A few days after Prom, gossip starting spilling through the school halls that Sue Sylvester's sister had died. Blaine hadn't even known she had a sister but he felt it too- the engorging murk around him, energy sucked out of him in the way that usually comes with death. The Glee club mourned in their own way. There were silences and awkward trailing sentences left hanging in the air. Slumped shoulders and everyone trying to pull themselves out of the murk.
Blaine couldn't help but let himself focus on Kurt through it all.
Blaine found out near enough as soon as he met him that Kurt deals. He dealt with the feelings and other ideas. He dealt through things most others wouldn't even dare to think about dealing with.
How Kurt dealt with feelings and didn't let them spill over- or shout them across a room, how he dealt and didn't explode from keeping them all hidden by a blank expression and arms crossed over his chest- Blaine wished he could figure it out himself. To control his heart from ripping from him as its beats increased with a rush of blood in his ears, or stop his stomach from swooping and failing to settle, or the sudden urge to cry. Happening every time he'd looked up and seen Kurt since prom night. Since the night when they settled down to sleep, and Blaine made himself sleep to the sounds of Kurt's breathing soften as he fell further into his dreams. From the morning after, when he'd woken up on Kurt's floor in a borrowed sleeping bag, and looked up to find Kurt typing at his desk, hair still not brushed, pyjamas still on, he couldn't breathe. Everything had rushed to his head and crushed inwards on his chest; he simultaneously couldn't remember how to or couldn't physically breathe.
"Kurt," he choked out, and Kurt had smiled at the sound of his raspy voice.
"Morning," he replied, not stilling his typing or moving his head. "How are you? Good sleep?"
Blaine swallowed and shifted only slightly in his sleeping bag. Throat hurting again as his breath seemed harder and harder to retain a hold on. He opened his mouth to answer but only a strangled noise came out.
He turned around at this, fingers clasping over the lid of his laptop and shutting it, tilting himself so he faced Blaine.
"Are you alright?" He sounded worried.
Blaine felt himself holding back on burning tears, and the cold emptiness surrounded him against the deep warmth in the bottom of his stomach, spreading delicately through him, almost a drizzle of awareness through his body. It almost hurt.
The longer he looked at Kurt, it definitely hurt.
No. No, I'm not. I'm in love with you and can't even tell if you feel an inkling of the same feeling towards me.
"Tired," he remembered croaking out.
It was the same burn through him now, as he looked over at Kurt in the choir room. He'd thought it'd wear down, and maybe it would. It hadn't yet. The burn hadn't dulled, it still stung like it had the morning he'd woken up and seen Kurt with fresh eyes, away from the haze of the gym.
It still ached. It still hurt to be that close and only laugh and talk and touch as only friends. He felt himself pulling away from Kurt at times when being that close was physical torture, only to want to lean across and burst out how he really felt about him.
Kurt had felt the shift; he must have, because he wouldn't pull away. If anything he only seemed to tug a little closer to Blaine, and as it would turn out Blaine's will to distance himself was swamped by his need to stick as close to Kurt as he could.
He felt another urge to speak. To let words fall and let it stop pressing against him, pushing him down.
And then Mr Schue called for their attention, and all thoughts of questions and confessions peeled away.
He knocked on the door lightly. There was no answer. He knocked again, tapping his cane lightly against the side of his leg as he waited. He was about to turn and leave when he heard the soft scramble from behind the door, and so leaned across and opened it.
"Did I say you could come in?" the voice of Sue Sylvester snapped, and there was a swift movement as if she were hiding something, until faltering as Kurt entered the room. "Oh, it's you." Her voice was thick, unusually so.
"I needed to talk to you, Coach," Kurt said as he stepped a little closer into the room. "Please."
She sniffed, and Kurt heard a soft thump of a hand against the desk.
"Close the door behind you," she told him. "And please be careful with that stick of yours. There are valuable things in here." Her words lacked her usual zeal, weak and almost shaky, but Kurt did as she asked, door clicking behind him as he steadied himself. He'd never been in her office before, but took a few tentative steps forward, cane colliding with something that must have been the leg of a chair as it shifted when it met. He guided himself slowly around until he was sat, all very aware of Sue silently watching him.
"I heard about your sister," Kurt said softly, settling into the chair. "I'm very sorry." Sue didn't say anything, not even making a small sound for Kurt to bounce off. He shifted. "I wondered if there was anything I could do to... um..." The words had been there only five minutes earlier. And now they were lost. Faced with her in front of him, the words sounded meaningless no matter how much he meant them. He hesitated, thinking quickly in changing his words, but he couldn't.
