Chapter 33: A Parade of Elephants
It was hard. It was really, really hard. Everything had been so hard. But now especially. Because it was the middle of the summer and arid and so dry, and the walk had been long and the air was dusty and the breeze was nothing more than a wall of blisteringly hot air. The sweat on his chest glued his necklace onto his heart, and his hands felt clammy under the late afternoon sun.
And he was smiling so wide he thought his face might break.
It had taken so long to get there. Seven years, almost to the day. Blaine still remembered how Kurt had graduated and left for New York (for fashion instead of Broadway), how he'd wanted to put a ring on his finger right then and there and hold onto him forever. Kurt had left anyway, going up up into the sky on a one-way trip to the City. Blaine had waved at every plane for an hour, his heart aching, just to make sure he'd said goodbye in every way possible.
At first, it had been okay. They'd skyped and chatted and Blaine had even visited once or twice when he'd gone for college open days and interviews. And Kurt had been really supportive that Blaine had suddenly changed his mind and gone for Law in the end, and had introduced him to all his law student friends. They were all devastatingly cool and interesting and outgoing: one of them had lived in Brazil, another knew all about French cooking, two of them (a couple) had gone backpacking together in the Andes. Sitting on Kurt's dorm room bed in his bow tie and stripy shirt, Blaine had never felt younger. Or more like a boring old grandpa.
And then classes really started and Kurt's workload piled up, fabric upon fabric upon garment upon garment, and Blaine's deadlines came and went and he was too tired to stay up and skype Kurt at night. And no matter what they did, it just seemed impossible. Blaine no longer knew Kurt's friends or what he was doing or anything, because neither of them really had time to be online anymore. And when they did talk, he felt like he didn't even know Kurt: the City had made him stronger and yet more independent, and now he knew all about grocery shopping and bills and the New York Subway system. He was grown up. And one time over the phone he had jokingly called Blaine clingy because he was worrying so much. But it wasn't really a joke. Not at all.
But they stayed together anyway.
And then Blaine's college acceptance letters began to come, first from NYU and then Oberlin and then, wow, Columbia and then, two days later when he'd hardly believed things could get better, the one he had really wanted.
Yale. Said. Yes.
Michael had cried when Blaine told him, sweeping him up in the biggest, least awkward hug ever. "I always knew," he said, "I always, always knew, but I was terrified all those bullies would have stopped you but they didn't and I'm so, so proud of you."
And Blaine knew he had to go: it was his real dream, when he really examined himself. At Yale, there would be the tough academic rigor he needed and all the music he could hope for and then, at the end, he'd be a lawyer. And yes, music was a passion but he wanted this, he needed it. And Kurt and Kurt's absence and, weirdly, the people at McKinley had all given him the confidence to follow it.
But he'd have to tell Kurt.
It started simply: yes, he'd gotten into Columbia. Kurt shrieked and started planning and listing everywhere they'd go and do and…
"But I got into Yale as well."
And then the line had gone silent. Blaine almost thought Kurt had hung up.
But then he spoke up. He was very quiet. "Blaine, that is absolutely amazing. Congratulations. No one deserves it more than you." He paused. "You're going to go there, aren't you?"
And then Kurt started sobbing into the phone.
"Why are you crying?"
"Blaine, you've got to accept that offer. You've got to."
"I already have."
Kurt took a deep breath and continued to cry.
"Okay, now at least you can't change it because of me."
"What do you mean?"
Kurt took a breath. "I can't do this any more, Blaine. I love you and I promise you I've been totally committed, but I can't do this. Not for four more years. This isn't working, this long distance thing. It's neither of our faults, well… it's both of our faults. But it is too hard and I can't just keep doing this, I can't. It's taking a toll on both of us. And I don't want everything to end in a massive argument, I really don't. I still want you in my life, I can't just throw you away. And if you'd decided on Columbia, well, I guess… I guess things might be different but I can't be apart from you for four more years and… just, I'm sorry."
"So have we… have we broken up?" Blaine asked, trying to keep his voice together. Happiness to sadness in one breath.
