Stories from the Staircase
Three steps… two… pause for breath… one. There, done it. Now just a few paces… hunched double across the hallway, body screaming… stabbing abdominal pain, aching heart… a hand on the shoulder, at once firm and shaking… reassuring and… comforting, covers peeled back. Bed. Eyes closed. Urge him closer. Weak fingers twisting together.
Home to die.
He'd come so far.
Staircases. They are about as liminal as spaces come, neither up nor down but somewhere in between.
Blaine had always counted stairs. There were fourteen steps in the staircase in the Lima house: seven, a landing, and then another seven, all wrapped in the hard embrace of an oak banister.
He always skipped the sixth step. Bad things would happen if he didn't.
When he was seven, Blaine realised that the bad things didn't seem to care whether he missed the sixth step or not.
He'd been playing weddings with Wolverine and Action Man but he'd slipped a bit just before the ceremony had started, tumbling his way down the stairs. Cooper, then fifteen, had told him that crying was for babies when he'd said what had happened. He'd choked down his tears and resolved never to cry again.
He was taken to the ER three hours later with a broken wrist. His father complained that he was missing his dinner party. Cooper complained that he'd missed his drama class. His mother had sighed and said nothing.
Wolverine no longer liked to play on the stairs after that.
But Blaine still skipped the sixth step.
Blaine was small. He always had been, probably always would be, and when he was eleven he was tiny enough for his father's friends to suppose that he was eight. Or worse, seven.
He was slight too, weak and willowy. His feet made hardly any sound on the carpeted stairs. He'd been going downstairs to get a glass of water when he'd heard two voices coming from the kitchen, his mom and his dad. Judging from the conversation matter, they couldn't hear him. They never noticed him anyway.
But they'd noticed this.
"But what will we do if he is?"
"There's no 'if' about this Pia. He's as flaming as a crêpe suzette."
"I suppose. I just didn't think this would happen, we've given him every opportunity in the world. We raised him right."
"I know, I know. But he always has been rather weak-spirited."
Blaine crept back upstairs, confused and worried that his parents might know his secret.
Naturally, the stairs had chosen that moment to creak.
And the kitchen fell silent.
Cooper had graduated college and was home on a visit when the phone rang. He took a breath, bracing himself for an enthusiastic barrage of pure post-dance Blaine to ripple through the handset.
What came instead was complete, chilling shock. "Hello, this Dr. Jane Morton from the Lima Memorial Hospital. This the ICE number for Blaine Anderson. He is in the intensive care unit following an attack outside Oundle Preparatory."
Cooper didn't remember much after that. Apparently he'd screamed to his parents to come and get into the car. Screamed what had happened. Screamed where Blaine was.
And his father had cried.
When they'd arrived, they were told that Blaine had been injured while waiting for Josh Sandgrove's father to pick them up. They'd been sitting on the steps, right outside the school. Right where they should have been safest of all.
"It was a hate crime."
His mother and father had nodded solemnly, taking in the battered body of their heavily sedated teenage son.
When Blaine woke up three days later, lungs screaming and throat throbbing, he'd been sure he was going to die.
Thankfully, he didn't.
Two weeks later, when his parents were wheeling him down the steps outside the hospital, he told them.
"We know, Blaine. We've known for ages."
There was a degree of resignation in his father's voice that couldn't be covered up.
Blaine had just turned fifteen. He was filling out now, just about strong enough to haul his trunk up the main staircase of his new school. His parents and an upperclassman followed him in a mournful cortege.
Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump.
There were thirty seven steps in this sweeping staircase. Lit by the glass cupola in the roof, it felt like an ascent into the sky.
He still couldn't quite comprehend how much his life was going to change. It had been pretty much the same for fourteen years: school, home, parents coming and going, brother drifting in and out. Now he'd be here, all day and all night. Sometimes weekends at home but, he guessed, mostly not.
When they arrived outside his dorm, he discovered that his father had paid a premium to get him a single room so that other boys wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Blaine didn't tell him how much that hurt.
They piled all the stuff into the room and his mom had made the bed with his covers from home. His violin was put under the desk to keep it safe and his brand new laptop was plugged into the wall to charge. When he couldn't delay it any longer, he exchanged an awkward hug goodbye with each of his parents before tagging behind the upperclassman as they walked towards the principal's office.
"You sing by any chance?" the guy asked.
"What makes you think I do?" Blaine responded, immediately on the defensive.
"Dunno, you just have a nice speaking voice." Oh.
"Yeah, I sing."
"Well you should try out for The Warblers. We're nice guys and we're looking for more underclassmen so the group can continue after we're gone. I'm Wes by the way, I'm a junior."
"I'm Blaine, I'm a freshman."
"Yeah, I gathered. Good to meet you."
Blaine felt a total tool, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot.
"Anyway," Wes continued, apparently not noticing Blaine's discomfort, "You should come by the Warbler Room at 4:25 tonight. The council will audition you. We need to get the ball rolling because our next competition is less than a month away. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, that's our motto."
And Blaine had been pushed into the principal's office before he'd had a chance to politely decline.
He spent the whole day thinking about it and eventually decided he had nothing to lose.
There were six steps down into the choir room. He counted.
At exactly 4:25, Blaine pushed the door open and a sea of faces turned to stare right at him.
"Ummm, hi, I'm Blaine."
Wes smiled widely.
