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Brigadoon: A Near Misses Interlude

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Kurt linked hands with Ian and Steph and stepped forward with the line to the edge of the stage for the curtain call, raising his arms with theirs and bowing together. The lights were bright in his eyes, the applause of the audience was loud in his ears, and his heart was thundering in his chest. He couldn’t keep his smile inside.

It was just a student production of Brigadoon. He was just a member of the chorus and wearing way too much tartan to be holding his head high. He shouldn’t be struggling to keep from laughing out his joy.

But it was Kurt’s first time on stage in New York when he hadn’t cast himself. It was the first part he’d earned. It might have been a small role, but it was still his, and some measure of that applause was for him. He’d done it. He’d won the part, and he’d nailed it. The night was a triumph for him, no matter how minor.

It was absolutely a triumph.

He stepped back to let the leading actors take their bows and bit his lip to keep his smile from getting embarrassing. He also kept himself from squinting out into the audience to look for familiar faces, though he was pretty sure he heard a whistle he knew. It made his heart beat that much faster.

Instead he let himself bask for in the moment, in the lights blinding him, in the too-warm costume clinging to him, in the unpleasantly thick stage makeup threatening to slide off of his face from his perspiration, and in the thunder of appreciation rolling over him from the people in the large theater.

Kurt felt light on his feet, buoyant, electrified, like he could live on the applause and nothing else for the rest of his life. Even if he had to be stuck in such a pointless play to get it, he could live just like this.

He could only imagine what it would be like if he were starring in the show. Or starring in a better show, one where he could step out of himself and totally transform into a powerhouse of a character, dominating the stage and making the audience weep and cheer.

Oh, yes, he thought with a fierce flare of excitement and determination that made him stand that much taller, he could absolutely imagine what that would be like. Was going to be like.

His smile was as bright as the lights as he dipped into his final bow with the rest of the cast.

The backstage area was off limits for visitors, unlike at the Review, and although it meant that Kurt had to wait to celebrate with outsiders until he’d removed his makeup, fixed his hair, been hugged a half-dozen times by various excited castmates, and put himself back together in his own clothes, he was still walking on air when he pushed his way through the backstage door to the gathered friends and family in the hallway beyond. It would take more than a few minutes of primping to dull that glow.

Besides, he liked primping.

Still, walking into the noisy hallway was like stepping out of the serene dream of the focus of the stage to the crowded reality of the world again. The floor turned solid again beneath his shoes. For a moment he could only stand there and blink at the thick, overwhelming press of people he didn’t know, talking and watching the door for someone other than him. It was so different from the space and awe of the stage.

With a sigh, he started to edge toward the grey, painted cinderblock wall to try to get around the crowd. Blaine was somewhere in these dozens upon dozens of chattering bodies blocking his way, and so was his dad. He wanted to share the night with them and keep the giddiness in his heart alive for a little while longer. He needed to find them.

Kurt had just made his way around a knot of Nordic gods who had to be somehow related to Steph when a hand grabbing his arm stopped him from pushing further. He turned sharply at the unwelcome touch to find Blaine beside him.

The disorganized, frustrating throngs around Kurt faded to a blur at the sight of his boyfriend.

“Hi,” he breathed, drinking in Blaine’s wide smile and shining eyes even as he was jostled by someone behind him. It didn’t matter. Maybe he didn’t want to live only on applause if he could have someone looking at him with such intense and personal pride, too. Having both would be even better.

“You were incredible,” Blaine said and wrapped him up in a tight hug.

“Thank you,” Kurt said into his shoulder. Blaine was wearing a finely knitted sweater vest over his checked shirt, and not only was it attractive but it was soft and warmed by body heat beneath Kurt’s cheek, just as welcoming as the strong embrace itself and the comfort of Blaine’s familiar body against his. Kurt sighed with appreciation, squeezing his eyes shut to hold his pleasure in, not to hide it but to savor it.

Blaine released him after a long, perfect moment but reached down to catch hold of his hand. His fingers were warm and sure on Kurt’s, a solid tether in the chaos of the hallway, and his eyes were bright and focused on Kurt’s face. “You stole every scene, Kurt. Even when you were just standing there.”

“I can’t help it,” Kurt replied with a giddy tip of his head. “Although you’re also not an unbiased audience member. At least I hope so.”

“I’m definitely partial towards you,” Blaine told him, his smile going even wider. It was mesmerizing, something in it catching in Kurt’s chest and lifting his heart higher. “But you were still amazing.” He tightened his fingers on Kurt’s for a second and then let go and held out the square white paper box he’d apparently been holding in his other hand. Kurt hadn’t noticed; he’d been too busy drinking in the admiration in Blaine’s face, and if that wasn’t an indication of how much he loved performing he didn’t know what was. He always noticed presents.

“What’s this?” Kurt took it carefully; it was surprisingly light and sealed with a gold foil sticker with a picture of a leaf.

Blaine shrugged his shoulders a bit like he was nervous and said, “Open it.”

Kurt carefully unpeeled the sticker and opened the lid of the box. Inside was a boutonniere centered by a calla lily the color of the sunrise. The style was sophisticated, delicate, and dramatic at the same time.

“You got me a boutonniere,” he said in a soft, surprised voice because he couldn’t manage anything louder. He was so shocked that he was afraid to touch it. It was beautiful, and Blaine had gone out of his way to bring it to him. He almost couldn’t breathe around the wonder filling his chest.

“Well, we’re going out to dinner with your dad,” Blaine explained hurriedly. He hunched his shoulders a little more, his eyes dropping to the box. “I was going to order you a bouquet, a really nice one this time, but then I thought you might not want to carry it around the city all night, so - “

“Blaine,” Kurt cut him off, because the last thing he wanted was for Blaine to sound so defensive over something so absolutely wonderful. He plucked the boutonniere from its box and offered it to him. “I love it. It’s perfect. Pin it on me?” He knew he’d probably do a better job than Blaine, but it only seemed right to respond to Blaine’s thoughtful gesture with whatever he could offer in return. Besides, his hands were threatening to shake, because he’d had an amazing opening night, and he had an even more amazing and thoughtful boyfriend there with him to celebrate.

Blaine’s face lit up, and he smoothed the lapel of Kurt’s steel-grey suit jacket before catching his lower lip between his teeth and pinning the flower in place. He kept his hand there on Kurt’s chest as he smiled up at him hopefully.

“It’s perfect,” Kurt said again. “Thank you.” He couldn’t look away from Blaine’s warm eyes or step back from his touch.

Blaine swayed closer, like he was going to give him a kiss - and Kurt couldn’t bring himself to want to stop him, no matter how much in the middle of things they were, because Blaine had thought of him and brought him a boutonniere, a perfect, special, delicate, boutonniere just for him - when the sound of Kurt’s name made him jerk back.

