Hi! So, with 'Just Pretending' drawing so close to the end, I've started another multific. And I wanted to share the first chapter with you and hear your thoughts :)
This fic is dedicated to my amazing friend Lucy (MonstersAreReal) She also beta'd this chapter, so thank you!
New York City, 1948.
The Anderson-Hummel dinners are a weekly thing – every Friday at seven pm, sharp. They dress smartly, not a piece out of place, and all gather around the table. That night, Rachel slips into her brand new dress, a dashing yellow number her Papa had bought her, and joins the rest of the guests at the table.
By rest of the guests, she only means Burt Hummel and his son, Kurt, who've been family friends for as long as she can remember. And so, Kurt'd become like a brother to her over the years, a confidant in who she could share anything. Of course, she has her older brother, Blaine, but most of the time he doesn't seem so interested in her school girl daydreams of Jesse St James. Not that he's a bad brother – he's just… a brother. Everything that anyone would expect of one. Protective, caring, yet he can grow tiresome of her company. He is nineteen after all – almost twenty - and she's only seventeen. He has more important things to worry about other than how perfectly coifed Jesse's hair looks that day, or that's what Rachel tells herself when Blaine seems a little… uninterested during her monologues. But maybe that's just a brother thing.
They take their seats, her usual one by Kurt. Rachel smiles in his direction before throwing one toward Blaine across the table.
It's the same as usual. Their fathers talk business; she hovers between their boring conversation to that of Kurt and Blaine, though often enough doesn't know what they're talking about either. Sometimes they talk business too, since they often help their respective fathers in their busy work. And things must have been busy lately, because she's seen them going into Blaine's room a lot more than usual to discuss this business.
As for her, these are matters which aren't really important. Her Papa says – mostly with an exasperated tone to his voice – that she lives with her head in the clouds. Rachel doesn't exactly see there's anything wrong with that, but her Papa seems to think there is, so she tries to keep her ideas and thoughts to herself. Not that it works. Sometimes they just burst out of her, and she's saying them before she can stop herself. That earns a disapproving glower, one which she'd rather prevent.
Dinner progresses much the same as it always does, and she ends up staring at her glass of water, swirling the drink around idly from her boredom. She jumps as she feels something connect with her foot, sitting up straighter in the chair. It feels like… somebody else's foot, beginning to rub up and down her leg. Instantly, she pulls her foot back, eyebrows knitting together. From across the table, Blaine's eyes widen slightly at her confused expression.
"Er – sorry, Rachel! I meant to – it was an accident." A pink blush grows on his cheeks, eyes looking anywhere but hers. Beside her, Kurt looks equally as embarrassed, hiding it behind a large gulp of his own drink.
Still, her brother is stuttering about for something to say, so much that their fathers have noticed, regarding the boy with raised eyebrows.
"It's fine," she smiles brightly, knowing that it must have been an accident. Her legs were probably just in the way.
It takes a few moments for his blush to fade, and he glances Kurt's way before moving his gaze down. All returns to normal quickly, her boredom easily resumed. She knows not to interrupt her Papa ("Business isn't for young ladies, Rachel!") and Blaine seems to still be embarrassed, so she steers clear of him too.
She's thankful when dinner ends, getting in a quick goodbye to the Hummel's and thinking about what she's going to do for the rest of the night. Papa makes the usual route to his office, where he'll most likely isolate himself for the evening, when he sees Blaine move toward the door, and frowns.
"Blaine, where are you going?"
Her brother stops, shoulders tense, and eyes wide. "Out, Father." Adding, "for a walk."
"May I come?" she butts in, a little too eagerly, "I feel rather bloated after my meal, and a walk would do me good." She offers Blaine a bright smile, instantly dropping it as he doesn't look as happy as her to be accompanied on his walk.
"Actually, I – "
"I think that's a wonderful idea." Papa smiles. He rarely smiles. Usually such an act is contained for when something amazing happened at the business, but it's nice to see it make an appearance toward the two of them. She smiles back, nodding eagerly.
Blaine looks less than pleased. "But Father, I wanted t – "
"You could go visit the Evans," he suggest, completely ignoring Blaine's obvious disappointed, "you haven't seen them for a while." He clamps his large hand down on Blaine's shoulder, and she notices the unhappy look on her brother's face, though doesn't think about it for long as her Papa beams her way, "why don't you get your coat Rachel?"