"To help?" Sue asked. Kurt nodded stiffly, fidgeting with his cane with both hands. He could hear her fingers drumming against her desk and his own heart in his ears. "What would you plan on doing?"
Kurt opened his mouth to answer but she cut through. "Get your glee club to sing a melancholy tune. Celebrate her life? Always look on the bright side, is that right, Ray Charles? Or would you like to talk to me about how I feel? Is that what you want me to do?"
She had moved her chair back, steps moving away from him, seemingly uncaring about exactly what Kurt would do. Seemingly. On the surface. But Kurt had lost someone before, and he knew the surface was only a blanket covering the cracks beneath.
He paused for a second, licking his lips that felt dry as he opened his mouth.
"Yes," he answered. "Yes, to all those." Her sneakers squeaked against the floor, rubbing as she must have turned to face him. She probably hadn't expected him to answer her sarcastic questions seriously, but she maybe should have known better than to talk that way with someone who knew all about hiding grief and pain behind snarky.
"I don't want it," she struggled out, another sniff. "I don't want any of that. And I don't want you feeling sorry for me."
"No one needs or wants people feeling sorry for them," Kurt said softly. "They want people there to understand. There's a difference." He paused, waiting to see if she'd interrupt. When she didn't he continued. "I understand. Not exactly, I can't really understand your feelings, but I understand to a better extent than most people here. I was offering support. You may not need pity, but everybody needs support once in a while."
Lifting himself up, he felt out the back of the chair beneath his fingers, ready to guide himself around and out the room again. He'd come to talk, or at least offer, and he had tried. But he wasn't needed or even wanted, so there was very little point in him staying.
"There is something you could do," she spoke up, an unusual quirk of softness in her voice. "You can get that tree of a brother of yours to help me clean out her room. He can do some heavy lifting for me."
Kurt nodded slowly, fingers messing against the edge of the cane as he attempted to find words to leave on.
"You can go now," she demanded.
He nodded a little too much, a little frantic, and turned to get out of the room, opening the door and clicking the door a little forcefully behind him.
He'd tried. He hadn't wanted to. He'd wanted to stay away from the whole thing but he had tried. There was something in that, he guessed.
The choir room was empty when he got there, Glee having ended an hour before and Kurt having stayed behind to talk to Sue. But it was somewhere empty where he needed to be. Automatically directing himself towards where the piano was, settling onto the stool and fingers having a mind of their own and beginning to play. It was only a few seconds before he stopped, the sounds too distant for what he wanted. He didn't need distance; he needed familiarity. He needed something he could hold onto.
He was out of practice. Something he would once practise every day became every other day and then relying on his keyboard at home to keep up. And a keyboard was nothing in comparison. It didn't hold the warmth a piano did; it was always electronically in tune to be sure, but didn't have the same effect on him as a beautifully tuned piano.
"Hey," a voice poked out from somewhere behind him. He didn't shift, hand stilled over the keys, lost in an attempt at concentration. Footsteps echoed around him and a chair was scraped across the floor, a body landing with a small thump to sit beside him. "You have to press the keys for them to make a sound, Hummel."
He pressed against them hard, the harsh sound ringing in his ears even as the sound seemed to wither into an empty silence. Santana didn't say anything, her chair creaking only slightly. And Kurt slammed his hand down again, and then another time, until the ringing was all he could hear, and he didn't have to focus on anything else. He wasn't even aware he'd started crying, until Santana was there in front of him, pulling his wrist away from the piano, and grabbing the other one where his hand was clenched in his lap.
"Hey, hey," she snapped as he tried to force her off. He tried again to push her away, breaths a bit harsh but she dug her fingers into his wrists, holding them in front of him. "I'm sorry."
His breaths slowed and her fingers loosened their grip. She tugged away, and then she was back, kneeling so she was level with him, wrapping her arms a little too tightly around his waist. It took a second, and then he copied, arms over her shoulders and pressing into the warmth.
"I'm sorry," she said again, her voice soft and almost empty.
When he pulled away, he rubbed at his nose, sniffing and turning his head.
"Do you want to go home?" Santana asked, quietly, tentative edge there. Kurt shook his head.
"I think I'm going to stay and play awhile," he replied. Santana shifted away a little, leaving the space where her hand had been resting barren and cold.
"Can I stay?"
