Notes: This is almost 4,000 words long. It wasn't supposed to be, but I just had to keep adding scenes, trying to find the ending. It doesn't have an "epilogue" like the last chapter, connecting it to an episode, although there is a sort of tie-in to "Silly Love Songs." Blink and you'll miss it.
When Blaine was five, he'd met Andy.
It had all started that day in Kindergarten. Looking back years later, Blaine couldn't even remember what had happened during the half-day of school, but he could remember what happened afterwards with crystal clarity.
He'd hardly been able to keep the tears in check until he'd reached his mother's car, nose running and face splotchy from suppressed tears. His mother had taken one look at him, and declared that they needed cookies before they went home.
His mother didn't bake. That was what their hired cook was for. But she knew every bakery and pastry shop within a 20-mile radius, and they'd ended up at the Lima Bean.
Blaine hadn't wanted to go in, wanting instead to sit and sulk in the car, but even at that young age he'd known better than to speak against his mother, so he'd sullenly exited the car and taken her hand, huddling close to her legs as they entered the cafe. It was lunch time by then, so the place was fairly full, especially to a shy five-year-old's mind.
The line to the counter wasn't terribly long, but his mother had leaned down and said, "Blaine, why don't you go find a table for us to sit at, maybe by a window if you can?"
Blaine had turned large eyes toward her - she wanted him to go by himself?"But...there's people..." he'd tried to protest politely.
His mother had sighed, and he'd known he was walking on thin ice. She'd always understood that he was shy, but she kept gently prodding him to be more independent. "Just look for an empty table, sweetheart. You sit there and I'll bring our drinks and cookies as soon as I can, okay?"
Blaine had gulped, but after a moment he'd nodded, his eyes still wide with apprehension. He stayed close to the counter or walls, but eventually he did find a small table with two chairs that was empty in one corner. It was even somewhat close to a window, so Blaine had quickly climbed into the corner seat and stared out at the parking lot, watching the cars coming and going.
Blaine jerked his gaze away from the window, and looked up at the man who was standing a little ways away from his table. He had a gentle smile, and kind eyes, but even if Blaine had recognized that, he knew that he wasn't allowed to talk to strangers when he was by himself, even if he wanted to, which he never did, anyway.
But...did it count if the stranger knew his name? Blaine narrowed his eyes at the man, who continued to stand there and smile at him, making no move to leave, but also not moving any closer. "How do you know my name?"
The man had laughed at that, and something in his laugh made Blaine relax marginally. "I've known you your whole life," the man had said fondly. Blaine got that a lot from adults who knew his parents, even if he didn't recognize him, so he just shrugged.
The man didn't say how big he was getting, or ask how old he was now, or wonder where his parents were, wanting a word with them, or any of the other things adults who had 'known him his whole life' usually said.
"You can call me Andy."
Blaine wasn't yet adept enough at the subtleties of the English language to find the wording of the man's introduction odd, he'd just given a small, shy smile and had asked hesitantly, "Like the boy in 'Toy Story'?"
Andy had chuckled and nodded. "Exactly. Hey listen, I gotta get going," he held up his hands, a coffee cup in each one, to show he needed to deliver the drinks, "but I wanna tell you something."
Andy had knelt down in front of five-year-old Blaine, having to tilt his head a little to meet Blaine's gaze, and said seriously, "Those kids who teased you-they don't have any friends, either. Even though they were mean to you today, you should be nice and try to be their friend tomorrow. Everyone likes a nice, happy person."
Blaine and Andy had stared at each other for a long moment, before Andy had finally stood back up and smiled at him. "You take care of yourself, okay Blaine?"
Blaine had nodded solemnly in return, and with one last smile and a wiggle of his fingers around a coffee cup, Andy had turned and left.
Blaine's mother had eventually shown up with his hot chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies, apologizing for the long wait, and hoping he hadn't gotten too scared. Blaine had shook his head and said that he'd been talking to Andy.
Blaine would remember, years later, his mother questioning him about Andy, asking what had been said, what he'd looked like. Five-year-old Blaine, preoccupied with food and drink, hadn't noticed what older Blaine would pick up from the memory; his mother had been worried about some stranger coming up to her child in a crowded coffee shop and talking to him, where he could have been taken away.
She'd slowly relaxed, however, when Blaine repeated, verbatim, what had been said, and then described Andy as "short, with dark curly hair and gold eyes like daddy's." She would later make the mistake of calling him "Blaine's imaginary friend," to which Blaine threw a fit, because Andy had been real.But eventually he'd let it go, and stopped talking about it.
