Finn stares at the patterns in the carpet and taps his fingertips against the doorknob. He can do it. There's no reason for his chest to pound, or his eye to twitch. It's probably just a telemarketer, or some Death of a Salesman type selling always-sharp knives.
"For God's sake, Finn! Just answer it!"
"Sorry, Mom!" he replies, shaking his head. Life doesn't offer surprises these days, so he takes a deep breath, compresses his hope, and opens the door.
"Is... is Kurt here?"
The voice is familiar, and hits him like wind chill. His eyes prickle. Even after all this time, he's disappointed. After all, Spring semester starts on Monday. Why would it be Rachel? Why would it even be Kurt? They've got plenty to be getting on with. Sighing, he looks up at the sky; he needs a moment. It's not that late in the evening, and amber whorls of clouds dance across the sky. It reminds him of the painting Kurt gave him and Rachel as their housewarming gift. It would be so beautiful if it wasn't, well, Lima.
Finn squints, trying to paint a picture in his mind of what the sky looks like in New York. He opens his eyes again as a rough cough startles him back to the present.
"Hey, Blaine," he says, still tracking the curl and shift of the clouds with his eyes. "Um, no. He's not."
"Oh," Blaine replies, his voice sounding like a shrug of the shoulders.
Looking down, Finn takes in Blaine's face. His eyes are wide and eager, and Finn suppresses a snort. Blaine's all but wagging his tail, like one of those sniffer dogs on those drug bust shows he watches with Burt. Loyal, devoted, and unable to know that sometimes it's best to stop following the trail.
"It's been a while, huh?"
Blaine nods. "Yeah. It has. Look, if Kurt's not around, I don't have any business being here. I'll just -"
"You will not!" Finn looks over his shoulder at his mom. She's smiling, her voice singsong bright. "Come on in! Honestly, Finn, where are your manners? It's freezing out there!"
Finn steps back, gesturing for Blaine to enter, but Blaine's rooted on the doorstep, rocking tentatively on the balls of his feet. "Thanks," he says, his bare hands cupped over his mouth, muffling his voice. "I'm fine, though. Really."
Really, though, Finn knows Blaine is anything but. His face is easier to read than a picture book. "C'mon," he says, patting him on the shoulder, "she'll be worried she's offended you for, like, the next ten years if you don't."
"Hey!" Carole says from behind him.
"Well," Blaine says, relief palpable on his face. "If you insist."
Finn doesn't really get a chance to look at Blaine until they all walk through to the family room. The soft light from the fireplace illuminates his eyes. They still sparkle, but they look tarnished, creased like a deflated football. It's an unpleasant realisation, but Blaine looks older. Finn can still pass for being a High School student, but Blaine's vibrancy is knocked out of him. Finn bites his lip and pats him on the shoulder before sitting down.
Hearing a squeal, he looks up. His mom's a blur of out outstretched hands and honey brown hair, and Blaine's sinks into the hug with a happy sigh. Finn clenches his hands; he remembers that time his mom told him how lucky she was to have gained two sons. He looks away, embarrassed at how resentful he is, but god, Kurt would feel so betrayed if he knew.
"Would you like a drink, Blaine?" Carole says, finally letting go. "Coffee? Hot cocoa?"
"Coffee would be great," Blaine replies.
Snorting, Finn gestures to the couch groove next to him where he's spent the majority of his day. "Beer?" he suggests.
"That's nice of you, but I really shouldn't. I'll just have a coffee, Ca-" Blaine pauses, and Finn watches his cheeks colour slightly as he correct himself. "Sorry, Mrs. Hudson Hummel."
"Blaine," Carole replies, her voice dripping with tenderness. "You can always call me Carole. We really missed seeing you over the holidays, didn't we, Finn?"
Finn nods, his eyes drawn to Blaine's small, tidy hands. He's weaving his fingers together, but his face is peaceful. Even though Blaine's exhausted, he still manages to look warm, and considerate, and genuinely interested in what his mom has to say. Finn's unsure whether he resents that; then again, he hasn't seen Hiram and Leroy Berry since the breakup so he's not sure how he'd react in Blaine's situation.
As Carole pats Blaine on his shoulder, Finn watches Blaine's smile widen. Finn frowns. Okay, he doesn't know how he'd react if he had to see Rachel's parents again, but hopes he'd be a little more subtle. Blaine's basking in the attention, wrapping himself up in it like a blanket.
"I wish I could catch up, but I'm on third shift tonight," Carole says. "With Burt in Washington though, I'm sure Finn would welcome the company." Pausing, Finn gulps because his mom's eyes narrow, so briefly it's almost as though it's a trick of the light. They do have the same eyes, and Finn knows exactly what she means. "Isn't that right, Finn?"
"Um, yeah," Finn says. "I guess... sorry. You just kinda surprised me, that's all."
"Sorry. I did message you on Facebook, and I left a voicemail, but, well..." Blaine frowns briefly before he forces a smile again. "Enough about me, though, right? What's been going on with you?"
Finn opens his mouth, then closes it. He knows exactly what Blaine's here for, and it's not to find out about him. Standing up, he takes his empty bottle of beer into the kitchen, setting it down on the kitchen island before fetching himself another. It's a little embarrassing. This is the first time someone other than his mom or Burt has asked him what's been going on in his life for months. There's no shortage of people wanting to ask him about what's going on in Kurt's life, though.
Of course Blaine's curious. Finn would be, too, in his position. Finn just doesn't know if he can bring himself to tell Blaine that he's having enough problems keeping track of what's going on in his own life, let alone Kurt's.
It doesn't take long for the memories to flood back. Blaine scrunches his nose and sets his cup of eggnog down. It's the exact expression Blaine wore during Santana's party, back in his senior year of High School. It was just after Finn had decided he was going to give Blaine a chance, and the four of them had walked in, arms linked together. Blaine's cheeks were apple red as he spat out his eggnog into a plant pot. Kurt had raised a hand in front of his mouth, trying to hide his laughter. Blaine had looped his scarf around Kurt's neck, then Kurt kissed him on his rosy cheek.
"On the cheek?" Blaine had said, with a frown.
"On the cheek," Kurt replied with a defiant nod.
