Written for the klaine_endgame fic fest at livejournal. This is a lot more light-hearted than my usual style and I had a lot of trouble with it, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. Blaine is such a lovely character to write.
Blaine Anderson keeps dreams in glass jars.
He leaves his window open at night for them to come in, pretty swirling mists in grey-streaked jewel shades, all seeking him out for a common end. They're easy to quell, settle down like sand with a soft cooing tone as they're gently ushered into their coops; like children, almost, except that children talk back. So he captures them with glass and a cork, sets them on his desk, and waits patiently for sleep.
It should really be more disconcerting that Blaine dreams so vividly of people he has never met, like only the gentlest kind of hallucination. But it's not; he's grateful for them, really, because otherwise he would never dream at all. He finds a strange comfort in the florid primary tones of people walking through lives he has never experienced, watching them feel joy and love and the deepest, darkest sadness; the kind of melancholy only experienced by people who have accepted the fate of being left alone to float out to sea. And perhaps that is a little wrong in itself, but knowing that others are worse off – so far worse off – than he is is a disturbing comfort that he has grown to be okay with.
But then, it doesn't make Blaine any less determined to help them. He has to. There's an internal fire that ignites in his chest after he dreams, and the crackling he hears there tells him that yes, yes, yes, you are needed and important, you are the only person who can hear them, it's your duty.
Blaine Anderson is a terribly reluctant soldier of the dreaming world. Maybe it would be nice to be normal sometimes, he thinks with his chin resting on his palm, staring at the glass jars on the shelf with a practised frown. These ones are fulfilled, and they glitter with joy like stars in their iridescent colours, turquoise and indigo and ruby, flushed with the flutters of love and success. Blaine always finds himself somewhat jealous of them and their silent taunting happiness. He touches them once, a gentle pet of a finger-pad, and watches them glow as he falls asleep.
He dreams. He falls backwards and catches himself on his feet (for he is surprisingly less awkward in his dreams) and listens to the silence all around him in the undersea exploration of dreams. The scenery is uninspired and pointlessly tranquil – a high school wrecked white by snow stands in front of him, foreboding and cold in the dusk surrounding it. The school's name is etched into a sign by the gates, but in the fading lines of the dream world they are unreadable.
He's not even sure how he knows it's a school; there are no teenagers, no children, no signs of life other than the cold mid-winter air searing his cheeks in a cold fire, reminding him that he is really there (as there as he ever is). It reminds him of Ohio and his childhood, which isn't something that he'd really like to remember at all. So Blaine steps forward, cautiously, the quiet rolling crunch of the snow under his feet taking him across the parking lot and towards the front doors. There's a boy there, standing with his back to Blaine, head tilted up towards the sky.
His frame is tall and languid, standing with an easy grace – and Blaine wonders how someone can possibly be graceful without moving, but there's no other way to describe it. His hair is dark, swept neatly behind his ears, and his clothes are sharp and expertly tailored. This person doesn't look much like a high school student at all, and yet, here they are.
"They're all Lima losers," the boy says eventually, voice dropped with a fury softened only by the pastels of memory. "I got out. I left. I showed them that I'm better than any of them could ever hope to be. It gets better, right?"
Blaine opens his mouth to reply, but remembers that he shouldn't and closes it again. Instead, he half-stumbles closer, his feet curving inelegantly across the heavy snowfall until the boy catches him at his side. Blaine stands with hands clasped behind his back, patient. It always comes out eventually, if you just listen hard enough.
(Kurt feels a sudden rush of wind scraping against his face, and has the most curious feeling that someone is listening. But there's nobody there; there's not a soul hiding in the wide expanse of the school grounds. So he turns to the side and speaks to the evening air.)
"I don't need someone to rescue me," the boy tests, lip curling into a pretence of a sneer as he speaks. "I want to – I want – a person who's as open and brave as I am."
His tone is strange, stilted, like he's repeating the words verbatim from somewhere else. He's looking right at Blaine now, eyes pale; intense shades of blue and grey burn themselves evenly across Blaine's line of sight and he finds himself rooted to the spot by a force even stranger than the watery flood he feels across his skin when he dream-walks. The boy frowns, his eyes wet and yet somehow full of a burning fierceness that eats Blaine to the bone. "Why the hell am I so lonely?"
And – oh – Blaine forgets for a moment, his arm falling forward through the air to try and catch the front of this boy, maybe touch him and tell him that it's alright yes I'll find him (him?) for you please just don't look at me like that any longer please I beg you. But he trips with his own body weight as his fingers score invisible through the boy's shirt and plunge into his chest and the boy jumps with a start that, fuck, that's not right –
("... I don't like to be kept waiting.")
Blaine wakes up and the jar is drowning in the most morose shades of violet and storm-grey he has ever seen, the glow a downcast gloom in the beginning lights of dawn.
Blaine finds the boy four days later in one of those dime-a-dozen student-esque coffee shops. The opening bars of some song he can't quite place come to his head, and he hums absently along to the tune (because the words also escape him) as he stands unknowingly in line. The barista tuts irritably as she begins to hum the tune alongside him, calls him a menace and he just smiles brightly at her and stage-whispers that maybe he's an evil wizard, destined to stick stupid tunes in people's heads!
He gets a smiley face next to his name on the cup for that one. As Blaine turns, lips curled in a gesture aimed at no one but himself, his eyes flick up and catch that blue-grey colour that makes his skin prickle in memory. But recall has only just managed to hit him when the colour disappears as quick as it came, hidden in the turn of a dark-haired head towards the window. The shop is a little crowded – it's a Thursday lunchtime – but Blaine can see this boy from what seems like miles away.
