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Flying Free (or Free Kurt - Emma Pillsbury Style)

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“Is there another option?”

Kurt was only half-joking, but that seemed to be the only half that his father heard.

Burt chuckled, looking at Kurt with the same amused fatherly affection that he had often looked at him with during his childhood, whenever he had come up with a clever excuse for staying up past his bedtime or trying to have his dessert before dinner. It was a look Kurt knew well, and he knew it meant the same thing now that it had then: nice try, kiddo.

And of course, Kurt could see that his dad was right in telling him he had to make this decision himself. But what his dad didn’t realize and what Kurt couldn’t find the words to explain was how utterly unprepared he felt to have to be making a decision like this in the first place. He and Blaine were so young—Blaine was still in high school and didn’t know for sure where he was going to college yet—and they had just gotten back together after nearly a whole year apart. Kurt had daydreamed about marrying Blaine several times over the past few years, but in those daydreams, he had always been older, thriving professionally, and ready . Kurt had forgiven Blaine for cheating, and he was serious about wanting to give him another chance and see if they could make their relationship work this time, but what if they couldn’t? What if they had both changed too much since their breakup, and couldn’t get back to where they’d once belonged? Letting Blaine back into his life was one thing, but committing to spending the rest of his life with him when they had barely begun dating demanded a lot of faith that Blaine wouldn’t break his heart again.

Kurt didn’t want to say “no” to his proposal, because “no” would probably be taken as “never”, and that would undoubtedly hurt Blaine’s feelings too much and put a strain on their relationship, if not end it entirely.

He supposed he could say “yes” under the condition that they would have a long engagement, giving him time to reconnect with Blaine and determine whether or not he wanted to marry him; then if things didn’t work out, they could always break up again. But the idea of giving a “yes” that might later turn into a “no” just didn’t sit right with him. He didn’t want to give Blaine any false ideas about what he wanted, only to potentially yank the rug out from under him later.

Then, as his dad had pointed out, he could always say “maybe”, which seemed like the most appropriate answer, given how uncertain he was about this whole predicament. But that would feel too much like he was stringing Blaine along, making him wait to hear his final answer. And when he was ready to answer, what then? Either he let Blaine get his hopes up, only to smash them down in the end, or he said “yes” after putting them both through the unnecessary tension of waiting—for an answer, in Blaine’s case, and for Blaine’s curiosity to lead him to ask again, in Kurt’s—when he could have just said “yes” in the first place.

Kurt just felt so thoroughly unprepared for any possible outcome to this proposal. Why did they have to have this conversation now? If Blaine could just wait a few years, until Kurt was ready to be proposed to, then maybe he wouldn’t feel so conflicted about having to answer him.

Trying to voice his concerns to his dad on the drive over hadn’t helped the matter any, as Burt clearly believed that his reluctance to give Blaine an answer was just a case of pre-commitment jitters.

For a moment, Kurt considered pushing the matter, and making his dad see that he was serious.

No, Dad, really. I love you for wanting me to make my own decisions, but your opinion really matters to me, and I want to hear it, whether I actually go with it or not. Please, I need help figuring out what to do.

But the thought had no sooner entered Kurt’s head than it was interrupted by the intro to All You Need Is Love carrying out from Dalton’s Main Hall.

Letting out a small, resigned sigh, Kurt abandoned any intention of trying to hash out his anxieties with his dad, and he turned around to face the music (literally).

Here goes nothing , he thought, and he took a deep breath and began approaching the entrance to the Main Hall.

He came to an abrupt stop when his former guidance counselor intercepted him halfway between his dad’s car and the Hall’s entrance.

“Mrs. Pillsbury,” Kurt let out in surprise. Then he corrected himself: “Mrs. Schuester . Hi.”

“Oh, Emma is fine,” she replied flippantly. Then she cleared her throat and quickly switched tracks, fixing Kurt with a concerned look. “Kurt, can I talk to you for a moment?” she asked. She sounded so serious, it was a little startling.

“Oh. Sure,” said Kurt, too flustered to do anything but agree.

Behind Emma, a troupe of marching band members started to file out of the building, but someone from inside hurriedly waved them back into their starting positions.

