Once the lingering buzz of alcohol and adrenaline wares off, though, the true severity of their situation beings to sink in. It settles over the pair of them like grey clouds over shining sun, blotting out the blind joy and relief and passion of it all with the sombre realization that what they have here simply cannot last. Not like this, not for long. Not without danger and uncertainty and the chance – always, always the chance – that everything they have could be taken away from them in an instant.
The next morning when Blaine wakes up, Kurt is already awake next to him with a steeled look on his face. Once they're both properly awake and washed, he leads Blaine out to sit together on the couch in their living room. As soon as Kurt begins to talk in earner, used-to-be secrets start spilling from his like water.
And Blaine sits, and listens, and learns what the rest of the world has been thinking.
It had only taken Blaine's disappearance less than a week to turn into a high-profile case. Splashed across every television screen and newspaper in the city, the story had saturated the media in a single burst that lasted a few days and caught the attention of many. People go missing in New York City every day, it's true; murders and shootings and runaways and kidnappings, a near-constant flow of people who slip through the city's fingers.
But it's not very often that those people are successful law students from well-off families with connections. It's not very often that those people have time to send frightened letters naming indistinct fears and regret and pain. And it's not very often that those people's doors are scraped raw with nail marks on from outside.
Blaine's disappearance never looked like a runaway. He never packed any bags or had any intention of taking his possessions with him, and the few things that Kurt had taken from his apartment must have been practically unnoticeable to anyone who wasn't Blaine himself. His passport, wallet, laptop, and toiletries had all been left behind; some of them because he wasn't going to need them anymore, others because Kurt had already purchased replacements and didn't feel the need to bother. There had been no indications of a robbery or struggle, no smashed in door or broken windows to suggest forced entry. When Kurt had finally came inside Blaine's apartment, after all, it had been with permission and a smile on his face. It must have been the most peculiar thing, Blaine realizes in dull shock. Unexplainable, and a tragedy, and with just enough unsettling undertones to make it interesting to the city at large.
After a few minutes of explanation Kurt turns on the television, clicks through his Saved Programs folder on the database, and selects a three minute-long clip with a datestamp that indicates it was recorded just a few days after Blaine gave himself up. When the video comes to life, slightly grainy on the top-of-the-line screen, it is the image of a male and female reporter sitting at a desk mid-conversation about something. It takes a few seconds for it to click, but once it does Blaine sits and is stunned to hear the reporters listing the details of his own disappearance. Both of them have well-practiced looks of sympathy and sadness and professionalism on their faces.
"... when law student Blaine Anderson went missing. After not hearing from their son for a few days, the arrival of an intensely unsettling letter in the mail made parents Marita and William Anderson grow worried. Inquiries with the NYPD revealed..."
The newsclip is from a local station, and Kurt must have recorded it weeks ago – perhaps while a still-human Blaine slept only a few yards away in the other room. All Blaine can do is blink and stare as the female reporter's words play over panned shots of everything that used to make up his old life: his apartment building, the exterior of the NYU Law Campus. A grainy image of the nailmarks on his doorframe.
It's strange – surreal – to hear his struggle to stay alive summed up into a few quick sound bites, and even more profoundly jarring when a picture of his own face comes on-screen. It strikes Blaine that the boy on the screen, smiling with friendly hazel eyes beneath slicked hair starting to curl, doesn't even look like him anymore. The photograph is fairly old, cropped so that it only displays his head and shoulder. It was taken on his parents' back deck, and the green of their lawn in the background is just barely in the shot behind his shoulder. He remembers it being taken at least two years ago when he had visited their house for a few weeks during summer break. The ghost of his old self caught in the photograph has its eyes narrowed against the sun beneath thick eyebrows, and a red bowtie is peeking out right at bottom of the frame.
It isn't a real smile on his face in the picture they chose to broadcast, though. Blaine can tell, even if no one else can: his face is too tight, too uncertain. Too furrowed by the anxiety that staying with his parents for long periods of time always brought about, even in high school: it had been one of the reasons he loved the long school months spent at Dalton so much. How young he looks in the picture almost makes Blaine feel angry, although he can't quite figure out why.