"Hey Blaine. Just move to the centre of the room and then you can start."
Blaine felt like he was dragging his stomach across the floor as he moved into the crossfire of the boys' gazes.
"What are you going to sing?"
Okay, he was an idiot. He hadn't even thought about anything beyond summoning up the courage to open the door.
"I don't know," he said somewhat pathetically.
There were a few titters but they were all in good humour. He hoped as much anyway. He tried to laugh along with them.
"Can you read music?" a blonde boy asked.
"Yeah, I play violin and piano."
"Cool," the boy said, "We're an a cappella group but we're actually looking for a repetiteur to play in our rehearsals. So, you know, if the singing goes to shit you could always do that."
Blaine smiled and nodded. It was kind of reassuring that even if they hated his voice, he could get to know all these people with interests similar to his by playing the piano for them.
"Anyway, you may as well try out. Here's the solo part to our next competition number. The guys will start on the harmonies, and you come in on the third beat of bar seven. Got it?"
Blaine nodded and looked down at the music. It was Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours'. A tenor song, well within his range.
He got lost in it. It felt wonderful.
And when he finished, they all smiled and clapped him on the back.
"I think it's safe to say a big welcome to The Warblers, Blaine. Congratulations."
Three weeks later, he was singing the very same song at the Southern Ohio Sectionals.
And they won.
Blaine had never felt more accepted.
Success, Blaine quickly found, does not translate to happiness. It can replace it for a while, fill you up like a drug until you're no longer able to remember what the real thing felt like. It can make you fit your own skin, give you all the charm and confidence you could ever hope for as well as every last bit of the acknowledgement you've deserved all along. It is intoxicating, yes, but ultimately achingly unsatisfying.
And it was true, Blaine had been at Dalton for two months and already had excellent grades, good friends and a regular solo spot in one of the best high school a cappella groups in the country.
He was 'cool'.
But he didn't realise how truly lonely he was until he found himself sat on the bandstand steps in the gardens with newly-elected councilman Wes, listening to his concerns about going to a college three hundred miles away from the one his girlfriend would be attending. He hadn't even known Wes had a girlfriend.
And then Blaine realised it: by the end of next year, Wes would be gone. David would be following soon after, Alasdair and Rueben and Joshua too.
And Blaine would be left at Dalton. Alone.
"Do you have a girlfriend, Blaine?"
It felt like a dagger to the heart. Wes didn't know him, no one here did. He was still too scared to be out at Dalton, too cowardly to tell them the truth.
But Wes wouldn't care, would he?
Wes just shrugged.
"You're gay, aren't you?"
Blaine sighed out the affirmative. "Yeah."
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Wes just clapped him on the back and said, "Each to his own. Guessing you don't have a boyfriend then?"
"Lucky. Boys, girls, they're nothing but trouble. Thanks for telling me, Blaine."
"It's not a big deal."
And with that, Wes had stood up and walked off to class, leaving a mixture of relief and sadness to mingle their way around Blaine's body.
They didn't go away. Not for almost a year. No number of solos, A+s or school prizes made him happy. They just made him successful.
And then he'd met him, blue eyes and perfect hair, thirty three steps down the staircase that was to join loneliness to love. The next week, he would confront a bully for the first time ever on stairs far less opulent than these.
All because of one little thing.
Blaine Anderson had fallen in love with Kurt Hummel in less than a second.
Unfortunately, it took him almost half a year of confusion and indecision to realise it.
They kissed for the first time in the dining room. It was slow, and then fast. And then they hastened up the stairs to Kurt's dorm, because Blaine's was far too messy to be seen by anyone, especially a new, clean-freak boyfriend. They threw his roommate out before they went about kissing on the bed, teeth clacking together and noses bumping because neither of them had ever been horizontal with anyone else before. It felt like everything and nothing all at the same time.
But Kurt the boyfriend was exactly like Kurt the best friend, and Blaine felt like he'd never need anyone else in his life ever.
They agreed to take it slow, they listened to their brains and not to their bodies. They were practically married before they'd been together a month, joined at the hip whenever they weren't at the mouth.
But then spring melted into summer, March into May, and a loss at Regionals was followed by the departure of Kurt and then the graduations of Wes, John, Michael and Stephen.
They had their annual Warblers photograph taken the day before Kurt left Dalton. Blaine was on the bottom step holding a sign that read, 'WARBLERS, 2011'. Kurt was on the top. It felt like he was already drifting away.
Blaine sung him off on the steps outside McKinley High School. It was only his second time in a public school, and by the looks on the students' faces, he was just as much a novelty to them as they were to him. He was an alien, literally, and everyone was staring at him as if he had just parked his rocket ship on the playing field. He supposed it wasn't every day that a male student got serenaded by another boy, especially not one in a school uniform.
At least Kurt loved it.
"I'm never saying goodbye to you."
And as it turned out, he never did.
Blaine loved Kurt. Kurt loved Blaine.
Summer was spent on the steps of the Anderson decking: days were shared under the sun, and long evenings were spent watching the sun set over Blaine's enormous back yard. Both Anderson parents, newly-retired, were away in Europe, taking a Mediterranean cruise that stopped everywhere from Sicily to Cyprus. Cooper was out in LA getting rejection after rejection after rejection. Blaine was allowed to stay home on the proviso that he called Cooper every day and didn't have sex in the house. Which really meant that he shouldn't have sex at all.
