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Five Stages of Love

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  1. Denial

Sam could hear Stacy from where he was standing in front of their motel room, the usually quiet girl laughing loudly enough to be heard through the closed door, and he smiled in spite of his fear that the neighbors would complain because this could only mean one thing: Kurt was still there.

When his parents had announced their intention to go to a job fair in Westerville on the weekend, Sam had half-jokingly told Kurt he wondered if missing yet another shift to stay with his siblings would prove to be the last straw for his long-suffering boss. He hadn’t realized, although he really should have, that Kurt would immediately offer to take care of the kids for him. He had hesitated a little before accepting, a bit reluctant to ask this of his friend, but had eventually caved under Kurt’s repeated assurances that it was really no trouble. They both knew his family could ill afford for Sam to lose his job.

He hadn’t been sure Kurt would still be there, considering his Saturday shift ended pretty late, but apparently his parents weren’t back yet, probably stuck in the evening traffic. Even as he opened the motel room’s door, Sam admitted to himself he felt guiltily glad his friend had had to stay so long, since it meant he got to see him.

“Sammy!” His little brother exclaimed as Sam entered the room, throwing himself at him and hugging him tightly. Sam was a bit surprised at the warmth of the welcome, but decided to play along.

“Stevie, wow, you have grown so much since I last saw you! How long has it been? It feels like five years at least.”

Stevie giggled.

“Not five years, stupid, five hours!”

“It was so cool!” Stacy interrupted as she also went to hug Sam, clearly refusing to be left out. “Jason and Trini got married, and Kimberly was jealous because she liked Trini but then Billy told her he had been in love with her for a long time and they decided they’d get married too, so now we have another wedding to plan!”

A quick glance at the bed, where Kurt was busy trying to make well-worn Power Rangers action figures stand on their own on the unsteady surface, made his sister’s words become much clearer, even as he started smiling at how focused his friend seemed to be on his self-imposed task. Kurt glanced up when Sam didn’t answer immediately, smiling sheepishly at the blond teen’s amused look.

“Hey Sam, how was work?”

And somehow, even though they had never shared more than a casual handshake or press of their shoulders, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to bend down and briefly hug Kurt as well, so he did. Kurt’s arms automatically rose to hug Sam back but he still tensed for a second in surprise, so Sam hurried to answer before the other teen could think to ask what had brought this on.

“It went fine, there were no orders outside of Lima and I got some good tips. I see you three had fun?”

“I found those tidying up our new attic and thought the kids would like them, but I think I ended up being the one most enthusiastic about playing with them again,” Kurt explained, chuckling a bit, nothing in his light tone indicating he had found their greeting to be anything out of the ordinary.

“They’re pretty cool,” Stevie admitted, “but they didn’t have anyone to fight, except for my dinosaurs but that would have been weird because they look like they come from the future and the dinosaurs don’t. That’s why they got married instead.”

Sam’s lips twitched at the boy’s matter-of-fact tone, but he feigned solemnness as he answered.

“Seems like a good way to pass the time to me.”   

“Yeah, it’s the best!” Stacy agreed eagerly. “So can Kurt stay long enough for Billy and Kimberly to marry?”

Sam sent Kurt a look meant to say he was deferring the decision to him. Kurt discreetly checked his watch and frowned a little as he saw the time.

“I’m sorry Stacy, it’s getting late and I think I’d better go. What would you prefer, for me to leave them here so you can organize the ceremony or for us to wait a bit until we can play together again?”

His sister seemed to be carefully considering her options.

“Can you leave them here so I can play, but still come back for the wedding?”

Sam opened his mouth to tell her not to be greedy and that Kurt had better things to do with his time, only to shut it when the other boy started laughing and ruffled Stacy’s hair with an affectionate familiarity that inexplicably made his heart clench.

“I’m sure this can be arranged, smart girl. You can start playing with Jason and Trini and Sam will let me know when I can come over again to officiate the second wedding.”

Kurt then seemed to realize the person he was making plans with wasn’t actually in charge of the household, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, and raised his head to throw a charming grin at Sam. “If Sam and your parents don’t mind, of course.” He added, blinking innocently up at his friend.

In spite of the contrast between Kurt’s fashionable ensemble and the cheap cloth of the sheets he was sitting on, Sam suddenly found himself irrelevantly thinking that his friend belonged here, gently teasing Sam and joking alongside his family. “What do you think, Sammy?”

Sam just stared silently for a few heartbeats into the mischievous eyes watching for his reaction, until he had to acknowledge the irrepressible thought that was slowly filling him in answer to Kurt’s query.

I love you.

“I lo- I mean, I’d love to. For you to come again. And the kids too, they’d love that. Obviously. But only if you don’t mind, of course.”

