It all starts with a beach and the tide and the sunset. Blaine Anderson – he's twenty and he's forgotten the beauty of the world sometimes. He stands as it gets dark, alone and silent, daylight slipping through his fingers as quickly as the sand under his toes.

Blocks away, there's screeching tires and a fender bender on Santa Monica Boulevard. On the 405, there's bumper to bumper traffic, dense and seemingly never ending. In the valley, a reality television star waltzes down Ventura Boulevard oblivious to the paparazzi floating around her.

Where Blaine Anderson stands, though, he hears nothing but the waves hitting the California shoreline, sees nothing but the setting sun, thinks of nothing but how heavy his heart is.

There was a time when he was loved by the loveliest, most compassionate boy in the world. Sometimes he closes his eyes and feels Kurt Hummel there, fingertips still brushing his under the lunchroom table, eyes still dancing as he smiles at him across the room. Sometimes he lies awake and curls into the space on the right side of the bed; the side where Kurt would lay. Sometimes he imagines what Kurt would say about him now, looking up at him under lowered eyelashes, voice sweet and full of snark.

His last memory of Kurt is from standing on the A platform in New York City, bag slung over his shoulder and Kurt not meeting his eyes. Around them, New York breathed and lived – tourists and commuters abound, all having no clue that Blaine's life is shattering around him.

Later, Blaine will remember how Kurt leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, eyes shining with tears. He'll remember blinking back at him, shocked. He'll remember that he vaguely agreed it was mutual and that's what he tells his friends and yet it was never mutual to him, not at all. He'll remember leaving Kurt on that platform, standing alone and out amongst the drab colors of a New York winter, looking like an angel in his white jacket and royal blue scarf.

He remembers staring at him through the gritty, dirty subway train's windows, watching Kurt's eyes empty out and hollow, looking much like the Kurt Hummel he'd met his sophomore year at Dalton. He watches until he can't anymore – the train taking him away from midtown, eventually – New York, from Kurt.

Blaine chooses Los Angeles because it's far far away.

The schools are good too, of course. UCLA's campus is vast and in a great neighborhood, tucked next to and around Brentwood and Westwood, right near a beautiful area with lots of shopping and things to do. College kids and wealthy teenagers native to LA linger and plague the town like locusts and Blaine likes it because he falls in with the crowd, is just another kid.

When he's tired of the classes and his roommates, he steals away to Sherman Oaks or Hollywood or Silver Lake – all depending on how he feels, really, and sits in over-priced coffee shops to regroup and remind himself who he is.

He loses touch with the kids from McKinley quicker than he'd anticipated, really. Where there was once wall postings and facebook chats and the occasional email there now was just a few birthday greetings and by November he actually has to think twice to remember what Puck's first name really was.

He and Kurt aren't facebook friends anymore, but there are days when he's lonely enough to click through Rachel's photos because they're together in New York, as they'd always planned. When he's feeling really pathetic, he imagines it's him that Kurt has his arm slung over in whatever group photo he's looking at; imagines it's him that's making him smile.

These days it's rare, though, to feel this way. He's not as pathetic as he seems. There are days, weeks even, when Kurt's nothing but a semi-fond memory and a photo in a scrapbook under his bed. Sometimes he appears when Blaine's dressing in the morning, criticizing Blaine's outfit as he gets ready for his day. Sometimes he'll be in someone who shares his class; a boy who tilts his head a certain way or talks with the familiar lilt.

Most often though, he's a memory. He's a familiar essence and a first love and Blaine misses him fiercely sometimes because Kurt was more than his boyfriend, he was his best friend. He misses his snark and his opinions and his singing but he's hardly the first best friend Blaine's lost.

High school - it's a bittersweet conglomerate of sewn together memories; singing in the choir room at the top of his lungs, unabashedly climbing across furniture in the senior commons with the Warblers. It's hugs and cuddling with Kurt under the covers on a snow day and running with Finn on Sunday mornings and watching Kurt help his mother pick that very perfect dress for her twentieth high school reunion. It's curling up on Kurt's bed studying for the SATs while Kurt writes his college entrance letters, and learning to play guitar by Puck's hand. It's positive and sad and some bittersweet moments, all condensed into flipbook images that Blaine's burying and losing behind new memories and friends and experiences.

He meets Davy in November of his first year, still adorning short sleeves in the days where his mother is complaining about the bitter chill that's already overtaken Ohio. He's in his Music Adaptation class and there's a boy with a crooked smile and bright eyes who's just as small as Blaine but wider in the shoulders. Davy's an artist, fingers smudged with charcoal and eyes seeing beauty in things Blaine would've never seen. He's a lot of personality and a lot of energy and he takes to Blaine like he's a long lost brother, introducing him right away to his group of friends and being his guide to Los Angeles proper. It starts off as a crush in a way that Blaine didn't even know it was a crush - since he hasn't had one for so long, of course. The last one had been Jeremiah, which was really just misaligned puppy love and then there was Kurt - who had always been more than a crush - so, so much more. By the time Blaine had truly realized his feelings they were too big, to consuming, to be called a crush. Kurt was an enigma. He was his heart.

But Davy, he's a crush, because Blaine blushes when Davy smiles at him or cracks a joke at his expense or grabs his elbow to lead him through the crowd. He flirts with everything and everyone and Blaine knows it's a mess before it even begins but he lets Davy kiss him at his first proper college party down on the beach sometime in December, lets him press him into the sand and slide cold damp fingers up his shirt. They make out away from the bon fire and Blaine's afraid to touch even though Davy certainly isn't and by the time Davy's got a hand on Blaine's fly Blaine presses away and away and away, rolls in the opposite direction of Davy's wandering hands and confused gaze and he just can't.

Davy - he's disappointed - Blaine can tell by the down-turn of his lips and the obvious annoyance in his eyes but Blaine can't give this to Davy, not yet. He's only ever known Kurt's hands on him, and while he knows he needs to get over that eventually - well, it's not going to be then, not in that moment, drunk and disorderly with people he's not quite sure are his friends only feet away at the bonfire.

In the end, he makes the right choice. Through slurred words, Davy admits he's not up for a relationship, not looking for anything serious. Blaine - he's not quite up for anything, not really, even though he'd appreciated feeling wanted and having someone's lips on his again. Davy's a good guy, but he likes his options. He likes the taste of people's words on his lips and motivating others to want him. It's his schtick. By the time they all pack up to go, Davy's got his arm looped around Macie's shoulders, head ducked own to whisper low in her ear, to press his lips against the gentle slope of her throat.

Blaine doesn't regret kissing Davy in the sand that night, but he also doesn't regret pulling away.

College is about finding yourself and growing and evolving and Blaine's always been stupidly moldable and kind of a pushover. He's inspired by human beings and art and voices and people who use all of those things to get what they want. He's drawn to the loud mouths and the outspoken and he latches onto them so he can emulate and branch forwards. It's always been how he is and it's always something he both loves and loathes about himself. It's hard to figure out who you are when you're so concerned about what and who everyone else is.

