Disclaimer: I don't own Glee. Trust me, things would have been very different if I did.
Summary: When everything for a photo-shoot goes wrong, leaving an irate Anna Wintour and a diva photographer Seo Joon, Isabelle Wright needs her best to fix the problem. Kurt Hummel, part time PA, has to save the day. Kurt is Vogue's newest, and hottest, model. Watch out world. AU-ish Klaine. Kurt-centric. Kurtana friendship.
AN: This monster mutated from a drabble to this… The plot bunny attacked me; viciously.
If anyone knows where Seo Joon is from, I'll write a one shot for them on any prompt. Because, seriously, if you know you are awesome on so many levels. Edited: Competition has been won and request for a Cover one-shot has been submitted.
Smile for the Camera
Isabelle has never, in her years of working at Vogue dot com, seen a photo-shoot deteriorate as quickly as this one. And this had to be one of the most important ones Vogue dot com ever undertook. She could feel her years of hard work fall away as the shoot started from bad and went to worse.
To start, this shoot was going to a challenge. It was a joint project between Vogue and Vogue dot com, a special feature of Marc Jacob's new line. It was decided that, since the feature would include a full photographic spread, the whole advertisement should be shot at the same time. What would have been a special spread changed into a project, the likes of which Isabelle had never done before.
Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor, worked with Isabelle to organise the project. Marc Jacob's only wanted one photographer: the very temperamental but brilliant Seo Joon. The South Korean was a perfectionist and had a reputation for being harsh in every sense of the word. But he was the best up and coming photographer, accumulating accolades by the dozens over the last couple of years. He had an eye for style.
Only the best models from four different agencies were hired, the main model to be chosen on the day by both the designer and the photographer. The three studios were rented, and permission from the city officials was granted to shoot in Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station and Brooklyn Bridge.
The project would take at least 2 weeks.
And it started out in the worst way possible, Seo Joon's flight was overbooked due to a cancellation of another flight. He spent 14 hours in an airport after he had been told he didn't have a seat. His assistant finally gotten a seat on the next flight out, with some creative booking on Kurt, ensured that his connecting flights to New York was booked before he even boarded the plane. The new travel plans took him almost 48 hours of traveling through 4 countries.
Unfortunately the man was fuming when he landed on US soil due to the fact the only seat he could get into NY on short noticed was an economy. Some Korean boy group (who the hell has 14 members in a group?) booked out first and business class. And he was not a fan of the idol group.
Oh, and Marc Jacobs' luggage had been misplaced by the airlines. His personal luggage ended up in Hawaii. But at least the clothes for the shoot made it but it did leave to one grumpy designer who arrived in New York with nothing save his laptop and carry on. It took two days for the airline to locate the missing baggage and another day for it to make its way back to New York.
At this point, Isabelle was sure nothing else could go wrong, only to stare disbelieving at a panicking Kurt when he informed her that the studio they had booked flooded due to a pipe bursting. In a mad scramble for another location, Isabelle had Kurt book 3 different studios just in case.
The shoot had been delayed by a day and when everyone could finally congregate, Marc and Seo got into an argument over everything that had been planned. Apparently they both had very different visions for the shoot. Isabelle was close to tears as Anna practically frothing at the mouth. The Vogue editor had entered the fray when she realised that neither of their visions would work well in a Vogue article.
"Coffee," came the soft yet high pitched tone from behind Isabelle, making her smile. She turned around to gratefully accept the offered cup, eying the familiar logo with a smile. Kurt Hummel was a godsend to Isabelle. The young man was smart, efficient and had both a sense and eye for fashion. He was the best intern she ever had, and when he chose rather to go to NYADA rather than pursue fashion, she offered him a part time job as her PA even if the job should have been fulltime. Sometimes it seemed that when she started to drown, he always appeared at her rescue.
"Thank you Kurt. I really needed this coffee. This day is just crazy," Isabelle sighed wearily.
Kurt snorted and raised an eyebrow, "Crazy is an understatement, Isabelle. But this is the biggest project you've ever done…"
Blue-grey eyes glanced around, ensuring that the Terrible Three, as he had come to call them, were still arguing before muttering, "And you're working with some of the most temperamental people I've ever met. And that's saying something."
Isabelle snorted into her coffee as she side-glanced her PA. Kurt Hummel was certainly one of a kind. When the boy had interviewed, Isabelle had to respect his sense of style.
Once she looked past that, she noticed the tall boy with porcelain skin and cheek bones that she would kill for; Kurt Hummel was a looker and didn't even know it. And don't get her started on his eyes. There were quite a few instances where she stifled a laugh at a poor boy who tripped over himself when meeting the one Kurt Hummel, boy from Ohio who didn't realise he was being hit on. A boy who never looked at anyone else because he was head over heels in love with his high school boyfriend. The same boy who broke his heart, and Isabelle had seen the despair of that aftermath as well at the slow repair of that relationship. It seemed that Kurt's boyfriend truly did want to make amends but Kurt was still hurting from the betrayal. It reminded her just how young he was, not even 21. She forgot sometimes that behind the efficient, snarky assistant was a 19 year old boy.
He was certainly something.
"I'm not saving you if they hear you calling them that," Isabelle retorted as she eyed the chaos the set had descended into. Months of planning was coming undone on the first day. And honestly, she didn't see how this could be saved. The concept had been agreed upon. Marc had wanted this line to be about wear-ability and a high sense of fashion. It seemed that Marc wanted a runway style shoot while Anna wanted something with a lot of computer editing. That was all good and well, but Seo Joon wanted no editing and to use the photographic art style.
Kurt smirked at the response as the three were still arguing at each other whilst the staff stood around awkwardly. On top of this mess, two of the models chosen had to cancel. One eloped and was honeymoon. (Kurt had to raise an eyebrow at that. She was losing her contract if the tone of the apologetic agent was anything to go by.) The other injured himself base jumping. (Who the hell goes base jumping the week before one of the biggest shoots of their career?)
