Title: Oh, Take Me Back to the Start
Characters/Pairs: Blaine and Jesse platonic, Kurt/Blaine, Jesse/Rachel
Word Count: ~4300
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Was it the cabin pressure? Maybe. Whatever the case was, he refused to believe that he was getting love advice from one Jesse St. James.
A/N: I started this way before the promo for 2x14 came out, so without going into specifics, this goes somewhat AU from said episode.
Title's from "The Scientist" from Coldplay because I like listening to depressing music when I write.
If he bothered to keep a list of his top ten annoyances, airports - well, traveling in general - would probably be number one.
Between college girls who stood in the middle of the path with their obnoxiously large Tokidoki bags to people shouting into their microscopic Bluetooth headsets (and looking like they had a solid case of the crazies in the process), airports were host to a multitude of irritants. There was the token nearly-balding middle-aged man who had inexplicably deep pockets which mysteriously swallowed metal pieces and only coughed them up at the front of the security line. There were those idiots who couldn't understand the concept of stand on right, pass on left on the escalator.
But now was not the time to remind himself of why he hated traveling. It had been a while since he'd seen David, and he was determined to get to his friend's gala in a good mood. Besides, he'd gotten past the worst of it, and as he squeezed between the flight crew and the other passengers, he reminded himself that the only possible problems to deal with from now until he landed at JFK were turbulence and crying babies. Hell, he'd already been on multiple flights with infants wailing in every direction; one more wouldn't make a difference.
The overhead bins were crammed, and he shoved his bag into the first available spot, about five rows ahead of his seat. But before he even reached said seat, he spotted a head of curly brown hair who had gotten there first.
Perhaps he'd gotten it wrong? Brows furrowed, he looked down at his ticket stub. 16C. Definitely the right one - aisle seat. "Excuse me, sir?" The young man looked up - around Blaine's age, from the looks of it. Blaine flipped the ticket around to show him. "I'm supposed to be in this seat."
The man blinked. "I tend to get motion sickness. Now I could either vomit all over this gentleman's lap," he pointed at the old Asian man snoring away in the window seat, "or yours. Or we could switch seats, and I could vomit into the aisle. Your choice."
Blaine frowned. The guy was lying through his teeth - they put paper bags into the seat pockets for a reason - but he didn't argue, and he put his briefcase down on the middle seat. Once he situated himself, he strapped in and took a deep breath.
"Not a frequent flyer?" the seat stealer asked.
"I wouldn't say that; I fly a couple times a year to visit my family. It's just tiring shuttling back and forth," Blaine responded, smoothing his gelled hair down with his left hand. He reached into the seat pocket and pulled out the folded-up Skymall copy and began to flip through.
The stranger let out a nondescript hum and picked up his book. Blaine shrugged, counted the conversation over and continued to look through the catalog. The safety announcements went ignored along with the whir of the engines, and before he realized it, the flight crew had taken their seats, and the runway outside rushed past as they picked up speed. He grabbed the armrest on the side with the old man (the seat stealer was hogging his side) and shut his eyes as they quaked and shook and lifted off the ground.
It was only when they had somewhat leveled off did Blaine open his eyes again, and he looked to his right at the stranger who - Huh. Strange. He was apparently deeply engrossed in a Leonard Bernstein biography. Well that was unexpected. Mister Seat Stealer looked to be the epitome of bad boy - leather jacket, dressed in all black, perpetual "I'm-better-than-you" expression on his face. He was just missing the piercings and tats. Hardly the type to be reading about one of the greatest contributors to American musical theater.
"I assume you're fond of musicals?" he asked.
"Did Andrew Lloyd Webber compose the longest-running Broadway show in history?" the stranger smirked.
Blaine had to smile at that. "You'll have to forgive me when I say that I think Phantom is a bit overrated."
The stranger raised an eyebrow. "And where did you last see it?"
He attempted to tamp down the embarrassment with little success. "...The Venetian."
"Ahh," the stranger rolled his eyes, closing his book. Never had Blaine come across someone who could sound so condescending in one syllable. "And therein lies the problem. The Vegas production gets so caught up with the theatrics and pyrotechnics that the music becomes an afterthought. And consistency is essentially nonexistent - the actors were slipping in and out of accents so quickly I wasn't sure if I was watching a Phantom production or a laboratory study of patients with multiple personality disorder."