California on its' own is a living breathing diatribe and collection of people; tall people and short people and skinny people and people who don't care how they look because it's cool to do so and people who don't care how they look because they don't know anything else. Blaine's personal style and taste tends to evolve depending on who he's with. At Dalton, he was surrounded by quiet, serious studious boys who wore ties and mute colors and loafers even outside of school. Spending nearly 24/7 with Kurt opened him up to the reality and possibility of colors and bowties and being dressed up without necessarily being so serious about it. He liked both looks, still owns a drawer full of bowties and sweatervests and boat shoes.

California, though, California is on one end all sleek straight lines, fast and shiny cars, modern square houses with large wide windows, and on the other it's fast and loose, bright colorful, easygoing and lax, unbrushed hair and battered sneakers and half-tucked shirts. Blaine's enamored with both sides, watching the men in their perfect suits as they drive to work in their black BMWs, while also seeing twenty-somethings in v-neck stretched out neon colored tees and brightly colored RayBans.

He evolves, because he's always evolved, and by the end of freshman year he's taken to unbuttoning his button up shirts just a bit and rolling up his sleeves past his elbows.

It's mid-May, among cramming for finals and finding an internship with housing that will allow him to stay in LA for the summer that he meets Roxie and Miller, the Williamson twins who are not family by blood but also straight out of a Hardy Boys book - if the Hardy Boys were a boy and girl, anyway. Roxie stands at a slight, tiny 4'11" ("Nearly legally a small person," She boasts, crowding into Blaine's space. He'll learn that she does that to everyone; he's not special. She's just easily lost so she attaches herself to the nearest familiar person, "I used to hate it. Now – I've just realized I see the world at a very different perspective.") while Miller (her older brother by four whole minutes) is tall and lanky and the exact opposite of Roxie in a million ways. They're best friends, though, and with them come a mish-mosh hodge-podge of people including Wayne, the aspiring actor and Kate, the pre-med student who does performance art on the street corner in her spare time. The only thing that they all have in common was that Roxie handpicked them from thin air, dislodging them from other groups and declaring they "need to hang out with us, right now!".

Blaine's immediately thrown by the sheer amount of energy and attitude that comes from someone like Roxie, someone who literally doesn't care about what other people think of her. She's wild and outspoken and fun, and Blaine can't stop laughing the first time he and the others hang out at his favorite little coffee shop in Silver Lake.

He ends up getting an internship at Warner Brothers that summer, but instead of provided housing, he, the Williamson twins and Wayne shack up in a little beach house in Venice. It has one bedroom and one bathroom and it's nowhere near Warner Brothers but it means the beach and the sun and lots and lots of ridiculous memories to be made.

Blaine turns in the preppy clothes about the same time as Wayne starts smoking pot every other day, because he feels silly wearing pressed shorts and spotless Sperry's when the people he sees frequently on the boardwalk sometimes barely have clothes on. By the time Roxie starts dragging him down to busk amongst the tourists and vendors his favorite rolled up pants have a paint stain on them and he's wearing whatever interesting tee-shirt he'd found at the Buffalo Exchange when he and Miller had gone on a shopping spree. It's got a tiny hole in the neckline and a print of some middle school in Nebraska on the front but it's loose and comfortable and he likes it because it's easy and this summer is about easy.

Everyday he climbs into his car and treks across the city to Burbank where he works as an producer's intern for a television show he's never watched before, for an internship he's not quite sure he wants. He goes to school for literature and and minors in media but Los Angeles is drenched in the entertainment industry. He'd started looking, initially, for jobs that would push him into the world of books; but it was easy to put back up applications in to work for the major studio systems, and though he was offered two different internships in two very different fields, it's Warner Brothers that wins out. He drives onto the lot at 9:35AM every other morning and spends his days either biking around the lot or driving golf carts to and fro, a glorified paper pusher, really, but he likes it - likes it much more than he thought he would. It's a creative position, even if it's on the lowest rung of the ladder, and his boss is friendly and open and takes a liking to him immediately, insistent on hearing Blaine's ideas and giving him responsibilities to let him know he really does trust and believe in him. The other interns sort of hate him for it, he knows, but he can't let it get him down. Even if he has no interest in working for the entertainment industry when he's done with school he appreciates the opportunity, loves that he had gotten the chance to live it and see it and understand it. He sees celebrities and gets to go to see Conan tape three different times and it gives him a different perspective on a world that's been publicized as one with nothing but money hungry, greedy starlets.

It's nothing like Entourage, he learns, not really at all.

For awhile he'd forgotten the sound of his own voice.

He'd quit Glee club in the middle of his senior year at McKinley after he and Kurt break up. In retrospect he knows it was a rather dramatic and slightly unwarranted move, but at the time he felt it was necessary. It all reminds him of Kurt too much and he was sick and tired of Mr. Schue and although he was friendly with Artie and Tina he wasn't really connected with any of the new kids. He finished out his year with only a handful of people that he really called friends and didn't regret leaving New Directions, especially when he heard from Artie in their math class the week after Nationals that Kurt and Finn and Rachel had shown up at the finals (where they'd placed 3rd) in Philadelphia.

At that point he was still being mopey about it, was still bitter towards Kurt. There were still four text messages saved in his phone from Kurt - two from before their break up (one says, 'talk to you later :)' and the other has just simply '33') and two from after ('Blaine, I feel terrible i talked to you about this when you were leaving, please call me' and the other, 'i miss u', which Blaine assumes was a drunken text because he received it at 3:30AM on a Friday evening two months after they broke up and Kurt never, ever used 'u' instead of 'you'.). He knew he wouldn't have been able to see Kurt without being overly dramatic and throwing a tantrum.

Instead, Blaine concentrated on music in other forms. He worked on playing the guitar and perfected his piano skills and banged on his dashboard along with the radio. He started going to cheap shows with David and Wes during the summer before he headed to California, miles and miles put forward to Columbus and Cincinatti to watch obscure musicians play in small dinky clubs that didn't ID. They tinkered with the idea of starting a band in July with Wes on the bass and David on the drums and Blaine on the guitar and keys and all three of them trading vocal responsibilities but it never got past the idea phase, and by the time Blaine's packed his car to drive to LA, it's a forgotten pursuit.

For the ride to California, one that Wes will make with him part of the way because he goes to school in Colorado, David made them a sixty song playlist separated by genre, mood and tone.

Blaine sang along on the top of his lungs to the songs he knews and the ones he only knew parts of the lyrics to. When Blackbird turns up, Wes peered hesitantly over to him from his spot in the passenger seat. Blaine just turned the volume up and listened as they drove along the flat plains of Colorado, the signs for Denver declaring only 257 miles to go.

Roxie is cold all of the time because she's tiny and unproportioned and that usually means she's in someone's personal space. Blaine's gotten used to her being tucked up under his shoulder, a tiny, insignificant weight against his side. She finds he and Kurt's junior prom picture tucked into a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that he has during one of those days. It'd once belonged to Kurt but had gotten lost in the shuffle – Kurt's name is still written on the inside cover in loopy semi-childish handwriting.

The book is Blaine's favorite, but it was Kurt who'd introduced him to it. It's bittersweet for him now but he still longs for the stories of Francie Nolan and her favorite pasttime of reading books with mint starlight candies on the fire escape in Brooklyn.

"Is this him?" Roxie asks, as she picks up the photo to scrutinize the nearly unfamiliar faces staring back at them. Blaine lets her settle further against him and stares at the image of the two of them, trying to remember who those boys were.