It was at once presumptuous and irrelevant for the Andersons to have taken concern in that of all things, Blaine and Kurt had agreed. They had recently started discussing sex as a thing that could apply to them, but they'd concluded that neither of them was ready yet. Why rush when you have a whole life ahead of you?
Kurt had said that they would know when it would happen, when the time was right. Neither of them would have a single ounce of doubt in their mind.
The fact that it 'would happen' was enough to fuel Blaine for now.
The last day of summer was spent in the back yard of one of Puck's cougars, hanging off the steps in the lit-up pool. It was the first time they'd seen each other shirtless, and the first time Blaine had spent any prolonged amount of time with the New Directions. Kurt was trying to convince Blaine to join McKinley. Blaine was trying to convince himself not to get a hard-on.
"Haven't you two screwed yet?" Santana would bellow as she noticed them gaping at each other. "You're practically eye fucking and I find it disgusting."
Kurt just stuck his nose in the air and said it was none of her business.
"Oh my god, you so haven't."
She was right, they hadn't.
"We're just waiting for the right time," Blaine had said as levelly as possible.
"Well, I hope your care home isn't too strict on pornography rules. You two are gonna be half-crazy with horniness by the time you're eighty."
"Whatever, Santana," Kurt had said indignantly.
She'd laughed with satisfaction, and Blaine realised then that it had been nothing but a verbal sparring match.
He would come to learn that what Santana said rarely corresponded with what Santana felt.
Blaine joined McKinley and the New Directions after a week of hanging around at Dalton. He didn't want to rush into any rash decisions, but the gaping loss of Wes just made the departure of Kurt even harder to bear. Especially when there was another option so tantalisingly close to the Anderson house.
No one from Blaine's gated street had ever attended McKinley. Even the school secretary had never heard of the road, and she had been doing the registrations for more than thirty years. She had been shocked to hear that he was from Lima.
But Blaine loved McKinley. Blaine loved singing. And most of all, Blaine loved Kurt.
Blaine's parents did not love that Blaine loved McKinley, because anything that encouraged loving Kurt and loving singing was automatically condemned to an eternity in their bad books.
They did love saving money, though, so they were gone for most of the year on the holidays they could take thanks to their reduced outgoings.
Blaine told them that he wanted to be a musician when they were home from South Africa and about to depart for Cork.
When they had protested, Blaine had helpfully pointed out that they hadn't complained about Cooper's Hollywood dream.
"But Cooper isn't a homosexual, Blaine. Gays have it tough in Hollywood, that's why they don't come out. You're condemning yourself to a life of poverty; they just don't hire the homos. And you're too fancy to cover it up."
Blaine didn't mention that Cooper was living in a studio apartment with three other struggling actors, hardly a beacon of shining light himself.
The next day at school, Kurt had rubbed his back as he sat on the step above Blaine in the choir room. He told him that any dream was possible.
Blaine had believed him, and repeated it back to Kurt when he was filling in a rather sparse-looking NYADA form.
It broke his heart to know that Kurt was going away. It broke his heart even more to think that Kurt might not achieve his dreams.
Blaine got cast as Tony. Not Kurt. Blaine.
Kurt was a bit down about it for a while, Blaine could tell. But then he'd zagged and given Blaine a beautiful bunch of flowers on the stairs, half red for love and the other half yellow for friendship. He wanted to kiss him right there and then, but there were people around so he didn't risk it.
They never risked it.
But suddenly, Blaine was kind of cool. Not Dalton-cool, but kind of as cool as a person could be at McKinley without being on a sports team. Apparently, singing was only cool if you were the lead in the school musical.
People didn't slushie him.
They didn't really call him fairy, or poof, or fag, or even gay.
And after some consternation, he quickly realised why. At McKinley, it was only really possible to be notable for one thing. He had been a gay, and then Hummel's boyfriend. The social bottom step.
But now he was Tony.
Tony was kind of cool. Especially as the jocks had been falling over themselves trying to land roles as Jets.
People didn't really mess with Kurt, either. Kurt was a senior now; he'd grown several inches and had taken to swooping his hair up to make himself appear even taller. He had friends in the football team, and he was popular in an effete kind of way that made him out of the reach of most students.
Most importantly, he no longer looked like a scared little boy who would break at the touch of a finger. Instead, he swanned around the corridors with his head held high, looking every bit like a man who was going places the minute school was out.
It was intimidating for everyone, including Blaine. He didn't want Kurt to go.
They had sex for the first time right after their opening night, running up the wide stairs in Blaine's house hand in hand as if their lives depended on it.
It was a really big deal and really not a big deal at the same time. Kurt said that's how he'd known it was the right moment, when anxiety came not from the concern that it was the wrong time but from more practical things like whether it would hurt, who should buy and do what and how the hell they'd get from fully-clothed to naked without anything appearing awkward or undignified.
In the end, it was kind of undignified and a little bit awkward. They'd laughed about it afterwards before they'd gone in for round two, and had quickly concluded that any faux-pas would be worth it for what they'd get in return.
The evening had finished as they'd started everything, with a soft kiss on the lips at the bottom of the stairs.
Kurt went home at one, turning on the porch steps as he waved goodbye. Blaine's insides twisted as they tried to reconcile the overwhelming elation with the unmistakeable tearing that came with separation.
That's when he'd calmly accepted that Kurt was it for him.