She nods, practically skipping to retrieve her long, red coat, one of her favourites, and it's appropriate for the chilly weather. When she gets back, she smiles at Blaine, "shall we go?"
He clearly tries to hold in a sigh, eyeing their Father reluctantly. "We'll be back soon," he mumbles, opening the door for her to go out first. With a smile, she passes him, stepping out in the nippy New York air, letting the wind embrace her in an instant, along with the busy traffic noises, then hum of city life. She loves it and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
She almost misses Blaine hurrying past her, down the path to the gate, which creaks slowly upon being opened, and then begins walking, in the wrong direction.
"Blaine," she calls, "where're you going? The Evans live that way." She points emphatically in the other direction, her face scrunched up in confusion.
He continues to walk, or more rush, forward.
She moves after him, dainty little strides barely able to catch up, but she does eventually, and settles a 'tell me where you're going now' look on him, arms folding across her chest. In response, he raises his eyebrows cockily as if to say, 'none of your business', and she huffs loudly, resisting the urge to stomp her feet like a petulant five year old. Blaine smirks.
"Blaine," she whines, "please tell me where you're going. If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of coming too."
"It's your own fault," he mumbles under his breath, but with her exceptional hearing she manages to pick it up.
"Hey!" she pouts, "I thought that you were going for a walk. Maybe around the park, or to the Evans. I wasn't expecting you to start diverting somewhere else…" She stops herself, beginning to wonder, "and why didn't you tell Papa? Are you hiding something from him?" She gasps, as though the thought is ludicrous, and dramatically spins around, "I'm going to tell him right no – oof!" His arm slips around hers, tugging her – admittedly a little harshly – back the way that he's going, a stern expression.
"Rachel, you can't tell him!"
Her interest piques, eyes growing wide with curiosity. "Oh," her 'nonchalant' shrug is way over the top, and nowhere near as casual as she'd hoped. Still, the show must go on. "And what exactly can't I tell him? That his own son is lying to him, sneaking off?" She sighs, "and dragging me along, too?!"
With a roll of the eyes, and the hint of a smirk, he says, "you wanted to come."
"I thought we were going somewhere else," she replies primly, nose in the air.
"And if you really didn't want to come with me, you would have just gone home," he finishes, smiling proudly, "face it Rachel, you just can't not know where I'm going. You're nosy like that." He shrugs, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. It is, just not to her. Which is precisely why she gasps, insulted.
With a frown, she insists, "I am not nosy." She then smiles brightly, "I am merely curious."
Blaine chuckles, "keep telling yourself that." Though she makes an indignant huff, Rachel makes no effort to move away from Blaine – in fact, she clings to him tighter when she notices that they're headed to a part of town that she's never been to before. Eyeing her carefully, he asks, "you alright?"
"Yuh huh," she replies quickly, "I just want to know where we're going." She pouts again, trying to soften Blaine's defence with her large, puppy dog eyes. He falters, only slightly, and she feels her shoulders slump with defeat. Used to getting pretty much anything that she wants – she's admittedly spoiled, and she likes it that way – having Blaine deny her this simple information is frustrating. He's her brother; he's supposed to trust her, isn't she? And yet she's here, almost begging – well, not exactly begging (Rachel Anderson does not beg, thank you very much). Still, she just wants to know. He's acting as if he's joined some street gang, and her knowing will put her in mortal danger…
For a second, she allows her imagination to take control, and then instantly shakes her mind. Blaine is not in a street gang. She'd know if that was true. But why won't he tell her? She'll understand – she's a very sympathetic being, and she grew up with Blaine; she knows all there is to know about him.
He smiles, expression bemused, "you're really annoyed about not knowing?"
"Yes!" she groans, forehead creasing together and eyebrows sinking.
Blaine just laughs again. "I guess you'll find out when we get there." By now, it's clear that he's accepted the fact she'll be tagging along. When she wants something, she can be pretty difficult to persuade otherwise. His face suddenly drops, becoming much graver than what she's used to from the down to earth boy, "but you can't tell Father." She starts to protest, "I'm serious Rachel. He can't know. Not now, not ever."
