Tree without blossoms

A future!fic set in 2025 where Kurt and Dave's lives intertwine again, proving just how small the world really is, and how Fate has a twisted sense of humour. AU from end of Season 2.

This is AU from the end of Season 2. It will be a romantic pairing between Dave Karofsky and Kurt Hummel – if this isn't your cup of tea then stop here. If it is, then I hope you like it. It is a future!fic, so characters have matured/changed a bit. This is the first fic I have posted – not the first I've written, just the first I've had the balls to post. I have most of the second chapter written, but it mentions colleges and US geography, so I'm going to have to do some serious fact checking prior to posting. There are around 10 chapters planned out.

I am looking for a beta to catch and correct my non-American spelling (I've posted this with British spelling because that's what I've been doing for over 30 years and it's a hard habit to break, also one I can't really break because I need to maintain it for work purposes). I'm fairly confident with my spelling and grammar, but would like a beta to make this USA compatible, as there are plenty of terms which simply do not cross the cultural barriers, and they can be hard to find when you're ignorant of them like I am.

SPOILERS: I live in New Zealand, so I won't be seeing the third season of Glee until November at the earliest (*sobs*), so spoilers for season 3 will be purely circumstantial. I will be mentioning things from seasons 1 and 2.

ETA: So, this formatting on ffn is impossible to deal with. All the tabs and breaks have disappeared. I have tidied it as best I can. I will post a tidy version to my LJ. *gulp*

I don't own Glee.

CHAPTER ONE – AUGUST 2025 (Part 1)

Kurt rubbed his face, tired. No matter how many flights he'd been on, and no matter the actual journey time, they always exhausted him and made him feel like he'd been stuck in an airtight room with a dehumidifier for 24 hours. He looked out the cab window at the city outside, only half noting when the cityscape faded into a more suburbian landscape. He could have phoned earlier, Mercedes would have happily picked him up from the airport, but he'd just been focused on getting out. Away. Anywhere but his apartment in LA. She knew he was coming now. Would be waiting. Worried.

The cab pulled to a stop outside the house, the lights on in almost every window as well as outside, a bright beacon and Kurt smiled at the imagery. He paid the cab driver and pulled his suitcase, garment bag and carryon up the front path. He didn't need to knock, Mercedes had the door open, obviously she had been listening out for a cab. Kurt took in the worried expression on her face and felt himself warm inside slightly. He was loved. He might need to repeat that as a mantra for the next few days, but he knew then that he'd come to the right place.

"Theo! Down!" Mercedes ordered, grimacing, knowing how Kurt was about animal fur getting on his clothes, however she was a little taken aback, when instead of using his suitcase as a barrier he knelt and enthusiastically patted the animal.

"Must be nice to have someone be happy to see you all the time…" Kurt mused, looking up at her. Mercedes bit her lip, eyes sad. She didn't know why he was suddenly here, out-of-the-blue, but knew he'd tell her eventually.

"Yeah, it is. He's pretty fantastic, even if he's a complete whore for attention," Mercedes stated, closing the door. She took in Kurt's rumpled clothes, tired eyes and the waves of sheer exhaustion that seemed to be rolling off her best friend.

"How about you go and have a shower and I'll prepare something light for you to eat. I don't care that it's past ten, you need to eat something and –"

"Yes. To everything. A shower sounds great. So does food. Do you have any wine? I think I might need a glass. Or two," Kurt interrupted. Or a whole bottle he thought.

"Not a problem. Red okay?"

"Perfect. Can I do some washing later? I've… I need to wash some clothes."

"Of course," Mercedes whispered, "go, you know where everything is." It was worse than she thought if Kurt was travelling with dirty clothes. He'd toned down since high school, his creativity now firmly channelled into his job, but he still took an inordinate amount of pride in his appearance. She watched as he headed through the lounge to the stairs, Theo following with a wagging tail and lolling tongue.

