A/N: First of all: no, I haven't forgotten about "... for life", and yes, it will be continued. It's just that my muse felt the need to tell me how little she appreciates working on a schedule, and then turned her perky butt at the story and bounced off to play with plot bunnies. Effect? One story written (proof below), two half-done (about 15 000 words written in each), and only now she starts considering letting me go back to the Gotten sequel. Yup, annoying your muse with deadlines is a bad idea.
Second: this is a fill for a prompt on angst-meme, cleaned up and beta-ed by punkkitten2113 (mwww-ahh!). It was supposed to be a short one-shot. Ahem. 11 000 words later...
ONE GOOD DAY
He knows the feeling all too well. The disappointment, the quiet despair, the thought that there must be more to life than that. More than the everyday grind of the job he hates and coming home to cold silence, only to reheat dinner left for him in the fridge, stare brainlessly at bad TV shows, and go to bed.
When Blaine was young and idealistic… whoa, he's barely 22, he just graduated from college, why does he sound like his own grandfather all of a sudden?
Anyway, when Blaine was an idealistic teenager, he used to believe that life had a purpose; there were so many goals to reach, countless things to do with days that were always fleeting, too short, not enough. Where are his goals now? Earning money so he can afford nice things and look down his nose at his peers just doesn't feel worth all the effort. And other things – things he might want – he can't have. Love. Family. Music. Passion. Kids.
At least not the way he wants them.
It's not that he didn't try. Of course he did. Fresh with the relief of leaving Yale with a BA in Business after four unbearably long years, five months ago he gathered all his courage and went to see his father. He naively believed that after doing what was expected of him and graduating with honors, he'd have some sort of leverage. That his father would have a reason to be proud of him at last; that he'd be placated enough to say that of course, he had nothing against Blaine's plans to ask his boyfriend of two years to move in with him.
He couldn't have been more mistaken.
He learned a lot of things that afternoon. That of course he graduated with honors – he was an Anderson, business was in his blood. That now it was time for him to move back home and start his career in the family company – from the very bottom of course, no preferential treatment. All according to the plan that's always been there. Too bad Blaine had known nothing about it. And what, a boyfriend? Was he crazy? There was no place for deviations in a respectable businessman's life. It was time for him to settle down with a nice girl and forget about these ridiculous teenage experiments.
Stunned though he was, Blaine did try to argue. To rebel. What if he wanted to work somewhere else? The answer was calm and immediate. He'd get disowned, of course. Same if he insisted to bring shame on the family, keeping up his openly homosexual conduct. It was his choice.
So he made a choice – or so he thought. He stormed out of his father's office, caught the plane back to New Haven and that same evening asked Ben, his boyfriend, to move in with him.
And got promptly rejected. It turned out that while Blaine was hoping for them to live together, Ben was ready for them to break up. And even though it was true that their relationship was more about comfort and compatibility than true love or great passion, it hurt. It really did. It hurt even more when it turned out he had no one to get miserably drunk with, because none of their friends were actually his friends too.
Blaine spent two months afterwards trying to find a job that would let him earn a decent living on his own. But he was just a graduate in a sea of graduates, and eventually he had no choice but to pack his things and go back to Ohio to accept his father's conditions.
And here he is now, the wayward son with his head hung in defeat. After waiting for four years to be free, he's more of a prisoner than ever. Without hope or perspective to actually live. Because this? It's not life; he might as well be dead. Frankly, he's not sure if it wouldn't be more exciting than this.
It's just this thing at first, a silly phrase. I might just as well be dead. Except he keeps thinking it, randomly, in various situations when he can barely stand the boredom and lack of inspiration that fill his days. Yes, Mr. Kutner. Right away, Mr. Kutner. Yes, I've put the files in alphabetical order, Mr. Kutner.
Blaine feels like screaming every time he enters the company's building in Columbus, tension winding tight in his chest, choking him. This is what hell feels like, he thinks. Just a flow of identical days, doing work you hate without a chance for it to change, ever. An eternity of this. I think I'd rather be dead.
Then, somehow, he starts imagining it.
Cutting the string of unbearable monotony. Rejecting his father's Great Plan once and for all. He spends boring meetings amusing himself with planning the best way to die. Car crash? No; messy, painful and there's too much chance of survival. Cutting? He's not sure he could go through with it. Gun to the head? He has nowhere to get one. Hanging? Absolutely not, with his strangulation phobia. Pills? Hmm… pills…
Blaine has a small stash of pills at his disposal, incidentally. A bottle of strong painkillers from having his wisdom teeth removed surgically – untouched, because Advil turned out to be enough. Sleeping pills he needed on several occasions in college, when the stress was too much. Antidepressants he took for two months before stopping because he felt worse on them than without them. If he took all of these, they could work, couldn't they?
Before he knows it, he's checking it online one evening, poring over suicide advice sites. He's not even surprised that he's reading things like this, and without a blink. It's just research. He likes to know things.
The pills would be more than enough, he knows an hour later. Especially if he chased them down with strong booze. Excellent. He's got everything he needs, then.
And just like that, it's a decision.
He's waiting for his mind to protest; for some kind of reaction. A decision like this should evoke intense emotions, shouldn't it? Out of sheer survival instinct, if nothing else. And yet, nothing – nothing at all. Indifference. He's calm like a lake surface on a quiet day. He could do it now, swallow the pills without batting an eye, and fall asleep. Just like that.
So maybe – ? There's nothing to put in order, no one to say goodbye to, no last letters to write. No one cares; not his cold, distant parents, not his friends – the old ones forgot, he has no new ones – no significant other. No one has truly cared about Blaine for a long time; he just hasn't realized until recently.
In fact, now that he thinks of it, stretched on his bed, staring at the ceiling – the last time he felt cared for, felt like he mattered, just felt, was over four years ago, with Kurt.
He might be the only one who'd care that Blaine died. Probably. If he hasn't forgotten. Which, of course he hasn't. You don't just forget your first love. It always stays with you, like a brand on your heart. Impossible to erase even if you want to.
Blaine knows; he tried. The months after they'd broken up, filled with too much pain, too many regrets and emotions, until he decided to cut all contact in an effort to numb himself. Now, numb to the bone, he'd rather take the pain. Anything but this.
He falls asleep fully dressed on top of his bedspread, and when he wakes up, he knows, with absolute clarity, what to do.
He's going to find Kurt, and meet him one last time. Not to say goodbye – just to talk, about anything really; to remember what it's like to feel good.