Then Blaine had checked-in with Cooper in accordance with his parents' orders. He tried and failed to keep the excitement from leaking into his voice.
"Dude, it's like half three in the morning. Why are you calling?"
"I forgot earlier," Blaine winced. "It was my opening night and uhhh, Kurt came over for some snacks and –"
"You got laid." It was followed by raucous laughter.
"You're clearly not that tired," Blaine humphed into the phone.
"You're not even denying it. Oh my god, did it happen just now? I was eating mac and cheese just now. Hey guys, my little brother just lost his virginity."
Whoops and hollers erupted from his mobile's speaker as Cooper's roommates cheered down the phone line. Blaine was mortified.
"Hey, little brother, are you still there?"
"Dude, I'm only messing with you. And don't worry, I won't tell mom and dad you were screwing your boyfriend in their little nest of conservative family values."
"Totally. Hey, congrats dude. Was it worth the wait? I was beginning to think the two of you were frigid or something."
"Oh my god Coop, you can't ask people that."
"Well, was it worth it or not? Oh no, was Kurt a disappointment in the sack? Or was he disappointed in you? You'd better not be letting the side down, Anders –"
"Cooper, shut up. It was perfectly delightful, thank you."
"Oooh, don't thank me. And guys, it was 'perfectly delightful' apparently."
More cheers and laughter all the way from LA. Blaine sighed.
"Bye Coop. I'll call you tomorrow after the show."
The mirth continued.
"Don't get too busy, Blaine."
The line went dead to the sound of yet more uproarious laughter.
Blaine sat on the steps outside, alone for the first time since the first time and slightly sore from tiredness (and other activities). He watched the sun come up with a smile on his face.
No one noticed at school the next day, how they gravitated towards each other even more than before.
But everyone noticed when neither Kurt nor Blaine attended the after-show party for the second night in a row.
They were halfway down the stairs when the urge took hold of him.
It was a week-long obsession, one that started with a dance and ended with a slushie to the eye from people he used to call his friends.
Ice and rock salt. He truly had been bitchslapped by the frozen saltwater of an iceberg.
"You should probably be used to salty things in your eye by now." That's what Santana had said down the phone, her voice mocking.
"You should probably thank Auntie Tana for getting a recording of Chipmunk McSkylark confessing to his crimes." That's what Santana had actually done.
No matter what she said, Blaine knew she was one of the most dependable people he knew.
But not as dependable as Kurt.
Oh god he loved Kurt.
Kurt would guide him out of his room and down the stairs, even though it took him fifteen minutes to navigate each difficult step.
Kurt would decorate his eyepatch, threatening to bedazzle it until Blaine told him that his parents probably wouldn't approve all that much.
Kurt would kiss him and hug him and tell him that even if the eye surgery went wrong, he'd love him forever and inform everyone nosy enough to ask that his husband lost his eye in a violent sea skirmish.
Kurt even drove him to the surgery and sat through the three-hour operation in his car in the hospital parking lot. They wouldn't let him in because they weren't married. No one seemed to care that such a thing would be impossible, even if they were ready for that step.
Which they weren't.
Well. Maybe not.
Kurt graduated and went off to New York, not to NYADA but to Parson's. He'd decided on fashion in the end. Of course he had.
Blaine missed him terribly from the moment he boarded the plane.
Within two weeks, he had spent half of his monthly allowance on a train ticket into Grand Central. It was a Wednesday and he was missing school, but he was fairly sure no one would check on him as his grades were good and he was quiet and inoffensive.
Blaine had covered all the bases anyway, and Santana had called McKinley from Louisville doing a pretty good impression of a concerned Pia Anderson lamenting her son's sudden incapacity due to violent bursts of diarrhoea.
When an excited Santana had recounted her telephone conversation with the office lady minutes later, Blaine didn't know whether to hug or hate the girl.
He was inclined towards the former as he raced up the stairs to the apartment Kurt shared with Rachel, knocking on the door to the number he'd been given with a rose between his teeth. A bit ridiculous, just like them.
It was a yellow rose.
They'd always be friends first, no matter what they were getting up to behind Kurt's bedroom door just five minutes later.
The seasons melted together, summer to autumn to winter to spring. Blaine made regular trips out to NYC whenever he had auditions (and sometimes when he didn't), and Kurt was home for major holidays.
Kurt met Pia and David Anderson for the first time during spring break. He was hauling his weekend bag (an enormous suitcase) down the stairs just as the couple piled into the house after a trip to New Zealand.
"Who are you?" David had asked, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Kurt recognised the man from the few family photographs the Andersons had lying around the house. Blaine cringed from the landing as his mind raced through every possible reaction his parents could have towards his boyfriend.
"I'm Kurt. It's nice to finally meet you, Mr. Anderson."
He extended a hand, which Blaine's father accepted somewhat warily.
"Uhh, Blaine, son? What's going on here?"
"Kurt's my boyfriend, Sir."
David's eyes flicked between the two of them, back and forth and back and forth. His eyes then scanned Kurt's outfit, taking in the white blazer jacket and tight purple trousers with a raised eyebrow.
Finally, he spoke again.
"Still the same one?"
His lips twitched upwards.
"You are quite something, aren't you Kurt?"
Kurt looked down at the floor. It was hard to tell whether Blaine's father was being obnoxiously rude or somewhat flattering. Blaine himself guessed that it was a mixture of the two.
