Title: The Letter
Pairings: Kurt/Blaine, brief one-sided Rachel/Blaine
Characters: Blaine, Wes, David, Kurt, Rachel and a character who has yet to appear in the series.
Spoilers: Character-spoiler for 3x15 but apart from that this is a Nevermet!AU set in the future, so...
Word Count: 12 000+ (Oneshot)
Summary: Blaine is a self-appointed re-mailman for the letters that keep getting lost in the flow leading into the mailbox of his and his roommates' New York apartment. Burt is techno-resistant and still prefers writing letters instead of emails, especially for his son who is now living in the Big Apple. Do the math.
A/N: Taking a break from a longer, far more angsty fic with fluffy silliness. The idea for this actually comes from the song La Lettre by the French singer Renan Luce, because I'm weak like that, I like fluffy songs and write fluffy stuff because of it. :p Do you want/need a translation?
Also, the fic? Un-betaed D: I apologize for the mistakes you'll probably find - and if anyone wishes to beta for me in the future, it would be great ^^
Blaine heard the front door of the flat open mere seconds before the coffee machine beeped, signaling that the beverage was ready. He jumped up from his seat with a brief fist-pump, feeling victorious for his amazing skills at equating the time David had left at with how long he would take on his run depending on the itinerary he chose (which varied according to his schedule and physical state of the day) and how long the device would need to work its magic.
Today he'd gotten it right even before he got his morning fix of caffeine. So today was going to be a good day.
He slid around their tiny breakfast table with the coffee pot in hand, pouring the steaming liquid into the three mugs he'd put there several minutes earlier. In a single movement he put the pot back down on its holder and swept up one of the mugs to hold it out right on time for David to snatch it on his way to his chair.
"Thanks," David said, letting the stack of mail he'd picked up on the way up fall onto the corner of the table where a space had been left just for that purpose.
"Wow," Blaine whistled, picking up a second mug and holding it out towards the entryway of the kitchen just as Wes stepped through it, fresh out of the shower. "Today is a big one."
"Wednesday," Wes said as an explanation, taking his mug and sitting down on his own chair.
"First week of the month," David added. He took a sip of his coffee and started sorting through the pile of letters and magazines while Wes thanked Blaine for cooking breakfast - even though it was his duty according to the detailed schedule Wes had unsurprisingly set up on the first day after they'd moved in.
They ate, holding a lighthearted conversation - serious topics such as politics, law or schoolwork were banned from the breakfast table and could only worm their way back in after noon - interspersed with comfortable silences. Blaine was soaking up what was left of his egg yolk - he liked his eggs runny - with the last bit of his toast when David finished his own meal and his sorting. He stood up, put his dishes in the sink - Wes was on washing-up duties on Wednesday mornings - then gave out the mail.
Wes got three letters, two of them bills because he'd rather die than let anyone but himself take care of the financial technicalities here.
David had his numerous newspapers neatly stacked next to his seat.
Blaine had two piles: one for him (two letters, invoices from eBay or Amazon by the looks of it) and one for his brother (today in form of a manila envelope from Cooper to... Cooper, because Blaine's brother had the strangest habit of sending letters to himself).
"And a bonus," David said with a smile, holding out the last letter, a rectangular white envelope with a hand-written address. "It got stuck between the New York Times and The Economist."
Blaine took it with a commiserating smile and cooed: "Aw, our lost sheep of the week. Poor you." He read the name and address and snorted. "Hell, it's not even meant to be send to this borough."
"Don't complain," Wes said from the sink where he was rolling up his shirt sleeves. "It'll bring another one meant for someone living outside the city borders."
Blaine shrugged as he stoop up. "And? It'd make for a nice excursion."
"Remember, do not accept any kind of alcoholic beverages offered as a thank you," Wes warned when Blaine left the kitchen.
"And go away at once if you notice anything pointing towards the presence of a house pet, especially a small one," David added before he closed the bathroom door on his way in.
"Yes moms," Blaine said, rolling his eyes, then he went to get ready for the day.
When the three of them had started hunting for an apartment Blaine had never thought the size of the mailbox would be a factor to take into account.
But when you had 1) one flatmate who studied law and had an extensive family that loved to regularly send news but only did in through letters instead of emails, 2) another flatmate who majored in journalism and had a subscription to an indecent amount of newspapers and magazines, 3) a brother who spent his time globetrotting for his job as a photograph and always gave your apartment as a mailing address because it was on your couch he crashed every single time he came back to the US for a week or two, 4) the bad habit of ordering things online more often than not and 5) the usual bills, well. It was to be expected that you would get a lot of mail.
And since the employees and machines at the post office didn't know how to do their job meticulously enough, it often happened that a letter that had nothing to do with either Blaine or Wes or David or even Cooper ended up lost in the mix.
Now the reasonable thing would've been to bring it back to the post office so that it was correctly dispatched, but Blaine had always been a hopeless romantic and a sucker for nice, bordering on grand gestures. That, and the first time it happened (two weeks and a half after they'd moved in) had been at a moment when he'd felt a little bit bummed by how difficult it was to meet and befriend new people in New York. It wasn't that he hadn't friends in class, after a couple of years it would've been worrying if he hadn't, but he liked having a wide range of people he knew - a cashier who recognized him at the grocery store, the old lady who walked her dog every Sunday in the park, the man who always left to work at the same time Blaine got ready for his drive to Dalton on Monday morning and waved at him from the other side of the street. But in New York, grocery stores were supermarkets with far more cashiers rotating shift, the old ladies at the park glanced at him warily and hid behind the joggers and strollers, and no one ever took the time to look up from their phone or thoughts when they stepped out in the open.
So Blaine had suddenly decided to deliver that first letter himself, because he was a gentleman - of Dalton-esque level, no less -, because he wanted to make sure it arrived safely and because it had been addressed in a district he hadn't seen yet but had meant to visit anyway.
He'd been lucky, he supposed, when that first experience had been a good one - a very good one - and not, for instance, what had since then been baptized The Fifth Avenue Incident that no one ever mentioned, especially not in Wes' presence because it wouldn't be good for him to have an aneurysm in his mid-twenties. No, his first homemade delivery had been warmly welcomed and had earned him two of the best cookies he'd even eaten (but not the recipe, sadly). And just like that the habit was born.
David found it 'sort of endearing'.
Wes found it 'foolish - but you know who to call if you need to sue someone for assault' (because some people apparently thought that violence or sex were appropriate ways of thanking someone for bringing in their mail, which made Blaine sympathize with mailmen more than ever before).
Thad found that it was 'another proof that New York is unworthy of you, so come to L.A.!', especially when Blaine called him to tell him about his latest mishap (he still hasn't given up on luring Blaine South even after all this time).
Nick, Jeff and Trent wisely didn't comment.
The best of course was when he managed to keep in touch with the people he met that way. Blaine Anderson was nothing if not polite and charming when he wanted to and by now, after more than a year, he had a nice network of acquaintances strewn all over the city.
His favorite - because he couldn't help but have one, as terrible as it sounded - was Mireille, his very own New Yorker grandma and storyteller, an old French woman who had arrived in the US at the end of the Great War, at the arm of her brand new American husband. The marriage hadn't held once the young man - Kenneth, of all names - had fitted back into his former life and hadn't even thought of trying to help Mireille to join it. She'd left him but not the country because there was nothing waiting for her in France - no family she hadn't already left behind, no career because there hadn't been any money for her to study and living in Paris during the Occupation hadn't helped matters at all. So she'd stayed and made a life for herself as a French teacher, first in small towns then up and up, all the way to New York City where she still lisped on this and that and regularly received flowers from a hopeful old man living down her street.