"I don't think that's a problem," Kurt replied dryly, "They are too busy trying to kill each other with their voices. They should teach a class at NYADA on voice projection."
Isabelle laughed quietly at that not, suppressing the sigh of sadness at the fact that Kurt refused Parsons for a place at NYADA, the school that turned him down on his first try.
Kurt's face turned serious after that, "But seriously, you need to take control and get them to agree. We need to confirm the studios and the dates for the outdoor shoot, and confirm on the new models. Everything is going to be backlogged."
Isabelle turned to Kurt with wide eyes, "You want to send me into that? I thought you liked having me as a boss."
The brunette merely rolled his eyes at her. Isabelle sighed, briefly wondered if she could make Kurt do her job, before dismissing the idea. Instead, she steeled her nerves and walked towards the fray.
Anna was arguing fiercely with Marc while Seo was scowling at the two. At this point, Isabelle didn't even know what they were arguing over. The only thing they had all agreed on was the clothing.
"This needs to stop," Isabelle blurted out after watching the tension in the circle of professionals. This caused all three tempers to be directed at her, eyes questioning her intrusion. The blond woman sighed as she contemplated her choice of career. "We are behind schedule already, and that is excluding the delays over the sites and the fact we have lost two models."
At the mention of the models, Seo Joon jerked and stared at her wide eyed. "You've lost the models too?"
This photo shoot was cursed. It had to be.
Seeing that she had their full attention, Isabelle explain what had occurred. Anna had groaned in response when she heard the tale. This put then even more behind schedule. During this, Kurt had magically appeared bearing coffee for the three terrors.
"We have to practically re-plan this whole endeavour," Marc grumbled.
Isabelle sighed, drinking her own coffee. Kurt caught her eye and smiled slightly. His eyes were dancing slightly, as if to say 'At least they aren't arguing anymore.'
Isabelle snorted lightly, 'Kurt would be far blunter than that.'
As silence fell on the group, Kurt shifted to her side and waited. Isabelle knew she was going to have to do something to save this project.
"Then let's start planning," she finally said, getting the attention from the terrible three. "We have the clothing picked out. We have several sites reserved but that doesn't help if there is no theme or style decided."
"This clothing," Marc said tiredly as he glared at the other two of the terrible three, "is a style of wearable high fashion. It's mainly menswear with a few stylish but classic female pieces. It's more smart casual and formal than plain casual. That is why I thought a runway style shoot would be effective."
"Okay," Isabelle cut in as the editor and photographer opened their mouths, "You know your clothing the best but the style of advertising is old. You might as well have a runway show and publish the photographs from that. I know it's an old sure-fire way of getting your line out there but we want something more for this project. We could do a few shots in that style. It would be fantastic to display at the actually launch event."
Marc looked put out but nodded reluctantly at the sound logic. Isabelle sighed in relief before turning to the other two. "What style did the both of you have planned?"
Anna gave Seo Joon a cold look, which he returned. She turned to Isabelle with a haughty expression. Kurt, in the meanwhile, was quickly typing out notes on his iPad.
"We are essentially shooting an exclusive photo spread and an advertisement spread," she reminded everyone, "so we can shoot a classic outdoor style shoot but use editing software to make more appealing to our readers. This works well for both our companies." Anna had to point out to Isabelle.
Isabelle said nothing but nodded at Seo to state his piece.
"Capture the feeling of the clothing," Joon said after a moment, brown eyes glaring from behind his fringe, "the feeling of wearing the clothing."
The South Korean man paused here and looked at Marc, flipping his long hair back, "The feeling of wearing high fashion, of being fashionable while doing everyday things. A photograph that inspires that does not need anything else to sell the clothing."
Kurt had stopped his typing to look at the grouchy man. Despite everything, the brown-haired boy smiled at that. Seo Joon was an artist. He had the need for following his passion and sharing it with the world. It was something Kurt could understand, and knows why he fights tooth and nail against every idea but his own. A smile tugged at his lips at the words of the grouch.
"You like that idea as the style for this shoot, Kurt?" Isabelle asked, startling him out of his thoughts. "As someone who reads Vogue, follows fashion and loves Marc Jacobs."
Kurt froze as everyone turned on him. He swallowed as he tried not to stammer his answer. "I just… I understand how Mr Joon feels, as a fellow artist. But as a buyer of designer clothing, I wouldn't want anything to detract from the actual clothing. You imagine what it would be like to wear the clothing you see, how it would look on you and how it would feel to walk wearing something that amazing. The spread has to make people want the clothing."
They all nodded at that and quickly fell into a discussion. Anna, Isabelle and Marc started talking a rapid pace about target markets, styles and locations. Seo Joon, on the other hand, was staring at Kurt with a blank face.
"Is there anything I can help you with, Mr Joon?" Kurt asked as he flushed at the intense gaze. The man was unreadable.
"You're an artist?" the man finally asked, "a designer?"
Kurt laughed at that, his voice high and clear. An eyebrow rose on reflex as he shook his head, "No, I'm a performer. I want to be on Broadway."
Seo Joon looked shocked for a moment before he went back to a blank albeit grumpy expression. "Why is a performer working at a fashion magazine?"
"Part time job," Kurt replied as he returned to his iPad, "I'm a student. I have to pay the rent somehow. And I like fashion."
The man said nothing else but nodded as he turned back to the heated conversation that was occurring.
Kurt left them to their devices as he made his way to the entrance. An intern was dropping off the profiles of all the models they could hire on short notice to replace the missing two. On the way, he asked an assistant to prepare another round of coffee.
'Seems like they are finally making progress,' Kurt thought with a relieved smile. 'Maybe we'll finally get some work done now.'