"Kurt studies fashion design at Parson's in New York. It's the best school in the country for his course," he piped up, desperate to show his parents just how lucky he was to have landed such a talented boyfriend.
David hummed, impressed. Pia frowned.
"How will you reconcile being out in LA when Kurt will need to remain immersed in the New York fashion industry?" she asked.
Blaine and Kurt smiled at each other.
"There has been a change of plan. I'm moving to New York."
A summer later and Blaine was moving in with Kurt and Rachel. He brought one suitcase. They shared everything except their clothes, toothbrushes and razors.
Blaine's classes at the Manhattan School of Music were going well, and he thrived off the hours upon hours of violin tuition. Three years later and he'd changed track completely, and was on course to graduate in the top three of his conducting class.
Kurt, meanwhile, was pounding the pavements looking for internships, or anything that would make his résumé appear even vaguely appealing. The recession sucked, but eventually a fish bit.
And oh, what a fish.
Blaine's heart burst with pride as he travelled with his boyfriend to the Prada offices on Fifth Avenue, watching Kurt climb those famous wooden steps for the very first time.
They should have known that things are never that easy. They were low on money and Rachel was driving them both up the wall, singing from morning to dusk in the hope that she could out-practice her competition. There were many Rachel Berries in New York City, she had found. It drove her crazy, the knowledge that she really wasn't that special after all.
Eventually, she got a role off Broadway, met a guy in the company and moved in with him.
Kurt and Blaine still argued. With no Rachel Berry to blame, they unleashed their anger on each other. Their fights were long and passionate, and all descended from one thing: impatience to be successful.
It was all much harder than they'd expected. Much. Blaine was barely finding any work at all, and was volunteering in ensembles all over the city just to fill his CV with credentials that might eventually secure him a job. Kurt had assumed that his year-long internship would guarantee him employment, if not at Prada then somewhere else, but no one was hiring. Anywhere.
Money was tight and they fought on and off for half a year.
In the heat of one of their more passionate arguments, Kurt screamed, "Why are you even still here? I'm never going to be able to support the two of us."
Blaine had screamed back, "You want me to leave you? Really?"
"Well you haven't married me or anything. You can go as you please."
Blaine had been out of the door and halfway down the communal stairs on his way to get some air when a question forced itself out of his mouth, just as Kurt was closing their front door.
"Would you marry me?"
Silence fell suddenly, unexpected in the midst of their heated argument.
"Of course I would, silly." Kurt whispered.
And Blaine had scurried back into the apartment and into the bedroom. He rummaged around in his nightstand and emerged into the kitchen, clutching two ring boxes.
"I was just waiting for the right moment," he said, as if in explanation.
Later that night, when they were tucked up in bed together after the best round of sex they'd had in months, Kurt mumbled, "Did we really just get engaged in the middle of a fight? Was that really the 'right moment' you'd envisaged?"
"Yes and no," Blaine whispered into Kurt's chest, "At least we know we love each other desperately, even when we're fighting like cat and dog."
Kurt hummed, thinking.
"You're more of a puppy, really," he mused, "That's why our fights are ultimately so ridiculous. I'm sorry I'm stressed, it's just a lot harder than I thought it'd be. For both of us."
"I love you too, Kurt Hummel. Everything will be alright in the end."
In the end, after they were married and 'settled', Kurt got a job as a shop assistant in a Prada store. It wasn't his dream, but it made ends meet while he designed his own clothes as a sideline.
Blaine became the conductor of New York City's third best jazz band. He loved every second of it, even if it was poorly paid.
Their lives had not turned out as they had anticipated but both of them were blissfully happy, and that's all that really matters in the end. When Kurt turned 32, they decided it was unseemly to invite their sophisticated friends and colleagues back to their grimy den. Both agreed that it was time to up sticks and move to a larger apartment, one with more space, natural light and storage facilities. And, most importantly, more bedrooms.
Their Brooklyn apartment was far bigger, airier and cleaner than the hole they'd inhabited for more than twelve years. It occupied the second floor of a former townhouse, and came with its own set of sixteen stairs as well as an external front door. It felt every bit the first home that it was.
They adopted Heidi three months later. She was a cat, but they treated her like a daughter. She went missing three months later. Kurt and Blaine cried for forty-eight hours straight when they realised she wouldn't be coming home.
Hannah came along two years after that, the forms finalised just as Kurt's line got spotted and an item from it was photographed for Vogue. Hannah was a little girl, but they treated her like a princess.
Blaine got a new job conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's. It was better paid but less fun than his old job; he loved it all the same.
Three years later they adopted Ben. They'd been looking for a toddler, just like Hannah had been, but the softly spoken eight year old with the big green eyes and curly brown hair suggested by the social worker had stolen their hearts.
His parents had died together in a car accident in the city. They'd been illegal migrants from Eastern Europe, with no traceable ties to home.
Slowly, Kurt and Blaine had coaxed the shattered boy out of his shell. Blaine taught him the violin, which he hated, and then the piano which he loved. Hannah had loved getting a new big brother, and Ben slotted into the family as if he'd never not been there.
Years of doing the parent thing followed, down the stairs to school and work and up again for cooking dinner and bed. Day in, day out, apart from the occasional family holiday or trip back to Ohio. There was something comforting about the apparent repetition, which, Blaine later realised, wasn't really repetition at all. The kids were getting imperceptibly taller and smarter by the day, little changes that went unnoticed until Blaine excitedly got the height charts out and realised they'd each grown about three inches.