"Umm, I think so."
"It's not as bad as I thought it'd be," Kurt said, suddenly conversational.
"No. It isn't," Blaine lied. It had only been about thirty seconds and he missed Kurt being his boyfriend already.
"So," Kurt began again, horrendously casual, "Did anyone else get into Yale?"
"Umm, no…. they…." Blaine tailed off. He swallowed heavily before taking a breath. "Um, Kurt, I don't really feel like talking… like, we just broke up."
"I thought you said you were okay? I'm okay."
"Well I'm not," Blaine said.
And then he put the phone down.
Blaine hated it. He still texted Kurt, still called him sometimes. In fact, he probably knew more about Kurt's life in New York now than he had in the months before the break up. And Kurt always made sure to tell him everything. He tried weed. He stayed out for two days.
And he had loads of sex.
And that was probably what hurt Blaine most. Because it really showed that they were over.
And Kurt was still the only guy he'd ever slept with.
And it continued that way, for maybe two or three months.
But then, after a phone call in which Kurt gave Blaine a long description of yet another disappointing lay, something in Blaine clicked. He wanted revenge.
So he went out to Scandals and got hideously drunk on cocktails and wine and then took home the first guy who offered. He was gone before Blaine had even woken up in the morning, the messy room and empty condom wrappers the only clue as to what had happened the previous night. Blaine hadn't even known the guy's name.
And something, maybe the lingering alcohol burning his throat or maybe the tiredness and hurt and shame, made him choose that particular moment to call Kurt.
So he dialled the number he committed to memory more than two years before.
"Blaine, it's eight am on a Saturday and I'm hungover, fuck off."
"Kurt? Kurt! Guess what, I just slept with a guy from Scandals."
"What? Seriously? Did you use protection?" Kurt eventually whispered onto the silent line.
"Yeah, yeah of course," Blaine said, "One night stand. It was amazing."
"…Riiiiight… And you are telling me this because?"
"Well you always tell me."
"Only when they're really bad."
"Oh. Um. Right. So sometimes they're really good?"
"Well, yeah, I guess so. I mean… yeah."
"It actually wasn't that good. I lied."
"Um… okay Blaine." Kurt paused. "Wait, you're sure you were safe though?"
"Yeah. But, like, it wasn't good, you know, like…"
"It's always better with feelings."
"Yeah," Blaine said, tears threatening to spill from his eyes. "Yeah, I think that was what was missing."
And so they went on. Kurt got a boyfriend called Pavel. He could barely speak English, Kurt told Blaine, but he was good in bed and very nice. And then Blaine saw a picture on Kurt's Facebook and understood exactly why Kurt was with Pavel. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Tall. He seethed in anger as he read the 'I 3 you' captions.
They split up like three weeks later. It was nothing.
But something inside Blaine had broken when he'd seen Kurt throw his love out so easily to someone else.
It took two whole years in the end, Kurt in New York and Blaine in New Haven. Class and choir and assignments and exams and new friends.
And yet, amid all the bustle, Blaine could pinpoint the exact beginning of the rebeginning. It was a phone call, that was all, taken as he ran from class to a rehearsal of his vocal sextet.
"Um. Yeah. Hi. Weird question for you."
"Um, yeah, um, do you want to come to Italy with me? I got invited to a 'Rising Stars' fashion event in Naples."
"Well DUH. When? Oh, and congratulations by the way."
"Thanks. And, um, it's next week. Sorry it's so last minute, things tend to run that way in the world of fashion."
Blaine ran through his schedule. Choir(s). Five assignments. Shitloads of reading.
"Yeah, I'm so there!"
"Um, you're my plus one so we'd have to share a room and stuff. Are you okay with that?"
"Yeah, yeah, fine, totally."
And that, along with a swift call to a coursemate who'd promised to tell the course convenor that Blaine had a kidney infection, was that.
And Blaine was flying out to Naples on a plane the very next Monday.
With one Kurt Hummel in the seat next door.