Sam wondered where conveniently-placed holes were when you needed them as Kurt raised an eyebrow in his direction, obviously wondering what had him suddenly flustered. Lacking any expedient way to disappear, he went with the second-best option and threw his largest smile at Kurt, hoping he would drop it and barely keeping himself from sighing in relief when he did.

“It’s no bother at all, just let me know when you need someone to take care of them, okay?” Not waiting for an answer, Kurt stood and started gathering his stuff, leaving the Power Rangers figurines in Stacy’s possessive hold. He turned as he got to the door, receiving a hug from Stevie and smiling one last time at Sam.

“See you on Monday then, and don’t forget the History essay on the Civil War you still have to write.” Sam made a face between a smile and a frown at the unwanted reminder but promised he wouldn’t forget, and then with a cheerful “bye!” Kurt was gone, leaving behind him the subtlest hint of perfume and a silence that seemed strangely heavy to Sam even as he hurried to break it.

“Come on kiddos it’s late, time for bed. But first I want those teeth to be shining!”

Stevie and Stacy giggled as they ran for the bathroom, but even as Sam fell back into the by-now familiar routine of putting his siblings to bed, he could feel the weight of his latest realization threatening to set in and crush him under a whole new lot of problems and impossibilities. He fought it all the same, stubbornly keeping his mind on everything he still had to do before he could allow himself to sink under the covers of his cot for a well-deserved rest.

Later this night, he found that for once he felt grateful towards the exhaustion that had been constantly plaguing him lately: it was probably the only thing which allowed him to fall asleep quickly.

  1. Anger

Sam had known denial rarely was the most efficient strategy in those matters, but he had expected it to work longer than two pitiful days.

The rest of his weekend, spent refusing to think about Kurt even as everything seemed to remind him of his friend, from the Power Rangers figurines Stacy and Stevie were constantly fighting over to his more-or-less complete history essay, had been nothing short of exhausting, so much so that Sam was almost relieved to step foot in the changeable corridors of McKinley High.

As it turned out, his relief was to be short-lived. He had barely started entering his locker combination when the grapevine’s latest news came to find him in the form of an anxious Tina: apparently, Kurt and Blaine had broken up.

After what he had went through last year Sam knew better than to trust rumors in McKinley, yet he spent his first two periods of class feeling uneasy, knowing how unlikely it was that Tina, for all that she was a bit of a gossip, would risk spreading tales that could potentially hurt Kurt in any way – to say nothing of Mercedes, who was the most likely source.

He shared third period History with Kurt, and even though he had intended to use the fifteen minutes break between his classes to read over his essay one last time he found himself constantly checking the door instead, waiting for his friend’s arrival.

Kurt eventually walked in with two minutes to spare, unluckily followed too closely by the teacher to allow for any pre-class questioning. Sam attentively detailed him instead as Kurt made his way to their shared table in the last row, trying to find any evidence that would confirm or infirm the unsettling news. The other teen seemed a bit tired, even though it took Sam a while to decide why he thought so, considering there was no trace of rings around his eyes: he eventually determined Kurt’s step was rather slower and less energetic than normal, carefully refusing to acknowledge what it meant for him to be able to establish Kurt’s state of mind just by looking at his walk.

He threw a smile at his friend as Kurt sat down next to him, hoping to help lighten his mood, but Kurt smiling back at him was simply another indication that something was indeed wrong; barely reaching his eyes, Kurt’s smile held only a pale copy of its usual radiance.

Sam immediately leant forward in concern, forgetting all about the teacher’s presence and intent on learning what had happened, but Kurt stopped him with a single word.

“Later,” he whispered, and Sam acquiesced even though curiosity and worry were painfully battling within him because Kurt’s voice was brittle, like it had been fighting to stay strong for a long time now, and the last thing he wanted was to be the reason it finally broke. Concentrating on their teacher as she droned on about the nineteenth century, however, proved to be next to impossible.

Finally the class was over, and Sam hastily gathered his pens.

“Outside?” He asked, knowing Kurt wouldn’t want to risk anyone overhearing their conversation, even though they usually ate what they brought from home in the cafeteria because it was mid-October and getting colder every day.

Kurt simply nodded and they made their way out of the classroom, their arms brushing together comfortingly every few steps. The scene was nothing out of the ordinary, yet after his weekend Sam couldn’t help questioning it, wondering when it had become routine for them to walk so close or to communicate with so few words, when seeing Kurt look down or sad had started to be inacceptable, when exactly Kurt had come to be his best friend or, if he was truly honest with himself, the best part of his day.

He shook off his thoughts as they reached the doors to the school yard, putting them in a recently-created mental folder he had tentatively named “to be investigated later, preferably never”. They were near the empty football field so Sam tilted his hand in direction of the bleachers, a silent offer Kurt accepted with a nod.