But there were also Jeff and Anita, a young couple who were delighted to have him babysit for their daughter - who'd chosen him as her Prince Charming and wouldn't go to bed if he didn't serenade her towards the land of dreams - and who had promised they'd call him when their second one, well on her (his?) way, was born.
There was Andy, who ruffled his hair no matter what quantity of gel he'd put in it, chain-smoked and invited him and his ukulele and/or harmonica when she had friends over for a little jamming around that'd make her neighbors knocking on the ceiling or floor with a broom, come down or up to complain or even on one memorable evening call in the cops to have them stop that wild music.
There was Rowell Andrew ("You mean Andrew Rowell?" "No, Rowell is my first name, thank you very much."), a senior executive who invited Blaine to lunch sometimes and pulled him into conversations about copyright and the prices of music records, about how to lower them in order to reduce the 'temptation' of illegal downloading without injuring the artists - then pushed it all aside to excitedly ask Blaine if he had found that vinyl of the Beatles he'd been looking for forever (Blaine hadn't, much to his dismay).
There was Tom, who had repaired Blaine's laptop for free when he'd knocked it off his desk during what might have been a slightly too dynamic rendition of Raise your Glass and who still hadn't dared to say 'hi' to that girl in his class despite Blaine's encouragements and the risk that she wouldn't be there anymore the following semester.
There was Sara who ran marathons and collected weirdly shaped water bottles. There was Laura who was getting married and wanted Blaine to sing at the reception ("For free, right? It's my wedding after all."). There was Bob who loved watching football at a bar with a beer in hand and read poetry. There was Rick who dressed like an agent Smith and couldn't help but incessantly crack Matrix jokes in Blaine's presence for obvious reasons.
When Blaine thought about them all it always brought a silly grin to his face.
On his way to Chelsea that afternoon - which he had free on Wednesdays, one of the perks of being a music teacher at an elementary school - Blaine couldn't help but wonder what the person the letter was addressed to was like. It had become a sort of game for him to picture them and then see how close to the reality he'd been (not... really, most of the time, his name-interpretation skills needed some work).
He hadn't much to start from since he would never, ever commit the crime of opening a letter that wasn't meant for him. All he had was a name, a destination address, a return address and a stamp.
Both of the latter were from Ohio, Blaine noted with a small smile at coincidences.
The address was hand-written, in the pointy handwriting of someone who was used to write fast with pens and had been raised at a time when school still tried to normalize the writing of its students - which led Blaine to conclude that at least one person in this correspondence wasn't what you'd call young.
The last name of the intended recipient and the one of the sender were the same, which could mean many things but Blaine surmised it hinted at a family tie. A husband writing to his wife, or the opposite? A sister to her brother? A parent to his child gone to New York to study?
And wasn't there a congressman of that name who'd been elected in Ohio several years ago anyway?
Blaine bit his lip as he climbed up the steps of the subway. Now that he was back onto the street and knew exactly where he had to go and how many turns he had left, everything became much more real.
He felt that little thrill at the pit of his stomach, the one that sparked from expectation and curiosity.
The neighborhood was nice.
He hoped Mr. Kurt Hummel would be too.
The building the address had led him to wasn't huge by any means, but it was quite obviously full of students or young adults sharing an apartment because they might have spared money on small jobs or be at the end of their studies but they weren't far enough on their career path to afford to live alone in New York. Which had the consequence that each mailbox had two to seven names written on slips of paper taped onto them, half of them faded or undecipherable.
Letter in hand, Blaine was squinting at the boxes, trying to find the name he was looking for, when he heard footsteps approaching, climbing up the stoop and stopping.
"May I help you?" a voice asked.
Blaine turned to see a petite brown-haired girl - woman - looking at him with a carefully neutral expression. Not really welcoming, but not hostile either, which was much more than what he'd come to expect from strangers in that city.
"Ah, yes," he said. "This letter ended up in our mailbox by mistake and I-"
"And you came all this way to return it to its rightful recipient," the girl ended for him, a smile blooming on her face while she joined her hands under her chin.
Blaine wasn't used to such enthusiastic reactions but he smiled, delighted to meet a kindred spirit who understood and appreciated the gesture.
"It's so nice of you," the girl said, stepping forward. "I don't know many people who would do that out there."
"It might be because I'm no native New Yorker," he chuckled.
The girl's smile widened even more, if possible. "Me neither!" she exclaimed. "What a coincidence!" Then, on a calmer tone: "Who is the letter for?"
"A Mr. Kurt Hummel?"
The girl blinked, then laughed. "Talk about coincidences! I'm his roommate," she explained, sticking her finger onto one of the mailboxes where the name K. Hummel was indeed written, followed by a R. Berry and a golden star. "I'm Rachel Berry, at your service."
Blaine took the hand she reached out to him and shook it amicably. "Blaine Anderson." He held out the letter. "I trust you'll hand this over to your roommate if I give it to you?"
"Of course," Rachel said, yet she made no move to take it. "But not before I offer you a cup of coffee or tea to thank you for coming all the way here."
Blaine remembered Wes' and David's warnings and the fact that they were sometimes justified - but Rachel was offering coffee, which was entirely reasonable and non-alcoholic, and she may look a bit intense and enthusiastic but certainly not crazy. And there was no red lace or leather straps involved as far as he could see, so he considered it was pretty safe for him to keep his smile and agree.
"You're from Ohio too?" Rachel asked, her eyes widening so much it made Blaine laugh. "Then you understand why New York is so great."
Blaine nodded and took another sip of now lukewarm coffee while Rachel launched into a list of reasons why New York was definitely and decidedly better than Ohio. He listened, of course, not only because he was polite but also because Rachel was quite nice once you'd adjusted to her behavior and her ability to talk non-stop for six minutes in a row - a perk of the daily voice training she'd done since she was five and had described fifteen minutes ago.
It was a bit strange though, to already know that much about her and her life since they'd met barely over an hour ago. No topic was off-limits or subjected to any kind of restriction of information. Blaine now knew that Rachel Berry always put as star right beside her name wherever she wrote it and why, knew that she loved to sing and did everything to maintain her undeniably impressive voice on top form, knew that she had two gay dads she adored and a gay roommate who was also her best friend - Blaine took that last one as a less than subtle way for her to tell him that she'd guessed that he was gay (was he that obvious?) and wasn't bothered by it in the least, on the contrary.
He listened and nodded as she talked, but something was nagging at the back of his mind, trying to catch his attention. Rachel Berry. That name reminded him of something...
It clicked when she reached the top of her list - which was so long it had probably been written somewhere during her senior year of high school and learned by heart as a motivation to hold on until she could leave Ohio - and whispered with a shudder of reverence and excitement in her voice: Broadway.
"Wait, weren't you in the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show last winter?"
He had interrupted her most rudely and would've apologized at once if her eyes hadn't lit up at once. She beamed at him. "Yes! Did you see it? What did you think?"
"I did," Blaine nodded. "It was- You were Columbia," he added, finally putting two and two together. "I remember, I checked in the program because I thought your voice could've granted you a bigger role."
"I know! Thank you!" Rachel gushed, hopping on her seat. But then her smile faded a little. "That's the problem of being new on the scene, they never know how to recognize true talent when they see it. I still haven't gotten my big break - but I will get it, no doubt about it."
Blaine smiled and blinked, a little bit dazed by her self-confidence.
"It was a good production," he said. "I was just a bit disappointed by Riff-Raff."
"I know," Rachel approved immediately, rolling her eyes. "I know so many people who would play him far better than that idiot." She took a second to glare at the corner, lips pressed into a thin line, and Blaine vaguely wondered if her dislike had anything to do with something more... personal. Then she shrugged it off and turned back towards him. "But you talk like a connoisseur, Mr. Anderson."
