. Because when it happens, it just seems to come out of nowhere.”

“I haven’t noticed anything. I mean, he seemed a little tired when I was over at his house yesterday. Maybe he’s coming down with something?”

“Maybe,” Kurt says.

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“Not really. I mean – no, not really.”

Dave shrugs. “Maybe you could?”

“Wow.”

“Wow?”

“That’s … that’s probably exactly what I should do. You’re a very wise man, David Karofsky.”

Dave’s eyelashes flutter. “I’m just telling you what my shrink would say if I asked him. It’s not like I actually know anything.”

“Ha,” Kurt says. He wishes he could reach across the table and squeeze Dave’s sugar-sticky hand. “You know a lot more than you give yourself credit for.”

*

Kurt: Hi, honey, I’m home!

Blaine: Hi. I am too.

Blaine: Wish it was the same one.

Blaine: Find anything at Between the Sheets?

Kurt: I think so. Are you still studying?

Blaine: Yes.

Kurt: OK. Then I’ll tell you about it tonight? We on for skin-sloughing? Or do you need to go to sleep early?

Blaine: I’m feeling a little better. Anyway, it’s hard to resist skin-sloughing with you.  ;)

*

Even though he knows Dave is right about needing to talk, Kurt doesn’t ask Blaine about the elephant in the room on the phone that night. Blaine seems to have returned to his sweet old self, and Kurt doesn’t want to fracture the mood.

“You and Dave, Between the Sheets,” Blaine says when Kurt tells him about that part of the afternoon. “I like that image.”

“Oh my god,” Kurt groans. “My boyfriend is such a perv.”

“You like it.”

Kurt heart goes squishy-soft. “I do,” he says quietly, smoothing alpha-hydroxy peel onto his throat and wishing his fingers were Blaine’s.

Kurt tells Blaine about Chandler, too, and how he has lots of potential and would no longer be squandering it if Kurt could give him a makeover, but he’s not sure Chandler would pause in his talking long enough to let him get a word in edgewise. On the other hand, Kurt is used to dealing with Rachel, so he could probably learn to hold his own. “In any case, it’s kind of nice to meet someone who’s gay outside of Scandals.”

“How do you know he’s gay?” Blaine says.

“Besides that he’s obsessed with Evita?” Kurt takes two bags of rose-hip tea out of a small glass of ice water on the vanity table and wrings the excess water out. “He flirted with every guy in sight.”

“Mmm … So he flirted with you?” Blaine drops his voice, and Kurt can picture him at the other end of the line with the sweet seductive smirk that goes all the way up to his eyes.

“Well, Dave says Chandler was flirting with me. I mean, he asked for my number.”

“Did you give it to him?”

“Um,” Kurt bites his bottom lip. “I did. Is that okay? I don’t think – I’m not interested in him, but he’s nice, and I really would like to give him that makeover.” He walks over to his bed and lies down, closing his eyes and setting the tea bags over his eyelids.

“Yeah, it’s okay. He has good taste in men, so he can’t be all bad.”

“That’s true. He hit on Dave, too.”

“Did he, now?”

“Yeah. They shook hands and Chandler kept going on about strong Dave’s were, and how he hopes Dave gets a boyfriend so he can put them to good use.” Kurt tries to stifle his giggle, but doesn’t manage it.

“I’m liking this Chandler more and more. It sounds like he and I agree on some very important issues.”

“Oh my god, Blaine, you’re incorrigible.”

“But hopefully in a good way?”

“Yes, sweetheart. In a very good way.” Kurt takes a deep breath. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Kurt. Always.”

*

The first text from Chandler comes the next morning during first period physics.

Chandler: Are you a mascara wand? Because you really opened my eyes.

Kurt tries not to laugh, but a snort escapes through his nose, anyway. He covers his face with his hands and lets out a violent fake cough.