Sam stubbornly kept himself from starting a conversation as he got the Tupperware holding his meal out of his bag, knowing his chances of hearing what had happened from Kurt would be much higher if his friend didn’t feel pressured to share it. Surely enough, Kurt eventually started talking, after a few minutes of them companionably munching on their respective lunches.

“I guess you heard, then.”

Sam let a non-committal noise out.

“I didn’t hear much.” Please tell me what happened.

“There’s really not much to hear about.” I really don’t want to talk about it.

Sam didn’t answer vocally, holding out a chunk of the bread he had brought along his salad instead, and Kurt accepted it with a sigh.

“Very well. It happened yesterday evening, if you must know. We had fought a little last week but I didn’t think it was anything serious: apparently I was wrong, because he immediately started talking about it again, and things sort of escalated, until he was suddenly explaining how he couldn’t do this anymore. And then – it was over. It is over.”

Kurt’s voice had gotten progressively lower as he spoke, until he was almost whispering: this, even more than the way he avoided using Blaine’s name, told Sam all he needed to know about how close to the edge his apparently composed friend was. He instinctively knew he had to be careful about his response; anything too strongly-worded would chase Kurt back behind his carefully-built defenses. His mouth, however, had apparently not received the memo.

“Wait a second. Are you telling me Blaine broke up with you?” His voice was chockfull with incredulity and Kurt immediately sent him a wary frown, but he simply couldn’t find it in himself to regret his outburst. He was actually rather impressed with himself for not preceding the Warbler’s name with an unsavory adjective.

“I do think that’s what I was trying to imply, yes.” Kurt’s tone had turned icy, but Sam was too busy expressing his incredulity to worry about damage control yet. 

“But- but how? Why? Did I somehow fall into a parallel universe where this made sense and not notice until now?”

“Sam, why on earth are you acting so surprised? I thought you said you heard – what were you talking about, if it wasn’t about this?”

Kurt was obviously pissed-off now, and embarrassed, probably at the idea that he had shared private information on a simple misunderstanding – it was this last emotion that finally forced Sam to curb his astonishment and hurry to explain his reaction.

“No, no, I knew you weren’t together anymore; I just thought you were the one who had broken it off, and you were unsettled because those things are never cool to live through. I never imagined he had been the one to make this decision.”

“But why, Sam?” Judging by Kurt’s frustrated tone, it didn’t seem like Sam’s explanation had clarified anything about the past five minutes for him.

“Because who would ever want to break up with you?”

Sam’s forceful voice seemed to echo in the sudden silence, and even though he had meant every word the blond still felt his heart sink a little at Kurt’s flabbergasted expression. Idiot, idiot, what do you think you’re saying? Could you be any more obvious?

Even his sudden panic, however, couldn’t keep him from appreciating the sight of the slow blush that rose to darken Kurt’s cheeks, deep enough to be obvious in spite of the way the wind had already painted them pink. When the countertenor addressed him again, his voice was much softer and he was resolutely looking away from Sam.

“I must thank you for the nice sentiment, misguided as it might be, but you’re mistaken. The truth is things have been kind of tense for a while, what with only seeing each other on weekends and occasionally on the evening during the week, and, well…it must have been harder on him than I thought.”

Sam’s mortification was immediately forgotten, swiftly replaced by horror as a truly dismaying possibility occurred to him.

“Oh no, please don’t tell me you started fighting because baby-sitting Stacy and Stevie kept you from meeting him.”

“No, of course not!” Kurt immediately answered, seizing Sam’s wrist to emphasize his words when he correctly felt he hadn’t convinced his friend. “I swear to you, Sam, this had nothing to do with Saturday. He just- I think he felt I wasn’t quite upset enough about us meeting so rarely. And when I answered I was simply used to it, he grew angry and told me I shouldn’t be so complacent about it if this relationship meant anything to me, and then I got upset as well and told him I bloody well had had to get used to it this summer when he had went off to be a part of the production of Six-Flags. He said he didn’t appreciate me making it seem like everything was his fault and that the way I always play the victim was one of the worst things about me. And then he broke it off.”

Kurt had spoken in a rush, desperate to get to Sam and make him see he wasn’t at fault, and he seemed to realize as his explanation came to an end that he had let escape more than he had intended to. He looked away once more, but Sam was too busy seeing red to let Kurt know how much he appreciated this show of trust.

“Play the victim? And this from a whiny spoilt brat? You have to stay in McKinley because your parents can’t afford Dalton’s tuition, what’s his excuse for not transferring, if he’s so damn upset about the situation?”

Kurt seemed torn between concern and amusement.