Kurt looked up, directing himself to where her voice had struggled out, no hint of a smile on his face, with a vacant expression.
"Please." His voice cracked as he said it, and she sat back down, the edge of the piano creaking beside him as she leant against it.
And he played. He played notes against notes against clashing chords, and he didn't care if they crashed. He played delicately and softly so the sounds of the keys were dying before the next one played. Songs for Santana, who sat without a word for the time he practised, songs for Blaine, and the comfort and support he gave; songs for his father and Carole, and even Finn, songs that reminded him of family; a melody for his mother that picked up somewhere in the middle, turning it into something that reflected her wide eyes or bright smile, and the laughter she created; and a song for Sue's sister- Jean, he remembered, her name is Jean- who he'd barely known, yet it all brought back so much. So much in memories he could only attempt to bury with the rising ache it brought back.
He played. And he forgot. He wrapped himself up and he emptied it all into the songs. He didn't know how long he sat there and played the mindless tunes, and maybe he could have gone on for longer, forever playing, if his hands hadn't started to hurt, if he hadn't become vividly aware Santana was still there, wasting her time away like he was. He drew it to a close, clasping his hands in his lap and shifting away from the keys.
"It's not fair." It came out petulant, his tone was so whiny, but he couldn't stop himself from saying it. The piano creaked, but Santana didn't move away.
"Life's not fair."
"Well, it should be," he bit back, voice thick, tilting his chin up and blinking rapidly. "It should be and... I'm being selfish. Because all I can think about is Mom, and this has nothing to with her."
"Listen," Santana interrupted, sharply. She moved around so she was kneeling next to him once more. "You deal. I get that. And you do a pretty good job of making everyone here think you deal so well. But don't you put on a mask in front of me; you can't bullshit me with that. I know better than any of them." She was forceful in her words, but the hand on his arm was nothing but something to anchor him. "You deal like any of the rest of us do. As selfish or lonely as that is. Let yourself be fucking selfish, Kurt, but don't make yourself lonely."
He leant his hand across, and she met his with hers. He nodded heavily, her words crashing over him, but not crushing him. Just going through him, washing themselves over. He nodded because he understood. It was a heavy realisation, but only made him feel lighter.
It had been a long week, one that had dragged and Blaine had waded through blurrily, in exhaustion. Everything so much more low key compared to Prom, everything seemed slightly less enjoyable. Everything was marred. Even upcoming Nationals seemed like a distant dream to take a grasp on, and it was like fighting to reach the surface, so he could breathe and everything wasn't so distorted.
He was excited. Beyond it. But it felt strange to be.
His room was cluttered with half open bags and a couple of cases, strewn with clothes hung up over his closet doors and his drawers, a pile of once-neatly-folded ironing rumpled over the foot of his bed. Blaine sifted through clothes, knelt on the floor searching a pile beside him.
He worked in silence, lining his case with an assortment of things he assumed he'd need, Kurt sat against his pillows on his bed, quietly. Kurt had been quiet a lot the past week, and Blaine had been at a loss for words to say. They'd both lost their conversation somewhere, and neither one could attempt to pick it up. Blaine didn't need Kurt to explain though. He didn't need him to pretend to be okay- he made it known he was there for Kurt not to be, but Kurt didn't need any further pressing and they'd left it. Lost conversation and silence was sometimes comfortable with Kurt and it was an odd comfort, packing for Nationals in silence with him.
He looked up, and his eyes caught Kurt, hands fisted through one of Blaine's cardigans, holding it close. He was tiny, curled up on Blaine's bed, pressing a piece of clothing to him like a lifeline.
His head shot up, smiling, hands loosening in the cardigan.
"Yeah?" he replied, and Blaine was struck that there was nothing for him to actually ask, running through his mind for something to say.
"Um... how's packing going for you?" he asked. Kurt shrugged, still smiling.
"I'm nearly done. Just a few items in the laundry I haven't packed yet."
He turned his head away, barely focused on the packing to be done in front of him. It became a soft blur, unfocused, because Kurt was still behind him, silent but so present, running his hands through Blaine's clothes. The thought tingling up his spine.
"Are you excited for New York?" Blaine asked, voice faraway in his ears, like he was saying it under water, the task of packing the only real importance, but he was striving to turn back to Kurt.
"Yes." Kurt's voice was clear and sharp breaking through. "I've wanted to go forever. New York, Blaine. New York." Blaine turned his head, body following in a swift motion so he was facing Kurt, looking up at him from the floor. There was a hint of a smile playing at his lips. He was still fiddling with the cardigan, digging his fingers into the soft fabric. "Rachel lacks tact, though," he added with a laugh.