He would take Andy's advice to heart, however, and at school he would be as nice and courteous to his classmates as he was to his parents' friends, and while it didn't always work (since children can be even crueler to those with manners than without), Blaine slowly evolved a persona of polite kindness and charisma that could win over almost anyone.
Blaine did actually see Andy occasionally over the years, but only at the Lima Bean, and only when he was alone, either waiting for one or both of his parents, or later when he went there on his own. Andy didn't usually say much, just smiled, looking genuinely pleased to see him, and would ask if he was alright.
There were some conversations, though, that stuck in Blaine's mind for years to come.
Blaine sat at a corner table in the Lima Bean, frequently going there after school now for coffee and biscotti, his newest comfort food. Unlike the Starbucks in town, the Lima Beancatered to a slightly more sophisticated customer base, which meant even the kids his age Blaine did see there on occasion usually wore private school uniforms, and came in small group outtings. He kept to himself, and everyone left him alone, which was just what he wanted.
Now, Blaine was fiddling with the velcro straps of his wrist brace, not really hungry enough to eat the now-soggy biscotti he'd let soak in his drink. He'd been wearing the brace for just under a week, when he'd been shoulder-checked in the hallway at school and caught himself badly on his wrist. He'd actually managed to make it through the school day, although he didn't know how, because he honestly had no memory of anything after the incident. It was just a blur of the usual classrooms, covered in a haze of pain. It was his left wrist, otherwise he was sure he'd have gone to the nurse when he couldn't write to take notes. As it was, as soon as he'd gotten home and his mother had seen him favoring his wrist, she'd made him let her check it. It had swollen slightly under his baggy sweater sleeve, and as soon as she'd touched it he'd instinctively jerked away, which had only made a fresh stab of pain lance up his arm.
One trip to the emergency room later, under his feeble protests, and he was the proud owner of a wrist brace, and advice from the attending doctor to keep from lifting or pushing anything with it. Basically, don't touch anything or put pressure on his left hand or wrist. And take the prescribed painkillers whenever he started to hurt. Not a problem. Blaine could be something of a baby about pain, which wasn't really helped by the fact that his mother had used to be (and still kept her license up-to-date, for when she got restless around the house) a hospice nurse. It seemed their collective philosophy was "Don't wait until there's pain to take something, take something so there's no pain." Which was great for dying people in irretractable pain, but he was a teenage boy who liked to be physical, which meant he got bangs and scratches pretty frequently.
Today had been another typical day at school. No one had body-checked him, but he'd gotten his clothes stolen in gym-again-and when someone had tossed them over his head in the hallway later, he'd shaken them out- to discover the word 'fag' written in black sharpie across the front of his shirt, with a crude stick figure drawing depicting anal sex. Despite being nothing but lines and circles, someone had taken the time to draw circles on the "receiver" figure's head, a clear representation of his curls. The real attention to detail was in the face, which was obviously enjoying the whole thing.
He'd have to burn the shirt, there was no saving it, and he couldn't let his parents see it. He could just throw it away, but just the knowledge that it was still out there, even if it was just slowly decomposing in a refuse yard, was too much for him. It needed to be incinerated, until there was no trace of it left.
He'd really liked that shirt, too. It was warm and soft, but loose enough to move freely in.
Blaine glanced up, even as the speaker reached a hand out and knocked on the table a couple times with his knuckle in greeting. Andy stood there, his small smile of greeting slowly fading as his eyes focused on Blaine's wrist brace.
"Hey," Blaine greeted, self-consciously pulling his left arm back and tucking it on his lap under the table, trying to act casual about it. He knew it hadn't worked, and Andy continued to stare where it had been resting on the table for a long moment, before flicking his eyes up to stare at Blaine. Blaine, for his part, was suddenly interested in his biscotti again, picking at it with his fingers and nibbling on the crumbs that came off between them.
"What happened to your wrist?" The words were normal, but there was an undercurrent to Andy's tone that set Blaine's skin on edge, getting the irrational fear that he knewwhat had happened.
Blaine shrugged and gave a self-deprecating smile, the mask of normalcy slipping onto his face easily. "I took a corner at school too fast, misjudged the angle- slammed into the wall and fell wrong on my wrist." He watched, but Andy didn't wince in sympathy like everyone else he'd told the story to. He just continued to stare at Blaine, waiting for him to crack and tell the truth. Blaine chuckled a little, like he was embarrassed about it but the whole thing was too good a story not to share; embarrassment turned into pride. "Hairline fracture, the doctor said. Should be pretty much healed in a month or so."