Work was good. Work kept him busy and didn't let his mind wonder. He didn't have to think about the fact his boyfriend who he had loved, and had been loved by, had cheated on him. Because he missed him, because Kurt wasn't there for him. It felt like Blaine broke more than just his heart at times. He craved his company at times, but Kurt knew that even if he could drown himself in hazel eyes, he still wouldn't trust his ex-boyfriend. He just couldn't.
Kurt knew that he had messed up by working too much and ignoring Blaine at the time. But he was trying to find a path in New York and Blaine had asked him to go. Kurt had been trying to build a life in New York. He had been trying to find the confidence to try again when it came to NYADA and his job was just the boost.
Work kept Kurt from thinking about how much he loved Blaine. That he loved him. But it hurt. That one act broke the trust between them. And it hurt Kurt more than NYADA rejecting him. Blaine was the one person he let in; he trusted with his heart and body.
And that one act of cheating, it made Kurt feel lower than lower. Kurt felt worthless; like he was that replaceable. Like Kurt didn't matter; and that hurt more than any other rejection.
Instead, Kurt went back to faking his self-esteem; self-confidence. Just until he could pick up the pieces and put himself back together.
So until then, Kurt kept his head high and shoulders' squared. Even if still loving Blaine hurt.
Kurt smiled and thanked Sofia for the files before sending her backed to the office. The files came in a box with handles. There looked close to 50 models portfolio.
When Kurt got back, the four had commandeered a table and seemed to have hashed out the details of the project. Kurt guessed that some sort of agreement had been reached.
"Isabelle," Kurt murmured quietly to his boss, "I have the models' portfolios."
"Good timing, Kurt," Isabelle said, turning around. "We just confirmed the style of shoot. It's going to be a collaboration of ideas, but essentially we are going to Seo Joon's vision but using Anna's ideas for the advertisement special. Marc has final say because it is his clothing."
"Impressive," Kurt replied, somewhat dryly, as he placed the box on the table, "I will need to confirm locations and models before we can go near wardrobe."
Isabelle nodded as she started flipping through resumes, "Seo Joon will pick the locations. He's taking the creative directorship."
Kurt nodded as he made a note on his iPad. "So, can I have confirmation of locations and models tomorrow? It's going on six and the crew is packing up to go. I need to head to the office and then I'm calling it a day."
Isabelle looked up from her perusing, acutely aware of the three other pairs of ears.
"I'll be in the office early, let Joanne know. You'll be in tomorrow?"
Kurt looked up from his iPad and nodded, "I have class tomorrow afternoon from two. I can be at the offices at seven to make the confirmations."
Isabelle looked worried, "Don't you have class this evening?"
Kurt hummed, not even looking up, "I have rehearsals tonight for two hours from 8. I'll go straight there from the offices."
His boss sighed, "You're getting a low workload after this project. I need you to be at work at seven tomorrow morning."
Kurt looked up and smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow, Isabelle."
"Enjoy your rehearsals," Isabelle replied already turning back to the files, "and well done on getting the solo. Only freshman to have one for the year end recital, right?"
Kurt chuckled as he was ready to leave, "You scare me sometimes."
Isabelle hummed but Kurt could see the smirk on her lips, "You not the only one who pays attention to office gossip. What would be scare you is the fact I already have tickets, as do most of the office."
"Again, you're scary."
Kurt left, phone already out and talking. Isabelle chuckled to herself.
"Your assistant," Anna cut in from behind her papers, "is something else, Isabelle. So tell me why is he not in fashion or journalism but performance?"
"For the very reason why he is something else," Isabelle shot back, "he does what he want, what he's passionate about. For now, he enjoys working here. He's talented."
Anne smirked, "He's the one who made that make over video. He would be great at Vogue; your office or mine."
"You have a better chance at getting Alexander McQueen back from the dead," Isabelle bit back.
Marc was watching with amusement. The assistant in question, when they had first met, had stared at him, wide eyed and the designer could recognise some of his clothing that the boy wore.
"We'll use all the locations, as well as these three," Seo Joon cut in as he offered a notepad with three names, "I would rather have too many shots than too few."
Isabelle took the page with a smile. "We'll have these booked first thing tomorrow."
"The models," Anne cut in, "you need to pick the models."
Marc moved forward to the table. "Who do we have booked?"
"These two, as main and these four as supplementary," Isabelle sighed as she put the files on a free space. For a moment, Isabelle grinned at the fact that all the files were colour coded. Red for the main models. Blue for the supplementary models. And green for the portfolios.
"Well," Marc spoke slowly as he opened the folders, "We have a male and female model. The supplementary are good. We need another male model for main at least."
Seo looked over the models but his face was blank. "What is the look you're are going for?" He posed the question to Marc.
The designer looked at the models in question. "Why are you questioning this?" The man side-eyed the young photographer.
"Because," Seo Joon smirked as he spoke, "none of these models fit the vision. None of them would look like wearing your clothing would be a dream come true."
"But," Marc prompted.
At this, Seo flipped the iPad he had practically surgically attached that day. One the screen was a crappy resolution but undeniable brilliant image. The figure was poised, head held high and dignified but a slight smile pulled his lips. He looked good; his clothes looked good. He looked natural; and even surrounded by people, he pulled focus.
"Do you always go around taking photos of assistants?" Isabelle asked as her brain finally caught up with who was the focus of the picture.
"When they show more potential than most models I've worked with," Seo bit back, his accented barely noticeable.
"He's young and good looking. He carries himself and the clothing well," Marc murmured. "Good proportions. Very photogenic."
Seo grinned at Marc before looking to Isabelle with an expectant expression. "Well?"
The first thing Kurt noticed when he entered his workplace was the cup of coffee sitting on his desk. Then he noticed a guilty looking Isabelle.
The boy sighed as he put down his messenger bag – designer or course- on the table and picked up the cup.
"What do you need?"
Isabelle winced slightly at the blunt tone but smiled nonetheless. "I need you to model for us."
