It had been six months since Blaine had been to the Lima Bean, and it was hard to tell whether he or the coffee shop had changed more in the interim. The tables had been rearranged, the baristas all appeared to be new, and the Christmas decorations that adorned the windows were not the same ones that had been up in years prior. The logo on the window was the only familiar thing that Blaine could see, and yet to the logo, he probably looked as unrecognizable as the visitors coming in for the first time. Stubble peppered his chin and cheeks, and his hair was long enough that it was beginning to curl. His hands were shoved into the pockets of a leather jacket that the old Blaine would not have been caught dead in, and as he pushed his way inside and walked up to the counter, he forgot his old order as quickly as he had shed his Warblers jacket last September. "I'll have a black coffee," he said. "Please."
Once he had taken the drink into his cold, trembling hands, he took a seat, looking outside to watch the snowfall. The sight made him chilly and he wanted to take a sip to warm his insides, but his clenched stomach wouldn't let him. All he could think about was how he had made a mistake coming here, here of all places, to see him. Blaine had absolutely no game plan, no idea what he was going to say to the boy who had brought him both the greatest joy and the greatest pain that he had ever experienced. He didn't know how Kurt would react to the changes Blaine had gone through, both physically and mentally. More than that, Blaine was worried that Kurt had changed. He was the one who had gone off to NYADA, who was living on his own in a huge and formidable city. Blaine barely knew how to interact with Kurt; what was he going to say when a college-age, independent, man sat down in front of him?
It had been six months.
Blaine remembered the interaction as though it were yesterday, remembered how, two days after graduation, Kurt had unexpectedly ripped his heart out. "I'll be so far away," Kurt had said regretfully. "And so busy. I just don't see how it's going to work."
"But," Blaine had spluttered in shock, "but I thought we were going to make it work? Didn't you always say that we would find a way to make it work?"
"I want to Blaine, but, well," Kurt sighed colossally. "I just don't know how to handle this, on top of everything else. I don't want to make you miserable."
"But I'll be miserable without you!" Blaine said incredulously. "I love you!"
"I know," Kurt said, and there was heartbreak behind his eyes. "I know, I love you too."
Thirty minutes later, Blaine had stormed out, never to speak to Kurt again. Kurt had expressed a desire to see him for the rest of the summer, had promised that they would write while he was gone and maybe try to work things out when he was more settled in, but Blaine wasn't having any of it. He felt betrayed. He had thought that he and Kurt would be together for much longer than a year, thought that, by transferring to McKinley, he was demonstrating to Kurt just how much he was willing to sacrifice for their relationship. And Kurt had dismissed it like it was nothing. Blaine had spent most of the summer at camp, and the rest of it purposefully avoiding places where he might run into his ex. He stopped talking to Finn and fell out of favor with the rest of the boys from the football team. Only Mercedes bothered to keep in touch, but when it became clear that Blaine was not going to reconcile with Kurt, she drifted away rather than get in the middle of their feud. Blaine had rejected everyone's attempts to comfort him, had retreated spitefully into a passive-aggressive sort of loneliness. And then fall came around and suddenly everyone was just...gone.
Blaine had gone through the motions for the fall semester, throwing himself passionately into his schoolwork to fill the gaping hole in his heart. He watched on Facebook as Quinn and Santana messaged each other from opposite sides of the country and wondered why he was the only one who felt a million miles away. He saw Finn's car parked in front of his parents' house some weekends, evidence that he had made a quick trip back from Ohio State, and yet Blaine could not bring himself to see his old friend. Tina was in several of his classes and he often watched her as she texted Mike, smiling as he told her about his adventures at NYU. He didn't understand how everyone seemed to be able to move on, and yet he still felt so alone.
The decision to meet Kurt at the Lima Bean was made in desperation, after a sleepless night spent thinking about what would happen when Kurt finally arrived in Ohio for the first time since September. It was Christmas break, and though Blaine had always knew that this would mean the return of his friends, he hadn't really allowed himself to think about it. He was shocked that Kurt had even responded to his text. Blaine took a shaky sip of his coffee, but set it down immediately as the door to the coffee shop opened and the air disappeared from Blaine's lungs.