The news story isn't long, but it manages to fit a great deal of content into the few brief minutes of airtime. They show a few seconds of a video of his parents, the two of them seated at a dense wooden table with standing microphones in front of them, obviously making some kind of statement. There is no audio – the newscaster speaks over the clip – but the mere sight of his parents is enough to make something uncomfortably empty twist in the base of Blaine's stomach. His mother looks smaller than Blaine remembers her from real life, somehow; shrunken and withered, her long thick hair hanging limply down her back. His father looks as though he'd aged five years in a few weeks, and both of their eyes are obviously puffy and sunken in.
Seeing his parents makes Blaine even more aware of the prominent, hollow nothing in his chest. It should hurt, he thinks, seeing the two people he used to care about more than anything in the world in such pain. The two people he gave everything up for, in the end.
It doesn't, though. It doesn't hurt at all.
It also doesn't take long to figure out that the reason – the real reason – that Blaine's disappearance has received so much attention is the letter, tear-stained and crumpled and the third scribbled draft, that he had sent to his parents on the night Kurt came to collect him. And that'ssurprising, mostly because Blaine had almost completely forgotten about the writing and sending of that letter entirely. If he can remember correctly, most of the content had been some variation on I love you and I'm scared and I'm so, so sorry, and Blaine is fairly sure that the couple of sentences that the broadcast chooses to highlight had been little more than a throwaway. Nonetheless, the newscaster reads them out twice over the course of the very short clip.
"I don't want to leave you," the woman's voice reads aloud, the words precise and monotone for the camera. White letters scroll across the a solid blue screen as she speaks, making the words he had practically sobbed out onto the page seem clinical and simple now. "I don't, you have to believe me. But I haven't got a choice. I got into such trouble. So much trouble, and I couldn't get out, and it's all over now. There's something coming for me and it won't stop until I'm gone."
When the head reporter abruptly switches tracks and begins talking about another story, the video clip cuts off abruptly. And the two of them stare at the empty screen for a few long seconds in total silence, letting the significance of what they just watched settle fully onto Blaine's mind.
Kurt might be a whisper on the air, but there are hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who have the potential to recognize Blaine's face on sight now. It won't be safe for him to be out in public for years. And the idea of hiding in the apartment like a secret – like Kurt kept him when he was human – is enough to make Blaine feel vaguely sick.
They're going to have to leave New York City, and they're going to have to do it soon.
"Wow," says Blaine, rubbing a hand over his eyes.
"Yeah," says Kurt, biting down on his lower lip and sending Blaine a look over his shoulder.
All at once, Blaine feels very tired despite the long sleep that followed the night of raucousness at the Karaoke Bar. His entire life has been nothing but change for months, so much so fast, and even though he's overjoyed at the way everything worked out... part of him has been really looking forward to having a few days to relax with Kurt. Settle in and settle down, to start figuring out their new life together.
It doesn't look as though that's going to be happening now, though. He lets out a little exhalation of breath, trying to put on a positive face.
"I remember when the Empire State Building was being built," comes Kurt's quiet voice from next to him. Blaine turns to look and finds Kurt with a melancholy expression on his face, looking down at his hands. "We had a radio that could get British channels when I was growing up, and you used to hear all these stories about how great this new, shining city was. And I remember thinking about going there, one day. About escaping all the people I didn't fit in with. My dad always said I wasn't made for where we lived." He smiles, closing his eyes and letting out a little sigh. "I used to daydream about coming here for years."
There is a hollow, horrible feeling churning in the base of Blaine's stomach as he watches the corner of Kurt's mouth twist up in a tiny smile at the memory. All at once he feels incredibly ashamed for feeling sorry for himself for no good reason.
New York had never been Blaine's dream. Not the way it turned out: no stage lights and music, no audience full of admiration and praise to make him feel like king of the world. New York had never been what Blaine wanted it to be.
But New York had been Kurt's dream, once upon a time. And there is something incredibly, horrendously heartbreaking about being the one to force Kurt to leave the city of his dreams.
When Blaine opens his mouth to speak, however – to say it's okay, you don't have to go, you don't have to come with me – Kurt's eyes fly open, a truly tremendous unimpressed glare on his face with startling quickness.
"Don't even say it," Kurt snaps warningly, and Blaine blinks in surprise. Kurt narrows his eyes. "Don't you go all self-sacrificing on me, Blaine Anderson, don't you dare. I've used that hero complex of yours before, and I am not going to get screwed over by it now. I'm coming with you, we're in this together, and there's nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. If you try to – to sneak out in the middle of the night without me noticing because of some misguided sense of 'doing the right this' I will chase you halfway around the world to get back to you. You don't get to decide what's best for me, we get to decide, and we will leave together if we have to. Understand?"