Blaine chuckled and shook his head. "I wouldn't go as far as saying that I'm a connoisseur but yes, I like musicals. I'm a music major and was in a show choir in high school - I'd say it was bound to happen."
Rachel's eyes zeroed in on him. "You sing?" she asked, voice tight with trepidation.
"As soon as I feel that I can get away with it without my roommates murdering me for it," Blaine replied, trying not to feel unnerved by the close scrutiny he was suddenly subjected to.
"This is perfect. We should try to duet sometime," Rachel suggested, because apparently he wasn't the only one who liked to make new acquaintances and who had noticed that so many tastes in common might be some sort of a sign. "Oh, wait, I know."
She jumped up from her seat and rushed out of the room, disappearing through a door on which Blaine could see her name surrounded by a shower of - what a surprise - stars. He was left alone in the small but incredibly well lit kitchen. It was more a kitchen corner actually, delimited by a small counter that served as an island and half a wall hiding it from the entryway. From where he was sitting at the tiny table boxed under the window, Blaine couldn't see much apart from a door which led to another room, a corner bookshelf crammed with books, scores, magazines, screenplays and the random trinket, and part of the couch. The place wasn't large by any means, but it had a homey feel to it, and someone here knew how to make the most of the space available.
Rachel bounced back into the room and stuck something under his nose with a smile.
Blaine took the proffered piece of paper and saw it was a ticket to yet another show - one he hadn't heard of actually.
"Thank you, but-" he began, only to be interrupted at once:
"I know it's not Broadway," Rachel blurted, mistaking his hesitation at accepting such a gift for a refusal due to lack of interest. "Not yet, but- We need all the encouragement we can get." She was slightly wringing her hands, looking far more subdued when she added: "We get a couple of free tickets to give out since we're part of the show. That one was meant for my boyfriend but-"
She stopped, and apparently there was at least one topic that was off-limits when Rachel Berry talked to strangers. Blaine watched her uncertainly for a second, then looked back down at the ticket.
"It would be a pleasure for me to come but - I mean, you didn't have to."
"I wanted to," she insisted at once.
"Okay," Blaine nodded with a smile. "You'll see me there then. Thanks."
And if in the end he didn't get the slightest glimpse of one Kurt Hummel and thus didn't quench his curiosity, he thought that what he got instead was a pretty good compensation.
The ticket was for a seat on the first row during the premiere of an original production a little over two weeks later.
Rachel only had a secondary role, but it was still bigger than the one she'd had in Rocky Horror and featured her abilities better. The whole cast was pretty amazing, to be honest, and at the end Blaine didn't hesitate for a second before he stood up, applauding loudly. Straightening up after a bow, Rachel caught sight of him and smiled, waving right at him before bowing once more along with her colleagues.
Then the cast disappeared backstage for the last time, the applause died down and everyone prepared to leave. Blaine had picked up his coat and was buttoning it up while slowly following the flow towards the exit when he heard his name being called. Turning around he saw Rachel descending the small flight of stairs on the left side of the stage. She ran up to him and seemed to restrain herself from hugging him.
"You came!" she said.
"Of course," he readily replied. "I wouldn't let a free ticket go to waste."
"So, what did you think?"
Her eyes were still bright with the excitement of a performance high. It was a look that suited her very well.
"It was great," Blaine began. "I thought-"
But then one of the actors, who had stuck his head out from behind the curtain, caught sight of them and called: "Hey, Berry! We're leaving!"
"Coming!" Rachel shouted back, automatically falling back into her carrying voice. Blaine hastily smoothed out his wince when she briefly turned back in his direction. "I've got to go but- Maybe we could talk another day?"
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and handed it to him so that he could type his number in. He barely had the time to finish and hit 'save' before she snatched it back with another smile, a 'thanks' and an 'I'll call you!'. Then she whirled around and left, not even waiting for Blaine to wish her a good evening.
He went home feeling joyfully entertained.
Rachel did call - and invited him for a night at a karaoke bar.
There she took hold of the micro and hogged it to herself almost all evening long - only relishing her supremacy to sing duets with Blaine. Fortunately the other patrons didn't complain - or didn't dare to - and most of them soon gave up on climbing on stage in favor of dancing to their songs.
Their voices sounded great together.
Blaine was delighted - he was used to singing solos or harmonizing with another member of the Warblers. He hadn't had many opportunities to sing with a woman or even a girl - and then they certainly hadn't had Rachel's talent.
Rachel looked exhilarated and only let go of her smile to pout and mourn the fact that they'd never met in high school in spite of both being on the show choir competition circuit. Blaine, who had by then drunk the only beer he allowed himself to have on such evenings (because in spite of time having gone by he still was a lightweight and wouldn't allow himself to lose all control in the presence of a lady), solemnly agreed - then whooped when she dragged him back up onto the stage for another song.
He escorted her back to her building afterwards, as any Dalton gentleman should and would. When they stopped in front of the entrance door she turned back towards him and softly thanked him for a wonderful evening. Then she looked up at him, smiling and looking like she was waiting for something.
It took a moment for Blaine's brain to click - hey, he was a little bit tired. He returned her smile and suggested they met for coffee soon. After all, they had spent the evening singing and hadn't had the occasion to speak of her show, on which he guessed she really wanted to hear his opinion.
A strange expression passed over her face before her eyes warmed and she agreed. He bid her goodbye and stepped back, and waited until she'd disappeared inside, smiling when she glanced back at him right before the door closed.
Then he went back home, softly humming MJ's Ben under his breath.
Their plan for drinking coffee while taking a walk through Central Park just because they could fell through quite spectacularly due to the unstable weather of early spring. Blaine was well on his way to pick Rachel up when she called him to ask if he'd seen the sheet of rain that was suddenly beating down onto the city.
"Um," was Blaine's very articulate answer, because he hadn't, being in the subway, and hadn't thought of bringing an umbrella with him. He had his coat and a scarf because the weather was still cool, bordering on chilly, but no way of protecting his hair and oh my God the gel was going to wash away and it'd all frizzle horribly.
Rachel, who for someone as self-centered as she was could be disturbingly perceptive to other people's plights, understood his dilemma: "You're already on your way, I gather."
Blaine confessed that he was, because a true Dalton gentleman was never late so he'd left the apartment in advance just to be sure.
"And you have no rain gear."
Too bad he never succeeded in being a foresighted Dalton gentleman who would come prepared for every eventuality. He knew Wes would never forget his umbrella when he got out in March.
"Okay, here's what we're going to do," Rachel said with the bright voice she used to match what she considered was a bright idea. "I'll come fetch you at the station and we'll go back to my place and have coffee there."
This time Blaine had to agree that she was right in thinking that was a good idea.
"-and what she said was so true. Wait, I have to show you, I can't remember the exact words she used-"
Rachel shot up from her seat and rushed out of the kitchen corner towards the couch and the small table in front of it, on the hunt for the Vogue issue in which the article she was talking about was. Blaine, who hadn't had the time to open the magazine after receiving it due to his busy schedule, waited patiently, listening to her complaining that it was crazy, she was sure she'd seen it right here not a day before, really it was-
She was interrupted by the sound of the door opening.
"Kurt! You're back early."
"... And you even earlier," a voice answered, followed by the rustle of a coat being taken off. A clear, melodic voice that pinned Blaine right on his seat, his coffee cup halfway to his lips. "I thought you had a coffee date."
