Chapter 13

"There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself." ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid
He got back late that night, but was greeted with Rachel and Brody, curled up on the sofa together, not quite touching, and laughing over something that had happened at NYADA. He had said that he wanted to talk about it tomorrow, and preferably when Brody wasn't there because Kurt liked him and all, but he didn't want to talk about it all with him there, and had then gone to bed.
The next morning, Brody departed after taking a long shower and effectively draining the hot water and grumbling about the cricks in his neck after sleeping on the sofa, and Kurt launched into the messy business of telling Rachel everything that had happened back in Lima. Rachel had been a relatively good audience; gasping, launching into a long rant about Sebastian, fretting over Thad and getting angry at Blaine, but she, annoyingly enough, seemed to share the same view as his dad about not giving up on it. However, she didn't push it because she understood.
Then, Kurt threw himself into tiring, but thankfully highly distracting, task of perfecting his audition tape. He knew that he could simply constantly reapply, but the idea of doing that felt…desperate, he guessed, like he couldn't make anything out of himself without their help, which was a lie because, NYADA or not, Kurt was talented, and he was going to be big. He shoved everything that he thought might impress into the video, taking Rachel's advice as much as he thought was a good idea.
On Monday morning, after a total of two hours sleep, he went down with Rachel to hand it in before making his way, with eyes that could barely stay open, to work. He was forced to explain how everything had blown up in his face even more than possible to Isabelle, and, whilst she was sympathetic, she thought it was a good thing that he'd learnt what he had because it meant that he could move on more effectively now that he knew he'd done everything he could to smooth things over – he'd gained peace of mind if nothing else.

"Hey, Kurt," Kurt closed their door, dropping his bag onto the floor, and saw Rachel standing in the kitchen area, examining one of the pans that she had on the stove. Kurt smiled as he stepped further into the room.

"Hello to you too," Rachel spun around with a grin that Kurt narrowed his eyes at. He walked towards her with a suspicious frown on his face.

"What are you so happy about?" he asked, and Rachel grinned at him, clearly trying to keep the excitement that she was feeling bursting out of her.

"Well, you know the Winter Showcase at NYADA?" Kurt felt his eyes widen, heart beating faster than he thought it would over such a rhetorical question.

"You didn't?" he questioned, smile creeping to turn up the corner of his lips. She nodded, letting out a delighted squeal, and Kurt embraced her quickly, letting out an excited laugh as he hugged her tightly before allowing her to step back. "Let's see! Let's see! Let's see!" Rachel dashed from the room and returned a second later, coveted invitation clasped in her hands.

"Ta da!" she proclaimed, thrusting it towards him. Kurt took it from her hands and examined it, feeling a happy smile spread effortlessly across his face at the sight of her name on it. He handed it back to her.

"You only get one of those if you're going to be a star! What are you singing?" Rachel shrugged, looking a little nervous despite still being completely excited.

"I haven't made my final decision, yet, but I'm thinking Streisand's Being Good Isn't Good Enough." Kurt nodded because that sounded like a good idea. He was going to say so, but he noticed that she was looking around a little nervously, like she was expecting someone to just jump out at them. Kurt frowned at her reaction.

"What…?" he asked, slowly, drawing out the word for longer than was necessary, but it made Rachel snap out of her weird, hunched, position, and she stopped looking around the room suspiciously. She shook her head.

"Nothing, it's just…I choked my NYADA audition. What if I choke this too?" Kurt shook his head, shooting her a glare that told her to pull herself together.

"Rachel, did you choke New York State of Mind? Your first performance in front of your class after Madame Tibideaux made the person before you cry? Did you choke at any competition with the New Directions?" He saw Rachel pause, a small smile creeping across her lips as she shook her head.

"No," then she hugged Kurt tightly again. Kurt was a little taken aback, not entirely sure why she was hugging him, but gave her a quick one back. "thank you, Kurt. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have you hear to talk sense to me." Kurt laughed, remembering Finn's talk of portable common sense, but decided not to mention it to her – he didn't know what their relationship was like so best not to risk it.

"I'm sure that you'd have become an emotional wreck in your dorm room and would be thrown out…" he leaned against the counter, looking over at Rachel, hiding his smirk. Rachel snorted, rolling her eyes.

"I haven't missed your sarcasm," she commented. "When are you going to ask about your tape? Do you want to come in with me tomorrow?" Kurt paused for a second. He was dying to know whether or not he had gotten in and what she'd thought of it, but at the same time he was apprehensive. The not knowing wasn't even the worst part because there was no question that that was knowing. There was no question that knowledge had brought down on upon Kurt heartbreak and pain, but at the same time… He was a strong person, and part of strength meant taking the hits and dealing with it.

