It took making out with Jesse eight times a week for Kurt to realize what his problem was.
(Well, after he stopped being enamored with Jesse's hair.)
He kept tilting his face up too much. He kept holding onto Jesse's shirt and trying to get a feel for abs that weren't there. He kept letting Jesse lead the dancing scene, forgetting that Jesse didn't know it as well and that he was supposed to lead.
The worst mishap happened during the usually ad-libbed teasing scene that he and Mike were so good at. He had actually called Jesse "Gaysian," which made the audience laugh uncomfortably and halted the entire scene for two whole seconds. Luckily, Jesse recovered quickly and slipped in a line about how "Peter" loved to tease him about how he was 1% Korean.
And then Courtney really called him out on it.
"Get yourself together already," she told him angrily, after one particularly bad performance, where he and Jesse had missed each other's mouths all three times they were supposed to kiss. "If you miss him that much, go over to his show with flowers and a ring."
Kurt scowled, but he did just that, minus the flowers and ring.
"I miss you," he blurted out, as soon as Mike reached the end of the line of fans.
"I saw you four hours ago," Mike reminded him, obviously amused.
"No, I miss having you as my Jason," Kurt clarified, looping his arm through Mike's as they started walking towards the subway. "I keep screwing up my and Jesse's scenes. I called him 'Gasian' today."
Mike started laughing, so Kurt slapped him with his free hand.
"Shut up! It's not funny!"
"Yes it is," Mike insisted. "And you'll never guess what I did today during the dance at the gym."
"What did you do?" Kurt's eyes widened. He hadn't thought it would be possible for playing Jason in bare to mess anything up in West Side Story.
"I went for Joey instead of Katie," Mike admitted. "He's the cute one with hair like you, in case you forgot."
"So, what, you tried to dance with him?"
"Yeah, during the super intimate Tony/Maria part. You know, the part where there are only two other couples there?"
"How did you even manage that?"
"I honestly don't know."
They fell into silence, Kurt pondering this new information. They were just used to working opposite each other; that was all. That didn't mean anything, right? Because they had just had that conversation and he wasn't about to go screw things up by trying to have it again.
But maybe there was something hidden in their mistakes. Now that they were both occupied with different shows, they weren't spending every second of the day together. That was probably it; they were so used to each other's company that it was almost nerve-wracking to be apart. It was the same as having a security blanket when you were little.
"Will you move in with me?" Kurt asked, the same time Mike said, "Let's open a coffee shop."
They laughed, just like little kids do when they say something at the same time, then tried again. Kurt motioned for Mike to go first.
"Let's open a coffee shop," Mike repeated.
"And how exactly are we supposed to do that?" Kurt asked, raising an eyebrow. They were both performers, and while they pay was nice, it wasn't going to be enough to actually open their own store.
"We just do it," Mike insisted. "Like Nike says. Just do it."
"We're poor," Kurt reminded him. "Okay, well, not poor, but I'm back at Starbucks at the end of the week and, no offense, but your paycheck probably isn't exactly humungous, seeing how you're in the ensemble."
"I know," Mike's eyes were gleaming, a sure sign that he was already completely sold on the idea and he wasn't about to give it up without a fight. "But if we took out a loan and found a place that needed fixing up, it'd be easy. You know the tricks of the coffee trade, so that part's down. And I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get my contract extended at the next casting change, so I'll be able to help!"
"So you're saying it's a good thing you're losing your job?" Kurt didn't understand the logic. "What happened to the excitement of being on Broadway?"
"They don't like me anymore," Mike shrugged a shoulder. "Come on, we could make the cutest little place! We could hang up posters from the shows we've been in and the shows our friends are in. We can play any kind of music we want, too!"
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to run your own business?" Kurt, who had worked for an entrepreneur – Burt Hummel – for years, knew just how tricky this could get. "There is so much paperwork involved, then on top of that you have to deal with shipments of supplies and electricity and water bills, not to mention the taxes and employee benefits we'd be required by law to give. And then hiring employees! How would we even start?"
"You said it yourself: We should make our own Broadway," Mike reminded him. "All out-of-work actors, just like Ellen's Stardust Diner, except a café." He inhaled sharply, then clutched Kurt's arm, exclaiming, "No! We could make it like Joe's Pub! A cabaret café! Wouldn't that be perfect?"
"So long as we can go make friends with some famous philanthropist and convince him that it'll be a worthwhile investment, then yes."
"You're so negative about this," Mike tutted.