“Sam, you’re starting to sound like Mercedes! I mean, not that I don’t appreciate your unconditional support-” here Kurt threw him a small thankful smile, sincere and beautiful, and this time Sam wasn’t as surprised when he found himself thinking about how fucking much he loved the boy sitting next to him, though he still did his best to ignore the unbidden thought, “but it is quite undeserved. Blaine…he wasn’t wrong, you know.”

Sam opened his mouth to protest, and Kurt hurried to precise his thoughts before he could speak.

“What I mean is that I could have been more bothered by how little time we had together. I always enjoyed our dates, we had a lot of fun, but I didn’t really feel like I wished we could spend more time together, even when we only saw each other once a week. Even this summer, barely two months into our relationship, I didn’t really feel like something was missing when he was away.” Kurt’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “What does that say about me, I wonder?”

“That you’re more self-sufficient than he could ever hope to be?” Sam blurted out, unable to stand Kurt’s defeated tone and receiving an affectionate eye-roll in response, Kurt obviously thinking he was trying to get him to lighten up. Sam had been deadly serious, but whatever. “Or that he wasn’t the one for you?”

Kurt’s hand briefly clenched into a fist and didn’t answer immediately. When he did, his voice still held enough self-reproach to drive Sam crazy, but at least it seemed a bit more confident.

“I suppose he wasn’t. It seems like no matter how much you may wish to, you really can’t control what you feel – or how much you feel.”

“Getting all philosophical on me, Hummel?” Sam asked playfully, knowing Kurt would feel like he had revealed too much any time now and would appreciate the change of subject. Surely enough Kurt sent Sam a grateful look, even as he easily fell back in their usual banter.

“I wouldn’t dare; I know how headache-inducing it can be for you to try having deep thoughts, and I’d be sorry to see you suffer.”

Hearing the bell in the distance, Sam rose slowly, taking advantage of the opportunity to tower menacingly over Kurt.

“Are you seriously trying to get me to thank you for calling me stupid?”

“Not stupid, never stupid!” Kurt protested as he stood as well. “Shallow at the very most.”

Sam was too busy trying to express wordlessly just how little he cared for the distinction by rolling his eyes to see Kurt take the step needed to bring him close enough to Sam for a hug, and was therefore taken unaware by the slim but strong arms closing around him. After a blink of surprise he found his body had moved on its own, enclosing Kurt in a tight embrace that felt far too good for his continued peace of mind.

It was over too quickly, and then they both made their way back to school in silence, only speaking up when they got back inside.

“See you in Glee club?”

“Sure thing. Have a nice afternoon, and try not to fall asleep in English class this time.”

Sam made a face at him.

“You’re not going to let me live that down anytime soon, are you?”

Kurt grinned impishly.

“Nope. Neee-ver. Not in your entire life.”

Your entire life. They had learnt the word for that in English class last week: it was a hyperbole. In no way, Sam told himself firmly, could it be considered a promise.

  1. Bargaining

Had Sam expected any of his three ex-girlfriends to detect his confusion (and yeah, he was aware of how pathetic that sentence sounded), he probably would have bet on Mercedes. She was by far the closest to Kurt, after all, and usually quite perceptive. Santana would have been his second choice, since the acerbic teen spent half of their time together watching everyone with hawk-like eyes, no doubt looking for weaknesses to exploit.

And yet it was Quinn Fabray that approached him two days after the news of Kurt’s break-up, declaring they had to talk and seizing his elbow to drag him in the nearest empty room with the same effortless authority he had once so admired.

“Alright, spill. What’s up with you?”

“You’ve got me, so I guess I have to confess. My planet exploded when I was just a baby, and my parents sent me away in a small spaceship. I look just like humans, but your yellow sun gave me some unusual powers. Want to go flying a little?”

Sam found himself to be rather funny, but judging by Quinn’s glare she didn’t quite agree.

“Let me rephrase my question, man of steel. Why are you spending your time at rehearsals staring at Kurt, looking either confused or a weird mixture of elated and panicked?”

“I guess he’s my kryptonite.”

It was meant to be just another quip, a way to make her give up in disgust and drop the conversation, but it came out sounding unexpectedly sincere and he winced as she seemed to pause to think about his answer instead of replying immediately.

“So…what does that mean exactly? You were interested in him all along, and now that Blaine is out of the picture you’re wondering if you have a shot?”

“No! No, that’s not it at all, it’s just-”

But Quinn wasn’t listening; something else seemed to have occurred to her. “And what was I, exactly? And Mercedes, and Santana? Your big gay beards? Did you lie to us all this time?”

Sam raised his hands against the onslaught of questions, like he could physically block the accusations being thrown at him.

“No, of course not, I-”

“I asked you if you were gay at Breadstix, on our very first date, and you told me you weren’t!” Quinn cut in once again, looking more and more incensed as she remembered the events of last year.