It's just a little strange, because he doesn't seem sad at all. His face isn't entirely clear from where Blaine's standing, but from the curve of his lip and the hand propping up his chin he seems far more... bored. Curious.
Frowning, Blaine leans the small of his back against one of the quieter counters and watches for a moment while pretending not to. He rocks on the balls of his feet, cracks his knuckles (even though he cringes at the sound), and checks the time at least five times over in the resulting minute and a half before his impulsive side grows bored of time-keeping and irritating noises and strolls over confidently to the boy's table. Confidently, until he realises he hadn't actually considered what he was going to say. Stupid.
"Um, excuse me," he tries, and the boy starts and looks up at him with a raised eyebrow. His expression stays impassive and it worries Blaine a little, but he perseveres because he really kind of has to. "Sorry, it's just kind of busy – could I sit here?"
"Go ahead," the boy shrugs, his hands curling defensively around his coffee cup as he turns away again. His profile is striking, Blaine thinks absently as he sits down with a grateful smile. If only he could make a private sketch of it, mark the soft curve of the boy's nose into his lips and chin and down his throat, the smudged lines disappearing in the loops of a deep scarlet scarf.
"I'm Blaine, by the way," he says after a second spent wondering if the boy was going to start it up (they often did, being naturally lonely dreamers).
The boy's eyebrow seems to be permanently quirked in some only slightly varying level of disdain. "Kurt," he nods stiffly; Blaine sticks his hand out and Kurt stares at it for several seconds before clasping it like Blaine is only a hair-trigger from exploding everywhere. 'Oh, your hand is really soft', Blaine almost says out loud before he realises that this is even stupider than most of the things he comes out with.
Instead: "It's a nice day outside, really, don't you think?" Blaine is particularly fond of winter; partly because it is a lot easier to dress for cold weather than it is for warm weather, and partly because his inner eight-year-old just wants to roll around and make snow angels and igloos where the roof caves in after ten minutes forever.
"If 'nice' means having a good excuse to indulge my fondness for pea coats and cable scarves," Kurt smiles this time, tiny and yet somehow Blaine watches Kurt's eyes light up; his hands automatically move to brush the sleeves of his navy coat (... Burberry? Blaine thinks, suddenly feeling a little out of place in his own Urban Outfitters coat) free from invisible lint. "I don't really hold any pleasant memories of snow, though, so I wouldn't call it nice."
"Oh, you don't?" Blaine's face falls a little. "I'll have to respectfully disagree with you. Winter's pretty much my favourite time of year. It's... romantic, somehow."
It's a pretty poor attempt, all things considered, but Kurt's slightly irritable expression fades a little under Blaine's gaze, turning into a slight thoughtfulness. Blaine smiles back like this makes all the difference in the world, and somehow it does. "Slush and broken central heating systems aren't really my idea of romance," Kurt sighs, his eyes narrowing slightly like an unspoken shut up. Blaine cheerfully ignores it, because listening to non-verbal cues never gets you anywhere.
"Oh, but what about going ice-skating, or walking hand-in hand through a picture-perfect snow scene of Central Park? It would be nice," Blaine says, pushing; he smiles as he turns his head to watch the grey-skied snowfall outside, flakes crouching against the window like silent voyeurs. "At least, I think it would." He stares there for a long moment, before turning back to Kurt. Kurt who is smiling with a tipped head, eyes suddenly soft with some feeling Blaine can't quite place – but his own smile only grows wider as he presses his fingers along the searing heat of his coffee cup.
"You ask weird questions," Kurt replies after a moment, appearing to catch himself dreaming and straightening his back with a slight crease in his forehead. It's such a shame, Blaine thinks absently. "It would certainly be a better-smelling romance, doing it now, I suppose."
Blaine considers this before nodding. "I suppose An Affair To Remember in the Mist of the Sewage System wouldn't be a very good movie title. Or plot. Or much of anything."
"Sounds like a particularly upscale Gremlins sequel," Kurt says, and he can't seem to help smiling or letting a little flutter of laughter slip out, his eyes suddenly bright and sparkling where they were distant before. Blaine feels his chest tighten, strangely, and wonders just how it is that someone so – so – he doesn't quite have the words for it, yet, but surely a person like this shouldn't ever feel alone.
Somehow this breaks the proverbial (and certainly not the literal, the way the snowfall was going) ice, and they talk until the insistent scraping of chairs and dark looks from tired baristas remind them that coffeehouses do, in fact, close. Blaine learns that Kurt is a musical theatre major at NYU ("of course I'm excellent," he smirks), that he shares an apartment with a girl called Rachel Berry who is apparently disgustingly talented ("the days alternate on whether I want to burn her collection of knee-highs or buy her five more pairs."), that he once tried to write a musical about Pippa Middleton that never got past the first act because nobody would critique his lyrics and the freedom of creative expression somehow got on his nerves ("it sounds stupid, I know, but I didn't really want to do it all myself for some ridiculous reason..."), and that he misses his friend Mercedes terribly (but they talk all the time, so it's okay).
Blaine knows all of these things and more, but he still doesn't know why Kurt Hummel flinches at his touch, or why he changes the subject when the topic slides towards high school. He walks home with the thoughts in his head; they tumble around as he opens the door to his apartment and is barraged with greetings from Jeff and Nick (who are at least never boring roommates, the time with the water pistols aside), and storm impatiently as he trudges through yet another essay on a subject he will forget as soon as it is submitted.
But they settle, just a little, when his eyes land on the jar as he stares at his bedside table in the shadows of midnight. It's glowing a little brighter now; where violet was once scored with morose grey now lightened to silver threads like needles across the pretty surface. That was unusual; often it would take days before that much of a colour change would happen. Perhaps Kurt already knows the person, although Blaine hadn't come to that conclusion over their conversation.