“First of all,” Emma said, pulling Kurt’s attention back to the matter at hand, “I just want to say, congratulations. I love a good proposal, especially the musical kind—obviously, seeing as that’s the kind I said yes to.” Her eyes sparkled and a giddy energy came over her at the mention of her own proposal. But she quickly shook it off, as there was clearly something more pressing on her mind. “I want you to know that I am in your corner, and it would just thrill me to death to get to see you and the person you love both happily and legally married.” She cleared her throat again, visibly rushing herself to get to the point. “That being said, I couldn’t help but notice you’ve seemed a little anxious since you got back with Blaine, and as your former guidance counselor and couple’s counselor, I feel a sense of responsibility toward making sure you know what you’re getting into. I figured maybe one last quick session just to sort out where you are emotionally could help prepare you for what you’re about to walk into.”

Kurt wasn’t sure how to react. On one hand, this was exactly the kind of conversation he’d been trying to have with his dad on the drive over here. But on the other hand, the music had already started, and it seemed inconsiderate to keep Blaine and all the musicians waiting. Kurt was caught in a courtesy tug-of-war, feeling compelled to get a move on, but also not wanting to make Emma feel like he was ditching her.

“Um…if this is couple’s counseling, shouldn’t Blaine be a part of the conversation?” Kurt asked.

“Oh, I’ve already spoken to Blaine,” said Emma. “Well, I’ve sort of spoken to him, anyway. He’s been all in a dither getting this proposal organized and didn’t really take the time to discuss your relationship at length. He’s made it pretty clear that he’s all in, though, and he doesn’t seem to have any concerns about getting married. And of course, if you feel the same way, I’ll just leave you to it and you can go ahead into your proposal. I just thought I’d give you the option to talk it over in case you do have any doubts or questions of any kind.”

It was the perfect out; all he had to do was say that he didn’t have any questions, and he could continue on his way and shake the antsy feeling of being stuck halfway between two places.

Kurt surreptitiously glanced over Emma’s head to the proposal squadron waiting behind her. The chorus of “ love, love, loves ” that had begun a moment ago had stopped, and now the band was just playing the first notes of La Marseillaise on a loop, sans singers, as they waited for Kurt to wrap up his conversation and get where he needed to be.

From behind the leading members of the band, a familiar dark head attached to an explosion of yellow peered out, eyeing Kurt and Emma curiously.

“To tell you the truth,” Kurt said, looking down at Emma once again, “I do have a few questions. But…” he squirmed a little, hesitating. “I’m not really sure how to ask them.”

“Okay,” Emma said with a nod, snapping into counselor mode and taking on a confident let’s-get-down-to-business tone. “Why don’t we start with addressing how you’re feeling right now, and we’ll see if we can’t turn those feelings into coherent questions, ‘kay?”

Kurt nodded. “Okay,” he said. “It’s worth a shot at least.”

Emma smiled. “Great!” She straightened up her posture a bit and folded her hands neatly in front of her, and then she gave him an encouraging nod. She was listening.

“Well…I guess what I’m feeling is nervous,” Kurt said honestly.

“Good nervous,” Emma asked, “like you hope the proposal is everything you dreamed it would be, or bad nervous, like you don’t want it to happen?”

The question brought Kurt an uneasy feeling. “I don’t know,” he replied automatically, as it seemed like the safest answer.

Emma’s eyebrows rose slightly, but her expression remained neutral as she waited to see if there was anything more he wanted to say.

Undecided as to whether he should say anything more, Kurt bit his lip and instinctively took a quick look over his shoulder. His dad was still watching him from the car, looking confused. He was probably wondering the same thing Blaine and everyone else gathered in the Main Hall was: what are you waiting for?

Kurt’s stomach churned, making him regret the chocolate muffins he’d stress-eaten earlier, and he knew he needed to express what he was feeling if he wanted to have any sort of peace of mind.