And then he'll come back here, to his parents' big empty house, and kill himself.
Finding Kurt is easier than Blaine thought it would be. His fingers tremble slightly when he opens Facebook and types the name he's tried not to think about for a long time.
Kurt Hummel. Deep breath. Enter.
And there he is – smiling at Blaine from his profile picture, bright and carefree, his eyes scrunched in amusement. He looks more mature than when Blaine last saw him; his cheekbones more pronounced, his hair adorably messy. He seems to be having the time of his life and Blaine feels a pang of envy that he suppresses immediately.
Why wouldn't Kurt be happy? He went to the school he'd dreamed of to study what he was passionate about. His parents didn't pressure him into forgetting about musical theatre and pursuing a more practical career. Yes, he was upset and hurting for some time after they broke up, but the decision was mutual and it seems that he's happy again now. And Blaine's glad to see it. He really is.
He can't see much information on the page, since he's not listed as Kurt's friend, but after a short search, he finds what he needs.
Location: New York City
Not that Blaine had much doubt about it; Kurt was in love with the city, he always wanted to stay there after college.
There's no info about relationship status available, but there's probably a boyfriend there somewhere, who may not be happy to see Blaine coming to meet Kurt. But he'll cross that bridge when he gets there; it's not like he intends to do anything to intrude on Kurt's life, anyway. He just wants to meet for lunch. Or maybe coffee. Drinks? Spend an hour or two with Kurt, talk a little. Feel good for a change – if only for one last day.
Yes. He'll take a day trip to New York – no expectations, no detailed plans, no regrets; he'll make it as good as possible before leaving this dreary world behind him.
Now, how can he actually find Kurt in New York?
The thought of calling any of their old friends and asking for Kurt's address gets discarded almost as fast as the possibility of calling Kurt himself. Even if any of them still have their old phone numbers, and even if they could and wanted to help him after such a long time, Blaine doesn't want Kurt to know he's coming. There's a chance Kurt might not want to see him, and as impolite as Blaine knows it is, he can't take the risk. He needs to see his first love one last time. Besides, all his life he's lived by the rules – always well-mannered, polite, thoughtful – and look how much good it did him. He might as well forget about the rules and manners; he'll be dead soon anyway.
As he keeps looking through the page for any clue on where he could find Kurt in the vast city, Blaine notices a link in a side panel: A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME. Curious, he clicks on it, and he's redirected to a website of a small interior design and redecorating company. Owned by one Kurt Hummel.
Blaine clicks through the gallery of projects Kurt worked on – cozy, inviting apartments with every bit of space carefully planned – and his heart clenches painfully. He can see Kurt's taste, his hand in every single one, can easily imagine the two of them living in any one of these. And they could have. Yes, they'd split before Kurt went to New York, deciding that it was better this way, but if Blaine had gone to study at NYU when he graduated a year later, like he was supposed to – wanted to – there would have been a chance for them still. Probably.
But he didn't.
Feeling suddenly weary, he navigates out of the gallery and looks for any contact information. There it is – address of the office, opening hours. Everything he needs. Noting it down in his dayplanner, Blaine leaves the website to search for the best connection to New York.
Half an hour later, everything's planned. It's Wednesday. One more day of work, and then he'll take Friday off and go to New York on the early morning flight. He'll meet Kurt, then maybe have a good dinner by himself, or just enjoy the city; he'll spend the night in a hotel and return the next day.
He'll die on Saturday night.
Kurt's company is located in an obscure building on a side street, but the office looks inviting. Judging by the front window, that is. Blaine wouldn't know about the inside, since he's yet to get over the sudden bout of nerves and enter.
Since he arrived just after nine, Blaine managed to check into his hotel, change into more presentable (and less wrinkled) clothes, and sip slowly at a medium drip in one of the many coffeehouses while looking through a newspaper. Then, he took a walk. It was fourteen blocks and he was in no hurry – Blaine's plan was to take Kurt out for lunch, so he still had time to enjoy the warm day like he hardly got to do lately, to watch people milling around and peek into store windows. And to fight the doubts that appeared out of nowhere and kept growing the closer to his destination he was.
Is it a smart move? Is that fair, to either of them, to just force this meeting upon Kurt? Won't Blaine regret this?
This last thought actually forces a burst of bitter laughter out of him now, as he's standing on a sidewalk opposite Kurt's office. What will it change? In the massive pyramid of regrets he has, one more would make no difference. Not when he'll be dead in about 36 hours, anyway.
Shaking his head, Blaine crosses the quiet street and opens the door to the office. Even this space radiates Kurt's taste – a small sofa and two armchairs around a low table, a quality coffee machine, colorful pillows and simple sketches on the walls discreetly completing the picture. There's a long, curved desk at the back of the room, with a laptop, neat piles of catalogues, fabric swatches and color samples. The other half of it is covered with huge sheets of paper with hand-drawn designs. The well-dressed young man leaning over the papers straightens up when the door shuts with a click, and –
Kurt's eyes widen, his lips frozen in a small "O"of surprise, and the next instant he's on Blaine, hugging him tightly and laughing with delight, leaving him dazed and light-headed. He smells of a different cologne than he used to, but Blaine's body recognizes the voice, the touch, the scent of pure Kurt underneath, and reacts viscerally. He has to remind himself to pull back after a moment, because it feels so natural, so right to be there, in Kurt's arms.
Light is dancing in Kurt's blue-green-grey eyes as he smiles, wide and happy.
"Oh my god, I can't believe it's you! I've missed you! Please tell me you're not dropping by just to say hello?"
Blaine has to smile; Kurt's fire, his pure enthusiasm, is unchanged.
"No, I hoped you'd have time to eat lunch with me. I happen to be in New York for a day."
Kurt actually bounces a little.
"I have a meeting with a client in ten minutes – just a short one, looking through the final plans. Come upstairs, to my apartment. I'll get you coffee and join you in half an hour, tops. And then I'm kidnapping you for the rest of the day, so make sure to cancel all other plans. There's no way I'm letting you escape my company when I finally get to see you after all this time!"
Two flights of old, squeaking stairs later, Kurt opens the unlocked door and gestures for Blaine to come in, a smile never fading off his face.
"It's not much, but it's home. Shoes off and make yourself comfortable. Do you want coffee?"
"Thanks, I had some earlier."
"Okay, I have something else I think you may like." With that, Kurt darts into the kitchen and Blaine is left to curiously stare around.
