Blaine was an interesting kid, that was for certain.
In fact, Jeremiah hadn't met a sixteen-year-old before that wasn't selfish and self-absorbed, one that cared about what happened to people he didn't even know, one who got upset over the injustices in the world and argued passionately about the rights of other people like him.
Maybe that was why Jeremiah had agreed to get coffee with him again, even after finding out that he was a sophomore in high school. Blaine had been so eager, so passionate about the things they talked about—gay bashing, and prop 8, and gay marriage laws in Ohio, and Don't Ask Don't Tell—and that was something Jeremiah was unused to. He wasn't out at work, wasn't out to his family and most of his friends, and he'd always been too scared to bring up these issues to them, too scared that they'd somehow know. But Blaine spoke about them boldly, his voice several steps above a whisper, his shoulders tall and proud. Especially for a sixteen-year-old gay boy who lived in Ohio.
"Are you out to your parents?" Jeremiah asked during their second Lima Bean outing, after having tiptoed around the subject for a good half hour.
"Of course," Blaine said immediately, like there was no other option, like being closeted to anyone hadn't even occurred to him.
Jeremiah couldn't even conceive the notion of coming out to his parents.
Blaine was interesting, and nearly impossible to figure out.
On one hand, it was fairly obvious that he was interested in Jeremiah. He offered to buy coffee for him, gazed at him for far too long with those bright puppy-dog eyes for it to be simple admiration or hero-worship. Jeremiah felt uncomfortable with the attention, sure, but he was also used to it. Apparently, he was so blatantly homosexual that he set any under-25's gaydar pinging in at least a 2-mile radius. Yes, Blaine was obviously harbouring a not-so-secret crush on Jeremiah, and that was fine. Jeremiah could ignore it, and maybe it would eventually go away.
But then there was also Kurt, and that was the most confusing bit.
Blaine wormed Kurt into their conversation about every two to three minutes. "My friend Kurt-" and "Well, Kurt and I think-" and "Kurt disagrees, but-". If Jeremiah didn't know better, he'd think that either Blaine and Kurt were together, or that Blaine had a crush on the boy. He'd asked Blaine, in the beginning, and Blaine had just laughed. "Kurt's my best friend," he'd said, simply, but Jeremiah didn't think that could be it. There was something about the way that Blaine spoke about Kurt, the way his voice curled fondly around the name, that made it obvious that there was something more there, something maybe Blaine didn't fully understand yet.
It was obvious to Jeremiah, though. Obvious in the way that Blaine's face lit up when he got a text from Kurt when he was with Jeremiah (and would answer it immediately—another way it was obvious, because when Blaine didn't answer Jeremiah's texts right away he'd get one hours later saying "sorry, I was with Kurt"), obvious in the way Blaine's cheeks blushed red when he talked about the other boy, obvious in his glowing praise of Kurt's courage, Kurt's fashion ability, Kurt's skin, for god's sake. It was obvious that Blaine was either already completely head-over-heels in love with Kurt, or well on his way there.
And he had no clue. Jeremiah would bet a week's wages that Kurt didn't have a clue, either.
And then came the clusterfuck that was what Jeremiah called "The Gap Serenade".
He never thought it would actually come to rejecting Blaine. He'd thought that Blaine would never actually work up the courage to ask Jeremiah out on a proper date, too busy was he with the coy eyelash fluttering and the blushes and the being-oblivious-about-his-feelings-toward-Kurt. And he'd been certain that by the time Blaine came anywhere close to being prepared to ask him out, he'd have worked out his feelings by then and realized that Kurt was the one for him.
Of course, it only went to show that Jeremiah didn't actually know Blaine at all.
At the first vum-vum-vum-vum, Jeremiah's heart sank down to his feet. He knew immediately what was going on, because what other all-male acapella choirs existed in Ohio?
He thought that maybe if he ignored it, it'd go away, which in retrospect was kind of a ridiculous and far-fetched idea. But he was grasping at straws at that point.
He grabbed a sweater and all but ran away from Blaine, trying his best to ignore the sixteen-year-old following him across the room without much luck.
Baby girl, where you at? Got no strings, got men attached
Which one was Kurt? Jeremiah made it a game. Was it the tall one beat-boxing over in the corner? Was it the shaggy white-blond one in sunglasses backing up Blaine? Was it-
Ah, there he was. The one who wasn't smiling and was barely singing. The one whose expression only changed when Blaine danced past him.
Jeremiah called security.
And then Blaine was right in his face, singing right to him, and Kurt's expression was panicked, and Blaine was singing about getting him alone and what would happen once they were alone and all Jeremiah could think was I am so fired.