"…he doesn't exactly… approve." He slows, eyes drawn to the ground, and he doesn't see her face soften with sadness.
She knows that Blaine and Papa don't exactly have the closest parent/child relationship, but she doesn't think that he'd ever discourage something that Blaine wants to do. Or at least, that's what she'd hope. Papa wouldn't want Blaine to be unhappy, would he? And it must be something that he's passionate about if he's willing to lie and sneak out in order to pursue it.
Rachel grips his arm tighter, inclining her head to his shoulder, "Blaine, if you really want to do it, I'm sure he'll understand -"
A sharp scoff cuts her short, and her frown deepens.
"Fine, I won't tell Papa. But I don't like lying to him." Her voice brightens, "can I know where we're going now?"
Blaine smiles, looking at her fondly for a moment before grinning, "patience is a virtue, you know?" She pulls a face, causing him to chuckle.
After a lot of walking, she begins to notice their surroundings changing. No longer are they among the beautiful and well-kept buildings of the Upper East side; instead surrounded by less aesthetically pleasing buildings, Rachel feeling slightly uneasy about the streets. She just has a bad feeling bubbling away in her stomach, but when she tells that to Blaine he just replies that she's being silly and proceeds to hurry them down the street.
"Well, here we are," he announces proudly, standing them in front of a grimy looking building, the brickwork faded, a large door intimidating the two of them. Above, there's a dilapidated sign, the remains of 'Schuester's' barely recognizable.
"Blaine?" she throws a questioning look his way, "what is this place? It looks…" She's unable to finish the sentence. Why is he so excited about this?
His arm falls from hers, moving to open the door, with a low gruff and groan. It eventually eases open, a long, narrow staircase facing them. "I'm," he begins, smiling so brightly that the sun is put to shame, "I'm going to start boxing Rachel. Like, professionally."
She knows that he uses it as a way to relieve his stress, or he did until Papa removed all the equipment from the house, saying that he'd gone too far with it. But that shouldn't warrant him sneaking off and pursuing it this way, does it? Papa must have had a good reason for stopping him from boxing…
"Look, I want to do this, and nothing that anyone says will stop me."
"But it's dangerous," she tries, holding onto him desperately, trying to pull him away from the door, "Blaine, you could get into trouble."
"I'm doing this," he announces, so sure and confident in his words.
She sighs, unsure of how to convince him otherwise. Noticing her expression, he frowns, wondering how he could get her to understand, "Rachel, how would you feel if Father stopped you from singing, and told you that you could never do it again?"
Her features scrunch into a painful expression, eyes sad. "Bla – "
"You have to see this from my perspective, okay? I'm not going to get hurt, and Father isn't going to find out about this." His eyes move over hers slowly, "you can't tell him." She frowns, internally conflicted. She knows how Papa would react, and she doesn't want Blaine to ever get in trouble that way, but nor is she happy with lying to her Papa. If he found out of his own accord, then he'd know that she were involved too, and surely the punishment would be twice as bad for the two of them.
But then she looks into Blaine's pleading eyes, and she knows how much he wants this.
"Okay," she replies softly, "I'm not happy about this though."
"Thank you! And I'll stay safe, I promise."
She doesn't believe him; she can't say no either. She's stuck in the middle, and eventually begins to follow Blaine into the building, the smell of sweat and something she can't quite place infiltrating her nostrils and causing her eyes to water.
They walk down the steep steps, Rachel clinging to him so tightly that he can barely feel the circulation in his arm. The lights are dim, causing them both to squint to keep their vision and not to go tumbling down the old, creepy stairs. She feels goosebumps rising on her arms, a strange nervousness possessing her whole body, and she inches in closer to him, if possible.
Reaching the bottom, there's light once again, provided by tall, thin floor to ceiling windows, and she takes a moment to glance around the large room, eyes drawn to the movement inside. There are so many men, all training, most shirtless, and she feels like she's flooded by the smell of masculinity. Her eyes don't know where to stop, darting from one toned chest to another. Face flushed, she looks to the grey concrete floor, feeling her pulse quickening, licking her tongue over her dry lips.
Beside her, Blaine lets out a shaky breath, "I should go find the owner..." His voice breaks slightly, and she looks up to stare into his suddenly doubtful eyes.
