Title: For You, Part 1 of 4
Characters: One character who has yet to appear in the series (PoV of the narration), Blaine, Kurt, the Hudson-Hummel family.
Spoilers: Up until 3x14 + Character spoiler for 3x15.
Warnings: Nothing you wouldn't see in the actual series.
Word Count: 36 000+ on the whole, 9 500 for this part.
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee. Glad other people invented it so I could play with it though.
Summary: He'd always been quietly terrified of the day Blaine would fall in love.
A/N: Oh, wow, I'm so happy I finished writing this fic! Because 1) I did it before the end of the hiatus, which meant that I can post it before it's entirely jossed by the upcoming episode. First multipart fic in the Glee fandom and it has an expiration date (cries), and 2) Now maybe I can go on with my life since it'll finally stop eating my brain. Oh God, we're almost in April and I've gotten almost nothing done on my research. I'm so screwed.
So this? Is my headcanon for one Cooper Anderson, or rather me trying to find reasons as to why he didn't appear earlier (like to punch Sebastian in the face, for instance) that don't make him an idiot or an asshole who never cared for his little bro. I'll go on and say it though, the character as I depicted him is probably heavily influenced by Neaf's headcanon. Because, well – her version of Cooper is kind of contagious, you know?
Also, un-beated D: I apologize in advance for any disturbing mistakes. If anyone finds it unacceptable and wants to beta for me in the future though...
"I love you right up to the moon," said Little Nutbrown Hare, and closed his eyes.
"Oh, that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "That is very, very far."
Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves.
He leaned over and kissed him good night.
Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, "I love you right up to the moon - and back."
- Sam McBratney, Anita Jeam, Guess How Much I Love You -
Cooper had always been quietly terrified of the day Blaine would fall in love.
Oh, there were many things he could be afraid of when it came to Blaine, sure. Far too many things. An evening of shy dreams turned into the most horrid nightmare had shown him that.
People aren't wary of love - not instinctively, not until it's far too late and love itself has given them a good reason to be.
No, at first, spontaneously, everybody wants love. They can be nervous about it, or uncertain, or even a bit worried, but they always want it, dream about it, hope that they will never lose the one they have and that they will only get more of it in the future. Love isn't something you can ever be sated on. Love isn't something you can stop wanting even after it's hurt you, no matter how badly.
And Blaine... Blaine lived and breathed for love, from the first day he'd seized it with both hands and begun handing it around. He had so much of it to give. When he loved, he loved completely - his parents, his brother, and Cooper did everything he could to show him he loved him just as much, to give him just as much, if not more, in return.
But Cooper knew that one day their parent's clumsy, often hampered love and his own fierce adoration wouldn't be enough anymore. He knew that one day there would be someone else. Someone he didn't know, someone with intentions and affections he wouldn't be sure of, someone he couldn't trust.
It could be anyone.
And to him, the love Blaine would feel for that stranger was undoubtedly the most dangerous thing.
It didn't even have to be a twisted love, a horrible story that'd be nothing but cruel, that'd end and break Blaine's heart. No, it could look nothing but beautiful, ideal, peaceful. And yet simply be the slowest, surest, most quiet way of destroying him.
Because Blaine would always bend over backwards for the people he loved. For anyone, even. He always gave so much and asked for - expected - so little in return. He wore his heart on his sleeve and wouldn't ever think twice before he held out a piece of it to a stranger in need of a little bit of caring - and he barely felt it his heart was so big, he never thought that one day he could run out of affection. Other people came first.
And the people he loved came even before that.
He'd do anything for his loved ones. Cooper had seen it - how much Blaine had done, how long and hard he'd tried to be what their parents wanted, to be what his friends needed, how he'd apparently never minded giving up on so much, never minded that his efforts didn't get him anything in return, never minded that their parents didn't reached out, that his so-called friends weren't there for him when he ended up needing them the most.
And Cooper tried so, so hard to never ask for anything from Blaine - to love him unconditionally just like he was, to be there for him and help him, to do everything Blaine wanted or needed without Blaine even having to ask for it. Because Blaine deserved it. That and so much more.
And Cooper was afraid.
He was afraid of a day a stranger would take one piece of Blaine's golden heart, and then another, and another, like a magpie glutton for shiny things, and would take and take and take until there was nothing left.
He was afraid of a day Blaine would simply unhook his whole heart from his chest and give it all all at once to a stranger who wouldn't understand how precious it was.
Someone who would cut it open and squeeze it until it had given everything it could, to the last drop, before discarding the rest that'd be nothing more than dry peels and crushed pulp.
Or someone who would take it with a flattered smile, because it was a nice heart, coming with a nice, popular, quite handsome package, and who would refuse that? But who would only like the facade, the surface, who would never really care about who Blaine really was, never love him, the real him - and who would lose interest too fast, leave that heart behind somewhere, careless and oblivious like the child forgetting an old toy for the shiny new one and never looking back.
Or someone who would do nothing but disdainfully glance down at it and not take it and turn away, knocking it over in the process and not even noticing it had fallen to the ground, not even noticing it had shattered in a million pieces, not even noticing they'd stomped all over it before disappearing.
Oh yes, Cooper was afraid. He knew his fears were a bit irrational too, he knew that he should, could trust Blaine more. Blaine wasn't stupid.
But he couldn't help it. Blaine wasn't stupid, but Cooper knew, knew so well, that love could make the cleverest of men do the most stupid things.
So he worried, quietly, ceaselessly, guiltily.