Exceedingly strange comparison, but it worked somehow. "So are you going to New York to watch a show then?"
The stranger pulled something from his book and presented it with a flourish - it looked to be an e-ticket of some kind. "Front orchestra for the King and I Revival."
Blaine whistled. "Impressive. Rachel Berry plays Anna, right?"
He didn't miss the way the stranger's fingers twitched a bit at the mere drop of her name. "That's right. Are you a fan of hers?"
"I don't actively follow her. She's very talented though. My..." Blaine trailed off. Who exactly was he? Their relationship wasn't really one that could be accurately described in a single sentence. He couldn't call him an ex; he never liked the term because of how permanent it sounded. And they definitely weren't friends, because last time he checked, friends were on speaking terms and didn't find ways to avoid each other at all costs. Acquaintances wasn't enough to cover the depth of their relationship, either.
"...Someone I know," He said finally, avoiding the stranger's hard stare, "Someone I know was friends with her in high school. Same glee club."
"New Directions," the stranger spoke, a somewhat wistful expression crossing his face. "I heard they won Nationals in 2012. I didn't think it was possible, considering their abysmal choreography. But I guess the frustration of always coming in last was enough emotion to fuel them through." He half-smiled. "She still doesn't compare to Barbra though."
Okay, so it wasn't terribly presumptuous to assume that this person and Kurt's former frenemy were connected somehow. Especially after that last bit - Blaine wasn't even sure if he was meant to hear it, but he cleared his throat and continued on. "So I take it you knew her personally too?"
The stranger chuckled. "You could definitely say that. We were pretty much rivals, or at least her glee club and mine were. Well, Vocal Adrenaline didn't consider New Directions a threat really, more like a minor annoyance."
"Oh, you were in Vocal Adrenaline?" He couldn't quite bring himself to say 'that's awesome,' as Kurt had told him some horrendous stories of their less-than-ethical methods of psyching out the competition. Instead, "That's interesting. I was in the Dalton Academy Warblers." His manners began to nag at him, and he realized that he hadn't introduced himself yet. "Oh, I'm Blaine, by the way."
"Jesse." He said, and Blaine had to restrain himself from jumping out of his seat in shock. The name had surfaced often in early conversation with Kurt... if his memory served him correctly it had to do with Rachel or egging... or egging Rachel. All he knew was that whenever the subject of Jesse came up, Kurt had a habit of wearing his supreme bitch face, so Blaine learned to avoid asking.
Really, what were the chances? Sitting next to the Jesse from Vocal Adrenaline. Well, it certainly explained why Jesse rubbed him the wrong way even before he sat down.
"The Warblers? That does sound vaguely familiar." Jesse narrowed his eyes, and Blaine could literally see his brain working before recognition passed over his face. "Oh, now I remember. The Sing-Off rejects, right?"
Blaine bit back a scathing retort. If he was going to be stuck on a plane next to this jerk for five hours, it was better to at least be civil with each other, rather than stew in their mutual hatred. Might as well keep it friendly. Somewhat. "You can say what you want. The Warblers aren't all about competition - it's a big part of us, sure, but our dynamic is mostly about having fun while performing, and really feeling the music."
"Truly spoken like someone who lost three national titles to us."
"But I'm sure you've realized that no one really cares about that after high school," Blaine raised an eyebrow. "Especially out here in California. Not to mention, some things..." A familiar pair of icy blue-green eyes flashed across his mind, momentarily rendering him speechless. "Some things are more important in life than high school show choir."
Jesse's gaze clouded over for a moment, and Blaine knew he hit a sore spot, because for several minutes the catty comments he expected didn't come. Instead Jesse was looking down at his folded hands as if they held the answers to life, and somehow Blaine had to convince himself that this was what he wanted, that he didn't care to hear any more trash talk about the Warblers or pompous proclamations about Vocal Adrenaline.
It was too soon to be celebrating though, for the silent moment was gone as quickly as it came. Jesse's smirk was back on his face. "I'm going to take a gander at this and assume you're a sappy romantic."