Kurt looked up over Blaine’s shoulder to see his father making his way through the crowd. His heart leapt again in a new rush of excitement. His dad had made it. His dad had seen him. His dad was there. “Dad!”

“Kurt,” his dad said again, opening his arms and letting Kurt fling himself into them. His hug was totally different from Blaine’s, purely comfort instead of mixed with skin-tingling excitement, and Kurt sank into it with pleasure, although he was surprised to find that as much as his dad felt like home it wasn’t with quite the same bone-deep relief that he found himself wrapped up in him. Maybe he didn’t need it quite so badly as he used to. There was a relief in that thought, too, an acknowledgement of an unloosening deep in his chest.

“What did you think?” Kurt asked, pulling back with his hands still on his father’s arms. He watched his father’s face for any hint of a lie.

“You were great,” his dad told him without wavering. “I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

Kurt laughed, because Blaine and his dad were both so biased, but he wasn’t going to argue with them. It was thrilling to have such solid supports. He squeezed his father’s arms in gratitude. “Thank you. I’m sorry it wasn’t a more exciting play for you to sit through, but I’m glad you came.”

“Hey,” his dad said with a shrug, “it’s not like most of these musicals come with explosions and car chases. You taught me that lesson by the time you were eight.”

“It took that long?” Kurt asked. He checked on his boutonniere, which had survived the hug beautifully, and smiled down at it a little.

“Well, some of those Disney musicals you loved had a lot of action. I didn’t know the grown-up ones would have less. Usually it goes the other direction with movies.”

“Fairy tales are pretty bloodthirsty, and they’re for kids,” Blaine said from a few feet behind Kurt’s shoulder, and Kurt let go of his father to step aside and let him join them. “But it would be cool to see someone push the envelope and do something like The Avengers on Broadway.”

Kurt turned to him in surprise, this time less happily so. “Even after the debacle that was the Spider-Man musical? Really?”

Blaine glanced over at Kurt’s father and then said a bit more carefully, “They could learn from Spider-Man’s mistakes.”

“All I can say is that sounds like a play I’d go see,” Kurt’s dad said. “Lots of explosions and action scenes, not so many townspeople dancing around. Not that you weren’t great, Kurt. You were. But like you said, this isn’t the best musical in the world, and if you were playing Hawkeye, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t mind.”

Kurt raised his eyebrows, because he’d watched the movie with Blaine on his laptop, and Hawkeye had like no lines and mostly just lurked up in high places. Kurt wanted to be front and center.

“He’d be a great Loki,” Blaine said, like that was better. Fine, it was, because he had nicer costumes - if he ignored the horned helmet - and a lot more lines.

“If it’s all the same to you two - “ Kurt began a little sharply, but then his phone vibrated a half-dozen times in quick succession in the pocket of his jeans, and he decided that for the sake of having a nice evening he was probably better off reading the texts than getting annoyed that they were trying to cast him in a ridiculous theoretical Broadway musical that wouldn’t play to his greatest talents. After all, he really wanted his dad to like Blaine, and that meant not arguing with him. Either of them. And he had to appreciate that they wanted to cast him at all. “Excuse me.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket.

Rachel to Kurt: Emergency! I got a callback for the summer theater company, but dorm housing is full for the summer session! I need you to network for me!
Rachel to Kurt: My own room is a must. Good morning light. Full bathtub, not just a shower. Preferably a roommate who understands the importance of my warm-up and cool down routines for my voice.
Rachel to Kurt: No smokers, no cats, no partiers, no opera majors.
Rachel to Kurt: And affordable, of course.
Rachel to Kurt: With a good location.
Rachel to Kurt: Possibly exposed brick.
Rachel to Kurt: Bonus for a claw-foot tub.
Rachel to Kurt: I’m flexible on gas vs. electric stove.

Kurt was still staring at those messages when another one came in.

Rachel to Kurt: Where are you???? This is an emergency!

Shaking his head, Kurt typed back, I am going to dinner with my dad and Blaine, and you don’t even have the part yet. We can talk tomorrow.

“Everything okay?” his dad asked pointedly, because Kurt was breaking the Hummel-Hudson household rule of not texting while having conversations with the family.

Kurt was tempted to remind him that they were not in the Hummel-Hudson house currently, they were in New York with all of his crazy friends and responsibilities, but he refrained. Instead he said, “It’s Rachel.”

That was explanation enough; Blaine even made a sympathetic sound as Kurt’s phone lit up again.

Rachel to Kurt: I believe in thinking positively and planning ahead for good things. I’m offended you don’t know that about me.

Knowing her far too well to engage, Kurt tucked his phone away and said briskly, “Are we ready to go to dinner?”

His eyebrows raised with unvoiced curiosity, Blaine nodded, and his dad said, “Sure am.”

“Great.” Kurt looked around at the even more crowded hallway and said, “I think we can get out this way.” Careful not to bump into anyone and disturb his boutonniere, he started to edge through toward the outside doors.

“I’m glad you could come out for Kurt’s play,” he heard Blaine say to his father as they followed behind him.

“I miss a lot being in Ohio,” his dad replied, “but no way I was going to miss my son’s New York stage debut, as he’s been calling it. I was sorry I couldn’t come out for the Review, too. Least we’ll get a DVD of it.”

“He did an amazing job putting it together,” Blaine said, making Kurt’s heart flutter and soar at the warmth in his words of praise.

Burt made a pleased if thoughtful sound and said, “I heard you were the star of the show.”

Kurt ducked his head a little, because he didn’t even want to think about how much he’d been gushing if his dad picked up on it. But he couldn’t help it, because Blaine had been exceptional, as he always was, and then he’d told Kurt he loved him, and it was impossible to keep most of that inside, at least with his dad. He’d managed not to blurt out anything about love, but the rest had obviously spilled out.

Okay, it was impossible everywhere to keep his feelings inside, but especially with his dad, whom he knew would be happy to hear he was happy. And Kurt really was. He could barely wrap his head around how he was feeling, not just from the high of performing but from the reality of having a wonderful, charming, affectionate, attractive boyfriend who understood him, supported him, and loved him. And who had brought him a boutonniere.

So what if Blaine had some poor taste in imagined Broadway musicals? No one was perfect.

Kurt’s pocket buzzed again, and he was reminded that a lack of response never stopped Rachel from texting. In fact, it just tended to make her more frantic. He got out his phone again as he maneuvered through the crowds.

Rachel to Kurt: Are you ignoring me???? This is important, Kurt!

Kurt to Rachel: I’m not ignoring you. I am going out to dinner. You will be fine.