“But I’m not!” The words burst out of him, unbidden, immediately silencing Quinn. She raised an eyebrow at him, clearly not convinced, and he just stared at her, at a loss for words. He must have looked as lost as he felt because she visibly softened, stepping closer to him and finally dropping her hands from her hips.

“I don’t know if I’m gay. Aren’t you supposed to be sure about those things? I mean, I really thought I was straight, and I enjoyed dating you, and Mercedes, and even Santana I guess…But then-”

“Then there’s Kurt,” Quinn finished softly, and she seemed to have definitively let go of her anger.

“Right. He’s just- he’s pretty amazing.”

She nodded thoughtfully.

“I suppose I can accept that. What are you going to do, then?”

“Do?” Sam choked out, his heart rate accelerating at the thought.

“Yeah, how are you going to get Kurt?”

“Get Kurt?”

“Can you please stop echoing my questions?”

“Your questi-? Okay, okay, sorry,” Sam backpedalled quickly as she started glaring at him again. “I don’t know, I really don’t. I don’t even know if I want to get Kurt. I…” love him, he thought, and it scared him a little to realize just how easily those words came already. “Think he’s great, and he’s perhaps the best friend I’ve ever had, but I don’t know if I want to date him, or how I’d get him to see me as anything more than a friend.”

“Same way you got me to see you as something else than the new kid. Sheer tenacity and pure single-mindedness.” He made a half-hearted face at her. “I’ll help, if you want, but giving up before you even tried isn’t like you.”

“I wouldn’t say no to some help,” he admitted. “As you’ve seen, I’m a bit lost. What’s in it for you?” His tone wasn’t wry, or even suspicious. They had always more or less tacitly acknowledged that they were using each other, even as boyfriend and girlfriend; it probably appeared to be rather unhealthy to an external viewer, but that was simply the way they were, and they had both made their peace with this fact long ago – no harm, no foul.

“I thought this could be something of a mutual favor. I help you with your guy, and you help me with mine.”

“Huh, considering what happened last year, I’m pretty sure I’m not the best person to help you with Finn,” Sam started awkwardly, shutting up when she started rolling her eyes at his words.

“Your lack of perceptiveness is a wonder, Sam Evans. I’d start wondering if asking you for help is the best idea, but luckily Puck is thick enough we don’t have to worry about you being subtle.” She said this lightly enough, with the way her eyes suddenly refused to meet Sam’s being the only clue he had that this wasn’t an easy confession to make.

“Puck, right.” Sam nodded, determined not to make a big deal out of it, even though he couldn’t help but be a bit surprised. “Well, I’m not sure I can help, but yeah, alright.”

“It’s a deal, then.” Quinn smiled regally, having apparently regained her customary confidence. “I’ll contact you shortly with your first instructions, and probably some information about Kurt. This stays between us of course, and since I don’t want people to talk we’ll meet after Glee club next Monday, in the auditorium.”

And as she quickly picked up her bag and left, ponytail cheerfully swinging from side to side, Sam wondered what he had just agreed to.

***

“The first thing we need,” Quinn explained when they met after another long weekend Sam had spent trying to concentrate on his schoolwork instead of on his best friend, “is information. Where are we standing? Do we have our work cut out for us? I already tested the waters concerning what Kurt thinks of you-”

“Wait, you talked to Kurt?” Sam blurted out, pretty panicked.

“Please give me a little credit. Kurt and I have spoken perhaps five times in two years, I wouldn’t suddenly go to him to ask about you. I merely arranged for him to hear a conversation with Mercedes on how I was considering getting back with you – sort of asking her if she’d mind, since she dated you last.”

She shot him a warning glare as he opened his mouth to cut her off once again, so he contented himself with throwing her a look meant to communicate his incomprehension as to how exactly this was supposed to help.

“The results were rather satisfying; he didn’t start growling in jealousy or anything, sorry, but then it’s Kurt – he wouldn’t. He was definitively listening though, and when I started being purposely dismissive of you about the end he interrupted very politely but firmly to say you didn’t deserve to be used as an accessory and if I wasn’t sure of my feelings I had better think on them a little for once instead of throwing myself in another relationship.”

Quinn imitated Kurt’s wry tones rather well and Sam couldn’t help but smile as he heard of his friend’s defense of him. To be honest he wasn’t sure of how positive this reaction was, but he had to admit Kurt probably didn’t suspect a thing.

“You’d make a good spy, Quinn. Can I steal your idea to get a reaction out of Puck?”

Quinn looked a bit pensive.

“Actually, that’s not such a bad idea. Don’t talk to Finn, though, make Puck overhear a conversation between you and either Artie and Mike. And be careful it doesn’t get back to Kurt – it could be somewhat counterproductive.”