"And you're being unrealistic," Kurt shot back. "It's hard work to get this sort of thing set up, and it's not like New York has a shortage of cafés and performance spaces. We'd really have to set ours apart from the others if we want it to go somewhere. If we can even find a storefront that's up for grabs that's not way overpriced."
"It'll be a bookstore too," Mike decided. "A cabaret café and bookstore. All your theatre needs in one place. We can sell sheet music and have a karaoke night and book amateur artists to play during the daytime. Oh, come on, even you have to admit that's a good idea."
"I'm not saying it's a bad idea," Kurt corrected him, "I'm just saying that it's going to be really tough to pull that off. We'll have so much paperwork to go through and we'll probably be living on Ramen noodles while we're waiting for the place to get in working order. This isn't something you do on a whim, Mike."
"I know that. That's why I want to do it with you. You're already thinking about this rationally, which is what I need." He turned puppy dog eyes on Kurt. "Please?"
"Puppy dog eyes don't work," Kurt lied, already feeling his resolve wavering.
"Yes they do."
"You're right; they totally do. We'll talk about this later, when we're both not exhausted. Okay?"
"Deal," Mike let it drop. "So what did you say?"
"I asked you to move in with me," Kurt felt his cheeks flush as he said it. Mike raised an eyebrow, which made Kurt say hastily, "No, not like that. I just meant as roommates. Or apartment-mates or whatever they're called nowadays. What do you think?"
"I think we're stupid for not doing that sooner."
Kurt was starting to re-evaluate their living arrangements when he walked in on Mike getting dressed for the sixth time.
It wasn't as if they hadn't seen each other in their underwear before, and it wasn't like they weren't used to seeing people in various stages of undress running around (hello, they were theatre people!) but Kurt had never actually taken a good, long look at a half-naked Mike before.
And he really, really liked what he saw.
It should be illegal for any man to have abs like that, Kurt decided. Because he would just look at them and he'd immediately feel the need to go to the gym. Or the need to reach out and touch, which would certainly become an issue if he ever gave into that particular impulse.
So he followed their one rule and told Mike about it.
"Your abs are extremely distracting," he said one morning over breakfast, staring openly at the skin Mike was displaying by wearing an unzipped hoodie.
"Um, thank you?" Mike looked down, frowning. "I can zip up if you want."
"That is completely unnecessary," Kurt assured him. "I just wanted you to have a heads up that there is a very good possibility that I will embarrass myself and fanboy over them at some point."
"So what you're saying is…?" Mike prompted.
"Whenever you get a boyfriend, he'll probably want to lick stuff off them, never mind what kind of stuff that may be."
"And do you want to lick something off my abs?" Mike teased, scooting his chair closer to Kurt's, so the table was no longer between them. Kurt felt his face turn red, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Mike's cheeks had flushed pink as well.
"Do you want me to lick something off them?" Kurt shot back.
"No thanks," Mike said graciously, his tone nonchalant. "All we have at the table is milk and Lucky Charms, and I have a feeling that would get messy."
"You just don't want to risk getting marshmallows in your underwear," Kurt teased, cheeks positively burning.
"And you're doing a horrible job at being subtle about your secret desire to lick soggy cereal off my stomach," Mike countered.
"Because I didn't just warn you that I would fanboy over them at some point or anything." Kurt rolled his eyes, sighing heavily and wishing that, for once, Mike would make this easy.
"Okay then," Mike scooted his chair so it was right next to Kurt's. "Go ahead."
"Excuse me?" Kurt raised an eyebrow.
"Go ahead," Mike repeated, stretching in his chair, making the hoodie fall away from his body. "They're right here. Up for grabs."
Kurt really didn't want to think about how that sentence could have been taken. You know, if he and Mike were anything more than good friends. Which they weren't.
So he ignored his burning cheeks and the churning feeling in his stomach and reached out, touching just two fingers to Mike's abs.
"Come on," Mike shifted in his seat, pushing against Kurt's hand. "I know you want to. It's like me with your hair."
"What?" Kurt withdrew his hand. "My hair?"
"Yeah, didn't I tell you?" Mike grinned innocently. "Remember how obsessed with Jesse's hair you were? It's basically the same for me with yours."
Kurt took a moment to ponder this new development. Okay, so he was basically completely head-over-heels for Mike's abs – in a completely platonic way – and Mike felt the same about his hair? Kurt combed his fingers through it, trying to figure out why.