Rachel to Kurt: But they’re doing Sondheim! I will need the perfect retreat for the summer if I’m doing Sondheim.

Kurt to Rachel: I’m going to stop checking my texts now.

Rachel to Kurt: But it’s Sondheim!!!!

Kurt put his phone away again as he pushed through the side door to the theater and out into the warm evening air. The scent of flowers from the narrow but tidy border by the path was strong enough that it was the first thing that struck him, but then he was used to the other usual noises and smells of the city.

“Is Rachel all right?” Blaine asked him quietly, coming up beside him, and Kurt was almost getting used to that, too, having him there right next to him, knowing that he would be. It made him warm to be able to expect it. It made him warm to think that a part of him was actually able to start taking it for granted, just a little. He loved that feeling.

“She got a callback for that theater company, the one doing Sunday in the Park with George actually in a park?”

Blaine nodded. “And she’s excited?”

“She’s freaking out about where she’s going to live,” Kurt told him with a roll of his eyes.

“But she doesn’t have the part yet,” Blaine said, his brows furrowing.

“Exactly,” Kurt said with some satisfaction at Blaine being on the same page. “Dad?” He looked over to where his dad had gotten stuck holding the door for a flood of exiting students; even Blaine with all of his excellent manners had learned not to stand there and play doorman. “Come on. You’ll be there all night if you wait for them.”

“Nothing wrong with being polite, Kurt,” his father said.

“There is in New York if you actually want dinner,” Kurt replied, and to his relief his father peered around the door at the seemingly endless line of people coming out and took his advice, letting the door go gently and relinquishing it to the control of those passing through.

Kurt turned to the left, but Blaine caught his arm and said, “It’ll be quicker if we go through the quad.” He nodded to the right.

“But then Dad can’t see the area at night. How pretty the city is when you can’t make out the garbage in the alleys.”

“The arch is pretty, too, all lit up,” Blaine said. “And the paths will be less crowded.”

Kurt tipped his head, because that was true, and if it were only the two of them he would have been delighted to walk side-by-side through the quad with Blaine, except - “But he’s from Lima. He’s seen grass and lights; the only time he sees crowded sidewalks at this time of day is when it’s free cone night at the Dairy Dip.”

Blaine took a short breath, like he was going to keep pushing his point, but his eyes flicked over to Kurt’s dad again, almost warily, and he simply said, “Okay.”

The quick way he acquiesced set off a warning bell in Kurt’s mind, because they’d gotten in trouble with Blaine just giving Kurt what he wanted, but when Kurt said, “Blaine - “ to start to delve into why Blaine felt so strongly about it his dad cut him off with a cleared throat.

“I don’t care how we get there, as long as we get to eat soon,” his dad said. “Those of us who go to sleep with our chickens aren’t used to having dinner so late.”

“Dad,” Kurt said with another roll of his eyes. He hooked his hand through his father’s arm and said, “This way,” leading them out toward the street and trusting Blaine would follow.

He felt his heart expand again as they got out onto the sidewalk, the street stretching out ahead of them in block after block of buildings and neon, people and possibilities. He was used to it now, even more used to it than he was to Blaine’s presence, but it still made his breath catch to be there in New York. It was his city, his place to grow, his future, and step by step his dreams were coming true. He could still feel the stage beneath his feet even as he walked on the pavement with his dad by his side and the man he loved steady behind him. He could feel the applause buffeting his skin along with the warm summer breeze.

Kurt’s chin lifted with his spirits. He got to share the night with the both of them. It felt even more exciting to have it just be his dad and Blaine with him instead of a larger group of friends. It was more monumental, in a way; he was going to dinner with his dad and his boyfriend, just the three of them, because this was a real relationship worth sharing, a real celebration on a real night of triumph. It felt huge and yet so simple. It felt right.

He glanced over his shoulder at Blaine and shot him an elated smile when Blaine’s face softened the moment Kurt met his eyes.

Despite the crowded sidewalks, it didn’t take long to get to the restaurant, a little Italian place Kurt was sure his father would like; he and Blaine were going to be happy anywhere that wasn’t serving dorm food or pizza, after all, but his dad had never been all that adventurous.

“This looks... nice,” Kurt’s dad said as they were seated at their table, some odd, distant note in his voice. He unfolded his napkin into his lap.

“We like it.”

“Mmm,” his dad said.

Kurt tried to look at the restaurant through his father’s eyes. It was cozy and lit largely by the small lamps on the tables, not roomy and bright like Breadstix or any of the chains they had in Ohio. The tables were close together, the menu was relatively limited, and the waiter brought imported sparkling water without even being asked.

“You two come here together a lot?” His dad looked at Blaine, then at him, then back at the table, like he was taking it all in. Like he was judging it. Like he wasn’t sure what to think about it.

Kurt looked around, too, and found it all as charming as usual.

To Kurt it was intimate and would have been quite romantic if it had just been Blaine across from him, sophisticated without being pretentious, someplace perfect for a special occasion (especially since his father wasn’t on a college student’s limited budget), but he wondered if to his father it just looked small and dark.

Maybe his father didn’t like it, he realized with a falling heart. Maybe he didn’t get it. Maybe he compared it to restaurants in Lima and somehow thought it was a step down.

“No,” Kurt said and tried not to feel like maybe this was yet another thing he couldn’t share with his dad and another way he didn’t quite fit. “Mostly we eat in the cafeteria.”

“Or we order pizza,” Blaine added. “There’s a great place down the block that has this chewy whole wheat crust Kurt’s obsessed with.”

“I’m not obsessed with their crust,” Kurt said.

“Oh, okay,” Blaine said with a laugh.

Burt glanced at Blaine, his eyes thoughtful, and then he flipped over the simple, handwritten card menu in his hands and squinted at it. “So, what’s good here?” he asked.

“Kurt turned me on to their eggplant,” Blaine said with what to Kurt looked like an overly bright smile, like Blaine was picking up on some of his father’s strained energy but had no idea what to do about it. Kurt could also see the moment the phrase ‘Kurt turned me on’ registered to Blaine; some of the color in Blaine’s face drained away, and he cleared his throat and looked down at his menu with wide, horrified eyes.

“Dad doesn’t like eggplant, no matter how many times I’ve made it for him,” Kurt said before Blaine could get another foot into his mouth trying to fix the situation; he remembered Blaine visiting his house over spring break all too well. The harder Blaine tried, the worse it was going to get. “Also, he should have something less fried.” He scanned the list of items. “Maybe the gnocchi? Or a dinner salad? How do you feel about capers?”

“I’m out to dinner with my son and his boyfriend at a fancy New York restaurant, and you want me to eat a salad?” his dad grumbled; Kurt could hear the laughter lurking inside the words.