Blaine was an accomplished liar. His ears still heated up sometimes when he was scared of getting caught, but he almost never got caught anymore. He followed a set of rules, a formula he'd come up with that always worked. Don't give too much detail - he'd heard that one of the most common mistakes of lying was going into too much detail, trying to distract from the ending lie. He kept his posture casual, acting like he was just stating facts. This is what happened. There's nothing more. He made eye-contact, but didn't stare at the other person like he was willing them to believe him. His entire demeanor said Believe me or don't, but it's the truth. 'Don't act ashamed of what you're saying' was another rule, because no one should be ashamed to tell the truth. Embarrassed, sure, especially if it was a story like this, but there was nothing to be ashamed of. 'Keep it plausible and close to the actual truth.' He hadfallen, and Blaine was known to be a little awkward at times, having just gone through a growth spurt that had unfortunately added more breadth and width to his shoulders than height to him, so accidentally slamming his shoulder into a wall wasn't even that unlikely. He'd done it at home walking through doorways a couple of times, even.
Even with all that, though, Andy seemed to see right through him. Blaine felt a surge of anger; what did Andy know, anyway? He was confident and attractive, and probably like a star football player in school or something. What did he know about bullying, or being so much smaller than the jocks, or being ashamed of his own body and his likes and interests? He stared at Andy, his anger turning into defiance as he lifted his chin slightly. Daring him to call him out on his lie.
Andy sighed and, setting down his coffee cup, pulled out the empty chair across from Blaine and settling in. Blaine noticed he had no problem sitting with his back facing the rest of the room, and another surge of [envy] annoyance hit him. Hecouldn't stand to have his back to a room, his neck would prickle and his skin would crawl, he always felt exposed and like every eye was staring at him, people looming unseen behind him.
"You don't have to tell me what happened," Andy said quietly, completely ignoring Blaine's story, as if he hadn't spoken at all. He turned in his chair a little, bracing an arm on the back and glancing around the cafe. After a few seconds, he lifted the hand slung over the chair back, and subtly pointed to a group of three boys in blazers, sitting several tables away. "Dalton Academy. Pretty nice school. A little buttoned-up, they take themselves pretty seriously, but... they're good guys. They've got an a cappella show choir, the Warblers. You like to sing, right?"
Blaine shrugged, still a little miffed that Andy had completely written off [seen through]his lie. Andy didn't know that he collected lyrics and sheet music like some people collected baseball cards. He didn't know that Blaine followed Broadway stars like the average girl follows celebrity gossip. In fact, Andy didn't really know anything about him, nothing really personal. He'd always been a private person, only opening up to a select few people he was close to. Even though he'd known Andy since he was around five, they were only friendly acquaintances, nothing more. Actually...
"I don't know you." There was a wondering note to Blaine's words, as if he couldn't quite believe what he was saying. Which he couldn't. He thought back over the years, all the times he'd seen Andy, back all the way to when they'd first met... when Andy had introduced himself as a friend of his parents. No... "I've known you your whole life." He'd never said he knew Blaine's parents, little Blaine had just assumed it. He'd never shown up at their house, never phoned... the only time Blaine ever saw him was at the Lima Bean, and always when his parents were occupied with something else.
After a second's hesitation, Andy gave that same kind smile he always bestowed on Blaine. It always made Blaine feel like a child again, not necessarily in a bad way, but it was the same look his mother gave him sometimes when she smoothed down his curls and called him 'baby'. "Sure you do." His smile slid off his face, leaving him looking intently at Blaine, eyes filled with...sadness? "And I know you, Blaine. You're not going to complain until it gets to be too much. You won't say anything until you're about to snap... and there's nothing I can do to change your mind." It wasn't an argument, he was just stating facts, but he sounded so discouraged about it. "All I can do is tell you this: Dalton has an enforced zero-tolerance no-bullying policy. It's a strict school, but... I think you'd like it."
Blaine watched in silence as Andy smiled again slightly, rapping his knuckles on the table in that unique way of his for adding emphasis to something as he stood up. Blaine had caught himself doing the same thing sometimes, and it always struck him as strange to be imitating Andy, but it also felt natural.
"Don't forget what I said, about Dalton," Andy said, before picking up his coffee and giving a small wave goodbye.
And that was it. Hardly an earthshattering conversation, barely ten minutes had passed... but to Blaine, it felt much more profound. He didn't even know who Andy was, just some random stranger who had befriended a small child and then kept casual tabs on him over the years, always seeming to show up when Blaine needed someoneto talk to, even if what he actually ended up saying was insignificant.