Oh well. It must be nice, falling in love with a friend, he thinks as he turns over to face the wall and close his eyes. Blaine wouldn't know.
Kurt Hummel steps into his apartment with feet lighter than they perhaps should be. Rachel's sitting on the sofa with her knees curled up to her chest, hair pulled back and the leftover lasagne halfway to her mouth. (And she is Rachel Berry, so she notices immediately because that is what she does.)
"Where were you all day? I know you didn't have any classes after twelve," she says, pretending to act nonchalant but unable to keep the devious grin from giving her game away. "And don't just say 'nothing', I've had nothing to talk about all day and I need something to have a lady-chat about."
Kurt rolls his eyes and unwinds his scarf, folding the material carefully and fixing Rachel with one of his stares. "You don't even drink milk, Rachel. You are not Finn 2.0," he points out, but he finds himself smiling like a contented cat as he shrugs off his coat and tries not to let it show. "But if you must know, I met someone."
"Oh?" Rachel sets the plate teetering dangerously on the arm of the sofa and tips her head curiously. (This is where her and Finn differ hugely; Finn most likely would have frowned and said but don't you meet a lot of people every day, how is that special?). "You're being so coy, Kurt. He must be a catch."
"Well," Kurt sighs dramatically as he sinks down next to her and thinks, not for the first time, that the springs in this sofa really suck. "I can't say I'm really impressed by the ludicrous amount of product in his hair, but if he's willing to put in that much effort that could change... but I don't know. I have other things to worry about."
But that's all they say about it; Rachel just nods, seeming to get the idea, and asks so like the Music Theory final we were going to study for together?
Kurt comes crashing down and reminds himself that this kind of thing – kinds of people like Blaine, with warm eyes and dulcet voices and ridiculous idealistic notions – will only get in his way (in the way of people crawling under his skin where they really shouldn't be because people are pains and you cannot trust them at all).
There's an insane fluster of finals and studying and panicking and Blaine's head becoming increasingly blown with the saturation of caffeine, but eventually it ends. And it's not that he isn't glad for that – he has too many things to juggle at once, let alone dropping the weight of his intricate and rather isolated style of studying on top of his balancing trick – but the tight coil in his chest at the thought of being able to see Kurt again somewhat unnerves him for reasons he doesn't understand.
Well. Blaine does, somewhat, understand. The past couple of weeks have birthed endless text conversations like a flutter of butterflies from cocoons and it only affirms Blaine's suspicion that Kurt is one of the most fascinating people he has ever met. He is one of those people whose words are infused with every aspect of themselves; sharp and painted in fluorescent colours (that all match impeccably), where Blaine sometimes feels a little like he is drawn in faded chalk pastels in comparison.
But that is what he does, most of the time – he fades quietly into the back of people's minds, gently nudging and sympathising and advice-giving with a charming smile until he solves the puzzle and retreats. And he's really quite okay with that.
"Morning, starshine," he says with a grin as he sits down next to a very drained-looking Kurt, who just scowls and wrinkles his nose in response. Oh. He turns it down into a sympathetic smile and winces a little. "Rough week? Here."
"You know my coffee order?"
Blaine blinks. "Of course I do," he shrugs. "But that's not a very good answer to my kind query as to your health."
"I'll live, I'm sure," Kurt says wryly, taking a sip of coffee; Blaine watches a little content smile sweep across Kurt's lips and finds it infectious. "I get a little wound up when it comes to my GPA. Scholarships don't just fall into your lap, you know? But I'm pretty sure I did well."
"Um, yeah," Blaine nods, even though he really has no idea at all. He decides to change the subject. "So, what are your plans for the winter break, anyway? Now that you suddenly have all this free time."
Kurt raises an eyebrow and clicks his tongue. "Yeah, free time my ass," he says, not quite acerbic, pulling the lid off his coffee cup and stirring its contents absently. "The countdown to Christmas is hell when you work in retail, you know."
"Oh? Where do you work?"
And Blaine thinks – ah, co-workers, a good start – but of course it turns out that Kurt works in a small-chain shoe store away from the centre where his co-workers are all women. ("It's not what I would've expected back in high school – endless dreams of showrooms, of course – but it pays pretty well and everyone there is great, so. I can't really complain.") Kurt smiles and winds tales of ridiculous customers and being the only one able to replace the sale signs without having to climb the death-trap ladder to the higher rungs – and Blaine listens and laughs and forgets that time is passing until Kurt taps his watch and says that he really has to go sometime soon.
He's really not getting anywhere on this at all. But he has time; plenty of time to spend making friends and going home with a curious lightness to his steps and endless teasing from Jeff and Nick (who are convinced that every boy Blaine meets is a veritable love match). Yes. He doesn't mind that at all.
Kurt finds that his life is becoming increasingly centred around a coffeehouse that doesn't even sell particularly good coffee.
He finds it very, very hard to care, and that's probably the most irritating thing of all.
There's a space in late December where Kurt goes home to Lima, Ohio – a little space preserved by the wonders of modern communication where Blaine discovers that they lived so very close to each other, once, but never quite crossed paths. The thought makes him a little sad for reasons he can't quite explain to himself. (Seventeen finds Kurt frustrated and alone in a place where he is surrounded by people who will never understand; seventeen finds Blaine capturing the swirling mists crouching at his window and fixing strangers.)
It's the Christmas holidays, of course. But Blaine doesn't really want to go home, and so he doesn't. Instead, he finds himself staring at Kurt's jar far more often than is normal, watching the grey twist itself around the deep purple like gnarled branches. It makes his stomach twist in a strange feeling he can't comprehend – although he has been finding that Kurt's presence in his life has been followed by a lot of conflicting and confusing feelings – and it only makes him try harder, sending gently probing texts about love and relationships, all of which tend to be sharply shot down. Kurt Hummel is a very tough customer.