“Bad nervous,” he admitted, facing Emma again. “It sounds awful, and I hate to say it, but I’m kind of dreading being proposed to right now.” Having the truth now out caused his heart rate to speed up, and his speech followed suit. “It-it's not that I don’t love Blaine—I do —it’s just…” He shook his head. “This all just seems so soon . I mean, we’re both so young! And I know there are people who have gotten married young and it all worked out—my parents among them—but I just—I-I don’t know. I just don’t know if I’m ready. But I don’t want to say I’m not ready, because what if—” He stopped abruptly and then heaved a deep sigh, almost too disconcerted to continue.

Emma nodded patiently. “Go on,” she encouraged him.

Kurt shrugged. “What if that’s the end for us?” he said softly. “I don’t think I want to get engaged now, but if I say ‘no’ today, what if he never asks me again? Or what if something happens to one of us before the chance comes again?”

“So,” Emma started slowly, “let me see if I'm understanding you right: are you saying that you for sure do want to marry him someday, then? Just further down the line?”

Kurt shrugged again. “Maybe? I don’t know. I used to be certain that I did, but now? There’s just so much that’s changed since we were a couple. I’m…I’m honestly not sure if we’re right for each other anymore.”

A soft look came to Emma’s eyes then. It was a combination of sympathy, realization, and understanding—the kind of look that often came to more seasoned adults when they saw someone navigating one of the pitfalls of youth for the first time. Something like outgrowing their high school romance.

Kurt felt a wave of guilt come crashing over him, and he suddenly became overwhelmed with a powerful need to compensate for the implication he had just made.

“And the crazy part is, I don’t even know why I’m not sure,” he backtracked. “It’s not like I’m holding out for a better offer. I mean, Blaine already knows my biggest insecurities and my feel-good musicals, the way I take my coffee, and all my weird quirks, and—and just about everything else there is to know about me. And he still wants to be with me. I’m lucky to have him, I know that. What more could I really ask for?”

Emma pursed her lips. “Well,” she said thoughtfully, “actually, Kurt, there is a great deal more to consider. There’s trust, there’s compatibility, there’s loyalty, there’s communication—believe it or not, it takes more than just love to make a marriage work.”

The irony of the song still playing in the background did not escape Kurt’s notice, but he was too dismayed to appreciate it; Emma had hit the nail on the head, and in the face of reason, Kurt knew he didn’t have it in him to continue trying to avoid telling her what he was really thinking.

“I know,” he said glumly. “And finding just love is hard enough. That’s a big part of my problem. Maybe my relationship with Blaine isn’t all that I want it to be, but I know it’s probably the best I’m ever gonna get. So why risk ruining everything just because I feel uncertain? I can't really see me finding love twice.”

Kurt wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he expected to come from this revelation, but Emma just stared at him for a moment, considering something. Another moment later, she opened her purse and reached inside it.

“I think I have something that might help you…” She dug around for a little while before pulling out a little self-help pamphlet. “Here,” she said, holding it out to Kurt.

Kurt accepted the pamphlet and looked at it curiously. On the cover was a clipart image of a woman wearing brightly colored clothes and wielding a feather duster like it was a sword, and above her, taking up half of the pamphlet in bold letters, was the title:

SO YOU’RE CONSIDERING RUSHING INTO MARRIAGE BECAUSE YOU’RE AFRAID NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE A FREAK.

Kurt slowly lifted his gaze to meet Emma’s again. “Is this supposed to make me feel better?”

Emma waved her hand dismissively. “I know, the title is a little abrasive,” she said, “but I didn’t expect that I’d ever have to give this to one of my students. I made it for myself a few years ago, when I was engaged to Ken. It was a very confusing time for me, and I thought trying to reason myself through it like a counselor might help me gain some perspective.”

Kurt cocked his head to the side. “Ken?” he queried, momentarily distracted from his problems.

“Mhm,” Emma said, nodding her head. “Ken Tanaka, the old football coach. You remember him, right?”

“Oh!” Kurt exclaimed, realization hitting. Of course he remembered his old football coach. He had almost completely forgotten that he and Mrs. Pillsbury used to be engaged, though. “Yeah. What happened there? You two always seemed like an unusual match.”

“Oh, no, we were a mismatch,” said Emma. “Completely— completely wrong for each other. No way was that ever going to work out.”