His boss was a homophobic asshole, and the reason that Jeremiah wasn't out at work, and as soon as word got to him that Jeremiah had been serenaded by an underage boy, he'd be fired for sure. Out on his ass.
He tried to tamp down the panic swelling in his chest.
You can keep your toys in the drawer tonight... all right.
Shit, fuck, god, he was so fucking fired he'd never be able to get a job in this mall again.
And beyond that, the expression on Kurt's face was so heart-wrenchingly broken that he just wanted to shake Blaine, spin him around and say "sing to him, he wants it! Can't you see that?"
The song ended, with Blaine sliding dramatically on his knees and offering up a pair of socks.
Jeremiah rung them up, ignoring Blaine's hopeful face.
Ellie slid up next to him at the register. "Mr. Jordans wants to talk to you," she murmured, giving his arm a quick, sympathetic squeeze.
"You should go," Jeremiah said softly to Blaine, avoiding eye contact. "I'll talk to you later."
It was quick, him losing his job. He was heading out of the Gap ten minutes later, reaching back to pull his hood up, when he heard Blaine call his name. He was sitting on a bench with a bitter-looking Kurt. Perfect.
"Hey," Blaine said, already walking towards him, and his voice was a little eager, his face a little puppy-like.
"What the hell were you doing?" His voice came out flat.
"What?" Blaine was smiling a little, his voice honestly confused. He had no idea.
Jeremiah was reminded that Blaine was sixteen—maybe even fifteen—and had absolutely no idea what it was like to be nineteen years old and have no shot at college and no shot at a future and no hope about coming out to anyone besides your friends and nothing but a crappy job at a clothing store.
But he couldn't help being a little snappy, a little bitter, because he didn't even have that anymore, and because he kind of hated Blaine at the moment for being so stupidly oblivious about both that and the look on the face of the boy still seated on the park bench behind them.
"I just got fired," he said, and his voice came out weary instead of angry and bitter, like he'd intended it to.
Blaine seemed genuinely confused by the turn the conversation was taking. He'd honestly thought that serenading Jeremiah at work was a great idea. That it would end in Happily Ever After.
Kurt just looked uncomfortable.
"No one here knows I'm gay," Jeremiah said, and he felt uncomfortable even saying it quietly with nobody around to hear but Kurt and Blaine.
"Can I be honest?" Kurt asked, and Jeremiah felt a quick shock go through him. He'd never actually expected the other boy to speak to him. "Just with the hair? I think they do."
Jeremiah tried to shake it off. "Blaine." He had to make it clear, had to make sure that Blaine knew without a doubt that there was no chance in hell that he and Jeremiah could ever have... anything. "Let's just be clear here. You and I got coffee twice... we're not dating."
The kicked-puppy expression on Blaine's face hurt more than Jeremiah had expected it to.
"If we were, I'd get arrested, cuz you're underage." His kid sister was fifteen. He'd never be able to see Blaine as anything more than an intriguing kid.
It hurt a little more than he'd expected, too, walking away from Blaine without looking back. He'd genuinely liked the kid, wanted to be friends with him because Blaine was interesting in a way that most small-town teenagers weren't. He had big dreams, a quick mind, a clever wit. He'd told interesting stories and kept Jeremiah from feeling like everyone in the world was either an idiot or a power-hungry zealot (sometimes both).
But. Sometimes things had to be sacrificed.
He turned just before he reached the parking lot, sure that Blaine was no longer watching him.
Kurt and Blaine were standing by the same lamppost he'd left Blaine at, their heads tucked together, Kurt's arm around Blaine's shoulders. Kurt seemed to be consoling him, patting his back every now and then. Blaine's posture was more embarrassed than distraught. He'd live. It was only one rejection in the string of acceptances Jeremiah was sure the kid would get.
He may not have been interested, but he wasn't blind.
His last thought before he pushed all thoughts of the embarrassment that was "The Gap Serenade" out of his head was that he'd never before really entertained the thought that Kurt was just as in love with Blaine as Blaine was with Kurt until today.
He didn't return to the Lima Bean until a good six and a half years later. He'd been driving to his parents' house for a visit when he'd seen the sign along the interstate. After only a moment's hesitation, he pulled into the parking lot.
"Your usual?" he asked in the general direction of the passenger's seat, then held a hand out when they tried to climb out with him. "It's kind of a... nostalgia thing for me," he tried to explain in response to the bemused expression. "I just want to see what's changed."