The apartment has two levels. The lower one is just one big open space with spiral stairs in the far corner, leading up. The kitchen looks modern and carefully planned, all steel and dark wood, with a small dining nook by the window. The lounge area seems bare by comparison. There's just an old sofa with one matching armchair, a coffee table and a TV on the empty white wall.
"Yeah, I know, you'd think I'd design my own place first, right? I did everything but this room – I can't get the feel here. I'm waiting for the inspiration to strike but there's always something lacking," Kurt says as he brings a plate full of cookies and a tall glass of milk to the coffee table. Something aches deep in Blaine's chest, sending shockwaves of grief he thought he was over all through his body. "Oatmeal and honey, I hope you still like them?"
He has to swallow to dislodge the thing stuck in his throat, but his voice still comes out hoarse.
"I- I never had them again after – "
Kurt's eyebrows arch up in surprise. "Why not? You knew the recipe as well as I did."
"They reminded me of you too much." Blaine's voice sounds almost normal now. It's okay. They're both adults and it was a long time ago. Time heals everything, right? They can act normal around each other after five years. Of course they can.
"Oh." There's a slight pause then, and Kurt smiles again, something almost tender in the line of his lips. "That's why I keep making them all this time. They remind me of you, in the best ways." He turns and strides to the iPod dock on the windowsill, turning on some soft music, before looking back at Blaine. "I have to run back down, I must finish adding this one last-minute idea to the plan. Make yourself at home; bathroom is upstairs. I'll be back soon."
With Kurt gone, Blaine heads to the bathroom first, catching a glimpse of a very solitary bedroom on his way, all in reds and creams, pictures and books everywhere. It looks like this is Kurt's sanctuary, his place to relax and recharge.
Back downstairs, Blaine settles on the couch that turns out to be quite comfortable, and reaches for a cookie. It tastes like heaven and sweet memories, cold milk a perfect way to complement it, just like he remembers, and before long, calm contentment spreads through Blaine's body in a warm sleepy wave. True, he barely slept last night, emotions stirring and distracting him, and this morning he walked so much more than he's used to lately, and this couch is so very nice, everything like a cocoon of wellbeing. He'll just close his eyes for a couple of minutes, to let them rest. Well, maybe his neck too, it's a little strained and this pillow here looks so inviting…
He's feeling warm and safe, the sweet smell of fresh cookies still wafting in the air, and oh yes, it's truly a good day. Mm, so good…
Blaine wakes up slowly, the sound of someone singing quietly nearby leading him gently towards awareness. Before he manages to switch his brain back on and remember where he is, Kurt's smiling face appears over him and Blaine sits up quickly, his face burning.
"Oh god, I'm sorry, I dozed off. I – "
Kurt's laugh sounds like a silver bell. "It's okay. I took longer than I thought I would anyway. So we'll just have lunch here instead of somewhere more classy – come on, it's ready."
The table is set with colorful plates, tall glasses of orange juice bright in the sun streaming through the window. Kurt shrugs as they sit down.
"I wish I'd known you were coming, I'd have gone grocery shopping. Oh well, Greek salad and toast will have to do. But later I'm so taking you out to dinner. You do have the evening free, right?"
Blaine's mind is still fuzzy from the impromptu nap, but this he knows for sure: today, he has all the time in the world. For this one day, he'll live like it's all that's left.
Because it is.
The food seems tastier than anything Blaine's eaten in years and he feels like he's back where he belongs, here in Kurt's company – and even though he knows it's just an illusion of normalcy, he's perfectly fine with it. Today, the reality doesn't matter. Today, the world is his; whatever he chooses to see and feel, it's alright. Today he won't try to have control over his life.
The conversation flows as if they parted just days, and not years ago. Kurt is chatty and curious, laughing easily, his face even more expressive than it used to be. It's like he'd given up on all his carefully built walls and defenses, and allowed the world to see him the way he is, in all his beautiful complexity. Blaine can't take his eyes off of him.
Obviously, Kurt wants to know what Blaine has been doing all along – so he tells him, censoring it a little to make it all seem like his own choices: the business studies, coming back home, working at the family company. It's so easy to talk calmly about it now, the indifference fresh and perfect. Blaine's decision about what's going to happen tomorrow has already freed him from the resentment, the anger, the disappointment – it's the past, it's over. It doesn't matter.
If Kurt is surprised by his choices, he doesn't say anything – he listens in attentive silence until Blaine finishes, and only asks him one thing then.
"Are you happy?"
And Blaine is momentarily stunned, the simple question cutting into him like a sharp blade. Is he? Right now, he is. In general? Of course not. But it doesn't matter anymore, and he has no intention of admitting it to Kurt. It's Blaine's one last good day; he won't ruin it like that. So he finds a smile before he answers, "I'm good. Now tell me about you – did you decide to give up on your Broadway dream after all?"
Kurt laughs, eyes sparkling.
"No, of course not – I act, but it's not Broadway yet. So I design for money; it's a fun job and it pays well."
"How did you get into it?"
"By accident, really. I helped a friend in college redecorate her place once. She was delighted with the result, the word about my help came out, and soon I had another friend ask me, and another… It turned out I was good at it. So I decided to try doing it professionally – and three years later, here I am."
Kurt's whole face is alive when he talks – about the places he designed, the theater he works for, the support line for gay and questioning teens where he volunteers whenever he can; and Blaine doesn't have to ask to know that he's happy. It radiates from Kurt with every word and every smile. The amount of energy he seems to have is astounding.
"Wow, you busy bee. When do you find time for a boyfriend?" Blaine can't stop himself from asking about that. Kurt's smile never wavers, still open and honest as he waves his hand dismissively.
"I don't. I've dated several guys in college, but none for too long – they didn't feel right for me, you know? So after some time I decided that I needed to learn to be happy by myself first, before I can be happy with someone else. I think the right man will come when I'm ready. And if he doesn't, I'm good with that too. I refuse to settle for anything but true love."
A bit of a blush has crept onto Kurt's cheeks, but Blaine barely pays attention now. With a pang, he remembers Ben; the years spent with a man that was good enough, but so far from being his true love. The number of compromises that came way too easily for Blaine, only for the comfort of not being alone; just to have someone to call his. Kurt's voice brings him back to the present.
"What about you? Any lucky man by your side?"