"Well, you've seen the weather," Rachel said, reappearing in Blaine's line of vision as she lifted one of the couch cushions to check if the magazine hadn't gotten stuck underneath it. "It was cancelled." She straightened up with a frustrated sigh and put her hands on her hips. "Would you happen to know where the latest issue of Vogue is?"
"Rachel," the voice replied with the patience of an adult talking to a particularly slow child. "Where do you think-"
Rachel perked up at once. "Right! Silly me!" she chirped and turned around, making a beeline for the door standing across the kitchen. She disappeared through it while the voice called:
"Please try not to disturb my-"
And then it stopped, because the owner of the voice had just stepped around the partition wall between the entryway and the kitchen corner and had caught sight of Blaine. And vice versa. And-
Romantic soul that he was, Blaine couldn't deny that when he'd begun his personal re-mailing service he'd hoped that he'd come to meet a cute (gay) guy once, with whom he could flirt and maybe get a date or two (or even more, after all wouldn't that be a great 'how did we meet?' story to tell to their kids? But those were fantasies Blaine would never admit to have, no Sir, never.) These silly daydreams had paled after the first unpleasant encounter and definitely died a painful death that one time Blaine had had to run for his life and away from a German shepherd sicced on him by a harpy that really didn't like young men in bow ties, apparently.
But that boy - that man - was so much more than simply cute. He was - and Blaine had to blink to make sure he wasn't hallucinating things - striking. Tall, slender, standing perfectly straight with broad shoulders brought out by a complex but entirely harmonious outfit. The skin of his forearms and face was pale but not sickly so, almost glowing and enhancing his elegantly styled light-brown hair, his sea-green eyes and his soft-pink lips. His eyebrows, slightly arched, completed his look of utter poise and brought the final touch to the grace characterizing the way he was holding himself. He was... breathtaking.
(Rachel had said her roommate was gay, right? Right?)
Then Blaine realized he was gaping and staring and that was really not the way to make a good first impression.
"Hi," he managed to say, smiling and finally thinking of putting his coffee cup down.
The young man looked at him for a little while longer, carefully still like a wild animal that wasn't sure what to do with the individual who'd unexpectedly appeared on his territory.
"... Hi," he finally replied, voice low but still perfectly placed.
"You must be Kurt Hummel," Blaine went on, trying to appear harmless and friendly. He knew how to do that with old women and little girls and surly vendors, he could do it here even though his heart was suddenly racing. Just breathe, he told himself.
The young man nodded imperceptibly, shoulders still a bit tense and never letting Blaine out of his sight like he feared he'd launch an attack the second he let his guard down. "And you of course must be..." he trailed off with enough intent to let Blaine know that he actually had no idea of who he was.
"Blaine. Blaine Anderson."
The next second was spent debating if Blaine should hold out a hand to shake, which could be perceived as impolitely forceful since it'd compel Kurt to step close, and anyway if he did shouldn't he also stand up? But that might be seen as an overbearing gesture and make Kurt step back instead-
Blaine settled for tightening his fingers around his cup, which is why he caught Kurt's first reaction.
"Oh," he said, a quiet little sigh that almost sounded like disappointment. But then he slightly raised his chin and drawled with a nonchalant flick of the wrist Blaine couldn't help to stare at: "The very famous, about whom Rachel's been ceaselessly babbling as of late."
Blaine didn't know what expression passed over his face because Kurt suddenly pressed his lips together and cleared his throat before adding on a more subdued tone: "Um. Sorry about that."
There wasn't anything to apologize for, Blaine thought, but it would be rude to point it out since he couldn't clearly explain why without most rudely mentioning Rachel's noticeable habit for talking a little bit too much without apparent filter between her brain and mouth.
Silence settled between them, an awkward, uncomfortable silence, and Blaine grappled for something to say.
"I hope your letter wasn't damaged in any way," he almost blurted. Aw, you're so terrible at finding a topic of conversation, one of his inner voices, the one that sounded creepily like David and was very much not helpful, cooed. How cute is that?
"The- Oh, right," Kurt answered, rapidly connecting the dots after a brief moment of confusion. "No, no damage. Thank you."
"I hope the person who wrote it is well," Blaine plowed on laboriously, entirely aware by now that Kurt was only standing there out of politeness until Rachel came back.
"My dad? I mean, yes, he is. I can only hope he keeps taking good care of himself." He paused for a second, obviously hesitating before he went on, a small smile slipping upon his face: "He likes to write to me on the spur of the moment to share something he just saw or just thought of. It makes him feel like I'm still nearby and not in another state. I think he would've been quite upset if his letter had been lost entirely and-" He abruptly interrupted himself and turned his gaze away, looking almost embarrassed. "And that was clearly over-sharing." He risked a glance back in Blaine's direction though and saw his still friendly expression, which seemed to reassure him. He allowed himself a half smile and whispered apologetically, with a small shrug Blaine found adorable: "Sorry. Rachel's bad influence."
Blaine chuckled lightly. "It's alright. It's nice - I mean, that your dad sends you letters," he said, and didn't think of his own dad and of the fact that a letter, especially a handwritten letter from him would probably mean nothing but the worst news imaginable.
Kurt's smile came back fully and Blaine had to restrain the urge to beam, feeling like a puppy that had just gotten a pat. I did that! that part of him yapped while another voice, the Thad-like one, whooped: Yesh! Go get it, Blaine!
And then Rachel came back into the room, brandishing a magazine and victoriously exclaiming: "Found it!" She didn't notice the start both Blaine and Kurt gave, and threw the latter a disapproving look while she added: "Although I had to go through that indecent pile of things you call a desk and-"
Kurt had blanched. "I told you not to mess anything up!" he said, and rushed to his room in an obvious panic.
The door clicked firmly shut behind him.
Rachel rolled her eyes and went back to the table, slapping the magazine down in front of Blaine and opening it on the right page to show him the interview they'd been talking about.
Blaine kept throwing glances at Kurt's door until the end of his visit, but the young man didn't resurface, didn't even make a sound.
By the time he left, Blaine was beginning to find it very difficult to deny that he felt disappointed.
When Blaine arrived back at the apartment he shared with Wes and David, Cooper was lying on the couch, riffling through a stack of photos he'd taken out of the many manila envelopes he'd sent to himself since his last stay in the US. His roommates' voices could be heard coming from the kitchen, bickering about the proper way to make a Béchamel sauce ("You melt the butter and moisten the flour with it first then you start slowly addi-" "No no no, you warm the milk first and then you sift the flour into it without any butter needed and-" "But I read-").
"Hi," Blaine called.
Cooper lowered the photos he was holding in front of his face and glanced up, ready to return the greeting before getting back to his sorting - but then he did a double take and straightened up without needing to prop himself up with an arm (and no, Blaine didn't envy him his fitness). He put his stack of photos to the side and pointed a finger right at his brother with a knowing look.
"You, my dear little brother, have just met someone," he declared in a loud, final voice.
The bickering in the kitchen stopped at once.
Wes had always been the fastest to react to that sort of things. Blaine took off his coat, scarf and shoes in a silent 'I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about' he knew wouldn't fool anyone here, even less Cooper.
"He's got the Lovestruck Look," Cooper explained for the two in the kitchen who couldn't see it (yet). His gaze turned assessing and he mused: "I'd say..." Then he stopped, blinked and whistled. "Wow, like, 18 on the Jeremiah scale."
Now David had always been the one to react the strongest to that sort of things - namely because the Jeremiah scale, thus named after Blaine's first, biggest and ironically most crushing crush ever, only ranged from 1 to 10.
But right now Blaine couldn't care less about the strange ways his friends and brother had to rate the state of his love life - or lack thereof. "Jeremiah what?" he said, raising his eyebrows distractedly because the sight of their overloaded coatrack had just reminded him of the superb coat he'd caught sight of when he'd left Rachel and Kurt's place - and incidentally of the likely owner of said coat himself. "Who cares about him anyway?"