Kurt's eyes widened in shock but before he could open his mouth to argue the (ridiculous) statement, Isabelle cut him off.
"Seo Joon wants you as the main model and everyone else agrees. You fit the image we want. Plus, you will be paid what anyone we hired would have gotten plus a surplus for it being your first contract as a Vogue model. It's a lot of money, Kurt. You're gorgeous. And Seo Joon took some pictures of you yesterday, and they look fantastic. You're not a second choice. Please, please to do this or the terrible three will be arguing over this next."
Kurt stared at her, jaw slacked.
Silently, Isabelle turned over her iPad with the photos Joon took the day before. Blue-green eyes stared at them in shock.
"These are really good, Kurt."
Kurt said nothing.
"I'd owe you a favour."
Kurt raised a hand to silence his boss as he stared at the pictures. His first reaction was that the man in the picture was not him. Then he felt vulnerable. This guy took photos of him without his consent. It made him sick. It was violating.
And then it there was the small voice that agreed with Isabelle because damn he did look good.
Isabelle silently handed over the file she had left on his desk. Kurt looked at it for a moment before opening it. Inside the folder was a modelling contract with Vogue and another contract for the Marc Jacobs project. And the sum of money offered was enough to cover his portion rent for a year and then some. It was a lot of money. That he could really use…
'Shit, I'm actually thinking about this,' Kurt thought as he closed the file and sighed.
"Can I think about this?" Kurt asked quietly.
Isabelle nodded, "Sure, but I need those locations confirmed. It's in the orange file."
"Sure thing," Kurt replied, still staring at the file in hand.
The blond woman smiled slightly as she left the desk quietly. Most of the office knew about the offer already, because the only thing more effective than the wardrobe department is the gossip mill.
It took two hours, but the permits would be coming in by lunch and permission was granted thanks to Kurt and four interns who were sent running through New York to various offices with paper works.
That left just one problem: Kurt had to decide. The only thing left to do on the long list of bookings for the project was the models. Kurt sighed. There was only thing that Kurt could really do. He needed advice.
Swallowing, Kurt speed dialled the familiar number and listened to the ring tone.
"Hummel tire and lube, Rick speaking," came the voice. Kurt smiled at the familiar voice.
"Hey Uncle Rick, its Kurt." Kurt said of a beat. "Is my dad in? I need to speak to him."
"Kurt! How's are you doing?" Rick replied, his voice brightening. "Your dad's in the office. I'll put you through."
"I'm good," replied Kurt, "And is everything okay at the shop?"
"Yeah. We're actually busier than ever. Miss you helping out here though. We have this new apprentice but I swear you knew more about cars when you were ten," Rick laughed over the phone, before adding, "I'm connecting you now. He just got off the line. Chat to you soon, yeah?"
Before Kurt could reply, the ring tone was back. In a moment, Burt Hummel's voice came across the line.
"Hey dad," Kurt smiled into the phone. "How are you? Are you sticking to your diet?"
"Kurt!" the tone of his father's voice changed from professional to warmth immediately. "How are you? What's wrong?"
Kurt laughed, feeling the rush of warm feelings at hearing his father's voice, "Why do you think something's wrong?"
"Kurt," came the patient tone, "you're calling in the middle of the morning while you are supposed to be at work."
The boy flushed at the fact his father knew him better than he would care to admit. "I'm okay, dad. I just need some advice."
"Oh boy, sounds big."
Kurt sighed before launching into everything that was happening at his work and how he didn't know what to do.
"Bud, you've basically told me that this is one hell of an opportunity. So is really the problem here?"
Kurt swallowed. "I don't think I'm… good enough for this. I'm terrified of not being good enough. This is the biggest project Vogue has undertaken in a year. I mean, they need a model for one my idol's newest line."
The line went quiet. "Kurt, what is really going on? You have never thought you weren't good enough. You would argue that, over every other person, they wanted you. That you are good enough. So where is this coming from?"
Kurt sighed as he dropped his head into his free hand. Not caring about his hair for the first time in years, Kurt ran his hand through it. He didn't know how to put to words the thoughts that ran through his head.
"I…" Kurt stopped to take a deep breathe. Slowly, very slowly he let the words that had been playing on his brain over and over again. "How can I be good enough when my own boyfriend thought I wasn't good enough? How can I be better than any of those professional models because some photographer says so? My boyfriend didn't think I was good enough to stay loyal to; my boyfriend who I loved and loved me. So how can I feel anything but insignificant?"
"And it hurts. Because I still love him, dad. I still see Blaine as one of the best things that's ever happened to me. And that's even after he cheated on me. How depressing is that?"
Burt sighed as he tiredly ran a hand over his face. It broke his heart to hear his son in pain but to hear him doubting himself after everything he's been through? He was starting to see that the break up between him and Blaine was deeper than just heartbreak of a first love. Even if Blaine was still trying to get his son back.
"Why?" Kurt asked the moment he through the door to Isabelle's office. "Why me? What makes me good enough? Why not just pick someone who has actually modelled before?"
Isabelle looked up from the file she was reading, dressed (Kurt noted that he missed it in the morning) in a stunning white Dior dress. She calmly put the file down and smiled at him.
"Because you are young and fresh and exactly what both Marc and Seo want to show in the spread. Because you are gorgeous. Because it's a damn good opportunity. And because I know you can do it, and do it better than anyone else I know personally. I wouldn't take a chance like this on anyone else in this office. We see something in you that I don't thing you see in yourself, Kurt."
Kurt's face remained blank but his lips were pursed. He breathed out heavily. "Why do you think I can pull this off? This is international!"
"Because," and here Isabelle grinned, "you are a performer. You have what it takes, and if you got nervous, you know how to fake it."
Kurt had to laugh at that. "But, I refuse to go shirtless."
The shoot itself was nothing like what Kurt imagined it would be. He was used to being on the other side of the camera; doing the leg work of a PA. Being a model was harder than it seemed.