And Kurt must have some sort of sixth sense, because he doesn't ask, as if he knew exactly when Blaine didn't want to talk about certain things. So they don't. They end up on the couch with cups of coffee, chatting for hours, about everything and nothing – from gossip about old friends to discussing the current LGBT community state around the world. Afterwards, Blaine won't remember the details of their conversation, too focused on Kurt's eyes, face, the fleeting touches of his hand as he gestures lively, but now he just feels good. Happy, contented, welcome. No difficult topics to discuss, no past pain to dig through. Just Kurt and his warmth, just what Blaine needed.
With darkness falling, they move their conversation to an adorable Italian restaurant, a tiny place hidden in a back street, that serves the best lasagna Blaine has ever tasted and delicious wine from a small family winery.
It's late, almost midnight, when they walk back to Kurt's apartment, and Blaine knows that his time is running out. And it's fine. There's no doubt in his mind. He got what he came here for – he got much more, thanks to Kurt's vivacity, his joy and contagious smile. He comes up for one last coffee with his only true friend, his ex-boyfriend, ex-lover, the only man he's ever truly loved. And when the cups are empty, he kisses Kurt's cheek, says an easy lie about trying to stay in touch from now on, and leaves the cozy apartment and its beautiful owner.
New York lights welcome him like a friend when he goes out into the street, alone. He doesn't look back.
Not until he hears Kurt calling his name, at least. He stops and turns then.
Kurt is leaning out of his kitchen window, for the first time today looking unsure somehow. Or maybe it's just a trick of the light and shadows, because the next instant he's smiling again.
"Wait a moment!" His head disappears from the window and Blaine makes a quick mental inventory. Did he leave something upstairs? His phone, bag, jacket – everything seems to be in its place. Before he can start to wonder, though, the side door to the building opens and Kurt runs out. He's by Blaine's side in five quick strides, and yes, he does look unsure. What the –
"I know you said you have to go back tomorrow, but is there any chance you could stay till Tuesday?" Kurt asks quickly, a little winded.
No is the obvious answer. He can't, he'll be busy on Tuesday. Most likely with his own funeral. Instead, what comes out of his mouth is, "Why?"
Kurt looks almost pleading now.
"We're performing on Monday evening, it's the last time before we start with a new show, and I hoped – I… I'd really be happy if you could be there… for me. You've never really had a chance to see me act, not in anything major, and just… It would mean a lot."
Blaine's resolve starts to waiver slightly – he shouldn't, but… what would it change, really, if he died three days later than he planned? Kurt is doing this thing where he looks at him from beneath his eyelashes when he adds, "And then there's this party afterwards, to celebrate the successful run of the show, and I'll understand if you say no, of course, but I thought maybe you could be my plus one?"
Damn, he's playing dirty now. That look… Kurt knows perfectly well that Blaine can't resist it, he never could. He takes a deep breath. Fine. His pills aren't going anywhere. His father will be furious that he's taking more time off, but whatever.
"Okay?" The joy on Kurt's face tells Blaine that he didn't hold much hope in convincing him, so he smiles reassuringly.
"Okay. I'll stay until Tuesday."
Kurt bounces a little on the balls of his feet. "Perfect! Thank you! I'll call you in the morning and we'll go out for breakfast." A quick, tight hug, and Kurt is gone, back to his apartment.
Lying in his hotel bed half an hour later, Blaine can't quite believe that Kurt was able to influence him so easily, even after so many years. It was supposed to be the last night of his life – or, at least, the last one when he got to sleep, dream and wake up in the morning. He planned to spend it reflecting on the good parts of his past, maybe after getting a few drinks in the hotel bar.
Instead, he thinks about Monday evening, and there's the slightest thrill of anticipation under his skin that shouldn't be there. He shouldn't be thrilled. Thrill is too close to hope. Hope is too close to having something to live for. And he can't believe in that, he would just be deceiving himself; and it would make it that much harder to say goodbye.
But as he falls asleep, he can't help hearing the tiny part of his mind that whispers, Maybe there still are things worth living for.
Blaine's phone chirps at 8, ungodly early for Saturday if you ask him. He considers ignoring the call, especially since it's from a number he doesn't know, but eventually he picks it up and mumbles into the phone, half-asleep still.
"Rise and shine, sleepyhead. Still not a morning person, I see?" Kurt's voice is awfully cheerful, but then again, he never held a grudge against mornings. Blaine feels something warm and fuzzy spread in his chest; being woken up by Kurt's voice used to be his favorite part of the morning. Apparently, he still feels the same way.
"It's Saturday," he grumbles half-heartedly.
"It's a beautiful Saturday. And I'll be in the lobby of your hotel in fifteen minutes with coffee and bagels, so get up." Kurt hangs up, not waiting for an answer, and somehow, Blaine doesn't even feel like whining. It seems his one good day just got prolonged. He's not going to complain.
He showers and gets dressed quickly, even going as far as giving up shaving for the day, but still, Kurt is already waiting in the lobby when he gets off the lift. His smile is blinding.
"Medium drip, sir. And an authentic New York bagel." He hands Blaine a stiff-bottomed baggie and takes a sip from his own cup, sighing with delight. "Mmm. And now come on, we've gotta run or we'll be late."
"Run where?" The smell of coffee already makes Blaine's brain work better, and he's pretty sure he knows nothing about anything they could be late to this morning.
"To The Hope Spot. That's the support line I told you about. I have a shift today and you're coming with me." They're walking already, in the fast-moving stream of people hurrying somewhere despite it being Saturday morning.
"Why?" Blaine's not sure how he feels about this.
"Because you've survived being a gay teen in Ohio; you're a good, compassionate listener and there's never enough people there on weekends." Kurt shrugs like it's obvious, and Blaine stops, rooted to the spot, barely avoiding collision with a woman walking behind him.
"Wait, you want me to answer calls? From troubled teens? Kurt, I've never done anything like that!"
Kurt just smiles, grabbing his hand and pulling him along. "Shush. You'll do fine. You understand what they're going through. You can offer support. You know it gets better. And if there's a call you can't handle, you signal to one of the supervisors to join the conversation."
Blaine still feels uncertain, but Kurt's hand holding his, warm and firm, effectively steals his voice away. Kurt doesn't let go until they enter a narrow grey building on a small side street five minutes later, holding Blaine's hand like it's the most natural thing in the world, and god, it is. It feels that way.