Kurt dumped his bags in the guest room, hung the garment bag in the wardrobe and quickly took out his toiletry bag, headed for the bathroom. He could feel his throat tightening, the tears welling up now that… now that he was away. He shut the door and flicked on the shower, quickly steaming up the room. He wanted it as hot as he could possibly handle. He scrubbed and shampooed, taking none of his usual joy in his practised washing routine, letting the tears falling down his face be rinsed away by the hot water. He stood for a short while after he was finished, taking in deep shuddering breaths. He knew that he'd talk about it with Mercedes, knew he'd be able to now. Now that he'd cried the worst of the shock out of his system. Not that he hadn't cried before now, and he knew he'd cry again and again before he was over this.

He shut off the shower and stepped out, folding himself in one of the large microfiber towels. He quickly patted himself dry, borrowed Mercedes' bathrobe for the short walk back to the guest bedroom and then opened his suitcase. The one he'd been living out of for the last three weeks while he'd been in London. He pulled on the one pair of clean jeans he had, the only truly clean item of clothing he had with him due to the fact he hadn't had time to wear them while he'd been away. He tugged on a singlet, not caring, it was only Mercedes anyway, and she was in her pyjamas.

Quickly he split the clothes into piles – those he'd need to get dry-cleaned, those he'd have to hand-wash and those he could chuck in Mercedes' washing machine, lights and darks separate. He was past caring about fabric types right now. Bundling the clothes into a manageable pile he headed downstairs, putting on a load of washing before heading to the lounge where he found Mercedes curled comfortably at one end of the couch, wine glass in hand. He sat at the opposite end, reaching for the other glass and taking a small taste.

"This is nice…" Kurt murmured, taking another appreciative sip.

"It should be, you bought it," Mercedes replied with a grin, passing him a bowl filled with a chicken salad she'd made. "Please eat," she said when Kurt pulled a slight face. He let out a sigh but nodded, forcing himself to fork the food into his mouth. His stomach let out an appreciate grumble and he shot Mercedes an embarrassed grin. He hadn't eaten since the plane ride from New York to LA, which had been early this morning.

Kurt ate in silence. It was comfortable being here, knowing someone so well that every minute didn't need to be filled with chatter. He smiled softly though, knowing that it was rare that there was silence between them. Normally one of them was always talking. He put the empty bowl on the table and took up his wine glass again, staring unseeingly at the bookcase at the side of the room, mind jumbled and wondering where to start. He knew he'd be unable to sleep until he'd talked it out.

"I got home early…you remember me telling you about Alex's ex, the one who got married?" Kurt started after several more moments of silence.

"Um," Mercedes paused, "the ex that married a woman?"

"Yeah. Him. Marcus. They have a baby now, he's cute."

"The baby right?" Mercedes asked, knowing he meant the baby, but prompting anyway. Kurt was disjointed, obviously hurting, mind scattered. She knew from past experience that things would start making sense once he got started.

"Yeah, the baby," Kurt said, swirling the wine around and watching the oil-like residue cling to the side of his glass. "So I got home early, and Marcus and Alex are asleep in our bed. My bed. The kid's name is James. Jamie. His mom is lovely. Cassie." Kurt went quiet, a single tear trickling down a cheek. Mercedes placed her wine glass on the coffee table, did the same with Kurt's, and then opened her arms and drew Kurt into a gentle hug.

"It's not just me they're fucking over, but Cassie, and Jamie and I just… It reeked of sex. Condoms fucking everywhere. I just…" Tears were flowing freely now, and Mercedes reached for the box she kept beside the couch, pulling some out and passing them to Kurt.

"I feel like an idiot. Alex told me Marcus cheated on him throughout their relationship. Why wouldn't he cheat on his wife with Alex? And you know what Alex told me at their wedding? That he viewed Marcus as the one that got away. Fuck. I really should have seen this coming."

"Sweetie, you love him. Loved him. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty you know," Mercedes stated gently, rocking Kurt in her arms. "Uh… what did you do when you found them?"