"Is that who?" He feigns ignorance, and when she peers up at him with disbelieving eyes, he at least has the decency to look a little sheepish.

"Kurt, the guy you'd told Miller was your high school boyfriend."

"Yeah," He finally replies. She's quiet for a few long, tense moments. It's unlike her; she's usually vibrating with energy even when she's sitting quietly. From where he's sitting he can see her bright green eyes flickering over the photo, a perfectly painted fingernail coming up to brush gently over the smiling faces.

"You're both so handsome," She says, looking up at him with a wan smile, "But so, so young."

He nods, because that's so so true. He was fifteen when that photo was taken, just shy of his sixteenth birthday. It was nearly four years ago. He still has his flower pressed in an old leather journal in his bedroom at home. He can still remember Kurt's salty kisses after the dance, so bittersweet and painful and utterly beautiful.

"It's amazing how much things change, isn't it?" She continues softly, pressing the picture back into the book, "It's amazing how things move forward and sometimes not at all."

Blaine's only known Roxie for three months. There's so much he's still learning about her; so much he doesn't know. At the same time there's so much he does, so much he loves – so much that is difficult. It's strange, though, that she seems to be able to see right through him so easily, sometimes. It's unsettling.

"Yeah," He replies, because he honestly has no idea what else to say.

Sophomore year has him returning to the dorms and missing the beach house in Venice and turning up in his first class not looking at all like the boy who'd showed up for his first day at UCLA in the fall prior. He's tanner, for one thing, and he's also now always has someone walking with him to and from class. He's rooming with Wayne who's so much of an actor that he's more often than not even in the room because he's off doing – actor-y things with his classmates. Miller starts dating Kate, the pre-med student who also does performance art on the weekends about two weeks in and they're practically attached at the face. It's just Roxie and Blaine for awhile until Roxie turns up one day with a boy named Ryan who's a photographer.

Blaine watches, that very first day, as Roxie is stolen right from beside him. Ryan's exactly the kind of boy Roxie likes – tall and dark and oddly mysterious, he's inspired by her and she's suddenly his muse. Blaine doesn't hold a candle to him, not when Ryan looks at her like that, when he can offer comfort and emotions and love in a way Blaine simply cannot.

He sees her still; often. They're still best friends. He still circulates through Miller and Roxie and Wayne and he really does like Ryan, but it's easy to feel like the odd man out.

By the time winter break rolls around Blaine's content honestly, even if he finds himself alone more often than he used to. He still goes to parties with his friends and they still eat meals together, but they pair off more often than not. It reminds him of high school, when he'd go out to dinner with Kurt and Rachel and Finn and Mercedes and Shane and then Puck or Artie or, before she and Santana were official, Brittany. This time, though, he's on the outside looking in instead of the other way around.

So he throws himself into his music and busks in Westwood Village until the little shop owners chase him away. He sneaks away with Roxie to Diddy Rieses' to get fresh chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies (and if he's particularly indulgent, an ice cream sandwich) and goes to Wayne's winter production like a good friend and roommate, despite the fact that he has to go alone because he can't go the day the rest of his friends are going.

Growing up is more stressful and yet less difficult than he'd really thought it would be; He's twenty and he's smiling so often and he loves California and his friends and his classes. He goes on dates but allows himself to be picky; doesn't go on a second date with Phillip the actor that Wayne knows because he only talks about himself; makes a leap and asks out the male model who works in the Starbucks near campus. He gets asked out and he asks out and he gets rejected sometimes and sometimes he goes on dates and sometimes he just goes dancing and sometimes he kisses on the first date but mostly he doesn't and he's okay with that, for now. He was in a nearly two year relationship and it still hurts when he thinks of Kurt sometimes so he's not in any rush to jump headfirst into a serious commitment anyway.

However, he meets Matt on a shiny Sunday when he's playing guitar in the quad – and everything – it changes – it changes immediately.

Matt is slight and super blond and stands an inch shorter than Blaine. He's lithe and handsome and he's a dancer. Blaine watches as he's dared by a group of his friends to dance along with the ballad Blaine's plucking out on his guitar, eyes wide when this nameless face hands his bag to a friend and begins to sway rhthymically with the music. He's graceful and beautiful in the setting sun, and when he approaches Blaine after he finishes the song, he does so with a straight-toothed wide smile and a hand out to shake.

They go to coffee later, and Blaine finds out Matt is a professional dancer; a ballet dancer. He takes classes for fun and dances with the Los Angeles Ballet Company as an actual vocation. He's a year younger than Blaine and already has a career.

He's got a great smile and a really quirky sense of humor. Blaine takes to him immediately and he can tell right away that they're going to get along well.

After they finish their drinks he slides his number, written on a ripped piece of napkin, across the table to Blaine with a flourish.

"Call me," He says, bright and wonderful. Blaine swoons a little, watching as Matt leaves the coffee shop.

It's spring, the year is wrapping up. Suddenly, staying in LA for the summer seems even like a brighter idea than ever.

He means to call, he does, but then there's moving back into the one room beach house in Venice and Roxie and Ryan split up and this year Kate's joining them too, making their small little bungalow feel a bit cramped, so instead he just texts. They text.

Then there's Kurt. It's always Kurt.

He and Roxie are at The Farmer's Market at The Grove, plastic bags in hand and perusing the fruit stand. It's a good day for her; she's not missing Ryan all that much – she's bright and colorful and she's dragging him through the stands by the belt loop at his right hip, trying to persuade him to indulge in the various kinds of fudge at the stand over.

He hears Rachel before he sees her, hears her lilt and bright voice and he stills, frozen amongst the tourists. Roxie roichets back to him having been moving, her fingers still in his belt loops, bumping into his hip. She looks up at him to say something when Blaine sees Rachel for the first time, coming meandering around the fudge stand looking wide eyed at all of the sweets, and right behind her is Kurt.

Blaine's stuck in the spot; the moment. His brain is working a million times a minute, speeding through the reactions he should have. He contemplates ducking away, dragging Roxie away by her wrist and never looking back. He thinks about approaching them first; puffing up his chest and acting like it's no big deal that he's bumped into his high school sweetheart and one of his former best friends. He even thinks about feigning ignorance, pretending he didn't see them and seeing if they approach him.

Unfortunately, though, his ideas don't translate to actions quick enough and suddenly Rachel looks up, eyes drawn by whatever Roxie's babbling about at his side and he's caught staring, wide-eyed and deer-like in the middle of the lunchtime rush at the Farmer's Market at the Grove.

"Blaine?" She says, squinting a bit, head tilted. She's everything and nothing like he remembers, still tiny with a big personality (a trait that Roxie has as well; something he admits had drawn her to him from the moment he'd met her), still dressed in a flouncy little conservative dress that is so typically Rachel it's probably what the style name is.

He unfortunately flounders a bit; can feel his jaw working as he opens and closes his mouth unattractively in shock. He can feel Kurt's eyes on him from where he's standing behind Rachel but he refuses to look, refuses to make eye contact.

"Rachel !" He says sweetly, his heart pounding. It's three steps and she's launching herself into his arms, giggling like mad and pressing up on her tippy-toes to hug him properly. He hugs her back, warmly, closing his eyes against the familiar feel of her, the familiar smile pressed into his neck. He can tell Roxie is vibrating with curiosity beside him, still pressed against his side and fingers twisting in the bottom of his tee-shirt.