But then they're in a big room filled with cubicles and voices, and Blaine doesn't have time to think anymore. A big black guy in his forties with a name tag spelling Duncan greets Kurt with a hug, and once he learns that Blaine will be helping today – not that anyone asked him about that – he gives him a quick lesson in talking to the callers. After listening in on three calls that Kurt takes, Blaine's ready to sit in his own cubicle. Or at least as ready as he can be. The phone starts to ring and he picks it up with trembling fingers.
"The Hope Spot, Blaine speaking."
When they leave the building eight hours later, Blaine's mind is reeling. He's talked with so many kids – questioning, lost, scared; bullied and unaccepted by friends and families due to their sexuality; kicked out of their houses and rejected by their first loves – that he starts wondering how he survived his own teenage years, having gone through some of the same ordeal. Of course, he had Kurt – that was the essential difference.
Just as Kurt promised, Blaine did fine – after initial nerves, he was sucked into the conversations, listening, comforting, offering advice and earnest words of support. He had to ask Duncan for help once, when he got a call from a boy, barely twelve, who talked about wanting to die because of being bullied at school. By the end of the conversation, when the older guy managed to calm the kid down and convince him to talk to his mom, Blaine realized that his hands were shaking with relief. It was just a kid, with so much life before him, so much to see and experience – and almost ready to give it all up, balancing on the thin line between life and death.
The realization hits uncomfortably close to home, but Blaine shrugs it off. It's not about him. It's different.
A bit surprised, he realizes that he's exhausted, but somehow elated at the same time. He did something meaningful today; something that helped someone, sent a message of hope and acceptance, brightened the darkness of someone's day, if only a little. It feels good, doing something that makes sense, giving a bit of himself to others.
Kurt walks in silence beside him, looking as tired as Blaine feels. He shakes it off after a while, though, the smile returning, though sadness still lingers in his eyes.
"Sorry I'm so quiet, I had some tough calls today."
Blaine feels that he has to ask. "Kurt, why did you take me there today?"
Kurt's smile is a little shy. "I just wanted to spend some more time with you while you're here, and I promised to come in today… Was it a terrible idea?"
"No, not at all. Just… unusual. But in a good way. I got to experience something new. Thank you."
There's relief in Kurt's smile. "So, early dinner? We can make pasta at my place. I'm too broke at the moment to take you out anywhere decent, sorry."
That successfully shakes Blaine out of his musings.
"Well, we ate lunch in yesterday, and you paid last night, so – Let me take you out to dinner?"
Kurt shrugs. "If you want to. But I make some mean pasta, you know." He chuckles lightly. "It's a perfect dish on the lean days just before the paycheck comes, so I have quite a bit of experience with it."
Blaine lets the topic go, but he brings it back once they're sitting in a colorful Mexican restaurant, recommended by Kurt.
"I thought you said design pays well." He says once they've ordered.
"It does, but this is New York. It's not exactly cheap to rent an apartment and an office, so sometimes I have to tighten the belt between paychecks." He smiles, carefree. "I don't mind. I get to do what I love in the city I chose as mine. I'd do it even if I had to live on Ramen noodles and coffee."
Something tugs at Blaine's heart at Kurt's words, but he ignores it, at least until he's lying in the hotel bed that evening, Kurt's goodnight kiss still lingering on his stubbled cheek.
Thoughts crawl and poke at him, unwelcome and carrying too much truth, making him itch and wiggle in his skin. Voices from his headphones at The Hope Spot. Memories of his early high school dreams of being a teacher or maybe a social worker, of helping people. Kurt's contentment with life even when money and love are scarce. His words about doing what you love. Thoughts that burrow in Blaine's brain and undermine the very foundations of his life.
He makes himself stop. It's not his life, here. It's not his reality. He's not Kurt, strong and courageous, boldly reaching for what he wants. He's just himself, and his life will end in three days. But before it happens, he'll let himself experience what he can.
Kurt's in rehearsals for the whole day on Sunday, both for the Monday performance and the new show the group is working on, so Blaine has hours for himself before they meet for dinner at Kurt's place that night. There are two things he absolutely needs to do – call his father to let him know he'll be absent from work for the next two days, and go clothes shopping. The initial plan was to go back home after one night, so he only took his carry-on with some essentials – there are definitely no clothes appropriate for a theater outing and a party there, even if Kurt said it's not really a formal dress occasion. To be honest, Blaine has no clean clothes left, so he decides to deal with this first thing in the morning.
Of course, first thing turns out to be almost noon, because they talked long into the night again, and Blaine decided to sleep in just because he could, but soon enough, after a quick run to the GAP two streets over, he's back at the hotel with a pair of jeans and a couple of t-shirts, some underwear and socks. A shower, brunch and he's ready to conquer the more classy stores to look for something worthy of Kurt Hummel's party date. Or, okay, not a date. But still, his plus one can't look anything less than great.
Shopping takes most of Blaine's day and provides him with surprising amounts of fun. It's been years since he felt the need to dress to impress someone. In college he stuck to jeans and t-shirts, with occasional cardigans, and his current job requires boring, simple black suits at all times. Ben wasn't one to appreciate fashion, either, and the one time Blaine wore one of his bowties on a date, he could clearly see his boyfriend's disapproving glances. So he never did it again. His drawer at home is still full of his favorite accessories, untouched for years.
He doesn't go for a bowtie this time. After hours of going through the racks and trying on dozens of things, Blaine decides on a simple combination: tight-fitting black pants, crisp white shirt, open at the neck, and a velvet suit jacket in wine red. It's not overly formal, but classy, and he has a feeling Kurt will like it as much as he does. Thankfully, Blaine's body is still lean and toned, and the outfit accentuates it quite nicely.
After he comes back to his hotel room to deposit the bags, there's only enough time to leave a message in his father's voicemail before he has to run to Kurt's. At one of the street corners there's a girl selling red-fringed yellow asters, and Blaine can't resist them, they remind him so much of Kurt's bubbly personality. Soon he's standing at Kurt's door with flowers and a bottle of Italian wine, feeling like he's on a first date for some reason. Which is silly. It's just dinner with a friend.
Kurt opens the door, wearing a bright grin and an outfit that momentarily steals Blaine's breath away. The way Kurt looks in blue jeans hugging his body, and a simple black v-neck clinging to his chest reminds Blaine achingly that once, he was allowed to look and touch and love this gorgeous man.
Also, that it's been over five months since he was intimately close to anyone, and even longer since it meant anything more than sex.