"Good luck," she offers, a smile sliding onto her lips. Their arms slowly detach, hers falling limply by her side as she stares at her brother.
He attempts to smile back. Hoping to ease some of the tension from him, she slowly wraps her arms around his form in a tight hug, pressing her face into his shoulder. Blaine reciprocates, seemingly finding comfort in the simple action, holding her close to him. It's a sweet and gentle moment between siblings, both at ease since entering the building.
Rachel pulls back, smiling tentatively at him. She's unable to stop herself from straightening up his shirt, both still clad in their dinner attire; it's a drastic change from the clothes that the other men in the room are wearing, or not wearing. Watching as Blaine slowly moves away from her, she sighs, keeping her eyes trained away from the others around her, and awkwardly places herself on the edge of a free bench that runs the entire length of the wall.
The white paint on the wall is chipped, revealing scatters of a horrid green beneath it, and she wonders why Blaine wants to train here of all places. It's not exactly the high class that they're accustomed to. The equipment looks old and worn, ripping at the edges; some torn and sewn together again, breathing in a new, albeit weak, life into them. She curls further into the protection of the wall as some people pass her, lifting her gaze for a moment to stare at their exposed skin.
This isn't something that she's used to – seeing men so… naked. Sometimes, on a hot day, the builders in the area would strip themselves of their shirts, but then she'd only ever see them from far away. Right now, they're right in her line of vision. Muscles, tanned skin, sweat from their hard training sessions rolling over the ripples in their tone chests. She has to check that she's not drooling. She isn't, thankfully, but her face feels on fire, barely able to keep her composure. If only her Papa knew where she was, what she was seeing. He'd surely throw a fit.
He isn't here though, she reminds herself with the hint of a smile, as she allows herself to stare for a couple more minutes.
A few return her glances, and she feels ridiculously out of place, with her bright red coat hugging her torso, yellow dress peeking from the bottom. She'd seen the other women as she'd walked through the streets here, and no doubt she sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to them. No wonder they're staring at her like she's a hallucination. After all, what would a girl like her be doing in a place like this?
Her eyes wonder to the space where Blaine had vanished to moments again, willing him to hurry back.
Blaine feels unbelievably small as he makes his way through the large, broad men. Well, he normally feels small, but right now it's like he's about four inches tall, all eyes on him. He knew that he should have changed first; his post dinner suit isn't exactly the best attire to be trying out for boxing in, but then his Father would have been suspicious, and he'd have been found out. No, that can't happen – which is why he was so reluctant about his blabbermouth sister finding out, and now he'll have to remain extra vigilant to ensure that she doesn't let anything slip. She promised that she won't, but she can't keep anything to herself. For the only time in his life, he's kind of glad that she doesn't have many friends to potentially tell.
This needs to be kept a secret.
For as long as he can remember, their Father has hated his obsession with boxing, deeming it as something that the working class associate with, not high class people such as themselves. That'd done nothing to deter Blaine. In fact, it'd only fuelled it further, serving as a passion and something to irk his Father.
And, after months of debating, and Kurt giving the final shove and convincing him to join, he found himself here – unfortunately with Rachel tagging along – ready to start that passion. He's nervous, and a constant sickly feeling is following him, yet the excitement overshadows it all.
Summoning all his courage, he steps up to the front desk, ignoring all eyes on him. "Hello," he begins, at first his voice unusually quiet. He clears his throat, "I'd – I'd like to join."
The person stood behind, who had been crouched down beneath the desk, slowly rises – rising high above Blaine – and glowers at the young boy, eyes scrutinizing instantly. "Sorry, we don't hold tea parties here." Once again, he curses himself for being so dressed up, every curl brushed into perfect shape on his head. He takes the chance to look at his opponent, his own clothes worn, patchy and with small stains across them. The older man's own hair is curly too, but messy, greying and his shirt, which Blaine supposes used to be white, is a dull color now, after the many years of use. He looks altogether scruffy, something that his Father would turn his nose up at.
But Blaine doesn't. He puts on a large smile, forcing himself to laugh along with the joke at his expense. Others are laughing too; low, gruff sounds that make him feel slightly uneasy. "I'm serious," he says, voice hopeful. "I want to train here."