Because sometimes - sometimes he was almost relieved that that night at the Sadie Hawkins dance had happened. Now that it was in the past, now that Blaine had woken up and not woken up a stranger, not that Blaine had healed - somehow, on the long run, Cooper was slightly, awfully relieved.
Because Blaine was a little bit more guarded now, a little bit more aware of the world they lived in, a little bit more wary of other people. He'd stopped trusting anyone straightaway, stopped being so generous to everyone without distinction.
He'd need time to heal inside, to stand back up from the ground of that parking lot and move on. He'd need time to let go of the shield he'd built around himself, to stop hiding behind his Dalton polish, to let anyone who wasn't Cooper in once more.
And with a little bit of luck that wouldn't happen before a long long time - and by then he'd be older, he'd be an adult, he'd be smarter, less naive, less hotheaded and lightheaded, he'd be more cautious before he slowly started to consider committing to someone.
So Cooper was still afraid, terrified actually, but it was quiet, he could hide it, he could entrust Blaine to their parents and to Dalton for a couple of years and build his own life like Blaine wanted him to, even if it was far away. He could manage.
He could think, Stop worrying, it's not for long, it's only until the finishes high school - and then Blaine will be here, Blaine will be in New York, Blaine will be with you and you'll make sure he's safe.
He could think, Everything is okay right now, nothing will change, nothing can change, not in Ohio, not in Dalton, not at home.
He could think, It's alright, nothing will happen, no one will happen.
But then Kurt Hummel entered the picture.
The first time Blaine talked about Kurt Cooper didn't register it as a threat - or as anything special as a matter of fact.
The first time it sounded like it was yet another boy Blaine had sympathized with, someone else he'd bumped into and stopped to help with no conscious decision from his part - like he'd stop to pick up a stray puppy he found huddled against a wall and shivering in the rain. It was an automatic reaction for him, to really look at people and notice when something wasn't right and reach out immediately.
So yeah, that Kurt boy was just another one on the long list of strangers Blaine would offer his help to. He wasn't the first, wouldn't be the last, neither the best nor the worse. Cooper hardly noticed that Blaine was just that tidbit more emotionally involved than he would usually be from the get go, and when he did he only chalked it up to the fact that that kid's situation was far more similar to what Blaine's had been not so long ago than any other before - Blaine could relate to it, it struck a deeper chord within him, of course it would matter to him more.
But then Blaine started to talk about Jeremiah too - about a college kid he'd met and with whom he'd gotten coffee once, then twice. Cooper listened to him gush and he was okay with it all, because Blaine was dreaming once more for the first time since... since, and because Jeremiah wasn't a danger. He was far away, he was a dream, an unattainable college kid Blaine could admire from afar and innocently revel in pining after without ever knowing him, touching him. He was an ideal that couldn't really hurt Blaine because nothing would ever come out of that crush. It was okay, it was safe - it wasn't real.
Cooper almost felt disappointed that it ended so fast and so radically - as soon as Blaine took a step forward he accidentally popped the bubble and blew every single one of his illusions away. In the end he was hurt, yes, a bit, but it was mostly his pride, and it wasn't serious.
Cooper thought that things would return to normal then, that soon there would be someone else - another distant figure, another fiction character, another actor for Blaine to moon over without any kind of risk involved.
Instead he got a phone call and Blaine sounding lost and guilty and confused and panicked, almost afraid.
Instead he heard that Kurt - Kurt, that kid Blaine had helped when he'd stumbled and who should've regained his footing and gone his own merry way already - Kurt had said that he liked Blaine.
Or no, more precisely: he'd said that he'd thought - hoped? - that he was the one Blaine liked.
And that was when the trouble began.
It's okay. Don't worry. Don't worry that much.
Blaine turned him down, right?
Nothing's changed. It's alright. He kept a cool head, he kept his ground, he didn't yield to what that boy wanted or what he asked for as soon as it was said, no matter how much he cares about him.
"I thought the guy that you wanted to ask out on Valentine's Day was me." Who says that? Who's presumptuous enough to think-
Well, he can't think it anymore, can he? Blaine was pretty clear. Blaine did the right thing and thought of what was most important, what was safer. See, you can trust him, he won't be foolish and commit to the first boy who comes along and-
Oh, damn it all to hell, who are you kidding?
It's obvious, isn't it?
How much Blaine's been talking about that boy. The way he's been talking about that boy. The fact that the reason he turned him down wasn't because he doesn't like him - but because he likes him too much, because he doesn't trust himself, because he doesn't want to mess up their- their friendship or whatever their relationship is.
Something important. Something precious. Something he can't afford to break and doesn't want to lose.
Oh, Blaine might not be aware of it, of what it means, not now.
But he will be, won't he? He'll realize it one day.
And that boy - that 'Kurt' - already likes him back. Thinks he likes him back. Says he likes him back.
(And what do you know about that boy, really?)
But it hasn't happened yet. It might not happen still - not now, not soon, not ever.
So it's okay. Don't worry. Don't worry that much.
"The way he sung, Cooper," Blaine whispered, quietly awestruck. "I wish you'd been there, then you'd understand..."
He trailed off, too overwhelmed by what he'd seen, what he'd heard, what had turned his heart upside down and left him lost and found, unsettled and so so certain.
And Cooper did understand. He understood plenty. He didn't need to have seen it or heard it - being witness to how strongly it had affected his brother was enough.
A hand had reached out in sorrow, a voice had sung in a mourning complaint, and they'd unknowingly brushed against Blaine's heart, turned its attention towards them and now that they'd both retreated back to where they belonged that curious, genuine heart was straining to see them, to hear them again.