“We may be more cultured here, but New York chefs don’t automatically remove saturated fats from everything, Dad,” Kurt replied, feeling a bit of relief to fall into their familiar back and forth.

“Still don’t know why the taste has to go away with the fat.”

“If you want taste, I’ll order you the eggplant,” Kurt said, schooling his expression into something innocently open and helpful. “It’s amazing.”

“It’s eggplant,” his father replied flatly.

Kurt tipped his head in agreement and dropped the act. “So have something you’ll actually eat and that’s good for you, like the gnocchi.”

Burt let out a dry laugh and set his menu down on the table. “You know, I don’t know why I miss you nagging me when you’re away.”

“Yes, you do,” Kurt told him. “Carole takes very good care of you, but she’s no substitute for me. Her love of acid wash jeans alone puts her in a whole different league...” His grin started to slip out in earnest, and his dad grinned right back, reaching out to pat his hand.

“Long time ago you taught me everybody has their own way of expressing themselves and I shouldn’t judge.”

“I never said you shouldn’t judge acid wash, Dad,” Kurt said around his heart rising into his throat. This he knew. This he loved. This was why he wanted his father to come to his show. This was how things were supposed to be: easy, teasing, and full of love. “You just weren’t supposed to judge me.” He heard Blaine huff out a laugh beside him.

Also laughing, Burt squeezed Kurt’s hand before pulling back and shaking his head with the fond amusement he had always seem to have for him. “It’s real good to see you, kid.”

“You too,” Kurt said, a little thickly, because it just felt so good to have him there for part of his night. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it.”

Kurt turned his smile to Blaine, too, because he was glad they were both there. It was nice to have people he really cared about there to share the joys in his life with him, overdose of tartan and all.

The server came over to order, and with a minimum of fuss both Kurt and Blaine ordered the eggplant and Kurt’s dad was convinced to try the evening’s special cannelloni. Then there was the usual fuss of refilling drinks and the arrival of the basket of freshly baked bread to distract them.

“So what are you up to this summer, Blaine?” Kurt’s dad finally asked after they were all settled and eating the excellent focaccia. The word ‘summer’ fell like a weight onto Kurt’s chest, reminding him that even though he was looking forward to the semester being over the freedom of being in New York was soon to come to an end. “You going to be hanging around the garage distracting Kurt from his work?”

Kurt knew his father was teasing, but the way Blaine sat up straighter in his chair and fiddled with the napkin in his lap made it clear to Kurt’s eyes that Blaine wasn’t so certain about it.

“I wouldn’t want to distract him,” Blaine insisted. “But I will be in Ohio, yes. Last year, I worked in my father’s friend’s law firm doing filing and photocopying and things. It’s not very exciting, but they pay well, and it’s air conditioned, so I’ll probably do that again.” He shrugged with one shoulder.

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic about it,” Kurt’s dad said.

Blaine smoothed out his napkin again. “Like I said, it’s not exciting, but I’m lucky I have it. It’s better than being a camp counselor.” He let out a little laugh. “I did that one summer, and I got sunburned and had a camper who passed out from heat exhaustion after throwing up blue Gatorade all over me. The worst I have to deal with at the office is remembering complicated coffee orders and avoiding papercuts. It’s way better.”

“And it gives you an excuse to wear your ties,” Kurt added with a sigh of appreciation.

Blaine’s eyes crinkled with his smile as they shifted to Kurt. “You keep telling me I don’t need an excuse to wear them.”

Kurt nodded, his eyes flicking proudly down to the dark striped tie knotted neatly at Blaine’s throat; Blaine always looked so good in them, and Kurt was pleasantly surprised by how Blaine’s innate style was actually quite sophisticated. In fact, he was thrilled by it. It was yet another thing to love about him. “You’re learning.”

Blaine bumped his knee against Kurt’s under the table, the touch gentle and warming up Kurt’s leg. His gaze was soft, fond, and just for him in that focused way Blaine could have. “I’m glad you think so.”

They smiled at each other for a moment before Kurt’s father said, “So we’ll be seeing you around the house?”

The easy warmth in Blaine’s smile slid off of his face, leaving his nerves behind to keep up the expression. “Yes. I mean, if that’s okay with you, sir.”

“I told you you were welcome,” Kurt’s dad said, reaching out to dip his bread in the seasoned olive oil in the middle of the table. “And I also told you to call me Burt.”

“Right. Sorry.”

Burt shook his head as Kurt nudged his knee against Blaine’s to try to reassure him. “Don’t need to apologize, either.”

Blaine opened his mouth and closed it again, and Kurt had to fight not to laugh, because he was pretty sure Blaine had just barely stopped himself from apologizing for apologizing.

“Anyway, yes, Blaine will be around this summer,” Kurt said. “And I’m offended that you think my work would suffer if he came in when it was Finn who almost dropped a car off the lift when Mrs. Winters came in that time in her tennis outfit.”

Burt leaned back as the server put their salads in front of them. “You’re telling me you aren’t going to be ogling your boyfriend when he comes in all dressed up from work and wanting to take you out to dinner?” He raised his eyebrows at Kurt.

“Well, I - “ Kurt’s throat closed up a little at the mental image, because he’d never really thought about it that way, looking up from an engine to see Blaine standing in the sunlight in the bay of his dad’s garage, dressed nicely, maybe a cup of iced coffee in his hand, there for him, there in one of the places he’d spent his childhood dreaming about boys and love and a future that had music and New York and a handsome man at his side, all of which was now true, and...

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” his dad said dryly and speared a piece of arugula.

“I can... not meet him there,” Blaine offered after looking between them in a little confusion.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kurt said. He tucked away that image into his memory as something to pull out when the thought of a long, dry summer ahead in Lima might wear on him. He wasn’t going to be alone. It wasn’t going to be as free and easy as being in New York with Blaine - they’d seen that over spring break - but it was still going to be so much better than last summer, when he’d had to spend each day knowing he didn’t fit in without much respite beyond the love of his family. He might still be covered in grease and suspicious looks by the end of each day this summer, but at least he could wash all of that off and go out with Blaine at night, Blaine who brought him flowers, Blaine who sang with him, Blaine who kissed him senseless, Blaine who loved him. He’d still have all of that. And he was damn well going to have it everywhere he could. “Dad, put him out of his misery and tell him he can come to the shop.”

“Sure, he can. But I’m taking it out of your paycheck, Kurt, if you forget to put new oil in and ruin somebody’s engine because you’re too busy flirting to finish the oil change.”

Please,” Kurt said. “Blaine rebuilt a car with his dad a couple of summers ago. He’d help me with it.”