Kurt let out a huff of laughter, but in the runny nosed tear streaked state he was in sounded like an undignified snort. He dabbed at his eyes and tried to blow his nose as delicately as possible, sitting up and away from Mercedes slightly.

"Just what you'd expect. Bitch fit of epic proportions. I screamed and yelled and threw things. Alex didn't even apologise, or try to explain. Marcus was begging me to not tell Cassie. Bastards."

Kurt reached for his wine glass and took a large gulp, eyes distant, mind in LA and on several hours earlier.

"You know, it wasn't just that they're fucking each other, but the way I found them, curled around each other like fitted puzzle pieces. It makes me feel like I never had Alex at all… Four years down the drain. I really thought he was the one for me you know?" Tears started afresh, and Mercedes swallowed convulsively to ease the tightness in her own throat. She hated to see Kurt like this.

"Oh baby, I know. I'm so sorry." Mercedes reached out again and wrapped her arms around Kurt. He let the tears flow then, soaking his friend's pyjama top. Mercedes rocked him.

Kurt could feel the anger whirling with the hurt inside. He'd never been big on denial, but he'd wondered on the plane, and in the cab, whether he'd been missing something. How long it'd been going on. Had there been clues he'd denied seeing? Another question to add to the list.

He'd have to talk to Alex. They had an apartment together. Joint possessions. Mainly, he was disappointed. Disappointed in Alex, and himself. Himself for choosing yet another asshole to open his heart and life to. But right now he was safe. Warmed by the embrace of his best friend who loved him unconditionally for over half his lifetime now. He'd deal with everything. Just not right now.

Kurt stumbled into the kitchen, drawn out of bed by the smell of coffee. He'd slept, emotional and physically drained from the previous day. He thought it was Thursday now. Maybe. He wasn't entirely sure. It had been Tuesday night when he'd left London and right now he was too tired to figure it all out. Not that it mattered too much anyway, there were other more pressing matters to think about.

"Here, coffee. Your washing is all done – the stuff that could go in the drier is folded and on top of the washing machine, the other stuff that needs to line dry is hanging in the airing cupboard."

"Thanks," Kurt replied, his voice hoarse. "Don't you have work to go to?"

"Nope, no work today for me. I've called in with a family emergency to the clinic and cancelled my classes for this afternoon. Tomorrow as well."

"You didn't need to do that, I can take care –"

"Yes, you can take care of yourself. But I want to take care of you today. It's nice to be able to look after you for a change, you know?"

Kurt gave her a watery small and small nod, gently acknowledging the number of times he had flown to Mercedes' side for a multitude of reasons.

"So, I'm going to take your clothes to the dry cleaners. I'll then stop by the grocery store and pick up some supplies. Anything you want?"

"Fresh pineapple," Kurt replied with no hesitation.

"Okay. What are you going to do this morning?"

"I… I think I'm going to go for a run, then I'll… I'm going to have to ring Alex. But –"

"You'll wait for me to be home before you do that," Mercedes ordered, her face grim.

"Yeah, that's what I was going to say."

"Good. Glad we're on the same page. I'll be back in an hour, tops," Mercedes stated, giving him a quick firm hug. Kurt made a shooing gesture with his hand and watched her grab keys and sunglasses before heading out.

Sipping his coffee he went out the back door and into the garden where Theo dropped the ball he'd been chewing on and bounded over to Kurt for attention. Kurt patted the velvet like ears distractedly and then let out a long sigh. Decided and determined he went and got changed into his, now thankfully clean, workout clothes. Grabbing the spare house key and Theo's leash Kurt set the alarm, locked the house and went for a run. Hopefully it would help clear his head.

When he returned Mercedes' car was back in the driveway. Kurt opened the side gate and took Theo into the back garden, ensuring his bowl was filled with fresh water. Kurt stretched his muscles out, feeling good for the exercise after being stuck sitting for such a large portion of time over the last few days. He wasn't a fan of exercise, but he was even less of a fan of wobbly bits on his stomach. Mercedes opened the back door and watched as Kurt stretched and warmed down.