It must have been some sort of in-joke between them, because the two broke into peals of laughter. Moments later, Tina had taken a photograph of the four of them. Oh, crap. That photograph is one of his mom's favourites. Hell, Finn looks at it every day; it's on the table by the staircase, so it's difficult not to. He vows to move it before it catches Blaine's eye.
Kurt. The name gets stuck on his tongue, thick and cloying like eggnog. Back in junior year when they'd moved in together, Finn never thought he'd miss living with Kurt. He's not seen Kurt since Thanksgiving. After Burt and his mom had gone to bed, Kurt had fixed him warm milk laced with brandy and honey. Finn remembered laughing so much his stomach hurt. Kurt was beaming, showing Finn the article in the Washington Square News which had described him as a young Adam Godley, not realising his upper lip was sporting a fuzzy milk moustache.
He'd fallen asleep on Kurt's bed and Kurt had left, without hugging him goodbye. A few text messages aside, they've not spoken since. Kurt's busy; Kurt's always rehearsing, always practicing. His mom tells him not to take it personally, but Finn's stopped checking Facebook. After all, things have changed so much since High School, but Kurt can still find time for Rachel.
It's difficult to pay attention to the conversation. Finn senses Blaine's on autopilot, too, nodding like a toy dog as his mom asks him what he's been doing since he moved back to Ohio. Apparently, Cleveland is a great place to live, but his course load is heavy, and he's not had enough time to audition for anything. He's thinking of studying in Italy for a semester. His roommate, Katie, is lovely but he doesn't want her to play matchmaker.
"Finn," Blaine says, "what about you? Don't you think three months is too soon?"
"Yeah, I guess?" Finn shrugs. The hole Rachel's left in his life is inversely proportional to her size, and joke dating profile Puck created for him aside, nobody's had the temerity to set him up with anyone. There's silence, and he stares at the floor, scratching at the label on his bottle of beer, because for him, it's been seven months. He's still looking for something to fill the gap.
"Blaine, I'm so sorry it had to be like this," Carole says, quietly, Finn trying not to be too offended by the fact her hand is rubbing Blaine's arm with sympathy. "You are family, Blaine. You always will be."
"Family," Blaine echoes, placing his hand over hers.
"Yeah." Finn clears his throat and looks away, because the gesture is far too intimate. He finishes his beer in a single gulp then shrugs. "I'm off for a smoke."
"Honey, I thought you -" Finn knows his mom is frowning and doesn't meet her eyes because the disappointment's evident in her voice. "Never mind. I was never able to talk your father into quitting, either."
Finn turns to look at Blaine. He's seen that scarf before; Kurt got him it for Christmas the previous year. Its fine, paisley-patterned silk looks out of place against his red sweater and blue beanie hat.
"I'll join you," Blaine says.
Blaine looks ridiculous, but Finn can't mock him; Rachel always bought him socks. Finn looks down at his ankles, extending his legs slightly, and he's wearing some now. They have cartoon sharks on them, of all things, and a hole in the heel, but he still wears them. He's never learned to let the little things go either.
Wait, Blaine smokes? Finn raises an eyebrow, but decides to stay silent on the matter. Hell, he only took up the habit when he started working full-time; customer service was monotonous, and it was the only chance he had to get to know his colleagues.
"Oh, no." Blaine shakes his head defensively; he always has been quick to draw his own conclusions. "I, I don't smoke. I just need a little fresh air."
Finn doesn't even taken a drag of his cigarette before hearing a nervous cough behind him.
"Erm, can I...?"
"I thought you said you didn't smoke?" Finn grins as Blaine walks in front of him. He extends his packet to Blaine and passes him his lighter. It's windy, and Blaine snicks and flicks his thumb against the lighter, completely unpracticed for once in his life. Finn rolls his eyes. "Cup your hands around it, yeah?"
Blaine coughs and makes a disquieting rumbling sound. He perseveres, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. It's a little endearing. Finn shivers, placing his other hand in his pocket. He's suddenly hit by a wave of the past. Kurt would have called it nostalgia. Finn likes to call it life's a bitch. His and Rachel's apartment was so small, too small. Unless he was at work or at the gym, there was nowhere to escape. Smoking turned into his refuge. He'd sneak out on the fire escape, inhaling and exhaling as slowly as he could. Even after Rachel refused to let him kiss her, she'd still make him brush his teeth twice.
According to Rachel, smoking was an egregious habit. Too embarrassed to ask what that word meant, he'd looked it up on Google. He thought it was awesome how there was a way to describe things which were both outstandingly bad, and remarkably good.
They used to be Finchel. Then they were egregious. Then, they were nothing.
Rachel told him smoking would ruin his voice, too. She was lying. Finn knows he sounds darker, huskier. Nowadays he feels it when he sings, even though his only stages are his shower and his car.
"Remember when we used to do this?" Blaine says, his breathing even as he takes another drag. "When we'd talk all the time?"
"Don't," Finn says, feeling his shoulders tense. Blaine's not inhaling. Instead, he's watching the smoke curl and curve in front of him, his eyes following its wavering path.
"Remember when we were going to be brothers-in-law," Blaine says, then sucks in a breath through his teeth. "Brothers-in-law, huh? Imagine that."
Finn takes a step forward and braces his hand against Blaine's chest. "I said, don't." He exhales, watching his breath fog in front of him. He rests his hand on Blaine's chest, and he can't feel anything through the layers. Blaine's face is indignant, but he's not feeling anything other a gentle nudge.
Anger's not going to solve anything. Finn takes a deep breath, counting down from ten, because Blaine's always had a problem knowing when to quit. Sure, it was annoying sometimes, but it helped them win Sectionals. It helped Finn complete his application for CUNY. It just helps, Finn supposes. More than it hurts.
"Woah!" Blaine says, tossing his cigarette to the ground then placing both his hands over Finn's. "What the hell was that for?"
"Just let me clear my head, okay?" Finn's speaking more to himself than to Blaine; he's used to being his own company. It doesn't bother him as much as it should. "I need to clear my head."
It's been a few days since Finn's been outside this long, and it's cold. Probably freezing, but unless there are thunderstorms on the way he doesn't pay attention to the weather forecast. He's always hiding, either at home, or at work. Of course, Rachel isn't hiding. She's probably out with Kurt, holding his hand. Wearing that mustard-coloured jacket he loves on her, her eyes deeper, and browner and even more beautiful than when he last saw her.
