Blaine glanced around nervously before grabbing a glass from proffered tray. Everyone else lifted theirs quickly, eager. Artie and Brittany tipped them towards each other before tossing them back while Finn was already pouring himself another.
Quinn raised her glass to her lips then paused, looking at Blaine over the rim. "Vive la vie de boheme." She winked and swallowed the drink in one gulp. Blaine took a deep breath, then followed suit.
The liquid burned the inside of his mouth and he swallowed hard, grimacing. He could feel the beginning effects of the absinthe wash over him, sounds and colors bleeding together in his head, his skin and bones humming. A green glow in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he strode to the window. The lights of the windmill illuminated the night sky and Blaine studied them, searching for the one he saw.
Suddenly the green light darted back across his vision. He grabbed for it and it sped away from him then paused, just out of his reach. Focusing, Blaine saw that it wasn't a ball of light, it was a fairy. Small and delicate and flitting its emerald butterfly wings, the light came from within it. It flew to him and smiled, then pinched his nose cheekily before taking off again.
Giggling madly, Blaine lunged after her, reaching out the window. His body tipped forward and he felt hands grab his hips, hauling him back inside. He whined in protest.
"Careful," Finn said, setting Blaine down away from the window.
"Finn!" Blaine exclaimed. "I think I like absinthe. And I like you. You're very tall. Like a ladder. Or a tree." He leaned heavily into Finn's side. "I bet I could climb you."
Finn grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, we better go. Everything is starting." He walked over to Artie and cupped him beneath his arms and knees, lifting him easily. They headed downstairs, Brittany following close behind.
Blaine grabbed his hat and jammed it onto his head, he sighed and glanced at Quinn, who smiled patiently at him. She held her hand out to him and he took it, letting her pull him gently along.
"We were off to the Moulin Rouge. And I was to perform my poetry for Kurt."
As they passed the windmill, he could hear music from across the courtyard. Blaine looked up as they passed by a gigantic elephant standing in the middle of it, boggling at it's size. "This place is gigantic."
"'A city within a village', some call it," Artie called over his shoulder. Brittany pushed his chair around a group of men in shirttails, passing a vial amongst themselves.
"What, um, what exactly is it like? In there?" He gestured with his free hand towards the building.
A long arm dropped across his shoulders. "Better than anything you could ever imagine, my friend."
As they reached the doors a couple of men pulled them open and instantly, Blaine was bombarded with sounds and lights and smells. Blaine stiffened, and Quinn squeezed his hand assuredly. Taking a deep breathe, he headed inside.
Finn was right, there was no preparing for this. The room was bigger than anything Blaine had ever been in before. It was stuffed with people: men in tuxedos, women in rainbow dresses, people in costumes. His eyes grew tired before he had even looked around the entire room. And the sounds. Laughing and shouting, just barely drowned out by a band playing loudly in the balcony.
His head pounded. He tried to move to the side but was met by a wall of people. A man nudged his shoulder and winked conspiratorially and pointed across the hall. The wall of mirrors began to open. He pulled Quinn away from the blond boy she was grinning at and held her close. "What's going on?" Blaine practically shouted into her ear.
She glanced at what Blaine was openly staring at. "Ah," she sighed, wrapping her arms around his waist. "The real show is starting."
"Rachel Berry and her infamous dancers. They called them her 'Diamond Dogs'."
Girls poured from the mirrored doors, each in a tight dress that ended in colorful ruffles. But in front of them all was a woman, smaller than those around her, dressed as the ringleader to this circus. She cracked the riding crop she held in her hand on the ground and smiled at the men in the room.
"Welcome! To the Moulin Rouge!" she cried out, and was met with a thunderous applause. Her grin widened. The band started again, and the grin melted into a smirk.
"If life's an awful bore, and living's just a chore that we do, 'cause death's not much fun." The voice that came from Rachel was loud and powerful. She strut forward, eyes alight, leading the throng of dancers onto the floor.
"I've the antidote, and though I mustn't gloat at the Moulin Rouge you'll have fun. So scratch that little niggle, have a little wiggle." The girls around her writhed against her body and she pressed back against them shamelessly, winking at whoever in the audience caught her eyes.
Blaine was starting to see how Rachel Berry had been able to make the Moulin Rouge work. The men around him shouted and hollered, money clenched tightly in their fists.
"Got some dark desire? Love to play with fire? Why not let it rip? Live a little bit."
Doors he hadn't noticed opened from another wall and male dancers, dressed like the men in the audience, mixed in with the girls. Blaine watched as Brittany worked her way into the sea of dancers, making a beeline for one girl in particular. She grabbed her by the waist and fell into the choreography with the rest of them.
"Outside it may be raining, but in here it's entertaining. The Moulin Rouge is the place to be." Rachel flipped the hat off one of the men edging in on her and disappeared into the crowd.
Blaine glanced around. The floor was now teeming with men from the audience, grabbing at the girls, and singing and dancing. He saw one man near him grab an Asian girl, dressed in a risque imitation of a Chinese silk dress, and surge against her. She laughed and danced away from him, flipping the hem of her dress flirtatiously.
Rachel popped up next to the band in the balcony, gripping the railing. "Outside things may be tragic but in here we feel it's magic." She laughed, eyes flashing at the writhing mob below her. She paused, then held her hands up. The instruments and the crowd fell silent.
"It's time for the Cancan," she said, practically in a whisper. Men gasped with excitement and hurried to their seats along the edge of the floor. Blaine felt a hand on his, pulling him backwards, but he couldn't tear his eyes away. He stood there next to a table, gaping.
Music started playing again, loud and thumping. The girls moved together in perfect synchronicity. Blaine could feel the beat of their movements thrumming in his temples. Although he's seen it a dozen times already, he gasped and flushed when they lifted their skirts as they dances, flashing smooth legs and the frill of their undergarments.
The tempo increased further and Blaine lost himself in a blur of colors and sounds. Men oozed onto the floor and the dancing devolved. The men helped themselves to the girls, touching and squeezing. Blaine watched in amazement as the girls invited the attention instead of shying away. Here, a girl pushed a man onto the floor and straddled him, cackling. There, another was pressed between two men, rolling her body like a wave.
The music turned to a deafening noise in his head and Blaine was sure he was going to be sick. Thankfully he was shoved into a chair, forcing him to tear his eyes away from the spectacle.
Leaning his elbows onto the table, Artie beckoned him forward with a crooked finger. They all leaned in. "We have successfully evaded Rachel," he said, smiling.
"I'm still not sure how I'm supposed to read to Kurt," Blaine confessed, glancing nervously around the table.
"I've got a plan," Finn replied as he took a couple glasses from a waitress. "Here," he handed one to Blaine, "drink up."
Blaine ignored it. "But you said he performed every night."
As if on cue the band fell silent and the lights dimmed. Blaine looked to the floor to see what was happening, and when he found them all staring upwards he followed their gaze. Metallic confetti rained down, illuminated by a spotlight. He gasped as he watched a swing lower from the ceiling.
"That's him," Finn said softly. "The Sparkling Diamond."
'Sparkling' was right. Even in the pale light, the stones on Kurt's vest and his hatband glittered. His shirt was made of a white satin that blended into his light skin and shone. It seemed like he was glowing.
Blaine sucked in a shuddering breath as he stared up at the other man, enthralled.
"But someone else was to meet Kurt that night"
In the booth behind him, another man was as immediately taken with Kurt. He dug his fingers into the meat of this thighs, clenching his jaws as his eyes took in Kurt.
"Rachel's investor: the Duke."