New York is at it's best in the fall winter.

Blaine Anderson knew Kurt Hummel for many years now, for many months and moons and all of that poetic jargon. He's always been beautiful; stoic and high-browed and confident even when being pushed down, but there's something about the backdrop of New York City that makes him shine through like a beacon drawing Blaine near.

Long ago, (or not so long ago, really), Blaine Anderson thought about Kurt in a way that begs for everything to have changed, but it didn't. He had a moment, a revelation, in a common room in a private all boys' high school in Ohio and never said anything, because Kurt - he meant everything. He still does. Blaine couldn't chance it, couldn't risk losing him.

It turns out to be the best and most excruciating decision of Blaine's life; just being Kurt Hummel's friend. They come so close sometimes the tension is palpable. In the end though, the moment is broken; the mood shifts. Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson are destined to be nothing but best friends, really, maybe, probably.

And New York snatches Kurt up like it's subways do it's commuters; Blaine's left behind in the stale air of Ohio when Kurt's off to the greatest city in the world, the world's possibilities at his feet. He calls Blaine often, a lot, all the time, really, and Blaine manages to go visit him twice - once in the fall, walking arm in arm with with Kurt under the changing leaves, and once in February, when he almost gives Kurt the single rose he'd bought at the corner flower vendor, fingers shaking and pulse racing. He doesn't in the end, though - the flower gets left in a random mailbox to brighten a stranger's morning and Blaine wanders back to Kurt's dorm empty handed.

By the time, though, by the time Blaine's graduating from high school and has his own bags practically packed and ready to join Kurt, there is an air of difference in his friend that only comes with clicking and finding yourself away from the town you grew up in. When Kurt's back in Lima, walking shoulder to shoulder with him through the local mall he seems out of place now, bigger than this world. He shines. It's blinding.

He finds out about Bryant in the same mall trip, and he also learns that's who's been texting Kurt the entire day. Kurt shows him a picture and he's nothing like Blaine thought Kurt's first real boyfriend would be; he's scruffy and artsy and his hair is a mess. Kurt explains he's a filmmaker and he's got that look, that look that Kurt used to get when he'd look at him, when there was something there.

Blaine tries not to be disappointed; he tries oh so very hard. He sincerely knows he has no right to. He really really doesn't.

Bryant and Kurt date through the end of Blaine's first semester at NYU and Blaine never really likes him. He tries to; he shakes his hand and listens genuinely to what he has to say and he doesn't think Bryant is a bad guy, really, but he is a little full of himself and he still can't believe Kurt's dating a guy who can't dress himself, honestly.

It hurts, though, it hurts so much to watch them kiss and hold hands and although Blaine finds himself quite a few friends in orientation and through his subsequent classes he is still the awkward third wheel on some of their outings. The only comfort he has is that Bryant doesn't know Kurt, not like he knows him, so there are moments when he can tell Bryant feels like the third wheel instead. Blaine knows he should feel bad but he doesn't, he can't. It's his only salvation.

They break up because Bryant hates Blaine - that's what he told Kurt, anyway, and Kurt tells Blaine everything, no matter how sort of hurtful it can be. Blaine feigns confusion, acts like he doesn't understand how that could be possible because he tried so hard, Kurt, to be his friend. Kurt's heartbroken; the kind of heartbroken that ends up with him moping for nearly two weeks and going to class in less than crisp outfits and weekends curled up in blankets eating ice cream. Blaine doesn't leave his side; can't. He feels impossibly guilty for destroying Kurt's happiness and at his own personal happiness at Bryant being out of the picture. He alternately feels like he's saved Kurt from further heartbreak and ruined something that's made Kurt smile so so wide.

So he curls up to Kurt on that couch and breathes in his warmth and holds his hand and listens and just plain exists for him, is a rock. He can't offer true advice or sympathy because the only heartbroken feelings he's ever had were ones of longing that were all of his own doing; were all his fault because he couldn't take a leap, couldn't take that chance.

Kurt's a warm presence on his side during those few weeks of getting over Bryant, he leans on Blaine emotionally, figuratively and physically. They fall into bed together to sleep more often than they had during their past years of friendship; after watching silly romcoms or epic dramas; on rainy afternoons and bitterly cold fall Saturday mornings. Blaine's never been afraid to wake up next to Kurt like he has since Bryant, because now he sees Kurt's lips and all he wants to do is kiss and hold and cry and cry and cry like a big baby.