It hadn't changed much since the last time he'd been there. They'd replaced the tables and chairs with a more modern design, but the logo was still the same, the paintings on the walls, the wide glass windows and the sleek granite countertops. He even thought he might've recognized the woman standing behind the cash register as being the same one who had been there six and a half years ago.
There were two men standing by the cash register, their expressions filled with the same nostalgia that Jeremiah felt. There was something vaguely familiar about both of their faces, something Jeremiah couldn't quite put his finger on.
He stepped a little closer as the line in front of him moved up.
The shorter one was speaking. "-reason you brought me here?"
"For memory's sake, mostly," the taller said, lightly, his voice high and somewhat musical. "It's a pity they replaced our old table."
"Do you think they noticed we carved our initials into it?" the shorter asked, his voice amused.
The other laughed. "That may have been why they replaced it, B."
Jeremiah's phone buzzed. He reached into his pocket to check it. Long line? The text read.
Yeah. I'll let you know once I've ordered.
"Two medium drips?" The woman behind the register called, holding out the cups. Something about that sparked something in Jeremiah, although he wasn't sure what.
"That'd be us, thanks," the shorter man said, reaching out to take the cups and passing one to his companion.
"Thanks, sweetie," the taller man said, his fingers briefly sliding over the other's in a soft caress. The barista smiled at them, fondly.
Jeremiah eyed them a little more closely. Something about them was so familiar...
Before it could click, though, he was at the register, and his mind was back on his order.
He stood back by the counter once he'd placed the order, eyes scanning the shop. Where had they—?
Ah. They were sitting across from each other at one of the tables in the center of the coffeeshop, the one closest to the large pole emblazoned with the Lima Bean logo. They were holding hands across the table, not talking much but smiling more than enough to make up for it.
The taller one drained the last of his coffee, stood up, and without so much as a warning, dropped to one knee.
The other man's chair skidded back, screeching loudly across the tiles. "Kurt, what-"
Kurt. Why did the name ring a bell?
The man kneeling—Kurt—was smiling a watery smile, his hand clutched tightly in the pocket of his sports jacket. "I have loved you for seven years, and I plan on loving you for many times that. I want to—to be your—I want everything with you, always, and I know I'm going to ruin this if I say anything more than that so please-" he stopped, struggling a bit with drawing his hand out of his pocket. He managed it finally, fingers clasped around a small, velvety box. "Blaine—will you marry me?"
Blaine's hands flew to his face just as it slid home for Jeremiah. Kurt. Blaine. Of course.
"Of course," Blaine was saying, his voice shaky and low and incredulous, "of course, Kurt, come here-"
They were kissing, right in the middle of the coffee shop, and the few patrons around them were smiling and clapping (one couple left in disgust, but the happy couple didn't seem to notice them, having eyes only for each other).
Kurt and Blaine.
So something had happened, obviously (not that Jeremiah had ever thought that it wouldn't) in between the time Blaine had serenaded Jeremiah at work and gotten him fired (and no, he wasn't still bitter about it—well, maybe a little) and now. Something big, because Kurt had just proposed to Blaine and wow, they were still kissing.
He felt a little swell of happiness in his stomach.
So they got their happy ending.
It was a little strange for him, because it was obvious that he hadn't been a part of so much of their story. Six and a half years of it, actually. When he'd left them, Blaine was in love with Kurt and oblivious about it and Kurt was in love with Blaine and bitter about it. And somewhere in between now and then, Blaine had pulled his head out of his ass, or Kurt had plucked up the courage, and now they were getting married, wow.
He thought about walking over to them, thought about introducing himself and laughing with them about what are the odds?
"White chocolate mocha, skinny latte?" the barista called, and Jeremiah reached out for his drinks.
He wasn't going to ruin a moment. They had eyes only for each other, they wouldn't appreciate an outside party bursting their little bubble of happiness, especially an outside bubble who'd been a hinderance to their happiness together six and a half years ago.
Instead, he picked up his coffees, cast one final look at the happy couple, and headed out the door.
He set the coffees on the hood of the car to open his door, passing them in one by one to the man in the passenger's seat.
"Did you get distracted?" the other man teased, his eyes crinkling at the corners in a way that had always made the tension in Jeremiah's shoulders lift.
"Ran into some old friends," Jeremiah said, taking a sip of his coffee. "Ready to meet my parents?"
"As I'll ever be," the other man said, nervousness creeping into his voice.
Jeremiah leaned over to kiss his boyfriend's cheek. "They'll love you," he said, and shifted the car into reverse.
Maybe they'd all get a happily ever after.