Mr. Melken turns around from the board and glares at him. “Cough into your sleeves, people. We don’t need another outbreak of pertussis this year.” He grabs the bathroom pass from his desk and holds it out in Kurt’s direction even though Kurt is ten feet away from him. “Mr. Hummel, go wash your hands.”

It’s humiliating, especially since Kurt is usually the most conscientious person in the school about coughing and sneezing etiquette. But it’s better than getting his phone taken away.

By English, Kurt knows to prepare himself before looking when his phone light signals a new text.

Chandler: You remind me of Coca Cola Classic, because you’re the real thing.   :)

Kurt: Did you come up with that yourself?

Chandler: Yes.

Kurt: It’s quite creative.

When Kurt’s at his locker getting his books for his next class, the phone lights up again:

Chandler: If you were a sandwich at McDonalds, they'd call you the McGorgeous!

By the time lunch rolls around and Kurt is sitting alone with Blaine at their favorite courtyard table, Kurt’s so distracted by the morning’s messages that he forgets his plan for this time together was to ask what’s been bothering Blaine these past two weeks. Instead, he shows him the messages that Chandler’s been sending.

“Those are so terrible they’re awesome,” Blaine says, chuckling and ducking his head the way he does when he’s both slightly embarrassed and tickled pink.

Kurt touches his knee against Blaine’s under the table. “I know, right? I don’t know how he does it.”

“But they’re true, too.” Blaine looks around before giving Kurt’s thigh a squeeze. “You are the real thing, McGorgeous.”

Kurt blushes. “I think I should tell him I’m taken.”

Blaine beams. “You’re taken, but I’m willing to share.”

“I’m not so sure I’m willing to be shared with him, though.”

“Fair enough.”

So that afternoon, when Chandler sends “I feel like I just walked into a jewelry shop, because you’re a real diamond!”  Kurt responds,

Kurt: My boyfriend thinks so, too.

Chandler: I bet he does!

Kurt: Okay. So I’ve made it clear I have a boyfriend?

Chandler: You just did.
Chandler: Does that mean I have to stop texting you?

Kurt chews on his lower lip. It feels odd that the correct answer is “no.” But it is, technically. So that’s what he tells Chandler.

Chandler sends him two more texts that day.

Chandler: Did the sun come out, or did you just smile?

Chandler: You are so sweet you could put Hershey’s out of business.

It’s a lot like being hit on by a first-grader with an above-average aptitude for puns.

*

Kurt doesn’t see Blaine that day after school; Blaine says he has too much homework and Kurt really ought to put some hours in at the shop, anyway, because it looks like he might get the winning bid on an Alexander McQueen sweater on eBay. After dinner, Kurt thinks about asking Blaine to meet up for a walk, but decides against it; Blaine will probably say he’s still not done with his homework and besides, Kurt’s not sure there’s anything to talk about. Blaine might have been a little distant this morning when he said he couldn’t get together after school to help look at outfits for Kurt’s NYADA audition, but by the time glee club rolled around he was his usual self, with a smile that shined like the top of the Chrysler Building as he bopped around to Brittany’s surprisingly worthy rendition of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

*

Chandler: Are you defibrillator? Because you really start my heart up!

Kurt: Ooh, a medical pun!

*

Chandler: You can never take a trip to antarctica, because you’re so hot you’d melt all the ice.

Kurt: I can’t argue with that.

*

Chandler:If I could rearrange the alphabet I would put U and I together.

Even as he laughs, Kurt’s stomach flips unpleasantly.

Kurt: You know this is just flirting, right, and nothing else?

Kurt doesn’t hear back from Chandler until glee club. He’s sitting next to Blaine in the back row of the choir room, trying not to listen to Rachel and Santana butcher “So Emotional,” when his phone buzzes. If the text had come any earlier, he would have been hesitant to look at it, but right now he’s glad for the distraction.

Chandler: I am pretty sure you were cleopatra in another life. You’ve got a great asp!