Sam readily agreed on both points and promised to talk to them and get back to her with the results in the next few days. They then discussed further options a little longer, and by the time they decided to meet for a second time on Thursday after Glee club, Sam was starting to feel like he had a shot at this – even if he hadn’t quite decided what ‘this’ was supposed to be.

  1. Depression

Two weeks later, Sam was feeling much less enthusiastic. Things were going well for Quinn – she’d eaten lunch with Puck for the last two days and they’d both seemed completely absorbed by each other, so Sam gave it a week at most before they started officially dating again. Things didn’t look as promising when it came to getting Kurt to be interested in him while still maintaining some kind of subtlety.

The problem was that most of Quinn’s suggestions weren’t really anything new; Sam and Kurt already ate together on most days, they sat next to each other in the classes they had in common and Sam did confide in Kurt things he didn’t tell others – mostly regarding his fears concerning how long they could still stand living in a motel room together and how the kids seemed a bit more withdrawn lately.

“You’ve been friend-zoned,” had concluded Quinn when he had given voice to his doubts. “Triply so, actually – once for every girlfriend you’ve had.”

He had thrown her a dirty look then, but she hadn’t seemed to mind.

“You need to do something to get him to see you in a different light. Something a bit more drastic than following him around looking pathetic and hoping he’ll feel the love seeping out of your pores.” He wasted another disgruntled glare on Quinn as she just kept talking, getting more and more caught up in her own idea. “What about a date? Not explicitly, of course. But invite him to do something with you this weekend, something a bit more special than a meeting to study for your next History lesson if that’s at all possible.”

He had frantically refused, of course. He would never actually dare, he had then thought. What if Kurt said no? Worst, what if Kurt said yes? No, no, it was quite unthinkable.

That had been on Monday, four days ago. It didn’t explain why his fingers were currently hesitating on the key that would send his message to “Kurty :)” (Stacy had taken it upon herself to rename all his contacts, using a picture of New Directions he kept in his wallet. He had changed most back but had kept a few others, like “Mohawk” or “Evil Eyes”). It was quite an innocuous message, one he’d sent quite a few times before to this number. Are you busy? Do you want to hang out? That was basically it.

He had, however, never sent it at 7:00 PM on a Friday. Those used to be date nights with Blaine, before, and even since the break-up they hadn’t made plans for those evenings. He suddenly wondered if Kurt was spending them with his friends or if he was back home alone, Finn out with Rachel, thinking about what his weekends used to be like, and then before he knew it his fingers were pressing “send”.

Traitors, he thought venomously at them.

Not busy at all. Your place?

Kurt was always careful not to refer to the Motel Room as, well, a motel room, perhaps because he thought Sam didn’t wish to be reminded of where he was living while at school; Sam didn’t care much either way, since it wasn’t like he was going to forget about his family’s living conditions any time soon, but he did find Kurt’s tact hopelessly endearing. Admittedly, most of what Kurt did or said was hopelessly endearing.

Nope, picking u up. There in 20’.

His parents were going to kill him. Gas was expensive, and since his job was paying for most of his family’s expenses it wasn’t like it made much sense for him to tell them he’d pay them back. Oh well, he told the guilt stretching languidly in his stomach and scratching it a little, he’d take a double shift the next day, and Kurt would most likely offer to switch cars the second he arrived at the Hudson-Hummel home.

***

Having the opportunity to drive Kurt’s car, Sam considered, wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was an immense honor as well as a testosterone-driven joy, and Sam was still surprised the other boy had allowed him to get behind the wheel – he had simply needed to explain he had no idea how to give directions to where he wanted to take them and Kurt had surrendered, even though the excuse was flimsy at best.

The truth was Sam had no precise idea of where he was taking them, though he knew it wouldn’t take too long to get there. Lima wasn’t exactly a metropolis, after all, and Kurt and Finn had moved a bit farther from the town’s center after the wedding. So really it didn’t take more than fifteen good minutes to get far enough from the city’s light pollution for what he wished to do.

Kurt hadn’t said anything as they drove away from all signs of civilization, but he did look a bit uncertain as Sam drove off the road and cut the car’s lights before jumping out.

“Um, Sam?”

Sam just smiled at him, nervousness tying his stomach in knots, and opened Kurt’s door, trying to make the move seem casual by tugging on Kurt’s sleeve rather than standing there peering at him – which, admittedly, he could have done all night.

“C’mon. Got something to show you.”

Kurt got out of the car and made a point of looking around before throwing him a confused glance.

“And what exactly am I supposed to- oh.”

Kurt cut himself off abruptly when Sam stepped closer to him, gently seizing his face in both of his palms and tilting it so he could see the sky.

“Oh, wow. Sam, this is…”

Myriads of stars were shining above them, twinkling conspiringly at them as they both unconsciously span on their heels a little, impossibly trying to take in all of the night sky and feeling a bit dizzy as they failed.