The dumbfounded silence that followed caught his attention though.
"Drop the sauce, guys," Cooper said after he'd recovered from a full minute of gaping. "This calls for Mexican food and tequila."
The next times Blaine met with Rachel during the following weeks were all preceded by a small thrill when he wondered if he'd manage to see Kurt this time or not. If he'd get to exchange a couple of words with him while waiting for Rachel to finish getting ready; if Kurt would stop on the way to his room to take part in their conversation when they stayed in because of the weather; if he'd sit with them to watch Pretty in Pink; or even, when Blaine indulged in wishful thinking - but not in hoping since he knew it'd be the best way to be disappointed -, if Rachel would bring Kurt with her when they met somewhere for an early dinner and a movie or show.
Unfortunately Kurt was dishearteningly elusive. When Blaine tried to engage him in a conversation he always replied in brief sentences and deftly slipped away at the first opportunity he had. He never had the time to linger and talk, always had a thousand things to do, a thousand places to go to, a thousand people to see who were far more interesting than Blaine Anderson, no doubt about it.
Still Blaine didn't know how to let it go because, well. Because he really liked Kurt even though he barely knew him and he would really like to get to know him better. He wasn't being pushy, was he? Like, he hadn't sung any inappropriate song to him in public or anything. He just tried to talk. And as long as Kurt hadn't clearly told him off he would keep on hopefully trying, because he was a gentleman and gentlemen were always optimistic - even though they always stepped back if it turned out their advances were unwanted. Which Kurt still hadn't stated. Or at least not explicitly enough - after all he still replied and then smiled at Blaine before he left the room in his perpetual hurry.
Blaine just hoped it wasn't because he was too nice to let him down easy.
But hopeful was his middle name, which is why, when Rachel suggested he come up for a cup of coffee after he'd escorted her back home at the end of their evening (spent at a small theatre for a rerun of Love Story), he readily agreed. Maybe he would get a glimpse of one Mr. Kurt Hummel to take back home with him and moon over, much to his roommates' fond annoyance.
The apartment was dark when they arrived though, and Rachel made him sit on the couch while she flitted about in the kitchen. He glanced at Kurt's closed door, nervously threading a hand through his curly hair - like the geeks they were they'd dressed up as the characters and he'd left it mostly ungelled for the sake of minimal resemblance because he couldn't turn it blond.
Apparently he wouldn't get his bonus sighting tonight.
Then Rachel plopped down right beside him on the couch, to his left, putting two cups down onto the coffee table. He smiled at her and let her draw him into an animated conversation about the movie and how tragic it was - she'd cried profusely at the end and Blaine had offered her his handkerchief, ignoring the burn in his own eyes and his slight sniffling. Then they diverted towards the topic of true love and liking and attraction. Both of them were careful not to mention Rachel's painful, final breakup with her high-school sweetheart barely a year earlier - but it was in the air, and the conversation slowed until it died down entirely.
By now Rachel was pressed against Blaine's side and he glanced once more at Kurt's door because Kurt had known her longer, he was her best friend, and he might be better indicated to cheer her up than Blaine was.
"Is Kurt home?" he asked. Smooth, Blaine, real smooth, his inner self-berating voice, which sounded unsurprisingly like Wes, sneered. Like she needs you to think of nothing but your own little crush right now.
"No, he's not," Rachel said, and even if he was still looking at Kurt's door, feeling a little bit forlorn in spite of himself, Blaine heard the soft smile in her voice.
He froze slightly - did she know? Was he that obvious with his crushing over her roommate? Was he? (A dual Nick-like/Jeff-like voice in his head threw him a deadpan look and said: Sorry to break it to you, man, but you are.)
He turned back towards her, ready to ask - he didn't know what, actually. But then all he saw was Rachel's face coming right at him, eyes closed and lips oh so very close to his-
He jerked back automatically, blindly throwing a hand out to catch himself but he miscalculated: his palm slipped on the edge of the couch cushion and he abruptly fell backwards, banging his head on the coffee table first and then on the floor.
He might have said that out loud in spite of having had his breath knocked out of him when his upper back had slammed against the tiles, barely cushioned by the carpet.
"Oh my God, I'm sorry!" he heard Rachel exclaim over him as he blinked and winced, trying to find his bearings. He reached out an arm and braced it clumsily over the coffee table to prop himself up, head still ringing, sliding his left leg off the couch to put it down beside the other one and feel a little bit more balanced. Once he was sure he was firmly seated on the ground and couldn't fall any lower he turned his attention to Rachel who was hovering and flailing over him, still seated on the couch but ready to jump up at a moment's notice.
He took a second to feel stunned.
"I'm so sorry," she said, face tight. "I didn't mean to surprise you, I-"
"Ah, no, that's okay," he began, still wondering what the hell had just happened while a Trent-like voice shook its head in his mind and mumbled: Wow, you really are clueless. "I mean, I'm the one who should apologize-"
"No, no, I didn't know it would catch you that much off-guard, when you asked if Kurt was here I just assumed-"
Kurt. She thought he'd asked about Kurt's whereabouts because he didn't want them to risk being interrupted. Oh God-
Way to misread a situation, Blaine, his mind whispered, and he could picture Cooper's laughing face entirely too well.
Rachel was still talking. "I shouldn't have-"
"No, no, it's me," he protested, beginning to flail too, his own apologies covering her incessant ones. "I'm sorry, I should've- I mean- It's just- I'm gay, Rachel-" he finally blurted, and that made her stop talking and stop moving at last. Blaine felt himself wince but didn't look away from her wide eyes as he took another deep breath and earnestly added: "I'm sorry, I- I thought you knew."
She opened her mouth as if to speak, then closed it, then opened it again but no sound came out. Then she abruptly turned her head away, back straight, staring blankly at the TV in front of her while she obviously tried to regain her composure. Her hands tightened into fists on her laps, bunching up the fabric of her skirt. She blinked once, two, three times, let out a shuddering breath. Blaine parted his lips to - to what? Apologize once more? How useless would that be? - but she beat him to it, asking in a soft voice that was very much unlike her:
"I-" Blaine began automatically, then realized that nothing he could say right now would help. He stood up, pain shooting up his spine to the back of his head. "Yes, I- Sorry. Really, I-"
She still wasn't looking at him. He went to put on his shoes, hastily threw on his coat and let himself out, feeling sick in his stomach.
"I'm an asshole."
Neither Wes nor David nor Cooper, all three sitting in a tight row on the couch, did bat an eyelash at Blaine's declaration when the young man entered the apartment, threw off his coat and shoes and strode right into his room, snapping the door shut behind him.
Their eyes remained riveted to the screen and a Lingo rerun, all three intent of being the first one to find the word on that round.
They were used to that sort of dramatic entrances from their roommate and were familiar with the way things would go. They'd let Blaine wallow in self-depreciation for a little while, perhaps even all night, and then they'd drag him out and torture him until he confessed what he'd done this time to warrant such a harsh judgement. Then, depending on the offense, they'd try to cheer him up or to present the situation in a way that would make Blaine stop beating himself up over what was usually nothing.
Of course, they'd debate beforehand and each one of them would choose one of the numerous issues Blaine had with himself and which every single one of these crisis, tonight's included, always boiled down to.