"Gosh, what a small world," Rachel says with a bright smile, stepping back finally, eyes surveying him head to toe, "You look so handsome."

He doesn't and he knows Rachel enough, even after all this time apart, that the tone she's using is her fake one. He's a bit of a mess; loose tee shirt and baggy shorts and a pair of his once-spotless Sperry's (which are now paint-spattered and sand beaten). He didn't even try to tame his hair and he's overtired because they hadn't slept at all in the past two days; Blaine's been working as a PA for that producer he'd interned for the summer before and nights were reserved for friends and music and being young.

Kurt, though, Kurt – who still has yet to say anything from where he stands a couple of feet from Rachel's elbow – is a presence to be reckoned with, like always. He stands tall, maybe even an inch or two taller than when Blaine had seen him last, in spotless white jeans and a gorgeous waistcoat and a thin chain with some sort of pendant on the end of it. His hair is brushed up and away from his face and the tiny, itsy bit of baby fat he'd had in his freshman year of college had melted away, probably from all the walking Kurt obviously had to do in New York.

He's stunning, and Blaine's blindsided really. He'd often criticized himself after it'd taken him so long to see how amazing Kurt was when he'd been standing in front of him so long, but the truth was, Kurt always took his breath away. From day one Blaine was stunned into silence by Kurt's presence, his strength, his beauty. If it took him a bit longer to realize what that all meant – well that was just Blaine's unfortunate obliviousness.

But now, now – Blaine's nearly twenty one and going into his junior year at UCLA. He's been broken up with Kurt nearly as long as they'd been together. He hasn't seen him in person in two years. Standing there, in front of him, after all this time makes him wonder so many things – but mostly he wonders if the boy standing in front of him is at all like the Kurt he'd known – because sometimes he doesn't completely recognize himself.

Kurt steps up to him, head ducking a little sheepishly. His eyes are bright; he looks happy.

"Hi," He says, and before Blaine can reply, Kurt's reached for him and he's falling into an eerily familiar embrace. Kurt still smells the same, feels strong under his hands. It's good, so good, to press his face into Kurt's neck and hold him tight, to feel the strength in his arms and hear the rhythmic beating of Kurt's heart against his own.

Blaine's been happy in Los Angeles for nearly two years but it's never truly felt like home. Now it does.

Rachel and Kurt are staying in Silver Lake in a small bungalow that they're renting for the summer from an older lesbian couple who owns three dogs, five cats, an actual aquarium with four different variations of fish and a gecko. They'd decided to spend the summer on the West Coast because music and performing are not completely synonymous with New York City. There's an entire city that thrives under that exact notion.

It's not called Hollywood for nothing.

Rachel doesn't like Roxie immediately, Blaine can tell by her pinched smile and tight grip on the coffee cup in front of her. Kurt seems politely amused but Blaine can tell he's already looking down on his friend like she's a squashed bug. He knows it's because Roxie is loud and exuberant and unafraid to say what she wants when she wants to. She wears bright colors in her hair and has a nose ring. She's also one of the smartest people Blaine's ever met and he shouldn't get offended on her behalf because she's used to being judged, and even more used to proving people wrong.

It does hurt, though, seeing that look on Kurt and Rachel's faces, because this is who he is now. Roxie and Miller and Wayne and Kate are a part of him, as strange and eclectic as they are.

He wonders, as they sit in the shade at a table at the Farmer's Market, melting ice cream and sweating iced coffee cups in front of them, if he'd fit with them anymore. When Kurt's eyes flicker across the table and they catch gazes, Blaine wonders if he really cares.

Silver Lake is actually pretty far from Venice but Los Angeles is just driving, all the time, no matter what. Rachel texts him a lot the first week or so, because it's really just her and Kurt, alone in a city they don't know, without the cushion of college bracing them for the new experience. Rachel had landed an agent in New York (not a great one, Blaine knows, when she tells him, but everyone has to start somewhere) that has a single-person assistant-less office in LA so they're working overtime on trying to get her in on auditions she really shouldn't go to for jobs she's not exactly right for.

Kurt's, unsurprisingly, interning on the Paramount lot for set wardrobe.

So, Kurt and Rachel are in Silver lake and Kurt works in central LA and Blaine and Roxie and Wayne and Kate and Miller are in Venice and Blaine works in Burbank and Rachel's jet setting all over the city for bad auditions and Blaine ends up putting more miles on his car then he'd ever thought possible; spent more hours stuck in traffic in that summer than he had over the course of two years in LA. It's because he feels bad, really, tossing Kurt and Rachel to the wolves and leaving them alone.

So he meets with them the next week; sees their little bungalow (bigger than the beach house) and walks with them to his favorite coffee shop that's really too far to go to from where he's living currently. He listens to Rachel talk about New York and Kurt doesn't talk much but they steal glances every once and awhile, perpetually and forever watching; looking.

When Rachel gets up to get a refill, they sit in silence for a bit and it's awkward. Blaine's not this guy, though, this awkward guy. He never was. Even stuffed into a tie and a white pressed button up shirt he wasn't this guy – so he isn't going to start now.

"You look great," He admits, because Kurt does, he does. Even in his more casual outfit of a short sleeved fitted teeshirt and skinny jeans with loose suspenders he looks good. Blaine feels woefully underdressed in his jeans and loose cotton purple henley.

Kurt still blushes, which is something that makes Blaine feel a little silly and juvenile about. He wonders if it's something that'll always be in Kurt's nature or if he is still genuinely surprised when people find him attractive. If that's the case then Blaine sort of wants to fly to New York to yell at all of the available gay men in the city because are they blind?

"So do you," Kurt replies, fingers tightening on the fancy ceramic cup the hot blond barista had handed over to Kurt with a teasing smile.

"No, I don't," Blaine laughs, and then slides his feet under the table. They bump gently on Kurt's and he knows he should pull away but can't; lets his ankle rest against Kurt's, waits for the tenseness in his ex's figure. It never comes.

"You do," Kurt insists, finally looking up again, "I'm not quite sure I approve of the artsy hipster boy chic you're trying out these days but you – like, you, you – look great. Happy. Older. Still handsome. Obviously still charming."

"I am," Blaine's quick to agree, and then shakes his head a little, laughing a bit to himself, "I mean – I'm not saying I'm handsome. I just – I mean – I am happy. Really happy. This is good. Los Angeles – it's been good to me."

"I'm glad," Kurt continues, and this time it's his knee that bumps gently against Blaine's, "So glad."

"And New York? It's been good to you?" Blaine asks, because he can't tell; not really. Blaine wears Los Angeles on his sleeve; wears the happiness he's achieved here on his face like any other expression. Kurt's always been just a bit more closed off, less easy to read. There was a time when Blaine could read Kurt like an open book. That book's closed now some; he's not sure what he's seeing in Kurt's eyes; in his face.

"Pretty much," He admits, a tiny little shrug and a half-smile crossing his face, "It moves fast. It's always stressful – but I honestly couldn't see myself anywhere else, not really. It suits me."