Kurt stepped inside, looking around with a trace of anxiety. He spotted Blaine and their eyes locked together, Kurt's widening in surprise. Compared to Blaine, Kurt had not changed very much. He had grown a few inches, but his hair was still sprayed back in his signature style, and Blaine recognized his black peacoat as an old favorite. The scarf around his neck was new, but nothing that the old Kurt wouldn't have worn, and his jeans and shoes were similarly familiar. As he made his was slowly towards Blaine's table, however, Blaine could sense an unmistakable difference in him. It was the way he carried himself. He looked wiser, more confident, with a look in his eyes that exuded sexiness and made Blaine tremble. Kurt rested his hand on the chair across from Blaine and cocked his head to the side. "Blaine Anderson," he said, his tone somewhat breathless with awe. "Long time, no see."
"H-hi," Blaine said, glancing towards the barista working at the counter. "Do you want me to get you some coffee?"
"I'm fine right now," Kurt said, taking a seat and never taking his eyes off Blaine. He crossed his legs and placed his hands over one knee, looking somewhat nervous and somewhat amused. "So why did you want to meet me here?" he asked.
Blaine swallowed hard. "I...I don't know," he admitted. "I guess I just wanted to see you."
Kurt nodded once, moving his head up and down slowly. "Makes sense," he said. "Although I wonder why you never tried to call."
"It was hard," Blaine said apologetically.
"It would have helped me a lot," Kurt said. There was an irritated edge to his voice, but when Blaine caught his eyes, they were soft and sad.
"I'm sorry," Blaine said quietly. "I should have tried to talk to you." One of Kurt's hands came to rest on the table, and Blaine tried his hardest not to reach out and grab it. "How have you been?"
"I've been...well, I've been quite wonderful actually," he said, and Blaine could tell from the way Kurt perked up suddenly that he wasn't lying. "The first month or so was hard. But since I got settled in, everything has been awesome. I get to do what I love, every day. And in a city I absolutely adore."
"Do you get to see Rachel?" Blaine asked, feeling his throat tighten. He had missed her almost as much as he had missed Kurt, so much that it hurt to think about it. Kurt nodded.
"We're still close, but I've made a lot of other friends too. My roommates are very nice."
"And how about the guys?" Blaine asked. He knew that he shouldn't ask, but he couldn't help himself. Kurt raised an eyebrow.
"Blaine..." he said, sighing.
"No, I really want to know," Blaine said, even though he knew he would be happier not knowing.
"Well..." Kurt looked uncomfortable. "There have been a few, I guess. Nothing serious."
"A few?" Blaine's mouth went dry. "Wow. Good for you!" He hoped his smile didn't look too much like a grimace.
"College is great, in that regard," Kurt said, looking at Blaine pointedly. "Just wait. You're going to have a lot more freedom."
Blaine nodded, eager to change the subject. He suddenly felt like he might cry. "Have you seen anyone else?" he asked. "Our...our old friends?"
"A little bit," Kurt said. "Quinn took the train up from New Haven once. And we socialize a lot with people at Tisch, so I've seen Mike a couple times. Finn came up for Thanksgiving, which was fun for me and Rach."
"That's good," Blaine said with a nod. It was comforting to know that the old group was spending time together, even if it made him wildly jealous. "I miss them," he said, more to himself than anything. It was the first time he had said it out loud. Kurt's eyes were full of sympathy and understanding.
"I know," he said. "It was hard to leave home at first. Like, really hard. Especially when I knew you weren't talking to me."
"I'm sorry," Blaine said again, feeling guilty.
"Don't be," said Kurt. "It wasn't your fault." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "So...uh, what have you been up to? How is senior year?"
Blaine shrugged. "Hard, I guess. There's lots of work. And everyone is kind of on edge about the college stuff."
"Yeah, I remember," Kurt said. "Hey wait, my dad told me that you quit Glee Club. He said he was really surprised when you weren't up there at Regionals."
"Oh." Blaine looked down at his fingernails, suddenly feeling awkward. "Yeah, I guess," he said, trying to sound nonchalant. "It wasn't the same."
"You were—you are so talented, though," Kurt said. "At least tell me you're sending in vocal supplements with your college applications."
Blaine shrugged. Truthfully, he hadn't given it too much thought. "I mean, what's the point? I'm not gonna be a singer forever."
"Well, it's what I'm trying to do," Kurt said with a chuckle. "If I can make a career out of this, you definitely can. Where are you thinking of going, anyway?"
"Well my college counselor said that Dalton prepared me pretty well," he said. "And I've been keeping my GPA up so I guess I have a pretty good shot at some of the more prestigious schools. That's what she said, anyway." He shrugged modestly.