In the City, life was changing just as fast. Kurt's line was becoming something of an underground success, popular with fashion students and the hipster crowd. Blaine was conducting the Columbia University Orchestra, which was very well paid but sometimes extremely frustrating.
They finally had enough money to buy a house, an actual house with a white picket fence and its own four walls, right outside the city. A home for life. They were both suburban creatures at heart, no matter what they liked to believe. A party in a city club had nothing on a nice roast with friends and family, no matter what they'd envisaged when they were teenagers.
And then Ben, suddenly thirteen himself, had come home from school and apologetically announced that he had had his first kiss. With a girl. It would be weird if they weren't a share-it-all family.
Blaine had clapped his son on the back, and was just beginning to open his mouth to tell him about Cooper's reaction to his and Kurt's first time when he felt a sharp kick to his shin under the table.
Kurt always knew what he was thinking. Sometimes, it kind of sucked.
And then they'd gone through the whole puberty thing with Hannah, confronting all the things they'd previously been able to wilfully ignore. Carole and Rachel were drafted in to educate, shop and support, but it was Blaine and Kurt who were sitting at the breakfast bar the morning when Hannah came downstairs and whispered that she'd got her first period. Blaine leapt into action, asking all the relevant questions. Kurt had tried to hide his embarrassment by sticking to his husband's shoulder like superglue, the least he could do to show his support. In the end, as with most things, everything was fine.
Three months and a four AM telephone call later, things were not fine. A tearful Carole rung in the middle of the night, saying that Burt had passed away in his sleep. He was an old man, 77, but the sudden absence of someone who was always so very present shocked both Kurt and Blaine to the core.
Kurt didn't go to work for two weeks.
He ran the ship, he could do whatever he wanted.
And what he wanted was to make his dad's funeral suit, sort himself out, and get back to Ohio as fabulously as he could manage. His father would have hoped for that above all else.
The politics of burying Burt was more problematic than any of them could have anticipated. Should he be in the space reserved for him in Elizabeth's grave, or should he be in a plot where he may or may not be joined by Carole at a later date? It was a sobering thought, especially when the woman in question was sat right across the table.
Luckily, it had been sorted out when the last will and testament had come through. Burt Hummel would be cremated. Diplomatic to the very end.
Right after the funeral, in his childhood bed with his head on a tear-stained pillow, Kurt asked Blaine what he wanted.
"I don't know," his husband had replied. "I think people like to be buried because they can have a monument on Earth, you know, a lasting reminder that they were here. Cremation seems an awful lot more final, a sudden obliteration of everything that was you." He paused. "In the end, though, the truth is that everything and everyone will be forgotten sooner or later. Worms or flames will consume your body, and then the bodies of everyone who ever remembered you. Then your name will be lost in the records amongst all the other dead people, and then, when the world ends, every trace of your life that has ever and will ever exist will disappear in a single second. The human race isn't here forever."
Blaine had put it starkly, but it was true. And at that moment, Kurt needed truth.
There were a few minutes of silence.
"I think I want to be buried. I want to lie forever with you." Kurt whispered.
"Me too," Blaine replied, rubbing Kurt's bare shoulder. "Me too."
"We should tell the kids. You know, in case anything happens to us."
"We'll just draw up our wills. They don't need to worry yet, we'll be embarrassing them for many more years to come."
"I hope so."
"What happens if I die first? And you want to get remarried? What then?"
"I wouldn't want to do that."
"I wouldn't mind, just as long as you were happy."
"I still wouldn't want it. We've had years together, pretty much our whole lives. No one can replace the person you grew up with."
"But remarriage isn't about replacement, Blaine. My dad loved my mom, my dad loved Carole. The love was different each time."
"I still couldn't do it."
"Okay," said Kurt, unsure whether to be incredibly sad or reassured that Blaine felt the same way as he did. "Okay."
Blaine's parents died four years later, his mom in January and his dad in March. Each time, he went back to Ohio alone. Kurt comforted his husband down the phone as he mourned the childhood he never had, sifting through all the financial documents that contained their legacy. His parents were clearly proud of the assets they would be leaving their sons, and their extensive travelling and early retirements had hardly made a dent in any of them. But Blaine knew that money, though helpful, wasn't the best thing you could leave a child. The best thing you can give a child is love. Love can't be spent or given away or stolen; it is a bond that can connect people across countries, continents, life and death.
And though he never doubted that his parents loved him very much, Blaine had no memories of them really showing it. Ever.
Blaine vowed to spend every day of the rest of his life showing his own kids how much he loved them.
Ben went to Dartmouth that fall to read Physics, just as he had dreamed. Both Kurt and Blaine were sure that it was a matter of nature rather than nurture, but were incredibly proud of their son's achievements all the same. Kurt cried as the last suitcase thumped down down down the stairs, watching as it was duly loaded into the New Hampshire-bound car.
Blaine had given a refresher sex-ed talk to both not-quite-children two weeks before Ben's departure. He'd delivered it to both of them at the same time, mostly to ensure that there'd be enough embarrassing memories to last a lifetime. Kurt had cringed when he'd found out about the ordeal after he'd returned home from work, but apparently the three of them had joked around a bit with condoms and cucumbers and it had all been decidedly non-awkward.