"You're making me feel lazy you know. Pineapple's all ready for you for breakfast."

"Let me shower and get changed… and then call Alex. I don't want the thought of the phone call putting me off my breakfast. Want to get it over and done with. And I need to phone work, and then the studio," Kurt replied, his mind suddenly filling with all the work responsibilities he had, social engagements, appointments that would need to be rescheduled. He'd have to look at his electronic notepad and go through the next week. He'd gone through it mentally in his head while running, but now he'd have to deal with in actuality.

Kurt thumbed his contact list, tapped the call icon, and waited. He didn't have to wait long. Alex picked up before the second ring was finished.

"Kurt…I'm so sorry. Please, you've got to –" Kurt didn't let him get further.

"I don't want to hear it Alex. I want you out of the apartment by next weekend. If –" Kurt swallowed convulsively, taking a quick swallow of water to ease the tightness in his throat. He would not let Alex hear him cry. He would not. Mercedes gripped his upper arm in support. "If there's anything that you don't know whether you should have it or I should have it, e-mail or text me to ask. I don't want to talk to you again. Let me know what address I can forward any mail to. Just… remove yourself from my life."

"I… Okay. I can do that. I do love you Kurt."

"Obviously not enough," Kurt replied, terminating the call. He turned and hugged Mercedes tightly, resting his chin on top of her head.

"Fuck that was hard…" Kurt muttered into her hair.

"Really? You seem pretty calm and collected to me. Do you think it's wise trusting him around all your stuff? Aren't you a bit afraid that he'll throw stuff out?"

"Honestly? I think he feels so bad right now that he'll not do anything further to hurt me. If it was me packing up his stuff it'd all be out on the road, thrown out the window, or on fire."

"So not so calm and collected then," Mercedes said, smiling slightly.

"No. If you had a boxing bag it's be getting a thrashing right about now. I'm in the mood for some retail therapy later, what do you think?"

"Hell yes!" Mercedes replied, and Kurt could tell that her enthusiasm was only partly forced.

They were curled up on the couch watching the new Snow White movie, exhausted from hours on their feet shopping, digging in to Chinese takeout boxes, when there was a knock at the door. Kurt raised an eyebrow at Mercedes.

"Expecting someone?"

Mercedes' eyes grew wide and she swore softly under her breath, eyes flicking to the door and back to Kurt.

"It's Mike – I forgot that we were meant to have a date tonight. Oh my god, I can't believe I forgot!" Mercedes exclaimed, jumping to her feet and hand over her mouth in horror.

"We can just invite him to join us –"

"No! I'm in my pyjamas and wearing a facemask Kurt. This type of stuff is saved for after marriage, not a fifth date!" There was another knock on the door.

"Really? Okay then. You go upstairs and get changed. I'll go answer the door," Kurt stated, smirking. Mercedes looked torn. Leaving her new boyfriend with Kurt for an undetermined period of time, or letting her new boyfriend see her like this.

"Screw it. If he's worth anything, he can deal with me like this and me forgetting our date," Mercedes muttered, but the chewing of her lip belied her nervousness. She stalked to the door, Kurt following her out of curiosity and opened it. A tall African-American man stood on the stoop, hands in pockets of nice dress slacks, Hugo Boss if Kurt knew the cut and material.

"Mike. Hi. Come in."

"Uh, okay. Do I have the day wrong? Wrong time?" Kurt's eyes opened in surprise at the slight accent. It wasn't American. English? Irish? No, he'd just come from London, it definitely wasn't English.

"No, I'm sorry. I completely forgot. Completely. When I heard the knock on the door I remembered…"

"All my fault sorry. I'm Kurt. Mercedes' best friend," Kurt said, stepping around Mercedes with hand out to shake Mike's hand. A warm firm hand shook Kurt's and the man smiled.