“And I promise I won’t talk to Finn if he’s putting a car up on the lift,” Blaine added, delicately cutting up a piece of cucumber on his plate.

“Even in a tennis outfit, I don’t think you’d be quite as distracting to him as Mrs. Winters,” Kurt said, though a part of him was caught by the idea of Blaine in tennis whites, his muscular legs tanned and bared by well-cut white shorts, his chest and arms defined by a tight polo shirt...

Burt laughed again, breaking through Kurt’s reverie. “Thanks for the offer,” he said to Blaine. “But Finn’s not actually working for me this summer.”

Kurt lifted his head in surprise. One of the best parts of the summer was getting to spend so much time with his brother; they ate lunch together almost every day, Finn flopped on the couch in Burt’s office while Kurt ate at his dad’s desk with the fan blowing directly on him. He loved their time to talk and catch up even more now than he had in high school when they’d seen each other day in and day out. Finn could be frustrating and dense, but he was still his brother. “He’s not?” he asked with an ache of disappointment deep in his chest.

“He’s taking classes over the summer, trying to graduate early. He’ll be around, probably pick up a few hours in the shop here and there, but he’ll be at school most of the time,” his dad said.

“Oh.” Kurt had a moment’s flash of jealousy that Finn had the ability to take summer classes, but there was no way Kurt could afford to live in New York if he wasn’t in a dorm and was spending money for additional tuition instead of saving it up from his job to help pay for his books, clothes, and things. His dad could only give him so much. “Well, that’s definitely good news for your customers. At least Mrs. Winters.”

“Means twice the work for you, though, without him to pick up your slack when you want to skip out for sale days at the mall.”

“I wouldn’t say twice; I can do an oil change in half the time that Finn can,” Kurt replied.

Burt nodded over toward Blaine. “Even with him watching you and waiting to go out somewhere?”

“I can not come by the garage,” Blaine offered again, his eyes flicking back and forth between them.

“Dad,” Kurt warned his father firmly. “I know you had a lot of fun scaring Finn’s girlfriends over the years, but can you please stop making Blaine feel like he’s not allowed to come over? He’s going to believe you.”

“I think I’ve got a lot of years to make up for,” his dad replied, “and he’s going to have to get used to our joking if he wants to be able to keep up with us.”

Beside Kurt, Blaine neatly put down his fork and folded his hands in his lap, looking quietly tense. “It’s okay, Kurt.”

“See?” Burt said. “He’ll lose all those manners yet, give you a real run for your money.”

“Blaine is just fine the way he is,” Kurt said more sharply, because he knew his dad didn’t mean anything negative by his words and was just teasing them both in his own way, but he also was pretty sure Blaine wouldn’t understand that he wasn’t actually being criticized. “And I like his manners.” It was going to be a long, awkward summer if this kind of dynamic kept up. So he stabbed a grape tomato and changed the subject. “How’s Carole?”

“Good,” his dad said after taking a slow breath. “Busy, but good. Work’s going fine, she’s been trying out some new recipes you’ll probably want to add something fancy to, and she’s taken up gardening.” He made a face like he was unconvinced by the wisdom of that choice.

“What kind of gardening?” Blaine asked. His voice was a little low, but Kurt had to smile at him for making the effort.

“The kind with dirt and plants?” Burt replied and waved off Kurt’s glare before it could form. “I don’t know. Some vegetables, some flowers. Feels like all she’s been having me do the past two weekends is dig up things and stick other things in the ground. She dug up all the beds by the front of the house for new flowers and bushes, and a bunch of my nice, green lawn is gone in the back so she can have little rows of what she assures me will be amazing, fresh vegetables.”

“Ooh, do you know what she planted?” Kurt asked, tumbling into a daydream of new recipes, overflowing baskets of produce, and soft focus light like Ina Garten always had in her kitchen on TV. This could be wonderful. He’d been wanting to learn how to make gazpacho. And pesto. And ratatouille.

“I really don’t,” his dad said. “All I know is that she’s going to have to watch Finn like a hawk when she gets him to weed for her. You know she’s going to pull you in, too, kid.”

Kurt nodded; he didn’t see any way around it. Finn would pull a few too many flowers and get let out of weeding duty for something dirtier but less easily messed up, but Kurt knew he’d be helping her all summer. It was what came from living at home. “I wonder if McQueen makes gardening gloves,” he said to himself.

“If, um - “ Blaine started, then hesitated for a second. “If she needs any more help, I’d be happy to pitch in. I was my mother’s helper in the garden for years.”

“Your mother gardens?” Kurt asked in surprise. He hadn’t met Blaine’s mother, but the tidy sterility of Blaine’s house hardly seemed like the home of someone who liked to get her hands in the dirt.

Blaine nodded. “Next time you’re over, I’ll have to show you the yard. She used to do more when I was a kid, getting it all planned out the way she wanted it. I helped her weed and prune every weekend for years. It’s how I earned my allowance: weeding and good grades.” He poked at a piece of cucumber, looking a little self-conscious. “I had to replace my mistakes out of my allowance. So it’s not like I’m an expert at air rooting or anything, but I do know how to tell a flower from a weed.”

“Which is better than Finn,” Kurt’s dad agreed.

“Mm,” Kurt said with a knowing nod.

Burt toasted Blaine with his glass of water. “Better watch out, or you’ll end up having a standing weeding date with my wife all summer.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Blaine said with a sudden, sunny smile that went straight to Kurt’s heart, because he knew it was for being included in his family and not because Blaine had some secret need to garden.

Kurt nudged his leg against Blaine’s in fluttery satisfaction and ignored the phone buzzing in his pocket. “I’d love to see your yard, too,” he said.

“It’s pretty nice,” Blaine said, swallowing a bite of his salad. “The garden has a French aesthetic, so it’s probably more formal than Carole is going for, but Mom did a good job with it. The espaliered crabapple came out perfectly.”

“Espaliered?” Burt asked.

“Oh,” Blaine said. His smile turned a little self-conscious again. “It’s where you take a tree or a bush and instead of it just growing up and out like normal you train it to grow flat against a wall in a specific shape like a candelabrum, a fan, or a lattice.”

Kurt’s dad stared at Blaine like he was speaking some other language. “What?”

“It’s where they torture trees to make them look pretty,” Kurt translated for him. “Think of it like couture for plants. It’s all about what it looks like, even if it’s painful. You plan ahead, trim off the parts that don’t work, and make it all perfect.”

“Couture for plants,” Blaine said with a laugh, nudging Kurt back beneath the table. “I like that.”

“Why would you do that to a plant?” Burt asked.

“Because it’s pretty?” Kurt pulled off another piece of bread and swirled it in the oil.

“So paint a picture of it on the wall,” his dad said. “Why not let a tree be a tree?”