Kurt bounces back, though, because that's what he does, that's what he always does. He starts to smile more and go out more and he and Blaine are still attached at the hip but Bryant is a memory; a first love.

"There will be many more," Kurt says one day, obviously feeling emboldened and buoyed by his good mood. Blaine watches him tie his bow tie and thinks, I hope it's only one more.

And so starts the New York experience Blaine sort of always imagined having his first year of college, albeit a few months later. He goes to class and he meets friends and there's always Kurt, always, and even though they go to different schools (NYU for Blaine, Parsons for Kurt), they are always together and they have overlapping friends and are constantly in one another's presence. Christmas break descends on them like a shadow and right before the end of the semester they're ditched by their friends and they end up going to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza alone, all bundled up and yet still freezing despite the brisk pace they set. When they descend on the Plaza itself it's a mad house, tourists clogging and nearly separating them until Kurt reaches back and hooks a gloved finger into Blaine's coat pocket, leading him through the foray. They settle against the railing to look down at the mess of skaters below. There's one obvious semi-professional, weaving in and out of the toppling first-timers. There's always that guy.

Blaine's struck by the beauty of it, really, the loudness and the denseness and the obscene amount of people descending on a fairly small little square with a giant glittering tree overlooking it. It's breathtaking, and by the time the light display lights up the dusky night he's trying not to cry because all of it's so so perfect. That's until, of course, they watch a fumbling couple come to a hesitant halt in the middle of the rink and the smiling boyfriend looks up at his wide-eyed girlfriend and out of his pocket emerges a ring box. No one can hear the words spoken because of the sheer distance but the entire plaza holds their breath anyway, waiting for her answer. When she nods and collects him in her arms, nearly toppling them both, everyone breaks out into applause, the universal language of love uniting an entire square of strangers into a moment of happiness and joy. He does cry then, ducking his head away from Kurt's muffled applause and laughter, trying to collect himself before his friend sees.

He's unsuccessful because there's a gentle touch on his back, his elbow, and he's being turned to look at Kurt against his will. No amount of avoiding his eyes, though, makes him able to avoid Kurt's curious glance. He looks baffled, adorably confused by Blaine's tears, enough that it makes Blaine laugh a little, break out of the off shaky conglomerate of happy/sad/mystified feelings he's having a the moment to just be amused. He can't stop himself from leaning into Kurt's personal space, from reaching out and gripping his side like a lifeline. Kurt makes a surprised noise and lets himself be pulled into not-quite-a-hug, their arms not wrapped around one another but both of them standing way too close to one another.

Blaine leans even closer, presses up on his toes just slightly to press his forehead to Kurt's. He closes his eyes and catches Kurt's free gloved hand with his own, fingers clumsy and bulky in the material.

"Blaine," Kurt murmurs, softly, but loud enough that Blaine can hear, loud enough that even with the loud music and the bustling people and sounds of New York City living and breathing around them he can hear him, hear the catch of his breath and the soft lilt to his voice. Blaine doesn't know what to say in return; doesn't think he has the words. He just holds Kurt closer, breathes in the brisk air. Let It Snow starts up over the speakers and it's Kurt that finally steps back. Blaine swears his eyes are misting over, but by the time he looks back at Blaine, all that's left is the brightness, the happiness.

They spend the rest of the afternoon window shopping on 5th Avenue, daydreaming about designer clothes they can one day purchase for themselves and family. They stand in the doorway to Abercrombie for exactly three minutes, shamelessly admiring the shirtless boy in the Santa hat in the doorway, before the smell of the place sends them on their way, giggling. It's about this time that Kurt hooks his arm in Blaine's and looks over at him and beams and nothing else, not a thing, matters.

They splurge and purchase one another Book of Mormon tickets for Christmas (in addition to their other gifts) and see it that night amongst the holiday tourists. Kurt dresses to the nines in his most beloved coat with not a strand of hair out of place. Blaine lets Kurt dress him up, too, like an overgrown Ken doll. He whines and protests at the uncomfortable dress shoes he picks from the back of Blaine's closet but really he likes Kurt's eyes on him, likes the scrutinizing blue eyes that rove over his figure as he tries on outfit after outfit.