"Wishing you were back there too?" Blaine says, and Finn nods.
Walking over to the back yard steps, Finn sits down, folding his arms over his knees. The stars are beginning to come out. He hates that stupid, cheesy gift he got Rachel in High School. It's tainted stars for him for the rest of his life. And, while he thinks of her whenever he looks up at the sky, he had to pay for the privilege of getting her to think of him.
He snorts. He bets when Rachel's on a date, fooling around with some jerk on a picnic blanket, it's not his image which flashes through her head.
"I can't! I promised Finn! I promised!"
And then what, she'd run off, her ridiculous travelling cape flapping behind her like the surrender of a flag? Yeah, right.
"Stop thinking about her," Blaine says.
"Good idea," Finn replies, then extends the packet of cigarettes to Blaine again, offering him another.
It's silent between the two of them. Blaine goes inside to use the bathroom and when he returns, he sits beside Finn, tilting his head on his shoulder. Finn's looking up at the sky again, trying to untangle the metaphors from the stars he's seeing, and he's aware of nothing else until he feels a prickle against his fingers. He tosses his cigarette butt to the ground, swallowing the lump in his throat. Immediately, he lights another. It's far more comforting to keep his mouth occupied with that than it is to talk. And it's not especially comforting to know that the man who's sitting next to him, his gaze unfocused, is the only one out of the four of them who's still on his side.
Actually, that's a lie. Finn's on his own side. Or tries to be, at least.
"Look," Blaine says, slinging an his behind Finn's waist. "You know what I came here for, don't you?"
Finn nods, inhaling again. The burn in his lungs isn't distracting him as it should be.
"So, uh," Blaine removes his arm from Finn's waist and Finn's eyes follow it as Blaine nervously scratches his nails against the hem of his pants. "Have you heard from him at all?"
"I'd tell you if I had," he replies. "You heard from Rach?"
"No," Blaine sighs. "She was... I really thought she'd be on my side. Three months, and it's still so lonely without him around. How do you even cope with that?"
You don't, is what Finn wants to say. He bites his lip, wants to tell Blaine how lucky he is. Blaine has more than he does. Blaine has a brother who actually talks to him. Well, Finn thinks Lindsay is Blaine's brother, because that's kind of a girl's name, too. Still. That's not the point. His eye twitches, but he resists the urge to shout, to slam his fist against the cold stone step. It won't do any good, hoping Blaine retaliates in kind, because Blaine's anger has a habit of arriving out of nowhere, like he's about to cross the road and a car comes speeding around the corner.
"I know you miss her, too," is what he settles on saying. "And I know Rach. I mean, not as well as I thought I did, but... she liked you, Blaine. She liked you a lot."
"God, Finn. What happened?" Finn realises Blaine is taking to himself, too. "The four of us seemed so solid when we left for New York, but..."
"Seemed," Finn says. His chuckle is weary, his laugh sleepy, because he's heard that one before. He pauses; he needs to get Blaine to talk about himself, steer the conversation to him. "So, where are you going to school now, then?"
Blaine turns to him and smiles appreciatively. "Case Western," he replies. Then, he turns the course of conversation back again. Finn groans lightly, but at least he's tried. He forgot how much Blaine dislikes talking about himself. "You think you'll ever go back, Finn?"
"What, to New York?"
"No. No, to college."
"Maybe? I dunno. Not New York, though. I just..." He feels his eyes prickle, and he can't cry, not now. He presses the heel of his palm to his face.
Blaine shifts his arm, his hand warm and heavy against the small of his back. Finn closes his eyes briefly, wondering if it's too out of line to ask Blaine to rub his back, because he's always relied on touch, and he's missed this. It's been nearly a year since anyone's been this close, since he's let them get close, and he can't even find the words to describe how pathetic that is.
"You gave it your best, Finn."
"No!" Finn shifts to the side, breaking contact; he really doesn't deserve Blaine's pity. "I didn't! All I did was hang around off the edge of her coattails." His nose itches and he blinks away a tear, looking away so Blaine can't see it. Even now, it's still so new, and so raw. It's been months, yet Finn knows it'll be raw for months to come.
"I wasn't good enough," he says. "Hanging around her coattails for four fucking years while she paid most of the rent. Who'd want to get married to that, huh? She made that pretty damn clear. Sometimes, I wish I'd never listened to her. I wish I had joined the Army."
Blaine's quiet. Finn can hear him gently breathing before he laughs, softly. "Well," he says. "I always did like a man in uniform."
"Yeah, but..." Finn unzips his puffy vest and pulls it apart, showing Blaine his navy blue shirt. "I guess this is a uniform, but probably not what you had in mind, huh?"
"Walmart, Finn? What? No, come on, you're better than that."
Finn laughs. "Thanks," he says, because Blaine actually sounds indignant on his behalf. "It's not like I'm the greeter, though. I work at the tire and lube; Burt's not able to give me full-time hours, and I'm saving up. I kinda want to go travelling this summer. You know, maybe even go to Europe? That's my dream right now. Rach was so ashamed. That I wasn't dreaming big, and perhaps one day I will, but who the hell does at our age?"
"Well, I never -"
"Yeah. You know, I didn't want to go and work for Burt. It started as a 'screw you' because she was always trying to get me to do sales, or office stuff, but then..." He pauses, because Blaine's looking away, now, staring up at the sky again. "Sorry. My life's kinda dull."
"Not as dull as mine," Blaine says, then stands up. "We should go inside, but I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply you weren't... well."
"Thanks. Uh, again. Yeah, it started as a massive screw you, but I'm good at it, alright? It's kinda cool to fix things." He nods his head and flicks his cigarette butt in the vague direction of the plant pot, opening the door, his fingertips tingling now he's back in the warmth. "I don't have to sell crap I wouldn't want to buy, I don't have to smile so hard it hurts, and I can just listen to my iPod and think, you know?"
"Well, you always were good with your hands." Blaine twists his hands together nervously. "Um, I mean, in a work capacity. Not that - yeah, okay. You enjoy it though, right?"