Shaking it off quickly, he hands Kurt the wine and flowers, earning a delighted squeal and a hug, and damn, he thinks, way to find the most inappropriate moment to remember just how hot your ex-boyfriend is.
"Come in, I'm just starting the water for pasta." Kurt dances – literally dances – away to the kitchen, looking for a vase, his body alive with music flowing from the speakers. Blaine leaves his shoes in the hallway and follows him, ending up leaning against the back of the sofa.
"You have astonishing amounts of energy for someone who spent eight hours in rehearsals today."
Kurt laughs and sets a vase with the asters in the center of the dining table. "Ten hours. But it was amazing. The new show is coming together great despite the songs being written in a rush. And I'm always energized after rehearsals. I mean, I like designing, but the stage is where I come alive, you know?"
Blaine nods. He still remembers the feeling.
The iPod in the corner switches to a new song, one that makes Kurt wiggle his hips and laugh brightly before starting to sing along. Blaine knows this one – they sang it together more than once, both being fans of this particular musical. So when he doesn't join in after the first lines of Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead, Kurt stops and looks at him with concern.
"Hey, did you forget the words?"
"No. I kinda… I don't sing anymore." Blaine looks away, unable to face Kurt with the confession he never intended to make. How does he explain giving up something that used to be like breathing for him?
There's a moment of silence between them, only music in the background filling the room with teasingly happy notes, and then Kurt's voice is right by Blaine's side, his hand on Blaine's shoulder.
"Blaine… what happened?"
He shakes his head, still not looking at his friend. "Nothing. I just… I chose a different way."
"Well yes, but it doesn't mean you can't sing!"
"Why?" The tone of Kurt's voice changes from confused to worried, and Blaine finally finds it in himself to look him in the eyes. So close, the ever-changing swirls of grey-green-blue stun and enchant him anew. The truth slips from his lips without a conscious decision, a broken whisper.
"Because it hurts."
"Oh Blaine…" Then Kurt's arms are around him and Blaine lets himself sink into the embrace long enough to get himself back together. Kurt strokes his back, warm little circles against the thin cotton. "You said Yale was your decision. Was it really?"
Blaine raises his head from Kurt's shoulder, his eyes dry. "Well, I agreed to it. So it was."
"But it wasn't what you wanted." It's not even a question.
"No. But it's done. It's just… sometimes I wonder." Like every single day, perhaps. "I wonder where I'd be today if I chose music. If I'd have been able to go through college with no money from my parents. What I'd be doing for a living now."
If we'd still have been together.
He doesn't say it out loud, but it hangs in the air between them, heavy with meaning.
Yale was the last straw in their relationship, already stumbling under the weight of pre-college stress and Blaine's insecurities. When Kurt learned that Blaine decided not to apply to any school in New York the following year, he wasn't angry. He froze. And the next day they had the final conversation, deciding – mutually – that five years of long distance relationship was not something they wanted. So it was better to break up.
Was it? Blaine's heart still tells him otherwise. But what's done is done.
Kurt touches his cheek now, light like a butterfly wing, shaking him out of his thoughts.
"Well, I think you'd be doing great. There are plenty of places where you could work with music in New York – singing, writing, teaching –"
Blaine can't listen to it, it hurts too much to even think about the future – present now, really – that he could have had if he'd made different decisions years ago.
"Kurt, don't." It comes out sharp, a snap, so he softens his voice, pleading now. "Please, don't. I don't want to talk about it."
His friend's eyes linger on his face a moment longer, concerned, inquiring, but then he nods. "Okay. The water is boiling, I'll go pour the pasta."
The dinner conversation is stilted for a while, a dark cloud hanging over the table, but soon they settle back into their comfortable spaces. Kurt talks about his theatre and the show they wrote themselves, about his ideas for a loft he's redecorating, about Rachel's Broadway debut. Blaine is mostly quiet, just listening to the melodious voice and trying not to imagine himself here – in New York, in the artistic little world. In Kurt's life.
They part around eleven, because Kurt has a busy day tomorrow. Blaine's ticket for the show is tucked carefully in his day planner – they won't get to meet before, so he's supposed to go backstage after it ends. All details planned, he's ready to leave when Kurt touches his hand, his eyes worried again.
"Blaine… You're not happy."
And he was never able to lie to Kurt, not convincingly – not that he really wants to try now. There's no use.
"No. But I'm fine."
"I will be. I promise." It's not a lie, is it?
Kurt looks doubtful, but doesn't say anything.
It's like Blaine's brain is cheating on him the next day. No matter how much he tries, he can't stop thinking about music. It's everywhere – in elevators and stores, in Central Park and subway stations, in coffee shops and his own head. It's attacking him from all directions – street musicians seem to occupy every corner, karaoke places blink invitingly, bars look for singers for evening entertainment. Teenage Dream blares from someone's phone during lunch and Blaine suddenly has to leave the bistro, air too thick around him. He can't escape it, no matter how he tries.
And oh, is he trying. He's been so good at it too – had to be, after over four years. The day before he left for college was the last one when singing gave him more pleasure than pain. Moving to Yale was like crossing a border, like a point of no return. Ever since then, the realization that music can never be anything more than a hobby for him, that he practically threw away his talent, dreams and years of hard work, all for his father's approval, choked him up every time he tried singing or even listening to his favorite songs. He got miserable and spent days sulking afterwards.
So he stopped. It got easier with time; after a year he was finally able to completely ignore all the background music surrounding him everywhere; he stopped bursting into song in the shower or after a few drinks.
Except now all the practiced indifference is gone, there's music all around him and of course, all he can think about is what if.
The problem is, Blaine could have probably had it all. Music, passion, the love of his life still with him. Or at least a fighting chance. Except he got scared. Scared of his parents' disapproval, of having to support himself in New York if he chose anything else than what they wanted for him. Scared of his father's visions of starving musicians and disrespected teachers. Bullied into half-believing he only wanted New York because of Kurt. So he caved. And now he's paying for it. He's living his father's dream instead of his own, and hating every minute of it – despite earning good money instead of possibly living off tips or a music teacher's salary.
Shit. It's really easier not to think about it. It's not like he can change anything about it now, can he? So what's the point?
By the time Blaine gets to the theater in the evening, he's feeling tormented by all the thoughts and doubts. But as soon as the show starts, everything else gets pushed to the back burner of his mind, because – Kurt.
Blaine watched Kurt perform before, of course, but it was all in high school and mostly just singing and dancing in Glee. The only acting part of Kurt's he'd seen was Officer Krupke in West Side Story during his senior year, and it wasn't a role that let Kurt spread out his wings, really.