"The costume designer," Mike stated, grinning at Mercedes as she nodded in bemusement, her nervousness dropping down a notch.

"You've heard of me?" Kurt asked, fluttering his eyelashes coyly.

"Stop flirting Kurt," Mercedes mumbled, swatting him on the arm. Mike didn't seem perturbed in the slightest and Kurt was quietly pleased. He knew Mercedes wouldn't date someone who was homophobic, but there was a difference between saying you weren't homophobic and then being faced with the reality.

"Only what Mercy has told me. We went to the movies and she made me wait until your name appeared in the credits."

"Aw, you still do that?" Kurt asked; snorting softly as Mercedes nodded. He bumped her shoulder with his and shook his head gently, amused. This was another reason why she was still his best friend, after all these years, he reminded himself. She took such joy in his achievements.

Mercedes stepped back as Mike came in, and she motioned him to the couch. Kurt curled back into his original spot, eyes on his best friend's new beau.

"I'm just going to go and wash this off. I'll be right back. Kurt, be nice!" Mercedes stated, eyes narrowed. Kurt smiled angelically back and Mercedes groaned quietly.

"So…you going to grill me?" Mike asked, smiling openly.

Kurt's eye flicked to the stairs and then back at Mike, and he shrugged.

"I already know quite a bit about you. Mercedes likes to talk," Kurt stated.

"I like listening to her. She's…pretty special."

"Very special. And from everything I've heard, you sound like a nice guy. Real genuine," Kurt said, pausing. "However, you hurt her, emotionally, physically or mentally, doesn't matter, you will know pain like you've never experienced. Are we clear?"

"We're clear. I believe that she's it for me, if it makes you feel any better."

"I'm sure you felt that way about your first wife too," Kurt stated. He knew it sounded bitchy. Hell, it was bitchy. But Mercedes was his best friend and if he could protect her from any potential hurt then he'd try his best to do so. Also it had the added benefit of not allowing him to wallow in his problems about his own love life.

"I was only twenty three when I married Kara, not even out of college. I was too young and too naïve. It's one of the very few upsides of looking for love when you're older. You know what you're looking for. What you want. What you don't want. Mercedes and I have the same basic values and goals in life. It's a good start."

Kurt nodded in agreement. He knew that Mercedes had met Mike at her church. That they had slowly gotten to know each other over coffee after church, and then lunches, which had progressed into… something more. He knew that Mike had worn down Mercedes' adamant refusal that she was never going to date again and that her life was complete. He was obviously persistent and stubborn enough to put up with Mercedes. That was good. She needed someone as equally strong as her.

"What would you have done if she'd never given in?" Kurt asked, curious.

"I would have been disappointed, but I would still have wanted to be her friend. She's pretty fantastic."

"Preaching to the choir," Kurt replied, smirking.

Kurt woke early the next morning and let out a long sigh. He'd gone to bed early last night, his internal body clock demanding sleep, and Mercedes not-so-subtle glances at Mike, had made Kurt feel like him disappearing would be appreciated. But now it was five and he was wide awake. Creeping past Mercedes closed bedroom door Kurt's eyebrows shot up and he grinned. Someone had a little sleepover Kurt thought, grinning.

Once in the kitchen he set the coffee pot brewing and scoured the fridge for breakfast possibilities. Deciding to make crepes Kurt set about mixing and cutting up fruit. He opened the backdoor and let Theo in, humming quietly under his breath. Looking at the clock he set the crepe mixture back in the fridge to await a more reasonable hour to eat. Taking a cup of coffee he sat at the dining room table and turned his laptop on.

Yesterday he'd phoned Sandy and gone through all the work commitments that she could cover for him. Kurt knew he was a workaholic, and that was why when he'd told her he was taking ten days for personal reasons she hadn't asked, which was one of the things Kurt loved about the older woman. She and Kurt had been on the same page creatively ever since Kurt had worked for her as an intern. As she said, she stuck her claws in, and she wasn't letting go of him and had taken him onboard as her assistant when he was fresh out of college. She was now close to retiring, but still had a finger in several pies.