Kurt returns to his and Rachel's apartment right after New Years', and Finn tags along because he wants to moon over Rachel some more or – something – Kurt doesn't actually care any more. He had been long past the point of caring when the two of them broke up for the sixth and seemingly final time right before their high school graduation, and he wasn't at all ready to start giving a shit any time soon.
"Happy New Year!" Blaine beams at him when Kurt opens the door, ludicrously handsome and oblivious as always. Oh, but to be privy to the thoughts going through Blaine's head; Kurt imagines that everything is probably very dashing and prince-like there. Like a boy from a early-era Disney movie, except with endearing character traits beyond 'rakishly handsome'.
"Happy New Year to you, too. I only got back this morning," Kurt remarks, letting Blaine and watching him shrug off his coat and neatly hang up his scarf on the pegs Kurt had thoughtfully installed when he and Rachel had moved in (oh, a tidy man after his own heart – he wished, he reminded himself bitterly). "You're quick off the mark – shoes."
Blaine is still smiling brightly at him, only partly obscured by the dip of his head as he takes his shoes off. "Dare I say that I missed your witty conversation?" he says, straightening up and following a couple of steps behind Kurt into the living room, apparently not noticing either Finn or Rachel on the sofa. They were, however, both currently engaged in an intensely quiet conversation full of sharp eyes and surprisingly restrained hand gestures on Rachel's end, so Kurt could understand why. (Perhaps Blaine was pretending.)
"You'll charm your own pants off if you're not careful, with lines like that," Kurt sighs, "Oh, okay, introductions – oh. You haven't met Rachel before," he says, like this was entirely unheard of. (Generally, if you knew Kurt, you knew Rachel; he hadn't really needed to make introductions before.) "Well, this is Rachel, who needs no introduction, and this is my step-brother Finn. This is Blaine. He likes coffee."
Blaine looks slightly affronted by this description ("Hey, I like more things than coffee! Like –" "– biscotti, can't forget about that..."), but otherwise seems relaxed; tells Rachel that he's pleased to finally meet the girl behind the voice, and nearly drowns his hand in Finn's own. They both seem somewhat grateful for the person-shaped distraction – and no doubt Finn will assume things and try his best to play the intimidating step-brother role while really only managing to be himself – so Kurt disappears into the kitchen, since it's his turn today.
Just as well he overbought, Kurt thinks dryly as he rummages around in the back of the cupboard for the stupid wok. Humming absently as he works, he only half-listens to the buzz of conversation – little snatches about college football and Blaine charming the knee-highs off Rachel with his more than rudimentary knowledge of Broadway. As such, he doesn't notice Blaine wandering in until he's already leaning against the opposite cabinets, hazel eyes watching Kurt with something that makes shivers curl up his spine.
"You can go back and talk to Finn and Rachel if you want, you know," Kurt says, not bothering to turn around after spotting Blaine lurking at the corner of the vision; Blaine starts, almost guilty. "I'm not exactly being very exciting right now."
Blaine smiles and shrugs. "I felt kind of like I was intruding on something, after a little bit. Intense stuff. It's nice and tension-free in here."
Kurt resists the urge to roll his eyes at that particular comment. (Oh, if Blaine had any idea at all.) "Can't say I blame you. I've had at least five years of this. I'm pretty sure it's prematurely ageing my skin."
"Your skin is flawless," Blaine steps over to lean his elbows on the counter next to the hobs, and Kurt just knows he is watching the curve of pink highlight the bridge of Kurt's nose and along his cheekbones with his – annoying – eyes of his. (Bastard. Having eyes. That were a nice warm shade of hazel and shut the hell up, Kurt.)
"You don't pronounce 'caked in stupid freckles' that way," he replies, his words sharp because he is poor at taking compliments. "I'd say that was sweet, but then we might edge into lame high school romcom territory and nobody wants that."
"I'm sorry, Kurt," Blaine says softly, and it sounds genuinely hurt until Kurt turns his head to check and Blaine's eyes are glittering even in his curled, hands-in-pockets position. "I will never compliment you again, I promise.
"Good. Oh, you don't mind eating vegetarian, do you?" Kurt asks, only remembering to ask now that he's halfway done with prep because his mind tends to wander when around Blaine and his oblivious comments. "Not that you really have any choice in the matter, but you know, in case of the event where you will die without eating an animal. But even Finn is kind of over that stage, so I'd be very disappointed in you."
"No, no, I'm fine with that," Blaine laughs, his eyes crinkling and his teeth showing and – it's so genuine it's almost physically painful for Kurt to watch. Nobody should be allowed to have smiles like that (especially not hopelessly sweet boys with strange preoccupations with the most mundane corners of your existence). "That's sweet, that you'll eat vegetarian for Rachel. Were you close during high school?"
Kurt shrugs, like it doesn't matter. "I'm health-conscious anyway, so it's not a big deal. And hm, not until maybe halfway through junior year," he pauses, only partly for effect. "She's a good friend. Even if she used to steal all my solos in glee club."
"I can't imagine you letting that happen without a fight," Blaine says, leaning forward to rest both forearms on the counter and stretching his legs with a raise onto his toes. It's a little strange, how petit Blaine actually is; he is not skinny or particularly short, but his waist and shoulders are narrow and he really does himself no favours by wearing rolled-up jeans but Kurt will let it pass. He'll let it pass mostly because he's trying very hard not to scare Blaine with the sinking memories of high school deep in his chest. "I always kind of pegged you for the competitive type, for some strange reason."