But now he does – literally. And Blaine can barely breathe from the minute Kurt appears on stage in the opening scene.
It's just a voice at first – the voice he'd recognize anywhere, sweet and crystal clear like it was back in high school, but so much stronger now, trained and practiced, shaped into a diamond. It flows smoothly from the complete darkness of the stage, cuts through the packed theater, echoes around. There are no words, just a pure, serene melody, full of longing and quiet sadness. And then the lights slowly go up, and there he is.
He's standing over a sleeping man, the stage empty except for a bed, and Blaine gasps. Kurt's shirtless and barefooted, simple white jeans the only thing he's wearing. Well, these – and the wings. They are huge, spread maybe four feet on each side of Kurt's bare shoulders. Made of pure white feathers, they are fastened to his chest with a leather harness, embracing him snugly. Kurt's skin, always pale, seems almost silvery now; there are a few blue feathers in his hair, and his eyes, encircled with dark eyeliner, look like bits of summer sky. His appearance, his voice – he's spectacular, and as Blaine watches on, it becomes clear that Kurt is the star of the show, even though he's not the lead, just a guardian angel of the main character. He speaks little, sings more, but his mere presence in almost every single scene pulls focus.
He's brilliant, there's no doubt about it. The way his face expresses the whole spectrum of emotions and reactions so clearly without the need of a single word being uttered, the way his body moves – he's not playing the angel; right now, on this stage, he is one. There's no doubt in Blaine's mind that Kurt's place is on Broadway, and that sooner or later, he'll get there.
And by the time the curtain falls the last time, one more thing is blatantly, painfully obvious.
Blaine is still in love with him.
Kurt is waiting for him by the backstage door, his wings already off, naked chest shimmering in the bright lights, and Blaine's heart loses a beat. He's not sure what to do with his discovery – so fresh, yet not new at all. He feels vulnerable, like his realization is written on his forehead for everyone – and certainly Kurt – to see; like he can't trust his mouth anymore, unsure if a confession won't just jump out any second now. And Kurt doesn't make it any easier, leading Blaine to his dressing room by the hand, beautiful and half-naked, muscles of his back and arms alive under his sweaty skin, the messy hair and sparkling eyes even more breathtaking now, when he's so close. Fortunately, Kurt is still riding the adrenaline and endorphins high, oblivious to Blaine's lovestruck stares and incoherence that would be a dead giveaway otherwise.
People are milling around, but nobody pays them much attention – not that Blaine cares when he pulls Kurt into a hug.
"You were absolutely amazing! Your voice, your acting, your looks… You were the brightest star up there and I can't wait to see you on Broadway where you belong. You just… you take my breath away."
Kurt laughs, delighted and happy, pulling away from his embrace.
"Stop, silly, you'll get glitter all over yourself and that would be a pity. You look dashing tonight, if I may say. Oh Blaine, I'm so glad you came and that you liked it! Just, let me shower, I'm all sweaty and disgusting."
By the time Kurt appears again – clean, fresh and fully dressed – Blaine's had time to gather his wits enough to be able to talk like a sane person, only a little bit rambling still. Right on time, too, since the party is about to begin. It turns out that it's being held right there, in the theater. Kurt quickly styles his hair into a sexy – um, adorable, that is – mess, and they follow the stream of chattering, laughing people downstairs into a brightly lit large cellar, filled with music, laughter and alcohol.
It's not like any party Blaine has ever attended – different both from his parents' formal fetes where he's always close to passing out from boredom, and college parties with all the dancing and way too much drinking. Although, surprisingly, it's closer to the latter than the former. There's plenty of alcohol, but food on the buffet provides more than enough sustenance; there's music and a dance floor for those who feel inclined to use it, and tables all around where people sit and talk – really, truly talk, not just exchange pleasantries. But most of all, there's an atmosphere here that has Blaine charmed in a matter of minutes.
Artistic is really the only word that truly fits. People here – both the theater staff and those who accompany them – are open and talkative, and interesting. No one is trying to hide their individuality, their quirks or passions – on the contrary, these seem to be things to focus on and celebrate. Blaine has to remind himself not to gape like a country boy when he watches the crowd – barely-there miniskirts and stilettos next to evening dresses straight out of the 50s, corsets – and not only on women – and suits, colors and glamour, the amalgam of styles. Conversations flow and mix overhead, about recent premieres, sex, and acting, someone's drug problems, and books worth reading. There are no taboos, it seems.
As Kurt leads him around, introducing him simply as Blaine, no one asks him what he does for living or where he lives. Instead, a middle-aged woman wants to know if they're an item (Kurt says they used to be, for which he gets a smack on the ass and an indignant Are you crazy, Angel? Letting such a stud go?). A flamboyant man comments appreciatively on Blaine's outfit. Someone else asks him what's his thing. When he's not sure what to say, Kurt cuts in.
"Music and acting. And songwriting." When Blaine gapes at him, Kurt smiles mischievously. "What? I'll convince you to go back to it, just give me some time."
Kurt's relaxed and loose, silly after a few drinks, and Blaine's had several himself, and soon he finds himself deep in conversations with people – about acting and music, culture and beauty, about joy. Surprisingly, he's really enjoying himself here. Being able to simply be himself among these people, in every single aspect, feels amazing – like bursting out from a prison he was so used to that he stopped realizing it was there. He feels alive. He feels more than he's felt in years.
Kurt comes and goes, talking to people too, and at some point he pulls Blaine to the dance floor to slowdance, his body too close and too hot, making Blaine groan inwardly with desire. He lays his head on Kurt's shoulder and lets himself be carried by the music, letting it in, allowing the melody to move him, and moving with it.
Time flies fast and soon it's 2 a.m. and people start trickling out in pairs and little groups. There's no cab in sight when they leave the theater, so they start walking and somehow Kurt's hand is in Blaine's, and it feels too good to stop this connection, so he doesn't. His mind is a little fuzzy and a lot content, wondering lazily if there's a chance that Kurt still feels something for him, too. They are silent for a long while, happy just to walk through the night city, until Kurt asks suddenly,
"Do you have any regrets? Something you'd change if you had a chance to go back in time?"
"Plenty." He answers without thinking, because it's so obvious, but he doesn't elaborate. The night is too good to ruin it. "You?"
"Just one." Kurt doesn't explain either, and it's fine. Blaine loves how comfortable they are with each other, knowing when to speak and when comfortable silence is enough.