"I'm glad," Blaine mimics, his fingers trailing through the condensation stain on the tabletop. He's not sure what to say anymore, with the boy who still sends his heart to a stuttering stop sitting across from him in a coffee shop he'd never thought in a million years he'd ever take Kurt to. There's a lot he wants to say; ask. He wants to know why, wants to know how. Wants to know everything that he's missed about Kurt's life, wants to know who's kissed him since, if he's had anyone special in his life. He also sort of wants to yell; scream, ask him what happened – because to this day he's still not sure.

"I've missed you," Kurt says, his voice cracking a little, at the same time Blaine's staring at his lips and wondering if he tastes the same. There's a tear there, escaping down his cheek and Blaine reaches across the table before he can stop himself and brushes it away with his thumb, staring thoughtlessly into Kurt's eyes, trying to ignore Kurt pressing his cheek into his palm.

Blaine's suddenly transported back to the Lima Bean on the border of Westerville and Lima, Ohio, Kurt's senior year, staring back at his boyfriend (not this handsome stranger) with a soft smile on his face.

The spell's broken then, as Rachel reappears as Blaine's hand drops from Kurt's face.

When he finally gets back to the beach house a couple of hours later he finds Roxie and Kate laying on Roxie's bed laughing. One look at him and they scoots over to either side to let him crawl into the middle of a Roxie and Kate sandwich. He doesn't really tell them anything but they don't really ask – it's something he loves about them. For people with such vibrance and intenseness they have patience and know he talks when he needs to and not a moment earlier.

Instead, he lets Roxie run his fingers through his curls and listens to them talk about the strange characters they'd seen on the boardwalk earlier that day. Later, when Wayne curls up at his feet using the side of Blaine's knees as a pillow, Blaine finally feels settled, content. The blur and the intenseness of Kurt and Rachel as a force feels easier to handle with his friends at his side.

They break out the cheap wine and melt chocolate on the gas stove and dip whatever they can find in the refrigerator in it for dinner. Later than that, he lets himself be dragged out to the beach to sing around a bonfire lit at Miller's hand.

Even later than that, he texts Matt, the dancer he'd sort of really forgotten about.

Blaine goes Kurt and Rachel free for a week because he's working and busking for extra cash and he's sort of an asshole and doesn't want to mesh that world with this world but he also doesn't really want to be in thatworld anymore. He'd left it on the train platform in New York City quite awhile ago and just seeing Kurt was hard and stressful and draining.

He finally texts Rachel back that next Friday and invites them over to the beach house for the bonfire and barbeque tempeh and they show up late because they still don't know their way around the city.

Blaine contemplates throwing on nicer clothes than the cargo shorts and v-neck tee-shirt he has on but ends up not bothering because he's not inviting them over to impress them; especially not Kurt. He knows, already, that they're going to be appalled the way Blaine's been living (the bedroom technically belongs to Roxie because she pays the most rent but they are sort of all cuddle whores so it's not unheard of for any of them to curl up together in her room. Meanwhile, the tiny den off of the kitchen belongs to Kate and Miller, the only couple that are actually a couple and actively fucking, Wayne takes the saggy couch because strangely enough it doesn't hurt his back and Blaine's got a spare futon out on the closed in porch where he sleeps sort of under the stars) because Blaine's seen the small one-bedroom bungalow Kurt and Rachel are sharing. Despite it's obvious bohemian undertones they've managed to clean and clear up the place so that they can fit two twin beds in the only bedroom. Their kitchen is spotless. There's not a thing out of place. Kurt's even managed to turn the tiny desk in the common area into a place to simultaneously do work on his computer and keep his moisturizers in place.

He does pick up a little; cuts through the rooms and picks up spare shoes and sweatshirts and various other belongings and hands them to their owners to be safely stowed away out of sight from judging eyes.

When they finally show up Blaine's already had two and a half glasses of two-buck chuck and he's been ignoring Matt's texts for the last hour, irrationally afraid of bringing that world in with the other two that are just about to collide. Kurt's dressed immaculately and ridiculously inappropriately for a night in to eat messy BBQ and to go trekking in the sand. Blaine's not going to say anything, but Miller has less of a filter.

"Dude, you look awesome and all but are you really going to go on the beach in those pants?" He asks, not even two and a half seconds after shaking Kurt's hand. Rachel stills and Blaine flinches a little but unlike in the past he doesn't play mediator. Instead he places a hand at the small of Rachel's back to guide her into the kitchen area to meet the girls, leaving Kurt and Miller to finish their conversation on their own.

In the end, Miller manages to talk Kurt into borrowing a pair of older, baggier jeans of his own so his white skinny ones don't get ruined, and despite the tightness around his eyes that is obviously there in annoyance, he seems okay with it.

The two of them have the exact reaction he'd thought they'd have upon seeing his current place of residence; wide eyed and exchanging the most obvious concerned expressions. Blaine takes pleasure in watching them get more and more appalled, loves Kurt's expression of surprise when he finds out Blaine's been living on a patio (although a screened in one) without a proper dresser or closet. His side table is a stack of textbooks he has yet to sell from last school year and his only source of light is a giant handheld flashlight.

When Rachel retreats back into the house to help Miller and Kate prepare a salad Kurt sits on the end of Blaine's bed and looks up at him helplessly, looking small and young in the sunset and in Miller's too-big jeans with a shirt that's much to fancy for them.

Blaine remains standing, one hand in his pocket, the other pulling his cardigan tighter around his shoulders.

"How are you liking LA?" He finally asks to break the ice, and then cringes because he never thought he'd ever have to break the ice with Kurt. Without Rachel there as their buffer the space around them seems too large and yet stifling. His heart is heavy with wine that's slowly taking effect and in his pocket his phone buzzes with a text, yet again.

"It's okay," And the way he says it Blaine knows he means it. Kurt's never done well with change. Moving to California for a summer was probably a big enough leap to take; running into Blaine probably shattered any and all expectations Kurt had for the next couple of months. He wonders if Kurt would rather be anywhere but here with him; if he'd begged Rachel to not call or text Blaine.

He wonders if this is as much of a strange torture for Kurt as much as it is for him.

Kurt seems to wilt into himself from his perch on Blaine's bed, his chest caving in and shoulders drooping. He sits silently, fingers splayed on his knee, not looking at Blaine for a long while.

Blaine's about to give up and ask if he wanted to go back in to help the others when Kurt finally speaks up.

"I want you to know," He says, and then pauses to take a deep breath; his voice catching, "That letting you go was the most selfish kind of self preservation and I know that."

Blaine inhales sharply, he knows he does, because Kurt's head comes up and they catch eyes.

"I basically pushed you off the platform that day, I know I did. I regret all of that, I hope you know. I missed you so badly. I still do sometimes." He thinks so lost, so hopeless. Blaine wants to reach for him but there's something in him that makes him stop; makes him freeze.

It's not as easy as that, he knows. Life isn't as easy as that. Kurt is nothing if not honest when he talks so he knows he's genuine, but he's not sure what he means by what he's saying. He's not sure what Kurt's trying to accomplish. Blaine's past being angry and bitter. It's bittersweet, yes, to see Kurt, but he's not mad anymore, not really. There's still residual feelings – Kurt's still stunning and there's still a part of Blaine that's drawn to him, but he's not letting those feelings be urgent.

This isn't going anywhere. It can't go anywhere. He won't let it go anywhere.