"No," he said, shaking his head with only a slight frown on his face. "but I'll drop in after work." Rachel smiled at him, and he could see the excitement building back up inside of her, and it made Kurt smile too because that could be him soon. He could be getting that coveted invitation and watching some of his dreams potentially coming to fruition. That made genuine excitement and nerves bubble up inside of him for the first real time.

It was hard to keep his mind focused the next day because the fact that his acceptance into NYADA could be several hours away. It was impossible to not feel nervous anticipation constantly because this was huge! He had nothing else to look forward to but this – and Christmas, but that seemed like quite a long way away, and it wouldn't be the same without Blaine, and he was desperately trying to not think about Blaine being missing from his life so he tried to keep his mind away from that because it was painful.

Eventually, he got shooed out early and was told to corner Madam Tibideaux and not come back because, whatever state he was in; happy or sad, it would be unproductive, and they didn't want to deal with it. He had that spring in his step that he'd had after Isabelle had told him to go down and see Blaine, again, in the first place – he was trying to not think about that either. There was to be no thinking about Blaine full stop…or that was the idea, it was far harder than he would have previously thought because his mind connected things to Blaine by instinct. He thought about what Blaine might think of what he was doing, or what Blaine, himself, was doing at this moment, or everything would simply remind him of Blaine because Blaine had liked that song or Blaine had this about that or just because everything was Blaine.

This was so hard. It was good Kurt wasn't a quitter…or maybe he was because he'd quite on the relationship to start with – he didn't know or particularly care either way.

He felt full of nerves as he wandered into NYADA because this could, or ought to be, him. He should be discussing numbers, moaning the dance class and organising a night out at Callbacks with his other friends and peers. This was where he ought to be belong.

The doors were open to her office, and he could hear the sound of her talking to another student. He took a deep breath, pushing down the nerves and anxiety and expectancy, and knocked on the wood of her office as the student got to his feet to walk out.

"Madam Tibideaux, I hope it's alright that I'm dropping by your office." He wandered nervously in, because maybe he wasn't allowed to be here and the fact that she was focusing on her work was unnerving, and placed his hands before him, trying to project an air of politeness. "I'm not sure that you remember me-"

"What can I do for you, Mr Hummel?"

"Oh! I, err…" he stumbled nervously in surprise because she had to have seen hundreds of applicants, it couldn't be possible to remember them all, could it? "I-I applied for the second semester-"

"I received it. I reviewed it." Kurt tried not to be completely thrown by her apparent lack of interest for his presence in her office because what did he expect? Who was he to disturb her whilst she was working? Also, he was sure that it would quickly become infuriating to have a stream of wannabe performers traipsing into her office to pester her on her opinion of their dreams.

"And the accompanying video?"

"Of you doing the acoustic version of Wham!'s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go." Kurt wasn't entirely sure what she meant by that – she knew what he was here for after all – but pressed on regardless because at least she had seen it.

"What did you think?"

"I thought exactly what I thought the first time you auditioned for me last spring," he felt a tiny smile creep onto the corners of his mouth as he prepared himself for the news, probably good,because she'd given him some very high praise, and she was actually looking at him which was a serious improvement. "Here's a very talented young man who knows how to sell a number," he felt the smile widen across his face because she thought that he was "very talented" and, whilst he knew that, that was a ringing endorsement of his talent. "but who is devoid of complexity and depth."

He felt something inside of him drop at the sound of that. He could hear the words resonating inside his head.

"…devoid of complexity and depth."…

When had he ever been anything less than complex and deep? Kurt knew that he was likely perceived by a lot of people as simply a cardboard cut-out stereo-type of a gay person, but Kurt had also been subjected to an incredible amount of teasing and taunts and humiliation and pain and had been forced to learn that it was easier to hide behind something. He knew more about suffering, pain, fear, love, hope than most people. He'd lost his mother. He'd realised that his differences would alienate him from most. He'd learnt the joy of having a father that would accept and love him no matter what. He'd found a sense of belonging in the New Directions so that it didn't matter that he was alienated from other people. He'd felt love – marvellous, all-consuming and perfect – as well as pain – excruciating, heart-breaking and soul destroying – because of Blaine.

"What?" he managed to force out because he could not understand that. He would never have expected someone like Madam Tibideaux to say something like that to him because music, performing and song was his way of expressing all of the things that he kept inside of him.