"Yeah, Blaine. I'm not going to set the world on fire." Finn smiles, free, like he's sixteen again, the words feeling like a revelation because he's never said them aloud before. "I don't need to set the world on fire to be happy."
"Huh", Blaine replies, opening the fridge. Finn watches him reach for a beer and smiles; he's glad Blaine still feels at home. "I, uh, yeah. I guess we don't."
"Mom said," Finn looks across to Blaine and clears his throat. "Uh, mom doesn't get it. She truly believed Rachel was going to be it for me." Pausing, he enunciates his words with air quotes. "She thought Rach was 'The One'."
"You always do think that in High School though, don't you..." Blaine trails off, thumbing through a stack of of takeout menus.
Finn snorts, not wanting to tell Blaine that when he first moved back home, his heart jumped in his chest whenever the doorbell rang. Seven months later, it still does. Because, Finn's not about to tell anyone, but Rachel was his big dream. White picket fences and marriage; kids by age twenty five.
Blaine's staring at the wall, his face vacant. Maybe he's thinking about how he can get his dreams back? Finn's not sure.
"I'll never forget how it felt, when she did turn up, pressed that goddamn ring back into my hand. I'd worked sixty hour weeks for that, saving up, just so..."
"Stop it, Finn." Blaine's voice is firm. "Just stop. It could have been worse. I mean, she didn't cheat on you."
"Good call," Finn replies, opening the cupboard and rummaging around, looking for what Kurt would sarcastically refer to as his good stuff. "And you're right; Rachel might have hurt me, but she never would have cheated. We got past that in High School. Anyway, I pawned it for a killer new drum kit, so it wasn't all bad."
Blaine clenches his hands and looks at Finn, his forehead creased. Finn thinks he's about to say something personal for once, something about him, but instead he just shakes his head. "Yeah, now that's some hardcore pawn!" he says, grinning brightly.
Finn chuckles; that was what Blaine was worried about? The way Finn would receive one of his awful jokes? Yeah, his puns are terrible, but it's nice to see that side of Blaine come back. Finn groans for good measure, then gestures to the beer in Blaine's hand. "You want a chaser with that?"
"Please," Blaine replies, his voice straining at the edges.
Finn's not sure what time it is. Carole's long left for work, clutching Blaine's shoulders, nails digging in, making him pinkie swear he won't be a stranger again before waving them goodbye. The TV hums, the volume low. Finn's not paying attention. He frowns, examining his near-empty pack of cigarettes. Only two left. Great, he'll have to find something else to do with his hands. It's not as though he can drive to the store in his current state. The lights are off because he doesn't want to see how much he's drinking. It's embarrassing, because the bottle feels near-empty as he passes it between him and Blaine like a Frisbee.
Blaine's hand is heavy, pressed against his thigh, breath warm against his neck. The soft light from the fireplace flickers over his face making everything warmer and softer somehow. Finn feels uneasy, like he's living in a crude parody of one of those Garry Marshall films Rachel and Kurt made him watch.
"So," Blaine says, his voice choked from the alcohol he's just knocked back. "When we looked at the stars back then. What... what did you wish for?" Blaine's hand is a little higher now and Finn shifts away from him, because Blaine's close enough Finn can taste the fumes of alcohol on his breath. They're so pungent they crawl up his nose and make his eyes water.
"Not much," Finn says. "Move out and get my own place? Browns to win the Super Bowl? What about you?"
Blaine sighs, and presses his head against Finn's shoulder. "I want to know why."
"Why what?" Finn asks.
"Kurt," Blaine says, simply. "Why he did what he did."
"Oh." Finn rummages behind the couch cushion for the remote control, because he's unsure what else there is for him and Blaine to talk about now they've got Rachel and New York out of the way. What else can he say, other than confirm what they both know: people change, people grow apart. It happens. Blaine makes a quiet, hitching noise, curling against him more closely. Finn loves touch; he's certainly not afraid of it, but this is far more intimate than anything a guy's done to him before.
"Uh, Blaine?" Finn reaches over and pokes him in the leg. "Are you... are you flirting with me?"
"What?" Blaine's voice is so loud Finn's eyes shoot open on their own accord, shaking off their alcohol-induced haze. "What the hell, Finn! It's... oh God, it's written over your face! I thought we were past this?"
"Past what? What the hell are you talking about? Didn't you think I might want -"
Finn follows Blaine's form, tiny, but full of energy as he rises from the couch like a supernova. He's pacing across the carpet, footsteps heavy, hands curled into tight fists. "It's not all about you, Finn!"
"Yes, Finn. You. I can't believe you! I came here, fucking broken after your saint of a brother cheated on me, wanting just a tiny bit of comfort, and you don't even ask me a goddamn thing about it!"
"Comfort? I..." He pauses. That was what Blaine wanted? "No. No, Kurt wouldn't, man. He would've told me."
"Look at you. So grown up." Blaine shakes his head. "You really think that your, your brother sees you as a close friend these days? You think he has that, that obligation towards you, huh? Well guess what, Finn. You haven't grown up as much as you think!"
Finn shakes his head. "No. Kurt, Kurt... I just..." Though he recognises how Blaine's face is an echo of the one he's seen himself, the times in junior and sophomore year when he looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, wanting to punch himself in the face, knowing he just wasn't enough and he shivers, realisation shaking him to the tips of his toes. "Oh, shit."
"Sorry to break it to you, but your brother's not exactly a reliable narrator." Blaine sits back down, reaching for the bottle again.
"Yeah," Finn says, shaking his head, trying to take it in. How Saint Kurt of freaking Hummel, Kurt who finds porn disgusting and wears twenty five hundred layers, could do that. Deep down, he knows Kurt's been Rachel's friend, not his, but he did wonder why Blaine wanted to know how Rachel was doing. It makes sense, now. Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry against the world. Finn knows the only thing binding him and Kurt nowadays is the piece of paper his mom keeps in a box at the bottom of her wardrobe. Blaine's hit the damned nail on the damned head.
"I'm so sorry, Blaine. If I knew, man, god. I'd have chewed him out for it. You know I would have." And, he realises, the next time he sees Kurt he will, because he knows how much it hurts to be in that position, to know you're not enough. His words tumble out far too easily, because he's not really thinking about that, his mind churning like a blender. "I mean, do you know why he did it? I mean, I saw on this website once, gay guys are more likely to cheat. I guess I never saw Kurt like that, but..."