They should have known, they absolutely should have known. Because they had dated for a long time, and known each other for even longer than that. And they'd spent the last three days together, walking around the sights and going to a few fashion events. Everything should have told them that Blaine + Kurt + Alcohol = Waking up next to each other, bleary eyed and cuddling close.
But that didn't stop them from over-indulging on Lacryma Christi wine and limoncello.
Blaine vaguely remembered them struggling down the narrow Neapolitan streets, breathing in the dry air and faint smells of delicious Italian cooking.
And then, after they'd finally negotiated the rusty lock with the hotel's slightly bent key, they tumbled into their shabby whitewashed room. And then tumbled into the double bed. And then fumbled with the zipper of a hidden pocket deep in Kurt's rucksack. And then tumbled into each other's arms.
They woke up, bleary eyed and cuddling close. Blaine's throat felt like it had been sanded down by a troll's fingernails, and Kurt's eyes were drooping, lidded and heavy.
"Um, Blaine, did we have sex?" Kurt eventually whispered.
"Hmmm?" said Blaine, still asleep and/or drunk enough to kind of think they were still together. A kind of muscle-memory.
"Sex. Did we have it?"
"Yeah," Blaine said, cuddling Kurt closer. "Was good."
And then he froze.
"Shit. We broke up."
"Yeah, we did."
Silence. They moved around in the sheets a bit, trying to move apart but remain close.
"You're still holding me. Like you used to," Kurt murmured.
Blaine gulped, alcohol coursing through his body as he tried and failed to catch the truth before it spilled out from between his lips.
"Well, I still love you. Like I used to. Probably more," he whispered. He reached out to touch Kurt's hair, faltering at the last moment before deciding to go for it.
Kurt just blinked at him.
"I love you too." His face was pretty much expressionless, like it was no surprise. Except his eyes. His eyes were smiling. "I miss you every day."
"What should we do?"
Blaine wanted Kurt to sweep him off his feet, to say they'd drop out of college and cuddle and kiss and lie there forever.
But Kurt was pragmatic. "Well you're in New Haven and I'm in New York."
"And we're clearly in this for the long haul. Like, the long long hall."
A few beats of silence.
"I think we're back together," Kurt said. "But we need to wait. Until we have no distractions and live together and get married. Otherwise we'll despise each other."
Oh, it turned out they were on the same page after all.
"Too bad we had to break up first," Blaine commented.
"Au contaire," Kurt replied, stroking his fingers over Blaine's chest. "I think we needed this time apart. We're more grown up. And you're less clingy."
Blaine pouted. "I'm not clingy, I'm just affectionate."
Kurt rolled his eyes good-humouredly. "Yeah, right."
Kurt cuddled Blaine close anyway. "This has been a good morning after," he concluded. "One of the very best."
They cuddled for a few more moments.
"Anyway," Kurt suddenly announced, "We should get up and look at Pompeii. When in Naples…"
"Yeah. We should."
And so they walked around those ruins, hand in hand, right under Vesuvius. They saw the fountains and the tiles, peeled good as new from the layers of ash. And then they saw the casts of the people, caught mid-death and preserved in situ forever. There was a dog, people stretched out gasping for air, babies curled up, asphyxiated to sleep.
"You think it's weird to look at this?" Kurt asked. "To look down at that plaster cast. That's a person, in the position they were in right as they died. All you see of them is this personal moment, their death."
Blaine looked, considering it.
"That's how I used to see Orrin, in my head," he said.
Kurt looked at him, his eyes moving from the ruins into the gaze of his man. Listening.
And, against all previous form, Blaine continued.
"No matter what I did, the thing that always stuck with me most was how I held his hand in the ambulance, you know, right when he died. That last flicker of life behind his eyes. That was one of the biggest problems, that all my memories of our past revolved around what was to happen next."
Kurt nodded. "Yes, exactly."
"But now I just love him for what I had."
Kurt squeezed Blaine's hand, understanding completely. "Yeah. That's all you can do. Sucks. But yeah."
And then they walked. Pompeii, Herculaneum, museums, pizza.