Everyone seemed to touch him: the make-up girls, wardrobe, even the Seo Joon. The lights were blinding and stronger than anything he faced while being on stage. And between Isabelle, Anna and Marc; Kurt felt like a Ken doll. It was awkward to stand around in his boxers feeling so exposed while the one site seamstress refitted the clothing.
The worst experience by far was the gossip. While the staff knew and liked him; the hired models were pissed. He was a 'no name wannabe' who 'stole' the spotlight as the main model. Something they had all being vying for after hearing of the two models who dropped out. Whilst the two other main models (Leah and Jean) were put out that they had been bumped down from main to supplementary.
The first day had been awkward as hell. Kurt felt awkward; just standing there. He didn't know what to do. Seo had sighed and put down his camera before he even took a photograph. Kurt felt himself flush at the snickers that resonated in the quiet of the first studio as he stood in front of the white back drop dressed in a stunning white-grey suit that he would sell his first born for.
"Kurt," the irritable man stated, not even blinking at the snickers, "relax."
Kurt broke out of his panic to level the man with a flat glare. Before the teen signed the contract, he had insisted that Isabelle call the terrible trio in to sit down and talk about this (insane) idea. Kurt had voiced his worries and they had all placated him with insurances that he would be fine. That they would help him. Especially when he confessed his worries over not knowing how to model.
"Kurt," Seo tried again, "how do you feel about wearing this suit? Would you want to wear it?"
"Wear it?" Kurt asked incredulously, "I'll trade my first born for it. It's gorgeous!"
"Then show that. The look of feeling incredible because of what you are wearing."
Kurt fell silent at that as he thought it over. Slowly, and silently, Seo went back to his position and picked up his cameras. He waited patiently as Kurt gathered himself.
It was like watching a transformation in front of him and it was fascinating to Seo. He watched at the awkwardly standing teen spread his legs and stood taller. His shoulders seemed broader as he held his head high and a smirk pulled his lips. His body automatically angled to show off the suit; one hand slipping in to the pants pocket. Confidence radiated from him; as if when he walked into a room all eyes would be on him.
Without a word, Seo started clicking away. 'Kid's a damn good performer,' he noted as Kurt changed his stance and everything about him screamed 'I'm that good and I know it.' It was natural and all traces of nervousness was gone. Seo smirked behind his camera as he let the kid figure out how he wanted to look while he took the pictures.
Kurt's head space, was strangely enough, placed him back in high school. The feeling of wearing whatever he damn wanted because it looked good and he looked good. The feeling of 'you wished you looked this good' and the confidence he always wore his outfits with. And this was without the bullies.
It was a fantastic, and oddly therapeutic, feeling.
Looking directly at the camera, Kurt knew he had to sell it. He had to sell the outfit. It was one thing to look good; but it was something entirely else to make someone else want it. Faking the confidence was easy.
Seo grinned as Kurt moved and the Korean knew that this was the photograph. The boy, his eyes shining blue and a playful smirk pulling on naturally pink lips, relaxed his stance as he pulled at the knot of his tie. His head tilted into the opposite side, showing off his (gorgeous) cheekbones but the action itself drew attention to his suit.
Relaxed. Confident. Powerful. Hot and sexy. And dressed to impress.
That was the photo Seo wanted and took it with a smug feeling. This was going to be one hell of a project.
"Can I get something a little bit playful?" Seo called out with his eye glue to his camera. He was still clicking away when Kurt raised an eyebrow at him. "Something less mature."
Kurt's smirk turned into a smile as his body moved in an old but familiar movement. His hands moved to undo his blazer buttons as he side stepped. As he finished the box step, Kurt grabbed onto the lapels of the suit and grinned. In one smooth movement, Kurt did the infamous Warbler step-spin.
Seo barely blinked at he kept on clicking. "Please do that again." He needed more shots.
Kurt's grin grew slightly as he relented, redoing the box step he could to in his sleep and the spin. He refused to think about a certain ex-Warbler that practically patented the move.
Seo Joon finally tore his eye from the camera viewer and handed the camera to his assistant.
"Touch up on make-up and his hair need to more ruffle and less styled. I want the two female models in blue. Wardrobe, change the male models into the black suits with bow ties," Seo called out as his assistant uploaded the pictures from his camera. Marc was already hovering behind the man, trying to peak at the shots.
Kurt looked at the man, surprise clearly written on his face.
"That was good, Kurt," Seo added as he checked the laptop, "We are going to use some of these; we just need a variety."
"That was okay?"
It was Marc who laughed before waving him over, "Very good. Come and see for yourself."
Kurt couldn't quite believe the man staring back at him through the screen was him. He was sexy. It inflated his deflating ego. He looked good. Really good. He blinked wide eyed at the screen as the harpies from make-up and hair descended upon him.
The rest of that studio's shoot went really well. Kurt didn't feel so out of place in front of the camera after the first round. He just pretended he was on stage. Although, things weren't as relaxed when he had to model with the two female models who were groping him as per instructions. But on the up side, groping someone who wasn't interested seemed to break the ice between them and the one model, Freya actually warmed up to him. She was the one he had to grope in what was a pseudo-tango pose with his hand disappearing under the slit of her dress high on her thigh. He had apologised profusely for that. She had laughed it off saying she had been through worse, and then loudly mused if she could feel him up next.
The shoot with the male models was distinctly more awkward. And for once, it was not over his sexuality but the fact he (a rookie) was the main model. Kurt was positioned between Jean and Lucas, his white standing out even more against their black suits. It was more of a traditional photograph where they all stood posing. Then they were positioned in a runway-esque pose and Seo Joon happily clicked away. Kurt did his best to hide the sheer awkwardness he felt next to the two tall and handsome men.
They needed to shoot four outfits in this studio before moving on. Kurt knew he had to model close to fifty outfits over several locations. For the first time since signing the contract, he was starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, he could do this.