Kurt's face falls, slightly, even though he somehow manages to keep a fading smile there as he turns his head to frown thoughtfully at the wok. "Sometimes, there are more important things than solos."
And he grits his teeth immediately after saying it and busies himself with finishing and roping Blaine into finding the plates (which he does first time lucky, leading Kurt to frivolously wonder if they were somehow linked in their sensible ideas over where cooking utensils live), but Blaine never presses the issue, just looks at Kurt in a terribly strange way. It's almost like he's looking right through him, but then it's not; his eyes are soft but not pitying, dark and intense, and it makes Kurt shiver a little.
Finn ruins the moment by asking Blaine if you can be mad at someone even if that someone had really, really good intentions (Kurt absolutely does not see that side-eye towards Rachel, wow, Finn, you sure have become the master of subtlety). As the only neutral party, Blaine happily enters that weird giddy happy face he gets when he has a problem to solve and Kurt and Rachel both sigh in precisely the same manner and try to steer the conversation back onto something they can't argue about but of course, it doesn't work.
(Blaine goes home, late late late, and presses the heel of his palm into his forehead when he realises that he has just wasted time again. Although, then, it still never feels like he has frittered the hours away like he supposes he should.)
They don't have a fight about the ex-boyfriend, which is still somehow unsettling.
There's nothing actually particularly wrong with Rueben – other than that his name is stupid, Blaine thinks uncharitably – but Blaine just doesn't get the right impression of him. The scene is dank and cast in rhythmic shadow, but even so there's just something off about the guy that raises Blaine's hackles.
He tries to focus on the task at hand, for a fleeting moment. Often he does get assignments that involve reuniting exes who simply walked out too early on something wonderful, and those are simultaneously heart-warming and mildly depressing.
This is not one of those times.
"You're Blaine, right?" Rueben (who is taller than Blaine, wiry and red-headed with sharp eyes) says with a clean, polite smile; one taught from a childhood spent pleasing adults and keeping quiet. (Blaine would know.) "I've heard a lot about you," he continues, with a certain kind of grin that kind of makes Blaine want to – turn around and leave – but he stays, smiling back awkwardly and smoothing the tip of his finger along the bottom rim of the cup he's holding.
"I'm surprised; I wasn't aware I was that exciting," Blaine replies over the thud of the music, continuing his smile but feeling it become distant and forced as his gaze slides over to Kurt, who is looking between them with a carefully placed disinterested expression. "It's nice to meet you."
And they shake hands and smile, like their fingers are pincers and their teeth are fangs. "Modest, huh?" Rueben says when they let go, thumb rolling condensed drops of water free from the beer he's holding. "That's cool. You experimenting, Kurt?"
"Yes, experimenting with someone who isn't dragged around on a leash by their over-inflated ego, you know me. No, Blaine's just a friend."
"Oh, a friend," Rueben sighs, pulling an exaggerated frown. "You never wanted to be friends with me, Kurt."
"Yes," Kurt laughs, hand coming up to flick his hair back into place seemingly on-cue with a strand beginning to droop. "Maybe you should have picked up a hard life lesson from that."
And it's a joke, Blaine presumes, because Rueben's face doesn't falter and he and Kurt fall into a natural verbal sparring like they've done it for years. But it doesn't sit quite right with him, anyway, and he retreats into his sidelined introversion.
"You never know when you'll need a person for a covert operation," Kurt smirks at Blaine's curious look, after Rueben is shouted after by someone wearing a frog hat for no readily available reason. "And I'll have you know our break-up was quite amicable. Mostly, we got bored with each other. Or I got bored of these parties and being emotionally blackmailed into playing Ring of Fire or whatever it is. I don't quite remember what his reasons were. Probably something more important than a one-sided dislike of drinking games."
"Hmm," Blaine says, because he doesn't have anything particularly nice or non-invasive to say. However, Kurt doesn't seem particularly bothered either way – Blaine supposes he wouldn't, considering that he's willingly attending a slightly late New Years'-themed mixer that his ex-boyfriend is holding for the LGBT(QIA) club – and he disappears into the crowd after a moment, spangled waistcoat gleaming as it catches the spotlights. Kurt always catches the spotlights at the best moments, it seems.
Blaine considers this for a moment, a moment spent in a particularly uncharitable area of his head – until there's a voice in his ear. "Oh, hey, Blaine!" Claire (a particularly enthusiastic American Short Story classmate, with a sharp shock of red hair) shouts over the music, shaking Blaine free from his musings. "You never said you were coming."
"Kurt kind of prodded me into it," he says, immediately realising that Claire probably has no idea who that is. "He's a theatre major and is... somewhere..."
Claire grins. "Aw, Blaine, ditched by your own date? That's a sad life."
"He's just a friend."
"Oh, okay," she nods, pretending to dismiss the thought when it is clearly there in the glint of her pale blue eyes. "I'm here with Katie and Spence, but I think they're doing some kind of chat-up competition. I really don't know what's wrong with those two sometimes..."
Blaine nods along, but soon tunes out, an event which is only mostly caused by someone bumping into the volume dial and cranking the music to near eardrum-bursting levels. His eyes wander back over to Kurt again, who is listening in tilted interest to someone who is probably desperately boring.
"What's wrong with your face?" Claire asks after a minute or so, tilting her head so that Blaine starts when it suddenly obscures his line of sight. "Are you all right? Please don't die on me, or it will prove all my obsessive Googling of sudden adult death syndrome horribly prophetic."
Blaine laughs at that (Claire has always inclined towards the dramatic side of life) but it probably doesn't quite reach his eyes as he shakes his head. Kurt's still there, smiling and cocking his head and dropping pithy one-liners, and yet Blaine doesn't sense anything other than the irritating clench deep in his chest. "No sudden cardiac arrests in this corner. Don't worry about it, I'm fine," he blatantly lies.