The words are sharp, but Blaine's heart softens anyways as he closes his mouth. He sits and looks at the beautiful man across from him for a few long seconds. Bossy and brave and blunt and loving, those so-blue eyes flashing with resolve. Pale and sharp and still unnaturally beautiful, and Blaine knows without having to be told that Kurt isn't going to back down on this.
He looks so young, thinks Blaine absently, before his brain catches the mistake in that thought. We look so young, he corrects himself, a smile tugging at his lips. And we always will. Together.
"We can always come back," Blaine says instead, and Kurt visibly sags as the tension seeps out of his frame. Grateful that Blaine isn't going to fight him on this, and it's a relief for Blaine too because intentionally leaving Kurt is just about the last thing he wants in the world. Without even a pause Kurt crawls over to him on the couch, wrapping his arms around Blaine's torso and pushing him to lie back against the armrest. So that Kurt can press himself against Blaine's chest and be held, silently demanding affection. Blaine gives it to him gladly, stroking a hand over the back of Kurt's neck as Kurt cuddles up close, nodding almost imperceptibly at Blaine's words.
"You're right," says Kurt quietly, his voice muffled and soft. "There's no time limit. It isn't the end."
Blaine presses a kiss to the top of Kurt's head, the two of them a tangle of limbs on the couch together. "We'll be back some day," Blaine agrees, holding Kurt close and letting out a long, shallow breath of air into the night.
It takes a little under two weeks before the two of them can leave the city behind them, however. Arrangements have to be made, and details figured out, and a life left behind them in slow motion.
Packing up the apartment takes less time than he had thought it would. Blaine had rather blithely assumed that Kurt would be quite fiercely attached to his possessions; that he would agonize over what to bring, spending great amounts of time sorting through everything packing it all with impeccable care. He's surprised to find out just how wrong he is about that. Despite how beautiful and expensive and lush the apartment's contents may be, Kurt seems to have no problem at all with abandoning, selling, or throwing out the majority of the furnishings. Aside from his clothes and design equipment, which are stored and folded with obvious love and care, Kurt surveys and discards most everything he owns with a critical, unimpassioned eye.
He is a man who has had to do this before, Blaine realizes, watching him empty a box of designer china into the garbage bin in the apartment basement without a second's hesitation. There is nothing new to Kurt about abandoning his life and starting one afresh – and he seems to be painfully aware of the fact that things are nothing more than things, and they can be replaced or remade.
Instead, it is the other arrangements that take longer to figure out. Running to a different state isn't good enough, they decide. Too many risks, and too close to home. An entirely new beginning is what they need – a fresh start in an entirely new place. Perhaps one where the nights are long and hot; where the heat of the sun seeps into sand and the whole place is brimming with unsuspecting people who have never even heard of vampires before. A vacation, at least, before they find a new home. A holiday of warm nights and warm bodies; a chance to relax after the stress and change of everything that has happened in such a short time.
They spend a long time discussing potential locations to travel to: pros and cons, political stability, number of populous cities per capita, the reliability of the postage system so that Kurt can keep mailing his designs. When they do finally arrive at a decision, money must be transferred from account to account, new identities secured. Kurt orders a pair of false passports and IDs for the two of them to use, since his is thirty years old with a photo that looks as though it was taken yesterday and Blaine couldn't use his real name if he wanted to. They determine that a private jet is the most practical method of travel, despite the high monetary cost: they need to be able to guarantee both departing and arriving at night, and no open windows during the journey to let in the sunlight and burn them to the bones while trapped in mid-air.
The planning is a stressful process, and the two of them take solace in each other to tough it out as well as in the reckless gluttony of a feed whenever they get hungry. They try to be careful to cover their tracks as best they can, but the barely-constrained eagerness to finally be somewhere where they can just let loose is palpable beneath their skin, and sometimes it just can't be held back.