It had just happened - it hadn't been planned, hadn't been conscious, so Cooper couldn't even blame the boy.
It was better than a vile, purposeful attempt at seduction.
It was better than Blaine questioning himself, forcing himself, trying to change what he was and date a girl because of some stupid thing their father had said about how absolute homosexuality doesn't exist, Blaine, love or attraction isn't a matter of gender as much as a matter of individuals you meet and let touch you, Blaine, of course you'll find a girl, of course you'll find the one that's right for you if you make the effort to simply look, Blaine.
It was Blaine feeling something, and acting with what his heart dictated and not with what his head absurdly tried to reason.
It was better and so so much worse.
"Cooper I - I made a mistake, didn't I?" Blaine said, now sounding small and worried.
Cooper closed his eyes, holding the phone close to his ear, wishing he could hold his brother even closer to his heart when he softly answered: "That's the thing about being human, Blaine. We make mistakes. But when we realize it it's always time to try and repair them."
Blaine remained silent for a second and Cooper wasn't surprised by how afraid his voice came out when he asked: "But what if it's too late?"
Oh, believe me, Blaine, it's not too late, Cooper wanted to say. It'll never be.
It's far too early.
"If he thinks it's already too late then he isn't worth it," he said instead.
"He is worth it," Blaine replied, calm and certain of that if not of anything else.
Cooper squeezed his eyes tighter shut and took a breath. When you love someone-
"Then he won't say it's too late," he murmured.
Letting go is the hardest thing.
Cooper almost wished the boy - Kurt, he had to get used to that faceless stranger having a name, to be real - would say that. That it was too late, that Blaine had missed his chance and wouldn't get a second one.
It would hurt, it would be a heartbreak now, but it would be a small one, Cooper would be here for Blaine to get over it and at least it would be over before it even began.
Cooper almost wished Kurt would say it was too late.
But he didn't.
And then Blaine sounded so happy over the phone.
"I told him, I managed to tell him," he said.
"We got our first kiss," he said.
"Cooper, Kurt's my boyfriend," he said.
Not 'I got my first kiss' - or at least, the first one that mattered. Not 'I have a boyfriend'. Because it wasn't about an abstract first kiss, that virtual milestone so many people wanted to reach and pass only so that it was over and done with. And it wasn't about some faceless, just for the sake of having one boyfriend, a title so many people gave because they liked the sound of it, often far more than they liked the person they bestowed it upon.
No, it was about Blaine, and it was about Kurt, and it was about what Blaine and Kurt did and were together.
It was about something that mattered.
It was about something real.
"It's great, Blaine," Cooper said, the smile in his voice just as wide and helpless as the one on his face.
"What, no 'I told you so'?" Blaine teased now that the pressure was gone, now that he hadn't been turned down, now that he could.
"Well, you say it so much better than me."
Blaine laughed, dizzy and delighted. Cooper listened to the sound, listened and felt his heart struggle and squeeze in his chest, torn between beating an elated rhythm to the happiness he felt for his brother and freezing in terror because of how vulnerable Blaine had just made himself, how much of himself he'd just put on the line for someone Cooper didn't know.
But Blaine trusted Kurt. And Cooper trusted Blaine, trusted him and let him and let go because he loved him, because that was what he was supposed to do.
After they'd hung up he sighed and sat for a long time, staring at the folders spread out on his desk without seeing them, feeling bewildered by how fast everything had happened.
And now it was real.
That's how it all began.
Blaine was over the moon.
So Cooper tried, he really tried - don't worry. It's okay. He's okay. Listen to him, he's happy.
It helped that Kurt sounded like a good kid - sounded, because Blaine was teasingly reluctant about showing pictures, arguing that none of them did his boyfriend justice and that he would prefer it if the first time Cooper saw him was in person.
Cooper laughed silently at Blaine's over-earnest, ideal vision of a meet-the-brother moment, secretly enjoying the fact that his opinion mattered, that Blaine wanted that encounter to be special - something it wouldn't be with their parents.
But yes, Kurt sounded nice, sensible, and actually well-suited for Blaine. Cooper listened as Blaine recounted a duet performed at Regionals like it was the most intimate, romantic thing ever. He listened as Blaine talked about countless conversations over coffee. He listened as Blaine smiled about time spent together watching a movie, going to a show at Kurt's former high school, cooking in the Hudson-Hummel kitchen. He listened as Blaine blushed over the mention of kisses that felt like they were the first every single time, of hands meeting and holding onto each other, of lazy cuddling while they listened to music. He listened to all these small stories of time simply spent together, being comfortable. Simply being Blaine and Kurt. They'd been good friends - best friends - before they took that step further, and they still were. Kurt didn't try to rush things, didn't push Blaine too far to fast.
Actually, it sounded like Blaine was the one who had to slow down. But it wasn't surprising, really. It was how Blaine was. He dithered, he delayed, he hesitated, but once he'd made the decision to do something, he did it completely and all at once. There was no happy medium with him - every choice was a cliff he either turned away from or raced towards to take the plunge. He was either out of something like one is out of the water, or neck-deep in it, if not more.
Too bad he didn't always take the time to really test the waters or even glance at them before he jumped - and thus didn't always know if they'd be calm or agitated, welcoming or dangerous, if he'd be able to swim or simply be swept away by the current with no control whatsoever.
Fortunately, Kurt seemed to have some inkling of navigation and managed to steer them quietly in a direction that looked about right.
So Cooper tried. He felt - glad for his brother, he hoped that it'd keep on being that good, that it'd last. He hoped for it probably just as much as Blaine did, if not more.