The show is hilarious and moving and just fantastic and the subway is oddly empty when they climb on board after the show. They sit across from one another in one of the older more rickety trains with it's orange cracked plastic seats and flickering lights and malfunctioning heat. There's a man sleeping down on the other side; a woman and two little boys down on the other side leaning down over an open book. Across from him Kurt's quiet, fingers curling around the edges of his perfectly flat pristine Playbill. Blaine knows that when he gets back to his dorm it'll be pressed into a scrapbook with the date written on the inside front cover's corner. Blaine's own Playbill is curled in his hands, edges already tearing and frayed. It's a real and silly example of their differences; Kurt always so seemingly unruffled and pulled together while Blaine consistently feels like a bumbling mess, no matter how composed he may look on the outside.

The ride is quiet, eerily so; the only sounds the murmuring of the woman to her children and the screeching of the train's brakes as it races under the greatest city on earth. Blaine takes the time to admire Kurt's profile, the sweep of his eyelashes against his cheeks as his eyes drift closed in exhaustion from the long day they'd had. It's a sign of trust, Blaine knows, because Kurt would never normally allow himself to fall in any degree of sleep on the subway alone. He trusts Blaine would look out for him, keep him safe.

There's a few feet and a couple of memories between them and Blaine grips the pole next to his seat tightly, holds onto it for dear life, fearful of letting himself let go. He's unsure if he could stop himself from launching across the subway car and crowding into Kurt's space, leaning in to brush pink cheeks with his glove-covered thumbs and tasting Kurt's lips amongst the strangers around them.

The train screeches under their feet; Kurt's eyes flutter open and Blaine's caught staring. At one time he would've looked away, awkwardly, hoping not to be caught. Now he sort of wants to; is tired of playing games. He wants Kurt - wants him in his heart, in his head, in his bed. He wants to wake up next to him and kiss him in the morning and cuddle up to him at night. He's there, looking so bright and open and flushing from Blaine's roving gaze.

"What?" He whispers, as if the word is a giant, dark secret.

"Nothing," He whispers back and this time he doesn't stop himself from staring at Kurt's lips, doesn't look away at Kurt's surprised glance.

Kurt stands suddenly and lurches across subway car nearly falling ungracefully as the train rolls to a stop. Blaine reaches out to steady him just in time, laughing as Kurt falls onto the bench next to him not-so-gently, shoulders and elbows knocking into Blaine's as he leans back.

"Came to join me over here on the other side?" Blaine teases, bumping Kurt's knee with his own. Kurt looks over him with a small smile on his lips, pressing into Blaine's personal space with a sigh.

"Figured I needed the perspective of what the other half sees," He jokes back, crossing his legs and lacing his fingers over his knee. Blaine stares for a moment, cracks a smile. He's been grinning like a moron but he can't help it.

When they finally get off the train Blaine feels bold so he slips his arm through Kurt's as they walk towards their shared apartment (with Rachel, of course). Kurt just looks at him, a little, with a curious expression. Blaine lets him, tugging him closer and walking faster to make up for his shorter legs.

It's been a good day.

Blaine spends way too long in the Macy's on 34th street looking for something for Kurt, spends way too long eyeing sweaters and scarves and clothes he's unsure of. Blaine's been buying Christmas gifts for Kurt since they were 16, so at twenty it nearly feels like secondhand nature - but there's still something gnawing at him, making him feel on edge. It has to be the perfect gift this year.

He spends two hours walking in circles and eventually gets lost looking for the exit. When he finally emerges into the cool winter evening he's empty-handed and heavy-hearted and there's two texts on his phone - one from Rachel (please bring home some milk, xo) and one from Kurt (please bring home some three-buck Chuck, Rachel's on a tangent, xoxo). He spends the subway ride home and the subsequent stop at Trader Joe's listening to This American Life instead of thinking about Kurt and his non-present and his non-relationship because he avoids things - that's what he does.

He comes home to a house of bickering friends; Kurt's trying to get Rachel to stop decorating their apartment so tackily in Christmas/Hanukkah garb and Rachel's frowning excessively at Kurt. They don't even stop to look at him as he comes in, weighed down with bags of wine and milk and cheese (his addition).

Later, though, as he and Kurt sit pressed together on their worn couch, warm down to their toes in the thick blanket Tina had knitted them last year and tingly with the glasses of wine in their hands as Rachel models potential New Years' dresses for them, Kurt leans over and kisses his cheek.

"Thank you," He says, and doesn't lean away, not really. His breath is warm on Kurt's neck and his eyelids drooping.

"For what?" Blaine replies, and can't help but curl an arm over Kurt's drawn-up knee, brushing his thumb over the knee-cap. Kurt shivers a little, curls a little bit more into his side.