Lifeless eyes squint together slightly as they stare at him, like he's some lunatic, "is this some sort of joke, kid? Your friends put you up to this?"
"Absolutely not," he replies in an instant, bouncing up on his toes slightly. Maybe he sounds a little bit too eager, as they're laughing at him again, like it's completely ridiculous that he'd want to join. It isn't, he thinks to himself, jaw locking.
The man laughs, a mean affair, each second making Blaine shrink further and further, frown forming. "Look…"
"Look, Blaine, why don't you just run along home? I think you've wasted enough time here already."
A flash of anger surges through him. They're not taking him seriously. No, scratch that, they're making fun of him, and that's not acceptable. He's Blaine Anderson, and people do not make fun of him. Before he knows it, his hand is slamming down onto the chipping wooden desk, painfully so, and the sound reverberates about the whole room.
Ear shattering laughter takes over then, and right now would be a great time to start his training, 'cause he really wants to hit something. But then the man just leans over the desk, face in his and says, "now that you've had your tantrum, the door's over there." He points to where Blaine'd just come from, and he really wishes that Kurt was there beside him, knowing that he would refuse to leave until they accepted him. He smiles as he considers that, trying to have the strength that Kurt has.
"I want to join," he says again, more forcefully.
"Kid – "
"Give him a chance."
Blaine instantly peers around for the source of the newcomer, his eyes eventually landing on an advancing figure. He's tall, at least a good six foot, with a broad torso, tone in all the right places. His hazel eyes are hard, making Blaine feel uncomfortable under the man's gaze. He passes Blaine, and their height difference becomes much more evident; Blaine is glad that this guy is on his side right now.
"Finn," the owner begins, "look at him. He wouldn't last a week."
In response, Blaine's thick eyebrows knot together, and he puts all his effort into glaring at the man. The other – this Finn - peers down to him, a half smile tugging on his lips. It looks strange on him, his face otherwise unhappy. "You've got nothing to lose, Will. If he's bad, he's bad, and you can get rid of him (why does this sound so sinister and scary?) but, you never know," Finn shrugs, "he could have something."
"Yes, and I might be the king of England," Will replies, shaking his head slightly, making it clear that he wants to get this conversation over with, and quickly. "Besides," he adds, "there's no one to work with him. I'm too busy, and Puck's swamped this next month."
"I'll do it," Finn offers and, by the low murmur of reactions, this isn't something that Finn would normally do.
"You?" Will raises his eyebrows, before lowering his gaze to Blaine once more. The younger boy smiles, having inched slightly closer to Finn because, right now, this guy is the only friend – or close enough to one – that he's got here.
He nods, "I'll give him a couple of weeks. Then we'll set him up with a fight. If he loses, you can get rid of him."
Judging by the expression on Will's face, it's clear that he thinks that's how it'll all pan out. "Fine," he says, smiling a bit. He leans down again, face amused, "enjoy your two weeks while you can, kid." Blaine's face hardens at the implication, determined to prove him wrong. He's not the hopeless rich boy that they think he is, and he'll show them that.
He notices Finn beginning to stride away, rushing after him, which is hard with significantly smaller legs. "So, uh – thank you for that. You really didn't need to -"
"Save your ass?" he smirks, "it's fine, kid. I know what it's like for everyone to think that you're not good at something." At this, he looks sad for a moment, that darkness in his eyes again, before it's replaced by an empty look. He attempts a smile in Blaine's direction, "you better be good now. I don't wanna embarrass myself."
"Oh, I am! Or, I think I am," he nods enthusiastically. "Kurt says so anyway."
A blush rolls onto his cheeks and he shakes his head, smiling gently, "just a friend. A business friend."
"So you work?" He seems surprised by this. "How old are you exactly?"
"Nineteen," he replies, "and yes, I work for my Father. I don't want to, but he just sort of… expects me to."
Finn, who'd previously been fiddling with one of punch bags, slows, turning back to Blaine. "You and I may have a lot more in common than meets the eye."
He nods, not really sure what to think of that. Finn seems nice enough, having helped him in his hopeless attempts with Will, but other than that he knows nothing about the man. He watches him start to strap on some boots, lacing them tightly, and he sits himself on the bench next to him.