"Sure?" Claire's eyebrow is arched in that curiously perfect way of hers – Blaine vaguely remembers their first meeting having her drunk and giggling hysterically over how his own eyebrows looked 'so much like door wedges' – and she gives a little emphatic sigh. "You could just say you don't want to talk about it. I wouldn't bother you about it."
Claire ponders this for a moment; Blaine watches as Kurt laughs brightly and brushes shoulders and wrists and fingers as he speaks. "Yeah, probably. Worth a try though, right?" she says, and Blaine 'hmm's distractedly at her. There's another sigh. "Goodness, you're mooning all over the place. I'll leave you to it, Jane Eyre. Catch ya'."
And she's swallowed into the crowd of people much happier (and far more intoxicated) than Blaine is before he can turn around and explain why that literary comparison doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make sense because – Kurt is no Rochester, tortured and snarling and stuffy; because there's no wife in the attic, no great sprawling house and no tormented prose. And Blaine is certainly, certainly no Jane – for all the reasons in the universe.
He's not in love with Kurt Hummel, he reminds himself with a sharp mental kick (his lip curls in a physical response, which probably makes him look like a ruffled puppy, but he doesn't care). Because if he was, perhaps he would grab Kurt's wrist and drag him away from all those boys – boys – who would never appreciate him the right way, pull him out of the room and into the pipe-frozen air of the halls outside and –
He doesn't know what comes after that. He's a little afraid to know.
Blaine goes outside and breathes in the ice-burn and smoke-sodden air as some form of twisted punishment.
The next day, Kurt calls him.
"Oh, hey, Kurt. What's up?"
"You were acting strangely, last night." (Never one to mince words.)
"I was? I don't remember... even though I didn't really drink a lot. Hm. I guess it just wasn't really my thing."
"Well, apparently, since you disappeared about ten thirty without, you know, even a paper aeroplane note thrown at my head to explain." A pause. "You're okay?"
"Yes. ... Yes, of course. You were worried about me?"
(Blaine can almost hear the eye-roll punctuating his question.) "Of course. I always worry for people who try to escape my wonderful company."
"Oh, no, it wasn't you. I was..." (bothered by nothing.) "... I just wasn't really in the mood, I guess. One of those days you don't really want to deal with people? Even certain nameless theatre majors."
"Hmm. It wasn't anything in particular?"
(Kurt makes a noise like he's not quite ready to believe that, but there's a deflating sigh and Blaine knows he is probably safe.) "Okay, if you're sure. But I insist that you have to come over, because Rachel is in Ohio for the weekend and I'm going to stick a fork in my face if I spend any time alone. I'm actually sick of myself."
"Well –" sigh "– if you're going to injure yourself if I don't..."
"Kidding, I'm kidding! Yes. That sounds great, I'll come over if you give me fifteen minutes."
"Then it's a d– well. It's a thing."
And it's nothing, really, squashed together on Kurt's sofa eating Chinese out of the take-out boxes and watching Criminal Minds re-runs until Kurt starts squirming uncomfortably and request that maybe please they watch something involving less gruesome murders? (Blaine suggests Most Haunted with a grin, and is promptly smacked in the nose with the end of a fork for having no taste.)
But, eventually, the TV winds down and goes into standby, and Blaine's head is resting on Kurt's shoulder, eyes closed because neither of them can work up the energy to peruse Rachel or Kurt's condensed musical collection or do anything other than huff against each other.
"I'm sleeping here."
"I'm working in the morning, so let yourself out."
"Okay. ... Night, Kurt."
(So, so okay.)
The night is a lot brighter than usual, Blaine decides with a cloud in his head. It's the snow that maybe does it – everything looks so wonderful and beautiful and he is very glad that he's a happy drunk because if he wasn't he wouldn't be seeing this right now in all its pretty twilight glory.
"You drank too much," Kurt states the obvious, his words a little heavy but otherwise surprisingly lucid. Blaine had invited Kurt to a birthday party of some guy in Jeff's Statistics class because – because – well, he's not really sure why since it doesn't really have anything to do with Kurt being sad, but it's not like Blaine had been making much progress on that anyway. And then Finn was around for the weekend for... some reason Blaine doesn't remember, and then Rachel was coming too, and it had been fun and exciting and yes, he had probably drank too much.
"You drank too," Blaine sniffs, turning his head in an attempt to look haughty, but for some reason his face is stuck in a weird broad grin that kind of hurts his cheeks so Kurt just snorts at him and grabs his wrist to stop him from toppling over too enthusiastically into the nearest pile of snow.
Sufficiently uprighted, Blaine blinks hard at a streetlight and wonders why everything is so shiny, all of a sudden. "Yes, but I'm not nearing 'plastered'. And I mean 'plastered' in that you're going to end up with miscellaneous limbs in plaster in the morning if you don't stop tripping over yourself," Kurt replies with an amused quirk of his eyebrows and a stunning level of clarity that Blaine can only stare at in an attempt to comprehend. After a moment where no lightbulb comes on, Blaine simply stops in the quiet street and stretches out his arm, eyes wide and serious despite the situation.
"Then hold my hand," he says, catching Kurt's hand in his own without really thinking about it until his skin tingles. It feels like stars sparkling across his palm, and he beams delightedly for no reason.
"Honestly, it's like we're back in grade school," Kurt sighs, carefully leading Blaine around a corner with a smile giving him away. "Remind me why we didn't stay with Finn and Rachel?"