"For going to the store today. For the wine. For being you."

Blaine just smiles a little, knows he's blushing. He feels Kurt's fingers on the back of his neck as Rachel rushes out of her room donning a rather sexy number for Ms. Berry. Through the catcalls and the teasing the moment's gone, but Blaine - he feels warm all over, and he's not sure it's the wine anymore.

As much as it's the bane of their existence, Christmas should be in Ohio. It's not though, can't be, because they're college students and money's tight and plane tickets are woefully high this year. Rachel's gifted a ticket last minute from her Dads and she stands in the doorway of their apartment, carry on bag hanging limply from her fingers, with a an almost comical pout. They had planned a whole weekend; an event out of it - them and some college friends for the days leading up and then on Christmas Eve and Morning, classic Christmas movies and lots of junk food and skyping with family and drinking wine.

Now it's just Kurt and Blaine, and after they insist to her that they're not mad she's going and don't blame her for taking the ticket, they're left a little bereft and a tad out of sorts. Kurt just smiles at Blaine a little and Blaine feels the shift, knows that if anything's going to change it has to do so now, during this week, because otherwise it never will.

There's nothing in his way, now, nothing standing there blocking him. He can't even blame Rachel for always interrupting, always jumping in and crashing moments (no matter how much he loves her for it). They both seem to know they're at a precipice, even Kurt seems figgidity and blushes more.

It's at their mutual friend Lily's apartment when there's mistletoe (surprise, surprise) and it's about nine pm, after they'd both been knocking back cheap Merlot for an hour that they find themselves standing under it. The room, made up of mutual friends and classmates, giggle and encourage them, but it's not until the teasing's stopped and everyone's given up on them kissing and had gone back to their own conversations that Blaine crowds a confused, tipsy Kurt against the doorjamb and leans forward with the obvious intention to kiss him, just in case Kurt wants to back out.

He doesn't though, not at all. In fact he sighs a little, makes a soft noise when he kisses Blaine back, and he leans into Blaine with his upper body, using him as support. Blaine's breathing through his nose and kissing Kurt like he means it, like the touch of his lips can truly translate everything he's feeling. It's silly but under the drunken merriment surrounding them Blaine feels like there's no one but Kurt, but it's partly because it's always been just Kurt, always. He's always been so wonderful, magnetic, almost like Blaine's greatest fantasy. Even in the worst moments, in the few fights and in the darkness Kurt had always felt like a beacon, like light. Now he feels tangible, solid. He kisses like everything Blaine's ever dreamed of and nothing like he'd thought he would all at once.

When they finally pull away Kurt looks at him with the most beautifully dazed expression, his eyes wide and trusting and yet so so vulnerable. They stand there, just looking at one another, hearts pounding, until they're dragged away by Lily and her boyfriend Douglas to sing carols to the neighbors. Later, Blaine catches Kurt sneaking glances at him, blush high on his cheeks.

On Christmas Eve they queue up three different versions of Rent to watch - the film, the Live on Broadway DVD and the bootleg of the Original Broadway Cast from 1997 that Kurt had gotten from a professor his freshman year. It starts snowing during the film version and they channel a little Mark and Roger and climb out the front window, bundled up, to sit on the fire escape and pass a bottle of wine back and forth.

Around the time that they start naming and giving elaborate back stories to the people wandering in the streets below Blaine just can't handle it anymore and he kisses Kurt again, this time not prompted at all by any sort of silly Christmas tradition. Kurt nearly knocks the bottle off of the fire escape in his haste to get closer to Blaine but he manages to grab it just in time, face gone white in fright. Blaine just giggles, curls around Kurt and presses a kiss to his temple, the bottle now carefully clutched in between Kurt's knees.

New York is slowly blanketed in white, the city falling silent as darkness overcomes the skyline. Kurt's breath curls out into the cold night but his fingers are warm, pressed into Blaine's as it drifts closer to Christmas Day.

They don't say anything for awhile, not until Kurt suggests Chinese food and the next version (the Live on Broadway DVD) of their Rent marathon. Later, they fall asleep on the couch together, Kurt's cold nose pressed into Blaine's clavicle, his ankle hooked over Blaine's. Blaine watches the last ten minutes of it by himself, watches Roger nearly say goodbye to Mimi in a world similar to theirs.

Blaine learns Kurt talks in his sleep that night, and is pleased to hear his name is said more than once.