The shoot lasted a little over four weeks. Kurt felt a little guilty for it taking longer because he had to attend class. Seo had assured him that it was actually a good thing because they could edit the photographs and check if they needed to redo a location or outfit.
Marc was suitable impressed with the way Kurt carried his clothing: everything from business to casual suave.
Isabelle and Anna duked it out over the spreads that would appear in their publications.
And it seemed that the amount Kurt was to be paid had changed after reviewing the shoot. He was to be paid more due to the increased length and size of the project. Kurt had enough money for a whole year of fees for NYADA and a little bit left over. He had to double check with Isabelle that no one made a mistake in quoting the figure.
Strangely, Santana was his biggest supporter when he told his flatmates. Rachel had stared at him for a moment before congratulating. Which, directly after, started asking if it was a good idea considering he just started NYADA that semester.
"Cool it, Limelight," Santana bit back, cutting Rachel off, "this is one hell of an opportunity. Kurt's getting his face out there; plus its good money."
"It'll be fine, Rachel," Kurt added, still slightly dazed at the fact he was modelling for Marc Jacobs! "All the shoots will be done during what would have been my normal working hours. In fact, I will have a lighter workload now that I'm not part of organising the shoot."
It took a few days for Kurt to figure out that Rachel was a tad jealous at his modelling gig, even though she was trying to get over it. She was bitter, as Santana put it, because 'unlike you Porcelain, the only way she will land a modelling gig is after she makes it big.'
Santana had been oddly tactful about the whole situation. Santana from high school would have been blunt as hell. The Latina had asked if how she could apply for a modelling position. She was taking night classes in drama and dance; while searching for auditions from everything from commercials to plays. She had a few gigs around where she sang at night. Modelling seemed to be added to her repertoire.
Kurt had merely got the information from the modelling department and handed Santana the forms she would have to fill in and the requirements for her portfolio.
Apart from his dad and his flatmates, Kurt didn't tell people that he was a model. It seemed so awkward. Sure, Carole and Finn knew from his dad but it wasn't anything he advertised about himself. He went around being the part time vogue dot com employee and full time NYADA student. In hindsight, it was a good thing because Isabelle appeared a week into the shoot asking him to sign a confidentiality contract that had been forgotten.
His notoriety at NYADA grew after beating 'Golden Girl Rachel Berry' at the midnight sing off. Not that Kurt cared beyond the boost to his ego. And how he dated and dumped the senior student Adam Crawford. Being a countertenor and a soloist also 'helped'.
The worst came when he actually started at NYADA. Because of his late entrance, Kurt was placed in different practical classes from Rachel, excluding free sing. So he had braced himself when he walked into Cassandra July's dance class, ready for the whiplash and general bitchiness. Instead, she had insulted him like any other student and watched him like a hawk. In the second class she smiled and nodded at him, loudly commenting that he had technique which they all should have or at least practice till they fainted to get. If auditioning at the Winter Recital had not made him infamous, being a favourite of July's would.
"Oh, you're a diva. But you walked in here and showed that you will work hard. You don't expect everything to be handed to you. You have training and the thick skin to take the backlash. Plus, you're not fat and can take direction. You got talent Hummel, and you know it. But you also know how hard you have to fight to be recognised. I respect that fight." Cassandra's word to him after class stayed with him. She was right. He was used to fighting for the attention; for the chance to shine.
Kurt stayed out of the gossip mill as much as possible. He took the praise and criticism from his teachers. He practiced hard and did his homework. Because, honestly, he didn't have time or energy to do much more. Despite what he had told Rachel, Kurt was putting in more hours than usual at Vogue. He felt bad that he was delaying the whole shooting because he wasn't a full time model.
In the end, the conclusion of the project wasn't anything big. The editing department was in overdrive and Kurt took his much due vacation times. And just in time too. He had less than a week for the concert and his big solo. He finally had the time to throw himself into that; although the limits of Rachel's maturity seemed to have reached its limit. She was angry that's he wasn't offered a solo (Kurt was the sole first year solo) and had turned that anger into pointing out Kurt's mistakes. She kept offering, as the date drew closer, to take over the 'stress of the solo' from him.
Kurt's life was busy enough with NYADA's workload and year end tests and the few hours of work he squeezed around that. And the vocals teacher Mr Hardison was trying to get Kurt to add another major onto his performance major for the next year. The man was practically begging him to train his voice for opera as well. He was even willing to get a Julliard professor to take his vocals training for the course as NYADA didn't have one. Kurt wasn't so sure he wanted to do opera let alone the amount of extra work it would add. But it would be amazing training for his vocals. He had an appointment with Hardison the day after exams were finished.
Instead, Kurt threw himself into his school work. His solo was ready and perfect. He would be singing a pop song, which wasn't usually in his repertoire but his range allowed Mc Allens to (finally) get a student to do a cover of this song. It was Adam Lambert's 'Aftermath', which pushed Kurt's voice from his lower register to his upper register in one breathe. It was exhilarating and showed him just how his lung capacity was lacking. It was strange to hear his own voice, instead of the more delicate tone he was projecting strength.
Kurt was belting. And damn, he felt smug about that.
The exams came and went with little flair. It involved some tempers flare and lots of coffee, but it ended with little drama. Santana landed a modelling gig for a small chain store. She bitched about the teenybopper clothing she had to wear and smile even while the asshole groped her ass. Rachel was a whirlwind as she tried to practice 24/7 for her practical exams. She didn't apologise for any of her words or actions regarding Kurt's solo, but she did throw herself into the chorus piece the freshmen's were doing at the year-end concert.
Kurt, after vegetating for a day as a post exam celebration, met with Mr Hardison. The man was in his mid-forties and always had a smile on his face. The man welcomed Kurt into his office with said smile.