"It's like Jesse's, except nicer," Mike told him, seeing his confusion. "Jesse cheats and uses lady shampoo or whatever it was. You actually know how to take care of your hair for real."
"That makes no sense."
"Shut up and touch my abs so I can touch your hair." Mike took hold of Kurt's wrist, pulling his hand out of his hair and setting it down flat on his stomach. Kurt's fingers moved of their own accord, splaying out across the toned muscles to cover as much skin as possible.
"They're very nice," he said, his eyes trained on Mike's stomach and not daring to look anywhere else.
Mike bent at the middle, reaching forward and threading his fingers through Kurt's bangs. Kurt could feel the movement under his fingers, but kept his hand where it was. He started tracing Mike's muscles absently, trying not to get distracted by the hand that was now combing through his hair.
After a few seconds, Kurt asked, "So what does this mean, exactly?"
"Hmm?" Mike's voice was lazy and faraway, which caught Kurt off guard. He looked up at Mike's face, realizing the other man's eyes were half-closed and he had a contented smile on his face. Kurt pulled back abruptly, scooting his chair backwards with his momentum and watching Mike's hand drop back to his side.
"What are we doing?" Kurt tried again, watching as Mike blinked at him, surprised.
"What does what mean?" Mike sat up straighter, tugging his hoodie back where it belonged.
"We were just feeling each other up, Mike," Kurt put it bluntly. "What the Hell do you think I'm talking about?"
"So?" Mike shrugged a shoulder, crossing his arms. "What's wrong with that?"
"Quite a few things," Kurt mirrored him, crossing his own arms tightly across his chest. Even though he wasn't the one wearing an unzipped hoodie, he suddenly felt exposed.
"Come on, it's just like petting a puppy because its fur looked soft," Mike reasoned, which made Kurt let out a bark of laughter that was entirely unnecessary.
"So I'm a puppy now?" he asked, switching from annoyed to angry without missing a beat.
"No," Mike looked offended. "It's called an analogy. You're supposed to know these things."
"Excuse me for feeling guilty about feeling up my best friend," Kurt's arms tightened around him. "That's not what best friends are supposed to do."
"No, that's actually exactly what best friends are supposed to do," Mike sat up even straighter, suddenly looking very large and intimidating. "It's only a problem when there's something else going on. Care to share?"
"We've already had this conversation," Kurt said stubbornly, not willing to go down that road again.
"And it looks like we need to have it again," Mike argued. "Here, I'll go first this time." He cleared his throat and crossed his legs, setting his hands on his lap and, basically, trying to get Kurt to loosen up. "Hi, My name is Mike Chang and I may or may not be attracted to Kurt Hummel. I'd probably be able to figure it out if he actually lets me talk this out with him. Or if he lets me pet him like a little puppy." The frown came back. "Happy now?"
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Kurt found himself spilling his soul to Jesse between their last matinee and evening show that Sunday. "He wasn't supposed to be the one who got hurt."
"So, what, you were supposed to be the one with the miserable life and the secret and almost embarrassingly huge crush on your best friend?" Jesse asked through a mouthful of his sandwich. "Because that's kind of a bunch of bullshit."
When Kurt just gaped at him, Jesse chewed and swallowed thickly, taking a quick sip of water before continuing.
"Here's how I see things," Jesse leaned forward, gesturing with his hands in a way that was so annoying that it was all Kurt could do not to punch him in the face. "You and Mike are both afraid of the same thing and you did everything you could to promise that you'd be open with each other to prevent that thing from happening. But then it happened anyway, and you were too scared to admit it. Following me?"
Kurt nodded obediently, though he still really felt like telling Jesse to shut up and let him be miserable.
"The problem is that you still see him as the dancing jock from high school who dated girls."
"I do not!" Kurt protested, but Jesse held up a hand and continued.
"No, hear me out," he insisted. "You grew up seeing Mike as someone that you can admire from far away, never someone you can actually be open with and someone that could return your feelings. He's known the truth about you probably since you met. Therefore, it's easier for you to forget that he's just as confused and scared and horny as you are, leading you to believe that you will be the one who develops feelings for him."
"I am not horny," Kurt glowered.
"Shut up and let Dr. Jesse make this better," Jesse's tone was patronizing now, "because it's obvious to everyone else in the world that you two are practically married. Why didn't you just tell him that you felt the same way? You would at least have gotten to have sex on your kitchen table."
Kurt counted to ten and willed himself to get that image out of his head.
"Because I spent too much time building this friendship to let it go," Kurt crossed his arms and slumped in his seat. "I'm not going to lose that because neither of us can keep it in our pants."