But...Dalton. It sounded nice. There was no way his parents would transfer him, though. Not for a little bullying that he should be able to handle himself. He did handle it himself, never letting his parents know what people called him, why he seemed to keep buying clothes but his closet never needed to be cleaned out. Why he'd never joined the football team, even though he loved to play. That had been the one time he'd stood up against his parents, actually, when his dad had said he should try out for junior varsity. It had been a suggestion, not an order, which was about the only way Blaine had managed to get the courage to say no, he wouldn't, he didn't want to. His father had looked like he'd wanted to argue, probably saying, "But you love football, it's a great [manly] sport. You should have an extracurricular, and football would look good on your college applications-it's never too soon to start planning for college, you know."But more than that, his father had just looked confused and surprised, and in the end had just shrugged a little stiffly and said, "Suit yourself."
Blaine didn't bring Dalton up to his parents... until he'd had to drive his car home and park it in the driveway, the word "FAGGOT" carved in thick, deep grooves across the hood, and "QUEER" similarly carved on the trunk. He got transferred, and his dad bought an old fix-me-up Chevy to work on that summer.
Blaine still went to the Lima Bean, but he wore his Dalton uniform, and a lot of the time it was in the company of some other schoolmates. He saw Andy, but there was never really a moment to talk to him. Andy would nod or wave at him when he caught sight of him, though, or salute him with his coffee cup with a smile.
That didn't mean Blaine didn't learn a few things about Andy, though, just through observation. One encounter would always stick in his mind, for more than one reason. He'd always assumed Andy was straight, for several reasons, the main one being the wide gold wedding band he wore. Also, under the assumption-that he now knew to be erroneous-that Andy knew his parents, it was highly unlikely he was gay. His parents were tolerant of Blaine, and they were more tolerant of other gays now, but when he was a child and had thought Andy was their friend, it was unlikely they would have associated with him if he were out.
But one day, Valentine's Day, actually, he'd seen Andy, a woman with headphones separating them in line, standing with a brunette man a few inches taller than him. Blaine had never really had an opinion one way or the other about the holiday, besides enjoying the candy, but he didn't begrudge his classmates their time spent with their girlfriends that day. It meant that at the moment he was alone, though, and able to observe them uninterrupted.
Andy was teasing his companion, who had a rather haughty, disdainful look on his face. Stuck up,Blaine couldn't help thinking. Then he felt bad, because he knew several Dalton boys who got the same look on their faces when they were out in public. It was as much a defense mechanism for them as charm was for him.
"You love it, admit it," Andy was saying, leaning into his friend's personal space and up, so their faces were only inches apart. The brunette sniffed and turned his nose up a little, but Blaine could see him glance at Andy through slitted eyelids, not quite able to keep the corners of his mouth from turning up as he responded, "I admit nothing."
And then, Andy had started singing. Softly, Blaine didn't think it carried very far, but it carried enough, enough so he could hear the crooning words "Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs..."
"You're horrible," the other man said, trying to ignore him. Andy had just grinned and started another song, which Blaine didn't recognize, but the meaning of the words were as single-entendre as possible. "When I get you alone, babe..."
"Not. Funny. I have horrible associations with that song, you know. Flash mobs- I can't set foot in a Gap store, now."
"Like you ever set foot in a Gap besides that one time."
"Regardless. You serenaded some boy with horrible hair, and broke my heart. You're a horrible person."
Andy had rocked to the side to bump shoulders with the brunette. "No, I was just a clueless teenager, who couldn't see the best was right there waiting for me. I have great associations with that song, 'cause you told me how you felt about me after I sang it. If it weren't for that, I might have been an idiot forever...and never known what I was missing..." His voice had gone quiet, and Blaine felt a little bad for eavesdropping... but not enough to stop. It was a public place, they couldn't really expect to have a private conversation.
And then the brunette had reached over and laced his fingers with Andy's, squeezing his hand. Blaine had watched, breathless, as the two men had looked at each other and smiled, and that must be what love looks like, Blaine had thought. It was beautiful, and heartwrenching, and for the first time, Blaine had felt impatient to find someone to look at him like that, someone he could hold hands with and share private jokes and memories with. He'd always gone with the idea that 'The best things come to those who wait', but for a moment he just wanted it now.
And then it had been their turn to order, and after Andy had ordered for both of them, the brunette man, his companion- no, his partner, had smiled and leaned toward him, saying, "You know my coffee order," like it had some sort of significance.
Andy's grin in return was blinding. "Of course, dummy." They'd leaned close to each other then, grinning and looking thoroughly, sappily in love, and for one moment, Blaine was sure they were going to kiss. Instead they just touched foreheads for a moment.
He loved Valentine's Day after that, always thinking that someday, someyear, he'd have someone to act like that with.