Kurtsnickers and tilts the screen toward Blaine, who laughs before looking up with a wink and a silently mouthed, “You do,” before reaching into his pocket for his own phone, hiding the screen with one hand, and moving his other thumb across the glass.

Kurt’s phone buzzes again.

Blaine: Show it to me after glee club?

Kurt: Am I invited to your house?

Blaine: Yes.

Kurt: I’d love to.

*

Blaine drops to his knees as soon as the front door is closed, pushes up the tail of Kurt’s blazer, and starts trailing soft, restrained bites down from Kurt’s waistband and over the curve of his ass.

Kurt chuckles. “Twill can’t taste that good.”

“I don’t care what it tastes like,” Blaine mumbles against Kurt’s back pocket. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the things I want to do your asp since the beginning of glee practice.”

Kurt leans forward against the door so he can press more solidly up against Blaine’s mouth. “And what’s that?”

Blaine nudges his nose against the center seam. “Let me show you.” He reaches his hands around Kurt’s waist and tries, failingly, to undo Kurt’s belt.

“Um, isn’t Dave supposed to be here soon? I thought we were gonna fool around after you guys finish studying.”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you? He texted me this morning that he’s going to be an hour late.” Blaine gives up on the belt and rubs his palm over Kurt’s fly. Desire skitters through Kurt’s hips, erratic and crazed, and he pushes forward and then back and wishes he could push both ways at the same time, into Blaine’s sweet-filthy mouth and into the perfection of his hands.

“Never thought I’d be so happy to hear those words.” Kurt spins around and yanks Blaine up from the floor, crashing their mouths together so fast that their noses crash, too, and they end up giggling into each other’s shoulders.

“Oh my god, I’m so bad at sex,” Kurt snorts.

“No. You’re awesome at it.” Blaine says, still chuckling. He presses his hard-on against Kurt’s thigh. “See? You’re so good at it you have me completely hard even after you broke my nose.”

Kurt kisses the tip of Blaine’s nose. “It’s not broken, sweetheart. Maybe temporarily disfigured – but we suffer that fate together for the greater cause of love.”

Blaine tilts his head up, eyes dancing charmed sparkles of honey, and kisses Kurt firmly. There’s a sweet dance of tongues and lips, warm and sliding contact. Kurt loves kissing Blaine this way, delving into him, letting Blaine inside the same way.

Blaine pulls back. “Let me lick you?”

Kurt smirks. “I thought you just were.”

Blaine pinches Kurt’s ass. “You know what I mean.” He soothes his fingers down Kurt’s backside, teasing the crease between ass and thigh.

Kurt ducks his head and blushes. “Give me a minute to wash up?”

“Didn’t you just wash up after gym class?”

Kurt bats his eyelashes. “I’m fastidious.”

Kurt’s not sure why, but that earns him Blaine’s tongue back in his mouth for several more breaths. Maybe he should point out his own character flaws a little more often.

“God, I love everything about you,” Blaine sighs when he pulls away.

“Mmm,” Kurt hums. “I love even more about you.”

*

Truth be told, Kurt didn’t really need to clean up. But he likes to. He likes the idea of smelling like rain, likes the kiss of the shower stream against his skin, the shush-shush of water from the adjustable shower head licking against his hole.  He likes the idea that the only sweat Blaine will be able to taste is the sweat that he pulls out of Kurt himself with his tongue and his touch and the push and pull of their bodies together.

He doesn’t take long, and puts nothing but his button-down shirt on before leaving the bathroom and walking across the hall to Blaine’s room with the remainder of his neatly folded clothing bundled in his hands. Blaine is lying on the bed, naked and placidly waiting, his swollen pink cock lying against his belly in the same aspect of patient repose.

It really does seem, when he looks at Kurt sometimes, that Blaine’s eyes are their own source of light. Now is one of those moments, and it forces a deep intake of breath into Kurt lungs. “Blaine –” he says, and then loses his words, so he sets his pile of clothes on top of Blaine’s dresser and takes off his button-down and slides onto the bed next to him.