"What did she say?" he asked, eyebrows lowered.
"That New York is amazing and I'll have fun anyway," Kurt quoted her, smile a little tighter now.
"Oh," Blaine breathed, biting his lip. "She means well." And he knew she did, and Kurt nodding softly indicated he did too. But Rachel had a habit of not thinking before she spoke, so the words that she blurted out meant no harm, but could cause it nevertheless.
"She meant it well," Kurt agreed, and Blaine heard the clunk in his words, the stiffness. Heaving himself up against the edge of the bed so he was standing at the end, he got up to look across at Kurt, lips twisted and frowned.
"Kurt, what's wrong?"
Kurt shrugged, and Blaine slid to the side, picking up his pile of disarrayed clothes and throwing them off the bed. He sat on the edge tentatively, not taking his eyes off Kurt's face.
"Kurt?" he started again. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Kurt insisted, and his hands with the cardigan fell into his lap. "I'm being petty, that's all." He was only quiet for a moment, letting his words settle before he continued. "I just don't like being reminded. That people think that way. About me." His words turned into mumblings, short and cut off, coming out almost broken, so that Blaine nearly had to strain to catch on.
"A lot of people don't, Kurt," he tried to say in comfort, but Kurt was shaking his head, waving his hand.
"No, no, I know-"
"I don't," he finished, an air of finality to it. Kurt let his words die, and his hand fall.
"Yeah," Kurt struggled out. "I know." The stillness between them felt cold. He was distant from Kurt; he was looking at him, but Kurt's face was turned down, and there was too much space to reach across from where he sat. He shifted himself up, edging closer to Kurt, mirroring the way he sat with his legs crossed, facing him. There was still a distance between them, but Blaine didn't have to twist to see Kurt now. They were opposite. He was a whisper of a touch away.
Kurt shifted and the stillness between them went with it. They had to stop falling into these silences, the ones Blaine wasn't sure were awkward or to be enjoyed. He'd lost himself again in just enjoying that Kurt was there, with him, just to enjoy following how his fingers played in the fabric of his cardigan, or watching the expression on his face working so hard to be blank, but couldn't fully hide the quirk on his lips or the furrow of his brow.
"Can I... can I ask you something?" Kurt forced it out, stuttering only slightly but worming the words together. "And feel free to say no, if you're not comfortable with it."
His curiousness took him over, leaning in barely noticeably, pulled toward Kurt. "Sure, anything." Kurt smiled slightly at the encouragement.
He stole himself a moment, fingers loose but still through Blaine's clothing. Until his shoulders fell, no longer so tensely wrapped up.
"You know those stories about everyone being born blind until they fall in love? I've hated them, for as long as I can remember," he started and Blaine hummed in response, and something quickened in his heart, a rush of blood so fast he barely noticed as it settled in a second.
Maybe it was the way his mouth twisted around those words, or the absent way in which he said them. But it left Blaine feeling empty too.
"I've always thought it romanticises blindness," he continued. "Like, well here's a good thing- you can't see but that means you're deeper than other people." His words turned acidic as he broke off. "You can fall in love more truly than others because you only know the person, not the way they look?" He tilted his head up and he scoffed. "How lucky I am. Great to make the best of a bad situation. Says the people who can see-"
Kurt didn't sound angry. He didn't sound frustrated, or cut off, or lonely or bitter or sad. It was beyond that, and Blaine couldn't place it. Couldn't label it, other than a humming under his skin, and urge to reach out and pull Kurt closer so he didn't sound like that any more.
Kurt moved up onto his knees, edging closer until there was only a slither of space between them. "If I could see," he said, "my judge of character would be fine. I'd still like the person. I've learned to deal with being blind; it's my life. And it's fine- it really is. But I knew when I was seven what true beauty is. It's not a revelation that came to me when I lost my sight."
Blaine found himself struck dumb, his throat was dry but that wasn't the reason. Kurt's voice was hushed, a whisper between them, and holding his breath against him. He was entranced, edging to hear the rest of Kurt's words.
"I can never..." he whispered steadily, "I can never look across and see someone smile, or light catch their face the right way. I can't see a glint of happiness in their eyes, or them throwing their head back or clutching their sides as they laugh. I can't see how their hair falls into their face-" he smiled- "or comes loose from their product." Blaine smiled in return. "I can't see them falter, or trying to blink back tears. Or the colour rise in their cheeks or eyebrows creasing their foreheads. And every time someone says something along the lines of seeing deeper, learning to appreciate in spite of it, I am reminded of that."