Blaine’s face tightened, and he set down his fork again. “My mother isn’t good at letting things do their own thing,” he explained. “She says nature needs a little push. Or in case of the crabapple a big push. It took her years to get it to grow the way she wanted. She grew it in a palmette verrier shape, so it took a lot of work and tweaking to get the branches set. But it’s finally where she wants it, and now she can just prune it to keep its shape. And clean up all of the apples it drops.”

“And people do this for fun?” Kurt’s dad asked, clearly put off by the idea.

“Dad,” Kurt warned sharply. His phone went off again.

“No, it’s fine, Kurt,” Blaine replied, his voice calm and his eyes steady on Kurt’s father’s face, both of which were alarming signs to Kurt of Blaine retreating further behind his manners. “Your dad doesn’t have to like that style. Lots of people don’t. It’s pretty formal and structured. My mother loves it, but it isn’t for everyone.”

“That’s for sure,” Burt said.

“Dad, why do you care so much about their garden?” Kurt asked. “No one’s making you do it.”

“I guess I think everybody ought to let things grow the way they want to, not how other people think they should be,” his dad said. “And not just plants.” He lifted his eyebrows further, not looking away from Blaine’s eyes.

Oh, thought Kurt, and he wasn’t sure if he was impressed or annoyed that his father had apparently picked up on the subtext of Blaine’s mother’s predilections before he did. He sat back in his chair, watching his boyfriend neatly eat his meal, and thought of Blaine’s impressively affable exterior and his need to be seen as perfect and wondered not for the first time how much of that was just Blaine and how much was Blaine reacting to the demands of his parents, brother, and other people in his life.

He wondered what his father thought when he looked at Blaine and saw him trying so hard, if he understood it not as an earnest if sometimes misguided attempt to be liked but something covering up what was real and true.

Still, Kurt loved Blaine as he was, and for all that Blaine’s parents might have taught him lessons that stifled him, it wasn’t like Burt hadn’t tried to shape Kurt over the years, too. Fair was fair.

“I thought parenting was about guiding your kid in the right direction, teaching him right from wrong, shaping him to be a good person,” Kurt said to his father.

“Parenting is about teaching your kid right from wrong and then letting him run with it whatever way his heart takes him,” Burt replied. “Even if it’s wearing a dress and heels to high school for a week.”

“It was Lady Gaga week,” Kurt reminded him. “Why do you keep bringing that up? It was an assignment.”

“It was still a dress,” Burt said and took a bite of his salad, his eyes filled with amusement. “And my point was I didn’t stop you from wearing it.”

“Wait, I thought we were talking about gardening,” Blaine said slowly.

“Dad was just expanding the metaphor,” Kurt said and leaned back heavily in his chair. His phone buzzed again. “Don’t worry about it.”

Kurt’s dad said, “I’m just saying it seems to me it’s hard trying to make everything perfect when life just doesn’t work that way. It’s messy, complicated. It doesn’t fit into neat lines and little boxes. Sometimes you’ve just got to give in to it, let it take you where it wants to go.”

“Yeah, my parents aren’t great at that,” Blaine said. “They’re happier when things are planned out.”

“Mm,” Burt said and took a sip of his water as the server arrived to clear their plates.

Kurt’s phone buzzed again in his pocket. And again. “Sorry, let me turn this off,” he said, pulling his phone out and glaring at it. As he’d suspected, he had an array of increasingly frantic texts from Rachel covering topics from her housing needs to a new hairstyle for the summer to the potential for mosquito bites when performing in the park and if insect repellant will hurt her voice more than catching West Nile would.

Rachel, I am at DINNER, he typed back even as he said, “Rachel is losing her mind. Again. Still.”

“About the part?” Blaine asked, leaning closer and bending his head to peek at the messages. “The one she doesn’t have yet?”

Do you think they could hide an IV drip for antibiotics under my costume? Rachel texted.

“She’s spiraling,” Kurt said to Blaine and tipped the phone in his direction. “It started there, but we’re swiftly approaching full-on insane territory. In a few minutes she’s going to start looking up antimalarial drugs on WebMD and start scheming to replace their footlights with citronella candles.”

Rachel to Kurt: If my roommate sings opera, I’m never going to be able to get enough rest to recover!

Kurt sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to find the strength not to reply to her in all caps.

“Do I want to ask?” Burt said.

“Probably not. It’s just Rachel being Rachel,” Kurt said.

Another text came in: Kurt! THIS IS SERIOUS. The show must go on! How can I play this part if I am in the hospital and am burdened with a hostile living situation?

“Do you need to call her?” Blaine asked with some concern, looking up into Kurt’s face with his clear, beautiful eyes from so close by. “Talk her down off the ledge?”

“This is supposed to be a celebratory dinner,” Kurt said with a sigh, feeling his heart sink, because Blaine was probably right. He looked between his father and his boyfriend, both of them watching him with sympathy. “Unaccompanied by a side of crazy.”

“Since when does Rachel take a break from crazy?” his dad asked, and Blaine laughed softly. “I’ve known her a long time; I’ve never seen it happen.”

“I think she took an hour off a couple of Tuesdays ago,” Kurt said with more tartness than fondness.

“Then she’s growing up,” his dad said.

Kurt’s phone vibrated again: Do you think I can ask for an increased living stipend from the theater so I don’t have to have a roommate?

“I need to call her,” Kurt agreed with Blaine. “She’s just going to snowball if I don’t stop her, and she’s going to do something she’ll regret. I’m sorry.” He pushed back his chair, careful not to bump the diner behind him, and looked with worry between his dad and Blaine again. “Are you going to be okay?”

“I think we can handle being in a restaurant, Kurt,” his dad said. “Unless there’s a trick to eating this pasta only you know?”

“No, I - “ Kurt stopped himself, because he didn’t want to point out the awkwardness that had been coming and going between them throughout the evening. He wasn’t exactly keen on leaving them alone together, not with his dad having criticized Blaine’s parents and Blaine sitting there with such stiff precision, clearly still concerned about making a good impression.

Rachel to Kurt: How many air purifiers do you think I should buy to help protect me from airborne diseases in my dressing room? Three? Four?

Kurt stood up decisively. “Okay, I’m going to put a halt to this crazy-train before it gets completely out of control. You two just...” He grappled with what to say, finally settling on a topic he hoped would keep them from making things worse between them while he was away: “Blaine likes football, Dad. Go, Buckeyes!”

He spun on his heel and headed out to the little vestibule at the front door of the restaurant, huddling into a corner of the little room as he dialed Rachel’s number.

“Hel - “ she began, and he cut her off before she could get out the rest of the word.

“Stop it right now,” he told her.