"You gave me surface when I was looking for soul. We are training artists here, Mr Hummel; performers who are not afraid to show their vulnerabilities and, yes, even their heart." Kurt could feel it all crashing down on him, and that snide, unkind, part of him was screaming that this was all Blaine's fault and that Blaine had ruined if for him because he'd made him too afraid to open himself up…

"Madam Tibideaux I-I-I-I have all of things," because he did. He had it all stored inside of him, and he understood now because Rachel's performance at Nationals had had that. He understood what he had to do because, unbidden and unwanted, Blaine's second performance of Teenage Dream had come to mind; where he'd bared his heart to everyone in that bar because he had been unafraid to cry.

"I rarely give anyone second chances, and when I do it is on my terms." Kurt was genuinely struggling to keep it together because this was not happening. He understood from her tone of voice that this was it. "Now thank you for your continued interest in NYADA," he knew that his dismissal – his final dismissal – was coming and that her interest was no longer on him as someone else walked in. "but as you can see I am preparing for the Winter Showcase. Goodbye, Mr Hummel."

Kurt talked around and walked away at that, trying to not feel like his world was falling apart all over again; he still had his job, he still had his family, he still had New York, but it was difficult to not think that. It was difficult to not feel that way.

"Kurt, I'm so sorry," said Rachel as she sat down beside him. Kurt did not move to acknowledge her, continuing to rest his head against the fist of his left hand whose elbow was balanced on the arm of the sofa. He felt tired and empty inside. It was preferable to his feeling of complete failure, but it was like he was being weighed down with stones. He couldn't do anything right. How could he have possibly have messed this up so much?

"It's nothing," he said after some time, not bothering to look over at her. "Shouldn't you be rehearsing for the Winter Showcase?" There was a pause.

"Well, yes, but I was thinking that maybe we could-" Kurt stood up abruptly because he did not need her pity. He did not need her to sit around and attempt to wallow in his sadness with him – even though he knew that she could empathise after she'd choked – when she ought to be practising her songs.

"I'm going to be in my room, you should practise." He spoke to her in a monotone, giving her a small glare that said not to follow him or do anything other than practise. He saw Rachel open her mouth, but he simply glared her down and walked away, hearing her sigh.

He closed himself into his room and looked around. He made his way to his bed and sat down onto it. He looked around again with tears in eyes because he had no idea what he was doing. He felt utterly miserable, the commiseration texts from his dad and the New Directions weren't helping, and there was nothing he could do about it. He could not make Carmen give him another audition. She wouldn't give him a second chance.

His phone chimed, and he picked it up in a tired fashion, uncaring as to who had sent him the text. Glancing down at it, he found that he did not even do a double take when he saw the fact that it was a message from Blaine that read;

Kurt, I'm so sorry about NYADA. I would have thought that you were a cert. I hope that you work something out. You're amazing! PS. Thad says thank you for coming to see him in hospital.-Blaine

Kurt stared at the message for a long time, unsure whether or not he was ought to respond. He had sent simple "thank you for your thoughts/sympathy" to his other friends, but that didn't seem quite right. Blaine's text was not conversational, thankfully, but he felt that he needed to say something in response; at the very least he should respond to the part about Thad.

Thank you, he typed out, slowly, is Thad feeling better?-Kurt

There was a pause as he cast down the phone, swallowing and staring ahead in a glazed over fashion, unsure how he felt about the communication between him and Blaine. He was meant to have cut if off completely. Maybe he shouldn't have responded to the text after all.

The phone chimed again, vibrating on the covers, moving a little bit on the bed before he snatched it up, clicking on the message.

Thad's better, yeah.-B

Simply from that text message, Kurt knew that Blaine was also struggling to think of anything to say. He got the impression that they "yeah" had simply been added in an attempt to make it seem like a conversation, but really it just came across as him trying to use up more characters and make the message longer.

That's good.-K

He felt a strong desire to simply turn off the phone to stop their stilted conversation from happening. He knew that he had nothing left to say to Blaine, nor did he want to hear anything more from Blaine, once again, Warbler. Still, the contact seemed to warm him up a little bit, breaking through the mists of misery that were hanging over him.

He shook his head, trying to clear that thought from his mind because that was not what he wanted. He wanted to stop this, but his phone was vibrating again, telling him that Blaine wanted to get back in touch. He swallowed and looked down at the message.