Blaine made a face. "Fine, I am. But it's true. You've had a girlfriend before - "
Jesse shot him a strange look.
" - I'm sure," he added. That sounded convincing enough. "So you know what it's like."
Jesse laughed, and the sound was surprisingly jarring, almost bitter. "I wouldn't count sex buddies as girlfriends. You kind of have to have emotional attachment in order to carry the 'boyfriend-girlfriend' title. I don't do the commitment thing."
"Okay firstly, that was way more information than I wanted to know about someone I barely met an hour ago," Blaine said dryly. "Secondly, I'm not talking about meaningless flings. I'm talking about a real, genuine relationship where the only thing you wanted out of it was for her to be happy. I'm positive you've had that before - you can deny it all you want, but your face says otherwise."
"And I don't recall asking for a personal therapist," he shot back, and tugged on the lapels of his jacket. "Let me guess - you're the nurturing type who feels as if he's emotionally superior to everyone else and thus feels the need to share his wisdom with everyone in sight."
"Not everyone. Just those who actually need the help," Blaine said matter-of-factly, and he chuckled at the eye-roll that he got in response.
"This is quite a shock. I've never actually met anyone who's as much of an asshole as I am," Jesse said with an almost impressed lilt to his voice, and Blaine merely graced him with a smile before he shrugged. "Fine, I'll play your game - if you insist on being my psychiatrist then go ahead, but I am not paying you."
Blaine put a hand to his chest in mock-pain. "I'm crushed."
"I did have a serious girlfriend once." Jesse cast his eyes down to the printed e-ticket as he tucked it back into the Bernstein biography. "It didn't work out in the end. We both walked away pretty damaged after everything was said and done. Her more so than me, of course."
"Lack of communication?"
"No, there was plenty of that. She was one of the few people who could measure up to me intellectually, so we were able to talk things through most of the time."
"So - hmm." How was he supposed to question Jesse without sounding like he already knew the story, only from the other side? "What went wrong, exactly?"
"I was kind of a jerk," Jesse said. "It came down to the choice of show choir or her. I chose show choir."
It wasn't a lie, technically, but it wasn't the truth either - in the end it was a choice between Vocal Adrenaline and Rachel, not just show choir and Rachel. "And what about now? If you were given the opportunity again, would you make the same decision?"
"In a heartbeat."
Blaine raised an eyebrow.
Jesse chuckled. "But I think this time I'd let her down easier. My last conversation with her didn't end well. If anything I think I'd go back to that confrontation - that was a bit much, even for me. I'd take it back if I could."
Who knew? Jesse St. James actually did have a heart. As if his statement wasn't enough, he was also looking down at the Bernstein biography (or rather, the printed ticket tucked just inside the biography) with an expression that could almost be called tender.
"Well, you obviously can't take it back," Blaine said bluntly, and he ignored the look that Jesse gave him. "But it sounds to me like you really cared - still care about her."
"I do," Jesse half-smiled. "She was a complete attention whore and kind of crazy, but that was why I liked her. We were similar in that respect."
"Are you planning to get her back?" The question was out before Blaine could help it, but Jesse didn't answer right away. Maybe that was a good thing. Blue-green eyes materialized in his brain again, staring right at him, staring through to his very soul, demanding that he give an answer too. Are you planning to get him back?
"I'm not sure," Jesse said finally. "I never really thought about it before - well no, I have - but I've never considered it a possibility. I don't think she could ever forgive me for what I did."
Oh, he was lying through his teeth. He had flown across the country for a front orchestra seat to the King and I but apparently hadn't considered reconciling with Rachel Berry? Those tickets didn't come cheap. If he wasn't planning on at least having a talk with Rachel, then all of this would be dangerously treading into stalker ex-boyfriend territory. "Well, have some courage. I'm sure she'll come around sooner or later."
The irony of the words and his own situation gnawed at him inside, and there must have been some conflict in his eyes because Jesse stared at him then, eyes narrowed in thought, and Blaine fought the urge to look away. Instead he stared right back with that unceasingly polite smile on his face. At least until Jesse spoke again. "Show face."