"Awkward," Blaine deadpans. (It had been horrendously awkward – in the midst of all their sexual tension, Blaine had seriously considered foregoing Kurt for the moment and banging their heads together. He had then decided that it would perhaps be a little rude to interrupt their staring session.) "You – you said it was like being back in junior year of high school again. And then something about a party. I think."
Kurt makes a little noise of understanding, nodding thoughtfully. "That makes sense. I haven't told you about the time Rachel tried to have her first drinking experience, have I?"
"Nope. How'd that go?"
"Well, of course the story starts with Rachel being upset that Finn didn't think the song she wrote about her headband was made of gold-dust and unicorns..."
They hold hands during Puck's brave liquor cabinet jiggling, through Brittany (whoever that is) becoming an impromptu stripper after the vodka appeared, through the body-shots and the glitter and a ("incredibly childish and drama-fuelling") game of Spin-the-Bottle, all the way back to Kurt's apartment, and that's more or less all that Blaine really remembers about that. Other than perhaps the pleasant tingling feeling of someone's palm warm against his own as they stepped through the snowdrifts, Kurt's voice running through his ears like bells.
He has a strange dream – mostly strange in that he is able to recall it when he wakes up, but nonetheless unsettling; of unbearable warmth and fire, of fingers curled around coffee cups and the wet shine of blue eyes and that strange curling feeling in his chest that hasn't gone away since December. Things that make him want more, more of – anything – everything – what?
Blaine floods back into reality; he wakes up with a vice-grip headache and his nose pressed into Kurt's hair, and it's only then that he realises that he has missed yet another opportunity. Three months is a long time for one assignment to go on without even a hint of success in his wake – although Kurt is perhaps a special case. But he's not sure if that's the case, or if Blaine himself is just losing his touch.
(Kurt grumbles and turns over so he's flat on his back, proving his insistences about not being a morning person correct. Blaine smiles at that without knowing why, which proves to be a terrible skull-piercing mistake and he scowls instead, sitting up and sighing heavily before speaking. "Mornin', starshine. Sorry, but – eh – where are your painkillers?"
"Bathroom cupboard. Not your starshine. S'not even an original nickname." But it isn't said without fondness.)
Maybe Kurt is just terribly hard to please, even on a magical dream-walking level. But he finds himself almost not minding, sitting at Kurt's living room table trying to piece together the night before with Kurt and Rachel (who looks a little smug this morning) and Finn (whose dopey grin is wider than ever)'s help and Kurt's bright (beautiful) laughter echoing across the walls. Their knees knock together and slowly, eventually, their legs gravitate until they're pressed tight against each other, and Blaine's heart skips in a strange manner he is entirely unused to.
He goes home and the jar is glowing.
Not like before, not like fireflies trying desperately to keep up a dying light; it's almost fluorescent in its joy, the violet no longer suppressed by grey or silver bars of loneliness but why? Blaine hadn't – there hadn't been anyone at all, not one person who had crossed his radar. He would have known, surely.
There is something missing, and Blaine picks the jar up – puts it back down – shakes it, carefully, in case it suddenly produces Etch-A-Sketch qualities – puts it next to the others to compare, and they all cast the same shimmering light – and he twists his fingers together because he doesn't understand. He – he always understands.
"Kurt?" he tries finally, his voice struggling to keep from falling into ridiculous hysterics. He is quite sure that would translate quite clearly, even down the crackle of a cell phone line.
"Blaine? What is it, did you leave something here, because I'm pretty sure we checked off all your things before you left –"
"No, no, it's not that. It's – uh – this is going to sound a little weird, but," Blaine pauses, because he's suddenly realised that he has no idea how to phrase this without it sounding utterly ridiculous. "Have you... met... anyone, recently? You know?"
"What?" Kurt laughs, but it's unsure and strange to Blaine's ears. "No, I don't 'know'? What are you talking about, I haven't met anyone new. Unless you still count, but then..."
Unless you still count
Oh, fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
"Ah, right," Blaine says in a calm tone completely opposite of his current brain function. "It – it doesn't matter any more, Kurt, I'll see you later, okay?"
"Um, Blaine, what the –"
And Blaine throws his cell across the room for some reason and immediately regrets it because shit. No. This – this shouldn't happen. People don't fall for dream-catchers; they fall for normal people who don't hallucinate about other people's depressing lives or who don't make friends with others just so they can make their lives better and then disappear like a ghost. It doesn't work like that and he's fucked it up, he's fucked it over and he
doesn't give two shits about that.
Blaine's heart is pounding in his chest and yet it feels like only the sweetest kind of rush heavy in his veins. He would – really like to be a normal person with Kurt. Kurt makes him feel normal; normal in a strange way, perhaps, in that every word and touch is bright and sparks across his brain like nobody else has ever really been. Everyone else could be so desperately boring in comparison to Kurt Hummel (twenty years old; birthday July tenth; favourite colour ash grey; fascinating like none of these ridiculous facts live up to).
Blaine had just not realised what that had meant until right now. What an idiot.
He waits two days until he knocks on Kurt's door ("run like the wind, Bullseye!" Jeff had shouted after he closed the front door), because he hadn't prepared anything clever to say. And Kurt probably at least deserves a grovelling apology for Blaine's utter stupidity; Blaine frowns at the little swirls of violet in their glass casing, and feels that they agree entirely.
It's strange, though. When he sleeps now he dreams, but he only dreams about Kurt in the displaced manner of a real dream – fuzzy and fading fast when he jerks awake, aware that something about the entire scenario was a little strange. Blaine is dreaming properly, not wandering in the night-time hallucinations of others, and he doesn't really know what that means but right now he has more pressing matters to attend to. Like staring at Kurt's front door.