"I used to wonder why," He finally replies, sinking down next to Kurt on the futon, shoulder brushing Kurt's with easy familiarity. He thinks about reaching over to take Kurt's hand for old times' sake but doesn't, instead choosing to grip the blankets next to his knees.

"I wish I had an answer for you," Kurt continues.

It's silent then, it's always silent. Somewhere off in the distance a horn honks and inside, Roxie's cackling maniacally, probably overturning something on Miller's head.

Out on the screened in porch, Blaine's pocket vibrates reminding him there's a message from someone who wants to be in his future as he sits next to someone who's so so meaningful from his past.

The BBQ tempeh doesn't go over well with everyone and for some reason Wayne can't be trusted with anything because he didn't even really buy enough for the entire group so by the time they wander a couple blocks over to the beach they're all delightfully buzzed on cheap wine and absolutely starving.

It's chilly, even though it's mid-June, so Blaine offers his UCLA sweatshirt to Kurt who accepts it gratefully. In the semi-baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirt he looks nothing like the boy Blaine had gone to high school with.

They put the wine in really classy plastic containers that screw shut and pocket cell phones and buy bags of chips and dip at the corner store and trek out to their favorite spot. There are a lot of people out but it's still relatively quiet; they climb over some rocks and into the hidden inlet they like to build their bonfire in. It's not necessarily legal for them to be doing it but they have yet to be scolded, even after Blaine was sure he'd seen a couple of cops spot them a few weeks back.

So they set up their fire and put down their drinks and snacks and talk; getting to know one another even more and re-telling stories. Blaine breaks out his guitar about an hour in and joins Roxie in an off-tune rendition of Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes' that ends when they dissolve in laughter. The guitar starts getting passed around; Kate picks it up next, accompanying Miller on an original song that's pretty awful despite both of their voices harmonizing well together.

Rachel hops up and sings with Blaine when he steals away his guitar back from Miller's drunken hands and halfway through a rendition of John Mayer's 'No Such Thing' Kurt joins them, dancing with Rachel as skip in the sand. Against the dying fire Kurt looks like magic and Blaine's forgotten what he truly sounds like when he sings. He drops out for a verse, letting them take over, closing his eyes against the sound of their voices. He's drunk but his fingers fly over the chords perfectly; the music ingrained in him somehow. He only slips when Kurt accidentally bumps into him after Rachel swings him around, and it's Kurt that reaches out to grip his hips to steady him.

"Sorry," He giggles, pressing himself against Blaine's side for quick one-armed hug as the rest of his friends join them in the frenzied dancing.

Afterwards, he plays a melancholy tune by a local musician he'd heard last summer. It's not the most uplifting of songs but he needs for Kurt to hear it so he does. When the last chords of the song echoes through the stillness of the night he settles in the sand and lets their conversations surround them.

Across the fire, Kurt's watching him, eyes flickering from whatever's been said, back to him. He's not doing a good job pretending like he's not watching Blaine. It's obvious, and Roxie, Blaine can tell, has already caught on. She's very obviously not sure what to do; if it's something she should get involved in.

Blaine's just on the right side of soused though; he likes the look Kurt is giving to him.

His phone buzzes again and this time, instead of ignoring it, he pulls it out to squint at the text from Matt. They'd texted a few times over the course of the past week and Matt's continuously hinting at possibly meeting up – he's sweet and flirts prettily even over text-speak, and Blaine is torn between picking the next open Friday night to go out and ending it immediately. There's something about Matt that has the sense of seriousness, the sense of forever, and it really honestly scares him. Matt won't be a couple of dates and a few kisses. He has the potential for more. He could tell the moment he met him.

The text is just commentary on odd patrons at a bar he and his friends are at; cute silly little anecdotes that Blaine knows are probably hints to lure him to meet up with them. He smiles a little at Matt's description of his friend Jared's New Jersey girlfriend's accent before typing out a casual response and closing out the text. A shadow descends on him as he finishes and as he pockets his phone he looks up to see Kurt standing above him, looking down at him with an unreadable expression on his face. He's drunk; eyes glassy but so so wide, fingers twitching at his side like he wants to reach out. From behind him Blaine can see Rachel watching them carefully, an unsure expression on her face.

"I need to go back," Kurt finally says, "Please walk me back?"

He looks pitiful and cold standing in the shadow of the dying bonfire. Blaine's friends are laughing at some sort of discussion, outside of Kurt and Blaine's world completely. Blaine – he hesitates because there's something about the way that Kurt is looking at him that's eerily familiar, that's drawing him near. He stares at Kurt for a few moments.

His cell phone buzzes. He looks down, startled, at Matt's name shining brightly on his phone's screen and looks back up in time to see Kurt's eyes flicker to the device too, a tiny marring frown on his face.

"Please walk me back?" He repeats, and this time it's accompanied by a reached out hand. Blaine stares at it for a bit before taking it and letting Kurt help him stand.

"We're going to head back," Blaine says to his friends. Rachel, sitting to Roxie's right and still staring at them carefully, goes to stand.

"Maybe I should come with, too," She starts, but Blaine watches as Roxie takes her arm gently.

"Let them go ahead," She says with a tight smile. It looks bright; friendly even, but Blaine knows Roxie well enough that it's not as friendly as it seems, "We're going to need an extra set of hands to bring our mess back anyway."
He's not sure whether to be appreciative of Roxie for giving he and Kurt the time to themselves or curse her for it, really. He's drunk – so is Kurt.

They're Kurt and Blaine; they've always been drawn to one another like magnets; this can only spell trouble.

But Blaine – he's looking for a little trouble; practically asking for it. He and Kurt never resolved a thing – just ended things abruptly and randomly. Whatever's going to happen – they need their resolution.

They're halfway back to the beach house before Kurt says anything. He's clearly more and more exhausted and drunk as the walk goes on; he sways a bit once they climb out of the sand and back onto the sidewalk like he's unused to being on solid ground. Blaine veers a little to reach over and take Kurt's elbow and when guided, lets Kurt tuck into his side, a familiar weight.

"You weren't supposed to be here, you know," He says, as they finally turn onto Blaine's block, "I wasn't supposed to ever see you again."

Blaine can't help but be offended by the comment, despite the fact that he knows Kurt's most likely talking through booze and tiredness.

"Well gee, sorry," He replies, with a bit more bitterness than he means to. He lets Kurt pull away from him a bit as he digs his keys out of his pocket to open the front door, leads him through gently even as Kurt sputters indignantly with bare and open apologies.

"I didn't mean it that way," He insists, as he trails Blaine through the beach house. He squints as Blaine flips on the lights as he goes, cringes when they end up in the super-bright kitchen. Blaine sighs, reaching into a cupboard to fill two glasses with tap water before handing one to Kurt.

"I didn't mean it that way," Kurt tries again, taking the glass from Blaine with a frown, eyes blinking lazily in the light. Blaine knows he's just as drunk as Kurt but also knows that Kurt's a different kind of drunk. When he's out of the party and group environment, Blaine is a quiet and composed drunk; solemn and thoughtful. Kurt's always reached out when he'd been drinking; looking for something tangible and talking as much as humanly possible to make sense of what's going on in his head.

"I'm not sure what you meant, Kurt," Blaine finally says, because he's so so tired. He'd settled into his life. He loved his friends. Now everything was shaken up; his thoughts were scattered everywhere. One moment he's fine with Kurt, the other he's bitter about him being around. Kurt makes him crazy. He's always made him crazy.