He reached his hands across and gripped Blaine's when he found them. This was important. This meant something. There could be no locked gazes, so hands were grasped. Blaine dragged his eyes from Kurt's face to their hands, then back to his face. He had to breathe. But he was failing to remember anything past Kurt and himself. Kurt gripped a little tighter before he carried on.
"It isn't romantic. It's not something to look on the bright side of. I wish every day I could see. See my dad, see Finn, Carole and Santana. Even see how Rachel looks now. And you. I wish I could see you."
Blaine's hand loosened and he was nodding, mouth hanging open. He blinked, moisture building up that he hadn't even noticed before Kurt stopped talking.
"You want me to... describe myself to you?" Blaine choked out through the weight in his voice.
Kurt shook his head. And Blaine was lost.
"I wanted to... um... you can say no-"
"I won't," he said softly, but seriously, fastening his hands tighter around Kurt's again. "I won't." Kurt laughed, sniffing a little, then pulling his hands away.
"I would like to...um-" He raised a hand and reached it slowly to just beside Blaine's face, stopping and then pulling it back to himself. "You know." He shrugged and twisted his hands together. "But it's okay if you don't want-"
"I do." Blaine felt the words drop out of his mouth. He wanted Kurt to, he really, so very really, wanted him to. He wanted to feel Kurt's hands on him, he wanted him closer than even the breath of space between them, he wanted to lean in and kiss him and tell him his feelings, before the rippling beneath him exploded out. He should steady himself, but it was too difficult. It was overwhelmingly and painfully difficult. Two weeks before, he could have looked at Kurt and he wouldn't have felt this— and now all Kurt had to do was flash him a small, tentative smile and he was smothered.
"Really?" he checked quietly.
"Yes," Blaine laughed out. Kurt nodded, shifting himself up.
"Okay." He smiled, faltering slightly, to which Blaine could only guess was nerves. "Okay, could you wash your gel out?" Kurt asked slowly. "I'd just prefer it if you weren't wearing any. That's all." He smiled meekly and Blaine felt the chuckle trill from him.
"Oh...um," he laughed. "I'm not actually wearing any today. You got here earlier than I thought; I didn't have time." Kurt's smile shifted, his nose scrunching and teeth showing. Blaine loved that smile, when Kurt's urge to triumphed over the careful control of his features. He extended his hand out carefully.
"Can I?" he asked.
"Yes," he said, eyes flickering between Kurt's fingers and his face. Kurt leaned his hand in, catching the top of Blaine's ear, spreading his fingers out into his hair. His hand was soft resting there, moving up and across, pulling at the curls.
"It's so fluffy," Kurt cooed in a mock baby tone, his face scrunching up again, pulling at the curls on the top of his head, which fluffing up from Kurt's playing.
"Stop messing," Blaine chastised half heartedly, enjoying Kurt's hand in his hair far too much to care.
Kurt smiled, twisting a finger to find a curl sticking out wrapping up in it and tugging, and then shaking his hand through, winding the frizz and the curls into an even worse state.
"I hate you," he chuckled, opening his eyes to see Kurt grinning and biting down on his bottom lip. Kurt slid his hand through his hair, trail of warmth following in, embracing Blaine, until he pulled it out. Blaine immediately missed the touch, wanting so badly for Kurt to be there again.
His hand brought itself up to Blaine's chin, curling loosely so it was tucked underneath. His thumb hooked out, running softly under his chin. Blaine closed his eyes at the tickle, Kurt's fingers extending and tracing the edges of his face. The touch was a breath, up from his chin as both Kurt's hands followed a cheek, and along his hairline, then back down. A slow, brushing drag, until his fingers pressed a little more firmly and it was no longer a ghost trail but solid fingertips. It was strange; it was shaking him through bone and skin. He'd hugged Kurt, he'd danced with him, he'd kissed his temple and he'd lain in a bed with him. But none of that was as close to how he felt to him now.
Kurt's hands cupped Blaine's cheeks, his thumbs brushing over the space beside his nose. He clenched his eyes tight, but didn't squirm, though he hoped Kurt didn't mind the small spattering of blackheads that never seemed to budge no matter how much he moisturised. He didn't open his eyes as Kurt moved a hand away, the other trailing across an eyelid and eyebrow, and brushing softly across his eyelashes until he reached his nose.