On top of visual-conferencing with Sandy he'd messaged several other people and businesses to shuffle things around. Kurt sat sipping his coffee and going through replies, Theo lying on his feet, wondering whether he'd been a bit rash in taking ten days off from work – it was a long time to be away, despite the visual-conferencing and constant contact he had with Sandy.

"Uh…morning," Mike's voice said quietly, interrupting Kurt's thought process. Kurt turned and looked at the other man, standing in the kitchen in what looked like to be a pair of Mercedes' sweatpants and nothing else. He looks good Kurt had to concede and raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"Morning. Comfortable?"

"Uh, yeah, look, we didn't –" Kurt held up a hand to stop him.

"Ew. Stop. I don't want to know. You're both adults, I'm not her father, and we squared away last night and... I really don't want to know, okay?" Kurt said. Mike nodded sheepishly, hand scrubbing over his face.

"I suppose Mercedes sent you down for coffee. Tell her to stop hiding and that I'm making crepes. Are you staying for breakfast?" Kurt couldn't help but grin. It surprised him that Mike seemed more embarrassed about staying the night, rather than standing half-naked in a kitchen with a gay man. Obviously very comfortable with his sexuality Kurt decided. Or I'm wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

"My shift starts at eight, so yeah, breakfast would be awesome thanks. I'll go get Mercedes."

Two crepes left on the main plate and an almost empty platter of cut fruit sat on the table. Kurt lent back and grimaced slightly. Shouldn't have had that last crepe. He sipped his coffee as he watched Mercedes drizzle chocolate sauce over her second 'last' ("this is really my last one!") crepe.

"We still on for tomorrow night? You can come as well if you'd like Kurt."

Kurt shook himself out from his daydream while watching Mercedes draw doodles in the remaining chocolate sauce on her plate.

"What's on tomorrow night?" Kurt asked cautiously, having learnt from experience not to jump in and say yes to things. That's how you ended up at Tupperware parties sitting beside people you normally tried your best to avoid.

"One of my friends is having a dinner party. He has one every month, but this one is so that Mercedes can meet everyone. And they can all meet Mercedes," Mike explained, his eyes going soft as he gazed at Mercedes. Kurt resisted an eye roll at the obviously smitten man. Mercedes smiled at Kurt, the half-smile-half-grimace Kurt had come to recognise as her determined diva smile and he stifled a laugh, disguising it as a cough. That particular smile meant he would be going to the dinner party on pain of death.

"Having you there would really help me feel more relaxed," Mercedes stated and Kurt sighed, nodding his agreement.

"A dinner party… damn that makes me feel old. Do you remember when we'd just go to a party?" Kurt mumbled, meaning the question rhetorically. "How many people are we talking anyway?"

"Max is twelve. That's all that can fit at the table. And there'll be at least two gay couples there, so you won't be the uh…only one…"

Kurt raised an eyebrow, not sure where to go with that statement. Only single person? God, he hoped not. Obviously not the only gay person. Only single gay person? Well, he'd been there before.

"That didn't come out right. I mean… there are going to be other gay people there, but there are couples, and single people, and you won't stick out because you're…"

Kurt's eyebrow raised a little higher. He was now secretly amused as Mike seemed to be digging furiously, trying to remove himself from the pit he'd found himself in, and for every step out, he slid two further down.

"Crap. I'm going to shut up now. I just... I think I better leave for work. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Apparently," Kurt replied dryly as Mercedes got up to go and see Mike off.

Kurt sat in the backseat of Mike's car and stared at the e-mail in disbelief, not sure what Alex and Marcus were telling Cassie, but Alex was staying with them, and Kurt was to forward all of Alex's mail to their address. Kurt felt his stomach squirm sickly. He had an unopened e-mail from Cassie that he'd avoided reading since that morning. What the hell have they told her? He quickly opened the e-mail, the unease in his stomach building.