"Take a seat, Mr Hummel," Cole Hardison said as he closed his door. People had a tendency to come in if the door was open and he couldn't let that happen. He was a man on a mission.
Kurt sat down in one of the two chairs in front of the desk and waited.
Hardison took his seat and opened the file on his desk. Green eyes looked up and smiled at Kurt.
"Don't look for nervous Mr Hummel, you're not in trouble," he said dryly. Kurt chuckled but relaxed slightly.
"So," the teacher continued, "you are currently a performance major with a minor in costume design and dance. That's quite a busy workload. Do you have a part time job as well? Are you auditioning?"
Kurt blinked at the question before he answered, "I work as PA part time. And I only audition for roles when I can make the actual audition. We keep a calendar of audition dates, times and roles at the flat. My flatmates are performers too."
Hardison sighed, "Then you don't have much time to take a heavier workload." He paused and looked Kurt in the eye.
"You have to understand, Mr Hummel, how rare your voice is. Most countertenors don't last nor do they have your large range. There will not be a demand for your voice on Broadway. It doesn't fit the classic tenor directors and casting directors like. But I can guarantee that with extra training you can graduate and get at least four job offers in operatic productions based solely on your voice. That is why I recommended you pick up a classical vocals as a major. It's the basics of training for opera theatre."
Kurt sighed as he closed his eyes. He hated this. He hated people taking one look at him (or in this, one listen to his voice) and placing limitation on him. And here was yet another teacher who was telling him he couldn't do it. And that stung like hell.
"So I should change my major," Kurt said emotionlessly. He suddenly felt the old bone deep tiredness. He was once again building his walls.
"No," Hardison said plainly. Kurt looked at him, slightly shocked. "Kurt, I'm not saying you can't make it on Broadway, in fact, I think you would carve your own niche because your vocal range is so large and diverse. You've improved a lot in six months. I feel, as your academic advisor, that you should use the uniqueness of your voice. You need, at the very least, basic classical vocal training. It would only add to your resume."
Kurt merely sighed as he nodded. He knew it would be a good idea but he just didn't have the time. He needed his job to pay rent. Sure his dad gave him money each month but Kurt would like to be financially independent from his father. It was good fall-back fund. Taking another major would mean he would not be able to work; which meant no rent money. Kurt had a trust fund for his college fees; money his dad had put away and a large portion of his mother's life insurance pay out. But financially, Kurt was set at the moment.
The money from the Jacob's project had Kurt ready to make a year's worth of school fees and three months of rent. He could take less hours at work next year to pick up the extra course and pay the difference from his savings. But he was already working fewer hours than any other PA and Isabelle wouldn't be able to keep him on. He would have get a new job and somehow try and save for the next year.
Kurt winced though. He really liked that he had a huge safety fund. He had been planning on paying his fees for the coming year and saving the let over. He would have kept working for his rent and budget. A year's worth of fees would go a long way in making his college fund last longer.
"I could take one courses more each semester," Kurt admitted. It would mean that he would have to spend his weekends to bring his hours up at work and little to no time off. But he could do it.
Cole Hardison nodded but pulled out a booklet. He opened to an earmarked page, "You're biggest problem is the lack of time, right?"
"What are your summer plans? Because you can take six courses during the summer. 3 of your current courses and you can pick up 3 classical courses," the teacher added.
"It would mean that I could pick up the extra major along with my current courses and not lose too much time. But no summer holidays."
Hardison was looking at Kurt expectant. Kurt was thinking it through. It was a good idea. He could pay for the courses himself so it wasn't a problem financially. But it meant no summer holiday. He would only have two weeks of vacation before class started again. That would be the only time he could visit his dad. And after the cancer scare, Kurt had wanted to spend more time at home. On the other hand, Blaine was in Lima. And he would be coming to New York during the summer. Despite still being 'broken up', they were still friends.
"I'll need to speak with my dad, but it sounds like a good idea," Kurt admitted. The man just smiled at him and gave him the deadline for summer courses registration.
The year-end concert went near perfectly. There was an issue with the sound during a junior number were a microphone wasn't turned on in time for the solo. The performances were a range from theatre to pop music. It was a good mix, but only seniors were allowed to perform Broadway-esque songs. Rumour is that there were scouts and casting directors sitting in the audience.
The freshman number was a chorus line of Britney Spears mash-up. It was rather fun but the dancing was what took long to get down. And it was good introduction for Kurt's solo.
Rather than a whole cast of dancers, there were six dancer major juniors who were backing him up. It was a toned down but cohesive routine. For Kurt, the song's lyrics held a special meaning. Hardison said he had a gift for carrying the emotion through a song; and that was what he aimed to do. Which was ironic since that the reason he was given for now getting tin NYADA on the first try was because he sang a song without showing enough emotion. He had song the song so many times he could do it in his sleep.
Kurt's voice had soared over the music and dropped into his lower register. It was good, or so Kurt thought. Adam Lambert's voice was one in a million but he thought he did the song justice. The applause at the end seemed to agree with him.
Kurt was flushed when he stepped off stage. The few people he spoke to rushed to congratulate him when he stepped into the green room. Many had no idea how deep his voice could go. But the greatest surprise was the group waiting for him after the concert.
Carole, Finn and Burt were waiting for Kurt, along with a handful of his co-workers from Vogue. Isabelle was there as well, dressed to the nines and holding a bunch of flowers.
Kurt went back to Lima for his two weeks of vacation before his summer semester at NYADA. It took going back to Lima to realise that high school was still in session as NYADA's term ended before the high school holidays, and some other colleges. Finn was still at OSU and would be staying there most of the summer for football camp. He had finally made reserve quarterback for the team and had been ecstatic when he called with the good news. Kurt smiled and was happy for his stepbrother, even if he hated the sport. It was Finn's dream.