And they were back.
Kurt graduated first, obviously. Blaine was there at the graduation yet again, but this time Kurt wasn't crying. Instead, his face lit up in a delighted grin. He had been offered a year-long internship, after all.
Still in New York.
Still far from Blaine.
But only a year. And Kurt was earning a living so he could afford to visit Blaine, who made time around kicking butt on his law papers and collegiate choirs and just generally being an archetypal Yale boy. Kurt found it very sexy, really.
And again people were rooting for them. It was so cute, they said, that they'd been together since high school. They were made for each other. When was the wedding?
And they fought a bit, because now they were grown-ups who had realised that they were separate entities from one another. The arguments, which were seldom really serious, were just there to establish compromise. So each of them could get what they wanted without upsetting the other too much.
And then Blaine graduated. And Kurt cried. Because it was an amazing, amazing achievement.
And Michael Anderson, by now somewhat haggard around the eyes, cried too.
And so did Karen, obviously.
It was as if life had been holding off the crazy until they were out of college. First they moved in together in New York, which was a slap in the face of people and noise and music and smells and gay pride parades that took several months of readjustment. Blaine got a job in a law firm, Kurt as an assistant at Vera Wang. All good.
And then, in the middle of the night, right as if he'd been trying to cause one last act of nuisance, Blaine's grandfather died. The phone had rung beside their bed at three AM and they'd just looked at each other, absolutely terrified.
And Blaine had watched as Kurt had reached for the phone. Tears in his eyes. Because life always kicked them in the ass.
Phone noise daksdnmkas.
Kurt's body relaxed.
"Oh. Okay. Thank you. I'll tell him. Bye."
"Um, Blaine, your grandfather died about an hour ago."
Blaine didn't feel anything.
"Are you sad?"
"Not really. I'm just happy, well, relieved, it wasn't… you know, anyone else."
Kurt reached across for him. "Me too."
"I guess I am sad that all those fucking anti-gay organisations get all his money but what can you do? Things will be different when I'm in charge."
"What?" Kurt murmured sleepily.
"Nothin'," Blaine replied, snuggling up.
The next weird thing happened about two weeks later, right before half the senators were about to start gearing up for reelection. Kurt and Blaine had CNN on, partly because Blaine had developed a mysterious obsession with the news and partly because Kurt liked the 'exaggerated office-chic' of the newsreaders' clothes.
And then, under the botoxed faces of the man (Rolf) and the woman (Laura), they saw it. Flickering, barely there, but so totally important.
SENATOR ANDERSON OF OHIO CALLS FOR THE NATIONWIDE LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE.
And they watched, dumbstruck, as Rolf and Laura devoured the issue down to its bare bones. They analysed Mike Anderson's voting record, the record of the Republican Party in general, the senator's motives. They didn't really come up with anything, as newscasters often don't.
"Now we go live to Washington, to talk to Senator Anderson."
Kurt cuddled up to Blaine. "This is totally bizarre. Why didn't he tell you?"
"Dunno," said Blaine. "In case you haven't noticed, he's super weird."
And Michael's face popped up on the screen, right there in front of them. Blaine could tell he was nervous from the way he fiddled with his cuffs. Mainly because he did that too.
And then the smile was whipped out, wide and charming. Blaine watched as his dad exuded absolute confidence under the newscasters' questions, saying that he had re-evaluated his previous position and felt it was his civil duty to bring this particular cause back into the public's consciousness.
"Does this have anything to do with the passing of your father?" Rolf asked. "He bequeathed vast amounts of money to anti-homosexual organisations. Something like seven million in the end, correct?"
"Yes, the actual figure is a little less than that, but yes, absolutely. I want to make up for some of the problems that will inevitably be caused by that particular action."
The newscasters beamed, delighted to have been given a glimpse into a senator's personal life. The public would lap this up.
"Any other motivations? Like, the recent statements by other Republican representatives?" Laura asked.
Kurt and Blaine watched as Michael paused for a second. Blaine squeezed Kurt's arm. "He's deciding whether to talk about me," he whispered. "About us."