And he didn't think, tried not to think, Don't delude yourself. Who are you kidding? Of course it won't last. It never does. Of course it'll break. It always does. Of course Kurt will get up and leave one day, soon. They always do.
(And why shouldn't they?)
He didn't think that, ignored that persistent voice at the back of his head - so that when Blaine called him with doubts and fears, so very afraid, so very sure he was going to screw this up, that something would go wrong, that it was too good to be true or to remain true, he could say:
"Calm down. Stop thinking that. You're doing great. You're great, Kurt's so lucky to have you, and I'm sure he knows it. And if you keep it that way - if you keep talking to each other like you do, if you never stop thinking of this as something precious, something that's not granted, something to cherish and be careful of - then there is no reason for it not to work. No reason, none at all. So trust yourself, trust the both of you."
Because I do, even if it's one of the hardest things I ever did.
Blaine's sniffles were quiet and muffled but Cooper heard them anyway.
Some days he loathed the fact that almost all of his contacts with his brother were over the phone, with more than 500 miles separating them.
"Did he like the song?" he asked, feeling at a loss for what to say, for a way to make it better.
Blaine's first reaction was a watery laugh, probably remembering the last time Cooper had asked that very same question after a mortifying moment that was now past and had turned into material for jokes. And Cooper knew how good it was for Blaine to have a boy he could sing to, who wouldn't find that lame or appalling, who would like it.
"Yes," he said. "Yes, he did. I think he did."
He sniffled again and Cooper heard the rustle of his blazer's stiff fabric. He could picture him, huddled somewhere and squeezing his arms around himself, and God how he wished he was there beside him to hug him and comfort him.
Feeling restless he stood up from his desk and walked to his office window, watching the city spreading itself in front of him and reminding him of how far away he was - somewhere else, in a different city, in a whole different universe it seemed.
"It's just- It's stupid, right?" Blaine spoke again, his voice trembling and full of self-depreciation. "I shouldn't-"
"No," Cooper interrupted him at once, soft but firm. "It's not stupid. Blaine. It's not. It never is."
"It's just," Blaine went on, and Cooper wondered if he'd even heard him. "He's gone. I know why he left, why he had to - he had to go back, his parents can't afford Dalton and all his friends are... And he's safe now, now that Karofsky's backed off."
Cooper knew all that - Blaine had explained it to him and now he was rattling off these explanations like he was reading them from a textbook. And it was because of all these facts Cooper was aware of that he couldn't hold it against Kurt to transfer back and leave Blaine behind. He couldn't ask of Kurt, of anyone to put one person in front of everything else, to ignore reason or logistics, even if that person was Blaine - even if he wanted to. He couldn't resent Kurt for choosing to go back - like Blaine said, there were monetary issues and practical reasons to take into account. McKinley was a public school, McKinley was closer to Kurt's home, McKinley was where his friends were.
But that was it. His friends. Other people. Other things that came first.
Things that for Blaine, for rash, reckless Blaine, would only come second.
"I'm happy for him," Blaine said, and meant it. "I really am. It's what he wants, what he needs, Dalton wasn't right for him and- I understand. And it's not like it's over. So why-"
Because Kurt has slowly been becoming the world to you, because you never do things halfway. When you give, you give everything; when you love, you love absolutely.
It was always like that, for Blaine - it had always been like that with his friends, so Cooper hadn't ever doubted for a second that it would be any different with his boyfriend, hadn't doubted for a second that it would be even worse. Blaine put them first, before himself and before any consideration about his well-being or about what would be reasonable, feasible. He reorganized his life for them, around them, and everything else got just pushed into the background, deemed insignificant in the light of his friends having their place front and center, of making his friends happy.
The problem was? His friends didn't do the same.
And his boyfriend?
"Hey, hey," Cooper said, trying to stave off his brother's breakdown. "Blaine. You're hurting. It's normal. Things have changed, you won't be able to compare your uniform-wearing techniques or sing together all day long in the corridors but-" Cooper smiled fondly when he heard Blaine choke out a small, faltering laugh. "Like you said. It isn't over. There are texts and phone calls. There is the Lima Bean. There are hours after school and weekends, and the distance between Lima and Westerville? It's really not that much," he went on, trying to make his voice lighter. "Plus, you have more than enough experience with dealing with long-distance relationships. Have you seen the both of us? We rock at it."
"Yes we do," Blaine agreed. And then, very lowly, very softly, very sincerely: "I miss you though."
Cooper smiled and swallowed around the painful knot in his throat. "I miss you too," he whispered back. "I miss you very much." He let a couple of seconds slip by before he added: "You're going to be alright, Blaine. You'll just need a little bit of time to readjust."
"I know," Blaine replied.
He sounded calmer now, relieved and nearly sure.
"It's just- It's not easy."
"It never is," Cooper hummed in answer. "But you'll get through it. I trust you."
And yet he couldn't help but feel like something had broken, like a bubble had been popped somehow - like that sweet delusional period of time where everything was perfect had ended, and all too soon.
He couldn't help but feel like Kurt had let him - let them - down somehow.
But that was to be expected, wasn't it?
"I think I'm okay to drive now," Blaine said after a while, allowing himself a last sniffle before he blew his nose. "I better go or I'm really going to be late for class. Talk to you later?"
Cooper bit back a sigh. "Always."
And then there was prom.
"Kurt asked me," Blaine said, voice carefully not trembling. "I said yes."
So Blaine was going to prom.
Blaine was going to a dance. With a boy. At a school said boy had been chased out of by bullies and bruises and threats and-
And Blaine was terrified.
