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[A note from the moderator: I did not write this! This was written by [personal profile] guiltyshirts , but the formatting was all messed up, so I have been given permission to repost it properly. It's quite lovely, so check it out!]

[A note from the author: I can't believe I'm going to post this, I don't even know how good it is, but I'm getting it out of my head. One-sided Kurt/Z, introspection, and Kurt being really down on himself. I've taken a bit of liberty with timelines to reference things I thought would fit. I couldn't think of a title, and no idea if I'm going to do any more. If anyone wants to run with this, please do! I feel bad ending it there. Someone write Kurt some happiness?]

******


Kurt took another sip of his whiskey, letting it burn his tongue before sliding down his throat. Beside him, Wolfie tilted his head and eyed him with a quizzical expression, sensing something was not quite right. Kurt half-smiled, scratching his companion wolf on the head, and leaned back against the stone brick wall with a resigned sigh.

In the building behind him, the muffled noise of a party in full swing filtered through the closed balcony doors. Kurt didn't exactly do parties, but he couldn't really get out of this one. It was Guude's birthday after all, and their entire group had hunted down the Enderdragon earlier that day. The celebratory mood had carried on well into the evening, the alcohol flowed freely and the impromptu games had gradually become more ridiculous. From his position outside, Kurt could hear bursts of laughter and the louder bursts of TNT explosions mixed with the fizzle of lava setting things on fire. Something to do with Vechs, most likely, and if he was involved then Etho and Zisteau weren't far behind.

Kurt closed his eyes briefly, then opened them to gaze upwards at the stars. The thin crescent moon glowed invitingly in the inky sky. Maybe another trip into space would be a good idea. Maybe it would be less lonely up there than down here with this group of people that he was still trying to fit into, even as helpful and welcoming as they were to him.

His best effort to be sociable and try and enjoy the part had fizzled out after about an hour, leaving him edging more and more into a quiet corner, until he'd given up and retreated outside. The idea of leaving completely was an attractive option, maybe going back to the Observatory or even returning the the ludicrously huge project of building the missle silo, but it was too early to convince himself to do it without bringing down a huge feeling of guilt. He'd give it a while, then go back in, try again to fit in a bit more.

He would definitely, absolutely not sit here and wonder what the hell was going on with himself when it came to one person in particular. One person who was on his mind entirely too much for reasons that he dared not examine too closely. Kurt liked to tell himself it was just admiration. After all, he was outgoing and creative and tackled huge projects with patience and determination, all the qualities Kurt often found himself wishing he had just a little more of.

He might have called it jealousy if Zisteau wasn't so damn likeable. That was probably part of the problem.

Maybe he wouldn't have gotten into this mess if they hadn't been paired up for the last UHC games. They'd meshed unexpectedly well, you could even say they clicked. After the adrenaline had died down and the games were over, Kurt had found himself entirely thrown by just how easily that connection had been made. He didn't make friends easily. He was too shy and awkward and usually content with his own company, to the point where he sometimes unconciously resisted people getting to know him.

Zisteau had somehow cut through all of that without even trying. Maybe it was his patience that let Kurt come out of his shell in his own time, or his easy-going nature that left Kurt feeling pleasantly uncrowded.

It had stung, badly, when his sudden exit from the games had left Kurt alone. That was also something new. It always hurt to lose your team-mates, but not like that. It left an uncomfortable sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, and a stab of guilt that he should have done more for him. Been faster getting that golden apple. Stayed with him when he went to explore that ravine. Anything.

It had taken far too much overthinking and frayed nerves for Kurt to gather up enough courage to ask him if he could help digging out the silo. Not just because he needed an extra pair of hands, but because he wanted to spend some more time around him. To feel that connection again.

Afterwards, Kurt just felt more confused than ever. Zisteau had been as laid-back and jovial as always, and they talked as they worked, a range of subjects from the UHC games to building to Dr Who.

Kurt scrubbed a hand over his face. He was convinced he could practically feel Zisteau's disappointment when he'd admitted he hadn't watched any of the older series. He took another sip of bourbon, slowly resting his head back against the cold wall, and closed his eyes again. It was ridiculous. Even with things he loved, he still felt like he was inferior. He should just face it. Zisteau was practically perfect, and he'd never be anything like him. It was a mystery even why the other man wanted to be around. He was probably just humouring him while Kurt laughed awkwardly and asked stupid questions. He could have been doing much better things with his time, like building the Lens or striding off on one of Vechs' insane quests.

Kurt raised his glass again and drained the remaining liquid in one shot, ignoring the burn. He had nothing but respect for the mapmaker, his challenges were fiendishly clever, challenging tests of mind and body. And Zisteau loved challenges, loved pushing his limits. Of course he was going to gravitate towards someone who could give him that challenge, keep testing and pushing him, making him better himself. And of course Vechs would relish someone who could take on his challenges with the enthusiam, sharp mind and instincts like Zisteau. The attraction was only natural.

Oh God.

Kurt squeezed his eyes shut as a heavy weight of realization settled in his chest. He was so hopeless. It'd taken him this long to admit it to himself, but he now he had he couldn't escape it. Attraction.

It was crazy, and pointless, and nothing could ever come of it, but it was there.

Maybe he could control it. Maybe if he clamped down hard enough on that little flicker of curiosity it would stifle and die, and the feelings would die with it. What else was there to do? Just that small step of admitting it to himself was more frightening than anything.

Suddenly the prospect of going back in to the noisy, crowded party seemed less daunting than staying out here and thinking himself in circles. At least there was more bourbon.

Kurt pulled himself to his feet, pulled a mental shutter tightly over his feelings, and slipped back inside.

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