He felt stiff as Kurt drew the shape of it between his forefinger and thumb, along the side of the bridge and into the grooves, until his thumb rested in the dip between his mouth and nose. Blaine held his breath. Kurt did the same with his other hand across his other eye, moving the one beneath Blaine's nose to one corner of his mouth. The other hand followed down the nose to rest at the other corner. Blaine smiled as he breathed, in spite of himself. Kurt only followed the dip and the curves as his cheeks moved with his lips, bringing his fingers back along. He hesitated, and then brushed a finger along the bottom.
Blaine's eyes shot open and his breath halted once more. He could see his reflection perfectly in the dark of Kurt's glasses. Kurt's fingers stilled, sensing Blaine tense.
"Is this okay?" he checked. And Blaine nodded. He didn't have to break his silence; Kurt could feel the movement under his fingers. He shivered as Kurt drew across his bottom lip, and across the top, which seemed more ticklish, more slow moving. Kurt would be able to feel the quick breaths whistling through the small parting between his lips against his fingers. His eyes wouldn't close; they searched Kurt's face for some shift. But it didn't. He continued, the pad of his thumb dipping into the gap between them but tugged away just as quickly, until it rested back against his cheek.
He was surprised there were so many curves and dips and contours for Kurt to trace— the ones beneath his eyes and the one on his chin, and the curl to his earlobes. He didn't know how sensitive the curve that joined to his neck was until Kurt's fingers ghosted along, down his neck to rest on his shoulders.
Blaine breathed, stuttering on it. He hadn't been able to close his eyes except to blink since Kurt had touched his lip. And he hadn't been able to take his eyes from Kurt. His lips tightened into a thin line, but Kurt smiled at him.
"Thank you," he muttered, pulling his hands away and tucking them together close to him. Blaine blinked and his breath stammered again. "Thank you," Kurt repeated, voice full and heavy. Blaine's eyes searched Kurt quickly and he leaned in.
"Thank you," he said back, eyes glued to Kurt's glasses. Kurt opened his mouth, and then closed it, seemingly unable to say anything in return. He tilted his head down, and Blaine saw his chest shaking before he tilted it back up.
"You're so beautiful, Blaine," he mumbled thickly. Blaine blinked again, the threatening burning back.
He opened his mouth to say it in return but all that came out was a strangled sounding laugh. Kurt's expression was blank, and he tilted his head.
"You are, Blaine," he said more clearly, with more conviction. "More than I imagined. And I imagine a lot." His lips curled but it was so sad it hurt. Blaine swallowed. He stared at his hands clasped by his stomach and steeled himself.
When he looked back at Kurt he was ready to say it back to him, but Kurt's bottom lip was tugged between his teeth, something going on Blaine couldn't add up.
Kurt breathed and pulled Blaine's hand back into his.
"They're not as bad now," he told him. "I know that. They were... apparently." He indicated his free hand to his glasses— to what was beneath and Blaine's eyes followed the movement. "But it still doesn't mean I like them on show." He shifted a little, hand still in Blaine's, but a twitch in his shoulders.
Blaine leant in further.
"You don't have to, Kurt," he said, and he meant it. He thoroughly and deeply meant it. He wanted Kurt to share everything with him, even if it happened in months or years in the future; he needed Kurt to be comfortable in sharing for himself to want it.
"I want to," Kurt insisted. "I just don't want you to think when you see them that it's ridiculous of me to wear glasses because maybe they don't look that-" He cut off as Blaine brought in his other hand so he was clasping Kurt's with both of his.
"Insecurities aren't ridiculous, Kurt," Blaine reminded him softly. "Just the people who force them on us."
He nodded, and the corner of his mouth curled very slightly. "Okay," he mumbled out.
"Okay," Blaine echoed, pulling one hand back as Kurt lifted his to the glasses, and he tugged them off, placing them beside him on the bed.
His eyes were still closed, his face so very guarded. The bags under his eyes were light, lighter than when he'd last seen them; hopefully meaning he was getting more sleep.
Blaine squeezed his hand. It looked as though he were counting to open, preparing himself. Blaine knew he couldn't dissipate those nerves with a tug on Kurt's hand, but hoped he could steady them.
And then they fluttered open, and Blaine forgot himself. Forgot there were words he was meant to be thinking or forming and actually saying. He forgot the breath that was supposed to escape and be replaced. Kurt jerked a little, darting his face in so many directions, and Blaine pressed in.
