I Only Taste the Saline
He was dressing to leave, just slipping on his shirt when the phone rang. "No, no, no, I'm late." He snatched his cell phone from the bed, smiling at the picture indicating the caller. "Hey, squirt! Kinda late, isn't it?"
Flashes of hospital rooms and police uniforms and blood-soaked curls swarmed Cooper's vision. "Blaine? What's wrong?"
"He's so pretty, Cooper. How could I for-forget how pretty he is?"
Cooper sat down carefully on the edge of the bed. "Blaine...are you drunk?"
"No, I'm—hic!—I'm fine. Did you know that four glasses of whisky don't—hic!—don't make your heart stop hurting?"
Fuck the party. "Blaine, where are you? Are you at that sketchy gay bar again?"
"Not in Ohio. New York."
Within seconds, Cooper was pulling up a site for plane tickets on his laptop. Beneath the drunken slur, Blaine sounded unbearably broken. His words cracked, and he kept sniffling. "Blaine, did—did you and Kurt break up?" When Blaine didn't answer, Cooper bit back a small smile. "Blaine, I can't see you."
"Oh, right. I—hic!—don't know. We—he—I—" Blaine's already weak voice trailed off, and the teenager began sobbing.
Cooper's heart broke. "Hey, hey little brother. Come on, now. What happened?"
"I—I cheated on him, Cooper."
The words rang in Cooper's ears. As the two Anderson brothers worked on repairing their relationship, the older one heard quite a bit from the younger about Kurt, and Cooper knew without a doubt in his mind that the two teenagers had a rare kind of love that he couldn't even begin to fathom. "Blaine..." Blaine's sobs were almost deafening. Cooper bought the tickets. He then bustled around his apartment, packing a small travel bag and trying to calm his hysterical brother down.
"Blaine, sh, breathe."
"He—he was crying so hard, Cooper. His eyes went all sparkly and—"
"It'll be okay, just—Blaine, do you have another drink?"
"I want the—hic!—I want the pain to s-stop."
"Blaine, come on, you're going to give yourself alcohol poisoning."
"Will that make it go away?"
Cooper grabbed his bag and the printed tickets and darted from the apartment, hailing a cab to LAX. "Blaine Everett Anderson, do not talk like that. Where's Kurt?"
"Probably trying to find a new boyfriend, who won't—hic!—ever forget how beautiful he is or how his nose crinkles when he laughs or how his—his eyes roll back when he comes—"
"WHOA! TMI, bro. Are you alone?" No answer. "Blaine."
"Oh, yeah. All alone. 'Cause I lost him, Coop. I had him and I—I fucked it up and I lost him."
"Blaine, bud, I—"
"Did you beep?"
Cooper pinched the bridge of his nose. "What?"
"There was a beep, like, beeeeeeeeeee—oh. Coop, the battery."
"Fuck. Blaine, go find a nice, quiet booth and lay down."
"Mmkay." Cooper heard some muffled bumbling, and he assumed Blaine was doing as he was told. "'Kay, all comfy."
"Good. Can you give the phone to someone who works there?"
"Yeah—hey! Hey you! Can you take this? My broth—hic!—my brother wants to say hi!"
"Are you this kid's brother?"
Cooper sighed in relief at the deep, coherent voice that replaced his brother's. "Yes, look, I'm sorry for his...Blaine-ness. I'm in LA right now, on my way to the airport. I don't want to impose on you any further—but—"
"No, I'll keep an eye on 'im. I gotta stay and put out an ad for a new doorman, anyways, one who will actually check IDs."
"Thank you so much. I'll pay you back for everything as soon as I get there. I'll be at the airport soon."
"Sure thing. I'll put the kid back on. He looks like he's going to pass out any second."
More shuffling, then: "Coop?"
"I really do love him."
"I know you do, squirt. I know you do."
Six hours later, a cab dropped him off outside a classy but clearly cheap piano bar in Manhattan. He passed a few bedraggled people on their just-after-dawn walks of shame that he personally was not stranger to, and then knocked on the locked bar door. Within a minute, a large, burly man with a brown crew cut and a black t-shirt opened the door. "You here for the kid?" He jerked his head toward the dark interior.