Kurt shifted his eyes in confusion. “So…why did you agree to marry him?”

Emma tapped the pamphlet in his hand in reply. “Because I thought he was my only chance at happiness. I thought he was the only way I was ever going to get my white wedding, a picket fence, children playing in the yard, my parents’ approval, and—” she looked Kurt in the eyes— “someone to make me feel warm and appreciated, and like I wasn’t all alone.”

Kurt swallowed. He knew that yearning a little too well.

“Ken didn’t make me happy—not really,” Emma said. “But I was willing to tolerate the things that bugged me about him if it meant I didn’t have to be lonely anymore. He genuinely wanted to be with me, despite all my oddities and hang-ups, and I thought maybe that would be enough. I hoped that it would be enough.”

Kurt leaned in a little, listening attentively. “But?” he prompted.

“But,” Emma continued, nodding, “my heart was never in our relationship. He could see that, and it’s ultimately why he left me. Ending the relationship was the right thing to do, and I’m glad now that he did it, but it still hurt for a while. Not because I missed him, but because rejection always hurts—and because I thought I blew it. If I couldn’t keep the only man who had ever loved me—who I had been lucky enough to have found—then what chance did I have with anyone else? Who else would be willing to look past all the baggage that comes with me?”

Kurt nodded slowly as he let her words sink in. It all sounded familiar enough to him, but he never would have thought that Mrs. Pillsbury would have ever had to feel that way. It seemed such a shame that someone as sweet as her could feel that way.

He focused his gaze again and gave Emma an inquisitive look. “I have a feeling there’s another ‘but’ coming?” he guessed.

Emma smiled. “Yes,” she said. “ But , as you already know, he wasn’t my only chance. I told myself for so long that I would never be good enough for anyone and that I would just have to take what I could get, and I thought that meant just Ken. But after Ken, there was Carl, and then Will—and even though only one of them is still around, all of them stuck it out with me longer than I thought anyone ever would. I finally realized, if I can have three different men in Lima all ask me to marry them, then maybe…maybe Emma Pillsbury has more to offer the world than she thought.” She smiled and gave a self-satisfied nod then.

The moment was short-lived, and a funny look came to Emma’s face as she seemed to hear her own words. “And also, maybe she shouldn’t define her worth according to how many men want to marry her,” she added as an afterthought.

Kurt gave a thoughtful side-nod. Fair enough.

“But nonetheless—the point is,” Emma pressed on fervently, “if you spend all your life thinking you’re a challenge to love, all it’s going to do is make you limit yourself unnecessarily. It’s going to turn you into someone who settles for what comes easily because you don’t know what else is out there. Just look at me—I settled for a man I didn’t love because I was afraid I would never find true love. I married another man whom I did love when I wasn’t sure he was right for me, because I was afraid I would lose him if I didn’t.” She threw a hand out in exasperation for her past self as she included the next addition: “And then I ran out on the man I really wanted to be with because I was afraid I’d screw everything up and find a way to drive him away, too. And you know what?”

Kurt shook his head, although the question was rhetorical.

“None of those decisions made me happy,” said Emma, gaining both speed and enthusiasm the longer that she talked. “What did make me happy was when I finally took a good, long look at what I wanted, and got out of my own way and followed my heart, instead of letting fear make my decisions for me. Because the thing is, Kurt, when you make a decision out of fear, that doesn’t just magically make the fear go away; the fear will stay with you unless you step up and face it. Saying ‘yes’ to Ken and Carl didn’t fix my fear of not being good enough, and leaving Will at the altar didn’t make me feel better about avoiding being left again. It’s taken a lot of work to get where I am today, and it was scary and it was difficult, and it meant having to have a lot of uncomfortable conversations with both Will and my therapist—but I finally feel confident and satisfied and free in a way that I used to think would never be possible. I just had to realize that I could .”

Emma pushed a runaway strand of hair away from her face as she finished her speech, and she took a moment to catch her breath.

While Emma came down from her soapbox, Kurt carefully reflected over everything she had said. So many of the points she’d made had hit home, and hearing them had been both unsettling and a major relief at once. It was a lot to process.