"You're wearing your show face right now," Jesse smirked in satisfaction. "Just now you were thinking about something that made you doubt yourself - but you quickly covered it up with a facade, with a smile, because you want to keep up an impeccable performance for the world. Am I wrong?"
He narrowed his eyes. "And what makes you think that?"
"I'm guessing that courage is a trigger word for you," Jesse said. "For a split-second, you almost looked like you didn't want to say it. It probably reminds you of some things, maybe some people, that you'd rather forget."
Not even close.
"Or maybe it's not that you want to forget them, but your memories involving those courage-related things or people are horrendously painful. Maybe you don't necessarily want to forget them, but doing so would make living your life that much easier."
Alright, that was much more on point. It was almost eerie how closely Jesse's analysis matched up, even if he still was speaking in vague terms. "Are we switching roles? Are you the shrink now?"
"You insisted on prying into my personal life; it's only natural that I would do the same to you," Jesse answered, raising a brow.
"Fair enough," Blaine gave a defeated shrug. "I had a relationship too, but it didn't work out. Maybe we just weren't compatible."
"It's never a matter of compatibility." Jesse rolled his eyes. "It's just a matter of whether you're able to work with their temperament. How unyielding is one compared to the other? Some people are more willing to adapt to change, others not so much."
"We were both pretty stubborn," Blaine admitted. "I think eventually our differences just got to us. We had our own ideas about where the relationship was going, and they didn't match up. Simple as that."
"And you talked about it?"
"We tried. He wanted to discuss the future, and I wasn't ready for that. We were still just starting out in college; I didn't want to have that conversation just yet. When you graduate high school, your life is just beginning, you know? There are so many opportunities waiting for you. And I'm not anti-commitment by any means, but at twenty years old, the last thing I wanted to think about was settling down."
"It's a heavy topic," Jesse agreed. "Just out of curiosity - did you even see a future with him?"
"I did. I just... I didn't want to talk about it right away. Thinking too far ahead in the future just by yourself is daunting, and it's even worse when you add another person into the mix."
"Hm. So you broke up out of fear."
"When you put it like that it sounds terrible."
"It's either you make yourself out to sound like a coward or you continue to make up excuses. They're both pretty bad if you ask me."
Blaine's knuckles drummed with irritation. Who was Jesse to pass judgment on him? His reputation wasn't flawless either. "Alright, this conversation's over."
"I'm only trying to help you," Jesse shrugged. "Believe it or not, I actually can be really nice. I'm just saying that even with all your talk on courage, you seem pretty determined to not take risks."
With as much dignity as he could muster, Blaine crossed his arms and leaned back into his seat. Fine, so he hadn't been completely honest with Kurt when they'd broken up. He might have said some really hurtful things. He might have lied to Kurt, might have said that he didn't want to get serious or consider marriage, but when he really thought about it, the idea was always lurking in his subconscious. In fact, the optimist in him had stowed the idea of marriage with Kurt into his brain when they'd first gotten together. After several fights and misunderstandings though, his inner realist forced that idea down, claiming that marriages to high school sweethearts rarely worked out.
"Well, you didn't want to get serious back then. What about now? I'm going to be completely honest here - it sounds like you're pining," Jesse chuckled.
"Wha - Pining? What makes you think I'm pining?"
"I don't know, it might have something to do with the utterly depressed but longing look on your face when you're talking about this ex."
Blaine was about to deny this accusation when he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window. He promptly shut his mouth, pointedly ignoring Jesse's smug expression.
"Anyway, you seem like you know what you're talking about, even if you don't walk the walk," Jesse said casually. "And judging from your situation, things can't get any worse. I'd suggest that you take your own advice for once."
As much as he hated to admit it, Jesse was right - he could talk all he wanted about having courage, but it was meaningless if he didn't put belief into practice.
His separation from Kurt wasn't like the movies. He didn't try to drown his sorrows in alcohol. He didn't walk around in a glassy-eyed daze. Admittedly he did cry a little bit in the week following the break-up, and he might have subjected himself to some emotional eating - but he wasn't completely shattered. Honestly right now he wasn't even miserable.