But he was going anyway. He wanted to go anyway.
Because he wanted to face his demons, Cooper knew. He knew how it weighted down on his brother to have left his school, how he felt like he'd only run away - no matter the reasons why he'd left, no matter how little he could've done once they'd put him in the hospital for weeks.
(Don't think it might've been forever.)
But Cooper also knew that another reason, another important reason, was that Kurt had asked him to. And it was obvious by now that if Kurt asked for something, for anything, then Blaine wouldn't hesitate for more than a second before he gave it to him.
When he heard the words ("I said yes.") Cooper froze and for a second he could neither speak nor even think clearly. He could just feel that icy hand reach out and grip his entrails, ready to rip them out and tear them to shreds. He braced his left arm, the one not holding the phone, around his stomach as if it could ward off the feeling, ward off the phantom pain echoing what he'd felt a couple of years ago when he'd received that phone call, when he'd seen Blaine in that hospital bed, when he'd heard the doctors' uncertain diagnostic.
He breathed out slowly.
He didn't say, Don't. Please, please don't.
He didn't say, You shouldn't. You know that, Blaine, you really shouldn't.
He didn't even say, Are you sure? Are you really, really sure?
Because Blaine wanted - needed? - to do this. For himself - and for Kurt, yes, but most of all for himself. He needed to prove it to himself that he could do it, that he could stand up, that he could face this.
So all Cooper said, voice faltering and slow, was: "Okay."
Blaine knew him too well though and it didn't came as a surprise that he understood and heard all the reservations and fears Cooper refused to give voice to. Before Cooper knew it his little brother was the one trying to reassure him.
"There will be people specifically watching over us," he explained. Cooper didn't interrupt him - he knew saying these things out loud would help Blaine too. "And we won't be alone, we'll have our friends with us, all the members of New Directions."
Because he and his friend had been alone and unsupervised that night.
"I'll have my cell on me the whole time."
Because he'd forgotten it in his bag in the backseat of his friend's father's car that night.
"I'll call you as soon as we're back at Kurt's."
Because Cooper hadn't known before the following morning about that night.
Cooper wanted to laugh at how pathetic he was, needing to be reassured by his little brother whereas Blaine was the one who'd be out there, he was the one who'd be in danger. He always had been.
Instead he closed his eyes and nodded. "Okay," he repeated.
What else could he say? If he started talking more he knew the words would just spew out of him before he could hold them back and if there was something Blaine really didn't need right now, it was to hear his older brother's worries, most of whom had nothing to do with rationality. No matter how strong the love that caused them was.
Really, the best Cooper could do for Blaine right now was to shut up.
He hated that.
And he hated Kurt Hummel just a little bit for putting him - putting them both - through that.
The night of the dance was predictably one of the worst of Cooper's life (not the worst, he spent the whole night hoping with all his being it wouldn't be the worst).
Blaine sent him a text with a picture attached - a snapshot of himself right before they left, taken in the hallway of Kurt's parents' house. Black tux, simple cut, very discreet apart from the lovely, pale pink flowers pinned to his lapel. Brave smile, teetering between excited and anxious. No trace of Kurt, of course, because Blaine was still pretty serious about the whole meet-the-boyfriend/brother thing.
Cooper wondered for a second if Kurt had gotten to see pictures of him.
Then he typed back: Well, don't you look handsome.
(What he wanted to type was, Great tux, great pic, it's enough, right? You've done your part for the evening, so now you can go home, right? but he didn't.)
I know, Blaine replied. Got to go now. Talk to you later?
Always, Cooper sent back.
Then he cradled the phone in his hands and pressed them against his lips. Please please please be alright, he thought, eyes squeezed shut.
Too bad he'd stopped believing in God quite a while back, the last shreds of his faith ebbing away to the rhythmic beeping of a heart monitor.
And then he had a whole evening to get through, several hours to make pass that felt like an eternity. Then he had to wait for Blaine to call.
He tried to handle it like an ordinary evening.
He fixed himself a quick dinner he had to force himself to swallow - half of it ended back in a box in the fridge.
Then he went back to his living-room, switched the halogen lamp on so that its creamy light spread throughout the room and settled himself at his desk. There he picked up the last file Mr. Millson, his supervisor, had entrusted him with - a big case, and although he wouldn't be alone on it and was reaching the end of his internship Cooper sometimes worried about how much the man seemed ready to put on his shoulders. Sure, he'd done a good job until now and the firm he was interning at was more than ready to offer him a real contract come the end of his trial period. Still.
He wanted to do well on this one too - and yet he rapidly found out that he couldn't focus. He would start reading a sentence but then the words would blur and his mind would turn right back to something else, to another place and another person and the fact that he didn't know what was happening. A soft crunch would make him suddenly realize that he'd just bitten through his thumbnail - a nervous habit he thought he'd managed to get rid off. He would shake himself, shake his head and force his attention back to the paper in front of him.
And everything would start again.
By the seventh attempt at beginning the second paragraph he gave up and took off his thin framed glasses to rub at his eyes. He stood up with a sigh, checked his cell phone only to be informed that he had no new messages and that far less time had gone past than he would've hoped.
He wandered aimlessly through his flat, who felt huge and empty all at once, its silence bearing down on him. He decided to watch a movie. He chose one of his favorites, started it and sat down on the couch.
He gave up on it after less than half an hour. He was sure he'd gotten more glimpses of the red digits of the oven he could see from his seat through the kitchen doorway than of the movie itself. That, and he kept glancing at his phone, fearing it would ring not a second later. Fearing it wouldn't ring at all. Then the wail of a siren rushing down his street made him start and realize he'd missed the last five minutes or so.