Yeah, it really is…Thank you for coming to see him, it really helped to know that you were there, even if he didn't talk to you because it showed that, you know, other people cared about him. I think it's helped give him some more courage.-B

Kurt stared at the last word of the text, swallowing the lump down in his throat and wondering whether that was intentional. Suddenly, the tears were stinging in his eyes, and he furiously rubbed at them because he did not need Blaine to be his strength anymore. Kurt was his own source of strength and determination. Kurt knew that he could draw from his own experiences all the strength and courage that he would ever need. He didn't need to take anything from Blaine; he could be almost everything that he needed because he no longer needed to cling to the life buoy that was Blaine to stop him from drowning in the turbulent, tumultuous, sea that had been high school and bullying because he was in safe waters, swimming for himself.

I'm sorry.-B

Kurt looked down at Blaine's response and vaguely wondered which mistake he was apologising for: the cheating, the lying or the maybe-inadvertent-maybe-deliberate reminder of their relationship. He got the impression that Blaine was likely apologising for his wording, making Kurt think that it was likely something that had slipped out more than being his way to try and get Kurt to forgive him. That was what he hoped at least.

He turned off his phone, casting it aside, and thinking back to almost this time last year. It was nearly the same time that Blaine had made him that promise ring. He felt a sad, wistful, smile curve onto his lips because a year ago it had been conceivable that Blaine could possibly have been proposing to him. He'd given him a promise ring.

…"What are you promising?"

"To always love you, to defend you – even if I know you're wrong – to surprise you, to always pick up your phone call no matter what I'm doing, to bake you cookies at least twice a year, and to kiss you wherever and whenever you want, but mostly just to make sure you remember how perfectly imperfect you are."…

He blinked some more, remembering Blaine's words and the feelings that they'd conjured up inside: the warmth, the belief, the love, the happiness, the trust, the flattery, the hope and the feeling that if everything could just stay between them exactly the way that it was in that moment than Kurt would never ever be unhappy or unfulfilled or jealous or angry or frustrated or sad again in his life.

But that was last year. The first two Christmases from when he'd been in high school had been without Blaine. The third was with Blaine at Dalton as his unrequited love blossomed. The forth had been at McKinley with Blaine as his. Now he was out of high school. His first Christmas in New York was likely to be a lot more depressing than he had imagined.

He lay down on his bed, picking up the phone and examining his pale reflection in the lifeless screen. He looked awful. He looked tired and pale and ill and crushed. He was a mess, not just emotionally, and he needed to sort that out. To think that the scenario could have been so different if he'd just answered Blaine's phone calls properly at least once, or if he'd known, right from the start, just what NYADA were looking for in him. Right now, from where he was standing, it looked like two errors had judgement had managed to cost him almost everything that he'd ever wanted.

Rachel started singing in the other room, the backing track for her Streisand song turned up loudly, and Kurt dropped the phone back onto the bed, vaguely wondering what Blaine would make of their conversation and wondering whether or not he was still attempting to contact him. He found he couldn't bring himself to care too much about it, or anything; not Vogue, not Blaine, not the Showcase, nothing

He was really very tired.

"Are you sure that you're alright?" asked Rachel. Kurt rolled his eyes to the ceiling because, yes, it hurt like hell, but he was not going to dissolve into some form emotional wreck at the sight of NYADA performance hall because he hadn't gotten in.

"Yes," he said, firmly. "I'll be fine, as long as you sing every note perfectly." Rachel smiled at him and gave him a smile that just about managed to hide all of her excited anticipation. Then she let out a squeal, and Kurt hugged her tightly. They broke apart, and Rachel smiled even wider.

"I will, you were right; I can do this." Kurt nodded and looked around.

"I'm going to get a front row seat." There was a pause before he looked around. "Where's Brody?" Rachel went vaguely pink at the look that he was giving her; demanding to know why he wasn't here to congratulate her.

"Around…" she said, nervous and apprehensively, as she shrugged.

"I'll save him the seat next to me," he promised, rolling his eyes because he knew that she was wondering whether he would turn up, but there was absolutely no whether about it.

He took a seat in the audience and watched the first performance. It was amazing, there was no doubt about it, but Kurt could not find it holding his attention. He found his mind slipping away to the recesses that Blaine occupied. His immediate reaction to blame Blaine had been inaccurate, but, at the same time, not all together untrue. He had made a misjudgement about what NYADA were looking for in their candidates, but he would be a lot more partial to singing a ballad, or something of the sort, if he had not been a wreck after Blaine.

When it was Rachel's turn, he knew that she was pacing outside and probably talking to Brody so he slipped out to get her there on time. He watched them talk with a small smile because it was nice to see Rachel moving on and finding happiness – even if it meant that Finn was made unhappy because Rachel deserved someone like Brody. Watching them kiss wasn't even as painful as he thought because it was just normal for him; to be on one side of the glass and seeing people experience the things that he wanted without being able to do them himself.