"Do you know what's funny?" asks Kurt softly, two nights before their planned departure date. They're sprawled out and naked on an unfamiliar bed, loosely draped in stained white sheets that cling wetly to their limbs. A few hours earlier they went to a club together, and it hadn't taken much more than subtle implications, Kurt's sly smile, and Blaine persistently unbuttoning his shirt to convince a beautiful young Hispanic boy – no more than twenty-two, at the oldest – to take them back to his apartment for the night. The boy had died so prettily between them, and smears and splatters of his bright red blood had run down their chins and smeared as they kisses and soaked the bed right down to the mattress. They're resting in the afterglow of the feed, now, lying and letting the heat of it settle in their stomachs. Enjoying the heady sensation of being full and satisfied, lolling in the sweet musk of fresh blood until they decide to put boy's shower to good use and start cleaning up.
"What?" asks Blaine, feeling a sappy smile stretch across his lips. Somewhere on the ground the boy's body is slowly cooling and draining out, but he only has eyes for Kurt. Kurt, whose hair is clumped with thickening blood; whose eyes are shining so brilliantly it almost hurts. He looks so completely gorgeous, in fact, that Blaine can't hold himself back from grabbing the sides of his face and pulling him into a quick kiss.
"Mmm," says Kurt lazily when they pull apart, grinning as he stretches his arms and re-positions himself on the bed. "Of all of this... well. You know there are things I wish I could have done differently." He smiles. "I thought that the way I killed that professor bitch might have been one of them, actually. That they'd... mmm... find your fingerprints at the crime scene, or something, I don't know. And it would turn into a big thing. But it was on the news the day after I caught you, and you know what? Someone wiped that whole damn store clean. No fingerprints at all, not a one. Isn't that strange?"
Jack, Blaine realizes, the name tasting odd and almost forgotten in his memory. The only living person to know the full story of why Blaine disappeared; who hadn't been there when Kurt ransacked the bookstore. He had almost forgotten the letter he sent to Amita's husband, and thinking of it now is so strange he nearly says something out loud. What must have happened hits Blaine all at once, and he blinks himself properly awake. Beside him Kurt is as languid and blissed-out as a cat in the sunlight, nestled between two dark red stains in the sheets.
The realization that someone Blaine barely knew went out of his way to hide Blaine's involvement absolutely baffles him for a long, long moment. An echo of a feeling twinges inside, but it quickly fades away into the background of his mind; he's getting used to those, now. The tiniest little hints that prod and whisper at his mind, reminding him of things he might have thought or felt in another life. But it's gone almost as soon as he feels it, and instead he just feels unsure of what to do with the new information.
For an instant, he considers delaying their flight and going out to find the man: tracking him down and killing him, snuffing out the last remaining chain binding this life and his old one. But after a few seconds of feverish fantasy, reality kicks in. Jack has had months to sell the store and get as far away as possible – far away from Kurt, far away from Blaine even if he didn't know it – and there's no telling where he might be by now. It could take months to find him, even years. And the process of tracking him down and killing him could arouse more suspicion than it would eliminate.
Every loose end that they could get rid of – Jack, Blaine's parents, his peers at NYU – has the potential to leave behind a hundred more little hints and clues and snares and traps for them to be caught in later. It isn't worth it to go on a wild goose chase for an old man who will be dead and forgotten in a few years anyways. It would be better to just move on cleanly. To leave the city with all its foils behind them for a time, and come back when everything is settled again.
"Mmm," Blaine agrees, letting out a little laugh when Kurt nuzzles in close to press a kiss against his nose. He'll tell Kurt what must have happened with the fingerprints in the bookshop later, he decides. After the shower's hot water pounds away the encrusted blood from their bodies and sends pink water spiralling down the drain, just a little bit more muck and mess for the city to wash away before they leave.
In the end, it all comes down to how hopeful Blaine's parents are that their son might still come back.
Even with Kurt standing supportively at his side, Blaine approaches the door warily. For a moment, he eyes the long, jagged scratch marks running down the door and frame with amusement. Apparently the landlord either hasn't bothered to have them replaced yet, or just hasn't bothered to. Only in New York City could something so brutally unusual be ignored by tenants and landlords alike for so long; only here could something so extraordinary be discounted as something unremarkable. Blaine's eyes linger over the marks for a long minute before he turns them back to the doorknob.
Neither of them are at all sure if this will work. It's entirely possible that Mr. and Mrs. Anderson have cleared it all out, or stopped paying the rent, or found someone new to fill the space. There is only the tiniest chance that it's been kept pristine after all this time in the blind, useless hope that their son will come back to them wanting to have the solace of his own home, and both Blaine and Kurt know that the chances are small. In the last few hours before they catch their plane, however, it had still seemed worthwhile to try.