No movie, then.
He put it away and found himself at a loss for what to do.
Fortunately their mother had always been very good at keeping herself excessively busy to avoid thinking about anything - so good that it would've been impossible for her sons not to involuntarily pick up part of that ability from her.
Cooper decided to do a little bit of cleaning around his flat.
By the time he was finished with it he was sure his bathroom had never been so sparkling since he'd moved in, especially not his shower.
He didn't dare hoover the place for fear the ringing of his phone would be drowned under the noise and resolved to use a broom. It took longer anyway.
He was busy viciously scrubbing at his kitchen sink when his phone finally, finally rang. It took him by surprise, actually, so much that his hand slipped and scraped against the tap, two of his knuckles splitting open since he hadn't bothered to use protective gloves. Cursing and not bothering to rinse his hands he rushed to the table to pick up his cell with his left hand, the other coming automatically up to his mouth.
He realized sucking at the wounds wasn't the best of ideas a second too late and by then his lips and tongue were filled with the strong sting of detergent. He spit to the side, wiped his mouth with his forearm and finally managed to get his phone open to take the call.
"Hey," he said, trying to sound relaxed, almost casual.
For the fraction of a second he was seized by dread at the thought that it might not be his brother at the other end of the line and that-
"Hey," Blaine answered, voice low and oh so tired.
"So?" Cooper asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
"So we're back. Safe. We're okay."
Cooper bit his lip before he could think better of it and realized he might have to scrub his mouth or something to get rid of that taste. "You don't sound that okay," he said cautiously, not wanting his gnawing worry to come out too strong.
"I-" Blaine began, then sighed. "It was just stupid to hope it'd be a perfect night, was it?"
Cooper knew that tone - dim, defeated, disillusioned, so unfit for his brother's voice.
"Don't worry," his brother added at once. "It's not- We're okay. It's just, things happened and..." He paused and then there was a smile, in his voice, in spite of everything, a quiet, awed smile when he whispered: "Kurt was amazing."
Cooper heard that voice, saw that smile he knew to be so rare, and swallowed. The way Blaine was talking - it wasn't his little brother gushing over a crush, it wasn't his little brother fondly mentioning a boy he liked. No, it was Blaine quietly, simply talking about the young man he loved. Because Blaine was in love, there was no doubt about it when he talked like that, he was completely, naively, crazily in love. That he was aware of it himself or not didn't matter at that point. He was, for the first time he was, and Cooper didn't even know that young man, that Kurt who was the first Blaine's heart had been offered to so entirely.
"I'm sure he was," he said, holding his voice tight so it couldn't tremble. "What happened?"
Blaine sighed once more, weary but with an almost imperceptible edge of anger. "It's complicated. I'll tell you everything, I'll explain, I promise, but- Kurt. I think he needs me. So can we... Later?"
Cooper felt conflicted feelings churn in his stomach - a bone-deep relief lined with icy remnants of fear, sparks of irritation directed at everything for daring to hurt his brother, the desperate need to hear Blaine's voice a little while longer until he felt it in himself that Blaine was there, that he was safe, the soft wish to do everything Blaine asked for, to avoid adding anything to the pile of things weighing down on him... and yes, somewhere underneath it all, no matter how hard the wanted to deny it, a soft simmering of jealousy.
He hoped Kurt Hummel was very happy and grateful he got to cradle Blaine in his arms tonight, to have him there, safe, with him.
"Of course," Cooper whispered helplessly, because what could he do? "We'll talk later. And, Blaine?" he called, feeling his brother already drifting away from him, ready to hang up. "Thanks for calling me."
Blaine's answer was distracted, barely there, and then he was gone.
Cooper remained standing in his kitchen for a long time, hands slick with detergent and phone pressed against his ear, hearing nothing but the dial tone, steady and low and endless.
Yes, Kurt needs you, he thought. But you need him too, obviously, you need someone - and is he here for you right now?
"It wasn't- It just slipped out," Blaine recounted, voice close to the phone like he was telling a secret. "I didn't mean to, I hadn't even thought about it but then it was there and so... so big and obvious. And I just... said it."
Of course you did, Cooper didn't say, staring at his ceiling from where he was lying on the couch, willing away the crick that had developed in his nape from hours of poring over cases with Mr. Millson. Of course Blaine had let the words 'slip out' - stupid, honest, genuine Blaine who never thought about hiding anything to anyone. It probably had been written all over his face even before he put it into words.
Such heavy, meaningful, dangerous words.
"Cooper," he went on in a breathless, incredulous, delighted whisper. "Cooper, he told me he loves me too."
Cooper closed his eyes, massaging the bridge of his nose to ward off the creeping headache he felt tightening his brow.
"Of course he did, Blaine," he mumbled. "Why wouldn't he?"
It was a clear clue as to what Blaine's current state of mind was that he didn't raise any objection to that statement.
"Cooper," Blaine choked, almost gasped, and left it at that because he hadn't the words to express what he felt.
He believed it - Kurt had said he loved him and Blaine believed it. And Cooper had to trust him to have read Kurt correctly, to not have fallen into wishful thinking, into fooling himself. He had to trust Blaine knew Kurt well enough to have reasons to believe he meant what he'd said, that he hadn't said it back out of some misplaced sense of obligation, or because he was one of those people who threw the word around without realizing how important it could be, how much it could contain in other people's eyes.
Cooper hoped that Blaine had that at least - Kurt meaning it.