"Yeah. Cooper Anderson." He stuck his hand out, and the bartender took it, looking contemplative for a moment. "Hey, you're the credit commercial guy, right?" Cooper beamed and nodded. "Well, the boy's still out. Come on." He led the way into the small bar, pointing to a corner booth.
In said booth, a thoroughly disheveled Blaine was splayed out like a murder victim, head lolling off the edge and limbs sticking out at odd angles. Cooper smiled softly. "How much do I owe you?"
The other man waved his hand dismissively. "I know a bad breakup when I see one. Just make sure the kid doesn't slip all the way into the bottle, alright?"
Cooper nodded gratefully. He knelt beside his brother's head and stroked his mussed hair lightly. "Hey squirt. Gotta wake up now."
"Mm, Kurt?" the teenager mumbled, face turning into Cooper's palm. His bloodshot eyes opened blearily, looking slightly hopeful; when they focused on Cooper, however, they immediately teared up. "Coop..."
"Come here, little brother." Cooper wrapped his arms around Blaine's prostrate form, allowing the younger boy to sob uncontrollably into his leather jacket. He rubbed Blaine's arm soothingly. "Let it out, squirt."
"I—I can't breathe without him, Cooper. I don't un-understand how there's—there's this huge chunk of me that's just gone but I have to keep functioning and I—I just—"
A small clink behind him caught Cooper's attention. The bartender smiled down at him, a glass of ice water on the table. Cooper took it with mumbled thanks and coaxed his brother into a slightly more vertical position. The younger boy gulped the drink down. "Let's get to a motel, get you cleaned up, come on." Cooper hauled the still-inebriated Blaine to his feet and stumbled to the door, profusely thanking the kind bartender for his generosity before hailing a cab.
Blaine spent the taxi ride with his head on his brother's shoulder, eyes open but finally dry. He said nothing, barely moved, and hardly blinked. Cooper saw him spiraling further out of control, so when they arrived at the fairly crappy motel, he quickly purchased a room for them to use until their flight to Columbus that night and ushered Blaine inside, stripping him down and shoving him in the shower with a joking, "You're rank, squirt."
When Blaine was clean and in his pajamas, Cooper slid up next to him on the bed. He pulled his little brother against his chest and stroked his damp curls. "You wanna talk about it?"
"I was lonely. I hooked up with a guy I barely knew. I felt guilty so I came to New York and told Kurt. He left me. That's it." The deadness of Blaine's voice scared Cooper a little.
"You had sex with a stranger? Blaine..."
"He wasn't a total stranger. And I didn't have sex with him. I..."
"I could never completely give to someone else what I've only ever given to Kurt."
Cooper continued to hold Blaine has the younger brother drifted off into a fitful sleep. He woke him hours later when it was time to dress and head for the airport. Blaine didn't say a word, not in the car, nor in the terminal, nor on the plane, nor in the cab to Westerville. He spoke only when Cooper was tucking him into his own bed.
"Do you think he hates me?"
Sighing, Cooper perched beside Blaine's arm. "I think he's probably mad. No, he's definitely mad. Betrayed, for sure. Insulted, what with the whole Chandler debacle. Maybe a little guilty."
Blaine's head twisted violently to the side. "Guilty? For what?"
Cooper shrugged. "He may be thinking that you wouldn't have cheated if he had stayed in Ohio, or tried to communicate more."
"No, no, no, this is my fault, I screwed up, he can't—gotta tell him—I told him to go—gotta tell him—" He grabbed wildly for his phone, which was charging on the nightstand.
"Whoa, uh-uh." Cooper snatched Blaine's hand and set it back on the bed. "Do not call him. Give him space to work this out on his own. He's got Rachel to get all the stupid ideas out of his head—just like you have me to tell you that drowning your sorrow in single-malt never works as well as country songs lead to you believe. You're just lucky you drunk-dialed me instead of him. That could have been disastrous."
Blaine curled up on his side, facing away from his brother. "I really love him, Cooper."
"I know, squirt."
"I hate myself for what I did to him."
"I know, squirt."
Blaine shifted slightly so he could offer Cooper a weak smile. "Thanks for coming to get me."
Cooper ruffled his curls and placed a quick kiss on his forehead. "Any time, squirt."
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