Jesse made an exasperated noise that could probably be heard all the way up in Washington Heights.
"Kurt Hummel, you are a fucking idiot," his tone was sharp and angry. "When are you going to get over yourself and those stupid platonic feelings and realize that you don't have to be afraid of commitment anymore? You're not in fucking Lima, Ohio anymore. It is possible for you to find someone to be happy with here, and you're ignoring the man who's been making you happy for way too long."
"Says the man who's still feuding with Rachel," Kurt said angrily, lashing out and playing the stupidest and more irrelevant card in the book.
"Rachel and I are professional adversaries," Jesse explained. "Her choice, not mine. It's not my fault the producers liked me more than her boyfriend."
"But it is your fault that you never apologized," Kurt's voice was bitter and hoarse and if he didn't stop soon, he wouldn't be able to calm down enough to go onstage for their final show.
"And it's your fault for not learning the whole story. I'll have you know that Rachel and I dated for three months after she came to New York. Then she dumped me when I went on tour, claiming that she doesn't do long-distance."
"Well, that still doesn't give you the right to–"
"Yes, it does," Jesse said loudly. "I know you and I know Mike and I know for a fact that you are further in denial than I've ever seen before. What do you have to lose by trying and seeing where things go? Sure, you two might end up hating each other and break up and move to opposite ends of the country, but at the same time, you two might end up married with two kids and a dog."
"I hate dogs."
"What have they ever done to you?" Jesse asked, sounding much like a fourth grade teacher.
"They've taken part in one too many analogies for my taste," Kurt sniffed in distaste. "And I am not a puppy."
"Sad puppy," Jesse teased. "Got your tail between your legs?"
"If you don't stop that right now, I will lead you into the orchestra pit during the dance tonight."
Mike was waiting for him backstage after the show ended. He was holding two potted poinsettias, but the smile on his face didn't quite meet his eyes.
"I wasn't about to not show up, not after everything I did to hide these from you," Mike told Kurt, holding one flower out to Jesse and all but shoving the other into Kurt's chest. "It was a really good show. Lots of extra emotion. I thought Kurt was going to start wailing at one point."
"Low blow," Jesse gave Mike a pat on the shoulder. "I had a talk with him. Cut the poor puppy some slack; he's just an idiot."
Kurt scowled at the pair of them. Jesse just grinned like an idiot and all but skipped off to his dressing room.
"It was a really good show," Mike admitted once Jesse had disappeared up the stairs. "You two have great onstage chemistry." He was staring at the base of the stairs where Jesse had been only seconds before. "Not too shabby for having less than a week of rehearsals."
"Thanks," Kurt followed Mike's gaze, not wanting to look at him. "Um, is this the part where I apologize and you tell me all the things I did wrong and every reason why you should drop me as both a friend and a roommate, but then I make some big speech about how I'll change and then we're supposed to run off into the sunset and get married in some pretty little church with lots of flowers and sunshine?"
"I think it is," Mike agreed, "but I don't like long speeches and we both know you'll never change and that I'm too much of a sissy to call you out like that."
"Funny, you just did."
"So I did. Huh. Go figure."
There were a few seconds' silence.
"I really am sorry, though," Kurt started playing with the foil that covered the poinsettia's pot. "And Jesse did have a talk with me, if you can call it that. He basically told me how stupid I was and that I needed to re-evaluate our relationship. Again."
"And what'd you come up with?" Mike asked, turning fiery eyes onto Kurt, making him jump.
"He wants to fuck you in his dressing room!"
"Jesse!" Both Mike and Kurt hollered the man's name up the stairs.
"You know it's true," was the answer, then, "All right, I'm leaving now. Feel free to start the make out session."
"They do know that makes things worse, don't they?" Kurt shook his head. "Honestly, Jesse and Quinn must be taking advice from each other or something."
"And what'd you come up with?" Mike repeated, clearly not distracted.
"I care about you too much to risk losing you," Kurt admitted, feeling so much like a girl in a chick flick that he was close to barfing. "I thought I wouldn't lose you if I just pretended there was nothing there, but instead I pretty much drove you out the door doing just that."
"Yeah, that was pretty stupid," Mike gave a half-hearted smile.
"Thanks," Kurt rolled his eyes.
"Do we get to hold hands and walk home together now?"
"But you just said–"
"I know. But I'm still in costume and I'm pretty sure Courtney will murder me if I steal it. I've got to change first."
"I can help with that."