Non-awkward, that was, until dinnertime when Ben let slip that he'd had sex already. The announcement came between mains and dessert, and was met with two silent stares and one raucous Hannah-laugh. News of Ben's drunken one night stand had apparently travelled to all ears but Kurt and Blaine's.
Blaine had been disappointed but not angry. Kurt had been angry, disappointed and concerned, and had marched Ben to the sexual health clinic the very next morning, insisting that his son got himself completely checked out. Afterwards, Ben assured each of them that he didn't regret it at all. Blaine and Kurt realised they had to respect their son's semi-conscious decision; he was his own person now, anyway.
That night, Hannah asked why they were upset. They told her. She sighed and said how lucky her daddies were to have found their soulmates so young. Kurt and Blaine had looked each other, more in love than ever, and realised that no truer words had ever been spoken.
Six months later, Hannah found her soulmate. They were together a year and a half. Then they weren't soulmates any more.
Both dads dealt with the fallout by messing up her hair and feeding her a diet of ice cream and marathons of reality television.
They realised again just how lucky they were.
Hannah went off to college a year and a half later. She wanted to be a midwife. Everything about the job grossed Blaine and Kurt out to the max, but they supported her anyway.
"Just don't expect me to visit you at work," Blaine warned.
"Oh god," she'd replied, "I'm horrified that you ever thought that was even an option."
And her suitcases had bump bump bumped down the stairs, just as Ben's had.
And just like that, with the rev of an engine and a teary wave goodbye, Blaine and Kurt were empty nested.
Kurt threw himself into his work, his label finally a mainstream success after years of underground notoriety.
Blaine gave up conducting and took to writing books about famous conductors. He had a select but devoted readership which responded to each new publication with excited emails, which accumulated until Blaine found himself spending half his time individually dealing with every single one.
"Fuck it," Kurt announced early one morning as he looked down from the top of the stairs into the kitchen below, where Blaine was sat responding to emails on his phone. Blaine looked up to see that his husband's hair was looking decidedly less than perfect as he stood there in his robe, fresh out of the shower. His heart swelled with the knowledge that Kurt let him see him like this, even after all these years of having that very same privilege. Both of them were balding now, Blaine moreso than Kurt (who took every measure possible against the recession of his hairline), unsurprising as they were each hurtling into their mid-fifties.
"This is what we are going to do today." Kurt declared. "One, I have made the executive decision to take the day off work. Two, we will be getting you a buzz cut because we can no longer deny that your bald patch has expanded and that you're beginning to look like a monk and/or crazy professor. Three, we will return from the barbers to our bedroom, where we will have long, drawn out, perfect old man sex for the rest of the morning. Four, we will head out into the City and dine on langoustines and champagne in the best restaurant we can find. Five, we will come home and make cakes. Six, we will eat salad and said cakes for dinner. Seven, we have more sex. Eight, we book a holiday to a destination of your choosing. Nine, we have sex. Ten, we go to sleep."
"Bit optimistic on the sex front, old man," Blaine smirked. "And I'm glad I'm finally allowed to get this chopped off. It looks ridiculous."
Kurt had watched as the barber shaved off the last of Blaine's remaining curls. He'd been right, his husband looked a hell of a lot younger now that his bald spot wasn't so immediately obvious to the naked eye, but Kurt knew he'd miss running his hands through Blaine's hair. All good things must come to an end.
On the spur of the moment, he got his hair cut too, shorter than he'd ever had it before. He liked it, he decided, far less maintenance. And it looked thicker than it had done in years.
In bed, Kurt came to love Blaine's new hairstyle. The hair was short, maybe only half a centimetre long at most, but the bristles felt good under his fingers. Blaine's only complaint was that his head got cold, but that was soon remedied by the purchase of a blue beanie hat that Blaine came to love as a third child.
Kurt got kind of jealous until he too succumbed to the buzz cut at the ripe old age of sixty. He loved his fabulous red beret just as Blaine loved his beanie. They were old men together, all grown up through half a century of mutual love.
Blaine was eighty-one, Kurt eighty-two, when their lives came crashing down.
"He has three months at best," the doctor had said to them as they'd sat in the office together, their fingers intertwined.
They assembled their family all together in their house and told them one by one. First to arrive were Ben and his wife Helen, who had both cried uncontrollably when they'd heard the news. Kurt and Blaine cried with them. Then Hannah came in from Texas, knowing it was important just from Kurt's voice on the phone. She'd wrapped them both in a cuddle when they told her, promising them that it would be alright. All three of them knew it wouldn't be. Santana, now an old lady stuck in Germany, was told down the phone. She sobbed for half a minute with them before she hung up. Then Finn and Rachel had arrived, separately of course, but they were told together as if they were still in the relationship that had existed almost sixty years in the past. They too had cried, finally realising that love could never truly last forever.
That was the hardest thing of all. Knowing they'd be separated.
They made the most of each other. They cuddled close in the mornings and nights, and stuck together through the long days when harsh reality came biting at them from every corner. They slowly deteriorated, each of them ailing in his own way, one through disease and the other through heartbreak.
And there they were, halfway up the stairs, just them rattling around their empty house. Blaine's lungs were screaming, coiling up and then bursting in his chest, his throat tight and constricted and his arms shaking.
"Just a few more steps… we can do it… just get to bed."