"Hey, as sympathetic as I am for this particular act of RomCom, Rachel you're up!"

Rachel was simply stunning in her performance. Kurt had sat down with the nerves that came from having your best friend on stage about to make one the biggest performances of her life, but he forgot them the moment that he fell into her song. There was no possible way that he could begrudge Rachel for her place in NYADA because on stage she truly belonged. She was beautiful in so many ways that Kurt could not quite begin to explain. She got her well-deserved standing ovation, and then an encore that took Kurt off to better places without all of his failures hanging over him like a lead weight.

He was barely listening to Madam Tibideaux praise Rachel because even "superb" did not quite sum up what Rachel was like. However, the moment that she said;

"…if he thinks he's ready," he was listening in because that was a strange thing to say. "we'll have a performance from Mr Hummel." Kurt felt something fall down inside of him at those words. How could she ask him to sing now? Kurt had nothing prepared! He wasn't ready. He had nothing to perform.

However – even as he walked out of the hall in shock and panic because what the hell was she thinking? – he knew what he had to do. He knew what Carmen was looking for. He had to tap into the unmined oil well of emotions inside of him that was Blaine. He had to show soul and depth and complexity, but how could he do that without any preparation time?

"Kurt?" Rachel had chased him out the hall, and he turned around, chest rising and falling in panic because even if he knew what kind of performance he was meant to give it didn't change the fact that he had nothing to sing.

"This is insane!" he exclaimed, finally. "I understand what she wants me to do, yes, but how can she expect me to go on with no time to prepare?"

"She's giving you a second chance to do your audition." If Kurt had been less in a state of panic he would have glared at her for stating the blindingly obvious, but he needed Rachel's advice. He had to sing something that showed deep emotions and a complexity. He needed to show them his soul; bare his heart out like it had been so many times these last months. "She wants to see how you respond to pressure, but there is no pressure; you have a whole repertoire!"

Kurt took a deep steadying breath and then shook his head. Kurt was going to go with his gut feeling on this. His gut was screaming that he needed to go out on a limb and take a risk. He needed to show the wreck that he had been made as a result of Blaine's betrayal and lies. He needed to show the way that, at the moment, his life seemed to be a constant run of failures. He needed to show that his dreams were dying and that, sometimes, he felt that he might never reach a happy ending…

"I think I know what I need to do," he said, looking into Rachel's eyes with resolution. "This might be even more insane than anything else, but… She said I lacked soul, depth and complexity… The only way I can get into NYADA is if I go out there and show her that I have all of those things in abundance." Rachel nodded, giving him a smile.

"Okay, then, what is it?" Kurt shook his head, taking in a deep breath.

"No, if I hear your opinion I'll immediately begin to doubt myself." Rachel frowned in a worried manner, but he gave her a semi-reassuring smile. He felt that if he didn't hear her say anything then he could convince himself that he was certain that he knew what he was doing when he knew that he had no idea what he was doing.

He simply tried to keep his breathing in control as he walked out to the sound of polite applause because if he messed this up, if he'd made the wrong choice, than he would have made a fool of himself in front of so many prestigious people; he would likely never recover.

He kept his mind focused solely on the song and walked over to tell them what he was performing. He knew that, if they were anything like the band in New Directions, they would immediately know it. If they were surprised by his song choice then they didn't show it, and he turned back to the audience.

"Hi, um…I'm Kurt Hummel, and I'll be auditioning for the role of…NYADA student," he mentally kicked himself for those words, but what else could he say? That this was his third audition, or that he'd never fully sung this song through, or that he had no idea what he was doing. "Tonight I'm going to sing a song that I've never sung before," and then he mentally face-palmed because he hadn't meant to say that either. "but…" he took a deep breath, looking at Carmen, who was watching him with an inscrutable expression on her face. "I think it's the only song that I could sing tonight because…" he broke off, looking over at Rachel and Brody and then back at Carmen who was still looking at him with assessing eyes. "because it's what I feel in my heart."

He took a deep breath, pushing down all his feelings of nerves, mentally preparing himself to open up his old wounds, and looking over at the band to say that they ought to be ready to play. He looked back at the crowd, all of whom had sat up in their chairs at his words. He chanced a look at Rachel and Brody. Rachel gave him an encouraging smile that Brody copied. He glanced at Madam Tibideaux; she was simply waiting for the song and what it would show her.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to sing;

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