"Did you just say what I think you just said?"
"Um, yeah? I educated myself when that thing went down with Santana."
"Oh, it makes sense!" Blaine's sucked his cheeks in, hands tangling through his hair, making it wilder. His eyelashes flicker like angry flames. "So that's why when Kurt and Rachel were off together, you never wanted to spend time alone with me, huh? Think a monogamous gay man can't keep his, his torrid little hands to himself, huh? Is that what you think, Finn?"
"No. No, no... I don't..." Finn shakes his head, knows Blaine's angry, but words like that still sting him. Torrid, especially, it sounds like poison. Only five years ago, he was like that, and that just stings him more, that Blaine thinks he's still some latent homophobic sixteen year-old "That's ridiculous. That, allied thing, yeah? I'm, like, that."
"It's an ally, Finn."
"Please, just listen to me?" Finn takes a deep breath, needing to prove Blaine wrong. He locks his eyes with Blaine's and reaches for his hands, rubbing his thumbs over Blaine's knuckles. "I educated myself."
Blaine's eyebrows crunch together. "A straight man making sweeping generalisations about gay men? How very educated of you."
Finn's not entirely sure what possesses him to continue this line of conversation, but Blaine's eyes still brim with fire, and he's not about to back down. "Yeah, well, you just made a sweeping generalisation about me," he says, not even bothering to be polite as he rips the bottle from Blaine's grip and takes a hearty swig before passing it back. "Jerk."
"Are you..." Blaine's voice is a gentle whisper, the fire behind his gaze extinguished. "Are you gay, Finn?"
"No, of course I'm not," he replies. "But, yeah, you know when people pursue me I'm kinda... kinda bad at saying no. And you've turned up, and that's your hand on my leg, and you're saying you like a man in uniform, and that's kinda flirting. So. I just... maybe I've thought about it, okay? And when, when people like you act like that, I think about it a little more."
Blaine shrugs. "Oh."
"I'm not gay," Finn says, more for his own benefit. "It's just... it's difficult to have seen what you two had for all those years and not just, you know, think about it a little."
"About Kurt? Or about me?"
"Look," he says, "even if I was, you know, gay... Kurt would not be my type. I do love him, yeah, but he's my brother. He's too high-maintenance, besides, and..."
"Oh come on, he's practically Rachel with a dick, Finn!"
Blaine's laugh splits his ears, it breaks the tension; it's beautiful. Finn realises neither of them know what to say and they sit in silence, the quiet hum of the television filling the room with aimless sound. Then, Finn bends down and retrieves his empty bottle of beer from the floor. He shifts himself on the couch, curling his legs under him so he's facing Blaine, then links their arms together. Clinking glass together, it's like a ridiculous parody of a champagne toast. Finn can't help but laugh as he slides back on the couch, putting his empty bottle back on the floor then flinging his arm behind his head.
"Rachel with a dick," Blaine says, Finn watching him spray a mouthful of his drink down his shirt. "Oh, God."
Finn laughs so much his chest aches, and he belches at the same time. He sits back up.
"Ironic," Blaine says, cupping his own face in his hands. "How he always used Loving You from Passion as his audition song."
"I've not heard that one," Finn replies. "How does it go?"
Blaine's eyes darken. "Loving you is not a choice, it's who I am?" He snorts. "Then again, Rachel's wasn't much better, was it?"
"Brothers in arms," Finn says, reaching for the bottle again and raising it high above his head. "To those of us who reached our ceilings in High School." He knocks back a large swig, grimacing as the liquor burns his throat. Blaine licks his lips, his eyes bright and shimmering in the darkness and nods at Finn, flashing him a beautiful smile.
Soon, they fall into silence again. Finn's not tired, but still closes his eyes; he's slightly dizzy and should probably get up and fetch some water. For someone so big, his tolerance for alcohol is rather embarrassing. Blaine must have hollow legs or something. Blaine. He can still see Blaine's smile behind his closed eyes.
"You're awesome, you know that?"
"Um, thanks? I remember when you were jealous of me," Blaine says, quietly.
"Yeah," Finn says, opening his eyes and feeling himself disintegrate under Blaine's intense gaze. "You were just, you. From the moment you transferred. Christ, Blaine, back when I was fifteen, I..."
"Hey," Blaine says, and licks his lips, his thumb pressing down tightly, spreading heat through Finn's thigh. He chuckles low in his throat. "This isn't a contest."
Finn nods. He's not competitive these days, he's not fond of competing. He could have done it. Could have finished up his boring as hell degree in business administration, landed a white collar job, but...
"Do you think you'd take him back?" he asks.
"I'd like to say no, but..." Blaine moves in closer.
"Yeah," Finn replies. "I get that. I want someone to see me for me, you know? Someone the same as me."
"Well," Blaine says, moving closer. "Opposites can attract." He's so close that Finn can smell him. He smells nothing like Rachel, nothing like any girl he's known, smoky and damp, and it's the biggest cliché in the Western hemisphere but Blaine smells like winter. He's too close, and Finn shivers at his thick dark voice.
"Oh crap." Finn buries his head in his hands, rubbing erratically at his scalp. His hair's tacky, too much gel; Blaine's hair is longer and natural nowadays, he bets it would fall through his fingers like silk. "Are you gonna give me that cheesy speech about how it's like you're seeing me for the first time?"
"Well, yeah," Blaine says. "I've known you since High School, but this is the first time I've really seen you be you," he pauses, lowering his voice. "And before you say anything to that, that's a good thing, Finn."
Finn blushes at the compliment, unsure what to say. He swears he can actually feel the blood flowing through his veins, warming him up. Blaine doesn't speak like he sings. His singing voice is amazing, bright and intense, but his speaking voice is husky, luscious, and it just brims with want. Want for him, Finn supposes, and that doesn't repulse him like he thought it would.
"Are we... can we go back to being friends?"
Blaine pats him on the knee. "I hope so. I... I thought we always were? I just, I haven't seen you like this before. You just, you hide it so well. I don't get how Rachel -"
"I won't, then," he replies, his full lips curving into a stupid, closed-mouthed, slightly smug smile and Finn can't help but return it.