Because he knew teenagers - he knew how they worked and felt and thought. He'd been one himself. He knew how passionate they could be about anything - and how fickle they were. He knew how strongly they could feel for someone, feel like they might choke on it, burst with it, how they would think at once that this was it, this was love, and profess it with all the burning honesty of their young heart, believe that they'd found it, already, at last - when they hadn't. When it wasn't love. When it would have disappeared one day, replaced by another surge of passion, and they would barely remember it, remember how it felt.
(Cooper knew what love was. He knew how deep it goes, down to your bones, he knew how its steel stakes sink into your marrow, shape you anew and keep you upright and bring you to agony sometimes, and stay there no matter how hard you try to pry them out, no matter how long you wish them away. He knew how it changes you, for better or for worse but always forever. He knew that love never really leaves, never disappears. Oh yes, he knew.)
And he knew that what Blaine felt was love. Yes, Blaine was a teenager too - but he'd always had that maturity of feelings, a maturity even Cooper hadn't had when he'd been his age. Whether it was due to having a brother so much older than himself but no less close or to what life had dealt him from the beginning onwards, he'd always been serious and steadfast about what he liked, whom he liked, whom he loved. He'd always been careful and almost too honest about it.
And Cooper knew his brother. So he knew it was love Blaine felt, real love, there was no doubt about it. A love that would only take root and grow, spread out its roots and branches throughout Blaine's being, drinking him in but bearing leaves and flowers and fruits - and it would keep growing, taller and wider and deeper, unless something terrible happened to fell it let it crash to the ground and burn (and even then...).
Yes Blaine was in love, and he'd said it.
And Kurt had said it back.
But how could Cooper know that Kurt was in love the way Blaine was?
People in love make plans. People in love make promises.
And the years-old habits and tacit workings? Just got inadvertently jostled and pushed to the side with barely an afterthought.
Summer for Cooper had always been a time he looked forward to, even more since he'd begun college. It'd be the time he went back home to spend two to three months being silly and young with his little brother, falling back into that comfortable symbiosis that was so strange to other people's eyes, where they barely needed half a sentence, sometimes hardly a word, to understand each other and laugh or decide on something.
And then, once Cooper had come of age and started law school, once their father had suddenly decided it was time for Cooper to have his own place - even if it had been tiny and dark and badly positioned - it'd been even better. Cooper had whisked Blaine away from Ohio and into Boston, had opened his eyes and shown him the campus and the city and the beach not so far away, had shown him how different from Westerville and its narrow-minded people the world could be.
Then there had been graduation, and a paid internship while he prepared for his bar examination, and moving to New York, to a bigger, better flat, and he'd been looking forward to share all of it with Blaine.
But Blaine wasn't ready to spend all summer with his older brother this year. For the first time since middle school he actually intended to - wanted to - stay in Ohio for some time. To see Kurt. To be with Kurt.
And Blaine wasn't ready to see New York, not yet, not even with Cooper. Because he'd promised to Kurt, with Kurt, that they would go there together next time. So Blaine wanted to wait.
Cooper was very tempted to point out that Mr. Kurt Hummel hadn't waited before he'd flown off there and had the time of his life, apparently. But he bit his tongue, and went about compromising and planning.
The thing was, he couldn't leave New York and his internship for long - his supervisor might be understanding and cooperative, but Cooper didn't want to take advantage of it. He was dedicated to his job, was honored by the trust that had been bestowed upon him until now with a series of challenging cases he'd been allowed to take part in, and he would keep it that way.
In the end they settled on a road trip of two and a half weeks in August, after Cooper's examination was past and done with and Blaine had had an ample amount of time to spend with his boyfriend.
They took Cooper's old, rusty but sturdy car and set out for the Rocky Mountains, an aim that was probably a bit too far away and ambitious to reach and make the most of with the short span of time they had, but Cooper decided they wouldn't care and Blaine, from behind a pair of bright pink framed sunglasses, didn't object.
It felt like leaving everything and everyone behind, it felt like it was only the two of them once more, alone against the world.
Except it wasn't.
Blaine had always taken his cell with him during their summers together, but it had only been just in case. Mostly the device would spent the whole stay lying forgotten at the bottom of Blaine's bag - because no one really called or texted. It had been a bit different once he'd transferred to Dalton, he received news from his friends - the Warblers - and answered, but all in all it'd been really tame and almost unnoticeable. But this year...
This year was another matter altogether.
Kurt, Cooper discovered, was one of these phone monsters - and had apparently infected Blaine with his plight.
It became obvious from the second day onwards that they had developed two habits: having at least one phone call a day and, when talking wasn't possible, holding a whole conversation through texts.
And boy did they text fast.
Cooper couldn't help but feel slightly irritated - because damn it, Kurt had had his brother the whole year long, couldn't he give him some space for a couple of weeks? Couldn't he just understand and respect that Blaine was with his older brother and leave them the hell alone?
Cooper would probably have nastily commented on it if he hadn't seen the way Blaine's whole face lit up and grew animated as soon as his phone chirped with a new message and he answered. Small joys - and who was Cooper to refuse him them?
So he adapted. When Blaine's phone rang in the evening once they'd settled in the motel room they'd just rented Cooper stood up from his bed and went to take a long, thorough shower so that Blaine wouldn't protest once he came back and announced it was time to go down for dinner.
He was pretty sure that Blaine was grateful, interpreting his leaving the room as a way to leave him and his boyfriend a little bit of privacy. Cooper just didn't see any other solution and didn't want to hear them talking to each other - he had on the first day, and while it had been great to see his brother so relaxed and free, rid of all these restraints he'd harnessed himself with over the years, it had hurt, too, to see for himself that he wasn't the only one Blaine could be entirely himself and silly with anymore.