“But Kurt - “

“No. Stop it.” He crossed his free arm over his chest and glared at the wall in front of him. “Rachel Berry, you are better than this.”

“But Kurt - “ The edge of hysteria in her voice was colored by a plea for help he knew too well.

“Rachel,” Kurt said more gently. “You don’t have the part yet, you don’t have a problematic living situation, and you definitely don’t have West Nile. I truly appreciate and admire your impressive ability to solve problems before they get in the way of your dreams, but can’t you admit you’re a little ahead of yourself here?”

Rachel let out a slow breath on the other end of the phone. “I want this part so much, Kurt,” she said, sounding marginally more young and vulnerable than frantic. Some of Kurt’s worry for her faded to hear that edge in her voice; if she could still be real and honest, this wouldn’t take as long to solve as he had thought it might.

“And if they’re at all smart, they’ll give it to you,” he said. “But they aren’t going to do that if you walk in there like a diva before you even have the role, making demands for extra money and air purifiers. Save that until after you’re famous.” He knew down to his bones that she would be, both famous and a diva. He knew she would make it, as hard as this industry was. She just had to keep herself from shooting herself in the foot... or he had to stop her when she couldn’t stop herself. That’s what friends were for, after all.

“I could hear some of the other auditions,” Rachel told him with a soft sniffle. “They were really good.”

“And you’re better,” Kurt told her. “You’re amazing. So stop worrying. They’ll be stupid not to cast you.”

“They still might pick someone else.”

“Yes,” Kurt said. “Stupid people and bad choices aren’t all confined to the Lima city limits.”

Rachel laughed, the sound watery but genuine. “And I’m not going to get West Nile?”

“I am ninety-nine percent confident you are not going to get West Nile, Rachel,” Kurt told her. “But if you’re really worried we can look into those insect repellant fabrics and see if we can make you a slip out of them that works with your costume.”

“Thank you.” She breathed out slowly. “You’re amazing, too, you know. I wish you were going to be in the show with me.”

Kurt’s smile turned a little bittersweet, but he was grateful for the sentiment. “Me, too. And don’t worry. You’ll always be a diva to me. No need to wait until you get famous.”

“Thank you. You’re so nice to me.”

“Well, we’re going to need each other when we’re both the toast of town. With so many people jealous of our success, we’ll need real friends then even more than we do now.”

Rachel laughed again. “That’s true.”

“We both like to think ahead in our own ways,” he reminded her with a grin.

“And that’s why I love you. I’m sorry for interrupting your dinner with all of this,” she said. “How’s it going?”

Kurt tipped his head to the side and shifted his weight to his other foot. “Honestly? I think Dad misses Breadstix, and Blaine’s on his very best behavior.”

“Oh, no,” Rachel said with alarm.

“Oh, yes.” He glanced over his shoulder into the restaurant, though he couldn’t see them from where he was standing. “And I left them alone at the table. God knows what I’ll find when I get back there.”

“I’m sorry. You should go.”

“I know,” he sighed, hoping he was going to go back to something other than polite silence or them debating the merits of personal expression. “Are you okay now?”

“No,” she admitted. “I’m not going to be okay until I know I got the part. But I’m better. Thank you.”

“Any time,” he told her. “But maybe next time not during my opening night dinner?”

“I promise,” she said fervently, and he shook his head, because he knew he’d never be able to hold her to it. “And I’ll be there to cheer you on tomorrow.”

“Okay. Bye, Rachel,” he said and hung up the phone.

Kurt took a centering breath before he went back inside, looking out of the window and trying to recapture the bubbly feeling of success he’d had just an hour before. It was hard in the face of an awkward dinner, but he didn’t want to lose it, not yet. It didn’t matter if things were awkward. It didn’t matter that Rachel was on the verge of getting a real part in a real play and he wasn’t. It didn’t matter that pretty soon he’d be trading the fashion of New York for the doldrums of Lima.

It was still a good night. It was still his night. Nothing was going to take it away from him. He wasn’t going to let it. Tonight was going to be wonderful if it killed him to make it happen.

He didn’t want to think about the fact that if it continued the way it was going it very well might.

Summoning up a smile and his courage, Kurt lifted his chin, caressed a velvety petal of his perfect, wonderful boutonniere, and walked back to his table, expecting... well, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but Blaine and his dad talking animatedly with big, genuine smiles when they’d been so stilted a few minutes ago certainly wasn’t it.

“ - and if they don’t figure out their defense, then - “ Blaine looked up when Kurt reached the table. “Hi! How did it go?”

“Crisis and portable bubble of mosquito netting averted,” Kurt said, looking back and forth between them as he sat down beside Blaine. He felt a bit as though he’d stepped into some alternate universe than the one he’d left. “Everything okay here?”

“Besides Blaine’s inability to understand a good defensive strategy - “ Kurt’s dad began.

“It isn’t a strategy if they’re just making it up as they go along,” Blaine replied, not offended but laughing.

Kurt could feel his eyes widening in surprise, but he didn’t dare interrupt the rapport between them that had somehow had sprung up while he was on the phone.

He’d have brought football up ages ago if he’d known they’d fall into such easy conversation. His dad had done the same with Finn, but Kurt had never expected anything of the sort with Blaine. But then he thought of Blaine as his, and he’d never really thought about how the parts of Blaine he wasn’t all that interested in - like the way he blended in so well with the guys - might actually help him fit in with his father, too.

“Sports really are the great male equalizer,” he muttered to himself in some wonder, thinking back to his own days on the football team and the brief measure of acceptance it had offered even him.

“A good coach lets his players shine on the field,” Burt said to Blaine. “He teaches them, trusts them, and lets them go.”

“All the way to losing? A good coach also knows when to rein them in,” Blaine replied, and Kurt wasn’t sure how a conversation with such similar subtext as their earlier one felt so utterly different.

“If they’re so caught up in their heads that they can’t think for themselves on the field - “

“But he knows more than they do and needs to teach them - “ Blaine interrupted, and Kurt raised his eyebrows in astonishment.

“Look, kid,” Kurt’s dad interrupted right back. “I know you think you know what you’re talking about, but when you get a few more years on you - ”

“And here is the eggplant,” the server said, setting a steaming, fragrant dish in front of Kurt. His stomach did a little flip of hunger and excitement at the delicious smell.

“Hey, that looks good,” his dad said in clear surprise.

“Mm,” Kurt said, smoothing his napkin over his lap so he didn’t just dig in like an animal or a college student. He was so hungry, though, and it smelled so good. “We told you.”

“Yeah, you both did,” his dad said.

“Since I’m right about the eggplant, maybe I’m right about other things, too,” Blaine told Kurt’s father with a distinct if slightly apprehensive twinkle in his eye. He leaned back to make room for his own dish.