"Good. That's good." Finn takes a deep breath, concentrating on filling his lungs. Exhaling, he chokes slightly. Blaine's eyes are stunning. Large, and honeyed, and so expressive. His teeth are brilliant, gleaming white, his mouth open in a wide smile. It's not too different from staring at Rachel. Reaching across, he sweeps his thumb across Blaine's cheekbone and smiles. Blaine shivers at the contact, his eyes fluttering shut.
"I..." Blaine pauses, and Finn's certain breathing wasn't this difficult for him a moment ago. "I didn't come here for Kurt. I came here for me."
"Kinda got that after the first drink," Finn says, leaning forward. "I'm sorry. I was so caught up in showing you how much I've changed that I've been nothing but a selfish ass," he says, watching Blaine press his lips together as he decreases the distance between them. "You didn't deserve that, Blaine, you deserve..."
"Ssh," Blaine replies, looping his hands around Finn's neck, shuffling closer and Finn knows what's coming, knows he can push Blaine away, but he gasps instead, feeling lips slide against his, Blaine crawling into his lap.
It's clumsy. Blaine might smell like winter, but he tastes like an ashtray. They both do. His lips are chapped. Their teeth clash together, and Finn breaks away quickly, wiping his mouth on his shirt sleeve. A string of saliva trails from Blaine's lips, glistening, and Finn can't help but feel a surge of arousal, imagining how those lips would feel, kissing their way down his body, wet and slick and raw.
Finn flicks his eyes up and meets Blaine's. They twinkle, long eyelashes fluttering. Blaine's smile is sleepy, and lazy, and Finn just wants to taste it. He reaches for Blaine's shoulders and Blaine giggles, running the tip of his tongue across his upper lip, urging Finn to come closer. Blaine's surprisingly heavy, his thighs strong, pressing him down into the couch. Finn nods to himself, reaching out to cup Blaine's face in his hands. He darts his thumbs out to circle Blaine's cheekbones. Blaine's missed a spot shaving that morning, and it's not like making out with a girl, not by a long shot. It's not like anything he's experienced before. It's indescribable.
Breaking away, he hears nothing but a soft laugh, interspersed with harsh pants.
"What's so funny?" he asks. "Am I... bad?"
"Oh, Finn," Blaine says, through a peal of laughter. He reaches up, tugging his hair with his hands. Finn can see his muscles flex, watch his knuckles whiten to a silvery cast in the darkness of the room as he scrunches his curls between his own fingertips. "Do I even need to explain?"
Blaine tilts his head sideways, and, okay, it's just bright enough for Finn to see the vein pulsing in his neck, and he opens his mouth, but the words dry in his throat. All he can do is flick his tongue along Blaine's neck, needing to know what he tastes like there. Blaine's skin is salty and heavy against his tongue, and Finn kisses the spot behind his ear, idly wondering if he can curl his whole hand around Blaine's bicep.
He breaks away, and, oh. He can't. Blaine's built there; Finn knew about the boxing Blaine did in High School, but Blaine's strong. Stronger than Finn ever gave him credit for.
Finn laughs, a gasp of amusement escaping from his tighly pressed lips. This shouldn't be hysterical, but it is. His lips vibrate as he hums against Blaine's neck, unable to stop groaning as Blaine's hands card through his hair, massaging his scalp. He's drunk. He knows you can't actually melt into someone's touch, but that doesn't stop his body from trying to slot against Blaine's touch, leaning in to him like he's meant to have been there all along.
"So, uh," Blaine says, his voice choked, like there's something trapped there. "Well."
"Maybe, uh, it's best if we don't speak," Finn responds, rolling his hips. Blaine arches up, and Finn slides his hand under Blaine's shirt, feeling his skin, hot and smooth against his palm.
"Maybe," Blaine's tone is casual, but his expression is so expectant, so full of want. "Is this... do you want to stay here? Um, do you want to stop?"
Finn grips Blaine's bicep tightly, feeling the muscles flex under his grasp. "No," he says. I just..."
"It's me, Finn. You can't escape that," Blaine says, and then he stands up, Finn whimpering at the loss of contact before his eyes turn dry, his arms clenching into the couch because Blaine's on his knees, and Finn knows exactly what's going to happen.
"I don't want to," Finn says, nodding. "I'm - I don't care that it's you," he says, unbuckling his belt and pushing his jeans down. "I mean, no, that came out wrong. I mean..." His voice dries in his throat as Blaine roughly rubs his fingers against his inner thighs then reaches for his dick, pulling it through the gap in his underwear. Blaine's leaning down, grabbing a fistful of his shirt, his breath hot against the crook of his thigh and it's hot, it's beyond hot, but it's not nearly enough.
"Um, Blaine," Finn says, reaching down to rub at his scalp. "Can we... can we do this the other way? I always wanted to try..."
"You're infuriating," Blaine says, then looks up and winks. It's at that moment Finn realises he's truly done for.
Finn's utterly lost; he needs to absorb the memories, soak them deep inside his brain. It's never been like this before. Rachel's smile was always soft and beaming when he used his mouth on her; she smelled soft like candy, and that wasn't a cliché. That was the perfume she always wore, sweet and cloying. Santana? Santana smelled clean, like plastic. Blaine, though. His fingernails aren't filed into gentle, round points or sharp and pointed. They're short, barely perceptible as they scratch against his cheek. Blaine feels like Blaine. Finn can close his eyes, but he can't forget. The sounds still echo in his head. The clack of Blaine unbuckling his belt, and the scratch of Blaine fingertips against the zip of his pants. Finn discovering the exact spot, just above his collarbone, that he can nuzzle and make Blaine groan louder than anything else.
And now, Blaine's spread out in front of him, sweat-slick skin so close he can already taste it, and Finn's never been so grateful his mom works nights.
"You've thought about this, haven't you?" Blaine says, arching his back up, and though Finn shakes his head, he realises for the first time how much it's turning Blaine on to push him out of his comfort zone.
"Um, maybe?" Finn responds, sliding a hand between his own legs, gripping himself tightly with a hiss. "Oh, oh God. You look -"
Blaine's head lolls back against the arm of the couch. "Do it, then," he says, biting his lip. "Suck me."