It was more difficult during the day, when Cooper was driving and Blaine's phone started to buzz - and kept buzzing with reply over reply while Blaine smiled down at his screen and typed away. It wasn't that Kurt's text were interrupting any heart-to-heart Cooper and Blaine might've been having - actually Blaine never started a text exchange if the first one arrived while he and Cooper were really talking. But it broke something nonetheless - these companionable silences that filled the car for long stretches of road, where no word, no movement was needed for them to be and feel together, Blaine and Cooper, as simple at that. When a text arrived during one of these moments and Blaine began answering because he didn't feel like he was doing anything, suddenly he wasn't here anymore but there, not with Cooper but with Kurt, and Cooper was left alone in the driver's seat, trying not to grit his teeth and not to feel like something had broken and turned the small space between the seats into a widening, yawning gap.
So Cooper preferred it when Blaine was the one in the driver seat - when a text came in and all Blaine could do was glance in the rearview mirror at his phone lying on the backseat. He never asked Cooper to fetch the phone for him and read the text to him.
Cooper was lucky his brother was such a private person, he guessed.
"You know how my phone plan allows me free texting and one unlimited number?" Blaine asked once.
"Mh?" Cooper replied vaguely, leaning back in his seat with his sunglasses hiked up on his nose, taking in the breeze wafting through his window while he gently roasted in the sun streaming into his side of the car.
For all his apparent aloofness he'd noticed the numerous glances Blaine had thrown his phone since it'd chirped last and the way he'd begun biting his lips, gathering his courage before he spoke.
"And that number is yours," Blaine laboriously went on, already sounding... apologetic?
Oh. Suddenly Cooper knew where this was going.
"I've been thinking-"
"Wow, would you look at that?" he interrupted at once. "I've been thinking too. I know that not many human beings are gifted with that ability but I'm pretty sure we can consider ourselves among the happy few. Cheers," he said, lowering his shades to throw Blaine a look.
His brother's reaction was a jerky, hesitant laugh.
"So I used my incredible reflexion skills," he went on, settling back in his seat and interlacing his hands on his stomach. "And realized that I hadn't gotten you anything to celebrate the end of your sad celibacy. And since I think I know what you think, well. I'd say it's time for your mobile plan to get an upgrade. To match your change of status. I'd be paying for it, of course - come the end of the year I'll have a cute contract waiting for me and soon I'll be a rich man."
Cooper's contract would only be up for signing if he'd actually passed his bar examination, but he wasn't worried about that. One of the rare, small perks of being an Anderson and trusting in your abilities.
"Coop'," Blaine began, fondly shaking his head. No other word was needed for the conversation to go on - soon enough Blaine's reluctant but tempted silence gave in in front of Cooper's stubborn, unwavering one, the sure sign that he wouldn't be swayed so Blaine had better not even try.
So in the end Blaine caved and sighed and smiled. "Thank you."
Cooper grinned and closed his eyes against the glare of the sun, so bright it blinded him even through his shades.
There were many reasons why he'd just done that, the most important of which being that he never wanted Blaine to hesitate before he called - or worse, to choose not to call at all - because of stupid financial considerations. If his brother needed or wanted to talk to him, then Cooper would do anything so that nothing stood in his way. So that he was always available.
That, and there was just no way he was going to let Kurt Hummel supplant him by stealing his spot as number one on speed dial.
They reached the mountains eventually - even though by then they barely had the time to see anything before they had to start thinking about turning back.
They drove along them southwards for as long as they could. Then, on the morning they were to turn back East they stood up while it was still dark outside. The temperature was mild, the blue of the sky already losing its deep sombre hue. They took a road that rode up the mountain, Blaine clutching at his door in the sharp bends because such turns always made him queasy that early in the morning.
They drove as high as the road and the state of their car allowed - then Cooper parked and they stepped out, stretching and then settling on the hood, contemplating the wide plains stretched out at their feet and which with every passing second appeared clearer and clearer, colors slowly seeping into them as the light grew and grew.
Blaine had brought his feet up in front of him on the hood and was circling his knees with his arms, chin propped up on them.
"I've been thinking about transferring schools," he whispered after a while, so low Cooper only heard it thanks to the eerie calm before daybreak, when even the early birds grew silent in expectation of the first rays of the sun.
From where he had settled, leaning back on his elbows beside him, Cooper glanced at his brother, at his back, slightly hunched over like he was waiting to be reprimanded.
But Cooper wasn't Blaine's father - wasn't their father - and he almost frowned at his brother reacting as if he was, as if he might clearly disapprove.
He did. Of course he did, of course he didn't want Blaine to leave Dalton and its safe corridors. But he wouldn't say it - because it was Blaine's choice, because Blaine wasn't stupid or thoughtless, not on such matters, and Cooper trusted he had his own reasons for considering that change.
He wouldn't tell him what to do or what not to do, not now, not ever. It wasn't his place, no matter how hard he wished it was sometimes. He'd give advice if Blaine really asked for it - but mostly he would only make sure Blaine really thought about it before he acted.
So he murmured: "As long as you do it for the right reasons."
Blaine was silent after that, biting his lips and staring straight ahead like he was afraid of what he might see if he looked at his brother.
Cooper watched him for a minute, curled up even smaller than he already was, then sighed.
"Come here," he mumbled. He straightened up and threw an arm around Blaine, rubbing at his shoulder when his brother let a slow, shuddering breath out.
And they watched in silence as the sun split the horizon open, and rose.