“Those three shiny stars in a triangle are part of Hydra, the biggest constellation,” Sam began in a hushed voice he barely recognized. “You need a little imagination to see its body, it’s supposed to continue with the star a bit on the left of those three, then the two right after that.” Kurt didn’t answer, so Sam considered it an implicit offer to listen and continued his explanations, pointing out star after star, giving out names, stories, all the while getting closer to Kurt where they’d decided to lie down on the grass, chilled by the October wind. When he was finished telling everything he knew and a few more things besides they just laid there in silence for a little while before the cold eventually chased them away, at which point they got in the car, put on the heating and delighted in the warm air running on their frozen hands.

Once they were back at Kurt’s, the brunet seized Sam’s wrist before he could get back in his own car to go back to the motel.

“Sam, I just wanted to say thanks. It was an extraordinary night, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.”

There were several things he wished to say then, but only one which felt truly appropriate.

“Don’t thank me – it’s just, well, you’ve been a bit down lately. And of course it’s completely logical, but I just wanted you to know-”

“That there are bigger things than my problems?” Kurt’s smile was a bit wry, though mostly amused, so Sam still hurried to correct him.

“No, no, not at all! It has nothing to do with- with relativity, or anything like that. It was just to say that you’re not alone, and that you always have something to go back to when it gets bad – just like you’ve shown me I could go to you with whatever problems I had.”

Kurt had almost frozen as he spoke, and Sam could almost see him give himself a little shake before he glanced at Sam again, a look so tender in his eyes it made his stomach clench.

“Right. Well I certainly don’t need relativism to feel better anyway, since I apparently have the best friend in the world to help with that.” He hugged Sam then, tightly, and the blond wondered with a sinking feeling if that’s what being friend-zoned was supposed to be like, tender looks and tight hugs and declarations of friendships coupled with impossible, desperate longing for more.

Quinn’s date idea hadn’t had the results they hoped for, but she had been right about one thing at least; he was really getting pathetic.

  1. Acceptance

The next Monday started normally enough. Sam woke up to the sound of his mom’s alarm clock going off, with his head under his pillow, his body trying to block out the sun as long as possible. He showered rapidly and headed to school, dropping off his siblings on the way.

He met Quinn on the way to class and chatted amiably with her for a while. She did try to inquire, using an expert play of her eyebrows, as to how his excursion with Kurt had gone, but he just smiled innocently and refused to acknowledge her eyebrow-speech. She left him with a roll of her eyes which clearly expressed he wasn’t fooling her in the least, and a quick press of his arm to show her support nonetheless.

The truth was he wasn’t ready to share this evening with anyone else yet. He wanted to hold it close and examine it a bit further. The way Kurt had looked with Sam’s hands enclosing his face, gaze tilted towards the sky; the low sound of their voices in the deep quiet of the night; the smell of the grass going to sleep around them; and the feel of Kurt in his arms, his frozen nose briefly rubbing against Sam’s cheek...thinking back, he could almost taste the calm that has invaded him.

It was then, as Sam was daydreaming in English class, that he came to an important decision he hadn’t even been aware he needed to make.

Those last weeks, ever since he had been made aware of his feelings, there had been a part of him struggling desperately to distance himself from them, to shut them in a box he could bury and ignore. It had been the part desperate not to get hurt, intent on protecting him from ever feeling like he already had, watching Quinn kiss Finn under flimsy pretenses, hearing Santana critiquing him. This part of him had wondered if he wouldn’t be better off cutting things off with Kurt, trying to limit the damage.

On this morning, the little voice was completely silent. Perhaps it felt it was too late, that any separation now would hurt too much anyway; but more likely it knew that what he had built with Kurt was worth too much to toss aside. He couldn’t imagine going back to being simple acquaintances with him, could never give up on being the one Kurt confided in, on being close enough to hug him.

And so it was then, as he stared unseeingly at his hands while his teacher drowned on about Shakespeare, that Sam decided to truly accept his feelings. He didn’t expect anything to come out of it, and frankly he doubted he would ever be brave enough to act on them, but it still felt good to be at peace with himself.

It was also good he had come to this decision in first period, because he ran into Kurt immediately thereafter, and it allowed him to only spend a few seconds realizing anew just how blue his friend’s eyes were before he could concentrate on what Kurt was telling him.

“...so you’ll come, right?”

Sam’s incomprehension must have been clear, since Kurt immediately let out a put upon sigh, belied by his indulgent look.

“This Friday, for a show tunes marathon! It is more than time we remedied to your lack of culture in those important matters.”

Sam opened his mouth to answer, but Kurt continued, knowing what the next thing to come out of his mouth would be.