"How do you know?"
"We have very similar mannerisms when it comes dow –"
"Not really," TV Michael began to say, "I was not motivated by my colleagues. I try to remain solid and true to my own opinions as the Ohio electorate voted for me, not my colleagues. Other people in other states voted for them."
Michael swallowed. He looked deeply serious.
"I do, however, have a son. He just graduated from Yale Law School near the top of his class, and in his spare time he is an excellent singer and musician. And he is gay and is in a committed relationship with his long term boyfriend. All I want is to see them have equality, everywhere."
Rolf and Laura nodded, loving all the personal gossip they were harvesting. They probably felt they'd weedled it out of him, but Blaine knew it had been a calculated decision. He smiled as Michael didn't even blink at the word 'boyfriend'.
"You must be very proud of your son, Mike, to do all this for him."
"Oh, well. Yes, of course. But it isn't just for him, because my son has survived it all. He is an adult. But I have seen what inequality can do, right with these two eyes. My son was gay bashed really badly, you know. You hear it on the news, but you never think it's on your doorstep. But he was assaulted right outside his public school, and his friend was murdered in front of his eyes. And do you know what that does to a kid? I'd say he's only been back to himself in the last few months. It's been an eight year recovery. How can I square that? I have to say something, even if it isn't the most politically expedient cause I could go for. Because even if we think that gay marriage isn't really an important issue, it is. Because inequality on any level perpetuates these kind of assaults and murders. If I may be so bold, it sort of validates them."
"Totally," Rolf wittered.
"But I have to ask, why now?" Laura cut in. "Why not when your son was younger?"
Blaine could tell that this was the kind of incisive question his father had been expecting.
"Laura, you have to understand that as a politician, you always have to square your personal beliefs with those of your electorate. You are, after all, their representative. You also have to have a certain candour about you, a certain gravitas, to put an issue like this forward into the public forum. I have now been in government for almost two decades. I should be the person putting something like this out there."
"Unfortunately, we are out of time," Laura said. "Thank you for joining us, Senator Mike Anderson."
"Thank you," Michael said.
And the screen faded to commercials.
Blaine looked over at Kurt. "What the actual fuck was that?"
"That," Kurt replied, "Was your father announcing his retirement from politics."
Blaine laughed, mainly because he didn't want to cry. "Your cynicism is charming. And probably correct. But that was still a really brave thing for him to do."
"Yeah," said Kurt. "Too bad it's like a decade too late."
"Better late than never," Blaine replied, sighing.
And then his cellphone began to ring.
"Son, were you watching?"
"Yup. Kurt and I both watched it. I'm a little, you know, surprised."
"Was it okay?"
"You're retiring, aren't you?"
"Son, gotta go. Bye."
Blaine cuddled up to Kurt. "Weirdest phone conversation ever."
And they fell asleep on the couch.
For some reason, Kurt was really uptight when they were flying back to Ohio for Michael Anderson's retirement party six months later. He couldn't even stomach the complimentary in-flight drink. Weird.
And when the cab dropped them right in front of the freshly painted iron gates of the Anderson house, Kurt was twitching. Actually twitching.
Blaine grabbed his hand.
"Sorry I'm so on-edge, I'm just worried about, you know, setting a foot wrong in front of your parents' high-power friends."
Blaine giggled. "Shush you. Also, there probably won't be too many influential people there. They probably only wanted to be best friends with him while he had the power of a senator."
But as they looked in through the doorway, hand in hand, Blaine realised he had been deeply wrong. The house was full to bursting with family friends, politicians, people from the street, people from Glee Club, Kurt's step mom and dad. Francine was there too, lips bigger than ever. Blaine could hear Kurt laughing in his head, even though both of their expressions were schooled into a blank, polite gaze.
And then Karen spotted them, running right up before stopping. She looked down at their entwined fingers, and grinned.
Blaine realised they'd never really seen him show casual affection to Kurt. Unless you count that one time they walked in on their make out session. Which Blaine still tried to forget with every ounce of his being.