Blaine smiles and kisses Kurt’s lips, then his neck, then down the v of his collarbone toward his sternum, segueing to the side to lick Kurt’s nipples into tight, hard peaks. Kurt holds Blaine to him, by the back first and then by the shoulders and finally by the head as Blaine licks down Kurt’s belly and past his balls, coaxing Kurt’s legs open with soft, dry kisses and then with harder, wet ones, moving closer and closer until Blaine finally presses his lips against the tender, aching spot in a way that makes Kurt feel vulnerable and invincible all at once.

Kurt lets out a small, helpless cry. It feels like a kiss – Blaine kissing him, yes, but also the soft pink skin of his hole is kissing Blaine back, beckoning him, seducing him in. It twitches against Blaine’s lips, and Kurt can feel Blaine smile before darting his tongue experimentally against the rim.

Kurt's earliest, embarrassed sexual fantasies were about tongues and fingers in his mouth and on his cock and tugging gently at his balls, but he’d never imagined the searing intimacy of a tongue between his legs, how it would set all his nerves alight and make him unfurl, make him whimper and beg and open himself wider, shameless in the need for more contact.

“Oh god,” Kurt chokes out.

Blaine raises his head over the horizon of Kurt’s thighs. “Too much?”

Kurt shakes his head against the pillow. “No. Just right.” He pulls his knees toward his shoulders, feeling gorgeously whorish and open and not caring at all how desperate he must look, as long as Blaine puts his tongue back where it was.

Blaine does. He licks slowly – light teases and then slow, exploratory caresses and long, firm strokes that linger over Kurt’s opening. He can feel his muscle unclench, relax, beg – and can hear his voice beg, too, with soft wordless cries and chants of more and Blaine and god and you.

Blaine moves his kisses to the inside of Kurt’s thigh and presses the pad of his finger against Kurt’s muscle. “Want me to finger you or keep licking you?” he says.

“Everything.”

Blaine smiles, blushing from arousal and exertion and what appears to be sheer joy. “I’ll give it a shot.” He crawls over Kurt to his side table, pulling a bottle of water-based lube out of the drawer and coating his fingers with it. “Good thing this stuff is edible.”

Kurt slaps him on the ass without thinking about it. Only when a blush as bright as the one on Blaine’s face begins to bloom there does Kurt realize what he’s done. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, that was –”

“Something I’ve been meaning to ask you to do,” Blaine whispers. He leans down and kisses Kurt deep and not-dirty, tasting like rain and Kurt’s sweat and his own perfect warmth.

“You want more right now?” Kurt says curiously when Blaine pulls away.

Blaine shakes his head. “No. Right now I want to make out with your asshole.”

“Oh my god you dork –” Kurt starts to say, but the touch of Blaine’s tongue to his muscle makes him forget how to speak, and the delicate probing slide of Blaine’s fingertip makes him stop caring about speech, and then as Blaine slips his finger past the outer and then the inner ring Kurt stops caring about language altogether. Blaine moves his finger with a fast, frictionless glide, deeper and then back, and his tongue is lapping at the rim of Kurt’s hole and against his perineum, and everything is heat and warmth.

Kurt moans a lot and cries a little, soft dry sobs of pleasure, and he urges Blaine on with his sounds and his hips, rocking in their own rhythm to drive Blaine deeper in and then drag him toward the surface again, feels indulgent and indulged and crazed with his own desire.

“You’re so hot like this,” Blaine murmurs against the back of Kurt’s thigh. “So gorgeous and – god, the only drawback is I don’t get to watch your face the whole time.” Blaine ducks down and gives a hot, wet kiss to the skin just beneath Kurt’s balls, then curls his hand loosely around Kurt’s cock, sliding down toward the base as he fucks his finger deeper into Kurt, then to the tip as he glides back. “I’ve thought about watching your face as you were being rimmed.”