There were some times when he had been shopping for clothes and he would turn around for a second opinion only to find no one there. There were times when he accidentally set out two table settings instead of one. There was no void, no endless gap that some heartbroken individuals spoke of.
He just... existed.
That was the problem though. His life now was so bland, whereas Kurt made him feel so alive and happy, running his energy over with style and Vogue covers and fluttery feelings. Kurt, who literally was like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Kurt, who loved sequins and rhinestones as much as he loved black combat boots. Kurt, who always ordered meals with as many low-fat substitutions as possible with any sauce on the side. Kurt, who sang numerous songs to Blaine and never stopped amazing him with his wide vocal range. Kurt, who could make him weak-kneed with love one minute and fraught with desire the next.
Kurt, who was there to rejoice with him during his best moments and cry with him during his worst.
Kurt, who was all at once his study partner, coffee date, confidant, and best friend.
Kurt, who was the only person he could envision waking up next to for the rest of his life, despite having previously denied it.
Kurt, who he could probably live without - but didn't want to, if he could help it.
It had always been Kurt, and he was pretty sure that it would always be Kurt.
He just hoped that it wasn't too late to try and fix things. Ideally everything would be okay once he stepped off this plane and made that phone call. David might be mad at him for blowing off his party. He would smell like pressurized air and people and he would be ridiculously exhausted.
But hopefully it would all be worth it.
The pilot's voice cut into his thoughts, warning the flight attendants to do their final checks and prepare for landing. The last half-hour of the flight was almost too painful - his sympathetic nervous system kicked in so hard, he wasn't sure if his valves could keep up. It was literally a chore to try breathing normally - his heart felt as if it had swelled about four times its size, crushing his lungs and threatening to break outside his rib cage.
It served no comfort at all when they finally touched down. The sudden rush of everyone trying to leave at the same time only swamped his senses, and he tried his best to simply glide along with the crowd, rather than pushing forward or staying back. At the very least he was able to take a breath as soon as he passed through the jetway and stepped outside to the gate.
Then someone tapped his shoulder, and he turned to face Jesse.
"Well, it was nice meeting you - Blaine, right? Good luck with your ex."
Blaine smiled faintly and held up his cell phone in gesture.
Jesse nodded and turned. He'd gotten about twenty feet away before Blaine called out, "And good luck to you, too! Rachel's a good person; if you show her that you're sincere, I'm sure she'll forgive you."
Jesse stopped and looked back wide-eyed at Blaine. The shock froze him in place for a good couple seconds, then he shook his head, chuckling, and went on his way, giving a casual wave over his shoulder.
Only when Jesse was out of sight did Blaine tear his eyes away and take a deep breath. The phone was heavy in his fingers.
This was it.
There were about a million scenarios that could happen in the next minute. He could walk away from the terminal with a spring in his step. He could walk away with tears streaming down his face. He could make a complete ass of himself on the phone. There was only one thing for sure - if he didn't call now, he would always ponder the what-ifs and could-have-beens. If he didn't call now, he would regret it for as long as Kurt stayed in his memories - he would regret it forever.
He raised the phone, touched the screen, scrolled through the contacts, and tapped Kurt's number before he could change his mind.
It rang once, twice.
Then a very familiar, "Hello?"
A sudden rush of warmth coated Blaine from the top of his head from the tips of his toes. It was amazing - just a single generic word could have this effect on him - but only because it was him, it was Kurt, whose voice he hadn't heard in nearly five years. "I'm in New York. Can we talk? Please?"
Silence. Blaine bit his lip. Had Kurt hung up? Was it on purpose? Or was it an accident? Should he call back?
But then he heard the voice on the other line - soft and breathy, almost like muffled sniffling, and Kurt finally answered, "Only if you buy the coffee this time."
A tiny, almost imperceptible smile stretched across Blaine's face. It wasn't a sure thing, but it was a start. At the very least, Kurt was willing to talk to him. Blaine would apologize for lying, and he would confess that he'd always had marriage on his mind, always always. He would admit to being a coward. They would talk this out. They would share their feelings. They would discuss their futures as individuals - hopefully their future together, too.
And at the end of it all, maybe - just maybe - they could live happily ever after.