A cab stops at last, so they get in and Kurt gives his address, never letting go of Blaine's hand. After a moment, he puts his head on Blaine's shoulder and closes his eyes, and Blaine could ride like this forever, New York mysterious and beautiful, a quiet murmur of the cabbie's radio, Kurt's warmth seeping into his skin. And then they are stopping at their destination, and Kurt raises his head, his face serene and honest.
"Stay the night."
And just like that November night years ago, after a high school musical, alone with Kurt on the stage, Blaine can only nod, entranced, and whisper, "Okay."
They are in the kitchen when Kurt kisses him, soft and tender, and achingly familiar. Their bodies fit perfectly against each other, like they always have, instincts take over as if they only parted yesterday. Their hands and lips remember; every touch, kiss, every sound is like coming home.
And yet, there's so much to remember and discover again, and so little time. So they don't lose any. There's no need for words and questions. Silence is their music as they undress each other unhurriedly in Kurt's bedroom, sounds of kisses and gasps, moans and whimpers taking over and filling the cozy space as they proceed.
Blaine doesn't think about anything besides this moment. There's no past or future, just them, so close, the way they used to be, the way it was always supposed to be. Kurt's body is so well-known to him, and yet so different – harder in some places, more sculpted, firm, no trace of a teenager left. There are some scars Blaine wishes he knew the history of, and some new reactions proving that just like him, Kurt lived and learned in the five years that had passed.
But the awe and desire between them is unchanged, the reverence with which they touch each other's skin before their hunger prevails and there's no stopping the avalanche then. Hands wander everywhere, lips find new pathways over bare skin, and when Kurt kneels between his parted legs, his hands anxious and impatient, and asks, "Blaine, can I – ?", the answer is immediate, bordering on pleading: "Yes. God, please, yes."
Kurt's fingers, though noticeably more practiced now, are just like Blaine remembers them, like he recalls every time he needs to get off, and when Kurt slides in, slowly, but so surely, it's like they click back into their places. No one ever felt as right as Kurt; no one ever will, Blaine knows that now.
He's always thought that if he knew that their last time was, well, the last, he'd make sure it was much more special, more memorable. So he does that now – saving every second in his memory, making every touch count. They make love – kissing, caressing, prolonging it as much as they can, and when they can't make it last any longer, they fall into the sweet fulfillment, together. They drift off in each other's arms, sated and where they belong.
Blaine wakes up first, morning sun tickling his eyelids, and it only takes seconds to remember where he is. Kurt's body still feels like heaven, molded against his back, but in the morning light everything looks different. There's no regret – just love and gratitude, but the enchantment of the night is gone, substituted by the reality of the day. It's Tuesday. Blaine has to be at the airport soon. He kisses Kurt softly one last time, takes a moment to etch his picture into his memory, and quietly slips out of bed.
He's downstairs, putting on his shoes, when the stairs creak behind him. Kurt has his pants on, but he's still shirtless and sleep-mussed, a bruise marking the place on his shoulder where Blaine bit when coming last night. His face is completely open and vulnerable as he stops right in front of Blaine.
"Stay with me."
He shakes his head. "I can't. My plane takes off in three hours."
"I know. What I mean… I know you have to go. You have your life back there. But let me just say this, okay? Please."
"I wish you could stay with me here. I only have one regret, and it's us – breaking up, not trying harder, letting life come between us. I never stopped loving you. I keep dreaming about you here with me, sharing this place, arranging the lounge together, getting back what's always been ours. No one else was ever right the way you are, and I think no one else will. I just want you to know, Blaine."
Blaine doesn't say anything – can't say anything, really, so Kurt just kisses his cheek.
"Have a safe flight. And please, please, stay in contact?"
"I will. I have to run. Kurt... thank you."
If it was a romantic comedy, Blaine would probably never get on his plane. He'd turn back halfway there and drive back to throw himself into Kurt's arms. Or he'd go home for a couple of hours only, to pack his things and quit his job, before returning to New York. And then they'd live happily ever after.
But life isn't a romantic comedy. So it doesn't happen.
Instead, Blaine picks up his things from the hotel and rushes to the airport. He gets his coffee on the way, so by the time he's boarded, his brain is mostly awake. Then he spends the flight quietly freaking out.
Because here he is, all of a sudden, standing in front of the door that could change his life if he decides to open it and go through. But the decision is even more difficult than the one he had to make five years ago. If he takes the chance, he'll have to leave behind everything he knows – he'll be disowned and unaccepted, he'll have no money, no job, no education fitting what he wants to do. He'll be starting from the very bottom, in a place that's not only unknown to him, but also competitive and expensive. He'll have nothing.
Except love. And passion. Some talent and skills, a lot of drive; desire to succeed, his intelligence and charisma. Kurt by his side.
It's not an easy decision, in spite of everything. There's too much fear and deeply ingrained doubts, too much need to please and fit in. Eventually though, Blaine realizes one thing – and it makes him start in his seat, eyes wide. In the last 36 hours he hasn't thought about dying – not once. In fact, the whole idea looks pathetic and stupid all of a sudden. Then, there's only one choice, clear and obvious.
But it's still not a romantic comedy, so he takes his time. He gets off the plane with a fully formed plan in his head, and the first thing he does at home is throw away the pill bottles.
The second is calling Kurt to ask if he really means it.
Then there are two tough weeks filled with being a responsible adult – managing his money, going through his things, talking with his parents. They don't understand, of course, don't approve of his decision, but at least he can say he tried as hard as he could. He has some savings, and he's ready to start wherever he can, even if it's working as a barista and singing in bars. He knows what he wants, and sooner or later, he'll get there.
When he appears on Kurt's doorstep, it's not a surprise. His boyfriend is waiting for him, which makes the welcome home kiss even sweeter.
It isn't until years later, a week before their wedding, that Blaine tells Kurt why he sought him out in New York that day. He just wants it out in the open, no dark secrets left between them when they say their vows. He expects shock, maybe even disappointment, but there's none in Kurt's stormy eyes.
"I knew, honey. But thank you for telling me."
"You knew? But how? I've never told anyone."
Kurt smiles sadly and cuddles closer in the morning mess of tangled sheets.
"Your eyes, that first day. I… I knew that look. I saw it before."
There's not enough air in the room all of a sudden.
"In the mirror. The days before I came to Dalton, I… I never told you, but you probably saved my life."