Kurt lets out a garbled whimper.

“I’ve gotten off to thinking about watching you come with Dave’s face buried in your ass.”

The brilliant, blinding tension that takes hold of Kurt’s hips just before orgasm enters him now with furious speed.

Blaine licks the swollen skin where his finger is moving in and out of Kurt’s body, and Kurt fucks himself toward the gorgeous warmth of Blaine’s mouth and of Blaine’s finger opening him and of Blaine’s hand stroking him and the heat snaps wildly through his body, fast and hard and he comes in a sharp, delirious burst, his ass gripping Blaine’s finger and his cock spurting semen onto his stomach and hand; Blaine keeps licking him through it, lapping at him greedily and moaning hard and bucking his hips into the sheets. As the orgasm dissipates from Kurt’s body it flows into Blaine’s, and he comes, shaking the bed with a loud groan.

*

“Fuck,” Kurt says after they disentangle themselves. Blaine has turned on the ceiling fan, and they’re both sprawled on their backs, trying to cool down from the near-unbearable heat they’ve created in their bodies.

“Good ‘fuck,’ or ‘bad’ fuck?” Blaine says.

“Definitely good.” Kurt reaches out to touch his fingertips to Blaine’s. “Although I’m not sure how I’m ever going to be able to look Dave in the eye again.”

“Oh, um, yeah. Sorry about that?”

“I’ll try to be stoic. But if I fail and end up running out the door when he gets here, you know why.”

Blaine nudges Kurt’s arm. “You can do it. I have faith in you.”

“Thanks.”

“Anyway, I’ve pictured him in more than one compromising position and I can still look at him. Most of the time.”

Kurt rolls onto his side and gives Blaine a loud smacking kiss on the cheek. “Okay. If you’re brave enough to do it, I’ll try to be, too.”

* * *

Dave may be a virgin, but he’s not an idiot. Blaine’s hair is slightly damp when he answers the door, and when Dave asks him how he’s doing, he breaks out into a sheepish grin and blushes before answering, “Good. How are you?”

There are other clues, too. Kurt is sitting at his usual spot at the kitchen window, textbooks sprawled out so haphazardly across the table that it would have driven him to distraction by now if he’d actually been trying to study. Also, when Dave brings him a soda from the fridge, he gets a whiff of Blaine’s shampoo. And when Kurt looks up to say, “Thanks,” he kind of chokes on the syllable and he doesn’t make eye contact. He just glances at Dave’s chin before burying his face back in his Shakespeare.

Yup, they totally just got mutually laid.

Dave fights off the urge to imagine it in every sordid detail. But when he sits down next to Blaine and starts his linear algebra, he’s too busy thinking to fight it, and images of skin and lips and hands flash across the screen of his closed lids every time he blinks.

It’s silly, really. He has no idea what they like or what they do, other than kiss and kiss and kiss because that’s what they end up doing at Scandals whenever they think he’s not paying attention and sometimes when he is. He bets they kiss through everything, kiss each other’s mouths and bodies and cocks and – oh, right, he should not be imagining their cocks.

Blaine is humming a song to himself as he works, tapping out the rhythm on the edge of the counter with his pencil, and Kurt starts humming along, too. It takes several bars before Dave recognizes it as “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston.

“It’s too bad that Rachel and Santana sang that today,” Blaine says, looking at Kurt. “I mean, they were great, but that song really was made for you.” And then he winks.

“Maybe I’ll sing it for you some other time,” Kurt says, blushing and looking back down at his book.

“Sing it for us both?” Blaine says.

Kurt rolls his eyes without looking up. His blush grows brighter.

If they were the stars of some romantic movie, Dave would probably think they were overplaying their parts and being really sickening. But they’re real and they’re them, so instead he just finds them really fucking adorable.