They lifted each other up the stairs, Blaine gripping Kurt as if his life depended on it.
Kurt peeled the bedclothes back and clambered achily under the covers. Blaine urged him closer, his eyes closing.
"I love you so much, more than anything. You know that, don't you?" Kurt croaked, wheezing from the exertion.
Blaine's breath hitched.
"You're my everything. I can't imagine wha… what life… what anything will be like when…"
"When I'm dead," Kurt finished for him.
There was silence.
"It's going to be soon, Blaine. Very soon."
"I'll probably never leave this bed again."
"You're going to have to go on without me."
With great effort, Kurt rolled over to look straight at his husband. His face looked no older than sixty, but Blaine knew his body was riddled with cancer. He was an old, old man under that perfect skin.
Kurt's bony hand grabbed his.
"We've had the most wonderful life together, you and me. We've got two gorgeous children, we've rarely fought…"
Kurt paused for breath as his eyes twitched up into that trademark smile. For a moment, Blaine could have been convinced his husband was a picture of health.
Kurt caught his breath and smirked.
"I'm eighty-two years old, and I've still only slept with one man. I'm terribly boring, really."
He extended his neck, demanding to be kissed.
"I'll love you forever, Kurt Hummel."
"I'll love you forever, Blaine Hummel."
And they fell asleep, hands clasped.
It would have been the perfect way to die, hand in hand with the man you'd shared your everything with for more than sixty years.
But reality is unkind. Instead, death came four days later, with a hospice nurse present in the room as Kurt rasped out his final few breaths. Blaine sat helplessly at his husband's side as life drifted away, away, away, until only a spectre of the man he knew and loved remained lying in the bed they'd shared since their mid-thirties.
And then, just when Blaine was convinced he was gone, Kurt's eyes shot open, bluer than ever. Almost… flirty.
"Don't you dare give up, you haggard old bugger. Keep going. And when they bury you, you'll be on top so you'd better take good care of me."
And then he'd croaked out one, final giggle. The nurse looked away.
Kurt continued, "I still love you anyway, though."
Blaine had reached out his hand to cover Kurt's, laughing with him.
"I love you too."
And then he was gone, with a smile on his face. The coroner had come to collect the body an hour or two later, and then it really was over.
KurtandBlaine was now just Blaine. Blaine felt like an old ghost, rattling around the upstairs of the silenced house, fussing over bobbles in the carpet and specks of dust on the windowsills.
He finally made it downstairs three hours after the coroner left. He skipped the sixth step.
His heart ached as he sat in the kitchen they'd shared for the best part of forty years, but his brain knew they'd had everything they'd ever wanted. Sure, evenings would be spent crying over funeral arrangements, tears would be shed over condolence letters and hugs would be meted out to children who hadn't managed to get home in time to see their father die. But from the little rational part of him that could be heard over all the grief and the huge, aching loss, Blaine knew that they'd been so, so lucky. They'd shared over sixty years of undying love. That was more than most people could even dream of.
Kurt was buried in a double-depth grave in Westchester two weeks later. Blaine cried as they lowered the casket, but insisted on standing for the duration of the ceremony as the poem Kurt had chosen was read and the ground was scattered on top of the coffin. He threw two roses into the grave, one red and one yellow, knowing that he was staring right into his own final resting place. He could even see the metal bars that were holding it open, just waiting for his day to come.
It might have seemed ominous, but to Blaine it was comforting.
He and Kurt would be there together, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But as he held Ben's hand in one hand and Hannah's in the other at the edge of the grave, he realised that he somehow had the rest of his life to live. It was a blessing, really.
So he sorted out Kurt's label, hiring the very best young designers to give them the chance that had eluded Kurt for so many long years. He welcomed his first grandchild, a grandson, born to Ben and Helen just three months after Kurt died. They'd named him Callum. Callum Dalton Hummel. Blaine had cried when they told him the name.
Hannah had her first child a year later with her new husband Lee. They'd married just a month before the due date. Blaine had laughed as he'd staggered up the church steps and down the aisle with his heavily pregnant daughter, unsure as to which of them was firmer on their feet.
Two weeks later, Rose Henrietta MacIver entered the world, Rose because it reminded Hannah of her fathers' love. Blaine cried again.
Despite his frailty, Blaine lived to be a very old man indeed. He liked to go around the city in his wheelchair, busy busy busy to keep himself from thinking too much, and he started his own a cappella choir with some other Dalton alumi in the area. And then, at ninety-six and after fifteen long years of separation, he died in his sleep. Just like that. It was old age, pure and simple; he'd gone upstairs to bed just as normal after his rehearsal, washing up done and house in order, only this time he wouldn't wake up. His body had simply stopped working, alive one minute, dead the next.
People weren't so sad this time. Except Hannah, she was sadder.
Because it had been unexpected. She'd somehow thought he'd go on forever.
Two and a half weeks later, they were all crowded round that familiar grave as a second coffin was lowered into the ground. They watched as the earth was sealed forever on the greatest love story they'd ever heard.
A headstone lay to the side, freshly carved, waiting for the ground to settle.
Once upon a time,
a boy fell in love with another boy
on a staircase at a school.
Kurt E. Hummel 1994-2076
Blaine Hummel 1995-2091
Husbands and fathers,
resting in peace, death shall not part them.
Life is the grandest staircase of all
when you think about it.