He still couldn't remember the words or the breath, both seemingly stuck between his mouth and lungs, but he felt the draw into Kurt. Cupping his hands around Kurt's face, just as Kurt had done moments before, he steadied him.
His eyes weren't scarred, they weren't odd, they weren't noticeably different. They looked off to the side, possibly because Kurt could feel Blaine's eyes on him, and had shifted them. They were just eyes, only bloodshot due to time spent in front of a computer screen and the lack of sleep Blaine believed Kurt dealt with. They were startlingly blue, and so wide and so open. They were fine. They were beautiful.
But they were unseeing. They were blind and they were vulnerable. And, if Blaine hadn't already not needed a reason for Kurt's glasses, it was a firmer click into place.
It didn't matter if they were beautiful and left Blaine unable to tear his own eyes away; Blaine knew the things he found the most exceptional, the most gorgeous and lovable about Kurt, other people only found them as ways to tear him down.
"You're so-" Blaine tried to start, but it was sticking. He moved his hands away, resting them on the curves between Kurt's neck and shoulders. "You're beautiful, Kurt. You're beautiful too." Fiddling with the fabric of Kurt's shirt, he swallowed. His eyes were so focused on his fingers when he turned his gaze back to Kurt's face, he saw his eyes were lightly closed and head dipped.
He searched over Kurt's face and found nothing. Kurt was nodding and he was breathing and it was the counting again, Blaine realised. To open his eyes and tilt his head back up.
It was nothing he could ever understand. To have your eyes open and still be vulnerable. He wanted to understand but, no matter how close to Kurt he became, it was never something he could just get fully. But he could try. And Kurt was right. It wasn't something to make a romantic notion out of; it was terrifying and lonely.
"Thank you," Kurt strangled out, smiling, striking Blaine. It was his smile, simple and warm but it was the first time Blaine had seen his eyes smile. They were glistening with emotion and crinkled so very softly. Blaine skipped a beat, Kurt's expression so much more raw, so much more real, so much more Kurt.
He leaned his hand in again until he found the curls by Blaine's ear and started tucking them behind it, as if certifying it was there, that Blaine was there. His grin grew a little wider, his eyes even crinkling further around the edges. Loosening under Kurt's touch, Blaine looked at Kurt. He scrutinised Kurt's face again and again, wondering what he was looking for, only to actually find it in a fluttering moment, his eyes still affixed to Kurt.
Kurt was entrancing. Pulling him in so deep that words and sense had been drowning with him.
Blaine had thought it would course through him, soar from his chest like a harsh rush of blood to the head that would leave him dizzy and hoarse from inevitable yelling out. That it would hit him with a force and leave his muscles aching.
It didn't. It was a soft thrumming. Or not even that. It ran through him, a soft buzz. Starting from the bottom of his stomach to pulse through his veins. It wasn't a rush of blood, just the constant flow of it. Tingling his bones and across his skin. Tickling the back of his throat with words. They came as Blaine lifted his hand up to wrap around Kurt's in his hair, still keeping him held there. They came out soft, as a laugh. They came as a well of course.
"I love you."
Kurt's face twitched. His smile faltered like he'd been struck and his hand tightened in Blaine's.
Blinking rapidly, Kurt pulled his hand away but Blaine caught it so they were gripped. He looked as though he couldn't physically say anything back, and Blaine's heart dropped. But he pressed on. It didn't matter if Kurt didn't return it, he just had to tell him.
"Kurt," Blaine started softly. "Kurt, I'm sorry. It's taken me so long to really figure it out." He cleared his throat a little, hoping Kurt would interject but he stayed silent. "But I do. You're beautiful and wonderful and stronger than me in so many ways. You can be so harsh and standoffish sometimes, but beneath that, your heart and determination- I wish I could be that. I wish I could. Sometimes I look at you and forget I'm meant to look away. I've never been able to. From the day we met."
Blaine swallowed and started to pull his hand away, jaw working. Kurt was still silent. Still unmoving but for his rapid blinking. Blinking Blaine realised to hold back tears, and what little sureness he had within him was flushing away.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything," he apologised quickly, snapping his hand fully out of Kurt's. He felt heat rise to his face, a prickling in his eyes and moved to get off the bed, but Kurt's hand followed his and was grasping it again.
"Blaine," he shook out and he looked back to Kurt's face. His hand a vice around Blaine's hand, really, really wanting to anchor him there, to not move.