Finn's eyes rove over Blaine's body again. He's perfect. Utterly perfect, and Finn's jealous, how could he not be? Blaine's pecs are firm, his tiny nipples peaked, hard and tight. Finn reaches up with his other hand, rolls one between his thumb and finger, and the noise Blaine makes shakes Finn to his foundations.
"Good thing it's a large couch," Blaine says, and it's at that point Finn takes a deep breath. He can do this. He slides his palm down Blaine's chest; he didn't realise it would be this smooth. Then, he closes his eyes and gasps as he feels, well, that. He wasn't expecting that. Blaine's just as slick and soft there. As Finn slides his palm down and grips Blaine's cock, the pair of them groan, almost synchronised.
"Yes," Blaine says, softly, urging him on, and Finn flicks his thumb gently, then harder, gliding it in circles across the head of Blaine's cock. Blaine's so, so slick there. Blaine feels amazing, and it's all because of him. God, it's been too long since he's been able to make someone feel good.
"Okay?" he says, quietly, trying to read Blaine's expression.
"More," Blaine says, with a growl, reaching down to tangle his hands in his hair. "Finn," he says, each letter drawn out slowly with need. "Please."
"I - I don't know." Finn's voice echoes around his ears, weak, like fading daylight. It might be wise to say no; maybe, but Blaine's so wanting and urgent that his mouth just won't form the word. Instead, he nods. Finn's not sure how, but Blaine's car keys are on the couch, jabbing his knee, an antidote bringing him back to the task at hand.
Blaine's cock's still slick, rock hard against his stomach, the tip winking at him like a challenge. Finn steels himself, takes a deep breath and flicks his tongue out. Then, he sucks, hard, and Blaine groans throatily, tugging tightly at his hair. It's painful. It urges Finn on, urges him to form a rhythm. He tries sliding his mouth up and down, but his jaw just aches. He wants to use his hand, but it'll be dry, and the angle's all wrong. No wonder Rachel always whined about this, he thinks to himself. And really, he only did this with Rachel because she'd get slicker, and warmer, and wetter, and then he could bury himself inside her, until...
No. He can't think of her. That's not fair on either of them.
God, his jaw aches. He reaches up, tightens his fingertips into Blaine's arm feeling coarse hair and strong muscles, knowing Blaine could pin him down if he wanted to. It's another reminder that he's not used to this, and idly he wonders what Blaine will say about his stupid face, and his stupid smile. He looks up, and realises Blaine's not about to say anything. His lips are pressed together, tightly, and his eyes are open but he's looking the other way. Maybe at the painting on the wall, perhaps at the photograph of Kurt on the mantelpiece. Finn's not sure.
It's not important; he wasn't thinking about Blaine, either.
Blaine doesn't give him any warning when he comes. Finn wipes his mouth with the back of his hand; he's tempted to yell at Blaine, tell him he needs some sort of ten second warning or something. Then, he grimaces. Did he really just compare giving Blaine a blow job to a natural disaster? Thank God he didn't say that out loud. Especially because, looking up, Blaine's face is utterly beatific. Finn can't help but smile softly to himself; Blaine deserves to forget for a while, too.
Finn reaches down, glad there's still alcohol left and he takes another slug, shaking his head because yeah, he needs to get that taste out of his mouth. Even though he's drinking, still, he feels sober suddenly. The shapes and features of the room jut out at him boldly where they blurred and fuzzed before, and he swallows a few times, sweeps the inside of his mouth with his tongue. It doesn't make his throat any less dry. It doesn't make him ache any less, especially there, and he whines, hoping Blaine will get the hint.
"Uh, Blaine?" he says, but he hears Blaine spit into his palm and then his hand is there, stroking him, without a moment's pause. He rolls his hips with a lazy groan, and it's rough and frantic, Blaine's breath a coarse scratch against his jaw, chanting a rhythm of words against his neck that make his toes curl. It doesn't take Finn long, because Blaine's good, flicking and twisting his wrist. God, he's good. He's good at everything.
"Kiss me." Finn groans, slightly embarrassed, but Blaine shoots him a wink and licks his lips again before sliding them against his, wet, and messy, and dirty, and Blaine tightens his hand against his shoulder as he comes, holding him down. Finn sighs, feeling his heartbeat slow as Blaine presses gentle kisses against his clothed chest. Full, delicious lips slide across his and then Blaine's mumbling a soft sorry as Finn closes his eyes and flops back against the couch.
"No," Finn says. "Don't apologise, that was..."
Then, he scrunches his nose and feels something something wet and sticky soak through his shirt, dimly aware that Blaine's just wiped himself clean. Blaine's just wiped himself clean on his work shirt. Great, that's a reminder he doesn't need. He forces himself to push back the guilt, because if he's going to lack impulse control and fool around with his brother's ex-boyfriend, he deserves to at least feel sated, enjoy the afterglow as much as he can before the guilt covers him like a shroud.
"Yeah," Blaine replies. "Uh, you think I should get going? I..."
Finn reaches out. He palms the hard muscles on Blaine's bare chest, still warm under his hands. "No," he says, "stay. You're in no state to drive yourself home." He pauses. "You don't have to take Kurt's old bed; take mine. I'll crash on the couch."
"Sorry," Blaine says. "Oh, God, just..."
"It's him, isn't it. You feel guilty because of him. Because he's..."
"Special," Blaine finishes. "God, we, we fucked things up, Finn, didn't we?"
Finn shakes his head. "We?" he pauses. "Look, I don't think I fucked up anything, okay?" He reaches down for the bottle and takes another swig, swirling it in his hands then hopes to take another sip, but tastes nothing but fumes on his tongue. "Guess I'm not good enough for you, either, huh?"
"What? No, I just..." Blaine's tucking himself back into his underwear, now. Finn knows what he tastes like now, knows what he feels like, but still looks away. "What the hell would Kurt make of this?"
"What the hell would Rachel make of this?"
Finn whips his head round, but Blaine's laughing brightly again. "Well. Rachel would think it was hot."