When they had both regained their bearings, Kurt met Emma’s gaze once again, and he held the pamphlet up a little higher. “Is that all in here?” he asked, his eyes twinkling.

Emma let out a little laugh. “No,” she replied. “No, if I had known all that when I made that pamphlet, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But it was making all those mistakes that helped me to learn what I know now. I just hope my bad experiences are able to help you somehow, without you having to go through them all yourself.”

“They already have,” Kurt said earnestly. “You’ve told me so much that I didn’t know I needed to hear, and it’s made me understand my feelings a lot more clearly. I’m just still conflicted about what I should do about them.”

Emma nodded understandingly. “Well, Kurt, I don’t know what the right answer is for you,” she said honestly. “This is something you have to decide for yourself. But I do know that you always have more options than you think.”

That comment struck a chord with Kurt. More options? So there is another option besides “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”?

Slowly, the solution began to dawn on him.

“Just weigh them all carefully,” Emma went on, “and then choose the one that you believe you’ll be at peace with at the end of the day; not the one that feels easy in the moment but you know you’ll be second-guessing all the way back to New York.” She paused, noticing that Kurt didn’t look as frazzled as he had a moment ago. “Everything okay?”

Kurt nodded his head. “Yeah,” he replied. “I…I think I know what I need to do now.”

“You sure?” Emma asked, studying his expression carefully. “Are you good to handle this on your own?”

“I think so, yeah,” said Kurt. Then, putting on a more positive front, added, “I got this.”

Emma smiled. “Okay then,” she said, and she gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. “I’ll be right inside if you need me.”

Kurt gave her a grateful smile, and he watched as she headed back into the Main Hall.

Now on his own, Kurt waited a moment, taking the time to gather his nerve before he acted. Once he was sure he was as ready as he was ever going to be, he took out his phone, and with shaking hands, began typing out a message to Blaine: I need to talk to you .

He sent the text, and then looked toward the Dalton entrance, waiting.

He saw the moment Blaine felt his phone buzz, and he waited as he read the text. After a moment, Blaine looked up quizzically, and he motioned for Kurt to make his way over to the spot he needed him to be in to commence the proposal.

Kurt shook his head. If he was going to do this, he had to do it privately, and having Blaine and a full choir singing at him in the middle of it would not do. He had to do this without any sort of distractions.

Seeing that Kurt was insistent about staying put, Blaine caved and came out to meet him.

Kurt’s stomach flip-flopped as he approached. He was afraid to say what he needed to say, and the thought that he might hurt or anger Blaine as a result was almost unbearable. It would be so much easier to keep his mouth shut and just go with all the hullabaloo waiting for him inside, acting as though nothing was bothering him. But Emma was right; it was better to face his fears and have them done with than to take the easy way out and regret it later.

Kurt took a deep breath and collected himself. You got this, he repeated to himself. If he could face a gym full of malicious homophobes while wearing a kilt and a tiara, he could face his boyfriend and tell him how he felt.

When Blaine reached the spot where Kurt was standing, he stopped in front of him and gave him a questioning shrug. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“I’m not ready for this,” Kurt blurted out. It wasn’t the delicate opener he had meant to deliver, but it was straight to the point.

Blaine blinked at Kurt confusedly. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean I…I don’t want you to propose to me,” Kurt elaborated, and he shifted his eyes, avoiding Blaine's gaze. “I know you’ve clearly put a lot of thought into whatever it is you’ve got waiting in there,” he said, waving his hand nervously as he rambled, “and I’m sorry you went to all this trouble for nothing, but I-I mean it, I’m not ready. I don’t want to get married yet.” He chanced a look at Blaine and braced himself for the worst—tears? Yelling? Passive aggressiveness? The silent treatment? He didn’t know.

To his surprise, Blaine just looked a little stunned, but was otherwise calm. “Well, Kurt, I’m not planning to marry you today ,” he said. “This is just a proposal. The wedding won’t come until later.”