Kurt, I really hope you're okay. I am so pissed off at Alex right now, he won't look me in the eye, but Marcus insists on him staying. Best friends and all that shit. But I'm completely on your side here baby, although Marcus insists we aren't taking sides. I don't know what it's like to be cheated on but I don't think I'd let the guy get away with anything less than his balls in a jar as a souvenir. Let me know if I can arrange that for you, I know where he's sleeping after all. Please, if there is anything I can do, please tell me. I really mean it Kurt. You say the word, and it's done. I'm assuming you're at your dad's place, or staying with Mercedes. Let me know when you get back to town – I'll come around and we can burn anything Alex left behind – he's given me his set of keys. Apparently he thinks you'll be happier I've got them. Anyway, let me know if I can put arsenic in his meal tonight – it's a salt right?

Stay safe and we love you. Cassie (and Jamie) xxx

Kurt felt his stomach heave and his throat tighten. He swallowed convulsively, trying to work some moisture up in his mouth. Bastards, bastards, bastards. He felt like throwing a tantrum of epic proportions. How dare they lie to her! He didn't know what to do. Cassie was a friend, but only because of Alex's relationship with Marcus. But they'd become sort-of friends in the past four years. Crap. He could tell her exactly what he'd seen, but it would hurt her, and... I don't know what to do, and that's just as fucking annoying.

"Kurt? Are you okay?" Mercedes asked from the front of the car.

"Um, yeah. Just checking my e-mails," Kurt replied, not wanting to get into the mess that was his love life in front of Mike, who was still really a complete stranger, and this was meant to be a nice night out.

"Ugh! Honestly, you're addicted to that thing. I haven't seen it leave your hand all day!" Mercedes muttered.

"Yeah well, it's my lifeline," Kurt snarked back, trying to inject some levity into his tone and fearing he'd failed miserably. Mercedes' eyes meeting his in the wing mirror confirmed his fear and Kurt looked away, trying to tighten his hold on the anger and pain that seemed to be renewing itself in his body.

Mike knocked on the apartment door and Kurt watched as it was opened by one of the most petite woman he'd ever seen. If it hadn't been for the short bob haircut and gentle wrinkles as she smiled and hugged Mike, Kurt would have mistaken her for a child.

"Hey Karen, this is Mercedes, my girlfriend, and her best friend Kurt. Mercedes, Kurt, this is my friend Karen, Dave's partner."

Kurt stood there in shock as both he and Mercedes were hugged fiercely by the diminutive woman, her effusive greeting and welcomes washing over him, and then he winced as she yelled out:

"Dave! It's Mike! And his giiirrrlllfriend."

"Bloody hell woman, I'm in the next room, not the next state!"

Kurt thought he recognised the voice vaguely, and then he knew he'd recognised it when Dave Karofsky came around the corner of the hallway. Kurt felt like everything simultaneously slowed down and sped up.

Dave looked good, which pissed Kurt off slightly. He was wearing dark jeans that were partly covered by a black apron, white t-shirt underneath a dark green short-sleeved button down shirt. He looked comfortable, at ease and confident in his surrounds. Which made perfect sense, it was apparently his apartment.

Kurt watched as Karen walked back toward Dave and patted him on the ass, watched as Dave good-naturedly rolled his eyes at something she'd whispered before heading towards another part of the apartment. Dave had apparently taken a peek out of his closet, before taking a step back and firmly closing the door again. Dave had come forward and was giving Mike a hug of welcome, their voices white noise in Kurt's ears. Kurt shook his head in an attempt to clear it.

"I can't do this right now. I'm sorry. I'll see you at home Mercedes. Sorry Mike. David," Kurt stated, and then turned on his heel and reopened the apartment door before closing it behind him. He took a deep breath, trying to remain calm, and headed for the elevator.