His phone buzzes. The sound echoes through the empty kitchen and Kurt's eyes flicker to where Blaine's phone is buried in his pocket.
"Who's that?" He inquires, and Blaine knows if Kurt hadn't been drinking he would've never asked that. He would've never had the guts to.

"His name is Matt," Blaine finally responds, leaning back against the countertop; refusing to look at Kurt. He hears Kurt huff a little under his breath; can practically hear the wheels turning in Kurt's head. Kurt's fidgeting a little, curling his hands into the sleeves of Blaine's sweatshirt and crossing his arms.

"Is he -" Kurt starts, and this time Blaine does look up – looks straight into Kurt's wide, bloodshot blue eyes and dares him to ask – dares him to say - "Is he your boyfriend?"

Blaine doesn't even really let the question sink in before he's laughing a little, to himself, shaking his head.

"Like you even have the right -" Blaine says sarcastically, and now it's his turn to be cutting and cold; just a little. He feels bad at the broken gaze Kurt's giving him, and then even more annoyed that he feels bad, "Kurt you don't have the right to do this – whatever you're doing." He begins to walk away but Kurt's hand on his arm.

"I know I don't – I know – but I need to know. I need to know if he's your boyfriend, Blaine. I need to, I'll go crazy thinking about it otherwise because otherwise I can't-"

"No – okay? He's not. He's not, he's not my boyfriend ! He's just a boy. He's just a boy Kurt, okay? Stop it."

Kurt seems shocked, appalled, taken aback by his raised voice, and Blaine knows – knows from the past, that he's never actually ever yelled at Kurt, not really. He tends to argue with his voice down low and dark because it wasn't ever proper to yell in his house. The Andersons didn't raise their voices, no they didn't. Instead they talked quickly and forcefully under their breaths and behind closed doors.

"I'm sorry," He says, because he doesn't mean to shatter Kurt. He can tell Kurt's just as fragile as he is right now and it all can go either way from this moment, "I'm sorry but, really – really – it's none of your business. Not anymore. You lost that right."

He says it softly but forcefully because it's true and he doesn't know what else to say. He's not going to let Kurt off the hook completely, he can't. He has too much self-preservation for it.

Kurt's still standing there looking at his toes, one hand at the nape of his neck, the other crossed across his chest. He's blinking rapidly and Blaine goes to walk away; to walk into his patio and to leave this conversation of absolutely nothingness when there are strong arms coming around him from behind and he's halted in his journey by Kurt's strength pressing into his back.

He instinctually presses his hands over Kurt's, instinctually leans back into the embrace. He shivers and closes his eyes when Kurt's shuddering breath flutters across the back of his neck and he presses his thumb into the web of skin between Kurt's own and his pointer finger.

"It's never going to be enough but I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Kurt whispers against him and Blaine untangles Kurt's arms from around him just enough to turn and pull him into him from the front; hugging him tightly. They fit together like they always had, perfect and balanced and it breaks Blaine's heart a little, knowing that Kurt is still the one for him, somehow.

He brushes his tears away and leads him to his lumpy futon and they both crawl under the covers and whisper to one another, all things that seem insignificant but really mean so much in their subtext.

It's Blaine who leans in to kiss Kurt first, even though he'd been trying so hard not to, trying so hard to ignore temptation because they really have so much to talk about, so much to resolve.

Kurt though, Kurt moans into Blaine's kiss and gives himself over so willingly, so easily, lips parting under Blaine's and letting Blaine lick into his mouth, kissing him back fervently. Kurt's hands are greedy, tightening in the bottom of Blaine's cardigan, fingers stretching out the fabric and tugging, trying to draw Blaine closer and closer. Kurt lets himself be kissed, lets Blaine take from him, lets him lay him down underneath him and kiss him breathless. Kurt's touches are familiar and yet a bit more bold, his hands inching under Blaine's shirt and flattening against his tummy and back.

Blaine is breathless, broken. Kurt's hands are like a balm, soothing the nerves, while his lips are like fire, setting Blaine's emotions aflame. Kurt's kissing is like an art, deft and angled and perfect and he'd perfected those skills with Blaine all those years ago; dodging nosey parents and family members and friends.

He can still remember the first time they'd stripped in front of one another with the pure intention to have sex, make love, fuck; he can still feel the goosebumps on his arms and how Kurt's mouth trailed the tendon in his neck as he arched into him.

Now, years later and many unresolved issues gone by, Blaine feels stretched too thin, exposed like he felt that night so many years ago. He's overwhelmed by Kurt's touches, by the way he kisses at his neck. He's overwhelmed by the feelings and the stress and the familiar way Kurt is handling him, touching him with such sincerity and love that he has to pull away; has to put distance between them because they're just so close to not being able to go back.

When he pulls away, Kurt's eyes are wide and wet and wanting, his lips are cheap wine and kiss-stained. He looks like a debauched angel against Blaine's cheap cotton sheets, an angel lost in clothes that aren't his, an angel with heart beating against Blaine's own chest and so many questions and answers filling up his bright eyes.

Something clicks in that moment, something slides into place that makes it impossible for Blaine to pull away, to give this up completely. He's done; he's lost. He can't help but gather Kurt up into his arms and breathe him in, hold him close and cry a little. There's just – nothing and everything in that moment and Blaine's done fighting himself.

They fall asleep like that, wrapped in one another's arms in the cool closed in patio in Blaine's little Venice beach house. The next morning they're awakened by noon by the sound of Miller and Kate banging around in the kitchen but instead of making their consciousness known, they bury themselves under the sheets and ignore their morning breath and make out until their lips are sore and they both have to pee so bad that in the end they race to the only bathroom only to cling to one another in laughter when they realize Rachel's in there already and that they'd startled her so badly in their pursuit that she'd fallen off the toilet.

Later, they avoid curious gazes by abandoning Rachel with Blaine's friends, cruising Mulholland and getting too expensive coffee from Intelligentsia and walking hand in hand past the hipsters on Sunset Boulevard back to Kurt and Rachel's bungalow where Blaine locks the bedroom door behind them and lays Kurt out to worship him, finding a home in Kurt's arms, in the taste of his skin, in the way he moans against Blaine's arm, his chest, his lips.

Blaine doesn't really fancy himself the expert on falling in love, not really, because it's only happened to him once. He can count himself, though, as somewhat of an expert for what it's like to fall in love with the same person all over again because that's what's happening.

Because it's Kurt. It's always been Kurt.

Kurt sometimes doesn't look like the same boy who'd been his high school sweetheart, but at the same time, there are times when he's nothing but the same boy he'd fallen in love with years ago.

Kurt still has the same smile and the same sense of humor and the same kisses; ones where he melts Blaine back into the pillow and worships him for hours, whispering filthy words into Blaine's ears as he takes his time. He has the same laugh and the same passions (which Blaine never thought he'd be thankful to be included in again but he is) and he trusts Blaine as easily as he ever had.

There are times though, when he's a stranger, times when he has an opinion on something Kurt from years past wouldn't have thought twice about, passions for certain books and artists he'd never had thought he'd like. He's more daring, sometimes, more willing to take Blaine by the hand and lead, more ready to jump in head first without fear.