Kurt exhaled a soft sigh. “I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying,” he said. “I mean I’m not ready to get married, period. It's too soon. I need more time before I'll be ready to agree to a lifelong commitment like that.”

Blaine shrugged. “I'm fine with a long engagement,” he said. “It’s not like I’ll want to get married until I’ve graduated high school and we’re both living in the same state anyway, and—”

“Blaine, you’re still not hearing me,” Kurt interrupted, his heart beating faster as his need to be understood grew more urgent. “I know you don’t want to get married right away, but that’s not what I’m worried about. This isn’t just about me not being ready to get married, it’s about me not being ready to be engaged either.”

Blaine frowned. “What does that even mean?” he asked, starting to sound a little annoyed. “Kurt, look, it’s okay if you need more time to be ready for marriage, but an engagement is just the precursor. We both know we’re going to marry each other eventually, so what difference does it make whether we make that official now or later?”

“Because I don’t know that!” Kurt exclaimed, trying to keep his voice at a discreet level but becoming desperate to get his point across. “I don’t know that you’re the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, and I don’t want you to propose to me right now because I don’t want to have to tell you that I don’t want to marry you!

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, they hung heavily between him and Blaine in the uncomfortable silence that followed (or almost silence, as the marching band was still going strong and waiting to be led into the next movement).

The look on Blaine’s face now was pitiful enough to make flowers wilt, and Kurt’s insides twisted with regret.

“You don’t want to marry me?” Blaine said woefully.

Kurt winced. This was exactly why he’d wanted to avoid having this conversation. “Look,” he said, speaking more gently now, “I’m not saying I don’t ever want to marry you. Maybe I will, someday, but right now, it’s just too early to tell if we should. Like, we literally just got back together—and I know you agreed to sign that no-cheating contract, but it’s going to take more than that for me to be able to trust you again.”

Blaine crossed his arms in front of him, looking more pouty now than sad.

“I just—I need more time,” Kurt went on. “And I’d kinda just like to have a boyfriend again for a while before I have a fiancé.”

Blaine’s eyes narrowed. “What’s the point in just being your boyfriend if we’re still going to get married someday?” he asked, taking on a bitter tone. “Or in dating at all if we’re just going to break up again?”

“Because I don’t know which one it’s going to be,” Kurt explained. “Not yet.”

“Well, I do ,” said Blaine. “I’m sure of what I want—and I thought you wanted the same thing, too. So, what, do all those plans we made before just not mean anything anymore?”

“We had dreams together,” Kurt amended gently, “not really concrete plans.”

Blaine rolled his eyes and scoffed.

“That’s not to say they can’t still come true,” said Kurt. “I still want to be with you—”

“And I want to be with you!” Blaine insisted. “Why does anything else have to matter?! Isn’t it enough that we’re in love? Shouldn’t that overpower everything else?”

Kurt deflated a little, losing his resolve. He knew his standpoint on this matter didn’t align with Blaine’s, but every solid and indisputable reason he had for feeling the way that he did escaped him in the moment. It had all made so much sense when he was talking to Emma, but now he found himself looking around helplessly, trying to find the words to explain his side. “I—”

Blaine stepped toward him and took him by the hands, cutting him off before he could really begin. “Kurt, you’re my soul mate,” he said ardently. “My one true love. Who cares what problems we still have to work out, or other bumps we may encounter later down the road? That’s all just detail, and it’ll all turn out okay in the end. What matters is you and me, right here, right now.”

Kurt closed his eyes and sighed. “Blaine…” he started weakly.

Blaine gave Kurt a little coercive tug, and Kurt opened his eyes again, only to stare at his shoes.

“Come on,” Blaine said in that soft, enticing way that he did. “Just…let me show you what I've put together. You’ll change your mind, you'll see. I guarantee you, once you see and hear everything I’ve planned, you won’t be able to say no.”

Feeling something stirring inside him, Kurt slowly brought his gaze to meet Blaine’s again. Blaine was now sporting a little smile, his confidence in the production he’d planned restored.