Isabelle had given him time off on the basis he would have to pick up the time when he was in New York again. She had also handed him another envelope with another large check, apparently he got paid extra for the Advertisement portion of the project. As well as an offer from Marc Jacobs to be a model on the runway at his show in two months' time. And that quoted figure was a little ridiculous.
Rather, he was back home. And dealing with an ex-boyfriend who was starting to be more of a boyfriend. Blaine had applied and made it into NYADA and NYU for music. Kurt always knew he would make it. If nothing else, Blaine was talented. He just didn't know if he wanted to go into Broadway or just music. Tina and Artie graduated as well. Artie was going to LA to attend film school; he would be sharing a flat with Mercedes. Tina got into Parsons for fashion design. She, Sam and Blaine were going to rent another flat in the same building as Kurt, Rachel and Santana. Brittany was at MIT already. It seemed sad to see the last of the First Generation New Directions move on. And all that was left at the old high school were photographs and trophies.
Kurt fell into a pattern of meeting up with old friends who were on their long summer vacation. Most of those who had left would only be able to travel to Lima on Kurt's second week there, and so he found himself almost consistently booked off between friends and family. He was berated more than once for spending his summer studying rather than staying in Lima. Although there was much ribbing for beating out Rachel for a solo at the concert.
In fact, the whole modelling experience had been forgotten in the rush of seeing everyone again. It only hit him during his second week in Lima when Isabelle called to give him a heads up. They were running the photo spread in the next which coincided with the runway show.
And suddenly, Kurt was very nervous.
Kurt knew they had to have this talk, no matter how awkward or unwanted. They had to sort out the mess that was their relationship, something that was a tangled mess of love, friendship, hormones and trust. And lack of trust.
The brunet sighed as he sipped his usual coffee. He was early, and he took their usual seat at the Lima Bean. He knew they had to talk. Blaine was coming to New York after a summer abroad with his family. The Andersons were trying. His mum was supportive, Cooper was more attentive and his father was finally coming around. It was something the man realise after being introduced to Blaine's boyfriend's father. Kurt had to smirk at that. There was a reason why Burt Hummel was a successful politician.
No, but they had to talk about them. About everything. And it was going to be hard.
It was heart wrenchingly adorable when Blaine stopped at the table, eyes wide as he checked the time on his pocket watch, looking horrified at the thought of being late.
"I came here early," Kurt cut in the apology on Blaine's lips, "I needed to get out of the house for a bit. Dad's trying to guilt trip me into staying the whole holidays."
"Oh," Blaine says, slightly confused but sits down anyways. Kurt resists the urge to giggle. Sometimes Blaine is more puppy-like than the dapper gentleman he is.
Kurt rolls his eyes as he stands, and half-asks "Your usual order?"
It's quite ridiculous. Blaine doesn't drink anything else.
"Oh! Wait, let me," the newly graduated senior tries, and fails to buy the round of drinks. Instead, he wisely sits down at the look Kurt throws at him.
Kurt returned with the two drinks and sat down. The table descended into a slightly awkward silence. Neither boy knew how to begin on anything they had to talk about.
So much had happened in the last year. NYADA, New York, the distance and the miscommunications. It piled up and eventually broke them. But it didn't break them. It broke the trust but not the comfort. If anything, the almost wedding showed that. No matter what happened, no matter who caught his eye in New York; Blaine still made Kurt's heart skip a beat.
"It's been on hell of a year," Kurt eventually gets out and winces at the connotations at his statement. He quickly adds, "Do you know which college you want to go to?"
Blaine's been tense since he sat down. His world had been a roller-coaster of note this last year. He will admit he messed up, even if he had his reasons. There were some really bad choices made, and some regrets. The end of Klaine seemed like the beginning of a downward spiral. The shooting, the fights, they came second at Nationals and Glee was shut down. And the members were scattered among the remaining musical clubs at school.
Sure, he salvaged some sort of friendship with Kurt, but there was no sign of any chance of them getting back together. And letting go of his first love was his biggest regret.
"New York, NYU actually," Blaine admitted after a beat.
Kurt raised an eyebrow. "Not NYADA? I know you got in."
Blaine shook his head, sighing as he stared at his coffee, "I love musicals but I think I want to go into music production and performance majors. NYU is a better choice."
Blaine didn't know how Kurt would react to that, especially after the pep talk the other boy had given him before his NYADA audition.
Kurt chuckled as he watched Blaine, sipping his grande non-fat mocha, "You were always more Top 40s even if you are obsessed with Disney."
And he smiled. An honest smile.
Blaine let out the breath he didn't know he was holding. "You always zig."
Kurt dropped his gaze from the honey-hazel eyes after a moment. He knew that look; it was Blaine's 'I'm so in love with you, how on Earth did I get you?' look. And it still broke his heart slightly.
"Dad's rented an apartment in Bushwick; Rachel emailed me when one in your complex opened up. Sam's moving with me. He's going to NYU for Art and Tina is going to Parsons for fashion but she's planning to stay on campus." Blaine blurted out. He couldn't stand the awkward silence that descended. It didn't make sense, they didn't have awkward silences between them.
Kurt smiled at that, enthused by how the more of their friends were heading to New York.
And they talked. About how everything fell apart, skirting around the actual cheating. Blaine apologised yet again but bit back the pleading to start again. Kurt sighed as he had to admit his part in the break up. He had pulled away, be it consciously or not, by work and he should have noticed. Blaine talked more about his senior year, admitting to details he left out over the phone. Seeing Kurt in person seemed to break away the barriers and he could admit that he was still in love with Kurt.
Kurt paused at that and sighed. The heavy sound broke Blaine's heart, just a little. Kurt admitted his feelings, the ones he forced himself to sort out after weeks of confusion. "I still love you Blaine, but our break up hurt. It broke my trust and, honestly, a good part of my self-confidence. Adam and I were each other's rebound but even then. I just felt like I wasn't enough. Like I wouldn't ever be enough."
Edited 2014-09-29. If you see any errors, please message me.