But when Blaine's key turns easily in the lock and the door to what used to be his old apartment on the Upper East Side swings open at his touch, they know that it was worth the gamble.
It seems at once smaller and larger than Blaine remembers it being, distorted with memory and time and change. He doesn't know exactly what he was expecting. A room untouched by time and space, perhaps, or maybe something utterly different from what his unreliable memories from before keep telling him.
It isn't either of those things. From what Blaine can see and smell and feel and tell, there were people in here who went through everything – opening cupboards and drawers and rearranging furniture, probably looking for some hint or clue to help with his disappearance. The apartment is brimming with stale smells, some familiar and some not, but they spell out a map of what happened nonetheless. And Blaine can tell that someone else – someone with a familiar-not-familiar smell of expensive perfume and rose-scented hand cream and warm broth cooking over the stove – has gone through and put everything painstakingly back into place as best as possible. Every little error and incorrectly arranged piece of furniture stands out to Blaine's eyes like a flare on a dark night. The couch is at a slightly different angle than he left it; the books in a different order on the shelves. His laptop is gone, and the paper and pens that he had used to write his last letters have been tucked away somewhere. The lighting looks slightly different to his new, better eyes as well, and there is a fine layer of dust over every surface.
But it's still his old apartment. It still smells of him, underneath it all. It's still the space he lived in for two whole years, and all the important details remain the same.
It has the same soft white walls, the same shiny hardwood floors, the same comfortable couch that he used to drift off to sleep on in the middle of studying, surrounded by heavy books and papers. It's still slightly cramped and overly chilly in the middle of a New York winter. His radio is still perched on a shelf in the kitchen from when he used to want to fill the space with music to drown out the loneliness, although the kitchen itself seems to have been given a thorough cleaning since he's been away.
Blaine remembers a dozen nights spent camped in silent vigil with his back against the front door, waiting with desperate hope that seems so ridiculous now. He remembers collapsing onto the kitchen floor when he called his parents for the last time, remembers finding the human heart in the box outside the door, remembers Kurt kissing him right in this room before knocking him unconscious and taking him away.
He remembers those things happening, clear and distinct and comprehensible in his mind. But it is as though he is remembering something that happened to someone else entirely; as though those memories took place a hundred years ago instead of a few mere months. The apartment is the same, but he himself is so utterly altered and enhanced that it's hard to reconcile the memories with the present.
And Blaine is looking at the home of a person who doesn't exist anymore.
It doesn't take long to gather up the few things that Blaine had been hoping to take with them. Some warm weather clothes, a few songbooks and his mp3 player full of music, the pocket watch his father got him when he graduated high school because it's timeless. A small bust of a head that he's had for as long as he can remember, the sword he used to fence with in high school. A blue-and-red striped tie. They add some cufflinks that catch Kurt's eye, and a couple of shirts that he decides fit Blaine too well to leave behind. But even then, it's not even enough to fill up the suitcase they brought.
When everything is packed away, Blaine takes in a breath – and looks around the bedroom that is paradoxically both so familiar and unfamiliar at once. There is a ball of nervous, excited energy fissuring and growing inside his stomach, and when he turns and catches Kurt's gaze the feeling only intensifies.
Because right now, Kurt is just as beautiful as he was the night they met. Months ago, a lifetime ago. Just as beautiful but so much more known, cryptic mystery given way to caring and kindness and love that Blaine never, ever wants to be apart from. There is a small, sure smile curving at the edge of Kurt's mouth, and Blaine can already feel his own face falling easily into an identical expression.
There's nothing to worry about, anymore. Nothing holding him back, or expecting something Blaine can't deliver. There is only Kurt, just as there will only ever be Kurt. Just the two of them, their bodies never-changing and forever-young, and the world at the tips of their fingers.
"Ready?" Kurt asks, his voice high and delicate in the stillness of the room. He quirks his head to one side, a warm smile on his lips – and holds out his hand.
"Ready," Blaine replies, letting out the breath of air and smiling right back.
When Blaine reaches out and takes Kurt's hand in his, the two of them turn and walk together out of what used to be Blaine's bedroom. Barely even able to feel the weight of the bag in his other hand, Blaine leads the way. Down the short hallway and out the door, the sight of every room they pass like a touchstone to press his fingers against.
They walk out into the hallway hand in hand, and close the door behind them when they go.