Kurt’s mouth fell open, and he stared at Blaine in disbelief as everything started to fall together in his mind. He thought back to the way Blaine had shifted the responsibility for their breakup onto him from the beginning, and to his persistence in trying to get him back nearly the entire time they had been broken up, despite Kurt's protests. He thought of the serenade, the bouquets, and the sketch Blaine had given him as compensation for cheating, and of the way that nostalgia and Blaine’s puppy-dog-eyed pleading had persuaded him to finally agree to take him back. He thought of Blaine’s incessant, forward—almost competitive—public displays of support before Burt’s cancer test, and he thought of the grandness of a musical proposal in the same building where they had first met—and if what Kurt could see from where he was standing was any indication, it was one that just about everyone they knew was participating in.

All of these thoughts swirled together as Blaine’s words echoed in his mind, and then, quite suddenly, something inside Kurt snapped.

Kurt snatched his hands out of Blaine’s, and looked him dead in the eye so he could be sure he had his attention for the next sentence that he uttered: “No.”

Blaine blinked in confusion. “I haven’t even proposed yet.”

“My answer is no ,” Kurt repeated firmly. “I’m not doing this.”

“Gee, okay, relax,” Blaine said, taking a step back. “What are you getting so worked up about?”

“Try the fact that I have a perfectly good brick wall back at my loft that’s more receptive to what I have to say than my own boyfriend is,” Kurt said shortly. “What part of ‘I’m not ready’ do you not understand? It’s like you don’t even hear me when I try to tell you something! And what exactly is ‘you won’t be able to say no’ supposed to mean?! I have been trying to tell you ‘no’ this whole time, and either you can’t—”

Kurt stopped abruptly. He wasn’t sure what was preventing him from finishing that sentence, but for some reason, the rest of the words wouldn’t come out. Instead, he just let out a frustrated groan.

“Look,” he said when he found his voice again, “I’ve already told you how I feel, and no Beatles cover or romantic speech is going to change my mind. Now either you respect that and take what I have to say seriously, or I am getting back into that car and going back to New York, single .”

Kurt wasn’t sure which he found more startling—the words that had just come out of his mouth, or the realization that he actually meant them. He had feared that turning down Blaine’s proposal might cause Blaine to dump him , but the possibility of ending their relationship himself was not an outcome he had seen coming.

Blaine was equally taken aback by Kurt’s ultimatum, if not more so, and the puppy-dog look returned. This time, though, Kurt didn’t waver. He was done letting guilt sway him into giving Blaine what he wanted.

“What changed?” Blaine asked pitifully after a moment. “We just got back together—you just said you still wanted to be with me. I love you, and I really think we can make this work! Why can’t you just hear me out?”

“You’re the one refusing to hear me out, Blaine,” said Kurt.

“Because you’re being unreasonable!” said Blaine. “You know you and I are meant to be together! You’re really just gonna give up on me—on us ?”

Kurt breathed in slowly and deeply. There were so many things he wanted to say right now: You gave up on me over a few friendly texts with another guy. You gave up on me two weeks into making our relationship long-distance. You’re giving up on me right now by defaulting on the chance I just gave you to try and salvage our relationship. But nothing he had said since this conversation had begun had made any difference; Blaine was still dead-set on securing an engagement, and what Kurt wanted was inconsequential.

Heaving a resigned sigh, Kurt answered simply, “I guess I am.”

Blaine gaped at Kurt, like he couldn’t believe he was really serious.

Without another word, Kurt turned around and walked away, leaving Blaine staring after him in shock.

Kurt’s head spun as he approached his father’s car, and he hugged his arms to his chest, confused by the lack of heartbreak or panic that he should be feeling right now. Losing Blaine was supposed to be harder than this; it was supposed to hurt more. He didn't know what to make of the fact that it wasn't.

Burt was still waiting right where Kurt had left him, and Kurt felt his face heat up at the realization that he had witnessed the whole thing.

“Did you hear all of that?” Kurt asked when he reached the car.

Burt shook his head. “Just bits and pieces,” he said, his face full of concern. “But enough to know there’s way more going on here than I thought. Are you okay? What happened?”

Kurt gave him a small smile. “Yeah, I’m okay,” he said softly. “Um…can you take me to the airport now? I’ll explain everything in the car.”