"That's great!" Kurt said enthusiastically. "Do you have a first choice?"
"I was thinking maybe Stanford," Blaine admitted.
"Wow, California, that's..." Kurt chewed his lip. "Far."
Blaine's heart began to beat faster. "Santana and Brittany seem to love it at Berkeley," he said in the most casual voice he could muster. "They said the west coast is awesome." He wanted to force Kurt to come up with another excuse, to maybe admit that he didn't want Blaine to go far away for his own selfish reasons.
"I'm sure you'll love it there," Kurt said, and Blaine felt his heart sink. Stanford really was his first choice, but he had been hoping that Kurt would put up a little more of a fight than that.
"There's also Columbia," he said. "I could even try my luck at Yale or Harvard. They're close to...to each other." He stopped himself before saying close to you.
Kurt nodded. "They're all great schools, Blaine. I'm really happy for you." He leaned in. "Promise me one thing, though."
"Don't stop singing." Kurt leaned back in his chair again. "I know it sounds silly, but Blaine, your voice is angelic. It would be so sad if you never used it again."
"Thanks," Blaine said softly, his face heating up from the compliment. "I'll—I'll think about it."
"Good," Kurt said. He rested his chin on his hand, and Blaine suddenly noticed how close his kissable lips were, and just how badly he wanted to taste them. The painful emotions that had been welling up inside of him since the beginning of the conversation were about to bubble up on the surface, and Kurt seemed completely unaware. "So," he said, "how are you doing on your apps?"
"I still love you," Blaine blurted out.
"What?" Kurt sat up straight, looking at Blaine intensely. Blaine was visibly shaking, and he clenched his fists to try and regain control of his muscles.
"I said I still-"
"I heard you," Kurt said quickly. "I guess I just meant, why are you telling me?"
"Because," Blaine said, feeling incredulous and hurt. "Because...why wouldn't I tell you?"
"Blaine, don't you think I feel the same way? I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since I left." Kurt looked at him sadly. "It doesn't change anything, though."
"But it has to," Blaine pleaded. "I can't just give up on you, and you know that. I'm so sad without you."
Kurt began to slide his chair back slowly. "I'm sorry," he said, his cheeks red and flushed. "I—I have to go. I can't be here if you're going to bring this up. It's too hard for me."
"Don't make me break it off again," Kurt said, his voice shaking. "Don't make me be the bad guy. It—it'll break my heart."
"Kurt." Blaine lunged across the table and grabbed the sleeve of his jacket, forcing him to stay in his chair. "Please, just hear me out. I know it'll be hard, especially if I go to Stanford. But we have the rest of Christmas break, and then spring break. Then summer—three months, Kurt. And then Thanksgiving break and...and Christmas again. That's a lot of time, I know we can do it." His breath was coming out in desperate pants. "Please, Kurt," he whispered. "Please." Then, ignoring the few people in the coffee shop who were beginning to look strangely at them, he leaned across the table as far as he could and met Kurt's lips in a pathetic frenzy.
Kurt kissed him back, leaning in so that Blaine didn't have to stretch so far. The kiss was messy an unromantic, but it was right—it was exactly what Blaine needed. For too long, he'd been longing for a taste of the past, of the world that had crumbled around him once his friends had gone off to college. Kissing Kurt in the Lima Bean, like he had a hundred times, was just the thing he needed to set his troubled mind at ease for the first time in six months. Kurt reached up and caressed Blaine's cheeks before pulling away gently. "I missed that," he admitted quietly.
"So...what do you want to do about it?" Blaine whispered. Kurt let go of Blaine and stood up. "You're not going to leave, are you?" Blaine asked in shock.
"No, I'm not," Kurt said. He smiled a little bit. "Actually, I'm going to get some coffee. Want anything?" He looked down at Blaine's full cup.
"Actually, yeah," Blaine said, grabbing his cup and reaching over to throw it in the trash. "I don't really like black coffee."
"Alright," Kurt said, making his way over towards the counter. He glanced back at Blaine. "The usual?"
"Yeah," Blaine said, smiling contentedly. "The usual." As he watched Kurt giving the barista their orders, he suddenly felt okay. Everything had changed, and maybe he and Kurt would never be together like they once were. But no matter what happened...
He looked up to see Kurt looking back at him, and they exchanged small smiles. They would always be home for Christmas.