“He acts all polite, but I should’ve known he knew how to talk smack if he was dating you,” Burt said to Kurt. “You’ve just got to get him going on the right topics.”

“I’d never tolerate anyone I could walk over,” Kurt agreed, shooting a fierce, pleased smile Blaine’s way.

Blaine bumped his knee under the table again and left it there, a solid, thrilling press against his leg. “I’m willing to call a truce over the food,” he said. “But I’m not giving in to your argument.”

Burt looked at Blaine for a moment, and then he laughed to himself. “Yeah, okay.” He shook his head. “I really should’ve known.”

“I do have excellent taste, Dad,” Kurt reminded him. He smoothed his hand possessively over Blaine’s thigh under cover of his father’s plate arriving.

“I’ve never doubted it,” his father replied. “Well, there was that one sequined dinner jacket...”

“Says the man who lives in ball caps and old flannel.“

Burt pointed a finger at him in warning. “Those ball caps and old shirts kept you in your fancy clothes, you know. If I’d been buying Armani suits I wouldn’t’ve been able to give you a clothing allowance of your own.”

Blaine laughed as he sipped his water. “He has a point, Kurt.”

“Damn right I do,” Burt said. “Glad to find something we can agree on.”

“That and the complete and total superiority of the Buckeyes to the Wolverines,” Blaine said.

“I’ll drink to that.” Burt raised his glass to Blaine, who saluted him with his water.

Kurt grinned to himself as he cut his first bite of his dinner, oddly pleased by the teasing, even if some of it was at his expense. The tone of the conversation at the table felt so new and familiar at the same time. He was used to the rolling, good-natured banter at the dinner table with Finn and Carole, and this felt like an extension of it.

It felt like Blaine could fit in, not just in his life in New York but maybe everywhere.

The trip over spring break had been a good start, but this, with his dad, with the two most important men in his life, this was different. This was special.

A sort of effervescent wonder rose so quickly through him that it made him feel light-headed and dizzy.

This could be, if he squinted into the hazy view of the years ahead, his future.

It wasn’t there yet. They weren’t family. They were still figuring things out. There was still awkwardness and lack of understanding. But with them laughing over football, Kurt could see how it might make sense someday, how his dad and Blaine could find their own jokes and own ways of teasing him and each other, and the world swooped and expanded around him as he thought about months and years ahead, about summers and holidays and celebrations and usual places at the Hummel-Hudson dinner table and family and forever...

He knew he was getting way ahead of himself, because it didn’t matter how solid and sure they felt when he thought about what they had together. He and Blaine were still so new. They hadn’t made any plans or promises. They were still figuring things out.

He knew he needed to pull his dreaming back to something more manageable, he knew he couldn’t plan for forever when they had barely started calling what they had love at all, but sitting there at that table with them it all felt right in a way Kurt had always imagined since he’d been swept away by his first romantic musical but had never, ever experienced before. It felt like those dreams were suddenly, unexpectedly within his reach.

“Good?” Burt asked him around a mouthful of his dinner.

His heart in his throat, Kurt looked at his father - so important to him, his rock, his one sure thing for so much of his life - and Blaine - his best friend, his boyfriend, his love - and nodded around the lump of his emotions. “Wonderful,” he said and felt his heart soar that much higher as Blaine smiled at him and tucked his ankle next to his.

And later, after their food was finished and Blaine had excused himself to the bathroom, Kurt’s dad looked at him and said quietly, calmly, “This is serious between you two, huh?”

Kurt nodded, trying to be just as calm. “Yes.”

“He’s a good guy. A little stiff sometimes, but trust me, I see why you like him.”

Kurt knew he could leave it at that, but suddenly he wanted to share how big this was with his dad. He wanted his dad to know, well, not everything, but the most important thing. “I love him.”

His father nodded slowly, watching him closely. “He feel the same way about you?”

Unable to keep the smile rising to his face, Kurt said breathlessly, “Yes.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Burt smiled back, truly smiled, and clasped Kurt’s hand on top of the table for a moment. “Good,” he said. His voice sounded a little thick, and he patted Kurt’s hand. “Good. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better this summer.”

Kurt’s voice caught in his throat again, not because he needed his father’s approval but because he really wanted the future he was beginning to see, and his dad was making it happen, just like Kurt could have hoped.

“If you want,” Burt said slowly, “I could offer him some hours at the garage. I know he’s got this other job, and you might not want him at work with you, but if he’s as handy with a car as you say... well, he’d be welcome, if you wanted the company. He’d be welcome.”

Dad,” Kurt said. All of that time with Blaine. His dad would give him that. His dad would want that, want Blaine in his shop, want Blaine around every day, want to have them there together, be willing to see them and have his customers see them, even if they wouldn’t be inappropriate, but Kurt just couldn’t have been sure until his dad made the offer that any of that would be okay with him there and not just here or in their home... Kurt’s mind was racing so fast he could barely keep up with it. “I don’t know if he’d want to, but - “

“The offer’s out there.”

Kurt was saved from trying to reply around the emotions spinning through him by Blaine returning and the server coming to tempt them all with the dessert menu - which Kurt jumped on immediately, because the only thing better than a wonderful night was a wonderful night with cheesecake and whipped cream - but as they walked back toward campus later that night after dropping off Burt at his hotel, Kurt’s heart was still fluttering like a moth at a lit window at the thought.

It was going to be a long, gritty summer in Ohio, but it might actually be okay, he realized. No, it was going to be okay. He was going to have so much of what he wanted. He was going to get to add Blaine to everything he already had, including his family.

“It’s a really beautiful night,” Blaine said happily as they dodged a taxi in the crosswalk, his hand snug in Kurt’s half-hidden between them as they walked. His steps were light beside Kurt, almost dancing. “And you were amazing. Did I mention you were amazing in the show?”

“Once or twice,” Kurt said, looking down at his boutonniere with a sharp, greedy flare of pleasure. “But I will certainly be happy to hear it again.”

Blaine pulled him to a halt in the arched entry into the quad, his eyes dark and warm in the lamplight. He stepped in close, his chest barely brushing Kurt’s, and said, “Let me come back to your room and show you how wonderful you were. How wonderful you are.”

Kurt could see the love in Blaine’s eyes, the happiness, the adoration, everything Kurt had wanted for so long, all of it for him, all of it ready there to take and hold in his own heart.

“Yes,” he said, his skin tingling and his heart full enough to hurt.

Yes, he thought as Blaine led him down the path. This would all be enough for him. This would get him through looming threat of finals. This would get him through the summer. This would get him through auditions and rejections and closed doors.

This would keep him warm and happy until the rest of the world could give him what he wanted, too.