They don't talk about it, not the next morning, not the next afternoon, not over leftover Chinese and the Muppets Christmas Carol, either. In the afternoon they take turns Skyping with their families and Blaine crashes Kurt's with Burt and Carole and Finn because his parents were perfunctory and distant as always and they'd never felt like his family at all.

Blaine gives Kurt the beautiful scarf he'd been pining over for months, the one that cost more than his budget would ever allow. Kurt stares at it with wide eyes until he can't anymore and Blaine's suddenly got a lap full of boy in his arms sniffling into his neck and pressing as close as he can get.

"I don't even know what to say," He finally mutters against Blaine's neck, and then leans back a little to press his hands on Blaine's chest, "I don't even know what's happening anymore."

He looks lost, and Blaine's unsure for a moment, a little afraid, because he knows Kurt's no longer just talking about the scarf. He almost wants to stop him from talking, honestly, because the second part of his gift is a letter, a long letter, folded carefully and perfectly into an origami crane that he'd planned on pressing into Kurt's hands before going out to pick up their dinner. In it he'd outlined everything - all of his thoughts, his feelings - the realization that nothing was ever going to be the same and he didn't want it to be.

Kurt, it read, I don't know what my life would have been without you. I hardly remember a day before you. I do know, though, that I couldn't imagine my future without waking up next to you, without kissing you when I wanted to, without having you by my side. It's perhaps too late, and perhaps unfair, but I also would never forgive myself for not trying, for not letting you know. Things are different lately, you feel it too - I know you do - but they can be bigger, better. Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way, please tell me I'm not alone in this. I will always love you; always be your friend, even if it's not the same. Understand that I will always be by your side - however, chances need to be taken, and I'm taking the leap now. I remember your eyes that morning in the Lima Bean, the confession after Valentine's Day. I made a mistake not taking the leap then, for being so afraid. I pay for it now, and I will pay for it forever. Always yours, always.

It was still in his hand when Kurt leans forward and kisses him and it's crushed as he leans forward to give as much as he's getting.

Kurt finds the letter by accident after Blaine goes into the kitchen to make them hot cocoa. They'd kissed for what seems like hours, lips raw and sore, Blaine tingling all over. He comes back to ask Kurt how many marshmallows he wants and finds him crying on the couch, the crushed crane unfolded into a wrinkled mess. He stands there, frozen in the entryway to their kitchen mouth agape until Kurt notices him. The tears stop, then, and Kurt laughs a little. It confuses Blaine, just a tad.

Kurt stands and launches himself into Blaine's arms then, fingers tightening in Blaine's sweater as they sway together.

"I feel the same way," He says, cupping Blaine's face in his hands, leaning forward to kiss him, once, twice, three times, "I feel the same way."

They fall in bed together that night because they've finally figured it all out and because they're young and newly in love and Blaine's obsessed with the sounds Kurt makes. They're both not new to sex, but it feels different and even though they both admit out loud that they were worried it might be a little weird it really isn't, not at all. Especially when Blaine's stretched out under Kurt and all he can feel is pleasure and love and the thrumming of his heart beating against Kurt's.

The next morning, tangled up in Blaine's bed covers Kurt presents Blaine his gift. It's two plane tickets back to Ohio for New Years. Blaine's shocked and Kurt giggles at his expression forever until Blaine quiets him by pressing his lips to the nape of his neck.

"Thank you," He says, fingers pressing against pale, soft skin.

"For what?" Kurt wonders.

"For the tickets. For last night. For being you."

When they land in Ohio the next day they immediately miss New York, of course. Lima is still dead cold and quiet and nothing like the bustling city, but Burt is so happy to see them (both of them) and Finn's already talking about New Years' Eve plans and Blaine's going to be staying with the Hummels' so it's easy to relax and be happy to be home.

Carole's cooking smells wonderful as they're corralled into the house and he and Kurt are already texting plans to sneak into one another's beds after everyone's gone to sleep and it feels so great and amazing that Blaine doesn't hesitate to lean into Kurt's side and let Kurt kiss his temple in front of his family. When there are raised eyebrows, they blush and tell them their "news" and there's cheers and congratulations and they both blush pink the rest of the night.

Two nights later, amongst friends - old and new - they ring in the New Year together, as a couple. Even over the cheers, the surrounding hugs and the people in the room with them, Blaine can't see anyone but Kurt. He couldn't when they were sixteen and he'd been stopped by a beautiful boy on a staircase at a private school, and he can't in this moment - the one that starts the rest of their lives.