"Hi Kurt, Hi Blaine. Kiss." And she opened up her arms and engulfed the two of them. "I missed both of you so much. My two boys."
And then Michael came over and shook their hands and announced to everyone that Kurt and Blaine had arrived.
"Let the buffet begin!" Karen said, and everyone headed outside where there was a massive table, maybe seven metres long, piled high with food. It must've cost a fortune.
And everyone sat around one large table outside. It was made of several long tables pushed together, and formed a gigantic 'W' shape on the lawn. Kurt was sat next to Blaine who was sat next Michael who was sat next to Karen who was sat next to Carole who was sat next to Burt, and there were balloons and the smell of the barbeque and the noise and chatter of family and friends.
Michael tapped on his wine glass for order, and everyone hushed down into silence. He thanked everyone who had voted for him, everyone who had come to the party, everyone who hadn't come. He thanked Karen and Blaine and Kurt.
"And now Kurt would like to say a few words."
Blaine just gaped at Kurt, who rose up from his seat just as Michael sat down.
"Um, hi everyone," Kurt said with a sheepish wave. "Well, as you may or may not know, I'm Blaine's boyfriend." Blaine noticed that the guests either fidgeted or hummed with approval, depending on their leanings. But when Kurt looked straight into his eyes, he didn't notice anyone any more. Only Kurt. "Anyway, we've been together for almost nine years and I love him very, very much. So, I have to ask him a question."
Blaine was still confused.
"How are you perplexed about this? You're a Yale graduate!" Kurt hissed jokingly.
Ripples of laughter lapped at Blaine's consciousness.
"Well, anyway, this should make things a bit clearer."
He sunk onto one knee.
And pulled out a velvety, purple ring box. Everyone fell into a hushed silence.
"Blaine, I can't imagine anything without you. I love you so much. I'm so proud of you and us and I want to be with you forever."
Blaine was already crying and nodding before Kurt even asked, "Will you marry me?"
But just to be sure, he yelled "YES" and then kissed Kurt hard on the mouth.
And then, after about thirty seconds, he remembered they had company, and lots of it. He turned sheepishly and saw most people around the table grinning. Some people looked a bit disgusted, some looked shellshocked, but most were smiling widely. Burt was crying. So was Karen. And so was he.
And then Kurt pulled out one of the rings in the box and put it on Blaine's finger.
And as the true showman he was, he half turned to his audience and quipped, "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how I know my Yale-educated fiancé is really a bit of a dummy. Remember three weeks ago when your dad visited New York?"
"Remember when he said he had to measure your fingers for a scientific experiment?"
"And you believed it without question because deep down in that clever noggin of yours, you're really a bit silly and gullible."
"Well, this was why he measured your finger."
And everyone laughed.
"Oh," said Blaine, smiling. "Well, it was the best surprise ever. And I was tired, okay? Usually I'm as perceptive as a ninja CIA agent."
Kurt rolled his eyes and everyone laughed.
Michael stood. "Congratulations to both Kurt and Blaine. Three cheers!"
And then there was food and dancing and slight drunkenness and happiness and karaoke and several Rachel Berry solos and fireworks and a projector screen showing images of Michael's career.
And then, at the end of the day, Kurt and Blaine were in bed, in Blaine's old room.
"You haven't taken it off yet, have you?"
"Nope," said Blaine, stroking the smooth platinum of the ring with his right index finger. "I like it too much."
"Well, you should. Look inside."
Blaine slowly edged the ring off his finger and peered inside. And then he gasped. Because inside was engraved a pair of elephants, their trunks intertwined into a heart.
"They've followed you around long enough," Kurt said, "May as well bring it into your marriage as well. Elephants love forever, after all."
Blaine smiled. "Where's your ring?"
"In the box."
"Can I put it on you?"
Kurt looked at him and nodded, before getting up to fetch the ring from his tux pocket. Blaine sighed happily as he watched his fiancé's naked form cross the room, fumble in the jacket pocket and then come back to bed.