"So when do I start?" He questions, eyes wide with eagerness, making Finn chuckle. "I finish work at five every day, so I can be here any time after that."
After a moment's thought, he says, "be here by six thirty. I'll start you off easy."
"I've been doing this for five years," Finn tells him, "I think I know what's best. Start off easy. Work yourself up. Trust me."
And, in a weird way, he does trust Finn.
The man stands, picking up some gloves, the nicest that Blaine has seen, and that's a surprise in a place like this. "I don't wanna be rude and stuff, but I've got a fight." He says, adding, "a rematch. Karofsky won't settle until he's won at least one." He finds himself nodding along, despite having no idea who this Karofsky is.
With the gloves secured onto his hands, he stretches his arms a little, cocking his head from side to side. His eyes move over to the clock on the far wall, time ticking slowly away. "You should stay for it," Finn suggests, "get a feel for boxing. And, you know, see if a little fight'll scare you off." A smirk crawls onto his lips.
He's testing him, he thinks. "It won't," Blaine replies surely.
Clamping his glove clad hand on Blaine's shoulder, he smiles. "Let's hope not. Come on."
But before he's dragged away into the other room, where booming noise is coming from, he suddenly remembers that Rachel is waiting for him, and he shouldn't leave her any longer. Finn stares back in confusion when he halts. "I – my sister is here. I need to get her."
"You're not chickening out on me?" he smiles wryly.
"I'm telling the truth," he says, "I'll only be a couple of minutes. I'll stay and watch." He nods his head along with his words, almost running back through the building to where he'd left her.
As time had passed, she'd grown more curious as to why everybody seemed to be flocking through the large, steel doors at the end of the room, an uncontrollable noise erupting from inside. But she stays firmly put in her seat, telling herself that Blaine will be back soon, and then she can go home, where she knows it's safe, and won't keep flinching as people move past her.
It's not that she's scared; she's just uncomfortable, having never been in a situation like this – or even close to this.
Five more minutes.
And Blaine still isn't back.
She lets out a long, dramatic sigh, throwing her head back against the wall, then immediately moving away as she considers how dirty it looks.
The room is even noisier, if possible, and her eyebrows swoop down, the need to know what's going on more incessant than ever. Damn her curiosity. She's up on her feet without thinking, taking dainty steps forward and nearer the door. Biting her lip, she throws a look over her shoulder to see the room practically empty. Blaine won't mind if she's gone for a minute or two, will he? She shakes her head, doubting that he'll be back any time soon, and slipping through the doorway.
Her eyes widen at the sight of the large boxing ring, one competitor already standing inside, eyes burning with the need to succeed. He's huge, every part of him thick, and she feels herself step backwards against the wall despite him having no idea who she is. Around the ring is a rambunctious crowd, shouting, whooping at each other and the man centre stage.
Her feet feel glued to the spot, unable to let her return to the peaceful and quiet room next door, where she'd feel much safer. The crowd grows in cheers as somebody else enters the ring, her eyes immediately drawn up the tall body, arriving on his boyishly handsome face, then lowering down across his chiselled chest. She gapes, fighting hard to remove her gaze from him, and utterly failing. Time passes – she's not sure how much as she stares like she's in a trance – and the two begin to fight, hard punches being thrown about.
She winces every time the tall one is hit, wanting nothing more than to soothe each spot better. He takes it in his stride, moving about with an impressive agility for his size, and returning the favor to the other.
Without even realizing, she cheers as one particularly good hit is delivered by him, causing his opponent to stumble back, eyes unfocused for a second. Her voice, being the only female one in the crowd, is picked up on by him, or so it seems, as his face screws up in confusion, and he turns, looking directly to her.
Rachel feels her entire body freeze, eyes wide. She's unmoving, like a deer caught in the headlights, and it feels like an eternity as he just continues to stare at her. She really must stick out, but he isn't looking at her clothes, or appearance; it feels like he's peering deep into her soul, seeing the things that others don't see.
And, from utter fear and shock, she manages to tear her eyes from his.
When she looks up again, his gaze hasn't lifted from her, allowing the other man to hit him, painfully so, in the cheek. She can practically hear it, eyes closing as she doesn't want to see him hit the floor, but she hears the loud thud as he does so.
What just happened?
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