(This time Cooper would go for the often used but usually right 'I'm A Loser'-issue, inherited from their fine upbringing à la Anderson and guaranteeing you self-esteem issues for the rest of your life. Blaine probably had behaved in a way that the Dalton brass would've deemed lacking in gentleman-hood and his new friend had been vexed because he hadn't thought of offering her his jacket for the three steps separating the door of the cinema from the taxi waiting for them, or something of the sort. And like always it'd take some time to remind Blaine than not being perfectly perfect on everything didn't equate with him being a complete loser, but they'd get there. Eventually.
David would choose the 'I'm A Brute'-issue. He'd been the one to introduce Blaine to physical exertion as a means to let out some steam and witnessed over and over again how hard it was for Blaine to accept that he had that anger, that violence within himself. There was no doubt Blaine'd been a little bit too forceful when telling off a man that had been getting fresh with his new friend in the waiting line to the theater and his friend, as a feminist, had accused him of reproducing traditional phallocratic schemas in spite of his defying the social norms by being openly gay and she had informed him that she was entirely capable of dealing with that kind of situation on her own, thank you very much. And like always it'd take some time to remind Blaine that discreetly hinting at his own physical strength as a means to intimidate and ward off possible threats wasn't a caveman-like behavior, but they'd get there. Eventually.
And Wes would opt for the 'I'm An Idiot'-issue. It wouldn't come as a surprise if Blaine had let himself been swept off by his own enthusiasm once more and had ended up talking without really thinking, not noticing that he was mentioning and praising a singer his new friend actually despised until it was too late and the lady refused to talk to him because she wouldn't allow herself to keep seeing someone with such bad taste and the inability to listen to other people. It'd take some time to remind Blaine that his childish way of enjoying things and being blindsided by them wasn't a capital offense nor a deadly sin and didn't make him someone people should avoid at all costs, but they'd get there. Eventually.)
But for now, they'd leave him alone because he was in no state to listen to them anyway. And they had a game to finish.
"Shove!" David suddenly exclaimed, and both Wes and Cooper groaned at him winning yet another round. Bending forward, Wes drew another line beside David's name on their scorecard, then leaned back against the couch, arms crossed and determined not to let himself get distracted once more.
Back in his room, Blaine had fallen on his bed and was considering smothering himself with his pillow.
But then he thought better of it. After all, he'd be even more of a bother as a corpse his roommates would have to discreetly dispose of than he already was as the most idiotic, brutish loser that had ever existed.
And his head hurt.
On the upside though, things couldn't get any worse.
His phone chirped with a new text. Face still buried in his pillow, he extracted it from his jeans pocket and brought it up to squint at it. The screen was flashing with an unknown number. Frowning in puzzlement, he opened the message.
Hi Blaine, it's Kurt. I stole your number from Rachel's phone. Could you explain to me why she's currently singing All By Myself at the top of her voice with no consideration for the fact that the neighbors are going to kill her - and me while they're at it? You had a date tonight, right?
Scratch that. Things could get worse. They just had.
Because even Kurt thought he and Rachel had been out on a date. Of course.
Blaine let his head fall back onto his pillow and whined.
Blaine wished he had gotten Kurt's phone number in a way that made it possible for him to rejoice about it. But his life would never be that easy.
Okay, this is getting out of hand. What *happened*?
I really think Rachel should be the one to tell you. You're her best friend.
And like that he wouldn't have to face him when Kurt got informed of the most un-gentlemanlike way Blaine had acted in. He was a disgrace.
She says it's not *her* story to tell and she wouldn't 'do that to you'.
Oh God. Now Rachel thought he was still in the closet and refused to be the one to out him. He should've felt touched that she was so thoughtful in spite of what he'd done to her, but right now it was really not helping.
Something has to give. Blaine?
On the upside, Kurt was initiating contact instead of evading it now.
Blaine wondered if the avoidance method would work. Because he was a coward, an idiot, a loser - and a brute on top of that. Everyone knew it, or was bound to discover it sooner or later, no matter what Wes, David or Cooper said.
Something had to be said about Rachel Berry, as Blaine was about to find out: not many people were able to get back on their feet and turn a situation around the way she did.
When he received a text giving him an address and a time - and nothing else - Blaine didn't known what to do.
(He briefly envisioned ending up in a dark back alley somewhere where a group of thugs would beat the crap out of him, only that time it'd be entirely deserved.)
In the end, he took what little courage he had in both hands and went.
The indications led him to a small karaoke bar tucked in a corner and almost hidden from view - obviously a place people only knew of by word of mouth. He stared at the discreet hanging sign for a couple of minutes then took a deep breath and climbed the wrought iron stairs leading up to the door at the side of the brick building.
He was greeted by a dark but cosy atmosphere. Dim lamps were strewn around the room, hanging from the ceiling and feebly lighting up a series of wooden tables and a bar. On the opposite side a small stage had been set up, surrounded by spotlights. It was dark and empty. A coatrack next to the entry waited for the guest to hang their things when they came in.
There was no sign of Rachel, so Blaine walked up to the bar where a woman with dark hair gathered in a ponytail at the top of her head was wiping glasses.
"Can I get you something, hot stuff?" she asked in a slightly raspy voice that reminded him of smoke.
Her name tag said 'Santana' - it suited her. Blaine smiled and ordered a beer because if he didn't find a way to relax at least a bit he would dissolve into a fretting mess in less that two minutes.
Fortunately his order was here after a mere couple of seconds. He thanked Santana - she gave nothing but a suggestive smirk in return - then he turned back towards the room. The place was calm since it still wasn't very late in the evening, but not empty. Most of the tables were taken by groups talking softly over a drink and bursting out laughing from time to time. He only noticed that a discreet music was playing in the background when it abruptly stopped.
A single light went on on the stage and Blaine saw Rachel step up to the micro-stand set up in the middle. She smiled and let her eyes sweep over the room, probably noticing Blaine's presence but not lingering on him.
"Good evening everyone," she said merrily. "My name's Rachel Berry and I'll be singing the first song of the evening. I dedicate it to a friend," and there she met Blaine's eyes with her own, stressing the word to excess - out of vindictiveness or to make him understand that she agreed on that status, he wasn't quite sure. "Without you, by Mariah Carey."
And then she began the most soulful rendition of the song Blaine had ever heard. He was so impressed by her voice and so entranced by the emotions she was pouring into it that he didn't notice when someone sidled up to him and settled beside him at the bar.
"Just so you know," a voice spoke right beside his ear, so near Blaine started and had to bit back a yelp. He turned his head and saw Kurt in all his handsome glory leaning back against the counter, delicately propped on his elbows. The top two buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing a pale strip of skin when he titled his head to the side and went on, his eyes never leaving the stage: "It's not a way for her to blame you or to let you know what you're missing." He glanced at Blaine then, and probably noticed his look of deer caught in headlights. "Okay, it might be," he conceded, mistaking the expression for one of skepticism. "But it's also to show you that she's going to be alright." He paused while Rachel launched into the chorus, eyes closed and vibrating with it. "So don't beat yourself up over this," he finished, sounding almost wistful as he gazed at Blaine. "We can't help the way we feel."
Blaine tried to offer a hesitant smile in answer but it felt more like a grimace. He turned his head back towards the stage and gave all his attention to Rachel instead, because he owed it to her. He might have known what it was like to have one-sided feelings for someone and have them thrown back in your face, but it wasn't an excuse for what he was putting her through because of his own obliviousness and carelessness. It didn't even make up for it.
So he listened, and refused to feel dazed by how close Kurt was, by the fact that he could see, out of the corner of his eye, Kurt's chest slightly rise and fall with each breath, by every detail of Kurt's hairdo or outfit or body he would get to see if only he turned his head just so.
But he wouldn't. (You won't, his Wes-like voice admonished, and it was final.)