Burt nodded. “Yeah, sure thing.” He clapped a hand down on Kurt’s shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze, and then they both got into the car.

“Just one question before we hit the road,” Burt said as they were buckling up. “Are you guys, uh…are you leaving on uncertain terms, or are you like, officially broken up again?”

“Officially broken up,” Kurt answered with a sigh. “Here I thought I might be able to leave Lima still attached, but it looks like I’m flying solo.”

It was when he heard his own words spoken aloud that he realized they didn’t bother him as much as he had thought they would. To his surprise, he found that he actually felt lighter now than he had in all the time since he had gotten back with Blaine. His stomach wasn’t tied in knots anymore, and there was no sense of foreboding hanging over him, making him worry that he might make the wrong decision, or that perhaps he already had.

All this time, he had thought that he was afraid of having to give Blaine an answer to his marriage proposal; now he could see that what he had really been afraid of was having to let him go.

Kurt leaned back in his seat, relishing how much more at ease he felt now that it was all over. He had really done it—he had stood his ground and made the choice to end it with Blaine, and this time he felt confident that it had been the right thing to do for himself.

Burt started up the engine and began pulling out of the Dalton driveway, and Kurt smiled as his last statement recalled the lyrics to one of his favorite songs: And if I'm flying solo, at least I’m flying free.

-

Epilogue

Blaine was still standing in front of Dalton, staring after Burt’s car in bewilderment after it disappeared from his sight. Certainly it would reappear on the horizon any moment now, signaling to him that Kurt had come to his senses.

Behind Blaine, everyone he had recruited to witness and/or participate in his proposal had gathered just inside the Main Hall’s entrance, watching in anticipation to see what would happen next.

“Should we keep playing?” one trombonist whispered to another as he came up for air.

“Maybe we should switch to Nearer My God to Thee ,” a drummer muttered.

The bandleader smacked his shoulder reproachfully.

“I’m just sayin’,” the drummer said to his own defense. “This ship done sunk.”

Marley rubbed two fingers against her temple. “Lord, this is so awkward,” she said under her breath. Looking to her fellow glee clubbers, she asked, “What do we do now? We just…wait for Blaine to come back inside and tell us the proposal’s off? Or do we let on that we already know?”

“Someone should go talk to him!” Tina hissed insistently.

Artie shrugged. “Maybe he wants to be left alone?” he suggested.

Sebastian turned to Sam. “Hey, Johnny Bravo. You’re his best friend, right?”

“Yeah?” Sam replied, looking a little confused as to what chain of events in his life had led him to having this conversation with this person.

Sebastian nodded toward Blaine. “Ask him if we can still eat the mini quiches he ordered.”

Santana snorted. “Of course France-y Pants here only came for the free food with a pretentious name.”

Rachel glared daggers at Sebastian. “Those quiches were for the after party, Smythe ,” she said bitingly.

“Well, now they can be for the pity party,” Sebastian returned, unfazed. “I learned choreography for this—I think I’m entitled to a complimentary snack on the resident dumpee.”

As the rest of the crowd continued to discuss the situation amongst themselves in hushed tones, Emma located her husband and gave him a bright smile when she found him.

“Hey, there you are,” she greeted him. “You ready to go?”

Will looked a little flustered. “I don’t know,” he said. “Don’t you think we should stay and make sure Blaine’s alright?”

Emma waved it off. “He’ll be fine. He has his friends, and having a smaller crowd to have to face when he comes back in will probably lessen the blow.”

Will shrugged. “Okay,” he said. “I guess you have a point." He offered Emma his arm. "Shall we?”

Emma happily linked her arm into Will's, and the two quietly made their way out to their parking spot.

“Hey, maybe you should talk to Blaine when we get back to school,” Will suggested. “He could probably use a little counseling after a big breakup like that.”

Emma nodded her head. “Way ahead of you,” she said. “I already have a new pamphlet in mind to help him with this.”

“Oh yeah?” said Will, perking up with interest. “What’s the subject?”

Emma spread her hands out theatrically as she spoke: “NO: What It Means and How to Take It for an Answer.”