He's still gentle though – gentle and powerful and so so wonderful.

There's an expiration date, though, on these sunny days of their California summer. There's an expiration date that they don't talk about; don't bring up.

Instead, Blaine sets out to show Kurt everything; talk him into hiking by the Griffith Observatory and spend $16 to see movies at the Arclight ("But assigned seating, Kurt ! And real butter! None of that oil crap !") and show him around the Warner Brothers lot and introduce him to his producer boss who now treats Blaine like a son.

They drive sometimes, because Los Angeles is driving personified, all the way from Venice downtown and then deep into the valley up to Agoura Hills. They park on overlooks looking down at the city below them and make up stories about the people living in the houses on the hills. They drive in Blaine's dinky Jeep Wrangler with the windows rolled down and music turned up and they park under the shade to make out in the backseat like teenagers. They turn up to surprise Rachel outside of where she's having her latest audition, and take her to get ice cream or coffee when it goes bad.

They go out with Blaine's friends and the couple of friends Kurt's made at his internship and Rachel and sometimes all together (like when they go do karaoke at Citywalk) and on one very special Sunday they go to Disneyland, just the two of them, and they ride every ride, some twice, and Kurt indulges himself on some of the sweets from the Main Street candy shop.

Often though; often they just fall together as they always had, fit together like they always had, and unlike they always had – they don't face the realization sitting so close in front of them.

They don't face that in less than three weeks there is going to be 3,000 miles and three time zones between them. They don't face it until it's standing in their way, and there's no way they can ignore it anymore.

Reality is among them.

They're at La Mill in Silver Lake when Blaine spots Matt crossing the coffee shop towards him, looking cute as ever and accompanied by a girl friend who's squinting at Blaine with disapproval.

It's quite possibly the beginning of the most awkward ten minutes of Blaine's life because he's there with Kurt, his current and also former boyfriend, and Blaine – he'd completely and utterly heartlessly blown Matt off after he'd woken up with Kurt that morning. He'd never looked back. Matt was no longer an option.

But – yes, Matt was approaching and Kurt hasn't seen him yet and Blaine has no time to prepare, when -

"Hi, Blaine," Matt says, coming to stand right next to their table, eyes bright and lips twisted in a sort-of fake smile, "How are you?"

Matt doesn't even look at Kurt but Kurt's certainly looking at Matt with a bit of a annoyed expression.

"Uh –" He begins, because he's not really sure what to say, "I'm good! I'm good. Uh – Matt, this is my boyfriend Kurt. Kurt, this is Matt."

It's the first time since they'd started whatever it is that they're doing that he's actually called Kurt his boyfriend, and there's an array of expressions crossing Kurt's face at the moment – he's pleased and also peeved because he recognizes Matt's name from the beginning of the summer.

"Boyfriend? Oh," Matt says, and he looks a little bit sheepish and disappointed and kind of wary, because a less than two months ago Blaine supposedly had no boyfriend to speak of. He turns to Kurt with a tight smile and puts his hand out.

"I'm Matt. It's nice to meet you, Kurt," He says, and there's the briefest moment where Blaine imagines what it would've been like to really know this boy; this boy who is still friendly to him and his significant other even after being brushed off. He sort of thinks Matt's too good for him, then.

"You too," Kurt replies genuinely.

"Well, I better be going, but I guess I'll see both of you this semester, perhaps? Kurt, do you go to UCLA, too?"

Kurt seems jolted by the question, and it's the first time anyone's spoken the realization out loud. Blaine knows what's coming be he doesn't want to hear it.

Unfortunately, he has to.

"Oh – oh, no. I, uh, go to school in New York." He says with a wan smile, and all Blaine can do is trail his fingers through the condensation on the table before him. He can feel Matt's eyes on him, pitying him, and he refuses to give into the gaze.

"Oh, well – it was lovely to meet you! Blaine, maybe I'll see you around."

And with that, he's gone – and that's how Matt Harper changes everything once again.

They sit in Blaine's Jeep in the parking lot afterwards in silence because Blaine can't really bring himself to pull out of the spot; doesn't trust himself to drive. He can't believe how delusional they'd allowed themselves to be, how stupidly childish. He'd been pretending for weeks that this might not ever come but it's now too near and he doesn't think he can do this again; doesn't think he can watch Kurt walk away again to get lost in the denseness of New York City, to use the skyscrapers as a shield and as way to push Blaine away.

"What are we going to do?" Kurt says suddenly, and then he's crying; these open, raw sobs that should be embarrassing but really just break Blaine's heart. He wants to console Kurt, tell him it's only miles and a few hours ahead or back and that they'd survive this because things are different now; they're more grown up – but he can't, because he feels just as heartbroken as Kurt sounds – and they're not even apart, not yet.

Instead he grips the steering wheel tighter and tries to take deep breaths and lets Kurt crawl into his lap so he can hold him tight.

The day Kurt and Rachel are scheduled to fly out it's appropriately raining because everything seems like a metaphor for his life these days. Rachel lets them have their space, climbing into the cab after hugging Blaine goodbye to let them have their final moments alone for awhile that won't be over Skype or via IM or over the phone.

Blaine clings to Kurt like a lifeline; feels the stretch of their connection across the country already. He misses Kurt already even though he's still in his arms. There's nothing to do but hope and try and promise one another that this time it'll work; that this time no one will self-sacrifice to help the other without speaking to him first, that they will use their words and promises and cling to them like a vice.

The worst part about it is that Blaine doesn't trust anything anymore, and especially doesn't trust himself. There's no end in sight for this separation, no countdown, not really. They can arrange to visit as often as they want but neither are rich and neither can sacrifice their lives in his respective cities. They're still scared of one another in some ways, their trust still stressed and tenuous.

So they hug and they cling together and Kurt murmurs, "I could never say goodbye to you," like he did all those years ago at McKinley High, but then he's letting go and ducking in a cab.

This time it's Blaine that's standing stationary while Kurt's being taken away – away from Venice, away from Los Angeles – and finally, away from Blaine.

It all ends with a beach and the tide and the sunset. Blaine Anderson – he's twenty and he's forgotten the beauty of the world sometimes. He stands as it gets dark, alone and silent, daylight slipping through his fingers as quickly as the sand under his toes.

Blocks away, there's screeching tires and a fender bender on Santa Monica Boulevard. On the 405, there's bumper to bumper traffic, dense and seemingly never ending. In the valley, a reality television star waltzes down Ventura Boulevard oblivious to the paparazzi floating around her.

Where Blaine Anderson stands, though, he hears nothing but the waves hitting the California shoreline, sees nothing but the setting sun,thinks of nothing but how heavy his heart is.

There's nothing but a sliver of sunlight left on the horizon when there's a presence at his shoulder. He thinks it must be Roxie or Miller or Kate, coming to collect him from his pity party. He thinks of whatever dinner they'd probably prepared for him, whatever joke they planned to lay out to make him laugh.

When he turns around, though – when he turns around it's not Roxie or Miller or Kate or even Wayne – it's Kurt, tear-stained and smiley and so so beautiful in the late August evening.

"I couldn't do it again." Kurt says, "I can't do it without you."

And he doesn't even complain when Blaine tackles him into the sand to kiss him breathless, their future's promises on their lips and forever in the press of their fingers.