Blaine continues staring and thinks very rude things about the unpolished numbers on the door until it suddenly clicks open and Kurt is raising an eyebrow at him. He's dressed for a night in, probably; dark-wash jeans snug around his thighs and calves, bare feet, and a white crewneck with – LIKES BOYS – oh, whoa, what? The hell kinda shirt was that?
"Nice shirt," Blaine says, because his speech has suddenly fallen out of his head and the embossed letters are the only things he can concentrate on.
Kurt frowns, an adorable little crease in his forehead as he stares down at his shirt like he's only just remembered that he's wearing it. "You can thank a particularly odd glee club lesson for it," he shrugs, before looking back up and fixing Blaine with a demanding stare. "So, I'm assuming you're here to fall at my feet? Or even just explain what the hell that phone call was about, because I will happily take that too."
"Ehh," Blaine says in an impressive display of articulateness. "Kurt, I – well, first off, I'm really sorry about that. I kind of freaked out when I shouldn't have because as soon as I hung up everything... made sense. You know?"
"I don't know, actually. Enlighten me."
Blaine smiles nervously, laughing through it but still feeling the tight iron clench in his stomach as Kurt leans on the door frame and continues to look unimpressed. Oh, man, he is really unimpressed – what if Blaine has jumped to entirely the wrong conclusion and this will ruin everything – "I've been acting weird lately, because," he says slowly, a mouth full of cotton all of a sudden. "Because then I hadn't realised why just being in the same room as you makes me so... it's like every second is worth it even if we don't even say anything," he frowns, chews his lip as he tries to remember what he had carefully planned, steps forward slightly so that Kurt's mouth is right there and nearly moves to catch Kurt's hand before he realises that would look awkward. "I really – I don't think that there's anything I'd like to do more than learn everything there is to know about you. Because –"
And he was going to wax lyrical about how incredible and smart and vibrant and amazing Kurt is but it doesn't work like that. He doesn't need to, because Kurt is smiling with his eyes, now.
"You're an idiot," Kurt says with the tiniest of tremors in his voice (yes please please yes), and before Blaine has a chance to be very suave about it and tug Kurt forward, Kurt has closed the gap between them. It's stupid and hopelessly cliché and all of the lamest things in the world rolled into one, kissing on the doorstep like love-stoned teenagers, but Blaine braids his fingers between Kurt's and kisses back soft and slow. Their joined hands raise up when Kurt shifts the angle of his head and licks across Blaine's lower lip, presses forward and tugs teasingly until Blaine sighs quietly and lets him in.
They didn't mean to – well, Blaine assumes Kurt didn't mean to; he isn't sure – but they're just in the door of the apartment and Kurt has his back against it (when did it close?). Their kisses stay soft and slow like forever is on their side, Blaine's hands untangling and coming up to cup Kurt's face as they tease each other with languid strokes of tongue and the gentle drag of soft lips on slightly-chapped ones. God, Kurt is – he smells so fucking good – and Blaine finds himself pressing desperately closer, his skin lighting up where he feels the brush of Kurt's fingers on his hips under his shirt because every tiny touch is turning him on: the rough slide of material as their hips press together (and oh); the little flutters of breaths brushing against his cheek; the wash of unexplainable fire under his skin at the overwhelming scent of Kurt. He's been waiting without knowing, and knowing is the sweetest spark.
"Um," Blaine says intelligently when they break apart, staring at Kurt's mouth and letting a short nervous laugh escape him. "Wow, I..."
But he trails off when he realises he doesn't know what he anything right now, and instead blinks up (ever so slightly) at Kurt, who has surprise and uncertainty etched across his face. He glances up at the ceiling, as though waiting for some heaven-sent sign, before giving up on it and speaking. "I really don't know how to get you in my bedroom without sounding like I've stolen dialogue from a harlequin romance."
"Hmm," Blaine purrs low into Kurt's ear, kissing the shell and slipping the tip of his tongue over the soft skin he finds underneath. He can't quite resist the excuse to be corny as hell. "Shall we take this upstairs?"
Kurt is still flushed (the colour creeps intriguingly over the shells of his ears and down the pale skin of his throat and how Blaine would very much like to find out where it ends), but there's a satisfied smirk on his face as he grabs Blaine's hand again and pulls him out of the minuscule hallway into the living room. "You'll take any opportunity that lets you pretend to be Casanova for a night, won't you?"
Blaine gasps and clutches a hand to his chest. "Whatever are you talking about, 'pretending'? I am the bona fide reincarnation of Casanova, right here on your –"
"Shut up and take your damn clothes off, Anderson, before someone arrests you for your crimes against romantic speeches."
Oh fuck okay.
That night, Blaine Anderson dreams of songs with no lyrics, whispering the tunes to the conch of an ever-listening ear. When he wakes up, the person the ear is attached to tells him that singing in your sleep is very, very annoying and do you make a habit of wriggling yourself into every possible crevice of a person when you're sharing a bed?
Kurt Hummel dreams of some lovely glorious nothing.
"I didn't have my recurring dream," he tells Blaine when they force themselves up at the peak of the spring sunlight.
Blaine can't stop himself from smiling; he's positively beaming, irritatingly handsome as always as he pulls a borrowed shirt over his head. "Good."
"How would you know if that's a good thing or not?" Kurt snorts. "I could be talking about a really great sex dream with men who aren't you, for all you know."
"Maybe I'm a wizard. Either way I was right, right?"
"Due to the risks involved in inflating your ego or causing you to believe you have magical powers, no comment."
(The jars are gone from Blaine's shelf, now; replaced by a quarter of Kurt's night-time moisturising products and volumes of pretentious poetry from anniversaries gone past – "even though I do like your unpolished ramblings sometimes." "Like when they lead to –" "– Yes!")
The dreams don't bother him any more, because their job is done, too.)