And then Rachel finished her song and bowed with a delighted smile at the applause she got for it, thanking the public like an artist to whom it was all very familiar. She stepped down the stage to leave room for the following performer of the evening and headed right in Blaine's direction.
He almost panicked for a second, but she was already in front of him and still disturbingly smiling. Blaine didn't think he deserved the slightest, most contemptuous curve of her lips.
"I'm glad you could make it," Rachel said. "What did you think of the song?"
Blaine wondered if the question was double-edged and went for honesty: "It was incredible," he said, hoping she heard in his tone how much he meant it.
She accepted the compliment with the small smile of someone who knew it was deserved. "Thanks."
She paused and slightly narrowed her eyes at him in closer scrutiny. Blaine couldn't help but fidget a bit, not knowing where they were standing or what he should or could say.
He could feel Kurt's gauging gaze on him too.
After a while Rachel nodded sharply, apparently satisfied with how uncomfortable he obviously was and put him out of his misery by saying: "It turns out that my tragic mood and intense pain were what was needed to move the casting crew so much they understood I was undeniably the best choice to play Maria in the next production of West Side Story. So I guess that since you might have had a significant role in me getting a part I should've gotten years ago it would only be the right thing to do to agree to forgive you."
All in all she sounded very magnanimous.
"I-" Blaine stammered, fumbling for words before dipping his head down and settling for feeling incredibly grateful. "Thank you."
She nodded again when he glanced back at her, graciously accepting his heartfelt words.
"Good. Now, if you'll excuse me - I must really be careful and use my voice with moderation without neglecting my voice exercises so I better go home now and start on my evening routine. I'll be in touch for the date of the premiere. Have fun!"
With that she curtsied like this was the end of yet another performance and skipped away without leaving Blaine the time to react. He blinked after her, wondering what had just happened.
"I've known Rachel for years and yet she'll never cease to amaze me," Kurt whispered after a while, looking almost as bewildered as Blaine himself felt.
"... That was weird, right?" he dared to ask just to be sure, smiling when Kurt shrugged and agreed:
"It was. I'm not even sure why she wanted me to be present for that. Unless-" His lips curved into a sly smile as he lowered his voice and bent slightly towards Blaine. "-she had reasons to think you might turn violent?"
Blaine tried not to let himself be hypnotized by the way the dim light had painted Kurt's eyes the color of a tempest at sea and not to feel unnerved by the fact that the young man obviously didn't think that was possible for Blaine Anderson to ever use violence, and settled for a smile he hoped would suffice.
He had to maintain it for a couple of seconds as Kurt's eyes lingered on him, as if testing how honest it was - by now Blaine himself wasn't even sure, because having Kurt's gaze on him made him want to never stop smiling. Then Kurt looked away and stepped away from the bar, straightening his shirt and waistcoat.
"Well, since things are apparently already over here, I should probably go," he sighed.
"Yeah," Blaine agreed, trying not to let his disappointment show. "Me t-" he began, but when he made to straighten up he remembered he still had at least two thirds of his beer to drink. "Um."
Both he and Kurt glanced down at the bottle he was holding in his hand and chuckled. Then with a wry smile Kurt murmured: "Looks like you're not leaving any time soon."
"Yeah," Blaine repeated, feeling sad that the prospect of leaving at the same time as Kurt had vanished into thin air even before he could really imagine it - because not drinking it to follow Kurt would be obvious and desperate, drinking it all in one go would be disgusting and appalling, and taking it with him on the way home would certainly be disturbing bordering on creepy.
He felt Kurt's gaze on him as he picked at the label but didn't dare look up.
Then he saw Kurt rest his elbow back on the counter and gesture with his hand.
"Go ahead," he sighed like he knew he was doing something he shouldn't, throwing a tight, somewhat helpless smile in Blaine's direction when Blaine glanced up in surprise. "I may as well keep you company."
Yes, please, Blaine didn't answer. Because I'm selfish like that and we both know we'll probably never see each other again, so all I can do is make the most of what little I can have.
Kurt turned towards the bartender when she put a drink in front of him without him needing to order anything. They exchanged a knowing look, followed by a smirk and a quizzically raised eyebrow from Santana and an imperceptible, almost regretful shake of the head from Kurt.
Blaine tried not to wonder what that meant, and not to be too obvious in his staring.
He was pretty sure Santana had noticed though, if the sharp grin she threw in his direction was anything to go by.
"I don't think you meant to lead her on," Kurt mused, twirling the last of his drink in his glass. "I know how easy it is to make things up in your head, and I know how good at that Rachel is. Although," he added with a slightly scolding look in Blaine's direction. "It might've helped if you'd taken the time to make things clear from the get go."
Blaine would've liked to point out that he'd thought things were clear from the get go and that no clear statement was needed. But it would sound too much like he was putting the blame on Rachel, so he settled for: "I know."
He knew a lot of things. Like for instance that the too short conversation he was having with one Kurt Hummel had told him far more about the young man than any other exchange they'd had before but had done nothing - nothing - to help Blaine stop liking him that ridiculously much and start thinking about moving on because get real, Anderson, that one will never happen.
He downed the end of his beer. Beside him Kurt did the same with his own drink.
And there went the last excuse Blaine had to prolong this conversation. Apparently Kurt had no intention of lingering more than was strictly necessary. Biting back a sigh, Blaine caught Santana's attention and paid for his drink. He ignored the way her eyes slid from him to Kurt and back, full of speculations, then he followed the other young man to the entryway where they got their coats and scarves back and put them on without a word.
The air of the night was surprisingly cold when it hit their faces outside the bar. They hurried down the metal stairs and fumbled for their gloves - or rather Blaine fumbled because his fingers remained desperately clumsy unless they were fiddling with an instrument. Kurt plucked his own gloves out of his pockets and slipped them on with next to no fuss, the black material fitting around his long fingers like it was tailor-made.
It probably was. Among other things Blaine had learned that Kurt had graduated from NYADA like Rachel and had decided to complete his studies in musical theatre with a degree in fashion design to specialize in theatrical costumes. And all the clothes he owned were either handmade or at least altered to fit him perfectly.
Blaine felt kind of lame and boring in comparison.
"It's just," he said when they began walking, picking the conversation back up where they'd left it because he still hadn't learned how to let a matter drop. "She's always talking about her two gay dads, I thought it was her way of saying, Hey, I have an awesome gaydar, so no worries, I get it or something."
Kurt hummed. "Well, Rachel is the living proof that you can be raised by two men who are romantically involved with each other and not have the slightest idea of how-" He abruptly interrupted himself and his eyes widened before he whipped his head in Blaine's direction.
"Wait, you're gay?"
Blaine was beginning to discern a pattern in his life. He hung his head. "Yes," he replied. "Yes, I am." (Was he that non-obvious?) But then something occurred to him and he straightened. "What did Rachel tell you happened if she didn't tell you that?" he asked worriedly.
"Just that," Kurt began, brow tight with puzzlement. "That you'd made her understand she wasn't your type and you weren't looking for that kind of relationship. Not with her."
"That's a way of putting it," Blaine conceded. "But- I mean, I'm not closeted or anything." He paused. "But that's what Rachel thinks, right?"
Kurt looked at him for a second, lips pressed together like he wasn't sure which answer would be the best or the worse. "... Probably."
Blaine let out an incredulous huff and felt very tempted to facepalm. He stuck his hands in his pockets to get rid of the urge. "It's not like I'm hiding it," he mumbled.
"Well, you're not broadcasting it either," Kurt cautiously retorted, his eyes never leaving Blaine.
Blaine shrugged. "What am I supposed to do? Act like some stereotype I'm not? Introduce myself with Hi, my name's Blaine and I'm gay?"