“Stacy and Steve can come, we’ll watch the more age-appropriate ones first and continue with the other ones when they’ve gone to bed. I’ve already checked with everyone, the parents are out for the weekend and Finn is staying at Mike’s. Say you’ll come?”

Kurt tried his best at a dignified pleading expression, slightly sticking out his lower lip and batting his eyes, which was probably meant to be humorous but was mainly terribly cute, and Sam rushed to tell him that of course he would come, provided his siblings agreed - not that there was any risk they wouldn’t.

He even managed to refrain from telling Kurt there was nothing he wouldn’t do to bring that smile on his face, which he considered to be a great show of restraint on his part. Watching the slight bounce in Kurt’s step as he left to go to his next class, Sam lightly shook his head at himself. He was glad he had made the decision to accept his feelings, but he suspected he was in over his head all the same.

Still, Friday couldn’t come fast enough.

+1. Confession

They were on their third musical and Stacy and Stevie had long since gone to bed in Finn’s room when Sam felt the slight weight of Kurt’s head falling on his shoulder. Kurt’s hair tickled his cheek, so he made the mistake of trying to push it away. It didn’t work at all, but he immediately grew addicted to the feel of those silken strands threading through his fingers. Timidly at first, then more boldly when he felt Kurt settle even more firmly against his shoulder, almost snuggling against him, he kept stroking his friend’s hair, his heart feeling full to bursting.

Closing his eyes so he could breathe the moment in, he felt unable, in this precise second, to keep from sharing what he felt. He breathed the words aloud, oh so softly, his hand daring to continue his movement by stroking Kurt’s impossibly soft cheek.

At this point, most of Sam’s left side was in contact with Kurt, being warmed by the other boy’s proximity. And so there was no way he could miss the sudden tension who ran through Kurt, nor the way his hand clenched on Sam’s forearm. But even if he had been able to, there would have been no ignoring how Kurt pushed on his hand to raise himself and look straight at Sam, his eyes a bit wide.

“What did you just...?”

Sam felt his mind blank from panic.

“You were meant to be asleep,” he blurted out, “why aren’t you asleep?”

Kurt gave this the consideration it deserved, ignoring the question completely.

“Did you truly- I’m- you just-”

Sam had never seen his friend at a loss for words before, and he would have smiled at the sight in any other circumstances. As it was, it was almost painful to see Kurt doubting himself like this, starting to blush as if he felt he had misheard and thought he was now embarrassing himself. The tiny, terrified part of Sam who had been considering claiming just that immediately died, replaced with the intense need to wipe that look from Kurt’s face.

“I did. Say that, I mean. And I really do, I mean, I do love you.”

As confessions went, it wasn’t as suave and cool as he could have wished. Kurt’s reaction wasn’t the one he would have picked either; the usually loquacious young man had apparently lost his tongue, and kept staring at Sam as if he has just revealed a secret identity or something.

“I’ve felt like this for a few weeks and, well, I know you don’t feel the same way and really, you don’t have to say anything back, in fact you can just forget about it, I just- I hope we can stay friends- I’m- please say we’re still friends ?”

Sam was still on the edge of panic, he acknowledged, and to his embarrassment his voice shook slightly on those last few words. Kurt didn’t miss it apparently, judging from the way his face softened, going from surprise to tenderness in the span of a blink.

“Of course we are still friends, Sam Evans. Don’t ever doubt that.” Sam barely had the time to sigh in relief before Kurt continued, looking determined. “But I’m afraid I cannot simply forget about this. You see, this changes quite a lot.”

Sam would have liked to ask him to elaborate, but he couldn’t, because at this point Kurt’s hands framed his face as he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Sam’s in a soft, barely-there kiss that nonetheless made Sam tingle to the tip of his toes.

“It that alright?” Kurt whispered from where he had leaned away, mere inches from Sam’s face.

Sam realized then that he was holding his breath and let it out in a shuddering sigh that must have tickled Kurt’s lips, from the way he smiled, before closing the distance between them and being the one to draw Kurt into another kiss, just as soft but a bit longer.

He couldn’t have said how long they stayed there, sharing soft kisses, their hands sometimes tangling together, sometimes stroking each other’s cheeks and hair, all so innocent and yet devastating.

“I can’t believe,” he said at one point, his voice a bit rough, “how lucky I am.”

He felt Kurt smile against his lips.

“Funny, I believe that’s my line. I am completely crazy about you, Sam Evans.”

Sam’s heart gave its best impression of a somersault even as he kissed Kurt again, as if to taste the sweetness of these words on his lips.

Later, after they had gone to bed, after Sam had marveled at the sight of Kurt lying close to him, truly asleep this time, after he had brushed a last kiss on Kurt’s forehead, he reflected on what those last weeks had brought, on the journey he had traveled.

And then he thought about everything they still had to experience, together, and fell asleep with a smile on his lips.