"Yeah, probably. You sort of have a point. Um, look Blaine. I liked it. I really liked it, I..." pausing, he rummages for his pants, knowing that they're somewhere, finding nothing but a pile of cushions and he can't help but growl in frustration because that's just the tip of the iceberg.
So much for impulse control. Looks like it only takes the best part of a bottle of cheap liquor for that Finn to surface.
"Okay. Yeah. We fucked things up. Happy?"
"Uh, not particularly?"
"But happy enough to let me suck your dick, right, Blaine?" Finn says, finding his pants at last. He doesn't even bother putting them on as he bundles them in his arms, walking out into the hallway.
"Stop castigating me! We're both to blame!"
Finn turns his head, hoping Blaine can see the anger on his face. "And now you're using words I don't understand to make me feel even shittier and, and stupider. Nice job, Blaine. And you don't get it. I liked it. I like... I think I..."
"Should think before you act?" Blaine fills in.
"Screw you," Finn responds, then passes the table with that photo on. That photo with Kurt and his stupid, happy, toothy kitten grin. and he hasn't felt such a surge of jealousy since Kurt took his place in his and Rachel's apartment. He takes the stairs two at a time, footsteps insistent behind him but he doesn't look back. He hopes Blaine's seen that photo. If Blaine does, though, he doesn't comment.
"Finn, please..." Blaine's behind him now, he swears he can feel the breath against his back, but he still doesn't turn round. "That's not what I meant. It wasn't meant to mean anything. Finn? Don't do this to me, okay?"
"Don't do what?"
Turning around, Blaine's face is calm, but he's gesturing wildly with his hands. "Two options, here, okay?" he says, sounding like he's ordering a meal, and Finn can't believe that, what, five minutes ago Blaine's dick was in his mouth. "One, I give the Berry family a call, and hope they'll let me crash there and we blame it on the alcohol and pretend it never happened. Two, you realise that it's not all about you. That this wasn't supposed to mean anything, but it kind of did, so maybe we can sit down and talk about it?"
"Um, is there an option three?" Finn pauses, "you know, can I go for what's in the box?"
"God, Finn," Blaine replies. "You really are infuriating."
"Yeah," Finn says, with a sigh. "I've been told. And, yeah. I'm not him. I'm not gonna be teenage dreams, or, or secret corridors, but... I don't want to hurt you, either."
"You didn't answer me, Finn."
Finn pauses. He's grown up. He's become so cautious, so careful, and all it's taken to make him lapse is a blast from the past. Kurt's ghost will always hang between them. Kurt will come back; he's tethered to Finn, whether they're friends or not. Kurt might not come back to Blaine, but he'll always be in Finn's life.
Whatever option he chooses, Kurt will find out. It'll kill him for several reasons; Finn's self-aware enough to have realised that Kurt's schoolboy crush on him wasn't as innocent as he claimed. Finn's aware enough to know that Blaine's worth fighting for, and Kurt's a mean opponent. Then again, as far as Finn's concerned, Kurt threw away his claim the moment he decided his boyfriend wasn't good enough.
"Option two," Finn says, then exhales, whistling his breath through his teeth. Blaine doesn't speak in response, but answers with a smile which spreads like a sunrise. Finn pokes the dimple in his cheek, trying not to chew the inside of his mouth. He's not quite sure what else he can say for now, but he enjoys the silence, this time.
Then, he realises with a start, that he's not given thought to how much this will hurt Rachel. The room's starting to shift and sway again. His thoughts aren't as coherent as they could be, fading at the edges, but he smiles to himself. Maybe he can move on?
"So. You wanna watch a movie?" Finn offers.
"You got Deliverance?"
Finn nods. "I was thinking something lighter, like Smokey and the Bandit but Deliverance is like... so inappropriate you've sold me already."
"Yeah," Blaine replies, walking across to sit down on the bed, and Finn's finding it hard to resist ruffling his shiny, wayward curls now he knows how they feel against his fingers. "Beats being appropriate, don't you think?"
Finn smiles. "Sometimes you have to lose yourself 'fore you can find anything," he says, giving Blaine his best Burt Reynolds impression.
"That is the worst Western accent I've heard since the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company put a contemporary twist on The Merchant of Venice." Blaine pauses. "God, you know it word for word, too, don't you? I wish I had my harmonica with me. Could put on quite a performance between the pair of us."
Finn shrugs. "Why not? Always is a performance with you, isn't it?" He pauses. "Sorry, I just meant... shit, Blaine, you knew what I meant, right?"
Blaine's smiles and raises one shoulder, and if he is offended, his face doesn't show it. He reaches for a pillow and sets it behind his head with a yawn. Finn's eyes are drawn to his smooth, tanned skin again and he watches Blaine sink down onto the bed with a happy sigh as he wriggles his toes. He looks so comfortable; he looks like he's come home.
"I'm gonna fetch you a shirt to sleep in, okay?" he says, hoping he can find something appropriate in Burt's side of his and Mom's closet, because there's no way he's lending Blaine one of his. Oh, and he should probably go downstairs and remove the shirt Blaine was wearing before from the floor of the family room. Finn nods to himself, surprising himself because he can remember the details. Huh.
When Finn returns, Blaine's snoring gently, like wind rustling through tall grass. His face is expressionless, surrounded by his wild halo of curls. Finn walks over, spreading the blanket over him. He purses his lips, leans over him, then shakes his head, thinking better of it.
As he walks over to his wardrobe and attempts to find himself a clean shirt, Blaine's voice is almost imperceptible.
"Stay," Blaine says, and that settles it. Finn's not going anywhere.
Humming quietly to himself, the first thing he finds is a faded grey McKinley t-shirt. Shrugging, he slips it on then slides between the sheets, slinging his arm around Blaine's waist. His eyelid twitches like before, when he didn't even know what the evening had in store for him. This time, though, his chest doesn't pound but settles into a steady rhythm as he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.
1. I will be surprised if anyone actually reads this. 9,000 plus words of a rather cracky pairing. This was initially meant to be a 2,000-word PWP but the boys wouldn't shut up about their feelings.
2. If you do read this, I would love feedback because I have never written such a long one-shot before.
3. I am eternally grateful for Jude-Araya on Tumblr who held my hand and beta read this for me. Jude is awesome, but any mistakes are my own.