So Blaine stiffened, until Kurt's lips broke into a smile just as shaky as his voice had just been and he saw his eyes again. With a soft blow, he saw Kurt had been blinking back tears of happiness and something in him loosened.
"Blaine, you idiot," he laughed out. "I love you, too."
Blaine breathed for what felt like the first time in a day, in vibrating bursts. Forcing back the moisture in his throat, he steadied himself. He looked back at Kurt, whose head was dipped once more.
"You do?" It still came out broken. He caught Kurt's lips twist.
Kurt curled his hand in Blaine's until their fingers were wrapped together, until they were pressed palm to palm and Blaine felt himself lean in. Kurt pulled his other hand to rest on Blaine's cheek, their faces level, so very close.
"Sometimes I look at you and forget I'm meant to look away," Kurt reiterated in a hushed voice. Blaine's laughter was shaking in itself, with relief and warmth washing over him. He pressed his forehead to Kurt's, their entwined hands trapped between them and their laughter and breaths mixed in the short space, so Blaine could feel the warmth against his lips as well as speeding through his body.
Everything stopped as Kurt felt it too, their breathing and their laughter. Blaine was sure Kurt could practically feel Blaine's heart thumping in his own chest. Blaine was a second from pulling away but Kurt closed it. He closed the space with a firm press of his lips on Blaine's and everything in him froze. His eyes fell closed and he was shocked still, lips unmoving against Kurt's for a second before his senses kicked in and he moved them.
It was so slow. Slow movement between the two of them that pushed but neither of them deepened.
They pulled away just as slowly, Blaine breathless and Kurt so very motionless. His eyes darted over Kurt's face, looking for a sign. To show it had been okay. That it was fine. Kurt's lips were parted, hardly any breath leaving him, and Blaine's mind was thoughtless, running away, leaving everything fuzzy as he leant back in.
Kurt's lips were soft and his fingers on Blaine's cheek were curling. Blaine ran a free had through the back of Kurt's head, their hands unwinding between them, Kurt's moving so he held either side of Blaine's face. It was faster, becoming frantic and Blaine gasping a little as Kurt's tongue flicked out against his bottom lip, blood pounding through him leaving him breathless. He opened his mouth with barely a thought, Kurt's hands trailing into his hair obliterating any coherent train of thought.
Kurt's tongue pressed in, a deep noise from the back of his throat vibrating from him as he did, Blaine echoing it. His mind was racing from having Kurt's mouth on his, the warmth of him being there, that it took a moment for him to realise Kurt was shaking against him.
"Kurt," he breathed against his mouth, before pulling away. "Kurt." He pulled his hands from his hair, resting them on his shoulders. "Are you okay?"
Kurt laughed, it coming out in an almost gasp, rolling his eyes. Blaine's heart jumped to the base of his throat at seeing it. So very Kurt.
"Yes," he sighed in his breathlessness. "I'm just... I'm just really, really happy." He laughed again, eyes swelling with fresh tears. Blaine's lips tugged and he dipped his head, burying it in Kurt's shoulder, not caring if the position with them knelt on the bed was slightly uncomfortable.
He breathed in and laughed on exhale, "Me too." He tilted his head up so he could see Kurt's face and licked his lip before asking, "Do you want to be my boyfriend?" His voice sounded small to his ears.
Kurt's face split. Blaine mirrored him; he could feel that smile against his own mouth now if he wanted to, feel it curve into his own and tug as they kissed.
"We're going slightly backward here," Kurt pointed out, reaching his hand out and his fingers catching Blaine's wrist, tracing the tips of them over it. Blaine shifted so their fingers fastened together.
"Backward is good," Blaine mumbled, lifting his head off Kurt's shoulder. "Backward is us."
Kurt's smile was smaller and there were tears falling along the bridge of his nose.
"Backward is us," he repeated, and smiled his smile against Blaine's.
A/N: Blaine you make me wanna punch things.
Okay so there's only one more chapter left after this (this isn't the end I have so many ends to tie up yikes). I'll probably get rambling in my note next update so I'll just say sorry that this story is one of those don't-get-together-until-the-end fics. I should have put it in the warnings. WARNING: NO SNOGGING FOR 13 CHAPTERS! But thank you to everyone who has read all of this and sends me such lovely feedback and for the favourites and alerts.
So, one more chapter where I may throw in a couple of indulgent kurtana scenes just because I can and canon is depriving me.
Thank you all!