* * *

It’s a little overwhelming being in the same room as Dave at first, but Kurt gets used to it after a while – or at least he doesn’t freak out as much as he expected to, and is able to concentrate enough on his homework that he gets both his French and English readings done, even when Blaine tries to derail him with “So Emotional.”

Kurt tries not to revisit the image that flashed in his mind just before he came and, for the most part, he succeeds – mostly by avoiding looking at Dave as much as possible. It’s only when he’s taking a break from his physics to gaze out the window at some cardinals in the underbrush that it strikes him how unfair his behavior is toward Dave, who must think that Kurt is giving him the silent treatment over some perceived slight at the donut shop the other day.

So Kurt decides to get over himself.

He slams his physics book shut, stands up, and walks over to the counter where Dave and Blaine are working.

“Do you guys want to go for a walk?”

Dave’s and Blaine’s eyebrows shoot up in symmetrical surprise.

“Um –” Dave looks at Blaine.

Blaine looks a little sheepish. “Well, actually, I was kind of on a roll here.”

Dave shrugs. “I should probably stay here in case Blaine has any questions. Technically, I’m his tutor.”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud. Blaine, you’ll be okay for a little while, won’t you?”

Blaine looks like he’s struggling mightily to suppress a smile. “Of course. If I get stuck, I’ll just move on to the next problem until you guys get back.”

Dave still looks hesitant.

“C’mon. We can go down to the stream and if we’re lucky we might spot a Louisiana waterthrush,” Kurt prods, going for a tone of enticement sans seduction. “Or a Nashville warbler. They’re yellow.”

Dave looks at Blaine. “I do like yellow birds. They’re like … happiness on wings.”

Blaine nudges Dave with his toe. “You should go. It’s a beautiful day.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah,” Blaine says, not suppressing his smile this time. “Positive.”

*

“What’s a Louisiana waterthrush, anyway?” Dave asks as they enter the woods next to Blaine’s house.

“It’s a kind of warbler,” Kurt says. “It looks like a sparrow with long legs.”

“If it’s a warbler, why is it called a thrush?”

Kurt shrugs. “That’s one of the great mysteries of ornithology.”

It’s not as awkward walking with Dave as Kurt expected. There’s the distraction of looking for birds in the treetops, and the sound of their feet crunching against the dead leaves from last autumn makes the pauses in their conversation feel natural and necessary.

“Blaine seems good today,” Dave says when they reach the stream. It’s high from recent rain, and so loud that it’s hard to listen for the sound of birds above it – not that Kurt ever learned to recognize them by their sound.

“Yeah,” says Kurt distractedly. He’s looking through the pair of binoculars he brought along, trying to hone in on something he saw moving in the dogwood on the opposite streambank. It turns out to be just a sparrow, though.

“Are you still worried about him?”

“I – I don’t know,” Kurt says, holding the binoculars to his chest. “I kind of haven’t seen him enough this week to be able to judge. He seems happy today, though.”

“So you haven’t talked to him?”

“What are you, my dad?” He means it to tease, but Dave frowns down at the ground, his toe tracing patterns in the decaying leaves.

“Sorry,” Dave says. “I wasn’t trying to nag.”

Kurt’s heart sinks into his stomach. It’s so easy to break things, and so hard to mend them. But he can try. He hooks his hand around Dave’s elbow. “No, I’m sorry. I’m the one who’s done nothing with your very good advice.”

Dave looks at him with surprise – whether from the apology or the touch or both, Kurt can’t say. But he doesn’t move away. “I just –” Dave starts, then looks back down at the ground. “I just … love you guys. I want you both to be happy.”

Kurt’s blood is pounding so hard that Dave must feel it through their coats where their arms are touching. But Kurt doesn’t let go. “That means a lot to me,” he says.

They don’t see any warblers on their way back, but they do see two goldfinches flitting around a feeder at the edge of the woods. That puts a smile on Dave’s face, which puts a smile on Kurt’s, and both those smiles put a smile on Blaine’s when they walk back into the house.

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