That had the merit of making Kurt laugh and Blaine glanced up at him, mesmerized and delighted by the sound. "That's one way of doing it. It would probably take no less to be sure with Rachel, she can be very oblivious when it comes to-"
His smile faded as his voice unexplainably trailed off. Blaine raised his eyebrows quizzically, wondering what was going on behind these eyes that were now staring straight ahead with realization dawning within them.
"Oh my God," Kurt finally whispered. "She set us up." He glanced at Blaine, the expression in his eyes a strange mix of mortified panic and indignation. "Together. She knew I-" he hissed, only to stop as abruptly as he'd begun and turn his face back ahead as he added in a quiet, deadly mutter: "I'm going to kill her."
This declaration was followed by silence as Kurt began striding ominously down the street and Blaine struggled to keep up with him, his thoughts in a jumble.
"Kurt," he tried, and stumbled when the other young man ground to an abrupt halt. When Blaine straightened, Kurt was still staring straight ahead, hands in his pockets and pale face held high as he gritted between his teeth:
"I'm sorry. About that."
"What?" Blaine blinked, then tried to reassure him: "Oh no, no, it's okay. Don't worry. It's okay."
It was even pretty clear by now that Blaine was far less upset about it than Kurt was. He even wished Kurt weren't so obviously adverse to the mere idea of being tricked into a date with him, because, well. Ouch. But that wasn't something he could say or even think about right now.
"Okay," Kurt replied, barely audible, before he started walking again at a more measured pace. Blaine fell into step beside him, worriedly glancing at him from time to time, at the tightness around his eyes making his blank face look drawn, at the tense line of his shoulders. He tried to find something to say or do, in vain.
He guessed that the fact Kurt hadn't been aware that he was gay explained a lot of things though. If he'd thought Blaine was straight, and therefore nothing but a potential boyfriend for his roommate, his wary attitude towards Blaine wasn't that surprising - because Rachel had already experienced a bad breakup and he didn't want her to get hurt again, even though he couldn't step in because it wasn't his place. No wonder Kurt hadn't reacted to Blaine's numerous attempt to drag him into a conversation or to get to know more about him - to him it must have looked like simple friendliness, or like an attempt to win points with Rachel by being nice to her gay roommate, thus showing he had no problems with gay people, none at all. It might even have looked like he was trying too hard and become almost suspicious. There had been no reason for him to get chummy with Rachel's unofficial boyfriend and even less if Blaine wasn't even the type to catch his intere-
Blaine broke out of his thoughts when he realized they'd stopped and Kurt had just spoken.
Kurt gave a strange half-smile and tilted his head to the side. "I'm turning right."
"Oh." Blaine blinked and looked around himself, trying to find his bearings. "Oh, right. I'm going left?"
It almost sounded like a question because he wasn't even sure he'd correctly located himself on his mental map and knew the way to the nearest subway station. It was still early enough for him to easily catch a train back to his part of the city.
"Okay," Kurt nodded quietly, looking a lot calmer than several minutes before. "Then, I guess I'll see you?"
"If Rachel ever really forgives me," Blaine tried to joke, but it sounded forced. After all, it was.
The corner of Kurt's mouth twitched and he sounded confident when he claimed: "She will. I ho-" He shook his head without finishing the sentence and repeated: "She will."
"Okay, then," Blaine sighed with a nod. "So. Bye."
Blaine didn't remember ever feeling so awkward, torn between wanting to stay at Kurt's side because he was hopeless and wanting to relieve the young man of his obviously unwanted and tiresome presence.
They stared at one another for a bit longer, then Blaine turned away. He didn't hear any footsteps start behind him until he'd crossed the street and even then he made an effort not to look back.
What was the point anyway? Kurt was amazing and quite clearly out of Blaine's league. And even if Blaine had ever had a chance it had definitely been shot when he'd hurt Rachel. Besides it wasn't like Kurt had ever expressed any interest in him, on the contrary. On that point his reaction to Rachel trying to set them up was pretty telling. It was just like every other time Blaine had developed an entirely unrequited and unwelcome crush, only this time Kurt hadn't even given him anything to start from and use as an excuse. He'd always barely replied when spoken to, clearly hesitant and uncomfortable, and it wasn't like he'd ever smiled at Blaine that much, like-
Like he had every single time Blaine had talked to him, like he couldn't help it.
It doesn't mean anything, Blaine protested at once, squashing the hope before it could even be born because he was done with wishful thinking. Smiling is a natural defensive reaction when one feels ill-at-ease in front of-
Blaine, his Wes-like voice interrupted quietly. You're being an idiot. And for once every single one of his inner voices agreed in a united chorus only the Warblers knew the secret of.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the Trent-like voice quipped as a final note.
Blaine squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath.
(Was he really going to do that? Really?)
Then he stopped walking and spun on his heels, his eyes opening to search along the darkened street until he spotted the figure slowly walking away but ready to disappear at a moment's notice.
He began to run, calling: "Kurt!"
By some miracle Kurt heard him and turned around at once. He even took a couple of steps in Blaine's direction before Blaine reached him, heart beating wildly from the brief exertion but most of all from anxiety.
"Would you go out on a date?" he blurted before looking up in Kurt's eyes could paralyze him and reduce his wavering courage to nothing. "A proper one? With me?"
Kurt froze and Blaine felt his hopes falter and then begin to tilt dangerously to the side, ready to break and collapse because of course he'd entirely misread the situation once more and-
It was a sigh, really, faint and faltering, but Blaine caught it - and blinked, unsure. "Yes?"
"Yes," Kurt repeated in a firmer voice, a smile slowly spreading over his face.
"Oh," Blaine choked, feeling his fears dissolve and leaving him feeling almost lost. Then he couldn't help but return the smile when he realized what it actually meant. "Cool. Okay."
"Okay," Kurt repeated with a nod.
"Yes." And the way Kurt obviously reveled in using that word shouldn't make such a thrill run up Blaine's spine.
"I'll call you?" he asked, smiling now that he could look at Kurt in the eye and find him there and feel happy.
"Is it alright on a weekday?"
"Yes," Kurt nodded. "No problem at all."
"Are you allergic to anything?"
Kurt's smile kept slowly widening as he titled his head to the side. "Nothing that I can't easily avoid."
"Do you like Thai?" Blaine asked, because apparently he'd fallen into 20-questions mode.
Fortunately Kurt didn't seem bothered by it. "I love Thai," he replied, the verb rolling on his tongue like a promise.
"I'll call you," Blaine repeated.
"I guess I should go."
"Oh, to hell with it," Kurt suddenly whispered and took a step forward. He raised his hands to gently cup Blaine's cheeks. And then he kissed him.
Wes and David held their breath, holding their cards close to their chest as they waited for Cooper to talk. The whole building and even the city were silent around them now that they'd reached the deepest hour of the night.
"I accuse," Cooper began in a slow, solemn voice. "Mrs. Wh-"
He was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. All three players raised their heads from the board and turned towards the entryway. The newcomer didn't even notice, taking off his shoes, gloves and coat, all the while staring into space with a dazed expression in his eyes and a silly grin on his lips. Without caring about the fact that he still had his scarf around his neck, he floated through the living-room and into his bedroom, the door closing behind him with a happy, dreamy sigh.
The three men around the table exchanged knowing glances and grins ranging from shit-eating through fond to victorious, now looking forward to the following morning and the interrogation that would undoubtedly take place.
But for now they went back to more serious matters.
"As I was saying," Cooper started again, putting his hand back onto the small envelope lying in the middle of the board. "I accuse Mrs. White, with the Lead Pipe, in the Billiard Room. And before you ask, Wes: yes. That's my final word."
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