Kurt handed Blaine the ring box, and he prised the matching silver ring out of the velvet and then slowly slid it onto Kurt's finger. And then, after setting the box carefully aside, he leant up to kiss Kurt on the lips. It was tentative, hands ghosting over shoulders and chests and then Kurt's back as he slowly brought him down so he was lying on top of him. Still kissing, his hands slowly ran down Kurt's back. He made sure the ring was in constant contact with Kurt's skin.
"I love you," he whispered. "So much."
"I know," Kurt said, "I love you so much too."
Blaine kissed him again before a thought struck him and he broke away.
"Do you think my parents will care if we have sex in their house?"
Kurt shrugged. "Probably not. They can't think we haven't… you know. And it's not like we haven't done it here before."
"But not with them actually at home."
They kissed again.
"I'm pretty sure they thought we were having sex when they walked in on us making out so…"
Blaine sat up straight. "Shit. But we weren't even doing –"
"Blaine," Kurt said, "You're twenty-four. It's fine. And we just got engaged."
"Well, since you made your point so well, I suppooooose it would be okay," Blaine replied.
And that was that.
They got married two years later, in New York, with all their friends and family around them. Kurt had wanted to save up so they could afford the most lavish wedding ever, and he'd made sure the entire reception hall (which overlooked the Hudson) was completely decked out in pink and white flowers. Blaine had put his foot down when Kurt had suggested they get live doves, though.
They exchanged their vows and everyone cheered. The room was warm with acceptance and love, their college friends mingling with their Glee friends mingling with some of the Cremona people Blaine couldn't quite bring himself to shake off. And Peter was there, now a successful banker in the City, and so were Wes and David and a few of the other Warblers Blaine didn't despise. Oh, and Alban Blake was there, recently widowed. His hair was whiter than ever, every ounce of colour drained from it after the loss of both his son and his wife. Robin was backpacking in South America, he said, completely broken after losing his mom and his brother so young. Kurt and Blaine decided they'd make a special effort to reach out to him.
And then they danced late into the night. On and on to all their favourite songs, sung by their friends, old and new.
And then, when the night was over, they went to bed in their hotel room and held each other close, hardly believing that they were here, married, after everything that had happened.
But after it was over and they were sleepily holding each other in the middle of the night, Kurt knew there was something bothering his husband. Luckily, years of dealing with this kind of thing meant he always had his ways of teasing out the truth.
"I'm sad about Alban," Blaine eventually admitted.
"Mmm," said Kurt, wholly unsurprised, "It's really shitty how bad things happen to good people, huh? And yet your asshole grandfather lived to be a happy ninety-six."
"I don't think he was really happy. He couldn't have been. All his so-called friends were fakes who just wanted a slice of his will. He liked the war, though. Probably loved spraying all that Agent Orange everywhere, the nasty fucker."
"Yeah," said Kurt. "Probably."
"Are you happy?" Blaine asked, eyes wide and bright in the dark as he took in every aspect of Kurt's face.
"Happier than I've ever been in my whole life," Kurt replied, kissing Blaine on the cheek.
Blaine cuddled him closer. "Mmm, me too."
They held each other tight, silent for a few minutes.
"Round two?" Kurt eventually whispered.
"Few more minutes. I'm pretty overwhelmed by it all to be honest."
"Okay, old man," Kurt giggled, running his hands over Blaine's back. "Two minutes. That is all."
Kurt organised the honeymoon. Of course he did. And he didn't tell Blaine where they were going until they were there, at Newark, ready to jet off to somewhere far away. That was all Kurt had said, that it was far away. Because Blaine needed a decently packed in-flight bag, with all the correct skin creams and hand gels and stuff. Even though Kurt always packed that kind of thing for him anyway.
He knew he'd always remember it, standing right there in front of the departure boards as Kurt's eyes scanned it for updates. Blaine watched as Rome, Vienna, Salzberg and even Rio flickered on and off the screen.
And then, after they'd waited for about half an hour, Kurt gripped his hand.
"That's us," he whispered. "Gate 42."
And Blaine's eyes scanned the board over the likely suspects: London Heathrow (Gate 12), Budapest Liszt Ferenc (Gate 34), Paris Charles de Gaulle (Gate Pending), until he saw it.
Gate 42. United Airlines. To Nairobi, Kenya.
"What the actual fuck, Kurt?" Blaine said.
"We're going on safari!" Kurt squealed, bouncing up and down.
"But… but you hate that kind of thing. Outdoorsy things."
"It's a five star safari, dummy. No tents for us. Pools and air con all the way. And don't worry about the gay thing, we'll just have to be careful and push some beds together."
And Blaine was suddenly so, so, so excited. The plane couldn't get there fast enough.
Check-in, bed for the night at the Nairobi InterContinental, sleep, breakfast, check-out, jeep out to the countryside, check-in at the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, afternoon nap, hour-long trek with a gamekeeper.
And that was how they got there.
To this sandy mound in the middle of the Serengeti.
It was early evening, and the sun was setting behind the dark fingers of the acacia trees. It was by now red and heavy in the sky, casting long shadows right behind them that draped back over their footsteps, hiding them from the light. The air was dense and alive with insects, which buzzed around their ears as sweat gathered at their temples, and the slight breeze did nothing but cocoon them in a cylinder of hot air.
But they didn't care.
Because right in the distance, they saw them, tiptoeing their way across the horizon.
Real and alive and wild and free.
A parade of elephants.
"They're even more beautiful in real life," Blaine whispered, his fingers ghosting over Kurt's shirt cuff. "I can't bel – I can't believe I'm here."
"I love you," Kurt whispered. "And I pictured this honeymoon for us since I was seventeen, so I'm glad you like it."
"I… I imagined it this way since I was little, the sun and the grass and the elephants. I used to play under my desk lamp so I would get hot, like in the desert."
Kurt smiled at him.
"I don't see how I can ever be happier than this," Blaine whispered.
Kurt grinned, his eyes twinkling bluer than ever in the sunset. "Anything's possible," he said. "Anything."
And Blaine grinned, watching as the elephants disappeared into the boiling sun.
"Thank you for everything," he said, squeezing Kurt's hand before drawing it away again. "Love you."
"I love you too."
And that, apart from the births of his two children, his wedding day, his election to Congress and the launch and good reception of Kurt's label, was the happiest day of Blaine Anderson-Hummel's life.
A/N So it's done, almost a year after I started it. I can't believe the length or the readership or even the fact that I managed to finish it, but here we are in summer 2012, 150,000 words later! Thank you so much for sticking with me through the long gaps between updates and for discussing the issues presented in the story in such lively debate on both PM and tumblr; I've loved all your feedback and getting to know so many of you.
I can barely even remember not having this story in my life and thoughts, and I will certainly miss it terribly. I feel like I've put a lot of myself into it, and to know that there are others who share my weird sense of humour (and, more seriously, some of my darker thoughts and general outlook on life) is an inexplicable feeling. The sheer range of people reading this story amazes me and I've had hits from places as diverse as Argentina, New Zealand, South Korea, India and France. It is one of my greatest ambitions to travel the world and, as cheesy as it sounds, this story makes me feel like in a small way I already have.
I am so grateful to everyone who has subscribed, favourited and reviewed: you are all so kind and generous, and you've definitely helped me improve my writing. Looking back at the first chapter sort of makes me cringe a bit but I've decided against changing it because I kind of like that it shows that process and that it's a bit rough around the edges. I hope you'll agree.
Thank you for reading, thank you for favouriting, thank you for alerting, thank you for reccing on tumblr and thank you for commenting. And super thank yous to evviejo and Laure for translating! You can keep in touch by tumblr (mrssosostris . tumblr . com - remove spaces) or by author alert and PM, whatever you want. My new story, The View from Nowhere, is also here on FFnet, as is my one-shot, Stories from the Staircase.
Thanks one again for your kindness and friendship.
Over and out xxxxxx